Karkat stays gone a week, comes back scratched up and bleeding, stays two days -- lets Dave go down on him three times, gives him a handjob -- is gone six days, comes back, starts a huge argument over nothing Dave remembers afterwards and leaves in the middle of the night, is gone eight days -- is never coming back -- back one day where Dave is working and only knows when he finds damp towels and a plate and pan drying on the rack, gone five days, back for the night -- wakes Dave up slipping in his bed; spoons him, makes breakfast, lets Dave hump his thigh.
Doesn't want Dave to make him come.
He leaves for the day. He's back in the evening. It's been over four weeks. He'll keep on coming back, now. At least for a while longer.
Dave sees him cross the terrace and reach for the door, and makes his way to the kitchen corner, smooth and nonchalant as he puts the counter between them. Starts puttering in the fridge for shit he doesn't even want.
"... Hello...?" Karkat says, all furrowed-brow and wary, and yeah, it's the first time Dave hasn't walked up to him or at least stared at him until Karkat came to him. For, like, a hug or a kiss, or one time a blowjob hello, Dave gives a mean blowjob and he doesn't think Karkat was complaining anyway.
"Hey," he throws back over his shoulder, and starts digging out cheese and chocolate and shit and piling it on the counter for Karkat to snack on.
"Okay, what's going on?" Karkat snaps, observant and not fooled (he grabs the food before demanding answers, Dave notices. Dave can be observant too.) "Don't tell me nothing. You haven't leered at my ass even once yet. Or like, pouted for a cuddle or some shit."
Dave straightens up, makes himself look at him. Doesn't go around the counter, though, doesn't even approach it. "It's not--"
"Are you kicking me out?"
"No!" Sigh. Dave rakes a hand through his gelled hair, his impeccable locks are ruined, oh well. "But I was thinking..." Shit. How did he plan to bring this up again? He's forgotten.
Karkat stands a couple of steps away from the counter (out of sudden grabbing range). His fists are clenched (the food is tucked solidly under an arm,) his shoulders squared defensively.
Dave just goes for the meat of it.
"You don't have to fuck me anymore."
Karkat's face (there's a bruise on his jaw, when did that happen) goes tight. Tighter. "Huh. Got tired of me already? Did I take too long to let you at my ass or--"
"No!" Dave snaps, angrier than he meant. He rakes his hand through his hair again, sighs. "I'm not fucking kicking you out, I'm not tired of you -- shit, the opposite of that. I just. I was a fucking selfish dickhead and it was gross how desperate I was, so I'm putting a fucking stop to it."
He forces himself to meet Karkat's eyes. Karkat's banal-brown, defensive, angry, gorgeous eyes.
"You still get the run of the apartment and you still get to eat as much of my food as you want, wash your things, use the bathroom, whatever you want. Only you don't have to fuck me anymore. Okay? That's all."
He's not sure how to read his expression there, tense and ... resentful? Cynical? Karkat snorts, upper lip curling up in a way that should unveil fangs, that still feels like it does. "In other words I'm not as much of a novelty but you feel too guilty to kick me out."
Dave turns away, starts rummaging through the cupboards. He's not thinking about it. He's not. "In other words if you ever feel the need to get laid you have a hideously desperate asshole here for the servicing if you, like, snap your fingers or some shit. But you gotta snap first."
He thumps a can down on the counter.
"Here, have a beer."
Karkat takes a slow, deliberate step forward, eyes hooded, thoughtful but in a sharp, cold way.
"What if I don't want you to hug me anymore, either?"
He was so sure Karkat liked it, was at least okay with it -- cuddling in front of the TV, random hey you're going to the living room I'm going to the bedroom side-hugs. He -- he needs to feel him, feel his skin warm and alive, feel him breathe, touch him and know, hey, he's still here.
Dave turns away again to get a second beer.
"Okay. Fine. Yeah."
(So long as you stay.)
He can't make himself say that, the words get lodged sideways in his throat and he still has enough pride that he refuses to force them; they'd come out all choked and ridiculous.
