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About A Time I Failed

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Your head fucking hurts. It’s bright and cold and yeah, holy shame globes, does your head hurt. There’s something about the way your breath is catching in your throat fast and hard that’s making you think some major shit just went down-

Oh.

He killed you. Jack. Fuck, shit, maybe not Jack, maybe just some Carapacian that looked an awful lot like Jack. Terezi insisted Jack would betray you but there is no fucking way that the dude you who helped you execute Operation Regisurp followed you to Prospit and-

Oh, god, you’re dead.

Not this you, obviously. This you is still sitting on the metal floor of the lab, wishing you could remember what it felt like to sleep in sopor slime. It’s the other you that’s dead. Dream you. First time you managed to wake up all goddamn game and you immediately got yourself killed.

And then Prospit and all its gold burned away and there was nothing but these whispers, these screams, these horrifying-

Your body shivers instinctively, pulling you right the fuck out of that train of thought. You never want to think about those monsters again. You’ll never sleep again if that’s what it takes to stop it. If all Prospit dreamers see them now when they sleep, you’ll keep all of you awake. Indefinitely.

Your friends don’t seem to give an active shit that you’re awake, or that you passed out in the first place. You count them- you’ve got to, you’re their leader, you’re responsible for them- eleven. Twelve, counting you. Great, perfect. None of them got themselves killed while you were unconscious. You imagine it was hard for them.

Terezi is the closest to you, physically, chuckling at something on one of the computer monitors that you can’t quite make out. It’s hard even through the pounding in your skull not to wonder if she did that on purpose, staying near you like that. She likes you. Probably. Maybe. She liked you two weeks ago when she stuck her tongue into your mouth. Fuck, shouldn’t she have cared that you passed out though? Unless this is spades flirting she’s doing. Close enough to make sure no one kills her kismesis, detached enough to send you a big clear “fuck you”.

Kanaya disturbs you before you can dwell on it any further.

“Karkat. I hope my display with Tavros earlier did not cause any permanent damage for you. He seems remarkably pleased to have legs again.” She places a hand on your shoulder, eyebrow raised slightly as if threatening you to disagree. You glance over at Tavros stomping around like a complete jackass with his brand new robot legs and sigh.

“It would be great if you all could give me a heads up about any future dismemberments.” You tell her, a little more acid in your tone than necessary.

“Yes, I realized the circumstances were undesirable when you fainted.” She stops talking but keeps her hand on you.

“Prospit?” You ask.

“Yes, I was waiting for you to ask.” She responds.

“Does everyone know? I was the only one asleep. Fuck, how do I break it to everyone that their dream selves are dead?” You are in so fucking far above your head.

“I imagine it would be difficult to have a dream self die and not notice, awake or otherwise. I believe that your concern as leader now lies in the cause of all this death.” The corner of her lip perks up as she says ‘leader’. It leaves you bitter- after everything, even Kanaya won’t take you seriously?

“Right, of course, leave it to your incapacitated leader to figure everything out while you all fuck around on computers. Great. Someone get me Aradia so I can ask her just where the fuck she decided to bring all of us.” You’re shouting now, loud enough for Aradia to hear on her own, but the stupid robot just keeps her gaze plastered on her computer. Terezi takes the opportunity to acknowledge your existence.

“Alright Vantas, what do you know about the humans?” She grins at you, hand stretched over her monitor so you can’t see what’s going on.

“Humans?” You ask, irritated. She plays with you like this constantly, making up words just to piss you off.

“Aliens,” Kanaya begins to explain, earning one dramatic sigh from Terezi, “Aliens playing their own SGRUB session.”

“Is that where Aradia took us? Someone else’s session? What, we have to hijack it?” You’re asking a lot of questions for a guy supposed to be in charge.

Terezi and Kanaya exchange an uncomfortable glance.

“You should take a look for yourself, candy blood.” Terezi points towards a vacant computer. You love it when she reminds of your mutant blood. Brings back all those fond memories of fearing for your life. Ah, the good old days on Alternia.

