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Go to sleep, wake up, go right back to sleep. It's the perfect system: you don't have the opportunity to worry about the future, or angst about the past, or even consider the present much. It's just you and the occasional creepy dream.
Oh, hell no.
"Don't try to play dead on me, Strider. I saw you twitch."
If you keep your eyes shut for long enough, you'll have to fall unconscious again eventually.
Rose yanks your blanket off of you. "Up!"
You groan and bury your face in your pillow, burrowing against the mattress in your sleepy haze as if it can protect you from your sister's wrath.
"Come on, Dave." She pulls the pillow away and hits you with it. "You've had your eight hours. I was gracious enough to allow you nine, in fact, to allow you extra time to fall asleep."
"I'm still fuckin' tired."
"That's what happens when you oversleep." She wraps her arms under your armpits and drags you off the bed. "The cure," she says with a strained grunt, "is to get up and move around." She drops you into your wheelchair.
You readjust yourself so you're less of a sprawled out mess. "That sounds counter-intuitive as fuck," you mutter.
"Anatomy is funny like that sometimes." She leans on your shoulders. "Are you going to wheel yourself out to breakfast, or am I going to have to grab the handle bars and push you the whole way?"
"All right already, I'll-" You put a halt on the moaning and groaning as her words sink in. "We've got breakfast?"
She sighs and gives you a light nudge forward. You take the hint and grab your wheels, using the momentum she gave you to nab a quick start across your room.
You are never going to get used to the scent of fresh cooking in this apartment. It bombards your nose as soon as you hit the main living area. "What'd Mom make this time?" you ask over your shoulder, 'cos you sure as hell can't place freshly cooked grub by smell. Fanciest this place gets in the morning is Poptarts.
"Quieter," Rose murmurs and nods to the futon.
You lean over in your chair to peek around the back of the futon. Bro's chilling on his back with a hat pulled over his face. You can't remember the last time he let you catch him unconscious (and "dead" sure as hell doesn't count), but he's so still and breathing so deeply that he must be passed out.
"He stayed up all night so we could take the futon during normal sleeping hours," Rose says, probably in response to your astonished expression, as she quietly ushers you to the kitchen area. "Claimed he had a deadline to meet on one of his perverse videos."
You hadn't actually considered where the hell the Lalondes had to sleep last night. There are no spare mattresses to be found around here, let alone spare bedrooms. You guess you had it in your mind that they'd scram to a hotel once it got dark enough, but that defeats the purpose of giving Rose access to wrench you out of bed whenever she deems fit.
Bro really isn't bullshitting around if he's giving up his bed to make sure the ladies can stick close to you.
Something hisses on the stove as Mom fiddles over a frying pan that has probably never seen use before. She turns and smiles as you approach. "Hey Dave!" she says brightly, faltering when Rose facepalms. "Uh, I mean... good morning, Dave," she says, lowering her voice to a whisper and glancing at the futon. "I made pancakes for you." She points to the pan on the stove, where some kind of... thin white goop sizzles.
"We had ingredients for pancakes?" You don't even know what the hell goes into pancakes, but there's shit that suspiciously looks like flour sitting on the counter.
Mom sighs and flips over a pile of goop with a spatula -- the goop has miraculously turned into a smooth brown fucking pancake on its other side. "I wish. We did another grocery run at like six in the fuh-reaking morning. In way cooler news, the first batch is totes ready for munching!" She slides a plate with four small pancakes onto the empty spot at the card table where your wheelchair can fit. "Look, they're shaped like cats!" She tilts her head and nudges the pancakes around so they're easier to see. They're somewhat round, save for two triangles sticking out at the top of them. Mom's mouth quirks. "Or, um, sort of like cats!" She pokes the pancake with the most defined cat ears with the spatula. "Ooh, that one turned out okay! Eat it last! It deserves to live the longest."
You grin, prodding the pancake with a fork menacingly. "So I should spare it death by spiky metal?"
She pouts. "At least 'til it's the last one left standing."
