Chapter

12

DAVE: so we gotta hit jane right in her neoliberal austerity measures were all agreed on that right

KARKAT: UH HUH.

JADE: yeah sure

DAVE: now shes gonna spin some shit about supply side economics but we cant let her control the narrative on that one cause the first thing thats gonna happen once she begins deregulating the baking industry is that some sweet dumb crocodile down in consort land is gonna start putting sparkle glue in the cupcake mix which isnt even the real issue thats just surface issues

KARKAT: RIGHT.

JADE: definitely

DAVE: i mean earth c has just been play acting capitalism the last five thousand years while we timeskipped ahead to live rad lives as gods without bothering with any of the boring shit that goes into making a civilization

DAVE: which is fine i mean you cant really expect a bunch of teens who didnt finish middle school to set up a sustainable form of social democracy that isnt just blatantly ripped off whatever we incorrectly thought obama god rest his soul was doing back in the day

KARKAT: SIGH

DAVE: but janes got this old school mentality you just know she wants to restrict grist alchemy for the sake of “growth” and when that goes down itll take three seconds flat for some nobody in new dersetown to drop the earth c communist manifesto

DAVE: at which point were in for a speedrun of either our 20th century or her 21st century

DAVE: were gonna glitch under the map straight from marx to clown dictatorship

DAVE: which also isnt the real issue

KARKAT: OH YEAH.

JADE: of course

DAVE: are you two even listening or are you just making noises with your mouths

KARKAT: HOW DARE YOU.

KARKAT: I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M BEING ACCUSED BY DAVE STRIDER, REIGNING EMPEROR OF SPEWING ENDLESS VERBAL DIARRHEA DIRECTLY INTO MY INNOCENT HEAR DUCTS EVERY DAY OF MY FUCKING LIFE, OF MAKING THOUGHTLESS MOUTH NOISES.

KARKAT: JADE, ARE YOU HEARING THIS?

JADE: im scandalized

JADE: especially when

JADE: there are much better things we could all be doing with our mouths.....

It’s been a really nice day they’ve been having, and then Jade had to go say something like that. The air in the hive changes in a way that is palpable, in a way that she can’t seem to accurately gauge despite having both superhuman and superdog senses. She’s lying on her stomach on the floor, chin in her palms, glasses slid down to the tip of her nose, kicking her legs in the air. Elements of her outfit resemble her god tier jammies: peasant skirt, sparkly flats, and a bold choice in striped tights. Her tail swishes from side to side, showing way too much of her thigh, which isn’t really all that salacious considering three of her bras are thrown over the back of the couch where she crashed last night, and the night before that, and the better part of the seven years before that. There are other personal effects of hers in the living room too: plants on the windowstill, her bass guitar sitting in a corner, a horrific-looking periodic table that Dave made her for her seventeenth birthday pinned above the stairwell. He typed it in Comic Sans, and then deep-fried it to oblivion with JPEG artifacts.

Everyone in this room knows each other way too well, so what happens next goes a little like clockwork.

KARKAT: UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Says Karkat, for like thirty seconds straight as he retreats into the bulk of his sweater. He scoots a half foot to put his back against the couch when Jade pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose and looks at him.

And Dave, with his preternaturally perfect timing, sweeps a hand over his tablet to bring up a new PowerPoint slide on the TV. He returns to his Comic Sans-written political presentation, gruesome artifacts and all, with the grace and proficiency of a man who has diffused an awkward situation in his own household many times per day, every day, for many years.

DAVE: anyway we all know the real issue is troll reproduction

DAVE: this election season is gonna be so jacked up with dogwhistles jade will never sleep again

JADE: woof!

DAVE: yo get ready for the top propaganda hits of the year

DAVE: alternia: brutal eugenics based space dictatorship

KARKAT: NOT UNTRUE.

DAVE: troll homeworld: lord of the flies nightmare scenario where kids murder each other just to get the chance to get to grow up and murder other aliens instead

KARKAT: IT WASN’T THAT BAD.

DAVE: actual names of professions on alternia: threshecutioner

DAVE: legislacerator

DAVE: minister of sucking the eyeballs out of your fucking skull then putting my two monstrous hr giger tier troll dicks up in there and just mashing the shit out of your brain with them

KARKAT: YOU MADE THAT LAST ONE UP.

KARKAT: ALSO, IT WAS DISGUSTING??

KARKAT: GROW THE FUCK UP, YOU UTTERLY CONTEMPTIBLE, POTTY MOUTHED *CUNT*.

JADE: also you know trolls dont actually have two dicks dave thats an offensive stereotype

DAVE: i know thats the point keep up guys

DAVE: ready for another one

DAVE: trolls: literally ate babies

KARKAT: ONLY THE DEFECTIVE ONES.

DAVE: like you my dude

KARKAT: ...YEAH.

