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As a Seal Upon Thine Arm

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Rose and Kanaya direct cleanup at cross-purposes to each other until Dave says something to Rose that Tavros doesn't catch. Pretty soon Rose and Kanaya are in a quiet, intense conversation where Rose is looking up at Kanaya from just a little too close, even by human standards, and her body language is that "female sexual receptiveness" that he guesses is what humans use instead of quadrant pheromones. Kanaya herself smells red and happy, arousal curling around her so that Tavros averts his eyes.

He isn't surprised, at all, when they stop directing and just leave the room.

"Thank God, they've finally bowed to the inevitable and fucking delegated," Karkat says from beside him, more to himself than to Tavros.

"At least they haven't delegated fucking?" Tavros tries.

Karkat chirrups, glancing at him sideways. "Don't even start."


After the leftovers get put away, Tavros gets the job of taking out the trash.

"I don't think there's a plastic bag big enough to hold you," he says to Dave on the way out.

Dave props Hasa up on one hip, eyebrows unimpressed above his sunglass lenses. "I'm too fine not to recycle, but only after you've reused until you're all done with me."

"A while, then," Tavros says, thorax warm as much from Dave needing reassurance of his commitment as from the sexual reference. It's always like this: Tavros teasing him one moment, struck hot with red desire the next by how Dave's strength and sexual bravado badly mask his underlying insecurities.

Not that Tavros would ever admit he's been talking to Rose about it.

He tucks a wayward curl behind Hasa's aural flap, then heads out towards the garbage container behind the house.


When he returns, Samar and Nepeta are washing nutrition implements, Equius looking on disapprovingly while Gamzee dries, and Dave and Hasa aren't in the cooking block or in the formal dining block.

Since Nepeta seems to have everything under control, he goes outside, sees them sitting on a set of chairs on the porch. Hasa is holding Dave's camera, taking pictures of the sunset sky.

"Daddy," she says, seeing him, "look at the sky; it's all our colors."

Scarlet-bright near the horizon, fading through vermilion to shimmering pale gold. It's true enough to make him feel a little sick.

"It'll go through all the colors," Dave says, "You should wait for Terezi and Gamzee. Don't want them to feel left out."

And that's wrong too, weird and uncomfortable somehow, but he can't think why, so he doesn't say anything.

After a few more photos, Hasa slides out of her chair and moves to go back inside the house; Dave catches her before she can run off and retrieves his camera. He puts the camera on the table and comes to stand close to Tavros.

"How you holding up?"

"I'm okay."

Dave leans a hip against the deck chair. "If you just want to take a nap or something, I can take the wigglers and disappear for a bit. Hasa needs some bonding time with Bro anyway, after all the training Samar got at dinner."

"No, I'm okay," Tavros says. Dave pushes his sunglasses up, perching them on the top of his head, and rubs at one eye. The other one flutters in sympathy, at least until he stops.

Dave's the only human he knows whose eyes aren't disconcerting. They match his blood color, after all. Tavros knows they're weird by human standards and that it's part of why Dave wears sunglasses, but he finds it comforting, actually.

"You know, there wasn't dancing," Dave says finally. "I was looking forward to seeing if Rose would finally accede to the title of 'Strider' as part of her nuptials by creating a playlist that even I would have to do the kowtow of the foreign dignitary in the Forbidden City to, but she didn't. Bro and I should be going and drowning our disappointments in the Captain's firewatery embrace."

Tavros hums, and Dave puts a hand on his thorax, probably to feel the vibration, but he leaves it there even after Tavros has gone quiet again. His hand is cold through the fabric of Tavros's shirt.

"Do you want to dance?" Tavros asks finally. "Because I could probably hum something, to set the mood. How does, uh, 'Like A Virgin' sound?"

"We talkin' the troll or the human version here?" Without his sunglasses, Dave completely loses any claim at being expressionless, and his eyes are laughter-bright. "Because you know troll Madonna with her horn-tits really gets me going."

"I'll have to remember that," Tavros says. Dave steps closer, hands sliding up to Tavros's shoulders as Tavros's hands fall to his waist, tucking under his suit jacket and against the thin barrier of his shirt.

Dave's warm, here. But then when Tavros starts humming the bit that goes I made it past the culling fork, Dave makes that awkward snorting noise that is sort of like chirruping and tucks one cold hand against the back of Tavros's neck.

Tavros shivers. "Cold," he says.

"Nope. Sad to say, but being my hand-warmer comes with the marriage certificate - I mean, fair's fair, you get to use me as a pillow on movie nights."

