Characters: Jade Harley/English, Karkat Vantas, Dave Strider, Rose Lalonde, John Egbert, Kanaya Maryam
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Tags Present: Character Death
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You're impatient. You've been impatient for 1,095 days. You eat, breathe, and sleep impatience. You even watch the Thresh Prince impatiently. Dave tells you this is because you have seen every goddamn episode 500 times. He's wrong, as usual, because Thresh Prince is so layered with commentary on the hemospectrum that you see something new each viewing.
While their impatience is a case of the sniffles, you are bedridden with full blown impatience pneumonia. You are feverish with anticipation and spend the nights tossing and turning in your sad excuse for a respite block. You try counting things to take your mind off it. Now you know there are 612 tiles on the ceiling above your bed, 111 hairs on the knuckles of both hands combined, and you haven't had a restful sleep since before you played this game.
You try to distract yourself, but there is nothing to do but think and talk with the others. They tell you to be less ornery and chew with your mouth closed. They also tell you that when there are only 6 trolls left there are more important things than the hemospectrum.
You tell them that if there's a clear entry to your protein shoot, you're going to shovel in some sustenance. You might as well be the fucking Hero of Multi-tasking and they should all take heed to emulate your ways. You're doing them a goddamn favor, sharing your secret to time management. Your friends begin to take their meals at the other end of the table.
It does become clear that no one gives a flying fuck if your blood is candy red, putrid green, or jazzin' bluesberry. It just matters that you're alive. You try on the candy red, and after a few tries, it sticks.
When you're alone, which is often, your mind always wanders to the same place. You've gone over that last conversation in your head so many times that you have created a plethora of alternate endings. They all bear a striking resemblance to scenes in your favorite romcoms. Jade says all the right lines, and you're significantly taller.
This doesn't matter, of course, as Jade has yet to actually see you, but it is an important symbolic choice, riddled in meaning. The meaning is that you are short as fuck and wish you were taller. You also wish that the last thing you and Jade talked about wasn't shaving cream.
man stop pacing
You've walked the length of the meteor four times in the last twenty minutes and Dave is watching you with obvious frustration. You stop just long enough for him to unclench his fist before you put your foot back down and continue your woe-begotten shuffle.
seriously youre giving me a headache its like you want us to be at our absolute worst when john and jade finally get here all “oh hey guys late to the party as always were just having a mental breakdown would you like to join in” theyll fucking get right back on their ship and ollie out into space dont do this to me man i cant handle it if they ollie
He's an idiot but you stop pacing anyway. You all stand in silence for a moment, eyes fixed ahead of you in case you look away and miss the first glimpse after three long years. For a moment your bodies hum with silent anticipation and then-
hey lil mama check your future powers and let us know when they get here
Rose is sitting cross-legged on the ground, carefully researching just like always. When she looks up, you see patience on her features.
For the fourth time, they'll be arriving soon.
how soon is soon
You're the Knight of Time, you tell me.
fuck rose you know thats not how this works soon is not a time time aint nothing but a number and i dont see no numbers in that not even when tz says it
You turn to tell Strider to shut up but you hear something that makes your heart stop.
1T'S TH3M! TH3Y'R3 H3R3!
Barreling towards you is the intergalactic, yellow-skinned phallus fruit that holds Jade Harley. And, to a less exciting extent, John Egbert. You are probably going to throw up. You take a deep breath and try to will it down, but suddenly your whole body is rising. Something blue is hugging you around the waist.
PUT ME THE FUCK DOWN IDIOT!
None of your scenarios began with being lifted into the air and twirled by Jade's insufferable ecto-brother. Thankfully, John obliges.
nice to see you dude! you're shorter in person.
AND YOU ARE JUST AS BIG OF A DOUCHEBAG AS YOU ARE ON CHAT.
He laughs, pats your arm one more time, purposely ignoring Strider who is all but screaming for his attention. He hugs Rose instead.
You see Kanaya's face light up and you turn toward the ship. For the first time in sweeps you wish this moment could last forever.
