Sollux lifted a hand in greeting as the white car pulled up to the driveway, the warm spring sun glinting off the polished paint job. He approached the vehicle as it eased itself to a halt by the curb, shifting the duffle bag over his shoulder before rapping on the passenger side window. The glass rolled down with an electric hum and Feferi smiled at him from the driver's seat.
"Get your skinny butt in here then!" she said. "Everything's unlocked. You can toss your bag wherever you want to."
Sollux gave her an uncertain smile. "Thanks. For everything. Driving me and agreeing to go with me in the first place."
She laughed as he opened the door and threw his luggage in the back seat. "Well, I obviously couldn't say no! I had nightmares thinking about how a little guy from suburbia would manage to travel around California. Besides, I haven't seen my own parents in a while. And they've been begging me to come home now that the school year's finished."
Sollux sank into the passenger's seat and slammed the door behind him. "Well, no matter what your reasons are, I appreciate it."
"So somber today," Feferi giggled as she pushed the car into drive and sped off down the road. "It's almost like you didn't take a week off of work to go combing sunny Pacific beaches."
"I'm not going there to comb beaches," Sollux sighed, peering at himself in the mirror and straightening his tie.
"You're going there to talk to Eridan's parents," Feferi recited, her brows lowered in a frown even though her lips remained curved upwards. "Yes yes. And it's all very serious and not fun at all. Except I'm telling you that the minute they've found out you've never been to California is the minute they are taking you to the beach. I guarantee it."
Sollux rolled his eyes, but was unable to keep a tiny grin from the corner of his mouth. "Yeah, I'm sure that'll be a fucking laugh a minute and not awkward at all. 'Hey, so yeah, I banged your dead kid. How's the beach sound?'"
"They'll think it'll sound great," Feferi replied. "So I guess this is my way of warning you that they're a little…enthusiastic. Like, they might offer you a plate of cookies and the papers for your adoption as soon as you walk through the door."
Sollux blinked, turning his head to stare at Feferi. "They don't even know me. I could enjoy feasting on the limbs of infants for all they're aware."
"They know their son had better taste than that," Feferi replied, giving Sollux a wink. He sighed at that, slumping back in his chair and putting his hands to his face.
"This was a horrible idea," he groaned, voice muffled by his palms.
"It was a fantastic idea," she replied before putting the vehicle into park. "Now get your stuff. We're here."
Sollux sighed, heaving his bag from the back seat. Feferi hadn't packed nearly as lightly, so Sollux found himself laden with two extra bags as they made their way into the terminal. He waddled up to the bag check huffing and sweating, glad to finally be able to dump the extra baggage onto the scale. He gave silent thanks as a fee that he did not have to pay for popped up, Feferi happily handing over her credit card in his stead.
"Sollux, do you want to grab—"
"A fucking baggage cart? Why yes, I fucking would, princess."
He stalked off to retrieve one of the wheeled devices, piling Feferi's surprisingly excessive carry-on luggage onto it before stomping irritably over to the security check.
And then he stopped so fast that the bags went toppling right back to the floor.
Standing in a huge group was…everyone. Karkat was shouting at Gamzee to stay away from the innocent people already standing in line. He didn't seem particularly interested in heeding any of Karkat's angry curses or even the uneasy looks of some of the airport security, who were eyeing the plate of brownies in his hand with some suspicion. Beside him, munching on one of the brownies, was Tavros. He waved a chocolaty hand at Sollux and Feferi, causing Vriska, who had been standing beside him, to look up and give a satisfied smirk. Beside her stood Dave, who had John at his side as always. Terezi was a few feet away, her grin as huge as ever underneath her red sunglasses as she spoke to Kanaya and Roxy. One by one they all followed suit with Tavros, halting their conversations to look up and regard Sollux with smiles and waves and the nodding of heads.
Sollux turned his gaze haltingly to Feferi, who was grinning beside him. "Did you…set me up?"
"Nope!" she said, piling her luggage back on the cart. "This was all Karcrab's idea. He said he wanted to see you off properly. Because this was a big deal. And I guess it sort of snowballed from there! Most of these guys invited themselves, as far as I understand it."
