Chapter 9

Dave's ferocious roar echoed through the space as he lunged, attacking Terezi with as much force as he felt passion. She dodged his attack, sliding her baton off his sword to land a hit at his side. He narrowly fell back in time to avoid it, knocking her baton astray. She came back immediately, aiming one kick and then another in swift succession, pushing him back towards the wall. He blocked and dodged and backed away. She didn't pursue, pausing. They stared at one another.

She slid her hands into her robes, pulling two orbs out from her pockets.

"Why?"

She fingered the orbs, red tinted glasses blank, revealing nothing.

"WHY?"

He flash-stepped and she tossed her balls into the air. They burst into a haze of confusing white powder. He didn't stop. He bulldozed through the chalky air and they fought once more, arm meeting arm, leg meeting leg, sword clashing with her recovered baton. She wasn't as fast, but he was tired, and the chalky air made it hard to see, breathe and think. He got impatient. He jumped time.

Two other Daves appeared and circled around Terezi, closing her in. She backed away, her head turning from side to side, analyzing the situation. Her fingers went to her robes again.

"Don't even think about it."

The two Daves grabbed each wrist. Terezi stopped moving and turned to current Dave, red glasses looking directly into his own. She scowled.

"YOU N33D TO STOP W1TH TH3 T1M3 JUMP1NG D4V3."

"Unfair advantage?"

"1M T1R3D OF H4V1NG TO K1LL YOU."

With a sudden motion, Terezi shoved her hands towards the faces of the two Daves at her side. They went down, coughing and gasping as she spun around. Suddenly the air was filled with a gaseous substance. Dave covered his face, but apparently too slowly, because he was soon coughing and gasping himself, finding it hard to breathe in the thickening air. The other two Daves that had been closer to the poisonous gas had taken the brunt of it, sinking down to their knees. Dave felt a pressure in his skull, getting light-headed, as he sunk to the floor himself.

Out of his hazy vision, he could see Terezi in front of him. She'd slipped something else out of her robes. A gas mask? She was adjusting the straps on her face. Dave stared at her as he sank, a mixture of disbelief, betrayal and anger probably spread across it. This was incredulous. Did he lose? Did he really lose? Was this it for him?

Before he went down completely, Terezi grabbed him up by the armpits, yanking him back. She dragged him away from the other Daves.

"Tere… zi…" he spit out. His mouth felt sluggish, like there was a delay between his thought processes and his motor reflexes. Terezi dragged him to WV's side, whose wide orb eyes stared at everything in shock and surprise, and she deposited him there, panting as she stood up. She pressed a button on the wall, lowering a thick wall between the three of them and the two dying Daves.

Dave fell over, lying flat on the ground, as Terezi's gas mask turned back to him, a red hazy imprint in his vision. She approached as unconsciousness finally set in. He passed out.

xXxXxXxXxXx

Dave was lying in the dark. Or maybe it was more apt to say that he could see nothing but darkness. His eyes moved under his eyelids and blurry colors and patterns took shape, but nothing concrete emerged. He couldn't peel his eyes open either. It felt like there was a heavy weight spread across them, encasing his body entirely. He couldn't open his eyelids or shift a finger or twist from the spot.

Black things swished past his vision and cackles emerged, surrounding him, filling the air. He strained to twist away.

Something touched his face. Soft. A piece of fabric?

Then body heat as someone kneeled down beside him, running a finger over his face, his cheek, his jaw.

Dave.

Lips were lowered to his cheek as they smiled against him.

D4V3.

He strained to swat them away, scowl at them, express his anger. A low growl came out of his throat.

Their laughter tinkled in his ears. Her laughter.

He was lifted up, yanked up by the back of his own collar. She dragged a fingernail across his face, deep enough to sting. He hissed in a quick breath of air. Warm blood rolled down his cheek.

Terezi.

She dug in again, this time scraping along his face with both of her nails. He struggled but he still couldn't move. She laughed. Tinkling laughter.

No. This wasn't right. This wasn't how it was supposed to be at all.

Terezi! He mentally screamed at her as her nails continued to dig into his skin. Terezi! Terezi!

Her laughter was all that followed. Soon it was mixed with the cawing of a bird. And then with churning gears that grew louder and louder as they approached.

Terezi. Terezi!

The pain enveloped him. He faded into further darkness.

xXxXxXxXxXx

When he finally awoke again, she was beside him. Her Perp robes were on, but otherwise she looked pretty much like the Terezi he knew and remembered. He tried to lift himself.

She turned his way as he stirred.

"YOU 4W4K3 NOW? SORRY 1 H4D TO KNOCK YOU OUT. TOO M4NY D4V3S 4T ONC3. SOM3T1M3S TH4T H4PP3NS 4ND TH3N TH1NGS G3T R4TH3R BLOODY 4ND 1 4LW4YS H4V3 TO M4K3 SUR3 1 K33P TH3 4LPH4 COPY 4L1V3. 3XH4UST1NG… H3R3. D1NN3R."

Terezi shoved a spoon towards his face. She'd been holding a bowl of soup in her lap. As the spoon came closer, he realized he felt slightly nauseous. Maybe it was the after-effects of the gas.

He moved his face away to decline but her spoon just approached on the other side, so he opened up his mouth and took a sip. The soup was tangy and bitter, but it wasn't bad. The bits of meat tasted gummy in his mouth and he chewed on them silently.

Terezi held up another spoonful to his face.

"Why?"

"YOUV3 B33N KNOCK3D OUT FOR 4 WH1L3. W3 H4V3 TO G3T SOM3TH1NG 1N YOU."

"No, I mean, why this? Why are you the Perp?"

Terezi paused, looking at the bowl of soup in front of her. She shrugged. "1T H4PP3N3D."

"Nothing just happens," he retorted as she raised the spoon again, pressing it to his lips. He opened his mouth and took a sip.

From Dave's side came sudden humming. Dave turned around and WV was sitting there humming to himself, while sipping on his own bowl of soup. His hands were free, unlike Dave's, and he considered a spare piece of paper at his feet that he'd been presumably painting on. It was full of reds and purples and lots of his favorite color, green.

Dave turned back to Terezi. "Have you been mistreating him?"

"WHY WOULD 1 DO TH4T? 1 LOV3 TH3 M4YOR."

"Then why would you do something like this? The Perp is the person who disrupts stability on the meteor. Causes chaos for everyone. A person that we all hate. You were even the number one person trying to catch them. So why would you be…"

"TH3 P3RP 1S TH3 P3RSON 1 CR34T3D D4V3. 1T S3RV3S 4LL OF THOS3 PURPOS3S 4ND 4 LOT MOR3. YOU C4NT H4V3 4 D3T3CT1V3 W1THOUT 4 CR1M1N4L R1GHT?"

