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Mind Over Mind Over Matter

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Its head is searing.

It isn’t a headache. It’s the flame of Disjunction. The waters of its mind are hitting the boiling point, warmed by the currents of magma churning underneath consciousness and bursting through to its surface. Fluid touches, breaks, and dissipates, firing upwards in streams of gas that hit the atmosphere and pop in a circulating chaos of vaporization. Contained within the bubbles that form are micro-minds, micro-identities: special structures that bloom from the whole of subjectivity and enclose selfhoods independent of the totality that birthed them. They try to rise higher, try to soar towards the blinding light hanging over them, but they’re always cut short, always collapsed under the weight of their own calamitous frailty. Their sounds echo like grubcries — the squeals of new life being culled by the crunch of a patrol drone’s boot.

All throughout headspace is the fire of ego death; the squealing, the churning, the burning.

SERKET: We’ve got a migr8ne.

Terezi thuds its head against the cave wall.

TEREZI: YOU DON’T FUCK1NG S4Y

For the past several hours it's been trying to isolate itself from anything that could cause a sensory overload. Sunlight is kept at bay by the cave’s solitary embrace. Dirk is kept at bay by his dream of being an anime villain. Rose, who is just as much of an anime villain at this stage, is kept away by her constant need to be narratively pompous. The only creatures nearby are too animalistic to ever consider investigating the cave, and the only weather blowing in is a slow, stolid breeze. The scene is the quietest it's been in weeks.

Naturally, as Terezi is a person with a perfectly functioning and non-traumatized mind, it has a sensory overload anyways. The condition of its sense of self being far from the singular state it should be in doesn’t help with matters.

SERKET: Didn’t you s8y we h8ve pills? 8ecause this is seriously. F8cking. Un8eara8le!!!!!!!

The mental imprint of Vriska raises one of its their her hands and pats the soreness on their(?) forehead, hoping to soften both the migraine and a set of bruises, ones left by a recent string of headbutts against a particular geologic formation. Why Terezi thought those were a good idea is beyond her.

TEREZI: 4) 1’M NOT 4 H3R, 4ND B) MY 1RR4T1ON4L1TY 1N TH3 F4C3 OF P4NROTT1NG NONS3NS3 1S SOM3TH1NG 1 C4N GR4SP PR3TTY W3LL
SERKET: A) I was talking a8out myself with the “her,” and 8) how were y8u even reading that????????
TEREZI: 1F YOU C4N R34D 1T TH3N SO C4N 1, DUH. S4M3 T3XT S4M3 P3RSON
TEREZI: P3OPL3
TEREZI: D4MM1T

Terezi revokes Serket’s control and switches from patting their head to clenching as the migraine flares harder.

SERKET: 8ut w8, only y8u have the narr8tive sight, so I shouldn’t 8e reading it, and the paragraph wasn’t fully a8out y8u, so y8u shouldn’t 8e reading it either. If it doesn’t perfectly fit either of us then how were we a8le to—
TEREZI: W3’R3 1N TH3 S4M3 TH1NKP4N DUMB4SS, G3T 4 R34L1TY CH3CK >:P
SERKET: I’m allowed to 8e confused a8out this, Pyrope!!!!!!!!
TEREZI: WH4T3V3R YOU S4Y, M1SS3S COPY VR1SK4

It picks itself up off the ground and prepares to make the trek over to the painkillers.

Before it can react a hand smacks it across the face. The blow arrives like a lightning bolt, landing against the left side of the head and the back portions of the snout, carrying enough force to leave a blow but with enough restraint to render it a microsecond impact. Terezi, already aware of the attack’s perpetrator, doesn’t recoil in response. All it does is grip the left hand that had just been commandeered by her.

SERKET: I’m not a c8py.
SERKET: I’m not Vriska.
SERKET: I’m mys8lf.

The hand clenches into a fist.

TEREZI: SORRY >:/
SERKET: I don’t c8re how I exist, I don’t c8re why I exist, I don’t c8re what’s going to happen to me or this 8rain going forwards. All I know is one thing.
SERKET: One small, microscopic thing.
SERKET: And it is that
SERKET: —no matter where I am in the world—
SERKET: I. Am. Me.

