Your name is Karkat Vantas and the last place you expected to be on a Friday night was at the Callen Lorde community medical center, filling out your best friend’s new patient paperwork.
And yet, here you are. One minute you were washing the dishes, because your roommate is a fucking slob who was too busy fondling his acoustic guitar to clean up the spaghetti mess he made in the kitchen—did he murder that jar of Prego? Is that why it was on the fucking walls?—and the next you heard a crash and discovered Gamzee had thrown up in the toilet before turning on the shower and stumbling into it without bothering to remove his clothes.
After your initial freakout, there was a plethora of small miracles to be grateful for. Thank god Gamzee hadn’t hit his head. Thank god you were able to grab a doctor’s appointment. Thank god you were able to get Gamzee into dry clothes without him vomiting all over them. Or you.
Thank god you were able to catch the bus.
It had been a very near miss, and even then there was only enough room for one of you to sit. You let Gamzee have the chair, and fuck, it had been one of the longest bus rides of your life, standing over him and struggling to stay balanced while he wrapped his arms miserably around his stomach and stared at your shoes.
He doesn’t look much better now than when you pulled him out of the bathroom. He sits and shivers and stares blankly into space, his eyes glazed over. His face is so pale it almost looks gray. He hasn’t said a word, other than to mumble answers to the few questions on the paperwork you don’t know.
You give the clipboard back to the nurse. On the way back, you fill a paper cup at the water cooler and hand it to him as you sit back down. He takes it without looking at you.
You touch his wrist and grimace. His skin is startlingly hot. “You’re not going to die on me, are you?”
“Motherfuckin’ hope not.”
You glare at him. “You’d better not, or I swear to god I’m totally kicking your ass.”
His only reply is to lean a little against you as he sips at his water. You scowl and stare at the empty children’s playset in the corner. Fucking waiting rooms. You hate them. Is there anyone who likes these godforsaken places? With their stupid fucking germ infested kiddie toys and ancient magazines and uncomfortable chairs and wallpaper straight out of hell’s interior decorating manual?
Gamzee breathes a sigh, and there is a thin thread of sound in it, this barely audible fucking miserable little whine, and you feel your throat close up.
You both straighten. A smiling middle aged woman with short dreadlocks and purple glasses—Dr. Jefferson, by her nametag—beckons you both into an examination room. You sit hunched up in the chair in the corner while she helps Gamzee up onto the table, takes his temperature, and listens to his heart. He nods or shakes his head as she questions him, and you chime in with a few answers of your own when Gamzee starts to look a bit zoned out.
She frowns. “Any idea what you ate last, Gamzee?”
His brows furrow a little and then he winces as it dawns on him. “Motherfuckin’ Prego.”
She blinks, a startled grin flitting across her lips. “Pardon?”
“Spaghetti. It was the fucking sauce.” His swallows hard, and for a horrifying second you think he might throw up again. “It even kinda tasted funny but it smelled okay so I was all assuming it was still good.”
You sweat a little, thinking just how close you had gone to helping yourself to a bit of Gamzee’s dinner.
“And this was a few hours ago?” she asks.
She makes a sympathetic smile. “Yeah, okay. Looks like you’ve got food poisoning, kiddo.”
She runs you through what you need to do. Fortunately, you learn it will run its course within a day or two. In the meantime, Gamzee is to stay hydrated, rest, and avoid solid foods until he stops having the runs. No dairy, no caffeine, no acidic or spicy foods. Call back if symptoms worsen or persist for longer than two days. Perfect. You’re already composing a mental grocery list as you pay the receptionist for the appointment and get Gamzee the fuck out of there.
You procure four large bottles of Gatorade, two water bottles, a box of Tylenol, and some random minty decaf healthy tea drink from the convenience store across the street from your flat. You remember hearing somewhere that mint was good for nausea.
You left Gamzee in bed with a glass of water and a bucket. He is where you left him when you return, though he’s sitting on the edge of the bed now, his back to the door as he nods and sighs into his cell phone.
“Yeah, I’m all messed up. It’s a motherfuckin’ drag, man, I’m sorry. Think you’ll still play it? Jasper’s got a hell of a set of pipes on him.”
You let the bag drop on the bed. He glances at you over his shoulder and manages a grateful smile. Slowly, he moves to sprawl on his back, staring at the ceiling and taking one of your hands without looking at it. You breathe an irritated sigh, but you allow it, your scowl deepening as you glance at the nightstand and notice Gamzee hasn’t drank any of his water. You glare at him. He doesn’t notice.
“Oh good. Mm? Damn, beats me, brother. Nah, don’t worry, we been through worse shit. Practice still on next week?”
Next to the glass is a pile of opened mail. You poke at it with your free hand, only to stiffen, your breath stilling in your chest as you see red numbers.
Oh shit. Oh shit.
