~ATH We Part

BY : Grimreaperchibi
Category: Web Comics > Homestuck
Dragon prints: 1885
Disclaimer: I do not own Homestuck, nor the places, people, or objects within. I make no money writing this.

A/N: Based on a prompt from the ever-lovely SybLaTortue on tumblr, which finally got me writing again after almost 8 months of nothing. I can't thank you enough for letting me work on this lovely idea!

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--twinArmageddons [TA] started trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]--

TA: kk

--carcinoGeneticist [CG] is busy--

TA: kk

--carcinoGeneticist [CG] is busy--

TA: quiit polii2hiing your bulge two whatever 2hiity romcom youre watchiing now and pay attentiion.

TA: ii promii2e iit2 a better u2e of your tiime.

--carcinoGeneticist [CG] is busy--

TA: kk

TA: if you dont re2pond iin the next two miinute2 ii wiill replace every 2ound fiile on your hu2ktop wiith 2ome ver2iion of the annoyiing faiiry from Troll Legend of Zelda and then lock your permii22iion2.

TA: every 2ound kk. all of them.

--carcinoGeneticist [CG] changed status to active--

CG: OH MY GOD, YOU MANIC SHITWEASEL. HAVING TO LISTEN TO THAT OVERUSED SOUND FILE ON REPEAT FOR THE NEXT SWEEP WOULD BE A FRACTION OF HOW ANNOYING YOU ARE RIGHT NOW. HOW DO YOU OF ALL TROLLS NOT KNOW THE MEANING OF THE WORD BUSY? YOU TELL ME ALL THE TIME HOW FUCKING BUSY YOU ARE WHEN I WANT TO TALK. AND NOW THAT I'M THE ONE WHO'S BUSY, YOU'VE SUDDENLY DEVELOPED AN ACUTE CASE OF LEXICAL AMNESIA.

CG: BUT SINCE I'M SUCH A GREAT FRIEND, I WOULD BE GLAD TO HELP YOU IN YOUR TIME OF NEED BY PROVIDING A SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM THAT'S SIMPLE ENOUGH EVEN YOUR MALNOURISHED AND SLEEP DEPRIVED PAN CAN COMPREHEND IT.

CG: FUCK OFF.

--carcinoGeneticist [CG] change status to busy--

TA: cryiing iintwo your keyboard doe2nt count a2 beiing bu2y and you know iit.

Karkat grit his teeth, forcing the frustrated noise rising from his throat to come out as a snort of derision rather than a sigh of surrender. He knew he'd been asking for too much by setting Trollian to busy and hoping everyone else would take the hint. He could never be that lucky. Shutting the program down had crossed his mind, except he knew the size and design of the shitstorm waiting behind that action. Being offline had become the unofficial signal that meant something bad had happened to the troll in question. It seemed counter intuitive to invite his dense asshole friends to come charging hell bent into his hive when he required a distraction-free environment to work.

Work that had been slow, yet steady for most of the night until this obnoxious intrusion by Sollux, the one person he truly, fervently, desperately did not want to interact with while trying to code.

Judging by the near-feverish influx of messages now pinging away any and all hope of productivity, Sollux had performed one of his polar shifts. In a lot ways, that news made Karkat happy--it meant the other wasn't languishing away under the seething muck of ennui and nihilism anymore. He'd been wallowing for weeks at this point because the bullshit side of his pan had decided to act up. Tough he'd deny it until the end of time, Karkat had started to worry this would be the one time he couldn't out-shout the things that haunted his friend's thoughts. Seeing Sollux taking an active interest in the world again most definitely counted as "a good thing."

In most of the remaining ways, however...

TA: youre iignoriing me agaiin kk.

TA: dont make me loop your new 2y2tem 2ound2 and lock your keyboard whiile they play 2o that you have two lii2ten two the whole thiing before haviing acce22 agaiin.

TA: actually that2 geniiu2. ii need two add that to thii2.

...it just meant Sollux's asshole potential skyrocketed to an exponential level.

A quick scan through the wall of yellow text revealed "thii2" to be a new virus project. That  explained why Karkat was the one receiving all the frenzied attention. True, they had their fair share of arguments about ability and vastly different success rates when it came to programming anything in ~ATH. The fact remained that Karkat was the only one Sollux could gush about coding to and expect something close to understanding on the subject. If he wanted to show off, there was only one audience that would suffice. The mightiest triumph and greatest folly of Karkat's life, that dubious honor right there.

