A/N: If you want to see this with story with proper formatting for the pesterlogs and the bolded bits at the end, you can check out my Ao3 version of this that's linked in my profile.

Rated PG-13 under the assumption everyone is used to Dave's language by now. Otherwise, there's nothing to warn for. Part one of probably eight.

Written as a fill for a prompt.


LEDE

Part I: Time


You were never supposed to remember.

You were never supposed to fuckin' remember.

This isn't how the game's supposed to work. The scratch is called a hard reset for a reason. It means starting over from square one with a clean slate. Memories don't come with the package, or aren't supposed to, but you guess the game made you some kind of special exception (hahaha hehehe), because you remember. You remember everything, and you don't know what to think.

Except that something must have gone terribly wrong.

-(ø)-

It takes only seconds.

And Dave has no idea that these few seconds are all he has left: mere moments upon which to make his mark and etch his name in a broken universe that will soon forget him anyway.

Something red flashes across his vision, spiderwebbing into a network of veins that spread like miles of broken glass. His feet search for solid ground but find none upon which to stand. His hands grasp for something—anything—that isn't air even though gravity can no longer be called his master. He can no longer hear anything, except for a deep, almost inaudible croaking rumble that reverberates around him like a voice that has traveled for a thousand years across the vast expanse of space just to be heard before deteriorating into dust. The light of a million stars suddenly blinks out in a desperate zig-zag across his vision, not one by one but all at once, which can't possibly be right.

Then he realizes it's because he can no longer see. He's blind. He's goddamn blind and now he couldn't move a single finger if he tried. He can't even will his own lungs to breathe.

Then something within him jerks, like electricity is ripping a pathway through his nervous system.

He feels his heart beat once—

(He inwardly reaches for something that will remind him of wind, space, and light, because he no longer has time.)

Then

everything

stops.

-(ø)-

You are ten when you begin to remember.

Though you think the memories were always there—all thirteen years of them—waiting for you to find them. Waiting for you to walk through the old, long-forgotten hallways of a life best left to the restless ghosts and dreaming dead, and disturb the dust that has settled there so that you can finally remember and breathe the memories deep into your lungs, endowing them with life and purpose again so that they can become the most important part of you.

It starts when you receive a pair of turntables for your birthday, along with an audio mixer that probably shouldn't belong to a child of your age and inexperience. You shouldn't really even have something like this in the first place. Parents are just another word in the dictionary of things you don't have, and you've been shuffled from foster home to foster home more times than you'd care to remember or count (though you do; you always do), but you forget to forget. There's no one that you can name willing to spend that much money on a birthday present for someone without a real last name, and only a discerning few would even know that you'd want anything like this in the first place. You keep your inner feelings as hidden as the color of your eyes behind your shades.

You're living in a group home when you turn ten, it functioning as a temporary place for you to stay while a suitable foster family is located. You've learned to turn December 3rd into any other day, barely acknowledging it (as if you are too cool for things as stupid as birthdays; you've had nine of them all ready, what's one more?), but now this one changes December 3rd into a potent catalyst for everything that follows.

The gifts come courtesy of a generous benefactor who will one day attempt to conquer everything she has within her power to destroy.

(But first she must set the stage, bide her time, and wait. She knows the rules of the game, and it suits her methods just fine for now: to extend hope and friendship only to annihilate it later, like she has with countless planets before this one. Let them all call this charity. Let the former hero have his advantage for the moment, as the players of this world's game must have every advantage given to them, which includes strengthening the guardians who will someday watch over them. Let this little one have something that he perhaps might recognize as once his. Let him feel the vinyl under his palms and fall prey to hypnotizing eddies of time through the music. The things that hurt the most, after all, are the things that lie closest to the heart; the things that you yearn for but can never hope to have, though they were once within your reach.)

It's part of series of lavish donations to the home and the children reside there. But it is this particular set of gifts that will turn every room you will ever sleep in (and there will be many) into a living patchwork of cords and wires as you use music as a way to take the edge off the growing void in your chest, filling it with the sounds that you (the other you, though you are both one and the same) had created long before.

But first it fills you with memories.

As soon as you lay down the tone arm and let the record spin, you feel something akin to familiarity swell beneath your fingertips, while something else stirs in the darkest and most protected corners of your mind. You're finally waking up, even though you have always been awake; you just hadn't known it yet.

