In our days we will say
What our ghosts will say
We gave the world what it saw fit
But what'd we get?
(Resurrection Fern, Iron & Wine)
The morning light was still crawling through the darkness when you woke up. For a moment, you were dazed. You had just been- This wasn't-
You bolted upright, your childhood bed sheets clutched tightly in your fists, your eyes catching on purple knitting and eldritch posters.
Was this a Dream Bubble? Did they even exist anymore? Your throat tightened at the sight of your Lovecraftian decorations, and you waited for the eternal whispers of the Horrorterrors to rise in volume but-
It was silent. For the first time your mind was absolutely still.
You were alone.
And all of a sudden you knew that this wasn't a Dream Bubble. Something had changed. Something was wrong.
This wasn't your universe.
This wasn't your universe.
If the sound of the Horrorterrors were gone...
Then what else could be missing?
(Who else could be missing?)
Tearing off the sheets covering your body, you rushed up to your computer, hissing swears under your breath as you waited for the stupid thing to boot up, mashing your mouse key on the Persterchum icon until it opened. You had to make sure, you had to check, she had to be here, she had to be here- Hands shaking, fingers desperate, you typed out her handle and-
Sorry! This user doesn't seem to exist.
You misspelled her handle.
Sorry! This user doesn't-
The chat client was undergoing repairs.
(She was real.)
Sorry! This user-
The servers weren't working correctly.
(She was real.)
You forgot to capitalise.
(She had to exist.)
The internet was being slow.
(Why wasn't her name registering?)
There was some sort of mistake, some sort of problem that-
(Why wasn't the client recognising her handle?)
Sorry! This user doesn't seem to exist.
But she did. She existed, she existed, she was real and you loved her and she was-
You couldn't move, couldn't speak or blink as you watched that fucking message appear over and over again on your screen as though it was taunting you with- (the truth? No. No. NO.) You swallowed down a sob, fingers trembling as you decided to try just one more time, just one more time, because maybe this would work and maybe she was trying to reach you and then-
- - turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 04:13 - -
TG: rose? rose what the fuck is going on
TG: shit fuck shit
TG: rose please are you there
TG: karkat isnt responding
TG: are you even the same fucking rose
TT: Dave, what the fuck is happening?
TT: I can't contact Kanaya.
TT: It keeps saying her handle doesn't exist.
TG: oh thank fuck
TT: Shit. Shit. Shit! What the fuck is going on?! Are we back on Earth? The first one?
TG: listen i have no clue what the shit is happening
TG: but im back in fucking austin with you-know-fucking-who
TT: What? How the hell is that even possible?!
TG: i cant promise not to kill the asshole
TG: i dont even fucking know
TG: oh shit hes coming
TT: Dave? Dave!
Because if Bro was alive, then-
There was a knock on your closed door. You stared at it, body tensing, tears stinging your eyes, because there was no way, this wasn't real, this couldn't be real-
The door opened and a blonde head peeked through the crack. She looked exactly the same. Hair perfectly styled, martini glass in hand, painted lips curled up in a fond smile, and very obviously not dead.
(How had you never seen that, how had you never understood just how much she loved you? She had made mistakes, would make mistakes, but she loved you.)
"Rosie darling, what are you doing up at this time?"
You burst into tears and let your mother scoop you up into a hug, soft words spilling from her lips as she attempted to calm you down, but your gaze was still fixed on the computer, on the letters blinking in your brain, on the feeling of wrongness.
Everything was wrong.
(Some time later you stopped trying to reach her after the fiftieth, hundredth, thousandth automated response. Instead you deleted Pesterchum for good.)
The glass was cool against your cheek as you lazily watched the blurry glow of morning lights rush past your brother's truck, the clashing concrete and neon of the city slowly disappearing into the distance. The ever constant hum that had buzzed in your ears for years began to quiet down, and for the first time in a long while, you felt at peace. It was easy to turn your back on the city you had studied in, the city that should have by all rights been your home, your habitat, your place of belonging-
But you had lost that place long ago, and any attempts to try and make it your home only increased your hatred for it.
Of what it reminded you of.
(Fire and ash and blood and rain and all the mistakes you made, the destruction that you caused, the people you left behind-)
Your name is Rose Lalonde, and the world you stand on should not exist.
This city, this planet, this universe had been destroyed.
By your own hands no less.
You had been sent on a quest of life and death, for life and death. The destruction of one universe was to make way for another, and eventually, you had all succeeded. So many had been lost and yet so much had been gained.
(Friends, family, Kanaya-)
The new universe was cultivated, was grown and loved by children who had become Gods, and it had been the second most beautiful thing you had ever seen.
(She would always be first. Always. Your love, your darling, your wife. Even after all this time, you still loved her as fiercely as the day you had exchanged your vows.)
You had watched the world you created grow and thrive and prosper for centuries, living out an incredible lifespan. Eventually, you knew, you both knew that it was time. The two of you were tired and old, and your wife had never reached her Godhood. So you relinquished yours and grew old together, surrounded by those you loved and the children you had raised together and with such satisfaction and joy in what your life had become.
You had passed away next to her, hand in hand, heart to heart, love glittering in your tired eyes as you gave each other one last kiss, one last, sweet kiss, before letting the old age claim you in an eternal sleep.
You were happy.
You thought you had finally won the Game.
(What a fool you were.)
You didn't wake up in the Dream Bubbles.
You didn't wake up next to your wife.
Instead, you woke up on the 13th of April, 2008, 13 years old and in a house that had been curled up in your memories for centuries, slumbering, dormant, ignored. You woke up to a familiar room, the place where everything had started, except there were no copies of the Game anywhere.
You woke up alone.
(You were alone.)
Because when had the Game ever been fair?
Grimacing slightly, you shifted your body away from the window, and Dave stopped whatever bullshit he was spouting to look at you.
"You alright sis? Were my insights too real for you? Couldn't handle the knowledge your sweet ass brother opening up a ninja lemon factory?"
"Dave, quite respectfully, I have no fucking clue what you are on about."