He read through the chat log again, paying a little more attention to the details this time. It rambled on a lot. Many of the sentences ended up conjoined into one mass grammatical headache and topics switched almost every other line; the trademark of someone who's thoughts were flowing faster than their fingers could type. There were a couple allusions mixed into the mess about who's ass this particular pain was mean for (not anyone in their diseased little group, thank fuck). The more he read, however, the more Karkat realized he had no hope of getting out of this conversation anytime soon. Sollux wasn't just looking for recognition, preening and throwing less than subtle barbs at Karkat's ability. He was so honestly excited and enthused by how well this virus had turned out, he had to share it. A few lazy and dismissive platitudes wouldn't be enough to send him on his way. Which meant the options for dealing with this situation came down to risking Sollux's threats by ignoring him or sucking it up and playing nice for a while.

Slumping back into his chair, Karkat sighed in resignation. He did not want to do this tonight. A manic Sollux took a certain amount of patience and attention to handle, two attributes that had already been allocated towards coding. Given enough quiet and time, Karkat knew he could create an operational program. Something that now seemed impossible to achieve. Because as great as it would feel to shut Sollux down for being the infected bulge blister he chose to act like, the only thing that would accomplish was a fight. A fight that, given their history, would include both of them screaming things neither of them meant, another phrenic shift in Sollux, Karkat's computer exploding in misguided retribution, and a lot of awkward apologizing at some later date. He didn't want the weight of all that on his already overburdened shoulders, let alone have to finance another husktop this soon after their last blow-out, because he couldn't behave until Sollux got bored of him.

CG: SO WHAT PROPAGATED THIS PARTICULAR BRAND OF FUCKERY? YOU'RE NOT USUALLY THIS NICE.

CG: AND BY NICE, I MEAN BACKHANDED, OBJECTIONABLE, AND PAINFULLY ASININE.

TA: flattery miight 2ave you thii2 tiime but ii wouldnt recommend relyiing on iit.

And so Sollux continued to vomit out a scientifically classified shit ton of nonsense into Trollian and Karkat continued to guess at what was important enough  to warrant as response. The reversal in roles remained quite punishing in the beginning. Despite the demand for attention, Sollux rarely left an opening for anything other than his own thoughts. Since that did nothing to encourage a response, Karkat started to drift off towards other things. It took a while, but as the night dragged on without so much as a hint of slowing down, he worked out a pattern that seemed to please both of them. While he could code circles around anyone, Sollux's general words per minute output remained passable at best, even when he barrelled forward at breakneck speed. Karkat found that he could ignore up to three new message alerts before needing to switch back to the conversation. He had about two more after that to get caught up enough to respond. Interjecting something, no matter how vague or useless, about every sixth ping seemed to count as enough attention being paid and Sollux would hurdle on his merry demented way without pause. It all added up to a significant amount of time to do other things, like frame a line of his own code. Quite pleased to discover his night wouldn't be a complete waste, Karkat began picking away at his own project again.

The process still had the occasional hangup. The most common mistake became typing in the wrong window. Those instances at least provoked something of an actual conversation between them, even if it primarily consisted of them sniping at one another's abilities. Several times, Karkat lost track of the number of incoming messages and fell behind. It got harder still to respond on time when Sollux started sending him snippets of the virus, which of course, Trollian garbled all to hell. Even when he could decipher the script, Karkat couldn't decide if the lines were meant as false ploys to distract and/or confuse, or roundabout on purpose to annoy. Sollux only bitched about missing the finer points when questioned, so they remained a mystery. Still, his personal code continued to build line by line. Once comfortable juggling his attention, it even seemed to start generating itself. Sure, the process may have been a slower than before (though Karkat couldn't fathom how); it was still there, getting done, which made sense in that totally dysfunctional and backwards way that most things involving Sollux did. He wasn't about to question it, thought.

The small hours before dawn were looming in by the time Karkat saved the final line. He stretched and looked over his code, a small bubble of pride started to swell in his chest. This one would work; he could feel it. It still needed to be gone over to make sure all his brackets were all closed, his loops contained, and the longer strings checked for continuity; the routine proofing stuff that winkled out the larger bugs before testing. No program was perfect the first time, not even one of Sollux's. But after countless setbacks and trying to sell the inadvertent ability to make things explode as success, Karkat knew this time would be different. His program would work. And once it did, he could cram it down his friend's throat as definitive proof he was an actual hacker, not a hack. That, however, could wait for another night. Right now, all he wanted was to grab something to eat before slipping into his coon for some well-earned rest.

