The Captchalogue prompt that resulted in this being written:
What Karkat's been through recently is horrifying and then some, and I just want to give him a hug. So I'm requesting something where, in the future, everything has been somehow worked out (without more deaths, plz ;_;) and there's no universe-threatening danger anymore, but Karkat is still traumatized as hell. I want to see his matesprit being there for him and helping him work through it - paranoia, nightmares, breakdowns, inability to sleep at night, whatever makes sense. Just... someone lovingly comforting Karkat whenever he needs it and helping him get back on his feet after all that's happened.
Preferred pairing is John/Karkat, but feel free to replace John with Jade, Terezi, or anyone within reason as long as it's redrom. Make me b'awwww, make me d'awwww, and most importantly, make Karkat feel better.
Minus points for in-game instead of post-game, and no preferred pairing bonus, but I hope what I've written is satisfactory.
So I don't really post my stuff here much anymore (I'm on AO3 if you didn't know and want to read more of my drivel for reasons I'll never understand). But I finally wrote something I liked enough to crosspost it here and put up with formatting it a third time, so damnit, here you go.
Time will kill all the pain
Faith will cure the decay
Of all this blind ambition
The greed brings us together
You are TEREZI PYROPE, and you are kind of in a hurry.
There isn't a moment to lose after you finally confront Vriska. In light of new evidence and an additional witness, your case against the thief is dropped, but a dangerous serial killer still prowls the halls. You will have justice this day.
The three of you (the legislacerator, the goddess, the daywalker) stick together. You may very well be the last suvivors of the bard's purge, and it is with not a little despair that you make note of this. You cannot shake the sight of broken nubs and pools of bright red from your mind's eye, no matter how hard you try.
You round a corner and at once are relieved to be wrong and horrified at the scene. Gamzee is standing over Karkat, holding the most terrifying weapon you've ever had the displeasure of smelling. Bright swirls of color (taken from the palette of the hemospectrum); topped with a star (the burning sun of Alternia); decorated with a smiling clown face (the mark of the subjugglators). It could only be that fearsome warhammer once wielded by Zyl'hiyu, the most merciless subjugglator in Alternian history.
And the mad clown holds it high, ready to strike the knight down.
You take a step forward and unsheathe the hidden blade in your cane in righteous fury, without any hint of fear or regard for your own personal safety. You are able to take three more before you have realized Kanaya has already closed the distance. You realize what has happened and stop running just before the echo of the flat of her chainsaw crashing into Gamzee's skull stops reverberating through the room. His body slumps to the ground, alive but quite thoroughly KO'd.
You sniff the air as you approach the wounded boy. Karkat is either shivering or trembling and he has yet to take his eyes off you. You walk toward him, grinning that same ear-to-ear sharktoothed grin you always have.
"Hehehehehe. Did you miss me, Karkles?"
You kneel down beside him and expect him to make some witty retort about the fact that you're still wearing your old FLARP costume. You're expecting him to stand up and pace while he rages at you about how you need to be more careful. You're ready for a long, angry speech about the crazy nooksuckers who tried to rampage all over everyone.
What you are not ready for is Karkat launching himself at you with all of the power that a terrified troll boy of six sweeps can muster, clinging to you as if his life depends on it, and beginning to sob wildly into your shoulder. Yet that is exactly what happens.
You think he's trying to tell you something but the noises coming out of his windhole are less like speech and more like crazed gibberish. You have never seen him like this before. It is absolutely pitiful. You tightly embrace him and rub his back. You tell him it's okay, you're here and things are going to be okay now.
But something in the back of your mind tells you that it will be a long time before Karkat Vantas will be anything even remotely resembling "okay."
═ ═ ›
"What the motherfuck happened?"
The four of you (the lawyer, the thief, the rainbow drinker, the blind prophet) surround Gamzee, weapons drawn (in Sollux's case, Feferi's old trident), as his eyes blink back open and he returns to the waking world. At your insistence, he was kept alive ("the guilty must stare down justice with both eyes open!" you said) but that didn't mean you were taking any chances. He is restrained and tied to the leg of a table that is not so much bolted to the floor as it is molded from it. If the Bard of Rage still has murderous intent, he will not be able to unleash it here.
