Midnight on the Demon patrol


Chapter 7

When the patrol car arrives at the scene Karkat is still licking frosting off his fingers. He radiates smug; getting two cupcakes when he was promised one was apparently enough to distract him from his hatred of cars.

Also enough to comfort his feeling that Dave is a chump. But that's par for the course.

They haven't talked and he thinks Karkat briefly looked as frustrated as he felt to be interrupted, but it doesn't matter right now. He'll do feelings later, for now there's a job to do.

Dave follows Jade out of the vehicle and they jog to the Detective in charge of the scene, heads bowed, Karkat bounding after them and freaking out a couple of officers guarding the perimeter. "No, he's not chasing us!" Dave throws over his shoulder, and goes to follow Jade, who's already crouching by the Detective.

"They're still inside the building," the woman is saying, "but we--"

Karkat hops on the patrol car's hood.

"Huh. What a poor bastard."

The Detective is staring, briefing interrupted. Dave sighs. "Get down off there, asshole, you're gonna get sniped."

He pulls out his service weapon and glances over the hood. His mundane colleagues have the street blocked, and presumably the building surrounded, but the bank sits on a little plaza and right in the middle is a green-glowing, mutated thing, coiled on itself.

He squints. "Huh, scaly."

"No kidding," the Detective says, a hint of frustration in her otherwise perfectly controlled tone.

"Lemme guess, it deflects bullets."

"Of course."

Jade and Dave nod in unison. "Of course."

The demon uncoils, giant snake tail whipping at the air, at nothing Dave can see. The upper body is kind of... monkeyish? Maybe even humanoid, urgh, creepy. The wings look more like stunted fins, or brand-new, not yet dried butterfly wings.

Also it has two heads. What the hell ever.

"Oh hey, it's a naga!" Jade exclaims, almost sounding pleased. Dave is not; the thing is almost fifteen feet long and over two thirds of that are the bullwhip tail. There's gouges in the pavement from its lashes, for fuck's sake.

"Okay -- Alders? Where's Lalonde and English? Dispatch said they were on the scene."

Detective Alders points at a car on the other side of the plaza. "English's still there, having demon difficulties. Lalonde, I don't know. Can you at least draw that thing away before they dig out a friggin' escape tunnel in there?"

The demon is still whipping its tail, scanning the plaza around itself with its faces turning independently and out of sync (creepy) and ignoring the police cars entirely. When it turns his way Dave can see its eyes are huge and faceted on otherwise humanoid faces. Creeeeepy. Its torso is fuzzy like the fluffiest merino sweater. No visible armor but with their luck the fur will be covered in contact poison. Worse, airborne poison.

It's not paying any attention to his demon, who has obligingly slipped off the hood of the car and is now sitting wedged in the narrow gap between two bumpers, watching with curiosity and not one ounce of hostility as he licks his claws clean of sprinkles.

"Has the summoner gone crazy? What is it even doing?"

The demon flips itself around like it's trying to break its own spine and rakes its claws at empty air. Jade giggles in her hand.

"Naw," Dave says.

Jade pulls out a length of sheer, sea-colored gauze and a lighter from her jacket's inner pocket; the scarf catches and she lets the flames race up to her hand as long as she can before she drops the blackening, smoking mess on the pavement. Out on the plaza a blonde girl flickers into visibility long enough to plant a much-too-solid fist right in the demon's jaw.

"My guess is the idiot ordered it to target Roxy."

Roxy fades from view again. The tail lashes, too late -- at least Dave hopes, for a second afraid, but the impact would make her reappear, so she likely managed to dodge.

"Dave, remember what the boss said!" Jade exclaims sternly as she straightens up. Her coppery skin has gone snow-pale, moon-glowing. "Karkat--"

"Yeah, yeah, the asshole's too weak to fight, blah fucking blah."

Dave grumbles. Did they have to say it around the other cops? How is he meant to discreetly jump into the fray now? Bluh. He hates being stuck with the supervising.

Not that Karkat wasn't likely to sit on him to keep him safely back before that comment already. Can't let the life support battery get its stupid ass gobbled up, after all.

