aka fun sleepover with the besties :heart:

content notes: discussions of emotional and physical abuse, heat waves + wildfires, vicious arguing, victim blaming, alcoholism, sexual tension! congrats!, emetophobia triggers, lotsa gross stuff sorry :(, makeout scene but its not that horny, toxic paladinity ??, been informed this one has oppressive vibes so psychics gotta skip this one too

This could really only happen during that kind of summer.

It started in winter, you see, because the company tore up three square miles of grassland and paved a quarter of it. The floods started early, March through May, so they couldn't finish it in time, and all the loose dirt went pouring into the city as mud. That must have tired Kendiryan out, because June was blistering and the river was dust by July. No controlled burns the last couple years, the rebels doing them died in the Second War, so the sky turned red in August. That started a whole mess with the power grid and the water rationing and the Guard.

So Kada came and stayed, because their entire block had the electric shut off and the water was muddy brown. They got the couch, Binary got the bed because of his height, and Karkat set up an air mattress in the study. Things were like this for a week, and it was tolerable. Then Binary had to go off to Peltaq for some fucking reason, and he let Kada stay. It was Karkat's house, really - he was the one who cleaned it, who cooked food in it, who decorated it - but someone else invited someone else to it. So he didn't have a choice.

And right after Binary left, of course, the power went out. No way to know when it would come back on. The heat was unrelenting, even by 11 pm. Things were tense and Karkat was sick of it. All he could do was wait for September.

He leaned against the bathroom door, lightheaded from the heat. "You done yet?"

"Go lay in the kitchen 'r whatever," Kada slurred. "Just leave me alone."

"That tile's plastic, not ceramic. It's not cold."

"Don't care, didn't ask - motherfucker," and they dry heaved again. They'd been at it for 20 minutes. "There's water in here somewhere, right?"

"You're in a bathroom, Kada."

"Charming. You know damn well what I mean."

"It's out in the kitchen."

They paused, then groaned. "Could you go get me some. Please. You can… I'll let you stay in here. If you want. All night. Just… please."

"Of course." He smiled despite himself and took extra just in case.

When he returned and opened the door, they were panting, curled up against the cool shower basin. They looked even more washed-up than usual: frizzy hair, mussed-up feathers, sweaty tank top glued to paper-pale skin. They could kind of wear it, usually. Among leagues of uniformed, well-groomed drones, it was a power move. In a small, hot bathroom, it was just pathetic. "Stop looking at me like that," they growled, and held a shaky hand out.

"Like what?"

"Like you're better than me."

"Oh. Sorry." He put effort into not changing his expression and passed them a bottle. Emergency street lamps turned the room soft, faint red.

Their hand brushed against his as they grabbed it, and they tore the cap off, chugged it. Their whole body was trembling with desperation. He stared, just to piss them off. Once three quarters of the bottle was gone, they pulled away and slammed it on the ground, out of breath. "You look like shit."

"You're welcome." He cracked one open and took a sip. It didn't help with the lightheadedness, or the tightness in his muscles. "I'm not leaving for more until tomorrow and we only have half a case left, so go slow."

"I'm not stupid."

"No more alcohol, either, it dehydrates you."

"I'm not drunk and I'm not twelve," they snapped.

"And I'm not stupid."

They turned away from him and let their wings form a wall. "Fuck off."

"You told me I could stay in here." He sat on the ground, next to them. The glass shower door and ceramic basin were cool. "It's also my apartment."

Kada mumbled something and shut up. He was disappointed. He kind of liked egging them on, honestly. It was a guilty pleasure, almost, a reminder that he had something they didn’t. Something Binary would choose him for. What that was didn’t matter, as long as it was something.

“Fuck do you want,” they growled. “You checking me out or some shit? Quit staring at me.”

“I’m just looking in your general direction. Calm down.” That was a lie.

Kada shifted to glare at him, and got too tired to turn back around. They compensated with a weird noise at the back of their throat and closed their eyes.

Karkat sighed and stood, his muscles weak. God, he hoped he wasn't getting heat exhaustion. He took the hand towel off the rack and turned on the sink, just long enough to get it damp, then shut it off and sat back against the shower. He pressed the towel against his neck, then his face, and it helped a little less than it should've. "Hey, so about the whole alcohol ban-"

"You lied to me."

He froze. "What?"

