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The Storm hits when they're seven.

It's the kind of storm that comes once or twice in a troll's childhood, when the sky opens and the sea rebels.

The kind of storm that a certain group of twelve trolls hear about nights in advance, when Sollux starts hearing the voices of those battered and drowned in flash floods and hundred-plus-foot waves, and he hurriedly gets in touch with the troll who still considers himself the leader so that word can be spread, before Sollux has a chance to hear anyone he knows.

-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling terminallyCapricious [TC] --
CG: HEY.
TC: :o) WhAt Is UuUuUp, BeSt FrIeNd?
CG: SOLLUX SAYS THERE'S A BIG FUCKING STORM HEADED OUR WAY.
TC: iS tHaT wHaT i BeEn MoThErFuCkInG sMeLlInG? sKy'S bEeN aLl TwIsTy MiRaClEs LaSt FeW nIgHtS, bRoThEr. AlL sTrAnGe WiNdS aNd SmElLs AnD tHe sEaFoWlBeAsTs AlL uP aNd DiSsApPeArEd. YoU tHiNk ThEy KnOwEd WhAt'S mOtHeRfUcKiNg WhAt bEfOrE wE aLl DiD? mIrAcLeS.
CG: WHATEVER, PROBABLY.
CG: GET YOUR CLOWN ASS INLAND BEFORE IT HITS. YOU'RE STAYING AT MY PLACE.
-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling terminallyCapricious [TC] --

-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling adiosToreador [AT] --
CG: DO YOU STILL LIVE ON THE COAST?
CG: WAIT, WHAT AM I FUCKING ASKING, OF COURSE YOU DO.
AT: uHHH,
CG: ACCORDING TO SOLLUX, THERE'S THIS HUGE DEADLY STORM COMING IN TO FUCK UP OUR SHIT.
CG: LIKE, SOME TIME IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS.
CG: YOU MIGHT WANT TO THINK ABOUT GETTING AWAY FROM THAT HUGEASS CLIFF OVER THE OCEAN YOU LIVE ON IN CASE IT COLLAPSES INTO THE FUCKING WATER OR SOMETHING.
AT: dO YOU THINK, tHAT'S A THING, tHAT MIGHT ACTUALLY, uH, hAPPEN?
CG: WHO THE FUCK EVEN KNOWS? I'M JUST SAYING IT'S A POSSIBILITY.
CG: DO YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE YOU CAN GO?
AT: uH, mAYBE, i'M PRETTY SURE, uH, sOMEONE WOULD LET ME, uH, cRASH AT THEIR HIVE, fOR A FEW DAYS,
CG: PLEASE TELL ME "SOMEONE" DOES NOT REFER TO THE GIRL WHO CRIPPLED YOU, KILLED YOU, AND THEN CRIPPLED YOU AGAIN ONCE YOU WERE REVIVED IN FULL HEALTH AFTER THE GAME.
AT: i WASN'T, uH, tHINKING OF vRISKA SPECIFICALLY, oR ANYTHING,
AT: aND, uH, tHE SECOND TIME i GOT HURT, wASN'T REALLY, uH, hER FAULT, aT ALL,
CG: YOU'RE KILLING ME HERE, TAVROS. ABSOLUTELY KILLING ME. I EXPECT A LAVISH FUNERAL.
CG: LOOK, MY HIVE'S GOING TO BE AN ABSOLUTE CIRCUS ANYWAY BECAUSE MY DUMBFUCK CLOWN OF A MOIRAIL IS COMING, BUT IF YOU NEED A PLACE TO STAY I GUESS YOU CAN COME HERE.
AT: tHAT WOULD BE, rEALLY, uH, nICE ACTUALLY, tHANKS,
CG: DON'T SAY I NEVER DID ANYTHING FOR YOU.
-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling adiosToreador [AT] --

By the time Tavros reaches Karkat's hive, spotty rain is beginning to fall in thick drops that pockmark the dust where they land, and even this far inland he can smell the scent of storm on the ocean he left behind him earlier that evening. It's the work of minutes to settle his mount - a stockier strain of Fiduspawn he's been experimenting with lately, Rigapony - in an impromptu stable in the mostly-unfinished bottommost level of the hive and deploy the four-wheel device from his sylladex, and then he's hurrying inside.

"Trip ok?" Karkat asks as Tavros comes in, barely looking up from the tv.

