"You're bleeding" is the first thing Karkat says to Jade of his own volition, and it sounds a bit like an accusation.
Dave's partner pauses in the middle of pulling herself out of the backseat. (Karkat is too used to his hidey hole beside Dave to change spots without a fight, and he's been tense around Jade enough as it is.) Dave leans in to frown at her.
"You manage to hurt yourself before we even get on scene, Harley? Are you going after Egbert's crown of oopses or what?"
Jade is looking puzzled, mostly. She pulls herself out of the car and blinks down at Dave's demon. "What are you talking about?" she asks, or starts to ask.
Then she notices where Karkat is staring at about the same time Dave does.
"Oh shit, not today!" Jade groans. Dave turns away, not at all hurriedly. Who was looking at his partner's cooch here? Surely not a gentleman like Dave Lalonde Strider.
He doesn't mention that Jade's mood isn't any worse than usual. He made that comment once, a couple of years ago, and then he was karateed at, sat on, and made to read biology texts out loud and explain to Jade why expecting something called a premenstrual syndrome to affect her during her menses was a peculiarly stupid kind of stereotype. She'd finished the lecture with a long, terrifyingly friendly rant about how the only thing that pissed her off about her period was that it'd ruined so many panties, she'd had to give up on silk and lace and her soul had never recovered.
Dave's soul has never recovered from that talk either. Fair's fair.
"You're bleeding," Karkat repeats like she doesn't get the problem. His claws skreek on the sidewalk; he stares with as much offense as if she'd done it especially to spite him. Dave nudges him with his knee.
Jade pouts at the demon, cheeks puffing up. The brown of her skin is relatively dark, so it's a bit of a surprise that Dave can see her blushing so neatly today. "Yeah, well, it's just the beginning, I don't care. Let's go."
... Ew. Dave does not want to visualize. No. No.
"Uh, don't you want to, you know. Take care of it."
"I'll do it when we're back at the station, Dave, for fuck's sake, where do you want me to get depantsed and put in a tampon here?"
Jade waves her hand at their surroundings. Dave looks. They're... not in the best area of town, kinda skirting a little close to the badlands, so the street isn't clean and there's scribbles on paint-cracked walls, but then again his own apartment isn't in a much better area.
There's also a severe dearth of public bathrooms, and a few too many passersby for the car to be a realistic option. Yeah, okay.
Also the guys at the scene are starting to stare at them weird, like why the fuck are those assholes wasting their time chatting it up over there. "I surrender," he says, and follows when she starts ahead.
Karkat nudges him hard in the thigh, hisses not as quietly as he probably thinks (or he doesn't care, that's also a possibility.) "But she's bleeding from the crotch, what the hell, is there a taboo on mentioning stupid injuries from reckless copulation attempts or what?"
Jade rolls her eyes and flicks a little gold-tipped horn. Karkat twitches. "I'm on my period, poophead. My uterus is shedding all that nice fleshy nesting material it didn't use for the baby I didn't make this month."
Karkat blinks, startled. "--Oh. Right. I know about that."
"And if you mention it around other people I am going to kick you in the knee. It's pretty personal, okay? Pretend you didn't notice or something."
Karkat shifts to put Dave between him and her, stealing wary, sulking looks. His nostrils keep flaring. "I'll pretend I'm not noticing it when it stops waving its slutty aura in my face! Do you have any idea how much power is in those three fucking drops? Okay, the magic feels weird as fuck, but--"
"Karkat? If you ask her if you can have her period blood I am going to crumble into the gutter and cry, I'm warning you."
Karkat sputters up at him. "I'm not asking her for anything! But what's wrong with period blood? It's not like she's using it anymore--"
"What a great day for a murder!" Jade shouts over his voice, and stalks to the officers keeping the perimeter with a wide, toothy grin. "Hi! Detective-Summoner Harley, and those are my partner Detective-Summoner Strider and his... Karkat. Who's got the scene?"
A senior officer turns to them and waves them in. Dave and Jade sign themselves in on the scene attendance sheet and walk up to him. Jade has seen him around on the range, turns out; introductions are short.
"We've got tire marks here, a victim chased over this," he says, pointing at a traffic barrier, "falling to her death in the park underneath. Come on."
The buildings stop, a dingy little park thing caught between blocks weaves and bumps its miniature hills there, no doubt from after construction left piles of loose earth grow grass and a couple of half-hearted trees. Seems like a dealer paradise. (Also a kid paradise, if one wants not to be cynical, but. Cop.) There's a well-traveled walking path going off the street and down.