"Then can't you stop now? If you did everything just to spice up the meteor, I think it's royally shaken up now, like Ghost Chili someone just poured all over their Mom's garden salad. You got good momentum. If you stop now, maybe no one'll really even know it was you. You can pretend like you scared the person off and now they won't appear again. And you can keep a secret, can't you, Mayor?" Dave turned to WV, who gave a jerky nod, ignoring them while painting. "See, WV's good with secrets."

Terezi's lips rose in a tiny smile. "1TS TOO L4T3 NOW D4V3. YOU KNOW TH4T. 1 H4V3 TO F1N1SH WH4T 1 ST4RT3D."

"But then who's going to catch you? Who's going to be "superhero detective" of the day if it's not you, huh? It needs to be you."

"1V3 4LR34DY S4CR1F1C3D TH4T POS1T1ON WH3N 1 TOOK ON TH1S ON3. 1 KN3W 1T M1GHT 3V3NTU4LLY 3ND TH1S W4Y. YOU C4NT PL4Y BOTH TH3 HUNT3R 4ND TH3 HUNT3D. 3V3NTU4LLY ON3 W1LL W1N OUT. 4ND W1THOUT SOM3ON3 TO CH4S3 TH3R3 W1LL B3 NO HUNT. 1 H4V3 TO T4K3 ON TH1S ROL3 1N ORD3R TO CONT1NU3 TH3 G4M3."

"Is that what you think? Or is that what you've told yourself?"

Terezi sniffed the soup and took a sip. She laid the spoon on the ground and placed the bowl in Dave's chained hands. "1TS COOL 3NOUGH TO S1P NOW."

Terezi stood up. She pulled on her robes.

"Terezi, please, you don't have to do this, alright? You can give up now. Rose might not even be too mad. Well, okay, maybe she'll be a little mad since last time you saw her you put her in the hospital ward… But I can probably convince her not to give you an awful punishment. It'll be chill. Come on."

Terezi leaned down, planting a kiss on his forehead. Her face went blank as she straightened, pulling up her hood. Going over to the panel on the wall, she inserted a key and pushed a button. The thick wall that concealed them from the rest of the platform rose up. The gas and smoke that had coated the platform were gone, as were the bodies of the other two Daves. Dave had to assume they were dead, because otherwise he knew he would've come back for an ass-kicking and ended this whole situation a lot sooner. She said that she was tired of him time-skipping though… did that mean that she'd killed other Daves in the past? Including that Dave he'd sent to tail her?

Terezi—no, the Perp—walked out of their hiding spot, venturing into the platform and heading towards the exit as the wall slowly rolled down again, leaving the two chained captives behind.

Dave stared at the spot on the thick wall where she'd been, as if he could conjure her back into the room with power of will.

WV glanced over and pointed. "That's spilling."

Dave looked down. His soup had tilted over and was now slowly dripping out onto his pants. He righted it again. Took a sip. It actually wasn't bad. Not bad at all. He kept sipping.

xXxXxXxXxXx

Dave found himself wandering within an entirely new setting. There were bulbous soft hills, sharp, jagged cliffs, rusted metal sticking out of random places, and constant churning of gears and soft caws that sounded occasionally in the distance. Oh yeah, and it was as scorching as the end of a red-hot fire poker stick. He kept pausing to wipe his brow from the sweat threatening to fall in his eye. This place was annoying.

He kept on, searching for something. He didn't really have a good idea of what he was searching for, just that it was there and that it was important for him to find it. His sweat made his clothes stick to his skin uncomfortably and he fanned his face with a hand as he walked on. He crossed over bouncy hills, carefully avoided rusty metal ends sticking out from everywhere, climbed and skidded down jagged rocks perched haphazardly over the landscape.

When he reached the pit of hollow ground, he knew he'd found it. A huge X marked the spot. He paused before he started, looking up to wipe the sweat from his brow. That was when he saw her—Terezi. She was on the edge of a rock about forty feet away from him, bent over herself, hair falling into her face. She was dressed in her old clothes, jeans and a t-shirt, and she didn't seem to register his presence. He paused for a second, wondering if he should approach her or call out to her. Or if he should bring out his sword and be ready to defend himself. But she didn't do anything so neither did he. After a few more seconds, Terezi moved, pushing herself up. She walked off and disappeared.

Dave shook his head. It wasn't important now. A breeze had started to roll through, cooling him off slightly. He kneeled down and started to dig.

Dirt flew from the ground as he tossed it over his shoulders. He didn't really care where it landed as it as long as it was disappearing quickly and the hole was widening as it did. Soon his fingernails were caked with dirt and his hands were grubby but he still kept digging. He knew that he had to find it and soon, or else things were going to turn into real shit.

His fingers finally skidded across a metal base and he paused, running his hands across it. That was it. He found the edges and dug around the box, freeing it from the dirt.

By the time that he'd exhumed it, the sky had completely darkened from a light blue into a deep purple and as Dave rose, he became aware of the thundering sound of gears. They crashed around him as his brain caught up with his surroundings. Shit.

A sharp caw was his only warning before a dark blur slid into view directly behind him and slashed in the space his chest had been a moment before.

Dave leaped back and spun, whipping his sword out of his sylladex and raising it in a block in one swift motion as the other sword came for him again. It was longer, a katana, and Dave kicked his attacker backwards before the sword came too close to his face. He'd forgotten that most people had longer weapons than his broken sword and he needed to readjust to compensate.

As the attacker slid backwards, he finally looked at the guy's face. Underneath the familiar white cap was a face he knew.

Dave froze.

Bro?

He didn't really have much time to question anything further because Bro took a step towards him and the strife began. They fought like they usually did, sword striking sword, kick and a dodge, punch and a flash-step. But it didn't feel like any of their other strifes. Bro was bloodthirsty and Dave had the suspicion that if he even was one flash-step too slow he'd be the one gutted on the ground and bled out.

They fought quickly and swift. Just when he thought he might finally have found an opening, Bro closed it off. He kept disappearing and reappearing in the exact spot opposite of the one Dave had been anticipating. Come on, he thought he could read him better than this. But apparently this Bro was really good, and he soon found himself overpowered and outfoxed. The flat of Bro's sword whapped him on the back. Dave collapsed onto his knees. He tried to flash-step up, but Bro cut him off, knocking him back down. Dave groaned and pushed himself up, only to be shoved back down. Bro hovered over him. His weapon was kicked away.

