Chapter

10

TEREZI: WH3R3 3V3N 4R3 YOU

TEREZI: 4ND WHY H4V3N’T YOU SL1C3D M4K4R4 1N H4LF Y3T

JOHN: he smells too bad.

JOHN: i don’t think i want to risk getting that close to him, until he takes a bath.

JOHN: even then i’d rather not.

JOHN: as for WHERE i am... i’m not sure you would believe me if i told you.

TEREZI: 1 B3T 1 WOULD

JOHN: ok. i’m, uh...

JOHN: i’m on a date.

TEREZI: LOL

JOHN: don’t lol at me.

TEREZI: 1 C4NT H3LP 1T, 1TS H1L4R1OUS

TEREZI: WHO 4R3 YOU OUT ON 4 D4T3 W1TH? >:]

JOHN: why don’t you take a guess?

TEREZI: OK

TEREZI: 1TS OBV1OUSLY ROXY

JOHN: oh...

TEREZI: WH4TS WRONG NOW

TEREZI: YOU 4SK3D M3 TO GU3SS SO 1 GU3SS3D

JOHN: i’m just wondering if i was really that obvious.

TEREZI: UM, Y34H JOHN

TEREZI: W3 4R3 NOT 1D1OTS. W3 C4N 4LL DO TH3 M4TH ON TH1S

TEREZI: 1TS NOT L1K3 YOU W3R3 GO1NG TO FUCK YOUR HUM4N MOM OR HUM4N S1ST3R

TEREZI: 4ND YOU 4R3 “NOT 4 HOMOS3XU4L,” WH1CH T4K3S STR1D3R D1CK OUT OFF TH3 3QU4T1ON

TEREZI: 4ND K4N4Y4 1S TH3 ONLY G1RL TROLL L3FT, 4ND SH3 L3SB14N M4RR13D ON3 OF TH3 TWO R3M41N1NG 3L1G1BL3 HUM4N F3M4L3S

TEREZI: OH, 4ND J4K3 1S 4 DOUBL3 THR34T. 4 HUM4N D4D W1TH 4 HUM4N D1CK!

TEREZI: SO BY PROC3SS OF 3L1M1N4T1ON, OF *COURS3* YOU W3R3 GO1NG TO “F4LL 1N LOV3” W1TH ROXY

JOHN: wait...

Love? Is that how John feels about Roxy? He glances around at this beautiful restaurant she’s taken him to. Marble walls, a domed ceiling, alien plants growing up the scaffolding to the second floor... it’s lit by a cobweb of ultrathin clear wire strung with lights so that it looks like there are fireflies suspended above in the fake night sky. It’s a good place to fall in love, probably.

He turns his head to see that Gamzee has stepped outside, and now monitors the date with his face pressed against the window. He’s smearing his disgusting makeup against the glass without the slightest concern for propriety. John accidentally makes eye contact with him, and Gamzee gives him a thumbs-up. A chill runs down John’s spine, so he goes back to his conversation with Terezi.

TEREZI: 1M W41T1NG

TEREZI: ...

TEREZI: ...

TEREZI: ST1LL W41T1NG

TEREZI: ...

TEREZI: 3GB3RT 4R3 YOU TH3R3 OR C4N 1 GO NOW

JOHN: yeah, i just had to think about that for a second.

JOHN: do you really think i’m in love with her?

TEREZI: HOW TH3 H3LL WOULD 1 KNOW TH4T, 1M NOT 4 M1ND R34D3R

JOHN: oh, aren’t you?

JOHN: i thought that’s what your mind... thingy... powers did.

TEREZI: H4H4H4H4H4H4

TEREZI: NO 1M JUST 4N 3XC3PT1ON4LLY GOOD R34D OF P3OPL3

TEREZI: NOT TH4T 1 WOULD H4V3 TO B3 TO T3LL TH4T YOUV3 B33N FLUSH3D FOR ROXY S1NC3 YOU M3T H3R

JOHN: yeah i guess that’s true.

