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Beauty and the Beast, but Davekat

Chapter Text

Belle- Karkat Vantas

the Beast- Dave Strider

Gaston- Gamzee Makara

Belle's father- The Signless

Lumière (the candlestick)- Kanaya Maryam

Cogsworth (the clock)- Eridan Ampora

Mrs. Potts- The Delarosa

Chip Potts- Kankri Vantas

Featherduster- Rose Lalonde

The Enchantress/Witch of the Woods- The Disciple

The Dead King- Bro Strider

The Piano- John Egbert

Phillipe (the horse)- Equius Zahhak

The Bookseller- Aranea Serket

Le Fou (Gaston's sidekick)- Tavros Nitram

Monsieur D'Arque (Asylum Owner)- The Grand Highblood

The Wardrobe- Porrim Maryam

Others may be added later.

Chapter Text

The day broke over a small village, nestled in the foggy hills of France. With no more than three hundred residents, the village was scarcely on the map, but it was charming; quaint even, with cobblestone roads and mud-bricked homes. Church towers pierced the morning sky like spears, casting long shadows across the town square. A river burbled merrily on the outside of the village, the water cool despite the warmth of the summer sun. Large farms sat outside the village, supplying it with nearly all its produce and meat. Clouds skittered overhead as the night was chased away, while people and animals woke to the tolling of the church's bell. The village sat in a large valley, surrounded on all sides by grassy hills. Just beyond was a forest that spanned further than the eyes could see.

Within this little village lived a young man by the name of Karkat Vantas, who lived with his father, Simon Vantas. As the sky turned blue, Karkat rose from his bed, dressed, and hurried out the door.
Karkat was eighteen years old, and stood four inches above five feet. Curly brown hair flung itself this way and that, falling into his face and bouncing as he walked. Deep brown eyes glared ahead as he stomped down the street, his shoulders hunched. Karkat's coffee colored skin was hidden under a long-sleeved, hooded jacket and a bright red shirt, matched with beige pants that were tucked into thick boots. Despite the heat, Karkat refused to remove the jacket, clutching it close to his person as he stomped down the street. Tucked under his arm was a thick, leather-bound novel. The young man tried very hard to ignore the glances the other village folk shot him as he walked past. He couldn't ignore their words, though, spoken just loud enough for him to hear.

"Such a strange child." A woman murmured to her son, who was busy chasing frogs by the well while she drew up a bucket of water.

"Did you hear, she pretends to be a boy!" A man hissed to his buddy as they cleaned the scales from fish, their words striking Karkat like knives in his throat.

"It's just a phase. You know children and their rebellious phases." Another woman chuckled to her husband as they examined the fresh vegetables brought in from the farms. Karkat snapped his head around and glared at them all, making them pull up short.

"It's not a phase, and I'm not pretending. Call me a girl again and I'll set your houses on fire." He snarled. The adults shared startled looks with each other, but had the decency to look embarrassed that he'd called them out. Karkat snorted and turned away, continuing his rampage through the village.

As he reached the outer edges of town, his stiff posture relaxed a little. He aimed for a small, rundown shop with a broken sign, and knocked loudly.

"It's open!" A woman's voice returned. Karkat pulled the door open and stepped into the dimly store.

The store was a bookshop. Shelves stacked as high as the ceiling were crammed with tightly packed novels. While the outside of the shop was a little out of shape, covered in creeper vines and cracks, the inside was immaculately clean. The warm glow from the candles and chandeliers was a welcome relief from the harsh sunlight outside. The air smelled of wax and fresh paper, and Karkat took a deep inhale of it. He sighed, the comforting smell lifting his mood as he looked around.

"Aranea?" He called.

"I'm here!" The woman returned, before she emerged from between a pair of bookshelves.

Aranea Serket was a young woman in her mid-twenties; she owned and ran the bookstore with her wife, Meenah. She had short, wavy, blonde hair and brilliantly blue eyes hidden behind wire-frame glasses. She wore a pastel blue dress and silver jewelry, with simple sandals on her feet. Her skin was rather fair, as she spent much of her days inside. She smiled at the young Vantas as he pulled the book out from under his arm.

"Finished already?" she asked, taking the novel as he held it out. Karkat nodded, a shy smile growing on his face.

"Yeah, I told you it'd only take me four days." Aranea hummed, running her thumb over the corner thoughtfully.

"In that case, let me show you some of our bigger ones. What do you want this time? Another romance?"

"You know I do." He scoffed. She chuckled.

"Wait here."

She turned away and disappeared between the book shelves. Glancing around, Karkat made his way to a nearby chair and threw himself into it with a groan. He rubbed his aching chest, grimacing. He was still getting used to the device his father had made him; it was like a sleeveless shirt, but made of a stretchy, slightly heavy material. His father had sewn it together for him a few weeks ago. It put pressure on his chest, squashing it down. Hunched over, Karkat's chest appeared flat, which was just how he liked it. Still, it left him sore and made it hard to breathe at times, so he was forbidden from wearing it at night.

He was distracted from his thoughts by the reappearance of Aranea, her arms piled high with fat books. She set them on a small table with a huff, smoothing her dress out and motioning to the stack.

"Take a look, let me know if you like any of them." She told him. Karkat pushed himself out of his chair and eagerly approached. He rifled through the books while Aranea waited nearby. Reading the summaries on the back, Karkat picked out two that aroused his interest.

"I'll take these." He announced, "How much?"

"Two a piece." Aranea told him. Karkat dug in his pocket and produced four golden coins, which he happily forked over.

"I'm going to go read. See you in," he paused to peer at the two books in his hands thoughtfully, "six days." he concluded. Aranea laughed and shooed him out, calling goodbye as she shut the door.

His spirits lifted, Karkat headed back through the village. As he crossed the busiest streets, he heard girls exclaiming and laughing together. With a sinking feeling in his chest, he knew what that meant; Gamzee was back. He looked towards the commotion and sure enough, Karkat saw two men on horse back riding over the hills. He quickened his pace to get home.

 

Gamzee Makara was the village hero, and he knew it. Gamzee was handsome, and he knew that, too. He carried himself with a haughty pride that only narcissistic dickheads held. Standing well over six feet, with ebony black hair, brilliant green eyes, and gorgeous olive skin, he was every village woman's fancy. Everything, from his eyebrows to his body portions, was perfect. Gamzee wore a uniform that only highlighted this. Well, he wore the pants of the uniform, anyway. The coat was tied around his waist, as it was much too hot to wear it, leaving him in a white, sleeveless top. His hair, which spilled to his shoulders, was pulled back in a low ponytail. At only twenty-two years old, he had everything going for him.

Beside Gamzee rode his sidekick, a man by the name of Tavros Nitram. Tavros was an absolute beast of a man, with broad shoulders and a thick chest, arms bulging with muscle and thighs strong enough to crush a melon. He had deep, hickory brown skin, and hazel eyes. Caramel colored hair was shaved close to his head, except for a mohawk of thick hair that spilled down to his neck. Tavros wore a pair of khaki pants and a simple shirt, his left foot capped with a sandal. Tavros was missing his right leg, severed at the knee. Instead, he wore a rather steampunk-esque prosthetic; copper brown, with the gears and hinges exposed in places.

The two men pulled to a stop on the crest of a hill, looking down into the village. From there, they could see the village people, reduced to obscure figures, scurrying about with their daily lives. Gamzee straightened in his saddle, taking a deep breath and letting out a happy sigh.

"Home sweet home. It's been too long, ain't it?" he sighed, leaning his elbow on the saddle horn, and his chin in his palm. He had a broad country accent, his voice smooth and silky; a voice practiced in coercion and persuasion.

"Uh... yeah, I guess. It's only been a week, though." Tavros shrugged, running his fingers through his horse's mane. Tavros' voice was hesitant, but sweet.

"A week without Karren is too long!" Gamzee declared. Tavros flinched, grimacing.

"Karkat." he said quietly. Gamzee glanced at him, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm sorry?"

"Karkat. They- they go by Karkat." He repeated, silently apologizing to the young Vantas.

"She can call herself whatever she likes. She is my Karren irregardless!" Gamzee huffed and nudged his boot into his horse's side. The horse started forward, down the hill towards the village.

"'Irregardless' isn't a word." Tavros muttered, disgruntled, but urged his horse after the other all the same.

 

Karkat was still navigating the crowded square when Gamzee and Tavros arrived in the village. He heard the squeals of women and the happy calls of men, accompanied with the pounding beat of hooves on stone. He froze, looking around for a place to hide, when Gamzee spotted him.

"Karren!" Gamzee shouted. People parted before him as he made his way towards the poor boy, jumping off his horse's back. Karkat pointedly turned his back and stormed away. He heard his deadname called again, but refused to turn around. He'd nearly made it home when he felt a hand on his shoulder. "There you are, my sweet. Thought you could get away, didja?" Gamzee purred in his ear. Karkat resisted the urge to throw up. Instead, he whirled around, slapping the hand from his shoulder.

"Don't touch me, Gamzee. I'm not your 'sweet'. Leave me alone." He growled. Gamzee laughed, a shit-eating grin on his face.

"Oh, doll, how you tease me. I just want to talk." He purred, giving Karkat his best 'I don't mean any harm' face. Karkat glowered, clearly not buying it. He turned and headed for his house again.

"Well, I don't. Goodbye, Gamzee." He called. The older man watched him leave, frowning thoughtfully. Karkat had managed to reach his door and get his hand on the handle, before Gamzee's hand slammed on it, keeping the Vantas from opening it. With a frustrated growl, Karkat turned to face the Makara again.

"I thought I said-" He started, but Gamzee put a finger on his lips, silencing him. Karkat desperately wanted to bite it off.

"Just listen to me, my sweet kitty cat." Gamzee crooned, "You're eighteen now, right? Don't you think it's time you find a man and settle down?" Karkat sneered.

"Sure, let me know when you find a decent man in this god forsaken village." He snorted. Gamzee looked momentarily thrown, before he laughed.

"I get it, you want me to prove myself. I will, darling, don't worry. But I won't wait forever." He told him.

"Pity, because I will. Now get off my porch." He turned away again and forcefully opened the door, nearly knocking Gamzee off the front step. He stormed inside, slamming the door and locking it behind him. He glanced out the window to see Gamzee still standing there for a moment, before he turned around and walked down the street, whistling merrily. Karkat sighed, his shoulders drooping in relief as he headed deeper into the house.

The home he shared with his father was small, but cozy. They had their own rooms, a spacious living room and kitchen, and Simon even had his own office. Outside, they had a small vegetable garden, a pen for their four fat chickens, and a small shack they used as a stable for the family's horse, a dappled-grey stallion named Equius.

Currently, the elder Vantas stood at the kitchen counter, dutifully dicing onions. On the stove behind him bubbled a pot of rice. He glanced up as Karkat entered the room and gave him a warm smile.
Simon Vantas was in his late forties, just shy of six feet tall. He was rather thin, with high cheekbones and narrow shoulders. He and Karkat were spitting images of one another, with the same curly hair, deep eyes, and dark skin. Simon, however, had a stubbly beard over his jaw, and heavy bags under his eyes. He wore a button-up, deep red shirt and black slacks. A pair of wedding rings hung on a chain around his neck.

"Welcome home, buddy. What was the noise outside?" He asked, looking back down at the onion.

"Gamzee." Karkat said shortly, throwing himself sideways into his father's reading chair.

"Ah. Makara is after your hand again?" Simon sighed, scraping the onion pieces into the pot and giving it a stir, before he began slicing up strips of chicken breast.

"He's going to get my boot in his face if he doesn't stop." Karkat grumbled.

"You know I'd do something if I could, son, but he's kind of popular around here." Simon grimaced. He nodded to the books on Karkat's stomach. "What did you get this time? More romance?" He asked, trying to change the topic.

"Yeah, Aranea picked them out."

"Well, she's a bright woman. I'm sure she picked well. Pity Makara can't read, he might learn how to read social cues a bit better." He hummed, making his son smile slightly.

"He can't even spell 'social cues'." Karkat snorted, sitting up to look at his dad. Simon huffed with amusement.

"Well, we'll see. Maybe he'll get eaten by a bear on his next hunting trip." He hummed, dropping the chicken into the pot. The smell of cooking food was beginning to fill the room, making Karkat's stomach rumble. He squinted at his father suspiciously.

"You're making an awfully big lunch... Enough to last us several days." He frowned.

"Enough to last YOU several days." Simon corrected as he opened a cabinet and began rooting about for spices.

"I knew it. You're going out of town again, aren't you?" Karkat pouted, folding his arms.

"I have to. I need to take my sermons to the cities if we're going to have enough money for winter." Simon said patiently.

"It's August!" Karkat protested.

"Which means winter is only three months out. We don't have much saved right now, we're going to need every coin I can get."

"You're going to leave? Now? While Gamzee is in town?"

"I don't have a choice, Karkat."

Karkat flopped back into the chair, pouting even more. He knew his father was right, but... he hated being left alone. He stewed in his feelings for a minute, while Simon calmly continued putting the rice dish together.

Eventually, Karkat rolled out of the chair and slouched off to his room with his books.
His room was small but comfortable, with only a bed, desk, and dresser crammed inside. A ratty rug covered the floor, its once bright colors faded. Karkat shed his jacket and boots, leaving them where they fell. He let himself flop onto his bed, opening the first of his books.

He read for an hour or so, until Simon knocked on his door and announced it was time to eat. Begrudgingly, Karkat marked his place and and got up. By then, he'd accepted his father's eminent departure, but it didn't make him feel better to see the older Vantas had already packed and had his bags waiting by the door. Simon himself, though, sat at the table, a bowl of chicken and rice in front of him. Another bowl sat at Karkat's place, waiting for him. He sat down, picking up his fork and poking at the meal.

"Karkat," Simon said gently, making the teenager look up, "you do remember that I get to bring you back a gift, right? What would you like?" He asked gently. Karkat shrugged, jamming a forkful of chicken in his mouth to buy himself time as he thought.

"... Could I have a sword?" he asked after he swallowed. Simon paused, looking surprised.

"A sword? Why?"

"Because they're cool! And if I had a sword, I bet Gamzee would leave me alone!" He urged, looking hopeful. Simon searched his son's face for a long moment, before he laughed.

"Alright, I'll bring you a sword. I'm leaving as soon as we finish eating, so hurry up. The sooner I'm gone, the sooner you get your sword." That was all he had to say. Karkat shoveled the rice into his mouth, fidgeting excitedly in his seat. Simon smiled, pleased, and ate his own meal rather quickly.

When they'd finished, Karkat collected their dishes and put them in the sink while Simon got his boots on. He picked up his bags as Karkat rejoined him in the foyer. Simon turned and embraced his son tightly, an embrace Karkat returned. Simon kissed the top of his head.

"I'll be home in a week or so." he told him quietly. Karkat nodded.

"I'll be here." he sighed. Simon pat his shoulder and turned, opening the door. Karkat followed him out and watched as his father crossed the garden to a small lean-to shack where Equius stood, watching the chickens cluck around in the grass. Simon bridled and saddled the horse, leading him out to the cobblestone street. He tied his bags to the saddle and swung himself into the seat. He picked up the reins, looking over at Karkat, who was leaning on the door frame. Simon waved, giving him a comforting smile.

"I'll see you when I get back! I love you!" He called. Karkat waved back, stuffing his other hand in his pocket.

"Yeah, yeah, love you too."

Simon smiled and snapped the reins. Equius broke into a run and they briskly left the village. Karkat watched them go until they disappeared over the hill, the sun now blazing strong overhead. He turned around and went back inside, deciding to read some more until he had to go to bed.

Chapter Text

Simon and Equius rode away from the village at a run, but as the ground leveled out, Equius was able to put on a spurt of speed. It wasn't long until they were galloping over the ground, heading for the hazy outline of a forest before them. The horse whinnied in delight, glad to get a chance to stretch his legs.

On the other side of the giant expanse of woods was the first of the cities they would visit before their main goal: Paris. As the trees rapidly approached, Simon pulled back on the reins, forcing the stallion to slow to a walk. The horse snorted, his flanks damp with sweat and heaving as he fought for breath, but his tail lashed happily. Simon pat the big horse's neck.

"Attaboy. That was fun, huh? We can go again when you have your breath back." He murmured, before gently nudging the horse into a walk. Equius flicked an ear in acknowledgement to the man's words, before stepping forward into the trees.

They rode in silence for a while, Simon enjoying the peace of the forest. However, the further they went, the colder it became, the sun blotted out by the heavy branches. Simon shivered, goosebumps breaking out on his skin. It wasn't long before his breath was puffing out in front of him. Something wasn't right, he thought as he looked around. It was getting darker; it had been late in the morning when they left, but now it looked like twilight, which definitely wasn't right. A sense of foreboding settled in the man's chest, but he tried to ignore it. He nearly leaped out of his skin at a loud crunch under Equius' feet. He looked down to see the grass gave away to snow here. His eyes widened as he looked up to see everything in front of them was covered in ice and snow. Equius had frozen in place, tossing his head uncertainly.

"It's alright, big guy. Follow the trail. It's just snow," Simon urged gently, glancing around again, "in August." he added under his breath.

Hesitantly, clearly reluctant, the horse started moving again. As they reached a break in the trees, Simon looked up to see heavy storm clouds had gathered, their bellies fat and full, even though they'd been mere wisps an hour ago.

A rumble of thunder was the only warning they got before the clouds opened, pouring their insides onto the land. Snow fell in thick, heavy sheets, and only fell faster as thunder rumbled again. A wind suddenly swept in, making the frost-heavy trees rattle like bones. Simon hugged his arms around himself and shivered, urging Equius to go faster. The horse needed no more encouragement, and broke into an anxious trot. The trees, thankfully, staved off most of the wind, but snow continued to fall around them. And it fell fast, the path becoming obscured before them.

It was while Simon was puzzling over this conundrum that he heard it; howling, from all around him. Twisting in the saddle to look behind him, Simon saw several pairs of eyes watching him. Out of the underbrush, several large, white wolves emerged. Three, five, seven, ten- they stalked towards him, teeth bared and tails high.

Fear struck him like an arrow and he dug his heels harshly into Equius' sides. The horse bellowed and broke out into a gallop. The wolves barked and gave chase, the sound of their paws like war drums behind them. They snarled and snapped at Equius' heels, but the already weary horse couldn't put on any more speed. Simon heard a snarl to his right and saw some of the wolves were outflanking them. His breath hitched in fear and he snapped the reins.

"Come on, Equius, run!" He urged. The terrified horse whinnied and redoubled his efforts, but the thick snow got in his eyes and obscured his vision. They were running blind, while the wolves continued to howl. The horse suddenly raced onto an icy patch and slid. He struggled to maintain balance, but both horse and rider were flung into the air as his hooves came out from under him. Equius slid onto his side and fell heavily, while Simon was sent sprawling into the underbrush.

The older Vantas groaned, slowly picking himself up. He was banged up and bruised, but nothing was broken. He heard Equius bellow again and leaped to his feet, whirling around to see the horse had struggled to his own feet, but the wolves were closing in.

Simon ran forward with a shout, making the wolves pause in alarm. Before they had time to recover, he grabbed Equius' reins and turned, running through the trees. They'd left the path behind, stumbling without sight, before they burst out of the trees. It was a minute before Simon realized the wolves had stopped their pursuit. He dared to glance back and saw the wolves had stayed in the tree line, their ears pressed back and tails tucked. Simon paused, blinking in confusion, before he looked in the direction he'd been running.

