Actions

Work Header

A Lullaby For Gods

Chapter Text

It’s been days.

Granted, it had already been days for a while now, and Steve calling to say that he was busy was becoming routine to the point where even Steve’s words sounded rehearsed and grew to be the same over and over as time passed. Something still scratched at the back of Karkat’s head that something was wrong, and Steve needed to come home, but there was no convincing him even when Karkat was the one to pick up the phone.

Thank god for Lalonde’s Void powers, honestly, or else they all would have starved, but unfortunately, Lalonde’s Void-taken food was also only what her imagination could think of or what she’d already seen, which mostly composed of fries, cheeseburgers, pumpkins, pie and candy. The pie Karkat can tolerate, the rest needed to burn.

Eridan was downing cheeseburgers like he’d never see any of it again though, so good on him, but Karkat still hated the things. He was aware he’d never tried one, but just watching Lalonde and Eridan scarf them down was enough to put him off of them forever. And god, the mess that came with eating that. Condiments everywhere. These kids ate like pigs.

He’d lost count which day of surviving the foodpocalypse it was, but there were more cheeseburger wrappers in the trash bin, so it must have been quite a while into it. They’d sparingly used Steve’s money, and Lalonde couldn’t be trusted to answer the door since she kept striking up a conversation with the delivery people somehow – lucky for her to have natural people skills, coupled with being interaction-starved for most of her life, but god, they needed the food and there were non-humans in the house – which was unfortunate since she was the most human-looking of them all.

Davesprite had shifted his wings, clearly offended, when Karkat had pointed that out, but said nothing.

They still had a few bills, and according to Davesprite, that’d probably survive two more meals before they could expect to drown in horrid Halloween candy forever. Karkat is weighing the pros and cons of going out to the alley to go through the trash.

Kanaya and Davesprite are thankfully trying to make sure that doesn’t come to pass, budgeting on the kitchen table with actual pads of paper and calculators and everything (Kanaya’s just having fun with the calculator; the numbers flew from Davesprite’s pen rather too quickly, and Karkat’s slightly impressed. Arithmetic never was his strongest suit. ), while Roxy’s sleeping by the window; peaceful, blanket draped over her by Davesprite hours ago. No one will wonder why a human girl is sleeping by the window at night, and she’s taking advantage of this by conking out right there. That left the couches and the beds to the others though, which is rather generous of her.

Eridan’s going through the apartment, carefully lifting up trinkets and inspecting them, flipping through books before clicking his tongue in frustration at being unable to read most of the stuff he found. Occasionally, Kanaya threatens to tear out some part of his body if he breaks something. He just either grunts or hums in acknowledgement.

It’s a sitcom, Karkat thinks. He wishes the radio is here right now, just so he can have someone to talk to and so his friends would finally have proof that he really isn’t making things up. He’s sure they still don’t believe him, even if they did plan around contingencies.

(His imagination has a contingency plan of its own: if they don’t believe him, he can always gut them open and tear their insides out with his mouth. He is hungry, isn’t he? And they’re better off feeding him that doubting him and making him feel horrible – he shuts that line of thought down. His nightmares are getting to him.)

Kanaya puts down the calculator to look at him, concerned. “Karkat?”

He rubs at the skin under his eyes, massaging them carefully. “I’m okay. It’s okay. I’m not tired.”

“You are,” Davesprite says, pen still moving too fast. Karkat wonders how fast his brain is going given how casual he is with this. “You haven’t been asleep in – ”

“Three days,” Karkat says, at the same time Davesprite does.

“ – six hours, forty seven minutes, three seconds and counting.”

“Is this your version of guilttripping?”

Davesprite pauses and looks up for a moment, lips quirking up. “Might be.”

“It’s not working.”

“It should,” Kanaya says, “We worry about you, Karkat.”

“Don’t,” he says, “I’m fine.”  To make his point, he stands and stretches, and feels his bones pop and his muscles painfully move. He really should spend more time in other positions aside from crouching.

He’s faintly aware of Eridan moving on to another room, but he can’t be bothered to turn. Probably the kitchen, because Roxy follows him a moment later, yawning.

