He has a headache when he wakes, which doesn't presage many good things for today. There's a few forks back on the floor, but half-heartedly. He eyes them from the couch and doesn't move. It's... Nine past nine and nine seconds, Aradia informs him. Okay, he's pretty sure she woke him up. She likes patterned numbers like that.
He bends at the waist, rummages under the couch, finds a candle in the offering box. There's a little shelf over the armrest where he put his head, usually for the TV remote. He puts the candle on it, looking at it upside-down. She's not asking him to do that, he's just refusing to sit up for real.
I don't mind, she tells him, soothing and amused. Time flows the same way upside-down!
You're the best, babe. Neck draped over the armrest, temples beating a slow, aching tempo, he watches the candle drip upwards.
Sixteen past nine and sixteen seconds. He blows it out, closes his eyes, and dozes.
Someone is staring at him. Bnurgh.
"Go 'way, Karkat, 'm not stepping on any legos for you today."
Karkat fails to go away.
He also fails to say anything. Dave cracks open an eye, bleary-eyed, hair in disarray.
Karkat is on the coffee table, doing the cat loaf pose, limbs tucked in under his body. Staring a hole into his head.
No answer. Just more inscrutable staring. Dave is almost tempted to say fuck it and let him stare his fill as Dave snoozes mightily, but there's that armored chest, that chitinous breastplate his shield hangs over in the shadow under his throat.
No answer, but his upper eyes squint like he wants to look away.
Okay, self, Dave tells himself, you're a twenty-three year old male, you're about to get off, show a little enthusiasm.
"I'm. Pretty sure you at least have to touch me. You wanna test what happens if you're... I don't know, sitting on my legs?"
Straddling his lap. He could do that -- fuzzy inner thighs pressed down heavy on Dave's thighs, ankle spurs nudging his calves, smooth crotch so perfectly alien a few inches from Dave's not-so-smooth own crotch -- and watch as Dave jerks off. That'd be kind of okay in Dave's book.
"We did that yesterday," Karkat replies, finally deigning to speak, and his eyes slide away in a way he's trying to make disdainful and uninterested. "Didn't work until I had blood to lick up, and by then you were pretty much done already. I don't even want to think about how much energy you just wasted away in the ether, it makes me want to bite things. Especially things shaped like your ugly pug face."
Dave wishes there was a way to have already talked to Rose and Dirk, already have all their analysis and advice -- without actually talking to them. If he could get it back from the future to right now, too, that'd be swell.
"You wanna get on the couch with me?" he suggests, voice gone a little rough despite himself.
Karkat stares at him, only this one comes subtitled with 'idiot'.
"You realize if I can feed on lust and sexual pleasure then I can notice it, right? Be a bit useless to hunt for it blind."
Dave had not, as a matter of fact. He blinks. "... Yeah?"
"Why do you keep suggesting, why don't you just order me? You could even do that breeding thing, that'd probably work a lot better."
Dave chokes on his own spit. Karkat doesn't even look that much angrier than usual, mostly annoyed at Dave.
"Do -- do you want me to--"
"I want to feed." Karkat's eyes narrow slowly, and for once he doesn't look hilariously over the top, he doesn't look adorable -- he looks cold, remote. Predatory. "This is the one thing I was promised. Knight to Knight. The one thing I took from you."
His wings flick; he resettles them on his back. He makes Dave think of a sphinx.
"I want to feed and not die."
Fuck. Yeah. Okay.
Demons don't work without terms. The odds are overwhelmingly in Dave's favor with this contract, but.
If Dave doesn't feed Karkat, Karkat is going to kill him. He won't be able to (won't even want to?) feed by force, with all the restrictions, won't be able to bite and drink or force pleasure out of him, but Dave will be an oathbreaker.
Dave bites on his lip. He already knows the answer to this question, but he points it out anyway. "You don't actually want to have sex with me, though, right?"
Karkat's voice goes all low and almost musing, eyes less and less impressed. "I didn't want to be shoved into a meat costume and sewn in, either, and yet."
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Karkat's so grumpy-cute, such a housecat, how did Dave already forget that no, actually, he's a fucking cave lion. "You took the blood of your own will," he reminds him, pushing himself into a sitting position.
Karkat's eyes narrow some more, and he hisses low and long, but he doesn't fly into the kind of rage Dave expected. "And so I did."
