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WV: Lead Them To Water

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DAVE: if i never see you again i just wanted you to know 
DAVE: its been real man 
DAVE: you were always there for me 
DAVE: you shared my darkest hours 
DAVE: my deepest secrets 
DAVE: and ill never fucking forget it  

 

 

You are the Warweary Villein, the Wizzardly Vassal, the Wayward Vagabond, and The Mayor. You have adopted four names, progressing from one to the next, each of them containing of a life of their own. When you were Warweary Villein, you were angry. War had torn your world apart, made the lands and carapaces that you loved suffer, and you revolutionized to confront it. Jack Noir slaughtered everyone but you, to live on as a reminder of his cruel power, but you would live on in spite of him. You would watch the windy boy ascend on The Battlefield. When he called you Wizardly Vassal, you had hope. Your journey to help the heroic boy free Skaia from the demon's wrath ended in your loneliness once again. When you were Wayward Vagabond, you were lost. Nearly found, when the company you kept in the exile desert comforted you, but Noir killed them, and your communal spirit, for the last time.

 

Now you are The Mayor, and you have come full circle. You have known anger, known loneliness, known loss, and you are no longer afraid of emotion. When the meteor gathering brings you back to life - and one of the boys recognizes your sash, reminding you of the Town you created - you accept their name for you and join the team. Rebuilding Can Town, as both a visual mural and a three dimensional utopia, becomes your occupation over the next three years. Then as well, you aspire to be a friendly leader and example to the restless young creatures in your new company.

 

They are an intense group, and they fascinate you. You can't speak to the humans and trolls, given that carapace pawns communicate through cerebral blinks, but you are able to understand their words. Both the English and Alternian, though you have found that your party has mutually agreed to adopt the former. You don't think that they will be able to understand you, and your commanding eyes, but all except the long clown boy have little trouble feeling out your silent language. Dave and Karkat, your Knights, are especially sympathetic.

 

Dave is obsessed with you after just days. He and the gallows girl, Terezi, are your first devotees and builders in Can Town. Dave comes to you alone more often than not, talking about everything from his rhythmic aspirations, his Brother who died and left a void in him, his former anxieties about his world's concept of masculinity. Some nights you stay awake with him when sleep has been avoiding him for weeks. He tells you about the time weight, about dead versions of himself and his perception of his failure to protect people. He says he doesn't talk to anyone but you about most of these things, not even the gallows girl. He says you completely get him, and you do, because he is open and suggestible and loving. He talks to the others about being cool and apathetic, but he is hiding things from them behind a wall, a wall you think it would be rescuing to surrender. He tells you he's too afraid to not be strong, to let anyone see how soft he is, "because here, if you're weak, you'll die." On to that, he adds, "and people who get close to me die too." Then he hugs you, betraying the thought. "But I won't let you die." 

 

Karkat comes around not long after. He accidentally finds the room in which Can Town is arising, one night, and wanders over to you because he's "bored." No excuses for spending time with you follow that. He is furious, passionate, and severely vulnerable, and you love him right away. He and Warweary Villein are counterparts; the Alternian world was rife with bloodshed, anarchy his only option because of his mutant blood. He is only around you when you two can be alone, exhaustively insistent that he will not be in Can Town if Dave or Terezi are there. Karkat was red for her once, but those feelings for her die, he says, more every day. He is lonely. He believes, very soundly, that "other people need to be protected from me." He was surrounded by his friends on his planet, but blames himself for how viciously most of them died. You know what that is like. He loves with remorse, aggression, and totality, so intense and so overflowing that it scares him. You impress on him that that kind of powerful love is a gift. He says, deadpan, "gifts are for Twelfth Perigee's Eve." In betrayal, he does something like a shoosh pap to your face, kisses the top of your head.

 

You spend most of the first year with both of them, but never at once. Dave says Karkat is too overblown, "definitely wouldn't hang out with the guy," but occasionally funny. Karkat has nothing even remotely nice to say about Dave. They are both exactly what the other needs, you think, but stubborn as you don't know WHAT. They are both so doggedly afraid of hurting their loved ones, you bet that if they loved each other, they would protect each other fiercely. 

 

You have seen the way they both carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. One tells you that he is lonely, the other that he blames himself for everyone's demise.

 

You know that they are more alike than they realize.

