I hate the color red.

It's always reminded me of why I have to wear these stupid shades.

It reminds me of the first day of school when a girl screamed as she saw my eyes, it reminds me of how no one comes close, like I'll curse their very existence with my 'evil eyes'.

It never lets me forget.

Every day, looking at myself in the mirror, seeing these bright red irises.

I almost clawed out my eye once, when I had a nightmare about these eyes, staring at me, watching me, the red drowning me, suffocating me.

I hate the color red.

It's like my blood, the disgusting, filthy bright color that drives me away from myself. I can forget, but as I get older, forgetting gets harder.

My eyes won't let me forget.

I know no one truly cares, I know no one truly minds anymore, I know.

It doesn't stop me, though.

I try to not care, I try. But every time I see the reddening of my eyes, the blood that drips from a cut finger, I can't help but want to scream.

I hate the color red.

The first time I see the trolls, I know who's who. My eyes stray over each of them, trying to remember.

Terezi is so happy, she's grinning with a mouthful of sharp-as-Rose teeth. One of them that I don't know the name of is bright, like a massive glowstick staring at Rose, who's staring back. Aradia and her 'friend' float nearby. A clown stares like a drunk fuck on New Years with a creepy smile, and he's holding onto Vantas, who, no matter what he says, was crying like a baby before.

I don't notice much as we discuss all the shit we have to go through. I'm tired, as much as I don't show it. I know everyone probably is.

When Kanaya calls for us that she's found Gamzee-and the bodies of the dead-we run over there. Karkat screams at him, he responds with a tired smile and a, 'chill out, best friend, I was just sayin sorry'. It sounds like his voice goes up and down with each word, and it makes my head hurt. I need a nap. I feel fucking ninety, like the old man who falls asleep at the buffet line while getting his rice pudding.

It sucks.

I look down and see the red of my clothes and I can't help but be somewhat put off, all the red, so much red, and it reminds me of blood, now. I feel sick, but I'm not allowed to show it.

A coolkid doesn't show emotion, not more then a condescending smirk or so. Still

I hate the color red.

When we've gotten the sleeping arrangements sorted out, I realize just exactly what we're fucking stuck with. Sollux left me here with these nutjobs, and while I have my moirail, he's not that great at conversation. Rose and Kanaya talk together about things I'm not interested in, and Terezi-

-I don't know what's going on with her now. I'm a shitty moirail and a shitty almost matesprit, it seems.

Or maybe it just…Wasn't meant to be anything. I'm sick of trying to figure out how to balance, I'm not a set of scales. I'm a terrible leader who can't fix anything and who no one takes seriously. I might as well have called Jack to take us all out, my abilities have only gotten us where we are.

And that's not even counting how long this will take.

Three human years, that's about what, a sweep and a half, says Rose, give or take a couple of months. Long enough for my blood color to reach my eyes.

I'm getting worked up about it as we speak. How much does my blood have to take from me?

Strider doesn't help, his god-tier outfit is so sickening, and he flaunts it. His red text infuriates me, like a taunt, and that's not even counting his own words. He's like a manifestation of the damn color.

I hate the color red.

It's been about half a year, and I'm beyond bored on this rock. I could fuel the rock with how bored I am. We could be going at Bored-speed, slightly faster than growing grass, and slightly more useful. We're running from Jack, Rose says, and I say, that's great and all, but I'm going to be dead by boredom before we get anywhere. She says to suck it up, not in those exact terms, but I know what she really means. I tell her she doesn't have the right to say that, with her weird alien-vampire girlfriend. She says they're just friends, I roll my eyes. How many times has that been said in a shitty romance movie, right before they start getting together?

I tell her that, too. She suggests asking Karkat, seeing as he likes those.

There's something in her tone that throws me off. I don't acknowledge it.

She asks me, abruptly, 'What about Terezi? You could both entertain each other with humorous-' blah blah blah. I don't hear more then that.

I don't know how to explain that, while Ter is a great bud and hilarious to know, I can't trust her, not anymore. Rose doesn't know what happened, and I don't want to tell her.

I do want to trust Ter. But the memory of me, waiting to die one way or another, and remembering how she just watched, even egged me on, to kill me, it's unpleasant, to say the least of it.

I've forgiven. That doesn't mean forget.

I sound like Bro, which means I'm getting way too old already.

When I think of Bro, red flashes behind my eyes. I want to throw up. Rose can sense something, but I tell her I've got to go take a piss, and I'm away before she can start her psychoanalysis shit.

Why do I have to remember so much.

Why does this damn God-Tier outfit have to be so fucking red.

I take out another set of clothes, the black suit is still in my modus, thank whatever. The God-Tier rulebook hasn't came in the mail yet, so I'm assuming changing clothes doesn't mean I can't still do crazy time shit or whatever.