"Whoa, fuck. I can't fucking move my arms and legs. What's going on here?"
He struggles against the chains binding him uselessly before noticing the four of you standing above him, brandishing your respective weapons.
"...oh, shit. Am I in trouble?"
You can practically feel him turning the words over in his mind as he says them.
"Oh, fuck. Fuck, fuuuuuuuuuck. Tell me I'm motherfuckin' imagining this shit!"
He struggles harder against his restraints and manages to free an arm. You raise your cane, ready to strike should he make a move against you, but his hand simply moves to his face. He winces slightly when he feels the gashes left by your dead friend's claws and starts breaking down when the tips of his fingers come away lightly stained indigo.
"What the motherfuck did I do?"
═ ═ ›
Just as you thought, Karkat had retreated to his makeshift respiteblock after he was finally able to peel himself from your shoulder. You cannot say you agree with the current course of action, but both Vriska and Gamzee were adamant about it, and Sollux is willing to do anything to help his best friend.
Vriska is the first to get his attention. "Kaaaaaaaarkat? There's someone here who wants to see you. Don't be scared, we're watching, okay?" His eyes widen in panic when he realizes who it has to be, and they're as big as nutritional plateaus when he steps into the room.
Neither of them speak for a long, awkward period of time. Finally, after what feels like sweeps...
"...hey, best friend."
Gamzee does not venture to step any further into the room beyond a few feet in front of the door. "Look, you ain't gotta fuckin' worry about the mirthful motherfuckin' messiahs no more, okay?"
He raises both of his hands to show Karkat that he is clasped in irons, a punishment he begged you for, personally; "I know my fuckin' lady of justice has shit like that, and I'm not moving from this motherfuckin' spot unless you put me in 'em," he demanded of you. He gestures to Kanaya and grins just a bit as he continues, "my most fuckin' bloodthirsty of sisters here knocked those evil fuckers clear out of my motherfuckin' think pan when she fuckin' bashed me upside my goddamn head."
Karkat does not speak, but continues to stare wild-eyed at Gamzee. His gaze never leaves him.
"I'm not asking for fuckin' forgiveness, a'ight? I don't fuckin' deserve your wicked reconsider, fuck, I ain't never gonna forgive myself any-fuckin'-way. But, uh... I'm fuckin' sorry, okay? Fuck, that ain't nearly fuckin' good enough-"
"Gamzee, shut up."
You gasp. These are the first coherent words Karkat has spoken since you found him.
"None of it's your fault, okay? That blood's on my hands. I was your goddamned leader and I fucking failed spectacularly at keeping any of this from happening. So... it's all my fault. Don't, don't fucking worry about it."
Gamzee and the others leave his respiteblock without a word. You try to stay with him but he shoos you away.
When you close the door behind you, you swear you can hear him crying quietly.
═ ═ ›
It's day, or what passes for day in the Veil, which means everyone's asleep. Except you, because you volunteered for today's guard duty. Someone has to keep an eye out for the Demon, after all. As you patrol the hallways of the astroid facility, you can hear what sounds like a low rumbling coming from deeper within the complex.
You enter the room of the noise's origin to find a certain red-blooded troll pushing some kind of box into an incinerator.
He does not turn to look at you as you approach him. "What are you doing, Karkat?"
He takes a deep breath before he begins. "I couldn't... I couldn't just leave them to rot in the open air."
Finally, he turns to you. "I read somewhere that, that, in old Alternian history, they didn't just leave their heroes out for the musclebeasts like they did everyone else. They had big-ass ceremonies honoring their fucking feats of strength or whatever, and when it was all over, they made a huge fucking bonfire and burned the body like it was some kind of offering to the war gods or some shit."
He begins staring at the floor. "I can't exactly perform a big-ass ceremony here, but, I can at least send them by fire, like the heroes of old. Because you're all heroes, even," and he manages a halfhearted chuckle that utterly fails to convince you he isn't on the verge of tears, "even Eridan, the fucking douche."
("Because you're all heroes", not "because we're all heroes".)
