For the first days you just sleep. You sleep like you haven't slept properly in years (spoiler: you haven't.) You sleep like you have been running like a maniac whose love of marathon (High Alternian "mara" : sea-less, "thon": tuna, i.e. if at the end you're not left panting and flopping weakly like a beached, moribund fish you've been doing it wrong) now extends to the pathological. You sleep like you've been fighting for your life as if you'd die if you didn't -- oops, yeah, that's the gist of it.
You're blaming the sub-par metaphors on the aforementioned lack of sleep.
So once you come through to your new, for-real-this-time paradise planet reward, there is one order of business. "Is the cave safe?" and it is. Who cares that it's also crowded. You'll care later, you'll care enough to give yourself a hernia or thirty. Monsters can't barge in and your Seers say it'll be fine and no water will rise to drown you all or swarm of killing wasps descend to plant larvae in your stomachs. Flop you go, like a puppet with cut strings, like Jack's head when Terezi's swords scissored it right off. Fuck y'all, come back in three days.
Three days later you are awake. The cave is still crowded.
You don't know half of these assholes (except you recognize them anyway.) You try to count your own, no matter that you keep having to go back and finding the matching one because the first you counted was from the wrong set. All the trolls are here (all 24 of them.) The green-skinned creep is here, barely visible under the other Lalonde's octopus smothering attack. There's John and Jane in their somehow-mutual lusus' lap. There's Rose. There's two more human males you don't know and don't give a fuck about.
You're missing two of your humans.
You jump on your feet -- okay, you lurch, and then you stumble and step on Nepeta. You think it's Nepeta. No, yes, it is, the other Nepeta had bigger horns and some pretty outrageous hair. She yelps and sits up, eyes gummy with sleep and stricken with your callous betrayal. You mumble something that might pass for an apology, push her back down, and stumble toward the mouth of the cave as fast as you can.
It's not very fast, considering there's so little floor space that you calculate about one third of the combined people mass must rest not on it but on top of other people. Finding empty holes to put your feet ends up a combination of human Twister and that wiggler game where you have to contort yourself through intricate tangles of razor wire. If you lose your balance you lose, if you touch anything you lose... A limb. You're a pro at this, a hatched acrobat, a blade-dancer of old. Step, step, contort, emergency handhold, stretch a toe, steeeep...
Your brain gently, insistently informs you that the oozing tangle of man-eating vines you've just stepped on is Her Imperious Condescension's hair.
You're really tempted to tell your brain to fuck off, only without the weight of your brain to keep them down your nerves will twang like a slingshot and fling your pants-pissing terror into inenarrable imbecility, such as taking a sickle to the overgrown horrorterror bush she's lugging on her head and currently smothering half a dozen people with.
Someone laughs. It's just a chuckle, quiet as possible, barely a breath, but it's absolutely not sorry. You turn your head, already charging up your best quelling glare, no, you doucheguzzlers the sight of your glorious leader's thinksponge having a very minor emergency-shutdown incident is not something you're allowed to find funny--
It's other you.
He's all swaddled in dirt-gray clothes, body made utterly shapeless, face shadowed by the ridiculous hood, but his eyes are your red. There's no missing them, the shade is eye-searing bright. He guides a Sollux look-alike off his leg and pushes himself up. You watch him make his halting way to you with his unfairly longer legs, all the while wondering what the fuck and what does he want and why can't he return to being a hypothetical entity that you don't have to deal with yet because priorities, you have some of those, okay.
"Where are you going?" he breathes, and his voice is husky and friendly and not even a little bit like yours. You have never sounded like that one day of your life and you're never going to and you don't give a fuck. No, honestly, you don't.
"I'm missing some of my humans," you inform him, gruff and uncaring and your shoulders squared like the badass leader that you are and why does he have to be a head taller than you? "And I have deduced with my masterful, scintillating intelligence that in order to get out they have quite possibly used the only way out that exists short of walking through walls. That--" you point, "--tunnel, just in the wholly unsurprising case you needed that clarified."
You're speaking a bit more loudly than he did. That probably bothers some people. Fuck them, you're on a mission!
Holy flaming shit do you not want the other Gamzee to wake up, though. No matter that your Gamzee stuffed half of his own limited supply of experimental alchemized pies down his gullet and even taking the other Gamzee's preposterous mass in account he probably won't wake up for a week.
