Cross-post from the Secret Santa thread. My secret santa recipient asked for a fic of Equius Nepeta. Here's what I wrote (with help from LeCrab on working out the idea).
The lights inside the asteroid that the trolls called home felt dim. Not the dim normally associated with lights; instead, the lights shined with want of purpose. Although they provided lights for the trolls, such light begged for meaning; a reason to continue when all seemed pointless. A void filled the air. In many ways, sweat relates to a void. A void is an empty space; an existence defined by the state of lacking. While sweat can function to cool off a body, it also carries from the body vital fluids and processed materials. When one sweats, they soon lack something they had before. Their body becomes a void.
It had been a while since Equius had last talked to Nepeta; not only Nepeta, but Aradia and the other trolls as well. Aradia had become distant. What passions may have stirred her heart, aside from the one she crushed that is, had left her quickly. The other trolls had largely been busy talking to the humans. Equius had tried talking to one human; a boy named Dave. While it had passed the time, Equius still felt lonely. Poetry with a strange alien wasn't enough to fill that void. Equius stood near his computer. It sat on a gray table with a gray wall providing a backdrop. Gray upon darker gray sitting on a lighter gray; all unremarkable aside from their shared insignificance. A thin sheet of sweat clung to Equius as he strongly propped up his head. Not much had gone right since the trolls' escape to the asteroid.
However, that isn't to suggest that the trolls were surrounded by a multitude of dangers. The trolls had defeated a black king that, aside from the example provided by the trolls themselves, should have been unstoppable. It was a force powerful enough to render all living creatures deceased merely by a single utterance. Not much else could be considered dangerous by comparison. And yet, something much more dangerous did exist. The very demon which had forced the trolls into hiding could find them at any time and kill them all. A contradiction existed. While there was no immediate danger, the danger that did exist was so grand as to make any effort to prevent said danger ornate. However, for nobility, decorations are used to inadequately fill such voids.
Equius lifted his head from its perch and glanced over from his left at Nepeta. Again, she was distracted by the humans. She was charmed against her better senses; held apart from others as the humans entrapped her mind and made use of it as they saw fit. Such depravity... It was enough to make a man wonder at what point blood, however perfect, fills with rage enough to boil sweat away. However, high philosophical inquiries as such were a luxury of the past. Time was short. Immediate action had to be taken to protect Nepeta from the danger she was clearly getting herself into. Equius had warned her about the humans. Regrettably, his warning had fallen deaf on her ears. Her real ears, not the fake cat ones that Equius knew better than to try and get her to remove. No, it was far too... excitable to try and get Nepeta to remove those. Not all maladies of the low-bloods can be cured even with the most persistent attention paid by those gifted with higher blood; if the hemospectrum even mattered anymore...
Equius' held his head steady as he made his way over to Nepeta. It was time to set things right again.
“Nepeta,” Equius stopped as he came within a foot behind of Nepeta, “you will stop this foolishness at once.”
A pause followed. Nepeta had barely twitched as Equius spoke and continued to face her computer.
“Nepeta. Answer me. You will cease talking to the humans at once.”
Equius gently laid his hand on Nepeta's shoulder, soliciting a jump. A grin spread across her face as she turned to look at Equius.
“But I'm not talking to the humans!”
“Lies,” came Equius, “I know that you've been talking to them. Acting against what I told you to do.”
While Nepeta's smile stayed, its warmth faded. It looked much like the smile of a small child caught in a lie and trying his or her best to dodge punishment.
“But I wasn't talking to a human.” A stern gaze greeted Nepeta's defense. She lowered her head. “Not just now at least. I was talking to Jaspers.”
“You don't understand how dangerous it is to talk to the humans.” Equius lifted his hand and reached out towads Nepeta's computer, “It is forbidden for you to use your computer henceforth. It is far too dangerous.”
“No!” Nepeta's right hand shot up and grabbed Equius' outstretched wrist. “I haven't been talking to the humans for the past hour and I want to keep on talking to Jaspers.”
“Nonsense,” Equius recovered from a momentary shock, “I have watched you speak to the humans for hours. You have talked enough. You will stop.”
Although Equius continued to reach for Nepeta's computer, Nepeta's arm pulling back coupled with his surprise to create a hesitation. Of course Equius could just push forward and reach the computer if he wanted. He was far too strong to be held back, even by someone as strong as Nepeta. However, Nepeta had rarely physically restrained him.
“It isn't fair! The humans are fine. They aren't dangerous.” Nepeta began to pout, “And I wasn't even talking to one.”
“I am only looking out for your protection” Sweat clung to Equius' well, Equius' everywhere.
“No you're not!” Equius' arm lowered as Nepeta applied more force, “You're not even listening to me. I need my computer. You can't have it!”
"When two great forces oppose each other, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield." -Oscar Wilde
Wise words by a man who likely could resist everything but temptation. This much is given. However, for once, neither Equius nor Nepeta were in a position to yield. With the forces opposed both unable to yield, victory can go to neither.
It wasn't intentional. While Equius did insist that Nepeta get off her computer, he hardly meant for what happened next to occur. It is an unfortunate reality of those who are STRONG that materials that would otherwise be stable are instead brittle in their grasp. Such as it was, as Equius went to grab Nepeta's computer while she protested, the computer was crushed in its middle. Both the left and right side of the computer fell to the floor as Equius held onto what remained. It wasn't as if Nepeta had been cut off from trollian. She was more than able to use another computer to talk to Jaspers. However, it was still a blow to see her computer crushed while still talking to Jaspers.
Nepeta left. A quick hurt look was all that was given to Equius before she transportalized away to her room. Some of the trolls had turned to look at Equius after he crushed the computer. Most, however, continued to be preoccupied by the humans, or horror-terrors, or whatever else they thought best to do while waiting for death. Equius was alone. Nepeta would resist his guidance at times. Occasionally, it would take some effort to convince Nepeta what was in her best interest. For things that Nepeta knew better about, it was fairly easy to convince her. All Equius had to do was say something was forbidden. If the danger inherent in what Equius forbade wasn't explicit, arguments could follow. However, it was very rare for Nepeta to refuse guidance outright. It was troubling. Perhaps, had he not crushed the computer, an argument would have followed. Nepeta would have resisted and growled, but the logic inherent in avoiding the humans would overcome her reluctance to stop talking to them. At least Equius was inclined to think that. Something about what just happened was wrong though. Deep down, Equius knew that the humans weren't dangerous. Whether Nepeta had been talking to the humans recently was also in question. And to accidentally crush Nepeta's computer...
Equius began to sweat. His body twitched as he fought against a vague spasm of anger as well as nervousness. Things had been different on the asteroid. Before, things felt clear. Relationships were defined and held to perfection. Although his matespritship with Aradia had not developed according to plans, that they did develop was expected. Even more so, Nepeta had been Equius' moirail for sweeps. There had been no doubt that he and she were moirails. But with little to protect Nepeta from, the very idea of a moirail felt faded. If there was nothing to protect Nepeta from, could Equius continue to be her moirail? The concept felt empty and abandoned. Equius strongly dragged his right hand over his face. And Nepeta... Perhaps he had been wrong to be so forceful about the humans. The one Equius had talked to had been mostly pleasant. Although he didn't know this 'Jaspers,' there was no reason to assume he or she would be harmful. Equius needed time to think. He left from where Nepeta's computer had been and transportalized up to his room. Perhaps there was something he could do to apologize to Nepeta.
Nepeta sat on the steel floor of her room. Her legs were pulled in close to her chest; her arms hugging them close as Nepeta's forehead rested on her knees. It wasn't fair. Nepeta had been so lonely ever since Pounce died. Talking to Jaspers had reminded Nepeta of Pounce. There had been other things she could do; play court-drama with Terezi or talk to that super funny human, Akwete. It wasn't as if Nepeta was bored. But even with all those super fun things to do, it still felt like something was missing. The cold of the floor chilled Nepeta's feet; drawing heat away from her and creating a void where it had once been. Nepeta lifted her head, the remnants of tears staining her face, and looked up at a nearby wall. Her shipping wall; it had been fun to recreate it once all the trolls had escaped to this asteroid. The pictures were perfect; just as perfect as they had been before. Every possible moirail and matesprit pairing was represented. She even included the humans in her wall; every possibility had to be considered.
Nepeta's gaze stopped on the picture of her and Equius as matesprits. That picture sure looked awfully ridiculous. Instead of standing next to Equius and looking positively adorable like with their moirail picture, Nepeta had drawn herself tackling Equius. She had gotten the idea after jumping on Equius while on her land. Nepeta wasn't really sure why she thought of that event when she thought of her and Equius as matesprits, but it hardly mattered as it was so completely ridiculous to think of them like that. Her and Equius as matesprits? A slight blush crept over Nepeta's face. It wasn't fun when she and Equius fought. They had fought before, and Equius could be hard to convince on why he was wrong, but he had never broken something of hers before on purpose. Actually... did he break her computer on purpose? Nepeta had been so upset at the idea of no longer talking to Jaspers that she hadn't thought on whether Equius had broken her computer on purpose or by accident. He was strong after all. Nepeta stood up. Of course that was it; it had been an accident. And here Nepeta was sitting by herself when Equius probably only wanted to apologize. She quickly strode over to the transportalizer in her room and left. Equius was probably in his room.
Equius was in a corner of his room, tinkering on some object with his tools, when Nepeta entered. Unfortunately, Equius has sat down fairly close to his transportalizer. Although he had enough time to hide his work behind his back, it wasn't enough to conceal from Nepeta that he had been working on something. When Nepeta first entered, her intentions has been to search out for Equius and, once she found him, excitedly jump on top of him. Maybe she would have grabbed a wrench and played with it. Regardless, Nepeta had hoped to break the tension by being playful. However, as she had caught Equius hiding something, curiosity grabbed too tightly for her to enact her plan. Instead, she stood with a puzzled look on her face.
Once regaining her composure, Nepeta took a few paces towards Equius. “What do you have there?”
“Nothing.” Equius continued to hold his object behind his back, “It's not anything that concerns you Nepeta. Why are you here?”
“Well, I thought I'd check and make sure you hadn't gotten into any trouble!” Nepeta grinned while leaning over Equius, “Whatcha hiding?”
“Nepeta. It is not important. You should leave.”
Nepeta continued to lean closer, trying to get a look at what was behind Equius. “Nu-uh! I very much should be here. Come on Equius!” She began to shove “Let me see!”
Equius began to sweat aggressively, “No! You will leave. It is unacceptable for you to be here.”
Nepeta stopped leaning and began to pout, “but secrets are no fun.”
Seeing Nepeta back down, Equius relaxed; exactly like Nepeta had hoped. Sensing the vulnerability, Nepeta quickly pushed forward and toppled onto Equius. To prevent the item from being crushed, Equius had to slide the object to his left. However, it hadn't slid far enough for it to be out of Nepeta's sight.
“A robot Pounce?”
Nepeta looked over to her left while on top of Equius. Equius had been working on a robot Pounce. Although not finished, the basic mechanics of the robot were in place. The robot Pounce walked over to where Equius and Nepeta lay and licked Nepeta on the nose.
“You will get off.” Aside from his mouth, Equius lay motionless. While it wasn't abnormal for Nepeta to be on top of Equius, his recent confusion over Nepeta made things uncomfortable.
“No way!” Nepeta leaned in and hugged Equius. “This is the bestest robot I've seen all day.”
“Nepeta. You will stop hugging me and get up.”
“You're no fun.”
Nepeta rolled over to her side before getting up; Equius shortly followed.
“I am sorry for crushing your computer. It was an accident.”
Nepeta jumpd up and hugged Equius again.
“I knew you wouldn't do that on purpose.”
“I am also sorry for demanding you to not talk to the humans.” Equius adjusted his glasses, “I have felt lonely recently. I was jealous.”
“I thought I could make things better by building you Pounce.”
Nepeta reached down to scratch behind the Pounce robot's ears.
“I'm sorry Equius. I didn't mean to make you feel lonely.”
“It is alright.”
Nepeta leaned in and kissed Equius on the cheek.
“I really love the robot though!”
Equius began to sweat.
“Let's go outside and show Pounce to everyone!”
“That is satisfactory.”
Nepeta left Equius' room first, Pounce in tow. Equius lifted a hand to rub the cheek Nepeta kissed.
“Yes. That is... satisfactory.”
You know Tavros and Vriska and Equius and Nepeta, Gamzee an d Terezi and Sollux and Kanaya, but do you recaaaaaaall the most famous tro-oll of all?
Karkat the red blood tro-oll
Had a very different hue
And if you ever saw it
He’d prob’ly say “Fuck You!”