"If I'd known it meant letting you shove your frigid extremities under my clothes, I might not have agreed."

"You have so much compassion for my frigid extremities that the frozen flesh of my hands and bended knee as I offered you a ring and legal right to my heart were the sole reasons you even considered it in the first place." Dave leans up against him, and Tavros ducks his head into the kiss Dave's offering.

Dave likes to kiss slowly, with maybe more tongue than most people would like, but Tavros likes it, likes Dave's clumsily honest insistence.

He pulls away after the first sharp bitter hint of blood in his mouth - Dave's, by the taste - and Dave rocks back onto his heels, mouth wet and cheeks flushed, eyes a brighter red even than the brilliance of the sky.

"I'm just gonna," Dave says, pushing his sunglasses back down, "make sure Samar's with Gamzee for a couple hours and Bro's looking after Hasa. Say we need to change."

Tavros's hands feel empty, still heavy with the feeling of holding Dave's hips. "I can wait until nighttime."

Dave reaches out, fingers Tavros's necktie. The brilliance of the sunset overshadows the sheen to the fabric.

"Hopefully they'll be tired out from all the adventures today and we can put 'em in the recuperacoon early."


They are not tired out. Hasa is nearly delirious with the joy of learning to stab people in the neck, and Samar is, for him, verging on hyperactive, not to mention sopping wet from washing nutrition implements.

It takes a little while to make Samar change into dry clothes, track down his plastic insect action figures from inside his guest recuperacoon, and deal with Hasa deciding she wants her racecars.

She ends up riding on Tavros's shoulders, driving a four-inch plastic Traverssailant along his horns and rumbling her thorax to simulate engine noises.

(Pretty well, too, actually. The Traverssailant is the latest roadster from Tyrian Motors, the newly-created Alternian domestic car company. Kanaya made him test-drive one earlier this week. It was a glory under him, and excluding sex with Dave, the closest he's come to riding an animal that he can commune with since he came to Earth.)

Dave stays with Samar and Hasa in the living room next to Zazzerpan's massive feet, while Tavros goes to check on Gamzee.

Gamzee is still drying nutrition implements, very industriously, and singing to himself in nonsense syllables. And with his hands full of cloth he looks - really good, really comforting, and Tavros reaches to wrap him in a hug, even though his shirt does get a little damp.

"You smell pretty heated up," Gamzee says after a moment, resting his chin on Tavros's shoulder, bony and sharp but the more pale-beloved for it. "You want me to look after the wigglers while you work it out?"

Nepeta giggles and Equius makes an angry sort of noise, covering her ears. "Must you have such blatantly intimate conversations in the presence of others who are not filling your quadrants?" he asks, snippily.

Nepeta paps Equius on the shoulder. "I think it's cute," she says. "But you should defurnitely take it to a pile somewhere else."

"Sorry," Gamzee drawls, still pressed close to Tavros. "Forget sometimes."

Tavros buries the heat in his own cheeks against the cool of Gamzee's shoulder, comforted by the smell of his makeup, and maneuvers Gamzee away, towards the living room. There, Hasa is using Dave as a makeshift racetrack for both her Traverssailant and the Trespassassin, which she must have left between the couch cushions earlier.


Dinner is, for the troll contingent, leftover red beetles and rice, plus the leftover Thai from the reception. For the humans, there's red beans and rice - much less appealing than the beetles, in Tavros's opinion - and some sort of pasta thing that John's dad fixes up, with tomatoes and spinach. He'll have to ask for the recipe before they leave.

Around the time that Samar asks to be excused from the table, Rose and Kanaya emerge from their room, freshly showered but still smelling of redrom sex pheromones despite it. Dave looks at them both in a way that reads far too easily, even with the sunglasses firmly in place, as a smug better when youre married all legal and jointly-taxed aint it, but Rose answers it with a look Tavros can't figure out.

After dinner, while the adults talk, Samar and Hasa sit in the corner of the living room playing with Rose's old My Little Ponies (some sort of insects vs. mammals war that Tavros stops dead as soon as it starts), which devolves into beating each other with seating furnishing cushions in between attempts at martial arts. Samar is, unsurprisingly, winning.

Hasa starts crying after Samar hits her square in the face, orange-red smears down her cheeks, making quiet chirrups of distress. Dave, humming to her gently - sounds like something from "Sergeantagonist Pepper's Emptied Quadrants Band" - takes her out of the room; Tavros looks at Samar and says, "You can't cull or replace siblings. Don't hurt her."

Samar blinks up at him. "I didn't do anything."

