Inside the precinct there's a lot of sudden silence and staring when Dave comes down the stairs with Karkat in tow. The demon likes moving better on all fours, back legs folding and twitch-unfolding like a cicada's, and its claws clink loud on floor tiles.
"It's bound, seriously, guys, relax," he throws out there, and makes his way between partitioned desks, hands in his pockets. Karkat lets out a vibrating, crickety crackle-growl that manages both to be quiet and to carry to the ends of the room in a particularly hair-raising way.
"Maybe you could tell it not to freak out the officers," Jane whispers in his ear.
She's kidding, right? It's hilarious. "Nah, they need to steel their nerves." Out there there's loose Class Ones and Twos, bunches of criminals and lowlifes using the distraction of a demon apocalypse in progress to do their criminal thing, and criminals just plain going "hey why not" and using demons as anti-personnel weapons. There's a Don who reportedly has a Class Three at his beck and call, and it only charges a weekly street kid dinner to stay on retainer. "They'll thank us tomorrow."
Jane sighs. "I guess. At least Karkat is a vertebrate and doesn't make you feel like your eyes are about to pop like balloons trying to figure out its geometry."
Dave nods his commiseration. "Fucking six-dimensional demons, huh."
"Fucking human black hole brains," Karkat growls from down there. Dave snorts and holds the door to Captain Egbert's office open for it. It makes sure to walk close enough to rake its shoulder and wing spines nice and deep along the wood. Little brat.
Dave's sill not sure how he feels about his pet demon. He's a bit too drained to think that hard. Still, he's somewhat tense introducing it to his boss. Or his boss to it. Either direction has suckage potential.
Captain Egbert looks it over, looking calmly curious and not one whisper of nervousness about him. Things turn into a staring contest in a hot second.
"Cupcake?" Egbert asks casually, and holds out a pastry fished from his desk. Karkat snatches it before Dave can remind him to be careful, but no new graze blooms bright red on his Captain's dark fingers.
Okay, then. Bribery by food is a go. Dave shrugs to himself and closes the door behind him before moving to the desk to make his report.
"Went pretty much as planned, sir. It's forbidden to kill humans unless my life's forfeit if it doesn't, and to injure anyone at all unless permitted to. Have to admit in between listing all the nopes on arson and shit I forgot to include petty damages on the furniture." To be honest Rose likely included it in her long-ass lawyery list but he was getting tired of all those sub-clauses by the end.
"Hmm. Combat abilities?"
"Dunno. We'll have to test that tomorrow, sir. I'm kind of wiped." Jane healed his wrists, but he still has the blood loss to contend with, and the spectacular bruises on his thigh and his tailbone from being tackled and kneeled on. Plus the drain of power, but that's always hard to quantify. He wishes he came with a little HP gauge.
Egbert pats his shoulder in commiseration. "Not too wiped for paperwork, I hope."
"On second thought, can Karkat just eat me -- I was kidding holy fuck."
The demon is on the desk. Why is the demon on the desk, swear to fuck it borderline teleported. Why is it in his face and staring, all four eyes boring holes in his head, nostrils flared, claws digging in ... the Captain's paperwork aw damn it.
Dave gathers all the stern he can (not a lot). "Okay, get off the desk, desks are not for standing on. Sorry for the stomach tease but --"
"You are not allowed to fucking die, you useless piece of trash," it snarls low as it leans right into his face, until black bangs brush his shades. "You are going to live and fucking live until you beg me to let you die, and I will laugh in your face and keep on dragging you out."
"That's nice to hear!" Egbert says casually, and shoos the spiny demon off his desk with a folder, like it's an obese and slightly grumpy Persian. Karkat lands back on the floor with a thud and hisses, disgruntled. It glowers at the man over the edge of the desk with enough malevolence that Dave starts to wonder if he'll have to order it not to, and then the demon huffs and glances back at the gift of cupcake it abandoned on the floor. Apparently Egbert is allowed to live, because Karkat goes right back to picking it up between two clawtips and licking cautiously at the frosting. It glares at Dave when it catches him looking and turns its back on him.
Egbert smiles and nods toward the reflective glass of his trophy case. Karkat has managed to smear frosting on its cheek and is licking fussily at its sugar-stained hand as the cupcake balances precariously on its other palm. Goddamn, how can a demon be cute.
"Maybe 'cause you're made from me," he muses. Yep, totally that.
"Don't remind me, I want to tear those disgusting chunks of flesh off my chitinous frame enough already."
Yeah, okay, no, he almost feels like he should apologize to the protagonists of every single book Rose's ever read because having a demon is so far mostly hilarious, in that absurd sleep-deprived way.
"Alright, gentlemen. Strider, Lalonde's already making a report on the summoning itself, so you're excused from that, just make sure to sign off on it later. I'll need paperwork for your new partner."