-(ø)-

You remember Bro. You remember how he died, his own katana driven through his chest and out his back like he was made out of paper. You remember wondering why he couldn't just be hurt but breathing instead (because it just wasn't right, seeing him lying there like that like something broken), while your mind tried to make sense of it all and think up a viable explanation for how the hell the whole thing even happened, because until then Bro had always been immortal. Him being dead will never stop being wrong, will never stop burning as if LOHAC is living underneath your skin.

But most of all you remember how he lived.

You remember (vaguely) being a child just learning how to walk as he guides you through it, though he might as well be training you for the future ectobaby olympics considering his questionable teaching methods. You remember falling, and him watching you fall. You remember crashing into the floor over and over again like it was your destiny to fall forever. But, really, what you remember most is standing up each and every time and walking towards him through the labyrinth of smuppets that cover the floor, because it's then (and only then) that you can see the first hint of something like pride radiating from him, the slight two-pixel-long crack in his otherwise stoic facade that might as well be a smile.

(But maybe you were just seeing things.)

He lets you fall many other times throughout the years, rarely, if ever, stepping in, because pain (as Bro will tell you many times as your ass meets hard, unyielding pavement) isn't something you can avoid, no matter the walls and safeguards you build around yourself. It's much more worthwhile to learn to deal and get back up no matter how much it inwardly hurts, because pain is nothing really. So what if it hurts? Hell, it doesn't hurt. Play numb if you have to. What's really something is rising up again and again and again until your knees are raw, red, and bleeding from hitting ground so many times, because there are many things worth standing for, even if your only goal in life is just to prove that you can.

And no matter how distant Bro kept himself emotionally at times, teaching you by iron stalwart example to keep everything cool and independent behind your sunglasses, he was never really that far away now that you think about it. He always expected you to push yourself to your limit, but never to the breaking point. He was insane (but cool, always cool; and he knew how to ramp irony up to the eleventh as if he had invented it himself like the Greeks had invented Zeus), but you think he knew exactly what he was doing. You wonder now how much he knew and never bothered to tell you.

You also remember other things.

You remember future-past Houston and its blistering heat. The sounds of cawing crows flying without a care around your high-rise apartment only to die and be reborn and die again.

You remember how it felt to hold a sword. To fly along the rooftop and move with purpose, allowing your own momentum to carry you forward as your brother danced flashstep circles around you while Cal grinned and cackled without ever having to make a sound.

You remember the game. You remember the meteors that streaked across the sky and caused the world to go up in flames and normal life as you knew it to die. You remember the imps, the euphoria of dashing through time over and over again on constant repeat until it became routine. The ticking heartbeat of LOHAC as you climbed up the echeladder. The naknaknak of jaws and the cha-ching of boondollars filling your digital piggy bank as you dominated the stock exchange. You can still feel the bullets tearing through your chest, the pain that follows, and the warm blood that soaks through your shirt as you discover what it feels like to die.

You remember the trolls. How they finally looked as you rose out of the Green Sun to meet them even though you had expected nothing to remain of you. You remember Terezi (H3H3H3H3 D4V3 1S TH4T R34LLY YOU?), and there's not a moment you don't look up in the star-saturated sky and see her there.

But most of all, you remember them.

-(ø)-

turntechGodhead [TG] began bothering ectoBiologist [EB] at 1:34 -

TG: hey john
TG: what are you doing
TG: where are you
TG: i know for a fact the crocker factory still exists in washington
TG: just thought you might want to know fyi
TG: sos plz respond because houston we have fuckin situation here
TG: quick i just turned on the egbert signal

