Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Andrew Hussie. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: For Asuka Kureru, who wanted happykats plz. Paradise reward worlds and game won and also possibly poly things, but mostly happy karkats. ;_;, and who also (a couple months ago) asked for post-game Dave/Karkat/Jade beach fic on Jade's island. This is not quite as fluffy as I was aiming for, but it's definitely a happy ending. :-)
The setting is a post-game new universe where Earth and Alternia helpfully orbit the same sun; Alternia is roughly where Venus would be and Venus does not exist. Trolls and humans discovered each other around the time they independently invented radio and radio telescopes, and their respective space races were therefore concentrated on finally meeting each other. A tentative peace ensued. The kids and trolls have overlay memories of growing up in this world, though they also remember their original universes and the game. Also, some dead trolls came back to life as a reward for standing against Lord English, but I am being deliberately vague on details.
Summary: Karkat wanders away from the chaotic post-game reunion/victory party to relax on the shore of Jade's island. Dave and Jade find him there.
Walk on the Ocean
The reunion showed no signs of stopping, or even so much as slowing down, but after the morning arrivals when far too many people jammed themselves into the main entrance room of Jade and Jake's tower-hive as if worried someone might blip out of existence if they didn't all stick together like a giant snot ball, humans and trolls began taking advantage of the transportalizers or just wandering outside to enjoy the scenery.
Karkat had been hugged more times in three hours than in the entire rest of his life, game victory day included. To be fair, a bunch of the people indulging in ambush-by-hug had been dead at that point, so obviously there was more arm tentacle attack potential now. But still! He was not a hug-inviting troll! He did not walk around with a metaphysical sign over his head blinking out "Hug This Nubby-Horned Dumbass Right the Fuck Now" in firefly code. So why people kept touching him was beyond all rational attempts at explanation.
He grabbed a bottle of purple Faygo (Gamzee had many unexpected virtues but refreshment planning was not one of them, and of course Rose and Dave hadn't bothered to tell the other human players that Faygo was not, in fact, the only thing trolls drank) and escaped down the winding, rocky path to the lagoon.
The frog temples and their moon-and-planet pillars had never existed in this new, combined universe, but giant saltwater lilies still spread their pads and flowers across the placid water and the shore was dotted with shallow tide pools where shellfish, crabs, and tiny prickly things in neon colors swayed with the gentle ebb and flow of the waves. Karkat kicked off his shoes and dangled his bare feet into the water, doing his best not to twitch when a few brave fish darted warily forward to bump their noses against his toes and nibble at his claws.
He'd only lived about an hour from the ocean before the game - he had a crab for a lusus, obviously he wasn't going to take the old grump too far away from his native habitat - but he'd spent a lot of time indoors and online, where he could be hemononymous in a way flesh and blood encounters wouldn't allow. Even so, he'd always liked it when his lusus bundled him up and carried him to the beach, clicking and screeching as Karkat waded on tiptoes out into the waves. Later on he'd sometimes snuck out all by himself when his lusus was distracted. If he'd timed it right, he could create the illusion of being all alone on the planet, just him, the moons, and the water.
He'd never liked being constantly alone, but back then it was better than the alternative. That wasn't true anymore - and hadn't been, even before they finished the game - but even a friendleader could get overwhelmed by the combined idiocy and volume of his companions, and the few people he wanted to get closer to one-on-one were currently busy with their other friends and quadrantmates. Which was good! Karkat liked seeing them happy; it was one more bit of confirmation that this universe was a prize worth winning. But without anyone to distract him crowds still tended to make him tense, and fuck if he was going to wind himself up into a froth of nervous rage when he didn't have to. That shit was exhausting.
Besides, the ocean's edge was soothing - familiar, even if the planet was different and the light dancing and dazzling on the waves was golden-white instead of purple-green. At this latitude, the midday sun gave the illusion of being nearly as bright on Earth as on Alternia - and how strange was it that their planets now orbited the same star? - but while the glare still made Karkat squint and avoid looking directly at the sky, its heat wasn't fire-deadly, more like a warm, heavy hand pressing on his hair and shoulders, coaxing him to lie down and snooze. So he did. Just tipped straight back, lifting his legs so only the tips of the waves licked the arches of his feet, and flung one arm over his face so the insides of his eyelids went from brilliant orange to a dull, muffled red.
A rock was digging into the small of his back. He didn't care. Karkat let the corners of his mouth curl up just a little, enjoying the warmth, the mild sea breeze, and the bone-deep surety that he didn't need to fight for his very right to exist anymore.
