Chapter

5

JADE: did you hear that john left his house?

JADE: multiple days in a row even!

KARKAT: NO FUCKING WAY. THAT’S INCREDIBLE. I’VE NEVER HEARD OF SUCH A THING.

KARKAT: SOMEONE LEAVING THEIR HOUSE? STOP THE FUCKING PRESSES.

JADE: karkat....

KARKAT: IS IT A SLOW NEWS DAY IN THE CONSORT KINGDOM OR SOMETHING?

Jade finishes pruning a dead bulb off her arum lily plant and flicks it at Karkat’s forehead. Then she politely pulls the blinds shut, because god forbid even a sliver of sunlight ever infect Dave and Karkat’s hive. Jade doesn’t live here, technically, but there’s domestic evidence of her all over the hive. Her plants, her bass, her clothes slung over the couch where she sleeps for weeks at a time...

JADE: im being serious dumpass

JADE: i was really worried about him!

KARKAT: I’M BEING SERIOUS TOO. I WAS ACTUALLY BEGINNING TO WONDER IF JOHN HAD DIED.

KARKAT: BUT WHAT THE FUCK WERE WE SUPPOSED TO DO ABOUT IT? IT’S NOT LIKE HE ANSWERS THE PHONE.

JADE: well if you CARE so much then maybe dont respond with sarcasm when i tell you that hes getting better!

DAVE: guys its not a competition we were all worried about john

JADE: were we??

JADE: whens the last time either of you tried to hang out with him?

KARKAT: WHEN’S THE LAST TIME EITHER OF US LEFT THE HIVE?

DAVE: yeah shut ins living in glass hives shouldnt throw uh

DAVE: actually if we lived in a glass hive way too much light would come in for karkats brutal photosensitivity issues

DAVE: so wed probably cover all the walls with like

DAVE: lots of curtains and sheets of thick fabric

DAVE: so i guess maybe we COULD throw stones?

DAVE: like kinda small ones so that the fabric could easily absorb the momentum

DAVE: also me and karkat would probably be too lazy to throw the stones that hard anyway

DAVE: so i think actually this scenario is pretty workable here

DAVE: it provides for a certain threshold of allowable minimum hypocrisy

JADE: dave this sucks

DAVE: no it doesnt

DAVE: im giving thoughtful and critical consideration to a cliche which is long past due

DAVE: a glass house with wall to wall curtains creates what im going to theorize as an incredibly important “self owning buffer”

DAVE: this is a huge breakthrough and also its fucking science

DAVE: you of all people should appreciate the work being done here

JADE: oh my GOD

JADE: i never thought id be thinking of you as my weird nerd friend by the time we were in our twenties

DAVE: yeah well i never thought youd be like the premiere woo girl on the planet

DAVE: what are you even doing here with us

DAVE: dont you usually spend your weekends at 48 hour interspecies raves or doing arctic expeditions with jake or whatever

JADE: those two things are not always mutually exclusive hehe

KARKAT: UGH

Jade floats over to the couch, shooting her two besties a salacious smile. She taps Karkat on the nose as she passes by.

JADE: im just enjoying my youth

JADE: you could be enjoying it too hehehehe

She retrieves one of her bras from where it’s hanging over the back of the couch. She starts changing it right there, doing that mystical sleight of hand girls seem to be born with the knowledge of, where the bra goes off and then on again without the shirt being removed. Jade doesn’t exactly have the best understanding of “interpersonal boundaries,” having been raised mostly by a dog, but still. It’s a weird, intimate, and uncomfortably close to sexual thing to be doing in front of other people. Dave and Karkat share a vaguely mortified look. Jade sort of lives here, but she doesn’t that sort of live here.

JADE: but seriously.... what do you two even do holed up in here together all the time?

Karkat snorts, still pointedly not looking at her.

KARKAT: OH I’M SORRY, HAVE YOU NOT SEEN DAVE’S ILL BEGOTTEN ART EMPIRE?

KARKAT: HE’S GOT HIS OPPOSABLE DIGITS STUCK IN SO MANY DOUBLE-STACKED HUSKLOAFS THAT EVEN I DON’T KNOW ALL HIS PEN NAMES.

JADE: ok so thats what dave does

JADE: what do YOU do??

Jade puts her feet on the floor and pads over so she can sling her arms over the back of the couch and lay her cheek on the cushion. The look she gives Karkat is just shy of devious. Karkat defensively scuttles to the other end of the couch, where he ends up pressed flush against Dave’s entire left side.

