Seven AM. Dave is in the shower. At eight he's got to be at the station.
Today's going to be exciting, but he spent the last fifteen minutes meditating on Aradia and it almost put him back to sleep. Eyes closed, he stands under the hot spray.
God, does he like having his very own hot water tank. He should probably leave some for Karkat, though. Reluctantly, he straightens up, reaches for the soap.
"Hey," Karkat calls from outside the bathroom. Dave arches an eyebrow.
"That demon's pretty dangerous, right."
Dave snorts. They've managed to bring back one single victim to sanity so far, and he's fragile and cries at the drop of a hat. Another two have managed to commit suicide, despite the number of people who were around nonstop to care for them. Implies some fucking horrifying things. "Noooo kidding, dude."
Karkat says something, which Dave doesn't hear; he grunts a question. Karkat cracks the door open. "I said, are you prepared, fuckface."
It's cute that Karkat is getting involved. Uh, not cute, it's... heartwarming? Encouraging? He's taking their duty seriously and being proactive about it, it's pretty cool. "Yeah, yeah. Gun's ready, Damara's loaded." (She snorts in his head.) "Just gotta take a baseball bat to that nice mantel clock I've got for her, but that won't take long."
"Okay, I should probably get ready too," Karkat says casually, and walks in.
Dave fumbles the soap, which squirts from his hands and flies gracefully over the cabin's glass wall. Karkat blinks dubiously down at where it glided to a stop between his hands.
And then he closes the bathroom door behind him.
Karkat picks up the soap with one hand, sits up on his haunches, pulls the shower door open with his free hand. "Hm?"
He hands Dave the soap; Dave takes it without thought. Then he puts a hand on Dave's belly and pins him to the really fucking cold tiles.
"Holy shit, what the hell!" Dave glares down at his demon, spine arched off the wall as much as he can. His bangs slop in his face; he has to close an eye.
Pretty hard to stay angry when he has Karkat at crotch height and they're both naked. Not that Karkat is ever anything but, but... well. There's something about being in the shower that makes him nakeder somehow.
He can almost hear his sister arching her eyebrow at him about his language butchering. Shut up, Mind Rose, nakeder is so a word.
Also shut up, Mind Latula, plz.
"Not that I want you to leave or anything but you probably shouldn't wear your badge under the shower, bud. The leather will--"
"Not taking it off," Karkat growls back, baring his teeth at him. "Anyway, if it's ruined then good, you can get me a red one instead. One that Equius hasn't slobbered over, preferably. Now get down here, I'm not doing this standing up."
Karkat is the romantiquest.
Also Dave really, really likes that he doesn't want to take it off. Like... can I kiss you on the face everywhere levels of like. He gives in; lets himself slide down the cold as hell tiles so he's sitting on his haunches, lower back pressed to the wall, and cups Karkat's face with both hands. Derailed, his demon frowns, makes a puzzled little pouty moue.
Okay so Dave is totally kissing him. He leans in and presses their mouths together, a bit insistent, holds it a second and then two. No tongue, though. He -- he really wishes Karkat got what's good about French kissing.
(He wishes Karkat got what it tends to imply.) He breaks away from his mouth to kiss the tip of his nose.
"I thought you thought bathroom sex was too stupid to contemplate."
Karkat growls lightly and places his hands on Dave's thighs to balance himself, leans in until Dave is sitting straight with his head pressed to the tiles and Karkat is still right in his face, seesaw teeth bared at the tips. "That's why I want you sitting, douchenozzle, because your brain is somehow just smart enough to know it's stupid and yet stupid enough to want it anyway." A soft, soft snarl. "Tell me I'm wrong."
Karkat is really not wrong. Water is spattering his shell heartily, making it all sleek and bright, darkening the velvet of his face in long, slowly diffusing trails, droplets are caught in his hair -- he's getting all wet and Dave wants to explore how that feels all over.
He smoothes his hands up Karkat's arms; skin glides and catches in turn on their sculpted, hard planes. Karkat nuzzles his way down Dave's jaw, nips here and there, buries his face in Dave's neck and he can still feel the points of his teeth. It feels so nice.
Dave makes a note to apologize to Rose for all the times he mocked her vampire phase mercilessly, because wow would it be sexy to have Karkat's teeth in him right now... Only if they left tiny anchoring puncture wounds behind, mind; he's really not in the right frame of mind to enjoy having a mouthful of flesh chewed right through his jugular.
Karkat pushes his way between Dave's knees, flanks rubbing against the inside of Dave's thighs, and ngh. It's a hideous travesty that Karkat has nothing to fuck him with, because he would be riding that like a leather-faced cowboy at his fiftieth rodeo, there would be no getting him off that bucking bronco.
Hot as it is, his thighs are starting to shake, strained, his ankle hurts; he shuffles his weight awkwardly on one foot, so he can unfold a leg, and then he drops the rest of the way to the shower floor. He stretches his legs as much as he can in the stall -- crap, kicked the door open, water will be getting out on the mat. Oh, what the hell, who cares, it'll dry.
"Nice view," he manages, as Karkat frowns at him like a wedding caterer who just had bridezilla decide to change the dinner menu on her again.
... uh. Okay, that is sure a thing he just thought. Funny how Dave's comparisons get sillier and more random the more blood travels to his downstairs head. Does his dick have matrimony on the brain now? What the heck, lil' dude.
And now he has a demon shoving his knees together and straddling his lap. The head of his dick bumps against Karkat's water-streaked belly. Mmh. "Even nicer view. I approve. Like. A lot."
"One day I'll find a way to shut you up during this," Karkat grouses as he leans in to nip his earlobe. Fff yes.
"Dude, gags are a bit kinkier than I expected you to suggessssh okay that was nice."