He shrugged, grin widening at your words. "Your loss Rose, your loss. You could have made millions, no, billions, with a sweet-ass investment but I'm taking you off the will, you're gonna have to sit at my Will Reading all alone and find out that I've only left you a sock behind, like some dastardly millionaire who knew his wife was a gold digger and decided to leave her nothing and his dog everything. Shit's gonna get real in there, you're gonna fight and scream 'he promised me everything!' while my ninja lemon security guards come up and say 'ma'am you need to calm down' and then-"
The analogy went on for... longer than it should have. But you couldn't stop the small smile appearing on your lips, couldn't stop the wave of love in your heart at the ridiculous shit he always spoke about. Dave was always the same.
For a moment you could pretend you weren't in a car, but at home. Your real home, sat on the porch, knitting yet another scarf, watching her tend to her small garden. In the distance, the grubs and troll children that she would take home would be running around, their laughter echoing through the air. Dave would be chatting to you through your phone, rambling on and on about anything and everything.
It had been so peaceful.
"Do I need to bring up Freud again Dave? Not only that, but I think Kanaya would be quite concerned if she found out I was your wife, brother dearest," spilled out of your mouth without you thinking clearly about it.
The stream of words stopped abruptly and you froze.
For a moment, it was silent between the two of you.
"...Yeah she would, wouldn't she?" He mumbled out quietly, eyes focusing on the road. You looked away.
"Who knows, she might get a kick outta it though! If... When we find them, we'll have to tell them that." The cheerfulness in his voice sounded forced, and you bit your lip.
None of you were sure if any of the trolls had come as well. Thankfully enough, it seemed as though John and Jade had retained most memories of what had happened, while the guardians... Well. Dave's Bro certainly wasn't the original Bro. He was kinder, unaggressive, supportive. Overall, he was more like the Dirk you had known. Similarly, your mother was... your mother drank less, was more open and physical in her affection, she was just... there more.
(And yet it hurt. Both because this wasn't your... this wasn't your Mom and because you had loved Roxy dearly, as a sister, as a daughter, as a mother, and now she was gone as well. You couldn't help but avoid her and you felt so fucking guilty for it.)
You weren't sure how much they remembered, if they remembered at all, or if their personalities had blended in with the beta versions of themselves. But ultimately, it had changed them for the better. Jade had her Grandpa, John had both his Dad and Nanna, Dave didn't have a piece of garbage for a brother and you had your Mom. And somehow, they would all meet up every once in a while, as though they knew each other, as though they were friends. The family relationships in this... new (old?) world were ridiculously complicated however. Your mother and Dave's Bro had apparently had some sort of relationship with each other at one point, which resulted in the two of you, and while they had parted amicably, they decided on split custody with visitation rights of the other child. Despite this however, Bro hadn't been ready to be called a father, so he posed himself as Dave's brother instead, which continued to over complicate the matter, as well as antagonise your mother.
(Family Christmases had been a joy.)
Furthermore, John's Nanna and Jade's Grandpa were siblings in this universe, making John and Jade cousins once removed rather than siblings themselves. Apparently John's mother had passed away in childbirth, while Jade's parents died in a car crash when she was a baby. It then became even more complicated when you found out that your mother used to babysit Jade's father and his sister, who had cut off all contact before Jade was born.
Nothing made sense. Because it meant that you and your friends were no longer clones of your guardians, but rather actual, human children with traceable heritages and extended families.
It meant that somewhere along the line, the Game stopped existing.
It didn't make sense.
So you had researched and studied and written down everything you could remember, your friends could remember, obsessively poring over every note and detail and timeline, searching desperately for some kind of sign, some reason or explanation. You studied Philosophy, Cosmology, Psychology, hell, even Game Design at one point, just to try and find some answer.
And you found nothing.
The only physical evidence that the Game ever happened was the collective memories of you and your friends. There were only hints of your powers left. Dave was able to tell the exact time of any place in the world, John always knew when and where the wind would go, Jade could find the correct dimensions of any object, and you... you had a slightly better than average intuition. Overall, all of your powers were pretty useless.
So after years of fruitless studying, the desperate worry of your friends and family, and the final realisation that the Game was truly finished after screwing you all over, you finally gave up. You dropped out of your courses and began rewriting your books, made enough money to get out of the blasted city and move off into a quieter, more peaceful place, to live out the rest of your days.
Maybe one day you would write a book about the Game, about what had happened, even if it would only be seen as a fictional story.
But then again, you were done with the Game.
"Yeah, maybe," you answered Dave, without looking at him. Your words sounded weak even to your own ears.
Neither of you spoke for the rest of the journey.
The town you had chosen to live in was small, yet surprisingly beautiful, practically a stereotype of those sweet little towns that the main character in a romance novel always seemed to run away to. But best of all, it was far away from the large cities.
(Far away from the others.)
Wood and brick houses were scattered across the simple roads, with some small chain stores and a fast food restaurant, a flower shop, and some other cute buildings dotting the main street. It was surrounded by trees and rivers and fields turning golden in the autumn evening, but despite the quietness, it didn't feel empty. Not like your own childhood home had felt like. No, instead it was peaceful, quiet but alive, and it made your heart ache with a fierce longing.
You had chosen this town, this place, for a reason.
Maybe this way you could be just a little bit closer to her.
(It didn't matter what John and Jade said about letting go, what your own therapist said about moving on and healing, none of them knew what it felt like to be torn away from their spouse, from the love of their life, never knowing if they were alive, dead, or just non-existent. Only Dave understood your refusal to let go, to cling to whatever small hope that remained- because it was all they had left.)
Your new apartment was small but comfortable, although it was certainly bigger than the one you had had in the city, and a lot more affordable. While it had rankled to rewrite your entire series, the success of your novels had given you a stable income.
(And... you had hoped that maybe, just maybe she would read them and recognise your writing, your name, just... anything about it. Just so she could know that you were here.)
Once you arrived, you made sure to send off a quick text to your mother letting her know that you were fine and had arrived safely, before the two of you began hauling things up. Most of your furniture would arrive tomorrow, so you had only really brought small and necessary items: your mattress, pillows and sheets, your clothing, your laptop, some simple decorations, a plastic table and chairs, and other tat.
"Hey, where do you want this?" Dave asked with a smirk on his lips, holding up the spoof movie poster for Complacency of the Learned that he had made as a 'housewarming gift'. Despite his successful foray into the world of web comics, he continued to insist on using his infuriating 'Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff' art style, although he published under a different name. You scowled at the Sweet Bro-shaped Zazzerpan mightily holding up a phallic shaped wand.
It was the stupidest thing you had ever seen.