You do not abscond. You just... speed up. Your humans might be in the middle of getting taken apart for some alien's funny bone collection.
The other you is right on your heels. Gnhgh longer legs unfair why.
"Something Vantas, yeah, I know. What do you want?"
"World peace and understanding. A miniature hoofbeast. Kheper."
"Kheper. My wiggler name. Or you could call me Signless. You are?"
"Not signless." You tap your chest, your gray symbol, not quite looking at his face. There's this cave tunnel to navigate, after all.
"You're welcome for that one, by the way," he says, and his voice twists a little funny, like maybe he does have some vitriol left in the deepest recesses of his acid pouch. You don't get why, but you know the tone well enough. When you use it usually there's a higher ratio of insult per word than that, but you know it inside out. You swallow back the 'Kheper Vantas is the ugliest name ever' observation. He probably knows anyway, you refuse to imagine that anyone with your face might possibly be that ridiculously oblivious.
"I'm Karkat. Vantas. Obviously."
With that hood in the way you can only see his mouth. It's smiling. You walk a little faster.
The tunnel twists and turns and narrows at random, and you make faces -- going to have to break some of those rocky spires if you want Gamzee or Equius to go though, but none of the more reasonably-sized troll will have trouble.
Signless -- it's too weird calling an adult by his wiggler name -- follows on your heels, mostly silent and not trying to take over. You start to relax a bit, so of course that's when he opens his blatherhole again. "What does a human look like? In the interest of recognizing them when we come across them, as I have never met any aliens and those sleeping back there were a little hard to examine."
Damn, it's a reasonable question too. You glare a bit over your shoulder anyway. "Like trolls. Only their skins come in funny colors like brown or pink or yellow. Some of them have lusus hair too, go figure."
"Do they all have serrated horns? That's an interesting look."
You turn to look at him dumbly -- you just lost a hundred IQ points from that question -- and someone chooses that perfectly timed moment to go "Yo, Vantas" behind you.
Of course it's Strider, you know before you even bring up your sickle, but, as you've just said, it is Strider, so that doesn't stop you from slicing.
He blocks with his sword, of course.
You drop your sickle. It flies off and clangs against a rock somewhere and you're not going to find it again because you haven't seen where it went.
It's gloomy in the cave, though it's been getting lighter as you go. His hair is still whiteish. His skin is still too pale.
His horns are two majestic half-circles, up and then back, long like perhaps a whole goddamned arm from root to tip, and the outer edges are ridged.
"Whoa, cool your nubs there, honeybunch."
"Where the fuck is that coming from," you demand, waving your other sickle at his head. Okay, no, you screech. You'll screech if you goddamn want to since when did Strider have horns?! "Am I hallucinating? Did Gamzee perhaps sneak me a piece of that horrible confection he cobbled together from stale crumbs and artificial approximations and the toxic sludge at the bottom of his load-gaper? Have we even left the game, or perhaps I dreamed that, and in the parlance of your people I am now tripping balls? Or perhaps you have found some wild trolls out there and decided to appropriate their headgear? Have you repurposed the skin as well, it could make for a fetching vest to cover your hideous mutant skin--"
"Shoosh," he says, and paps you in the face. You fall silent, mostly because you're too busy choking with rage at his presumption to speak. "Yo, Nubbly Mark Two."
Signless has his lips pinched. You'd think he's holding back his offense but actually no, he's trying not to laugh. He is now dead to you. You'll tell him as soon as you find enough air to speak again. "I go by Signless," he says, dry but amused.
He's laughing at you. That asshole is laughing at you. Well of course he is, he's basically you except older, and you've always been the person you could least stand in the universe. Any universe.
"Right. Seeing how that's a descriptor and not a name, I'm rechristening you Biggerkat, just so you know. It is now your name, forever and ever amen."
Signless arches an eyebrow. Dave shrugs.
"Unless you're really attached to Nubbly Two. Name's Dave Strider."
"You can call him nookmunch fartface," you say. Now Signless is silent-laughing at Dave. Hah.
Perfect time to reach out and grab the base of Dave's closest horn and tug.