Karkat just went and ground his -- can a probably male demon have a mound of Venus? -- his fuzz-covered pelvic plate riiight up his cock and it was almost too hard, but also a pretty awesome way to get Dave's entire attention. He grips Karkat's hips, guides him for a second pass; they've done this often enough that Karkat has learned to roll his hips into it and fuck if it isn't sexy as hell.
Karkat shuffles up on his knees a bit, so that the head of Dave's dick is trapped between the slight jut of his pelvis and Dave's belly. "Move down -- need more space for my knees--"
Dave does, groaning a bit as he oozes down the wall and shuffles his butt farther along. His neck will ache some, being forced to bow, but he can deal with it if it means Karkat can ride properly. His dick pops free and swings between Karkat's thighs, glances off a soft inner thigh, almost brushes against that place in the middle.
Dave stares, transfixed.
Good. Now grab his hips like a rodeo calf. Spit him on your pole of meat. Mighty fucker.
"Oh my fucking god Damara what the fuck!"
He lets go of Karkat in a great disgusted hurry, presses both hands on his eyes like that will help at all with the images she's putting in his head.
Put your pole of lust in his moist crevice. And shake your hips hard. He will moan. Raging tornado fuck.
Dave oozes farther down the wall, groaning. "No, shut up, you're killing it--"
Right on top of him, Karkat starts growling. Dave peeks between his fingers, startled.
"Why is she disturbing you now."
You bore me. Go on to fuck him. Quickly.
"Offering advice," Dave answers with a groan.
Karkat's wings are spreading slowly, not that they're large enough to make him look much bigger but when he angles them like that, leading edges down, fingertips spread up and around his shoulders, it gets very noticeable that he's basically walking around with a double handful of hook-tipped knives strapped to his back. It can't be read any other way than as a threat.
Inside his mind it's like Damara is sneering, almost elegant and entirely disdainful. You cannot threaten me. Caged in flesh. Useless slave.
Shit, Damara, I am not repeating that to him! Why the fuck are you trying to provoke him?!
I am not. Truth is truth. Dave growls; she keeps going. You call with thoughts of my price. You call then do not offer. Then I want to leave. Show me fucking. Give me reason to stay.
Dave swears under his breath. And if I don't, then you won't answer in a half-hour when I actually need you, is that it?
She scoffs, or smirks maybe, it's the feeling it gives anyway. Your sex will be over faster than that. Five minute man.
Wow, fuck you. Damara doesn't see the future; it was an insult, not a prediction. Fuck her, seriously. He can last longer than five fucking minutes!
Yeah, but he really, really has to be at work at eight on the dot. If they keep wasting time, five minutes is all they'll have time for -- and Karkat is right, if there might be a fight then he needs to feed today. Groaning, he bumps his head against the wall. "No, seriously, I can not concentrate on actually having sex if you're offering horrible tips in the background--"
Huh, Karkat in his face. All his eyes have gone narrow, faintly glowing red.
"Damara," he says, and it sounds like ancient clocks dragging through their last tic tocs, ruins slowly falling to dust as a blizzard hisses and shrieks all around them. "You're between me and my food. Are you fucking sure you want to be doing that."
Damara scoffs. Little scared boy, not a tenth of what he was. What can you do? Locked in that meat.
Dave has the sudden feeling that he had better damn well not repeat that. That first half, at least. What the hell is she talking about?
"So, uh," he starts cautiously, "you knew each other in demonspace, then?"
"No," Karkat snaps, lip curling. "What is she saying? She has to be talking."
Dave sighs. Wow, his boner is deflating, despite how close it is to Karkat's no-no place. This is a sad, sad day. He paraphrases: "You can't make her. Nyah nyah nyah."
A faint red tendril flickers and curls over Karkat's shoulders like lightning in slow motion, and his claws grate against the tiles, but he breathes out. "Right."
Uh oh, thinks Dave for some reason.
"Latula." Dragon scales, wind singing. Something tugs inside Dave, like his guts are the middle knot and his demons are each at one end of the rope. "Knight to knight. Get her to back the fuck off. You owe me."
Oh yeah, that was the reason. "Wait, Damara has to be around later when we--"
Welp. Latula pops in his head in all her scaly glory like... well, like she was here all along and didn't want to disturb, but then again she's here so often it feels that way even when she's actually gone, so it's hard to tell. Dave isn't sure what to feel about the fact that she didn't add her own commentary to the proceedings sooner. 'kay, I'll do that. No worries, firetruck, she wants to be entertained, I can be hella entertaining. Go get laid to the max!
Damara is laughing; if she had a throat it would come out from the deepest part of it, shake her whole frame. Yes! Dragon bitch, fight me. Coil with me. I will bite you apart.
Shit. "No killing each other!" Dave yelps, but too late, they're both gone.
Fuck. Wow. It's crazy how well his demons listen to him and his orders today. Granted, Damara and Latula aren't under orders at the moment, and Karkat -- he's too used to talking to him like an equal, it doesn't come naturally to order him around when they're in rather intimate situations instead of in the field and the little bastard uses that. Dave scowls at him.
Karkat's unfocused eyes sharpen, meet his.
He smirks, toothy and satisfied. He leans in, elbows planted on the wall on both sides of Dave's head, caging him. Dave can see nothing but his face, so close, his collarbone and throat. His eyes still shine, throwing a reddish glow on the curls of armor on his cheekbones, the tip of Dave's nose.
His eyelashes are so thick.
He leans in -- Dave doesn't think, just lifts his chin to meet his kiss, gets his lower lip caught and bitten, it feels good until it stings, and then it feels better. Karkat licks at his sore lip as he settles in his lap again, making quiet little cricket chirps that vibrate into Dave's mouth.
"Mine," he purrs smugly, and grinds his belly against Dave's dick.
