Dave comes to with the point of something hard poking him in the ribs, someone cheerfully spouting gibberish at the top of her voice over him. His head hurts and opening his eyes to the sunlight he can feel on his face seems a horrible idea; he groans, goes "No," turns his head away.
A second poke ensues, and sudden shadows. He cracks an eye open before he can be poked a third time; he can feel the bruise rising already, and his body is sore enough as it is.
Oh, huh. There are breasts at the other end of that poking stick. Perky and brown, with the nipples even browner.
"She says, she does not care if you look at the wrong places that don't make words, but if you think you don't have to answer with words she may let me eat you."
That's a dragon's wing.
He's been around a handful of fighting dragons -- can't help it, during wartime, if only because no one sends dispatches faster than a flying courier. The beast isn't big at all as they go, almost tiny in fact -- only twice as high as a bull, though squat and muscled like one. When Dave is sprawled almost straight under it, it's plenty big enough.
There are spikes everywhere. It would just have to lower itself and roll around a little bit, and Dave would end up very mushy.
The Native woman leans in, pokes him again -- oh, it's a spear. He should probably be glad she's using the butt and not the blade. She purses her mouth in puzzled annoyance, says something else. Dave slooowly pushes himself up on his elbows. Everything hurts.
"Are you Dutch? I don't speak Dutch. Parlez-vous Franšais? That is bad, I don't parle Franšais either. Hey, you whiter than normal pale face. Devil eyes. Cow face. I will step on you."
"Yeah, and then your dinner'll be all sandy and gross," Dave drawls back, because there is nothing deathly in his life he has not greeted with a metaphorical wet kiss and a slap on the ass. He squints up at the beast. "Toad face."
Its muzzle is oddly short and round, with flat slits for nostrils, a bit like a fat, cute garden snake. As for the colors, it's pretty drab, brownish-gray with faint patterns of darker scales. Also, yeah, the spines.
He goes back to looking at the Native woman, who is still half-naked and still grinning and still staring a couple of inches to the right side of his head. Her hazel eyes look oddly blank, for how animated the rest of her face is.
"I could poison you like a toad," the dragon growls sulkily. The woman slaps his flank between two rows of spines. "Ow. She says, your ship is where? We found your little ship, it's broken."
Damn it. "Big ship's broken too." Probably they've all drowned. He tries not to be sorry. "Can you ask her to put on a shirt?"
Chatter. "She says she is used to men losing their minds at the sight of her body, she will not be angry with your stupid pale face weakness." The dragon rolls his eyes, Dave didn't know dragons did that.
He didn't know they talked so intelligently or that they could mock and be witty, either.
He was expecting to freak out once he was more awake and could appreciate the depth of his shit-pit of a situation but instead he's starting to find it surreal enough to be hilarious.
He eyes the woman's body -- thin like a stick, all raw muscle and bone -- and then the dragon's paws. Yeah, almost big enough to span the width of his chest. Okay, maybe not quite that big but two of his paws would definitely span it. "Lemme guess, if I put a hand on her you will put a hand on me."
The dragon gives a pointed sniff and starts grooming his front paw casually. His tail is short and just as squat as the rest of him. Dave wonders briefly how well he flies. Probably not very.
"You think they give pointy sharp instruments of death to everyone in the tribe? She will not need me."
She chooses that moment to laugh, and holds out her hand for him to take. He'd act too proud to let a woman haul him up if there was anyone around he'd want to act proud for, but there isn't, and she is no corseted, cosseted noblewoman, so he takes it. He is not surprised when he ends up standing with barely zero effort from his side. The steel-cable muscles in her shoulders are not for show.
He is a bit surprised when the world starts to spin, and surprised some more when the dragon's wing flips forward to catch his shoulder with the ... elbow part, what the hell is it even called.
Augh, sunlight straight in his face. "Curse it, I'm blind, are you happy? You blinded me. I understand why you'd rather want my eyes to take a hit than my flawless derriere but--"
The dragon pokes him in the chest with the edge of his wing and sends him right back onto his ass, and then the Native girl slaps a huge leafy thing on his head.
"Blind is what? I do not remember that word."
"Blind is when you can't see." He shifts the leaf hat until it's camped jauntily on his skull and squints up. "Sunlight this strong makes me pretty darn close to blind."
"Huh. Are you a night breed of human, then?" Both dragon and lady look intrigued.
Dave considers it very seriously. "Yep. Pretty much that exactly."
"Terezi says it is good, then; you can take over travel at night, since she's blind all the time. Now get up, we're making a new boat."
What they're building is more of a raft -- two rafts, actually. The island is mostly rocks, rocky sand, and coconut trees -- and a ton of sea birds in the rocks, and rats. The materials they have are his boat's planks, the trees, and coconuts. Which would go faster if they had a saw or even a big knife; instead they have his dining knife, and the head of her spear. She has lost, she explains with her hands and really bad drawings in the sand, a particularly glorious machete to the sea.
"But why two rafts?" he asks. Karkat pretends to groom his tail.
"Because I will push the raft under the water when I get on it to rest, you daft man."
"How about we tie coconuts to you instead? Less work."
"How about we tie rocks to your head, and throw you overboard!"
It might be the sun dazing his brains, but a dragon threatens him and he cannot even feel concerned. Terezi is of an open, friendly disposition and plays little teasing jokes on him, and even the dragon's gruffness doesn't seem all that scary. No, he knows they'll take him along when they go. Just...
"How far can you fly in one go?"
"I curse your groin to get boils and fall off," the dragon retorts with wounded defensiveness, and leaps off the rocks to fly huffily behind the nearest copse of trees. Well.
"Wow, I think I hurt his feelings."
Terezi sighs, turns her hands palms up as if saying "oh well".
