Midnight on the Demon patrol

the links in this are still not real links.

Chapter 9

Day two of his leave. Dave is making a list.

1. anything with sugar in it (confirmed)
2. having his hair/skull petted (confirmed)
3. beating up people (might be more mental than physical but)
4. lounging in sunbeams (joint: photographic evidence)
5. a good breeze (should have opened the windows to clear the air before today meh whatevs)

It's a list of all the physical things Karkat enjoys. Kinda sparse. Dave is now noting down hypotheses, things to try out if he gets a chance.

6. chin scratches ??
7. making out ????? (fuckin' hope)

He's sitting on the wide window ledge of the main room, downstairs. Karkat is once again on the mezzanine, propped up on that windowsill. He's watching the sky, nubwings twitching and tilting with the faintest touch of breeze.

8. flying ? (shit good luck w/ that one)
8. stretching ?

9. wing membranes petted ? (light touch theyre hella thin)
10. sex ha ha i kid fffff

Yesterday was day vegetate by the TV and be a lazy asshole re: feeding. (Dave managed to wring two mildly unsatisfying orgasms out of his Rose-traumatized dick via previously used cuddlebuddy self-job method; didn't have the mental fortitude to attempt to help Karkat enjoy the process at the time. At least the guy looked more bored than traumatized.)

Karkat catches him looking his way and frowns, but decides to ignore him, taking a few seconds to flick a bit of lint or a pillow feather off his shoulder or something.

Dave's best camera is on his lap. (It's been ever since he woke to find his morning wood surrounded by a cage of claws; Karkat had apparently captured it when Dave kept poking it at him. Gorgeous contrast -- shiny-smooth, slate-colored chitin and anthracite needle points over veined, flushed skin, and a good thing he's really visual even as guys go because as a handjob it was mildly awkward and terrifying as hell and he had to finish it himself.) He takes breaks from his list to document shit.

Like now. Yep, documenting that.

#fuckyeahpetdemon demon batting at sunbeam from top of stairs

... And that.

#fuckyeahpetdemon demon on the floor after falling off stairs

#fuckyeahpetdemon grace incarnate

"You okay, dude?" he asks (after he took the time to type and send the file. Never said he wasn't an asshole.)

"Fuck you."

Karkat looks more embarrassed than in pain, but there's a dent in the floor. Dave thumbs out of his list, pockets the phone; he lets his camera hang from his neck and gets up. "No, seriously, dude. It hurt anywhere?"

"I just tripped, for fuck's sake, I'm fine. Go away."

Dave crouches next to him and pokes him in the cheek until Karkat looks at him, making grumpy noises. "Cause if you have bruises, a hot shower could help. D'you, hm, like hot showers?" he asks, subtle and natural as a master of information gathering. He is so ninja. Karkat gives him a 'you are such a dead ninja, wow' look.

"... That thing... in the sun. It was dust, right?" Karkat asks with the frown of someone figuring things out. Unpleasant things.


"And we only see it when it's in direct sunlight, but it's everywhere."


"Wow, suddenly I don't want to breathe."

"Whoops, vetoed. If you stop breathing I'mma get hella bothered. Not the good kind of bothered."

Karkat rolls his eyes at him. He doesn't move away, though, Dave likes it when he does that, when he doesn't just shuffle close for a feeding and then scamper out of range of Dave's cooties.

"... I don't mind water in general, I think."

"Huh. Think you'd like swimming?"

"How the fuck should I know?"

Dave makes a mental note to write down 10. pool/river ??? in his list later on. (At least three interrogation points. Yeah. Maybe four. This is promising! Okay, the city pool is out as a gay pride float, but who does he know amongst his colleagues who has a house and maybe at least a Jacuzzi...)

"Is that about your quest to convince me to like the meat suit?"

Dave gives a helpless shrug. "Mind if I test something out?"

He nudges the underside of Karkat's chin with his fingertips. It's velvety there, dips into a little V between the rings of interlocking armor around his throat so he can bend his neck (can't quite touch his chin to his collarbone though.) Dave strokes it lightly, from chin to throat.


"Bad or good?"

"... Okay. I guess."

It's Karkaty for yes, proceed. Score. He doesn't seem super convinced, though, for all that he lifts his chin, stretches his neck. There's a little furrow between his brows.

On impulse Dave leans in and kisses his lips, light and dry.

"Oh god, are you going to fondle my face with your flesh bits now."

Dave has very inappropriate thoughts of cockslapping. Yeah, uh, no. "Don't pretend you don't know what a kiss is, you pest."

Karkat tilts his head, purses those lips Dave just kissed -- fff, shark fangs or not he wants to do it properly. "You're going red."

"Wow, fuck you, it's a delicate biological process and it's the height of rude to point it out."

"You're going even more red."

"No, seriously, stop. Why are you in my face."

