Midnight on the Demon patrol


Chapter 13

Kankri's summoning is a lot less dramatic than Karkat's. Makes sense: Kankri is right here, and Karkat was ensconced somewhere in the farthest reaches of the demon realm. Kankri's summoning benefits from his own advice on the phase of the moon (waning, thanks ever so much for making everyone get up at three fucking AM, a time Dave had never seen from that end of the night) and other such ceremonial fiddly details; Karkat's was done pretty much blind.

Kankri wants to come; Karkat didn't.

They scream just as loud as each other.

"Whoa," Roxy says from her end of the pentacle. She waves smoke or mystical mist or whatever it is away from her face where the wind blows it, eyebrows arched. Dave can't see Rose or Jade, though on his other side Dirk is letting Meulin go, wisps of silky fur fading from his skin. He thinks the illusion of a lashing tufted tail actually does disperse some of the smoke trailing around Dirk's legs before it disappears in turn. Mages are weird.

Karkat is seated like a gargoyle behind him, silent and still, the way he's been ever since Dave forbade him to interfere. His intense stare seems to cut right through the smoke. He doesn't seem especially furious right now; maybe he gave up on that or maybe he's waiting for a chance to slip through a loophole in Dave's orders and kill his Blood counterpart. Who knows, with how loudly he was opposed to the summoning.

They haven't talked about it again, but Dave would be hard-pressed to forget.

"Huh," goes Dirk in an almost impressed way. Dave turns away from his demon.

The first impression Dave has of Kankri, Seer of Blood, is wings.

Mostly because, as they flail around clumsily to balance, one of them misses his face by about three inches.

The demon can't leave the circle yet; Dave reminds himself he wouldn't have been physically able to touch him, but the hook-tipped finger looked... pretty hook-y. Dave drags his eyes away from the lopsided flapping, just in time to see an armored, very Karkat-looking demon list on his side with the deceptive slowness of a capsizing sailboat, a body length's worth (from head to toes) in dragon tail rising like a wave from the floor to attempt to balance and only unbalancing him more.


Dave pinches his lips. Well, he can't fall any farther down now.

"This is extremely unpleasant," says the demon in a vaguely bewildered voice.

Wow. "It's Karkat The Less Nubbly!" Roxy exclaims.

Dave goes "Nooo kidding," all slow and measured for emphasis, because... yeah. That.

Kankri's horns aren't anything anyone would call big or sharp -- there's at least that -- but they're still twice the size of Karkat's. He's slightly bigger, but the same smoke-gray, the same humanoid torso, the same armor seen from the back with the (longer) spines on each backbone segments... the same mess of tousled black hair. Dave almost doesn't think he needs to see his face.

He looks at Karkat over his shoulder. Dave's demon has moved into an unconcerned cat loaf pose, curled up like he's about to sleep and not to pounce, but his head is high and his eyes glow like embers about to blaze anew.

Rose clears her throat, and Dave snaps to attention again. Kankri wanted to come, but there is still that last chance for a trick. He yanks Damara to him -- he'll need at least that much if he wants a chance to kill Kankri before it kills his demon-less sister. Beside him Dirk's hair ripples in Eridan's choppy waves, his skin goes bruise-purplish and drowned gray, Rufioh's delicate butterfly wings fan out behind Roxy. Jade is too taxed from using Feferi to help create Kankri's body to be of much use, but the three of them will hopefully be enough.

Kankri sits up, back stiff, chin up, and coils his tail around his gathered limbs. He has to make several attempts at folding his wings before they will go over each other properly and not rake the ground. Rose waits politely.

"I am glad no lasting damage seems to have been wrought," she says. Kankri inclines his head.

"As far as my limited experience will -- oh, sound doesn't resonate through my skull at all the same way it does yours." He sounds all chagrined. Rose is smiling like she wants to appear sympathetic but is actually trying not to laugh.

"Figures," Dave mutters, "I get the homicidal little shit who tries to gore me the second it can stand upright, and she gets the snooty tea-drinker."

Wow is it hard to keep appropriately watchful, and as a Seer Kankri might have planned for exactly that. Argh.

But when Rose leans in and offers her cut wrist, Kankri laps, delicately. (The tip of his tail is shivering.)

"Tell me your Name."

"I shall, insofar as you agree to review our terms and conditions and, if a reasonable being might find issue, renegotiate any and all of your terms and conditions before any and all use thereof."

Karkat lets out a loud, rattling growl. "For fuck's sake! Are you trying to delay having to come out and face me?"

Kankri turns to look at Karkat over his shoulder, and unsurprisingly enough his face is ... Dave wants to say identical, but their expressions are different enough to change a lot.

They're both much too pretty for their own good, at the very least. Also, red eyes, only Kankri's are heavy-lidded with false boredom.

"Please do not display any more comprehension issues than you possess in truth, that is disingenuous to the extreme."

"Wow, nice backhand there," Dave says. Karkat is stiff with offense; he takes a few steps closer to the circle, wings spread in threat. Tiny, adorable, not even arm's length wings. Tiny stubby bobtail.