"Can I drown it in syrup?" you ask, setting the fork down so you can switch to the weapon known as Mrs. Butterworth.
"Oh, go for it," Mom says brightly.
"Choke it with butter first," Rose says, nudging a fresh stick of butter towards you as she takes the seat next to you.
"You two are so morbid." Mom shakes her head, as if she's not the one who started it by asking you to hold off on murdering a pancake. "I'm blaming it on your dad." She returns to the stove to toss the remaining goop off the frying pan and onto a plate in their new pancake-y form. She turns the burners off, passes the next plate to Rose, then settles in a chair across from you and rests her arms on the table, smiling at you and Rose non-stop.
You cut into the pancakes and take a bite before meeting her eye. "What're you staring at?" you ask, your voice muffled from chewing.
"Nothin'." She shrugs. "I'm just excited for us to get to know each other better!" She pats your arm. "Tell me more about yourself. I wanna know all about my long-lost baby boy!"
"Uh..." You swallow so you don't have to speak around food. Hot damn, these things taste way better than the rubber from McDonald's. "Like what?"
Mom cocks her head and hums in thought. "Well... Dirk told me you like raps and ironic stuff like he does. Do you wanna show me any?"
You stare down at your plate as you cut the ears off one of the pancakes. "I... kinda deleted it all in a fit of self-loathing," you mutter, making sure not to look in Rose's direction.
"Oh." Mom frowns and blinks rapidly as if trying to subtly shake off shock or hide how wide her eyes might otherwise have gone. "Um... well... Would you mind if I took a look at your computer?" Her lips twitch into a slight smile as she softly says, "I can try recovering some of your old files. Sometimes computers are kinda pokey about getting everything properly deleted from all the dark corners of your hard drive."
You shrug. "I mean, if you wanna try, I guess I won't stop you, but I'm kinda skeptical that's a thing you can do."
"Depending on how much you've used your hard drive since then, that's totally a thing I can do." There's a twinkle in Mom's eye as she says, "I'm like a computer wizard, Dave."
You laugh. "Well, shit, who am I to deny a motherfuckin' wizard? It ain't password protected, so you can work your magic whenever you want."
"Will do!" She hops to her feet to head for your room. "Enjoy the pancakes!" she calls loudly over her shoulder, then cringes. She apologetically holds her hands up towards the futon. "Sorry, Dirk. Sorry. I forgot," she whispers.
You can't see around the futon to tell if Bro's glaring or unresponsive, but he lifts his arm high enough even you can see when he flips off Mom's back.
Rose ignores the parental drama in favor of locking her gaze on you as she folds her arms on the table. "So, is this why Sbahj's website went down?"
"It just doesn't feel right for me to hold onto Dave's private shit," you mutter, shoveling almost an entire pancake into your mouth at once.
"It's your private shit, too."
"I..." That was too much food. You can't even talk around half-chewed pancake like a slob, not until you get in a good swallow. You take a deep breath. "I gave up any right to my past the minute I doomed my timeline into nonexistence."
She narrows her eyes. "That isn't how it works, Dave, but thank you for giving me that insight into your psyche."
You rub your temple with syrup-sticky fingers. "Oh god, the psycho babble is about to begin, isn't it?"
"You knew this was coming, surely."
"Well, duh." You nibble at Mom's favorite pancake with a little more caution than the last one. "But I still get to complain about it if I wanna, which I will, because at least it distracts you for a little while."
"So, as far as you're concerned, you were born the instant your doomed timeline came into being." She studies you with a cold gaze. "And your old memories are what? Pre-installed fakes?"
"It's more complicated than that."
"Then explain it to me."
"It's just..." You fumble for words. God, it's too early in the morning for the rad metaphors to come spilling out properly. What was your bargain bin spiel again? Ugh, never mind. "Time player shit."
She crosses her arms. "Then enlighten the Light player."
You wrinkle your nose. "Was that a pun?"
