Chapter

7

John’s been spending a lot of time with Roxy lately. Which also means spending a lot of time with Calliope, which is awkward, but fine. But it also means spending a lot of time with Gamzee, which is awkward, and not even remotely fine.

John, Roxy, and Calliope are taking a stroll through downtown New Prospit. Gamzee’s here too, a couple feet behind John, doing essentially the same thing that the other three are doing. Which is walking at a leisurely pace, but he’s being so weird about it that you can’t really call it strolling. It’s more like he’s... holding court, while somehow remaining in motion. Ever since he popped out of that fridge smelling like a sweaty foot, he’s been all “wise” and “sage-like.” John considers that if he were using these two descriptors out loud, he’d make air quotes while saying them. He’d then say Gamzee’s acting almost like a “priest,” which is a word he would also make air-quotes around, due to how insanely full of shit John still believes him to be.

Roxy and Calliope, however, apparently do not believe him to be full of shit, for some reason.

CALLIOPE: isn’t that nice?

JOHN: huh?

Gamzee is leading a line of adoring carapacians trailing behind him, telling them stupid, fake-zen stuff like “YoU GoTtA sToP tO sMeLl ThE sEeD fRoNdS mY dUdEs.” Not to be speciesist or anything, but the sight is kind of worrying because John knows all too well how susceptible carapacians are to grassroots populism. He has it on good authority that virtually any schmuck can blunder into a crowd of them, say a few inspirational words, and incite revolutionary fervor amongst the masses. John tries his best to ignore it and walk ahead, but Roxy loops her arm through his and pulls him back.

ROXY: were here check it

JOHN: where’s here?

ROXY: me n callies fave cafe!!

It’s a nice place. Big, oval windows, flowers on all the tables. It’s got a French-ish aesthetic. John says “ish” because everything on Earth C is sort of “ish.” “Alternian-ish,” “Derse-ish,” “Japanese-ish.” He’d even describe the sky as being kind of “blue-ish.” Sometimes, it’s more turquoise than anything. Too crisp and bright, like the old Earth’s sky as seen through a pair of tinted novelty glasses.

John doesn’t mean to be cynical about it, but he guesses that’s just the mood he’s in. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Calliope insisted on including an unbelievably smelly clown on an otherwise perfectly pleasant stroll.

JOHN: that’s it? we’re going to a coffee shop?

JOHN: i got out of bed for THIS?

ROXY: lmao

ROXY: oh john ur so FUNNY

JOHN: no seriously roxy i just...

JOHN: i mean, i feel like i haven’t left my house in years, and with all the stuff that’s been going on, like rose’s illness, or that stuff about the “political situation,” is it really a good idea for us to be having picnics and going out to coffee shops?

CALLIOPE: oh john, don’t worry so mUch aboUt things that yoU have no control over.

CALLIOPE: like i said the other day, it’s time for Us to leave Ugly things behind Us.

ROXY: yea for real john cant u just enjoy what a beautiful day it is

ROXY: i know IM enjoyin it

ROXY: since i get to spend it with u like ive always been wanting

JOHN: you... you have?

ROXY: yeah duh

She tugs him against her side and rests her head on his shoulder. She’s a bit taller than him in her nice shoes, so it’s kind of awkward. Feels uncomfortable to him, and looks more so for her. But he’s enjoying the attention. Sort of. He missed her, the way she used to be, when the two of them were close as kids. She’s laying it on a little thick for his benefit right now, and while he can appreciate that, it can be difficult to rekindle a friendship after it’s gone cold for a while. John wishes the rekindling period would hurry up and end already so they can just go back to shooting the shit like normal.

Roxy drags him into the cafe. Calliope doesn’t follow them in, for reasons he can only guess at. He catches a glimpse of her through the window: a little forlorn, Gamzee at her side like a faithful dog. He can’t hear what they’re saying.

Outside, Calliope clasps her hands and directs a wistful expression through the cafe window, foot traffic splitting lazily around her and Gamzee as they stand in the busy street. At high noon, her little body casts almost no shadow on the cobblestone road.

CALLIOPE: sigh.

GAMZEE: WhAt’S sHaKiN sIs, YoU lOoK bUmMeD aLl ThE fUcK oUt.