There’s more important shit going down than your determinedly black flirting with your formerly red crush, though. Shit called humans. When you boot up the ratty computer your friends have left for you, there are four very distinct timelines laid out for you. Blue, purple, red, and green. You know enough about the game to know who their leader is at a quick glance. You spend half an hour leafing through his entire timeline- his entry into the game, the complete and utter failure he is at organizing his team, his incompetence in dealing with any of the political endeavors on Derse, and, maybe most importantly, the god-creature he allows his client player to prototype after he let their version of Jack Goddamn Noir get ahold of the Black Queen’s ring.

He is a fucking moron.

You hate him.

You hate him in a way that makes you sick. It’s different than you’ve ever hated Terezi, or Sollux, or yourself. You’re supposed to be finding a way to save your entire species from the brink of extinction, and instead you’ve found yourself in your very first kismesis love.

Just like in the movies.

“So what are we doing with them, Vantas?” Vriska jeers from across the room. She’s smirking at you, giving you a full view of her monitor where troll logs between her and this John Human are scattered across the screen. You’d be aggravated with her for talking to him without your consent if you hadn’t been hatching the same exact plan.

“Holy fuck, everyone listen up! I’m sure you’re all aware that we’re completely fucked by now. Denied our prize for winning the game, stranded in some alien session in a dying universe, all the Prospit dreamers are down to one life-“ You begin.

Sollux interrupts you: “Derse is gone too. Destroyed. We’re all going to die here. Also, I’m not going along with whatever your asinine plan ends up being. Just for the record.”

You continue, “Great, what a wonderful contribution from Mr. Captor. Thanks for helping out the rest of your team, pal. For the fucking rest of you- it doesn’t really seem like we have much of an out. We are utterly stranded on the most dismal asteroid in all of space time, and we’re probably going to die here. All we’ve got now is revenge. Get the fuck on your computers and destroy these humans. Make them pay for what they’ve taken from us.”

“But some of them seem nice!” Nepeta argues. She’s not exactly one to argue with you. You want to make sure she doesn’t try that shit again.

“Did I ask for your opinion of them, Leijon? Troll. Them. Make them wish they never messed with us. I want the leader, though. Leave the John Human to me.” You order, pointed look at Vriska. She’ll ignore you, you’re sure, but it’s something you can deal with later. Besides, it’s not as if you’re concerned that Serket is going to accidentally be nice. John deserves her wrath.

What annoys you more than the rest of these idiots is Terezi. She didn’t bother to turn around during your brilliant speech, instead cackling at her computer screen. You do your best to ignore it, pulling up a moment real late in John’s timeline to mess around with. You’re a goddamn word poet and the hate speech pours out of you easy. You swear you’re better at typing it than screaming out loud, if only for all the isolation of your adolescence. It takes you thirty seconds to smash out a vicious speech for this god awful human boy. You’re going to make him fear you.

Before you press “send” you’re distracted by Terezi’s laugh. It isn’t like you’re using to hearing it, all high pitched and calculating, like she’s the one pulling the strings of the humor. She’s just… she’s honest to god giggling. You exit out of your unsent conversation with John and scoot over to her computer.

She’s too busy laughing to effectively hide her screen from you. It’s filled with a wall of red. Red text, red timeline, red eyes.

The other human boy.

“You flirting with the enemy now?” You accuse.

“Fuck off, Karkat.” She manages to retort in between snorts, pushing at your face with her hands.

You do. You fuck off right on back to your computer and switch viewports to this red asshole. What was he? Hero of Time? If this alien douchebag thinks he can get your girl, he’s got another thing coming.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling turntechGodhead [TG]

CG: LISTEN UP HUMAN SWINE

CG: THIS IS YOUR GOD TALKING AND I’VE GOT A VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR YOU RE: YOU HITTING ON TEREZI PYROPE.

TG: bro what the shit are you talking about

TG: havent we hashed all this out already jesus christ

TG: oh damn unless youre fuckin past karkat

TG: man its so lame when you pull this time shenanigans shit

TG: hey im karkat here to confuse the living shit out of everyone i hold dear to me

TG: when am i from who knows your guess is as good as mine so good luck not accidentally spilling some future secrets to me

TG: i mean i wont spill future secrets obviously

TG: master of time here

TG: you fuck john right up though buddy

TG: anyway hey what the fuck do you want

CG: WHAT THE FUCK?

CG: HOW DARE YOU TALK TO YOUR GOD LIKE THIS!

CG: I CREATED YOU, HUMAN.

