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Ghost on the Dance Floor

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A very very very old troll sits alone in a classroom. It just so happens that today is his birthday and though it was six thousand three hundred and eleven years ago he was given life, he is seriously considering whether or not to take a running dive out of the window at yet another half-hearted attempt at suicide that would probably not leave so much as a scratch on his stupidly immortal hide. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that this very very very old troll doesn’t look a day past twenty-five or so, so no one really knows just how old and tired he actually is.

>>Be the very very very old troll.

Your name is Eridan Ampora and right now you are enduring the most agonizing boredom you have ever experienced.

“Religious devotion in eighteenth century artwork signifies a departure from the more monolithic styles of antiquity, especially with regards to the Dual Monarchs. Where overwrought statues and tapestries saw popularity up to the end of the fourteenth century, it is no surprise that the sociopolitical turmoil in Europe and the Americas brought a renewed interest in religious iconography.”

Art History 301.

You have not been this bored since that time the wind died and your ship was becalmed in Cuba for three and a half months (at least then you could drink yourself to the bottom of a rum bottle to pass the time). You have not been this bored since Charlemagne’s coronation when the stupid fucking priest droned on and on and on and on about chivalry and valor and martial excellence and blah blah blah blah blah. You have not been this bored since spending eight and a half months in the Italian countryside, working as a fucking fishmonger until Caligula got bumped off by his guards. Twenty minutes into class and you already want to beat your head against the wall until you see violet on it. (You might be able to call it performance art and get away with it; you’re almost tempted to try.)

Truth be told, there were about six million things you would rather be doing on the morning of your six thousand three hundred and eleventh wriggling day. You left your “kismesis” lying half naked in the warm confines of your bed, clutching your pillow and mumbling sleepily as you prepared to set out into the cold Dublin morning. You really should have called in sick and spent the morning pretending to hate Nepeta’s guts while she left fresh clawmarks on your back. You could be out celebrating with friends but you never celebrated the past six thousand two hundred and ninety five birthdays so you’re not tempted to start now. Besides, you have few friends to speak of and none besides Nepeta and Karkat from the old group that suddenly popped back into existence two years ago as if the last six thousand years was a short nap (to them it probably was).

You would rather be doing any number of things on the morning of your six thousand three hundred and eleventh wriggling day but you had no one to do them with. Your fault really but there it is. You have nothing better to do than listen to the same lecture you’ve heard a thousand fucking times before. In fact, you’ve heard the exact same fucking lecture fifty years before when the ashen haired human professor was just a young doctoral candidate filling in for their teacher on a sick day. If you concentrate hard enough, the wrinkles and white hair melt away and you see the same raven haired beauty that first tempted you into the class at the University College Dublin so many years ago. The first lecture bleeds into the current lecture as you doubt the septuagenarian recognizes you as the same young man who stayed behind to ask his TA about the importance of devotional artwork to revolutionaries in the US, France, and Russia.

He never needed to know why you were so interested in the Prince of Hope.

>>Eridan: Observe the worst fucking painting in the universe.

The slide changes as Professor Bates fumbles with the laptop in front of him. You almost feel a pang of pity for him but the projector displays what has consistently been the worst thing about these stupid fucking classes. You fail to suppress a groan of disappointment as the art major next to you looks at you like you just spat in her grandmother’s face. Fuck that overachieving teacher’s pet. She’s been giving you the stink eye ever since you insinuated that Salvador Dali was a washed up, drug addled hack and you are dimly aware of her mounting disgust as you start to mouth the words to the lecture you’ve heard at least fifteen times before.

“Blade of Hope" is one of the most iconic examples of revisionist devotional work as interpreted by the sociopolitical lens of the time. The focal point of the piece is the Prince of Hope descending from on high wreathed in an aura of light on wings of power as George Washington kneels before him. The two pristine figures are juxtaposed against the brutal, primal white backdrop of Valley Forge where numerous soldiers suffer and die. The ground beneath Washington’s feet melts and we see the grass of new spring come forth as the Lightbringer bequeaths unto Washington a burning sword symbolizing the eternal flame of hope that carried the Continental Army through a dire winter.”