Through the snow flurries, a giant structure loomed. His heart seemed to stop as he realized what it was; a castle. They'd paused right inside the gates. Looking back, Simon saw the wolves turning tail and fleeing. Turning around once more, still trying to catch his breath, he saw some of the lights in the castle were on. He glanced up at Equius, who was still trembling.

"Well... let's go see if they'll let us stay until the storm blows over." He suggested. He began to walk the horse forward. As they got closer, the storm seemed to ebb away, and Simon could make out more detail.

The castle stretched into the sky, the towers and spires seeming to disappear into the clouds. Made of dark grey stone, it was an imposing sight when one noticed the snarling gargoyles and broken windows. Whole sections of walls seemed to have been torn down, the bricks lying in rubble. The grounds were in no better condition; what might have once been a beautiful garden was now sprawling with vines, weeds, and overgrown plants. Statues and fountains lay in ruin, the waters frozen and bases crumbling.

Still, the torches by the doors were lit, so Simon did his best to push away his worries. To the left of the castle was a set of stables, the lights inside lit. He changed course, leading the exhausted horse towards it. They stepped inside and looked around.

"Food, water, and a place out of the storm. You can stay here tonight, can't you?" He asked Equius, who snorted. He removed the horse's saddle and bridle, bringing him a bundle of dried grass to munch on. He pat the stallion's neck again. "You rest, I'm going to pay respects to the castle's owner." He told him, then left the stables.

A set of curved stairs lead up to a pair of large double doors, so Simon mounted the steps quickly. He brushed the snow off his clothes and shook himself out before he knocked politely. There was a pause, before the door groaned open, swinging inward. Simon gratefully stepped inside, turning to thank whoever opened it, but there was no one. He was a little puzzled, but he was more grateful to just be out of the cold. Rubbing his arms in an attempt to get friction, he looked around for a sign of life.

The entrance hall was nothing short of grand; with high, sloping ceilings painted a faded red, and tall marble pillars along the walls. A giant staircase lead up to the wall, before it split into a Y shape, the two forks leading up into darkness. Another set of big doors sat to the left, and the wall to the right was dotted with smaller ones that lead off to who knows where. Near the main door stood a long table, on which sat a three-pronged candlestick and a clock. A door in the side of the staircase was open, peeking into a lounge-like room, in which a merry fire crackled. Simon resisted the urge to make a beeline for it.

"Hello?" He called, and heard his voice echo back at him, "I didn't mean to intrude, it's just- it's very cold out, and there were these wolves, and- anyway, I just want to get warm, if that's alright." He glanced around, waiting, but no one appeared. With a shrug, he headed for the lounge to get close to the fire.

 

Meanwhile, watching him from the table, the candlestick and clock shifted to look at each other. The candle was made of gold, expertly shaped to look like a beautiful woman holding up a pair of platters. On said platters, and the woman's head, were three unlit candles. The candle woman blinked at her clock companion.

"Eridan, did you see him? Un monsieur; a man. How did he find the castle?" She whispered, her voice thick with a french accent. She looked through the doorway to see the older Vantas warming his rump at the fireplace.

The clock was a fat, squat, intricately carved and silver painted thing, stuffed full of ticking gears. The tally marks and numbers shifted about, the two 1's shifting into the center of the face while the zero slid under the hands to make a mouth. The 1's seem to fold, like someone blinking. The hands on the face pointed downwards like a mustache.

"I did, Kanaya. I don't know how he got here, the spell should have warded him off." Eridan murmured, his voice watery and wavering as he watched the man.

"What should we do? Should we tell le prince? The prince?" She asked.

"I have a feeling he already knows." Eridan muttered, the hands of the clock spinning around to point up the staircase. Kanaya looked up and saw a pair of bright red eyes, glowing in the dark.

"Ah, oui..." She sighed.

 

Once feeling and warmth returned to Simon's limbs, he left the fireplace and looked around. He'd been there for a good while, yet no one had appeared to greet him. He cleared his throat, when clattering through the double doors to the left distracted him. His hopes piqued, he hurried towards the doors and pushed one open.

The doors lead into a giant room. It might have been a ball room at one point, he thought, when the smell of food hit his nose. Looking around, he saw a long table stretching across the room, with dozens of chairs tucked under it. At the end of the table nearest to him, several platters and bowls of food had been set out, still steaming hot. Simon approached, barely daring to hope. A little card leaned against a teacup and read "enjoy" in curly letters.

"Oh... bless you, thank you!" He said to the room. He gratefully sank into the chair and scoot into the table. He picked up the proffered napkin and put it in his lap, then looked at the waiting food. A bowl of onion soup sat in front of him, but there was also a platter of roasted chicken, a tray of steamed vegetables, a bowl of fresh fruit, a teapot full of fresh tea, and even a giant pudding.

He poured himself a cup of tea and started on the soup as he gazed around. He examined the teapot and cup before him. They had the most unique design, he thought. The teapot was a faded jade green, with black symbols and etchings swirling up the spout and on the handle. The side was painted with flower petals of various colors, and almost looked like a face wearing heavy makeup. He chuckled at the thought, turning to look at the cup.

The cup's bottom half was tinted red, with golden spirals painfully painted on. More spirals, in silver, floated above the red. A group of them looked like a face, he thought with amusement; it matched the teapot very well. The handle of the cup was painted black, as was the rim of the cup. On the rim, he noticed, was a large chip, a piece of porcelain missing.

"Oh, poor thing. What happened there?" He wondered, rubbing his finger over the chip.

"I fell off the tea cart." A voice said quietly. Simon started in alarm and looked around, but he saw no one.

"Hello? Who's there?" He called.

"Me." The voice replied. He looked down. The silver spirals had shifted and seemed to blink at him. Stunned, Simon could only watch as the lower spiral stretched and curved into a shape like a mouth. "I'm not supposed to talk, but you asked, and it would be rude not to answer." The cup said. Simon opened his mouth, then shut it again, lost for words.

"That's... that's quite alright." He said dumbly. He sat there for a moment more, stunned, before fear took over. He leaped up and raced out of the dining room, his empty stomach forgotten and his heart pounding. He skidded to a stop in the main hall and looked around. He hurried towards the door, ready to leave, when he noticed a line of majestic swords on the wall.

"Oh! Yes, I nearly forgot." he muttered to himself, stepping up to examine the blades. There were many of them, each as beautiful as the last. The nearest one was tempered steel, the handle made of silver. In the butt of the handle, a large ruby gleamed at him. It was perfect for Karkat, he thought, reaching out and taking it from it's hooks. He examined it again, then looked around. The sense of foreboding returned, so he decided it was time to leave.

"Well... thank you, but I need to be going." He said to the castle, before he turned to the doors.

He pushed them open and was heading down the steps.

It was then an almighty roar, louder than a clap of thunder and full of fury, seemed to shake the ground. Simon shouted in fear and ran down the steps. Glancing back, he saw a giant figure burst from the doors, a pair of bright red eyes glaring hate at him. Simon screamed and ran. Distantly, he heard Equius bellow in fear, and the horse galloped past him, bolting out the gates.

Simon was right behind him, nearly out the gate, when he stumbled over one of the creeping branches of a bramble bush.

He managed to stay upright, before he was promptly knocked to the ground by a heavy force. He fell with a cry of shock and struggled to get up. He was thrown down again as his legs were suddenly grabbed. Whatever held him began pulling him through the snow, back towards the castle.

"Wait, wait! No no no no! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, release me please, I didn't mean to-" he babbled, his heart hammering with fear. He twisted around to see a giant... thing, had him by the ankle, and was dragging him back to the palace. As the creature hauled him up the stairs, Simon's head hit the frozen, stone step.

There was a burst of pain, before he blacked out.

Chapter Text

Equius ran like demons were biting his heels, his hooves seeming to barely touch the ground as he raced over the hills. It was dark out now, the sun sinking and the stars twinkling to life as the grey-blue stallion thundered forward. He practically soared over the hills, until he finally saw the village ahead. He bellowed as he galloped towards the Vantas residence.

 

At said residence, Karkat had spent the whole day reading, at one point getting up to take care of their garden, but he was scared off by the sight of Gamzee approaching. Now, he was just coming out of the house again to feed the chickens their dinner, when he heard heavy hoof beats on the ground. He heard a fearful bellow, a sound he heard often when it stormed. He ran down the steps and saw Equius skid to a stop by the garden. The horse's eyes were wild, his flanks heaving and nostrils wide. He tossed his head and whinnied, shaking himself as he walked towards his water trough. Karkat looked around, a sinking feeling in his chest. His father wasn't with the horse.

He vaulted the fence of the garden, jogging over to the stallion. He pat his neck, making Equius raise his head.

"Equius, where's dad?" He asked. The horse's eyes widened and he snorted, stamping his feet. "Where's Simon?" Karkat demanded, his voice strained.

Impulsively, he balled his hands in the horse's mane and leaped up, heaving himself onto the stallion's bare back. "Take me to him!" He ordered, driving his heels into Equius' side. The horse jerked and wheeled about, bellowing again as he raced off once more.

The hills were behind them in mere minutes, and the trees swallowed them whole. Equius didn't stray, and Karkat didn't guide him, his heart pounding with each thump of Equius' hooves.
Karkat barely noticed as the ground gave away to snow and the temperature plummeted, too afraid for his father to care. The wolves were nowhere to be seen as Equius swerved harshly to the right, following his own hoof prints in the snow.

A minute later they burst from the trees and through the gate of the castle. Equius pulled up short, throwing a plume of snow into the air. Karkat's jaw dropped as he stared around in amazement. Equius was ready to drop as he wearily walked towards the stables. Karkat hopped off his back when he noticed something shiny in the snow, letting the horse go on ahead. Kneeling, he pulled steel and silver blade from the snow, with a single ruby in the hilt. He swallowed, gripping it firmly as he walked towards the castle. He mounted the stairs, not noticing the splatter of blood on the first step. He pushed open the giant double doors and stepped inside. He looked around in further wonder.

"... Dad?" he dared to call, his voice thin. He heard what sounded like a gasp to his right and whirled, but only saw a candlestick and clock, sitting on a table. The candle was lit, one of the few points of light in the grim palace. He hurried over and grabbed it, holding it aloft in his free hand. "Dad?" He called again, a little louder, and was answered by a distant cough, up one of the stairs. His breathing caught in his throat, he flew up the stairs. He paused at the fork, then took the left one. Without his notice, the candlestick turned her head to look at him.

The stairs coiled and turned sharply, spiraling upwards into the dark. His teeth clenched, Karkat climbed, until it suddenly leveled out into a small space at the top of a tower. Across the space was a door made of iron bars; a prison cell. In said cell, sitting on the ground and leaning against the door, his head bandaged, was Simon.

"Dad!" Karkat cried, his voice echoing about the chamber as he ran forward. Simon raised his head, blinking blearily at his son. He coughed again as his eyes widened in shock.

"Karkat? How did you-" He gasped as Karkat fell to his knees beside the door. He reached through the bars and Karkat set the candlestick down to take his hand.

"Equius brought me!" The young Vantas said breathlessly, "What happened? Why are you in here?" Simon turned his head and coughed again. Concerned, Karkat reached up and touched his father's forehead; it was dangerously hot, and damp with sweat. "You're sick!" He gasped. Simon cleared his throat, waving his free hand dismissively.

"Don't worry about me, Karkat, you have to get out of here."

"But-"

"No." Simon gripped his hand, his eyes filled with fear, "You must go. Forget about me, get out before he finds you. This castle is alive, Karkat. Go home."

"What- who-?" Karkat stammered, before a snarl suddenly ripped through the air. He whirled around to see a giant figure, hidden in shadow, standing by the stairs; their eyes glowing red in the dim light.

"Who are you?" The figure growled; his voice was deep, with a faint country accent buried in the rumble.

"Who are you?" Karkat shot back as he rose to his feet, gripping his sword. The figure blinked.

"I asked you first." He huffed.

"I asked you second." Karkat returned.

The figure seemed torn between confusion, anger, and amusement. He narrowed his eyes, his gaze flicking between the pair of Vantas.

"He is your father." He rumbled.

"Yeah, no shit. I've come to take him home." Karkat hissed.

"He cannot leave. He stole one of my blades, which I see you were kind enough to return." The figure nodded to the sword in Karkat's hand. The young man tightened his grip on the weapon.

"I asked him to bring me the sword. It's not his fault. Let him go!" Karkat spat, boldly pointing the blade at him. The red-eyed figure laughed harshly.

"Do you even know how to use a sword?" He asked mockingly.

"Don't need to, if I swing it hard enough it'll do the job." Karkat hissed.

"Karkat," Simon cut in, before he paused to cough. He reached through the bars and grabbed the leg of his son's pants, "Stop this. Go home." Karkat shook his hand away.

"Not until this asshole lets you out." He scowled.

"An asshole, am I?" The figure repeated. He bared his teeth in a mock smile, his teeth- his fangs- glimmering in the faint light. Karkat felt a sinking feeling in his chest, before the figure lunged for him. He shouted and scrambled back, but they stopped a few feet away. "That's a new one, I'm usually called a monster." They added, almost casually, as he stepped into the candlestick's glow. Karkat's eyes went wide.

The figure was, as he'd called himself, a monster. He stood seven feet tall, Karkat having to tip his head back quite a bit to meet his eye. The monster was covered in thick, honey-brown fur that bunched up around his neck and shoulders, almost like a lion's mane. Even his face was furry, covered in curly locks that framed his eyes, lips, and cheekbones.

His face was animalistic, with a broad, black, flat nose. His eyes were wolfish, narrowed with anger and glowing red. Giant tusks and fangs stuck out from his top and bottom lips, even with his mouth closed. His ears were large and catlike, standing up at attention as he examined the young man before him in turn. Tucked behind his ears were a set of large horns. They curled back along his head, before they swooped upwards again at the tips. Flat, square ridges like the teeth on a gear jutted up along the top.

His hands were big, his fingers fat and ending with needle sharp claws. They looked like a bear's, with thick, calloused pads on the palms and fingers, covered in even more of the honey-brown fur. His feet didn't match, as they ended in two giant, black hooves, like a goat's. The hooves split into two tapered points, the tops covered in long, curly fur. Behind the monster, a large, furry tail, like a cat's, stuck out from his pants.

The creature was dressed in a startling regal outfit; a red uniform coat and black pants, decorated with golden buttons and embroidery. Over his shoulders, he wore a thick, black cloak, concealing most of his clothes.

It took mere seconds for Karkat to take all of this in, and for the beast to take in his appearance in return. Karkat backed up until he felt the cold iron bars against his back.

"Your father cannot leave." The beast repeated in growl, "He stole from me."

"So you're going to keep him locked up for life? Look at him! He's sick! He won't last a week!" Karkat snapped, before an idea struck him. "Let me take his place." he demanded.

"What?! Karkat, no!" Simon gasped. The beast's gaze flicked between the two men, seeming to consider it, before he shook his head.

"No. He is the thief. I am giving you this chance to leave. Now go before I change my mind." He turned away. Karkat looked at his father, who'd managed to struggle to his feet. The sick man smiled sadly at his son.

"Let me say goodbye, then!" Karkat said suddenly, turning back to the beast. The monster glanced at him, his bushy brows furrowed. "Just one minute? Or are you such a giant dickshit you won't let me hug him?" Karkat asked boldly. The beast rolled his eyes, stomping over to the door of the cell. Reaching up, he slammed his fist against a button near the door. The door swung inwards, making Simon jump back. The beast glowered at Karkat.

"One minute. When that door closes, it won't open again." He growled, before he stormed off.

Karkat turned to his father, dropping the sword and rushing into his arms, hitting him so hard they spun around. Simon embraced him in a vice-like grip, burying his face in his son's hair.

"I'm so sorry, Karkat. I didn't mean for this to-"

"No, shut up, it's fine. It's my fault, I should have come with you." Karkat mumbled, his face pressed in his father's chest. Simon chuckled weakly, trying to suppress a cough.

"Next time I'll let you come with me." He murmured, his vision blurry and wet, "I love you so, so much, Karkat. I'm so sorry." He sighed, cupping his face. Karkat squeezed him tighter, before he pulled back to look at him.

"So am I." He whispered, his throat tight. Simon blinked.

"What-" He began, before Karkat roughly shoved him, sending him wheeling out the door and sprawling on the ground. Before he could recover, Karkat grabbed the door and slammed it shut, locking himself inside. "Karkat, wait, no-!" Simon gasped, scrambling to his feet.

Behind him, the beast emerged from the shadows again. He looked between the two of them, surprised.

"You... took his place." He rumbled.

"He's my dad, of course I did." Karkat scowled, trying to ignore the sound of his heart shattering in his chest. The beast snorted, turning towards the sick man.

"Time's up." He grabbed Simon by the back of his shirt, "Let me show you to the door." He growled as he turned, pulling Simon with him.

"Wait, wait, no! Karkat! Stop! Karkat!" Simon cried, twisting in his grip as he reached for his son.

"Don't hurt him!" Karkat shouted as he watched his father get dragged away, his knuckles white as he gripped the bars, "I'll escape, dad, just wait! I'll be home soon!" He shouted as their figures disappeared around the bend.

Karkat stood there as the echoes of his voice died away. He gazed at the stairs for a long moment, before he turned and looked around. The cell was tiny, with only a cot, a sink, and a small table with a single chair. The floor and walls were stone, with only a tiny window to let the freezing air in. Now that he was alone, Karkat slumped on the edge of the bed.

He gazed around a moment more, before his emotions suddenly broke through the numbness that had settled over him. He put his face in his hands and burst into tears.

Chapter Text

Gamzee lounged by the fire in a tavern, his cheek in his hand as he stared at the smoldering flames. Beside him, in his own lounge chair, sat Tavros, the hulking man barely able to fit in the seat. Behind them, the tavern was filled with the babble and chatter of drink-stupid people. Glasses clattered and platters clinked, but all of it was background noise to Gamzee. The handsome man sighed through his nose, making Tavros glance over.

"You alright, Gamzee?" He asked, his eyes unreadable as he gazed at his captain.

"No, I ain't." Gamzee said shortly, before he sat up and leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. His brow furrowed as he gazed at the fire.

"Well... what's wrong, then?" Tavros pried.

"Karren. I dunno why she can't see what a great catch I am!" Gamzee huffed, reaching up and letting his hair down, "I mean, I've wrestled bears! I've got money! I'm strong! Why doesn't she like me?"

Maybe because you call him by the wrong name, Tavros thought, but he didn't dare say it aloud.

"Well, h- they, are very... academically inclined. They like books, and smart things," As Gamzee turned to glare at him, he quickly continued, "Like math! ...And you are clever, there's no denying that, but they also LIKE animals, remember? Bragging about your bear wrestling abilities won't get you anywhere with them." Gamzee sat back again, considering this. Still, his eyebrows remained low.

"You didn't hear her, though, Tav. She sounded like she hated me! I don't understand what made her feel like that! When I was an active captain in the military, I could barely keep them widows and skanks off me. Now the one girl I actually want doesn't want me! It don't add up!" Gamzee whined. Tavros raised his eyes to the ceiling, praying for more patience. He stood up and limped over to Gamzee, squeezing his shoulder.

"Maybe they... maybe they're just too caught up in fantasy to realize what a catch you are." He said consolingly, "There are... other prizes, in the village you know."