Karkat stares at him, nose to nose. "A non-negligible percentage of your blood has decided to migrate to your face. It's interesting, okay?"

... Blood. Of course. Dave sighs, deflates. "Yeah, well, it stays under my skin today."

"Mnh. It's interesting anyway."


Dave pulls out his phone and types,

10. pool/river ????
11. feeling sweet hemoglobin running through my (peoples??) veins wow not creepy at all you creeping creeper

When he looks up Karkat is craning his neck to see his screen and squinting in a disapproving way.

"This list is ridiculous and you are ridiculous for writing it. What are those scratched out bits?"

"Whoops, look at that, it turned itself off, magic. Where will smartphones stop."

Hm. The shell on his shoulder is still cracked. Dave pokes at the smooth surface a few inches away from it.

"Come closer to the window, will ya, I want to take a look at it."

Karkat grumbles but follows him to the window ledge, perches beside him. He's leaning on his hands, feet loosely crossed at a joint Dave is not sure he can call an ankle. The late morning light comes from behind and up, throws interesting shadows on his face, his body. Dave resists the urge to take another picture. Portrait of Casual Demon.

Dave sits beside him, a knee folded on the ledge, and leans in to get a better look. He thinks he sees vague reddish-brown shadows underneath the shell through the gray, but it's hard to be sure. "Hm. Wonder what it's made of and if it's going to heal at all. Or if you're just going to keep a very manly scar. Where else did you get hit again?"

Today Karkat must feel mellow, because he points them out and doesn't say anything. Dave peers and squints, and then pokes one on the piece of shell that looks like a lower-rib cover. "I'm still not sure how much you feel through that."

Karkat purses his lips. "I'm not sure how much you imagine I should be feeling. Due to not having a basis for comparison. You haven't forbidden me to shit on your belongings yet, though, so keep poking at your own fucking risk."

"Dude, you do have a basis for comparison." Dave pokes his cheek. Gray velvet. His finger leaves a lighter, silvery track for a second before the hair unbends back into place. Karkat snaps his teeth at him, not close enough to be worrying.

"Surprise, I feel more things where there's hairs on it and where it's actually thin enough to bend! Shocking discovery, I know, I could not stop playing with myself when I found that out."

Karkat's deadpan look says the exact contrary. Dave is almost sad. Such a gorgeous masturbation mention setup.

(12. masturbation?????????? oh lord please ill be so good)

"Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it. Could be hella fun." But thinking about it is not conducive to other business or the state of cleanliness of his pants, and Karkat hasn't yet mentioned he was hungry or even vaguely looked like it so getting interested anyway makes him feel like a dirty old lecher. He ruthlessly changes the topic. "Do you feel what happens to the shell itself, or only when there's enough pressure to push against the meaty bits inside?"

Karkat briefly looks puzzled. "I... have no idea." He stares at Dave's finger as Dave touch his shoulder, light as he possibly can. "No, I don't -- ah, I think I do. Huh. It's weak."

Dave cups his cheek, butterfly-light. It feels really strange to do these things, even in the name of scientific experimentation.

"Yeah, I feel that from the start."

"Is it a bad feeling or a eh, neutral feeling?"

Karkat hisses quietly; there's crickety noises underlining it, Dave really wonders how his voice box is arranged. "Not good enough to be worth the amount of bullshit I'm dealing with."

Dave chooses to interpret it as still somewhat good. Blind optimism for the win.

Christ but this is awkward. Sitting here looking for excuses to feel up his demon, covering it up in transparent bullshit 'reasons'.

"Okay. Listen." He can feel himself reddening, again. He looks away. Oh, look at that, on the other side of the street, a brick wall and a roof! Splendid view. "Yesterday I asked you if I could try making you feel good. If -- if you're down with some experimentation, you can tell me any time. Unless we're, like, busy with job shit or out in public or I'm nursing a broken leg I'm not going to even pretend I won't be down with it."

He gets up from the window ledge, a bit brusquely, puts a hand on his camera to still its swinging. He can't even look Karkat in the eye, wow.

"In the meantime I'm gonna shut my trap about it, in case you not answering was actually your answer. Ball's in your court. Wanna go jogging?"

Master of Smooth. It is him. Woo.

There's no response for a handful of seconds, and then Karkat snorts, almost a snicker. "Masterful change of topic. I'm impressed. Also fuck you, you're supposed to rest."

Dave is totally not pouting. "No, fuck you, I rested all of yesterday, bored now."

"Also where do you plan to go jogging, exactly, turdbrain? Because if someone shoots at me in the street I am going to be really fucking cross." He flicks at the shield at his neck, disdainful, claws clinking against the metal. "It's not like you can really see what this goddamn thing even is from more than a few feet away."

Dave's been getting used to seeing it there. Seeing Karkat acknowledge it, though, is a bit like getting kicked in the crotch in a disturbingly sexy way. Balls: crushed. Unf.

