For a little more than three months, the more knowledgeable passengers of the Prospitan battleship (in league with most of the passengers of the meteor) had successfully tiptoed around the elephant in the room—or should they say, the dead fairy in the room—when it came to John. No one was exactly sure when they were planning to let John know, but when Jade accidentally let it slip, he didn’t take the news as badly as they had feared.
He took it much worse, in fact.
In the end, John fainted. Jade hovered around his unmoving form in hysterics, hating to be the bearer of bad news once again, while Davesprite watched her quietly.
“Oh my god, no no NO! John wasn’t supposed to find out like this!” she squeaked between sobs. ”He’s going to be so pissed at me when he wakes up.”
“Jade, let’s be serious here. We both know that John’s not the kind of guy to hold a grudge,” Davesprite offered. Jade’s frantic scurrying around was starting to make him dizzy, so he took to watching John instead. ”And you’ve had an altogether clean slate with John since now, so—”
“I know!” Jade cut in, sniffling loudly, “But we…we hid it from him for so long, dodged all of his questions…and now he’s p-passed out, and…and…” Another slew of tears formed and fell. ”Dave what are we going to do?”
“Okay, here’s the plan.” Davesprite’s hand was on Jade’s shoulder before she could start pacing again. In a bright orange flash, a handkerchief appeared in his free hand. It was immediately offered to Jade, who accepted it and hastily mopped her face. ”First, you’re going to go somewhere quiet and calm down. I’m going to stay here until John wakes up. And when he does wake up, we’ll be there for him. Like we always have.”
“Well, okay Dave,” Jade answered softly, still dabbing at her eyes. ”B-but are you sure he won’t—?”
“He just needs some time,” Dave affirmed. Sprawled on the ground, John was breathing slowly and evenly. ”We owe him at least three months’ worth, but I don’t think it’ll take that long.”
Meanwhile, John found himself groggily becoming aware of his surroundings. He thought he’d heard Davesprite and Jade’s voices, but clearly they weren’t here. Where is exactly was here, anyway? He got up and took a look around. It was too dark to see much of anything. The area to his right seemed to be getting brighter, so he figured he would go that way.
As John walked, more of the background’s initial “fuzziness” faded away: cookie cutter houses with perfect green yards began to line his path. It looked just like a street from his old neighborhood. He would have sworn he’d made it back there somehow, if he hadn’t noticed that big majestic castle on the horizon. John couldn’t help but stare at it, both the familiarity of it and the strangeness of it being the backdrop to this suburban neighborhood. The moment he finished the thought, however, the streets began to change from tar-black to checkered black and white. The houses took on the checkered color scheme as well, losing all of their angles and looking more like slopes and hills.
John blinked in confusion. ”So…is this the battlefield…?” he said to no one in particular.
“Yes. The battlefield with which you are familiar, anyway,” came the unexpected answer. John whirled around to face the owner of the voice and found himself standing at the foot of yet another grand castle. On the balcony leaned a figure—a girl, he gathered—in a bright orange outfit. The orange stood out against her neutral grey skin. She was smiling, showing off all of those pointy sharp teeth.
John put two and two together quickly. ”You’re one of the trolls!” he said brightly.
“No kidding!” the girl retorted.
“So, which one are you?”
Her smile softened into a smirk, her prominent fangs still poking out. ”John. You know which troll I am.”
“I do? Well I…” John only had to think for a moment before the realization hit him like a sledgehammer. ”V-Vriska?!” he sputtered.
In an instant, John’s heart was beating at a breakneck pace. He swallowed hard, suddenly at a loss for words. This couldn’t possibly be who she said she was, not after what Jade…oh no. Now he was recalling his little fainting spell, and what had caused it. A new wave of emotions ran over him.
“They told me you were dead!” he shouted at her. He waited anxiously for her answer. Waited for her to tell him they were full of shit, that she would obviously be with the others and join him in the new session, that this was the result of some cruel prank.
Vriska frowned a little. ”Did they? Well it’s about damn time! If they’re only getting around to telling you now, then I have no idea what the hell they were waiting f—”
“So it’s true?”
The air of desperation in John’s voice threw Vriska off. She peered at him more closely. He looked so pained, so helpless. She no longer had the resolve to answer him. After a short but heavy silence, John lowered his head and stared at the ground.
Vriska’s face fell as the guilt sensation spread from her chest through her whole body. She hopped up onto the ledge of the balcony, then lowered herself gently down until she was floating right in front of John, her wings beating the air to keep her about a foot off the ground. Cautiously, she reached a hand out to put on John’s shoulder. He clasped her hand and squeezed it before she could touch him.
“Why didn’t you stay?” John asked shakily, still staring at the ground. ”Why didn’t you wait for just a little while longer?”
“John—” Vriska began, still a little thrown off by how surprisingly strong his grip on her hand was.
“I wish you’d given this more thought. I mean, look where this has gotten you, Vriska! Just LOOK!” John looked up at her now and let out a small gasp as he finally noticed her ghostly white eyes.
“John, I—” Vriska could hardly keep eye contact with him. Not when he was clearly so upset with her. Not when she could see him getting more and more misty-eyed even through all of that anger.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way! What about our plans for after the game? I would have gladly waited three years to meet with you in person than to stumble upon you after three months when you’re a…a…” John faltered, and Vriska took the opportunity to get her words in edgewise.