Crazy time shit isn't useful here anyways. I can't speed us up any further in time without causing everyone else some sort of whiplash.

Makes me wonder what good being a God even is, when I can't even save anyone. It always comes down to blood.

Always blood, never anything else. All a knight does, I think with an empty chuckle, is kill and protect and get hit, while every one else keeps their hands clean as possible.

It's not that it bothers me that much, not really. I was trained by a guy who owned a bunch of shitty swords and we duked it out on a regular basis. To kill or be killed was almost my life's motto.

Hands stained by the blood of many, and yet you couldn't protect any of them, Strider. Not a single one was spared.

I hate the color red.

It's happening, every time I look in the mirror I can see it. My eyes are getting redder.

It used to be so dull, I could hardly see tell. Now though, a dull, brownish red is there, and I cringe every time I see it. What am I going to do when it starts brightening? Fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Gamzee is still calm, though he wanders around those bodies a lot. I don't know why exactly, but he always stops at Tavros, then moves on. He stops at Nepeta and Equius, sometimes, and once he stopped at Vriska. He doesn't look at Sollux, or Feferi.

I don't know why he cuts off their heads. I don't even know where he put them. He doesn't tell me, I don't think I want to know.

He hasn't had any spastic fits of rage in a while, so my job as his moirail is a little lessened, and while I tell him 'thank the fucking gods that I don't have to take care of you like you're a sweep old grub and I'm your fucking lusus', I still think that there's something needed in out moirailship. I complain to him and he soothes me, but anyone can do that.

There's nothing for me to even do, anymore. Everyone is doing their own thing, no one needs a shitty leader like me around.

There's a knock at my door, and I know it's Kanaya. She gets worried about me, that's why she's one of my best friends. Honestly, if it weren't for the fact Gamzee is above and beyond batshit insane, I'd think I'd be pale with her. Maybe.

But right now, I don't want to talk to her.

I hear a loud cackle, it's Terezi. She and Kanaya talk outside my door, in quiet tones that I don't catch, mostly because I'm not listening. They shuffle away, their footsteps loud.

When I'm sure they're gone, I walk to the showering and waste leave area. I might as well call it a bathroom at this point, seeing as everyone else does, but I'm not in the mood to comply.

I try to avoid the mirrors, but I end up looking at one anyways. My eyes are brighter today.

I'm enraged, for a reason I don't want to understand but do, and the mirror shatters underneath my fist, and the disgustingly red blood drips down into the sink. I hiss, that was a stupid idea, why did I even think it'd help anything. Now I just have to clean all this shit.

I turn the water on, how it doesn't run out on this meteor, I don't know. Who am I to even guess?

It mixes and dilutes the red. I run my hand under it, breathing deeply. The cuts were shallow, so when I pull my hand away, they don't bleed.

"That looked messy."

The peace is ruined by a walking dick with shades on. He stands there, passively, and I turn and growl.

"No, it doesn't." I snarl, sarcastic. "What have I done to get into the graces of Lord Dave I'm-An-Asshole Strider today? Shall I just go hang myself now, save yourself the trouble of killing me with your stupidity?"

He doesn't answer, for once. I don't want to look at him longer then I have to, and I definitely don't want him to see my eyes. I turn to the floor and pick up the shards slowly, one by one.

I hear footsteps and a hand comes into my line of vision, picking the shards up. I don't say anything, but I'm getting irritated. What does he think he's doing, coming in and helping me-

-That thought makes me grit my teeth. I sound idiotic, a rambling troll fit for culling.

We pick them up in silence, then throw them in the trash. Strider cuts himself on one, and I see his own blood spilling out a little, just a few drops.

He looks at it and I can see the slight tilt of his mouth, something like a grimace. He turns on the mirrorless sink, lets it run over his hand.

He leaves, and it's only then that I see he's not wearing the God-Tier outfit.

I'm glad, because

I hate the color red.

I don't know how long it's been on this stupid rock. but it's been long enough.

Kanaya and Rose, I don't care how many times Rose says they aren't, are vomit-inducing ~in love~ with each other.

Nothing happens, it's just monotony, the same thing over and over. Karkat gets mad at Gamzee, Gamzee tells him to chill, Terezi laughs and hits them both over the head, Gamzee a little harder than Karkat.

We, more like I at the moment because of Rose's girltoy, talk to John and Jade, and they seem to be having consort party there all day. Davesprite sometimes talks, lucky bastard. He's got those two to keep him from boredom.

We both agree, sitting on a rock with a pseudo-psychologist, a crazy as hell clown, Terezi, and a loudmouth isn't an ideal situation. Waiting three years with them is bound to drive anyone a little insane.

John and Jade wants all the gossip on Kan and Rose, and I gladly give it. There isn't much else for me to do, otherwise.

