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i reached for the shadows and it simply held my hand

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It has been four days, two hours, and twenty seven minutes since you have last slept. You've always been good with time like that. 

Sleep? 

Not so much.

You aren't exactly sure what's causing it. Medically speaking, that is. Because people don't just... Not sleep. For this long. This isn't exactly the first time this has happened. You've stayed up way too late talking with your friends before, ending up watching light begin to pour in the windows, shades slipping off your nose as you start to unintentionally get hot and heavy with your keyboard. You've snoozed on your drawing tablet before, but that was back when you actually had it. It was warm and you used to stay up way too fucking long working on your comic to achieve that great levels of absolutely fucking ridiculous that it always reached flawlessly. But in those instances, it was a one time thing. Maybe twice in a week, if you were a dumbass frequently enough. This is consistent pattern. The fear of closing your eyes is so fucking prevalent that you just... Lay here. Staring at the white ceiling. It's probably not fucking healthy. That's what your friends would say if you told them. But you do know, kind of, what's causing this absolute shitfucking madness. It really is madness, at this point, some kind of knot in your brain that you somehow managed to twist up into a configuration of tight, slimy brain rope. Yeah, that's disgusting, but when you're just fucking lying here for hours, it's hard not to think about gross ass shit. 

And every so often, just like now, your eyes are finally getting tired. It's been too long. Occasionally, you'll get a nap in during English class, or if you took a visit to the library during lunch to "work on a group project". On both occasions, you'll sometimes get even luckier and earn a detention from a passing teacher who snoops on your mini snoozefest. You sleep in detention too. It's not like the bubblegum popping senior who runs it gives a shit anyways, she just wants to be let off the hook for getting caught smoking weed in the girl's bathroom too many times after forgetting to lock the door or clog the vents. Most days, you can get at least a little sleep at school, and those days are the easiest. You're able to lie there all night and get up in the morning, no fuckin' problem. But (today? yesterday?) you didn't get shit. After a particularly grinding analysis of The Stranger, you had to finish a paper or risk completely flunking the class. Lunch was occupied with Jade and John forcing you to referee an ongoing argument about dog breeds. And even after getting detention, Damara kicked you out after deciding she 'didn't want to see your little twerp face while she macked on her boyfriend". So as you're laying here, you feel your eyes finally slip shut. They've been so heavy all day, and honestly, if you fall asleep for even five fucking minutes, you'll be satisfied for the rest of your life. You just want to sleep.

Your eyes are closed. Finally. Finally.

 

DAVE.

 

The voice rattled through your head, deep and absolutely deadly, reverberating in your ears for a good seconds after it finished off with a growl. Your eyes are wide open now, fingers clutching the sheets so tight that you're shaking. It wasn't human, whatever that was. If it was human, you would find the fucker hiding out in your room and fucking go all out with your sword, obviously. You know the ways of the blade, but you can't figure out what the grating voice that calls to you is. It sparks in your head, and the word, your name (it's so mangled, it's like someone took your name in their mouth, chewed it up like cud, and spat it back out) sounds like it was pulled from deep inside the earth, straight out of a coffin. Because something living could not have made that sound.

It woke you with a start (although you weren't anywhere near asleep, honestly) back curving off the shitty mattress, hands clutching at the cotton t shirt sheets you've had since you were five, breaths rapid, in out in out in out in out. Are you sweaty? You're probably sweaty, you're a teenager and it's the middle of the night and your body regularly enjoys fucking with you, seemingly for the hell of it. You sweat for no reason all the time, and as you rub your thumb across your palm, your theory is correct as you feel the awkward, tacky slide. Your heart is just about to beat out of your fucking chest, ringing loudly in your ears. Is this panic? Are you panicking? Your immediate instinct is to take in your surroundings, ground yourself, put up your defenses in case he comes in. 

But you don't, and he doesn't, you stare straight ahead at the secondhand wooden dresser. Photos of you and your friends on your sixteenth birthday have a glint of the moon washing over the slightly shiny Polaroid film, the only light in the room. You and Jade in a photo booth. You and John, cheek to cheek, sticking your tongue out. They're the most candid photos you have of yourself. Everything else is varying shades of dark blue and black, a swirl of navy that lets you see exactly fuckall in the dark. Your eyes dart around the rest of your room, heart still jackhammering away in your chest. The blinds are open again, plastic white slits tilted open.

You swear that you closed them. 

You swear that you close them every time your eyes snap open after not even five seconds of having them shut. Maybe you're going crazy. You're probably going crazy. This has happened four fucking times in a row. You look away for an instant, and something, something so fucking tiny that you aren't really sure if anything changed, is just slightly different. Your blinds are open. One of the sheets is on the floor. Your closet is half open. And every time, you have no fucking way of proving you actually aren't crazy. 

You just see the light coming in his room and knows there's no point. It's weird light, kind of moonlight and kind of streetlight, a Frankenstein mix of shimmery white and fake, manmade white that is generally ugly and uncomfortable, even when it's the only light source in the whole damn room. It reminds you of the bright, sterile hospitals you've been in. The couple of times he took you there, it was for something so goddamn serious there was nothing you could cover up or go to school with. Broken, not sprained. Massive gashes,, sometimes. Not when you fractured your pelvis. Not when he split open your chin. Your wrist has been fractured since you were seven, and it still cracks and stings if you move it the wrong way. He does so much fucking shit to hurt you and when you wonder why, instead of playing the broken record of self loathing and hating him, you just try not to think about. But your arms are locked behind you as you stare at the grinning doll perched carefully atop the window sill, lifeless but still creepy as all hell.

You aren't sure how he gets in anymore. Bro swears he doesn't move Cal. Or, he claimed that some years ago, when you opened your closet door to have the puppet fall out on top of you, making that awful fucking giggling noise. He knew how much it bothered you, the way its eyes look almost real, permanently glazed over. The doll is so fucking unsettling. It feels like that thing watches your every move. You normally would toss a blanket or sweatshirt over it, but you force yourself to be brave this time. Let it sit there. It's a fucking doll. And it's the middle of the night, and if he were here he'd say you were being a pussy for not just ignoring it. 

You can feel the stare from across the room. You're holding eye contact for some reason as you lower yourself back down to the pillow. Arms sliding back down against the sheets, you rest your head gently back down on the pillow, forcing yourself to just stare straight up at the wholly appealing white ceiling right now. Breaths, just listen to them. You focus on your breaths, in and out. Your heart has finally fucking shut up, and you can actually breathe again, for the first time in the last five minutes. That's improvement, kind of. You'll just keep your eyes trained on the lovely white ceiling you have. 

There's a soft shuffling, and you tense up completely, eyes screwing shut as tightly as you can possibly get them.

Fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

He's here he's here you thought you were safe you thought he was out tonight he never comes home in the middle of the night like this unless there's people with him but there aren't and you don't know what to do you don't know what to do he's here he's here he's here you're so fucking wrecked you can't deal with him tonight it's too much you're still so so sore-

The shuffling stops.

There's a hand on your doorknob.

And then a hissing fills your ears.

It's otherworldly and nothing you've heard before. The feral cats that slink around the apartment don't sound like that at all. Not like a teapot whistle, or any sort of noise you've heard before, no, it's high and it hurts your ears a little bit. It's like a dog whistle for humans. It rings in your head for a moment, before pattering. What the fuck could make a noise so horrible? Whatever it is, it sounds mad, it sounds spitting mad, and for a moment you wonder if you made it up.

Silence.

More footsteps, quickly softening with the close of a door. 

You eyes finally flick open, and you sit up halfway with a shaky exhale, letting out the breath you had been squeezing onto far too tightly. 

Cal sits on the floor, knocked off the window sill like the ragdoll he is.Three deep, large claw marks are clearly dragged over his chest. Much too deep for anything relatively human to have done. A fucking cat couldn't have even done this, and this is a seriously pet free building anyways. Your window had been shut. Your door was shut. Your closet was shut. 

You hold your breath again.

Careful, Dave.

Even with an unknown cold breeze running over your shoulders and the feeling of something tugging on your sheets, you turn over and bury your face in the pillow. You've lost all hope, now. You'll be up until the sun rises again. Sleep is harder to come by now than it ever has been. Why won't your brain just fucking leave you alone? You just 

 

can't

 

sleep.

 


 

The next morning, Cal isn't even in your room. You rolled over at some point, and he's gone. There is no sign of shredded fabric, and absolutely no trace of whatever scratched the creepy ass thing up. You even duck under your bed for a brief, paranoid check. Apparently, Bro hasn't seen him either. You only know because the damn doll isn't propped up in some unsettling place in the apartment, and Bro is drinking at breakfast. You know that because the kitchen smells of brandy and coffee. Fucking gross. That just means he's sulky and pissed, but not enough to take it out on you yet. You'll hide at school for now, just to avoid him. Claim you stuck around for John's cheesy film club, which is really just a bunch of freshman, one weird transfer student, and him, all watching bad action movies on a projector.

Even though school still sucks ass.

It always does. When you get the opportunity to sleep during class, that's just about the best part. It's a shitty Houston public school, you don't really know what you're expecting, but it's so much better than being back at the apartment that you really can't hate it too much. It's really not the school you hate, either; the curriculum is boring and easy, but the some of the teachers like you. Or, well, they used to.The gym teacher favored you since your first day. Your old biology teacher was friendly enough, and every English teacher you've ever had has always thought your essays were funny, if not completely ridiculous. Creativity points, hell yeah. But the real kicker is the actual assholes your age. After an unnamed and further unmentioned incident involving an older boy and a play dress rehearsal, you're even more of an outcast than you already were. Most of those same teachers don't even bother shooting you pitiful glances anymore, they know there isn't shit that can be done about Dave Strider. A fucking mess, ripped at the seams, stuffing and guts all over the place. 

But you do have your friends. It always feels like they're slightly... temporary. Like something will happen, and they won't hesitate to cut you out the picture like kindergarten arts n crafts. But they're all you have, and you fucking love them. You and Jade spend your lunch period scrubbing at red lipstick smeared in a slur over the surface of your locker. Not the best way to bond, but it's an experience, and you've gotten worse shit. You're tough, you can handle it. Ever since an incident involving you, a member of the soccer team, and a video, the whole school took to making you the new gay punching bag. It's really petered out, actually. There's less jeering and punching and more general ignorance. It's kind of great, but this shit still does happen. You're not the only one, anyways. Soap and paper towels from the school bathroom didn't work on the lipstick, and so Jade had to ask some girl she knew for something to get the red smudged lettering off your locker door. Wiping it off really doesn't change anything, not at all, but it makes you feel just a bit better. Because there's someone here who cares. Someone who wants to help you.

"This is the third time, can't they at least be original?" She muttered as she rubbed at the F with the side of her hand and a paper towel. This shit always got more on her nerves than your own, which was both sweet and weird. But you knew Jade. She was unbelievably compassionate, so of course she'd feel that way. You're a little envious of it on occasion, but then remember how weak you feel when you care, anyways. 

"Douchebags aren't exactly known for their creativity, Harley."

She laughed softly, and you elbow her after smudging the two G's together. Your locker now has a mess of red smears. "You don't have to help me, y'know. I can deal with this shit myself. It's not like it gets to me."

"No way, I'm your friend, Dave. And I'd like to see you try to get this lipstick off yourself." Jade gave you one of her I'm-trying-to-help-you-dummy knowing smiles. 

You snorted, nodding absently. Yeah, she was right. You didn't have access to the mi-cellar cleaning whatever that was kind of getting this shit off. It's at times like this when you hardcore appreciate your friends. John is meeting with a teacher right now, so he really couldn't get his ass over here, but he was there when you needed to ice your eye in the bathroom one morning when Jade was busy. And you were there when people called Jade a bucktoothed plant weirdo, and when they made fun of John's loathing for cake. You all took turns. It was simply a part of being who you all were- initially, you three just kind of sat together after not knowing who else to sit with, freshman year. It was awkward, mostly. But it quickly became a good dynamic, with you making shitty jokes and John punching your arm and Jade doing her little snort laugh. It worked. None of you had ever really been popular, but the hierarchy here wasn't concrete enough for it to actually matter to any of you. Each of you got your fair share of teasing, but it was tolerable.

For the most part.

"Man, whoever put this on really wasted their expensive ass Chanel lipstick on some loser's locker. This shit really ain't coming off, and it's honestly a damn shame to waste such high quality lipstick." That made Jade laugh, at the least, and lightened the mood a little more.

"It was probably one of those girls who have those massive bruises all over their shoulders and boobs." While Harley may have been sweet as all hell, she wasn't as innocent as you remember. It was probably your fault. Whoops. You raised your eyebrows, recalling how one of those Peixes girls showed up last year looking like she had played some serious paintball. You laughed back at the memory, knocking gently against her, and she huffs at you. "Whaaaat? I'm right!"

"It was Ampora," A gruff, raspy voice mutters from behind you.

You turn around, and there stands who might possibly be the shortest fucking kid in the whole school. You recognize him, kind of; lots of wild, black curls, thick eyebrows and tan skin, looking at you as though you just threw up on his shoes all the time. Kermit Vantass or something equally weird. He's clutching something in white packaging very tightly between some long ass nails. And he's wearing a thick ass wool sweater with a 69 on it, for some reason. How isn't this guy super fucking hot? 

Cough. Well, maybe hot isn't the best goddamn word for it, but certainly... Something. There's a little crease between two thick, dark eyebrows, his nose is really scrunched up, and his cheeks are kind of round and delicate. 

Maybe it's... cute.

You push the thought as far away as you can and as fast as you can, cramming it down in your brain like you stuff assorted objects into the back of your closet. Not cute. You're not getting into this shit now. There's literally lipstick on your locker with a now very smudged gay slur all over it that makes it clear what you should probably get a handle on.

"Really? How do you know?" Jade raises her eyebrows, easily bringing you out of your probably creepy staring. He couldn't see behind your shades anyways, so for all he knows, you're intensely focused on the very sexy wall behind him. You totally wanna get it on with that beige drywall.

"Kanaya said to give this to you." He ignores her question completely, of fucking course. Kanaya. That must have been the girl that gave Jade the makeup remover shit in the first place. The kid shoves the bag of wipes in your hands silently as you stand there, a little dumbfounded. His nose is still all scrunched up as he looks back up at you, and although he seems huffy and possibly self assured, you watch his hands shake momentarily before he fiddles with the seam of his sweater. Really, isn't he hot in that thing? It's November, sure, but it's still fucking Texas. The temperature hasn't even dropped below sixty degrees yet. 

"Oh. Uh." You cleared your throat, nodding slightly in appreciation. "Thanks."

He stands there for a moment more, eyes seemingly searching your face and then looking between you and Jade briefly. His brows furrowing into a somehow deeper glare, before he fucking dashes off, a little streak of black and grey. Gone. If you weren't so damn confused about the weird ass interaction you had with this kid, you'd wonder if his speed and stealth rivalled your own. It might, honestly, because there was something strange about the way he scurried off, how he just seemed to blend into the shadows. You would envy it, if you actually cared. 

"Who the fuck even was that?" You murmured out loud, staring straight ahead for another moment and running a hand through your hair.

"Oh, that's just Karkat." Jade had already turned back around and resumed smearing the lipstick around. You followed suit, turning back and now opening the bag of wipes open with a weird, plasticky rip. Jade pulled one out, and the red came off a lot easier with the wipes. "He's in English with us, and, mhmm..." She paused for a moment in thought, scrubbing at the red. "Oh, he has visual art with you, I thought."

"I dunno. I can't really remember seeing him around. Is he new or some shit?" 

"Yeah! He moved from... somewhere, I don't really know. I'm surprised you can't remember him, he's kind of a loud guy." Jade chuckles and you raise your eyebrows. Weird. You really can't recall seeing this guy around, but he's evidently hard to see in the first place. Short and well concealed. You're actually surprised you two aren't buddy buddy, considering he seems like enough of an outcast to hang out with your ragtag gang of apparent freaks. The girl, Kanaya- you're pretty sure you can picture her face. Tall and pretty. Were they related or something? Maybe not, but she, too, looked like she hadn't seen the sun once in her whole life, and hadn't slept a day of it, either. They both had that weird, intense gaze, and ridiculously long fingernails. Goddamn talons. 

