You got a couple different kinds of hunting you do, keeping your tiny cohort in good shape. You try to switch up, not get in patterns, because a troll who ain't got no collar and tags is a troll who has to be motherfucking careful how he steps.
And fuck if your traitorous paws ain't got their own ideas. You're up and halfway across town to that lady with the 'nip toys before you motherfucking catch yourself and turn around. You got enough of that stuff to be getting on, and you know if you come around too often she'd be all up and happy to call somebody to pick you up for your own motherfucking good. Can't let her think you're too desperate.
Dumpsters get a pretty good haul out behind some of the restaurants downtown, the ones where they really only got a thin little wire holding the flap shut. It maybe don't feel so good, tearing those motherfuckers loose, but you can do it, and they're all up and full of delicious surprises. You gotta go pretty late at night for that, though, if you don't want to run into some law-abiding citizen telling you to cut it the fuck out, or some pack of drunk male humans looking to show off for each other by fighting something. (That only happened the once. You still avoid the fuck out of that part of town.)
While your head's all pondering how good an idea those dumpsters are, your feet have gone and voted for another option all together. You're headed on over to see these guys you know, up in one of them big beehive-looking apartment things. A big troll who's good at climbing, like you, can get on up the creaky fire ladder up the back of the building, and if you rap-pap-pap on the window those brothers will up and let you in. Let you back out again, too, that's the real miracle.
You haul your bad self on up there and peer on in through the window to see what all they got going on. It is a right motherfucking circus in the Strider brothers' kitchen tonight. Looks like they got a new troll visitor, all crouched up tiny under the kitchen table, bundled up tight with just the sharp end of a little pigsticker pointing out from his blanket. You don't see Solbro nowhere, but both Striders are all up in there, little one keeping Rezi from going after the new kid, big one trying to be non-threatening and all motherfucking reasonable down on the floor.
Maybe this ain't the best time to be imposing on a brother's charity, you figure. They got some motherfucking juggling to do without you even saying a first word.
Little one sees you watching, though, says something about it that you can't hear through the glass. His bro gets up and comes to slide the window up. "Hey, Gamzee," motherfucker says, and you share a fistbump with him to say hi. "We got a no sudden moves and no loud noises rule going on tonight, you chill?"
"I am the chillest of chill motherfuckers," you promise, and he steps back to let you inside.
You plunk down on the cracked plasticky floor and shrug your backpack off, and then you sink into a crouch so you can get a look at the new guy. Little motherfucker hisses at you when you look at him, and he's got the brightest red eyes you ever saw. Something in your bloodpusher up and rolls right the fuck over, not quite like how it went when you saw Tavbro for the first time but just as hard.
"No fights in the house, remember," Strider says from someplace way up there. You wave the words off. Like you could all be fighting with anyone that made you feel like this.
"We're cool, brother," you promise. You get right down on the floor, on your back, looking up at the kid as best you can. You splay your hands out so he can see they're empty, and then you fire up your rattlebox so he can hear your hum. It's a little weird doing that in front of the humans, but by now you don't think they're dumb enough to come rub your belly their own selves.
Your sad little miracle stares at you from under the table for a minute, like he don't know what all to do with you, and then that poor little motherfucker starts to cry. Your bloodpusher ties itself in knots. The top note in your hum pushes to the front of the sound, a little croon of let me look after you.
"I can't remember how to do that," he tells you. His voice is all creaky and scratchy, like he motherfucking screamed himself right out.
"Ain't no hurry," you tell him. Your hum gets all into your voice, gives it a case of the wobbles. "You feel it when you feel it, and that kind of righteous noise will up and make itself when it's time."
Sad little brother sniffles and tries to glare at you. "You're an idiot," he says.
You bust out laughing, but you try to keep it quiet on account of he's still holding that little knife he probably got out of a kitchen drawer, and you don't want him to go all panicky with it. "I guess maybe I've been told that a time or two."
He sniffs again and maybe looks just a little bit like he'd smile if he weren't holding onto his guard like that. "Well, whoever told you was right."
"I'm Gamzee," you tell him. "You got a lot of idiot motherfuckers to keep straight, yeah? So I better be up and having a label of my own."
"At least you're a considerate idiot, I guess," he says. "'m Karkat." Then he reaches out and puts one hot little paw on yours and just lets it stay there, even when your thumb gets to wandering over his knuckles.
