Edit: This has been reuploaded so that the shrinking-and-growing shenanigans are hopefully a little clearer! Please let me know if it is still TOO confounding... it is a little weird, bu I think it's clearer. Thank you so much for reading and don't forget to review! :)
The amber substance was sweet and obviously apple juice, but John's piercing stare made it leave an aftertaste that reminded Dave of the flavor of ammonia and cowardice that burned the back of his throat as it travelled downwards in an agonizing trickle. Slowly, though, Dave got over the nastiness on his palette and a rickety victory smile cracked its way across his face. "See," he gasped, opening his eyes, "not pee."
But instead of seeing John's big doe eyes dominate the room like he had moments before, he looked out to see the largest tree in all of existence, except it had no roots or branches and it extended all the way past his field of view, flanked by another one just like it. To his right was another pair parallel to the first and a great, unidentifiable white thing that sat between the pairs of trees. Neither John nor his innocent stare were to be seen for miles.
"Holy shit," Dave muttered, and he spun around in bewilderment to face a vast and barren stone ground all around.
He was on the floor, he realized. He was on the floor and about the size of a beetle and holy shit he was on the floor and the size of a beetle! The apple juice had made him shrink! In fact, those big, endless trees weren't trees at all, but the legs of the table he had been leaning on seconds before and the barren stone tundra around him was the tile of the twisted apartment hall. He puzzled over what the great snowy mound beneath the table was, but he couldn't riddle it out.
A sudden strong breeze knocked Dave from his thoughts and on his back with a disquieting thud accompanied by a furry mass about ten times as large as he was dive-bombing into the ground few feet from where he sat. It scuttled over to sniff him, nails making violent clacks on the ground like the claws of Godzilla on the streets of Japan. "Dave?" John's voice boomed.
Alarmed, Dave backed up like a crab until his hand landed on the familiar roughness of paper. Casting his eyes down in surprise, he discovered that he was sitting next to the big white mound he had been looking at a moment before and he had crushed the little note that had been folded to stand in front of it. It read:
"Dave- if you drink too much apple juice…"
He looked in the direction of the pale, spongy mass again and realized that there was another piece of enormous parchment nestled into it that continued the message of the smaller note.
Lucky for Dave, Jade new he was going to screw up and had made concessions for it. He scrambled over to the mound of what was presumably some kind of food and, remembering how drinking too much apple juice had made him become smaller than a mouse (and hoping to avoid putting his tongue too deep into bird crap or something equally unpleasant), only barely licked the outside of the whatever-it-was and watched as the world around him warped and resized.
Hm. Frosting. The white thing was a cake.
It was a little disorienting, but he could now definitively say that the apple juice was a shrink drink and the food was the opposite- he was now standing beneath the table and next to a cake that (currently) was the height of a full-grown man and about five times as wide (from Dave's perspective.) John, who was bounding over on all fours, now only reached Dave's shoulder when he was standing up and the Strider boy couldn't help but revel in this opportunity to pronounce himself the current dominant one in the bromance dance. (This "dance" is something necessary to all humans, almost akin to the strange Trollian quadrant rituals of Alternia, but it is distinct in that it combined the non-sexual aspects of the kismetic and moirallegic quadrants, thereby creating an entirely new box in the relationship chart. It can best be described as the Joker's suit, and like the fifth quadrant of John Egbert, it is rarely acknowledged or even heard of.)
"Hey, yo, Egbert, the AJ wasn't piss."
John's normally innocent face burned away to reveal the true prankster within- the grin was rotten to the core and deserving of one meant to represent the suit of spades- and said, "Of course not, numbnuts. I just thought it was funny to watch you freak out. I mean, really, Dave, those shades hide absolutely nothing that isn't already obvious."
Time to play his ace in the hole. "Hey Egbert, want some cake?" Dave grabbed his friend by the ear and shoved his spectacled face in the direction of the giant, sugary confection. "I think Jade said it was Betty Crocker," he lied.