JOHN: how do you think she feels about me?

TEREZI: 1F YOUR3 OUT ON 4 D4T3 W1TH H3R, 1 DONT TH1NK TH4T 1M TH3 ON3 YOU SHOULD B3 4SK1NG TH4T QU3ST1ON

JOHN: i mean... would that be an okay thing to ask her?

JOHN: that seems kinda... i dunno, dopey?

TEREZI: JOHN 1 H4T3 TO T3LL YOU TH1S, BUT TH3R3S NOT MUCH YOU COULD DO 4T TH1S PO1NT TO 1NCR34S3 YOUR DOP1N3SS 4TTR1BUT3

TEREZI: YOUV3 4LR34DY PR3TTY MUCH M4X3D OUT TH3 DORK ST4T 4ND 1 C4N ONLY 1M4G1N3 TH4T TH3 POS1T1V3 CORR3L4T1ON B3TW33N YOUR CONT1NU3D 3X1T3NC3 4ND TH3 4MOUNT OF SH33R DW33B1N3SS YOU 3M1T H4S R3T41N3D 3XP3CT3D 3QU1L1BR1UM 1N TH3 T1M3 TH4T 1V3 B33N GON3

JOHN: geeze. you always know what to say to people in their hour of need, terezi.

JOHN: i’m so glad that i decided to talk to you!

TEREZI: YOU SHOULD B3 GL4D

TEREZI: 1M DO1NG YOU 4 B1G F4VOR 4S USU4L

TEREZI: TH3 S33R M4GN4M1NOUSLY D3CS3ND1NG FROM H3R MOUNT41N 4ND D31GN1NG TO G1V3 TH3 H4PL3SS HUM4N P33RL3SS 4DV1C3

JOHN: imagine me rolling my eyes super hard right now. because that’s what i’m doing.

TEREZI: NOT3D

TEREZI: BUT TRUST M3, TH3 WORST TH1NG YOU C4N DO WH3N 4TT3MPT1NG TO 1N1T14T3 4 FLUSH3D R3L4T1ONSH1P 1S TO B3 3V4S1V3

TEREZI: ROXY 1S 4CTU4LLY 1NCR3D1BLY D1FF1CULT TO R34D BUT 1 TH1NK SH3S TH3 L4ST P3RSON WHO WOULD 3V3R TRY TO J3RK YOU 4ROUND

TEREZI: SH3LL 4PPR3C14T3 YOU B31NG UP FRONT

TEREZI: TH3 ONLY TH1NG 1 WOND3R 1S WH4T H4PP3N3D W1TH C4LL1OP3

TEREZI: TH3Y S33M3D SO H4PPY

JOHN: yeah that’s, uh...

JOHN: been bothering me too.

JOHN: callie was actually the one who convinced me to stay. roxy was all over me the moment i said i wasn’t going.

TEREZI: GO1NG WH3R3

JOHN: oh, to fight lord english.

TEREZI: YOU W3R3 SUPPOS3D TO F1GHT LORD 3NGL1SH?

JOHN: um, yeah. i guess.

TEREZI: BUT YOU JUST D3C1D3D... NOT TO?

JOHN: look it’s a long story.

JOHN: actually, it’s not, but that’s not why i texted you. i’ll tell you some other time.

JOHN: right now, what i think i need to figure out is how i feel about the whole... calliope thing.

JOHN: i’m not afraid to ask roxy how she feels about me, i guess. but i think that i am afraid to ask about...

Roxy finally comes back from the restroom. He hears her heels click-clacking on the floor, and shoves his phone into his pocket in a panic, before he can follow up on the last line of his message. He doesn’t know why he does it in a panic. It’s not like he’s doing anything wrong. In fact, tapping away on the phone when someone leaves you alone at a table is completely and totally normal. Maybe it’s just that it’s kind of weird to be talking to a girl under the table while on a date with a completely different girl, no matter what his respective relationships with those two girls might be.

