Chapter 1: Thursday November 13, 2008 - Houston
Your name is Dave Strider, and it’s been like this every night that you can remember. Five minutes to 9 PM, Bro goes up to the roof by himself. He’s never taken the time to explain it to you, and to be honest, you kind of don’t want to know. Bro’s always been a bit of a paradox: overt about his occupation, his hobbies, and his sense of humor, but completely closed off about…well, pretty much everything else. Ironic, really, but given what he’s comfortable with being honest about, you don’t want to venture any guesses about what kinds of things he doesn’t want you to know about.
He always looks very serious as he climbs the stairs to the roof, never making any eye contact, nervously fiddling a gloved hand in his pocket, as if looking for something. He’s back within two hours – sometimes more, sometimes less – then goes to bed. Even though he always keeps his shades on around you, you’ve learned enough to conclude this: he always looks more content after nightly rooftop rendezvous. One day, maybe after a good strife, you’ll ask him about it. Or maybe you’ll try to listen in again – looks like it’s just about that time.
Sure enough, he walks past your room to the stairs, fiddling again in his left pocket, looking very serious. There’s no way he can’t feel that you’re looking at him, you think to yourself, but he doesn’t even take a moment to glance back. Man, this is something serious – he’s got Cal with him this time. You catch a look into his blue, glassy, unmoving eyes, and you close your door with enough force to qualify it as “slamming” your door. Puppets are fucking creepy, okay?
You just hope this doesn’t prompt a midnight strife with Cal acting as your personal tormenter. Well, these...sessions...only take about 90 minutes or so, so you decide to stay up and wait it out. To prepare.
“Evenin’,” you say into the receiver. This is one of the only times you allow yourself to be a little more pleasant than you are normally; you don’t want your little bro growing up expecting too much kindness, so you tone it down for his sake. He’ll appreciate it when he’s older…or at least that’s what you tell yourself.
A feminine, slightly slurred voice excitedly replies, “Evenin’ Strider,” and you can’t help but smile just the slightest bit to yourself. “What’s going on?”
“Wondering what to do for the little guy’s birthday this year,” you reply.
“I think you should be asking what to do for their birthdays this year,” she replies pointedly. You can tell she hasn’t been drinking nearly as much as she usually is around this hour. “She’s starting to ask questions, y’know. Smart girl.”
“How’s she been doing in school?”
“The move to a private school helped a-lot. Public schools din’t know what ta’ do with ‘er.”
“That’s good to hear,” you reply, quite relieved. You had been getting concerned with what she had been telling you about the bullying, the boredom – things you remember from when you were 11, 12.
“Thank you f’offering to do that for her, Dirk.”
“It’s really the least I can do.” You realize that her calling you by your first name is an indication that the time for casual talk is over. “So,” you begin, “ya’ gonna ask about my little bro like you usually do now?” You’ve got a bit of a chuckle to your voice, and maybe a little bit of your twang came out, but you’re really not sure how you’re going to handle this talk.
“The pictures y’sent are wonderful,” she muses. “I keep one in my purse. He really favors ya, Dirk.”
“He reminds me of you.”
“Which is…why I’m calling, really,” she replies. Her playful tone is gone; her voice has dropped to a more serious timbre. “Has anyone – has he – asked any questions?”
“Little man knows better than to ask questions in my house,” you reply with a bit of bravado.
“I’m serious! The kid’s gotta be wondering at this point.” You clutch at Cal a little more out of instinct. You know where this is going.
“You’re right,” you sigh. “Guessing you’re trying to figure out how to handle this?”
“Rosie’s been askin’ a lot. Seems she’s got a friend named John she talks t’a lot online who mentions his dad lots. She asked me a few days ago if she’s got a father.”
“Well, she’s smart enough to know—”
She cuts you off. “Don’t give me that snark right now. Please.”
“I’m sorry, Rox.” You can tell from her tone that she’s genuinely hurt.
“I don’t know how much longer I can keep dodging the question, pretending I’m more tipsy than I actually am, or cleaning the house. What am I s’posed to say to her? She’s only going to believe the ‘I found you near a meteor’ excuse for so long.”
“It’s an upgrade from the stork myth. I’ll give it that much.”
The reply you get is direct and resolved. “She wants to meet you. To know you.”
You can feel your voice dying in your throat. You pride yourself on witty banter, but you’re out of ideas and completely disarmed. “Roxy, I—“
“And I want to meet Dave. I know this is what we agreed on, raising them separate, but a girl should know her father, and a boy needs his mother. You can fool everyone else, Dirk, but I know you care.”
“Of course I care. I wouldn’t be sending gifts or helping you take care of her if I didn’t.”
“Stop with your superficially satisfying answers. You know what I meant. You don’t ever wonder what she’s like? You never take a minute to think of what it would be like to talk to her? She’s a lot like you, Dirk.”
You can’t feign passivity anymore. You manage to ask in a voice weaker than your usual confident baritone, “Like what?”
“She’s just…ridiculously smart.”
“Don’t sell yourself short there, Lalonde-“
“Not jus’ that, she talks like you. She’s well-read, articulate, fascinated with psychology—“
“She’d have a field day with me if she found out what I did for a living.”
“And I’m sure Dave would get a kick out of finding out what I’m like, given how you are.”
“Let’s redirect this,” you manage. “What exactly should we do?”
“We need to tell the kids the truth. If you’re willing to take Rose for a week, I’d love to spend a week with Dave. I just hope—“ Her voice sounds strange, as if she’s trying to stop herself from…crying. You wish you could be there with her like the old days.
“I just hope he doesn’t hate me, you know? What kind of mother just lets her son go?” You can tell at this point that she’s definitely crying.
“Roxy, don’t talk like that,” you coo, trying to soothe her with your voice in lieu of being there with her to wrap an arm around her shoulders. “You’re a good mom – a damn good mom. If anything, he’s got me to blame.”
“Well, you being…who you are isn’t really your fault.”
“Yeah, but I could have just sucked it up, married you, and done right by you—“
She chuckles, a bit more sardonically than you anticipated. “God, y’really are southern. ‘Done right by me.’ I couldn’t have done that to you, Dirk.”
“And I appreciate it every day,” you reply, “but my point still stands. You didn’t split up this woulda-coulda-been-family, least not all on your own.”
You can almost hear a smile returning in her voice. “You always were mature for your age.”
“That reminds me: still on the prowl, cougar?”
She laughs. “I’ve got enough on my hands with Rose. Haven’t been any dates since you were around.”
“You’re kidding,” you reply, almost shocked. You’re sure she’s joking, though.
“Hasn’t been a single one.” Wow. She is not pulling your leg. You almost feel guilty, but to be honest, you think any man would fall short of what she deserved. Or at least, you’d subconsciously try to scare him off by critiquing him during your nightly phone calls.
“Been my experience that most young guys would be scared off by someone like you. Woman with her head on straight, career all set up, beautiful…”
“…and the ones who aren’t scared off, well…they don’t have their heads on ‘straight,’ either…” her voice trails off. There’s a thoughtful, pregnant pause.
“…I really did love you, Roxy.”
“I loved you too. Still do. I don’t think there’s really anybody else I could feel so comfortable with, even now.”
“If I could change things, I’d—”
“Shhh. Don’t worry about changing anything. You are who you are, and you were so young then. Let’s just worry about what to do.”
“…You’re right. We need to do right by them.”
“Tell him tonight,” she says. “For me?”
“For you? Anything. I still make sure the house has apple juice just because of you.”
“Hopefully he’s not mixin’ it with anything.”
“One big difference between my house and yours, Lalonde: the Strider Residence is 100% dry. Only things he’s mixing that AJ with are ice cubes and piss. Though to be honest…I think I could use a drink for this.”
“I’ll mix up a martini for ya.”
You laugh, but you swear you can hear her sipping something in the background. “I’m not good with heart-to-hearts, Rox. Never have been, never will.”
“You always did prefer robots to people.”
“Much easier to anticipate reactions with automata. Mostly because I would have programmed their responses.”
“You’re doin’ jus’ fine talkin’a me,” she slurs a little more. (She wasn’t kidding about that extra martini.) “Jus’ tell ‘im what yer tellin’ me. Pretend it’s me, especially since he favors me so much…should be easy.”
“Well, with the C-man by my side, I guess I won’t have too much to worry about.”
“Oh my God,” she sounds disgusted. “You still have that puppet?”
“Of course. He’s my best friend.”
“I bet Dave has nightmares about it. That thing is horrifying.”
“Cal’s not horrifying.”
“That’s it. Dave’s coming over here at least for a week. Go over and talk to him.”
“Alright, Lalonde. Cal’s coming with me, though.”
She sighs. “Fine, but don’t try to freak him out with it to make it easier to talk to him.”
“I’d never do tha-”
“Yes you would,” she snaps back quicky. Even when she’s trashed, she’s able to call you out.
“Okay,” you relent. “I would, but I’ll keep it amicable for you.”
“Thank you. I’m going to go talk to Rose. Message me when you’re done? I’d rather not have her possibly overhear after this talk, you know.”
“Sure. Handle’s still the same?”
“Been a long time since we’ve chatted online.”
“It’ll be a nostalgia trip,” she giggles.
“If nothing else,” you manage a bit of a laugh in your voice. “Promise me you’ll talk to her without the drink in your hand?”
“Fair enough, Strider. Good luck.”
“Thanks. You too.”
You end your phone call, place your cell phone back in your pocket, and walk downstairs, taking a deep breath just before you get to Dave’s door. Usually, you’d just barge on in – it’s your house, after all – but this time, you decide to knock.
“Dave? Are you up?” You realize you sound much more...parental than usual.