Gamzee glanced up at him as he motioned to a table of women, who were watching them. When Gamzee met their eyes, the group giggled and quickly turned away, speaking in hushed tones. Gamzee scoffed.

"I wouldn't waste my time with them." He sniffed, curling his upper lift in disgust, "Karren is the only woman for me." He sighed. Tavros chewed his bottom lip, trying to decide what to do.

"Well, I'm sure they'll come around." He said, though his tone said he didn't believe a word of it. Gamzee didn't seem to catch on. "You're strong, brave, brash, charismatic, and bold. There's no one else in all of France who's like you." He continued as the other man continued to pout. Gamzee snorted, looking up at him with a raised eyebrow.

"... Ya think so?" He asked. Tavros nodded, forcing a smile.

"Of course!" He insisted. Gamzee managed a half-smile back.

"Thanks, Tavy." He sighed. Tavros pat his shoulder.

The pair jumped in fear as the door to the tavern suddenly burst open. Gamzee leaped to his feet and whirled around with Tavros as the bar went silent. Standing at the door, his eyes wide and fearful, his hair disheveled and his face pale, his chest heaving from lack of breath, was Simon.

"Oh, goody, it's the mad preacher." A man said, and the bar broke into laughter. Simon started forward, clearing his throat.

"Someone, please, you have to help me!" He coughed, his face shiny with fever sweat. The laughter died away as he looked at each person. "It's Karkat- he's- he's been taken! Help me get him back, please!" He gasped, wearily stumbling over his own feet. A woman nearby caught his arm and helped him stay upright.

"What happened?" Gamzee asked, stepping forward. Simon's eyes widened and he swallowed.

"A- a monster took Karkat! He's locked in a tower- in the castle hidden in the woods!" He said urgently. There were several snorts and chortles of disbelief.

"A monster?" Tavros asked curiously. Simon nodded.

"Yes, a beast! With horns and claws and a tail! He kidnapped Karkat and has locked him away! Please, someone, help me get him back!" He cried, looking at the crowd. The people backed away, scoffing. Gamzee thought for a moment, then stepped forward.

"I'll help ya." He said boldly. Simon looked up at him, clearly uncertain.

"You- you will?" He asked. Gamzee nodded, puffing out his chest.

"Hell yeah. Take me to this beast." He urged. Simon stumbled forward and grasped Gamzee's hand.

"Bless you, Makara! Bless you!" Gamzee tried not to grimace.

"Of course, Simon. Let's hurry." He said, forcing a smile.

 

Back at the castle, Karkat had wept until he felt empty and sick. He sat on the cot, leaning against the wall and staring out the window, his eyes vacant. Grief bubbled in heart, but he couldn't summon any more tears. He jumped in surprise as he heard metal clatter against stone, and the sounds of a woman grunting with exertion. Cautiously, he rose to his feet, when the door to his cell suddenly opened with a pop. He stepped back in alarm as there was another clattering sound.

"Ah, there you are, monsieur! Come, come, I'll take you to your chambre, your bedroom, oui?" A woman said cheerfully. Karkat nervously stepped out of the cell and looked around, but saw no one.

"I..."

"Down here, monsieur."

Looking down, Karkat saw the candlestick he'd grabbed earlier. It was moving, the base swaying like a dress as it walked towards him. It took a moment for Karkat to register this, before he stepped back in fear.

Looking around quickly, he grabbed the chair from his cell and pointed the legs of it at the candlestick.

"What the hell are you?" He demanded. The candle-woman put her hands on her hips.

"Do you mean, WHO am I?" She asked, her voice stern, "I am Kanaya Maryam, head caretaker of this château, this castle."

"You're a candlestick!" Karkat protested. She scoffed, the little flame on her head flickering.

"I am a candelabra, monsieur, not a candlestick!" She corrected. Karkat hesitated, then put the chair down. She smiled. "There we are, cher, very good. What can I call you?" She asked.

"I, uh... Karkat." The boy blinked, still trying to wrap his head around it all.

"Oh, très bien! Very good! That's a lovely name, cher." She told him, "Now-"

"Kan, what are you doing?" A new voice joined in. Karkat looked over to see a clock climbing the last of the steps. It pulled itself onto the landing and brushed itself off with a huff, before jogging over to them.

"Ah, Eridan, just in time! I was about to show monsieur Karkat to his suite!" Kanaya said brightly. Eridan's eyes widened.

"Wh- what? But master Strider said-"

"Oh, bah! The master is just cranky! Come, Karkat, let me show you your new room!" Without giving the other two a chance to argue, she briskly headed for the stairs. Without much of a choice, other than to go back into his cell, Karkat followed her. Eridan hesitated, then followed after.

"I really must protest-" The clock began.

"No, you really mustn't." Kanaya interrupted.

"So... why are you guys... objects?" Karkat broke in. Kanaya paused, then sighed.

"Ah, that is a very long story, cher. I can tell you another time, oui?"

After they descended the steps, Kanaya lead the young Vantas through several hallways, until she finally paused in front of a door.

"Here we are, monsieur." She nodded. Karkat grabbed the handle and pushed open the door, stepping inside to look around.

The room was huge. The walls were painted with scenes straight from a fantasy; maidens with unicorns, mermaids swimming through coral, dragons curled around heaps of gold- and so on. The paint had faded, flaked off in some places, but it was still beautiful. Like old ruins, Karkat thought; ancient and sad, but mysterious and alluring. The floor turned from stone to thick, plush carpet here, colored a lovely sky blue. Large, arching windows looked out into the snow-covered grounds and the night sky. Looking up, Karkat saw the ceiling was daubed with gold, a giant chandelier handing from the dome shape. Within the room stood a king sized bed, neatly made up with plush pillows and a thick comforter. There was a writing desk and chair, and a wardrobe in the corner, next to a vanity. The room was coated in dust and cobwebs.

"It's not much, but it's home." Kanaya sighed.

"It's lovely." Karkat told her, before he felt a tickle in his nose. He turned away and sneezed into his elbow.

"Soyez bénis, bless you." Kanaya told him, frowning. "My apologize, it's been awhile since someone cleaned up."

"I'll take care of that." A new voice said. Karkat turned around, then promptly ducked, as something large and feathery flew by. He turned to see a feather duster land on the bed, the thick feathers spread like wings. The feather duster lighted on the blankets as Karkat moved closer.

It looked like a woman, made of white plastic, with painted on eyes and lips. She smoothed down her feathers, until they looked like a skirt. She looked up at Karkat and smiled.

"Mon amour! My love!" Kanaya cried, delighted, and quickly scrambled onto the bed. She embraced the feather duster tightly. "Karkat, this is Rose, my wife." She added as she pulled away, but not before landing a quick kiss on Rose's cheek.

"Nice to meet you." Karkat said. Rose curtsied, lifting up two of her feathers.

"Pleasure is all mine." She returned. Karkat looked around the room again.

"Is everything here alive?" he asked, walking over to the vanity. He poked a hairbrush, but it didn't say anything.

"Not everything," Eridan corrected, "Just-"

"I'm awake!" The wardrobe suddenly shouted, making Karkat leap back with a cry. The wardrobe shuddered and straightened itself. The wardrobe was a deep, jade green, covered in gold and black designs. Several of them shifted until they formed a face above the double doors.

"Ah, Porrim! Good evening!" Kanaya greeted her. Porrim looked around, before focusing on Karkat.

"Who's this?" She asked, looking him up and down.

"This is Karkat, the master's prisoner." Eridan said.

"No, he is not!" Kanaya said hotly. Karkat felt his cheeks get warm.

"It's nice to meet you." He told the wardrobe. She smiled.

"Lovely to meet you, dear." She assured him in return.

"Porrim, he's human." Kanaya said, hopping down from the bed, "You know what that means." Porrim gasped.

"Oh! I have a new project!" She said, before she rattled with delight.

"Um... What?" Karkat looked between them.

"Porrim is a fashion designer, cher. She loves to play dress up." Kanaya explained. Porrim seemed to vibrate with excitement.

"May I?" She asked hopefully. Karkat blinked.

"I don't see why not, I guess." He shrugged. Porrim laughed, delighted, and her drawers flew open. Clothes, cloths, fabrics, jewelry- they flew at Karkat like a pack of cats. He shouted in surprise, squeezing his eyes shut.

"Oh? What's this?" Porrim asked suddenly. He peeked open an eye and found he was standing shirtless in front of her, with only his chest piece on.

"Oh, uh- i- it's-" Karkat stammered, his cheeks turning red. Suddenly shy, he wrapped his arms around himself. Porrim sat back, examining him.

"Ah... I see. Alright, don't move." She ordered. He was once again swallowed by the flurry of objects and he shut his eyes, holding his breath. "There, how's that?" Porrim asked him finally.
He opened his eyes and looked down.

Karkat was no longer in his coat, boots, and plain outfit. He now wore a deep red uniform, with a black overcoat. Silver buttons clasped all the way up to his throat. He wore thick leather boots that rose nearly to his knees, and a large cloth belt across his middle. He looked like a prince, he thought, his eyes wide.

"Whoa." was all he could think to say.

"I'm glad you like it! I'm-" Porrim broke off with a yawn, shaking herself. "Excuse me." She added. And just like that, she was asleep. Karkat looked around to see Kanaya, Rose, and Eridan heading for the door.

"Relax, get comfortable, monsieur. We'll be back to collect you for dinner." Kanaya told him.

"Oh- okay. Uh, bye." He waved.

"Au revoir!" Kanaya replied, before the door shut behind her.

Karkat looked around and saw his clothes, discarded in a pile. Stripping out of his new costume was a pain in the ass, but soon he had changed back into his regular outfit. He walked towards the giant windows and tested them.

Flicking a latch, he managed to open one. looking down, he saw it was a straight drop to the ground below. Perfect, he thought. He looked at the piles of fabrics, several ideas running through his head.

"Time to go home." He decided.

Chapter Text

David Elizabeth Strider, also known as 'the beast', or 'the prince', sulked through the castle, his cloak drawn around his shoulders. His stomach grumbled, demanding dinner, so he stomped to the dining room to eat. When he arrived, as he expected, his place was already set.

The dining room was aglow with warm light, a stark contrast to the night outside. Through a pair of doors at the other end of the room, he heard the clattering and chatter of his servants, working on dinner. He sat down heavily, the chair groaning with his weight. The beast looked down at the food before him; he'd been given beef and tomato soup to start with, with a glass of red wine and a platter of crackers. He grunted, satisfied, and reached for his napkin, when something caught his eye on the edge of his vision. He glanced up.

Across the table, a second place was set. His brow furrowed in confusion, before he realized. His lips peeled back to reveal his dagger-like teeth as anger bubbled to life in his chest. He snarled, standing up so forcefully he knocked the chair over. In his fury, he grabbed the bowl and platter and threw them against the wall.

"KANAYA!!!" He roared, turning and storming towards the kitchen. He threw the doors open with a bang, and quickly located the candelabra, who stood on a table in the middle of the kitchen, directing the flow of everything. Beside her was her feather duster wife, Rose, and the clock, Eridan. Kanaya calmly turned to face him, while Rose, Eridan, and everyone else in the kitchen shied away, silently continuing with their work.

"Oui, master Strider?" Kanaya asked innocently.

"You made him a meal! You set him a place at the table!" He snarled in an accusatory tone. The flame on Kanaya's head flickered with her annoyance as she placed her hands on her hips.

"Oui, I did."

"Master," Eridan broke in, "this was all Kanaya's idea! I told her not to, that the boy should stay in his cell, but she insisted on giving him a suite and-"

"You gave him a bedroom?!" The beast howled. Eridan whimpered, the hands on his face spinning frantically. Kanaya, however, kept her composure.

"Oui, I did, but think about it!" She insisted, putting up a candle to stop him as the beast opened his mouth again, "He is the first man to come here that you'd have a chance with, monsieur. He could be the one, he could break the spell. Every day, the castle falls apart and we lose our humanity. We need him! So I thought you could have dinner with him, and at least try to get to know him." She explained.

"He's the son of a thief! What do you think that makes him?" He protested. Kanaya gave him a hard look.

"You should know better than to judge some one on who their family is." She said firmly.

The beast paused, shutting his mouth and clenching his jaw as he thought. His tail thrashed behind him as he begrudgingly grunted.

"Fine. What am I supposed to do?" He grumbled. Kanaya smiled and hopped down from the table.

"Come, monsieur, let's go invite him to dinner." She said, heading for the door. The beast turned around surprised.

"Now?"

"Now is dinner, isn't it?" she replied without turning around. Huffing in annoyance, Dave followed her. Behind him, Eridan and Rose hopped down from the table and followed after. The four of them headed for the east wing, where Karkat's bedroom was. Kanaya paused outside the door and nodded to it.

"Alright, ask him to supper." She told him. The beast snorted and raised a giant fist, pounding on the door.

"Join me for dinner!" He called in a demanding tone. Kanaya sighed.

"No, monsieur, not like that." She said patiently, "You must be... gentle, oui? Doux, soft. Ask him nicely." The beast hesitated, then sighed. He turned towards the door and knocked again, careful to keep it light.

 

Inside, Karkat had been busy. He'd spent the last several hours tying every piece of cloth together, until he had a giant cloth rope. He'd tied one end to the leg of the giant bed, and was in the process of getting it out the window when the pounding knock and demand came. He nearly jumped out of his skin in fear, biting his lip as he threw the rope out the window. He watched it fall, delighted to see it went all the way to the ground. He was preparing to step onto the windowsill when the softer knock came. Exasperated, he turned around.

"What do you want?" He demanded. There was a pause.

"Would you... like to join me for dinner?" the growling voice of the beast said quietly. Karkat was glad he locked the door, before he realized what he'd asked. Ticked off, he stamped his foot.

"You take me as your prisoner, and then you ask me to dinner? Are you shitting me?!" He snapped. He heard a snarl, and something banged against the door.

"I'm trying to be nice!"

"Oh, how generous of you!"

"Be glad I don't eat you!"

"You can eat my ass!" There was another snarl, and heard the beast speak to someone else.

"If he won't eat with me, he doesn't get dinner." He heard, before the stomping sound of retreating footsteps.

Karkat waited, but when nothing further happened, he turned back to his rope. He rechecked that it was secured to the bed, when another knock came at the door. Sighing with frustration, he stood back up.

"WHAT?!" He shouted.

"Don't worry, honey, it's just me!" An unfamiliar woman's voice said. Nervously, Karkat walked over and unlocked the door, before he backed away.

"Come in." He said quietly. The door swung open and in glided a tea cart. On said cart sat a large, ornate teapot, a teacup, a bowl of sugar cubes, and a boat of cream. The teapot blinked at him, her swirling eyes wide.

"Oh, aren't you handsome!" She said softly, her voice gentle and kind. Karkat found himself smiling shyly as she continued, "I'm Rosa, I brought-" She broke off, looking behind the Vantas. Glancing back, he saw his rope, still dangling out the window. "Oh... It's a long way home from here, hun." Rosa said softly, "How about a cup of tea before you go?" She shuffled over to the teacup and tipped herself sideways. Steaming hot tea poured from her spout, into the teacup, which blinked up at Karkat as he approached.

"I... thanks. You're not going to stop me?" Karkat asked as the teacup slid towards him. Rose gave him a sad smile as he picked the cup up.

"No, love, I won't, if you truly need to go. But, it's awfully cold out there. There are wolves, and it's dark. Wouldn't you rather escape when it's light out and you've had supper?" She asked. While she was speaking, he raised the cup to his lips and drank. The tea was delicious, tasting like honey and walnuts. It burned in the most satisfying way, all the way down his throat. He lowered it after he swallowed.

"I thought he said I wasn't allowed to eat." He pointed out. The cup in his hand scoffed and he looked down at it.

"The master is just short tempered. He ruined a perfectly good soup earlier." The cup sniffed. "I'm Kankri, by the way." He added, as if it was an important title. Karkat gently set him down on the cart again.

"Nice to meet you." He said, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, "If... you've already gone through the trouble, I suppose I could eat." He admitted. His stomach suddenly growled in agreement. Rosa giggled, and the cart began to glide towards the door.

"Come, then!" She said cheerily.

 

Up in the west wing, where the castle had fallen apart the most, Dave paced his room.

The room was dark, dusty, and freezing cold, but he didn't seem to notice. His bed lay in disarray in the corner, several pieces of broken furniture shoved up against the wall. Outside a pair of glass double doors was a giant balcony. He had the doors propped open to let the cold air in, which did nothing to cool the hot temper in his belly. He walked in circles around a small, circular table.
On the table, sat a handheld mirror, and a tall glass container. It was a beautiful piece, with a silver knob on top, and a silver platter below. It was what was suspended in the glass that was so important, though: a rose. The flower was ruby red, with a short, thorny stem. Two perfect leaves curled outwards. The flower seemed to glow with a pale white light. It was magical, obviously, it was too perfect not to be. Below the rose, several withered petals had fallen.

Dave turned and looked at those petals. His brow, which had been furrowed in anger, slowly lifted. A light entered his eyes, but it wasn't a nice one. It was pain, which dug its claws into his heart and squeezed. He growled, shaking himself out, but couldn't rid himself of the feeling. The pain- the grief- seemed to only squeeze tighter as he watched one of the petals on the rose peel back back. He held his breath as it fell from the flower, already withered as it touched the bottom. He didn't even flinch as the castle gave an almighty rumble. Stones fell from the ceiling. Looking out onto the balcony, he saw a section of what was once living quarters collapse into rubble. He turned to the table again and picked up the little mirror.

"Show me him." He whispered. The mirror seemed to ripple like water, before the image shifted. He was suddenly looking at Karkat as he spoke with Rosa. It was only there for a minute, before the image faded, showing him his own reflection. He grimaced and put the mirror down, turning away as his mind reeled.

 

Karkat followed Rosa and Kankri to the dining room. He was ushered into a seat and he waited as there were loud bangs and clatters from the kitchen. He heard several voices as the doors opened momentarily to let the tea cart in. There was a minute when he was left alone, before the doors burst open.

"Karkat! Mon cher, my dear, welcome!" Kanaya cried. She was riding a much larger tray as it wheeled towards the table, laden with several dishes. She leaped onto the table, beaming.

"So lovely to see you!" She said enthusiastically as the dishes flew off the cart and onto the table, their lids popping off. Karkat's eyes went wide as he watched the activity. Kanaya giggled. "We weren't sure what you liked, so... we made lots of things." she explained.

"You didn't have to do all this." Karkat told her, embarrassed by their generosity.

"Nonsense! We live to serve, and you are our guest!" Kanaya declared as several dishes slid towards him. There was stuffed fish, roasted chicken and potatoes, salad with blue cheese dressing, beef and vegetables in a thick broth, several kinds of pasta dishes, fresh baked bread, and so much more.

"Holy shit." Karkat said under his breath. He reached for the chicken, his stomach demanding food already. He eagerly ripped the drumsticks off and added them to his plate. In fact, he grabbed a bit of everything before he began to eat. Kanaya watched him.

"Well? What do you think?" She asked as he tore into the fish. He quickly swallowed, the flavor singing on his tongue.

"It's amazing!" He told her, and she twirled in an excited circle.

"Oui, oui! Oh, madame Crocker will be most pleased! She is the head chef, and she insisted on making everything herself!" Kanaya told him.

"Tell her I appreciate it." He said, jabbing potatoes onto his fork.

