MERRY FUCKING GRISTMAS

Homestuck-Secrets Secret Santa

All organization courtesy of the projectRunner, owner of Homestuck-Secrets.

"But wait," you ask, staring at the miniature santa hat gracing Cursor Hussie's head, "what even is this place?"

Emails:
*homestucksecretsanta@gmail.com
homestucksecretsanta@hotmail.ca

* If you were interested in making a small What Pumpkin Gift Certificate donation to support my effort in MAKING THIS HAPEN, this is also a Paypal e-mail address!

February 6, 2012

[Fanfic] Strangers in the Night, John/Karkat NSFW

╔═ (╯°□°)╯︵  ┻━┻  ═╗

TO: wanderinginrubyslippers
FROM: puddleofbodka

╚════ ┬──┬◡ノ(° -°ノ) ═╝

(Put in simplest terms because this is a massive AU: This is in set in the late sixties, in an earth where trolls and humans have known about their coexistence for about twenty years. The species mix has turned out better than expected, but there is still considerable tension. John and Karkat (and many others) returned from serving a 12-month tour of duty in the world’s second war fought by two species, and have been living with John’s dad while working in town. Hope you enjoy!)

⇒ John: Be the driver.
You are woken for the fifth time this hour by the same blaring car horn behind you. 
Resisting the urge to flip them a very enthusiastic bird, you lift your heavy head from the steering wheel, take your foot off the brake, and roll forward several feet to close the gap between you and the car ahead of you, which has been moving at a speed of approximately SIXTY MILES PER NEVER. 
In the passenger seat, Karkat grunts in his sleep, shifting further down, and you hold your breath until you’re sure he’s asleep again. You doubt he’d be pleased to find that the two of you are stuck in a TRAFFIC JAM. This revelation would undoubtedly result in one of his infamous THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS speeches. Your name is JOHN EGBERT, you are about TWENTY years old, and you’d be really grateful to whatever god exists if your boyfriend stays asleep for the rest of the drive. 
Thankfully, the ever-mystical bearded man in the sky has seen fit to grant you a sweltering day to make your pilgrimage to the next city over, and Karkat tends to become something like a SLEEPY KITTEN when it’s really hot out. The neat dashboard thermometer your dad gave you is inching towards the tiny blue 90 that will mark the moment when sweltering turns to flat-out inconceivable. 
Yeah. 
Karkat’s not waking up.
Not even with the sixth round of the person behind you leaning on (or, from the sound of it, punching) their car horn to wake you up and remind you that you have a whole SIX FEET of room in front of your car to move into. You roll forward, closing the gap, and wonder, not for the first time, why on earth you are driving to Portland. 
⇒ John: Have an extremely convenient flashback.
Bluh, you’re already doing that! It’s not very convenient, though; it’s just kind of annoying and boring. But while you’re crawling along the road here, you might as well…
⇒ John: Have that flashback.
It is now ONE WEEK EARLIER, at about quarter to eight in the morning, and you are lying on your bed giving NO FUCKS about ANYTHING. 
It’s pretty cool! 
You decide to reach out and tap on the wall separating your room and the guest room. Making sure to keep it quiet, you do so, and on the other side you hear the disgruntled squeaking of bedsprings. 
Then Karkat knocks twice in response, and you imagine him in the guest bed in the next room over, face still buried in his pillow as he stretches his arm out above his head to hit the wall. After FONDLY REGARDING that mental image for a minute, you tap again, a quick pattern. You aren’t sure if it means anything. You aren’t really sure you even have a reason to do this! But you’re doing it anyways. Funny how these things work. 
There’s no more knocking for a long minute, and you’d be wondering if Karkat had fallen asleep, were it not for the muttered curses that you can barely hear through the thin wall. Over the past year and a half or so, you’ve learned to pick Karkat’s swearing out from any crowd. It’s a distinct mix of DISDAIN and CREATIVE INSULTS, all wrapped up in a METAPHORICAL TORTILLA of WELL-FAKED IRRITATION. 
You suppose your appreciation of said CUSS BURRITO is due to your PROLONGED EXPOSURE to Karkat’s rambling. It’s an acquired taste. Though he made his best effort to tone down the elaborate swearing once he moved in, your father has still been known to look extremely TAKEN ABACK during Karkat’s (now much more rare) fervent bouts of anger. 
But before Karkat responds, the telephone rings downstairs, and though you don’t know it your SERENE SUNDAY MORNING is about to KICK THE BUCKET. 
(And not the troll kind of sex-bucket, either, though you think that would be a bad thing too.)
Your dad answers the phone, and you relax once again. You can always count on your dad to be up and about early, clean-shaven and sharply dressed, to answer all the inopportune telephone calls in your life. Your dad is pretty excellent. You still wish he’d cool it with the baking; he’s just as constant with it as he was when you were in middle school, and Karkat has started to warm up to cake in the six months since he came to live here. It was disappointing. You were really hoping he’d join you in your CAKE ABSTINENCE.
No such luck, you suppose.
(One time he ate an entire bowl of brownie batter in the time it took your father to run up to the store to get some butter. You kept waiting for him to get sick, or at least to having some sort of stomachache, but it never came. For a little while you started to think that troll digestive systems were made of steel.)
Downstairs your father laughs with whoever’s on the phone. You haven’t heard your father laugh - really laugh - in a long time, and it’s a good sound to hear. You know he’s glad to have you home again, though he doesn’t really know how to feel about Karkat. 
(You’re pretty sure he doesn’t know about you and Karkat. You kind of hope he doesn’t, because that would be SERIOUSLY AWKWARD, even if the two of you are sleeping in separate rooms.) 
You start to doze a little again, sprawled out on the bed in an attempt to keep the coolness of the night for as long as possible. 
It’s either two minutes or an hour before your dad comes knocking on your door. Somehow you manage to disentangle yourself from your sheets and stand, making sure you’re halfway decent before you leave your room. Your dad is nowhere to be found. Yawning so wide your jaw cracks, you meander down to where the door to his room is wide open. 
“What’s going on?” you ask, giving your glasses a quick clean with the bottom of your shirt before sliding them onto your nose. 
The world falls into focus - your dad’s suitcase laying wide-open on his bed, several pairs of trousers and some shirts lying inside, his favorite hat sitting tipped up on the edge of it - you push the door open a little wider and your dad comes into view, his hands in the top drawer of his dresser, taking some socks out. He turns to you and smiles, and though it’s uncommon and usually work-related, you know he’s excited right now.
“Your aunt was on the phone,” he says, carefully rearranging the clothes in the suitcase so that they lay straight. “Aunt Emily, the one who lives in Portland. Do you know what she told me?”
You open your mouth to tell him no, you do not in fact know what she told him. He cuts you off without even pausing, and you think he must really be excited. 
“She said all the boys are back home again - you remember her sons - and the family’s getting together for a reunion next weekend!” 
Dread sinks your stomach. 
You remember Aunt Emily’s sons, all right. 
⇒ John: Have a flash back in your flash back.
Whoa, how about no. You don’t want to remember those family parties any more vividly than you have to. Let it be known in simplest terms that you received many a bruise from Aunt Emily’s three sons. The bridge of your glasses was thick with tape in those days. When you were drafted, only a few months after their youngest had been, your biggest fear was ending up in the same unit as one of them. 
…That’s an exaggeration. Your biggest fear was dying.
⇒ John: Protest this unwanted meeting.
Double whoa and doubly no! Even if you’re a little upset over this shocking development, you don’t think its very fair to rain on your old man’s parade. You don’t know what he did for the twelve or so months you were gone, but you’re pretty sure social interactions weren’t a large part of it. In that weird patronizing way children sometimes think of their parents, you think it would do him good to see his sister. 
“Uh, great!” You manage to drum up a little excitement, but you’re a little distracted by his slowly filling suitcase. “But if the party is next weekend, why are you packing now?”