It is sort of a morbid question that lingers on your tongue, and you note it as such before asking it, but you have to know: "who's being sent now?"
"Nepeta. She's the last of them. Well, Equius, too. It's kind of stupid but I think they would have wanted to be together." He takes another deep breath, this one more choked than the last. "I think she had the worst of it. I'm almost certain she watched him die, because I found them together. She... she was kind of annoying, really, but goddamn, she deserved better than this."
Almost immediately, he regrets saying it. "Fuck, you didn't need to hear that, she was your friend. I'm sorry, Terezi."
But you are too touched by his gesture toward your fallen friend to chastise him, so you simply grasp his hand and watch as the blaze speeds Nepeta and Equius to the afterlife, together.
═ ═ ›
The next night, Karkat doesn't leave his respiteblock.
That day, Kanaya volunteers for guard duty. Her transformation, she has learned, has granted her the ability to function entirely without sleep. Gamzee, in his quest to atone for the rampage of his mirthful messiahs (a quest he admits he will never be able to finish), offers his company and Kanaya accepts, happy to have someone to talk to during what would otherwise be a boring shift.
You are walking down a corridor when you hear what you think is Karkat's voice. You cannot make out what he's saying until you make your way further down, but as you approach his respiteblock, he's constantly and clearly pleading with something.
"Gamzee, please, no..."
Your first thought is that Gamzee has somehow snapped again, managed to overpower Kanaya, and has returned to finish Karkat off. You pull the dragon cane from your strife specibus and it materializes in your hand before you kick open the door.
"Karkat! Are you okay?" You sniff the air but get nothing but steel and gunpowder.
"Terezi, no, don't hurt her! Don't you fucking touch her, Gamzee!"
You make your way over to his bed and inhale sharply. It's just Karkat, but he's thrashing around in his sleep. You try to wake him up. "It's me, Terezi! Wake up!"
"Fucking damnit, run, Terezi! Fuck, fuck-"
"Karkat, wake up! You're having a daymare, wake up!" You grab him by the shoulders and shake him, forcing him awake. His eyes shoot open and he looks up at you fearfully, before he collapses back into the bed, breathing heavily, trembling violently and fucking scared out of his wits. You climb into the bed with him and wrap your arms around him. He does not protest. He is beyond having the presence of mind to even attempt to make you stop.
"I'm here, Karkat. You're fine, it's going to be okay."
You are not sure which of you is more scared; he, of the ghosts of the past, or you, of seeing him shaken up this badly.
═ ═ ›
Days of this pass, as you wait for the humans to prepare to cross over into your session. Sometimes Karkat manages to leave his respiteblock, clinging to your arm like he would risk falling into oblivion were he to let go. He does not venture outside for long, mostly just long enough to use the gaper or eat something (always at your insistence, you have to pressure him into it but he does eventually begin eating regularly again).
There is an agreement between you and the rest of the survivors that Gamzee is to be moved if Karkat is approaching. Gamzee is not just okay with it, he makes it his personal policy. "I don't want to motherfuckin' hurt anyone anymore, sister, and if my brother in there is going to fuckin' seize up like a bleatbeast just 'cause he saw me, well, I'll get out of the motherfuckin' way, no fuckin' problem."
You have not slept in your own respiteblock for days. Without sopor slime to counter the ancestral visions that come naturally, or those of a more recent inspiration, you have taken to sleeping next to him. You do not even make the attempt to hide this arrangement from the others, but they are understanding, and not even Vriska can bring herself to make a crass joke about it.
("Please, fix my bro, sister. Do whatever the motherfuck it takes, you gotta undo what I fucking did to him."
"He's my best friend, TZ. He won't even talk to me anymore, but I think if anyone can get through to him, it's you."
"I believe the fact that he has chosen to open up to you, out of all of us, is indicative of his feelings. He and I are close friends, you must know, but he chose you. Please, Terezi, make him whole again."
"Okay, Pyrope, listen up. You don't like me, and I don't like you, but you're the only one who can make Karkat right again, because he fucking haaaaaaaates me, so I'm counting on you, okaaaaaaaay? He's no good to us just moping around all the time, so make him man his shit up!")
