Actions

Work Header

Through Broken Glass and Cracked Eggshell

Chapter Text

2009/4/13

"I stand corrected," Rose raises a finger, interrupting the perfectly good corpse party. "It looks like we actually have one more traveler joining our ranks. I take it you joining us was a spur of the moment, last-second decision?"

"Oh hey guys!" You grin like a fool and wave at the crowd who... seem to be gathered around the corpse of the chess guy who was on the battlefield with you earlier? The Green Sun looms over you, and surprisingly, it doesn't feel all that warm. "Yeah! I just, uh-"

"John? What the fuck are you doing here?" One of the trolls - Terezi, you assume, given the symbol on her shirt is the same colour as the text she types in - shouts at you.

"I really wanted to, you know, say hi to you guys and stuff."

"You can't go back." Rose interjects. "I hope you weren't planning on just saying a quick hello, because you're stuck with us now."

Oh fuck.

As if on cue, two figures silhouetted against the Green Sun each seem to raise an arm. The meteor begins to float away from the Sun. Your face falls. "So Jade's gonna have to go three years without me now?"

She nods solemnly. "I'm afraid so. I'm sure this wasn't the warm welcome you expected. I'm sorry, but-"

"But nothing! Shove it, Lalonde. What's the point of dwelling on a mistake you can't undo?" Another troll, the tallest of the bunch and wearing similar colours to Rose, pushes out from the crowd. Everyone else rolls their eyes and groans. She jogs up to you and hugs you around the shoulders, lifting you off the ground. Your arms are pinned to your sides, and breathing is a little uncomfortable. "Besides, I'm sure he'd be a really great addition to our group. Right?" She lets you down.

"No!" You insist. "No! Now I feel terrible about Jade!"

"Well... she *does* have Davesprite," Rose points out.

"Must suck to be her," Dave shrugs. Terezi jabs him with an elbow.

"Alright," the troll who hugged you pats you on the back. "Let's show you around."

"Whoa, whoa, okay, let's slow the fuck down for three nanoseconds." A troll you instantly realise for certain is Karkat waves an arm around. "He just fucking got here! On the coattails of a note where he spent a whole pen's worth of blue ink rambling about sloppy makeouts with aliens, no less. Did it seriously not cross your think pan that maybe, just *maybe*, we could all... I don't know, try to figure out what the fuck just happened in the catastrophic nightmare of corpses, green lightning, and xenophilic desires I have the displeasure of being able to call the most recent ten minutes of my already forsaken life, or did the Green Sun finally decide to give the laws of physics a chance and pump a few fucking exasieverts of its emerald green *bullshit* into everyone's bodies, frying every last working neuron we ever could have dreamed of having?"

"Wow!" You laugh. "Karkat sure is mad, huh?"

"Oh shut the fuck up, Egbert."

Dave giggles too. "It's so fucking funny how Karkat waits until you stop talking to tell you to shut up. I'm not the only one who thinks that's just amazing, right?"

Another troll who you don't recognise speaks up. "Actually, I think it would be for the best if we did all say hello. After all, I don't think we've spoken more than once. My name is Kanaya, and for what it's worth, I'm actually rather glad you at least had the courage to acknowledge the possibility of sloppy alien makeouts."

"Oh god," Karkat yells, "not you too!"

"Stop being such a weenie!" Terezi pushes him aside as she approaches you, a hand extended in greeting. "I'm Terezi, and I-"

The moment you take her hand, you're standing on another planet. A brown-orange stone ground sits beneath your feet, and a pink haze crosses a sky littered with burning planets, smashed into one another. The horizon is decorated by strange, glowing pyramids, and a blindfolded Terezi, covered in blood, is drawing an outline on the ground.

Then, everything goes back to normal. The two of you pull your hands away as quickly as you can, and just sort of stare at each other in silence. The troll who hugged you looks between your shocked expressions.

"I'll... I'll help him get settled in now," she nods, ushering you away from Terezi.

 


 

"And this is my... bedroom? Am I saying that right?" She asks, leading you into an absolute mess of a room, full of chests and maps and unsorted alchemy paraphernalia. "It's also Terezi's, but I think we have room for one more."

You look around. It looks pretty nice here, you have to admit, even if it is an absolute mess.

"Wow! Thanks! I'm John, by the way. Sorry, sometimes I forget to tell-"

"Of course I know who you are, idiot."

"What?"

She pauses for a second to collect her thoughts. Then, she laughs. "Oh, right! You've never seen me before! It's me! Vriska!"

Your jaw drops. She looks nothing like what you expected. "Wow..." Is all you can manage. Your face goes red from how stupid it makes you look. She grins and brushes her fringe to the side, but before she can say anything, there's a cough at the doorway. Both of you turn to see Terezi standing there, arms folded.

"Don't tell me you're thinking of fitting three people in this room."

"Okay," Vriska nods, "I won't."

"...Are you?" Terezi raises an eyebrow.

"I'm not allowed to answer that question, apparently."

"Ugh! What were you thinking?!?"

"Well, John and I got along really well, and we did a lot of important quests together, so I thought maybe..." Vriska winces

"Maybe?"

"Maybewecouldlethimbeapartofteamscourge?" She mumbles, but raises her voice when she notices Terezi recoil in surprise and continues, "just as, like, a symbolic gesture! It doesn't have to mean-"

"No, no! I think it's a good idea! I just never expected to hear it from you. You are really sentimental about the team, you know?"

"So are you."

"Well, yeah. Meeting you changed my life."

"Hey," you interject. "What's the matter?"

The two trolls look at each other for a second, and then turn to you. "Nothing," Terezi shrugs. "Vriska just thinks you're cool, and-"

You swear you catch a glimpse of the vision you had earlier in the reflection of her glasses. But a fraction of a second later, you realise you're being ridiculous. That wouldn't make any sense!

"-I think you are too! Don't ask me why I feel that way." She grins a terrifyingly wide, sharp-toothed grin. You thought Jack's warped, canine face was the stuff of nightmares, but you find it hard to believe that he himself wouldn't just whimper and fly off if he took so much as one look at her current expression. "You should know by now that we scourge sisters know a whole lot more than we let on!"

"Yeah!" Vriska smirks. "Especially since you are one now."

"Wait!" You protest. "I'm... what?"

"Well, you don't have to be, obviously," Terezi explains, "but the title of scourge sister isn't one we offer lightly! It means the world to us, actually! Maybe... maybe even more than that."

The duo stare longingly at one another. Truth be told, you're kind of jealous of the way Vriska smiles at Terezi.

"So..." you interrupt, because you decide you really, really don't like this feeling of being left out, "I'd be... the scourge brother?"

"Oh, no no no no no no no no," Vriska tut-tuts. "It's 'scourge sister' or nothing. I don't make the rules, but-"

"Yes you do," Terezi butts in.

"Okay. Yeah, I make the rules. Those are the rules."

"But... why?" You ask. Vriska looks at you like you're an idiot. You decide you like this feeling even less than the last one.