KARKAT: I UH

JADE: sit around and play video games all day?

KARKAT: HEY! THAT’S NOT THE ONLY THING I DO! I’VE...

KARKAT: DONE LAUNDRY.

DAVE: once or twice

KARKAT: ALSO, WHAT HUMANS REFER TO AS “GROCERIES.”

KARKAT: I DO THE GROCERIES.

DAVE: thats not a fucking figure of speech man

DAVE: you dont do the groceries you go out and buy them

DAVE: and even then you dont actually do that

KARKAT: LIKE FUCK I MPHUMPHLE...

Dave puts both hands over Karkat’s mouth and does a stage whisper over his shoulder.

DAVE: he means that he uses the alchemizer in the basement sometimes

KARKAT: WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

DAVE: oh and when hes in a bad mood hell go yell at trolls on the internet

DAVE: not like trolls as in the troll species i mean

DAVE: literal trolls who talk shit online

DAVE: i dunno a bunch of them could be actual trolls i guess

DAVE: but not strictly

KARKAT: DAVE!

KARKAT: DON’T FUCKING TELL HER ABOUT THAT.

Dave reaches around Karkat’s face to give him a gentle poke in the cheek. He keeps his finger there longer than strictly necessary, smiling the noticeably restrained smile characteristic of Striders. The expression is so warm and blatant that it can’t help but draw Jade’s attention. She frowns and pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose, making some quick calculations in her head. They’re so obvious, she thinks, and yet here they are. Virginal losers who are performative about sitting exactly a foot apart whenever they’re in public. It’s so pathetic it makes her want to howl at the moon in sorrow.

What she’s planning isn’t a seduction. It’s a public service.

DAVE: why not dude i think its cute

DAVE: hes on all the major political sites of course but he spends most of his time going after people who leave abusive comments on my sweet bro and hella jeff posts

DAVE: like hes got a whole complex network of burner accounts and sockpuppets on my homepage set up for every possible scenario

JADE: jesus christ....

DAVE: its incredible hes driven at least ten people off the site by creating thinly veiled parody accounts of their usernames

KARKAT: STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS!

KARKAT: MY EXPLOITS ARE HEROIC. GO ABSOLUTELY FUCK YOURSELF.

DAVE: karkat shoosh

DAVE: im so proud of you

DAVE: couldnt have done better myself

DAVE: well i mean i definitely could have but i have better things to do with my time

KARKAT: THANK YOU DAVE. THAT WAS HEARTWARMING AND NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT EMBARRASSING. CONSIDER MY HONOR UNDENIABLY DEFENDED.

JADE: actually karkat its more like youre the one defending HIS honor

JADE: thats sooooo cute.... a knight whiteknighting for another knight

JADE: dave its like karkats your adorable little house husband!!!

DAVE: uhhhh

KARKAT: WHAT THE FUCK IS A HUSBAND?

DAVE: er

Dave un-pokes his finger from Karkat’s cheek and tries to shimmy some space between them on the couch, but there’s nowhere to go. Karkat is sandwiched between him and Jade, who is reaching out to put two fingers of her own at the center of his chest. She bounces them there a few times, enjoying the way troll skin is just a bit thicker than human skin, taut like the membrane over a poorly maintained drum.

JADE: a husband....

She begins walking her fingers up the length of Karkat’s sternum. Karkat knows damned well what a husband is. He’s been force-fed enough bad movies from Dave to pick up any human euphemism you could name. He still plays dumb sometimes, for comedic effect, to irritate his friends, or simply to avoid a topic of conversation altogether. If he’d known it would only fan the flames of discussion in this case, he would have kept his mouth shut.

JADE: a husband is a little like what you both do already

JADE: only with....... certain “benefits” :)

Her fingers reach the hollow of Karkat’s throat just in time to catch him swallow. He starts to sweat.

KARKAT: WH... WHAT KIND OF BENEFITS

JADE: heheh dont play dumb karkat

DAVE: jade dude cmon

DAVE: leave him alone

Jade does not “come on.” She glides her fingers up under Karkat’s chin so that they can rest on his lips, which are a little chapped. It doesn’t take much work to pop them open and slide both fingers in.

JADE: if youre really that clueless.... i can show you....

Karkat looks like an animal with its leg caught in a trap. Eyes flickering, breath getting shallow. His bottom lip is trembling where Jade is stroking it with her thumb.

It would be pretty easy to mistake his reaction for arousal, so it’s understandable that Jade is extremely surprised when Karkat snaps his jaw shut and chomps down on her hand.