CG: OKAY LISTEN UP, YOU INSUFFERABLE LISPING MENACE. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I'VE GOT OTHER SHIT TO DO BESIDES LISTENING TO YOU WAX POETIC ABOUT HOW MUCH BIGGER YOUR FREAKY REPRODUCTIVE JUNK IS COMPARED TO EVERYONE ELSE.

CG: LIKE INGESTING THE APPROPRIATE AMOUNTS OF NUTRITIONAL OBJECTS TO SUSTAIN LIFE AND AT LEAST ATTEMPTING TO SLEEP DURING CIVILIZED HOURS.

CG: SO IF YOU COULD STOP THE GRATUITOUS SELF-PAILING FOR TWO MINUTES SO I CAN FINISH WHAT I'M DOING, I'D CONSIDER IT A GODDAMN IMPERIAL FAVOUR.

TA: youre not tryiing two compiile that broken a2 fuck code you 2ent me earliier are you? you cant afford two replace your hu2ktop agaiin iif you blow thii2 one two piiece2 two you know.

Karkat bristled. He wasn't going to ask how or why Sollux had that kind of information; he didn't want to know and end up madder than he already was. What he did know as that he hadn't put up with the incessant yammering all night, doing his best to be supportive and enthusiastic, so that his intelligence and ability could be insulted at the end. He'd throw himself on a culling fork first, and a rusty one at that. All the righteous indignation in the world didn't stop the seed of doubt from sprouting in the back of his mind. Maybe he should compile his program tonight just to prove potential, if nothing else. If it didn't work, then Sollux would never have to know. If it did work, then maybe the douchelord would shut up, however temporary that silence might be. In fact, doing so now sounded like the perfect capstone to the night.

CG: WHAT I DO WITH THAT CODE IS MUCH LIKE MY FINANCIAL SITUATION, ALSO KNOWN AS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

TA: then what are you doiing?

CG: GETTING YOU A BUCKET SO THAT THE HEINOUS AMOUNTS OF GENESLIME YOU'RE DRIBBLING DOESN'T DROWN YOUR KEYBOARD.

TA: what diid ii tell you about flattery?

He didn't wait to see if Sollux had anything more to add because he no longer cared what the other thought. A part of him knew it was a mistake to attempt the first run without looking everything over again, but he told the program to compile anyway. His code was good and fuck Sollux sideways for implying otherwise.

Karkat chewed on his lip while he watched the progress bar's slow climb, ignoring Trollian's continued ringing. It felt like a lifetime of waiting for that tiny sound that told him when the program finished assembling itself. Karkat held his breath and turned away, waiting for the destruction to start. Seconds ticked by in silence. Exercising all due caution, Karkat opened his eyes to stare at his husktop. Nothing had exploded, crashed, burned, or otherwise ceased to function. His computer remained operational, all the other programs he had up and running carrying on as normal. The longer he stared, the longer nothing persisted in happening.

He surged out of his chair, a triumphant cry ringing throughout the room. Finally! After sweeps of staging failure as success, he'd managed succeed the proper way. His bloodpusher thumped hard, his breath catching as adrenaline prickled across his nerves, lighting up everything from his horns to his toes. That bubble of pride came back, filling up until it felt like he'd burst from sheer elation. He'd never felt so good about anything in his life. No wonder Sollux went manic whenever he completed something even he considered impressive; this feeling was amazing and Karkat didn't want it to stop. And it didn't; if anything, the feelings continued to intensify, swamping him in a whole host of unfamiliar but not unpleasant sensations.

High on elation and relief, it took a minute to notice that something more was happening at the same time. The feeling in his chest solidified, large and uncomfortable enough to make him gasp for his next breath. His pulse hammered in his veins with enough force his whole body throbbed in time. The prickle had turned into an active crackle of static along his skin that continued to gather strength. Then from behind it all, a strange sucking sensation persisted, like a giant vacuum had been applied to his back, trying to draw him through an opening slightly smaller than his normal dimensions. Instinct said to anchor himself so that he couldn't get dragged away, but he didn't know what was considered safe enough to cling to. Nothing else seemed affected, only him. That's when he saw the error message flashing on his screen. In a panic, Karkat lunged for his keyboard, only to never touch it.

A thundering crack broke reality as the energy that had been building exploded. It ripped through him, white hot and blinding in its intensity, burning forever along all the newly discovered recesses of his body. He might have screamed in pain, though only a roaring type of static could be heard. He might have fallen, but concepts like direction and gravity had become moot. In some remote corner of his mind, he might have worried about what would happen to everyone else if he wasn't there, might have even begged Sollux to forgive him. Then the darkness came, and the relief of oblivion remained the only certainty in the world.

***

To be continued.



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