Title: When All Else In You Turns and Runs
Ratings/Warnings: PG, swearing, implied PTSD
Written for: N/A
A/N: Title taken from Vienna Teng's "Love Turns 40."
You don’t have a clue what you’re doing.
It’s something you’ve learned to recognize, a tin-blood taste at the back of your mouth and your heartbeat humming like an engine about to burn out, distractions exactly when you most need to focus, and you’ve spent your whole life trying to keep everything built strong and running smooth so you don’t have to feel like this.
You close your eyes as tight as you can, try to anchor yourself in what’s around you: music that you’re feeling as much as you hear it, pulsing through your bones from the floor on up exactly the way Dave arranged it to do; the too-cool too-many too-hard bony ridges of Terezi’s hand against your palm; the mix of lizard-bitter musk utterly unmasked by her strawberry deodorant and the fresh-clean businessman smell of Dave’s aftershave that he barely needs, that he only barely overdoes; it’s strong, but only because you’re so close.
But not too close. You could lean away, pull back the arm stretched across his lap to cover Terezi’s hand, laugh a bit and carry on. They must have guessed what you’re – maybe – about to do, but you know through the panicky static-whine of your mind that if you change your mind, everyone will chuckle and look away, and in maybe fifteen minutes it’ll be just another thing that all three of you pretend don’t matter enough to merit a mention (except between midnight and four in the morning, when the world’s too distant and the house too quiet to leave each other pride-intact and sleeping screaming, or sucking cherries down like whiskey shots.)
It’s not too late to back down; there’s nothing and no-one to make you do this.
You open your eyes, find Dave motionless and lips half-parted, Terezi leaned in with her head tilted slightly just the way she does when she doesn’t want to miss a single detail, and you lean in and kiss the Knight of Time as gently as you know how, with the Seer of Mind’s pulse thrumming against your palm.
You don’t close your eyes. He does; you’re close enough to see through his shades and the little reflections of yourself in them, superimposing your face over his eyelids. Next to you, Terezi unfolds herself from her curled-up cluster of limbs, kneels on the couch beside you, her thumb lacing over the base of yours to hold you down.
You break the kiss, wait for the verdict without breathing; you’re not as frightened as you’ve ever been in your life, but you’re pretty damn close. Certainly you’re as frightened as you’ve ever been for your own sake.
Terezi reaches out, pinches the arm of his glasses between two fingers, lifts them off his face as if she’s afraid that she’ll disturb some vital bit of evidence. The color of his eyes doesn’t surprise you, but the bright transparent shock in them does, and the only reason he doesn’t look terrifyingly like Rose is that you’ve never seen his sister seem this naked.
The song shakes itself to an end, and a silence that sounds like the end of a storm fills up the room, an island quiet entirely out of place in this green-washed city.
“Thanks, Terezi,” you choke through the terror in your throat, and the tension cracks a tiny bit. Dave lifts his chin a sliver, blinks, and suddenly looks a little less like something far too fragile to touch.
“Can’t keep your hands off me, Harley?” he asks, and he might sound calm but there’s the drawl of his home bleeding through his words and no lilt to the way that he says it at all, and you sigh the slightest bit; he’s as frightened as you are, thank God.
You look at Terezi. She grins back, teeth glinting, and for a moment the world tilts, and you feel sick, let her hand fall free from yours. Then her fingers close on your shoulder hard enough to bruise, as if she’s holding your mind and soul in your fragile human body, and maybe she is because suddenly you can breathe again.
“Maybe neither of us can, coolkid,” she teases, truth running under the mocking crackle of her voice the way the synth of the second song is singing slowly under all your breathing and your conversation. She runs her fingers surgical-careful along Dave’s chin, tilting his face up towards you, but you shake your head, just a little. All it takes is the tiniest touch of her thumb and a crook of her finger and he’s tilted towards her instead, and this way you get to watch him realize, watch the jump of his eyebrows and the way his lips fall apart again as she leans in, watch the way the light catches on his eyelashes and on her cheekbones.
