Crash Standing


Chapter 4: Still Day Ten

Somehow you and Karkat end up spending the afternoon molding perfect hollows in the shape of your respective asses into the couch cushions.

The shitty daytime soaps weren't going to watch themselves.

You've been watching them because they're hilarious. Karkat's been watching them "for research purposes," he said, and then spent the next three episodes wringing his imaginary handkerchief over the fate of Jose and Angelita's not-so-evil twin (wasn't that one a twist.)

Watching Karkat watch TV is also hilarious. You did not expect that. He keeps ranting about how stupid the characters are and how stupid the writers are and how stupid the people wasting their time watching that tripe are, and then he all but makes shipping grids.

"Naw, dude, I can't believe I have to school you on this, okay they're sort of friends but Daniel obviously likes being a shit to Marcelo. He's not pale for him, he's gray. Totally gray. Him and Stefanie, man, he cockblocks like a champ, guy's got a radar for poor assholes who are about to have more fun that he does in the below-the-belt department."

"... Oh, huh. Ashen? You had better be right, I'm so tired of rivalries that turn out to be nothing more personal than them both wanting the same girl flush. Turn some of that energy into something more productive, you daft taintlickers!"

You have a lot of fun winding him up about his favorite character being about to die from a gruesome mystery sickness that makes her throw up in the morning and somehow look more radiant and desirable to every single male who might be misunderstood to be a half-believable babydaddy candidate. Here comes the stage where the actress starts adding pillows under her shirt...

"Oh shit yes the gut-burster scene, I love that one, so glad I didn't miss it. The CGs on the parasite are kind of shitty but--"

Karkat goes flying at Dave, who just appeared, leaning on his elbows on the back of the couch. He bounces on the shitty springs and bats at your clonebro, screeching, "No no no no no fuck you no spoilers you humongous bulgebite no she's not going to die!"

You were planning to say something exactly like that. You'd been leading up to it. The response is everything you'd wished for.

You glare at Dave over the edge of your iShades.

One hand on Karkat's chest to hold him at bay, he arches an eyebrow at you -- like he's surprised that stealing your setup annoys you. Hn.

... Come to think of it he doesn't look quite right. His mouth's kind of pinched.

"Down, snarlbeast, you'll miss the death scene."

"Fuck you," Karkat wails, tortured, "oh god where are they taking her are those docterrorists shitfuckhell what is that dilated business?!"

Karkat flops back in his ass-hollow, leans in, eyes wide. Dave crooks a smile but it comes out kind of wrong.

You hesitate to ask. You're not sure if you want to give a fuck. You're not sure if you should. You wouldn't like it if he went nosing into some of your shit, but about some other shit then it'd feel worse -- like you don't matter -- if he didn't... Argh, this is complicated.

"Okay, yes, this is shaping up to be pretty ashen," Karkat admits tensely as he pretends he's not torturing himself about Liliana's impending gruesome demise. "You might be better at this than Dave ever was."

If you still had a ruff you'd totally preen it a bit.

"Dude, I just didn't care. Still fucking don't, in fact, and by the way ashen is the straight up worst fucking quadrant."

Slow blink. Karkat frowns, looks over his shoulder. "You want to say that again, bulgeguzzler?"

Whoops, silly alien just gave Dave an excuse to vent at length, which you now recognize he was kind of prodding for and wow, look at 'er go. "Worst. Fucking. Quadrant and I don't understand how anyone would ever want to get in it and Byrd, I'm nominating you to take over in case it's ever fucking needed, because it was already bad enough to have Gamzee as a potential quadrant-corner, but to have him as a quadrant and lose Terezi as my actual fucking girlfriend is so many worlds of hell no that I don't --"

"What?" Karkat asks, voice weirdly normal for the expression on his face.

They stare at each other. You wonder what the fuck. You wonder it a lot.

"What, what, they keep beating the shit out of each other--"

"That's just sparring," Karkat counters, back turned to the forgotten soap. And here came the birth scene too, you're so bummed. Especially because you understand jack shit anymore.

"And being like non-stop snarky and hostile and completely fixated on making the other dude burst out into pretty colors on the roof?"

"Not every hate has to turn out non-platonic--"

"Also getting in each other's space and slapping each other open-handed like they're mean girls working up to a catfight. Dunno, maybe you had to be there to get the vibe but..."

Karkat slowly sinks back into his seat. "Oh. No, you're. Sounds like you're right. Slapping is a -- pretty caliginous move."

"Okay, pause," you say. "Rewind. Insert subtext here. Kick the sub to the curb. Make the subtext text." Karkat stares blankly at you. "Do I have to rap?"

Dave frowns, worried, as he looks at Karkat. "Uh. Karkat used to, like... like Terezi. In the hate way."

Oooh. And now his nonporking boyfriend is making a move on her. Okay. Huh.

"I thought, uh, Terezi told me a while ago about him, I thought it was, like, some kind of quadrant etiquette to give a heads up. Was she just being considerate to a dumbass human or what?"

