Chapter

9

JADE: arent you guys happy to get out of the house for once!!!

Jade’s tail swishes back and forth under her striped skirt as she takes a great, big sniff of the fresh outside air. It’s early evening on the outskirts of the Troll Kingdom. One by one, neon-bright windows are lighting up on the hives in the distance. Karkat is still shielding his eyes against the dying strains of the sunset. His shoulders are scrunched up so high that his cheeks disappear into his turtleneck.

KARKAT: NO ACTUALLY.

KARKAT: I DON’T GET WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT IT. I CAN SEE THE SAME BULLSHIT FROM THE COMFORT OF MY HOUSE.

KARKAT: CHECK IT OUT. A GIANT BILLBOARD OF JAKE ENGLISH COMPLETE WITH A GYRATING MECHANICAL ASS.

KARKAT: WHAT A TOTALLY NECESSARY THING TO SHOVE RIGHT INTO MY GANDER BULBS.

KARKAT: DEFINITELY COULDN’T HAVE LIVED WITHOUT SEEING THAT.

DAVE: dude ok dont pretend you dont spend at least 15% of your day ogling jakes ass on television anyway

DAVE: in fact youre doing it right now

KARKAT: WELL I CAN’T HELP IT, DAVE, IT’S RIGHT FUCKING THERE.

KARKAT: OH MY GOD, ARE THE MECHANICAL GLUTES ON THAT BILLBOARD ACTUALLY PADDED WITH PLUSH TO MAKE THEM MORE LIFELIKE?

DAVE: yeah see crazed fans kept climbing the billboards to cop a feel so dirk designed the second run of them to have an accurate recreation of jakes butt density

KARKAT: HE DID WHAT?

DAVE: its wild dude its like exactly spot on

KARKAT: WAIT

KARKAT: HOLY FUCK, HAVE YOU ACTUALLY TOUCHED JAKE’S ASS???

DAVE: i mean not necessarily on purpose but who hasnt

DAVE: like i wouldnt say its so much that i touched his ass its more like his ass copped a feel of my sweaty palm one time and my poor fingers havent been the same since

DAVE: sometimes i wake up from a fevered sleep and find my reluctant groping hand huddled in the corner of my bed all shaking and shit

DAVE: the mind represses but the body remembers

DAVE: ive thought about taking my hand to a psychologist but i dont think the little guy is ready to talk about it yet

DAVE: anyway have you seriously never touched it

KARKAT: I HAVEN’T!

DAVE: not even by accident like brushing by in a crowded elevator

KARKAT: NO

KARKAT: I DON’T SPEND A LOT OF TIME STANDING IN ELEVATORS WITH JAKE FUCKING ENGLISH, OR FOR THAT MATTER, DOING MUCH OF ANYTHING WITH THE IDIOT, AS YOU WELL KNOW.

DAVE: what im hearing is youve tragically never touched his ass and its a bit of a sore subject with you

DAVE: is that why youre so obsessed with it

KARKAT: ?????

DAVE: do you wanna touch it

DAVE: shit can be arranged my dude

DAVE: here ill text dirk right now i bet he can pencil you in to cop a feel sometime next week

KARKAT: NO I DON’T WANT TO. PUT YOUR PHONE THE FUCK AWAY.

KARKAT: WE ARE NEVER HAVING A PLAYDATE WITH DIRK AND JAKE AGAIN, ESPECIALLY NOT ONE ARRANGED FOR THE EXPRESS PURPOSE OF ASSAULTING ONE OF THEM.

DAVE: dude jake lives for this shit

DAVE: its not assault if his ass is begging for it

DAVE: wait wow that sounded bad

DAVE: lets strike that one from the record

DAVE: anyway its no problem he literally will be delighted to hear you want to spend time with him for some insane reason

KARKAT: STOP TEXTING RIGHT NOW!!!

Karkat tries to tear Dave’s phone out of his hand, but Dave simply levitates several inches off the ground to hold it just out of jumping distance. Jade, pouting a bit, glides in between them and uses her Space powers to teleport Dave’s phone out from the center of his traumatized palm and into the pocket of her sweater.

JADE: hey can we focus here?

JADE: jakes ass isnt the one you two should be talking about right now

KARKAT: OH MY GOD, JADE DO YOU EVER FUCKING STOP.

KARKAT: I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR ASS EITHER.

KARKAT: I’VE SEEN IT ABOUT AS MANY TIMES AS I’VE SEEN JAKE’S. THE NOVELTY HAS WORN OFF, ASSUMING THERE EVEN WAS MUCH TO BEGIN WITH.