(You loved it.)
"Thank you, brother dearest, for such a thoughtful gift. You can hang it right above that spot." You pointed to the area above your garbage can, ignoring his dramatic proclamations that you were wasting his talent. It eventually devolved into some sort of game, with him hanging it up somewhere ridiculous and you taking it down, snarking at each other along the way. In the end, it was hung proudly beside your mattress to the delight of your brother. The two of you sat down in the crappy plastic lawn chairs you had brought along as substitutes, just letting yourselves enjoy the contented silence between you.
"Are you staying the night? It's already quite late..."
"I mean, it's only like, eight or something. But sure, although we're gonna have to get something to eat because I am starving Rose, like actually about to die starving. Oh shit was this your plan all along? Bring Dave along to help you move so you could starve him and feast on his bones? I thought you quit that witchy crap but wait, you just moved in to a small, quiet town, this would be the perfect place for you to-"
"Are you volunteering to get some food?"
"Absolutely not, it's your town and you need to learn how to navigate it."
You chuckled at his refusal and stood up, smoothing out your tights and skirt.
"Anything you want in particular? I am not cooking tonight."
"Get me a burger or something."
"I'll be back soon. Don't mess anything up too much." Dave raised a hand at your words, before turning to his phone.
The air outside was slightly chilly and you were glad to be wearing those autumn/winter skirts you had bought a while back. They were surprisingly warm and comfortable. The streets were already lit through the glow of orange lamps, and you saw a few people make their way through mainly empty streets. Occasionally a car would pass by.
It was... peaceful.
You ducked into the fast food restaurant, glad that it sold burgers and yet didn't seem to be of too dubious quality. There weren't too many people inside, with only two people standing in line, while the rest sat at different tables scattered across the restaurant. Watching discreetly as you went to stand in line, you noticed two girls giggling in the corner with their heads close together and an older man reading a newspaper in one hand with fries in the other. The two people in front of you were ordering together, the woman practically hanging off the man, her blue hat slightly askew, but it seemed friendly, not romantic. It was hard not to smile at the exasperation that was practically tangible in the air. There was a tug in your chest.
"For goodness sake, if you are going to insist that we eat at such a low class establishment then the least you could do is behave," he muttered under his breath and the woman let out loud, ringing laugh, though she did slide down. Her mannerisms were... familiar to you, but it was easy enough to dismiss.
"You like it really!" She said and darted closer to the counter, just as their order came through. They moved out of the way, and you stepped forward, but as the woman turned around to find a table, she froze. Your eyes slid over to meet hers, which were an unusually bright olive colour. Her hair was dark brown and messy, though it was mostly covered up by a strangely familiar hat, and despite her mouth hanging open, you noticed a small cleft in the middle of her upper lip.
"Rose? Rose Lalonde?" Her voice was quiet, disbelieving, and your smile became awkward. Perhaps she was a fan of one of your books?
"Yes, that would be me. Can I help you?"
But the woman said nothing and continued to stare. The tugging grew stronger, urging you to say something, to ask more, and you had become familiar enough with it to acknowledge that whatever powers you had left within you were acting up. But you didn't want to talk to them, didn't want to follow whatever stupid notion your intuition was adamant you followed.
"...Ma'am...? Can I take your order?" The cashier asked into the silence, and you jolted out of the staring contest.
"Yes, yes of course, I apologise."
From the corner of your eye, you watched her friend tug her green coat, confusion knitting his brow as he murmured something to her. She shook her head, still transfixed on your face, and he sighed, before gently dragging her away.
Your order came soon enough, and you left as quickly as you could, pushing down the desire to go back, to ask her who she was.
Even as you left, you felt her eyes watching you.
Once you had reached your new home however, it was easy enough to push the encounter out of your mind, especially since you were just as hungry as Dave. You propped open your laptop and watched shitty Netflix shows while eating your food, the two of you occasionally commenting on the ridiculousness of one actor or the impossibility of a plot point.
You felt happy. Content in a way you hadn't been for a while.
The mattress was big enough for you both to fit, and truthfully, you wanted to enjoy your brother's company for a while. He was happy to continue living in the city, and it was a full day's journey from there to here. Plus, he had become busier lately in some sort of rivalry with a critic who had called his work 'absolute stinking garbage'. As a response, Dave had continued to churn out the shittiest content possible, absolutely delighting in the furious responses he received.
"Are you still trolling that critic?" You asked suddenly, and he snorted.
"Yep. It's still as hilarious as it was in the beginning. You should hear this dude rant Rose, it's incredible." You paused for a moment, before biting your lip and just deciding to ask.
"Why do you continue? Is it because he... seems similar to-"
"I know what you're gonna ask, and no, it's not because he's like Karkat."
You could feel the humour evaporate from the air.
Very rarely did you ever start a conversation about... everything that had happened. There were too many painful memories, too many... happy ones as well.
"Are you sure?" You whispered, and even in the darkness of the night you could see him stiffen.
"Does it fucking matter? So what if he does? So what if there's a part of me that is abso-fucking-lutely convinced that it's him, even though it's not? Because it's not, is it. Let's be real. He's gone. They're all fucking gone, and we're left to deal with all the shit that remained." His voice was harsh, grating, shattered, and you wished you hadn't asked.
But... maybe he needed this. Maybe you needed this. Needed to talk about what- who you had left behind, because as much as you loved Jade and John, they didn't understand, not really. They had everyone they had lost back with them and a vicious part of you hissed that they were happy to forget what had happened, to forget everyone and everything. You knew it wasn't true, but the hurt part, the desperate and grieving part of you thought it was.
"...Do you want to talk about it?"
He was quiet, before mumbling out: "No. Yes. I dunno."
For another moment, neither of you spoke. Through your curtains, only a sliver of moonlight spilled inside, barely illuminating the room.
"John doesn't really understand," Dave said suddenly, "I mean, while he was close with some of them, he never actually fucking... loved one of them I guess, because I swear that asshole is aromantic, no matter what bullshit he says about being straight. The dude's never been interested in dating a single person, even with Te-" He stumbled over the name, pausing for a second. When he continued, his voice was shaky. "Even with Terezi practically flinging herself at him for that hate-love thing. John got back everyone he lost in the Game. Why would he want to go back?"
You swallowed and nodded.
