-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 04:13 --
TG: hey jade, are you awake? i really need to talk to you
GG: dave? why are you texting me? we live in the same house!
TG: yeah but im in the master bathroom and karkat still does that jumpy thing when the hall door opens like he lives on a planet where everything’s trying to murder him all the time
TG: you know
TG: trauma stuff
GG: :O his triggers are that specific?
TG: yeah, its wild
TG: he doesnt shoot up awake when he hears the bathroom door open
TG: his sense of which door is which while hes sleeping blows me away sometimes
TG: like he has some crazy, way too specific sixth sense or something, sort of like that movie except bruce willis was really the hall door the whole time
TG: but thats not why i messaged you
TG: i mean it sorta is because its about karkat but not about his weird door powers or how i dont want to ruin his cute as fuck sleeping face for anything
TG: actually thats relevant
TG: that hes cute as fuck, not that hes asleep
GG: youre such a goofball. <3
GG: or <>, i guess?
GG: you know what i mean.
GG: anyway, is this about the proposal again?
TG: maybe yeah
TG: maybe absolutely yeah
TG: maybe i have no idea what im doing and i dont want to fuck this up and scare him off and torpedo whats probably the best thing thats ever happened to me and probably ever will happen since ill never get snoop dogg to rap over one of my beats
TG: maybe that
GG: but only maybe.
GG: i dunno, you sound pretty sure about how unsure you are. :P
TG: oh my god
TG: oh my god
TG: alright i deserved that one
TG: alright i deserved that one
TG: fuck did i double text again
GG: yeah, you did.
TG: stupid phones been bugging out on me or something
TG: anyway, yeah, proposing
TG: to karkat
TG: and i dont know how to even start or what kind of ridiculous, fuck-awesome strider signature mind-blower to put together to show him how much I love him and dont know how id live without him.
GG: dave, im going to level with you.
GG: you know how crazy you are about karkat?
TG: shithive maggots and then some, yeah
GG: hes just as crazy about you! the two of you are so in love it makes my teeth hurt!!
GG: karkat would marry you if you got a plastic ring from an arcade, kicked down the door while he was on the toilet, and proposed to him right there!!
GG: you wouldnt even have to give him time to pull his pants up!! he would say yes.
GG: i mean, hed throw a tantrum, but hes probably going to do that anyway. XD
GG: my point is that you basically cant screw this up.
TG: are you insulting my soon-to-be fiance?
TG: i feel like i have to defend his honor or some other chivalrous bullshit now
TG: cant have my friend-slash-confidante-slash-moirail insulting the man i really really really hope im going to marry soon
TG: cant have my friend-slash-confidante-slash-moirail insulting the man i really really really hope im going to marry soon
TG: which brings us tidily back around the the problem at hand
TG: the problem of how the fuck do I propose to my alien boyfriend
TG: the one im begging for your help with at four in the morning with no idea why youre awake
TG: or really why im awake
TG: besides the fact that I can’t stop thinking about it
GG: well, what did rose tell you?
GG: have you not talked to rose yet?
TG: well a funny thing happened where i didnt want my sister psychoanalyzing everything i have to say about my boyfriend
GG: shes your sister!!
GG: and shes also the only person who married a troll with an old earth wedding.
GG: i mean there are maybe a dozen people who know what old earth weddings were like, but that’s not the point. :P
GG: the point is that shed be excited to help you because she loves you and she wants to see you happy!! just like me, just like john, and just like karkat!!
TG: thats a great idea!!
GG: uh, im not even sure what idea I gave you.
GG: but youre welcome, I guess?
GG: anyway, can I finish my steak so I can go back to bed?
TG: wait why are you eating steak at 4 in the morning
TG: oh shit lol its 420
GG: and i wanted a snack.
TG: is it raw?
TG: are you eating raw steak again?
TG: because i do not smell the rich aroma of texas beef wafting up through our hive as the flames lick it like an affectionate dog kissing her owners face
TG: and i know that shit would wake me right the fuck up
TG: the steak, not the dog kisses
TG: though that too i guess
GG: i dont judge you for all the apple juice you drink.
GG: let me have my fun :P
TG: alright fine get some sleep
GG: :D thanks. love you!!
TG: love you too
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] --
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 07:20 --
TG: how the fuck are you on this lovely and sunny day?
EB: oh, hi dave! i’m pretty good.
EB: it’s pretty early for you to be up. you don’t usually like to be out of bed before ten, right?
