Once again Karkat was up before his alarm, he waited until it started chiming before stopping it. He rolled over and observed John, he was still sleeping. The boy was curled up in a ball of blankets and limbs, breathing normally, his hair swept messily across his face. Karkat brushed the strands out his eyes carefully; he didn't want to risk waking the boy. Waking a sleeping troll was like asking to get your throat slashed out. It was a defense mechanism that they hadn't been able to outgrow; only matesprits could get away with waking each other. Karkat slid out of the bed carefully and threw on some fresh clothes. He was surprised at how well John slept this night compared to the last. The difference was astounding. He felt horrible for disturbing his sleep, but the day was starting and he needed to be up for it. "John," he called, from across the room. "John, get your lazy sorry excuse for an ass out of bed right now. We have shit to do and it's not going to get done with you laying there." John growled in response.
"Egbert, I am not kidding, up, now." Karkat let a growl of his own punctuate the sentence.
John opened his eyes slowly, and blinked a few times. "Ugh, Karkat what time is it?"
"Time for you get out of bed. That's all you need to know." he threw a shirt at the boy, "Change, come on fuckass we don't have all day."
"What's the big rush?" he asked yawning.
"Just hurry up." They went and made food, then sat down. He watched John look around.
"There's no one here," he observed out loud.
"That's because we're up a bit early." He cut John off before he could ask why, "Troll training," he said, "I'm going to spend today attempting to teach you Alternian."
John groaned, "All day?"
"Yes all day. With your thinkpan I'll be lucky if even half of what I say gets through to you." Karkat finished eating and waited for John to follow suit. The boy was still having difficulties chewing. As he waited a few others made their way into the eating area. Kanaya and Terezi greeted them.
"You two are up early, what are you up to?" Kanaya asked.
"Teaching this idiot Alternian." Karkat answered.
"Good luck," Terezi cackled.
Karkat grabbed John's wrist and led him away from the table, John protested, "I'm not done eating yet!"
"You are now," he responded. He found a quiet room away from others and sat John down. Karkat sat across from him and took a deep breath, "Ok, here goes nothing. As you've probably heard, Alternian isn't like your human English, it's rougher, more feral, like
fuck how do it put this into idiot?" Karkat paused again, trying to find an equivalent. "Look, first off, we have two sets of noises we can make. The first is general Alternian, that's what you hear us talk in, and that movie from last night. The second is
well the best way to describe it is like a combination of beast noises, I guess. We use them to communicate emotions better. It's easier to display them like that instead of telling another troll. Your instincts should catch on soon. Today we're going to work on spoken Alternian."
"Ok, so you guys have two versions of Alternian?" John asked to clarify, "and I have to learn the both?"
"Yeah basically, but like I said before, only one of them is spoken like a language."
"Um, ok?" he still sounded confused but he smiled shyly and asked, "Ok, so where do we start?"
Karkat took a deep breath, "Fuck, I'm not sure."
"Well how did you guys learn English?"
"We just picked it up from watching you. It wasn't that hard to do."
"You learned a whole language from just watching us? That's amazing Karkat!"
John leaned in closer, "Yeah! Wow! You must be really smart! When this is all over you are so going to be my study buddy!"
"John, what is this nonsense spewing from your mouth?" John just smiled at him like an idiot. "Ok, just repeat what I say." He switched to Alternian, "Hi my name is John Egbert."
John looked up, "Hey you said my name!"
"Just repeat it."
" John paused trying to remember the bizarre string of sounds he heard Karkat say. He stumbled through the sentence the best he could. "How was that?"
Karkat rested a hand on his face, "This is going to be a very long day." He looked up again, and spoke slower, repeating the line. He listened to John repeat it back. He said it again emphasizing the parts that John had trouble with. After a few more times John was able to say the sentence without sounding like an embarrassment. "Ok, that was actually pretty good. Now let's try some other things."
John was amazed at how complex this language was. There were so many little sounds, and clicks, the boy struggled to remember them all. Thankfully, Karkat was a very patient teacher. That surprised John; he didn't think Karkat was capable of being patient.