The image lingers on the screen for a moment as the class around you continues to take notes. It’s a beautiful painting so of course you fucking hate it with the intensity of a hot burning sun; not because it's poorly done but because it's so offensively inaccurate it makes your skin prickle. Because you were at Valley Forge but you weren’t some kind of pasty faced human like the Prince in the portrait was. You didn’t descend on high so much as you slogged through twenty miles of bitterly cold slush to deliver blankets to the dumb assholes who were freezing to death in the countryside. And you didn’t remember George Washington kneeling so much as he called you an “ashy Loyalist spy” and had you put in stocks for three weeks until you escaped.

Fuck that guy; you should have doubled back and knocked the dentures out of his ungrateful mouth when you had the chance. Try being the first fucking president now you toothless, gaping idiot. At least you got to push Thomas Jefferson down a flight of stairs before you left-

>>Eridan: Observe the actual worst painting in the universe.

Oh...no.

The slide projector shifts again, portraying a much darker scene as your skin starts to prickle for an entirely different reason. When did he start he start teaching this painting too? The last fourteen times you took the class you immediately segued into Botticelli's "Dance of Viridian and Violet" with the accompanying overture by Handel. Your hands grip your desk so tightly you're worried it will break, eyes staring into the mop of black hair in front of you. You want to focus your attention on anything but the painting on the projector because you already know if you do, you're not going to heave up the eggs and sausage you had for breakfast.

“King Street Rage," by contrast, was painted in response to the Incident on King Street or the Boston Massacre as it is known in the States."

>>Eridan: Look up.

No, fuck that!

Don't look up, don't listen to what Bates is saying. Just tune him out; think of anything else.

>>Eridan: Think about Boston.

You absolutely refuse; not now. Not today. 

Think of the cold, grey skies outside, think of a nice cup of warm tea, think of fucking Nepeta into the mattress while she bites your shoulder. Just don't think about the painting.

Don't think about Boston.

"Commissioned by the British Crown at the time, it depicts an orgy of violence and destruction. You see the Bard of Rage looming in the background, fingers arched over the rioting colonists as they rampage through the streets in an orgy of wanton violence...Mr. Poram are you paying attention?”

>>Eridan: Pay attention.

Shit that's the name you gave when you enrolled again, isn't it? Is Bates talking to you?

You look up, staring directly at the professor as he shoots you a disapproving glare. Yeah, look at him, focus on that. Whatever you do, don't fuck up and look at the projector.

>>Eridan: Fuck up and look at the projector.

Shit. 

You glance up at the screen, lip curling back a little as you take in the godawful monstrosity of artwork before you.

Of course Makara was still a troll. Grey skin and horns couldn’t be a savior of America but a rampaging, brutish looking monster could be their destruction. You despise this painting for entirely different reasons. You hate it because it's ugly, because it's obscene, because it's fucking English, because his eyes seem to follow you in particular. Beady, yellow little eyes taunting you from the frame as people all around him lose their fucking minds. Eyes that you have tried to forget by drinking a small fortune in alcohol. Eyes that say “Look at this shit, my brother. Look at what I can make these squishy motherfuckers to do each other. Isn't it fucking miraculous?!”

God, damnit you can smell his rancid fucking stench after all these years, yellow teeth bared in that hideous grimace as an orgy of bloodshed goes on around you. Smoke and screaming fill the air as a thousand angry bodies press around you and he’s laughing like it’s a big fucking joke. Like these people are now somehow enlightened by slaughtering each other with their bare hands.

>>Eridan: Shoot the fucking clown.

That's a good idea. Your hand goes to your waist, fumbling around for your pistol. You need to be fast but you haven't had such a good shot at him in years. This will work; the scars on your face are proof you can fucking hurt him. All it will take is one perfect shot. You have to fight your way through the crowd, ignoring the cries of pain and confusion around you as you elbow your way to the front of the mob. Lobsters are trying to maintain order; someone falls beside you but he's got his arms spread, teeth wide, just daring you to end him. And you want to; you don't care if it's his fucking Rage powers fucking with your brain. You want to see him spilling his brains all over the street. You want to watch the life go out of his eyes. He deserves it; he can't survive. You just need to get your pistol and

>>What pistol? 

