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Your name is Karkat Vantas, and you're tired as shit.

You practically throw yourself into the warm loving embrace of the shitty coffee maker in the common room. Oh how you love the sweet smell of caffeine and broken dreams. You take your personal mug out of your sylladex and fill it to the brim, which is a lot considering you alchemized it to be bigger than your fucking face.

You take a long sip of the liquid garbage, ignoring the taste and the way it burns the roof of your mouth until your headache starts to ease. Kanaya calls that withdrawal symptoms. You call it necessary.

You only down two cups because you managed to get a collective four hours of sleep this time, and you have some restraint left in you.

For now. You might go back for a midday cup of coffee.

You're washing your cup in the sink and debating whether you should eat something now and suffer the consequences when the coffee catches up with you and makes you woozy. You decide against it.

“Whoa hey, he lives” you hear. Oh god. You really don't want to deal with this right now.

“What do you want, Dave?” You haven't had enough coffee for this shit.

“Nothin, probably” Dave shrugs and grabs something out of the hull. You dry your mug and try very hard not to look at his screen as he begins eating some kind of energy bar bullshit and texting someone. You fail not to look at his screen. You spot teal text.

Of course he's texting Terezi. You want to throw up all that coffee now. You can't believe she wants to hang out with Mr. Fucking Coolkid Extraordinaire and not you. Wow. Actually yeah you get it. But you don't have to be happy about it.

Dave's just such a douche and he hates everything you like and he dares to mock you and your interests.

And you miss her.

So there's that.

Dave mercifully decides you're not worth his time and leaves the nutrition block, cape swishing behind him as a painful reminder of yet another one of your failures.

You don't care what anyone says he definitely didn't deserve to go god tier that easily.

You captchalogue your mug again and start shuffling down the hall. You transportalize into your block and grab your husktop and a few fluffy pale romcoms, before heading to the horn pile.

When you get there you sigh, holding your husktop to your chest and throwing yourself down on it to make the loudest fucking noise possible. The metal jabs into your skin but you honestly have gotten past giving a fuck about that when you're already a quarter of a sweep into this journey and you've been bruising your ass on it everyday. Whatever makes him feel comfortable is fine by you.

You see the familiar glint of yellow eyes behind the vent before it's carefully removed and he clambers out. You wouldn't say he likes it in those vents, you think he's just afraid.

Of who, you can't say. Probably Kanaya. Maybe Terezi. Definitely himself.

“Hey Gamzee” you open your husktop on your lap as he lays down carefully next to you, making much less of a noise than you did. You hate how small he makes himself constantly. What happened wasn't even his fault.

“What is up my main man?” He leans on his arm, politely avoiding touching you. You rest your head on his arm encouragingly and he seems to relax.

You get through two romcoms with interjections from Gamzee for you to explain who that was or why they're doing that and to be honest you couldn't answer some of his questions because moirailegence centered romcoms tend to be absolute shit plot wise.

“Hey Karkat?” He says when the credits on the second movie start rolling. You look up at him. “I can all up and tell you anything, right?”

“Of course”

He nods and in the silence that follows you put on another movie.

Chapter Text

You miss sopor. A lot. You just want to be able to sleep through a whole eight hours.

Above all, you hate dreaming. You're gonna need three cups today.

Your crabphone dings.

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] began trolling

carcinoGeneticist [CG]

GA: Goodmorning Karkat

CG: HEY KANAYA.

GA: Have You Eaten Anything

CG: NO. WHY?

GA: You Should Really Consider It

GA: Rose And I Have Been Exchanging Information Of Human And Troll Customs and Sciences And She Has Recently Shown Me A Government Issued Diagram Called The Food Pyramid

GA: It Emphasizes The Importance Of Human Food Groups In Every Meal

GA: I Have Compiled My Own Food Pyramid For Troll Diets

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] sent TrollFoodPyramid.jpeg

GA: I Am Aware That There May Be Some Gaps In Representation For I Am Not A Scientist But It Would Be Helpful To You To Look Over That I Think

GA: And Perhaps Give Some Input As To How It Works

CG: SO YOU WANT ME TO BE YOUR TEST SUBJECT.

GA: In A Manner Of Speaking

CG: I'LL START THINKING ABOUT MY NUTRITIONAL HEALTH WHEN SOMEONE FIGURES OUT HOW THE FUCK TO ALCHEMIZE SOPOR.

GA: That Is Another Project I Have Been Working On With Rose’s Help

GA: Although That Is Not Having Nearly As Much Success

CG: WHY DON'T YOU GET TEREZI TO DO YOUR HEALTHY FOOD TEST.

CG: SHE HAS PLENTY OF BAD HABITS.

CG: INCLUDING THE CONSUMPTION OF CHALK.

GA: I Did Attempt To Interest Her

GA: However The Only Response I Received Was That Of My Pyramid Sent Back To Me With A Plethora Of Unintelligible Drawings On It As Well As What I Believe To Be Depictions Of Human Genitalia

GA: I Took It That She Was Uninterested

CG: HM.

GA: So Would You Take One For The Team In Our New Adventures In Xenomedicinal Exchanges

CG: I GUESS I’LL TRY IT OUT.

CG: BUT I’M NOT GIVING UP COFFEE AND I’M NOT GONNA START HAVING BREAKFAST EVERYDAY.

GA: Excellent

GA: !!!

GA: I Will Be Patiently Awaiting Your Results And Itching To Compare Them With Those I Will Have Gotten

CG: YEAH, YEAH.

CG: HAVE FUN WITH YOUR NUTRITION SCIENCE.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling grimAuxiliatrix [GA]

Why did you agree to that? Now you've got one more thing on your already heaping plate of responsibilities.

Or not.

It's not like you really have a lot to do around here anymore.

Speaking of the literal only thing you have to do around here.

You find yourself making an ungodly noise plopping into the horn pile again, which signals Gamzee to crawl out of the vents.

You really don't like that he lives in there. It can't be good for him. Exposure to light and all that. Maybe he smuggled some lights in there? Where would he plug them in?

“Hey best friend”

“Hey”

He still sits down too carefully, but more readily relaxes next to you. You shift so that your head rests on his shoulder and he hides his face in your hair. Ah. It's one of those days.

“You wanna talk about it?” You ask.

He shakes his head and breathes shakily into your scalp until he calms down. Despite it all he still doesn't touch you more than you've explicitly initiated yourself.

You quietly place a hand on his cheek and stroke your thumb back and forth. He doesn't cry.

Chapter Text

You can't really ever remember Gamzee crying when you think about it. Even in the aftermath of... all that.

He was really upset though, despite your assurances that you know it wasn't him.

Well it was, but he wasn't really there.

You plop yourself in the horn pile.

He gives you as much space as he can given the small space of the pile. You don't push him. He's always like this the day after a bad day.

You silently watch a movie. He doesn't ask any questions.

Chapter Text

Some days he doesn't show up. It happens from time to time. You usually leave by the time the extra coffee cup you grabbed is finished and your ass is starting to hurt sitting on the hard metal edges of the horns.

It's okay. He needs his space sometimes.

You pull out your phone and stare at it for a long time. Your texts to Gamzee have gone unanswered but that's not surprising. You get up and start walking, still staring intently at your phone.

Okay. You can do this. You take a deep breath and start typing.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling gallowsCalibrator [GC]

CG: HEY TEREZI. YOU FREE TO HANG OUT?

gallowsCalibrator [GC] is an idle chum!

Yeah you expected as much. You swing near cantown just to make sure and you can hear her cackling. Dave's probably in there.

God you wish you could make her laugh like that again.

You decide to stop being pathetic and go have some lunch following Kanaya’s stupid pyramid thing. It's important to her for some reason so you might as well.

Your plate looks disgustingly well balanced and you even eat the fucking green shit.

She better appreciate the sacrifices you make for her to have something to talk about with her flush crush.

No she hasn't told you, yes it's fucking obvious.

Your phone pings and your bloodpusher soars. Terezi responded. You'd even hang out with Strider if it meant she wanted you there.

Okay maybe that's hyperbolic but whatever you'd deal with him and then regret it later because it'll probably sap the few remaining years of your life away from you in that instant. They will disappear into the gaping hole of his stupidity. It swallows all.

You open your phone and feel like you've been punched in the digestion sac.

tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG]

TT: Hello, Karkat.

Oh god.

CG: OH GOD.

TT: I take it that was not a thankful cry skyward, but rather a mournful plea?

CG: YOU TAKE IT RIGHT. JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE THE MORE TOLERABLE OF THE HUMANS ON THIS ROCK DOES NOT GIVE YOU A FREE PASS TO SKIP THE ESSENTIAL GRIEVANCE THAT I AM OBLIGATED TO MAKE OBVIOUS AT HAVING BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING YOU WRETCHED CREATURES IN THE FIRST FUCKING PLACE.

TT: Actually, I believe Kanaya was more directly involved with creating us, by nature of her aspect, and she seems to have very little problems where we are concerned.

CG: *YOU ARE

TT: Excuse me?

CG: WHERE YOU ARE CONCERNED.

TT: She does not appear to dislike Dave in any capacity beyond the usual capacities one may be prone to dislike Dave in.

CG: SURE, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT WHEN I SAID THAT.

CG: WHAT DO YOU WANT LALONDE?

TT: Using my last name? How military oriented of you.

CG: ROSE.

TT: I have heard through the grapevine that you are a self proclaimed romance expert.

CG: IS THE GRAPEVINE NAMED KANAYA?

TT: I must admit that I am quite curious about troll romance, as it is no doubt a very large part of your culture that I am attempting to grasp.

TT: I would be honored if you would impart your well cultivated and painstakingly begotten knowledge upon my humble person.

CG: DON'T PATRONIZE ME.

CG: SURE. ILL HELP YOU TO “GRASP A GREATER UNDERSTANDING OF TROLL CULTURE.”

TT: I am sure I do not know what those quotations could possibly mean.

CG: JUST LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU'RE FREE TO BE LECTURED, ROSE.

TT: Ah, first name usage without being prompted. I am making progress in your good graces.

CG: BYE LALONDE.

TT: Today. I have nothing to do. My schedule is disparagingly barren.

CG: MEET ME IN THE COMMON ROOM.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling tentacleTherapist [TT]

You're just the gift that keeps on giving.

When you get to the common room Lalonde is already there, several books in her lap and a notebook open and ready. It's kind of adorable to be honest. You hope it works out between the two of them.

“I've already translated and read several books on the matter but I'm afraid they do not portray the nuances of each romance, but rather a brief summary as well as a description of their practical usefulness to society.”

“Which books did you read?” You frown, looking at the covers that she shifts in her lap to show you. Oh god. “Those are trash propaganda history books. It's horrendously simplified and everything before the current Empress has been erased.”

She looks down at he books like they have done her a personal offense and shoves them to the side. “I see”

“History on Alternia was never really accurate or important. I did manage to find some romantic legends and myths and the like, but that's about it for romantic history.”

She nods politely, giving you all the expectancy of an actual pupil.

You sigh and grab a chair from your sylladex, despite the surrounding couches, you wanna sit right in front of her when you impart your glorious wisdom. She just smiles at you patiently while you straddle the chair and take out your own notebook and pencil.

“Alright, first things first, you need to know what all of these feelings really mean and what is associated with them”

“I'm on the edge of my seat.”

You draw a heart “flushed romance. It's the closest equivalent to your human romance in the way that it is based upon positive romantic feelings and affection driven by sexual as well as emotional desires.”

You pause, she says nothing “the difference is all of troll romance is based upon protection, and strength. Matesprits accept the weaknesses and flaws in their partner and try their best to protect them from getting hurt because of them. Stronger together. You have each other's backs, and you balance out their flaws, as they balance out yours.”

“So your better half in a sense” Rose interjects.

“No, your equal. They don't complete you and neither person is better than the other, you just so happen to be personally adept to protect them from their vulnerabilities, as they are to yours.”

Her black lips are pressed into a thin line as she nods and begins to write things down. You smile to yourself, satisfied in finally have someone pay attention to you when you give romantic advice. You do know what you're talking about after all.

“Alright” she says, looking back to you ready for more lecturing, and oh boy is she going to get just that.

This is what happens when people encourage you. You draw a diamond “Moirails take a more brutal approach to flaws and weaknesses, attempting to fix or improve one another, making each other stronger by giving each other what they need to thrive. A healthy moirallegiance will have a balance between what each person needs. One person can't give more than the other or the whole thing with trust and complete openness gets fucked over.”

She's writing as you speak, and you wait for her to look up again before drawing a spade and continuing. “Kismesis couples are less direct, rather than helping the other to be stronger together, they use their rivalry to egg each other on into being better than the other. They're in constant competition, filled with hate for the other person. That said, a key part of a healthy kismesis is respect. No one can fuck with your kismesis. If someone tries to they’re so unbelievably screwed.”

“So it's a positive hate, or at least a hatred rooted in a positive goal” she mutters as she scribbles.

“Kind of. It's more like a really fucked up sense of loyalty to an objectively awful and attractive person who makes you so angry because they could be so great if they just did this one thing. Or they're better than you in other respects and it pisses you off.”

You let her write again, allowing yourself to feel very important and intelligent. Hell yeah. Someone finally appreciates your understanding of a topic so nuanced and complex.

“And the final quadrant?”

“Ashen. Auspicious relationships are only formed when a relationship is dysfunctional and is in need of a third party to set it right and ensure nothing goes too horribly fucking wrong. It's kind of a thankless job, considering you have to manage two people who obviously just learned what feelings are and are acting like wrigglers about it.”

