Crash Standing


Chapter 5: Day Eleven

You wake up because there's someone staring at you and also you can't breathe.

If the staring you awake thing happens three times in a row you swear you will flip a nun ass over rosary. For now you just force your eyes open into the gloomy room and try to figure out who left an elephant parked over your ribs.

Pat. Pat.

You recognize that (supple, smooth, bare) thigh. Okay, how the fuck did Karkat end up face up and ass across your stomach, his legs have to be dangling over the edge of the bed and considering where the wall is his neck is probably made of origami, this is ridiculous.

He's still breathing all soft and sleepingly, though, so you keep squinting.

Huh, there's a gargoyle perched on your footboard.

Where the fuck is your sword. Sword now. You need your fucking sword oh hey antelope horns and Cthulhu hair.

Wonder who that could be!

Nope, still feels like your need your goddamn sword.

"Can I help you, bro?" you ask. You're getting used to the green ambient light from the alarm clock, you think you can see a gleaming bit where his eyes should be. His horns tilt a bit to the side and his eyes flash all greenyellowwhite like a cat staring down a coming car. Nice reminder that he's probably seeing you a lot better than you're seeing him, woohoo xeno.

(You might feel rather annoyed at it right now, but actually it is pretty interesting. Once again you wish you had some troll body parts in jars for your collection of awesome creepy things You'll be interested another day, though.)

"Why'd a motherfucker need any help from the likes of you, bro."

The things he is doing with his voicebox, the bass wobble and the almost subliminal nails-on-chalkboard scratches... The hair on your forearm and on the back of your neck prickles up.

"I'm not to be wanting to get my fucking bother on, anyway, not when you motherfuckers are sleeping all to safe and snug and nice, not me. Not motherfucking me."

"Whoa there, you sure you're supposed to hateflirt that hard so soon after you got your hatemack on? Hold your horses, stallion. Terezi hates you enough already."

You knew you should have shut your mouth pretty much as the words started coming out, but having good judgment and actually using it are two pretty different things. Yours is still in mint condition, you could make a fortune off a collector somewhere.

You start discreetly bouncing your stomach to get Karkat to wake up. He's heavy -- worse, he's limp, all you manage is to strain your abdominal muscles, and then you feel even more squashed.

"Seriously, what crawled up your ass and died? I hope not Pyrope's bulge, she's gonna need it to deflower my clonebro some day hopefully soon and necrotic tentacles are way more up Rose's alley than either of ours." Wow, you're in full on babble mode. Mostly because he's still not saying anything, damn it, when is he going to tell you what he wants and then hopefully wander off -- "By alley I was referring to her vagina in case that wasn't clear, because the day just isn't going well enough until we've had a slip of the tongue in unfortunate Freudian directions in this joint and what the fuck do you want?"

You broke down and started sounding strained there in the end but he leaves you to marinate some more before he bothers answering. "Why'd I have to be wanting anything? Just getting my perch on. Watching. Sweetest motherfucking thing my ganderbulbs ever got their gaze on."

You blink, long and slow. "Okay, that sure sounded like you're jealous. Also passive-aggressive and a whiny fuck, but mostly jealous. What for, 'cause Vantas decided to find himself another bedwarmer rather than freeze to death waiting for your bony ass?"

That... came out a little sharp. You do not want to get involved, but last evening you got to deal with emo moping and cockblocking, and he got to deal with Pyrope's party blower tongue down his creepy clown throat.

Which was apparently good for him. Takes all kinds.

Gamzee is now rattling. It's not... organic enough to be called a growl, somehow, it's a weird click-chittering noise that seems to wrap around the base of your skull and burrow. Your hand starts feeling along the headboard for your sword.

One of Karkat's hands flips and thwaps you knuckles-first in the collarbone. Ow. When you look down at him, you catch another cat-flash of eyes. Thank fuck. It's his job to calm the juggalo's tits, time he earned his keep around here holy fuck.


No threat, fancy or otherwise. Not even any anger, really. Just... flat, almost casual, Gamzee.

