“Kar, do you ever think about how we’re all gonna die without havin’ ever come within scrapin’ distance of a pail?”
Karkat shifted his head on the pile of wands they were currently perched on to look at the troll lying beside him. The movement resulted in him nearly poking out an eye on an errant magic stick. He cursed and wrenched it from the heap before flinging it off into a far corner of the tiny spare room.
“Hey, fuckin’ watch what you’re doin’ with those,” Eridan snapped, pushing himself up onto his elbows to give Karkat a proper glower. “They’re all rare artifacts procured via countless life-threatenin’ sessions of extreme role-playin’ and I have fuckin’ led you to this mother lode a fiction spewin’ riches outta the goodness a my collapsin’ and expandin’ bladder based aquatic vascular system. I didn’t have to show you to this room, especially considerin’ it’s one a the few places left in this metal shit-hive still untouched by the likes a you dirt-scrapin’ morons. But I led you here anyway since you wanted some place to talk in private. So I expect proper respect to be shown to my belongin’s even if they have no real worth as weapons or any sorta useful object seein’ as I know better than anyone how fuckin’ bullshit magic is.”
Karkat glared right back before picking up another wand jabbing into his side and whipping it across the room as well. “The reason I wanted a private location is because I don’t want to be seen associating with you more than I can fucking help. Also, you were the one that wanted to talk, jackass. So how about you glue your gaping protein orifice back on your face and actually make the fucking point you’ve been sharpening against your rock-hard spine bulge? I’m quivering with the anticipated joy of having it shoved up my tender and unsuspecting seed flap.”
Eridan stared at the wand Karkat had thrown as it bounced over the tile and rolled against the wall. He crossed his arms over his chest. “If you’re askin’ me to say what it was I was anglin’ to say, then I’m already leagues ahead a you, Kar.”
The remark earned Eridan a series of slow, incredulous blinks. “Whoa, hang on. Hold the fucking trans-communicative device here. It sounds like you said you already made the point you were trying to make.”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I said.” Arms still folded, Eridan settled back in the wand pile with a satisfied creak. As if he had driven his retort home with stunning loquacity.
Karkat was stunned all right.
“Wait,” he said, lifting himself off the pile to meet Eridan’s triumphant gaze with an incredulous stare. “So you’re saying that you came up to me bemoaning some fucking existential plight or another, the likes of which you happen to endure on an hourly fucking basis I might add, and I agreed like the compliant fucking bulgestain that I am to help you sort out your shit. And you’re telling me now that the shit that needs to be sorted is some fucking quandary on the status of your mating potential? Like, are you being fucking serious right now? Please tell me that you’re not, and that this is all some really shitty pass at being ironic or something, because I can honestly not even fathom the level of stupidity you just reached with that sentiment. It’s like you plumb the vast depths of Ignoramus Ocean and just keep fucking going once you hit the sea floor until you break through and incinerate yourself on pure molten retardation.”
Eridan’s mask of self-satisfaction seemed to have been shattered. He recoiled slightly, staring up at Karkat like some lusus-beaten wriggler. “Fuck, Kar, you’re makin’ it out like I just went and asked the most unconscionable question ever. If you’d just take the time to fuckin’ clean out your dirt-clotted auditory canals instead a workin’ yourself into a froth, you’d realize that this is a perfectly legitimate concern.”
Karkat sank back into the wands, trying to ignore the one digging between his ribs. He eyed Eridan. “Legitimate how?”
“What, no drawn out reply? Fuck, Kar, I thought we had a pretty good verbal volley goin’ on there.” Eridan’s expression was smug.
He earned a middle finger for it. “I’m trying to get to the point, asspan, not engage in a fucking game of douche-Pong with you. Now make some forward conversational progress or consider your shitty wand pile vacated by my ass.”
