Title: John: Fall in Love Unadvisedly
Fandom: MSPA (Homestuck)
Warnings: There is porn okay.
Prompt: "By the time the kids and the trolls meet up, Karkat is over his short-lived hatecrush on John and mostly ignores him (not out of anger, but out of apathy). John, on the other hand, develops a growing crush on Karkat."
LET'S DO THIS.
In a way, it starts with Nepeta and her stupid shipping wall, or at least that was what Karkat blamed it on ever after. One day everything was fine (or at least typically crappy-- who the hell would call drifting through space waiting to be murdered by an omniscient radioactive carapace-dog 'fine'?) and the next he had a stupid, squishy human running after him like a little lost Earth puppy. It's sickening and, he's sure, it's all Nepeta's fault.
The thing about the base was that it was big. Vast, even. Perhaps ridiculously so. It wasn't all that surprising, therefore, that one day John woke up and realized that he hadn't seen Jade in the equivalent of half an Earth week, and that, accordingly, it took him until approximately half past forever to finally locate his paradox sister once he'd started looking. There was no real reason for his search, specifically, other than to catch up with Jade and see how she was settling in, getting along with the trolls and suchlike, but a reason was attained in retrospect when he finally located her in Nepeta's block, happily chatting about furry fandom and, of course, the ever present shipping wall-- which had expanded to cover in actuality three-fourths of Nepeta's walls since the humans arrived in the Veil.
"--and I think it would be just purrfect, don't you?" Nepeta finished, as John walked in, pointing to a scribbled drawing with a flourish. There appeared to be three sections to the shipping wall: flushed romances, pale relationships, and a category marked only with the sign of the joker, the wild card, which Nepeta was gesturing at with excitement. She noticed him before Jade could pipe up with any encouragement and gave a happy yowl, waving a paw in John's direction. John actually liked Nepeta quite a bit-- she was easily the most friendly of the trolls, and seemed to like him pretty well, and he could forgive her her fannish enthusiasm for that, even if he'd always found RPF to be a little odd. "Hi, John! Me and Jade were just talking about you."
"You were?" John asked, interestedly, examining the shipping wall with a bit of closer scrutiny. "Why?"
"Nepeta was telling me about all her ships," Jade told him, sounding just as excited as Nepeta did. "You're in a lot of them."
"How many is a lot?"
"Purractically half the human romance wall!" Nepeta exclaimed, pointing again towards the designated area. Leaning in close, John could see with some interest that Nepeta had eagerly paired him off with nearly everyone he'd ever had contact with, from Vriska right on down to Karkat and the obligatory John/Rose pairing that seemed to be universe-sanctioned, no matter what he thought about it. The more he looked, though, the more he noticed something that made him frown.
"You don't really understand human romance all that well, do you?" he asked, amused.
"You mostly have me paired up with guys," John told her, looked closer, and then added, "...and Dave." Which merited special mention because really now, as if he'd ever hop into bed with his best bro. Dave was too cool and ironic for that shit, anyway. "...And Jade."
"What's wrong with Jade?" Nepeta asked, tilting her head to the side. "She's a purrfectly nice human!"
"...Also, my sister."
John stared at Nepeta, who stared right back at him, while Jade watched the whole scene with something obviously approaching voyeuristic glee. "...Nevermind. Just, we don't do that on Earth."
"Date our sisters or date guys?" Jade asked, adding to the mental carnage.
"Both. Neither. ...I don't know anymore."
Nepeta pouted. "That's not true! I've seen lots of your mewvies. Brokeback Meowntain was especially nice."
John sighed and turned back to the shipping wall, his eyes gravitating towards one drawing in particular, of Karkat and himself. It was fiction, of course, and he knew that because in the drawing both of them were smiling and after some time exposed to the troll John was pretty sure he didn't have the correct facial musculature to smile, but even in Nepeta's shaky, little-kid art style, it looked... nice. And almost tempting. John shook his head hard and backed off, thinking that he'd come visit Jade another time. Suddenly Nepeta's room was making him claustrophobic, and this just wasn't much fun anymore.
"Sorry to disappoint you, but I am completely and totally heterosexual," he informed her, heading for the door.
"What does that mean?"
"He only likes girls," Jade clarified, and John could hear her explaining the particulars of human sexuality to a fascinated catgirl all the way down the hall.
Darkness stole up on him that night, and in his dreams the shadows moved. Since he became his dream self and ascended to the god tier John's dreams had been weird and a little bit erratic, sometimes including nothing more than frothing masses of horrorterrors, their coils wound over each other and into a Gordian knot of fear and potential pain. But when he wasn't dreaming of eldritch monsters from beyond the stars, there was usually darkness, whole and unbroken, until it was time to wake up again. John had been okay with this, more or less.
What he wasn't okay with, though, was being visited by visions of Karkat Vantas, especially not a Karkat looking at him with something other than loathing or apathy in his eyes. John had only met him once officially in person, and seen him around the base but a few times more, but already he felt as though he knew every inch of the troll boy, every centimeter of rough gray skin. He could imagine vividly what the fabric of Karkat's shirt would feel like as he fisted his hands in it desperately, what his dry, black lips would feel like pressed insistently against John's own, his fangs pressing lightly against John's skin and drawing drops of the scarlet blood that they both shared.