— ectoBiologist [EB] does not exist or has been culled! —

TG: hey man this is your cue
TG: you know to gasp and panic and shit because we just crashed into the goddamn iceberg that trolled the titanic
TG: until you finally realize a split second later that THIS IS STUPID because we all know jack had it coming and the iceberg was doing the entire universe a favor
TG: in fact all jacks have it coming and i hope the other douchebag gets an iceberg jammed so far up his ass that he ends up landing right into the waiting arms of steve fucking irwin
TG: or jades
TG: just so i could see her hit him with a newspaper
TG: make my year right there
TG: being totally sincere here
TG: ok
TG: ok so
TG: dude where are you
TG: did betty crocker stuff you like violet bratregarde or something
TG: because jesus christ
TG: she really does have her tentacles into everything this time
TG: psst dont tell anyone but i think she might be a monster from another planet
TG: good one right
TG: just like you probably wanted
TG: because i think bettys trying to give the whole world food poisoning
TG: and become americas most important shitty food group fed to children in school cafeterias everywhere because it has toppled the food pyramid
TG: so maybe you were onto something
TG: in fact im gonna go grab the keys to that minivan right now
TG: i mean it
TG: because im sick of wearing this goddamn pansy ass princess cuddlefish death tiara
TG: ...
TG: ironically
TG: ironically
TG: look
TG: it was either that or this stupid skull top thing ok even the aliens in indiana jones wouldnt have wanted to put their grubby faux russian hands on that thing
TG: hells to the no was i wearing that abomination. and you can bet im ditching the doom diadem as soon as pesterchum gets invented
TG: at least with this i can kind of hide it under my hair
TG: or you know just smother myself with a pillow when i start to feel like a pretty pretty princess tool
TG: its also kind of like a suicide mind viewfinder in the first place anyway full of advertisements that get into your mind and shit that would give anyone a virus because its so stupid while subliminally telling you at the same time youre better off just killing yourself
TG: where is the upset and morally outraged parent committee anyway
TG: because everyone sure wants their kid to come home and say "hey mom dad what does cull mean?"

— ectoBiologist [EB] does not exist or has been culled! —

TG: anyway
TG: pretty sure technology like this is not supposed to exist yet
TG: but whatever
TG: given up trying to figure this place out
TG: i guess since youre not here right now
TG: ill just
TG: actually no i have to get this off my chest
TG: he still sucks dude im sorry
TG: nickholas cage i mean
TG: nicholas
TG: nick
TG: w/e man
TG: still say it sounds like a drug rehabilitation center for deadbeat santas and nicotine addicted elves
TG: point is he still hasnt realized he cant act worth crap yet
TG: hes still pretending that he can
TG: and its the saddest thing ive ever seen in my fucking life
TG: nevermind the fact that a baby with no lines had more inherent charisma and acting ability in that one movie he was in than he does in this one
TG: jesus why am i even watching this
TG: its so inane
TG: look
TG: its almost moved me to tears because i need something to wash the collective shit ive just watched out of my eyes before its too late
TG:
TG:
TG: i guess ill go now
TG: but one last thing
TG: john
TG: i dont know what the hell happened or if this is just normal or what
TG: or if something went wrong or nothing did
TG: but if somethings wrong
TG: and i messed up
TG: or the universe just fucked us over somehow
TG: you know what
TG: nm

turntechGodhead [TG] ceased bothering ectoBiologist [EB]

turntechGodhead [TG] began bothering ectoBiologist [EB] at 1:53

TG: ill fix it

— ectoBiologist [EB] does not exist or has been culled! —

turntechGodhead [TG] ceased bothering ectoBiologist [EB]

-(ø)-

The memories filter in slowly in the beginning—remembering things at first feels like moving a limb that has atrophied from years of disuse, the muscles stiff and reluctant and painful—but it does not take long for them to spiral into a cascading deluge, threatening to overload your whole system as you begin to remember everything. There are times you can hardly function because of the memories, all of them a welcome migraine pounding against your skull that threatens to block out everything else, until you sometimes can't tell the present from your forgotten past. It's not like watching a favorite movie, staring at old black and white photographs, or reading a journal in a familiar hand—there is no disconnect, no divide between you and your apparent doppelgänger. You feel every memory. It's never Dave Strider. It's you.

It takes you years to remember it all—three long years in which you live out thirteen condensed years of one life (time as it turns out is every bit as relative as Einstein postulated it to be) while drifting through the other like a ghost who's finally realized he's been dead since the moment he first opened his eyes.

