Dave grabs the sleeve of John’s tux in his sweaty palm, and the two of them fly to the top of the nearest tower. John glances at him en route, and the look on Dave’s face strikes him as that of a man condemned to death.

The stars stand out along the skyline, so bright in this new world that the outline of every constellation is crisp and clear, even in the middle of the city.

Dave cups his hands over his knees and stares straight ahead.

DAVE: yo john what do you think about me and karkat

JOHN: um...

JOHN: you two are pretty cute together, i guess?

DAVE: together

DAVE: i need you to be way more specific here

JOHN: oh, ok.

JOHN: hmm. i guess i’d have to say that you’re both cute individually when you’re with each other, and you make cute friends, which is why you’re cute together. something about it just works!

JOHN: i feel like i’m saying cute a lot here.

JOHN: for the record, i don’t mean you’re cute as an individual. no offense.

JOHN: alone, you’re just dave.

JOHN: but together, yeah. you guys are cute.

DAVE: together

DAVE: you mean

DAVE: like a couple

Dave says this so neutrally that John has no idea how to read it, despite having years of practice reading Dave’s many neutral tones.

JOHN: er... yes.

JOHN: that’s exactly what i mean.

DAVE: why

JOHN: didn’t i just explain it? good friends make good partners!

JOHN: you’re similar in all the right ways, and different in all the even more right ways.

JOHN: you two balance each other out and keep each other from going off the rails, like when you were kids.

DAVE: huh

JOHN: you were both kinda... crazy when we were kids? again, no offense.

DAVE: thats not what i was saying huh about

JOHN: oh.

DAVE: i was saying huh because that sure was a coherent egbertian thesis on the state of the davekat situation

JOHN: well, i’ve thought about it that way for a long time. i think it’s what everyone else thinks too.

DAVE: i dont know

DAVE: if id been thinking about it that way i wouldnt be in the mess im in right now

JOHN: you’re in a mess?

DAVE: yeah

DAVE: theres a metric fucking ton of shit about to come down on me because i dragged my heels on doing some serious self reflection

JOHN: is this just some more stuff about...

JOHN: being gay?

DAVE: maybe yeah

DAVE: ok definitely yeah

DAVE: its 110% about being gay

JOHN: i thought you’d already worked all that stuff out?

DAVE: turns out it takes a long time to figure out your sexuality after a childhood filled with repression and abuse

JOHN: dave...

DAVE: i mean yeah i woke the hell up to my inner potential for gayness in a big way

DAVE: but then i just kind of pressed the snooze button and rolled back over because we kinda had to fight all those jacks and also create society

JOHN: holy fucking shit.

JOHN: there’s a gay snooze button?

DAVE: yeah man theres a gay snooze button

JOHN: wow.

DAVE: when i was having my gay coolboy awakening it wasnt a full no homo but it was at least a quarter no homo

DAVE: if i hadnt done that then instead of talking to you about this id be at home right now

DAVE: uh

DAVE: kissing karkat probably

JOHN: i don’t get this dave. am i your gay confessor or something?

JOHN: you don’t need my blessing to go kiss karkat. in fact, i was pretty sure you were already kissing karkat!

DAVE: nope

JOHN: in that case, as the lord pope of dave’s fully awakened gaydom i give you my blessing to immediately leave and rectify that as soon as possible!

JOHN: go now my child, and kiss karkat right on the lips!!!

DAVE: ok as much as i appreciate how weird a thing that was to say

DAVE: its not that simple

JOHN: i might not exactly be the expert, but kissing seems pretty easy, dave.

JOHN: i’m sure it gets more complicated in the later stages obviously, but i think you can figure out how to get your lips on his without much trouble.

DAVE: no i mean like

Dave makes a couple truly useless hand gestures.

DAVE: in the greater fabric of our weird incestuous social group

DAVE: it might be the wrong move i think

JOHN: how so?

DAVE: because

DAVE: ...

DAVE: jade

John bites his lip. Oh boy. That’s a complicated problem all right. He loves his sister, but she’s developed a bad habit of sometimes approaching delicate social situations with all the grace of an elephant stumbling around in a dark room.

JOHN: right.