"You told me that Binary would stop." They closed their wings around themself. "You blamed it on me and it was a fucking lie."

"I never said that-"

"You never said it but he never laid a hand on you or screamed at you or insulted you. Crazy that it kept happening to me and only to me." They stood and turned to face him. "Maybe it was something I said! Maybe I should talk to him! Maybe if I just quit being such a bitch then he would stop!"

He dropped the towel and sprung to his feet. "That was all the shit I was telling myself!" He didn't remember the last time he yelled. The sound was big, too big, and he clutched the sink so it wouldn't topple him over. "And you SLEPT WITH MY HUSBAND!"

"So you know it's wrong!" They spread their wings. "You knew how bad it would hurt me! You knew how bad he would hurt me! I would still be fucking sober if you just TOLD ME!"

"That's your own choice! I'm not responsible for what you do!"

"You led me into the goddamn lion's den, Karkat! What did you THINK would happen!"

"That a grown adult could take care of themself! I didn't even know that about you!"

"That's not the point! The point is that you put me in harm's way for no reason!"

"You did that yourself!"

"You sure as hell weren't helping!"

"Obviously you knew that something wasn't right, so why didn't you just leave!"


Karkat felt his tail fur puff up. "BECAUSE I CAN'T! YOU CAN! YOU STILL CAN!"

"NO THE FUCK I CAN'T!" They were crying. He'd been too pissed off to notice. "YOU SOUND LIKE HIM RIGHT NOW!"

It felt like somebody shot off a gun at a knife fight. He swore his vision blurred. The summer heat felt frigid next to the blinding feeling that surged through him, and the words fell out. "You deserve everything he does to you."

They looked stricken. Silence, for a long moment. And then: “You are such a goddamn coward that I cannot possibly imagine you as a soldier.”

“And you’re such a drunk bitch that I can’t imagine you as functional.” It felt harsh and he didn’t really want to say it, but itcame out anyway. The phrase was bitter and made his mouth water.

"You deserve it, too. I hope you die." They put their back to him. He left on shaking legs.

Karkat took a bottle of vodka from the kitchen and curled up on the couch, sinking into the unbearably warm fabric. His entire body was still blistering with rage, the heat radiating from his skin, and he watched red sparks fall from his fingers. He didn't remember the last time he let himself be angry. But that wasn't anger, that was hatred, and he could stab himself for it. He took a long drink instead.

The neighbors were arguing and he listened, their voices rising and falling like sweet grass in the wind. It was kind of hypnotic, and he would have fallen asleep if he didn't feel horrible. Guilt and fury, yes, but he had a fever, his head was spinning, and his whole body ached like he'd run a marathon. He took another drink, then put the bottle down. He stayed like that for a long time. The fight had drained his energy.

And then he couldn't, because he felt nauseous as hell. He pushed himself off the couch and stumbled as far as the hallway entrance before he turned around, fell to his knees, and threw up bile. It burned his throat like a wildfire. At least it wasn't on that damn rug. Bines would have been pissed.

He made a pitiful noise and tried to stand, but his legs were too weak. His arms could barely hold him up. He fell to his side instead, then his back, and trembled. Holy hell he was pathetic. Kada was right, there was no way he was ever a rebel. A real paladin would be fighting for what's right, not become the trophy husband of the man that beat him and tortured his friends. A real healer would be doing first aid in the poor parts of town, not covered in his own vomit on the floor of a ritzy apartment. A real Elaidken would have converted or killed Kada and Binary both, not laid down on the floor like a helpless kitten. Karkat started to cry. Not even a real company man, now. Just pitiful.

The bathroom door opened, slowly at first and then all at once. "FUCK!" Before he could respond, strong arms encircled his torso and pulled frantically, dragging him to the bathroom and onto the cool tile. He was too weak to resist.

"Karkat! Karkat! Oh my god, are you okay?" Kada hovered above him like an angel. He tried to say something, tried to apologize, but all that came out was a whimper.

They grabbed his damp cloth from earlier off the floor, flying over to the sink. "I'll - I'm gonna help you, don't move. Just don't move." They poured fresh, cold water onto it and wrung it out, then knelt beside him and laid it on his forehead. The relief was immediate and painful. He hissed.