Theirs kiss is a little longer, and you relax – half-relax – against his shoulder and study the thunderhead-shades of her knobbly fingers spread against his papery pale skin, the way her eyes narrow to slits behind her shades and the awkward crush before Dave tilts his head to free his nose – the tip of his bends back, but not hers, and you wonder again about the differences between troll skulls and human. It’s only a fleeting thought; then Terezi’s fingers spasm against your shoulder and you see her blue-tinged tongue dart out against Dave’s mouth and you’re leaning closer, breathing shallow again but not from fear. You wish for a different power than your own; you want to slow them down, make sure you’re catching every detail, and now you understand why people might want to film themselves like this. You want to have the shape of the space between your bodies and the way Dave’s hands are shaking and Terezi’s messy focused intensity all perfect in your hands even after you lose the two of them.
If you do, you remind yourself, as Terezi leans an inch or two back, smiling – thin and shaky for a moment before she pulls it into a steel-solid razor grin. You don’t mind, this time; sitting up, you beam back, keeping your lips from trembling. Dave’s looking a different shade of emotionless from normal; you guess that maybe he’s not sure how to feel, or how he ought to feel. Terezi shifts her hand, tilts his face back towards you, and you lean in, hesitate.
“Is this all right?” you ask, because it’s Dave and you know he’d never stop you no matter how much he might hate what’s happening. You’re not sure he’d even answer no, but you don’t know what you can do but ask and ask and ask, and anyway he snorts and rolls his eyes, both a little muted.
“Yeah,” he says, close enough that you can feel his breath on your chin, “I have so many issues with the hottest badasses in two universes crawling all over me. Worst night of my life.”
“Hottest badasses in two universes?” Terezi asks, tilting her head; you can hear her sniffing at him, shake some of your hair out of the way so the conditioner in it won’t block the scent of what she’s after. “Dave, that sounds almost sweet.”
“Freak accident,” he says, shrugging as best he can under the tangle of limbs that you’re rapidly forming, and your grin melts into a genuine giggle as you poke gently at his ribs.
“Liar,” you say, cupping his cheek, and you mean to kiss him then but for a moment you just have to look, to memorize: your baked-tan hand and Terezi’s slate-stone one silhouetted against the lines of his cheekbones, his tiny smile framed between both of your fingers.
“Like what you see?” he asks, tiniest crack on the last word but the rhythm’s back in his voice, and Terezi laughs, sliding her other hand from your shoulder to the back of your neck, tracing circles lightly enough to make you shiver as her thumb keeps biting into your shoulder.
You don’t know what you want to say but you know that you don’t have the words, so you just lean in and kiss Dave again, again, the kisses leading into each other long and luxurious and slow, Terezi’s happy little purr soft against your ear as you do. The panic of something ruined coming is still beating through your throat, but you don’t care: this is something like enough, something worth having long enough to lose.
“We’re not going anywhere, dumbass,” Dave murmurs into your mouth, and that’s when your thoughts catch up to what you’ve been whispering, making you blush. Terezi sighs like she’s being asked to hunt through all the puppets that you all had to stash in the attic, crooks her hand around the back of your head to tug you towards her.
“What the coolkid said,” she tells you, nostrils flaring as her lips tighten like she’s gearing up for an argument, and then she leans up to kiss you too, fingers twisted in your hair, and you’re a little surprised by how leathery her lips feel after Dave’s. His hand curves over yours, thumb twisted around yours and three fingers splayed across the back of your wrist; for a moment you wonder whether it’s him or John who holds hands strangely, and then Terezi licks along your lip and you simply focus on the feel and scent and sight and presence of the two of them as the seconds bleed together into minutes, or maybe they just feel that way.
You know they might not have a choice – about staying, about leaving – but still you realize that you want to believe them, want it almost as much as you want the two of them themselves. You skate your other hand along the ridges of Terezi's spine, feel Dave's smile stretch against your palm, and think that you might try.