It wasn't unusual for them to meet up in their dreams. Lately, he found himself in the company of his ectosister even more often than he found himself alone upon waking on Derse. Not that he would ever object to it, even if he did make a few remarks about her 'creeping on me like some old perverted bastard who just found a little kid suckling some candy' or 'shit Lalonde don't you know a dude needs his space', and she in return would of course give some sharp-edged rebuttal, breaking down every word he said and 'damn watch those razors Rose you're gonna cut me with those verbal swords your wielding.'
But that was just how they worked, and Dave quietly appreciated the way she could bounce his bullshit conversations back and forth unlike everyone else who just dropped the paddle when it was their turn to take a swing.
Rose wasn't too bad at laying down some ill beats, either, so when his eyes opened to the familiar red of his tower, he would have smiled to see her sitting in his window, if that was a thing that Striders did.
Dave pushed back his covers and swung his legs over the edge of his bed, and Rose didn't even shift as he walked up behind her, still looking off into the distant space that surrounded Derse as he leaned against the wall next to the window and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Besides your overly generic 'cool kid' posture and greeting?” she asked, finally looking at him to give him a smirk. He stared back through his shades.
“Shut it, Lalonde. You don't know how hard it is being so ice cold over here. You should tell that damn king and queen to get their hero some more blankets before he gets frostbite from these dropping degrees.”
“And you're a bitch. Now really, what's up?” His voice didn't change, but he meant the last part seriously. He could tell something was bugging her from the way she was sitting and kept glancing away, and he knew that she knew he had asked it seriously. And whatever the answer was was apparently enough for them to drop their bullshit act.
He tried not to let that make him as nervous as it did.
“There is a topic I feel needs to be brought into the open,” she began, and now he really was nervous. Not so much because of her words, but because of how she said them. It wasn't like Rose to show hesitance with anything, and the small bit of it she was showing was more unnerving than anything she could actually straight-up say.
Dave shoved his hands into his pockets, keeping that budding anxiety tucked neatly away behind his blank face.
“Well, hold the door open for it then, Lalonde,” he said, shrugging slightly. “Show it some damn chivalry and bring it in like a perfect gentleman. Maybe tip your hat some to this big important topic and offer to hang its coat on the wrack.”
Okay, shut it Strider. You're rambling. But whatever he said had gotten a laugh out of Rose, and Dave raised an eyebrow, because she was usually the last to even chuckle at one of his ironic remarks.
“Disregarding your attempts to mollify the loss of my chivalry to the situation,” she said, turning now to fully face him. “It's actually you I want to talk about.”
Well shit. “What about me.”
Perfect deadpan. Insufferable Prick 1, Flight Broad 0.
“While I'm sure there are endless multitudes of ways for me to breech the surface of what I'm sure to be an uncomfortable topic, I believe I shall spare us both the torture of dragging out this break in the theoretical ice and summarize the point of this statement as simply as I feel I can.” She was pausing again. Damn it Lalonde, just spit it out. “I know.”
“Oh, well, glad we got that all cleared up,” Dave said. “I was a bit worried there for a second that you were gonna pull some cagey bullshit or something, but you were nice and thorough. No questions left wandering around in my head. Nope. I feel more informed than an old lady watching daytime television and Dr. Oz all day so she can tell her family all sorts of medical miracles when they finally visit her for an hour on the holidays.”
“I though you liked Dr. Oz?”
“Shut up and tell me what you know, sis.”
Rose was leaning against the frame of his window now, mirroring his gesture of having his arms crossed and keeping her eyes set right on his beneath his shades. Dave knew she was the only one who would know if he was looking away.
“I know,” she repeated, and went on before Dave could push for an actual explanation. “Dave, are you aware of the scribblings on your wall that have been conveniently hidden by your dresser for what I imagine has been the better part of the past 13 years?”
What the hell was she talking about? More puppet dick? Because that didn't really seem like some big revelation of anythi--
Dave nearly choked on the question that he had been about to voice. Flighty Broads evened out the score.
He managed to compose himself quickly enough, but he knew there was no way in hell Rose had missed his slip-up. Still, he kept up his show of apathy, perfectly as only a Strider could, ignoring the pinch of panic in his gut.
“What're you talking about.” He was stupid for denying she could have figured it out and he knew it (especially after seeing those damn pictures. His subconscious must be pretty fucked up, but he could stand all the other stuff he drew other than that little cluster that reminded him what was wrong with him. That got to him enough to decide on a change in the placement of his furniture), but knowing had never stopped him from trying.
But really, he should have just been kicking himself for underestimating her perception, even if a computer screen and cold hard text had kept him safe from too close of an analysis for so long.
Or, he thought he was safe.
“Are we really going to play a game of you feigning ignorance as to what I'm talking about,” she asked, only sounding a little amused. Hell no, this was serious shit and she knew it. She wasn't going to jerk him around with this, no matter how thrown off he had gotten from her calling him out.
“Fine,” he said, not meaning to snap but sounding angry nonetheless. “How the hell did you even find those. Were you digging around in my drawers or something? Should I be feeling violated?”