Dave scratches his chin. "Uh, how? We've barely got the paperwork to declare which demons we managed to synch with, and we've been doing it for years. I don't think there'll be a form for incarnate summoning."
"Repurpose a K9 form," Egbert suggests with a little smile. Dave glances over quickly to make sure Karkat is still engrossed in its cupcake and not listening. "It'll do for now. When you're done you can go home."
"You're my favorite boss, boss."
Takes him an hour until he's ready to leave, and half of that is because of Karkat. The bravest of his coworkers drop by his cubicle for random-ass stuff they absolutely need to ask right now (joke's on them, the second it hears people coming Karkat wedges itself under the desk and no inch of its scaly hide is visible from the door) and the demon has taken to tripping him every time he has to get up for a file or a new pen.
"I thought you were forbidden from injuring me," Dave muses as he sits at his desk -- hopefully for the last time.
The demon shrugs and grooms its massive front claws. "The way you hop? Won't injure you that way." Its eyes gleam as it glances up at him. "Except if you're too stupid to pay attention, in which case it's not deliberate, therefore an accident and not my fault."
Okay, so the demon is allowed to hope it will succeed in hurting him, so long as it doesn't think it likely that it will. Good to know. "Keeping me sharp, huh?" Little brat.
Dave doesn't even really mind; it's about the only real bout of rebellion the poor guy-or-gal can get at. (Dave's starting to think guy, but who knows. Kankri wanted to make up a specific pronoun for demonic beings who were sort of gendered but not in a human way and so shouldn't be equated with human ideas of gender. Dave takes it to mean that basically Kankri's a dude, he just happens to not pack any junk. Not any a human would understand, anyway. How do demons even breed? No one fucking knows.)
The demon flicks all its spines like a wave down its back and burrows back under the desk drawers, raking the underside with every single sharp edge it's got.
Predictably the cheap plywood bottom ruptures and showers it in old folders and empty staplers. Dave doesn't even bother telling it it's not allowed to make a nest with it.
"Moved your car to the underground garage, bro," Dirk tells him as he's checking the paperwork a very last time. "You got a blanket or shit for camouflage?"
"Hm? Oh, hey, thanks. No blanket, but there's that survival foil thing in my trunk. I'll have to order it to stay put, but it should be doable..."
Something smooth and prickly wraps around his ankle. Dave peers under the desk. Karkat's arm is wound around his leg like it's about to break his foot off at the ankle and it's glaring up at him, eyes glowing faintly in the dark.
"What the hell are you planning, you dribbling feces-hole."
"How to get to my place, dude," he replies, and gives his ankle a half-hearted shake. He's weirdly okay with his new demon shackle.
Briefly Karkat looks alarmed. "This isn't? -- But your soul left tracks all over."
"Wow am I happy to learn that my cubicle is well-marked. No, I meant my apartment. You, uh, know what an apartment is?"
"Of course," the demon says, overly disdainful.
"I'm not even gonna ask you how."
"At this point you might as well ask it how it can speak," Dirk says. He's watching Dave, his shoulder propped against the doorjamb, arms loosely crossed. "It knows because you know. Like all summoned demons ever in the history of ever."
"Yeah, but then why doesn't it know I have one?"
"Huh." Dirk hums thoughtfully. "You're right. Interesting. It probably knows what a car is, too, but if the pattern holds I bet it won't recognize yours. That's not a limitation riders have..."
Dave shrugs. That sort of academic stuff leaves him colder than a penguin in liquid nitrogen. So long as Karkat can identify an unbound demon and rend it to pieces he really doesn't care about the rest. He tugs his ankle free -- claws prickle his skin, almost to the point of blood -- and gets up. "C'mon, Karkat. Come with me. No tripping."
He wraps a wisp of intent through the words, brings up the memory of Karkat's soul-pattern, the vaguest ghostly edges to give the words power. The demon follows at his heel as he turns his paperwork in, stiff-backed and hissing quietly under its breath.
It's kind of boring not to be shoulder-checked on his way down the stairs even once, but at this point Dave just wants his shower and his bed and maybe a pizza. In bed. While listening to indie music. Sounds like the perfect kind of evening.
He could even tweet from his mattress. #fuckyeahpetdemon. Today I summoned one of the Hordes of Hell. Verdict: even demons think pepperoni devil thing. Almost all his followers think he's a massive troll, shit would be hilarious.
He pops the trunk of his car open and turns to look at Karkat and it's huddled on the pavement, spines drooping and wings draped down over its sides like it's trying to hug itself.
"... Dude, you okay?"
The burning look he gets for that stunning moment of empathy would burn his face right off if Karkat wasn't forbidden from using magic at the time. (And if he can do flame stuff in the first place, eh, who knows.) Dave winces, crouches before it.
"I... Should I even ask what's wrong?"