Having to explain troll bullshit to humans seems to focus Karkat a little, but his mouth stays folded tight at the corners, his eyes a bit vague. "Technically you don't have to. So long as there's no conflict of interests to sort out. And I -- she's not my flushmate and it's not like anything ever happened for real between us and I was, I kind of gave up a while ago anyway..."

"But it's still a bit of a dick move, huh." Dave sighs, slumps against the back of the couch. "Shit, man, sorry, I didn't know you didn't know. Terezi came to me on the meteor about it, actually."

"... On the meteor," Karkat repeats quietly, which neither you nor Dave like much.

"Hey, I'm just human, she needed a while to ease me into it, right?" Dave frowns a bit. "You okay?"

He blinks, shrugs, turns back to face the screen. "Yeah, sure. Whatever."

You don't believe it one second, but you're not the guy's platonically romantic BFF...

"...Where the taint-tickling fuck is the wiggler coming from?!"


Dinner time comes and goes. Bro sends a message saying Dirk decided to get revenge for being forced to go shopping (outside, where there's people) by dragging him to the most obscure hardware shops possible to stockpile on expensive robot-making shit, and now they're just going to stop by some place Bro knows to get a bite.

You and Dave and Karkat eat whatever leftovers you can scrounge up at the counter, and you talk about how likely it is that Bro is actually taking Dirk surprise!DJing with him (very likely) and you don't talk about how likely it is that Terezi and Gamzee are porking in the staircase (also very likely.)

When Dave starts musing about whether he should bring them up some food in case they haven't noticed the time you take it upon yourself to kick him in the ankle all ninja-like and fire up your sweet internet shades.

TG: good way not to be ashen mr cockblock mcinsecurity
TG: oh fuck you
TG: unless youre trying for like a davesandwich or something maybe if they hate you enough theyll totally bang you
TG: eiffel tower would be cool that way they cant even touch junk any other way than through your sexy alabaster bent over proxy
TG: good job im never going to eat again
TG: more leftovers for me thanks youre a real bro

Karkat doesn't react.

You don't even really know the guy more than superficially but you can tell this is kind of pretty wrong. His face is all... still and droopy, not animated and expressive enough to give any normally constituted person a full-out eyebrow sprain. He picks at his food. He... just... argh.

It's not your job to get someone you barely know to cough up all the ways in which his actual platonically romantic BFF danced a jolly polka on his tender feelings.

At the tail end of dinner Dadbert calls on the landline and Karkat disappears in the bedroom with the phone. Dave plants himself sulkily on the couch. You're not too sure you want to hang out with him, not when he's being such a cranky little bitch (what a crime that you would totally never commit,) but you can't intrude on Karkat's phone call either and where else is left? Bro's room? There's a difference between flirting with danger and walking up to danger to punch it in the face.

In the interest of not being a total hypocrite you go to sit beside Dave on the couch. He keeps channel-surfing at random and not really acknowledging you, which would be even more aggravating if you were watching any of what he just clicked away from.

"Dude, do you even want to look at anything, or do you just want to soothe your itchy trigger finger? 'cause usually you don't shoot with your thumb."

"You got me, bro, my eyes are actually closed behind my shades."

"Attempting smellovision?"

The second it comes out of your mouth you wince. Dave's eyebrows go a little more furrowed.


You don't know how to approach this. Or even if you should. You are Dave but this is a part of him that you don't get. Most of the time you don't want to.

You have no idea how to don kid gloves, and with your strife deck not being fistkind you're pretty sure you couldn't equip them anyway ha ha ha.


"If you can't handle her quadrants it's not going to work, dude."

Dave scowls deeper and burrows in the couch, oozing downwards so he's more than two thirds horizontal. "I can handle them just fine, bub," he grits out, "shut your schooling trap, you haven't got the diploma."

"Uh huh, 'cause waiting up like an overprotective parent--"

"Shut up--"

"--Or a jilted lover, yeah--"

"She's not cheating on me! I don't want her to hate me, fuck, I don't ever fucking want that."

You pause, stare at him. He's glaring at you now but it's more sullen than anything, red eyes over the edge of his shades, he hasn't made a move to sit up straighter. You're pissing him off but mostly by saying out loud shit he's already thinking. You wonder if he actually believes what he's saying there. A lesser asshole might start crowing about denial.

Haha crowing you made a funny.

Seems like he's still mulling over some shit, so you wait for Dave to talk himself into telling you, because fuck if you can't guess he wants to tell someone, and you might as well be it. Not like you got anything better to do with your evening.

"You think I haven't thought about that shit before?" he asks; he looks tired. He looks older than you, and that's weird, that's wrong, you're the one who has four months on his stupidly innocent ass. "You think we didn't talk it to death? I know she needs it." Quieter now; uncomfortably so. You shift in your seat a little. "And she's worth it, so I'll deal. It's just that guy I don't trust, what if he flips platonic murderous mid-makeout?"

You are totally believing that. "Then you call in the little shouty one and let him shoosh his ass into oblivion? That's his job, right, if I get any of that quadrants bull."

Dave is chewing on his lip. He probably doesn't even realize. Bro would kick him in the ass for that if he were around. "What if it's too late?"