TG: its a gorgeous morning outside
TG: i had to reach out and say hi to my best friend
TG: and ask him how hes doing and what hes up to today
TG: and if hed mind opening the door to his deck and letting his dearest homie out of the frigid fucking cold
TG: its not actually sunny or lovely at all
TG: its cloudy and I think its gonna rain or snow or some shit soon
TG: its colder than a seadwellers bulge in the breeze
EB: LOL! good one. did you get that from karkat?
TG: you fuckin know it
TG: now that I think about it a little more that might be a little bit racist?
TG: blood color-ist?
TG: whatever the fuck troll racist is
TG: ill bug him about it later
EB: wait, are you on my deck right now?
TG: i mean maybe
TG: why dont you open your door and find out?
EB: i’m sorry, Dave. i’m afraid i can’t do that.
TG: fuck off
TG: you dont like dumb art movies that old people said were the best when we were kids
TG: seriously, open your door, its cold out here
TG: because yes, i am on your deck, and neither of us saw that movie, and nobody gives a shit about kubrick anymore
TG: im not even sure thats his name
TG: autocorrect spat that out but it looks enough like cube-dick that im happy with the level of irony were on
TG: but anyway
TG: let me the fuck inside
TG: let me the fuck inside
EB: i’m not joking. i actually can’t get out of bed right now.
EB: there's, uh
TG: terezi fell asleep on you and you dont want to wake her up
EB: quit spamming me!
TG: not me, sorry
TG: stupid phone keeps bugging out
TG: i dont know whats up
TG: but you are full of shit
TG: that is a fact
EB: alright, fine, she’s asleep on me, and i don’t want to wake her up. you win.
TG: no i dont im out here freezing my ass off
EB: oh yeah, lol.
EB: well, go rewind time and text me from home instead!
EB: or go home and text me from there right now!
TG: nah, fuck it, i captchalogued a blanket ill just bundle myself up like a caterpillar in a cocoon and wait until its warm enough to metamorphosize into a beautiful butterdave
EB: wait, why didn’t you just bundle up in the first place?
TG: warming up a blanket takes energy, john
TG: do you have any clue how early in the morning it is
EB: oh my god dave.
TG: alright, enough kidding around, i wanted to talk to you face to face but we can text if you want
TG: itll be like old times
TG: and most of the time now, really
EB: let's make it take place. what’s up?
TG: so you know how i asked you to be my best man for the wedding that im having with karkat?
EB: you haven’t proposed yet.
TG: youre no fun anymore
EB: dave, you’ve been worrying about this for months!
EB: don’t you have any ideas?
TG: well one
TG: well one
TG: well one
TG: but thats because i wrote it as a roleplay when i was 12
EB: wait, what?
TG: did i never tell you about that?
EB: maybe? I don’t think so.
TG: oh man it was the best
TG: basically akwete purrmusk is out in the jungle in peru or wherever
TG: and he goes into this weird tomb thats all raiders of the lost ark
TG: packed with indigenous peeps defending an old and sacred thing idk what
TG: which in hindsight is, again, kinda racist
TG: i was 12
TG: we all said some fucked up stuff when we were kids
TG: anyway akwetes all looking for his best friend whos basically nic cage from national treasure and nics all tied up in vines and about to fall into a pit of spikes but akwete purrmusk, bearer of the tightest of buttocks and consequently mightiest of thighs in the manthro chap kingdom, leaps through the air to save him and they land and then akwete gets on one knee and while nic is still wowed and overwhelmed he proposes right there in the jungle temple next to the lava or the spikes or whatever
EB: okay, you told me about akwete purrmusk that time I helped you bake weed lemon squares.
EB: which, side note, we should do again.
TG: fuck yeah
EB: but anyway, why was he marrying nic cage?
TG: i may or may not have subconsciously been using nic cage as a proxy
TG: for uh...
EB: for who?
EB: i’m confused.
TG: okay so look you know how i had a huge crush on you when we were kids but i was so deep in the closet that i was kicking around and ruling a kingdom with jesuses lion fursona and some douchebag faun?
EB: wait, you had a crush on me?
TG: oh fuck off
TG: we have talked about this
TG: wait shit did i only talk to jade about that?
EB: you must have.
EB: I was super into nic cage back then.
EB: did you
EB: if akwete purrmusk was sorta you
EB: were you thinking about getting married to me?
TG: goddammit john if i wanted to be psychoanalyzed id just go talk to rose like jade keeps insisting i should do
EB: that’s actually a really good idea!
TG: fuck no its not!