"Wake up, Vantas. You fall asleep like that, you're gonna get sunburned, toast yourself all cherry red on the outside to match your pretty peepers."
Karkat lifted his middle finger in the general direction of Dave's voice and yanked his mouth back into a scowl. Like hell was he going to smile in front of that douchebag. "As if you give half a shit," he snarled.
"If he doesn't, I do," Jade said, giggles lacing her voice. "Here, catch!"
A small, heavy bottle bounced off Karkat's stomach and sank into the tide pool with a clatter and sploosh.
"Sweet catch, bro," Dave said. Karkat flipped him off again, then jerked when the bottle reappeared on his stomach, soaking through his shirt. Gnrgh. Damn Jade and her sneaky, cheating teleportation tricks.
"You really should put on some sunscreen," Jade said, pebbles rattling as she walked closer over the rocky excuse for a beach. "Even Jake and I get burned a little if we stay out all day without a hat or shirt, and I know trolls have thicker skin but you're also nocturnal so you don't have any built-up protection." She knelt down beside Karkat, right where he could see her knees from the side of his left eye if he lifted his arm a fraction. "I can help you rub it onto your back if you'd like."
"Hey now, moving a little fast there, Harley," Dave said, his feet crunching to a halt on the other side of Karkat's head. "Vantas here is a hands-free zone, you gotta negotiate before you earn touchy-touchy privileges. Murderclown and Terezi have their passports all stamped and authenticated, probably Maryam too, and maybe Egbert and the punk fishgirl for reasons beyond my comprehension, but I don't want to watch him gnaw your fingers off at the knuckles."
"Fuckass," Karkat mumbled, only to realize Jade had said the same thing at exactly the same time. In a much fonder tone, of course, but even so, it was weird to realize he'd had the same reaction to Dave as somebody who actively liked that jerk.
Dave just laughed. After a moment, Jade joined him. They made no move to leave. In fact, Dave crouched down and lifted the wet bottle off Karkat's stomach and a second later slapped a handful of something cool and slimy on Karkat's forearm.
Karkat gave in and took his arm off his face.
Dave had left a squishy, smeary white handprint on his skin - presumably Jade's mysterious sunscreen - and Karkat trailed a tentative claw through the goo.
"Yes, good, just rub it in," Jade said encouragingly. "There's probably enough there to get your face as well - pay special attention to your nose, your cheekbones, and the tops of your ears - and then get some on your neck and shoulders."
Karkat looked her up and down. For someone so worried about sun exposure, she was wearing practically nothing, just two pieces of blue-green fabric, one around her chest and the other down over her crotch. She seemed to catch his thoughts because she grinned and said, "Don't worry about me! Dave and I already rubbed each other all over."
"Not all over," Dave corrected. "That's for later."
Jade leaned over Karkat, her hair swinging down to tickle his nose, and swatted Dave's head. "Just for that, mister, I'm officially banning you from my room tonight."
Dave caught her fingers and shrugged. "No big, I'll bunk with TZ, or maybe hang with Jane in the kitchen for a bit, see if I can snatch some cake." Karkat glanced up toward him. Yup. The asshole was leering. Humans had the weirdest euphemisms for pailing and they kept making new ones up all the time. Just another way they couldn't keep any kind of organized social relations, always blurring boundaries and pushing limits.
Then again, in this universe Alternia wasn't nearly as regimented either, without any outside forces shoving his people toward one or another form of self-defeating social stagnation. Trolls were a lot laxer about quadrants without the threat of death looming over their shoulders every sweep. And some humans could be nearly as rigid as his old culture had been, in their own alien ways. Maybe it was just something about this group and the crazy, miraculous adventure they'd survived together that made them all tend to collapse into a giant unclassifiable mess.
"Fine, I'll invite Karkat to sleep with me instead!" Jade said, yanking her fingers out of Dave's grasp and plonking her hands down on Karkat's shoulders. "You don't mind, do you?" she asked, looking down at him. "No pressure! We can spend all night watching my old cartoons if you'd like, but if you want to cuddle or bring your moirail or whatever, it's all good."
Her hands were precisely as warm as the sunlight, but the feel of her skin on his did the exact opposite of soothing him to sleep.
Karkat sat up and groped around for his forgotten bottle of purple Faygo. Then he unscrewed the lid and took a large gulp. Shitty, sugary, and stale-warm-flat from sitting in the sun for over an hour. There was no way he'd dream something that disgusting of his own accord.