"What if you go tell Terezi to her face that you don't trust her to handle her own shit, when she can smell the lies on you from like three miles off, yeah, she totally wouldn't smell him turning off the pheromone faucet." He grimaces; you sigh, massage your temples. Why are you letting yourself be dragged in, you don't even like Terezi, you don't want to like her, she and the juggalo are welcome to each other.

(No, you know why, 'cause if you didn't actively dislike her and work to keep in mind all the ways in which she fucked you over you'd end up accidentally liking her, possibly too much; see also: Pretty Much Your Type And Also Taken You Sad Douche. Stopping that shit assault at the butt pass, thanks. There will be no clusterfuck of inappropriate feelings diarrhea for your other self's girl.

You're a pro at clenching down on your feelings. S'all good.

It'd help if you could stop interrupting them mid-making out. Remind you a bit less often of your surprise!three years of late hormones that were getting lost in the mail, like.)

"You should IM Rose..."


"But since I already know you won't, let me put on my knitted pompous hat and my Freud moustache."

You startle a little amused huff out of him. You cross your legs at the knee, lean forward with your chin on your curled fingers, the picture of elegance if you dare say so.

"Might I possibly hint obliquely at the immutable fact that you are a dumb cockhead and also displacing your feelings of homolust for your Bro-dad figure because Gamzee's giraffe thing pings you in the yes daddy harder places."

You get a pillow in the face for that. You consider it worth it.

You pull the pillow on your lap. Dave looks torn between stealing it and beating you with it, and bro-fisting you. Bro-fisting wins. You oblige him, because you're about to kick him in the feelings again and hey, maybe he'll aim at your junk next.

"Anyway, dude... You say it's just because it's Gamzee, but..."

Dave frowns, looks away. He doesn't want to talk about it anymore, well tough luck.

"No, shut up and listen and then I'mma wander off into the sunset like a rad cowboy warrior shrink. He's the guy who's supposed to hate her, so you want to side with her to defend her pointy ass, that's normal. He's the guy who she's supposed to hate, so he's got to rub her hella wrong, makes sense he'd rub you kinda wrong too. Of course you're not gonna like him, but what makes you think you'd like anyone else she'd want as a kismesis? I mean, John schooled me on quadrants so you know I understand less than jack shit, but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to."

You get up, dump the pillow on his head, make a show of dusting your hand.

"So that excuse is bullshit and also stop entertaining prurient thoughts of your girlfriend giving her hate-virginity to the asshole who's not too afraid she'll find his junk weird to actually show it to her, mmkay?"

You expected the pillow to smack you in the back of the head as you flashstep to the door, but since you went and unloaded with both barrels in his unsuspecting face you allow it to hit. You're a prince that way.

Luckily when you peek into the bedroom Karkat seems done talking on the phone, so you don't have to camp in the corridor like a poor evicted douche. The guy is sprawled on his back across the top of the pile, so his stomach is actually higher than both his head and hips. He lifts his head to glance at you, and then flops back down apathetically. What is wrong with these douchebags everywhere, they're supposed to be happy the Game is over and done with! There can't be a dozen curmudgeons in the party and you called dibs ten days ago.

"Are you seriously staring morosely at the ceiling, Vantas. Is that a thing you're doing."

"Fuck you," he answers, and you don't need to have known him ages to know it's really half-hearted. You were looking forward to colorful sick burns and descriptions of impossible tantric acts of carnal debauchery. Wow, emo now.

Okay not really. You skirt around the edge of the pile to get to the desk; there's a battered laptop there that Bro unloaded on Dave and you last week so you wouldn't have to share the desktop. There's a Gameboy too and an MP3 player. You swipe them both and dump them on Karkat's bared midriff.

"Ow -- the hell?" he protests, sitting up in a leap. The toys slide into his lap; he squeezes his legs to trap them before they get lost in the pile of crap purely by reflex.

"Play some Tetris at least, I don't know."

You get the laptop, tuck it under your arm, go back to your bed. You sit against the headboard and open it on your lap, pretending you can't see him. He glowers at you for a few seconds and then glares down at the MP3 player and starts fiddling with it.

"If the earbuds don't fit we've got actual professional DJ headphones, but you better fucking not damage them or I'll eat your soul with a spoon and a side of ice cream."

"I'll keep that in mind," he replies dryly, "just beside the place where I keep my fucks," and puts the earbuds in.

You proceed to spend a blissful half hour catching up on your fanmail and dicking around on the internet. The world shrinks to the width of your screen and you don't have to care about any assholes out here and their problems, or even about your own. You just let out a couple of silent chuckles at particularly gross dick jokes and flame a couple of tools on some forum or other. It's so normal you could cry of happy feels.

Over on the pile Karkat mutters something about Strider musical tastes sucking universally. You ignore him; the sad peasant doth not knowe of what he speaketh. He picks up the Gameboy. You go on to dead baby jokes and the latest photoshop meme. Gotta stay current.

