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If You Like My Name, You Should Hear My Number

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"Dude," someone mutters against his neck. "Dude, your communicator is beeping."

Karkat blinks away the afterimage of his dreams -- some boring cliché horsebeastshit about wading through a mess of alien larvae during a mission. It's dark in the recuperacoon, but a faint greenish glow comes from outside.

The slime isn't great, but better than they get in the barracks; it would be easy to sink back into its embrace...

He doesn't care about the dream (terrified pupae, gore squelching under the tread of his combat boots) and he does vaguely want to find out if the other troll pressed against his side would let him sink into his arms again (maybe his nook, even, shit, that part of yesterday was good.) Hey, the guy didn't steal Karkat's wallet or cull him during the day, Karkat likes his odds.

"Dude," the man mumbles, eyes entirely closed, and disappears under the surface with a quiet glop. His horns emerge from the orange up, two windswept, rolling curves that Karkat is almost (vaguely, entirely) sure he had his hands on at some point...

Karkat grabs the edge with both hands and fits his feet in the holds and executes a smooth-as-hell roll through the round opening.

(He lands on his heels and stumbles back, but the wall of the recuperacoon breaks his fall before he can get very far.)

Okay, so.

Item one: not his clothes. He knows where those are, they're over there on top of his boots, and it's nice to see that even being savagely undressed by a random asshole in a hurry to grab his bulge he can still fold a mean t-shirt.

He checks behind him, through the opening of the recuperacoon. An air bubble breaks the slick surface, glistening, and then a forehead and a nose, eyelids closed under a transparent puddle of slime like particularly stupid green shades, but the rest of his hook-up's body stays submerged.

Item one is actually the pail, sitting negligently right beside the still-unfolded concupiscent couch that takes up most of the block's floor space. (Looks like a motel, certainly sparse enough. He thinks he remembers a motel. Yes, a motel it is. This feat of memory is in no way helped along by the prominent Property Of Nights Inn stamp on the bucket, by the way.)

He picks it up slow and silent. The liquid still sloshes somehow. Augh.

No reemergence from BulgeBuddy the Slothful.


The lovely, illegal drug that darkens his blood to a nice deep rust also works on his tear glands, since they're irrigated by weak as shit blood vessels and that's where the color comes from. His genetic material bladder is another story. His spunk might be dark enough, this part of his cycle, but he is not risking it.

(He was ready to risk it yesterday but. Well.)

Another bleep. No one ever calls Karkat, and he glares at his communicator powerlessly across the room.

"Duuuuuuuude" comes from the 'coon, the call of some ancient, stoner whale.

Karkat rolls his eyes and lets it beep away, hip-checking the sticking sliding door out of the way and stepping ass first into the ablution closet. (At this size, he is not calling it a block.) "Busy, get up yourself!"

"Yeah, s'not weird at all to answer a stranger's calls," the other guy mutters, and then the automatic light over the loadgaper comes on and blinds the fuck out of Karkat.

Not for very long. Not for hardly long enough.

Holy fluttery-feathery-fancy shit what is he pouring down the hatch there.

"Haha, then again I dunno if we still count as strangers after all the things you did to my virtue! Oh man, I'm still swooning a bit. Iyaan."

"You're a fucking indigoblood?!"

Hands still holding the emptying pail, Karkat pops his head out of the closet to stare in accusing disbelief. His hookup has an arm slung out of the opening, his chin propped up next to it and damn but he has nice horns -- nice shoulders too.

Karkat's bright red spunk makes his look like streaks of the dark of space by contrast.

"Um," the guy -- the blueblood?? -- says, intelligently.

"I'm seriously starting to wonder if bluebloods only come in smart like a vicious animal or dumb as someone's pet rock categories," Karkat says, because he's someone who prizes his survival instincts highly. "What the fuck? I thought I knew of all the local command on sight, what are you, an internal affairs sneak? Slipping in with the monthly cargo of perishables and then gone again with someone's career in your vorpal hopbeast teeth? What were you doing in that dive?"

The man crooks him a lopsided grin. His eyes are half-closed with (vulnerable) sleepiness and his head lolls in the crook of his arm and Karkat doesn't get how he can act so friendly when the first thing Karkat did when they met was insult him, and here he is again, proving it was no kind of fluke.

It was indeed a fucking dive, though.

"I was, uh, what was it again? Taking part in a 'deplorable fucking contest of limp-bulged impressions containing zero fucking artistic or entertaining merit,' and it wasn't that you have no sense of humor but that I'm objectively the opposite of frigging funny."

He purses his lips, mock-thoughtful, makes a humming noise. Karkat tries to see a highblood in him, and fails utterly. Shit on a cracker, any of the Colonels he knows would explode if they looked that relaxed and the-opposite-of-angry in the presence of their moirail of seven centuries and a bottle of well-used massage oil. The whole colony would be showered in bone shrapnel and offal for the next fucking sweep.

"I was trying to pick you up pitch," he grumbles, and disappears into the ablution closet again to check on the pail. Okay, it's as empty as it's going to be; he sticks it in the shower stall to rinse, he's sure the janiterrorist will appreciate.

His heart is beating in his throat. Shit. Browns and greens mute his blood in odd ways and this wasn't a high-end bar, not even close -- okay, with the special lighting to wash everything up in steel shades and oddly opalescent lighter grays, he knew that anyone he picked up would be a total surprise, but.

He was in a 'fuck it all' mood yesterday, but he wasn't in that much of a 'fuck it all' mood. Hell. That was close.

"Yeah, I noticed," the guy snickers from the other room. "It was cute. I'm actually pretty confident in my stand-up routines, though, so better luck next time!"

"Oh, great," Karkat snarks as he crouches at the edge of the basin to scrub the bucket properly. "The asshole I already scored with is encouraging me to find other faults in his humongous and unfuckingwarranted ego!"

The blueblood laughs. "Well, you could get to score again."

"You weren't that much of a good fuck" shoots out of Karkat's mouth before he's even thought.

Oh, hell, that was over the line -- no, but he doesn't want a repeat, they're not drunk and glare-blinded by daylight any longer, it'd be stupid. Lethally stupid.

"That's not what you said yesterday!"

--Oh, he doesn't sound angry. Phew. Weird, but still a relief. Is the guy's hate gland broken maybe? That would explain why Karkat spent his late morning insulting his brief stage presence and his horrendous taste in music and getting nothing but snickers in return, and still got to follow him home.