They opened his old water bottle and handed it to him; he was shaking too hard to twist the cap. He hated Bluffs water. Too metallic from the river pollution. Right now, it tasted like heaven.

Kada laid on their back beside him. He drank, slowly so that he wouldn't throw up again, then set it down. "I'm, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry." He stopped to catch his breath. They let him.

"I didn't mean what I said, a-any of it." He took another drink, only because he had to. "I, I, I think I was afraid of being alone, and I had to justify it, justify it to myself. None of that, none of that was okay. Not remotely okay. At all. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so fucking sorry, Kada. Please forgive me."

It didn't feel like remotely enough, but they still said "Thank you." They laughed something watery. "Kinda deserved it, honestly."

He had a straight face. "No, you didn't. Those were terrible things to say. I never should have done that to you."

Silence, for a long moment, until Kada broke it. "I'm… I'm sorry too. I never should have said most of that. I can't forgive you for lying to me, but I was… that was way too much. I never should've said that. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I understand."

A pause. "God, we're so busy being mad at each other that we forgot to be mad at Bines." He could hear the sad little smile in their voice.

"Heh, yeah. Remind me when he gets home."

"Seriously. This is his fault. He hurt us and cheated with me. I didn't know you existed for a long time."

"...We didn't even consider yelling at him, huh?"


"Let's do that, then. If he doesn't kill me before I finish." Anything else would hurt too much, so they both laughed. The room was still mind-numbingly hot.

Kada spread their wings out, brushing his arm, and he let his tail flop against their leg. This was unbearably, dizzyingly intimate in a way he couldn't describe. Being desperate next to somebody was worse than being naked.

You know, they were pretty like this, a painting in deep, rich reds. Their chest was still heaving from the effort of anger and panic, and their soaked shirt was clinging to every detail of their body. It definitely wasn't the heat. He had to look back at the ceiling.

"...Karkat?" They sounded soft, tentative.


"Can I." They paused. "Can I hold your hand?"

"Yeah." He reached out and they grabbed him, hungrily.

He closed his eyes and pretended that the ceiling was the night sky, and the floor was grass, and their hand was… he couldn't think of anything else. He sighed. They stared at him and he liked it. The heat pressed them both down. Time passed.

Kada shifted, slightly. "I want to make out with you."

"That would be nice."

They turned to face each other, and they pulled him flush against their body. There was a single shimmering second where they stayed like that, foreheads and arms and legs and stomachs touching, hearts pounding, hands shaking. Karkat decided to remember this. And then they kissed, and he started having mixed feelings.

Physically, it was kinda bad at first, as far as kissing went. Both of them were damp with sweat, and Karkat still had bile on his legs. His hair was in his face, and refused to stay back, even after Kada tucked it behind his ears. Their body heat only made the air worse. Everything escalated just a little too fast.

Emotionally, it was completely different from anything else he'd ever experienced. They tasted like alcohol and hit him like a molotov: they were hot, dangerous, and the ethics at play were debatable. It felt really, really fucking good, but there was something about it that made him feel ill and disoriented, as if he woke up from a too-long nap. There was a desperation to the way they grasped at each other, like snakes in a breeding ball. Or rats. It was sickly, too emotional and too physical and too warm all at once, what the whole night had been. He was too tired to tell them to stop, so he just let them do what they wanted.

They pulled away for breath and cool air just before they got his shirt all the way off. "You wanna keep going," they asked, panting.

Karkat just blinked up at them. His hands were still shaking.

"Okay," they said, and collapsed beside him again. "I liked that. I think."

"Me too. I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Everything." He waved his arm around in a vague motion. "And stopping."

They laughed a little. "You didn't do anything. 'N don't worry about that, we don't have to do anything you don't want." He knew that, but sometimes he didn't know know that. With everything.

"Alright." He closed his eyes. "It's… it's late."

"Shit, yeah. It's, uh, probably about 1." They stroked his arm in an affectionate gesture, and he took their hand before they could pull it back.

This was nice. Kada was a person to him, now, instead of an obstacle. A weird, kind of scary person, but a person. He leaned over to kiss them on the cheek. They made a pleased sound in the back of their throat, and it was adorable. He let himself fall asleep like that, conflicted.

special thanks to jack and vee for being my beta readers and giving e the confidence to actually post this! in return i government-assign your fursonas as a magpie and a lion, respectively. do with this information what you will

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