All of the other tro-olls
Would have sneered and called him names
So that’s why poor Karkat
Never joined in their FLARP games
Then one fateful wriggling day
Sollux came to say
KK with your blood so red
Lead my project as its head
Then all the trolls still loathed him
And never listened to what he said
“Karkat the red blood troll
I kinda wish you were dead”
The moment Eridan had been snatched away by the all-consuming kitchen staff, Nepeta had snapped back to work in her old job as overenthusiastic schoolmarm. Though the grubs had grown in size and changed in personality, she was on top of them like (well naturally), a cat and her kittens. Most of them had been corralled into the living room, and she popped in and out on her searches for the others. It gave Terezi a chance to rest; it gave Kanaya a chance to sneak away.
She slipped through the halls to the second storey of Gamzee’s not entirely orthodox hive layout, and eventually found the Humans’ room. Gamzee was always fond of adding new living space to his hive. Construction was slow but he had still managed three guest rooms, with the humans having been loaned the smallest. She opened the door and went in warily, the room dark except for a single desk lamp.
“Oh! Hi Kanaya.”
In the dim light of the lamp Kanaya found John, an e-Reader on the desk beside him and a baby in his arms and a bottle in one hand. She cast a look about and saw that the other infant was lying in the second crib, fast asleep.
“I Thought That I Should Check On You” she said, trying to drum up some buried authority while keeping close to the side of the room away from the sleeping baby.
“I’m fine. As long as they’re asleep, I’ve got the cushiest job here! Almost glad I didn't bring down that deer, I'm barely being punished for it. How’s everyone else in Team Didn’t Actually Kill Anything?”
Kanaya stopped about halfway across the room from John, unwilling to risk get any closer to the currently quiet baby in his arms. “Karkat has whipped the rest of the kitchen staff to work with his usual efficiency. Eridan tried to skip out so now he is handling the offal.”
John did not, as ever, try to hide his grin, his heart still on his sleeve after so many sweeps. “And how about you and the other victorious huntresses?”
“Terezi and Nepeta have gone to tend to the grubs. I’ve been… restful.” She squirmed, eyes flicking back and forth between the babies. “…Is that one yours?”
“Well, I don’t really know about ‘mine,’ I mean, I don’t raise them any more than anyone else and I didn’t really do anything. Well, I suppose I did more than everybody else, really, what with the ectobiology, but—”
Kanaya held up a hand. “John.”
John’s smile fell back to simple mischief. “Yes, he’s mine.” John tipped the baby a minuscule towards their guest, and sleepy, blazing pink eyes turned up to look at Kanaya.
Kanaya froze up, an hand gripping the hem of her dress. What on earth was she supposed to do? Say hello? It was not as though the Human infants understood speech. “H-hello… uh…”
“Dustin,” Kanaya finished, throwing in a probably unnecessary bow to the boy with Rose’s eyes. Satisfied, perhaps, Dustin turned his eyes back to the desk lamp before turning focus back to his bottle. “And…” Come on, Kanaya, you know this. “And Gabriel.” She did not even look at the second child, eyes shut in embarrassment and thought, the child with the red eyes from another battle in ectobiology’s ongoing war against dominant genes.
John could not have missed her worry and at first they sat in the quiet, but it would seem he felt that he had to bring it up. “So… how’s single life treating you?”
They both knew at once that he was not referring to dating. The grubs had seen to that almost across the board, and it was a favourite topic of Karkat’s to show up online every few months to rag on everyone about how they were wasting time not churning a genetic batch. “Same as always,” she said. “How are you finding parenthood?”
“Sometimes I wish I was still in your position,” John said, though he unconsciously cradled Dustin a little closer to his chest as he said so. “But I guess with the little Trolls running around, I knew what I was getting into.”
Kanaya nodded. “Rikisa has been a handful.” But always so fond of Dave. Kanaya puttered around for a moment before heading straight to her point. “John, I was wondering if you wanted to head out for a while. I can look after the babies.”
“Really? Because…” John’s goofy smile had vanished and he was making a bit of a show of making sure Kanaya was all right. “Because I know you don’t… like them all that much. That doesn’t bother me.”
Kanaya squeezed her dress with even more force. Did he have to be so blunt? “I don’t want to be stuck with one. That doesn’t mean I can’t look after them for an hour or two.”
“Okay, I’m sorry,” he said, setting aside the bottle. It seemed that Dustin had fallen asleep in his arms, so he stood up very carefully. “I was just thinking back, what with the grubs and all—”
“People can change,” she said, sounding a little more irritated than she intended, especially considering the only thought on her mind was Or at least they can try. “…I’m sorry, John. I’d just like a chance to help out and I don’t really appreciate you judging me on past inaction.”
“Okay, I’m sorry, really. Uh…” He looked back and forth between Kanaya and the empty crib before deciding it would be a stronger gesture to hand Dustin directly to her. “Here,” he said, and the baby changed hands. Dustin squirmed in his sleep for a moment before curling up against Kanaya’s breast. “If they start doing anything worrying, the monitor’s over there.” John pointed to a walky-talky they had alchemized, the light on its top indicating that it was deactivated. “You can read my books if you want, too.”
“Thank you,” Kanaya said, trying to settle in John’s abandoned chair.
“Thank you!” he returned. “I’ll go see if they need any help in the kitchen, then, I suppose.”
“They will,” she replied. “The others aren’t back yet.” John nodded and, quietly, headed out the door.
Kanaya sat alone in the dim light for a while, carefully watching the baby in her arms without even glancing at the e-Reader. Both asleep. Lucky start. This isn’t so hard. Not in the babysitting sense, but more the acclimatization. She was trying as hard as she could not to put any weight on the humans’ children about her own problems, but if she could not pull a decent evening’s babysitting past her natural inclinations, she might just scream.
There was a difference between Karkat yelling more often and actually meaning it, but Kanaya felt she had a good pulse on the nuances: next sweep, definitely, he’d pull the order and the buckets would come out. When she had been younger she had been concerned about mates and chastity and the whole affair, but now she was worried about the after. They had been supportive when she had not wanted to take home a grub the first time around, but she would not get another chance.
“How’m I doing?” she whispered to Dustin. He clutched at her in his sleep, and after a few moments began to shiver, so she wrapped him up in a blanket John had left beside the chair, positive she was doing it wrong, but he stopped. Good so far. So far.
Karkat winced, looked up and – “Gyah!” – jumped away into the door of the refrigerator. The three sets of barred teeth that had previously been no more than an inch from his face started to giggle.
“Fuck, Nepeta, what is wrong with you?”
“That! Wath! Awethome!” Eridan’s clone said, swinging from Nepeta’s sweater sleeve as he and his partners in crime giggled unceasingly. The other grub clinging to her shoulders, also by a clutch of clothes. Nepeta had abandoned her old cat outfit when she had (physically) outgrown it, though the way Karkat had heard it, she was looking for a new hat. Instead, she wore efficient, loose-fitting clothing in the summer hunts and bulky, oversized stuff she found “cozy” in the winter. At the moment, she was topped off with a Santa hat and whichever grubs were willing to hitch a ride.
“Can we do Jade next?” said Sollux’s clone, though true to his tongue’s genes it sounded more like “nektht.”
“Sam!” Jade said with a laugh, her hands covered in fruit juices from a sauce she was trying to make. “I already know you’re there!” Samuel, Karkat thought, still bitter about how Jade had named her kid after all these sweeps. Respect his heritage my ass. Strider had went with a perfectly good Troll name. What was Harley’s deal?
Aquila, Eridan’s clone most begrudgingly raised by Sollux with the help of Gamzee, climbed up Nepeta's arm with surprising skill for a sea dwelling Troll. Signalling to the Troll on the opposite side of Nepeta's head, they began to try to reach for the high cupboards. She winced as they moved about: physically strong as she was, this little game of theirs had lost a bit of its appeal between the second and third sweep.
Karkat slammed the fridge shut as a means to recover his footing. “Nepeta, are you and the lisp brigade here for a reason?”
“Karkat,” she said, tapping both grubs on the feet and waving them down. “I’ve got eight grubs in the living room, two getting off my back right now please… there’s my boys… and twooooo…”
Aquila spoke up. “Nepeta, Shaula went to her room and won’t come out.”
Nepeta, though her back was now free from passengers, looked pained all over again. “Why didn’t you tell me this earlier, kitten?”
Sam, who had been adjusting those dorky red and blue glasses he had been given after alchemizing Jade’s with his original’s, offered a different story. “We wath too buthy playing!”
“Were,” said every adult in the room at once, even Rose and John, whose only linguistic concern at this point in their lives had to do with what gurgle meant what. Sam took a sudden interest in examining his feet.
Nepeta returned to the issue at hand. “I can’t leave the grubs any longer, Karkat. Someone’s got to go get the others.”
Nepeta returned with one of her sweeter smiles. “Terezi is trapped under a sleeping baby, silly!”
“Fine, fine, FINE!! I’ll do it! I'll get her!” Karkat tossed the spoon he had been trying to use into the gravy and stormed over to the sink. “Fuck, this place would go to hell if it was just you ass-sucking standing around pretending you can get shit done…”
Nepeta started out of the kitchen, but she took the long route as she went and stopped both her and her charges directly across from Eridan, a curious smile curling up on her lips. The two grubs peered up at the meet being carved, but when Aquila saw exactly who was across from him he ducked back behind the table in hopes that his original had not seen him.
“Hey you,” she said with a sideways glance.
“Uh… hey Nep,” Eridan said, his knife immediately slipping off of the roast. “How’s it going?”
“Oh, nice enough.”
“Holy crap, you two,” Karkat said over the sound of the faucets. He stepped back to allow Rose to clean a knife. “Stop being fucking coy! Everyone knows, and we’ve already agreed, it’s absolutely disgusting.”
“Karkat, shut up!” Rose said, and spritzed him with water. “We all think you’re great together, you two, congratulations.”
Karkat felt a hand slap hard on his shoulder from behind. “And Karkat thinks so most of all,” said John.
“Egbert, where the fuck have you been?” Karkat said, knowing quite well. “Wash your damn hands and make the gravy.” Karkat did not think he hated John more than on the holidays. Truly this was the most wonderful time of the year.
“John,” said Rose, “the kids asleep?”
“Yes, and Kanaya is watching them,” he replied.
“Mith Nepeta,” Sam said, tugging at her leg. Nepeta looked down and noticed just how scared and quiet Aquila had become. She shot Eridan a sheepish look and led the grubs out. Just as they had cleared the doorway and ran to join the others, Nepeta was ambushed by a crop of the others.
“Nepeta!” said Geidel, her own. “Can we open presents yet, can we please?”
“Nine,” Jade said, and Rose nodded.
John looked up from his preparations. “Nine times that was asked or—”
“Nine kids,” Rose finished.
Nepeta just laughed, picking up her son. “You silly little kittens! I told you this morning! Presents are tomorrow, at the start of the new year!”
“Aww…” said all the grubs said in chorus, but Nepeta stopped following them after one step and turned back to Eridan.
“Of course,” she said, tongue teasing at the side of her lips. “The new year starts at midnight.” And she stepped off, Giedel waving innocently at the crowd in the kitchen, having not understood a word that we being said.
Eridan’s long, moonstruck sigh was only overcome by the sound of Karkat’s rage. “IF YOU WAKE ONE! GRUB!”
But the Eridan of three sweeps spent settling their new homeworld was not the same Eridan that had entered the medium from Alternia. He ignored Karkat and calmly settled back into carving the meat. “Kar, calm the fuck down, I don’t wanna pry grubs off the walls at four in the morning any more’n you. Nep’s just got a treasure hunt set up for me. I think she got me a new gun, and you wouldn’t want the kids to—”
“‘Treasure hunt?’ Oh please be too fucking stupid to understand euphemisms. Please both of you be too stupid to understand euphemisms!”
“Karkat!” Jade said. “Don’t knock the treasure hunts, I’ve set some up for everyone.”
It took Karkat a while to say all he had wanted to say, and only a bit less time than that for the others to push him out. By the time he emerged the grubs had long stopped talking about presents and had started a new discussion entirely, Nepeta keeping a half-aware watch from a more immediate supervision of her own kids.
“Ascell, we played Legislacerators for two days.”
“Well, it was fun then, wathn’t it?” Equius’ clone replied. “It’ll be fun now!”
How does he lisp without cutting his tongue on his damn broken teeth? Karkat wondered. He had long suspected that Feferi boasted the largest medical costs in their little civilization. But as strange as it was to see a little Equius, complete with silly ponytail, shouting orders so confidently, it was stranger to see a little Terezi – Zubene – not wanting to play Legislacerators.