She is floating down, her hair illuminated in the starlight. Shades of black and brown, and deep midnight blue all playing together. Her nose is a little too big for her face and her eyes are too close together. Everything about her is just as beautiful as you remember. Except for the dog ears, poking out of her hood like misshapen horns, those are new. But they're part of her, so you think they're beautiful.
She lands and you push past Kanaya to get to her first. You've practiced this speech for three years and you have to get it out now before you stare into her eyes too long and forget.
WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!
This comes out breathless and excited, not at all like the suave “HEY AGAIN, IDIOT” you intended. You're the idiot. Of course you've been fucking waiting for them.
The speech is gone. You have no fucking idea what you were going to say. What's left is relief. Relief that she's here. Relief that you can talk to her again, make her laugh, actually see her.The relief that you can finally say what you have been burning to say for three goddamn years. The relief that you're done waiting.
JADE, LISTEN. I REALLY NEED TO TELL YOU SOMETHING. I'VE DONE SOME SERIOUS THINKING WHILE YOU WERE AWAY. I REALIZE NOW THAT I'M NOT THE MOST WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT TO SLIDE HEAD FIRST OUT OF THE FILIAL PAIL. I'M DONE BEING A GUTLESS WRIGGLER WITH MY SHAME GLOBES IN A TWIST ABOUT THINGS LIKE BLOOD COLOR AND NOT THINKING I DESERVE NICE THINGS. I'VE ALSO BEEN THINKING A LOT ABOUT YOU, JADE, AND I JUST WANTED TO SAY-
karkat now isnt really the best time
You did not plan for this. You know you should say something, but all you can manage is-
When Jade opens her mouth, it's clear that she remembers her speech perfectly.
i think know what youre going to say and i need you to listen first
we havent talked in three years
ive changed a lot and it sounds like you have too! we dont know each other anymore karkat
not to mention that we dont know what will happen when we defeat bec noir i might never see you again!
i dont think itd be fair to either of us if we brought up that past when the future is so uncertain
im sorry karkat!
This is what you get for loving kind people. They're too kind to tell you when you're worthless. Jade was always the nicest human, and her lies tell you that much hasn't changed.
And you do. You are just a shitstain on the load gaper of this universe. You don't deserve her, not this thoughtful creature who smiles at garbage so sympathetically.
i knew you would
It is now that some dormant part of the plan decides to shake loose in your sponge and you hold out your arms to her. If you can just get one hug, one touch, she will be real and all this waiting will be worth something.
Kanaya pretends not to notice when Jade hugs her instead.
You know you're going to die soon. Well, you've known you would die soon since you broke away from the Batterwitch. Soon meaning she would kill you, eventually.
Now, your hair is white and your skin hangs loose, wrinkled and soft like sheets on an unmade bed, and soon has never felt so close. You're ready for it, in a way. Not because you're tired of the fight, you're just tired of waiting.
You regret you won't be here for Jake. At six, he already wanders into the jungle and comes back with scrapes, bruises, and an incandescent smile. He's rambunctious, to say the least, and you worry about what trouble he will get up to when you're gone.
But, you've done what you can. You've taught him which plants are edible, how to tell directions from the stars, and how to use a gun. Six might be too young to shoot, but it is a hell of a lot worse to be alone on an island without a gun. And you know he will survive, at least until he plays the game.
It pains you most of all that, despite everything you've done to hurt the Condesce, your family still can't escape the twisted tentacles of fate. You saw it in your dreams, silvery whispers of Jake's future in the clouds. Flashes of blood and volcanoes, robots and white-horned beasts.
If you were younger, you would believe that these were visions from a higher power. Something to reassure you that he would be all right when you were gone. You're older now, and you understand these are just images sent to you from the game.
Recently, something else has come clinging on the coattails of Jake's future. Something lighter than a whisper. An echo from far away, resonating deep into the corners of your mind. It struck you once how loud these moments must have been shouted into the universe to reach you in such low murmurs.
They were hard to decipher at first. The echoes arrived in a pulsing haze. Full of little moments you did not understand. Faces and voices you almost knew before promptly forgetting upon awakening. They haunted you.