Jade blinks out, blinks back in all the way off behind the other barricade. Jake and Roxy are the ones with the steel and cold iron net in their trunk, and besides Jake isn't answering his cell so they don't know what the heck is the matter with his demons.

Dave eyes the trashing demon. It's starting to make an odd, vibrating, whining noise, like a thousand insects rising from a field together. The dude's getting frustrated, which can be good or bad.

Karkat doesn't look in any hurry to wade in. Not at all like yesterday. Dave eyes him suspiciously. "You chickening out, dude? Is it because it's a Class Three this time around?"

Karkat growls at him, all four eyes narrowing into slits. "Shut your moron mouth before you embarrass your whole work clique by association. I'm not scared of a baby."

Detective Alders breathes in through her nostrils and peers at Dave's demon over his shoulder. "Is it -- it's a baby demon? How can you tell?"

Karkat stares back blandly. "Open a vein and I'll tell you."

"Thought you didn't lie, buddy." Dave turns to the woman, rolling his eyes behind his shades. To her credit she hasn't budged. "He can't take blood from you, he's contracted to me."

Still staring at the other demon, Karkat huffs, stumpy tail shaken out as if to flick the drops of Dave's imbecility off. "I'm not lying, I'm trying to get her to mind her own fucking business. It was hypothetical."

"Sure it was, Karkoala."

"Also I could take offered blood from her, it just wouldn't oblige me to jack shit. Who's the liar now?"

"I wasn't lying, I was summarizing."

"Sure you were, douchenugget."

Dave sighs. Okay, now all the officers in earshot are stealing worried glances at them, and they all happen to have guns in hand. Awesome. "Okay, to clarify. He can drink from one of you guys, if you deliberately bleed yourselves for him and you say it's okay. That's in his terms. He can't bite you or shove you in broken glass--"

Dave's cell phone rings, once. Dave bursts into position over the hood of the car and takes aim. "With me!" Bang, bang. The other officers shoot another volley. It's only an annoyance for the Class Three but it gets the thing to glance at them long enough to miss the net suddenly falling from the sky.

Roxy flickers back into the visible spectrum; her boots already end in hard, shiny hooves. She yanks on the rope; pavement cracks under her feet. The demon topples on its side with a screech, forced into a tight knot; only the last three feet of tail are out of the net.

Rose and Dirk are going to be so happy. With how long they've been wanting to capture one.

If Dave's honest with himself he's happy too. One thing they wanted to test out was how to disembody a demon without killing it. He -- if he ever has to let Karkat go...

He gets up to jump over the hood and go help Roxy.

Karkat trips him on his ass and tackles him back behind the cars, an armored hand closing on his collar to drag him behind the tire.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing, douchelord?!"

Dave is flat on his back on pavement. He has a demon straddling him, snarling in his face, red eyes open wide in outrage, pointy teeth showing an unnervingly far way down. He blinks. He tries to shove at his chest. "Karkat--"

It's not only outrage on Karkat's face, it's maybe also a touch of -- something that looks a lot like fear. "No, fuck you, stay the fuck down, they have guns in there!"

"Roxy and Jade need my help," Dave snaps back, and gathers Karkat's soul name to him to order him off. "They can cover me. Now--"

"Then send me, dumbass."

Dave's gut reaction is an immediate no. Razor scales and leathery wings swoop down from nowhere and thwap his brain into shape before he can say it.

Dude, you bound him for that shit. Now you're gonna let him sit on his sweet cheeks all pretty doll you ain't even playing with? That be brutal amountz of lamesauce.

... Fff.

"Like you wouldn't get shot as well," he grumps. "Does your shell even repel bullets? Shit, your head's not even shelled, or your guts, whose idea was that--"

Karkat rolls his eyes down at him. "Might surprise you but I've never been shot, so I have no idea."

"That is so reassuring. I am so reassured."

"Your packmates are out here fighting while you waste time. And I won't let you be stupid and go." Karkat looks up at Alders, who's staring with an expression Dave has no chance to read upside down. "Hey. You. You don't have to obey him. Sit on him."