“Mr. Poram?”

>>Eridan: Come back to reality.

You are not in Boston anymore. You are in Dublin in a classroom and standing up at the front of the classroom like a fucking idiot as your teacher and your classmates all crane their necks to look at you. There’s no pistol in your belt because you haven’t gone around armed since the end of the Terror.

You swear to god that Makara is laughing at you from the frame.

>>Eridan: Invent Excuse.

“Stomach,” You blurt out, grabbing the beige pea coat and purple and blue scarf from the back of your chair as you head for the door, not bothering to meet your TA’s eyes as you shove the door open, stepping into the empty hallway with a deep breath.

Your hand reaches out to steady yourself on the walls, breathing deeply as you press your scarf into your nose and mouth, inhaling a familiar smell until your heart stops thundering in your chest.

Dublin. You're in Dublin. You're safe...you're home.

Of all the fucking days to take a trip down memory lane, it had to be your fucking wriggling day.


>>Eridan: Answer your phone.

“Happy Wriggling Day, Mr. Misery-guts.”

At least someone had remembered to call you.

Dr. Misery-guts thank you very much,” You say, taking a sip from your cardboard coffee cup as you wind your way through the streets towards your flat. School wasn’t in the cards for you today and as someone who went essentially as a hobby, you didn’t feel particularly terrible about missing a class here or there. You had passed university hundreds of times under various pseudonyms and now went just for something to do with your days. You have to kill time somehow and it beats the shit out of some of the other things you've done over the years to make the days go by a little easier. “I don’t know if anyone has ever told you this, Kar, but your telephone etiquette is a little on the lackin’ side.”

“You’re breaking my heart, Dr. Dolphin-Dong.”

“Oh, wonderful, I’m glad that nickname is stickin’.”

“Blame Harley for that.”

“I do,” You say, rolling your eyes at the mention of your kismesis’ girlfriend. “Did you get me anythin' this year?”

“Yeah I got a nice monogrammed kilt you can wear around town and fit in with the rest of the weird English troll-people.”

“Kilts are Scottish and I live in Ireland.”

“England, Ireland, same fucking difference.”

“If you ever decide to come to Dublin, please do not go around sayin’ shit like that,” You sigh as a fond smirk tugged at the corners of your lips. You missed Karkat quite a bit and besides Nepeta he was the only other member of the SGRUB session to make any kind of contact with you. It was strange to go nearly sixty-five hundred years without seeing someone and pick up where you left off without so much as a hitch. To be honest you expected more of a gap or at least some difficulty relating to a friend who was now (effectively) six millennia younger than you were and maybe you've kept him at a distance because you're worried that once you meet, you'll remember just how old you fucking are.

You should be grateful that there’s at least one person who doesn’t completely loathe you. You haven’t heard from Kan or Sol or…or anyone else but you can venture a guess as to how they feel about you. Not that you blame them any.

“Yeah problem is I couldn’t ship it to Belfast-“

“Dublin.”

“-from Phoenix without paying out the asshole for it so you’re going to have to show your face on Harley’s island if you want it.”

“We’ve stooped to bribery now, have we?” You sigh, crumpling your empty coffee cup and tossing it in a trash can as you pass. “Couldn’t convince me to come to your beach campin’ trip so you decided to hold my tartan skirt hostage?”

“No fucking shame…look, Eridan, I know you have some misgivings about meeting up with everyone again-“

“Pretty good misgivings, I would say,” You chuckle bitterly. “I don’t think anyone wants to sit around and sing Kumbaya with the guy who perforated two of them and nearly doomed their race to extinction.”

“Your race too asshole; you’re one of the only twelve Alternian trolls left.”

You lived thirteen years of your life on Alternia and the rest of your miserable existence with the SGRUB team on a meteor. You feel like telling Karkat that you feel more at home on a planet you’ve walked for the past six millennia than you ever did on Alternia but you don’t really feel like having this conversation with him right now.

“Be that as it may, nothin’ makes a dinner party more awkward than when you people who killed each other in attendance. You think Kan is gonna be cool with this? Or Sol for that matter?”