“We can’t stop playing, Zubene!” said the third clone at the heart of the fight, Karkat’s own. “That mutant is still on the run! We have to bring her to justice and punish her! But I get to be head prosecutor this time!”
The discussion quickly collapsed into a fight, first verbal and then with fists. It was mostly between Ascell, Zubene and Karkat’s clone, Nahnos, though others watched and shouted encouragement form the sidelines. One simply watched, having taken more from her lusus that Karkat had ever liked. Couldn’t she at least throw a punch? He stepped forward, not around the others but through them. “Hey! Scatter!”
The clones fell apart, his own clone further than the others, and Karkat heard the adult Terezi giggling in approval from the couch behind him. Karkat passed through the gap he had made in the fight and took a seat on the other couch, next to a pair of tiny legs dangling down from on top.
“Don’t think they’re playing your game any more,” he said, watching the fight return to its verbal stage, and Nahnos’ occasional, shifty looks in his direction. Shit he thought, wanting to kick Tavros. At least Zubene has the sense to put her back to Terezi. At least he doesn’t have another goddamned lisp. No reply came to his question, except a dawdling little kick of the legs. He kept up hope that one day a personality might spark there without prompting, but for now he just had to put up with the labours of raising kids with Equius. That meant direct questions.
“The mutant they’re talking about. Is that Shaula?”
“I don’t know her name.” Her voice was measured and even a little soothing, just losing the last of its innocent mispronunciations. It was also a perfect mix. She had Equius’ tone superimposed on a prepubescent vocabulary and the prepubescent voice of Kanaya. One day, not accounting for the worst, she would sound just like Kanaya, and Karkat was determined to oil her fucking personality gears somewhere between then and there. “She had lots of things in her eye.”
“That’s Shaula,” Karkat said with a nod. “Gamzee’s kid. She lives here.” That Ascell, Nahnos and who knew who else had pegged her as a “mutant” was nothing. Given the way “punishment” kept popping up in discussion also did not bother Karkat in the slightest. The legislacerators were gone, but they were learning an important part of historical Troll society for the grubs to learn about. More importantly, if Shaula wanted to survive, she’d have to learn to do it. The only thing that bothered Karkat about any of this was the fact that Nepeta might leak it to the humans and they'd flip their fucking lids. That would be trouble.
“Why are you sitting on the top of the couch when no one’s playing King of the Castle any more?”
“They’ll be back. And I’ll have been Queen this whole time.”
Karkat could not help but grin at that kind of political scheming. “But what if they’re done with monarchy for good? You’ve got to keep a pulse on that sort of thing.”
He harrumphed and tickled under one of her feet. “Nothing, Zeniah. Sometimes I forget you’re three and we’re not actually having a deep, in-depth conversation.”
He had made no inquiry. He got no response.
Something to look forward to, I guess, Karkat thought as he met his daughter’s glassy-eyed return stare. He’d really have to have a talk with Equius sometime before he took her home. “You seen your sister out of our room at all this morning?”
“No. She's still mad at you.”
“Thank you.” He stood back up, took a step towards the fight and simply raised his second foot. The brawling grubs immediately parted once again, leaving him a clear route to the opposite couch and Terezi. Hyaden, still on her stomach and seeing Karkat approach, threw himself down in a hug around her neck and purposefully looked away.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Karkat muttered.
“What?” Terezi teased, knowing full well.
“I see this kid every goddamned day and would he even tell me the time of day?”
“H3’S JUST J34LOUS” Terezi said, putting a protective hand atop her son’s head. Tavros’ super-wide horns stuck out in each direction, making it hard for Karkat to get anywhere near Terezi.
“I’m the one that should be fucking jealous,” Karkat said, getting to his knees beside them. “He gets to lounge around with you all day and I have to go grub-hunting.”
Terezi returned a sympathetic wince. “Still locked in the room, eh?”
“Almost definitely.” Karkat leaned over and kissed his matesprit on the lips to only a small protest murmur from Hyaden. Karkat flicked him on the shoulder as he pulled away, saying: “Don’t worry about it, stupid, she’s all yours again.”
“PUT H3R THROUGH TH3 R1NG3R K4RK4T”
Karkat planned to do exactly that, but as he climbed the stairs and headed toward the first of the two guest rooms used by the Trolls, he was distracted by the sound of soft crying coming from the third storey of Gamzee’s ridiculously constructed hive of doom. He heaved a sigh, trying to keep in mind that Nepeta had sent him to fetch both little girls, and headed up to Shaula’s bedroom.
“Kid,” he acknowledged. Shaula was curled up on her bed, and did not much look up to greet him.
“Is Gamzee back?” she asked.
“Not yet,” he said. “Heard you talking to Vriska earlier.” No reply. “Guess she wasn’t really what you were expecting.”
“She was a real… jerk!” She wiped the tears from her eyes. “…I guess that means I’m going to be a real jerk, too.”
Karkat was certain she could hear his teeth grind. “Fuck’s sake,” he muttered. “Not this again. Haven’t I had enough of this already?” He stepped into the bedroom. Shaula’s walls were lined with posters of happy clowns and alchemy-snatched Princess and the Frog merchandise. Not a good sign. “If you were already a jerk, you’d have punched out those other fucking kids like you were supposed to. And if you were going to grow into a jerk it wouldn’t have anything to do with your genes. And since none of us are giant, cannibalistic spiders? You’d have to really want to be Spiderbitch to be Spiderbitch.”
Shaula returned his advice with a look of confusion. Karkat had expected that, but it felt good to get the truth off his tongue before simplifying it. He stepped up to her and picked up up from her bed and into his arms. “You,” he said, repeating the same advice he had been spouting for the past few weeks. “You are going to grow up to be whatever the hell you want. Definitely not Vriska Serket and – and this is the key part, kiddo – definitely not what Gamzee and Sollux want you to be. Oh, you probably don’t believe that right now, but it’s true, so stick with me.”
He carried her down the stairs to the second storey, and continued his walk towards the guest room. “Trust me. Or at least trust the Humans, because that’s what they seemed to do when they grew up. You are going to want to do the cardinal opposite of your lusii. And since Sollux is a nerdy hacker terrible friend type, and Gamzee is a crazy psycho terrible friend type, the exact opposite is you fucking running this joint.”
“But… I don’t… wanna hurt anybody.”
Karkat settled her down on the ground in front of the guest room, pointed to her with both hands and gave what he would later decide was the best parenting advice of his entire career. “Change your fucking mind.” Shaula’s dumbstruck reaction was probably the best progress Karkat figured he would get, so he clapped her on the shoulder. “Stay put for a bit. I have to go fetch another grub, and Nepeta will eat me alive if you wander off. I mean that.” Shaula assumed he meant the standing still part, while Karkat was actually referring to the eating. Nepeta had tried once. Never drank again.
Karkat set an ear to the door before heading in. No crying. He was not sure if that was good or bad. He braced himself. He knew his own daughter too well to hope to rely on jokes. He was not looking forward to this at all.
Karkat pulled open the door to reveal a carpeting of sleeping bags. Twelve Trolls slept here, six adults and six children, pretty much on whatever available surface looked most appealing when they had arrived. The sleeping arrangements, plus half the humans, had set up their hunting teams, plus the last minute transfer of Jade when Dave had made a bet that he could do better short-staffed. In the middle of the room sat the last of the grubs, perched on a red sleeping bag that lay flanked by Hyaden’s brown and his and Terezi's own double-sized teal/red. She glared at him.
“You might not believe this,” he said, “but I still like to believe you’re going to stop being a little whiner and come downstairs to eat with the rest of us.”
Yellow eyes watched from the dark between curled, round horns, her arms crossed just under her chin. She did not say a thing as he approached, or stood over her. She was not usually this stubborn, not like her sister, but at least Zeniah would reply to a question even if she was angry. But this called for a different tactic.
“You’re missing out on a chance to play with all the other grubs, you know.”
After all, Karkat thought. She’s my kid. If I’ve given her anything, it’s—
“THEY DON’T GET IT!”
—my temper. Karkat seized the ground he had been given. “Oh, you're so full of shit. You haven’t even seen them! They want nothing to do with this shit! You haven’t been watching them run every time they see a pair of horns that look like theirs.” He did not really want to say it, but it was true: “If you told them, they would think you were the only lucky girl on the planet, Aradia!”
Aradia. Karkat could forgive Jade for “Samuel” but never, ever for “Aradia.” It had been too much, too soon; the demon's body had barely gone cold. And worse… That the little red grub had come with him and Equius when they had been the only ones with enough common sense to overcome sentimentality struck a chord with Karkat, though he knew she had not really understood at the time. Now she was stuck with it hanging around her neck, for the rest of her life.
“They don’t get it. They don’t.”
“You're gonna blame them for that? That you've been hiding up here in your room for weeks? C'mon, Aradia. Don't lie to me, you know I hate that.” Karkat scowled down at her own, and knew it was going to be one of those days.
Karkat stamped his foot. “Ugh, see? You still don't have shit. Unbelievable. You don't even know why you're upset! You're just dragging out this tantrum for no good--”
And Aradia jumped up to her tiny feet and began to shout. “They get to see!” She said. “They get to know. They’re stupid if they run away. They should be...”
Karkat was taken aback. “...That’s right,” he said, kneeling slowly. This was the first coherent thing she had said about this in weeks. “You don’t get to see in person. And I guess you don’t get to know as well as them either.” It was not just by the way she was grasping the facts. “So?”
“Tho I... So I don't get... to know where I'm from.”
A little inkling in Karkat's heart spoke some pride at watching her grasp the abstract, but his tactician's mind seized on just how easily she was breaking down. It might be petty to want her out of this room more than happy, Karkat thought. But I’d rather see her eat. “What’re you gonna do? Cry about i—”
Aradia – his Aradia, his little girl even if he did have to treat her like his little soldier from time to time – started to tremble more with each word, and before he could even finish, had tossed her arms around his shoulders and started to wail. Not wanting to lose the opportunity, Karkat pulled her close, lifted her up and started to walk out the door.
“Ka-Karkat,” she said. “A-are you going to… are you going to—”
“Not till you don’t need me, stupid. Have you met me? C’mon, be serious. Karkat Vantas doesn't leave the fucking building until everything's wrapped up tidy.” Karkat pushed open the door with his foot, and gestured to Shaula to walk ahead of him.
“Buh… why is she crying?” she asked, genuine concern for the stranger in Karkat’s arms showing in both her eyes, so alien on a little Vriska.
Karkat pondered this. It was not often he wished Gamzee was there, but this might have been one of those times. “Do you know what ‘death’ means?” Shaula shook her head. “She’s… starting to. Is all.”
Italicized information is new.
Vriska -> Subraa (Nepeta’s Clone) with Dave -> Rikisa (Feferi’s Clone)
Gamzee -> Shaula (Vriska’s Clone) with Sollux -> Aquila (Eridan’s Clone)
Terezi -> Hyaden (Tavros’ Clone) with Jade -> Samuel (Sollux’s Clone)
Nepeta -> Giedel (Gamzee’s Clone) with Eridan -> Zubene (Terezi’s Clone) Feferi -> Ascell (Equius’ Clone) with Tavros -> Nahnos (Karkat’s Clone)
Karkat -> Aradia (Aradia’s Clone) with Equius -> Zeniah (Kanaya’s Clone)
Kanaya – Unattached
John + Rose -> Dustin with Jade + Dave -> Gabriel
Aradia – Deceased
Merry Christmas. I got you this disenchanted little girl!
Darn it, Eridan, you weren’t supposed to be here. I wanted at least one coupling to result from the otherwise at-odds set of parents (to contrast with Karkat and Terezi’s actual coupling without co-parenthood), and I figure Nepeta would at least try something with someone she was raising “kittens” with. I tried to angle for Nepeta and Gamzee, one of my two favourite Nepetaships, but it became important for neither of Shaula’s parents to be home and there was no time to just randomly introduce a romance once they get back. Not wanting to shake up the parent/child relationships for limited payoff, considering that I’m writing this fic in a race to beat the real world New Years, it looks like Eridan’s the star once again. It’s all part of his plan…
Full list of names! Yup, I didn’t pull it off. Every damn one of the girl’s names end in an “ah” sound. Eridan’s clone is outright named after another constellation. I considered hunting for an earth name meaning “Star” to fill Sollux’s clones, but I figured I had spent enough time rustling around for names.
In an odd manner of speaking, introducing all the characters means I’m done, since Grublings was only ever about just showing the Trolls be parents and you’ve had your snapshot. I have some plot to wrap up in the last part, as well as a very short Epilogue to the mini-series. Hopefully that catches someone’s interest and this series has been entertaining to someone other than just me. We’ll see. Happy holidays.
