"I am going to tell you all a native joke. You are obviously not familiar with our ways, so feel special that I am being so friendly to you. Consider it a welcoming present from the Third Reich to you." The man was tall and pale, with a shock of platinum hair combed over his forehead and a pair of round, tinted glasses to shield his eyes from the sun. Karkata hated him instantly.
"Once, there was a little boy who did not live up to his father's expectations. The father killed him and used him for fertilizer besides the manure, lamenting that his child was only worth shit."
The other soldiers behind him laughed uproariously. Their prisoners' faces did not change.
"And you, my children," the speaker, obviously the captain, "will be my manure, for you are worth just that. But rejoice! You will do the flowers a great service."
Makara gave an absentminded giggle and the man walked over to him, dark lenses flashing in the light. "This one finds it humorous. Perhaps he is special shit." He turned to his soldiers. "This one thinks he is hot shit!" they produced another laugh and their prisoners shrank within themselves as it hit them.
Except Karkata Vantas. He looked up at the German officer in front of him with unguarded disdain and let his teeth show on his face in a cruel frown. This man planned to kill him, Makara, and the strangers behind them for no other reason than that they were not born with fair hair, blue eyes, and a birth certificate from the Fatherland. But that wasn't all-first, he planned on turning insult to injury by making a mockery of them. Karkata would not stand for it, especially if it involved making a mockery of the ex-prince Makara. These pigs were not worthy to treat even fallen royalty in such a way.
The captain glanced over to see Karkata's glare. He disregarded Makara and singled his companion out instead by taking Karkata by the collar and dragging him up level to his tinted glasses. "Do you not find my joke funny? You should be like your friend and laugh." He frowned as his example disobeyed him. "Laugh!" he shouted.
Karkata did not laugh. Instead, he spat into the man's glasses.
A collective, silent gasp sounded from all who watched, except young Makara. The ex-prince was completely calmed by his most recent smoke on his water pipe and simply kept giggling to himself, exhaling and inhaling in such a way that made him produce a weak honking sound.
The captain's next words came slowly, and Karkata could practically feel the man's eyes burning through his dark lenses and into his own. "Take the others. These two need a special lesson in both obedience and German humor and I would like to give it myself."
Wordlessly, the German soldiers rounded up the other prisoners, mostly Romani wanderers they had stumbled across, and herded them away until only Makara, Karkata, and the captain were left.
"Now, you think you can come here and mock my hospitality. You should know that when a German says for you to laugh, you laugh. It is the right of a superior race to order you."
"Lies! You are an evil and compassionless monster who would kill us in cold blood before offering us a pardon. You sin and blaspheme in such a way that it makes you lesser, like dogs rolling in their own urine. None of you can order either my companion or myself to be your fools," hissed Karkata.
"Really." The captain raised his voice to speak to Karkata's companion, but his eyes did not leave the older man's face. "Boy, come here and clean my glasses."
Dazedly, Makara rose.
"Do not do it, young Rajah. This wicked one looks to humiliate you!"
Makara ignored Karkata's command and reached up on his tiptoes to claim the captain's glasses. He dragged them off of his face, revealing the German's eyes, and wiped the lenses on his shirt.
The wad of spit Karkata had been saving to hurl onto the man's unguarded face trickled down his throat.
Blue eyes did not wait behind the captain's tinted lenses. He was not an Aryan.
No. His eyes were bright red.
The surprise on Karkat's face was quickly replaced by confusion as the red-eyed man released his hold on his prisoner and pointed to a set of nearby shovels. "You will dig a hole half as deep as that shovel." He returned Karkata's bewildered stare with an even, enigmatic one of his own. Finally, after Karkata had sat still for too long, the man snatched his glasses from Makara and shouted, "Dig! We do not cleanse Germany by staring."
Hesitantly, Karkata took a shovel and began a hole alongside Makara, shooting suspicious glances at his captor the whole time.
Makara, who was neither lucid nor accustomed to such manual labor, was more a hindrance than a help. Karkata silently cursed himself for dragging his young companion down such a terrible and lowly path and shot another look at the mysterious man behind them.
"I know I am beautiful, but staring does not help you DIG!" The man's voice rose to a shout when he decided Karkata and Makara were going too slow.
Karkata said nothing and kept digging.
"We are finished," he finally said.
"Good. Now fill the hole back up."
Karkata opened his mouth to protest, but Makara's hand on his arm told him otherwise. Begrudgingly, he did as he was told.
When they were about halfway finished, the captain stopped them. "That is plenty," he said, "Small one. Put your shovel against the tree and then rejoin your companion. Grouchy one, shove yours into the remaining pile of dirt."
