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: you two are pretty cute together, i guess?
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: 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.
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.
JOHN: you were both kinda... crazy when we were kids? again, no offense.
DAVE: thats not what i was saying huh about
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: 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
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
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: 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!
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?
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: 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: 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 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?
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
DAVE: damn i thought she ghosted everyone
JOHN: not me... i guess?
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?
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: sure seems that way.
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...
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
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.