Last edited by SkaianRedeemer; 12-26-2010 at 01:40 AM.
Karkat tapped the side of chitinous structure with the Regisword, marveling at the sturdiness of it. Despite the meteor fall and fuck knows how much time passed only part of the hive was fallen in. Someone had put way too much effort into making it as fortress like as possible. Someone paranoid at least.
“What do you think, Nepeta?”
The cat-girl pricked up her ears. “Me? You are asking me? Really really me? Well-”
“Started babbling, took too long. Feferi, any opinion that doesn’t include a fish pun?”
“This call for a big kelping of of explor-”
“Lost it. Moving on, strong idiot?”
“I assume you are using my strength as a way to refer to me. While I appreciate your recognition of my physical prowess-”
“Bored already. Aradia? Nothing? Huh, I am completely fucking shocked. Alright, none of you morons have anything worth contributing. Once again it comes down to me to make all the decisions around here, seeing as how the rest of you have the sense of a freshly hatched suicidebeast. Alright, here is-”
“Hey! How come you didn’t ask meeeeeeee? I have better opinions than these bad opinioned trolls! I am the best girl to come up with the best plan ever!”
“Interrupting me is grounds for expulsion from the circle! The rules of the circle will be respected you fuckers!”
“When did you start caring about rules?” Vriska crossed her arms and leaned back. “Look, I’m done stuff way worse then this during completely successful Flarp days and the stupid Sgrub stupidity only made me better!”
“This isn’t a game you eight pupiled eye freak!” Karkat shouted. “This is shit that can kill the fuck out of us!”
“As you won’t let me forget,” Vriska started, flipping her hair back, “trolls died regularly during Flarp rounds but you know what? I neeeeeeever did! I am the highest leveled troll in all games! All the games!”
Karkat sneered at the girl. “Yeah? Why don’t you put your beetles where your nook is and go it alone?”
“Cause then you scaredy Tavroses will abscond and leave me all by myself alone. I may be the prettiest one left but by no means am I a stupid fairy worshipping dumb cripple.”
Feferi grabbed the angry short-horned troll’s shoulder. “There could be many treasures in this sunken ship. We should plunder the depths before moving on. Come on!”
“I must agree with the Empress.”
“It’s a purrf-”
“Ok, shut up! Fine, whatever! Idiots should just listen to me, but what the fuck ever! Vriska lead the way, just go ahead! You can be the first one to get eaten. In a bad way! And I guess I’ll take the autistic chick too. The rest of you idiots just-”
“Would it not be better if we all go?” asked Equius. “Surely having more of-”
“Why do people keep interrupting me?! It’s fucking improper! Vriska won’t go in by herself and I won’t go in alone with her. No one is that stupid. Cat-girl is the least useless of this bunch in this one specific type of thing. Aradia corpse is the only kind of compass we have and I won’t risk losing it in some pit. You’re attached to the hip to that metal not girl so your stuck outside too. I don’t trust you to not get distracted trying to fill buckets with it so Feferi gets to play chaperone. Vriska, get going.”
The hallway was dark and dry with dust flying up on every step. The walls almost seemed to fall into each other,making a arch out of the low ceiling. Despite the darkness Vriska had no trouble navigating the halls, the Vision Eightfold giving her perfect sight in any situation. She let her fingers trace abrasions and indents in the walls.
“Hey cat pretendy pants, check this out.”
Nepeta sniffed the air and bounded over. “Feels like a fight happened her. Scuffs on the floor... These are claw marks-”
“And these are bullet holes, duh! Clearly some beasties-”
The cat girl pushed the other girl to the wall and put a finger to her lips. Vriska stated to protest but Nepeta covered her mouth. “You hear that?”
“Hey! What are you two idiots jabbering about? Braiding each other hair? Where are you? Fuck!” Karkat tripped and stumbled over a broken floor panel. “Shit!”
“Short horns shut your blind up! What, can’t mutants see in this dark?” Vriska pointed and Nepeta nodded. The 8 pupiled troll continued down the passage as the cat-girl took Karkat by the arm. He shook her off and stomped to the front.
“Leader goes first!” he said in a harsh whisper. The angry troll confidently stepped into a heavy closed door. He swore as blood started seeping out a gash on his forehead.
The door slowly swung open, revealing a large room that seemed to glow from a unknown source. A giant carapace hung from the center, surrounded by cocoons, some pulsing, some ripped open from the inside. Old, round husks piled precariously on the far walls, cracked and broken.The other exits looked almost chewed through. Fallen ceiling panels punctured the floor in odd, angular ways.
“Where is that damn light coming from? Find it and bring it to me. Might be useful.”
“What if it isn’t?” asked Vriska as she surveyed the room.
“Then I’ll break the useless junk. No point is having shit around that someone else might be able to use. And when I say use, I mean use against me! And find me a bandage or some shit!”
The trolls fanned out, Nepeta sniffing around the edges while Karkat walked to the center. Vriska stood by the entrance, continuing to gaze around. Her eyes were drawn the ceiling, the apparent source of light.
“Hey... There is something up there. Of course I am the most observant so I am the one who found the... glowly insecty buggy wormy thing?”
“That’s a GlowWorsabi!” started the cat-girl, throwing a pipe away, cringing as it hit a wall. In a quieter tone she said, “It’s a fiduspa-”
A loud screech cut her off. From a dark cove something swooped down fast, the trolls barely ducking as it came in. Vriska rolled left, aimed her slingshot and fired, knocking the figure out of the air.
“Spasnakeys!” Nepeta shouted as hissing noodly biting things emerged from a broken console, converging on the struggling winged beast. They hissed warningly at the trio and started to feast.
“What are those disgusting fucktards?!” Karkat asked.
“Fiduspawn!” Replied the cat-girl. “A Baticotti-”
“You mean that stupid girly kid’s game Tavros played?”
“Yeah...” The cat-girl looked around nervously. “We should get outta here. Tavros was the best Fiduspawn Tamer I knew and he warned me about strong monsters and P.O.U.S.es-”
Vriska laughed a bit too loudly. “Paprikrats Of Unusual size? They don’t exist!”
The ground shook and gooey green bodies burst from the floor, knocking the Spasnakeys away. They reached out with leathery claws, grabbing the Baticotti and inert Spasnakeys.
More Baticottis flew down, claws racking the GuaceMole’s heads. Hissing, the Spasnakeys coiled and sprang, bringing down flying noodles left and right. The floor started shaking and the trolls ran to each other to regroup as more drippy burrowers burst from the ground.
“Get to the fucking hall!” shouted the red blood but it was too late. With one last quake the floor collapsed and the trolls fell.
“You guys dead?”
“Where the fuck are you?!”
Karkat blinked in the sheer blackness around him. He waved his hands around and come across something soft.
“Karkat!” Something slapped him hard across the face.
“Fuck! You idiots can see, stop dicking around and get me to a fucking wall or something!” He felt a hand grab his arm and pulled him in one direction, but someone tugged him to another.
“Stop moving!” whispered Vriska. They all did, their breathing the only sound. “I feel... something?”
“You got your fucking powers back and didn’t tell me?!”
“Shut up moron! There is something... familiar?”
The room started to brighten and as a small bright fly lazily flew in. Around them laid the dried corpses of GuaceMoles, Baticottis, Paprikrats, and even a few Raccaroons.
“Are those ropes? Who is the moron that filled this room with ropes? What purpose does this even fill?”
“Not ropes...” said Nepeta shakily.
The FireryHotSauceFly landed on one of the crusty things and the whole line zipped into the air. The ceiling became a sea of thousands of red, sickly eyes. The light disappeared with a snap and the eyes faded away.
“Ok... There are a maggotfucking load of...”
“”These aren't real spiders,” said Vriska. “Lets just kill the fuck out of them.”
“If you wanna stay here then be a Tavros then go ahead. Me? The new rule is we don’t fight unknown enemies on their turf!”
The 8 pupiled girl frowned. “I see an exit on the other side. Maaaaaaaaybe it’s a way out, maaaaaaaaybe it isn’t.”
Karkat nodded in the dark. Vriska grabbed Nepeta’s arm and she in turn grabbed Karkat’s. The trio of trolls made their way through the maze of treacherous threads, keeping their breathing light and steps the same. The threads seemed to move from an unknown wind as Spieders shifted on the ceiling. There were some thin patches where they could sneak through, maybe because of holes in the ceiling.
“We made it. Based on my experience, there should be a bossy yelling commanding boss through here.”
“Flarp isn't real life, dumbass.” Karkat walked through the crumbly opening and straight into a web.
“Ok, what the fuck?!” he shouted as the Spieders descended.
Vriska was almost repulsed as they came into view. They were round and covered with a protective metal bottom and a thick, flaky shell to hold in their gooey centers. The heads were fruity shaped and had eyes like rotting, segmented cherries. Strong, snapping mandibles dripped syrup as they advanced.
“Cut him down!” Nepeta scrambled over as the 8 pupiled troll reached for a slingshot that wasn’t there.
“Damn it! Give me a dagger you catshit!”
A Spieder shot out threads from duel nozzles, snagging Vriska by the wrist. “Fuck!”
Nepeta cut the last of the the web away and Karkat dropped down and rolled to Vriska, holding the Regisword high. Another beast jumped up and bound the troll’s hands. Nepeta cut that line but she was tripped up by spinneret excrement.
“Fall back! Get around a corner or something! Don’t give them a straight line!” Karkat dodged a thread and grabbed Vriska by the jacket. “Come on!”
“I’m trying!” She tried to rip up the thread but just got tangled more. “Shitty shit!” The Spieder tugged hard, reeling in it’s capture sulk. Vriska and Karkat tumbled to the floor and more eight legged freaks advanced.
Nepeta hissed and started hacking at the towline connected to former Flarper, but before she could make an impact a Spieder slammed her into a wall, knocking a panel free. Nepeta shook her head and jumped, landing on top of the attacking arachnoid pastry. With a roar she plunged her hand deep into the crust and pulled out the beasts still oozing fruit-shaped heart.
“Damn it! Daaaaaaaamn iiiiiiiit!”
The cat-girl looked to see Vriska being pulled into the mob. Daggers in hand, she prepared to leap again but was blinded by a flashing light. As Nepeta blinked away spots she saw the Spieders attacking glowing air and FireryHotSauceFlys flowing from the broken wall.
“Fuck!” Karkat was holding his arm and wincing, pulling his Regisword from a beast’s head.
Nepeta looked from the glowly Spieder battle to Karkat and back. Biting her lip, she grabbed the mutant-blood and pulled him away.
“Let me go! Get back to the battle idiot! Fuck you, we need us all!” Karkat jerked away, holding the Regisword in his good hand. He ran back to the Spieder infestation, covering his eyes against the glowing light.
“No! The Flies are going to blow!”
Nepeta pulled Karkat back and dragged him down the passage as the heat started to grow...
Karkat woke with a start. Next to him was a little worm, glowing slightly, illuminating the small room. He started to get up, but his right arm wasn’t taking weight very well at all. It was wrapped om a blue cloth of sorts, already stained mutant red. With a grimace the former Knight propped himself up against the wall, placing the glowworm on his shoulder.
“You stop shining and I’ll eat you,” he muttered under his breath.
“Are you awake?”
Karkat casually turned to the voice. “Nepeta? Stop hiding in the damn corner, we got words to exchange.”
The cat-girl walked out, but something was off. The normally perky demeanor was gone, as was her hat and coat. Nepeta held her arm behind her back, looking down. “The uh, explosion burned them off... sorta?” she said in reply to Karkat’s staring. “I saved my tail and bandaged your-”
“Explosion? What fucking explosion? All I saw was a blinding explosion of betrayal!”
“The FireryHotSauceFlys just... went boom!”
“Idiot! You left Vriska in that mess! Useless retarded shit! Worse than the fecal urine of the most base Lusus deviant!”
“I’m sorry! I wanted to save you! You are my-”
“I don’t care if I’m the leader, we need all of us! How many times do I have to tell you that we need all of us!”
“For the Matriorb, right? Maybe we can still-”
“Matriorb? What are you talking about?”
“Kanaya has the Matriorb! To grow another Mother Grub? Isn’t that why you’ve been pushing us to hard?”
“No! It was to get to her-” Karkat stopped suddenly, his face starting to redden.
“That thi-this was a test? Of course... I knew about the... the...” Karkat slumped down to the floor.
Nepeta sat down next to him. “Is that why you’ve been all rule crazy? You miss her?”
