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A Lullaby For Gods

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Hal had told them that New York was prone to attacks, but they didn’t think it would be prone to attacks right now.

Eridan Ampora is running as fast as he can, one hand holding onto Roxy, as they weave through the crowd, because she’s refusing to fly.

“We’ll get singled out!”

“There’s a fuckin’ firebeast behind us, who cares about getting singled out!” he yells. At least Davesprite is flying, although he’s slowing himself down to keep speed with Eridan and Roxy and has long since thrown the bag of that disgusting thing humans called ‘candy’ at the same firebeast Eridan had mentioned earlier. Said firebeast is still chasing them, and Eridan is not in the mood to get burned right now.

“Fuck,” Roxy mutters as Hal’s ridiculous pointy shades almost fall off her face. She pulls them off and tosses them to Davesprite, who deftly catches them.

“Just fucking fly!” Eridan yells, again, to this ridiculously stubborn girl.

“No. You can’t even fly.”

“Not the damn point, Rox.”

“You are going to get left behind,” Roxy says, squeezing his hand tightly. He thinks if he were human, she would have crushed it. “Fuck that.”

Another firebeast jumps out of the alley ahead of them and they all try to stop, but the asphalt is slippery with blood, and water from a broken pipe several feet away from them. He grits his teeth as he yells, “Jump!” and then lets Roxy go, slides down and uses his momentum from running to slip underneath the firebeast, all in one motion. The asphalt is slick enough to just let him slide past the creature, and he inhales sharply he does, hoping the damn thing doesn’t crush him in the millisecond it takes for him to perform this feat.

He pushes himself up quickly and bares his teeth, predatory, and is thankful that Roxy appears to have taken his advice and is now airborne along with Davesprite.

Unfortunately, she also flies full speed towards him, wraps her arms around his torso, and then takes off flying down the street. He lets out a strangled gasp as his breath is knocked out of him from the strength of what was essentially a full body tackle.

“For the Empress’ sake, Roxy!”

“Just give me directions!”

He wriggles in her grip, trying to get a view of the street instead of the monster that is chasing them while also trying to be careful not to injure her, but gets nowhere. He huffs. “Turn me around.”

“What?”

“Just turn me around, I can’t see the street for shit.”

“Fine.”

Roxy lets go. He flails as he’s dropped, and it’s like déjà vu – falling through sky and wind and clouds, and for a minute, Eridan thinks he can see the void and the stars and blue and green and red flashes of magic and hears phantom whispers of be careful be careful be careful –  almost expects to hit saltwater, except Roxy grabs him, spins him in mid-air and then takes hold of him again, flying down the street even faster this time.

He has to remember to breathe. Beside them, Davesprite is matching Roxy’s speed.

“The fuck,” Eridan says – says, not wheezes.

He tries to focus on the humans below them, running for their lives as well, with only very few pausing to look at them, flying above, in shock, before self-preservation instinct yells at them to mind their own business and run the hell out of there.

At least they had enough brain cells to try and focus on getting out of this whole mess alive.

“Directions,” Roxy says.

“Don’t drop me,” Eridan says, then looks around his rapidly blurring surroundings as best as he can, trying to get his bearings and comparing them to what Hal had told him. “Turn left,” he says.

Roxy cuts a sharp left, and Davesprite follows her, silent and focused. There’s still so many humans running around and screaming, and Eridan’s fins flatten on the sides of his head at the noise.

He clicks his tongue. “Put Hal back on, he knows this city better than I do.”

“You know the way to Karkat just as well.”

“No, listen, we need to lose this firebeast, okay – we can’t just bring it to wherever Kar is hiding right now,” he says, trying to adjust Roxy’s arms so they’re not squeezing his stomach and making him want to puke his guts out, but to no avail.

That seems to get through her though, as she flies for a few more minutes before ducking in an alley and then up towards a roof, rolling onto the flat surface ungracefully and taking Eridan with her as she hits it. They both let out grunts of pain as they land, unable to slow down from too much momentum.