 

Something changes in the teenagers' dynamic during the second year - you can't clarify what for certain, because it involves the clown boy who you cannot understand - that makes Dave and Karkat become indifferent, then neutral to each other. They start to look each other in the eye - behind Dave's glasses - and say two words to each other at meals. Terezi is no longer really around the common areas, which removes their prior reason to suspect each other of something. They are both isolating themselves in general though, from you, from everyone, more than they already were. Dave is growing out his hair, not showering, pretty much only leaving his block to be with you or play with his turntables in a public corner, but less and less does he emerge each day. Karkat saturates the new free real estate in your Dave-Karkat therapy schedule, running to you with a talk-crisis every other morning and night. He's stopped watching his troll romance movies, hasn't sheared his claws in like a month. You are terrifically worried about the boys. 

 

Dave is two weeks into not bathing before even you are affected enough to gently but firmly nudge him in a direction. You don't even have a sense of smell, but he does, and he can smell himself. You can tell he's feeling brutally self conscious, and it hurts to look at him. You give him a very clear look when you walk into his block, and he averts his eyes, which is when you know you have to be gently firm. You climb onto his flat human bed, where he's lying with his computer across his lap in the ultimate pose of LAZY HUMAN, and hover over him to tug the collar of his t-shirt. Tug, tug, even though you both know you can't lift him. He rolls his eyes - big, red, emotional eyes - but you can see his humiliation all over his face. You don't want him to feel like this, you relay, but he has to DO something.

 

He sighs, a shaky little thing, and pushes the computer off his lap. When he sits up and stops your hands from tugging with his own, you see his eyes starting to water.

 

"Sometimes the shower is too much," he explains. "First of all, the water pressure is ass because the thing was completely alchemitized, I got too tall for it a while ago and it makes me feel like I'm not even in my own body, and - it starts to feel - too good. If I get the water too hot and close my eyes and lather the soap I start imagining like I'm back in Texas and I'm gonna walk out into Bro's apartment, and I can't have that."

 

You understand. You wish you could take him home. Your home is gone too.

 

You take him by the hand and lead him to the ablution room, which has both the human shower and the trolls' best attempts at two sopor-less traps. Dave doesn't completely enter the room, not until you reach into the tub and turn the cold water on. You leave it freezing cold. If he can't get comfortable in the shower, he won't have time to daydream. He'll want it to be over as soon as possible, but he'll also be getting clean. Not ideal, but something.

 

"You gonna undress me too?" he says, smiling sideways.

 

You don't appreciate his sass.

 

You wait outside the closed door for him to finish washing. He takes eight minutes, which is longer than you thought he would stick it out. You can't tell how much of the odor is gone when he reemerges in his god tier garb, but his hair is soaked, so maybe he used soap with the water. You think about taking him to Rose and Kanaya and asking.

 

"Yes, I actually washed," he says to you, ruffling the hood of your cloak, "and no, I'm not gonna let Rose and Kanaya sniff me. My sister will just say some weird shit like I smell like fuckin' pheromones and I ain't letting the vampire close enough to bite."

 

He's putting on a cheeky front, but he's still very sad. He probably did daydream of his Brother's house, even in the cold. You think it has less to do with the shower itself and more to do with him building the whole thing up into a self fulfilling prophecy, at this point. If he's projecting his fear of his time-traveling-(im)mortality onto the act of bathing now, you might be in possession of some problems. You need him not to wither away before the trip is over. Karkat either.

 

That night, many hours later, Karkat breaks down to you when he finds out Terezi and Gamzee are pitch. He says it's not their relationship itself, though the idea is strange, that's got him dissociated and losing his grip. It's not because he wanted her or him to himself, or at least, not anymore. "Those feelings are gone." It's that he feels like he's been living on this meteor so long, he's forgotten how it would even feel. To be interested in what they have, with anyone. He used to hunger and thirst for intimacy, for romance, for companionship. He doesn't even want friendship anymore. He remembers his selfish glory days when he was arguing left and right with Sollux and Eridan about how fucking chosen they were that he would even consider lowering himself. For the diseases that would be their friendship. Now he wouldn't even go back in time and say it again, because paradox space is cruel, and he can't re-live it, he can't miss his dead friends and miss not being an unfeeling ghost in a live troll's body, he can't, he can't.