Dave was flipped over, coming to rest on his back, staring straight up at Bro. The man slipped his glasses down, giving Dave a clear view of his eyes. There was disappointment and detest in them. And also rage. A thick, overpowering rage that coated his face and bled into his body motions. As Bro raised his katana above his head, Dave received flashes of memories. Bro facing off with Jack. Bro being defeated, slammed onto the ground like a broken toy. Bro's dead body, blood pooling underneath it, unmoving and silent, dead eyes staring out forever forward. And loud caws, like the stupid crow was watching the playback inside his head and laughing.

Dave grit his teeth, shutting his eyes. He willed it to be quick. The sword came down and sliced into his neck.

xXxXxXxXxXx

He woke up choking on a silent scream. It took him a few tries to place himself. It was completely dark in the confined space and beside him, he could hear light snoring and even a happy gurgle every once in a while. WV was still sleeping. He stayed still for a second, willing his heart to calm down, but his brain was in a state of panic. Sweat rolled off his face. He couldn't breathe.

He saw his Bro's face… again and again… His sword… The pain as it tore into his neck…

Dave curled in on himself, squeezing his eyes tight.

That hadn't been real. That hadn't been real. Bro didn't really hate him. He hadn't just killed him. Bro was already dead. He was gone and there was nothing Dave could do about it anymore. He had to just let it go.

One big fat tear crept out of the side of his eye. Followed by another. Soon, he was sniffling on the floor like a fucking baby. A pathetic sight for a Strider. His Bro would be disappointed in him. In dream space he already was.

Dave had to get over this. He could be better than this. He would be. He couldn't be this pathetic. He wouldn't be.

He shoved the memory into the recesses of his mind, trying to block out everything that had just happened. But in his mind, he knew that Rose had been right… he would eventually have to deal with this. It was already getting to be too much.

But that wasn't now. He could handle it. He could do it himself. He shoved the thoughts back even further. Soon, his panic started to recede and his breath regained a normal rhythm. The fear and guilt and shame went away, replaced by numbness and exhaustion.

He finally slipped back into unconsciousness, falling into a restless, dreamless sleep. Later, he woke up with so many cricks in his body he'd felt like someone had beaten him with a bat in his sleep. He wouldn't be surprised if someone had.

xXxXxXxXxXx

It was bowls of soup again. WV was allowed to eat his own food, but Terezi was still spoon-feeding Dave since his hands were still tied behind him.

"Don't we get any solid food some time?" He'd recovered from his hysterical tearfest last night, and he suspected that his shades probably hid any residual trace of tears so Terezi and WV didn't notice. Whether they noticed the embarrassing snot he'd had to wipe off on his shirt was another issue entirely. But neither of them said anything about it.

"DONT COMPL41N. YOU M1GHT NOT G3T 4NYTH1NG N3XT T1M3."

"Go ahead. Starve me out. Nice skeleton to explain to Rose when she eventually finds me."

Terezi grinned. "N4H. 1T WOULD N3V3R G3T TH4T F4R. 1 L1K3 YOU TOO MUCH 4S YOU 4R3, COOLK1D."

"Completely flattered and swooning in a graceful dip to the ground. With lines like that it's a wonder you weren't wooing all the guys and girls on the ship. Should've all been lined up for your radical quadrant spaces, Tz."

She giggled and leaned down to touch her nose to his. He automatically returned the nose touch, lips alighting in a flash of a smile, before he remembered who he was and who she was and that she was now technically his enemy. He pulled away, tensing and resuming a coolkid expression once more.

WV frowned at them from the other side, muttering something about "alien romance".

"So will you tell me now?" Dave questioned, obediently opening his mouth for a spoonful.

"D1D 1 S4Y TH4T?"

"You said that if I was good and obedient you'd tell me everything. You promised."

"HMMMMMMMM."

"Terezi."

"F1N3. 1LL T3LL YOU 4 B1T."

"A bit? What happened to telling me everything?"

"TH4T W1LL H4PP3N. BUT 1N P4RTS. 1M NOT GO1NG TO S1T H3R3 4ND B3COM3 TH3 LOQU4C1OUS V1LL41N WHO SP1LLS 4LL H3R S3CR3TS B3FOR3 SH3 3V3N PULLS TH3M OFF."

"Alright, fine. So what is it?"

"YOUV3 S33N THOS3 M3T4L SH33TS 1V3 B33N DR4GG1NG 1N R1GHT? 1 GOT TH3 1D34 FROM SOLLUX."

"Wait a second. You've been in contact with Sollux?"

"4ND 3QU1US 4ND 4 F3W OTH3RS. HOW DO YOU TH1NK 1 GOT MY 1D34S? TH3Y T4UGHT M3 4 LOT. 1V3 S33N TH3M 1N QU1T3 4 F3W DR34MBUBBL3S SO F4R."

"Huh." Dave wondered if she'd ever seen Vriska. The blue troll had never mentioned her. But then again, Terezi had never told him about meeting with the others either.

"SO 1TLL B3 US3D 1N MY N3XT TR4P."

"Where's it gonna be this time? Most of the good spots are destroyed."

"H3R3."

Dave cocked an eyebrow.

"TH1S 1S MY F1N4L3. 1 PL4N ON 3ND1NG 1T TH1S T1M3. 1 W4NT TO GO OUT B1G."

"And what happens after you go out big? What happens at the end of this?"

"1 W1N."

"What happens if the Perp wins?"

Terezi's smile stretched wider. "1M4G1N3."

Dave could imagine. Chaos. Sorrow. Defeat. Bringing everyone down to succumb to their deepest fears and terrors. Ruling the meteor maybe? Those are things the Perp would do.

"And you're willing to do that? To win?"

"OF COURS3. 1 WOULDNT H4V3 ST4RT3D TH3 G4M3 1F 1 W4SNT W1LL1NG TO F1N1SH 1T."

"And what if someone else wins? What happens then?"

Terezi was silent for a moment. "TH3N TH3 G4M3 3NDS 4ND JUST1C3 1S S3RV3D. 4S 1T SHOULD B3."

"You don't feel a little disturbed by that? That you wouldn't be on the justice-serving end?"

Terezi shoved a last spoonful into his mouth and then set his bowl down in his lap.

"You didn't finish telling me everything. What are you planning this time? What's the metal exactly for?"

But Terezi had already stood up, pulling her hood over her head and masking her face. She'd gone into pure Perpetrator mode. She turned to leave.

"Terezi."

The Perp paused.

"We're still moirails, right? We're still important to one another?"

She remained still for a few moments longer, before slowly turning towards him, regarding him beneath her hood. The folds of blackness obscured her face, denying Dave the ability to see any flicking emotions on her face. She lowered her hood slightly, red glasses pointed his way.

"YOU KNOW. 1 WOULD H4V3 W4NT3D 1T TO B3 YOU D4V3. 1F TH3 P3RP W3R3 3V3R D3F34T3D. 1 WOULD H4V3 W4NT3D YOU TO B3 TH3 ON3 TO DO 1T."