She wheeled the cart forward, not offering any further explanation. Sollux stood dumbstruck as she strode off into the line to wait for the baggage check, the rest of them still standing with smiles and gazes all fixed upon him. He took a step back, unsure if this was really the kind of pressure he'd signed up for.
But Karkat saw his hesitation and bounded away from the group, grabbing his hand. "No way. Not after I had to listen to four of these ass-bananas tossing around dick jokes in my car. You are getting your ass over there and saying goodbye."
Sollux blinked. "Wait, which four ass-bananas would've thrown around dick jokes?"
"I'll leave that up to your capable imagination," Karkat replied, tugging on his arm. Sollux followed behind and was soon assaulted on all sides with back-pats and shoulder punches, a brownie from Gamzee and a farewell flirt from Roxy. After a minute of being overwhelmed, he felt something warm bloom inside him and light up his face. Like he was a child come home.
"Hey," Vriska said after Dave had given Sollux a brief nod. "Tell his folks that he made a mean cappuccino. And that…we really miss him down there."
Sollux paused to look up at her, but she didn't return his gaze. Instead she looked down at her shoes, one hand rubbing her upper arm. At last she lifted her eyes and gave a wicked grin, punching Sollux on the shoulder. "And don't look so fucking gloomy, or they'll kick you out of their damned golden state."
She turned away toward Kanaya then, but not before Sollux saw her reach up to wipe at her eyes.
"Ain't no motherfuckin' reason to be getting any of our glooms on," Gamzee said as he reached over Tavros to pat Sollux on the head. "Our best bro Eridan didn't leave us nothing but laughs and sunlight to be getting along with, and there's just no way any of that stuff can be getting itself all transformed into tears. And Solbro's got the biggest motherfuckin' piece of our brother. That's why he's gotta take a walk in the sky and dip his feet all up in the clouds and give a little of it back. Ain't right to be keeping it all up inside like it gets to be doing sometimes."
"No, I guess not," Sollux replied.
"You're, going to do great," Tavros said, peeking out from under Gamzee's arm. "Even if it might not mean much, seeing as it's, coming from me."
"Means plenty," Sollux answered before he was swept up in an embrace, first by Roxy, then Terezi. There were cheers and John whooped and clapped his hands from the back of the group, and Sollux was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of joy coursing through all the bodies around him that he was glad when he felt a hand on his wrist, leading him away.
"Okay, back off, let the guy breathe," Karkat snapped, shooing away the others before leading Sollux to the security check's entryway. He turned then, facing Sollux and glaring up at him.
"I didn't ask all those douchebags to come—"
"I know. FF told me."
Karkat let his frown drop, his shoulders sagging. A small smile tugged at his lips. "You still got them both with you?"
Sollux blinked, lifting a hand to the necklace at his throat. On his third finger something else gleamed. A silver band with a cracked purple gem caught fire in the light. "Yeah."
"That's a lot of weight to carry around, you know."
Sollux gave a small smile, letting his mismatched eyes dip. "I know."
Karkat surveyed him for a moment, and Sollux sensed the end of their conversation. But just as he was about to pull away, Karkat seized him about the middle, burying his face in Sollux's chest. And as soft as his voice was, it somehow cut through the tumult of the airport around them, a whispered melody find its way into his ears.
"We are all hearts here
Broken and unclean
But if you take them
And lay them side by side
The jagged edges just might align.
They just might align."
Karkat pulled back, wiping his nose on his sleeve. Sollux stared down at him, his heart throbbing in his chest.
"You listen to it every morning," Karkat explained, sniffing as he stared at the ground. "And your room is right next to mine. Hard not to get that shit stuck in your head."
Sollux let out a laugh that sounded more like a whisper, and he drew Karkat back into his arms, holding him tight.
Karkat held him there for a moment before pushing himself away again. "All right, get out of here. Just…don't get too fond of their bullshit perfect weather, okay? Promise you'll get your ass back here once you're done."
"I will," Sollux replied, stepping away from Karkat, watching as he fell into place against a backdrop of smiling, hollering friends. "This is where I belong."