Kankri flicks the whip end of his ridiculously long tail once, deliberately, and curls it back around himself. Dave pats his demon's closest horn.

"There, there, bigger just means more areas to target."

Especially since for the thicker third of its length Kankri's tail is only armored on top. The underside is the same velvety-soft as Karkat's.

"Did he just condition giving his name on the ability to negotiate all of his terms of binding?" Dirk is asking Rose, sounding borderline impressed.

Rose nods, smiling. Shit, they're going to be here hours.


They are.

One hour, forty-seven minutes, Damara tells him when pressed. Not hours more than one. You whine. Annoyance. Let me go.

We agreed you'd stay as long as I might need you. If you leave early, I'm not paying you.

She sneers at him inside his head, but she stays. Dave stretches his legs one after the other along one of the sides of the circle, ass on the floor, careful not to breach it. He wishes he could tweet, check his feeds -- even in the middle of the night there'd have to be someone awake -- but this close to an active circle that just ain't happening.

Karkat is once again cat-loafing it, though this time he has oozed as close to the circle as he could without touching anything. When Dave leans back on his hands, his elbow touches Karkat's shoulder.

"Funny you're not trying to interrupt, I thought you'd be yelling at him to hurry up way before this."

Karkat snorts, without looking at him. "Why would I interfere with his negotiations? There'll be time to fight later."

Dave grumbles. He was hoping for some support there. Fff.

And here they go again with Kankri trying to get Rose to keep being "chaste in deed, if not in thought" and Rose basically being all Rosingly "HAHAHAno." He'll have to ask if Kankri gave her his price in the end, because if she doesn't intend to keep -- urgh, things he did not need to think about his twin sister, number 157789 -- "seeking for herself or offering others no sexual pleasure of her own will, alone or assisted" then he's not sure how she'll feed him. Kankri won't be interested in Karkat's diet, that's for sure, and sexual frustration is, while apparently more of a constant low-level thing, far less potent than an actual orgasm.

So Rose must have Kankri's price. But he still wants her celibate. Yeah, good luck with that one. Dave's brain shies away from visualizing (twin sister!) but he tries to imagine being forbidden to spank the monkey for months on end, and... "Wow, they'd have found me dead of demon with my dick in hand about two weeks in, tops."

"Do I even want to know. Hint, the answer is no. The answer is always no. Unless it's hell fucking no, I will go take a luxurious bath in a tub of oil first and carelessly toss a dozen lit matches if you push it, and also no."

Dave snorts. Karkat must be getting bored too.

Now Kankri is trying to talk her down to once a month! Maybe twice! If they talk about the pearl-diving habits of his sister one second longer Dave is going to implode. "You've been going around in more and more useless circles for the last half-hour, can we please just get a fucking move on?"

Rose and Kankri stare at each other, and exchange duelist nods.

Rose fires first. "You understand, naturally, that should you choose not to enter my service I will therefore destroy the physical envelope I procured you for the express goal of serving me."

Karkat shifts his weight in more of a pouncing position, intensity coming back to his eyes. Dave knows why the next second.

"Naturally," says Kankri, smooth and urbane as always. " And for the sake of full transparency, you realize that you are surrounded entirely by your loved ones, and for this short time I am, indeed, corporeal."

Is that an actual threat? It's a hell of a lot closer than the silky allusions from the last two hours, at least. Dirk whistles, amused, saltwater starting to puddle at his feet.

"I am also surrounded, as it were, by several summoners, and by Karkat. Who is a Knight and not a Seer, and who has the advantage of long days of corporeal experience, including several battles. One wonders who might come out on top..."

Kankri tilts his head. "You seem awfully certain you would have Karkat's full and willing cooperation in this endeavor. There are more people here than his Master, though I might understand that you feel closer to this one than the rest. Is one, ah... twin equivalent to three not?"


Rose's smile only widens. Whoops.

"It's been a pleasure to spar with you, Kankri, but Dave is right; it's getting much too late to indulge anymore."

Karkat frowns, sneaks Dave a look. "What is she...?"

"Not a clue," Dave admits, but then again he generally doesn't.

"You're not here out of idle curiosity, Kankri, are you. You are somewhat extremely invested in being here. Or, should I say... not being elsewhere."

Kankri goes stiff, huge sail wings opening in a threat display admittedly more impressive than Karkat's. "Firing shots in the dark now, Detective-Summoner Rose Lalonde?"

"You came here to hide." A softer, almost gentle tone; "I had Terezi confirm it for me. Your name, Kankri."

He stares at her, stiff to the very tip of his tail. Dave's brows are up. Ooookay. Kankri is hiding in the mortal world. What the hell. Did some other demon get annoyed at his preaching or what?

"I have not admitted to anything," he says through gritted teeth, eventually. When his voice vibrates with smothered growls it sounds a lot more like Karkat's.

"Of course not," Rose replies, still in that gentle, coaxing tone Dave usually only hears when she talks to her cats. "Nothing passed your lips, metaphorical or otherwise. And nothing you did or did not say has any relation to the fact that -- if you belong to me, then I will protect you."