I wander around the meteor again, the place not entirely familiar, but some parts I know better than others. My clothes never get dirty, which is a surprise, considering all the dust that flies in, but I guess God-Tier comes with free dry cleaning.

I walk a little further then the usual, and there's a window that filters in the strange light of space. What really strikes me though, is Vantas.

He's sitting on the windowsill with surprising grace, and the little light that filters hits his eyes in a way where they glow

red.

I can't remember the last time I saw him, I realize. I haven't seen him around, not for a while. The last time I remember was in the bathroom, with a broken mirror.

Something about that red glow draws me in, and I don't know why.

He doesn't hear my steps until I'm close enough to reach out and touch him, and then he flinches. His look turns from contemplative to surprised, then angry.

"What do you want, Strider."

I'm not sure what to say, but playing it cool is a skill I've cultivated. So that's what I do.

"Just wandering around, looking for treasure chests or some shit. What are you doing here, Vantas?"

"None of your fucking business." He snarls. "Why are you just wandering around, Strider? Don't have anyone left to bother, did Egbert ditch you for consort makeouts or some other benign activity?"

His words don't flow right, and both of us know it. He turns back to the window, looking at the speeding away stars.

My hands end up in my pockets again, and we're both silently looking out the window. Space is pretty, I think. Not like Time, which is messy and confusing. Space can have anything there.

Time is always Time. Always bound to it's own rules.

"…Blood never changes."

He says. I look at him, and he's not looking at me. I'm not even sure if he's speaking to me or just…Talking. It's really bizarre.

"I used to think," He says, "That I'd be dead before this happened."

I can't help but feel a little uncomfortable. I haven't spoken to Karkat, not more then arguments here and there.

But I listen anyways. We're all stuck together, now.

He looks at his hands, but I know what he's talking about. The color changing. Terezi and Kanaya both had changes, a different tint to their skin and eyes. They hadn't seemed to care, Ter had even been giggling in delight.

I remember that Karkat had a…Thing with his blood color. Something about it being 'NOT TH3 USU4L R3D BLOOD'.

"But then the game happened." He turns over his hands, looking at the tint of his nails, a slightly more reddish yellow. "And I had a role to play and shit to do, and I didn't have to think about it. It wasn't what was important, not as much as just staying alive and moving, and not being uselessly dead or just useless in general."

I shift a little. He keeps talking.

"And then we're almost there, and I think that maybe I might have fucking done it, might have done something. But no. Instead I find out we screwed all of it up. I screwed all of it up."

I want to protest. We all fucked up, one way or another. But I keep my trap shut.

"And now, after all the shit we've done to make sure nothing gets more fucked, we're here and there isn't anything but space. I can't help move this fucking rock. I can't do anything. And that makes everything else come back, in, what have you said, 'massive fucking tidal waves'."

"Well it's the shit that happens, Vantas. You can't avoid it forever."

I'm not saying the right things, and I know it.

He snorts. "I wasn't trying to avoid anything, Strider."

"Sounds like you were."

I can't keep my mouth shut. He turns on me, and his eyes are bright, bright red, even through the shades I can tell, he's like a mirror.

"I WASN'T." He snaps. "I wasn't avoiding anything. I knew it was going to fucking happen, I just wish that it fucking wouldn't. And unlike you, Strider, I don't hide behind some shitty piece of eyewear. I don't hide behind anything!"

That's a low blow.

"Except your door?" I counter. "Nobody has seen any part of you for days. We had started to think you'd died and Gamzee dragged your corpse somewhere."

He glares at me, something fierce. "What's it even matter to you, Strider." Is his snapping retort, except he sounds close to breaking, and oh shit, I'm not prepared for that.

"It doesn't." I say, except it does, because everyone matters, now. Everyone is a part of what this is, and we can't avoid it.

That calms him down somehow. He turns away suddenly, like he's just realized what he's done, and squeezes his eyes shut.

"…Go away, Strider. I'm in no mood for your black advances or whatever you humans call it."

"Humans don't have more than one quadrant, dumbass." I had to say it. It's an argument we've been having on this chunk of rock for days, and it brings back a blessed normalcy.

He snorts. "What a dumb as fuck system."

"I could say the same thing about your guys' blood." It's a misstep, something I never meant to say. He flares at it.

"Alternian culture is-" He starts, furious.

"-What makes you so nervous about your blood when it really doesn't matter? You think that Gamzee is better than you because he's got purple-r blood or something?" Now I can't stop. It's like I have no control over my mouth, it's running on some sort of autopilot.

"Gamzee isn't better than anyone." He grouses. "But-"

"But nothing, Vantas. You're making up shit. BS." I walk closer, staring him down. He's not that short, but I'm growing taller, and right now I've got the advantage. "Blood doesn't have anything to do with any-fucking-thing."

"You don't get it-" He snaps. "-What it's like to worry about it your whole life."