They did as they were told and Karkat protectively stood in front of Makara. "What now," Karkata snarled, "sir?"
Apparently, the captain was not amused by the Indian Dalit's tone because he pulled his pistol out of its holser and leveled it at them both.
"You dirty rat!" Shouted Karkata. "My God will smite you for your insolence and-"
Makara smiled and tugged at his angry protector, his voice light and airy. "And my gods will bless him for this miracle and perhaps grant them unto him tenfold," he whispered. "Thanks be unto you, brother." He dreamily said to the captain.
Then, he surprised Karkata by pushing forward and bowing to the captain before turning and running the opposite direction.
Karkata turned to follow his young charge but froze along with his blood when the sound of the gun shot through him and he heard Makara yelp. He shouted the young boy's name and turned to face the captain, fists clenched and blood boiling.
To his relief, the barrel was not pointed at Makara or himself, but rather at the heavens above. The smoke from the gun billowed around the red-eyed captain like a shroud and he roared from within it with a voice like thunder. "And now you must join your little friend, you filthy Indian scum!" He fired another bullet into the sky.
Karkata had already pieced together and began his retreat into the forest, but he stopped to watch the man through the brush as he put away his gun and reclaimed the shovel that Karkata had left in the dirt before using it to put the remaining dirt back into the hole.
"Those fools thought I was being merciful," he mused aloud, "but I did not let them leave without first doing half of this work for me. Shitheads. They really did only amount to manure." He laughed as he finished his work and Karkat quietly slipped away to find the young ex-prince, head swimming from all that had just happened.
On his way back to camp, the captain saw a boy with no legs herding a cluster of small livestock to the river with the help of a dark-haired gypsy girl. He avoided them and made his men move their camp further inland, citing the possibility of pesky animals sneaking around in search of the corpses of an Indian child and manservant as the reason.
The girl had had eyes as green as Hugo's Esmeralda and hair twice as thick and long, done up in beautiful twists that she had adopted and modified from the native Germans.
Sometimes, when he was especially lonely, he thought about her and wondered if she made it out of Germany alive.
When Dave's guardian, Jade Harley, knocked on the door and entered Doctor Roseanne's office, they were talking about movies.
"Don't be hating on Stiller 'cause you don't like that he's doing that The Watch shit or whatever. The man is quality."
"Yes, because Zoolander was so very intelligent."
Jade poked her head in. "I hope I'm not interrupting," she said.
"Oh, no, not at all. Dave and I were just discussing the less savory points of modern cinema."
"He was talking about Ben Stiller movies, wasn't he. Oh, geez."
"Whatever. You both know he's the best." Dave gave Doctor Roseanne a sideways look. She nodded- her next appointment wasn't for another two hours. "Come on in and have a seat over here, Jade. Say hi to the shrink."
"Dave, you might try to be a liiiiiittle bit more polite to the doctor," Jade chided, sitting on the spot next to Dave. She reached her hand out to Doctor Roseanne from across the table. "I'm Jade Harley. I'm Dave's legal guardian," she said.
Doctor Roseanne shook the young woman's hand (a confident shake- she was clearly as well-adjusted as her charge) and exchanged the greeting before Dave continued his rant on Ben Stiller. Occasionally, Doctor Roseanne would take turns with Jade teasing him about something and being the victim of his elaborate jibes.
What the doctor was really doing was analyzing Dave as he interacted with Jade to supplement what she had learned during their session.
She noticed the way his tone changed when he spoke to her and how his words weren't as biting. Treats others on a case-by-case basis.
She noticed how he scooted closer to her on the couch when he sat down. Values own personal space in utmost and attributes closeness to comfort and trust among valued individuals.
She noticed how he made every excuse to look at and brush against her- pat her knee ("and that's why I'm here to make sure you know better about movies"), nudge her shoulder (Hey, don't get onto me for being rude to the doctor. Look, see there- she smiled. Doc Rose ain't offended!), run his fingers through her hair ("Jade, this stuff is going to get in my mouth if you aren't careful! You're like Rapunzel and your witch mother is calling for you to let your hair down to her through my throat and she's apparently really fucking impatient"), bury his head into her shoulder ("Augh, but you always overcook the meat when you leave it in the crock pot. It's like you feel the need to drop a nuclear bomb on the beef lest it get up out of the kitchen and scuttle away"), grab and pat her hand ("look at us, two peas in a pod getting along like two old, shriveled-up wasabi pea-people rocking on the back porch. You're reminding me to take care of myself while I'm actually taking care of you, serving you hand and foot like some geriatric foot servant.")
