Gamzee met him on the last day of the semester- he was hiding from his ex-girlfriend behind an oversized pot plant in the reception, waiting for his brother to pick him up. Gamzee was killing time, unwilling to go home for what promised to be a very long summer break just yet.

That was the summer vandals had stolen all the power lines leading to town, when the only place you could get electricity was from the hospital's emergency generator. The power company assured everyone that they were working tirelessly to get everything back up, but it didn't change the fact that hand held, battery powered fans cost now twenty bucks when a week or two before they'd cost three.

Beads of sweat were trickling down his face and neck as he shifted uncomfortably in his wheelchair; Gamzee had felt bad for him, and had grabbed two pieces of paper from the reception desk, ignoring the indignant squeak from the receptionist. The moment Tavros caught sight the taller boy, he hunched in, trying to make himself look smaller, but Gamzee wasn't having any of that; he handed the paraplegic one of the pieces of paper...

"Okay, bro, copy me- you need to fold the bottom of the paper like this before-"

...and proceeded to give a step by step tutorial on how two fold a paper fan.

Five minutes later they were both fanning themselves furiously. It barely made a difference, no matter how fast you flapped, but Gamzee had convinced himself that it did, and perhaps that was all that mattered.

"I'm Gamzee, by the way; you're Tavbro, aren't you?" Tavros blinked hesitantly.

"Uh, yeah, I guess that's one way of saying it." There was a long pause, and then Gamzee sat on the arm of the wheelchair. Tavros blinked again, and opened his mouth as though to say something before shutting it again.

"You doing anything this summer?"

"No... not really, no; just, you know, sitting home... alone." Gamzee grinned.

"Same here! But you seem like a pretty cool bro- how about we be alone together?"

"I'm not sure that, uh, works, but if you mean we can hang out, which is what I hope you meant, then that sounds, well, interesting?" Impossibly, Gamzee's grin widened, and he fished a pen out of his pocket before grabbing Tavros' hand and scrawling something on the back in chicken scratch writing.

"That's my chum handle- message me and we can hang out!"

"Gamzee, there isn't any electricity."

"Oh yeah! Okay, where do you live?" Tavros told him. "Sweet! I'll come by tomorrow, how does that sound?"

"Interesting?" the smaller boy repeated a little helplessly. At that point his older brother arrived to pick him up, so he bid a hasty farewell to Gamzee and left.

"It's time for you to get going too," said the receptionist once Tavros had gone, voice possibly the only cold thing for miles around. Gamzee's shoulders slumped, but he nodded and headed out.

That was the summer the bank had taken their house and they'd been forced to move from their nice if a bit small semi detached in the suburbs to a dilapidated mess of rotting wood and sagging window frames twenty minutes out of town. Walking, with the midday sun blazing down on him, was nearly unbearable, but it was the only thing he could do- he didn't have any money, and loitering in the streets to the dirty glares of local shop keepers would be even worse.

He picked his way around the potholes, small puffs of dust trailing out behind every footstep. A single crow in one of the trees attempted a languid call before giving up, taking flight in search of greener pastures or at least some water. Sweat ran down his back, and by the time he reached his house he was soaked.

His father was asleep at the table. His brother, older than him by four years, was staring dejectedly at the blank screen of the television. The tap water was warm.

Gamzee collapsed onto his bed and spent the rest of the day searching for the cold spot on his pillow that simply didn't exist.

The walk to Tavros' house was almost as unpleasant as his walk home the day before. That was the summer that Gamzee had to admit he was too tall for the bike he'd gotten when he was twelve, so from now on he'd have to go everywhere on foot, unless he could convince his dad or Kurloz to give him a lift.

It took him forty minutes to arrive, and he reckoned he was a sight for sore eyes when he finally did, especially compared to the modest splendour that was the Nitram's- a well kept bungalow with a large garden and massive windows to let the light stream in. Brightly couloured flowers were kept neat in their beds, wilting slightly from the heat. An old rocking chair sat on the porch, next to a ramp for easy wheelchair access. Tavros' brother opened the door and invited him in for lukewarm juice that turned out to have been sorbet the week before. Tavros was just in the shower, and would be down soon.

His brother was called Rufioh, and Gamzee vaguely remembered him having been in the same grade as Kurloz at school. He was studying veterinary science at college in England, and was at home for the holidays. He said 'bangarang!' a lot. Gamzee liked him.

Tavros' came down after about twenty minutes, wearing nothing but cut off jeans and a towel around his shoulders, complaining about the lack of cold water. He flushed pink when he caught sight of Gamzee, and quickly pulled his shirt on from where it was hanging over the back of the wheelchair Rufioh laughed, ruffled his hair, said that he was off to meet with 'Zahnak and his lot' and left. There was a long pause as they looked at each other.

"Do you know how to play gin rummy?" asked Tavros.

The days passed quickly after that, a haze of heat and laughter and skies of brilliant blue and dusky gold. Before Gamzee knew it, two weeks of the holiday were already gone. That was the summer it felt like the sun never set and the heat was unrelenting. The radio reported death after death due to heatstroke and half the town was planning on suing the electric company as soon as they could actually get back in touch with their lawyers.

Batteries were a commodity, sold for double their usual price, but at the Nitrams' the small portable radio was always on, tuned in to the golden oldies, music reaching back to the days when most people didn't even have a radio to play it on. For Gamzee, it was like being flung into the past, this world without TV or electric lights, with Tavros dealing him in at cards while Scott Joplin tinkled away in the background.

Kurloz, who was always good with his hands, managed to get a job in the local garage, and for twenty bucks bought Gamzee a beat up wreck of a motor bike to fix up. They grabbed the portable radio, and now he would meet Tavros at the shop. The smaller boy, so shy in the beginning, chattered away as Gamzee fixed the parts that could be fixed and replaced the parts that couldn't. In the beginning, he had been chief tool holder, but the store owner's son soon took his wheelchair on as his own personal project.

"You are most fortunate that your chair was not electric," he would say over and over again as he tinkered away. Tavros, now perched inelegantly on the junk table, was caught between watching with anxiety as his only form of transport was manhandled, and laughing at how Gamzee had several streaks of grease from where he'd run his hands through his hair.