Karkat was going very slow, teaching John all the different syllables, making sure he was saying them right. Then he went through all the noises that would be different to a human's ear. There were buzzes and clicks that he needed to teach the former human. Some growls were important too. Karkat was glad he seemed to be getting the hang of it. "Ok, now we'll learn some words, I guess." John nodded, a bit eager. Karkat pointed to the wall, "Wall," he said in Alternian, John repeated it with a bit more successes, "floor," he then pointed to himself and said in English, "me," the repeated it in Alternian, "you," in English first, then Alternian. He was actually proud of how much John seemed to get. "Ok, let's try that first sentence again."
"Hi my name is Karkat Vantas," he responded laughing.
"Ok, smart-ass you still remember that part, that's good." He smirked, "Ok, let's try some easy phrases, like, I'm tired, hungry stuff like that."
John was very amazed he could follow Karkat as well as he did. His vocal cords and tongue had no problem forming and pronouncing the alien words. In fact, he found them easier to say than English words were. "Uh, Karkat, how do you say 'I have to use the bathroom?'" Karkat repeated the phrase in Alternian. John repeated it. "I actually do have to pee, that's a good phrase to know." he got up and walked swiftly out of the room, "I'll hurry back," he called from the hall.
Karkat flopped back on the floor and stared at the ceiling. He heard the sound of feet pounding on the floor again and John came back. "Wow that fast," he said sitting up. He heard John whine, Karkat eyed the boy, "what's wrong?" he asked noticing the boy's face turn dark blue.
John could feel himself flush. "I, uh. Karkat
" he fumbled with his shirt, "I can't um
how do you, you know
um use the bathroom?" he seemed completely embarrassed. "Can you
"John, I am not going to fucking help you go to the bathroom."
Karkat Vantas stood back against the door helping John go to the bathroom.
John was standing on the other side, and was talking way too fast for Karkat to understand what he was saying. "John, fucking calm down." He heard John take a few deep breaths. "Now why the fuck am I here?"
John pressed his back against the door. "Well, it's just
what IS that?"
"What is what, John?" he asked through the door.
"There's this, like hard thing
I don't get it." Karkat started laughing. "Karkat! This isn't funny!"
Karkat heard the slight edge of fear in his voice. "It's ok, idiot, that's your bonebulge."
but how do you
how do you pee?"
Karkat laughed again. "Relax John, just relax." He told the boy.
John did as he was told; he took a deep breath again, and tried to calm down. He could feel himself start to relax. He sighed feeling better. He felt something strange; he watched and felt something move. "K-Karkat?"
Karkat reassured the boy, "That's your bulge
yes it's supposed to do that
YES Ebert it moves, deal with it
No it is not strange
Just hurry up already."
The new troll just stared, 'At least it looks the same
' he thought. 'It's just, thinner
and uh, moves. Ok weird.'
John was thoroughly freaked out when he grasped the door handle and let himself out. He moved to the sink and washed his hands. Karkat's reflection joined his own in the mirror. "That was the most terrifying and awkward thing I've ever done."
Karkat smirked, "Yeah well trolls are a bit more protective of their reproductive organs, in fact, I can't believe humans just walk around with their reproductive parts outside their bodies. It's a miracle you guys were even able to reproduce, fuck, if a troll tried that he'd be missing a bulge. Also, how the hell did you go this long without using the bathroom?"
"I didn't need to, I guess. I mean since the alchimeter broke I haven't eaten anything
" he trailed off. John glanced down, blushing blue again, "So then it only comes out when you're relaxed?" he asked.
"Not quite, I mean going to the bathroom, obviously is something that needs to be done daily, but the only time another troll will ever see your bulge is if you really trust them. I mean really trust them, like matesprit or kismesis, usually matesprit. You can be relaxed all damn day and it'll stay behind its sheath."
John tried not show that he was still freaked and followed Karkat out of the bathroom. "So what's next?" he asked
"More Alternian lessons." He replied while walking. John watched him turn into the same room as before and sit down. John hovered by the door, eyeing Karkat. "What?" Karkat said in Alternian.
