===> Be the Dreaming Page.
Are you sure you’re dreaming? When did you fall asleep? How could you possibly be asleep when your heart is hammering loudly inside your chest, fluttering like a panicked bird locked in a cage, aching to escape? There’s a rush of panic thrumming through your veins, making your thoughts race faster than you can understand them, killing any word that you want to say and causing your mouth to go dry. You’re breathing shakily in between choked sobs —when did you start crying?— and your chest hurts as you force words to come out, your lungs burning and begging for air as your vision becomes blurry from all the tears. You can barely make out a figure standing in front of you, feeling their intense stare burning into your eyes as you look up at them pleadingly —what are you pleading for? What’s going on?—.
“I want to be anywhere but here as long as it’s with you!” You can’t seem to hold yourself back, bursting into tears as your body violently shakes with sobs, despite not knowing what or whom you were crying for. Your knees buckle under your weight and you feel yourself falling to the floor when strong, calloused hands stop you from hitting the cold, wooden floor, jerking you up to your feet. The shock of their touch is enough to stop you from crying and you blink quickly in confusion, your vision slowly clearing up.
When you meet face to face with orange eyes, time seems to freeze immediately. You feel the air get knocked out of your lungs as if someone had bodyslammed you into a brick wall, making it hard to breathe again, but you don’t dare open your mouth to gasp. Dirk’s stare is cold and calculating as he holds you up, his nails digging painfully into your skin, but you can’t pull your gaze away. He looks older than you remember, his eyes almost dull and uncaring as he watches you over the rim of his glasses, most likely gauging your reaction for whatever reason. Fear creeps into your system but it quickly disappears as it appeared when you’re pulled in, his lips pressing against yours in a soft kiss.
When was the last time you’ve kissed Dirk like this? Surely it’s been years. It’s only been three years since the game ended for you, three years since he had broken up with you while you were both high on magical candy, three years since you spent all your time with him, running around on your assigned planets, killing monsters and kissing in dark caverns. Three years doesn’t seem like a long time when you look back on it but you still feel a heavy longing in your chest, your hands shaking as you reach out to wrap your arms around Dirk, to pull yourself close to his body. You stop in your tracks though when Dirk pulls away from the kiss, looking unfazed as he cups your face gently, pushing you away carefully so there’s enough space between the both of you.
“I’m sorry Jake,” he murmurs gently, thumbing a stray tear away before slowly pulling his hands away, the heat of his touch leaving with him, leaving you feeling cold and afraid. “But I’ll never let you break my heart again.”
===> Wake up.
You wake up with a choked gasp, gripping your bedsheets tightly with sweaty hands. There are tears streaming down your cheeks, which you wipe away quickly, and your skin is clammy with cold sweat. Your heart refuses to calm down along with your racing thoughts so you’re forced to let all your anguish out, sobbing loudly into your hands until you feel all cried out. Eventually, you get control over your breathing again and start going through some breathing exercises to calm yourself down, hiccuping softly here and there as you breathe in and out. Your head is pounding from all the crying and you know you’re going to feel worse in the morning because there’s no doubt in your mind that you’re not going back to sleep after that dream.
A shiver runs down your spine when you recall the dream, a flash of bright orange eyes burning into yours, so you shake your head and force yourself out of bed, stumbling slightly on shaky legs as you walk across the carpeted floor, heading for the door. You head downstairs to grab a glass of cold water and a bottle of painkillers before returning swiftly to your bedroom, not very eager to linger in the confining kitchen of your small apartment.
It’s been three long years since the game had ended and you and the others began creating this new universe to live in. After establishing a population of trolls and humans alike, all of you were transported five thousand years into the future and settled down in small apartments in Can-town for the time being. At first, it had been nice to have the chance to live among people, being able to have visitors or to be able to visit your friends whenever you wanted without the fear of having to face monsters or an overly eager robot the moment you stepped outside, but with time, you’ve found that the presence of people feels grating on you, creating an itch to get away from it all.
It’s an itch you haven’t had the motivation to scratch, unsure how your friends will react when you decide to branch off. You would hate to make them upset by moving away all of a sudden so you’ll wait to talk to them about it. Roxy and Calliope surely wouldn’t mind! Hell, they’d probably encourage you to go! To spread your wings and fly! Jane probably wouldn’t be too upset by it either but who knows? It’s been a while since you’ve properly spoken to her, still a bit reluctant after everything that happened in the game, but you doubt she’ll react negatively.
Dirk on the other hand… You decide not to think about him too much, especially after the nightmare you just had. You’re gonna need a couple of hours to recover before you can even think about him again.
“Are you sure about that?”
The glass almost slips from your hand but you save it with the other, proceeding to drop the bottle of painkillers onto your foot and spill some water over your hands and feet. You yelp in pain, wincing as you grip your cup tightly in your hands, but you blink back your tears, not wanting to make a bigger fool of yourself. Your vision is blurred from your lack of glasses but you can vaguely see Brain Ghost Dirk sitting on the edge of your bed, resting back on the palm of his hands.
He’s dressed in his pink god tier outfit from the game but it looks rather silly on him now because he’s older now. He’s taller, more muscular than the lanky sixteen-year-old you had met and has longer sideburns. He looks a bit more relaxed than he would be if he was the real Dirk, the corner of his lips twisted upwards in a small smirk. He’s probably a tad bit amused from having frightened you, but you refuse to dwell on it too much because you know he’ll just tease you about it. It’s impossible to hide anything from this guy because he practically lives in your brain. Just a splinter from your old buddy, Dirk, that you like talking to whenever you catch yourself thinking too much about him.
When you approach the bed, you place the glass of water down on your nightstand and quickly grab your glasses, unfolding them and slipping them on before turning to face your nightly visitor with a small frown on your face. “Gadzooks, man! Can’t a man get up to grab a glass of water without getting sprung on like an innocent prey! In my own home as well!” You exclaim, your voice sounding raspy from having been crying earlier. Ugh, it’s probably obvious that you’ve been crying and he’s totally going to make fun of you for that. You’ve never been a pretty crier.
The smirk fades from BGD’s lips and he studies your face for a moment, making you feel small under his scrutinizing gaze. You can’t help but shift uncomfortably as you pick up your glass of water again, remembering the way Dirk had stared at you in your dreams, and taking a quick sip of it. You wince a little at the thought and try to shake it off, but it’s hard when there’s a copy of Dirk right there on your bed, staring at you hard.
“Am I making you uncomfortable?” BGD asks quietly, no hint of amusement in his voice like before. He knows the answer to this question because he can read your thoughts but thankfully he’s polite enough to keep the conversation going while you’re losing your mind from the lack of sleep you’ve been getting these past few months.
“A little, yeah,” you admit with a sigh. There’s no use lying to him because it’ll only make him upset and the last thing you need is some version of Dirk being mad at you.
“I wouldn’t be mad at you,” he mumbles, frowning at you. “Just confused on why you would if you know that I already know.” He’s always been more open with his thoughts than the real Dirk but you suppose that’s your influence on BGD. He is a figment of your imagination after all.
“It’s easy to forget that you’re not actually real,” you blurt out without thinking about the implications of your words. When his frown deepens, you wince a little and shake your head, wanting to take back your words, but the damage was already done. “No, no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that, I just mean—”
“I know what you meant, don’t worry,” BGD cuts you off quickly with a dismissive wave of his hand before sitting up in his spot and crossing his arms across his chest. “I know I’m not exactly the “Real Dirk” so don’t worry about having to dance around my feelings like they’re delicate glasswork or something. It’s not like I really care about being real or anything like that anyways,” he says with an indifferent shrug, lips pressed in a firm line. You sigh in response and settle down next to him, the bed springs complaining under your weight. You don’t even bother with coming up with something else to say because you’re too wound up, too tired from your lack of sleep, too confused to come up with something sensible.