“Yeah?” he answers, his voice muffled from the door.
“Can I come in?”
You know he’s got to be scared. “I wanna talk to you.”
“Sure, door’s unlocked…”
“Thanks,” you say as you walk in. He’s sitting at his laptop, not really paying attention to anything on the screen. He’s still got on his sunglasses and regular clothes – you guess he assumed you’d be strifing tonight. “Dave, we’re not fighting tonight,” you say as you sit on the edge of his bed. “This is important.”
He swings around in his chair to face you. “Sup?” His mouth isn’t giving anything away, but his tone of voice tells you everything: he is terrified of how out of the ordinary this conversation is going, and it hasn’t even started.
You decide to start with a picture, since it says a thousand words, and the number of words you have prepared is about...ten, at best. You take out your wallet and carefully card through until you find a slightly yellowed picture from about 13, 14 years ago. You delicately hand it to your little bro. “Take a look at this.”
“Holy shit,” he chuckles. “Is that skinny guy you?”
“Yeah. I was 16.”
“Goddamn, bro,” he says, still laughing. “Was anyone feeding you?”
“I’ll have you know that’s all muscle under that shirt.”
Dave’s eyebrows arch up in surprise as he scans the picture. “Who’s the babe with the blonde hair, long legs, and choice ass? She definitely doesn’t look your age in this.”
“You can’t even see her ass in that picture.” This was going to be much more difficult than first assumed.
“I can see a little of it even though she’s facing front. That’s all I need, man. She’s hot.”
You sigh. “That’s...your mother.”
Chapter 2: Thursday November 13, 2008 - Rainbow Falls
“M-mother?” you stammer, still half-asleep in your pile of yarn balls and journals. You wipe your eyes with your palms and look up to see her; you’re not sure if she’s swaying or if your line of vision still hasn’t resolved itself.
“Roooosie,” she slurs with a playful, upward inflection at the end. “Weee gotta talk.”
“It’s almost midnight, I have schoo-“
She cuts you off. “This is more important than school. Jus’-jus’ listen.” She puts down her martini glass at your desk and sits herself right on the edge of your bed, fiddling through her purse. It’s almost funny – she furrows her brow, trying to concentrate through her tipsiness as she rummages through paper after plastic card after photograph. You wonder if she can even remember what she’s actually looking for.
“I promised ‘im I would do this without a drink ‘n hand, s’I’m gonna try.”
“Who’s ‘he’?” You straighten up in bed, curious, but still wondering if she’s making things up.
“Okay.” Your mother takes a deep breath and exhales loudly, as if trying to calm down.
“You have my full attention,” you tell her, only a little sarcastic. You’ve gotten used to entertaining her when she’s trashed.
“So, y’know how yer alaways askin’ me about yer dad?”
You’re genuinely intrigued now. “Yes.”
“Well, I’m...I’m sorry I haven’t told ya anythin’ about ‘im.”
“So you do know who he is,” you reply. Sure, it was a bit disrespectful, but to be honest, you thought that maybe that was why she would dodge the subject.
“Course I know who he is,” she bites back. “Y’think I’m a town bike or somethin’?
“I assumed that was why you hadn’t told me for so long.”
Her face softens. “No, no...he thought – I thought – it would be better to raise you two separate.”
“Yer a twin, Rosie.”
You can feel your mouth fall practically agape. “Mother, if this is a jo-”
“No joke,” she says, looking intently at you with glossy, pinkish eyes. “You have a twin brother.”
You’re honestly flabbergasted. “W-what?”
“He lives with yer dad...we thought it’d be better ‘f I raised you, and he raised Dave.”
Your eyes narrow at the name. There’s a warm heat in your stomach, like you’re about to throw up, cry, and laugh all at the same time. “Dave?”
“Thaaaat’s his name, Rosie.” She says it in a voice entirely too melodic to seem sincere.
“I...don’t believe you.” There’s only one Dave you know. You talk to him online a lot, and even though he gets under your skin all the time, you can’t help but care about him. There’s a feeling of certainty roiling in your gut, but you want to remain unconvinced until you have proof to confirm your intuition.
“Didn’ think y’would,” she replies as she pulls out an old photograph. The sides are slightly yellowed, and you can tell from the color quality in the photo that it’s at least a decade old. “Here,” she says as she languidly passes the picture into your hands.
You can tell from the face that the woman in the picture is her; she has the same bright eyes, clutching a drink in one hand (although she doesn’t look drunk in the picture, you note), purple skirt with a white and pink top, other arm around a very young man. He’s thin, about as tall as your Mom in the picture (although she’s wearing heels), wearing black jeans which you note are kind of tight for a male to be wearing, and a white collared shirt. His hair is a shade of blonde similar to your mother’s and well styled. You can see in the picture that it looks like he’s dropped a pair of dark, triangular sunglasses – but he looks like he’s having a good time even without them on. His smile is genuine, and you can infer from the fact that your Mom has kept this for so long that his smile was also rare.
You take a good look at him. You’ve always known you were your mother’s daughter from your similar build; this man, on the other hand, is muscular but still on the thinner side. You skip over the body similarities and pay close attention to his face instead. The shape of his eyes, his eyebrows, and his jaw are practically a mirror image of yourself, enough so to jar you.
“He looks like he’s 17,” you remark.
“Actually, he’s 16 in that picture,” your mom responds.
“How old are you in this picture?”
“Mother,” you say flatly. “You’re telling me you...”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, cougar in trainin’, puma, whatever ya wanna call it. That’s your dad.”
Your mouth is drying up from how overheated you feel. You want to cry, you want to throw something, you want to ask her a million questions, but they all choke up in your throat as your mom lays down in your bed, obviously overwhelmed by the situation and the alcohol, and cards her hand through your hair.
“Rose, I’m...m’sorry, sweetheart. I din’t know how t’bring it up.”
“So you just tell me now? That’s it?” You can’t hide the anger in your voice. Even inebriation can’t excuse your mother at this point.
“Do you want to meet him?”
Her question stops you cold.
“I,” she starts hesitantly, “arranged for you to go to Texas for a week, to meet ‘im. You two are so similar, it’s scary.”
“He’s in Texas,” you say cautiously. That same knot in your stomach is coming back.
“Yep...he said he wanted to move back home. He’s been there ever since.”
“His last name isn’t...Strider, by any chance, is it?”
She rolls over and looks you in the face, genuinely stunned. “Yeah. How’d you know?”
And there’s the confirmation you needed, but hoped you’d never get. “Mother,” you start cautiously, “I need a little time alone. Please?”
She gets up, carefully fixing your bed again, although she manages to brush off a few balls of yarn. She leans down and gives you a kiss on the forehead, and you can smell remnants of alcohol on her breath. She gives you a look, sweet as it is sad, and tells you, “I love you, Rosie. I only wanted what was best for you – for both of you. I understand if yer angry, if you don’t wanna talk, but-”
“Mother, please. Not now.”
“I’ll be up if you want to talk,” she says, as she shakily works her way out of the room, presumably back to her own. You think you hear a sniffle, but you’re not sure. You’ll talk to her later, but first, you need to get on Pesterchum.
You open up your laptop to see that someone’s already messaged you while your mother was having a discussion with you.
Chapter 3: Thursday November 13, 2008 - Pesterlog
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] –-
TG: yo lalonde
TG: we gotta talk
TG: like right now
TG: come on i know youre up
TG: bookshrew like you is probably nocturnal
TG: burning the midnight oil and shit
TG: ok seriously
TG: rose please tell me youre there
TG: answer in some eldtrich tongue i dont care
TG: but please just answer me
TT: Oh, good. You’re awake. I was worried I would wake you up.
TT: I need to talk to you too, Dave.
TG: oh fuck
TG: its true isnt it
TT: Did your bro just finish a “serious talk” with you, too?
TT: Mother just left from her attempt at a heart to heart. I assume you and your bro had similar.
TG: cant even call him bro anymore rose
TG: turns out hes my fucking dad
TG: almost 13 years of thinking he was my cool older bro
TG: i mean a lot older but still
TT: Did he show you a photograph?
TG: yeah he did
TG: about as yellow as a dentists teeth
TG: seriously why do those guys have the worst teeth ever
TG: youd think theyd be all about the personal mouth care
TT: Dave, please focus. What did the photograph look like?
TG: i cant even say my first reaction
TG: feel like fucking oedipus
TG: wanna gouge my eyes out
TG: can i borrow your needles
TT: No, if only because you need your eyes to answer my question.
TT: Now, what did the picture Bro showed you have in it?
TG: him and some lady
TT: “Some lady?”
TG: ok he says its my mom
TG: i knew the guy was him
TG: hes still fucking scrawny for a guy who can kick your ass
TT: In the photo, is the woman wearing a purple skirt and heels?
TG: yeah she is
TT: And the man – Bro, your father, whoever you wish to call him – dropped his glasses?
TG: holy shit
TG: guy looked so happy in the picture too
TT: It’s a sweet smile, actually. The way you talk about him, he never smiles.
TG: he doesnt
TG: so he wasnt pulling my leg about this
TT: It doesn’t look that way. It sounds like Bro and Mom have the same photograph.
TG: so were siblings then
TG: how the fuck does that even happen
TG: whens your birthday
TT: December 4. Yours?
TG: december 3
TT: It’s perfectly possible that Mom gave birth to you just before midnight, and me right after. We would still be twins, but have different birth dates.
TG: so youre my little sis
TG: guess you cant talk down to me anymore huh
TT: Women mature quicker than men, Dave. I will talk down to you as much as is appropriate.