"I shall. I need to go check on dessert, I will tell her while I'm in there. Until I return, would you like some music?" She suggested, and gestured to his right. He turned to see a grand piano sitting in the corner. It was beautiful, made of polished black wood. The ivory keys gleamed as the book stand shifted, split, and took the rough shape of a face.

"Oh, hi." Karkat waved.

"Hello." The piano returned.

"Karkat, this is monsieur Johnathan Egbert, the castle's top musician. He's a famous joueur de piano, piano player, and can play anything you ask of him." She introduced them. The piano seemed to sit up proudly.

"Indeed I can. What would you like to hear?" He asked eagerly. Karkat hesitated.

"I... I don't know about music." He admitted. John laughed.

"That's okay, I shall play something of my choosing, then." He assured him. He cleared his throat, and his keys began to press down on their own as notes filled the air.
The piano played a pleasant, gentle melody, that was upbeat enough that Karkat found himself bouncing his knee to it. Kanaya watched for a moment, before she hopped onto the tea cart and let it whisk her away.

Karkat ate in silence, listening to the music. When he was full, he pushed the plate away.
The kitchen doors opened again and once more Kanaya rode in, her cart once again filled with dishes. This time, however, Rosa and Kankri accompanied her. They flung themselves onto the table, swapping places with the ones from before.

Just as before, the lids popped off to reveal their contents. Puddings, cakes, canolis, cookies, cupcakes, pies, ice creams, tarts, and sundaes appeared before his eyes. Rosa slid across the table to him, tea sloshing inside her.

"Hello again, dear." She said. Karkat grinned, pulling a cinnamon-apple pie towards him.

"Hi." He returned. Rosa poured tea into Kankri, who hopped closer. Karkat bit back a sudden yawn as he ate. The stress from... everything, seemed to finally be catching up with him. He only managed half a slice of pie before he was pushing it away.

"Ready for bed, cher?" Kanaya asked him gently. He nodded and pushed away from the table. He thanked John, Rosa, and Kankri, before he followed Kanaya out into the main hall and up the staircase. "Right, go on to bed, up the left stairs." She told him as they reached the landing where the staircase split. He glanced to the right.

"What's up that one?" he asked curiously. Kanaya hesitated.

"Ah... that is monsieur Strider's wing." She explained.

"Strider?"

"Oui, Strider. David Strider, the master of the castle."

"You mean... the beast is-?"

"Oui, the very same. He's the prince."

"Oh... Why is he- why are you all-?" he asked, his mouth unable to keep up with his mind. Kanaya smiled sadly.

"I shall tell you another day. Off to bed." She told him. He frowned, but nodded, and headed towards the left. She watched him for a moment, then departed back towards the kitchen. He waited until she was out of sight, then quickly walked back down the steps and took the right staircase instead.

It steadily grew darker- and colder- as he climbed, before he stepped up into a short hallway. It was dimly lit, only a lantern here and there glowing with a faint flame. At the end of the hall, a large oak door stood open, the room inside pitch black.

Boldly, Karkat strode towards it. Inside, his eyes adjusted to the dark and he looked around. To his left was a collapsed fireplace. Hung above the mantle was a portrait.

Moving closer, Karkat saw it was a picture of three men. One of them, the oldest, stood in the background. Karkat placed him somewhere in his late thirties. he had bright blonde hair, and orange eyes set into a gaunt, stubbly, pale face. He wore a golden crown and dark clothes. Karkat couldn't make out much more, as the picture had been torn. Slashes like claw marks were ripped through the man's image. The next man was the spitting image of the first. They had the same eyes and hair. However, this one wasn't torn, and wore a lighter outfit. He was younger, perhaps in his twenties. The third was a young boy, maybe a year or so older than himself. Like the first two, he had bright blonde hair. However, he had berry red eyes that gleamed. He wore a red uniform, a blade in one hand. Karkat stared at him, mesmerized. He seemed so... sad. This must be David, he realized, the beast.

He jumped as he heard a whoosh of wind behind him. Turning around, he saw a small table in the middle of the room. On the table sat a glass container, under which was a rose. Awed, Karkat felt himself move towards it, though he had not made the conscious decision to do so.

He leaned down to peer at it, his eyes wide.

"Whoa..." he murmured, impulsively reaching out to touch it.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" The roar shook the very air and he whirled with a shout of fear. Storming towards him was the beast, his eyes alight with fury. Karkat threw himself sideways as he charged, but the beast ignored him. He ran to the table and hovered over in protectively, scanning the rose frantically, before he whirled on the cowering boy. "What did you do to it?!!" He demanded.

"Nothing! I didn't touch it!" Karkat cried, his heart thundering.

"Get out! Get OUT! GET OUT!" The beast howled. Karkat didn't need to be told again. He scrambled away and fled. He flew down the stairs and shot for the door, barely registering the cries of shock from the servants. He heard Kanaya shout after him, but he ignored her. He ran across the grounds to the stables. He didn't pause, grabbing Equius- who'd been standing outside by the trough- and leaping onto his back. He jammed his heels into the horse's side, making him bellow and wheel about, running for the gates.

Fear pounded through his veins in time with Equius' hoof beats as they galloped through the trees. Equius suddenly whinnied in fear and put on a spurt of speed, his ears pressed back. A howl ripped through the air. Whirling around, Karkat saw several wolves had given chase, smelling the fear in his skin.

"Fuck!" Karkat gasped as the wolves bound towards them.

The wolf in the lead leaped forward, jaws open wide, only to close them around Equius' leg. The horse screamed and bucked, throwing Karkat off as more wolves joined, one of them leaping onto Equius' back.
Karkat hit a pile of snow and jumped to his feet, fortunately unhurt. He turned to see his companion rearing and thrashing. He managed to kick one wolf in the head, and it yelped, running off.
Looking around, Karkat grabbed a large stick and picked it up.

"Hey!" He shouted, swinging it like a bat at the nearest wolf, "Leave him alone!"

The wolves did as he commanded, instead turning towards him. They snarled and leaped for him. Karkat's eyes widened, time seeming to slow down as a rush of adrenaline filled him. I'm going to die, he thought distantly. He readied himself, ready to go down fighting, when an ear-shattering roar boomed across the clearing.

A giant figure lunged across the clearing, bowling into the wolves and knocking them away. It took a moment for Karkat to realize it was the beast. The wolves turned and attacked the newcomer, snapping and snarling in determination to tear him apart.

The beast fought like a mad man. He grabbed one wolf by the throat and threw him across the clearing, where the canine struck a tree and fell. It struggled to its feet and limped away. The beast shrieked as one of them clawed his back. He whirled and struck it away. Another closed its teeth around his leg, and he kicked so hard it fell dead.

Karkat, meanwhile, ran to Equius, the terrified horse standing stock still and unable to move. Glancing back, he saw the last of the wolves fleeing.

The beast stood there, panting heavily, blood pumping from several wounds, the worse of which was on his chest. He managed to raise his head and meet Karkat's eye, before his eyes rolled up into his head and he fell forward, too weak to stand. He shuddered and trembled, the snow turning red below him.

Karkat looked up at Equius, the horse slowly calming down. In that moment, Karkat realized he could leave. He could escape, and go home. He moved to mount Equius' back, when he heard a pained whimper. Turning back once more, he saw the beast had tried to rise, only to fall again. Karkat swallowed.

Taking a deep breath, he walked towards the wounded monster, who gazed up at him with pain-glazed eyes. Karkat crouched beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"You're going to have to help me." He said quietly, "I can't lift you. You have to stand so I can get you onto Equius." The beast gazed at him a moment more, then struggled to rise. Karkat grabbed his arm and helped him get his feet under him.

Dave had to lean heavily on him as Karkat got him onto the horse, but soon he was on Equius' back. He looked like he was going to faint, but he manage to hang onto Equius' mane as Karkat began guiding the horse back the way they'd came.

Chapter Text

While Karkat lead the wounded beast back to the castle, many miles through the woods, Simon, Gamzee, and Tavros rode on horseback. The sound of howling wolves echoed faintly through the trees, raising the hairs on their arms; accompanied with the drum of hoof beats, a gentle summer breeze whispering through the leaves above. Simon rode behind Tavros, his arms around the burly man's waist. Gamzee rode his own horse next to them.

"Where now?" Gamzee asked as they pulled up to a crossroads. The sick and tired preacher raised his head and blinked around blearily.

"I..." He hesitated, before he turned, sliding off the horse's back. Tavros and Gamzee looked at each other, then dismounted, too. Simon walked back and forth, staring at the ground, while he muttered under his breath. "We'd been here, yes, and then the wolves- but, no, no, they didn't get us until we were in the snow... Then... did we take the left or right? Paris is to the right, or was it...?" He mumbled. When he was clear headed, Simon could have easily guided them. He knew the trail by heart, as he took it four times a year. But now, his brain burning from fever and sluggish from lack of sleep, he could barely recall why he was in the woods.

"Well, Simon? Where's Karren?" Gamzee asked, getting impatient. Simon looked up sharply.

"Karkat. His name is Karkat." He corrected sternly. Gamzee resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

"Yes, right. Where are they?"

"I told you! They're with the beast! In the castle!" Simon huffed. Now the captain did roll his eyes.

"There ain't a beast, Simon." He said patiently. Simon scowled.

"Yes, there is! If you don't believe me, why did you come with me?" He narrowed his eyes accusingly, "You think I'm a quack, too, don't you? Just like the other villagers?" He demanded, stomping towards the other man. Gamzee crossed his arms.

"Maybe I do."

"Gamzee..." Tavros said warningly. Simon puffed out his cheeks in frustration, letting it out in a raspberry.

"I knew it! Why? Because I preach for peace? Suggest that being nice wouldn't hurt you?" He spat, "Why the hell did you come with me?"

"Because I want to all up and marry your fuckin' daughter!" Gamzee snapped, making them both draw up short. Tavros stepped forward and grabbed Gamzee, spinning him around to face him.

"Gamzee! Breathe, okay? Breathe. Think about hunting, okay?"

"Hunting?" Gamzee repeated as Tavros cupped his face.

"Yeah. Think about that. Think about when you were in battle, okay? Remember the blood? And the fighting?"

"Blood..." Gamzee murmured, before taking a deep breath. "Right." He turned to face Simon again, who stepped back in surprise. "Simon, my friend. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to shout and scare ya. That was all kinds of rude of me, to get mad at my future father-in-law." He purred, putting on his people-pleasing voice. Simon only blinked.

"Father-in-law?" He repeated.

"Yes. Think about it, me an' Karren, havin' a couple of lil ones, takin' care of you so you don't gotta go off every few months." He crooned, smiling. Simon's lip twitched, a bright fury lighting in his eyes. He grabbed Gamzee by the shirt.

"You will NEVER marry my SON! If you deadname him one more time I'll break your neck! He is Karkat, and Karkat alone!" He snarled, jerking his shirt roughly. Gamzee hissed and grabbed Simon's wrist in a crushing grip.

"Stupid man!" He growled, thrusting Simon away from him.

The weak man fell with a grunt. As he struggled to rise, Gamzee kicked him, hard, with his steel-toed boots, right in the head. Simon fell limp, unconscious. Gamzee glared down at him, before he stomped towards the horses. Tavros watched.

"What are you doing?"

"If Simon ain't gonna give me his blessin', then he's in my way." Gamzee said, rummaging in one of the saddlebags before approaching the fallen Vantas. He grabbed him, dragging him towards one of the trees. Propping him up against it, Gamzee proceeded to tie him tightly to the trunk. "We'll let the wolves have him, tell the villagers he was attacked and succumbed to his wounds. Then, when Karren comes home, I'll be free to marry her." He grunted as he tied the knots. This completed, he stomped back towards the horses and swung onto his own. Tavros looked back at Simon.

"Isn't there a... less gruesome way to do this?" he asked.

"Are you coming or not? I can leave you out here, too." Gamzee growled, his temper short. Tavros swallowed, silently getting back on his own horse. Together, the pair rode back towards the village.

 

Back at the castle, Karkat had gotten Dave to his room and onto the bed. The beast was laid out on his back, several of his wounds already bandaged. He stared up at the ceiling, his eyes lidded as Karkat wrung out a rag into a washbowl. Rosa and the rest had brought him bandages, a bowl of warm water, and a jar of some green goo that helped prevent infections, according to Kanaya. Karkat turned back to the bed and began dabbing at a nasty bite on the beast's arm, washing away the dried blood. The beast suddenly jerked it away with a snarl.

"That hurt!"

"Then quit twitching and it won't!" Karkat retorted, grabbing his arm and pulling it back towards him.

"This wouldn't have happened if you hadn't run off, you know. This is all your fault." The beast grumbled, flinching as Karkat scooped the goo onto his fingers and began to smear it on the bite.

"No, it's yours! I wouldn't have run of if you hadn't scared me!" He returned hotly, papping the hairy arm a little rougher than necessary. The beast snarled, his leg kicking instinctively.

"Yeah, well, you shouldn't have been in my room! That's a complete breach of my right to privacy, you asshole!"

"Says the one who breached my right to freedom, by locking me in his fucking castle!" Karkat roughly grabbed the bandages and began wrapping the wound. The beast fell silent. When his arm was wrapped, he jerked it away and rolled over, showing his back to Karkat. Karkat gasped as he saw the scars on his back. They were much worse, though... some of them looked rather old. They certainly weren't from the wolves. He reached for the rag again.

"Leave 'em." The beast grumbled, before his muzzle stretched wide in a yawn. He sighed, closing his eyes, and was snoring in moments. Karkat sighed, too, before he began to gently work on the scars.

"I'm sorry about him, cher." Kanaya said softly, climbing onto the bed beside the beast's feet, "He's in a lot of pain."

"Why do you guys defend him so much? He's a dick! And, he cursed you or something, right?" He muttered, smearing the goo over the scars. The servants looked at one another. Kanaya, Rose, Eridan, and Rosa, were with him, having silently looked on as Karkat patched up the prince.

"Maybe so, but he is our master. We've cared for him since he was a baby. It's not his fault he's this way." Rose sighed. Karkat paused in his ministrations to look at her.

"So who's is it?" He asked. The group looked at each other, before Rosa sighed.

"Well, I suppose it's time you know the story." She mused, "It was his father, the late king, Broyin Strider. His father became cruel, once the master's mother died. It was him, the master, and the master's elder brother, Derrick. When their mother passed, the king tried to raise them. But... he did it with a much firmer hand."

"Don't sugarcoat it, Rosa." Eridan grumbled, before looking at Karkat, "He beat them; worse, he'd use them for fencing practice." The clock nodded to the faded scars below the beast's fur, "Derrick was the next in line for the throne, so he received the worst of it. He ran away from home at sixteen, and... no one has seen him since. They searched for years before giving up hope. He's presumed dead. So, the king turned his cruelty on David. He twisted him up, bending him into what he is now."

"We could only standby and watch." Rose sighed, "We tried to ease his pain, but there was only so much we could do."

Karkat was silent as he digested this, carefully pasting the bandages onto the furry back. He sat back, looking at the servants.

"What about the curse?"

"An enchantress cursed him on his nineteenth birthday." Kanaya said sadly, "By then, he was a cruel, vain man. She came disguised as an old crone, and he shunned her away. She offered him a rose-" She nodded to the side, where the enchanted rose hovered under its glass, "but he shunned her again. She then revealed herself to be the enchantress, or the sorcière des bois, the witch of the woods, as she was called then. She cast a spell on him, turning into a beast, freezing him in his age, and turning us into..."

"Rubbish." Eridan offered miserably.

"Antiques." Rosa sighed.

"Household tools." Rose murmured, smoothing down her feathers. Karkat looked at each of them, his heart suddenly gripped by painful sympathy.

"Well... isn't there a way to break the curse?" He asked hopefully, before there was a sudden rumble. He froze as the floor trembled, while the others simply looked at the rose. Looking over, Karkat saw another petal had fallen.

"There is, cher, but you don't need to worry about it. We've made our peace." Kanaya said softly. She hopped down from the bed with a sigh. "We should let him rest. Come." She urged. Karkat hesitated, looking at the slumbering prince again, before he got up and followed her. The rest trailed after him and he shut the door. On the bed, the beast snored away, oblivious.

 

While the beast slumbered, Simon had remained where Gamzee left him, tied to a tree. He was only beginning to regain consciousness, when the sound of footsteps roused him. He managed to raise his head and look up. Approaching him, lit by the faint dawn light, was the witch of the woods.

Her name was Desire, and she was as wild as she was powerful. With deep, dark skin that was nearly black, and a wild mane of equally dark, curly hair. Leaves and twigs were caught in the curls, but she paid no mind. She wore a dark green top that was nearly obscured by a large, fur shawl around her shoulders. She was barefoot, but she wore a long, mottled skirt that blended into the leaves on the forest floor. White paint dabbed on her arms and cheeks gave her spots like a leopard, further blending her into her surroundings. Her face was sculpted as if she'd been the handwork of an angel. High cheekbones and a elegant brow framed eyes that glowed with a golden light. Her lips were painted bright, berry red, like a single nebula across a night sky.

She approached the bound Vantas, her feet silent on the ground. He blinked at her, uncertain if he was dreaming or not, as she drew a dagger and cleanly sliced the ropes away. She walked over and gently helped him to his feet.

"I'm..." He mumbled, his head pounding with the twin drums of head trauma and fever.

"Hush, Simon, hush." She murmured, her voice as golden as her eyes. Letting him lean on her, she lead him through the trees.

It wasn't long before they broke out of the trees and arrived at a large, yawning cave. She half carried, half dragged him inside, lanterns on the walls flickering to life in her presence. The cave was decorated in all manners of things; the lanterns, but also strings of shiny stones and shells that hung on the walls. Bundles of feathers, roots, herbs, and even dried meat hung from the ceiling. Hand woven baskets lined one wall, filled with everything from wild berries to animal bones to cookware. In the center of the cave crackled a merry fire, in a pit surrounded by stones. Hung above the fire, on a spit, was a pot, which bubbled with a bright purple concoction. Tucked into the back corner was a bed, a nest, made from animal hides and pilfered blankets.
This was where the witch laid Simon, laying him out on the bed. He barely reacted as she moved away, only for her to return with a wooden cup, filled with the purple liquid. She carefully propped him up, placing the cup to his lips.

"Drink. It'll help." She urged. He complied, too weak to protest. As he drank, he felt a warmth return to his limbs, bringing with it a strength he hadn't known for a while. The burning in his brain was washed away with a cool, relieving sensation that made him shudder. When the cup was drained, he pulled away with a soft gasp. He licked his lips; they tasted strange, sugary and sharp on his tongue.

"Thank you, Desire." He whispered, though he was uncertain as to how he knew her name. She smiled, her teeth blinding next to her skin, as she laid him back down. She brushed back his hair, cupping his cheek. He gazed at her, instantly smitten. He turned his head, brushing his lips against her palm. She chuckled silently, watching with amusement as he chased her hand when she pulled it back.

"Rest, Simon. Regain your strength." She urged. At her words, a deeper, heavier warmth filled him, until he could no longer keep his eyes open. He closed them with a soft sigh and a nod. She pulled a blanket over him, sitting beside him as he began to snore. She looked out the mouth of the cave, her golden eyes glowing with their own light as she gazed at something only she could see.