His head comes with. "Ow! Hey, careful with the merchandise, that's a priceless Strider artifact you're getting your gross Vantas germs over."
You just... you stare. You can see through his flat, thin hair where the skin around the base of his horn rises a bit to surround it. From the way his head moves when you give it a second tug, it's pretty firmly attached to his cranial boneshield.
The white of his eyes doesn't look as light as it should.
You start dragging him toward the exit, where there's more light. He stumbles after you, head twisted askew, off balance. He has no clue how to handle the torque, and that does more to confirm to you that this is real than actually touching the things.
"Hey -- stop molesting my headgear now, horn envy is such an ugly thing and can you really afford to get any uglier -- ow, damn it -- I know you're gagging to get your hands all over my throbbing meat telescope but honestly this is much too small to be an appropriate substitute anyway -- stop shaking my head for fuck's sake, seriously Vantas I'm starting to feel more devirginized than a Prom queen in the football locker room here. Help, help, I need an adult and is there anyone here that fits this criterion, yes there actually is!"
Signless is trotting after you, looking unconcerned and really way too amused, but you have bigger things to think about right now than how irritating his mere existence is.
"Yes, ah, Dave? Did you want something?"
Oh, that innocent tone. He's going to make Dave beg. Hah. Okay maybe you don't hate him too much.
"Howz'about some hot and heavy ashy action? A babe like me plus a pair of twins, we'll rake in a ton of gold on the smutty videos. Hng, yes, conciliate us harder, baby -- Karkat, I swear to fuck I will sodomize you with the most broken sword I have if you don't let the fuck go."
One thing you did not want to know; you and Signless choke the exact same way.
"Well. I have been propositioned before, but never quite that brazenly."
"He doesn't mean it, he just has his facegash stuck in idiocy-fueled perpetual motion," you growl. "The hate is purely platonic."
"You say that, and then you get your grubby little mitts all over the most phallic part of me you can reach. I'm getting mixed signals here, babe."
There's enough light here. You drag him in the middle of the widening cave mouth and turn to him. "If I shove my foot down your noisehole you can interpret it as my wishful thinking about tenderly penetrating your nook as much as your displaced little feelings demand it! Because at least you'll be doing it fucking silently."
Your mouth's been going on automatic, because you're too busy looking at him.
He's... Still human-shaped.
The yellow of his eyes -- the part that used to be white, anyway -- is a very pale gold. His skin is a couple of shades darker, has a strange grayish tint, muting his offending bright pinkness. His nails have gone pointy.
"Karkat," Signless says, forcefully calm and quiet like there's a grizzlybeast standing behind you and it hasn't seen you quite yet.
"What." You don't have time to chat, you're staring at your human-who-isn't-anymore.
A hand rises in the corner of your field of vision and it's dark, claw-tipped fingers.
It's ruddy-red, dusky-red, dark-almostbrown-red.
It's his hand.
The hand you have on Dave's horn is exactly the same.
"I'm thinking that when we forced the game to count us all as a single party, it kinda reclassified all of us as being of the same species," Jade says cheerfully from outside the cave. "Since that was, you know, one of the original parameters. Though really what if there'd been several sentient species on the same planet, what then?"
"They'd have bombed each other into slag before they figured out computers," Dave drawls, and finally manages to slap your hand away.
You'd be relieved that both your missing baah-beasts are now accounted for and in a reasonable number of pieces (read: same amount as what they started out with) but at the moment you're too busy freaking the fuck out.
You're. You're, holy shit you're not gray anymore, you're, is that your blood showing through? You can see veins running almost-black at your wrist and on the back of your hand, holy nookchafing fuckappaloosa, great gracious gangbang, that was one of the horrible things to cringe at the humans over, that lack of armor, those visible targets begging for it.
A horrible thought slaps you in the face and your hands fly to your horns. No, they're the same size, they weren't averaged down to account for the humans' lack of any.
Your hand stops right before going for your crotch. Because you might not give a fuck about what Dave and Signless think (seriously fuck them, no matter what they will never respect you anyway, no loss can be incurred there) but Jade is pretty close and what if she decides to walk in just as you are mounting an expedition to scale Mount Bone? That'd be exactly like your luck.
