"John are you ok?" Karkat stuck his head out of the shower they were previously sharing and looked at his quivering Matesprit. John never answered and through the fogged mirrors Karkat could see blue tears. "John?"
The other troll blasted Karkat with a wide range of feelings from anger to depression before covering his face with his hands. "No I'm not ok Karkat!"
Carefully Karkat moved from the shower to stand behind John, "Would you like to tell me what's wrong?"
"No," John sniffled.
Moving slowly Karkat wrapped his arms around John and pulled him close, "You have to tell me, I can't help unless you tell me what's wrong."
"I don't want you to help!" John spun around, breaking contact, and snarled, "I want these gone!" He flared his wings, "I want this gone!" He clawed at his skin, "and I don't want these!" He pulled down on his horns, "Or this, or this, or any of it!"
Karkat watched John point to every part of his body that had changed since he became a troll. His Matesprit fell to his knees and curled up under the sink. He growled when Karkat crouched down to his level. "John
" The boy snarled when Karkat reached for him. "I thought you were ok with this, with being a troll," Karkat said letting his hand fall and sat down a few feet away.
"I am," he whimpered. "Or at least I thought I was." He growled again when Karkat tried to approach. "Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and I don't like my refection. It's worse when I'm naked, I feel exposed and everything that's different stands out." John rested his head on his knees and wrapped his arms around his legs. "I don't like it sometimes. Some days I'm fine, some days I like being a troll. But there have been times like just now where I just sit and cry."
"How many times has this happened?" He asked quietly.
"I don't know."
This time when Karkat scooted closer to John he didn't growl or snarl. Karkat gently urged John out from under the counter and sink and pulled him to his feet. "Come on; let's get you back in the shower."
"But I'm already clean Karkat
He smiled a bit, "Sometimes it's better to just relax under the hot water. Come on, it'll make you feel better, I promise." Karkat sat down and let John lean against him. The blue troll moved to tuck his wings back into place but Karkat stopped him. "Leave them out this time, if you think you can."
"Yeah sure, whatever," John let them droop and Karkat started moving his hands up and down his Matesprit's back. "I don't know why you like the ugly things."
"Because they're beautiful," Karkat replied simply. "It's every trolls dream to get wings, that's why our god forms have them. If I ever obtained wings though
I don't know what I'd do. I'd have to hide them or cut them off or something."
"My blood. My wings would be my blood color. It wouldn't go over well," Karkat turned the faucet and the water poured down a bit hotter. "So you're lucky, there aren't a lot of trolls who are gifted with wings."
"Still doesn't mean I have to like them."
"That's true I guess. But you shouldn't fucking hate them. You shouldn't hate anything about yourself."
"Hey I'm trying to make you feel better!"
John laughed leaned back so Karkat had to put his arms around the other trolls neck instead. "It's working Karkat, I already feel much better." He sat motionless and felt each small drop land on his skin. The air in the room was already fogging over again with steam and he was pleasantly warm. "I'm trying to get better Karkat, I really am."
"I know, you're trying so hard."
"It's just hard sometimes."
"Do you miss being a human?"
Without hesitation he answered, "Yes, of course." He paused and growled in frustration, "But I like being a troll too sometimes. It's confusing."
"I can tell," John elbowed him, "well, what do you like about being a troll?"
John thought about it for a while, "I like the new senses, and this Matesprit bond thing is awesome. And I like the way you can communicate with just simple noises, like growls and chirps and stuff. That's all really neat."
"And what don't you like?"
"The nightmares," he answered instantly. "I'm not too fond of the aggression either, that instinct can take a flying leap. Since I mentioned flying, these wings aren't cool at all; I guess I just don't like the things that remind me I'm different." John tilted his head back so he could look into Karkat's eyes, "Like when I see my eyes in the mirror or notice the skin on my arm is grey
well it reminds I'm not human and then I remember everything I've lost."
Karkat nodded and hugged him tighter, "We've all lost a lot
" He could feel John shiver, "I know we talked about this a few nights ago, but if you were ever given the chance, would you go back to being a human?"
I don't know Karkat. I want to say I wouldn't, but sometimes I'm not that confident in myself. I can't answer that for sure. But Sollux said it was pretty impossible for me to revert back, so I'd rather not think about it."
John felt Karkat rest his head on his should and nuzzle his neck, "I hope you can find your peace soon. It hurts me to see you like this."
"I know, I can feel it in you," John fluttered his wings and sat up a bit, "We should probably get out of the water
haha we'll turn all wrinkly."
"You mean trolls don't do that either?"
Karkat looked at him, one eyebrow raised. "What are you talking about?"
John laughed, "You know, like when you stay in water too long and your fingers get all wrinkly and feel gross?" Karkat shook his head, "Oh then I guess that's a human thing
" He said, voice lowering and eyes glancing downward.