He rolls his hips -- he can't thrust, not reclining against the wall like that, but he can move some. He finds someplace to plant his feet, to brace; Karkat leans on his chest and keeps rocking, grinding. He's still nipping along his jaw, down the side of his neck. Dave will be marked up, and he doesn't even care.
When Karkat's face is pressed to his neck Dave still can see nothing but his spread wings, blocking his vision.
"Yes," Karkat hisses, and Dave hisses a yes of his own -- "good, good--" feels good, "feed me..."
Dave closes his eyes, presses his face against Karkat's hard shoulder. Slides his hands from his hips to his shoulder blades, under the wings, pulls him chest to chest.
(Karkat likes feeding, exchanging energy. It's good for him too. It's cool.)
The demon can't move around as much, held so tight, and he squirms a little, but Dave is close enough and it only takes him a short time to grind and rock himself to his orgasm.
He shakes, afterwards, from the strain of holding his body so tense, shoulders propped at an angle against the wall and his demon's weight on him trying to fold him down into the corner and never mind his spine. He bats weakly at Karkat's shoulder, and Karkat moves off him and pushes himself up high on his hind legs, one hand on the wall -- oh, he's unhooking the showerhead.
Dave manages to push himself along the slippery floor to sit straighter. Huh, his thighs are shaking too. He blinks up at Karkat as the demon hoses himself down quickly, spraying Dave's face -- and then turns the jet on Dave's stomach, washing off his come.
"Mnh." Karkat stretches, fairly self-satisfied. It's so strange to be the one at thigh level and Karkat the one looming over him. "Pretty nice today. You'll have to tell me what pinged you there."
He hooks the jet back up, looks down at Dave. Dave looks up, wet hair hanging in his face, droplets sprinkling his forehead and cheeks.
I appear to really fucking enjoy your displays of territorial bastardliness, he carefully doesn't say. Karkat gets territorial over just about everything else already -- Dave's cubicle, his nest in the corner on the mezzanine, that goddamn vibrator, the town. He doesn't need the encouragement.
"Eh, I dunno." Dave climbs to his feet in the narrow space left, careful not to slip; his legs are still unsteady. "If you're done playing the starving waif, go get dry, will you?"
"Yeah, yeah." Karkat goes, exiting the cabin and letting himself flop back down on all fours on the soggy mat.
Dave washes the soap off him and shampoos his hair quickly. Still another twelve minutes before they have to go. He can do this. He rinses and dries haphazardly, gets dressed, walks out to get his shoes.
He finds Karkat lovingly rubbing his hands all over the mantel clock he pulled out of storage for Damara.
"... Dude, what are you even doing."
"She put her horrid aftertaste on my meal, she can deal with my aftertaste on hers," Karkat replies, satisfied, and bounces off to the kitchen, presumably for a second breakfast. Dave sighs, gets the baseball bat from its corner, and prays that his Knight of Mind and Witch of Time haven't killed each other while he was busy getting seductively humped until he got back cramps.
The borderlands are really quiet today.
It's not the lack of cars and people and friggin' pigeons -- that, Dave got used to pretty early in his career. It's not even how the footsteps around him -- Karkat, Burnett, her partner Grier, four uniformed officers -- only make things feel quieter in comparison.
"Control, this is Team B. How long has it been since one of the teams saw a Class One?" he asks Jade via his earpiece.
The line crackles from ambient magic, but Jade's voice comes through clearly enough. "Huh," she goes. "Let me map that."
(Makes him miss her a little, her voice in his ear, tinny and far away, because she's his partner and they're used to each other. But she's too drained to be in the field, orders from above. Bluh.)
They've been checking abandoned houses, a gas station; Detective-Summoner Grier has a perfect Sylph of Breath match, for all that they're Class Three, and they can pinpoint living things -- provided they exchange oxygen and the like, but demons who don't breathe are usually solar-powered and wouldn't be able to afford wasting daylight hours away hidden in a dark basement. Those are hella rare anyway.
Doesn't mean they're not all on their guard.
He knows Jade is addressing the whole of Team B when she answers, from the way Burnett's eyes narrow grimly, the way Grier straightens and pulls his shoulders back. "The decrease of wild demon spotting makes a rough circle; Team B, you're the closest. The center is straight ahead from your position, about half a block. This could mean nothing," she cautions them.
Karkat doesn't have an earpiece -- Dave wasn't opposed to letting him use one, since the static was, while stronger this close to him, not too bad for clear communication, but the second he uses his powers he'll blow it up right in his own ear. Karkat frowns up at the detectives in turn, then looks back at Officer Maguire, who he was pacing. (For some reason he's taken a vague liking to the guy -- no, Dave suspects why, Maguire is Officer Heuang's usual partner and he opened a vein for Karkat to snack on as a thanks for the rescue, no doubt he tasted yummy.)
"What's going on?"
"We're aiming straight for the middle of a big no Class Ones-land," Officer Maguire whispers down to him. "Hell, I ain't seen trace of a Class Two in a while either."
Karkat frowns. "And they can't all be running from me, the Class Ones at least would be too stupid to notice the power divide in time. Hrrm."
Scanning the area, he shakes out his wings, resettles them fussily. Dave isn't sure what for; if he can't fly it won't matter much if they're not folded just right, will it?
He looks up at the sky and the buildings, just in case. He can see a police chopper a few blocks away, but it's pretty high up, won't intervene; it's an older model, so that fiddly, sensitive electronics won't be too likely to go on strike at a bad time, but if it gets too close to the hell gate the blades might well decide to become a giant sunflower or maybe an eggbeater for real. It's there purely to make sure the demon won't give them the slip.
They clear another small house, room by methodical room. Karkat turns out to be pretty alright at working in a team, once he knows exactly what is expected of him -- and Dave doesn't even have to make anything an order; he just listens to Burnett's instructions on his own.
The first inkling Dave has that this house might be different is when his ear piece crackles, once, for no reason at all.
