It takes a few moments for this fact to sink in but once it does a sort of chill falls over you. You stand up without a word, sliding your shades onto your face, and turn around. Rose is still talking but you're already walking away, numb. Her hand falls on your elbow and at the slight backwards pull you snap. The next thing you know you're outside, body tingling and out of breath, and you realize you just flash-stepped the fuck out of there for the first time

You don't have time to enjoy it, though, because then you're off and running.

Your mind stays blank throughout the entire six mile run back to the shithole of an apartment you share with your older brother, and you pray to every non-troll god you can think of that he's not there when you get back. Which only serves to make certain that he is there, sitting at the kitchen table and staring right at you when you walk in. You can't deal with this right now, your poker face is ripped to shreds, you're so uncool right now you're taking a lava bath in Hephasteus's forge, and when Bro raises a single eyebrow at you you break.

"I think I killed John," you blurt before you can stop yourself, and abscond.

Your room is dark, but you know the layout by heart, and easily make your way to your bed. You pull the covers up over your head and bury your face into the pillow, heart pounding painfully in your chest and pulse pounding against your temples. It hurts, everything hurts, the only thing you can see is John's face-


-vomiting and falling onto the floor-

-telling you he couldn't breathe-

and before you know it you're crying.

You only realize you forgot to close your window when you hear your fucking ninja of a brother climbing in through it. You pull the blankets tighter over your head when you hear the bedsprings creak and feel the mattress dip. You're practically gagging yourself with your pillow by now, trying not to let a sound escape you, because you cannot bear to take any shit from him right now, cannot take the barbed and jagged-edged missile fire of his irony when all of your cool has been stripped from you and you are laid bare, as vulnerable as the day you fell from the sky on a fucking meteor.

Then Bro is rubbing your back, like he used to years and years ago when you'd spend the entire night awake and shaking from nightmares of Sburb. You make a choked noise before you can help it and flinch a bit- you don't deserve any form of comfort right now- and you hear him sigh.

The blankets are pulled the slightest bit away from your face and you see Bro's pointy-edged sunglasses hit the pillow.

You freeze.

Then you flip the fuck out as he bundles you up, blanket and all, and pulls you into his lap.

"W-what the fuck, Bro!" you sputter, cringing at the sound of your voice, and make the mistake of looking up at him. His red, red eyes, the exact twin to your own, look directly back at you, and you're helplessly captivated.

He's rubbing your back again, you realize slowly. You duck your head, unable to keep the eye contact even through your shades. The contact soothes you (however unwillingly) and as you calm down your story spills out in short bursts, hampered by your gritted teeth and a catch in your breath.

"Left Harley and Lalonde in the hospital t'wait with his dad," you finish hoarsely, head tucked tight under Bro's chin. The smooth metronome of his breaths provide some calm in the storm of your emotions.

Bro doesn't respond, except ot card his fingers through your hair (once, twice,) the rough palm of his leather glove catching the strands briefly and mussing it up even more before he gives you a little push. You roll off his lap obediently and he stands up, snagging his glasses again and settling them over the bridge of his nose. "I'll drive you to the hospital tomorrow morning," is the only thing he says as he unlocks your door and leaves you with a cold side, redder-than-usual eyes, and a lot of things to think about.

Bro really meant it when he said 'tomorrow morning-' it's 5 AM when you're woken with a puppet ass to the face and a frozen bottle of apple juice shoved down the back of your shirt. "Leavin' in ten, little dude," he drawls as you swear at him, scrabbling away from the icy bottle and chucking the smuppet right back at him. It hits the wall and you hear him chuckle.

You dress, scrub your face to get rid of the shameful salty residue there, and head downstairs to Bro's truck. The ride to the hospital is silent- you don't realize you're jittering all over the place until Bro shoots you a look.

You hope he's alive.

Fuck, you'd even pray to Karkat if it meant he was aliveā€¦

Bro drops you off in front- obviously not coming in with you- and you walk up to the front desk with only minor trepidation.

The woman there won't tell you anything, though, no matter how much or how politely you ask.

"Gog damn it, I just want to know if he's alive or not!" you finally snarl at the receptionist, only mildly gratified at how she recoils the slightest bit, wariness blossoming in her eyes. The bitch should be wary- you're the motherfucking Knight of Time, you've done things she probably couldn't even imagine-

And your train of thought is broken when someone lays their hand on your shoulder and squeezes.

You tilt your head.

It's Rose. Jade is behind her, with Mr. Egbert.

You lower your hand from the receptionist's desk and shove it into your pocket, turning fully to face them. Well, not 'face' them- you don't even want to look at Mr. Egbert after what you did to his son. He has every right to hate you, all of them do-

But Jade is on you, her arms squeezing around your chest as you stand there awkwardly. "Harley, you already punched me out," you grumble, a little out of breath. "Don'tcha think that was enough punishment?"

"Shut up," she mutters back, squeezing harder, "and hug me, you ass."

You do.

Then, with Rose and Jade on either side of you, you follow Mr. Egbert down the hallway to John's room.