John picked up on the question, he searched his head for the right vocabulary, "Nothing," he managed to say. He switched back to English, "It's really nothing Karkat, I'm just being stupid." He sat down in-front of Karkat, and waited for him to begin the next round of language training.
"John," Karkat said gently, "you're not being "stupid" if something is bothering you, I need to know. We have to be able work this shit out with you now." He scanned John's face for a reaction, thankful he was easy to read. There was something bothering him, a lot. "John, you can tell me."
In the former human's head, all that replayed was Dave telling him that soon he'll be just like one of THEM. Eating like them, and talking like them. "This is my third day as a troll right?" Karkat nodded, "Well, don't you think we're going a bit fast? I mean, do I really need to learn Alternian now? Can't it wait?"
Karkat could tell where John was going, he sighed, "Egbert, you have to realize this, you're a troll now, I'm sorry, but you are." He briefly lost his train of thought when John looked away, "I mean, the fucking reality is that Sollux won't be able to fix that machine. It's easier to teach you these things while your instincts are still developing too."
"But, I feel like I'm becoming too different from how I was before." John looked at his hands, "Dave said-"
Karkat cut him off, "Don't you give a fuck about Dave. That idiot nooksniffer doesn't know what he's talking about. I know he's your friend, but he's being a moron right now. Listen to me, you are John fucking Egbert; that is never going to change, even if your skin is grey and your blood is blue. But, if you're uncomfortable with learning Alternian, we can stop. I understand. Just remember that it's only going to get harder the more we wait."
John stared into Karkat's eyes, which were now the same as his. "No, we can keep going." He gave a weak smile, "See? I knew I was being stupid, it's ok, let's continue."
The rest of the lesson was spent on vocabulary building. Karkat went through tons of new words, saying them in Alternian, and having John repeat them, then quizzing him by saying the Alternian name, and having John repeat the English, then he'd switch. By the end of the day John could successfully say many key phrases. Karkat lead him into the main room again and announced to the group of trolls in Alternian, "Hey idiots, look at what I taught Egbert to do. Please use small words in congratulating him though, don't want to fry his little thinkpan."
"Hey! Karkat, that's not nice," John commented. The other trolls looked up at John curious, Rose and Jade turned their attention to him as well. John nervously cleared his throat, even though there was nothing in it. "Um," he started, "Karkat this is stupid," Karkat just growled and told him to do it. He sighed. "Hi, my name is John Egbert," he began in Alternian; "I'm six sweeps old and came from Earth. I'm learning Alternian, I don't know many words. I can try to hold a conversation though." He finished and looked at Karkat for approval. Relief washed through him when he saw Karkat give him an approving nod.
"Wow, I can't believe you learned so much!" Terezi congratulated him in Alternian as well.
"You don't have an accent at all," Kanaya added.
"It was pretty good for your firtht day," Sollux complement, John noticed his lisp wasn't as bad when he spoke Alternain, but still present.
"Thanks," John said, "I'm working really hard; I really want to be able to understand everything you say soon."
Jade stood up and threw her arms around John, who was surprised by the sudden movement. "That's sooooo cool! Wow, you can speak alien now!"
John laughed and put an arm around his sister, "Thanks, but it's not "alien", it's "Alternian."
Jade looked up at him and laughed, "English please?"
John blushed a bit, blue spreading across his cheeks, "Sorry, I said, it's not "alien," but "Alternian," oh and thanks!"
The next few days went by in much the same way. John would fall asleep with Karkat, and Karkat would comfort him every time he woke up from a nightmare. Then Karkat would spend the rest of the day with John, teaching him Alternian, filling him in on troll culture and life. After John had gotten over what Dave had told him he was very eager to learn. He tried to soak in as much knowledge as he could. Karkat had instructed the other trolls to speak in Alternian around John, so the boy was getting very familiar with the language very quickly. The movies they watched before bed were also in Alternian; Karkat noticed as the days went on he didn't need to narrate as much.
John had slid into in the bed next to Karkat one night. He pulled the covers up and without realizing it made a distressed whine. Karkat rolled over and asked, "John, what's wrong?"