Both of you sit in awkward silence, the only sound keeping you company being the faint chirping of crickets coming from outside your open window. Despite all this time living in this universe, you could never get used to the silence of your home, unable to sleep comfortably without the noises of the jungle, be it the occasional sounds of branches snapping or the distant growl of a monster lurking about. Having the windows closed makes you feel trapped within the house’s four walls and only reminds you of the brief period that you spent in jail during the game when Jane went Crockertier for a while. You shudder at the memory, clenching your fists and opening them as you force yourself to think about anything else but that. God, how many repressed memories are you going to experience tonight?
“Do you wanna talk about why you were crying earlier?” BGD finally breaks the silence, giving you the escape that you must have subconsciously asked for. “You look pretty fucked up about something.”
“Don’t you already know?” You retort sharply, feeling a bit defensive. The venom in your own voice surprises you but you can’t stop yourself. “I thought you practically lived in my brain so you already must know what I’m fucked up about.”
Raising his hands in defense, BGD just shakes his head. “Look, man, no need to get bitchy about it. I’m just doing you a common courtesy by asking you to share even though I do actually know. Just thought it would make you feel better and make this silence a lot less awkward than it already is. My fucking bad if I overstepped some boundaries, dude,” he shoots back with a frown, a tinge of irritation laced in his words. It's enough to make you drop your anger, knowing well that there was no point in taking it out on him. Besides, you don't have much of a reason to even be mad in general. He asked you an innocent question, didn't he? So why get your panties all up in a bunch about it?
"Sorry, it's just..." You trail off quietly, gesturing vaguely in the air as you try to find the proper words to express yourself with. "Lack of sleep. I haven't been sleeping too well these past few days so I haven't been feeling quite myself. But you're right though, I shouldn't have snapped at you like that."
BGD nods slowly as he lowers his hands to pick at his pants lazily. "It's the nightmares, right?"
"Well, I wouldn’t completely write them off as nightmares," you mumble, reaching to rub the back of your neck in thought. "And they're not exactly scary, but rather... Unsettling. I mean, not all of them are like that though; I've had a couple that could be considered pleasant if I were to dismiss my initial confusion."
For the past week or so, you've been haunted by different dreams involving a lot of your friends but much older. You remember seeing Jane once or twice in your dreams but you get a feeling of unease when you look back on them. All you remember from those dreams was feeling small under her stare, as if you were a child waiting punishment for doing something bad. You've seen Roxy holding an infant with black unruly hair and bright blue eyes close to his chest, smiling with a fondness only seen in a parent's eyes when they gaze upon their baby. And you've seen Dirk... Yeah, you're not sure how much you want to talk about that just yet.
"What about tonight's dream? I can't imagine your dream could be considered pleasant with the way you woke up sobbing like that," he murmurs softly, a sense of concern lacing in his words. When he turns to face you, you feel a jolt of anxiety shoot up your spine and turn away, unable to meet his eyes.
It's moments like this when you're fully convinced you've created BGD just to torture yourself. He's so much like Dirk that in moments like these when you need someone to comfort you, having BGD there instead only reminds you how you don't have the actual Dirk to keep you company. BGD is everything you've wanted to see from Dirk but it's not real.
But it could be, a part of you whispers softly in the back of your mind. Your hand twitches at the thought but you quickly brush it off, settling to run your fingers through your hair instead. How could you forget your handy-dandy hope powers that could bend reality at will? You could always wish BGD to be a physical identity to always keep you company, not just when you're feeling lonely if you really wanted to.
BGD's expression hardens slightly at your thoughts and he shakes your head. "Don't even think about it. You know well shit like that doesn't fly when it comes to Dirk splinters," he chides you. "I may be a splinter of his with your influence but that doesn't mean that it'll keep us from having any issues. Plus that'd be kinda weird. How would you explain to your friends that you're dating some weird version of Dirk? Like hey Roxy, I'd like you to meet my new boyfriend, Not-Dirk. He's exactly like Dirk but he's not actually him. I made him in my brain but now he's real because of my ridiculously powerful hope powers."
You wrinkle your nose at this, feeling your cheeks heat up in embarrassment. "Boyfriend? Who said anything about dating anyone?" You say with a forced laugh, pointedly avoiding his gaze. "Besides, I don't think I would even do something like that! I've only ever told one person about you but she's dead now so I'd very much like to keep it a secret. Who knows how Dirk would react if he found that a piece of him was residing within my brain..." You gnaw on your bottom lip at the thought. You bet your bottom boombuck Dirk would have a terrible reaction to that. He's never been fond of his splinters after all.
BGD barks out a laugh. "Oh yeah, forgot that the dude has this weird campaign against other versions of himself. He'd probably have a heart attack the moment he sees me before coming back to life only to fight me." He shakes his head with a deep sigh, leaning back on the bed to rest on his hands again. "Yeah, keeping me your dirty little secret sounds like a better idea than letting him find out. He'd probably find a way to blame himself and tear himself apart about it."
You can't help but nod in agreement. "I'm glad you see it my way. I haven't spoken to him in a long time but what I've heard from Roxy and Dave, he's been doing very well so I'd hate to ruin his lucky streak with this whole splinter business."
It's been months since you've had a proper conversation with Dirk that didn't include half-hearted messages on Pesterchum in which you type up a whole paragraph filled with meaningless chatter and he responds with 'oh, cool' or 'yeah'. When you first settled on Earth-C together, you had tried to pick up the pieces of your mangled friendship with Dirk and salvage as best as you could but it soon became obvious that it was too hard on Dirk for him to go on pretending like everything was fine. There were still some issues he had to deal with and being around you didn't really help him so he told you that he was going to need some space, something you had never dreamed he would ever say.
You, being the most supportive friend you could be, said 'yeah, that's fine! Have as much space as you need, buddy! I'll be here whenever you need me,' because you understood the concept of needing space. Being around the same people for too long made you feel caged in seeing as you've long grown accustomed to being on your own. And yes, while Dirk needing space was a surprise to you, you didn't make a fuss about it because he was your best bro! If space would make him feel better, then you'd give him the entire galaxy so he would cheer up again.
But then you realized that he only really wanted space from you.
He'd go to the parties your friends would host and hang out with the others, despite once claiming that they were too suffocating for him. He'd joke around with Dave, Karkat, and John, strike up some ridiculous philosophical conversation with Rose with Kanaya as some sort of referee to their arguments, maybe drink a little with Roxy and Jade if he was feeling up to it, and relax with Calliope and Jane at the end of the night.
All the while, ignoring you.
Not completely, of course. He would say hi to you if you caught his attention but your conversations were always short-lived, a meager 'hey, what's up' and 'nothing much, see you around,'. You've tried not letting it get to you because you did say it was okay that he wasn't going to be around as often as he used to be, but it's hard when you see him smiling around the others, having a grand old time with everyone but you.
You've spoken to Roxy about it on occasion, rarely bringing it up in fear of having a repeat of the mess you caused during your game session, and he's reassured you every time that Dirk is just dealing with some things and that it's not your fault. He needs time to think and be by himself and unfortunately, being around you makes it hard for him somehow. When he feels up to it, he'll come around so don't worry too much about it, ok jakey?