Jade leers at the boy who may have just implied her ass was nothing to write home about. Her canines are longer and sharper than a normal human’s, making her grin seem more predatory in nature, especially when she wants it to be. Karkat shivers at the sight of it.

JADE: thats NOT what im talking about...

Jade grabs Karkat’s right hand, and then Dave’s left one, and she begins to pull them toward each other. Both boys recoil, but she is much stronger than them.

DAVE: jade

DAVE: cmon what are you...

She’s doing it. She’s making it hapen.

JADE: this is a DATE dummies!

KARKAT: NO, STOP!

DAVE: dude

Karkat makes a fist so tight that his nubby fingernails pinch his skin. Dave does the opposite. He makes a flat palm, and raises it as if to stop traffic.

JADE: no..... let me.... show you....

JADE: you have to... turn it... flipwise!

She turns Dave’s hand so that it’s cupping Karkat’s angry little fist in its palm. When she pries Karkat’s fingers open finally, they snap close around Dave’s almost automatically. Karkat’s eyes go a little lightbulb-like. Dave’s gone pale and a bit sweaty.

Jade claps, then makes a rectangle with her thumbs and forefingers, framing her hand-holding besties at the center of it. She’s taking a picture with her brain right now—Dave and Karkat, being all shy and intimate with the romantic backdrop of a brilliant twilight behind them. A pretty portrait. Put her in the middle of it, and it’s a work of art. Just what she wants the rest of her life to be. After all, where would these two pitiful beta boys be without her?

JADE: see i dont mind at all!

JADE: i would never try to break up what you two have.... im just trying to make it BETTER!

With a satisfied smile, Jade dips under their arms and hooks her hands around either waist, pulling Dave and Karkat up flush against her. Their fingers remain entwined behind her back. She begins walking them down the ridge of the hill, beaming brighter than the first stars in the sky.

JADE: see isnt this perfect?

JADE: it could be like this all the time you know... the three of us in every combination

JADE: or whatever combinations you two are comfortable with

JADE: heheheheh.... positions too!!!

Dave has gone catatonic. Karkat’s just as quiet, but it’s a quiet that’s as loud and alarmed as his actual voice. He’s got his head turned away from the situation he’s been forced into, as far as it will go. He’s concentrating so hard on looking elsewhere that he trips over a rock and is only saved by Jade picking the three of them off the ground as she takes flight. Karkat’s legs flail when his feet go out from under him.

KARKAT: AUGH! DON’T DO THAT!

KARKAT: YOU KNOW I FUCKING HATE THAT!

Jade sets them back on the ground, cackling like the witch she is. Karkat still won’t look at her. She stops laughing abruptly, sensing that her plan isn’t going as well as she’d hoped. She views the two boys as a broken electrical circuit, and herself as the conductor between the two charged points. She just needs to maneuver it into the correct configuration, like she did with their hands. She does a few quick calculations in her head, refusing to give up on her assumption that relationship issues can be solved the same way math problems can.

JADE: dont worry karkat theres nothing to be scared of...

JADE: well take care of you... right dave?

Dave doesn’t answer. She answers for him by leaning down and planting a dry, affectionate kiss on Karkat’s cheek. He yelps and leaps away like he’s been scalded by a burning iron, liberating himself from the deeply uncomfortable hug triad.

KARKAT: OKAY THAT IS IT.

KARKAT: I AM DRAWING A FUCKING LINE IN THE SAND RIGHT HERE AND NOW, JADE. YOU WILL CEASE THIS ENDLESS VIOLATION OF MY PERSON WITH YOUR MOUTH, FINGERS, AND OCCASIONALLY, YOUR FUCKING TAIL.

KARKAT: I AM NOT A PIECE OF MEAT THAT YOU CAN BRUTALLY AND VICIOUSLY MOLEST WHENEVER YOU’RE BORED.

JADE: brutally and viciously?????

JADE: :\

KARKAT: ALRIGHT, IT’S POSSIBLE I’M OVERREACTING. BUT THAT’S MY *FUCKING RIGHT* AS A FREE AND AUTONOMOUS PERSON WITH A CERTAIN DEGREE OF FUNDAMENTAL BODILY SOVEREIGNTY ENDOWED TO HIM BY THE GODS OF *MOTHER FUCKING CONSENT*.

DAVE: (mm hm)

JADE: sigh...

KARKAT: BUT I HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M GETTING AT HERE, WHICH IS THAT I WANT YOU TO STOP DOING SHIT LIKE KISSING ME WITHOUT ASKING PERMISSION FIRST.

JADE: karkat youre absolutely right

JADE: and i couldnt agree more with you on issues of consent as everyone whos gotten to know me well enough is perfectly aware

JADE: BUT

JADE: im not the one who kissed you silly.....

