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Before the Prospitian Monarch left the meteor to join the battle, the only corpse inside the meteor was that of the still prototyped Jack Noir.

When she came back after the battle was done, Jack Noir’s ring had been taken off and he wasn’t the only one dead anymore.

Jack’s corpse had been put in the main room and PM couldn’t help but notice how frail he seemed as a normal carapace. Everything that had made him dangerous had been work of the ring and now that he didn’t have it anymore, he looked so insignificant and sad it almost made her feel pity. Almost because, even then, floating over his dead and mangled body, she could never bring herself to feel anything more than contempt for him. Even if her rage had subsided and even if he had died saving someone, she would never forgive him.

She turned away from Jack and looked at the kids and trolls surrounding her. Some of them were crying and she was reminded that they were only teenagers. Teenagers that had gone through things no teenager should ever be forced to go through. Maybe even things no one should have to go through. She watched as they comforted each other and idly thought how lucky they were because, for them, it was all over. For the Prospitian Monarch, on the other hand, the hardest had yet to come:

Saying goodbye.

She looked at Jack one last time, turned around and made her way out of the room and into the hallway. After a few minutes, she started hearing voices arguing.

“Dave, there’s nothi—

“No! I don’t want anyone else to die! They saved him last time so why can’t they save him aga—

“It doesn’t work with him, Dave! We’ve tried everything! I don’t want him to die either, you know!”

When she turned the corner of the hallway, PM saw Dave and Terezi. The two teens suddenly noticed her and fell silent, both of them quickly moving away from a door with chalk drawings on it. PM, quite expressionless, made her way towards them and took hold of the doorknob.

“I’m sorry,” Terezi whispered, her voice starting to crack.

PM turned the knob and stepped inside, making sure to look at the ground and nothing else. Once inside, she closed the door behind her and, after taking a deep breath, looked up.

There was the Wayward Vagabond, sitting on the floor, back rested against the wall and still in prototyped form. He was covered all over with bruises and his bandages and sash were already soaking wet with blood. His left arm lay limp beside him while his right arm was resting atop his stomach. His face had been left almost entirely intact except for his right eye. Even closed, blood continued coming from in between the eyelids.

And yet, even after all he’d been through, his face still lit up when she came in. Despite all the pain he was in, he still had the will and disposition to offer her the happiest and warmest smile he could muster.

It killed her inside.

Carefully controlling the expressions on her face, she went to him and knelt down.

“Are you badly hurt?” he asked almost instantly, his expression worried.

“I only have a few injuries. Nothing too serious,” she replied before hesitantly adding, “And you? How’re you holding up?”

WV smiled. “I am alright,” he said with such nonchalance she might have believed him if his weakened and raspy voice didn’t betray him.

“I cannot move my left arm,” he continued, glancing at it. “I have a chest injury as well but tha—” A violent coughing fit interrupted him.

PM quickly grabbed his arm, worried, but he managed to make the coughs stop and offered her another weak smile.

“There’s also my right eyeor what is left of it,” he added. “But other carapaces have lost their eye and managed pretty well.”

PM remained quiet and focused instead on his hand. She grabbed it and carefully slid off the Black Queen’s ring from his finger. Once he was back to normal, she suddenly felt sick to her stomach. When he was prototyped, some part deep inside her could pretend that she wasn’t looking at the real Wayward Vagabond. She could pretend that somewhere on the meteor was her carapacian WV, completely safe and sound, but now she was forced to accept the reality that her WV was dying right in front of her.

“Your turn,” he prodded, eyeing the ring on her finger.

She took off the ring and placed it on the ground next to the other. Amazing how two stupid pieces of metal could have caused her so much harm. She tore her eyes from the rings and to WV, noticing he suddenly looked very serious.

“What’s wrong?”

“I need to tell you something,” he said, taking her hand and playing with it.

“What?” she asked even though she didn’t want to know the answer.

“Miss Terezi and Dave came here earlier with that ghost girl who revived. They informed me tha—

“Wait,” she interrupted. “I wanted you to know that I was thinking about what you said the other day. About making a town for carapaces in that new planet we’re supposed to go to.”

“Ah, yes, but I think you should hear what happened with Miss Tere—”

“There are still plenty other carapaces,” she interrupted yet again, looking at their intertwined hands. “We could build a town hall and a post office and it will be just like we talked about back home in the desert and—

“Mendicant, you need to lis—

“—And we can build a police station,” she continued more forcefully, her voice starting to crack. “We can ask the kids and trolls to help make a memorial for Renegade and Questant, too—

WV squeezed her hand. “Mendicant, ple—

“We can also build a little house and we can live there just the two of us and everything will be happy and great and perf—

“They told me I am going to di—

“YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE,” she yelled, snatching her hand away and slamming it against the floor, tears trickling down her face. “You are not going to die,” she continued, whispering. “You can’t.”