"What if I'm tired of entertaining you," Karkat says, all measured, restrained. Dave can't read his tone at all. "What if I don't want to talk."
He deserves it.
"Okay," he says somehow, and then he exits the kitchen corner with his beer. The way to the bedroom would have him getting closer to Karkat so he turns the other way and disappears into the bathroom.
Karkat spends the night -- Dave isn't sure, on the couch probably, maybe on the fake bear carpet for all he knows. It's thick enough. At least in the morning he's still there, sitting with a bowl of coffee when Dave shuffles past to the shower. He's still there gnawing his way through a pancake when Dave stalks out, a little more awake, a little more late. Dave downs a cup of lukewarm coffee, grabs an apple off the counter in passing. It smells like bacon but the dude he's meeting with will be pissed off enough. Fucking producers.
"Have a good day, honey," he throws on his way out.
There's no response.
"Oh my fucking god I hate every single word that ever came out of Lucas' asshole. We love your idea, Mister Strider, so original, why don't you rewrite it from the ground up into the same old cliché ways as every single other movie we produced ever?"
He throws his briefcase -- he owns a fucking briefcase, not even irony can save that shit -- on the nearest bit of table and plops in his desk chair, turns his computer on, pure muscle memory. Karkat is sitting on the couch; onscreen some conventionally handsome white dude is about to kiss some conventionally pretty blonde chick. They both have conventional blue eyes.
Dave slumps on his desk a bit. "Why the hell did they show a smidgen of interest in my shit if they just wanted to gut it and rebuild it into Return of the Revenge of Overdone McBland, I'm asking you?"
Karkat's head turns minutely so he can watch Dave from the corner of his eye.
He doesn't say anything. Oh. Right.
Dave snaps his mouth closed and pokes around halfheartedly on Facebook for the five minutes necessary for his disappearance in his bedroom not to look like an escape.
He doesn't want to leave his bedroom the next morning, but that's ridiculous, so he does.
The shower is running. He starts a pot of coffee. Today he has no meeting, just manuscript revisions, he's got as much time as he wants. Maybe bacon? Yeah, bacon, okay. Shit, did he buy any -- looks like he did. Or someone did for him. Is he still paying that chick to do his grocery shopping? Who knows. Awesome, at any rate.
He sits, starts eating.
The shower stops. Karkat comes out.
He's smothered in Dave's ridiculously long and fluffy bathrobe. There's a damp little triangle of skin at his collarbone that looks stupidly kissable. His feet are bare.
He doesn't say hello. Dave stares down at his plate. Makes himself fork a piece, swallow it. Behind him Karkat is loading a plate of his own. In a minute he'll come and sit at the table --
He walks out of the kitchen with his plate. Clink, coffee table. The TV spits out a sudden bunch of muffled words.
Dave likes eating at the coffee table. The couch is really super nice, and it's less boring than the kitchen.
He puts the rest of his bacon in the fridge. He'll finish it later. He's got work to do and it'll be quiet in the bedroom.
Week five and four days. Karkat is still living with him. He doesn't skip nights anymore to disappear in the city, doesn't come back with black eyes and skinned elbows. Dave counts it as a win.
(It has to be a win. You selfish asshole, it is a win.)
He's gone right now, though, he still leaves in the afternoons (Dave doesn't know where he goes but he doesn't have to know, right, unless Karkat gets shanked in a backstreet he's going to come back when it gets dark. He has left none of his stuff but he's still going to come back. For the shower and the widescreen TV if nothing else.)
If he doesn't call she will, so he picks up one of the cheap throwaway cell phones he stockpiles just for this, sits on the couch, dials from memory.
"What have you done to yourself now," she says; it's not even a question.
He says it anyway. "I fucked up with Karkat."
A quiet sigh at the other end of the line. "Yes, your approach was certainly not optimal for the long-term..."
He doesn't even know if he wants her to tell him how to unfuck it. He doesn't think he should, if he can't figure it out himself -- it'd be cheating. Undeserved.
She doesn't offer anyway so she probably thinks the same.
"He won't even look at me anymore," he says, "it's like I'm a ghost," and then oh hey he's crying.