"You got a point. Let me show you wonders." Dave pockets his keys, makes sure his camera is well-secured, slips his gun holster on, and climbs the ladder to the mezzanine. Karkat follows slowly, confused, as Dave pushes the window open.

The second Dave swings his legs outside the windowsill, though, he is there in a single, hurried leap.

"Tadahh. Secret escape."

The fire escape stops at living room level, but there's an old, rusted-looking metal ladder that goes up to the roof there. Dave whispers to Aradia, who assures him it's still some time away from breaking under the weight of someone much heftier than he is, and climbs up.

"What the hell are you doing?"

When he looks over his shoulder Karkat is craning his neck to squint up at him; he's not even leaning out his whole head. Dave purses his lips.

"What's the matter? Scared?"

"You forbade me to go out of the window, assnugget!"

"... Oh right." Dave finishes climbing, hauls himself up on the roof. It's slanted pretty steeply; he sits on the small horizontal-ish end and plants his heels on a rung. "Karkat Vantas, the order not to go out the window is amended. You still can't, except for when you're with me." Oh, wait. "Or when there's a fire inside or something else that'd kill or maim you if you stayed in. Now come on already, you scared of heights or something?"

Karkat hisses under his breath as he swings out of the window. He scales the ladder with a lizardly, inhuman grace that Dave can't get enough of, wings spread and kept flat to the wall like, Dave isn't sure, like their clawed ends might help grab a hold? He wonders if the comparatively thin digits would hold Karkat's weight; his own fingers aren't any thicker, but they're shorter too, reduces the risk of breakage.

He moves cautiously into a low crouch on the edge and makes his way around the corner, where another, lower building leans on his building. That roof is flat; he grabs the edge with his hands and lets himself drop.

Karkat snorts at his caution and leaps, sends gravel flying on landing. He shakes his wings out, sets them at what Dave would call a jaunty angle, and scans his surroundings with something Dave would not call well-disguised interest. It's such a sad attempt at camouflage, at this point he'd get more coverage from a cardboard bush.

Dave bends over to grab his ankles, rounds his back, releases and crouches, stretches one leg then the other, rotates his wrists, rolls his head on his neck. Slapdash, as warming up goes, but he's not doing competitive parkour today, only the family Sunday jog version.

He likes it up here, it's all slanted roofs and tarred roofs and gravel roofs and sometimes surprise garden roofs and dozens other kinds, and chimneys and a bazillion satellite dishes over bare brick walls. There's sparrows and pigeons in sight, but apart from that there's only the forest of roofs and the sky.

He still makes sure to go in the rough direction of the hell gate. Less of a risk of startling people enjoying a smoke at their window.

He jogs down the roof, hops on the guard wall along the edge, bounces off an exposed strut-brick-thing and side-vaults up on the next roof. Ow, barked his ankle bone, rusty. Karkat trots after him, at first frowning and sticking close to Dave's heels, but that only lasts as long as it takes him to startle his first cat.

"No trophies, Karkat, I support responsible hunting! You'd better eat whatever you catch, fur and all!"

Dave just about falls off his perch laughing when Karkat screeches to a stop in the middle of the chase to glare at him. "Thanks, asshole, you just ruined it."

They explore, right and left and down and up, Dave ambling along with his hands in his pockets and more than half the time just going wherever Karkat seemed interested in going. Eventually, though, the vibe in the air just... hm.

Even considering the likelihood that shitty only-a-starving-student-would-take-this studio apartments would be well-cared for, that's a lot of rusted-shut shutters and broken windows. And it's been a while since Karkat startled a pigeon.

"Karkat? How far are we to the borderlands?"

"We're in them."


"... Okay, we might want to be out of them."

"It's just the very edge," Karkat grumbles, "I wouldn't risk you deeper in."

Well, it's nice to know that. Dave walks up to him; he's perched on an old fence supposed to keep him from accessing the fire escape, he looks like a panther on the hunt. Maybe a very small dragon. Dave is told that in places where the gates open in less urban areas dragons can be an actual thing that actually exists. Dirk showed him pictures but Dave is still not convinced it wasn't photoshop. Some of the pixels were a little dubious.

"There's still people living around here, it's not like the places we went to the other day. It's probably okay."

"If we were in a novel this is totally where we hear someone scream."

"If we what," Karkat replies flatly.

Dave prods him lightly in the side, just to watch him flare and flap his wings to fix his balance. The thin membranes show a latticework of veins underneath the late morning light. "Dude, haven't you heard of tropes. You're basically jinxing us. Only worse thing you could say would be 'Don't be silly, what could happen,' or maybe 'yeah, this is a picture of my loving fiancée Christy.'"

He takes a picture of Karkat on his fence and the pale pink spreads and dark tangles of veins of his flared wings against the sky.

Karkat turns away in a huff and drops on the other side of the fence.

