Your name is John Egbert. You have occasionally been known to go by the title Heir of Breath, and until just recently these labels would have been the sort of thing to deliver in all capital letters, but frankly you just don't feel like that would be appropriate to this situation. Before now, you were considered a "hero" in the session you have recently absconded from, which you are finding darkly humorous at the moment, because you're having a very hard time finding anything remotely heroic about your actions over the past day. You have so far run away from two cataclysms, died twice, managed a few success completely by accident that were fated to happen anyway and seen way too many people you care about die.
As you stare down at the congealing blue blood of your most recent fallen friend…or whatever Vriska Serket was to you, exactly, you can't help but feel as though the proverbial straw that has been piling on this camel's back for the entire day has finally landed, and you simply can't take anymore. You can't keep smiling, cheering everyone on and generally being the eternal optimist your comrades have come to know. You've been kicked in the teeth too many times today. And you have decided it's enough.
Karkat is, at least for once, at a loss for words. You tried to feel angry at him for lying to you about her, but you simply couldn't muster up the energy for it. In the end you knew he did what he had to. That if you had choked when it mattered everyone would be dead, and not just her. None of this was his fault. You couldn't even manage to summon feelings of ire for Terezi when she immediately told you it was her who had stabbed Vriska in the back. Partly because you realize that she, too, had only done she had needed to, and partly because she looked just about as broken up about it as you felt.
In fact, when she admitted what had happened it was her that had broken down, not you. Karkat had rushed to comfort her, which you supposed was just as well. You didn't feel that you'd be all that great of a palhoncho right now. Dave looked as inscrutable as ever, he gave you what must have been a sympathetic nod. Jade hovered near his side, looking sad, but obviously confused as to what exactly had happened, and why it had affected you so much. Rose was focused mostly on you, and you wondered if she was trying to use her psycho-whatever to get into your head. Probably, you figure. That's just Rose's style.
As an awkward silence falls over the ragtag group, you turn and walk away. You're not sure where exactly, but "not here" seems like a good place to start. No one says anything. They seem to get it, you think. You walk enough distance away as to be suitably alone, and sit on the edge of this tiny asteroid hiding place. You lie back slowly, staring up at the blank emptiness above you. Devoid of anything but more asteroids floating in nothing.
You're not exactly sure how long you have been here, just thinking about…well…nothing. You feel a presence beside you and hear a soft rustling. Someone sits down next to you and eases onto their back just to the right. You Don't even have to look in that direction to know who it is. If the soft flickering catching just at the edge of your vision wasn't enough of a giveaway already, you pretty much knew she'd be the one to talk to you first.
But she isn't talking. She's just lying there, staring up at the same blank sky, breathing softly. You eventually glance over at her. Rose Lalonde continues to look upwards, the odd dark aura around her still shimmering occasionally. Her skin had returned to normal and she didn't look all that grimdark, anymore, but the Horror Terrors had left their mark, and it continued to radiate around her. You look back skyward. Her silence is beginning to unnerve you somewhat.
"So…are you here to talk to me, or what?" You finally feel like speaking.
"I suppose that was the original plan, but as I was walking over here none of the old clichés really seemed all that appropriate for this. Something as simple as 'I'm sorry" doesn't carry the weight I'd want it to, and opening with asking about what she was like didn't seem like the right idea, either. Ultimately, I don't think you need any of that, anyway," Rose answers.
"No…I guess not." A more comfortable silence surrounds you and Rose now. It feels like an understanding. That you don't have to say anything if you don't want to. That you could just lie here forever and she wouldn't mind.
"She was nice," you offer after a few minutes of this.
"You asked what she was like, or…well, you kind of did in your heavy-handed psychobabbley way."
"I do like my psychobabble, it's true."
"Heh…well, yeah. She was nice. A little bossy, and she tried to act like she wasn't nice to everyone else, and she killed some people…or well…a lot of people, actually and…I'm not doing a very good job of describing her. She really was nice, though."
"It's okay, John. I believe you."
"She said once she fought Jack, she wanted to stop all that. And try to be human. Or…act like one, even though she is- was an alien."
"That seems very tragic. That it ended like that, then" Rose says, looking as though she wanted to say something a little more heartfelt.
"And also…she said she wanted to go out with me. Like…on a date, I guess."
"Oh?" Rose's tone seemed a little odd there, but she recovered quickly. "Well…I guess that puts this in kind of new light, then. It makes sense for you to be very upset, then. I'm sorry, John."
"No…it's okay. It's not really that, I guess. I mean…it's not like I knew her for all that long, really. And she wasn't really my girlfriend or anything…I mean…well, she asked me out and I was going to say yes, but…she never got…that…so…yeah."
"I think I understand."
"I mean, this whole thing with me isn't even really because of Vriska…well, it is kind of, I don't want to sound like a jerk to her or whatever, but I guess what I'm trying to say here is…well…" You trail off, trying to spell it out.
"You've seen too many dead loved ones today already."
"Yeah…I guess that's pretty much it."
"I should apologize, then. I think my admittedly foolhardy actions today only added to your distress. It couldn't have been easy for you…to wake up and see me like that. I suppose I just sort of acted without thinking. I was being pretty stupid, to be frank. When I saw my Mom…and your dad…and then what he did to you…I should have thought it out more clearly. I had it on good authority you were going to be alright, and yet when I saw Jack stab you I…it felt like a damn broke, and I just went at him angry, which was probably exactly what he wanted. So…like I said…pretty stupid."
"It wasn't stupid. Not really. I mean, I was set to do something pretty dumb myself when I saw Dad, but Jack kind of stabbed me before I really could do anything. And if Vriska hadn't told me what to do right when I woke up, I probably would have done something stupid again the moment I saw what had happened to you."