“That makes sense considering the prospect of vacillation”

“Exactly. Vacillation is where it gets complicated, but it is possible to have a healthy vacillating relationship. As long as all quadrants involved are open and both partners are always on the same page. Communication, as always, is key”

She hums in affirmation and that's when her phone dings at her. You wait patiently as she take it out, smiling like a dork as she answers the text. She looks up at you apologetically.

“Karkat, would you very much mind if I-”

“Go ahead” you wave her off and she smiles gratefully, collecting her things and then you're alone again.

You pick up your phone and debate trolling Terezi again for all of five seconds.

You're not that desperate.

Yet.

Chapter Text

Gamzee’s back the next day, but eerily quiet. He just wants to sit there with his arm around you and watch movies. That's fine by you honestly, you think it's great that you're close enough to sit in total silence for hours. That's the mark of a true moirallegiance.

After three movies you fall asleep despite the gallon of coffee you downed that morning.

“Karkat” you wake to a series of light taps on your shoulder. You see blonde hair through your bleary eyes. You really wish she hadn't waken you. You never get sleep as it is.

Gamzee’s gone.

“What is it Lalonde?”

“I was passing by and I saw that you were asleep. Kanaya said to wake you when I contacted her because it will be better for you to stick to the sleeping hours we've set for the group. We understand it must be challenging, but everyone else has adjusted very well so far. It might've been easier for you if I had better reinforced the rule.” She frowns.

You roll your eyes and sit up, making a racket with the horns. You really shouldn't fall asleep in the open like that. And without locking the door.

“Yeah, yeah, don't worry about it. Is that all or do you want something?”

“Actually I was hoping we could continue our discussion today. However if you're not feeling up for imparting your priceless knowledge unto me that is also quite alright”

“Well I can yell at you about quadrants some more but you'll have to watch me eat lunch first if you're going to stick around”

“I haven't had lunch either, we can eat together”

“Great” you push yourself off the pile and stretch, popping a few joints and feeling the stiffness of your muscles.

Sleeping on the pile is, all in all, a horrible idea.

You compile another plate Kanaya would be proud of as well as another cup of shitty coffee. Rose gives you a look at the coffee but doesn't say anything because she's the only fucking person on this rock who can mind her own damn business.

You choke down the green shit first, chewing the minimal amount and then chugging the coffee to make sure you swallow and don't gag. Rose appears very amused. Smug asshole.

Wow. She and Dave are related.

“I see you've been forgoing Kanaya’s experiment. How valiant of you”

You narrow your eyes at her “I really don't think you're in a position for making comments like that considering why you're even talking to me”

She says nothing, simply tilting her head and taking a delicate bite of her sandwich. She still fucks up her lipstick.

You drink more coffee, because god knows you're going to need it for this conversation. “So. Vacillation.”

She hums, still chewing on her sandwich.

“It's pretty healthy to vacillate, especially when the situation permits it. Like a shared quadrant. If two people are black for the same person, it may work out between the three of them if the two black interests vacillate between red and black depending. A schedule may be needed if people are going to be grubs with their romance time management skills.” You take a bite of your grubloaf.

“So you're saying in a situation where two parties have similar interest in the same party they can both be satisfied in a vacillating relationship?”

You swallow “congrats, you're capable of hearing and processing words” you take another bite.

“Isn't that situation exactly what is happening with yourself, Dave and Terezi?”

You inhale sharply and start to choke on your grubloaf. You then proceed to make a variety of extremely attractive hacking noises as you down your coffee to fucking swallow.

You put down your cup and look at her incredulously. “What.”

She graciously doesn't give your grotesque failure to perform basic functions like eating any more acknowledgement than a small smirk. “You, my brother, and the resident seer of mind”

“That's not- I mean. It can't possibly.” You pause. “Huh. I've gotta go”

You stand up and start walking.

“Karkat, your food”

“I’ll get it later”

As soon as you're out of Rose’s line of sight you start running.

She's not ignoring you because she doesn't want to talk to you, she just doesn't think Dave can handle the emotional whiplash of vacillation. That's okay. You'll just teach him about quadrants. Rose was willing enough to learn.

You've got the perfect cover art to explain vacillation too. This'll work. It has to work. You'll make it work. You run faster.

You're going to teach Dave Strider about romance if it's the last thing you do.

Chapter Text

Okay so teaching Dave about quadrants didn't work out as well as you thought it would.

And by that you mean, holy shit you want to punch that fucking prick right in his arrogant little smile. Why does he refuse to learn about your culture? What kind of insensitive and close minded fuckwit refuses to learn about another culture?

You know about human culture! They have horrible movies and weird traditions revolving around gender and romance and only one clusterfuck quadrant, which is completely heinous. That's all you need to know. But you know it. He doesn't know shit. How can Terezi even stand him?

You sigh and force yourself to cough to relieve some of the pressure in your chest. Running around the entire meteor in search of Dave was probably not a good idea. After that and the literal wrestling match along with being flipped over onto a table, your breathing is basically shit right now. Eh. It'll clear.

You still really resent the fact that he was even physically capable of flipping you through the fucking air and onto a table. And that shit knocked the wind out of you.

He could've handled that so much better, the entire thing is his fault.

And Rose and Kanaya were there to watch the whole thing. Which was totally great.

You step on the transportalizer to the outside of your block and open the door. The first thing you do is throw yourself down on your couch and open your husktop. You debate whether or not you felt like having another conversation with yourself. You check trollian. Apparently you do in thirty seconds. Fantastic.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] opened memo on board “WHAT IN THE FRESH FUCK DO YOU WANT?”

Current carcinoGeneticist [CCG] RIGHT NOW responded to memo

Future carcinoGeneticist [FCG] 20 MINUTES FROM NOW responded to memo

CCG: WHAT IN THE FRESH FUCK DO YOU WANT?

FCG: AREN'T YOU SUPPOSED TO BE THE ONE WHO WANTS SOMETHING?

FCG: YOU'RE THE ONE WHO OPENED THE MEMO DUNKASS.

CCG: I OPENED THE MEMO BECAUSE I SAW THAT I WAS GOING TO.

CCG: AND SINCE YOU'RE THE ONE WHO'S LIVED THROUGH THIS PARTICULAR CONVERSATION BEFORE YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT IT'S ABOUT.

CCG: SO I'LL SAY IT AGAIN.

CCG: WHAT IN THE FRESH FUCK DO YOU WANT?

FCG: NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

CCG: I AM YOU.

FCG: I THINK YOU AND I BOTH KNOW THAT'S EXACTLY THE POINT.

CCG: IS THERE A POINT TO THIS CONVERSATION?

FCG: MORE THAN THERE USUALLY IS? NO NOT REALLY BECAUSE ALL OF THE CONVERSATIONS WE HAVE WITH OURSELVES ARE OBJECTIVELY POINTLESS SEEING WE HAVE ALREADY COME TO THE CONCLUSIONS WE COME TO AT THE END OF THE FUCKING CONVERSATION, AFTER OF COURSE TALKING OUT OF OUR PROTEIN SHOOTS FOR A NUMBER OF GIANT MEANINGLESS GREY TEXT BLOCKS MADE ENTIRELY OF THE BLITHERING DROOL OF SEVEN THOUSAND MORONS.

FCG: WOULD YOU LIKE TO SKIP TO YOUR REVELATION RIGHT AWAY AND THEN ARGUE ABOUT IT, OR KEEP ARGUING THEN HAVE ME SAY IT AND LOG OFF?

FCG: I ALREADY KNOW WHICH ONE YOU'RE GOING TO CHOOSE ANYWAY LEST YOU RISK DOOMING US ALL SO CHOOSE CAREFULLY.

CCG: JUST. GET. TO. THE. POINT.

FCG: EXCELLENT CHOICE!

FCG: YOU'RE LONELY AS FUCK. STOP TALKING TO YOURSELF AND MAKE FRIENDS WITH ROSE SO YOU CAN HANG OUT WITH HER AND KANAYA. TEREZI DOESN'T WANT YOU AROUND RIGHT NOW BECAUSE DAVE STRIDER HAD TO GO AND BE BETTER THAN YOU IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE.

CCG: DAVE IS *NOT* BETTER THAN ME!

FCG: I'LL WAIT.

CCG: I MEAN SURE TEREZI CHOSE HIM OVER ME.

CCG: AND YEAH WE’RE BOTH KNIGHTS BUT HE REACHED GOD TIER.

CCG: AND HE'S TALLER THAN ME...

CCG: AND AN ADMITTEDLY GOOD FIGHTER.

CCG: AND HE WEARS RED SO SHAMELESSLY.

CCG: AND HE CAN MAKE TEREZI LAUGH...

CCG: AND I CAN'T REALLY ANYMORE.

CCG: AND...

CCG: OH MY GOD.

FCG: YEP.

CCG: HE'S BETTER THAN ME...

FCG: UH HUH.

CCG: NO WONDER TEREZI DOESN'T WANT SHIT TO DO WITH ME!

FCG: NOW WE'RE GETTING SOMEWHERE.

CCG: ...

CCG: WELL WE ALL KNOW THAT WE'RE BETTER AT ROMANCE THAN HE IS NO MATTER WHAT TEREZI HAS DELUDED HERSELF INTO.

FCG: OBVIOUSLY.

CCG: ALRIGHT WELL. NOW THAT I HATE MYSELF EVEN MORE THAN USUAL.

FCG: BLUUUUUUUUH.

FCG: KILL ME I CAN'T BELIEVE I SAID THAT IT'S SO MELODRAMATIC.

CCG: AND THAT WASN'T?

FCG: HANG OUT WITH ROSE WHEN GAMZEE ISN'T THERE. SHE'S THE ONLY PERSON OTHER THAN KANAYA AND GAMZEE WHO CAN STILL STAND YOU.

CCG: FINE.

Current carcinoGeneticist [CCG] RIGHT NOW ceased responding to memo

Future carcinoGeneticist [FCG] 20 MINUTES FROM NOW ceased responding to memo

Well. Time to do it all over again you guess.

Ugh.

Chapter Text

“So I've been all up and motherfucking wondering something” Gamzee starts.

You shift on the pile to look at him, not bothering to pause the movie (it was another shitty pale romcom). “Yeah?”

“How's it happening all around the fucking place?”

“Well... Rose. The human girl. She wanted to know about quadrants so I've been teaching her”

He smiles lazily “Aw man, you get to start up and schoolfeed about the squares and shit?”

“Yeah it's pretty fun actually. Someone finally wants to hear and heed my romantic advice”

He shoves your shoulder, but he's heart achingly gentle “good going Karbro”

“And you know besides that... uh. Dave's still an asshole but he's always been an asshole. Terezi’s still... in that god forsaken pile of trash pretend games city.”

“Pretend games city?”

“It's this place that Dave and Terezi have built with the carapace guy who was almost dead and we had to revive for some reason. It's made entirely out of cans and crafting bullshit and chalk. I'm apparently not allowed in there”

“How come?”

“I dunno.... Well, I’m not officially not allowed in there I just don't really hate myself enough to go in there.”

“What? I thought you had the mother fucking red feels for that sis”

“Well. Yeah. I guess.”

“Then go chat it on up with her”

You sigh “Strider’s been flirting his ass off with her and she seems to heavily prefer it to my company so.”

He frowns at you “Well shit. If she don't want chats with you then I'm sure not in the motherfucking know about what all in that's about”

You offer a soft smile “Thanks Gamzee”

“No problem bro” he shifts a bit closer to you and you feel warmth expand in your chest.

You move closer to him as well and rest your head on his shoulder.

Before long you fall asleep, he's gone again when you wake up.

Chapter Text

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

GA: So?

CG: SO.

GA: How Are You Feeling

CG: WHAT?

GA: The Pyramid Karkat I Trust You've Been Eating Healthier

CG: OH RIGHT. UH.

CG: I'VE BEEN FINE?

CG: I GUESS I'M SLIGHTLY LESS TIRED.

GA: Excellent!

CG: YEAH YEAH GO SHARE YOUR NEWFOUND SCIENTIFIC MIRACLE WITH ROSE.

GA: Oh I Meant To Ask You

GA: Have You Been Passing Time With Rose Lately

CG: YEAH WHAT OF IT?

GA: Has She

GA: Said Anything

GA: About Me

CG: I'M NOT DOING THIS. STOP RIGHT THE FUCK THERE.

GA: Doing What?

CG: DON'T YOU PLAY INNOCENT MARYAM. ALTHOUGH I AM THE ROMANCE GURU AROUND HERE BECAUSE APPARENTLY NONE OF THE REST OF YOU CAN EVEN REMOTELY KEEP YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, I REFUSE TO BE YOUR GO BETWEEN HE SAID SHE SAID GOSSIP MONGREL.

CG: IT'S A GODDAMN SURPRISE.

CG: DON'T GO ASKING SHIT LIKE THAT IT'LL RUIN THE EFFECT.

GA: Oh?

GA: She's Planning A Surprise Is She

CG: FUCK.

CG: NOT... REALLY.

CG: SHE JUST

CG: YOU KNOW WHAT?

CG: NO!

CG: I KNOW YOUR GAME KANAYA.

CG: I'M NOT SAYING ANYTHING ELSE.

GA: What Game?

GA: I Am Sure I Have No Idea What You're Talking About

CG: JESUS YOU SOUND JUST LIKE HER.