"He's been absent a lot anyways. Something about a weird allergy? Photo-something. I've only talked to him a couple of times, he gets kinda defensive." Jade just shrugged as she continued. You aren't exactly sure what to make of this guy, honestly. He seems like a bit of a dick, but you're intrigued. Maybe you can catch him after school or in art. Either would be preferred to going home. To take your mind off it, you reach up and draw a dick in the swirls of thick red lipstick.

"It's a masterpiece now." Jade rolls her eyes, and the two of you end up smearing red over each other's foreheads before actually getting all of the lipstick off.

 


 

You nearly manage to scrape up a detention after throwing a dodgeball right at the back of the gym teacher, but are only met with a grin and a toss back that knocks the wind out of you. You fucking tried, that's for sure. When the bell rings, you cringe, pulling out your phone and glancing at the time. How many minutes can you waste in the bathroom? Or saying you got caught up with John talking about something trivial? But you get a text not even two minutes later.

"get your scrawny ass over here. no excuses".

You sigh, rub your eyes, and start the trek home. The walk is always the same. Around the corner, shoulders semi drooping in shame, then straight for twelve blocks, turn again. Past the ancient 7-11 and singular run down Starbucks. The Texas sun beats down on your back and you pretend like everything is just fine so there isn't too many questions asked by anyone. Not like anybody cares in the first place. Everyone around here has their own shit to deal with, you just don't want to get hollered at by some assholes in a convertible that know you from school as you push open the familiar barred door anyways.

 


 

"C'mon. Doc Scratch. My man. My dude, my homie. My best dealer. You seriously can't be telling me that you're outta the good shit."

You drummed your fingers on the cold, fake granite counter of the 24 hour pharmacy. Your mission to find something to help you finally shut your eyes at night for good isn't panning out how you expected just yet, and you're starting to get nervous, leg jiggling, fingers tapping restlessly. The bright fluorescent lights in here made the already bleached white beanie on your favorite pharmacist (and first pot dealer) look unusually white. His brows furrowed, and he barely even looked up from scribbling out unreadable prescriptions. He just shook his head, fiddling with the obnoxious green tie he wore. His name tag was slipping slightly to the left, looking less like "Doctor Scratch" and more like "Doctor Seetcher".

"My apologies, Dave. No new shipments until next month. We sold out fast. The high tension since the beginning of economic decline and large influx of students has only increased demand past manageable levels. There's a lot of people not sleeping." Scratch sighed, and you could visibly see the mild sorrow and pity he looked at you with. You open your mouth to protest, but he held up a single gloved hand before you could say a word. "And you don't even have a forged guardian signature. I can't give you anything if you don't even have a forged one." Scratch shook his head, sliding the debit card back across the countertop back between your fingers.

"Come on," You said softly, doing your damn best to keep your voice from wavering too much. He finally looks up from the slips of paper he's signing, pen slumping slightly in his hand. Scratch sighed, full of exhaustion- you wonder for a moment if you're actually being that much of a pushy kid, but you remember his not-so-brief stories about the woes of medical school. He's just tired. He shook his head and looked back down. 

"I can't help you, Dave." 

"Fuck," You muttered, shutting your eyes tight and pushing up your shades to rub at them. The sound of Scratch's pen against the paper is all you hear as you shove the card back into your pocket, and shuffle out of the back section. There's no one here still, except for some short guy digging through the first aid section you're intimately familiar with on his tip toes. You probably have to head back there soon, as you're running low on rubbing alcohol and the inconspicuous waterproof bandaids that are always on sale. You try to push that thought away, and the silent worry that you'll never sleep again, that school won't get better, that Bro won't get better.

The bell chimes cheerfully as you walk out the door, hands stuffed in your pocket, and it feels like you're being watched. You don't care, bitterly kicking at pebbles as you finally get closer to home. Cheers to another sleepless night.

You barely even recognize the various crumbling brick apartment buildings as you trudge down the street, and it's not as though anyone inside would recognize you, either. You've walked down this same street every day for years, and not a single person knows who you are anyways. It really doesn't matter, it's not like knowing them would do jack shit for your current situation, and it's not like you wanna know them, anyways. While on a bender over not knowing any of the assholes that occupy the other apartments on the street, your bag drags behind you and a dog barks somewhere and you aren't paying attention again.

Your foot catches in an errant uneven part of the sidewalk, and you gracefully faceplant, having a brief make out session with some sexy concrete, and just lay on the ground like a fresh corpse for a hot second. Nice. After a good moment of basking in your own stupidity, you uncurled and pressed your callused hands into the harsh concrete, elbows buckling just slightly as you pushed yourself up onto your knees, sun in your eyes as your shades sit a few feet away. The side of your hand is a little scraped up and there's a new rip in your already tattered jeans, but frankly, it's nothing. Once you finally collect yourself, you reach for them and continue walking, down the street of people you don't know, until you reach the one building you do. Brick. Falling apart. Shitty landlord. Shittier tenants, including yourself.

When you tug your key out of the lock after making it up to the apartment, it's silent.

 

You hate it.

 

As you turn around, your fingers tighten on the strap of your backpack, toes curling in your shoes. Half passed out on the futon, two empty beer bottles placed on the coffee table, Xbox controller still in his hands, the Tony Hawk background still flashing on the TV— there he fucking is. It's an average Wednesday night, Bro completely fucking asleep (you hope) in an alcoholic stupor, leaving you to ignore your homework and fuck around with your computer in peace. Absolutely fucking perfect, no sarcasm needed. You love the days where he isn't even conscious and you're on your own. There's usually food somewhere stashed in the kitchen, and he doesn't stare over your shoulder or through the doorway as you absently try to cook some fucking mac n cheese when you get hungry. These are the best days, besides possibly when he leaves the apartment completely for days on end. And if you're quiet-

"Not so fast, Blondie."

 

Fuck.

 

The "affectionate" nickname was given to you, even though the both of you shared the same blond curls from your father. But it wasn't the worst of all the nicknames. You could tell how much danger you were in depending on which one he chose. Going from best to worst, it went nerd, shortstack, asshole, Blondie, fucker, little shit, brat, Dave, Davey, and if he didn't even refer to you by name- that meant fucking run. But today would be okay, most likely. You had a good chance. A couple of beers just meant drowsy and bored, probably. He'll just get a little snappy with you, at the worst. Of course, he won't actually snap at you, or even show that he's mad. Nah, he'll just give you these intense stares. Backhandedly mention something he wants to pick on you for. It happens all the time now.

"'Sup." You mumble, still creeping towards your bedroom as sneakily and stealthily as you could, turning on your phone just to stare at it. You have a lock now, but he can break the hinges. You've seen him do it. You've watched him splinter the wood into little pieces after you had a fight, the door nearly snapped in half with strips of wood peeling right off. You slept on the cold tiled floor of the bathroom for three weeks after that fight. You were pretty sure the indent in your cheek last for a week, and your back still isn't the same as it was before.

"Get y're ass over here."

Swallowing the anxiety crawling up your throat, you turn on your heel, stepping around the couch and looking to him. He's just laying there, and if he hadn't been speaking, you would have thought he was asleep or dead. Either was preferable for whatever nerve wracking bullshit was coming. 

"Gimme."

You paused, brow furrowing slightly as he stuck his arm out. Oh. Shades? You slipped them off your face, folding the sides in neatly and placing them in his hand, much larger than yours. His fingers closed around them, and his arm receded, much too slow for comfort. He didn't often take them away, he didn't like seeing your face in the first place. He was the one who insisted you wear them. All the cool guys do. Cool guys don't wear their heart on their sleeve. Cool guys don't let people see their eyes, especially if they're weird. 

After a moment of silence, you dare to speak.

"... Can I have them ba-"

"How was your little adventure," He interrupted smoothly, completely toneless. You've tried for years to achieve the level of carelessness and stoicism he has, but you just can't do it. Even after multiple comments from your friends on bad days that you seem "robotic", you won't ever be enough to even begin to compare to the facade he pulls off, seemingly with ease. You sometimes wonder if he actually is able to feel emotion. You don't like thinking about it. 

And he somehow found out about your detour. Fuck.

"What adventure?"

"Don't fucking try that with me, fucker." His voice cut through your weak retort easily. You use all your might to keep your voice completely bored. You don't care that he knows. You don't care you're late. You were doing shit. Who's someone he likes? Scratch that, he doesn't know any of your friends. He seems to simultaneously think you're a loser if you don't have any, and call you lame if you actually do. There's no winning, only brief and narrow escape. You scramble to think of an excuse.

"Me and Jade were making fun of the vapes."

Another thirty seconds of silence— 

safety. 

You had escaped this time. Thank fuck for irony. But tonight you might get unlucky if he drinks too much again. You push that back, slinking off to your room, coughing to cover the click of your lock. Much better. Safer. He can get through this, but it lets him know you're on your guard tonight. When you come home exhausted and toss your backpack aside, not even bothering to close or lock it, that's when he gets you. Those are the worst nights. 

For now, you're safe in the enclosed space of your room. 

First things first, your current injuries. You strip off your shirt and jeans, carefully setting them in the ever growing pile of dirty laundry. You'll have to go down the block and get it washed this week, probably. Which also means needing to get your hands on some quarters. Whatever, that's not priority one. You set aside a decent smelling tank top and a pair of sweats for the time being, heading to the bathroom to tend to your various miniscule injuries. It's really nothing right now, you're damn lucky winter is coming up anyways. More of an excuse to cover up. 

You stand in front of the mirror for a second, not even doing anything. Lifting your arms, seeing where you're currently bruised.Two, matching on your hips. One on your shoulder. A small, light one on your chin that you've been reluctant to use makeup to cover, lest Bro notices. They're all fading, but it still makes you feel queasy to see the places where he managed to get you like this. You don't actually throw up, and you're glad. You'll get hungry too fast. The places you cut up after falling today are already healing over, not even bleeding. You've gotten nasty enough infections to know it's best to clean them anyways. Reaching up to pull open the medicine cabinet, you remember you're out of both peroxide and rubbing alcohol. Your theory stands correct, and you frown, shutting the cabinet and settle for running the cuts under hot water. That's okay for now.

Shuffling back to your room, you flick off the bathroom light and tug on your clothes. You immediately feel more comfortable, and even more so when you crawl into bed and grab your phone and backpack. Digging through it, you take the extra food you set aside and start to eat what your makeshift dinner is to be. You can eat if Bro goes to his workroom, but that might not be till later, so you won't risk it. Honestly, he probably won't bother you, but you really don't like risking anything nowadays. 

The night drags on. 

You don't notice how late it is until your eyes are actually slipping shut with your phone draped over your face. The screen is dimming, your phone going to sleep as your eyelids flutter. How many days have you been up past two, exactly? You aren't really sure anymore, and with sleep hazily guiding you away under the warmth of your blankets and cheerful goodnight messages from John and Jade, you don't see the point in staying awake. Maybe you didn't really need meds. It was just a couple of bad days. You wonder how long this bout of weak sleep will last anyways.

You don't even dream this time, you're pretty sure.

It's like you're still just... lying there.

Oh, you're not actually asleep. That's why.

Eyes staring up into the blank white ceiling. Lips slightly parted. Shades set aside, lights out, phone resting directly next to your chest after sliding out of your hand. It's like your asleep, but not really. You barely even have the energy to roll over, hand slipping off the bed as your eyes shut.

You aren't sure if you were already dreaming or not, but you could almost swear that something intangible but warm brushed across your fingers before you drifted off.

Chapter Text

During your first night of sleep in nearly four days, you find yourself dreaming again.

It's been a long time since you actually dreamed. You're easily able to make the distinction between dreaming and.. the other thing that happens normally. You're not exactly sure what it's called, but it's fucking horrible. It's not like dreaming at all. You're stuck in place, and you can somehow feel the cool air outside of your head, but your vision is fucked over, and so are most of your other senses. You hear things, strange noises that make you want to rip your ears out— weird whistling, screeches and howls, your brother's breath, hot and loud next to your ear. You see things, things you don't even want to talk about. It's all flashes of purple and black, darkness threatening to pull you under every time. It's like your brain and body are in a tug of war, constantly pulling you back and forth between the land of the wakeful and your own fucked up brain.

When you dream, you can force yourself to wake up, you've done it before when things got unbearable and you needed to get out of your own head. Dreams are always lighter. The illusion is more obvious, you can always tell when you're dreaming, but you often don't do anything about it. You let the dream pull you along until you woke up. Back when you dreamed (and slept) regularly, you often dreamed of a purple city. Not a city, maybe, but a kingdom, a purple kingdom full of citizens that barely interacted with you. You'd normally fly around, explore the same places over and over again, but it wasn't bad at all. You're pretty sure you gave the purple kingdom a name, who knows how long ago now, something weird as shit probably. You don't remember too much of it, honestly. Just purple. But tonight, you don't dream of a purple city.

You find yourself somewhere... Dark.

It's dark. Very, very dark. You don't think you've ever been somewhere so dark before? Your hand instinctively reaches up to your face for your shades. Nope, no shades. Your fingers brush over your face, and over your closed eyelids. Well, that's probably why you can't fucking see shit. Then you realize you can't open your eyes anyways. You try, even trying rubbing at them and pushing at your eyelids. It's like they're glued shut. Okay that's weird, but you don't exactly feel scared.The darkness isn't exactly bad. A little chilly. With one sense crossed off the list, you reach over your left arm, running your fingers over... fabric, yup. It goes all the way up to your shoulders, and around to where there's something on your back. Maybe a hood? No, too long. You're wearing pants, too. At least your fucking brain has the decency to dress you fully. 

You can't walk, or move your legs at all. It's not a problem, really, since you can't even fucking—

Your eyes flick open, and you're overwhelmed with color and light. It takes a moment to adjust; you blink and rub at your eyes. You're somewhere bright yet dark. It's a cavernous area, jagged rock jetting up from the floor and down from the ceiling. Stalactites and stalagmites— you don't remember the difference anymore. There's lava, lots of lava, orange and yellow and hot, probably some of the weirdest shit you've ever seen in your whole life, honestly. It's not all lava, thankfully, there's various platforms and rocky areas you can probably jump on, so that you're not contained to this little area. The lava is warm, you can feel the heat and see the air wavering in front of you, but it seems almost like video game lava. It glows and seems to churn, but nothing shoots out, and you could probably touch it. You don't anyways. (Duh.)

There's a flash behind you, and instantly, you prepare to strife. You don't have a sword. Or any kind of useful weapon, really, just your fists and a shitton of uncontrollable lava. Not exactly an ideal fighting space. But you whirl around anyways, knees bent and shoulders low, prepared as all hell to throw a punch if you have to. There's no one there, and for a second, you wonder if you're going crazy. But then you see it again, a dark blur in the corner of your eye, and you turn back on your heel as fast as you possibly can. There's something there, that's for sure. It's vaguely human shaped, but the image flickers and the edges seem to blur right into the air. It's just straight black, resembling a human shaped cloud of black fog, somewhere in between opaque and translucent. It's completely still. The both of you don't move.

"... hi."

It's probably not the right move, but a greeting is the best way to judge if this thing is friendly or not. It doesn't move, doesn't say anything. It probably didn't even understand you. You note that it seems to be significantly smaller than you, and definitely human shaped, but with no discernable features. Like a 2D image, almost. It's bizarre, but not threatening just yet. Finally, it moves. Reaching a hand out, pulling it back. You're no Jane Goodall, but you take the hint and take a cautious step forwards. It beckons again. You take another step. As you approach the black shadow, an uncomfortable feeling builds in your upper stomach, turning and thrashing. Your nervousness builds as it nods, and you take one more step, one arm by your side slowly reaching up, intending to grasp at it. Is this thing even physical? You aren't sure. 