The worst part was knowing that it couldn't, wouldn't be like that. There would be no tenderness in any such coupling, no close hugs or deep but gentle kisses, no honest affection at least on Karkat's end. John wanted to love and be loved in return, wanted to be able to be a dork about his romances and bring his significant other flowers and chocolate; he didn't want powerful, bruising kisses and bloody bite marks down his side. Wanted I love you, I love you, I love you, not I fucking hate you, you worthless piece of human garbage.
Dream Karkat wasn't like that, though. Dream Karkat wasn't angry, at him or at the world, and certainly didn't hate him. He wasn't grousing and griping about bowing to John's girly human romance spectrum and giving up his beloved quadrants, or biting too hard and trying to shift their relationship into kismesis-y territory. There was a hunger there, yes, evident as he tore off John's clothing in return, but the kind of hunger John was familiar with, the raw, open ache that hurt to the bone, the desire to be one of a pair, and not alone anymore.
John was aware that he was projecting his own species' needs onto an alien life form, but he didn't care. Karkat had done that by confessing his short-lived hatecrush; why shouldn't John be able to do the same, if only in the confines of his own head? He wanted it, he could admit to himself here. He wanted warmer-than-human skin against his, and sharp teeth nibbling at his ears and neck, and the adventure of finding out what troll anatomy was really like. The idea had always been there, nagging at him, since Karkat had confessed his feelings, but now it had taken root and grown into something explosive, and John could only follow along obediently as the Karkat in his dream drew him closer, reached between them, and fisted his half-hard cock.
There was no talking, only kissing and the occasional strangled moan from John when Karkat did something just right, his breath coming in heaving gasps that fogged up his glasses. Scrabbling for purchase, John stroked Karkat's chest, sides, hips, feeling constant spikes of pleasure as the troll pumped him rhythmically, pressing the pad of his thumb into the head of John's cock. John pulled himself closer, as close as he could, until his face was pressed against the side of Karkat's neck and he could feel the pulse of his heart, elevated but steady, the same familiar thump as a human heart. He hooked one leg over Karkat's hip, feeling the troll's erection press into the inside of his thigh, and Karkat let out a hissing breath between clenched pointy teeth, tugging at John more forcefully as he pushed into his hand, against his hip.
Karkat pulled away at the last second, leaving John hot and bothered and betrayed, but their eyes locked and his gaze was intense, and John waited with bated breath, knowing this would be good. "I love you," the dream Karkat told him solemnly, and John's heart melted and broke at the same time because oh, how long he'd wanted to hear that, and oh, it hurt so much to know it could only be said here, the darkness covering his shame.
"I love you too," he admitted, and woke up in a tangle of wet pajamas and bedsheets, alone, feeling utterly bereft.
Things were an awkward touch-and-go game of cat and mouse for awhile after that. The dreams only got worse, and more intense with every fresh iteration, and John began noticing Karkat more and more; in the computer lab, in the cafeteria, in the halls when their paths managed to meet. John never failed to blush and turn away, sometimes muttering a greeting, only to get an noncommittal grunt or "Not now, fuckass, I'm busy," in response. The awful paradox of it was that the more John saw Karkat, the less Karkat seemed to see him. John knew then the truth of the old adage that hate and love were two sides of the same coin; any sort of emotion, any sort of passion, would have been better than this great show of apathy. John didn't need love in return (though he would have liked it, would have been over the moon to receive it), but he did want Karkat to care without really knowing why.
The whole embarrassing business came to a head about two Earth weeks after the initial shipping wall/wet dream incident. John and Dave were in Dave's block, just chillin', throwing down some sick beats or whatever, when something hit John out of nowhere like a truck full of bricks. Somehow, even with the shipping wall awkwardness and the even more awkward wet dream and not being able to look Karkat in the eye anymore without blushing and turning away-- even with all of that, he hadn't quite come to terms with the idea that he could be in love with a guy, and what, specifically, that would mean.
They were supposed to be having a conversation, and John's sudden vapid look and utter disconnect from the subject at hand didn't take long to register with Dave, who elbowed him lightly in the side, expression stoic as usual with a dash of concern hidden in there somewhere. "You alright, bro?"
John let a burst of nervous laughter escape and rubbed at the back of his neck distractedly, looking anywhere but at his friend's face. "Yeah, yeah, sure. Why wouldn't I be?"
"...Well one minute you were rambling on about National Treasure and how Nick Cage can shoot rainbows out of his ass or some goddamn thing and the next you just got all quiet and shit. I thought all your repressed homo love for Cage finally broke the damn and gave you an aneurysm or something."
Nervous laughter turned into nervous giggling because John's mancrush on Cage was completely, totally one-hundred-percent platonic hero worship and had nothing at all to do with the confusing rush of heat and hormones he felt now when he had the bad luck to run into Karkat in the halls, honestly. In a way, it would be better to let Dave think he was crushing on a now-dead celebrity from their homeworld rather than an ill-tempered alien, wouldn't it? He'd get laughed at, sure, but everyone has a phase of mistaken celebrity crushes at some point, and at least his judgment would be less in question that way. John didn't want questions about blackrom (which he still didn't understand) and hatesex, or teasing about the numerous rom-coms he'd be subjected to as part of that relationship, or, worse, for Dave to just stare at him from behind those inscrutable shades like he was wondering where and how he went so tragically wrong as to be saddled with a best bro who couldn't even fall in love with a nice human girl, like a normal person.