Tavros gives him the don't even try to pull that one look he somehow developed in the last few Earth sweeps. "Don't do it."

Samar goes to pout in Gamzee's lap, and Tavros sits down, Gamzee gentle beside him.

"I have pointed out to my congresspersons, multiple times, that barring ethnic Alternians from government service based on biological heritage is as ridiculous as barring women from such service," Kanaya says. "My opinions are, of course, viewed as irreparably biased."

Karkat snarls low in his thorax and leans forward in his seat on the couch. "And this despite me getting up on the fucking Senate floor and telling those hulking subintellectual pillars of protogrist that most of the trolls who immigrate to the US permanently are here because Alternia would've culled them. The last thing we want to do is sell Earth out."

"It'll die in the House," Rose says quietly.

"And if it doesn't?" Gamzee drawls, fingers combing through Samar's hair. "Hate to see the kids get told they're not as good as humans."

"If it passes the House, and the President signs it, which I feel to be a remote possibility, then the ACLU will challenge it in court," Rose says.

Samar yawns softly, so Tavros picks him up out of Gamzee's lap and takes him upstairs to the guest respiteblock where Hasa and Samar are staying.

Hasa is already curled up at the bottom of the double-wide recuperacoon and Dave is reading Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie to her - it was originally an obscure book for young readers on Alternia, but has since become a bestseller in several languages on Earth. Funny how things work out that way.

It doesn't take too long to get Samar into the recuperacoon as Dave finishes off reading the last few pages of the book to Hasa, and then Dave and Tavros leave them to sleep.

Once in the hall, Dave tilts his chin up to look at Tavros, reaches to take hold of his tie and draw him down for a kiss.

This time, Dave kisses like he's desperate but trying not to show it, shallow aloofness in the press of his mouth flipping into clutching hands and self-stifled moans as he presses against Tavros. His neediness is too bluntly endearing to resist, so when Dave murmurs, low and hoarse, into his ear, "If Rose and Kanaya are going to make me think about hot xeno lesbian married sex, I want Rose thinking about her hot slime sibling and his very own longhorn husband getting their sloppy interspecies pailing on."

Tavros hums against Dave's temple. "I'm convinced."

Dave takes hold of Tavros's tie again, walking backwards towards the door of their guest respiteblock and drawing him with. Fumbles the door open, and Tavros slides through at an angle to accommodate his horns, like usual.

"So," Dave starts, dropping his hold on Tavros's tie, but Tavros leans down to kiss him again. Draws Dave's suit jacket down his shoulders at the same time, trapping his arms.

"Kinda stuck here," Dave says against Tavros's lips, shoulders drawn back.

"Is that a problem?" Tavros presses his mouth to the spot under Dave's aural flap.

Dave breathes loudly through his cartilage nub. "You know it isn't."

He doesn't resist even after Tavros pulls the suit jacket fully off him and lets it drop onto the floor, and when Tavros presses him to lie down on the bed he stretches his arms out above his head and crosses his wrists.

He looks gorgeous, just like this, so Tavros kneels on the bed, between Dave's thighs, and presses his palm against Dave's crossed wrists to hold him in place before bending to kiss him, pulling away whenever Dave tries to deepen it.

"Cocktease," Dave breathes out after the third time, voice shadowed with hunger.

"I like 'foreplay' better."

Dave makes a hitching noise in his throat, like startled honest laughter that he hasn't quite managed to stifle. "Maybe. You haven't deliberately left me blue-balled since, what, the first time you let me blow you?"

Tavros pulls his tie off one-handed, keeping the other holding Dave's wrists in place, not that he's resisting. "The time we were, what did you call it, sex-camming, and I logged off in the middle because you said you wanted to eat me out."

Dave hums with enjoyment. "Got my wish eventually."

"Mmhm." Tavros undoes Dave's bow tie, then unbuttons his shirt.

When it's open all the way, Dave says, "Gimme a sec to take it off," so Tavros sits back and lets Dave undress while he does the same. The prosthetics are too clumsy to take pants off standing up, so he sits on the end of the bed to do it.

Tavros turns back to find Dave sitting further up on the bed, playing with the black-and-copper necktie, turning it one way and then the other to watch the color change with the light, and Tavros distracts him by sliding his sunglasses off and setting them on the nightstand.

Dave's eyes are huge, his pupils dilated; he squints at Tavros, blinking, as Tavros presses him into lying back down. Tavros reaches for both his hands, slides their fingers together. Leans over Dave to kiss him, still holding hands, and slides Dave's arms back up over his head until their knuckles brush the slats of the headboard.