The bike had looked far worse than it actually was, and Gamzee couldn't shake the feeling that this was a sort of test from the Zahnaks to see if it might be worth hiring the other Makara boy. In any case, it only took him a few days to sort the bike out, and Equius finished his modifications around the same time. Tavros' chair now had a handle attached, which stretched it out into a recliner. Tavros grinned and Gamzee laughed.

"Now you can all up and get your sunbathe on, bro!"

The next day he drove his bike up to the Nitrams', grinning when all three of them opened the door. He had met the colonel a few times, but had never said more than a few words to him. For a moment, he was worried that Tavros' father might take issue with the bike- say it was too dangerous, that there was no way his disabled son would be allowed on it. Instead, the colonel grinned right back and said

"It looks like you've done an excellent job on that bike, son," and Rufioh said

"Bangarang!" sand Tavros said

"Do you think they've got anything cold to drink at Maude's Diner?"

They were no longer confined by heat and Tavros' disability to remain in a single place for the whole day- his chair could be folded up and strapped to the pack while he clung like a limpet to Gamzee. They were free to roam, and roam they did.

Days passed, and the heat only got worse.

That was the summer there was no ice-cream, not unless you drove an hour to the nearest town, and people who had stone cellars suddenly found themselves with more friends than they knew what to do with. They weren't cold enough to make ice, but they were cold enough to chill water, and Gamzee started showering over at the Nitrams'.

They were crude showers- a bowl of cold water dumped over his head, a quick wash down with an old bar of soap he'd salvaged from his house and then a rinse off with another bowl of water. Rufioh put up a bar against one wall so Tavros could shower himself- holding himself up with one hand, washing with the other-and the already toned muscles seemed to ripple and swell in size. More than once, Gamzee caught himself eyeing them appreciatively, running his tongue over his teeth, before shaking his head and telling himself that that wasn't the way of it- it was a girl's job, Vriska or Nepeta or someone, to ogle Tavros' arms, not his.

Telling himself it wasn't the way of it didn't stop him doing it.

There was a creek, slow and cool and clear, twenty minutes away from Gamzee's new house down the increasingly treacherous dirt road. None of the local kids would come near it because someone claimed a friend's cousin let their pet alligator loose in it fifteen year back. When asked if it would be okay to go swimming, the colonel simply said

"Take some sunscreen, and a couple of beers from the fridge if you can be discreet about it," and Rufioh said

"Bangarang! I may join you one day!" They left straight after lunch.

Tavros' recently bulked up arms were wrapped tight around Gamzee's waist, and surely he didn't need to have them under the leather jacket when he would be just as safe with them over? Gamzee felt his face flush, so he focussed on the road instead, cursing every now and then when they bounced off a pothole he hadn't managed to swerve around.

"Is that your house?" called the smaller boy over the wind as they passed, and Gamzee's flush deepened in shame. "You should invite me sometime. I'd like to meet your family- if that's, uh, alright?"

"Sure thing, bro- we can stop by after swimming," he called back, and drove a little faster.

It was muggy next to the creek, with swarms of mosquitoes that had Tavros wrinkling his nose and muttering something about 'we're both going to die of malaria.' They were both already in their trunks, but Gamzee paused, a sudden thought hitting him.

"Do you need, like, a noodle or something bro?" Tavros rolled his eyes and pushed off from where he was sat on the bank, cutting through the water in a smooth, easy breaststroke as he reached the other side within seconds, muscles bunching and relaxing, legs trailing out behind him. Forget whether it was the way of it or not, Gamzee only just managed to close his gaping mouth before Tavros turned to grin at him.

"Are you coming in or not?"

The water was amazingly cool after the oppressive heat of the past weeks, and the afternoon slipped away quickly, lost between the dunkings and the races and the disgusted faces whenever one of them accidentally swallowed a mouthful of water. When Gamzee checked his watch, he was shocked to find that it was already six- the sun was still high overhead, and apart from the quieting of the birds there was no indication that any time had passed at all. They pulled themselves out of the water and stretched out on the bank, drying off within minutes.

"So," said Tavros as they pulled their shirts back over their heads. "Your family?"

That was the summer before the pride rallies took place in the state capital, when to Gamzee the word 'fag' was nothing more than an insult some of the boys at school used. He piggybacked Tavros up to the front door as the crazy paving was in no way wheelchair friendly, and deposited him on the couch before introducing his father and Kurloz.

"Don't go getting queer on me now, boy," was all his father said before grabbing a beer and heading out to the garden. Kurloz shot a glare after him before waving to Tavros with a much warmer smile.

"Oh yeah, Kurloz is mute." A well aimed kick caught Gamzee in the ribs and Kurloz signed

::WAY TO BE SENSITIVE ABOUT HOW IT, DICKWAD::, ducking the pillow that Gamzee threw back at him. Some of the tension that had been bunching in Tavros' shoulder leaked away, and they spent the rest of the evening teaching him to play poker over a dinner of reheated soup and toast that Kurloz made by holding the bread to his lighter. The smaller boy's poker face was shit, but Gamzee let him win every time, even though the winning's consisted of skittles and that shit was delicious.

It was, he later reflected, probably the most fun he had had in his own house in years, even before the lawsuit was filed. His dad had been an ass, but Kurloz more than made up for it. By the end of the evening, all conversation had turned into an elaborate game of charades, and he left the house laughing.

On the ride home, Tavros' arms slipped under his shirt as well.

When Gamzee got home that night, his father had already gone to bed, but Kurloz was up, a devilish smirk playing about his lips.

::SO... YOU AND THE CRIPPLE?:: The younger boy flushed.

"First dad, now you? No way, man, me and Tav are just bros." Kurloz raised an eyebrow, clearly disbelieving.


"No, he's not, because it's not like that!" He shrugged and returned to the book he was struggling through. Gamzee snatched it out of his hands and threw it back in his face with a sullen

"Retard." Kurloz glared and flipped him the bird, and Gamzee headed up to bed.

He felt a bit bad for that- Kurloz couldn't help being severely dyslexic any more than he could help being mute. Still, something about what he had signed had needled the younger in the wrong way, and he refused to apologise for it. He dropped onto the bed, kicked the covers away, and very determinedly fell asleep thinking about Terezi's rack.

That was the summer that Rufioh had some friends of his over from England to stay for a few weeks. There were four of them, two sets of twins, the Strider-Lalondes and the Egbert-Harleys, and Gamzee was chilling in the living room with Tavros when they all arrived.