“Fuck you...” he said half-heartedly. “You know she gave trials to imps? Crazy idiot... Always sniffing around, always licking things... She is the only one that cared, you know? Even with all that shit she did.”
The no longer cat-assembled girl shook her head. “I- uh, we all care-”
“You don’t care about me, you need me! Equius still hates my blood, Vriska would sell out her own Lusus to save her horns, oh wait, she already did! You and the fish are too stupid to even realize whats going on!”
“No!” he shouted, standing up. “She is the only one that ever cared! The only one! And I let her down! Why the hell did I think it was more important to try and land the fucking ship!? You hiveminds don’t even like me! I should have been with her but no! I kept this batch of rejects alive!” He turned back to Nepeta, eyes flashing. “Each one of you is going to stay alive until we find her!” The troll punched the wall hard.
Nepeta slowly stood up and took Karkat’s fist from out of the broken panel. “Karkat, I... I hav-”
“Just stop it, ok?” Karakt sighed. “Where the hell are we? Give me a report or something.”
“F-further in the factory, I guess? Do Oogonibombs go bad? Maybe they broke against the host plushes? Listen-”
“Shut up!” The troll listened hard. “Something just crashed. Let’s go.”
The girl wordlessly watched as Karkat started down the passage. With a heavy sigh, she ran after him.
Vriska smelled burnt fruit. All around her Spieders wrapped up the dead in sticky cocoons. Was it for respect? Disposal? Future feeding? It didn’t matter. When you’re stuck upside-down in a web your priorities become very focused on not being stuck upside-down in a web.
“Heeeeeeeey! I’m tired of all this suspension suspense! Let me down and I’ll kill you all!”
The pasty arachnids took no notice. Soon the dead were gone and the living took their place. Vriska struggled again against the capture silk but only succeeded in getting more tangled and sideways, a somehow more dizzying angle.
“This is no way to treat the highest leveled life form on the planet!”
A chittering sound filled the air as the sea of Spieders parted. The troll closed her good eye to see with her best eye and beheld a monstrosity waking up from a deep slumber. From the blackend depths arose a Spieder unlike any other.
This was no ordinary Spieder. This was the biggest, the toughest, the baddest. This was a Queen.
It turned slowly and roared, its spicy breath filling the air.
This was a Pumpkin Spieder.
“You can’t fucking be real! No way!” Vriska pulled hard, but the web held fast.
The Pumpkin Spieder drew closer, not snapping its mandibles, not growling, not hissing. It moved with the sure confidence of a predator in complete control.
“You fucking suck! You save me just to offer me as a damn sacrifice? No!” Her body grew hot. “I fucking refuse to believe this! You know what you are?! Fake! Fakey fake fake fake fake fake fake fake fake!” The Spieder almost seemed to smile. “You think you little gamey nonsensers are worth more than just musclebeast shit?! Well you aren't! I’ve dealt with a real damn spider, the biggest one! She was 80 times your size and the most powerful Lusus that Alternia ever saw! And you know what?!” Her eye was flaring in pain. “I took over the mantle! I am the spider successor! I have the right! I am the Queen Biiiiiiiitch!” A bright beam burst from her many pupiled eye straight through the monster Spieders head. It gave a weak gurgle, spraying the smaller Spieder with its syrupblood and fell.
“Haha.... Haaaaaaahahahahahahahaha! That’s right! Hahahahahaha! I am the strongest! I am the best! Run! Run run run! What Pumpkin died? That fucking Pumpkin died! Best! Haha! hahaha.... ha...”
Vriska looked around as the Spieders fled.
“Can someone... Cut me down?”
“It has been too long. I am going in.”
“But Karkat said be as steadfast as coral on the reef!”
“We have dealt with enough out here! Clearly the redblood was wrong in his assumption that inside the hive was more dangerous than the outside. It would be advisable to at least confirm their-”
A loud grinding noise interrupted that strong troll’s speech. A part of the ground shook and a large tube broke up from the dirt. A hatch opened partially, stopped against broken hinges.
“Fuck! We finally get out and this happens?!” came an angry voice from the aperture.
“Hey! I’m the one who had to deal with you stinky stink!”
“Piss off no-laser bitch! I’m tired of you lying your ass off!”
Equius pulled the opening off and threw it over the horizon. From the hatch emerged the turbulent trio. Karkat come out first, coughing through a plume of smoke. He looked around, confused. The corpses of Toisedines, featherbeasts and something that seemed to be only tentacles.
“What the hell happened here?”
I apologize for all the bad/lazy puns.
Me being busy did not help this get written. Once again, I am unsure of my action scene writing abilities. But dang it, I was going to get a story on this thread before it ended.
The very last cookiefic. It'll be up on AO3 in a minute.
There were soft sobbing sounds and a smell of something burned coming from the kitchen. Dad paused outside the door, gently opening it just half an inch.
Jade was at the counter, covered in flour from head to toe, sticky dough up to her elbows, crying into a dishtowel. In front of her was a pile of dough and a rolling pin. To her right was a cast iron frying pan, still smoking, and to her left was a plate of blackened cookies. Poor little thing.
He pushed the door open the rest of the way. "Aww, what happened, sweetheart?"
She started at the sound of his voice. She stammered, "I-I-I was trying to make cookies like me and Grandpa used to b-b-but I didn't know how to fry them 'cause that's what he always did and I mixed them wrong and they got all hard and I tried to fry them but they got burned and I ruined everythi-hi-hi-hiiing!" She buried her face in the towel again with a wail.
Dad crossed the kitchen to her, kneeling down to give her a hug, ignoring the flour that got all over his clothes. "Shh, it's okay, honey please don't cry, it's alright."
"No it's not!" She sobbed into his shoulder. "I can't do anything ri-hi-hiiight!"
He patted her hair, frowning when he felt something stuck in it. He pulled out a dried currant. A lightbulb went off.
He pulled back and patted her face with the towel. "Hey, you were trying to make griddle cookies, right? The ones with currants and nutmeg, that are like little pancakes?"
She hiccuped. "Y-yeah. Grandpa called them Welsh cookies. How did you know?"
"My mom - John's nanna - used to make them all the time. I think I can remember how." He stood and took her hand. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up, and we can try again."
"Sure I'm sure. I love those cookies, and the ingredients are cheap to alchemize. Why not?"
Ten minutes later, he asked, "Now what's the first rule of griddle cookies?"
Jade pushed her damp hair behind her ears. "Um - watch the flour?"
"Ding ding ding!" She giggled. "Too much flour and they'll be hard. Too little and they won't be cakey enough." He finished measuring out the flour into a separate bowl. "Alternate adding flour and milk, and make sure they're completely combined. Okay?"
"Okay." She took a fortifying breath. I can do this. A quarter-cup of milk, mix, a handful of flour, mix, milk, flour, milk, flour, until the dough was too heavy and thick to stir with the spoon.
"This is where I messed up last time."
"Relax. A little bit of flour on your hands, and mix it like that. I'll add the milk." Together they worked, measuring and kneading, until the dough was a smooth ball in the bottom of the bowl.
"Perfect. You got the currants?"
"Yep." She poured some in without measuring, considered it, then nearly doubled the amount. Dad laughed.
"Nothing, it's just - Nanna used to add a lot too."
"Grandpa never put in enough. I had to sneak in an extra handful when he wasn't looking." She gently folded the dried berries into the dough. "Ready to roll?"
"Just about." He lightly dusted the counter with flour, then brushed a handful over the rolling pin as well. Carefully, Jade lifted the heavy dough-ball out of the bowl and plopped it down.
"I'll heat up the pan while you roll, okay?"
She nodded, already concentrating. The dough was dense, and she needed all her strength to get it flattened out. She bore down on the rolling pin, then paused and flipped the dough over, gradually getting it thinner and thinner. When she was done it was about four feet long, a foot wide and a quarter of an inch thick.
"Nice work." He handed her a cup with flour around the rim. "Let's cut."
Together they cut out neat circles, picking off the scraps of dough and tossing them back into the bowl to be re-rolled. They ended up with a pile of little floury rounds, ready for the frying pan.
Jade gulped. "I'm not sure how to do this part."
"It's easy. Here, let's just do a couple so you can see." Carefully, Dad laid two cookies in the pan, then pressed the spatula into her hands. "Watch close - when they start to look soft around the edges, flip them over."
She stared intently at the cookies until her glasses steamed up. She pulled them off, swiping them quickly over her skirt, and shoved them back onto her face in time to see - there!
Spatula underneath, flip gently, and - "Perfect!" It was, too - mottled golden-brown with dark currants in the middle and a little white just showing around the edge. Truly a beautiful cookie.
"Don't forget the other one." He hid a smile behind his hand as she gasped and flipped the second cookie just in time.
Jade set the plate of warm cookies on the table almost reverently, then flopped onto the couch. "That was exhausting!"
"Worth it, though." Dad sat beside her, handing her a glass of eggnog.
"It was, wasn't it?" She held up her glass. "To shared family recipes!"
He tapped his glass against hers. "To shared families." She smiled.
"Now, shall we try these out?" They each took a cookie, and bit down.
Crispy outside, soft inside, a bite of spice and a burst of sweet fruit. "Mmm, perfect." She leaned her head against his shoulder.
"Merry Christmas, Jade." She was almost asleep, but he did catch her reply -
"Merry Christmas, Dad."
He froze, then smiled. Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, he pressed a kiss on top of her head, and helped himself to another cookie.
All together now: D'AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. I was so excited to write this one, you have no idea. I love heartwarming Jade.
The recipe is called Welsh cookies in my family, and Welsh cakes or bakestones elsewhere. I'm not giving out my recipe, but you can Google for one. My family's specific recipe is somewhat modified and a closely guarded secret, for walltexty reasons.
Basically, it's an excellent test of character. If you can make our recipe with minimal help, you're allowed to be part of the family. I learned to make them when I was sixteen, as a coming-of-age thing. And anyone who wants to marry into the family has to make them on Christmas between the proposal and the wedding. Those marriages where the person could make them are still going strong twenty or thirty years later, while the ones that couldn't or didn't want to have almost universally ended in some combination of cheating, abuse, alcoholism, and/or drugs. Fun stuff.
I figured a cookie with such strong family ties would make sense for Jade and Dad to bond over, even though paradox babies mean they couldn't have passed it down over hundreds of years like my family.
Anyway. Merry Christmas, all. I'm off to eat chocolate and play with my presents. 33
Last edited by raequiem; 12-25-2010 at 11:58 AM.
Reason: I swear to god, I know the difference between flour and flower. Really. I'm older than six.
I'm the same person here as I am on AO3 and Deviantart, and pretty much everywhere else. Check out my fics and arts and stuff!
Guys guys I did a thing. It cheered me up. But. It may be a little sad? I'm not sure.
Awkward Conversations with Rose Lalonde
Rose Lalonde: age three. At this point in time it becomes inescapable to enter the child into some sort of educational facility. Up until now her main companions were comprised primarily of textile. Her mother, April Lalonde: age forty one. Her main concern was the teasing of the other children, with which she had been briefly familiar herself, at various times too long ago to bother recollecting. Not a false concern by any means, but preceded by an equally pressing one, made all the more distressing by its unpredictability.
“Hello, little girl! My, aren’t you pretty!”
April Lalonde knew an instantaneous and overpowering dislike for the fawning kindergarden teacher and her irrepressibly cheerful cardigan. She smiled thinly.
“And does the little princess have a daddy?”
Rhetorical questions: April Lalonde’s lifelong nemesis.
The teacher caught her evasive silence, just late enough for optimal discomfort, but not quite enough for her to devise a dismissive answer, or even fake a convincingly aggrieved expression. Instead, she succeeded merely in looking irate.
“Ah,” said the teacher pointedly. She kneeled down to coo over the child some more, leaving April Lalonde free to let a tiny sigh escape her lips.
Thence doom was inescapable. Upon climbing into the back seat of the station wagon on her very first day, Rose Lalonde confronted her mother with the most abhorrent of all queries: “Where is my daddy?”
At age three, she was easily distracted by ice cream. At age four, she was essentially dissuaded by a transgenic pet kitten. At age five, she was predominantly preoccupied by being taught to read. Still, the question regularly returned to agitate and bewilder April Lalonde.
“Where is my daddy?”
“Who is my dad?”
“When can I meet my father?”
“Who sired me? By whom was I begotten? To what forebear do I owe my existence?”
The thesaurus proved to be a particularly unsuccessful distraction.
Finally: “Do I have a father?”