So you've tried not worrying about it because Roxy's right! Dirk wouldn't just leave you in the dark without an explanation. Once he feels better, you can be friends again and everything will be as it used to be when you were young friends, laughing with each other and making jabs at each other. Because really, all you want in life is to have your best bro back and not feel this crushing guilt in wondering if you've fucked things up to the point of no return. For now, you'll settle with talking with your own personal Dirk stand in.
"You really fucking miss Dirk, huh?" BGD murmurs gently, his voice soft and low as he looks over at you. You glance up at him, rubbing your arm sheepishly, before nodding with a deep sigh.
"Boy, do I," you say with a bitter laugh. "Tonight's dream didn't really help my case either. It was kinda weird... I dunno, rather depressing actually?"
"Can I ask what happened?"
Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, you look away as you try to remember the main part of your dream. "I don't remember quite well how it started but... I remember being in a large, empty mansion. Dirk was there with Squarewave... And Rose was there, but she was passed out on one of the chairs. Dirk... He was dressed in dark clothes and he looked much older, a little bitter? We talked for a bit but I can't really remember what it was all about." You furrow your eyebrows as you try to remember but all you can really recall is the kiss and the words Dirk said to you before you woke up.
"What do you remember then?" BGD coaxes, leaning into your side, curious to know.
"I remember crying and begging him to take me with him? I don't know exactly, but I just remember feeling so desperate to be with him that the thought of being without him felt like a gunshot to the heart! God, I was so scared because he was going to leave and I was going to be alone and without him and he—“ You feel your hands on your face, digging your nails into your tear-stricken face slightly, and pause for a moment. "He kissed me… And it felt like no one would ever kiss me like that ever again…”
The pain you felt in your dream returns at full force, constricting around your heart and making it hard for you to breathe. You can feel tears forming in your eyes again but you blink them away, not wanting to start crying in front of BGD. Dirk's words echo in your head and it only makes the throbbing in your chest ache more.
You feel a hand on your shoulder and glance over to see BGD with his stupid pointed shades off, looking at you with deep concern in his eyes. Seeing the bright orange color of his eyes gives you a whiplash when you think about the dull look you saw in Dream Dirk's eyes, so full of emotion and care compared to the cold, unforgiving stare. A beat of silence passes as you stare into his eyes, hands itching to touch, to feel Dirk's heat again, but you keep your hands to yourself, in fear of being pushed away again.
BGD opens his mouth to say something but his gaze flickers downwards, showing a rare sign of hesitation to his thoughts. When he looks back at you, his jaw is clenched slightly, whatever he was planning to say before seemed to have died on his tongue. Instead, he pulls one of your hands away from your face and holds it carefully in his translucent hand, almost as if he was unsure if this was alright.
"You should... probably get back to sleep," he mutters, eyes avoiding yours. "I doubt you'll have any more nightmares tonight but I'll do my best to make sure you get enough rest so you don't pass out tomorrow or something."
"I thought you couldn't control my basic functions though," you joke quietly, relaxing into his touch as you smile tiredly. He glances at you, the corner of lips twitching upwards in a small smile, the closest to a smirk you’ll get.
"Sure I can, I'm still a part of your brain, you dork," he teases before pulling his hand away and standing up. "Go to sleep before I make you sleep," he says, faking a glare at you as you settle back into bed with an amused snort.
"Aye, aye, sir," you reply back as you pull the bed sheets over your body, finally realizing how tired you actually feel. You're exhausted, physically and emotionally, so knocking out won't be too hard. Or at least, you hope.
"Goodnight... Dirk," you murmur, offering BGD a sleepy smile as he stands over you, his sunglasses back on his face.
golgothasTerror [GT] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG]
GT: Good morning my dear jade!
GT: While im quite aware its still pretty early and you may not even see this until later i got myself to thinking about some things.
GT: Nothing too serious of course but thinking nonetheless.
GT: And so i realized that we havent really spoken in a friggin long time!
GT: Which i mean isnt any of our faults because were both very busy people! You doing…
GT: Whatever youve been getting up to these days!
GT: And me…
GT: Well being me i suppose!
GT: So what im proposing is that we should hang out sometime soon and just talk!
GT: If youd like of course no pressure!
GT: It just feels like…
GT: We barely see each other outside of planned events with our friends and i want to…
GT: Change that i dunno.
GT: Anyways thats all i wanted to say i think.
GT: Ill… See you around?
GT: Gosh this is terribly awkward.
golgothasTerror [GT] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG]
gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering golgothasTerror [GT]
GG: oh good morning jake!!
GG: wow you must have been up pretty early to send me a message at this hour
GG: have you not been sleeping well?? :(
GT: Oh sorry about that! I really wasnt thinking about the time when i messaged you. *rubs the back of head sheepishly*
GT: But to be honest with you ive been having just… the most terrible dreams!
GT: Not all of them are bad but they just leave me feeling something awful.
GT: Like im running out of time or like i did something wrong…
GT: I dunno its kinda difficult to explain and i wouldnt want to trouble you with my problems when you probably have too many of your own to be concerned about. :(
GG: its really no trouble at all jake!
GG: but if you want, you can come over to my house for breakfast and maybe we can talk about those dreams youre having :0
GG: i may not be able to tell you what they mean or what they are
GG: but maybe just talking about them can help you get that negative stuff off your chest!
GG: ive been having similar types of dreams too :(
GG: dreams that feel kinda unsettling??? but way too real to pass off as a dream?
GT: Yeah thats certainly how i would describe my dreams.
GT: Almost like theyre happening in real life? But im not in control of them?
GG: that sounds like a lot to unpack :(
GT: It does sound like a lot to wrap ones head around doesnt it gosh.
GT: Yes well i better get a wiggle on so i can make it there before breakfast gets cold!
GT: See you in a bit jade!
GG: see ya!!! :D
golgothasTerror [GT] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG]
Plopping your phone next to your head on the pillow, you let out a deep sigh as you stare at the ceiling, clasping your hands over your stomach. You feel relieved that your invitation to talk hadn’t been rejected but you hadn’t expected to meet up with Jade so soon. The good part about it is that it gives you an excuse to not spend the rest of the day in bed, rolling around uselessly and fill your head with endless questions in regards to your dreams. The bad part about it is that you still feel like utter shit from last night and you probably look like utter shit.
Even after BGD promised to keep you from having nightmares, you could still feel the remains of the one that woke you up, the unshakable sensation of being detested, of having your mind being picked apart piece by piece until there was nothing left. You would drift in and out of sleep until sunrise finally arrived and put you out of your misery. No longer being able to go back to sleep, you spent the early hours of the morning messing around on your phone, reading all the most recent tabloids about the happenings in each kingdom. Occasionally you would find something about one of your friends and what they’ve been up to but they weren’t anything new. For example, Jane’s recent plans to establish Crocker Corp.
While she hadn’t told you specifically, you had heard her talking about restarting the business that she didn’t get the chance to inherit and make it less… Evil. She wanted to continue her family business, establish something that she could watch grow and tend to on this earth that they had created. You don’t have a doubt in your mind that Jane would make an amazing CEO and create wonderful products that would aid some of the problems of daily living, but it seems a little like overkill in your mind since you were all technically uselessly wealthy. You had thought about doing something similar with re-establishing SkaiaNet in honor of your late grandmother but that requires finding something to specialize in and create in large quantities. Besides, doing it all on your own right now seems like a burden and it’s not like you even have space to create prototypes of things. And while you’re very capable when it came to basic robotics and machinery, you don’t think you could do it by yourself.
===> Get up.
