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Survivor's Guilt

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Karkat wakes up to the sound of a horrid shriek coming from downstairs. He groans as he lifts himself from his recuperacoon, then shouts at the disturbance.

THERE ARE ROE CUBES IN THE THERMAL HULL, GET 'EM YOURSELF!

He makes his way to his ablution trap to rinse the slime off. Halfway through his shower, his lusus roars again.

THEY'RE RIGHT THERE ON THE TOP SHELF! GODDAMN, ARE YOU FUCKING BLIND, STOP SHOUTING!

He towels off, dresses himself, and is in the process of walking downstairs when he hears a crash. Goddamnit it, not again.

JUST TAKE A CUBE, YOU... YOU...

Karkat expects to see his lusus standing over a tipped-over thermal hull and the contents of said hull scattered around the kitchen floor. Well, he does find that, but the strange girl standing in the middle of his livingblock is far more attention-worthy, not to mention a possible threat.

He brandishes his sickle. He's not taking any chances.

WHO ARE YOU, AND WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN MY HIVE?

She does not draw a weapon of her own. She doesn't seem to be dangerous but sweeps of living with his mutation have taught him to constantly be on guard.

ANSWER ME! WHO ARE YOU? WHY ARE YOU HERE?

She slowly turns to face him. The girl stares at Karkat for a second or two before finally speaking.

TRY TO R3M3MB3R
HOW D1D YOU G3T H3R3? WH4T H4PP3N3D?

I DON'T GET IT, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU--

And suddenly,
he thinks he understands. Not all at once, but parts of it, bits and pieces slowly lock into place and the picture becomes clearer.

GC? IS THAT YOU?

She nods her head to the affirmative, but she's a little disappointed. She'd hoped he'd be further along the timeline than this. She'll just have to help him remember.

"GC"? 1 TH1NK YOU KNOW M3 4 L1TTL3 B3TT3R TH4N TH4T, K4RKL3S

His mind ignites at hearing the pet name. That voice has called him this before. He recalls a dimly-lit building, the feeling of dread, the sound of an explosion. Blind panic, rushing through the facility.

...TEREZI?

Searching desperately. Finding a body.

YOU WERE KILLED! THERE WAS SO MUCH GODDAMN BLOOD...
4FR41D SO, K4RK4T
1M SORRY YOU H4D TO S33 TH4T >:[

And finally, the last thing he remembers, before three feet of blackened iron plunges into his chest, is the silhouette of the Demon standing before him.

JACK FOUND US, DIDN'T HE?
Y34H
4ND TH3N H3 BL3W UP TH3 4ST3RO1D

WELL... FUCK. IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN SOONER OR LATER, I GUESS.

He pauses for a while, before, for a brief instant, a blinding pain radiates from his chest, sending shockwaves through his body as he falls to one knee, clutching the bleeding wound, gasping for air. Immediately, Terezi is by him.

K4RK4T, 1TS OK4Y!
1TS NOT R34L
1TS JUST SOM3TH1NG TH4T H4PP3NS WH3N YOU R34L1Z3 WH4TS GO1NG ON
1T H4PP3N3D TO M3 TOO, COM3 ON
L3TS G3T YOU ST4ND1NG 4G41N

Terezi pulls one of Karkat's arms over her shoulder and helps him to his feet. Soon enough, his red blood stops dripping onto the floor and eventually the wound closes as he realizes, other than the initial jolt, it didn't cause him any pain.

Well, now that that's over with...

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
TH4TS... COMPL1C4T3D
COMPLICATED? HOW SO?
B3C4US3 YOU H4V3 TO W4K3 UP, K4RK4T

He furrows his brow. What's she going on about?