"Sisterhood is really important to both of us for a lot of reasons," Terezi explains, "and it doesn't exactly mean the same thing that it means to you humans. It's a lot more complicated than two girls spawned from the same slurry of genetic material. It's kind of the opposite, actually! It's more like your fates are intertwined somehow, even if you come from two different parts of the world. That, and, well obviously... Vriska, does he know? You know, about..."

Vriska takes a deep breath. "Should I tell him? What if he takes it the wrong way?"

"I'm sure he'll be fine with it. If he isn't he doesn't deserve you." Okay, you have no idea what they're talking about, but that was actually really hurtful to hear her say! Terezi looks at you with caution and maybe a hint of disgust? You hope it's not disgust. Vriska's face, on the other hand, bears a look of humility as she stares at the ground. No, you realise, not humility. You recognise it as something you've worn a fair share of times, whenever everyone at school avoided you and picked on you and laughed at you. Whenever you were worried you'd said something that would earn your father's disappointment. Whenever you talked to Rose or the others, in those early days before you really, truly knew each other. She's terrified of you rejecting her, of you pushing her away. Maybe even of you hating her. Without thinking, you step over the river of random junk lying on the floor between the two of you, and gently hug her.

"My lusus never called me a girl, and never used the name 'Vriska'," she admits. You feel her start to sob. It scares you. You never considered that in her most vulnerable moments, she could feel so fragile. You don't understand. You don't understand what she means. Why would someone not call her by her name? She can feel you don't understand. When you pull back, she can see it on your face. She sighs.

"I'm... trans, John. I'm a trans girl."

You pause. Holy shit, you weren't expecting that. You don't really understand the concept of 'being trans' at all, bar a few posts on forums here and there that people got into upsettingly heated arguments over. You're pretty sure you can only imagine a fraction of the courage it's taken her to admit this to you. You give her another hug, tighter this time. She was afraid you'd push her away for it! She thought you would hate her!

"So, uh," you think, trying to offer any comfort you can that doesn't seem totally forced or selfish or meaningless, or - god forbid - offensive, "does that mean... you chose the name 'Vriska'?"

"Yeah- yeah," she stammers, forcing herself to laugh a bit to stop crying, and it feels like it works a little.

"It really suits you," is the best you have to offer. You hear her giggle in your ear, and you feel lighter than air. You decide you want to make her laugh again and again and again. You didn't know *anything* could sound that wonderful.

"Thanks," she sighs. "You still... like me, right?"

"Of course I do!" You exclaim. You step back and wipe the tears from her eyes. You notice that you were crying, too (not very heavily, despite how much you wish you could), but your first instinct was to wipe hers away. Why is that?

The force that had put you to sleep multiple times during your session pushes against your mind. The fact that you can recognise Vriska's psychic presence by now presents a very upsetting impression of how frequently she's manipulated you in the past. It's weak, but it's definitely pushing, prompting you to ask yourself that question. Why did you help her before you helped yourself? You don't want to answer it. You don't want to think about anything. You just want to relax, with someone else's mind pushing against yours.

The truth, you realise, is that you're genuinely, entirely selfless. You don't know why you're ashamed to admit that. Maybe it's because such a concept is so totally alien - perhaps even laughable to someone like Vriska - that admitting such a thing would be the same as admitting that you're nothing like her. And you feel like you do want to be like her. But she's so tough, and brave, and open with her feelings, and you're none of those things!

She sighs. She can see trying to invade your mind, no matter how ineffectively, is upsetting for you. Still, though, she forces a smile. Without thinking, you return the gesture.

"So are you two just gonna pull really cheesy facial expressions at one another," Terezi pipes up, "or is this the bit where you finally kiss?"

"Oh my god, Terezi!" Vriska tenses with fury, and for a moment you're afraid they might start fighting, but then they burst into laughter. It's infectious, you find, and you don't see why you should fight it. You join in, giggling and smiling and looking back and forth at these two girls - your sisters, by some totally alien definition of sister - and wonder if this is what life is going to be like for the next three years.

If it is... well, maybe you'd be okay with that.

Vriska rolls her eyes, still smiling. She turns to you, and sheepishly rests her chin on the knuckles of one fist. "So," she winks, "how about that date?"

 


 

Your date goes pretty well, you think. It's a little awkward in those moments where she actually, genuinely scares you - even though you'd expected more of those than you actually got - but all in all you think it was the best night two kids from different universes could have while locked in a cloning facility that they know they'll be forced to spend the next three years in.

Pretty well, that is, until the last five minutes.

You're sitting at a small table, having shown Vriska a normal Earth human dinner. Stir fry isn't usually your first choice, but until you get better at alchemising food you're more or less running on trial and error here. She seems to have enjoyed it, though.

"Sooooo," Vriska looks around, "when should we do another one of these?"

"I dunno," you shrug. "I thought we-"

"Tomorrow?" She offers. "Tomorrow sounds good."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" You wave your arms about defensively. "Maybe we're rushing into this?"

"We're not rushing into this. What are you talking about?"

"Two dates in two days? That's pretty fast!"

"Okay, okay, right." She puts a hand to her forehead. "I get it. You don't like spending time with me. I'll jus-"

"No! I really liked this! I just think we're going too fast, and-"

She puts a finger to your lips, silencing you.

"I need you, John. You're a puzzle, and I'm going to solve you no matter what."

You gulp. She lunges forth to kiss you, but you pull back. She falters, disappointed.

"Please, Vriska," you sigh. "I'm not enjoying this anymore." You stand up and push your chair in. Date over, you decide. You're tired after today. You're tired after your planet blowing up and your universe getting torn to shreds and your dad dying and you dying twice! You can tell Vriska is tired too, because it's been just as long a day for her, but it manifests in different ways. She shoots upright and snarls at you.

"I need the bathroom," she growls, turning and leaving. She turns just slow enough for you to catch her face going bright blue with embarrassment.

You do not know it, but only an hour or two ago, she had narrowly avoided being stabbed through the heart. To her, though, it feels like the blow just landed.

 


 

You slump down on the pile of cushions you guess is just your bed now. Terezi has her own heap of paraphernalia to curl up on, and as she does, her stature reminds you of that of a dragon, resting on its heap of hoarded treasures. You mumble her name in the hopes of getting her attention.

"Yeah?" She lifts hear head, half asleep already.

"Why is Vriska so..."

"Obsessive?" She finishes for you.

"I didn't wanna say it," you admit.

"I dunno. I feel like she always had it in her, but it wasn't always this intense. Why do you ask?"

"Oh... you know. I feel like maybe I was too quick to call it all off tonight. I'm worried I broke her heart." You frown.

 "Trust me. If you really did break her heart, I would have fucking destroyed you by now."

You gulp. Some reassurance that was!

Vriska walks in, blue lines running down her face. She's been crying, but you know her well enough to know she wouldn't want to bring it up.

"Hey," you offer, as not-dorkishly as possible. You're not that great at it, though, because you're John Egbert. "Sorry about earlier. Tonight was really great, and I wanna do it again, but... could we maybe not be as intense about it?"