TG: ok seriously
TG: bro-dad or whatever he is wants me to meet my mom
TG: your mom
TG: our mom whatever
TG: sat down and gave me this whole spiel
TG: story i thought only you were capable of
TT: So the interest in prose comes from him, then?
TG: just stop please
TG: im as freaked out as you are even if youre trying to pull off this cool shit
TT: But Dave, I thought being cool was your thing?
TG: come on rose stop it
TT: I’m sorry. You’re right, however; I’m a bit disturbed, too.
TT: I thought Mother was just drunk. It’s why I wanted to verify with you. What did he tell you?
TG: told me that neither of them thought they were ready to be parents
TG: i mean he was 17 when we were born you know
TT: And Mother was 22. Older, yes, but still not a good idea to have two children at that age.
TG: well she didnt wanna marry him for some reason
TT: He didn’t give you the reason?
TT: That’s odd.
TG: he said he already felt shitty enough having lied to me for so long
TG: he didnt want to add any more stuff to make me hate him
TT: Do you hate him, Dave?
TG: guy raised me and taught me everything i know
TG: cal aside hes the coolest dude ever
TG: even if there was some reason id hate him
TG: not like id ever say anything
TG: hed kick my ass
TT: Ok. Mom said he wants to meet me.
TG: and he wants me to meet my mom
TG: god thats weird to type out
TT: The thought of me being genetically related to the Strider family is a bit of a shock, I’ll admit.
TG: fuck im a lalonde
TG: holy fuck
TG: not even cherubim holy fuck
TG: im talking highest choir of angels downright sacrosanct of fornications over here
TT: What’s he like, Dave?
TT: Our dad, I mean.
TG: quiet for the most part
TG: likes to swordfight with so called unbreakable kanatas
TG: more like legendary pieces of shit
TG: critical of culture
TG: says the highest amount of irony comes from deep sincere understanding of the source
TT: He seems really intelligent.
TG: yeah so i dont get why he does what he does for a living
TT: Should I ask?
TG: seriously dont ask
TG: maybe when you get here
TT: I never said I’d accept the invitation, Dave.
TG: you should
TG: he never gets sentimental but tonight he did
TG: and i think hell only agree to let me go if you come over
TG: simple exchange kinda thing
TG: whats mom like
TT: Lighthearted, mostly. Although she likes to mock my interest in magic.
TG: you ever think maybe she actually likes wizards
TG: because you know shes related to you and stuff
TT: Maybe. She’s very good with technology, too.
TG: oh sweet
TG: ill lay down some sicknasty beats for her
TT: She’d enjoy that, I think. She likes music enough that she insisted I learn the violin.
TT: She works for a tech company, if you’re curious.
TG: yeah bro mentioned something about that
TT: It’s strange to know you’re my brother. I had a gut feeling she was talking about you when she said my twin’s name was Dave.
TG: yeah seriously
TG: when bro mentioned i had a sister i immediately thought of you
TG: can i just say something
TT: Dave, if it’s what I think you’re going to say, don’t.
TT: You didn’t know any better.
TG: ok so youre not gonna like psychoanalyze me about it
TG: so bro wants to do this trip thing in a few days
TG: as in we get on the plane Monday and come back home saturday night
TT: He’s aware that school’s still in session, right?
TG: you act like youre the only person in school rose
TG: yes he knows
TG: he says this is more important
TG: and to be honest hes right
TT: I agree. It seems very sudden, though.
TG: almost 13 years of waiting rose
TG: lets get some time perspective here
TT: When you put it that way, I understand. Is there anything I should know before leaving?
TG: bring shorts
TG: watch out for the traps
TG: maybe hell disarm them for you out of courtesy or some shit
TG: and whatever you do
TG: no not let cal near you
TT: Got it. As for you, I’d recommend you bring warm clothing, a scarf, and some gloves. Don’t be surprised if you see Mom inebriated.
TG: what she drinks
TT: Yes. Quite often.
TG: bro keeps this house dry so this should be funny
TT: Yes, Dave. “Funny.”
TG: maybe ill find out why she drinks
TT: Good luck with that.
TG: i guess youre staying in my room so i should clean up
TG: are you ok with all this
TT: The shock hasn’t worn off yet, but I think I’ll be okay. Thank you for coming to talk to me about it.
TG: no problem rose
TT: It still doesn’t feel right to call you that.
TG: i get it
TG: maybe i just need the extra kick in the ass to let me know its real
TT: I might need that, too. For now, though, would you relay to Bro that I accept his invitation?
TG: hes gonna wonder how i know you though
TT: Serendipity, I suppose. I really should get back to Mom, though.
TG: yeah do that
TG: tell her i said hi
TG: and that its gonna be cool meeting her
TG: see ya rose
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
Chapter 4: Thursday November 13, 2008 - Rainbow Falls
You close your laptop, hands shaking nervously. As you stand up to go to your mom’s room, you feel like your legs are made of jelly. The weight of this suddenly hits you: you’re a Strider. Still a Lalonde, yes, but a Strider, too. Dave is your brother – more than that, your twin. And Bro – the infamous Bro Strider – is your dad. You owe Mom an apology.
You manage to walk, inching along the hardwood floors of the house to your mother’s room, and find her there, mumbling with her eyes looking glued shut, buzzing her sibilants: “There’szz a yellow rooozeee in Texaszz, that I am goin’ t’see...”
She’s completely out of it. Still, you tiptoe close to her and say, ashamed of yourself, “Mom...I’m sorry that I doubted you. Dave said hi.”
You hear a snore, and decide to exit. “I’ll...talk to you in the morning.”
Chapter 5: Thursday November 13, 2008 - Houston
“Bro?” you call out from the doorway of your room, looking to see if he’s anywhere in sight.
“On the couch, Dave.” You notice he’s not calling you “little bro” or “little man” like he usually does. It feels foreign not to hear it, but at the same time, neither appellation really feels right anymore. You walk to the living room, and sure enough, there’s Bro. Dad. Dirk. Whatever he wants you call to him now.
He gestures next to him with his hand, wearing fingerless leather gloves. You take the invitation without any words.
The air around you is tense. You can see that you two are sitting considerably further away from each other than you normally do, and you’re not sure which is the case here: that you can’t look at him, or he can’t look at you. You gaze at your hands, lazily collapsed into your lap. Someone’s going to have to break this silence.
“Rose said she accepts your invitation.”
“Dave,” Bro replies, voice as strong and cold as steel, “not funny.”
“I’m not kidding.”
“How.” He won’t look at you.
“One of the girls I’ve talked to online for the last few years...when you said I had a sister, I thought of her for some reason, so I went and pestered her.”
You wait for some indication of a response. You notice that his neck moves, mere millimeters, in your direction, and you know he’s interested. Bro’s never been one for too much actual talking; he always lets his actions, notes, or raps say what he needs. Hearing his voice without some kind of flow or pattern is foreign, a nearly lost art in the Strider household. Instead, the smallest things speak volumes for the two of you.
You continue, gathering up the nerve to keep your face up, looking towards him. “Turns out, her Mom showed her the same picture you gave me. She was able to describe it to a near-Platonic ideal.”
“What’s her last name.” His voice gives no hint of a question.
He turns to you, giving a dark kind of chuckle under his breath, flashing you a smirk, albeit a sad one.
“How long have you two been talking again?”
“Since I turned 10. Since we turned 10, I guess.”
“What are the odds...”
“The odds are both bananas and through the roof, or at least it looks like it from here, because that’s what happened.”
His expression returns to the famous Strider poker face which, while not giving anything away, is a welcome change. It’s something familiar, finally. His playful tone sounds like music to your ears when he asks, “So, how’re you taking all this?”
“Feel like Luke Skywalker right here. Waiting for you to tell me to join the dark side and rule the galaxy or some shit.”
“Still in denial, then?”
You pause. “I mean...it doesn’t make any sense. Rose is a fucking uptight bookish broad, and her mom-”
“Our mom doesn’t sound like the kinda lady who’s keen on too much literature, you know? Plus, she’s is New York, so, literally hundreds of miles away. Makes you wonder how that even happened.”
“...Is she doing okay? Rose, I mean.”
“I mean, yeah,” you reply, suddenly feeling pressured to give as objective of a representation of your purple prose-writing, snarky twin sister. “She lives in a mansion.”
“Has she mentioned school at all?”
“I...remember her saying she had some bullies a few months ago who found her writing, but apparently her mom got her to a new school.” You hear him exhale, just slightly, seemingly relieved.
“Does Roxy still drink? Did Rose mention that?”
Roxy. So that’s her name. It’s a cute name for a woman, if you’re being honest with yourself; sounds like “foxy,” and shit you need to stop with this. Either way, you can hear in Bro’s voice that he’s concerned, and the word “still” makes you worry, too.
You fail. “Y-yeah,” you manage anemically, “she does. It doesn’t sound like it’s really bad, necessarily, but--”
“She fell off the wagon again.” He sighs, turning away from you to stand, walking across to you and placing his gloved hands on your shoulders.
“Dave, are you sure you want to go see her? I know she wants to meet you, but if she’s hiccupping and skipping words like a bad mix tape-”
“Rose hasn’t said it’s bad. Just...sometimes. She’s got a really dry sense of humor; I’m sure anything she’s said, she’s exaggerated. It’s just what she does.”
“If it gets bad, for any reason, I want you to know you can call me up, and I’ll come get you.”
“Striders don’t retreat,” you respond, mimicking the mantra he raised you with through all your strifes.
“Fine,” he relents. “You really want to meet her, don’t you.”
“Yeah,” you sigh. “I do.”
“Alright. Get to bed. You’re not going to school tomorrow, but you’re still gonna need your sleep.”
