Let the yoke fall from our shoulders
Don't carry it all, don't carry it all
We are all our hands and holders
Beneath this bold and brilliant sun
And this I swear to all
The first time you meet John Egbert doesn’t go exactly how you’d imagined it would. He doesn’t run up to you and hug you, smothering you in all kinds of human emotion. He doesn’t cry and declare his undying <3/<3< feelings for you in front of everyone, straight out of some shitty movie that, in a different situation, the two of you would probably enjoy watching together. He doesn’t fist bump you, he doesn’t – God forbid – hit you with another bucket. He doesn’t act cool and suave and know exactly what to do, ready to get down to business.
He hugs Rose, then Dave, and just maybe there are tears in his eyes, but they’re tears for his human friends who he finally gets to meet, not for you. The he approaches you, and you… shake hands.
You shake hands like two Friendleaders meeting for the first time, ready to save the world.
You shake hands like two scared kids at the end of the universe.
John himself was a bit different than how you’d imagined him, too. Human puberty hadn’t been as good to him as it had to Dave (which was saying something); his voice was nasal and broke frequently and reminded you a bit of troll Jay Baruchel, and the beginnings of a beard looked scruffy and added to the overall patheticness of the awkward situation that was John Egbert. He hadn’t blossomed into a studly piece of mangrit (not that you had ever thought about such things), and maybe you liked him better for it, because at least this way it was a little less of the “great manly human saviour come to rescue the poor stupid trolls” that wouldn’t stop playing through your head.
Overall you could begrudgingly admit that meeting him was decent, and everyone else seemed pretty happy about it, which was a welcome change from the space rock of depression the place had been so far.
But then he’d asked where Vriska was, and everyone looked to you to answer him, and you had no choice but to tell him the truth. And it made something in him break, which hurt you more than you wanted it to. It was getting late by that point – or at least it felt late, time was tricky here unless you were Aradia or Dave – and Rose had tried to get him to bed, but he’d elected to be alone. You could see she was as disconcerted as you were to see him like this. The final reuniting of John and Jade with the rest of your pathetic little interspecies alliance was supposed to be happy and fantastic and maybe now you could really start trying to win this thing. John wasn’t supposed to get depressed over the death of a spider8itch that happened three years ago.
Well, that was harsh. It took a while to admit but sometimes you missed Vriska too. And John had actually genuinely liked her, and he’d spent years waiting to see her and now never would except perhaps as a fleeting dream.
Just like Eridan, and Feferi, and the rest of them. Dreams…
You’d thought that today of all days you’d be able to sleep, your worries finally able to subside just a little bit now that everyone who was still alive (at least part of them) was together, but these events proved it to not be the case. Memories of Vriska were coming back, and with those came thoughts of everyone else who didn’t make it this far. Because you fucked up. Because everything fucked up. These dark thoughts were supposed to be done now that John and Jade were there but instead everything was just getting worse. Eventually you couldn’t take it, and for the first time in too long, you made your way up to the ledge where, so long ago, you first learned that Dave Stride maybe wasn’t actually the most irritating person in the universe.
“Hey.” You don’t even have it in you to say more than that. It’s the saddest, weariest thing you’ve ever said. John doesn’t respond at first, but then he sighs heavily and turns to face you. Human tears are clear, but you can still see their stains under his eyes.
That’s really sad. Damn it, everything’s like that, it’s supposed to be getting better but with every passing moment it just keeps getting sadder. But you’ve been through a lot. You’ve all been through so much; Vriska’s death was just a trigger for everything that had kept John together to fall.
It’s not that you’re not thinking. If anything, you’ve been thinking too much. It’s just that you’re done. You’re done trying to be the leader, you’re done trying to have all the answers, and you’re definitely done with the internalized shitty feelings that happen no matter what. And, as you lean forwards and kiss John on the mouth, you’re done with lying to yourself. Those three years were absolutely terrible waiting for him, weren’t they; you’d wanted him to be there so badly. Maybe he’s a stupid human fuckup but you’re a stupid troll fuckup so really you might as well be together, feeding off of each other’s stupidity and ability to fuck things up (and appreciation of bad movies, and the way his clothing smells really nice, and…)
You kiss him and John Egbert, who is not a homosexual, who did not hate you, whose stupid not-beard feels weird against your face, kisses you back. You hadn’t entirely expected that, but you weren’t too surprised by it either. It’s an awkward kiss, a teenager kiss, a first kiss. He kisses you back and holds your shoulders and for one fleeting moment everything is okay and you can deal with all the death and pain and destruction and how bad you messed everything up. For a moment a great weight is lifted from your shoulders, and for the first time in three years you can breathe.
Except you can’t, because in beautiful irony that Dave would give you props for (except he wouldn’t really would he, he’d just think you were being stupid), the Heir of Breath is kind of preventing your mouth from doing much that isn’t kissing.
Then he breaks away and stares at you, his ridiculously blue eyes facing yours, where the bright red pigment is making its mark around your pupils. Then he smiles at you, shyly, and you return it.
He pulls you into his arms and just holds you, and it’s a lot like hugging Terezi except taller – they’re both all bones and angles and awkward but still really nice.
“Do you think it’s possible that anyone else in the world is doing this very same thing at this very same moment?” he asks with a smile. And you know you’re supposed to reply with “I hope so. Otherwise, what the hell are we trying to save?” – you’re familiar with the romancing ways of Troll Ben Affleck – but you just can’t.
“No,” you say, “because they’re all dead. Everyone, John, they’re gone and it’s all my fault.”
“Shh, Karkat, no,” he murmurs, kissing the top of your head, your temples, other comforting places. “It’s not your fault.”
“But it is,” you say, disgusted at how pathetic your voice sounds, all sobs and squeaks. “I set off the virus, I doomed the lusii, I got them killed. Sollux, everyone… I tried to save them but I failed. Because I’m stupid and awful and can’t control my fucking temper. It’s my fault you’ll never meet Vriska.”
“No, no, Karkat. You didn’t mean to, you didn’t know what would happen. It isn’t your fault. You’ve kept these guys safe. And they all respect you as their leader, including me.” You’re sobbing into his shoulder now, quiet hiccoughs escaping your mouth as reddish tears darken his shirt. It’s kind of gross and romantic and utterly depressing. This was finally it, three years of fears and sorrow and just wanting to talk to John Egbert finally coming out, and it’s not big or angry, but quiet, and sad. Not with a bang, but a whimper. But then John kisses your forehead, and he’s crying again too, isn’t he, and at least you have each other.
And sitting together under the brilliant green of the sun, human heart and alien anatomy beating as one, maybe having each other is good enough.