He’s about to ask what she needed to duck into an alley for if she was just going to fly up when he hears the firebeast’s loud steps in the alley, heavy and angry and seeking out blood.

“Fuck,” he says instead as Roxy lets him go, and he touches his ribs gently, wincing when they feel tender. “Holy shit, I think you cracked my ribs.”

“That’s impossible,” Roxy says, breathing hard. Davesprite carefully helps her up before handing her Hal’s glasses, and she takes a few seconds to steady her heartbeat before she puts the shades on.

Eridan lets out a breath, and tries not to throw up from being squeezed too tight; he mostly succeeds. He waits as Roxy talks to Hal, and hopes they find Karkat soon in this forsaken city.

It’s going to be a long night.


 

Steve Rogers has just decided that he hates fire.

Actually, no, he’s decided that a long time ago, like maybe half a century past, somewhere during his forced cryosleep or maybe even back in the war (definitely back in the war) but every now and then, he just likes to remind himself that he really really hates fire.

He’s surprised that his shield doesn’t go through the…fire creatures, whatever they are, and one of the things still manages to catch the disk hurling towards it in its mouth, a glorified Frisbee, before throwing it to the side – it crashes through the glass of a diner. Steve feels offended. Thankfully the diner is empty of civilians, who have thankfully fled to the Safehouse by now.

“Okay, seriously, what are these things?” That’s Tony over the line. Steve doesn’t answer, knowing the man really isn’t expecting one, and he also really doesn’t have one to offer. He’s not the one sitting in a lab putting things together to make freaks of nature.

“A pain in the ass, that’s what,” Clint says.

Steve is inclined to agree as he dives to the side to avoid being torn in two pieces by the hungry, sharp-toothed maw of a firebeast. He rolls, glass and rubble crunching under him as he does, and he’s thankful that his suit prevents the debris from bruising and injuring him unnecessarily. He quickly gets to his feet, making sure to keep an eye on the firebeast, which has noticed he’s not a mass of bloody flesh half on the street and half in its mouth. It roars, a loud piercing shriek he’s sure is heard all throughout the city, before bounding towards him, jaws wide open.

Steve runs and dodges again, as quick as possible, sacrificing his shoulder as he lands on a huge slab of concrete which has fallen off the nearby building – the joint hits it first and he winces, before rolling and sliding off the concrete, ducking behind it as he tries to quickly pop the possibly-dislocated joint back in place. It’s a little sore, but it feels like it’s not dislocated like he initially thought it was.

Before the creature can turn to him, he runs inside the diner where his shield was thrown into, right across the street. He can feel the heat rise up sharply when the creature turns, noticing him, but he makes it inside before it can stick its snout into the broken glass wall of the diner. The beast is so huge that its entire head doesn’t fit through the space – neither does its snout – and Steve’s arm escapes from being torn off. He takes a few seconds to locate his shield, and picks it up, then spins to face the beast again.

He’s sweating madly, and a creature made of fire blocking the only way out of this place isn’t helping. He looks around for another exit, but it’s just walls and more walls, and half the building has its ceiling collapsed, so he’s just stuck in a room that’s half rubble and half – that. A snout of an angry lab experiment gone wrong wanting to eat him.

“Guys, a little help,” he says, hoping being trapped in a building so close to hell on paws doesn’t disrupt the comm’s signal, “I’m a little stuck.”

“On it,” he hears Tony say a moment later, and he breathes in relief, slowly backing away from the mouth that’s still trying to get to him. The temperature seems to rise with how pissed this beast is getting, and the hungry snapping teeth double their attempts to snatch at Steve.

Steve presses his back close to the pile of rubble that’s blocking off the rest of the room, never taking his eyes off the firebeast, on alert for the opportunity to run out of there. He inches closer and closer to the wall to his right, careful not to step on anything sharp as he does, when he hears a terrified shriek.

