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“Tell me the override,” Terezi says. “We’re not doing this without one.”  

 

You hesitate. This is getting uncomfortably close to serious. Then again, your best friend is over here to walk you through one of your sickest fucking kinks, you passed serious lightyears back. 

 

With you on your front beneath her, her knees highblood-cold and melee-sharp up against your vertebral struts, your bulge seriously doesn’t give a fuck. You desperately want her to just get on with it, to stop breaking the fantasy. 

 

Override,” she purrs, obscenely, against your ear. 

 

“Fuck, okay, okay,” you pant. “How about... ‘supersedure’.”

 

She laughs. “You can’t even say that right. So hot to trot already, Captor?”

 

“Will it do, Pyrope?”

 

She snaps thick linked cuffs around your wrists by way of affirmation. You go breathless with shock: your psionics are just gone. Just like that. 

 

“Conscript Captor, you are a credit to Her Imperial Condescension, or you will be once we’re done with you,” she says. “It is my duty to inform you that any resistance will be held incurred against your security rating and is not advisable if you want to keep your brain.”

 

You shudder, and thrash a little. Just a little. She digs a knee just under your lowest thorax struts, where your organsacs are vulnerable, and rams your face against the ground. It jams the snoutpads of your glasses painfully up into your sockets, and you can’t help the wigglerish yelp.

 

She rolls off your prostrate body, tugs your cuffs. She’s sharp as sin, tonight, slicked black from throat to heels in a Shipwright’s working clothes. 

 

“Up and at ‘em, Conscript,” she says. “We’ve got a ways to go with you yet.”

 

You make it to your knees before you pitch over again. You’re not even trying to resist her authority, it’s that you can’t keep your balance, you are dazed with vertigo. The cuffs are fucking quality. Her uniform, too. Terezi’s got the resources to get ahold of authentic gear or perfect forgeries in addition to a zealous dedication to getting every little thing she sets out to do precisely right. Authentic or replica, though, they drain your psionics down to nothing, and that’s the main point. You’ve never had anything but a few spoons of sopor to fuck with your cognitive abilities, and the perfect shut-off effect of the cuffs is something else again. 

 

You feel bottled, glassy and wobbly and trapped, and your balance is completely shot. Terezi plants her feet, heaves on you. She’s small but she’s solid, and you make it to your feet. Her arm around your ribs, you take one step, then another. Your knees threaten to buckle and the floor feels unimaginably distant. 

 

“God, do you just float everywhere?” she asks. She sounds amused and breathless-- you suppose you’re heavy. “Forward march, spaceman!”

 

You don’t just float everywhere, but you’d never realized how much you rely on your psionics to give you a sense of where everything is in relation to you. With your power trapped into the confines of your skin you feel very nearly blind. Everything has gone slippery-flat. Terezi’s grip on you slides, and you clip the doorway hard with your shoulder. 

 

“Watch it!” you complain.

 

She only laughs. “Watch it, the mustardblood says to the fucking blind girl! Such a gentleman, Captor, no wonder you’re covered in bitches.”

 

It’s a nasty blow and it shuts you right up. You’ve killed Aradia, completely lost contact with Karkat, and Kanaya only keeps you around for tech support. You don’t lack for strife partners when it comes to nets and boards, but that’s games, that’s multiplayer hookups, that’s different. 

 

But Terezi: she laughs at your temper, rides out your moods, knows her way around a game grub, and continues to bother you morning after morning. You are dangerously close to trusting Terezi Pyrope, God only knows why, and even probably God doesn’t know why the tealblood got interested enough to shuck this particular nasty secret out of you, pin your dripping id out before the jury, and drive in for the kill. 

 

“I’m interested,” was all she’d said, which could mean anything from I’m bored of all my other victims to I’m sorry for you and is quite likely to mean both. You’ve been her favorite railcar disaster since she killed her rabid bitch of a sister. But you hope it’s the former, that she just wants to fuck with you: sadism you can take with perfect equanimity. Charity you’re less comfortable with. 

 

You are whining, animal and helpless, in the back of your throat with every lame and halting step. You are freaking the fuck out. Everything’s just so flat

 

“Buck up, honeybuns,” she says. “Only a little further.”

 

Somehow she knows exactly where your private pailing block is. You’ve never told her, in the same way you’ve never seen fit to paint the exact dimensions of your nook on the tarmac outside your hivestem: a kid’s hiveschema is their own affair, and there’s a reason half the walls are organic and non-load bearing. But she knows it all the same.  

 

“On your toes,” she orders, and helps you stretch your shaking arms upwards.   