“’Kay,” you manage, walking back to the hallway where your room is. You see him lay back down on the couch, deflated, and decide to call out to him. You’re not sure if this is courage, temporary insanity, or sleepiness kicking in that’s prompting you to be so verbose and candid. “Bro?”
“I don’t hate you or...anything like that. Rose doesn’t either. She’s just, you know, shocked. I think she’s glad to know you really exist.”
He doesn’t say anything, but you notice him pause the skateboarding game he turned on just as you began to exit – a sign of acknowledging your sentiments.
Chapter 6: Friday November 14, 2008 - Pesterlog
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
-- timaeusTestified [TT] began pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] –-
TT: Roxy, how’d the talk go? Just keeping my word that I’d check up on you.
TT: Tell me you’re not passed out.
TG: yeah im here
TG: passed out for a lil but im here
TT: Tell me the truth: how much have you been drinking?
TT: Dave told me that Rose mentioned you do it "a lot." Have you fallen off the wagon again?
TG: cmon dirk snot like a bunch
TT: My daughter is in your care. In a few days, my son will be in your care. Don’t make me regret this.
TT: You have your reasons, I get that, but it doesn't sound like you've got this under control anymore.
TG: u act like ur the only person w/kids in this siutation
TG: idon drink in front of rose
TT: You don’t.
TG: no i mean
TG: shes seen me w/a glass in hand yea
TT: Why would she see you with a glass in hand if you’re not drinking in front of her?
TG: look i try to hide it
TG: dont think shed believe i drink for a good reason
TT: She’s heard stranger things, I’m sure.
TG: ‘oya honey if i dont drink i kinda sorta have these moments’
TT: ...moments wherein you temporarily forget everything and run the risk of going missing for hours, if not days at a time.
TT: No known cure as of 2008. Medications for symptoms often cause worse and more long-term effects than the episodes they were designed to prevent. Void Disorder. I remember.
TT: Rox, if she’s as smart as you say she is, why not tell her?
TG: shell think im makign it up
TG: so ill keep hidin it
TG: shes just a nosy lil lady
TT: Should I trust your judgment on this?
TT: Fine, but I'm worried about you. If there's even a slight chance that your drinking isn't only to alleviate symptoms, you will tell me, right?
TG: ya i promise
TT: I know for a while it got that way.
TG: pls dont bring itup ok
TT: Are you okay right now?
TG: for the most part
TG: p much went as well as epexcted
TT: It doesn’t sound like it went well.
TG: rosie thought i didnt kno who her dad was
TG: an that was y i nevertold her
TG: *never told
TT: I’m sorry.
TG: then she got mad
TG: imean i understand i rly do
TT: But it still hurts.
TG: howd it go w/dave
TT: He went right back to talking online. When he came back into the living room, the air was so thick I could cut it with a blade.
TG: did u whip out lilcal
TT: Get this: turns out he and Rose already know each other.
TT: Yeah. That was my internal reaction as well.
TG: so TAHTS how she knew ur last name
TG: when i said u were in tx she asked if it was strider by ne chance
TT: I think I need to have a talk with Dave about giving out personal information on the Internet.
TG: lol no comeon
TG: it worked out
TT: I’m just hoping there weren’t Virginia Andrews-esque cyberspace shenanigans between them before now.
TG: o shit
TG: that BOOK
TT: Yes, THAT book. Dave probably already could use some therapy.
TG: lol u know
TG: rosies hadnle is “tentacleTherapist” rite
TT: So, do you think Rose will need any more time than this weekend to pack?
TT: I know Dave won’t need too much time, but
TG: were u jus about to maek a women joke
TT: It’s not a joke; it’s merely a statement made from repeated, verified anecdotal evidence.
TG: i call it sexist bs
TG: i hope u kno when dave comes homes hes gonna have a shitton of new clothes
TG: so many cloths
TG: all the clothes
TT: Do I detect a challenge, Lalonde?
TG: lol u bet
TG: parental fashion off
TG: guess i better step up my game since u already have an advangtae
TT: Now who’s playing with stereotypes?
TG: lol sry
TT: In all seriousness, does Monday work?
TG: ya it should
TG: ill ttyl
TT: Something wrong?
TG: thought i heard rosie a lil bit ago
TT: You should just get a glass of water and go to bed. You can talk to her in the morning when you’re more prepared.
TG: n ur gonna do the same rite
TT: Yes. It shouldn’t take too much time for the little man to pack everything.
TG: ur gonna make him go to school?
TT: I thought about it, but I already told him he didn’t have to. He’s pretty used to getting things done on little sleep, though.
TG: well no matter what if he ovrsleeps let him rest ok
TT: Alright. I can do that for you. I guess you’re doing the same for Rose?
TG: u betcha
TT: Alright. Get some sleep yourself, Roxy.
-- timaeusTestified [TT] ceased pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG] --
"Void Disorder" was a way to work around this piece existing in an AU wherein there is no SBURB session and no ectobiology. From Act 6, it's been implied that post-Scratch Rose left alcohol for Roxy, presumably to off-set her "void" abilities, which begin to activate once she sobers up. The pre-Scratch beta kids had some vestigial abilities related to their roles as heroes post-scratch, as well (in canon). So, this was a way to incorporate Roxy's drinking habit and a reason for it that relates to canon, and doesn't get too gooey and sappy (e.g, drinking to forget something seemed too dramatic.) I hope this is an acceptable method of circumventing.
Chapter 7: Friday November 14, 2008 - Rainbow Falls
Now with just a touch of sadstuck
Your head hurts.
Your head hurts, your mouth is dry, and thankfully you don’t have work today, because you’re sure if you did you’d be a wreck. It’s just shy of 6:30 AM, so Rosie should be awake in about 45 minutes, assuming she’s still going to try to go to school.
You know she’ll try. She’s a good kid.
You manage to get out of bed with only a little effort. Your limbs hurt (from dehydration and the contorted way you fell asleep, you surmise), but you manage to take a quick shower and wash up before getting dressed and heading downstairs to make breakfast for the two of you.
As you enter the kitchen with your heeled shoes clacking against the linoleum, you do a quick double-check. You look around the dining room, near the stairwell, and back around to the living room – she’s not there, thank goodness. Without looking down, you reach into a small pocket on your dress and pull out a flask. You twist the top off with no effort, and take a practiced, precise swig.
You swallow back, liquid burning the insides of your mouth and throat on the way down. You shudder a little, flinching and trying not to spit it all out. You’re still not used to this morning ritual, but it’s better than the alternative. You’d rather have your days with your daughter be a little hazed over than completely forgotten, and you’d much prefer risking slurring your daughter’s name than not knowing it at all.
You slip the flask back into its pocket and get to making a quick breakfast of eggs, toast, and orange juice. You call it a “roundabout screwdriver” in your head in spite of yourself. You finish without burning yourself (a few weeks ago you singed your hand), and make two plates: one pink and one orchid purple, with matching glasses full of orange juice.
Sure enough, Rosie comes downstairs, full school uniform and backpack ready. You really are proud of her: she’s turned out smart, dedicated, hardworking, ad willing to do what it takes to meet all of her obligations. Not to mention she’s beautiful, even if she doesn’t find it important (which you’re glad she doesn’t).
“Oh,” she says with an inflection you discern as contempt. “You’re up early, Mother.”
You smile. “Yep!” She rolls her eyes, but you’re used to it at this point. You let it go and continue. “Y’know Rosie dear, y’don’t have to go to school today.”
“I have a project due today.”
“I already called.”
She looks surprised that you remembered...anything. “You’re gonna have yer work sent to me this weekend while you’re away. One a’ yer teachers even offered to lighten the work for you because he knows you don’t miss class.”
“Wow,” she offers, bewildered.
“So, you still wanna go, or do you wanna stay here with Mom and start packin’?”
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt just this one.”
“That’s the attitude! Now, c’mon. Fresh orange juice.” You take a drink of the juice and get to the toast as soon as you’re able. Your daughter notes that you’re eating a little quicker than usual, and you write it off as being excited for her trip. It really is better that she doesn’t know.
You swallow the last bit of toast and wipe your mouth with a napkin before starting. “Rooooose?”
“Call me Mom. Please?”
“Is there anythin’ you wanna know before you leave? I know we’ve been on planes before, but this’ll be different.”
“Where in Texas am I going, again?”
“Okay,” she stops for a moment to finish off her egg. “So...what do I call him?”
“Dave always called him Bro.”
You can’t help but laugh. It makes sense, in a way, but it’s still really hilarious to your ears. “I mean, f’ya wanna call him that, by all means...”
“What’s his name?”
You pause thoughtfully and change your tone. Anytime you bring him up by name, the memories come back and you can’t bring yourself to treat the past with irreverence. You’re careful as you look up at her and say with seriousness and sincerity, “It’s...Dirk, sweetheart.”
“That’s his name,” you reply, and you realize you might have sounded like you were swooning, just a little.
“Seeing as how Dave doesn’t call him that, I guess I shouldn’t either. But, it’s good to know he’s not--”
“A random, faceless man, somewhere a thousand miles away, I know.”
“Does he even know what I look like? I didn’t even know what he was like until yesterday.”
You can feel your heart break. She’s trying to so hard to take this with poise and grace and tact and part of you wants to tell her it’s okay to be upset, it’s okay if you want to yell, it’s okay to show some emotion in your eyes instead of treating everything like you’re a psychiatrist.
“He knows what you look like, hun,” you reply as you look at her, trying not to make her too uncomfortable. “Honey, it’s okay if you’re not ready for this.”
“I want to go.”
“I know you do, but listen t’me. It’s okay if you’re not ready.”
She flinches. “Mom, how old is he?”
“29. Almost 30.”
“Why didn’t you two get married?”