“I agreed to come up a few days early to help her set up. You know, catch up with each other and all,” your dad says, and the way he can’t seem to keep his smile off his face is breaking your heart a little. You reaffirm your childhood resolution to never tell him about the fact that it was Jake and his stupid FISTICUFFS that kept breaking your glasses, not the fact that you kept trying to climb the tree in the yard. (You had never once touched that tree, but it was a good an excuse as any.)
“Oh.” It’s only a short soft word but it reeks of disappointment and you wish you could take it back as soon as it slips out. But you’re really not keen on the prospect of spending an entire week with the trio of boys that made your childhood summers miniature lessons in the art of desperate games of HIDE AND SEEK. 
Thankfully, it seems he was too wrapped up in his excitement and packing to hear you. 
“I know you’re still pretty tired from all the long shifts this week,” he continues. “So you can take the Chevelle in a couple days and come down just for the weekend, okay? I already took care of calling your boss.”
You would be skeptical - your boss is a total hardass most of the time - but your father’s powers of persuasion are difficult to resist if he keeps up an attempt to convince you for more than three minutes. Case in point: The fact that you are starting to kind of go along with this. 
“And what about-” You hesitate with the question half out, glancing in the general direction of the guest room. The fact that Karkat can hear you down the hall makes it really really awkward to discuss his alien… ness. And that you have no idea how your extended family will respond to having a troll in the middle of their family party. 
Aside from being a master of persuasion, your old man is also remarkably good at picking up on your horrible attempts at subtlety. Which is good, because otherwise they would become horrible attempts at tact, and you’re even worse at tact than you are at subtlety.
“I… mentioned it to Emily,” he assures you, carefully folding one of his spare belts into a loose loop before tucking it into his suitcase. “She was a little hesitant, but she said it would be fine.” 
You’re pretty sure that means it will be decidedly NOT FINE. Aunt Emily is okay and all, but she’s always had a little bit of a PATHOLOGICAL FEAR when it comes to trolls. When a troll couple moved into the house next door to hers, she refused to go into her backyard the entire first summer they lived there; she called your dad no less than three times a week whispering about how she was certain they were those kiss-messy things and would doubtlessly kill each other by Labor Day. (They were very calm, American, lowblooded matesprits and they didn’t, but Aunt Emily doesn’t know much about trolls. Just enough to be scared shitless every time she meets one.) 
But like hell you’re going to go to some stupid family reunion and leave Karkat alone in the house for a whole weekend. Your long days on the job and his weird work hours make it hard to spend much time together already. 
Not to mention that the last time he tried to use the stove to cook something, he set off all the smoke alarms and broke a plate or two in the ensuing panic. Your dad banned him from the oven after that. You are not condemning your boyfriend to either four days of take out food or four days of salads and cold leftovers. You’re no Suzie Homemaker yourself, but you at least know how to make spaghetti and hot dogs without burning down the house. 
But you’re not mentioning any of that to your dad. 
So you shrug, attempting your best CHARMING SMILE. It feels a little stiff, but your dad smiles back, so it’s all okay. You’ll take one (or several, depending on whether or not war has improved Jake’s temper) for the team, if it makes him happy.
And who knows? Maybe with Karkat, it’ll be something like a fair fight. 
“Sounds like a plan to me,” you add for good measure, and your dad nods absently, already focused on his packing again. While he folds everything he owns into small enough spaces to fit into his suitcase (and you swear that man is magic when it comes to the art of vacation clothing), you slip back off down the hallway. 
For a minute you hesitate, contemplating Karkat’s doorway. You really ought to say good morning and fill him in, but you’re still pretty shell-shocked yourself. So instead, you get back into your own bed and stare up at the ceiling for a while. 
Experience dictates that this is going to be a trainwreck with casualties. 
A day later, your dad is backing out the driveway, headed for Portland, Oregon and a house full of Egberts. 
(Well, English’s, mostly, and whatever the married cousins’ names are now.)
You wave until his car turns the bend a few houses down, then turn back to the open front door. Karkat is leaning against the frame, staring after the car with an odd expression on his face. It’s nearing noon and you are starting to get a little hungry, so you try to slip past him back into the house anyways.
He stops you with a hand flat on your chest, still looking out at where the car disappeared. 
“What the hell is a family reunion?” he asks finally.
Hooo, boy.
Stepping back up into the doorway, you take his hand down and lead him by it to the kitchen.
“It’s kind of a long story.”
You explain over glasses of milk sloppy sandwiches (pb&j with extra extra jelly on his; apparently it reminds him of the grub butter and fruit mash sandwiches his lusus used to make him, and ham and cheese for you), and you are very grateful that Karkat’s temper has improved since the first time you met him. Otherwise it would’ve been necessary to phone a female friend about how to get grape jelly out of wallpaper.
As it is, it takes the promise of backrubs for a week and a half (Karkats favorite thing about earth is human backrubs, and it’s good since even if you suck at them he doesn’t know the difference), as well as lifting any obligations he might have to speak to anyone but you and your dad at the party, to convince him to come with you. That, and the reminder that it’s either two and half days or so with a bunch of weirdos, or four days stuck home alone without hot foods. He tells you that doesn’t add up, stupid, and you remind him that it’ll take about a day to get down to Portland if you factor in all the rest stops and getting lost. Which probably isn’t a good thing, since Karkat tends to get a little bored and fidgety in his seat when he has to ride in a car (or a plane, or a helicopter) for more than an hour.  
But finally, after you promise to bring along some of those pills the Army doctor prescribed him for stress and let him sleep through the trip, Karkat agrees to go.
“You drive a hard bargain,” you tell him.
“You have jelly on your nose,” he tells you, reaching across the skinny length of bar seating to wipe it off himself; he licks his finger clean without even seeming to think about it, and you think (not for the first time, not for the first time by far) that trolls are actually pretty gross.
“Ew, Karkat. Ew. You don’t even know where my nose has been.”
He straightens up, taking his plate to the sink to rinse it. “Of course I do.” 
“Just… just please don’t do that in front of my family, okay? Aunt Emily is old, she’ll have a fit or something.”
Karkat snorts quietly under his breath, just barely audible over the running water. You finish your sandwich and join him at the sink, pushing your plate under the faucet before he’s finished washing his. You get a gentle elbow in the ribs for it. 
“Yeah,” he says, and you can sense the eye-rolling. He takes your plate and starts washing it too, probably out of some weird and nonexistent form of spite that he uses as an excuse to do nice things for other people. “Anyways. Like I’d do something that dumb in front of your lusus, either” 
You hang an arm over his shoulders, the exhaustion of the day hitting you suddenly.
“Leave the dishes for tomorrow,” you tell him. You are so ready to get your (totally manly!) cuddle on. “Right now, there is a mattress upstairs calling my name.”
But Karkat shakes his head, shooting you a sharp look over his shoulder. “That’s unsanitary.” 
“Unsanitary? Karkat, you licked jelly off my nose like five minutes ago!”
“For one, I didn’t lick it off your nose,” he snaps back, flicking the water from one hand in the general direction of your face. “And for another, proper hive hygiene is a totally separate sphere from interactions between matesprits.”
The comment takes a moment to sink in as you laugh - and then you think, wait, what?
“Matesprits,” you repeat slowly, “isn’t that like… being troll-married or something?”
Karkat makes a face. “No way, John.” 
You take a moment to be confused about your CONFLICTING FEELINGS. From the start of the whole sordid (and secretly really sappy but you’d lose limbs if you said it aloud) affair, Karkat had always been the one pushing into things, in that weird, reverse-psychology, I’m never-going-come-out-and-say-that-I-want-to-kiss-you, I’ll-just-assume-you-can-tell-the-normal-anger-from-the-need-comfort-irritation way he has. And the idea of being together with you for any length of time, whether human or troll married, is a “No way, John” thing now? You are getting some seriously MIXED SIGNALS here.