His head snaps to his left. There are several tables that have fallen over, and there’s too many overturned chairs, but he still makes out the figure huddled in the corner, curled up under two tables that have fallen over each other, effectively but barely saving them from the ceiling that has collapsed above them. The light of the fire from the beast makes the glasses perched on this frightened civilian’s nose glint, and Steve meets wide, horrified eyes pleading for help.

He moves towards them, still just as careful, and then crouches down, making sure he doesn’t disrupt the balance of the tables and send the rubble piled on top of them crashing down.

“Iron Man, I have a civilian with me,” he says into his comm, which Tony helpfully follows up with a “Shit.”

Steve smiles, friendly, and slips his shield onto an arm, and sliding that under the tables, so that if the rubble comes down, it hits his shield and he can hopefully still hold it up instead. “It’s alright,” he says, voice calming, ‘You can come out. Just move slowly.”

The person – A child? A teenager? Maybe even an adult? They look much smaller than they’re supposed to be with their obvious fear – just stares at him, frozen, before shakily muttering an “Okay” and crawling out on their hands and knees. Steve sees them leave bloody tracks on the floor and he winces. They’d gotten glass on them and they didn’t even notice.

He holds his shield and arm under the tables until the civilian is out, and once they are – collapsing in an undignified heap of sobs and short breaths – he moves his arm out, still just as careful as he had when placing it under, and thankfully, the rubble doesn’t crush the tables and cause any more complications.

He turns to the civilian, who has thankfully sat up, but is still shaking. They have their hands on their head, leaving bloody prints all over their cheeks, and are trying to breathe, which is hard considering the firebeast is burning up oxygen rather quickly.

Said firebeast snarls and the civilian jumps a little, backing away quickly until they’re pressed against the rubble, shaking even harder. Steve needs to get them out of here. Where is Tony?

He settles for waiting for a moment before moving closer to the civilian, who quickly turns to him, just as terrified as they are of the firebeast.

He raises his hands up slowly in a placating gesture. “It’s okay,” he says, “It’s okay. Breathe.”

The person seems to recognize him at least, eyes darting from the shield to his uniform, before finally meeting his eyes. They raise a hand to adjust their glasses, although in their panic, just makes the things more lopsided.

He needs to get the glass out of their hands, but trying to help them with their injuries here would probably make them more panicked right now. But since he still does need to get them out – “I’m going to carry you out of here, okay?”

It would be of no use to him if he was going to be carrying a frantic, panicking civilian trying to scratch his eyes out of terror because they currently didn’t want to be touched, too fearful of everything around them. He needs to give them a heads-up, at least. He’s thankful when they seem to understand, and nod.

“Okay,” he says, then moves to pick them up, and they are meeting him halfway by extending their arms so he can easily loop his own around them and carry them like he would a child – they are rather small – when the firebeast suddenly lets out an ear-splitting howl that has them both slapping their hands on their ears. Steve winces for a bit when he remembers the glass on the civilian’s hands, but all thought is shattered into static as the sharp keening of the creature that keeps them trapped here rings out the small space. He feels like his ears would burst and bleed out, glass or not.

And then, the heat is suddenly gone, and Steve chances opening his eyes, even though his ears are still ringing and everything is blurry and doubling. He lists, and thankfully catches himself, before remembering – civilian.

Said civilian is crying, doubled over, breathing hard again. There is vomit on the floor, and Steve winces in sympathy before immediately picking them up, thrashing and eye-scratching be damned. He doesn’’t know how long the firebeast is going to stay away, so he loops his arms under theirs, stands and carries them out of there, running as fast as he can, nearly slipping several times due to his sense of balance being fucked.

His head is still ringing, and everything is doubling in phantom holograms but – he’s out of the building and running down the street, not even taking the time to remember which way this street is going, he just needs to get out there with the civilian fast.

The civilian whimpers, and clings onto him, terrified, and there sounds like faint whispering before he registers they’re actually muttering words into his suit.

