It is party time tonight at Casa de Strider, by which you mean on the roof which technically is not part of the apartment but fuck that noise.
It's also only a party if you consider a bunch of people sitting or standing around making small talk in between yawns a party.
John's dad and Jade and her hellbeast came back a hour ago, with Rose and Roxy and their mom and Kanaya in tow. Which means there are now at last count fourteen people in the apartment, if you count the dog. You do count the dog. He might know somehow if he were uncounted and come nosing at you with his long, freaky muzzle and then everyone would be embarrassed. Especially you, re: the pissing of your pants.
You take a handful of greasy chips and quickly sneak away from the snacks table under which the hellbeast is napping. Phew, safe.
Who to hang with, now. The adults are clumped together, Dadbert and Bro sitting on the drop between the roof itself and the staircase landing, LadyLush Lalonde on a plastic garden chair which you don't even know where Bro liberated it from. Bluh. Jade and Terezi, in deep secret discussion together. Also no. Hell no. From the half-horrified, half-fascinated expression on Dave's face they're talking about bras or periods or something even worse like maybe sex. Rose and Kanaya watching the last of the sunset together, hand in hand, having a ~moment. Noooope, you'll chat with Kanaya later. Roxy -- huh -- hanging off Murderclown's neck and giggling, as Cranky McCuteGlutes glowers suspiciously at them. Wonderful mystery! You're content never to unravel it.
Dirk is standing by the far corner of the roof, but with the tents and so many people spreading around it's actually not that far away.
You hesitate to amble his way. He might not mind a bit of quietly sitting at his side, but he might also mind a hell of a lot and just not say it. Everyone laughs about your alone princess time but you're pretty sure half the time Dirk spends locked up in the bathroom the water's not even running.
"Hey," Karkat says all low and rough-voiced from your side.
Thank fuck someone to talk to. Who's also got a mouth you can stare at and see how fast he blushes. Yess. No one else in earshot... "Hey, hot stuff." You give him the Eyebrow.
He glowers back, grumpily. "I'm not here to subject myself to your horrid pickup lines. Need to drop a word in your ear, and then if you still have two sponge cells left over you could maybe even pass it on to the right person, though I'm not holding my breath."
You frown a little. "Whoa there, I'm not playing those games. You want something said, say it yourself."
Karkat gives a frustrated huff. "I would except I can't. It'd be rude as fuck from me, and you might not have any grasp of quadrant etiquette but if any of you humans do Lalonde will, and she's about the only one of you lot I'd rather not insult to her face. She keeps grudges."
Do trolls ever make sense? You rather think not. You decide to prod him along and just watch his mouth move, and like, maybe listen to one word out of ten. Yep, good plan. "Oh, but I can say something."
"The way I get your creepy brotherhood thing, you and Dave are sort of genetic platonic moirail-ashenmates, so it'd be less insulting from you to walk up to Rose and tell her to fix Dave already, since you're already more or less quadrant-corners that way."
Okay no, the stupid was so diamond-dense in that one it pierced right through your filters. "... Dave needs fixed now."
"He's moping," he explains, and there's a weird, subtle tension in his voice that has you arching an eyebrow. "It strains Terezi. She takes it out on Gamzee."
"Ain't she supposed to?"
Karkat stares at you in offended yet unsurprised disbelief, and then rakes a hand in his hair and tugs on a handful of it. "Good jolly chucklefuck, you really are congenially inept at kismesissitude. No she's not."
You are totally willing to take him at his word. Secretly, because like fuck you're going to say so. "Sounds like it to me. A good dose of unfairness would get anyone boiling with rage, yeah?"
He breathes in and out loud and slow, tugs on his hair again. You'd be amused at his over-the-top antics but his eyes are tight at the corners in a way you don't like much. "Rage because she puts her matesprit's feelings over her kismesis'," he explains with put-upon patience, "is going to turn platonic pretty damn quick. I've had it up to here with shooshing Gamzee out of killing more of my fucking friends."
You'd cross your arms if you could, mantle your wing; you have to settle for setting your hand on your hip pointedly. It's hard having to rework your body language. It's hard and nobody understands. "Shouldn't you be calming Gamzee's tits first and foremost then?"
He twitches -- flinches -- and his lip curls up in an aborted snarl. One he fully meant. Huh. And then he looks away. "Now that really isn't any of your gogdamned business."
You stare. Well, fuck. "Are you... not calming Gamzee's tits?" Like, uh, train approaching breakup central, please make sure you haven't forgotten any mementos you don't want thrown out the window between the seats? "Okay, now that I think we all need to know."