Staring contest, again.

For some reason Dave feels pretty sure about this one's outcome.

Ten seconds later he's proven right. Kankri breathes in, breathes out -- slow and controlled -- and gives in.

For not even a second Dave is walking in a desert -- an eternity of sand and dead rock and not even dead trees, nothing is alive here, nothing has ever been -- and his mouth is so parched his tongue sticks, his eyeballs are so dry they feel packed with sand, he's not even sweating anymore. He would give anything for water, but there's so little left of him and no one, nothing to give it to.

(He could summon from that much name. If he had any affinity at all, okay, but. He wonders how much more Rose received.)

"Kankri Vantas. Seer of Blood."

"Vantas." Dave rolls the name in his mouth. Yep. "Vantas. Raise your hand if you saw it coming."

Dave raises his own hand. Jade and Roxy do, too, lips pinched; Dirk nods. Karkat growls like he's embarrassed.

"Shut up."

"Is he like your demon dad or something."

"I will piss on everything you own, and your cameras twice. It will be fucking worth it."

"Ex-husband maybe."


Karkat stalks away from him around the edge of the pentacle, eyes fixed on the other demon, waiting for the second Rose finishes feeding him her blood a second time. He looks like a tiger pacing a cage, only the irritating visitor is locked up inside.

Sometimes -- not even half the time, not even a fourth, but sometimes -- demons who share an Aspect will share the second part of their verbalized Name, too, and no one really knows why. Half of those demons who have the same last name have been known to be mortal enemies. If Kankri and Karkat can't tolerate being in the same space...

Dave made sure to forbid him to injure Kankri for no reason, but the hostility alone will make it a real pain to deal with.

Rose signals, and Jade steps back out of the circle, which snaps open with a little burst of power. Dave breathes out and gets back on his feet. Not like he fears Kankri taking a swipe at anyone anymore, shackled like he is, but his ass is falling asleep.

Kankri gets up on all fours, cautiously ruffles his wings and loosens his tail, and Karkat is on him.

"Karkat!" Dave snaps, but his demon is already bouncing off his target, which is flattened face-down on the ground.

Kankri pushes himself up on his hands, looking hilariously offended. "Really! That was exceptionally juvenile--"

"Blame my Master for the lack of adult-rated gore," Karkat replies with a flash of teeth, and pounces again.

"Karkat, no, I expected better of -- oof!"

Okay. There's no blood, and with the armor Kankri sports there won't even be a bruise. Dave frowns, nudges Jade with his elbow. "Think I should stop him? Or should we let them get the dominance bullshit out of their system or what?"

Jade shrugs, both eyebrows way up in bafflement. "Ask me about dogs and I'll tell you, but demons..."

Karkat never touches Kankri more than one second at a time, Dave can't help but notice. Bounce on, bounce off. Kankri's balance is shit and he hasn't figured out to lock his elbows; he goes down every single time.

"Honestly! -- no -- will you stop -- I am asking you politely to -- ooh, that's it!"

They're expecting him to bite back.

"Master!" he goes instead, staring at Rose reprovingly.

It sounds pretty much exactly like "Mooooom!"

Rose bites her made-up lip. It doesn't work. Two seconds later they're all laughing -- the humans at least. Rose waves her hand in apology, still chuckling. "Sorry, sorry. Karkat, please stop antagonizing Kankri."

Karkat arches an eyebrow at her in mock surprise. "Wow, since when does my Master have mammary glands? Is that a magic trick?"

Dave groans. "Augh! Karkat Vantas, stop pouncing on Kankri, and stop mentioning Rose's boobs." Karkat grumbles under his breath and gives Kankri a calculating look. Dave sighs. "Do I have to order you to heel, buddy?"

"...Mnrgh no."

Roxy is still laughing. "Oh god. Oh god. Guys!"

"What?" Dirk answers obligingly.

"Guys -- they're brothers!"

Kankri draws himself up. "We are most certainly not. That human-centric term is wholly inadequate for either the pseudo-biological or societal bond that--"


"--we share. Don't be silly, Karkat, of course they would already have deduced that we are no strangers to each other, and a while ago at that."

Karkat throws a hand up in the air like the frustrated pizza guy in the movie they watched yesterday, which he has apparently adopted as his own. It's hilarious. "You don't have to confirm it!"

Dave gives Karkat a suspicious look, which his demon doesn't even notice, too busy glaring daggers at his... yeah, Dave is going with brother. "Dude. You ever hear of two demons coming out of a gate looking the same? 'cause I haven't."

He can tell another argument is coming. He lifts his hand, palm out.

"Stop. We are going the fuck home and I am going to sleep the last three hours of sleep I can get before the day officially starts. You can spend that time plotting his demise for all I care." He looks around at his siblings and his partner; they nod. Jade cracks her knuckles and then her spine. Dirk ambles away to gather the circle-drawing stuff.