When Jade and Dave stand at the start of it, they can see the body underneath, surrounded by uniformed cops. They've put up a tarp between it and the side of the road, though, even though it hides jack shit from eventual passersby, which is a bit weird. The forensics dudes aren't here yet.
When they start down they see one of the women officers crouching by a cement sewer drain, half-hidden by crushed grass.
"And then we've got the witness. Called it in on his cell phone and then went right back in his hidey hole, hasn't come out since."
There is no way in hell Dave can fit in the drain. It's dubious whether Jade could, even scrunching herself tiny as possible. And the expression on the officers' faces...
"It's a kid, isn't it," Dave says.
"Mnh. He's fucking terrified, to the point he's barely coherent at times. Still responsive, sort of, but if this goes on much longer we're gonna have to break a wider hole."
No wonder they put up a tarp. The victim's broken neck is nicely gruesome.
Dave sucks at soothing victims, so he takes a step toward the body.
Wait up, firetruck.
Karkat is circling the scene, squinting right and left suspiciously; he's not a great sensor by any means but he still goes looking, Dave isn't sure what he thinks he might find. Jade is stepping toward the woman officer by the drain.
Switch it up.
You sure? he asks. Latula sounds unusually serious.
Do you trust me?
How you can even ask that question, babe, I don't know. He starts going after Jade. "Hey, pardner, switch it up? Hunch-like things happening in here," he adds, tapping a finger to his temple. "None of 'em mine, mind, but."
Jade's brow furrows in puzzlement, but she waves him ahead and goes to take a look at the body.
"Hey there," Dave says quietly, and crouches by the sewer drain. He exchanges a nod with the officer; she looks tired, traits drawn. "What'd you get from him?"
"His name's Colin and he's eleven. He wouldn't tell me his family name." She leans in, whispers, "He seemed afraid someone'd track down his mom if he told. Severe paranoia."
"Huh." Latula, suggestions?
Maybe. Call up crabzor.
Dave scans the scene for his demon, waves at him. Karkat reluctantly starts to join them. Now what?
Iunno, I'm no seer. I just...
So now Latula sounds... unsure. Of something regarding her abilities. What the hell is going on.
Karkat joins them, following the wall so he won't be seen from inside the tube, good plan. Dave nods at him, and then goes flat on his stomach to peer in, chin propped on his crossed arms on the lip of the drain. "Hey, Colin. I'm Detective Strider. You still in here, or does that thing actually go to Narnia?"
No response. Karkat hisses at him, "What did you want?"
"Idek," Dave says, and doesn't even get much entertainment out of watching the officer twitch at his real-life use of netspeak. "Kid? And that grouchy dude who doesn't talk real quiet is... you might have seen him on TV. Did you watch the bank attack the other day? Pretty wild, huh?"
Dave has seen some footage yesterday. Funny how it's more impressive from far away than in the middle of it. Then again he had no time to stand around being impressed back then.
"... Yeah," comes from the dark depths of the drain.
Keep going, Latula says. She's not even in the kid's brain, so what does she know about what will work? But Dave does trust her, so he does. "The one with the big green snake dude and the tiny armored jump-happy dude? Did your mom let you watch that?"
"Yeah. It was on the news."
"Going around throwing ridiculous eye lasers and kamehamehas and stuff like that, yeah? It was pretty crazy."
A faint, rusty chuckle. The kid's been crying.
God, he hopes he's not gonna scare the kid into never coming back out again. "Anyway, the grouchy dude beside me is tiny armored jumpy dude. He's my partner-bro. I'm telling you 'cause I don't want you to be startled or anything when you come out. He'll be an official police officer sometime this week, when we get his badge in the mail. He's kind of scary-looking, I guess, but he's cool."
Karkat makes a vaguely offended face, then apparently decides that being scary-looking is a good thing and fluffs his wings.
"He was really badass against that criminal green dude, wasn't he?"
Karkat preens a little. "Damn straight I was." And then he peers in past the edge before Dave has thought to stop him. "Hey. What are you even scared of? It's gone."
Shit, shit -- Dave waits for a scream of terror; he just hears a hitched breath, which might be even worse.
"And I'd be fucking glad if it came back, I could eat its fucking face and we'd be done here and I could have dinner."
The officer groans. Dave purses his lips. So long as he cuts Karkat off at the pass before he mentions what dinner will consist of he can still spin this. "Well. Ain't like a kid his age isn't going to know those words, amirite? No need to tell your mom my demon drops F-bombs like he's a bomber plane."
Silence. Latula, grrl?
"He'd really eat it?" the kid asks, all quiet.
"Well, maybe not, but he'd definitely wreck it, and probably the asshole summoner who goes around with it too if it's got one."