Karkat grabbed him quickly and kissed his cheek, "Oh no you don't, you don't get to think about anything else sad today. I'm making it a fucking rule." John was frozen in his arms, "John, seriously
come on, I don't want to see you frown anymore." He could feel the other troll start to sob. "John
"Sorry Karkat, I-I didn't mean to. I just, fuck," he gripped Karkat and sobbed on his chest.
"Shhh, you're fine," Karkat ran a hand through John's hair. "It'll be ok John. You'll be ok." John's breathing was shaky at best. "Shhhh
" It was times like this where Karkat truly hated the actions that happened that one day weeks and weeks ago. The day that hurt his friend turned lover so badly. "I'm sorry you're like this John...So, so sorry."
"I-It's not your fault, it's mine too."
"There were so many times I could have stopped this from happening," he murmured, feeling John's breath catch between sobs and hiccups. He could see the dark blue tears swirl and mix with the clear water by the drain.
Eventually the sound of Karkat's calming noise drifted into John's ears. He closed his eyes and focused on the nice things in the moment. Like the hot water running down his back, and the sound of it hitting the shower wall and floor. Each drop that fell and combined with the water pooling around their bodies helped to relax the troll further. It reminded him of a rainstorm and all the times he'd listen to the rain outside his window. He focused in on Karkat, the best thing that had happened to him since becoming trapped on the asteroid. Slowly he relaxed and nuzzled back into Karkat. "Thanks," he whispered.
"Anytime," Karkat smiled when he heard John make a soft humming sound back. "Whenever you're feeling bad, or upset just come get me and we can do this. A hot shower always makes it better." He resumed rubbing John's back and focusing solely on him.
"That sounds like a good idea," John kissed Karkat softly, "I'm glad you're not a flailing rage monster like I thought you'd be."
Karkat paused and didn't know whether to laugh or be offended, "You thought I'd be a flailing rage monster?"
"Well, because you were so angry and shouty online!" John giggled and shifted so he was in a more comfortable position and wiped the remaining tears from his face.
"Yeah well you were so much more of an asshole online, so I'm glad you're not like that," he felt John's wings start vibrating causing a second humming sound to join with his voice. "You're much more bearable in person." Karkat raised an eyebrow and glanced at John's wings, "That's new."
"It's not new; you have just never seen it. It's one of those stupid 'I'm happy things' my body does," he replied with a relaxed sigh. John didn't mind that his wings were being weird this time; Karkat had calmed him down for what seemed like the millionth time. Grinning he stood up and pulled Karkat with him, "We should get dressed before the others think we drowned in here or something."
"Yeah right, I don't think those assholes have noticed we're gone. We disappear all the time, they never gave a fuck then, why would they suddenly now?"
John grabbed a towel and began drying himself off, "I dunno, maybe because we're getting ready to move soon?"
"Not for a few more weeks at least. There's so much we have to do still." Karkat stood behind John and carefully dried off his wings, "How do you dry these on your own?"
"I don't, I never get them wet," He responded and fluttered them effectively spraying Karkat with a mist of water. "You never told me much about the other parts of the lab. What's out there?"
While drying off the rest of the boys wings he answered, "It's not that much different from here. This space we've inhabited is probably one of the nicest parts. I think this area was previously used by Derse agents who were pretty high up in command. The rest of the lab is deserted and none of the area's we were in had separate bedroom like spaces or a bathroom with showers, not to mention the power was out in most of the hallways and larger rooms. My guess is before they abandoned the lab someone pulled a main breaker switch and turned most of it off. Sollux found a generator for this section before you guys arrived." Only when Karkat was satisfied that John's wings were dry did he let him fold them back in.
"How long have you been here?" John asked slipping his shirt back on over his now neatly retracted wings.
"I don't know. Months? Too long, that's for sure. We've actually moved our main location. Not too far, but we had to get out of our old main area of operation. You can still get to the olds parts we sectioned off for private rooms, but they aren't really room like, so we found something better."
"You left because of what happened right?"
Karkat nodded curtly, "The stench of death isn't pleasant." He watched John rub a clear spot in a mirror and brush his teeth and hair. "Are you ok?"
John stared long and hard at the troll reflection looking back at him, "Yeah, I'm good now. Don't worry." He gave Karkat a weak smile.
The other troll rested his head on John's shoulder, "Your breath is minty as fuck."
"I just brushed my teeth, what did you think it'd smell like ass?"
Karkat elbowed him and pulled him along to the door. "The rest of the story is as you know; we walked until we found a passage that leads to a completely different building on the asteroid. From what it looks like this area of the asteroid was used as a manufacturing and holding facility for all the monsters created to fight on the battlefield."
Stepping faster John caught up with Karkat and said, "Yeah that sounds about right, I mean, it makes sense. So if this is the manufacturing area, then what do you think the other part of the asteroid do?"