Pail clean. Karkat steps into the shower stall to wipe his thighs down ultra-quick. He sees no red stains in weird places, and the sopor would have soaked them through and diluted them out of recognition as they slept in any case, but... yeah, the globs of sopor that gathered in the folds of his skin are starting to itch a bit.

"Is that another of your comedy routines?" he calls absently as he scratches at them. "I don't get how you're not a professional comedian yet with that gut-busting level of talent."

"I can do impressions too," the guy says from the ablution block's doorway -- and then as Karkat is still busy jumping to catch up to his bloodpusher, he purrs.

A hand gripping the plastic shower door, another fighting not to grab at his own chest, Karkat stares at him, at that tall, almost lanky slice of naked man -- the wide shoulders, the rare burn or rash scar, the deep night blue of his eyes in harsh motel lights, of the tip of his bulge peeking out right there between his canted hips.

The too-low pitch of his purr, the hitches and restarts would be recognizable even without the "oh, yes, oh please" that he moans through them with Karkat's own inflections.

Karkat beans him in the temple with a bottle of body wash.

"Ow!" He dodges behind the door. "You have to admit that one was pretty spot-on!"

Karkat growls. "Are you flirting pitch? Hand me that bottle back."

The guy does, arm stretched underlining his nice biceps. Even as he glances down at Karkat's body and then back up at his face, he's smiling, a bit fey, light and amused but not mocking.

Karkat can't bring himself to bean him again.

He should, he really should. Yesterday's hookup wasn't pitch or flush -- he doesn't know what it was, too rough and prodding to be fully pitch, but then there was the way he melted against Karkat's chest, kissed him slick and tender.

They're strangers. This was never about any kind of quadrant.

When he tiptoes to the plastic door of the shower stall Karkat just watches him, wordless.

He must be glaring a little, because the man stops before coming in, stares back at him quiet and serious, maybe slightly hesitant.

"Um. If you'd rather shower alone -- that is. I thought you were kidding? Because yesterday you were just as grumpy and then you tonguefucked my mouth right on the dance floor, so if this is actually grumpy then --"

It's... It's like kicking a baby barkbeast (an alien grub) no, no, don't think of that, meaningless brain glitch, no matter. He's swinging out of the stall to drag him closer by the back of the neck in a second and this is stupid, this is wrong, there's too much light in here but --

The man stumbles into his chest and laughs, incredulous. Karkat snaps the door closed behind the two of them.

"... Cozy."

"Shut the fuck up," Karkat orders in his best drill sergeant voice, though he can't meet those eyes. It helps that his chin is level with the guy's collarbone. He thumbs the body wash bottle open and pours a generous dollop into his other palm. "This is just washing. We are not fucking again in here, have you seen how stupid thin the plastic is, we'd fall through it and end up sliced to ribbons and I'm not paying for damages when I'm bleeding from a hundred plastic cuts, I need that money for my cremation in style after I kill myself from the shame."

He slaps his cold handful of cleaning goop on Mister Blueblood's chest. The asshole smiles.

"Oh ho. You said 'in here'."

"And I'm already regretting it," Karkat retorts, and kisses him briefly on the mouth to shut him up.

It's... actually oddly nice. Karkat hasn't really had a lot of one-night-stands -- doesn't like risking himself on strangers, doesn't even like risking strangers even though overwhelming odds are that they're assholes who completely deserve it, but he doesn't... The times before today were pretty much -- they didn't share a recuperacoon, didn't fall asleep with him, didn't even smile much once it was over and they were getting ready to go, and he's not sure of the protocol here. Maybe the guy thinks this has potential for something a bit more long-term?

It would explain why he's letting Karkat wash his pectorals, and humming quietly in the back of his throat.

"Back off a bit, champ," Karkat says through a sudden knot in his throat, "you're verging on pale vocalizations there, that's too much flipping for me."

God, he misses Gamzee. He misses Kanaya. He even fucking misses Terezi, and their brief attempt at pale ended with the both of them in jail. Separate, actual jails. He was lucky it was only a property damage spree and not a murder one. Then again even when pushed he's never been all that murderous.

(If you're not an alien grub, that is.)

"--I am? My moirail always makes that noise when she's cuddling up with her matesprit." A blink, and then he leans closer, his nose in Karkat's wet bangs. Karkat can see his lips curving into a smile. "Then again I'm usually sitting on her other side and playing with her hair at the time. Haha, I wonder if it gives Daevhe bulge whiplash too. That'd be hilarious."

Karkat groans (pretends he's not relieved to hear no mention of an actual concupiscent quadrant.) "Oh my god, how depraved are you. How depraved is your moirail, letting you pull that shit. That sounds positively decadent."

He receives a bright, toothy grin, and then arms wrap around him for a hug that squeezes all the breath out of his lungs. "Nah, it's only really decadent when my other moirail joins in. Decadence is just more of her thing in general."

And then he pats Karkat's ass.

Karkat stands there gaping dumbly, all the snarls and rants of the apocalypse having a forty-car pileup in the back of his throat.

"Tell me this is another hilarious joke."


"Tell me -- hey, don't thieve the soap, I wasn't done -- stop groping my ass, okay, I was trying to wash your -- hrrfgh. Hhmn."

He ends up pressing the blueblood against the cold wall of the shower as fingers squeeze and travel into his every crevice. The underside of his ass, the soft place between his thighs. The crack of his ass and then the lips of his nook, oh, shit.

"Your butt is, like, super amazing. It's like someone took troll Arnold's butt and troll Chris Hemsworth's butt and bred them for a perfect butt baby, and then added some actually realistic non-makeup grizzled scars onto it." He nuzzles Karkat's ear, fingers flitting teasingly free of Karkat's suddenly clenched thighs. "You know, I went to find you at the bar yesterday half because you were the only jerk who turned your back in the middle of my routine and half because when you did your pants went all tight at the seat, and wowza."

"That is very flattering," Karkat drones, and hides his flushed face against the moron's collarbone. "I cannot contain this level of swooning. Bodices are flying open halfway back to the homeworld, people are losing eyes to their whip-lashing laces. You even have a routine, holy thunderfuck, I assumed it was just a random collection of jokes you'd found in a box of breakfast grubs, that sounds positively professional of you."

"Pff. Man, I wish."

The fleeting moment of -- of disappointment, Karkat could ignore if he planned to get fucked again; they're strangers and nowhere near close enough to be having heartfelt, personal conversations.

If he doesn't derail things right here and now he's going to have to cull the guy in the end. But hey, at least he'll have wrung his own shameglobes dry!