He's suddenly in your face, a low rattlesnake buzz underlining his words. "Mind your own fucking business."
You narrow your eyes and give him a cold look over the rim of your shades, and you loom right back. You have a couple of inches on him, which you use remorselessly. "It is my business to know if me and my family should be sleeping armed and in shifts."
Flinch. Nostrils flaring. (His gray irises are flecked with red and his eyelashes short but stupid-thick somehow, why is he still pretty.)
"I'm. Still settling his shit. If needed. I just --"
... Okay, no, you didn't want to make him sound defeated, to make his shoulders droop like this. That's just making you squirmy inside, second-hand embarrassed in a way that makes your guts want to run away without the rest of you.
"It's not fucking easy to talk things out with him right now, okay? I -- fuck, I can't just pretend he -- I can't just come crawling back, I can't always be the one who compromises because oh my shitting bulgerot Highblood rage incoming, don't ask that of me."
"Mnrgh," you reply intelligently, and then you cave. "Okay, jegus, I'll tell Rose to skullfuck Dave into being less of a whiny tool. She must be exhausted from all that road head that she ain't already on the job. Broad does it just for the fun of it most days, I swear." Siiigh. You ogle Rose and her glowy girlfriend. "But seriously it'd make way more sense for you to go direct to Rose. I'm starting to think you just want to avoid your own round of feelings autopsy."
Karkat still looks tired, but less tense already now you've said yes. He steals a glance at Roxy and Gamzee, still chatting in a weird easy way that you refuse to comprehend. Maybe talking about the joys of getting high and committing atrocities upon all of grammarkind. "Like you never run from Rose," he says.
"Slander, my good sir, I demand a duel at dawn to salve my honor. Only crossing the swords will wash away this affront."
Long heavy-lidded, measuring, unimpressed stare. "Let me guess, this is where you mention sheathing your blade in my body and I swoon under your mastery of innuendo."
You shrug. "I was just thinking frottage but if you're up for the full sex then who am I to scorn the heartfelt gift of your deflowering."
"I might mention that it's a classical caliginous overture," he retorts, eyes narrowed, claws flexing slowly. "Are you sure you want to go there, Strider, because right now I don't think I would mind."
You raise your hand defensively. "Whoa, hold your big war steed, knighty. Bloodletting? Not sexy."
Karkat huffs and crosses his arms; he looks both vindicated and faintly disappointed. You're not sorry about that, he needs to get used to that kind of disappointment thankyouverymuch.
"So... bluh. What do I even tell Rose, like I want to give her a full situation update..."
"She'll have pieced up most of it together already," Karkat replies. "The rest she'll probably drag out of him in under a minute." He looks at your moue and rolls his eyes at you, but when he speaks next he sounds calmer, maybe almost a little apologetic, in a grumpy Karkaty way. "Technically I should go to Terezi's moirail first, since she's the shatterpoint. It really makes things problematic that she doesn't have one."
"A fact which I did not use to bemoan!" said Terezi says from juuust behind him. He jumps.
You pinch your lips. You could have told him she was coming up, you guess. Eh.
Her shoulders are droopy too. This is all kinds of wrong. You frown a little. Karkat looks like you feel, like he's now holding the unfortunate baby of Oh Shit and Aw Hon that someone shoved in his arms without warning.
Terezi looks like she wanted to say more -- mouth open, turned toward Karkat -- but then she seems to remember he's the palebro of the asshole causing her Boy Troubles and she closes it again, smiles a bright smile; you can see behind her shades from that angle and she is absolutely not meaning it. "... Anyway. I'm going for pizza, before I start sobbing wretchedly over the desolate state of my pale quadrant. Should I bring you guys a piece?"
"You trying to court me into pale marrying you, Pyrope?" you say tonelessly.
You were joking but swear to fuck for a second she seems tempted.
Karkat bristles, though. Huh, what the fuck is that about? It's not like being pale with her would stop you two getting your mack on. (Not that you want to be pale with her anyway, so double-u-tee-eff.)
"Byrd already has a moirail," he says, joking in that way which means he isn't really. "Don't make him cheat on John, I know humans are shameless pale floozies but you're not human."
"Careful now," you reply because fuck if you're gonna let him dictate who you can not-flirt with, even if that someone is Terezi Pyrope, the girl who comes stamped with a NOPE so big you can see it from orbit. "Imma be tempted to ho it up just to rub your delicate sensibilities the wrong way. Is John even aware of the deep and meaningful romantic bond you're touting there, Vantas?"