"That's anyone's fucking guess. We're all hoping it's a transport center. There could actually be some useful technology there." Karkat slowed his pace and his voice got lower and far more serious, "All I know is that we can't continue living here."
"It's not good to be unable to see the sky
breathing this stale air is getting tiresome. I'm sure we could last here for a while, but it's not living, it's just
John nodded, adding, "I want a planet of our own again. A place we could call home, somewhere with a breeze and warm sunlight. I don't even care if it's filled with terrifying monsters, I just want a home."
"I think we all want a home by now," Karkat laughed dryly, "Hell I'd even take Alternia back."
"Was Alternia that bad?"
"Well it wasn't good
I mean I guess it wasn't horrible. Alternia was a planet where weakness killed and unless you could jump through every goddamn hoop the government put up and reach heights higher than the fucking mountains you were likely to be culled. Though blood works like money and high bloods often don't have to do much to guarantee their survival."
John walked alongside Karkat, "So what would happen to low bloods?"
"Most die. I mean their lives are pretty fucking short anyways, so the useful ones work aboard ships for the Empress until they die."
"What about you?"
I would have made it until the adult registration process, then I would have been discovered and killed on the spot," Karkat answered darkly. "And before you ask, I guess I could have run away and lived maybe a half a sweep more, but the drones would have found me. I'd be dead before I hit puberty."
"You're a high blood, and you're borderline royalty, as far as land trolls go. As long as you weren't crippled and pass the tests you'd have no problem fitting in with the adults of troll society. No problems at all. And if you kept those wings of yours, fuck you'd go places John. Your future would be so damn bright Dave's stupid shades wouldn't do a thing."
"That's so not fair though, just because a troll's blood is a low color means they'll get nothing? How does that even work? Why hasn't anyone tried to stop this?" John knew things were rough on Alternia but he never thought they were that bad.
"Trolls have tried to stop it. There are rumors, legends that have been going around since before I hatched. These tales tell of a rebellion led by the low bloods for peace and equality. It's a good grubs tale, but it's obvious that it didn't do anything."
John's ears perked at that info, "You mean someone tried to stop a whole empire once? That's sounds really cool! I wonder if it ever happened?"
"I don't know nookwhiff. All reports related to it were supposed to be destroyed. Usually the stories were passed down through word of mouth
well if you were brave enough to talk about something like out loud."
"Why was it such a bad thing?" John asked. They were nearing the main sitting room now.
Karkat sat down on the longer couch and John sat across from him, "Well just think about it. It's not that hard to guess why. Our Empress was a power freak, she was back then and she probably is still now. Alternia was filled with the young. And you know as well as I do that young trolls are very impressionable. We learn our places from the first moments we struggle to take a breath, but what would happen if a story about leading a revolution was well traveled and everyone knew of it?"
"Oh, I get it. It was banned to discourage another uprising," John answered.
"Exactly. Even if the story isn't true, and it's just a fairy tale, well that's enough to spark a flame in young hearts that could be difficult to extinguish," Karkat added sullenly, "especially with the amount of low bloods that Alternia is, was, home to."
A calm voice entered the conversation, "What are you two talking about?"
Karkat's head swiveled and he eyed the newcomer, "Oh, Kanaya, I was just talking about Alternia, and what it was like for different members of the blood casts."
"And the rumors of a rebellion!" John added. "It's so interesting, nothing like on Earth."
"Is that so? Well I have a little piece of info about the 'rebellion' as well."
"Spill it Kanaya," Karkat and John both moved to make room for her, John taking a seat in Karkat's lap.
"You know that trolls are raised by lusii right John?"
He nodded, "Yeah, those big white monster things, Karkat showed me a few in a dream link recently."
Both Matesprits looked at each other before Karkat said, "Uh, never mind, it's too hard to explain."
As I was saying, trolls are usually found by a lusus just after they emerge from the caverns and only after they have pupated and finished the trials. Well, I heard that the troll who started the rebellion was raised by another troll. And he was found as a grub and raised into adulthood by the same troll."
"So it was like he had regular parents? Or, uh, parent?" John smiled, "That's actually pretty cool. I bet it was awesome having something that wasn't all sharp and screechy."
"Fuck you Crabdad kicked ass."
"Yeah, your ass," John laughed.
Kanaya smiled, "Yes, I suppose it was like having a 'human parent'. Very much so I would think. I bet their bond was something special."
Karkat agreed, "But, how would an adult troll even find a grub? They can't wander out of the caverns, it's impossible. Unless
"I believe, and so do many others that hear the story, that the troll who found the little grub was a female jade blood, much like myself. She would have access to the caverns and their surrounding area."
"Oh wow, so it's like she saved a baby and ran away with it! That's pretty awesome! I hope it's true."