Dave was still sitting over there not three feet away waiting for an answer, though, and in the meantime John had gone quiet again, and this was definitely indicative of something and Dave was not stupid and there was definitely no way he was getting out of this without explaining, at least a little bit. "Something like that, yeah," he admitted at last, and endured about ten seconds of silence before Dave snorted, shrugged, and said, "I called it," which was about the least helpful thing ever.
"What?" John asked, dumbly, trying to scrape together a few remaining braincells from the thorough blowing his mind just received. He'd thought (when he wasn't trying violently hard not to think about it at all) that if he ever came out to his friends about this stuff, even a little bit, they'd be disgusted and push him away; after the disaster of SBurb and the resulting shit it put them through he'd been even more sure that he was never going to talk about it ever, in case they pushed him away. He'd always have trolls, yes, being that their sexuality didn't work that way and may in fact have been entirely vestigial, but Vriska was sort of scary and so was Terezi (and anyway she was more about Dave than anyone else when she had to work with humans) and he didn't know the rest of them that well except for Karkat, and Karkat... didn't hate him.
Which brought his thoughts around to square one again rather nicely.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Dave was shrugging again and going on like this wasn't the most awkward thing in the entire universe, and John hadn't just implicitly spilled his darkest, most hidden secret. "What, didn't you think I'd be okay with this? Come on, Egbert, homophobia isn't cool. ...Or ironic, either. Bros before ho's, dude."
"B-but it's... I'm not... isn't it weird?" John stuttered and finished lamely, feeling entirely lost.
"Nah, it's cool. Not like I haven't known about your Texas-sized homo crush on me already." Silence of the stunned and horrified variety promptly descended, causing Dave to stare at him a bit harder and John to scramble for an appropriate denial. "...Oh, shit, dude, it's not actually me, is it? Did you want to, like, have some sappy terrible confession scene where you fall all romantically at my feet and shit to announce your undying love? Because that can be arranged if it'd make you feel better."
John shook his head wildly, squeezing his eyes shut tight behind his glasses and drawing his legs up against his chest. "No, it's... it's actually not you, Dave. Feel free to be relieved now."
"I told you, it's cool. Ice cold. And it would have been even if you liked me like that, for your information."
"Good to know. But it's honestly not you."
"You sure? Because you're kind of out of other viable options here, and no one's denying that I am a magnet made out of pure manliness."
John peered over the tops of his knees long enough to give Dave a searching look, but gave it up when he got nothing but the same blank facade as always. "I'm sure I'd remember having a sex dream about you, Dave," he muttered, and then took a moment to blush firetruck red and spiral down into a black pit of despair. Why, why, why did he always have to run his mouth off at the worst possible time, on the worst subjects? It was just the nervousness, of course it was, and the tiny, lingering, irrational fear that at any second Dave would push him away in disgust, but that nervousness was legitimate, John thought. He was only bearing his soul for Dave's inspection, that was all. No big deal or anything.
Knowing that didn't make it any less horrifying, though, especially when Dave said, in the most serious, I'm-not-playing voice John had ever heard him use, "Okay, then, spill. Whose throbbing mansword are you hot for? And if you legitimately say Nick Cage I am going to flip my fucking shit over your terrible taste, just to let you know." Unable to face his friend, John buried his face further into his knees and mumbled the answer, hoping that when he looked up again, poof, all this ridiculousness would go away and, in fact, be revealed as nothing more than a cruel and unusual bad dream. No such luck, though, as evidenced when Dave poked him in the shoulder and informed him that he didn't quite catch that over the sound of what a wuss John was being.
"It's Karkat, alright?" John almost snapped in return, and felt bad for it; he shouldn't take his own issues out on Dave who was, in his own little coolkid ironic way, trying to help.
"...Dude. Could be worse, I guess. At least he's already got this massive hate-on for you. Sucks that he's such an asshat, though."
John was torn briefly between defending his crush (which was clearly a lost cause because yes, Dave, Karkat was kind of an asshat, we know this, can we move along now?) and explaining the source of his existential torment, and decided at last to go with his inner sentimental whiner. "Two things. First off, he had a massive hate-on for me. That was, like, weeks ago, dude, keep up. Secondly, I don't want him to like me like that. ...Hate me like that. Whatever. It's not like I can hate him back, or anything."
Dave considered this, pushing his sunglasses further up the bridge of his nose. "Yeah, you're the pina coladas and getting caught in the rain type, aren't you? You'd probably be organizing space picnics and trips to the astro diner and shit and he'd just want to stay in and beat you like you were the protagonist of one of your terrible movies."
"My movies? I don't watch the Lifetime channel, dude."
"...That's seriously all you got out of that? Either I'm losing my touch or you're really fucked up over this."
"It is kind of life shattering, yeah." John worried his bottom lip with his prominent front teeth a second before broaching another subject he'd been worried about. "I mean, I'm supposed to pair off with Rose and repopulate the Earth or something, right?"
"Can't really do that when you're concentrating on the troll dick in your mouth, no," Dave commented, and backed off only slightly when John tossed a pillow in his general direction. "Don't worry so much about it, man. If you want some straight up advice, I think--"
But John never found out what Dave thought, because Jade chose that minute to materialize out of nowhere, skipping in from the hall like a technicolor angel of death. "Hey guys! Has it happened yet?"