"Why aren't you, then?" he asks, trying to sound non-hostile-serious with some jerk's hand still teasing the crack of his ass. "Not that I believe in your potential or anything but obviously a lot of brain-dead noodleslurpers did, shit, you hear the way they whistled? I thought I was going deaf, and the last thing I'd ever hear on this forsaken dirtball would be a joke about friggin' sugared confectioneries." A brief pause. "Granted, the quip about hatefucking the cake was at least original."

The man snorfles in his hair, sniffnodes bumping his horn, but his hand glides up the curve of his ass to rest on the small of his back, so that's a moderate success. A really depressing, bulge-blocking success.

"Oh, I..."


"Well, I kinda tried it at first -- our glorious empire always likes its troops to have high morale! There's nice job security in it if you can get the public behind you. Only..."

A little sigh; he leans back, horns clicking against the wall, crooks Karkat a not entirely convincing smile. Karkat's brows furrow; he tilts his head minutely, sits on his need to press him for an answer already, waits.

"Only the highers-up don't like it much when you make ceruleans and up the butt of a joke, unless you're, like, Church of the Hatchet, or telling it to seadwellers. In which case you can't make jokes about seadwellers either, anyway. I thought it was kind of... boring."

'Boring' is probably the least seditious way to say it.

Karkat stares at him, this indigo-blooded too-friendly son of a lich who apparently scrapped a career because he couldn't mock everyone equally in it.

Here Karkat is, with his beast-shaded blood. He briefly wonders what kind of quips would come out, before the war hammer came down.

"Not even if you're a blueblood yourself?"

"Not even," the guy confirms with a sad, sad sigh, and slumps in Karkat's arms, hugging him with loose fists pressed to Karkat's shoulder blades.

"Hands," Karkat rasps. "Waist. You don't put your hands up that chaste if you're not flirting pale, for G'lbgolyb's dark sake."

"What about your butt? Can I hug you around the butt?"

That'd put his face pretty close to -- "No."

"Heh. Anyway, if I only wanted to tell jokes to others of my caste I could probably make them about pretty much everyone I wanted but my own and purples -- fuck the fishes! Land-dwellers represent! -- but oh, man, boring. So boring. The boringest. Do you know why the rustblood crossed the road? Her neither, Alzheimer's caught up on the median strip! And then so did a truck. Ha. Hahaha. Haaaa."

Karkat catches himself patting his shoulder in sympathy. Lips pinched, he shakes his head. "That sounds like a goddamn tragedy indeed. There's literally no way you wouldn't have had a positive impact on the field of pseudo-humorous ramblings, considering the depths of the shit-pit it's mired in right now."

The other troll gives a sad sigh and squirts a line of gel right on Karkat's abs. "I know, right."

"--Cold! Jerkass. Also you seemed to handle standing before a whole block of beer-addled hornfucks looking for a reason to brawl pretty calmly, I guess, seems a bit of a shame you don't get to tempt fate more often."

The way he flashes Karkat a grin is -- unexpected, too wide and sudden and his eyes are gleaming. "Yep, a real shame for sure! And I tried to warm you up with my body, but someone here is apparently against filth and gropage!"

Karkat starts scrubbing at his sides as briskly as he can. "Listen to yourself, holy fucklemunch -- gropage? What are you, seven? You blew a load in my nook yesterday and you still can't find a higher-rated vocabulary?"

-- Ugh. Why did he remind himself. Shit. He can't help but wonder how long since the last time the other guy got to pail someone, because -- man. If he'd tried to retain it all, he doesn't think he would have managed. He has a brief, fleeting image of himself desperately trying to clench down on the man's load while blue trickles down the inside of his thigh, and then he's pressing tight against his chest so that the man can't see the questing point of Karkat's bulge. Shit. Fuck. Fucking shit. Hell. Titty-fucking globemashing shredderfuck. No, body, no, oh thank god he's a bit taller and Karkat's bulge-tip is finding a lot of nothing if he tilts his hips back a little bit.

He needs to calm things down. He tries to imagine the incongruously beautiful curve of those combat-useless horns broken, that throat open in a grotesque smile by Karkat's own sickle -- hands glide on his hips, sliding lower, no, fuck -- the look on his face the first second he sees Karkat's true shade...

"Uh. You okay? No paleo, bro, I'm just checking. You're kinda... shaky?"

I want to throw you down and ride you like I stole you, Karkat carefully doesn't say.

"Mm. Random thought."

"That gets you cuddly? You missing your moirail or something?" He giggles, the absolute douchenozzle. "I dunno if Jeydhe and Rrhoze will be jealous but the other day I walked in on Rrhoze and Daevhe having an ashen pile, so hey, their own damn fault."

"Stop talking about that utter tomfuckery that is the incestuous state of your devilgoosed quadrants," Karkat rasps, and kind of guiltily hopes that he doesn't.

"It was a two-person ashen pile," he continues cheerfully, palms flush against Karkat's hipbones. "I'd think they were hoodwinking me but they are honestly that weird about each other."

"Urgh," Karkat says, with feeling, and then blinks a little bit. "Rrhoze? Now where have I heard that name?" Rrhoze and Daevhe. Hm.

A sudden giggle-fit almost dislodges him; he takes a step back and his heel strikes the forgotten pail straight on, sending it to ricochet against the wall and into the back of his knee. His other foot slips on the slick floor.

The other troll grabs him harder, and wobbles right alongside him when it turns out that 1) Karkat is pretty much worth two square meters of brick compacted into a low-slung, troll-shaped wrecking ball, and 2) they're both braced like weak, reheated shit and their footing is hoofbeast manure of the slipperiest, wettest quality.

At least when Karkat ends up with his back and head against the other wall, standing pretty much diagonal, and being supported by the other guy's desperate hold on his hips, he forgets his bulge a little. The blueblood is bracing his forehead against Karkat's wall and his heels on the other one like he thinks he's a contortionist or some kind of monument to the glory of balloon-pushing mimes and Mykkel "Moonwalk" Jakson. It's all so ridiculous that Karkat starts laughing despite himself.

He feels around for the pail, turns it over, and drags it under his ass. "Okay, let go."

He sits on the pail (talk about depraved, oh man, he feels like Nikkee Meenaj on her slitherbeast throne) and watches appreciatively as the other asshole's now-free hands brace against the wall over his head and push him back upright. Fuck, but that's a nice body. Not as hard-used as Karkat's but the skin looks soft, too. He's built like a runner, a swimmer, with just the barest hint of pudge around his hips. It makes Karkat want to fit his hands there and yank him forward to, oh, um, he is eye level with a lot of blue junk right now.

"... Uh. What was I saying again."