"I have to admit I'm very glad to have gotten a day off," Rose tells Dave as they make their way to the stairs, demons following on their heels and glaring at each other. "Kankri will need time to settle in. How did Karkat handle his first day?"

"Uh." Dave ponders. "Mostly snarled a lot. Also he spent his first night sowing forks and making glass towers and drawing birds. The finger kind. I don't think you'll have to worry about that with Kankri, doesn't seem his style somehow."

He smothers a yawn. It's not even only the lack of sleep; Rose used him for his connection to the Blood aspect through Karkat, his life energy took a hit.

Roxy was there because Void balances Light, but it wasn't like Light was a big component of the spell, it was just passively around because of Rose, and Dirk was there because they needed a fifth to stabilize the pattern and he wanted to observe, but mostly because both of them are blood-related to Rose. Neither of them is that drained. Then again Jade is by far the most tired of all bar none.

Two steps down in the staircase he turns around to look for her, ask if she wants to be driven home.

The two demons are on the edge of the first step, and at first Dave thinks they're glaring at each other to decide who gets to go first, but it doesn't take him half a second to realize that's not it at all. Karkat is eyeing Kankri from underneath, a bit, wary and frowning.

Kankri is frozen on the edge, staring at the stairs.

"Ah," he says, like he just remembered he forgot to put away the milk. "...Ah."

Dave's brow furrows. "Rose, wait up."

Kankri lowers his head, squints at the first step, lifts a hand and puts it back down in the exact same place it was.

"What's wrong?" Rose asks.

"It's -- a bit high?"

Karkat growls at him. "Brace on the walls with your stupid wings, they're certainly big enough."

"Bad plan," Dirk says from behind them, "He's got no clue what to do with them, and long as they are he might put weight on them at a bad angle and break them."

Kankri gingerly puts a hand down on the first step, and throws himself back.

"I -- I don't. It's. High."

Dave thinks about Karkat throwing himself off the mezzanine with careless trust in his own body, and shakes his head. They're built the same, save for tail and wings -- granted, that's a lot of additional weight -- and Karkat has no trouble with stairs.

Then again he does tend to race down like he's only narrowly avoiding rolling down instead. Shortish arms and long legs are not an advantage when going downhill.

"Use your tail to keep your center of gravity in your hips," Rose advises as she climbs back up a few steps.

"That is very. Pertinent advice. Logical. Yes."

It gets clear pretty fast that he has no idea how.

It's almost funny how the most verbose demon ever is just so completely tongue-tied. Only Dave doesn't know if Kankri can throw up even if there's never been anything in his stomach, and from his expression they might get to find out soon.

It'd be funny if Dave didn't want to go to bed already. Fuck. "Think we can carry him?"

"With the spines?" Dirk retorts.

Roxy purses her lips. "He could go on his butt, like babies do."

"We could shove him head first," Karkat grouches, and jabs him in the side. Kankri jumps a little, even though Karkat poked him in the armor.

And then the heel of his hand skips on the edge of the step and he takes a header down the stairs.

Fear makes him bristle all over, flares his wings wide; Dave catches a glimpse of Dirk, trying to snatch his tail in passing and having to draw back before he's cut, and then a hard shoulder impacts with his thigh and he's shoved off his step in turn. He jumps down to the next and the next on one foot, trying to regain his balance, feels his sister's hands on his back trying to brace him, but Kankri is heavy and he can feel both his and Rose's centers of gravity shifting in the worst direction entirely.

Karkat eels in under a large wing and slams his shoulder in the other demon's side, pins him to the wall, one cricket leg pressed on the opposite wall. Dave's hand finds the guardrail; he hauls himself back upright, feels Rose's hands clench on his shirt and tug as she regains her balance.

"Guys, you okay?"

"Peachy keen. Phew."

Karkat is giving Kankri the weirdest look.

It's not angry, or suspicious or resentful or anything. It's... Dave isn't sure. Stunned? Yeah, stunned works. It's just that it makes no sense. Kankri isn't doing anything, eyes clenched shut and stiff all over, claws digging in the stairs under him.

"Karkat, you doing okay?"

"--uh. Yeah. Fine. Fatass is getting heavy, though. Move farther down."

Yeah, no, that's not fine, that's still baffled and hesitant. "You sure, dude?"

"That you should move down? Yes."

Dave gives in and moves down to the first landing, following Rose. Karkat maneuvers himself under Kankri somehow, spines thankfully flat, straightens up a bit to take his weight. Kankri flails in panic when his hands stop touching the floor and clings, claws digging in Karkat's plastron. "Hey," Dave protests, but the demon is too busy moaning to listen, or to stop pressing his wings hard against the walls, either. He's too scared to pay attention.

Karkat headbutts him under the chin. That works.

With no warning he's rushing down the stairs, only on his back legs like he almost never does, but bent double under Kankri's weight; he looks like a velociraptor a little bit. He comes to a rather bumpy stop against the landing's wall, braking as he does with his elbow.

"Augh! Karkat Vantas, you -- this is utterly -- how dare you no no no stop!"

