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What Might Be Left to Say in Time Come After Death

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“– and in fact it was probably the stupidest thing I have ever seen!” Feferi snaps for the fifth time, stomping her foot. “Your friends have all completely lost their minds, and all of them say they’re never going to let you out of their sight ever again!”

“All right, we get it, we are so grounded,” Dave grumbles. Possibly it’s just the lighting of the dreambubble – a strange one, boxy metal – that makes him look so pale, almost green. “So how did you say this is working, exactly?”

“I told you this! The asteroid is supporting you, just like the Tumor did for Rose. Kanaya’s steering it in, and it looks like she and Jade and Aradia are going to be able to catch you and bring you down. At some point. You idiots!”

“Yeah, got that part. Nobody told us there was a point-it-that-way-and-bail option here.”

“Because you were too fucking stupid to ask!”

“Why did you save us?” Rose asks, sounding more like she’s inquiring about the state of the stock exchange. She’s growing less pale now – almost at Dave’s color. Feferi sputters, stamping again.

“For fuck’s sake, Karkat was right about you!” she yells. “Because my friends want you back and everybody is dying and I’m the Witch of Life, it’s what I do!”

“Jeez, sorry,” Dave mutters. Rose says nothing, simply stands as if she’s waiting for someone else to deal with a messy inconvenience. Feferi sighs, gills fluttering frantically.

“I’m going to go check on everything else now. You two just wait and stay put and don’t make anybody’s job harder. And don’t do anything!” And with that she vanishes through the wall as if the metal plating is only a trick of the light. The other two stare.

Dave extends his sword carefully, pokes at the wall. Clink, clink. CLAANNNGGG, and the attempt at a swing sends the sword rebounding back, jittering in his hand. It doesn’t leave so much as a scratch.

“Well,” he mutters. “Fuck. Guess we wait.”

“That would be what she just said,” Rose agrees. She shivers, wraps her arms around herself. Dave fiddles with his sword, checking the edges – no nicks, no chinks. They glance at each other out of the corners of their eyes.

“You’re taller than I thought you’d be,” Dave says, looking at his shoes. Rose raises her eyebrows.

“You’re only just noticing this?”

“Yeah, well, there hasn’t been a whole lot of time to talk about it for a while,” he mutters. “Not while we’re awake, anyway, and you know what dreamselves are like.”

“Aren’t we technically our dreamselves now?” she counters, leaning back against another wall. Dave mimics her, finds that the metal hums against his skin, as if there’s an engine roaring on the other side. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling after LOHAC, but the pitch is just a little lower, something bigger thrumming away. Or maybe just paradox space.

“Although it certainly doesn’t feel like that,” Rose continues, turning her hands in front of her face as if they contain secrets. “Perhaps since we are now technically awake in every sense of the word, the… side effects, I suppose, of being a dreamself have no impact.”

“Well, yeah, or we’d be acting like we’re high again,” Dave points out, shoving the sword back into his sylladex. Rose rolls her eyes.

“Purely as a matter of interest, have you ever actually been high?”

“No,” he admits. “I think it’d be kind of weird, actually. Don’t really want time getting fucked up on me.”

“That sounds unusually wise,” she agrees, folding her arms in front of her.

Dave picks at the wall. She fiddles with her hair.

His iShades chime.

                An AnonymousChum began pestering turntechGodhead at –‘-‘’—‘-‘-!

                An AnonymousChum began pestering turntechGodhead at –‘-‘’—‘-‘-!

“What the fuck,” Dave mutters. “That’s not even possible.”

The flashing windows disagree with him.

                its bro
                someone else will be pestering you rn but ignore them
                thats for rose give her the thing later
                the weird fish girl said we can talk to you but she cant give us a way to get your messages
                dont bother answering any of this
                no point
                also dont get your hopes up
                im still dead
                shit should have said that first
                fish kid said you almost died
                dont pull that shit
                so not cool
                like there is no possible way to make that cool
                like i will even admit that it wasnt that cool when i did it
                that should tell you how not cool it is
                at least not alpha timeline
                no dying
                this is not what this conversation was supposed to be about
                or message or whatever you want to call it
                just wanted to say
                probably should have said it earlier actually
                didnt have a clue how
                still dont
                but i should have figured it out
                i was a pretty shitty brother
                or parent
                or whatever the fuck i was
                shitty dude to grow up with is the point
                sorry about that
                really am
                wasnt fair
                like not that life is fair
                but still
                shoulda been better at that
                kinda sucked at taking care of you
                you turned out all right i guess but not really the point
                shoulda been easier for you
                all this weakass bullshit probably isnt getting me any points either
                more like deducing them
                what the fuck am i even talking about
                this wasnt the point either
                just wanted to tell you
                how do people even say this without sounding stupid as fuck
                and not making any sense
                and now fish girl is reading over my shoulder and feeling sorry for me
                says to just say it
                what the fuck kind of advice is that
                dont know how long this connections gonna happen so probably the best option
                fuck it
                love you
                always did
                whole time
                hard not to tbh
                cute-ass little fucker
                id say i always will but
                dont think we just stay in the dreambubbles forever
                and if its like oblivion or reincarnation or some shit up in here
                and i stop remembering or like existing or whatever
                i dont want to have accidentally lied to you
                as long as im actually a thing with a mind
                ill still love you
                thats what the point of this was
                shit it doesnt even look like a word anymore
                but i really mean it okay
                100% sincerity
                at least 100%
                maybe more like 110%
                theres a time for it
                like now
                and be careful out there
                gonna miss you but i dont wanna see you till your ninety seven and wrinkly and have a fuckton of little grandkids or whatever and are old as balls
                and dont mope the whole time either
                your a good kid you know that?
                pretty badass
                think times running out
                more your department i guess but i dont think you can do anything about it
                hang in there little bro