Eridan’s coy look vanished to be replaced with one of serious calculation. As if he was trying to sort out the sincerity of Karkat’s threat. At last he sighed and looked away, leaning back against his wands as if they were made of cluckbeast down instead of plastic and wood. “All right, well, as far as the issue a pailin’ is concerned, I figure I got an honest fuckin’ duty to be worried, seein’ as the fate of our entire race now depends on the twelve of us gettin’ on and eventually procreatin’. For the sake a the species, you know?”
Karkat rewarded him with a hollow bark of laughter. “Yeah, except we are minus all of the one Mother Grub we need to successfully breed any of the genetic slop we manage to scrape off our sad, flaccid bone bulges. So nice try, asshole, but unless you’re intent on carrying around a punctured nutrition basin of logic, I know that’s not the real reason you’re concerned about dying before you touch a pail.”
Eridan at least had the decency to look indignant. “That is an astonishin’ accusation Kar—”
“But astonishingly true,” Karkat snapped. “You are an idiot, but you wouldn’t forget a detail that large, especially not when you spend most of your time picking out the most inconsequential shit to get upset over.”
“Well maybe I was just thinking in terms a hypotheticals, Kar, you have no real idea about the depths a profundity to which my thoughts routinely sink.”
“Do I need to bring up Ignoramus Ocean again?” Karkat asked, holding out a hand as if his previous analogy rested there. Eridan blinked at his empty palm before Karkat withdrew it and sank back into the wands. “Anyway, if this really is your topic of choice, then just get on with it and stop waltzing around some bullshit pretense about preserving the race. You want to talk about pailing, fuck, go for it. At least it will be talking about something as opposed to just talking about talking about something. Then I can feel like I’m not completely wasting my time here.”
Eridan lowered his gaze, his hands drifting to the tail of his scarf and beginning to twist. “Well, it’s not like you’ve never thought of it either, I mean, I’m sure all of us have.”
Karkat shrugged. “Sure, out of necessity maybe. Since we kind of get ripped apart by drones if we don’t fulfill our procreative duties.”
“I mean outside a that,” Eridan snapped as if Karkat was being purposefully idiotic. “I know you had your prongs full with all your up-jumped leadin’ business, but I spent most a that whole fuckin’ game on my own.”
Karkat put his face in his hands. “And here we go.”
“It was really hard, Kar, what I had to deal with. I know you can’t possibly understand because you and everyone else got fuckin’ harmless shit to handle and if I had gotten a land as pants-wettingly simple as all that, I probably would’ve had a lot a time to lead as well, had I ever gotten it my mind to want to tote around a bunch a land-lickin’ morons. But instead I had to spend every minute of every hour fightin’ for my life out there. And without anyone to lend me a fin or prong or whatever sorta limb they had available, it got to be really lonely. And I kinda started to wonder, like, yeah I got my god weapon and all a that, but what if I don’t fuckin’ make it? So I got to thinkin’ about all the shit I’d never done and all the aspirations I’d had and never lived up to and I guess I’d just expected a lot more outta myself at this point, bein’ six sweeps and everything. My entire existence has been a pretty astonishin’ disappointment so far and I don’t have the means to really make it better.”
Karkat’s expression had melted into a resin mask. He picked at a wand near his elbow. “I thought you wanted to talk about buckets.”
“I’m gettin’ to that,” Eridan replied. “Anyway, I just sorta thought that, you know, with how well all my quadrant fillin’ was goin’ before, it would just be a matter a course until that happened for me. The pailin’, I mean. So I never really thought about it because I assumed I was on the right current with all a that. But after what happened with this game and my land and findin’ myself completely fuckin’ isolated without a quadrant to my name, I began makin’ promises to myself sayin’ that I’d work even harder to make myself a viable option for anyone that might have an interest, just to get me back on the right track and all. But I can’t get anyone to spend a lick a time on me aside from you, so I just wonder if anyone else thinks about the same shit I do, like normal shit, like fillin’ quadrants and buckets and the kinda stuff we’d be worryin’ about if there weren’t pink space aliens to be fraternizin’ with.”