"And Jade... Jade like... tries her hardest to listen, but she was closer to the sprites and the alpha kids. There weren't many trolls that she actually fucking liked, at least not many that were still alive and shit. And she wasn't like, dating or with any of them, or if she was, then she didn't fucking say anything about it! Any time we talk about the fucking Game, it's like she only misses the freedom, the ability of being able to fly and do what she needed and wanted to do, and nothing else! But now with her off as an adventurer and taking over her Grandpa's business and stuff, it's like she's... forgotten everything. She makes friends so fucking easily, with barely any effort, so sometimes it feels like she's... drifting away from us. Both her and John. So I'm left with like, Goddamn no-one to talk to about the Game, about what happened because you-
"You barely ever talk about it as well, and you're the only fucking one who- Shit, you're the only one who would actually understand but you don't say anything about it! Instead you put on a smile and act as though everything is fine, or you go absolutely crazy in your stupid fucking research to find some sorta dumbass solution that never existed in the first place! So when I try to talk to you about it, you just brush that shit off, just close off completely! So yeah, you know what? Maybe I am projecting just a teensy little fucking bit on this dude because it hurts so fucking much to see how similar he is to Karkat, and maybe I do want to just like, ask him out for a coffee or something, just to see if he'll say yes or not. And who knows, maybe we'll meet and he'll be a completely different person and shit, but maybe not? I don't even fucking know anymore."
Outside, you could hear a single car drive by, humming through the silent atmosphere surrounding you.
You took a deep breath.
"Sometimes I wish the world was destroyed again, just so I could have it all back." It was a dark secret of yours, something that sounded innocuous enough until someone understood that you would have it all gone.
You were a selfish person, at the heart of it. You would give up John's Dad, Jade's Grandpa, Dave's Bro, your Mom, if it meant you could go back. You would destroy the lives of everyone and everything, just to have her in your arms again.
Dave, as much as he liked to put on his untouchable façade, even though most of it had been wiped away as they grew up, was a kind person. He would gladly suffer in silence if it meant his friends were happy. But during that dark night, you saw him nod slightly, heard the hiss of air that sounded like an agreement.
"It scares me... how much I would give up Dave. I should have spoken to you sooner, to try and bring you some sort of comfort and support, but in my mind, if I did that then it would mean... It would mean that I had given up, or decided to accept everything, that this is all that's left and that we'll-"
You tripped over your words, the grief and desperation that you had forced yourself to push down, to ignore, welling up within your throat.
"That we'll forget it as well. That I'll... forget... her."
Dave reached out with a warm hand and squeezed your own gently.
(God, you were so grateful to have him as your brother.)
"I'm scared I'll forget too."
Your throat felt clogged up with unused screams and wails of denial and grief, yet in a rush of air you whispered: "I miss her so much."
"I miss him as well," he mouthed back, and you inclined your head. Your eyes were wet.
In the morning, neither of you commented on the quiet sniffling in the air, of the damp spots on the pillow, of the horrible and desperate wishes that were spoken of in the night. Instead you focused on the warm hand in your own and the comfort it gave you.
When Dave left the next morning, he pulled you into a tight hug, one that you let linger for several seconds before he drew back.
"You look after yourself sis."
"I do believe you should be the one keeping an eye out, especially with those critics out there. But yes, I shall make sure nothing untoward occurs to me," you smiled softly at him, and he gave you a salute before swinging himself onto his seat. There was a quiet tugging in your chest, and unbidden you blurted out: "Dave?"
"Yeah?" He turned to face you from his car seat, eyebrow rising as you hesitated. The tugging grew stronger and words spilled from your mouth without thinking.
"Try and arrange a coffee date with that guy. Who knows, maybe it'll be quite fortuitous for you."
Even with his sunglasses on, you could feel him staring intently at your face. It was difficult to read his expression, to try and grasp at an understanding of what he was thinking about, but after a lengthy pause he nodded slowly.
"I'll think about it."
With that, he started the car, gave one final wave, and backed out of the guest parking area of your apartment, leaving you to wave him goodbye until you couldn't see his car anymore.
And then you were alone.
The autumn breeze soon made way to a winter chill as you settled down in your apartment, leaving the town blanketed by a thin layer of snow by late November. Time had passed by surprisingly quickly since you moved in, but shortly after your conversation with Dave you finally gave yourself the kick you needed to start writing. About the Game.
Because this way, it would become impossible for you to forget everything, for you to move on and pretend that it never happened. You could reach some closure, some comfort through the knowledge that once it was published, you wouldn't be the only one who knew the story. It didn't matter that no-one would know it was true, it didn't matter if it never became overwhelmingly popular, because someone somewhere would read it. And they would remember it as well.
Your story, her very existence, would never be left behind and forgotten.
So you wrote. All the notes and research you had done, all the information and memories you had collected were absolute lifesavers in developing and explaining everything so that readers would be able to understand the concepts and ideas of SBURB. Soon enough it became clear that there was no way it could all be put in a single novel. Too much had happened at the same time to different people throughout the entire Game. The first draft that you had written was already over five hundred pages long and it barely covered the most important aspects. And that had brought about another problem. Did you write in your perspective? Or did you give each of your friends a perspective as well? In that case, would you need to ask them for permission? After two days of deliberation, you had decided to stick to your perspective only, just to cut down on the inevitable ridiculous length your work would be. You wrote every day, all day, occasionally leaving the apartment to get some groceries and fresh air, but most of your time was spent inside your home.
And then you reached the Meteor and you stalled. No matter what you tried to write, to detail, it just... came out wrong. It was easy enough to humorously point out Dave and Karkat's lovesick shenanigans, to explain the ridiculous bond between Vriska and Terezi, even Gamzee was easier to talk about.
Your relationship with her?
Normally you could wax poetic about Kanaya, about your wife for pages, but the moment you put your fingers to the keyboard, you froze up. Every time you attempted to describe it, all motivation, all ideas fell out of your mind and you were forced to stare blankly at the abrupt end of a paragraph, fear and disgust swirling in your chest.
(Because a part of you wondered if you were already too late. If you had already begun to... forget.)
After four days of agonising, of staying inside and getting nowhere, you knew you had to get out of the apartment and get... something. You just had to get away from it, from the ever looming possibility and fears, from the blinking evidence in front of your eyes that you-
You bundled yourself up and slammed the door shut as you left. There was a little park nearby that you could wander around, somewhere you could get some fresh air and try to... relax. It was late afternoon when you stepped out, the sun already gently setting in the distance, the golden glow of the light making the snow glitter brilliantly. You could already feel your body relaxing, despite the small nagging thoughts that continued to swim up to the front of your mind.
