Five minutes and forty seconds.
Time seems to stop for one second as she floats, trance-like, towards that slab of orange and yellow. Although she makes every step look like a choreographed, complex dance step, you know it’s only a show. Even after all the words have been said, even after she has tried to say her goodbyes, she is still trying to make you believe she’s okay with all this; somehow, you’re not objecting, even if only because you’re trying to do the same.
Five minutes and thirty-eight seconds.
You don’t know how to feel. Maybe you’re just numb from dying and being knocked out and flying, tired to the point that you no longer care about this blatant crimson piece of shitty irony. You don’t know how you got there, but then your feet touched solid stone, and the bunny is by your side, his – damn it, her – good eye focused on you, with all the determination a robotic bunny could possibly have. A sad smile touches your lips as you realize what she represents, but you just nod in her direction as she pumps her tiny fists.
Five minutes and thirty seconds.
“Ready, Lalonde?” You say, trying your darn hardest to sound cool and ironic while you do it. It occurs to you that you still have said less than twenty words to her in person, but you really cannot find much to say.
She says nothing as she lets the card go.
The great yin-yang bomb appears before you, the fruit of John’s windy exploits that will eventually stop both of your hearts. Before you’ve had time to make a sarcastic and possibly stupid comment about it, it melts, leaving behind a complex-looking setup that boasts a countdown of five minutes, twenty-three seconds.
“Oh.” You hear her murmur. “That certainly makes everything easier.”
“Fuck,” you manage. “It’s not 413.”
“Or even 612,” she continues. “Not even close to the average of the two.”
A sick feeling has started to build up in your stomach. It churns with every second, every millisecond, every passing moment, every last breath you take as this incarnation of Dave Strider. It weighs down on you, although you know you have brought all this upon yourself; that inner voice is screaming again you’ll die you’ll die you’ll die and you remember everything, from repeatedly dying in your dream to the feel of your own blood on your own hands.
Many Daves have died, but it has never been you and you weren’t there to feel it. You’ve tried to protect yourself, protect the Alpha, but Alpha is going to die and he isn’t even going to go out like a hero John would probably go out without any thoughts like these –
“Dave,” she breathes, and you freeze because this time, you can sense the barely contained panic in her voice. You turn your head to look at her, and surely enough, she’s standing very still, her hands trembling just a little.
Five minutes, five seconds.
“Dave, thanks to you, I can now never get that message to John.”
You make a face at her. “What did you want me to tell him?”
Silence. As violet stares into giant containers of blue and red, you count the seconds, hoping somewhat irrationally that the pain would go away if you focus on it.
“Never mind. You weren’t going to tell me what happened on LOFAF anyway.”
You consider the whole thing for a second. “We are out of time.”
“Funny how you out of all people would say that.”
Four minutes, thirty-one seconds.
You could tell her. What’s there to hide now? You would tell her all the emotions, all the experiences, all the secrets and all the fragments of time. There’s no one else here in this lonely purple star, and she understands. The loss, the tears, the inadequacy, the bitterness… she’s no John, who has an infinite amount of optimism, nor Jade, whom you don’t even want to think about at the moment. Rose stands there golden fair and you’re stricken by how much you two are alike.
John and Jade… might be dead now, anyway. The Scratch might have taken them and it would all have been in vain and you never got to talk to Jade after she watched you die and there's John and ugh.
Four minutes, four seconds. The bunny shifts its weight and you start to inhale and exhale almost hungrily.
“Thanks for being here,” Rose breaks the silence again. “I shouldn’t be grateful, but I am.”
“As if I’d let you die alone.”
“I should have forced you to leave after the danger had passed, but I was too selfish to let you go. I wouldn’t have died alone, Dave,” she says, and you hear something that sounds suspiciously like sobs in her tone. “I have Liv Tyler with me. You gave her to John… I embroidered her… and Jade made her into a cyborg. John and Jade are here with us. We are dying to protect them. I’m just trying to convince myself that I’m doing this for them… I don’t want them to die. I don’t want… history to repeat itself.”