"Uh, yeah, thanks again for inviting me," Tavros replies. "Is Gamzee here yet?"

"He's taken over the food-prep block," Karkat says, in a long-suffering tone that Tavros is mostly sure is a put-on.

"I think I'll go, uh, say hi," Tavros says. He starts to go, realizes he doesn't really know his way around Karkat's hive, and pauses. "Er, where is your, um, food preparation block, exactly?"

Karkat rolls his eyes dramatically and points. It's not the direction Tavros would have taken. "Thanks," Tavros says with a sheepish smile, and wheels around to the correct door.

"Taken over" seems to be an appropriate choice of words. Every available surface seems covered in mixing bowls or pie tins, and in the middle of it all, Gamzee is watching the stream of water from the faucet in rapt fascination.

"Uh, hey," Tavros says, pausing in the doorway.

Gamzee looks up slowly and grins. "Hey yourself, motherfucker."

He's grown taller since Tavros last saw him in person. Gamzee has always been tall, but he's grown a few more inches, and he moves with a slow, graceful awkwardness that turns him into lazy loose angles and hollow spaces. And oh god, Tavros is totally waxing lyrical about his friend, isn't he? That's probably not great, even if it is only in the safety of his own thinkpan.

"What are you making?" Tavros asks, coming into the block; his wheels leave parallel tracks through a long spill of flour on the floor.

"Pie, bro, pie," Gamzee replies. He seems to remember why he had the tap running in the first place and fills a measuring cup to a line that Tavros can't identify from where he sits, before moving over to dump the water in one of the mixing bowls. "Nothing harshes a miracle like biting into a motherfucking stale piece of pie, I tell you straight. So my best motherfucking friend said I could bake it up fresh when I got up in his hive and all."

"That was nice, of him," Tavros says, and looking around he kind of has to wonder if Karkat had quite realized what the result of letting Gamzee have free range of the food preparation block would be. "Is there anything I can do to, uh, help?"

Gamzee looks around for a moment as if genuinely perplexed, then pushes a bowl of crumbly lumps of dough into Tavros's hands. "Think you can get this shit rolled out all even? Makes my arms tired."

With a grin, Tavros all but hugs the mixing bowl to himself. "I'll need somewhere to do it, I think? And, um, something to roll it with..."

Gamzee responds by sweeping the loose clutter on the low table in the middle of the block into a dense clutter on half the table, with what is probably meant to be a dramatic flourish. "I figure I got a pastry club here somewhere," he mutters, and proceeds to poke through the entire food preparation block and then cycle through his whole miracle modus at least three times before ambling over to the door that leads into the recreation block Tavros came in through. "Best friend -" he begins, sticking his head into the next block.

"Bottom drawer on the left," comes Karkat's curt reply.

Gamzee retrieves a rolling pin from the indicated drawer, flips it once in one hand like a juggling club before offering it proudly to Tavros, who takes it with a smile.

To be honest, Tavros is a little surprised that Karkat owns a rolling pin.

"Man it just up and motherfucking made my fucking day when I found out you was coming," Gamzee says, puttering over a mixing bowl of slime as Tavros starts rolling out crusts. The clown turns to grin at Tavros, a smile nearly as wide as the cheerful outline of his paint. "I thought big storms were supposed to be bad juju? But I all get to spend days tucked up in a warm hive with my favorite motherfuckers ever? How's that for a miracle."

Tavros ducks his head, hoping he looks more like he's concentrating on his work and less like he's trying to cover a ridiculously cheesy grin of his own.

"Your hive could still get damaged, by the storm," he points out. "Or, uh, mine, I guess."

Gamzee shrugs philosophically. "'S'what them carpenter drone motherfuckers are for, ain't it?"

"I guess," Tavros says doubtfully. In his experience, the carpenter drones tend to be somewhat less than reliable in responding to repair orders, but maybe Gamzee has better luck as an indigo-blood. Or maybe he just doesn't care so much when they don't show up.

"Guessing's just as good," Gamzee agrees - vaguely, so vaguely, in fact, that Tavros isn't entirely sure that Gamzee's sure what he's agreeing with. "I mean, who even knows?"

"Uh, Equius might?" Tavros suggests. "He breaks things, a lot, I think, he probably orders in carpenter drones, uh, fairly often?"

Gamzee looks at him a long moment and then laughs, a slow, liquid, almost gutteral sound that coils somewhere in Tavros's gut and coaxes out an answering chuckle.