You get so engrossed in it, you don't notice him moving until he clicks on your bedside lamp and then turns off the ceiling lamp. You blink at his back as he goes back to his pile and flops face up again, eyes open.

"Whoa, man, it's not even ten PM, don't you tell me you're going to sleep already."

"Not that it'd be any of your business if I was, but I'm not sleeping, I'm just bored."

Yeah no, you're a Strider, and a teenage one to boot, you can recognize brooding at thirty paces.

What is it with your flatmates and wanting to drag you into that morass of troll hanky-panky shenanigans. Is there a prize for it? Maybe it's a pyramid scheme.

Karkat doesn't keep bitching. You do remember his memos from three years ago and it looked like he could bitch himself out into a coma and still keep bitching on automatic even while unconscious. Maybe he grew out of it. Maybe he really is too tired to deal with this shit, and is practicing the fine zen tradition of contemplating the universe in a bit of acoustic ceiling tile.

You bet he's thinking about his hump-free boyfriend and his ex-not-girlfriend doing the bone dance.

Yeah, that'd make anyone want to stare at the heavens and yell why. You know it's making you want to. Gangly loose-jointed beanpole and pocket-sized bag of knives, woo. That's hot.

Especially with hatesex and how predatorily they both ooookay brain no.

He turns on his side. Quiet sigh. Turns on his other side. Is he cuddling an old shoe. Oh, no, nose wrinkling, shoe rejected, thank fuck, that would have been too weird. Flop, on his back again. He's gonna catch a cold, the scrawny little asshole, the way his shirt rides up.

"Okay," you capitulate, "come up here."

You get stared at through a fringe of tangled dark hair.

"You're so bored all the fun is getting sucked out of the very walls. Shit be hitting critical soon, levels decreasing all across the countryside, soon even I might be unfunny--"

"Soon?" he answers pointedly, which is pretty much just what you hoped for, because at least when he gets in a dig he looks a little more interested in life in general. He pushes himself into a sitting position. "I have watched your whole blighted timeline, dude, and the last time you were funny was when your man-lusus gave you a smuppet to cuddle with at night."

You have to fight not to twitch. "Lies and slander."

"You gnawed on its nose."

... You don't think trolls nurse, so... yeah, oh god, no. If Bro didn't yank the smuppet out of your arms with all due horror you are going to need another fifty years of therapy. "Your dad know you lie like this, Vantas? I ought to warn him he doesn't tan your backside enough to bring forth honesty."

He snorts. "I'm sure Terezi --" his voice wavers. Fuck. "I'm sure she kept a video clip."

You sigh, and pat the mattress meaningfully. "Come on up, Vantas, you're a houseguest, it's your sacred duty to let me spam you with shit you don't care about and nod at polite intervals. Be like the rudest thing you could do in someone else's home not to."

You wait as he weighs his choices. You don't want to spend the night nagging him out of his funk, you're not his goddamn moirail. You made one offer, and that's it.

You have to admit, when he moves on his knees and shuffles to your bed, you're pretty surprised. You shift toward the wall, make him a space. The mattress isn't exactly king size. It's fine to watch vids, though, be a bit hard if he were farther away. You don't say a word, don't throw a glance as he sits gingerly beside you, reclines against the headboard like it might break under his weight. You just wait until he's done and then you move the laptop so one side of it rests on his knee.

You will never tell that to anyone else, but personally you find the warmth and the solid weight of a laptop oddly comforting, not to mention that almost subliminal vibration, that whirr of fans. If Rose were here she'd scoff at you about your subpar replacement for a proper cat, but cats suck and scratch and they're mean, and technology that does the same job is obviously superior, okay.

You accidentally end up on Youtube and accidentally queue up a series of adorable kitten antics. Accidentally.

They are guaranteed to amuse and/or soften the stoniest of hearts. Karkat mostly looks puzzled. "Why are we watching juvenile purrbeasts ride around on shellbeasts again?"

"It's... cute?" you venture. Okay, you might be mildly thrown. You expected at least one d'aww.

"Animals are cute?" He makes a face, eyes you sideways like he suspects you of deviant leanings.

"Not in a sexy way for fuck's sake Vantas. Urgh."

"How even are they cute, they're not even person-shaped, you gogsucking furry."

You could bother dragging up old articles about how humans are wired to want to coo over small defenseless round fluffy things with a huge eyes-to-head ratio because babies and durr of course trolls wouldn't be pinged that way, but, yeah, nope, nerd is not a good look on you. You sigh. Okay, this one failed. You queue up random movie trailers next.

"Almost two sweeps in and humans are still so weird."

"Shut up and ogle Human Will Smith." You're pretty sure he likes that dude. You remember John laughing about it.

"... Why is he brown?"

"Jegusfuck." He frowns at you in puzzlement, lips pursed in a way too serious little pout. "It's just a skin color okay. Like how Jade and Jake are hella tan, well this fine dude is even more tan. It's not Maybelline." Karkat blinks. "He was born like that. Argh."

"Why are you twitching about it?"

"... Nooo nonono I am not explaining races and racism to you."