He works on not out and out sobbing, but his breathing gets a little weird, he can't clamp down that hard without stopping breathing entirely, and that's just as much of a telltale. He knows she can hear it, and he hates it, but --
"When can we meet, Rose, when do we finally get to meet, I -- can it be earlier, can it be this year, I could be discreet, shit, I could be a fucking ninja, no one'd know--"
"She'd know." A pause. "I'm sorry, Dave, she'd know."
He knew that. Fucking dumbass. "Fuck. I. Okay. Okay, I. That's cool, that's. Okay."
"I want to meet you so much too. I would hug you so hard. You'd complain about my perfume and then we'd laugh and you'd kiss my hand like an idiot."
Wet laugh. "I'd hit on you like I'm Rocky Balboa and you're standing between me and Adrian."
"All the newspapers would write reams of deliciously misled fanfiction on our whirlwind romance."
He closes his eyes, lays down against the backrest of the couch. "Can't wait."
They keep silent for a few seconds.
"What do you think you did, exactly, to make him angry?"
"He's not angry," Dave says dully. "I know his angry, angry'd be fine. It's worse. I--"
"Dave. He's still around--"
"He has nowhere else to go! Of fucking course he's still around. But I. Shit." He'd bang his head against the couch but it's so well-padded, it wouldn't help. "Dude, I blackmailed him into fucking me? That's kind of rapey, yeah, consent to survival sex, that doesn't count as coercion at all. Oh, but I totes gave him a halfhearted out, woo, a prince is me."
She makes sympathetic noises in the phone. She shouldn't, she sucks at them, but it's so her, it helps him breathe a little bit better.
"And then I told him he didn't have to cater to me anymore, that'd I'd still -- that I wouldn't kick him out or anything, and he was snarking back and all and I assumed he was okayish with me and then he did. Stop catering to me, I mean. He stopped everything." Okay, now he's kinda sobbing a bit. "I'm such a fucking dumbass."
It's still quiet enough. It's fine. Whatever. It's just her anyway, who cares.
His face is going to be fugly. He's sure Karkat won't give a shit -- maybe he won't even see it, with how little he looks at Dave if he can help it. Still, when the call is done and the phone in the garbage disposal Dave should retreat to his bedroom and stay the fuck there.
Yeah, sounds like a plan.
At this rate maybe he should just rent a hotel room for himself. Let Karkat have the apartment. He's not gonna kick him out, he can't, he just fucking can't, but he can't live here much longer either.
"What do you plan to do?"
"Nothing? What do you want me to do, say I changed my mind, he's got to pretend to like me after all?"
He wipes his face with a rough hand, shades shoved up in his hair. At least now that he has talked some to her, the woe is me is a little duller, resignation is setting in.
He can make it sound like it is, anyway. "It's okay. I'll deal. I just needed to -- I guess some days you're not entirely wrong. I just needed to -- to, like, talk about it some. Wasn't expecting you to pull another miracle out of your all-seeing ass and fix my mess for me."
He kind of was. Stupid.
"Of course I wasn't going to fix it for you, what kind of value would it have?" she asks tartly. "And now that we have established this, I need you to do something for me. I need you to open your eyes and look to your right."
"Huh?" Dave goes, obeying without thought.
The French door onto the patio is open, to let the breeze in.
Karkat is standing there, hands caught tight onto a backpack's straps, like he's been standing there a while.
"I'll call you tomorrow," Rose concludes, voice tinny in his ear, and hangs up.
The dial tone startles him into sitting up; the cell phone tumbles off his shoulder and between two cushions.
"Uh -- when did you. How long--"
"I was napping on the deck chair," Karkat informs him. It's the first time Dave hears his voice in over a week but it's -- bland, distant, it aches. Dave looks down and puts his shades back in place, busies himself searching for the cell phone. Needs to destroy that shit after all, super important.
Napping. Shit. Dave would have heard him walk around.
He's been here from the start.
There's a sword rack in his bedroom. He can totally commit a nice, quiet, fast seppuku in there. Yep. He gets up, legs stiff. Kitchen first, okay, kitchen and phone and then corridor and then bedroom, no need to think of anything, just the next step and the next.