It's growing taller. You can tell because it was once at your chin, but now the two of you are almost eye level. It doesn't ask you to get any closer, but it's taller than you now, and wider, too. It doesn't seem much less shadowy, but you sneak a quick glance down to its arms, which seem to be growing larger and gaining claws. Not cat claws, not even lion claws. The kind of claws a dragon has. The nervous feeling is still pooling in your stomach, stacking up and up, threatening to spill out of your throat. 

It's fully leaning over you now, your back just barely arching as it takes a small step forwards. It doesn't move for a second, and then it leans down a bit. You hold your breath, heart now hammering in your gut, stomach twisting unexplainably. You've never felt so nervous in your life. It's about a foot from your face. The black begins to shift and dissolve, parting way for a mouth, seemingly. The black turns into pink, and then white, a wide cheshire cat grin spreading over the shadow's face. The teeth don't line up, it's a whole jagged mess of massive fangs the size of your head. The both of you are completely still.

It's mouth opens. Blood spills out between the teeth and so does the same gravelly voice you heard the night before as it snaps down right in front of you, your breath hitching and your heart going absolutely fucking ballistic because fuck it's right there it's going to fucking kill you

 

COME HERE.

 

Your eyes flick open, and you're laying in bed in your room with something dark and shadowy barely two inches from your face. You're panting hard, breathing rocky and unsteady, and you're pretty sure your heart actually stopped as you stare that thing right in the face with what you can guess is an absolutely terrified expression on your face. It quickly darts away, seemingly slipping back into the shadows underneath your bed. It takes a full three minutes for your breathing to return to normal and for you to stop hearing your heartbeat ringing through your ears. Once you finally regain basic motor control again, you roll over again. You remember teeth, you remember your fingers brushing against something sort of warm and not-there like a puff of steam. You let your fingers trickle down the bed, dangling over the edge of the bed tentatively, but nothing brushes past them again. You almost miss the reassuring feeling.

You can't get back to sleep that night. You watch the sun rise through your window for the fifth time in a row, and you can't stop thinking about teeth.

 


 

The morning is uninterrupted by Bro's presence. You're not sure where he went, but you don't care. You eat your Cap'n Crunch silently anyways before heading to school.

This morning is better than the last. John and Jade both greet you at the door with those matching bucktooth grins you quickly grew fond of. At first, they seemed freaky and not at all genuine. You're like a fucking scared animal, freaked the fuck out by some predators baring their teeth until they take you in as one of their own. Like those cutesy ass videos of the tigers that take in wolf cubs and raise them like big cats. Cute shit. No lipstick on your locker. Not as many disdainful glares and muttering. It's still there, but every day it seems to fade more into background noise. Jade was right; people do get over themselves after a while. The three of you walk to class, one of them on each side of you, your protectors. If only Bro knew you had two dorky ass weirdos guarding you at school. He'd flip his shit. But you love it, you love the way they laugh at your shitty jokes and John makes fun of your messy hair, tugging at it and earning a nudge from you. It's always lighthearted and fun between the three of you.

Before you even know it, the bells drills way too fucking loud in your ear, and you've gotta eat. There used to be a feeling of dread that came with lunch; but you've got some money now, and the cafeteria serves lunch, so the existence of hungry "I had a big breakfast" Dave Strider is no more.

"We're finally upperclassmen, we can actually go off campus for lunch!" John raised his eyebrows at you and Jade as the three of you stood outside the Advanced Bio classroom. "There's food around this place, let's go get pizza or something!"

"Blegh, my grandpa says that stuff clogs up your intestines," Jade wrinkled her nose. "Can't we eat something healthy for once? What would your dad say, John?" She grinned.

With a snort and a small shake of his head, John nudges you. "Wanna go out, Dave? They have a Subway somewhere around here. Jade, you can eat your vegetables and some bread."

Jade socks him in the arm, and you laugh as he rubs it. Jade is way stronger than she looks— you've watched that chick shoot a fucking pigeon with a rifle. She's totally badass, but also refuses to eat eggs. "I dunno, man. I didn't bring enough cash for Subway. Let's just go chill on the bleachers or sit in the courtyard, I'm really not hungry."

"Courtyard sounds good. Oh, I have some people you guys need to meet! This whole group of kids transferred from that tiny 7th through 10th school down on the West Side. I talked to a couple of them, and they haven't really broken out of their group yet, so I thought it'd be cool for you guys to talk to them." John offered cheerily. 

"Oh, all the students from Alternia Junior High?" 

"Yeah!"

"Isn't that school super exclusive or some shit?" You wonder aloud, remembering the head of your middle school mention it. They had a special application process, and before that even started, you had to interview.

"I don't think so. Most of them are in the same classes we have." John shrugged. You decidedly push the question aside until later.

"Dude, if you introduce us to a bunch of genius kids, I won't be able to keep up."

"Not to worry, Dave. Some of them are surely braindead enough that you'll understand what they're saying."

"Guys!" Jade protested, tugging on John's arm and jerking her head outside. "Instead of calling Dave stupid again, how about we actually go talk to them?" You snickered, John grinning and shaking Jade off as he walked out to the courtyard, sliding into a seat around the long tables across from a girl with blue-streaked hair. Jade immediately wanders off to go squeal up a storm with who knows who. You follow John somewhat meekly instead, but swallow your anxiety and keep the coolest cool dude face you can, sitting down beside him. He and the blue haired girl chat for a minute before he looks back to you.

"Vriska, this is Dave! He's pretty awesome, if not a total ass sometimes." John grins, pushing up his glasses. You roll your eyes, leaning over table to nod casually to Vriska.

"Heeeeeeeey, Dave." She raises her eyebrows above her glasses— one of the lenses seems to be covered for some reason. "Are you nearly as dorky as John?"

"Never. If I know Egbert at all, it's that he has hitched himself up every fuckin' rung of the dorkiness ladder and beyond. He's floating beyond the dorksphere. Dude is flying away, he's so dorky."

"Fuck off, Dave."

"I like you." Vriska grins widely. "What's a girl gotta do to get some decent friends and fiends around here that are actually cool? Everyone I know is a massive loser!" 

"I'm hurt you don't think I'm the coolest girl on the block!" Some other girl wearing red sunglasses (ten plus cool points in your book) drapes herself over Vriska's shoulders. "It smells like lame over here."

Vriska's grin only widens, elbowing the other girl. "Be friendly, Terezi. Some actually cool people have arrived. Finally, we're free of all these loooooooosers." She rolls her eyes, absently playing with the fabric of Terezi's shirt.

"I am Terezi, and you both smell dumb," She declared, pushing up her little square sunglasses. You can't help but wonder if she's actually blind, but people always ask the same thing about you, and it's annoying as fuck. You'll find out. 

"Nice shades," You offered absently. "I can always appreciate a fellow cool kid."

"Thanks, fellow coolkid! I stole them from my sister. Redglare strikes again! But the law will never catch me, for I am the law." Her grin is even more wicked than Vriska's, and you find yourself nearly laughing at the two of them. John was right, these kids are cool. There's a bunch more you haven't even met yet, you realize as you glance around the tables at the kids chatting. A pair talking quietly catches your eye. Karkat and a girl, who seem to be staring at you. They were talking a moment ago, but they've gone silent in favor of just looking at you.

He's been looking at you this whole time, it seems. Just kind of... Staring. You'd find it creepy, but you admit to doing it behind the safety of your shades all the time. You forget how creepy it is sometimes, you've been doing this shit for years. Karkat looks so out of place, and so does the tall, pretty girl sitting next to him. They both look insanely pale and tired. Worse than yesterday, you note. The girl next to him (Kanaya, maybe...?) seems to be asking a question, which he answers without even looking away from you. Alright, you'll bite. You stand up, letting the three in front of you continue their bickering and laughter, wandering over to sit across from Karkat and the other girl with a little nod.

" 'Sup." You probably should give an actual introduction, but you just look between the two of them. Karkat regards you with a steady glare, and the girl next to him looks between the two of you absently. You almost feel bad; she looks so nervous she might combust. Maybe not nervous, just concerned. But still.  

"Uhm. Hello. I am Kanaya." The girl sitting nervously next to him breaks the silence after a moment, raising her eyebrows at Karkat in a seemingly impatient gesture. She reaches over and rests a hand on his back. Woah, okay. Are these two shacked up or something? Not that it matters. You don't care, it's not any of your fucking business anyways...

Woah, cool your jets, Strider. What the fuck.

"Oh— Kanaya. You know Jade, right?" You ask without missing a beat, letting your eyes stay trained on Kanaya instead.

"Yes I do. We both were in theatre together last year." She pauses, seemingly contemplating her next few words. "I trust the wipes I distributed worked out well for you?" Kanaya's words are slow, and she regards you with a gentle expression. You'd think she was being sarcastic, but she clearly isn't. Huh.

"Oh uh, yeah." You recall yesterday, Karkat shoving them into your hands and dashing off. Kanaya. That's where you heard the name. "Thanks for that," You say quickly, pushing your shades up your nose reflexively. Kanaya gets the hint and nods. 

"What's up with the fucking shades?" Karkat spits not even a second later. You glance to him. You honestly thought he'd stay quiet the entire conversation, but you remember Jade saying he was loud, so maybe he'll live up to the legend. 

"Karkat," Kanaya quietly chastised, but he just wrinkled his nose (aw, cute— wait, no, shut up) and continued glaring at you without even acknowledging her.

"John gave them to me. Collector shit, dude. Ben Stiller wore these babies." You tap the frames proudly. Without a doubt one of the greatest gifts you have ever received in your entire life, these things are frankly your pride and joy. Karkat just snorts, clearly unimpressed. 

"So you're a douche, then." You can almost hear Kanaya beginning an indignant protest, but you're actually wholly enjoying this. You haven't gotten banter like this in a while. Karkat's funny as fuck, even if he is being serious.

"Call me whatever you like, but it doesn't change how cool I am, man."

"You're clearly some kind of asshole who gets off to people fawning over his pseudocool facade which is just a cover for the fact that you're a little bitch inside," Karkat growls all in one breath. His face is flushed (it's a weird, pallid reddish grey) and he's practically panting. He almost seems to be flickering at the edges, but you know it's probably just smudges on your shades.

You just start howling with laughter, leaning over the table and gripping it. He's kind of right, but it's honestly just funny. The way he tried to say it so menacingly with his raspy barely-there voice was the funniest shit. You can hear Kanaya muttering to him, but you can't understand any of it. When you finally can breathe again, you look back up, and she has a firm hand on Karkat's shoulder. He's sitting there, arms crossed over his chest, nose half buried in the long collar of his sweater.

"You're a massive fucking assmonkey, Dave Strider," He mutters.

"So're you, dude, but I like it." You flash a grin, but it falters after a moment, and your brows furrow. You don't remember telling him your name. "Wait, how'd you know my name?"

Karkat falters himself. It's brief and you nearly miss it, with how quickly he pulls himself back together and throws back a response. "I'm in your class, dicksucker, we've practically been elbow to elbow-"

Kanaya calls his name sharply all of a sudden, glaring with an intensity you didn't think was possible of someone so pacified and put together, but his words register after a second and you feel your stomach churning and twisting. It feels like he stepped on your foot, hard, and you glance away, rubbing at your neck before getting up and nodding a couple times in acknowledgement. You didn't really expect that, to honest— after Kanaya gave you those wipes, you thought maybe these kids would be cool with everything, or at least wouldn't have heard the rumors. But apparently not. You're not going to bother with it. Just move on. "Cool, cool. I get it, man. See you in class, I guess."

You hear the two of them bickering in hushed voices as you walk away, shoving your hands in your pockets and heading for the doors. You think you've had enough of these kids for now. Enough of people in general for now, actually, so you're going to slide on out real smooth and make a mad dash for somewhere quiet. 

"Where you going, coolkid? Leaving so soon?" Terezi crows from behind you. Turning halfway around, you flash the best grin you can manage right now and shake your head.

"Gonna hit up the vape room. I mean bathroom." 

She cackles in response before turning back to her posse. No one else pays you a second glance, but you're pretty sure Karkat and Kanaya are looking this way. Whatever. Nice one, man. You continue walking off into the halls, not exactly sure where to go. The bathrooms really are just a vape free-for-all zone now, so they're not the best bet, unless you want to bring back the asthma you supposedly grew out of. You can just chill and wander a bit for now.

It feels like an act of god when your phone buzzes in your pocket just as you hear the dreaded double doors out to the courtyard open. You duck beside a set of lockers, leaning against the blue surface and pulling out your phone.

 

tentacleTherapist [TT] has begun pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 12:14!

TT: Hello, Dave.

TT: I know you hold a firm opinion that we don't need to keep in communication, but I thought it important to let you know that things are changing.

TT: Of course, things are changing all the time. The universe doesn't rest for us.

TT: But anyways. Things are changing, specifically regarding our relationship.

TG: so you finally accepted my marriage proposal

TT: And here I was thinking I would get to go off on a philosophical tangent without interruption.

TT: But no, of course not. Instead you must jump in, and trigger my Freudian slip sensors all over again.

TT: Watch your tongue, Dave.

TG: ill get security cameras for my mouth

TT: Good.

TT: Now that we've danced around the subject enough, I'm going to delicately tango us around this tangent.

TT: I'm switching schools.

TT: Roxy is taking me into her care, as she has graduated from college and is now pursuing coding. She is living in the city again, and I will be moving in with her and transferring to Skaia High.

TT: That is all.

tentacleTherapist [TT] is now an idle chum!

TG: fuck wait what

TG: rose

turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum!

 

You rest your head against the metal of the lockers and pretend like your weird sister and her weirder sister aren't inserting themselves back into your life, and probably going to fuck things up again. Your phone slides down onto the concrete, and you sigh audibly. Fuck.

"Dave?"

Are you fucking kidding? What now? After having a massive fucking nuclear bomb dropped on your unknowing head, someone is here to drop another one? Russia has finally cracked and teamed up with China, US of Dave is under attack and you are being bombed into oblivion, better start up the draft again because we're going to war, y'all, get out the Uzis and AK47s because we're going to war-

"Excuse me..? I'm sorry, but what are you talking about?"

You look up to realize Kanaya is standing beside the lockers, looking very puzzled, and that you've said all of that aloud.

Fuck.

"Nothin'," You murmur, shaking your head and running a hand through your hair. Your phone sits beside you dejectedly. 

"Well. Alright." She brushes off her skirt and looks down at you in that same way as before- almost concerned for you. "I would just like to say that Karkat did not mean what he said. He enjoys coming up with- creative insults. And he means no personal harm to you."

You just shrugged, rubbing at your neck with a sigh, brushing her off. "It's— it's fine, I don't care. Shit happens, I've heard worse and he's just—"

"I don't think you understood me." She said it almost cheerfully, but still made her words sound vaguely threatening. What the fuck. "Karkat needs to choose his words more carefully. If he meant what he said, I would not be friends with him, as I have experienced.... similar troubles of my own. He struggles to be careful when he gets flustered. He happened to be flustered on this particular instance because he has wanted to interact with you for quite some time now."

You pause for a moment and think on that.

"Oh. Uh. Okay." You still aren't exactly sure what to make of this, but from the way Kanaya is looking at you, you'd say she would not be friends with Karkat if he meant what he said. "Similar troubles" sounded like real queer subtext to you. And hell, you could use some friends like that. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, right? Don't look the super pale tall girl in the mouth.

Kanaya hummed. "Good." She nodded, your response apparently satisfactory. "Here. Since he is so absurdly socially inept sometimes, I will give you his tr- er. His chumhandle." Shaking her head, she gave you a slip of paper with neat, delicate writing. As you take it, you glance up to her, and she's wearing a small smile. 

"I believe you two will find yourselves to have more of a connection than you may think."