Karkat rolls his eyes at you. "John wouldn't be aware of his own mating urges if his bulge were stuffed to the hilt up someone's waste chute, why in the vast shit-filled viscera of the universe frog do you think he'd notice anything subtler?"
Terezi and you accidentally chorus a "Point." She immediately reprises with "But I do not concede that John diams Byrd is canon!", lips pursed, cheeks puffed out like an annoyed squirrel. You wonder if you should feel a sting. You elect to carefully hoard your fucks like you're the Scrooge McDuck of fuck-giving. Yup, all duck-billed and not letting a single little fucklet escape your tight little fist.
Quack quack quack.
Maybe you can be a hoarding magpie building his nest out of fresh fucks in sticks, that's at least the right avian family.
You try to ignore the shit out of them as they keep yammering about shipping, god knows why; they sound weirdly forced and it's getting on your nerves. You turn away, scan the roof; people have moved toward the main street more to watch some kind of... you don't have a clue, maybe there's a procession down there, you've been hearing sirens but that's not exactly unusual in this part of town. You step away from the two trolls and scan the gathering for someone else to latch onto, who preferably won't find your epic bromance with John a matter of thoughtful, at-length analysis.
Yeah okay sorry Dirk, he got his alone time, he can guarantee yours starting now. You start toward him.
He's there at the edge of the crowd, most backs turned to him as people chatter and laugh and point down at -- at what, you wonder, a circus, an elephant, a celeb' toolbox strutting down the avenue in their convertible? Some naked carpenter dudes banging in the bed of a pickup truck? You're sure you'll be given the full rundown the second you slow down enough to get harpooned.
You're still ten steps away when Dirk jerks himself up on his feet, plants a hand on the wall, and vaults right the fuck over it.
You don't think; you dash to follow him overboard, save him.
So does Bro, thoughtless, and you catch yourself thinking no, he's gonna crash, he can't fly.
Neither can you.
You come to a screeching stop at the wall, hand smacking hard on it to kill your momentum, Bro's hand vice-tight on your shoulder. A story down Dirk does a turn on his rocket board and disappears in the living room through an open window, leaving a looping trail of smoke.
"Holy fuck," says Bro, in that too-calm, but really not calm at all voice. "Holy mother of fuck. Holy fuck family. I'm going to kill that kid dead and stuff his corpse."
He drags you back. You teeter the tiniest bit. Your heart is in your throat. You'd forgotten Dirk had that thing on him. What the hell.
When you turn back toward the group, the adults are eyeing you, and so are Terezi and Karkat who were apparently following you, and Kanaya, who probably saw you race past. Their eyes are a little wide; you sigh and make a point of relaxing your shoulders, of looking exasperated. It's still hard to breathe.
"I am going to kill him, and then I'm going to kill you, and then I'm going to kill Dave just in case, and then we'll be a perfect Prospit family. I'll get matching porcelain tea sets and play pretend with the lot of you ever day. So much fun to be had. So. Much. Fun."
... You can't believe you forgot you couldn't fly anymore. And Dirk inside the apartment already, who knows if he'd have heard you yell. That's a lot of floors to fall by.
Bro's glaring at the staircase, though -- you grab his wrist. "No -- Bro, wait."
"Why the fuck --"
"Dude," you whisper urgently, and wince a little when he glares the glare of don't you think you're in the clear, buster, "if Dirk was flinchy enough that he couldn't even cross through the crowd to take the goddamn stairs, what do you think is gonna happen if you charge in now."
If you're all lucky he'll just jump out a window again and disappear for the next day (which would mean you miss your flight.) Worst case scenario, he flips out and they have themselves a battle royale with live blades.
"What do you fucking suggest then."
You wince. Guh. Shit, now you have to come up with an actual solution. You look around -- Rose and Jade are starting to turn around, puzzled. Uh, maybe Terezi will -- no, she's gone all battle-tense, fingers twitching like she's about to pull things out of her sylladex. Gamzee is watching you and Bro through hanks of messy hair and his expression is completely unreadable and gut-deep unsettling. Shit.
Kanaya...? You give her a pointed look, a borderline harsh nod toward Roxy, who's draped over the wall and still laughing at whatever is going on down below. Dear gog if you exist, you think, and then dear Bilious Slick junior. Kanaya blinks once, confused, and a second time in a 'oh!' way, and taps Roxy on the shoulder, leans in to whisper in her ear.
Thank you, froggod.
Roxy listens for a few seconds and then she slaps her forehead, grimacing, and takes off at a quick jog for the stairs. You eye Bro warily.