"Oh shit Jade are we still doing this thing where you know stuff that hasn't happened yet and are trying to tell us but in the most obtuse fucking way possible?" Dave asked, not seeming ruffled in the slightest. "Because I have to tell you, I thought we were through with that shit after John got your dream self killed."
"I saw this a long time ago, silly!" Jade told him, plopping down between them on the bed. "I just thought it was soooo cute! ...Even if Karkat's kind of a jerk."
John gave an undignified squeak at that. "You knew? All this time?"
"I don't know why you're so surprised, man. It's not like she didn't spend years creeping on us with her dreambot or anything. She probably knows how this whole disaster turns out, too."
"Oh, no, I just knew that John liked him," Jade explained, looking nearly as bouncy as Nepeta did when she was talking about her shipping wall. "I saw him staring at Karkat in a cloud, once. He looked so sad. But don't worry, John! I bet it'll turn out just fine!"
"Yeah? Why don't you make him another death bunny, if you want to cheer him up," Dave suggested. "Or maybe a life-size Karkat pillow he can hug at night or something. I'm sure that'd be real helpful."
John cleared his throat, drawing attention back to himself, and immediately wished he hadn't. "So... you didn't tell anyone, did you Jade? We're the only ones that know, right?"
"Of course I didn't. But don't you think we should tell Rose? It's been so long since all of us hung out!"
John groaned and executed a perfect x2 facepalm combo at the mention of Rose, while Dave performed his bro duties and skirted the conversation back off that dangerous track. "LaLond? Jade, dude, the last thing Egbert needs right now is her psychoanalysis bullshit. The truth of his rampant homo boner for Karkat is clearly too much for him by itself."
"Yeah, it kind of is," John confirmed, scooting forward to sit on the edge of the bed. Jade and Dave were being reassuringly nice about all this, but it was just... a lot to process. "This is kind of a lot to process right now," he told them, and was met by sympathetic head nods. "I'm just gonna... go think about stuff, I guess. Try to work this out on my own."
Jade gave him the most adorable concerned look in the universe and patted him consolingly on the shoulder, but let him go. "We're here for you if you need us, John!" she assured him earnestly. "We just want what's best for you."
"Yeah, bro. What she said."
"And we're always here if you need to talk!"
"...You should probably talk to Jade, though. All this heavy shit is profoundly uncool."
"Thanks, guys, really," John told them, edging his way out the door. "But I think I'm good for now. And forever." At that point, John decided it was time to make his daring escape, and scrambled out into the hallway...
...Only to smack directly into Karkat. Jegus fucking Christ this day.
"Ow! Watch where you're going, you grubfucking moron! ...Oh, it's just you." Karkat shot him a look of disgust that he wasn't even attempting to conceal, and John babbled out senseless apologies, trying not to think too much about how solid and defined and warm Karkat's chest had felt when he'd bumped into it.
"Karkat, I'm so sorry! I was just... Jade and Dave were... and I... I'm really, really sorry!"
"Just be more fucking careful next time, will you? Fuck, of all the gogdamned hallways in this stupid building you have to find the one I'm in and run into me." Karkat stomped off, growling about 'stupid squishy inconsiderate humans' and John stared forlornly after him, unaware that Jade and Dave were watching him from the doorway.
"Dude, harsh. Do you need a hug?"
John thought about it for a second. "Yeah, I think I do."
"Jade, hug the man."
And she did.
Time passed, but not a lot of it. Increasingly, John was finding his hours filled up with thoughts of Karkat, more or less against his will-- it would have been one thing if it had been a girl, or at least someone nice who loved him back, but as it was, it was more or less unbearable. When he was around Karkat, John was miserable, which was unusual and a bit disconcerting for him. The destruction of his world, being transported to a dungeon dimension, even death hadn't daunted him half so much. Somehow, all of that had been fun, but loving Karkat was an ordeal.
Part of it was Terezi. John wasn't all that familiar with troll romance despite having had it explained to him several times, but anyone could see that Karkat was in love with her (or the troll equivalent of love, anyway. John refused to think that it was an emotion trolls just couldn't feel. How sucky would it be to be a species that could only feel hate and pity?). Karkat would deny it to anyone who asked, of course, but John had been watching him, and it was completely evident if one knew what to look for. Terezi had always seemed to like him back, too, and when he'd noticed that, John gave up completely on ever being able to be with Karkat. It wouldn't have worked out, he thought, over and over again, in the hopes that the millionth repetition would finally stick. You didn't really like him all that much in the first place, did you, John? There you go again, mistaking malice for friendship and snark for attempts at joking.
All the white lies he told himself didn't help douse the fires of his longing, though. If he lay awake in bed at night staring at the ceiling until he could think rationally and cast aside his feelings, the next morning he'd bump into Karkat in the cafeteria (more often literally than not) and the whole process would start over again. It was stupid, and he knew it, wanting someone so dickish so badly, but he couldn't help it. John had always been a hopeless romantic, and there was a tiny, irrational corner of his soul that didn't want to give up on his love no matter how bad things got.
He tried not to be too happy, therefore, when one afternoon he went to hit up Dave and found Terezi on her way out. They didn't speak much, but she grinned at him toothily as he brushed past her, and not for the first time, John was unnerved that he couldn't see her eyes behind her red shades. She and Dave really were quite a bit alike. "Strider told me about your problem, John," she said, sounding just the tiniest bit smug, and John took a few seconds out of his life to feel mildly betrayed.