The kid doesn't answer straight away. Karkat grumbles. "Stop smearing your skinned knees all over the walls and come out already."
Great, the kid's bleeding, too. "Wow. Colin? If we send you cleaning stuff and band-aids for your knees --"
"It'll eat my mom if I come out. It'll eat me and then my mom and my cousins and my uncle and grandma and everyone. It'll follow me. It'll follow me and -- and -- g-get into my skin -- and know everything I--"
The worst is, the kid might not be imagining it.
"Colin," Dave says, dead serious now. "Did the demon touch you?"
"N-no, no, it didn't see me, I didn't see it, I -- she fell and I hid, and I -- I could hear it, skrr skrr skrr and I -- and it was -- everything was wrong and--"
"You got good instincts," Latula says through Dave's mouth. "Gonna summon yourself some righteous badasses when you're all grown, aren't'cha." She grins; Dave can't tell if the kid even sees it. It feels kind of wrong, as always, for his mouth to stretch that much. "If it didn't get its gross hands on you and it didn't scope you with its beady little eyes then it couldn't tag you. It can't find you now. So chill, yeah?"
"No -- that's--"
Karkat huffs. "She's a Knight of Mind, stupid, she knows that shit."
"Um. She? I -- I thought you were a guy?"
"I'm a guy," Dave replies with a little snort. "That's my main demon lady. Her name's Latula. I let her take rides in my head sometimes, she's funny. It's not like being attacked, though, we got rules for that shit and since it's my skull, welp! It's my rules. I think she likes it here, for whatever reason."
The kid makes a doubtful little noise. Karkat snorts. "Okay, bored now, can I go and check for things that will have long since disappeared by now or what."
Dave would let him -- if he's bitching at the kid he's not going to help, and he glares at Karkat a little over his shades for it -- but Latula stops him.
"Crabzor -- stay."
They turn back to the drain.
"I'm a Knight of Mind, kiddo." She's all... calm, measured, not laughing, not awkward. Not big-sisterly. Serious. Steady. "Knight means I protect, and Mind, I think you can figure out on your own."
A wet little half-laugh answers her.
"Come out now," she says, quiet and sure. Dave sits back on his haunches, waits for her cue. Beside him Karkat and the woman officer are waiting, too, looking to him for cues. Like he knows what Latula's up to.
He trusts her anyway.
Even when she's flying blind.
The kid crawls to the edge of the drain, and stops there, still a little way in. In arm's reach, though. Dave nods. "Hey, Colin."
Touch him now, Latula says. He can feel how.
He leans in, slow enough he won't startle the kid and not so slow the kid will dodge, cups his temples in his palms, fingers following the curve of his skull. What now?
Scaly coils and immense wings shiver through him, curl. His skin goes patterned with dragon scales. And then -- and then.
"Karkat," says Latula, "Knight of Blood," and she -- taps -- something inside Dave, somewhere deep and... oh. Huh.
It wells up inside him, through him -- through Dave-and-Latula, then through Latula. Lava -- nothing explosive, but burning-hot, and it flows around Latula's armor and around the, the ruins, half-crumbled and black and still impassable, lava and blood in castle moats and just you try getting through now.
Dave blinks himself free. To the naked eye nothing shows but a faint, clashing red and silver-sage glow haloing Colin's head. Inside himself he can still feel Latula coiled around the point in his soul where Karkat is bonded to him, even as she loosens her grip and draws back.
Karkat is staring back at him, eyes a little wide, still too stunned to react. Shit, how bad is it going to be, when he finally does?
Did you just use his name on him?! Like, through me? Double fucking reach around?
Hehe. Nah, only what I heard in normal conversation 'n stuff. He didn't give it to me. A pause. Dang, it worked.
He'd demand answers, only the kid is still there in the drain, staring at them with his mouth hanging. He's a scrappy little thing -- dark, puffy eyes and a mess of spiderweb-spangled curls -- and his hands and knees are still bleeding sluggishly.
"You wanna come out now, champ?"
"Yeah, sure," the kid answers, and then tilts his head. "Wow, I feel all calm now."
Dave snorts, and shuffles to the side to let him crawl out and the officer move in. He still seems a little dazed, confused, but not really scared anymore.
An EMT moves in, crouches beside them, sits the kid down on dry, dead grass, and starts poking and prodding and cleaning and doing her thing. Dave props his elbows on his knees.
"So. Apparently my girl Latula decided to give you an anti-mindfuck magic helmet or I don't even know what. How's it feel?"
"Way calm. Wow. But not like, sleepy or anything."
The EMT and the officer frown at him. Dave shrugs.