With a phenomenally fitting squeak, John's upper buck teeth clacked against their bottom set in surprise and he began to wriggle out of Dave's grasp. "Dave, you wouldn't DARE!" The windy little mouse flapped his great ears and sent Dave into the air and hurtling into the cake. "Betty Crocker is evil and her cakes reek of pestilence and famine and unrealized dreams. And also shaving cream. But that might just be my dad's cakes…"
While John was off on his tangent, Dave gathered up a ball of the frosting and bready sugar and hurled it into his friend's babbling mouth.
"Hugghhghhgh bluh! Bluuuuh!" he cried as he gagged on the pastry and grew to be three times Dave's size. Freshly re-proportioned, John whirled around and his long tail whizzed overhead, shaving the top off the cake like a wind propeller would behead an unfortunate (and/or stupid) goose.
Dave discovered too late that this was definitely not one of his smarter moves. He dove and rolled between John's legs and tried to steady the poor rodent as the latter dramatically reenacted what looked like some kind of homage to William Shatner, screaming what sounded like the name of the titular bad guy from Wrath of Kahn.
Alas, as John was giving his one-word monologue, Dave only succeeded in pushing his furry friend forward and into the cake instead of away from it.
"Oh, shit, John, you okay?"
The only answer he got was a loud roar and the ruined cake tossed on top of him. He crawled out from under the wreckage (surprisingly heavy for such a fluffy dessert), but John was on him like white on rice (or perhaps frosting on cake, if we want to stay thematically correct.)
Now, John's hatred of Betty Crocker was well-known, but the lengths the bake-hating boy would go to exact revenge upon those who would force him to eat cake against his will had never been observed firsthand; the bucktoothed boy-mouse's latent anger exploded and Dave, the first victim outside the Egbert household, trembled as he gazed into the dilated pupils of the enraged rodent as he literally crammed pawful after pawful of chocolate cake and vanilla frosting down the blonde's throat. "Let's see how you like it, knave! I have everything and you have nothing!"
(It is always the nice, quiet ones, isn't it?)
Fortunately, Dave grew to be twice his normal-human size after several pieces travelled down his gullet, so his mouth and throat were large enough to be able to accommodate all the cake he was being force-fed without making him choke. John simply moved himself and the ruined confection onto Dave's chest and continued shoveling, causing Dave to keep growing until he would have dwarfed a totem lathe, had one been handy. Dave quickly got fed up with the situation (pun intended) and used his newfound imposing size to push John off of his face and stop his body's cake-induced expansion. With a grunt, he sat up, grateful that this magical hallway had an abnormally tall ceiling, and trapped the dog-sized Egbert between his hands as if he were a normal enormous mouse and not one hell-bent on starting a food fight.
He raised the squirming rodent to his eye level. "Now look," Dave tried to reason, but the remnants of John's temporary insanity still had a hold over him and he hurled the remaining part of the cake (John was comparatively small in his current state, but he still had the mangrit to haul something bigger than he was into the air, dammit) past Dave's lips and into his esophagus and so the blonde boy's mass swelled to an impossible size.
What happened next was a result of magical science beyond the understanding of normal mortals and only heroes of space would be able to describe every nuance of it in clear and accurate detail, but for our purposes, the only thing you need to know is that the hallway was not large enough to contain a growing cake glutton of our hero's size and Dave's head was screaming in pain and he felt like the world was closing in on him. It hurt and a few tears leaked their way out from behind his eyelids and fell from beneath his glasses, splashing onto the ground. They kept coming as John added to the agony of the slowly-increasing pressure by biting Dave's fingers, each salty droplet becoming bigger and bigger as they tumbled out of his tearducts and to the ground.
Put simply, Dave was growing much too big to fit into the hallway and the effect it had on his body was akin to the effect a compressor has on recycled cans. He was being crushed and it hurt badly enough to make him cry.