"Something about Rrhoze," the guy replies, voice patient and kind and eyes positively twinkling with schadenfreude. "But it's a pretty common sort of name."

He shifts his weight from side to side, slowly. Karkat stares at the couple of inches of bulge doing their slow emergence thing between his thighs and the slick wetness of the nook underneath.

"Yeah, it is pretty common," Karkat agrees thoughtlessly, ass plopped down on his pail and a hand casually squeezing his own thigh for some reason. "--Wait, no it's not, and also you're laughing at me and therefore everything you say is bullshit."

"Yep! Like how you're giving me ideas and now I want to talk you into going down on me. Haha, what a jester I am."

He's grinning bright with all teeth out, challenging-amused. His cheeks are so dark with blood they look black, and so are the tips of his ears.

It strikes Karkat how stupidly, perfectly tousled his hair is.

"Yeah, you'd make a killing at the box office with that one," Karkat replies. His voice gets caught on something in his throat, comes out a bit raw at the edges. He clamps down as hard as he can on his bulge, but he's not going to be keeping it sheathed long.

It's a bit...

... Well. They're not flirting pitch. Letting Karkat put his teeth there is...

... Trusting, but...

... and it's not the feeling Karkat gets from him, but taking a step back, this looks like a rustblood servicing a blueblood, which is hells of not Karkat's kink. Entire and complete angelic hierarchies of hell.

The lips of the blueblood's nook are flushed and plump, wet.

Okay. Okay. He is Sarge Fucking Vantas, his whole job description is sorting out other people's logistical clusterfucks creatively so that they stay sorted. He can do this.

He slips into a crouch, presses a hand to the man's hip to pin him to the wall, grabs the bucket's handle with his other hand. Shoves the door open -- he's multitalented.

Then he throws the pail at the light grub.

"Did you just," the blueblood asks him in the dark when the pail is done rebounding off the loadgaper and clattering obscenely on the tiled floor. Karkat cuts the line of inquiry short by the simple expedient of pinning the guy's ass to the wall and pressing his own mouth to the questing tip of his bulge.

The tip is soft and small and Karkat feels the rest of it lash against his chin when he seals his mouth around it and sucks, and then it tries to ripple down his throat. He fists the base, keeping it caught as he pulls himself off the thrashing length and then swallows it down to his fist again.

"You're -- kind of crazy," the blueblood manages to say. At least it's approving, but obviously Karkat needs to step up his game. He pumps his length, grip solid around his base as more snakes out. "Mnh -- no, seriously, it's gonna be taken offfff m-my account--"

"Appreciate the blowjob you are being given entirely for free and shut up about the ceiling grub!"

The man makes a noise of protest, which turns into a gratifying moan with the application of the flat of Karkat's tongue along the underside of his bulge. Karkat lets the length slide in his fist until he's catching the tip instead and mouths the thicker base wetly, exploring the folds where it joins his body, the furrow that leads into his nook.

Hands settle on his head, cautious and light; he grunts like he doesn't care, grunts again, deeper, when they close around his horns, encasing them completely. They've grown some since he was an adolescent but the man has large palms, long fingers, and suddenly the world feels muted and soft but for the fluttering beat of his partner's heartbeat echoing through the roots of Karkat's horns.

He doesn't even tug to force Karkat's face deeper in, doesn't try to wrestle control from him; he just shifts his legs, spreads his stance, tilts his hips forward. Karkat dives in without needing any more of an invitation, eyes closed and purr-growling for all he's worth.

The blueblood is rubbing a thumb against the rounded tip of one of his horns in time with the hand Karkat has on his bulge, which is ridiculous and oddly arousing, the way the world will shiver through his awareness and then go muted-soft, go blanketed again.

It's intimate and sensual and sexy and he loves it, until he feels the man's stomach twitch with a smothered laugh. He pulls free and glares upwards, even though it's too dark to see more than a faint outline, the flash of pale yellow at his asymmetrical horn-tips. "If you can't fucking appreciate my horns then take your sweaty grasping fronds off them right this barkbeast-bungling second, you regrettable pail spill."

"Aw, no," he protests, honest-to-god chuckling, the titmongler. "I wasn't laughing at them, I just thought they were cute!"

Karkat growls.

"There, there. I'm sure the ramming power you get with these is unreal, you must leave people with bruises the size of your entire head. These are like... how'd Rrhoze say... the platonic ideal of ashen horns. Gray studliness as far as the eye can s--hehehehehe."

Yeah, so. Karkat doesn't bite his bulge -- even his legendary surliness has limits -- but he nips him in the thigh good and proper.

"How you can think it's a great idea to make jokes at the expense of my manliness when I'm face down in your genitals is something I'd love to read a whole thesis about. I'd never be bored to death when I have insomnia again, for one thing. That or never again have insomnia."

The idiot does a little shimmy against the wall and whines, the most blatantly take-pity noise Karkat has heard ever since -- a while ago. (Sollux or Terezi? Probably Sollux, Terezi's most pitiable attribute was her chronic inability to show weakness.) "Okay I love your rants they're hilarious but please put your face back on my genitals, come on come on come on."

Karkat nips him again -- lighter, but with a soft, warning growl, too, because he doesn't even want him to start thinking he can boss Karkat around. Out there they might be a rustblood in a post that's borderline over his station and a member of the nobility, but in here Karkat is choosing to do this -- or not.

He chooses to press a wet kiss to the skin he just bit, and then to glide his way up to the plump, warm lips of his nook.

"Ohgod," the blueblood whispers, and his hands come up to cup Karkat's horns again, almost shy. Proper appreciation at last! Good.

... Good.

Shit, the way the other man lets himself enjoy it, lets Karkat know he's enjoying it, it's... Nice.


He spares a hand to squeeze his own length, squeezes the blueblood's to the same tempo, tongue lapping at his folds, darting in.

The guy is giving Karkat a probably subconscious hornjob, like they're the shortest, most solid bulges ever. Karkat laughs helplessly against his nook. This is turning into a traditional greenblood group dance, only instead of shuffle-steps it's synchronized bulge-tugs.

"How come you -- can laugh -- and I can't?"

"Tonguefucking you," Karkat points out before diving back in with a purring, growling chuckle. He can feel him clenching and quivering all around his tongue, on his lips.

"Yeah, okay, that is a solid argument, I am ready to receive it."

Okay, Karkat is going to drown himself in pre-reproductive slicking juice if he doesn't stop snorting like an idiot. That'd be a death that tops anything his newbie troops have done to themselves this sweep, and there have been some interesting contenders.