"No, wait--"

Except fire escapes around the place have a decent amount of iron in them, and while it's not cold iron it still stings, so Karkat leaps across the little backstreet to the next building over like a startled frog. He catches a window ledge and hangs there with wings and hands, hissing in displeasure. Crap. Dave climbs the fence.

"I was about to say, let's start back, it'll be lunch time soon."

Karkat almost, almost jumps back to him, no matter the amount of displeasure he eyes the landing with.

But then he freezes. Legs gathered against his chest, planted on the wall, he pushes up and away from the wall until his arms are horizontal, and he cranes his neck. They're three stories up and Dave doesn't like it much, even though Karkat could probably stay hanging on the wall another half hour before he felt the strain, gargoyle that he is.


His eyes have gone fire-bright; he almost doesn't answer, and when he does it comes out a bit dazed. "Fresh blood."

Shit. Shiiit. For him to react like that, there must be a lot of it. Dave scans the backstreet under them; no one in sight, not even a dog. Might be a cat somewhere under that trash piled up in the corners, he supposes. The source is probably elsewhere.

Shit. He thumbs his phone on, so he'll be ready to call it in the second he has anything concrete to mention, makes sure his vest isn't blocking his gun. Orders, "Track it."

Karkat lets himself drop -- shit -- one story, and then he catches the next window, and the next. Dave starts running down the metal stairs; they clang loud under his feet, and it's a problem to announce his presence like this but someone is hurt now.

Aradia. Latula. Standby, please.

Sure thing, Dave! Aradia goes. Ooh, can I watch?

Yeah, why not. He gathers her close, behind his eyes. He jumps off the fire escape; Karkat is already peering past the corner, impatient.

"With our luck it'll be a dog that got hit by a car and is looking for somewhere to die in peace," he mutters as he checks the street. "Okay, go."

Karkat doesn't answer, just races ahead. Dave follows, a hand on the butt of his gun.

The streets are pretty empty for a block Dave thought still had some inhabitants. Okay, no, fuck that noise. "Dispatch, this is Detective-Summoner Dave Strider. Demon scented blood, we're tracking the source. Requesting my phone tracked--"

"Copy -- ah, you seem to be at the edge of the zone of interference, be aware the signal might vanish. Do you need support?"

"Not yet; could be an animal. Checking back in five."

"Copy. Checking back in five."

"Over." He hangs up; belatedly it occurs to him that he has a specialist at hand. "Karkat? Is it human blood?"

Karkat doesn't look back, answers absently, "Yes."

Oh. Okay. He calls back. "Dispatch, this is Detective-Summoner Dave Strider. Demon confirms it's human blood."

"Copy. Dispatching a vehicle now."

He starts jogging a little faster.

He's been seeing splatters here and there, and they might not be huge puddles but they're regular; the wound is not clotting. Dave and Karkat dodge into one street, then west through a covered parking lot, then south. Neither a straight line nor the shortest path to anything. The wounded person is trying to lose someone.

Also bouncing into walls and light poles some. Huh.

They've got to be running pretty fast, for a wounded person, but adrenaline and mortal terror can do a lot of awesome things for a person's Olympic medal prospects.

Karkat screeches to a stop, ignores the blood before him, veers into a side street. Dave stumbles to follow. "What the --"

"Doubled back. Fresher here."

"Huh, 'kay." Dave seriously hopes he's tracking mystically and not with his nose, there's so much trash in this alley, wow.

Karkat growls, irritated. "But seriously, where the fuck is that--"

A screech of tires. People running -- oh hey, there's that scream.

"Police!" Dave calls, gun out, one hand clenched on Karkat's shoulder to keep him safely behind the corner. A truck speeds up past them. Dark blue, riding low, scratches down the right side by the back --

Someone is screaming again.

Karkat is in the poor dude's face; might be why. Dave eyes the red handprints the guy leaves on the pavement as he tries to scramble away from his demon right through the wall at his back, and does a quick area check before he aims his gun down and away.

"Karkat, step back. Check the perimeter. Sir? It's okay, I'm a police officer."

Karkat is growling nonstop as he obeys, prowling back and forth before them, checking nearby streets and doors and ground-floor windows. Dear fuck does he want Jade with him now. She knows how to talk someone down; Dave never really took to it.

"Sir, it's safe. Tell me where you're injured. Sir?"

The man keeps making little whimpery noises, and his eyes -- huh. Dave moves slowly from right to left before him, and... yeah, his eyes aren't tracking. Fff. He gets his phone back out. "Dispatch, this is Detective-Summoner Dave Strider. I've got an injured party, truck seen fleeing from the scene, break--"

"Copy. Ambulance dispatched, go ahead."

"Truck is dark blue, several vertical scratches down right side, lacking plates, model and make..."

Watching his still-trembling, still not-tracking victim, Dave keeps describing. Karkat is following something in the middle of the street. There're no cars, so Dave doesn't bother to tell him to move. He just makes a note to ask what he's looking for later. Looks like the man's shaking is stopping; this is good.