Fuck. Okay. He needs to feed Karkat. Karkat is kind of fucking terrifying right now.
Blood? Blood would be nice and safe. Blood would imply that Karkat hasn't taken the healer's warnings to heart and doesn't decide to protect him from himself, Dave's starting to realize there might be some leeway in the terms there. Also to get a knife he'd have to manage to get past him, when he's so nicely corralled in, tucked in the corner under the mezzanine.
Sex would require him to be the kind of twisted bastard who can get it up for a monster a hair's breath away from saying fuck it and disemboweling him for breaking his promise to provide basic sustenance.
He's blaming Bro for this one, somehow.
"Come on," he says quietly, throat scratchy, and he reaches out with both arms. "Come here."
Karkat unfolds from his sphinx crouch and slinks to him, stalking cat, suspicious and ready to rend and tear. Dave slips his hands under his armpits and pulls him onto his lap.
His breath is so hot on Dave's neck, he's dizzy with it. He slides his hands around his back, traces the cracks between chitin plates, finds the roots of sharp spines, oddly articulated. He wonders if Karkat can even feel it. The demon's hands hang at his sides, his long clawed feet hang from the couch's edge against Dave's calves.
He tilts back into the couch, at an angle, pulls the demon down on top of him. Karkat is heavy, full of hard edges. Dave will come out bruised.
"Is this really okay," he whispers in Karkat's ear, hands crawling up under his wings to pull his chest closer.
"You have my name," Karkat reminds him, like it means everything.
Dave has his name. Dave has him. He could do anything.
He's hard against Karkat's belly. It's not as soft and giving as he thought it would be, it's not mammalian flesh. It gives a little but more like a really thin but still rigid sheet of plastic.
"I don't want to hurt you."
Karkat barks out a sarcastic laugh. The curl of armor plate over his cheekbone is pressed into Dave's jaw. "That's nice."
Dave closes his eyes, arches his neck, almost offered. "Do you want--"
"Your orders," Karkat whisper-growls into it, "Master."
Dave presses his palms against the back of Karkat's shoulders and just holds him tight for a little while, and then he nudges and tugs his legs free, hooks his knees over Karkat's hipbones, tucks his heels under Karkat's ass.
His bathrobe has fallen open, he's naked underneath. He rolls his hips against Karkat's belly, trying to keep it slow.
He's not going to fuck him, he doesn't even know if there's a hole to fuck into. He's not going to order him to suck his cock. He's just going to... "Move with me," he orders, eyes closed, burrowing his face between Karkat's armored neck and his blade-tipped shoulder, and doesn't delude himself into thinking that it makes it that much better.
Karkat tries to match him and his rolling hips; he's clumsy, but that's okay, it means Dave scratches his inner thighs against the edges of his hip plates, it means there are impacts, cock to whatever passes for a pubic bone in his demon. Slowly Karkat moves his arms closer, so he's holding onto Dave's shoulders in turn, the inside of his forearms pressed to Dave's biceps, and that -- yes, Dave wants that, the closeness, almost being held, their whole bodies pressed tight together -- Karkat heavy on him, muscle and sinew and bone.
He presses his heels into Karkat's ass, pushes his hips harder into him, imagines what if, what if he did have something to fuck Dave with, what if Dave could tell him, pound me.
He curls a hand over the back of Karkat's neck, feeling the braided leather strings, threading his fingers over and below his cervical spines, nudges Karkat's mouth to his shoulder -- not the collarbone, no, the muscle behind that, that runs from nape to shoulder.
He winds his mind around lava and acid and ancient rage, and he orders, bite.
(He doesn't know if he does it with his mind or his voice.)
Karkat's teeth bury in his flesh; he jerks against Dave, like only after obeying does he realize what he's done.
Dave comes like a freight train with cut brakes, pain burning from his shoulder on down and hitting, transmuting straight to pleasure. It flips a switch somehow; the strength of the sensation is still there, so deep it aches, it stings at the edges and parts of his body are still telling him this is bad, get away, he's getting damaged, but the rest just wants more.
He managed to lift Karkat from the couch, arching his spine that hard. He lets his strained body go limp, slumps back into the cushions. Karkat pulls his teeth out of his shoulder and stares at him, eyes a little wild.
Okay, now it's starting to sting but good.