                An AnonymousChum ceased pestering turntechGodhead at –‘-‘’—‘-‘-

“Well, shit,” Dave mutters. Takes off the glasses, rubs his eyes – once, twice – replaces the shades again. The text glows back at him, the same dark half-orange as before, blurrier now.

It takes him three tries to save the text file, but he does. Backs it up twice, emails it to himself just in case. That done, he switches to the other window.

                An AnonymousChum began pestering turntechGodhead at –‘-‘’—‘-‘-!

                Dear Mr. Strider:
                Please pass this message on to Rose as soon as you are done with your brother.
                I am informed that neither of you will be able to respond, or rather we will be incapable of receiving your responses, so timing is not entirely crucial.
                Nonetheless, I would deeply appreciate it if you would provide her with the message as soon as possible.
                Thank you.
                To my very…

“Shit,” he repeats. “Rose?” It’s a scratched-up whisper (heh, all the scratches in this game), barely enough to hear himself. He clears his throat. “Rose?”


He holds the glasses out to her. “It’s. Uh. It’s a message. From your mom.”

She takes the shades without a word, lips thinning as she slides them on.

To my very dearest Rose:
                I am aware that you will probably disregard that form of salutation. I do know how you perceive my typical behavior, and I apologize for this. I truly wish that I could have been more clear.
                I confess that I am not very good at speaking with people, or otherwise communicating with them, beyond the simple technological applications.
                As intelligent as you are, I am sure you have noticed this tendency.
                This is probably the last time that I will speak to you.
                 As I believe you have been informed, I have met with some unfortunate mishaps that have seemingly proved to be fatal.
                A young woman, apparently of an alien species, has provided me with a way of communicating with you for a period, as there is a great deal I wished to say.
                When I first found you, when you were a small child, I imagined raising a true successor, someone who shared my love of the sciences and could one day share my work and explore the mysteries of the natural world beside me.
                As you are very well aware, that did not happen.
                Instead I find I have a daughter who has not only created a field believed to be impossible, but at age thirteen has progressed further in said field than I ever managed in the course of my own work.
                Although I cannot wholeheartedly embrace this result, it is only because it has made your path so much harder than it might otherwise have been.
                However, I have the utmost confidence that you are more than up to the challenge, much though I would have wished to spare you.
                Similarly, I would have liked to spare you a great deal of what transpired during your upbringing. I apologize for my incompetence.
                Once again, I am aware that you will probably regard that statement, and these messages, as facetious.
                I can only assert again that they are as sincere as anything has ever been.
                I urge you to apply your intellect - surely no mockery is worth reaching back from beyond the metaphorical grave.
                This is the last opportunity I will have to speak to you; surely now, of all possible times, is the time that I would be sincere.
                The truth is that over the years I have only been attempting to tell you how much I love you, although I realize that my methods were unconventional enough that the error in -communication should perhaps have been anticipated.
                It occurs to me that I am leaving out key elements of this message.
                Please forgive me.
                I did have a plan, but not in detail.
                I was saying that I regretted a great deal about your childhood, and about your current path, or more specifically the difficulties ahead of you.
                What I meant to say was that although I do not have the words for how much I wish I could undo or prevent the hurts that have occurred and the struggles I suspect are ahead, I cannot truly regret the overall course of events.
                It is, I admit, selfish.
                But I cannot regret any of the occurrences that gave me you, my beautiful daughter.
                I only wish that we had had more time together.
                I would have liked to learn some of what you have discovered, although I suppose you might not have wanted to share your secrets.
                It would only be fair, considering.
                I do regret that I could not tell you everything, or rather as much of everything as I knew.
                Although much of it was seemingly misinformation, so perhaps that worked out in the end.
                That reminds me.
                I was tempted to tell you this often in life, but obviously did not have the ability to test the theory, and I felt that there was already enough intentional deceit present that I did not want to inform you of any significant purported facts without subjecting them to suitable scrutiny first.
                However, having first-hand experience of the moment of death at this point, I believe I have effectively verified the following:
                I would have died for you in a heartbeat, Rose.
                A thousand times over.
                Should necessity and the ability to do so coincide, I still will, although that seems unlikely.
                My primary regret about my death, in fact, is that not only did it have to happen but that said event could not benefit you at all.
                I am almost out of time.
                Rose, my darling, my beautiful, brilliant, incredible daughter, live well. Enjoy your life. Be happy. I wish you all the luck and love and blessing in the world, and for as long as I exist as a being in any form, living or dead, all my thoughts and my love will go with you.