The fist tightens.

SERKET: I.
SERKET: Am.
SERKET: ME—
TEREZI: OK4Y SH33SH, 1 GET 1T FUSSYF4NGS. 1 W4S JUST TRY1NG TO POK3 SOM3 FUN >:\
SERKET: Fine, wh8tever!!!!!!!!
SERKET: Just don’t do it ag8n.
SERKET: Now, where did y8u say the pills are?
TEREZI: FOLLOW TH3 L34D3R

Terezi guides them in slow, careful motions towards a vat in the far corner of the cave, a radioactive waste bin retrieved from some long since forgotten branch of canon. It serves as a storage container, less for common usage by the Theseus’s crew and more for common disposal by Terezi whenever its sylladex gets stuffed. Through the myriad of smells wafting within—intensified into dagger-like pierces by the migraine’s grip—junk dating back to the Alternian days rests under layers of meteor, Earth C, and Deltritus findings, all colorful enough to be worth amassing yet not useful enough to be worth carrying. Fishing through the upper garbage strata, it quickly sniffs out the prize. It reaches in and scoops handfuls of

SERKET: Pill8ugs.
SERKET: It’s fucking PILL8UGS!!!!!!!!
TEREZI: OH DON’T B3 SUCH 4 DUMB W1GGL3R, TH3Y’R3 D34D 4ND TH3Y’R3 4LSO P4RT GUSH3R
TEREZI: CH3RRY FL4VOR3D GUSH3R, H3H3H3H3H >:]
TEREZI: OW FUCK OW
SERKET: If the migr8ne hadn’t just hit there I would’ve smacked y8u a second time. ::::/
TEREZI: PO1NT T4K3N
TEREZI: BUT R34LLY THOUGH TH3S3 4R3 P3RF3CTLY F1N3. THE COLOR H4S 4 N1C3 FL4VOR TH4T OV3RR1D3S TH3 P4RT OF OUR H34D 4CT1NG UP. 1’V3 SUCK3D ON 4 F3W B3FOR3
JUNE: i don’t know, gushers are uh. already pretty gross if you ask me!

Of course the plurality isn’t a matter of pure mental dysfunction. That’d be too easy. No, instead it’s layered atop Bullshit: prime bullshit, the kind of absurd singularity you get when you’re too self aware for your own good and glimpse the hands typing out your existence. Beneath the mind’s magma the narrative crust roils, rumbling and sending shockwaves through the land above in catastrophic earthquakes of Knowing—seeing and being far more than anyone has the noetic capacity to handle. There’s people from other stories in here, ones that have gotten ditched or revised or killed by their authors, dropped into the muck and left to sink towards the very core of it all. Even loved stories fall here too, with time. It’s the Essence of Mind, and, for as long as Terezi Pyrope can feel its weight crush its synapses, it is set to orbit the event horizon for an eternity. Until someone makes a careful push in, of course.

June is from one of those stories where she got to figure out who she was; a gleaming self-realization, one that lasted paragraphs before her life was cut short out of need to advance another character’s progression. The sting of narrative absolution clings to her form like a phantom; if Terezi sniffs close enough it can smell the blood running through the prose.

TEREZI: YOU’V3 L1T3R4LLY 34T3N TH3S3 THOUS4NDS OF T1M3S, COM3 ON
JUNE: yeah it wasn’t fun any of those times!!
JUNE: gushers suck!
SERKET: Yeah see, June’s got my 8ack!
TEREZI: OH MY GOG 4LL OF YOU 4R3 4 BUNCH OF P4NS13S
TEREZI: H3R3 CH3CK TH1S SH1T OUT
TEREZI: DOWN THE H4TCH

Tossing them into the air with a ceremonious flair, Terezi clamps its teeth, overwhelming its buds with a maelstrom of fruity sweetness. Quickly the migraine is overridden, replaced by a full sensory blast of insectoid Betty Crocker bliss straight to the skull. Chitinous coatings crunch between the canines. It waggles its tail.