Dave splutters a little bit.

Haha, Crabzilla's pretty dope.

Fuck you, 'tula, where were you even today? First I see you and it's for you to laugh at me?

Um, duh, firetruck. You needed mad privacy to sort this rapey shit out yourself. Woulda harshed worse if I'd been around for it.

Okay, yes, having that particular discussion with his boss with Latula eavesdropping would have been especially not good. Not that she doesn't know everything about it anyway. Fuck.

"Hey, asshole!" Karkat can't snap his fingers but he can grind his claws against his palm. It sounds like nails on chalkboard. Gnnh. "Quick. Orders. Target. Class Three, human criminals? Aim me, motherfucker."

"No hostages, right?" Dave asks Alders, upside down. She shakes her head no. "Okay. Priority, the Class Three containment. Once it's secured--"

One of the other cars explodes.

Another ray of bright white light bars the sky over their heads as car pieces clatter down some dozen meters away from the brand new hole all through the body of the car, right between the front and back doors, it's a miracle none of the cops are worse than grazed by the shrapnel. Shit, no, some guy falling back, holding his shoulder, blood.

The second time it's a lamppost, support melted or eaten or some shit, the heavy lamp falling on top of an abandoned scooter. Crunch. Whoops. Dave scrambles out from under Karkat and into a crouch, gun gripped two-handed. A glance is enough to confirm that the Class Three is ... not as contained as it used to be. Welp.

It's shooting white beams from all four eyes. Fuck his life.

Okay. Succinct now.

"Karkat Vantas. Subdue this demon. If you can't protect your life or the cops' or passersby' life, kill it. Injuries to interfering summoner and criminal allies okay, lethal or long-term handicapping not okay. Go."

Karkat is gone over the roof of the car in the next second, leaping as suddenly as a startled rabbit. The car rocks as he kicks off it. Dave moves to the gap between the two bumpers, and tries not to think about that unprotected soft belly, that exposed face with its slightly upturned nose.

Karkat doesn't fly (not because of the stunted wings, lots of non-winged demons fly anyway somehow) but he moves so fast along the ground it hardly matters. The Class Three is still wriggling its way out of the net, hissing -- its scales are darkened, it leaks radioactive-looking green from a couple of cold iron burns. One of its heads sees him and it twitches around.

Its eyes are starting to glow. Dave tenses, trigger finger stiff with the need to shoot.

He wishes he could help, but he has nothing left to give, not unless ending up at the ER starts looking like the better option. Latula's helping him on credit; Aradia, much as she likes him, doesn't work like that. Damara... not even worth contemplating, she'd get him killed and laugh.

Karkat throws himself to the side to dodge; the other demon pivots on its tail, and then...

Doesn't fire.

Because Karkat is between it and the bank where its summoner is still stuck.

"Hey, asshole."

Okay, now why is he talking to the demon.

"Can you speak yet?"

The other demon hisses and sways like a cobra before it slithers closer hesitantly. It starts to turn away, one of its heads scanning behind it for Roxy; Karkat growls.

"If you stop paying attention to me," he says, harsh, "I'm going after your summoner."

Okay, now the demon's attention is firmly on him. Huh. Wow. He basically checkmated the directive to look for Roxy with the stronger directive to preserve his summoner's life. Smart. Dave knew Karkat was wordy and quick to talk back, but this is a bit of a surprise.

It hisses and buzzes, swinging on its tail.

"Can you speak?"

"Nope," answer two discordant voices. They sound sullen more than actively hostile or suspicious. Got the feelz it's not wild about being on this plane either, the poor dude, Latula comments. Dave kind of agrees.

"If we fight, we're going to bring the building down on your summoner."

The green demon lashes its tail, but it goes nowhere near Karkat. Behind the two of them, Roxy is visible again; she tiptoes toward the remnants of the net, and makes not a noise. Fur flicks and coils nervously around her legs.

"Maybe," it says eventually. "Seems to me that's a matter of opinion."