DAVE: so thats why our campaign can work

KARKAT: ...

DAVE: btw im gonna be giving a long form exam at the end of this to make sure youre retaining info because this is only like the most important thing weve ever done collectively

JADE: siiiiiiiigh

DAVE: aside from creating the universe i mean

JADE: its not that it isnt important dave its that like

JADE: the method youre using to communicate it is kinda........

JADE: inefficient and BORING

DAVE: you mean

DAVE: words

JADE: i mean YOUR words specifically!!!

JADE: we already understand the issues at play you dont have to explain it to us over and over again like were twelve

JADE: right karkat???

KARKAT: ARE YOU ASKING ME WHETHER I’VE HEARD THIS EXACT SPEECH ALMOST WORD FOR WORD, INCLUDING REHEARSED VERSIONS OF BOTH THE COLORFUL METAPHORS AND “JOKES,” TEN OR TWENTY TIMES ALREADY?

KARKAT: BECAUSE THE ANSWER WOULD BE

KARKAT: YES, OF COURSE I FUCKING HAVE.

Karkat elbows Dave in the thigh, a move that is obviously meant to be an action of pure, brotherly jest. But instead it comes off as affectionate and overly intimate. Jade’s clever eyes don’t miss this. Her pupils follow the motion of Karkat’s arm, and then they follow the movement of Dave’s mouth as he smiles in what he probably thinks is a totally neutral expression that reveals exactly 0% of his true feelings toward Karkat Vantas. In reality, his veneer is as thin and transparent as cellophane. He is the only person who can’t see through it.

Jade does some calculations in her head. Two kinds of calculations, in fact: mathematical ones and personal ones.

JADE: soooooo

JADE: do you want a projection of her first years hit on the economy down to the decimal with a 0.3% margin of error

JADE: because thats a thing i can do if itll make you stop talking about this stupid election for ten minutes

DAVE: damn hit me up girl calculator

JADE: i dont think youre wrong about janes plans

She proceeds to dazzle the two boys with explications on complex math utilizing taxation rates, GDP figures, and some damned thing called the “Laffer curve,” which she easily could have just invented to own them both. But the truth is, she cares too deeply for these boys to fabricate silly-sounding economic models on the spot in order to make them seem foolish in front of the camera later.

The thing about Jade Harley is that she’s not as good at personal things as she is at other things. Like science, or mastering fraymotifs, or kissing, the last of which she has definitely put a lot of levels into over the past few years because, well, what else are you supposed to do with immortal godhood once you hit the age where the dog hormones start kicking into overdrive? She rolls over and hitches up on her palms so that she can stare her two friends down. Her high-prescription lenses make her eyes look anime-huge. They might literally be glittering, she’s so completely serious about the issue she is trying to stress.

JADE: so now that thats all out of the way

JADE: its time to get real you two

DAVE: i

JADE: that wasnt an invitation for you to make a pun about having all the time in the world or whatever it was you were going to say

DAVE: oh

JADE: im about to lay out some cold hard evidence so pay attention!

KARKAT: OH, HANG ON, LET ME GET A PEN.

JADE: evidence about.....

JADE: our relationship!

KARKAT: FUCK

JADE: you let me live in your hive when im in town

KARKAT: I CAN’T BELIEVE...

JADE: im preeeetty intimately entwined in both your lives

KARKAT: THAT YOU’RE JUST TALKING ABOUT THIS?

JADE: AND you dont disengage from about 86.234% of my flirtations

KARKAT: WAIT, WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU KEEP TRACK OF SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

JADE: so....... are we doing this or not?

KARKAT: DOING WHAT?!

JADE: dating dummy!!!!!!!!

KARKAT: OH.

KARKAT: THAT IS

KARKAT: THAT IS... A COMPLICATED TOPIC IN MY CULTURE THAT I’M NOT SURE HUMANS ARE EQUIPPED TO TALK ABOUT.

DAVE: also totally unrelated to the economy

DAVE: which not gonna lie is the only thing i want to talk about for uh

DAVE: for however long it takes for this other conversation to stop happening

JADE: so say no!!!

DAVE: well

KARKAT: UHHHHH

JADE: im not just forcing this conversation for my sake! its for you two as well

JADE: i mean after all this time have you two even kissed yet??????

DAVE: wha

KARKAT: WH-WHY WOULD

DAVE: uhh

KARKAT: WHY WOULD WE KISS??

DAVE: thats

KARKAT: THAT’S... YOU... I MEAN, HE’S... HE’S DAVE.

DAVE: we

KARKAT: AND I’M KARKAT.

JADE: yes hes dave and youre karkat and everyone we know always calls you that

JADE: “dave and karkat”

JADE: i cant remember the last time i heard anyone mention one of you without the other

JADE: the two of you have basically been together since your days on the meteor its SO obvious

KARKAT: TOGETHER, YES. AS FRIENDS.