He felt himself heave as the bone-crunching pain made him collapse into himself and as the acidic forewarning to vomit spread itself over his teeth and tongue, he had the strangest sensation that it was apple juice and not spit coating his mouth…
…and miraculously, the pain quickly receded and he felt himself return to normal size. His body shrank upwards to where his head was rather than down to his feet (perhaps because he had been pushing upwards and outwards in an attempt to break through the wall before it broke through him) and he felt John fly away from his grasp as he dangled momentarily in midair before plummeting downwards.
The next thing Dave knew, a giant pool of water broke his fall to the floor and the flavor of sadness and salt filled his mouth. But the only sources of liquid he knew about (besides the apple juice bottle) were his own two eyes and it took him a moment to fully comprehend the situation.
Oh my God, he thought, I'm literally drowning in a river of my own tears. I've gone mainstream. Mother fucker. Mentally, he added "self-loathing" to the list of things the water tasted like.
And there was a lot of the water, too; Dave's agonized eye-rain had been shed when he was a giant and was not a part of him that shrank back down with its body of origin. It now filled the hallway and meandered down it in a lazy but constant current that enveloped and pushed him downwards, blurring the lights above him.
He struggled to reach the surface and for a moment he thought he wasn't going to make it, but a pair of familiar arms wrapped around his chest and he felt himself being pulled upwards at an alarming speed.
While Dave and John had been discussing the dangers of wiz in apple juice, Jade had taken a look into the garden, picked a bouquet of flowers, and then exited to discover Dave's predicament just in time to save his ass.
Rather, she came out just as the first of Dave's crocodile tears had hit the ground and scrambled around in a panic to avoid being hit. When they didn't stop falling, she learned that he was being crushed and focused her innate space powers to shrink him back to his ordinary human proportions.
She shook her head in disappointment as she dragged her reckless charge back to the water's surface.
The point of the juice and cake had not only been to test how reckless and irresponsible he would be when given free reign over a set of powers that were not his (and he did prove her hypothesis that he would be just as liberal with them as he was with his own abilities- Dave was a known cheater when it came to manipulating time), but it was also to allow him to grow and shrink without her help and explore a little of his own accord.
She had even left a smaller bottle of apple juice and a miniature dessert in a box next to the much larger one (the one that Dave had been forced to devour by a tricky little mouse) so that he could take some with him if he needed. But it had washed away with everything else in the room (including the bouquet she had picked moments ago- and it had been so pretty!) now, so it didn't matter.
She broke the ocean surface and shifted Dave in her arms so he could breathe a little better. What was a poor girl to do with this idiot?
Well, first things first. "John," she called, "Can you lead me to the shore? I have to carry this one."
With a twitch of his whiskers and a flap of his ears, John floated down to them, his innocent mental state restored. "Oh, man, I am so sorry," he stuttered. "I-I-I don't know what came over me. I just… he made me eat cake, so I got mad, and then I started to see messages and I just had to… I had to OBEY." He whimpered. "Oh, Dave, I'm sooo sorry!"
"'Sokay, Egderp, it's cool. I deserved it, I guess." Coolkid gave a cough and Jade used her abilities to reduce his density in relation to the water so that it was easier to hold him afloat. "Yo, Jade, I can swim on my own now, I think."
"No, you can't," she said matter-of-factly. "John, shore?"
"Oh! Uh, right. We can get out of the hallway and to the island if we go…" he whizzed in a few circles before pointing in midair like some kind of mouse-canine hybrid. "…this way!" he flapped a few feet forward but stopped suddenly, as if he were electrified. "I can carry you guys on my back! You can change my size, right?"
"John, that is the one of the best ideas you have had in the time I have known you. Yes, please," Jade said.
She amplified his dimensions so that he was big enough to carry them both. When that was done, he extended one long, floppy ear to the pair in the water while the other kept him airborne.
"Dave, I'm reeeeeeeaaallly, really sorry I made you cry," John said as he used his oversized ear-wings to dump his friends onto his back.
"You made me cry? Ha! Those were tears of joy 'cause the cake was so delicious." He shivered as his soaked body made contact with the biting wind.