"Want me to pinch your tender blushing cheeks, too, just to make sure you're awake?" Dave asked. Oddly enough, Karkat's annoyance - because of course Dave Strider would be the one to understand exactly why Karkat was drinking clownjuice like an idiot, and of course he would then share that insight with all and sundry instead of leaving well enough alone, the asshole - carried the same warm, bubbling feeling as the touch of Jade's hand on his skin.
"Why are you down here anyway? Shouldn't you be making sure none of our gaggle of pan-damaged idiots burn down your hive?" Karkat asked as he set down the soda and picked up the bottle of sunscreen. What was SPF? Why did humans have a vendetta against self-explanatory vocabulary? How had such a crazy species managed not to die from sheer mutual incomprehensibility long before inventing space travel and meeting his own species halfway between their respective planets?
Jade waved an airy hand. "I have very good automatic fire suppressant systems! Besides, did you know Dave's never learned to swim? I'm teaching him."
"You could have gone your whole life without sharing that secret," Dave grumbled, but there was no heat behind the words.
"What about you, Karkat? Can you swim?" Jade asked.
"Does he look like a fishtroll to you?" Dave said.
"Do I look like a mermaid?" Jade shot back. "Anyone can learn to swim whether or not they have gills."
"What she said," Karkat agreed. "Also, for your information, yes I can swim. I swim like fucking poetry in motion, just watch me." He yanked his shirt over his head, shucked his jeans to lie on top of his discarded shoes, and took a shallow dive into an encroaching wave.
Naturally he got water up his nose and had to sneeze repeatedly when he surfaced, but he ignored Dave's laughter and struck out in a thrashing front crawl toward the nearest giant lily pad. The contrast between cool water and hot sun was amazing, so good he almost thought he'd gotten his sensory wires crossed like Terezi and could taste the temperatures - honey-brown air and silver-violet water. Then a wave slapped him in the face and all he could taste was metal, salt, and the vague tang of fish.
Karkat hauled himself up onto the lily pad and flipped a careless salute toward the shore. "So there, Strider! Come and get me, if you can!"
"You're still going to get sunburn, Karkat!" Jade shouted, cupping her hands around her mouth to help project her voice. "Don't just look at the bottle! Put some on this time!" She held up the bottle of sunscreen, which suddenly glowed green and dropped into the magenta flower at the heart of the lily pad.
"Don't get too comfortable, or I swear I'll dunk your nonexistent ass into the water when I get out there," Dave added, yanking off his own shirt and setting his sunglasses neatly on top of his shoes.
"And oinkbeasts can fly! I'll believe it when I see it," Karkat shouted back, and settled in to watch the show. It was funny at first - Dave kept getting water up his nose and in his eyes, and laying ever more elaborate maledictions on the ocean - but he had a swordsman's physical coordination and it didn't take long to apply that to a new set of motions. Within ten minutes, he was striking a somewhat wobbly course out toward Karkat's lily pad, with Jade trailing watchfully after him.
Dave slung his arms over the edge of the leaf and stared blankly forward, breathing hard through his nose.
"Swimming is hard work if you're not used to using those muscles that way," Jade said consolingly, patting his damp shoulder. "Now come on, let's get out of the water and rest for a bit, okay?"
Karkat prodded at Dave's hand with his foot. "I haven't swum in nearly two sweeps but I didn't need any rest."
"Says the guy lounging around on a mutant lily pad like the emperor of ennui," Dave grumbled. He latched onto Karkat's ankle, trying either to pull himself out of the lagoon or Karkat in. Maybe both. Karkat scrambled back toward the flower as the leaf billowed and rippled under the sudden weight increase, hauling Dave along with him. Jade, still treading water, clapped her hands over her mouth in a completely useless attempt to hide her giggles.
Dave swung his foot sideways, splashing saltwater into her face and furry white ears.
"Hey, Karkat, did you put the sunscreen on?" Jade asked after she shook her wet, heavy mane out of her eyes.
"No. It's a human thing, who even knows how it might react to troll skin?" Karkat said, leaning forward and trying to pry Dave's hand off his leg. Dammit, if the bastard didn't let go, he wasn't going to keep being nice about his claws.
"Bzzzt, error, I know you have overlay memories of spending a year as a foreign exchange student with Egbert, so stop pretending Earth's terra incognita for you," Dave said, still lying face down on the sagging lily pad. "Sunscreen blocks ultraviolet light, amen, the end. Doesn't matter what kind of skin it's on. Plus this is the dual-species kind, guaranteed to chemically bond with your stupid chitinous hide as well as it sinks into our handy dandy mammalian pores and shit. We bought it special and all. No expense spared for this party, dude."