 

The cuffs are gummy-soft on the inside, with a thick metal ring between the wrist pieces. The ring hooks over the hook from your ceiling with a neat, final click that sends a helpless shudder down your spine. You’ve mostly only done this with old LAN cables, wound tight enough to cut bloodflow and numb you fingertips to elbows, send your psionics static-wobbly and uncoordinated, teasing at yourself with the threat of self-entrapment. This is an entirely different setting, hard-edged and intense. Completely final. You couldn’t unhook yourself if you wanted, you’re utterly trapped. You’d hang here till you mummified, if she wanted to walk away from you now. The perfect murder: no one would know. No one would care. 

 

God, you’re so wet, your jeans are sticking to you.

 

“We should have stripped you before we started,” Terezi muses, and runs sharp claws up under your shirt. 

 

“Let me down,” you say. Your voice trembles. You realize you are actually scared, maybe even more scared than turned on. You say, you beg: “Let me down and I’ll take my shit off for you. I’d give you a whole strip show, anything you wanted me to, TZ -- ”

 

“I’d be riveted, I’m sure,” she says, and waves, mockingly, at her blank red eyes. She grabs two fistfuls of your shirt from the inside, and rips it along a side-seam. The cloth saws into the back of your neck, burns at your shoulders. 

 

“There we go,” she says, pats at the taut skin over your digestion sac. “There’s a good ship.”

 

“Terezi, in all seriousness, I’m really starting to have second thoughts.”

 

“That’s why I bought the good cuffs,” she agrees. Then she captchalogues your glasses and slaps you across the face. 

 

“And it’s Shipwright Pryope to you, conscript,” she says, and her voice is a black whip. 

 

You jolt all over with shock. She hits fucking hard, for someone with such small hands, and your head rings with the blow. 

 

She gives you a judicious once over, and then smacks you again. You hang from your wrists and gasp for air, your jaw aching, your nose a lump of outraged fire. Tears have started in your eyes, sticky against your lashes, itchy against your face. 

 

She cups your chin, licks grossly over your cheeks. “Go on, Conscript, struggle,” she says. “Give me an excuse to hurt you more! Your pain tastes like bananas.”

 

You go still and glare.

 

After a long moment she pouts, childishly, all for your captive audience, and shucks your pants clear off your hips. You yelp as the rough weave scrapes your unsheathed bulge. She only laughs and pats at it like it’s a cute little plushie as it twists up against your hip. Her black gloves feel smooth and strange, impersonal, but you have to strain not to cant your hips up to even that indifferent touch. 

 

Fuck,” you hiss.

 

“All in good time, Conscript,” she says, which is not anywhere near slightly an original piece of witty repartee. She goes up on pointy toes, dragging her hard cold fingertips along the rack of your ribcage, the gulping knot of your throat, she tweaks your nose. She doesn’t fasten anything as gaudy as a collar around your throat, when she steps back. Instead she reaches for her sylladex, and with a quick sniff and a judicious scratch she pulls out a nookworm. 

 

You recoil. 

 

“Oh my god, Shipwright, no,” you say. “No, no, fucking oh my god NO.”

 

She proffers it like the universe’s most obscene bouquet of courtship foliage. “Not interested?” she says. “That’s a shame! It got some great reviews online.”

 

It’s big. It’s purple. It spills fuchsia ichor down her wrist in gaudy, awful strings, and you can hear the wet squirm of it as it twists in her grasp. 

 

“Let me down.” You say it very evenly. “We’re done here, you maniac. I quit, I surrender, cut me down at my goddamn elbows! The game has been quite thoroughly fucking conceded, there is no way I am crazy enough to ram that thing up my junk.”

 

“See, the hilarious thing here, conscript Captor, is that I’m crazy enough to do damn near anything!” she says, and advances. 

 

She hesitates, just before she touches your skin. “Override?” she asks, quietly, almost condescendingly. You hesitate, a bare breath, and something in her blank red eyes softens -- pity? contempt? -- and, no, you can’t take that. You could take anything but that and so you bare your teeth at her, all defiance. 

 

She touches the blunt head of the worm up to the wet slit of your nook, and it’s cold, and it’s moving, and oh, god, WHAT.

 

You thrash. There’s nothing else for it. She takes commanding hold of one bare hipbone and a blind, unreasoning panic takes over and you flail like a fish on a line. You let all your weight onto the hook and you kick and squirm and drive a knee up hard into her guts. She only laughs, a breathless, near-soundless croak of triumph, and gets one of your legs over her shoulder. You knee her a second time, right in the jaw, and you hear her fangs click crisply together. 

 

She fists your bulge. Her fingers are magnificently slick with ichor and she crooks her thumb up along the sensitive questing tip of your length and you see stars. 

 

“Not fair,” you moan. 

 

“Submit, Conscript,” she hisses. You shudder all over. Her hands are so cold and it’s impossible not to crumple beneath a highblood’s directed intention, it’s been impressed into your blood and brainstem to fold beneath this kind of pressure. She strokes you gently, twines her fingers lattice-like around every inch of you that matters. 