“While I'm sure you are indeed harboring feelings of emotional violation right now--” She smiled slightly. Dave kept his mouth in a thin line. “--I will not deny I did do a little snooping as you slept.”
“So not cool.”
“It was with innocent intent.”
“I should press charges for this invasion of privacy. I don't think I'll ever sleep right again. I'll be all hugging my pillow tight, afraid of your shadow in my closet. Using a nightlight from now on and everything.”
“You're the one who read my journals.”
Okay, he had to admit, this wasn't going nearly as bad as he figured it would or could have. She really wasn't treating him any different, and the fact that she was talking to him at all he guessed was great. He didn't think she would be some uptight, intolerant asshole, but sometimes you just never know.
Dave pushed himself away from the wall, resting his elbows instead on the sill of his window and letting himself lean over it. Below, he could see the darkened streets of Derse and a few of those weird little chess people going about their business. They literally looked like ants from where he was.
Dave sighed a bit, wetting his lips before speaking, keeping his eyes ahead as he did.
“Something tells me you've know this for awhile.”
“I had my suspicions, yes, but nothing concrete to actually dare to accuse you of such.” He could head the smirk in her voice as she added, “The excessive literal and symbolic representation of male genitalia in your dreams surely gave me a very good hint when regarding them, but it also could have been interpreted as your repressed homosexuality.”
“Just so we're clear, we're talking about my vag, right?”
“Yes David, we are talking about your vag.”
He felt a lot more calm than he probably should have, but it felt good to just say it. And if anyone would be able to talk with him about this, he should have figured it would end up being Rose.
“So what, are you going to psychoanalyze me now or something?” he asked, looking at her. The last thing he wanted was more people making what he had in his pants (and chest) their own business, or trying to come up with some reason as to why his mind was so 'messed up', trying to justify it, but he knew she must be just wetting herself with excitement about being able to pick apart another piece of his fucked-up conscious.
So it was to his honest surprise that Rose only shook her head.
“No,” she said, sitting up from her position. Dave half wanted to shove her out of the window just to see if he could catch her off guard. Maybe later when they weren't getting knee deep in emotional shit. “I actually see nothing to analyze at the moment, and I doubt you could provide much more insight than I already have obtained from the internet, and from picking apart myself.”
Dave frowned. “What's that supposed to mean?”
Rose only stared at him, one eyebrow quirked, urging him to fit in some piece of the puzzle in for himself. He could only stare back blankly until--
Fuck, the light bulb in his head just lit up, blew a fuse, and exploded all at once.
“Oh hell no,” he said, standing up straight and looking at her like he had never seen her before in his life. Rose just smiled, and Dave couldn't hold back a bark of a laugh that rose in him. “Holy fuck, you're not even kidding me right now.”
“Unfortunately, I am not,” she said, unfazed by his laughter. Dave guessed was pretty damn rude of him, but he couldn't help it. This was just so perfectly fucked up. “I face the same problem as you.”
“We're talking about your cock, right?”
“Yes David, we are talking about my cock.”
And then they were both laughing. Who the hell knew what was so funny, but they were both cracking up like the joke to end all jokes just got told and this was their one and only chance to get a kicked out of it.
Rose ended up leaning on him for support, or else she really was going to fall out that window, and Dave had to move his shades to wipe away a few tears leaking out of his eyes.
Laughing this hard was making his stomach hurt, but his chest felt so fucking good that he never wanted to stop. His heart and his head felt so damn lite that he was sure something like a sack of rocks had been weighing them down before, and by the time the two of them calmed down to just chuckles and giggles, they may as well have been high off their asses.
But Dave didn't even care how stupid he probably just looked, because Rose was wiping away a tear of her own and he had never seen her smile like that.
“Other than the apparent hilarity of our situation,” she said, sounding a bit breathless as a small laugh bubbled on her lips even as she spoke. “I did have a few questions I sincerely wanted to ask you.”
“First and foremost, how is your anatomy right now?”
He didn't even miss a beat. It was the same thing he wanted to ask her.
“The way it fucking should be.”
Rose nodded, then spoke again. “Fully functional?”
“If you're asking me if I can get a boner, then yeah.”
“It was merely something I was curious about,” she said, and Dave was extremely tempted to point out to her the faint blush covering her face at his words. “As you can see, I lack the unfortunate mishap in my body's structure that plagues me when awake.”
“Yeah, I see your tits, sis.”
She nudged his arm roughly, and Dave couldn't help but smirk, because the blush wasn't subtle anymore.
“I also wondered, have you taken hormone therapy?”
“Yeah, Bro really worked his ass off to make sure I got it for when I started puberty. That damn puppet porn at least brought in some extra cash. You?”
“Of course,” Rose said. “My mother would have nothing but the absolute most she could provide me with to help me embrace my gender in defiance with my biological sex.”
“Passive-aggressively, of course.”
Dave laughed under his breath. Rose had always been so full of shit about that feud with her mother, but he'd learned by now that it did no good to try and call her out on it.