"And by argument," the blueblood squeak-growls a minute or so later, "I meant your bulge!"

"Subtle hint," Karkat says, mock-admiring, and licks a last stripe from the root of his bulge to its lashing tip. His chin is streaked in night blue. He uses his hold on the guy's hips to pull himself up on his feet and then they're chest to chest, hips to hips, kissing.

They don't line up perfectly; Karkat's hips are lower and while that means his bulge pushes its way between the blueblood's thighs and finds his nook like a dream, the other guy's bulge is left searching hopelessly, trapped between their bellies. It's... still nice. It's tight inside and feelers and ridges clench down all around him, draw him deeper in, an endless wave of pressure and caresses.

Karkat can't give him a nookfull of mutant genetic material, though. Gotta make sure he comes first, so he won't mind Karkat pulling out. Finishing down the drain. God, that's a bit sordid, that's a bit...

"Lower, slide lower," he whispers against the guy's neck, and nudges his feet farther apart. Fingers tighten on his shoulders, claw-tips carefully lifted.

"Gonna slip--"

"No, 'm heavy, I can brace, I've got you. C'mon, just--"

The guy shifts his hips lower, then goes "aw, heck" and winds his thigh around Karkat's hip, and Karkat gains another inch of depth. Which is -- pretty nice, pretty -- fff, oh hell, the way his nook ripples when Karkat's bulge lashes. Karkat mouths at his shoulder, his collarbone, trying not to make a noise and only succeeding in keeping his grunts quiet.

"That's not -- not what I -- still nice, just--"

"Shh," the blueblood tells him, and grins so close Karkat can see his teeth in the dark, can even see the gleam of sweat on his skin. "I'm planning to ride you like a horse."

"I was planning a proper fuck, before you decided on acrobatics in an ablution stall!" Karkat grumbles back, but then he has two legs around his hips and is taking the guy's whole weight and holy shit.

It's oddly easy to balance, holding him. He's good at being carried. Not a skill Karkat expects lots of people to, to oh fuck that's his seedflap alright, trying to suck in the tip of Karkat's bulge.

They kiss again, slow and hungry and deep. Karkat couldn't keep from fucking his mouth with his tongue the same thorough way he's fucking his nook if he tried. He loves the slick grasp on his length and the arms tight around his back, his neck, the ankles locked like iron bars over his ass, keeping him so deep he doesn't think there's a whole half-inch of his bulge out in the cold.

"Wow, you're -- wow." The other guy laughs breathlessly in his neck, kisses his jaw with unexpected, teasing affection. It twangs in Karkat's chest.

It's been so long since he had a real matesprit, and not just a fellow bargain-bin abrasive asshole for drone season, gone as soon as the bucket is filled.

It's not going to be this guy. They didn't even bother to share names, jobs, anything personal. All Karkat knows is that he's at ease on a scene and loves to tell dumb jokes with the force and fury Karkat puts into insulting people, and doesn't like to fight, from the low number of scars on that body. (That or he finishes them all so fast they don't have any time to retaliate, but -- nah. Karkat can't even consider that seriously.)

His nook cramps with how empty it is, a deep, frustrating ache -- ticks him closer to his orgasm, but not fast, not strong enough. He rolls his hips, grinds against the frantic bulge leaving blue trails on his stomach; the guy heaves him closer so tight Karkat will have bruises in the shape of those heels.

Claws on his back, light and then not and then light again, panting in his ear and it's not enough, not quite what he needs, what he wants to give. He sways backwards--

"Hey!" the guy yelps, and lets go of his neck to grab for the walls.

"I've got you," Karkat repeats, and smoothly presses himself into a corner wet with shower spray and lets himself slide all the way down to the floor.

He predictably loses his footing about a foot off the floor and slips all the way to the tiles, ass first. The guy's nook clamps down on him like it's trying to hold him up by the bulge.

"See? You should trust me a bit more and I'm very insulted that you didn't," Karkat says. Ow, his ass. That's also going to bruise.

He spreads his knees, lets the guy's ass slide to the floor between his thighs -- he yelps, startled, it's cute -- and then they're face to face with their legs around each other, and (this is right, this is proper) it's nice. Karkat leans in to kiss him, shuddering from the base of his spine up when a blue-tipped bulge lashes like a blind, furious snail across his thigh.

"--Oh. That's -- heh."

The guy Karkat picked up on a whim in a shitty bar for a shitty hookup because Karkat's life was so shitty he might as well go for broke smiles at him in the dark, and Karkat can tell himself it looks affectionate, it looks proud.

He takes himself in hand and guides himself to Karkat's nook, and Karkat laces his fingers together behind the guy's neck, back arching on its own, legs tightening to pull him as close as he will get.

He'll just -- yes, good, he'll make the guy come inside him, and then he'll pull out of that tight highblood nook and splatter all over the floor like the kind of depraved fuck that picks up strangers, gets them to fill him up. And then they can -- they can shower in the dark, wash all the incriminating evidence away and then Karkat can leave without having to jettison that stupid, ridiculous idea that maybe they'll see each other again, maybe it will become a thing, maybe it would have, could have, maybe.

Shouldn't have stayed until evening, he thinks vaguely, fucking twice was one too many, but there are claws hooked on his shoulders and belly-deep moans shuddering their way out of the both of them in ridiculous unison. His core muscles go tight in waves, pleasure rising with every lash, every snaking coil inside him, with every tug on his bulge.

Almost, so close -- he'll pull out in a second, he will, only he's sitting in the corner with his shoulders braced by both walls and the way the blueblood rocks himself onto him -- the way his body arches, leaning back on one hand and one elbow -- he's gorgeous and there's no escape.

He comes in long, pulsing jets, hips trapped between long gorgeous thighs, he comes with a raw cry of despair and need, and then the other man's body convulses -- so full, both his gathering release and Karkat's -- and Karkat feels thick liquid gush up his nook, stretch his seed flap, stretch him inside so good and warm and full he comes again, the deeper kind.

It takes him maybe two minutes to stop shivering.

"... That was even better than yesterday," blueblood dude says from where he's sprawled, his back arched, draped across Karkat's lower legs and his head wedged uncomfortably against the wall, at an angle because he couldn't have the good fortune of having symmetrical horns.

(Instead he got complimentary ones, that echo and enhance each other's shapes somehow. A goddamn travesty.)

"Glad to hear it," Karkat grunts back, eyes cracked open to watch what he can see of him. "That'll look nice on my performance review sheet."

"Ve-ry satis-fac-tory," the blueblood says snootily, and mimes typing it down. "Commendable task-oriented behavior, though a bit rough on the dismount..."