It was quiet in the park, with only a few people wandering around. The playground however was completely packed, and you smiled fondly at the children's laughter echoing through the area. You stood there for a while, watching them lob snowballs at each other, at the sculptures and snowmen they built, and the nostalgia for the children you and her had raised suddenly smacked you in the face. They were so precious to you, so utterly beautiful and special, even if you only looked after them for short periods of time, and yet you had lost them as well.
They were the joys of your life. And they were gone, like everything else you had held dear.
You forced yourself to move away, to continue onwards, your good mood soured through grief and longing. After walking as far away as possible without leaving the park, you let yourself sit down on an empty, if snow covered bench. The sky had grown darker and slowly, it began to snow.
It was incredibly cliché, and yet you didn't mind. The park had become quiet, almost frozen in time, the only signs of movement being the falling snow, the only sound the sway of trees.
And then your phone rang, dragging you out of your stupor, shattering the momentary stillness you had been caught up in. You fumbled with your phone, glancing at the screen to see it was Dave, and slightly annoyed, you answered the call.
"Dave, this better be-"
"Holy fucking shit, you won't fucking believe it, it's him Rose, Jesus Christ, I fucking found him, I found him!" He blurted out, words smearing together, but you- Your heart began to beat rapidly.
"I took your advice, even though I really didn't want to, but I thought hey, if the fucking Seer is suggesting I do something, then I probably should do it, and oh my God Rose, you were so fucking right. I just sent a message to the dude asking him if he'd like to meet up sometime over a coffee and just discuss the comic like civil adults and shit but he fucking agreed! So we decided to meet at this coffee shop tonight, and I rock up and he's already there like a nerd, but he looks slightly familiar? And then- Fuck Rose, he just looks at me and freezes, before saying, 'Dave?' really quietly, and it fucking hits me-"
"You- You found Karkat?" You asked softly, hope (and jealously) swelling in your chest.
"YES! Yes! Holy shit of course that ridiculous critic would be him, who the fuck else types like that that stupid, gorgeous dumbass-!"
And you couldn't help but stand up, phone clutched desperately to your ear as you heard your brother practically sob in joy on the other end. Tears sprung to your eyes and you were so happy, so goddamned happy for him but you had- You had to know-
"Dave does he know Kanaya? Is- Is Kanaya-?" You interrupted, and whatever he was saying cut off suddenly.
He was silent.
Your heart sank, even as you begged, prayed for the Gods that didn't exist to please, please, please-
"I'm so sorry Rose," he whispered hesitantly and you fell back to the bench, a scream tangled in your throat. "He said the only others he knows are Nepeta and Equius, and that's because Nepeta is his step-sister while Equius is the son of the guy who arrested his father at a protest. Apparently the two of them moved off into some small town, so he hasn't really spoken with them either."
The memory of the woman and man in the fast food restaurant from a month or so ago popped up in your mind, but you couldn't say anything in response, too busy trying to wrench the sobs that wanted to escape your lips back down.
"I see," you finally croaked out after a while, wiping away the tears that threatened to fall. "I see. Tell him I said hello, yes? And bring him here at some point, it will be lovely to see him again. It's quite late however and I need to start making dinner. I'm very, very happy for you Dave. Goodnight."
You hung up and buried your face into your hands. You felt your phone vibrate again, but you ignored it.
Nothing could ever go fucking right for you, could it? The only chance for hope, the only chance- And no-one knew anything. No-one ever knew anything. Because while it did mean that there was some... possibility, who knew where she was? She might not have even lived in the same fucking continent. You let out a shuddering breath, trying to push down the urge to scream and wail.
You let yourself sit in the freezing silence for a while, uncaring of getting cold or sick or whatever the hell else. What did it even matter? You could sit here and let the cold take you and everything would be fine. Dave had Karkat back, John and Jade were happy by themselves, your mom-
Your phone vibrated again and you glared down at it, only to soften at the sight of your mother's number. You picked up.
"Rosie? Are you doing okay sweetheart? Davie called me and said you might be feeling a bit down," she said gently, and you bit your lip. "I'm here to talk, if you need me. Or do you need to talk to Dr. Hillger? Otherwise, you could tell me how that book of yours is coming along!"
"I'm alright mom, just a bit... shaken. Dave told me something that surprised me, that's all. And no, I don't need to talk to Dr. Hillger. I'm doing well. As for my book, it's coming along quite well. I've already got the first part finished. I might send it off to my publisher later on in the week, but at this rate, the story will be several novels long." Talking with your mother was always pleasant. Now that you understood that she had an honest interest in you and your hobbies and passions, you tried to be as open as possible with her. She had cheered you on throughout your life; she was your biggest fan with your novels, even when the shock and disbelief of your situation had once driven you to ignore her. And despite that, she held no resentment, only love for you, and in return you loved her just as dearly.
(But not as dearly as- You had grown up without her before. You could- If it- Never mind. It didn't matter. Not anymore at least.)
"Oh shi- I mean goodness! I'm looking forward to reading all of them then! DiStri- I mean your father- brother? I honestly have no clue what he calls himself nowadays with the two of you, but never mind, I thought you would like to know what he's very excited for it as well! Oh! Speaking of the whole family, we wanted to know if you were gonna come over for Christmas?"
"Probably. I've been... missing you. All of you. Even father."
Calling Dirk Strider 'father' to his face was still one of the most hilarious things in this world, no matter what everyone else said. His grimace and general uncomfortableness at it would never stop being amusing. And apparently your mother thought so as well, as she giggled slightly.
"You shouldn't be so hard on the guy, he's been a pretty good dad to both you and Davie, despite his weird aversion to being called that. But we've been missing you too sweetie. Even your father, though he doesn't say so. And please come for Christmas! We're inviting Jakey and Janie and their families, so you'll get to see your friends. Little Jade looks so much like her father, it's uncanny. Judy was such a goofy boy..." she trailed off, her tone changing into one of sadness, and you decided to change the subject. You knew she had been close to Jade's father and his sister (Julie? Joey? Joey!), despite knowing them during her... drinking period. She had once told you that they were the only things that made her get up in the mornings and try to cut down on the amount of alcohol she consumed.
