Your name is Karkat Vantas and the first time you ever lay eyes upon Dave Strider you nearly faint.
It wasn't like one of your RomComs; you weren't immediately head-over-heels flushed for him, nor were you suddenly engulfed in a black rage. However, it did make your four-chamber expanding and collapsing bloodpump still for a few dreadful seconds and your silver eyes go wide. Then again, it had good reason to.
For as long as you can remember, you have been plagued by nightmares. Your friends simply accused you of not having enough sopor, or maybe the sopor was out of date, or maybe you weren't using it right. You ignored their accusations because you knew they wouldn't understand and wonder to this day why you ever told them to begin with.
The nightmares are sometimes more of a comfort. They make you think. There was a point in time when you'd stumbled across a psychic troll who had assured you out of the blue that they are visions and memories, not nightmares, but you've never believed in all of that 'Ancestor' mumbo-jumbo and had brushed it off. Why would you, or your Ancestor, for that matter, have memories of a peaceful Alternia? Had that ever even been a thing?
It was mostly peaceful, at least. It seemed all that went wrong only went wrong for you. Raids, attacks, eventually being captured, tortured, murdered... memories? There may be a reason you refuse to believe it.
Then things began to change.
The dream had started like any other. You were being half marched and half dragged up toward the chains on a stage surrounded by furiously cheering trolls; jeers and shouts from the crowd ringing in your tattered ears. They heaved you up and snapped the cuffs around your wrists like they'd done so many times before, and you knew the fire was coming next, but you were powerless to save yourself. You writhed just a bit, but your body was so tired, so heavy...
Your eyes snapped shut when there was a sudden blinding light. Not.. not fire. It wasn't fire. It was warm, but it wasn't scalding. Something touched your bloody cheek and you instinctively tried to draw closer; suddenly collapsing as the chains were cut and the shackles fell away. The warmth caught you easily in slim, strong arms and there was a certain sort of shifting before you realized you were no longer a nameless troll at your execution. You were Karkat Vantas, battle-weary and so very tired.
The warmth lowered you onto the ground and you felt it start to leave now that you were safe. You sat up in alarm, eyes snapping open and all else coming to a halt. The being turned to look at you and it was like no troll you'd ever seen before. The skin was pure white and hair a fine platinum gold color. Strange little brown speckles littered their face and your breathing hitched when you looked into piercing red eyes- the same shade as your mutant blood. The being was dwarfed by its large, oddly silent wings as they swayed and fluttered behind him. There was a moment of still as the corner of his mouth upturned a bit, then his back was to you and all of a sudden you were sitting up in your recooperacoon with a smack of your forehead against the low ceiling.
At the time, you'd never heard of humans. Certainly not humans with avian attachments to their shoulderbones.
It slowly turned into a normalcy for you. When the worst of your nightmares would begin to claw at your subconscious, your winged savior would be there to calm you down. Most of the time when you'd only began to realize what was happening, though sometimes he'd let it drag on until you were thoroughly panicked. Yet never once were you cross with him for standing by and watching your torment. Simply thankful he was there to save you.
Now... now that you've really seen him, you've started putting the puzzle pieces together. There was not a single doubt in your mind that the mysterious being in your dreams was Dave Strider, but obviously not the one standing before you. He is too busy musing over your height (he's a head taller at least, he says) to notice your gawking anyway. You haven't had a nightmare since SGRUB began, so of course you haven't seen him in what feels like sweeps, but you would recognize him anywhere.
You have been left to wonder over whether the whole ordeal was simply a premonition of sorts, if somehow SGRUB had swayed your life beforehand like it had with Aradia and Sollux and inserted a Dave of a different timeline into your dreams. You are obviously unsure, but you do know it was a dangerous thing to have to worry over. Your instincts were thoroughly convinced Dave Strider meant safety. You could not keep guards against him and, if you had to truly fight him, you knew you wouldn't be able to give a finishing blow.
Was it just more mindfucking from The Game? Making you feel safe and, by extension, putting you in harm's way? Or were you supposed to trust him and this was just SGRUB's way of forcing it upon you? Regardless, you find yourself drawn to him no matter where he strays on the meteor. If he leaves with Megido to consult over Jack, then you wait on the roof. If he's gone down to explore depths of the lab you want nothing to do with, then you'll stop where you still feel welcomed and wait. You are impatient to an extreme with anyone else, but you wait for him without fail.
Maybe it's because he always comes back. Crabdad will never come back. Neither will Equius or Nepeta. Your best friend may never be the same. Your planet is gone. Any hopes for the future are crushed. You are currently hurtling through space on a giant rock with gog knows how many monsters just beneath your feet in the labyrinth of hallways and abandoned rooms. He was the only constant that had been there before and during The Game. You hope he will still be there after.