Karkat pulls a foot free and kicks his side a little, laughing and trying not to laugh and oh god, he's so fucked. His choices are now to cull him here and now or to get dressed and stow away off the colony before his adorable dork of a hookup gets around to squatting his gorgeous ass over a pail.

He has shortish hair that looks like it might approach the heights of tousled Karkat's hair reigns supreme over, if it was allowed to grow, and long runner's legs, and he's sprawled there languid and purring and sated, trusting, and. Fuck.

Goodbye, career. What's funny is, thinking of never going back to work -- never sorting everyone's shit for them again like some kind of professional ashen dominatrix, never having superiors stuffing whole, angry behemoths up their assholes and then yelling at him until he finds a way to get the proverbial furious animals back out... never having to lead his squad into a killing field, never having to kill wigglers again --

Shit. Okay. Maybe he was a blessing in disguise.

Disguised as the blessing of a stupendous fuck, and an even rarer moment of friendly interaction with the world.

Karkat will take it.

Yeah. Okay. He'll take it.

He swallows around the knot in his throat and smiles in the dark, and picks up the showerhead to rinse the both of them off.

"--Not the face!"

"Wait, that's your face? My condolences, and here I just assumed it was a tragic acci-- hey!"

They wrestle around with the showerhead and they kiss again, furtive stolen kisses between two yells of protest, two laughs.

They end up pressed against the shower wall, belly to belly. Karkat feels full with his genetic material. It's good for now, pleasant in the way that means post-coital endorphins are getting a workout. This would probably be the best bucket of his adult life if he could hand it out.

"...This was really nice," says the blueblood eventually, with a smile that softens the words to the point where they almost don't sting. "But the grimdark mystery of shadows is kinda getting to me. I'm going to slip on the soap bottle, just you wait and see."

He drops a kiss on Karkat's nose and then pushes off him, opens the shower stall door. Karkat stays behind, eyes closed, and tries to wrap his mind around the fact that it's over.

"Okay, where's that pail... um. Wow, good going, you cracked it!"

Well, that'll be a bit of a reprieve. "Yeah, I'll give you some caegars for the repairs," he agrees tiredly, and makes himself move out. "Dunno how much they'll charge you for it but... Whatever you want."

In the sleeping block the blueblood is folding the concupiscent couch -- naked and damp, pushing the bottom with his knee until it folds onto itself with a little snap and there is space again. The side lights are on, pink and soft like Alternia's small moon. Karkat sees love bites on his shoulders, a couple of scratches.

He doesn't know how long he'd have stood here staring like a creep if his communicator hadn't beeped again.

"Holy rampaging fuckaroos, I am going to murder someone in the face. What part of 'I'm not available this weekend'--"

"Um, the part where it's probably my fault," his hookup says with a little shrug, "and also you'd better answer it."

"... What?"

He stares, but the blueblood is busy getting dressed (still full of his spunk, oh) and pointedly avoids looking at Karkat again.

He looks vaguely embarrassed. Or awkward, or something. Karkat's guts twist unpleasantly.

He snatches up the device. Four missed calls, three text messages, from the same unknown handle.

gardenGnostic: yes hello its just to tell you that i know THINGS about you sergeant vantas, very serious secret things, and if you killed my moirail and sold his horns on the black market i will tear yours off with pliers and stuff them up your wastechute! Ʃ:))))
gardenGnostic: but otherwise i hope you both had fun and it was all sexy and things. BUT REMEMBER I CAN FIND YOU.
gardenGnostic: okay its been like an hour now are you dismembering him for real?? im about to come in to check!!! if johanns alive and awake please tell him to get his butt online and if hes not, well i guess you get a head start Ʃ:/


"Your moirail seems kind of... intense," he says, rereading the messages. He would dismiss her claim that she knows things out of hand, but she knows his name and his contact info already...

Then again, she probably just asked a random soldier who happened to be stationed near his barrack and they gave her the basics. There's no way she would have found out more than that. If anyone who would talk could find more, he'd be long dead.


Johann, huh.

He's dating a greenblood? That's... nice. Makes it more likely he wasn't slumming it with Karkat, more likely that he's genuine, that he's...

Karkat is still jumping in the first cargo hold that will hide him the second he gets out, either way. He's not even sure it'll be smart to stop by his bunk to pick up his shit first.

The thought of deserting is still making him feel that stomach-churning mélange of guilt and elation. Sounds like the right decision to him.

"So she told me your name," he says with a casual shrug, and drops the communicator on the couch to pick up his underwear. "Hope you don't mind."

"Oh -- haha. ...She did?"

... Yeah. That reaction... Karkat busies himself putting on socks, stepping into his pants. Takes all his concentration. "Don't worry, I'll forget it before too long."

He didn't use Karkat's name at any point in the day they spent together. His moirail did but he didn't. It was a slip of the tongue on her part to name Karkat's hookup to him.

What did he think this was, anyway.

"Um -- so. What's your name?"

Karkat looks up, a bit too fast, a bit too angry, still bent forward to zip up his boots and his horns ready to charge him. "What the fuck is that kind of saving-face bullshit supposed to mean? It was a fucking anonymous hookup. Don't bother pretending now."

Johann's -- the blueblood's eye twitches, and he frowns. "Don't start, you're the one who brought it up."

Karkat straightens up, shirtless and fists clenched. He's still -- still carrying him inside, and all those flushed hormones, and this isn't even a caliginous flip, it's disappointment and the sad, small kind of betrayal. "I'll start any shit I want to start, and I'd like to see you fucking stop me!"

"Okay, what's wrong with you now? I asked because I want to know--"

"Like you didn't already!"

J -- the guy stares at him, incredulous, and then he rolls his eyes and even his head a little, horns angling back. The conflict falls like a soufflé. "Is that it? All Jeydhe told me yesterday was that you were clear and to go ahead."


Flushing, Karkat turns his side to him, picks up his shirt, puts it on.

"Karkat," he mutters in the cloth. "It's Karkat, and I--"

He stares at nothing for a second, trying to pin down the sudden ping that rang in a dusty corner of his brain. Johann. Did he hear that name before? Well, he's an indigoblood, those are relatively rare and usually pretty high-ranked, could have happened. Hell, his moirail is apparently used to running background checks on every single piece of anonymous nookie he picks up in back alleys, that kind of hints he's not a totally useless piece of shit.

It's just...