CG: I'M GOING TO LEAVE BEFORE YOU CAN PRY ANYMORE SHIT OUT OF ME WITH YOUR RAINBOW DRINKER WILES.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling grimAuxiliatrix [GA]

God. You missed Kanaya but damn. You're glad that's over with. She has ways and you'd rather not fall prey to her trickery.

Oh shitting hell.

tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG]

TT: Hello, Karkat.

CG: WHAT?

TT: Are you unaware of the meaning of the word hello?

TT: You see, it is a greeting that dates back many many generations of humanity.

CG: STOP.

CG: WHAT DO YOU WANT?

TT: Were you talking to Kanaya a few minutes ago?

CG: MORE LIKE A FEW SECONDS AGO.

TT: Well you see, she was grinning rather broadly at her screen.

CG: I'M NOT TELLING YOU WHAT WE WERE TALKING ABOUT.

TT: Could I inquire as to one aspect of the conversation?

CG: I'M NOT TELLING YOU IF WE WERE TALKING ABOUT YOU.

TT: ...

TT: You are a steel trap, Sir.

CG: I JUST GOT DONE DEALING WITH YOUR FEMME FATALE. YOU THINK I'M GIVING UP ANYMORE SHIT TO THE TWO OF YOU?

TT: So you did tell her something?

CG: NEVER SAID IT WAS ABOUT YOU.

TT: I didn't either.

CG: WAIT.

CG: WHAT?

CG: NO!

CG: YOU DON'T WIN THAT ONE YOU SHIT SLINGING HEATHEN.

CG: THAT WASN'T A WIN.

TT: Wasn't it?

CG: FUCK OFF ROSE.

TT: Till next time, Karkat.

tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG]

You groan and lay back on the pile as you hear the vent being opened.

“Oh man, did something get in your mind space about all in bothering a brother?” Gamzee sits down next to you and you rest your head on his thigh because fuck these uncomfortable ass horns.

“Just Rose and Kanaya being their usual selves”

You feel him stiffen slightly “Kanaya?”

Fuck. “Uh. Yeah. Rose likes her. She likes Rose. Not a big deal just some go between wriggler shit. Anyways. I've got some more movies if you want.”

He just nods, sitting stock still.

You fucked up. You put on a movie and pat his knee comfortingly. He relaxes eventually but doesn't move an inch for the whole film and definitely doesn't talk. When it's over he pats your head and leaves without a word.

You are the worst moirail in the history of all moirails.

Chapter Text

You are the worst moirail in the history of all moirails.

How could you bring up Kanaya so carelessly like that? She tried to kill him! She would've killed him if you had not been there.

That might be the only fucking thing you did right in that goddamn disaster. And now you've fucked up with Gamzee because you mentioned his would be murder in casual conversation like a complete douche.

Your phone dings and you stop your mental beat down to check. It's Kanaya.

...Not now.

You sigh and walk to the room with the pile. You leave your phone. You've gotta make up for your stupid slip up. You walk into the room to find it empty.

You stop in your tracks. There is not a single bicycle horn in the room.

You walk a door down on either side just to make sure you're in the right room and yeah, you definitely are.

You walk cautiously into the room again, heart racing.

Is he finally done with you? Has he decided he can't be around someone who reminds him of the fact that someone is living in the same building as him who at one point tried to kill him.

Is... did he relapse? Is he gonna fly off the handle again?

Bang.

A scream rips its way from your throat before you can stop it, jumping and grabbing your sickle from your sylladex. You spin around. It's just the cover of the vent. It fell. You look up into the vent to see two eyes reflected before Gamzee’s head peaks out. He looks guilty.

You immediately put away your sickle and feel like a complete asshole. He's hiding. He's scared. Because of you. And you just pulled your sickle on him.

You hate yourself so much.

“Hey... What happened to the pile?” You ask gently, walking towards him slowly with your hands in your pockets.

“Moved it. Found a new wicked place for all those little mother fuckers” he holds out a hand to you. Oh god.

He wants you to crawl into the vents.

In the small dark deep vents.

In the vents where he probably took the bodies.

(In the vents where no one would find you, possibly ever.)

He frowns and retracts his hand a little, looking so small and scared and remorseful.

Fuck. You grab his hand and his eyes widen in surprise before he smiles a little and helps you up and into the vents. They're bigger than you thought they'd be.

“Help a brother out and grab the cover?” He asks. You swallow hard and do as you're told, sealing yourself in and blocking out the majority of the light.

You feel like you're going to be sick. You're trapped. It's dark. You can't sit up. Fuck fuck fuck. Why did you leave your phone? You're such a stupid fuck.

He reaches out a hand towards your face. You flinch slightly, but he just paps you.

You let out a breath that you didn't know you were holding in and melt into him.

“You all good now bro?”

You bury your face in his chest and nod. He pets through your hair for a minute before letting you go.

You feel like shit for ever doubting him.

Even so, you can't help but get a little antsy as he asks you to follow him and you crawl for you don't know how long. Eventually the vent opens into this block with what looks like an air conditioning unit. It's obviously been pushed from its original position against the wall to completely block the door.

Despite that you're honestly just glad there's no severed heads.

Of course there isn't.

He helps you down and you note that his hair is getting a little greasy. You wonder when the last time he washed it was. You wonder if he was sleeping on the floor before he moved the horns in here. You wonder how the fuck he eats. You wonder why you've never wondered this shit before.

Maybe you can guard a abolution block long enough for him to feel safe enough to shower. And you can bring him food. Maybe even get a sleeping pad in here.

He leads you to the pile and you sit with your back against his chest at an angle. He plays you his music that survived the end of the world. It's nice.

Chapter Text

You've been spending your days in the vents mainly.

It's been five days since Gamzee moved the pile and you know, you actually like it better.

You know more about how he's living now and you can help him out. And he's more relaxed.

Yeah you're still not too keen about the door being blocked or the claustrophobic vents, but you understand their purpose. And what kind of selfish prick would you be if you made him go out into the open with a bunch of people who might kill him over petty shit like that?

You've been smuggling him food. Shit you can shove down your shirt so you can still crawl through the vents to get to him.

You make sure he eats something everyday, like you should've been doing the entire time instead of fucking around and not paying enough attention, which is why shit hit the whirling device and he needed a moirail in the first place.

Today after he ate the thing you brought him and you made him promise to save the rest of the food for lunch and diner, he decided to regale you with some clown bullshit.

Which you guess is good. It always seemed to make him happy before. He just doesn't appear all that jovial this time around.

Hes muttering most of it and he just looks so tired. Not really in the face but in the eyes.

“-which prepares the brothers and sisters for the dark carnival. It'll be a mother fucking miracle on your sight orbs. In a matter of bitching facts-”

You frown as he mumbles on in a monotonous voice, and reach forward to run your hands through his hair. He doesn't miss a beat, still mumbling a mile a minute. It scares you a bit in all honesty, and you can't get visions of purple text welcoming you to the dark carnival out of your head.

You scoot closer to him as you try to untangle his dirty hair with your fingers. You should work on getting him a safe place to shower soon.

He doesn't stop. “Hey Gamzee? Why don't you show me the festering pile of shit you call music? I might be feeling up to losing a few more IQ points”

He stirs and quiets, looking at you blankly for a moment, before shambling over to his husktop and playing some slam poetry for you, sitting back down and pulling you close so that your back is to his chest and his chin rests on top of your head. He continues to mutter shit under his breath, running his fingers over the sleeves of your sweater.

You gently pat his face a few times but he doesn't make any changes in his behavior. You frown and let him feel up your sleeves and mutter religious babble for a long while, on edge the entire time.

---

You startle awake, head shooting up and out of the slime of your coon and knocking against said coon painfully. You curse and rub your forehead.

You don't remember falling asleep. You remember Gamzee muttering nonsense about the vast honk and the subjugglators and then a small honk. Your sleep was eerily dreamless and continuous. That hasn't happened in forever, and you can't shake the feeling that someone reached into your thinkpan and poked around.

It's probably just paranoia though.

It occurs to you that you're not in the horn pile which means that he knows where your block is. You're also in your coon which means you're not wearing any clothes. No one sleeps in slime clothed. It's too much of a hassle to get the slime out of even your boxers.

But you're not currently wearing your boxers, a fact that you're trying not to think too hard about.

You should take a walk.

Chapter Text

You've decided that getting you into your recuperacoon was a very thoughtful gesture on Gamzee’s part. Besides, if you can't trust your own moirail to do that shit for you, who else?

After a hell of a lot of reassuring and preparation and some alchemized caution tape later, you've given Gamzee a place to clean himself. You managed to find a bathroom not too far from what used to be the horn pile block, so therefore not too far from where you and Gamzee hang out now.

He always meets you at the vent in the ex horn pile block anyways. So this time when he met you, you clambered in the vent to explain in hushed tones your plan.

You felt guilty for pushing him to go through with it, but he needs to take care of himself. He's just so scared.

“Are you mother fucking sure you aint gon let no mother fucker all up in here? I don't wanna be surmising some wicked blasphemy against a best shitting bro of mine but-”

“It's fine Gamzee, I'll be right outside the entire time making sure no one gets in. I'm even putting up this shit so people think all the shits broken in here” you hold up the caution tape, neglecting to mention they could probably hear the water running from outside and it would completely defeat the purpose, but the tape was more for Gamzee’s peace of mind.

He doesn't look all that convinced but he grabs the shampoo from the counter and examines it. “Remember what I told you, wash your hair several times to get it super clean okay?”

He grunts in acknowledgment without looking at you and you frown, again not so fond of pushing him like this.

You turn around before your guilt allows him to crawl back into the vents with greasy matted hair.

“I'll be right outside” you say one more time before exiting the ablution block.

You put up the tape like you said you would once the door is closed and take a seat leaning against the door, pulling out your crabphone and checking trollian.

No new messages from Terezi. Of course.

One from Rose though.

tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG]

TT: Hello, Karkat. I was wondering when a good time would be to take up our lessons again? I quite enjoy them and would still love to pursue a greater knowledge of troll culture. Respond at your leisure.

That was sent yesterday. You briefly think about how long you're spending with Gamzee today and type back a response.

CG: HELLO, ROSE. I AM GOING TO ATTEMPT TO MIRROR THE CORDIAL MANNER IN WHICH YOU SENT ME YOUR CORRESPONDENCE BECAUSE I AM UNREASONABLY ELATED THAT SOMEONE ON THIS GOD FORSAKEN HELL ROCK HAS THE SENSE AND DECENCY TO DO SO. I AM NOT AWARE OF CONCRETE TIMES THAT I WILL BE AVAILABLE TODAY, AND WILL GET BACK TO YOU ON THAT AT MY EARLIEST CONVENIENCE. HOWEVER MY ESTIMATED LESSON TIME WOULD BE FIVE THIRTY? RESPOND AT YOUR LEISURE.

You hit send, feeling just a bit witty and whimsical as a side effect of a conversation with Rose, even a small one.

“ONWARD MY MIGHTY STEED OF JUSTICE!”

You freeze. You've been wanting to hear that voice for a perigee. Terezi. You hear heavy footsteps down the hall.

“I would onward if I hadn't been continuing onwarding for so fucking long that my legs are screaming in protest and threatening to wake up the whole neighborhood.”

Oh. Dave's with her. Of course he is.

“Majestic dragon steeds of justice are SILENT, Dave”

“Not when he's been carrying on his back for the length of half the meteor he's not”

They round the corner and come into view. If there is a merciful God he will strike you down in order to not deal with this social scenario.

Terezi sees you, or rather smells you, and her smile fades for a moment. You wait. Yep. There is no god. At least not one who's on your side.

She hops off of Dave's back and bounds over to you with a grin, but it's all too deliberate and different from her usual manner.

“Hey Karkat.” She says, standing in front of where you sit with her hands on her hips.

“Hey” You respond, like the conversational genius you are. You realize that as much as you've been yearning to talk to her, you haven't the faintest clue what to say.

Her smile disappears once more as her lips press into a thin line. She always did that when she was thinking. God you've missed her.

“What's up with that block?” She gestures to the door.

“What?” You look up at the tape “oh um. Out of order.”

“But the water’s running”

“Busted pipe”

“Oh.”

There's a stretch of silence.

“I'm taking care of it though, It should be alright soon.”

“That’s good”

More silence.

“Hey” Dave speaks up, your gaze snaps to him and the bastard has the audacity to look bored when he's occupying the majority of her time as it is “not to interrupt this super awkward convo, but what's happening here. Am I still steeding about or what?”

Terezi smiles wide for him and it makes your chest ache “Don't think you're off the hook for your steeding duties, Dave!”

She runs up to him, but pauses, looking back at you. “See you around, Karkat?”

You nod, happiness bubbling up inside of you at how hopeful she sounds. You even give her a small smile.

She grins unabashedly and hops on top of Strider’s back. They continue to lumber down the hallway like that.

You are consumed with regret that you didn't say more, what the fuck is wrong with you?

You feel like your chest is folding in on itself and you kinda wish it would for real.

You pull your knees to your chest and try to ignore the sudden feeling of absolute loneliness that crashes over you.

You miss Terezi. You miss Sollux. You miss Kanaya. You miss Nepeta and Tavros and Aradia and Feferi. Fuck maybe you even miss Equius. At least yelling at him gave you something to do.

Eridan pops into your mind for a moment and you almost miss that absolute waste of space too. Then you remember holding Kanaya’s lifeless body and panicking over an unconscious Sollux. He’s one person you really don't miss.