Before your brain can venture into sadder territory, you force yourself to sit up in bed, groaning as a dizzy sensation sets in, filling your vision with black spots and making your head feel light. You stare into nothingness as you wait for it to clear up before grabbing your glasses, getting up from bed, and shuffling over to your wardrobe, quickly pulling out a casual t-shirt and some shorts to wear for the day. Stuffing your phone into your pocket, you head out of your apartment as quickly as you can, not wanting to leave Jade waiting too long.
As soon as you step outside, the cool morning air sends a brief chill down your spine and you stuff your hands into your pockets as you make your way down the sidewalk, her apartment just a few streets away from your own. There's a couple cars driving by, people driving to and from work, you suppose. It's strange to see the life you created mimic the old life you had seen through movies, having almost expected to be it completely different. Of course, it was, in most ways, completely different from life back on Earth, with advertisements with trolls alongside humans and the occasional consort and carapacian walking down the street. While they have their own kingdoms where the majority lies, Can-town has always been very diverse, filled with so many colorful characters from every species that inhabits Earth C.
You let out a deep sigh as you walk the streets of Can-town, staring at all the different shades of gray stare back at you blankly. When you had first arrived, you had been excited to be able to live in an actual city, like the ones you see in old-earth movies, eager to wake up to the rustle and bustle of city life where no one ever sleeps, but you soon grew tired of all the noise, of the lights, of the constant stream of people, longing for the peace and quiet of your little tropical home. This concrete jungle couldn't lift a finger to your previous luscious green bubble of paradise. Even now, you feel your mood dropping as you continue to walk by the same buildings that you've walked past the last three years.
Once you arrive at Jade's house, you knock on the door quickly, looking around absentmindedly. She has a small garden in front with different types of flowers that you're sure that she had genetically engineered herself. It makes you smile a little when you recognize a couple of the plants being ones that grew on the island that you both grew up on but you don't have the chance to dwell much on it when Jade opens the door, smiling brightly at you.
"Jake, hey!" She greets you warmly, throwing her arms around you, her dark curly hair flying everywhere as you hug her back.
"Good morning, Jade," you reply with a soft chuckle. Jade always had this way of making you feel warm and wanted when she hugged you, always pouring every inch of her love in everything she did. She smells oddly of mint and sage, almost like your grandmother used to when she was alive. When she pulls away from you, she grabs your hand and leads you inside.
"I'm making crepes for breakfast but I'm gonna need your help with cutting the strawberries," she informs you as she pulls you into her kitchen, letting go of your hand to walk over to the fridge and opening it up to pull out a bowl of strawberries. She sets them on the island in the middle of the room and searches for a cutting board and knife before setting them down next to the bowl.
"Roger that!" You wash your hands quickly in the sink and make quick work of washing the fruit and plucking the leaves off. "So what have you been up to these past few days?" You ask, wanting to make small talk as you work.
"Nothing too interesting, really!" Jade replies as she flips over a crepe carefully, not wanting to tear it. "I've been hanging out with Dave and Karkat but also hanging out with Rose and Kanaya in the Troll Kingdom! Besides that, nothing besides the usual things I do," she says with a casual shrug.
You hum pensively. "Since when had Rose and Kanaya move away?" you ask curiously. You have never been close with either woman despite having gone to the wedding, but you're sure you had been invited out of pure politeness. You've talked to both of them a handful of times and from those few moments, you can tell that they were an interesting pair. Especially Rose.
The concept of ecto-biological children had always been weird to you, especially when you were around John and Jade at the same time, because while you could see which physical characteristics they got from you and which ones they got from Jane, it was hard to believe that they were actually related to you. Meanwhile, you look at Rose and Dave and immediately, it's easy to see that they are Dirk and Roxy's children. Rose shares a lot of things in common with her father figure; the sharp tongue, the way she seems to be studying and analyzing your every word, her impulsive nature.
"A couple of weeks ago. It was something they had been planning for a while after they got married, mostly so Kanaya can be closer to the Mother Grub while it's growing," Jade explains carefully as she puts another crepe on a plate, picking up a pitcher of batter and pouring it onto the sizzling pan. "It's pretty cool over there, kinda hard to keep up with the being nocturnal thing though," she comments.
"Ah," you reply dumbly as you rinse out the strawberries and put the bowl back on the island so you could start cutting them. "And, by chance, do you ever think of moving out of Can-town?" You ask innocently.
Jade falls silent, the only thing stopping the silence from being uncomfortable being the sizzling of the pan, before sighing. "Maybe? I dunno yet. Besides them and well, John, the rest of my friends are here so why would I want to move away? I like it here!" Her voice sounds a little strained when she speaks and you can’t help but frown.
Ah, yes. John. Not long after the game ended, he moved back into his old childhood home, wanting to surround himself with precious memories of a life long lost. At first, none of you thought much of it, having guessed that he just needed time alone, but lately, his replies to the outside world are between few and none. No one seems to have heard from him or seen him in such a long time that it’s starting to concern you a great deal but you haven’t had the courage to fly over to his apartment and check up on him. While, yes, you got along with him and befriended him to an extent, you still felt a strange barrier around him that forced you at arm’s length, almost as if he didn’t want you to get too close to him. Appearing on his front door out of the blue seemed to be crossing the line of what was allowed in this awkward friend/son/father dance you seemed to be trapped in with him.
“It is a pleasant place… But, er, don’t you feel a little bit restless here? Being in the same place for such a long time?” You offer with an awkward laugh, remembering how in your universe, Jade had travelled the world on adventures to study everything she could get her hands on, taking you along for the ride while you were a baby. Of course, Jade is completely different compared to the woman who raised you, but occasionally you find yourself noticing the similarities here and there, little things that make you smile wistfully. While their experiences shaped them to be different people, the foundation remains the same.
It’s quiet for a while and for a moment, you panic internally, wondering if you said something wrong and made her upset, but you force a lid on your growing anxiety and focus on cutting the stems off the strawberries, whittling out the heart of the fruit. Jade finishes up the crepe sheets, laying them on a plate, and turns off the stove before turning around to put the plate on the island, green eyes focused on you with a glimmer of insecurity in them.
“Are you getting restless, Jake?” She returns your question, teeth gnawing on her bottom lip worriedly. A pang of guilt shoots your heart and you find yourself struggling to find the words to say without making it worse. Much like you, Jade grew up on an island on her own, isolated from the rest of world with no one but her dead grandfather and a powerful dog deity for a guardian, so you’re not surprised she has grown to hate being on her own, always surrounding herself with friends because she can. You’re also not surprised that she’s afraid of people leaving, of being abandoned.
As much as you’d like to say no, that you aren’t getting restless, it’d be a poorly told lie. Jade has always been able to see through your fibs with startling accuracy, no matter how much you tried to believe in their realness. She is one of the few people who see past the curtain of ignorance that you cloak yourself in, read between the lines of your script, and truly understand what you mean. And while she won’t call you out on it, you’re sure she’ll carry the burden by herself and never address the pain it causes her.
“Just a tad bit, if I’m being honest with you,” you reply carefully, panic bubbling through your veins like poison when you notice her white puppy ears droop comically. “I-it’s not that I don’t like it here! I love it, Jade, absolutely adore living here and being able to visit you and everyone else when I damn well please!”
“But…?” She interjects as she tears her gaze away from you to walk to the fridge, rummaging through it for the whipped cream, a solemn expression on her face.
You pause as you watch her come back with a tub of it and frown. You know why you want to leave so badly, unable to deal with the feeling of being suffocated by the presence of people constantly, but is that really a valid answer? You know if you say this to Jade she’ll turn it around and think that she’s suffocating you. Which she really isn’t because you haven’t seen her in so long! You’ve never found her presence suffocating, it’s just people, in general, put you on edge! Would it be okay for you to say that?
