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You’d think that after so many doomed timelines, so many dead Daves piling up their creepy-ass corpses around you, that you’d get used to this whole thing. Oh those pasty corpses over in the corner? Oh yeah, had ‘em put in last Tuesday, like the décor?

Consider yourself part of the furniture even after your many many deaths. Just scenery like some kind of pale highlights across the Land of Heat and Cogs and whatever other worlds he happens to be brutally murdered in.

Nope.

Dave doesn’t know which of many universes this one of his dead brethren is from; his title is Knight of Time not Knight of Remembering Details of Precisely Ten Zillion Twisting Branches of Causality. Good thing too. It’d be a real bitch to pronounce. Just isn’t punchy enough, y’know?

What he does know is that the corpse, his corpse, but not him at the same time, is sprawled out on the floor, shirt stained and throat cut and more blood than he ever wanted to see the light of day spattered across the grey ground in haphazard puddles and smears. It kind of does match the décor, Dave thinks madly, and can’t quite decide if it’s just coolness talking or if he’s genuinely considering how rapidly drying blood looks alongside lava and clockwork.

Terezi would probably know but she’d also be licking the fucking walls by now so he’s not convinced she’s a good judge of anyone’s sanity, even her own and especially his.

He walks forward, toes curling in his shoes, heat seeping through the soles. Like this, he’s eerily reminded of Bro’s puppets, all haphazard limbs and limp bodies which never lay right. He thinks there might be a broken arm, way that it’s twisted back like that.

A soft laugh escapes him as his footsteps echo along the metal and he stoops down next to the body. It isn’t a particularly nice sound, even after being subjected to the text-rendered cackles of alien shark-girls and psycho clowns.

After all this, the shades are still in tact. He reaches up to slide them off the corpse’s face but stops at the last moment, fingers grazing his cheek. They’re shaking.

He pulls away as though burned, staring at the point where they’d brushed the skin. It had been cool, even in this place, and fuck he’s pale. Not even like his albino-white self, but really white, like marble if marble had the spaces where blood should have been, but really, pale like a body which has had the misfortune to have taken the wrong step off an alpha timeline.

Dave swallows, licking his lips, eyes narrowing behind his shades. Sometimes he wonders, on nights where there’s nothing but time and fire, no messages from Rose or Jade or John, no trolling sessions to get his blood pumping, if he’s really just the Dave who hasn’t yet stepped off that path and if he’ll be the one laid out like this in front of some other Dave because one guy’s alpha timeline is another’s dead end. It just takes one choice.

He wonders what this one was.

He should know, he could find out. He needs to know what to avoid and how to keep the threads running right, like the Norn but in sharper suits.

He crouches over the body. Doesn’t know what makes him do it. Hell, nothing makes him do it except himself and possibly some tangled strand of fate which means that future Dave is one sick bastard because he can’t quite stop himself as he leans down and presses his lips to the… to his body’s lips.

It’s exactly the opposite of those kisses you see in movies, where they stare into each other’s eyes and there’s light and sparkles or at least some kind of reaction depending on the movie and if he keeps waxing lyrical he’s gonna end up like John laying down hymns to Nic Cage all ‘Oh glory to him, the saviour is come with a grenade launcher and a machine gun shall he smite thing enemies’.

It’s cool and kind of… rubbery? Is it supposed to be like that or is it whatever passes for rigor mortis in the Medium? He’s never stuck around the dead Daves long enough to see whether decomposition happens ‘cause that’s a kind of narcissism that he just isn’t getting into.

A swipe of his tongue; tasteless seeping into the copper tang of blood that he’s way too used to. Always has been. Getting split lips as a kid, busted knees, cut fingers shoved in his mouth to stop the bleeding and this guy did the same, didn’t he?

His breath catches at the realisation, ‘cause suddenly it’s real and it’s him there, not some Dave puppet who just happened to be unfortunately unnecessary. His fingers slide into white-blond hair, and here there’s no difference, soft and fine like his own.