"What it did," well, what he thinks it did, but he knows better than to add that, "is to cut you off that other demon's terror field. There were probably little bits of the thing stuck to you like spider web, and it couldn't hold you but it kept sticking anyway, you get me?" The kid nods. Dave adds, more for the EMT than for him, "I think you'll soon be able to feel your own feelings again, but since you also feel that there ain't no getting through that armor, there won't be a reason to panic. It can't track you down, and now even if you met it again it couldn't get in and grab you. 'kay?"
"So what's your mom's name, Colin?" the officer asks, so Dave gets back up and dusts himself off.
Success! One not-scared-anymore kid, delivered to you by your chef, Dave Strider, and his lovely assistants Karkat and Latula, esqs. Okay, more the other way around. Entirely the other way around.
"I'm gonna..." He gestures vaguely at the tarp, waves goodbye, and walks off nonchalant as possible. He's not really feeling it.
I did not know you could do that. Why did I not know you could do that.
'cause I can't, duh.
Dave glances behind him. Karkat is on his heels, a look on his face that spells slow boil. Welp. Sure looked like it to me!
Chillax, bro. I ain't lying to you. I can't. I can't.
She can't. Dave throws another look behind him, a more baffled one. Karkat is frowning at nothing in particular, eyes unfocused. Karkat can? He's not Mind.
No duh, that bit was all my mad skills.
So then what did he do?
Latula laughs. I think if I spill he's gonna find some way to dig in your head meat to get at me, homeslice. You're too rad a ride for me to lose you in such a totally lamesauce way, you dig?
"Bluh, he says," Karkat replies acidly from behind.
They've walked a bit away from the body, out of easy earshot; Dave stops by the police tape at the edge of the scene and looks down at his demon. "So."
"Ask Latula what the fuck she thought she was doing," Karkat growls. Dave isn't sure how seriously he should take the anger.
"She says she's pretty sure you don't actually want her to answer," Dave replies, hands in his pockets, an eyebrow up. "But I, personally, would pretty much love having one. Just saying. To the both of you."
Karkat's expression goes thunderous, but he doesn't answer, back rounding and spines rattling up defensively.
It's the 'you'll have to use my Name' face. Dave sighs.
"Okay, fine. But I'm gonna tell Rose."
Karkat growls and turns away to groom his wings, pointedly dismissive.
Dave wriggles his fingertips on the most ticklish part of his wing membranes as revenge, and then he saunters back to Jade, now that Karkat is outraged at him for better reasons.
"No, I'm serious, Karkat, giving my period blood symbolically to my demons is one thing, but having you physically lick it up with your real tongue -- just, no."
Of course neither Jade nor Karkat get the concept of indoor voice. Of course Jade has to keep pushing her point even as she opens the door to the Demon Crimes room.
Of course Dave is pretending he is not with them. It's failing so far. Boo.
"If you see a difference at all then how the fuck are you meaning the symbol?" Karkat returns, glaring heavily. Dave supposes vaguely that it's better than him still being tense and quiet around Jade. Maybe. In most occasions but this one, at least.
"Mean it? Easily, when I don't have to watch them slurp up my uterus clots!"
There are some things in life Dave was never meant to picture. Hey grrl, need a restock on amnesia on aisle seven.
Bluh. You're not my favorite anymore.
Several people snicker, amongst them Rose. Karkat's head swivels to stare at her and he abandons Jade and Dave to stalk up to her. They're left to blink at each other and watch him stalk off from behind. Admittedly it's a pretty nice sight.
"You. We need to talk."
Dirk, who was sitting at Rose's desk, starts shuffling files. "Suddenly I have this burning need to be elsewhere."
Dave deadpans, "Take me with you." Karkat, startled, breaks his staring war with Rose to look at him.
"Hey, no, I need to talk to her!"
Damn it, he looks all alarmed. Also, cute. Blargh. Dave gives in, slinking closer with his shoulders hunched, which makes Jade laugh and punch him in the shoulder blade. "Okay -- ow -- but if you ask Rose about her period blood I'm ordering you to be silent until dinner. I am not kidding."
Karkat snorts disdainfully at him.
"Welp. Watch as he manages to have a full conversation talking around it in ways that manage to be worse somehow." Dirk gets up, mouth pinched like he does when he doesn't want to smile. "I'm... going to go and do a thing. Over. In my cubicle."
"Woe. Abandoned. You are not my brother anymore."
"Technically I'm your cousin."
"Technically you are a traitor and fuck you, you know what I meant and also I'm telling on you to Bro."
"You guys have the weirdest family," Jade comments, which is pretty much the routine comment when this kind of weirdness comes up. "Just saying."