The second is when Officer O'Dell starts screaming.
"Karkat!" Dave snaps, and races up the stairs. O'Dell's partner is dragging him away from an open -- is that a broom closet? O'Dell is pointing his gun at the ceiling even as she pulls him off, still not far gone enough to start shooting at nothing, but his legs kick and push on the floor like he's trying to hurry her up. At the other end of the corridor Burnett and Grier are retreating from the bedroom doors, still closed, to provide cover.
Dave passes O'Dell and Aguilar, Latula's scales shimmering all over his skin, and presses his back to the wall, nods at Karkat -- shelled, safer -- to take a quick glance in there.
Karkat looks and retreats, and then looks again, puzzled.
"There's just a doll in there."
Heart beating strong, Dave checks. The closet isn't even deep enough for Dave's whole arm to disappear in there. There are a couple of abandoned old brooms, a few loose sheets of paper. On the bottom there's -- oh, urgh, it looks like Lil' Cal's cousin or something. Fucking puppets.
Could be something magical anyway, and Latula feels all bristly and watchful in the back of his head. Dave pulls at Damara, reduces it to dust.
We are done here? Mighty killer of puppets. I can leave now.
Nice try. No.
In the staircase O'Dell lets out a big shuddery breath. "Shit. That was nasty."
"How are you feeling?" Detective Burnett asks past Dave, her back still to him as she and her partner cover him.
"I-- better now, ma'am. I can go on."
"Alright." The older woman turns to look at Dave, looks him over and for a second he feels like maybe this is how it is to have a mom and to have not cleaned your room. "Strider? Can you try a mind shield now?"
Dave would, only the second he thinks it, Latula shakes his head. "Sorry, Bosslady, he ain't needin' it anymore now."
"Hm. Alright. Keep ready."
They move to check the bedrooms. Both empty.
Grier's Sylph confirms no one breathing but the cops and Karkat; Latula confirms -- after Dave himself has seen it all -- the absence of illusions covering things up. They move on.
After the third house with a motherfucking puppet in it Dave is starting to blame Bro for real. If only for the entirely non-magical shudders of disgust their dead little eyes give him.
"Don't touch it," he snaps at Karkat when his demon brings the latest one back, holding it with his claw-tips. Karkat immediately drops it on the floor, eyebrows arched in unflattering, dubious surprise. Dave reduces it to dust right under him.
"It doesn't do anything to me, dumbass," Karkat says pointedly. Dave tries not to grimace. That last one was reclining casually on a little girl's bed.
"I don't care, they're gross, don't touch them." He turns away to check on the latest shaken cop -- Maguire, gone an unhealthy shade of gray-brown, who's already trying to joke it off.
Another empty house, another puppet, another different cop... magically nudged at. This seems tailor-made to -- at best -- make them all twitchy as hell.
Also he's pretty sure O'Dell looked into that room first, and he said nothing about no fucking puppet then.
I suggest you rub little wooden man with your swollen lusty parts. Much pleasure will be had.
Yeah, that's about what I thought.
Damara is getting on his nerves too. Usually he lets her attitude slide straight off his back, finds something to laugh at in it, but the shower incident didn't dispose him kindly toward her and she's been getting in snide little digs all morning. He wishes she would go back to faint malevolent amusement and stop trying to chat.
"So how much like a setup does this feel like to you?" he asks Burnett, sotto voce. She snorts, eyes scanning the house relentlessly.
"It's nearby," she says, and then "It's toying with us."
Super reassuring. Dave is super reassured. "Huh. How nearby?"
She shrugs. Turns to the rest of the men, shoulders squared; they turn to look at her and Aguilar and Maguire noticeably relax. "Everyone out. It's trying to slow us down. Let's trust the second perimeter to catch it in case it actually is inside one of those houses and gets around us." She gives a wry little smile, thin wrinkles deepening at the corner of her mouth. "Between you and me, I will pay everyone a round if that happens. Vantas, Strider, on point."
Karkat bounces into place, eyebrows knit Very Seriously and tail quivering in anticipation. Dave follows him to the door. They check the outside with quick glances, and go through in the purest police tradition. The area looks secure; Dave signals the rest to join them.
The next house, they pass by warily, and the one after that, but they look... normal. Abandoned, broken into, but normally so, like whatever happened, happened a while ago. That broken window is ten years old, says Damara, reluctantly, those traces of fire licking at the outside of a door a full twenty-three, as long as this has been an uninhabitable zone.
The third house, there's a puppet watching them go past in the window.
Dave flings his hand up without thought. The glass flows, slushy ice-cream in the sun (did you know glass is actually an extremely slow-moving liquid, Dirk once told him; Damara makes it move like it's lava instead,) and then the puppet falls into cotton dust and cracked plastic.
Beside him Aguilar is breathing in short, sharp little puffs of breath. He grabs her upper arm, makes sure she's still wearing her cold iron necklace, not that it's been helping anyone else much. "Breathe," he advises.
Fourth cop to be affected. Last of the officers. Fuck.
If he fed on them, Dave remembers Karkat saying about the victims, the first time he met Burnett, then there was a bond made.
The demon might not be feeding yet.
There could still be a bond.
She's molded to all his brain crevices, feels like, clinging to his mind like a second, see-through skin, one he barely notices in action and cannot forget is there. She doesn't need him to actively talk to her to know exactly what he's thinking about.
Didn't feel nothing I could get at, bro, nothing obvious like that poor kiddo.
The demon must be pretty subtle, then.
He listens with one ear as Detective Grier makes a quiet report for Dispatch; at least they'll be warned about the fucking puppets. The street takes a slight turn left next, they've got to be cautious --
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Dave hisses quietly, and Damara laughs and won't stop laughing, not even when Latula bites at her.
"I must be dreaming. Is that a puppet breeding center," Karkat says, all spines up. "Why do you people have those things. What is wrong with the physical plane."