“To be honest, Rosie...that’s something I think you should ask him. I’m not sure if it’s my place to say.”
“How did you two meet if you’re in New York and he’s in Texas?”
“We’ll talk more while we get ready, alright? Looks like you’re finished your breakfast.”
“Okay. I must admit, I’m really curious.” She sounds so scientific and distant.
“Don’t make it sound like it’s something to be ashamed of, Rose. He’s your dad. Of course you’re curious! Now, let’s clean up and get to work.”
Chapter 8: Friday May 27 1994 - New York
Now with more headcanons and character extrapolation *from* canon!
They were worried about their daughter. Proud, but extremely worried.
“Mom, it’s only going to be for six months...probably.”
“See, it’s the ‘probably’ I don’t like. You don’t think you can come home when it’s over?”
Her dad chimed in as he and his wife watched their daughter pack a bright pink and purple suitcase, full of summer clothes, winter clothes, scarves, underwear, and socks from a room that had been cleaned thoroughly and left practically barren. “Dear, it’s a great opportunity for her. At her age, guys and girls would go crazy for a chance like this.”
“I know, I know,” Mrs. Lalonde replied, turning back to her daughter, “It’s just weird knowing your home address won’t be here anymore.”
She zipped up the suitcase – her last one – and looked up at her mother. “I’ve been moving back and forth for three years to the same area. You’re gonna have to let go eventually, you know?”
“It just feels like so soon.”
“Mom, if there were any places in the area I could have interned with, I would have done it. This was the one that wanted me!”
“You’re going to have time off, right?”
“Yeah. I’ll be home for Thanksgiving. We’ll go see the parade and everything!” Her Mom smiled, and her Dad shot Roxy a thankful look, knowing that was definitely a decision made to make this one more palatable.
She had been going back and forth for college for the last three years. Now, in her last year, Roxy had managed to snag the opportunity of a lifetime: a paid internship with an up-and-coming technology company looking for young talent. Her transcripts were flawless (except for English composition – writing wasn’t really her thing), she interviewed with poise beyond her years, and her downright feisty attitude put her over the competition. Now, she was going to be moving away to Maryland at a permanent address (instead of campus housing) for six months, with the possibility of a full-time hire upon review of her performance. Mr. Lalonde, Mrs. Lalonde, and Roxy all knew she would do what it took to get that job.
21-year-old Roxy Lalonde was quite the handful. She was charming, assertive, friendly, and beautiful to boot, with naturally platinum blonde hair, bright eyes that people swore looked pink (though she’d just call them “a shade of violet”), and a figure to die and kill for. Most of all, however, she was smart, and not afraid to use it, even if it came with some...social consequences. Put simply: because of who she was and how she looked, Roxy Lalonde often found herself on the receiving end of attempts to label her as “stupid.”
She was consistently the only girl in her upper-level math classes in high school. She often complained that her classmates complained that she was “obviously cheating” if she performed better than they did, and a few times, she would come home crying over some of the more cruel remarks – the worst of them being that she was “probably sleeping with one of the teachers.” Her parents knew their daughter was someone who earned her way in life, and gave her the support she needed in those times, but more than once, she considered giving up just to stop hearing the snickers, insults, and occasional degrading pickup lines from the antisocial, misanthropic, and paradoxically love-hungry D&D players and self-described “alpha geeks.”
Senior year, however, her doubts went out the window when she discovered that the local community college was offering computer classes. Roxy fell in love with the opportunity to combine the logic and headwork necessary to master a program and make those machines do something incredible. If it didn’t work, she could go back and fix it – and she loved it. She saw the opportunity and with her high school’s permission, did half a day her high school and half of her day at the community college, burning through computing basics with ease.
She managed to balance out a social life of three close friends, college courses, and navigating a high school where she was labeled either “a slut,” “a nerd,” or a “dumb bitch” at various points for various reasons. Thankfully, she had learned to tune them out at that point. The women she talked to at the community college – mostly older women who were learning about computers as a way to adjust to new secretarial needs – told her stories of women taking “men’s jobs” in what they called “back in the day,” and the male instructors she had would simply sigh and roll their eyes in disappointment when they heard about how some of her former classmates would berate her.
One of her teachers took the time to enforce exactly what her father had told her time and time again, and hearing it from someone who wasn’t family made it stick: “Miss Lalonde, I know you’ve probably heard this a million times, but it bears repeating: acknowledging the good in someone else does not make the good in you any less so. Those boys – and trust me, they are boys – are immature, insecure, and probably intimidated. Don’t you dare let them scare you off from this. You are a legitimately talented programmer in the making.”
When Roxy noticed he didn’t feminize the word “programmer” with some foreign suffix or add “for a girl” to the end of his sentiments, she asked him a serious question. “Do you think I could do this, you know, at a university?”
“Major in it?”
“It’s a relatively new field, Roxy, but there’s not a doubt in my mind you could do great things. If you ever need a recommendation, feel free to come to me.”
With that, she looked around anywhere and everywhere – away from home, that is – for a B.S. program in Computer Science or Computer Engineering, finishing applications as quickly as possible. Right around her 18th birthday in February, Roxy got an acceptance letter from a university in Maryland. She thought it was the best birthday gift she had ever received. With little incident (except for the strange phenomenon of her former math classmates asking her to prom and being promptly rejected – she just went with her girlfriends), Roxy finished high school in the top 10% and happily moved south from her home in New York.
She was a partier – there was no doubt about that – who loved to dance, hear music, and socialize. Minus one occasion freshman year where she maybe missed an exam, she never let her social life overshadow her career. She faced similar treatment as she did in New York, often getting accusations of “being a lesbian” for not being interested in dating her classmates and studying something “for men,” but she had learned at that point to write it off for what it was: petty jealousy. Plus, she never really understood why “lesbian” was an insult; were it not for the fact that she was pretty certain she preferred men, Roxy had gone on a few dates with girls and had a great time.
People thought that she might have hacked into the school’s grading system to do as well as she did, but even if she did one time to fix what was totally an undeserved grade, she had the skills to do well in a tech company. Her parents knew it, but they still had some concerns.
“Roxy, sweetheart,” her Dad started as he watched his daughter begin folding up sheets. “Have you ever thought about slowing down a little?”
Roxy quirked an eyebrow, confused.
“You know, maybe...going out on a few dates?”
She laughed. “I have all the time in the world to date. I’m not going to have this chance again.”
Her mom chimed in, “We just don’t want for you to end up in your thirties, unmarried, and unhappy. There’s a lot you’re missing out on at your age for doing this.”
She turned to face them both. “You ever think I’d meet someone in Maryland? Maybe I’m supposed to be there and not here.”
“It’s too far away.”
“Gosh, you act like I’m going to the final frontier or something.”
“The next thing you’re going to tell me is you wanna move even more south,” she replied with a contemptuous attitude in her voice.
“Maryland is not the south. It’s Mid-Atlantic.”
“I see no difference,” her father retorted.
“...Is that what this is about?”
“You’re a beautiful, beautiful woman, Roxy. You’re well-off, well-educated...we don’t want some trashy guy taking advantage of you.”
“So anyone not from upstate is trash,” Roxy snapped flatly.
“All stereotypes, honey,” her mom started quietly, “come from some ounce of truth. The last thing we want is for you to get shackled down to some backwards hillbilly.”
She couldn’t take it. Roxy raised her voice as she started taking her suitcases downstairs, her parents following at a concerned distance. “Can’t you two just be happy for me? Of all the things to get worked up over – of all the things! I’m not stupid, and you two should know that!”
“We only want what’s best for you, dear,” her Mom said, condescendingly calm.
“And taking this chance is what’s best for me. Now, are we gonna end this on a sour note, or are we going to act like a family and hug before I drive out of here?”
Her parents sighed and walked down the steps, each giving her a hug and a kiss. Her mother whispered to her, “I love you dear. Don’t do anything you’ll regret, okay?” Her father’s advice was...a little stronger worded: “Work hard. Think of your future, darling – and your inheritance.”
She knew they loved her more than anything in the world, but she wished they would trust her in personal matters a little more – what they’d say if they knew of her partying days and social life. Regardless, Roxy packed the last suitcase into a small, black, four-door car, already filled with innumerous bags, designer boxes, and small suitcases, and began the long drive from New York to Maryland. Her internship started on the 30th.
Chapter 9: Friday November 14, 2008 - Houston
You’ve been rolling around in bed all night trying to sleep, but actual moments of rest aren’t coming. You want to run out this apartment, you want to punch something, and you can’t quite tell why. All you’re seeing is red like the color of your eyes.
You’re an idiot. You, Dave Strider, are an idiot.
How on Earth did you not put this together? When you needed to go to the doctor, it was Bro who made the appointments. When you started school, it was Bro who filled out the paperwork and let you hug him goodbye. When you wanted to ride a bike, it was Bro who taught you how to do it and tended to your cuts and bruises. And when you were too young to defend yourself, it was Bro who always said, “Nobody messes with my little man.”
You don’t hate him, but...why the fuck did he not tell you?! And why the hell did you believe him for so long?! It all seems obvious now – no wonder he’d dodge the question about “our parents” when you were little.
Dad Strider sounds wrong in your head. He’s still your bro, you guess, but he’s not your brother, and you think you always kind of knew that – which is exactly why you feel like shit. You pulled the proverbial wool over your eyes so far and so thick you might as well start bleating and following other sheep to fluffy demise. Speaking of sheep, trying to count them certainly isn’t helping you to sleep.
While your more alert waking moments are filled with questions to ask Bro (and fuck his “don’t question my authority” bullshit – this double paternity reacharound fully warrants a breach of brotocol), those moments between sleep and waking feature the silhouette of the woman in Bro’s dated photograph.