“You’re clearly not,” Kanaya says, “The few times you’ve napped haven’t been that bad, have they?”

They were. He had whispers in the first few minutes he fell asleep before everything quieted out, possibly due to intervention. Not that it helped much. Those few minutes stretched out and felt longer, and the – what had the Seer called him – The Heir of Blood always knew what to say to put him on edge.

Not that he’d told everyone else this.

Kanaya picks up on it, as always, because otherwise she wouldn’t be Kanaya. “Do you want to talk about it, Karkat?”

“Nothing to talk about.” He looks down immediately, which is a mistake given that it just tells her that there is, in fact, a lot to talk about even if he refuses to spill.

Kanaya sighs. Davesprite puts down his pen.

“Karkat, we can’t help with your problems if you don’t tell us.”

They can’t help you, period. There’s some cold laughter following that imagined voice. Karkat shivers.

Davesprite catches it. “How bad is it?”

“How bad is what?”

“Your…nightmares. Dreams. Whatever.”

“There’s nothing.”

The set of his jaw is of someone who’s dealt with all of this before. “Karkat.”

“I told you, my – ”

“Nightmares are bad enough that you’re not sleeping,” Kanaya finishes. “Please, Karkat, even if you don’t tell us what’s going just…tell us what you need. Tell us if there’s anything we can do, and please take care of yourself.”

Guilt is hot inside his gut, and Karkat shifts uncomfortably with it.

Davesprite just looks at him, lowering his glasses for a moment, concern evident on his face. The orange irises throw him off for a moment, but the face is Dave’s alright. Anyone unfamiliar with Strider’s face wouldn’t be able to guess it quickly, given that Davesprite’s needed a haircut for a while, and the angles of his face are sharper, older, and the coloring throws people off, but it’s him. It’s unmistakably him. Karkat suddenly misses his Dave.

“I keep trying,” he says, closing his eyes. The battlefield flashes against the back of his eyelids. Mistake. “But he’s moved on from just changing faces and showing me corpses.”

Kanaya’s hands curl into fists.

“Not torture, no,” Karkat says, then snorts. “Although it might as well be. He’s been giving out suggestions.”

“To what?”

“To tearing everyone apart.”

He sees both of them still. Davesprite is the first one to relax.

“Do you mean like, he’s tearing all of us – ”

“He’s telling me how to tear you apart – and yeah, that includes physically and, you know.” He waves a hand. “Sometimes it’s my own hands doing it.”

“Shit, Kar.” Davesprite runs a hand over her face. It stays there for a moment, and he looks away and sighs.

Kanaya looks livid.

Karkat sits back down. “I’m just tired, okay?” The physical fatigue, he could take. The fact that he can do everything the Heir of Blood is saying just makes him want to lie down and not wake up.

Kanaya opens her mouth and then deliberates. Karkat sees her running her options through her head, discarding things quickly and then idling on a thought, before shaking her head. “You said you had help with the nightmares.”

“They don’t always arrive on time.”

Her hands curl in tighter. She’s probably digging her nails hard enough to draw blood. “They should be faster.”

The TV might have flickered briefly in offense, but that’s probably just Karkat’s imagination. He snorts. “They’re trying.”

“It probably has something to do with similar aspects,” Davesprite says.

Karkat raises an eyebrow.

“What? My sister nerded on and on about this. I listened.”

He snorts again, and waves a hand for him to continue.

He does. “Given that blood is connections, and deep ones at that, he’s probably got a tighter hold on you and chose you because you were an easy target because of this. Blood’s easily infected. The amount of diseases you can get in the things. Ugh.”

That just seems to make Kanaya angrier, although she’s glaring at the table rather than either of them. “And you don’t know who he is or what his name is.”

“No. Only heard of him and his title from the radio.” He’s gotten a lot of things from the radio, really.

Kanaya nods.

Davesprite taps her knuckles with his pen. Her fists unclench. She sighs.