"If you're going to be noisy tools, can you do it farther away? I'm trying to have a conversation here," Karkat growls at them. Dave and Dirk blink back solemnly. Karkat huffs and turns away like he thinks they've actually given in. "And by conversation," he tells Rose, "I mean I need to talk and you need to shut up and listen."
Rose's lips curl up in a slow, amused smirk. She gives a nod, eyes hooded, mouth pointedly closed.
"... Good." Karkat was visibly not expecting that. He falters for a second. Dave waits, curious to see if he'll broach the topic of what happened at the crime scene on his own, or... "Okay. Uh. You need to not summon Kankri. Just about anyone but Kankri would be awesome, actually."
"You're, uh, what... Seer and... Light? Okay, the choices in high level Seers are limited around here, there's Terezi but she's kind of insane, and I guess a Seer of Void would be fucking useless to you, yay I see nothing in the nothingness, awesome."
He pauses, expectant. Rose keeps saying nothing. Dave and Dirk lean against the nearest bits of walls and watch. Jade rolls her eyes and sneaks off to fill some paperwork.
"She's a pain but for a Seer Terezi would be pretty active in ruining people's shit, I guess, I can see her taking a really proactive approach to fucking with people's heads, so she could do double duty. Kankri would be a useless fuck, he's just going to sit on his ass and predict shit, yeah, awesome, yawn, he might as well stay in your head. Or you could go with Light? Maybe a Knight of Light, that'd be badass, is there any around?"
"Dude, if there was I'd have them on my roster," Dave replies, since Rose is still keeping her lips pursed. "I'd have nabbed that shit so fast, wow."
"Prince of Light? Mage? I know a Sylph, she's annoying but..."
"Aranea?" Dirk says. "She's got her. What would a sylph do in the material world, though, considering they're pretty much embodiments of their aspect? That'd risk making the incarnation unstable."
Karkat grumbles. "Well, who else do you contract with?"
Rose arches an eyebrow.
"Yes, yes, you can talk now."
"Well, there's Vriska--"
Rose chuckles. "Who would prove rather high maintenance on the mortal plane, yes, I agree. And I've had a few contacts with a Bard and a Page of Light in the past, but both proved too unreliable to keep in touch with. I doubt this would improve with incarnate summoning."
"Argh." Karkat scratches at the bridge of his nose, eyebrows furrowed in very serious thought. "Seer of Light, Seer of Light... I guess if you found a Mage of Void, that'd be workable? Or a Mage of Heart or Doom, in a pinch. Come to think of it, a Mage of Doom would probably work pretty nicely. Void's only good for stealth."
"That's got nothing to do with you being buddies with Sollux, huh," Dave drawls. It's mildly impressive how invested he is in convincing them not to summon Kankri though.
Karkat harrumphs. "He's got interesting powers, okay? He could fuck up a lot of shit. I'm sure she'd like that." He sneaks a look at Rose, who nods sadly.
"I would indeed enjoy it, I think. I haven't had a truly active role on the job for a while now. Actually, I was planning to incarnate Sollux before Dave decided he absolutely had to venture down that path first."
Karkat makes a series of hard to decipher faces, most of them frowny and displeased, but he shakes his head in the end. "Well, there you have it. Get Sollux. He'll be way more useful, plus his voice will make you want to kill yourself about fifty percent less."
Rose makes a 'not really convinced' face. Dave knows it's mostly to wind Karkat up. It's working. He's looking almost desperate to convince now.
"Because Kankri is really going to be useless! He doesn't fight. He lectures. What more would he do out here than in your head?"
"Serve as a power reservoir," Rose says. Karkat's jaw clicks closed, and he glares. His lip curls up, baring fangs.
"Do combo spells," Dave says. Dirk and Rose's heads snap to look at him. Karkat has gone stiff all over and won't turn to do the same, pointedly turning his face away. Dave almost feels sorry.
He steps into Rose's cubicle and sits on the chair Dirk vacated earlier, and he looks at his demon, tense and unhappy.
He's got his loyalties, though.
"Latula pulled a new trick on me. There was this kid -- witness, caught in some kind of terror field, or maybe just the edges of it, and she kind of... warded his brain." He pauses, and then he repeats, for clarity, even though he knows they're both more than smart enough to have caught all the implications already. "Someone else's brain."
Karkat is staring at him with burning eyes. Dave keeps looking back as he finishes.
"By tapping into Karkat's abilities somehow."
"Mother of fuck," Dirk says, slow like each syllable needs vetted for accuracy first. "Combination magic."
Karkat's claw-hands curl into fists, and he looks away. Dave wishes he knew what he's protecting so fiercely. What he thinks will happen if they learn what Blood can do.
"Has that ever been recorded?"