Karkat sighed, putting a hand to his face. As he pulled it away, he began ticking off points on his fingers as he spoke. “Okay, first of all, ‘making yourself a viable option’ does not mean shamelessly hitting on anyone who enters within twenty feet. Second, there are a lot better things than quadrants and buckets to be worrying about right now because, in case you forgot or something, we are in the middle of a fucking asteroid belt, being pursued by a demon, and our entire fucking world was destroyed.”
He was roaring by the time he finished, his face flushed a faint pink with anger and his hands balled into fists. He kicked some of the wands at his feet, spraying them over the tile. Eridan watched, muted, as they rolled to the edges of the room.
“And third,” Karkat muttered at last, “is that yeah, I do think about that shit sometimes. Normalcy. And how fucking great that would be.”
Eridan pulled his eyes away from the wands. He looked lost. Karkat had to toss his gaze elsewhere to avoid how much that distant confusion stung. “Look, I know you think you’re the only troll left who thinks things were better before and that you singularly had the shittiest time in this game. But let me remind you that it was because of me that we ended up in the mess we’re in right now. I chose to, with all my commanding aptitude, lead us all straight into the thick of the grub slop that is our current situation. So yeah. You think it sucks living on this hunk of space rock? Try doing it while knowing that you were the one responsible.”
His teeth were bared in a grimace, his fists trembling at his sides. He heard the shift and clatter of wands as Eridan leaned toward him. Felt a hand as it rested on his shoulder.
“Kar…” The voice was soft. Softer than he’d ever heard it before.
“So I guess that’s the answer to your question. I do think about it. I think about how we’re all going to die and it’s my fault and I just want things to be normal. I wish I could make them normal. And safe.”
He risked a glance at Eridan, and found that those yellow eyes with their gray-violet irises were closer than he’d thought. And the dark, full lips were parted over a row of white fangs. And he could see the gray tongue behind them move as Eridan spoke.
“That’s all I’ve been wishin’ for since day one.”
He didn’t know why he did it. Maybe it was out of guilt. To make that piece of normalcy for a lonely fish prince who thought about pails in the middle of an intergalactic apocalypse. To apologize for not being able to do anything else. Or maybe it was because he wanted it too. And he could feel the electric twinge between them. The one that pulsed with a need for warmth and peace and a quiet reassurance that neither of those things were quite dead yet.
Whatever the reason, Karkat found himself lurching forward on the wand pile, the plastic sticks rolling out from under his back. Found himself fisting his hands in the front of Eridan’s shirt and pulling him forward. And then their lips bumped together and Karkat opened his mouth, eyes squeezed shut, to kiss Eridan as fiercely as he knew how.
And then he pushed him away, sinking back into the pile, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. And before he could allow the shame to engulf him, jeweled fingers caught at his wrist, drawing it back. Karkat winced at first, but his eyes fluttered open again as he felt the soft brush of lips against the back of his hand. He looked at Eridan, who seemed completely entranced by his fingers, kissing the knuckle of each one, his thumb stroking the palm.
Karkat should have asked what it meant. Should have asked why. Or what they were doing. But he didn’t. Because it was in not knowing that it somehow made more sense. And he pulled his hand back toward himself, leading Eridan’s face up to his own. Then they kissed again. This time the gesture was more expected, and their tongues twisted together in each other’s mouths, warm and wet. Karkat grabbed Eridan’s shoulders and pulled him forward. In a clatter of falling wands, they were pressed together, the weight of Eridan’s body pushing Karkat back against the jagged pile, several sharp points digging into his spine.
He fit his hands between them, prepared to push at the chest pinning him down so that he might find some relief. But then he felt fingers sliding up his shirt. The chill of gold against his skin. It turned all his joints to water, and he let his head fall back, wands snagging at his hair. Eridan never let their lips part, shifting himself up to press his tongue deeper into Karkat’s mouth. It was a strange intrusion, feeling so full, the taste of Eridan swelling over every other sense. The pain vanished. The uncertain pangs in his chest dissolved. And he was pulling Eridan closer, the hands on the thin chest above him balling into fists in the black shirt.