"Do you want to take the risk?" The weirdest is how Karkat sounds honestly curious. Not hostile, not aggressive, not mocking.

"That's the dumbest question I was ever unlucky enough to hear -- what the fuck does it matter? I can't."

"Even though he's likely moving his fat ass way out of the line of fire already?"

... Dave's demon is smiling. He has a ton of teeth. Playful teeth.

Come on, they seem to say, live a little. Let's blow up the building. Ruin the plaza. Squish a few humans! It'll be fun.

If he's trying to trick the other demon into attacking him so he can sidestep Dave's clean capture priorities Dave is going to let Rose at him.

The green demon grumbles. "Even then, you know the drill. You're such a shitty douchebag, wow. Asshole."

It's a bit surreal to listen to two demons having a sarcasm battle, if Dave wants to be honest with himself. Wow, but if there was one thing he did not expect from Mister Overkill it was a Let's Talk It Out option. Is Karkat trying to trick the other demon? There's a whole class between the two of them, it probably means a lot in terms of smarts and experience.

"Pff. Come on, there must be at least one whole brain in your two craniums, try to think outside the box a bit."

"Is your demon trying to subvert the other demon?" Alders asks sotto voce. Dave shrugs. "And if so, for whose ends?"

That's an awesome question. Dave would love an answer.

"Fuck the box!" the other demon growls, but then he sags dejectedly. "Fuck my life. It's all so pointless. Okay, fine, powers are too risky, let's just murder each other hand to hand, I don't even care."

Karkat sighs, and takes on a sympathetic expression Dave has never seen on him. "You idiot. You're all tail, you've got five times my reach. Like I'd go hand to hand against you."

His raised hand crackles with tongues of lashing red.

The other demon squints at it with its huge creepy eyes, and then sags again. "Aw, shit."

"Hey, maybe you'll laser me first!" Karkat answers with sardonic cheer. "With your... eyeball death rays. Maybe it won't even go right through me and straight into the utter moron who called a useless sack of whine like you and then gave you the stupidest orders ever. I mean, that chick's not a danger anymore. Now what?"

"Not that the stalemate isn't nice and all," grunts one of the other cops, "but we can't actually get inside the bank so long as that thing isn't neutralized. Tell your demon to get a move on, okay?"

Yeah, Dave will get right on that, the second he figures out what kind of range that red attack has. What if Karkat's bluffing his ass off because it'd kill the cops too, and Dave ordered him not to?

The two-headed demon is swinging indecisively on its tail, glowering sullenly. "Bluh. Master fat-ass? If you're out of ideas could you just order me to kill myself or somethin', I'm so done with this massive bullshit."

A shadow shifts behind the window, too indistinct to shoot at. A frustrated man answers, "Just kill that demon already!"

The green demon goes entirely, dangerously still.

"Is that a prime directive. Master."

"Yeah, sure!" the man yells out, and behind him inside the bank two more voices yell back, muffled -- but Dave's pretty sure they were both yelling "NO!"

Karkat's eyes go wide and he throws himself to the side, rolls. A double ray of white light bars the air where he was, hits the bank's forefront; all the glass shatters. The green demon is pivoting already, shooting again, raking a long smoking gash across pavement; cops scatter away from the last car in the blockade, which shreds in two. It's only a Class Three? Really? Dave has time to think, and then the ray hits a parked car behind the police car.

Right in the gas tank.

The explosion deafens him, throws him down. He pushes himself back up on his smarting hands, ears ringing, scrambles to look for Karkat -- oh shit, oh fuck.

There's an officer on the plaza, amongst shrapnel and debris, blood smeared on the ground where she rolled before coming to a stop. She's been thrown clear over the back of the next patrol car and another ten feet ahead by the explosion.

"Officer down!" Dave yells, along with a couple others, but then a shot rings from the bank, ricochets off the pavement, forcing would-be rescuers to dodge low again. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Aradia! he yells in his mind, yanking on his sense of Aradia's teasing spring breeze. Where the fuck are you?! Aradia!