Rufioh made polite introductions, and when they came back downstairs from putting their stuff away they proceeded to drape themselves over the sofas and loudly complain about the heat. The curtains were closed and the windows open as far as they could go, but there was no breeze to lighten the weight of humidity that pressed down upon them, and Rufioh's offering of tepid water was met with nothing more than mild distaste.

The Egbert-Harleys chatted as animatedly as could be managed in such circumstances, dark hair already damp with sweat as they babbled, and Gamzee could only sit and listen with wonder as he let their accents wash over him. They showed him and Tavros some English money- pounds and pence, all with the queen smiling regally out at them- and talked about Buckingham and Westminster and the Tower of London.

Neither of the Strider-Lalondes had said more than a couple of sentences so far, but Dave suddenly cut John short by leaning forward and jerking a thumb at Gamzee.

"He cool?" Rufioh shrugged, looking just a little bit nervous.

"I never thought to ask." Dave leaned back and slung a casual arm around John. Gamzee couldn't see his eyes, but felt that there was some sort of challenge there, a dare to say something, except he wasn't quite sure what he was- or wasn't- meant to be saying. He went with what his aunt always said when she met new couples.

"So how long have you motherfuckers been dating?"

Summer wore on and it continued to get hotter, smashing through previous records with a vicious sort of precision. The local hospital had a dozen patients at any time with heat stroke, and no one seemed to be able to move faster than a crawl. Lots of families packed up and went to stay with relatives out of town until the electricity came back. Others, like the Makaras, had nowhere to go, and were left to languish.

That was the summer that Kurloz and Horuss, who was Equius' cousin, hooked two old push bikes up to a dozen broken fans and made 500 bucks in a morning by pedalling for people before being put on bed rest for two days due to severe dehydration. Kurloz gave Gamzee fifty dollars, on the condition that he


"Not my boyfriend," Gamzee had snapped, but he had taken the money anyway. The next afternoon he and Tavros were perched on the back of the motorbike, shooting towards the nearest town.

"I'm sorry," said the cinema ticket lady, staring at them. "We don't have any disabled seating." Gamzee glanced down at the smaller boy before frowning back.

"Can't he sit in one of the regular seats?" She sighed.

"No, sir, I'm sorry- it's a health and safety hazard. We're doing this for his own good." She spoke about Tavros as though he wasn't there, and Gamzee was starting to get angry when a small hand was placed over his own.

"It's, well, it's not great, but it's not the end of the world, or anything," said the younger boy. Gamzee sighed, ran his hands through his hair, and wheeled his best friend back out.

They went to a restaurant instead- a nice place, not just McDonalds or something like that. While it wasn't fancy, the food was good, the seats were comfy, and Gamzee had a great time colouring in the kiddie's menu.

An idea struck the taller boy, and after lunch he beckoned to Tavros to follow him back to where they had parked the bike. The smaller boy frowned.

"Are we, uh, going home already?" Gamzee simply smirked and crouched down in front of the chair. Tavros wrapped his arms round his neck, and when the wheelchair had been safely fastened to the bike Gamzee piggybacked him into the cinema and went to a different ticket desk. They looked for all the world like two friends messing about, and the cashier grinned at them as she rung up their tickets, along with the large popcorns, chocolates and other goodies that Gamzee had impulse bought.

It was a comedy, and apparently a good one, but he just couldn't focus- every time he tried to stare at the screen his eyes would slide to Tavros, bright eyes lit up with laughter as he watched the events unfold. He felt warm in a way that had nothing to with the heat outside, and all too soon the movie was over.

When they left the film the original ticket woman noticed them, eyes narrowing as she said something into her mouthpiece. They beat a hasty retreat, and after hanging around the town for a bit decided to call it a night and get home.

"Thanks for that," said Tavros when they got back to his house. They both paused at the door, and the smaller boy beckoned to Gamzee. He obliged, bending forward, wondering if his best friend had a secret to tell or something.

Tavros kissed him.

For a moment, Gamzee's mind went blank, and he just stood there. Then muscle memory kicked in and he was kissing back, hand curling around the back of the other boy's neck, lips moving in tandem.

They broke apart after a minute, both flushed, neither able to meet the other's eye. Tavros gave a shaky grin, sneaking a quick glance up.

"I'll see you tomorrow?" He sounded scared, like he was afraid that Gamzee would freak out and stop talking to him. The taller boy forced a shaky grin back.

"Yeah. Yeah, see you then." Tavros went back inside and Gamzee stood staring at the door for a long moment before turning away and getting back to his bike.

::GOOD DATE?:: signed Kurloz when he got home, smirking tugging at his mouth. Gamzee didn't have the heart to do more than throw a shoe at him, and he fancied he could hear his brother's silent laughter following him up to his room

Gamzee had never before considered that he might not be straight. Everyone was straight, pretty much, except for the few people- like Dave and John- who weren't. That he might be one of those few people was a weird thought, but it was something he couldn't stop thinking about.

That and how soft Tavros' lips had been.

He got very little sleep that night, and by the time morning came, as painfully bright and hot as the day before, he was very confused and very stressed. Kurloz's shit-eating smirk over breakfast didn't help, nor did his father's grouchy mutter of 'fags' as he read about some new law in California. He decided that the best thing to do would be to ask someone who knew what they were talking about.

When he arrived at the Nitram's house Dave and John were just leaving. Outside of the Nitrams, Gamzee was the only one from the town who knew about their relationship, and they had every intention if keeping it that way.

"Can I talk to you?" he asked nervously. The two older boys exchanged glances, and Dave nodded. John smiled down at him.

"What's up?"

"How... how did you know you were gay?" They paused, then John pulled a handful of crumpled dollar bills out and handed them to Dave, who pocketed them with a smirk before answering.

"There were a couple of signs: the love of Spongebob, the innate need to buy rainbow themed clothing, the desperate lust I felt whenever I saw another dude. But I think the clincher was the leprechaun that told me after it popped out of my-" He was cut off by a sharp elbow to the ribs from John, who giggled.

"Shut up, Dave! It's pretty easy- you just start liking guys, either romantically or in a 'holy shit he's really hot' kind of way. Or both."

"Both is good," Dave agreed.

"But what if I like girls too?"

"Well, then you're bi," said John. "Or pan, I suppose."

"Bi? Pan?"

"Ambisextrous," said Dave, earning himself another elbow to the ribs.