You don't think you can bring yourself to miss Vriska either.

Maybe that makes you a horrible person, but fuck if you can get any worse than you are now you might as well do it.

There’s obviously a reason Terezi won't hang out with you, it's because you're a fucking pathetic piece of-

You squeak as the door gives out and you fall on top of Gamzee’s feet. He looks down at you with concern. “You all chill bro?”

You shake your head at him and let him pull you into the ablution block and close the door.

He stays with you while you vent about your troubles and choke up and make a mess of yourself.

At some point after you've calmed down a little it's too much for him and he has too shakily withdraw into the vents again.

You feel guilty for putting him in danger like that for your bullshit. Now he's scared shitless because of you.

You try to follow but he insists he wants to be alone. You refuse to wear your shattered bloodpusher on your sleeve.

He leaves. You take the tape off the door.

Your phone dings. It's five thirty.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this is proper educational material?” Rose asks.

“Lalonde, this is romance education gold. What you are to be witnessing right before your eyes is the most amazing depiction of interactions between troll kind ever recorded in our history. You should feel blessed.”

“I am getting the distinct feeling that romantic comedies are a Karkat specific enthusiasm and not a trollwide occurrence”

“Well yeah there are some stupid fucks who can't appreciate art, but there's always going to be stupid fucks in any species.” You pop in a red rom exclusive movie. “Now shut your hole and learn. You're in for at least four more movies if we can get to them today”

“Joy”

You two make it through your red rom and black rom examples before Rose begins to yawn far too much to ignore. You would've gotten through more of them if not for your discussion breaks. You talked about the impact on troll culture the two quadrants have and she seemed very fascinated by it all.

Honestly it was refreshing to have someone else to talk to, not at, about quadrants.

At first you were still pretty drained from all that happened that day, but Rose seemed to pick you right up. She had this way of distracting you that was absolutely wonderful and gave you some peace. At least until the movie started and you were left to your thoughts. But still, your discussions make you happy, and that was more than you could say for anything else besides Gamzee and Kanaya lately. Although you haven't seen much of her.

“What quadrant are we reviewing next?”

“Rose you've been yawning for the past half hour. You're going to sleep and we can continue another time”

“Um excuse me.” She pauses, leaning forward and scrutinizing you “no that's right, you aren't my mother, thought so”

“Lusus or not I’m not going to be happy when you fall asleep during the next movie. Not only would I have to restart my lesson, but I'd also have to sit there with you all night or incur Kanaya’s wrath. And I'm sure as fuck not carrying you to your block. So get the fuck up I’ll walk you.”

You stand up and cross your arms in front of your chest stubbornly. She seems to think it over for a moment before standing up and looping her hand around your arm, her wrist resting in the crook of your elbow. You startle a little.

“Well, escort me to my chambers, good Sir. If you insist upon treating me like a Madame from the nineteenth century you might as well go all out.” She says sarcastically, looking at you with an amused smile.

You realize what she's doing and most of your anxiety at being touched all of a sudden fades away. Drop the arm she isn't holding and allow her to get a better grip.

Rose Lalonde really is quite something. You can see why Kanaya is so interested in her.

You might be too, only she's not quite your type.

“Right this way, Madame Lalonde. Watch your step milady.” You lead her down the hall with a flourish of your arm that makes her laugh.

You can feel it. That point in a relationship where you actually start becoming friends and all the pretense is bullshit.

You don't mind being friends with Rose. You can tell she's gonna be a pain in the ass later, especially if her efforts are combined with Kanaya’s, but damn does she remind you of Kanaya so much that you can't help yourself. You like her.

Not that you'd ever tell her she's anything more than a nuisance and a burden on your increasingly busy schedule.

“Shall we set another engagement for tomorrow evening?” She asks. She seems to hold herself just the slightest bit higher with this charade.

“We shall see through our correspondence if that is at all possible” you respond, puffing your chest out.

She notices and smirks, humming in agreement.

It isn't long before you reach her block. She moves to let go of you but you hold her hand and sink to one knee, bowing your head and pressing your forehead to the back of her hand. “Until we meet again, Madame Lalonde. It has been a pleasure to be in your company.”

She laughs out loud at this. And you mean loud. You grin up at her as she loses it, not letting go of your hand.

She seems to have quite a bit of trouble composing herself, but after several short giggle fits, she simply smiles at you like a minx and says “Likewise”

Chapter Text

When you get there this time he's not waiting for you, but there's a note hanging out of the vent. You frown and pull it out. It reads in a dark, muddied color that looks like it's been smeared on the paper rather than written “come on in bro :o)”

You feel a chill run through you when you brush your finger over one of the letters and it flakes a little.

It's... probably not blood. He probably found Nepeta’s old paint lying around. That shit was made from grubs anyways so what the fuck is the difference even if he did use blood?

You didn't know those grubs.

You swallow. What else is he supposed to write with anyways? Your fault. You should get him something to write with. You'll bring it with you tomorrow.

You hear a soft honk from inside the vents and grit your teeth.

Suck it up. You remove the vent. It's all your fault he's like this anyways why the fuck are you so scared? You don't even have the right.

You climb into the dark vents, pushing your thoughts to the back of your mind. You can't be scared. That's pathetic. And wrong. Not only does that make you a horrible moirail it makes you a shitty troll.

Your self hatred fuels you to appear on the other side of the crawl in the vents to see your moirail. Well his hair definitely looks better.

“Hey Gamzee” you hop down from the vent and he honks a horn at you in greeting. You take that as a sign that he's not talking today, but he gives you a small smile.

You sit next to him and he quickly pulls you against his chest like normal. You laugh. “Wait a sec I brought you some food”

You move to take the apple out of your pocket for his breakfast but he stops you with a loud honk. You flinch and he frowns before patting your hand. You nod. “Okay so you're not hungry right now. Can I give you your grub so you can put it in your sylladex?”

He stares at you long enough that you start to question if he heard you, then just barely nods.

Or at least you think it's a nod. You're taking it as a nod. You unload your pockets and the grubloaf you shoved down your shirt and hand it to him. The food disappears with a pop. It occurs to you that you have no proof that he eats any of the food you bring other than the shit he eats in front of you. You hope he eats most of it.

As soon as the food is gone from his lap he pulls you into it. You smile up at him and he hides his face in your hair.

“You wanna talk about it?” You ask. He honks softly in response. “Right, stupid question”

You sit like that for a while, and he runs his fingernails back and forth along your denim jeans. You think it helps ground him or something. You dunno. You don't question it.

“Well I might read something. Do you want me to read out loud, bro? Two honks for yes, one for no.” You ask.

He squeezes one of the horns to your right once. You deflate a little at the thought of him not doing well at all, but you guess smothering himself in your hair and scratching your jeans is enough for him right now.

You take out a book and start reading where you've left of. You read this book already. Twice. It's not even one of your favorites you just like the cover art.

One of Gamzee's hands moves to fiddle at the bottom of your sweater as you continue to read about the frankly boring main character and the daring black rom interest who he doesn't deserve.

You're about halfway through the quadrant drama when his highblood auspistice, who is really unnecessary to their relationship, buts in for no reason (which you find out later is because he's also waxing black for the main character). Honestly you think they're a better match, and the highblood’s moirail should get with the main kismesis in a red rom regardless because they actually deserve each other but maybe that's just you.

You feel fingers press against your stomach and you stop breathing. Gamzee begins dragging his fingers back and forth gently over your bare skin. You feel yourself moving without your permission, flying out of his arms and onto the dirty concrete ground and making a hell of a lot of noise on your way there.

You're shaking. What the fuck is wrong with you? You still haven't breathed. Whats breathing like again? In. Out. In. Out. Fuck you're going too fast. Everything's going too fast.

Gamzee whimpers and you snap to attention. You hurt your moirail. Shit shit shit. You're awful. You deserve to die.

You crawl on shaking hands and knees towards him and back onto the pile, managing to make only a few honks. Nothing like the blaring noise you made earlier. He's crying. You hate yourself.

“Hey..” you can't keep the tremor out of your voice. “I'm sorry”

He shakes his head.

“I freaked out. I don't know why. I'm sorry”

He shakes his head again.

You grab his wrist and gently place his hand flat against your stomach. That does nothing for your pounding bloodpusher, despite the thick layer of fabric separating his hand from your skin. You ignore it.

“See? It's fine. I'm fine.”

He stares at you, eyes and face wet, before pushing your sweater up slowly.

Your body is screaming at you. You need to run. You need to stop him.

But you can't. It's the least you can do after all the shit you've caused him. He pushes just his thumb to your stomach and you think your pusher might explode so you stop watching his hand and start watching his face.

He pushes his thumb back and forth a few times, before seemingly satisfied with his ability to not scare the shit out of you with non threatening touches. It's just like him scratching your jeans.

You can't help but see visions of candy red blood all over the pile when you blink so you try not to. Gamzee doesn't give a fuck about your blood color anyways. Never has. Never even asked.

You settle back into his arms silently and he doesn't try to touch your stomach again, just playing with the bottom of your sweater until he nudges you off of him and curls up on the pile, indicating it was time for you to leave.

Chapter Text

It's been about a week since The Incident, as you've taken to calling it. You honestly don't know why you freaked out so much before. Okay well you know why. But it's Gamzee. Gamzee would never hurt you. It's really not a big deal.

You've almost gotten used to it anyways.

“Hello, Karkat” you feel the hand touch your shoulder before you register the voice and quickly shrug it off, turning on your heel to face them, stiff as a rail.

Rose frowns at you. You try to recover quickly. “Hey, Rose. What's up?”

She narrows her eyes slightly, and anyone who hangs out with Rose for more than five minutes knows this is the expression she makes when she's going to pry the fuck into your business.

“Jumpy, are we? Did I scare you?”

You're not jumpy. You're just... She surprised you. “You surprised me”

She purses her lips which prompts you to act more naturally. Since when were you acting unnaturally? Why are you treating her like a culling drone?

“You didn't fucking scare me. That just so happens to be a near impossible feat. Few have succeeded in doing so. You have a real long way to go before you can scare the shit out of me, Lalonde. Your therapist shtick really isn't doing it for me”

She’s silent for a few more moments, looking you over. Probably searching for weaknesses or something. You're full of shit. Rose Lalonde is emotionally terrifying.

“Would you like to take some time out of your busy schedule to visit with me and Kanaya?”

That is not what you expected her to say. “What?”

“Would you like to hang out, Karkat?” She says slowly.

“Yeah, sure” you blink “Kanaya’s gonna be there?”

She hums in affirmation and you feel your chest get lighter. You haven't seen Kanaya in a while.

You follow Rose a little bit like a barkbeast grub down the hall. “So what have you been up to recently, what with your ever present busy schedule?”

She's giving you those slightly narrowed eyes again but trying to play it off as casual. “Oh you know, the usual stuff”

“I'm afraid I'm not entirely acquainted with the usual”

You open your mouth to give another vague reply because your spare time is none of her fucking business most especially what you do with the majority of your free time. Gamzee has the right to privacy as much as you do.

Plus you don't want her telling Kanaya. You don't really know why. It's not as if anything you could say about Gamzee’s actions towards you would upset her.

Before you can respond to Rose, Kanaya comes walking briskly down the hall towards you.

“Karkat! There you are” she smiles that big brilliant smile of hers and grips your shoulders gently, getting a good look at you before releasing you.

You smile gratefully at her. You've always loved how she never invaded your personal space but she always gave you some small semblance of contact she knew you'd be comfortable with.

God, you missed her so much.

Rose grabs your arm, beginning to drag you down the hallway, Kanaya following, smiling fondly at the two of you.

“Rose, what the fresh fuck are you doing?” You ask, looking at her grip around your arm with irritation.

“Kidnapping you I believe.”

“And why is that so absolutely necessary?”

“Because we're going to be having a sleepover party, just the three of us, and it would be a shame if you left in the middle of it. So you're simply not allowed to.”

“Excuse you, I am not about to be held against my will to perform some sort of ritual-”

“Karkat, if I didn't know any better, I’d say our fearless leader was scared” Kanaya smirks.

“I am not scared” you are so fucking scared. Are they seriously asking you to be alone with the two of them for hours?

Nope. No. No way. You're not going to let the busybody duo get anything out of you!

...is what you would say if you weren't getting kidnaped. You really have no choice in the matter.

“Well then it's bound to be a spectacular evening” Kanaya smiles kindly at you, while Rose continues to physically drag you away.

You are so fucked.

Chapter Text

“Seriously??” You laugh, loudly as Rose smirks and nods.

“All over his laptop. I had the pleasure of video calling him at the time” she grabs a chip from the bowl you've put in the center of her human sleeping platform.

“Holy shit.” You can’t breathe, you're laughing so hard.

“John certainly seemed to be an interesting person” Kanaya comments.

“Did I ever tell you he hijacked my computer for our first correspondence?” Rose smiles daintily as Kanaya gapes at her.

“I thought you were pulling a human prank on me! You sounded so... forgive me. Utterly moronic.”

You snort “Damn, Kanaya.”

“Well it's the truth. He kept trailing on and on about apparently popular human cinema that made absolutely no sense. I was supremely disappointed ” she huffs, smoothing her red skirt.

“Disappointed? I'm intrigued. What expectations did you have of me, Kanaya?” Rose raises an eyebrow. You lean forward slightly, drinking in the heavy romantic tension. Kanaya’s cheeks flush a light shade of green. Rose smiles. She’s so screwed.