You yank your hand back and flip through them, and you feel your chest tighten. The rent is due in a week, the power bill is late, the sanitation company sent you a letter warning you that your delinquent period is almost up. He glances at you, sees the bills in your hand, and the look of guilty dismay that flits across his face tells you all you need to know.
He knows bills are a sore spot for you, and you realize he probably meant to throw them away before you could see them.
You glare thunderously at him.
His eyes squeeze shut. “Ah, fuck. Uh, I gotta call you back, okay? Yeah. Yeah. Hahahah, okay, man. Later.” He flips the phone closed, rolls on his side to face you, and meets your eyes without flinching. “Bro. Seriously, don’t go and get all worried about those. We’ll be figuring some shit out.”
Your hands clench and your expression turns incredulous. You feel the rage building—the goddamned rent is due in a week, you just canceled a motherfucking gig, and you say not to worry?!—but you’re not about to start screaming at the guy you found face down in your shower not three hours ago.
Truth is, it’s not the first time. The two of you have gone through hard times before—there were times when the two of you sat in the dark and ate raw ramen for dinner—and you don’t know what Gamzee is smoking that he can look at past due notices and just fucking shrug, but staring at the bills, you’re almost beginning to think you want some.
You ignore the moisture prickling at the corners of your eyes and wave the crumpled paper at him. Your voice comes out all strangled and this only frustrates you more. “Damn it, Gamzee, how the fuck do you expect me not to worry?”
“Hey. Just be chill with me, okay? We’ll deal.”
We’ll deal. Yeah right. You grimace at him, but the expression on his face tells you further arguing will just get you more of the same bullshit. That aside, he’s broken out in a sweat again and the ashen color is starting to return to his cheeks and all at once you feel so fucking helpless that all you can do is sink down on the edge of the bed and squeeze your eyes shut.
He sits up and slips an arm around you. You shrug it off and shove the grocery bag against his chest without looking at him.
“Here, fuckass. Drink your damned liquids.”
You hear him grunt and the bag rustles as he pokes around inside. You watch out of the corner of your eye as he takes out the bottle of minty tea and peers at the ingredients.
You sputter a laugh in spite of yourself and bury your face in your hands. The weirdo. The stupid fucking weirdo. Then all of a sudden you’re close to tears as you feel him rubbing your back and you know without looking that he’s smiling at you in that unbearably soft way you can never look at for very long because it’s just too goddamn much—
You’re on your feet and stalking toward the door before you embarrass yourself further.
One bout of hysterics later, you lie on the couch with your face buried in a damp pillow and try to still your whirling thoughts.
You feel sick. You hate yourself for having a job that pays so fucking little that you can’t even manage to pay your half of the rent, let alone the utilities. You hate that Gamzee is stuck paying for so much and yet he gets sick once and it’s such a fucking catastrophe that it puts the two of you at risk of not being able to make ends meet.
He’s never made it a big thing before. You don’t expect he will now either, and that terrifies you.
You take a few deep breaths and shove those thoughts out of your head before they can panic you again. Time to weigh your options.
There’s no way to get any more hours than you already have. This means it’s time to sell some shit.
You run a mental inventory. Your computer? No, you need that for work and sanity. Your Xbox? Fuck no. You’d sooner sell your body. You make a list of shitty CDs, old Xbox games, spare videogame controllers, tattered Forgotten Realms novels, and dog earred coding books and determine that your meager pile of shit isn’t worth wasting time with Ebay.
You go still as another option occurs to you and your heart sinks.
Level: 397 (MAX)
Weapons: Scythe of Grimdark Intentions, (RARE) Lobotomizer, Globes of Shame, Tommyknocker Pistols.
Armor: Full Adamantine Suit, Pugnacious Garb, Deathglass Vest, Righteous Leggings, Equius Chainmail.
Mounts: Golden Basilisk, Salamander, Giant Spider, Adolescent Albino Dragon (EPIC MOUNT)
Pets: Sprite, Imp, Ogre, Father Crab, (RARE) Soul Inna Jar, Talking Head of Calbert the Small (RARE)
Abilities: Disenchant, Expansive Vocabulary, Leadership Specialization, Explosive Scream.
Factions: The Brotherhood of Imaginary Magicians,The Exclusive Order of Not So Very Nice Princes, The House of Loving Reprimand, The Candycorn Vampire Horde, The League of Tortured Hellscholars, The Adorabloodthirsty Brigade, The Captors of the Furthest Ring.
Account Name: CursingGod
Account Password: fuck4ss
Your cursor hovers over the “Send” button. You run your eyes over the stats one more time and hesitate. Man. You wish there was more time to cut the umbilical. This shit is heartbreaking. Almost four years of hard work, and your very first warlock is going off to live with some man in Japan.
It also means a brow-raising amount in your Paypal account.