“They informed me that the attacks of the green skull monster do not allow permanent healing or revival on me,” he explained. “Miss Feferi was only able to slow down the effect of the wounds but not stop them.”

“But I saw her reviving some of the children!” PM shot back, looking at him. “Isaw her!”

“She explained that the effects of the attack of Lord English are different on players than on carapaces. There is nothing they can do.”

“Soyou have to die because you’re not a player?” she whispered, balling her hand into a fist. “Because we’re just pawns in the end?”

I am a pawn," he corrected, coughing a little. "You are a queen."

Hah… As if being a queen had brought her anything good. None of that would be happening if Jack Noir hadn’t killed the Black Queen.

“This is his fault,” she growled. “If the Sovereign Slayer hadn’t been here, you wouldn’t have taken the ring and gone out to fight and get yourself killed.” Even dead, Jack still kept taking away everyone she loved. Even dead…

“That is not true,” he said. “I would have gone out even without being prototyped.”

And as much as she wished he was lying, she knew it was true. She knew WV would never hesitate to go into battle, even unarmed, if he knew she was out there fighting. The reverse was true, as well—if it was him outside fighting, she’d run to him and support him with or without prototype.

“But what about me?” she asked, tears streaming down her face. “If you go where I can’t followwhat will I do?”

He looked at her in silence. He understood what she felt. The fear of being completely and utterly deprived of those you love; a kind of loneliness that still remains even if you’re surrounded by a thousand living beings. That same fear had plagued him during those three years on the meteor and it was that same fear what partly drove him to go out and fight Lord English: the fear of losing PM and being left alone with no one.

Yet, as he looked at her and at all the pain and fear in her eyes, he realized that his biggest fear wasn’t being left alone… It was knowing that PM would be the one who would have to keep living without them. He’d die and be reunited with AR, WQ, WK and Serenity but PM… She would have no one.

He extended his arm and waited for her to lie down next to him before wrapping his arm around her shoulders. He wished he could say something but he was aware that no amount of words could make it better. Nothing he could tell her would ever change the fact that he was going to die.

She turned towards him and buried her face in the crook of his neck. “It’s not fair,” she repeated over and over again, her tears mixing with his blood. “After all we did... it’s not fair.”

He quietly let her cry to her heart’s desire and simply held her, aware that it was probably the last time he’d be able to do so.

After a few minutes of silence, WV spoke up.

“Mendicant? When you said you wanted us to live together on the new planet… Did you mean it?”

PM looked up, still sniffling a little. “Yes, of course,” she said as if it were obvious.

“Oh, okay,” he quickly replied, blushing a little. “I just wanted to make sure.”

Before she could stop herself, PM started giggling, alarming him. 

“What?” he asked, flustered.

She shook her head and once again buried her face in his neck, still giggling. “Silly.”

It was amazing, really, how he hadn’t changed at all despite everything that had happened. Even hours away from dying, he was still the same WV she had been separated from on post-apocalyptic earth. Still the same dersite who’d get flustered when she kissed him even if she had done it plenty of times before, the same carapace who would stay up all night to comfort her after a bad dream, who would beg her for a quick snack at all hours, who could make her laugh and smile even when her whole world was crashing down around her.

Even as he was being ripped away from her by an enemy she couldn’t kill or protect him from, he still managed to somehow make her feel like everything would be okay.

She glanced up again and saw him trying to act offended but failing rather miserably at it. He suddenly started coughing again and covered his mouth with his hand, only to find blood on it when he pulled it back.

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, tightening his arm around her shoulders and resting his head on hers. Sleep was starting to crawl up on him, it seemed.

“I love you,” he said, not really as a goodbye but more as a simple remark. It was as if he was noting that the sky is blue, or that the sun is yellow or that the grass is green. It was a fact of life that could never change because that’s just how it was and trying to deny it was the same as being deluded.

“I love you, too,” she answered, closing her eyes and cuddling against him. As she listened to his breathing grow slower and softer with every breath, she thought about all the times he had escaped death and tried to find comfort in knowing that now that his time had really come, he wouldn’t die alone and unloved.