"Solid copy. Over." Done reporting, just gotta wait. He pockets his phone, takes a step toward the wounded man.

He's in his forties, Chinese or maybe Korean, and he looks scared, confused, and Dave's been a cop a little while now so he's not as surprised as he would otherwise be when the man stumbles forward into the gutter and comes out swinging part of someone's bumper.

He doesn't even look at Dave, he goes straight for Karkat, slamming the thing down with strength born of pure despair.

Dave lands on his back like a ton of bricks.

There's red blooming on ash-gray, he can see flashes between two rodeo-worthy bounces; how the fuck did a human break the oh shit not the shell, Karkat was in the process of twisting around and rearing up to face the threat, leading with his knee. Now he's a few steps away, kneeling, hands clenched on his thigh and hissing and spitting in shocked anger, and shit, shit.

He manages to slip his arms under the man's arm and haul him around so that Karkat is no longer in his line of sight; doing that, he can feel blood, the man's. It's spreading all over the place, his vest is going to be ruined, and how is he supposed to secure the guy without worsening his wounds? He doesn't even know where --

Okay, breathe, help's coming. "Karkat, status!" he calls out.

"I'm bleeding, fuckface!" Karkat replies, in a tight, tense voice. "It hurts, fuck, I hate this body."

"How bad --"

"It hurts!" Karkat snaps back. "I don't know!"

Dave tells himself Karkat still sounds in control, not overwhelmed, so it can't be too bad. The man is growing weaker under him; he's sobbing, begging, Dave can't even tell if he doesn't understand because panic makes the man inarticulate or if he's perhaps speaking some other language, it's all a bunch of mumbling and sobbing whimpers, it's pathetic in a horribly uncomfortable way. Poor dude sounds beyond even terrified.

"Hey, calm down, it's okay. Calm down, help's coming. Don't fight me so much, you're hurting yourself, shit, are you even listening? No, it's okay, it's fine, you're gonna be fine."

He hears a motor and turns his head; a police car parking a little way down the street. A pair of patrollers exit the vehicle and jog briskly to him, scanning the street, hands on their guns. Dave breathes.

"Tanner, Herrera! Take over, I need to check on my demon."

The older of the pair moves to him. "Herrera, get the first aid kit," he says. Dave slides out from under him, lets him take on the job of pinning the man down. Tanner has about thirty pounds on Dave, he'll manage.

"He's injured but I'm not sure where. Been bleeding pretty steadily for a while," Dave says over his shoulder as he goes. "He's also reacting like he's either drugged or having a psychotic break. Combative; won't track people, will track demons, doesn't even look like he hears any questions, much less answer them..."

Karkat is still curled around his thigh. He's making cricket noises; it sounds quieter, softer than the ones underlining his usual hisses, more like he's trying to soothe himself.

"Let me take a look, buddy," Dave says quietly as he kneels beside him.

"Can't," Karkat grits out, eyes closed, eyebrows knit. "Keeping my blood in. Cut a few veins."

"At least it's not arteries," Dave says, and gets growled at. He can see the edges of some purpling already around Karkat's hands, wow, the bumper must have impacted full on.

It hit with the torn end; Dave looks at the abandoned weapon and sees a few traces of blood on sharp twisted edges.

"Can you tell if you've got any broken bones?"

"No, I don't." He breathes in and out. "I guess it's not too bad. I'll live. Fuck, it hurts."

"Sorry I can't let you eat the guy," Dave says, trying for sympathetic. Karkat looks at him like he just started babbling about ponies.

"Uh. Yes? Of course you can't, you're oath-sworn to protect his ass."

He says it like it hadn't even gone through his head to even want vengeance, like he can't even imagine how it even went through Dave's. Dave catches himself smiling at his demon. Okay, wow, spectacularly bad time for warm glows. He gets up and goes to the first aid kit. Herrera has found some lacerations on the dude's back and side and is applying pressure. Dave takes some bandages and a pad for himself, sprinkles disinfectant on it, and goes back to Karkat.

"Will it gush if you take your hand off?" It shouldn't, not if no artery was touched, but Dave thinks it's the first time Karkat has been cut and it's obviously stressing him out way more than being shot ever did.

"... Guess not." But he's biting his lip in the short time between lifting his palms away and Dave sliding the pad over it.

Dave makes Karkat hold the pad in place as his hands slide up and down and around his thigh with the roll of bandage. He supposes the partial shell makes it so he can't make it too tight, can't cut off blood flow, but he's still careful that way.

"You'll be fine. We'll get Jane or Jade to fix you up."

Karkat's head is bowed; he mumbles under his breath, "He just got me because I couldn't kill him."

Like hell, he was just caught by surprise. "Duh," Dave says anyway, and ruffles his hair.