"Bisexual is when you like guys and girls. Pan is basically when you don't care what gender they are- guys, girls, transgenders, non gender binaries..." he trailed off at Gamzee's helpless look.

"And it's okay?" asked the younger boy. John gave him a gentle smile, and even Dave's stoic expression slipped slightly, face softening.

"Yeah," he said, putting a hand on Gamzee's shoulder. "It is- don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

"Hey Gamzee!" called Tavros from the doorway, pausing when he saw the three of them. "Is, uh... is everything okay?"

"It's fine, Tavbro." John giggled again, and Gamzee couldn't help but grin, heading towards his best friend. "Everything's great."

It hadn't been awkward. Gamzee had very determinedly made sure it wasn't awkward. They had something special, and he wasn't going to ruin it by being awkward.

It was a bit awkward.

But only at first. When Dave and John had gone and he and Tavros were left stood in the hallway, blushing and staring at their feet, neither of them sure what to say after the night before. That had been awkward.

"I'm sorry I made it weird," blurted Tavros at the same time Gamzee managed to force himself to say

"Will you be my boyfriend?" They stopped, staring at each other, and then Tavros gave a shaky smile, nodding as though he might start to cry.

"Yes. Yes I really would." Gamzee pulled him up into the tightest hug that could be physically managed with a wheelchair between them, then scooped the smaller boy into his arms and gave him an even tighter one, Tavros' breathless laughter ringing like music in his ears.

It amazed him how little things changed after they officially started dating. They held hands and curled up together when they were at Tavros' house or in Gamzee's room. Dave and John wiggled their eyebrows whenever he saw them, and he'd laugh and wiggle his back. Trips to the creek became even better, with sloppy makeouts on the shore afterwards. It was like a new little pocket of their friendship that he hadn't even realised he'd been missing until he found it.

That was the summer that Gamzee learned every inch of Tavros' body as well as his own- which bits were sensitive, which bits were fair game in a tickle fight, and which parts of his body he was ashamed of- faded scars from the crash that had paralysed him and killed his mother that criss-crossed his torso. Gamzee made sure to kiss these extra.

Coming out to their families had been an interesting experience. Tavros had sat his dad and his brother down at the kitchen table and nervously explained the situation. The colonel had simply said

"I like him far more than I did that Vriska girl," and Rufioh said

"Bangarang! I'm so happy for you!" and that had been the end of the matter, except they were no longer allowed in Tavros' room unless the door was open.

Gamzee didn't tell his father, but he did tell Kurloz, who just smirked and nodded and walked away in a haze of smugness, ducking the pen that came flying at the back of his head. He found another fifty bucks on his bed a few hours later, with a post it note attached- for another date :o)

One day Kurloz came home, grinning widely, and handed him a letter with Tavros Nitram written on it in flowing script. When asked what was in it, the older boy shrugged, but the glint in his eyes betrayed him. Still, Gamzee didn't press the matter, and brought it to Tavros the next day.

"Why would Kurloz have a letter for me?" the paraplegic had wondered before tearing it open. Five $100 bills fluttered down onto his lap, along with a note.

Equius had sold the patent for the reclining wheelchair to a company for $5000, and had decided it was only fair to give his inspiration 10%. Gamzee and Tavros could only gape.

"Date money?" asked the smaller one finally, a smirk tugging at one corner of his mouth. Gamzee grinned back.

"Hell yes."

They started eating out every day- pretty much every restaurant in town had become a barbecue joint, save for the seafood emporium, whose owner had shaken his head and signed up for a six month fishing course in the black sea. They had racks of ribs, they had pies that tasted like wood smoke, they had tepid milkshakes made from questionable cream. At the end of every meal, Tavros would pull out some money like it was no big deal, throw in a sizeable tip, and they would head out. Rumours started to spread that his dad had been promoted. Rumours started to spread that he'd become a mafia crime lord aged five, and that the car crash that paralysed him was actually a high speed chase in an attempt to outrun the cops. Rumours, they both decided, were very strange things.

After a dubious plate of fried chicken from the ex-ice cream parlour, Gamzee was pushing Tavros home when a small voice caught his attention.

"Hey, asshole!" There stood a lemonade stand, manned by three ten year olds, two of whom Gamzee recognised- Karkat Vantas, Father Vantas' foster son and Sollux Megido, who had been in the papers once for winning a national mathematics competition when he was eight. The third one was a young girl, with curly black hair, purple glasses and a bright pink dress. She sighed as Sollux cuffed Karkat up the head, and turned to beam brightly at the older boys instead.

"Would you like to buy some lemonade? It's just two dollars a glass!" They both sputtered.

"Two dollars? For a glass of lemonade?" She frowned and pushed her glasses further up her nose.

"It's cold." They paused.

"How?" Karkat and Sollux stopped squabbling just long enough to open the cooler box which was next to the stand. Inside it sat three bottles of store bought lemonade, along with about a dozen ice packs- the chemical kind which only needed to be snapped to turn absolutely freezing. The reusable kind.

The teenagers gaped.

"Motherfucker," breathed Gamzee finally, and on their way home they stopped at the drug store and bought every remaining pack there was.

"This feels incredible!" called Tavros, bobbing up and down as Gamzee slid into the paddling pool next to him with a pained gasp. They were surrounded by the ice packs, which had chilled the water to a glorious level of nearly unbearable.

They stayed in the pool for the rest of the afternoon, rejoicing in the shivers and goose bumps that the water had given them. When Gamzee got home, he explained it to Kurloz, who looked thoughtful and headed out to talk with Horuss about it. He'd paused in the doorway, however, and thrown a pencil at his younger brother to get his attention.


"What's happening tomorrow?" Gamzee asked; Kurloz raised an eyebrow.

::AYM:: The younger boy groaned and slumped into the chair. Kurloz smirked. ::I DON'T HAVE TO GO ANYMORE::

"Actually..." called a voice from the kitchen. Gamzee smirked back.

That was the summer that Aradia Megido was chosen to sing a solo in the Annual Youth Mass, compulsory for every town resident aged between 13 and 21. The church was packed, and within twenty minutes the smell of sweat was close to overpowering. Tavros parked his aisle wheelchair in the aisle and Gamzee sat in the pew next to him, and they spent most of the two hour service pulling faces at each other.