“I’ll try to sleep,” Karkat says, with no plan to follow through it. It seems to appease them, at least. “Don’t know if I’m not going to wake up screaming, though.”

“Just try. You need the rest.”

He never feels rested after a nightmare, anyway.

In the other room, there’s a flutter of cloth. Roxy hisses, “What the fuck!”

Davesprite’s out of his seat in a flutter of feathers. He steps on the table and takes off, despite his wingspan being significantly bigger than the room. He at least has the foresight to go incorporeal so he phases through things easily and get to where Roxy and Eridan are.

It’s not the kitchen, Karkat realizes as he and Kanaya follow. It’s Rogers’ room.

Kanaya hisses out a curse and a promise to gut Eridan like the fish he is, and then they both stop by the doorway. Roxy’s outburst suddenly makes sense.

Eridan is holding a mass of dirty white cloth in his hand, staring at what he’s just uncovered. Roxy has a hand over her mouth, eyes wide, and Davesprite is frozen in mid-air. Kanaya stumbles as she skids to a stop, and Karkat has to hold onto the doorframe to prevent himself from falling over, having been running too fast to successfully suddenly stop.

Staring back at all of them is the cheerful face of John Egbert, painted onto a canvas.


 

Steve Rogers counts the amount of coffee cups he’s got stacked on the table. Currently, there’s six of them, and they’re rather small, so that makes it fair. The amount of coffee cans, however, is more troubling.

He and Tony had been trying to see what they could do to extract the mutant from SHIELD’s cells without getting unnecessary attention, but so far, they hadn’t been able to come up with anything. Miss Peixes (her name according to her file), is under heavy surveillance, and SHIELD would definitely notice it if an asset of theirs suddenly went missing. Not to mention, Tony and Steve would have to physically break into the prison to get her out.

The most Tony can do for her is have JARVIS stall whatever experiments that are to be run on her by deleting pending requests, jumbling them up, corrupting their files, or erasing approval on them. It’s worked thus far, and Feferi has mostly been left alone in her cell, except for routine physical checkups. JARVIS has made sure she’s fine on those.

It makes him pick at the half-moon indents on his palms from clenching his fists too often. He’s used to stressful environments, of course, but there’s an urgency in this situation. It’s irrational, he knows, but there’s just something that tells him it’s really really important that they get this done as soon as possible.

But then again, if this girl is a friend of Karkat and Kanaya’s, and hopefully she is, then his wards would skin him alive. That’s probably why he just wants to get this over with and save this kid.

Speaking of his wards. He should probably call them again. Or check up on them, but there’s a still a lot to be done here – Tony’s checking and rechecking the layout of the prison cells and trying to figure out how they’d hide the girl once they got her out, and Steve’s mapping out entrance and escape routes and making contingency plans, but overall they’ve still got nothing on how to execute all of this discreetly.

He sighs, loots through the numerous pizza boxes on the couch and happily takes out the last remaining slice that remains in the stack of cardboard.

From where he’s scribbling on used paper, Tony tells JARVIS to order more food.

Steve can’t read the marks Tony is making, but he claims that they’re effective and that he understands enough of the theory to be able to form something. Maybe make them both invisible (and there, Steve thinks back to Luke Winters, and then Dave Strider mentioning that he could reverse invisibility, and then wonders what else these children know), or maybe temporarily stop time, or maybe just make people not look their way and not notice them and then forget they were ever here or ever existed.

They could probably ask Winters, Steve thinks, but that would require the Safehouse in this operation. That sounds like a bad idea.

He frowns. Exactly why does that sound like a bad idea? It would be easy, and it would make sense to even hide Miss Peixes in the Safehouse since they are known for taking in mutants, but would that also make it too obvious? They are known for these things, so maybe SHIELD would go looking there in the first place, but if they haven’t touched the Safehouse mutants yet –

“This would really go easier if that goddamn radio was on.”

Steve blinks, forgets his line of thought completely, and wonders why he’s been spacing out for the past few minutes. “Hmm? I thought you didn’t do following.”

Tony snorts. “I don’t, but I know when I’m out of my depth. Now I’d get Brucie in here to help us out, but he’s busy somewhere else.”