Roxy Lalonde. Is it just Roxy? Roxanne? Roxana? She’s gotta be in her early, mid-thirties now, if your math is right. Bro always was a math whiz for some reason, and he made sure that skill was passed on to you, for a previously unknown reason that is now painfully clear (because you’re his son.) The thought still manages to infiltrate sometimes, even when you wonder about the lady who bore you.
You know she’s blonde – or was blonde, maybe it was a dye-job – and she works for a tech company, according to Rose and Bro. She might have a drinking problem; you’re not sure. You find yourself wondering what she drinks more than anything, seeing as how that’s one of the only solid bits of information you’ve got about her. Hard liquor? Beer? Wine? Cider? Maybe that’s why you like apple juice and Bro can’t stand the stuff.
She likes wizards – Rose told you that, too. So maybe she’s into magic; you wonder if she thinks it’s real. Maybe she’s just into older, wizened, eccentric, hirsute men? Oh, what are you saying – Bro fucking fathered you when she was in her twenties and he was in his teens, so that can’t be right. How the hell did that even come to pass? It had to be all sorts of illegal, even if most guys would probably just call a younger dude lucky for it.
The biggest thing you remember that brings questions is how she looked. As un-brolike as it may sound, you couldn’t help but notice in the picture how well-put together she was. Her shoes matched her skirt, her smile was megawatt white, and she didn’t have a single hair out of place. She seemed like the kind of woman who took really good care of herself. Plus, she was beautiful, all snide remarks about her ass notwithstanding. (God you feel like such a fucking creep.)
You wonder how similar you two actually look to each other. You think you have Bro’s jaw and nose, but your mouth was always different from his. You wonder if she’ll think you’re handsome, how she’ll remark on you when you meet. Hopefully, it’s not about dark circles under your eyes – you’re still flopping around, tossing and turning, unable to find a way to sleep.
That thought brings you to the most pressing question you still have: what does she sound like? Your upbringing was pretty musical and you’ll admit to being a major audiophile, so you really want to hear her voice. You try your best to conjure up a New York accent (she’s from New York, right? She didn’t just move there? And what part of New York is she from?), but it doesn’t satisfy your curiosity. Is her voice raspy? Shrill? Melodious? Is it a kind of airy soprano, or a womanly contralto? Plus, if she drinks, you’re gonna take a decent bet and say she slurs a little. What’s a New York accent even sound like slurred? Which words does she slur? The amount of specificity required to imagine her speaking is ridiculous.
Still, you close your eyes and think of her talking to you, feminine voice with a little bit of a tipsy lilt, and it’s the most beautiful thing your mind’s ears have ever heard.
Chapter 10: Friday November 14, 2008 - Houston
It’s almost 10:30. Usually, the little man’s up by 7:30 for school, but you already let the school know he wouldn’t be there. The administrative assistant who answered made a laudatory remark about how caring and nurturing you were, cooing that you sounded like the ideal parent.
“Hi, this is Dirk Strider, Dave’s guardian,” you had started, not sure what word to use right now, “Dave’s not feeling well today, so I’m keepin’ him here. Just wanted to make sure someone there knew so ya’ll wouldn’t think he was cuttin’ class or anything.”
“Oh, well, that’s just so kind of you, Mr. Strider!”
“Doin’ my job, ma’am. Also, is there any kind of special paperwork I need to fill out for extended absences? Dave’s gotta take a trip to New York and he won’t be here for a week.”
“You two goin’ on an early vacation?” This lady is cheerful, yeah, but you know what she’s doing asking all these questions. Her voice is too playful to be based in professional concerns.
“No, no, he’s going to see family on the east coast. This was the only time they could manage to see him, and well...family comes first.”
She gave you the most dramatic, feminine sigh you’d heard in a while. “That is such a good way to look at life.” Sometimes, it really annoys you that you get all these platitudes for parenting; you know that if you were a woman, no one would say a single kind word. Also, it’s...kind of your job as a parent to take care these matters. Why is that so shocking that a man would do what he knew to be the right thing? “He’s really goin’ all by himself and leaving you all by your lonesome?”
You rolled your eyes behind your shades, but remembered you had an ace in the hole for this kind of conversation. “Nope, actually having guest over. She and I are gonna have a great time.”
“Oh.” You could hear her voice drop from girlish infatuation to womanly bitterness like a sliding whistle. You wanted to laugh, but her next comment killed your mood. “Well, yes, there’s paperwork you’ll have to pick up and take care of. It’s so...nice to see that Dave has a caring adult in his life. To be honest, we all worry up here with how detached and mean he can be.”
She crossed a line bringing up your son.
“Yep, I’m sure you are,” you responded. “All that callous affectation and cruelty will show up on his next report card and those required teacher conferences that would logically follow from those concerns.”
“Yes, they would.”
“Say,” you offered, voice intentionally honeyed. “How much interaction do you actually get with the students on a daily basis, seeing as how you’re in the office and the students are at least theoretically with their teachers for about five and a half to six hours?”
She caught on. “...about five minutes in passing.”
“Exactly. And how many people work in that office, ma’am?”
“So, no ‘we’ then?”
“No...sir.” She sounded like she was talking through gritted teeth.
“Alright. Well, I guess I’ll see you soon enough to pick up those papers. Since I’m guessing they’ll have to be approved by the principal, I’ll be more than happy to kill two birds with one stone, and we can talk about your comments concerning Dave’s alleged meanness and disinterest. Sound good?”
“The papers will be on my desk.”
“Great,” you replied. “Have a nice day.”
When it comes to passive-aggressive sass-offs, you are simply the best there is.
The whole situation kept you amused as you prepared some pancakes, bacon, and juice for you and Dave. His plate is red, matching glass filled with apple juice, in contrast to your all-orange setup (including the juice.) He walks into the kitchen, whitish-blonde hair still wet from a shower, and sits down with little fanfare.
“School’s getting a new secretary,” you tell him, still pretty content with yourself.
“Hm?” he hums, looking up at you since his mouth is already full of syrupy, buttery cake bits.
“You’ll see soon enough.” You take a sip of orange juice and take a good look at him. He’s worn out – you can tell even if he’s got his glasses on. His mouth looks dry, his skin is pallid, his posture is awful, and he looks like he spent the entire night tossing and turning. You know well enough that it wasn’t from Cal – time to pretend you know how to handle this conversation, at least for his sake.
“Dave. If there’s anything you wanna ask, anything you wanna talk about, I’ll tell you.”
He looks up at you after finishing his mouthful, mouth taut and tense. His voice is low and gravelly when he finally speaks. “Why. The hell. Did you not tell me you were my dad.”
The vitriol in his young voice stings. You’re glad he can’t see your eyes; you can feel them looking down and away from him in shame. “Social implications.” It’s the best answer you think you can give.
“All this fucking time I thought we were orphans.” His voice is holding steady despite what you can tell is anger boiling up inside him. He’s trying not to yell, and that’s what makes it so striking to you. You taught him that shouting and screaming was just a sign of weakness and lack of justification; he knows everything he’s feeling right now is completely reasonable. You didn’t necessarily lie when you said you didn’t have parents...but that’s just a way to ease your conscience, and you know it. So does he.
“I thought it would be easier for you to think you had a brother 17 years older than you than for you to think you had a teenaged parent.”
“That’s fucking bullshit and you know it!” He’s right, but you can’t tell him that.
“This town tears young, unwed parents a new one and takes it out on the kids--”
“You don’t think you could have handled it?”
“It’s not about what I could handle. It’s about what was best for you.”
He takes a drink of his apple juice, giving you some reprieve. You know if you raise your voice even the tiniest bit, you’ll have given up any chance of having his respect – or getting it back, since you think you probably lost it. “Dave, would you rather I have told you when you were little? Remember that girl in your class when you were five?”
“Which one.” His voice is flat and unaffected; he’s angry and he knows you’re backpedaling, even if you’re trying to explain good intentions.
“Her name was Christina. Little redheaded girl – remember her?”
“Remember her mom?”
“She was 20.”
“You remember what you told me about her?”
The memories start to come back from what you can tell, as his voice softens up, mentally connecting the dots. “The teachers always doted on her, treated her different...”
“...they pitied her, rolled their eyes at her mom, and made rude remarks behind her back. I remember.” There’s more than one reason you didn’t like conference nights.
He sighs. “They treated her like she was made of glass,” you start. “I couldn’t let them do that to you. Sure, they’d treat you different for not having a mom and dad, but not the same way as they would for her or a kid from a ‘ruined’ situation.”
Sometimes, you wonder why you came back to Texas when you have to explain things like this. “I’m sorry that I lied. I wanted you to be treated like anyone else, not special or worse just because of me.”
He doesn’t even acknowledge your apology. Sure, there are other things you do that people would find morally gray at best, but at least no one in this part of the city would say a thing about it to a child. Maybe that’s why your words seem hollow, though. “Is Mom from New York?”
“Yes, she is.”
“How’d you meet her.” Still the same flat affectation, but there’s some interest and hope in there, you hear.
“We were co-workers.”
“I thought you’d never been to New York.”
“I haven’t. I lived in Maryland for a while. So did she.”
Dave finishes off a piece of bacon before he speaks again. You take it as a good sign; things are slowly going back to as normal as they can be in this home. “What’s her accent like.”
You crack a smile; Roxy’s accent is pretty endearing to you even now. When you first met her, you liked to talk to her just to hear how she said certain words. Little did you know at the time she was talking to you for the same reason. “I mean, it’s not heavy Bronx or anything like that, but if you ask her to ‘talk law while you cross the street to get coffee,’ you’ll hear some funny vowels.”