"Man, it is just the motherfucking best to be having you around, Tavbro," Gamzee says, after a moment, when both have more or less collected themselves. "Trolling you online just ain't the same."

Tavros smiles, and makes no effort to hide it this time. "It really isn't."

He looks at the sheet of flattened dough he's created. "Hey, is this good?" he asks, glancing over at Gamzee. "I think it's ready to, um, go in the tins, or whatever the next step is."

The other troll tosses a handful of pie tins over to him, frisbee-like, and Tavros manages to catch most of them - although the first kind of takes him by surprise and clatters to the floor. Then Gamzee wanders over, and scoops up a broad piece of crust. "You just kinda... drape it in, like this?" he says, doing so. "Ain't an exact science or nothing, it'll work so long as all the shiny bits on the motherfucking pie pan are covered."

"Ok, I think I can do that." Tavros goes to work, as Gamzee ladles the sopor mixture into the crusts. "Uh, Gamzee, how many were you planning on making?"

"I don't even know, three or four?" Gamzee replies easily. "Should be enough miracles for a couple of nights, you know? Ain't much good to try and keep from eating stale pie if I all up and make more'n I can eat anyway."

"There's, um, a lot more crust here than that," Tavros points out.

Gamzee looks for a long moment at the dough rolled out in thin sheets, then at the bowl of sopor mixture in his hand. "Well, shit. I don't got nearly enough sopor mixed up for that. How'd that even happen?"

"Maybe you doubled the recipe by accident?" Tavros suggests.

Gamzee makes a kind of noncommittal thinking noise, and wanders over to the thermal hull.

"Uh, Gamzee?" Tavros says, after a moment, but Gamzee is already pulling something out of the hull and heading into the next block. Tavros wheels around slightly, craning his neck to try and see where his friend is going, but can't quite see around the corner.

"Hey, palebro, mind if I use some've these apples?"

"What the fuck for?" Karkat sounds more confused than annoyed.

Gamzee chuckles. "I up and made more motherfucking crust than I needed? So I thought maybe I'd whip up some sorta miracle for you and Tav with the extra..."

"Oh. Ok, yeah, if you want to."

The clown returns, an almost triumphant bounce in his step.

"Ready for all sorts of miracles, Tavbro?"

The apples are washed, pealed, and sliced - Tavros insists on taking care of pealing them, after Gamzee starts cutting toward himself rather than away, and the knife starts to slip alarmingly - and as the first batch of sopor pies bake. There's a brief moment of chaos when Gamzee realizes he has no idea what goes into apple pies except apples, but it's not too hard to find on the internet and Tavros figures he can wipe the flour off his husktop later.

"Doesn't apple pie usually have, uh, crust on top, too?" Tavros asks, once they've filled up the tins with fruit and sugar.

Gamzee looks at the scraps of dough that are left, picks up a piece, and kind of pinches and sculpts it into a loop, then adds a couple of curved lines to one side, then carefully drapes it over the top of one of the pies. Tavros laughs, and reaches over to tweak the angle on the horns of what is unmistakably meant to be an Insignia of Taurus.

"That works," he chuckles, picking up another piece. He sneaks a glance at Gamzee's chest, checking to be sure he can get the angles right on the Capricorn sign he's making. Just so it can be as accurate as possible. The way he can see the lines of Gamzee's collarbones against the thin fabric of the t-shirt has nothing to do with...

Ok, it has a little to do with it.

His eyes track upward and he finds Gamzee is gazing back at him. Gamzee's eyes, he notices for the first time, are starting to acquire a blue-violet tint to the grey.

As Tavros meets his eyes, Gamzee grins, and pops a crumb of dough into his mouth.

They cover one pie with insignias of Taurus and Capricorn and that loopy sign of Karkat's which Tavros realizes he doesn't know the name of, which is a little awkward considering he's known the mutant for sweeps. Gamzee puts a little diamond between his sign and Karkat's.

Tavros looks at the empty space between Gamzee's sign and his own.

And he realizes - or maybe it's more he admits to himself - there's something he wants to ask.

He's not sure of the right words, though, so he keeps it behind his teeth fro the moment. This is one case where stuttering though until he finds the right wording is not an option.

He turns over possible words and phrases in his mind as they cover the second pie in baloons and grinning clown faces, and as he pieces together fairy wings to put on the third.