TG: look my sister is awesome and the best when shes not being a little shit
TG: and sure shes the only one from our world who gay married a troll like i want to do
TG: and sure she knows me better than anyone alive probably even karkat
TG: and sure shes been happily married for like four years now so she has practice
TG: but i do not want her to tell me that theres some weird personality thing between karkat and i thats looming on the horizon and waiting to sink this ship like the motherfucking titanic except instead of dicaprio standing on the bow over a shitty whistle solo theres just me dealing with the fact that i fucked it up with the love of my goddamn life and now i have eternity to dwell on that thank you very fucking much
EB: are you that worried you’re going to screw this up?
TG: john, buddy, my dude, i am going to trust that you are just being the *master* of dramatic understatement right know and know that i would not have taken this long to make it happen if i were not paralytically worried about it
TG: i am not a perfectionist.
TG: thats not how the dave do
TG: you know it
EB: are you really scared karkat won’t want to marry you?
EB: because i’m pretty sure you two are so head-over-heels in love that you could do it in the bathroom with a plastic ring from a vending machine.
TG: well now i have to deal with the knife your sister just planted firmly between my shoulder blades because thats exactly what she keeps telling me and its just as unhelpful from you
EB: well she’s right!
EB: and it’s hilarious.
EB: like, can you imagine the tantrum he’d throw?
TG: getting real for a sec here, no irony, its not funny to me when i am genuinely not in control of my shit over this particular subject
TG: please stop
EB: sorry. :(
EB: but you really don’t have anything to worry about!
EB: he’s just as in love with you as you are with him.
EB: i’m sure there are ways you could mess this up, but you won’t!
EB: you love him, and whatever you decide is right is gonna go great, Dave.
TG: thanks john
TG: no irony, genuine thanks
TG: that actually means a lot
EB: aww, thank you!
TG: and youre right
TG: i really should talk to rose shouldnt i
EB: i know how big a deal her opinions are to you.
EB: but i bet you the second to last can of tab in the universe that she’ll say that you’re perfect for each other, and she’ll help you out.
TG: why do you have to be such a great best friend
EB: you make it easy by being an awesome best friend back.
EB: oh hey!
EB: terezi’s waking up.
EB: did you still want to come in?
EB: we can do coffee and breakfast.
TG: you know what that would be really nice
TG: ill metamorphose into a striderfly
EB: actually that works.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB] --
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 16:13 --
TG: remember like two years ago when you were almost late to open that college building
TG: and i used my timetables to scratch a wicked beat and help you be all like
TG: whoa im rose lalonde-maryam the god of knowledge and wisdom and shit
TG: wonder at my impeccable punctuality
TG: learn within these glorious halls that are named after my hot alien vampire wife
TG: study vampires and wizards and stuff
TG: itll be hella cool and arent i awesome and here on time?
TT: Hello, Dave.
TT: While I’d love to correct your assessment of what is studied in the Maryam teaching hospital, I’m sure someone will find a way to incorporate rainbow drinkers into the curriculum.
TT: But given that you have no interest in the auspices of higher academia, I think I can safely assume you’re calling in a favor I likely promised you as thanks. In which case, let’s cut to the chase.
TT: What can I do for you, brother mine?
TG: you gotta take the wind right outta my sails dont ya
TG: just stabbing one of your needles right through
TG: sliding right on down with your other needle out
TG: pointed at some rough-looking sailors on the deck
TG: just calling them out for all their shortcomings
TG: like you have any idea what their lives are like
TG: did you know walleyed willard lost every penny he saved for retirement and had to take up piracy to make even?
TG: no youre just here to rip holes in my sails and leave me and my worthy cause adrift at sea
TG: i havent even had a chance to ask you about that favor
TG: and youre already ready to broadside me with cannon fire
TG: that some kind of violation of naval code, rose
TG: just hells of brutal war crimes all up in this piece
TT: And just what might the name of this ship be? The SS Fix-the-hole-I-put-in Karkat’s-favorite-sweater?
TG: very funny
TT: Thank you.
TG: heres what i want
TG: one psychoanalysis-free advice session
TG: no delving into my hangups
TG: no projecting
TG: no poking at my anxiety to get me to open up or whatever
TG: real talk
TT: That’s an unkind assessment of our interactions to say the least.
TT: You make it sound like talking to me is like being dissected.
TT: Is that really how you feel?
TG: not really
TG: thats not what i meant
TG: im just…
TG: its a big deal
TG: its a big deal
TG: and of course my phones double-texting when im trying to be sincere
TT: Could be a virus.
TT: You should probably have Roxy look at it.
TG: no way
TG: i will not subject mom to my browser history
TT: Alright, fair.