“So she’s not a walking stereotype.”
“Sorry if that’s disappointing to you.”
“She likes wizards?”
“Oh, yeah,” you reply, memories of her apartment coming back. “She’d go to Hogwarts if she could.”
“Why the heck she’d get with you then?”
“Sometimes, I really don’t know.”
Dave snickers. It’s nice to hear him loosen up a little – plus, a relief not to have him on the attack when you know you’re most likely in the wrong for...everything. You continue, “She’s seriously the most kickass woman I’ve ever met. She might even top your friend Jade,” you tease a little.
“Not sure about that, bro, Jade Harley can handle a rifle--”
“So can your mom.”
He doesn’t say anything, but you can tell he’s pretty shocked. You get up, noticing you’ve both managed somehow to finish your breakfasts without throwing them at each other, and take the plates and glasses to the sink. “Ask her about it when you get there.”
“Yeah, that reminds me. I should probably pack.”
Chapter 11: Monday November 21, 1994 - Texas
TW: Hate speech, homophobia.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dirk had barely even unpacked when he became painfully aware this foster family wouldn’t work out either. The 15-year-old boy could year yelling from downstairs; it was frightening to know it was about him. He sat on his bed, sheets not even used enough to be changed from when he first got to this “new home,” and took Li’l Cal from his resting spot next to Dirk’s pillow to hold him. He knew it wasn’t manly, wasn’t cool, wasn’t rational, but after all the school changes, family shifts, and relocations all over the county, Li’l Cal was the only constant he had. The only true friend he had ever known.
He wasn’t afraid of the eventual confrontation with his foster “father” that had to be coming in a few minutes – one thing he had already learned long ago was that for boys like him, there wasn’t much of a place in this town. Dirk was always a little antisocial and eccentric, even as a kid; most people blamed it on being an orphan, never having enough stability to master the skills necessary for pleasant social interaction. He knew himself to be otherwise, however. It wasn’t that he lacked any kind of finesse with people – it was that he didn’t want it. Not from those kinds of people, anyway.
When he was much younger, maybe around 11, Dirk Strider (a name that hadn’t changed even now; no one would adopt him) was considered a wunderkind. He exceled at mathematics and poetry, often asking teachers deep questions about subjects that even they had to stop and consider. Multiple times, his teachers had considered having him skip a grade or two, but knowing Dirk’s personal circumstances, they decided against it every time it came up. He already had enough instability and difficulty at home, even if sometimes it looked like a fresh change of pace at school would be nice.
Mathematics and poetry are those two subjects that provoke the most ire in students. They are both paradoxically considered too difficult, too meaningless, or too stupid. Many students shy away from them, but Dirk never did. Instead, he won tournament after tournament, spending hours in the library after school to read English translations of epic poetry (he loved anything from the Greeks), and write his first little rhymes. There was something about rap music that appealed to him; he would later explain that hip-hop was the perfect combination of poetry and structure under the pressure of time, but at 13, all he knew was that the Beastie Boys were awesome, and that was enough.
When he answered a math question that was considered “impossible” for an eighth grader to solve, he earned the admiration of a female classmate. She was kind and lanky, with mousy brown hair and big, blue eyes. She tried to kiss him, and he immediately backed away. For some reason, this caught the attention of his male classmates.
“I knew it!” cried one of them from the spectacle in the room. “No wonder you like such stupid things – you’re gay!”
The other kids laughed. Dirk couldn’t think of anything at the moment and didn’t say a word, opting instead to leave the room and walk to the cafeteria – the bell had run about two minutes ago anyway. Apparently, walking away was the wrong thing to do – they weren’t “done” with him.
As Dirk walked down the locker-outlined hallway, a group of three boys followed him from behind. One of them – taller and heavier than Dirk – pushed the skinny blonde boy in pointy, black sunglasses into a locker as hard as possible, giving Dirk a pretty bad stinging feeling in his left shoulder. He stopped to rub at it, hoping to soothe it, but stopping only made things worse.
When Dirk turned around, a second boy – about the same height, with lavender blonde hair and scary blue eyes – pushed him against the lockers, making sure to press down hard on his aching shoulder. Dirk hissed in pain and wondered for a fleeting moment why no one was seeing this. He realized it was because of the number of kids in the hallway; the sound of something hitting metal with a reverberating thud was not unfamiliar in this context.
The boy who called him out a few minutes earlier – the tallest and largest of them, with dim brown eyes and jet black hair – glared at him, folding his arms across his chest and spitting on Dirk. “Hey, faggot.”
Dirk refused to say anything. Partially because he was scared, partially because he didn’t really know what to do. Obviously a battle of wits wouldn’t appeal to this guy.
He continued, content with his two friends laughing as Strider revealed himself to be completely unarmed. “Hey – you! Ya fuckin’ queer, don’t you know it’s rude not to answer people when they address you?”
Dirk replied a little colder than he anticipated sounding, “My name isn’t ‘faggot,’ addelpate.”
“The fuck kind of word is ‘addelpate’? See, this is exactly the kind of girlish, stupid shit I’m talking about.”
“If I’m so stupid, why don’t you know what it means?”
Dirk found himself on the receiving end of a punch to the face. When he tried to use his arms to brace himself, or – goodness he had never done this before – fight back, the two other boys just held him in place.
“You like being treated like a girl, Strider? Wanna dress up in pink and be a little princess?”
“No,” Dirk answered honestly.
“If you don’t, why do you like boys so much?”
“How do you even know I like b-”
He felt a sudden kick to his thigh, and hissed again in pain. He refused to scream, but he was hurting, a sudden throbbing kind of shock running through his system. He didn’t even get to finish his sentence.
“How do I know you like boys? Is that what you were gonna say, fag? Trust me, we all know. I got one thing to tell you: get out of this town or we’ll fucking murder you.”
Dirk was finally freed, but only after the blonde boy gave him a kick to the groin. He could feel tears starting to prick his eyes from the physical hurt, but didn’t let anyone see them. He stayed in the bathroom alone instead of eating lunch that day.
When he got home, his foster mother looked concerned and told him that she, his “father,” and he had to have a talk. Instead of receiving concern over his bruises and cuts, “Dad” told him one thing while handing him an ice back: “You got two options, boy: either you learn to fight, or you learn to run fast. And lemme tell you, we ain’t havin’ that in this household.”
Within two weeks, Dirk was in another house. He couldn’t believe it – he wasn’t even sure if he was gay. Sure, maybe he had had a few dreams about kissing some of his classmates, but at least one time it was a girl. Plus, he wasn’t really doing anything about it – it was everyone else just calling him names about it. Either way, his “Dad’s” parting sermon was the only gift he’d ever given him; he was right.
Over time, Dirk got stronger, began a running hobby, and decided that if he was going to be considered a freak, he might as well do something with the reputation. At 14, he got his first sword (he saved up allowances from the more generous foster parents) and quietly got lessons after school from a generous man who, as he put it, “understood his situation.” He was in his forties, but he barely looked a day over 33, of what Dirk discerned was obviously Asian ancestry from his surname (Hanzo) and looks (though he was a bit tan), with jet black and shining hair, and deep brown eyes. Dirk thought he was gorgeous, but he never told him that. No need to make things more complicated with the only man in town who didn’t think he was a degenerate.
Dirk would never forget Mr. Hanzo’s reaction to his story of why he knew he had to learn to fight. “They attacked you because you’re...”
“They thought I liked boys,” he sighed, scared.
“Do you, Dirk Strider?”
It had been a while, and the older Dirk got, the more convinced that even if he maybe had some fleeting attractions to females, those bullies were probably onto something he hadn’t been aware of yet. “Yes.”
It wasn’t a “me too,” but Dirk looked in his eyes, full of compassion and concern, and knew that he had finally met someone who was like him. He had never felt that relieved in his life. Mr. Hanzo took Dirk under his wing, and taught him everything he knew – free of charge. His studio became Dirk’s safe haven over the months and months of moving; thankfully, all of his “new homes” were either within walking distance of Hanzo’s studio, or within a running distance. It was a constant, the only one besides Cal, that he had ever had.
Months and months passed, Dirk learning to fight and handle a blade better than anyone in town. Although he never had to use it, the changes in his physique and confidence he gained helped him in social situations, especially at school. No one messed with him anymore; Dirk gave off an aura of poise and calm that, without a word, screamed “don’t mess with me.” He continued his interest in mathematics and ancient civilizations in earnest, and not a single person said a word to him about it. Sure, people rolled their eyes, but that was all. Plus, he had even managed to make a few friends – all girls, but it was something.
By his 15th birthday, Dirk had stopped coming to Mr. Hanzo for lessons, opting instead just to come over to enjoy his company. He listened to Dirk’s stories about school, listened to his aspirations, and helped him to get some sense of autonomy, teaching him to drive on the sly. They discussed philosophy, Mr. Hanzo’s love of Japanese cartoons, and for Christmas, Dirk received a great gift: his teacher’s old manga. Issue upon issue of beautiful, funny, amazing stories, in the original texts. Mr. Hanzo had taken to teaching Dirk some Japanese, but he knew he sounded a little…silly, to put it nicely. He had rarely had an occasion to use it until that moment. Dirk secretly liked some of the more...obscene ones (Mr. Hanzo had some yaoi manga; the only concrete confirmation of that suspicion he had when they first met), but what captured his imagination the most were the mecha manga. He had heard things about a small robotics club forming at his new school, and with Mr. Hanzo’s encouragement, decided to go for it.
He excelled. He found robotics to be a beautiful, captivating, challenging thing, a strange combination of mathematics, puppetry, and poetry (if you asked his opinion.) His foster parents often didn’t understand, but that was okay – he had the man who loved him like a son, a friend who never judged in Li’l Cal, and a passion in life.