"He did? Why would he do that? Listen, I'm not trying to move in on your territory or anything, so you don't have to--"
"Oh, calm down, Egbert. Haven't you heard?"
"Heard what?" John asked, his confusion reaching epic proportions.
Terezi's grin increased tenfold. "I'm sure you'll find out sooner or later." Smug, John thought as he watched her walk away. Definitely smug.
"What the hell was that all about?" he asked Dave, who had come out to loiter in the doorway, hands stuffed in his pockets.
"Hey, man, just because you're a gossipy bitch doesn't mean we all are. My lips are sealed."
"This has something to do with you, doesn't it?"
"Maybe. But if it does it sure as fuck isn't related to your embarrassing mancrush on Karkat. You coming in or not?"
John spent the rest of the day alternately getting his ass kicked at video games and getting his hopes up. He'd always known that Dave and Terezi were close, but... that close? Surely she wouldn't give up her relationship with Karkat for a human. And even if she did, why would Dave do that? Wasn't he supposed to split off with Jade and have eleventy billion children or something? It was all so confusing, but the secret, horrible little part of John desperately wanted it to be true. If it was, then he could have a chance! ...In some twisted alternate universe where Karkat wasn't a huge asshole, he could have a chance!
Dinner was particularly awkward that night. At Jade's insistence, everyone had started taking supper together, and while the segregation between the trolls and humans was pronounced, with each claiming their own end of the dining room, it was more or less alright. Usually. Today, Terezi was sitting next to Dave, Jade was across the room whispering intensely with Nepeta, Karkat was nowhere to be found, and John was unsure where he was supposed to be sitting.
"He's in the computer lab, bro," Dave told him from behind his typical poker face, surfacing from his conversation with Terezi long enough to offer some unsolicited advice. "Now's your chance."
"To do what? Get yelled at a lot?"
"God, do I have to do everything for you? Just go talk to him, dude. Tz says he's really broken up about this whole thing. Anyway, you can't sit here. I'm busy."
John pulled a face, but tromped gamely off towards the designated area. "Fine! Like I want to watch you suck face with some girl, anyway." Nevertheless, his hands were shaking as he pushed open the door to the lab and walked in, his stomach doing nervous flips. Karkat was sitting across the room, his back to the door, and the lights were off, the eerie blue glow of the computer monitor casting odd, pale shadows over everything. Karkat's head was down on the keyboard, and John's heart jumped with pity; it didn't take a genius to pick out the look of someone with a broken heart, either.
"Go the fuck away," Karkat growled as the door squeaked shut, not so much as turning to look at him.
"Well, that's silly. You don't even know who it is, yet."
"...And yet I managed to predict it would be the last gogdamned person I wanted to see right now. Imagine that. Get out, Egbert."
John shook off his harsh words gamely, feeling a bit better now that he could justify Karkat's rage; he was hurting, and lashing out, and, well. John wouldn't want to see anyone either, if their roles were reversed. Fair enough. That wasn't going to stop him from trying to help, though. Steeling himself, John set his dinner tray next to Karkat's computer and sat down, leaning in close. "Nope. I don't want to."
For the first time Karkat looked up at him, and John was startled by the viciousness of his expression. There was wildness in his eyes, and John knew he could hurt him, that he probably wanted to, but he wouldn't be moved. Aside from his selfish personal reasons, John honestly did want to help his friend. He'd become well acquainted with heartbreak recently, and while this was pain of an entirely different caliber, it didn't stop him from sympathizing.
"You know," Karkat snarled, his mouth full of shark's teeth bared, "sometimes I think I still hate you, just a little bit. When you pull shit like this, it's obvious. Do you want that, Egbert? Do you want me to hate you?" The words were biting and coated in venom, but there was something hidden in his tone that made John hurt for him all over again, something dejected and slightly desperate; John didn't understand much about blackrom, but he knew what hate, real hate, meant to Karkat, and even though it wasn't the kind of romance he wanted, the thought of it still tugged at John's heartstrings.
He couldn't lie, though, and shook his head slightly, almost ruefully. It would be easier if he could hate Karkat in return, and their relationship could be simple, but it wasn't to be. "No, I don't," he told him, wanting to add that his feelings were more than that, but unable to articulate himself properly. Now probably wasn't the time, anyway-- Karkat wouldn't take such revelations well at the best of times, which this was most certainly not.
"Of course not," Karkat muttered contemptuously, turning back towards his computer with the disgusted look John had become accustomed to having directed at him. "You're too weak to understand true hate. You and your whole shitstain species."
John frowned, but leaned in again, until their shoulders were almost touching. "Yeah, you're right-- I still don't get your blackrom stuff even though I've tried. I understand a lot about love, though."
Karkat snorted, edging away but not meeting John's gaze. "The fuck do I need with your stupid pathetic human emotions, anyway? You can just take that mushy touchy-feely crap you do and shove it up your ass, Egbert. I don't need it or you." Deciding not to take the not-so-subtle hint that he should leave, John instead threw an arm around Karkat's shoulders, pulling the other boy close. It was amusing watching Karkat sputter and flail in impotent fury, and he endured a bit of shoving and "What the hell, Egbert, that was actually not an invitation to fall all over me, what the fuck is wrong with you?" before moving the conversation along.
"You know, when we Earth humans get dumped, we generally have romance movie marathons with our friends."