Chapter Text

When you get home, you shut the door, do your three point scan (couch-hallway-doorway) and determine the area safe before scuttling away to your room, locking the door and staring at the piece of paper in your hand with the neatly scrawled chumhandle on it. You aren't really sure what to make of any of this; the whole day had been a blur of faces and talking. The entirety of the Alternia Junior High kids all seemed to whisper about things you and your friends didn't presently understand, and sometimes they even speak in another language. It's kind of weird sounding, there's odd clicks and these trilling noises you didn't even think people could make. Jade suspects the school had a South African language immersion program. Because, y'know, rich kid shit.

After successfully flopping back onto your bed, holding the piece of paper up, you spend far too long trying to even think of what to fucking say. What are you supposed to start with? Hey man, you're really fucking cute and supposedly aren't going to give me shit for thinking that but I'm still skeptical, also your sister/cousin/estranged friend gave me your handle because apparently you want to be my friend for some fucking reason and we have shit in common. 

That's fucking terrible, but it sounds like you, one hundred percent. So you stall, and stall, and stall.

You actually do your homework. Yeah, that's right. You did your math and AP Bio. You did your fucking homework. And then you snuck out to get some food and narrowly avoided one of the many swords in the fridge. You spun around in your desk chair. You spent over an hour trying to get some birds to your window so you could feed them. Birds other than crows, you mean. 

You've finally run out of shit to do and just decide to actually fucking message him. You pull your phone out of your pocket and stare blankly at the Pesterchum dashboard for a moment.

carcinoGeneticist, huh?

Might as well go for it.

 

turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] at 22:48!

TG: attention worthless nerdling

TG: this is your god speaking

TG: it is a particularly dickish god who likes getting on your nerves more than you could possibly imagine

TG: i have watched your brain go through the five stages of grief while staring upon my glorious visage

TG: i have watched you while you quake and tremble like a fuckin bookshelf in an earthquake

TG: while you pleaded forgiveness for whatever sins youve committed

TG: (its texas so thats a lot of fuckin sins dude better get on that)

TG: as i cast my great fist down upon your little grape head, and henceforth spill loads and loads of bullshit all over you

TG: layer after layer of ironic metaphors and confessions of enjoyment 

TG: all to watch you and your bogus morals worshipped by you and every other edgy sixteen year olds primitive locker room brains

TG: but your prayers will not be answered unfortunately

TG: were all out and we gotta order more

TG: you wanna complain? talk to my manager? well you cant even do that without the late thirties shorter in the back with blonde balayage bob or the two screaming children haha nope

TG: due to a lack of customer service reps and the economy you will have to send a letter to our corporate address if you would like to catch the attention of any of the men with ties shoved up their asses

TG: no siree there are no miracles in store

TG: none in the back either 

TG: i checked

TG: twice

TG: nope sorry all we to offer is my obnoxiousness

TG: obnoxiousness so pure and infuriating it would consume your sad underdeveloped mind to even contemplate the layers of obnoxious i got going here

TG: it is such pure undiluted obnoxiousness that to fathom must be put into nothing other than song

TG: rapped by myself

TG: but while i am a freestyling god i think any more red text filling up your screen will actually blind you temporarily

TG: but this obnoxiousness?

TG: it has shaped your entire being and will surely kick your ass

TG: my obnoxiousness is the life blood that pulses through the veins of your little universe

TG: its a gift from me to you

TG: happy birthday

TG: youre an asshole

TG: youre welcome for that

TG: you ungrateful piece of shit

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is online!

CG: WHAT?

TG: hi karkat

CG: HOW DO YOU KNOW MY NAME. 

TG: oh man

TG: this is it isnt it

TG: ive been looking forward to this

CG: WHAT IS "IT".

CG: ME HATING YOU IS WHAT'S "IT".

CG: IF THAT'S WHAT YOU MEAN, YEAH, BINGO. 

CG: I CONTROL YOUR VERY NIGHTMARES FROM HERE ON OUT. SO WATCH YOUR TONGUE AND KNOCK ALL THIS SHIT OFF. I CAN MAKE YOUR SLEEPING LIFE HELL.

CG: AND WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS THAT MASSIVE WALL OF BULLSHIT BEHIND THIS CONVERSATION?

CG: DID YOU REHEARSE THAT IN THE MIRROR BEFORE SITTING YOUR ASS DOWN AND SENDING IT TO ME?

TG: no i mean this is the first actual decent conversation between us

TG: right

CG: YEAH. 

CG: WELL

CG: ARE YOU SUGGESTING WHEN WE SPOKE BEFORE IT WASN'T DECENT FOR SOME FUCKING REASON?

CG: BESIDES. THE OBVIOUS.

TG: i should introduce myself properly

TG: gotta get my gentlemanly manners on here

TG: sup karkat

TG: im dave

CG: WHY WOULD I GIVE A PUNGENT WHIPPING LUMPSQUIRT WHAT YOUR NAME IS.

TG: you already know it but i figured id repeat it

TG: i thought you might have accidentally given yourself eardrum damage from all the shouting

TG: and typically friends know other friends names isnt that right

CG: I ADMIT I AM ALREADY AWARE OF YOUR NAME.

CG: BUT I REFUSE TO BELIEVE YOU ACTUALLY THINK ANY OF THE THINGS YOU SAY.

CG: INCLUDING THE INSANE NOTION THAT WE'RE SOMEHOW "FRIENDS".

TG: yeah we totally are

TG: we just got all buddy buddy in a weird ass way this afternoon

TG: i got to meet all your fancy private school pals and chat them up real good

TG: and that funky chick kanaya hatched a whole ass plan to get us in contact

TG: which is currently in motion

TG: because apparently you so desperately crave my contact and attention like a whorish cat

CG: THESE ARE LIES. 

CG: I KNOW WHEN I AM BEING TROLLED, WHO DO YOU EVEN THINK YOU ARE TALKING TO HERE. 

TG: one of my loyal subjects

TG: im god, yeah

CG: OF COURSE. YOU, A COMPLETE AND UTTER MORON, ARE GOD. HOW COULD I FORGET.

CG: AND WHAT'S THIS BULLSHIT "PLAN" YOU'RE JABBERING ON ABOUT TO NO END?

CG: BEFORE YOU SPOUT SOME MORE NONSENSE THAT'S LESS INTELLIGENT THAN THE ALLIGATOR THAT LIVES IN THE SEWERS, I HAVE TO STATE FOR THE RECORD I DID *NOT* AND DO NOT FUCKING CRAVE YOUR ATTENTION.

CG: YOUR ATTENTION IS THE LEAST OF MY CONCERNS.

TG: see all i hear is "im not a tsudere baka"

CG: WHAT THE ACTUAL *FUCK* DOES THAT MEAN.

CG: RIDICULOUS. 

CG: I DIDN'T WRIGGLE OUT OF A PUDDLE OF SLIME YESTERDAY, BUT I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT'S SUPPOSED TO MEAN.

TG: do you regularly wriggle out of a puddle of slime or

CG: NO!

CG: ... YES.

CG: NO!!!!

CG: I DO NOT THINK YOU APPRECIATE THE GRAVITY OF MY ANTIPATHY, DAVE STRIDER.

TG: just dave

CG: OK, JUST DAVE.

CG: I FUCKING LOATHE THE SHIT YOU SAY, AND I HAVE TUNED INTO YOUR CHANNEL MOMENTS AS YOU SLEEP AND HAVE GROWN TO HATE THAT SMUG LOOK ON YOUR FACE, WITH JUST ENOUGH TIME FOR ME TO BASICALLY COMPLETELY FUCKING DESTROY YOU WITH HOSTILE RHETORIC. 

CG: THERE IS NO CHANCE I WILL EVER CRAVE YOUR ATTENTION OR SPARE YOU.

CG: YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH I HATE YOU OR WHY I HATE YOU. 

CG: I WASN'T JOKING WHEN I SAID I THINK YOU'RE A MORON, JUST TO REITERATE.

CG: OR WHEN I SAID I AM WHAT HAUNTS YOUR NON-WAKING HOURS.

CG: I AM LITERALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR SLEEP CYCLE. 

CG: I FUCKING OWN DERSE, YOU OBLIVIOUS ASS.

TG: man i know all that shit

TG: and when i say i know all that shit i mean this aint any kind of news to my galaxy brain

TG: but tbh you sound fuckin crazy so lets back up before you started spouting nonsense and threatening me with those white girl beaded dreamcatchers

TG: maybe you should go take a time out

CG: A TIME OUT? I'M NOT THREE SW

CG: *SIX YEARS OLD. 

CG: WOW, YOUR SPECIES REALLY IS BRAINDEAD.

TG: eh never mind you dont have a sense of humor

TG: anyway

TG: i thought this was supposed to be the conversation where we become best buds and spill intimate truths about each other

TG: come on bro flame me

TG: ive been hyping myself up for some hardcore feels jams in here

CG: YOU ACTUALLY WANT ME TO TRY AND BEFRIEND YOU? 

CG: I MEAN 

CG: I CAN 

CG: BUT IT'S NOT LIKE I'VE BEEN FUCKING LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS!

TG: kanaya literally told me you wanted to be buds

CG: IT'S JUST KIND OF WEIRD YOU'RE ACTUALLY BRINGING THAT SHIT UP. 

TG: uhhh

TG: i dunno

TG: im bored and my friends are busy and my sisters are gonna wreak havoc on my whole life in like a week so

TG: bring on the friendship bro

TG: i just think its kinda funny when you freak the fuck out over nothing and your face gets all red

CG: THAT'S REALLY CONDESCENDING AND IT'S HARD TO CONVEY HOW MUCH MORE I JUST GOT PISSED OFF THAN I ALREADY WAS. 

CG: BUT MAYBE IT MAKES SENSE ACTUALLY 

CG: THAT YOU WELCOME MY ACRIMONY SO READILY 

CG: ON ACCOUNT OF PROBABLY SOME WEIRD TUMOR YOU DEVELOPED LIKE A PUNISHMENT FOR BEING STUPID OR SOME SILLY SOUNDING THING LIKE THAT.

CG: IT MIGHT MEAN THAT KANAYA IS RIGHT ABOUT YOU. 

TG: right about what

CG: I MEAN THAT IT SEEMS LIKE WE ARE CONNECTED IN SOME WAY, DON'T YOU THINK.

CG: SORT OF COSMICALLY. 

CG: LIKE OUR HATE FOR EACH OTHER IS SO STRONG IT MUST HAVE BEEN WRITTEN IN THE STARS. 

CG: YOU KNOW, THE ONES YOU MADE FOR US. BECAUSE YOU'RE GOD, APPARENTLY.

TG: bro i dont hate you youre kinda funny sometimes if not a total ass

CG: HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY CLAIM TO HAVE TALKED TO ME A LOT ALREADY AND NOT HATE ME, SEE IT DOESN'T ADD UP. 

CG: I'M THE FUCKING WORST. HOW COULD YOU NOT BE DISGUSTED BY THE VERY THOUGHT OF ME.

TG: are you one of those guys that gets off to criticism or some shit

CG: WHAT, NO. 

CG: WHAT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR.

TG: someone who wants me to hate them for reasons that have been vaguely explained but dont really line up

TG: is this about like

TG: the

TG: the thing

CG: THE THING?

TG: the uh

TG: like the

TG: thing you said

TG: like is this some weird thing where you think i hate you because you said some dumb shit without knowing

CG: I MEAN 

CG: OK I'M NOT SAYING I'M RULING OUT THE IDEA OR ANYTHING.

CG: I MEAN IT'S NOT LIKE I'M SEEKING YOU OUT FOR THAT ONLY!

CG: I MEAN IT'S SOMETHING WE HAVE IN COMMON.

CG: FUCK WHAT AM I BABBLING ABOUT. 

CG: THIS IS FUCKING RIDICULOUS, WE JUST MET FOR FUCK'S SAKE, AND I'M FUCKING THINGS UP ALREADY.

CG: SO FORGET I SAID ANYTHING. 

CG: GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. 

TG: uh

TG: im just like

TG: caught off guard

TG: because 

TG: well like im

TG: i dunno its just cool to talk to someone who has feelings for guys too yknow

CG: WHAT FEELINGS, THERE ARE NO FEELINGS, END OF DISCUSSION.

TG: what i

TG: oh

CG: WHAT 

TG: i thought you were gay

CG: WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? 

TG: dude where the fuck are you from

TG: like

TG: when a dude like another dude

TG: or a chick likes another chick

CG: THERE'S A WORD FOR THAT? 

TG: uh. yeah

CG: HOW IS THAT EVEN A THING?

CG: WHY DOES IT FUCKING MATTER?

CG: THAT'S WEIRD.

TG: i am just as confused by you and your friends

TG: i kind of got the impression that you and kanaya were a thing at first but

CG: WHAT DO YOU MEAN A THING.

TG: i dunno

TG: like some bizarre double cover up

TG: where you pretend to date each other but secretly have a secret same sex scandal going on

TG: aint rhat how it works sometimes

CG: YOU ARE SUCH AN IGNORAMUS I COULD SHIT MILES OF RAGE SNAKE TO CHOKE YOU TO DEATH. 

TG: classy

CG: WHO HAVE YOU BEEN TALKING TO, WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THAT. 

TG: no one man

TG: i talked to kanaya

TG: she gave me gay vibes

TG: i dunno i got a tingle

CG: OK FIRST OF ALL, EW.

CG: IF THERE WERE A "THING" WITH HER, AND THAT'S A HUGE IF 

CG: IT WOULD BE A TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING THAN WHAT YOU'RE THINKING OF.

CG: IT'S HARD TO EXPLAIN.

TG: explain it then

CG: SECOND, WHETHER SHE AND I HAVE A THING OR DON'T HAVE A THING, OR TOOK A ROMANTIC HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE SUSPENDED IN A GODDAMN-

CG: UH. WHATEVER. TOGETHER.

CG: IT'S DEFINITELY NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

CG: GOT IT???????? 

TG: okay goddamn cool your jets

TG: i like when you get pissed but that got intense bro

TG: this conversation is not going how i thought it would at all

CG: YEAH.

TG: yeah

CG: HUH. 

TG: well

TG: uh

CG: OK, LOOK. 

CG: LET'S JUST AGREE TO NEVER BRING IT UP AGAIN. 

CG: THE STUFF I WAS BABBLING ABOUT EARLIER. 

CG: BUT IF I TALK TO YOU AGAIN 

CG: YOU'LL REMEMBER MY EMBARRASSING SHIT 

CG: SO I GUESS 

CG: I'LL HAVE TO WIPE YOUR MEMORY.

TG: just like men in black

CG: I THINK WE NEED TO GET BACK ON POINT HERE. 

CG: WHICH IS ADDRESSING THE MATTER OF WHAT INCOMPREHENSIBLY PUTRID GARBAGE YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS ARE AND HOW MUCH I HATE YOU ALL.

TG: thought it was just me you hated 

TG: cmon bro

TG: john and jade is good people

CG: SHUT THE FUCK UP.

CG: SO YOU WANTED TO GET FRIENDSHIP, WELL YOU GOT IT. 

CG: DID THAT SATISFY YOUR FUCKING NEEDY ASS FRIENDSHIP METER?

CG: ARE YOU FUCKING SATISFIED?

CG: ARE YOU????

TG: not really bro

CG: WELL TOO BAD FOR YOU.

CG: I'M GOING TO SLEEP.

TG: oh i see how it is

TG: taking the cowards way out huh

TG: scampering off to give in to the sweet mistress of rem sleep

TG: fine

TG: sayonara douchewagon

CG: SAYONARA YOU WORTHLESS CROTCHSTAINED BARFPUPPET. 

CG: I WILL BID YOU ONE FIRST AND FINAL FUCK YOU. 

CG: FUCK YOU, DAVE STRIDER.

CG: FUCK YOU AND FUCK THE DUMBASS SHADES YOU WEAR.

CG: FUCK. 

CG: FUCKING. 

CG: YOU. 

CG: I'M GOING TO SLEEP.

TG: wait

TG: what

TG: are you serious

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 23:02.