Kurloz was there too- though he had turned 21 more than three months before, their father made him go anyway, stating that it would be good for him to 'get some Jesus in you.' He brought a highlighter and happily worked his way through the bible, highlighting his favourite instances of murder, rape and sodomy, occasionally glancing up to give Father Vantas an innocent smile.

Tavros fell asleep about half an hour before the end, and Gamzee had nothing to do but watch his brother deface the holy book and try not to look at Terezi when Father Vantas moved onto celibacy. He wished their church had stained glass windows that he could stare at, but donations were low and they had barely scraped together enough to fix the leaking roof the winter before.

At the end of the service they were given the holy wafer and denied so much as a glimpse of the communion wine. Kurloz pocketed his bible and when they got home put it in pride of place in his bookshelf, earning himself an approving grunt from their father. Tavros had come home with them, and Gamzee carried him up to his room bridal style, earning himself a disapproving grunt from their father.

"What do you think they would do if we just didn't go next year?" asked Tavros once he was settled on the bed, taking a swig of the proffered juice.

"I don't know, man... smite us down or something. It was boring as hell though, I wish I never had to go." Tavros raised an eyebrow.

"You don't believe?"

"I believe in miracles. I believe in forgiving people, and being nice and shit like that, but... but yeah, there's a couple of things in that book that I've got beef with. It preaches forgiveness, but I reckon there are some things it can't forgive." His mind flashed back to two years before, and he struggled to wrangle the memory back down. However, Tavros wasn't having any of it, and he put his small hand over Gamzee's.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Gamzee ended up pouring out the whole story- how he and Terezi had dated when they were fifteen; how she had counted the days and he had pulled out but she still somehow managed to get pregnant; the tears, the arguments, the hysteria; panic over how her devout parents would react; how Gamzee had despaired and gone to the only adult he could talk to about it- Kurloz.

How Kurloz had arranged a 'day trip to the city' with him as chaperone to make sure they behaved themselves. How he and Gamzee and Terezi had piled into the family truck- the nice one, before the charges were raised- and driven three hours to the nearest abortion clinic. The protestors that waited outside like snarling dogs, snapping forward at the sight of the three of them, hurling insults at Terezi and quailing under Kurloz's glare. The hour the whole matter took, Terezi on one side of the doctor's door, Gamzee and Kurloz on the other.

The inevitable anger and bitterness from both ends.

Tavros was very quiet as Gamzee spoke, and when he was finished the smaller boy wrapped him in a tight hug and stroked his hair and made shushing noises- Gamzee hadn't even realised he was crying. When they finally pulled apart, Tavros gave him a single, chaste kiss on the lips. Gamzee picked him up, carried him back downstairs and took him home, feeling as though a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

They were stretched out in the sun, relaxing. It was early evening and the rays had gone from 'blistering' to 'only vaguely uncomfortable.' Gamzee was stretched out on the grass while Tavros was making good use of his new recliner function. Both were topless.

Tavros was talking about some online game that he played when the electricity worked, but Gamzee was more interested in looking at how they'd changed in the weeks since the holidays began. His own skin had darkened from a warm gold to a dark russet. Tavros was pretty much more freckle than white, and his dark auburn hair had lightened to a glinting copper. It was also getting long- the shaved parts were growing out, and he kept having to blow the longer bit out of his eyes.

John, Jade, Dave and Rose had left that morning, and the house was oddly quiet without the Egbert-Harleys' burbling chatter. Rufioh still wasn't back from dropping them at the airport, and the colonel had driven into town with his laptop to do some work. Gamzee wiggled his eyes at the smaller boy.

"You know what I think we should be up and doing, now that we're home alone?"

"Do I, uh, really want to know?"

"I think we should get your haircut on."

They had placed themselves in front of the mirror. Tavros explained how to shave the sides, and how the top needed to be trimmed in a certain way to avoid it becoming a mullet. Then he sighed, closed his eyes, and let Gamzee get to work.

"I am so sorry, Tavbro."

"I don't even, fully understand how you, well, managed that."

"I am so motherfucking sorry."

"Maybe you should just save the rest of it off."

"You sure? Okay bro. I am so sorry."

Rufioh had died laughing when he came home.

At long last a breeze sprang up, a hot, humid current that did nothing to alleviate the oppressive mugginess. That was the summer the local police department closed every gas station in town, on account of how they wouldn't have the electricity required to respond to an emergency. People started taking it in turns to make fuel runs, heading out with money given by friends and neighbours and returning in trucks bearing dozens of gas canisters. Everyone lamented the fact that they hadn't bought a hybrid when they could, and the Leijons were smug in their superiority.


"No; it's really fucking hard to find something when the phones are up and useless." He only dimly registered a very large book flying towards him. Kurloz gave a silent chuckle and ghosted back out of his room. He sighed again and started flicking through the telephone directory.

Opera? No.

Paintballing? That... might not work.

Horse riding?

He drove up to town the next day and used a payphone to call up the ranch. The owner seemed doubtful of the plan at first, but had agreed so long as Gamzee promised not to sue if something went wrong.

The day after, he arrived at the Nitrams' and tooted the horn he had got for his bike until Tavros appeared in the doorway.

"Get on, Tavros, we're going shopping?"

"Are we, uh, actually going shopping, or is that a joke, of some sort, that I don't get?" Gamzee folded up the wheelchair and attached it to the bike before pulling away from the curb.

"I guess you're gonna have to wait and see, bro!"

It was a long drive, more than two hours, and by the time they arrived it was lunch. Gamzee shushed Tavros when he tried to pay, instead buying them each a hot dog and an amazingly cold soft drink from a cafe in the town next to the ranch.

"Mr Makara, am I right?" asked a woman in tight jeans and cowboy boots, striding out to meet them. He grinned.

"Yeah, that's me."

"You're right on time; please, follow me." He took one look at the dirt road up to the main section of ranch before crouching down in front of Tavros.

"Looks like we're piggybacking this bitch."

"Gamzee, are you planning on, I don't know, telling me what we're doing any time soon? Is this a petting zoo, or, uh, do you..." he trailed off as they rounded the corner and came face to face with a dark bay stallion. "Woah..."

"These leg straps should keep you on safely," the lady said, indicating some leather buckles on the horse's saddle. "However, if there is an emergency and you need to get off, this cord will sever them. Once off, you should roll away as quickly as possible, to avoid getting trampled." Tavros looked between her, the horse and Gamzee, amber eyes wide.