Mr. Egbert walks up to him, pats his shoulder, face a picture of sympathy. "John almost broke his leg the first day trying to float down the stairs."
Bro goes mnrgh and stuffs his hands deep in his pockets, but he doesn't shrug him off. You tiptoe away before he remembers to yell at you for that stunning moment of brilliance.
Sburb Hospital, Neuroses on Sale for Cheap! You give in and drag yourself back to Terezi and Karkat, since apparently you are doomed on pain of Darwin Award to their company.
"Okay, crisis handled, shut the fuck up. My, what nice weather we're having."
You see them throwing little glances at Bro over your shoulder before they exchange a look (well, Karkat looks and Terezi tilts her head his way) and finally simmer down.
"Well fuck me twice, I did not expect any kind of Strider to be a diamond pimp," Karkat says.
"Yes, outstanding job with the awareness of group dynamics," Terezi rejoins with a bright, unsettling grin. "You'll make an awesome quadrant facilitator."
You grimace. You bet quadrant facilitator is an euphemism for whoremonger. Maybe matchmaker if you're being generous. "It's not awareness of jack shit, it just made sense to send the one girl he knows and who knows how to handle him, rather than Bro in full-on spanking mode. It's not like Dirk ever got a spanking in his life, be a bit harsh for a first time."
"... No, sorry, that's still what we call meddling in those rarefied circles known as civilization. Since when are you a meddler?"
Since you claimed the "going to pieces" role in this party, you want to say, but that'd reveal too much. (Since you kind of still feel half a step removed from humanity some days and gathering and analyzing player data is an ingrained habit.) (Since you wish someone would see you back.)
You glare at Karkat. No more makeouts for him.
"Perhaps Kanaya is already having an undue influence on him!"
Karkat stares at Terezi, baffled; she grins. You know you're in for another round of let's discuss Byrd's imaginary quadrants like he's not standing right here. Okay, who out here would you not mind jumping off the roof if you went to chat them up... Damn, you actually like most of them, looks like you're stuck.
"Didn't you know! I have it from Jade who had it from Rose herself that Byrd here made ashen overtures to Kanaya and she's considering! Swoon, swoon."
"I did not fucking know," he rejoins with delighted outrage. "When did that happen. Who w--"
Huh, penny's dropped.
He thinks about it for a second, his face going through a series of more and more unreadable contortions. "... Could do worse. Do you know, Terezi, I used to think you were going ashen for Gamzee and Kanaya, with the -- heh -- the getting in the middle." Karkat tries on a smile. You wince. "Hah. Haha. Maybe you're right and I'm actually hideously terrible at figuring out any kind of romance. Maybe it actually is a perverted four-way pale clusterfuck. Maybe--"
You can't take it anymore. It's just hitting every single cringe button you have. That secondhand embarrassment is dealt by a pimpslapping pro, ow your poor whore mouth.
"Hey wanna hook up."
Terezi bursts out laughing, though she immediately presses a hand on her mouth like she feels bad about it. Karkat's face turns ruddy in spectacular blotches. "Strider what the fuck--"
"Or like with other parts if you really insist I gotta rub Dave's face in my mastery of alien bits you know like a horn job or something if you're into that--"
"I am going to kill you."
"Sure, but only a little one, 'kay?"
Terezi is biting down on her fist, body shaking with the laughter she heroically swallows back. It's so much better than the hurting, sorry look from earlier you can't even quantify it. You dodge behind her as Karkat lunges for you, claws out.
"No but seriously I like your horns they'd both fit in one hand if they were any closer it's horrible how tiny and cute they are you could almost lose them in your hair, wow, hey, no throwing chairs, bad Karkat, naughty--"
"Son, what's going on?"
... Bluh. Mr. Egbert had to intervene just when you were about to leave the safety of the Pyrope Demilitarized Zone and lead him on a chase around the air conditioning units. You'd be out of sight and everything behind those. But nope, the second he hears his voice Karkat goes straight to meek and embarrassed.
"Um, sorry, Dad. We were just playing around."
When the man looks at you for confirmation you shrug. You're pretty sure he can tell you were needling Karkat, but he decides to let it go. "I see. I do wish you'd play a little less rough on the furniture, if you could."
Boom, calmed, even maybe a little peaceful. What is that miracle. You arch an eyebrow over your shades, trade a look with Terezi. Her lips are pursed and both her own eyebrows halfway up her hairline.
"Did we just see that," you whisper.
She whispers back, not that quietly. "I think we did, but I am not sure what we saw at all."