GAMZEE: HoW cAn YoU bE fEeLiNg DoWn WhEn We Be GeTtIn AlL rEdEeMeD aNd ShIt Up In HeRe?

CALLIOPE: oh, it’s jUst...

CALLIOPE: can’t yoU see what’s happening with roxy and john?

Gamzee stares through the window. Roxy is leaning across the table to dab at the corner of John’s mouth with a napkin. John looks very confused, because they aren’t actually eating anything yet. Gamzee stares at this for a very long time, his mouth lolling open as he contemplates what is transpiring with the closest facsimile to wisdom he can muster. He puts one of his huge hands on Calliope’s narrow shoulder, all comforting-like.

GAMZEE: Oh YeAh. FoR sUrE yOuR gIrL rOxY iS aLl GlObEs DeEp iN tHaT dUdE’s DaNk NoOk.

CALLIOPE: yes. and while i can’t say i didn’t see this coming...

CALLIOPE: it’s all happening so fast. I thoUght for sUre i’d have more time with her.

GAMZEE: wOuLd A mOtHeRfUcKeR lIkE mE tO...

Gamzee leans in so that his face is level with Calliope’s. His grin shows every single one of his teeth. Miraculously, his breath smells worse than his body.

GAMZEE: MOTHERFUCKING DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT? >:o)

CALLIOPE: no!

CALLIOPE: gamzee, no, please! it’s fine.

CALLIOPE: i might be sad, bUt john has made his choice, and we mUst all live with the repercUssions of that.

CALLIOPE: i’m sUre that roxy will be very happy with him.

CALLIOPE: we’re all going to be very, very happy. I trUly believe that. ^u^

Calliope walks away, looking somewhat less than very, very happy. Gamzee remains standing in front of the cafe, still not entirely convinced that he shouldn’t motherfucking do something about it.

John notices him there, just outside the window, leering at him and Roxy. His expression is serene, vacant. Calliope is nowhere to be seen.

JOHN: um, hey roxy...

ROXY: wats up

JOHN: gamzee. he’s staring at us, and it’s kind of creeping me out.

ROXY: oh

ROXY: yea dont worry about that he gets stuck like that sometimes

JOHN: stuck?

ROXY: all wonked out and shit

ROXY: i think hes got brain damage from being a burnout its so sad

JOHN: ...

JOHN: is it?

Roxy takes a sip of her tea. Her purple lipstick leaves a stain on the fine china.

ROXY: yeah john its totes sad

ROXY: he never had a chance with the kinda life he had

ROXY: wat a tragic misunderstood figure :’(

Roxy sighs and spears the cherry atop her cheesecake with the absurdly tiny dessert fork it was served with. She pops it in her mouth with a pouty little lip pop, staring directly at John with her eyes half-lidded. He thinks she might be trying to be sexy, but he’s a bit distracted by the sight of Gamzee lumbering into the cafe with all the grace of an aubergine sasquatch sporting an epic erection. He puts both hands on the back of Roxy’s chair and looms over her. Without breaking eye contact with John, Roxy scoops up a spoonful of cheesecake and feeds it to him.

GAMZEE: HeY rOxItA.

ROXY: hey gamz whats shakin

GAMZEE: CaLlIE wEnT aLl RuNnInG oFf, UgH.

ROXY: aww

ROXY: hope shes feelin alright

GAMZEE: ShE’s MoThErFuCkIn FiNe, ShE sAiD sOmE nOiSe AbOuT cAuSe Of WhAt JoHn DiD, wE’rE aLl GoNnA bE oNe HaPpY fAmIlY oF fUcKiN nInJaS fOr MoThErFuCkIn EvEr. :o)

JOHN: what?

ROXY: heheheh

ROXY: gamzee ur one silly dude

ROXY: tbh pretty psyched to see you goin through all this redemption shit

ROXY: i bet you gonna make a baller part of our greater ensemble if ur given the chance

John attempts to furtively gesture his disapproval with the entire situation toward Roxy by vaguely swiping his neck in a horizontal direction with his fingers, but she doesn’t notice. Instead she puts her fork down, slides her chair out, and springs to her feet with an abundance of this newfound enthusiasm he’s been struggling to understand.

ROXY: brb!

ROXY: gonna hit the ladies room

ROXY: back in a jiff suckers

JOHN: um, alright.