 

“There’s a good ship,” she murmurs, petting your straining stomach in a gesture as quadrantless as it is soothing. “There, go on, hush. Bow under. Don’t resist. Good. Spread your legs for me, conscript, go on.”

 

All in a daze, you do. 

 

The worm is intense. As it gets its first frontsection into you you recover your wits enough to scream and clamp down but she’s got your legs scissored far apart and you can’t do anything to slow its entry. It’s huge and it hurts, even dripping with slick ichor it hurts. It’s made for adults and you two aren’t wigglers anymore but it’s at least another two sweeps till your primacy and you’re not ready for this. Nothing could ever have made you ready for this. It twists inside of you and brute-forces another section of itself inward. You gulp down tears and every breath you manage to suck through your teeth tastes of salt and humiliated pain. 

 

She strokes the tears from your cheeks, runs a finger around the strained ring of your nook, easing the worm along as it pulses slowly, agonizingly in. Your bulge hangs in a limp, unnatural arc: with the worm filling your nook it’s pressed all the space out of your sheath, there’s nowhere for your bulge to retreat to. You’ve never been this exposed or desperate or completely fucked, and still the damn thing keeps pressing farther

 

“Good boy,” your Shipwright coos, feeding it in. “Good boy, good boy, such a good boy. You can take this, Conscript, come on, ease up, hang on. You’ll make the Fleet proud, you’re doing so good.”

 

You breathe, tight panicky gulps, and you find your bearings somewhere deep inside yourself to hang on. You can’t let this break you, you hang on. You can feel the ichor getting to you, soaking into your bloodstream, making all this desperate horror nearly manageable. You focus on her cool hands, the way they feel on your face, your throat, your hip, your thighs, she strokes you soft and something like kind and you find the strength to spread your legs a little wider. It feels like it must be coiling up against your spine at this rate, your entire pelvis feels heavy and displaced with the mass of it, and finally the last of it goes in and tucks up, a hard coiled ball inside you and you feel the pad of the Shipwright’s thumb against the strained and slippery entrance of your nook and it’s over, there’s no more than what you’ve already taken. 

 

“Oh god,” you finally gasp. A convulsive exhale, inhale. “Oh god, oh fuck, oh my god.” You tremble all over. You are deliriously full, past the point of pain, past the point of belief. She still rubs at you, easing the abused flesh, making you twitch and hiccup with the overstimulation. 

 

“Impressive,” she says finally, seriously, and it burns in your chest like a coal. You find yourself grinning, shock-drunk and beyond giddy. 

 

“Yeah,” you say, in a wonder. “I really am.”

 

She slaps the smile off your face, another jolt of hot pain. It grounds itself in the monstrous ache between your legs, sticks there and sizzles

 

“Vanity is a sin and tiresome besides,” she says shortly. “Don’t get cocky, conscript.”

 

“Sorry, Shipwright,” you slur. Your mouth is going bruise-numb, your lip split in two places. You’ve bitten your tongue, and the metallic sting of blood in your mouth flavors every labored breath. You hurt in your wrists, your shoulders, your neck, your mouth, between your legs oh fuck do you hurt there. Ichor slicks you down to your knees, your thighs rub together sticky-silken and you can’t stop squirming. 

 

You want more: pain, attention, anything, you’re riding the high of shock and astonishment and adult-prescription Shipwright ichor and the only way out now is forward. Your hips are twitching, restless, the beat of your bloodpusher lapping warm waves against the relentless pressure inside you and your bulge is flushed and stirring up once more against the crease where your leg meets your body, searching out contact.

 

“I’m sorry,” you mumble. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please, Shipwright, I’m sorry.”

 

“Good,” she says. “Better.”

 

She touches your throat again and this time it shatters you. You angle your hips down against her body, her stomach, and try to grind but you can’t manage the purchase, and anyway she steps back after one convulsive attempt. 

 

“No,” she says. “Hold, Conscript. Be still.”

 

“I’m sorry--”

 

She touches you, your straining abdomen, her hand cool and firm. You relax as best as you can beneath it, you try and still, but your arms spasm and your spine twists and your bulge is a desperate mess, twining back on itself over and over in a futile bid for friction and pressure. You rock from foot to foot with each gasp. You’re a mess. You need her. 

 

Please,” you beg.

 

“Pathetic,” she decrees, and pulls out a bar and cuffs from her sylladex. 

 

The cuffs for your ankles are just as soft and implacable as those for your wrists, but weighted, and the bar is intensely heavy. There’s a moment just before she clips the second one shut and you think you could bring your knee into her face, you could stave the Shipwright’s snout back into her sinuses and rip out of this mess, down the hall, grab a shuttle, make a break for it. Live free or die, isn’t that how the old treasonous invocation goes, you could get out of this. 