"What he said," Jade agreed. Then she scrambled onto the leaf as well - it lurched alarmingly, its edges buckling and letting spurts of water onto the surface - and crawled into the middle where Karkat had taken refuge. "Come on, I'll help you spread it on your back."
"All my girlfriends keep abandoning me for shouty dickweeds," Dave said in a falsely mournful voice.
"I'm only following Terezi's sterling example," Jade said serenely as she plucked the little bottle out of the lily flower. "Karkat's animal magnetism has overcome my inhibitions. Besides, nothing says you can't come join us."
"Ooh, Ms. Harley, ooh." Dave was suddenly sitting on his knees, so fast Karkat missed the transition from flat to upright. His hand was still locked around Karkat's ankle.
"Do I not get a say in this hoofbeastshit?" Karkat demanded, shaking his leg in a futile attempt to make Dave let go. Meanwhile Jade's cold, slimy hands descended on his shoulder blades, leaving tingly handprints for a second before she began to rub in sloppy circular patterns.
"Of course you get a say," Jade assured him. "But I don't think you're the kind of person who's happy all alone. Large groups aren't your thing. I get that! They're not really mine either, not for more than an hour or two. But it's important to have friends and people you love, and one of the best ways to show that is by touching each other. You know, sex and kisses and all that. Or just hugs. Or even just a friend helping you with sunscreen so you don't get burned, because we don't like seeing you unhappy."
"Mostly I don't like hearing you unhappy, but yeah, what she said," Dave agreed. "So whaddaya say, Karkles? Are you willing to expand the population of Can-Touch-Vantastan, population practically nobody? Or do we just dunk you in the sea, have a splash fight until someone comes down to drag us back to the house, and pretend this conversation never happened?"
He was still holding Karkat's leg captive. Also he had one of the most punchable faces Karkat had ever seen, in any universe, while still retaining some basic skills as a social sentient being that might allow him to qualify as a decent rival. Or partner. Much as Karkat hated to admit it, they'd worked well together in the game when necessity had forced their hands.
And he'd always liked Jade, once he'd dragged his head far enough out of his own nook to realize she hadn't prototyped her lusus on purpose.
Her hands kept rubbing gentle circles on his skin, even though the sunscreen had long since evaporated or bonded or whatever it was supposed to do.
Karkat swallowed, feeling uncertainty like a physical lump in his throat. "What kind of old cartoons do you have?"
"Huh? Oh! Well, Squiddles of course, but under the circumstances that might not be the best idea," Jade said. "I have Transformers, which is about sentient alien robots who come to live on Earth. The science is dire but it's a lot of fun, and maybe we could compare my files to the version from this universe, which is obviously different because they had to work Alternia into the plot and stuff. Or I have My Little Pony, both the old version and the new remake version. Or-"
"MLP or bust," Dave said. "If I'm part of this little audiovisual orgy, I insist."
"Still trying to find common ground with Dirk?" Jade asked, a fond tone in her voice.
"Shut up, it's bizarrely addictive," Dave muttered. "You watch Manthro Chaps. You have no moral high ground here."
"Do I want to know?" Karkat asked, feeling morbidly curious.
"Not today you don't," Dave interrupted, his hand suddenly shoved over Karkat's shoulder to press against Jade's mouth. (Karkat still hadn't figured out if the bastard was actually that fast or if he was abusing his time manipulation powers to make it look like he had superspeed. Judging by Dirk, it was probably real, but like hell was Karkat going to give Dave the benefit of the doubt. Which was now an actual concept in Alternian legal systems, according to Terezi, and wasn't that a strange thing to think about.)
"Licking my hand is not a deterrent," Dave said, jolting Karkat out of his wandering thoughts.
Karkat leaned sideways, trying to see both humans at once. Their eyes were locked challengingly on each other, almost as if he weren't between them. And really, wasn't that the story of his life? Somebody expressed interest in him, but just as things were getting serious somebody else stepped in as a distraction. Aranea and Calliope with Meenah, Roxy, Kanaya, and Tavros with Gamzee, Dave and Rose with Terezi, who even knew with John, and now Dave again with Jade. And yeah, the people he liked weren't distracted all the time - half the point of quadrants was to divide attention more or less equally among various partners - but he hated the return to solitude just when he'd started getting his hopes up.