They spend lunch hour and half the afternoon at the hospital waiting for the single doctor-summoner in the whole building to get free. Dude's a Sylph of Time, and he's got a contract with a perfect -- if a mere Class Three -- match, which basically means Dave gets to spend fifteen minutes mentally hassling Aradia for being unable to do that thing where the Doc and his rider just speed up cell division and age the lacerations until they're clean and closed, simple lines of scabs that'll fall in a couple of days.

I don't make things older anyway! Though I guess if we practiced a ton I might manage to time-lock only a few cells in someone's body... okay, no, perhaps more like a chunk of cells... Precision is hard!

Cool anyway. Wonder what would happen? Keep a wound from gushing, maybe?

... I think the rest of the dude's bod would think it had a slab of rock imbedded in, says Latula cautiously.

... Okay never mind.

Damara drifts by to whisper about what a convenient assassination technique it would be -- freeze someone's heart, let them die, let it go, no autopsy would show anything wrong; Dave rolls his eyes and then flatters her, asking why he'd bother twisting Aradia to that end when he can just call in the specialist she is.


"See," Dave says as he walks into the police station, "I told you you'd jinxed us."

Head low, wings drooping some, Karkat limps in after him; he's still bruised up, but Dave thinks the cautious way he moves comes more from a superstitious fear of reopening well-closed wounds. "What the fuck," he prompts obligingly anyway. "I did not jinx us. How the hell would I do that, do I look like a Knight of fucking Light to you."

Dave presses the elevator button. No stairs for Karkat today. "You said 'it's probably okay,' and then bam! a scream."

His demon cranes his neck to give him a jaundiced look. "It doesn't count, I went looking for something that bled. Something that bleeds and something that screams, make a Venn diagram and of course there'll be overlap, fuckwit."

"Nope, totally jinxed us." He ushers Karkat in the elevator.

"... That's not the right floor," he says when they come out.

"Nah, we're going to report the incident to the assault and battery dudes."

Only when he tracks down Herrera she tells him she's about to climb up to Demon Crimes (Demon Control and Demon-Assisted Crimes and Misdemeanors; somehow DCA-DACAM never caught on, wonder why) to join Tanner. Huh.

"We'll tag along then."

In the elevator once again Herrera throws little glances at Karkat, who ignores her royally as he tries to find the best way to crouch while leaning on a single leg.

"He's pretty well-behaved."

Karkat snorts. "I'm pretty well restricted to within an inch of my life, it's an everyday wonder I'm allowed to speak."

Dave snorts back, nudges his shoulder with his knee. "Dude, I'd never do that to you, and for an excellent, pure-hearted reason: mimes are fucking terrifying, okay." He turns to Herrera, who looks a little embarrassed, a little amused too. "Also, he lies, he's secretly a marshmallow. The other day he totally exceeded orders. I almost swooned."

Karkat almost looks embarrassed. "Once again. I will shit on everything you own."

"Whoops, better close that loophole while I'm ahead."

He doesn't, though. The elevator opens and he follows a chuckling Herrera out to Detective-Summoner Burnett's desk. Burnett is rated up to Third Class only -- doesn't have the juice for higher -- but she knows her theory down to her fingertips, and she's a brilliant detective besides, for all that she looks like someone's cuddly soccer mom.

Also she's a Knight of Rage. Dave has it as a general principle not to mess with Rage peeps. Especially not the wreck-your-shit classes.

"Strider. I thought the bullpen was pretty quiet this morning." He shakes her hand, nods a hey-you-again to Tanner.

"Aw, didja miss my sweet dulcet tones? I can make you a mix, you'll never be without my voice--" He drags a chair from another, empty cubicle, eyes Karkat and his injured leg. Pushes the chair against the wall and arches an eyebrow meaningfully at him, and goes back for a fourth chair.

Burnett chuckles, and says nothing about the demon cautiously sitting himself at the desk with the rest of them. Dave takes place in the last gap. "That was not actually a complaint. The complaint would be more like right now. Alright, report."

He describes the stuff he summarized for Dispatch; went on a jog, demon scented blood, tracked it down, arrived at the scene to find victim and fleeing truck...

"It must have been full in the back, the bumper was borderline eating asphalt."

"Mnh. With the gouges down the side it should be relatively noticeable, and yet... We've been looking, but so far no results."

"How do they look? Your people," Karkat asks, and Dave is surprised enough to turn and stare at him. He hasn't really been curious about the job before. Dave can see Tanner's brow knitting at the interruption, but he ignores that.

"Uh. With their... eyes?" By Karkat's annoyed frown he can tell he's missing the point. "I mean, they're patrolling and doing their stuff, so they keep an eye out for vehicles and people that look suspicious. Stuff like that. Why?"

"... Because illusions are a thing that exists."