"Shush, we're having a serious discussion," she says with a dismissive wave.
Before you can give Rose what she'll probably convert into more ammunition, Mom shouts, "I win!" from your door. She looks sheepish for shouting again as she scuttles past the futon, but she's still grinning like a maniac as she flops into the chair next to you. "It went even easy-peasier than I thought. Those files were practically just sitting around waitin' for me to rescue their butts," she says proudly.
"You seriously un-deleted my shit?" you say, gawking a little.
She grins. "Mostly all of it, I'm pretty sure!" She kisses your temple, smacks her lips in consideration, then spits on a napkin to clean syrup remnants off your face. You grimace and lean away, but she keeps up her motherly attack. "Go take a look and make sure I didn't miss anything though," she says, finally sparing you from further humiliation via Mom Saliva when she picks up your plate. "I gotta get them dishes done now, but when I'm finished, show me your favorite raps, okay?"
"Uh... yeah, sure." You wipe your sleeve across your face.
Wasn't she the one making faces when Bro threatened to use saliva as a cleaning agent? What kind of crazy broad thinks it's okay to spit on a kid, other than all of the motherly moms on every TV show and movie and comic and probably real life?
You glance after her as she heads for the sink. You've got a mom who cares enough about you to save your hard drive and mark you with her spit. "Thanks, Mom."
"Wasn't nothing!" She grins back at you before turning the water on.
Rose rests her chin in her hand. "Should I come with, or can I trust you not to undo all of Mom's hard work by deleting your past again while I finish breakfast?"
You wheel back from the table. "I kind of want some privacy when it comes to investigating the sensitive and personal material on my computer, as revolutionary as that idea might be."
Rose nods, watching you closely. "All right, but I reserve the right to jump on your bed if I find you sleeping again."
You make sure your back is to her before you roll your eyes, just in case her stare can penetrate right through your shades. You weren't gonna try that shit on a full stomach anyway. Probably. Well, maybe you would have if the Lalondes weren't around, but you've figured out that you can't get away with excessive moping when Rose is crouched and ready to pounce the instant you try it.
At the moment, your only ulterior motive is to satisfy your curiosity and learn how much damage control Mom is capable of. Maybe you'll root through the crap she recovered, find some files you're still kinda proud of, let her take a look like she wanted...
Your monitor's on and waiting for you when you make your way to your desk. Everything's back.
You scan your desktop in search of some inevitably missing file, but so far as you can tell, your usual setup is as it should be. It's like your destruction never even happened. Your folders aren't all organized in the same spots as before, but they exist and they contain all of your old shit.
Your raps are safe, your drawings are safe, your scanned in photos are safe... Hell, Mom recovered so much shit that you could put SBaHJ back online and barely lose any data.
If you wanted to, anyway.
It's... still not yours.
You lean back in your chair, hovering your mouse over file after file that you once destroyed. What was the point of letting Mom recover these in the first place? As if you need another reminder of all the shit Dave used to get up to that's eons away from anything you ever-
-- timaeusTestified [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
TT: Hey, are you finally online?
You stare at the chat window in bewilderment. You're signed into Pesterchum? Holy shit, you signed into Pesterchum on autopilot when you first sat down, didn't you? The only reason you've even noticed you did something so stupid is because some asshole's contacting you. Some asshole who's stolen your old chat color.
Wait a fuckin' minute.
TT: In a manner of speaking.
TG: ok youre gonna need to be way more specific than that
TG: cos i aint in the mood to get yanked around right now ill just go limp and youll have to drag me across the floor using your own strength
TG: enjoy the dead weight as i go right back to sleeping my brain away
TT: This is Dirk, bro.
TG: there are a lot of dirks
TG: okay there arent many but there are a few
TG: you mean the guy from sburb in the dweeby pants right
TT: Okay, can we all apply liberal amounts of bleach to our brains and forget those uncool abominations ever existed?
TT: I'm trying to put those things behind me.