“Marriage is that thing with the squishy human grub production, right?” Karkat tilts his head and you know he’s making that other face that means he’s in deep thought about how weird human biology is - and you feel really relieved. Much more than you figured you would, but you suppose that you are, in fact, pretty CRAZY IN LOVE here. 
Not that you’re going to tell him he’s the perky ethnic Maria to your totally badass Tony. Partly because most of the time you feel more like the Holly to his Paul. 
You wonder if that makes the troll government the Brazilian drug ring or not. Lining your life up with excellent movies is surprisingly difficult. Maybe you just want your dramatic, rain-soaked embrace.
But you had probably answer his question, in any case.
“Karkat,” you laugh again, sometimes you just cannot handle the hilarity produced by the cultural divide, “No. No, that’s babies and that’s getting knocked up - I mean sex.” Jesus, you don’t even know if sex translates, and the slang probably makes even less sense to him. “It’s like… shit, it’s like the human version of the whole deal with the buckets you have going on.”
Karkat drops the plate in his hands into the sink with a loud rattle. You thank god you remembered to use the plastic plates. 
This is probably about to turn into a really awkward conversation, so you laugh a little louder. Maybe if you just keep laughing the conversation will magically not have happened!
But he doesn’t blow up like you were expecting. Not even a little, not like he normally does when the cultural fuckups get embarrassing and he’s flustered, and his automatic reaction is just to bluster his way through some sort of cathartic speech on how stupid and weird Earth is.
Instead, Karkat picks up the plate again, scrubbing it harder than is necessary. 
You lean back onto his shoulder, and he doesn’t push you off. 
“Karkat.” His cheek is really hot against yours and you figure he’s either really embarrassed or really mad. And neither of these options will lead to a good night’s sleep in the guest bed. It would be a good idea now to try and calm him down.  “I think the plate’s pretty spotless by now. Spick and span. You’re the best housewife, it’s you.”
You’re bad at calming Karkat down some days. 
Most days, really.
He doesn’t answer, since he’s probably just on autopilot again, his mind too busy rehashing everything he just said. The outcome will probably be 50% SELF-LOATHING and 50% FALSE REGRET FOR EVER GETTING INTO ANYTHING WITH  YOU. A little awkwardly, you shuffle closer to him, until your chest is pressed against his back and you are well into the danger zone of getting hit. He doesn’t freeze up or shove you away, so you figure you’re in the clear. Which doesn’t mean much, but. You’ll take what you can get when Karkat’s mad-embarrassed.
You suppose you’ll give the calming-down thing another try.
“Married,” you tell him quietly (which isn’t that quiet, really, since the running water makes it hard to whisper meaningfully), “Is that whole thing where two people exchange rings and then, some time later, invite their families to sit together in a church with all these crazy fancy decorations. And then they get decked out in white and promise to stay together for the rest of their lives. Kind of.” 
It would probably be a bad idea to mention that the one wedding you’ve actually ever gone to was your eldest stepcousin’s, when you were six. That was the one where one of your uncles got totally blitzed and kicked you in the head while swing dancing with his wife. The scar’s still visible through your hair if you check carefully enough.
Karkat shuts the water off while you reminisce about the horrors of having your head stitched up. The dish is dropped into the drying rack. He mutters something you don’t catch, but it sounds like all the bad vibes are gone. 
“What?”
“I said it’s stupid,” he repeats. “Having a big ceremony with everyone you know.” 
He breaths out and you feel him relax in that familiar sweep, de-tensing from head to toe.
(You’re pretty sure de-tensing is not a word. Tensing, too, for that matter. But you are John Egbert, improv expert, and you will make up whatever words you want to use in your head.)
“Why make a big deal over something you’re already sure of?” 
And suddenly you’re not so sure he’s just talking about marriage - or that he’s just talking at all. You feel heavy and warm with the thought of everything he might be saying. It’s easy to drop your head onto his shoulder, one of his hands grasping yours in that too-warm, scratchy-skinned grip. 
“Matesprits, huh?” 
You feel a little dizzy.
Karkat shrugs a little - not hard enough to move you. He’ll never say it but he doesn’t really care that you’ve got a few inches on him; not when it means you can wrap yourself around him like this. 
He’s such a girl sometimes, honestly.
“Not having pailed yet doesn’t make it any less legitimate,” he says, much quieter than normal. Like an afterthought, something that doesn’t even have to be said aloud.
It only takes a few seconds for you to feel your ears redden. You’ve thought about that a lot, yeah - for a long tme you’ve thought about it. Though you snored your way through Troll Studies in high school, you manned up a couple months ago and took out a book on troll biology from the library so you could learn all the things they didn’t teach you (all the while pretending it was a totally normal addition to your normal load of fiction and joke books). And yeah, it’s kind of weird to think about… about all that, but the way you imagine it isn’t bad.
Whatever it’ll be like, it can’t be worse than that time the girl you were going steady with in your junior year was going to let you go all the way - if you could make it with her. 
You couldn’t. She was kind of a terrible person all the time.
You don’t feel nervous about it this time, not really. Just nervous in that you’re kind of convinced you’ll mess up at some point during and feel like an ass. But Karkat’s not going to leave in a huff, break up with you, and then tell everyone he knows about the whole humiliating thing. Which is actually a huge relief, in perspective.
Karkat turns to face you and your arm drops from his shoulder to his waist, wrapping loose around his back. He’s got this achingly happy scowl on his face, and he’s so close you can hardly stand to look. Your eyes are crossing so hard behind your glasses. 
His fingers thread through your hair and you shut your eyes, leaning in. 
You will never get over kissing Karkat. 
It’s a mix of mild fear, not-so-mild anticipation, and a deep, weird feeling of comfort. And you’re really glad that the teeth issue got fixed, because between his pointy canines and your stupid bucktoothedness, there was hardly a day you didn’t go around with busted or bruised lips in the first few weeks. There are only so many times you can tell your father you tripped and fell, or accidentally nicked your lip with the razor, or had just developed a nervous habit of nibbling on your lips while you were overseas. 
He wraps his arms around your back, a loose loop to keep you close. Your arms slide around his shoulders, and it’s only a few inches of difference in height but a few inches is a pretty big difference at times. 
It’s kind of great, too, like you’re totally a mature adult with your own house, necking in the kitchen without having to keep an ear out for your dad to get home from work or the store. 
What’s also pretty great is Karkat’s tongue, longer and skinnier than yours (the words from the biology books come back - prehensile, highly chemoreceptive taste buds, self-cleaning bacteria housed in the mouth) and kind of weirdly so but not that weirdly so, it’s not like kissing a giraffe or anything. 
Not that you’d know what kissing a giraffe feels like. Gross. You don’t want to kiss any giraffes; you just want to kiss Karkat some more. So you do.
He moves his hands to your hips, just holding them in his palms, and through jeans and underwear his hands are still so big and warm and it’s just, it’s just this great thing that no girl has ever done to you because apparently normal girls just don’t do that, it’s not a thing that happens and that is a damn shame, honestly. Honestly. 
His mouth falls away from yours and for a long moment the two of you just stand there, just stand there pressed up against the kitchen counters with his hands on your hips and one of your palms resting on the side of his neck. 
You suddenly remember to breathe, and it sounds like this ridiculous ragged gasp even though you are definitely not that winded. Karkat does his weird chuffing laugh and you laugh with him, resting your chin on his shoulder again, bumping cheeks. 
⇒ John: Come back to earth. 
Well, you honestly never left earth, but you’ll do your best to wipe the stupid smile off your face anyways. You’re glad Karkat isn’t awake to see this, or else you’d probably get a halfhearted punch on the arm and he’d tell you to knock it off and concentrate on the road.