"I onthe heard that the group had a powerful thionic that traveled with them."
"Sollux stop inserting yourself into every conversation you blind asshole."
"Shut your fathe Vantath it'th true," he sat down on the adjacent couch. "Well, at leatht ath true ath all your other theories."
"And where'd you hear that? If you say the internet I'll smack you."
"No, my luthuth told me," he paused, "before he went all crazy, he uthed to tell me a lot of thingth."
John was drawn into this conversation, he knew so little about Alternia, and about the aliens he became friends with. He realized that he knew next to nothing about the species he had become. "Can we keep talking about stuff like this? It's really interesting."
"Of course John, I keep forgetting that this is all pretty new to you."
John smiled and asked, "So, if all these stories are true, who do you think the leader was? Not like names or anything, but what do you think his blood color was?"
"Hith name wath the Thignleth."
"What was that Captor?" Karkat teased.
"Fuck off and die KK."
"His name was the Signless," Karkat continued, "Or, depending on the story teller, "The Sufferer. It has been forbidden to talk about him or even write his name down for years. But the old Sea Bitch can't kill me now, so what's the problem? It was said he never had a sign. No one knows if he wasn't born with one, or if he abandoned it when he took up his crusade."
"You sure know a lot Karkat," Kanaya observed.
"I like history, that's all," he defended himself.
"I think the leader was a high blood personally," Sollux said, switching to Alternian to make speaking easier. "I think that only a high blood could have the resolve and command to lead that many people."
"Ah yes, but wouldn't a high blood be a very distrustful troll to follow? I doubt many low bloods would follow a blue or purple blood anywhere. Especially not into battle or in protest."
Karkat chimed in, "But you guys are forgetting that he didn't have a sign, he never showed his colors. It was anonyms, he could have been anything. I think that's why he was followed. He wasn't a high blood or a low blood, he was just a troll." He looked down and rested his head against John's briefly before continuing, "Which maybe makes me think he was different. In more than just ideals and dreams. Maybe the leader of the rebellion wasn't on the hemospectrum, maybe he didn't fit in. And because of that, he could see the damage and destruction it was creating clearer than anybody."
John leaned back against Karkat and buzzed in agreement, "That sounds like a great idea Karkat, I mean it makes sense. To me at least." He understood the value of Karkat's words more than the others, and the fact that Karkat was dropping some major hints about his own blood color were surprising to the young troll. He made sure to show Karkat he had his support.
Kanaya eyed Karkat carefully, "That sounds awfully like our own leader, doesn't it Sollux? Someone who doesn't show his colors, were you referring to anyone in particular Karkat?"
"Fuck no. Think about present time for a second. Do you honestly think a mutated troll would have a chance? Maybe back thousands of sweeps, but now? Impossible. The drones would kill it on sight. I'm surprised they let you slide Sollux, probably because of your psionics."
"It's because my mutation is actually useful you dumbfuck."
"How is having double everything useful in any way?"
"I could show you," Sollux smirked and raised an eyebrow suggestively, "in bed." John's low growl sounded and Sollux quickly apologized, "John, I didn't mean it. Jeeze."
Karkat laughed and kissed his Matesprit on the neck, "Calm down nookwhiff, the bifurcated asshole isn't worth it and you know it."
Kanaya cleared her throat and attempted to steer the conversation back on track. "I was raised by a virgin mother-grub, she never lived in the brooding caverns, but she told me many, many stories from ones who had. She was wise beyond her ages, and what she says correlates with your statement. A mutant troll could never escape the caverns alive. You were right; it was silly thinking on my part."
The mutant trolls snorted, "Of course it was silly. There's no way in hell someone an off the scale blood color could survive even if they got out of the caverns. There's no lusus set up for such an event, the young troll would just die."
"That's where you're wrong," Terezi said walking in. "In legend it was said that after the Signless's death there was still an underground following that supported him. And this underground following ensured that there would be a lusus for a troll born without a sign. The defense rests it's case."
"Terezi we weren't
never mind. So you say there was a following after his death?"
"Oh yes, a very large one that I believe continues even now!" She sat down next to Kanaya.
"How is that so?" The Jade blood asked, "All the trolls are dead, do you follow this 'cult'?"
"Do you honestly think we are the last Alternian trolls?" Terezi said seriously.
Karkat hesitated before answering, "No. I don't." He glanced at the others around him, "We are not the last. Just because we no longer have a matriorb does not mean our race is doomed to fail. Alternia spread its power through galaxies, throughout the universe. With an empire that large, there have to be some trolls still alive. There must be settlements of trolls that were too far away to report to the Empress directly."
"There is also the high chance that trolls left the service of the Empress and lived on planets they found that were far from the main influence of the Empire." Sollux offered.
"Or trolls that had problems with their ships," John added, "There could be some stranded on planets as well, right?"