But oh god do you need to know. Just from walking around in pants it's feeling the same so far but from the little you've heard about the humans' horrific segregated arrangements, oh god no, what if you're now down a nook, you like your nook, it's snug and soft and nice and you've never gotten to use it with a real person yet --
Dave catches your hands twitching pants-ward and smirks, unveiling pointy eyeteeth, but it quirks a little more awkward than you were expecting it. "Thanks for the cooch contribution, by the way. Jade'll thank you better, she always wanted to be a dickgirl."
... Wow, so they're the ones who ended up with upgraded genitalia. You'd tell him to suck it up and be grateful, but every time you've ever upgraded Trollian was always a huge pain in the ass after you'd gotten the settings exactly how you wanted them, and this is a bit more integral than a stupid computer program.
"Why don't you come choke on my dick, Dave?" Jade asks from outside the cave, horribly cheerfully. "Since you're so curious about it that you can't stop talking about it?"
He ambles back to the mouth of the cave, with its veritable drapery of green and blue leafy plants. "Hey, it's disrespectful to car wrecks and circus freak shows not to slow down to behold their true glory, okay."
And he spreads open the hanging vines and pure light thrusts inside in dazzling bright lances and puddles on the ground, turning the rock molten gold.
You think you scream. You didn't mean to. You did mean to throw yourself forward, and you do mean to catch his arm and yank him right back in. You're blind with fright and light spots dancing in your eyes. His weight lands on you and you stumble back and end up on the ground, hard, there's a pointy pebble in your ass cheek and your tailbone will have a bruise the size of your fucking head and Strider is heavy as fuck and clocked you in the cheekbone with one of his ridiculous horns but holy fuck, holy fuck. "Are you burned?! Where are you burned, show me, fuck oh fuck, we need Feferi -- Signless, we need --"
Hand. In your face. Papping you. Awkwardly, because he can't turn around because the ends of his preposterous horns are on each side of your head and you still have a death grip on his waist. "Oh my god, shoosh and then tell me what the fuck, you unrelenting dick pimple."
... He doesn't sound hurt.
He doesn't smell hurt.
He's not hurt. Oh. Wow. Shit, wow. Hah. Haha. You release him, shove him off -- and then grab madly for his shoulder before he tumbles face-first through the plants good going, self, he avoided getting crisped the first time let's see if the second--
"Karkat," says Signless, all cautious and soothing like he's, he's Kanaya or something, why is Adult You any kind of Kanaya, that's just weird, not that Kanaya isn't cool but that's it, she's just not you at all -- and he crouches beside the two of you.
You're tangled together, with Dave still squirming and making outraged noises that sound like dueling featherbeasts, and you're still breathing hard, claws caught in his God Tier shirt. (where's the cape? The long-sleeved undershirt? Who the fuck cares thank you brain for those irrelevant nuggets of information.) You are not letting him go, holy fuck you know he's suicidal, and it wouldn't count as Just (the universe counts those weird, because if he doesn't deserve it then who does, honestly) but it doesn't matter if it doesn't stick, does he have any idea how horrible a death that would be?
"Karkat... your other human friend is outside, isn't she?"
You open and close your mouth a few times, give those jaw muscles a workout.
"She's... smart enough to get herself an umbrella? And I mean, knowing her, it'd be a radioactive-repellant, lead-lined umbrella that also dispenses a cooling mist somehow."
"You know, Vantas, you keep denying you're ebony black for my flawless features and enviable personality, but then I end up bounced around on your lap like a little girl on a Mall Santa's red plush-clad boner."
You shove him off your lap. Burn, lususfucker. Okay, you pushed him to the side, and he knocks into Signless, who stumbles back from his precariously balanced crouch and ends up on his ass. Grace and dignity are obviously bred into Vantases down to the bone marrow. "You're welcome, you sorry heap of phlegm and pus, you're fucking welcome for me saving you from getting broiled into barely palatable meat on a human-shaped stick, you --" he's staring at you like your meltdown is fascinating and totally alien to his whole life experience. "--Argh! Oh my barfing assgog do I hate you, you are a boil on the ass of the cosmos frog just where it can't even shitfucking scratch, you're --"
"Not black for me. Hm-mm. I believe you, like holy shit look at all that blind faith seeping out from my very pores, gonna start laying hands and healing all those sexy disciple babes in a second now--"
"Auuugh shut the fucking fuck up!"