Oh. Oh goddamn, you’re the wrong Dave. “We’ll all live,” you say lamely, and then she sniffles and you are standing there feeling very uncomfortable and very guilty. “Rose, John’s a fucking god –”
“Jack stabbed him in front of my eyes.”
“He’s immortal –”
“That doesn’t mean anything –”
Three minutes, fourteen seconds. You let her words drop and she stares at you, first frustrated, then resigned.
“Rose, we’ve got to trust them. The only thing we can do now is to trust.” The words slide off your tongue with a bitter taste and you don’t know if you truly believe them or not, but you do want to make her feel better, feel a little more satisfied with herself three minutes before the end.
“I guess you’re right,” she agrees reluctantly. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have doubted. I should have focused on the good part of it instead of the bad.”
You know what she means. “I’ll stay with you.”
Two minutes, thirty-nine seconds.
You think about holding her hand. You think about being kind to your sore knees and using the quest bed as a bed. You think about talking to the bunny, who has kept a respectful silence. You think about asking her about the Eldritch Gods, Mom and how John is like in real life. You think long and hard and you know Rose is thinking the same thing she’s just not saying anything because you still don’t know if it’s the right thing to say and you wish you have known her better
One minute and twenty-six seconds.
“Dave, I think the Bunny is trying to… uh…”
You look at the Bunny quizzically. She’s trying to push you towards Rose – has been trying for a while but for some reason you haven’t noticed. “What does she want?”
“I think,” Rose says in a somewhat strangled voice, “she’s trying to get us to hug.”
The Bunny nods vigorously as your jaw drops.
“That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
Y0u still hug her, though. You hug her anyway, and you bury your head on her shoulder as she does the same. You tell her the seconds as she shudders and exchanges some of her body warmth for yours, and she tallies your heartbeats as you feel yourself involuntarily tremble in her embrace. After Rose tells her that she is the Best Bunny, Liv Tyler tries to force the two of you even closer together, causing you to laugh and cry at the same time as you tell Rose that even though this incarnation of life has been in no way perfect, you’re happy you met her. You’re happy that you met John and Jade, you’re happy that you saved her and you’re happy that even though shit happened there are still memories that could make you smile as time ticks down to oblivion.
“Rose,” you hear yourself say as you break apart. “We can do this together.”
“On our own and together,” she says and wipes something from her eyes. “I’ll count down the final thirty seconds.”
Thirty, she says. Sound interference has started to pick up.
“I’m going to keep this legendary piece of shit since it actually saved someone.”
Twenty-five, she counts. You grip the sword tightly in your hands and smile at the Bunny. Rewind, you tell yourself, and reality dims from your eyes as you remember every single thing that has made you what you are now. The machine or whatever it is has started to heat up but you ignore it as you sink into yourself and start silently screaming names, from John and Rose to Bro, Lil Cal and Terezi.
Twenty, the voice falls. You steady yourself for impact; the two colored tubes have started to glow intensely and you can no longer see very well but you know you’ve done what you set out to do and will die a death worthy of a Knight of Time –
Fifteen, her words are almost drowned out by now by the noise but you try to see through the light to gaze at her, to remember her features and who she is as well as to make sure she can keep going –
Ten, you try your damn hardest to keep your head high and your hands firmly on the hilt of the sword. You remember how ten seconds can erase a lifetime, and you think, for the first time in days, that you are probably ready for death, maybe even the type one doesn’t wake up from.
Five, you know it although you can’t hear her anymore. You feel time and space fall into pieces without resistance around you but you hold your ground, knowing that Rose is doing the same and suddenly realizing that you’re proud of yourself, proud that you have gone through all this and proud that you have stayed with Rose in the end
As the flames of the Green Sun engulfed the small figures of Dave Strider and Rose Lalonde, time and light burst through the radius, overcoming death and sealing the souls. Although others would only comment on their new-found powers and immortality, they know what have made them stronger is that they have died together.