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How We Got Here

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Karkat Vantas walked into his house after a long day at school. He took off his backpack in order to remove his jacket and hang it by the door. He didn't smell the liquor until it was too late, his CD player blasting into his ears hid the sound of the footsteps as they approached. Karkat noticed the shadow fall over his bag, and as he turned to ready himself a fist smashed into his jaw. He dropped to the ground as white stars bloomed in his vision. Holy fuck he had never been hit that hard. His father kicked him sharply in the ribs while he was down, searing pain shooting up his spine while all the air shot out of his lungs. Gasping painfully and hating how much it hurt to keep breathing, Karkat looked up into his father's blood shot eyes and grimaced. He was so fucking drunk. Karkat didn't know the last time his father had been this drunk. He might have wondered what had happened, if he could think clearly. Instead, his instincts took over. His body curled into the fetal position, trying to protect itself. His father reached down and gripped his hair, forcing him to his feet. Karkat's eyes watered as he felt some of his hair give up, ripping from his scalp.

Karkat's grey eyes met his father's angry blue ones, pleading for him to stop. For his efforts he got another punch to the face, this one thankfully less forceful than the first. Still hurt like a bitch though. Karkat felt the skin of his eyebrow split open and blood began seeping out. He almost fell back to the floor but this time had the sense to catch himself against the wall, hand scrabbling for something to hold on to. His father grabbed him again, this time by the collar of his shirt. He held the boy close enough that the smell of alcohol became overpowering, and Karkat bit his tongue to keep from gagging.

"Yew," His father began, his speech slurred and uneven, "Yew werthlus peece uf shhhit. Yew 'r fffuckin' patheduc. Y'know that?" He then threw Karkat against the stair banister. His back connected solidly with the thick, unrelenting wood and his head cracked against the floor sharply. This time Karkat couldn't hold back the pained yell that tore its way from his lips. Another gash and more blood. He tried to get up on his hands and knees, but his father aimed a good kick to his stomach, sending him sprawling back onto the floor. He would have thrown up if he had eaten anything that day. Karkat's vision swam and it became harder for him to focus. He knew he couldn't keep this up for much longer. He stayed down, trying his best to look defeated. Usually that did the trick. This was not, however, a usual beating.

His father pulled him up again, landing another solid blow to his face. Karkat tried to block it with his hands and ended up enraging his father further. He snapped and began to hit every bit of his son that he could reach, yelling as he pummeled the small teenager. Karkat's body screamed at him to get up, to run. Blood ran into his eyes and he could taste it on his tongue, though in both cases he wasn't sure where it was coming from. Just as the darkness began to crawl over his mind, Karkat saw his father turn and walk back into the kitchen. He heard a drawer open, and the unmistakable sound of his father rustling through the utensils. He instantly thought of the one other time his father had held a knife to his throat, and his survival instinct overpowered his tired, beaten body. He somehow managed to push himself to his feet and stumble to the backdoor. He heard an angry yell behind him, and the footsteps once again closed in.

A sudden burst of adrenaline coursed through his veins, bringing power and control back to his limbs. He took off running as fast as his feet could carry him. His balance was off, and he stumbled a bit, but he managed to escape the yard and keep running. After about five minutes his muscles screamed at him to stop and his heart hammered as if it were looking for a way out of his aching chest. Karkat looked around for shelter as a drop of rain splattered against his sore cheek. He saw a bridge ahead, and he slowed as he neared it. Thankfully there was nobody else there, and he crawled under one end to remain dry. There was barely any traffic over his head, and the sound of the September rain was very soothing. Once he felt like he was safe, he noticed the world become blurry and he felt a raindrop hit his bare arm. His body was shaking, and as he looked up to see where the rain had come from he realized he was crying, sobs raking through his body, pulling wretched, hopelessly pathetic noises from his throat. He wrapped his arms around his knees and held himself like that, hoping he would calm down before he started hyperventilating or something. That was the last thing he fucking needed. The last thing he expected next was what he heard.

"Hey hombre, you okay?" A kind looking stranger stood with one arm above his head resting against the rough bridge and the other outstretched towards Karkat. He looked at the man's tan skin, purple tinted black hair, and strange purplish eyes, taking in the relaxed way he stood the new appearance of his name brand clothing. He would have pegged this guy as a jerk if he had seen him in passing. When Karkat didn't say anything, the man simply moved to sit down next to him, gingerly laying one of his long arms around his shoulders. Karkat was surprised by the gentle embrace, and he leaned against the man, letting out his anger, frustration, and sorrow while he buried his head against the firm chest. "There, there, just let it out" The guy crooned while rubbing his back. Karkat winced when his palm rubbed over a particularly sore spot. His body had quickly become numb in the rush of adrenaline as he escaped the torture, but the feeling was returning and he wasn't in good shape at all. "Hey, why don't you come back to my place and we can get you cleaned up" The man offered, standing up and watching Karkat struggle a second before reaching to help him up as well. Sensing Karkat's hesitation, he held out a hand, introducing himself. "The name is Gamzee Makara, I am a newly turned 19 year old freshman over at the College and I have a roommate who is out of town for the weekend but I can have a friend come over if you don't want to be alone with some tall, dark, and handsome superhero of a strange guy." He winked and Karkat smiled at the insinuation. He figured it was better than sitting alone under a bridge, so he threw one of his arms over Gamzee's neck since walking alone would be difficult. They took a few steps in the right direction, but then Karkat stumbled and almost ended up back on the ground.

