A lonely man stands before a grave.


Dave wasn't a particularly deep guy. Compared to Rose, he felt like he was seriously inadequate, or maybe just stupid. He never told anyone that though. He didn't want anyone to know that about him.

He had friends, and stuff, it wasn't like his world was empty. Egbert was totally cool, the dork that he was, and Terezi was the most exciting person he knew… but he was forgetting what it was like to be excited. The closest he could get to a feeling of elation was contentment, and that… it scared him sometimes, he wasn't going to lie.

Aradia was the only one that helped. Whenever he forgot what it was like to honestly feel anything, she'd appear out of nowhere and sit beside him, giving him a smile, and reminding him that life was too short to waste bumming on a street corner, or wherever he ended up that day, mulling over his own shitty existence.

"Is the sky really so interesting?" she asked once, appearing in his line of vision. He'd set aside his sunglasses for the night, because it was hard enough to see the stars without them. He stared at her for a long time, and then he sighed.

"Not really," he remembered saying. "But… I dunno, space is kind of cool looking, when you actually think about it. Like, pretty, or something."

Aradia had laughed, and reminded him that there wasn't enough time to dilly-dally watching the stars. He had somewhere to be.

Right?

The more Dave went on, the more his friends drifted away from him. He barely saw John anymore, even though he seemed to constantly be with Rose, and Terezi had looked at him one day, and then the next it was like she couldn't even see him. She just walked past him without a word.

That had pissed him off enough. They never returned his texts either, and like fuck he was gonna actually call them, like who did that? Rose was avoiding him too. Whenever he went into her room, she looked at him, and then she turned away, telling him to leave.

He saw Karkat sometimes, hanging around with Terezi, but he didn't talk to them anymore, and Karkat looked at him sometimes with a frown, and then he turned away. Aradia was the only one who still talked to him, and even she seemed to be keeping her visits sparse.

He found Sollux one night in a video game store, and Dave, who hadn't talked to anyone in days (not even his own twin), decided why the fuck not? He was Aradia's best friend after all.

He looked like shit, actually, now that he thought back on it. He was pale, and his eyes were bloodshot, and when he saw Dave step beside him, his entire body seemed to stiffen.

"Yo, Sollisp." Dave jerked his head at him, glancing over the games the guy was looking at. Most of them were horror games, and Dave wasn't interested. "Haven't seen you in like a millennia, you do realize that missing like a month of school is a surefire way to— oh, I don't know— fail?"

Sollux had been a decent friend once upon a time, but they'd grown apart when everyone else decided Dave was pretty much the incarnation of the black plague. Dave had figured he'd been sick— which was probably true, now that he looked at him, but it was still depressing when he remembered he hadn't seen the kid in weeks.

"Strider," Sollux said, his mouth fumbling over the 's' sound, as usual. "I was excused for the month, so yeah, no."

"Excused?" Dave stared at the kid, wondering how the fuck he managed to get the school to excuse a whole month of absence. Then again, this was Sollux. He and Aradia had stolen school excuses from the office, and though she never used them, Sollux treated them with as much tender loving care as a dealer with his crack. "Did you seduce the principal or something? How the fuck did you pull that off?"

Sollux stared at Dave blankly, and then he turned away, his face muscles contorting suddenly with anger. "Oh, fuck yeah, man," he spat, pushing away from the shelf. It wobbled, and Dave stepped back as the games toppled off the rack. "Because you know, I haven't had any real issues the past month, you know?"

"Whoa, calm down." Dave pushed down his glasses to assess the damage to the games, and he frowned when a worker began shouting at them. "Anger management much? I was joking."

"Right," Sollux hissed. He brushed past the worker, and Dave quickly followed him outside. The yelling of the employee was drowned out by the wind, and Dave pulled up his hood.

"Look, I haven't seen you in forever, Sol, so don't go all pissy little Karcrap on me, alright? I have no idea what happened to you."

Sollux laughed, his pale eyes flashing to Dave's face. "What did you want? I'm not in a super great mood right now, if you couldn't tell."