"You mean I... I get to ride him?"

"Sure thing, best bro," said Gamzee, depositing him in an ungainly heap in the saddle, where the lady promptly began fitting his legs into the straps. "You and me, we're going on a scenic country canter."

"Do you, uh, actually know how to ride a horse?"

"Nope. But I figure, how hard can it be? Way I see it the horse is probably smarter than me."

"That's not exactly reassuring..." With the leg straps tightened, Gamzee swung himself onto the saddle and wrapped his arms around Tavros' waist. The trainer smiled and handed the smaller boy the reins.

"The paths are very clearly marked out, and as Mr Makara said, the horse is very intelligent. You should be fine; just stick to the path, and don't go faster than you can handle. If I hear of you hurting him, I'll kill you both."

"Sure thing, sister; Tavbro, I'll be the feet and you be the reins, okay?"

"I'll, uh, I'll try." Gamzee squeezed his heels together, and the horse walked calmly forward, out of the gate and onto the dirt road.

"Have fun!" the lady called after them.

Once the ranch was out of sight, Tavros twisted round and gave Gamzee a kiss on the nose, grinning broadly.

"Thank you. Thank you so much."

"No worries, bro; I know how much you up and love horses, and I figured, why not see what I can do? Turns out a lot, if you ask nice enough." Tavros leaned back and Gamzee wrapped his arms a little tighter around him, nuzzling his neck before resting his chin on the newly shaved head.

The horse kept up a slow, steady walk, swaying them from side to side with each step. The sun beat down strongly, but in a saddlebag the lady had provided for them Tavros found two caps, along with two canteens of water and a packet of raisons. Gamzee reminded himself to give her a tip the size of Texas when they got back. Fields of gold stretched out forever on both sides of them, fading into a shimmering horizon. It was like something from a dream, thought Gamzee. The best dream ever.

They went up to a trot, and giggled as they bumped along, and then up to a canter, but Tavros didn't feel safe so they slowed back down to a walk, chatting and snuggling and watching the scenery pass. All too soon they were back at the ranch.

"That'll be twenty dollars, please," said the lady, and Gamzee's eyebrows shot up.


"Didn't I mention? It's two-for-one Tuesday!" He grinned and handed her the fifty dollar bill Kurloz had given him.

"Keep the change." Her eyes boggled, and she grinned back and gave them a free keychain- one of those bendy plastic ones, with a little cartoon medieval jouster on it. Tavros attached it to the handle of his wheelchair when they got back on the motorbike.

"I think I'll be a jouster one day. I'll enter the Paralympics, and I'll bring home a gold."

"Man, you would be the most bitchtits jouster; I would pay to see it."

They sped back through the countryside, only very rarely passing the occasional car. This was the true backwaters, where none but the most crazed rednecks lived. As they drove, Gamzee noticed with a worried frown that the bike seemed to be struggling more than usual. It hiccupped. It swerved and jerked erratically. Tavros clung tighter.

The engine died.

The bike puttered to a stop, and Gamzee smacked the handlebar with a curse.

"What's wrong?" asked Tavros, glancing around.

"Out of gas; fuck!"

"Well, that could be... problematic."

They were on the edge of a cornfield, miles away from the nearest town. It was evening, but the sun still glared down, unbothered by the time. He could feel sweat trickling down his neck, and he wriggled out of his leather jacket. Behind him, Tavros did the same.

"What are we going to do, about this, uh, situation?"

"Far as I can make out there's a farmhouse on top of that hill. Maybe someone in there can get their motherfucking help on."

"Okay. I'll just... wait here then."

"And leave you to roast? What if there's no one there, Tavbro? Then what?

"Gamzee, I don't want to sound negative, but there's, well, no way you can get my wheelchair through these fields."

"I know, man; I'm going to be carrying you." He climbed off the bike and gave the smaller boy a kiss before crouching in front of the wheelchair. Tavros wrapped toned arms around his neck, and they set out.

"I'm beginning to get really, really sick of summer," muttered Tavros as he bounced along on Gamzee's back. Gamzee couldn't do more than nod. The ground was rocky and difficult, and he was drenched in sweat. It felt like he hadn't had a drop of water in weeks. "When we get back, I vote we do the thing, with the ice-packs, in the pool again. That was good."

The corn stalks were brittle and snapped when stood on. No breeze, not even a sticky one, blew, and apart from the tramp of Gamzee's feet and Tavros' occasional comment, the plains were deathly quiet. The motorbike had disappeared behind them, the farm house only occasionally visible in front between the heads of corn. It reminded Gamzee of the corn mazes Kurloz used to take him into when he was little. He'd always go as a clown and Kurloz would always go as a skeleton, frightening all the other kids.

"OW!" They both tumbled to the ground, landing hard. Looking down, Gamzee could see the root he'd caught his foot on. The foot that probably shouldn't be facing that way. Pain lanced through him. Tears sprang to his eyes, so he laughed instead.

"I broke it, Tavbro! I up and motherfucking broke my own ankle on a motherfucking root!"

"Oh god, are you going into shock?"

"Holy shit it hurts! Holy fucking shit!" He laughed harder, and then Tavros was next to him, having wormed his way over from where he'd fallen.

"Shoosh, Gamzee. Gamzee, look at me. Are you sure it's... yeah, that's broken. Oh god."

"I can see the pain, bro!"

"Breath! Gamzee, calm down, please! You're scaring me!" The taller boy blinked, laughter dying away as the gravity of the situation hit him.

"Fuck, man."

"Oh, good, you're lucid. That's a relief."

"Fuuuuuuuuuuucckkkk." He drew it out, long and slow on the exhale. "I am in a lot of pain right now."

"Maybe I spoke too soon."

"Like, a fuckload of pain. It feels like some little gnome dudes are all up and stamping on my ankle, My head too. Fuck."

"Please do not tell me you have heat stroke now too. That would be, well, the exact opposite of helpful right now."

"We're stranded, Tavbro."

"I know, Gamzee."

"We can't go anywhere."

"I know, Gamzee."

"It could be hours before they even start to worry."


"Wanna make out?"

"...what?" A little laugh of hysteria bubbled out the smaller boy, and he shrugged. "Sure. Sure, why not? It's not like there's anything better to do, huh? Maybe swapping saliva will help with the inevitable dehydration that we'll be facing!"


"I don't know what chemicals your brain has released, to deal with the pain, but I am so jealous of you right now."