TT: But your problem?
TG: right, fuck
TG: its a big deal and im really worried you’re going to give me some horrible news about how im dumb and delusional or whatever
TT: Dave, it sounds like whatever this is, and I have my guesses, is weighing on you pretty heavily. To state the obvious.
TT: Would you like to come over for tea and talk this over? Besides, it’s been a while. I miss you.
TT: Excuse me a moment.
TT: It seems I have a visitor.
Rose set her phone and her knitting aside, rising from a tasteful vintage chair. She looked so much more imposing, she thought, when she wasn’t in a t-shirt. But it was the weekend, and it was a delightfully dismal day. She could do as she pleased. The security panel next to the door showed a high-definition image of her porch, which was currently occupied by a waterlogged blonde, for whom she opened the door immediately.
“You’re looking rather ill-prepared for this weather.”
Dave’s baseball shirt clung to his skin in its dampness, and his jeans weren’t much better. He stepped inside and dripped onto the tile entryway.
“Look, I tried to make friends with that cloud, but it was way more interested in soaking me and throwing me around like a shirt in a dryer,” Dave said. “Speaking of which, can I use your dryer? For my shirt? And all the other things I’m wearing? Because I am soaked to the bone and this spring rain shit is sucking the warmth out of me like...”
At this, Rose held her hand up and simply nodded. He snapped his fingers, and his outfit hit the floor with a wet slap as his godtier outfit manifested around his still-damp form.
As she captchalogued the soaked bundle, she watched his face closely. Dave was better than most of the Skaia survivors at keeping up appearances when things got bad, but she knew his little tells and habits. Particularly relevant, he only went flying in his casual clothing when he needed the high-altitude wind to bite and claw at him and draw him back into himself. When he didn’t sleep, he didn’t get bags under his eyes or let his posture sink so much as he got twitchy, like he was reacting to the world a split second too early. Already, Rose had observed these and five other Strider warning signs. This really was serious.
“I have a lovely orange-clove tea that should be perfect to warm you up,” Rose said. “You still prefer to avoid caffeine, yes?”
“You know it,” Dave said. "Shit is the opposite of friends with my anxiety." He slumped onto Rose’s couch and basked in the warmth of her fireplace, half-tempted to cocoon himself in one of the many massive blankets Rose kept around. She prized comfort in her home, and that meant plentiful, easy-to-access soft blankets ruled her front room. Rose, like Dave, didn’t so much go for overt displays of love for her friends, but it showed when and where it mattered, if more subtly.
Rose soon returned with a steaming metal teapot and matching cups in hand, the black set with the cats Dave gave her as a wedding present. He smiled a little, on the inside.
“It’ll be a moment,” she said, setting the pot on her claw-footed coffee table. “Now, what was it you wanted? A zero-judgement conversation about matters serious enough to get you thoroughly worked up?”
“Yeah, that,” said Dave. “And I’m sorry if the way I said it was maybe not the nicest way I could have said this is a big deal and I don’t want to sound like some kind of ungrateful douche who doesn’t appreciate that you’re really smart and…”
Rose put a finger to Dave’s lips, an escalation from the raised hand.
“You’re fine, Dave,” she said, sliding the table next to the couch. “I forgive you. Let’s save your words for the matter at hand, hm?”
“Sure,” Dave said. He composed himself for a moment, sitting up and breathing, and counting. Inhale-two-three-four, hold-two-three-four, exhale-two-three-four, just like in therapy.
“Better,” said Rose. “Now, how big is it, how long has it been there, and why can’t you go to the hospital to get rid of it?”
“Oh my god, I hate you,” Dave said, making for the door.
“As if you’d let me get serious without one joke.”
Dave sighed dramatically and flopped back onto the couch, a little looser this time, some of his familiar melodrama returning.
“Touche, Lalonde,” he said. “Er, Lalonde-Maryam. Rose. Fuck, why’d you have to go and get married? Calling you by your last name isn’t anywhere near as punchy anymore.”
“It has its perks,” she said, a smile blooming across her face. “Now, all joking aside, what’s the matter?”
Dave sighed, resting his head between his hands. It was now or never. All the pieces were in place. He only needed to speak. And with a push…
“Am I screwed?” he asked.
“Hm?” Rose replied, quizzical.