TG: holy shit youre the actual dirk
TG: even jade couldnt get through to you guys
TT: You think you're the only ones trying to break this communication barrier?
TT: It took a while, but Rox worked some programming magic and here we are. She has knowledge of future tech, so that probably gave her an edge over your efforts.
TG: wheres here
TG: are you guys on earth
TT: Our Earth, yeah. From what I understand after talking to the other three, we've got the same deal as you, just in another timeline.
TT: Universe reset + bonus perks.
TG: perks what kind of perks we dont got perks
TT: Well, Roxy and I aren't living four hundred years ahead of the rest of the human race anymore, for one. That's pretty sweet.
TT: Most of the shit from the Batterwitch is like it never happened too. No juggalo presidents, no mind controlling baking company, no dead guardians.
TG: so you mean your dave is back
TT: It's hard to call him "back" when he was never exactly there for me in the first place.
TT: But yeah. Bro's here.
TT: Is, uh. Is your bro alive again?
TT: Is that a good thing.
TG: i dunno
TG: im gonna go with mostly
TT: Seemed like maybe... I don't know, you guys always were kinda weird about the dude and I figured that was confirmation that I should never be entrusted with a kidlet.
TG: yeah that probably used to be true
TG: but bros been kinda different since we got back
TG: i think its cos the demon puppet isnt around to implant bad ideas and shitty parenting techniques anymore
TT: Wait, he's actually good at it now?
TG: ok no i didnt say that
TG: hes still a crap parent like holy fuck hes really incompetent at family shit
TG: but hes tolerable this time around and like
TG: i think
TG: this is pretty much the first time i ever really considered the possibility that he actually gives a shit about me
TT: Well, cool.
TT: I think.
TT: Actually, that's still pretty fucked up.
TG: yeah you know what lets talk about your bro or something
TG: hows that working out for you
TT: Not gonna lie, it's pretty dope.
TT: Can't take two steps without hearing, "Bro, check out this sweet rap. Hey, li'l bro, you gotta see the final cut of this film. Dirk, hey Dirk, let's hang, c'mon, let's chill."
TG: so this is how it looks from the outside huh
TT: Yeah, it's great. He's the fucking coolest dude.
TG: wait seriously?
TG: you just described a guy who doesnt even know how to give a dude breathing space
TT: Hey, Bro is the chillest badass who ever lived.
TT: He's just really clingy.
TG: hahaha and youre just soaking that up huh?
TG: ok dude he sounds like a weird alt dave to me but so long as youre happy
TT: Who are you to talk? Aren't you an "alt" Dave, bro?
TG: someone already told you about that
TT: It was supposed to be a secret?
TG: yeah man who the hell gave you my biography
TG: that wasnt supposed to be published for another year now i find out theres a fucking leak gdi thats gonna kill the sales
TT: I applaud your ability to dodge awkward subjects by utilizing rad metaphors.
TG: i applaud your ability to sound eerily like rose
TT: Cut the bullshit, dude. What's going on?
TG: uuugh everyone else fucking assumed the alpha dave got revived like the other dead losers and they mistook me for him
TT: Oh. Well, fuck.
TT: That's why none of your friends would explain why you were MIA on Pesterchum?
TG: yeah probably
TG: so howd you figure out im not the alpha
TT: The others were basically civilian casualties of the game. Dave died playing by the game's rules.
TT: It only makes sense that Skaia gave the innocent bystanders another chance, while players who died fighting the final boss are just SOL.
TG: but you contacted me anyway
TT: Yeah, bro.
TT: I don't care that you're not the "alpha" or whatever the fuck.
TT: You implying I should reject Bro just because he's not the Dave I met in Sburb?
TG: man thats different
TT: In what fucking way?
TT: He's a Dave from an alternate timeline. That's the deal, isn't it?
TG: its way more complicated than that
TG: time player shit
TG: you probably wouldnt get it
TT: Then I guess I should ask ahead of time, since you clearly can't have both, who are you planning to cut out of your life, me or your bro?