“John, I’m sorry!” she said quickly. She would have said more, she wanted to say more, but the lump in her throat was growing too big to speak coherently.
John dropped her hand and simply stared at her, the anger and sadness melting from his face for a few seconds. Vriska stared back, unsure of how to react in this moment. Suddenly, she felt a gust of wind hit her directly in the face. She instinctively put an arm in front of her to shield her eyes. In her moments of blindness, she felt the wind shift and move in a more cyclical direction. At the same time, she was caught up in John’s arms.
Vriska stopped flapping her wings; she didn’t need to anymore, since John was now carrying the both of them in their midair stasis. She found herself surprised once again by John’s strength. His embrace was gentle, but she could tell that he could easily crush her if he really wanted. It seemed she’d been right about John becoming more powerful than her with time. Smiling a bit, she returned the hug.
The two of them stayed that way for a long time—or perhaps it only felt that way to them, neither could say for sure. Vriska pulled away first, lowering herself until both her feet touched the ground.
“I know that this is a shitty way to meet me, but at least you got to meet me, right?” Vriska said with a shrug.
“Yeah, about that…” John touched down too, landing right in front of Vriska. ”Why is it that I’m only meeting you in here now? Jade and I were actually starting to think that we couldn’t visit the dreambubbles anymore.”
“Your guess is as good as mine. I still have no idea how these fucking bubbles work. Most days I just hope to not get strung along unwittingly in someone else’s memories.”
“I see.” John absently rubbed the back of his neck, feeling a little awkward. ”Well…what would you like to do now?”
“How about you tell me what you’ve been up to lately?”
“There’s not much to tell, but sure!” John gave a content smile.
“I think you’d be surprised at how much you have to tell!” Vriska laughed, and then took to the skies again, headed for the castle balcony. ”Follow me!” she called over her shoulder. John nodded and flew after her.
Vriska sat on the balcony’s railing while John leaned over the side and recounted to her all of his adventures since the last time they talked, starting with just before the Scratch. For the most part, Vriska stayed silent and listened, giving a little commentary here and there. She was especially excited to hear about the newly alchemized hammer (“I knew you would find the perfect use for my dice!”), the other kids’ ascension (“You are still the original, and therefore the best.”), and their three-year journey (“Three years with Karkat sounds like a very special kind of hell.”). As he finished speaking, Vriska smiled like a proud mother. ”You’re doing so many great things. I would expect nothing less of someone of your caliber.”
John chuckled bashfully. ”I would’ve never gotten this far without you, Vriska.”
Vriska nodded a little sadly. ”That’s true, but it’s clear you don’t need me anymore!”
“Do you really believe that?”
Vriska whipped her head around so fast that most of her hair landed in her face. She righted herself and looked at him with shock. For a second she thought he was joking, but now that she saw his face, she was certain that he was dead serious. She couldn’t even formulate a proper answer.
“So you can’t give me much more advice for the rest of this adventure, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need you…” John looked away from her and out into the distance.
Vriska watched him for a moment. She struggled internally with how to comfort him. One idea lingered at the edge of her thoughts, but she was afraid of how he would react. Then again, she was never one to trash an idea simply because it had a high chance of failure. With that last bit of resolve, she stepped behind him, wrapped her arms around his waist, and rested her chin against his shoulder.
As she feared, John froze up. ”V-Vriska!” he stammered.
“You said you needed me,” Vriska spoke in her softest voice, “So I’m here for you.” She felt him relax and breathed an inner sigh of relief. ”I’m afraid this is the best I can do now.”
“Vriska. Let me go, please.” John’s voice was calm and even.
Vriska hesitated, but obliged him. He turned around to face her, looking even more nervous than Vriska probably felt a few moments ago. She was about to ask him what was the matter when he closed the distance between them and their lips met.
A million thoughts ran through Vriska’s head all at once. She thought about how John was just full of surprises today. She thought about how a past version of herself never would have believed this was happening now, even if the cue ball itself had predicted it. She thought about how right this felt, and how she wanted this moment to last forever.
And then John was gone, disappearing just as quickly as he had kissed Vriska.
John’s eyes flew open. He sat up and blinked in confusion, trying to gather where he was again. Someone tackle-hugged him from the right side. Vriska? No, it was Jade. She was crying into the crook of his neck. He rubbed her back absently. Hovering in front of them was Davesprite, sporting his classic stoic look.
“You were passed out for so long! I was starting to get worried!” Even with the tears, Jade was much more composed than she was earlier. ”John, listen, I’m really really sorry.”
“I saw her.”
Those three words made both Jade and Davesprite pause. The two of them exchanged a look.
“Guys, I saw her. Just now, I saw Vriska.”
“You did?” Jade asked incredulously. Her eyes were as wide as saucers. ”I-I didn’t know we could still do that.”
“So what happened?” Davesprite asked.
John brought his knees to his chest and rested his head on them. ”Well…” He thought of a good way to summarize the meeting, and found himself smiling his goofiest smile. ”She helped me out. Like she always does.”