 

You snort a quiet laugh, glancing out your window. The world has gone dark. It's getting late already and you didn't even notice, somehow so wrapped up in this ridiculous conversation with an even more ridiculous person. You're considering going to sleep yourself; the whole bed feels so warm, like you put one of those old school heating pans underneath it. Everything is vaguely fuzzy, the whole room seeming to hum contently. 

 

Your phone pings and brings you out of your stupor. It couldn't have been more than five minutes, but you aren't really sure. You're starting to really feel how damn tired you are. It takes all the energy you have left to prop up your phone and actually respond.

 

cacinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 23:15!

CG: HEY SHITHEAD YOU ARE IN HUGE TROUBLE. 

TG: i thought you were asleep

CG: YES DAVE, I WAS ASLEEP AT ONE POINT. 

CG: IT STANDS TO REASON I AM NOW AND WILL ALWAYS BE AWAKE, AS SLEEP IS USELESS TO ME.

CG: THAT REALLY MAKES A LOT OF FUCKING SENSE. 

CG: NOW YOU, ME, AND KANAYA NEED TO HAVE A CHAT, AS I JUST HAD A NOT SO LOVELY CONVERSATION WITH HER ABOUT ALL THIS SHIT.

CG: HERE I MADE A COOL BANNER USING SOME OF YOUR SHITTY EARTH CLIP ART. 

CG: CLICK IT. 

 

You click the link he sent you. It's beautiful, frankly. Some of the worst clip art you've ever seen. A couple of fruits. "Fruity Asshole Rumpus", he geniusly titles his masterpiece. A real period piece. You fucking love it. It's even funnier at this particular moment, because you're sleepy as shit and would probably laugh at anything right now.

 

TG: not cool 

TG: luring me into your cyber boobytrap with shitty clip art who told you my weakness 

CG: IT'LL WORK, WON'T IT? 

TG: obviously

TG: now go back to sleep before you draw yourself into a coma

TG: gnight asshole

turntechGodhead [TG] is offline.

CG: OH FUCK OFF.

CG: YOU WOKE ME UP ANYWAYS.

CG: ...

CG: ... GOODNIGHT DAVE.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is offline.

 

You'd like to call this friendship, but honestly, you aren't sure what it is. Having a half an hour of bizarre, flip flopping banter with a guy you aren't even really sure if you like or not is one way to fuck up your head. 

You fall asleep with a grin on your face anyways and a weird, intangible warmth slipping over your hands and chest, gracing your forehead briefly. It's only right now, when you aren't worried about anything at all, that your mind thinks of someone kissing your forehead goodnight, tucking the covers around you carefully. You'd obviously never admit to wishing you got anything like that. But as you drift off, it's... nice.

Chapter Text

There is something stirring in your guts, and you do not like it.

It's a completely unfamiliar feeling. You've never felt something so uncomfortable, so nerve wracking. This stirring makes you want to do stupid things, and sometimes you get far too close to doing them. It's a stirring unlike any other, the rearrangement of your innards without your permission, and you don't know why you're feeling this way. Not the delightful butterflies in your digestive tract that your favorite books describe when the main character sees a flush crush, but something so much more intense, so much deeper inside you. It is tearing you up from the inside out, driving you insane at all hours of the day, and all you want is for it to leave you be.

At first, you considered sickness.

You sent Kanaya trolls at one in the morning, when you knew she'd be getting up, with repeated chants of your symptoms, hoping that the most caring person you knew would have some kind answer to sate this feeling. She gave several passive replies about your emotions and some other therapy bullshit you didn't know what to make of. You've heard she came into contact with some kind of psychologist recently, and you aren't sure if you like it. You replied with aggressive brushing off of her pitiful but not really pitiful pitiful recommendations, but finished each conversation with a diamond, just so she knows. 

(It's more to reassure you than her. It's never about her, of course, because you're a shitty, insecure 'rail. You need that validation at all times, because you've been insecure as fuck since the day you hatched and were kicked out of limbo.)

There wasn't much medicine available to you. Well, there is. But it just won't work, you're pretty sure. Human medicine doesn't cater to shadows, typically. There's probably things available in the dream cities of Prospit, but your kind aren't welcomed there, and you were kicked out of limbo long ago, now. You shuffled into the way too bright pharmacy down the corner from where you've been spending your nights, aside from Kanaya's house, and dug through the aisles, trying to find every nausea and anxiety medication you could. You shovelled them into your arms before putting them back one by one as you finally faced the real problem. Because the problem isn't really your body. Or, at least, it isn't some sort of virus you can simply flush out, or a disorder that can be hushed with medication. Nope. Of fucking course not. Instead, it's a dumb blond that walks out of the same pharmacy, looking defeated, crumbling at the foundation, and deserving of all of your attention and care.

Fuck, you hate how your pan thinks like that now.

You're at war with your body. All you want is to relentlessly care for him. Get him out of that shithole, to somewhere, anywhere better. So you don't have to rely on clawing things up while shifted, crouching under his bed or in the closet at night, secretly pulling out chunks of that evil piece of shit that's supposed to take care of his hair as he sleeps. Because you feel like there isn't much you can do, besides try to rid the apartment of all things purely evil, try to make it a little better while you can. You've made good headway, if you do say so yourself. That wretched doll thing was the worst of it. The first time you spent a night shifted in the small apartment, you found yourself drawn away from your boy and to the object practically radiating pure, dark energy. The horrorterrors must have set up shop in that being long before you even scouted out the place, but you clawed it to shreds and left it lying on the floor of the ablution block. You managed to vanish some of the weapons, too— you're pretty sure they won't bother anyone in limbo, and the boy shouldn't have to risk losing a vital organ every time he wants to open a cabinet or the refrigerator. 

And you've been trying, ever so carefully, to piece back together the fragments of his Derse he has left. There isn't much now, just the tiniest fragments that you spend to give him brief moments of unconsciousness. It's even harder for you, your typical safe dream form (safe for you, at least) having massive claws, trying to handle such delicate shards of hope and light. You've pushed them together yourself and broken quite a few. This isn't your job, your body screamed at first. This is the work of a cherub. You aren't supposed to do anything in this dreamspace but wreak havoc. But you'll do anything for him. 

You know the legend of the death of his dreamself, and you know it isn't true. There isn't some one-use-throw-away rule with dreamselves, at least for the humans. His safe space in his head was the nicest place, too. When he was younger, you know he managed to get past Derse itself and make it to his own land. He was always so relaxed there, the bubbling lava and ticking sounds keeping him content for hours, keeping him safer than he'd ever be when he woke up. And even now that it's gone, lost somewhere in his mind, you're still going to be here to steer him away from anything dangerous. You've been good about pulling those little fragments of Derse back from the depths of his mind, trying to get him there every night if you could. And on those nights where you couldn't find any more pieces, you've tried to keep him up, lest he falls victim to horrorterrors. He had been up for days before you were strong enough again to hush him into the quiet, empty darkness of his dead dreamself. You protect the little space yourself, trying to bring back those elements of his land he'd remember. Heat. Ticking. Lava. 

You still aren't sure what that pulling in your gut is. You aren't willing to listen to the folktales of a human and its supernatural guardian, the pairs that break the rules instilled by the Empress, defying quadrants and human romance and everything to be together forever.

You'll leave all that in your Empress approved quadrant books.

Where it belongs.

 


 

"You know, you really should be more careful, Karkat."

"I do fucking know!"

"Than why are you not being careful?"

Kanaya clicked her tongue at you as the two of you stared at the weird human kids that were already invading your group. Vriska sent a mass text this morning saying she chose today to have them finally become acquainted with their counterparts. There's only four, much to many of the group's disappointment, but you've never seen Terezi so excited meet people.

"I can't believe I talked to him. I can't believe I gave him fucking makeup wipes."

"You should be thanking me, if anything, as I actually got you to talk to him. As you have been appropriately following him for months, but simply blending because you aren't sure what to say to him, although you clearly would like to communicate with him somehow-"

"It's illegal. I can't fucking communicate with him. This whole program of having us out and about, posing as humans just so we can get to our counterparts faster is just fucking jailbait."

And you've been staring at your favorite flavor of jailbait's back for almost three and a half minutes before he actually turns around and shoots you a grin you hate that you love.

You can't risk him getting any closer to you. You don't want him hurt. He's all you have, you only get one human counterpart that you're supposed to feed from and terrorize for your entire lifespan. He's so fragile. You can't believe you're expected to hurt someone who's already so hurt.

 


 

You didn't believe Kanaya when she first told you she gave him your Troll handle. After messaging furiously with him, you decided to express your emotions in a calm, mild mannered way.

CG: ARE YOU FUCKING *SERIOUS*?

CG: YOU GAVE HIM MY HANDLE?!

CG: WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU DO THAT?

CG: DON'T YOU FUCKING REMEMBER HOW MANY RULES I'M ALREADY FUCKING BREAKING?

CG: OH, WAIT. NOT RULES. LAWS.

CG: SUPERNATURAL LAW!

CG: DON'T YOU KNOW HOW FUCKED I CAN GET FROM THIS KIND OF CONTACT?

CG: HOW FUCKED ALL OF US CAN GET?

CG: THIS EXCHANGE PROGRAM IS FUCKING JAILBAIT. 

The two of you didn't talk the rest of the night. 

She's going to dump your ass and you know it. You haven't even bothered listening for a second about how her supposed partner is finally getting here. You remember when the year started and almost everyone had their human counterpart on the radar, except for her. It was disappointing. She claims that hers will arrive sometime within a month. You're happy for her.

You deserve to be dumped at this point. You've always been a shitty 'rail. It's fine.

You'll deal with it. You always do.

 


 

Dave messages you constantly.

It becomes a running joke for you two not to say a word to each other in person. You sarcastically message him about an obnoxious asshole named Dave. He returns with tales about a creepy weirdo named Karkat. You fight, and it's okay, you can tell. You don't see him set his phone down, eyes glazed over as you apologize for something you shouldn't have said, from your position under the bed. You know to be more careful than that now. You have to be as careful as physically, mentally, and socially fucking possible around him. He tends to message you late at night, falling asleep with your chat window still open. You're always tucked neatly away, hidden in some corner of comfortable darkness in his room now. So when you see him whip out his phone on his bed, you tap your watch from your space in the closet and ready yourself. Defenses up. 

turntechGodhead [TG] began trolling pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] at 24:02.

TG: man i can't believe how fuckin tired i am

TG: up all night up all day

TG: if you know what i mean

CG: I'M ASSUMING THAT WAS SOME SHITTY, PATHETIC ATTEMPT AT HUMOR. SEXUAL HUMOR, TO BE SPECIFIC.

CG: HA. HA.

CG: HAS YOUR CRAVING FOR VALIDATION THAT YOU'RE AMUSING BEEN SATISFIED YET?

TG: yeah thanks for that bro really helping a homie out

TG: if you know what i mean

CG: NO. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN.

CG: IF I CAN GET OUT MY IDIOCRACY DICTIONARY HERE, I'LL TRANSLATE.

CG: AHEM.

TG: did you actually just write out clearing your throat

CG: "ASSISTING A FRIEND (HOMIE) WITH A TASK".

CG: DON'T GET IT.

TG: nah its like a locker room thing yknow

CG: NO. 

TG: oh yeah you dont do gym because of the thing

CG: IT'S CALLED PHOTO-FUCKING-SENSITIVITY, JACKASS.

TG: whatever dude

TG: but like

TG: like a circlejerk yknow

CG: FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS BOTH HOLY AND UNHOLY, *PLEASE* SHUT YOUR ENDLESSLY FLAPPING TRAP.

TG: a homie doing another homie a favor

TG: without any kind of homoerotic subtext whatsoever

CG: AT THAT POINT, IT'S NOT SUBTEXT. IT'S JUST TEXT. IDIOT.

You get to hear him laugh at your jokes as you message him from not even a foot away. You can feel his every move. All you want to do is push the door open, let him know it's you that's been here the whole time for him, give him that silent, dark warmth you're pretty sure he doesn't mind drifting in and out of as he sleeps. It's better than the alternative, at least— stuck in a loop with horrorterrors on the loose, losing far too much sleep. Speaking of, you haven't slept at all. Well, you don't sleep anyways, but you haven't fed in days. The bags under your eyes when you appear human are bigger than ever. Your other form shrinks, becoming weaker, fainter. And you still don't dare getting close to him again in his dreams. You've never felt so close to someone, yet so far away.

 


 

The two of you keep talking. About everything.

 


 

CG: I DON'T UNDERSTAND. WHAT COULD YOU EVER POSSIBLY HAVE AGAINST LINDSAY LOHAN?

TG: idk man 

TG: that forces me to choose between the multiple arrests and the cocaine problem

CG: EVERYONE IN HOLLYWOOD IS ON CRACK.

CG: LEGITIMATELY.

CG: THAT'S JUST HOW IT IS.

 


 

TG: dont you ever wish people werent assholes

CG: EVERY TIME I TALK TO YOU, THAT WISH LOSES MOMENTUM.

TG: ha haaaaa

TG: but i mean like

TG: people who are supposed to like you actually caring about you

TG: that kind of shit

CG: I LIKE YOU.

CG: SO DO YOUR FRIENDS.

TG: but like everyone else

TG: its like theres a whole group of us that

TG: i dunno

TG: people just think theres something wrong with us and we cant tell why

CG: IT'S BECAUSE PEOPLE SUCK.

TG: well articulated

 


 

CG: I DON'T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH I CAN'T ANSWER THAT QUESTION.

TG: cmon dude

TG: nothing wrong with a little feelings jam between bros

TG: you totally liked terezi at one point

CG: WELL

CG: YES

CG: FINE. YES I DID! BUT IT WAS A LONG FUCKING TIME AGO AND WE'VE BOTH MOVED ON FROM THAT EMBARRASSING SECTOR OF OUR LIVES.

TG: i fucking knew it

CG: SHUT THE FUCK UP.

TG: so

TG: just terezi

CG: NO.

TG: well who else then

CG: WHY THE FUCK SHOULD I SAY? WHY THE FUCK SHOULD I TELL YOU?

TG: because ill listen

CG: WHATEVER.

CG: YOUR TURN, DICKWEED.

 


 

 

TG: god

TG: hey can i come over

TG: just for a little while please

TG: like i know weve never even done anything like outside of school and i dont even know where your place is but

TG: fuck uhh

TG: this is really kind of time sensitive so chop chop

CG: OH UH

CG: NO, SORRY.

CG: FUCK.

CG: SORRY.

CG: YOU CAN'T RIGHT NOW.

TG: nah i get it

TG: short notice strict parents yadda yadda

TG: whatever excuse you like man

TG: its cool

TG: ill talk to you later

CG: WAIT

CG: NO I

turntechGodhead [TG] is offline. 

Your pusher clenches as he sets his phone aside, letting it drop onto his bedside table— exhausted. Bruised. Destroyed. You can smell the blood running from his nose, hear as he sniffs and wipes some of it off. You knew it had been a long night for him before you even slipped in through his window, nearly invisible, just a thin wisp of black. Now you spend your nights here more often than over at Kanaya's, but you two haven't been talking as much as you'd like anyways. It's a tough situation. Hiding out under his bed isn't really uncomfortable, but it feels weird sometimes, even though you know this is technically where your species thrives. You want to be close to him. You just want to help, soothe the ache in your gut.

You're going to make his phone buzz until he picks it up again. 

CG: DAVE 

CG: DAVE!

CG: DAVE FOR FUCK'S SAKE

CG: DAVE LOOK AT YOUR FUCKING PHONE

It takes a few minutes, but he clearly is annoyed by the buzzing and by you enough that he snatches his phone from the table, audibly wincing. You almost sigh, but catch yourself.

turntechGodhead [TG] is online!

TG: for fucks sake what is it

TG: and if you spend another five minutes telling me the plot of one of those convoluted ass romcoms im blocking you bro

CG: NOT THIS TIME. THEY'RE REALLY FUCKING GOOD, BY THE WAY.