Rose Lalonde: age eleven. After years of pestering she had finally succeeded in asking her mother the only question to which she was obliged to give an answer. “Everyone has a father, Rose,” wasn’t going to do it. “In a manner of speaking,” would also prove woefully insufficient. “It’s complicated,” may have fared slightly better, were it not for the rules.
The rules dictated a precise formula for what fraction of the truth could be allotted to Rose Lalonde, as calculated by factoring both her age and the specificity of her demands. A quick calculation revealed to April Lalonde what she already knew: her child was too clever by half and had left her no wiggle room at all.
“Yes, you have a father,” said April, taking a swig from her martini.
Rose stood opposite her, perching her hands on the counter significantly. “Is he alive?”
“Yes, he is alive.” Although they had not spoken since their parting words twenty years previous, April Lalonde knew that he was alive, much in the same way that she knew anything else; he had to be, according to the terms of the agreement.
“Can I meet him?” said Rose, just a faint hint of a waver in her voice.
“No, you won’t.” Per the rules, she could not lie; she also could not reveal the full truth.
“I can’t,” said Rose difficultly, crossing her arms over her ludicrous demon pony T-shirt, “or I won’t?”
“You shall not,” said April, clearly enunciating every word. You shall not meet him before he dies.
A brief silence sank between them, in its way not unlike the olive that April plopped in her freshened drink.
“Does he have a name?” asked Rose, her tone acerbic but her eyes earnest.
April sipped her martini thoughtfully. This was not covered under the contract at all.
“Yes,” she finally said after some quick thought. “His name is Tom.”
The next day, she ordered a bar to be installed in her bedroom. And that was the end of that.
Another Strider!fic, because I'm one of those sad kids who doesn't do Christmas on the day proper.
Parent teacher conferences, Bro being Bro.
"Well, I think there may be some behavioral problems with Dave."
The young man across from her cocked an eyebrow. "Such as what?" His voice was for the most part neutral, but there was an undercurrent there that she couldn't quite place. Ever since he had ducked in through the door to scope out the room and ask if this were Mrs. Dubois' classroom, he had been emanating a certain brand of Zen self assurance that the teacher found ruffling. He certainly wasn't a parent, and he had introduced himself as Dave Strider's brother, but he didn't seem to be old enough to raise anything more sophisticated than a potted plant. The only thing that kept her opinion of this to herself was that bizarre aura of sheer capability that surrounded him.
She shook herself from her thoughts. "He's a very intense child. And he seems to have a hard time paying attention in class. I constantly catch him daydreaming or talking when he should be paying attention. Have you maybe considered that he has attention deficit disorder?"
The narrow face scrunched up around one side, and he sat up from his lordly sprawl to put his hands face up on the table before him, as if presenting some kind of intangible evidence for consideration. "Now, I won't doubt that maybe he's not paying attention as much as he should, but other than that, has this..." he twiddled his fingers, searching for the words. "Shown up in his homework, or is he slower than the other kids in class?"
Normally, the faces of the parents that would come in would by now knit with concern, and they would lean forward attentively, ready to listen to the sage advice of the person who spent a good chunk of the day with their offspring. Instead, Mr. Strider seemed almost to be coming to the defense of his brother, but not blindly, and there was skepticism writ in the lines on his forehead of this armchair diagnosis. "Well, no. He is, as I've said, exceptionally bright and creative, but rarely is cooperative with class projects. This is a bit of a problem when part of the graded material is based on these projects."
Mr. Strider seemed to fight back a smile as he receded back into his chair. Whatever concern had had seemed to have abated, or he was covering it well. "Nah, I know Dave's got issues with class participation. But he's cool with the other kids, right? When he works with them?"
It was true; Dave seemed to be naturally easy going and patient with the other children, and displayed an amount of maturity in his socialization that were uncommon for a child his age. "Um, well... yes, he seems to be very popular with the other chil-" and Mr. Strider, who seemed far too young to be either addressed as mister or be a parent, raised his hands again and batted away her concern with the motion of parting a curtain. "No, I mean, when he's around them, he's nice, right?"
She couldn't remember a time when Dave had been crabby toward his classmates, even when they pestered him. He had the comport of an older kid, and naturally the others wanted to be friends with him. Or at least be associated with him. Once or twice he'd been engaged in scuffles one the playground, but when she sorted them out, the other kids would jump to his defense. In each case, another child was being picked on or bullied, something that Dave Strider seemed to have little tolerance for. She had a feeling that the older Strider knew all of this without needing her to tell him, so she simply nodded. Mr Strider nodded, as if her gesture was an accession.
She felt a little walled in. They had been speaking for about twenty minutes, but she felt she had made little progress with this young man. She decided that the Striders were well-matched for each other, and let whatever misgivings she had fall into the older brother's lap. It was his child to raise, and he seemed to view observations as uncharitable meddling. "Do you have any questions for me, Mr. Strider?"
He seemed to think, scruffing a hand absently through his hair, and then something seemed to occur to him. "Oh yeah, Dave keeps coming home with weird pencils. I think you maybe got some weird, underground kiddie pencil smuggling operation going on." He dug into his pockets, and unearthed one. It was a pencil that had an illustration of a what looked to be a stuffed animal, almost like a dwarf, with a very long bulbous nose, and a very articulated lower back and rump. My, that certainly was unnerving, and probably didn't belong with the children.
"I'll keep my eyes open for them. Thank you," and she offered her best smile, handing him a goodie bag from the pile she had prepared for the parents, trying not to show how relieved she was to have him and his implacable self out the door.
Dave kicked at another hapless dandelion growing between the cracks of the sidewalk, sending its fluff scattering to the winds. It floated for a few seconds, and then whipped away into the schoolyard. He watched them go silently, and then turned as he heard the door to the school open. A swath of yellow light spilled out onto the steps and sidewalk, pushing Bro's familiar form into stark relief. "There you are, man," he said amiably, and trotted down the steps, placing a hand on top of the six-year old's head. "Thought I told you to wait inside."
Dave shrugged. "The janitors came around, and I didn't want you to get in trouble for bringing me to the conference."
Bro frowned, and began walking, replacing his hand to the nape of the kid's neck to bring him along. "Nah, don't worry, they're on the level. Besides, I'd rather get in trouble than have some scumbag nab you off the sidewalk."
"Pff. That only happens on TV."
Oh God, if only, Bro thought. "Nope. Happens all the time in real life. Trufax, little man."
Dave seemed perturbed by this. "That's creepy."
"Yup." Bro had ripped open the plastic baggie the teacher handed out to him, forgoing the twist-tie in favor of being more direct, and sniffed the homemade cookie he dragged out from the other paraphernalia. Determining it was benign, he handed it to Dave,and stuffed the bag into his pocket.
They walked in silence for a few minutes, before Dave said, his tone different, maybe a little sad, "Bro?"
"Am I a bad kid?"
Bro's distant gaze on the buildings sharpened, and he turned to his younger brother. He looked gobsmacked by the question. "What? Where did you get that idea?"
Dave seemed to be reluctant to admit where he might have gotten that notion, and shrugged again, looking down to his scuffed sneakers. Bro tightened his grip slightly on the back of his neck, and stopped, prompting Dave to halt and look at him. "I dunno who's been feeding you crap kid, but they must be so full of it their eyes are brown. You're not a bad kid."
"You sure?" It seemed for all the world that this one answer had all the importance of the sphinx's riddle.
Bro paused for a moment, then stooped to look his brother driectly in the eye, taking off his shades so Dave could see his face. "Positive."
The answer was good enough for Dave, who nodded at his brother. Who nodded back, and straightened, and they began walking again. As they came to a crosswalk, Bro, as was custom, took Dave's hand to cross. Normally, as soon as they crested the next sidewalk, Dave would let go, not wanting to look like a baby. But this time, he didn't loose his grasp, and Bro was thankful, at least for the kid's self-confidence, that he couldn't see the small smile that arced across his face for a few buildings.
They continued, holding hands as they went down the sidewalk, faded Texas sun casting long shadows behind them that seeped into the approaching dark.
Last edited by Sionnan; 12-25-2010 at 02:28 PM.
Strider brothers fics (many thanks go to egregiousBass for compiling them):
Musical Interlude- Dave tries to ironically score in the ongoing fight to one-up his brother. By joining the school chorus.
I'm in a weird mood, so have some Troll Nursery Rhymes.
The Needy Greedy Spider
The greedy needy spider went to the feeding spot
Down came the troll, and fed her what she’d caught
Out came the fangs, and sucked the victims dry
And the greedy needy spider crawled off to watch the sky
A Dead Young Troll
A dead young troll to fate ensnared
The more she knew the less she cared
The less she cared the more she heard
And to destiny she deferred
@Sionnan: D'aww as usual. Though I will point out (as an ADHD person) that the classic ADHD symptoms are being exceptionally intelligent, but kind of distant in class (at least, if you have inattentive type) and general forgetfulness.
Actually, I'd say that given the way you've written him, ADHD would be a pretty sound diagnosis. Which is pretty cool actually
@Sionnan: D'aww as usual. Though I will point out (as an ADHD person) that the classic ADHD symptoms are being exceptionally intelligent, but kind of distant in class (at least, if you have inattentive type) and general forgetfulness.
Well, if you have the H in there as well, they're not likely to be not doing something with their bodies at any one time. Biting my nails, cracking my knuckles (a lot), some spontaneous repetitive minor action (such as having one leg bounce up and down) that I can't do properly when I'm actually thinking about doing these actions are all things that I do a lot that my friends with simple ADD don't.
I've always found it funny that stimulants and depressants have reverse effects on me, though (except for the whole "not sleeping while the stuff is still in my system" thing)
Also, Rae: loved the cookiefics. The fact that I'm in pastry school makes them even more fun for me.
Also, flour is the flower of the wheat. So it still counts. In French, the two words (fleur and farine) are even pronounced differently and interchangeable.
Last edited by Douhneill; 12-25-2010 at 03:24 PM.
If you feel that there's no way things could get any worse, that means things will only get better!
...That, or you're possibly being fed on by a dementor. Eat some chocolate, stat.
She opened her eyes again. A hundred times she opened the visualizers to the scene of a thousand bright points of light, diamonds sprinkled and pressed into dark velvet. They never twinkled; that was a effect of a atmosphere. They simply were there, and they shone bright. She pulled the actuators that would flip her around to the planet she orbited.
A thousand long years since they had finally done it. A thousand years, and another universe. The planet below was where they had been let out, a lush oaisis of dim days and verdant plant life, in a constant state of blood red dusk. The small yellow star was close and warm, but comfortable. The animals were not very alien, surprisingly. They were earthlike, although Alternia had left it's mark.
A perfect universe, one never meant to be.
The sun rose. Renaissance. Rebirth. The sunrise sent golden-red tendrils through the dusky atmosphere, staining the blue planet a light red. Aradia herself opened a small solar array to gether energy. In her age, she needed all she could get.
Broken wires and dusty sprockets floated about her in a small cloud. The useless, broken bits of her. Aradia had lived a thousand years, and radiation damage and age had taken their toll.
For the first time in a thousand years, Aradia was about to die. And she wasn't okay with it. The scenery was beautiful, serene and emotionless. She liked it, floating all alone around the planet. It wasn't like down there in the atmosphere, corrosive, dirty, vibrant. There was no beauty in change. The timless expanse of the stars was her only joy left.
And so it was with a heavy heart she prepared for descent.
A woman of Iron floats on a cloud. She is dead and yet she walks, defiling nature and everything the gods set in place. Eigbert save the girl who defiled his plan. She would answer to him, in time. When she decided to die and go to Megigo's domain.
Then he was on the ground, looking on in third person as him and the Defiler lifted rocks with their bare hands. He watched as they entered a gleaming temple of bronze, dedicated to Maryim. The Defiler walks within the holy ones domain! Again, she would have to account for this before Pyre-ope and her golden scales. The gods would have her soul hang for enternity in Megigo's gallows with the Holy looking on.
There was a skull, doglike and horrible. A Daermation? No, it had but one mouth. There was a scar over the eye of the skull. A statue of the Holy Sylph stood, guarding in case the skull should ever rise again. How do I know this? He asked himself.
The Defiler took the skull and broke it into fragments. The fragments vanished, and he knew that the fragments were in the mouths of the rulers of the realm. He saw that when they spoke true the fragments would cut their tongues, and then they would be silent. He saw The Holyest lady in a rage, and he saw Eigbert weeping on his golden throne. He saw all these things.
And then he saw a thing. It was a dog, but it had wings. It already had a sword through it's gut, but it still did not bleed! And then, a flash of green and the afterglow parted to show a hero, wearing the fifteen holy symbols around his waist. Then it was freezing, and he was awake.