You heed the imaginary Karkat in your head and focus on driving. It’s rush hour on the Interstate, and you are getting TIRED OF THIS. If only you could’ve just stayed home, begged sick or something. The past three days were PRETTY EXCELLENT, you would say. Relaxing at home, playing like you really were adults in your own house. You’ve decided you like the guest room bed better than your own, though you doubt you’ll be sleeping there much unless your old man wants to take more trips. That would be pretty great. 
Two days ago you got a letter from Dave (in handwriting you could hardly read) detailing his exploits living in Houston with his sister, “this weird vamp troll”, and Tavros, who apparently is now in possession of a pair of “shiny metal gams like you wouldn’t believe” made by “that sweaty asshole with the blood issues”. You do miss Dave, really. It’s hard not to miss someone you spent twelve months sleeping in mud next to. Just before you left town this afternoon, you dropped off a return letter at the post office. There’s no chance of it being as amusing as his, since really, vampire trolls and cyborg troll comrades? How are you supposed to top that? But you wrote back anyways about what an asshole he is, asking about his sister and the vamp troll and just how unbelievable Tavros’ shiny metal gams can be. You put in something about Karkat saying hi. (What Karkat actually said was “fuck no I’m not taking time out of my life to write to that douchebag”. Though it was a tempting addition, you held off on that bit.) 
It was also tempting to ask him about your periodic nightmares and the way you sometimes just click back into it all for a few seconds, how the smell of meat sometimes just turns your stomach, but you didn’t. There are some things you just don’t talk about. You wrote about your job instead. And about how ABSOLUTELY COOL your car still is. Dave always maintained that Chevelles are pieces of shit that should never have rolled off the assembly line. You always told him to go drive his stupid commie Trabant if he was against a car that was as AMERICAN as WONDERBREAD. And he said he would except the only vehicle he’s ever had the pleasure of driving was his brother’s terrible pickup truck. You claimed jealousy and he punched you in the arm and the argument was abandoned for a few days, at least until you ran out of other things to complain about. 
Your car is totally cool, though. A sweet dago’ed Chevelle in cherry red. Maybe she’s a little beat-up, sure, but some wear and tear is healthy on a car. Especially one you bought in dubious conditions. There is rarely nothing wrong with a two-year-old car you get for a fraction of the original ticket price. But it turned out to be an excellent buy! The engine is like a purring kitten. 
Like a kitten that hacks up a shit ton of hairballs and makes the sweetest faces afterwards, you just can’t help loving it and wanting to baby it.
You give the dashboard a LOVING PAT that makes the radio fuzz slightly out of tune, and you don’t feel the slightest twinge of irritation when you ease the dial back into the proper spot to get your favorite station. Nope. Nothing. You’re just in time to catch the easy sound of Frank Sinatra’s singing, though! 
Humming along is irresistible, and you tap the wheel in time to how something in your smile was so inviting as you roll forward a record ten feet in this hellhole of a highway. 
Regret has set in; you really should’ve left earlier, but you got caught up with last-minute packing and trying to close up the house for the next four days and all. At this rate, you won’t get to Aunt Emily’s house before midnight. You should probably stop for the night. Aunt Emily hates being woken up (even if it’s for a good reason like “Jake just punched me and my nose is gushing blood please help”), and you’d rather not see her for the first time in years when she’s pissy.
You start paying more attention to the exit signs, looking for a familiar one, hopefully one that will lead you to a nice motel or something. Bluh, you didn’t bring much money with, though… And who knows whether or not you’ll bump into one of those notoriously xenophobic motel workers that’s going to give you shit. (You’re not worried about getting harassed, but you don’t want Karkat getting arrested for beating the rudeness out of some sleazy half-bit asshole.)
And that’s when you see it - the sign you didn’t even know you were looking for. 
The decision is made before you even finish reading it. It takes you fifteen minutes to pass the sign, and the sun is setting just a little when you finally turn onto Exit 21, cutting across several lanes and setting off a whole fresh round of horn-honking in your wake. 
The exit road is blissfully clear and you open up the throttle a little; the engine revs hard and Karkat shifts again in the passenger seat. You figure the Veez are probably starting to wear off, the way most human medicines seem to burn up quickly for trolls. 
Bluh. At least by the time he comes to in proper, the interstate will be nothing but a distant nightmare. Tomorrow morning will have to be an early start, though, if you’re going to make decent time to Aunt Emily’s. Not that you want to make it to Aunt Emily’s at all, let alone in decent time. 
If you remember right, it’ll take about an hour to get to the campsite. As you drive, dusk rises, the red light of the setting sun glaring on your windshield. When you were a kid, your dad used to take you camping all the time in the summer, just hanging out in tents whatever weekends he managed to get off of work and drive you down to Lake Merwin. 
You can just barely see a few small cabins in the distance (new, you suppose; you haven’t been down here in over half a decade) when Karkat finally sits up. Coming off of Valium always seems to give him this fish-out-of-water look where he breathes in heaving gasps for about ten seconds and then slumps back into his seat, glancing warily around him to make sure he’s awake. 
As expected, it takes exactly down from the count of ten for him to settle down. 
“This lady lives in the middle of the woods?” he asks finally, eyes focusing on the road ahead, flicking occasionally to the sides to examine passing trees. 
“Nooope.” You pause at a crossroads, the path directly opposite you splitting into two almost immediately. The names of the streets ring exactly ZERO BELLS in your head, so you put the car into park and think. 
Every time your dad got to this point, he would stop - even if there were no other cars or people in sight - and he wouldn’t look at you, he would stare straight ahead, at the fork in the road, and he would say - 
What would he say again?
You drum your fingers on the wheel again, breathing out hard and staring at the roads ahead. This is intense, so intense that you don’t even care that Karkat’s putting his feet up on the dash again, you are FOCUSED.
And then it comes to you. 
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” you sigh. 
The feeling of Karkat’s eyes staring you down with affectionate disdain is just like being out in the summer sun at noon without a hat on. You can even feel yourself a flush a bit. Even compared to most things you do, this is pretty lame.
Your hand finds the gearshift, your foot the brake pedal, and you shift back into drive. The middle of the poem is a little fuzzy to you, since that was always the point you would get bored and tune out whatever your dad was saying. Something about doubt and regret and trodden grass. 
But the last line - you’re pretty sure that last line is imprinted on your brain for life. 
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -” 
Karkat gives up on staring, slumps down until he’s almost cradled between the dashboard and his seat.
“I took the one less traveled by.”
A turn of the wheel steers you easily down the right side path, where the trees hung low over the road and the weeds rustled loudly against the chassis.
“And that,” you conclude, as the trees get closer together and you have to drive slower and slower to avoid wrecking the suspension, “has made all the difference.”
“Are you quoting obscure slam poetry?” Karkat asks. The weird thing about Valium is that it tends to give everything he says for the first half-hour or so after he wakes up a fuzzy, sleepy sound. 
“Not really. Guy’s name is Frost, he’s been dead forever. It’s one of those classics, I guess.”
He grunts in acknowledgement and rests his head against the window. 
“Hey, crank that down, too. It’s starting to cool off outside.” You grope blindly for your own window crank and roll yours down about halfway while Karkat wheels his all the way down, resting his arms on the passenger side door. He’s probably getting smacked by all kinds of leaves and shit now. You admire his persistence in keeping himself draped out the window. 
Persistence is something Karkat definitely does not lack.
At long last, the forest parts, and you’re relieved to find that no cabins have been built in this section since it became an actual official campground and not just someplace to bring a tent and kick back for the weekend. The car bounces over to where you think - where you hope your favorite spot is still tucked away. 
You ease your car through the narrow strip of tamped-down grass, the mass of unkempt weeds at the edge of the forest catching lightly on the side mirrors. Finally, the car rolls to a stop in the middle of a little clearing. 
Karkat’s head jerks up off the door, and you’re pretty sure now that he was dozing. 
“Wake up, sleeping beauty.” You reach over and ruffle his hair, because between the aftereffect of the Vees and his short nap just now, he’s too tired to complain about it. 