After a few endless seconds of nothing, Aradia snorts, or gives a feeling so close it seems like she did. Sorry to have to break it to you but you're not my only boyfriend, Dave!

So someone else was summoning -- whatever; if she's answering at all then she's free to help him now. He pulls her closer in, only then out on the plaza red tendrils lash, like growing roots at a hundred times the speed. The green demon lets out a shrill wail as they stab through his tail, erasing chunks of flesh right out of existence. Karkat dashes on all fours toward the fallen cop, grabs her arm -- glares right at Dave; "Stay the fuck down!" he roars, and starts dragging the fallen officer toward the barricade.

A shot cracks; Karkat stumbles to the side. Dave yanks on Aradia. Such a wide area to freeze, but--

"I will kill you myself!" Karkat is snarling at Dave, as he drags the limp woman hurriedly in the other direction, where the big blank wall offers a blind spot to the criminals inside.

He pauses there, breathes, and Dave breathes with him. He gets his cell phone. "Jade, the fuck are you doing?!"

Jake answers Jade's cell. "So sorry, chap, they're strengthening the spell so it'll hold it next time, can't disturb them--"

Of course they can't, interrupting a spell in the middle is a good way to have the power raised rebound in your face.

"What the fuck are you doing, English?!"

Karkat is crouching there, before the unconscious officer, eyes gone to slits, as the green demon slowly coils its tail back under it. It's bleeding from several missing chunks, and the last meter of the whip tail drags on limply. Doesn't need its tail for eye lasers, though.

"I let Roxy take Horuss on standby because I thought I had Eridan, only Eridan won't do a blasted thing! I don't get it, he loves sniping demons--"

"Okay, stay right where you are," the green demon is saying, "and then, like... Maybe if you can dodge at the very last second, that'd be swell."

Because its prime directive is now to kill Karkat, which means protecting its master isn't, which means it's about to--

"It's gonna bring down the building!" Dave yells. His last word is smothered in the thunderous crack of white rays cutting through stone.

Karkat dodges; a whole thorn bush of red tubes bursts into existence all around him, scores a dozen gashes down the green demon's front as it jumps out of range.

The first couple of raining tiles crack on impact with Karkat's attack, but don't disintegrate.

Aw, hell. The front of the building looms huge and full of shit to drop, Dave almost thinks it--

It's falling.

He's over the car already, running for Karkat, for the officer. Later he'll think about it, calculate the arc it'd draw and the stretch of plaza it'd cover, calculating the weight -- three stories of cement and stone toppling over in deceptively slow motion.

He just --

(they just)

Stop it.

One second and then two and it doesn't even hurt. (Of course it doesn't, why should it, it's in his/their power, it was always in them to do this.) The slab of fašade looms at an angle over them, throwing shadows. They let dust and pebbles go, raining all around; could have stopped them too, not even a challenge, but, no, too expensive. Karkat is frozen, staring. Dave/Aradia's hands are up, like they're actually bracing the thing with their physical hands (physical things are neat!), as if meatside gestures can even do anything (no, no, symbols have power, Rose said. It helps. Channels. It has to.)

"Karkat!" Jade yells, and teleports in. She grabs the officer in a rough firearm's carry, blinks out. Karkat startles, snarls. Charges the green demon.

Out of range. Good. Dave/Aradia lets go.

And then Dave lets go of Aradia, too, and then the floor rises to meet his face.

A burst of wind puffs up in his face, blows his bangs back and dries his eyes, cushions his fall. He grunts as he lands. Stays face down there for a few seconds.

It doesn't hurt. It... he's just empty. He thought he was but now he really is. Totally empty.

What did you take? he finds the presence of mind to ask after a few seconds. (Two minutes, three seconds, seventeen microseconds, a hundred and nine -- no. Stop.)

It's only a few years, Dave, don't worry. You've got a lot to spare!

He thinks about it. Three years, five months. Yeah, okay.

Someone races to him, leaps over debris, screeches to a stop. He turns his head.

"Strider! Oi, Strider!"

Oh, it's Jake. Cool. "Thanks for the windy thing, buddy," he says, muffled against the pavement. His eyes close. So tired.