He couldn’t remember the last time the lab had felt so warm. Amongst the metal bars and gray tile, it had been a struggle to keep the cold off his skin. But now the chill had been chased all the way to the corners of the tiny room, blood roaring through his veins like liquid fire. He knew he was bright red. Knew it. So he closed his eyes as if that in turn would prevent Eridan from seeing him as well, focusing instead on the warm tongue in his mouth. The knee between his…
He tried to gasp as it pushed forward further, but it just resulted in a graceless squelching sound between their lips. Eridan’s tongue slid even deeper into his mouth then, and Karkat could feel the vibrations of a soft moan against the back of his throat. And that knee was still there. Still pressing into his crotch, sliding up and down against him. Karkat hadn’t realized how painfully hard he was until just that moment, and now that it was apparent to the both of them (because there was no way Eridan hadn’t noticed as well) he felt the shame beginning to pound in him again. Sinking deeper into his flesh with every fevered beat of his heart. His hands flitted at Eridan’s sides, pulling him close one minute and trying to push him off the next as his brain grappled with the embarrassed heat tugging at his groin.
At last Eridan released his lips, and Karkat gasped, sucking in air, his chest heaving. And he tried to look up to say something. And he almost did. He almost made a comment about how they should probably take a step back and evaluate their choices. But all he got out was Eridan’s name before he felt lips between his legs and he just didn’t fucking care anymore. Karkat’s head fell back against the wands, a groan bubbling up from somewhere deep inside him, filling the room. And the lips brushed lower, pressing warmth through the fabric of his gray pants, a pair of thin hands clutching at his hips.
He thought it was meant to get his attention. Maybe Eridan had had a change of heart after all. Karkat lifted his head, peering down through a haze of heat. But Eridan was not looking at him. He was kissing the inside of Karkat’s thigh, his eyes closed and a violet blush spread over his cheeks and the tips of his finned ears. He murmured Karkat’s name again, and his fingers fumbled at the zipper of the gray jeans beneath him. Karkat watched, frozen with incredulous awe as his bulge was lifted from his pants.
It didn’t seem real at first. But that distant sensation didn’t last long. Eridan’s jeweled fingers curled around the stiffened length, stroking from base to tip. And Karkat was wrenched back to reality with the hot and cold feel of it. A painfully wondrous reality where his body felt so light he thought he might float away. But Eridan was on him, and those fingers were brushing back down over him, and then up, and Karkat bent his knees, letting more wands go tumbling to the ground.
His movement spurred Eridan on and soon Karkat’s clothes were a rumpled pile on the floor and he could feel hot breaths against his bulge. He blinked down again, just long enough to see Eridan’s lips parting and slipping over the tip of his length.
He tossed his head back, his body jerking so violently that the room became nothing but a cacophony of moans and clattering plastic sticks. His knees snapped together, stopped only by the head of the sea dweller between them. And Karkat could feel those lips descending. Slowly. Painfully slowly. So fucking slow they went, brushing every inch of his shaft until he was buried completely in Eridan’s mouth. His hands drifted down, as if by their own accord, hovering over the mass of black and purple curls between his thighs. And as Eridan pulled back, his lips sliding up, Karkat’s fingers tangled in that hair, pulling at it, blind with pleasure. It earned him a few moans in response, and he felt them vibrate deep into his stomach and deeper as Eridan’s mouth slid back down. He felt those moans all the way up into the cavity of his chest, felt them nip at his heart as he inhaled, white spots eating at his vision, dancing across the ceiling like wild fireflies.
Then the lips were gone, and his bulge was free and slick and cold in the air. He couldn’t keep a desperate groan off his lips, his hips pushing up against Eridan’s hands despite himself. But then those slender fingers and their now heated gold rings were gone too, and Karkat looked up to see Eridan pulling off his clothes. Ridding himself of the purple cape, the scarf, the black shirt with his jagged purple sign, his striped pants and the underwear beneath.
