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“You are telling me that in the entire CU campus there is not one single transmasculine student who can switch rooms with me?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Vantas,” the apathetic person sitting behind the student service counter drones back, “With the lateness of your application, you’re lucky we were able to find room for you at all. The semester starts tomorrow. There will be no changes.”

“I can’t live with him,” Karkat says desperately. He doesn’t tell them that Dave is his ex girlfriend’s ex boyfriend and how awkward it’s gonna be living with him, but he does tell them that Dave Strider is an insufferable prick and he would prefer to garrote himself with his own intestines over spending an entire school year forced to cohabitate with him.

Long story (and a lot of screaming) cut short: there were no changes.

Dave Strider is an arrogant nineteen-year-old who hasn’t even started T yet, and he looks great. Which is terrible. He’s twice as tall as Karkat (a piddly 5’3 even after twelve years of HRT) and muscular (Karkat is a literal dumpling) and doesn’t have to wear a gallon of baggy clothing to hide his fat curves (he doesn’t have any). Karkat hates him. And is a little jealous. But mostly he hates him.

They will be sleeping on tiny beds in a tiny room with barely three feet separating their spaces, including desk and closet areas. You couldn’t even fit a goddamn ten year old comfortably in the amount of floor Karkat is given to protect himself from Dave’s douchey shades and bad taste in webcomics.

Morose, Karkat unloads his sweater collection into his closet, where they will hang above his equally sizeable stack of t-shirts and binders. He only has two pairs of jeans and one pair of sweatpants, which are underneath his boxers (one for each day of the week, which forces him to regularly do laundry), and beside the box containing his hormones, fake junk, and a surprising quantity of sex toys.

He sits back on his heels and tries to figure out where his life went wrong.

The answer to that is probably somewhere around his first (first) abusive boyfriend. After ruining three years of highschool on his and Dave's mutual ex, who won't be named, he decided he needed to rebound with someone so terrible he would go on to throw his entire life into disarray and cause him to drop out of college at seventeen, before even completing his first year. However, Karkat doesn’t think about either of his high school relationships, and has since moved far away from Michigan and any sign of juggalo activity, so he blames it on something innocuous like his searing and ever-present self loathing. Now he’s here, after nine years of fucking off, a twenty-six-year-old shitpile who is trying to get his education back on track so he can quit his job at Spencer’s.

Turns out that among his many less enjoyable qualities, including somehow being the perfect employee for the edgier version of Hot Topic, Karkat is also kinda he guesses pretty fucking smart, so in addition to the very enthusiastic help from his dad and older brother, who were so ecstatic to hear he was going back to school they offered to split his tuition, he has a nice hefty scholarship paying his way. He hasn’t picked a major yet, and he hates himself for it.

Karkat is just working up a nice lather of self hatred when the bedroom door flies open and in walks human disaster Dave Strider.

“Hey Kat,” he says quickly, without giving Karkat time to even swear in surprise at being interrupted. “Is it cool if I invite my friends over tonight? They wanna see my new dorm.”

“No,” Karkat says before he’s even finished asking. “Also, my name’s—”

“Cool, thanks,” Dave says, and slams the door behind him.

Karkat doesn’t punch a hole in the wall, but comes very, very close.

He lays in bed with a pillow over his ears. Screaming. Nothing but screaming. (Him, not them. They’re just very enthusiastic and Karkat has sensitive hearing.)

Over time he meets Rose, and Jade, and John—all of Dave’s best friends, all more tolerable than he is. Rose and Jade live together in an apartment off campus, with Rose’s sister, and John works about an hour away. He drives in on weekends, which by sheer coincidence, Karkat grows to hate. Also because Spencer’s keeps booking them up since he’s no longer available during most weekdays.  

“My dad and I are arguing about who gets to fly to visit who at Christmas,” John is saying. “Dad wants to come see where I’m living but Wyoming is such a shitty state, I’d rather just go back home so I can stay with him and see my old friends, y’know?”