Hours passed, and bit by bit Gamzee's head began to clear again. If he had thought his mouth was dry before, it was nothing compared to now. Now his tongue was heavy and swollen. His eyes felt like they were full of sand, and it hurt when he blinked. Swallowing was like ripping his throat open with a rusty knife.

Time wore on, and still no sign of rescue. Darkness fell. One thing he would say about this whole stranded thing- the stars were incredible.

"So that's the big dipper," explained Tavros, mapping them out. "And if you follow the handle you can see the seven sisters. There's actually nine main stars in the cluster, but only seven are visible to the human eye. Over there- that bunch of stars is Capricornus."

"No way, bro- I'm a Capricorn." The smaller boy smirked.

"Of course you are."

"Now what's that supposed to-"

"TAVROS! GAMZEE!" The faint calls drifted over, and both boys sat bolt right up, swaying from the head rush.

"We're here!" Gamzee yelled back, and a moment later flashlights were shining through the corn and down on them, and they were staring up at their town sherriff, Redglare. She grinned down at them.

"Well, aren't you two a sight for sore eyes?"

Instead of being taken home, they were taken to the hospital. Gamzee's ankle was set in a cast, and both had to stay overnight due to severe dehydration and heatstroke. They revelled in the electric fans plugged in next to them and grinned up at Meulin, the nurse, when she put icepacks on their foreheads.

When they were finally allowed out, Rufioh picked them up in the Colonel's car and drove them back to the Nitram's. With Gamzee's foot out of commission, they were once again homestuck.

Kurloz had grabbed the bike, and dropped off a change of clothes and Gamzee's toothbrush, wiggling his eyebrow's suggestively. He received an overly enthusiastic, one sided conversation from Rufioh for his trouble, and after the third 'bangarang!' he fled.

It took about two hours for the boredom to become unbearable- even though there were plenty of things to do, neither of them felt like doing anything but swimming. Rufioh grinned and rolled his eyes and packed them back into the truck, dropping them off at the creek with a cheerful 'don't drown!'

"You know, Tavbro, I don't even know if I can go swimming with this thing on," said Gamzee, mournfully eyeing the purple cast. Tavros smirked, wriggling out of his shirt. "Oh no, bro- don't you start doing the eyebrow wiggle on me too!"

"But Gamzee; aren't I completely, seducing you?"

"Aw bro, I'm... I'm dying over here." Gamzee had appropriated one of the hospital's crutches for hopping uses, and he bounced over to where Tavros was perched on an old stump. Both were laughing helplessly. "Move... move up, Tavbro," the taller boy managed to gasp out. "My leg is all getting its ache on."

Tavros obligingly slid over and Gamzee threw himself down next to him, nuzzling at his neck.

"Gamzee! Gamzee that tickles, that-" Whatever he had been about to say next was cut off as their lips met.

Gamzee had long since stopped bothering trying to work out why time did what it did during their sloppy make outs. He wouldn't be able to say whether it had been five minutes or five hours, only that it was cut off in the most unwelcome of ways.

"Taaaaaaaavros," called a voice, and they broke apart, dreading settling into both their stomachs- there was no way of hiding what they were just doing, and they both know that voice.

For most boys, Vriska Serket was the path of temptation Father Vantas always warned them about- tall, slim, with massive boobs straining against a crop top and a confident glint in her eyes. For Gamzee, she was a childhood tormentor and Tavros' ex-girlfriend. They stared at her guiltily, waiting to see what she would do next.

"Tavros, Tavros, Tavros." She pushed away from the tree she'd been leaning against and stepped towards them. "What did I always say about public displays of affection?"

"That, uh, that's what winners do?"

"Uh uh, Tavros- not when you have something as depraved as..." She looked at Gamzee, who had pulled himself to his feet, and her upper lip curled. "Well. This. I mean, I knew that you were desperate, but really? Just because you can't get a girl to kiss you doesn't mean you should degrade yourself; I'm sure someone out there could love you- a nice retard chic from Kansas maybe?"

"That's, well, that's not very nice, Vriska, and actually kind of, ableist?" He was cowering, the halting speech that came through when he was nervous or stressed worse than Gamzee had ever heard it. "And, um, also, I broke up with you, so, yeah." Her smile slipped, replaced by an ugly scowl.

"Watch it, cripple, or I might just let it slip what I saw you two doing. What do you think your dad would say?"

"He already knows. He, uh, he thinks that it's fine." Vriska strode up to him, placing her hands on either side of his legs and leaning her face right in close to his.

"And Mr Makara? I'll bet he'll be real happy. I bet he'll beat your boyfriend black and blue, and it will be all. Your. Fault."

Gamzee had seen enough; he grabbed her by the arm and spun her round to face him, glaring down; angry like he hadn't been in a long time.

"Bitch, you best not talk to Tavbro like that."

"Or what? You gonna add beating up a girl to your list of sins?"

"I will add flat out MOTHERFUCKING MURDER to it if I have to." For a moment, she looked worried. For a moment, her eyes widened and she flinched away from him. For a moment, he thought they might be safe, if only he could scare her enough.

"Gamzee, no," said Tavros, grabbing his hand. The taller boy blinked, anger dissipating as fast as it had arrived, then turned and smiled down to his boyfriend. Vriska's smirk returned.

"Listen to your pet, Makara; and if you ever threaten me again, I will tear apart everything you hold dear." They watched her as she strode away, hips swinging beneath her high-waisted denim shorts. Once she was gone, Gamzee wrapped his arms around Tavros and held him tight.

"We're fucked, aren't we Tavbro?"

"She's going to tell her mother. Her mother's going to tell Meenah. The whole town will know by, well, probably lunch time tomorrow."

"We're fucked," he repeated, and Tavros held him tighter.

He spent the night at the Nitram's, and the next morning Kurloz arrived on the motorbike, looking grim. Gamzee kissed Tavros goodbye and climbed onto the bike behind him.

"How bad is it?" Kurloz pursed his lips and looked away. Gamzee's heart dropped.

When they got home, Kurloz practically fled upstairs, leaving his younger brother to walk into the kitchen alone and confront his father.

"Dad? You... you wanted to... talk?"

His father was hunched over the table, an ugly glare twisting his features as he shook a half empty bottle of beer. Gamzee couldn't help but remember the nickname his colleagues had had for him before he lost his job- Glorious Hedonistic Bastard. The old man knocked back the rest of the bottle, wiped his mouth and turned to face his youngest son.