Karkat turns his head, suspicious. He's grinning, the infuriating saltwater enema. Oh dear Empress. Karkat is right. "Jeydhe and Johann and Rrhoze and Daevhe. As in--"

"The most gimmicky saccharine faux-goth group of pseudo-music to defecate down the Empire's hearing plates in the last five hundred sweeps?" Johann replies, and grins so hard he fucking dimples.

"Well, it's really not my kind of music," Karkat replies faintly.

Holy shit, no wonder there are so few scars on him. He's not a combatant at all, not even a reservist. Troop morale specialist -- he's a musician.

If you can call that reheated garbage music, but Karkat is digressing.

That also explains some of the nasty looks Karkat got when he left with the guy, but by then he was drunk and horny enough not to care too much. Hell yes I'm hitting that, you bottom feeders can suck it. Or not suck it, more appropriately. "... Did you go with me because I didn't recognize you?"

"It was a factor, but really your butt did most of the voting."

Oh. Man.

He's not going to be around long, then. Performers travel a lot, to wherever morale falters. (Good thing Karkat didn't get attached to the fantasy where his life didn't change apart from the bit where they became a thing.)

But he'll be around long enough to notice the color of the pail spill. To notice that a piece of sub-trollish filth tricked him into carrying around his foul joke of a genetic contribution.

People like that have a shit-ton of contacts. Karkat isn't sure he can disappear far enough.

"You okay, bro?" Johann asks, moving closer, his head tilted. Karkat stiffens all over. "Um, I didn't think you'd care that much about it..."

He wants to purr and nuzzle his face until they both release, he wants to strike him down to the floor and run, he wants --

"I'm not. I don't. It's -- I've got to go, don't touch me, fuck, shit, shitty spanglefuck, mother-loving grubdicking--"

Hands cupping his face. He rears, snarls, how dare he--

"Don't make me shoosh you, that'd be creepy as heck!" He guides Karkat to sit on the couch, which ambushes the back of his knees before Karkat can dodge. "Okay. Dude? ... Karkat? Buddy. You really need to breathe now, I'm told it's kind of useful, like, biologically. I know, it's lame and should totally be vestigial already, but we're not there yet."

"Why are you nice," Karkat whimpers through the hands he pressed to his own face. It's hard to breathe. It was hard to breathe before the hands already, mind. "Why can't you be a total bulgeknot, why are you just enough of a jerk to make it--"

Sweeter. More believable, more easy to trust in. More intriguing.

"Make it?" Johann says, encouraging, expectant.

"Make it worse," Karkat says, muffled but not enough. Johann winces minutely.

"Sorry. I didn't think you'd really care that I was in a band you don't even listen to--"

"That's not fucking it, Johann!"

"So what is it then? I'm really amazing and all, but if you want a mind-reader, you need Rrhoze."

Karkat frowns, momentarily derailed. "Isn't she the seadweller?"

"... It was a metaphor." Johann purses his (soft, tempting) lips disapprovingly. "C'mon, spit it out. I don't want it to get out that I don't treat my cylindrical receptacle compadres well, okay. If you don't care who I am--"

"Can you be any more narcissistic? Wait, let's get you the ablution block mirror to check yourself in as you answer, make sure it's your best profile--"

They're in each other's face, Johann crouched before him, knees touching his legs, both leaning forward like they're about to lock horns. Johann looks exasperated, blue eyes darkening, smiling mouth folding down at the corners. "Stop ranting already, if it's not about me--"

"It's about me, okay?!"

Karkat calms down as suddenly as he got angry.

He's said too much already. He puts a hand on Johann's shoulder, nudges him back as gently as he can, stands up. Needs his jacket, where's -- ah, there. Pretty much where he put it. The other man stays crouched on the floor, watching him, openly baffled.

Karkat can't meet his eyes. "I just -- want you to know -- I didn't, it wasn't -- to hurt or disrespect you at all. It wasn't like that. It was really nice. I liked it." (I liked you.)

Dressed now, he checks that nothing has fallen out of his pockets, and then he leans down to pick up his communicator. Johann's hand lands on his.

"Karkat," Johann says, awkward. "Karkat, buddy, I'd let you walk out of here because it's not really my business, but you're kind of shakey and you really don't look good. I'm not saying 'tell me about it' but -- I. Um. I've got the room to the end of the week, and if you wanted to hang out on the couch for a while, that'd be cool. Also it would freak me out less. Also we could make out a bit?"

He stands up slow like Karkat is a skittish wild beast (a little alien pupa, not even gendered yet, that can be tamed to your hand and then--)

"And if it's about your. Um. Okay, how to say it so you don't punch me in the face."

Karkat steals him a glance, works to make it furious, manages feral one fleeting instant and then has to look away. "I've got to go."

He sneaks out from between the man and the couch, turns to the door. The room is small, two steps and he's there, the locking plate--

"I know you've got a blood thing!"

His face goes cold, his hands; his guts are a block of ice. He has the fleeting thought that when he gets to squat over that bucket he'll shit out actual ice cubes. Hilarity. He might get a subjugglator to club him twice for that one.

"I know," Johann says, still soft but a little exasperated too, "because Jeydhe knows because she saw you with her dealer."

Karkat blinks like each of his eyelids weighs a ton. The door keeps being unpainted gray steel.

"Her... dealer?"

"Blood darkening stuff? Apparently it's a bit more common than you'd think! ... But I'm telling you because I wouldn't mind seeing you again and it's gonna be a pain if I have to, you know, wear a blindfold every time. I mean, my eyesight is pretty bad to start with so I don't like to lose it entirely."

Karkat blinks and two warm trails appear on his face. Huh. He checks on the back of his hand -- dark enough. Good.

He believes Johann, but he can't believe him, is the thing.

"A strings-instruments-operator and lead singer of a pretty well-known lyrical beatdown band has fucked-up blood?" he says, head turning a little -- not enough yet to see him, he can't make himself do that.

Johann sighs, but like he might be smiling a little. Karkat catches a movement at the corner of his vision like he might be crossing his arms. "Buddy, you said it yourself. The lead singer of a band. They'd be more surprised if she didn't have weirdo chemicals in her bloodstream."

Refuge in audacity, huh? There was a time he dreamed of having the bravery to do that. Karkat wonders what the other members have to hide, that they don't mind taking the risk with her. She has a matesprit, Johann said. Must be so nice. "Huh. Point."

A hand touches his shoulder, nudges politely. He turns around. He's not sure if Johann pulls him closer or if Karkat is the one who just faceplants into his chest.

He's the one who winds his arms around the other guy tight enough to break ribs, though.

They end up horizontal on the couch, cuddling, Karkat on top. Johann makes it a point to remind him that he's being mindful of his sensibilities by leaving a hand on one of Karkat's ass cheeks at all times.