Karkat is puttering around the tiny kitchenette wedged in next to the bathroom and trying to tune the voices out. Thank god their across-the-room neighbors aren’t in, because it’d be even more unbearable. Seeming to sense he doesn’t do well with people, someone (of course) has to reach out and drag him into the conversation. “What about you, Karkat?” Jade asks after a lengthy description of her grandfather owning a fucking island.

He turns like a possessed doll flipping its head around, face extremely sour. “What about me what?”

“Do you have any plans to visit your family?”

Scowling, Karkat shows no mercy. “My dad and brother are busting their asses just to pay for my tuition and that’s after a scholarship,” he explains. “Even if we could afford plane tickets for frivolous bullshit, I wouldn’t be able to take the time off work.” Then he rips his bowl of instant mashed potatoes out of the microwave and stomps back to his room, leaving a gaggle of stunned (and guilty, he hopes) listeners in his wake. The last thing he hears before shutting the door forcefully is Dave letting out a low whistle.

“Hey Kat,” Dave says.

“Whatever it is, the answer is no.”

They pass each other in the hallway going to classes. “Sup loser,” Dave says under his breath.

“Douche,” Karkat says, perfectly audibly.

The first non-hostile contact he has with Dave Strider is during a fire alarm. It turns out to be fake, but that doesn’t make it any less weird when Dave bursts out of the shower sopping wet, tits out, trying to cram himself into his binder before joining his classmates in filing outside.

“Do you want to die?” Karkat asks on his way out.

“It’s probably a false alarm,” says Dave, struggling with the spandex on his wet skin.

Karkat fidgets and frowns at his worn out sneakers. “Shit, you absolute sodden dumbass, come here.” He takes off his sweater and hoodie in one motion and then shoves them both over Dave’s head, easily sliding him into it because Karkat is fat (big boned and sturdy, insists his dad) and Dave is a rail. Even his tits are small. Dave adjusts the thick fabric around his torso (it fits him just fine because Karkat wears about eight sizes too big) and doesn’t complain about the temperature.

When they’re back safe in their rooms, Dave silently takes off the hoodie, then the wet sweater, and lays them on Karkat’s bed without saying thanks. Karkat almost prefers it that way, and doesn’t mention it ever again.

Dave gets drunk at a party. That isn’t the awkward part.

The awkward part is how he keeps Karkat up crying from where he is inexplicably locked inside his closet. Karkat barely can fit his meagre belongings in there, so he has no idea how Dave managed to fit his entire body. It’s not like he’s short, though he’s so skinny…

Karkat doesn’t ask what he was crying about, but when Dave comes out there’s aspirin and a water bottle on his bedside. There’s also one of Karkat’s dad’s homemade cookies, but Karkat has no idea how it got there. He keeps his nose jammed firmly into the corner between the wall and the mattress and pretends to be asleep.

“Hey Kat.”

“For the last fucking time, Strider, it’s Karkat—” Dave pushes something toward him before he can finish. The guy always is wearing a douchey pair of shades, but Karkat can tell he isn’t looking directly at him. Karkat frowns down at the paper in his hand until he realizes it’s a doctor’s recommendation letter for hormone therapy. “Okay?” he asks, because he’s a jerk and cannot be caught giving any impressions otherwise.

“I was, uh, wonderin’ where you went, for like…”

“An endocrinologist?” Karkat asks, unimpressed.

Dave nods. “Yeah.”

“There’s a low-cost clinic fifteen minutes away,” he says, shoving the paper back at Dave’s chest. “I’ll text you the address.”

Karkat taps his finger on his knee, staring at the bathroom door and wondering if he should be amused or not. It’s two weeks before finals and Dave’s been locked in the bathroom for half an hour. The muffled sound of hyperventilation is not doing much to distract Karkat from the fact that he really has to take a piss.

Dave finally got his hormones.

He lets it go another ten minutes before he gets up and bangs on the door. “Strider!”