 

She closes the catch, ghosts cool knuckles up the line of your shin, marks out a cross on one knee. It blazes through you like lines of dry ice, like supercoolant. You are spread and weighted, pinned out for measure. Your thighs tremble with the strain. Your spine is stretched between each set of cuffs like a chain of beads just at the snapping point. Every line of you is taut with pain and every twinge of it is euphoria. The worm coils within you, adjusting to the way your spread legs pull at your nook, and something driven to fever-frenzy in your brain just flatlines. 

 

“There,” she says. “There, yes. We’re getting there.”

 

“Yes,” you agree. You’d agree to anything. You’re in a weird place, the center of the storm that is your body throwing one hell of a fit, pain and need and pleasure, and in its midst there is a perfect, growing silence. 

 

Terezi circles around you, a few times, taking your measure. Her footsteps sound very loud. Everything is loud. Your world is her footsteps, her breath, your own breath. Your pulse. The slick little noises of your bulge, weakly straining. 

 

She trails a claw down the ridge of your spine, a jolting scrape. Contact. You moan. Her claw reaches the end of your spine, just above your bare ass, and stops there. You don’t even have it in you to be embarrassed. She taps there, the hard space where your vertebral chute meets the pelvic struts. 

 

She says, “I could install the jacks, now. I bought some.”

 

You whine. 

 

She brings her claw up, a scant few inches. Taps again. Says, “Bound and helpless. Look at you, conscript-- Sollux. Sollux Captor. You let me do this to you, you stupid yellow bastard! How do you know I wasn’t planning this all along? I have enough put by for my own ship. Nothing big. But enough to start my career a few sweeps early. How do you know I ever intended to let you go?”

 

Shipwright-- please--”

 

“It’s Terezi, Sollux. Gametime is over!” She taps again, a bit higher. Sniffs your skin long and savoring. She purrs, “You could tell me your override. Maybe I’ll listen. Maybe I’ll let you down.”

 

“Okay,” you say. 

 

“Okay, what?”

 

You squirm. You are a haze of pain and want and slick between your legs and fire between your arms.  “Terezi,” you repeat. “Shipwright. I -- I mean, fuck, sorry, Captain. Do it. I want -- more, please, do it.”

 

“You’d let me,” she says softly. “You’d really let me steal you away from your whole life, and everything. Claim you. You wanted this?”

 

Yes,” you moan. Your head is full of stars and endless peace, you are... not outside yourself, looking down, like you sometimes get, but inside. Looking out from inside. There’s a wide clear space all around you and your body feels as thin and irrelevant as an eggcase. You want to strip it off, the pain, the twisting inescapable pleasure, you want to push away everything that isn’t this burning calm. Some dim part of you realizes you are really fucking high. The rest doesn’t give two shits. 

 

“Wow,” she says quietly. You hear the hiss of her sylladex, and then something blunt and cold noses into the very base of your spine. She kisses you, just under one strung-trembling shoulder, high as she can reach, tiny spark of flesh-on-flesh. She puts her smooth hard hand on your hip. 

 

Then, pain. A cascade of pain, an onslaught, a flood of fire, racing up your vertebral chute like a pressurized torrent of agony. When it reaches your head you white out. 

 

You come back to yourself only slowly. You are sobbing, every breath wet and mindless, your chin slicked with your own spittle. Your legs are wet down to your feet, the air reeks of genetic material, you’ve come so hard it dripped out even past the worm. 

 

“One down, Sollux,” she says. Her voice is very close. Very intense. You’re trembling all over. You can’t feel your hands. You can’t feel your feet. 

 

“Muh,” you say. Your spine is a molten chain. The blunt nose of the installer eases higher. One down. 

 

It happens again. White out. Nothing left. You’re not sure if you even come back after it. You are an animal, are flesh, are pure wax before her blade, waiting for reformatting. There is no distance between you and anything anymore, only raw sensation. You are your arms, your legs, the raw screaming points in your spine, the mutilated overridden cord of your vertebrae. 

 

“Three,” she says. “You’re doing good for me, Sollux, you’re so good.”

 

It doesn’t even register as pain. Just this difference, you were one way, now you’re another way. You ride the heat, a scrap of dust, a speck. You are every part of your body, the entire universe. 

 

“Four.”

 

And it’s over. Four hard points of heat and the endless warm shifting churn of the worm make up the corners of your entire existence. You have no arms, no legs, no voice, no mind. Everything is pain and perfect. Everything outside of this self-contained universe is irrelevant.

 

“Where would you take me, Helmsman?” the voice in your ears wants to know. “Where would we go?” Color, noise: they hardly register. The sound of footsteps. Fingers on your mouth, the soreness of your lips. The soreness of your tongue. The thick scent of blood.

 

“Helmsman.”

 

You blink. 

 

Sollux.”

 

You close your eyes. You are a blank program. You are nothing. 

 

She takes the cuffs off your legs. She reaches up between them and there’s a wrenching tug, a horrible sucking opening-up of yourself, and inch by inch she withdraws the worm. 