"You've convinced me mother. I'll come for Christmas."
"Really? That's wonderful Rosie, we'll be looking forward to seeing you then!"
"I'm looking forward to going. Anyway, I should start going. I'm outside and it's quite cold."
"Oh! Yes, get inside sweetheart! It's quite cold over there isn't it? Bundle up and stay warm! Oh and Rosie? I love you baby and I'm so happy you're gonna come for Christmas!"
You smiled. "I love you too mom. I'll see you at Christmas."
Sighing, you put your phone on silent and slipped it back in your pocket, before forcing yourself to stand up, to brush off the snow and ice that had gathered on you, and start the trek back into town. Despite your determination before to sit and sulk and not feel cold, your body had very different ideas. Shortly after leaving the park you felt your teeth chatter, limbs shivering as the ice seemed to seep into your very veins. You were an overdramatic idiot.
Soon enough however the cold became too much, and you knew you had to duck into a shop and warm up somehow. There was a tug in your chest, pulling you towards a store. At that point, you didn't care where it wanted to take you; you just wanted to get warm. Without looking you shoved open a door with trembling arms to a shop, the faint jingle of a bell announcing your arrival, before being promptly overwhelmed by warmth and the smell of flowers. You closed your eyes in bliss.
"We're about to close, but I'll be with you in a moment!" A sweet voice called out from the back and your chest ached at the sound of it, but you were too busy basking in the heat. You would be mortified at the sodden mess you were making of the floor later, but for now, you were solely focused on the pleasant smell and warmth in the shop. You heard the sound of someone getting closer, but you refused to open your eyes. Not yet.
(The smell was so so familiar. You could just... pretend for a little bit that you were back home, that the person approaching you was-)
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting, can I help-?" The person cut off with a gasp, and you cracked open an eye.
A woman stood in front of you. She was... beautiful. Stunning. Incredible. Her hair was short, hanging just above her shoulders, her eyes gleaming a brilliant jade. Her mouth hung open. And then your eyes caught on her apron.
On the name tag.
"...Rose...?" She whispered out and you wanted to whimper.
In large, looping letters-
"Kanaya," you breathed out and she let out a pained sob, before sprinting towards you. You caught her in your arms, laughing and crying in equal measure as she buried her face in your neck and wept, even as you both sank to the floor. You didn't care that you were wet and soggy and cold. She was warm. So, so warm and the tears continued to spill over as you cupped her face and pulled her close, kissing her desperately, just to make sure.
(Just in case.)
But she kissed you back with as much fervour, tasting of tears and joy and home, smearing her lipstick, and you couldn't help but giggle. She began to laugh as well and the sound echoed in the shop like bells and you had to kiss her again, because fuck, she was finally here, she was here, she was here.
"I love you," you mumbled and she smiled adoringly.
"And I you." She pressed another kiss to your lips, and you held her tighter, not daring to let her go. But she was warm and solid, so gloriously alive and existing and-
You kissed her deeply again, heart aching as you traced the unfamiliar-familiar shape of her face, her body, her everything. You gasped words of love and pain and longing into her skin, and the tears fell even faster as the joy slowly ebbed away and the desperate grief latched on.
"I missed you, I love you, I missed you, where were you, I love you, I love you, I love you-" you both repeated like a prayer, grasping onto each other like a life line, reassuring each other that the other was real, that neither of you would go anywhere. You didn't know how long the two of you sat on the sodden floor, but neither of you cared, too entranced by the presence of the other. Kanaya sniffed softly, before letting out a watery laugh.
"We should get up and move upstairs. I need to close the store quickly and then we can continue this in private." You nodded gently, and slowly rose, helping her to her feet. She was still slightly taller than you and it made you bark out another laugh. She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to your forehead.
"We must both look terrible," you whispered, eyeing the smeared lipstick and mascara mixed tears on her face, and she laughed loudly.
"We can clean up upstairs. I live above the shop and have a bath we can use." She hurried over to the entrance of the store, locking the door and flipping a sign, before grabbing your hand and pulling you with her.
Neither of you let the other out of each other's sight for more than five seconds, but even then the wait was filled with a growing sense of panic and dread. Unable to be out of contact, you had both bathed together, washing each other gently, lovingly, noting the changes to one another. Kanaya gave you a pair of her pyjamas to wear after you had both gotten clean, putting your own sodden and dirty clothes into her washing machine, and once you were both dressed she had pulled you into her bed and held you close, simply enjoying the peaceful quiet and comfort between one another.
But both of you knew you would have to talk about what had happened, what had changed, what was different. One glaring difference after all was the fact that Kanaya was human.
(And yet she was still the most beautiful person you had ever seen.)
"What... happened, when you... woke up?" You asked hesitantly, and she breathed in deeply.
"I was confused and scared. Everything was different, unfamiliar, and I was a human. I almost screamed when I looked in the mirror and saw soft, brown skin instead of the tone I was used to. And the lack of horns! The sudden loss of senses and... well, anatomy, was also quite... shocking. I tried to message you but... I didn't have a Pesterchum account, and Trollian didn't exist, so I had to make one, but we didn't have a computer at home... It took me a while before I could actually get access to a computer and then... it said you didn't exist. And I... Why Rose? What happened? Why couldn't I reach you?"
You wanted to laugh at the fact that the only reason you two were unable to get in contact sooner was due to your impatience. You could have seen her, could have held her ten years earlier, but no. You had messed it up completely.
"When I woke up," you began hesitantly, "I tried to message you. A lot. But the same message kept... coming up. And I got angry. So I may... have deleted my account?"
A hysterical laugh left her lips, even as tears began to fill in her and she reached out to swat your head.
"You idiot. You absolute moron, we could have... All this time..." She gave your head another swat before pulling you in even closer and hugging you tightly. "You fool. But I'd rather find you ten years later than never again."
You were both silent for another moment, before you asked: "Why a flower shop? And how did you get it?"
"It was my mother's, before she gave it to me and left to go... travel. I think... she used to be Porrim, or maybe my ancestor from Alternia, or both, but the fact that a mother was something I now had was confusing. But she loves gardening, and I'm quite partial to it as well, so I gladly took it over once I turned twenty three. We are... close, but not very. I don't think she wanted to be a mother, and I never knew what to expect from one, so we had more of a... sisterly relationship. Speaking of siblings do you... is Dave...?"
