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Gone, but I don't know where

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Only Rose and Kanaya were on time.

It would have looked bad if they were late; the meeting was, after all, their idea. Who else would have thought this a good idea?

Soon enough, the denizens of Can Town wandered in and sat down.

Now all they had to do was wait for the psychopath. "Not to mention Gamzee,” Dave said. Even Rose grinned at that.

As usual, they heard Karkat long before he entered the room. "This has to be Kanaya's doing! Maybe Rose isn’t putting out often enough to keep her distracted? Anyway, there’s the stench of her unique brand of nook-rasping fussing and meddling from a mile off! If she had her way, she'd auspicitize every single one of our pathetic flabby asses."

He stopped on the threshold, fists on his hips, a snarl in his throat. Gamzee was huddled behind him, hunched down and obscured in the shadows. His long claws, filthy with streaks of color, dug into Karkat's shoulders.

"Of course I would. Except for Makara," Kanaya said, her voice was low and dangerous. At the same time, Rose said, addressing Karkat, "That would be the point, yes."

"No weapons allowed, right?" Karkat asked, eyes narrowed. "That goes for everyone."

"Nope!" Terezi waved from the far corner. "I got them all!"

"Great, just what we need. Let’s give the crazy blind girl all the deadly weapons. This is gonna end well."

She clapped her hands. "Lemon sorbet sickle. Gimme. *Now*."

"Don't lick the edge, you'll --. Whatever, have fun." Karkat tossed it over, then sat down heavily. "Gang's all here, my blood-pusher's just *enlarging* at the sight."

Rose smoothed her tunic over her lap before saying, "I just wanted to thank you all for coming."

"Like we've got anything better to do? Fondle some horrorterrors? Wait for another nightmare bubble where Egbert's shacking up with fucking Ampora?" Karkat folded his arms. ”So what do you have to say that a memo couldn’t cover?”

”As fascinating from both a psychological and quantum-physical perspective as memos can be, especially when your various selves join us, I thought it would be more...*straightforward* to hash everything out in person,” Rose said. ”Face to face to face, as it were.”

”Hash what out?” As he spoke, Karkat jabbed his finger at each subject - Kanaya, Gamzee, Dave, Terezi, Rose - in turn. ”He wants to trip face, she wants to kill him, he wants to get...*licked* by her, she wants to lick him, you *are* getting licked, but by her. That about cover it?"

Turning her head away, Kanaya closed her eyes. Terezi hooted with laughter. Rose and Dave exchanged a look that no one could read.

Then it was just deadly quiet.

”And they say I’m the douche,” Dave said.

”We need to discuss interpersonal relations.” Kanaya had her arms crossed tightly over her chest. ”Perhaps draft some rules of etiquette and good behavior.”

"Sounds pretty fascist," Dave commented.

"Yeah!" Terezi said. When she caught Dave and Rose's startled expressions, she smiled even more widely. "Yay, fascist!"

"The fuck is he doing?" Karkat pointed at the Mayor, who knelt beside Terezi and scribbled on the floor. His sharp little tongue poked out with concentration.

"The Mayor will be taking the minutes," Rose said.

The Mayor looked up, nodding enthusiastically.

"He doesn't even know all his letters!"

Insulted, the Mayor tried to jump at Karkat, his free hand clawing at empty air, only to be restrained by Terezi.

"Well," Dave said as he folded his legs up lotus-style, "this is going great."

"Perhaps we could go around in a circle and each suggest one guideline --"

"Rule," Karkat put in.

"Law!" Terezi suggested.

"honk."

"*Guideline*," Kanaya continued, "that we would appreciate the others following. Terezi, why don't you start?"

Terezi tilted her head and licked her lips, thinking. "Everyone should wear tasty colors. Bright ones! Like Rose!"

Karkat and Dave snorted; when each realized they were in agreement, he clamped his mouth shut. Their jaws tightened identically.

Terezi tilted her head the other way, then feinted for Dave before pulling back. "Other than that, I'm good."

"Thank you," Kanaya said. "As for my wish, I would appreciate a designation of some sort of official quiet hours. Some of you insist on making noise --"

"Your noise is my music," Dave said. "And, sister, my music is ill."

Kanaya nodded. "Precisely. At all hours, there is your music, Karkat's voice..."

"Makes it pretty hard to hunt clowns, amirite?" Terezi put in. She offered her palm for a high-five, but Kanaya shuddered.