 

“Shit,” she’s hissing, “shit shit shit. If you fucking took care of yourself-- don’t die on me, don’t you dare die on me!”

 

Your head is full of stars. Of space and dreams-- plans. Anywhere. You ache for the pins that will plug you into your helm, turn you on, set you free. 

 

She gets the cuffs over and off the hook, and you fold. She takes your weight, eases you down to the floor, works at the ring and the lock. You lie quietly. She slaps you, once, twice, and it means nothing.

 

“Don’t space on me,” she says. “Don’t you fucking -- Sollux. Sollux, come back, focus, you are in very real danger of losing your shit entirely and forever, I underestimated your propensity for self destruction and neglect, mister appleberry trainwreck! We are going to have such words.”

 

She slaps you again and this time it reaches you, just a little. You turn your head. You look at her. She makes this strange gasping sob and covers your face in kisses, wet and strange, breathing hard. 

 

“Okay,” she says. “Okay, you’re still -- still in there. Okay. What we did shouldn’t have been lethal, okay? Okay. Just stay with me.” 

 

You roll your head from side to side, confused. Kind of lost. The pain is coming closer, your shoulders wrists legs nook spine, you make a noise. 

 

“Oh god,” she says. “Oh, thank god.”

 

She fumbles at your wrists, gets the cuffs off. It’s immediately horrible: the space around you pops like a soap bubble and the world is vast and real and hyperclear, your power whipsawing out and out and out of you once more to limn everything everywhere you can reach all around you unrelentingly in a net of information. You can’t stand it now that you know what silence is what flatness is what distance is you can feel every part of of everything in the room and it echoes and it’s too much, with the ichor still inside you, in your blood, with the memory of peace, with you such a wreck still so raw still so needy it’s destroying your control and amping up your sensitivity and this isn’t right, everything was so neat  and so quiet and you can feel every mote of dust in the air. You scream and things start exploding. 

 

“Oh, fuck,” the girl beside you says, and throws her arms around your shoulders. You can feel every squelching cell of her body every hair pressed under your jaw. 

 

“Ship,” she snaps. “Sollux, Conscript, Helmsman! Set course in for straight up.”

 

Too much, everything is too much. You drill a neat cone up through each floor of your apartment, scattering electrons from their nucleii as you pass and it’s not enough, everything presses. Your captain unbalances you, a damp heavy noose around your neck but her weight is nothing. You pierce the top floor and rocket past the startled bulk of your lusus and you keep climbing, up and up. Till the air doesn’t press so thickly, till everything is wide and clear and empty, not even enough to breathe, and then suddenly your auditory dish is yanked, hard, and you skew, startled, to the horizontal.

 

“Enough!” you passenger shouts at you, “Sollux, please,” and her voice is a faint smothered rasp.

 

She clings to you, a mass of shivers. When you turn your head, when you regard her, there’s pale blue-green ice on her squeezed-shut eyelashes. You curl your arms around her small body. You can feel every part of her complexity, you can feel the elemental forces that comprise this universe and if you really wanted to, looking at her, if you tried, if you lost control again, if you were on the wrong drugs this time, you would take her apart. You’ve already killed one girl you loved.  

 

Still far above you is the mesosphere, meteor-territory, then the utter star-studded nothingness of space. You have been this far and farther, before, testing your limits. You’ve been up so high that the single motes of matter came up against your body like individual taps, till the tips of your fingers burned stiff and cell-damaged and sacs inside your aural conduits burst and you came back down with blood coming out of your every blighted facehole and you could see the very curve of the planet, see the sunlight playing around the edges, till you’d hit your body’s limit and plunge back meteoric to your hive. Like this, like this, you think you could forge on up into pure void, throw off gravity entirely and escape your life two sweeps early. On your own terms.

 

Or on hers. If you let her.

 

Terezi, you remember. Her name. It’s almost a shock, knowing names again, thinking in words. Terezi Pyrope, eight sweeps and some change, who weighs as much and is as dangerous as a dozen barracudas in a girl suit. Terezi, who likes you in spite of yourself. Who says things like please.

 

You let yourself fall. Slowly, slowly, as through honey, minding how she bleeds out each pointed ear, out her iced-over eyelids. Her snub of a snout trickles cold-on-cold bloody snot against your shoulder, down your chest, it registers as gross and you are content just to experience that, the mundane sensation of grossness. You drift past your lusus and pat him neatly, one, two, each head. He only murmurs, absently, busy with pushing pieces of broken roof about. He’ll be fine. 

 

Terezi is shaking violently by the time you get to your ablution chamber, and she hits her knees hard in the trap as soon as you pry her hands from her neck. She’s vomiting by the time you get the water on, messily, a disaster of shock and altitude sickness and hypothermia. In the warming air you are painfully aware of the way you both stink, sweat and blood and bile and layer upon nasty fucking layer of your nook-drool. 