“Safehouse. Safehouse. Safehouse.”

Steve’s brain kicks in gear in a split second, and through blurry vision, he takes stock of his surroundings before skidding to a stop, turning on his heel and then running back the way he came from. With the focus comes the slow clarity of not having ringing ears or seeing in twos, and he’s vaguely aware of the firebeast screaming as Iron Man blasts it for all its life’s worth.

He runs as fast as he can, and then turns sharply again, to his right. The civilian holds on tighter, so small and frail that Steve thinks they really are a child. They let out a panicky yelp when he has to jump over a fallen and half-melted lamppost, and their glasses look like they’re uncomfortably digging into their face with the way they’re hiding and crying into Steve’s suit, but their fear isn’t letting them register it.

The Safehouse is all the way across the city.

Steve grits his teeth and runs.


 

So does Roxy Lalonde, except she has to grab Eridan again and jump, launching into the air before the stupid torch on legs can devour them both. Davesprite slashes and cuts off its ear as it brings its mouth down onto nothing, since Roxy and Eridan have thankfully dodged, and then flies upwards as the thing whines and whimpers and snarls, black tar-oil oozing from the stump that used to have an ear.

Roxy doesn’t wince in sympathy.

Eridan breaks free from where she has a hand on his arm to rip out a nearby hydrant and hurl it towards the crying beast. It hits the thing straight between the eyes, making the oversized flaming dog whine and howl in pain.

Roxy puts her arms up to shield herself from the shower of water that comes with the hydrant being broken. A huge geyser has burst from the spot where it once was, and water sprays onto everything and everyone within range – including the firebeast, which howls even louder as steam rises from its body when drops of water hit it. Davesprite touches down on the ground beside Roxy and raises his wings to shield them both, just as Eridan ducks under to take cover as well, although he’s looking less tired out from being exposed to too much heat even if he’s soaking wet since he was the one who ripped out the hydrant – the water helps, maybe.

Roxy’s about to tell them to find a way to direct the water straight from the geyser to the firebeast – the thing is jumping up and down and scratching at its body like a cat, still steaming from the water raining down on it – maybe by putting all their hands on it to stream it to the creature, when the water suddenly does slant down until the full force of it is hitting the flaming abomination.

Roxy watches as the entire thing is hit in the face, and it tries to turn and run, but that just gives the water more access to its body. The flames die down where the water hits, leaving a black, scarred surface not unlike burnt flesh. Roxy gags as the smell hits her nose.

The firebeast twists and turns, and thrashes, but the water bends and follows it, until it’s nothing but a writhing mass of blackened skin and bone that looks like it’s slowly melting the more water hits it.

And then the water stops, suddenly reaching up into a geyser again, and the…thing…whatever it is, is on the ground, weakly pawing. The skin on it looks like it’s going to slough off until the bone and muscle – if it even has any – would be exposed.

Eridan is suddenly tense beside her, and she turns to where he’s facing.

There’s a man, dressed up in blue-white-red, holding a disk of the same color scheme with a star on it. He’s knelt down beside the geyser, unfortunately bathed in the water, and is just standing up when he spots them looking at him. It’s the shield, Roxy realizes, he put the shield on the geyser to direct the water.

Eridan, though, realizes something else faster than she does, and in the second it takes her to blink, he’s already tackling and putting sharp claws on this building of a man’s neck, snarling, even before the man’s back hits the asphalt.

“Where’s Karkat?”

“Eridan!” Roxy runs towards him, and when she almost slips, takes off flying and instead barrels into Eridan to knock him off the person. They roll a few ways off, and when Eridan twists to his feet, intent on fighting the man, Davesprite’s the one who flies and holds him down this time. Eridan thrashes, and Roxy crawls over to pin him down as well.

“Where is he?!”

The man is getting up, one hand rubbing his neck. There’s cuts on him. Roxy feels a little guilty.