Tanner frowns. "The cost of maintaining one--"

"And the investigation's been handed over to the demon division, so you're already suspecting a summoner. What would it cost them, exactly? I know some demons of Light that you can buy for a brass coin, provided it's shiny."

Burnett coughs in her hand. "Yes, that... is pretty much why I was not hoping for much about the truck, though that's still more than we've learned about the other assaults. Well-reasoned."

Because of course there's been other assaults, else she wouldn't have been given the case. "So what are we looking at?" Dave asks, over Karkat's "you'd have to be brain-dead to miss it."

Detective Burnett goes grave. "So far? Counting yours, six victims. All driven insane. One suicide, one person dead from what the doctors tell me was a terror-induced heart attack. The rest won't communicate intelligibly, won't react to outside stimulus, and exist in a permanent state of mortal fear."

Dave frowns. "They do react to outside stimulus, my guy saw Karkat just fine and then he tried to brain him. That was pretty well-coordinated."

"Huh. He could have been sensitive to the magical aura, even when all his other senses were scrambled, or the single point of demonic energy was the only thing distinct enough from the background brouhaha to target..." She turns to Karkat, who blinks in surprise. "Any ideas?"

Dave watches his demon hesitate. It's like he kind of wants to participate, but at the same time -- Dave watches his hand rise to touch the leather rope at his throat; his quills sag, his eyes go flat, bitter.

Dave says, pretend-casual, "I'll get you marshmallows as a consulting fee. They're nothing but pure sugar. You'll love them."


"A whole bag of them."

"How big is that?" Karkat asks, interested and trying to hide it. Dave shows him with his hands. "Hmm. Okay, why the fuck not, if you think I'm hiding relevant stuff you'll just order me anyway. I don't, it's just a thought. If a demon did it then it probably created a bond with the victim, so either it's still active and you can follow it, or it's broken and flapping in the breeze and attracted to other demons as a source of power, and if you don't tie it off it's going to keep spilling the poor assholes' life energy into the ether until they die."

Burnett is still, her eyes on Dave's demon. It's the hound sighting prey look. "We knew about the potential for a bond, but not how to track it."

Karkat arches an eyebrow at her. "Get a Seer to do it."

"What type?" she asks, all business.

Karkat stares back at her, silent, for a long moment, like he's weighing something in his mind.

"Tell me about the affair."

"Confidentiality issues--"

"Get the douche in stupid shades to order me not to give information to anyone not officially part of the investigation."

She weighs the suggestion in turn, nods. Dave gives the order. He's kind of fascinated. He wonders if it's because Burnett is a Knight...

"The victims are part of, or related to, an organized crime group. We believe this is the start of a war."

... well, fuck.

She keeps speaking, voice low so it won't carry, measured. "Those are typically pretty bad for a city, and with the Midnight Crew and the Felt's wars alone we already have had some of the highest body counts across the country. If this is a new player, things are going to get really bad."


"Have had their buildings and houses burned as collateral damage or for refusing services, have been shot or injured or traumatized by being in the wrong place at the wrong time..."

Karkat lifts a hand to stop her. He's staring at the table, not that he's really seeing it. He's chewing at his black lip, a couple of fangs peeking out.

"Use Kankri," he says, abrupt. He's oddly tense. Dave thinks of all the times the two demons of Blood have snapped at each other for accidentally unveiling ridiculously tiny hints.

This... there's a reason here that makes Blood the best element to track the aggressors. Not Light, with its clear view of events, not Mind's insight into motives, reactions, not Space's locating ability.

He... cares. He cares, he does, he fucking cares. It's not orders. It's not because Dave cares, Dave never gave any order that might change his feelings on anything, he's not even in Dave's head like Latula and Aradia are and even they were never all that influenced. Dave kind of wants to smush his cheeks. A lot. Maybe even smile.

Karkat pauses, frowns. "If he hurries. The signature will fade fast."

Burnett snatches her phone, calls Rose. Dave leans back in his chair. Well. Not bad for a day's work. Where they weren't even supposed to be working.

"Do you know what type the demon was?" Officer Herrera asks.

Karkat shakes his head, frowning. "Sensing isn't my thing."

As they wait for Burnett to be done with her phone call, Dave slips his fingers through Karkat's hair and scratches gently against his skull. It feels like fur, between the quills. The tense set of Karkat's wings relaxes a little. After a minute he seems to notice he's being petted again and shakes Dave's fingers out of his hair with a little embarrassed pout.

Burnett finishes, makes a few notes, thanks the officers for their report. Dave stays, since thanking them and not him wasn't especially subtle. She doesn't look at him, though, she looks at Karkat.

"Do you require feeding?"

Karkat perks up, makes a soft, interested trill, and then sneaks Dave a look like Dave could possibly say no.

"Require, perhaps not yet, but he's been injured today so I think it really wouldn't hurt. Thanks, Burnett."