Slow and deliberate, controlled, Karkat pushes his ass off you, sits up against the wall, though his legs are still bent across your body, heels on the other side of your waist. He looks toward the headboard.

"Have you had a good night?"

You must be seeing things, poor dark-blind human, because you almost think the way those longass horns twitched meant flinch. You push yourself toward the headboard some so you can sit up.


"... Looks to me like you did, too, bro, look at that, your support struts don't want to get their detangling on."

Aw, motherfuck. You can't figure out if Gamzee sounds calmly, crazily homicidal, or guilty (heartbroken? yeah right;) he keeps wavering between the two. Either way is not of the good.

Controlled Karkat? Is bad news. Turns out. Surprise, you know. "I can not," he starts, slow and casual, "figure out how you even think you have any grounds at all to open your noise trap about what I did with my night."

Okay, that was definitely a flinch, and also cheap Ikea bed boards splintering quietly under claws.

Also they're definitely going to have their domestic argument right here on top of you. Not uncomfortable at all. "Whoa, okay, guys, maybe we don't want to wake up Dave with that discussion--"

"Shut your motherfucking mouth."

... Okay, no. Your hand closes on the handle of your katana.

"Don't you tell him to shut up!" Karkat snarls back, higher pitched, less coldly threatening and more incandescent with rage. "Don't you tell anyone to shut up, you shut up! What the fuck is even your problem?! How do you figure you're allowed--"

"I don't motherfucking mind when you get pale for the entire fucking world!" Gamzee snarls back, and he looms, fuck, he does have the higher ground. You need off your bed right the fuck now. "Because that is who you are all down to the shining core of you, but when they get their pale on right the fuck back--"

You have a foot on the floor and you're about to lunge, only Karkat moves first.


Gamzee loses his balance and jumps off the bed; the pile rustles, things cracks. You don't think he landed wrong, wouldn't be so lucky. You get up and slap your hand on the light switch. Wince; too much light, but you couldn't have put your shades on without putting your weapon down and yeah, nope. Gamzee is in a crouch on the pile's slope, and Dave sits in his bed with his hair a royal mess and his eyebrows furrowing owlishly.

"Okay, guys, who was the moron who thought ass o'clock was the perfect time for that shit," he grouches. Neither of the trolls acknowledge him. You see him noting the sword in your hand and he frowns, slides toward his own weapon, though he doesn't grab it yet.

Gamzee and Karkat only have eyes for each other.

"Best friend--"

"I can not--"

"--you can't, you're--"

"--fucking believe--"

"--mine, you and me--"

"--the fucking gall--"

"--me and you--"

"--accuse me of, of cheating!--"

"--you can't leave me!"

Silence. Karkat is panting, teeth bared, eyes red all the way through, standing in a battle stance on your mattress; Gamzee cowers on the pile, scratched all over and a black eye on him that you don't think Karkat gave him. A CD case dies a splintery death in his blindly clenching hand.

Gamzee shakes his head like a drunk man and his voice rises again, seesawing between plaintive and unhinged. "You can't, bro, you motherfucking can't, we're destiny, hatched for each other, we were--"

"Stop." Karkat straightens up, still breathing too fast. "You are not having an attack of murder in here just so I can shoosh your ass and you can pretend all is well once fucking again. You're going to calm your own damn tits--"


He starts rising from his crouch like some terrifying (terrified) lanky monster of darkness. Karkat talks right over him. "You're going to calm your own damn tits today and we'll fucking jam later!"

Deep breath.

"Okay? Later. I can't fucking deal with you right now, I -- just. Later."

He bumps into your shoulder on his way out, and you don't think he even notices. You look at the door slamming closed behind him, and then back to Gamzee, whose face is slack and eyes vague in a way you do not like much. The guy's not right in the head, and Karkat might believe leaving you two alone with him is not going to explode into guts and gristle but he might not be the most astute judge of that right now.

Sword now in hand, Dave is measuring angles and checking what kind of footing the pile might offer. You decide to do your part for the war effort by keeping murderclown's attention on you, and (conveniently) his back to Dave for ease of stabbing.