He seems a little intrigued as he looks at them, and then he sees Eridan. He looks like he recognizes the grey skin and the horns, because his eyes light up, and he mouths a tiny, “Oh.” Then, after a pause, “He’s safe.”

Eridan stops thrashing for a minute, surprised at the easily offered information, and then glares.

“The city isn’t safe for you right now,” the man says, “We need to – ”

“Yes, we noticed. We need to run and hide. Where’s Karkat?” Eridan cuts in.

The man shuts up. Then, “I’ll take you to him.”

Eridan’s fins flatten, and when he curls his fists, Roxy can feel the muscles in his arms tense. Davesprite knees him in the sternum, effectively knocking the wind out of him, and his fists uncurl.

“Fuck you, Strider.”

“Fighting him isn’t going to get us near Karkat,” Dave hisses. There’s red lights through the tint of Hal’s shades, Roxy notices. He’s probably discussing plans with Dave. “We can take him if we need to, but you need to behave if we’re going to go get Karkat.”

Eridan manages to wrench one hand free from Roxy’s grip to sock Dave right under the jaw, sending him flat on his ass. Hal’s shades fly off and hit the asphalt, cracking a little at the impact.

“Eridan!” Roxy twists the arm in her hold, and when Eridan grunts in pain, she steps on his shoulder, making him actually cry out.

He grits his teeth and tries not to scream, before glaring at her, and for a minute, Roxy remembers that her friend is a highblood seadweller.

But then that glare flickers out, and Eridan says, “Ow, Rox.” He rests the back of his head on the asphalt, giving up. “I’ll behave. Let me up.”

Roxy stares him down for a minute before releasing him. He sits up, slowly, touching his shoulder gingerly. Troll physiology is tough, but having your arm twisted and then having the overextended muscle stepped on couldn’t have been pleasant.

She helps him up, and he says nothing as he accepts the help.

Dave, meanwhile, is rubbing at a split lip while the man in blue-white-red helps him. He has Hal’s shades in hand, and Roxy appreciates the care he handles them with when he passes them back to Dave. He’s not blinking at the orange coloration or the wings, at least.

“He’s…your friend? Karkat?” the man asks, then motions a hand to indicate someone about the height of a child or just a midget. “Around this tall? Usually likes to talk about romcoms? Never sleeps?”

Dave chuckles quietly and nods. “Yeah,” he says, “We – we saw a video of you with him, and we’ve thought that’s where he’s been hiding for a while. This whole mutant business, you know?”

Right. They had to play the cover of looking for their fellow mutant friend who got chased out of their town by some close-minded humans. Not that it was far-fetched in this version of earth, apparently.

The man nods. “He’s alright. He’s been hiding in my apartment for days,” he says, then looks around, hefting his shield up onto his back. He’s still soaking wet. “Come on. The city won’t be safe for a while and we need to get you someplace where there’s nothing that’s trying to eat you.”

“Take us to Karkat, please,” Roxy says, before Eridan can snap at the man again. He’s amiable, or at least seems to be, and if he turns out to be danger for them, they can easily take care of that, but they need to find Karkat first.

The man looks at them for a while, as if assessing if they’re any danger to him, or to Karkat. Roxy sees it in the way his stance tenses and as he studies them, taking in what they’re wearing, their exposed vital points, any hidden weapons (his eyes linger a little too much on the sword that’s returned to its usual spot on Dave’s chest, sticking out like a sore…sword). He thankfully looks like he thinks he can take what he’s seeing, and he nods.

“Okay,” the man says, “Come on.”


 

Superhearing just sucks when all Steve hears up close is the blubbering of a terrified and injured civilian he’s currently holding.

He’s running as fast as he can, jumping over fallen bits of concrete and overturned cars, maneuvering his way past water-slippery streets. There’s barely anyone around, thankfully. They’re all probably at the Safehouse – which is only just a few blocks from where he is, and he’s moving fast. Steve has forgotten how long he’s been running, but he knows one thing: he has to get this civilian to the Safehouse. Leaving them out here would leave them vulnerable to whatever else is out here, and they’re already terrified. All the other Avengers appear to be busy, and he’s tried to reach out to them, when it looked like this civilian was going to die of fear before he even made it to the Safehouse, but they’re taking care of their own flaming monsters.