JOHN: i almost managed to forget that she was trying to fuck you and karkat.

Dave snaps his head around to stare at John in shock.

DAVE: wait you knew about that

JOHN: uh, yeah?

JOHN: did you not?

DAVE: of course i knew about it

DAVE: i was lookin at the whole thing through several complicated layers of conscious denial but i knew

DAVE: its just that you like

DAVE: never leave your house

JOHN: well it probably helps that jade literally said the words to me... and i may be paraphrasing here, but...

JOHN: “hey john, i’m gonna fuck dave and karkat!”

DAVE: wtf she said that to you

DAVE: what did you say

JOHN: i dunno, it was a while ago. probably that it was a bad idea.

JOHN: but i thought it was kinda obvious... she’s always had a crush on you, dave.

DAVE: yeah i know

He sighs and hangs his head, leaning forward with his elbows crossed over his thighs. The angle he’s at gives John a good look at his eyes, which are boring a deep, miserable hole to the center of the Earth right now.

DAVE: thats why i think that i should

DAVE: give it a try i guess

JOHN: give what a try? dating jade?

DAVE: yeah

DAVE: and karkat

JOHN: oh man, dave. i don’t know. that sounds like it could really blow up in your face.

DAVE: yeah thats why im kinda freaking out right now if you didnt notice

JOHN: sorry dude it’s just... do you even like jade?

DAVE: of course i do shes one of my best friends

JOHN: no i meant... do you LIKE-like her?

DAVE: oh my god john youre twenty three years old can you at least pretend to talk like a grown man

JOHN: ok dave, god!

JOHN: are you IN LOVE with jade?

Dave doesn’t answer. His silence says a lot, John thinks.

JOHN: ...are you in love with karkat?

DAVE: thats

DAVE: thats a big fucking question

DAVE: thats the biggest fucking question that ever got asked

DAVE: its like the paleolithic megafauna of questions like its so familiar but your eyes just glaze over it in denial because its too fucking big

DAVE: why did megalodon sharks need to have such big jaws john

JOHN: uh... to eat smaller sharks?

DAVE: ive never been so fucking terrified by a question in my entire life

DAVE: seriously my heart is pounding so hard right now that i feel like im gonna hurl

JOHN: well, doesn’t that answer the question?

DAVE: nah because

DAVE: because its not like i feel nothing for jade

DAVE: in fact i feel a whole lot of things for her

DAVE: too many to just tell her off after all this time

DAVE: i mean she spent all those years alone on the ship and i know she missed me

DAVE: and then davesprite died

DAVE: or turned into fucking davepeta i was never clear exactly on what happened there

DAVE: and god knows he didnt make any attempt to clear the fucking air with her

DAVE: but when i think about it neither did i

DAVE: so maybe im just a huge asshole whos been leading her on for like a whole goddamn decade at this point

DAVE: and if i have been dont i owe it to her to at least try

JOHN: if that’s your logic dave, then haven’t you been leading karkat on too?

JOHN: doesn’t he deserve the same chance?

JOHN: i mean, if you think it’s the kind of decision you can lay on another person like this...

JOHN: why don’t you just flip a coin?

DAVE: ...

He tilts his face so that he can give John a look. The corner of his lip quirks ambiguously.

DAVE: have you been talking to terezi

JOHN: um...

DAVE: damn i thought she ghosted everyone

JOHN: not me... i guess?

DAVE: huh

DAVE: anyway

DAVE: i know you thought that sounded like a totally cool thing to say but i dont really think you grasp the full metaphysical implications of whatever youre quoting there

Dave sits up and leans back on his palms, his voice sounding lighter in a subtle, almost ephemeral way now that the subject’s changed to something as easy as metaphysics. He catches John’s gaze and makes a rolling gesture with his hand, miming the way a practiced magician would flick a coin over their thumb.

DAVE: do you know what a coin flip is

DAVE: like universally i mean in the grand scale of all this time space infinite string theory bullshit were always dealing with

JOHN: of course!

JOHN: it’s like when you know that you’ve already made a decision you’re reluctant about, and need an outside force to show you how you really feel?

