"...Nook-licking, ass-faced, grub-fucking son of a deep-sea squid! This is NOT something I signed up for!!"
Karkat grimaced as he untangled himself from yet another patch of wild seaweed he'd absentmindedly swum into. Since he had left the castle, Dave had led ignorantly led the small crab through two caverns filled with sharp coral, three jellyfish infested chasms, and past a cave with one very ornery electric eel.
No, things were not going well tonight. And it wasn't even midnight yet.
"I had better be getting something for my fucking suffering," Karkat growled to himself as he snipped the last of the seaweed from his shell. With the last of the annoying plant pooling on the rock under him, Karkat set off towards the cave Dave and Tavros had disappeared into. After all, he was so disoriented from the trip thus far that he knew he wouldn't be able to get back without following the prince and his guppy-of-a-lackey.
Karkat had never really liked any members of the court, but if there was someone who deserved all the hate his soul could carry, it was Dave. With his "too cool for you" attitude and lack of punctuality, Dave was more of an annoyance than a prince. Since his adoption over ten years ago, the he had been nothing but a constant source of anger. Even Bro, who was normally passive when angered, would often take up his katana and force Dave to understand his mistakes through a duel. And when that didn't work, a week of house-arrest was enforced, along with menial tasks such as sorting Bro's disturbing collection of smuppets. That always made Dave understand what he could and couldn't do.
Karkat shook his head, clicking his pincers several times before propelling himself into the darkness of the cave ahead. He fumbled around in the shadows, cringing when he tangled himself in even more seaweed and cursing silently when he found the disgruntled jellyfish waiting on the far end of the cave-turned-tunnel. He finally emerged, relatively sting-free and even angrier than before.
"Gog, this is so fucking stupid," he grumbled, nursing a sting on his cheek. "I can't believe I agreed to this. Next time Bro can do this himself. I have important shit to take care of, and it doesn't include babysitting the youngest prick in the brat-pack."
Just as he rounded the last of the rocks, Karkat stopped, his tiny ears picking up someone's voice; someone's distinctly ironic voice. The small crab peered around the side of the rock and watched as Dave and Tavros argued in front of a large boulder at least five times the merman's height. And when Karkat squinted at the rock, he could just see an opening in its side.
"Tav, just be quiet. We'll just drop this off, spin some sick beats, and then we'll head right back to the castle. No one will know we were MIA."
"Uh, alright...I guess if we're just a minute or two..."
"Good. Now get in there."
From his hiding place, Karkat could see Dave shove Tavros into the hole in the rock. The boy's face was tense, and the stiffness in his shoulders gave away the fact that he was paranoid. And that made Karkat paranoid.
"Why are you so damn nervous?" Karkat mumbled to himself, though he really wanted to ask Dave that question. "What do you have to hide from the rest of the kingdom...that makes you lose your so-called cool?"
Once Dave was inside and the rock that served as the cavern's door was nearly in place, Karkat made his move. The small crab pushed off the rock he hid behind, effectively propelling himself into the crack between the makeshift door and rocky wall. It was an extremely tight squeeze, but it was manageable. He would just have to buff out the scratches on his shell later.
"Dave, did you, uh, hear something?"
"Nothing but the sound of me setting up some ill beats, babe."
Karkat rolled his eyes at Dave's tone, but stopped when he heard a loud scratching sound. It hurt his tiny ears at first, but once he picked up on the beat, it was almost soothing. It sounded like something Bro would come up with.
But Karkat wasn't nearly as ready as he should have been for what awaited him in the cavern. The walls of the large grotto were covered with shelves, and those shelves were cluttered with every manner of human item imaginable. Parchment tomes, glittering necklaces, and too many bottles to count filled every space available.
Tavros was seated comfortably on a pillow nestled between two boxes on the third shelf from the bottom, looking nervous as usual. He had the tattered remnants of a flag draped over his back, and his eyes were filled with fatigue. He was definitely not the kind of fish meant to have late-night strolls through the reef.
Dave, on the other claw, was in one of his pissy moods. He was standing behind a large set of turntables that looked an awful lot like Bro's, but this one was obviously homemade. He must've scrounged around the city looking for parts for it.
"But why set it up out here, in the middle of nowhere...?" Karkat muttered, watching Dave's expression go from blank to frustrated. A loud scratching sound reverberated off the cavern walls as Dave pulled the records from their places, eliciting wails from both Tavros and Karkat. He gripped them so hard they started to bend and his knuckles turned white.
Karkat shrunk back against the wall and covered his ears, willing himself to be beyond the range of Dave's anger. He wanted to go back to the castle and forget he'd seen anything. Just don't let Dave have seen him just yet!
But then Dave relaxed his arms and started singing.
Bro was so frustrating.
The disks under his fingers buzzed with every beat, every measure, making his arms numb and gut twist in unpleasant ways. Usually the music made him feel at peace with himself. It helped him forget the day's troubles without having to think about all the pain.