So the Safehouse it is. He doesn’t quite reach it before he notices that there’s one of those monsters in his path, footsteps heavy and hot. The thing emerges from an alley, bits of burnt and torn flesh on its lower jaw.

Steve immediately cuts a hard right to duck behind an abandoned car. The civilian he’s holding appears to understand what this means, and clings to him tighter.

He puts a hand on their neck, a gesture of comfort, and lets out a little, “Shh.”

When he hazards a glance at the creature, it’s looking around. Off in the distance, he can see the Safehouse. It’s incredibly close.

He draws back again, not risking running out there with someone else in tow. He needs help, maybe he can call someone, or turn back, but –

The person in his arms is shaking, sobbing, and if they get any louder, they will grab the attention of the firebeast.

Steve weighs his options. He can run out there as fast as he can, and provided he’s quick enough, get to the Safehouse. Provided he’s not quick enough, they both die. If he turns back, there’s an equal chance of the beast spotting them, and since he has nowhere to hide in, they’re both just as dead. He can call the other Avengers, if they’ve taken care of the monsters on their ends, but he’ll just be opening questions of where the hell he was taking this civilian and why he hasn’t answered and why, instead of Stark Tower – which was considerably farther away from where he’d come before – he was so set in bringing them to the Safehouse.

And then they’d probably be able to make some excuse to infiltrate the Safehouse, or maybe not, but he can’t risk it. Maybe they’ll use his presence there as an excuse. Checking the Safehouse to see if they had put any bugs on Captain America or something.

He grits his teeth, going through his choices again, but it turns out it’s made for him, because he’s sweating like crazy, and a burnt hand falls from above to land in front of him.

He jumps. The person in his arms screams.

When he looks up, the firebeast is above him.

Steve runs.

He pushes himself off the ground so hard that he thinks he’s broken his boots from the force, just as the beast opens its jaw and brings it down. It doesn’t catch him, only the car he was hiding behind, and he books it out of there like mad, running even faster than before towards the Safehouse, heart pumping wildly. The person in his arms is still screaming, and the sound is disorienting,  but he runs, because the building looks so close even if the actual distance might be farther because he’s not getting there as fast as he thinks and wants to be –

A car, crushed and half-melted, crashes and rolls on the street in front of him. Steve skids to a stop, and then runs to the side to avoid it, still making his way towards the Safehouse. Behind him, the firebeast roars, angry at the fact that it hadn’t hit him when it threw the car.

Steve almost stumbles when the ground shakes once, and then again, and he chances a brief look behind him and realizes the damn thing is running towards him.

He tries to get faster, faster, but even supersoldiers have their limits, and that thing has longer legs, and moves like a hunter set on its prey, muscles moving too quickly for even an enhanced human to outrun, and Steve has to make a decision, because the heat of the firebeast is advancing faster than he can get away from it.

The civilian’s screams stop, dwindling to sobs and whimpers, and that’s what makes it.

He rips out the comm from his ear, ignoring the chatter on the other line, and then, in the loudest voice he can manage, his lung capacity be damned, yells, “Jade!”

For a moment, he thinks he’s going to die, because the heat behind him is getting even closer. But then he sees the green at the edges of his vision, and he doesn’t even blink when this happens, so the experience is somewhat akin to seeing a sudden blackness rushing up to meet him. Steve takes a step on asphalt –

And his foot hits the tiled floor of the Safehouse common room – the sudden change in surface texture and the disorientation makes him slip, and he has to roll to avoid crashing face-first onto the floor, taking the civilian along with him. The civilian makes a high-pitched cry, but Steve manages to roll onto his back, and he stares up at the Safehouse’s chandelier. It takes him about a minute to register that there’s shocked gasps around them, and then, he releases his death grip on his cargo.