"Earth to Makara."

Slowly, his eyes shift until he's staring at you. His eyelids hang low, almost sleepy, but the red-orangey whites are just not a good look on him. Clashes with the plum irises.

"Alright, all conclusions have been thoroughly jumped, it's a tackle party and where'd the football even get to, no one fucking knows." Sigh. You place your hand on your hip, pointedly. "Can I say my piece now? Without you inserting subtext like you're Rose and two random actor dudes have accidentally pissed in neighboring urinals?"

"Sure, cripplebro," he says, throat scratchy like he spent the night howling it up at an ICP concert with his juggalo brethren. You bristle, even though you know better than to give him the pleasure. You think he looks a bit too coldly satisfied with that. "Go right the fuck ahead. Get your explanation on about the miracles of human jams that make it so's it ain't pale as fine-ass snow."

You twitch. Gamzee throws a pointed look over his shoulder.

"Like how those jams you motherfuckers got up to on the meteor weren't you leading him the fuck on--"

Dave hisses in annoyance. "Fuck's sake, just because we had some awkward private conversation about things that were -- get that -- private, it doesn't mean it was anything but friendly discussion! You trolls fucking suck, can't even be vaguely decent to a guy without planning to tie the knot. I've never been pale or black or candy-stripped for Karkat in my life, okay?"

Good, you think, and then you bury it, because it's so not the time to get resentful at the one guy in the room who's on the side of not getting Byrd gored for cheating.

"How would you know if you were, motherfucker. How would you motherfucking know. You got no words for it, all snipped out of your blasphemous, ugly tongue, though the feelings are still hiding muddled in there. Right fucking here, spilling over every fucking thing, getting their greedy grasp on what's fucking mine."

You sigh. You roll your eyes. "Maybe we can, and maybe we can't, but this one? It was most definitely the very incarnation of not."

You wait until he's staring at you again, and then you say, "'Cause I put my tongue in his mouth."

Gamzee blinks first.

"Now, mister Makara, school me on how that's any of your business, since from what I got from observing today it's not his business where you put your own tongue, but surely I understood that wrong, I'm just a silly alien and all! And then I can give you a play by play of where my hand went and whether he's a biter. Fair?"

He's still staring at you.

"Okay, bro, you go first. School away. I'm all ears."

You don't know what he would have responded, because the door creaks open behind you. You don't know whether to hope Karkat came back to deal with his shitty moirail. In any case you'd be disappointed; it's Dirk. He stares at the three of you in turn, face blank, shades on.

"Yo, what's up, Byrd I'm trading your bed for my couch, have fun. Orders from above. Gamzee, Bro tells me to tell you that if you don't feel up to sleeping in the same room as Dave tonight there's a space for you in his closet, graciously offered and free of charges."

It's a threat, as blandly voiced as it is. You're pretty sure Bro and Dirk decided together, or would have decided the same thing anyway no matter who had the idea first, but it's more final coming from Bro because the trolls are all nervous as fuck around him for god knows what reason. Gamzee is about as likely to take him up on the offer of sleeping in his room as he is of sticking a kitchen knife up his alien mangina.

Then again, he's apparently black-dating Terezi. Who knows.

You bite down on the back of your sword to keep holding it elegantly and pirately (fuck off that shit's swag and you're just not putting it down) and fumble your shades on, and then when he hasn't taken the occasion to attack you take the sword back in hand and stroll out.

Bro is standing in the doorway to his room, arms crossed, leaning on the doorjamb. He sees you coming and you can see him checking you out, a quick glance from toes to head. You give a minimal shrug; you're fine, really. He nods back and disappears back in his room.

You turn right, into the living room, to find the trapdoor open and Terezi peering down, and you can bet your ass she only didn't come charging in because Bro was out and standing in her way. Good; this would not have made that clusterfuck worse at all.

"Byrd? What happened?"

"Jeeze, I fucking wonder." You don't see Karkat anywhere. Probably on the roof. The only other place to be alone in here would be the bathroom, if he didn't mind that he can't even turn around without breaking an elbow on the toilet. "I'm not giving you a situation update, Pyrope, I am so sick of that teenage bullshit, just ask Dave tomorrow."