Dirk finally started to look at his other classmates with a touch of disdain. They were often racist, sexist, homophobic jerks – the men and the women. The girls, while more relatable in some ways, often talked of settling down and having children right when they were done high school (or sooner, as was the case for many girls.) The guys would just chase after girls like it was their only aspiration. Dirk understood the libido, being a totally rad dude himself, but he just found it a little...annoying.
Every day after school, Dirk began to notice that Mr. Hanzo looked...sick, sad. He stopped giving sword lessons as often as he did, and began skipping meals, giving his remnants to Dirk, who often stayed over for dinner. Dirk hated leaving him alone every night, and part of him wished he could leave school, leave home, and stay and take care of him. His heart was extremely conflicted; on one hand, Hanzo was the closest thing Strider had ever had to a parent, but on the other hand, he was pretty sure he was in love with this patient, daring, charming, intelligent man. More than once, Dirk considered kissing him, but he couldn’t take the risk, even after all that time.
He blamed himself a little when he died. Apparently, a suicide.
He had been left a note along with giving Dirk what little he had left (some money, a car, more swords), telling him not to blame himself, and giving him some advice: “If anyone opposes you, use their strengths against them. Remember that your strength is not meant for destruction. Most of all, do not abandon those you love. Never retreat. My life was better for knowing you. Don’t ever believe otherwise.”
There was a funeral, but Dirk couldn’t bring himself to attend. He counted it as his first retreat.
After that, he became more hostile and spiteful towards his town, his parents, and threw himself into his work. He took the advice of the only real guardian he had ever had, and learned a quick way to make ridiculously good money: providing people with pornography. One of the upsides to being on the outskirts was that Dirk learned where to get the stuff – even the most lewd – and classmates would come to him in private about it. Dirk definitely carried himself in a way that was beyond his years, and because of that, he rarely ever was asked his actual age for any reason.
He had a good thing going for himself. Sure, he didn’t have a home or a family, really, but he had been saving up money for months, and was quickly discovering that his talent for machinery attracted an amazing amount of positive attention. At the last state-wide competition, he and his team won first. Before he could leave, a tall, blonde haired man asked to speak to him.
“No need for the mister,” he smirked.
“Hi, I’m Gregory Smith,” he replied, extending a business card. “I work as a scout for a company called SkaiaNet.”
Dirk was confused. “Okay.”
“We’re a relatively new company specializing in technology. We’re looking for young talent, and frankly, I think you’re the kind of person I’m supposed to be recruiting.”
“I’m... honored. Thank you.”
“So, you graduate in what, a few months?”
“Oh, how old are you?”
Mr. Smith looked absolutely shocked. “Well then, maybe one day in the future-”
Dirk saw an opportunity and took it. “How old do you have to be to work for you?”
“16, at least. State law.”
“How much promise do you think I show?”
“We’d take you in a heartbeat.”
“I turn 16 in November. Will you still be there?”
“Well, I should be!”
“I will call you that day. Where are you?”
“Right now, we’re in an office in Maryland.”
“I will call you even if it’s long distance for me. You’re not pullin’ my leg, right?”
“I’m no sir,” Dirk replied laughing a little. “But...thank you, really.”
“You just make sure you complete all the high school requirements, okay?”
It was Dirk’s 16th birthday, and he knew that was exactly what his “foster father” and his “mother” were fighting about downstairs. Sure enough, Paul came upstairs, fire in his eyes and ready to hurt someone.
“Dirk, what the hell did you do?”
“Got my GED and dropped out,” Dirk replied flatly. He had been waiting months and months to do it. He wasn’t scared anymore, and he was finally going to be far away from those close-minded, selfish, unmotivated assholes.
“Why? You wanna be a freeloading piece of shit?”
“You’re not staying here.”
“That’s fine.” His voice was sure as steel. “When do you want me out?”
His cavalier, nonchalant tone made Paul even angrier. “Get the fuck out. Now.”
“Alright. See you.”
With that, Dirk brought Li’l Cal around his neck (stuffed with all the money he had saved) and grabbed up what little he had in his room – he had already packed the car Hanzo gave him – and casually walked out of the room, down the stairs, and out the front door. He didn’t even say goodbye.
If he went fast enough, he could be at SkaiaNet’s doors in three days, maybe two. All he had to do was get out of Texas and call Mr. Smith – he had committed the number to heart a long time ago.
With that, 16 year old Mr. Strider drove away from the place exaggeratingly known as his “house,” knowing he had a chance at something better, solid, and real of his own that hopefully couldn’t be taken away from him. It was a big risk, but it wasn’t something he wasn’t used to. He had literally nothing left to lose.
The biggest extrapolation going on here is the idea of Dirk having someone as a caretaker who wasn't a parent; I thought the idea of someone teaching him how to fight with swords and giving him exposure to Japanese culture was a risky, but understandable, extrapolation. That was probably one of the only ways to give beta Bro that much exposure to swordsmanship and to account for alpha Dirk's fascination with anime/manga. (It was also a way to account for his attraction to dark haired, daring men? *ahem*)
Also, Mom and Dirk's birthdays are to associate them with the trolls who tend to have the most similarities to their post-scratch selves in canon; Mom is an Aquarius, Bro is a Saggittarius.
Also also, I like the idea of Bro being a runaway kind of renegade. Sorry if that shows...
Chapter 12: Sunday November 16, 2008 - Pesterlog
Consider a trigger warning for Pedophilia and Sexual Grooming in effect for this chapter.
TT: Good morning.
You haven’t been online as much recently. Is your new school too taxing?
TT: No, nothing like that. I’ve been packing all this weekend.
TT: I haven’t told you, have I?
No, you haven’t. Where are you going? And more importantly, why on Earth would a girl like you skip school?
TT: Well, Mom already took care of the “skipping school” part. It turns out...she does know my father. She’s arranged for us to meet.
How are you feeling about all this?
TT: Overwhelmed, excited, scared. I don’t even know what he looks like, and for the longest time, I wondered about it. Can you believe she used to tell me she “found me near a meteor”?
Quite the egregious display of disrespect for a woman of your caliber.
TT: She meant well.
If you say so.
TT: I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you!
It’s...alright, I suppose.
TT: What’s wrong?
TT: Is this about our friendship?
You must understand why I would be concerned now.
TT: He isn’t going to replace you. No one ever could.
That’s a kind gesture, Rose.
TT: You’re the one I go to for advice. You’re the one who listened to me when I was getting bullied. You’re the only man in my life who treats me with any respect.
I’d dare say I’m the only man in your life, period.
TT: John is immature, yes.
And your thoughts on your friend Dave?
TT: I found out we’re related.
TT: He’s my twin.
He must certainly be red-faced about those messages he used to send you.
TT: I can’t hold it against him; he didn’t know.
Either way, both of them are boys, not men.
TT: I suppose that’s true. That’s really enough about me, though. It’s very rude of me to keep talking ad nauseum. How are you?
I’m doing the same thing I always do: patiently awaiting the Lord for which I work, maintaining my temporary home, and talking to the lady who lights up my day.
TT: You’re too nice. Stop that.
Do you know anything else about your dad yet?
TT: He’s very young.
How old is he?
TT: He’s not even 30 yet.
My goodness, that is very young for two children who are almost 13.
TT: You remembered my birthday?
TT: He was 17 when Dave and I were born; Mom was 22.
That’s rather unusual.
TT: The age difference?
Well, not necessarily the age difference, but the fact that your mother was the older of the two.
TT: I’m more shocked by the fact that he wasn’t an adult yet.
People mature at different rates; there are plenty of healthy relationships wherein one partner is under 18 and the other over it. It isn’t really an issue unless sex is involved.
TT: Obviously there was sex involved in this case; I exist.
Even then, the age of legal consent is often lower than the age of majority.
TT: That’s interesting.
Back to my original point: usually, women tend to be younger than their male partners. Females mature quicker.
TT: Which is why relationships with an age difference are sometimes acceptable.
Yes. Usually so long as the male is older.
TT: No wonder Dave just calls him “Bro.” Regardless, Mother and I went out yesterday for some impromptu shopping.
That sounds like fun.
TT: It was out of necessity; New York’s climate is pretty different than Texas.
You’re going to be in Texas, dear?
TT: Yes. Houston.
That is...an absolutely wonderful coincidence.
TT: You always said there’s no such thing as coincidence. Why is it wonderful?
I just so happen to be in Houston, and will be for the next month.
TT: What happened to being in Virginia?
Rose, I go where my Lord asks. Last month it was Richmond; this month, it’s Houston. It’s exciting to travel, but it often gets lonely.
TT: I could visit you then.
Are you sure your father, “Bro,” would be okay with this? I’m sure since he hasn’t seen you in 13 years, he’ll want you to himself.
TT: He’s very distant with Dave; I’m sure a few hours or a day wouldn’t bother him.
A day? My, my, my.
TT: I want to meet you! You know me better than he does.
As long as that’s what you want, Rose. I don’t want you doing anything you’re not comfortable with.
TT: I promise. This is what I want.
Contact me when you’re in Texas, then. I should probably let you go to continue preparing.
TT: Thank you. By the way, I have a gift for you.
TT: You said you wanted to know what I looked like at my new school, yes?
-- tentacleTherapist [TT] sent [o] the file newuniform.jpg --
Beautiful as always, Rose.
TT: Most people would say otherwise.
Most people are stupid. I am not one of them.
TT: I’ll...be sure to pack it.
Wonderful. I’ll see you soon, sweetheart.
-- tentacleTherapist [TT] is offline! --