“Like, am I capable of having a healthy relationship? I mean, I love Karkat to pieces, but do I even deserve to have him if I can’t even figure out how the fuck I’m supposed to tell him that I love him so goddamn much I want to spend as much of the rest of my indeterminately long life with him as I can? It’s like, if I have a sickass beat in my head and I sit down to hash it out and I try and I try and I just can’t make it exist in reality, does it even really exist? I mean, it does in my head, sure, but it doesn’t mean anything if I can’t put it down. I can’t bump it on a tight sound system and get a dance party going all up and down the block, and I can’t sell it to some small-time lyrical poet and give him a huge boost by putting my name on his beat like I’m the Dre to his Snoop. How am I supposed to make my ‘Ain’t Nuthin But A ‘G’ Thang’ with Karkat that the youths will be bumping thousands of years later in another universe if I can’t even ask him to fucking marry me? Do you know what I mean?”
By the time Dave looked up at Rose, she’d wrapped him in a coarse-knit blanket, poured a cup of tea, and brought his hands together to hold it.
“Dave, first of all, let me just say that I love you, and you are safe to express whatever you need to express here,” she began, pausing to sip her tea. “I wish you’d come to me sooner if this was bothering you so much.”
“Three for three on that little nugget of wisdom,” Dave said. “What’s next, are you going to tell me that I could get some plastic crab ring that probably cost less than half a cent to make and barge in while he’s taking a five-pound shit and he’d agree to marry me after he got done doing an Olympic-grade pirouette with triple flip straight off the handle and blasting me with all sorts of troll genital-based swearing that I only have sort of a grasp on, and I can’t really figure out what he’s saying beyond ‘Karkat mad’?”
“Well, I do adore Jade's imagination,” she said. “Have a sip of tea, will you?”
“You’re acting like you’re working me through an anxiety attack,” he said.
Dave groaned, but he took a sip all the same. The brew went down warm and sweet, numbing his lips just a little. He couldn’t help but sigh as a tingle ran through his body. Trust Rose to put some kind of calming magic or whatever on her teapot. Fucking seer bullshit. That said, Dave’s body couldn’t complain. Muscles released that he hadn’t known were clenched. It felt like a hot bath, but from the inside out.
“Yeah,” he said. “Good tea.”
“Better?” Rose asked. Dave nodded. Rose smiled.
He chuckled; she really did enjoy taking care of him sometimes.
“So yeah. Proposing to Karkat,” Dave said. “I need help.”
Rose’s lips curled at one corner.
“Not like that,” Dave said.
“I have no clue what you’re talking about, Dave,” she said. “But I’d like to talk a little about those other things you said before we get down to the heart of the matter. They sound familiar. My own thoughts went there when I was figuring out how I’d propose to Kanaya.”
“Really?” Dave sipped his tea again, burying himself further into the blanket.
“Yes, in fact. And I can report with certainty that every concern you outlined about the validity of your love for your intended within the context of your difficulties proposing is utter bullshit.”
“A malicious misrepresentation of the situation,” Dave said, ponderous.
“Outrageous lies and slander propagated by none other than your own mind,” Rose concluded, setting her teacup down as punctuation.
“And since you're quoting those group therapy sessions you dragged everyone to pretty much directly now, you think that it's just my anxiety talking?”
“Exactly,” she said. “Why don't you finish your tea?”
Dave smiled and nodded. He said nothing, a rarity, as he sipped his tea. It captivated him, made the weight on his shoulders feel a little less heavy. Warmth radiated outward from his stomach and into his toes and fingertips. He might have guessed there was some drug in his drink were it not for the familiar purple-pink tingle of Rose’s magic. How could a tingling sensation have a color? He wasn’t sure, but it did.
“My sister is a powerful witch with all kinds of badass magic,” he said. “That’s always gonna be the goddamn coolest.”
Rose merely smiled, content as a cat in a sunny window as Dave drained his cup and set it down. The lines on his face faded, and his shoulders relaxed. A smile played at the corners of his lips.
“So Dave,” Rose said. “Why do you want to get married?”
“Well, I’ve been dating Karkat for like six years,” he said. “I want to spend the rest of my life with him. Or his life. Or whatever. Trying not to think too hard about that, you know? Anyway, yeah, I want him to know how much he means to me. Which is a lot. Like holy fuck he’s great. I see him and I wanna just…”
Dave hugged himself tight and buried his face in the crook of his arm, sniffing as if he could smell Karkat’s freshly cleaned skin on his own clothing. “I steal his pillow when he wakes up before me because it smells like him and that shit just makes me feel so hella comfortable and safe. I mean, fuck this medication business. Give me a bottle of eau de Karkat and put that shit on my collar every morning and I am good to go. Steady as a goddamn cruise liner or some shit. Like honk honk, time to cross the ocean on the S.S. Boyfriend Smells, all aboard! Let’s make this shit happen in luxury.”