His internal Rose-voice tsks at him for having such a gender-essentialist thought. He wonders if he’d feel quite as guilty if he were talking to Rose under the table instead of Terezi. Probably not, which is a whole tangle of stuff he doesn’t even want to think about. He shoots Roxy a big, bright grin when she slips into her seat. She grins back.

He is genuinely glad to be here. Roxy is beautiful. The restaurant is beautiful. He feels like he’s fumbling at something existentially beautiful here. There’s something about the way she’s looking at him that makes him glad he got out of bed today. It makes him, for the first time in years, excited about the idea that the future is a thing that exists.

ROXY: sorry for takin so long had to reapply the face u kno how it is

ROXY: actually u probably dont but let me tell u makeups a BITCH

JOHN: roxy, you don’t have to do all that for me!

JOHN: i’m basically a schlub these days. i don’t care if you wear makeup or not.

JOHN: you... you’re pretty either way, you know that right?

ROXY: oh dont worry its not for you lol

ROXY: but thats sweet as hell i appreciate the sentiment

JOHN: oh. um, that’s cool. why do you need it, then?

ROXY: john...

ROXY: do u ever think about like

ROXY: gender???

JOHN: ???

JOHN: uh. not really, i guess?

JOHN: but i don’t think girls should feel like they HAVE to wear makeup just because they’re girls.

ROXY: lol

ROXY: thats not what im getting at

JOHN: what do you mean then?

JOHN: are you, like...

ROXY: like what

JOHN: i don’t know. i don’t really know what we’re talking about.

ROXY: lol idrk either i guess

ROXY: neway we dont gotta get super into it now this isnt really the setting

ROXY: i dunno if u noticed but this place is way too fancy for me lmfao

ROXY: i was all tryin to impress you with how im classy as fuk but now i feel like were gonna have to skip out on the check

JOHN: even though we’ve got infinite money?

ROXY: yea!!

ROXY: just a feelin i get

ROXY: like this fancy dress is a costume

ROXY: like im just playacting at being a grown-up woman

JOHN: yeah, i know that feeling. what even are adults?

ROXY: good question!

JOHN: when i was a kid i just thought adulthood was something that happened to you automatically, i think.

JOHN: like the moment i turned eighteen a briefcase would appear in my hand and i’d have it all figured out, just like my dad seemed to.

JOHN: i can’t believe i’m twenty-three and still a huge loser! i wonder if my dad ever thought that way about himself, like he was just some big dumb kid totally messing everything up but trying to keep up appearances anyway.

ROXY: dont say that about urself dummy!

JOHN: so... i’m a dummy, but i shouldn’t call myself dumb?

ROXY: omg you KNOW what i meant

ROXY: hmm

Roxy runs one of her thin fingers around the inside rim of her water glass. It makes a very quiet squeaking noise that he can hear over the mumbled conversation around him because they’re sitting so very close. Her lashes look about twice as long in the low, pale light. They shadow her eyes so that he can’t read her expression.

ROXY: ya know i didnt even know any adults when i was a kid

ROXY: so i got nothin except the legends of how my universes rose and dave died i guess

ROXY: but thats not exactly a useful example in this situation

JOHN: i dunno. i think sacrificing yourself to take down a brutal clown dictatorship is a pretty good life lesson to internalize in any situation.

ROXY: lol yeah god forbid

ROXY: but

ROXY: i mean my idea of a date for the longest time was drinkin a whole bottle of wine alone while cryin in front of my laptop screen

JOHN: oh same, actually. minus the wine, and the computer screen, ha ha.

ROXY: just u and ur brain contemplating the infinite loneliness of singular consciousness in a vast cold universe

JOHN: something like that.

JOHN: so... i guess neither of us are very good at this, huh?

ROXY: thats cool with me

ROXY: zero expectations means we got nowhere to go but up

JOHN: i’ll toast to that!