That flips a switch. I grab my shades and they come off, and I'm looking at Vantas with a completely naked face, it's so scandalous.

"I don't know what it's like to worry about it?" I say, trying to give him a hard stare. "I don't know what it's like to hide because someone will chase you for something like this? You think I don't know?"

He's surprised, no surprise there. I give him the best damn hard stare I can, but I feel more exposed then he looks.

I feel something gingerly touch my face, and when I look at it from the corner of my eye, it's a grey hand. He stroke the area near my eye, and I'm a whole new level of uncomfortable now, but I let him.

"They're really red." He says, almost in wonder.

"No shit." I say.

He's fascinated, his eyes locking onto mine. I let him look, take his fill, and then I put my shades back on and turn away.

"You're not the only one who's had to deal with shit, Vantas."

I know he's watching me leave, and I know that, in the little light of space, his eyes glow red.

I don't know what to think

about the color red.

Strider doesn't speak, and neither do I. It's been a week since that…Thing by the window, a feelings jam, I guess, except not on a shitty pile of whatever someone can pile together.

I don't know how to talk to him, now. I rant on and on, but ranting is losing it's luster, surprisingly. There's only so much you can scream about before it all becomes the same slurry of sound.

It's about time for the regular food drop from Jade, since there isn't anything on this stupid flying piece of meteor shit. Food doesn't happen here. Normally the others are around by now, but today they…Aren't. I think Kanaya and Rose are being mushy-as-human-flesh red somewhere, and Terezi and Gamzee have been flirting black for the past month.

I don't want to be reminded of my pretty much empty quadrants as much as I don't want to be reminded of Eridan trying to flirt with me. I direct my attention to the empty cloth on the floor, set up so the food wouldn't get 'dirty'.

Humans are strange and don't know how important food can get. It gives me something to grumble about.

"What does it matter if it hits the floor?" I snarl, glaring at the sheet. "Poor little humans can't handle little chunks of space rock on their food?"

"Vantas, there's this thing called 'germs'." Strider is humoring me. "You troll peeps may be able to handle disgusting dirt and who knows what on your food, but us humans have a much more sophisticated palette."

"You sound like your ecto-sister." I mutter.

"I sound nothing like Rosie Psychology over in lover-land." He replies, and that's the end of our conversation.

I wouldn't admit it to anyone, but I miss having conversation. I haven't been seeing anyone really, besides the annual checkup on Gamzee to make sure he's not being a huge clownfuck killer again. It's all my fucking fault, I'm the one who stays in his room and hides like the cullers are around.

Not that hiding stopped cullers anyways. They always found who they needed to find.

It's a morbid thought, and I bet it's because I've been on this rock for half a sweep.

That reminds me of blood, and that reminds me of red, of eyes, Strider's, to be exact. His, and mine.

They were really as red as the text he types in. Red as my own blood.

Something stirs around in me, I think it may be pity, but I push it aside. Strider isn't…Pitiable. And I bet Terezi has made claim on that quadrant, the only quadrant for humans, it looks like.

I wonder how his vapid brain will handle having Gamzee around as her kismesis. Two strong relationships aren't any humans' style, it seems.

In the time I've spent thinking, about Strider of all people, the food has appeared. No one is here yet, but from far away there are very faint footsteps in the hallway, and they'll be here soon, if I'm judging the distance right.

"Oi, Vantas, are you going to eat anything or do I get all the choice goods?"

"Shut up Strider, I was doing something called thinking, unfortunately not a skill that you seem to possess at any given time unless you're trying to be an asshole."

He chuckles, and I'm perplexed. I make my way over to the food anyways, reaching for whatever I can grab. I pull out some green vegetable, and I groan loudly.

"Why is there no meat on those planets."

"You wanna eat salamander consorts or something? There isn't much else besides those."

"I wouldn't mind, I mean how the hell am I going to survive without something to eat besides this." I wave the vegetable around, scowling at it. "I'm a carnivore, or at least an omnivorous being."

"Chill, Vantas. There's nothing wrong with being a vegan." He sounds amused, and it doesn't piss me off nearly as much as it used to. Maybe I'm used to it.

"Except for being a vegan." Comes the retort.

He just shakes his head. Wispy strands of hair follow the movement, and I notice that from the angle we're bent, his eyes are exposed a little.

I keep straining to see the red. I want to see it. I want to make sure it's not all a joke, it's not all just some elaborate, 'ironic' prank. I want to know they're real.

I want to know that it's all real.

Whether he catches me or not, I don't know, but he doesn't move for a while. Then, abruptly, he gets up.

"…Karkat, are you alright?" Comes Kanaya's voice from behind me. I blink, then nod.

"Yeah. Got distracted is all."

"By what?" I knew she'd ask. I don't have an answer that fits.

"…Nothing."

My eyes keep following Strider's back, and he's not wearing his God-Tier suit. He hasn't worn it for a while, I reflect.

