JOHN: i love you terezi!
You blink. Then blink again. As you continue to blink, you become aware of several, very important facts.
First, Terezi isn't here to hear your love confession. Admittedly not one based on any of your favorite movie quotes, and it could use some work, but still heartfelt all the same.
Second, you notice that you're no longer hurting. You pat yourself. Nope, no wounds from a Cherubim golden tooth. So apparently you're no longer in danger of dying. You let out a sigh of relief. You're decked in your Godtier Clothes, which are sparkling clean.
Third, this isn't where you last remember you were on Earth C. If it is even Earth C at all. A quick look around tells you that it is a bedroom, but not yours. You're sitting on a white bed, not large like the one you have back home but enough for someone of your stature. No posters adorn the walls, and it's stark whiteness is honestly kind of hurting your eyes. In fact, every furniture here is white. Well, other than you, a book on top of a white table, and… her.
Which brings you to the fourth and final fact, and quite honestly the one you'd really rather not face at the moment. You turn to look in front of you, and there she is. Or it is. It- she looks like your friend, except for, well, the obviously metallic sheen of her entire body.
What you're trying to say is, you wasted your love confession on a Robot that looks like your friend Rose, standing not far from your bed and the table. Your MARRIED friend Rose. For her part, the robot blinked after your love confession as if she were confused, leaving you free to observe your surroundings. When you look at her again though, you can see the trademark Lalonde smirk beginning to form. When it finally reached its 100% complete form, the robot opened her mouth, put one hand on the table as if to support herself, and the other over where a human's heart should be. A mock aghast face completes the look.
ROSEBOT: John! To think that you would say another woman's name in the middle of a love confession! I am wounded, utterly and ghastly wounded!
You roll your eyes, and as you prepare to utter a comeback, it hits you: this is Rose. Your Rose. Your snarky, intelligent friend Rose. She might have turned into a robot somehow, but it's still her. Your brain comes to a conclusion, and you make your move.
You jump from the bed and give Rose your biggest Crocker-Egbert patented hugs. Rose staggered back a bit, before half heartedly returning your hug. Realizing you're confusing her, you release her, and look her in the eye.
JOHN: it was you wasn't it rose?
JOHN: you saved me!
JOHN: not gonna lie to you rose
JOHN: i thought i was a goner for a minute there!
JOHN: thank you!
JOHN: i don't know how you did it, but thank you!
ROSEBOT: You are most welcome John.
ROSEBOT: I must confess, I was not entirely certain this method would work as planned, but the results speaks for itself.
ROSEBOT: In any case, I appreciate your candor.
ROSEBOT: Regarding my new form after all.
JOHN: what, your cool new robot body?
JOHN: pssh, i hardly noticed it at all.
ROSEBOT: That's sweet of you John.
ROSEBOT: Now, let's get down to business, as they say.
ROSEBOT: I'm sure you have many questions for me.
JOHN: oh wow rose you have no idea!
JOHN: i'm not sure where to begin!
JOHN: like where did you get that sweet robot body?
JOHN: where's terezi, heck, where is everybody else?
JOHN: in fact, where the heck am i?
She smiled that same mysterious Rose smile, then gestured towards the table.
ROSEBOT: I thought you'd ask questions of that nature.
ROSEBOT: Please take a seat John.
ROSEBOT: The answers you seek are written in this book. Go ahead and take a look.
You look at her for a few more moments before turning your full attention at the book. Its gray color contrasted with the white table, and you take a seat to get a closer look. The book isn't too thick, though you'd estimate it would take you sometime to finish it. You ignore the front cover to examine the back. No Summary, so you turn it back to the front, and cringe. Right there smackdab in the middle is a half black and half white drawing of the Juju you spent quite a lot of time in trapped when you lost the first fight against Lord English. Rather poor taste you think, considering what you went through. Below it are the words: a tale of dubious authenticity. You glance up from the book to see that Rose has taken a seat on the bed, and is watching you with rapt attention. Kind of feels like you're a child being watched over your mother who just gave you a new toy. With a sigh, you open the book.