Hands on him. Feeling down his spine. He scruffs his toes in the dust in vague annoyance, to show his back isn't broken.

"Yes, ah, John lent me -- when I think he could possibly have picked up that building himself, drat, I'm not any good with poor Tavros -- Strider, you need to stay awake!"

"I'm awake," he grunts, and makes Jake support him as he rolls on his back and sits up. "Just really don't wanna be."

The plaza looks like a war zone, covered in chunks of building; no matter how much he killed the momentum, the impact with the ground dispersed bricks and mortar and insulation and wires, and all the shit there was on and inside the wall.

The rest of the bank is still up, but Dave wouldn't give it good odds of staying up very long. The load-bearing walls in the middle are laser-scored too.

Jake pulls his arm over his shoulders and hauls him on his feet. Woo, merry-go-round. Latula's mind-hands press against his temples, stabilize the whirling all around him. Good, it's a bad time to be dizzy. (What he'd do without her some days, he's not sure.)

Jade is probably out of range, he gave the other cops enough time to run (he hopes, oh Lord he hopes); he looks for his demon, the green demon.

He doesn't find them until he's looking at the bank again.

They're inside the big waiting hall, half-hidden in shadows. The green demon is lashing and rearing like a rodeo cow. Karkat is perched on its shoulders, cricket feet planted on the roots of its wings, claws sunk several inches in.

As Jake gives into Dave's insistent tugging and jogs them closer, Dave gets to admire his demon's businesslike approach to grabbing a handful of hair in each clawed hand and slamming the demon's two heads together.

Thwock. Flop.

The green demon looks even longer stretched out unmoving on the tiles. Karkat hops off it and starts grooming, batting the dust off him like it's a personal offense. Heh. Heheh.

"Are you injured?" Dave calls out. His voice croaks out all weird; he coughs and tries again. Karkat looks up and him and scowls.

"I'm fucking fine, you idiot -- don't."

It's... not Dave and Jake he's talking to.

A man comes out of the shadows, scruffy three-piece costume and stupid hat telling Dave who this is before he even sees the scar across that face.

He's holding a gun on them, of course.

Karkat slowly circles to place himself between Dave and Spades Slick, head low, wings spread.

"Seriously. Don't. You'll only have time to kill one of us."

"If he dies, you're freed," Slick says, voice scratchy with years of smoking. "What the fuck do you still care then."

Jake has his gun in hand, but it's the hand around Dave. Dave's gun ... he lost track of it, shit, are his superiors going to be pissed. Maybe if Jake drops him --

"I'll care long enough," Karkat promises, all quiet and serious and -- maybe a little sad. Dave can't even imagine what Karkat's expression looks like, right now, but the voice isn't one that belongs on a demon. "Please, I don't -- not you."

Whaaaat the fuck, thinks the small part of Dave's brain not concerned with the barrel aimed at his chest. The rest thinks that so far Karkat hasn't been too bad at negotiating. No bullet yet.

"He hasn't ordered me to capture you guys. Just the demon. Tell its summoner to release it from its contract, and we're square, sounds good?"

No, no it doesn't, Dave thinks, only if he opens his mouth Slick might shoot out of mere annoyance; he's been known to be impulsive like that. The man seems to be listening to Karkat, of all weird things.

Then Slick shrugs, says "Sure. Deuce?" and then Karkat sneaks the green demon a glance and nods, and the four criminals just file out of the shadows and down along the building, casual as you please. Dave can only admire the chutzpah. Jake is choking a little. He scrambles with his cell phone -- Dave pulls free of his hold so he won't hamper him -- and calls for backup, and starts racing after them.

Dave sits on a piece of masonry and watches Karkat, who's sitting straight on the ground and sagging all over -- shoulders, wings, head, even his spines seem wilted.

He's going to catch so much shit over not at least trying to get them to leave the money. He'd have tried usually, even with the gun on him; it's not every day he gives three years of his life, though. He's off his game.

Considering how hard it was to freeze the air to take even just his own body weight the other day, he's a bit surprised it was only three years.