The light is waning fast, turning quickly from sunset to dusk, and everything is slightly out of focus no matter how many times you rearrange your glasses. 
“Come on,” you beckon, opening your door. Your knees pop loudly when you get out, and the sensation of stretching after so many hours in the car is pure heaven. Maybe now your back will stop feeling like a useless bundle of sticks! It’s a miracle; you lift your arms over your head and arch upwards and a series of the most disturbingly loud but oh-so-wonderful pops signifies the return of your spine to working condition. 
Karkat is still leaning sluggishly on the door, so you pop the trunk and rummage behind the suitcases for the sleeping bags you keep for just these kinds of purposes. You used to be a Boy Scout, and though you left your badges behind a long time ago, you can still never be too prepared!
If you sleep in the car, you’ll just end up with terrible backaches, so you unzip the sleeping bags and lay them out by the car. Even with the sun down, it’s still pretty warm; you doubt you’ll be wrapping yourselves up in them. Karkat is outside by the time you finish straightening them out and flop down on your back. You can hardly see him anymore, all his greys and blacks blending in with the trees, but you weren’t assigned to a stealth unit for nothing, and you track his movement easily as he steps around the car and hovers by your feet. 
“You can lay down, you know.” 
He shrugs, but after another moment of pause he drops to his knees and joins you on the sleeping bags. 
“You shut the door, right?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Well you know, I don’t want raccoons and other cuddly, rabid woodland creatures in my car tomorrow morning.”
He flops his hand on your chest instead of punching you in the arm. You really can’t believe that he can spend half the day sleeping and be this tired. He doesn’t take his hand back, though, not for a long moment in which the two of you fondly regard the sky. 
“You know what’s weird?” You actually wait for him to guess, but of course he doesn’t, Karkat never guesses unless he’s trying to embarrass you. “For a while, I almost forgot what the stars looked like. Too many tall trees.”
His fingers twitch minutely, knuckles rubbing over the front of your shirt. 
“And the sun, too - that was the worst of it. Always being stuck in night. I guess it only made a difference for me and Dave, really. When you’re nocturnal, it’s normally nighttime for you anyways, right?” You’re starting to ramble a little, but you feel TIRED and GOOD and VAGUELY INFINITE and you’re not exactly sure how to handle the combination. 
So you open your mouth to keep going, like you suddenly have to say ALL THE THINGS now, EVERYTHING that has the misfortune to enter your head. 
“You need to stop talking so much,” Karkat sighs, and suddenly his breath is close and hot on your cheek. If you had better night vision you’d swear you could count his eyelashes, but that’s stupid anyways, why would you count his eyelashes when there are much better things to do at such close range? He moves onto his elbows, leaning further over you until his forehead bumps against yours. 
“I’ll do my best to cut back.” You can feel his mouth on your lips when you talk, and it’s automatic, it’s automatic by now to move into the kiss, your hands grasping at the rough dip of his spine through his shirt. Almost immediately you can feel the difference between now and the moment you shared in the kitchen; Karkat’s skin is feverish under your palms as you pull him closer, the movement of your mouths careless. He fumbles to get your glasses off before somebody’s eye gets poked out, folds them and sets them as far away as he can reach without letting go of you.
The sun has set and your hands are under his shirt and though you can feel every rock and bump on the ground beneath the sleeping bags, you eagerly accept his weight on top of you, one hundred seventy-something pounds of SEMI-SEARING TROLL eclipsing any chances you may have had of cooling off in the night. He hasn’t clipped his nails well in a while; you forcibly clipped them down yesterday so Aunt Emily wouldn’t go into hysterics at the sight of his claws, and they rake through your hair, the ragged cut of them scratching your skin, tracing down the back of your neck and along the collar of your shirt.
You open your mouth to his tongue - and no, no, do not think of the giraffe tongue, that is such a TOTAL BONERKILL - and shit, even with that thought you’re already half-hard in your jeans. You’d worry a little that Karkat is going to notice if not for the fact that you’re pretty sure he is too, pretty sure that this right here is GO TIME and you are going to ROUND SOME BASES tonight. 
And yeah, you’re just about spot-on there; even if you only vaguely remember the listed signs of TROLL AROUSAL from that textbook, it’s not hard to tell when any sentient being is getting a little HOT UNDER THE COLLAR. Heavy breath and (even more) heated skin and (you’ll assume) dilated pupils. All your suspicions are confirmed as one of Karkat’s hands slips to your hips and holds you steady as he finally rocks right up against you. 
Yeah, you think, yeah, and thought is kind of pointless by now because that feels really fucking good, his bulge pressing against yours through four layers of denim and cotton and whatever the hell Karkat’s pants are made of, polyester or some other bullshit, you don’t know fashion and nor do you care to. 
The hand on your hip moves inward and your grip on his shirt tightens as Karkat fumbles blindly with the button and zipper on your jeans. 
“Fuck,” he gasps softly, dropping his head to your shoulder so that he can see what he’s doing with his hand; you contemplate suggesting that this would work better if he either went with his better hand or let you try it yourself. 
You reject this thought. It’s kind of awesome, half adorable and half unbearably hot to watch Karkat attempt to undress you. He huffs again, shifting his knees so that he can see better; doing your best not to move around and make it harder on him, you press your face into his hair, breathing in because Karkat smells like most things clean and good but kind of sweaty because the both of you were, after all, sitting in a car for several hours in the scorching sun. 
When your lips brush the base of one of his horns, he makes a short, lost noise against your chest, followed by a brief, triumphant laugh as he finally gets the button on your jeans undone. A collision between his face and yours as he lifts his head is only narrowly avoided. (It wouldn’t have been the first time, actually. You’re not sure if that makes it worse or better.)
He stops with his palm right above the waistband of your jeans, his forehead touching yours again. It looks like he can’t decide whether showing affection (or weakness, in Karkat-speak) at the moment is right or if he should keep his trademark scowl on. Fortunately, it looks like the affectionate side is winning. 
“Is it-” he starts. Stops. Does the Karkat Vantas standard EMOTIONAL TURMOIL face. “This is okay, right?” 
It’s hardly a question, you don’t even know how he’s getting any sort of vibes from you that would say no I am not down for the best round of necking in my life. Hopefully you’re not giving off those vibes, since you are really very down with all of this and Karkat had better get HEP to YOUR JIVE, and PRONTO. 
You feel like a tool for just thinking that. It’s okay, though. You’ve said worse out loud. 
Out loud now, though, you say yeah, realize no sound came out, clear your throat and say, “Yeah,” far too enthusiastically to be normal - then relax the hand tangled in (and probably stretching out) his shirt, and nod and whisper, “Yeah, yeah this is more than okay, I-”
You don’t finish the sentence, which is just as well because you have no idea what you were going to say. Karkat presses his hand to the front of your jeans and you breathe out noisily as he moves to pull the zipper down. Really, it says something about prior sexual encounters when this instant alone is better than all past instances.
Oh, and this is normally the part where you get him naked or semi-naked or just naked from the waist to the knees, right, who knows and who cares as long as it happens. You turn your head to kiss him on the cheek, the corner of his lips, and jeez you really can’t see shit in the dark without your glasses on; aiming through touch is harder than you thought. If you were a girl, Karkat’s face would be covered in lipstick marks by the time you made it to his - and there you go, your lips pressing right up against his as your free hand finds the fastenings of his pants. 
You have the SINGULAR ADVANTAGE of actually being intelligent sometimes and using your DOMINANT HAND to do these sorts of things. 
No, no wait, that came out wrong, you meant unfastening pants and - forget it, it doesn’t matter anyways. 
You make quick work of his button and zipper and in no time the two of you have reached… a TEMPORARY STANDSTILL. Well, you hope it’s temporary. As far as standstills go it’s not bad, but seriously, how long can two guys kiss and have their hands hover awkwardly around each other’s bulges before it gets vaguely uncomfortable and a little weird?