TG: oh my god

TG: yes

TG: hell fucking yes

TG: oh this had better be as good as you built it up to be dude

TG: this is the first time youre talking to me right

TG: ok there are three things i have got to tell you about humans before you continue bro

TG: the first thing is that youve gotta ask every human how big their dick is when you first talk to them

TG: its how we assess whos the leader ok

TG: im willing to forgive this huge oversight on your part but you gotta do it with john and rose and jade

CG: YOU ARE SO FULL OF SHIT.

TG: two

CG: NO STOP I AM LITERALLY BEGGING YOU TO SHUT THE FUCK UP.

CG: HOW CAN TEREZI FUCKING STAND TALKING TO YOU FOR SO LONG?

TG: yeah man i know you’re going through some shit right now

TG: so ill chill

TG: but ok just for the fuckin record going forward

TG: i wasnt hitting on tz

TG: obviously i know me saying this now doesnt do shit for your anxiety about it in the future but

TG: seriously i am so not about that

CG: I HATE MYSELF FOR ASKING THIS

CG: BECAUSE I AM OBVIOUSLY ABOUT TO START A SELF FUCKING FUFILLING PROPHECY

CG: BUT WE HAVE SPOKEN BEFORE FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE?

TG: oh shit my man

TG: have we ever

TG: you and i are best fucking bros

TG: basically lovers

CG: STOP

CG: NO NO NO

CG: I KNEW I SHOULDN’T HAVE ASKED HOLY FUCK DO NOT EVER BRING UP YOUR FUCKED UP INTERSPECIES ROMANCE AGAIN.

CG: IT’S BAD ENOUGH YOU AND TEREZI ARE CLEARLY GETTING IT ON.

CG: DO NOT PULL ME INTO THIS"

TG: hahahahaha

TG: right right

TG: so sorry to fuck with your quadrants karkat

CG: HOW THE HELL DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DELICATE ART OF QUADRANTS?

TG: trust me

TG: i wish i didnt know jack shit about them

TG: unfortunately i have spoken with you for more than thirty seconds so i am basically the human ambassador on quadrants at this point

CG: ALRIGHT, I WOULD LIKE TO STATE FOR THE RECORD THAT I OFFICIALLY HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR GODDAMN GARBAGE.

CG: YOU CAN MAKE FUN OF ME, YOU CAN FLIRT WITH TEREZI, YOU CAN BE A GENERALLY INSUFFERABLE PRICK

CG: BUT I DRAW THE FUCKING LINE AT MOCKING MY *ENTIRE* CULTURE.

CG: YOUR FUCKING SLANDER ABOUT QUADRANTS THAT YOU HAVE NO WAY OF COMPREHENDING IS DESPICABLE AND I SWEAR ON MY DEAD FUCKING LUSUS THAT I WILL MAKE YOU PAY.

TG: hahaha oh my god

TG: this is it this is everything ive ever wanted

TG: classic goddamn karkat pissed off about quadrants

TG: you cant make this up

TG: you can fuck me you can fuck my girlfriend but dont you dare insult my weird ass alien romance chart

TG: holy shit i cant wait to talk to you about this

TG: current you i mean

TG: my time you

TG: youre gonna be so goddamn embarrassed

CG: MY SINCERE APOLOGIES IF I HAVE A HARD TIME BELIEVING THAT I WOULD EVER SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN, NEVERMIND IN THE FAMILIAR WAY YOU'RE IMPLYING, AFTER THIS SHITSTORM OF A CONVERSATION.

TG: ok dickface this was fun but i think im done with the aggressive yelling

TG: didnt miss this shit thats for sure

TG: pretty sure i get back at your for it when you first start talking to me though

TG: prepare yourself for me being kind of an asshole

CG: OH HEAVENS ME HOW WILL I EVER GET THROUGH THAT?

CG: WAIT I’VE GOT IT! I DON’T HAVE TO.

CG: GOODBYE FOREVER DIRTBAG.

TG: wait shit dont block me

TG: im sorry im messing around with you ok

TG: i remember you saying you were going through some major shit the first time you talked to me

TG: its about jack isnt it

CG: WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW ABOUT JACK?

TG: im prolly fucking up some timeline shit telling you this but

TG: it wasnt your jack from your session

TG: he was ours

CG: YEAH I GATHERED THAT SCROLLING THROUGH YOUR SHITSCUM LEADER’S TIMELINE.