You squeeze your eyes shut, bite your lower lip, and click Send.
So long, Karkinos19. It was a good fucking run.
When you wake up, your neck is killing you, and you remember why you stopped sleeping on the couch in the first place. The sky is beginning to brighten outside. You hear birds chirping. It’s been so long since you were up this early that you don’t recall if they were ever this fucking loud before.
Down the hall, you hear the sound of retching.
“Oh, fuck me…”
Somehow you make it off the couch and down the hall in spite of the noticeable lag between your brain and your legs. You stumble in the bedroom and there is Gamzee leaning over the edge of the bed, choking out curses and dry heaving into the bucket you so thoughtfully provided.
You climb onto the bed before you can really think about what you’re doing. Gamzee sits up and you grimace as he wipes his mouth on his sleeve, oh gross, and then you go stiff all over as he wraps his arms around you with a profoundly relieved sound that makes you feel guilty for leaving him alone in here in the first place.
He smells like vomit and sour sweat, and oh dear fucking god his breath is terrible. You give his shoulder an awkward pat and gingerly hold him at arm’s length. At least he feels like the fever has gone down, but you can’t be sure. Looking at him, you try to imagine all the movies and novels you’ve voraciously devoured in which the hero earnestly nurses the love interest from a crippling fever.
You decide then and there that this is quite possibly the least sexy thing you’ve ever seen.
“Can you make it to the bathroom?”
He nods and you help him there anyway. You leave the lights off as he splashes his face and rinses his mouth out. You hand him a thermometer, and when it beeps you’re surprised and relieved to find him at a normal 98.6 F.
“Thank fucking god.” You waggle the thermometer at him when he glances at you questioningly. “Looks like I might not have to find a new roomie. I’m guessing you still feel like shit?”
He shrugs a shoulder and leans against the sink. “Been motherfucking worse, bro.” His voice sounds painfully hoarse. He clears his throat and doesn’t quite look at you.
You squint at him. “Did you sleep at all?”
“Not a lot.”
You sigh in mingled guilt and exasperation as he tries to explain and make quote signs with your fingers. “Because you ‘need a motherfucker to hold onto’, no, I get it. Jesus, Gamzee, I’m not a teddy bear.”
He just looks at you, the corners of his lips turning up in wan smile, and you realize you’re not going to win this one.
“God. Fine, who am I to deny a dying man’s last request. But I’m cleaning up in there first. Stay put.”
He stays put while you empty the bucket into the toilet. As much as you try not to look at it and hold your breath, the sound of it emptying nearly triggers your gag reflex even as you’re relieved that it’s not as much as you feared it would be. That done, you ignore Gamzee’s embarrassed fidgeting as you yank the sweat soaked sheets off the bed and toss them in the hamper. You have the spare set tugged neatly on within a matter of minutes.
“There. Okay, fuckass, come on.”
He breathes a relieved sigh and crawls in first. He sits up against the headboard and you nestle against him while poking through the convenience store bag, pleased to note he’s drained a full container of Gatorade and both water bottles. Nevertheless, you grab a Gatorade and press it into his hands.
He unscrews it without a word and chugs half of it before setting it on the nightstand and scooting down to lie on his side. You follow suit and hook an arm around him as he wraps both of his around you.
“I’m motherfuckin’ sorry, man.”
Your heart cracks. “Don’t, Gamzee—”
“Nah, brother, I shoulda went and told you we were in a tight spot. You just worry and shit, and get all kinds of unchill with yourself about it, and I already up and scared the fuck out of you once today—”
You tighten your arm. “Hey. Not your fucking fault.”
He draws in another breath to protest and you give him a warning squeeze. “Not another word. Like you said, we’ll get through this. Worse comes to worst I’ll sell your kidneys on Ebay.”
That makes him huff a laugh. “Those probably ain’t worth much, bro.”
“Mmh, you’re probably right.” You nestle a bit more against him and hum thoughtfully, yawning. “Your liver is probably a shriveled pea pod by now. And don’t get me started on your terrifying tar caked lungs. How the fuck are you even alive anyway?”
“Bet I know one thing brothers would pay to see.”
Uh oh. You draw back a little and give him a look as he hooks a leg around you and presses his hips meaningfully.
You can’t say you’re surprised.
“Yeah, well, no.” You aren’t sure why your cheeks are stinging. “I’m sure we can figure out something that doesn’t involve renting out your dick.” He grins broader as you scowl and rub at your face. “Go the fuck to sleep, Gamzee.”
He sighs, rests his forehead against yours, and nods. The lucky bastard is out in seconds. You, you’re awake with the fucking birds and the fucking traffic and the steadily brightening sky sending stripes through the blinds, but Gamzee’s breath falls heavy and slow and his face is untroubled and you guess it’s not so bad.