Aziel coughed up the icy water. The Jailor smirked and leaned on the large bowl he had used to carry the water.
"Wake up, Seekerte. Time for your release."
"I'm getting out?!" Aziel said happily, leaping out of his cot and pulling on his shirt. He slept with his pants on, no sheets to cover him. It had always been like this, save for in the Age of Myth, when things could be made in a blink of an eye. But no more. Blankets were reserved for the rich.
"Unfortunately. Frankly I liked having you here. Easy way to shut the other prisoners up was to throw you in there with 'em."
"They beat me!"
"Is that all? I had been hoping for more scarring." Said the Jailor cooly. "Ah, well. We get what we get and sometimes it aint nice. Now get out of here." The Jaiolr motioned towards the Sea-side door.
Aziel welcomed the breeze as he opened the old wooden door. It smelt of salt and dead fish, and had a touch of rotting seaweed, but to Aziel it was far better than the scent of human feces and Daermation spittle. He breathed in the putrid scent heavily, relishing in the light joy of freedom.
Even the stars rejoiced, sending down one of their own to join Renaissance in it's perpetual turn. Aziel Seekerte watched the small star burn. He had had very good eyesight, as had his whole family. They claimed to have a ancestor who had stolen the very eye from the Spidergodess herself and used it as his own. It was a well known tale, although it was complete bogus. They simply had very, very good eyesight. None of their number had ever come in contact with the Spidergoddess, or any other gods, for that matter. They were as mundane as any other family on Renaissance.
Aziel enjoyed the smell of the beach as he walked along it, until the waves became higher and higher and hotter and hotter. And then the One Who Died and Lived emerged from the waves, steaming.
"hell0." She said emotionlessly from her steel body.
On that day, a thousand Newsweeps from the Day of Reckoning, myth became reality.
all other names are pronounced as written, with the exception of those with W's. In the new culture, W's are silent.
So alright I can't write more GallowS. I'm sorry. I'll try again another day. I'm like a gog damn tiny spider trying to get his idiotic ass up a waterspout during a hurricane instead of using a wall like any sensible spider.
@Sionnan: D'aww as usual. Though I will point out (as an ADHD person) that the classic ADHD symptoms are being exceptionally intelligent, but kind of distant in class (at least, if you have inattentive type) and general forgetfulness.
Well, if you have the H in there as well, they're not likely to be not doing something with their bodies at any one time. Biting my nails, cracking my knuckles (a lot), some spontaneous repetitive minor action (such as having one leg bounce up and down) that I can't do properly when I'm actually thinking about doing these actions are all things that I do a lot that my friends with simple ADD don't.
I've always found it funny that stimulants and depressants have reverse effects on me, though (except for the whole "not sleeping while the stuff is still in my system" thing)
True. Personally I'm predominantly inattentive type, but I fidget like a madman. Teachers hate it, because I pretty much can't not be doing something with my hands in class (be it doodling, biting my nails, or just. changing my position every five seconds)
IF Dave had some ADHD spectrum disorder, I'd point it as ADD-I (add primarily inattentive type). BUT meh pointless to diagnose fictional characters
and yeah the stimulant/depressant thing tends to wig everyone I know out. They do not understand how I can drink a cup of coffee and then just calm... the hell... down.
It's getting early.
A squad car pulls up in front of a pet shop, two figures get out.
On the passengers side is arguably the best cop on this side of Alternia, Terezi Pyrope.
From the drivers side emerges her partner, the equally talented Sollux Captor.
The two walk into the pet store, and approach it's owner, Tavros Nitram.
“SO M1ST3R N1TR4M”, Terezi says, ”WH4T EX4CTLY W3NT ON L4ST N1GHT?”
The poor kid turns three shades of brown.
“wELL UH,,, YESTERDAY I WAS KIND OF IN A HURRY TO LEAVE, sO I DIDNT LOCK UP LIKE I SHOULD HAVE AND, uHHH,,, wHEN I CAME IN THIS MORNING ALL OF THE CATS AND uHHH,,, CAT SUPLIES WERE GONE”
He pauses, managing to look even more pitiful than he had before.
“i THINK SOMEONE STOLE IT ALL,,, cAN YOU PLEASE HELP?”
WOW, Pyrope wonders,1 WOND3R HOW PEOPLE M4N4G3 TO B3 SO STUP1D
Incidentally, Sollux is thinking almost the exact same thing.
What comes out over he mouth, however, is more along the lines of ”W3'LL DO TH3 B3ST W3 C4N TO R3COV3R TH3 STOL3N GOODS, 1F YOU'LL 3XCUS3 M3, M3 4ND MY P4RTN3R H3R3 SHOULD B3 LOOK1NG FOR 3VID3NC3”
She pulls Sollux off to the side, but before she can say anything he says, [color=#a1a100]“you know that there2 pretty much no way that thiis ii2nt Nepeta, riight?”/color]
Terezi nods, ”4LL W3 R34LLY N33D 4R3 SOM3 F1NG3R PR1NTS OR A FOOTPR1NT, TH3N-”
Suddenly, the two cops hear the ringing of chimes as the door is opened again, then a voice they were rather hoping to avoid while on this case.
”detectivve ampora is here and on the case!”
Terezi can barely make out a quiet, “well 2hiit”
The detective strides in, and begins busying himself behind some shelves, out of sight of the two cops. Terezi shakes her head.
”“1TS A SH4M3 THOUGH, 3V3N IF W3 DO F1ND PROOF TH4T 1TS H3R, W3 ST1LL H4VE NO 1DE4 WH3R3 SH3S H1D1NG, 4ND-”
The detective held up a thick clump of blue fur.
”usin this evvidence and my inherent crimesolvvin abilities, I havve determined that the perpetrator in this crime wwe're lookin at here is none other than...”
Here he paused (for dramatic effect)
”the infamous cat bandit, Nepeta Lejion!”
The room was dead silent for a full minute. The whole time Eridan managed to keep the same pose with the fur held in the air. Sollux, similarly, hid his face in his hands.
Eventually Terezi broke the silence with,”“Y3S D3T3CT1V3, TH4TS V3RY GOOD, BUT YOU SHOULD ST1LL B3 S34RCH1NG FOR MOR3 EV1D3NC3”
Eridan nods and continues snooping as a good detective is apt to do.
”“NOW M1ST3R N1TR4M”, Terezi continues,”“DO YOU H4PP3N TO H4V3 4NY S3CUR1TY C4M3R4S S3T UP 1N H3R3?”
The brown blood nods.
“i HAVE SOME SET UP BUT I'VE uHHH,,, nEVER ACTUALLY BEEN ABLE TO SEE WHAT'S ON THEM,,,”
The kid starts fiddling around with the computer behind his desk.
The two cops tap their toes
“sEE,,, i'M uHHH,,, nOT VERY GOOD WITH COMPUTERS”
“fuckiing... just step asiide and let me do iit, iim an expert wiith computer2”
As Tavros stepped aside, Sollux stepped in and started typing madly. He had the logs pulled up in under ten seconds.
“here they are”, he said,“and you really 2houldn't keep piicture2 of bucket2 on a work computer”
Terezi smelled flavors of chocolate she never even knew existed.
What they saw simply continued to proof their (and the detective's) point. They saw a determined Nepeta sneak through the door, and one by one took all the cats outside to a waiting car.
”“AR3 TH3R3 4NY C4M3R4S ON TH3 OUTS1D3 OF TH3 BU1LD1NG?”
Sollux interrupts anything Nitram was about to say with the click of a button, as the view is changed from inside of the shop to out of the front door. From this view they could easily see the driver of Nepeta's getaway car.
“holy 2hiit, iis that...”
”“K4RK4T V4NT4S”, Terezi cracked a wide grin, ”“YOU FUCK1NG DOG”
Terezi was cackling madly.
Sollux shook his head and closed out of the video logs.
“ii thiink that2 all the eviidence we need and then 2ome”
It took a moment before Terezi could gain her composure enough to speak like a normal troll again.
”“C4N YOU S4V3 THOS3 LOGS? 1 W4NT TO G3T A B3TT3R SN1FF L4T3R”
Sollux held up a thumb drive
“way ahead of you”
”“H4H4, GOOD WORK, C4PTOR. BUNP?”
She held up a fist
“no, ii'm good. actually we 2hould probably get back to the 2tatiion and fiile a report”
”“4LR1GHT, F1N3, J3GUS. TH4NK YOU FOR YOUR T1M3 M1ST3R N1TR4M”
“iTS,uHH, nO PROBLEM, rEALLY”
Terezi grins again at the bull-boy. It seems to make him nervous. The duo begins to make their way towards the door.
“hey tz, do you thiink that maybe we could 2top for iice cream before we go to the 2tation?”
”“AH4H4H4, ONLY 1F YOU DO TH3 TH1NG”
“but the thiing ii2 2o-”
The cops are stopped in their tracks when the detectible they had almost forgotten about piped up;Eridan stood up from behind a large fish tank and waved at them.
”hey if you guys are goin to get ice cream, wwould you mind if maybe I tagged along an-”
”“NO D3T3T1V3, 1 TH1NK YOU SHOULD PROB4BLY WR4P UP H3R3”
”right, I just thought that maybe... right”
As he ducks back down to presumably search for more evidence, the two cops head out the door into the rising sun.
It is about half an hour later. Two cops, eating ice cream, walk into the precinct. These two cops, are in fact, the very same Terezi Pyrope and Sollux Captor.
They walk in like they own the place, which honestly they might as well. Terezi goes straight to the chief's desk and sits down on a stack of papers.
”“OH M4N EQUU1S, H4V3 W3 GOT N3WS FOR YOU”
She starts giggling. The chief stands up and plants his hands on the desk.
”D---> Miss Pyrope, I demand at once that you remove yourself from my desk and dispose of that icecream at once”
He wiped his hand across his forehead
”D---> Captor, you dispose of your ice cream and fetch me a towel, I am beginning to sweat”
Neither of them moved to accommodate him.
Terezi took a bite out of her waffle cone.
The sweat stains in Equuis' uniform became more proniment.
“hey e2, don't 2weat iit, we got you some two”,Sollux holds out the other cone he was carrying,“iit'2 made out of real mu2clebea2t miilk and everythiing”
Equuis, very gently, took the cone, he even managed to give it a lick before the thing exploded in his hands, showering everyone involved with one hundred percent real musclebeast milk ice cream.
This did not help out Terezi's laughing situation very much at all.
“2houldnt you clean that up?”
”D---> Just... don't worry about it, I'm more concerned with the news that Officer Pyrope thought was so important she could use it to bend the r001s”
Terezi's laughter subsided quickly.
”“W3LL YOU W3R3 R1GHT 4BOUT ON3 TH1NG, 1T W4S DEF1N3NTLY N3P3T4 WHO ROBB3D THE STOR3”
Equuis' sweat glands started up again.
”“TH3 B1G N3WS 1S TH4T TH1S T1M3, W3'V3 C4UGHT H3R ON VID3O, 4ND”, she added with a snigger”“H3R G3TT4W4Y DR1V3R TO BOOT ”
The chief might as well have gone swimming, he was so wet.
”D--->Do you... have copies of the videos?”
Sollux pulls out his thumb drive again
”D--->Very good, I would like to see them”
He reached out for the drive, but Sollux backed away.
“let me handle the tech stuff, ii'm not letting you ruiin thii2 thiing wiith your 2weaty paws”
”D--->Fine, I shall leave all future tech stoogery to you”
Before he moved out of his chair to make way for Sollux, Equuis opened his bottom drawer and grabbed his “emergency towel”.
He could tell that he was going to have to use it.
During the next several hours, the group watches the tapes several times.
”WH4T STR1K3S M3 4S ODD”, says Terezi ”1S TH4T SH3'S NOT 3V3N B31NG C4R3FUL, 1T'S L1K3 SH3 W4NTS TO GET C4UGHT”
Sollux nods in agreement as Equuis mops even more sweat off of his face.
The door to Equuis' office came open with much force, through it came striding a certain purple-blooded detective that the duo thought they had left behind at the pet shop. For some reason he was waving a little bit of paper around.
”ivve fuckin solvved it, in more wways than one”,Eridan slammed the note down onto the desk.
The three other trolls looked at the note. It was written in something that could only be described as “Nepeta style”, which is to say it read as:
>>3 < if you evfur want to see these adorable kitties again, you will have Police Captain Equuis come to the 12th warehouse at the docks, alone
XXO< and don't think about trying any funny business, or there will be trouble!!
He looked rather proud of himself over this
”wwere goin to be able to catch this theif at the docks, wwarehouse 12, tomorroww night”
”3R1D4N, WH3R3 D1D YOU F1ND THIS?”