She sniffles and nods, and she leans down. You lift your head and shoulders, and that's when it happens. That's when you have your first kiss. It's brief, and not as passionate as you'd always imagined, but it's sweet, and it's comforting. For a moment, you feel close to this girl, who is nothing like you and everything like the person you wish you were.

"Need a hand sleeping?" She offers. You nod. You smile, too, and brush your finger against your lips, where she had ju-

You're out like a light, of course. You always are when she does this. If you were awake right now, you'd probably be thinking about how wonderful it is to be flipped like a switch, how wonderful it is when her thoughts become a part of your own, how much you love - even if only for a fraction of a second - being her. Then, you'd probably stop thinking about it, before you realise why you like it so much. Especially after today. You have enough on your plate as is without any more world-changing revelations.

Chapter Text

2009/04/14

When you wake up, you feel strange. Heavy, like you didn't get enough sleep. And you're caught off guard by not waking up in your own bed in your own bedroom for once, for the first time in thirteen years, and you're struck by an emotion you've never felt before, and immediately you decide you hate it. Altogether you're left to deal with far too many "and"s. When you remember where you are, you remember that you can't go home for three years, and that your dad is gone forever, and that your neighbourhood is gone forever, and that your whole fucking planet is just gone! You don't even have a pillow to scream into, so you make do with the pile of jewels and doubloons you pretend is at least the tiniest bit comfortable or healthy to be lying on. Your voice cracks a little as you do so, and it makes your rage sound so laughable, you want nothing more than to simply curl up and vanish out of pure shame. It makes you sound like a fucking joke.

A hand rests on your shoulder, and you jump. You turn your neck to see that the hand belongs to Terezi, and that her glasses are off, and that she's glaring at you with concern and remorse.

"You okay?" She whispers.

"No..." you reply, because there's no way that you could convincingly pretend you're fine.

"You wanna talk about it?"

You sigh, and nod, and she hugs you from behind, and Jesus Fucking Christ she's pointy. Her elbows and knees jab into you and you kind of awkwardly shift your weight to accomodate her but the pile shifts underneath you and you're left with your hip pushed aside by something you swear is a somehow-photoshopped version of the British crown jewels.

"What's up?" She asks when the two of you finally stop squirming.

"I'm homesick. It's been..." you activate the PDA function you installed in your glasses as you put them on and check the time on them, "only twelve or so hours since my hometown got crushed by meteors, and already it feels like it's been years since I went to school or the park or the grocery store or anything. Now it's gone."

Terezi nods. Her chin digs into your shoulder very briefly. "The game is supposed to give you longer to get used to it, but I guess Jack fucked that up for you."

You nod too. "I hate Jack! I'm gonna kill him the next time I see him!"

"I think everyone wants to get a slice of the Jack-killing action, for their own reasons. Yours are... proooobably among the most justified."

There's an uncomfortable silence which hangs in the air for a moment. Or maybe it's just a regular silence, and this pile is just that uncomfortable. Either way, you fill this silence without thinking.

"I wish I handled this all - this game, this adventure, everything - as well as Vriska did," you admit.

"Nope."

"What?"

"You don't wish that."

"Yes I do. What?"

"No you don't."

"What are you talking about? I do!"

"She's a fucking disaster, John. You've known her... less than a day, and already the two of you think that's long enough to decide you love each other. You don't know that much about her. Not as much as I do, anyway. I've known her for two and a half sweeps, and trust me: she's usually really really different."

Two and a half sweeps? Wow, that's - you crunch the numbers in your head - a lot, probably.

"Where is Vriska, anyway?" You ask, craning your neck up to survey the room.

"She's a light sleeper," Terezi shrugs, "so she'll usually be up and around by the time you wake up, and she'll be dressed and ready for the ni- I mean, day. Right. You guys are diurnal. She'll be ready for the day before the slime's even dried out of your hair."

You have no idea what that means, but you're still so burned out from yesterday that you can hardly work up the energy to ask. You just sigh instead. You feel like Terezi is wrong about Vriska, though, even though you know deep down that she knows her way, way better than you. Maybe you've constructed an image of Vriska in your mind based on the person you want her to be. Why *do* you want her to be that? Maybe it's easier to look up to her when you ignore how fucked up she is.

You catch yourself there. Now that is a terrible way of thinking! You shouldn't idolise someone for something they can only pretend to be. Now that you think about it, you don't want to look up to her like that at all! If you don't look up to her, but you want to be her, what does that mean...?

Okay, you think, your brain is handing you a couple servings of confused adolescent bullshit on a silver platter. The soup of the day is fucking identity crisis before you even get out of bed, it tells you. Bon appetit, idiot.

This is hard! You bet nobody else has to deal with this shit all the time. This is unfair, it just sucks to be you! You wish you could be anyone else.


Fuck it, you're now the other girl.

Your name is VRISKA SERKET. You can't stop thinking about how John said the name suited you.

You're standing in the bathroom, just staring at yourself in the mirror. You don't know why this is where you do all your introspection. Probably because it was one of the few rooms of your hive where your lusus couldn't see you. It feels safe here.

You stare at your own face, and my, what a wonderful face it is. You run a thumb along your chin. It's soft, round and hairless now, and that alone is almost enough to bring a tear to your eye. You brush a finger against your lips, which have turned a natural pitch black. You pucker them a little, and lick them. They glisten with your saliva, and you laugh when you realise they're darker than your tongue is. You love the way you laugh now. It's so light and hearty, and you're not at all ashamed of it because it sounds the way you were always supposed to!!!!!!!!

You decide that maybe today you could try going without any makeup. This is literally a new face, so why not start over? Maybe work out what you should be doing with it that you didn't do with your old one, and vice versa. And now, maybe your lusus will finally-

Wait.

She's dead. You keep forgetting you're not, like, enthralled to her until you drop dead from exhaustion at nine sweeps old. She's gone now. She's actually fucking gone.

You put on your grey jacket, and leave it unzipped. You far prefer it to your Thief outfit. You dress really well. You don't need some bogus game to tell you that. As you leave the bathroom, you briefly lock eyes with Dave, who immediately rushes in.

"Jesus Christmas," he grumbles. "I've been needing to piss since the Cambrian Explosion. Didn't you hear me? I've taught myself percussion from knocking on the door so much I could have formed my own Phil Collins tribute act." He shuts said door as quickly as possible.

"No," you lie. You're interested to discover that there's a human Phil Collins too, though. Guess he must be one of those universal constants.

As you wander back to your room, you can't help but sing to yourself and dance a little. Sure, you can't hold a pitch if your life depended on it, and you've never been particularly coordinated, but nobody's watching. Besides, you get the feeling that today's gonna be gr8! Gotta stim that excited energy out somehow.


You are now John Egbert again.

There are bags under your eyes, and you're slouching, but you swear you're fully awake. This is your A-game right now. It's terrible.

When you and Terezi step out into the corridor, you're a little surprised to see Vriska jam out to something she's singing - about... pyramids? And life fading or something? - falter, and then half-jog over to you.