"Apart from ancient tomes that are more legend than fact and dubious experimentation with double-riding? Which doesn't even truly produce a new spell, anyway, unless we count the brain death cases as not being accidental."
Dear lord, they're both positively sparkling. Dirk turns to Dave, an eyebrow up. "Hey, Latula, could you do it again? Say, on me."
"No can do," she answers through Dave's mouth. "You ain't in need of protection, bro."
Rose slaps her forehead lightly. "Of course. Knights. Engineering a test will be complicated. But we can already suppose that it's the Blood aspect that acts like a conduit. It allowed Dave to tap into Karkat's reserves of energy, and then it allowed Latula to connect... Good Lord, I really hope the ability won't only show in active classes, but even if it does there should be some fascinating inversions in a Seer..."
Karkat turns away, stiff, like he was about to stomp off and caught himself. He wants to leave, Dave can see it in every single line of his body. He can't without leaving Dave's field of vision, though, so in effect he can't at all.
"Can I have your period blood," Karkat snaps suddenly, without warning. The way he holds himself, he doesn't mean it even a little bit.
Dave promised to order him mute if he brought it up. He's counting on that.
"My apologies," Rose replies, of course, entirely steady, "Kankri has dibs on that." Which is something Dave was so happy not to know, and wow now he's wondering if the method of intake will change once he's incarnate oh dear lord his brain.
He closes his eyes and massages the bridge of his nose, and he fulfills the promise he made his demon. "Karkat. Be silent until dinner. That's an order."
Karkat stares back at him, jaw tight, angry and satisfied.
"I'm gonna help Jade with the report before she kills me with her brain. See you guys later." He gets up and walks away, Karkat on his heels.
He gets tired of Karkat being a ghost pretty fast. Even in his nest under Dave's desk Karkat is always good for a comment here and there, for a complaint that he needs a bathroom break or that Dave's feet stink.
For a random 'hey my chin is on your knee, how'd that happen? not a clue but now that it is you better get scritching, asshole,' too.
No petting today.
He misses it.
The only reason he doesn't rescind his order is that Karkat was the one who wanted it given, and he'd be angry and distant even longer if Dave did that. He'd probably keep silent of his own will, even.
He finishes his work at six thirty, detours by the bathroom. Karkat makes no move toward the stalls, even though he's got to be uncomfortable by now. They have a staring contest for a few seconds and then Karkat looks away, not like he's conceding but like he has lost interest. Dave orders him to go piss.
The car provokes no reaction either, no change of expression. Just that same flat, bored glare.
Dave wonders if he'd grimace at all if Dave put the leash on him. Dave wonders what the fuck he's thinking.
They get home. Dave doesn't want to bribe his demon to like him again, so he doesn't order sushi. (He orders smoked salmon and fresh cream pizza. Not a bribe at all.)
Karkat doesn't need to be ordered to eat, at least (unless Dave's casual 'come on, food time' counts,) but when he's licking his fingers clean he's still silent.
The order should have lifted on its own. Dave says "The order to stay quiet is lifted" anyway, just in case. Surprise, (not,) he gets no answer, not even in body language.
Usually after eating Karkat retreats to his hidey hole upstairs; he hisses if Dave doesn't stay downstairs to watch TV for a little while at least before going up.
He rocks back on his heels. Dave is lunging across the coffee table before he's thought twice; he catches an upper arm.
He doesn't know what to do with it. Now he's bent precariously over the table and his back is twisted, it aches; he can't make himself release him.
He knows what he wants to do with it. He -- knows, he knows, he -- shit.
He tugs Karkat closer, around the table. Gently, but not letting go. Karkat keeps staring holes into his head. At least he's not ignoring him.
"Hey. Uh." He wets his dry lips, starts again, quieter. "You haven't had your other dinner. I bet--" --that thing with Latula taxed him, no, he won't make it sound like he's only thinking of Karkat's wellbeing, so fucking selfless isn't he.
He cups his cheek as lightly as possible, leans in to press their foreheads together. Karkat doesn't blink.
"If you're not hungry for that," he says, all rough; his throat is a bit tight. "You have permission to push me off and leave for upstairs. Or -- or if you'd rather stay hungry, I guess."
He releases his arm.
Karkat doesn't press his cheek into his hand, doesn't turn to get Dave's fingers under his chin in a good scratching position; he doesn't leave, either, so there's that. (Maybe he's that hungry.)
Dave guides him up to straddle his lap, nuzzles his cheek. He wants to kiss him but even at the best of times he feels like Karkat only indulges him when he kisses back, that he doesn't like it much. He kisses his neck instead, the interlocked rings of armor that no doubt let no sensation this light through.