Tavros is starting to be frustrated with himself as Gamzee pulls the last couple of sopor pies out of the oven, and Gamzee's hand brushes Tavros's as the four-wheel-device-bound troll hands over the first of the unbaked apple pies. The clown grins at him with the contact, although Tavros kind of has to wonder if he could actually feel it through the oven mitt.

Once, Tavros remembers, it had been Gamzee who broached the subject, and he'd done it easily, casually, albeit via Trollian and not face-to-face, which Tavros supposes might have been easier. But still, he'd been perfectly self-assured about it, and Tavros just hopes he hasn't taken too long to figure it all out, because an awful lot can change in a sweep. (But earlier, Gamzee had said "his favorites," right? Isn't that a good sign?)

And then Tavros grins, because he's pretty sure he knows what to say.

Once the first couple of apple pies are in the oven, Gamzee boosts himself up to sit on the countertop between the cooling sopor pastries. As Gamzee dips narrow fingertips into one pie, Tavros comes over, lining his four-wheel-device up alongside the counter next to Gamzee. The flat surface is at about shoulder-height for him, and he raises and arm to lay elbow and forearm and hand on the counter in what he had hoped would be a casual manner but turns out to just be kind of awkward. But Gamzee's attention is elsewhere, so Tavros shifts to folding his hands loosely in his lap and then to folding his arms across his chest.

"I don't think I ever, uh, gave you an answer," Tavros says. A single hesitation noise creeps into his words, which he figures is probably not too bad, considering.

Gamzee looks over at him, paint-filled eyebrows twisting in mild confusion. "Answer to what, bro?"

Tavros suddenly feels kind of stupid, like this was the exact wrong way to go about this, but he's pretty sure that if he backs out now he's not going to get the nerve up again. So he swallows, or tries to, which is a little hard with his mouth suddenly dry as cotton. He's suddenly aware of the sound of rain against the window, and oh great, this has officially stretched into an awkward silence, hasn't it.

"Uh, last sweep, during, you know, the game," Tavros says. "You, um, invited me over for pie and uh, makeouts?"

Gamzee looks no less confused, although Tavros kind of hopes he's not imagining the hope in the other troll's eyes. "Shit, bro, I figured you'd all up and forgot about that," he says. "I mean, there was a lot of shit that went down not too long after that? And not much of it was quite what a motherfucker could call miracles."

Tavros shrugs. "Well, uh, we've got um, pie," he says, and privately wonders if he's ever had quite this much trouble getting words out. "I was kind of, uh, thinking, that, um, maybe..."

Gamzee is watching him placidly, smiling ever so slightly in a way that catches his upper fangs against his lower lip in the most interesting way, and Tavros is honestly not sure whether he's too out of it to care to hurry this along, or whether the Capricorn is, in fact, deliberately drawing it out. "Maybe?" is all the clown says, as if prompting him.

"Maybe, the, uh, other part of the offer, would still be, uh, good?" Tavros's voice rises to a rather embarrassing squeak on the last few words.

And Tavros's blood-pusher jumps in his throat as a slow grin spreads across Gamzee's face.

The clown doesn't so much as jump as slide down from the counter, the edge of which catches on the back of his shirt and draws it briefly up his back before Gamzee is clear and the thin cotton falls back into place. "Motherfuck, Tavbro," he says, leaning over to rest the heels of his hands on the armrests of the four-wheel-device such that Tavros hurriedly reaches down to set the brakes on the big wheels. "The other part of the offer is abso-motherfucking-lutely still good."

Tavros is fairly sure he's no longer capable of coherent speach; the grin on Gamzee's face would be almost alarming in the sheer number of teeth it exposes, except that Tavros finds himself smiling so hard his face hurts a little, too. Gamzee leans in, and Tavros leans forward...

And Tavros is pretty sure that sloppy makeouts aren't supposed to be quite this sloppy, and he suspects he's got a smear of white paint all up the side of his nose, but hey, he figures it's a pretty good first attempt.

Tavros's arms are looped around Gamzee's neck, and he tightens his grip a little as the other troll starts to straighten up, but Gamzee doesn't really seem to be trying to pull away, because he loops deceptively strong, wirey arms around Tavros's back and grins against his mouth.