She stares at you, black lips pursed. You stare back, letting yourself frown. You're serious. Enough. Just... enough.

For once she doesn't push. She just bites her lip and asks, "Is Dave okay?"

Depending on what she's talking about, but nope, the relationship counselor's office is motherfucking closed for business. He's not bleeding, good enough for this hour of the night. "Yeah, sure. G'night."

You stroll away to the couch before she can call you back.


A half hour later you still haven't fallen back to sleep. You've been listening to noise from the bedroom -- nothing -- and trying to find a comfortable position -- ain't one to be had -- and wondering halfheartedly if you shouldn't jump on the chance to rub one off without waking up your roommates -- but the thought of Terezi sniffing out what you're up to from all the way over there through a trapdoor would kill it even if your mood wasn't haunting the dark and grouchy plains of Sulkistan.

The big DVD reader display flashes 4:44 at you. You give up.

Some fresh city air will help. Yeah.

You trip over no Karkat on the staircase, and you haven't turned on the light deliberately in case of weird stains so you just ghost right up. After the darkness inside, the billboards and weird orangey clouds are almost too much light, even if objectively you're still not seeing a lot more than jack shit. There's a cool little breeze up here that makes you shiver in your t-shirt, but even so it's not what you'd call cold.

You stick your hand in your pocket and wander your way to the low wall that's supposed to keep you from becoming street pizza on the busy avenue. Though at this hour the faint roar of cars isn't exactly common. You lean your hip on it, gaze down. Flickering neon, some poor assholes actually going to work, a lone, exhausted prostitute.

There's a dark shape huddled at the far corner of the roof, mirroring you -- chest propped up on the wall, looking down at the streets below. You're not sure you want to talk yet. At all.

You catch him glancing at you, and you sigh and push away from the wall and go, shoulders loose, as slow as you can get away with. Gives him plenty of time to stiffen, abscond, whatever. He doesn't; just turns his head back down toward the street. You make sure to scrape your feet, make some noise as you reach him.

He's tracking the progress of some dude carting a fancy painting's frame on his shoulder (sans painting ??? ) and not saying a thing, so you do the same, prop your elbow and street-watch. From his corner you see more, another street; the intersection isn't all that busier but at this hour it's still something.

Vroom, goes a truck down there. In an apartment somewhere close by a dog is barking.

He's tense, refusing to look at you. He wants to talk about it about as much as you do. The second you offer he's going to chew your throat out.

The silence is getting boring, though, and you're remembering that your eyes are gritty.

"... Make out?"

"I will bite you in the face."

You give a slow blink. "Well. Okay."

Karkat turns to look at you, then, suspicious and irritated. "Are you blackflirting?"

Trolls. "Jegus no. I was saying okay, no making out. You're cute and all, dude, but you're not hot enough to rewrite mauling as sexy."

He snorts quietly, or maybe it's a tired sigh.

"Then again I don't know who would ever be that hot. Seriously counter to survival there."

You're wide open to a 'only because humans are lamesauce weaklings' comeback, but nothing comes. He just keeps staring down at the street.

"Going back to bed anytime soon?"

You know you're probably annoying him by trying to keep a conversation going, but he answers anyway. "No. I'm up now."

"Yay, sleep deprivation."

"Mnh." He shrugs. "Not like I'm not used to it."

You turn so the small of your back is pressed to the wall and you're gazing at the magnificence of the radio tower. "Protip: it's not something you're supposed to miss."


Yeah okay never mind. Sighing to yourself, you push away from the wall.

"... Byrd?"

"Huh. Yeah?"

He's still not looking at you, he's staring ahead at the next building' roof. His gray face is all orangey from street lights. His shoulders are hunched.


You wait a few seconds, but for once he seems not to find his words. You turn back to him, hip leaning against the wall in lieu of missing hand. "Yeah?"

"Why are you here?"

You frown a little bit. "If you start giving me asshole reasons in your head we're going to have fucking words. I'm not just trying to get in your panties and if I get cockblocked I'm fucking off."