"Dave is fine. More than fine actually. You won't believe who he found this evening as well. There was this angry critic ranting about his webcomics and... well, guess who it was."
"Yep. The stupid moron found Karkat by annoying him enough to agree to a coffee date."
She laughed loudly again and your heart fluttered at the sound of it, your hands reaching up to cup her face and just... look at her. She was still gorgeous. She always would be in your eyes. Her skin was dark and smooth, her face just as angular as you remembered, but it was softer, less sharp than the bone structure of a troll.
"You're beautiful," you whispered lovingly, and you felt heat bloom in her cheeks.
"So are you," she mumbled back, and you leaned forward to kiss her softly, before pulling back and hesitating. Her hand reached up to hold yours and she looked at you quizzically.
"Marry me. Again," you blurted out, and you felt Kanaya's hand squeeze your own. She was beaming, her cheeks growing wet again as she nodded desperately.
"Of course I will. Of course, of course, of course! You don't even need to ask," she laughed and pressed a kiss to your lips, smiling the entire time. "We'll go to the town hall tomorrow in the morning if that's alright?"
You couldn't help the grin spread on your face either, a blush heating up your face as you nodded rapidly.
"Yes. I would... I would love that." You leaned in and kissed her again, deeply and lovingly, trying to convey the full extent of joy and adoration you felt for her. Judging from the smile you felt against your lips, you guessed you had managed to do it.
In the morning, the two of you got dressed quickly, hurrying to get to the town hall as soon as it opened. You pulled on your clothes from yesterday, freshly cleaned and dried, and Kanaya simply pulled on a warm dress and tights, smiling the entire time as she applied her makeup. Your heart clenched in joy and you felt yourself smiling as well. You both cooked a quick breakfast together, turning on a playlist and dancing and humming with each other, sneaking kisses here and there. When the time to leave came, you led her down the stairs, her warm hand gripped tightly in your own. On your way out, she snagged some flowers to hold in her other hand, explaining: "It's my shop, I can take what I need for important occasions."
You smiled stupidly at her and lifted her hand to kiss it, giggling at the blush that spread across her face. The two of you probably looked ridiculous as you practically pranced out onto the street, hands tangled and soft looks of love being exchanged every step. It was a fifteen minute walk to the town hall, and by the time you arrived, you could feel yourself almost vibrate in excitement and anticipation. It didn't matter that you had married Kanaya before, or that this wedding was going to be small and less impressive. You could have another big wedding later if both of you wanted it, but for now your only concern was actually getting that marriage certificate and being able to legally call her your wife again.
As it turned out, requesting a civil marriage right there and then was pretty easily granted, since the mayor of such a small town... didn't really have much else to do at the moment. By lunch time, with the congratulations of the mayor and the ink still drying on the certificate, you were officially married again.
And then you were faced with a dilemma.
"Should I move in with you?" You questioned, and your wife (your wife) paused. "I mean, my apartment is pretty small compared to yours."
"Are you sure? I don't mind walking and if you've only just moved in-" She offered, but you shook your head.
"I don't have that much stuff there anyway, and I would much rather live above a beautiful flower shop with my wife, than a cold apartment block." The smile that spread across her face when you called her your wife made you preen in glee and you leaned forward to peck her on the mouth.
"Very well then," she agreed and you pulled her in the direction of your apartment. You honestly didn't mind moving over your essentials to her place while leaving the rest until the lease ran out. You could always rent a storage unit and pack away everything in there, sell it somewhere online, or ask if Dave wanted more junk to fill up his own apartment with.
"My family is going to kill me," you muttered, as you fumbled in your pockets for your phone. Pulling it out, you turned it back on and winced at the missed messages and calls. While you didn't doubt your mother had called Dave back to reassure him, he had a tendency of not being absolutely sure until he heard the other person tell him they were.
Dave: ey mom said she talked to you, but are you okay now or?
Dave: you good?
Dave: rose if you dont answer then im callin mom again
Dave: why arent you answering
Dave: please respond
Dave: rose im worried
Dave: im driving over there if you dont answer me
Dave: fuck please rose
Dave: im going there and i swear to god if youve done something stupid then i will kill you
"Shit," you whispered, and Kanaya placed a hand on your shoulder.
"Is everything alright my love?" Your heart clenched at the term of endearment despite the guilt you felt at worrying your brother, and you gave a wobbly smile to her.
"I may have really worried Dave and made him think I've done something... stupid. I'm going to call him quickly and let him know everything is fine."
You quickly dialled his number, but it went straight to voice mail. He was probably completely focused on driving. The last text had been sent early in the morning, so he would probably arrive late in the evening.
"Well, we may be having guests dear. I should probably call my mother now however."
A quick look at the texts sent from your mom had you wincing, as they gradually became more and more frantic over time. You immediately called her, grimacing as she picked up on the first ring.
"Rosie? Please Rosie is that you?"
"Oh thank you God, oh my God, fuck Rosie, you had us all so worried, are you alright? Why weren't you responding, where are you?" Your mother's voice sounded thick, like she had been crying and you bit your lip. You hadn't meant to worry her.
"Mom- Mom, I'm fine! I just had my phone switched off, that's all. I... met someone and we were... talking."
"I also may have married her."
"I'll bring her over for Christmas, I think you'll love her, I certainly do, and-"
"You let us all worry ourselves sick... thinking the worst had happened... because you got married?" She said quietly, and the guilt threatened to choke you.
"I know it sounds bad, but trust me mom, I've met her several times before, we've been together for years and we decided to get married this morning, and please mom I love her so much and I apologise for worrying you, that was not my intention, but you guys have to stop thinking I've relapsed the moment I go off the grid for more than three hours."
"Rose? What's this about you getting married?" A deep voice asked, and oh boy, it looked like the whole family was there.
"Don't 'hello father' me, what the hell is your mother talking about?"
"I met a girl a few years ago and we've been dating for a while. We decided to get married. The ceremony was ten minutes ago." Your father was silent on the other end, and you wondered if you had somehow managed to screw up every single one of your family relationships in one night.
"Do you love her? Does she love you?" He finally asked, and you wanted to cry in relief.
"Yes! Yes, absolutely. Listen, I'm so sorry for worrying you and mom and Dave, but I'm fine. More than fine actually."