Chapter Text

It had been two days since the beast had been hurt. Karkat had checked on him regularly, but he didn't wake until the second day. He managed to eat a little, then passed out again. Karkat sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for him to wake again so he could change his bandages. He leaned his chin into his palm, boredom seeping through his mind. Wish I had a book or something, he thought. Nostalgia suddenly gripped him, as he remembered Aranea's bookshop. He'd spend hot afternoons, hidden in the cool shadows of the shelves as he devoured book after book. Romance had always been his favorite, he could go through several in an evening while Aranea organized the shelves next to him.

"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!" He sighed, shaking his head to clear the memories out.

"Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief, that thou her maid art far more fair than she." A voice rumbled behind him. Turning, Karkat saw the beast was awake, watching him with tired eyes.

"You know Shakespeare?" Karkat asked, surprised. The beast snorted, sitting up slightly.

"I had an... extensive education. Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello- I memorized them until my eyes bled." He sighed.

"Romeo and Juliet is my favorite." Karkat told him. The beast scoffed, rolling his eyes.

"What a surprise."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Everyone likes that play. It's so stupid. A pair of teens hook up for three days, managed to kill six people, and got nothing from it."

"It's a love story!" Karkat protested. The beast raised an eyebrow at him.

"It's a warning against idiocy. There's better things to read."

"So's your face." Karkat crossed his arms, "Like what, exactly?"

The beast grinned, throwing off his covers. Karkat looked away quickly, but the beast was, fortunately, wearing boxers. There was shuffling behind him for a moment, then the beast entered his field of vision, dressed in a plain shirt, pale blue pants, and a long, blue overcoat.

"Follow me." He rumbled, limping towards the door. Feeling like he had no choice, Karkat hopped down from the bed and did so. The beast lead him through several halls, before pausing before a pair of double doors. He pushed them open, motioning Karkat inside. "There's probably some decent stuff in here." He huffed as Karkat stepped into the room.

The beast had brought him to the palace's library. The walls, from floor to ceiling, were covered in hundreds of shelves. On them, thousands- millions- of old books sat. The dome ceiling above was colored glass, letting in the sunlight as it spilled across the carpet floor in a rainbow. Warm lanterns hung between the shelves. A group of cushy chairs sat in a half circle near a fireplace to the left, dying embers glowing in the hearth. To the right, a long table, covered in scrolls, papers, and more books, sat.

"Holy fuck." Karkat breathed, his jaw hanging open in awe. The beast turned to him, giving him a cocky, amused smirk.

"You like it?" he asked.

"It's amazing!" Karkat told him, stepping further into the room and spinning around slowly to take it all in.

"Then it's yours. Enjoy." The beast huffed, turning to walk away.

"Hey, wait!" Karkat called, making him pause, "Have you read all of these?"

"Not all of them. A dozen or so are in Greek." The beast chuckled. Karkat's eyebrows lifted into his bangs.

"Was that a joke? You're making jokes now?"

"Maybe." The beast hummed, and strode away, shutting the doors behind him. Karkat stared at the doors, his mind racing.

He spent the next several hours in the library, exploring. There were little alcoves, he found. Some were full of broken furniture, but another seemed to be a room meant for astrology, with a telescope, several maps, and globe, all gathering dust. He found a section of books marked as romance, and pulled down book after book, stacking them on the long table in the main area. He poured over the books for hours more. At one point, Rosa came gliding in on her tea cart, concerned he hadn't moved; the sun was setting, and the beast had told them he was in the library around noon. He barely heard her enter, lost in a novel. The teapot had to hop onto the book to snap him out of it.

He jumped back in alarm, blinking furiously.

"Oh, hi, Rosa!" He greeted her, stretching; he was stiff from sitting still for so long.

"Good evening, dear. Do you want to come to dinner? The... the master has invited you to dine with him." She said gently. Karkat paused, surprised, before he shrugged.

"Sure." He stood up, shaking out his aches, and followed her cart to the dining room.

Sure enough, the beast was there, sitting at his usual place at the table. A bowl of soup sat in front of him, which he prodded with his spoon. He looked up as Karkat entered.

"You came." he said, surprised.

"I know, I was surprised, too. It usually takes me a while of playing with myself to get to that point." Karkat snorted. The beast's eyes widened in shock; Karkat watched him, suddenly afraid he'd crossed the line, before the beast laughed. Relieved, Karkat laughed, too, and sat across from him. Kanaya appeared, gliding in on another cart, and delivered a bowl of soup in front of him. She glanced between the two of them, then winked at Karkat. He frowned, puzzled, but she was off before he could ask her to explain.

The pair ate, chatting amicably. Karkat went on and on about the library and the books he'd found, while the beast listened quietly.

When the meal was finished, the beast walked Karkat to his room and bid him goodnight, before he limped away again. Karkat watched him go, an odd, fluttery feeling in his gut. He shut the door and sighed, leaning against it. Porrim chuckled, making him look over at her.

"What?"

"Oh, nothing, sweetheart." She assured him. He raised an eyebrow, but went to bed without further questions.

 

The next morning, Karkat asked Kanaya to bring him breakfast in the library. He was up, dressed, and in one of the cushy chairs within minutes of waking, a stack of books on the coffee table in front of him.

Kanaya brought him biscuits, and Rosa came with her, filled with peppermint tea.

It wasn't until late morning that the doors opened. Glancing up, Karkat saw the beast standing in the doorway, fully dressed. He was leaning slightly to the side, still favoring his wounded leg.

"Want to go on a walk?" The beast rumbled, "If I spend another minute in bed I'm going to lose my mind."

"I thought that already happened." Karkat hummed, marking his page and getting up.

"Not since last Tuesday." The beast returned. Laughing, Karkat followed him out of the library and out the main doors.

The day was bright, crisp, and cold. A fresh blanket of snow covered the ground, turning everything sparkly white. The pair walked through the frozen garden; the only sounds were their footsteps and the crunch of snow as their breath puffed out in front of them. They enjoyed the silence, occasionally glancing at their companion.

At one instance, they met eyes. Karkat broke eye contact first, looking the other way quickly.

"So... I found another good book." He said, racking his brain for a conversation.

"Actually good, or Romeo and Juliet good?" The beast returned; he, too, had looked the other way.

"Yes."

"Really? Quote it." The beast snorted. Karkat thought for a moment.

""Even more, I had never meant to love him. One thing I truly knew - knew it in the pit of my stomach, in the center of my bones, knew it from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, knew it deep in my empty chest - was how love gave someone the power to break you."" He quoted.

The beast paused, before he made a sarcastic, dramatic, retching noise. He grabbed a nearby statue and bent over, pretending to barf. Karkat scowled, punching his shoulder.

"It's not that bad!" He snapped. The beast looked up, grinning.

"Yes, it is. That's some sappy ass bullshit."

"You're some sappy ass bullshit." Karkat huffed, crossing his arms and storming away. The beast stood up straight and limped after him.

"Karkat, wait!" he grabbed the boy by the arm. "I'm sorry, okay? I was just kidding. I-" he broke off, looking over Karkat's head. Karkat blinked, surprised, and turned around to look, too.

Behind him, down a short decline, was a frozen lake. There were benches, albeit frozen ones, set around the lake's edge. The thick sheet of ice had turned bright, brilliant blue. Rosebushes, expertly trimmed into creatures, were now dead, threatening to collapse under the snow. There was even a boat, locked partially into the ice. It was gorgeous, Karkat thought, in a sad way. He glanced up at the beast to see a look of... longing.

"You okay?" Karkat asked hesitantly.

"I used to play with my brother, here." David said softly, a pained look crossing his features, "We'd chase each other around the lake, or," He let go of Karkat's arm and hobbled forward a few steps, "we'd read by the rosebushes together while our mother and father strolled through the gardens." Karkat stepped forward, too, glancing up at the other's face again. Shocked, Karkat saw tears in his eyes. The beast blinked rapidly, taking a deep breath. Karkat hesitated, then laid a hand on the other's elbow.

"Do you... want to take a walk around the lake?" He ventured to ask. The beast shook his head, turning away.

"No." he said gruffly, trying to wipe his eyes without Karkat seeing, "My leg is starting to ache, let's go in."

Karkat frowned, but nodded. Keeping his hand on the other's arm, they walked back towards the castle. As they neared the front steps, Karkat heard a huff behind him. Glancing back, Karkat saw Equius trotting towards them.

"Oh, hey, buddy." He greeted the horse, moving away from the beast to pet his friend's nose. The horse huffed, nudging his nose against Karkat's cheek affectionately.

"That's your horse?" The beast asked curiously. Karkat glanced back at him.

"Yeah. Well, he's my dad's, technically. This is Equius. Equius, this is the b- uh, Dave." He introduced them. The beast stepped forward, a furry paw out for the horse to sniff. Equius shied away, snorting, his ears pressed back. Karkat shooshed him, patting his neck. "It's okay, Eq. He's friendly." He assured the equine. He glanced at the beast, before he grabbed his wrist.

"What-?" The beast asked, before Karkat guided his hand to the horse's neck. Equius trembled, clearly displeased, but let the beast slowly pet him. Karkat kept his hand on top of the beast's, the other on the horse's flank. Equius almost seemed to glare at the beast for a moment, before he finally stepped away. He nudged Karkat again, then walked away.

"Sassy one, ain't he?" The beast snorted as they turned back for the door.

"I'd be scared if you pet me, too." Karkat pointed out, gesturing to his horns and claws. The beast glanced at his hands, frowning for a moment, before he laughed.

"Yeah, I guess." He hummed. They ascended the steps together and stepped inside.

"Ah, monsieurs, welcome back. We have hot cocoa waiting in the library for you." Kanaya said cheerfully from where she sat on the staircase's railing. Karkat brightened.

"Oh fuck, that sounds great. Thanks, Kanaya." he told her. he glanced at the beast, but the other's mind seemed a million miles away. "Want to go get some hot chocolate?" He asked. The beast blinked at him.

"Uh, yeah. I just have to... do something." He said, and wandered away. Karkat glanced at Kanaya, sharing a confused look with the candlestick. She shrugged.

"The master, he is a strange one, no?" She said.

"Yeah." Karkat agreed.

 

He didn't see the beast again until the next day. As he was walking to the dining room for lunch, he heard loud clattering through the door. Curious, he quickened his pace and peered inside. In the dining hall, dozens of feather-dusters flew about like doves, cleaning up. Even more were cleaning the tall windows, while a few rode a tea cart around, pouring polish on the marble floor. One of the dusters that was flying around suddenly dove towards him. He held out his hands, and Rose lighted on his palms.

"Hi, Rose. What's going on?" He asked, still looking around.

"Cleaning. We realized we've been a little slack on our duties, so we're giving the place a full wash down." She explained, picking dust clumps out of her feathers. "Want to help? We need someone to help with the windows." She added. He shrugged.

"Sure, why not?" He smiled. She grinned and fluttered away. She returned with a rag, soaked in a pungent chemical.

"Here. We can get the ones higher up, but it would take all day to do the others." She told him, pointing to his left. Her name was suddenly called and she flew off. With another shrug, he headed for the windows.

He worked rigorously for a few hours, polishing the windows. As he paused to look outside, he saw to his surprise, the beast was out on the lawn with Equius. He was talking, Karkat could see his mouth moving, as he gently raised a hand and pat the horse's cheek. Karkat found himself smiling as he watched. The horse allowed the petting, before the beast walked away, something tucked under his arm.

"Wonder where he's going." A voice spoke beside him, nearly making him jump out of his skin. Looking over, Karkat saw Eridan had crept up on him.

"Yeah, me too." he answered. The clock looked up at him, seeming to raise an eyebrow.

"Go find out, then." He suggested.

"What about the win-"

"I'll take care of the windows. Go." Eridan said impatiently. Karkat hesitated a moment longer, then dropped the rag and hurried out of the room. Kanaya sidled up to Eridan as they watched the young man depart.

"Good thinking, Ampora." She smiled.

"I thought so, too. Now, have someone finish the windows, will you?" he began to waddle away, but Kanaya stopped him.

"You told monsieur Karkat you'd do them." She frowned. Eridan hesitated, then sighed, begrudgingly turning back for the rag.

 

Karkat stepped outside and began following the beast's hoof-prints in the snow. They lead him deep into the garden. He arrived at a large, frost-stiff weeping willow that arched over a frozen lake. Under the dangling branches, the beast sat with a book in his lap. He glanced up as Karkat approached.

"Hey. What're you reading?" Karkat asked. The beast tried to shut the book and tuck it away, but Karkat saw the spine anyway, "Guinevere and Lancelot?"

"King Arthur and the round table." The beast corrected, as Karkat sat beside him.

"A romance." Karkat snorted.

"It is not! It's about battles and swords and-"

"And a love story for the ages."

"... Okay, fine, yeah, it's a romance. Whatever." He pouted. Karkat walked over and sat beside him.

A silence fell between them for a while. Karkat gazed up into the frozen tree branches, watching how the light came through the spaces between them. The beast watched him out of the corner of his eye.

"I never thanked you, for saving my life." Karkat said quietly. The beast fully looked at him now, and Karkat met his gaze.

"Well... I never thanked you for saving mine." David returned quietly. They gazed at each other for a long moment, before the sound of cheering and laughter from the castle made them both jump. From the voices, Karkat assumed it was the servants. They must have finished the dining room, he thought.

"They know how to have fun, it seems." He said conversationally.

"Hm. Yeah, I guess. Not when I'm around, though. Laughter dies when I step in the room." The beast sighed.

"Me, too." Karkat told him.

"What? No, they like you."

"Yeah, but back in my village, no one liked me. They thought I was... weird, and not in the good way."

"Why?"

"Because of my..." He gestured to his chest and sighed.

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry. That sounds... lonely."

"You were probably lonelier."

"Not going to argue with you on that."

They lapsed into silence again, before the beast suddenly perked up, a grin growing on his face.

"What? What is it?" Karkat asked.

"What do you say we run away together?" The beast suggested, standing up and offering Karkat his hand. Karkat hesitated, then took it.

Chapter Text

The beast lead him back to the library.

"What are we-" Karkat began, but the beast shushed him.

"Hang on. Where is it...?" He lead him to a corner, where a small door way sat, nearly hidden by the bookshelf beside it. He let go of Karkat's hand and ducked inside, having to stoop over to fit into the door.

"Come on!" He called. Karkat ducked in after him, more confused than ever.

He popped out the other side, into a small alcove like the ones he'd discovered before. Only this one was exceptionally clean, lit by warm candles. The only furniture was a small pedestal against a large window. On the pedestal, Karkat saw a large, leather-bound book. It was gorgeous, painted a deep red. On the cover, in gold, was a large rose. It glowed faintly with a pale light.

"Magic." Karkat murmured. The beast nodded. "Where'd you get it? What is it, exactly?"

"It was... another gift from the enchantress. I can't leave the castle, so... this is how I run away sometimes." He explained quietly.

"You can leave! You left to save me!" The beast looked at him sadly.

"Physically, yes, I can leave. But what, then? I can't join society as a monster. I can't leave my friends to rot and rust, it's my fault they're the way they are."

"Oh."

The beast nodded, turning towards the book again. He opened it up to reveal a large map sprawled across the pages. Karkat edged closer to see it was a map of Europe. As he watched, the map came to life; the waves on the coast began to roll and wave. The sea monsters painted on the edges splashed into the waves, only for their fins and spines to resurface as they swam. The forests seemed to sway with invisible wind. Birds coasted over the land in V formations. Karkat found himself smiling as he watched, while the beast watched him.

"Do you like it?" The beast asked. Karkat nodded, unable to tear his gaze away.

"Yeah. How does it work?"

"Think of anywhere you want to go, and place your hand on the page. It'll do the rest."

Karkat thought for a long moment, racking his brain. A faint memory whispered past his mind and he grasped at it. He nodded to himself, laying his hand on the page.

"Okay. Got it." The beast reached out, placing his paw over Karkat's hand.

The faint glow around the book became brighter, bigger, until it seemed to swallow them in the light. Karkat squeezed his eyes shut against the glare; when the light faded, he opened them and gasped.
They were spinning through a swirl of iridescent, bright lights in every color. It was magnificent, Karkat thought, his jaw hanging open. The lights suddenly began to fade, and he and the beast felt their feet hit flooring beneath them.

They'd landed in a small, dark bedroom. As their eyes adjusted, the pair looked around. There was a large bed, the curtains close around it. There was a writing desk, an easel, and a crib, too. Everything was covered in thick dust and rotting. A giant window next to them showed a sprawling, twinkling city, several floors below; it was night out, the sky bursting with stars. The beast glanced out the window.

"Where are we?" He asked.

"Paris."

"Oh! I love Paris, we'd vacation here every spring. What do you want to go see first? Notre Dame? The Champs Elysées? The Eiffel Tower? Or is that too touristy? Well, this time of night, though, there might not be too many people. There's also the Pont des Arts, the bridge where people hang locks and stuff. Or-" He broke off, realizing Karkat wasn't listening. Turning to look at him, he saw Karkat was standing beside the writing desk, leaning on it. He was gripping the old wood tightly, his head hung. Curious, the beast walked closer, the floorboards creaking under his hooves. He looked over the other's shoulder to see he was looking at an old photograph.

Behind the thick coat of dust, a much younger looking Simon stood, smiling at the camera. Next to him, in a seat, was a woman, who cradled a baby to her chest. The child had reached up, grabbing the necklace around her neck. The woman seemed to be laughing.

David glanced at Karkat and saw silent tears, tracking down his face, before they dripped onto the desk. He looked at the photo again, putting two and two together.

"Your mother and father." He said softly.

"Dad wears their wedding rings around his neck." Karkat croaked, his voice cracking violently.

"What happened to her?"

"She died. The- the plague took her, when I was little." He sniffled, reaching up and rubbing face with his sleeve. "Dad always promised to bring me here, but he couldn't go through with it." He added, reaching out with shaking fingers to touch the photo. "He won't even tell me her name. He said he thinks she's been reborn, and saying her name would hurt her."

"Reborn?" The beast repeated. Karkat shrugged, another tear sliding down his face.

"There's this woman who lives near the village. Apparently she looks like her." He muttered, shrugging. He turned away, making himself step away from the desk. He walked towards the cradle instead. The beast followed; he simply waited, watching the other. In the faint light from the streetlamps, he seemed to look at Karkat in a whole new way, though this escaped Karkat's notice as he ran his hand over the faded, polished wood. "Dad told me that he, mom, and I, could spend days at a time in here. He would write, she would paint, and I-" He paused to swallow, his throat tight as further tears threatened to fill his eyes at the memory, a sad smile growing on his face, "I would laugh, he said." He whispered, his voice quivering.

The beast listened, a strange ache growing in his chest. He reached out, hesitated, then laid his hand on Karkat's shoulder. Karkat looked up at him, seeming to remember he was there.

"I'm sorry I ever called your father a thief." He said somberly. Karkat sniffed, reaching up and taking his hand, and managed a small smile.

"Can we go home?" He asked quietly. The beast was thrown for a moment, his breath catching; he said- did he just say- his brain stammered, and he could only nod.

"Yeah."

 

Far, far, far away, back in Karkat's village, it was raining. Thunder rumbled overhead as the rain pounded the streets, lightning flashing in forked tongues across the clouds. It was dreary, a miserable summer downpour.

The opposite could be said for the inside of the village's tavern, though. Inside was bright and cheery as a band played by the bar. The villagers chatted and laughed, sharing drinks. in their chairs by the fireplace, Gamzee and Tavros sat. Gamzee was sulking again, as Tavros glanced at the door anxiously now and then.