"If you guys make me get up to auspisticize, you are going to be tasting ashes, like, really far down your throats, okay?!"
This is the second ashen offer you've had in less than ten minutes. Goddamn. Okay, no, the first wasn't really an offer, it was Dave clowning around like a tool, it's not like he really believes the two of you ought to be quadranted, even if he's the one who brought it up first.
And, um, the second offer too, Jade's human, she might have taken well to a lot of troll things but she's never really grayflirted with... you... apart from that one memorable time between Past and Future Karkat but obviously that one wasn't meant to last... um. Oh. Wow.
"Huh. You know, I could never figure out if trolls blushed, with your thick boring skins, but now I can tell you do. Like... you really do."
"What the fuck even is blushing," you stammer, doesn't he realize you three might be filling a quadrant? No, obviously, he never takes that shit seriously, that's why you can't stand his stupid not-nearly-expressionless-enough bitchysmug face.
"It's when you're thinking dirty naughty bad thoughts unfit for public consumption in public and suddenly bam, red everywhere up that bad boy face. Jade, you should know better than to fluster our favorite princess like that, okay?" he calls out, turning his head and almost clocking Signless in the face with his horns. "Whoops, sorry dude."
Signless, who is biting on his fist to keep from laughing. That fucking asshole.
If someone comes up and tells you that Dave and Signless are going to end up battling it out to decide who ends up ash and who ends up pitch with you, you won't even be surprised. It'll be serendipity either way. Great Condesce's peerless tits can you not stand either of those bastards.
(Oh hey fuck, you're going to have to lay off swearing on the Condesce. Now that she's around and can hear you it feels less like a distant sacrilege and more like Trident-to-the-Face Express.
She does have fairly nice vestigial venom glands, mind.)
Anyway. You shove off Dave's leg and get up, dust yourself off. You eye the plants like they're about to fly open and expose you to that Giant Cooker in the Sky.
"Yes, what," she grumbles back, but halfheartedly, like she's half asleep and too content to move.
"You okay out here?"
"I am fine out here, and if you came out you would be fine too, and we would all be fine and it would be excellent."
She sighs. It's a sigh that means 'this was the best cake ever and I am so full I can't move anymore and I don't even mind.'
That or 'that was some excellent orgasm you just served there, and now I am going right to sleep wrapped in its perfect glow.' Oh damn it, what the fuck, brain, now you don't have a choice anymore, you have to take a look outside, just to prove to yourself what a ridiculous comparison it was and okay why is your hand nudging at the leaves there. Just a little bit, just to make a tiny hole, cautiously avoiding the ray of light that falls in...
You squint. The light is bright, but not too bad. You lean in.
Outside is a fucking meadow full of the fluffiest blue grass ever, and there's trees on two sides and right in front there is the sea. It's a color you've never seen in real life, something like Terezi's shade mixed with John's eyes and all the gray dullness pulled right out, and white flecks dancing everywhere on it. It looks a bit like what you remember from Rose's planet.
The light makes your eyes water a bit.
Signless makes a little thoughtful hum at your side, and then he nods to himself, pulls the hood a little lower on his face, and slides through the hanging vines. You are frozen speechless, hands open, too slow to grab at him.
"Huh. I like your style, Biggerkat," Strider says as he walks out on his heels. "Seriously Littlerkat is a whiny little bitch. How 'bout a trade?"
You stay frozen. No screams of pain. Is it possible that your new skin... what, doesn't have working pain receptors? You wouldn't even be fucking surprised, it's just too strange that you haven't been fucked over too much yet. (The different appearances thing? that was just messing with your collective minds, it wasn't a serious gauntlet slapped right in your faces. It needs serious design flaws or else you'll start looking for the boulders about to fall from the sky.)
"Oh," says that voice that's nothing like yours. "This is... really nice, actually. Strange, but nice. Warm."
"No kidding it's warm!" you screech. "You're being cooked alive, and you don't even have the fucking decency to do it in range of the cave so we can drag your corpse back in and be well-fed!"
You can feel a good long rant coming up.