Beneath him, Dave is warm and open, thorax and shoulders gone taut with the position of their arms, and Tavros pulls away to lick along the shell of his aural flap, press a kiss to the spot just behind it.

"You know how you joked about my being done with you?" he murmurs against Dave's skin.


"When you worry about breaking up," Tavros says, and kisses at his temple briefly, "and make hints about it to me," another, at the corner of his eye, "I find it," the edge of his jaw, "really," to his pulse, pounding in his neck, "really," a little lower, near his vocal manifold protrusion, "hot," and Tavros slides forward, still sitting on Dave. He keeps Dave's hands in place with only one of his own, takes up the necktie, and uses it to secure both of Dave's hands to the headboard.

Dave shifts his wrists, testing the knot, then relaxes. Tavros deliberately made it tight enough to hold if Dave wants to stay, but loose enough that he can get out if he wants.

Instead, Dave says, "I've got a face full of alien wing-wong and it doesn't look too interested to me."

"Patience." Tavros reaches down and cups Dave's jaw, pressing the pad of his thumb to Dave's lips. Dave opens to him, licking his thumb, mouth warm and wet, and Tavros's bulge starts to unsheathe, watching him. Thinking about sliding into Dave's mouth, how it'll feel.

Dave's chest is warm beneath him, its rise and fall made shallow by Tavros's weight resting on it.

Tavros is too close to kiss him, so instead he draws his thumb out of Dave's mouth, spit-slick and warm, and slides forward, pressing his bulge gentle to Dave's lips.

Dave opens for him, slow and shallow, eyes closed. When they were still new to each other, Tavros would ask for Dave to keep his eyes open, but Dave feels more comfortable like this. Concentrating, and learning Tavros's pleasure through the sounds of his breath, the flexing of his muscles against Dave's skin.

Tavros slides a little deeper, not much, no more than Dave can take, and hitches a little into it, then pulls out. Listens to Dave breathe, fast and shallow, for a few moments, and presses back in.

He's not in any hurry - can't be, really. The neural bypass isn't a perfect replacement for a continuous spine, and it doesn't convey the full scope of natural sensations. He thinks. He doesn't remember what sensation below the waist felt like before he was paralyzed. Certainly he doesn't feel a hand on his hip the way he does one on his shoulder, though as he and Dave have learned each other, sex has grown smoother between them.

This time, when he pulls out, there are trails of orange-tinted spit around Dave's mouth, and Dave licks at the ones his tongue can reach, lips gone red and wet.

He opens his eyes, and Tavros reaches down, cradles his head, gazes at him, feeling overwhelmed by the curving shape of his eyes, the arch of his cartilage nub, the lines growing in his forehead with age. Human, and fragile, and deeper and more unsteady than he likes to let show.

Dave slides a hand out of the knot and folds his fingers around Tavros's wrist, just holding. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I just," he holds in the um, "wanted to look at you."

"Still pretty enough for you?" Dave flutters his eyelashes, tilting his head to the side as he lets go of Tavros's wrist and sneaks his hand back into the tie on the headboard.

Tavros brushes his fingertips along Dave's cheekbone, his thorax heavy with fondness, and can't think of anything to say.

Dave's lips, still red and wet, part around him, and this time Tavros shifts deeper from the beginning, listening to Dave breathe through his cartilage nub. Enjoying it.

The bedsheet wrinkles under his hands, which are pressed into the mattress, holding some of his weight so he doesn't make Dave choke. And Dave's wrists are wrapped into the fabric, twisting himself into it until Tavros will have to untie the knot to free him . Tavros shifts away, making things shallower between them, then rocks in, deeper.

Dave makes a soft noise of pleasure that runs like a caress across Tavros's skin, driving him to a soft deepening shift into Dave's mouth. Tavros pulls half-out, rests there a moment, then fully out, and Dave's eyes open, hazy, pupils wide from the darkness behind his lids. Wanting, feeling empty now.

Tavros shifts down Dave's body a little, to give himself room, and kisses at the exposed inside of one of Dave's wrists, the dip of his elbow, the folds of skin bunching at his shoulder from the position. His hip brushes against Dave's bulge and Dave shudders, thrusting up against him.

"Trying to wait for you," Dave says, breathing heavily, "but the Libido Train is running as an express tonight."

"You don't need to." There's a pleasure to be had in watching Dave get lost in his own body while Tavros still has the presence of mind to take in the sight of him.

Dave laughs, more of a gasp. "Gonna put the brakes on me?"