“Well. Based entirely upon your appearance and that of your living space I had assumed that you were a woman of intelligence”

“My appearance?”

“If I were to stand you next to your friend John, who would appear more intelligent?”

“Fair point”

“Will you two just kiss already?” You ask.

They both stare at you as if they had forgotten you were here and then simultaneously flush their respective blood colors.

“Karkat!” Kanaya smacks your knee reproachfully.

“That was extremely bold of you” Rose shifts in her seat.

You just snicker, “what? You're the one who wanted me at your little shindig”

“Moving on then” Rose says, “It’s quite late. I think we all better be going to sleep.”

“I was just thinking the same thing” Kanaya agrees.

You get up “Well, I had fun being kidnaped”

“And where do you think you're going?” Rose asks, getting up and blocking the door, raising an eyebrow “you're still kidnaped, Sir”

“I’m gonna stay up a lot longer than this I don't wanna keep you guys up”

“Karkat it's one in the morning” Rose states, narrowing her eyes.

“I'm not trying to escape I promise” you hold up your hands in surrender “I usually stay up way later than this”

“Karkat you really should maintain a healthy sleep schedule.” Kanaya chides, rising as well.

“Yeah well.” You shrug.

“I'm serious. I don't know what you get up to during all that time, but I'm worried about you. You're always complaining about how tired you are and you've got circles under your eyes that are getting heavier by the night.” She reaches out slowly and thumbs under your eye. “I must insist that you-”

“You're not my moirail, Kanaya” you interrupt her.

She pauses for a moment, eyes wide before she turns a little green, retracting her hand and fussing at her shirt. “Oh. Yes. Of course. I didn't-”

“And ‘What I get up to’ is none of your business. And if you didn't hate him so much maybe you could see that I'm working my ass off to make sure he's safe from everyone else in this fucking place.”

She looks smaller than you've ever seen her at your words and mutters “Yes. You're right. I apologize Karkat”

You hate seeing her like this, but a twist of something very ugly in your gut makes you not take back your words.

“Goodnight then.” You walk out and down the hall.

So she's a little hurt. She was overstepping. How dare she act like you don't have a moirail and touch your face and just pretend Gamzee doesn't exist! Especially when she's a huge reason why he has to hide all the time. She's the reason he's always in the vents now, because you're a fucking idiot and mentioned her.

You're really fucking sick of no one appreciating you for anything you ever do.

No one appreciated you as the leader.

No one appreciated you saving all their shitty relationships.

And most certainly no one fucking appreciates how much you have to do to help Gamzee.

Well.

Except Gamzee.

Chapter Text

gallowsCalibrator [GC] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

GC: H3Y

Holy shit. Holy fucking shit. It's happening. It's finally happening!! Calm down. Play it cool. Casual.

CG: HEY.

GC: SO...

You already fucked up you can't believe this. Casual?? What were you even thinking?

GC: YOU W4NN4 COM3 TO C4NTOWN TOD4Y???

CG: YES!

CG: I MEAN.

CG: YEAH. SURE.

Smooth.

GC: H3H3H3

GC: S33 YOU TH3R3 1N F1V3 >;]

CG: YEAH.

gallowsCalibrator [GC] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

CG: SEE YOU.

CG: SHIT.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling gallowsCalibrator [GC]

Okay. Yeah. Don't freak out. It's not a big deal.

Who the fuck are you kidding? It's the biggest fucking deal in the world! She wants to talk to you again!

You rush to your mirror and run your fingers through your hair. It does jack shit of course. Whatever. Your ugly mug can't get you down today.

You want to run all the way to that stupid village of nutrition cylinders but you stop yourself. You already look like a desperate tool from that trollian log. Well, you are a desperate tool, but you don't have to be so obvious about it.

You force yourself to wait the full five minutes before walking way too fast to cylinder city.

“I just don't understand why you want to have a party all up in the happiest, and really fucking fragile, place on the meteor with your ex boyfriend and your... I dunno. What am I? Your occasional make out buddy?”

You freeze. Okay. Yeah. That hurt a little. You forgot that Dave would probably be there. You guess now it's confirmed, though. About them.

Terezi sighs “Dave, he’s not as bad as you think he is”

“I swear to god if he comes in here and starts destroying all our good work, fucking knocking shit over like Godzilla. I'm gonna be pissed. The Mayor’s gonna be pissed. The people of cantown are definitely gonna be pissed. Gonna wanna seek revenge for their broken buildings and lost relatives and-”

“Do you ever fucking shut up?” You walk into the doorway, leaning against it and surveying all their hard work Dave is oh so worried about.

You honestly don't see what the big deal is. It doesn't even span the length of the whole room, just a small cluster in the middle.

“Karkat!” Terezi jumps up from her place on the floor and motions widely at the room “Welcome to cantown!”

“Yeah, and shipping charts are strictly illegal in cantown so keep that in mind or our police are gonna take your ass down.” Dave drawls, not bothering to stand. Terezi gives him a confused look that makes her mouth almost look like a question noodle.

Well at least he didn't tell her about that fucking fiasco. You want to throw some pretty damn vicious barbs his way but you can't. You'll have to deal with him for Terezi’s sake. Although you're admittedly pissed that she thought it would be an excellent idea to invite him to come along.

“I’m quaking in fear. Who's supposed to be the police again?” You ask dryly.

Terezi punches you hard in the shoulder and you glare at her, rubbing your shoulder.

“That would be me, young man. So don't go running your mouth off about the cops or I'll give you something to chew on!” She yells, power posing. You can't help it. You smile at her.

“Oh yeah? You're not so tough.” You pick up a stray piece of chalk and draw a middle finger on the floor and write “FUCK THE POLICE.

Dave makes and idiotic “ooooooh” noises and says. “You're so gonna get it dude”

You roll your eyes at him and open your mouth to make another smug reply but before you can you're suddenly bruising your ass on the ground with the wind knocked out of you.

“What the fuck Terezi?” You wheeze.

She grins wickedly at you. “You're going to the slammer you for your filthy commentary on the justice system, as well as the vandalism of private property. The slammer is what you call jail when you're extra mad about crimes, by the way.”

“I know what the slammer is, loser. And what private property? You mean the concrete ten feet away from your little playtime village” you watch her, unable to keep the smile off your face even as you lay on the ground, head pounding slightly from the impact.

“Actually. That land was bought up by ambitious investors who intend to spread the beautiful reaches of Cantown which is what it's called by the way, jackass.” Dave speaks up, a slight frown tugging at his lips.

You feel pride swell in your chest. He's jealous. Mr. Perfect godtier is jealous of you. And holy shit do you love life right now.

“Well I guess I'm a dirty criminal, what are you gonna do about it?” You raise an eyebrow in challenge at him.

“Officer Strider!” Terezi points at Dave, who stands at attention.

“Yes sir?”

“The handcuffs”

“Oh fuck no” you say, a little jolt of panic running through you. Yeah, restraints? Metallic fucking restraints? Not your thing. No no no. You are so not being handcuffed in Terezi's kinky role playing game. No fucking way.

You start to try and struggle away when dave hands Terezi some pipe cleaners solemnly.

Oh.

Terezi smirks at you and you growl at her.

You're getting hate butterflies in your digestion sac.

She ties the pipe cleaners loosely around your wrists and you roll your eyes. “Oh no. I guess I'm going away for life! I’ve sure learned my lesson.”

She cackles at you and damn, you've missed that sound. She gets up and offers you a hand up, which you take, if only to not break the “cuffs.”

Dave clears his throat. “Sir, we've been unable to build a jail large enough for ilk of his size”

Terezi puts her fingers to her chin in contemplation, before proclaiming “We will build a jail around him!”

Dave grins and starts floating around to grab armfuls of cans and books from the corner. Show off.

“I'm gonna have to ask you to lay down again, criminal guy” Dave asks you very seriously.

You bite, lying down at their feet. “I guess I don't really have a choice now do I?”

Terezi giggles “Nope!”

You hold still as the two of them line up cans around your torso, then stack another row on top of those. Their “roof” is a bunch of books stacked haphazardly on top of you, and really, you're holding up the structure more than anything else.

Terezi stands up and turns away from you “Oh my. Wouldn't it be a shame if while I was conveniently turned around and surveying the noble city of cantown for those in need of more justice, something were to just... happen”

Dave gives a long suffering sigh “Oh fuck no. Rez, we literally just finished construction on that. It took the people of cantown two years to build!”

“It took you five minutes dipshit” you comment from your place on the ground.

“It took the people of cantown two years to build it” he repeats.

You roll your eyes, as Terezi ignores Dave completely, which admittedly makes something in your chest light up. “Wouldn't it just be awful if the prisoner would escape while my majestically judicial back were turned??”

You smirk and sit up, disturbing the books and sending them sliding into your lap and around your hips. You then stand, making a point to kick over all the cans, just to piss off Dave, who's frowning at you.

“Free at last. It's been a long wait of 25 sweeps” you start.

Dave interrupts you, mimicking your voice “You were in jail for five minutes”

You mimic him right back “A long wait of 25 sweeps” you clear your throat. “But I am free! And off to continue my reign of vandalism” you raise your hands above your head and break the pipe cleaner cuffs.

Terezi gasps. “Oh no, Karkat Vantas, the notorious Vandalism King, has escaped from his lifelong captivity. I can hardly remember when I brought the cretin to justice. It was so long ago!” She punches Dave’s shoulder and cackles. “You won't get away with this!”

“You'll never take me alive!” You throw the pipe cleaner at her.

It's Dave's turn to gasp “Oh shit dude. You just assaulted a cop. That's like. 29 million life sentences. You're under arrest mother fucker.”

You raise an eyebrow and grab a piece of chalk. Walking calmly up to him and making direct eye contact as you smear chalk dust across his cheek.

Terezi starts laughing her ass off as dave looks at you blankly, his stance defensive, like he's ready to fight. Bring it the fuck on, asshole.

Terezi sticks her fucking finger in your ear and you recoil because fuck no! That feels horrible.

I’m going to be leaving now boys, I have a couple of things to attend to in my block. If you two decide to duke it out just make sure you don't destroy anything.”

She starts to walk away, and Dave calls after her “Yeah “things” in your room. Have fun jerking off to your weird fantasy of us doing alien hatemance fetish. This has been your ploy all along hasn't it?”

Terezi cackles as you gape at Dave in disbelief. He thinks he's even good enough for you to hate? As fucking if.

“Maybe it has been” she laughs, turning the corner and disappearing.

“Sometimes that girl can be pretty fucked up.” Dave muses, shrugging.

“You're the one who brought up blackrom between us, which is by the way, never gonna happen, and I'm not flattered.” You snap.

He makes a small scoffing noise. “Oh no. However will I recover from an offer I didn't make?”

“Just making absolutely sure. What with your constant human habit of quadrant hopping and flirting with practically everyone.”

“You're always talking about your alien squares at me. Chill about the goddamn squares. I dunno what the fuck Terezi is trying to do but honestly if she just wants to hang with you she should let me ollie out.”

“I couldn't agree more”

Dave pauses. “You know that she's...”

You roll your eyes and put a hand up to stop him. Though the fact that he's worried about it yet again makes your fucking day. “Not interested? Don't worry about me butting into your romantic clusterfuck, Strider. I might be an asshole, but I'm not that much of an asshole. She's still my friend though.”

“Huh. Alright. Cool. You do you then I guess.” He makes a vague hand motion, and then shoves his hands in his pockets and leaves.

You think that might be the least condescending thing he's ever said to you.

Chapter Text

“-And then she took my side! Over Dave's!! And I never thought that would happen again. And it was amazing. It felt amazing to take that smug bastard down a peg. And she finally let me in again.” You gush, your feet on either side of Gamzee’s hips so he can fuck with your sweater while you talk.

Gamzee matches your smile with a lazy one of his own. Today was a good day for him so you figured it would be safe to talk his ear off a little. “Aw man, I’m glad you've got yourself some dark interests all and swirling around from a wicked sis”

“What? Oh no. She's not interested. Trust me.” You feel your digestion sac sink a little despite yourself.

“I dunno bro, sounded in my hear ducts that you two had some motherfucking dark magics bouncing forth and backwards like” He suggests, tugging on your sleeve with a dopey smile you haven't seen in ages.

“No. I mean. I still like her. But even if she did feel that way it wouldn't work out.” You shrug.

He frowns, looking deeply confused “Why not, my brother?”

You avoid his gaze and confess to his shoulder “I kinda scared her away with my fucked up shit. I uh. I couldn't pick a god damn quadrant and she got freaked out. Still can't pick one. I dunno. Maybe it's just with her? I hope it's just with her.”

You take a peek at his face and you can't decide what he thinks of you now.

“I thought quadrants were your wicked shit?” He says after a few moments of processing.

“Well. They are. I mean. I don't know. They're supposed to be? No. They’re still my thing. I'm just a fucking desperate fool constantly. At least where Terezi is concerned. Maybe.” You sigh “I don't really have a concrete answer for you”

He frowns at you and pulls you closer so that your face is smushed into his chest.

“It's okay, Karbro. Ima sort this mess all out for you”

You don't really know what that means, but you nod and let him start fucking with your hair instead of your sweater.

“Just don't bother Terezi about my nonsense. She’s never gonna be interested. It's just my fucked up shit that I need to fix, alright?” You remind him.

“Sure mother fucking thing my brother. I'll just all in targeting my focus on my bestest bro”

You smile against his shirt, feeling warm and calm despite having your legs around someone's hips and thick ass arms closing you in. This is the first time in your life that you've been held without feeling trapped. You like that feeling. Trust.