Doctor Roseanne didn't need a doctorate in psychology to figure out what all that meant from Dave.
His twenty-something-year-old guardian, however, was not reciprocating his feelings.
The doctor watched as Jade playfully and good-naturedly dealt with him like a loving big sister would to her little brother, completely unaware that each time she didn't notice his advances, he only tried harder. ("Gee, I certainly am glad I have you to dominate the Pay-Per-View! What would I do if I couldn't recount all the lines from the initial Night at the Museum? You have to go to bed at a decent hour tonight." "Dave, just because Doctor Rose is dealing with your nonsense doesn't mean you can liken her to Cruella Da Ville!" "I deal with you for at least a good solid eight hours a day even though you're sixteen, silly. I think you'll be okay if I turn my undivided attention away from you for the next couple of nanoseconds. And don't' eat my hair, goof!" "I put dinner in the crock pot and—no, you can't fend for yourself! I'll find you eating cheese fries and ice cream and nothing else. How're you gonna grow if you don't eat right? Pot roast tastes just fine!")
Jade took her hand from his and patted him on the back before getting up. "It is true that you do all the ironing and laundry. Say, Doctor," Jade turned to her, "is there any kind of… debriefing… or follow-up call or anything I should know about?"
Doctor Roseanne faked a pleasantly open expression. "Well, aside from the snippet of our session you both signed and agreed to allow me to share with the public, I don't think I have anything to share with you just yet, especially since I prefer to keep doctor-patient confidentiality even among younger clients, if the issue is not urgently pressing and their parents allow it. But," she uncrossed and recrossed her legs as she reached across the coffee table to retrieve the clipboard Jade had signed. "I would like to have at least three more months' worth of sessions with Dave, twice a week."
Jade winced as she thought about the financial strain this would cause and opened her mouth to decline.
"And considering that Dave was not only recommended by my dear friend Teresa Pyrope but somewhat of a… a special interest of my establishment and peers, I would be willing to do it for free, as well as a few meetings with you as well, Miss Harley." Doctor Roseanne knew this meant that she'd be working overtime (and possibly jeopardizing her impartiality on all matters), but she was intrigued.
"Damn," Dave said. "Aren't we special."
Jade left the place feeling more than a little confused as to what was going on. She knew all about her and Dave's relation to the hospital, but she didn't know why there was suddenly an interest in picking apart her adopted great cousin's brain, or her own. He seemed fine and she was pretty sure that she was doing alright herself, besides the sudden confusion this whole episode had brought on.
And while Jade may not have known Roseanne Valonde very well, she knew she trusted her friend, co-worker, and mentor Teresa Pyrope and that anyone she trusted, Jade could also trust.
"Teresa's a bro," Dave agreed when she talked the issue over with him. "and Doc Rose seems pretty cool, too. 'Sides, it's free. And it's not like she really tried to screw with my head- she asked me a whole bunch of questions about my life in general, and that was about it."
Jade nodded and decided to humor them all a little longer, trusting that the future would not throw her any curveballs.
The Witch of Space wondered how many imperfect frogs it took to make one single perfect one. Sometimes she doubted it was even possible, but the scientist in her always reminded her that there was no such thing as "impossible", only "improbable".
"So when comes the part where you tell me I have an Oedipus complex or something? Or do I need to scratch out my eyes in order to get you to give a diagnosis so Jade stops worrying that I might be a psychokiller and we're all keeping her out of the loop like the one lame horse the cowboys don't even feel the need to round up?"
It was the thirteenth meeting Dave had had with Doctor Roseanne and she had noticed him slowly losing his patience since two sessions prior.
Honestly, the doctor was astounded that he had lasted this long before asking her to cut to the chase.
She put down her clipboard and traded it out for her teacup. "Actually, you don't have a particularly strong Oedipus complex. Not in the strict sense, anyway."
Dave leaned over and onto the coffee table, peering up into her eyes. "Cut the horseshit, Doc. I like to mess around with you and tell you otherwise, but I know there's more than just air crammed under that quaffed hair of yours. You know why I'm here and I know you know why I'm here, so let's stop doing this stupid little game of monkey-in-the-middle with what's really going on in my head and just let that damned monkey out of its cage. It can fling all the shit it wants to and then we can shoot it in the head and be one step closer to being done with this business."
"That is the most garbled metaphor set you have used in the entire time I've known you. It made even less sense than usual."
"I'm giving you the abridged version. That's how impatient I am."
"I see," Doctor Roseanne said, taking up her clipboard once more.
To her surprise, Dave caught the end of it with his hand and slammed it back onto the surface of the table, splattering tea in a miniature rainstorm all over the pristine white paper. The amber liquid oozed into it and left marks like leprosy, as if the paper itself were diseased and not fit to touch. "We both know you don't actually need this thing."