The two of you sit there for a while like that, and you keep up your hum, while the Striders fuck around in the kitchen and step over you on their way to doing whatever. Place gets to smelling pretty fine after a bit.
Strider crouches down and peeks under the table at the pair of you, cocked head and pointy shades. "We're about to have dinner, FYI," he says. "If you guys want to come out of there, you can help yourselves."
You squeeze Karkat's hand a little. "What d'you think, brother? I could be all murdering whatever that is smelling so good."
"I don't believe you could murder a rabbit," Karkat says, but he starts to wiggle on out of there.
"Shit, no," you agree. "Cute little things ain't done nothing to me, and they're too bitty even to make a good meal."
"Idiot," Karkat says. He don't sound all up and ready to start crying anymore, and that does you good right down to your bones. He leaves the knife and the blanket behind, and that does you even better. When the both of you get standing up, he comes up a little short of your shoulders, and he maybe glares at you and puffs up a little like you done that on purpose, but you don't pay that no mind. There's plates on the counter and one of them basket things full of pasta in the sink, and a pot of red sauce to go on it, and free easy food is a miracle you don't ever want to turn down.
Seems like the whole motherfucking house agrees with you on that one. Even Sollux shows up out of wherever he was hiding to sit next to Strider all knees and elbows and dedicated little munching fangs. Terezi gets all up in Dave's business and eats about half her dinner off his fork, giggling about it every time he tries to tell her to get her own and then turns out not to mean it. Karkat makes sure to keep you between him and everyone else, but they act like they ain't even noticed his bad manners. Like this you can kind of see how having a bigger cohort could be nice, a whole little crew of brothers and sisters to call your own. It'd be you and—
You are one stupid forgetful motherfucker. "Shit, you guys, I hate to fucking eat and run, but I gotta get my sorry ass home," you say.
"What?" Karkat says, grabbing your shirt. "Fuck you, no. You need to stay."
You're kind of a terrible motherfucker right now and you know it: there's no way not to be. "Naw, bro, I got somebody waiting for me," you explain, putting your hand on his. "Little dude ain't got nobody but me, and you got this whole motherfucking crew to watch your back."
Karkat shakes his head urgently. "Don't leave me with the humans," he whispers, so quiet you barely hear him.
You try to think fast, and this is the part where you're really glad you ain't had a whole bag of 'nip to keep you company tonight. "Little sister, think you could come and drop some wicked sage advice on me over here?"
Terezi slides off Dave's lap and comes sauntering over, showing off all her shark teeth. You keep holding Karkat's hand, and he goes tense as she gets closer. "Wicked sage advice is our specialty," she says. "How can we be of assistance this evening?"
"I got to be all heading back to take care of my little bro," you explain, "but I ain't got any kind of good feelings about walking away from this brother right here. You got any good thoughts on how I could be sure he's gonna stay all safe till I can get back here?"
"Are you asking me if I'm taking my duties seriously as leader of this cohort?" Terezi says to you, all sweet like. "I'm offended that you would need to ask the question!" She tilts her head in Karkat's direction and lowers her voice. "I won't let anyone hurt you in my house, you know."
Karkat looks like it hurts him to hear it, the poor motherfucker. "It's the humans' house," he rasps.
Terezi cackles. "That's what they think!" She reaches out to him like her blindness ain't even a thing, cups his face in her hands easy as breathing. His eyes go big and round but he holds still, and she leans in real close. "I mean it," she tells him, soft and sweet as lovers. "If anyone tries to hurt you here, I will make them pay."
You can tell just looking, ain't nobody ever said a thing like that to Karkat before. He opens his mouth and then doesn't say a motherfucking thing, just shuts it again and blinks some more.
"There, see?" You smile at Karkat's confused adorable face, and you'd lay a motherfucking hug on him if he'd let you, but it ain't time for that particular miracle just yet. "This fine sister gonna take good care of you till I come back."
"You're coming back?" Karkat says, and the look on his face turns you right inside out. "You promise?"
"Hell yes," you tell him. "Hell fucking yes." You smile. "These motherfuckers can't get rid of me."
"You're a one-troll cockroach infestation," Dave says, getting up from the couch himself, cause he knows a motherfucking cue when he hears one. "Come on, mister miracles, let's go pack a lunch for your imaginary girlfriend."