You think the memories influenced your childhood, even when you couldn't recall then at will like you can now, and remember them all as if they were merely a part of your eternal thirteen-year yesterday. Even when you were younger, you remember having flashes of things—images, feelings, faces with no name—though you could never connect the dots and say this is who i was and this is who i am and this is who i was meant to be, because there was no reason to it, only vague impressions that only make sense in hindsight. Until now everything flew over your head, the stuff you remembered little more than snapshots of infrequent images and emotions that came and went too fast for your eyes to follow and your heart to comprehend. You only had the sense that maybe you had once been something more, that life maybe had been much better, and you had had some place in the world.

But that life is one you can no longer go back to.

You're not even sure if it's real.

And that's what hurts the most.

-(ø)-

turntechGodhead [TG] began bothering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 4:13

TG: hey lalonde
TG: stop the presses
TG: hurry and set your purple wizard wand down grab a pen and tell cthulhu to plant his tentacled ass onto the mindscrew couch and behave for a minute because ive got a goddamn show stopper for you that isnt full of nsfw classic freudian dick envy
TG: youll need every neuron working in your head to psychoanalyze this one
TG: listen to this:
TG: i think i might be going crazy
TG: going insane
TG: coming down with every complex compulsive psychotic neurological brain disorder in existence and then some
TG: mind = blown right?

— tentacleTherapist [TT] does not exist or has been culled! —

TG: i know
TG: it all makes sense now
TG: i mean why else would it be 1993 when i think it should be still april 13 2009
TG: johns birthday
TG: unless im crazy
TG: or maybe its secretly 2009 and im thinking its 1990
TG: 1993
TG: whatever
TG: point is i just had a mental breakthrough or breakdown or whatever you want to call it
TG: an epiphany
TG: forget about god tier and that shit because ive just surpassed it using my mind
TG: i have achieved maximum enlightenment
TG: buddha tier
TG: i am ron hubbard and 2000 years ago i was siddartha himself
TG: and i will now lead you by the hand down the path of noble truths because i now know the meaning of life the entire universe and pretty much everything
TG: i have found the answer to The Ultimate Question
TG: underlined because im dave fucking strider and i am amazing
TG: in fact ill share the answer with you if you want
TG: right here right now
TG: no need to get jealous because youre the seer and should know something as simple as this
TG: i usually charge but for you ill make an exception because youre my ecto sister and all and were tight like that
TG: you ready?
TG: better get your needlewands and knit yourself a flying carpet because this is big
TG: so big i cant describe it without spoiling dumbledores death for everyone ever
TG: dont try to hide how angry you were when you accidentally had that spoiled for you on some internet board or something
TG: is that what made you decide to write wizard fanfics
TG: because that would make sense now that i think about it

— tentacleTherapist [TT] does not exist or has been culled! —

TG: so
TG: anyway
TG: the answer
TG: right
TG: ...
TG: ...
TG: ...
TG: ...
TG: ...
TG: dont mind me im just building up suspense because the answer to life shouldnt be given out lightly without any fireworks and blaring patriotic universe fanfare
TG: you can still turn back if you want
TG: wait. now its too late
TG: hold on to your fake muggle wizard hat because this is gonna rock your mind and rewrite all the psychobabble textbooks you own
TG: and maybe make lovecraft roll in his grave
TG: the answer to life the universe and everything inbetween and beyond
TG: The Ultimate Answer ladies and gentlemen and lalondes is
TG: 413
TG: you were totally expecting something different and stereotypical werent you
TG: i knew it
TG: but what does this mean you say
TG: hell if i know
TG: its just a number
TG: numbers
TG: ones that terezi is obsessed with
TG: and i guess it seemed like a good idea at the time
TG: ok
TG: ok
TG: im done
TG: you made up your mind about me yet lalonde?
TG: so your differential diagnosis
TG: crazy or not crazy
TG: am i losing my mind
TG: am i being stupid
TG: because im talking to ghosts here
TG: i mean