Chapter Text

You messaged Gamzee today, but he hasn’t responded. That’s fine, you’ll just message Terezi.

You sip your coffee idly as you pull up trollian. You have a message notification. You hesitate, staring at the little black circle filled in and blinking near Rose’s handle.

You close trollian, sipping your coffee again. You don’t think you actually even like coffee. Your phone sits on the table, face up and demanding. You flip it over.

You hadn’t really noticed, but Rose and Kanaya have been doing a pretty okay job at making this place seem livable. You’ve started to relax a little. Sometimes you leave your sickle in your block when you go out. Not needing to be constantly on the defensive is a novelty that you’re not sure how to feel about.

The back of your phone is just as demanding as the front. Your hand reaches for it, but you end up just tapping your nails against the back of it. You’ve missed Rose. And Kanaya. It’s hard not to when they’ve made their mark literally everywhere in this place.

You lean back in your chair against the tasteful and admittedly comfortable pillow. It’s black and lacy, so that was probably Rose’s doing. The table in front of you is covered in a red patterned cloth. Kanaya. The rug under your feet is hard to identify as either or, but the texture is nice, especially when you curl your toes into it, trapping the fibers against your skin.

You grab your phone.

tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG]

TT: Karkat

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is an idle troll!

TT: No kidding.

TT: I think you owe Kanaya an apology.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling tentacleTherapist [TT]

tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG]

TT: Karkat, really now.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] blocked tentacleTherapist [TT]

This entire lab is suffocating.

You run away to your block like a coward but the guilt sinking in your gut follows you. You’re antsy. You want to do something. Go somewhere.

You debate messaging Terezi for all of two seconds because you don’t think you could deal with Dave’s shit right now.

Music. Music helps.

You struggle to remember where the fuck you put your ariculiar sound device, making a mess of your block in the process of trying to find where you’d hid them away, a swearing you’d remember where they were because past you never ceases to be a fucking idiot. You can hear the slight high pitched hum of the industrial lights above you and it feels like someone is running a cheese grater over your ears.

You finally find it and your fingers fumble in your haste to get it plugged in and play a song. Any song.

Iiiiiin Olive Sector Alternia, born and raised, on the hunting grounds is where I spent most of my-

You pause it, eyes wide. For a moment you let the silence drag on before you smile, huffing out short laugh. Then all of a sudden a wave of semi-hysterical mirth flows over you and you can’t stop laughing. You play the song again, shoving your phone in your pocket.

You close your eyes and start to move your hips to the beat, dancing in some semblance of a circle and letting everything fade away.

Now if you’d like to take a moment, just sit there sir, I’ll tell you how I became the best of the threshecutioners.

Chapter Text

The churning of thoughts in your head continues to be a problem. Whenever you close your eyes you can feel them pounding against your pan protector and giving you a fucking headache one thwack against bone at a time.

Stealing food for Gamzee has gotten a lot easier since you’ve stopped having to be subtle. You don’t eat as much as you used to, so it’s not nearly as obvious when you take entire meals at a time from the rations. You would be worried, but you figure if you’re exhausted and miserable either way, why waste time making and eating food. You don’t know why spreading grubsauce on a slice of grubloaf seems like such a gargantuan task to you now, but it’s better to just grab some human chips and be done with it. They’re all terrible, you can see why Strider likes them so much.

Once you’ve stocked your sylladex with food you hurry down the hallway. You’re itching to see Gamzee, anything to stop the ache in your chest that feels like your body is collapsing inward. You’re used to feeling like shit, but it hasn’t been like this in a while. Maybe you got too used to having too many friends.

You shoot Gamzee a quick message.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling terminallyCapricious [TC]

CG: ARE YOU UP FOR A LITTLE PALE TIME AND MORE FOOD?

CG: I’M FREE ALL NIGHT.

CG: OR DAY I GUESS SINCE, ALTHOUGH THE MINORITY ON THIS ROCK, THE HUMANS HAVE DECIDED WE MUST ACCOMMODATE THEIR SHIT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT.

CG: IT REALLY TUGS MY CHITINOUS APPENDAGE.

You hear a soft honk and nearly drop your phone. You’re not even close to your usual meeting spot. The next honk becomes louder.

CG: WHICH VENT?

Honk. BANG.

You proceed to shit yourself and reel around to see a vent cover at your feet and a hand protruding from the darkness, outstretched. You shake off your unnecessary adrenaline and grab the cover with one hand, Gamzee with the other. Your digestion sac flips unpleasantly witnessing the ease and speed with which Gamzee can pull you up and into the vents. You didn’t even have time to react much to help him out.

You fix the cover back on and reduce the light in the small space to mere slats. You thank whatever higher power is left that the vents are industrial sized or this would be considerably more difficult. Gamzee’s hands are in your hair before you even finish closing you both in. There’s a little flutter in your middle at that.

“Hey... you okay?” You turn to smile encouragingly at Gamzee and are met with his chest as you are immediately enveloped in a hug.

He doesn’t respond, he just holds you close, breathing raggedly. You nudge your head under his chin and let him feel your breath fanning over his skin, hushing him softly. You let him scratch his claws gently back and forth over your sweater as you gain confidence to make your next move. He’s putting himself in your hands. The ache in your chest has shifted to something slightly more positive.

You hold your breath, cup his face gently, and brush your thumb back and forth over his cheek. He leans further into you. You take your chance, tilting your head up and pressing a short kiss to his temple. Gamzee stiffens against you, and you immediately regret everything. You pushed too far too fast. This probably wasn’t even about him. Weren’t you feeling particularly shitty today? God, you’re so selfish, you’re so -

Gamzee’s lips brush your cheek. You immediately flush an ugly shade of red.

You want to pull him back to look at him. Make sure he’s okay. Maybe do a little deescalation before you make him uncomfortable.

But he keeps kissing you. On your cheek, on your jaw, on the bright red tips of your ears. You abruptly forget how to breathe as his chest rumbles with a low clicking noise. You can feel the vibrations all the way through you. His kisses are a little sloppy, random, like he’s not all there. It makes your bloodpusher pound uncomfortably against your chest like it’s trying to abandon ship.

Your hands fly to his hair, jittery, not sure what to do. You realize belatedly that holy shit, this is your first time. This intimacy. You’ve never had this with anyone. You didn’t think you’d ever have this.

A laugh bubbles up and out of you, sounding a bit too nervous, a little ragged. Ragged? Oh shit. The vibrations are coming from you too. He’s got one large hand in your hair and the other curled into a fist in your sweater. He drags his nails across your scalp and your eyes flutter shut. Fuck.

You feel your back hit the cold metal of the vent before you process that he’s pushing you backwards. In order to fit in the confined space he presses his full body weight on you.

That both calms and skyrockets your nerves. You’re pretty sure you’re shaking. God, you’re pathetic.

You think idly someone could hear you if they walk down the hall. You open your mouth to say something about that, but Gamzee chirps soothingly In your ear and you shudder. Holy shit. He continues to press little kisses to the side of your face, a little too wet, imprecise, imperfect. Like him. Like you.

He’s cradling your body against his like a rag doll. You’re suddenly struck with how small you are.

His aim slips and his lips brush the corner of your mouth. Your breath catches in your throat. Warmth flares in your middle like fire.

That was...

Shame coils unpleasantly in your throat. He kisses the crease between your eyebrows and you remind yourself to breathe. God, you selfish fuck, this is about him too.

You scritch at his scalp right behind his ear and lean up, kissing his cheek. His face darkens and he pushes your shoulders down easily. Your blood runs cold and you forget to breathe once again. He relaxes when you freeze and tucks a piece of hair behind your ear.

“Gamzee, I’m-“ you start but he puts his finger to your lips. You fall silent and he traces the contours of your lips for a moment, before brushing his fingertips over your eyelids to force them closed. You don’t dare open them, your pulse loud in your ears.

When you open your eyes again he’s gone.

Chapter Text

The one thing you absolutely refuse to accept is that after all you’ve been through, and all the people you’ve lost through your own personal fuck ups, is that you’re making the exact same mistake all over again. You hate your brain, you really do. You sigh, your hands pushing through the fake sopor slime, the gelatinous substance getting under your fingernails and trailing over your skin as you break it up with your movements. It’s thicker than it was on alternia. The effect is somewhat suffocating, but you absolutely refuse to switch to human sleeping platforms. Everyone else can abandon their culture if they want to, but you’re keeping your great empire alive in every way you can. The pads of your fingers make contact with your bare thighs. You expel a low breath and close your eyes, trying to will your pan to be scrapped of all thought so you can drift slowly down into a hopefully dreamless sleep.

Alas, the universe continuously seeks to punish you for the fact that you never should’ve existed in the first place. You think you heard Strider refer your sign as “cancer” once. Cancer. That’s your legacy, and earth wasn’t even aware of just how accurate that title was. It’s kind of a sick metaphor for your entire life: a persistent, malignus anomaly. You think a lot about how all of your bad decisions were literally essential to the survival of the timeline. Your take away from that is you’re destined to be useless and blundering. If you were competent and successful at literally anything, everyone would die.

You can’t really decide if that’s comforting or not. Your nails drag up and down your thighs slowly as you think about Gamzee. Obviously, this is another instance of your inadequacy being essential to the timeline. Just like it was with Terezi. Ultimately, your terrible, possessive, confused behavior is what drove her into the arms of Dave Strider and honestly? She seems happy.

You wonder what will finally drive Gamzee away, and where he will go. It scares you.

You feel the ghost of his fingers on your lips and a jolt runs down your spine at the intrusive thought. Your digestion sack flips and you feel like you’re going to be sick. You try anything and everything to distract yourself from this particular train of thought. You refuse to entertain it. It doesn’t deserve recognition. You’re being ridiculous.

Your brain helpfully supplies you with the memory you’ve been not thinking about (read: completely consumed by) for the past week. Gamzee’s lips on the corner of your mouth. Does that count as a first kiss? Your fingers curl against your skin as heat rushes to your face at the thought. Your first kiss can’t be with your moirail. You don’t kiss your moirail. It was an accident. A soft brush of an accident.

You shift forward and force your head under the slime for a few moments before resurfacing, shame curling hot tendrils in your gut. No. This is fucked up. You’re just making shit up and drawing pathetic connections in your head because you’re a sad little wriggler who will remain unkissed for the rest of his life. It makes sense that you’re bitter.

You sigh as the slime starts to dry on your face and lean your head back on your coon. You try again to sleep. Kanaya always said to count backwards from a hundred. It’s worth a shot. 100... 99... 98... 97...

Your mind drifts to half a sweep ago... or more now. You can’t really tell. Time has no relevance in this place anyways. You remember looking out over the sky from Terezi’s treehouse on her planet. You think Terezi’s planet came second to yours in gaudy color schemes. You remember the stark contrast between the bright pink petals hanging down over the window and flashing cerulean sky. It was perfect for her, you thought, fitting. Colorful, abrasive, yet beautiful. It hurt his eyes to look at it too long.

Where were you? 96... 95... 94... 93...

She grinned devilishly at you right before it happened. You were sitting against the wall as she made fun of you relentlessly, scribbling on her floor and making it a mess of chalky lines. You didn’t really think much of it. It wasn’t the first time you were alone with her. You spent a bunch of time on her planet on purpose. You don’t know what it was about her, but somehow she was easier to deal with than your other friends at the time. It was a bit jarring to go from zero in person interaction with anyone to 24/7 interaction with eleven very different people. You tried to introduce yourself to it slowly. You think Terezi knew, but she never said anything about it directly. You’ve always admired that about her.

92... 91... 90... 89...

Terezi threw her chalk after a pause in conversation, a determined glint in her eyes that made you distinctly uncomfortable. You remember making some comment about the mess she lived in, trying to redirect her attention somewhere else.

“The prosecution believes Mr. Vantas is, in legal terms, a cluckbeast!” She declared.

You tried to play it off like you were dismissive of her instead of ridiculously nervous about where this was going. She crawled towards you, spewing some of her roleplay garbage when you didn’t really process if you’re being honest, because you could sort of see down her shirt and you had absolutely zero idea how to respond to that. She brushed your messy bangs out of your face as you desperately tried to remember all that books and movies had taught you about kissing. You were drawing a huge blank, frozen, back straight against the wall. Embarrassment settles inside you even now, thinking back on it. She was always so much more capable than you were. More experienced. More confident.

89... 89... 88... 87...

She didn’t kiss you. She might’ve, if you weren’t such a cluckbeastshit about it. But she did duck her head and bury her nose in your neck, making you jump in surprise. You will always remember the press of her smile against your skin as she whispered in her gravelly voice.

“Do I have to do everything? You could just tell me, you know.”

Your words had died in your throat since the moment she made skin to skin contact with you. You had never done anything even remotely like this before. You had never even hugged someone.

She laughed lowly and reached up into your hair, grabbing a fistful and gently tilting your head back to lick a stripe up your neck, cackling at you. Her tongue was cool against your burning skin but it felt like hot flames licking down your spine and setting a fire at your core. You shiver even as you recall the event. She backed off almost as quickly as she had done it, spouting off about cherries, and having known it the whole time, and how you tasted, god. But you barely processed any of it, your pulse in your ears, half panicked and half aroused.

You think again about Gamzee’s fingers against your lips, and shift to press your thighs together under the slime.

This is not how it’s supposed to be.