CG: YOU JUST HAVE NO SENSE FOR ROMANCE AND TIMING.

CG: ANYWAYS!!

CG: WHAT'S YOUR ADDRESS.

TG: why

CG: WHY DO YOU FUCKING THINK.

TG: 2934 ne staton

TG: wait no you shouldnt come over here if thats what your thinking

TG: but if youre ordering me a pizza please continue

CG: TOO LATE. I WAS CLOSE ANYWAYS.

CG: GO GET THE DOOR, DUMBASS.

You hear the bed creak, his phone being dropped with a soft thump, and his feet swing over, touching the ground inches away from you. You hold in a breath, a habit you need to break from being human so much. Going to school every day instead of missing out on weeks at a time to get more energy is exhausting, and you've picked up all these weird human habits you hate. Breathing. Blinking. Moving. Thank god you're not human right now, otherwise this space would be way more cramped. But once Dave slips out of his room, heading to the front door, you slip out, easily darting and blending with the shadow of his dresser. It's there that you do start to take breaths, in and out, feelings feet and legs start to return, arms and shoulders and a head all making themselves known from what was nothing before. It feels so much tighter, so much more contained than regular form, after easily darting through the darkness for a day now. The weekends are so relaxing, but being human again makes for an odd switch.

You don't have very long before he hears you lumbering around. Humanity is so loud, you're so heavy as you step across the floor, climbing up onto the windowsill and sitting there. The front door opens and shuts. You hold your breath again as Dave comes down the hallway and back into his room.

He's worse than you thought he would be. Being a shadow means much less vision, more feeling, so you didn't expect the array of cuts across his cheekbone and chin, the many bruises that never seem to fade from around his neck and collar. When he sees you sitting there, his beat up faces gives you a beat up smile. It's nice, if not completely and totally pitiful. 

"Totally had me reeling there for a second. Thought you just psyched me out or somethin'." Dave raises his eyebrows, and you glance down at your feet, which are absently swinging below the windowsill. 

"Good. Can't have you getting too sure of yourself."

He laughs, and you almost smile. You don't, though. Just look at him, look over the blood smeared over his lip, the cuts and the bruises. You know if you ask, then he'll kick you out, or push you away, or get mad. So you aren't going to ask, you're just going to do.

You can tell he notices your observing, looking uncomfortable under your scrutiny. It's probably been too long since anyone has talked, so you'll do that. "We're going to the bathroom," You announce, slipping down off the windowsill with a soft grunt, looking up at him determinedly.

"Whadda ya mean, we? Do you have to have a friend there while you piss or something?"

You just roll your eyes, grabbing hold of him by the shirt and tugging him down so you're eye to... Shades. "We're going to the bathroom," you repeat. Not a hint of emotions crosses his face. He just kind of shrugs indifferently, and you let go, the weird feeling of the cottony material still echoing on your fingers. 

In a few minutes, you have Dave sitting on the counter across from the sink in the bathroom adjacent to his room. Lucky bastard got a whole bathroom to himself, you think every time you see it after remembering Kanaya spending half an hour on her hair. You've been swiping at the cuts with rubbing alcohol, much to Dave's chagrin, and dabbing numbing ointment over them once they were clean. It's a delicate process, and you both sit in silence as you finish the last one. That's better, at least. The cuts look less red, less swollen. You take a cotton ball and dampen it, wiping off the blood smeared over his lip. The silence is deafening. It's a weirdly intimate moment, and clearly the two of you both suck at actually interacting in person.

Once you're finished, you pack up the medical supplies neatly, pushing everything back into its place in the cabinet. He looks at you strangely when you do, asks how you know where everything goes. I've seen you do it too many times. I've watched you do it on your own with tears in your eyes. I've seen you hurting far more than you were today. You shrug and reply you saw where it all was when he pulled it out. 

It's almost one in the morning as the both of you lay on his bed. He's lying on his stomach, head in his arms, as you go quiet after talking about something stupid involving some actor the two of you always argue over. You weren't putting much effort into your words anyways, so when he speaks again, you've already stopped talking.

"How long can you stay here?" He asks quietly, glancing over at you from above his folded arms. You can feel how tired he is, feel it in your veins. You have no choice; you'll have to feed from him a little bit tonight. But being so close to him makes it easier. You'll be able to control it. Make it manageable for him. Last time, you were so hungry, so exhausted, you lost control. While it may have felt good to be so strong again, you can't let yourself crave his fear. That makes you the absolute worst shadow there is, disobeying your very purpose of being. But you don't care.

"As long as you want me here."

Dave doesn't say anything, just tucks his nose back down and rests his forehead against the pillow.

"Go to sleep," You insist suddenly. He looks back up, eyebrows furrowing over his shades. 

"Why?"

"You're tired. Just go the fuck to sleep."

More silence. He doesn't want you here while he's vulnerable like that. No, he just doesn't want anyone here. That's all.

"I'll be here when you wake up." It's a false promise. You probably won't be here. You can already feel your stomach churning uncomfortably, the image of him waking up alone again, curling back into the sheets, silent and meek, flashing through your mind, already haunting you. You'll make sure he knows something is there. Something that will keep him safe. 

He doesn't protest again, just mumbles about unplanned sleepovers and not knowing how to make any breakfast food besides toast. You stand up and flick off the lights, making sure the door is shut all the way. Just like he normally does. You want it to feel like you're not even there to him. You want to touch him and be close to him without being so physically imposing, because he doesn't really want you here anyways. 

But when you lay down next to him and focus, your legs and arms are numb again, and you start to fade back into that comfortable darkness you prefer. It's much easier with all the lights off, anyways. His breathing isn't steady yet, so you start to focus on that, instead, sending a flicker of warmth over to his calf, then the inside of his thigh, then his sides and chest. His breathing is even and slow. He's asleep.

You don't worry about how many times you put yourself at risk for culling in just the last hour. You just reach out again, a long wisp of flickering black where your arm once was, and let yourself sink into the comfort of what will now be his full dream. You're small, still, really needing to sap some energy from him tonight. Get his heart rate up high, but not like last time. Something nice, you think absently. It's difficult, holding the very last piece of Derse that remains in his mind, this little purple glass shard that feels of broken hope. This one needs to be good.

You aren't sure what he needs right now. So you'll let him decide. 

You drop the last fragment of Derse, letting it fall through limbo. 

The world turns purple around you, and you're no longer in control. 

Chapter Text

As your eyes shut, they open again much faster this time. There isn't some waiting period, no voices, no darkness, nothing reaching out and grasping for you. It's like you were dropped straight here. Everything is so clear, so crisp. It's like you're actually looking at it all. You can feel the sheets. Hear your own breathing, loud in your ear. You smell something, you can't place it, but it was something you smelled long ago, some day that you'll never fully remember. Everything is in total high def, ultra 3D, it's overwhelming. You have to focus on one thing, or risk actual sensory overload.

For a second, you think you actually woke up. You're laying down on a bed, blinking up at a purple ceiling. Huh. You don't feel tired or sore at all as you sit up, and glancing around, it's a purple bedroom. There's windows, showing the sun rising over a purple city. So much fucking purple. You remember this place, you dreamed about it all the time as a little kid. Purple had been your favorite color for a while after all. 

You reflexively reach down to grab at your pant leg— you have this habit of tugging them down since they always ride up— but instead of the old black sweatpants, you find frilly pajamas that actually seem to fit you. Huh. You're totally decked out in some weird PJs, with a moon on them to boot. You don't remember wearing these, or dreaming about them, but this dream is much less hazy than the rest of them. All the images are clear in your mind, but you know you're asleep. It's okay, though. You don't really want to wake up, not yet.

You haven't been down to the city below in a while, but after standing up and taking a good look out one of the windows, it's clear that it's empty now. You remember there used to be tons of citizens, and they were all pretty friendly to you; however, they thinned out as you got older, and the dreams became farther and farther apart. Now that you're back, so many years later, you don't see a single soul. You let your hands rest against the glass, which feels oddly flexible and warm. It's like everything you touch is exactly the same temperature.

"Welcome back to Derse."

There's a voice. You turn around instantly— you specifically remember that there was no one that could speak here, so this was new.

It reminds you of that massive thing that almost snapped your head off in a dream a week or two ago before it got all big and toothy. Vague and shadow, a dark flickering form that almost resembles a human with no features, like if you photoshopped someone out of a blurry picture. But this time, the image is clearer, a little brighter. Definitely pure black, but there's a pair of eyes there, fingers and some outlines of actual clothing. Even weirder, a thick shock of white hair. It doesn't look so much like hair, exactly. More like a bunch of white, wiry cotton candy hastily shoved on this thing's head, serving as eyebrows and hair. It seems male, from both the voice and the vaguely rectangular figure, but you can never be too sure.

"Who- uh..." You trail off, and you can literally feel your head spinning, making you feel dizzy as you try to directly look at it. Your hand reaches up, pressing between your eyes, shutting them tight for a moment. You can't hear the creature getting closer, but you somehow feel what seems to be exhaustion and relief simultaneously rolling off it. It's like it's pushing these feelings over you, trying to extract your own.

"I can't tell you," You hear it say nonchalantly. Its voice is what you focus on now. It's sort of hazy still, but you can hear it, so you don't think about where you are, or anything else. Just focus on one thing, and you'll remember this, you won't pass the fuck out in your own dream.

"Good," It murmurs suddenly, and it takes a lot of effort to just listen to that and nothing else. But there's sudden confidence there. It wants something, it has a plan. You sure fucking don't. So you'll listen, and follow along closely. "Good, good. Just keep doing that. Focus on me for a moment, Dave."

You don't ask how it knows your name, or how you can feel relief and calm washing over you suddenly. Is this what it's like to be relaxed? Huh. For someone who fakes being chill 24/7, you gotta say that this is pretty fucking luxurious. So you keep doing what it says, since this weird shadow thing seems to know what to do.

"I'm going to tell you what I'm doing." It sounds determined, so you nod, head heavy. Let whatever this is do its thing. You haven't died yet, after all. You feel something warm on one of your hands. 

"I'm going to touch you now. Take your hand." Yeah, that's a little late, but whatever. The warmth slips between your fingers comfortably, remaining there. It reminds you of something. Of the warmth of Karkat next to you when he slept over. Of the ambiguous warmth that visits you at night. It's all good warmth. Weird, but you're quickly getting used to it. That calm is quickly draining out of you, however. This thing is touching you, your eyes are shut, you can't adequately defend yourself— isn't that risky?

"I'm touching your... hip. On- on the left side." The warmth blooms on your hip, quickly spreading up. You can feel your heart beat in your ears like last time, that same feeling returning. Almost panic. You kind of want to run. It wants to hurt you. It's going to hurt you. You breathe in deep, unable to move even if you wanted to. 

"Your waist." It keeps moving. Your waist is probably fucking glowing, that's how hot it feels. 

"Your back." Half of your body is on fire. It's a slow burn, but your heart is racing, determined to beat the fire, chasing circles around it. There's breath on your face. It's the anticipation, the fear. That's why your heart is so loud. That's why your legs are weak. That's why the hand surrounded in warmth is shaking more than a tree in a twister.

"What are you thinking about right now, Dave?" It breathes, right by your ear, hot and terrifying. You can almost feel the teeth scraping together, coming back onto the shadowy figure, and you're scared. You hate that you're scared, there isn't even anything there, and you know this all isn't real, yet you're still scared as fuck.

"I..." That's all you can choke out. Your body is shutting down, deciding even this thing's voice is too much, because the heat burning you up all over is distracting. 

 

What are you thinking about right now?

 

What makes you feel like this?

 

Your brain spits it all out in one go.

BrostrifeschoollaughwhisperKarkat.

There's a flash behind your eyes, an image you want burned into your brain, but also erased from your mind forever. What if he kissed you? Is this what it would feel like? Would he be warm like this? How would his hand feel in yours? His lips against yours?

And then it's all over.

You come crashing down like a meteor, every single emotion flying off in a different direction, the various mental weights you were lifting, the intensely high def environment, all of it is just gone. You take in a sharp breath, almost choking on it, carefully exhaling before opening your eyes. The shadow creature is standing in front of you, more human than ever. It's now the most clear, crisp thing in the room, about your height, white eyes just about the brightest thing on... Him. Yeah, it seems like a dude. It's easy to see the fine white hair on his arms, even the peach fuzz on his face, just because of how intense it is on the pure black of his skin and clothes. He's human, yet anything but at the same time.

"Thanks." He seems relieved. You can sort of feel him again, his warmth entirely gone, but the light push of his emotions still brushing against you, much less intense than before. 

"For what?" 

"Nothing," He says quickly, shaking his head, then glancing out the window, muttering to himself. "Fucking dammit."

"Huh?" You mumble like the brainless idiot you are, stepping over near him. He jolts away, movement fluid, but clearly not wanting to touch you. That was weird, considering he was getting all up in your personal bizniz about twenty seconds ago. Or maybe an hour ago? You aren't sure. Time isn't right here.

But as you look out the window, you see the purple kingdom is starting to crumble. Not starting, actually. It looks as though its been abandoned for several years already, decay having already taken over. This was just the end that you were seeing. The whole world seemed like it was fading away slowly, but suddenly, it's affecting your little tower, too. The imagery around you ripples at first. You can feel how annoyed your companion is, like another stroke of a paintbrush over your own emotions. You don't know how he does that, but you don't feel like asking. 

"We're out of time.." He seems to mumble, but you can't tell from how muffled all of his words are. That staticky crackle that had been a hazy cloud over his words before was now starting to make him sound like an old record. For a moment, you think he's fading again— but then you realize it's not him, it's you.

"Out of time?"

"When you go to sleep, make sure that you shut the fucking door," He interrupts.

"I always do that," You reply automatically.

"Good."

"Will you come back? Later?" There's a hint of hopefulness in your voice, and suddenly his own anger and confusion wracks through you. Is it you doing that? Making him feel that way? And why..? What did you do? You look up, suddenly distracted by the sky, which is now flashing vivid blue and orange. Your companion seems distracted too, sighing and shaking his head. 

"No."

"Why not?"

"I fucking can't. I'm not even supposed to be here, I'm supposed to just leave you alone. Bye, Dave. It's time to wake up now," He says it firmly, but his words are so crackly and seem to be getting quieter and quieter. You don't want to wake up, you want to stay here, with him. You still have so many questions. But then he seems to turn around, disappearing from your vision faster than it should be possible. The purple tower isn't even rippling anymore, the colors are darkening, desaturating to various shades of deep purple and black. It's like the whole world around you is melting into darkness, the only light and color in your vision remaining are the bright flashes in the sky, and then, even the sky seems to fade into nothingness.

There's something flashing, and you're pretty sure your eyes aren't even open. You roll over, groaning softly and letting the flashes of orange and blue disappear as you stuff your face into the pillow. Nnnngh. No. Back to sleep. Back to where you were.

"Get the fuck up, you little shit."

It's been so long since he bothered you with this bullshit that you don't even sleep as lightly as you used to. You don't sit up in the middle of the night, ready to go, because a branch outside cracked and fell on the street, or the door creaked. You roll back, rubbing at your eyes and shoving your shades on your face. Bro has been tossing smuppetts at your back and flicking the lights on and off for who knows how long. He'd been hanging around by the doorway ominously for what was clearly a while, but now he was stepping forwards, the light in the hallway no longer sliding over his shoulders, now drenched in darkness. He's coming closer, probably because you're sitting on your ass like an idiot instead of grabbing your sword, but you don't feel scared yet. Instinct hasn't overcome your brain yet, the gentle rolling fog of your dream still drifting comfortably around you.

Bro is saying something else. You aren't listening, but the stupor is beginning to fall away. He hits your shoulder and you don't even wince. He knocks against it again, jostling it enough to pop it out of the socket. This time your face scrunches up, clearly to his displeasure. 