A few sentences in, you glance up again, about to ask Rose another question, She headed you off however with a raised hand, and merely gestured for you to continue reading. Evidently question time is after reading time, so slightly annoyed, you continue reading what you've already lived through. Still, it warms your heart to read your exchange with Rose back when it all started. Seeing your romantic problems with Roxy laid out for you in written format warms your cheek instead however. You quickly reach a point where the book makes you choose between Meat and Candy. Huh, that's unusual. You're not sure what difference it's going to make, it's just food. You decide to read Candy first and flip to that section, you've already lived (and died) through Meat and you're not eager to relive it right now.
Time passes as you read, entranced by what is written. As it turns out, the path not taken because you did not eat the Meat is VERY different as to what actually happened. Your mind reels as you take it all in. You dated, wed, and divorced Roxy, and even had a son whom you temporarily became estranged with, but in the end you've reconciled with them both. There's another Vriska now. Earth C is in the middle of a civil war between Jane and Karkat, the former becoming a xenophobic tyrant and the latter leading a massive rebellion backed by ghosts. Dave apparently married Jade but left her after meeting with honest-to-god Obama and becoming Robodave. Speaking of Jade, a different version of her is apparently possessed by… something? Also, freaking Gamzee! The Postscript also doesn't make any lick of sense. You wonder what the point was that you read this what if story. You look to Rose, but once again, she stops you.
ROSEBOT: Finish the Meat first, then question time.
JOHN: but I already know what happens!
She gives you a sad smile, before shaking her head.
ROSEBOT: You know nothing John Egbert. Not yet.
Cryptic comments as always. You buckle down once again and flip back to the Meat section, wondering what Rose meant. Once you reach a certain point in the story however, you knew exactly what she meant. You find yourself flip-flopping between Meat and Candy, making sense of it all. When you finish Meat, your mind is reeling from the revelation. Dirk? Why, Dirk? Rose and Kanaya separated? Jake is a mess? At least Dave and Karkat found happiness, but Dirk's manipulation… holy shit. To make matters worse, there's another Cherubim that's even more powerful than Lord English headed their way? Honestly, it's getting a bit much to take, especially for somebody who was fucking dead until recently. Rose must have noticed, because she stood from the bed to stand near you and started rubbing your back.
ROSEBOT: It's alright John, just breathe.
ROSEBOT: I'm sure knowing what actually went down is overwhelming.
JOHN: oh you think?
JOHN: that's an understatement of the fucking eternity rose!
JOHN: holy shit where do i even begin?
ROSEBOT: While I do not appreciate your tone, I understand where you're coming from.
ROSEBOT: So take some time to calm down, and when you are ready, I am here to answer any and all questions you might have.
Oh boy howdy do you have questions! You're not sure where you'd even start to be honest. Various questions pass through your mind, but one question burns brighter than all others. You decide which question to ask.
You pop the question.
Rose stayed silent. For a long time. For a moment you wonder if she didn't hear your question, and just as you were about to ask her again…
That was all the warning you get before suddenly she opened her mouth and laughed the hardest you've ever heard anyone laugh. Practically exploding with it. She's shaking and everything, and she had to support herself on the table, putting both hands on it, while she laughs loud and clear. You've never heard her, or anyone for that matter, laugh like that. It had a metallic tone to it, made louder by her hand banging on the table every now and then. If you're being honest to yourself though… you actually kind of like it. You wonder if you can make Terezi laugh like-
You briefly look around, locating the door quickly enough despite being the same color as the walls. Did Rose's laughter alert Terezi? Then you realize in horror, what if the laughter alerted Dirk? What if he already knows? What if he's narrating right now? Are these even your thoughts? Was that one? Was THAT one? What if right now you're nothing more than a figment of some shitty fanfic writer's imagination, forced to dance for their scenario until they grow tired. Wait, what if Rose's laughter was because of him? What if she's punished by laughing for the rest of time, without stop?
With that (admittedly absurd) thought in your head, you rush to Rose's side, at first unsure what to do. So you settle with patting her on the back. Thankfully, her laughter is winding down, and she waves you off.
ROSEBOT: It's alright, I'm okay, I'm okay.
ROSEBOT: Oh do forgive me John.
ROSEBOT: I didn't mean to make light of your confusion.
ROSEBOT: I must confess, despite achieving my Ultimate Self, and gaining access to knowledge of infinite timelines and universes, as well as preparing myself for any queries you have that might possibly put my character and our friendship to the test…
ROSEBOT: But I was not at all ready to answer your question of "how did you breastfeed Vriska?"