And he looked so small. Despite all his posturing and preening and self-aggrandizing idiocy, once stripped, Eridan Ampora was nothing but a slender troll wrapped in unremarkable gray skin. His knees and elbows were somewhat knobby, his shoulders thinner without the pointed purple cape to augment them. And the gills at his neck were flared and flushed, his own hardened bulge tinged violet as he straddled Karkat’s hips. He pushed himself forward, his eyes uncertain as he took both their lengths in his hand, beginning to rub. And Eridan was just so long and narrow and hot and against Karkat’s searing flesh that it caused him to gasp and squirm, bucking up against the legs pinning him in place. And Eridan swirled a thumb over both their tips, Karkat unable to look away as the genetic material was smeared and mixed between them until it had turned a pale rose color. Shivering with hot chills, Karkat cupped a hand over Eridan’s, moving with his fist as it pumped them. And Karkat watched. Watched Eridan as he bucked forward. Watched the way his eyebrows dipped and pulled together. How his glasses slipped down over his nose. The way sweat dripped along the groove of his hip as he rocked against Karkat’s bulge.
Karkat tipped his head back, staring up at the ceiling, acknowledging the objects digging into his flesh but feeling no pain. Everything was just the heat between them, the stiffness against his length, the fingers dancing over his skin. And then some of the heat left, and it was just Eridan’s palm cupping the head of his bulge, smearing genetic material everywhere. Then came a pressure between his thighs. Something hot and hard and slick nudging at him, pressing against him, stretching him, pushing inside.
Karkat’s eyes flew open and his head jerked up. And Eridan’s lips were there to catch him. To ease him back down. And Karkat wanted to say no. That this whole thing was stupid. That doing this would change nothing and make none of it better. That it was only a fantasy. Ephemeral.
Their lips parted and their gazes met instead. And he could see in those sad gray eyes the acknowledgement. Because nobody knew better than Eridan Ampora how fake magic was. That miracles were only sweet lies. Not things meant to last.
And so Karkat pulled him back in. Caught him by the shoulders and let their lips touch, let the hips push forward, and they met and drowned together in their own brief miracle.
Eridan was hotter inside than he had been anywhere else. Hot and hard and painful, but Karkat didn’t care. He relished in it, in the ache inside him. And then Eridan began to move, his hips pushing forward and back, and the hot throb of him deep inside made Karkat’s head spin. Made the world around him shudder and tilt. He moaned into their kiss, arching his back off the wands, listening to the distant echo of the plastic hitting the tile. And he could feel Eridan’s hands at his hips. Feel him becoming more feverish, thrusting against Karkat blindly until he could taste salt in their kiss. He didn’t know if the tears were his or Eridan’s. But it didn’t matter. Because soon the heat had built in him, collected in his gut to a swollen, molten mass. And he writhed, feeling Eridan as he nudged up against a knot inside him. He squirmed and kicked and clawed and bit at the lips above him. Tasted iron and salt and the tang of desperation.
He didn’t remember when he started begging. But soon all his lips could do was form the words, his chest heaving to push them out and spill them into the air. Harder. Deeper. Faster. Eridan complied, his feet scrambling for purchase against the disappearing pile beneath them, his hips smacking into Karkat’s, their bodies rolling together. Arching and dipping and then everything came to a bright white point.
Karkat gasped and then a cry was ripped from his chest, and he expelled everything. The fear and the shame and the sadness and the joy and it all came bursting out of him in sharp, bright convulsions. And he felt Eridan fill him up. Watched the arrogant composure shatter and crumble and fall around the sea troll like so much broken glass. And he was nothing then. Just wide eyes and shaking limbs and terrified whimpers leaking between parted lips.
“I’m sorry, Kar,” he whispered. His face was wet. “I’m sorry.”
Karkat held him close. Because the dream would have to end. But not yet. For now they were just two trolls. Caught in a nightmare and wishing for the dawn.
And though that dawn would never come, for a moment they imagined it could.