Well, that sure shut Karkat up in a hurry. Just as planned! John and Karkat were more similar than the troll boy liked to admit, and John knew that if he ever needed any cheering up, 'bad movies with Nic Cage' would be the appropriate buzzword to mention. He'd never been huge on sappy Earth romances, but hey, what the hell? Maybe Alternian romances were more interesting.
"...Like I'd want to watch romances with you, of all the uncultured assholes," Karkat coughed after a moment, making a stab at recovering his dignity and doing a rather poor job of it. "You wouldn't be able to appreciate them for the cinematic masterpieces that they are."
"So explain it to me. Hey, maybe this will help me finally figure out your convoluted quadrants system!"
Karkat granted him the most perfect deadpan expression he'd ever seen, but John was somewhat gratified that he had to take a minute to think about it. "No," Karkat grumbled, taking the opportunity to disengage himself from John's grasp.
"Aw, come on. We can eat ice cream and talk about girls and stuff! It'll be like a slumber party."
"You are not making this concept sound any more attractive, but sure, keep digging that hole." Apparently fed up with John's nonsense, Karkat got up, flicked the computer off, and made for the door, taking advantage of the sudden darkness to slip out unnoticed.
"You know you want to, man. The way you're always talking about those stupid movies you'd think you wanted your friends to watch them." ...Okay, well, less unnoticed than anticipated. Food entirely forgotten, John followed Karkat out of the room and down the hall, chattering amiably away as they went. "I won't make any dumb comments or anything, I promise!"
Karkat stopped dead, so fast that John walked right into his back again-- this was obviously becoming an overarching theme in his life --and rounded on him with seething fury, fists clenched so hard his bony knuckles had gone pale. "We're not friends, okay, Egbert? I don't want anything to do with you or your retarded species. Leave me alone."
For a split second, John's heart hurt so much he thought it would burst, but he forced himself to go on; Karkat was hurting too, he told himself over and over, and that was all. He knew they were still friends, and maybe at the moment, that was all that mattered. "You said we were friends before," John reminded him. "You remember? The first time in my timeline you ever talked to me?"
"Yeah, well, I also said I hated you. I say a lot of stuff." They stood there, staring each other down, Karkat's expression unreadable now, and the hall was so quiet that John could hear his own breathing and the steady, elevated thumping of his blood pounding in his ears. After a long pause, Karkat turned on his heel and started down the hall again, and when he spoke again, seemingly addressing the world at large and not just John, he sounded more normal-- still irritated beyond belief, when wasn't he, but at least not angry anymore. Just... tired. "If it'll get you off my back, you can watch a movie with me. One movie. And then you're leaving. Alright?"
Karkat didn't look back, but if he had, he would have seen John smiling brightly enough to light the sky at night.
Karkat's room was... different. John hadn't been in close contact with many of the trolls' living quarters, but compared to his own room it was surprisingly nice. There was a chair, and a desk, which (at least on the 'things to sit on' front) was already a step above Dave's room, and like John, Karkat had failed to resist the temptation to plaster the walls with movie posters, so it still felt a bit like home. The lighting was kept soft and low for movie viewing purposes, and John sank as far as he could into the hard, pointy chair while Karkat was rifling through his extensive movie collection. John was mildly entertained by the fact that Karkat had both alphabetized his movies and categorized them by the type of relationship they portrayed-- and he was even more amused, in a sick sort of way, to find that about ninety percent of the movies were blackrom. Amused but not the least bit surprised, mind you.
"This is a bad chair," John informed him to break the silence, fidgeting on it. Now that he'd sat down, he found the chair to be rather wanting in both comfortableness and proximity to the television. "You should get another one."
"My chair is perfectly fine, asshole. It's just not built for weak, squishy humans like you. Get off, if you're uncomfortable; I don't want to listen to you gripe about it through an entire movie."
John surveyed the room dubiously. "And sit where? The floor? Because that looks pretty uncomfortable too."
Karkat paused from his movie selection to glare at John, who remained utterly unfazed and grinning like an idiot. Uncomfortable chair or no, this was still shaping up to be pretty awesome, and he sure wasn't complaining about that. "Are we seriously having this conversation? Sit on the gogdamned bed or something, fuckass."
"Really? That's okay with you?" Somehow this hadn't seemed like a big deal when he'd been sitting on Dave's bed, but now... it was odd. Not uncomfortable, but odd. Maybe it had something to do with all the other things he'd like to do with Karkat in that bed. "Okay, but you have to sit with me."
"Are you fucking kidding me. Is this one of your stupid 'ironic' jokes that aren't actually funny? Is that what's happening right now?"
"Nope! I just want to watch a movie with my friend." John's grin widened as he bounced over to the bed and plopped down, patting the space beside him with one hand. Come to think of it the bed wasn't all that comfortable either. Clearly, he would have to invite Karkat back to his room next time, where there at least was a nice fluffy mattress.
"I hate you so much," Karkat grumbled under his breath, but at least he wasn't arguing anymore. John decided to take this as a victory.
"No you don't."
"Yes I do. Platonically."
"Riiiiiight. That's why we're having a movie date. In your room. With romantic lighting."
"Fuck you, Egbert, this was your idea!"
"I know. It's just funny getting you all riled up." And it was. Especially how flustered Karkat looked, and the slight flush of red on his cheeks-- John could have spent a whole day teasing him, easily. It was even worth having a DVD case thrown at his head, which happened next, followed immediately by a burst of swearing.