— tentacleTherapist [TT] does not exist or has been culled! —

TG: apparently you dont exist
TG: any of you i guess
TG: maybe you just havent yet or did or im not looking hard enough
TG: maybe im just special
TG: ie crazy
TG: for thinking all the stuff i dream about and see is real
TG: i really dont have much proof
TG: and you probably wouldnt remember anything or me anyway
TG: any of you
TG: things are different
TG: i get that
TG: thats how things are supposed to work with the scratch right
TG: or whatever that weird douchebastard told you
TG: you probably live a different life now
TG: youre probably not even a lalonde anymore because i sure didnt crashland here or whatever a strider
TG: because bro isnt around to knight me one i guess
TG: just dave
TG: universal constant
TG: and ive looked for lalondes
TG: ive looked for egberts and harleys
TG: and maybe id be fine with it if i knew a few more things
TG: minds kind of fuzzy after we went god tier and karkat got hit in the face with a bucket
TG: just images and stuff after that and noise and i dont understand much
TG: but i think maybe something went wrong
TG: but im no seer
TG: youre the seer
TG: and maybe all of you and maybe me
TG: the alpha timeline me
TG: and davesprite
TG: are still on your way here
TG: i dont know
TG: you tell me
TG: so what do i have to get to get your attention
TG: yours or the other yous
TG: short of posting an excerpt of your wizard fanfic online when the internet starts to become a huge thing or putting it in rainbow falls local woodsy newspaper and hoping youll read it and sue me for plagiarism
TG: come on
TG: toss me a fortune cookie here
TG: be as vague as you want
TG: i know what im looking for
TG: point me in the right direction so i can start finding it
TG: rose
TG: i dont think i can be the dave of guy anymore
TG: i tried
TG: am trying
TG: but i dont want to have to anymore

turntechGodhead [TG] ceased bothering tentacleTherapist [TT]

-(ø)-

How is someone supposed to live a life that's already come and gone?

It's hard. You've been trying to permanently juggle your new reality with the one in your memories. Shake it up in a glass and let it coalesce until there's no difference between them. You don't feel different, really, other than being constantly alone. You don't think you could tell the difference between you and the other you besides how you grew up.

You jump around foster families as the years wear by, but you soon find yourself in that one group home again. Permanently this time. Betty Crocker is as generous and as creepy as ever and sets you (and every other kid in the home) up with a sizable trust fund in your name that you can access as soon as you turn eighteen. It's supposed to be for college and shit, you guess, but there aren't any rules you have to follow to withdraw it other than being eighteen. The company apparently doesn't care what you do with the money as long as it looks good in the initial press release or whatever.

You start working as soon as you can, if only to distract yourself and put money in your bank account so that you can leave as soon as possible.

And you do just that four months before you turn eighteen. Just pack up your bags and abscond. You've already arranged for a place to stay (in the exact same apartment that you and your Bro stayed in all those years ago) though you had to pull some crazy shenanigans just to do it. You have more than enough money to live off of for a few months until your birthday comes around. You're not really worried about that; you just had to get out.

It's kind of odd how no one really questions or asks or looks for you after you disappear. It's like the whole world is being numbed and brainwashed and just doesn't care too much about one dumb kid who blends almost seamlessly into the cracks. They're too busy with other things.

If this is what life's going to be like from now on you don't want it. There are too many things missing.

-(ø)-

turntechGodhead [TG] began bothering gardenGnostic [GG] at 3:41

TG: hey harley
TG: wake up already so we can get this crazy fun party started
TG: i mean jesus christ
TG: you must really be narcoleptic this time around because you sleep more than a cat in a narcotic coma
TG: are you even still living on that guam frogvolcano island
TG: because if you still have your devilbeast dog of yours
TG: hell maybe hes a flying squirrel or a velociraptor this time
TG: now would be a good time to teach him how to fetch a few things with his crazy nuclear powers
TG: anyway this is just a heads up
TG: i made some mixes the other day
TG: put them on some cds and a couple tapes as backup for good measure
TG: sent them to your old or maybe current or maybe nonexistent address
TG: like the other stuff you probably havent gotten
TG: i have more return mail than you would believe
TG: im starting to feel like a postman whos constantly delivering stuff to himself
TG: but so yeah you have an epic package headed your way
TG: maybe youll even recognize some of them
TG: maybe youll like them maybe you wont i guess
TG: its cool either way
TG: just listen to them alright
TG: youre probably strapped for good sick beats wherever you are
TG: also it snowed here the other day
TG: didnt survive long though
TG: considering this is texas
TG: and snow is a heathen abomination
TG: thank god
TG: still just about froze my ass off
TG: hope youre happy
TG: almost tried to make an ironic furry snowanimalman out of the mushy snowflake vomit
TG: since
TG: you know
TG: i apparently have lots of time now
TG: except i still didnt
TG: at all
TG: because why would i
TG: striders are too cool for that
TG: but you can imagine me doing that if it makes you happy