When Karkat hauls Kankri past Dave and Rose as they press tight in the corner, he's smirking like a fiend.

Another flight of stairs goes by in jaunty bounces and garbled slices of 'triggering' and 'gravity-related trauma' and 'unfair.' Dave jogs down after them.

Karkat shoulders the door to the Demon Crimes room open and unceremoniously dumps Kankri on the floor, and then he sits and grooms, little tail quivering happily. Cutest. Fucking. Thing.

Kankri is braced on four splayed limbs and shuddering. The thin membranes of his wings show it the most, wobbling like cherry jello. Rose goes to him, sits on her haunches at his side, head tilted to peer at him. "Kankri? Are you alright?"

"I -- I do not believe I am injured. The mental trauma, of course--"

He stops talking on his own, instead of someone talking over him. Which is just weird, considering who he is.

Karkat frowns at him, and pokes his shoulder like he's handling a live bomb, cautious approach and fast retreat. "What's the matter, now? Come on, you should be able to pinpoint it, don't you have those amazing self-analysis skills or what the fuck ever?"

"It's nothing you should concern yourself about," Kankri retorts with a half-hearted disapproving frown of his own. He sits on the floor, lungs expanding maybe a little too far for normal, 'I'm cool' breathing.

"It's nothing I would concern myself about, only you're in my police station, mooching off my human's -- related person, and breathing my oxygen molecules in your gross spongy lungs. Spill it."

Aw, he's Karkat's human. Heh.

They're pretty much all standing around watching the demon theater now. Shit's too weird and hilarious to pass up.

"I merely underestimated the vast difference there would be between riding a human and being ensconced in a body of my own. The -- Detective Lalonde naturally had reflexes and well-ingrained routines of her own at the subconscious level and it's a lot of effort to... to..."

Karkat groans and slaps his own forehead. "Don't pay attention to that shit, dunderfuck, you'll just bluescreen yourself!"

The two demons are facing each other and they've totally forgotten the humans. Kankri's controlled expression is almost entirely gone; he clings to calm with all his claws but the rest of him is well over the edge of Panic Cliff.

"I can't stop! How do you stop? Blood flow and -- how many tiny, tiny -- capillaries, yes, that is the right word, how many are there, how many organs, muscles, things are moving inside and fluids and all manner of secretions, energy bursting and flashing in such tiny, discrete increments along my, my neural pathways? And it laces up and down and around my blood, and there's so much blood in my wings and it's all so close to the surface and there's outside molecules pressed on it every time anything moves. And there's -- I did not expect gravity to be so -- I hoped, since you could not fly, that maybe I would, that it was simply a matter of not allowing the laws of this plane of existence to convince me I belong here, but this body is incredibly heavy and I know that I know how to move it but it won't stop being here!"

Rose reaches out, hesitates to touch -- no wonder, if he's that overwhelmed then physical contact might well do the opposite of helping. Dave winces a little.

"Suggestions?" she asks, frowning.

"Sorry, Karkat never did this."

But Karkat is still staring at the other demon, all intense like maybe a cat at a mouse hole and maybe a cat who's wondering if that mouse is actually a Rottweiler.

"Okay," he says, sudden and rough, awkward. He looks away for a second, embarrassed, forces himself to turn back to face Kankri. "Okay, you need to do this now. Breathe in. No, shut up, just put air in your lungs. Do it. Nothing else you have to do. Just that."

Miracle of miracles, Kankri does.

"Good. Work on releasing it slowly, like, draw it out. Okay. Yeah. Breathe in -- slowly. Keep it. Release. You -- you're doing good. Not so bad, I mean. Feel it? Goes in... Goes out. Your lungs know what to do. If there's a problem they'll tell you -- breathe out -- you don't need to pay attention."

"I totally taught him that," Dave whispers to Dirk, and pretends to swoon a little bit, entirely ironically. (Mostly to disguise how sincere his attack of d'aww is.)

Still, it's... strange, how Karkat is looking at Kankri. Tentative, surprised. What at? So far Kankri's been just as much of a pompous priss as he comes across through Rose, and Dave was mostly expecting Karkat to be smug about freaking him out. He hates him, right?

Brothers. Maybe he doesn't.

"Are you feeling better now, Kankri?" Rose asks, sitting on her haunches, knees tidily together. "We'll be taking the elevator for the next floors."

"Ah -- maybe -- a minute?"

"You can stop breathing, stupid. Okay, no, don't stop breathing, just stop the. The thing."

Dave snerks.

"Well, now that all's well and good..." Jade goes. Dave turns to look at her; her eyes are half-lidded and she's leaning on Dirk's shoulder. "I need to crash, guys, so I'm taking the elevator now. C'mon, Strider, you're driving me home."

They wave goodbye and go. Dave lets his hand drop, eyes Roxy and Rose. "You got something set up?"

"Yeah, I drove us." Roxy eyeballs Kankri's wings, winces. "I've got a neighbor's truck, he should fit okayish. Like, at an angle. I hope. If we leave the back open."

"Shit, my car's way too small to help."