 

He looks so tired. Sitting across the floor from you, thinning out even for him. He's clean, always that, not like your other, thick-compact under his sweater and face still round. But his cheeks have hollowed a little the last few months, and his horns dry out and flake when he isn't sleeping and eating right, and his skin tinges darker, somehow. He has always had dark shadows under his eyes - big, gold, expressive eyes - but right now, there are shadows all over him and you want them to leave.

 

You want him to feel alive, to feel loved, to feel, and you are only just one pawn. 

 

"I'm just fucking emotionally starved. I try to reach out - to her, to him, to anyone - platonically, even, and." Karkat's eyes brim with red. "It just feels like a never ending drought." 

 

You are going to lead both of these boys to water, so HELP you.

 

You stand hurriedly, and Karkat looks alarmed. Not leaving, you communicate through sight, and he relaxes, I'm going to get the ocean. You leave him to puzzle what that means and run to Dave's block. Dave is surprisingly not in his slumped computer pose, sitting upright at his desk working on the rhythms. You may have knocked a little sense into him earlier. A little. He takes off his headphones and turns to look at you, soon as he senses you there.

 

"What's up? Did you finally open that can of Tab that got all stuck when Rose dropped 'em everywhere 'cause she was fuckin' hammered? Sorry I didn't help you man, I was unmentionables deep into these lyrics and it didn't even occur to me that that's what you were doin' over there until like, two hours later, and then I kinda felt like too much of an asshole to say anything."

 

You point eagerly in the direction of the doorway, the hall. 

 

"Thank god, I was going a little stir crazy in here."

 

You hold Dave's hand and lead him into Can Town. When you bring him into Karkat's view, both of them are not surprised see to each other. They seem to know that they've hit rock bottom, and that if any way is up, it might as well be this long-time-coming joint therapy session in Can Town. You are a vessel for their prides and emotions, one and the same. It's time for them to look through you to see to each other. 

 

"Hey," Karkat says.

 

"Hey."

 

They have been assigned to moving all of the sheep in Can Town's western farmlands to greener pastures, to make room for the body of water you plan on drawing in the sheep farm's place. Their migration takes a journey, collecting dozens of cotton animals in their hands and taking them over the forest to the clearing on the other side. They get distracted in the middle of the labor, but that was your plan. They stop to observe the new farmhouses you added last week that they hadn't noticed yet.

 

"I love how much detail The Mayor puts into this," Dave says to Karkat, tender and fond. "Like the little fuckin' houses have these water mills and butter churns and porch steps and who would even notice that, y'know? But he cares. Makes me wonder what the fuck I been doing the last year."

 

"Right?" Karkat snorts. "I've been frying holes into my thinkpan and inventing hundreds of new ways to tell someone to go fuck themselves, meanwhile The Mayor has been carefully plotting peaceful world domination via this municipal fucking paradise. I love it."

 

Dave looks at him as if it's finally clicking for him. "He's, like, your best friend, right?"

 

"Yeah. Duh. How could he not be? He's perfect."

 

"Isn't he though?" 

 

Karkat's expression displays the same set of clicks.

 

At the end of the night, Dave admits, "You aren't so bad," and Karkat, "You too."

 

They begin joining you in Can Town, together, every other day or two, finally saving you time by just booking one appointment. You are delighted by how much they talk to each other, even if the arguments are numerous and loud, though you half expected that. But they sure fight about a lot of things that aren't really things. Sometimes they seamlessly transition from bickering to genuine bonding laughter in a moment's notice, which surprises you at first - Karkat can hold a grudge when he wants to - and then makes sense. They are both "cool" "guys" who have to act like no one impresses them, but really, they're both fanning themselves on the inside hoping that they impress you. The first time Dave brings his turntables into Can Town to force Karkat to listen to the rhythms, even Karkat can sense how nervous Dave is and how much he's hoping Karkat will leap into his arms one minute into the first song. Platonically, of course.

 

By the first month or two, you aren't sure if you can call them friends, as the only time they join is if you're there as a buffer. But by three months, you walk into the hallway outside of Can Town to get started with work, and they have drawn strange squares with numbers inside them using your chalk, plus another wavy outline around the box. It looks a lot like the human penis Dave draws all over everything. They are hopping through the squares and when they notice you they teach you how to play. They hang out without you needing to be there. They get into their first really significant fight the day after hopscotch, because Dave tells Karkat the story of how he found his Brother, and Karkat already knows the story from Terezi, and Dave feels rather violated. It thunders out into a beautifully vulnerable conversation that you actually leave the room for the end of. They discuss the predestination of genetics, their respective apocalypses, and Dave gets into his thing about masculinity and homosexuality, and how he's unsure. That is when you leave. You don't want to influence that part. 