John snorted. "Are you saying that evil incarnate is delicious? Well, that's your opinion." He gained some altitude before guiding the three of them on a bobbing path towards an open window at the top of the hallway that Dave hadn't seen before.
"Devil's food is the best cake," he retorted.
"Y'know, if I didn't know better, I would find your affinity for evil cake pretty ominous."
"Yeah? Well, maybe it is."
Swiftly, Jade jabbed him in the ribs and leaned over to whisper into his ear. "Dave," she told him, "I'm not just trying to be obnoxious when I tell you to not talk! If you keep telling lies and half-truths, even when you are joking, everything you have to say will lose its weight here! That's bad!"
John's cute dumbo ears perked up. "Jade, I couldn't hear you. Was that directed at me? I don't want to be nosy."
Immediately, Jade patted her friend's side and Dave could tell that she was going to basically tell John that the blonde was acting like a child. Since he was feeling especially sore at both of them (one for attempting to give him Death by Cake and the other for treating him like some goddamned damsel in distress), he cut her off. "She said that the only thing more ridiculous than a mouse you can ride like a horse is a horse you can carry like a mouse." (Little did Dave know that this miniature mouse-horse actually existed!)
John had a sense of humor, rodent or not, so Dave's miffed tone left him unscathed and he giggle-squeaked in agreement at the absurdity and did a midair somersault, at which Dave panicked and nearly let liquid escape out his other end (and the liquid would definitely not have been apple juice anymore), but Jade's secure grip on his waist helped him keep it together.
"Holy shit, Egbert, are you trying to kill us? Why are you so stupid?"
At that, he felt John droop and Jade put her hand on the back of Dave's neck. "I try not to be stupid…"
"That's it, I am sitting in front." Jade shrank down, climbed over Dave's hair, and unshrank herself so that she was closest to her mouse-brother's head. Before she took the reins, though, she had stopped on Dave's nose and scolded him privately. "Even people who know you well in the real world are inclined to take everything you say at face value! Being called "stupid" is the worst thing for John and you know that! You may not mean it, but he thinks you do- you're down the rabbit hole now." She sighed and leaned so that her tiny forehead rested against his. "I hope you do what I say before you find out that all the insults you fling will come back and hit you. And right now, they are still weighted, so they'll hurt."
"Why do you keep using that same figure of speech?" He grumbled as he wrapped his arms around her once she returned to his size. "Is it overuse-the-figurative-speech day today, or something? We better call Rose and tell her to stay indoors 'cause this atrocity will offend her tender sensibilities. She'll get on her high horse about what is and isn't effective syntax and shit and start Word War volumes one through seventeen, complete with author commentary to take up a whole 'nother seventeen volumes."
Jade tried to stifle her laughter and tell him off, but her delivery was lacking. "You bet. But you better hope you don't go against her because she'll have the superior vocabulary on her side. Coolkid might get burned!"
Dave cool-smiled (meaning that he gave the ghost of a smirk that could only be detected by means of a heat-seeking device and a magnifying glass used in conjunction with one another) and slouched forward so that he was buried in Jade's hair. When she had miniaturized herself, the water trapped on her had sloughed off, leaving her completely dry. Her body heat was a great comfort to the still-soaked Dave and he stifled any thoughts about how uncool it was for him to hold onto her. "So what if she uses "malarkey" and "falderal" instead of "horseshit" or "brouhaha" instead of "clusterfuck" or "non compos mentis" instead of "cray-cray"?" He let his smile erupt onto his face since he was completely hidden. "There will be no burning and thawing for me, thank you. Dave Strider will remain an untouchable ice sculpture, like if Michelangelo had a boner for frozen water and not a hard-on for stone. I can take on Rose's fancypants blathering any day." He shivered into her hair to illustrate how chill he was, but they both knew that the gesture was an unironic coincidence. He was just cold.
Unexpectedly, John's head snapped around and his ears caught the wind like two giant rudders so that he sent them all in a corkscrew pattern upwards. "You think you can take on Rose?"