"Nah, we'll manage."

And then they both blink, and look toward the closed elevator door.



"Think the guys from Vice would have the service elevator key?"


They eventually get to the underground parking lot. Accounting for how long it'll take him to get back home, Dave's sleeping time is down to two hours and twenty minutes. Nineteen-fifty-five. Nineteen-fifty.

Damara, why are you even still here.

Stupid man says stay, then says why not have left. I am not a dog.

Oh yeah, you are. Bluh. He doesn't feel awake and rested enough to deal with her without grumpiness that might backfire eventually. He tries to tone it down, somewhat. You're the kind of dog that can take off someone's leg in one big chomp.

Thankfully, she's flattered rather than angry; she laughs in his ear -- yes! You know it. Bow wow. -- and allows herself to be shooed off with a clock dropped on the asphalt and stepped on as vigorously as Dave can.

Ow, his heel.

He crouches and sweeps the debris in his hand, and then into a little bag to throw away later.

Okay, two hours of sleep. Yeah. More of a nap, but he'll deal. Tonight he is going to bed at, wow, yes, ten PM. Sounds awesome. Maybe even nine. (Oh lord, he has finally become an adult. How'd that happen.)

He turns back to Rose and Roxy; Kankri has managed to fit himself in the back of the truck, wings folded as tight as he can. Karkat is by the open back door, looking in. His wings are clenched along his sides.

"Karkat, man? Time to get in our car, c'mon."

He throws Dave a quick, furrowed-eyebrows look, mouth turned down into a little fretting pout.

"Can I. Can I ride with him? I won't break anything."

Dave blinks. Didn't he tell Karkat they were going home, not back to Rose and Roxy's?

Only the longer he stays quiet and the more Karkat droops.

"You could even order me to obey Rose for the trip." A last hesitation, and then he speaks, right over Dave. "... Please -- Master?"


The thing is, Karkat doesn't call him Master, or only when he's pissed off at him or Dave just gave him a real, important order like "save that baby" or "kill that thing dead."

(Karkat doesn't call him Dave either. He calls him asshole or idiot or whatever other insult Dave has earned recentlyish. "My human" is the most positive bar none so far.)

Maybe he can squeeze in a half-hour's nap instead of lunch. "Okay. Obey Rose for the duration of the trip, don't injure Kankri or deliberately make his freaking out worse. Hop in."

Karkat does, with startling speed; he steps over the curl of Kankri's tail and under the edge of his wing, and hunkers down, claws digging into the bottom of the truck to secure himself. They're not touching, Karkat still leans away from him, watches him with strange bursts of nervous suspicion, but they're close enough that they could, easy.

I don't want Kankri to be incarnated. He's changing his tune already, apparently. Pff. Dave lets Roxy close the backdoor and goes to his car.


Roxy and Rose share a little townhouse in a relatively nice area. (Dave isn't sure how they manage; he loves his brothers but if he has to live under the same roof as Bro or Dirk ever again he'll have to turn himself in for attempted murder three days in. He finally has a hot water tank all of his own and he will be damned if he lets it go.) The garden is a stripe of grass with a forged iron fence before it to keep dogs from pissing on it that the girls found pretty or something, and which makes Karkat and Kankri shudder and pull their wings in tight as they pass it.

"We're settling him in, and then going home, yeah?" he tells Karkat, without much hope. Karkat harrumphs at him and starts poking his nose through every door he can get at without leaving the corridor Dave stands in.

"Nosy little brat," Roxy says. She laughs and yawns at the same time; Rose waves her off.

"Go to bed, Roxy."

Dave kind of hates her because she'll only have to come in this afternoon. He suffers his cheek to be kissed anyway. He's a prince like that.

Rose is leading the demons into the living room, so Dave follows. Karkat is poking at the thick, furry carpet as Kankri hauls himself ponderously onto the couch.

"Please, Karkat, do not stay on the floor like an animal. There's an unused armchair that I'm sure Detective Lalonde wouldn't begrudge you," Kankri adds with a side look at Rose.

"Of course not," she replies urbanely. Karkat growls.

"Back spines, stupid, I'd have to sit straight and not lean on anything. Sure sounds comfortable to me!" He kneads the furry carpet and flops down with a challenging glare at the other demon.

Kankri himself is sitting ramrod straight, hands on his knees, wings cautiously draped over the back of the couch, tail coiled on the cushions; it spans the whole couch from armrest to armrest, even with the part that's doubling back to his ass. It's like he thinks if he can sit as properly as possible they'll stop seeing the armored bits. Weird.

"How is your, ah, sensory perception issue?"

"Much better now that I am out of that vehicle, thank you. And Karkat, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure I admit I did not understand your issue with them before I was incarnate, lacking as I did the proper frame of experience. It was--"

"Yeah, yeah, apology accepted, and you're lucky you didn't throw up on me. It'll get better, anyway. You'll get desensitized."

"What even is the problem with cars?" Dave asks, and is met by two red, annoyed gazes.

"They stink," Karkat says curtly, and turns away.