— gardenGnostic [GG] does not exist or has been culled! —

TG: fuck that
TG: we both know thats not true
TG: hey harley
TG: jade
TG: jade
TG: jade
TG: come on
TG: earth to jade
TG: baa ram ewe
TG: calling the anthropomorphically inclined
TG: thats you btw
TG: hit me with all youve got
TG: can i get a foxy yip yip yip
TG: id take a woof too
TG: or a meow i guess
TG: but that was that one cattrolls thing
TG: and you strike me as being more of a dog if anything
TG: imagine that
TG: and not just because you prototyped your dreamself with one or because you owned that atomic devil superdog
TG: more like because of your enthusiasm and shit
TG: kind of like a dog wagging its exclamation point tail always happy to see you
TG: unless its in a bad mood or something
TG: because then you learn to watch your back because oh look out here comes jade harley the pacific island guam shepard and she can take a verbal bite out of your ass when she wants to go to town and grow pumpkins
TG: except wait
TG: whats this?
TG: oooooh nooooooo bitch you did not just steal jade dogs pumpkins
TG: worst decision you ever made dude
TG: run rabbit run
TG: jesus wheres the popcorn
TG: this is better than watching karkat argue with himself
TG: enjoy those pumpkins while you can loser
TG: because you soon will be disemboweled
TG: and stuffed
TG: and brought home like a trophy to chill with the other weird dudes pretending to sip tea and hold some kind of intelligent conversation with badass grandpa harley
TG: except you stole his dog granddaughter/daughters pumpkins
TG: so im betting he wont like you much either
TG: hes killed butterflies for less
TG: jade
TG: jade
TG: jade
TG: or new scratched jade
TG: this really isnt the time to be some disney princess and sleep for eternity just because you decided that pricking your finger on a needle was just too much for your heart to take and the evil witch got you
TG: though we both know youre tougher than that so
TG: hey
TG: maybe a house just tried to fall on you or some stupid thing like that
TG: and thats why things are taking so long
TG: because its hard getting out of not kansas sometimes
TG: but if this is true
TG: some word would be nice
TG: hint: just click your heels together and say theres no place like home
TG: then ill start looking somewhere over the rainbow for the yellow brick road and well go home together with john and rose
TG: and john can apologize profusely for that tornado because winds his thing
TG: and rose can stop that kleptofingered girl from stealing your shoes because shes a seer witch and she can take bectoto away from dorothy too while shes at it
TG: though i still say you should leave him with dorothy no offense
TG: look
TG: theres no place like home alright?
TG: theres no magic number
TG: three times or less or more doesnt matter
TG: just say the word and im there ok

turntechGodhead [TG] ceased bothering gardenGnostic [GG]

-(ø)-

You never stop looking for them.

There's never a moment when you don't wish someone, anyone would appear out of the Texas haze and tell you you're not crazy for believing so hard in something that you can't prove exists.

Well, there are trivial things, you guess, that you could use to verify your memories. Predicting movies that will come out, who the next president of the United States will be, significant historical events, and stuff like that, but it's all just useless trivia to you and it's just not enough. You need something else. Something bigger. Something tangible to thread your fingers through.

You need something real.

Something so real it hurts to hold on to. Something that would sear your retinas just to look at. Something that will burrow so far down into your skin and bones that you'll bleed and ache from the absolute realness and certainty of it.

You need someone to appear out of thin air like he's been here this entire time, watching you, just so he can say what are you talking about, dave, my taste in movies is awesome and you know it!

You need someone to hurry up and laugh in your ear and shove a million universe frogs into your arms for good measure and tell you that youre being silly dave! of course everything happened!

You need someone with a nasty wicked purple ball of deadly dream yarn to wake you up again and order you in a tone laced with latent sarcasm to For lack of a better phrase, man up and look into the sky, Strider. Stop drowning out the world with your music and listen.

But, of course, things usually don't turn out how you want them to—how you imagine them to every fucking day of every fucking minute of every fucking hour.

But one day you really do remove your headphones for once and look up. It's a clear December day with not a cloud in sight, and you turn your head only to see a meteor blaze a burning smoke trail through the sky.