The civilian shakily sits up, and then falls off of him, too jittery, and their palms hit the tile. Steve winces at their sharp gasp of pain.

“Alright, give them room to breathe.”

It’s a familiar voice, but Steve can’t quite place it. Maybe it’s the disorientation. Whoever it is, they’re getting nearer, as their voice is getting louder. The murmur from the crowd around them dwindles, and Steve can see the people shift backwards, generous and obedient.

And then he sees Jade Harley burst through the crowd to tower over him, and then kneel down suddenly. “Steve, oh my god.”

She pushes his mask off his face, not even caring that she’s just baring him to the public, but it’s not like he’s a secret, and he’s glad to have the thing off his face. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t on lookout duty, I didn’t notice you outside until you yelled, I – ”

He laughs weakly. “It’s fine,” he croaks  out, then weakly motions to the civilian who has decided to be sick again right there on the floor. That’s twice that they’ve lost their meals today. Not good. “Injured civilian.”

Jade’s head snaps up, and she motions for someone to come over. “Dave, infirmary.”

Steve has to turn his head to see a kid in aviators kneel down and gently help the civilian up. When they stumble, he slings their arm over his shoulders to help walk them to the infirmary…right. The Safehouse has an infirmary. It just hits him how equipped this place is. It’s still a surprising thing to actually see – the lavish white, high walls, and the gold chandelier overhead, when from outside it looks just like any apartment that just had a rooftop garden.

“You okay?” Jade asks. Then, “Stupid question. Let’s get you to the infirmary.”

“I’m fine,” he says, starting to sit up, and Jade puts a hand on his back to steady him. “Really. I’m fine. I need to get back out there.”

Concerned green eyes look at him, considering, before Jade sighs and nods. She’s about to say something when there’s a loud noise outside, and both of them turn.

Jade’s brother, John Egbert, is looking through the window. His mouth is pressed to a grim frown when he turns to them. “The street is on fire.”


 

It is, and flying with Eridan in tow is all Roxy can do. He’s silent now, instead of yelling threats every two seconds at the strange, costumed man, that if he did anything to Karkat, he’d have his spine ripped out through his throat in about sixteen different ways, possible all executed at the same time.

The man runs in pace with them, impressively. He runs with the grace of a dancer, or maybe one of those giant cats Roxy only knows from glossy photos, the only remaining relics of a lost, drowned time long gone. He’s all speed and power and beauty coiled into muscles, running and leaping over debris, barely even breathing hard as he sharply cuts and yells at them to follow.

The apartment they’re led to is high, and not particularly impressive, although it does remind Roxy of her own home, back on her Earth, except this street is surrounded by fire everywhere instead of water. She doesn’t know what she prefers.

“Neighbors.” Dave edges close to her to whisper, and Roxy immediately pulls the void around all of them before they reach the apartment’s front door, and the man ushers them in, telling them to move quickly, before shutting the door and running up flights of stairs. Roxy hopes no one has the bravery to look out, and that they’re drowning out whatever is happening outside with their loud movies and their even louder music.

They go up several floors, and just when Roxy thinks they might have been played, the man stops and slams a door open to get them inside. They all run in, and then…then nothing.

The apartment is small and modest, and there’s a turned off television and a ratty couch, and it looks like there’s someone sleeping on it, curled under a blanket.

Eridan whirls towards the man, going, “Where – ” but the man puts a finger to his own lips and says, “I have to go back. I have a job to do. Please, stay here.” And before any of them can protest, he is outside, shutting the door behind him, footsteps thundering as he runs back.

The angry string of curses in Eridan’s throat dies just as Roxy turns to the sound of an irritated growl, and she sees whoever it is on the couch push themselves up, letting the blanket fall off of their head.

Dave inhales sharply, and Karkat Vantas hisses, “What the fuck is it this time, Rogers?”