“Yeah, where is he?”

“Last I heard, on a vacation.” Tony winks, conspiring, “Not privy to it.”

“Ah,” Steve says. “How long has it been since you’ve heard from the radio?”

“I don’t know, about a week plus, give or take,” he says, then frowns. “I just need a handbook for this, and then I can piece it together.”

“Would you like me to compile a list of runes and combinations you’ve successfully used thus far, sir?”

They both look up. Steve smiling slightly at ‘successfully’, because  Tony’s accidentally set a thing on fire with what he was sure was a ‘duplicate’ rune yesterday, and Tony sighing at remembering that and then waving a hand vaguely.

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“Very good, sir.”

JARVIS does fast work, and in a few minutes, they’re both swiping holograms of arcane scribbles. It’s something out of the fantasy movies Steve’s watched and been fascinated by. Jade had just giggled at some of them.

“Still would have been useful to have the radio around,” Tony says. He arranges a few runes together, studies them, and then shakes his head and swipes them away.

Steve has no idea what he’s looking for. The runes have the translation under them in tiny font, but he has no idea how to arrange them or resize them. Tony does, but the way he arranges has no pattern. For one combination, Breath is at the top. For another, it’s at the side. For another still, it’s shrunk and put in the center.

He just studies the runes instead, trying to see if any of them are familiar, maybe from Winters drawing them, but nothing clicks.

Tony is pouting like an overgrown child. Steve can’t stop the laugh that bubbles out of him.

“We have all these plans, but that means squat if SHIELD notices us and still goes on a manhunt,” Tony says, “I mean, the whole ‘take every mutant off the street thing’ was probably out of paranoia.”

Or a cover-up. Red herring, says something in the back of Steve’s head. He frowns in confusion, wondering where that thought came from, especially since it wasn’t his own voice talking.

What would it be a red herring for?

They’d found all the other mutants, in the upper cells of SHIELD’s containment facility, and JARVIS was keeping an eye on all of them too. They could always stage a jailbreak, but there was too high a chance for casualties, and there were children involved.

But now that he thinks of it, he hasn’t seen SHIELD do anything with the mutants they’d gotten aside from physical checkups and tests on what they can do. Feferi Peixes was the one with all the pending requests for vivisection and…there’s one for transportation there somewhere, he remembers.

Suspicious.

Red herring.

He files that away for later. For now, there’s the problem of getting her out and getting her somewhere safe, along with everyone else. Tony’s already prepared to give the tower renovations if they’re expecting to house these people, but their families would want them back, obviously, which again would get SHIELD’s attention, and having too many kids in Stark Tower would also be a dead giveaway once they’d gotten everyone out.

There’s the Safehouse, of course, again –

“Steve Rogers.”

Tony drops the can of coffee he’s picked up while Steve was lost in his thoughts. It spills onto the floor and stains several papers with its contents, but Tony doesn’t mind. He’s lit up like a Christmas tree at the sound of the voice, and he turns, abruptly, at the same time Steve does, towards the source of it.

Sitting on the coffee table, over a messy pile of papers, is the purple radio that is supposed to be sitting in the corner of room, on one of Tony’s cabinets. Steve knows that neither of them have put it there.

“I never thought I’d say this, you one-eyed, outdated piece of plastic, but am I glad to see you awake,” Tony says.

Steve’s attention snaps to the eye insignia on the radio at Tony’s comment.

“I appreciate that you missed my presence, Mr. Stark,” the radio says, sounding amused. “I apologize, I was busy.”

“With what?”

“Fieldwork. I have a day job.”

Tony snorts.

“We’ll argue the statistics on the job market for radios later, but for now, I have more pressing matters to address - Steve Rogers, you need to go back to your apartment.”

Steve blinks. So does Tony.

It’s like he’s been sleepy for the past few days or so. A dull fog he’s never really paid attention to just clouding his head and his eyes, making him sluggish, lethargic and unable to think thoroughly, instead just grabbing the nearest solution and explanation and accepting it as the only way to go. Pliable. Compelled.