Karkat bared his teeth before saying, "Okay, my rule --"

"Not your turn, shrimpy. The first rule of meteor club is: Don't touch my fucking cape." Dave's expression remained unwavering as he spoke, but the heat in his tone kicked up his usual drawl from Wilson brother right into McConnaughey territory. Terezi was scooting over, not very stealthily, and poking her cane to close the gap and tug the cape within licking range. In half a heartbeat, Dave was across the room, settling down next to Rose, his cape swirling around him. "Next?"

Rose straightened up and took a deep breath. "While I would *like* to request an embargo on threats of violence, including but not limited to death, maiming, and grievous bodily harm --"

"That's the same thing, though," Dave said.

"Yeah," Karkat said, cheeks darkening with incipient rage. "What the fuck, Lalonde?"

"It's true!" Terezi said, reaching for the hem of Rose's tunic and succeeding in only smearing the latest minutes. The Mayor pushed her away. Over his shoulder, she shouted, "Maiming and bodily harm! Same diff!"

"That is nonsense." Rose tucked her hair back behind her ear. "There are all sorts of examples of grievous bodily harm that do not involve --. No. No, I am not getting involved in yet another round of this sort of grisly semantic hairsplitting. You're all like Torquemada of connotations." Before Kanaya could open her mouth, Rose patted her leg. "I'll explain later. Teal deer: the male, Catholic Legislacerator."

"More like the Subjug --" Dave started, but Karkat threw the box of chalk at him, hissing for him to shut up.

"Seems kind of human-centric." Dave switched gears smoothly, tapping out a piece of chalk and rolling it across the circle to the Mayor. "Troll culture's founded on threats of violence, violence-violence, and making violent good on threats of violence. It's kind of the whole schtick."

Terezi pointed at Dave. "He's right."

"Is my cultural insensitivity truly an issue for you?" Rose asked, sweet as arsenic.

"Nah," Dave admitted. His shrug was an elegant shorthand for the full gesture. "Not for nothing, just saying."

"Is it my turn yet? No, fuck asking. It's my turn now, so sit back and shut your gaping speech-orifices, because --"

Rose held up her hand and, despite himself, Karkat's mouth snapped shut. "I tried to say that while I would like to request such an embargo, I admit -- not without disappointment -- that I am resigned to matters being otherwise. Therefore --"

"FUCK WAITING FOR A TURN." Karkat was on his feet again, looking around wildly, as if for an exit, an escape, even an ally. "Turns suck! No more rules. No more tiny little wrigglers' first feelings jam hosted by the Seer with No Heart and the Insufferable Coolkid Douche Knight."

"Karkat," Kanaya said. Standing, she reached for him, but he ducked free. "Karkat, please."

For a moment, everything bled out into chaos. Karkat dashed right, then left, then seemed to remember he should have been shielding Gamzee, so he ran backwards. He tripped over and tumbled across her lap. She shoved him off and he rolled across the Mayor's minutes, coming to a stop in front of Terezi, who clearly believed this to be a great game, because she spun him by the arm before pushing him, bulge-first, across the circle toward Kanaya again.

"h-o-n-k."

The chaos snapped back into clarity as they turned, as one, toward the dark recess occupied by Gamzee.

When he spoke, his voice was raspy from disuse and god knew what else. "Reckon we could all do with a little more motherfuckin' quiet and respect."

In the silence that followed, they looked at their feet, then at each other, then at nothing at all, everyone half-hoping someone else would speak and half-dreading that they would.

The Mayor skittered across the floor and dug under Karkat to retrieve a piece of purple chalk. He held it up, triumphant, passed to Terezi for their traditional anointing lick ("Grape, yum!"), then knelt back down to add to the minutes.

"I'm going to go ahead and second John Wayne Gacy's emotion," Dave said.

Gamzee had already melted away.

Rose slumped against the wall and pinched the bridge of her nose. "So we'll all be --"

"Nicey-nice and tiptoe quiet and sweet as fucking motherframe bee queens swimming in grub gruel, yeah," Karkat said. "That what you want to hear?"

"No," Rose said. "That would be a lie."

"But a delicious one, with lots of layers and buttercream and fondant and marzipan," Terezi said, not unkindly. "And gummi bears."

"You have troll gummi bears?" Rose asked.

"No," Kanaya said. "You eat bears?"

"And this," Rose announced to no one in particular, but the room at large, "is why we needed ground rules and guidelines."

Dave gave her a thumb's up.

"Could've gone worse," Karkat said, sliding down the wall to sit next to Rose. "A lot worse."

 

[end]