"Nah," Dave replies, "it's just a motherfucking toy shop." Sigh. "Think we can get the officers to go past it with their eyes closed? They could hold hands."
Yes, Damara says, do that.
"On second thought let's not do that."
It's good also. Do not do that.
Goddamnit. He is so close to telling her to fuck off. But she's the only real offensive demon he's got -- he can trip people with Aradia, he can freeze them for a second even, but he can't wreck their shit any other way but with a bullet, and bullets are much less versatile.
Also there's how Aradia had a prior engagement today. Yeah. Also that.
Okay, there's Karkat, but that's not the same thing--
"Tell me it's a giant puppet," Grier is muttering, squinting at the toy shop.
"Try not to be any more of a cliché horror movie character, buddy," Burnett says with a faintly amused snort. "Right. Is he breathing?" Shirt moving faintly in a wind Dave doesn't feel, Grier reluctantly nods. "Okay. You should stay out with the officers, find somewhere defensible. Any of them goes crazy, sit on them until Strider can race back out."
"Why doesn't he stay out then?"
She turns to her partner and pats his cheek. She reminds Dave of the doting aunt he never had. (Roxy's mom does it too but it always feels like she's mimicking something she saw once on TV and has no clue how to make work in real life.) "Because I'm not taking anyone who's not immune into a puppet den, and as much as it hurts me, you might not be. Alright, partner?"
Grier sighs, nods. Burnett turns to Dave and Karkat. "Strider, Vantas -- we're going inside and bringing that man out. Strider, you're a strapping lad, you get to carry him. Vantas, you're on defense. Anything moves in there, obliterate it."
"Yes, ma'am," Karkat replies, eyes shining in an entirely literal way.
They all start moving into position.
"Can I point out that it's totally a trap," Dave says tiredly, even as he jogs after her, both hands holding onto his gun.
The cuddliest-looking soccer mom Dave has ever worked with chuckles under her breath, eyes positively gleaming with evil mirth. "If you like pointing out the obvious so much, who am I to stop you?"
Karkat snorts, teeth bared in a none-too-friendly smile.
"... Haha. Yeah, okay. Let's spring the hell out of it." Since Jade isn't here, Dave would ask Latula to provide a little perspective, but she's just as much of a Knight as the rest of them, which means she's too busy purring.
Karkat gets inside first. Red flickers crawl over his shoulders, up the edges of his wings -- just like this morning, lightning in slow motion. He scans the empty, darkened aisles as he stalks his way around the counter and to the tall, wide-shouldered man draped over a plush armchair in the window, limbs dangling boneless, a toy teacup balanced delicately on his knee.
If Dave didn't know better he'd think the guy was dead.
Burnett follows Karkat, hurrying across the short bit of wall where she's not visible from the street; Dave stays by the door, making sure nothing cuts them off and he can go racing back should anyone try to mindfuck the officers.
She moves around the dude so Dave has a clear line of sight in case he's only pretend-unconscious and then takes his dangling wrist and shakes it. No reaction, it falls back limp. She cuffs him quickly over his stomach, and then she touches his sallow, sharp-featured face and it clicks.
"Shit, that's Crowbar, isn't it."
Carl Barrow, alias Crowbar. One of the highest-ranked members of the Felt -- either second or third in command, it's never been entirely clear. He's lying out here in the middle of a police operation, unconscious and sickly-looking, the delicately placed cherry on top of the enticing seven-layered cake.
Welp, Latula -- or was it him? -- goes. Such a tasty trap though.
They're so close to each other right now, reaction time between one mind's request and the other's actions as far down as they can possibly be, and still allow him to separate just enough to grab onto Damara and use her if need be. So close.
Maybe that's why it feels exactly as if the other demon who suddenly appeared in his headspace was talking to him.
Hey bitchass skank fucking fucker!
Dave stiffens. Holy fuck there's a demon in his fucking head. Latula! he calls, not panicked yet but she's letting it in what the fuck?! It feels so wrong against his mind, all shards and despair and funhouse mirrors that shift on him, make him nauseous.
Shit, sorry firetruck! There, any better?
A thin layer of Latula spreads between the -- the other demon and his mind, and he breathes out, eyes a little wide as he scans the shop, waiting for an attack to use his distraction.
What the fuck--
'Tuna, don't cuddle up when I'm riding, I'm on the job here!
The other demon goes all contrite. Welp. Sorry. I forgate. Forgoted. That motherfuck shit thing fucking shitty motherfuck.
This is about the wrongest time to get distracted, but the Heir of Fucking Doom is really fucking good at being distracting. He doesn't even have to say anything, he just has to be around.
(Last time John let him ride while Latula was riding Dave, Dave ended up almost frenching his best bro; the assholes were using the generously provided opportunity to snuggle, and also get to fleshy second base.)
If you tell me the enemy sent you to mess things up I will totally believe it! Dave says, and feels weirdly like he's yelling across the back of a huge fucking dragon to something he cannot see. He knows it's still there, though. Doom feels too unnerving to miss it when it's almost inside his head.
The street is still empty, apart from their people. The officers are in nicely defensible positions and Grier is scanning the rooftops. All good.
It's not the enemy, asslord fucknugget. It's your own momfucked shitsucking... uh what was it again, fuck fuck fuck I lost the word, shit!
'Tuna, shhhh. Resettle your pattern, dude, you're going all untangly.
"Burnett," Dave informs her quietly, "I have Mituna in my head. Someone sent him to Latula."
She looks at him, eyes gone narrow, and Karkat frowns up at him quickly before going back to his pacing vigil. "What's that retard doing in there?"
"No clue, he--"
Oh! Oh oh oh yeeeeah babe! Your bro says Cal says if you're hanging in the southern borderlands that you need to get your fat nasty ass out of there, you piece of scumsucking ass-trash. Assbutt lord McAnalturdfucker shitsuck--
Mituna, tighten your coils, babe--
I'mma tighten your bitch-ass skank coils!