"Exactly," Terezi beamed. "We're not a doomed race, just because Sollux said the outlook wasn't good, or that Feferi said the vast glub killed every returning ship, there had to be some that are still out there."
"Vast glub?" John questioned.
"It was a mental shockwave that Feferi's lusus could emit. It swept through our galaxy and killed every troll on Alterina that hadn't been blasted to bits by the meteors, and it wiped out all the returning ships that were trying to defend our home planet from the incoming meteors." Karkat clarified the best he could, "The night we played the game, my six wiggling day, I saw the ships. I thought they were here to pick up the new young adult trolls but," he paused, "They weren't. They were here to try to protect us from the chaos the game started. I saw the ships high in the night sky. I also saw the meteors and the devastation they brought with them. But I couldn't stay long, I was set to enter the medium and
and well, I was the leader so I couldn't show signs of weakness. I had more important things to do."
"Yeah like bitch at me for putting your toilet outside," Terezi laughed.
"Load gapers do not belong in the lawn ring Terezi and you know it!"
There was an awkward silence that hung in the air until Sollux spoke, "I was the last to make it in. And well, I didn't exactly make it in one piece
or even alive." Kanaya looked over at Sollux, "Yeah, only a hand full of trolls knew this, but I was dead on entry. Feferi revived my body with one of my dreamselves."
"Wait, you got more than one? Did you all get two?" John asked suddenly, "Aw man not fair! I want a do over; can I be on your team this time?"
Sollux chuckled, "I have two because I happen to be fucked up in the brain department and a second dream self is a fucking reward."
"Yeah John, no one else got a bonus dream self, you might want to stay with your own session."
"I dunno, yours had a lot less death
Growling erupted from Karkat this time, "Yeah, we had a fan-fucking-tastic time. I personally enjoyed the part where a dog monster tore apart our chance to live, a clown bludgeoned two of our friends to death, and a wannabe wizard killed one of my best friends, blinded the other and destroyed our only hope of rebuilding our race," he paused and took a breath through a snarl, "Oh and I can't forget the lovely discovery of finding said wizard wannabe sawed in half body and Tavros in a pool of his own blood. It was particularly pleasant to find Terezi standing over the corpse of Vriska! Oh and it was a fucking blast returning to that room to clean up the guts and try to put Feferi back together, do I need to mention the-"
"Karkat stop!" Terezi yelled.
Someone in the room was softly crying. "He's the one who as-"
"Is crying you moron!" She interrupted.
"You didn't have to s-show me Karkat," John choked out.
Instantly he switched from boiling over like an angry pot to was pulling John in tight, "Fuck, I didn't mean to, John I didn't mean to."
"I-I know, but you still did
"What happened?" Kanaya asked, "Why is John crying?"
Karkat growled in frustration, "It's part of our Matesprit bond. Our minds are linked, and I can show John stuff. When I went off back there I accidently opened the flood gates and let John see everything that I saw, including all the dead bodies
and when you know
had to dispose of the pieces
"Karkat stop!" John wailed again.
"Fuck, sorry John." He pet the poor trolls head and tried to sooth him. "We're not very good at the whole link thing yet. So we accidently show each other things we probably shouldn't."
John shivered and pulled back from Karkat, "I'm fine," he muttered. Addressing the other trolls he said, "I'm sorry for saying something so stupid. Sorry Karkat
I should have realized that you went through shit."
"No, John I shouldn't have yelled. It happened a long time ago, and you didn't know. I was just under a lot of pressure you know?"
"Yeah. I do." Pressing his shoulder against Karkat he breathed in and out, "I was a leader once too. I know."
The conversation shifted away from the horrors of the past and back to the idea of the revolution on ancient Alternia. John laughed "It almost sounds like these guys could have been you. If you know, you lived a bunch of years ago."
"Oh god, do not even suggest they were our 'ancestors' or something foolish like that," Karkat said.
Terezi chimed in with a cackle, "We go enough of that from Vriska. She would talk your ear off about that stupid book she found. She said it was from her ancestor. We aren't even related to any other troll by blood anymore, it's all a slurry. Anyways, she said she had proof that her ancestor was a great pirate and whatever. I just thought it was a bunch of flarp nonsense."
"We don't have 'ancestors' not like you humans had."
John nodded and leaned back on Karkat, "Alternia must have been a really weird place."
"Compared to your placid Earth, yeah it was."
The rest of the time was spent talking about their former planet and old traditions. They spent time pouring over memoires and special occasions. Karkat helped John 'see' the events through their link as they talked. A few times the humans passed by, but quickly left when they realized the conversation was entirely in Alternian and wouldn't be switching to English anytime soon.