 

“Well!” she croaks, between heaving, between scrubbing blood from her eyes with birdlike little splashes of trap spray. “That was. That was a. Hnnkgh. Quite a tour!”

 

“Space,” you say. “There’s a lot of fuck-all in it.”

 

“I don’t. I. I don’t know if -- if-- if I approve,” she says, and huddles a little farther into the warm spray. You realize with a jolt of almost normal-feeling horror that she’s crying, and that you’re more aware than she is of it. When you stoop, when you try to help her wash, she just shoves you roughly into the trap’s tile. 

 

“You’re a mess,” she says, and blows a huge gob of bloody mucus to the shower floor. “Fuck. Clean yourself up. And drink some water!”

 

You suck water awkwardly out of the spray head, till you feel a little steadier. Then you get the bottle of cleansing syrup out and wipe down, mechanically, your face and throat and chest and then, gingerly, your legs. Just touching the inside of your thighs makes you hiss and linger: the worm might be out of you but the ichor’s still got you sensitized to the point of absurdity, and now your bulge isn’t in danger of snapping off from chill it’s starting to get insistent again. You want to cram fingers back up into the traumatised pulp of your nook, you want to stick your whole fist up there till your bulge drops clean off. You find yourself teasing at yourself with soap-slick hands, frustrated, impatient, rocking towards some kind of peak that doesn’t involve an enormous parasite stuffed up your reproductive cavity. Then you catch Terezi with her head turned towards you, face steamed vivid teal in the heat, one slim eyebrow raised. You take a deep breath, lift your hands off your junk, and go back to washing. 

 

Your sides, your butt, your... your spine. Something in you goes cold, when you touch where she’d claimed you. There’s nothing there. No jacks. No hardware. It had hurt so much.

 

“What?” you ask. “TZ, what?” and you sound like a little wiggler, you whine. You are lost. 

 

She scoots close to you, till shower spray plasters her hair down around her face and she touches your arm almost shyly. She takes the bottle from your hand and turns you around, pours it on the back of your neck. Rubs it down your back, one unbreached contact site to the next. 

 

“You’re upset,” she says. “Talk to me.”

 

“It was... just a game,” you say. “Ha. You really. You had me going. For a while there. I really thought... what did you use on me?”

 

“An agonizer. Stimulates the nerve endings without killing them.”

 

“Oh. Smart.”

 

“I am.”

 

“I thought...” you bite your lip. Your hand’s drifted back to your bulge again, kind of helplessly, letting it curl around your fingers, you are awash with dissatisfaction, you are a disaster suddenly bereft of a solution. Terezi is drawing unreadable shapes on your back with the syrup. It’s awkward as hell and you hate that you’ve found yourself back here like this, at awkward, at something so mundanely and inescapably unpleasant as embarrassment. The trap is too small, the air is too thick, your head is too stupid. Your skull is too tight. 

 

“I thought I was... done,” you say. You are too frustrated to even care how petulant you are being, how disgustingly betrayed. As if you got anything but what you asked for, got to live out your sickest kink for a while, you got to play self-destruction with someone who gave a shit how much was left of you afterwards. 

 

“I do have the jacks,” she says quietly, and you go very still. Her voice a tired rasp, she says, “The ship, too. I wasn’t playing. But I had to know what you wanted before we did this for real. If we could... ever... do this for real.”

 

You turn your head, try to look at her, but she tucks her face pressed between your shoulder blades, and you can’t see her expression. 

 

“Why does what I want even factor in?” you ask. “I’m a mustardblood, aren’t I? You’re a highblood.”

 

“Because I’m not Vriska Serket, and you’re my best friend,” she snaps, and that’s real anger in her shredded voice, real hurt, “to hell with the hemocaste, you stupid boy, I need you. You’re all I have left.”

 

“Oh,” you say. You feel like the grand high asshole of the universe. “Yeah, okay. I -- you’re the same. Um. To me.”

 

Her hands come down to between your legs and underneath the sudden startled burning rush of want you are frankly kind of amazed that she can still even give a shit anymore, torn up with altitude sickness and how long had you being strung up and fucked with taken? Who long had been the trip over here? She strokes you slowly, squeezes you gently. Is she falling asleep? How could she not be?

 

You turn around, slowly, regretfully, you shrug off her arms and push her back against the trap wall. She points her face up at you, wipes her nose. Licks her lips. 

 

“I can’t smell a fucking thing, it’s all gone blue,” she complains, and you laugh a little. You bend your head down and you kiss her. Your mouth stings, you’ve bitten your lips, your tongue, and when she kisses you back she sucks at the blood. It’s hotter than anything so weird and clumsy and stupid should be.