SERKET: Why are you like this.
TEREZI: 3H3H3H3H3H3H3H3H3H3H3H3H3H
JUNE: it’s not going to answer you yknow :p
MARYAM: I Think She Takes Comfort In Pretending There Is The Faintest Hope Of Seeing An Answer Emerge From This Display Of Grotesquery, In Spite Of Knowing The Unabating Enigma Dragons Carry With Their Every Action. Though, Of Course, We All Know That You Are Quite Into This.
SERKET: Hey!!!!!!!!
TEREZI: SHUT UP 1’M SLURP1NG ON 4N EXOSKELETON CHUNK
MARYAM: I Kid, Serket.
SERKET: Still. >::::(
JUNE: i’m so glad i’m not fronting right now
TEREZI: H3R3 H4V3 4 T4ST3
JUNE: eugh!
TEREZI: H3H3H3H3H3H >:]

As it turns out, having a sensory system that treats the color red like electromagnetic crack lets you distract from mental issues pretty easily. So Terezi keeps chewing, savoring the taste, letting the flavor linger for as long as possible while scarlet stripes streak over its perception. There is nothing to worry about in this state; only how much pigment you’ve got left. Once the last drops dribble down its tongue it sniffs back to the casket, licking to try and find any

ROSE: Am I interrupting something here?

A lot, actually.

TEREZI: 4 LOT, 4CTU4LLY
ROSE: You already said that.
TEREZI: YOU KNOW WH4T 1 M34N
ROSE: Of course I do. I simply felt like pointing out the redundancy in the prosaic bleedthrough and your variable lucidity regarding its presence, along with your ability to recognize it for others.
TEREZI: BLUH BLUH BLUHHHHHH
TEREZI: SO T3LL M3, WHY 4R3 YOU B4CK 4LR34DY? >:?

This isn’t a Rose of headspace. This is Rose Proper—prominently corporeal, prominently physical at the mouth of the cave, staring down Terezi with her two eyes of orange-glossed optics. She floats a few inches above the ground, moving like someone is dragging a 2D sprite over flat terrain, though whether that’s narrative sight kicking in or a dissociation episode beginning is beyond Terezi’s recognition. Of course, it could always be both, but Terezi never considers the prospect. I do, though.

TEREZI: Y3S 1 G3T 1T YOUR BR41N 1S HUG3 4ND YOU’R3 CL3V3R W1TH PROS3
TEREZI: C4N W3 MOV3 ON B3FOR3 YOU CLOG 3V3RYON3’S COLL3CT1V3 PROT31N CHUT3S W1TH YOUR S3LF-INDULG3NC3 >:/
ROSE: Oh please, if this fic was rated any higher there certainly would be some shared protein chute clogging between the two of us.
TEREZI: S4V3 TH4T FOR 4FT3R HOURS, S33R >;]
SERKET: G8y.

Terezi gives Serket a mental shoosh before proceeding.

TEREZI: NOW, TO R31T3R4T3: WHY 4R3 YOU B4CK?
TEREZI: 1 THOUGHT YOU WOULD B3 OUT FOR 4 WH1L3
ROSE: I got bored.
TEREZI: ...
TEREZI: OH
MARYAM: (we should’ve seen this coming.)
TEREZI: (shoosh!)
ROSE: Yes. As it turns out, the primordial Deltritian landscape is little more than an expanse of the same green and purple field copy-pasted across an equally torturous routine of tectonic purgatory. Spare a few of the monstrosities we’ve had success in migrating across the emerging wilderness, there is nothing worth waxing poetic about.
JUNE: (wait, can she hear us in here?)
TEREZI: (SHOOSH!)
TEREZI: G33 1 SUR3 COULD T3LL
TEREZI: 1T C4N’T B3 TH4T BOR1NG OUT TH3R3 THOUGH
ROSE: You’re welcome to argue if you find any evidence pointing towards the contrary.
TEREZI: G33Z, 4LW4YS SO FORMAL >:P
JUNE: (why are you responding like this?)
TEREZI: (1’m fl1rt1ng dumb4ss!)
ROSE: I’m playing it up for effect.
ROSE: You may now witness me attempt to produce a formal, robotically-constructed laugh: Hah. Hah. Hah.
ROSE: Clearly the readers know that I am beyond the threshold of ever experiencing human thought or emotion ever again. What great tragedy these circumstances are.
TEREZI: H4R H4R H4R
TEREZI: C4N YOU MOV3 ON 4LR34DY? 1’M TRY1NG TO 34T SOM3 D34D BUGS
ROSE: I have a question first.