DAVE: no dude thats dumb

DAVE: you should know this cause youve done the retcon thing

JOHN: what does that have to do with flipping coins?

DAVE: ok so every time you flip a coin youre creating an alternate timeline right

DAVE: one where it lands heads and one where it lands tails

DAVE: but while the coin is flipping both possibilities exist simultaneously

JOHN: but what if you knew for sure that you’d make the same decision no matter which side landed up?

DAVE: you cant

JOHN: so... it’s like the coin never lands then?

DAVE: sure

JOHN: then if you dated *both* jade and karkat it’d be like you’re winning the schrodinger’s cat paradox.

DAVE: uh yeah thats another theoretical paradox that i think you gotta read up on a bit more there buddy

JOHN: i probably won’t, but ok.

DAVE: fair enough

DAVE: but yes metaphysics aside me dating both jade and karkat at the same time literally is the issue at hand and it is that with which i currently and explicitly struggle

JOHN: yeah.

JOHN: sure seems that way.

DAVE: so...

JOHN: i dunno, dave.

JOHN: this all just... it doesn’t sound *right* to me.

John thinks about the speech Rose gave him that morning on her couch, about canon veracity and the validity or nonvalidity of subjective actions the further they get away from the “intended” sequence of events. Something about... pillars? What is essential, true, and relevant. He remembers those three words, but no other contextual remarks which bind them. That conversation seems so very long ago now.

JOHN: i mean... it doesn’t sound...

JOHN: *canon*?

DAVE: ugh not you too

DAVE: rose is always going on about canon

DAVE: i dont give a fuck about canon

JOHN: then what DO you give a fuck about?

Dave sighs and runs a hand through his hair.

DAVE: doing the right thing

DAVE: i guess

JOHN: this doesn’t seem hard to me at all, dave!

JOHN: go home right now and tell karkat how you feel.

DAVE: look i

DAVE: i cant

DAVE: if i did that it would be like

DAVE: like

JOHN: like what, dave? like you would be really happy, and karkat would also be really happy?

DAVE: ugh im not explaining myself right i need to

Dave staggers uneasily to his feet, staring way past John like he’s looking into the infinity of his own soul right now. John’s never seen him so scared, and it’s over what seems like a pretty easy choice as far as John’s concerned. It sure isn’t easy for him, though. John guesses this is what it means to be a friend. It means being the guy who understands when easy isn’t actually that easy.

DAVE: i have to... talk to dirk i think

JOHN: uh, ok?

John wonders when talking to Dirk has fixed anything for anyone.

He’s about to ask what exactly it is he needs to talk to Dirk about, but then remembers what he saw when he went back to fetch Gamzee’s fridge in the Medium: Dirk and Dave hugging on the edge of the roof, sharing something private and mysterious, the sort of thing that can only happen between two people whose personalities are cracked in the same way. It’s not something John’s ever had, so it’s not something he can understand. An uncomfortable silence lingers between the two of them. Before John can fill it with some stupid words, he hears Roxy calling up to him from below. He pops his head over the roof and waves at her.

JOHN: what’s up?

ROXY: yo boys not to interrupt but we got kicked outta the restaurant for not ordering

JOHN: what? really?

JOHN: what’s even the point of being famous if that can happen?

ROXY: lmao i know right

ROXY: told u i wasnt classy enough for the joint

ROXY: i got all these breadsticks tho so we can reconvene in the park

ROXY: totes romantic

ROXY: ten minutes, what u say

JOHN: uh, sounds good! i’ll see you there soon!

She grins up at John with shimmering, adoring eyes. They’re reflecting every star in the sky, all for him. It makes his heart do a weird somersault. It tries to flip frontways, then backwards, and ends up landing on its face instead. He’s feeling too many contradictory things right now. When he turns to look at Dave again, he’s practically translucent. Barely there, half out the door emotionally. John feels like he could have done more, like this whole conversation was sand running through his fingers. It itches at the back of his head, the idea that he might have just fucked up Dave’s entire life.

JOHN: i’m... sorry i couldn’t help.

DAVE: nah dude its not your fault

Dave gives him a light bro-punch in the arm and tries to smile.

DAVE: enjoy your date

> ==>