I don't know why.

I don't know what to think

about the color red.

I wake up sweating. And it's a cold terror kind of sweat, the kind of sweat kids have when they wake up after wetting the bed.

It's a nasty night, a nightmare kind of night. Jack almost caught up to us, today. We had to pull full throttle, and in panic mode, it's not easy.

I've got to get to the bathroom. I'm not sleeping anymore tonight, fuck it all. I don't want to see the red flood my vision.

Don't want any more blood on your hands, Strider?

I don't know where those words come from, and I don't care. I shake my head and hobble out, walking down the hallway until I get to where I want to be.

It's only after I look in the mirror that I realize I forgot my shades.

I don't panic. I've had enough of panic today. But look down at the sink, porcelain white, and grip it hard. Nothing reflects back in that, at least.

My hands look rough. I wonder when that happened.

I'm wearing nothing but the undershirt of the Felt Suit and my God-Tier sweatpants, and yet it feels like LOHAC.

"We're in space, it's supposed to be fucking cold as shit." I mutter.

"That makes no fucking sense, Strider. Waste products aren't cold, usually."

Vantas. Has to be him.

"Shut up, it's a classy as fuck expression, used on Earth only by the elite." My voice isn't as steady as I'd like it to be. I hear him walk closer, and a hand lands on my shoulder. It's bizarrely reassuring, but right now that reassurance feels like a threat.

I shake him off.

"Strider."

"Whatever, Vantas. Don't think you need to do your weird 'shoosh-pap' thing on me or something. I'm fine." I grip the sink just a little harder. "It's late, or I guess, early, now. Go to fucking sleep."

"I could say the same to you." He growls, but it doesn't have any edges. He must be pretty tired to have let those slip away from him.

His hand ends up on my shoulder again, and I don't shake him off this time. There's too much going on in my head. The nightmare that was real keeps coming back, his blood on the ground and the sword in his chest-

-And then someone is holding onto me, and just holding.

"What the hell, Vantas?"

"Just shut up for a minute, Strider."

I listen, not because I want to, definitely not because I want to let him hold onto me, definitely not because I want to be soothed like the five year old kid I am. That's not the reason.

Eventually though, I have to speak. This whole hugging business isn't something I'm used to, and I'm not sure if I want to be acquainted with it any more then I am.

"Isn't this cheating or something? Your 'pale-bro' or whatever is going to freak the fuck out if he sees this. His clown ass will be all over the place."

Karkat freezes. I get the feeling he hadn't thought about it, and I step back.

"It's all good, I won't tell anyone. Your accidental comforting will never leave this bathroom." I put a finger to my lips. Silent mimicry.

He just stands there though, like he's in shock. His eyes are wide open, like a deer facing traffic on the 67 freeway.

I feel sort of bad for him. He really is a good guy, when you get down to the core of him. He probably feels pretty dang scandalized about this. It's like a one-night-stand kind of thing, when the guy who was drunk wakes up and realizes what he's done and feels pretty awful about it.

Time to be the nice girl and let him go without much of a slap on the wrist, Strider. The 'it's okay, I didn't mind it, it'll just be an accident that happened, okay?' player.

Except instead of sex, it's being comforted. Same difference, with all this quadrant stuff. I think.

"Earth- Well, meteor- to Vantas, meteor to Vantas, have we lost contact?" That gets a reaction, but it's not one I expected. He turns out the door, ignoring me completely.

I stand in the bathroom and feel like an idiot, and I don't want to know why. I look up and the mirror looks back, and this time when I see my eyes they remind me of his instead.

The thought doesn't bother me.

I don't know what to think

about the color red.

I stumbled and ran out of that bathroom. I don't deny it, I'm not a wimp, not exactly. But if anyone heard my reason, I'm pretty sure they'd agree, my course of action was the best fucking course.

I pitied Strider.

Right then and there, my stupid pity gland gasped and wheezed and went to work, and I couldn't stop it.

I don't get it. By all means, Strider is a huge prick, Prince of Dicks, Lord of Being A Huge Tool. Romantic destiny has no right putting him in a red quadrant.

But the way he looked right then, I couldn't stop myself from moving.

I breathe. Strider, even I wanted him to be, isn't an option. He's got Terezi, and then there's that whole 'human homosexual' thing. It's not possible.

Right. Impossible. I've got to get a hold on this pity gland and ask it how the fucking batshit idea that me and Strider being red was even thought up.

I'm out of my room and in the 'kitchen'. Terezi is there, scrounging around for something, I don't know what.

I'm hit by regret. I haven't talked to her, really talked to her, in a while. Some kind of matesprit I must have been.

"Ooooh, what's this? One of my cherryblast boys?" She giggles. "I've been looking for you for a while, the delicious red smell has been scarce!"