ROSEBOT: Not even if I was given an eternal lifetime for an infinite number of lives.
ROSEBOT: You truly are one of a kind John Egbert.
ROSEBOT: God, I-
ROSEBOT: I've missed you so much John.
JOHN: i've missed you too rose, but we have to escape!
ROSEBOT: What? Why?
JOHN: dirk could be narrating us as we speak! we've got to grab terezi and get the hell out of here!
You start to make a dash towards the door but Rose has a hold on your arm. You start to panic and attempt to force open her iron grip on you. Has she been narrated?
ROSEBOT: John, it's fine, we're safe here.
JOHN: what? how? isn't dirk basically omnipotent?
ROSEBOT: Not necessarily, and suffice it to say, the properties of the room we are currently in will hinder his attempts to narrate us to suit his purposes.
You try to calm down, as you look around again to see what could possibly be preventing Dirk from, say, making you headbutt each other to knock both of you out. Well, knock you out, you doubt your skull can even make a dent on Rose's new metal head.
JOHN: i don't see anything though.
JOHN: oh! is it the book? is it some kind of magical artifact or juju protecting us with its bullshit powers?
ROSEBOT: Good guess, but no, and it's less magical bullshit and more psychological bullshit.
ROSEBOT: Basically, a white room inhibits a narrator's imagination.
ROSEBOT: If he dared attempt it, well, I would know, and there consequences which would definitely deter him from doing so again.
JOHN: it's seriously that easy?
ROSEBOT: Well, admittedly it does require some magical bullshit, but it'd take a long time to explain it completely.
ROSEBOT: Are you satisfied? Do you feel safe here?
JOHN: yeah, i trust you.
ROSEBOT: Good. Now, do you want me to answer your previous question, or do you want to ask something else?
You cringe, remembering what you asked.
JOHN: ugh, something else please. i just panicked, and that was the first thing i thought off.
ROSEBOT: Understandable. Take your time John, we have all the time in the world. When you're ready, I'm here.
You sit back down on the bed next to Rose. What do you want to ask? What Dirk's plans are? What her plans are? Is Terezi fine? Are the others on Earth C fine? Heck, is she fine with being a robot? What about the Cherub heading straight for them, with Aradia and Davebot in tow? So many things to ask, and so many things to do-
JOHN: i've got it.
ROSEBOT: Yes John?
JOHN: what do you think i should do now?
Rose is smart, and apparently she upgraded herself and knows everything, she won't steer you wrong. Well, admittedly the last time you followed her instructions you ended up dead, but apparently it's necessary to ensure Earth C exists, and hey it worked. Plus, you're alive now, and ready to do whatever it takes to save the day again. You turn to look at her, eager for her words of wisdom.
ROSEBOT: An excellent question John.
ROSEBOT: Quite possibly a better question than the best question anyone has ever asked.
She turns to you, a smile on her lips.
ROSEBOT: To which I say
ROSEBOT: Whatever you want.
Your shoulders sag, and you frown.
JOHN: that's uh.
JOHN: kind of a cop out answer rose.
ROSEBOT: Is it now?
JOHN: come on rose, out with it, what did you revive me for? What's my part in your plans?
Rose looks at you for a moment before turning her head to look straight ahead, her hands gripping the bed sheets.
ROSEBOT: I can see why you would think that.
ROSEBOT: Believe it or not John, I didn't bring you back to life as some cogwheel in my machinations.
ROSEBOT: Is it so hard to believe that I did this out of the goodness of my heart?
ROSEBOT: That I did it because I missed you?
ROSEBOT: That I did it because I was so wracked with guilt it made me unfocused?
ROSEBOT: I care about you John, and I couldn't let you rot in that wallet a moment longer, especially on your birthday.
JOHN: wait, today's april 13th?
ROSEBOT: John, I'm pouring my heart out here. Metallic and unfeeling, but still. I need you to focus.
JOHN: oh, uhm, sorry.
ROSEBOT: Well, happy birthday John. I give you the gift of a free life.
For a moment, you're speechless. An awkward silence fell, and you scratch your neck just to fill the void. You take a look at Rose. You really take a good look at her. At first glance, her metallic body seems the spitting image of robotic perfection... but a closer inspection reveals several scratches, and segments where new parts replace old ones. In particular, her right arm looks newer than her left one. She turns to look at you, and just for the briefest of moments her right eye seems brighter than the other.