“Go down the fucking hall, you asshole,” Dave calls back.

“Let me in,” Karkat says patiently.

“Fuck off,” says Dave, and it’s the closest Karkat’s ever heard him come to shouting. His voice even cracked a little.

Deep breaths. He’s not even not-a-teenager yet. He’s allowed to act like a shitstain once in awhile (or all the time). That doesn’t mean Karkat has to like it, but. “Yeah, I don’t think you want me to do that. Open up.”

“I swear to god, man.”

“You’re an atheist,” Karkat says, increasingly annoyed. “And you sound like you need help, unless you want to claim that the hysterical noises I’m hearing right now are a series of asthmatic kittens hiding in there with you, which won’t make me believe you need help any less, for the record.”

There’s silence, and then the sound of begrudging movement. The lock turns and the door inches open, giving Dave time to sit back down before Karkat fully slides in through the crack in the door he was way too fat for. Dave’s sitting on the toilet in nothing but his binder and his boxer briefs. He’s not even wearing a packer (Karkat hates that he looks at his crotch to check. It’s a weird habit, okay.) “I can handle this,” Dave insists, which convinces Karkat of that claim absolutely zero percent.

“Uh-huh,” Karkat says, grabbing the needle out of his hand. He inspects it, then looks at the bottle for the dosage, then back at the needle. He ends up reloading it because he spots an air bubble, but he doesn’t get on Dave for being incompetent like he usually would with anything else. This, though. Your first shot is supposed to be traumatizing and life-changingly important. Karkat hates that he has to be here to witness it, but he scoots until his back is close to the shower wall and gestures at Dave. “Come here.”

“I told you, bro, I got it,” Dave says, but he obeys with almost no physical resistance, sitting with his back to the sink. He sucks in a deep breath, and holds it.

Karkat rolls his eyes. “Look, there’s no shame in being nervous about your first shot. Do you want it in the leg or the arm?”

“Leg,” Dave answers.

Karkat continues without acknowledging Dave’s response. “There are a lot of reasons that a person might have to give themself and injection and all of them suck,” he says placidly. “The important part is just relaxing, focusing on what it’s going to do to benefit you, and— hey, don’t come in!” Dave’s head whips toward the door in surprise, and then he screams. “That wasn’t so bad,” Karkat says, pulling the needle out of Dave’s leg.

“What the fuck,” Dave squeaks.

“You obviously weren’t going to relax and it hurts more if you tense up,” Karkat says simply. “Thank me never.” He hands the used needle back to Dave, stands up, and leaves without another word.


“Call me Kat one more time and see what I do to you.”

“I was just thinking—”


“Fuck off. Look, I wanted to say, it’s real shit that you can’t visit your family over break.”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“If you needed like, help with a ticket, I could—”

Karkat turns on him, rage in his face. Dave doesn’t offer to give him money again.

“I’ll miss you, dude!” Dave calls from outside the window as he’s leaving for the airport, riding with John who’s taking him to Seattle to meet his dad. Karkat thinks they’re dating. “Don’t get too lonely without me.”

“I hope your plane crashes,” Karkat says sincerely, then slams the window closed.

… miss him? As if.

When Dave comes back for Winter semester, he isn’t smiling. Karkat would have thought he’d be happy after spending Christmas with John. He hates himself, but hazards a, “What’s up?” He makes it sound as apathetic as possible.

“John got another job,” he responds, sullen.

Karkat cocks an eyebrow. “And?”

“They’re paying him a buttload to move back to Washington,” Dave says. Ah. Losing his best friend. Karkat can’t imagine what that feels like at all.

“At least he won’t be around here to bother me anymore,” Karkat says flippantly.

Whirling around, Dave snaps, “Why are you such a miserable little fucking pissant all the time? If you really need to hate your life so much, leave everyone else out of it.”

Karkat doesn’t talk to him for a week.