"Sure is a big storm." He tried, but Gamzee didn't react, "Glad we're not out there... possibly tied to a tree..." He continued; still, nothing. "... Uh, you know, we could go get him." Gamzee only sighed, "It's just, I can't stop picturing him out there, frozen, or torn apart by wolves, and it's- it's kind of fucked up." He finished.

He waited, but Gamzee didn't even seem to realize he was there. Tavros lapsed into silence again, when both of them suddenly leaped to their feet as the door banged open loudly. Turning around, they saw Simon enter, hanging onto Desire's arm; beside them were two of the village men, looking rather upset. They were wet and wind-battered, but otherwise fine. Without any of the patrons noticing, their clothes began to rapidly dry. At the same time, Desire's eyes seemed to glow faintly.

"Simon!" Tavros said, delighted, before he caught himself. He quickly shut his mouth and tried making a serious face. Simon raised his head, meeting Gamzee's eyes.

"Gamzee," One of the village men began, "Simon says you tried to kill him. Did you?" There were several gasps and cries of shock from the watching patrons, as they looked back and forth between them.

Gamzee was silent for a moment, his face stony, before it broke into a relieved, warm smile.

"Simon! You're alive, my friend! I've been all kinds of worried for you!" He said in his faux-sweet voice. Simon scowled.

"Cut the bull crap, Makara! You left me for the wolves!" he snapped. Gamzee gasped dramatically, placing a hand on his chest and looking hurt.

"Mr. Vantas, it's one thing to up and rave about beasts in fantasy castles, it's another thing entirely to accuse a brother of murder!" He frowned. The patrons glanced at each other.

"Do you have proof, Simon?" A woman asked.

"Yes! Ask Desire, she saved me!" Simon gestured to the witch.

"Desire? The filthy hag who lives in a cave? Ha!" Gamzee laughed, "You'd put her word against mine?" he looked at the patrons, who were nodding slowly. Desire raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Simon suddenly pointed at Tavros.

"Nitram! He was there, he saw it! Didn't you?" He insisted. Tavros blanched, taken aback.

"M- me?" He stammered. Gamzee chuckled, wrapping his arm around Tavros' neck.

"Yes, Tav, is it true? Am I, your dearest, best-est motherfuckin' friend, a murderer? Would I try to kill the father of the woman I love?" He asked sweetly. Simon bristled, while Tavros glanced around, torn.

"I... uh... y- you..." He met Simon's eyes, true regret in his own, before he hung his head, "No." He said in a defeated voice. Gamzee's smile grew into a malicious sneer. The patrons murmured among each other, glancing at Simon disapprovingly.

Simon's shoulders slumped in disbelief, before his face twisted with anger. Taking three quick steps, he suddenly lunged at Gamzee, his fist swinging. Gamzee caught his fist as easy as you please, twisting his arm to the side and throwing Simon to the floor. Desire stepped forward, but Simon raised a hand and she paused. Gamzee chuckled, crouching down beside the fallen man.

"Simon, my friend, it pains me to say this, but you’ve become a danger to yourself and others. No wonder Karren ran away." Simon's eyes widened in fury as he continued, "You need help, Si. You need place to heal, get your head in the right way again, ya know?" He laid his hand on Simon's shoulder and squeezed- tightly. Simon winced, trying to pull away, "Everything's going to be fine, brother." Gamzee added softly, a sneer growing on his face once more.

Chapter Text

Dave sat in a bathtub that was just big enough for him, but not by much. His fur was sopping wet and covered in suds as he attempted to clean himself. Eridan sat on the toilet lid, atop a stack of fresh towels. Kanaya was sitting on the sink, her back towards the beast as he bathed. Rosa sat on the other side of the sink, directing him on where to scrub. The beast was trying to get the thick fur on his back, but sighed and slouched in the water.

"This is dumb!" He grumbled, scowling, "Why did I agree to this?"

"Because bathing is important?" Eridan suggested, "And you don't do it enough?" The beast glared at him.

"Not that! This dance! He- ugh!"

"What exactly happened, monsieur?" Kanaya asked, reaching up and rubbing doodles on the steamed mirror. The beast sighed.

"We were in the dining hall this morning and he mentioned that it looked like a ballroom, then went on about a dance scene in one of his books and he looked so excited- it just blurted out of my mouth! I suggested we dance tonight. I didn't think he'd say yes!" He explained.

"The dining room is the ballroom, though." Eridan frowned, "We converted it when the actual one collapsed." The beast snarled, smacking his hand in the water.

"I know, Ampora! I was there!" He snapped.

"Master, temper." Rosa said sternly. She hopped off the sink, her lid rattling, and landed on the edge of the tub. She bounced into the air, turning upside down and pouring water over his sudsy hair.

"Oui, monsieur, this is good! You will dance, monsieur Egbert will play, and we will make magic. The rose does not have many petals left, and mon Rose has too many feathers." She stood up, hopping onto the side of the tub, too. She put her hands on her hips, looking up at him. "Tu l'aimes, n'est-ce pas? You love him?" The beast hesitated, then sighed.

"... Yeah. I do."

"Then you must tell him! Tonight! Tout de suite!" She said firmly. He huffed, standing up. Kanaya quickly looked away.
"It's not that easy." He said, stepping out of the tub. He leaned against the sink and shook himself out like a dog, before grabbing a towel and wrapping it around his waist. he grabbed another and began scrubbing himself dry.

"Sure it is!" Kanaya assured him, hopping onto the toilet beside Eridan, "You will sweep him off his feet, dip him low, and whisper in his ear," She grabbed Eridan, who let out a startled squeak, and spun him around before dipping him backwards. She cupped the side of his face and whispered loudly, "Je t'aime tellement. Restez avec moi." She suddenly dropped him and stood up, sighing wistfully.

"Mon Rosy said such to me, and I was hers." she purred, pressing her hands to her cheeks and closing her eyes, a warm smile on her face.

"Not wise to say 'stay with me', when he's still technically a prisoner." Eridan pointed out as he sat up. The beast, who'd been staring at himself in the mirror, finally looked at them.

"I'm an idiot."

"Oui, this is fact." Kanaya nodded.

"He can't love me."

"Eh... non, not quite. Have you not seen how he looks at you?"

"He looks at me?"

"This is why you are an idiot. Now, please, let us get you some clothes."

 

Meanwhile, Karkat had bathed, too. While he was doing so, Porrim had cleaned and cinched his chest piece, so it was a little tighter for him when he stepped out. After he dried and had his undergarments on, he looked up at the wardrobe.

"So? What should I wear?" He asked.

"What do you want?" She asked, smiling.

"Something... kind of fancy, I guess, but not over the top."

"Any color preference?"

"Black."

She scoffed, shaking her head.

"Black? This isn't a funeral, darling. It's a dance. How about a bit of red? Master Strider likes red." She suggested. He shrugged, spreading his arms.

"You're the expert." He said, squeezing his eyes shut.

Once more, he was swallowed in a storm of fabrics and buttons. When he emerged, he was wearing a finely tailored Victorian uniform. He walked over to the mirror to examine himself.

Over a black, button-up corset front, he wore a velvet red coat that trailed to his mid-thigh. The cuffs were pulled back and pinned to leave his hands exposed, showing off a pair of silk white gloves. The collar of the coat popped out, framing his neck, and flared out to streamlined, straight shoulders; giving him a broader, more masculine outline. A flowery design tumbled down the edges of the coat, embroidered in gold. His dress pants were black, hugging his thighs before billowing out around his calves and ankles. They were tucked into pair of dancing boots, which had inch-and-a-half heels, giving him a boost in height.

His hair had been fluffed, combed, and groomed to the side, though his cowlick still stuck up in the back. He was also wearing a touch of makeup that highlighted his dark skin,making his cheekbones look sharper and hiding the bags under his eyes. There was just a touch around his jaw, too, contouring it to make it look sharper.

"Well?" Porrim asked eagerly, "How is it?"

Karkat couldn't tear his gaze away, staring at his reflection. Tears suddenly filled his eyes, blurring his vision.

"I-" His voice cracked, hard, "I look like a boy." He croaked.

"You are a boy, darling. That's why." Porrim said gently. He turned to her, his coat swishing gently.

"Thank you." He whimpered.

"No tears, love, or I'll have to do the makeup again." She told him. He sniffled and blinked furiously, straightening up and nodding. There was a knock on the door and it swung open to reveal Kanaya. She looked Karkat up and down, smiling approvingly.

"Beau, monsieur; beautiful. Are you ready? The master is waiting." He took a deep breath, looking up at Porrim, who nodded.

"He's ready." She answered for him. Kanaya nodded.

"Come along, then." She urged.

"Thank you." Karkat told Porrim again, before he followed the candlestick out.

"Good luck!" Porrim called.

Karkat waved as he shut the door. He followed Kanaya, wringing his hands anxiously.

"Relax, monsieur. It's all in place." Kanaya assured him, glancing back.

They descended the steps onto the conjoined platform. Kanaya stopped, so he did, too, and glanced towards the other stairwell. Up said stairs, just around the corner, a groomed and dressed beast stood, feeling just as anxious as Karkat.

"What do I do? What do I say?" He whispered to Rosa.

"Walk down those steps. Compliment him. Dance. Tell him how you feel." She listed.

"I think I'm going to be sick."

"Don't do that. Just go!" She nodded to Eridan, who shoved the beast's leg. He stumbled, caught himself, and slowly walked down the steps. Karkat was waiting with baited breath as the beast finally emerged. Dave gave him a nervous smile, which he returned.

The beast wore a heavy, royal blue overcoat; the tails streamed down to the back of his knees. This went over a pale blue, cinched satin and ruffled shirt. A cravat tie was around his throat, a silver button gleaming in the middle. His pants were thick cotton, a white leather belt around his middle. He wore no shoes, but his hooves had been buffed.
His fur was brushed back into a low, braided ponytail, the fur on his face neatly trimmed into a rugged yet handsome look. His horns looked almost polished, gleaming rust red in the warm light. He wore white eyeliner under his eyes, making his red irises glow.

Karkat's breath caught in his chest; he stepped forward, though he didn't remember consciously doing so. Dave reached out, offering him his hand- his claws were even groomed, buffed and painted bright red- and Karkat took it.

"You... you look good." The beast said shyly.

"You, too." Karkat told him quietly. Behind them, Kanaya and Eridan shared a delighted look.

"Shall we?" The beast asked. Karkat nodded.
Hand in hand, they descended the steps to the dining room. They stepped inside, pausing to look around in wonder.

The hall had been polished, mopped, dusted, swept, and shined. The table had disappeared, the curtains were pulled back to reveal the night sky, and the chandelier was glimmering with a thousand candles. The fireplace crackled with a bright flame. As the pair stepped into the room, John, the piano, began to play a swelling, slow song. As they neared the middle of the room, Karkat turned to Dave and bowed. Dave bowed back, still holding his hand. As they rose, Karkat stepped up, grasping the beast's arms. Dave put a hand on his hip, the other on his shoulder. They began to sway together, slowly spinning about the room. Karkat was focusing as hard as he could, counting steps under his breath.

"One back, two forward, half turn. One back, two forward-"

"Who taught you to dance?" Dave asked softly, making him look up.

"My dad. What about you?"

"Seven tutors and my mother." He smiled. Karkat laughed softly, gazing up at him. There was something in his eyes, Dave thought, but he didn't know what it was. They gazed into each other's eyes, both of them smiling. In that moment, no one else in the world existed, even as Kanaya danced with Rose next to the piano. Dave leaned down, and Karkat stretched up, and their foreheads brushed. Dave looked like he wanted to speak, but he held back, his heart hammering in his chest. Karkat's own heart beat against his rib cage as he gazed into those ruby eyes.

They'd spun all the way across the room by then. The giant pair of windows glided open; they were, in fact, glass doors, leading out onto a terrace. Dave pulled back to glance at it as the song faded out. A second began as he pulled from the embrace, walking out to the balcony with Karkat on his arm. They leaned on the railing together, looking out over the gardens.

Though it was cold and snowy, neither of them felt the chill. Above, a billion stars had burst to life, turning the snow silver. Karkat looked up at them, sighing happily. Dave, however, was watching him. Now, he thought, I have to tell him now.

"Karkat?" He said softly.

"Hm?" Karkat didn't look away from the sky. Dave could see the stars reflected in his eyes.

"I..." Dave hesitated, leaning on the banister further, "This might sound stupid, but I... I wanted to ask you if..." something in his voice made Karkat look at him, only making it harder for him to get the words out. He swallowed, took another breath, and continued, "If you would stay with me. I haven't felt this happy in a long time, and it's all thanks to you. I- I want to make you happy, too. I've come to like you. Like, a lot. It might be dumb, but... I want to try and maybe," He felt nauseous again, fear making his paws sweat, "Maybe you'd give me the chance to- to do that. To earn your affection and make you happy."

Karkat gazed at him in silence for a long time. Behind them, the staff watched from the doorway. He finally looked back up at the stars.

"..... I'd like that." He said softly. Dave looked up, barely daring to hope.

"You- you would?" He whispered.

"Yeah... But... I don't think I can be happy here." Karkat said sadly. Dave blinked, his fear turning cold in his veins.

"Why?" Karkat looked at him, a forlorn gaze in his eyes.

"Can anyone be happy if they're not free? If their family is so far away, and they'll never get to see them again?" He asked. Dave internally recoiled; Karkat might as well have punched him in the stomach. He bowed his head, not wanting Karkat to see the distraught look on his face, before an idea struck him. He raised his head again.

"Yes, you can." He said suddenly, pushing off the banister, "Come with me." He strode away quickly. Karkat followed, the staff staring after them in bewilderment.

 

Dave took him up to his bedroom. On the table where the rose sat, was his mirror. He picked it up and turned to the young Vantas, holding it out to him.

"Ask it to show you your father." He said softly. Karkat took the mirror.

"Show me my dad, please." He begged. The mirror shivered, like a pond's surface, and an image appeared.

It was Simon, but he didn't look well. He was in cuffs, being shoved and manhandled in the village square. He cried out, silently, as he fell. Unable to catch himself, he hit the cobblestone, hard. Two men grabbed him, heaving him to his feet.

"DAD! Stop! What are they doing?!" Karkat cried, horrified. Dave saw the agony and panic on his face. He heard, just as he felt, his heart shatter in his chest.

"Go to him." He rumbled. Karkat looked up sharply.

"I-"

"Go. Save him." Dave repeated. Karkat looked ready to burst into tears, the look of gratitude on his face palpable.

"Thank you." He whispered. He tried to hand the mirror back, but Dave shook his head.

"Keep it. Go." He said firmly. Karkat hesitated a moment more, then fled.

Dave watched him go, the shards of his heart lacerating him to pieces. He crumpled to his knees, his hands curling into fists as hot tears bubbled up and tracked down his face. He clenched his jaw, struggling to keep it all pressed down. He forced himself to stand again and he ripped off his coat, throwing it to the ground. His head was a storm of emotions that shot straight to his gut, pooling and swirling like thick lava. Eridan appeared at the doorway, looking hopeful.

"Sir? How'd it go?" he asked. Dave had his back to him as he stared at the rose; three petals left. He wanted to break something, the feelings building like mounting storm clouds.

"I let him go." He croaked.

"You... you what?" Eridan stammered. Rose, Kanaya, and Rosa appeared behind him.

"How could you?" Rose demanded.

"I had to."

"Why?!"

He didn't answer, squeezing his eyes shut as more tears fell; there was a thick lump in his throat.

"Because he loves him." Kanaya whispered.

"Then why aren't we human?" Eridan hissed.

"Because Karkat doesn't love him."

"Yes, he does! He'll come back!" Rosa said firmly.

"No. He's free. I'm sorry. Please... leave me." Dave whispered. The four of them looked at each other, distressed. They departed, leaving their master to his misery.

Dave pushed open the doors to his balcony and stepped outside. The cold now assaulted him, chilling him to his soul. He looked down and saw Karkat riding towards the gates on Equius' back. As his figure disappeared into the trees, the feelings he was trying so hard to push down suddenly burst, wracking him. Caught in the storm, he threw back his head and screamed his misery to the unforgiving stars.

Chapter Text

Simon stumbled, weary and afraid, as the villagers shoved him forward. His wrists and ankles were shackled, his head bowed. Faintly, he could hear Desire shouting his name, but the villagers kept her back. He was bleeding from several cuts and scratches from his rough treatment, but he didn't give them the satisfaction of showing pain. In front of him, a caged carriage waited for him. Standing next to it, was the owner of the Grand High Asylum and Gamzee's father, Kurloz.

Kurloz was an absolute beast of a man. He stood well over six feet tall, with a broad, thick chest and shoulders. His arms- in fact, his whole body- rippled with ridiculously huge muscles. Big, ugly scars covered his face and hands. He wore a three-piece suit that he looked ready to burst out of. He had a wild mane of black hair that fell to his lower back, haloing his face in darkness and only making his pale skin look paler. He had the same bright green eyes as his son, and the same sneer.

The barred door to the carriage was open and waiting. Two of the villagers roughly shoved Simon inside, who sprawled on his face before picking himself up. He sat up, staring out at the people he knew and trusted. There was agony in his eyes, but a deep sadness on his face. Gamzee suddenly shoved his way through the crowd, Tavros at his side. Gamzee marched up to the carriage, staring at Simon.

"Have you ever seen the inside of a mad house, Simon? You wouldn’t last a motherfucking week. Just give me your daughter’s hand, and I’ll setcha free." he urged, his voice low enough that only Simon could hear. Simon's eyes hardened.

"I'd rather let rats eat my carcass that give you Karkat's hand. It is his to give, not mine." He hissed. Gamzee's jaw clenched as his eyes narrowed.

"You brought this on yourself, old man." Gamzee growled, slamming the door shut. He nodded to Kurloz, "Take 'im away!"
Kurloz nodded and went to climb onto the the carriage. Before he could get the horses moving, a voice rang out.

"S T O P!!!!" Karkat shouted, Equius' hooves thundering on the cobblestone. The villagers threw themselves out of the way with cries of shock as he leaped from the horse's back. They fell silent, stunned, as he ran forward.

"It's Karkat!"

"What is she doing here?"

"Is that Karren?"

"She's alive!"

"Karkat's back!"

They whispered among themselves as Karkat, still dressed in his Victorian uniform, stomped forward. Gamzee's jaw fell open at the sight. He didn't see a young girl marching towards him; for the first time, he saw a man, and good god, he looked pissed. Simon raised his head at his son's voice, hope lighting in his eyes. Following his son, the crowd no longer paying attention, was Desire.

"Karkat, I- you're here- I thought I lost you, I-" Simon rasped, shuffling forward on his knees. Karkat hurried to him, reaching through the bars for him.

"I'm here, dad." He assured him, before he rounded on Kurloz, who'd jumped back onto the ground, "Let him out! He's hurt!" He demanded, a fierce look on his face even as Kurloz loomed over him.

"Can't do that, child. He's sick, but we'll take all kinds of care to him." He rumbled, his voice practically subsonic it was so deep. Karkat bared his teeth; a habit he picked up from Dave.

"He's not sick, you giant fucking cunt!" there were several gasps of shock at his language, while Desire and Simon looked proud, "He's hurt, and I'm taking him home!" He rounded on Gamzee, "Tell him to let my dad out, now!" He ordered. Gamzee blinked, still trying to get over this revelation. When Karkat addressed him, though, he recovered quickly.