“I dunno, it’s just… We’ve been living here for what? Three? Four years now? And while everything is all fine and dandy, I guess I’m just getting bored staying in one place!” You force out, being careful with your words. “You know how I’m like, Jade, for god’s sakes I was a globe-trotting adventurer in your universe! Being a homebody isn’t the life for me! Of course, I’d start getting a little restless after staying in the same place for too long!”
This seems to shake off whatever negative train of thought was scurrying around in Jade’s brain, much to your relief, and she lets out an airy laugh, nodding along as she opens the tub of whipped cream.
“Yeah, I mean… I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since you were always on the go, venturing through every inch of the island to see what you could learn next,” Jade replies, her voice sounding nostalgic as she thinks back to her childhood days. Her bright green eyes seem to get distant for a moment before she shakes it off and turns back to you, puppy ears perked up once more. “Well, if that’s the case, I think I have a remedy for your restlessness!”
“Oh, do you, pray tell?” Jade gives you an enthusiastic nod as she grabs a spoon and reaches over to grab the bowl of strawberries that you’ve already cut, beginning to fill up the crepes with cream and fruit.
“Let’s go out and explore! You and me, that is!” She chirps happily as she spreads the creme. “We haven’t done much of that since we’ve gotten here, have we? At least, you and I haven’t. A while back I went with Dave and Karkat to uncover a bunch of shitty statue of liberties but besides that, there’s probably a bunch of stuff I haven’t seen yet.”
“Why, that sounds like a splendid idea!” You say with a bright smile, hoping it looks genuine. You don’t have it in your heart to tell her that you doubt a trip will be enough to settle the itch in your bones but you’re willing to go along with it if that makes her happy. Plus, what’s the harm? You get to spend a couple of days with one of your favorite people in the world! Just you, Jade, and the great outdoors like it used to be with your own grandmother! When the both of you were just pen pals, you used to write to her about being able to go on such travels with her, wanting to show her Hellmurder island and venture into the frog temple, unknowing that she was living on the very same island, but just in an alternate universe. Now’s your chance to do just that—so what’s the problem?
Jade grins back at you, the familiar buck-toothed smile that she inherited from you. “Where should we go? There’s still of uninhabited land that we haven’t covered… How long should we be gone?” She fires off question after question, unable to keep her excitement contained. You try to keep up and match her enthusiasm but you’re still doggone tired from last night.
“Er, maybe five days? Though really it should be depending on where we decide to go?” You offer before focusing on the question, hurrying with cutting the strawberries. Immediately, you think somewhere far, far away from here where there’s dense wilderness. You want to feel like you’re getting lost, too far from the rest of civilization, in a place where all you can hear are the sounds of nature and your own thoughts. But at the same time, you know it doesn’t matter where you go, you’re still attached to the concept of home, always bound to your small apartment in Can-town.
No, home isn’t your apartment. Home had been your little isolated island in the middle of the pacific, thick vegetation that surrounded the remains of the mansion your grandmother had built for you to live in. Home was listening to the bugs and the monsters buzz and flitter about during sundown, the faint growling of beasts lurking by. As lonely as it was, that had been home. That’s where you sought comfort.
“Why don’t we… Take a visit to the old island?” You finally suggest. “Seeing as the waters have receded a long time ago, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’ll be there again! We could even check out the frog temple and see if it’s still intact!”
Jade gasps in delight at this. "That would be so cool! I've been meaning to go looking for it again but never really had the motivation to do it by myself," she replies happily. "Adventures like that are much more fun when you're with other people."
You nod in agreement. "Right-o! Then it's settled; We'll go together in search for the island and wander around, see what we can find and just relax for a while! I'm mighty curious to see if it's still as monster-infested as before or if they've died when the earth completely flooded."
"Or maybe they evolved," Jade tacks on as she continues to prepare the crepes, happy to have avoided the possibility of you leaving. You don't know how it had never crossed your mind what Jade would think the moment you decided to leave. It's a little disheartening to you and a bit irritating to realize that you'll probably have to deal with staying cooped up in this town a little while longer as you try to dance around Jade's feelings in regards to that. Maybe one day, she'll get used to the idea and not react as negatively to it or perhaps she'll move away on her own. But until then, you feel obligated to stay, not ready to deal with the possibility of making her upset if you didn't.
You end up helping Jade finish up the rest of the crepes as you discuss the details of your trip in more depth before settling down to eat. A comfortable silence settles over the both of you as you eat, only the chorus of forks scratching over plates to interrupt it. In this moment of silence, you remember why you came over in the first place, your nightmare having been forgotten in the midst of the conversation now tugging at the back of your head like an unwelcome reminder. You're a little reluctant to bring it up, in case it creates another awkward situation that you could've easily avoided, but it refuses to leave you alone, especially since Jade had mentioned having similar dreams to the ones you vaguely described.
Jade gets up to put her empty plate in the sink, humming quietly as she turns on the water and rinses the chocolate and whipped cream off it, before turning back off and drying her hands on a bright green kitchen towel on the counter. When she finally joins you again at the island, the smile from earlier has subdued and you wonder if you've subconsciously done something wrong again.
"Are you ready to talk about your dream now?" She asks in a gentle voice, one you remember your grandmother using when you were a scared little boy. It stuns you for a moment but you quickly gather your wits and laugh sheepishly, avoiding her gaze as you finish up your breakfast and get up to put the plate and fork in the sink.
"Honestly, I thought you would have forgotten about that," you admit quietly before clearing your throat. "But it's quite alright! I... I actually forgot all about it! Got so distracted thinking about our trip that it downright slipped my mind! Completely flew out the window like an entrapped pigeon!"
When you turn to look at Jade, she's staring at you with an expression that shows her disbelief in your charade but she sighs in resignation. "Well, in case you remember, you know you can always talk to me about it, okay?" She reminds you and you give her a small nod.
"Of course, Jade. It'll be the first thing I'll do!" You promise, crossing your heart in a salute. "Cross my heart and hope to die!"
She giggles, shaking her head at your goofy promise. "Okay, let's not get too carried away but thank you," she says with a grin before getting up from her chair. "Now about that trip..."
You spend the next few days packing things you'll need on your trip. Technically, you won't be needing as much stuff as you used to carry when you lived on the island by yourself but you still like going through the process of packing the essentials, like clothes, extra food and water, a first aid kit. It makes you feel like you're sixteen again, preparing yourself for one of your little adventures where you liked to pretend that you were the star in some cool action film, humming some made up score under your breath and talking to your friends via the skulltop.
But no, you're not sixteen anymore. You're a young adult at the ripe age of twenty nearing twenty one in the next upcoming months. You've grown so much in these past few years after the game, your short, awkward teenage body blooming into one of a strapping young man. You're a lot taller than your friends now, a lot more muscular too from all the exercise you're fond of doing, and overall everything you had dreamed of looking like when you were still young.
"Pretty sure most of that was your hope powers giving you a boost, dude."
Glancing over your shoulder, you see BGD reclining on the bed once again, sprawled out like a sleepy feline, staring at you with muted amusement in his eyes.
You roll your eyes at his comment and focus on tucking in a folded shirt into your backpack. "Seeing as you are my brain, wouldn't you know whether or not I used my hope powers to alter my appearance?" You reply rather dryly, a habit you can't shake when you talk to him. It's still your immediate reaction to be on the defensive when it comes to him due to him reminding you of Dirk's AR when you were still in the game. Of course, BGD is nothing like the AR, him being part of your imagination, but maybe it's the bitterness you carry from being surrounded by reminders of Dirk but never the real him.