“Sollux is not and has never been anything resembling cool but he doesn’t get to decide who I invite to my rainbow fucking friendship picnic! Shit, Vriska came last year and it was kind of weird but everyone got the fuck over it. My thing; my rules. And I want all available SGRUB deities on deck to spend something resembling quality time together.”

“You have a funny definition of quality time, Kar.”

“Real fucking funny, I know. Look, just…think about it, okay? Say the word and we can have tall dark and furry zap you over here for a heartbeat.”

“I’ll think about it,” You lie, sliding up to the front door of your flat. “Thanks for the call, Kar.”

“You can thank me by showing up at my goddamn shindig for once you-“

Click.

You sigh, shaking your head as you fumble around for your keys, pushing the door open and taking a few steps into the apartment before the overwhelming quiet slammed into him like a brick wall. Normally, whenever Nepeta was over, you would come home to the sound of some inane television program or the maddening sound of Nepeta obsessively editing her wildlife footage before sending them off to her editors. But when you enter the house there is only silence as a small part of you know what’s going to happen next.

“Guess we’re doin’ this now,” You mutter, hanging up your scarf and entering the house to find Nepeta perched on the arm of a couch, looking up at you with an apprehensive look in her eye.

>>Eridan: Break up with your kismesis.


>>Eridan: Wave goodbye.

Nepeta vanishes in a flash of green light as Harley uses her space powers to whisk her away and just like that the biggest sham of a kismesitude ends with less of a bang and more of a whimper.

You knew it wasn’t going to last from the moment it started; you were so badly out of blackrom practice and truth be told Nepeta was one of the least hateful people you knew. You knew that when you kissed her for the first time, you knew that when you pressed her up against the wall of your bedroom for the first time, you knew that when you woke up to her scratched to hell and so wonderfully sore for the first time.

You knew it, she knew it, and you both knew there was never any real hatred between the two of you. You went through the motions but your caliginous flirtation was never anything more than playful bickering that stopped just short of being flushed.Basically, you were glorified fuck buddies but truth be told you were fine with that. It had been centuries since your last dalliance and it was refreshing to wake up to something other than an empty bed for a little while.

But you knew it wasn’t going to last from the moment you started.

To be honest you're surprised it lasted this long. When you all won the game, you all stood on equal footing. Everybody was the same age, had the same experiences, knew each other more or less (for better and for worse). You all forged this weird mishmash world in the crucible of Skaia. You created a new universe from the ashes of two old ones and took your place as the rightful gods of it to be worshiped and obeyed by the mortal populace. You created everything the light touched and on the seventh day, you all decided to rest until the world was something like you remembered it (because no one wanted to go through life before the invention of the toilet and the bubonic plague again). Everyone but you entered stasis; everyone but you and him got to sleep away most of the world's history.

They got to come back with everything more or less as they left it; you took the long path because part of you knew that leaving him running around would ensure that the rest of them woke up to ash and fire after six thousand years of unchecked subjuggalation.

No one made you stay but yourself but in the end, someone had to.

Everyone is over six thousand years old but only you know it. Only you sort of look it. You pass your reflection in the mirror in the hallway and see a young man's skin with an old man's eyes staring back at you. You look nothing like Nepeta who's mind and body are all in step with one another. She never had to live through all the cascading decades blurring together. She never saw Rome rise, never laid bricks that built the Great Wall, never suffered in Valley Forge, never witnessed that fucking clown painting entire cities a magnificent hue of carnage, never saw her husbands, her wives, her friends destroyed as part of a never ending dance between you and that motherfucking

>>Eridan: Drink like a dying fish.

No more fucking flashbacks. Not today. Not now.

You shake your head and make for the liquor cabinet, snagging a bottle of black rum and a glass from the end table as you nudge the door to your study open. Your eyes glaze over the collection of swords, trinkets, and memorabilia hanging off the walls, some of which were older than the street you live on as you flop into the thick leather armchair against the wall. The only sounds filling the flat are the sounds of black liquor glugging into your glass and the faint crackle of fire in the fireplace. You take a long drink with a small wince, fully intending on getting absolutely shitfaced as you’ve done every year on your wriggling day since the people of this planet invented alcohol when a blinking light on your phone on the desk catches your attention. You glare at it for a moment, swirling the rum around in your glass as you consider ignoring it and pouring yourself another glass and turning in early.