So fucking charming, I totally see what you see in him, Dave comments, but his heart's not in it.
Yeah, that's right dudz! I tapped dat ass upside down and sideways, yeeeeeeeeah! Whores dig my mad-ass snugglefuck skillz.
Cal doesn't talk. It's a cornerstone of Dave's childhood that Cal. Does. Not. Talk. And if you think he does you're wrong and just dreaming and it'll go away in the morning. No matter what fibs Bro tries to make you swallow. (Dirk said so and Dirk is always right. Especially when you're six years old and it's three in the morning and you're sure Cal wasn't on your bed's headboard when you went to sleep.)
Dave is pretty good at denial. It's a skill he's had a lot of practice at.
(Bro is a Prince of Doom. The Mituna-as-a-messenger part of the story checks out.)
Lil' Cal is totally not demon-possessed, anyway, because Bro hasn't got the permits for that shit and Dirk and Dave would have to arrest their own father-slash-uncle-slash-brother-figure, hence it cannot be possessed hence it's not possessed.
... Okay no Cal is totally demon-possessed.
And it has never bothered to warn him off before, and it's not like Dave hasn't done a shit-ton of hugely dangerous things in his reckless little life.
But they've wasted enough time with his little mind guests. He breathes in and out, and goes to haul Crowbar across his shoulders in a fireman's carry. So if we start running now...
Mituna explodes into jarring, jagged-edged laughter. It feels like if it were real it should be nasal and breathless, and loud anyway somehow.
I remembered a thing!
Karkat paces between him and the aisles. Burnett stays behind, ready to take Crowbar down if he wakes up and starts fighting. Dave slowly starts back toward the door, trying to both settle the man's weight on his back and to keep having this conversation in parallel. Yeeeeah?
He also told me to tell you...
Fucking spit it out already.
Psyche! It's too late! Hahahahahahahaha.
Everything happens together. Dave's radio crackles, loud and garbled. Aguilar and O'Dell start screaming. A shot cracks in the air.
Dave takes off running along the storefronts, the muscular, wide-shouldered body on his back making him slow, clumsy. A shadow falls on him. He throws himself to the ground; air rushes over his head.
The toy shop window explodes; when he cranes his head he sees Karkat hunkering down flat by the door, bristled all over and eyes wide with shock as broken glass tinkles harmlessly off his shelled back, and a finned motherfucking flying streak of demon whirling away from the shop.
Burnett is nowhere in sight.
She is not standing behind the door. She is not crouched behind the counter. She is not--
There's blood splattered on the doorstep and he doesn't know whose it is.
Maguire starts screaming too. Dave shoves himself on hands and knees and then upright.
He needs to get to the officers.
He needs to check Burnett is still alive. (There's blood.)
He needs... He needs to get the (criminal) civilian out of the line of fire.
"Karkat, cover me!"
He starts running, legs and lower back hurting under the strain already. Crowbar has bones made of his fucking namesake.
Grier yells something incoherent; a shadow falls across Dave again. Dave stumbles to the side trying to dodge, lands on his ass.
Karkat is staring, unmoving.
"Karkat!" Dave yells, and rolls on his back, hand raised.
The demon has an animal skull for a head and tall loosely-corkscrewing horns; its lower body is a long dolphin-fluked tail. From shoulders to waist, the body looks human.
The hands especially, as they plunge down on him all claws out.
Red thorns burst between the two of them; the demon eels gracefully to the side, flies away. It moves like it's swimming, except without the weight of water to drag it down to any reasonable kind of speed.
Karkat lands at his side in a shower of gravel and dust. Dave rolls back on all fours, grabs Crowbar under the armpits, drags him fast, trying to keep one eye on the sky.
Latula, tell me you can help my coworkers now .
Yeeeeah, looks like that is a thing I can do, now the bitch ain't hiding it. She sounds peeved, offended that the demon managed to hide anything from her on her own terrain. Good; she'll work harder.
They manage to cross the street, run along the walls to where Detective Grier is trying to keep Officer Aguilar from blindly whaling on Maguire. She's not going at it half-hearted.
Karkat's eyes are wide and stunned and Dave has no fucking time to slow down and ask him what the fuck is going on. He manages somehow to hop over an abandoned, toppled-over motorcycle and pull Crowbar after him in a way that will only give the dude bruised calves and scratched chins, he should count himself lucky.
After that he very deliberately headbutts O'Dell in the stomach to shove him back inside the alley -- the poor guy lands on his ass, still screeching. Dave passes him, drops Crowbar's unconscious body in a corner under a fire escape, and then returns to drag O'Dell as well. "Karkat, on watch! Keep it at bay."
God does O'Dell fight. Latula!
I need Karkat, dude! she reminds him.
Shit. Right. Okay, dragging O'Dell in the other direction now. He gets his legs kicked hardcore and an elbow driven mercilessly into his ribs. Lucky he had the same training classes as the dude, so he manages not to let go.
They trip, struggle, fall. Swearing between his teeth, Dave stretches out to slap his hand on Karkat's hip.
Lava and rage and lakes of boiling blood, black, crumbling stone - obsidian, sharp and brittle both. It rushes through him, to the guy he's desperately trying to keep in a headlock.
O'Dell shudders, squirms weakly. Dave lets go, cautious, but the man only flips over on hands and knees to throw up on the ground.
"Get me the other officers," Dave orders tersely, and tries not to plan a trip back to that shop where Burnett disappeared.
Karkat is shivering as he stands his ground, scanning the air. Dave turns to put his back to him -- the alley has two ends after all -- and taps his headset.
"Control, this is Team B, do you copy?" No answer. "Harley? Harley. Need reinforcements pronto."