Karkat is hovering on hands and knees over him. "Lick it up before it stains the couch," he mutters, eyes closing almost despite himself.
"It didn't hurt at the time." He cracks an eye open. Karkat's face... Dave raises a hand, nudges his shoulder a bit. "You got your vocabulary at least half from me, dude. Look up pain slut. I guess that's a loophole you didn't expect, huh?"
Karkat shudders, blinking rapidly, and then manages a grumpy growl. He leans down toward his neck. Dave cracks a minuscule smile.
Karkat nips his jaw in punishment.
He's already licked half his shoulder clean when Dave is done being startled. Oh. "... Okay, that was -- that was nice too. I -- not much harder, but that? That works for me. Yeah." Shit does it work. It's... in a pretty feral way, it's cute as fuck.
"Shut up," Karkat grumbles against his skin, and presses a palm against his forehead to shove him back down on the cushions.
He grooms, and grooms, and keeps grooming; it stings and aches deep where he managed to bruise the underlying muscles with his jaws. (Dave's lucky he didn't bite a mouthful of muscle straight off.) Dave stays quiet, lets him, shivering when Karkat chases a stray drop to the hollow between his collarbones.
"Still hungry?" he asks when the wet flickers of tongue against his skin slowly come to a stop.
Karkat sits up, straddling his knees. He stretches his arms over his head, exoskeleton plates moving smoothly over each other at the edges, gaps expanding to flash underlying blood-red muscle or tendons or whatever else; he reminds Dave of a smug cat. "Mrrrrh. No."
There's white spunk splattered and smeared all over his smoke-gray belly.
Dave stares, somewhat dumbly.
"What?" Karkat frowns down at him, hands coming back down, though now it's his wings that he stretches, far to the sides and then back, cupping the air like he's doing a butterfly stroke.
"Congrats, you just won first shower. You tell me you can handle a sink, good, go handle a shower stall." He tugs his mussed up bathrobe out from under Karkat's knees, drapes the edges modestly over his limp baby batter cannon. "Don't make a mess, yeah? I'm just going to... Rest. Some. Yes."
Karkat stares at him weird, but goes, slowly getting up from the couch. Dave's legs are cold where he was straddling him. He pretends to close his eyes, but he watches his demon walk away, tiny tail suddenly quivering before the demon decides himself and bounds forward for the bathroom. Fucking adorable.
He waits to hear running water before he gets up and goes, crossing the halfhearted field of floor forks to get the first aid kit from the kitchen, to clean and bandage the bite.
Latula is, of course, whistling at him from the peanut gallery called his frontal lobe.
Rose calls while he's finishing up in the shower. He stumbles out, damp and terry-wrapped. At least the shampoo is safely washed off already, so when his bangs slop in his eyes it doesn't sting too bad.
"Hey twinniepoo," he says as he checks the clean clothes hamper for work clothes. (Like hell he's gonna bring his clothes up to the mezzanine every time. He'd just take them back down anyway.) "Whassup?"
"Good morning, Dave. Can you bring back that book I lent you? Someone else asked for it."
"The vampire one?" he asks, pulling out clothes and dropping them on the coffee table for review. "Sure, just let me pull it from under the table leg." He lies, of course, the book is safely on the shelf by Aradia's old candle. "Shit, gonna have to get a phone book now to replace that shit -- ow."
"Ow?" she repeats pointedly, and great, she was about to hang up and now he can tell she won't let go until he spits it out.
"Tried to tuck the phone into my shoulder. So I could clad my nubile snow-white ass in Force blues. It's nothing, just, uh, stuff from yesterday's mission."
"You realize even if I hadn't long since learned how to tell when you lie, I have a Seer of Mind at hand."
He tucks his phone against the other shoulder and awkwardky wriggles into his underwear. "I told Karkat to bite me," he mutters. He wanted to ask her about shit, right? Right. "The cuddlebuddy masturbation wasn't cutting it."
"Ah." She makes the thoughtful little tsking sound that always goes with her nibbling at her lips. He refrains from telling her she's ruining her lipstick. "No, it wouldn't."
Dave stops with his pants halfway up his knees, slowly sits down on the coffee table. (cold ass, brr.) The shadow of Karkat's wings flutters close enough to tell him he's listening in. "Huh? Okay, that's something that would have been fucking nice to know for sure before."