CG: IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE TO TRY TO MAKE ME FEEL BETTER ABOUT IT CUMDUMPSTER.

CG: I’VE GOT A QUESTION FOR YOU THOUGH

CG: HOW THE SHIT DID YOU LET THIS ALL HAPPEN?

TG: series of fuck ups on our part

TG: we prototyped some messed up stuff and overpowered the motherfucker

TG: he killed a lot of people

CG: HE KILLED ME

CG: AND I KNOW IT WAS YOUR FAULT.

CG: I KNOW IT WASN’T MY JACK.

CG: BUT HOW DID HE GET INTO OUR SESSION? WHAT THE FUCK POWERS DID YOU EVEN GIVE HIM?

TG: i dont think

TG: im supposed to tell you yet bro

TG: we work a lot of this shit out together later in your timeline

TG: i just know your jack meant a lot to you bro

TG: didnt want you to have to sit there thinking that he betrayed you or some shit

CG: GREAT THANK YOU SO MUCH

CG: ALL OF MY PROBLEMS HAVE SUDDENLY DISAPPEARED NOW THAT YOU’VE TOLD ME YOU’RE THE CAUSE OF THEM!

CG: WISH YOU COULD SEE HOW BIG MY SMILE IS!!!!!!

TG: ok so obviously youre just being a fuckin asshole right now

TG: i get it you dont know me yet and youre all jacked up about jack

TG: lmao pun am i right

TG: but yeah im not tryna stick around and get yelled at by douchebag karkat so

TG: good fuckin luck or whatever

TG: and maybe future you can remember to actually respond to me around this time god damn

CG: GOOD FUCKING RIDDANCE

carcinoGeneticist [CG] banned turntechGodhead [?TG]

You are fucking seething. You expected this guy to be a complete prick but, holy hell, did he exceed expectations. How dare this insolent little flesh bag talk to you as if he and his friends didn’t just utterly doom you? You were clearly wasting your time drudging through their leader’s entire timeline- your focus should be on this Dave asshole.

The way Terezi is still smiling at her computer screen- at him- does nothing but make you feel more righteous in your cause.

You scroll back far enough to see his haunting red eyes before his guardian understandingly hides them behind a disgusting pair of shades. The thought of eyes so similar to what yours are doomed to become has you feeling sick, skipping ahead a couple years. The fuck is the point of creeping on a grub, anyway?

Your stomach drops when you stop scrolling. This kid- Dave- can’t be more than a few sweeps old. His guardian has him up on the roof with a sword twice the size of his body poking, prodding, slashing. Dave’s got a black eye and a dozen gashes to match. You have to give the human kid credit, he’s doing his best to block the attacks. He’s not even too bad at dodging some of the slower ones. His guardian isn’t slow, though, isn’t even trying to be. You see it coming before Dave does, this swing from the adult’s sword headed straight for his neck. You barely have time to think the word “decapitation” before his guardian flips the sword sideways, forces the blunt side collide with Dave’s collarbone. It begins to welt before you have the chance to skip forward a few more months. You wonder if it broke the bone.

You hadn’t seen shit like that go down on John’s timeline. Fuck, even your lusus wasn’t as violent with you. Was this normal for humans?

It takes you twenty minutes to settle on another time frame to watch him from. Maybe you’re still shaken up from being killed on Prospit, from bearing witness to the horrorterrors, but the bits and pieces of his life you’re picking up on are fucking you up. Its always pitch black in Dave’s tiny apartment, and it’s covered in puppets and cameras and what you can only goddamn hope are packets of fake blood. You’ve read a dozen threatening notes left to Dave by his guardian. Threatening is the wrong word. They’re petrifying, laden with psychological terror. Shit you couldn’t think up. Shit you don’t think Vriska could think up. And they’re everywhere. Dave- fucking barely older than a grub Dave- just finds them and tosses them aside, laughs like they’re supposed to be funny. The further into his timeline you go, the more often the threats end up coming true. Dave will turn the corner to find a bloody puppet staring back at him. To get hit by his guardian’s sword. To stumble onto a computer screen playing the most vile puppet porn you’ve ever seen in your pathetic life.