Rose beamed at Dave.
“You’re adorable, you know that?” she said. Dave stuck his tongue out.
“As if you and Kanaya aren't just as sugary,” he said.
“And what of it?” she said.
“I mean between the four us we're gonna give half the planet diabetes. Gonna introduce hells of problems to the insulin supply.”
“Well that would be an inconvenience to our subjects, yes.” Rose said. “But Dave, I'd like to be straight with you for a moment.”
“C’mon, sis. Neither of us can be straight,” said Dave, a shit-eating grin on his face. Rose groaned. “You walked into that one.”
“I suppose I did,” said Rose, allowing a laugh. “In any case, Dave, I had the same nerves about proposing to Kanaya that you’re having now. Do you want to know how I got out of my own head and made this happen?”
Dave sat up, rapt.
“Don't hold out on me,” he said.
“I asked our parents.”
“Like Dirk and Roxy? Those ‘our parents’?”
“Yes, Dave. The ectobiological colnes of our biological parents. They were overjoyed, really. Roxy was a tremendous help with planning things. She told me to think about Kanaya, what I loved about her, what moments we shared, what she might want - that sort of thing,” she said, lounging thoughtfully. “Kanaya isn't human, so we had to talk about what marriage meant. We needed privacy and time to discuss it. But I needed a certain dramatic flair to make it feel like my style. Roxy suggested a Ferris wheel at a night carnival, a sea of colorful lights and a perfect evening. To lean on my own expertise, it was magical.”
“Wow,” said Dave. “So what did Dirk do?”
“He made the rings,” she said. She held up her ring finger, which bore a small green stone held by a detailed black metal filigree. “His own design. He really is some kind of brilliant. Both of them are.”
“They really are, huh?” Dave said. He yawned, then flopped over onto his side. “Alright, I’ll text ‘em for help,” he said, pulling his phone out. Before he could pull up his contacts, he was out. Rose smiled to herself, setting a pillow under his head. She had to hand it to Kanaya - hospitality enchantments sounded abstract, but they really got the job done.
Dave hadn’t heard of southern Carapacian fusion cuisine before, but Roxy had insisted that this was the best place she’d ever taken Callie. She’d even spared him and Karkat the trouble of embarrassing themselves by mispronouncing dishes they’d never heard of before — the chef had prepared this fancy multi-course tasting menu nonsense especially for them. The staff wasn’t in on Dave’s plans, Roxy had assured him, but she’d asked them to prepare something all schmoopy and romantic. Those were Roxy’s exact words, Dave reminded himself, as he dug into the sumptuous plate of roast meat that sat before him, the third course of four.
In his head, “schmoopy and romantic” meant long, lingering conversations. But the meal so far had been ruled by the noises of enthusiastic chewing, interrupted only by the occasional “Fuck that’s delicious.”
For all of their gustatory fervor, Dave couldn’t keep his left hand involved in the action. He kept slipping it into the pocket of his red velvet smoking jacket and fiddling with the box therein. It was a hard metal block, plain but for six letters engraved on the lid. Dave ran his fingers along his intended’s name over and over, a meditation, or maybe a spell to drown out the incessant anxiety voices. And, by and large, he was happy to find it working.
He sucked down his latest glass of some strange Carapacian drink. It tasted kind of sour, kind of mineral-y, kind of fruity. The technicolor liquid bubbled furiously, giving off a strange and aromatic fog. He didn’t know what it was called. Neither did Karkat, who guzzled his down greedily.
“We should see if we can get some of this stuff for the hive,” said Karkat, the first full sentence of the evening. He wiggled his glass between his fingers.
“Between us, we’re not going to be able to keep it around,” Dave said. “It’s hella good. Like I hope it’s not unhealthy or expensive or whatever because I could polish this shit off like crazy. And if Jade likes it, we’re gonna have to get a big holding tank outside the hive so we can keep enough on hand.”
“Like some kind of massive fucking eyesore out back that counts as an act of war on our neighbors’ property values?” Karkat said, frowning.
“Okay, I know you don't give anything taxonomically related to a fuck about that, but let's be real, we'd put it on the roof or underground or something. Or maybe we'd put a fence around it like they do with AC units sometimes. Dress it up like it's a scandalous secret garden for outdoor funky loving and get the paparazzi gossiping so we can laugh about how ridiculous they get or something. We got options,” Dave said. He stuffed a slice of roast into his mouth.
“As dumb and awful as that sounds, you're going to have to wait for a rebuttal, because I need the load gaper. If you touch my roasted fungus slices, I'll eat your fucking touch probe instead,” Karkat said, leaving the table.