John and the date’s repulsive third wheel watch as she scurries to the back of the establishment. The moment the door to the bathroom closes, Gamzee lumbers into a sitting position across the table from John, without the slightest deviation in his heinously awkward comportment. He puts his forearms on the table in front of him, folds his hands, and gazes into John’s eyes with what he has come to identify as Gamzee’s signature brand of faux serenity.

GAMZEE: mY fUcKiN *gUy*. :o)

JOHN: ...

GAMZEE: My DuDe AnD mY nInJa AlIkE.

GAMZEE: mY *hOrN* dOoOoG.

JOHN: ...

GAMZEE: mY hOrN tO tHa MoThErFuCkIn DoG. ;o)

JOHN: waiter! help!

John desperately waves to attract some service, in the hopes that it will provide a social buffer for the appalling interaction that is presently taking place. But no carapacians seem to be close enough to heed his request.

GAMZEE: I SeE WhAt’s fUcKiN Up, My gOoD VeRtEbRoThEr.

GAMZEE: AlLs aBoUt i cAn sAy iS GaMe rEcOgNiZe mOtHeRfUcKiN GaMe.

GAMZEE: YoU GoT No sEcReTs fRoM ThIs mOtHeRfUcKeR, eGg bOy.

GAMZEE: A MaN StAyS LoCkEd iN AnOtHeR MaN’S HuNgEr tRuNk lOnG EnOuGh aIn’t gOt mUcH LeFt tO FuCkIn hIdE FrOm oNe aNoThEr.

JOHN: actually, that wasn’t even my fridge. it was jane’s. i mean... we’ve basically got the same fri—

GAMZEE: ShUt tHe fUcK Up.

GAMZEE: I’M GeTtInG ReAl aT A MoThErFuCkEr rIgHt nOw.

GAMZEE: I BeEn rEdEeMeD Yo. I SaId mY SoRrIeS AnD ReDeEmEd tHe sHiT OuT Of mYsElF, dIdN’T YoU SeE?

JOHN: uh... yeah.

GAMZEE: So iT’S InCuMbEnT On a mOtHeRfUcKeR To *SpReAd tHe rEdEmPtIoN*.

GAMZEE: YoU ShOuLd gEt yOuR ReDeMpTiOn oN ToO, mY ChOiCeSt oF DuDeS.

GAMZEE: My dAnKeSt oF DoGs.

GAMZEE: SeE, a mOtHeRfUcKeR *kNoWs*.

GAMZEE: YoU GoT ThIs bItCh oN A RoPe, It’s tImE To pUlL HeR InTo yOuR TeNt.

GAMZEE: I CaN SmElL It oN YoU, bRoThEr. YoU’Ve wAsTeD YeArS LeTtInG ThIs pReMiUm hO SlIp tHrOuGh yOuR FiNgErS.

GAMZEE: LeSs fUcKiN CoNsCiOnAbLe tHaN AnY CrUdE StUnT I PuLlEd iN My dAy, I MuSt tElL YoU.

GAMZEE: A CaPiTaL MoThErFuCkIn cRiMe tO Be sQuAnDeRiNg eArTh pUsSy lIkE ThAt.

JOHN: holy shit?

GAMZEE: BuT Im aLl gEtTiN YoUr bAcK HeRe, BrO.

GAMZEE: I CaN Be yOuR WiNg mAn iN ThIs cArNaL FuCkIn cApEr.

GAMZEE: I CaN HeLp a lItTlE BiTcH LiKe yOu rOmAnTiCaLlY *rEdEeM* hIs sOrRy aSs.

GAMZEE: LeT A MoThErFuCkEr hElP A MoThErFuCkEr oUt.

GAMZEE: HeR PoPcOrN SkIlLeT’S PiPiNg hOt fOr yOu aLrEaDy. YoU JuSt nEeD A TiGhT AnD LoYaL BoY LiKe mE To sTaRt sHoVeLiNg iN ThE CoRn. :o)

Thinking it unwise to break eye contact with this lunatic, John nods very slowly as he listens, while taking a secret snap of his ghoulish face to send to Terezi. Before John submits, he tags the photo with a message:

JOHN: i absolutely fucking hate this.

> ==>
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