They don't talk much more.

It's not pale. It doesn't feel pale. It feels comforting, protective, like Johann isn't about to dig into his head, make Karkat air it out, like his first concern is for the bad feelings to stop.

Karkat is still full with him and he can feel the slight pressure on his belly where their hips press together. It won't be a strain for a few more hours, though. For now it's simple, animal satisfaction. Warmth and safety and mate.

"And here I was all happy to have a good reason to walk the fuck out on my job," he muses, eyes almost closed. Johann is playing at unearthing the root of his horn from his hair. It springs back up every time he lets go. "Couldn't you be a clueless assbarnacle who wouldn't mind being pailed and left, Johann, for shame."

"Pff. Aw, but I work hard at being a clued-in assbarnacle! Are you telling me I'm not being barnacley enough? Or is it the butt part--"

"It's the fact that you're calling it a butt."

"Pff. Naughty vocabulary doesn't mean better vocabulary!"

"It totally does, you aggravating little turd-flinging pissant."

Johann chuckles at him, and then just... keeps watching him.

"It's... boring," Karkat says, blandly.

He lifts his chin and their eyes meet and he can tell Johann knows it's boring a bit in the same way that a strict diet of casteist jokes is boring.

"The only enemies we have in this sector are cowed featherbeast aliens with arrows and their wigglers. You ever fight a wiggler? It's not any kind of fight, it's just -- Just." He can't breathe. "Boring."

Johann's lips are pursed in thought, his eyebrows drawn together. "Wow, okay, that's a bit heavy. Maybe third date material, even." He gives Karkat's shoulders a squeeze, a bit rough, like he's embarrassed that he cares. Then he smiles, close-mouthed, eyes crinkling. "So hey, I figure you owe me another two! How 'bout that concert in two days, I hear the band is pretty cool--"

"If you're aged six sweeps or under and love meaningless saccharine bullshit," Karkat counters, and rests his cheek on Johann's collarbone. Bony jerk. Karkat is sort of glad he and his hard-won muscles are probably squashing him flat.

Johann was right, it's way too early to bring that to the table. (No matter that he knows about his 'blood thing' already. That's... not the same, a biological fact of Karkat's life, and it has emotional consequences but it's not nothing but emotional the way Karkat's issues with his job are.) He just... Johann doesn't care about his blood. Johann so doesn't care that he's palemates with a greenblood who needs the same kind of ... darkening... Holy shit, is she a throwback to the limebloods? That'd be mildly epic, in an "everyone who ever bought one of their albums might well get firebombed for it" way, instead of Karkat's own "not even a person" swill. Karkat tries to de-think it for a brief moment, and then decides that he'd be fucked either way and it's not like he's planning to talk, so.

Mutually assured destruction. It's so reassuring. Such sheer relief, it's like a cork has been popped and everything wants to come out.

He tells himself, past the wriggle of shame, that 'too soon' doesn't mean 'I don't ever want to hear it', that it just means 'not yet.'

He can deal with 'not yet.'

Especially if they've got a date set up.

"Not that I'm opposed to watching you squirm around sweatily on stage but... Tell me you're not introducing me to your tangle-clade."

"Of course not! Hehe." Karkat prods him. Johann blinks even more innocently. "I mean, they're probably going to run into you when we make out backstage but that won't have been planned at all. Nope. Also when Daevhe tries to do his scary badass shovel speech please don't laugh at him too hard, his feelings are delicate." A thoughtful frown. "Mind, when Rrhoze does her own talk, you had better not laugh at all, she'll have you buried under the subwoofers in three seconds flat."

Karkat sighs, tries not to be amused. "You tell me it's too early and then you shove me at those assholes. We barely know anything about each other."

"Oh hey, that's true. Hello, I'm Johann Egbhrt! I'm ten sweeps old, I play the acoustic stringed keyboard, and my dream occupation is being paid solid gold caegars to set up elaborate pie-throwing apparatuses to go off in unsuspecting jerks' faces on live camera."

"...And then run in mortal terror for your life?"

Johann sighs dreamily, and gives the ceiling a gaze of such tender longing Karkat can't help but laugh. "Yessss."

He is ridiculous. Karkat kisses the corner of his jaw, just above his soft, unprotected throat. "Hello, I'm Drill Sergeant Karkat Vantas, I'm also ten sweeps old, and my dream occupation is being paid to watch... movies." He's blushing, he can tell, blushing and feeling silly, but Johann is crooking him that little encouraging smile that just... "Romantic movies. Not that being paid to be a total badass is bad, but the ashen harem master aspect of it is a bit more awkward to receive monetary compensation for."

Johann wriggles under him. "Oh man, is it really like... all those pornos Daevhe totally didn't make me watch?"

Pffff. Well, drill sergeant is a porn trope for a reason; their whole job description is to get lazy turds to shape up, and to squash any asshole behavior that might prevent unit cohesion. Karkat has heard all the jokes and then some. "Honestly? Almost. The more physical aspects are really not as romantic as the porn makes it look, but I do have my sorting shit out itch well scratched." Not so easy to find people to sort shit out for him, which was a thing he did not even know he wanted before last sweep, but hey...

"What's your favorite shape?" Johann continues in a depressingly good reporterrorist voice, and pushes an invisible mike under Karkat's nose. Karkat nips his fingers.

"Are you three."

"Mine is a spiral!"

"I am blown away by this stunning revelation."

"Pff, mister too old and manly for fun. I don't know why that stops being a question trolls ask after a certain age! Like, why is that so much less relevant than, say, favorite food? I think we should bring back the compatible shapes as an important piece of information about a person, and now cough it up or I'll tickle you."

Siiigh. Yeah, he can see where this is going. "Squares, shut your ever-spewing bulge-holster up."

Johann predictably dissolves into braying laughter under him, which is mildly distracting and extremely pleasant. Karkat braces his elbows on the couch on both sides of his head and fits his hands around his horns to give him a shake.

"The joke writes itself. Ow!"

"I like grids! Logical, well-ordered, clean grids!"

"Oh my god you're gonna hate us so much," Johann says between snorking giggles.

"Yeah, I can tell," Karkat says. He can't wait.


"Did you know she was going to offer me a job," Karkat says later as he walks out of Rrhoze's lodge with a big "SECURITY" armband held in both hands, like it might fall into an inconvenient chasm or rampaging garbage-eating machine if he doesn't.

"Not a clue!" Johann lies to his face.

He pats Karkat's ass and takes off running. Karkat chases him.