Sorry about the uh, five month wait, guys. School hit me, and it hit me hard. I'm still buried under an avalanche, but I won't bore you with my life story.

One more chapter! I actually meant for this to be the final one, but I felt bad withholding nice stories from you all, and it was getting long.
I feel kind of worried that it's dragging a bit. chapter. The party. You're all invited.

BTW, to the user who asked, I now have a tumblr. It's pretty barren right now, but you're welcome to follow for writing news, fandom junk, and wips. I promise to at least attempt to be interesting. it's featbbyah (at tumblr).

Sollux was Karkat's entire world at the moment. The rest of the dark beach was obscured by all of the person above him. Sollux' hands, clammy and covered in sand, were creeping up his sides, sliding under his damp shirt, and Karkat squirmed with impatience. Sollux laughed above him. Karkat could feel cold seeping further down his body.

He opened his mouth to speak- hey, idiot, the tide's coming in and we're going to- but when he opened his eyes to shoot a fond glare at Sollux, he choked in shock. Instead of his stupid, smiling boyfriend, Gamzee was perched above him, huge and overbearing, caging him with his arms and hair and entire body.

"Something wrong, my best motherfucker?"

I'm going to THROW UP

Karkat began struggle in earnest, but in addition to Gamzee's weight on his hips and hands by his ears, there were two more freezing hands clamped in a vice grip around his wrists. He snapped his head back, craning his neck to see who was above him, and there was Eridan, half-immersed in the rising surf, apologies dribbling from his lips.

"I'm sorry Kar, I never wanted this-"


"I missed you, Karbro," Gamzee, murmuring from above.

Shit fuck fuck fuck

Karkat couldn't get enough air, the water was up to his cheekbones, the back of his head was underneath already-

"I just want you to be safe," a nightmare of two voices pleaded and assured him-

"SHIT!" Karkat awoke with a massive jerk, and took big gaping breaths of air. Sollux was cursing and rubbing his jaw, where apparently Karkat's head had been nestled before it headbutted him. One huge breath turned into several- great, hyperventilating, fucking awesome –

Solluxgot over his annoyance admirably fast and clapped a hand on Karkat's back.

"Hey, calm down, KK. You're okay. You're okay, you're here."

It took several minutes of deep breathing, an amazing wade through a mental swamp of terror, and Sollux rubbing his back, but Karkat finally returned to reality, a cold sweat quickly evaporating on his skin. He pushed away from Sollux, who blinked at him, for once not behind those dumb tinted glasses.

"You alright?" Sollux asked, pulling Karkat towards his side. Karkat kind of hated him for not being grossed out by his clammy skin.

"I'm fine. It was just a bad dream. Oh my fuck, a seriously bad dream." Deep breaths, Heart, I'd fucking appreciate you quieting down in there so you don't punch a hole through my chest, thanks.

"So…" Sollux' tone bordered on conversational, but for the most part was decidedly awkward. "It's, uh…Friday. Do you have class?"

"Not any that I'm planning to attend," Karkat muttered, pulling his sweat-damp shirt over his head. He scowled when he noticed Sollux trying to hide the once-over he was giving Karkat. "Way to be a total creep."

"What the hell, KK, there's nothing wrong with appreciating the view." Sollux leaned forward, pushing Karkat down with him as he returned to his pillow. Karkat growled, but acquiesced to the arms wrapped around him. One of Sollux' legs slipped between his own, and a hand trailed up his side.

"What did you dream about?" Sollux asked, his breath warm against Karkat's ears.

"Eridan." Sollux pulled back, face rumpled in displeasure.

"That is a nightmare. Way to ruin the mood, KK."

"You're the one who asked," Karkat said. He frowned at the ceiling for a few seconds.

Sollux waited through an awkward silence before rolling his eyes and pulling Karkat close again.

"Still in the mood. Don't worry. Anyways, since you'll be skipping class, maybe I can interest you in some alternative activities this morning?" What's that noise, Karkat? Oh, nothing, just my fucking heart beating a hundred miles per minute in a nearly successful attempt to burst out of my chest.

"I…I dreamed about you too. It was pretty nice, until that idiot showed up, I guess." Sollux pulled back to look at him again.

"'Pretty nice', huh? What kind of thing would that entail? Actually wait, I'm feeling conflicted because you said Eridan showed up."

Karkat snarled and clapped a hand over Sollux' mouth.

"If you're just going to say stupid shit, don't talk, please." Sollux grabbed his wrist and moved in close to his face.

"Ehehehe, it's good thing I wasn't planning to say much after this."

Karkat felt the morning had gone fairly well. After some unmentionable activities with his boyfr- boy-….roommate, they had gotten ready, and Karkat managed to trip him on the way to the bathroom. He purchased a fat muffin, eagerly anticipating with shining eyes the moment when he could shove the caloric chunk of carbohydrates down his throat- fuck you, it's the only thing they have that isn't completely inedible.

Now he was settled on one of the grubby couches in the student building, gnawing on it semi-mindlessly and watching students pass by intermittently outside. It was amazing how…normal everything seemed. In however many hours, he'd be facing Gamzee's bizarre pseudo-romantic overtures (delivered with the flourish of a baseball bat) and potentially pulling Vriska's nails out of his face as she cackled about how eassssssssy he was to take down. Maybe he'd also be dealing with Eridan's backstabbing ass, whaling on him with a fire extinguisher, blubbering apologies and 'I thought this would be better, Kar, cross my heart!'s all over the place.