“Heh…”

It’s a horrible sound. He pulls Dave’s head back; it lolls tenuously, neck split and gaping, and his tongue presses just that bit further, past teeth. Cuts himself on that one chipped tooth he got playing ninjas with Bro before he knew what it was all for. Before he knew he’d be straddling the lap of his dead self, perfecting the art of kissing like it’s going out of style. Blood smears across his cheek where it’s dripped from beneath the shades.

He thinks a little light necrophilia probably excludes him from being allowed in any kind of human relationship ever again.

Possibly excludes him from being any kind of human ever again.

The Medium sure does bring out the best in him, huh?

Dave doesn’t complain, not dead Dave, not live Dave, whichever is which, and he rests their foreheads together, soaking in the cool, letting his heat seep into his other self, like they’d swap places and it would be Dave there on the floor, broken and bloody, but it is him really, isn’t it? One step away from it, always one step.

He thinks he should be freaked out more, extending his fingers once more to pull away the shades. The eyes, it’s all in the eyes and he laughs again, puffs of breath against dead Dave’s lips. Maybe he’s just as freaked out as he can get, so freaked out he’s come out on the other side of stone cold sane and Rose will probably call any second to give him a lecture about what frenching a dead guy says about his fractured little mind, using words like narcissism and impulse control disorder.

The shades slide off, a comforting weight in his hands just like they are on his face, and he stares for a moment at his face revealed. There are no mirrors in the Medium and in his head he’s twelve feet tall and twenty five.

He looks so young.

There’s no sharp cheekbones here, or chiselled features, just rounded cheeks young enough to not have quite shed all the baby fat and is this what he looks like? Really looks like? Like a scared kid in over his head, not even old enough to be drinking for fuck’s sake. Not old enough to die for his country, but old enough to be manipulated to death by his asshole Alpha self.

“Fuck.”

Might be a laugh, might be a sob, he doesn’t want to examine it, dissect like like a frog in science class. Presses their lips together again, a twisted parody of mourning ‘cause there’s nothing chaste about it. He isn’t sure what it is, but chaste and innocent fled the building along with decency and dragged sanity in tow.

Their eyes meet. Or his eyes meet Dave’s eyes and they’re open, candy red irises in half open eyes, lightly filmed with a helping of dead and he swears they’re staring at him. Not accusing, not accepting. Understanding? Except Dave doesn’t have a clue what he doing and he’s him and he… he…

He pulls away, spit slick on his lips and his lips and it’s like one of those Escher pictures, Dave to the power of infinity.

He shifts uncomfortably, feels sick sort of, because his pants ain’t sitting right and he can’t… oh dear tentacled horrors this is wrong and sick, sicker than sick in a way that he’d never considered using the word before and he thinks he might whimper as he reaches down to touch himself through the front of his suit. He hides his face against his dead cheek, peppering fevered kisses against his skin as he strokes himself. Maybe a little relief will get him into line and he must be a moron for thinking that because he’s just getting harder and when he rocks against his dead self’s thigh by mistake, it sends bitter sparks throbbing right through his cock in guilty-monstrous pleasure.

He’s seen hell already so how much further is there to fall? Fire and brimstone; got it in spades.

He rubs against his unyielding self again, nuzzling against baby-soft hair, and maybe he whispers, maybe he doesn’t, but he doesn’t stop moving, keeps rubbing against him like some lust-crazed creature, perfect friction and heat closing around them, sweat slicked on his skin, smeared on dead Dave’s forehead so he can lick it off and pretend the living salt taste of it is why he’s getting off.

He muffles a cry against Dave’s temple as he comes, spilling out and twisted a half step until he can’t tell if he’s here or beneath himself and bloody and sticky and a dead doomed Dave from a broken timeline.

He’s cold when his breath chokes back into him, mouth dry and sour tasting and despite the heat, he shivers. Dead Dave’s head has dropped back at a sickening angle and he nearly loses his stomach. Too dry for that though, thank fuck. He has his dignity.

He had his dignity, and now it’s shattered into pieces too small to ever be Captcha'd.

The neck wound looks wider, torn and ragged at the edges and save reaches up to touch his throat, feeling the flicker of the wound there where it doesn’t really exist, the damaged flesh beneath the whole and perfect and one step… one step is all it takes.