After a long day of organizing supplies and taking inventory, all the boring bullshit that demands a leader's full attention, Karkat found himself wandering down the hall towards his room. Original intent was to find John and demand his company as he slept, but upon passing his doorway he froze. There standing before one of Karkat's mirrors was his Matesprit. But it wasn't the happy one he had always known; this one was once again glaring at the blue wings on his back and growling at his reflection. Quickly Karkat turned around and walked back towards Sollux's room.
A quick nock beckoned the blind programmer to answer the door. "What do you want KK?"
"Can I talk to you about something important?"
The look in Karkat's eyes made it impossible to say no.
John stood outside Dave's door. There was always a nervous calm before the storm type feeling that the new troll had to face every time he prepared himself to enter. The Strider lived in a two part room divided by a wall and a small sliding door. The front half was where Dave slept and hung out; there was a couch and a mattress on the floor. He moved out of the group room shortly after the incident with Jade. John could always smell dirty laundry and the occasional old pizza box on the floor. He smiled, out of all the rooms in the asteroid, Dave's always reminded him of what a room was supposed to be. The second space was where he worked on his music. The farthest wall was lined with equipment he had no clue how to operate.
He knew Dave had a sparring space as well, but he was never sure if it was in the main room or his recording room as swords were tossed everywhere in a haphazard fashion. Eventually he mustered up the courage to actually knock and enter. His friend was in the back room recording or mixing or whatever so John waited by the door patiently. The young Strider was aware of John's presence the moment he took off his headset. "Oh, hey John, surprised me there," he walked over and put an awkward arm around his neck, "So how's my best troll bro doing?"
"I'm your only troll bro Dave," John pointed out, "And I'm fine."
"Oh man, that's not true, Vantas is a bro too."
John shrugged off Dave's arm and elbowed him gently, "The day you and Karkat get along will be the day miracles happen and we win this game no strings attached."
"Speaking of Karkat, how's your Meatsprit anyways?"
"It's Matesprit Dave and you know it."
"Yeah, I know it, doesn't mean I can't poke fun at it."
"You're an ass."
"So are you."
"Learned from the best." John flopped down on Dave's ratty couch. "So what have you been up to Dave?"
"Nothing much, just mixing some new music before the big move. I'm not sure how much of this shit I can take with me. Can't be clogging my inventory with my production equipment. I have to mix this shit before it's too late."
"Knowing you, when we get to the new planet, you'll invent music and the re-invent it over and over again."
Dave smirked, "Now that's an idea I can get behind." He took the seat next to John, "So, why'd you come over John? You need some schoolin' on how to be badass?"
"No, I'm fine, really. I just wanted to talk I guess. It's been a while."
Dave looked at him through his shades, "I'm going to go ahead and call bullshit."
"What? Why?" John leaned forward, "Do I need an excuse to talk to my friend?"
The blond shook his head, "No way man, but anyone can see you're not ok."
"But I am," he growled in frustration.
Dave watched his friend warily. The growling thing was still unsettling to him, not to mention the sharp teeth that were usually bared after it. He sighed and tried to knock those thoughts away, but it was hard when your best friend looks like something out of your nightmares. "I don't really think so. What's on your mind? I promise I won't go all psycho analysis whatever on you like Rose would."
John flopped back and flung his legs on Dave's lap and hung his head over the side of the couch, "Fine, since you are dying to know,' he sighed. "I'm just stressed out about the move and about everything. I mean, think for a second
we're all leaving the relative safety of this lab and heading out for the unknown. We're gonna be in danger again Dave. We'll have to fight again, and maybe one of us will die." John said a little softer, "How am I supposed to protect everyone? What if
what if we all die Dave? What then?"
"I don't know
But we'll figure it out. Come-on man, you're a god, you can't beat that." Dave lifted up one of John's hands, "And look, you have these wicked claws and all that pent up troll aggression. I feel sorry for whatever imp crosses your path."
"Yeah that's all stuff I might have, but you don't. You're just a weak human
Dave snorted, "Weak my ass John. Have you forgotten how strong you used to be? How strong we are? Before you became a god with annoying windy powers, before your skin turned grey and you became a good predator, before all that. Do you remember how much we rocked? We were like fucking super ninjas or some shit."
John raised an eyebrow, "Super ninjas?"
"Shut up, it's a work in progress, but you get what I'm saying." He folded his arms, "You don't have to worry about us, because we're awesome. Just keep being Eggdork and we'll be fine."
"Daaaave," he whined, "no more stupid nicknames."
"Dave!" The troll sat up and playfully punched his friends shoulder. "Hey, thanks."
"No problem. Anything else been bothering you?"
"Too much, but this helped."
He frowned and pushed John back down on the couch, "Ok then, keep talking away. I'll put on my good listener ears and pretend you're my teacher or some shit, no wait, you're Bro, I always listened to him
Smiling John said carefully, choosing his words so he wouldn't be misunderstood, "I have a lot of doubts about myself that are more than just if I'll be a good leader."