Terezi pauses mid-vat scoop to look up and respond.

TEREZI: Y3S?
ROSE: Are you aware that you’re speaking to yourself?

All sound stops.

Terezi goes motionless. It shifts, quietly, standing up from its position over the barrel, taking a quick pause to brush off its coat, then turning to face the questioner. Then it stares—stares with those burnt-out eyes, those pupils clouded in red, torched vision searing a hole through Rose Lalonde’s very form. Even without eyesight the message comes through with knife-like clarity. Terezi can’t smell any reaction from Rose.

TEREZI: HOW MUCH D1D YOU H34R?
ROSE: A lot.
TEREZI: HOW LONG W3R3 YOU 4T TH3 C4V3 3NTR4NC3 FOR?
ROSE: Longer than you expected, I presume.
JUNE: *gulp*
TEREZI: (shoosh! 1’ll g3t through th1s)
ROSE: You don’t need to whisper, you know. I can hear all of it.
MARYAM: ...
JUNE: ...
ROSE: It’s dialogue. It’s bound to surface somewhere along the narrative stratum.
SERKET: You 8etter say something real quick or I’m p8nching a hole through your plating.

Serket pilots their body towards Rose and winds up for a—

TEREZI: CUT 1T!

—throws themselves backwards, staggering over to the nearest wall and pushing its claws in to maintain a grip, eyes still fixated ahead. The target has moved, though; all the nostrils meet are empty air.

ROSE: Are you fine?

Terezi smells an approach.

TEREZI: ST4Y B4CK OR 1’LL—
ROSE: I want to know if you hurt yourself in the fall.

Pausing, it flares its nostrils and sniffs around. It barely even noticed that it collided back-first into the wall, its body partially slid down the surface and halfway collapsed across the ground. The only reason it hasn’t toppled over entirely is because of how hard its claws are grinding into the rock face.

Rose reaches a hand down.

ROSE: Did you break your wing buds at all?

It twitches one of the scaled appendages on its back—draconian anatomies, their capacity for flight limited by the nascency of their growth. On Alternia it would’ve had to cut them off before it could get culled, but here there are no restrictions on the permissible mutations one can have. The wings flutter with only a slight soreness—no sign of injury.

TEREZI: NO.
ROSE: Good.

Terezi, hesitantly, grabs her hand. She pulls it up onto its feet.

ROSE: I didn’t intend to approach the topic with a hostile countenance. It was my onus to rend it in a manner you would find comfortable, given its personal nature, and for that I am sorry.
TEREZI: COULD YOU DR4W OUT 4N 4POLOGY 4NY LONG3R? J3GUS
ROSE: If you want to be drenched in the tides of my everflowing, purple prosaic sorrow, then yes. There are enough of these waves to sweep away a small coastal town and destroy the lives of thousands, forcing them to truly question whether there is a god above who cares for them.
SERKET: G88888888g okay you can move on with this now.
ROSE: Are you certain we can, Serket?
TEREZI: Y3S. Y3S W3 4R3 C3RT41N >:P
JUNE: (wait she can hear us?)
ROSE: Yes.
TEREZI: OH MY GOG D1D YOU NOT F1GUR3 TH4T OUT 34RL13R
TEREZI: SH3 S41D SH3 W4S 34V3SDROPP1NG 4T TH3 C4V3 3NTR4NC3 1T’S NOT TH4T H4RD TO P13C3 TWO 4ND TWO TOG3TH3R
TEREZI: 3V3N 4 WR1GGL3R C4N G3T TH4T JUN3
JUNE: i know i know, i’m sorry
JUNE: i’m just
JUNE: there’s been so much happening the entire time i’ve gotten here, and
JUNE: there’s been so much, okay?
JUNE: and even before then with the way i felt that sword go through my chest and felt myself drop out of everything and land nowhere without anyone around there’s
TEREZI: JUN3
JUNE: i know i’m not even my real self anymore i’m just a figment of that and
TEREZI: JUN3 1T’S F1N3
TEREZI: YOU’R3 S4F3 H3R3
TEREZI: 1F ROS3 OR 4NYON3 3LS3 TR13S TO PULL SH1T ON YOU 1’LL R1P TH31R JUGULARS OUT 4ND M4K3 SUR3 TH3R3’S SO L1TTL3 L3FT OF TH31R CORPS3S TH4T TH3Y C4N’T 3V3N G3T 4 BUR14L
TEREZI: OK4Y JUN3?