"I just wanted to talk." Dave shoved his hands in his pockets, and he thought about their lame group of friends who weren't even friends with each other anymore. Vriska had ended up moving somewhere, like Canada or some shit. Equius and Nepeta still hung around each other, but Equius never talked to anyone, and Nepeta kept to his side by default. Eridan and Feferi had transferred to a private school in the south, and Gamzee was either in rehab, or he just did not give any fucks anymore. Tavros was… actually, Dave couldn't even remember where Tavros went. The only ones he saw were Terezi, Karkat, Kanaya, Aradia, John and Rose, and not even together. Dirk was off at college with Roxy, Jake, and Jane, who must have all fucked Lady Luck to get them into the same Ivy League sex riot.

"Talk?" Sollux was walking now. "No thanks, I can wallow in my own self-hate all by myself, I don't need you to gimme more flak."

"Wow, when did you turn into a broody Edwhomp Sullen? You used to be actually fun to talk to, now you're a mess."

Sollux glared at Dave through the lenses of his glasses, and he sneered, "No shit, Sherlock." He left after that, and Dave found himself trying to remember if Sollux had always been such a depressing dick, but all he remembered were the times when he and Aradia would always be together, laughing their asses off at everything that came their way. What the fuck had happened between them? Now that he thought about it, Aradia never mentioned him anymore.

He barely saw Sollux after that. He came back to school, but he was quiet, and he stuck close to Karkat, so Dave avoided him. Rose started talking to him again, a little, but sometimes she'd look at him, and Dave could tell she had no idea what to say. It was strange, and awkward, and he missed the sister that would insult him in languages he'd never even heard of, and laugh at his jokes, and just… be in his presence without acting like someone had died.

He talked to Dirk about it via video chat once, and he'd gotten all quiet, and changed the subject quickly. Apparently he was planning on transferring home next year, which made Dave get uncomfortable, because Dirk was not a Community College guy at all, and he really wasn't sure how he felt about it. Something was obviously up.

"Are you guys coming back for Winter break?" he asked, surprised at how desperately he missed his older brother and his super wacky friends. He had grown up with Roxy around, and he had often treated her like an older sister, believing at one point that her and Dirk had been dating. Yeah, no, Dirk squashed his and Rose's dreams of their wedding faster than it took Kanaya to finish sketching Roxy's wedding dress. Which now that Dave looked, was hanging on Roxy's bulletin board.

"No, we're going to stay here and freeze our asses off with quiet dignity." It was hard to tell when Dirk was joking. Dave hated admitting it, but his brother could often be an enigma… he really couldn't read him the way he could read Rose, or their parents. "Where else would we go, Dave?"

"Australia?"

Dirk tilted his head. "Great idea." He smiled. "Let me just indulge my whims with the money in your savings account."

Dave blinked, stunned for a moment, and then he scowled. "Yeah, fuck you too."

By the time winter came around, Dave was convinced that everyone hated him. Rose had warmed up, and now she hung by his side more often than she had weeks earlier, but sometimes she'd stop talking mid-sentence and look at him with cold eyes. Dave didn't understand any of it, and he was confused as to why John barely looked at him anymore.

Dirk came with a scowl and a shove, but it was playful, and they laughed afterwards. Roxy was already living on their couch by the time the first snowfall came, and she'd weaseled her way into the locked liquor cabinet somehow, allowing her to let loose completely. She whined about the homework she was given, and when Dirk wasn't looking she'd toss a beer Dave's way. Dave really enjoyed Roxy's company, and he realized it was because their personalities were a lot alike… if he was an alcoholic, at least.

The more Dave thought about it, the more he realized how empty he felt. Ever since his friends had ditched him, his chest sort of ached, and sometimes he'd wake up in the middle of the night with tears in his eyes. Now, Dave was not a crying kind of guy. Not at all. So he was always confused when he felt wetness on his cheeks, and a harsh aching in his throat.

Dave tried to talk to Rose about it. Honestly, he tried. But she looked at him, her eyes suddenly sad, and she shook her head. She'd never say anything though. John came over during holiday break, and he managed to give Dave a smile, but it was obvious that he was only doing it out of obligation. It made Dave lock himself in his room and shove headphones onto his head to drown his thoughts that rambled on and on, exploiting his confusion and fear.

One day he found a box of colorful strings under his bed, and he found himself staring at it for a while, wondering how it had gotten there. He brought it out to Dirk and Rose, to see if it was one of theirs. Roxy was asleep on the sofa, her feet tucked behind Dirk's back, and it appeared as if he was worried about waking her if he stood up.

"Is this yours?" he asked Rose, holding out the box. She looked at him, then at the box, then at Dirk.