JADE: OW!!!!

She flies back, literally, spiraling up towards the ceiling so fast that her skirt puffs up and she gets all tangled in her clothes for a few seconds. She clutches her wounded hand and glares daggers at Karkat, ears flat under her long, dark hair.

JADE: karkat what the HELL!

KARKAT: WHAT THE HELL??

KARKAT: YOU’RE SERIOUSLY ASKING *ME* WHAT THE *HELL*!?!?!?

KARKAT: JADE, YOU WERE TRYING TO CHOKE ME TO DEATH WITH YOUR WEIRD, SOFT HUMAN FINGERS! WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO? REACH INTO MY CHEST AND PULL OUT MY FUCKING PUMP BISCUIT FOR A MIDDAY SNACK?

KARKAT: IS THIS BECAUSE YOU’RE HALF BARKBEAST NOW?

JADE: NO!!!!!!

JADE: i was FLIRTING you dummy!

JADE: oh my GOD you two really are hopeless!

JADE: why do i even WASTE my TIME???

KARKAT: THAT’S A GOOD FUCKING QUESTION!

Jade is pissed, but not enough to leave. Instead, she plops down on the opposite end of the couch and petulantly crosses her arms. Karkat peels himself off Dave and slumps into the dip between cushions while settling even more deeply into one of his better-practiced pouts. Dave clears his throat.

DAVE: so apropos of nothing

DAVE: just a cool segue into a completely different topic for no reason

Jade and Karkat both stare at him. He makes a casual motion with his hand. A smooth wrist swivel, like he’s at a turntable scratching one song into the next. That’s the effect he’s going for, at least.

DAVE: did you guys hear that jane was gonna run for high office

KARKAT: NO FUCKING WAY

JADE: oh wow

KARKAT: YOU MEAN...

DAVE: yep

DAVE: the fucking presidency of earth c

JADE: i mean shes been positioning her megacorp and stocks in a way that looked SUPER suspicious the last year or so, so id wondered about it

JADE: but i didnt think shed actually do it!

DAVE: nah she was totally gonna pull the trigger on it after all these years but decided against it at the last minute for some reason

KARKAT: THANK FUCKING GOD. THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A COMPLETE DISASTER.

DAVE: i know right thats what i said when roxy told me

DAVE: especially for the economy

KARKAT: REALLY. THE ECONOMY. THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK IS BAD ABOUT IT?

DAVE: oh yeah and the troll thing is bad too i guess

KARKAT: OK, SO LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT. YOUR PRIORITIES ARE: NUMBER ONE, THE ECONOMY, WHICH LET ME REMIND YOU IS BUILT ENTIRELY ON INFINITE, FAKE MONEY THAT WE CAN MAKE AS MUCH OF AS WE WANT.

KARKAT: NUMBER TWO, THE POTENTIAL GENOCIDE OF MY PEOPLE.

DAVE: ok wow

DAVE: lets like

DAVE: slow our roll here

DAVE: lets slow any roll that makes me seem more xenophobic than i am ok

KARKAT: WHATEVER YOU SAY, DAVE “NOT XENOPHOBIC” STRIDER.

DAVE: thats good

DAVE: lets keep using the phrase not xenophobic in sentences that contain my name

KARKAT: SURE MAN. THAT DOESN’T SOUND LIKE SOMETHING A XENOPHOBE SHITHEAD WOULD SAY AT ALL.

DAVE: look im not the bad guy here

DAVE: jane is

DAVE: or... was

DAVE: until she decided not to run for president

DAVE: lets all just thank whichever christ was responsible for making whatever decision resulted in her deciding not to do that

KARKAT: WHAT?

KARKAT: DON’T CHANGE THE SUBJECT, XENOPHOBE.

DAVE: no look

DAVE: ill be the first to say that jane is xenophobic as fuck

DAVE: im not

DAVE: like at ALL?

DAVE: but she is

KARKAT: OK DUDE

DAVE: but i dont think shed go so far as to commit genocide

DAVE: thats really exaggerating her faults

DAVE: like wed have to get pretty far away from the people we were when we started all this for that to be a viable outcome

JADE: hmmm

JADE: well i hope she gets a better hobby

JADE: there are a lot of less ominous things she could do with her time

KARKAT: WHAT, LIKE FUCKING HER WAY THROUGH HALF THE POPULATION OF EARTH C?

Jade pinches his ear and twists hard, smiling pleasantly.

JADE: get fucked karkat

> ==>
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