Crackle. "--eam A--converging on Team C's posit--gunfire and--"
Some more crackle, then nothing. Fuck. They'll know something is wrong in two to five minutes when Team B misses its next checkup, but Dave doesn't like his chances too much.
Grier and O'Dell haul Aguilar to Dave, kicking and screaming. O'Dell still looks greenish and sickly, and Grier's face is wrinkled up like he's trying to fight off a headache. The guy only has Class Threes at his disposal, none of them Mind; they're not gonna last long.
Aguilar misses Dave's junk by about two inches when she kicks out. Dave puts a hand on her bare neck and the other hand on Karkat, again.
"Mother of God." She stops moving, eyes wide, shakes her head incredulously. "Jesus fucking Christ."
This went suspiciously well. "Verbal already? Great job, get me the last two. Grier, maybe you should go back on wa--"
O'Dell goes down again. The other two, still bewitched, turn up the sound to eleven. It's all the warning Dave gets before the demon falls out of the sky right on top of them, and then he's throwing himself back and throwing Damara's power at the thing -- rot, you piece of shit, rot --
He lands on his ass, gets swatted to the side, tumbles out onto the street -- his arm (doesn't even hurt) coils everywhere, shit, shit, did Damara miss, she can't miss --
Karkat jumps for the demon's back and gets a short, torn-edged wing snapped open in his chest, flinging him against the wall, and then the demon is turning on Dave again and it's huge, coils and horns and that dead skull head --
Die and release me right now, Damara snarls resentful when he yanks on her hard, when the demon twitches back, talons dulled, chipped with age.
Its skin isn't even damaged. Is that all you can do against him?!
Behind it Karkat struggles to his feet, stumbles back down. The wall is cracked up to the second story, there's a weird hollow where the bricks were pushed out of alignment, it's like a demolition ball gently nudged it in preparation for razing it down.
It looks at its hand and then it shrugs, lifts its other hand.
And then Burnett swings her tire iron down right between its horns.
The cracking noise is gunshot-loud. The demon pitches forward -- she swings again, from the side to get at its temple from behind, and it lifts its arm to block and the arm makes a cracking noise instead. Doesn't break, demons are solid as fuck, but it'll hurt, and Dave forces Damara to grab hold of that crack and widen it hard, shard it up all over the fucking place, yeah, let's see you using it again.
"Move!" Karkat snarls. Dave dives back into the alley right over the coils of its bruise-colored dolphin tail a mere half-second before the red lines explode out again, opening long gashes along its side and tail, shredding one wing membrane to tatters.
It retreats -- almost lazily, coils itself on the ground on the other side of the road to watch them. Dave realizes that the (cow? horse?) skull isn't its head, that the demon merely uses it as some kind of jaunty, fashionable hat, horns exiting through the eye holes, but pieces of it have broken off and he can see part of its face.
"Burnett?" Dave asks quietly, and doesn't let on how fucking glad he is not to be the detective in charge anymore (Logically Grier should be but he has his hands full keeping track of the officers, shit, they should have swapped -- but he's too weak to defend properly against a Class Four. Argh. Dave hates, hates, hates being in command, all those lives in his hands and never a juggling pattern he can hold to be found.)
"Reinforcements?" she asks, tire iron still in hand. He wonders if she lost her gun or if she already knows it won't work.
Karkat pads his way out of the alley between them, limping, a wing hanging weird. Fucking shitty motherfuck piss-hell. That fucking demon injured his demon. Is it his shell -- his bone? His joint? For a second Dave is -- is sick with worry, mad with anger -- but he forces it down.
"Gonna be late," Dave replies, laconic as he can. The demon smiles a little bit wider.
"Hm." Burnett shrugs. "We can take him."
The demon laughs, silent, shoulders shaking with it. YES, something says, purring its way around Dave's mind and down his throat like a rusty handsaw, grinding chunks out of him on the way down. LET US BRING THE GLORY OF SLAUGHTER TO EACH MOTHERFUCKING OTHER, MY BROSIS IN HATRED.
"How can I refuse," Burnett says easily, when Dave can't even imagine speaking without bringing up blood and all that metaphysical broken glass he still feels is lodged in there.
It ain't! Latula tells him, and Dave knows that, thanks, but even as she works all those psychic hooks out of him, soothes away wounds that don't really exist, he still finds himself shaken. Nothing has ever gone through Latula's defenses before. Nothing. It doesn't matter the attack is weak, it's like he was going down his ladder and suddenly one of the steps that he knows by heart even in the dark decided to go missing.
No, no, don't you dare think that, firetruck, I'm here, he just startled me, won't happen again! Don't think that, you can't be thinking like that -- Dave, don't let me go!
Something bites his numb shoulder. Hard; it stings. "Oh my fucking god, if you let that asshole in I will kill you myself before he gets the chance," Karkat snarls as he stumbles against Dave's side.
His mouth is red with Dave's blood. He flinches in pain and Dave stares for a second before he thinks to say, "It's allowed. Uh. Thanks."
His shoulder isn't numb anymore. Neither is the arm the demon caught in its sweeping smash. Dave looks down and oh hey he's been bleeding, he's been clawed up, raked nice and deep from biceps to the back of his wrist, and also he's fairly sure his shoulder is just a bit out of its socket. Welp.
This is totally the appropriate time for fainting like a damsel, letting everything around him go weird-cottony. Where the hell is Latula. Can't let that happen--
Okay, good news is now he's wide awake, and splendidly unmired in fear miasma.
Bad news is he's feeling every glorious detail of the state of his body. Shit.
"Strider? Need to tap out?"
"And miss the party? Fuck no, that'd be rude."
The skull demon uncoils almost lazily. I WILL RELISH GETTNG THE SMEAR OF YOUR SKULL MEATS ALL UP AND ON THIS HEAP OF GRAVEL, it purrs, but this time it doesn't hurt as bad. It's still like nails on chalkboard, but Dave doesn't feel the need to touch his ears to check for bleeding.