KARKAT: WHA...?

Jade covers her mouth coquettishly and winks.

JADE: it was.......DAVE!!!!!

Dave turns around, shoulders going rigid, and eyes popping open like he’s just awoken from one of the terrible, sweaty nightmares he was projecting onto his hand earlier.

DAVE: i what

JADE: you kissed karkat! finally!!!

DAVE: n

DAVE: no

DAVE: no i didnt

DAVE: why would i...

Dave hesitates. Jade is giddy with anticipation. She couldn’t possibly look more pleased by her own handiwork.

DAVE: i have no idea what youre talking about

DAVE: i would never

DAVE: youre wack jade im not

JADE: wack????

DAVE: why would i kiss karkat ive never even once thought about kissing karkat

DAVE: how would you even fucking do it

DAVE: hes so

DAVE: petite

KARKAT: I’M WHAT?!

DAVE: youre like

DAVE: ok yeah im gonna admit that was a weird thing to say and has got dick all to do with your kissability

KARKAT: GOD DAMN IT.

KARKAT: CAN WE STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS YET??

DAVE: what i mean is like

DAVE: how could somebody kiss this guy

DAVE: like anybody

DAVE: when his teeth are so

KARKAT: WHEN MY TEETH ARE *FUCKING WHAT*?!

DAVE: dude

DAVE: theyre just

DAVE: like theyre huge and

DAVE: not always in your mouth

DAVE: so like how would a guy get his tongue in there

KARKAT: TONGUE??????????

Karkat begins hyperventilating, and momentarily forgets his beef with Jade long enough to lean on her to prevent himself from toppling over.

DAVE: youd have to be really careful to like

DAVE: i mean if you were INTENDING to kiss karkat

DAVE: i mean its not like ive put any thought into this

DAVE: but youd have to be so careful like just so totally gentle in your approach to it because hes so

KARKAT: ENOUGH!

KARKAT: CEASE! I COMMAND YOU!

DAVE: you know

DAVE: like this

DAVE: idk im just spitballing and this is literally the first time the thought has like

DAVE: EVER popped in my head?

DAVE: but upon earnest reflection i dunno if im up to the task

DAVE: um

Dave’s mouth hangs open a bit. His gaze flits from Karkat to Jade and back again. His palms are wet, but his mouth is dry.

DAVE: im not

DAVE: i was never

DAVE: were not

Dave’s mumbling protest slows to a stop.

DAVE: actually ya know what

DAVE: i dont have time for this

DAVE: peace dudes

Dave ollies the fuck out of there, flash-stepping between one second to the next, disappearing thirty seconds into the future with the gusto of a piece of garbage flying into the fucking sun. Jade stares after him, blinking at the glare of the afterimage he left behind. It’s a glimmering slice of ultraviolet that only she can see. It lingers in the unstable particles between the air.

She huffs and puts her hands on her hips.

JADE: wow RUDE!

JADE: siiigh. i forget sometimes how immature dave can be

JADE: well karkat i guess its just us.... do you still wanna go split a plateau of grub spaghetti at the noodle barn?

Karkat, when she turns to address him, is staring at her slack-jawed. He takes a step back, but isn’t watching where he puts his foot. His heel goes into a dip in the hill and he goes stumbling backwards, feet over head.

KARKAT: AH!! FUCK!!!

KARKAT: JADE!!

KARKAT: WOULD!

KARKAT: YOU!

KARKAT: FUCK! OUCH!

KARKAT: A LITTLE!

KARKAT: HELP?!

KARKAT: MAYBE?

KARKAT: AAUUUUGH!

Jade could probably catch him. Actually, she could easily do it, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of favor you should do in a fledgling kismesissitude. So instead she watches him roll all the way to the foot of the hill, knees and elbows bouncing around all rag-dolled and furious as he swears up a storm. He hits the ground back first and just lays there for a few minutes, completely owned. He watches the darkening sky with a hollow look on his face for at least an entire minute. Then he slowly pulls himself to his feet and brushes the brambles off his pants. He points up the hill at Jade and shouts.

KARKAT: FOR THE RECORD

KARKAT: JUST SO WE’RE BOTH CLEAR

KARKAT: THIS IS WHY I HATE LEAVING THE *FUCKING HOUSE*!!!!!!!

He absconds, limping a little and rubbing the left side of his ass, which unfortunately for him affords nowhere near the level of padding as Jake’s legendary backside. Jade puffs out both of her cheeks and stares after him.

JADE: well i guess im eating grub spaghetti alone

JADE: *again*!!!

> ==>
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