You think it’s the porn that’s really getting to you. Maybe Dave is an anomaly for humans with all the sword fighting and shit and, yeah, that’s pretty messed up- but it isn’t like there weren’t trolls on Alternia in situations like that, too. Vriska. Feferi. Half of your conversations with Sollux were interrupted by him having to sooth his lusus. Gamzee’s lusus was around less than Dave’s seems to be (which, for the fucking record, seems only to be when the dude is trying to physically assault Dave). But yeah, no, the porn is messed up.

It isn’t like those hilarious television shows on Alternia where the little troll kid goes snooping in a closet and finds some pictures they aren’t supposed to, leading to a whole big episode of hijinks. Its… everywhere. Phallic puppets all over the house, pushing their way into Dave’s room, covered in liquids that you can’t even begin to describe. His guardian leaves his porn website up on all the electronics in the hive stem. Dave can’t not look at it. And, shit, the cameras. It was sickening enough when Dave was too young to realize he was being constantly monitored and uploaded onto the internet for presumably adult consumption. You’re further on his timeline now, though. Far enough in that he’s found the cameras and seen himself on the websites and laughed it off.

You don’t get how this is the same kid you just screamed at. You don’t get how he manages to be functional at all, locked in that hellhole. You know from personal fucking experience that being trapped in a single hive your entire life can fuck you up. At least your guardian wasn’t trying to kill you. Drive you insane. Systematically destroy you.

You’ve found yourself watching this one night on repeat. Dave must be four, five sweeps old but has been alone for days. You can tell he’s starving, filling himself up with water before bed. He doesn’t notice the note his guardian placed in the shower because he hasn’t showered in days, so he goes to bed feeling way too fucking safe. You watch him sleep for hours, over and over, wishing he got to stay like that- peaceful, dreaming, safe. He doesn’t, though. His guardian slips in around four in the morning, that puppet by his side. You swear you can hear it whispering, even from your computer screen. They watch him for as long as you do. You think there’s a camera in his guardian’s hand.

You try twenty three times, but you can’t force yourself to watch the collision when his guardian finally swings his sword against Dave’s sleeping body. You do make yourself watch Dave wash off the blood in the morning, after the resulting fight. You feel sick.

“I thought you wanted us to stop paying attention to Strider.” Terezi’s voice startles you. She’s close, just behind your shoulder. You can’t tell how long she’s been watching you watch him.

“How far back into his timeline have you gone?” You ask her, voice more ragged than you expected.

“I’ve just been talking him through playing the game. Jeez, Vantas. Stick up your waste chute much?” She smiles that big fake smile at you.

“Don’t fuck with him.” You tell her.

“Three hours ago your explicit command was to fuck with them.” She makes a good point.

You don’t think you can let them fuck with someone who’s already going through literal hell though.

“He’s mine. Mess with the girls, or the stupid leader. I don’t give a shit Terezi, just leave him to me.” You command.

Her eyes narrow as if she’s going to fight back, but then she flashes you that big awful grin again, “Whatever you say, leader.

You think you’d normally be more annoyed with her. Right now you’re distracted by the pit in your stomach that hasn’t left since you saw Dave’s guardian for the first time.

On your computer, Dave is still washing his wounds from the night before in the too-moldy sink. You wish you had it in you to skip past this, but something about the way he stares straight at the wall from behind his shades ignoring the red pooling in the drain reminds you way too much of the times you’d accidentally cut yourself with your sickle and spent hours trying to scrub away the mutant blood leaking out of your veins.

Except that this poor kid didn’t accidentally cut himself.

He got the shit beaten out of him.

In his sleep.

By his guardian.

Holy hell, you have to say something to him.

You skip forward half an hour, when he’s done wrapping his arms in gauze, when he’s sitting at his computer drawing pictures of nothing with the hand you know damn well he doesn’t use for writing.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling turntechGodhead [TG]

CG: HI STRIDER

CG: HOW ARE YOU?

CG: SHIT THAT’S A TERRIBLE QUESTION, YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY TERRIBLE, THAT’S WHY I’M FUCKING TALKING TO YOU

CG: BUT ASIDE FROM AWFUL

CG: SHIT

CG: I’M FUCKING THIS UP

TG: ok woah stranger danger

turntechGodhead [TG] blocked carcinoGeneticist [CG]

CG: GOD FUCKING BULGESHIT