"Do you have seven hours to waste in this dank sewer-hole," Karkat replies.
"I'm going to go with the most pressing thing being the garage lot." Sigh. He gets the foil blanket thinger out of the back and goes around to the passenger door. It's going to be extremely weird driving around with a big gold-wrapped lump on the passenger seat but suddenly he's worrying a bit about what Karkat will get up to alone in the trunk or the backseat. "Okay, let's get out of here. Sit."
He pats the passenger's seat. Karkat hauls itself up. Dave resigns himself to his piece of shit car losing all stuffing.
He has to smooth his hand down the demon's back to flatten its spines so he can nudge it until its back is flush against the seat. The seatbelt has Karkat going rigid; it doesn't even snarl, though, just closes its eyes and breathes in deep, nostrils flaring. Its wings are quivering at the tips.
Okay, physical restraints bad. Dave gives black hair a cautious pat. "It's just so you won't go bouncing around the cab in case someone rear-ends us, buddy, you just gotta push down on this button to be free."
"And am I allowed to 'push down on this button'?" Karkat snarls back, small eyes closed, big eyes staring at him, malevolent.
"I'd rather you tried to handle it for a while. You're forbidden to distract me while I'm driving, but I figure you'd be okay with that, seeing how much it's gonna suck keeping me alive when I've wrapped the car and my soft human cranium around a pole."
Karkat stays silent for another ten seconds. "... What the everloving fuck ever."
Dave takes it as consent, and drapes the foil over his demon's head.
"I hate you," the demon says, very calmly. Dave gives a thoughtful hum and makes a little awning for its face so it can look out the window without being seen back. #fuckyeahpetdemon: gold-plated burqa, height of hell fashion. He is going to get so many flames for this one. He's looking forward to it.
Dave gets in, starts the car. The seat cushion goes pop when Karkat's claws go through. Dave merges into traffic.
Karkat lasts three turns before it undoes its seatbelt and sinks into the leg space.
Poor guy. Dave drapes the foil better, and gives a blind pat at the head under it. Ow, spiny bit. He keeps driving, blood-beading finger in his mouth.
He's got an underground parking spot with his apartment, which right now is a damn blessing. Karkat growls grumpily at him and refuses to peek out of its hiding place.
Jane and Jade wrote letters to his neighbors and even consented to making calls for him about the new tenant to come, but they didn't manage to contact everyone and there's no telling who read or didn't read the things, or was okay with it in theory and won't be in practice. Then again his building is half empty, crazy how hard it is to rent things out in a city with an expanding hell gate. Means he got his place for cheap, and he can crank out the music hard, so hey.
Still, there's a chance he might be seen. He thinks about it for a second, and then, oh, fuck it, there's only the walk to the elevator and back. He picks up his demon bodily, kicks his piece of shit car door closed, and wobbles his way to the elevator holy fuck is Karkat heavier than he planned for. Oh hell, something in his back just twanged.
Sitting on his arm like a little girl and still bundled up in foil, Karkat is looking at him like he's deranged.
Welp. I can make it so you don't feel that mad hernia, but you're still gonna have it, dudzor.
He elbows the call button, leans hard against the wall. "I have a fucking hernia?"
Nah, just fooling. The pain fades. But you still gonna get mad ruination in those back muscles, fronting like that.
"Bluh bluh. Thanks, girl." He steps in the cab. Doors swish closed.
Karkat starts squirming to be let down. Dave doesn't really feel interested in figuring out how many ways it can fuck up the elevator, so he abstains from letting it off.
He's got a top floor apartment, reminds him of Bro's, though the roof over it isn't flat. He put in a mezzanine under the skylight, so his bedroom is up there and his TV and couch and computer stuff sprawl over the lone room, but even with separate kitchen and bathroom the apartment is still kind of small. He drops Karkat on the couch and limps back to the door to lock it.
By the time he turns around the foil is in shiny confetti all over the floor. "No damaging the couch," Dave orders before it can follow the same path as his car. He likes this couch, okay. It's pretty nice as a replacement bed when he doesn't want to bother climbing the ladder up to his bed and it fits under the mezzanine like it was made for it and it kind of cost him. "No damaging anything inside the apartment, Karkat."
Glare. Oh no, how can he live.
He still has to order some food. Blargh. "So, this is my place. You can explore. Don't go out a window, don't go out on the fire escape, don't go out on the roof. Don't set anything on fire. If it's locked up, leave it alone." He has the local pizza place on speed dial; only takes him two flicks of his thumb. "Uh. Leave the knives and swords and ninja swords alone. Hi, Sam, yeah, double the usual. Heh, yeah, I got space in my fridge, leftovers party all of next week. Okay, thanks, bye."
He hangs up. Karkat's gone.
"Karkat?" he calls, heart thudding. There's no space behind the couch and it can't magic itself invisible, this cupboard is too full of old vinyls to fit -- the ladder.