BGD is silent for a moment and you worry that you've made him upset with your thoughts but your concern gets completely eradicated when he replies with a cheeky grin, "I know your ass is totally fake."
"Excuse me, but my buttocks are completely real!" You shoot back at him, practically scandalized. He's grinning at you like a Cheshire cat, completely unfazed. "I work hard to keep them looking as they are and I will not tolerate any unwarranted slander of any kind towards them! You take that back at once!"
He ignores you with a loud cackle as he turns over to lay on his stomach, resting his chin on his folded arms. "Yeah, yeah, I'll remember that the next time you decide to skip out on your daily squats for a month straight and notice your ass ain't looking as plump as before," he replies. His comment makes your cheeks flush in embarrassment and you eye the mirror sitting a long way from you, trying to casually check your reflection to make sure everything was in tip-top condition.
Turning your attention back on the ghost, you furrow your eyebrows at him and cross your arms. "Are you done mocking me or do you have more tricks up your sleeve? If you haven't noticed, I'm rather busy."
"Aw, come on, English, quit acting like you think I appear out of my own will or something. We both know you're very well aware that I only show up when you start feeling lonely and need someone to talk to so let's cut the shit and talk about what's really on your mind," he retorts, his brisk tone making you flinch in surprise. It's not that you hadn't expected it —you know very well Dirk always made himself out to be a cut-to-the-chase type of man— but that you hadn't heard that tone in so long that you feel... Just a bit nostalgic.
You turn away from him to grab some boxers from your drawer, shoving them ungracefully into your backpack, trying to ignore what he was insinuating. "I haven't the slightest clue what you mean," you say simply, a weak defense that he could easily tear apart.
"Alright, so it's up to me to address it then: Do you really want to leave Can-town?"
Your nose wrinkles in question. "It's just a short trip, I hardly see what the issue is here! Plus, I'm going with Jade so it's not like I'm going to isolate myself as a result," you explain, walking across the room to your closet in search for your first aid box.
"I'm not talking about your trip, I'm talking about after your trip, Jake," he clarifies, his tone a little sharper than before. "You and I both know that the moment you get back from this trip, you're going to want to go back but because of your supposed situation with Jade, you won't be able to."
"Wait, supposed situation?" You ask, popping your head out of the closet to look at him in confusion, but he ignores you as he gets up from the bed and stretches his limbs.
"You're really setting yourself up for yet another miscommunication problem and with Jade of all people just because you couldn't bring yourself to tell her you wanted to move out," BGD continues, settling back down to stare at you. "Which, is kinda stupid and rude of you to think she wouldn't be able to handle that. She's not a child, dude."
Getting to your feet, you focus solely on him with a frown on your lips. "Rude? How am I possibly being rude for trying to avoid hurting her feelings? I'd be rude if I flat out said, 'well you see Jade, while I've had quite a spankin' good time here in Can-town, I simply must leave because being around people is starting to grate on my friggin' nerves! Yes, including you, Jade!'"
BGD scoffs at this and shakes his head. "Of course that would be rude, you don't just casually tell someone that they're suffocating you. Especially someone who hasn't even seen you in so long because you're too busy wallowing in your own self-pity and pretending that you're not, to even muster getting up and crossing a couple of streets to say hello." Your glare intensifies as he speaks but it doesn't deter him. "What I mean is that it's rude for you to think that she wouldn't be able to handle the disappointment. She's not going to break just because you want some space."
Not like someone else you know. The phrase lingers in the air unspoken but you know well enough to know it was what BGD was getting at.
"I wasn't assuming that at all! Don't put words into my mouth like that!" You grit in irritation, clenching your fists at your side. "I just... don't want her to be disappointed in the first place! I don't know how I would handle it if she were to get upset with me."
"Bro, it's not even like you're leaving forever. It's one thing if you decided to fuck off for the rest of your immortal life, dedicating your life to the wilderness and becoming some mythical god of nature, but you literally just want to live somewhere more comfortable. Why are you making it a bigger issue than it needs to fucking be?"
"You wouldn't understand!" You groan in frustration, ruffling your soft, black hair in frustration. "I know Jade and I know she'll somehow turn it back onto herself and think herself into circles about my leaving and it'll be just another fucking problem I've caused by just doing what I want and that's the absolute last thing I need right now!"
"Dude, Jade ain't Dirk."
The sentence throws you off and your expression twists into one of confusion. Of course, Jade isn't Dirk; she's absolutely nothing like Dirk! Where the fuck was he getting this from? What was that even supposed to mean?
BGD crosses the room to stand in front of you, his figure shimmering and translucent. On an off-note, you wonder if you were to touch him, would your fingers go straight through him like a hologram? You remember him touching you the other night but that was probably because you wanted to feel his touch. Who knows if it would work this time? Your hands twitch, eager to find out, but the reasonable part of you tells you to pay attention to the conversation, you can find that out later if you really want to. But at the same time, if you touch him and fail, you'll be forced to face the reality that you've resorted to talking to the ghost of your best friend because you're so fucking lonely.
"What in the devil fucking dickens do you mean by that? Of course, she isn't him!" You repeat out loud, stepping back to put more distance between the two of you. You're starting to edge into uncomfortable territory, talking about Dirk with BGD. While you know BGD isn't him, it's still weird talking about him with someone who looks exactly like him, talks like him, and is basically him in every way except on a physical plane. You didn't like doing back when you were sixteen and you definitely don't like doing it now!
"I mean, you're treating her like you would treat Dirk," BGD finally spits out, "Dancing around eggshells like they're actually landmines, armed to blow up at any misstep you make. If you hurt her feelings by explaining it to her, it's not going to kill her; she'll be sad but fine, get that through that thick skull of yours."
Well, shit, you guess you have been treating her like Dirk then. You remember when you were dating him, trying to be careful with what you said or did in case that triggered something in him to freeze up and react coldly to you the rest of the night. It was hard to figure out what made him react as such and you could never bring yourself to ask, too scared to admit that you might have hurt your best bro's feelings. Even after the game when you tried to be friends again, you had moments when you would say something to Dirk and he would tense up uncomfortably, sometimes excuse himself immediately with a poorly made up excuse to be anywhere but there. You wonder if you'll ever find out what was it that made him act like that.
"I know that but it still feels bad hurting her feelings. If I know I can avoid it, why shouldn't I?" You mumble in response, feeling like a scolded child now.
"Because that means putting yourself in a situation that makes you unhappy and the unhappier you get, the more buried resentment you'll have for her when you're the one who forced yourself in the situation as if it were an ultimatum," he explains, crossing his arms across his chest. "That way you wash your hands from the blame when it blows up back in your face, which it totally will if you don't actually talk to her about it."
You huff, glaring to the side to avoid his stare. "That sounds quite fresh coming from you," you can't help but mutter under your breath. BGD actually laughs at this, nodding along with you.
"Yeah, it really is but it's what you need to hear, dude,” he murmurs gently. Your irritation dies a little at the tone of his voice and you let your shoulders drop, sighing deeply as you stare at the ground.
"Why is it that I can handle hearing these types of things from you but not from my own brain?" You mumble sadly, kicking a dirty shirt on the floor, making a mental note to throw it into the dirty hamper later.
"You don't handle them any better hearing it from me though. It's just easier for you to actually fight them if you have a stand-in to prevent you from just throwing in the towel and being like well, there's that!" BGD replies with a shake of his head. "Plus it helps that I look like Dirk, so you're immediately inclined to raise a fit if I call you out on something."
"I'm not that argumentative, am I?" You ask quietly with a pout.