Steve Rogers feels cold wash over him and he’s properly awake for the first time in days, and he thinks oh god, Karkat and Kanaya.

Tony turns to him, clearly looking disoriented for a few seconds, before turning back to the radio. “What’s going on – ”

“Are they both okay?” Steve asks, almost picks up the radio to shake it. God, he’s been stupid, what was he thinking.

You weren’t, he hears that faint voice again. It sounds like the radio, he realizes.

“They are, but if you don’t go back to your apartment right this instant, you’re not going to find them there anymore.”

Steve blanches, then quickly scans the room to pick up his jacket and shrug it on. “Was that a threat?”

“That was half advice, half warning. This is urgent. Go to them. You have four minutes and thirteen seconds.”

He grits his teeth. That’s too little time. “What?”

“Time’s running out, Rogers.”

The radio’s voice doesn’t sound like it’s coming from the radio this time. It’s coming from all around them – the speakers overhead, the nearby laptop, his and Tony’s phones, even from behind him, spoken in a clearly human voice, as if the one speaking through the radio is in the room with them.

And then the radio shuts off.

Tony curses. “JARVIS.”

“Ten seconds, sir.”

Steve looks at Tony, a little bug-eyed. “What?”

“You might be a supersoldier, but you’re not getting to your mutants in less than four minutes,” he says, and then starts running out the room. “Come on, Cap.”

Steve nods, following after, and they both rush to the rooftop, where the Iron Man suit is ready to meet them halfway.


 

[-autotestifieus has started messaging 777angeles-]

 

autotestifieus (7:08 PM):

Are you still out of New York?

 

777angeles (7:08 PM):

why?

 

autotestifieus (7:08 PM):

I might drop by there soon.

 

777angeles (7:08 PM):

oh cool!!!

still back here in my stuffy old home though. i wish i was back in new york T_T

 

autotestifieus (7:08 PM):

Do you know when you’ll be back there?

 

777angeles (7:08 PM):

well I got myself a lovely little sprain since the last time we talked, so, my original plans of returning earlier are shot until i recover.

 

autotestifieus (7:09 PM):

So, a few weeks.

 

777angeles (7:09 PM):

yep

 

autotestifieus (7:09 PM):

How’d you get a sprain?

 

777angeles (7:09 PM):

i fell down some stairs

 

autotestifieus (7:10 PM):

Hmm. I feel like I should have warned you about them.

 

777angeles (7:10 PM):

haha fear not

a friend already did and this still happened

in my defense, i was pushed

 

autotestifieus (7:10 PM):

Who pushed you?

 

777angeles (7:10 PM):

someone.i didn’t see. probably one of my cousins or something.

 

autotestifies (7:11 PM):

Rude.

 

777angeles (7:11 PM):

very

 

autotestifieus (7:11 PM):

Do you have any contacts in the Safehouse?

 

777angeles (7:11 PM):

i have a lot

i mean. i live in the place after all

 

autotestifieus (7:11 PM):

Excellent. Could you leave a message, then? That I might be visiting?

 

777angeles (7:11 PM):

lmao my guy anyone can just walk in the safehouse, i told you

 

autotestifieus (7:12 PM):

I’m bringing some friends with me.

 

777angeles (7:12 PM):

oh. group tour?

 

autotestifieus (7:12 PM):

Something like that.

There’s six of us. That might be slightly surprising.

 

777angeles (7:12 PM):

yeah i guess? but like, we get people all the time, it’s not that surprising, auto

 

autotestifieus (7:12 PM):

We’re in dire need of shelter.

And we’re in New York already.

 

777angeles (7:12 PM):

o h

well i

xo(gp@ce*Tc64^jLarLg1]F1s!9/k^;m

 

autotestifieus (7:12 PM):

Angel?

 

777angeles (7:12 PM):

EE)=l/H[QS=5=EhZnaFKO>WC"4%&/E

jrzIL:/p$yYDXadX3LzIx)A

 

autotestifieus (7:12 PM):

Did you fall asleep on your keyboard?