"Hey!" She beams. She's adorably chipper. "How'd you sleep?"

"Terribly," you and Terezi admit.

"Damn, that's a shame. I can't blame you, though. Yesterday was wild, right?"

"Yeah," you groan in agreement. A part of you knows you're going to be chasing the high of last night for the rest of your life, though you can't bring yourself to understand that.

 "Wanna go grab some breakfast?" She offers. She smiles like she's trying to cheer you up, but how unsettlingly wide-eyed she is about it suggests that's not really something she's tried doing much before.

"Sure," Terezi shrugs, saving you the trouble of answering. "How about we have it in the computer room? It's not like we really know our way around here yet."

Vriska nods at that. To you, it sounds as good an idea as any.

Soon, you're in a large, square room, with desks for computers along each wall.

"This is where the magic happened," Vriska announced proudly. "Every message we sent you and your friends was written up in this room yesterday."

Trying to think about that, about the fact that the trolls have only known you and your friends for a day, boggles your mind. You look around and spot Rose in the far corner of the room, deep in conversation with Kanaya. Both of them seem to be digging into a plate of French toast. It's so crazy that you're in the same room as Rose now, after all these years!

"Actually," Rose asserts to Kanaya, "it's pronounced, 'Lalonde'."

"Lalonde." Kanaya seems to ponder this.

"Yes."

"So I've been saying it wrong this whole time?"

"It would appear so. Oh! Hello, John. Hello... Terezi? Is that right?"

"Yeah," Terezi grins.

"So, how did you sleep las-"

"And I'm Vriska," Vriska interrupts.

"My sincerest condolences," Rose bows, "I can't imagine how hard that must be for you."

You look at Vriska, expecting her to growl in anger or frown in hostility, but instead, she's... grinning and blushing? Is this a troll romance thing? God, you hope not.

"Anyway," Rose continues, "how did you sleep?"

"Not great," you admit. "You know, because..."

"Yeah." She frowns and nods. If you didn't know any better, you'd say she was about to cry. "It was so... strange, to see her lying on the floor of the castle roof. I've seen her pass out before, but... obviously, that's not what that was, no matter how much it looked like, I don't know, like she was just going to get back up in the morning like always."

You look down at your shoes. You don't know what to say, and you're caught very much off guard when Rose stands up and hugs you.

"I wish what happened to us yesterday never happened, but I suppose it isn't all bad."

"It isn't?" You stammer.

"Well, I'm finally meeting my best friend in person. A lot of my friends, actually. For someone who never had any friends in person, it's an incredible feeling."

"Oh! Yeah! It's great." You hug her back. "It sucks that Jade couldn't be here too..."

You both stay silent for a second out of respect for Jade. It is Rose who breaks that silence, and that hug.

"French toast?" She offers.

"Oh! Sure! Thanks, I-"

"Lowercase t, eight, lowercase y, capital E, lowercase r, seventy-six, lowercase i."

"What?" You blink.

"The codes, John. We have to get all our food through alchemy now. That's the code for a nice, fresh plate of French toast." She wipes her hands on her orange robes. Kanaya glares at her. "What?" She shrugs. "These robes clean themselves. It's practical."


 You are now Vriska, thank fuck.

You're eating some Earth Human French toast or whatever, and to your surprise it's pretty good. You don't think you could handle it on the regular, though. Your two sisters are sitting either side of you, each with your own plate, with Kanaya and Rose sitting on the far side of the room. Terezi tears into her breakfast ravenously, but John seems too deep in thought to eat all that quickly.

"Hey, Vriska?" He asks.

"Yeah?"

"Why are you staring at Rose so much?"

Oh, shit. You didn't realise you had been.

"Let me answer your question with a question. What's a good insult to give someone to let them know you think they're cute, but at the same time, show some dominance over them?"

He furrows his brow. "I don't think that's a great thing to-"

You raise a finger. "Hold on," you say, producing your phone, "someone's messaging me."

tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering arachnidsGrip [AG].
TT: Hello, Vriska.
TT: I take it this is standard procedure for caliginous flirtation?
TT: Wench.
TT: Harlot.
TT: Bitch.
TT: Shrew.
TT: Whore.
TT: I'm not deaf, you know.
AG: Oh, thanks. These are all pretty good.
TT: They're not suggestions.

You look up at her. She winks at you. You can't help but blush profusely. Oh, she's good.

"Hey, um." John coughs into his fist. "Should I go? I feel kinda like I don't belong here right now if you guys are gonna do this. Not that there's anything wrong with this, and not that I don't wanna be around because it seems like you guys are having a great time! But this seems like kind of a girly thing, you know, since Rose is gay, and - wait, is Rose gay?"

"Yes," she calls back. "More than you could possibly imagine."

"Right! And I mean, I am the only boy in the room after all! Heheh..."

"Are you?" You ask. Something about the way he said all that sounds awfully familiar to you. Partially, but not entirely because of how stunted and awkward a couple of sentences that was, and how viciously you'd tear into anyone else about it: it's undeniable that you did used to talk like that.

"What do you mean?"

"You just said that you wanna be here, but you also said that this was really girly."

"Yeah? So?"

"Oh!" Kanaya blinks.

"What are you saying? I don't follow." Rose's face scrunches up. She pouts when Kanaya mimes the zipping of her lips and winks at you. You glance at Terezi. She looks confused, but in a way that would suggest she kind of gets it.

John looks among all of you. "Is... is nobody gonna say what point it is you're making?"

You wave him off. "Don't worry. I'm just joking with Kanaya." The last time you tried to force his personal development along, he got stabbed in the heart and died. "That said, I don't see a problem in you hanging out with the girls. After all, you are my sister now."

He smiles and blushes. No, you joke to yourself. She smiles and blushes.

"Sister?" Rose raises an eyebrow. Terezi explains the whole dealie there. Not the bit about being trans, though.

Kanaya, on the other hand, doesn't catch on to the fact that Terezi omitting the unfortun8 mist8ke of your original body was a deliberate courtesy. "Also, Vriska cares a lot about femininity because she has gender dysphoria," she tacks onto the end of Terezi's explanation.

"How dare you," you snarl. "That's supposed to be a secret!"

She goes wide-eyed. Her face falls. You think her glow dims a little, too. "Is it? Oh, I'm awfully sorry, Vriska. I never realised that you didn't want-"

"Who else have you told?" You ask calmly, in a calm voice, which you can do because you're definitely not freaking out!!!!!!!! Terezi and John glance at each other and gulp.

"Nobody!" She protests. At least she's panicking as much as you DEFINITELY AREN'T. "Really! I'm so terribly sorry that I-"

"I really don't care, you know," Rose shrugs. You blink. "No, really. It's fine. I won't lie: my understanding of psychology is mostly derived from secondhand college textbooks filtered through the reading of someone who is both definitely not a medical professional and also an actual thirteen year old, but I like to think I'm a bit more intelligent than I'd have to be to fall for archaic misinterpretations of what it means to be transgender, asserted by long-dead quacks with half the facts seeking to reaffirm their own biases."