Adorably Puzzled Frowns do not make you want this conversation a iota more. "But he's a human too, right? That's the same race? Is it like land trolls and sea dwellers?"

You facepalm. Also whine, a little bit. "Argh, where to even start--"

Karkat's lips are pinched up. You throw him a suddenly suspicious look. He lets himself smirk, just a bit at the corner. "Kidding. Dad explained already. Blah blah color-based prejudice, where did I hear of that before, I wonder, humans sure are original."

You give him a jaundiced look from the side of your shades. "I ought to queue up the best worst of Nic Cage."

His smirk widens a little bit. "You won't."

"Oh, really? That's a dangerous risk you're taking there, playing with fire and all."

"You won't. It'd be a double KO."

You stare, eyes narrowed the tiniest little bit. "Don't go underestimating the sheer power of spite, now."

"I'm not. I'm also not underestimating the devastation Cage's hoofbeast face would lay on your ocular globes."

"Pff. My ocular globes are made of sheer diamond, nothing can scratch that shit."

"Save for Nic Cage."

"... Save for Nic Cage," you capitulate. He chuckles quietly.

It isn't even true, years of exposure have left you hardened, and besides you enjoy suckiness. He's just cuter when he smiles.

Not a lot of boys are cute, in your opinion, but so long as he isn't scowling like the dourest little raincloud Vantas manages decently well. It's the pointy little chin and the eyelashes.

And the bed hair.

And the stretched out across his pile with flat belly offered thing. Yeah. That thing.

You add some more random vids to your queue, let him figure out the track pad and add his own, whenever he sees an interesting one, and you enjoy the warmth of the laptop across both your laps, the warmth of his leg almost touching yours.

"I'm going to fall asleep here if I don't pay attention," he says, six or seven trailers later, gazing at the screen with soot-gray eyelids heavy, with colors dancing across the bridge of his nose.

"I don't mind," you reply, because you don't. You do pretty much the opposite of mind. Not because he'd probably end up wrapped around you again and you might get a chance to get your sleaze on, but because it's... you might have missed that, some, since the end of the game, John's rough hair ruffles, Jade's hugs, Nannasprite's headpats and the Consorts butting your sprite tail with their heads in clumsy affection and holding hands and all that cuddly shit. Striders are not a touchy-feely lot.

You don't know if it's random or if he hears something a bit too sincere in your voice, but he turns his head to look at you, hands laced together on his belly with all dainty claws showing, reclined almost lazily, almost relaxed.

Your shoulders aren't touching, but it's a question of inches -- to be precise, one, singular inch, if even that much. If you let your foot rotate outwards it would hook his -- tuck all nice and ticklish under his arch; short legs are short. You wonder if you really want to, if you should. Seems tempting but the fallout...

He quirks an eyebrow. "... What?"

"Wanna make out?"

Karkat stares, body still. You don't make a move to secure the laptop, though you expect it to go flying any second now.

His lips move, wordless, through a couple of aborted lines that you can guess at. "Haha, utterly hilarious -- not." "You are joking, right?" "... right?"

He wets his lips and you look, you can't not, and you don't know if he can see your eyes because shades but the tilt of your head seems to be clear enough.

"... Why?"

Damn it. That's right, he's a goddamn romantic. "You're cute, it'd be a nice pastime, why not?" you reply, valiantly resisting the urge to rub the bridge of your nose. If this devolves into a psychoanalysis session you are so gone. Fuck, you didn't even get any sloppy makeouts before your stupid impulse decision caught up at a dead run for a flying tackle. "If you're not interested it's fi--"


"--ne." Blink. "Uh."

Wow shit okay, suddenly you're not all comfortably and languidly interested, you are interested right now. Be smooth, Strider, be smooth, not asking if he really means it, that's just too lame and a good way to change his mind -- fuck, what next, what did you do with Jade oh right she was the one who jumped you.

He's still waiting for an answer, pretend-casual, hands fisted on his lap.

"Okay," you say. "Cool."

You hesitate for one second, and then you take off your shades. You were planning for raw animal magnetism and cooch-wetting self-confidence when your eyes met but your hand twitches a little and you almost poke yourself in the eye with an earpiece. He shakes with a single nervous giggle-snorting noise that has you pinching your lips lest you reproduce it.

He leans in first (hey! foul!) and pecks your lips, a little off-center. You want to grab on but your shades, what are you supposed to do with them, you'll break them if you leave them on the mattress.

Cue awkward.

"Argh. And here on the list of ridiculously regrettable things I did not expect to do today we have --"

"Shh." You lean in and kiss him back.

It works. You feel like a king. A king with a painfully craned neck who's about to lose his balance because leaning on his hand will break the fuck out of his shades, and then Karkat will think you're trying to pounce him and you'll both fall on the floor. Head trauma for everyone. Wow, they'll say, as tales of your prowess spread far and wide, you sure know how to show someone a good time.

The kiss stays chaste for a while; shoulder to shoulder, lips moving slow, no tongue. His hand bumps against the outside of your thigh; you take it. You hope you don't forget your shades lying abandoned between your hip and his, awesome if you sat on them oh hell your brain won't stop. No, shut up brain, so not the time for a word diarrhea. You shuffle a little closer, turn your upper body more toward him. This is not comfortable one bit, and then the laptop starts sliding and you both tear your hands free to grab for it.