Yeah, Dave is believing that. So believing that. He's building it a church with his own bare hands, he believes it so much. Oh, Karkat probably thinks it -- he can't lie so completely to Dave -- but it's so not the real issue.


Rose leaves the room to go get Kankri his first meal. The Vantases keep sniping at each other. Dave watches.

They're disturbingly identical in a lot of ways, and entirely opposite in all of the rest. The faces are the same, the red and gold eyes; Karkat's eyes glare out fiercely, ready to attack, while Kankri's are set heavy-lidded like a shop's rolling grilles ready to come down, disdainful and distant.

Behind all the sniping they get along like a house on fire -- a lot of screams and flailing but ain't no way to get the flame and the walls to part ways now.

"So, Kankri," he cuts in. He gets stared at like they are not appreciating the reminder that he still exists; it's one of their rare similar expressions. "Why did Karkat not want you corporeal?"

The stare he receives then -- a shudder goes up his spine; he feels Latula's dragon wings close around his mind, and is reminded quite forcefully that Kankri is a seer, that no doubt he sees everything about Dave, the pathetic jealousy most of all.

"Karkat's reasons are his own, and not for me to speculate," he says, frosty. "If you wish to know so ardently, may I advise you to order him by way of his Name to betray his innermost secrets and bare his soul to your prurient nosiness."

Dave's shoulders have gone so tense they hurt. "Oh, fuck you," he growls, tired, and turns away. From the corner of his eye he sees Karkat twitch up, looking torn, and waves him back down without looking back. "Stay with Kankri. Don't break anything."

Kankri hasn't been ordered to stay in the room. Shit.

Whatever. Like he's going to move his spiky ass off his couch throne now.

"Stop defending me, shitmunch," he hears Karkat saying as he walks away, and, "I assure you I would have mentioned the same were it any other..." and then he's in the kitchen. He closes the door behind him.

"Did you really think they would answer you?" Rose asks without turning to look at him.

Dave shrugs, hands in his pockets. "Meh. Had to ask."

He busies himself helping. Rose is preparing a spread of just about everything she has, and even bothering to make it pretty. The bacon is curled into flowers for fuck's sake. There's cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks too and whatever else. Celery. Chocolate. A bowl of fruit salad. Karkat is going to be so jealous.

"Here, make a second bowl."

"Stop reading my mind."

"Terezi is absolutely not reading anything at the moment, dear brother."

"I didn't say Terezi, I said you. You witch."

She quirks him a tiny smirk. "Seer, if you please."

"Also can you let me have the last word some days, like maybe make an exception sometimes so I don't get a complex, thanks."

"Of course, David."

"Argh." His name isn't even really David, legally speaking. It's just Dave, but if he reminds her she'll call him Dave Lalonde next -- oh, but it IS your legal middle name! -- and David is marginally less worse.

He lets Rose charge him like a mule and they go back down the corridor.

"--worried far too much about that anyway, Karkat, mere logic should have told you that a physical body would cause sufficient interference, and frankly I find it quite soul-ist that--"

"Shut up, that's not a word."

"I admit it is not one of my better efforts. Very well, what about--"

"No, Kankri. There is no word for someone who is bigoted against a part of a being's soul. None. It is not any form of bigotry that exists or ever existed or will ever exist."

Rose and Dave blink at each other in silence, standing in the shadow of the corridor with food plates on their hands. Rose's eyes narrow in thought, and she goes still, listening even more deliberately; Dave winces a little, to himself, but stays quiet.

"Anyway, what was that shit about her protecting you? During the summoning."

"I -- Karkat, I cannot tell you."

"Sure you fucking can."

"No I fucking can't," the priss of the century rasps back.

"... Oh. Shit."


"Did they leave any other orders?"

"None that should interfere with my service to Detective Lalonde, thankfully, and would it be possible to stop inferring? It's extremely uncomfortable."

"Very fucking well, would a hypothetical summoner that you did not fucking have hypothetically leave other long-term commands apart from shutting the fucking fuck up about their nonexistent ass?"

"That's called a confidentiality clause, and would be a perfectly reasonable precaution to take if they -- hssst."

That was a sound of pain. Rose walks in. "Kankri? Are you alright?"

"Yes, thank you," he replies, teeth gritted, eyes tight in pain.

Is it just Dave or does Kankri not look surprised one bit to see them? Karkat does. Seer of Blood, Dave reminds himself, he probably saw their veins right through the wall or some shit.

Which means they were supposed to hear the talk about his previous summoner, the dude who really doesn't want anyone else to know they used to call on Kankri.

The dude Kankri needs protection from.


What kind of summoner does a demon run to the material world to escape? Especially when they'd usually just need to refuse to take on a second contract, once the first task was done. Hmm.

Rose is perched beside Kankri on the couch, petting his head gently. Somehow Dave is pretty sure she hasn't pricked herself even once on any quills he might have. He's tilting his head into it, but there's a puzzled look on his face, like he isn't sure if he's okay with it or not.