 

By six months, you are very sure they're pining. You have seen the way they stare at each other as if you aren't in the room. You are building sidewalks in the new garment district when their funny conversation turns suddenly sour. Karkat shoves a can into Dave's hands with more aggressive force than necessary, telling him that Alternian blood castes are not "stupid horseshit," relaying the violent history he's repeated time and again in defense of his perception of his inferiority. Dave will never agree, and you think this is a gift. They cannot understand each other's deepest insecurities because the worlds in which they come from no longer exist. They stop arguing and just stare, tension and fires. You are wearing Dave's sunglasses, so his eyes are bare. There is a conversation happening that can only be conveyed through their eyes - stop fighting me, shut the fuck up and just see you how I see you, stop fighting me asshole, I need you - that you are uniquely qualified to understand.

 

There are those stares when one doesn't know the other is looking. One morning in the kitchen block, Dave is sewing his Gift of Gab badge to your sash because he has a theory that it could make you speak aloud, when Karkat walks into the other side of the room. Drowsy, barely awake, pouring coffee, grumpy from a night of fitful sleep. Dave's hands stop his needle's threading against his will. He pauses to study him. Karkat has his back to you both, his thready sleep t-shirt hanging past his thighs. Dave stares at his ankles, gray and tough; sweeps his eyes up the backs of his legs, smooth yet sturdy; he swallows and that lump in his throat drops. Fixes his red eyes to the back of Karkat's head, dark tangle of hair and nubby horns. Dave's gaze is soft with a touch of hurt. Yearning, almost drunk with it, wanting to soothe that mind so much it dazes him. He follows Karkat's figure until it leaves the room.

 

When he looks back to you, he understands what you mean.

 

"I'll catch up with 'm later," he says, in his defense. "Ain't nothing getting through to Karkat when he hasn't been awake for more than six hours, it's like he hates sleep so much that he wastes half the day burning out his energy hating it and then he has to agonize on doing it over again."

 

Later that night, Dave and Karkat have invited you to watch their weekly troll-human movie marathon on the red couch. Before the first movie plays on the purple hustkop, Karkat insists - when Dave sits close enough to him that to they could touch, red-sleeved arm slung around the couch's back - that "You are in the Mayor's spot." They always want you to sit between them, it's tradition, but you think they leave your space even when you aren't around. Dave doesn't seem to protest, at least not yet. He scoots back over, looks at you with so much sudden glee and love that it makes your heart flutter, and pats the cushion twice for you to sit.

 

When Dave gets up an hour later to answer a call on his puppet phone from Rose, he paces about the side of the room, laughs and rags with her in total focus. Karkat is no longer watching the troll historical romance film. His eyes are now watching Dave's smile, the way he talks so expressively with his hands, the way he bowls over when something hilarious overtakes him. Karkat's brow pinches together just a touch, frustrated and longing, and you know what he's saying - you look so good when you laugh, I hate you, I love you, I love seeing you happy, just fucking kiss me -  and then Karkat does something that surprises you. His throat is betraying him, making those little trilling humming noises, barely audible. You haven't heard him do that in almost in a year. He just lets them happen, though he's breathing harder, still watching Dave on the phone. Making himself feel it all the way through. 

 

Sometimes when Karkat is in the throes of the worst of his nightmares, you notice. You will wake up and just know. You don't have as many nightmares as the active players, but as a Dersite, you know how terrifying they can be. Tonight, this happens long after you left them to the rest of their movies. Sometimes Karkat will talk to you about Blood powers, and though he mostly theorizes he has none, you have a theory that this is a symptom. Your cerebral eye connection to him bleeds deeper than Dave's, on this level. 

 

You equip your Mayoral sash and start looking around for him. He is not in his block, nor on the red couch or any of the main common areas. Suddenly, you wonder if he went there. You head to Dave's block, and as silently as you can, peer through the open slit of the door. One light is on in the corner, illuminating Dave's bed. Karkat is on his side, breathing heavy, and Dave is cuddled behind him, comforting and shushing him. It occurs to you that maybe they've been doing this for longer than you think. You do not have worry about them anymore, you know that with certainty. 

 

By virtue of the fact that they loved you, they loved each other.