When sleep doesn't come easily, or as he shivers in your arms after flailing in the dark and screaming at flashbacks, or sometimes for no reason at all as he sleeps (you like to think he can feel it then, that it helps), you kiss him softly on the forehead, just to remind him that someone cares.
And then you swear, sometimes, you can detect the faintest traces of a sad smile form at the corners of his mouth.
═ ═ ›
Days later, the four of them (the trickster, the therapist, the godhead, the gnostic) tear a hole in reality itself and arrive in a flash of light and a deafening crash. The survivors in the Veil are all present to greet their creations in person for the first time.
After a brief and obligatory art jam session with Dave (who smells like cherries and cream and is just as cool in person as you imagined him), you excuse yourself. "I don't know where Karkles is, probably moping in his respiteblock again. I'm gonna go try to find him, we'll draw again later!" Of course, John is worried at hearing this ("Is Karkat okay?" You don't have the heart to tell him just yet that no, he is most definitely not okay) but you assure him things will be fine.
You are a little worried when you open the door to his respiteblock and do not find him. You are little more worried when you enter the makeshift kitchen and he isn't here, either. You are worried to the point that you are calling his name as you comb the facility for him when he is not found in the washrooms.
Finally, you find him near the ectobiology lab, sitting at the bottom of the stairs, hugging his knees. You call his name and he does not respond at first.
You try again. "Karkat? What's wrong?" You cannot make out his response so you ask him again.
"...I said, today's the day that I fucking lose you."
You have no idea what he's talking about. "I don't understand."
"They're here, right? He's here. Why are you wasting your time with me when you could be chalking it up with him?"
Oh. This. "Karkat, what's gotten into you? Why do you-"
"Don't give me that shit. I know you like him, okay? You don't have to fucking pretend anymore, go be with the douchebag."
Now you are more than a little annoyed. Haven't you been there for him all this time? Wasn't it you who sacrificed so much of her time trying to help him? "Do you really think I'm that callous?" you ask him, and you cannot hide how hurt you are by his accusations.
"I'm a goddamn wreck, Terezi. Fucking look at me, some fucking leader I am. He didn't argue with different versions of himself so much that nobody took him seriously anymore. He didn't freeze up and just fucking watch while someone killed Feferi and Kanaya. He," and he has to stop to catch himself so he doesn't break down here, "he didn't send your best friend to die."
He can't bear to look you in the eyes anymore.
"So, go. Go be with him. You deserve better than me."
You can smell a hint of watery red cherry pooling at his eyes as he finishes his sentence, and the full force of the realization of just how deep his self-loathing runs hits you like a sixteen-wheeled cargo transportation vehicle.
"Why are you still here, Terezi?" That he would deny himself your company because he feels unworthy of your attention is...
You cannot allow him to spiral any further. You sit down next to him and lock your fingers with his. He tries to push you away halfheartedly but he just ends up burying his face in your shoulder, trying to fight the urge to cry. Before you realize what you're saying, you blurt out exactly what you're thinking.
"I'm still here because I pity you!"
Welp. The floodgates are open now. The levee is breaking, the dam is fucking busted. The sandbags are not holding. Old men are refusing to evacuate. The waterworks have been turned on at full blast and it is goddamned pouring. Dudes are going down Main Street in canoes. Everything in the basement is ruined.
To say Karkat has gotten a little emotional at the realization that you would still call him your matesprit, even after all he's put you through, would be the understatement of the fucking sweep. Hell, even you're tearing up a bit. He is completely incoherent and he is still trying to ask you questions. You find it kind of adorable, actually!
"Hehehe, we're way paler than that, Karkles!"
"Don't care. You're stuck with me, like it or not!"
Until this moment, you have never been glad to hear Karkat crying. But, you think you can handle tears of joy.
═ ═ ›
When he finally regains some measure of control over his emotions, you take him to meet the humans. The whole walk back, he still hugs your arm for dear life, but there's a little less desperation to it now.
John and Jade greet him enthusiastically, which is probably a rather conservative description of the double bear hug sandwich that nearly squeezes the breath out of him. He only puts up token resistance before resigning himself to defeat and simply accepting it. Rose is far more subdued, simply shaking his hand. Dave just nods and offers his fist for a bump, which Karkat returns after a moment. Later that night, you would learn that Kanaya and Sollux had explained Karkat's situation in your absence, and all four humans had agreed not to bring it up.