"I wasn't thinking that," he grouches back. You arch an eyebrow pointedly. "... Much. You Striders might be assholes, but not that kind, okay, I know." He sighs, rakes a hand through his hair, around a small round-tipped horn. You kind of want to fit your hand over it again, for a brief second. "Just..."

"You can tell me never again, I won't keep nagging and nagging you like I'm some desperate douchebag and you're the only tail in town. Well, okay, you kind of are the only tail in town, but still."

"That is so flattering," he replies, and there's -- finally -- an upsurge of snarky cynicism. "I am so flattered. Catch me before I swoon to my death there."

"Dude if you want me to flatter you, you're barking up the wrong tree. I've told you you're cute twice now, I'm not writing you poetry. Maybe a rap if you ever felt like giving head, but that's it."

He stares at you for a couple of seconds, and then he punches you in the arm, rolling his eyes. Ow. But at least he took it as the joke it was meant as, even if he didn't find it funny.

"Sure, if you want me to bite it off."

You crack a tiny smile. "We'll pass on that. Teeth are Misters Not Invited To This Party." Shit, what time is it now, you're so tired. You were tired earlier too, just not sleepy. Hopefully by the time you make it down the stairs you'll still feel it.

He doesn't say anything about you being really presumptuous about the potential for any future party; you choose to take that as a positive hint. Getting to make out with someone was about the one good thing that happened the whole week, even if it went a bit weird and petered out.

You are not blaming him for Gamzee, you are blaming Gamzee for Gamzee. You feel it's fair enough.

"Anyway Dirk has a pile of robot parts by the TV if you feel like napping some before morning." Because his other choices are the couch -- haha fuck him, no, it's narrow enough for one person, and besides you've woken up being stared at by a juggalo once already -- the bedroom with the guy he's avoiding plus two voyeurs to make that reunion super awkward, and your bro's closet. It's the robot pile or nada.

Karkat shrugs noncommittally. You doubt he'll even try to lay down at all. Oh well. You're not his nanny. "Go back to bed, Strider. I'll survive, really."

... he sounds so stupid lonely. "You better," you say, and fuck if it doesn't come out a bit awkward, "I don't want to know what we'll tell your dad if you don't. Kay, uh, goodnight."

You abscond before you can see his face, but you still hear him go "heh" behind you. You can just imagine the barely-there smile.

When you get back inside the apartment you are so ready to just crash face down on the couch, but the kitchen corner is lit with fridge-light. Dave is standing there, pulling out the bottle of apple juice.

"What the fuck are you doing not asleep," you both say together, inflections so close they merge, and you grimace and look away. You hate it when your brains run that close together.

You also hate it when your brain decides Dave had an excellent idea and hell yeah apple juice, just the comfort drink you need before bed. You hold out your hand, curl your fingers grabbily at him. "Hand over the juice, bitch."

He takes the time to drink (straight from the bottle) before he does. You roll your eyes over your shades and drink, fuck his germs.

"I swear even in sleep that asshole juggalo exudes like this miasma of I'm gonna wake up in the night and cut your face off for a mask," he grouches as you drink another mouthful. "Plus how Dirk is still awake and probably won't sleep either and he's keeping me up staring at the ceiling. Bluh."

"Bluh," you commiserate. "Karkat's sulking up there like he thinks he's Batman on a crime holiday."

You hand him the bottle; he takes another sip, then closes it and puts it away. You turn away to leave, Bonding Moment completed.

"I am so glad He Who Shall Not Be Rapped bought that making out thing, though," Dave says from behind you as he drags himself to the door. "Be ginormous amounts of untenable if he didn't."

You do not turn around to face him. Boy are you not doing that. "Yeah," you say blandly, "glad he bought it too."

The corridor door opens and closes. You flop face down on the couch.

Face buried in the cushions, you tell yourself you're not pettily, selfishly satisfied that Dave apparently can't even conceive of you meaning it, your interest in putting your mouth on Karkat Vantas', because that means it's yours, just yours, and no one else's.