"Grier, call up Maelst, shield the alley. It won't hold, but it'll tell us if anything's coming. Strider, aim for its horns and eyes. Vantas, up front." Burnett takes a step forward. "I'll herd it into you."
"Oh my shitfucking hellgod you are crazy," Karkat replies, which means Dave doesn't have to.
"Nah," she says, tone almost light. "But seriously, he wants to talk rage? I've got three teenagers."
... She is not calm at all. Or nothing Dave truly recognizes as calm, though he's seen it on other people. A hate, a desire to ruin something, someone so deep it comes out looking like pleasure. I will tear out your entrails and I will roll in them and it will be so. Much. Fun.
Shit. Does he have to stop her? Is she even rational enough to make such decisions? She's in good shape for a woman over forty but she's still over forty, what the hell is she thinking she can do exactly?
Okay she can whale on things with a tire iron. He supposes.
He thought it was dirt and bruises and dried blood on her face but it's weird dark patterns instead and when he stares they shift around and spread. Weird as fuck how the demon effect seems to be happening under her skin instead of as an illusion overlay, the way sky-blue fur flickers around Grier.
Dave tries to mesh Damara closer but Latula is locked in and will not budge over to make space, and Damara's soul-slicing edges hurt too much for his own skin to take on the tarnished glaze of old, cracked porcelain.
I UP AND RECOGNIZE YOUR THIRST, SISTER IN RAGEFUL HATRED.
"That's good." She takes a step forward and Dave gets to see her back, and her jacket is ruined, and so is her shirt; it's bad enough he can see bloodstained bra bits, her whole back is mincemeat, what the fuck did it throw her into in that shop?
IN THE MIRTH AND THE WRATH AND ALL THINGS BLED ALL OUT, I SAY: BITCH, LET US KILL THE MOTHERFUCK OUT OF EACH OTHER.
"I thought you'd never ask."
Dave's reaching out to stop her and then a gust of wind hits him in the face, cuts him off from her. Grier grabs him by the arm that hurts less, tugs him backward; his carefully combed-back curls are whipping free of their hair band, he's got tufts of blue fur poking out from odd places.
"Why'd you--" Dave hisses, and Grier shakes his head, tense, jaw clenched.
"She's synched up. You stop her now, they'll wallop you and then go anyway."
Shit. He's not sure he wants a perfect match anymore, if that bullshit goading each other into being both the best and the worst of themselves happens so easily. He can't believe she went with it.
"You're all fucking crazy, suicidal shit-brained imbeciles, a bunch of peerless--" Karkat is muttering endlessly under his breath, but he waits for a chance.
His red attack has been shown to pierce demon shell before. He can -- he has to finish it in one go. But they can certainly wind it first.
Damara doesn't want to aim at Skull-Hat, skews Dave's aim right and left and fucking backward. Okay. Fine. She doesn't say shit when he aims her at his environment, so he is totally going to drop that billboard on its head.
He times it all right, watching the loose, graceful way the demon dodges and weaves around Burnett's attacks to make sure she won't be caught in it, and then just as he feels Damara give in, Fine, I will do this, just as he sees rusted-still gears underneath missing pieces of porcelain appear on his wrist, Aguilar lands on his back and shoves him to the ground.
His arm hits hard, shoulder first (something goes click inside the joint), and then she grabs his wrist and wrenches it back and he can feel all his half-hearted scabs break, blood soaking his sleeve hot and thick. He gives a brief scream, tries to buck her off -- she punches him in the back of the head.
A gunshot cracks. Karkat stumbles.
His eyes are very wide, all four of them. Very surprised.
For a burning second Dave and Damara fit with a snap just like his shoulder ball and socket.
He wants flesh melting off yellowing bones, he wants rot crawling up this man's veins, this enemy. At the last instant he seizes the gun instead with their power, crumbles it into red metal dust. His face is still pressed into the pavement, pebbles digging in; he bucks. Nothing happens.
Kill her. Hurt her. Make her be off you. She is helping them hurt what is yours--
Damara, I ain't fronting. If you don't shut your trap I'm going to kill you.
A gust of hard, compressed wind tumbles Aguilar off him; he pushes himself up on one hand, crawls to Karkat, oh fuck, oh no--
"I'm -- I'm fine. I'm. My head hurts."
Karkat's got blood all over the side of his face, there's a crease in his temple and up to the crown of his skull that goes to the root of his horn, there are chunks of bloody hair and spines stuck to his shoulder, strewn on the ground.
IF ONLY YOU HAD MORE OF THE OOMPH, LIL BITCHSIS. CUTE AS ALL MOTHERFUCKS THOUGH.
Grier has a fraction of second to choose between keeping the officers off them and catching Burnett as a sweep of that tail sends her flying across the street, in a trajectory that'll have her hitting at least the second story. He chooses to catch her, and then Dave is being run at again. Welch has a very non-regulation knife in hand.
He doesn't want to hurt his fellow officers. He doesn't want that.
He wants Karkat to stand still as he's getting beaten and stabbed to death because he's been ordered not to injure innocents even less.
He hopes they'll forgive him.
"--2, this is Control, stand clear!--"
The space at his back warps and tears in a dizzying, oddly imprecise way. Jade?!
Shoes click on the floor -- and then claws.
"I hope you'll mind that we're crashing your party."
Dave chokes, blinks sightlessly at the officers, who stand swaying as for a brief instant the demon forgets to puppet them. "That's the wrong expression, sis, just saying. You forgot a pretty important little word there. It's 'I hope you don't mind.'"
"No, Dave," Rose says, light and cold like the first snowflake of a storm, "I really hope he does."
[Chapter 15] -- [Chapter 17]