Maybe for once, you’ll have to make the first move. It’s a crazy idea. So crazy it JUST MIGHT WORK. Who knows, maybe Karkat’s never actually taken the time out of his (super busy) lifetime to study human biology the way you’ve at least glanced over books on trolls. He did admit to struggling in schoolfeeding during the human portion of the curriculum, if struggling and falling asleep due to boredom and consternation at the fact that he had to learn it could be considered one and the same.
It’s comforting (lie) to think that you have taken bigger leaps than this (truth). 
Your hand is probably shaking more than a little, but you doubt Karkat will notice something like that, especially if his own hands are shaking, and you’re pretty sure they are, you just can’t see and feel everything while you’re too busy seeing and feeling everything. Karkat presses back up onto his elbow, and as best as you can tell he’s making eye contact with you (even if you can only vaguely see him through the dark and the glassesless blur). 
Without thinking about it, you make your decision, moving your hand from its place on his hip to the front of his underwear; you press gently with your palm and his bulge pushes back and all the fragments of the book that you remember still can’t help you get over the fact that words like prehensile also apply to your boyfriend’s dick. But you - you’re pretty okay with that, yeah, though it’s a little weird at first, touching something that by all rights should not be touching back at all. 
Karkat shivers, his hand back on you as well, stroking lightly like he thinks you’re going to break if he strokes any more firmly, and what with how his bulge feels, he probably does think that. You’re not exactly sure how to inform him without offense that human genitalia is a lot more sturdy. But as it turns out, you don’t even have to do that; his grip tightens slowly until it’s just about perfect. You spare another thought to how his nails mercifully trimmed and blunt. 
(You have to admit that one of your primary concerns about any future INTIMATE ACTIVITIES would end in horrific mutilation and complete lack of enjoyment.)
(And thankfully, this particular VOYAGE into PHYSICAL EXPRESSION of MUTUAL AFFECTION seems to be headed for neither of these!)
It’s kind of disappointing that it’s so dark, though with something like this, something so… new, you’re pretty sure a little blindness might be a good thing. However prepared you are, you are not prepared for everything in the whole wide world, which MAYBE, or PROBABLY, includes your boyfriend’s TENTACLE DICK. Which is actually pretty neat so far, and will hopefully continue to be neat and not scare the living daylights out of you at any point!
In a short moment of clarity you realize that Karkat is hesitating, Karkat is sort of holding his breath in a subtle way as he pulls at the waistband of your underwear, carefully tugging it down to the tops of your thighs and his hand is gentle like he’s handling china again. And this time you don’t really mind because Jesus H Christ, he’s hardly touched you fully yet and you are about ready to lay back and die. 
But you should probably undress him first, before you lay back and die. It’d be kind of rude to do otherwise. This grumbling noise deep in his chest spills out when you push his jeans down a little and find his bulge again with your fingers, all his breath leaving in a fast exhale. The thick length of it curls around your hand, sticky-slick and wetting your fingers. 
All you can think of - as he groans and grinds down against your palm - is how amazing that would feel wrapped around your dick, hot and wet and constantly moving, readjusting. 
Sometimes you suspect that Karkat is hiding some SWEET PSYCHIC TENDENCIES - not to be confused with PSIONIC TENDENCIES, of which Karkat has told you about often. And by “told you about”, you mean he has lectured you on the ABUSE of PSIONIC INDIVIDUALS by the ALLIANCED GOVERNMENT on no less than FIVE SEPARATE INSTANCES. You never ask how he knows so much about the topic. 
But whether it’s some sixth sense or just plain luck on your part, Karkat Vantas is officially an excellent sentient being. Even if he kind of earned that title a long, long time ago after saving your ass and the collective asses of the FOURTH NOCTURNAL RECONNAISSANCE BATTALION (NBR-4) more times than you can count. He carefully pulls your hand from his bulge and leans most of his weight on you again. His skin is burning hot still and you wonder how he has survived so many years of his life without spontaneously bursting into flames. 
Karkat’s bulge nudges up against you and you stifle a sharp noise, gripping the back of his shirt with your now-free hand. Fabric sticks fast to your palm and it’ll probably stain but you don’t care. There are plenty of spare shirts in the suitcase for this reason exactly (not really, there are plenty of spare shirts in the suitcase because Karkat has the unfortunate tendency to get into constant battles with everything he encounters, i.e. the oil stick in the car, his food, other people, other people’s food, himself). The arm that Karkat is leaning on slides up over your heads, and you reach with your other hand to grasp his, fingers tangling and pinning your hand to the cool grass. 
He rocks down again, gently, a tentative thrust that makes your head spin, and you grasp at his shirt, his fingers. Around you his bulge coils tighter, doubled pressure, and you lift your knee in automatic reaction. 
“Fuck, watch it,” Karkat mutters, breathless and still rutting against you. “I don’t know about humans, but a knee to the shame globes ends in nothing but agony for everyone.”
You breathe out a “yeah” that is less agreement and more mindless acknowledgement, but instead of lowering your knee you raise it a little, just until it bumps up between his legs. Right, troll biology, you think, all bulges and nooks, and you press your leg into the seat of Karkat’s pants. His grip on your hand tightens, his back tensing for a long moment before he unwinds, rumbling deep in his chest as he rocks forward and back again. 
Doing things right is excellent. Karkat is excellent. Tonight is excellent and you, yes you, perhaps even you are excellent too. You seem pretty excellent so far - some of Karkat’s heat has passed on to you and you are truly thinking through your dick right now. Thought is not really a thing that is happening, just Karkat and heat and what might almost pass for instinct or maybe blind luck, who knows, who cares, your mind is a mess of excellence and lust.
You feel - you feel close, too, Karkat grinding down against you again, breathing heavy into your mouth and you into his like you’re underwater and desperate, drowning. Desperation is not unfamiliar to you and sometimes you feel like it’s the destiny you were born into - inherited a few months after your 18th birthday with a draft letter and a bus ticket down to the Allianced Army’s training center. A year in the jungle without the sun and look at you, waxing poetic about a nice round of the old PRINCETON RUB.
Ugh, and that’s not even the right thing to think, that’s coarse even by your standards. The thing is that you love Karkat, you really really do, even if you can’t believe it’s all happening sometimes, and that you’ll be matesprits with him - or husbands or whatever he wants to be because you legitimately love this crazy weird troll. 
“John.” 
Karkat groans quietly in your ear, his lips pressed to your jaw and his teeth just barely barely scraping your skin and fuck, fuck - you grip his hand, his shirt, bury your face in his hair as you come hard, come down hard. 
You’re going to need a new shirt after this. You’re going to need a new everything after this - new pants, a new brain - not to mention a nice hot shower. 
Karkat’s bulge squeezes tighter and even though your breath is only half-back you reach down to take him in your hand again, sitting up as he sits back on his heels, letting go of your hand. He latches onto your shoulders instead, and you run your hand down his side as you stroke his bulge, your hand growing slick yet again.
“I don’t have a bucket,” he grumbles, anger minus all the energy needed to make it intimidating or impressive or whatever it is that Karkat strives to be with his belligerence. His voice is lower than normal and if you hadn’t just had the best sex of your young life you would probably have a hard-on just from listening to it. You can feel him talk more than hearing it, the words rumbling in his chest and your glasses would be foggy with your breath had you still been wearing them; you wish you were wearing them now and that the sun was up. It’s pretty unfair that he can see in the dark and you can’t. 
You’re not sure what else to say but “Uh,” which is apparently not the right answer because Karkat growls in the back of his throat again and digs his nails into your scalp, but that might also be the result of a particularly vigorous motion of your hand on his bulge. 
“What about just… on the grass?” you suggest after a moment. 