He could make Dave go cold, flat, unaroused, if he wanted. Could draw down some of his urgency, help him last. But Tavros doesn't like to commune with humans. There are too many parts, all of them fragile, and every time he reaches into Dave's mind and alters emotions or thoughts, he worries that he'll break something.

"I'd rather ride it," Tavros says, and when Dave rocks up against him, he grinds down to meet it, dropping into Dave's mind, letting Dave's arousal fill his thoughts - the heat of each other's presence, the urgency. His whole body prickles with lightheaded awareness, sharing Dave's arousal. It doesn't fit his body, but the depth of it, spreading tight under his skin, is enough.

Dave's mouth, opening under his own, tastes of salt and flushed musk, dark and deepening, and Tavros sinks down onto him, their bodies jarring together.

Dave gasps around his tongue, and Tavros holds him, curling shallow in his mind, hot with the intimacy and the restraint of his self-imposed look-don't-touch, skin to skin and Tavros's bulge sliding slick and warm against Dave's as they move together.

He senses the shift of Dave's thoughts, knows what's coming before Dave turns his head and uses the taut muscles of his shoulder to muffle, "Don't let... me come, I can't," but Tavros doesn't, lets it happen, lets himself be washed through with Dave's pleasure. Holds tight to himself, drowning with wanting.

Dave's panting beneath him, tension shivering its way out of his muscles, slickness between their bodies. Tavros kisses softly at Dave's cheek, then again at the corner of his jaw, and reaches to the nightstand for the lubricant.

"Fuck," Dave says, drawing one knee up. "Fuck, yes, do it."

Tavros curls the fingers of his free hand around Dave's waist. "No, I meant," he reaches to stroke at the inside of Dave's thigh, "here, not..."

Dave straightens his knee, leg sliding back down. "Yeah," he says, voice thick, and Tavros folds back into kneeling, opens the lubricant. Squeezes out some onto his hand, then reaches to slick up Dave's thigh.

Dave tenses, probably from the cold, but Tavros lies back down, covering Dave's body with his own, pressing his bulge between Dave's thighs. Feeling the heat of him, and working himself slowly, face pressed against the bunching muscles of Dave's shoulder. Just breathing, feeling him, warm and aching.

Dave tilts his head, resting his cheek against Tavros's. "I want to touch you," he says, soft and desperate.

Tavros bites his shoulder, light enough to keep from hurting him. "No. Stay."

Dave shifts slightly, the space between his thighs tightening, and Tavros gasps into his skin, blood coming faster and the muscles of his nook, slick and open with arousal, beginning to tighten. He wraps his arms around Dave, curling him close, and tilts his head just enough to kiss under Dave's aural flap. Dave turns to kiss him open-mouthed, wet and warm and still tasting of Tavros himself until he pulls away and murmurs into Tavros's ear, "What about the bucket, or are you just going to come on me?"

Tavros shudders, thrusting, tight and hot and still touching Dave's mind, feeling his openness. As much as he likes the sight of Dave sticky-orange and owned, this isn't their bed, so he slides free of Dave's body, takes the bucket from under the bed, and sets it between Dave's thighs as he kneels in front of it, beginning to stroke himself.

Dave rocks down onto it, once, and his breath deepens. "There's an idea," Dave says, "let's hump the bucket next time."

Which is of course not an uncommon kink for trolls, and Tavros had never thought that it was one he had, but the thought of watching the light flicker off the metal onto Dave's skin, Dave's bulge smearing damply across the surface to match the orange wetness of Tavros's arousal as they rock together, against each other and against the bucket, makes him gasp, tensing as he comes.

Once the last few drops have fallen into the bucket, Dave says, "That idea good for you?"

"Good enough to want to watch you do it." Tavros sets the bucket aside so they don't knock it over, then returns to run his palm up the side of Dave's thorax, kneeling beside him and reaching to untie the knot holding his wrists.

"Won't even make you type in a credit card number first." The corner of Dave's mouth pulls up into a smile as he brings his arms down to stretch them across his chest, tilts his head to either side to crack his neck.


"Gotta get a leg up on the competition somehow. Bath?"

"If you mean together." Tavros gets off the bed, takes the bucket into the ensuite and pours it out into the ablution trap, watching it spill down in rivulets of pale orange on the white ceramic. Even after the changes Feferi instituted, it still feels like an immoral waste of genetic material.

Dave walks up behind him, wraps his arms around Tavros's waist, and presses his cheek against the back of Tavros's neck. "You going to take the robolegs off before you get in?"

"Yeah," Tavros says, and rests his hands over Dave's.