Dave opened his mouth, but before she explained further she'd already turned and lifted her hood again. The Perp pressed the panel on the wall, opening the hidden wall and slipping under it as it lowered again, shutting them off from the rest of the platform.

xXxXxXxXxXx

He saw her again in a dream. He'd wandered into a forest, filled with dozens of large bright blue and purple trees. He kept walking until he came to a place that felt right. Scalemates hung from the tree branches and small flowers rained down on his head as he paused.

Terezi was there, hunched over in the same position he'd seen her in before, hair covering her face. This time he could see her more clearly. As he moved toward to her the troll didn't move, continuing to sit silently and stare at the ground.

"Terezi?"

"1 TH1NK 1 M4D3 4 M1ST4K3."

He came closer. She was hunched over a scalemate, clutching it in her hands. She didn't move as he approached, staring at the ground. She spoke again.

"1 N3V3R M34NT FOR TH1S TO H4PP3N."

"Yeah, well, I'm sure we all didn't. You can still change it, you—"

She cut him off as she buried her face in her arms. "BUT 1 H4V3 TO F1N1SH 1T. 1 C4NT STOP NOW. 1F 1 DONT TH1NGS WONT 3ND. 4ND TH3Y H4V3 TO 3ND. OR 3LS3 1T WONT B3 F1N1SH3D."

It finally occurred to Dave that she probably wasn't talking to him. Maybe she couldn't even hear him. He watched her as she lifted her head again, running a hand across her arm, scratching along it. It seemed like a nervous motion.

"1 KNOW D3PUTY BURRSBR34TH. 1 M4D3 4 PROM1S3. 1F 1 DONT COMPL3T3 1T WHO 3LS3 W1LL?" She stood up in a huff, snatching up the plush in her lap and grabbing her walking cane. She turned away.

"Listen, Terezi," Dave couldn't help but blurt out, even though he knew she couldn't hear him. "You don't have to follow anything through. It's your choice. Everything is your choice. You can still choose something else."

Terezi stopped walking, pausing for a few seconds. She slowly turned towards him. He saw now that her glasses were off. She stared straight ahead, bright red eyes trained on the space in front of her. She slowly smiled. "1TS F4R TOO L4T3 FOR TH4T."

Wisps of black wrapped themselves around her, slowly covering her arms, her legs, her stomach, completely consuming her. Soon she had transformed into the Perp once more. She faded away, disappearing into blackness, and then she was gone.

xXxXxXxXxXx

The next day, Dave started planning his escape. He thought about time-jumping, but the suspicion that if he'd already jumped time he wouldn't have gotten into this predicament in the first place mixed with the fact that Terezi seemed to find a way to eliminate every double he came up with made him less intent on doing so. No need for even more dead Daves.

He could free himself from the binds, maybe, if he had a sword. Which he didn't anymore. There wasn't anything remotely sharp in the area either. And the only things Terezi routinely brought into the hidden room were spoons and bowls. That wasn't going to tear through rope.

He could trick Terezi into letting him loose, but so far she didn't even let him pee without his hands tied, and seriously, that got a little awkward. Imagine your blind best friend having to unzip and zip you back up without hurting or catching anything. It took a lot of trust.

Dave looked over at WV.

"Psst. Psssssssssssst. Hey. Mayo guy."

WV looked up from his one-man chess game in irritation. "Mayor."

"Got your attention though, didn't I? Look, I gotta ask you something."

"Yes, Knight?"

"You wanna get out of here, right?"

WV cocked his head at him.

"It has to be boring, just cooped up day after day, playing all alone by yourself in here."

WV gave him a confused stare. "I enjoy being alone though. There are less people to interfere with my creations."

"Yeah but… don't you want more people to see your creations? Don't you miss Paint Town?"

WV paused. He turned away.

"You do. You should help me get free, Mayor. Then I can help get you outta here and we can visit it again. And you can see all the others again too. It's simple. All you gotta do is untie my hands." Dave wiggled his fingers for WV to notice.

"I'm playing chess."

"Don't you want to see Paint Town again? It was really magnificent. You remember? I used to go in there and sit in it sometimes and just stare at the walls while you were gone. It's a really nice place."

"I will return when the troll Seer is finished with everything. She gave me all these nice things to entertain myself until then. She's a very nice person, you know."

So Terezi had convinced him to stay there until she was "finished" with everything? No wonder she didn't need to tie him up. He'd be content as long as there were projects for him to do.

"But don't you want to see it sooner?"

"I gave her my word that I would wait. A true Wayward Vagabond does not go back on his word."

Dave sighed, sitting back. He might try needling WV more a bit later, but at this point it didn't look like the little guy would be swayed. Back to figuring out another option.

xXxXxXxXxXx

The next few days were spent in and out of consciousness.

Sometimes Terezi was there. She left the thick wall rolled up so the space wasn't as claustrophobic as she worked on her gadgets. New orbs that she tested against nearby walls and tossed into the air to see how they flew. Strips of metal glued together and gears and wheels that she strung together to create moving walkways. Some kind of wiring.

Sometimes she was Terezi. Laughing and joking and sociable. Other times she was the Perp. Silent, mysterious and distant. He swore the Perp looked through him rather than at him half of the time. And it was no less creepy now that he knew who it was than it had been before.

Sometimes it was just him and WV. They played and joked together. WV didn't seem to be angry at him for failing to rescue him or anything. Or for needling him about it sometimes. In fact he seemed even more content in his space. He had more than enough to entertain himself, painting new artwork and crafting new spaces for himself. Dave marveled at the guy's ability to immerse himself into small, intricate tasks. He could never find the patience.

Sometimes it was just Dave and his dreams.

Sometimes they were normal. The usual scattered, disorganized dreams that didn't really make any sense at all. But most of the time, they were nightmares. Memories twisted into new and terrible realities. He and Bro fought. Sometimes Bro took on other forms, but most of the time the body lying beneath him was Bro's and not anyone else's and he was faced again and again with the reality that he'd killed him. That he was responsible for it.

Sometimes Bro killed him. That was better. But those were the times that Dream!Rose popped up again. She would stand there, silently judging him as he was being pummeled and sliced. She looked at him in disappointment until he finally died and he didn't have to see her face anymore.

He woke up again and again with silent screams caught in his throat. Shaking. Sweating. Gasping for air. He felt like he needed to escape. But there was no escape to be had. No strifing. No competing with anyone until he regained his sense of reality and sanity again. He had to deal with it all himself in silence in this place.

xXxXxXxXxXx

"YOU SM3LL T1R3D COOLK1D. 4R3 YOU SL33P1NG OK4Y?" Terezi leaned away post-sniff, cocking her head up at him in concern.