He presses his face in the hollow of his shoulder and wraps his arms around Karkat's back and hugs him. It's killing him how silent Karkat is, how doll-like, but ordering him to speak would be worse.
"You can leave," he repeats in his neck, eyes closed. No reaction.
His hands find the roots of Karkat's wings, the edge where the membranes join with the bone structure. He tries not to go so soft it tickles.
He keeps at it until Karkat starts breathing deeper. He thinks. Still no noise. He goes down his spine, pressing into flesh when he encounters it, over his ass, around the root of his tail.
It's. Not very sexy. More relaxing than sexy. He starts rubbing his hands on the outside curves of his ass, warm and firm.
Fuck. Nothing works. It's not even working for him. What if he --
He guides Karkat down against the arm of the couch, kneels between his legs. His demon's eyes are still open. He's watching him. No expression. Dave dives under his chin, nuzzles there. Kisses his throat, kisses a path down his chest, Karkat's not feeling it, maybe a faint sense of pressure and that's it. Dave kneads the inside of his thighs, guides them open, knees up. He kisses that fuzzy belly, nuzzles it -- is Karkat breathing deeper now? He listens to him breathe, waiting for the moment it crosses over into a gasp.
He kisses down into the hollow where Karkat's thigh meets his belly, under the armored jut of a hipbone, fingers kneading and petting the inside of his thighs still, Karkat liked that the other day, and the days afterwards, he did.
He kisses his mound and what if he put his mouth down there, in the soft place between his legs, he could be careful and slow so Karkat doesn't freak out, so he likes it, so he feels good, that'd be awesome. Maybe he'd talk to Dave again.
He kneels up between Karkat's legs, lets go, moves back against the other arm of the couch.
"Okay," he says in the silence (his throat hurts.) "Okay. Sorry. I can't." He extricates himself, stands between the table and the couch. "I'm getting a knife, be right back."
It's been a while since he bled himself. A week? Maybe less, but he's feeling fine now. It'll be okay.
He turns to leave and there's something pulling his wrist back. Oh.
Karkat is frowning up at him.
Dave blinks a couple of times, fast, stares at the window off to the side. The blinds aren't drawn. Whoops. Who cares, there's no direct line of sight into his apartment. He should close them anyway on his way to the -- the. Kitchen, and the knife, yes, he should do that. He will, soon as that hand-shaped shackle releases him. Yeah.
"I -- can't feed you, Karkat. Not today. Not like that. Blood's okay though, right? I'm -- not gonna let you starve, it's cool. It's cool."
"Your face is wet," Karkat says, and touches his jaw with the pads of his fingers.
Dave starts crying.
Apparently he already was, just a couple of tears, but now his breath starts hitching and his nose starts stuffing up. He hates that shit, Bro would beat his ass if he caught him being such a pussy. At least he's not sobbing out loud. At least there's that.
He breathes in deep, dries his eyes with the collar of his shirt. His mouth keeps turning down. He makes himself look at Karkat. Karkat looks puzzled now, of all things. "Yeah, sorry. I'll be right back. Can I have my wrist back?"
"No," Karkat says.
Dave blinks. His eyes are damp. "Um."
"You asked. I -- no." Karkat's eyebrows furrow in that nervous, uneasy way he takes when he doesn't trust Dave's reactions to be sane or understandable or -- "If you wanted me to let go then you should have told me to, I hate polite rhetorical bullshit, I -- what the hell's your problem?!"
Dave yanks free, takes a step back, and then he's snarling, "What the hell's your problem! What the fuck -- fuck you, okay, just fuck you!"
He's going to say worse, he's going to start throwing out orders; he bites his tongue on a 'get the fuck to your corner.' He's breathing harsh now, totally losing his shit, and he can't allow that, not in front of anyone and especially not Karkat. He turns around, stalks (escapes?) to the kitchen. Slams the door.
He yanks drawers open for a recently sharpened knife, slams them closed; it's not here, it's not there, it's not anywhere and who the fuck tidied this place, it's a fucking mess.
Doesn't help that he can't see for shit. No, fuck that noise, he's not letting it flow, he can just be blurry-eyed forever, they'll get him grandfather glasses, what the fuck ever. He's not crying. It's the most fucking stupid reason to cry, boohoo my enslaved demon won't talk to me, when did he start imagining they were actually friends? When did he --
The kitchen door opens behind him, all slow and cautious like Dave is about to throw a saucepan at the first thing that comes through. For a second he's tempted.
No, not at Karkat, never at Karkat, but he wants to break shit so fucking badly.
He finds a knife, tests it on his thumb. Yeah, that'll do.