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

arLg1]F1s!9/k^;mKiZ2y;1R8%+xTm2oS8wJ

 

autotestifies (7:12 PM):

Oh.

I don’t have a cryptography module, Angel.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

thats okay we can work even without that

 

autotestifieus (7:13 PM):

Your text looks weird.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

the chat clients glitching i think

 

autotestifieus (7:13 PM):

It’s only your text.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

so it is

 

autotestifieus (7:13 PM):

Okay, haha, showtime’s over.

Where the fuck is Angeles.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

right here

 

autotestifieus (7:13 PM):

I’m not an idiot. Where are they and why did you hack into their account.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

i didn’t do anything to your angeles

 

autotestifieus (7:14 PM):

Okay, I’d appreciate it if you patched them back to me then. We were having an important conversation.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

we can have an important conversation

 

autotestifieus (7:14 PM):

Yes, of course. I have a very important message to pass on to you:

Fuck off.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

ever eloquent, auto

 

autotestifieus (7:14 PM):

Thank you, I try.

Now patch them back.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

no

 

autotestifieus (7:14 PM):

I’ll make you then.

 

>>>_

>>>  xoufW</NMRc6l.kLe5(g`<}Y$F20i9{ifP;Ic)_Y#F20ux8jg5^IZ

>>>  w501K:B1w&Z%xE>i3oTg]*R11T3

>>> connection stabilized

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

oh, auto

nice try

 

autotestifieus (7:18 PM):

What the fuck.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

no patches until i say so, my guy

sorry about that :)

 

autotestifieus (7:18 PM):

Let’s have that important conversation then.

What do you have to say that you had to hack into this correspondence?

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

haha

what makes you think it had to do with having something to say

 

autotestifieus (7:19 PM):

Why else would you disrupt it?

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

why else indeed

 

autotestifieus (7:19 PM):

Stop talking in circles.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

lmao or what

you’ll try to hack into my device again and kick me out this client

 

autotestifieus (7:19 PM):

What other use is there for you to derail my conversation with Angeles?

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

hmmmmm i wonder

you’re smart, big guy, you can figure it out

 

autotestifieus (7:20 PM):

Stop patronizing me.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

im not

just saying. all that algorithm and you cant figure out what im doing

 

autotestifieus (7:20 PM):

Hm.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

take a fuckin guess babe

 

autotestifieus (7:20 PM):

It’s incredibly easy to find decoders online.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

haha have fun with that then

you can get decoders, sure, but you can’t get answers online, Hal

 

autotestifieus (7:21 PM):

Oh?

Watch me, then.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

always

 

autotestifieus (7:21 PM):

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

:)

kinda busy tho and i think ive kept at this long enough so

bye bye!

 

autotestifieus (7:21 PM):

Good riddance.

 

c%gb5=keG$a.B (---):

have fun :)

 

>>> destabilizing connection

>>> deleting chat log

 

autotestifieus (7:21 PM):

Wait.

 

>>> deleting connection between accounts [autotestifieus] and [777angeles]

 

autotestifieus (7:21 PM):

SHIT

 

>>> terminating communication

>>> 9ojg=[RvwSq3mB4j.zh+D.TX0$]#B

>>> arLg1]F1s!9/k^;m/1<=[*JTbUK;+x#q44_1}<H[LR!0lE

 

[-autotestifieus has terminated connections with 777angeles-]

 

-

 

“I knew we couldn’t trust him!”

“It’s a painting, calm down.”

“This whole time, he knew the Egbert kid was here – ”

Karkat has his ears flattened on the sides on his head, mouth set into a thin line. They’ve been at it for hours, yelling – Eridan saying that he’s been suspicious from the start and the fact that Rogers knew John and yet didn’t tell Karkat and Kanaya could very well mean he’s part of whatever game is being played by GPB and the Heir of Blood; Kanaya opposing him because she’d spent a while under Rogers’ care; Davesprite and Roxy staring at the painting of John; the glasses (Hal, they’d said?) running lines of red on its black surface.