                An AnonymousChum ceased pestering turntechGodhead at –‘-‘’—‘-‘-

“Dave?” Rose’s voice shakes for perhaps the first time in her life. “Might I perhaps borrow some memory space on your hard drive? Or alchemical equivalent?”

“Duh,” he says. He’s on the other side of the room, now; he’s been pacing as she read, shaking his head. “Save as many copies as you need. Email’s open too, if you wanna back it up there.”

“Thank you.”

Her fingers are perfectly under her control, although rather stiffer than the average bird’s claw. Her other hand stays twisted into a fist, the knuckles white.

“Your mom?” Dave asks quietly. She coughs.

“Yes. Saying goodbye, I suppose. Your brother?”

“Yeah.” He kicks the patchy rock below them, the only variation in the flat metal panels. “Look at it if you want. Nosy broad.”

“Thank you.”

There’s no sound but the whisper-buzzing of the space outside the walls.

“I appreciate your trust,” Rose says at last, holding out the shades. She sounds like frozen marble, like she’s locked off from what she’s saying by the time it reaches her mouth. Dave swallows as he takes his glasses back.

“I am, I suppose, willing to return the gesture, on the understanding of strictest confidence.”

“Meaning don’t tell anybody?”


When he’s done, she still has yet to move. Her eyes are closed.

He fidgets, paces back and forth, looking at her. The only part of her that’s moving is her mouth, lips trembling almost in time with the thrumming of the room.

“Fuck,” he mutters, stuffing his glasses in his pocket. “If Bro can say all that shit…”

It’s two steps before he’s standing next to Rose. He takes a deep breath, reaches out and wraps his arms around her.

“Shit,” he mutters, forehead pressed into the place where neck turns into collarbone. “It’s like I’m a fucking human straightjacket. C’mon, please, Rose…” He tries to burrow his arms under hers, half-pleading, half-coaxing. Slowly, very slowly, she complies. Her hands, thin-fingered and still pale, settle on his shoulders, twisting into the back of his suit. There’s blood under her fingernails.

“Dave,” she whispers, letting her head drop until her chin is hooked over his shoulder. “I think I may have loved my mother.”

“Yeah, no shit,” he mutters. “Told you so, didn’t I?”

The cracked sound might be an approximation of a laugh or a poorly disguised sob, it’s hard to say. “You know, I’m not surprised in the slightest to find that you’re joking under these circumstances.”

“I’m just that chill, huh?” It comes out half-distinct, muffled between the two of them.

“No.” Her chin digs into his back. “You’re repressing.”

“Always with the psychoanalysis. How come you don’t ever talk about your headfuckery?”

“Fair point.” She shifts just a little, tilting her head so she can speak. “Same diagnosis, I suppose.”

“Oh. What’s that even mean, repressing and shit?”

“Pretending not to feel things in an attempt not to do so. Or just trying not to feel things.”

“Oh. Yeah.” If he weren’t just below her ear, she wouldn’t catch him mumble, “pretty much.” But she does.

They’re quiet for a long, long time before she starts to straighten up. His hands tighten on her back.

“Don’t,” he whispers. He’d die if anyone else heard him. “Please.”

She hesitates. Slumps back, hands going tighter. “Very well,” she says, dried-up husk of a voice. “If you’ll forgive the temporary weakness.”

“Fucking hell,” he mutters, trying to shake his head without colliding with her ear, and somehow that starts them moving just a little, side to side, rocking each other almost imperceptibly.

“Dave,” she murmurs. “Purely out of curiosity, did you know…”

“About Bro? Yeah, no shit. Some of us pay attention to how we think about people, Lalonde. Just cause I don’t talk about it all the time –”

“Did you know that he loved you?”

He burrows into the curve of her neck, space dust smudging into his skin. “No. I didn’t.”

“I was sure she didn’t.” She’s not a statue anymore, at least, hands picking at the fabric of his shirt as if she’ll grab the right small patch of fabric and something small but helpful just might happen and that’s all she can do just now. “I was absolutely positive that she despised me. I don’t know why.”

“Yeah.” Neither of them is breathing steady anymore. “I… it’s not like I thought he hated me, but it was like I was. You know. In the way. No big deal one way or the other.”

“You are a very big deal, Dave.”

“Yeah, thanks.” It’s halfway between a breath and a sob and something else, the sound he makes. “Rose, what are we gonna do?”

“I don’t know,” she whispers. “I don’t know.”

It seems that it runs in the family to cry rarely, quietly, and for a very long time.