“Wake me up if you have nightmares,” he whispered as they both began to doze off.

~~~

“There it is!”

In a desert a few miles away from New Can Town, two carapacian children finally reached their destination. The eldest one, a boy named the Rebellious Rascal, was pointing with excitement at an abandoned meteor in the distance. His companion, a girl named the Fretful Miss, kept throwing anxious glances towards the general direction of her hometown.

“We shouldn’t even be here,” she hissed at him. “It’s forbidden!”

RR rolled his eyes and stopped to look at FM. “Okay, look, Missy,” he said, showing her three of his fingers. “One, the place has been abandoned for like ten years or more. Two, I’m the son of the mayor so I can do whatever I want. Three, Dave gave me permission to come explore.”

FM gasped and covered her mouth with her hands. “Dave? You mean the Dave?”

RR gave her a smug smile. “Yup. Dave is good friends with Dad and whenever he’s in town, he always comes to visit. Besides, he’s the one who actually told me how to get here.”

Wowieee,” FM sighed, starstruck. “Oh oh oh!! Did you know that Dave is also really good friends with—

“Aw man, not this again…”

“-- the Parcel Mistress? Isn’t that really cool?” FM started to ramble on. “She’s so great and wonderful and did you know that even though she’s the boss, she still goes by Parcel Mistress? And she still goes on deliveries and she’s so nice and kind and I want to be just like her when I gro-”

“Yeah, yeah,” RR interrupted. “I already know this story, dude. All you ever talk about is how perfectly wonderfulicious she is. Now, if you’re done, let’s keep moving.”

FM nodded sheepishly and kept on following RR. A few feet before they reached the meteor, she suddenly stopped.

“Oh, oh, oh!!”

“What now?”

“Is it true what they say? That Dave actually told your dad that he ‘had big shoes to fill’?”

RR shrugged. “Yeah but that was pretty dumb to say. My dad’s the first ever mayor of the town so whose shoes is he supposed to fill in for?”

FM gasped again. “What do you mean ‘first mayor’? Don’t you pay attention in history class, doofus? New Can Town was founded in honor of Can Town which was made by its mayor, the Wa—”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” RR said, waving his hand in a dismissive motion. “AnywayLAST ONE IN IS JACK NOIR!” he yelled, running inside the meteor, FM right behind him.

Holes in the meteor filtered light inside it, allowing the children to explore without the need of another light source. Upon reaching the main hall, they couldn’t help but notice how dusty and messy everything was. While she looked at some of the books on the large table, RR decided to tinker with the hubtops that had been left behind.

“Neat! It still works!” he exclaimed, turning on one of the computers. “Ha ha ha! Some loser forgot to log off Pesterchum,” he continued before starting to type something on the keyboard. “My name is carcinoGeneticist and I’m stupid.”

FM, bored with the books in the room, decided to go explore somewhere else. After wandering around for a while, she finally came across a closed door with a faded-out drawing on it. Curious, she opened the door and stepped inside. The walls of the room were covered with chalk drawings , most of them blurred or faded-out making them somewhat unrecognizable. She then noticed that someone had constructed a little town in the middle of the room using dusty cans of food and other assorted objects. There was also a huge red stain near the floor on one of the walls but something in her gut told her she didn’t want to go find out what that was.

“Hey, what’d you find?” RR asked, barging into the room. “Oh, hey, look! Someone made a scale model of our town! That’s pretty neat,” he commented before leaving the room again. “Come on, let’s go find something more interesting.”

FM was about to follow him out but something white in the middle of the little town caught her attention. She went over to it and noticed it was an envelope. She picked it up and saw that it was addressed to “the founder and first mayor of Can Town”. She suddenly felt very interested in the contents of the envelope but, then againit wasn’t right to read or take someone’s mail.

Except temptation was too great.

She turned it around and was surprised to see it opened already. Her guilt diminishing a little, she took out the contents of the envelope and came face to face with a bunch of photographs. The first one, old and worn-out, was of New Can Town’s main square. A bunch of people were posing for the picture and she realized she recognized them all. It was all of the humans and trolls and a little crowd of carapaces, including RR’s dad and PM. FM turned the picture around and noticed someone had neatly written “Founding of New Can Town”. She quickly turned it around and looked at everyone again. No wonder they looked so young! The picture was almost thirteen years old! She was just a little baby when it was taken!

She looked at the other pictures and realized they all depicted events held in New Can Town throughout the years. The anniversaries, all the festivals—it was like looking at the history of the place in photograph form. Why would someone leave all those pictures in an abandoned site like the meteor? And who were they addressed too? It couldn’t be who she thought it was...After all, he had died before New Can Town was even built.

She finally reached the last photograph and noticed it was of the 6th Summer Festival… Meaning it wasn’t even a month old! She quickly turned it around and confirmed her assumption when she saw “6th Summer Festival” written on the back. Except, unlike the other photos, something else was written in the same handwriting as the dates and names.

I still miss you.