“Kat?” Dave’s leaning on the doorjamb, looking tired. Karkat gives him a speculative look over the edge of his study material, but doesn’t say anything. “Look, I’m, uh. Sorry for yelling at you. Didn’t mean to, I was just… fucked up that day. I was wonderin’... Do you wanna watch a movie or somethin’?”

Lowering his textbook, Karkat considers it. “Not one of your brother’s ironic shitposts,” he says in warning, because he got suckered into watching a movie with Dave precisely one time before.

“Naw,” Dave says, sliding further into the room so he can show Karkat the DVD in his hand. “French noir film,” he says. “Gotta watch it for a class.”

“I’m going to make fun of it the entire time,” Karkat says, even though he thinks he might love it.

“That’s cool,” Dave says.

(He reluctantly accepts that Dave is really funny, and also seasons popcorn surprisingly well.)

Dave stands in the middle of the room and fidgets.

“What?” Karkat asks sharply. He’s putting on his work clothes, which are the same as his normal clothes except more threadbare, because coincidentally, his shit that’s basically falling apart is almost identical to the shit kids consider fashionable nowadays.

“D’ya think you could go somewhere else after work today?” Dave asks, not even facing him much less looking at him.

Karkat falters, then scrunches his nose up in distaste. “Why?”

“I, uh… just… need some privacy, I guess.”

Huh. “Do you have a date?” Dave’s medium-brown skin turns an embarrassed shade of red. Karkat almost laughs in sadistic enjoyment at the no-longer-teenager’s pain. “What’s her name?”

Dave goes even more red. “His,” he says.

His eyebrows raise in surprise. He didn’t know Dave wasn’t straight. He was such a posturing, masc little fucker that Karkat kinda just assumed. “Sure thing,” he says, “just text me when the coast is clear.

It’s only an hour after Karkat’s shift when he gets the text. He has to double check, even, that it’s only ten thirty. Huh. Maybe he had a short fuse on his pocket rocket? Karkat texts back just to make sure he’s reading right before actually leaving the park and heading back to campus. When Karkat walks into their room, Dave is lying on his bed, frowning at the ceiling. He certainly doesn’t look like he’s had sex, but looks can be deceiving.

“How’d it go?” Karkat asks, pulling his hoodie off and draping it over his desk chair.

“It didn’t,” Dave says.

Karkat frowns. “What happened?”

Dave barks out a short, bitter laugh. “He’s straight,” Dave says.

“Did he not know you were—” Karkat starts to ask, and Dave cuts him off.

“He wants to fuck my sister,” Dave says.

Karkat squints as he tries to recall as much about Rose’s sexuality as he absorbed despite trying to ignore everything Dave’s friends said. “He’s gonna have a bad time,” Karkat observes, because he’s pretty sure he met Rose’s girlfriend at least twice.

“Yeah,” Dave says, and then Karkat gets the feeling he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

For an hour or two, Karkat gives him space. Then, he makes two bowls of ramen and pulls up Pacific Rim on his laptop. “Scoot over,” he says to Dave, who hasn’t moved from his bed aside from shifting positions and going to the bathroom once. Dave protests, but mashes himself against the wall obligingly enough, and after their styrofoam cups are empty and stacked on the side table, their arms touch while they watch the movie. Karkat tells himself it’s because the bed is really skinny, and lets himself believe it.

The next time Dave gets drunk, he kisses Karkat square on the mouth. Full out walks right into the room, grabs his cheeks, and kisses him. Before Karkat can make him appropriately dead, Dave faceplants into his mattress and falls asleep. Karkat says nothing about it the next day, and Dave doesn’t act any different, so he assumes the stupid asshole doesn’t remember.

It’s better off that way.

Dave and John are not dating; Dave is just a big, codependent baby. Karkat isn’t glad about that. He isn’t.

“If you started HRT so young,” Dave asks out of the blue, “why do you still wear a binder?”