"With Dirk? You kinda are, dude," he retorts. "Or, at least, you used to be when you guys actually talked. Whenever the dude presented you with something that went against what you believed, you would pitch a hissy fit about it before actually thinking about it and finally agreeing with Dirk. Competitive much?"
"Ugh, don't remind me," you groan with a roll of your eyes, walking past him to throw yourself on the bed and cover your face. "I don't even know why I do that still! Is it for the sake of defending my beliefs or just to be right? Thinking back on it makes me feel so dumb for picking those petty fights with him, getting irritated for whatever reason." You roll over on your stomach and stare at the green bedding, eyes tracing the embroidered pattern.
"Now you're left on your own to argue with a ghost version of him because you couldn't bother actually working things out with him."
"We did try to work it out and it didn't work! He asked for space so I'm giving him space, how is that any of my fault?" You ask him, sitting up from the bed as you glare at him in frustration again.
"Not saying it's completely your fault because I know the dude's got lots of issues to deal with. Like if we were to sit here and talk about every single one of them, we'd be sitting here for all eternity and then some," BGD jokes as he approaches the bed. "And even then, he probably wouldn't be finished dealing with them. The problem here is that neither of you bothered to actually sit down and talk about what the real issue was. Instead, both of you resigned yourself to tiptoeing around each other like the awkward exes in stupid rom-coms that still obviously have feelings for each other but can't bring themselves to admit it. Oh, wait, that's because you are them and this is the shittiest rom-com paradox space could come up with."
Heat rises up your neck, flooding your cheeks, but you try not to think about it much. "I'm pretty sure that friggin' train has already left the station years ago. And even if I had wanted to board it, I doubt he would've been gung ho to the max about it! I hurt him real bad during the game with my dilly-dallying around his feelings! I'm lucky he even wanted to stay my friend!"
BGD shakes his head again. "I think you overestimate the amount of damage the both of you actually did to your friendship by yourselves. You seem to forget that there were a fuckton of other factors that came into play and you internalize all that shit as if it was solely your fault," he reminds you but you're having none of it.
It's been years since the mess that was your game session happened but whenever you look back on it, you can't help but think about how could it be anyone else's fault but yours? If you had only been honest with everyone from the start, none of this would have happened! Jane wouldn't have lost her patience with you and taken her frustration out on you while she was being brainwashed and Dirk wouldn't have broken up on you while all of you were intoxicated by magical candy and alcohol. Even now, neither of you guys have seemed to move on from that and whose fault is that? Why, none other than yours, Jake English!
"You're doing it again." BGD's voice stops your negative train of thought before it can get too out of hand, forcing the conductor to slam on the brakes to prevent it from falling off into the canyon where the tracks have been demolished by pesky band of criminals. All the passengers let out a sigh in relief as the train stops inches away from the grip of death. This train is going to be delayed until they find a way to magically fix the trails and return on their merry way.
"I haven't the slightest clue as to what you're referring to, my good man," you reply with a pout, avoiding his pointed stare.
"Okay, first we're gonna have to talk about this whole avoidance issue before we can talk about this Dirk issue because clearly, he ain't the only one who has shit to work out before you guys ever think of picking up your friendship again," he replies dryly, crossing his arms. "And we have to do something about that internalizing shit too."
"Are you done pointing out my flaws or are we going to sit here and list them out for the rest of the night?"
"Nah, I think I'm done for now."
You turn to give him a deadpan look, clearly not amused, but you remind yourself you can't be too angry about it. BGD is, after all, your brain so he's well aware of all the happenings of it like the back of his hand. Had it been anyone else, you would've raised a bigger fit and claimed that everything he said was a lie but you can't. Everything he says is something you've thought secretly but ignored, only to be thrown back at you in a way you can handle a smidgen better than your own thoughts.
"If that's that then, help me pack my things up. I need to find more computers to keep on hand since we'll be gone for quite a while..."
When you open your eyes, you know you aren't in a dream.
There's a strange, fuzzy feeling to dreams that let you know that nothing that's happening to you at the moment is real. Even the curious dream bubbles in which you did see people who were indeed real would shift and change, keeping them light and mystical as you ventured forth through your memories and the memories of others.
But this, this is not a dream.
Your body feels heavy, each step you take feeling like you're wearing boots made of steel, making you drag your feet as you walk through a narrow corridor; the aging wood creaks under your shoes, practically the only sound that fills the room. The hallway is dimly lit by small metal chandeliers hanging overhead, letting you take a gander at the jaundiced wallpaper covering the walls. You pass by so many doors, barely eyeing them as you make your way to the end of the hall, the sound of a woman coughing killing the suspenseful silence.
You've... You've been here before, haven't you? The house is yours, that you can tell from the amount of taxidermy standing about, but also because it feels like... You. It's hard for you to find the proper words to detail it properly but you just know that this house is your own. The question is, who else in this house with you?
The coughing starts up again and your heart seizes up painfully in your chest at the sound. You stop just before the last door, waiting for something as muffled voices arise from the room, a low voice speaking calmly followed by a hoarse one that makes fear grip tighter at your heart, making it hard to breathe properly. The sounds of footsteps coming towards the door and the wood creaking as it's pushed open forces you to breathe out deeply, trying to pull on a false bravado as you come face to face to an older man with a stethoscope around his neck, marking him as a doctor.
He closes the door slowly behind him, avoiding your expectant gaze, before sighing deeply. You take a small step towards him, mouth open to ask, but he shuts you up with a curt wave of his hand, finally looking at you with an apologetic look in his deep brown eyes.
"There's not much we can do for her anymore. The test results from the laboratory came back but we can't recognize the substance that's coating her lungs," the doctor explains quietly as he stares at you. "Whatever it is, it's starting to clog up her lungs, preventing her blood from being oxygenated properly. Had she come sooner to the hospital, we could have hooked her onto a breathing machine while we investigated but now it's too late. Her lungs are going to collapse soon."
For some reason, the news does not strike you as surprising but it still makes your chest hurt with a pain you've never felt before. It feels like someone had taken your heart and crushed it in their hands, taken your lungs and squeezed all the air out of them like a whoopee cushion. Honestly, you feel breaking your ribs would've felt less painful than this.
"She... She despises the idea of being hooked up to a machine," you find yourself whispering despite your pain, surprised at how deep and sad your voice sounds. "Thank you, Doctor. For everything that you've done for us."
Putting a comforting hand on your shoulder, the doctor looks you in the eye, mouth pursed to say something else, but a beat of hesitation takes over him and he winds up saying nothing. He pats your shoulder gently before pulling away and making his way around you.
"Take care of yourself, Mr. Harley. If there's anything else I can do for you, please don't hesitate to let me know," he says behind you and you nod slowly, waiting for his footsteps to descend down the hallway until you couldn't hear them anymore, before moving towards the door, hesitating for a moment. You're not... ready to face whatever is in the room.
Taking a deep breath, you turn the brass doorknob and push open the door, stepping into the room and bracing yourself for what you're about to find.
It's your bedroom, you immediately realize, but not as you expected. There's no movie posters or comic book covers on the walls, but large realistic paintings depicting different wild animals and flowers. There's no desk filled with spare robotic parts to tinker with but instead, a writing desk covered loose papers shoved in random books sprawled about like an afterthought. The lights are dim so you can't see farther into the room but enough to let you see the large bed with a green canopy overhead and a frail-looking woman resting in the middle of it.