”i wwas taped to the vvery back of one of the cat kennels”
”1 S33, 3R1D4N, 1F YOU'LL 3XCUS3 US FOR JUST A MOM3NT”
All three cops ducked under the desk and started whispering.
”SO SH3 W4NT3D TO G3T C4UGHT 4FT3R 4LL! 1 WOND3R WH4T SH3 W4NTS TO S33 YOU FOR...”
”D---> I hardly think it matters, this is our chance to catch this nefarious thief once and for all!”
“riight, 2o all we have to do iis have a bunch of other cop2 hiiding when equuii2 goe2 out to meet her then we all come out and-”
”guys hey”, the detective's head poked around from the side of the desk.”i can totally help if your doin a bust on this girl, I mean ivve got experience, fuck ivve evven shot-”
”D---> I'm sorry detective, but you won't be accompanying us on this bust. You are a crime solver after all, not a police officer”
”wwell i knoww that, I just thought it'd be cool if-”
The poor guy looked heartbroken.
”right, sir, i'll just go file a report”
He turned to leave.
“2o we'll definently need a lot of manpower 2iince they already 2u2pect-”
Sollux's voice was muffled by the closed door at this point. Eridan sighed. It wasn't fair, they always kept him away from the action! He bet he had seen more action than almost every cop in the place. They needed him there.
In fact, he would have to be there whether they wanted him or not.
I just am asking why she is selling sausages at a funeral.
Originally Posted by inexpediency
Everyone is a hedgehog...on the inside.
Originally Posted by Tesseract
On a deadness scale of normal to doorknob I would rate her as double doorknob
Originally Posted by Jitka
fuck yeah sodium hexametaphosphate
that is my favorite hexametaphosphate
Malakin:because its actually the truman show just with ponys
crash826:far too much sense
Malakin:think about it
Malakin:it all makes sense
Originally Posted by Catbread
Those sound like some pretty badass park rangers.
Originally Posted by ranasan
Wow... it's like if someone managed to manifest Missingno. from Pokemon Red and Blue into the real world, grind it up into a fine powder and then snort it.
18:21 Girard so I learned something at the barber:
18:22 Daniel ?
18:22 Girard The entirety of England, London in particular, is actually a stage for the biggest production of the musical Oliver ever made.
18:22 Girard England is a giant musical.
18:22 Girard This explains the small children with cockney accents and giant hats who dance in the streets.
18:23 Daniel ...DAMN YOU MARY POPPINS!
18:23 Daniel DAMN YOU TO HELL!
Oh god you guys.
I disappear for a few days and then so much great stuff appears!
I haven't read everything but I've read some bits and you guys rock.
Oh and here's a new part of that fanfic series I'm doing.
My Demii2e Part 3
Sollux made a grimace. Was the human really that stupid?
“Your miththing the point here,” he said, folding his arms.
“Yeah, right, sorry. I guess it’s a way to cope with stress. Uhm... What do you mean you have to be beaten by me?” John asked nervously. It didn’t really make sense to him.
“Tho, you know Vrithka right? Apparently thhe wantth you to be the betht there ith. Why, I don’t know, but apparently you thill have a rank to achieve or thomething. And apparently you need to defeat me to do that,” Sollux answered. “Tho yeah, better get your godly powerth on, ‘cauthe I’m not going down without a fight.”
John watched in awe as the trolls eyes began to glow and his body started emitting blue and red light as it rose into the air. Behind him massive chunks of the meteor suddenly broke off and flew behind the troll. It was then John realised this probably wasn’t going to be an easy battle. It wasn’t a battle he wanted to fight, he really didn’t want to hurt any of the trolls, but it was something he had to. He readied himself, his Fear No Anvil appearing in his hand. “Then come on,” he said.
The rest of the trolls had gathered in the computer room as well, and while Feferi had looked after Sollux, Karkat had wasted no time turning on the viewport of his Trollian service. The fact he loudly yelled “What the flying fuck?!” quickly got the attention of everyone in the room.
“What is it, Karkles?” Terezi laughed mockingly. “Did you accidently...”
“Shut the fuck up, Pyrope!” Karkat yelled, interrupting her midsentence. If he hadn’t had all the trolls attention before, he did now. Nobody interrupted Terezi midsentence. Especially not Karkat. It was always the other way around. “Use that staff of yours for something fucking useful and turn on the projector on the cieling! You all need to see this!”
Terezi didn’t object. She knew this was serious, and she quickly turned on the projector they had hanging from the cieling, completely unused until that moment. The picture they saw surprised every person in the room, with the exception of one. One particular troll stood against the wall furthest from the projector, grinning. Everything was going according to the plan.
“I still don’t get why you’re doing this!” John yelled chrusing a piece of rock as it impacted with his hammer.
“There ith nothing to get, you fucking idiot!” Sollux yelled sending another rock at the human. “You’re the reathon we’re on thith bare rock in the middle of fucking nowhere, you’re the reathon everything went to hell and you’re the reathon I am going to die here!”
John barely dodged another rock. Unfortunately the troll had some other tricks up his sleeve and his face was introduced to a large and heavy metal safe. John was slammed onto his back, head colliding with rock, his vision blurring. His health vial took quite a dive. He could feel something wet on his face and... Was that blood he could taste?
“Get up, you fucker,” someone hissed at him, and John felt his body lifting into the air. It wasn’t the usual, pleasent and
carefree feeling he got when using his wind to levitate. This one felt more like thousand of tiny hooks grabbing his skin and holding him up. He finally got his vision back and, oh what a surprise, it was Sollux.
“Are you thure you’re god tier? ‘Cauthe you theem more like Boy-Thkylark or thome thhit like that.”
John’s body was hurled through the air, but he managed to stabilize himself by summoning a strong wind. “Look! What do you have against me?!” John yelled at the troll.
“What do I have againtht you?! Okay, here, I’ll make thith really thimple tho even you can underthtand. YOU’RE A FUCKING TOOL!” the troll screamed hurling rocks and heavy metal safes. “The ith uthing you for her own thelfith needth! For her to feel thuperior!”
John barely managed to dodge the attacks flying at him. His head was still a bit dizzy and he almost passed out from pain when a safe collided with his chest. He was pretty sure he had just broken a rib or two. Not surprising when you thought about the speed and weight behind the trolls attacks.
But even after that succesfull attack the troll didn’t stop attacking.
“Don’t you realithe thith ith what thhe doeth?! That ith how thhe ith and alwayth will be?! Thhe ith the reathon Tavroth became cippled and had to get robot legth! Thhe ith the reathon Terethi ith blind! Thhe ith the reathon I KILLED MY MOIRAL!”
John could barely take this in. Was this really how Vriska was? Sure, Karkat had told him something similar, but he had figured Karkat was blowing it way out of proportion, like he always did. But for her to really do something like that. There was no way...
Vriska was absent-mindedly biting her nails. This was taking quite a while and Sollux seemed to have the upper hand. Sure, the guy had been a powehouse during the game, but still. John was a god tier. He was supposed to be so much more powerful. She wish she could contact John and tell him to man up, but it would gather suspicion and she couldn’t afford him getting distracted.
“Egbert is getting his ass handed to him.”
It was Karkat who broke the spell.
Three sets of eyes turned and glared at him. Truth to be told one of the sets was hiding behind a pair of sunglasses, but Karkat could still feel them, glaring at him.
“What? He is. Douche Mc. Doublefang here was one of the trolls that completely breezed through our session. Even if Egbert has achieved the god-tier I still find it hard to believe the Heir of Breath can defeat the Mage of fucking Doom.” Karkat crossed his arms returning his attention to the battle unfolding in front of them. “And it’s not like we can really do anything here.”
“Dave, can’t you use your time powers to find them?” Jade asked nervously. She was sitting on the floor next to Feferi, both holding the others hand tightly, to have a little bit of comfort.
Dave shook his head, completely keeping his cool kid composure. “No. I don’t have anything that’ll make me fly, so I won’t be able to get anywhere out there. And no Lalonde. I can’t take you with me time travelling. It doesn’t work that way.”
Rose quickly closed her mouth.
“Aradia! You can fly! Can’t you...” Tavros began but he was immediatly interrupted by Aradia. “No,” she said in her coldest most robotic monotone voice. “This fight is something that must happen.”
Everybodys attention quickly returned to the screen. Few of them didn’t even dare blink for the slight fear of missing the final hit. Feferi tightened her grip on Jade’s hand just a bit.
“You’re lying!” John yelled. “She wouldn’t do something like that!”
“You’re both naive and a complete fucking moron! I wath right when I thaid you weren’t worth contacting!” Sollux yelled back. “If we hadn’t I wouldn’t die out here in the middle of fucking nowhere without saying goodbye...”
The light surrounding Sollux seemed to disperse and he gentle landed on the ground in front of John.
“Thith ith it, Heir,” he said. “I can’t outright kill you, but I can hurt you tho much you paradox clone will feel it.”
A new rock flew seemingly out of nowhere and collided with John’s chin sending him back a few steps. Then another one. And another one. And then barrage stopped. John opened his eyes to see Sollux stand in front of him, arms spread out. Showing he had no more to give. “John, let me tell you why I did thith. I didn’t do thith becauthe I hate you humanth. You humanth intereth in no way, but Vrithka... Vrithka told me if I didn’t do thith my matethprite wath going to die. Feferi meanth everything to me. And I’d rather give up my life than let her feel what it ith like to die. Now hit me. Don’t worry I’ll die in one or two hitth. Mageth aren’t ethactly the motht well protected clathth.”
John was a bit surprised by what the troll had said, but nontheless he raised his hammer.
Sollux felt the pain as the hammer colided with his face. He heard a chrunch and he was pretty sure both his glasses and his nose had broken. Maybe some of his teeth. He didn’t care. The force from the swing sent him flying and he could feel his body colliding with the ground and skidding to a halt. This time it was John who was flying.
“Can you tell her...” Sollux said, coughing up some yellow blood. “That I’m thorry?”
“Sure,” John replied. He flew up a little higher taking a large run-up before flying down and slamming the troll as hard as he could with his hammer. The shockwave from the impact sent gravel flying and the troll’s body was completely still once the dust layed down. He felt the weird feeling he always got when levelling up, but something seemed diffrent. And just two seconds later, John felt the tingling of the appearfier returning him to the laboratory.
She blinked again.
Still the same. Sollux’s motionless body on the ground and the human called Egbert, standing above it. If she wasn’t already sitting she would’ve fallen to her knees. She looked to the floor. It was as if something inside of her still couldn’t believe it. She felt completely emotionless and didn’t even notice Jade putting a hand on her shoulder.
Then she heard the appearifier and 13 bodies turning to look at the newcomer. “Oh John, thank god,” Jade said getting up.
Then something clicked in Feferi’s mind. Before Jade could notice it, Feferi was up and running at Egbert raising her Brainfork. Luckily for Egbert the trolls were more or less ready for this and the 2x3dentkind weapon was stopped just and inch short of Egberts face. “You killed him,” she growled, raising the hairs of all the humans. Something about that growl was inhuman and otherworldly.
“You’re Feferi, right?” John asked her.
“Why do you want to know?” she hissed at him.
“Becuase he told me to say,” John said, making a pause before continuing. “That he was sorry.”
Feferi’s weapon fell to the floor with a loud clang and the only reason she didn’t fall as well, was the arms of the other trolls holding her up. The emtionless state had been changed into anger which now turned into sadness as tears ran down her cheeks.
Vriska completely ignored this and pushed Dave aside to talk to John. “Helloooooooo, John,” she said in her sweetest voice. “Seems like you finally gained ALL the levels, huh? ‘Throne Succesor’? How nice.”
John looked at her in a way she wasn’t expecting. He looked... Angry. “You’re Vriska?”
“Why, of course John. Who else could I be? Being as great as I...”
“We need to talk,” John interrupted her, as he halted towards a corridor leading somewhere where the others wouldn’t hear them. When his friends wanted to follow him he simply sent them away, saying it was between him and Vriska.
Vriska was stunned. Had he just interrupted her? No, that couldn’t be right. It was a mistake, that’s what it was. And now he wanted to apologize and make it up to her. She smiled. Of course that was the only possible explanation. Once again her thoughts were interrupted by a message from the very same person that had given her the plan.
Oh, and by the way.
PvP rank does nothing.
I MIGHT make an epilouge. Don't think I will though. I'm gonna work on the crossover instead.
Time to go archive binging and read the stories I skipped.
MOVE ALONG, PEOPLE! NOTHING TO SEE HERE!
Pesterchum: paperConsumer (deviceJuggler is my troll account)