DAVE: yea

KARKAT: VERY CLOSE FRIENDS WHO UNDERSTAND AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER ON A DEEP AND EMPATHETIC LEVEL THAT GOES BEYOND HATE OR PITY. YOU COULD EVEN SAY THAT OUR RELATIONSHIP...

KARKAT: ...TRANSCENDS QUADRANTS.

JADE: yeaaaaaah not gonna lie karkat but that sounds totally kinda gay

KARKAT: UGH YOU HUMANS AND YOUR UNFATHOMABLE GENDER BASED QUADRANTS.

Jade faceplams. She does it a little too hard and slams the bridge of her glasses into her forehead.

JADE: ow!

KARKAT: ANYWAY WEREN’T YOU... DATING THAT CARAPACIAN COUPLE? LAST TIME WE CHECKED?

Jade drags her hand down the bottom half of her face and sighs.

JADE: yeah for FUN

JADE: im twenty three dont you think thats a little old to still be dating for fun

DAVE: wait you saying we arent fun

JADE: whens the last time either of you left the house??????

DAVE: ...

KARKAT: ...

Jade sighs and crawls closer. She takes one of Karkat’s hands in hers.

JADE: i think wed all work good together

In her other hand, she tries to grab Dave’s wrist, but he flash-steps to the other side of the couch. She pouts at him and keeps holding Karkat’s increasingly sweaty palm.

JADE: and i think weve been dancing around that for years now

JADE: i wanna try dating for real

KARKAT: HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED

KARKAT: SORRY IF WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY TOTALLY BLOWS YOUR MIND

KARKAT: DATING A SINGLE PERSON, FOR MORE THAN HALF A SWEEP, FOR REASONS OTHER THAN INITIATING THE CONCUPISCENT EXCHANGE OF FLUIDS?

Jade’s grip on Karkat’s hand gets a little too tight, but her big-toothed smile remains flawlessly pleasant. This is a common sort of exchange between them and could be easily considered flirtation on several different metrics, especially considering the history between them and the sheer level of black flirtation that Karkat accidentally indulged in during his insecure youth. He doesn’t even pull his hand away.

JADE: ok first of all dont slut shame me fuckass

JADE: second of all thats what im trying to do here

JADE: third of all karkat arent you from a culture where people are expected to engage in romantic relationships with up to like five people at a time??

KARKAT: THAT’S NOT

KARKAT: THAT’S NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL.

JADE: oh yeah??? explain the fundamental epistemological difference

KARKAT: WHAT THE FUCK?!

DAVE: ok jade i think theres a flaw in your approach here cause you seem to think winning an argument on super clever logical grounds is gonna get a couple dudes to break down and fling themselves at you in like, a sexual way

JADE: wellll it usually does ;B

DAVE: oh my fucking god

This earns Dave a look. A long, sad one that has Jade messing with her glasses again so that she can peer right at him and apply some more of that faulty personal math to his facial expression.

JADE: dave......

DAVE: what

JADE: is this...........

JADE: about obama???

DAVE: what

DAVE: no i

JADE: dave are you in love with obama?

DAVE: jade jesus where do you get this shit from

JADE: is it about jesus then??????

DAVE: no!

DAVE: jesus wasnt even real

JADE: i know he wasnt real!

JADE: wait...

JADE: are you saying

JADE: obama was real?

DAVE: ...

DAVE: yes

DAVE: obama was real

DAVE: he was the president

KARKAT: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

JADE: all this time i thought obama was like

JADE: an aspirational fictional character that you modeled your life after

KARKAT: AHAHAHAHA I CAN’T AHAHA BREATHE...

JADE: like snoop dog or nicolas cage

KARKAT: THIS IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE

DAVE: they were both real too

DAVE: i know that you grew up on an isolated island in the middle of nowhere and everything but didnt you have like

DAVE: access to the internet

JADE: wow well im sorry i wasted my whole childhood filling my head with pointless things like astrophysics and senary numeral systems that allow me to do complex equations in my head!!!!!!

DAVE: no dude thats kind of fucked up

DAVE: karkat stop laughing jades fucked up childhood isnt funny

KARKAT: HAHAHAHAHA YES IT FUCKING IS!

KARKAT: ALSO SCREW YOU FOR SAYING IT’S NOT FUNNY??

KARKAT: WHY IS IT LIKE SOME SORT OF *TRAGEDY* HOW SHE WAS RAISED?

KARKAT: BECAUSE SHE WAS RAISED ALONE BY AN ANIMAL??

KARKAT: *I* WAS RAISED ALONE BY AN ANIMAL!

KARKAT: FUCK OFF AND LET ME ENJOY THIS!