Karkat makes this choked, scandalized noise, which you totally get since you read that book and all (thank god you read that book), but he doesn’t resist as you scoot him awkwardly towards the edge of the sleeping bag and settle behind him. You press your lips to the back of his neck - still scorching, hot enough to burn - and realize he now smells of something more than sweat and soap, he smells of something thicker and more animal, the way the blackout tent began to smell after the nightmares began. 
Troll adrenaline, maybe? You’ll look it up once you get home. 
You move the hand on his hip lower, slipping down under his briefs to where he’s hottest. His nook is wet and your fingers slide in easily; hips jerking down, he presses hard against you, forcing your fingers deeper. And it’s - it’s almost like it was with previous girlfriends except that there is nothing feminine about Karkat, nothing soft, not even here where you can feel the vulnerability. 
“Fuck, John,” Karkat says again, his voice breaking as you twist your fingers inside of him (okay maybe you lifted that straight from the textbook but there is absolutely no rule against finding out the most efficient way to pail a troll - not that you’re aiming for efficiency or anything, but Karkat doesn’t seem to mind if you are). He leans down and drops a hand to the ground to steady himself as his bulge pulses in your hand and - you sigh in relief, kissing his neck again - he is, in fact, pailing right now (give or take a bucket). 
It seems to last forever, his nook tightening around your fingers in waves, the soft sound of his panting and of genetic material splashing in jerks onto the grass; finally he goes still, his head bowed and shoulders rounded. You slip your fingers out of his nook and dry them sneakily on a corner of the sleeping bags, the same for your other hand. 
Karkat takes a minute to collect himself, shifting off his knees with a quiet thump. Clothes rustle in the dark as the two of you attempt to straighten them up a little. What you really need is a shower - really, you do. Your stomach is sticky with an OBSCENE MIXTURE of GENETIC MATERIAL belonging to both YOU and YOUR BOYFRIEND/MATESPRIT. 
But right now, you are tired. You lay back down on the sleeping bags, every inch of you buzzing subtly in EUPHORIC, POST-COITAL BLISS, and after a long moment, Karkat joins you. His fingers nudge yours in a way that would seem accidental to anyone else, but you’re not fooled. It’s been a little over a year and six months since you first met Karkat, a little over four months since you realized that all your TOTALLY PLATONIC HUGGING was probably A LITTLE UN-PLATONIC, maybe three months since Karkat got fed up with beating around figurative bushes of sexuality conflict and cornered you in the garage for what remains the SINGLE MOST VIOLENT KISS of YOUR YOUNG LIFE. 
You tuck your hand in his and lean over, aiming for his lips as best as you can in the dark. The margin of error isn’t huge; you hit the corner of his mouth and get it right on the second try. Karkat kisses back with a shaky almost-laugh, a brief and shallow thing of beauty that leaves you feeling QUITE ACCOMPLISHED.
It’s not until after it’s out that you realize you’ve murmured a very emphatic “I love you so damn much” to Karkat’s lips - and he laughs again, harder (you’re hit with sudden hard relief that you survived long enough to hear him laugh without bitterness).
He slings an arm over your side and bumps his nose against yours. You’re still not sure what’s up with the nose-nudging thing, but it’s just one of those things that you’ve learned to roll with - like the late-night coffee binges and the need for you to have a store of soft things to pile up for whenever the nightmares get really bad and Karkat needs something to burrow into, and someone to burrow with. 
“I love you too,” he breathes. It’s remarkable how much the fight goes out of him like this. You ought to do it more often. “You stupid pathetic thing.”
You have also learned to largely ignore the pathetic and/or pitiful and/or useless and/or all degenerating comments in general. Troll feelings are worded differently. You’re okay with that.
Karkat burrows his face into the crook of your neck, and within five minutes he is OUT COLD. When he isn’t busy being a CHRONIC INSOMNIAC, Karkat is a PROFESSIONAL SLEEPER. 
But you’re not too shabby at sleeping either, and by the time Karkat’s breathing evens out into patterns of rhythmic snuffles you are already halfway to dreamland yourself. 
==>John: Wake up.
Mmm, so if you really don’t want to, can you just stage a protest or something? 
Because you really don’t want to wake up. 
….ugh, no, you’re already waking up anyways. Your bladder demands it. 
The more awake you get, the more you feel how much your back hurts; when you shift your t-shirt sticks fast to your stomach, and you’re afraid to just yank it off.
You grasp for your glasses and sit up, shoving them clumsily onto your face as you blink the clearing into focus. As far as you can tell, your car has not been invaded by rabid woodland creatures or heartless vandals cruel enough to damage a car as sweet as yours. 
After you manage to get to your feet without kicking Karkat in the face, stretch, and feel every inch of you protest, you decide that getting washed up is definitely a thing that needs to happen. A downwards glance confirms your fears; your hands are tinted red, your shirt and jeans stained. You probably should have thought this whole deal out better.
…You regret nothing.
The brush is thick, but with patience and an abundance of foul language at your beck and call, you manage to squeeze through to the other side of the trees to take a leak and make sure the lake is still deserted. Judging by the light, it’s only about four or five in the morning, but who knows when some sweet, innocent family is going to decide they’d like an early morning swim? It’s mercifully empty - as far as you can see, nobody else is anywhere around here. 
You slip back to the clearing, and though all you want is to lay back down and sleep another long while, you know you’ll catch hell from your dad, if not Aunt Emily, too, if you’re any later than you already are. 
“Hey,” you say quietly, kneeling on the sleeping bags. “Karkat - wake up.”
While you were gone, he rolled onto his stomach and curled in on himself in what looks suspiciously like a SELF-DEFENSE MANEUVER, the kind you’re supposed to use when a bear attacks. You take a moment to wonder what good that even does. It’’s not like the bear is going to back right off as soon as you assume the fetal position. What kind of bear would be intimidated by that? You are truly asking the important questions in life here.
But you know that’s just how he always sleeps in beds alone, blankets pulled over his head like he’s burrowing underground. It has something to do with the lack of sopor, he’s said before, and you’re not totally wrong in thinking it defensive. What did he call it? 
Oh, yeah, “PREEMPTIVE HUDDLING”, always in a slightly self-disgusted tone, like he can control what he does in his sleep. “PROTECTS VITAL BODY PARTS.”
You reach out to touch his face and shake his shoulder. Normally, Karkat wakes up in sharp jerks, but this morning he just opens his eyes, grumbling and sitting up the way a human would. It’s weird. You like it better than most days when you fear for half a second that he’s going to tear out your throat out of panic and self-defense.
“What is it now?” he groans, rubbing his head and blinking fast. It takes him a minute to adjust to the grey-blue sunlight of five o’clock in the morning. 
“We’ve got to get going.” You’re not sure why you’re whispering, but you feel like if you talked any louder it would give him a headache, and you kind of like him this way, loose and free of all his normal anger. “But first we’ve got to get clean, because seriously, look at us.”
You hold out your stained hands and he stares at them for a long moment. 
“Yeah,” Karkat agrees finally, looking away from them. “Yeah, I feel pretty. Pretty fucking gross, actually.” 
Laughing, you clamber back to your feet and pull him up. He swears more than you - and a lot louder than you - while going through the brush to the lake, but the two of you get through okay. You get your shirt tangled up in your glasses when you try to take it off, but you don’t feel dumb when Karkat comes over to make sure you don’t put your eyes out and berates you the entire time, you just feel - you feel good, relieved, like maybe you can actually live through this weekend. Karkat starts laughing too when he sees the red-smeared mess that is your stomach, but it’s nervous and that’s when you remember, you remember the hemospectrum and the fact that he technically doesn’t exist on it and that his blood is just as red as yours, and that you don’t care. You don’t care if he is AN AFFRONT TO THE CONDESCE HERSELF, or a MUTANT FREAK because Karkat is your mutant freak, and amazing, and exactly what you have needed forever without knowing it. 