"No problem. You were pretty helpful, Karkat." She gets out a syringe and cotton from her lowest drawer, cleans a spot inside her elbow, pricks herself. Dave can cut himself and never flinch, but syringes still make him look away, vaguely queasy. Karkat is staring like a cat at a mouse hole. "I can't afford a lot, sorry."

She places cotton on the beading hole, twists the needle off, offers Karkat the full tube. He cradles it in his clawed hand, staring down at it for a few seconds.

"If it had a top I could keep it."

Dave blinks. "You'd want to?"

"... Maybe?" But he shrugs and tilts his head back and sucks it empty. Ew. Dave doesn't know why that's more gross than being bitten and drunk straight from the source, or licked at, but it kind of is anyway.

"I'm not sure what you'd do with it either," Burnett says with good humor.

"I don't know, damn it, it was just a thought. Once I've digested it I won't be able to find you anymore, is all."

"You'd... want to?"

Karkat glowers at her and kicks at the desk like a sulky little kid. Dave snorts, incredulous. "Aw, he likes you."

The glare Karkat spears him with would be soul-withering if it came packed with even a flicker of actual power. "I'm not kidding about the shitting on your things, assmongler. Where's my bag of marshmallows? Are you trying to get someone else to pay up for you again?"

"Yeah, yeah. Come on, let's go. If we're done here?" He hopes they are, he's hungry. The hospital food would have sucked anyway, and he didn't want to leave Karkat alone in a room for fear of an unwary nurse wandering in, so he hasn't had any lunch. He's sure they sell marshmallows somewhere nearby.

She waves them off. "Sure. I'll call if I need anything else."

They get up, Dave puts the chairs back, and then trails through the cubicles to say hi on his way to the elevator. His colleagues are calling to each other, joking a bit between two reports.

"Hey, Roxy." Technically Roxy is his cousin, but she's also his twin sister's adopted big sister. So. "How's my fave sib doing."

"Hey, Dave! Hey Karkat." She waggles her eyebrows, and then she leers. Coming close, Dave realizes, was a terrible idea. "So when can I drop in? You gotta give me you guys' feeding schedule."

"How 'bout you don't drop in at all. Or call first like a civilized being, that'd be swell. Where's your other half?"

Roxy, thankfully, doesn't call him out on the change of topic. "Jakey? Downstairs in the basement, with poor Erisol. It's had to stay at the station, the bond with Jake isn't too solid and besides it's kind of freaky-looking and really wouldn't fit in a car. You'd need a truck at least, maybe a school bus even."

A truck. A demon in a truck. "... Karkat? Wait here with Roxy, be right back."

Burnett purses her lips at him when she sees him coming back. He arches a suave eyebrow.

"Hey, just a hunch, the truck might be heavy because the demon is corporeal."

They exchange grim looks. Corporeal demons might be more easily killable, for ridiculous values of easy, but they're also bound way more solidly and can't fuck off when they get tired of being asked to provide the same task over and over when they're getting spiritually fireballed at; they have no choice, they're here until released and there's no sell-by date.

"It was just a thought. Okay, going now. Good day."

He gets back to his demon, sitting propped up against the doorjamb of Roxy's cubicle, looking mildly mortified and like he really wants to be elsewhere. Dave quirks an eyebrow; is she flirting with him or what?

He hears her laugh with her neighbor, sees her wave a hand over the partition. "Good luck with that one! Hey, Dave, back already?"

"What was that about?"

Karkat kicks at his ankle. "Marshmallows. Now. You promised. Hurry up."

He still isn't looking straight at Roxy. The heck?

"Oh, Marilee just got a report about some dumbass posting pictures of his embodied pet demon online, can you believe that?"

"--Oh. Ha. Haha. Ha."


He wanders to Marilee's desk, peers very impolitely over her shoulder.

"Well. Shortest investigation ever. Congratulations on your staggering success, Detective."

She looks up at him, an eyebrow up.

"You haven't looked at the pics yet, have you."

"Uh, no."

She does.

A second later she's laughing, five seconds later she's forwarding the url to everyone in Demon Crimes, even as he tries to grab her mouse from her hand. Welp.

"Welp," he tells Karkat, who stares at him and groans and starts bonking his forehead against the closets bit of fake wall. All around his colleagues are laughing their asses off, a ripple of snickers and guffaws that spreads as they're prompted to open their email by chortling neighbors.

Even Captain Egbert comes out, peers over someone's shoulder, chuckles good-naturedly before he claps his hands and sends everyone back to work.

And then of course he fixes Dave and Karkat with a long, pointed look, and asks Dave how he's enjoying his leave.


#fuckyeahpetdemon concerned citizen anonchan ty for sending cops after my ass if i were criminal summoner id totes want arrested

#fuckyeahpetdemon ok no i wouldnt but as i am in fact cop summoner ty for your vigilance citizen

#fuckyeahpetdemon here is a demon with a police shield on his head

[Chapter 8] -- [Chapter 10]