"Alright. I'll try and calm your mother down. We'll see you for Christmas. Bring your wife along." Your father was ever a man of few words, quick and straight to the point.
"...I love you Rose. I know I don't really say it, but I do. So does your mom and your brother. You really gave all of us a scare last night. Look after yourself."
"I will. I love you too. And tell mom I'm sorry. Bye dad." You hung up and sighed as you put your phone away.
"Your mother is well then? And you have... a father?" Kanaya asked tentatively, and you nodded.
"Yes, my mother is thankfully alive, although I do now seem to have a father. You remember Dirk and Roxy right? I think our... other guardians became... fused or mixed with their personalities, creating our... current parents. In any case, I now have a full set of worries parents, and a concerned brother making his way here. We may have to stick around in my apartment for a little bit, so that he doesn't start losing his head when I'm not there." You leaned against her and she pushed back, pressing a kiss to your head.
"That's fine. We can start packing up your things as we wait for him to arrive," she reassured you and you smiled gently.
"Thank you Kanaya. I'm sorry to have brought you into this family mess." She chuckled, and kissed you properly on the lips.
"It's fine. I wouldn't have it any other way, love."
You both made your way to your apartment relatively quickly, and managed to fill up most of your time packing things into boxes, talking to each other, and just generally fooling around. Towards the evening however, your doorbell rang incessantly, and you knew Dave had arrived. You buzzed him in. Even through your door you could hear the rapid footsteps of someone sprinting up the stairs, but curiously enough, you could glean a second pair of footsteps right behind them. You already had the door open by the time Dave made his way up to your floor, and you looked at his panting form.
"If I had known you were that desperate to see me, I would have invited you sooner."
"You fucking... asshole..." he wheezed out, before stumbling over to you and dragging you into a hug. "I was... so worried... and here you are... standing around... with a fucking cup of tea..."
"I'm sorry to have worried you Dave, but I switched off my phone until this morning. I was... otherwise occupied. I am a grown woman David, I can handle myself perfectly fine," you muttered into his shoulder, but he held you tighter.
"You are an absolute shit swallowing asshole Strider," a gravelly voice behind your brother complained, and you couldn't stop the grin overtaking your face. You pulled away from the tight hug your brother had encased you in and stared at the man standing impatiently behind him.
"Hey Rose, I see that you're looking absolutely fine, just like I told this fucking moron, but no, he had to come make sure, at one in the fucking morning."
"And yet you came along," you pointed out and he blushed.
"Yeah well, I wasn't going to let him out of my sights. He probably would have gotten lost again for another ten fucking years."
"You have no idea how good it is to see you Karkat." You stepped forward and pulled him into a short hug as well, which he briefly returned.
"Yeah yeah yeah, it's good to see you too."
Dave was standing slightly to the side, staring at Karkat with a dopey expression and you rolled your eyes.
"Come on in then. I have someone I'd like you both to meet," you said, ushering them inside.
"Oh fuck, are you pregnant? Did you have a kid? Why the fuck would you-?"
"Hello Dave. It's good to see you as chipper as ever," Kanaya chuckled out warmly, and you grinned at the shocked expression on both Dave and Karkat's faces.
"You wouldn't believe who I stumbled into yesterday evening." You pulled her close to you, and she kissed your cheek.
"Kanaya?" Karkat whispered hoarsely, and you unwrapped your arm around her, to let her step forward. She grabbed his hands with her own, smiled sadly at him, before embracing him. He let out a choked sob and held her just as tightly, burying his face in her neck.
"Fuck, Jesus, I thought you were- Fuck," he mumbled out and she pressed a light kiss to his head.
"So did I," she whispered back, "so did I."
You left the two of them to their reunion, instead turning to Dave.
"This is why I wasn't answering. I found her again," you explained quietly, and your brother nodded. "I'm sorry to have worried you."
"Nah. You were right. I can't rush down here every time you take longer than five hours to respond, but shit Rose, you left me on a pretty grim fucking note. What was I supposed to think?"
"I know, I know. I should have said something. I was just... caught up."
"I would have been 'caught up' with Karkat as well if you hadn't worried me sick you dickhead," he grumbled, but he let you wrap an arm around him.
"Things... turned out pretty good in the end, didn't they?"
The two of you were silent for a moment, before you remembered.
"Oh, that's right Dave. I married Kanaya this morning. We're spouses again," you said with a smile on your face. "Once again, we beat you and Karkat out."
(Hopefully for the last time.)
"Uh, don't be too fucking sure about that," he replied with a smirk, sauntering over and pulling Karkat into a ridiculous pose.
"Rose, Kanaya, meet my husband, Karkat. Who I married yesterday at seven in the evening, a full twelve hours before you. Suck it bitches, we win." He stuck out his tongue, before pulling away as Karkat reached out to clobber him.
"Don't fucking do that you asshole, did you fucking lose all sense of shame when you woke up? Oh no wait, you never fucking had any you absolute-!"
You snorted as you watched your brother dodge out of the way of his husband's angry attempts to whack him, sidling up to your own wife and resting your head against hers.
"Dave?" You called out, and the two of them stopped, turning to look at you. "You may have been quicker this time, but have you already told the parents?"
All the colour drained from his face and he mumbled a quiet "shit, fuck, shit", before grabbing his phone desperately, and you tipped your head back and laughed, loud and clear and so so happy. Your wife laughed with you, the two sounds joining together and soon your entire apartment was filled with laughter, apart from Dave's muttered words into his phone.
This was home.
This was home.
You were finally home.
And we'll undress beside the ashes of the fire
Our tender bellies all wound around in baling wire
All the more a pair of underwater pearls
Than the oak tree and his Resurrection Fern
(Resurrection Fern, Iron & Wine)
A/N: I'm late posting it here, but this was a Secret Santa gift for the Homestuck Renaissance Discord server. This is my first time writing romance, so I hope it's okay! I also have no clue how civil/state marriages work, so I kinda just... went along with some sort of idea?
Just to be clear, while Rose and Dave have a pretty close relationship in this, IT IS NOT INCEST. There is NO romantic relationship between them and I can't believe I have to clarify this, but better safe than sorry. I based it off my own relationship with my sister, because despite our gentle antagonism and name calling, we're quite close to each other.
Those who know me from Fade Away, I'm unfortunately still on hiatus.