Dave's shit-eating grin threatened to rear itself from behind Jade and spout a few riddles, but the force of their steed's whirlwind tangled the girl's hairbow around him and kept him silently rooted to the spot. "Forget what you heard, John. Dave is being incredibly silly!"
"But I thought I heard him say-"
"Hey, John, look at all those salamanders down there! They don't look too happy. Is Casey with them?"
Dave squirmed in his seat, but Jade's ribbons still held him fast and in retrospect he was glad that they did- at the mention of Casey, John tore out of the circles he was flying in and plummeted to the area Jade had pointed.
There were more than just salamanders gathered along the little island that had appeared out of Dave's ocean of tears- nakkodiles, turtles, carapaces, penguins, and some singularly unidentifiable mass of trembling, waterlogged rage congregated on the shore.
"Gotta dry this up," bubbled a nearby salamander. "But how?"
"How? How? How? Nak nak!" Parroted the red crocodilian creatures.
Dave knocked his head against Jade's in frustration- he did not want to deal with the inane idiocy of his consorts. (Can you shrink the damned water so that these guys can shut up and go away?) He wondered.
Now, Jade was a witch but she was not a psychic. She had no idea what Dave was thinking if she couldn't see his body language nor hear his tone of voice, so she ignored Dave's suggestions and egged Egbert to land, gracefully dismounting to stand right in the foray of animals.
And like her brother, she possessed a godly strength, so she didn't even notice that Dave was tied to her back and still in the sitting position. John did, but he didn't say anything because he was having too much fun watching Dave wiggle and gesture wildly while Jade calmly and kindly considered the consort's situation while ignoring Dave's own.
She looked like a Disney Princess with an immature monkey strapped to her and the contrast was akin to the degree of absurdity that a professional heavyweight wrestler wearing his daughter's fairy Halloween costume would garner. At first the Strider boy tried to cue the other creatures to untie him, then he kicked his legs out at Jade's sides in frustration, and finally, after John's squeaking snickers were too loud to ignore, he settled for letting his legs go limp and made his hands give dirty gestures to everyone around him.
Jade's appeasement of the unsettled animals (And Dave's constant stream of "fuck you" as told by his fingers) was quickly interrupted by a hiss from atop the island's single tree.
"You both look like a couple of morons." The pile of wet creature that the trio had seen from the sky flashed its eyes at them and bristled.
"Excuse me?" Jade asked, looking towards the tree.
The thing's eyes, two glistening beads of yellow, red, and grey, were full of rage that longed to unleash itself through the shadows and onto the children. Jade felt a little like a piece of firewood amongst a pile of lit torches, like if she took just one step in the wrong direction, the beast's gaze would set her alight and she would smolder forever in the twin circles of glistening flame.
(Dave was oblivious; he just felt like a baby koala.)
"I said you two look like a couple of morons. What, is that thing on your butt actually sniffing your nook right here in public? How shameless can you pink monkeys really be?"
John's laughter finally broke through to end Jade's blank stare and she turned around to see him squirming around on his back and holding his stomach. "What," she held a hand up to feel the back of her skirt, "What are you…?" She froze as she felt her palm brush Dave's wet pants.
He froze too and felt sparks of electricity run straight up from where her hand landed and through his extended fingertips. He also took a moment to thank whatever power that was watching over him (he assumed it to be the same deity that had heard his earlier prayers about negating literal shit being in this rabbit hole) for reminding him to wear a belt today because otherwise, Jade's hand would be groping bare skin.
He tensed and he felt sure that whatever her facial expression was, it matched his hidden one perfectly. In light of the situation, he was grateful for the trouble the bow had given him since it let him hide and hold on to J-
"Are you serious?" scoffed the shadowy creature, derailing Dave's train of thought. "What, were you too busy being transfixed at how brilliant those brainless scalebeasts are compared to you to notice that you had a bloodsucking prick affixed to your back like grubnoodles on a piece of fucking grubhive art?"