You lean over the side of your coon and dry heave until your face turns a splotchy red, and it becomes apparent that nothing will quiet the agonizing buzzing in your chest.

Chapter Text

He hasn’t contacted you in a week and you’re getting antsy. You have to spend all of your time in the less populated areas of the meteor since you really can’t deal with the shitshow you made out of your relationship with Rose and Kanaya.

Ultimately, the unexplored labs and conference rooms and bunkers are disappointing. It’s all very uniform, bereft of individuality. You’ve taken to pulling the bunkers apart to see if anything was left behind. So far: a few wrappers and some spare change. You found one list. You have no idea what any of the words on the list mean, let alone what their relation is to each other, but you keep it in your pocket. You like the unfamiliar handwriting.

Most of the letters are short and spiky, but it seems as though someone else corrected it, because some items are crossed out and replaced with curly, thin letters. You wonder if they were close. Or maybe Curly was a superior and Spiky felt belittled by the constant corrections. You then check your palm husk and pray that someone has decided to deliver you from this absolute boredom. Chiefly Gamzee.

You find your inactive one sided chat with Gamzee in your otherwise barren trollian.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling terminallyCapricious [TC]

CG: HEY GAMZEE, YOU AROUND?

terminallyCapricious [TC] is an idle troll!

CG: LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT TO HANG OUT TONIGHT.

terminallyCapricious [TC] is an idle troll!

CG: HEY BRO.

terminallyCapricious [TC] is an idle troll!

CG: ALRIGHT, JUST LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU FEEL UP FOR IT.

terminallyCapricious [TC] is an idle troll!

CG: DUDE, IT’S BEEN A WEEK. ARE YOU OKAY? HONK AT ME SOMETIME?

terminallyCapricious [TC] is an idle troll!

Nothing. Figures.

Ping!

grimAuxiliatrx [GA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

Nope.

You pocket your palm husk again, stubbornly staring at the wall as you tear yourself apart internally. You should just talk to her. You know you overreacted.

No. Actually. Fuck that. Gamzee says you forgive people too easily, and you probably do! She was out of line. Who is she to pale flirt with you when she knows you’re taken? No one appreciates your efforts to keep them all safe. To take care of Gamzee. Least of all Kanaya.

You kick over a tray table and listen to the satisfying metallic clatter as the various instruments bounce across the concrete floor. The satisfaction is short lived. You feel like a wriggler.

You’re about to reach into your pocket to at least see what she has to say to gage how mad you have to be at her when you hear fabric rustling behind you.

“Geez, did I just walk in on a patented Karkat Temper Tantrum?”

You barely stop yourself from instinctually chopping his fucking head off with your sickle. Your fingers twitch for it, but you merely spin around to face him.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” You spit, more venom than necessary.

“Am I not allowed to go where I damn please. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize this place was owned by the great Lord... What the fuck was your last name again? Eh, let’s go with Lord ScreamsALot. How much of the meteor is under your jurisdiction, Milord? Shit, should I have been bowing this whole time? I always assumed when Terezi told me not to mention your shirt color it was cause grey was like... Embarrassing for whatever reason. But maybe I was wrong, is it like Voldemort? You’re not supposed to say you’re a grey blood cause you’re all powerful and scary on your planet. Is it because every fucking thing in here is grey? Do you like own all the grey shit now?” You have a feeling he would keep going forever if no one stopped him, like moving objects in space.

You’re a little pissed that Terezi even mentioned your mutation to him at all, but obviously she didn’t tell him anything else about it.

“Holy shit, your understanding of troll culture is abysmal at best! It was a simple fucking question, I didn’t sign up for your outlandish conclusion jumping. Do you ever breathe, or do you just have to wait for people to interrupt you?” You cross your arms over your chest, leaning against a counter.

“Yes. Thank you Karkat, you’re a real lifesaver, I would have suffocated had you not interrupted me.” There’s a hint of amusement in his voice that doesn’t quite translate to his face.

“It would’ve been a just death.” You roll your eyes. “And yes, Strider. I am royalty. I own all grey things. Give me your shoes, they’re mine now.”

“No can do, dude. These shoes were given to me by the literal universe. They are cosmically mine. You’ll just have to steal a different grey article of clothing I own to sniff before bed to feed your gay fantasies.” He pushes his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose.

Aw well. You were having a pleasant moment of mutual boredom with Dave Strider. It was fun while it lasted. Alas, arrogance once again rears its ugly head.

“Did you come here just to tell me you hope I think about you when I squeeze one out or was there some other purpose to your invasion of my empire?” You could have yelled him into submission, and honestly you’re surprised you didn’t. It just feels like a hell of a lot of effort, and with Gamzee awol, you have no one to talk about it with afterwards anyway.

“Squeeze?” He raises a delicate, pale eyebrow over his shades.

“I will start walking away.” You threaten.

Dave shrugs in this infuriatingly nonchalant way. “Had nothing to do. Happy accident I found you here, subjugating the shit out of pointy metal stick things. Keep those fuckers in line.”

You frown. “Wait. What about Terezi?”

You just barely see him stiffen a little before he relaxes so quickly you question if you saw anything at all. “What about her? I don’t keep tabs on her every movement, not sure how it worked when y’all were macking or whatever. She has a life outside of me dude, it’s called a healthy relationship.”

A flash of rage runs through you. What the fuck has she been telling him? And who does he think he is? You can’t fucking do this right now, you’re going to hit him. Oh, and it would be fantastic. Break his composure, catch him off guard. You’d give anything to see shock cross his face, even if he beat the shit out of you afterwards.

Instead you charge towards the doorway, straight through him.

“Get the fuck out of--” You don’t get to finish your sentence, or even shoulder check him, because before you process what’s happening your ass hits the floor with a smack.

You immediately raise up to your elbows, teeth bared ready to chew him out when you see the sword in your face. The blood drains from your face as panic floods your system, looking up at him and seeing nothing stare back at you.

You panic. Your sickle is in your hand before you have time to process it and you swing blindly at Dave’s sword.

You hear the crashing of metal against metal and your sickle flies across the room in your peripheral vision.

You don’t take your eyes off the sword in your face as your panic begins to rise. You’re going to die. Holy shit, you’re going to die. This is it.

The sad thing is: you don’t even really know if you’re surprised. Your body is definitely reacting in the way it’s supposed to. Your pulse roars in your ears and your legs twitch, ready to high tail out of there as fast as you can. But your mind? You feel... relieved?

At least it’s not the Empress.

Or Jack.

Or Gamzee.

But then you blink and he’s gone. Something heavy settles in your gut, and you refuse to call it disappointment. You don’t want to die. At least not actively.

A dark part of your mind whispers: but if something were to happen, you wouldn’t complain.

You push yourself up shakily from the floor and walk slowly in the direction you think you saw your sickle go.

You’d never go down without a fight, you think as something wet drips from your chin. You find your sickle. Return it to your specibus.

You wipe your nose on the back of your sleeve, sniffling wetly.

Besides, the dream bubbles would be way worse than this shit.

Best to put it off as long as possible.

Chapter Text

You can no longer explore the depths of the meteoric labs. Not since you scared the shit out of yourself when you got horribly and almost irrevocably lost a couple days ago. You got to the far edge of the basement sector of the building. You know this because after a certain point you could no longer walk forwards and were forced to turn down a random hallway. Since you’ve all collectively decided to live somewhere in the middle of this stupidly huge building, it took you forever to meander your way back to your block. And by forever you mean you were legitimately forced to sleep for a few hours in an abandoned barrak to ensure you didn’t just get yourself more lost with your exhausted fumbling.

Hence your new confinement to your block almost exclusively. You’re going to need to emerge for food soon. Your digestion sack has started trying to eat itself and no amount of binge drinking water will convince your body that you don’t need to eat food. It’s times like these you wish you actually made godtier. Unless being a useless shitwad recluse counts as a Just death. You think it just might, knowing your luck.

This is why you find yourself standing in front of your closed door, staring it down, trying to will yourself to open it.

You know you’re being ridiculous, it doesn’t matter if you run into someone in the nutrition block. You can just ignore them. It’ll be fine. You’ve been doing a great job at ignoring Kanaya over trollian. Can’t be that hard.

You fish your palm husk out of your jeans because you’re nothing if not a coward and a procrastinator.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] started trolling terminallyCapricious [TC]

CG: CAN YOU JUST LET ME KNOW THAT YOU DON’T NEED ME TO CRAWL THROUGH THE VENTS TO FIND YOU?

TC: :o(

CG: CAN I SEE YOU TODAY?

terminallyCapricious [TC] is an idle troll!

Yeah. Okay.

You take a deep breath in and wrench your door open, squaring your shoulders and walking with purpose towards the nutrition block. You try your level best to walk quietly, even monitoring your breathing, as if someone could sense you should you make the slightest noise. You ignore the pang in your blood pusher as you wander into more populated areas of the meteor, strewn with knitting, rugs, and tapestries.

When you cautiously round the corner to the nutrition block, you find it blissfully empty. You make short work of the cabinets, gathering several captcha cards full of non perishables. You figure if you want to avoid an unpleasant repetition of these events, you may as well get enough food for about two weeks. That’s probably long enough for you to get tired enough of your block to get lost again.

“Hey, when you finish with the cans, can you just slide them on over to the cantown border patrol to become certified citizens. Washing is appreciated but not mandatory.”

Your bloodpusher stops cold and you freeze, nearly dropping the cans you had gathered to captchalogue. You don’t know if it’s better to face Strider head on or not. On Alternia there were only two strategies to get out of a fight: intimidation or pity. Consolation was a rare, and difficult to achieve third option. Of course this only applied if you were a run of the mill gutterblood. For Karkat, the elusive and seldom successful fourth option appeared: ABSCOND.

You cannot abscond, however, because when you turn to do so you find your possible assailant standing in the doorway. You swallow, take in a slow breath, and try to calm your dizzying nerves.

You captchalogue your cans so your hands can appear empty and non threatening as you do in general.

“Yeah. Sure thing. Washed and ready to go.” You assent, keeping your eyes on him, shoulders raised to your ears, voice surprisingly steady.

Dave’s mouth tugs down into a miniscule frown and you struggle to think of what you could’ve done to displease him and how to make it right before he decided to dismember you.

“Appreciated.” He lets the two of you have a bit of a staredown in silence for a moment before stepping out of your way and letting you pass.

You have zero idea what he’s playing at but you jump at the opportunity to escape the situation, walking with quick strides towards the door. He calls after you before you’ve made it back down the hall.

“Hey Karkat.” Your feet stop you even as your mind screams for you to run. You don’t turn back to look at him. “I uh. You should come back to Cantown.”

The pure and utter wave of confusion that overtakes you is simply too much. You’ve not just been thrown for a loop you’ve been thrown for a whole god damned curly q. You spin around to look at him incredulously.

“What?” You ask a little too loudly before you can check yourself.

He shrugs, all feigned nonchalance. “It’s whatever if you don’t, but there’s been way too little for the police to do lately. A return of the notorious criminal Karkat LastName might spice up the narrative a little.”

You narrow your eyes at him. “Okay. Um. Let me reiterate: what?

He scuffs his shoe against the concrete. “You’re already going to be smuggling cans across the border. Perhaps you were reformed by the rough and tumble ways of the scientifically sterile tundra. The cockles of your deviant heart were thoroughly warmed by a charming little can orphan refugee. You then swore you would get the poor people of the pantry to a better place, even if it ended up sending you to one. You left Cantown as a vagrant and return a hero.”

“You don’t like me.” You almost say it to ground yourself in reality while Dave tries to spin you into wherever the fuck it is his broken pan lives.

“I don’t remember ever saying that out loud.”

“A sword to the face says a thousand words.”

He actually winces as though you’ve hit him at that. It strikes you how awkward it is to be having this conversation half a halls length away from each other. You don’t feel particularly motivated to rectify that yet. “You came at me, man. Not my fault you couldn’t take a tête à tête with a Strider.”

You consider this. In all fairness, you did intend to ram right into him like an asshole on your way out. You take a moment to picture him stomping towards you with angry intentions in his eyes. You might well have done the same as him.

“I’ll think about it.” You finally say before taking off back down the hall.

You don’t breathe again until you’re back in your block. Your palm husk chimes.

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

GA: Karkat I Wanted To Inform You Of My Remorse Concerning The Events That Conspired

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is an idle troll!

GA: Please Know That It Was Not My Intention To Belittle Your Relationship With Gamzee

GA: In Fact I Believe That A Moirallegiance is Good For You

GA: A Troll Your Age In General Is In Need Of Positive Companionship

GA: I Just

GA: Well

GA: Talk To Me Again When You Can

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

GA: Karkat Its Been Quite A While

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is an idle troll!

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

GA: Is That It Then

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is an idle troll!

GA: Are You Just Never Speaking To Me Again

GA: I Am Aware I Crossed A Line But I Am Not Sure The Crime Fits The Punishment In This Instance

GA: I Was Merely Attempting To Help Though Obviously Youre Not Susceptible To That At The Moment

GA: Or At Any Moment

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

GA: Is He Putting You Up To This

carcinoGeneticist [CG] is an idle troll!

GA: Well

GA: Regardless I Do Think It Should Be Said

GA: I Dont Think Hes Good For You Karkat

GA: And I Know The Inappropriate Advances I Have Made May Have Severed Our Bond

GA: However I Still

GA: I Cannot Help But

GA: Take Care Of Yourself Karkat

GA: If You Would

GA: I Am Sorry

grimAuxiliatrix [GA] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

Chapter Text

The thing about staying in your block all day is that you have to get creative very quickly. You’ve already memorized the patterns of water damage on your ceiling so well that you could probably recreate it on paper from memory. You can’t stop bouncing your leg. The space is so devoid of personality it’s a wonder anyone actually lives here, let alone has for over half a sweep. You really didn’t even try to call the meteor home, did you?