"Welp. Uh. Just, could you close it, put it against the wall?"

Karkat nods without a word, not looking at you, eyelashes lowered. For half a second you're thinking that he didn't like it and aw fuck, but no, no, he's flustered.

You watch as he twists his upper body over the edge of the bed, the way his shirt rides up when he stretches down. You pretend your hand is suddenly on his waist so you can make sure he doesn't lose his balance and fall over. He jumps a little bit.

You rub your thumb against warm, soft skin, back and forth. He stays down there an endless second -- too long to be natural -- before sitting back up.


And then he's rolling to his knees with great determination and they're kind of bracketing your thigh, oh hey. He's straddling you. You have a warm, compact body sitting on your knee. You're pretty alright with that turn of events. You reach for his shoulder, whoops almost sat your ass on your shades, fuck. You huff in frustration and drop them over the edge of the bed, fuck that noise, they're not gonna break for so little. You don't even look at them.

His hands are on your shoulders, his claws prickle you through your t-shirt. Oh. Yes. Yes, okay.

He leans in, pauses. You make a little groan of frustration and fist your hand in his collar; you stop yourself before you haul him the rest of the distance in, unsure of how well he'll take it. You open your hand, smooth it open-palmed on his chest, fingertips over sharply defined collarbones.

His forehead touches yours and you stare into each other's eyes and yes blahblah romantic as fuck and (it's not making your stomach flip weird to have all that anticipation building, that weird, intense moment of intimacy that you don't understand) flowery gestures don't turn your crank, okay, so you slide your arm around the back of his neck and haul him in for a kiss with a little more teeth. Your tongue teases at the corner of his lips. Once his arms have wound themselves around your shoulders (he groans, all quiet and shivery) you allow your own hand to wander downwards along his spine.

He breaks the kiss. "Wait, wait. I -- before we continue I think we should talk about our expectations--

You groan. "Oh for the love of God. Don't you pull a Kankri on me--"

He stiffens, offended. He looks like an angry teenage kitten. His claws prickle in deeper. Ngh. "It's not pulling a fucking Kankri to want to know what in the Mothergrub's putrid digestion sac you expect! Because if you think we're having sex--"

You scoff. Your lips are kind of quirking up of their own volition. Why are you softening like that, it makes no sense. "Of course not, numbnuts, you think I give it up on the first date?"

"...Well. Good." He slumps against you, deflating, and now you have a lapful of pretty troll-boy. Ngh. He's breathing on your neck. Double ngh.

Well, if he's close to your neck, you're close to his. "Woe," you purr against the delicate shell of his ear, "today we shall go bucketless."

Then you nip. It cuts down on outraged grumbling pretty well. It doesn't prevent him from headbutting you in the shoulder, but you don't think you'll do more than bruise a bit from it, so whatever.

Oh hey a horn. You crane your neck a bit and drop a kiss on it, because it's there and, okay, you might have been a little curious but you never had an excuse to go up to a troll and touch before. It feels like a smoothed-soft river stone, one that's been left in the sun. Karkat lifts his head a bit to stare at you like you're the biggest dumbass in existence.

"If you had any idea how gross you are," he says. He doesn't get off your lap, mixed signals there. You start drawing little circles on his side over his waistband.

"What, horns are actually excretory organs?"

Bam, slap to the head, though it makes your hair fly more than it actually impacts with your skull. Even in the low yellow light of the bedside lamp you can see him flushing. "No, dumbass, not the horns!"

"So the... bucketless thing?"

He stares.

You waggle your eyebrows, face otherwise a perfect impassive mask.

He splutters at you for another five seconds, and then he starts laughing. Bingo.

"Stupidest -- lamest -- most ridiculous human --"

It feels really good when he's laughing in your lap. Wowza. Plus one thing you have learned from dating Jade was that the more you made her laugh, the more likely she was to go forth with the happy fondling. You make your voice ridiculously low and gravelly. "Wanna let me touch your butt, now, I bet."

He snickers against your temple; it's a surprisingly nice sound, low and a little veiled, and at point blank range it seems to have bought first class tickets on the Crotch Express. "Oh you bet I want you to, you ludicrous asswaffle. Ravish me now, you humongous stallion you."

"You could stand to sound a little less doubtful," you complain -- you think mildly, though considering how distracting your crotch is at the moment it's a bit hard to judge if you have nailed it. "I totally could if I wanted to, only then you'd have to marry me to wash away my dishonor and then we'd have to agree on where to raise the grubs. Oh, I want at least three, but you better mammal-carry your fair share because my girlish figure won't mmmph."

Oh hey tongue in your mouth. You are pretty alright with this shocking new development.