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, "WAKE UP"? AREN'T WE DEAD?
1 4M, Y3S
BUT YOU ST1LL H4V3 4 P4RT TO PL4Y 1N 4LL TH1S
1M NOT 3NT1R3LY SUR3 WH4T 1T 4LL M34NS 31TH3R
BUT TH4TS WH4T F3F3R1 TOLD M3

SHE'S HERE?
Y3S! 4ND SO 1S 3V3RYON3 3LS3
N3P3T4, 3QU1US, T4VROS, 3V3N 3R1D4N
TH1S 1S WH3R3 4LL TH3 D34D PL4Y3RS 3ND UP, 1 TH1NK
YOU WOULD H4V3 F1GUR3D TH4T OUT BY NOW 1F YOU H4DNT B33N TOO STUBBORN TO SL33P!

So this is where the dreaming and the dead go. But if Terezi says he has to wake up--

WAIT! YOU SAID I HAD TO WAKE UP
WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT?

3X4CTLY WH4T 1T SOUNDS L1K3, K4RKL3S
SO... WE'RE STILL ALIVE??? SOMEHOW?
FUCK YES! COME ON, WE'VE GOT A DEMON'S ASS TO KICK!

NO, K4RK4T, YOU DONT G3T 1T
YOUR3 SUPPOS3D TO W4K3 UP

WELL NO SHIT, THAT'S WHAT YOU JUST FUCKING TOLD ME.
SO LET'S DO THIS. LET'S MAKE IT HAPPEN!

K4RK4T
1
1 C4NT GO W1TH YOU

He is understandably upset at this development.

WHAT? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
YOU SAID WE SURVIVED JACK'S ATTACK, RIGHT?
SO I DON'T SEE THE FUCKING PROBLEM. LET'S GO!

TH1NK, K4RK4T
DUR1NG TH3 G4M3, OUR J4CK NO1R US3D TO SH4NK YOU 4LL TH3 T1M3, R3M3MB3R?

OF COURSE I DO. IT WAS PRACTICALLY HOW THE GUY SAID "HELLO".
DO YOU R3M3MB3R HOW QU1CKLY THOS3 WOUNDS OF YOURS H34L3D?

He thinks he knows where she's going with this, but he doesn't like it, to say to the least.

BECAUSE I'M THE KNIGHT OF BLOOD.
B3C4US3 YOUR3 TH3 KN1GHT OF BLOOD
4ND UNFORTUN4T3LY
TH3 T1TL3 OF S33R OF M1ND DO3SNT COM3 W1TH R3G3N3R4T1V3 POW3RS
YOU SURV1V3D TH3 D3MONS 4SS4ULT ON OUR H1D3OUT
BUT
1 D1DNT >:c

Droplets of pale red are starting to form in his eyes. He knows what comes next.

NO
THAT'S
IT
NO
IT'S NOT FAIR.
WHY SHOULD I LIVE AND YOU DIE WHEN I'M THE ONE WHO FUCKED UP? NO, FUCK THAT SHIT.
I'M STAYING RIGHT HERE WITH YOU. FUCK JACK. I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK.

K4RKL3S, 1M FL4TT3R3D >:]
BUT YOU C4NT ST4Y, YOU DONT H4V3 4 CHO1C3
1M SORRY BUT 1T H4S TO B3 TH1S W4Y
YOUR3 GO1NG TO W4K3 UP SOON SO
1 GU3SS TH1S 1S GOODBY3 >:[

Terezi reaches for his hand, clasping it between her own, but Karkat has other ideas. He pulls her toward him and throws his arms around her.

ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD. MY MATESPRIT IS DEAD.
FOR WHAT REASON SHOULD I GO BACK, TEREZI? THERE'S FUCKING NOTHING LEFT.

He's trying not to cry into her shoulder but his sniffling suggests he's doing a terrible job of it. A tinge of teal crosses Terezi's face at the word "matesprit". She holds him tighter and she wants nothing more than to let him do what he wants, to stay here with her and her friends for the rest of forever. But she can't do that. He has a mission to accomplish.