"What does... any of that mean?" John whispers. Without turning to face him, you stick your arm out, pushing him by the face. He flails wildly, trying to get you to knock it off, 8ut can't you see there's an important convers8tion going on, John? W8 your turn.

"Oh hey, uh," is all you can think to say, "thanks. That-"

Suddenly, Rose leans on her elbow and rests her chin on her fist, her body language slipping into something more comfortable. Your pump biscuit skips a beat. She's a natural at caliginous romance. "Besides," she coos, "if you're worried I'm not going to respect you for it, your worries are for naught. I'm glad to finally have something I can respect you for." Alright, that was kind of a shitty blackrom pickup line to offer at such a vulnerable moment, especially while addressing such a sensitive topic, but you decide to let it slide. Its delivery was way too hot not to.

"Hey, uh," John half-whimpers, "I'm just gonna take away everyone's dirty dishes, so, uh," he walks around the room, collecting up plates and offering a quick farewell interrupted by his own transportalisation out of the room.


 You're John now. You... you think you're John. For some reason, you don't feel too sure about that. It's a subtle kind of not being too sure, one where your doubt is so alien to you that you don't even recognise you're feeling it.

You carried those plates around for a while, not sure of where to put them. It took you fifteen minutes to find a kitchen, and even then, you're not sure it was a real kitchen, given all the bizarre looking lab equipment. Now you're working your way back through this meteor's freaky labyrinth of corridors, hoping those girls are done with the flirting and stuff. You run into Dave, who looks equally lost as you.

"Hey, Dave!" You grin and hold your arms out in the offer of a hug. He practically tackles you into an embrace. Damn, you realise. You were all a bunch of really really lonely kids, huh?

"Sup," he offers, not at all loosening his grip on you. You hug him back for a couple seconds, and then break it up.

"Not much!" You smile. "Just had some breakfast with Vriska and Terezi and Rose and Kanaya. It was nice!"

"Ah, shit. I missed it! What was breakfast?"

"Nothing fancy, just French toast."

"The fuck is French toast?"

"Oh! It's toast, except you-"

"Ohohon, Monsieur Egbehhrt! Je suis une slice de toast!"

"Wait. Do you really not know what French toast is?"

"Dude." He dudes you. You've just been duded. "I had to budget my fucking allowance to buy breakfast cereal. What do you think? Holy shit." He gasps. "Was Bro... training me, for the economy?"

"The... what?"

"There was a part in my quest where I had to crash the stock market. Try to keep up, man."

"... We're getting off track," you point out.

"Fuck yeah, we are. Uh..." he looks around. "Oh. Right. What room is everyone in?"

"Follow me!" You head off in what you're certain is the right direction now - yeah, it's gotta be because you came through here before - and gesture for him to join.

"Hey John." As he walks, he's slouched over with his hands in his pockets.

"Yeah?"

"You ever feel like... I dunno. Like you've made up the person you say you are, because being that person - being normal, I guess - is easier than actually looking for the truth?"

"What?"

"Yeah, I'm not sure. Just some stuff that's been on my mind, I guess."

"I..." you sigh, "don't... know? I don't really think about myself. I don't think anything about myself! I just kind of... am."

"Yeah. I get that. You're just kind of a passive observer, right? I was like that, until... well, until a few days ago, when the game started."

"That was yesterday."

"For you, yeah. For me, I haven't seen Bro in almost a week. That's what was, like, the turning point for me. He always seemed like... the main character, I guess. Like I was his sidekick. Like who I was didn't matter. But now he's gone I'm kinda realising real life doesn't have main characters."

"What are you talking about?"

He shrugs. "Well, I guess what I'm saying is that Bro trained me in a lot of things. But not thinking about myself. Now I gotta teach myself that. I think you do too."

You look down. You have no idea how to do that.

Chapter Text

2009/4/20

You can't stop thinking about that conversation you had with Vriska during your first morning here.

"Are you?" She had asked. Were you the only boy there? Of course you were. What kind of a question even *was* that? What the fuck was she talking about?

You gaze into the bathroom mirror while you're brushing your teeth at the end of another uneventful day. You guess you can kind of accept that all the action is over. It's disappointing, sure, but there isn't a whole lot you can do about it. You spit and rinse. Dad's gone. You're still not ready to accept that. You get the feeling you're going to be hung up on his death for what's gonna be a large fraction of your life. Already you've resolved to stop celebrating your birthday. Or at least tone it down. Anniversaries of big events always stuck with you for some reason.

Rose hurries in, with a look in her eye as if she'd just seen a ghost. Well, not an actual ghost. Real ghosts turned out to be pretty normal people. But you get what you mean! It's one of the few thoughts you've had recently that actually makes any sense! You digress. She's breathing heavily, but she seems to calm down just a bit when she sees you.

"Hey, Rose!" You always greeted her with a grin before now. This time, though, there's enough worry on your face for her to read at even the slightest glance. She hugs you as tightly as her scrawny little arms can manage, and then lets go with a sigh.

"What's wrong?" You whimper.

She looks at the floor. "I-" she begins, but she hesitates. She clenches her fists. "I can't do this anymore! I can't keep pretending to be someone I'm not!" Wow, holy crap. You've never seen her this serious before. At least, not when she wasn't being possessed by the ancient gods of the endless void. "You're my best friend," she mumbled, "so you deserve to know the truth."

"Okay?" You raise an eyebrow. "What's-"

"I... I think I'm a lesbian."

"Yeah?" You nod, with the cadence of an expectation that that sentence is supposed to keep going.

"Wait, you seem... remarkably unshaken by this."

"Of course I am!" You throw your hands up in exasperation. "You said you were gayer than I could imagine the other day! While you were flirting with Vriska!"

"I was being ironic before." She says this with such straight-faced conviction that you instantly feel exhausted by having to process what she's telling you.

"That's not even what irony is!" You exclaim. "Why were you 'ironically' being a lesbian before now?!?"

"Alright," she winces, "I'm not sure this shouting is necessary. I just... wanted to talk about it. Alright?"

"Of course!" You nod, and blink. "That's what friends are for, right?" She takes a seat on the edge of the bathtub, which looks to be stained with opaque, lime-green fluid. A troll thing, you're sure. You sit on the floor. You don't know as much about psychology or whatever as she does, but you figure that maybe if you're down here and she's up there, it'll give her an ego boost and make her feel more comfortable?

"Wow," she mumbles, "so you knew all along, just because of how inscrutable my jokes about sexuality were?"

"Yeah. I guess so."

 "Well, then. That's certainly going to make explaining a lot of things much easier. And I'm glad you're okay with it. That's an immense relief."

"Why wouldn't I be?"

She shrugs. "I don't know. But there's a lot of things I don't know."

"I find THAT hard to believe!" You laugh, and she joins you.

"I'm sure it'll come as no surprise that I must have been approaching this whole issue from a joking perspective to avoid confronting what truth there must have been behind it."