“Love you too,” Dave said. When Karkat was out of sight, he pulled the little box from his pocket and flipped it open. The red velvet base held the ring, a simple, matte-finish band. It was mostly dark gray, some kind of unbreakable carbon fiber Dirk had been toying with. But the gray sandwiched a pencil-thin ring of candy red - Karkat red, if one was an artist or interior designer. For as extra as he could act, Karkat preferred to look unassuming and nondescript, even on Earth C. Dirk had grilled Dave for three, four hours about Karkat’s personality, style of dress, how he did his chores, everything, right down to some highly personal details.
“I should make sure he actually burned his notes like he said,” Dave muttered. He stowed the ring in his pocket and whipped out his phone, shooting Dirk a quick text. Before he could put it back into his pocket and steal one of Karkat's mushrooms, it vibrated. A new text - from Dirk, even. Uncharacteristically quick.
“Message rejected - source insecure, compromised.”
Compromised? Like someone was listening in? A chill ran up Dave's spine. He went still, quiet, red alert and ready to react. Sword would be obvious - he took his steak knife in hand. Head on a swivel, scanning the packed restaurant.
It hadn't been this busy when they arrived. Now every table was full. He caught eye after eye - too many, all facing him. Heads turning away, a wave of motion. Surrounded.
He sought signal in the noise, noticed black bags, backpacks by chairs, many open. Small, lunchbox-sized at the smallest, most bigger. Long list of weapons could fit. Visions of swords and ninja stars… stay cool, Dave. Stay focused.
One hand reaching, lifting… black plastic… camera? A camera with a flash. Definitely a camera. A squeeze and pull as the lens cap came off.
There’s a logo on the photographer’s bag - on a lot of the bags and packs around the room. Dave pulled out his phone, typed in the letters he could make out.
Camera bags. Single-purpose company. All they do.
The pieces came together. Surrounded by photographers, compromised phone, restaurant crowded, eyes looking at him.
Dave was in the middle of a sea of photographers who were waiting to photograph his proposal and put he and Karkat on the front page. This was not his perfect rom-com proposal. This was a Princess Diana-grade nightmare waiting to happen.
Easy. Easy. He stood calmly, poker-faced, phone in his pocket, setting the knife down. One step toward the restroom, then another. One step at a time, slow and calm. Don’t let them see. Don’t let them know. Cool as cool can be. Dave was good at cool, he reminded himself. The eyes looked away, then followed when they thought he wasn’t looking. Thank fuck for dark lenses.
At long last, the door. He tried the handle. No luck; it was locked.
“Fuck off!” came Karkat’s voice from behind the door. Goddamn single occupancy restrooms. So convenient until you need to talk to someone in discretion.
“I got this,” came a voice - his own - from behind. A future Dave, holding a small key in his hand. “3 a.m., it’s in the host stand on a ring.”
“Fuck yeah,” Dave said. He decaptchalogued his timetables and disappeared.
Future Dave, who’d spent the last 43 minutes and 10 seconds figuring out which key to steal, unlocked the bathroom door and slipped inside, locking it behind him.
“WHAT THE ACTUAL ABSOLUTE UNDENIABLE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN HERE DAVE?” His pants were around his knees, and his face flushed bright red.
“Karkat, babe, we gotta go,” he said, locking the door behind him. “The paparazzi found us.”
“WHAT THE SHIT? WE’RE HAVING DINNER! WHAT IN THE BULGE-EXFOLIATING HELL DO THEY WANT WITH US?” He continued to rage impotently from atop his porcelain throne.
“My phone got hacked, and someone found out I was gonna propose to you,” Dave scanned the room. “Come on, let’s go out the window!”
“WAIT, FUCKING WHAT?!”
Dave stood straight up, stiff as a board. He said nothing. Karkat said nothing. Dave stared at the wall, unmoving.
Here it was. All of his plans lay dead at his feet.
“LIKE THAT HUMAN MARRIAGE THING ROSE AND KANAYA DID?”
Dave turned around, dropped to a knee. He pulled out the little metal box and held it up.
“I wrote a whole fucking speech I was gonna give to you and it was supposed to be just like those movies you love but the shit has hit the fan and, uh…”
He opened the box.
“Will you marry me?”
Karkat said nothing. He wiped his ass, breathing in that cadence that Dave knew preceded a tantrum. Calmly as he could, Karkat pulled up his pants, flushed the toilet and stood before Dave.