" Dave pressed for more.
"You know you aren't going to regain all your bro points in this one sitting right?"
"I'm not looking for bro points, spill," he glanced over at John, all straight face and serious brows.
Sighing again John tried to explain, "It's not your fault Dave, this doesn't have to do with what you said. I like being a troll, it's fun, but sometimes I don't like it. It's confusing and probably just a phase."
"Not sure if I follow," he commented.
"Argh, see? I knew this was stupid. Ok, like
So I'm a troll right?"
"Obviously," Dave answered.
"That was rhetorical or something," John muttered.
"Ohhhh big words, I'm impressed."
"Dave I thought you said you'd be the 'good listener'?" He nodded and stopped talking. "I'm a troll now. That can't be changed. It's fun, I like it
most of the time. Like I said before, it's not your fault, I'm not afraid of myself anymore. I just miss being a human. Not every day, hell not every week even, just occasionally."
"Sometimes you look at yourself and see someone else? And that scares you right?"
"Yeah, it does
it's also a reminder of what I've lost
Dave furrowed his brows and said quietly, "Everything reminds us of something we lost. But that's part of life bro, that's what your heart beat and your breath mean. They mean you've lost something but gained something too." His red eyes searched John for understanding, "These shades remind me of you, of a time when we only talked through text and sent packages for our birthdays. And this shirt, this symbol, there was a time where I shit you not, Bro fucking cut the record on my shirt in half. I'm not going to stop wearing it because he's dead. I wouldn't dishonor him like that."
"But it's not the same-"
"Don't you fucking dare tell me it's not the same. Your skin color is like my shirt, it's changed, but it doesn't stop being the same thing it always was. It's different, but it's proof you lived. It's like a record that you spin and scratch, each time it goes around it changes in some small way, but it still remains the same." Once again he paused to gauge John's reaction, "Please don't make me use another shitty metaphor."
"Thanks Dave." John rolled over so he faced the cushions. "So you honestly think we'll be ok?"
"No. But we'll make it through sheer stubbornness and willpower. I doubt Vantas wants to see anymore dead bodies in his lifetime and I'm sick and tired of going back to change a future that ended in corpses."
That put a thought into John's head. It was small and didn't occur to him before. "Dave," he started quietly, "did you ever think about going back in time and stopping this from happening?"
" he swallowed, "the thought
it didn't, I mean of course I thought about it. But I never
it wasn't threatening our lives
you turning into a troll wouldn't cause a doomed timeline, if it ever did, yeah I'd go back in a heartbeat. But I didn't do something that would change your life just because I didn't like it. That's not how time travel works." He ran a hand through his hair uneasily, and gave a half smile. "So yeah, I thought about it, but I'd never do something like that."
"Ok, I was just wondering."
"Well wonder no more," Dave shifted John's legs from his lap and pulled the troll off the couch. "Come on, let's make some grub, I'm starving. I'll even let you feed me some of that gross ass troll food you guys eat." John followed him out the door, "Seriously how do you guys eat that stuff? It always looks like it's freshly dead, still pumping blood and shit. Like you just cooked that poor cow alive and ate it moving."
"Dave what the hell have you been watching? A horror movie?" John opened the door and proceeded down the hall, "We do not eat food still moving."
As John continued to babble about all the new food he'd tried Dave couldn't help but notice that John used "us" and "we" to refer to the other trolls. It hurt to be right, to know that John was considering himself part of their world and not his, but at the same time he was proud of the troll. He was changing, but staying the same, just like he said and just like John promised. "Dude are you going to sit here and talk forever or we going to start some sick fires and make wicked treats or something."
Karkat once again found himself standing outside his own door. This time the reason he didn't enter had nothing to do with a blue blood troll being inside but everything to do with the lack of said blue troll. "Where could he be? It's late and the heaters are set to slow soon
" He backtracked quickly entered the main room. "Hey have any of you losers seen John?"
"Karkat? I thought John was with you," Kanaya answered.
"If he was I clearly wouldn't be asking," he growled back.
"Calm down Karkat he'll turn up," Terezi said from across the room.
He left muttering, "Maybe he's with his friends
" a quick knock on the human's doors revealed that John hadn't stopped by to visit any of them. Frustrated he went to Sollux but even his Moirail didn't have a clue where he was.
"Thorry KK, why don't you jutht uthe your mind link?"
I didn't even fucking think about that," he left Sollux and walked back to his room. The odd thing was that he couldn't feel John at all. Usually there was always a constant feeling of his Matesprit, it hung in the back of his mind, not always making itself known, but taking up enough space to let Karkat know that he was never truly alone. But this time there was almost no trace of John, anywhere.
And it petrified Karkat to his very core.