"Considering that you've kept my wrists tied since I've been here and I've been roped to one post all night and day I'd be surprised if I were sleeping alright."

"TH4TS ONLY OUT OF N3C3SS1TY. 1 L3T YOU STR3TCH 4ND W4LK 4ROUND."

"Not often enough."

She smiled and leaned in to press their noses together. He turned away.

"1 H4V3 SOM3TH1NG TO SHOW YOU 4NYW4Y. W41T H3R3."

"As if I could go anywhere else."

Terezi went to the side panel on the wall and touched a switch. The thick wall that cut them off from the rest of the platform rose. Dave's eyebrows soon rose with it. Everything was different on the other side.

Metal, was his first impression. Metal everywhere. Covering the floor, shrouding the walls. Strings hung from the ceiling at alternating heights, with tiny bits on the ends that looked a bit like dispensers. And there were panels across certain sections of the floor.

"What are those for?" Dave nodded to the panels.

"TH3YR3 4 SURPR1S3 FOR 4NYON3 WHO M4N4G3S TO G3T TH1S F4R."

"So what do you have lined up outside of here?"

"MOR3 SURPR1S3S."

"Oh come on. You said you'd tell me more."

"SOM3TH1NG 1ND1V1DU4L FOR 34CH P3RSON. 4ND 4 F3W D1STR4CT1ONS 1N B3TW33N. US3 YOUR 1M4G1N4T1ON."

"So sort of like that… merry-go-round thing you set up before."

"TH4T W4S 4 B4BY V3RS1ON OF 1T. TH3S3 S3TUPS 4R3 4 LOT B3TT3R."

"And it involves metal, both here and out there?"

"MHMM. TH3R3 4R3 W4LKW4YS OUT TH1S DOOR."

"What do the walkways do? Besides take people across the floor."

"1TS 4 SURPR1S3."

"Oh come on, tell me more than that."

"1 H4V3. YOULL H4V3 TO W41T FOR TH3 R3ST."

"Ughhhhhh."

In lieu of a working escape plan, Dave had decided that he should find out as much information on Terezi's schemes as possible. His thought had been that once he found out enough, he'd time-jump and tell the others so they could prepare and get him and WV out of there. It was a good plan. But Terezi refused to reveal much more than tiny snippets and pieces of information. Maybe she suspected what he wanted to do. It probably wasn't hard to figure out.

Suddenly a sharp whistle pierced the air, turning louder as they listened. Terezi stepped forward—and the door to the smell-o-scope platform flew open as a spinning piece of paper whizzed through the air and fell directly at Terezi's feet. Magic.

Terezi bent down, sniffing it carefully before she picked it up. She licked it once, as if making certain that the paper meant no harm. Then she unfolded it and licked again.

"What's that?" Dave asked, after Terezi had silently stared at the paper for a few long moments.

"1TS 4N 1NV1T4T1ON."

"From Rose?"

"SH3 W4NTS TO CH4LL3NG3 M3 TO 4 F1GHT. ON3 ON ON3. 4T TH3 PL4C3 W3 H3LD TH3 D4NC3."

"Are you going to accept?"

"1TS V3RY OBV1OUSLY 4 TR4P D4V3." Terezi turned towards him. She cocked her head. Now she even did the Perp's behaviors without being in Perp mode. It was a little unnerving. "BUT OF COURS3 1LL 4CC3PT."

"I thought you just said it was a trap."

"1T 1S. BUT TH4T DO3SNT M34N 1M GO1NG TO F4LL FOR 1T. SH3 B3L13V3S SH3 H4S 4 W4Y TO DR4G M3 OUT TH3R3 4ND PUT TH1NGS ON H3R T3RMS. SO 1 W1LL H4V3 TO FORC3 H3R H3R3 1NST34D."

Terezi took out a crayon, leaning down. She wrote on the back what Dave presumed was a "Y3S" or "CH4LL3NG3 4CC3PT3D" or something of the sort, and then the letter folded itself up again, whizzing back from wherever it came from.

xXxXxXxXxXx

The invite for the one-on-one fight had been for a few days from the date the letter had come. Terezi spent the rest of the time preparing for the fight, getting more orbs together, engineering more traps. She sometimes answered Dave's questions on them, but most of the time she was silent, ignoring him entirely. More often than not her hood was up, indicating that she was now in Perp mode and would be completely unreachable by him no matter what attempts he made.

He sighed and turned towards WV for company.

His dreams during this time weren't any better. If anything, they got even worse. He started having nightmares about crows and black wispy villains and an angry, aggressive Bro. More often than not he just tried to stay awake now. And if he had dark circles under his eyes or tell-tale signs of exhaustion, he was pretty certain they were too subtle for WV to pick up and Terezi was too busy doing Perp work to sniff him out properly. She delivered their food to them—they'd finally graduated from soup to sandwiches and Dave had to balance the food on his knees in order to eat it properly—and then she promptly left, shutting the door behind her again.

xXxXxXxXxXx

He didn't know how he knew it had started. He just knew. His eyes flew open in the dark space, rising from a short bout of sleep that he didn't remember falling into. He moved his head back and forth, listening. A slight hum came from directly outside the room that hadn't been there before. Had Terezi put the trap into motion?

He looked over at WV and hissed at him. "Hey. Hey! Little man, wake up."

WV stirred. "Hmm?"

"We're getting out of here."

"But we're sleeping."

"No, we're waking. As in you need to get up. It's time to go."

"Where's the teal one?"

"She's… busy. But she already gave me the okay. Can you stand?"

"No. I'm tied to a post."

"Well, wiggle around a bit. Try to see if you can get free."

WV wiggled and Dave wiggled. The wiggling didn't seem to do much good. Dave thought that maybe WV would be able to slide his way out since Terezi might not have done the ropes as tightly, but no such luck. His hands were tied down at night in the same way that Dave's were.

Dave sighed. This was a terrible plan. Hell, he didn't even know what'd they do after managing to get out of their ropes. The panel on the inside wall needed a key to work. You could open it from the outside without one, but from the inside they were pretty screwed. Nice work, Dave. You've had days to put this scheme together and this is the best you came up with? The whole not-sleeping thing probably wasn't helping matters.

He finally decided that he'd just need to do it. Time-jumping would be his only resort. Who cared if Terezi would try to make mincemeat of his latest copy? He'd just need to figure out a way to keep it from happening. And if there was anything he had on his side, it was time.

Just as he was preparing himself, a sudden bout of noise sounded from outside the hidden wall. Gears churned and grinded, putting contraptions into work. Metal clashed against metal. A hissing airy sound like mist hit the air. Loud curses were spit out left and right. A few minutes after the commotion, light footsteps came their way.