 

When you cup a hand to her wet jeans, she goes “Oh!” and “No, Sollux, you don’t have to--”

 

“So give me the override,” you say, and run your thumb along the zip. You can feel her bulge stirring beneath, full and eager. It’s not why she’s pulling away. 

 

“This wasn’t part of the deal,” she says, breathless, worried, “I’m. I’m. I’ll be alright.”

 

“Override?”

 

There’s a long tense moment as she chews on her lower lip, caught on the edge of some broken place inside herself and you want to go and stab her sister to death all over again for teaching this girl to be afraid of what she wants. But she doesn’t say anything as you unzip her jeans, tug them down her hips. Her underwear are cherry red, it’s stupid amounts of endearing. 

 

Your fingers are clumsy for this, for how gentle you want to be. But you kiss the blade of her jaw, her breasts, the narrow arches of her ribs. 

 

You lower your face to the front of her briefs, and lick.

 

“Supersedure,” she gasps out, wrenching you away, and you go limp with confusion. Her legs snap together and she curls up like a pillbug, gagging for breath. 

 

“Oh my god,” you say. “Oh my god.” 

 

“No, no, Sollux, not you, it’s not you,” she says, weakly, but she’s shaking like you’re still up in the stratosphere. 

 

“TZ--”

 

She reaches out from her defensive huddle, snags your jaw, angles it into the spray. 

 

“Hey, come on--” you sputter. 

 

She puts soap on her fingers and rubs them across your lips, and her mouth is a hard twist of anger.

 

Terezi, I’m sorry--”

 

“She used to make them suck me off,” she says abruptly. “Okay? Our victims. I used to think I deserved it. I used to think they deserved it. Don’t say you wanted to do this, I know, I know. But it still -- I can’t. I can’t do that to you, I can’t let you.”

 

You sigh, and rest your foreheads together. Feel the defensive press of her knees to your chest. 

 

“I don’t think you killed her enough,” you say. She laughs at that, an exhausted little caw, and still she won’t look at you.

 

“Tell me about it,” she says, all bitterness. 

 

You take her jaw. You turn her face up towards yours.

 

This is intimate, this is real, raw, horrible intimacy. Chains and cuffs and bars and drugs, her in her suit and you strung up, strung out, that was safe. That was you and her, playing a game. This is real.

 

You kiss her, very carefully, more a brush of lips than anything. She makes a small muffled noise and kisses you back, just as lightly. 

 

“She used me too,” you say. 

 

“I know,” she says.

 

“I mean, not just for AA. Later. Afterwards. When you broke up. For... deliveries.”

 

Terezi kisses you again. She tastes like soap, or you do. “You are so dumb, Sollux, I know. Why do you think I killed her?”

 

“Oh,” you say, and she puts her face into the juncture of your shoulder, heart-breakingly sad and shy. 

 

“What do you want?” you ask her. “What can I do for you, please just tell me.”

 

“What do you want?” she asks.

 

“I want you to be happy.”

 

She snorts. “What else do you want?”

 

“Well, shit, I want to be happy.”

 

“Something achievable, Captor, sometime this century,” she says, all wry Pyrope sass, and that makes you relieved enough to be brave. 

 

So you say, “I want to be your Helmsman. I really honestly fucking do, I’m scared to fucking death of anyone using me like she did but you didn’t.”  

 

“Okay,” she says. One small hand pats you, tersely, she takes a long shuddering breath. “Okay. We’ll do it.”

 

“Tomorrow?”

 

“Next sweep, more like.” 

 

“Oh, come on--”

 

She sits back on her heels, she glares up at you. Her hand goes to your ribs, dragging over each strut. “Look at you! You really think you’re in any kind of shape? You need twenty more pounds before it wouldn’t be a very elaborate culling procedure, Conscript! Fuck, it almost was tonight. Did you even eat anything at any point in the last week?”

 

“TZ...”

 

“Don’t you dare make me kill you,” she says, “You might be done with yourself but I’m not,” 

 

You are such a shithead.

 

“No, I won’t,” you say. “I promise. You’ll never get rid of me, a hundred sweeps down the line you are going to have the oldest, sorriest, most senile ship of the Cruelest Bar and all your coworkers will talk so much shit about you--”

 

She laughs wetly, she kisses your throat up and down. She’s achingly small, you could be her cage. You bend down and meet her mouth with your own and then you could just be any two kids making out in a shower together, you are so relieved and so giddy and the two of you keep giggling through your smooches, touching each other so carefully and oh, wow, you’re really going to hurt so bad tomorrow. You don’t care. You cup your free hand around the back of her head, keeping her close, and she tips her head back to let you at her neck. She tastes like soap, or you do.

 

When your bulges come together, through her briefs, she lets out a low, scared sound, starting to push away again, and you gasp out “I can stop, I promise I can stop!” 

 

She shudders all over and her hands ball into tight fists. She nods. 