"Kar, sweet kitten, you know how loyal I am to you and your family, but your daddy isn't right in the head. He's been raving about beasts and magic castles and-"

"I just came from the castle with the beast!" Karkat interrupted. Gamzee smiled sadly.

"It's all kinds of cute, that you love your dad so motherfuckin' much, but unless you've got proof-"

"I do! Look!" Karkat fumbled in his pocket and pulled out the mirror, "Here's your proof! Show me the beast!" He demanded.

The mirror rippled, and a picture of Dave appeared. He was sitting on his bed, staring vacantly out the window with a distraught look in his eyes. Karkat held it up for everyone to see. There were cries of shock and confusion, before Gamzee snatched the mirror out of Karkat's hands.

"This is sorcery!" He cried, staring at Dave, before a light bulb lit up in his head. He rounded on the villagers, showing them the image, "Look! It is a beast! Look at his horns and teeth! His claws! It's a monster!" The villagers recoiled, but Karkat grabbed Gamzee's arm.

"No! He's not a monster! He's harmless, I swear! He wouldn't hurt anyone, or anything!" He insisted. Gamzee shook him off, shoving him away.

"Listen to her! The monster has her under a spell-"

"No-"

"- I'd even go as far to say she cares for the monster!"

Karkat was angry already, but he fucking snapped then. He swung his fist, catching Gamzee across the jaw. Gamzee shouted, reeling backwards and clutching his face with his free hand. Simon barked a laugh, while the villagers murmured in dismay. Karkat spat at the young Makara's feet.

"He's not a monster, Gamzee, you are." He snarled, a fury in his voice that sent chills down spines. Gamzee rubbed his jaw, glancing at Kurloz, who watched, indifferent. Gamzee smirked briefly, squaring his shoulders and gesturing to Karkat.

"I've heard of the effects of dark magic, but I'd never up an' seen it before now. She's gone motherfuckin' mad, too! We must lock her up with her father, and hunt down this creature before he kills us all!" He declared, a fake look of panic on his face. It spread among the crowd, who began to chant and cheer. Two men stepped forward and grabbed Karkat by the arms. One opened the carriage door and they threw him inside, while he kicked and fought their grip. He fell onto the floor, but Simon managed to catch him as the door swung shut. Karkat pushed off his dad and whirled on the door.

"This isn't over, Gamzee! I'll rip your fucking throat out with my teeth!" He shouted. Tavros sidled up to Gamzee.

"Gam, uh, with all due respect, I- I don't think-" He began, when Gamzee rounded on him.

"You want to be next, you pathetic motherfucker? Get my horse." He snarled. Frightened, Tavros backed away, then ran off to do as he said. Gamzee turned and climbed up the side of the carriage. Standing on top, he turned to address the crowd, "Get your torches, your axes, your pitchforks, your motherfucking guns! Mount your horses! We must kill the monster before he comes for us! This is war, brothers, we must keep our women and children safe!" He declared. The villagers cheered, chanting Gamzee's name, before they split up to grab weapons. Gamzee turned to Kurloz, "Stand guard over these two fuckers, we don't want 'em goin' to warn the monster." He added. Kurloz nodded as Gamzee leaped down. It only took minutes before the village men were rallied and ready, on horseback with weapons. Tavros appeared with Gamzee's horse, which he mounted quickly. "Come on, boys! Let's bring that motherfucker's head home!" Gamzee cried as he dug his heel into the horse's side. It reared, bellowing, before it galloped away. The men followed, hooves thundering on the stone until it faded away. Tavros stood, watching them go, as Desire appeared at his side.

"They're hunting the wrong monster." He said softly. She nodded. "We've got to make this right." She nodded again.

Through the hills, Gamzee and the dozens of village-men thundered for the trees, shrieking war cries. They burst into the trees, forest creatures scattering before them. Gamzee's veins rushed with euphoria and excitement. Clenched in his hand, with the reins, was the mirror. He held it up.

"Show me the fucking castle." He demanded. The mirror seemed to hesitate, before it showed him the hidden path. Gamzee glanced up and jerked the reins, changing course. The men followed without question as they pounded over the hidden trail. Ready to burst with excitement, Gamzee threw back his head and laughed maniacally.

Chapter Text

Rosa, Kankri, Kanaya, Eridan, and Rose sat in the ballroom, on top of John, who was halfheartedly plinking a few notes. The piano sighed sadly. Rose leaned against Kanaya, who held her close. Eridan stared at the wall, the hands on his face ticking back and forth. Rosa had her eyes closed, while Kankri gazed out the window.

"At least he finally learned to open up and love." Eridan tried, semi-optimistically.

"Fat lot of good that did us." Rose muttered angrily, plucking at her feathers, "We're still trash."

"They love each other." Kanaya insisted, "Karkat just hasn't seen it yet."

"Too late now, it seems." John mumbled. Kankri suddenly looked up; while the others had been talking, a faint sound reached him. A rumbling sound; though faint, he thought it sounded like hooves. He leaped off John and hopped over to the window. Squinting through the frost, he saw several pinpricks of light outside.

"There's someone coming through the garden!" He announced, making the others look up.

"What?" Kanaya jumped down and hurried over to him. She peered through the window and saw the villagers riding through the frozen grounds. She gasped.

"Who is it? Karkat?" Rose called hopefully.

"Non! Sacrebleu, it's intruders!" Kanaya cried, whirling around, "Bar the doors! They're here for the master!"

 

Back in the village, Karkat sat by the doors of the cage-carriage, shouting profanities and slurs at Kurloz, who paced in front of him, bored, a cigarette pinched between his fingers. Simon sat at the back, his knees drawn up to his chest and his eyes closed.

"You cock-sucking son of a bitch-shitting fuck! Let me out this instant or I will piss in your carriage! I will break every damn bone in your body and feed you to my horse! You giant, over-bulked, turd-looking ugly fuck! Your son is a scrawny worm of a coward who I will tear apart with my bare hands!" He shouted. Kurloz rubbed his temples, taking a drag of his cigarette.

"By the gods, do you ever shut the fuck up?" He finally asked.

"No! I can go all night with this! Let us out!" Karkat snapped. Kurloz regarded him for a long moment.

"You've got balls, kid, I'll give ya that. But I ain't lettin' ya out." He rumbled. Karkat hissed, and resumed his insults and innuendos about the nightly activities of Kurloz's mother. Out of the shadows, Tavros appeared with a mug of mead in his hand. Kurloz glanced at him, looking relieved to see a familiar- and not shouting- face.

"I- I brought you, uh, a drink, sir." Tavros told him, offering the mead. Kurloz brightened, snatching the mug from him.

"Mighty kind of ya to do that brother." Kurloz thanked him, before he downed the drink. Tavros turned to look at Karkat and winked. Karkat stopped his noise-making, confused. Kurloz lowed the now empty mug, smacking his lips. "That was miraculous, Nitram. I see why my son keeps ya around. Fetch me-" He broke off, suddenly tensing. He blinked, before he suddenly fell forward, smashing his face on the stones. Casually, Tavros riffled through his pockets before he found a ring of keys. He stood up and approached the carriage.

"Back off, or-" Karkat began, before Tavros shushed him.

"Relax, I'm on your side." He said impatiently as he tried out each key on the padlock. Simon opened his eyes and raised his head.

"What did you do to Kurloz?"

"Paralyzed him. Desire poisoned the drink. There's not much time, you've got to stop Gamzee." He explained. Karkat regarded him suspiciously.

"Why are you helping us? I thought you were Gamzee's toadie." He demanded. Tavros blinked at him.

"I was. I'm sick of Gamzee and his self-righteous bullshit. I'm so sorry I couldn't defend you from him." He said softly. Simon crawled over to the door, watching the burly man work the lock.

"I forgive you, Nitram." He said quietly. Karkat glanced at his dad, then nodded.

"Me, too." He added. Tavros' eyes filled with tears, but he blinked them back quickly. He simply nodded. Finally, the padlock snapped open. He quickly undid the latch and pulled it open. Offering Simon his hand, he helped the man down, before offering it to Karkat. Karkat took it, then hopped down and brushed himself off.

"I have to warn Dave."

"Warn him? You just got away from him." Simon frowned. Tavros took the man's wrists and began trying the keys on the shackles. Karkat shook his head.

"He let me go, dad. He... He's good. i have to help him." He explained. Simon regarded him for a long moment.

"It'll be dangerous."

"Yeah."

"You think you can handle it?"

"Fuck yeah."

"Then go."

"What about you?"

"I'll take care of him." A new voice said. Turning, the three men saw Desire approaching, guiding Equius by his reins. She passed them to Karkat. "Go, save the prince. I will watch over your father." She added.

"Desire..." Simon said softly. Karkat gazed at her for a long time. She does look a lot like my mother, he thought. He nodded, swallowing.

"Thank you." He told her. She nodded. He turned, pulling himself into Equius' saddle. He looked at the three of them. He wanted to say something, but the words stuck in his throat. He snapped the reins and rode off.

Simon watched his son go, feeling the shackles fall off his wrists. He rubbed them, thanking Tavros as he dropped to one knee to do his ankles. Simon turned to Desire, who stepped closer, cupping his face.

"He'll be alright." She assured him.

"I know." He whispered.

She smiled faintly, before she kissed him.

 

Back at the castle, the servants had barricaded the door the best they could. They could hear the men clearly now; they were outside the door, shouting something about a battering ram.

"What do we do?" Rose whispered, her voice dry with fear as she clung to Kanaya.

"We're going to need help." Eridan said, before he turned and ran off.

He bolted up the stairs as fast as his stubby legs could carry him, before finally reaching Dave's door. He pushed it open, not bothering to knock. Dave was sitting on the bed, listening to the villagers scream for his blood. He didn't react when Eridan entered. He was staring out the window, watching as storm clouds rumbled overhead.

"He's not coming back."

"Uh... We don't know that, sir. But, the castle is under attack. We need you to-"

"Forget it. Just... run. Hide in the basement. Let them come." Dave said quietly.

 

Outside, the men had brought a giant log, with several leather loops drilled into the sides. It was from these loops that they carried it up to the porch.

"Open it!"

"Kill him!"

"Kill the beast!"

The men howled as the others carrying the battering ram lined up.

"On three!" Gamzee shouted from where he stood by the door, "One! Two! Three! Heave!" The log was swung back, then smashed forward. "Again!"

 

On the other side of the door, the servants jolted as the doors were shaken. They immediately pressed themselves back against it, only to be knocked back by the second blow.

"This isn't working! They're going to get in!" Rosa cried. Kanaya looked around.

"I know what to do." She said, determined.

 

"Again! Put your backs into it!" Gamzee roared. The men swung the ram back, then forward. As it slammed into the doors, they suddenly burst open, the mob spilling inside. They quickly straightened themselves out, whooping and cheering. Gamzee grabbed a torch and held it up as he stepped inside. The mob followed behind, looking around. It was empty and dark inside.

"This place seems familiar." One man murmured.

"You think it's haunted?" Another asked.

"Don't be ridiculous." Gamzee scoffed. He glanced around and noticed a candelabra and teapot, standing on a tea table. He walked over to it. "This must be the french maid." He chuckled, before looking at the pot, "And the talking grandmotherly teapot." Rosa's eyes popped open.

"Grandmother?!" She demanded, indignantly. Gamzee jumped back with a gasp, and several villagers cried out.

All hell broke loose. The furniture came alive, screeching war cries as they dove at the village men. It was utter chaos as men were pummeled by chairs.

John threw himself into the fray, his keys singing sour notes as he bucked like a wild horse.

Rose lead a troop of other feather dusters as they flew in the men's faces, blinding them.

Kanaya leaped off the table and ran between men's legs, setting their pants ablaze.

Rosa bounced into the air, flipping her lid off and pouring hot tea on their heads.

The coat rack, couches, even the knives and spoons, dove into the fray.

Eridan directed an army of books that appeared from the library.

Bellowing a war cry, Porrim appeared on the landing. Her drawers opened and rolls of ribbons and silks tied the me up, whipped them, or simply picked them up and hurled them out a window.

The mob scattered, several running away, wailing into the night.

"Yeah! Go on, you yellow-bellied cowards!" Kanaya shrieked, before swearing violently in french.

"Gamzee! Help!" One man cried as he was barraged by chairs. Gamzee stood in the middle of the chaos, his head swinging about wildly as he watched. At his name, he snapped back to reality. Staring down at the mirror, it pointed him up the stairs. He grabbed a rifle that had fallen to the floor.

"Sorry, brother, I gotta find me a monster." He called, before he broke out of the battle and ran for the stairs.

 

He reached Dave's door, which he kicked open, his veins singing with the lust for blood. Dave was standing on the balcony, looking up at the stars. He turned to look at Gamzee as he burst inside. Gamzee sneered, cocking the gun.

"Bonjour, beast. I'm Gamzee. Karkat sent me." He snarled. Dave blinked at him, before he turned away again. Gamzee scowled, disappointed by the lack of reaction.

"Greetings, Gamzee. If you're here to kill me, hurry up." He said softly. Gamzee growled, putting his finger on the trigger.

"My pleasure."

He squeezed.

Dave didn't make a sound as the gunshot rang out, blood blooming from his left shoulder as he toppled over the railing. Desperately, he scrabbled at the crumbling stone. He managed to get his paws around two stone bars and he hung on for dear life. Gamzee advanced, staring down at him.

"Were you in love with him? Did you honestly think he’d want you?" He mocked. Dave bared his teeth, blood pumping from the bullet wound, as he scrabbled at the tower wall, trying to get footholds. Gamzee leveled his gun, aiming for Dave's face, when someone grabbed his arm. Whirling in surprise, he saw Karkat, one of Dave's swords in his hands. "Ka-"

"Get away from him." He said, his voice low and dangerous. Thunder rumbled overhead, punctuating his words. Gamzee snarled.

"No. I'm going to kill him. Then we're goin' back to the village. We'll get married, and his head is gonna hang on our wall."

"I'd rather die."

"That can be arranged!" Gamzee snapped. Karkat bared his teeth, grabbing the rifle and trying to wrestle it away from the Makara. They struggled over it, before Karkat suddenly released one end. Unbalanced, Gamzee stumbled. Karkat grabbed the other end and jerked it into the air; it struck the taller man on the temple, making him shout. He fell away, and Karkat slammed the gun into his gut.

With a shout, Gamzee toppled over the edge, too. His reflexes were fast, though. He grabbed a gargoyle, dangling several feet below the beast. Glancing around, he swung himself towards a broken window, landing on a staircase inside. He stood, brushing himself off. He stared at the struggling figure of the monster.

"You're mine." Gamzee hissed under his breath. Looking around, he took off.

 

Up on the balcony, Karkat threw the rifle aside and dropped to his knees. He grabbed Dave's wrist, grunting with exertion as he tried to pull him up. Dave raised his head.

"Karkat?" He whispered.

"I'm here! Help me get you up!" He called. Dave's mind stuttered and stalled as he stared at Karkat. He came back, he thought, his heart soaring; he came back. Hope poured back into his soul. Re-energized, he began trying to pull himself up, but the strength was gone from his left arm. His muscles failed and his hand fell off the bar so he was dangling by his right hand.

"No!" Karkat gasped, redoubling his efforts. Dave looked around and saw a smaller balcony below him, towards his right. Grunting, his hooves planted on the bricks, he began swinging himself back and forth.

"Karkat, let go!" He ordered.

"What?!"

"Trust me!"

He hesitated, but released Dave's wrist. Dave swung back, then threw himself forward, releasing the stone bar at the same time. Karkat shouted, standing up, only to sag in relief as he saw Dave land on the balcony below. Dave hit hard, unfortunately landing on his wounded shoulder. He groaned in pain, struggling to rise.

"Dave! I'm coming!" Karkat shouted, before he ran back into the room. Overhead, thunder cracked again, louder this time, before the bellies of the clouds opened up. Rain fell in a thick torrent, the sky shaking and rumbling as lightning flashed and forked across it.

 

Back in the foyer, the servants dispatched the last of the village men, sending them running, as Tavros, Simon, and Desire rode up on horses. They dismounted and ran inside.

 

Dave managed to get to his feet, his heart pounding with joy; Karkat was back! As he headed for the doors, Gamzee suddenly dropped in front of him, a knife clenched between his teeth. He spat it out, into his hand.

"Hello, beastie. We've got unfinished business." he pointed the knife at him, making Dave back up. "Kneel, and I'll make it painless." Dave scowled. He drew himself up to his full height, towering over Gamzee.

"No." Gamzee's face twisted with fury.

"I said, kneel, motherfucker!" He snarled. Dave snarled back and lunged. He grabbed Gamzee's wrist, which cracked loudly. He screamed in pain, switching the knife to his other hand and plunging it into Dave's ribs. The beast roared, only for it to be drowned by the thunder.

 

As their battle raged, Karkat ran through the stairwells, trying to find Dave. He heard Gamzee's scream, followed by a roar, and ran towards the sound. He burst into the room that was connected to the balcony. Karkat froze, unable to do anything but watch as Dave and Gamzee fought, both bleeding from several wounds.

Dave wrestled himself out of the hold, thrusting Gamzee away. Looking around desperately, he noticed a footbridge between the tower they were on and the one nearby. Glancing at Gamzee, who was still recovering, he leaped for it. He hit it and slipped, the stones slick from rain. He recovered and stood, only to see Gamzee had jumped after him. Karkat burst out onto the balcony, shouting, but he was too far away for Dave to hear over the noise of the storm.

Gamzee advanced with his knife, which was dripping crimson. His right arm was clutched to his chest, the wrist broken. Looking down, Dave saw he had been stabbed several more times, his uniform blotched with red. While he was distracted, Gamzee lunged. Dave grabbed him by the shirt, lifting him into the air. Gasping in shock, Gamzee dropped the blade. Dave sneered, hanging Gamzee out over the edge of the bridge. His teeth bared, eyes bright with fury, a growl rumbled low in his throat. Gamzee grasped at his wrist, kicking and squirming. His eyes were wide with fear as he looked down at the ground, dozens of stories below.

"N- no! Don't drop me, please!" he cried desperately.

"Dave!" Karkat's voice suddenly cut through the angry fog that clouded Dave's mind. His snarl faltered and he looked over to see Karkat had appeared at the end of the bridge. His hair was plastered to his head, his clothes drenched, and a blade was in his hand. In that moment, he looked more like a prince than Dave could ever dream to. "You're not a monster, David. Let him go." Karkat told him firmly. Dave looked back at Gamzee, who watched him with wide, scared eyes. His Adam's apple jumped as he swallowed. "You're better than him." Karkat said. Dave huffed. He swung his arm to the side and dropped Gamzee on the bridge.

"He's right. Get out of my castle." He snarled. Gamzee scrambled to his feet and ran away.

 

Up in Dave's room, Simon and Desire burst into the room to see the enchanted rose. They approached to see there was only a single petal left. Simon looked up at Desire, who's eyes glowed in the silver light of the rose. She reached out and touched the glass.

"It's almost over." She whispered. The petal shriveled up, but still clung to the rose. The castle gave an almighty rumble; it was imploding, giant chunks of stone falling and cracking apart.

Chapter Text

Dave turned and looked at Karkat, who still stood on the edge of the footbridge. Karkat smiled at him, and stepped forward. Dave moved to meet him, when the footbridge gave an almighty rumble. There was a loud crack, an the space between them crumbled away. Karkat shouted, backing away.