He started to slide out of the way, ready to swim back to shore and see if Gamzee was free for a pile, or if Terezi felt like sparring and then maybe some tentative kisses. (He still couldn't believe she actually liked him back, after how much of a giant fuckup he'd been, even if she did like other people too.)
Dave's hand shot sideways and clamped on his shoulder. "Freeze. The subject of the negotiation does not get to escape and render the proceedings moot."
"I could have taught Dave to swim any old time or place," Jade added. "We came down to the beach today because of you. Come cuddle with us? I promise My Little Pony is cute, and it has lots and lots of friendship and pale romance!"
"And you'd be okay with just that?" Karkat said.
Dave shrugged and leaned back, letting go when Karkat showed no sign of diving off the lily pad. "Yeah, sure. Which isn't to say we'd be unhappy if you wanted a bit more on top of that basic vanilla, maybe some chocolate sauce and a maraschino cherry and shit, but ice cream's ice cream, no frills required for taste bud delight."
Karkat blinked at him. "Try that again in English, bilgesack."
"We'd like it if you wanted kisses and sex as well as cuddles, but we won't ask for anything you're not willing to give," Jade translated. She squeezed more blobs of sunscreen onto his shoulders and started tracing spirals up the back of his neck.
"She won't ask. I might," Dave said. This time he leered at Karkat, complete with a stupid, overdone cheesy wink. Or wonk. It was definitely awful enough to be a wonk.
Jade threw the sunscreen bottle at Dave's head. "But he'll take 'no' for an answer. Won't you, Dave?" Her voice dripped sugary determination.
"Obviously I will, what do you take me for? I am the very soul of chivalrous courtesy and our precious little troll's delicate sensitivities are safe with me." Dave squirted a glop of white goo onto his hand and started rubbing it into Karkat's shin. "Also his claws and his toes and his legs and his ass and his bulge and his n-"
Karkat could feel himself flushing so furiously his blood might as well be boiling through his skin from underneath, candy red fountains about to burst from his face and neck. How the hell did Dave always manage to infuriate him so effortlessly? And then wander off without doing anything about the flirtations he was constantly scattering at Karkat's feet?
Except he wasn't wandering off now, was he? His hands were tracing slick paths up toward Karkat's still damp underpants, just like Jade's were tracing equally slick paths down his back toward the same target, her torso pressed lightly against his as she inched ever-closer.
They actually meant their invitation.
Karkat wished he'd brought the Faygo bottle into the water with him, to retest the reality of this scenario.
"You're awake, dumbass," Dave said, flicking a drop of sunscreen at Karkat's nose.
Karkat flashed his fangs and growled.
"Awww, that's so cute!" Jade cooed, bending down to kiss the tip of his right horn. "I can feel it all rumbling in your chest like a real growl, not faked in your throat like humans do. Like this, see?" She growled, and yeah, Karkat could hear the difference between that and the way John tried to imitate him now and then - she hit the right harmonics, and he could feel the vibrations transmitted from her lungs through her bones to her skin and onward to echo in his own body. It was another bit of familiar-but-not, like the ocean in sunlight, or his own altered planet, or being alone by choice instead of necessity.
Dave's face had gone still in a non-expression that was somehow different from his usual blankness. Maybe that was how he showed attraction.
"Okay," Karkat said.
Dave blinked. "Right. Good. And for the non-telepaths among us, mind clarifying what exactly you're agreeing to?"
"Sleeping with you two idiots. And maybe more than sleeping. We'll see," Karkat said, feeling his blood burn again. If this turned out to be nothing more than a massive, ironic prank...
But Jade kissed his other horn and flexed her hands on his ass. "Awesome! Next question: do we head for my room now, or do you want to have that splash fight after all? It'd be a shame to spend all afternoon indoors, and you looked like you were enjoying the beach when Dave and I got here."
Karkat gave that due consideration for a full minute - it was hard to think when people had their hands all over his bare skin, okay? and getting closer to his junk every second - trying to weigh the costs and benefits. On the one hand (ngh, hands), sex. Right now. Which. Would be good. But. On the other hand. The ocean. Which he missed. Plus a chance to beat Dave. And convince himself this was real.
And then still sex.
Karkat grabbed Jade's right wrist and Dave's left arm and rolled them all into the ocean. When they surfaced - Dave sputtering, Jade laughing - Karkat stopped fighting his smile.
AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I appreciate all comments, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.