You nod, cautiously, and your gaze veers off into the distance before you turn back to her. "So why did you stop now?" You ask.

"I kissed Kanaya."

"Oh?"

"Yes. It was wonderful, actually." She chuckles, not meeting your gaze. "I think I'm in love."

"So... let me get this straight. You approached this kiss like, as a joke, and then afterwards you thought, oh hey actually this is pretty good?"

She nods. "That's actually exactly how it went."

You raise an eyebrow. There are gears in your mind turning now. Gears which have never turned before.

"...Rose...?" You mumble, lost in thought.

"Yes?"

You flinch, as if suddenly becoming aware of your surroundings. "Oh- oh, nothing. Never mind." You blush, and turn away. You can't believe you were about to say that! You ought to feel ashamed. In fact, you do.

Rose looks you up and down, before hesitantly muttering, "Alright." Despite how cold her tone sounds on the surface, you can tell that she means she understands.

You're thankful for that, because you sure don't.


You're Vriska again now. Awesome. You, Terezi, and John are playing a game of cards. You can't really follow which particular game of cards it is. Terezi does appear to be winning, which would be more or less par for the course in basically any of them. John seems really distracted, and every time he seems to get closer to either winning or losing, he blinks, mumbles some expression of surprise or something, and just goes back to thinking.

Eventually you decide you're simply fed up with the way he's playing. He's so slow every time it's his turn, and there's no enthusiasm behind any of his plays! He's just sucking the fun out of this! The best time to confront him about this, you decide, was the start of the game. The second-best is now. You lay down your hand, face-down.

"John," you rest your chin on your palm as you turn to him, "is something the matter?"

"What? Oh, no, I'm fine."

"No you're not. Why aren't you paying attention?"

"It's nothing, really. I'm just being dumb."

"Tell me," you growl, "what y-"

"Come on," Terezi interrupts you, "he doesn't wanna talk about it!"

"He's getting in the way of the game!"

"Fuck this game! You're prying too deep-"

"Oh my god, stop arguing!" John yells at both of you. It's obvious he didn't mean to yell at you like that. In fact, he looks pretty embarrassed about it. He looks at the floor when he resumes talking. "It's stupid anyway, but if you wanna know, I'm... just being jealous."

"Jealous?" Terezi presses. "Of who?"

"Nobody! I just, uh, how do I put this without looking like an idiot?"

"We're all idiots here," Terezi shrugs, and this is neither the time nor the place for you to protest. "Just say whatever you're thinking."

He sighs. Alright then, you can tell he's thinking. "I wish I was a lesbian," he says at last.

"...Wh-" is all you can manage.

He goes red in the face and curls up in shame. "No, I get how that sounds, it's just... it's just, seeing how you feel about Terezi, and how Rose feels about Kanaya... it's so... augh, I don't even know how to say what I want to! I don't wanna talk about this anymore! I'm just being super weird!"

"I don't think it's weird," you shrug.

"You... don't?"

"You spent the back half of your session following my every command and dressing like me and talking like me. It's not a big shock that you wanna be like me."

He sighs again. "That's why I like it when you put me to sleep. Because for a fleeting moment, that's your thought in my mind. I wanna be like you. Like all of you, really. You're all so cool and smart and..."

"And girls?"

He doesn't answer that.

"Is John..." Terezi gasps.

"I dunno," you admit, "this isn't anything like how it happened for me."

"How what happened? What's going on?" John looks between the two of you expectantly.

"Coming out as a girl. Is that what you're doing here?"

"No! Of course not! That doesn't make any sense! I'm just a normal thirteen year old boy!"

"Do you wanna be?"

"What? Uh... not... really. What's your point? That doesn't change the truth."

"Au contraire, dummy! You can change, if you really want to. That's what I did."

"Yeah, but this is different. I'm not... like you."

"You're not like me? You wanna be a lesbian and you don't wanna be a boy, but you're not like me?" You sneer, as your pressure almost turns to mockery. Your anger covers up your hurt, and that he would imply being like you is undesirable - shameful, even, hurts more than you'd ever admit. Being angry comes more naturally to you than letting yourself understand that you could ever feel offended or upset, so you welcome your rage. You welcome it, and it pushes you onward. Onward, until a switch flips. Until the Caegar drops.

"I'm not fucking trans, Vriska!" She snaps, and you blink in surprise. She herself seems unsure of the validity of this statement. "I'm... not," she adds, to herself. "I'm not. I'm-"

You hug her. You pull her in tight. You pat her on the back and you think you mumble some kind of reassurance to her. It's the least you owe her; she was visibly scared when you raised your voice a second ago. She's much more fragile than you, too, from the pressure of having bottled up too much for too long.

"I'm no- I'm not a girl," she chokes on her own panic.

"Do you wanna be?" You whisper back.

"Y- yeah."

"Then you are one."

When you break the embrace, she rubs a tear from her eye. "Why am I like this?" She whimpers.

"There isn't a 'why' to it," you run a hand through her hair. "You just... are."

"I don't like thinking about this, Vriska. I really don't."

You force a smile. You're getting a little teary-eyed too, and for once, there's no Spidermom around to tell you that it makes you weak. Maybe there isn't some inner conflict you have to fight to stop yourself from being so fragile. Maybe not everything has to be a battle. Maybe you can just... be. "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay," you promise her. "I love you. Terezi loves you. You're our scourge sister."

Now it's Terezi's turn to hug her. "I get that this is probably a lot to take in, so if you need us to help you ease into it, we're here for you."

"Th- thanks, Terezi. You too, Vriska."

You lean back in, and the three of you hug it out for a while. "We're sisters," you hear her reassure herself.

"We are. We really are," you confirm.

"Now you realise," she throws her hands up in the air, "this is a lot for me to take in, alright? So I wanna start slow."

Terezi beams. "That's what Vriska said when she came out. Almost word for word!"

You crack a grin and roll your eyes, and you playfully jab her in the ribs. She can be so em8arrassing sometimes! She jabs you back, harder than you did. Thus begins and concludes your second cycle of revenge.

"So..." 'John' coughs, getting your attention. "I haven't really figured out a name or anything yet, so, uh,"

"You're wondering where to start?" You raise an eyebrow.

"Yeah."

"I guess we could... start by calling you a girl? I mean we are already kind of doing that in calling you our sister!" Terezi offers.

'John' glances at you expectantly. You just shrug, and mouth the words, "This is really your call".

"Alright," she nods, and she beams with delight, and it's wonderful. "Time to try being a girl, then!"


You are now... no longer John Egbert. Maybe you never were. But you look like him and you sound like him and you *feel* like him and...

Wow.

You hate it.

You actually fucking detest the idea of John Egbert.

So, you decide you're not him. You can do that. It feels so surreal, to be able to do that. You've punched a hole through a planet, fought an omnipotent warrior, and reset your entire universe, and that all seems plausible to you. But being able to decide to be a girl feels farfetched.