"Wanna go back to sleep." You mutter mindlessly. Any other given day you would have silent got up and headed to the roof. None of this hanging around, letting him push and pull at you, wincing and showing that you feel pain when he hits you. You suddenly remember Karkat— him staying over, staying with you. He lied. But you knew he was lying, and it was okay. It was sort of a reverse promise. A promise to be gone in the morning, because it would be better for both of you. It doesn't mean you don't miss the warmth, gentle against your leg and the small of your back as Bro speaks again.

"Shut up and come on. If you don't hurry the fuck up, you don't get your sword."

You don't move.

You can tell he moves to hit you again, but you hear another noise, like a fistful of fabric being grabbed. Bro's breath hitches, and you can definitely hear his teeth grind together. Something shuffles down below, and there's a noise. A scraping. Something sharp, raking through flesh easy.

You aren't even sure what happens next. At some point he forces you up, your shoulder throbbing and head pounding. And then you're on the roof, hits coming at you, over and over. Today you aren't strong. Today you're weak. You're always weak. Tears are dripping down your face, and he really doesn't like that. It's all coming to you in flashes as he holds you up by your shirt, teeth gritted and a sneer on his face. Your brain seems to have gone back and edited your memory, only letting brief glimpses through the cracks again. You'll probably forget all of this within the next hour anyways.

"If you pull that shit again, I'll rip your fuckin' vocal cords out and tell 'em you did it to yourself," He hissed before dropping you back down. You hear him throwing his hat onto the ground and the loud door to the roof shutting. You can see a matching set of three gashes down his ankle, poking holes in the fabric of his pants, blood trickling down to his shoes. Ha. Maybe there's an angry cat lurking in your room, looking out for you. Or maybe whatever is under your bed is... aware.

You stay laying there for a while.

And you end up deciding you aren't going to go to school for a little while.


One day after not going to school, you don't think Bro has even noticed yet. No new texts. Nothing.

You don't care. You sit in your room, ice in a ziploc bag pressed to your shoulder, the rest of your wounds decidedly unimportant for the moment. You watch some bad TV shows you downloaded onto your phone. 


 

Two days after not going to school, you get two texts. Double whammy, haha. The stupid joke makes you smile as you hear your phone buzz the second time. You don't check it anyways.

You consider going down the street to hang out at the pharmacy. At least Scratch told decent jokes.

You don't end up leaving the house. You're getting kind of hungry, but you find a box of Kraft mac 'n cheese in the cabinet and make that. You feel a little better. You still aren't going back.


 

Three days after not going to school, you get more texts and check your phone. There are five messages from Karkat. One each from Jade and John. There are a couple from Rose. She's here, at Roxy's. She asked when she could see you, and then if it was okay for her to come over.

You don't respond to any of them.

You feel bad about it anyways.


 

It's a full week of not going to school that gets real attention. You know Bro has probably gotten a call from the school, but you also know the only calls he answers are the ones from the weirdos that give him money from his weird ass porn site.

There are a bunch of texts you haven't even opened. You do leave the house today just so you don't even have to look at them. You end up walking around the block fourteen times. It's probably good, you got some exercise, breathed something more than the stale air of the apartment. You see some kids that go to your school on the fourteenth time around, and immediately turn around and head back in the direction of the apartment. Nope. Not today.


 

Monday comes, and there's a knock on your door, and you have seventy four notifications.

You don't leave your room once.


 

GG: dave?

GG: hey dave, i don't normally message anyone this much

GG: mostly because it's really really annoying!

GG: but you haven't been to school in a while??

GG: and it seems like no one has heard from you??

GG: if you're sick just tell us!

GG: we miss you

GG: come back soon, okay?

GG: :)

 

EB: daaaave.

EB: dude.

EB: okay, dave, seriously, what is going on.

EB: you seemed fine when we last saw you?

EB: you were having a good time with all the alternia junior high kids and everything!

EB: and then you totally just disappeared.

EB: i'm just kind of worried, man.

EB: message me when you can, okay?

EB: dave.

EB: dave, please, dude.

EB: are you okay?

 

GA: Hello Dave

GA: I Do Not Really Know You Very Well

GA: However I Know Your Sister

GA: It's Weird So I Won't Bother Explaining It

GA: Anyways

GA: I Know Karkat As Well

GA: And He Cares For You Very Much

GA: We Would All Like If You Returned To School

GA: Your Sudden Absence Has Been Very Much Noticed

GA: Um

GA: That Is All

 

TT: Dave.

TT: Why am I suddenly hearing from a variety of people that seem to be your friends?

TT: And why are they saying you haven't been to school for over a week?

TT: Dave, answer me.

TT: Or them, at the least.

TT: They are all very concerned.

TT: I'm concerned, too.

TT: Roxy has been very vague about your current situation.

TT: But she seems to believe she will be able to get you to come live with us.

TT: It might be temporary, but it might be permanent.

TT: Dave?

TT: For fuck's sake. Fine.

TT: Message somebody soon.

TT: If not me, somebody.

TT: Anybody.

 

CG: DAVE.

CG: DAVE

CG: DAVE

CG: DAVE DAVE DAVE.

CG: GOD, I'M SO FUCKING BORED.

CG: THERE'S NOTHING TO DO IN ANY OF MY CLASSES, THEY'RE ALL SO FUCKING BORING.

CG: COME BACK.

CG: DAVE I SWEAR TO GOD 

CG: TODAY I BOUGHT FOUR MILKS FROM THE CAFETERIA AND MIXED THEM WITH REDBULL.

CG: PRETTY SURE I JUST EXPERIENCED A WHOLE ASS FUCKING ANEURYSM AT SEVENTEEN.

CG: DAVE?

CG: DAVE. DAVE, DAVE DAVE.

CG: DAVE MOTHERFUCKING STRIDER.

CG: I DON'T EVEN CARE IF YOU READ THESE OR NOT.

CG: I'M SENDING THEM ANYWAYS.

CG: BECAUSE YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE FUCKING DOING.

CG: HOW MUCH OF A JACKASS YOU'RE BEING.

CG: YOU HAVEN'T BEEN TO SCHOOL FOR TWO WEEKS.

CG: TWO

CG: FUCKING

CG: WEEKS

CG: AND NOT A SINGLE PERSON HAS GOTTEN ANY SORT OF CONTACT FROM YOU OR SEEN YOU.

CG: DAVE. WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU.

CG: EVERYONE IS WORRIED AS SHIT.

CG: THE TEACHERS AREN'T EVEN CALLING YOUR NAME FOR ATTENDANCE ANYMORE.

CG: DAVE?

CG: DAVE I'M SO FUCKING WORRIED.

CG: PLEASE MESSAGE ME BACK.

CG: OR AT LEAST READ THESE. PLEASE. FOR FUCK'S SAKE.

CG: DAVE

CG: DAVE PLEASE.

CG: ... DAVE?

CG: DAVE, ARE YOU THERE?

CG: HEY DAVE.

CG: IT'S BEEN ALMOST THREE WEEKS.

CG: I SPENT ALL OF ART CLASS STARING OUT THE WINDOW.

CG: I MISS HEARING YOUR VOICE.

CG: I MISS YOUR STUPID JOKES.

CG: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE COME BACK.

CG: I'M GETTING REALLY SCARED, OKAY?

CG: NO ONE HAS HEARD FROM YOU.

CG: I HAVEN'T EVEN BEEN ABLE TO

CG: I

CG: I JUST HAVEN'T GONE SO LONG WITHOUT SEEING YOU AND

CG: DAVE, I REALLY MISS YOU.

CG: IS THIS ABOUT WHEN I CAME OVER?

CG: ARE YOU MAD AT ME?

CG: IT'S FINE IF YOU ARE. WHAT FUCKING EVER.

CG: JUST... MESSAGE US BACK PLEASE?

CG: I DON'T EVEN CARE HOW STUPID I SEEM SENDING THIS SHIT ANYMORE

CG: YOU'RE NOT EVEN READING THEM, SO WHAT DOES IT MATTER.

CG: I MISS YOU.

CG: I MISS YOU SO FUCKING MUCH.

CG: I'VE NEVER HAD A FRIEND LIKE YOU.

CG: I CAN'T FOCUS AND I CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT YOU ALL THE TIME.

CG: I WISH I DIDN'T LEAVE THAT MORNING.

CG: I WISH I STAYED.

CG: I WISH YOU WOULD JUST TELL ME.

CG: TELL ME WHAT'S GOING ON. TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOU. STOP PRETENDING THAT YOU AREN'T HURTING.

CG: I SAW WHAT HE DID

CG: PLEASE PLEASE MESSAGE ME BACK.

 

TG: come over please

TG: right now

TG: window

 

You don't get a message back. You thank him for that.

You've had the door locked for days. The windows have been shut tight, curtains drawn, lights all on since you and Bro strifed. It's probably about three in the afternoon now, but you aren't really sure anymore. Time has sort of lost its meaning recently. You get about an hour of sleep each night, and then get up to eat something. You can't even remember why you stopped going to school, just that you don't want to go back. The days have slipped away from you so fast, it feels like trying keep water in your hands when you think back over the past few weeks. You don't even remember most of it.

There's a knock on the window before you even know in. You've been laying on your bed, earbuds in. You haven't really mixed anything lately, but you were listening to some of your older stuff on repeat to distract yourself. It takes you a minute to even get up, and you sigh, dropping your earbuds onto the bed after ripping them out of your ears. You lazily unlatch the window, and a small bundle of energy jumps down from the window sill and basically tackles you onto the bed.

You make a strangled noise because Karkat is kind of strangling you. He's wearing a backpack, but it tumbles to the ground. What day is it? Is it Friday? Maybe he just left school for this. You don't really care, which isn't great, but he's here.

You speak first. You definitely owe it to him, even with your fucked up, unused voice. It's been a while since you've actually talked to anyone. " 'M sorry." God that sounds fucking terrible. Also, his arms are around your neck, still kind of choking you.

"Yeah," Karkat says after a minute. "I know you are, you absolute nookwhiffing bulgesucking panless moron, I can't fucking believe this shit." He finally released you, sitting up on his knees, panting softly with just a hint of a smile. He pushes you back onto the bed, arms wrapping under yours this time, squeezing your chest tight. 

It's not exactly like your dream, but your heart is pounding the exact same way.

And maybe.

Maybe that isn't so bad.

Maybe the fear is good.

Because you're starting to like it.

Chapter Text

You and Karkat talk for a while.

You decide that it's okay to tell him some things. Not everything, obviously. You aren't going to tell him everything you know Bro has done, and definitely not the things you suspect he's done. You aren't going to talk about your last year at school, or how you almost got hypothermia last year because you didn't have a coat and Bro pushed you into the pool at your old apartment. You tell him about Rose, though, and Roxy, and their mom, who is technically your mom too. You don't talk about Dirk. There's no point in that. You try your hardest not to think about him or where he is now. Karkat listens. He's a surprisingly good listener. He does a lot of talking, and a lot of ranting, and he's angry almost all the time, but he cares about people. And somehow, you got fucking lucky enough for him to seem like he cares about you. It's refreshing as hell to be able to talk to someone who will just sit and listen. You feel bad at times like he's playing unpaid therapist, but before you can even your mouth to say anything each time the thought crosses your mind, his eyes narrow and he holds a gaze that could freeze the heart of literally anyone. The first thing he asks is a question you don't like.

"Why hasn't anyone done anything about all this," Karkat asked it flatly, looking a mix between confused and hurt. The way he said it, it sounded almost as though he already knew the answer, but he would do anything to find a different one. But he hadn't known about any of this, so it's not like he's had a hand in your shitty ass childhood. And if he did, you wouldn't care. It doesn't matter. No one has done anything because it doesn't matter. You're fine. You're alive. You've only got a couple of years left until you can escape. Probably not to college, you don't have any money, but somewhere. Anywhere.

"No one gives a shit about me, dude. And it's not like it's even that bad, I could have it worse."

"Shut up. Shut up right now." His face turns into such a glare that you start to fear for your life. His brown eyes seem to flicker gold-yellow, and while there isn't any wind in the room, his curls toss themselves around a bit. You can see his fists curl up tight, and his shittily painted black nails clearly dig into his skin, almost tearing it. You try to ignore it all and shove the images into your mental "Weird Karkat Shit" folder. It's something like seven gigabytes by now. Karkat does a lot of weird shit.

"I can't fucking believe you. Why the hell do you think I'm here? I care about you, you absolutely idiotic fuckwad, and so do all of your friends. The rest of your friends, I mean." Karkat shakes his head after correcting himself. "And don't you fucking dare say it could be worse. There's always someone who has it worse. But that doesn't fucking mean you deserve to be in this shitty situation or that you don't deserve a way out of it. God, I can't fucking believe you've deluded yourself into this-"

"Why does it even matter? Why do you give a shit about me, anyway?" You ask suddenly, voice turning defensive instantly.

Wrong choice.

Karkat's whole face immediately drops, and it looks like you stabbed him in the chest. You aren't sure what it is about what you said— you had really started to wonder that, anyways. Why did he care about you? What the hell was he gaining out of this dysfunctional ass relationship? All you've done is talk about yourself and throw the biggest Dave Strider Pity Party of the year, and he's put up with it and carried your emotional baggage like the world's best hotel butler. It seems like you were exhausting him. Whenever he came over, he was always insanely tired by the end of the night and gone by the morning.

"Because I lo..." He paused, trailing off and shaking his head again. He seems to correct himself a lot. "Because I couldn't live with myself if I had to keep seeing you getting hurt. Because I like you. Just fucking because," Karkat answered finally, voice firm and strong.

You don't say anything back.

It's quiet for a while.

"So... What now?" Karkat asks softly, breaking the silence and staring at the ceiling of your bedroom. You've been just laying on your bed together, not really talking for a couple of minutes now. It wasn't even that the lull in conversation was bad, it was just what it was. There hadn't been anything more to say.

"What do you mean?" You turned your head to look at him, and instead of focusing on what he was saying, you just watched his lips move, how they were kind of a soft pink-brown color, how he didn't have a single freckle on his face, the slightly washed out caramel of his skin, how his black hair curled over into his eyes a little..

"Dave??"

"Fuck, sorry, what?" You blinked, pushing up your shades to rub your eyes. Karkat shoots you an insincere glare for not paying attention and staring at his face like a creep. It's easy to get lost in his features. "I asked what you're going to do. About Rose and Roxy. Rose is already here, she arrived about a week ago-"

"Wait, how do you know that? I didn't say she was here yet, dude." You squinted at him. How did he know that? Sometimes you wonder if he's been stalking you. Karkat knows all this random shit about you and the people around you, and can never explain how. It's the most personal of things, too— where you keep certain supplies you use to patch yourself up, that spot on your shoulder that always aches, how you like your blankets pulled up right to your shoulders no matter the temperature. Little things he shouldn't know. Little things nobody should know. He clearly blanks right now, shaking his hand and waving you off with his hand. "Mutual friend."

"Dude."

"Kanaya knows her!"

"Okay, but still. You seem to know all this shit and won't really explain how? Or... It's just something you shouldn't know. Like... You knew that Bro got a cut on his left arm." Okay, baiting is unfair. But you just want to see.

"Left leg," He corrected immediately. Karkat's ears turned a sightly maroon red, visible behind the dark curls immediately. You raised your eyebrows pointedly, and he opened his mouth to protest, but you spoke before he got the chance.

"How did you know that," You deadpan, face going completely neutral. How does he know this shit? It's starting to get weird. Everything is starting to get weird, and you don't have a single fucking explanation for any of it. Your whole life has been weird, sure, but that doesn't explain the bizarre empty feeling in your chest, or the warmth that's been passing over you as you sleep, or even whatever weird fucking being is your new, unknown yet hella agro roommate. You've been having bizarre dreams. Something is definitely off in the house. Bro has been gone way too frequently. Rose is coming back. Everything is just so weird. You'd kill for one tiny explanation.

"I... It was just a guess."

"Karkat."

"I just do!"

Silence sits between the two of you for the second time that night.

You're not sure if you want an explanation at this point. Whatever he says might just make things weirder. And your life has its fill of weirdness for now. Weird, weird, weird, weird, weird.