"Karkat. You got shot. I remember that. Sure you're not hurt?"

Karkat pulls his head up and gives Dave a tired glare, and heaves himself to his hands and feet to pad closer.

"Here. You'll nag me until you've seen, so here."

He turns to show Dave his shoulder. The armor there has a weird dull line on it, like thin, hard plastic folded almost to the breaking point and then left to return to its normal position. Dave traces a light finger down the crease.

"Does it hurt?"

Karkat grumbles, but doesn't shift away from his touch. "Just a bit. I'll bruise. Won't show. On account of the shell and all, shit, my brain's all weird, what's wrong with me."

Dave stares at him, worrying until Latula chuckles. He lets her have his voice, trusting that sense of affectionate approval he can feel all through her. "Baby's first real adrenaline high, huh, crabzilla? Don't fret, it'll pass. Messes with you some when you come down, is all. That plus the power drain, wowza, it hardcore rulz that you're standing at all."

Karkat's face goes through a series of hilarious expressions. "What -- did you just -- crabzilla?"

Dave chuckles. "She sure did. Could be worse, don't complain or she'll change it for nubwings or something about your ass."

Oooh hey, nubwingz!

Nope. Veto.


Roxy and Jade jog in, along with another three cops with shotguns -- things that could actually pierce a demon's armor at close range. Dave points at the green lump. "Karkat apparently negotiated for Deuce to let it go, so it's masterless...?" he glances at his demon to confirm; Karkat nods and drags himself back on his feet and goes back to the green demon, grimly determined. "--Hey, what?"

"What do you want to do with it, anyway?"

"Uh. Figure out how to send it back?" Jade says, blinking, as she helps Roxy set a silver rope all the way around the demon. "I mean, without unraveling its consciousness all over the place, that kinda sucks."

Dave pulls himself up on his feet somehow and wobbles after them.

"No fucking kidding it sucks, murder tends to. Hey, you whiny lump!" Karkat says, and pads close; he sneaks between Jade and Roxy, who pause.

"Karkat, we can't close the circle if you're in here!"

"Then don't. Give me a sec. Hey, whiny. I know you're awake."

"Fuck you, go away," the demon whimpers, not moving an inch, and making all three cops snap their guns up and aim at its long body.

Dave watches in bafflement as his demon comes to a stop by its shoulder and proceeds to pat its forehead where he knocked it out.

"Are you assholes going to throw in a healing?" he asks without looking back, almost absently. "Because it's kind of missing chunks and if it bleeds out you can't do your little experiments."

"Whose fault is that?" Jade replies, huffing. "Karkat, get out of the circle!"

Roxy shrugs. "Yeah, sure, of course we're going to heal it first, it'd be mean not to. Also I bet Dirk would think it'd probably throw off the results."

"Hm. Your word on it?"

Roxy and Jade exchange a look, and then a shrug. "My word on it," they both say together. Karkat relaxes a little, apparently satisfied. Dave continues to boggle. It's kind of interesting to see how Karkat gets involved, though. He didn't think demons really gave a shit about events that didn't affect them directly.

"Okay. You'll need a Page douchebag, so better call back that other guy." Roxy shrugs again and gets her cell phone. Karkat turns back to the other demon, pokes its shoulder. "Hey, loser. Whimper McDoucherson. What's your name? Make it easier on everyone."

"Don't wanna make it easier on everyone."

"But do you fucking want to go home."

The demon lifts one head off the floor, gauges Karkat's seriousness (very high) and the state of his patience (less and less high as the seconds go by) and mutters. "... Erisol."

Dave can't even parse the feelings he gets -- self-hate and apathy and ... what else? -- his brain won't kick into gear, but he knows Roxy and Jade have it, will be able to pass it along to Jake. It's fine.

Karkat's head is tilted at an angle, though.

"... Eri... sol."


"And you're... oh holy shit you're Doom."

Dave is pretty sure the cops and the girls are boggling just as hard as he is when his demon suddenly sits down on his ass, throws his head back, and starts to laugh and laugh.