>>Eridan: Pick up the phone.

You would rather not.

>>Eridan: Pick up the phone.

Honestly, you would rather spend the next couple hours heckling the "experts" on the history channel

>>Eridan: Pick up the phone.

Honestly, you would rather fire up the laptop and see if there were any new developments in the area of deep sea violet blood pornography.

>>Eridan: Stop being such a pervert and pick up the phone.

Whoa, whoa, okay, no need to get personal.

You grab your phone, swiping it and bringing up the Trollian client as a small string of messages from Karkat blink up at you. Your lips twitch at the bright, candy red text. Thirteen year old Eridan might have raised an eyebrow at the change but who cares about that kid's shitty opinion?

CG: PICK UP
CG: TEREZI TOLD ME WHAT HAPPENED WITH NEPETA AND I NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU HAVEN’T GONE AND DONE ANYTHING STUPID
CG: AS YOU ARE WONT TO DO IF MEMORY SERVES ME CORRECTLY
CG: PICK UP PICK UP PICK UP PICK UP PICK UP
CG: THAT'S IT I'M CALLING HARLEY
CG: YOU BROUGHT THIS ON YOURSELF
CG: I MEAN IT

You want to sigh in irritation but to be honest, it feels nice to have someone seriously concerned about your well being so you figure you owe him a reply if only to assure him that you're not crying in the shower and listening to some kind of wretched emo music...though now that you think about it, the last breakup he was present for ended about as badly as any breakup could have so maybe he's not so off base with his accusations.