"I did not know it before. If you'll recall, we mentioned the possibility. Most succubus legends have the succubus actively doing things to the victim, not -- ah."
Rose pauses in mid-sentence.
"Ah. I see. You might have pointed that out before, Kankri."
"What does that asslord have to blather about this time around," Karkat growls. Dave jumps a little to find him halfway down the ladder.
Karkat's hair is still damp from his own shower. Dave drops a hand on his head between two round, harmless horns. (He makes sure to smooth his hand along the grain of his hair, and still prickles his thumb on a quill going the wrong way.)
Karkat allows it for a few seconds, and then shakes his head. Dave takes back his hand and turns up the sound, to be polite.
"Sympathetic magic relies heavily on symbolism," Rose is saying, voice resonating in that way that means her eyes have gone hazed over with fresh arterial red. "For a demon to receive your life-creating energy... Makes sense it would convey the power better if the method at least partly mimics a way that might potentially give life."
Dave stares into nothing. Karkat is frowning like Rose is speaking gibberish.
"It's not like I can even knock him up," Dave protests. "Why the fuck does it even matter?"
"Exchanging blood works doubly well in our specific case because of our Aspect," says Kankri with Rose's voice, "but for an embodied demon, the most relevant part was the symbolic piercing of your flesh by Karkat's teeth."
"Great, I bottomed too," Dave quips without thought; the beat of silence afterwards tells him that Rose is arching an eyebrow. His face heats up, suddenly persuaded that she totally knows that yeah, actually he did. (Except not, does it even count as bottoming if you're ordering the other guy to do it.)
"That you did, dear brother," Rose says, and he hears a thin and teasing smile in her voice and knows she's going to hold it over his head just about forever. "By the way, I am reliably informed that this was not a guess, but an actual--" she makes her voice carnival fortuneteller spooky -- "Seer thing. Terezi confirms that Kankri is absolutely certain."
Dave's throat is a bit dry. He looks down at the demon, small horns and small wings and shelled armor bands and spines and grasshopper legs and a grumpy, pouty face turned his way in that already familiar what-the-hell-Dave way.
Giving Aradia a clock works well enough. Giving her his actual time -- long moments spent on nothing else but gathering her presence in his mind, spent on her only -- works better. Teeth work as dick metaphors, therefore an actual dick ...
"We gunna have to frick."
Rose's wincing pause is so subtle if he didn't know her so well he'd probably miss it. "I think other methods would still work, just not as ... efficiently. But if you want to get rid of the bloodletting crutch at least long enough to let yourself heal..."
Rose is right. It was on the table from the start. He's cool with it.
Totally cool with it. Haha.
"Why'd Kankri not know before?" he asks. He doesn't really care why, he just. Haha. Ha. Fuck or starve. Awesome.
Kankri-in-Rose huffs. "Because before you did not have my--"
"Kankri," Karkat hisses, desert heat and deadly sunlight resonating in his voice, in Dave's head. Endless thirst.
"--Aspect compatriot. That was not what you were going to say," Rose finishes; but Kankri apparently refuses to say any more.
Dave looks down at Karkat. He didn't know the demons could do that to each other, too. "So... You know Kankri's true name, huh."
The glare Karkat spears him with drips with disdain. "We're going to be late."
Shit, he's right, Dirk's gonna be waiting downstairs already. "By the way, you totally did not sidetrack me!" he promises. (Hell no, those thoughts are going to keep him company all day.) He yanks his pants up and throws his shirt and jacket on, open. He'll button up in the elevator.
The elevator is totally not old and grindingly slow and absolutely does not give him any time to think about that conversation again.
Dirk is waiting on the curb for them. Dave doesn't bother saying anything about how he could have come in through the garage; he strolls out of the front door with his hands in his pockets and Karkat on his heels, and fuck the passersby.
He ushers Karkat into the backseat, tells him not to damage Dirk's car, doesn't bother to tell him to stay on the seat; Karkat sinks in the leg space straight away with a little challenging glare and then curls up and drapes a wing over his head.
It's like he's daring Dave to order him to sit up properly, to buckle in, to pay attention to him on his own.
It's like he knows if Dave does--
Eh. Okay. Dave sits in front. Dirk pulls away from the curb.
"How're you doing, lil' bro?"
"You sure? You barely look it."