You wrap your arm around his waist, tilt your head, kiss back. He's a little clumsy, cautious around your teeth and when you brush the tip of your tongue against his you get why. They're not razor-sharp though, just pointy like every single one is an eyetooth, so long as he doesn't clamp down you can handle them. You make a little pleased hum in his mouth, eyes closed. His tongue tickles your palate and you smile against his mouth. You're breathing together, taking in the same air, and it's strange and nice and making you warm pretty far down.

The kiss grows wetter, more confident, but out of some unspoken agreement you don't speed it up, you let it stay slow and thorough. You don't want to push too far too fast, anyway, you don't want to scare him off by fucking his mouth with your tongue, good way to end it too early and with no chance of a repeat performance.

His hands are in your hair. He seems to like it, he keeps combing in close to your skull and then letting the strands slide between his fingers, again and again and again until you want to purr, until you are purring, until some ghost part of you that the Game tore off on the way out wants to croon and preen him back.

You miss your wings so badly you can barely breathe.

He breaks the kiss, lips wet, downturned in a baffled frown. "Byrd?"

"Shit -- give me a minute." You burrow against his shoulder so he won't see your face, eyes closed tight. Shit. Now that's embarrassing.

"If I have inadvertently triggered you I swear to fuck I will staple my bulge to my forehead somehow and roll my way down your preposterous number of stairs until I die or one of your neighbors mercifully shoots me. Don't think I could stand knowing I'm growing up to be Kankri."

You crack up. "T-trigger warning," you say through your laughter, "misuse of bulges, abuse of innocent staircases--"

You both go pffff together. It's a ridiculously long time before enough breath is regained that you can afford to only breathe through your noses for some mouth to mouth action.

You didn't think Karkat had much of a sense of humor. 'Perpetually angry' was the sense you had of him, maybe 'wordily sarcastic' -- but 'funny' and 'willing to have fun,' that's unexpected. The part of your brain that isn't drenched in hormones suspects he might be less funny if the aforementioned hormone drenching wasn't concerning like ninety percent of your thought processes right now.

But, as you have just said, that part of your brain is like ten percent tops, and therefore you officially do not care.

Things go back to slow and lazy and thorough; you recline against the headboard, he leans against your chest. You sigh under the weight of him, his compact, wiry body. He's a bit smaller than you are but there's tight corded muscle everywhere, from what you can guess through a shirt and your hand traveling up and down his back in wide arcs. Bit unexpected, Jade was muscled too but padded all over, her skin was softer. You liked that, but it doesn't mean Karkat doesn't feel nice.

Just maybe likely to crush you sooner. You shift under him to settle his weight; his mouth slides from yours to your shoulder, dampening the sleeve of your t-shirt.

"I'm killing my back right here," he says eventually, and you snort out a little laugh.

"I was about to say the same thing. Lay down?"

He bites his lip, propped up on his hands, his body pressed against yours in a spine-bending arc, a little off-center so his crotch doesn't press into yours. Instead you get hipbone, nicely uncomfortable and you don't even mind somehow. His fangs are ridiculously un-scary.

"... Still no sex."

"Sure, okay."

You'd agree to him tap-dancing on your beef thermometer right now.

When he goes to dismount on the left side, though, you catch his elbow, guide him against the wall instead. He tenses a little, eyebrows furrowing. You look away, wave your stump wordlessly.

"-- Oh. Right. Yeah."

"You don't have some weird troll aversion at getting stuck with the wall side, do you? 'cause we could try laying down upside-down in the bed but--"

"Shut up, nookmunch." He wriggles down a little and then flops down decisively, his back against the wall. And then he glares up at you.

Goddamn does he look nice in here. Curled up against your hip, lying down in your bed, hair tousled and cheeks hot... it's pretty sexy, okay, so when you lay down in turn you make damn sure your hips aren't touching. He glances down, confused for a fraction of second before uncomfortable understanding bursts on his face.

"Uh -- how much are you...?"

"Dude, if you're not going to put your hands on it I'd rather avoid going into details about the state of my yogurt hose."

"... Your what," he replies flatly. You make sure your face is expressionless. You can feel how pink your cheeks have gotten, though.

"I don't usually deconstruct my metaphors but special offer, just for you, babe, today Professor Strider will school you at great length on--"

"Let's talk about your disturbing lack of horns instead. Or, uh, how hard you'd like me to use my nails, because your skin is so weak and papery and you guys really don't heal fast and--"

Yeah, you totally want to talk about how shivery-hng it makes you to get scratched. "How about we don't talk at all."

You tangle your legs together. (Only from mid-thigh down, sob.) His hand curls over your hip, smoothes its way up, ruffling up your shirt, cautiously ventures onto bare skin. You're kissing, of course you're kissing, it comes easily now. You cup your hand over his small round-tipped horn, covering it entirely, and he shivers.

"Thought you didn't really feel it?" you inquire in between two languid kisses.

"Mnh. Don't, much. S'more like..."

He stops touching your hip and his hand rises to cover your eyes. The world is dark; you're surrounded in him. It's silly to be nervous, and yet. "... Ah."

"Feel -- can feel -- vibrations, big things, footsteps, but when your hands -- I can only feel you."