She regarded him carefully before answering him. "It matters not if I do or don't. You've managed to ruin it so that I couldn't even if I wanted to," she replied evenly. "But before we delve into the deep, dark corners of your mind, tell me this- is your aggressiveness a result of you feeling more… imposing and adult since turning seventeen last week, because of Miss Harley's growing concern, or because of something much more basic that drives aggression?"
"I'd say all three, except I'm not sure that we're on the same wavelength about what the two double… is there even a plural form of entendre? Whatever, fuck it- entendres you're implying for the first and third options are. So I'm gonna play it safe and just go with reason number two."
"The number representative of monkey shit," the doctor mused.
"Maybe all this Freudian hoo-hah is worth something," Dave shot back. "It let you predict and steal my next joke."
"If only your jokes were actually funny," she wryly teased. "But what kind of professional would I be if I could not effectively understand the progression of scatological jokes and that the planet revolves around them? We simply must mention shit in order to truly preserve the art of conversation."
Dave gave a tight smile and watched her. Doctor Roseanne stared right back at him.
"I wasn't lying when I said you do not seem to have a major Oedipus complex, you know," she finally said.
"No. An Oedipus complex involves a sexual attraction to the mother and a competitive disdain towards the father for her attentions. In our chats, you've never even given the slightest hint of attraction to either your deceased birthmother or the woman who acted as your mother- the woman who raised you until you were fifteen- nor do you hold any resentment towards her husband, Jakob. And furthermore, Mrs. Aranea Egbert resembled the rest of the family only in that they all had dark hair. If I remember her correctly, she was also, at best, only superficially similar to her great niece Jade Harley in terms of personality."
"Are you gonna make your point before I have yet another birthday?" Dave asked.
"Your fondness for your primary guardian doesn't spring from any mental disorder or complex or alluring obsession with any kind of incestual taboo. Incredible circumstance and age are practically the only things that make any of this wrong."
"While we're at it, can you speak English? Or have years of psychoanalysis fried your brains worse than the straightener does your hair?"
"My hair is naturally straight, thank you. And you can understand me just fine. Or, is there something in particular that you want to say to me yourself?"
Dave narrowed his eyes and the doctor cocked her head to the side.
"You acted like you were ready to discuss this issue with me openly, but now that I've started, you are retreating in a shroud of false cluelessness. You aren't very good at playing dumb when it matters, Dave."
The boy looked down and gripped the fabric on his knees, bunching it up beneath his fingers like a toddler would a security blanket.
"I lead patients to the truth, but I dislike having to hold their hands the whole way, figuratively or otherwise." She crossed her arms, like a mother scolding her son. "Are you ready to come out and say what is giving you problems yourself, or are you going to keep trying to make me do it for you?"
"Don't treat me like a child!" the boy shouted, eyes still on the floor.
The grandfather clock in the corner of the room watched the scene impassively, its quiet breathing the only noise breaking the silence that Dave had summoned. The steady ticking continued to dominate the conversation until the therapist decided it was safe to make the next move.
Quietly, so as to not provoke the beast, she shifted the tea set away from the table and Dave's immediate reach. Anger was a natural and expected reaction from someone like him about something that cut so deep, but she didn't want to risk letting her porcelain become a casualty- this was uncharted territory and she had spent the last month and a half trying to figure out the least invasive way to predict what she might find there before forging onwards.
She would have liked to have started this new stage last week, but she knew that Dave would need to pursue the topic himself. So she had waited. Now, as she fiddled with the tea cozy she'd made for her teapot, she wondered if she should have waited longer.
But it was too late to go back now.
"Are you sure that I am the one that you wish to be saying those words to?" the doctor finally began.
Dave looked up in outrage, his lips beginning to hurl some kind of insult, but she saw his anger break and his eyes weaken. He lowered his head once more and sank lower into the couch, towards the ground.
"Dave. What did you come here to talk about? What do you need to tell me?
The seconds ticked by.
Seconds turned to minutes.
His shoulders shook once, like the jerking of a clock's gears to move the hour hand forward.
"I'm in love with a woman who thinks of me as her little brother and who is appointed by law to act as my legal guardian. I'm in love with a woman who, although she refers to me as her little cousin, is technically my adoptive great-niece, Jade Harley."
The reverberation from the clock sounded throughout the room and sent ripples through the glassy surface of the tea as it quaked from both the patient's confession and the hour's announcement within its china container, like a great monster had arisen from its dark cavern and its footsteps had shaken the world to its very core.