KARKAT: AHHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Karkat has finally pulled his hand away so that he can clutch his stomach, he’s laughing so hard. Jade gets up and stalks over to where Dave is awkwardly cowering at the other end of the couch and snatches his tablet from him. There’s a ripple in the room that makes it clear their god tier powers have just clashed against each other. He shifts his arm through time and Jade warps the space around them so that she’s the one holding the tablet. This is not the first time that they have rearranged the fabric of reality for a petty reason like this. Karkat has permanently sworn off playing board games with them.

The moment Jade brings the paint program up on the television, Karkat stops laughing.

KARKAT: NO!

He tries to grab the tablet from her, but she’s hovering well above the ground and he simply is not tall enough to reach. With a shit-eating grin and deliberate care, Jade begins to draw a grid.

JADE: ill put this in terms karkat will appreciate, check it out

KARKAT: JADE, I SWEAR TO...

Karkat jumps and tries to grab her skirt, but she swims through the air with ease, giggling as she doodles.

KARKAT: YOU BETTER NOT BE DRAWING WHAT I THINK YOU’RE DRAWING!

Her artistic skill even at the advanced age of twenty-three still leaves something to be desired, but it’s pretty easy to produce recognizable caricatures of the three people in the room right now. She gives Karkat a pair of fuzzy, angry eyebrows and starts drawing other lines. Sinister lines, with salacious meaning. It’s exactly what Karkat fears: a shipping grid.

KARKAT: STOP! CEASE! DESIST THIS MOMENT! DO NOT DRAW ONE MORE LINE!

JADE: oh nooo im drawing a line karkat better stop me before it goes aaaall the way from my mouth to yours!

Karkat catches the back of her shirt and she goes plummeting weightlessly to the floor, still laughing. Karkat tries to wrestle the pen out of her hand, but all he accomplishes is turning the redrom trajectory between her and Dave into a redrom loop-de-loop.

JADE: see me and karkat have great black chemistry!

KARKAT: IT IS NOT BLACK CHEMISTRY YOU HORRID NON-CHITINOUS WINDBAG!

Jade and Karkat roll over each other on the floor and he gets a mouthful of her hair

for his trouble. Jade comes out on top and sits on his back, humming to herself as she crafts her grand design.

JADE: and now that daves all chill hed make a great auspistice

She says, cheerful and oblivious.

DAVE: no

JADE: because you and karkat are kind of like moirails

DAVE: no

JADE: and you and i

JADE: well yknow its always been pretty flirty

DAVE: jade

JADE: EXCEPT!

Jade finishes drawing a shaky heart directly into the paint program. It’s so big and bright on the TV that it fills the entire room with red light. Karkat raises his face and stares at it in utterly bereft horror. The sick light makes the bags under his eyes look like divots.

JADE: in this model..........

JADE: troll quadrants are dumb so we ALL kiss!

JADE: i call this political arrangement:

JADE: fully automated luxury polyamorous space-time communism!!!!!!!

No one reacts. Karkat is defeated, completely. Dave has just crossed his arms and pressed his mouth into a thinner line than usual. Jade’s ears flatten and she huffs. It sounds a little like a dog whining.

JADE: oh come on that was a good one!

JADE: its politically relevant and everything

DAVE: jade im not gonna laugh at your made up ship name for this imaginary threesome thats not happening

Jade rolls her eyes and tosses both the tablet and pen over her shoulder. Dave flashes across the living room to catch his very expensive computing device in both arms. The pen bounces off his forehead. Jade dismounts from Karkat’s poor, abused, terribly mortal spine and brushes down her skirt.

JADE: well ive said what i wanted to say

JADE: its up to you two what you do with it

JADE: i have to go talk to roxy and callie about the election anyway

JADE: call me when you two figure it all out!

Jade clicks her heels together to propel herself back into the air and actually winks at them before absconding through an open window. She has to push the thick curtains aside to do so. Karkat hisses when the light spills over his face.

What Jade leaves in her wake is not quite the emotional scorched-earth situation that she was going for, but a few of her needles have definitely gotten under some skin. Dave and Karkat both stare after her, silently caught in their own private rationalization spirals.

Karkat needs to verbalize part of his out loud.

KARKAT: WOW WHAT A CRAZY AND TOTALLY IMPROBABLE CONVERSATION WE JUST HAD WITH OUR BEST FRIEND JADE.

DAVE: y...

DAVE: yeah

KARKAT: WHAT A GOOD THING FOR US THAT SHE’S TOTALLY DELUSIONAL AND HAS NO IDEA WHAT SHE’S TALKING ABOUT, HUH?

DAVE: for sure

Dave offers Karkat a hand up from the floor. When their palms connect, there’s a moment where something could happen. A little spark of potential. It would be so very easy for something to happen.

KARKAT: ...........

DAVE: ..........

KARKAT: WANNA PLAY SOME TROLL TONY HAWK?

DAVE: hell

DAVE: yeah

> ==>
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