"Dammit! Threw the wrong one. Give that back, will you?"
"I don't think so. I'm not going to give you any ammo, dude, do you think I'm crazy?"
"Yes. Also, I have plenty of other shit to throw at you if I choose to, but that's the only movie I want to watch. Give it."
"Not happening." John closed his eyes and stuck his tongue out at the troll, and received a shock when he felt, rather than saw, Karkat crash into him and bear him back onto the bed. For a second John was too shocked to even fight back, and they were posed there, stock still, staring each other down again-- John with an expression of fascinated horror, and Karkat just looking infuriated as usual. John could feel the troll's hot breath on his lips, and was painfully aware of the way their bodies were crushed together, Karkat's chest moving up and down rapidly, his breathing heavy. The world remained on pause for a second more, and then Karkat pushed himself upright again and onto his knees, taking advantage of John's stunned state to grab the DVD case back from him.
"Jegus, Egbert, didn't your lusus teach you any fucking manners? You don't come into someone's room and steal their shit, you fucker. That's not how this works."
John cleared his throat and sat up as well, leaning his back against the wall, trying not to freak out too hard. For a moment, just a few seconds, Karkat had been close enough to lean up and kiss, and he hadn't gone for it. He should have, and he regretted it now, but he would have regretted doing it more if Karkat had pushed him away or hit him or any of the other expected reactions to such a thing. "H-how does it work, then?" he asked after a beat of silence that went on waaaay too long for anyone's good.
"You sit there and shut your stupid human mouth and watch an excellent movie without bothering me, is how it works," Karkat said, inserting the disk into the player. "Got it?"
John swallowed thickly, feeling like his heart was stuck in his throat. "Yeah. Got it. Sure."
"Good. Now watch this and get educated. This is how real romance works, no matter what your awful species has to say on the matter."
Television powered on and the movie set up, Karkat grudgingly moved to sit on the bed with John, while admittedly selecting an area of bed as far away from the human boy as possible. It was still progress, John thought, and at least he seemed to have distracted Karkat from his romantic problems rather well, which was the more immediate point. Who knew, the movie might not even be that bad?
The movie, predictably, was bad, at least from a human point of view; but probably from a troll's, too. Karkat seemed to have John's reputation for bad movie connoisseurship among the trolls, and John could see why-- an hour into the movie, and he had no idea what was going on or why he should care.
"What? What do you want now?"
"What's going on?"
Karkat gave him a patented 'are-you-stupid-oh-wait-yes-you-are-I-fo
"I don't know. I guess... I just don't know why hating someone would be preferable. We don't... really have that sort of thing on Earth." John thought about it for a moment, and then amended, "Well, usually, anyway."
"It doesn't make you vulnerable and weak, for one thing," Karkat snapped, with enough vitriol that John blinked and scooted a bit further away from him on the bed.
"But that's the best part!" John countered, more sad than shocked. "Everyone needs someone who they can be vulnerable around. You know, someone you can show your whole self to, even the things you don't like to admit? I'd hate to never have that."
"Egbert, you're going to have to tone this shit down, I'm running out of words for how unbelievably shitty you and your species are," Karkat growled, playing the movie again to close the discussion. John didn't turn back to it but watched Karkat's face instead, trying to decipher the truth of him. Karkat was kind of a dick, yeah, but there was something inside of him, no matter how tiny and repressed, that was good. John wouldn't have had untoward feelings for him, if he didn't. The hard part was tricking him into showing his cards, which was always hard to maneuver.
"Trolls don't really have families, do you?" he asked after a minute, thinking of Casey (both the salamander and the fictional character). Even though it would be impossible now, John had always secretly wanted a daughter; was that sort of love impossible for trolls, too? That thought just made him even sadder. All the things Karkat was missing! John wanted to show him how wonderful human emotion could be, but that was going to be an uphill battle of epic proportions.
"No, we don't," Karkat growled without looking at him, and turned the volume up on the television, apparently to drown out John's rambling.
"...That actually explains a lot."
"Like why I'm innately superior to you? Congratulations, Egbert, you finally got smacked in the head with the cluebat enough to get it." Once, John's immediate reaction to this declaration would have been to be insulted, if only a little bit, but he was used to it, now-- if Rose had been there, she probably would have said that Karkat's constant belittling of the human race and further lashing out was just a defense mechanism put in place to keep people from getting too close to him. Well, John was not going to be fooled. He was going to sit there quietly and watch that movie and be a good friend, whether Karkat wanted him to be or not.
...Watch that incredibly boring, ridiculous movie that John was in no way remotely interested in, except... well, except for the obvious parallels he could draw between the film and real life if he so wished. Absently, John wondered if this was Karkat's favorite movie, and if so, why. "Karkaaaat?"
The look Karkat shot him could have stripped the paint off the walls. "What?"
"How does this movie end?"
"...Why don't you just fucking watch it and find out, like a normal person."
John shrugged. "Not actually all that interested. Humor me here?"
"I'm sure the answer to this question is going to be something absolutely retarded that will make me want to claw my eyes out, but why the fuck are you even here if you didn't want to watch a movie?" Karkat paused the movie again, turning his attention back to John with utter frustration evident.
John offered him his best, goofiest, most buck-toothed grin in response. "Because I wanted to be there for my friend when he was alone and hurting, duh. I know what it's like having your heart broken, dude. ...I mean, not on that scale, but still."