Karkat freezes up. He doesn’t exactly like to talk about how he started developing breasts at nine years old, earlier than most kids, earlier than his doctors expected. His dad thought it was just his naturally chunky distribution and didn’t pay it any mind until Karkat himself realized and cried for days. It took forever to get him on blockers and by that time the damage had already been done. He wears a full length compression vest, unlike Dave who just wears a half length binder that only covers his barely-there tits, because not only does Karkat have (small, but noticeable) breasts, but he has hips. The compression evens his whole torso out, not just his chest. Helps him look less curvy.

It’s a sore subject, especially since Dave’s already talking about masectomies and post-surgery work-outs and Karkat only just saved up for his and it’s not even scheduled until next year.

“Because fuck you,” Karkat snaps, “That’s a rude ass question.”

Dave flinches, and Karkat must be going soft because he feels bad for having caused a reaction like that. He thinks he misjudged the seriousness of this conversation. “Sorry,” Dave apologizes immediately, without any babbled bullshit. “I jus’,” he hems. “I always thought ‘f I’d come out sooner, I wouldn’t have to do this, like they wouldn’t be there.”

“Things aren’t always about your feelings, Dave,” says Karkat, harsh even though he hates himself for every word. “Look, there are no guarantees, so ‘what ifs’ are worthless. I went through first puberty really young. I wasn’t even supposed to, but it fucking happened, and I can’t take it back.” He pauses, looking off to the side. “Please don’t ask me about it again.”

Dave nods, and makes himself scarce for the rest of the day, and the next.

One week into February, Dave gets a call from his brother. He spends the rest of the day so withdrawn he doesn’t even cry: laying with his face in the corner of his mattress like Karkat does when he’s trying to shut the rest of the world out—namely Dave.

Karkat knew that Dave had a loaded older brother who bought him anything he could develop a whim for. He guesses he didn’t really think about it much beyond that.

Two days later, Dave is still uncharacteristically subdued. He’s so quiet that Karkat doesn’t tell him to shut up even once.

It starts to get uncomfortable, though Karkat couldn’t say why, other than it’s wrong. Karkat’s the miserable dorm rat, not Dave, who is always doing his homework and going to parties and talking to their suitemates and doodling in the margins of his notebooks during class.

He refuses Karkat’s dad’s cookies, which is high treason, and also a cause for crisis. He doesn’t want to watch a movie or go into the lounge to play videogames.

Finally, Karkat pulls up Pokemon Amie on his 3DS and spends an hour convincing Dave to give his Pokémon treats and scritches. When he starts playing for real, Dave’s head is on his shoulder, long body haloed around Karkat’s shorter one. At the time Karkat doesn’t think of it as cuddling, but he realizes later that it probably was.

Even after a week Dave isn’t better, despite Karkat’s more and more aggressive attempts to churn life back into him. A peculiar thing happens, though—Dave starts engaging with him. Instead of hunching his shoulders, he tells Karkat that he’s frustrated. Instead of rambling about nothing, he sighs in a way that communicates more than his words could. He loosens the grip on his social persona, just a bit, and Karkat…

Doesn’t know what to do about it, but he sticks around, and he supposes that’s all Dave really needed. He seems to improve over the course of three days, until Karkat gets a text one Saturday afternoon while Dave is allegedly in the bathroom. ‘can you come help me with something’ it reads, and then Karkat finds out Dave is, in fact, in the bathroom.

He goes.

For the second time, he finds himself on the bathroom floor with Dave, who is at least wearing a shirt this time, freckled thighs lean and bared. The testosterone-filled needle is across the room, at the base of the shower. “You broke the tip,” Karkat notes, lifting it up to inspect it.

Dave winces. There are tear tracks on his cheeks. “I really don’t like sharp things,” he says as a way of explanation. Karkat sees a scar on his knee, extending down his shin, and wonders why.

“Take some deep breaths,” Karkat says, fiddling with a replacement needle and the tiny bottle of fluid. “Now one more,” he says, putting his left hand on Dave’s shoulder as his right presses the needle into Dave’s thigh. “There,” he says once he’s pulled it out and slapped a piece of gauze over the hole, and that’s when Dave kisses him.