"Ah," you say again, and you roll closer, half on top of him, burrowing him between you and the mattress and the wall, he is caught here and you just, you want to cover his horns again, his eyes, you want to cover his body with yours.

The impulse is startling enough that you don't even need the warning prickle of claws against the back of your neck; you're already pushing off, falling back onto your lamed side, and his claws scratch you a little. You don't mind.

Karkat gives a long, grouchy growl, and leans in to nip your chin. Ow.

"Sorry," you say, meek as you can, which granted isn't much. "I was just overwhelmed by your tiny horns' insane levels of sex appeal." He glares. You purse your lips. "I want to elope with your horns, they are unreasonably charming, why, the seductresses, we ought to find you a hat to cover their lewd cutenow ow ow."

He has latched onto your ear. With teeth. He is not letting go. You smooth your hand down his side as soothingly as you can.

"Sorry -- sir -- your majesty -- ow, ow -- my word on it, I won't do it again --"

"You had better not," he says, scowling, but then he drops a quick kiss on your closed mouth.

"Woohoo mixed signals -- ow."

You try to look contrite. It's not one you have much practice at.

He sighs, eyes closing, and settles down next to you, his arm draped around your waist. You mirror him. You're a bit put out that he seems to want to take a break -- maybe stop entirely? maybe you just turned him right off with that stupid impulsive stunt, or maybe he was trying to see if he was into it but he's just not -- but nagging until he changes his mind is just lame. You're not that desperate to get off.

(At least you don't want to look it. Fff. Down, pants beast.)

"So." You school your voice into mild indifference somehow. "Shirtlesssness some other day, then?"

He opens his eyes then and you can see he's caught between rueful and relieved. "Yeah. Sorry. It was -- it was pretty nice, I just..." A grimace. "My brain won't stop. Kind of killing the mood."

Argh. Well, at least it's doing a decent job of putting your boner back to sleep. It'd kinda suck if you kept working yourself up at this point.

Bluh. You weigh your choices. Meddle, don't meddle... you so do not want to get involved, but it'd be kind of callous to suck face with a guy and then be all welp shut your trap about your little problems I don't care.

Not that he's offering. Maybe it's okay if you don't make even a token effort...

"... Wanna. You know. Talk about it?"

He stares at you, and then -- out of all possible responses -- he represses a smile, almost a smirk. "You look like someone handed you a dead and putrefying stinkbeast. Don't go and give yourself a feelings hernia now."

You pout. Uh, make that, make a manly, not-childish grimace. Yeah, that's what you do. "Shut up, I was just trying to gain considerate points to unlock your topless level."

He kicks your ankle, half-heartedly.

"Thanks for the generous offer, I'll appreciate it in the spirit in which it was intended." Deflating, he stares down at your collarbone, though you doubt he's actually seeing it (which is a shame, it's a pretty hot collarbone if you may say so.) "But... wow, would that feel like pale cheating right now."

"I could put my hand on your nubile buttock as you blather on. That'd totally make it not pale. I know because of my learnings."

"Uh huh. Tell me, who gave you the basics of troll relationships again? Because it wasn't me, and your ideas aren't garbled out of all recognition enough for it to be Gamzee, and if you learned from Terezi you learned it through Dave as a proxy and he'd have trolled you as a matter of course... Kanaya perhaps? Rose?"

The sardonic look on his face says he can guess who it really was. You give in. "Yeah okay, it was John."

"I suggest you use your troll diploma to wipe with, that's about the most exalted use it can pretend to."

For a moment you're tempted to make a schooling crack, sensei should keep me after class kind of thing, but either Karkat won't get it -- you have no idea how their education system works so maybe they don't have the same porn of it -- or he'll think you're trying to nag him into show-and-telling you what he's got down his pants. Def. a bad idea right now.

With a little sigh you let it go. You regretfully take your hand off his side to grab for a pillow, tuck it under your head. "Want one?"

He pauses in the middle of reaching out for the pillow you're holding out to him, eyes you, chewing on his lip. "So... I'm crashing here a second time, then. Do humans do this kind of thing a lot, because--"

"You sleep with your juggalo, dude," you point out.

He flinches, looks away. "Uh, yeah, and it's a date activity, it's not supposed to happen every single day. Then again you guys routinely share hives, what the fuck do I know. I think you assholes are contaminating me, too, because fuck if I'm not turning into a codependent nookdribbling spongefuck who really needs to kick the addiction to the curb. It's not normal to always be together with--"

"The hand on buttock offer is still open, just so you know."

He flushes, dusky-dark on soot skin, and then he snatches the second pillow from your hand and tucks it under his hips busily. You give a slow blink.

"How the heck can you even sleep like that, dude, I don't get it." You roll on your back, tuck your arm behind your head. "Don't you get achy everywhere? Knotted muscles? Cricks in your neck?"

He huffs, though at least he meets your eyes again. "How can you sleep all flat and loose on too-soft stuff and not feel like you're becoming one with the jelly?"

... Aliens.

You turn off the bedside lamp, and make a note to look for more occasions to advance the general xenobio knowledge on Earth, now that you have a potential hands-on study option.