I breathe a sigh of relief. Terezi always knows this sort of shit.

"Oh great, graced by miss '3V3RYTH1NG SM3LLS GR34T 4ND BY TH3 W4Y 1'M CR4ZY'." I grumble. "I'm going to need to take some sort of disinfectant wash by the time I get out of this area."

"Don't be that way, mister 'RAWR RAWR RAWR I COMPLAIN AND SCREAM BUT AM REALLY A BIG BABY'!" She cackles this time. "I've really been looking for you! We were sure Gamzee had really taken your corpse, and then I would have the perfect reason to legislacerate him."

I don't say anything to that. I can feel the turn this conversation is taking, and even if we need to have it, I don't know if I can do it. I honestly don't want to, but it's one of those things I have to do. It's like taking care of a lusus, while they protect you. It's necessary.

"…Terezi."

"Don't say it, you'll cry cherrytears. I do like the deliciousness of the cherry part, but the tears part ruins it. Tears smell too much like salty dirt." She grins. "And it's fine, Karkat. I can wait for a matesprit who'll take me away into the sunset and solve heinous crimes with me. The mating drones aren't exactly coming to any of our doors now, hmm?"

I'm fighting the urge to either smile or cry. Both would make me look like a huge sissy, although it's not like anyone on this meteor thinks otherwise.

Then I remember.

"What about Strider? He is a heinous crime, but one who's covered in 'cherry red' or whatever the fuck you want to call it." It's a little weird, asking my former matesprit about having another, but I need to do something for her. And in the back of my head, asking this is for me, too. I thought-

-She interrupts my thoughts with her high-as-fuck laugh. "As decadent an idea that sounds, Strider can only feel pale for me, and not even a little bit peach redder."

I'm sputtering. "But- But in the beginning- He was giving you that fucking smirk-"

"Karkat, we still don't know what you were seeing when you got hit by that bucket." She makes a face. "We were all looking at you! Or the note from blueberry cotton candy."

My head is muddled. It's like I was hit again by John's incompetent aim again, except some part of me is still thinking clearly, in a suspiciously Kanaya-like voice, telling me that having a moment to flip-the-fuck-out is not a good idea. In fact, it's telling me that it's a fucking awful idea, especially right now while Terezi is still looking at me funny.

Instead I go, "I can't believe that you're still trying to make me believe that nonsensical lie. I KNOW something happened while I was temporarily rendered stupid by Egbert."

"Temporarily?" She gives me a teasing grin. I growl about nothing for a while, but my mind is occupied. So Strider and Terezi aren't-

-What does that mean about Strider?

I don't know what to think. And when I'm confused, I get frustrated, big fucking surprise there. I walk around the lab, avoiding the green and blue bloodstains, looking at everything and remembering.

It's just making me more frustrated. All of them, I could've saved if I just had gotten there earlier-

-Dwelling on the past isn't a good idea. Talking to my past selves only makes me more sure of it. My jaw is clenched and I can't unwind.

I sit down at one of the old computers, not looking at the now dull-pink horn pile. I don't know what I'm doing, exactly, but I can't not talk about this.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling terminallyCapricious [TC]