"Forgive me, mister grumpypants!" Jade shouted as she shrunk Dave down and caught him and a few stray water droplets as he tumbled out of her hair and ribbons, "I didn't realize that what I do and don't have on me at all times was cause to offend your tender sensibilities!"
The shadow and its twin pinpricks of light jumped down from the branch it was huddled on and crouched on the ground. "Well, it does. It's my business just like everything else- this whole fucking world is my business because I fucking said so!"
Jade brought Dave to her chest and opened her fingers so he could see their crabby assailant's glistening fury.
"And why do you want everything to become your business? Are you just that nosy or," Dave felt something smooth his now-dry hair and realized that Jade was petting him, "are you jealous?"
The dark thing rose and gave a frustrated growl before it spat, "I am not jealous! Why would I be jealous of him? He's the one who stooped low enough to go hanging all over you like some kind of Earthling version of a digestive tuber worm trying to absorb your nutrition juices before they went streaming out of your waste chute!"
"Karkat, that is absolutely disgusting. At least, I think it is," she said. "But it doesn't matter! I was only trying to help you solve your flood dilemma. You don't have to be so nasty." She gave Dave another pat on the head and cocked her chin to the side. "Why don't you come out of the shadows so we can see you? You look kind of creepy right now."
The figure, now identified as Karkat Vantas (how this wasn't overtly obvious to Dave the instant the troll started yammering, he would never know) shuddered and scoffed. "No fucking way. I don't need to sully myself by letting your shit-slinging gazes dirty my person."
Dave was already perturbed because he was sitting in a puddle and Karkat was only adding to his discomfort. He couldn't keep his mouth shut any longer. "Oh really, Vantas? You wanna play that game? We're only looking in your general direction because you started talking to us, not because we wanted to watch you struggle with some kind of perverse ulterior motives. But you- you have no problem creeping up on us and slinging your…" he thought of the nastiest-sounding troll term he could remember and hoped that it equated to fecal matter, "…your incestuous slurry all over us with your peepers. At least have the courtesy to get a fucking bucket to keep all that in."
John backed him up with an "Ooh, nasty burn!" while Jade tried to shoosh him and gently put her other hand over him.
Karkat's blushing was pretty obvious even from the darkness. "I can't believe you let such a filthy knave sit in your presence!"
Dave shoved Jade's other hand off of him. "Hey, trollshit, learn to pronounce your words right!"
"Dave!" Jade warned.
"Well, oh tiny grubling, are you trying to "school" me?
"Dave can school anyone so long as he isn't trying to rap," John interjected.
"Shut the hell up, Egbert, my raps are amazing and you're jealous."
"Whatever you say. But seriously, don't piss of Karkat. He's really not that bad," John reasoned. "He's like our cool alien that fell from the sky that we have to keep a secret or else the government will come after us. We can feed him Reese's Pieces and-"
Whatever John said, it set the red troll off. "Don't you fucking DARE treat me like a pet! I swear, don't you make me come after you, mouse. Your size doesn't scare me."
Dave may have been the smallest of the four, but his ego was the biggest. "Karkitty, you're bluffing. You ain't gonna do shit."
"You're on my list too, knave!"
Dave ignored the second slip-up between "knight" and "knave" in favor of teasing Karkat and fighting Jade's attempts to quiet him. "You're a scaredy-cat, KK. C'mere, little kitty, kitty kitty!"
With a final screech, Karkat bounded out of the shadows and went straight for Jade's clenched hands. First came a pair of sharp, sickle-like claws, then a tensed pair of arms, and then Karkat's razor-sharp teeth all topped by a pair of distinctive cat ears flicked back behind his horns.
In the few seconds it took for Karkat and his antagonism to cover the distance between the tree and Jade, Dave reveled in how ironic it was that Karkat had literally become a cat.
Jade wasn't so keen on scoping out such vital things as irony, no, she was more concerned with the trifle of saving the miniature Dave's life- he stood no chance against a Karkat who could crush him in his fist. (Not that the cat-troll would; she knew that Karkat did not have the drive to be bloodthirsty like his brethren. If he managed to kill Dave, it would be because he accidentally stepped on him.) With a flick of her wrist, Jade evened Dave's odds against the feline warrior.