Today (as far as daytime goes on a meteor) you woke with a start. You're not sure why, but you've got a painful sort of aching in your stomach and a dizzying headache. You manage to stumble out into the lab and find that Aradia is nowhere to be found. Everyone else was probably still asleep, but she rarely left the lab. Dave Strider, however, was waiting at your computer; typing to who you could only assume to be Megido over your trollian account.
"Dave. What the actual fuck do you think you're doing."
He glances over your way and you scowl because you'd hoped to have caught him off guard. Then again maybe your heavy little footsteps while you leaned against the wall to keep upright had let him on to you. He waves you over with no expression whatsoever and you sigh and carefully pick your way across the lab. It's covered in garbage (and blood no one has cleaned up yet) and you're relieved when your hand is resting on the back of his chair and you can wait for the disorientation to level.
"C'mere," he grunts, and you make a squeak-like noise as he wraps an arm around your thin waist and pulls you into his lap.
"Shoosh. I need to talk to you, dude." There's something in his voice that silences you. You look up at him with a concerned frown, ears drawn back against your temples in an unsure though submitting expression. You've heard Dave Strider in a lot of moods, but he'd never sounded this serious before. There is a long period of silence that follows, however; in which you are left to stare up at his sunglasses in mute discomfort. Your stomach is clenched like a fist and you can't seem to figure out if your bloodpump is pounding against the back of your eyes or sinking its way to your toes.
When he does move, it is meticulous and careful. The arm that was slack around your waist draws you against his chest as the other hand comes up to cradle the back of your head and hold it close so he can kiss your forehead. It is drawn out and filled with so many things you know you shouldn't be able to feel but can that it tints your cheeks a faint red and makes you lightheaded. "Dave," you begin, but the lips leave your forehead immediately like a spell was broken with the silence.
Now it's your turn to drag out the silence. A thousand things come to mind at once, but they're all so tangled and heaped in the forefront of your nugbone that none of it seems to make it to your mouth. You sit there was a confused, deeply troubled expression, lips hanging open and grey eyes flickering from one dark lens to the other. Sorry? For what? Something petty that he'd enacted through yesterday's course? Or was it something deeper- something more painful? You've come to terms with the fact that Dave Strider is ensnared in your Quadrants, and you're pretty sure the red one, but sometimes there's a fumbling of black that confuses you and it leaves you unspeakably knotted up inside and-
Your eyes widen as you sputter out a simple, "what?" Instead of smirking or snarking like you wished he would, he grimaces and runs a hand through his disheveled blonde locks.
"Dude, look, it's just that-"
"What the fuck do you mean you're leaving!?" You snap again, your betrayal quickly covering itself with a layer of anger. The sickness that has been swirling within you seems to hit a higher, more sour note as you shoot up from his lap, effectively tearing your body from his hands.
"Megido and I-"
Aradia. He'd been spending a lot more time with her than you as of late. Jealousy finds her role in your illogical web of flash-anger. "That fucking--"
"Vantas, calm d-"
"Don't you tell me to fucking CALM DOWN-"
"Karkat, just listen for five gogdamn seconds-"
"No, I'm not listening to your BULLSHIT EXC-"
"They're not excuses, they're fucking fa-"
"I don't want to hear it REGARDLESS OF WHAT THEY ARE. I DON'T WANT TO FUCKING HEAR IT, DAVE. I DON'T. NONE OF IT."
You are breathless, flushed and clenching your bared fangs. He is staring up at you with that disgusting pokerface of his. It infuriates you because it makes you feel like you aren't trusted. He can't trust you enough to just be himself. He is probably himself with Megido. He has to hide behind sunglasses when he's near you- he's always hiding behind sunglasses. In the heat of the moment your fist connects with his cheekbone and those horrible tinted glasses are sent skidding across the lab floor; collecting dirt, scratches and a bit of pale pink blood before they skitter to a stop a good few feet away.
When he doesn't react fast enough for your liking, you reach back and land a hit on the opposite cheek, though it's not as hard. You keep hitting him, but every hit carries less and less of a sting than the one previous and before you know it he's got you bundled up in his arms, shushing you as you weakly beat your hands against his chest. Don't leave, don't leave, don't leave... The words spill from your mouth like the tears from your eyes as your fists finally splay and your fingers find traction in the scruffy red material of his shirt.
Dave Strider was your constant. He soothed your nightmares when your lusus couldn't. He took you in his arms and calmed you when your Moirail couldn't. He rubbed your shaking back like....
"I gotta go soon. This isn't it." He said quietly, looking out at the otherwise dark lab as you cling to him pathetically. For some reason, you know what he means. "Megido says she's got a good idea where t'head from here. Says we'll get this shit evened out soon, get our asses back on the right track. Dunno how far that means, but.."