"I'm not supposed to let you get hurt," Karkat says -- so tentatively Dave's anger just peters out.
"Bloodletting doesn't count," Dave reminds him without looking his way, and lets himself sink in the closest chair. "I'll fill you a small coffee cup. Can't afford more. That works?" He stretches to pick up a cup from the drying rack.
Karkat's voice is so small Dave can't help but glance at him. His dark lips are pressed tight together, chin tucked in, staring at the floor.
Dave pauses, forearm over the knife. "What?"
"Are you -- do you -- not want my teeth because I didn't want to--"
"No!" Dave replies without thought, dropping the knife on the table. He wants -- he wants to get down on the floor and pull him into a hug, but Karkat doesn't like hugs, right, he just humors him. Karkat doesn't like having sex with him, he's just hungry, Karkat doesn't like him, he just makes do. He's learned to tolerate Dave, is all.
He looks so small and rejected right now.
"... You can bite if you'd rather. So long as you're -- I wouldn't let you starve."
Karkat's mouth on him. Fuck. He can deal. He'll just -- he'll endure. It's what Karkat needs. He offers his forearm, face turned away.
Karkat doesn't take it. Dave glances back, a little annoyed (frustrated, exhausted, why can't this be over already.) His demon is biting at his own lip, staring at Dave's wrist.
Karkat looks away, as if embarrassed. "Are you going to pet me?"
After how well the last time went? "No," Dave replies, maybe a little too harsh. "You don't want me to."
"No, I--" Karkat chews on his lip again. He's already picking up physical habits. Like the way he ruffles his wings when he's feeling vindicated, or how his tail will flick from side to side when he's about to go pouncing on things like an adolescent kitten. "I was angry," he admits, quiet already and then his voice drops even more, into something almost anguished. "I don't want Kankri to be incarnated."
Dave is on the floor and hugging him in the next second. He pauses -- bit late -- starts loosening his hold, but then Karkat sags against him with a sigh, butts his forehead against his shoulder.
"Sorry," Dave says. It's a pretty violent reaction just because he doesn't get along with Kankri. Dave wonders what Rose will make of it.
She'll have to make something of it once she sees it with her own eyes, because he isn't sharing this.
He hugs him a little tighter. Karkat's claws tug lightly at the waist of his shirt, gather a fistful of cloth.
Karkat wouldn't feel Dave rubbing his back, so Dave pets his wings. Karkat makes a rusty little mrr and pushes his nose into Dave's neck.
It tickles, a little. "You can feed," Dave says, eyes closed tight, braced for the pain.
It occurs to him that he should have taken off his shirt first, it's going to be bloody, but by that point Karkat has already tugged his collar to the side; his teeth are kneading the flesh of Dave's neck, as if testing for the best place to bite. He doesn't have vampire teeth, a single pair of needles for deep but narrow punctures; all his teeth are triangles to lacerate in a jaw-wide arc.
Dave feels the oddly soothing wet warmth of his tongue, licking the skin, and then pressure, evenly distributed.
It stings a little when the first teeth part skin, and then it hurts -- a burn radiating from the muscle up his neck, down his back, his arm, warm tongues of pain... and then just warmth, like knotted muscles forced to relax under a massaging hand. His head feels oddly light, the world is spinning a little. He holds on tighter, tucking his hands over the roots of Karkat's wings, which wrap back over his forearms to pin them there, heh, almost like being hugged back, this is nice, he likes this. The pain in his neck is strangely muted; he can hear the wet noises Karkat's mouth makes as it sucks on the wound, the faint sighs of pleasure. Karkat likes blood, of course he does, it's his Aspect.
It aches to move his head right now with teeth imbedded in his muscle but Dave tilts it anyway so he can rest his jaw against Karkat's temple.
It's nice, that dizzy, floaty feeling, but it occurs to him that maybe it's not a great thing to encourage. With a sigh he tugs lightly on Karkat's wing.
Karkat pulls his teeth out slowly; Dave realize after a second that he's trying to pull them out perfectly straight so they won't widen or worry at the edges of the wounds on their way out. Dave scritches his wing in thanks.
"Mn, 'kay. I've got bandages in that cupboard..."
They're under the sink; they don't have to get up. Karkat stays kneeling between Dave's legs, close enough to feel his warmth, watches as Dave disinfects and tapes sterile cloth over the wound. He's still feeling floaty.
Karkat looks better, too, calm and a little curious, and mostly at peace. Dave leans in to press their foreheads together, closes his eyes, breathes.
"Wanna sleep on the futon with me?"
For a second Karkat stops breathing, and then he exhales, long and slow. "Yeah, okay."
[Chapter 11] -- [Chapter 13]