CA: simmer, kar, i’m just fine
CA: call off the search party
CG: FINALLY
CG: I WAS ABOUT TO CALL THE SEARCH DOGS TO MAKE SURE YOU WEREN'T DANGLING FROM THE RAFTERS
CA: your faith in my copin skills is a nevverending source of encouragement
CG: SHIT MAN CAN YOU BLAME ME
CG: YOUR LAST BREAKUP DIDN’T END ALL THAT WELL
CA: you wweren’t around for my last fourteen or so breakups
CA: unless you seriously think i spent the last six thousand years livvin like a monk in a cloister
CG: OH
CG: RIGHT
CG: MY BAD
CG: SERIOUSLY THOUGH DO I NEED TO COME OVER THERE?
CA: i'm not exactly weepin in my liquor
CA: nevver was much of a blackrom to be honest
CA: wwe both kneww it
CA: wwasn’t that much hatred betwween us to begin with so
CG: WAIT YOU’RE TELLING ME YOU DATED SOMEONE FOR EIGHT MONTHS THAT YOU DIDN’T HATE
CG: WHY
CA: you wwant the candid answwer or the palatable one?
CG: PLEASE BE CANDID
CA: because quite frankly she’s absolutely amazin in bed
CG: OH
CA: proper little minx
CG: YEAH I HEAR YOU
CA: wwe had sex like you wwouldn’t believe, kar
CG: I GET THE MESSAGE
CA: ruined all my furniture; all of it
CG: ERIDAN
CA: did it up against the wwall
CG: ERIDAN STOP
CA: in the car in a church parkin lot
CG: PLEASE BE LESS CANDID
CA: you’re some kinda fool for not givvin her a chance wwhen she wwas into you because she really is the goddess of romantic love
CA: wwink wwink
CG: PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY STOP
CA: she does this thing with her tongue wwhere
CG: LALALALALALALALALA CAN’T FUCKIING HEAR YOU
CA: next time don’t tell me to be candid if you don't mean it
CG: POINT TAKEN
CG: WAIT ARE YOU FUCKING WITH ME?
CA: oh no neps a fuckin animal in the sack
CA: pun intended
CA: but i’m also not not fuckin with you
CG: GOD DAMNIT
CG: DID YOU GROW A SENSE OF HUMOR OR SOMETHING?
CA: or somefin
CG: NO NOT WITH THE FUCKING FISH PUNS
CG: FEFERI JUST GOT OFF THAT SHIT I DON’T NEED YOU STARTING ON ME
CA: you’re soundin a bit
CG: DON'T
CA: crabby kar
CG: SERIOUSLY FUCK YOURSELF
CA: i wwas about to wwhen you called and interrupted my evvenin nightcap. was gonna see if there was another installment in the acclaimed Twenty Thousand Orgasms Under the Sea saga
CA: it's a beautiful story of one man's lovve for animatronic squids
CG: T
CG: M
CG: I
CA: don't evven hate; it's a thoughtful satire piece
CG: I AM SO GOING TO SMACK YOU ACROSS THE GODDAMN FACE WHEN I SEE YOU NEXT
CG: WHICH IS HOPEFULLY NEXT WEEK
CG: DON’T MAKE ME COME OVER THERE AND DRAG YOU TO ISLA HARLEY BY MYSELF
CA: oh no don't come to my house and get me
CA: anyfin but that kar, please
CA: quick question; wwhere do i livve again?
CG: ...
CG: DON'T TELL ME
CG: IT'S THE ONE WITH THE CANALS WHERE ALL THE WEED IS LEGAL, RIGHT?
CA: psh i fuckin wwish
CG: NOT THE POINT
CG: COME ON I HAVE NOT SEEN YOU FACE TO FACE FOR NEARLY TWO YEARS
CA: more like three thousand times that but
CG: DO ME THIS ONE SOLID AND SHOW YOUR UGLY MUG
CG: MAKE ME HAPPY
CA: okay
CG: PLEASE I’M
CG: WAIT
CG: ARE YOU SERIOUS
CA: one hundred percent searious
CG: DON'T EVEN RIGHT NOW
CG: SERIOUSLY HAS THAT INKY HUMAN SWILL ROTTED YOUR BRAIN?
CG: WHY THE SUDDEN 180?
CA: might be the rum talkin but it’s either go and get my gills torn off by sol or spend the next wweek goin to art history class like a chump
CA: oddly enough evvisceration is the more appealin option currently
CG: OH PLEASE YOU MAKE IT SOUND LIKE WE’RE GOING TO EXECUTE YOU OR SOMETHING
CA: removve the chainsawws from the island before kan gets there please and thank you
CG: DRAMA QUEEN
CA: says the guy who's nevver been sawwed in half with a fuckin chainsaww before
CG: DRAMA QUEEN
CG: GOOD TO KNOW THAT HASN'T CHANGED
CG: OKAY I GOT YOU TO SAY IT NO BACKING OUT
CG: HARLEY WILL BE BY TO PICK YOU UP NEXT WEEK
CG: BY FORCE IF NEED BE
CA: i’m shakin in my boots
CG: YOU SHOULD BE
CA: havven't been this scared since the marquis du sade invited me to the country to go "horseback ridin"
CG: WHO?
CA: you want me to be candid or you wwant the palatable answwer?
CG: NEVER MIND
CG: ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR FUCKING WRIGGLING DAY
CG: TRY NOT TO GET COMPLETELY PLASTERED
CA: no promises, kar


>>Eridan: Brood

Finally something you're good at.

You toss your phone down, staring into the fire for a moment before rising from your chair with a small grimace, heading upstairs to check out what kind of summer wardrobe you have to play with. One of the reasons you've stayed so long in Dublin is because you can comfortably walk around in trenchcoats, scarves, and turtlenecks well into summer and not look like a fucking asshat. Though even if you didn't show up to Isla Harley in your usual fare, you're probably going to still look like a fucking asshat. You wonder if there are any Hallmark "Sorry I Murdered You Before The Dawn of the World" cards and if it would be in bad taste to bring wine (they're probably still on that Faygo shit that makes your stomach turn for more reasons than just the sugar content).

Part of you wonders if it's too late to back out but you suppose you have put this off for too long.

Your name is Eridan Ampora and today you turned 6,311. In one week, you will be face to face with the people you murdered nearly six thousand years ago, one of which was the woman you thought was the love of your life. You don't know what you're going to do or how you're going to act but you know one thing for certain.

You definitely are going to need more rum for this shit.