"It looked pretty... conciliatory."
"Shut up before you embarrass yourself with your piss-poor understanding," Karkat throws at you, but almost mildly. "It's not romance, he's my friggin' lusus."
He then seems to have himself a private, not-internal-enough moment of squee! daddy! about it. You refrain really hard from making a kink joke.
Terezi's pointy face is one big d'awwww. What is that morass of syrupy feels you're swimming in, you're drowning, quick, a Strider to be dry and douchebaggy with--
Any Strider but Dave please. No, okay, Dave's not too bad. It could have been Gamzee. Not that Gamzee is a Strider, but as much as it makes you retch to think of, he's almost kind of an in-law. Once removed.
"What's the haps in this fine corner of roof," Dave says, inserting himself between you and Terezi.
"We're planning to hook up threesome-style and run away from it all. Sexy sandwiches all up in that bitch."
"No," he deadpans at the trolls, "say it isn't so."
Terezi puts on a hammy sad look. "Alas, my love...!"
Karkat sighs, rolling his eyes. You can't get over how hilariously mobile his face is. The things he does with his eyebrows alone. "Yeah, we figured we were cursed to contend with lusus-haired douchebags unto death anyway, might as well limit that egregious bullshit to a single one."
Dave stares at Karkat for a couple of seconds and then at you. "How do you get Karkat to play along I can never get him to play along you're cheating and I hate you."
Bland look. "I bribe him with horn jobs."
"Huh." He considers it. Karkat goes a little pink and Terezi snickers. "I could try that."
"If you want to lose that hand."
"Also mad platonic snuggles. Bitches dig my snuggles. I don't advise losing the hand, though, it's a drag to have nowhere to put your watch."
... Note to self, cripple jokes only funny to self and maybe select siblings. Now Karkat looks all guilty. Fuck.
"... Dude, it's not taboo. Bite away. Evil body parts all up and asking for it."
Bingo; he goes ruddy again. And then he shoves your shoulder and kicks you in the ankle.
"Ow. I draw the line at one missing limb, Vantas, desist with the attempts at laming me, no seriously stop it, ow, I'm gonna tell on you to Dadbert."
You shoulder him away; he scowls. You bounce off his side again, bland-faced.
Bickering is fun. (Funnier than feelings.)
You pretend you can't feel Gamzee's burning eyes on the back of your head.
-- grimAuxiliatrix [GA] started pestering truncatedGrip [TG] --
GA: I Have Talked To Gamzee He Is Uninterested In I Quote Your Flat Sickly Glutes
TG: aw sis
TG: idk if i feel relieved or emo my ass is not flat ok fuk u
TG: actually more like alarmed fff he keeps staring i could swear it only i can never catch him at it
GA: That Is Very Possible Gamzee Is Rather Creepy Like That
GA: I Admit I Am Somewhat Disappointed
GA: I Should Have Known Better Than To Hope
TG: we can still have that date if you insist insistingly like the nagging nag you totally are maryam jegus stooping to blackmail now the shame
GA: Oh My Mr Strider Were You Perhaps Looking Forward To The Makeover
TG: i can neither confirm nor deny this allegation
GA: It Would Have Been A Very Inefficient Deterrent In That Case
GA: Perhaps Its For The Best Then
GA: By The Way Gamzee Also Told Me To Tell You To Stop Flipping On Karkat Or Hell Get Platonic On Your Ass
TG: wait what
TG: i am not flipping jegusfuck
GA: So There Is Something Occurring There
GA: Tell Me More About This Thing That Is In No Case Flipping
TG: its not flipping its pigtail pulling a fine time honored human courtship tradition which as you know is by def always flush as karkats face after a nice bout of innuendo
TG: not that i actually like him or anything i mean hes an ok friend and all i just think hes not ugly theres no deeper feelings or anything i barely know the guy
TG: the more i explain the more it sounds like denial doesnt it
GA: Feel Free To Keep Going In That Vein
TG: just cant win with you broads
TG: what is it about me that makes me such a diamond stud
GA: No Wed Be Really Badly Matched Its Just Nosiness
TG: oh ok then
TG: look a two leafed clubs co<
TG: today i fix your grid today i create the *missing link*
TG: the nosy broads quadrant
TG: fiftrant ??
TG: we are now gossipchumps otp forever
GA: This Is Rather Silly But
GA: Now Does That Mean You Are Actually Obligated To Tell Me About Your In No Case Quadrant Related Thing With A Certain Grumpy Young Man We Both Know
TG: knew i was forgetting something