It occurred to you that Rose never answered one of your most burning questions. Namely, how did she resurrect you. It couldn't have been easy. You have no idea what it cost her in order to bring back a god from a final narrative death beyond the immortality of godtiers. You have no idea how long it took her. You feel ashamed.
JOHN: i'm sorry.
JOHN: sorry of accusing you of wanting something out of me rose.
ROSEBOT: I won't lie to you John, it kind of stings a bit that you thought of that.
ROSEBOT: But I deserve that, and I plan to make amends starting now.
ROSEBOT: I meant it when I said you should do whatever you want you know.
ROSEBOT: You followed my instructions and died for it, so I'm offering you freedom John.
ROSEBOT: True freedom of choice.
ROSEBOT: Whether you want to run away from this ship, with Terezi and with or without me, whether you want to return to Earth C, to head off Calliope, to confront Dirk, to help me, or whatever your heart's desire even if it means taking over all of Paradox Space.
ROSEBOT: You are free to do so.
ROSEBOT: Our very existence is no longer at stake, and there is no narrative drive to push us one way or the other, other than our own.
ROSEBOT: If you would have it, my advice and support are yours to ask as well.
ROSEBOT: You should have more faith in yourself John.
ROSEBOT: You make good decisions most of the time.
ROSEBOT: Of course, if you would rather surrender your free will to me, I can always use my very own court jester to entertain me when I'm bored.
ROSEBOT: Dance, Egbert, dance!
JOHN: hahaha rose. fat chance of that.
ROSEBOT: Darn, I knew I should have told you to do that when you asked.
JOHN: you snooze you lose lalonde. i would have made the best jester too.
ROSEBOT: That you would John.
Another silence falls, but this time it's comfortable. So many possibilities are available to you, now that the fate of the universe isn't on your shoulders. You consider the options Rose offered, as well as others she didn't mention.
Suddenly, Rose stands up, looking alarmed.
ROSEBOT: I'm sorry John, we'll have to cut this discussion short.
ROSEBOT: Dirk is about to awaken.
JOHN: oh shit! what should we do?
ROSEBOT: For now, you don't have to do anything.
ROSEBOT: Dirk doesn't consider you as a threat to his plans, so him knowing you're here shouldn't pose an immediate danger to us.
JOHN: hey! i resent that!
JOHN: i am very threatening!
ROSEBOT: Yes John. You are a very threatening man.
ROSEBOT: In fact, had I not upgraded into my new robot body, I dare say I would have swooned myself into a coma, coming down with a case of the vapors unlike anything ever seen before in Paradox Space or since.
JOHN: that's right!
ROSEBOT: Tell me John, is my eyerolling not an obvious enough sign of my intent to mock you or should I put my sarcasm mode into overdrive?
ROSEBOT: Anyway, where was I?
ROSEBOT: Oh yes, Dirk would most likely ignore The Most Threatening Man In Existence, and ensure that I'll still help him with his plans even with the inclusion of you.
ROSEBOT: So for now, just stay in this room, and think of what you really want, while I go meet with Dirk.
ROSEBOT: When I return, I'll bring Terezi with me, and we can discuss our plans further.
You smile at Terezi's name being mentioned, and Rose makes her way to the almost invisible door, opening it. Rose stood at the door for a moment, then turned around and gave you a patented Strilonde hug. She never had Jane's womangrit, but the robot body she's currently inhabiting is quite strong, resulting in a crushing hug rivaling your own. Despite feeling the cool metal all around you, you warm up all the same.
ROSEBOT: You did great John.
ROSEBOT: You really, truly did.
ROSEBOT: Now, the rest is up to you.
She released you from her hug, opened the door, and stepped outside. As she closed the door she makes one final remark, smiling warmly.
ROSEBOT: But whatever you do, I hope I'm a part of it.
She closed the door, leaving you alone with your thoughts.
A young man stands alone in what is apparently his new bedroom. It just so happens that today, the 13th of April (or so Rosebot said), is this young man's birthday. Though it was twenty-three plus X (where X equals the number of years that has passed since the young man's apparent narrative death) years ago when he was given life, and thirteen years after that when he was given a name, it feels like it is only today that his life is truly his to use as he desires, free from interference. Narrative or otherwise.
That young man is YOU, John Egbert.
You are finally free to live, and the future is yours.