You're sitting in the library with Rose. This place's library is really good, and it's all very new to you because the way carapacians tell stories is far more literal and precise, yet filled with rich symbolism, than how humans ever did. Not that you're reading much today. You have bigger things on your mind. Well, one very very big thing.

"Hey Rose?" You say without thinking, because if you do think about it you're just going to stop yourself from saying anything.

"Hmm?" She raises an eyebrow without looking up from her novel, which features a dark blue cover and is comprised of pages of noticeably more square dimensions than any you're used to.

Well, here goes nothing. "I'm gonna try out being a girl for a while, alright?"

"Alright," she mumbles, still not looking up from her book. It's in that moment that you realise Karkat had entered the room at some point and heard the entirety of what you just said. His jaw and his eyebrows shoot out in opposite directions, and he's totally silent either out of the courtesy of keeping his nose out of a sensitive conversation like this, or just plain surprise. It could be both. That would be pretty on par for the course, you think.

When roughly eight seconds pass, Rose sits up straight, furrows her brow, and the turns to face you so quickly you're amazed her head doesn't come flying off.

"Wait," she demands, "you're WHAT?!?"

You grin nervously. She grins back, but there's not so much as a drop of shyness in her expression. She shifts her whole posture towards you. You have her undivided attention.

"Well, uh..." you scramble, "I just didn't really like being a boy, so I stopped. That's honestly all there is to it. You know, it's weird."

"What is?"

"Just, 'it'. The whole dealie. In general."

"Oh, yes. I imagine it must be. Of course, I'm not trying to belittle your introspective musings, or dismiss it as anything less than deeply personal. I'm just trying to say that after the revelation I've had today,"

"Yeah. Yeah." You interrupt her. "Guess today's been big for both of us for pretty similar reasons, right?"

"Hey, uh," Karkat grumbles behind you, "Are you two... flirting? Because I think we've all had really long days, and yeah, it's complicated, blah, blah, whatever. So if that's what you're doing, I'd like one of you to just push this bookshelf onto me right now, crushing my-"

"Please be quiet, Karkat. This is important," Rose sighs, and you barely notice that she didn't answer his question. You're about to do it yourself, but you hesitate a second too long and can't answer without it looking weird. Karkat mutters something in understanding and scuttles off. You like him, you really do, but gosh! He can be such a pest sometimes!

Now that it's just you and Rose by yourselves, you both sit in silence for a few seconds, each left to ponder you. You're left with one burning question, and you can't think of anyone better to ask.

"Hey," you pipe up, "so does this make me gay?"

"More than you could possibly imagine," Rose grins.

Chapter Text

2009/05/15

Your name is John Egbert.

Sure. Why not.

It'll do for now.

It's been almost a month since you first tried being a girl. You never really stopped. At this point, it's a very real possibility that you are one.

But it's hard to accept! You look nothing like a girl. You don't talk like it. You don't act like it. But it feels good, and you're deeply, deeply ashamed of that.

You're looking yourself in your respiteblock mirror and shooting an impressive variety of extremely confused faces. "Respiteblock" - one of the lowblood words you've started using. You've picked up a lot of your vocabulary from Karkat by this point.

You haven't cut your hair since... Well, since you ever got this body. It hasn't grown a whole lot, but you like to run your fingers through it sometimes. That wasn't really the case before.

There are other changes, too, and you can't tell if you like them or not. Your voice cracks once every few days, a couple of black hairs have begun to writhe their way out of your chest, and... well, your body is beginning to dictate to you some very strong opinions on girls. You don't mind any of these things, though. Boyhood is awkward for most people, and you're very much relieved by the first signs of being a man. That's what you want to be, right?

...

Right?

You're so caught up in how much has changed in the past month - how much *you've* changed! - that you don't notice Terezi is staring at you, her head lopsided in concern, her mouth twisted into a question mark.

"Hey," she sighs, "what's the matter?"

"Oh...? Oh, it's nothing. I'm fine."

She walks over to you and rubs your arm, and she takes a deep breath. "Please tell me. However you're feeling about... You know."

You agree quietly. You do know. You think.

"Yeah. I've seen it all before. I watched Vriska go through it, you know."

You sigh. What do you even say? You're not the type to talk about your feelings.

"Who am I?" Is the best you can manage.

"That's for you to decide. In fact, it's essential that you're the one to work that out. Because only you are... you."

"But... but am I really the best person to make a decision this big!?"

"Yeah, you dork! Did you really not listen to a word I said?"

You roll your eyes. "I know! Just... what if I make the wrong choice?"

"You correct it. Identity isn't something you ever have to set in stone, you know. You make a mistake, you fix it! No big deal."

You think about it. Since you've been rooming with both a mind player and a light player, it's only natural that the idea of choices being "right" and "wrong", even for something as subjective as this, has rubbed off on you. But it's not getting you anywhere, you think. It doesn't sound much like a decision this way, despite their firm adamance that that's exactly what this is.

"I don't think I'm getting anywhere," you sigh. "I'm not any closer to figuring out who I am than I was yesterday, or the day before that, or the day before that! I'm not the kind of person who just... I don't know. Powers through everything?"

"Neither was she," Terezi smirks, and tucks her hair behind her ear.

"I find that hard to believe!"

"Trust me. She was really, really different back then. Less confident. Less assertive. Less..."

"Proud?" You offer.

"Exactly! In fact, she was a lot like you."

"Really?" You wonder aloud. "Huh. Well, what do you think of me, Terezi?"

"I keep trying to tell you. What I think doesn't matter!"

"I know, I know," you shrug, and you turn away from the mirror completely so that you're facing her. "I just like to hear your opinions on things!"

She seems almost taken aback by this, and you think she blushes. You're not too sure, though. You think Vriska has been trying to cultiv8 a kismesitude between the two of you, and Terezi is kind of leaning into it, so it's unsurprising that she would be confused by you steering flushedward. She regains her composure quickly, though. Given the kinds of really weird people she's grown up alongside, you can only imagine that's a skill she's learned out of necessity.

"Well," she begins, grinning from ear to ear and leaning on her cane, "if you must know, I think the ways of your old society are too deeply entrenched in your mind. Maybe you don't have to be what everyone wanted you to be! Maybe you we're told your whole life that you'd be a ruthless, efficient officer of the law, but then, when you get older, you realise you never really wanted any of that. All you ever wanted was to stand up for people who didn't know how to stand up for themselves."

"So... you think I'm a girl."

"I didn't say that! What I said is that you need to learn to think about it on your own."

Oh, for fuck's sake. You are thinking about it, though! But it's hard! One moment you hate the idea of being a man, the next... you're not so sure. Why does this have to be so hard?

Alright, you decide. You're going to distract yourself by being someone else.

 


 

You are now Vriska Serket, which, as per usual, you decide is a very good thing to be.