"No," she said. She frowned, and took the box from him. "Where… where did you find it?"

"Under my bed." Dave watched as Rose took out a bit of string, a bright green one, and she set the box on the table. He stared blankly as she tied the string around her middle finger, pulling it into an elegant bow. She stared at her hand as if she was examining a ring, and Dave was nearly choking with the laughter he held in.

"What are you doing?" he asked, covering a smirk with his hand. Rose glanced at him.

"Remembering." She plucked another string from the box, a red one, and she tied it around her pinky.

"I thought these weren't yours."

"They're not." She tossed a green string at him, and he caught it. "They're yours. They help you remember."

"That's stupid." Dave wiggled the string over her nose until she laughed, and he smiled. "I don't need a stupid string to remember what's important. That's what my head is for."

"You simply don't understand." And then she turned and walked away. Dave ended up feeling inadequate again, and stupid, so he found himself shrugging on his coat and trekking into the snow. He had never been a huge fan of snow, being more of a summer guy, but he had to admit it was pretty. He sat in the park with his shades, and his hat, and he felt numb. Numb, and stupid, and inadequate, and guilty.

He felt someone sit next to him, the snow crunching beneath the weight. Dave looked at Aradia, and he tried to recall the last time he had seen her, but he was sure it had been before the school had closed for Christmas. "Hey," he said, nodding to her. He turned his attention back to one of the kids playing on the snow-draped slide.

"Hello, Dave," she said. "You've been wasting time again."

"There's nothing to do." Dave was lying, of course, he had some homework, but that didn't really count. He also had some beats he wanted to synthesize, but he'd come up with a block, and he really did not know how to crush it. "Besides, I haven't seen you do anything productive lately."

"I'm helping you," she laughed. "That counts as productive, right?"

"Yeah, no." He glanced at her face, and he noticed she looked pale. Of course, everyone seemed pale in the winter, but he was looking at her through the lenses of his sunglasses. "It's nice to talk to someone who will actually attempt to look at me for longer than three seconds, but seriously, no, you should talk to Sollux. He's fucked up bad. Did you guys have a fight?"

She was silent for a very long time, but it didn't matter to Dave. He was tired, and his mind was on the stupid strings. Green and red. Well, it was almost Christmas, perhaps Rose needed to remember that. But then again, she was acting so…

"He just feels lonely," Aradia said finally. "Like you do."

"I'm not lonely," Dave said dully. "Just bored."

"You can't fool me." Aradia reached forward, snatching the glasses from his face. He wasn't sure what had happened, but suddenly everything was so much brighter, and he had to cover his eyes because of the snow's glare. "You never look. You think you can hide your sadness and pain behind your shades, but you're being dumb. Dave, you're running out of time."

"What the fuck, Aradia?" He gritted his teeth and reached for his glasses. "This ain't the time or place for this bullshit. Like, I've got a headache or something fucked up like that."

"You're tired," she said, twirling the glassing in her hand. Dave agreed internally, but he was not going to admit it, and he reached over her head. "And you're scared."

"No I'm not." He stood up, shoving his hands in his pockets. "You know what? Keep 'em. I don't care. I'm going to go dine with Transformers and solute Shia LaNofucks for getting the girl by doing absolutely nothing."

"You should watch Indiana Jones, I think."

"No, I need some flashy explosions and a dumb as fuck protagonist, thanks." He looked at Aradia, and she stared, her eyes looking rather dead in the winter sunlight. She tossed his glasses to him, and stood up.

"Why do you keep wasting time?" she asked, her fingers gripping her dress… which was a sun dress, now that he looked at it, with fingers as white as bone. "You're so lonely, and sad, but you never act on it. Why do you remember me? I'm not the one you need to remember."

"I'm not wasting time," he sighed, sliding his sunglasses back on. "I'm talking to you, and to be honest, you just keep making less and less sense."

She turned, and she ran, and Dave felt himself go rigid. Yeah, no way in hell was he running after a girl in snow that buried his shoes. See, he told himself this even as he felt the wind against his face, and the snow melt through his socks. He saw Aradia's hair, matted and wild as she weaved through the streets, her feet easily navigating over ice and snow. Her dress was a dark red color, and the more he stared at her blurring form, the more he noticed it seemed to be tattered. Also, was she bare foot? Dave couldn't tell anymore.