"Oh…so she was the one who told you to…." Rose trails off, fumbling over her words for once.
"Well…yeah…anyway, then Karkat took over and got everything in motion. He told me you were ok, and that basically everyone was waiting to get the Scratch moving, so I got to that to get us all here and then…well…"
"It happened all over again."
"Yeah…except this time there was no one to blame. Not really, anyway. I know that Terezi had to do it, I guess. I don't really have a problem with her. It's just…something that happened. And that may be the worst thing of all. I mean…what good am I? What's the point of doing any of this if the only the only thing that happens is always…more of this?"
"John…" Rose's expression is soft, probably the most expressive you've ever seen her, all things considered.
"Why did she even like me?" You muse aloud after a few moments of silence.
"John, was that a serious question?" Rose asks, almost incredulous as she sits up to look at you.
"Well that's rather moronic of you. She liked you, John, for the exact same reason I like you. Because you're you."
"I don't presume to know much about my fellow Hero of Light, but I think on the subject of you we have something in common. We like you because you're kind, honest, brave, funny in a completely stupid and adorable way and because there is nothing you wouldn't do to protect those close to you. Because you accept anyone as they are, and because you won't ever give up on them. Because you believe in the best in everyone, and make the best of everything. Because you never give up, and because you are the sweetest, most amazing boy I have ever met."
"I'm not telling you this because I want you to reciprocate, John, or out of some despicable lack of respect for your past relationship. I am telling you how I feel because…you need to know what makes you so incredible, John. Because you can't let this break you. I need you to keep being yourself. Everyone else does too. And if you let this destroy all of the wonderful things about you, you'd be letting her down, too. Because you'd be turning your back on everything that made you special to her in the first place." She finishes her tirade, and your brain feels a little jammed up from all of the really weird new information it just got. Suddenly you don't understand anything!
"I don't…really know what to say, Rose."
"You don't have to say anything. I understand that it can be hard sometimes to cope with our rather bleak situation, but I'm here to help you through it. To let you know you aren't alone, and to remind you that in these times you are probably the most reassuring monument of stability we have. I know that sounds selfish, and it's unfair to lay all of this on you, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't know that you can do it. It's what makes me see why you're such a great leader, and why you're such a great guy. I believe in you. And you will always have me, and everyone else to rely on." She stops speaking, and you try to clear the log-jam out of your brain. This isn't exactly the Rose Lalonde you've come to know.
"It's…kind of weird to hear you talk like this Rose…not bad…I mean, just, different."
"Well, you've probably guessed that I don't have the easiest time talking about myself. I tend to hide behind verbose and convoluted analysis rather than simply tell others what I'm feeling because…it's easier. You didn't need me to psychoanalyze you, though. You just needed someone to talk to. So I guess I let the mask slip a little."
"It's ok, Rose…I'm kind of glad. Though I didn't know that you…uh…well were having feelings…sort of."
"Like I said, I keep my cards pretty close to my chest. But despite my rather stellar vocabulary and mature demeanor I am still, at least on occasion, a thirteen year old girl, and thus am prone to sudden and uncontrolled bouts of feminine behavior."
"Indeed. I must confess to a certain degree of satisfaction when I learned it was you who saved my life, and also a hint of giddiness when I realized just how you did it. Just a little, mind you. Let's not get carried away."
"Jeez, Rose. I never figured you'd be this much of a softy."
"Yes…well…maybe that's enough on that subject." You notice a tiny hint of pink on Rose's cheeks. You smile, but then feel a pang of guilt. Rose notices and looks down, looking guilty as well. This probably isn't the right time for this. You let the silence hang for a little longer, and you sit up, yourself.
"Remember when you were messing up my house earlier today?" You muse.
"Yes. Though to my credit, I did fix your bathroom floor."
"I remember when I thought that was as weird as things were gonna get. And now…it's like a whole other life."
"I suppose. When it comes down to it, though, I think I was always expecting something like this. Somewhere in the back of my mind I just knew I was waiting for something. And now…now I just have to face it as it comes and live up to those expectations."
"Yeah…yeah you're right, Rose. I think I just needed to work some of this out…you know? Thanks."
"Any time." Rose is silent for a while now. The two of you drape your feet over the edge, looking out over the starless, black expanse. After a minute or so she speaks up again.
"I think I'm going to head back to the others. Are you coming?"
"I'll be there in a minute. Promise." You give her a smile and turn back to the sky. You feel her move next to you, and she lays a soft kiss on your cheek and then stands up.
"Don't ever give up, John. You're the best of all of us, and I know you can do anything if you try. We'll be waiting for you when you come back, and we can talk about what to do next." She begins to leave, heading off in the direction she came.
"Hmm?" She turns.
"About what you said earlier…"
"Yeah?" Her face is set, like she is doing everything in her power to keep it impassive.
"Just give me some time, okay? I'm just kind of confused right now, and I've got some stuff to work out…but…just be a little patient…alright?" A radiant smile spreads across Rose's face, almost as if the entirety of the last 24 hours had simply washed away.
"Don't worry, John. I'm not going anywhere." And with that, Rose Lalonde, Seer of Light, turned on her heel and went to rejoin the rest of her friends.
You watch her leave for a few more seconds, and return your attention to the great void beyond. You let out a long sigh, and realize you feel lighter than you have in some time today. It still hurts. That will take a while to go away, you guess. But you feel better. You know you can keep going.
You're still not sure if you deserve the title of "hero" but you've resolved to sure as hell try to earn it, so you can be the hero Vriska, Rose and everyone else deserves. You find your smile returns to you much easier than you thought it would.
Your name is JOHN EGBERT. You are the HEIR OF BREATH and from this moment on, no one else is going to die on your watch. Starting now, you're going to save everyone.