Only when you go to bark it out suddenly you're not in the cave anymore. Jade is sitting up on the grass scowling at you, copper-brown skin and green and pale gold eyes and the colors look so vibrant in that light.
You can only see a glimpse of her, because then the light gets into your eyes and you're blinded. Holy bulge-knotting fuck. You're blinded. You flinch and crouch and curl your arms over your head, try to shield your face best as you can, where's the cave? You want to go running to the cave but what if Jade turned you around and you end up diving off the cliff? Shit, drowning would be a colder death at least, and crashing on jagged rocks might be fast...
There's a big adult hand holding your upper arm. There's a voice going shoosh, shoosh, there's a shadow falling over you. You crowd against the source of it, shivering all over. Jade and Dave are making disparaging comments about you don't even fucking care what. You're outside. It's high noon.
"You're safe -- Karkat? Karkat, you're safe, you're okay, shhh."
"Man, it's been so long since he had his latest spazz attack, I almost thought he'd grown out of being a histrionic sack of lame. What's he having a meltdown over this time?" Dave says, and you flinch because it sounded kind of annoyed, kind of unsurprised, like you're the bad kind of pitiful, like you're ridiculous and not even in the funny way.
"Exposure to the sun on Alternia is a favored method of death by torture," Signless says. His voice is emotionless straight through. He's still patting your hair, combing it around your horns like he knows exactly how each bang goes. He's crouching over you as you sit on blue grass, his great cloak falling around the both of you so there's maybe only a fifteen inches gap in front. "It's mostly effortless on the torturer's part after the initial securing of the bonds, and the psychological aspects are ingrained in the psyche from being told since infancy what will happen if you sneak out or open the blinds at the wrong time of the day."
You shudder, slit open one of your eyes -- you shouldn't but at least that way you'll only go half blind? The grass is so, so bright. You can see Jade's splayed, bare legs, her skirt ruffled up to mid thigh as she sits with her hands propped between her knees. If you tilt your head a bit you can see her face, wincing, the shape of her horns. They're still Bec ears, only now they're all gold and ochre and brick, and they don't flick tracking faraway noises anymore.
"Oh," she says, all quiet, and she winces. "Um, sorry. I didn't know that."
Your eye doesn't hurt as much anymore. It still feels a bit tight, but not like you're going blind. You're feeling less glare-blinded, actually. Huh.
"... Aw, okay, okay, sorry, you big baby." Dave crouches in front of the two of you and peers under the cloak. You open both eyes to glare (it makes things weird, there's an eye that sees things darker and redder and the other sees it all tinged blue.) You don't lean out of your shadowy cave, though, no way. You snatch the edge of the cloak and tighten the gap a bit. You're safe in here.
Signless gives another of his near-silent chuckles, and you realize -- remember -- that it's not exactly a cliff at your back, it's his chest. Your face goes hot once again, holy hell that's weird, but you can't be burning only now and you remember the feeling anyway, from when Dave was being an embarrassing piece of shit that mortified everyone in a ten meters radius.
"... It's more like your sun than ours?" you conclude, and fuck your voice is a bit shaky. "I should have remembered yours was that weak-ass piece of shit, hah. I'll just..." ... come out now, ahaha it's funny because you can't make yourself push that cloak open and crawl out. Into the light. The bright, white light. The bright, white, apparently entirely safe light, what are you, a wiggler, terrified of perfectly normal things like the gurgle of the thermal hull or the shadows the green moon made on your respiteblock wall?
Jade rolls on hands and knees and crawls closer. She tilts her head like a sorry barkbeast and makes huge sad eyes at you. "I'm sorry for transporting you out here so fast. But really this sun is very nice! It warms you up all over, I think you'd like it. Also if you're part human now you'll need it to produce sufficient levels of vitamin D! It's good for your bones and everything. Health requirement!"
She holds out a hand. Still in the light. You hesitate for ten seconds before you reach out to take it.
The light makes the red tint of your dark hand come out somehow. It's not the same brown as hers, she's more orangeish-coppery somehow, you're like that table Rose had informed you pointedly was dark mahogany wood. Maybe a bit less intense. Hard to say. You have the same gold-tipped claws.
Your hand is shaking in hers. The back of it is starting to feel warm, where she's leaving it exposed to the sun, it doesn't feel the same as her own body warmth, you're not sure, it just seems to diffuse through your flesh differently.