It’s short and gentle, just a quick peck on the mouth, there and gone before Karkat can really register it happening. Dave immediately looks away, cheeks going so red that Karkat can see the colour reach his ears. Mechanically, Karkat finishes taping a bandage over the injection site, then says nothing as he reaches across Dave’s shoulder, pulling him around so he can kiss him again.

He ends up belly-down with his knees bent, feet in the air as he buries his face between Dave’s spread thighs. It’s almost not awkward, and then one of their suitemates tries to get into the shared bathroom, which Karkat forgot to lock when he entered. He barely slams a fist against the door in time, squeaking, “Be out in a sec, I’m just helping Dave with his injection!”

Dave wasn’t exactly being quiet about the ordeal, but their suitemate doesn’t ask or comment about it, so maybe they just thought Dave was crying.

They make it back to their room unscathed, but afterward can’t meet each others’ eyes.

For two weeks, Dave acts normal. He skypes with John and cuddles with Jade and snarks with Rose and comes home drunk twice, but doesn’t interact with Karkat at all or ask for help with anything.

Just when Karkat is starting to think that they seriously fucked up and the rest of the semester is going to be even more awkward than the first, Dave surprises him one night by crawling into his bed, bare-faced and wearing only his pajamas.

They only kiss, this time. Karkat spends several minutes tracing Dave’s collarbones and looking at his deep red eyes.

They start watching a lot of movies, at least three a week. At one point Dave pushes his bed against Karkat’s to give them more room and they just forget to move them back.

He sleeps with a body against his for the first time in…

It’s been a while.

Karkat tugs Dave closer, clamping a thigh around his narrow hips and pressing his face into the back of Dave’s neck.

It’s kinda hard to talk about. They act normal around everyone else and just don’t let people into their room. Karkat thinks Rose notices something, then Dave throws an arm around his shoulders and sticks his tongue between his split fingers and Karkat punches him in the stomach. Rose tells him not to harass his roommate. It was a nice save and yet Karkat doesn’t know how to feel about it.

Not that he wants to be Dave’s anything, or wants people to know that he’s more than Dave’s roommate.

Mostly, Karkat doesn’t know what he wants.

“Why are you such a posturing elephant tit?” Karkat asks once everyone has cleared out and they’re cleaning up before their suitemates show up to a trashed living room.


Karkat straightens up, rolling his back. The popcorn throwing competition got a little intense and there’s crumbs fucking everywhere. “If you think I haven’t noticed your fucking billion of superficial layers when you’re around your friends, you’re a fucking idiot and also don’t know me. You’re even a cagey jackass around your own sister. Seriously, what the fuck.” Not that Karkat is one to talk, considering how he treats his own personal brother, but Dave has no proof of that, so he’s safe.

Stiff and awkward, Dave heaves a shrug, and sits on his heels. “My Bro said there’s nothin’ more mockable than sincerity, and that I was the worst offender he’s ever seen.” He says it like a confession that he ran over an entire family of ducklings once.

For several moments, Karkat doesn’t know what to say. He almost punches himself in his own goddamn face. “Dave, you… fucking idiot,” he says. “The last time you had contact with your brother you were shit down a drain for an entire fucking month, and you’re telling me you live your entire life based on this guy’s advice?”

Dave’s brows furrow. “‘s more complicated than that..”

“No,” Karkat snaps, “it isn’t. He’s not here. You want to know who is here? Jade and Rose and whoever the fuck else you care about. They’re here and they want to see you, not this jacked up hypermasc douche you’re pretending to be. Sometimes I listen to you talk and I want to projectile vomit all over your smug, shitty façade.”

He shakes his head, and only says, “It’s not that simple,” before leaving the apartment entirely.

Karkat gets a text and has to go out pretty late, and when he gets back Dave is laying on their bed, hands behind his head, eyes closed. (Their bed. And yet they aren’t anything.) He lets his eyes linger, then kicks of his shoes and socks, removes his pants and throws them over his desk chair with his hoodie, and hangs up his sweater. He unzips his binder, folds it. Grabs a t-shirt.