CG: GAMZEE?
CG: WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?
CG: LOOK
CG: I DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU ARE
CG: I MUST BE A REALLY SHITTY MOIRAIL AND ALL, NOT EVEN BEING ABLE TO GUESS.
CG: BUT
CG: OKAY.
CG: LOOK.
CG: I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE.
CG: …GAMZEE?
CG: FUCK. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK I HOPE YOU HAVEN'T GONE BACK TO BEING CLOWN BATSHIT.
CG: SHIT, YOU'RE PROBABLY CLOWN BATSHIT.
CG: OH GOD.
TC: honk.
TC: aw my brother.
TC: have some faith in me.
TC: i'm still chill.
TC: but what's got you so motherfucking strung up, my pale-broha?
TC: you want me to take care of it?
TC: :o)
CG: OH
CG: OH YOU'RE ACTUALLY ON.
CG: NO, NO. DON'T GO DOING ANY MORE MURDEROUS SHIT. NONE OF THAT.
TC: righto then, best bro.
TC: what you wanna talk to me about then?
TC: tell me, best friend.
CG: THE SHITTY HORN PILE AS MY WITNESS, I SWEAR
CG: SOMETIMES I GET ALL SORT OF CHILLS WHEN YOU CALL ME THAT, WILL YOU QUIT IT
CG: IT'S REALLY 'MOTHERFUCKING' CREEPY.
TC: :o(
CG: SORRY. SORRY.
CG: THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEANT TO SAY.
CG: FORGET I SAID THAT.
CG: IT'S NOT WHAT I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT EITHER, GOD-FUCKING-DAMMIT.
TC: it's all good man.
CG: NOW
CG: THIS IS ALL HYPOTHETICAL.
CG: HYPO-THETICAL, NOT TRUE, NOT REAL, NOT HAPPENING
CG: FAKE, LIE, EXCTERA
CG: YOU GOT THAT, RIGHT?
CG: HOW THIS IS A FAKE, UNTRUE, HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION I'LL BE TALKING ABOUT.
TC: lay it on me, my brother.
TC: what hypothetical situation has you all up and uppity?
CG: IF I HAD
CG: REMEMBER, HYPOTHETICAL
CG: RED FEELINGS
CG: FOR ONE OF THE HUMANS
CG: WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE ME TO DO
CG: OR SOMETHING.
TC: well shit my brother.
TC: our bloodsucker sister ain't gonna like that.
TC: :o(
CG: NO, NOT THAT ONE
CG: THE
CG: THE OTHER ONE.
TC: the red bro?
TC: with the wicked motherfucking time shit?
TC: i didn't know you thought he was cool, best friend.
CG: THIS IS A HYPO-FUCKING-THETICAL SITUATION.
CG: JUST, WHAT DO YOU THINK I SHOULD DO.
CG: I MEAN, IF IT WAS A REAL THING.
CG: BECAUSE IT'S NOT.
CG: IT'S JUST A FAKE, FAKEY FAKE THEORETICAL
CG: IDEA, SORT OF.
CG: JUST ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTION.
TC: well my pale-bro
TC: if i was to be asked
TC: what my motherfucking thoughts were on the motherfucking matter
TC: i'd tell you
TC: do what you think you should
TC: and hope for a good motherfucking miracle.
TC: :o)
TC: that would be my answer.
TC: if this wasn't a motherfucking hYpOtHeTiCaL situation.
CG: THAT'S IT?
CG: THAT IS THE ONLY ADIVCE YOU WOULD GIVE?
CG: ARE YOU SERIOUS?
TC: pale-bro.
TC: you've gotta sort out who you want to be all up and involved in your quadrants.
TC: i'll help you though.
TC: if you need any.
TC: :o)
CG: …YEAH.
CG: YEAH, I GUESS YOU'RE RIGHT.
TC: that's what I thought, special blooded motherfucker.
CG: THANKS, GAMZEE.
TC: what else can a pale-brother do?
CG: YEAH YEAH, GO BACK TO BEING HIGH AS FUCK ABOUT SHOES OR SOMETHING.
TC: whatever you say, best friend.

terminallyCapricious [TC] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

I can't say that didn't help, even though I'm thinking, 'wow, what a useless fuck.'

I look at the screen and see a reflection of red, and all that comes to mind now is Strider.

I don't know how to explain what I'm feeling right now. I sigh, my face in my hands, and all I see is

the color red.

Hands touching, black hair brushing against my forehead, soft lips pressed against mine. I hear a little whimper and I press forward, tongue meeting tongue, hands on neck and body and anywhere I can touch, and when I open my eyes I see grey skin and red eyes-

-And then I wake up.

Rose has spent a lot of time analyzing my dreams and basically going, 'you like men' repeatedly. But I'm pretty sure I can figure this one out on my own.

I'm half hard, and it's awkward, more then usual, because I was dreaming of: A) an alien and B) a guy one. I don't move, I wait for it to leave. There's no way I'm yanking while that scene is still in my mind.

I can't lie down though, I can't keep still. I get up and walk instead, not to the bathroom that me and Vantas seem to meet in, for that exact reason.

You've been on this rock for maybe a year. This is pretty normal.

At least, that's what I want to think, but I haven't entertained any frisky thoughts for a long time. Since the game started, in fact. There was no Time to think about that kind of thing, not with staying alive being a job and all.

His eyes don't leave my head.

I can't get rid of them, the bright red. They're like a light bulb, and I'm the moth that's gonna die if it gets too close.

But I feel like at least I'd die euphoric, getting lost in the red that's his, and mine.

The color red.

Strider.

It's like a mantra, over and over and over and over in my head, and I can't stop it. I can't stop thinking about it.

This pity-crush is getting to me. I'm going to lose it if I don't do something.

The talk with Gamzee comes back to me, how he said that I have to do what I think. The problem is that I don't think, not when dealing with Strider. It's hard.

It's hard and-

-and I'm not going to finish that sentence. Instead, I go back to the window, where, I'm guessing, this whole pity-thing for Strider started.

Right now, I miss Sollux more than anyone. He'd have called me '2iilly', except I guess not, now that his lisp disappeared. He would've sat down and talked to me about the stupidest things and helped me get my mind off of this.

He's my best fucking friend, and he leaves me here on a meteor. He could be dead. Really dead.

I don't want to think about that, I really don't want to think about that.

The window doesn't give much light, not anymore. We're further away from the sun, thank everything.

I lean against the windowpane, the cold glass is a relief. I'm always warmer then I should be. Terezi and Kanaya both agree it's because I get so 'upset'.