"Nice bandaging skills, by the way. That sure was on the laundry list of injuries I read about."
Dave lifts his head off the comfortable headrest and glares halfheartedly over his shades. "Were you looking at my reports again, you creepy stalker."
Dirk doesn't bother looking apologetic.
"I'll live," Dave tells him, and rests his head against the glass to end the conversation.
He wants to tell his bro, hey, so, I kinda fucked my demon and it was awesome and now I'm starting to feel like a real asshole.
Dirk's probably going to be logical at him though. He'd rather wait until the official Detective-Summoner reunion and lay out his concerns -- no, "concerns" makes him sound like a pussy; reservations? that'll do -- lay them all neat and logical and clear. Ethical stuff.
Hey so I humped him and I think I mind more than he did, because he already maxed out on resenting me before I even put my hands on him.
They drive in silence the rest of the way.
Dirk is either kind enough or evil enough to drop them off at the front steps, instead of going to park underground; Dave can't tell if he doesn't want to upset Karkat any more than cars already upset him, or if he's trying to improve general officer fortitude by forcing them to deal with Detective D. L. Strider walking his pet demon.
Karkat stares suspiciously at just about everyone they cross paths with, spines rattling subtly -- except at Mrs. Paint who's helping the front desk this morning; when she waves hello he flinches.
"Do I even want to know."
"You say that like any knowledge you gain won't just dribble right back out of that stunted, hole-ridden flesh lump you desperately try to remember how to lace up your shoes with."
Some guy too harried for the elevator pushes the staircase door open; Karkat is slinking past his legs in a hot second, making him yelp and dump half his coffee on the steps. Dave sighs and follows. "Sorry, dude, tornado coming over. Hey, Karkat, we say sorry when we knock into someone, okay?"
"Demons don't lie and also fuck you in the face, I didn't even touch him, not my fault he's a weenie."
Dave shrugs helplessly at the mildly hyperventilating guy and takes the next flight three steps at a time. Karkat is already out of sight and he'd rather not let him get too far. "Liar, you lie all the time. You... lying liar."
"It's that thing called hyperbole, maybe you've heard of it -- oh hey cupcake smell, that's the door, right?"
"Considering with the next flight of stairs we'll be on the roof, yep."
He takes a little breather on the third story landing before coming in. Fuck, but he's still exhausted from yesterday's fight and this morning's... this morning, and a little jogging in a staircase isn't really helping. Karkat hasn't tried to open the door and go first, though it looks less that he's waiting for Dave and more that suddenly he doesn't want to go in.
"C'mon, we're dropping by my cubicle and then going to the reunion room. Can you find my cubicle, by the way?" he asks, as he remembers what Karkat said the first day about his soul having left tracks all over it. Karkat doesn't answer, but he grunts and trots ahead the second the door is open, zigzagging through the alleys. Yeah, he can.
Someone picked up his paperwork nest under the desk. Sad. At the same time they also removed the damaged bottom drawer so now he has more space underneath. He slinks in to check it out. Dave bites his tongue lest he commit the sin of publicly going aww.
Maybe he should buy him a dog basket to sleep in. It'd end up in shreds pretty fast but they'd be comfortable shreds, ideally.
"Hey, pardner," Jade says over the wall. Something goes bonk under the desk; Karkat peers out to glower at her suspiciously. He looks a little alarmed to see someone propping her elbows on their back wall. Dave waves at her before Karkat can get it into his head to get territorial about parts of another officer of the law sticking out into Dave's space.
"Hey, pardner," he replies, with the proper accent this time around. Jade's attempts to sound Texan are always adorably off the mark.
Not that Dave is any more Texan than she is, technically speaking, but Bro and Dave's father were, originally, and so that means Dave is culturally Texan at the very least. His soul is Texan. He is so completely Texan they wanted to award him a special state citizenship the day he was born, only then the hell gate decided to act the fuck up and probably vaporized the messenger. Probably due to his birth as well, to be honest, just too much rad bursting out into the mortal world, the universe had to equalize the pressure.
Jade smiles, all bright, and then she turns it into a narrow-eyed scowl. "And now tell me what you've done."
"You look like shit, Dave. Microwaved shit even," she clarifies with delighted outrage. "With sprinkles on top! That only makes the shit look even more like shit, okay, you can't misdirect people like that."