"Mmm? Nothing." He could feel Karkat's eyes on him, "Ok," he admitted, "I guess I just miss my friends. I miss sleeping in the same room as them." He added quickly, "I mean, you're being really nice to me, and I thank you for that, but it's just not the same."
Karkat nodded understanding. "You're making good progress, last night you only woke up once. If you can sleep through the night steady and not need me then I don't see why you wouldn't be able to go back to your room."
John's eyes brightened, "Ok, yeah, that sounds good."
That day came a bit sooner than Karkat had expected. He watched John run down hallway and hug Jade, "Guess who's staying with you guys tonight?" he asked the group of humans.
"Really?!" Jade exclaimed, "That's great John! I really missed you!"
"So you're alright now?" Rose asked.
John nodded. Karkat came up behind him, "Yeah, he should be good, Rose."
Dave didn't say anything, but John thought he saw the edge of his mouth twitch, 'was that almost a smile?' he wondered.
Karkat watched John chatter on endlessly for the rest of the day. He hadn't seen the boy so bright for a while; it was refreshing, if not a little annoying.
"KK," Sollux came up behind him, "could I borrow you for a while?" Karkat turned around and shrugged. "I mean, you're not doing anything with John today right? I need thome help with the computerth."
"Yeah, I'm free." He left with his friend. Sollux led Karkat into the main electronics room, sat down, and motioned to a bunch of cables. "You need me to sort cables?"
"Yeth. Thorry, I would do it mythelf, but I'm thtill not very good with the whole 'thmell color' thit that Terezi ith teaching me."
Karkat sat down taking a few cables and started to make piles, "No, it's ok, I can help." he said went through the cords. "You want them by color?"
"Yeah, color and maybe length, if that'th pothible." Sollux was back at a computer typing in strings of code. "When you're done, I need thome help coding too. I know you thuck, but thith ith eathy work. Even you can't meth it up."
"Fuck you Sollux," he grumbled and went back to work.
"There'th the KK I know." Sollux said typing away.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the patht few dayth you've been so dithtracted, and acting weird." Karkat stopped what he was doing. "Almotht like you're pitying thomeone."
"Don't be stupid Sollux, who here would I fucking pity?"
"Terezi?" he guessed, "You two were almotht matethpritth oneth." Sollux paused, "Are you jealouth of me thpending time with her?" Karkat sighed, "You are, aren't you?" he asked.
"No, Sollux, I'm not jealous of you and Terezi spending time together. She's teaching you right? I don't really care anyways." Karkat put the cables on the table, he sat down next to Sollux, "so what needs coding?" he tried to change the subject.
"Oh, here," he reached over and showed him a large string of code, "run thith program and put thethe in." Karkat nodded and started typing too. There was a bit of silence, the only sound was the taping of keys. "Tho," Sollux spoke up, "If it'th not Terezi, then who are you feeling matethprit feelingth for?"
"I already told you nookwhiff; I'm not flushed for anyone."
"John?" Sollux guessed, sightless eyes still watching the screen.
"Fuck no!" Karkat swore, "That idiot?" he laughed.
"I think you pity him." Sollux said.
Karkat was silent, his fingers hesitating over the keys. "Maybe I do." He said uncharacteristically quiet.
"Hmm?" Sollux asked.
"Nothing, shut up. It was stupid."
Sollux laughed, "Whatever you thay KK."
Karkat left the room tired and stiff from sitting hunched over the keyboard. He also left a bit more confused. 'Sure, it would be fucking easy to pity him, so easy, but
I just don't know.' he put a hand up to his head and rubbed his temples, 'if I get a fucking headache because of this shit
' he turned the corner and glanced down the hallway to the human's room. He saw John standing outside the door. He walked behind the boy amazed he didn't seem to sense him. "John, what the fuck are you doing standing out here?" Karkat knew it was late; the others were probably inside that room.
John spun around eyes wide, "Oh! Karkat, you surprised me," he smiled a bit.
"I repeat, why the fuck are you standing out here?"
John looked down, a bit nervous, "I'm worried I guess, and maybe a bit scared."