He picked up his pace and called out to John in his mind. All at once he got blasted by the feeling of ice water being dumped down his back and icicles scraping at his skin like claws. Legs buckled and he stared at the wall, paralyzed on the ground with panic and crippling cold. It was John, that much was clear. As soon as the arctic blast hit it receded. Karkat struggled to his feet and followed the tiny spark of John that ignited in his brain. It was faint and flickered in and out like a dying flame, but it was all he had to go on.
Karkat ended up facing the door to the showers. Water was running, that much was obvious and clear. What was hard to catch, even for his sensitive troll ears was the sound of breathing. "John?" Karkat asked before bursting in anyways, it's not like there were any other subjects it could be. Water was pooling in one of the shower stalls and he could see a small piece of blue grey troll flesh. "John fuck!" He bolted and lifted the troll upright. He was still clothed and soaked to the bone with cold water. "You moron! You'll freeze to death!"
The first thing Karkat did was pull John from the icy water's grasp and start wrapping him towels. "John! John! Can you hear me?" In his arms John was unresponsive and looked dead. It never helped that his blood was blue so he couldn't tell how much was from cold or his blood underneath. "John, fuck, John come one talk to me."
An eye opened halfway, "Karkat?" The reply was quiet and breathy.
"Fuck, John, what were you thinking?" He rubbed the troll's skin vigorously and tried to warm him up. His Matesprit felt like a block of ice and it almost stung to touch him. "By all standards you should be dead right now." Hastily he threw aside damp towels and replaced with them fresh dry ones. "Why would you do this?"
"I-I didn't try to
" He managed to reply. "You told me to sit in the shower when I felt bad
and I felt bad."
"Don't sit in the damn thing until it run colds idiot! You'll die!"
"Do you think," he said softly, his eyes blinking in and out of consciousness, "do you think Dad would be proud of me?"
Before Karkat could answer John's eyelids fell back and his head slumps limply to the side. His heart was still beating and breath came from his parted lips so Karkat quickly scooped him up and returned to their room. He stripped the boy of all of his clothes and did the same for himself. Then he buried the troll deep in blankets and curled around him.
Trolls have always been highly susceptible to being cold, it's probably their only weakness and Karkat was really afraid for John. He wasn't shivering, he was still, and he was so cold. Karkat tried his best to share his body heat with him and keep the blankets completely covering them. After ten tense minutes passed John began to stir again. "John?" Karkat asked softly.
"Hey Karkat," he smiled weakly, "did I do something stupid again?"
"Oh thank god," he pulled him tight and purred into his neck. "Don't fucking do that again, understand?"
"Do what exactly?" He blinked a few times and tried to recall. All he could remember was Karkat calling his name and he was cold. Deathly cold.
"You were in the showers, but the water was ice. Were you trying to kill yourself?"
"N-No! Of course not! I'd never
" he paused, "I wouldn't do that, right?"
Karkat pressed him closer to his body and said softly, "I don't know, I hope not."
"I miss my dad." John said suddenly.
"You mentioned that before," Karkat stated, "right before you passed out."
Struggling to remember John tore himself out of Karkat's embrace and burrowed into the blankets, "I was depressed, or something, I don't know. And I remember you told me to go take a hot shower whenever I felt bad, so I did. But then I never left? It got cold really fast, and my body stopped working? I don't know how, then I remember you came." He glanced back over at Karkat who, inside the blanket pile, was reduced to two glowing yellow orbs. "I don't think I wanted to end up like that."
"I don't think you did either," Karkat carefully rubbed John's back and noticed his wings were still frozen. He lifted the top few layers of blankets off and instructed John to beat his wings. "You asked me if your dad would be proud of you. Do you remember that?"
I dunno," John complied and started to flutter his stiff wings, "that seems like something I'd ask." His face returned to the pile of blankets and he started crying. "I just wonder if he's proud of me, or if he'd be proud of me
considering everything that has happened."
Karkat placed a hand on John's back, between vibrating wings and slowly moved John's face back into his chest. "Shhhhh, I can't say for sure, because I'm not him John, but I'm proud of you. Will that be enough for you right now?"
He shook his head and hiccuped, "But it helped."
"Next time you try to take one of your stress relief showers, come get me ok?"
"I can do that," he replied through quiet sobs.
Karkat cradled him until he was asleep and then promptly fell asleep as well. 'We need to hurry
' he thought right before drifting into unconsciousness.
"KK!" Sollux's voice sounded from the other side of the metal door. "KK!" He pounded his fists this time. "KK I know you're in there!" The yellow troll raised his voice a bit. "KK!"
Karkat peeled himself away from John to answer the door. "What the fuck do you want Sollux? You always interrupt me when I'm trying to fucking sleep. This better be worth it." He opened the door to find his Moirail in tears, "Oh not you too. What the hell is it?"
"Aradia," he said breathlessly, "Aradia visited me in a dream."