John and Dave watched in awe as the raging little lion man shrank down to a mewling and grumpy kitten.
Karkat wasn't so quick to notice his change and so he charged onwards and collided into Jade's foot and began attacking it with all the ferocity a little ball of wet fluff could. "Ouch, Karkat, that hurts!" She said.
Upon discovering that he was gripping a giant shoed foot and the grass came up to his eyeballs, Karkat stumbled backwards and looked up at Jade in confused awe.
Obviously, he had also gotten wet when Dave flooded the hallway (which apparently flooded this entire little world) and, as a painfully self-conscious pubescent would, scrambled up into the tree to hide and dry his soggy self without being ridiculed. Now that he was on the ground and in the light, everyone could see his bedraggled state in full glory- his hair fell around him in a watery mass and his eyes expanded to the size of tennis balls as it dawned on him how pathetic he looked.
To add to the scene, he subconsciously lowered his ears and whimpered, thereby creating a perfectly pitiful picture of a little wet cat.
"Awww, Jade, look at how cute he is!" John exclaimed. "Can we keep him? I know you are more of a dog person, but…"
Karkat's teeth, marred with the curse of troll dental structure, stayed in their eternal neutral grin but his face widened from bewilderment into one of fear as he noticed Jade's dog ears start to twitch and her lips part to reveal her own gums.
It dawned on Dave that Jade was a dog and Karkat was a cat and that was problematic. He began to shake her fingers and clutch at her apron in an attempt to get her to snap out of Bec-mode. "Jade, make him big again. I know he's an ass but you can't drop me and go for him."
"Dave's right!" John interjected, holding his sister by the shoulders.
"I mean, if you wanna put me down somewhere safe first and then go rip him to shreds, be my guest, but-"
"What? I'm kidding," he replied. "But seriously. Jade, don't hurt Karkat. We need him for the pet shop theme we've got going on here."
"What did I say about being called a fucking PET?" shouted Karkat.
"Be quiet," Jade growled.
"Yeah Strider, learn to keep your mouth shut like she tells you- she's got a good head on her shoulders and she might be able to teach you how to keep yours!"
"I think she was talking to all of us, numbskull," whispered John.
Dave, as much as he loved to banter, had actually been more focused on a way to put a leash on his female friend's more basic tendencies than riling up the helpless kitten on the ground. He scaled Jade's apron like a rock wall (trying as hard as he could to not grab anything other than fabric) and hauled himself up to sit on her head using the same hairbow that had trapped him earlier, knocking off her glasses as he went. Then, he wrapped the plentiful fabric around her eyes (the ridiculous design motifs that had been carried over from her godtier hoodie actually came in handy. Color him astounded) and sat like a shah between Jade's snowy ears. John saw what his friend was doing and wrapped it around his sister's face a few extra times and knotted it before handing the ends of the impromptu blindfold to Dave.
"I can still smell him. But yes, it does."
He began to scratch her ears and scalp to mimic how she had been stroking him earlier, and she responded to the touch quite nicely. Her ears relaxed and twitched so he could get all sides of them while her body's tenseness resided.
"Can you make Karkat normal size now?" tried John.
She snorted. "If he behaves."
Karkat jumped onto his feet and stamped his left foot. "I will if he will," he shouted, pointing to Dave.
"Yeah?" snickered Dave, still massaging the girl's head, "I'm always behaving. I am always at the top of my game. It's not my fault that you can't rise to the occasion, peewee. You're a failure on the "grow up, don't show up" rule."
"Strider, I'm not even sure I know what chicanery you are implying up there, but I hope you fall down and break your fucking structure rod!"
Dave assumed that was alien-speak for "spine" and scoffed. "I'm the master of the beast right now, dumbshit. The same beast that wants to chase you around that tree until you melt into tiger butter and then use you to grease her pancakes, by the way, so do you really want to be making demands of me like some really shitty villain in some even shittier pay-per-view movie?"