Dave backpedaled quickly, the stone crumbling away in front of him. He stumbled and fell on his ass, then scrambled backwards. The footbridge suddenly stopped crumbling, leaving nearly twelve feet between the two of them. Karkat cautiously approached, looking at the chasm between them. He looked at Dave, concern clear on his face.

"What do we do?" his face said. Dave looked around; behind him, he had enough space to back up and making a running jump for it. Grimly, his body sparking with pain from his wounds, he pushed himself to his feet and walked backwards. He looked back at Karkat and motioned for him to move. Karkat shook his head, realizing what Dave intended to do.

"It's too far!" He cried over the rain. Dave only grinned. He dropped down onto all fours; like a true beast. Digging his claws into the stone, he rolled his shoulders, before he went for it.

He was suddenly streaking over the cobblestone, his paws and hooves a blur as hounded for the edge of the gap. Karkat, his eyes wide with fear, backed away quickly. With a mighty heave, Dave leaped over the chasm. Karkat watched, both awed and terrified, as Dave soared towards him. He hit the ground on the other side, his wounded arm buckling and making him fall.

"Fuck!" He gasped, pained, as Karkat ran to him. He helped him sit up, crouching next to him. Dave looked up at him, slowly reaching up to cup his face. Karkat turned his head, pressing his nose into Dave's palm. He held his giant paw in his own hand, gazing at him with a deep understanding in his eyes. Dave gazed back, the same feeling reflected in his own. "Karkat, I..." He rasped, but the words stuck in his throat. Karkat smiled softly, nodding.

Bang.

Dave froze, seizing up, as a  bullet suddenly ripped through his back. A breath croaked out of him, his eyes glazing with pain. Karkat's head jerked up at the gun shot. He saw Gamzee, standing on the far side of the footbridge, a pistol in hand. The Makara had a wild, mad look in his eye as he cocked the firearm and raised it again.

Bang.

The second bullet seared right through Dave, into his chest. He groaned softly, slumping backwards, his head hitting the stone.

"NO!" Karkat screamed, scrambling forward to grab Dave's shoulder. Over the wind and rain, he heard Gamzee laughing. Karkat cradled the beast's head in his lap as he looked up at the other.

Gamzee had the most delighted look on his face, his eyes manic and wide. The stones under his feet suddenly heaved, splitting apart and collapsing. Gamzee's laugh cut short and he looked down, alarmed and confused, before they completely fell away. He plummeted with them, screaming. Karkat cried out, startled, as the Makara was sent hurdling down in a cascade of giant stones. He didn't see him hit the bottom, but he heard the stones hit the ground. He didn't have time to process what just happened. Dave suddenly whimpered, pulling his attention back to him. The prince coughed, blood spattering his lips, and blinked up at Karkat.

"You came back." He whispered. Tears brimmed in Karkat's eyes and he nodded.

"I did. I'm never leaving again." He promised, cupping his face. Dave chuckled weakly, nuzzling into Karkat's hand.

"Too bad. Looks like-" He coughed, his body trembling, "- I'm gonna have to leave." He finished. Karkat shook his head desperately.

"No! No, it'll be okay. Just hang on, okay? I'll go get help." He insisted, shifting to stand up. Dave grabbed his hand, making him stay.

"Karkat, no. I- I just- I want to tell you-" He wheezed. Behind them, Simon and Desire stepped into the room. Desire was carrying the rose, still in its case. They stopped, watching Dave and Karkat. "I'm..." Dave struggled, trying to get the words out.

"Dave..." Karkat whimpered, tears tracking freely down his face, disguised by the rain.

"Karkat, I..." Dave's grip tightened on Karkat's hand, before it went slack. His head fell back, looking up at the stormy sky, and his chest went still. Karkat's breath hitched in horror. He sobbed, clutching Dave's body close.

"Dave... Dave, please... no.."

 

Down in the foyer, the servants were celebrating their victory, cheering and hugging one another, not noticing that the castle was falling apart. Kanaya looked around desperately for Rose and saw her, sitting on the steps.

"Mon amour!" She cried, dodging through the crowd to reach her. She grabbed her, scooping her close, only to drop her in horror; it was just a feather duster, still and lifeless. "No..." She looked around, terrified, and saw the others going still. "Eridan! Rosa!" Kanaya ran towards them, but she started moving stiffly. A numb sensation went up her legs, and she struggled to move.

Eridan looked terrified, ticking like he had the hiccups. Rosa, with every ounce of strength, threw herself towards Kankri, shielding him from the sight, before she went still. Her eyes closed as she turned into a normal teapot. Kankri whimpered.

"M... mother?" He whispered, before he froze, turning into a normal cup.

John, Porrim, and all the others stiffened up and fell silent, until it was just Kanaya and Eridan. They looked at each other, fear in their eyes.

"Kan- tick- aya, I... tick, I'm afr- tick- aid." He whispered. Kanaya clutched him close.

"I know, mon amie, my friend. It's alright." She whispered, squeezing her eyes shut. Eridan went stiff, ticking faintly. Kanaya sniffled, before she froze, too, straightening up into a proper position.

 

Desire looked down at the case; the last petal was settling on the bottom, but the silvery glow hadn't faded yet. She looked up at Karkat, realization dawning in her eyes. Say it, she urged him silently, say it! Simon stared at his son, his heart breaking for him. He moved to step forward, but Desire shot out an arm and caught him. He looked up at her, but she stared intensely at Karkat.

 

Karkat pet Dave's face, shutting his eyes. He hiccuped, squeezing his eyes shut.

"Dave... I'm so sorry..." He lifted Dave closer, and pressed his lips to his forehead. "I love you, too." He whispered.

 

A smile slowly grew on Desire's face, and she nodded once. She placed her hand on top of the case, and it cracked, before exploding into a million shards. Simon gasped, flinching, but he wasn't hurt. The glass began to glow, enveloped in a golden light, before the shards turned into millions of rose petals. Simon looked up and saw Desire was glowing in the same light, her eyes like two bright suns in her dark skin. The golden light billowed about like a violent wind, but Simon felt none of it; if anything, he felt warm and dry and safe.

The petals, carried on the glittering light, suddenly flew towards Karkat and Dave. Karkat gasped in wonder, jerking around to see his father and Desire. Desire raised her hands, palms up, like she was asking an audience to stand. Dave's body, covered in the petals and light, began to lift into the air. Karkat scrambled back on his hands, watching with wide eyes.

The light grew brighter and brighter, forcing him to look away and close his eyes tightly, but he could still see the glow through his eyelids. With a deep, bone shaking boom, a shock wave seemed to ripple through the castle.

The rain cleared out, revealing a slowly rising sun. The ice and snow were blown away, revealing the grounds of the castle as they burst to life; long dead plants were suddenly green, bushes bursting with flowers. The lake unlocked from its icy slumber, the water clear and shimmering.

All of this went unnoticed as Karkat opened his eyes, looking up at the glowing form above him, which slowly lowered back onto the balcony. The glow faded, revealing...

Dave. Human, whole, and alive. The prince looked down at his hands, turning them over slowly, before he began patting himself over; his chest, his arms, his face and head. A face that held bright red eyes, a small nose, and bright pink lips, all covered in freckles that stood out from his pale skin like dark stars. A head that was covered in shimmering, bright blonde locks of hair, gracefully swished to the left. Finally, he looked up, and saw Karkat getting to his feet.

"... Dave?" Karkat asked cautiously, stepping forward. The prince nodded.

"Karkat." He whispered; the growl was gone from his voice, and his hand flew to his mouth in shock. Instead, he had a sweet, smooth tone, but it still had that faint hint of a drawl to it.

Karkat stepped closer until they were nearly chest to chest. He reached up, his hand shaking, and touched Dave's cheek, before reaching up to brush a hand through his hair. His hand slid back down, resting next to his eyes. Those bright, ruby red eyes. It is him, he thought, and his throat tightened.

"Dave, I..." Karkat croaked. Dave smiled softly, putting his hands on Karkat's shoulders, before he pulled him close and kissed him. Karkat's eyes widened, shocked, before he gripped Dave by his shirt and kissed back.

Magic exploded around them, washing over the grounds once more. The castle reassembled and cleaned itself faster than a grownup putting together a Lego set. The cobwebs shriveled away, the stones turned white, the snarling gargoyles turned into statues of dancing women and jousting men. The broken furniture and torn tapestries returned to their formal glory.

 

Down in the foyer, the furniture was swept over by a golden light. When it faded, the staff had returned to their formal glory. The humans stared around, bewildered and awed.

A tubby Eridan squished his own cheeks, making sure they were flesh instead of glass.

A beanpole of a John ran his tongue over his teeth, assuring himself they were no longer ivory keys.

A bronze-skinned Porrim, her head wrapped in a headscarf, pat her chest and stomach to convince herself they were no longer drawers.

A slender Kanaya looked around desperately.

"Kanaya!" Rose cried, shoving through the crowd.

"Rose!" Kanaya ran to her wife, scooping her close. She tangled a hand in her golden hair, kissing her passionately.

"Mother!" Kankri tugged on a pale Rosa's skirt, making her look down at her young son, who had turned back into a boy.

"Kankri!" She gasped, picking him up and hugging him close. He wrapped his arms around her neck, laughing.

Around them, friends and family greeted one another, their eyes wide in wonder as they gazed at forms they never imagined seeing again. There were hugs, kisses, and lots of tears. To the side, Tavros watched, amazed. He suddenly did a double take, blinking rapidly. A fog seemed to lift from his mind, memories and thoughts rushing back, released from the magic's hold.

"Monsieur!" Kanaya suddenly cried, loud enough that everyone turned to look. Up on the landing, Dave and Karkat appeared, hand in hand, with Simon and Desire not far behind. Dave smiled, waving shyly.

"Hi, guys!" He greeted them. Raucous cheers and applause broke out as the pair of them descended the stairs. Kanaya ran up, throwing her arms around Dave and Karkat.

"You did it, monsieurs! You saved us! You- Oh!" She squeezed them tightly.

"Good to see you, too, Kanaya." Dave croaked. Rose stepped up, quietly taking Kanaya's arm and pulling her back. Rosa, Kankri, Porrim, John, Eridan- everyone crowds close, talking at once. "HEY!" Dave bellowed, and the group fell silent. Dave bit back a laugh.

"Karkat?" Simon asked from the steps. Karkat looked up, eyes widening.

"Dad!" He broke away from Dave and ran to his father, nearly bowling him over in a hug. They clutched each other tightly, Simon burying his face in Karkat's hair.

"Karkat, oh, Karkat..." Simon whispered. Karkat pressed his face into his dad's chest, before looking up at him. He pulled back, looking down at Dave.

"Dad, this... this is Dave. Uh, the beast." He told him. Dave mounted the steps, offering Simon a hand to shake. Simon looked him up and down, and Dave rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, lowering his hand.

"Um... Sorry. About, uh... kidnapping your son... and... you know." He looked away. Simon raised an eyebrow, and Dave's cheeks turned bright red. Karkat looked between them, sighing in exasperation.

"For fucks sake, dad." He muttered. Simon's stern look suddenly broke and he laughed, grabbing Dave's hand.

"Wha-" Dave was suddenly pulled into a bone-crushing hug. Karkat watched, amused, and looked up at Desire. She smiled at him, nodding knowingly. Karkat smiled, before he was distracted by a pull on his hand. He looked down at a young boy.

"Karkat?" From the voice, he figured it was Kankri, "What are you going to do now? Are you going to leave again?"

Dave and Simon suddenly broke apart, looking at Kankri, before looking at Karkat. Karkat looked around slowly, the room dead silent, before he looked back at Kankri.

"No, I think I'll stay." He assured him, before looking up at Dave. "If you'll have me?" He added hopefully. Dave grinned, taking Karkat's hands.

"I'll have you. I love you, Karkat Vantas." He said firmly. Karkat's eyes lit up.

"I love you, too." He breathed, before Dave kissed him again as the group broke into uproarious cheers.

Chapter Text

"Are you ready?" Dave whispered.

"Are you?" Karkat hissed back.

"No."

"Good. Me neither."

Dave chuckled, kissing his fiance's temple.

"Let's do this, then." He murmured, taking his hand. They stepped forward, and the doors glided open.

The pair stepped into the glittering ballroom, their heads held high and shoulders squared, dressed in the uniforms they'd worn when they'd danced alone. The gathered villagers and staff turned at their entrance, all conversations ceasing as John nodded to an orchestra that stood upon a stage; everyone else was as equally dressed up. Music swelled to life, people shuffling back to give Dave and Karkat room. Dave nodded to Simon, who smiled back. The elder Vantas stood next to Desire, the rings he usually wore around his neck on their fingers. Karkat waved at Kanaya and Rose, who waved back, bright grins on their faces.

Dave stopped and turned to Karkat, taking his hands and pulling him close, before placing his hands on his shoulders, while Karkat put his own on Dave's hips. As the music crested into a great melody, they began to dance. They twirled and swayed, their eyes only for each other. Dave was grinning, his face full of a raw joy, while adoration shone in his eyes. Karkat gazed up at the prince, his face mirroring the same feelings. He felt like his heart was ready to burst as they spun around the floor.

The song faded out, but they didn't stop, and a new one began. Around them, people began pairing up to dance, too. Simon took Desire around the room, laughing with her as they spun. Kanaya and Rose held each other close, Kanaya whispering sweet nothings in her wife's ear to make her giggle. Rosa spun around the room with Kankri, who stood on her feet. The villagers danced with their husbands and wives. A few stood to the side, near a long table laden with food and drink. Among them stood Tavros, shrunk back from everyone. Eridan, who also stood alone, noticed him and walked over.

Tavros looked up, surprised, as Eridan shyly offered him a hand. Tavros blinked, before a smile crawled across his face. He took the hand, and let Eridan pull him onto the dance floor. His dancing was a little clumsy because of his prosthetic, but Eridan paid no mind whatsoever, letting Tavros take the lead and set the pace.

All of this went nearly unnoticed by Dave and Karkat, who were still dancing with one another. Karkat had his head on Dave's chest, who'd laid his cheek on Karkat's head. As the next song ended, Simon and Desire twirled up to them.

"Care to trade?" Simon asked Dave, nodding to their respective partners. Dave hesitated.

"You are not going to turn me down again, are you, master Strider?" Desire asked sweetly, her eyes glowing. Dave suddenly looked panicked, shaking his head.

"No, of course not!" He pushed Karkat towards his father and took her hand. Desire chuckled, and they danced away. Karkat looked up at Simon, who offered him his hand. The younger Vantas took it, and began to sway with his father.

"I'm proud of you, Karkat." Simon murmured, making Karkat look up, "I hope you know that. I wouldn't have the balls to do what you did."

"I don't even have the balls, yet." Karkat joked. Simon laughed.

"I wouldn't have the heart, then, how's that?" He corrected. Karkat grinned, nodding.

"Perfect. I love you, dad."

"I love you, too, Karkat." Simon purred. They twirled, and Karkat caught sight of Dave and Desire, talking quietly.

"So... You and Desire, huh?" Karkat asked. Simon chuckled.

"Yes. She looks so much like your mother did, doesn't she? I," He sighed happily, "I love her."

"Even though she's a witch?""

"That just makes her fascinating." Simon shrugged.

"You're weird, dad."

"You're the one that fell for a furry monster."

"Fair enough, I'll shut up." Karkat nodded.

 

Dave and Desire moved together, gliding along with the music. Dave steadfastly refused to look her in the eye, his heart hammering.

"David?" Desire asked softly.

"Yes?"

"I am sorry." He looked up sharply.

"What?"

"I am sorry." She repeated, "For what I did. It was rash, and cruel. I did not know your past, or what your father had done to you. I do not ask for your forgiveness, but I hope you will accept my apology in time." Dave bit his lip and chewed on it, thinking. He looked over at Simon and Karkat, and saw them laughing. His chest suddenly felt heavy and warm as he gazed at Karkat's smile.

"I forgive you. I wouldn't have met the love of my life without you." He told her. She smiled faintly.

"Thank you."

 

The dance went on, and Dave eventually traded off to dance with Kanaya, then Rose, then Eridan, Rosa, Kankri, and even Simon. Karkat did the same, even offering a dance to Tavros, who quietly declined.

"I... I don't think I should." He explained. "I'm sorry, but I... I hurt you too much, by being on... on his side. I need some time." Karkat nodded in understanding.

"I've already forgiven you, Nitram. Take your time." He assured him, before he was whisked away by Rosa. Tavros sighed, a small smile on his face.

 

"Dave?" Simon asked as he spun the prince around.

"Yeah?"

"I know it means nothing- you're royalty after all, and you don't need it- but you have my blessing, to be with Karkat. If you would let me, it'd be an honor to be the one who weds you two."

Dave came to a full stop, looking up at Simon, shock rippling across his face. His eyes suddenly misted over with tears and he nodded wordlessly, his throat tight.

"I'd be honored if you did." He croaked. Simon smiled, and looked over Dave's head.

"Speak of the devil." he added. Dave turned to see Karkat moving towards them.

"Can I have my fiance back?" He asked as he walked up. Simon laughed, nodding as he stepped away.

"He's all yours." He assured him, before he headed off to find Desire.

Dave pulled Karkat close, whispering what Simon had said. Karkat's eyes widened, awed. He grinned, nodding, and hugged Dave tightly. Dave laughed, hugging back just as tight. When they pulled back, Karkat glanced around before gesturing to the glass doors, which had been propped open to let the evening's air in. Dave nodded, and the pair of them headed out onto the terrace.

They leaned on the railing together and looked up at the stars, like they had several months ago. Dave turned his gaze to Karkat.

"Karkat?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"What do you mean, 'for what'?" Dave scoffed, "For everything. For saving my life. For saving everyone. For... for coming back. For staying with me. For loving me. For," His mind suddenly flew back to the conversation they'd had on this same balcony, "For giving me a chance."

Karkat looked down at the grounds below; rose bushes, in every color, bloomed under the moonlight. In the center of the garden, a new, marble statue stood; a sword pierced into a stone, a rose wrapped around the blade before the flower itself rested on the hilt. The leaves unfurled like wings, golden veins etched along them. There was a plaque on the base that Karkat couldn't see from where he stood, but he knew the words by heart:

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind."

It had appeared overnight, and Karkat had a sneaking suspicion than Desire had placed it there. He finally looked up at Dave, meeting the prince's eyes.

"You did the same for me. You saved my life, you love me, and gave me a chance, too." Dave shook his head.

"You broke my curse."

"You made me feel safe in my own skin."

"You-"

"Oh, just kiss already, won't you? Grand Dieu, good Lord, you're equal, oui? You saved one another!" Dave and Karkat whirled around to see Kanaya, her hands on her hips as Rose hung off her arm, trying not to burst into a laughing fit. Dave and Karkat looked at each other.

"I-" Dave began, but Kanaya stamped her foot.

"Non, monsieur Strider! No words! Kiss him and be done with it!" She said firmly, before she whirled around and marched away with Rose.

Dave and Karkat looked at each other, startled.

"She changed my diapers, I don't think we should argue." Dave muttered. Karkat chuckled, grabbing Dave's tie and pulling him close.

"Fair enough." He breathed, grinning. Dave cupped his cheek and leaned in, kissing him deeply. Karkat's hands moved to his shoulders, and Dave wrapped his arms around Karkat's waist, pulling him closer until they were pressed against each other. When they finally pulled away, Dave bumped his forehead against Karkat's.

"I love you, Karkat Vantas." He breathed.

"I love you, too, Dave Strider."

 

~And they lived happily ever after!~