"Wow, I am mad amounts of flattered, quick someone catch me before I swoon. It's not like I got hammered by a Class Two yesterday or anything--"
"Yeah, and I had a talk with John about that already, the nerve of him getting my partner all banged up, see if I'm letting him borrow you again."
Dave wonders if he'd have liked being there while Jade reamed John for letting him get damaged on his watch. Nah, she'd have turned on him next. "Yeah, okay, noted, no more mad partying with John behind your back, we always bring the house down."
She snickers. Victory. "That one was kind of lame. Okay, I'm coming through, wait a sec."
"Why do you want to?" he asks, but she's already leaving her cubicle and circling the block to get to his door. Karkat's eyes glow red from the shadows under the desk.
"Because Dirk told me about the neck wound!" That traitor. "And even if he hadn't, seriously, I can see the bump under your shirt, Dave, I am not in fact blind."
She steps into Dave's cubicle and makes him sit down, spares a little smile and a wave at Karkat who hisses warily and hunkers down.
"Okay, now show!"
"Bow-wow." Sighing, Dave unbuttons the first two buttons of his shirt and tugs the collar open to show her the bandage. She unsticks one corner to look underneath.
"Wow, that's a pretty nice bruise. Let me get Feferi and I'll fix that."
Did she not see the gigantic bite mark. Did she miss it by some miracle. Should he point it out. Um.
Thwap to the head. Ow. He guesses he deserved that one. "And I should leave that gaping hole open, that would teach you. You gave Karkat blood again, didn't you?"
Jade looks worried, even as her lips purse in concentration. He sighs. "Yeah. Might as well leave the scab alone, be easier to reopen it in case he needs a drop than to make a brand-new cut. I know it's against medical advice but seriously, his aspect is Blood, shouldn't be a surprise that it doesn't work right without."
She stares at him, green eyes unimpressed to the max. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather I install you a spigot."
He catches himself thinking about it for real. Okay maybe not a spigot, but one of those things they put in at the hospital for people they don't want to stick a hundred times in a day so they just leave the needle thingie in, what are those called... Yeah, he wouldn't mind that.
"Dave." A long, heavy sigh. "The only reason I'm not hitting you again is that you obviously can't afford to lose anymore brain cells today!" She grins, sudden and bright. "You're way over quota as it is."
Her skin is shimmering with rainbow scales, so he decides to stop pushing it before Feferi cheerfully bites his head off for real.
It feels really good when his shoulder stops aching and stinging. He hadn't quite realized how much even the weight of his own arm aggravated the strain. He rolls his arm in its socket, rubs the muscle from his neck down. There's still a series of scabbed-over small holes, but they don't go as deep anymore, he can tell.
He almost wishes it would still hurt, but that is an emo thought and, if said out loud to Jade's face, also a potentially suicidal one. He shoves it down.
"You're awesome. Can you fix my back while you're at it?"
Jade purses her lips, runs a hand down a couple inches from his skin. "Nuh huh. It's mostly muscle strain, you'd be better off with a massage and a couple days of not lifting heavy crap and getting thrown into walls."
"I'll get right on that, Doc."
"I mean I can try, but it's not big obvious trauma, Jane would be better with it."
Bluh. Dave doesn't like bothering Jane with his little booboos; she's the best healer in town and she's in such exhaustingly high demand with the cops and firefighters that they've had to put in an official waiting list that you can be kicked out of if your leg is judged not broken enough, and everyone and their grandmother still tries to bribe her to sneak their bunions in. "I'll deal."
Why does he have a job again. He wants to be home and napping and blasting music so loud he can think of exactly nothing at all. Especially the no thoughts thing. That'd be swell.
Oh right, innocents getting munched in the streets and destruction of existence as we know it. "Whoops, it's ten thirty, time to go to that meeting. Karkat, come on."
Karkat slinks out from under Dave's desk, still glaring at Jade, and when she smiles he dodges to the other side of Dave's legs, hissing quietly and rattling his spines. It's funny for a few seconds how wary he is of her, and then Dave remembers she was the one who forced him into flesh and it's not as funny anymore. He reaches for Karkat's head, stops himself. Who is it consoling, that gesture, really, Karkat or himself?
Jade looks at him a bit weird, but he just dodges into the reunion room before her.
[Chapter 4] -- [Chapter 6]