He was out of breath be the time he stopped, heaving and freezing, his face stinging from the whip of the wind and the stray grains of ice. He blinked the snow from his eyes, and he blinked as Aradia smiled, her hands pressed over the top of a tombstone. What the fuck was he doing in a cemetery? He barely recalled the run to it, and now he was finding himself truly frightened.

"You're almost out of time," she repeated. She might have been crying. Dave couldn't tell because there was so much blood on her face… how could one person bleed so much? "Please don't waste it, Dave. I wasted my time… I wasted so much time…"

Dave took a step back, and he nearly screamed when a voice spoke up from behind him. "It's about time, Strider."

Dave spun around, his shoulders hunching defensively as Sollux stepped beside him, treading carefully through the snow. He had a bouquet of rosemary flowers in his left hand, and his face held no expression. Sollux set the flowers gently on the grave, and he stepped back. "I thought since you were taking it the worst… that you'd be here just as often as me. Guess not."

Dave swallowed thickly, his eyes flashing back to Aradia. But she was gone… oh, long gone now, wasn't she? He sunk to his knees before her grave, his mouth opening and closing as he struggled with his words.

"It's been… months, hasn't it?" Dave could barely hear himself speak. All he could do was stare at Aradia's name, thinking, no, no, she's been talking to me this whole time, she was the only one who…

"It was three months last week." Sollux seemed a lot calmer now than that night in the game store. Maybe it was because he was close to Aradia. "You know, I thought you were just being a little shit, pretending like it never happened and everything. Then they told me how fucked up you got after the accident. I thought I was struggling, but at least I remembered her."

"I remembered her," Dave muttered, feeling awkward and confused, and his head hurt, and he was truthfully out of wit and humor. There was nothing funny anymore. Aradia was dead, and she had been dead for longer than he cared to admit. The girl he'd seen was not real. She was dead. "I… I thought she was still alive, I thought—"

"I already know the story," Sollux snapped. "Oh, poor Dave, caught in the crossfire and then forgot all about how I shot Aradia by accident and had to spend a month in jail while they decided whether or not it was self defense against Gamzee, forgot that Tavros got shot in the back and will never walk again, forgot that Vriska's eye got taken out, forgot that Terezi had chemicals poured into her eyes… you completely erased your girlfriend's existence from your mind, just so you'd feel less guilty about pulling Gamzee off his drugs. And then, after all that, you refuse to speak to anyone, and snap at them if they so much as approach you."

"No." That wasn't true, it couldn't be… Terezi…? She'd acted as if she hadn't seen him, but… and Gamzee… the month that Sollux was out of school… girlfriend…?

"Yes." Sollux stepped away from the grave, and he pulled Dave to his feet. "I don't want to talk about this in front of her, okay? At least you're listening this time, though. Every other time someone brings it up, you just zone out and forget the conversation happened. It was super fucking annoying."

"My… girlfriend. Sollux, I don't have a girlfriend…"

"Bullshit." Sollux spun him around, pushing him toward the pathway out of the cemetery. "Come on, maybe if you go see her it'll jog your memory."

"Where is she?" Dave stared at the ground, and he felt sick to his stomach as he recalled the red and green strings… Aradia, he remembered, shot and killed three months before. And the green was… "Her… name was Jade. Her name was Jade, and I forgot… all about her."

"She's been in a coma." Sollux's lips twisted, and he shook his head. "I think she's been waiting for you to remember her. Maybe she'll wake up now."

Dave couldn't remember much else besides her name. Not her face, or her voice, not even the color of her hair. He just remembered the empty feeling, and the string.

When Dave looked back, he saw Aradia again, and she smiled and waved. She was sitting with her back against her tombstone, the flowers in her lap, and she picked at the petals.

Beside her, another girl had appeared, and Dave stopped to stare. She was staring back at him with big green eyes, behind round glasses, and her smile revealed a prominent overbite, and her black hair tangled down to her waist. How could he have forgotten a girl whose very appearance seemed to fill that void in him immediately?

"Harley…" he whispered, remembering that he had only called her by her last name, not Jade, never Jade, just Harley.

"Dave," Aradia said sadly. "You ran out of time."


i honestly have no explanation for this

dave went fucking crazy

the end

no jade died though whoo did you cry angie? OF COURSE YOU DIDN'T BECAUSE THIS IS SHITTY.

five am plus sleep now and i really needed to shower but i guess i'll wait until i wake up