"Well, not sure how much you will like this, but we are about to become really close friends anyway so you should get used to having a very small personal bubble with me." Karkat was still trying to figure out what Gamzee was talking about when the much taller guy simply reached down and slid one arm under his knees while the other supported his shoulders and lifted Karkat right off the ground.

He tried to protest, but Gamzee shooshed him and set off, the extra weight not bothering him at all. It was a very short walk to Gamzee's dorm, and luckily he lived on the second floor so he didn't have to navigate many stairs. He set Karkat back onto his own feet when they reached his door, and he fished in the left pocket of his cargo shorts for his key. Once the door was open, he motioned for Karkat to enter first, and he did. Gamzee pointed out which bed was his, and went to fill a bucket with warm, soapy water. He then knelt down next to the bed, using an indigo washcloth to gently wipe away the dried blood on the boy's face and arms. He poked and prodded, making Karkat wince or gasp in pain countless times. Gamzee's face grew more and more concerned with each uncovered injury. He helped Karkat remove his shirt, anger boiling to the surface as he saw the extent of the boy's injuries. His ribs were painted a dark purple, the edges of the bruise a mix of blue and a sick green. His back was another collage of angry red welts and scrapes as well as more bruising that followed the line of his spine. He had two bumps on his head, one of which was accompanied by a gash the length of Gamzee's thumb that still bled slowly and looked like it needed stitches. One of his eyes was completely swollen shut and that entire side of his face was turning the color of a dangerous summer storm cloud. His lip was cut and his jaw was swollen, making it hard for the boy to talk. It looked like the boy had been through some kind of a gang beating. Gamzee wanted to protect him from whoever had done this, but when he began to ask questions Karkat froze up and shut down. This made his heart ache; the boy was protected his torturer. Gamzee also noticed scars and fading bruises, marks of past injuries. This incident was not isolated.

"Fuck man, I know you probably love or at least care about whoever did this to you, but I want you to know that you have options. If you ever need to get away from the situation, you know where I live now. We are about to exchange numbers and everything. We are about to become the best motherfucking friends you have ever heard about. It will be us. " He noticed the cold look in the boy's eyes, and knew it would take some coaxing before the whole story would come out, but he also knew the boy needed a friend, and Gamzee was willing to be that friend. He already felt attached to the boy, like their friendship was some sort of miracle that was meant to happen.

Karkat grew nervous. He didn't want anyone to know, his father would get in trouble and go to jail and he would be taken away from everything he knew and out into foster care or something until he turned 18. He didn't want any of that, he loved his dad and he needed to take care of him. His dad was broken, and Karkat was the only one who could really understand the extent of his brokenness. Karkat was the same way, but he was better at finding constructive ways to vent his anger and frustration. Like video games. Kicking that guy Sollux's ass was very satisfying. Or at least he was sure it would be, if he could ever actually beat the other gamer. Gamzee was talking, and Karkat stopped spacing out. Holy shit how bad had his head been hit, he could barely focus on what Gamzee was saying, something about how they were going to be the best friends that ever existed. Cool. He needed a friend. Badly. He tried to talk, to thank the man and give him his own name, but his mouth wouldn't cooperate. Instead he sat up, reaching for a pen and paper from Gamzee's desk. He wrote out a quick sloppy thanks and then spelled out his name.

"Karkat. " Gamzee read aloud and smiled. "You are 16 and a sophomore at the High School. Well hey there Karkat. Interesting name you have there. They continued their conversation well into the night, sitting next to one another on Gamzee's standard issue dorm bed. They learned about each other, their favorite things and the things they hated. They shared memories and sometimes even laughs, though the laughs caused Karkat much physical pain. Early into Saturday morning Gamzee decided that Karkat did not have a concussion, though he had decided to hand stitch his head injury. Karkat was good at hiding the pain he felt as the needle and thread passed through his skin. The two friends figured it was safe to sleep, and they stripped down to their boxers and crawled into the same bed, not finding it awkward at all and feeling as if they had known one another since the beginning of time. Karkat fell asleep smiling for the first time that he could remember. He finally had a real friend.