He climbs on the first rungs (ow, his fucking back), peers up. Ember-red eyes narrow at him from the shadowy corner where the roof slants too low to even sit.
... Well. Okay. He figures it probably wants to be alone for a while. And it just so happens he wants to vegetate until the pizza comes. He climbs back down (ow) and goes to sprawl elegantly over the couch. Foil crinkles under his ass.
Remote in hand, shoes toed off, he turns on MTV and closes his eyes, lets ridiculous pop clips paint the inside of his eyelids pretty colors.
Two minutes later the dulcet tones of some Emilie Autumn song or other wind through some random boy band. He feels around for his cell phone.
His eyes stay closed and he stretches languorously as he mumbles, "Man it's been so long since we saw each other, wow, at least three hours or something. Mnh. World ending yet?"
"My apologies, Kankri was most insistent," she says dryly.
"Huh. Really? Weird." It's not like Kankri ever wants to keep track of Terezi, even though they're both Seers, or Vriska of Aranea even though they're both Light. It's actually pretty much an even chance that a demon will get hissy as fuck over a demon sharing its aspect -- case in point, Damara and Aradia.
"He did not feel it necessary to inform me of his reasons, but as it happens, this reminds me; do think to keep track of Karkat's idiosyncrasies, so we can compare them to Kankri's. It still won't be enough to separate 'accidentally similar' from 'Blood attribute', but it'll be a start."
"I'll do that," Dave says, and keeps not doing anything.
"Thank you," Rose says, in a way which means she can tell.
"How did the car trip go?"
"Hid in the leg space. Made holes in the upholstery. Got any idea why it'd hate a garage on sight?"
"Hm. Kankri? No, he has no idea either. Oh, do you know if Karkat has a gender?"
"Nope. Karkat?" he yells up. "You a dude or a chick or something else or what?"
"I'm a none of your business, you prurient-minded swine."
"No offense meant to Karkat, but I do believe he hasn't got all the facts at hand, such as that a wildly inappropriate misgendering such as 'he', while factually incorrect--"
Karkat's upper body bursts over the balustrade like a jack-in-the-box. It leans precariously far to glare at Dave's phone upside-down. "Fuck your whore mouth!"
"--is still much less problematic and, indeed, accidentally insulting as an 'it'. It is actually quite triggering to hear humans bandying that depersonalizing term about. And Karkat, that is factually incorrect, as I neither engage in sexual conduct nor, naturally, receive compensation for it, not that there is anything shameful in sex work--"
"... Yeah, thanks, Kank." Dave turns the sound back down. In his ear Rose is laughing, the witch. "So. He, she, they, it? Warning you if you ask for shim or something with three Xs and an accent I'm never gonna be able to use it without snickering. One of my hugest failings as an open-minded human being."
"Your first failing was being a human in the first place." It glowers, upside down still, short locks tumbling around its face. "What's wrong with 'it'?"
"It's usually for objects, not for people. Only most demons have about as much gender as a table or a paperclip, so."
A low growl. "I don't care. I'm a--" follows a sound/feeling the same as the first time Karkat told him his name, all wrapped up in concepts and soul-stuff, only the noise is impossible to transcribe -- "and that's good enough for me."
"Okay then, I dub you a dudebroman. Welcome to the sausage party. Complimentary straps-on in that bowl by the door."
"You phallocentrist," Rose laughs, "you just went with male because you are."
"How can you accuse me of shallow physical gender-assigning behavior, when his crotch is as a Mattel doll." A pause, to let Kankri grumble and half-heartedly concede the point, and then he continues. "I went with dude cause he got no cleavage."
Rose is laughing too much to let Kankri out for all that sputtering he's likely doing in her head. Dave tells her goodnight, and drags himself off the couch to greet the delivery girl at the door.
Karkat doesn't come out to freak her out, or later when Dave is eating his own share with all three boxes open letting delicious pizza smells waft up, or when he calls and asks if he's thirsty.
He drags a cardboard box out from under the couch and fishes out an antique pocket watch, and spends the next three hundred and thirty-three seconds doing nothing but staring at the little hand as it races around the screen and thinking of Aradia and her soul-patterns of spring breeze and flowing time. Once he's done he shoos her out of his head and thinks of the end of all things and he brings his heel down on the watch. Damara examines the ruined and bent gears and deigns to admit it'll be sufficient, for now.
He has no idea what Latula will demand of him when his time's up, because ain't no demon on this Earth and below as will give without taking in trade, and she's never asked him for anything yet.
Eh. He'll pay his bill when it comes due; no use fretting before then. It's even odds whether he'll be alive two years from now.
He closes his eyes and listens to some more music. He'll shower in a minute.
He dreams of tidal waves of acid blood and a winged man telling him to run.
[Chapter 1] -- [Chapter 3]