"Big feelings, not very scaly. He come back. Work, work."
Dave bends back to the job. Ow. His shirt sticks to his skin; he wishes he could take it off and not end up burned. "You speak English now?"
"I speak English all the time." She grins, waggles her eyebrows roughly in his direction. "Some English people, they say stupid things, forget dragons are people all the time."
Huh. He can see that. Dragons being people, he means. Kind of hard to unsee it, once he has, actually. "Glad I'm not too stupid then?"
"You're a little stupid! But you have big arms and no scared, so. We will keep you." She waggles her eyebrows. "Pay your mother a good price."
He is pretty sure she's having him on. He purses his lips at her and throws sand at her feet. She arches an eyebrow slooowly, and hefts up a coconut.
"Whoa. I surrender. My head is very tender. Do not throw this at me."
She stabs the coconut through with her spear -- welp -- breaks it in two with a vicious twist -- ouch -- and, satisfied by his barely exaggerated flinch, she hands him one of the halves to eat.
At night when the temperature goes down Karkat grouchily snatches him by the collar and tosses him over the curve of his front legs, under his wing, in the hollow where Terezi is resting. She chuckles sleepily at him and cuddles up.
"Um, m'lady, breasts," he says. She puts a hand on his pectoral muscle and gropes.
"Where?!" she exclaims, falsely shocked. "Not here!"
As he's trying not to splutter, or laugh, she headbutts him in the temple -- he thinks that was meant as a sign of affection; she has been keeping company with dragons much too long -- and pushes him against the soft hide of Karkat's belly, toward his front legs, where he doesn't have any spines or rough edges at all.
"Shhh. We are in a tent made of dragon. It is bad, very bad to do breast things without inviting him."
"Wouldn't want to be impolite," Dave says, and makes a show of putting his hands out of her way, even though she's handsier than he is by quite the number of miles.
He isn't even sure she's completely kidding. He can never be sure with her, he has known her a day and he already knows that.
He has never met anyone who was anything like her. (Never met anyone like Karkat either.) She never does what he expects. It's oddly freeing.
Karkat's ruddy eye cracks open to look at him, but he doesn't say anything. Dave falls asleep with his cheek on softly pebbled hide, his nose in long black hair, and his foot tucked under a dragon's leg, bracketed by warmth.
Might also be the sunburn, mind. Considering that yesterday at this hour he was in the middle of a storm on a sinking frigate, he'll take it.
(It turns out Terezi did have a shirt; she just did not feel like wearing it. After she sees the colors Dave's skin turns into even through his own (wet) linen it ends up on his back like a cape.)
He's heard of quite a few strange abilities -- acid-spitting, water-spitting -- but this is the first time he ever hears of a dragon throwing blood out of his eyes.
The shark is so horrified by the stink that it doesn't even retreat, just flails around until Terezi spears it down the middle. Dave gets to gut it; a fair repartition of tasks, he supposes.
"But why does your eyeblood stink?"
Karkat grumps, sprawled on his own half-sunk raft, jaw between his front paws. There's still some crusting blood on his face, even after he plunged it in the sea to rinse off. "Shut your busy mouth and make your fingers busy, I'm hungry."
"Why from the eyes, why not from the nostrils?"
"Dave! Your foot is in the water and other sharks are following, my hair will be ugly if I swim to save you." (Her hair is already a royal mess.)
"Why blood at all?!"
"When I fly over you later I will make yellow rain on you. Shark. Now."
Hand in the water to feel the way it ebbs and flows, Terezi whaps another shark on its inquisitive nose, hard enough to stun it. Dave hauls it closer with a slippery lasso made of the guts of its own brethren for her to bring onboard.
They've been together from the egg, conceived in the same season. Karkat took a whole year longer to hatch than she did and when he came out of the shell Terezi was toddling herself into boulders and rattlesnakes and trees; he guided her, she taught him to play. (Even now he hasn't entirely absorbed the concept, Terezi tells Dave in an unsubtle whisper, and almost laughs herself overboard when Karkat stops towing them from the air to land in a massive, vengeful splash.)
Dave is taller than Terezi, so eventually he takes over rubbing and brushing Karkat's scales all the way up his long back, until he doesn't even accidentally catch himself on those many spines any longer and the dull browns of Karkat's hide gleam faintly bronze.
She trades him for rubbing coconut milk on his ten layers of sunburn. Which manages to be a little sexy, even despite how much it stings.
Make that a lot sexy.
The moon is decreasing and he doesn't see well enough to navigate and it's his excuse why he stops rowing and tugs Karkat's half-sunk raft closer. The wind might pick up and separate them despite the ropes and it's Karkat's excuse why his wing is cupping their raft, pulling them side by side, making a tent of himself.
Terezi doesn't bother with excuses when she guides Dave down to sit between Karkat's front paws and straddles him.
"You are sure," Karkat asks again, "that you do not want us to walk with you to the white men's settlement? We will not let you get eaten, you stupid man, so just say it!"
Dave is getting annoyed with the question. His answer is not going to change.
Terezi whaps Karkat's muzzle, and then Dave's peeling shoulder. "The both of you shush!" she says. "We have no saddle, or Dave would be thrown across it already. He will meet Mother, because Mother will eat us otherwise, and that's it."
Dave shrugs. "You heard the lady."
They go on foot in the woods, because Karkat could never carry two people aloft, and has no saddle to protect a rider from his spikiness, at any rate. At least that's what Terezi tells him until he starts limping and she drags him up to the smooth hollow between his wings. (He still couldn't sit astride -- Karkat's spine is serrated -- but the hide between his spine and wing is perfect for lying belly down onto.)
Karkat goes faster when he's galloping, but Dave isn't sure the speed advantage is worth the case of seasickness.
They're not in a hurry.