There was a long pause, but unlike most of the pauses in John's conversations as of late, it wasn't awkward-- if pressed, the adjective John would have chosen to describe it would have been "intense". Karkat watched him carefully, eyes narrowed into suspicious slits, and John did his best to appear helpful, friendly, and compltely guileless under his scrutiny.
"Troll Adrien Brody kills Troll Owen Wilson's family, and succeeds in making him hate him," Karkat told him after a moment, his voice carrying a strangely hollow ring.
John frowned, perplexed. That wasn't the kind of movie he liked at all! Good thing he wasn't all that invested in it. "So that's it, then? That's the happy ending? I'm sorry, man, but I don't get it."
"That's... actually not the end," Karkat muttered, sounding disgruntled.
"Oh yeah? What else is there?"
Karkat took a deep breath and let it out again with a huff, and John could have sworn he saw a slight red flush on the troll boy's cheeks. "In the end, Troll Adrian Brody starts having flushed feelings for him, but it's too late. They weren't fated enemies, after all. There is no happy ending, fuckass; it's a tragedy."
John blinked, not having expected that. "I thought you mostly watched rom-coms?"
"Not always. Romance is serious business, Egbert, you should know this by now."
It made sense, when John thought about it. Karkat was broken hearted and upset, and raging at the world even more than usual; of course he wouldn't want to watch something lighthearted (well, lighthearted for blackrom, anyway) or funny. Of course he'd want validation that in the real world, loving romantic relationships just weren't worth it and fucked everything up in the end. It made sense, but it still made John's heart hurt.
The other boy only sighed this time, sounding only mildly irritated when he replied. "What?"
"I'm really sorry about you and Terezi. I know you really liked her, or whatever the troll equivalent of that is."
It was amazing, John would later think, exactly how quickly Karkat could go from zero to frothing mad, and it was exemplified by how quickly Karkat vaulted back over the bed, hitting John so hard the back of his head slammed into the wall with a crack that rung in his ears. Karkat's hands were fisted in the front of John's shirt, gripping so tightly he feared the fabric would rip, and his expression was nothing short of murderous. "Don't you dare pity me over this, Egbert!" he snarled, the subtext clear: I don't want you. I don't need you. You shouldn't have feelings like that for me, you should hate me, what the fuck is wrong with you that you can't even do that correctly?
John gulped, feeling something catch in his throat and in his chest, and then he knew that he was sunk; he couldn't keep this a secret any longer. It was coming out whether he wanted it to or not. "I don't! I don't pity you, Karkat, I love you, and I know you think it's the same thing but it's not. It's really, really not, and I wish I could figure out how to make you see that."
And then, in a moment of beauteous idiocy, John leaned up and kissed him.
It wasn't like he would have expected, or how he'd thought of it, when he'd allowed himself to dwell on the thought before. Karkat's lips were dry, but surprisingly soft, and just that amount of touch made John's heart beat faster. Time slowed down for that first instant, dragging the initial few nanoseconds out to feel like minutes, hours, and then John was grabbing Karkat's shirt as well, using it to pull him in closer. He would pay for this, he knew, knew it from the moment that he realized Karkat wasn't kissing him back, but he didn't care. This was all he was going to get, and he wanted to remember it, all of it, even the rough way that Karkat pushed him away, shoving him back against the wall again.
They sat frozen for a long moment, Karkat staring at him with wide-eyed disbelief, kneeling a few feet away from him on the bed, his hands clenched into fists. They were both breathing heavily, Karkat's breaths coming in audible pants as though he'd just gotten through running a marathon, and John could feel his own blood boiling just beneath his skin. "Get out," Karkat told him at last, his voice devoid of tone at first but quickly picking up steam, moving into a dangerous, animalistic snarl. "Get. Out. Do you think this is a fucking game, Egbert? Just because I got dumped doesn't mean you can fucking come in here and take advantage of me." He reached forward quickly and seized John's arm hard enough that his fingernails broke the skin, and hauled both of them up off the bed, dragging John back towards the door.
John knew better than to seriously argue. Because if he listened closely he could hear the subtext here, too plain as day: Karkat was afraid. The waver in his voice, the way his shoulders were shaking slightly-- it was all clear. Hate was comfortable to him, a known quantity, something he had sheltered in his entire life, and really, if you took that away, he had nothing much left to hide behind. He knew how to love, John was sure, surely everything in the universe must, but he didn't know how to be in love, which was more important.
"I didn't mean it," he whispered hoarsely, half-desperately, as Karkat shoved him back out into the hallway roughly, letting go of his arm the instant he was out as if extended contact with human flesh could burn him.
Karkat's scowl only deepened. "That doesn't make it much better, does it?"
"I-I didn't mean it that way, Karkat, you know I didn't; no matter what you think, I honestly did just come here to try and make you feel better. I'm sorry. It's all my fault." Too late, John realized his slip and scrambled to correct himself, but Karkat was having none of it.
"Damn fucking right it is. It always is. You've made a fool of me for the last time. Get this through your thick skull: I want nothing to do with you. I hate you." He slammed the door in John's face, and John stood there, stunned, staring at the closed portal, the hall's fluorescent lights humming pleasant white noise in his ears. The door opened just a crack, and just long enough for Karkat to shout, "Platonically!" before slamming it again, and it was then that John felt exactly the enormity of how badly he'd fucked up.