There's a sort of regret to the last word. It oozes over your fresh wounds like molten citrus juice and makes you writhe beneath it. He doesn't want to go. You manage to lean back enough to see him through your tears and it's written all over his face. Leaving you here is the logical answer. It's the way it has to go. You are a hopeless case. There is no help. Bringing you with him meant dooming everyone all over again. It is the only way you could possibly be a worse leader than you already are. You choke on a sob.
He regards you silently, eyes a deeper shade of red than your own.
"H-how.. how long..."
Those scarlet orbs slip away from yours.
"... before you leave?"
They close altogether and you almost regret asking.
"Dave?" A third voice chimes in. It's cold and distant with a faint whirling behind it. A dim red light illuminates the hall on the opposite end of the lab and you look over your shoulder with a sickening realization. Aradia Megido stands there, metallic hands hanging at her sides and face completely void of emotion. She doesn't even acknowledge you- then again, why should she? In her mind, you are nothing more than soon-to-be-exterminated. It makes you feel ill.
"Damn, Megido, time already?" He asks, and though it was meant to be joking, you can hear how heavy and gravely it is. His grip tightens on you and another quiet sob bubbles up the back of your throat. Every thought going through your head right now is purely made up of selfish, greedy things. I don't want to die. I don't want Dave to leave. I don't want to be alone. I don't want to lose the game. I don't want to be another doomed timeline. I don't want to be just a memory.
I don't want him to leave me behind.
The moment he begins to shift, your arms go around his neck and your legs around his waist. Your fingers fist in his hood and your ankles hook behind him and gog please don't make this happen. You were supposed to be the Alpha Timeline. You were supposed to be the ones that made it through. You were supposed to be the Winners.
Now you're just another fading blip on the radar.
A few months, a few sweeps, a few centuries down the road... nobody is going to remember you. Not even Dave. He'll leave this timeline like a dozen he already has and a dozen more he'll probably end up on and you'll just be another Karkat Vantas- the one that was too stupid to let go. The one that clung to him and bawled like a grub. The one that couldn't even admit you were flushed for him.
You feel him stand up, trying to whisper into your ear, but you are inconsolable. He loosens his grasp on you, instead trying to pull you away, but you dig in deeper and suddenly realize it is no longer clothe your claws are embedded in- that's flesh. Dave continues to whisper as he bends over. Your hips bump the chair and he readjusts to try and lower you into the chair, but you begin to wail. Aradia watches on with morbid apathy. She doesn't even bat an eyelash as he finally tears you away and shoves you back into the chair.
"Vantas. Look at me." He said sternly. You scrunch your eyes shut, still grabbing blindly for him as you fumble out his name time and time again. "Karkat. Look at me." When he repeats it it's in such a way that your pained eyes partially open and you look at his image as it swims in a translucent red. "It's going to be okay, y'hear? It'll be fuckin' fine." He presses your shoulders back against the chair slowly and leans down to kiss your forehead again. "Promise."
"Now close your eyes."
You whimper raspily, shoulders trembling as his warm palms move away from them. You close them tightly as he wipes away the tears on your cheeks and you can hear the fabric of his clothes stretching a bit more as he straightens up. Your whining grows louder as he steps back, but he shooshes you.
"Do you remember?"
He takes another slow step back and you lean forward with your arms outstretched, eyes still shut obediently. You can feel the warm fabric of his shirt ghosting your fingertips.
"You used to have really shitty dreams, right?"
Another step away and suddenly he's out of reach. You start to panic, but his voice is there to calm you down. Your dreams? Yes, you remember. But.. you never told him about those.
"I was there back then, I'm still here now. Just- no, keep your eyes shut. Take a deep breath. You're fine, Vantas. It's just another dream."
"Just another dream..." You echo, your arms lowering carefully.
"Yeah. When I say so, start countin' to ten. It'll all be over in ten seconds, cool?"
Your mouth feels dry as you lean back.
You wet your lips with your tongue, breath coming in uneven shudders as you slowly pull your knees up close. You can still hear his footsteps retreating as he continues.
"Alright. I'll start for you. Ten. Nine. Eight." Dave says, his voice gradually growing farther away. Somewhere in the back of your mind you can still hear yourself screaming for him not to go, but all that reaches the world is the tears rolling down your cheeks.
"Good boy," he says, and you feel the slightest quirk of your lips. "Keep goin'. Gotta get a good beat goin' here."
Aradia says something and you can tell that she's already well on her way through the hallways. Dave mutters back and you expel a breath that sounds vaguely like his name.
"Keep it up, Vantas, I can hardly fuckin' hear ya."
"Five... Four..." You respond, raising your voice enough for him to hear you. "Three," rings louder and it's only once it's quiet again that you can't hear him anymore. But the image of his angelic figure from the first time you ever saw him comes to mind and keeps softly coaxing you to continue. "Two..."
The memory promises warmth and comfort, lulling a small smile to your lips.