John lifts his glass as a cute and cliché thing to do, expecting no reciprocation. But she laughs and actually humors him. The glasses clink together clumsily, and water gets all over the complimentary breadsticks. She starts laughing harder.

ROXY: oh john

ROXY: why didnt we do this SOONER

ROXY: i love spendin time with you

ROXY: youuu knooooow

ROXY: its weird to say but

ROXY: no one else has ever made me feel like this

For some reason, those words make the pit in his stomach grow. He lets out a nervous giggle. His arm starts to shake, so violently that he gets even more water on the free breadsticks. Hoo boy—he’s sweating under the collar. It’s a panic, like what he felt when Roxy almost caught him texting Terezi under the table, except in reverse. What about Calliope, he thinks. John can’t tell what Roxy is thinking. She’s so warm and open and inviting, but when John looks into her eyes... it’s almost like staring into a voi—

ROXY: oh

ROXY: wtf look behind you

He whips his head around to see... Dave? He’s running down the street, looking back and forth like a hunted man. He spots John and freezes for a moment, obviously trying to compose himself. No one goes still quite like a Strider. He brushes past Gamzee, who is still glued to the window to spy on the date, and swaggers into the restaurant. The look on his face seems to suggest he’s about to throw up, but he keeps it together. His entrance is so smooth that all the dining carapacians in the vicinity immediately stop talking and stare at him as he glides to the table.

Dave sets his hand just in front of the free breadsticks and angles a look at John through the panels of his shades. It looks like he hasn’t slept, but it’s hard to tell with Dave. He’s out of breath.

DAVE: hey dude

DAVE: and roxy

DAVE: uh rather...

DAVE: hey dudes

DAVE: sorry to imply that dude wasnt a gender neutral term because it totally is

DAVE: anyone can be a dude if they really want thats part of the beauty of living in this brand new world with none of the baggage our old world had like gender and sexuality and relationships only involving a very specific number of people

ROXY: dave u ok

DAVE: yeah totally when am i not ok

ROXY: p often actually

DAVE: nah im fine theres absolutely nothing strange or awkward going on in my life at all

DAVE: unrelated to anything i just said john i gotta talk to you for a sec

JOHN: ok. go ahead!

DAVE: no i mean like outside

DAVE: in private

DAVE: with no one else around

ROXY: u SURE youre ok??

DAVE: yeah mom im fine

DAVE: sorry that was me being sarcastic about how youre all worried over me when im just ice fucking cold levels of cool at the moment

DAVE: not referencing that youre my literal mom which i know is all kinds of awkward every single time i do it

DAVE: which is a lot i guess

ROXY: lmao i dont think its awkward at all

DAVE: oh cool

DAVE: me neither

DAVE: mom

JOHN: um, roxy’s right. you seem kind of off right now.

DAVE: nah i just had a sudden need for a bro down

DAVE: just an unquenchable thirst to be showered in a flashstorm of righteous bro juice

JOHN: yikes.

DAVE: gotta guzzle the shit out of it like gatorade after a sports match

DAVE: help me out here my brolectrolytes are low

JOHN: ...

DAVE: john just come on its important

JOHN: yeah, sure.... roxy, are you fine waiting here by yourself for a while?

ROXY: yea ill just be here eatin breadsticks since we didnt actually order dinner

JOHN: cool! i’ll be right back!

Dave shoves his hands in his pockets and leads John out into the cool evening air. Gamzee offers a double thumbs-up as they walk past him, which John fiercely ignores.

John does, however, check his phone. Subtly, but a little desperately. He left Terezi hanging in the middle of a sentence and he’s gotta admit, as much fun as he’s been having with Roxy, there’s an annoying little voice screaming at him underneath everything else he’s done and said tonight that desperately needs to know what else Terezi had to say. Behind Dave’s back as he leads the way, John swipes the screen to catch up with her answers, smiling conspiratorially.

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