TH3 HUM4NS 4R3 COUNT1NG ON YOU
FUCK THOSE GUYS.
YOU DONT M34N TH4T
OKAY, I DON'T MEAN THAT.
H3H3H3H3
BUT S3R1OUSLY, F3F3R1 TH1NKS YOUR3 GO1NG TO B3 1MPORT4NT 1N TH3 F1GHT 4G41NST NO1R
1 DONT KNOW WH4T TH4T M34NS, SH3S B31NG V4GU3 ON PURPOS3 1 TH1NK
4ND 1TS K1ND OF 4NNOY1NG!
BUT
YOU W1LL W4K3 UP SOON, 4ND PROB4BLY M33T THE HUM4NS NOT TOO LONG 4FT3R TH4T
1TS H4RD TO T3LL, L1N34R PROGR3SS1ON 1S H4RD TO FOLLOW WH3N YOUR3 STUCK 1N 4 PL4C3 B3YOND T1M3 4ND SP4C3 L1K3 TH1S
3V3N FOR 4 S33R!

She's laughing. He doesn't buy it, and she knows it.

Neither of them speak for a few moments.

YOU KNOW, I
I NEVER TOLD YOU, I--

SSSHHHH
YOU DONT H4V3 TO S4Y 1T
1 KNOW

Karkat removes Terezi's glasses and brushes her hair out of her face. Her eyes slowly flutter open and somehow, he thinks maybe she can see again. They're solid white, different from the red he's used to, yet still oddly comforting. He leans forward to kiss her, and as they meet, he wishes he'd done this sooner, when she was still alive and before things had spiraled out of control and gone to shit.

When they finally break away, there's not much time left.

1TS NOT R34LLY GOODBY3 FOR3V3R, YOU KNOW
I KNOW. BUT DREAMS ARE HARDLY THE SAME.

He can feel himself beginning to fade away.

PROM1S3 YOULL COM3 4ND S33 M3 SOM3T1M3, K4RKL3S?

He wipes the crimson from his eyes.

YEAH... YEAH, OF FUCKING COURSE!
4ND TH3 N3XT T1M3 YOU S33 J4CK, K1CK H1M 3XTR4 H4RD FOR M3!
HE'S GONNA WISH HE'D NEVER LEFT THE HUMANS' INCIPHISPHERE!
4ND K4RKAT?

He looks down at his hands before looking at Terezi again. They're almost completely transparent.

YEAH, TEREZI?
1 LOV3 YOU >:']
I
I

I LOVE YOU TOO, TEREZI.
I

i love you, too.

He inhales sharply as his eyes shoot open, filling his lungs with air. He's back on the platform he and the eleven others stood atop when they challenged the Black King, facing the destroyed door. Scorch marks and splatters of red and blue line the pad. He puts a hand to his chest and finds his wounds are already in an accelerated process of healing.

His eyes fall on Terezi's body, still clothed in her legislacerator costume, and his heart sinks a little. It's a little morbid, and he knows it, but he cradles her as he sits leaning against the remnants of the door.

----------

The four of them pass by his room, and he can't help but make some kind of remark.

hey look at me im karkat vantas
i cant wait to be a useless piece of shit all day and take all these naps
cant say i blame him though i mean goddamn
if the last survivors of my race were me the psycho spider girl and the crazy time chick whos never here
i think i wouldnt want to wake up either

poor karkat......
i think he has more reason to hate jack than anybody
jack killed so many of his friends, not to mention his girlfriend :( :( :(

Dave doesn't show any outward emotion at that, but it affects him all the same. Losing Terezi hurts him, too.

i think its still kind of amazing that he survived at all.
not many people can say they walked away from jack and lived.

Rose instinctively clutches her stomach, John's words heavy in her mind as the memories of her own encounter with Jack flash before her eyes.

I hope we can count on him when the time comes to exact vengeance on one Mr. Noir.
he'll come through, rose, don't worry! i won't give up on my alien buddy!

John opens the door to check on him. Karkat turns over, asleep, as per what is becoming increasingly usual for him during his free time. He's sort of grinning in his sleep, which kind of creeps John out, because he's so used to Karkat being perpetually angry, but if Karkat is happy in his dreams, then by God, that's okay by him.

yeah, he's asleep. i wonder what he dreams about?