TG: well one of you hasnt spent 13 years being a total douchewad to me so if i gotta pick im feeling a little more charitable towards you
TT: Wow, so you're going to judge someone based on their actions and personality instead of what timeline they're from? That is one weirdass concept. My mind is blown.
TG: dude shut up
TT: No, bro, we need to shout this message to the masses.
TT: We'll hand out flyers and rent billboards. "People deserve respect based on their actions and not their circumstances. Vote liberal."
TT: I'm having like a spiritual enlightenment here. It's almost like alt selves are autonomous people with their own thoughts and feelings. Fucking radical.
TG: i changed my mind youre a douchewad too
TT: I totally am, but as a dude who's been around the block when it comes to dealing with splintered selves, I'm also pretty knowledgeable in this field. Let me fucking tell you, it's way more important whether you've avoided being an asshole or not rather than whether you're "the original" or not.
TT: I've met three Daves total now and they're all fucking awesome. That's a hell of a lot more impressive than my track record.
TG: sure are words
TG: that you said there
TT: Hey, you ok?
TT: A'right, cool, just checking.
TT: Checking again since you haven't said a damn word in ten minutes... You sure about that?
TG: i mean yeah
TG: i mean whichever answer means im fine
TG: i got shit going on over here im just distracted
TG: i should probably log off
TT: If you say so.
TT: You're gonna sign in again someday, right?
TG: yeah sure man
TG: i can probably be bothered to move my ass to the computer every so often if youre craving my presence
TT: I crave it like a pregnant lady craves chocolate-covered steaks, bro.
TG: wow ok youve convinced me i would be a monster not to help satisfy a craving that fucking severe
TT: Thanks. We can talk about less heavy shit next time and just dick around like long-lost bros trying to catch up.
TG: sounds cool
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering timaeusTestified [TT] --
The guy doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. He's a Heart player. Splinters are different from doomed selves, probably.
Dirk's bro is totally different from you, anyway. He's another Dave who's not the Dave, sure, except no one gives a shit that he's not technically the Real Dave because...
Your mind keeps screeching to a halt at the "because." Because what? Because he's kind of the alpha in another universe? He died the same as the other doomed Daves: he's a second Dave from another timeline who died because he was in the wrong timeline, leaving the duty of being Dave Strider to someone else.
So why does he get a free pass as legit while you're just a replacement? You've gotta be missing something here, because the alternative is someone made a mistake and it wasn't actually you. Your logic must be slipping, as a weird thought is steadily surfacing in your mind: What if Dirk's right? What if there's no shame in being a spare Dave?
What if you're not second-rate and the world rejected you anyway?
It's not a comforting thought. It's not even a thought you're sure you believe, but it gnaws at you all the same.
What if they threw you in the bargain bin because of an overstock of Daves and not because there was anything inherently wrong with you? Well, nothing wrong until asshole customers started poking and prodding at the "defective" merchandise, because hey, you've gotta be flawed somewhere. You've got a discount sticker on you after all, so they should automatically approach you with skepticism and distrust. They'll buy you for now to go easy on their wallets, but it's way safer to save up to replace you with a non-discounted Dave eventually, just in case you've got a dent they can't find. All because some fuckhead store manager decided they wanted to move stock.
It's a good thing Rose can't mindread. She'd have a fucking field day with the metaphors streaking through your brain right now.
She slips into your room to check on you after a while. Lalonde senses must have tingled that something was amiss after you were quiet for so long.
She closes the door and just studies you for a moment as you sit unmoving at your computer. "You talked to Dirk?" she says.
She wanders to your side. "How are you feeling?"
"I don't know." You gaze at the computer monitor -- the scene of the crime where a guy way cooler than you called you fucking awesome. "Weird," you murmur. You take a shaky breath and lower your head. "Just... weird."
She pulls over your discarded computer chair and settles next to you. Instead of slapping you upside the head with one of her Freudian spiels, she just wraps her arms around your shoulders and holds you.