Pads over to their bed (their bed, their bed, the bed that they share between them, the nebulous space that makes up their incomplete and undefined relationship) and flops over Dave so he can get to his side.

Dave opens his eyes and looks at him. Tiny smile, which is good. “Do you really think I’m that masc?”

Snorting, Karkat says, “You are literally every shitty macho transmasc stereotype I’ve ever heard compressed into one terrible human being.”

“I like you too,” says Dave.

Three AM: He wakes up humping Dave’s thigh, and then ends up on his back, mouth occupied with another person’s. They both taste like ass but Karkat’s fine with it, fine with nipping at Dave’s bottom lip and sucking on his tongue and grinding his crotch against Dave’s hip; feels him grinding back against his own.

They fall asleep before either of them comes, and wake up sweaty and in a tangle of limbs.

“I think we should have sex, like, for real,” Dave says. “We’ve been sleeping together for months. I’m startin’ to feel like a middle age house husband.”

Karkat’s strap-on is not realistic, but it is cherry red and very soft. It fits inside him snugly, though he still likes to use a harness to hold it in place because he gets pretty enthusiastic. He doesn’t really need to look down and see an extension of his body, and anyway, it’d be a bitch to match his dark skintone. They don’t make realistic dicks in this style, far as he knows.

He still does not protest when Dave goes down on it, fitting a shocking amount of the shaft down his throat, leaving a thick trail of spit on the matte silicone when he pulls off. Karkat’s actual junk twitches, and he clenches around the part that’s inside him, shivering. Obviously he can’t feel it, but the fuckdrunk look in Dave’s eyes when he grabs him by the hair and pulls him back makes it more than worth its while as foreplay.

“I need to fuck you now,” Karkat rasps, flexing his thighs.

Dave scrambles back onto the bed, halfway between coy and challenging, and hooks his thumbs into his boxer briefs. Pushes them down his hips, spreads his legs like he was taught how to do it by masters of the art. Karkat leans over him, grabbing one hip in his hand, squeezing as he grinds down, and then he stops. “Are you… still wearing your binder?”

Dave blinks, then scrunches his face up. “Yeah,” he says.

“You fucking idiot,” Karkat says, rocking back on his heels. “You’re gonna kill yourself. Take it off.”

“What? Fuck you, no.” He actually folds a wrist over his chest protectively, like he thinks Karkat might tear off his shirt and make him remove the binder still lurking underneath.

He won’t, but it’d be a less terrible idea than fucking with it on. “You need to breathe, dumbass, I can’t fuck you with all that pressure on your ribcage. You could get hurt.” Dave hesitates, and Karkat slaps himself on the forehead. “Dave, I swear to god. It’s me we’re talking about. You’re a dude. I’m the last person who would try to compromise that in some way. If you can’t even fuck another trans man who has bigger fucking tits than you without having an identity crisis, you need to go back to gender affirmation therapy.” He crosses his arms. “Take the binder off or we’re stopping. Just leave your shirt on if you’re uncomfortable.”

It takes a few seconds, but Dave’s expression turns from scared to stubborn, and then he’s whipping off his tank top and unzipping his binder, then throwing both on the floor. He flops back on his elbows, naked and ornery, and glares at Karkat from under his dark, furrowed brows.

Holy shit.

Now Karkat feels awkward, wearing not only a harness but a baggy t-shirt that reaches all the way down to his pubes. Dave hasn’t verbally challenged him to disrobe—his binder’s already off—but it seems so weird to be clothed when Dave just stripped down to nothing.

Karkat swallows heavily, then grabs the hem of his own shirt and pulls it over his head. When the fabric clears his face, Dave is waiting there to kiss him.  