But forgetting about today's duel with Bro was not happening. Just thinking about how easily Bro had knocked him to the floor made his blood boil. Their duels lasted anywhere from an hour to a few minutes, but that wasn't the problem. It was the way the king had acted while standing over his beaten son.
"Acting all high and mighty. Feh. As if I care!" On the last word, Dave tore the records from his turntables, nearly breaking both in half. He wanted to beat his parent so badly that it hurt. He could feel the anger towards his adoptive father turning to poison, stinging and searing his insides until he couldn't take it anymore.
He wanted to win.
He wanted to beat his "father" into the floor.
He wanted someone to understand.
"Hey, uh, D-Dave...? What's the matter?" Tavros asked.
Dave blinked, his rage suddenly forgotten, and looked up at his worried friend. "It's nothing, Tav...I'm just..." - he sighed "I'm just sick of being pushed around. Being told where to be and what to do. If I could, I'd give up being a prince. It's not my kind of gig."
Tavros gave his friend a sad look, but Dave just brushed it off. "Anyway, what does the king know?" Dave mumbled. "There's nothing wrong with going to the surface. And I'm not in the wrong for doing it. And I'm not stopping just cuz he says to..."
He sighed and ran his hand along the edge of the nearby shelf, pausing only a second before tapping out a beat with his fingers. Before he knew it, he could feel the music in his mind, the lyrics slipping from his lips with a melody he somehow knew off the top of his head.
"Look at this loot, Isn't it sweet?
Bet you'd think my collection's complete.
Wouldn't you think I'm the dude...
The dude who's got...everything...?
Look at this lair, rad shit to spare.
There's no way your shit could ever compare.
Takin' a gander, you'd think...yep, he's got skills.
I've got fresh beats and sick rhymes a-plenty.
I've got mad traps and sweet tricks galore.
You want my stuff? Too bad, it's mine.
But who cares...no big deal...
I want more...
I wanna be...where the humans are.
I wanna see...wanna see 'em dancing.
Walking around on those oh hell, what's the word?
Oh, right. Feet.
Flipping your fins, it's not all that great.
You need legs for sweet tricks, dancin',
Strutting along down a...oh fuck, what's the word?
Shit, I'm an idiot. Street.
Up where they walk.
Up where they run.
Up where they chill all day in the sun.
The sea ain't for me...wish I could be...
Part of that world."
And, as if on cue, a loud crash echoed from the shelves near the cave entrance. Karkat, who had moved to another hiding spot while Dave had been singing, had gotten himself snagged in a loose fishing net and fallen into a pile of dull fishing hooks.
"Dave, what the fucking hell is all this shit?!" He shrieked, a vein in his neck threatening to blow.
Dave just shrugged as Tavros hid under his blanket. "Nothing, dude. Just some stuff I found on the ocean floor." He smirked as the crab untangled himself from the rotten ropes. "You gonna tattle on me for it? I didn't go to the surface to find all this."
Karkat just glared daggers at Dave as he pulled a fishhook out of his lip. "Maybe I should! After all, you're still breaking the law by being around all this fucking...! I can't believe you would...! AAARGH!!" Karkat let out yell so loud that it shook the walls of the grotto, surprising Tavros and even Dave.
"Look, Karkat, don't tell anyone about this, okay?" Dave asked casually. "If I'm not allowed to go to the surface, then at least let me keep this a secret."
"Yeah, Karkat! Please don't, uh, tell anyone! We really like it here!!" Tavros chimed in from his hiding space on the shelf.
"Look," Karkat said as he rolled his eyes, "I'm willing to forget all about this little incident. I don't want any fucking trouble, just like you. In fact, if I had my way, I'd try and get transferred to a comfy job in the southern tropics. But that's besides the fucking point."
He clicked his claws towards Dave's face. "I want you and your buddy to hightail it back to the castle. Now. If anyone catches us, you keep your mouths shut and let me do the talking. I am in NO mood for any of your bullshit. Now come on."
As Karkat began to swim away, Dave sighed and pushed his shades up his nose, reluctant to leave his secret haven. What waited for him back at the castle? A bunch of pissy sisters who would rather make him feel like shit than just talk to him? An analytic Rose who would dissect his actions like one would a sea cucumber? Or worse, a disappointed Bro who would, once again, challenge him and whoop his sorry fins in a duel? No. There was no way he could go back. Not right now at least.
Then he noticed a shadow moving across the floor of the grotto. Out of curiosity, he glanced up to see what was going on.
High above the grotto, on the water's surface, there was something blocking the rays of the moon. It was something big, and it definitely wasn't a fish. Fishes didn't get that big. It could've been a whale, but he did hear any whale calls.
"Dave, where the fucking fuck do you think you're going?!
Thing is, though, Dave didn't really know. He just felt something pull him towards whatever it was up there. He didn't even realize he was swimming until he was well out of the grotto and heading towards the water's surface. The only thing on his mind was finding out exactly what that huge shape was.