This was the view before the fall.

Karkat took out his aggression on the last of the muffin, which crumbled to pieces one too many bites into it. It was time to face the music, try to go out in the most blinding supernova he could muster- but his dad's words weaved through the self-indulgent fantasies about beating the shit out of everyone at the party.

"Get over yourself, and slip out the back. If this thing gets too big, you shut your mouth, you wait for a back door, and you get the fuck out of there. Got it?" The words rang like a bell, but they were accompanied by an image of Aradia, looking used up and tired in her sickbed, and for some reason Tavros was in there too, pushing his wheelchair up the ramp to their classroom.

"Yeah," Karkat murmured, eyes focused on nothing in the distance. "Got it, Dad. Easier said than done."

He didn't notice the person approaching until they cleared their throat.

"Uh...hi, Karkat."

Karkat couldn't help but do a double take. Tavros sat before him in his wheelchair, looking…worn.

"Tavros? What's up?" Tavros wheeled a little closer, eyeing Karkat warily.

"It's Friday…are you, uh…going to Equius' party tonight?" Tavros asked, not breaking eye contact.

Karkat sighed, rolling his eyes.

"If you're the guy I have to RSVP with, then yes. Against my better fucking judgement, I will be at your terrible party."

"And against my advice, I guess." Karkat's eyes snapped to Tavros', only to see a very…strong expression there. If Karkat could come close to naming it, he'd call it pity. Pity laced with a strong feeling of 'you incredible dumbass', hard as it was to believe Tavros could ever express that in a straightforward manner. First time for everything, I guess.

"Yeah. Yeah, I figured that delaying it would accomplish fuckall in the general scheme of things- through various instances, I've learned that if my psychotic ex-roommate and his bizarre little crew want to fuck me up, they're going to do it whether I make it easy for them or not. I thought you'd know that better than anyone, considering you seem fine with siccing your dog on anyone Vriska deigns worthy of her awful little 'protection' agency-" Tavros almost didn't flinch, to his credit, "-which SUCKS, by the way. What a goddamned stupid idea. 'Hurt them before they get hurt'? That sounds almost as solid as Eridan's entire fucking social agenda. So the short answer, Nitram? Yeah, I will be at the goddamned party."

There was a long pause before Tavros spoke.

"If you…gave them a chance, you'd understand that they're trying to make up for their mistakes."

Karkat was seething now.

"What the fuck, Nitram, you're so fucking brainwashed you can't even see it-"

"You just don't get it. This isn't about revenge. It's about having faith in people. And forgiveness," Tavros said, his voice raising a pitch in conviction.

"Bullshit. You know it's deeper than that. Who is Doc-" Karkat trailed off before he could finish. Tavros was shaking his head, as well as making a, frankly, stupid-looking facial expression.

"That can only mean I've been noticed, I guess," a familiar voice sighed from behind him.


Karkat whirled around, to see the one person he probably wanted to be involved with this the least stepping closer.

"Terezi, you cannot possibly fathom how little this situation has anything to do with you. ANYTHING," he ground out, hoping for once in their relationship she'd actually take his ever so generous offer to get the fuck out and do so.

"Karkles! Was that even a sentence?" Oh, fuck me.

"Were you spying on us?" he asked, in a poor effort to distract her from the previous topic. Terezi was sharp, but she her curiosity made her surprisingly easy to bait around. Unfortunately, Karkat sucked at that just as much as he sucked at being a normal college student.

Terezi tapped her way over to him and Tavros, making a bigger show than usual with her cane. Of course, Tavros probably didn't know that. Karkat eyed her with one part suspicion and fifteen parts 'please leave, you incredible douche'. She brought her cane up to tap on Tavros' wheel, face suddenly alight with exaggerated (FAKE) understanding.

"So it is Tavros! I almost thought it was Makara, with that weird scent, but I smelled the distinct presence of hand sanitizer and hair product, so you were my final deduction!" Terezi exclaimed. She was in fine 'ignore Karkat's excellent advice' form today, it seemed. Tavros smiled.

"Uh, hey, Terezi…I guess you start to smell like the people you live with after a while…"

"So what delicious secrets were you two talking about? I think I almost heard a name."

In some form of benevolence from the gods, Tavros laughed and shook his head.

"It's nothing you have to worry about, Terezi. I was just, uh, giving Karkat some good advice. 'Put on a good show', you know? I think it's good to remember, myself." Tavros pulled out a cellphone, and checked it. "But, uh, listen…I have the party later that I need to get ready for. I'm gonna head out, if that's okay with you." He wheeled away from them, then stopped and spun a little to look at Karkat. "Um…you don't have to believe it, you just have to make everyone else believe it." Then he hastily made off.

Karkat stared at Tavros' as he wheeled away faster than Karkat would ever give the guy credit for. Put on a show? What the fuck does that mean?

"What interesting parting words, wouldn't you agree, Mr. Vantas?" Terezi waggled her eyebrows expectantly at Karkat.

"Not now, Terezi," he ground out, a headache gnawing at his skull.

"No, of course not now, we have preparations to make, a party to attend, and apparently a show to put on, as well!" Karkat sighed shakily and massaged his temples, letting Terezi grab his arm and tug him along with her.

There was the tiniest inkling of comprehension dawning, growing, reverberating in Karkat's head.

If it would keep them safe, wouldn't you hurt them?

Put on a good show for Doc Scratch, and maybe he'll leave you alone.