"Standing up, bro," he says, or at least that's what Tavros thinks he says, because he's mumbling into the kiss. Tavros is a little too into the moment to wonder exactly where Gamzee thinks they're going, with Tavros unable to get anywhere under his own power, so he just clings to the other troll, digging broad, blunt fingertips into Gamzee's shoulder and upper back as he's lifted, swung around and deposited on the counter where Gamzee had been sitting a moment before.

Now when Gamzee leans forward, their torsos are flush with each other, and Tavros can feel the cool, slightly concave plane of Gamzee's stomach through two layers of fabric, indigo-cool in amazing contrast to his own brown-blooded heat. Gamzee's mouth is cool, too, and a sweet-spice that matches the scent hanging in the air, and Tavros is a little amused at the confirmation that Gamzee was sneaking bites of pie filling as they worked. His teeth are sliding against Tavros's own, and there's a tiny bit of Tavros in the back of his thinkpan that's still able to wonder how much of the vague giddiness he feels is hormones and emotions, and how much is the traces of sopor that linger on Gamzee's tongue.

But hey, if he's going to roll with being flushed for this guy, he can probably expect the occasional contact high?

One of Tavros's hands has wandered up to the back of Gamzee's head, where it takes a couple of tries before his fingers find their way through the tangles of hair to cup the space behind ear and hornbed; Gamzee seems to take this as encouragement or guidance, because he presses forward, moving his own hands down to brace against the counter with his wrists pressed in against Tavros's hips. In fact, he's pressing forward a little harder than necessary; Tavros puts his relatively-free hand down to prop himself up.

And yelps against Gamzee, as his hand comes down squarely in a pan full of something goopy and hot.

Gamzee draws back quickly, looking concerned and a little frightened by the outburst. Tavros lifts his hand sheepishly, cooling sopor dripping thickly from his palm, and holds it up by way of explanation. Luckily, this was one of the pies from the first batch, the batch that has already had time to cool a little, so it's noticeably warm but not uncomfortably. The pie's probably not in great shape, though. "Uh, sorry."

"Ain't a problem, Tav," Gamzee assures him, as Tavros attempts to shake off as much slime as possible, back into the pie. The indigo grabs the hand in question by the wrist and gently pulls it forward, and Tavros's cheeks burn mahogany as Gamzee runs his tongue flat against the sopor-coated palm.

If anything, the blush darkens, as Karkat sticks his head into the food preparation block. "Hey, is everyone ok in here, I heard... "

Gamzee slowly pulls away from where he'd now had two of Tavros's fingers in his mouth, and looks over his shoulder to grin at Karkat.

Tavros decides there's something he rather likes about Gamzee's smile in profile, although he'd rather not have found out by having the clown's moirail walk in on them mid-sloppy-makout.

Karkat heaves a sigh that's also a little like a growl. "Goddamnit, Gamzee, I told you not to harass Tavros," he gripes, starting to walk across the block toward them.

Gamzee hunches his shoulders defensively, and Tavros gently pulls him closer with his non-sopor-covered hand. "No, wait," he says quickly, as firmly as he can manage. Rufio, don't fail him now. "It's, uh, it's mutual."

That elicits a somewhat incredulous look from Karkat to Gamzee, who leans his head against Tavros's shoulder and nods. "His motherfucking choice of miracles, palebro, honest."

Karkat stops short, looks at them for a long moment. "You're sure? I know he can be weirdly persuasive sometimes, Tavros."

Tavros shifts his hand to Gamzee's waist, fingers catching little folds of t-shirt. "Just because I'm, uh, a cripple, and also kind of, not very, um, eloquent, doesn't mean I'm stupid," he replies. "I kind of wish you'd give me a little, uh, credit."

Karkat opens his mouth as if to make some retort, closes it again, and then turns on his heel and heads back out of the block. "Don't forget you've still got shit in the oven," he calls back over his shoulder. "I'm gonna put in a movie in a little while, if you two pityvermin can peel yourselves apart. And for the love of any and all gods who do not come equipped with a thematically appropriate hoodie, please try to avoid defiling my food prep block. I have to eat the crap that comes from here."

Later that evening, Tavros is curled up in the pile of beanbag cushions in front of Karkat's TV, a plate of pie in one hand, and his shoulder wedged up against Gamzee, who has his arm draped across Tavros's horns. On Gamzee's other side, Karkat perches in the pile, mouthing the words to the movie half a beat ahead of the actors.

And Gamzee has the biggest smile spread across his face that Tavros has seen in all his seven sweeps.