You're in one of the meteor's numerous libraries, this one boasting an impressive collection of vinyl records. You've listened to a couple already, and to your amazement, Dersite folk music is pretty good. You're thumbing through a collection of a genre called "Hive Ragtime" - although you still haven't worked out what that means - when Dave makes his entrance into the room impossible to ignore with a cacophony of obnoxious beatboxing. You pretend you haven't noticed him, more for his sake than yours. You know your beats could fucking decim8 him if the possibility of throwing down with him didn't make you want to puke every time it crossed your mind. Karkat's with him, though, which is new, and he looks equally as annoyed as you feel. That is to say, he looks more annoyed than you look, because you take pride in your composure and are perfectly capable of hiding away your emotions and there are definitely absolutely no downsides to this.

"Yo. Vris." He waves at you, the corner of his mouth curling into a smile.

"Ka," you add. You chose this name for a reason, and you're not going to let him bastardise it like that. You notice the two boys go opposite ways, with Karkat wandering off to the corner furthest from you (thank god), and Dave strolling over to you (oh god).

"What sick jams are y'all browsing through over here, like a-" He begins, which seems like a genuine question, but that's the thing with Derse dreamers. You can never be too sure.

"Fuck off," you grumble.

"Oh, shit. Who's that by?" He laughs silently at his own joke. He does that from time to time, and you'd be a hypocrite if you hated him for that. Thankfully for you, though, you are a hypocrite.

"Look," he shrugs. "I know you're not buying the Dave Strider Original brand of bullshit I'm selling - hell, I know I couldn't give it away for free. I'm just a down-on-his-luck bullshit merchant, I'm the Willy Loman of continuously just saying whatev-"

"Get to the point," you sigh, still flicking through record after record.

"I just think, you know, since we're spending three years in the same stupid, drab meteor complex, maybe we shouldn't just be shitting on each other that whole time? Maybe we could kinda get along?"

"Mhm," you mumble absentmindedly. Oh, this one looks like it could be good. It's a pretty cute cover with two carapacians engaging in an adorable little jig together. "What makes you say that?"

"Well," he rubs his arm like an anime character, "you know, I spent a long time living with someone I didn't get along with. Well, I thought I did, but it was... okay, so-"

"Pick a place you're gonna start your sentence and stick with it." Silently you pray he never hears you with your nervous stutter. Well, not nervous. More like flustered. Flustered stutter. Try saying that three times fast.

"Basically, I didn't have a very... healthy... home life. I wanna avoid that happening again. Because the meteor gang is kind of like one big family to me. I never had a "normal human family" or whatever you wanna call it."

"Yeah, that seems reasonable," you admit. You can relate to not having a healthy home life.

"But it's hard," he continues. Oh 8rother. "Because nobody could understand that shit! All the weird, awful stuff that happened... it sounds made up! Nobody else knows what it's like to have a guardian who beats you up and threatens you and stuff, because they think it'll make you stronger or whatever. Nobody had a guardian who told them that..." he clenches his fist. Is that a threatening gesture? "That, like, dropping the facade of a really tough, heroic guy - even just for a second, was gonna make them weak. Nobody got fed all that bullshit about what it means to be "a man" or whatever the shit, and there was that fucking puppet, too! That thing haunts your dreams, and it whispers shit to you every night, telling you that you didn't deserve to live if you weren't gonna fucking learn how to-"

You interrupt his tirade by slapping him across the face. He pauses in shock and just kind of stares at you. "How dare you fucking bring all that up," you snarl, fangs bared. "Nobody was supposed to know about any of that! Was that what all this was about?" You scream. "Were you reeling me in with your "attempt at being my friend" just so you could get under my skin? Well, fuck you too, Strider!"

"What...?" Is all he can say.

"What the fuck do you mean, "What"!?!" You go to throw another blow, but suddenly, Karkat's behind you, and he catches your arm.

"Vriska, what the fuck!" Vantas snaps at you. What right does he have to get involved in this? "What are you even trying to do? Jog Dave's memory of his abusive upbringing with a sensory-"

"His WHAT?!?"

"Wait," Dave cuts in. "What the shit did you think I was talking about?"

"I... I..." Oh your god. "Dave, I didn't... I..." You've never been this embarrassed in your whole life. It takes him a second to figure out this whole misunderstanding, and when he does, he gives you a hug. He's not saying anything, though, because he's beginning to cry. You push him off, and you decide that you hate him. Look at him, you think. Look at this kid who had such a similar upbringing to you, but in the end only came out of it as fragile and kind and easygoing as was beaten out of you, as you would have been killed for being, as you so desperately wish you could be! You take your record and you march out of there, and it's a long time before you consider the possibility that you might have shed a tear on the way out.

 


 

You're TBA Egbert, and today is the day you receive a very important package in the mail. That is to say, during one of your crossings though a dream bubble, a double-eyepatched guy named Sollux Captor hands you a letter in a green envelope.

"Wow, thanks!' You smile at him. He doesn't smile back. You open the letter.

 

dear john,
hi!!! i just wanted to let you know that all is well here on the meteor with davesprite (but we really miss you guys D: (well i do but davesprite wont say it (lol!!!)))
even though i am not in the furthest ring anymore, i can still go in the dream bubbles when im asleep but i havent seen you guys at all! i hope youre doing ok...
say hi to dave and rose and karkat and kanaya and everyone else from me and let me know that you guys are all fine the first chance you get! im kind of worried about you!
all the best to my little brother (thats you! that is still so hard to believe sometimes!)
jade

 

Aww, how sweet, you think to yourself. "Hey!" You call to Sollux. "If I write back, do you think you could deliver a letter to her?"

"Sure," he shrugs. "Who gives a shit what I'm doing." You love his enthusiasm! You hurriedly look around for something to write on, and opt to just use the back of her letter. You know she wouldn't mind.

 

dear jade,
wow! i'm so glad you and dave sprite are ok! we're all fine here too! oh man, so much has happened in the last month that i really don't know where to begin!
rose and kanaya have started dating, and they are so cute together! and me and vriska and terezi kind of are all dating too but not really? it's very complicated. oh that reminds me! i think i might be a

 

You hesitate a second too long to write the next word, and by the time you work up the willpower to do it, the meteor breaches the dream bubble, and the world outside, Sollux, and even the letter itself, all vanish from sight. You throw your pen on the floor in frustration, and it comes apart like the cheap piece of shit it is. Hastily, you put it all back together. You really really hope that Jade somehow figures out what you were going to say when Sollux delivers your unfinished message, but you seriously doubt that.

More upset about that than you should be, you wander over and up onto the roof of one of the meteor's facilities, and you look up to the sky.

"You really seem to have it all figured out," you smile, staring your nemesis in his good eye as he desperately trails your vessel. "What's the secret? Just get chased by someone with the same powers as you forever?"

You hear him bark something back to you, along the lines of "yeah, fuck you too, buddy." Your smile widens. The prankster's gambit tips ever so slightly in your favour.

Then you realise he's still barking, offering you some genuine advice. But he's too far away to hear. The gambit careens backwards, and your life is still as directionless as ever. You squint, struggling to read his lips, but the best you can make out is "you's a dame," which isn't a real sentence.

Oh well. You'll figure it all out eventually.