The hidden door slowly rolled upwards, revealing converses, black jeans, a two-toned record t-shirt and shades perched on top of a gas mask. It was another Dave!

The new Dave trotted over, quickly slashing through the binds that held both current Dave and WV and pressed gas masks onto both their faces. Dave secured his, propping his shades over his mask like his alternate self had. Mist was spreading over the room, venturing into their previously-closed off space now. It must've been knock-out gas or maybe even poisonous.

The other Dave helped WV up after securing the carapace's mask. He flashed current Dave a thumbs up.

"Sorry I couldn't come earlier," other Dave said. "Timelines are a bitch around this place lately, with all the magic in the air and the Green Sun's weird influence. I had to jump around several alternate timelines to find this one. You okay?"

"I'm fine." Dave responded, his words muffled and distorted to his own ears beneath the mask. There must've been a speaker or something because he could hear the other Dave fine though. He had to get one of these.

"Alright, let's go. Follow me. This room has some sort of a puzzle to it."

Current Dave followed other Dave through the room, stepping over the same spots of the metal that he stepped on. He guessed that other spots triggered certain things… maybe more orbs or gas? He didn't really want to find out.

When they stepped out of the smell-o-scope room, Dave slipped off his gas mask and looked around for a second in confusion. Everything was lit a brilliant shade of purple, but beyond the weird lighting in the space, he realized that he had no idea where he was. The outside had been sectioned off into weird angular spaces, penned in by large scrap pieces of metal. Dave finally figured out what all the metal had been for. Terezi had been making her lair a maze.

Other Dave looked at him. His gas mask was now off and captchalogued as well. For the first time Dave noticed all the scrapes and bruises on him, as if he'd been fighting a huge battle before he got to him. He also had what looked like paint on his shirt. "Hey, so I'm gonna take WV and get outta here. You should go find Rose."

"What's going on, exactly?"

"Rose and Terezi are fighting one on one. Terezi caused a blackout that affected the entire meteor and to my knowledge, no power has returned yet. So Rose came here to settle things."

"But then how are the traps still working?"

"She probably has some sort of generator specific to this location. Anyway, point is. You need to find Rose and help her out. The others are in here too, but they got separated and they ended up finding other shit to fight. If you want to save Terezi—and I know you do so don't even lie about it we're the same fucking person man you can't fool me on these things—you need to make sure she's defeated, alright? If Rose beats her, she'll just come back for more. But if you do…"

"She always said if she wanted anyone to catch the Perp other than her it'd be me."

"Exactly. She's gonna play dirty with Rose though. So you gotta help her out."

"Got it."

"You'll do fine all right? I believe in you. Hell, I am you. I just got done being you. Anyway, the point is, go in there, kick some ass, get shit done, then come save yourself afterwards. You'll figure it out. Good luck."

Other Dave tossed him Caledscratch—hey he had a sword again!—and took off with WV in tow, disappearing around a corner of metal. A few short movements and even the sounds of his footsteps had gone.

Dave tested the weight of the broken sword in his hands. Then he struck up a few quick fighting stances and moves. He was clumsy and stiff from being tied to one spot for so long. He stretched his aching muscles and then figured the sprint through the maze would make a good enough warm-up to prep him for a fight again. He took off.

xXxXxXxXxXx

The maze was difficult to maneuver. Actually that was kind of a major understatement.

As soon as Dave left the area that led to the smell-o-scope platform, he immediately fell onto his ass in sudden darkness, whisked away across the floor in the black hallway at speed. After a second he realized he must be on one of Terezi's walkways and he scooped himself back up into a sitting position as he crouched on it, trying to regain his balance. When the walkway stopped and slammed him into a wall, he leaped off and landed on a completely different walkway. This one whisked him backwards towards the way he'd come, or at least that's what it felt like it was doing since he really couldn't see anything at all, and he groped along the side of the metal wall beside him, trying to find a doorway or an opening… something that led out of the space. His hand finally fell into an open space and he leaped off before the walkway took him past it—

and dropped straight down into further blackness. He couldn't help it. He screamed.

The lighting became a dim red and as his eyes adjusted, he crashed onto something that muted his fall and yelled, flailing beneath him.

"WHAT IN THE LIVING PIECE OF A HOOFBEAST'S UTTER—GET OFF ME!"

The person shoved and squirmed and Dave quickly rolled off of him, before they sized each other up quickly.

"DAVE?"

"Karkat!"

"RUN!"

Karkat yanked him up just as what the troll had been running from finally rolled into the room. A miniature robot, tiny and really crudely made. It didn't look very impressive, but when it raised the bars on its side that Dave guessed were its arms, he saw two really dubious pouches slide to the front and they were aimed at the two of them.

He raced away with Karkat as the bags took off, flying towards them, seeing to catch fire in the middle of the air.

They dropped and rolled and the bags flew over their heads, crashing into the wall in front of them. It immediately caught on fire, consuming their exit in a haze of flame. They picked themselves up and backed away from the fiery wall, looking between the robot and the exit. Fuck, now they were trapped.

Dave brought out Caledscratch, aiming it at the robot as more bags popped out of its back, preparing to reload itself. He nodded at Karkat. "Cover me."

Without looking to see if the troll had agreed or not, Dave took off, flash-stepping towards the contraption. He was a blur of motion, zig-zagging so the robot couldn't get a clear focus on him. Then he leapt into the air to strike at it. Apparently the robot had been prepared, since a metal roller came up to slam into his stomach.

Dave was knocked onto the floor. He rolled and pointed his sword at the robot.

But at the same time, Karkat had approached, slicing one of his sickles into the robot's arm and spinning around to drive the other one in. The robot blocked and immediately the bags popped into its arms again. Karkat flung himself out of the way as one of the bags hit the spot where he'd just been, crashing to the floor in a burst of flame.

Dave struck at the robot's back but the metal roller crashed against his wrist. He fell back, keeping a tight grip on his sword as he sucked in a breath. That hurt.

He flash-stepped again, kicking at the robot before it could reload its bags. Karkat approached from the other side, slicing with a sickle and then defending himself against the metal roller as it tried to block him. The robot moved backwards.

Bags slid into the robot's arms again, aiming at them for the third time.

"We can probably drive it back," Dave stated to Karkat.

"DO YOU THINK I'M AN IDIOT? I KNOW THAT. LET'S FRY THE SUCKER LIKE A FLAMING SAUCER SERVED AT AN IMPORTANT PARTY IN AN EARTHLING MONGOLIAN BAR."

"You've watched way too many movies. Since when did you start watching human ones?"

"WELL… IT'S NOT LIKE THERE'S BEEN MUCH ELSE TO DO ON THIS SHITTY EXCUSE OF A SHIP."