On the ground, Karkat threw a miniature tantrum and paced in circles before pointing an extended, sharp claw at Jade's cranium. "Don't talk down at me! Unlike some bulgelickers, I am capable of acting like a mature adult- and I don't need your hoofbeast excrement!"
John was having a hard time keeping a straight face and he let go of Jade while he covered his enormous mouth.
"So you are basically calling yourself a bulgelicker," Dave reasoned. "I don't know what that means to you, but I find that to be soundin' like some grade-A nastiness right there. Like something so nasty that Jabba the Hut wouldn't even eat it- he'd be all, "Damn, I can't even subject Han Solo to this, it's so nasty. And I fucking hate that guy." And he don't mean sick nasty. Just fucking nasty. Cool it on the self-loathing there, pussy."
Jade shifted a little more when he made reference to Karkat's sudden feline appearance. Maybe he should refrain from doing that again.
"I was calling you a bulgelicker, not me! Don't play dumb with me!"
Finally, Jade had enough. "Stop it! Karkat, I'm going to return you to normal and you have to promise me you will stop fighting with Dave! And Dave, you have to stop teasing him!"
"But can I still talk in general?"
"No!" She barked.
Dave stopped scratching her ears and leaned against one of them in displeasure. Here he was, in the middle of all these damned furries against his will and he couldn't even make jokes about it!
"So how does it feel, Strider, being told you have to shut up? Huh?" In response to Karkat's gloating, he just flipped up a finger and left it at that.
Lightly, John smiled. "Karkat, you're never going to grow up to be a big, mature bulgelicker if you keep arguing like this," he reasoned.
Dave felt an onslaught of teenage rebellion grip him and, throwing Jade's orders to the wind, dryly commented, "Nobody'd want you to lick their bulge anyway, I bet," under his breath.
Meanwhile, Karkat, who couldn't hear Dave's biting remark from down below Jade, stopped shouting out his tantrum when the crowd of salamanders and other reptiles began making noises and gestures of awe from all around the island.
From the jubilant, chaotic melody of naks and bubbles rose John's incredulous voice. "Wow, the water is suddenly drying up!" He had heard Dave's little jibe at Karkat and said to Jade, who had also heard her tiny passenger, "Dave's comment about bulgelicking and Karkat was so dry that it absorbed all the water! That's amazing!"
Dave smirked. "I'm a fucking wordsmith, what can I say. I can forge a quenched vagabond out of nothing but the sounds from my lips and then I can make him dance a Yiddish folk dance and treat the largest body of liquid around him like the only liquor served at his most hated relative's bat mitzvah. But you can't see these events 'cause it's all the invisible power of language. Mazel Tov."
(The Wayward Vagabond, wherever he was, had a sudden, inexplicable urge to throw a dance party and drink Gamzee's Faygo as an inconceivable wave of thirst had washed over him with no warning. He refrained, but the notion was very tempting. Suggestion is a powerful thing!)
Jade patted her head and hushed the Dave sitting atop it before she set her fingers in a frame around Karkat's general area and returned him to the proportions they had met him in. The grass around him was promoted to all new heights, as well.
While she was at it, she placed a hand on John's shoulder and shrank him back to normal, too. "Thanks for your help, John. I know you won't be able to fit into the mouse-sized doors if you are still… biggified."
"Wow, thanks, Jade! That's really thoughtful!" No sooner had John achieved mousedom that Karkat remembered that he, much like Jade, had an animal alter-ego. Karkat was, after all, a cat and a prime piece of mouse had been set down in front of him. And now, after the encounter with Dave the insufferable prick had eradicated his patience, Karkat's self-control was left with no support and it stood no chance of keeping its ornery owner from doing something drastic.
Karkat went after John as if he was a lightning bolt and John an abnormally tall metal pole in the middle of an unusually empty field.
Squeaking and flapping all the way, the mouse-boy hurried along with a feverish drive to stay alive and looked back only to say, "See you later!"