"I don't want to talk with you. I don't want to hear a SINGLE MOTHERFUCKING WORD YOU HAVE TO SAY. I am here to tell you that you need to get out."


"Out of my kitchen, out of my house, OUT OF MY LIFE YOU COCK-SUCKING FAG. Don't talk to me. Don't look at me. Don't tell ANYONE that we are related, because you are NOT MY SON." Tears were beginning to trickle down Gamzee's face; it didn't matter that he had expected it.

"Dad, I-"

"Don't call me that. I don't want to hear your excuses. I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHY YOU THINK IT'S OKAY. I don't want you to explain your sins. I want you to get out." The tears were flowing faster now, and Gamzee gave a loud sniffle, taking a step back.

"Dad, please."

His father gave an inarticulate roar, stood up, crossed the room in two strides and seized him- one hand on his upper arm, one fisted in the back of his shirt. The teenager gave a futile struggle, crying out as the fingers dug in enough to leave bruises.

"What part-" he began hustling Gamzee to the door, "of no queers in my house," no bothering with handles- he kicked the door open, hard enough that the wood splintered, "DO YOU NOT FUCKING UNDERSTAND?" And with that, he hurled Gamzee bodily over the threshold. Gamzee hit the porch with a winded gasp and tumbled down the stairs, coming to rest on the crazy paving with aching ribs and blurred vision. His broken ankle was screaming. "Don't EVER come back!" The door slammed shut.

And opened again a moment later. Kurloz gently grabbed his arms and helped him to his feet, offering himself up as a temporary crutch. The hand that wasn't supporting his brother held a medium size, hastily packed suitcase with a corner of t-shirt sticking out. Gamzee's stuff.

"What am I gonna do, bro?"


Arrangements turned out to be renting the three room flat above the Zahnak's garage. Kurloz had heard the news the night before, from Meulin (who turned out to be his old classmate, and had only been at the hospital as a volunteer). He had come straight over, explained the situation to the Zahnak's- who were mildly horrified but agreed to bite their tongues- and worked out a plan.

Gamzee gave him the world's tightest hug before breaking down into renewed tears, sinking to his knees in the middle of the workshop. Both the Zahnaks fled; Kurloz looked deeply uncomfortable, and lasted about five minutes before tapping Gamzee's head to get his attention.


Gamzee heard the door to the shop close, heard his motorbike start and speed away, and then for a while there was silence. The only sound was from the next room, where Horuss occasionally cursed and Equius told him off for it as they tinkered with... whatever they were currently working on. Gamzee remained where he was, saline drops slowly trickling down his nose as he thought about what had just happened.

After about twenty minutes, the sound of the motorbike returned, and then Tavros' wheelchair appeared before him; he slowly lifted his head. The other boy had red rimmed eyes and his face was swollen and blotchy.

"Gamzee!" Tavros reached out to cup his face and wipe the tears away. "What's wrong?" Gamzee sniffled.

"Aw man, my dad's just gone and kicked me out." He hiccupped miserably. "Said he doesn't want a fag in the house." Tavros looked horrified.

"Gamzee, that's really awful, for you, and for him to do that. I'm so sorry."

"It's not your fault, bro- but why have you got your tears going?"

"We're moving," said Tavros, face scrunching like he might start crying again. "The colonel just told me. We're going up north, to some military base near DC. We leave next week, two days before school starts again." Gamzee stared for a moment, then gave a shaky, sniffly, slightly manic laugh.

"This is great, bro!" The other boy stared, uncomprehending, and Gamzee laughed again. "I can... I can move up with you! I'm eighteen in two months, I can stay with Kurloz until then, then I'll drop out of school and I'll-"

"Gamzee, no." It was quiet but firm, and it halted the taller boy midstride. He slumped back down, wiping away the previous tears, more threatening to spill over.

"Oh. Yeah, okay man. It's cool. I get it. I'll just..." he trailed off, not quite sure what he would do without a home and without Tavros. Languish, surely?

"Gamzee, listen to me. You are not going to drop out of school. You are going to stay here, you are going to live with Kurloz, and you are going to finish high school. I refuse to be the reason you don't get a decent education, because... because if things go wrong, I don't want you looking back ten years from now and blaming me. It's going to suck, because everyone will know, but you have to do it; it's really important that you do. And in the afternoons you can work in here, earn some extra money, save up. When we've both graduated... when we've both graduated we can work something out. Until then, I need you to stay here. Understood?"

His voice sounded stronger, more confident than Gamzee had ever heard before, and the taller boy could do nothing more than nod and wipe away the tears that were now falling fast. Tavros began to cry too, leaning forward until their foreheads were touching.

They stayed like that for a long time, until the tears had run dry and they were hiccupping breathy little giggles. Then Tavros kissed him on the nose, and he kissed Tavros on the forehead, and they got up and went through to see what the others were working on.

"We're gonna be okay, right?" he asked, slipping his hand through the smaller boy's.

"Yeah; yeah, we're gonna be okay."

Tavros was right- it was awful.

People glared. People whispered. Karkat and Sollux had darted up to quickly say that they thought it didn't matter before being herded away by an outraged looking Father Vantas.

Someone threw a brick through Tavros' window. They fixed it, and someone threw another one. Hate mail started arriving at the garage- the Zahnaks used it to mop up spillages. Gamzee got jumped by three guys when walking back one night. He and Kurloz found themselves breaking into their own house when their dad was asleep and grabbing as much of their stuff as they could.

That was the summer that some of the nicest people Gamzee had ever known turned poisonous, spitting venomous words at him when he walked past. He spent most of his time either at the workshop or at the Nitrams', and all of his time with Tavros.

Those last seven days together passed faster than Gamzee could blink. The whole goodbye process was a blur, and then suddenly he was waving at the back of the truck as it pulled away, and Tavros was leaning out and waving back and they were both crying and

and the truck turned the corner and he was gone.

The electricity came on the next day. There was no big announcement, no advance warning. It was a sudden event, and it blew every light bulb in town. Gamzee crossed his fingers and plugged his laptop in, grinning when it lit up.

adiosToreador began trolling terminallyCapricious



TC: mOtHeRfUcKeR, yOu HaVe No IdEa


TC: :o)

It was awful, but he could get through it.