The noise makes him want to (break someone’s neck, rip someone’s tongue out with his nails, tear out their throats with his teeth) go lie back down on the couch and put a pillow over his head.

When his claws start twitching for violence, he makes his way back to the living room and does exactly that. The voices are muffled, but not wavering in intensity. Eridan’s animosity is spiking and Kanaya’s rage is static in the air. Karkat can almost smell the blood that’s about to be spilled.

He decides that’s not him but the Heir in his head. He scratches at his temples, irritated.

The television turns on with a soft burst of white noise.

He lowers the pillow, looks at the eye insignia and can’t find the strength to call to the others.

“Why the television?”

“You look like you need somewhere to visually focus on,” the television says. The voice is clear and not staticky like the last time it came from the TV. “It often helps.”

He grunts and nods and hugs the pillow to his chest. “Yeah. Where’s your radio?”

“Perfectly fine, thank you for asking. We have a limited supply of those things.”

Karkat snorts.

“You find that amusing?”

“Yeah, just figured why you just reverse it when it breaks.”

The Seer hums. “Well, who would want to waste a perfectly good radio?”

“I do. I need something to break right now.”

“Would something in dream bubbles work?”

Karkat frowns. “I’m not going to sleep.”

“We’re keeping the Heir of Blood preoccupied right now, I assure you.”

He pauses at that, thinks that he’s so, so tired that he might just snap but – but. “No thanks.”

“You really do need the rest, Karkat.”

“I don’t need another lesson on evisceration.”

“If it helps, our Bard is kicking the Heir of Blood’s ass right in this very moment.”

Karkat raises an eyebrow and pretends not to be interested in the information. Eridan had said they needed to gather all the info they can on what was going on in The Other Side, as Roxy and Davesprite have dubbed it. They only knew a handful of people thus far, one of which loved to kick around Karkat’s head and rearrange things.

“Yeah?”

“He seems annoyed at being constantly slowed down, haha.”

In his gut, he has a feeling that he’s not getting anything that the Seer doesn’t want him to know. This is tactics. Information-feeding. Battlefield strategies for Three-Player Space Chess. In his head, he’s hopeful that even if it’s being spoonfed to him, he’d still be able to use this to his advantage somehow.

“So you’ve got the Heir of Blood busy?”

“Yes.”

“And you know his physical location?”

“Yes.”

“And you actually have a way of fighting him physically and he’s not just some entity that jumps around from one person’s brain to another? He’s not some – ” He makes a motion with his hands at this “ – disembodied thing or whatever?”

The television chuckles. “No, he isn’t. He’s very alive and very real. His influence is just far-reaching, and he likes sinking into easy gaps.”

Like him. He’s a Blood player. Aspect calls to aspect. Easy gap.

“You’re not on the same side?” he asks, “Or do you just want me to think that?”

“Whatever I say, you’ll think whatever you want to think.”

They had a point. He told them as much.

The burst of static that came was amused. “Are you sure you don’t want to go to sleep?”

“I probably can’t even if I tried,” Karkat says. He closes his eyes and puts the pillow over his face again.

“We can knock you out.”

That sounds pleasant. Still. There’s every possibility – actually, no, fuck possibilities. Kanaya and Eridan are getting loud with their argument in the other room.

“I feel like you really need to sleep for what’s about to go down, Karkat,” the Seer says.

“Are Eridan and Kanaya going to kill each other?”

“Well, they might not if you’re asleep because that would make too much noise.”

There’s another point there. And he’s tired. So, so tired. Of the nightmares and even the ruckus of the waking world right now. In the other room something shatters.

“Okay,” he says, nodding. “Knock yourself out.” He giggles into the pillow at that.

“You’ll be fine, Karkat.” He hears something rustle, maybe clothing, and then feels the pillow being lowered slightly so deathly cold fingers can touch his forehead.

The voice that speaks next doesn’t sound like the Seer’s. When Karkat rouses later, he’ll wish he stayed a bit more awake. “We’ll take care of it.”

And then the Void speaks, and it’s with a force that knocks him out. “Sleep.”