It took you longer than it should have to understand what they truly were. Nights spent rejecting sleep to avoid ghostly faces, walls of colorful text you could not make out, people who you thought you should remember. And a ball of fire that kept closing in on you before you woke with a start on the floor of your lab.
Then, suddenly, the haze lifted and you found cold clarity. These were moments from your other self, the one who played the game. And though many of your memories were still covered in a light layer of frost, you were happy. This was something the Batterwitch had not planned for. This was a way to level the playing field and bring balance to the odds. You would use these memories to help Jake.
You took to sleeping as strongly as you had tried to avoid it. Napping at odd hours, dropping off to sleep whenever the moment struck you.
You sorted through the memories, piecing together sentences and paragraphs from the whispered words in the wind. They fluttered away when you woke up, and you tied a string around your fingers for every moment you can almost see. And sometimes, if you were lucky, you could remember them if you thought long enough.
You sorted through memories of the game and picked out ones Jake will need. Instructions on catching frogs and to budget out his grist. Warnings not to challenge his denizen too quickly and be careful around thieves. And to promise you that he won't jump head first into an adventure.
You also tell him to have fun, something that permeates the echoed whispers of your not-quite-past despite the fear and exhaustion. You organized all these instructions for him in a convenient blood red binder and place it in your lab. He will find it when he's ready.
Some of the whispers, you soon learned, are useless. Yet, you found yourself compelled to sift through these as well. You remembered a white dog who was good and loyal,and kept you safe despite all odds. You remembered raps and video games and sarcasm and loving someone so much you didn't care they were sort of a doofus. You remembered playing in the snow and dying more times than someone should, only to rise again, holding the universe in your hands.
You remembered all of this surrounded by walls of gray text. Caring in its anger and filthy in its metaphor. You also remembered the text as quite rude and you remembered feeling happy when it was there. You almost remembered a name, but no matter how many strings you tied to your fingers you have not yet convinced the cat to release your tongue.
You have searched through all the memories but one. This one came, not in a silvery whisper, but a gray groan. When you woke, you felt empty, like you were missing something that you never really had. So you left the string off your finger and tried to push it out of your mind.
The guilt came for you though, a fear that this memory might hold information useful to your grandson. You have to listen to it, see it, feel what you're avoiding so you can protect him. And tonight you will face it.
When the sun sets you put Jake to bed and say goodnight.
i love you grandma
i love you too sweetheart!
When you slip outside you wonder if this is the last time he'll hear you say that.
The sky is clear and you can see the stars. The openness of space clears your mind, focusing your attention on the matter at hand. You think better when you can see the stars.
You hear a rustle in the bushes and you realize, belatedly, that you've left your gun in the lab. You see a white tail disappear into the trees and you relax, it's just one of those crab creatures with a bark much worse than its bite.
When there is silence you take a breath and close your eyes. You see a ship and your brother's face, mustache free and young, like you remember. Then you see a meteor and gray faces you can't quite recognize. The empty feeling starts here, when the shortest one approaches you.
He, something tells you it is a he, is speaking but you can't quite make out the words.
JADE LISTEN… ABOUT YOU… TO SAY…
Your mouth opens to mouth the words that are carried to you in this quiet groan of the memory. This is the only part that is clear to you.
im sorry karkat
The name leaves your lips like a prayer. You can see it, the meteor, your friends, Karkat. And you realize how deeply you hurt him when he replies-
You want to scream out how much he means to you, pull him to your chest, and never let him go. But there is nothing you can do to stop that other self from leaving him standing at the edge of the group.
This is a sharp pain in your chest. This moment that your not-quite-self threw away for no reason other than fear. It tears at you. And you feel the pain she felt, and for a second you are her.
But the pain is too sharp and, when you look down, there are three prongs sticking out of your chest. You hear a whisper in your ear but it comes to you as an angry murmur, cold and fuchsia, and you can't make out what she says.
You think you must be an echo now, the leftover scream of your life resonating throughout space. It's peaceful, this forward motion into the void. You don't know how long you'll keep moving, but you suppose you'll know when to stop.
He doesn't look how you saw him in the memories of your not-quite-self. He's older, harder, and sadder. But it is him and you've never felt more complete in your life.
I WAS WAITING FOR YOU.