 

You pull her awkwardly into your lap, clumsy with desire and fear, and hook her sodden underwear down. Her bulge is a tight cuff around your wrist before you’ve even cleared the fabric off her butt and her hands are squeezing terribly sexy bruises into your biceps. You get the damn briefs off one leg and give up entirely, and she lets you move her up your thighs. You let the hungry grasp of her bulge slip up your hand, over your palm, you twist your hand and pin it thumb-to-palm and she squeaks.

 

You slide two fingers into her nook. She gasps, claws at you, uncalculated and startled and you let her rock against you, bear down on your fingers, you are dizzy and warm and so fond of her it hurts more than all the rest of you, she’s yours and you’re hers and she keens when you stroke up inside her with firm little circles and you are so, so glad you keep your nails chewed short. 

 

She closes the last small space, and rocks up against your crotch, the whole sopping, bruisy mess of it. It’s your turn to squeak, and she freezes up again.

 

“Please,” you beg. “Please, I want --”

 

“You’re all -- I shouldn’t --”

 

“Let me put my -- in you -- please, please, Terezi--”

 

She moans, grinds against you. You yank your fingers out of her and then finally you’ve got her nook around your bulge, slick and perfect. You sprawl awkwardly against the trap’s walls, dazed with pleasure, and she squirms and whimpers against your chest, grinding fast and hard in your lap. You’ve hardly got the presence of mind to keep hold of her bulge, fist it gently up and down and keep her busy. Your nook clenches against itself, frustrated but already ominous-sore just from the pressure of Terezi’s surprisingly plush ass rolling against the very top. When she digs her fangs into your collarbone, the prickle of pain is enough to push you over a limit you weren’t even sure you had and you come, aching, sobbing, with her licking blood off your chest. 

 

“God,” she says, quiet under all your noise, breathless, “Sollux--”

 

She comes apart with your name on her yellow-smeared lips and a vivid spatter of blue between your legs. The shower once again smells kind of terrible and everything else is perfect. You want nothing more but to close your eyes and fall asleep like this, curled up shieldlike all around her, but you know you’ll both regret it. You lean back and let the spray wash over the two of you, over your sticky laps, and she fumbles over the cleansing syrup and has to try three times to squirt any more of it out. 

 

“Oh wow,” she says, pulling off you, smearing syrup through the brackish mess of teal and mustard. “How are you still going.”

 

You crack an eye open and moan with dismay. Your bulge still hasn’t resheathed. “Some crazy broad stuffed me full of Fleet-standard go-go-juice, is what.”

 

She swats your horns. “Some dunkass bitch doesn’t believe in maintaining himself at an adequate Fleet-mandated level of bodily fitness! I prescribe you a doubled caloric intake and a hundred pushups a night. Get those twig arms of yours ready for some real work.”

 

 “How about some hardcore programming, TZ, I’ll push all your buttons--” you grab her butt. She shrieks with startled laughter and squirts you in the face with the cleansing syrup, and then you’re just laughing, smacking at each other, struggling upright and cursing at the sting of soap to the ocular membranes. The awkwardness you’d felt earlier is entirely gone, though you can’t hold out hope it’ll be gone forever. Right now, though, you’re just giddy and good, and that’s more than enough. 

 

She shuts off the trap, and you go get towels.

 

“I’m really hungry,” she says, as you fluff her hair. “Can we get delivery?” She says it like the prospect of signing for a mealdrone’s pizza nodules is the most wondrous adventure ever proposed, and when you snort she pinches your stomach. 

 

“Well I never have before,” she grumbles. “I live in a forest, cityboy!”

 

“If it’s your first time, I’ll let you pay so you can have the full authentic experience,” you say magnanimously. You stoop to let her towel your hair. “Never let it be said Sollux Captor wasn’t a gracious date.”

 

Her hands go still. “This was a date, wasn’t it?” she asks. “Huh.”

 

“Yeah,” you agree. “Wow. I -- I think we did it backwards.” 

 

She peeks in under your towel. “Hush,” she says, and kisses you in the warm, terry-cloth darkness. You kiss back for a while, then break away when you start enjoying it too much, breathing hard and shaky-kneed all over again. 

 

“No, no, fuck, pizza,” you explain to her worried nose-wrinkle. “I don’t think I can take another round, this is more sex than has ever fucking happened to me, ever.”

 

“Wimp.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, text it.” You wrap your damp towel around your hips, drift off to the nutrition block and all the scribbled codes for the mealdrones pinned on your thermal hull. She comes up behind you and and runs one cool highblood finger up on the ladder of your spine. You tingle with it, stupid all over again, you fumble the shellphone and can’t work any of the buttons. You’re smiling like enormous amounts of goof, and you hand it over to her to make the call. 

 

“All yours,” you say. 

 

She kisses your knuckles, squeezes your wrist hard enough to make you shiver. 

 

“Yeah,” she grins. “All mine.”