"Oh my fuck. Jesus shitting dick nipples. Erisol!"

"Will you shut your blathertrap already," the demon mutters, going entirely unheard by Karkat who is laughing too hard to pay attention. Dave is still stuck trying to figure out how a demon name can be hilarious, and what Doom has got to do with it.

"Wow. Just, wow, you must be the sorriest excuse for a demon there ever existed. I'm almost sorry for you." Karkat pats Erisol's head, rough enough to make him yelp and pout, but oddly sincere about it. This is weird as shit, watching Karkat be physical -- be friendly -- with someone.

(Someone not him. Is Dave jealous of a trapped, injured, whiny demon? Dave is jealous of a trapped, injured, whiny demon.)

Jake is coming back at a jog, looking thwarted. Dave doesn't need anyone to tell him that the Midnight Crew escaped again. Jake feels the need to announce it, though, as he jumps over rubble and in the room. "They gave us the slip again! I can't believe it."

"I can," Jade groans, and Karkat--

Karkat stares at Jake for a second and then booms out, "Eridan, you sad fucker!"

"Wow, fuck you too, Kar."

Jake seems as surprised as everyone else at what just came out of his mouth. Dave blinks. Considers. "Nah, bro, let them talk, could be instructive."

"Forward much?" Karkat is shooting back, and now he looks weirdly delighted, eyes glinting, body coiling like a cat about to pounce. "You've bred once and that was one time too many according to everyone sane in the whole universe."

"Eridan... bred," Dave mutters. "Eridan bred." Hey girl, how likely is it that I got a brick to the head and I'm hallucinating this shit?

Latula huffs at him. Wow, don't harsh on my mad skillz, it ain't likely at all!

Meanwhile Karkat looks mildly rapturous. "Oh yes. If I ever see Sollux again I am going to give him so much shit," he muses. "So much shit. Oh god, everything is worth it."

"Yeah, please do keep talkin' like I'm not even here," Erisol mutters. (wow, Erisol? As in Eri(dan)/Sol(lux)? Dave is impressed. Demon naming schemes are so original.) "Seriously, feel free, it's not like my existence wasn't a joke from the very fuckin' start, laugh away, I live to entertain..."

Karkat ruffles its hair. "Shush, whinelord. Wow, you just unseated them both, good job. That's a noteworthy accomplishment. Seriously, Eridan, what the fuck were you thinking, you asshole, he's just about the worst of both of you, combined in ways that make it exponentially worse."

Jake's expression is confused and weirded out and dubious as all hells, but the voice that comes out is nothing if not breezily confident. Maybe even a bit... purry?

"Yeah, shoulda gotten rage and bloody stubbornness to compliment my innate conqueror's heart. Nothing says we couldn't try again..."

Is Eridan... is he doing what Dave thinks he is doing.

From Karkat's expression, yes, he is.

Karkat finally ambles out of the rope circle, lets Jade close it behind him, takes a few steps toward Jake/Eridan and then stops to stare at them, mild and quizzical. "Wow, okay. I'm flattered. No, really. Let me put the extent of how flattered I am that way. Brooding a gutful of Equius' get in my flesh mammal-style actually sounds appealing compared to having offspring with you."

Thank fuck. Dave doesn't know how he'd react otherwise.

"But it's nice to talk to you, buddy, been a while, only now I think you've got to let your ride bind your brat." Karkat tilts his head, eyes the body in front of him in a reserved, weighing way that tells Dave he's looking at Jake somehow, not at the demon inside him. "... Well, maybe we'll get to chat again later."

"Oh, sure thing," Jake replies thoughtlessly. Karkat brightens up a little, enough to crack a crooked little smile.

"Okay, cool. Go do your job now, you slacker. Good job getting distracted from procedure by random blather, guys, by the way, awesome cops you make."

He pads back toward Dave, smug all over, and sits beside him to groom. Dave considers him for a few seconds, and then he hooks him by a horn and drags him in range to smush his cheeks, since noogies would backfire spectacularly.

[Chapter 6] -- [Chapter 8]