"You're doing good," Signless says, and you snort, bitter, but he flicks the tip of your ear with a claw. "I'm serious. Don't compare yourself to me, I had a Jadeblood for a lusus and oftentimes the only reason we lived was that she would swaddle me in sun cloth and run away in daylight when everyone thought they had us cornered. I'm pretty desensitized, and even then the only reason I came out at all was that this cloak is made of sun cloth too."
You blink, tilt your head back so you can see his face looking down at you. "... You had the weirdest life, and I already know this from literally one sentence about your wigglerhood. I don't even know if I should want to hear about the rest."
"Probably not!" Signless says, and winks. You cringe.
"Never do that again with anything that looks like my face. I'm going out now and it's purely to get away from you."
And you lean out... or start to... and Jade is grinning at you and still holding your hand and shifting back to tug you along, and so you go because there isn't much of a choice by that point. Dave would roll his eyes at you.
You can feel the sun on your head, on your back, it's like some huge, immaterial touch right through your clothes. You shuffle awkwardly on one hand and your knees after Jade. She tugs you back toward her spot, where the grass is flattened in a little Jade-sized hollow, and she flops back down. You hesitate like a tool, leaning over her like an awkward gargoyle.
Dave plants a heel on your hip and topples you into her. You both yelp. You're scrambling off her the very next second, landing on your ass and flustered into stupidity. You did not actually faceplant into her chesticular fatty sacks, but it was a very close thing. Like, less than one inch close.
"Dave!" you protest together.
"Yeah, I know I'm irresistible but cool your jets, ladies--"
Jade growls low in her throat, and this time around there's a scratchy, shivery undertone that hits your troll ears just right. She sits up, grabs you by the shoulder, and yanks you down into the grass. "Dave," she says over your back, "if you're not laying down in the grass in the next five seconds I am teleporting you out to sea."
You blink at your faceful of grass. Uh. Okay, no getting up then.
You keep waiting for the heat on your back to turn from pervasive to painful, but it doesn't. You shuffle around a bit, crossing your arms, setting your head on them. It's surreal. You're outside in daylight.
Grumbling halfheartedly, Dave settles down in the grass on your other side, on his back, hands stuck behind his head. "I just got done with the tanning thing, babe, Striders are choosy about their degree of exposure. It's already weird as fuck I'm not sunburned to hell and back after ten minutes' exposure. All hail that weirdass sickly-looking troll skin, I guess."
"So your human sun does burn as well?" Signless inquires, as he finds himself a spot to sit in, ankles crossed.
"Not nearly to the same degree, dude. Yours sounds like unreal levels of charbroiling."
"Yeah, what he means by sunburn is that his skin would look red and it'd be tight and painful to the touch for a couple of days and then the dead skin would flake off. Which is pretty disgusting!" Jade says, cheerful like disgusting means fascinating and she would love to get her hands all up on Dave's gross molt. "But if you're careful not to stay in the sun all day, you can't die from it. Probably get a dehydration headache, though."
Signless hums. Jade makes a little sing-songy noise, like she doesn't have any more actual words to say but she still wants to keep up the communication. Like 'yeah, I'm still here, I'll still listen. I'm not going anywhere, I like it here.'
There's insects making weird crr-crr noises a little way off, but they sound pretty content staying in their place. There's a weirdly shaped purple bug climbing a blade of grass in front of your nose. There's birds calling that sound like no bird you have ever seen. There's the sea, rolling at the bottom of the cliff, the rustle in the leaves... It's all so quiet, you can hear everything you otherwise never could. You can hear Jade and Dave breathing, not in rhythm, but soothing anyway somehow.
So calm. So warm.
"You swear I'm not going to burn?" you ask, groggy with nice-comfy warmth.
Signless chuckles. "I set the timer. Just take your goddamn nap," Dave mumbles, "be a good little wiggler... mnh."
"I'll discover pseudo-aloe especially so I can rub it all over your poor burnt shoulders," Jade promises.
Huh. Sounds like a plan. You are the friendleader, it is you; you know from plans.
You'd have to have burnt shoulders first, though.
You take off your cape, and your shirt and your undershirt come with.
They make for a great pillow.