They cut off their conversation, forced to dodge two more bags that had been shot their way and burst into flames behind them. Dave flash-stepped into the opening, whipping around to slash the robot's middle and leaping into the air to avoid the metal roller that came his way. Then Karkat swung into place beside him, aiming a huge kick at the robot's middle. It was blocked by the metal roller, but it provided more than enough distraction for Dave to swing around and roadhouse kick the little robot back.

It flew into the air. Its little arms went flying as it loaded two more bags into them. But it was too late. It crashed into the flaming wall and suddenly went up in sparks itself, fizzling out into nothing.

Karkat and Dave high-fived.

"Yeah!"

"YES!"

They paused, looking at one another for a second, before Karkat yanked Dave into a hug. Luckily Dave had lowered his sword beforehand or else he would've accidentally skewered him.

"YOU'RE ALRIGHT?"

"I'm fine."

"WHERE'S THE MAYOR?"

"Mr. Cranky Mayo is safe. I rescued him myself. Well, actually I rescued both him and myself. Or my future self did anyway. I'm pretty sure that's who he was."

"GOOD. I WAS COMING TO FIND YOU BUT I GOT CAUGHT UP WITH THAT THING."

"Where are the others?"

"WE GOT SEPARATED. I'M PRETTY CERTAIN THE PERP HAS MORE TRAPS SET UP LIKE THIS ALL AROUND. THEY PROBABLY ENDED UP FINDING OTHER THINGS."

"Do you remember the way back? I gotta find Rose and Terezi."

Karkat flinched at Terezi's name. Dave wondered if he was having as hard of a time dealing with the fact that Terezi was the Perp as he was.

"I THINK I CAN FIND IT AGAIN. FOLLOW ME."

The back of Karkat's hand brushed his before the troll took off, leading the way into further dimness.

xXxXxXxXxXx

They made it back through the maze with only a few more complications. A solar panel that Dave mistakenly tripped in the ceiling that radiated so much heat he thought they were going to dry up and turn crispy and charcoal before they finally managed to open up a doorway to the next room. Then, as they were nursing their burns, they reached another section where balls suddenly shot out at them from all sides, and they ran back the way they came as Karkat wondered aloud if he'd made a wrong turn and Dave yelled back that was kind of obvious.

But the last area they slipped into before they found the place where Rose and Terezi were was an entirely different story. Dave was started to think that the Perp had lost her touch, until they fell into the room. It lit up upon entrance and they were suddenly locked into a confined space with the walls slathered in red. Dripping bright red, running down the walls, pooling onto the floor, coming closer towards Dave.

He backed away and found his back banging against the back of the door they'd just come through. He turned around, trying to find a doorknob, but there was nothing there. His fingernails scraped against metal.

"DAVE."

"DAVE." Karkat's hand brushed his shoulder. He jumped.

Cackling laughter sounded from above them. Not unlike Dave's dreams. They both looked up. Dave backed away from the door again, swinging his sword through the air.

"IT'S NOT REAL. IT'S A RECORDING."

His foot stepped back into a pool of red. His vision started to squeeze in. He couldn't think. He couldn't breathe.

"DAVE. CALM DOWN."

He spun around, but everywhere was covered in red now, even the place where they'd come in. He ran around the room, looking for an escape. There had to be a way out somewhere. Somewhere. He had to get out of here. He had to go.

Footsteps came after him. Karkat said more things but he couldn't hear him. He couldn't think. He had to go.

His hands scraped against the wall, digging into the red, until he finally found a button. He pushed it.

Immediately, a panel opened in front of him. Before he could even move towards it he was whisked in. There'd been another hidden walkway beneath him.

"DAVE!" Karkat reached out to grab him, but the panel slammed shut as he slid into the new room. The walkway came to a stop and he stared at the ceiling, panting.

A green orb was centered above him. It was still, innocuous-looking, held in place by two metal rods on either side of it. Glued to the ceiling were strings with rectangular pieces of paper attached to them. Dave sat up, focusing on the strips of paper. He stood up and grabbed one.

It showed a creature that could only be described as a cross between a goat and a fish creature. It was like a goat mermaid. The creature was dead, harpooned on the side of a beach, with indigo blood pouring out from it.

Dave let go of the picture, looking around at the others. Another was a picture of a guy with huge horns and robo legs, gutted through the stomach in a haze of brown blood. The next was a picture of a huge man-sized crab creature, blown into parts, bright-red blood splattered all over its corpse.

Dave brushed the pictures away, searching for the one he knew would be there. And there it was, his Bro lying on the platform, sword stuck through his body. He stared at it, bowing his head as his knees sunk to the floor. He squeezed his eyes shut.

A bolt of pain ricocheted through him, but it didn't hurt as much as all the other times. Even the most recent times in his dreams. He forced himself to open his eyes, looking at Bro's picture. In his moment of death, the man almost seemed peaceful, if he wanted to call it that. His eyes stared blankly out, revealing the guy's true eye color since his shades were long gone. Dave stared at them.

It seemed a lot less… violent than all the dreams that had been going through his head. And Bro didn't seem angry. Or sad. Or even vengeful. He just seemed kinda…

Dead.

Dave squeezed his eyes shut again, clutching Bro's picture in his hands.

"I'm sorry," he said to the empty air. Or perhaps to the room. Maybe Bro's spirit was somewhere out there. In imaginary piña colada beach land where the other guardians were, chilling and looking down on him like the Bro he'd always known. Maybe he could hear him now. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "I couldn't save you. Davesprite couldn't even save you. I'm so sorry."

He bit his lip, sucking down his emotions. The air didn't respond. There was no signal or sign that his message had been received. But maybe it had anyway. He had to imagine that it possibly might've gone through to whatever other dimension his Bro might be floating on now.

He opened his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. Now wasn't the time to mourn his Bro. Now was the time to complete his goal. He wasn't going to let anything happen to the other family member he had left, was he? No, he couldn't.

Dave stood up, letting go of Bro's picture. He looked around. There was a doorway in front of him, but no hint of a knob. The panel behind him had sealed shut so effectively that he wasn't even certain where he'd come into the room at. Guess forward was the way to go. Now if only he could figure out how to get there.

He frowned for a second. The pictures were all attached to strings, the strings were attached to the ceiling, where everything was mounted around a surface attached to the green orb…

He impaled the orb with his sword. The pictures shivered and then burned as fire slid down the strings they were on, roasting them. Dave stared at them silently, nodding his head respectfully as charred pieces fell to the ground, burning out.