“You told anyone?” he asked, delving into his curiosity. It was so weird talking to someone about it and having them actually, fully know where he was coming from. Sure, there were a few nice counselors or teachers who gave him the 'it's okay. I understand' speech, but he knew they didn't. How could they? At least Bro had spared him that sappy bull that both of them knew neither wanted to hear, and even though he was the best brother ever and was as supportive as he could be, Dave still grew up feeling like he was in his own little world, suffering in a body not meant for him. He knew other people were like him, sure, but never met someone. But now here he was, talking to his sister of all people, and she could actually understand what he was going through.
He wondered if maybe John had fucked up the ectobiology thing and stuck him and Rose in the wrong bodies. He'd have to punch him for that later.
“I haven't shared this information with anyone,” she answered, and Dave saw her frown and sigh. “No one knows—knew--except for those who found out of their own accord.” She looked at him. “Things...change when people find out. Even if they say they are tolerant and understanding, they still change.” She rested her head in her hand. “I don't believe they even mean to do it, but in every case to date, should someone have uncovered the misfortune of my male anatomy, they no longer treat me as a girl, but as a boy who wishes to act feminine.”
Now that...that was the saddest thing he ever heard get said, and Dave had to swallow the lump that formed in his throat. Because he knew what she meant. He fucking knew it, because he had to deal with so many people treating him like a 'tomboy', just some little girl who wanted to act boyish, and it always broke his heart and made him seethe, because they just didn't get it.
And he could see it in her eyes right then. It had broken her heart, too.
Dave put his hands back in his pockets, turning again to stare out of the window. It was just a mess of purple and black out there, but he liked it.
“Doesn't feel right, does it.” He wasn't sure if he was asking Rose or himself, or if he was even asking a question, but the words still came. “The hormones, I mean. Sure they can make my tits shrink and maybe give you a couple bumps of your own, but at the end of the day a dick is a dick and a vag is a vag, and we're still hiding 'em under a bunch of clothes.”
“Are you suggesting we are any less of our genders because we are lacking in those physical traits?”
Dave sneered. “Fuck no. God gave me a pussy to tone down my manliness and probably gave you a cock because you were so damn girly you started shitting rainbows.” He could almost hear Rose roll her eyes, but when he kept talking, his voice wasn't as brash as before. “But this...” He placed his hands on his chest. “This...feels nice. You know? Like it's right.”
“Yes, I know,” Rose agreed, and her tone was softer than before. For awhile they both just stayed as they were, silent while a few little sounds drifted up to them from the streets below. When Rose spoke again, it was still in that quiet voice.
“Have you ever...considered it?”
“Letting this become your permanent body.”
“Of course I have,” Dave said, leaning against the wall again. “Tried it a few times, too.”
Rose's head turned quickly to face him, eyes widened with surprise. “You have?”
Dave shrugged. “The time line always ended up doomed, so I had to go back and stop it from happening. I've tried it at different times, in different ways, but the universe keeps giving me a nice big middle finger and a pile of dead Daves.” He didn't actually let himself think about those dead Daves, though. Really the whole thing was pretty damn morbid. “So I guess I'm going to need both of my bodies for something. Just gotta hope this is the one that gets left over.”
He jabbed a finger at her. “And don't you go offing yourself, either. I swear I've been spending hours trying to think of a way to get myself into this body, and fuck me if I can't figure it out for you, too. So just calm your tits and no hanging yourself.”
Rose smiled and turned her eyes back to the sky, and Dave swore to himself that any time line where they didn't get to end up in the right body was automatically doomed as far as he was concerned. He'd fix it a million times and end up dead a million times. He didn't care. There had to be a way for it to work. These bodies had their only chance at living like they were supposed to, and he refused to let that slip by.
They'd get their chance. He knew they would.
Wrapped up in his own head, it took him a few moments to realize Rose had started talking again.
“...I believe this only serves to confirm my theory that our dreamselves do indeed reflect our pure subconscious. 'Soul', if you will. It also provides some comfort for me seeing it's not us who are incorrect, but it truly is our bodies that were wrong.”
“One less thing to be stuck in the nuthouse about,” Dave said, trying not to let it show that Rose's words had really struck him. He had been thinking the same thing ever since he first woke up and nearly cried being in a body that finally felt right, but it seemed like too much to hope for that it really did mean that none of this was a fault in his head. He didn't have a disorder. He wasn't insane. He was just a boy who got stuck in the wrong kind of body.
It wasn't his mistake, and that meant the world to him.
“Society would beg to differ,” Rose said, a cold tone of bitter amusement covering her voice. Dave gave his own resentful grin, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“Yeah, well, what do they know.”
And that would have gone right down in history as the best sibling moment that ever happened, if Dave hadn't seen his opportunity to finally give Rose a good shove off the edge of his window.
Dave laughed when she screamed, and even though he knew she was going to fly right back around and deck him square in the face for that, right now he couldn't be anything but happy. He was a brother, messing with his sister.
And really, what did they know.