You make sure to kiss him right on the lips even if you can’t see straight without your glasses, and it is so totally unromantic but that - well that is okay by you as well. You never claimed to be a Casanova, and if you’re living up to Karkat’s romantic comedy daydreams, you figure you’re doing alright. 
But the water is, as you expected, completely and devastatingly freezing when you jump in, ducking under the water immediately. Always go with the full-body shock, is your philosophy. You resurface a second later, shivering a little in the air and sucking in breaths. The bed of the lake is silty and sucks your toes in if you stand for too long. You’re starting to understand why your dad never took you for a swim when you went camping here.
“Okay - just, just stay in long enough to get clean,” you manage through quietly chattering teeth. 
Karkat gets back out within a minute, already making more faces as he wipes his mud-slick feet off on the grass. 
“That was disgusting.” He glares at you. “That was unfathomably disgusting.”
You last only about another minute longer out of necessity, scratching at the red on your hands until it fades and your skin is clean. Your stomach is still a little pink-stained when you clamber out onto the bank, though the rest of you is blue with cold.
“I th-think -” You stop and take a breath. Your teeth are clacking hard and your shoulders won’t stop jumping. “That this will j-just have to be c-c-clean enough.” 
The sun is just barely rising now, and it’s not fast enough, really, it’s not, and you wish it was high noon so you could just sun-dry in the heat, maybe get yourself a proper tan. But it is probably nearing six o’clock in the morning, and you are lying outside a lake with your boyfriend, naked and freezing in the middle of summer. 
“This sucks unfathomable amounts of hoofbeast bulge,” Karkat comments after a while, shuffling over to where you are and leaning up against you. Even being cold for him is warmer than you are, and despite his sharp protest you step in close and press yourself against him, reveling in the warmth. “And you are fucking freezing, John.”
“Yes,” you nod hard. “I know.”
“Come on,” he says, stooping to pick up the bunch of dirty clothes the two of you just left there. “Let’s get dressed. I don’t want to find out from experience if nematocerids die after drinking mutant blood.”
You follow him back to the car, using the clean parts of your shirt to dry off a little. 
You are cold and stumbling and damn if you don’t feel right back there, right back there with the ground soft under your feet and your skin slightly muddy. Washing in streams and lakes never gets you truly clean, there is always a grit and a grime that lingers. 
Karkat is holding his hand out expectantly; it takes you a long moment and a beckoning gesture, a “For fuck’s sake, do you want to stay wet and shivering or do you want to get dressed?” for you to realize that he wants your car keys. You automatically reach to your hip, only to be cruelly reminded that you are STILL NAKED. 
“Aren’t they in my pocket?” You ask, frowning. 
Karkat checks. They aren’t. 
Wonderful.
Still VERY NAKED and VERY COLD, you turn back to the sleeping bags and kneel, running your hands through the grass at the edges. You are currently ONE SORRY SONNUVABITCH.
“You could help, you know,” you add, with a pointed sigh. And that is when your fingers touch something colder than the grass, something hard and metal and the relief is crippling. “God, finally.”
Karkat almost drops the keys when you toss them to him, your breath hitching a little until he’s got them sorted out and unlocks the trunk. 
“Just shove the dirty clothes behind the suitcase. I’ll take care of them before my dad sees.”
Since you’re already on the sleeping bags, the thought of a nice nap is tempting. Instead, you just flop onto your side, feeling damp and cold. After a brief, blissful moment of peace, fresh clothes make the daunting pilgrimage of five or so feet just to hit you in the face. 
Karkat is lucky that you are tired and cold and madly in love with him.
You dress slowly. 
By the time you summon up the willpower to stand, it is maybe quarter to seven. The blanket gets folded and stuffed back into the trunk next to your suitcase, and your hair is almost dry by the time you start the car up again. 
“Oh,” you start, as you shift into drive. You put the car back into park and reach across Karkat’s lap to dig in the glove compartment for his prescription. “Do you want another one? It’s about an hour to Aunt Em’s.”
He shakes his head and you feel - you feel REWARDED, kind of, PLEASANTLY SURPRISED, in any case.
“I’m supposed to be making a good impression or something, aren’t I?” Karkat mutters, slouching a little in his seat. He is forever the antihero.
The bottle disappears into the glove compartment again and you lean over the gearshift to press your lips to his again, a long and lingering thing that you hope says everything Karkat would scoff at you for saying aloud. No matter what happens in the next two days, you doubt you’ll be getting very much time to be kissing Karkat, and as his newly minted matesprit you feel it is your duty to make up for such shortcomings whenever you can. 
Unfortunately, along with your strong sense of duty, you also inherited a CRIPPLING LACK OF AWARENESS. Your elbow slips off the top of the seat back, you fall forward, your mouth smacks hard into Karkat, and you feel him curse through the sudden forceful rush of pain.
Your name is John Egbert, and you should probably not be laughing right now, but you can’t help it.
“Are you okay?” you manage, and Karkat shoves at your face, your shaking shoulders. 
“Just fucking drive, you asshole.”
⇒ John: Be the driver (again). 
You are, indeed, the driver, and it is about nine o clock in the morning when you turn onto Southwest Clifton Street. Karkat has been dozing on and off for the past hour or so, and you have been staring a little and drifting off into thought a lot. Nothing’s guaranteed to happen in the next two days, but you’re pretty sure that Jake will think twice about challenging you when you’ve got a very angry-looking troll on your side. 
(It doesn’t matter that Karkat is secretly a giant sap. As long as he doesn’t start spouting off on how absolutely endearing Troll Audrey Hepburn is in… in… in whatever the long and confusing troll name for Breakfast at Tiffany’s is, you’ll be safe.)
And if he does? 
Well. Right now you’re not worried about that. You’re thinking about how you’d like to be going home right now and how swell it’d be if your dad decided to stay a few days longer, and how much you want to have Karkat at home in your bed where you can see him properly and you don’t have dozens of rocks digging into your back when he climbs on top of you. 
And all of this is going through your head as you reach over and run a hand through Karkat’s mop of RIDICULOUSLY CURLY hair. He grumbles and sits up as he always does, and you put your palm flat on his cheek like you are truly the CLARK GABLE to his MARILYN MONROE. 
“One more?” you ask, though he’s already leaning towards you. “For luck?”
And Karkat snorts and makes this face to let you know how MIND-NUMBLINGLY STUPID you are before his lips press up against yours and-
And you had really pay better attention to the fact that your foot is slipping off the brake pedal and the car is not in park. It rolls a few feet before you slam on the brakes, jerking you forward against your seatbelt. For a minute he just stares at you, and then you shift into park and the two of you are laughing, laughing together for once, laughing and sighing against each other’s mouths and it’ll be two days, it’ll be okay.
You pull into Aunt Emily’s driveway at a quarter past nine and Jake is leaning on the porch railing with his brothers, cigarette in hand, puffing smoke from his mouth and nose like a really douchey dragon. 
And you don’t even care, because you’re watching out the corner of your eye as Karkat gets out of the car and Jake promptly fumbles his cigarette and sucks in an awkward breath, coughing hard. His brothers crow behind him, slapping his back like they’re trying to help. You pop the trunk, and Karkat meets your eyes over your suitcase, and you think, relieved, that the two of you are going to be fine.
  1. filthy-thinkpan reblogged this from santabound
  2. istariadragon reblogged this from santabound
  3. beware-the-jewpacabra reblogged this from santabound
  4. rinosashihara reblogged this from santabound
  5. wind-eater reblogged this from santabound
  6. escl reblogged this from santabound and added:
    aaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAA ;A;
  7. wheresmahead reblogged this from santabound and added:
    this thing needs more love. I’m not even a big fan of the pairing, but this is too amazing~
  8. jabberwockyx reblogged this from santabound and added:
    Ahhhhhhhh, my bro wrote this, and it’s only the most amazing thing ever! Dude. Everyone needs to read this. You won’t...
  9. santabound posted this