"Eridan, stop picking at that."

Eridan scowled, then winced as the movement of his face pulled at the stitches he'd been rubbing. Kanaya and Equius hadn't been able to save his eye. The lids were a ragged mess, laced with tiny stitches and sewn closed to protect the empty socket. Equally fine stitches held together what was left of his fin, torn off by his own weight when Gamzee punched him, and closed the deep gash leading across his face. "See, Kar, I wwould say 'I told you so', but..."

"Shut up. Look, I can't say I'm happy you're this badly hurt, but I heard what you said to him. What exactly did you think he was going to do? Why the hell would you confront him now anyway? You were avoiding him, everyone was happy."

Eridan shuffled and mumbled "Okay, I get wwhy he's hurting me, ewen if I really wwant him to stop. But Nep didn't do a fuckin' thin' to him."

"No, and really, he's told me he's sorry about it, and he doesn't want to hurt us. He says he can't explain. But seriously Eridan, what did you think he was going to do when you said that?"

"I wwas kinda hopin' he'd prowe me wwrong."

"Eridan," Kanaya said softly, "I'm also not saying what Gamzee did was right. But he hasn't exactly had time to get over everything that happened."

"You guys make it sound like I think it's a skinned knee or somethin'. I don't think it is, I knoww he's not ower it, but he needs to stop hawin' such a short temper about it."

"Eridan," Karkat said softly, leaning closer. "Trust me when I say I don't actually think I've seen him smile since we've got him back. Every smile has been fake or evil. He's always near killing something or curling up crying. He hasn't even really started to deal with it, and saying that didn't help at all."

"Isn't that your job?" Kanaya turned to look at Karkat. "To help him get over it?"

"I'm working on it."

"Obviously not fast enough. Forgive me if this observation is a bit out of place. However, I must make my thoughts known. You're not much of a moirail if he's not even the tiniest bit better. On top of that, you don't seem to pull him away until things are already out of control. In a sense you are allowing his bad behaviour to continue. Perhaps your dysfunctional relationship isn't helping?"

"You think you could do a better job?" Karkat said, drawing himself up and glaring at Kanaya.

"Well, I think I could certainly do a better job than you are at present."

"Wwhoa, both of you stop hittin' on each other or I swwear I'm goin' to puke." Karkat and Kanaya both looked at Eridan and shook their heads.

"Thank you for that disgusting image, Eridan," Kanaya said after a pause. "Are you feeling any better?"

"I just lost my eye, and got my face fucked up by a demented clowwn. Wwho at any moment could come in and finish the job. I'd say I'm doin' fine."

"I understand that the question seems a little out of place. I meant if you were in any more pain." Eridan stared at her and raised an eyebrow, then winced. "I see you think that question was equally stupid."

"Excuse me, but do you think I could steal Mr. Ampurra fur just a moment? ... It's nothing bad, Just need to talk to him..."

Gamzee blinked in the light as the closet door opened. Equius stood there, looking at him with disgust. Gamzee couldn't blame him.

"Nepeta wants to talk to you in the control room. You will come now, or I will drag you."

Gamzee sighed, looking up at Equius. He chewed on his lip and wiped his hand on his pants again, trying to get the final stains of violet off his fingers. He nodded, moving to stand up; he didn't feel like being too close and alone with Equius, any more than he wanted to have to see Nepeta.

He didn't mean to drag her into this, he didn't mean to let his explosive temper drag Eridan down into it this much. His mind flashed back to the shock and horror on Feferi's face. Somewhere in the back of his mind he could see both of them older, different. Instead of shock, a smile that was so familiar plastered on her face. He wanted to gag; instead he settled for nearly running past Equius.

If the Kin would ever forgive him, he had to start now. He'd apologize to Nepeta and see about saying something to Eridan. He didn't mean to rip his eye out, it just sort of happened. He didn't know what was going on in his head anymore. What bothered him the most was the way his guilt was tainted. It was there, but vague and undefined.

The group were standing around the edges of the room, Nepeta and Eridan in the middle. Sollux was doing something with the control panel, but kept glancing up, obviously paying attention. Equius sat beside him, an ominous shadow in the background. Eridan looked confused and as uncomfortable as Gamzee felt.

"You both are acting like I'm going to hurt you. No matter how much you both deserve it, that's not with this meeting is about," Nepeta said gently. "I have a proposition for the both of you. It's a little... out of the ordinary, but that's okay, desperate times and all that."