The doorway in front of him popped open. He stepped out into it.

xXxXxXxXxXx

The room that he emerged into was large, much larger than the small, claustrophobic spaces he'd had to move through. But what struck him most was that he recognized it. The drawings on the walls were the same ones that he and Terezi made when they'd held court together. And roleplayed out scenes. And watched movies together.

Fighting before the drawings on the wall were Rose and Terezi. Terezi was decked out in her full Perp outfit, hood up, wispy robe and sleeves, and her baton. She tossed an orb into the air that Rose blasted apart with a sweep of her wand and quickly retaliated a blast back at Terezi, who blocked it with a swift parry with her baton.

They both were sweaty and panting hard. Dave wondered how long they'd been fighting.

As Terezi tossed another orb into the air, Dave flash-stepped in and snatched Rose out of its path, pulling her back. The orb exploded into a bunch of sharp shrapnel.

Dave moved in, flash-stepping up to Terezi and swinging his sword. She blocked it with her baton. If she seemed surprised to find him there, she didn't look it, though it'd be a little hard to register under that hood of hers anyway. She attacked him almost eagerly, clashing her baton to his sword, pushing him back with a few kicks and a scrape of her claws.

Rose shot a blast of lightning their way which broke them apart. Terezi jumped back to the other side of the room while he and Rose stood together.

"Good to see you're well. Can you distract her?" Rose muttered to him.

"What are you planning?"

"I'm going to confine her so she can't go anywhere. Then you catch her, alright?"

"Deal."

Dave moved in. Terezi met him in the middle. Her baton slammed into his jaw. He reeled back, then retaliated, slamming the flat of his sword into her side. She inhaled sharply and slid away, holding her side. He came back for her, attacking her at every angle. It took all of her effort to keep up with him, which was exactly the point. She backed up steadily, until her foot hit a point that blasted purple smoke and made Terezi jumped away from it.

Dave looked around. Rose had done her job. They were now enclosed in a circle of rising purple smoke, creating an inescapable barrier. Sniffing noises came from underneath the Perp's hood, probably sniffing out the new arrangement. When she was done she turned toward him.

He and Terezi eyed one another. Or well, he assumed she was eyeing him anyway. Her fingers played with something in her pockets, probably more orbs. He struck a fighting stance.

He flew forward and she tossed an orb his way. It burst into a haze of white light, blinding him even beneath his shades, and Terezi took advantage, getting a few good jabs in with her baton to his shoulders, legs and sides before jumping back as he recovered. Their weapons clashed again. She countered his blows and then he caught her by surprise, kicking her hard in the side. She slid across the circle, hissing as she exhaled a breath.

He approached her.

"D1D YOU 3NJOY TH3 ROOM? 1 S3T 1T UP JUST FOR YOU. 1 F1GUR3D YOUD B3 TH3 ON3 TO COM3 THROUGH."

"Why?" He could've been asking why she'd figured it would be him. But he was really asking why she had set it up in the first place. Why had she gone through the effort? And how did she know about his… problem? She seemed to understood what he meant.

"YOU SOM3T1M3S T4LK 1N YOUR SL33P. 1T W4SNT TOO LONG B3FOR3 1 F1GUR3D OUT WH4T W4S H4PP3N1NG. 1M SORRY D4V3. BUT 1 H4D TO."

"Just like you had to do all this other crap that you've been doing?"

"3X4CTLY. TH4TS WHY 1 M4D3 YOURS TH3 L4ST. 1 D1DNT W4NT YOU TO D34L W1TH 1T B3FOR3 YOU H4D TO." She looked up. "BUT YOU C4M3 THROUGH. SO YOU TR1UMPH3D R1GHT?"

Dave was silent, staring at her. He didn't know if he'd really "triumphed" over anything.

"I don't even understand. Why would you do this? Why do you set up these games and traps to fuck with our heads? What do you hope to accomplish from it?"

"R3SOLUT1ON. H4V3NT YOU F3LT L1K3 3V3RYTH1NG 1S SO M3SS3D UP? 1 H4D TO F1X 1T. 1 H4D TO R3S3T 3V3RYTH1NG."

"This is a pretty shitty reset. Could've sworn it was a continuation, if anything."

"4 R3S3T C4NT H4PP3N W1THOUT SOM3TH1NG TO B3 R3ST4RT3D. SOM3TH1NG TO COMPL3T3. SOM3TH1NG TO 3ND. 1 B3C4M3 TH4T P3RSON. NOW TH3R3 4R3 ONLY TWO OPT1ONS. 31TH3R CH4OS CONSUM3S OR ORD3R F1N4LLY S3TS TH1NGS STR41GHT. 1TS P3RF3CT."

"But everyone was recovering just fine."

"W3R3 TH3Y? W3R3 YOU?"

Dave went silent, because he wasn't entirely certain. He'd been a basketcase since he got on the meteor. Rose had gotten over-controlling and power-hungry. Karkat had completely lost confidence in himself. Gamzee and Kanaya had issues that they still hadn't worked through. And then there was Terezi. Maybe they hadn't been recovering fine. And maybe they would've fucked up even more stuff if it hadn't been for Terezi's extreme antics. But who knows? Who could even say what would happen? Wasn't that just what people did? Fuck up and fix things and then do it all again?

"That still doesn't make it right, Tz. It sounds more like a justification for everything, so you could create your mysterious, evil villain and not feel like such a bad guy at the end of it all."

"1 4M TH3 3V1L MYST3R1OUS V1LL41N. TH3 P3RP C4NT B3 S3P4R4T3D FROM M3."

Terezi suddenly struck and Dave had to leap back to avoid it. She attacked him fiercely, barely giving him a chance to block and parry. He was backed up towards the other side of the circle, where purple smoke shone in his periphery. He finally managed to kick out her ankle, throwing her off-balance as he slid around to her back, catching her in a headlock before she fell completely to her knees. She froze.

Her hood had gotten knocked back. Was it his imagination or did he see a smile on her face?

The purple smoke disintegrated and the borders of the circle disappeared as Rose came striding in. She pointed her wands towards Terezi's head.

"I would say that you're under arrest for deeds performed as The Perpetrator, but you would actually enjoy that. So instead, let's just skip the formalities and drag you directly in front of everyone on this meteor to decide your punishment? Effective immediately. And if it's up to me, it will be harsh."

Dave pulled Terezi into a standing position. They started to walk. Dave guessed Rose knew a doorway out of this place because he definitely didn't see one.

"ROS3." Terezi looked over at the girl, who still had her wands trained on her. "TH4NK YOU."

Rose frowned and perhaps those words were enough to throw both of them off, because Terezi slid a hand into her robes and tossed an orb into the air before they could stop her. It exploded into a haze of black dust, choking both of them. When the air finally cleared and Rose managed to magically sweep it all away, both Terezi and The Perp were gone.