"This is a rather condescending gesture, isn't it? It seems to imply I am your domesticated companion animal."

"I'd pat your shoulder in friendly support if you would feel it at all, Kankri, I am merely choosing function over symbolism. Do you want me to stop?"

"... Yes," he says, but slowly, eyeing her sideways a bit, like he's testing.

Rose of course takes her hand off. "Very well. You have your choice of finger foods, fork, and chopsticks."

Dave puts Karkat's food down on the coffee table, plops his ass down in the armchair nearby, tells his demon he can eat. Karkat is tucking his legs under the coffee table and shoveling it in in a hot second, pointing out stuff Kankri totally doesn't want and should let Karkat have and stuff he might actually not like for real, at least not his first time. Careful, this one has juice inside, it's going to spurt. Stuff like that.

Definitely brothers. There is no way Karkat doesn't care a shit-ton.

Dave predictably falls asleep in his armchair watching the cute.


"Dave?" Rose is poking him. Dave blinks his eyes open. His head hurts, he feels worse than before he slept. Today is going to be a pain in the ass.

Only a reading lamp is lit. He squints at the fluffy rug in front of him. The coffee table has been slid almost entirely off it; the two demons are asleep, wrapped up around each other. Kankri's tail and wings give him the advantage, but Karkat stubbornly managed to drape his little wing over Kankri's head and a thigh across his back.

Dave is a bad, remorseless man, so he totally pulls out his phone and takes a photo.

He doesn't upload it, and not only because he doesn't think they want it common knowledge yet that Rose has embodied a demon.

Totally sets it as his phone background though.

"If you want to be on time for work, you need to go pretty soon."

"What are you even doing up, did you sleep at all."

She smiles at him, and combs his hair away from his forehead before handing him his shades, which he must have dislodged in his sleep. Whoops. He puts them on, only slightly embarrassed.

"I was taking notes. I do have a whole free day after this, I can afford it."

Dave snorts, but she's right, it's time to go. He extracts himself from his armchair, cracks his spine, then crouches to scritch behind Karkat's ear.

"Hey, sleepyhead. Time for work. Mostly paperwork today, you can sleep under my desk."

Karkat blinks up at him with his upper eyes, the lower ones scrunching stubbornly closed. Ahh, shit's illegal levels of cute.

"Wake up," Dave says, in a voice he knows is too tender by half with his sister watching, and which he can't help at all. "Got a job to do, people to keep safe, criminals to vanquish, doughnuts to decimate, all that good stuff."

"Mnrgh. Okay, okay."

Karkat extracts himself from his cuddlepile. Dave stiffly absconds to the bathroom for a quick whiz.

He comes back to Rose rummaging in a drawer. "Wait a second, I had something I bought for Kankri and Karkat, I'll give Karkat his now... Here, this is yours."

Karkat takes the package from her hand and Dave doesn't understand what it is until he turns it over in his hands.

It's a silvery, hand's length rocket-shaped thing. Very ergonomic. Very elegant.

Very dildo-y.

"What the fuck, Rose?!"

His screech makes Kankri's dragon tail twitch, slide along the floor; one of the blades slices where his ankle should have been, only Karkat yanked him out of reach. Dave regains his balance, still gasping for breath and pointing at the -- the thing in his demon's other hand.

"I thought controlling the vibration might get them used to physical sensations faster. And there are different settings, and I'm relatively sure the strongest will be felt even through armor. What do you think, Karkat? It's supposed to feel nice."

"Feel nice," Dave chokes. Rose arches an eyebrow at him. She is evil. His sister is evil. He'd always suspected, but now it's confirmed. "Rose. You brought a dildo for my demon."

She snorts, eyebrows quirked up in startled (fake) innocence (also fake). "It's a massaging aid, Dave, if you please."

"It's a dildo. A vibrating dildo. Oh my god." He needs to sit down. Yes.

Oh hey he's already sitting on the coffee table. Huh.

"It's only a dildo if it's used for sexual stimulation," Rose counters reasonably. "Karkat and Kankri need sensory stimulation which they can self-apply. This is the best solution." Karkat is watching them in turn like he's watching a tennis match where Dave is the guy getting pummeled. Rose takes the package out of Karkat's hand, opens it, turns it on oh lord.

She applies the side of it to his demon's shoulder.

"Can you feel that?"

"Huh," says Karkat, not grossed out at all that there's a phallic sex toy touching him. "Weird." Good! "Not bad." Not good! Karkat takes it from her hand, applies it to his own ribs, curious. Dave can't look away. It's the horror that does it.

"Surely you would not refuse your demon his own... massaging aid," Rose says, reasonable and nice and a lying witch.

Karkat looks up at Dave and clutches the thing to his chest, already looking offended.

Dave gives like a philanthrope hoping to impress some choice babes with his tax deductible donations. "Yeah okay fine."

Shut up, crotch beast.

"But no playing with it during work hours."

He doesn't care how disappointed Karkat looks. If he hears a whirr coming from under the desk he will never be able to stand ever again.

[Chapter 12] -- [Chapter 14]