"I think that it might benefit all three of us... Well, it might help if we all entered an auspisticeship. Eridan, you and I have never gotten along, something about fish and cats. Gamzee, before... what happened, happened... we got along alright, but you're angry, and directing it at not only Equius but me. And I'm not even going to go into you two. If someone doesn't step in-"

Nepeta's thought was interrupted by both of them laughing. It wasn't a "this is funny" laugh so much as one of contempt. That made her blood boil and her hands ball into fists at her sides. Neither of them seemed to care or notice. She growled, both of them settling their laughter and looking nervously at her.

"Notice how I didn't say 'auspurrstice'. See, I'm taking this very seriously."

"I don't need an auspistice, kittysis," said Gamzee, eyeing Eridan sideways and polishing his claws on his sleeve ominously. "I need five minutes alone with small-fry and something very sharp."

Nepeta sighed. "Gamzee. Please? If someone doesn't intervene, one of the three of us is going to end up dead." She glanced over to Equius, who was fiddling with something inside the control panel but obviously listening in. "And I don't necessarily mean Eridan or me. Karkat is right. We left to escape death, we shouldn't let it follow us. We're supposed to be a team."

Equius turned around, holding up the spanner meaningfully. "Before you decide, please keep in mind that if either one of you hurts Nepeta again, I will skin you with the claw side of my hammer, blood rank be damned."

"Ooh, swwears. You're really serious."

"Don't make the threat happen sooner, seadweller. My other friendships here are the only reason I haven't sent you outside to learn your lesson. I wonder if you'd survive the initial decompression or if we'd have frozen fish."

"Oh, you think you can scare me? Wwith a threat like that?"

"Stop," Nepeta interjected quickly. "I can't be everyone's auspistice. And Kanaya is taken, so stop trying to get a million trolls into that quadrant, Eridan. And Equius, I expected better of you."

"My apologies, Nepeta. I know I should let you handle this on your own, I just don't want a repeat of yesterday."

"Don't worry. There won't be one." Nepeta's eyes glinted. "Will there, boys?"

"I'm smart enough not to start a fight like this. It'd be eleven against one."

"Are you tryin' to say I'm an idiot, Gam? Comin' from you that's laughable at best."

"Says the motherfuckin' bottomfeeder I'm standing by."

"Stop!" Nepeta growled. Both of them looked towards her, and stopped their words. Eridan crossed his arms, with a little "tch". "Really, Gamzee, what happened was horrible but that's not a good reason for hurting us, and Eridan, provoking him about it is cruel and really stupid."

"I'm not prowoking him, I'm just tellin' it like it is! You have to just get ower it, Gam. It happened, so wwhat?"

"I said I wouldn't stick my bulge in you, but I said nothing about knives."

"You wwouldn't kill me," Eridan said, pulling himself up, trying to look bigger than the other troll. "You'd hawe hell to pay if you did."

"There is a lot I can motherfucking do before you becoming all cold and dead. Trust me."

"That's the only thin' I could ewer trust you on. And you knoww I'm gettin' pretty sick of your wwoe-is-me crap. So wwhat? It's done and ower. Just stop wwhinin' and get your head on right. It's done, get ower it!"

"You don't know the half of my shit, let alone how I feel about anything. On top of all that, it's pretty fucked up for you to motherfucking tell me to just 'get over it'. It doesn't motherfucking work like that. You're not only the stupidest fucking chumsucker, but an asshole to boot. I'd be doing all of us a favor if I killed you. Us and the gene pool if you were really motherfucking moronic enough not to know what was coming. He was doping me up to the eyeballs when I thought I'd come off the sopor, at least I had an excuse for not knowing."

"Guys, I don't think-"

"I'm not that dumb, clowwn, of course I kneww he wwas plannin' to bring out the buckets! I figured you wwouldn't mind! Hell, you got your owwn fuckin' famous bloodlink teachin' you and wwantin' to get closer. Maybe fill your first quadrant and spawn a batch of little Gamzees, horrible as that thought might be." Gamzee flinched, but Eridan kept shouting. "I really didn't knoww he wwas gonna start cuttin' you up! Wwhy wwould my first assumption be that you wweren't happy?"

"Please, that's enough-" Nepeta tried again.

"Why would you assume I was?!" The darkness was starting to pool around Gamzee again. "Are you really such a MOTHERFUCKING SLUT that you can't imagine NOT WANTING TO MOTHERFUCKING PAIL WHOEVER ASKS?"

Eridan barked out a mirthless laugh and snapped "Don't be fuckin' stupid, a' course I didn't wwant to!"