“DAVID ELIZABETH STRIDER, YOU ABSOLUTE, COMPLETE, AND TOTAL SHITCLOWN!” he started. “SOMEONE INTERCEPTED YOUR TEXTS? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? FUCK! HOW MANY OF OUR JOKES ARE GOING TO SHOW UP IN SOME GODDAMN TABLOID TOMORROW? IS HALF THE PLANET READING OUR PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS ON THE FUCKING INTERNET? FUCK!”
Dave looked around, uncomfortable.
“THE SIZE, SHAPE, AND TEXTURE OF THE RASH ON MY LEG MAY BE INTERESTING TO A WHOLE ECOSYSTEM OF NOSY ASSHOLES, BUT IT’S NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS! THERE’S NO OVERLAP BETWEEN MY SKIN CONDITION AND THEIR BUSINESS! THERE IS, IN FACT, A VERY LARGE GAP IN BETWEEN THEIR BUSINESS AND ANY AND ALL BUSINESS THAT I OR OTHER PARTIES INCLUDING WHATEVER FUNGUS I’VE GOT CHOOSE TO TAKE PART IN WITHIN MY PANTS, THANK YOU VERY FUCKING MUCH!”
“Uh, what about the uh…” Dave stammered. Anxiety pooled in his gut. His legs, arms, everything felt cold. Clenched jaw muscles ground tooth against tooth. It was like sinking in Hollywood quicksand, slow and inexorable, icy panic swallowing him from beneath. Breathing grew difficult.
“AND FRANKLY I DON’T SEE WHY YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD TO GO THROUGH ALL THIS GODDAMN PAGEANTRY WHEN YOU COULD HAVE JUST ASKED ME AT HOME INSTEAD OF MAKING AN EVENT OF IT AND DRAWING A SWARM OF CARRIONBEASTS INTO A FEEDING CIRCLE OVER BOTH OF OUR HEADS.”
Karkat snatched the ring from the box and slipped it onto his middle finger, where it stuck above his second knuckle.
“IT’S TOO SMALL, TOO,” Karkat groused. “ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO EXCHANGE IT FOR ONE THAT FITS? IS THAT HOW YOUR CULTURE DOES THAT? BECAUSE THIS DOESN’T FEEL LIKE IT’S GOING TO STRETCH ANY BIGGER WITHOUT THE SERVICES OF SOME FANCY ASSHOLE CHARGING A SHITHIVE MAGGOTS AMOUNT OF MONEY. MAYBE JADE COULD DO IT? WHATEVER, YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME SO YOU COULD MEASURE MY HAND OR SOMETHING.”
“Hold on, it’s on…” Dave stopped, grabbed Karkat’s hand. He slid the ring off, then onto Karkat’s ring finger. It slipped easily over the knuckle. “Better?”
“YEAH,” he started. “Yeah, it’s… yeah, that fits.”
Dave sighed. Karkat flushed, staring at the ring on his finger. He blinked, saying nothing.
“It’s… I like it. It’s pretty.”
“Yeah,” Dave said. “It looks good on you.”
The world felt soft, raw, like a mudbug without its shell, like a new-shorn lamb. Everything seemed significant. Karkat, in that moment, looked as handsome as Dave had ever seen him, candy-red and bewildered, staring vacantly at his own hand.
“So we’re not human married yet, right?”
“Right,” said Dave.
“And I know your species has stupid fucking terms for all of this shit. So are we still boyfriends? Or, what do I call you?”
“Fiancé,” Dave said, tears welling in his eyes. “We’re engaged. And you’re my fiancé. And I’m your fiancé. I guess. I mean, we can call ourselves whatever we like. The world where all these terms got made up and the people who made them up don’t really exist anymore. So I guess it’s whatever.”
“Dave,” Karkat said, lifting his boyfriend - his fiancé - to his feet. “Shut the fuck up.”
They kissed, there in the little single-occupancy bathroom, long and soft. There was no restaurant, no crowd of photographers and wannabes, no kitchen, no motley crew of cooks, no city, no Earth C at all. Only one room. Two souls. Two mouths with lips pressed tight. One moment that went on forever.
“We should go,” said Dave. Karkat nodded. Quietly as he could, Dave pushed the bathroom window open and floated out, turning to offer Karkat — his actual fucking fiancé, holy shit — his hand. Karkat took it, engagement ring glittering, a dopey smile on his face to match Dave’s.
As the photographers sat and waited and wondered, Dave flew through the quiet night, cradling Karkat in his arms, eye to eye with the troll that would very soon be his husband, that he would be with forever.
The future looked bright.