You push yourself to her side and take her hand in your immediately, raising it to your lips in a gentle kiss. When you look at her, you can barely see her eyes, a dark cloud covering her eyes as if censoring her identity from you. Nevertheless, you don't let go of her hand, squeezing it tightly as you bend down to get closer to her, emotion welling up in your throat as you feel how clammy and cold her hand is in yours, how sickly and thin her dark skin looks.
"Mon amour?" She whispers weakly, her once sweet voice ripped apart from the disease destroying her lungs.
"I'm here, love, how are you faring tonight?" You murmur back, using one hand to cup her face lovingly, never letting go of her hand.
Smiling at the tender touch, she leans into your hand, nuzzling close, before sighing deeply, but the action causes her to start hacking up again, ripping away from your hand to cover her mouth with a handkerchief that she had been holding in her other hand. You watch in horror, feeling so helpless, as she coughs up blood into her handkerchief, gasping at the end of her fit as she tries to recover her breath. Before too long, she finally calms down and settles back onto the pillows, blood staining her dry, brown lips.
"I'm afraid not too well, mon Coeur," she admits in a raspy voice. "I do not think I will see the end of this week, perhaps not even tomorrow."
You clench your fist at your side and shake your head. "Don't say such things! You... You can get through this, I know you can!" You insist, feeling more like a child as you deny the reality of the situation. "I can... I can return to Alternia! Yes, and I'll find a cure for this! You'll be just fine, darling, just hold on for a bit longer while I get the godforsaken contraption working again!" You start pacing as you think over your plan, smiling to yourself as you picture a future in which she is no longer confined to the safety of your bed. Yes, it could work! All you need is a little more time, some more machine parts, the key...
Her voice is tired, filled with so much pity and exhaustion at the same time. When you turn back to look at her, she shakes her head slowly and pats the edge of the bed, gesturing for you to come sit next to her. You do as she asks and she takes your hand once more, rubbing the back of your hand gently as she takes a shaky breath, forcing a weak smile.
"I do not fear death," she begins softly, her throat bobbing slightly as she swallows harshly. "I have lived a good life, done what I've dreamed of doing since I was a child, married a man that was good to no one but me, was blessed with two angels... I have no regrets and neither should you. You've done enough for me, my love."
"No... Please, I can't... I can't lose you," you whisper weakly, your voice cracking under the immense emotion flooding your heart. "What am I supposed to do without you? You're the light of my life, my whole reason to live... Everything I do is for you! What will I do if you're not here by my side?" You grip her hand tightly, tears welling up in your eyes and spilling down your cheeks.
"But mon Cheri, I will always be with you," she reassures you, tears starting to fall one by one from her eyes. "Even after I die, I will continue to watch over you, over Joey, over Jude... I promise I will never abandon you."
Pressing her cool hand against your forehead, your body shakes with silent sobs. You shake your head. "Please, you have to stay... I can't... I can't raise them on my own! I've never been good with children, my love, so you must keep fighting!" You plead with her. "If you leave, I won't know what to do! They're so young, they need you! I need you!"
"I know," she murmurs, her grip on your hand loosening. "But you must... Be strong... For yourself, for them..." You feel the panic rising up your throat as you watch her chest rise and fall heavily as she tries to breathe, but only coming up with wheezy gasps.
"For me, Jake," she rasps out, her body freezing momentarily before slumping back into the bed, her head dropping lifelessly onto the pillow, haloed by her beautiful, dark curls.
And for a moment, you aren't sure how to react. You stare at your dead wife blankly, unable to move or say anything but just cry silently as you hold her limp hand. No... No, she can't... No! She can't be dead! It was too soon! She should have had more time! She couldn't have just died, you need her alive! What's a life without her by your side? Is it even living anymore? What are you supposed to do now without her? It was her that changed your life and made you embrace the idea of domestic life, of settling down in a large home and have children to raise together. What was the point of all of that if she wasn't there with you?
You don't realize how loudly you're sobbing or when you started sobbing until you hear the door open behind you and a small voice whisper meekly, "Papa?"
Turning around, you see a young girl with dark, springy hair —just like her mother's— and wide green eyes —these are yours— staring at you with all the innocence and naivety in the world. Behind her is a small boy with large square glasses slipping down his nose, thumb stuffed into his mouth as he holds onto his sister with the other, looking just as clueless and unaware as to what's happening.
"Oh!" You gasp, wiping your eyes to get rid of your tears as quickly as possible, but you know internally that they've already noticed if they hadn't heard your sobbing from earlier. "Joey, Jude... Sweethearts, i-it's... It's late, shouldn't you be in bed already?"
"Couldn't sleep," Joey replies as she steps forward, frowning as she glances over at the bed before looking back at you. "Papa... Why are you crying? Is Mama okay?"
You pause, unsure what to tell your five-year-old daughter. Your heart swells in your chest with pain. How could you tell her that her mother had just passed away and that she was never coming back, that she had died without a final farewell? How does one explain death to a child, one that has only recently started learning about life? Do you just make something up to soften the blow of her death and wait until she's older to tell her what really killed her mother?
That is, if Joey ever survives to reach adulthood...
The thought makes you grit your teeth in frustration. There’s no way for you to guarantee the safety of your children at this point if what your research tells you is correct. You still need to return to the island to go over your notes but now you’re at a loss because she… She knew how to read the engravings better than you did, even learned the Alternian language as well. She was practically the only reason you were able to even figure out how to decode the damn the confounded temple. How are you supposed to further your understanding of this game and the impending doom that marks the temple’s walls if she’s not there by your side?
“Your mother…” Your voice trembles as you begin speaking but you steel yourself, looking back at your dead wife. You can’t afford to let your children see you like this. No, they can’t see you being weak.
“Get out,” you rasp out instead, clenching your fists in anger. Where is this anger coming from? Who are you angry at? Why are you angry? And why are you directing at the ch—
“Get out!” Your voice booms, the sound echoing against the wooden walls, causing one of them to gasp in surprise. You can’t even bring yourself to turn your head when you hear Jude start to hiccup with cries, having been frightened by your yell. It isn’t until you hear them scurry off, Joey starting to sniffle loudly as she pulls her crying brother along, that you fall to your knees, tears streaming down your cheeks as sobs rip from your lips.
You’ve never felt so alone in your life than you do right now.
===> Wake up
Your eyes fly open and you sit up in your bed, finding your cheeks already wet with tears. It isn't like the other night when you woke up sobbing and gasping for air, but there's still a deep ache in your chest as you try to remember what happened in your dream. The faces of the children flash in your mind, their names echoing softly. Those names... They're so familiar. You know you've thought of those names before, once in a conversation, you had a long time ago with Dirk when you talked about the future. Back when you were fifteen probably and had no idea about the game that would turn your life upside down.
You had long dreamed about leaving the island one day and travel to the mainland, to find someone that makes you fall head over heels and settle down with them. You've thought of owning a large house in a wooded area to raise your children, maybe having a little puppy to keep them company. Joey was the name you chose for a girl, Jude was the one for a boy. So who was the mystery woman in your dream?
Laying back down on the bed, sniffling quietly, you stare hard up at the ceiling, as if you would find the answers to your questions written on it. You wipe your eyes with your blanket and sigh deeply. As much as you wanted to, you wouldn't be able to figure it out with the pain starting to thrum in your temples from waking up all of a sudden. You don't even have Brain Ghost Dirk to take your mind off the pain.
You turn to lay on your side, looking at the other side of your bed and realizing how empty it feels. You curl into yourself, pulling the blanket closer to your body, and close your eyes as you try not to feel the loneliness seep into your bones, locking you in a tight ball of nostalgia, confusion, and sadness.
Oh yes, tonight is going to be one of those nights.