"Look, maybe you should go," You suggested meekly, rubbing the back of your neck and rolling over on the bed, facing away from him. You could feel him sitting up, the bed creaking as he reached out, probably to touch your back or shoulder, but he doesn't. He knows how you hate that kind of shit going on when you can't see him.

"Wait, I didn't mean to-"

"You should go." Your voice is firm now, despite being muffled by the pillow.

"Dave, you literally just fucking started talking to people again-"

"It doesn't matter, you-"

"Dave." There's something about the way he says it that shakes you to your core, some kind of weird reverberation behind the syllables. It makes you shut your own mouth immediately, arms tensing up. He can probably tell he spoke too loudly, as he murmurs an apology and pauses for a brief moment before continuing patiently. "I'm not leaving until you tr- message Rose to say you're going to go see her."

That's... Not what you expected.

You told him about her because... Well, you aren't totally sure why you told him about Rose and Roxy and their mom. Maybe as a reassurance? That you didn't have to stay here forever, at least. That you had somewhere to go if things actually got worse. Because things weren't too bad right now. Bro's been gone for days, and before that, you'd only been strifing a couple of times a week. He hadn't come home drunk in the middle of the night, waking you up in the absolute worst fucking way, in nearly a month. Him being absent completely was so much easier than actually dealing with Bro's bullshit. So there was no need, not right now, at least.

You shake your head insistently, sitting up and turning back to face him. The edges of his arms kind of flicker oddly, something bizarrely dark like smoke slipping around his sweater for half a second, and when you blink, it's gone. It's that kind of thing that confuses you a little, but you figure you're sleep deprived. "Dude, no. She probably doesn't even want to talk to me, and she's definitely asleep by now—"

"Don't bother with the fucking excuses, but if you give an actual, sensible reason that isn't driven by the ball of jittery anxiety and stupidity that is your brain, then maybe I'll back off." The crease between Karkat's eyebrows deepens.

"I don't want to."

"Bad reason."

"She's probably asleep," You repeated.

He considers it for a moment before shrugging and rubbing at his eyes. "Fine. Whatever. You're probably right. And I'm tired as shit. And you need to sleep, for sure. But you're going to send her a message in the morning. I'm making sure of it, you bitchbaby." Karkat gave you a smirk that makes your knees go weak, and he reaches around to his side and smacks the light switch on the table lamp that had been lighting up the room. "Go to bed, Dave."


You dream of his hands in your hair, his hands on your back, his hands everywhere.

You feel bad about it when you wake up, and he's gone again.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 06:28.

CG: HEY.

CG: DID YOU FUCKING SEND ROSE A WHATEVER YET?

CG: A MESSAGE.

CG: ENGLISH IS HARD.

TG: jesus fuck it is too early for this shit

turntechGodhead [TG] is offline.

CG: DAVE, FUCKING MESSAGE HER.

CG: YOU NEED TO DO IT.

CG: I'LL EVEN MAKE YOU ANOTHER BANNER FOR THIS SHIT.

CG: USING MSPAINT.

CG: I CANNOT BELIEVE I'M ACTUALLY OFFERING TO BRIBE YOU TO TALK TO YOUR HATCH-SIBLING-THING.

turntechGodhead [TG] is online.

CG: WERE YOU JUST FUCKING HOVERING UNTIL I OFFERED SOMETHING?

TG: im a savvy businessman karkat

TG: gotta bring in the bucks

CG: SHUT UP AND GO DO WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is offline.

TG: rude

You sit, staring at your screen, writing and rewriting for about six minutes until your phone bings anyways.

tentacleTherapist [TT] has begun pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 6:39.

TT: Dave, I believe I've watched you spending seven and a quarter minutes attempt to write me a message.

TT: And while I wholeheartedly appreciate your generally lowbrow try at this, I think I can take it from here.

TT: 1451 Northeast Killingsworth. Room 474.

TT: I hope to see you there after you finish school today.

TT: I am currently finishing up the quarter online, however, I will be transferring in soon.

TT: Prepare yourself for my sisterly wrath.

tentacleTherapist [TT] is offline.

Man, everybody is totally just leaving you in the dust today.

TG: okay i did it you ass

TG: you owe me

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is online.

CG: FUCKING FINALLY.

CG: I'LL SEND YOU ANOTHER ONE OF MY MASTERPIECES ASAP.

TG: good

TG: hey

TG: thanks or whatever

CG: GENUINE EMOTION?

CG: ACTUAL APPRECIATION FOR MY TALENTS???

CG: I NEVER THOUGHT I'D SEE THE FUCKING DAY WHERE THIS HAPPENS.

TG: shut up

turntechGodhead [TG] is offline.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 7:01.


On your first day back at school in nearly a month, everyone purposely tries not to make a big deal about it. No one asks where you were. You get a couple of suspicious looks from teachers and other random kids you've never talked to in your life, but you really don't care at all. Because your friends are here. Jade gives you a lung-busting hug, and John insists you come to film club with him today since they're having a lunch meeting. Even some of the Alternia Junior High kids pay attention to you (you don't know why you're still calling them that— it's probably just because they almost seem like their own group), mainly Terezi giving you a stab with her cane, and Kanaya greeting you with a warm smile.

After seeing Kanaya in the hallway, you chase after her and put a hand on her shoulder. She turns, looking somewhat startled, or maybe she just didn't expect to see you. "Hey, where's Karkat?" You ask her. She chews on her lip for a brief second, picking at something on her nails.

"He's probably taking a day off. It's not unusual for him, as I'm sure you know now. What with his affliction. Typically, I would take a bright day such as today off as well, but I happen to be giving a tour to a new student."

Before you can even think to ask about Karkat again, you get whiplash from how fast your brain switches focus. "New student? Rose?" You ask immediately, raising your eyebrows above your shades. The bell rings. You're going to be late. Kanaya seems surprised again. "Yes, actually. Her name is Rose Lalonde. And... Oh, yes, she's your... sister, isn't she?"

"How does everyone know that?" You grumble. Kanaya's cheeks turn a pallid greyish pink.

"...we share a mutual friend," She supplied quickly. Mutual friend? Isn't that what Karkat—

She interrupted your train of thought, speaking quickly before you could ask anything else. "I really must be going. I'll speak to you again at a later date, Dave." With that, she was gone. The halls were nearly empty as the late bell rang, leaving you standing with your backpack slung over your shoulder a million more questions.


You sit through Calc with your leg jiggling anxiously. You can't focus on this bullshit you're never going to use right now. Taking out your phone, you lean it up against the back of your desk. You need some fucking answers.

turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 11:17.

TG: rose

TG: i need you to answer some shit

TG: get out your fucking crystal ball babe

TG: i need professional help

TG: ie a sixteen-year-old psychic bitch who messages me once a year to tell me that im going to lose seventy bucks on my birthday

TT: I can't control the tarot cards, Dave. That was simply a little insight for your narrow, vanilla mind.

TG: the ropes in the back of my closet would tell you otherwise

TT: It only took you forty two seconds to mention something kinky. That's a new record.

TG: i cant help it rosey posey im just a sexy bastard who enjoys voyeurism in the form of telling everyone around me what goes on behind semi-closed, unlocked bedroom doors

TT: Just go ahead and send the link to your Pornhub biography to the whole school, I think that could do the trick.

TT: I believe you had a question for me.

TG: im the new cytherea baby

TT: Who?

TG: squirting legend rose

TG: god

TG: i cant believe you dont know who cytherea is

TG: shes a fucking pioneer of the water bottle squirt

TT: Dave.

TT: Please calm your vaguely Freudian antics for ten seconds so you can ask me whatever you want to fucking ask me.

TG: oh yea

TG: how do you know kanaya

TT: How do you know Kanaya?

TG: mutual friend

TT: Mutual friend.

TG: if one more fucking person says that im kicking everyones ass

TT: Kanaya's mother runs the tattoo parlor beside the apartment building that Roxy and I are staying in.

TG: oh okay

TG: she knew you were my sister

TT: Dave, I never told her that I have a brother.

TG: wait what

TG: she said

TG: fuck whatever

TT: How do you know Kanaya, exactly?

TG: kanaya knows karkat and i like karkat

TT: Karkat?

TG: i like him

TG: we hang out sometimes

TT: Intimate.

TG: fuck off

TT: Hm, defensive, are we?

TT: Is the nature of your relationship something more, perhaps?

TG: no

TT: Is it, Dave?

TG: well are you in lesbians with kanaya

TT: Don't change the subject.

TT: And, no.

TT: We're simply...

TG: a pair of flighty broads getting up in each others respective grills

TT: Classy.

TT: I'll talk to you after school, Dave.

TT: No lesbian-ing to Kanaya.

TG: what does that even mean

tentacleTherapist [TT] is offline.

turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 11:35.


The rest of the day goes by smoother than you expected that it would. You do your work. At lunch, your friends check up on you as casually as they can. You appreciate it, but brush them all off for the most part. You've all taken to sitting out in the courtyard with the Alternia kids, who are quick to crack jokes and pretend like you'd never left.

But something is... Off. You aren't sure what it is. You're never sure, though. But Terezi, your favorite resident blind girl, is jittery, quiet, whispering to Vriska constantly, and not in the fun gossipy way they always do. Something is definitely up. You toss a chip at her shoulder. She flinches, head turning four different directions before vaguely near you.

"Was that you, Strider?" Her teasing grin is significantly less full than it was the last time you saw her, not showing off all of her oddly pointy teeth. Maybe something happened while you were gone.

"Yeah. It's real hard to get your attention nowadays. You better not forget me when you get rich, Pyrope."

She snickers and shakes her head.

"What's with you and the Blue Pirate gettin' all secretive on us, now?" You lean across the table, propping your elbows up on the hard plastic and wiggling your eyebrows. "C'mon, let me in on it. I'll take an oath of silence if I gotta."

Terezi sighed, twirling a piece of hair around her fingers. "It's nothing, coolkid."

"Sure as hell don't sound like nothin'."

She elbows Vriska, who had been talking to Jade, and then jerks her head in your general direction. Vriska gives a solemn nod, returning to her conversation like nothing had happened. Clearly whatever the hell was going on here was something serious. Or, well, serious between them.

"Someone who used to go to our school is transferring over here. Who isn't someone we like. We being me. And Vriska. And everyone with a functional brain, and that's only about half the group." Terezi glances around to the rest of the kids in the courtyard. Yeah, she kind of has a point. You'd talked to most of them by now anyway, some of them weren't the brightest. The only thing going on behind those eyes is elevator music.

"Isn't it too late for a transfer?" It's a random question, and although the same could be asked of Rose, you knew her situation. Spontaneously moving was a whole different thing.

"He got his ass kicked to the curb by whatever school he was at before. Unsurprisingly," She mutters.

Huh.

"What's so bad about him?"

"Everything," Vriska and Terezi both say in unison solemnly.

The bell rings again. People chatter as they clean up their stuff, and you sit and think for a minute, fingers drumming on the table as Terezi and Vriska leave you in the dust. You watch as they walk away, not even an inch apart as they turn the corner. Lunch is over, and while you've just been let in on a small piece of gossip, it feels like you've just opened Pandora's fucking box.


The rest of the day is such a blur, you feel like you blinked and it was over. Class, class, class. Check your phone, class. Ring, the day was over. You're standing outside of the school, watching kids filter out, phone in hand. Just kind of awkwardly waiting. You aren't sure how to work up the courage to actually go and see Rose. The address is typed into your phone, you can walk there. It's already late November, and the sun is going to be setting soon. Your foot taps anxiously on the ground, you chew your lip.

You don't know if you can do it.

You don't know if you can see her.

In order to distract yourself, you send Karkat a bunch of messages.

TG: yo nerd

TG: karkles

TG: karkat

TG: whats up man

TG: where were you today

TG: just wondering cause i didnt see you

TG: anyways some guy from your school is coming here

TG: transferring cause he got kicked out

TG: tz and vriska aint happy

TG: do you know him

"Dave!"

John slings an arm around your shoulder, startling you out of your reverie. He does this a lot. You muster up a grin, but it could never match a gleeful Egbert smile. God, he's just so fucking happy all the time. You don't know how he does it.

"What's up, man," You ask as casually as you can, shoving your phone back into your pocket.

"Film club again! Jake wants to watch Jurassic Park, and he brought the Blu-Ray player. We didn't get to at lunch because the room was being used. He's also bringing some friend from MIT who knows about tech stuff, you should stay!"

You falter, swallowing and thinking. You could stay. You could watch a movie with John and the rest of the geeks.

"Oh, wait, Kanaya said you were meeting your sister! Duh." John answered for you, swooping in before you could even say yes. He shook his head, squeezing your shoulder gently and giving a big grin anyways. "Next time, man. I always forget you have a sister!"

"Yeah. She's weird."

John snorted. "Tell me about it. Jane is super weird. Hey, I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?" He sounded so hopeful. Making sure, checking in in the John way that he does.

"Yeah," You reply softly, nodding. "Totally. Save some Goldblum dino action for me, bro."

He somehow smiles even wider, nodding back. "Totally."

He's running to get in his dad's car not even three seconds later. God, that kid. You shake your head, running a hand through your hair, take out your phone and glance at the address.

We're doing this thing, man.

We're making this hapen.


You're immediately intimidated when you walk in the apartment building Roxy and Rose are staying in.

It's big and shiny and nice and definitely expensive. There's someone who opens the door for you but can definitely tell you don't belong. You stand in the lobby for a minute. You know that their mom is rich, and that Roxy is a fancy coder now, but damn. You feel insanely out of place in your three-year-old jeans and ratty converse, paired with the record shirt you bought from Goodwill on a splurge. Yeah.

Exactly.

You walk over to the elevator, press the floor number, and wait.

You can feel the lady with red-framed glasses that was standing behind the desk staring into your back.

The elevator bell dings and you get on. There's no one else here, but it feels like someone's going to ask you to pay to breath here. There's a nervous buzz in you as you wait for the elevator as it climbs floors. You wish your building had an elevator. Or that you didn't live on the ninth floor. Either would be nice.

The bell dings again, and you get off. Room number 474. It's one of the first few on the left, and you knock.

Even after waiting for a moment, there isn't any answer. You try the doorknob, and the door swings open with ease. The second you walk in, you're hit with a wave of sour grape. The whole room smells intensely of alcohol. Not beer or anything sweet, but serious red wine. There's a splotch of it on the carpet in front of you, and two bottles sitting opened on the counter.

"Daaaaave?"

Rose wandered out of what you assume is her room, half-empty glass in hand, a black shawl draped around her shoulders. Fuck, she looks just like your mom now, the last time you saw her, she was just a pretty girl with a blonde bob. She's let her hair grow out a little, it's almost at her shoulders now, and she definitely looks older, taller, though you're certainly taller than her now.

And she does not look sober.

"... Rose, are you fucking drunk?"

She gave a long, long laugh. A way too long laugh. Rose waved her hand, and she almost lost her balance from that alone. "Daaave. Don't be ridiculous. I- I've sim'bly... Just.." She trailed off, laughing again at absolutely nothing. Rose lumbered forwards, holding her arms out with a dopey smile, crashing onto you and almost knocking you over. She smells like wine. You can't believe this.

"I don't even know why I fucking try," You mutter, shaking your head, pushing her off you. Rose stumbled over to the counter next to the wine bottles, giving you an enthusiastic wave. God. You knew her mom had a serious problem, and that Roxy had issues in the past, but Rose? She's your age. How could she have already gotten sucked into this shit. How does she even get all this wine?

Fuck, you can't deal with her right now.

Definitely not drunk.

"I'll see you at school, Rose."

She doesn't say anything else, just stares off into space as you walked out. You shut the door loudly behind you, and you can hear the little golden knocker rattle against the wood as you ran down the stairs. No elevator. You just want to go to your room and go to sleep.

What you really want to do is see Karkat.

You aren't going to bother him, though.

He's probably fine.