Hours later, when the two of you lay down to sleep, he manages to get through it with only one daymare. And this time, when you kiss him to calm him down...
Well, it takes a minute. But he kisses you back. It's only a peck on the cheek, really, but your heart skips a beat when it happens. It is a little bit of progress, and it makes you indescribably happy.
═ ═ ›
He progresses further in the next week. He is occasionally able to leave his respiteblock without you at his side, though he much prefers having you around (you made a promise, you will not begrudge him this). He starts eating regularly without your constant reminders. Occasionally, he even sleeps without the terrorizing visions that have plagued him since this ordeal began.
Finally, one day, the group is holding the first strategy meeting, to come up with a plan to deal with the Demon once and for all. For thirty minutes after it begins, there is no sign of Karkat, and you are certain you won't see him until after it concludes. Suddenly, a door opens. You sniff toward it.
Steel and gunpowder.
He is here, of his own volition, and you could not be prouder. True, Gamzee is absent ("the less I fuckin' know, the better, just in case those motherfuckers take over my goddamn head again," he explained before leaving), but the fact that he is making the attempt to communicate with someone who isn't you again speaks volumes about how far he's come. He sits down in the empty seal you left for him, just in case. You take his hand under the table, interlacing your fingers with his as you smile at him.
"I'm glad you came, Karkles."
And of course, John, doofus that he is, has to go and ruin the moment. "I'll say! You feeling better now, buddy?" You're half expecting Karkat to growl something like no, idiot, I am not feeling better now, but he just manages a grunt and says "maybe."
═ ═ ›
The meeting is over quickly. Plans are hatched, discussed, and discarded at length before one is brought up that may just work. The idea would be to lure Jack back to the humans' session and trick him into activating the Scratch, resetting the session and erasing him all at once. How you will accomplish it will be a discussion for another time, as it is getting late, everyone is tired, and nobody is firing on enough cylinders to work out the specifics yet.
You escort Karkat back to his respiteblock, as you have done every day for almost a perigree. You take your place beside him, as has been your routine. You kiss his cheek, as you do every time, and he follows it up with one of his own. You sniff the air and finally, finally, you catch what you've been looking for (hoping for) ever since this began: under the gunpowder black and mixed with the metallic grey, just barely, you catch the faintest hints of candy apple. It is not the red he has worn so often lately, borne from fright or frustration or sheer exhaustion, but a red formed from this, right here, a red that shows he's here and he's alive and that for this moment, at the very least, he is something that you could theoretically call "okay."
Such a small thing it is, but you love him for it.
Later, he will wake you up, in the throes of another sleep terror, but it will not last as long as most do, and he will return to sleep faster than usual.
He is making excellent progress, and it is almost entirely due to your efforts.
═ ═ ›
Three nights later, he demands to see Gamzee.
The humans don't have the entire story, just bits and pieces of it. They know there was some sort of trouble in the Veil before they arrived, and Gamzee was partly responsible, but he's reformed and has been a willing prisoner since then. But all of the surviving trolls know there could be trouble. One of them could snap and kill the other, and given Karkat's recent state of mind, it might not be Gamzee.
When they finally meet, you and Sollux stand at either side of Karkat, and Vriska and Kanaya by Gamzee. The humans take positions between them. Further bloodshed is the last thing anyone needs right now.
When Gamzee enters the room, he grips your hand tightly and does not let go. He quakes with fear with each step Gamzee takes.
Finally, one of them speaks. "I'm sorry." But it is not Gamzee who apologizes, it's Karkat.
"I'm sorry that I failed you, Gamzee. As a fucking leader, as a fucking friend. I pretty much ignored you the whole game and look where it fucking got us, eh?"
He pauses a bit before continuing. "Don't beat yourself up over all this, okay? You needed help and I couldn't deliver. As far as I'm concerned, I killed Equius and Nepeta. I should be wearing those right now." Jade gasps and John's eyes widen in shock as the weight of what Gamzee has done finally settles in.