Currently, your eyes scan a page that you haven’t been reading for a while now. It’s a shame, the sexual tension between the romantic leads is coming to a head. You just can’t do it right now. If you read about one more bulge wriggling impudently or whatever, you’ll lose your shit.

You’re mostly thinking about Kanaya.

Your pan has been circling the idea of talking to her and not talking to her about a million times. You’ve reread her messages, picked apart her actions over this past sweep, tried to tease away your own personal bias which proved impossible.

You’ve typed the following in one degree or another, and then promptly deleted it without sending:

IF YOU’RE GONNA GO AROUND THROWING STONES IN YOUR GLASS HIVE ABOUT KILLING PEOPLE, BE MY GUEST, BUT MAYBE NEXT TIME DON’T DO IT IN YOUR APOLOGY.

WHEN DID IT BECOME YOUR JOB TO WORRY ABOUT WHAT IS AND ISN’T GOOD FOR ME. I’M A GROWN ASS TROLL AND I DON’T NEED YOU POLICING MY QUADRANTS. RETIRE THE DESIGNATED ASHEN COORDINATOR SHTICK, IT’S GETTING STALE.

MAYBE SOME OF YOU WOULD GET A BETTER FEEL OF THE SITUATION IF YOU, I DON’T KNOW, ACTUALLY SPOKE TO GAMZEE LIKE I DO INSTEAD OF MAKING HIM FEEL LIKE HE NEEDS TO HIDE AWAY IN THE VENTS LIKE A FUCKING CONVICT.

I KNOW MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GAMZEE ISN’T PERFECT BUT I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IF YOU DIDN’T LET YOUR OBVIOUS FEELINGS FOR ME CLOUD YOUR SERIOUSLY SHITHIVE JUDGEMENT.

I’VE MISSED YOU. IT’S BEEN HARD.

That last one surprised you a bit. Even after all this time, it often feels like another person is typing when you message anyone but Gamzee. Sometimes you wonder if you’ve spent so long trying to shut people out that you have no idea how to let them back in again. Or even what there is to be seen in there, besides the festering mass of regret and self loathing you’ve become as you’ve once again been forced into stagnation.

Sometimes you miss Alternia. Sometimes you don’t.

This isn’t that much of an upgrade, anyhow.

You stop yourself from bothering Gamzee again, obviously he’ll get back to you when he feels up to it. Pushing him isn’t doing you any favors.

You try reading again.

Zefron grasps desperately at Fereno’s back, his claws dragging raised blue lines over the hot expanse of flesh. He had never felt this way, so filled, so whole, so close. High pitched clicks escape him with the abandon of a rustblood given an inordinate sum of money as Fereno’s bulge works him in all the right ways.

All the right ways. What does that even mean? You captchalogue the book, leaning back against your dinky couch that you alchemized and dragged in here oh so long ago. It was lumpy and uncomfortable, kind of like you are.

As much as the idea of letting someone get that close terrifies you, there’s a part of you that wants to know what that feels like. What every dramatic metaphor and liturgic bit of prose is really getting at.

The thought makes your digestion sack twist painfully with the reminder that you will literally never get to know what that’s like and you probably wouldn’t enjoy it regardless of opportunity. The idea of anyone wanting to touch you with reverence is laughable.

You shove it down until you’re not thinking about it anymore. Except now you can’t even read. The helplessness of that thought makes you want to cry like a petulant wriggler.

You don’t.

You start walking to Cantown.

Chapter Text

On the way there you watch your sneakers hit the concrete resolutely, forcefully disconnected from the reality of your actions. You’re willingly going to hang out with Dave Strider. You never thought this day would come but hey, desperate times and all.

The realization that Dave Strider is your only option for company hits you like a comedic cartoon anvil and you want to turn the fuck around and walk back into your block to waste away.

But maybe Terezi will be there. Is that better or worse?

You do legitimately stop in the middle of the hallway to weigh your options like a dumbass. You stare at your shoes as if they could reveal the secrets of the universe. Are you really up to this right now? No, of course not. You’d barely even be up to socializing with Gamzee at this point, and he’s your goddamn moirail for Empress’ sake. But you know the alternative is more of the same, and you feel if you leave this angry, empty hole in your chest alone for much longer you’ll implode into a black hole, swallowing everything in your wake.

Even so, another day alone couldn’t hurt. You’ll hang around the Strider Pyrope combo team another time when you feel better about it.

Ding!

You flinch, reaching into your pocket for your palm husk hesitantly. You know it’s probably Kanaya, and you really don’t want it to be. But it could be Gamzee. Ding!

You turn it over in your hand slowly to reveal the screen, as if handling a dangerous animal ready to strike.

Ding!

Oh.

It’s worse than you thought.

FUTURE carcinoGeneticist [FCG] 170 HOURS from RIGHT NOW opened memo on board “THE DAVE STRIDER PROBLEM.”

FCG: AS MUCH AS YOU AND I BOTH DESPISE FUTURE INTERVENTION AND THE GENERAL PATRONIZING ASSHATERY THAT ENSUES, I HAVE TO INSIST THAT YOU JUST BUCKLE DOWN AND LISTEN THIS TIME.

FCG: THE LESS YOU RESPOND THE EASIER THIS WILL BE.

FCG: I’M NOT GOING TO EXPLAIN THE CONTEXT BEHIND THIS KARKAT EX MACHINA HAPPENING RIGHT NOW, JUST KNOW THAT IT’S OBVIOUSLY IMPORTANT IF I WOULD SUBJECT MYSELF TO THIS GROSS PARODY OF COHERENT SELF COMMUNICATION WE’VE CREATED.

CURRENT carcinoGeneticist [CCG] from RIGHT NOW responded to memo

FCG: YOU’RE HERE, FANTASTIC. DON’T TYPE.

FCG: GO TO CANTOWN YOU MALNOURISHED SELF DEPRICATING FUCK.

FCG: AND TAKE A SHOWER! I’M GETTING WHIFFS OF YOUR RANK, DECOMPOSITIONAL BODY ODOR THROUGH THE CHANNELS OF SPACE TIME TELECOMMUNICATION!

FUTURE carcinoGeneticist [FCG] closed the memo

A little croak of laughter bubbles up and out of your throat. You’re pretty sure you just witnessed your version of being kind to yourself. Incredible.

You do a quick assessment of your body odor situation and yeah, future you is right. You don’t even have the energy to be pained by that, you just about face, heading back to your block not to curl into a ball and continue to sleep in your over three perigee old slime that’s starting to congeal around the edges, but to cleanse yourself.

You avoid looking at the mirror as you undress and step under the spray, only catching glimpses of yourself in your periphery. You run your fingers through your wet hair and you can feel the oils you’ve let build up over time. A curl of disgust in your gut makes you grab the shampoo and squeeze out a larger than necessary globber onto your palm, rubbing it relentlessly into your roots.

You spend longer in the cleansing trap than you intended to. You always do after long periods of greasification. When you step out the mirror is fogged up with steam. You allow yourself to stare at this distorted version of yourself, out of focus and soft around the edges. You can almost see it for a moment, a certain kernel of potential in your silhouette. You reach out and wipe a hole in the fog for your face to peer back at you with your usual hardened scowl falling back into place. You turn away and dry off.

You don’t bother letting your hair air dry. Not like you’re aiming to impress Dave of all people, and you’ve long since given up pretending you can impress Terezi. You do throw on a beanie though, just because.

You resume your walk to cantown, feeling a lot better about it. You’re a little disappointed in yourself for so readily grabbing the carrot of social fulfilment Future You dangled in front of you like a self important asshole, but it’s a backburner disappointment. In a very small pot, at a simmer. At least compared to your all consuming need to talk to someone who isn’t you.

You start to walk faster.

When you finally breach the doorway you are assaulted by an explosion of the original circle you had seen so long ago. There are colors everywhere, the ceiling is covered in shitty chalk clouds and airplanes and flapbeasts. You are admittedly impressed. Dave Strider is currently floating near the ceiling adding some more clouds to a blank corner.

Something tugs on your sweater and you look down, shoulders raised and fingers an inch away from summoning your sickle. Oh. It’s just that carapace guy. He gives you a cheerful wave makes a sweeping gesture with both of his little arms.

Your guard doesn’t drop. Appearances could be deceiving afterall. Nepeta looked like a harmless wriggler, but you saw her take down a giant imp using just her left hand because Sollux told her she couldn’t do it. Sugar cubes and blood everywhere. And so much shale.

You give the guy a curt nod and take a step into the block, dodging the painted welcome sign. You recognize Terezi’s handiwork there, with the wobbly, out of place letters and the fact that it actually says W3LCOM3 TO C4NTOWN.

You feel a little pang of jealousy. Maybe if you had been more proactive you could’ve been around here more with her, like he was. Seems like she’s fucked off for the moment though. You briefly consider running away again, but all chances of escape are dashed when Dave speaks.

“Hey Mayor? We’re running out of blue chalk up here in the NorthEastern Sky sector. You got some down there in your little dragon hoard or are we gonna have to call in reinforcements. And by reinforcements, I mean-” Dave stops dead when he sees you, eyebrows raising over his shades, but only for a moment. “Karkat.”

“Strider.” You acknowledge, feeling a little like you’re intruding on something, which is a steaming pile of hoofbeast excrement because he invited you.

Dave seems pulled out of his temporary astonishment and floats down towards you, his knees bent behind him and above the floor. You already regret coming.

“Been a long time since you’ve been around these parts, we’ve been working on some major expansion.” He informs you.

“Yeah I can see that. These are all empty cans, yeah? You’re not wasting our food on this shit.”

“First of all, I would gladly volunteer my entire ration of food for the duration of the trip to the construction of our good city. Hell, I would volunteer the rations of all the godtiers aboard this vessel and half the rations of the mortals shuffling around here were it necessary. Fortunately for you, I’m not a fucking idiot. We just create duplicates of empty cans at the alchemiter, as the reasonable people we are.” He drops to the ground with a nod to punctuate his point and crosses his arms over his chest.

“When you’ve witnessed the pandemonium that is hatched from people squirreling shit away in random chests and then stealing other people’s shit from other chests, and then coming to you all blotchy faced and crocodile teared like ‘Karkat, where oh where could my super important fiduspawn eggs have gone? I only left them in the one place they were guaranteed to be swiped out from under my snout,” you learn to expect the moronic.” You huff out a breath.

The corner of Dave’s mouth tilts up in amusement and he shrugs, falling back onto the air as if lounging on a sofa. You always forget how much you hate the nonchalance with which he uses his godtier powers, as if his goal was to shove it in the face of all who dare to bask in his conditionally immortal presence. “Yeah that checks out. Bet the Harleyberts would get up to all sorts of dumb shit like that when left to their own devices.”

You realize with a start that this is the first time you’ve talked about Tavros since it all went down. You have no idea how to feel about that.

You’ve been silent for too long apparently, because Dave decides to fill the silence immediately. “So do you want the tour?”

That was a rhetorical question, as it turns out, because the carapace guy perks up and grabs your sleeve to pull you further into the sprawling ocean of nutrition cylinders. You stiffen and stay right the fuck where you are because it has been more than a few solid days since someone has touched you kindly, and it’s been forever since a perfect stranger touched you so casually. The false Mayor seems to recognize this and drops your sleeve, pressing his fingers together and bowing his head shyly.

You throw a glance Davewards to see if you’ve fucked up irrevocably. He’s looking at you with the same expression he usually wears, but you can feel the intensity his gaze carries. You internally curl into the fetal position and remove your conscious from your body.

“Uh, yeah sure. Am I important enough to get one from the Mayor of this impressive city?” You indulge.

This fixes everything. The carapacian waves his arms around excitedly and gives sweeping gestures to various parts of the little model city while Dave narrates from above. All in all it’s not a bad way to kill a half hour.

You’re letting Dave drone on about the crime rate on the outskirts of town and how theft has become a real problem since the city is short staffed on officers of the law. ‘You see Karkat, Cantown expanded too quickly for its own good, so the resources ended up being localized to the oldest areas, and thus the property values of said areas increased, so there is very little organized governmental protection in the places that need it the most, blah blah blah.’

You never really had to think about that kind of stuff on Alternia. You didn’t have “officers of the law” so much as killer robots owned by the powerful. The more you learn about human culture the more confused your stance becomes on your own.

As Dave starts talking about gentrification and some currency called ‘Starbucks’ you let your eyes wander towards some weird grey lines disrupting the uniform outlines of streets between cans. You take a step back to look at the city blocks as a whole and your eyebrows raise of their own accord.

“Hang on,” you interrupt, startling Dave who seems to have forgotten you were still here, “did you seriously not even bother to erase the stupid shit I did last time I was here?”

“What, you mean your salacious graffiti? Fuck the police. Ain’t exactly an original statement, but bold nonetheless. Especially made in a time of a cop dominated Cantown. We had a fuckin’ revolutionary on our hands.” He sinks to your level, and you mean this literally, the caped douchebag.

“But you built over it anyway?” You ask.

“Life carries on, Karkat. That’s just the way it is.” Dave states solemnly. You admit to yourself in a quiet corner of your think pan that he’s very right.