Dave lets it slip that he hasn’t actually had sex since he came out, and Karkat is his post-dudening first time. It’s both an honour and terrifying, somehow, but he doesn’t say it until Karkat is already balls deep inside him, so he thinks it’s meant to be encouraging.

He takes the information and runs with it because Karkat is nothing if not spitefully enthusiastic, so he bites onto Dave’s shoulder and fucks him hard, until he’s screaming above the quiet music they put on to mask the sound.

There’s another reason he likes his dick, realistic or not, and that’s because when he reaches a hand between their bodies and fiddles around for a second, Dave yelps like he’s been shocked because the vibrations kick on already at medium speed and Karkat didn’t tell him that it could do that. It buzzes inside him, too, pushing against his soft insides in the best and worst ways possible, forcing out little grunts and noises of too-much-not-enough.

After Dave comes, he begs to go down on Karkat for real, so Karkat sits on his face and pulls his hair and conveniently forgets to mention that he's a squirter.

“So are you guys, like, dating?” Jade asks, when she catches them locking eyes for the third time during the movie.

“No,” Karkat says quickly.

Dave smirks, winks at both of them. “Only because I ain’t asked him yet.”

After learning what Karkat’s toys can do, Dave goes all out buying a bunch of his own. He doesn’t like Karkat’s style of strap-on; gets a regular non-vibrating one that can fit in his existing jock and matches his skin tone almost perfectly. The silicone balls slap against Karkat’s ass when Dave fucks him, but the way he’s pushing his knees up until Karkat is bent almost double and jackhammering into him like he’s trying to bring down the statue of an evil dictator, well. Karkat isn’t complaining.

He also buys this nifty toy that vibes on his dick (the flesh one) and has a remote that he shoved into Karkat’s hand, eyebrows raising suggestively.

When he can think past the hard cock slamming into him, Karkat fiddles with the settings, up and down listening to Dave’s frustrated groans, depending on what he chooses. Just as he’s about to come, he shuts the thing down to zero. Listening to Dave’s indignant sob gives him probably the best orgasm of his entire life. (Dave flips him onto his stomach and gets him back for it. Twice.)  

Summer approaches. Karkat has a panic attack and wedges himself in the corner of their bed and doesn’t explain why no matter how many times Dave asks.

Dave cries less lately, which Karkat thinks has something to do with him having eased up on riding the hypermasculine dick pony until it chafed. He’s open more with his friends, and surprisingly enough, makes a bunch of new ones now that he’s not acting like (as much of) a dick.

He picks up on what Karkat’s been worrying about, and loses his shit approximately as hard.

“I can’t afford an apartment,” Karkat says.

“I can afford it,” Dave says.

“I’m not living on your shithole brother’s money,” says Karkat, and that’s the end of it.

It’s not the end of it. “What if I get a job?”

No, Dave.”

He signs up for LGBTQ housing by the deadline, this time. The last day of the semester, he sits on his bed, and watches Dave’s bed as it’s pushed back to the other side of the wall. No longer their bed. It feels stupidly metaphorical and makes him want to cry, which he doesn’t, because it’ll just freak Dave out.

Dave Strider is twenty years old, has been on hormones for barely three months, and is moving faster through life than Karkat ever will. When he comes in to say goodbye for the summer, all Karkat can think of to say is, “Look, no matter where we end up, I will personally come over to help your whiny shitbaby ass out with your shot every week.”

As far as goodbyes go, it fucking sucks.

Dave gets on a plane, and Karkat is tidying up the last few things before he goes to wait for the car his brother drove down to pick him up in, because gas right now is still cheaper than airfare. He grabs his duffel and sighs heavily, looking around the room just as morosely as he did when he first got stuck in here with one Dave Strider, terrible, annoying, and surprisingly amazing.

He runs into one of their former suitemates on his way out. “Have a good summer,” he hazards awkwardly. “I’ll, uh. See you.”

They blink at him, considering. “I’m guessing no one told you that you’re allowed to request your roommates if you know someone who’s also in the program.”



“What the absolute fuck.”