"We meet again, Vantas."

The now-distinct ring of Dave's voice comes from behind me, and I tense. I'm not ready for any encounter like the last time we were here, I'm not ready for it at all.

"Haha, very funny asshole." I snap. "What brings me the divine pleasure of having to see your pale human complexion?"

"Just looking around again, Vantas. Don't get your troll-panties or whatever in a twist." He sounds calm, he sounds like how he used to sound, douchebaggery and all.

It's like the time before I knew what exactly was under those shades, the back-and-forth whiplash of words.

"That sounds like the most uncomfortable experience I could ever have the displeasure of having, IF I wore something like that. Why would you even suggest something so hideously awful?"

There's a slit tilt to his shoulders, a minimal shrug. "It's something that would happen to your wound-up ass."

"Why are you even looking at that, Strider." I snort, shaking my head.

I wait for a response, some snarky reply, but the silence between us gets longer instead.

I dare to sneak a glance at him. He's looking at the floor, at least, I think he is.

I have the very distinct feeling of wanting to pull his shades off and look at his eyes. I crush the idea. I'm not prepared for anything like that.

He takes a few steps closer to me. I back up. This whole thing took a turn into 'what-the-fuck-is-happening-ville', and I-

-His hands are on my shoulders, and he's always going to have the height advantage, fuck. Oh god. Oh god, what is happening right now.

He opens his mouth like he's going to speak, then closes it. I can see from here the firm press of his lips, a faint, faint memory of a pesterlog drifting.

I mentioned his lips a whole fucking lot that time, didn't I? Is the wild card thought that my head picks up. Out of all the things I had to remember, it's that.

I swallow down the lump my that's in my…Throat.

I haven't used as many Alternian terms in a while.

Why is that a thing that I'm thinking about? How am I not entirely focused on Strider and his goddamn mouth-

-Which is opening.

"Vantas."

"What." It's all I can up with. I am a fucking master of eloquence.

I'm not paying any attention to the very slight shaking of the hands on my shoulders, nope. I don't pay them any attention and I definitely don't feel my pity-gland run a marathon. That's not a thing that is happening, no way.

When Strider leans closer to me, I reach up and grab his glasses. It's a blind attempt at stopping him- though I don't want him to stop.

He freezes, and I wait for him to back off, to say something sharp and cold and impassive, and I wait for this to have never happened. Instead, one of his hands grabs mine and closes around it, pulling his shades off.

His eyes are full of sincerity, nervously looking at me, but they don't waver.

When he leans in towards me, I close my eyes.

It's soft and strange and it's different from the time when Terezi and I were in a quadrant, it's not as desperate and 'thank god you're alive'. I don't even know what I'm fucking doing this time, and I can tell he doesn't know either. He's trying so hard not to let it show, but he's shaking so hard. It makes me shiver.

How could I not have pitied this stupid 'coolkid' by now?

When he pulls away, he doesn't let go, not right then. Our eyes meet, and while I should feel embarrassed, instead I'm drawn in.

The color red.

Vantas -I guess I should call him Karkat- stares at me. He stares at me for so long I start getting freaked out. What if he didn't ever see it that way. Do trolls have a special name for being rejected? What if he put me in a different 'quadrant' or something, what if I was never even an option-

-Then he cuddles me. Cuddles. Like a little cat or something.

I'm not complaining.

I set my chin down a little, and his hair tickles my face. It's a little coarse, but other then that, it's nice. Smells like spice and cherry, though that could be the inner Terezi working.

"…So does that mean I'm allowed into your quadrants?" I meant for it to sound like a joke, but it ends up a lot more serious. I hope he doesn't laugh.

He nods, a really minimal kind of nod, against my chest, and I never really knew that he could be this cute.

Whoa, watch the sappiness, Strider. You're getting in over your head.

"…ed." He's mumbling something. I think I get the right to tease.

"Ed what? Come on Vantas," That's going to be a hard habit to break, "you've got to give me some more detail."

"…Flushed."

"Hmm?"

He's getting a little pissed now, I can tell. I don't plan on letting him get away though.

"I'm flushed for you."

I hear it, slight and mumble-y as it is, and now I just want to be mean. So I bend down a little and whisper,

"What?"

He turns red. It's cute, and I'm smirking and he knows it.

"You're a jerkass, Strider." Is the response. He clings to me harder though, his face buried in my shoulder.

"I know." I'm holding him just as tight. "I know."

When I look out the window at space, it doesn't seem as desolate.

Karkat shifts a little and turns to look at me, and I can't help it- I crack a smile. He smiles back, eyes glowing.

I love

the color red.


hoo, this fic is long. And actually, I had to take out a small part of Gamzee and Karkat's conversation, mostly because fanfiction . net doesn't like the diamond sign.