"Of what, idiot?" Although he already knew the answer.
"I dunno," he mumbled, "I think I'm scared they'll think I'm different again, and I'm worried that I'll wake up and make scene, or-"
"John," Karkat cut the boy off, "I told you, you're fine. You've done great these past few days; you worked hard to earn this. You miss your friends, and I'm sure they miss you. Now get in your ass in there before I do it for you." He spun the boy around and shoved him in-front of the door, "Do I have to press the button too?"
"N-No, I got that." John said, a real smile spreading across his face. "Thanks Karkat, for everything."
"Whatever," he replied walking away, he heard the sound of the door opening and Jade squeal with delight. Karkat stood outside his own door. Finger hovering over the button, he sighed and pressed it. He walked into his respiteblock and looked around, noting the odd silence that hung over him. As much as he hated to admit it, the lack of John's presence felt weird. He moved to his bed and just flopped down on it. Breathing in deeply he caught the strong scent of John, it made sense, the troll did spend a few weeks with Karkat, sharing the same bed. Karkat knew he wouldn't be able to sleep right away even if he tried; instead he put on a movie and wrapped himself in blankets. He caught himself whispering the plot to a John who wasn't there; he silently cursed and focused on the movie again. Soon his vision blurred and the troll fell to the side. An uneasy sleep followed.
John walked into the room boldly and sat down on his bed. He squinted a bit at the bright light but didn't complain this time. Rose, Jade, and Dave were still up, John noticed thankfully. They turned their attention to him as he sat down. "Hey guys."
Jade hugged him, "John! I'm so glad you're back! It was awfully lonely just staring at your empty bed."
"I missed you guys so much." John told them. "You have no idea."
"So what's it like being a troll?" Jade asked sitting back down on her bed across from him.
Rose asked too, "I've been curious as to what Karkat has been teaching you."
John smiled, "It's so weird." He started, "First off, all of my senses are different, my hearing, taste, smell, it's all different, but most of all is my eyesight. I mean, I still need glasses, but I can see in the dark, really well, like it's day out."
"That makes sense," Rose said, "trolls are nocturnal, and your eyes seem a bit bigger than ours. It would make sense that you're able to absorb more light then us."
"Of course, bright lights give me a major headache, but that's getting better too. Other than the senses, there's not much else that's different about me. Oh, the nightmares, but Karkat said I'm getting better at dealing with those, that's why I'm here tonight, plus, I'd rather not talk about them. We're very similar I guess, I mean more so than I thought."
"What about learning Alternian? You seemed to be getting quite good at it." Rose asked.
"Oh, yeah! Their language is really fun to learn, it's like you're not even learning words, but you are! I didn't even think I could make some of the noises I've done."
"Show us John!" Jade insisted excitedly.
"Um, ok." He thought for a moment then spoke in Alternian, "Hi Jade! How are you tonight? Um, I'm very happy to be here, and I missed all of you." he stopped, "how's that?"
"You're right; it didn't sound like words at all." Rose added, "That is very interesting."
"Yeah, it's pretty strange, what's even weirder is that I know some of this, like without having to be told. It's like I've always known."
"So you feel instincts that trolls have?" Rose asked to clarify.
"Yeah, I guess so."
Jade eyed her brother again, "What about your horns? Aren't those different?"
John laughed, "Oh, yeah, I guess they are. I already got used to them though; I hardly notice they're there." He paused and watched Jade stare, "I promised you that you could touch them, if you want to that is."
"It won't hurt?"
"Nope, they're all hard now, just like bone." Jade was reaching for one, "Although, Karkat mentioned not to touch the base, I don't know why, and I'm not sure I want to find out."
Rose spoke up, "that seems like a valid concern. I would assume there would be plenty of nerves in that area."
Jade ran her hand over the hard surface, they were surprisingly smooth, not what she was expecting. "You have horns, that is sooooo weird."
They stayed up for what seemed like hours just talking, and laughing like they used to. Even Dave participated every once in a while to the conversation. John was so happy, he couldn't remember the last time he had smiled as much as he did. He had no problem falling swiftly asleep.