When he turns around to leave the kitchen corner Karkat is standing by the counter, blocking the way out.
Unless Dave is willing to vault over the counter, he's trapped. He braces. "Yeah?" Wow, from here he can see the fake chimney fire over Karkat's shoulder. Fascinating stuff.
Karkat has gained some weight since Dave found him, his collarbone doesn't jut out as badly, Dave is sure his ribs will be less cringingly obvious as well, his hair looks healthier. It's good. Dave approves of that.
He moves closer and Dave's legs clench but running would be stupid so he doesn't.
He reaches for Dave's face and Dave doesn't want to be touched (it'll hurt) but he does, he does.
"Oh no, babe, not the shades, it's bright out--"
"We're not out." He takes them off Dave's face (without brushing skin but it's almost a touch by proxy.) He's careful enough, nothing pokes Dave in the eye. Dave keeps them closed anyway.
"Yeah but albinos are super fragile that way, you know--"
"Might surprise you to learn that your poker face is actually shit."
Oh. Oh. He sounds -- almost, not nice but, kind of mocking a bit but it's Karkat, it's so quiet and non-snarly it almost sounds nice.
"Fuck you," he manages to choke out, "it is so not."
He cracks his eyes open. The lashes are starting to clump together as they dry, and his eyeballs burn so much the entire cornea is probably covered in veins so red his irises seem to throw tendrils of eldritch horror around. There is no fucking way Karkat can't tell he's been blubbering like a whiny douche.
He's still standing here though, still looking at him. In arm's reach, Dave could reach out and touch him. He won't but he could.
It's almost as good as being touched, him being willing to stand so close, to pay attention to Dave.
"What will you do," Karkat asks quietly, all measured so Dave can't read his voice at all and he hates it when he does that, troll Karkat never used to sound like that, "if I still don't pay attention to you?"
Dave's almost calm now that shit is getting sorted out, though. Oh hey, axe's falling, can't dodge. Oh well, knew it was coming. He shrugs, somehow. "Move out."
"... of your own place?"
Okay, no, he's not calm. Karkat's frowning disbelief makes him shake his head no without thought, raise a hand to slash it down, no appeal. "Shut up, I need to know you're safe, okay? I can deal with everything else but I can't -- you need to stay put and you need to be safe. Anything else, who the fuck cares, I sure fucking don't. I can't."
Karkat just watches him, head barely tilted, shades cradled in both hands. Dave stares back and tries to relax his fists. It's not happening.
He puts the shades down on the counter and steps in and there's a hand cupping the back of his neck and tugging him closer until his gross drippy nose is pressed against Karkat's shoulder, and he smells so nice, he smells like the special shampoo Dave got him the other day and he smells warm like the sun, like he was sleeping in the sun on Dave's deck where he can feel safe and drowsy and warm.
"You're a total dumbass," Karkat says against Dave's shoulder. His voice wobbles.
Dave ends up hugging him around the backpack. Also maybe crying a little in his neck.
Karkat is crying too and Dave is pretty sure it's just that he's secretly a marshmallow and he cries every time an actor looks vaguely sad onscreen anyway, but at the same time it makes the horrible breach of self-control less horrible. Less judged. Makes it so that maybe he did not actually change so much, get so hardened by the streets. So that maybe he didn't want to hurt Dave, didn't like that horrible week and a half either, he just had to make absolutely sure Dave meant it.
That's hoping for a bit much, but hope is a nice thing to have.
"Dumbass king," Karkat is telling him, rocking them from side to side a bit.
Dave would nuzzle his hair but considering how runny his nose is he'd better not. The couch is too far away; he shuffles them to the nearest kitchen chair. "Yeah but are you gonna keep hanging out in my sweet dumbass castle. Is the question."
He has a Karkat in his lap, all warm and alive and holding tight, dropping the tiniest almost-not-there kiss on his jaw like maybe he does actually like him a bit. "Emperor of dumbasses."
"Sounds about right," Dave says, and breathes.