"Don't, okay? Don't fucking try to apologize, I won't fucking stand for it. You weren't yourself, that's all there is to say on the matter. Terezi, I want him out of those goddamn cuffs."
"No! You motherfuckin' can't do that, man! What if those motherfuckers come back? Hell no, sister, fucking throw away the key, I'm fucking staying in lockdown."
He does not have the willpower to argue. "...as you were, then." He turns and makes his exit. Everyone in the room is a little shaken up afterward.
He does not leave his respiteblock for the rest of the day. Hours later, he regresses a bit; he wakes in the dark three times, tormented by particularly vivid memories of the past. You hold him close to you to stop his terror.
He was not ready to confront Gamzee today, and he is paying for it now.
It is a difficult thing, to see Karkat Vantas like this, but you knew what you were getting into when you began. You will be here for him, as long as it takes.
═ ═ ›
You are usually the first to wake, and the following night is no different. You are walking toward the door to meet the others for breakfast (John has promised a human delicacy he calls "pan cakes") when Karkat stirs.
"Why do you do it, Terezi?"
"Stay with you, you mean?"
"Yeah. Why do you put up with my hoofbeastshit? Anyone else would have given up on me."
"Hehehe. I'm not just 'anyone else,' I think you would have figured that much out by now!"
"Well yeah, but..." He turns your words over in his mind and you think he might honestly be incapable of processing them. The idea that anyone, even you, his matesprit, could see him for everything he's worth (and not once has he ever honestly believed he was worth much) and still choose to remain by his side is a concept that is so very alien to him.
"I never..." He is struggling to find the words. "I never found any fault in you, Terezi. You have to understand that, even the day the humans came, not once did I think... God, what do I even fucking say here, Terezi?"
You sit on your knees next to the bed. "You don't have to say anything, Karkat. I understand."
Karkat Vantas has hated himself for most of his short life and has always dealt with it by applying vast amounts of false bravado. At first, his self-loathing was seated in his position on the hemospectrum, easily described as the following: N/A. When he, entirely accidentally, let you in on his secret, your heart broke for him as you finally realized it as the very reason why he is what he is. Now, with nearly half the team either dead or missing in action under his leadership, his fury at himself has reached the point where it almost broke him.
Almost. Because you're here to help him. He is not quite whole, and it will take some time yet to repair Karkat. But you will be here for him, for as long as it takes.
You take his head into your hands, but it is he who leans forward to kiss you, lips and teeth clumsily crashing into your own. You try and fail miserably to stifle a giggle at his awkwardness.
"What? Damnit, Terezi, I'm trying, don't fucking ruin the moment!"
"Hehehehehe! Karkles, you are adorable!" You climb onto the bed next to him and sniff. He is blushing furiously. You remove your glasses and move in for another kiss.
Let's see what John's up to!
═ ═ ›
You are JOHN EGBERT, friendchef extraordinaire, master of breakfasts. You have left no bacon unsizzled, no pancake unflipped, no glass of orange juice unpoured in your conquest of the kitchen.
"Breakfast is ready!" you call to your hungry pals, and they line up, eager to take their plates. Not long after everyone else has been served, the two of them (the knight, the seer) finally show up.
"Hey Karkat! Good to see you this morning!" He sort of grunts and half-waves at you. This is the first time he's come around for breakfast, and you're happy to see your buddy has finally managed to drag himself out of bed for it. The two of them take their plates and sit at the table.
Karkat has managed to flip his shit exactly zero times so far, even after noticing Gamzee is here too. It might be because he and Terezi are totally holding hands under the table. They make such a cute couple. You've got to remember to thank Terezi for sticking with your best alien friend through all this.
He pokes at the pancakes on his plate. "The hell are these?" he asks. "Pan cakes," Terezi answers. "They're made from crushed Earth grain powder and then you pour tree sap over them and they're so good! Try them!" You can't help but laugh at that. Human food sure can be weird!
Karkat reluctantly takes a bite of the pancake. "Eh, it's okay."
═ ═ ›
You are KARKAT VANTAS, and holy shit, this is the most delicious thing you have ever eaten.