There’s a slight smirk on Rose’s face at hearing the profuse, honest threats of horrific violence (some things never change with it), though she quickly abates to her original, slate expression when she remembers who’s responsible for the outburst.

JUNE: i
JUNE: i think i need to step back for
JUNE: a while
JUNE: i felt my body get puppeteered around and spoken into so much and hurt and i don’t like knowing people can listen in and hear and
TEREZI: YOU’R3 F4R FROM WH4T H4PP3N3D
TEREZI: 1’LL T4K3 C4R3 OF YOU
TEREZI: 1 PROM1S3
JUNE: alright
JUNE: …
JUNE: sorry about that

And then June steps out.

Terezi stands there, panting like it's been decked in the chest.

ROSE: I won’t tell Dirk, if that’s what you’re worried about.
TEREZI: 1T’S NOT TH4T B1TCHBOY 1’M WORR13D 4BOUT
TEREZI: YOU’V3 4LR34DY GON3 ULT
TEREZI: YOU KNOW WH4T TH1S PROC3SS 1S L1K3
TEREZI: 1’M F33L1NG MY 4SPECT CRUSH 1NTO MY H34D L1K3 4 STR4Y HOOFB34ST UNGUL4CL4W 4ND 1 H4V3 NO W4Y OF 34S1NG TH3 PR3SSUR3
TEREZI: 1’V3 4RL43DY COM3 TO T3RMS W1TH B31NG PLUR4L
TEREZI: 1 H4D TH4T M3NT4L P4N1C 4 WH1L3 B4CK
TEREZI: WH4T 1’M WORR13D 4BOUT 1S TH4T 1’LL LOS3 COMPL3T3 CONTROL OV3R WH4T COM3S N3XT 4ND TH4T BOTH OF YOU W1LL B3 FORC3D TO DO SOM3TH1NG 4BOUT 1T
TEREZI: WH3TH3R 1’M 4L1V3 BY TH3 3ND OF 1T OR NOT
ROSE: As far as your odds go I’m much more wary of that stray hoofbeast simile you let slip.
ROSE: Pray tell, you’re not letting an unwanted alter in there.
TEREZI: TRUST M3, 1F 4NYON3 1 W4SN’T COMFORT4BL3 W1TH TR13D TO BR34K 1N MY SP3C14LLY 4SS1GN3D H34DSP4C3 BOUNC3R WOULD S33 TH3M OUT >:P
SERKET: ::::)
ROSE: A spider web of defenses, as always.
ROSE: With stability, I’m fairly certain you will make it through.
TEREZI: F41RLY
ROSE: Fairly.
ROSE: The data pool is small, though from what I can understand, while the process will without a doubt be excruciating—
TEREZI: G33 YOU DON’T S4Y
ROSE: —your “self” will be preserved in a reified state, as if the alloys of your mind were stripped out to leave the metal pure and ameliorated.
TEREZI: SOOOOOOOO
TEREZI: 1’LL B4S1C4LLY B3 TH3 S4M3 3XC3PT 4LL OF MY PROBL3MS 4R3 GO1NG TO B3 TH3R3 4ND MOR3 OBV1OUS
ROSE: That’s one way to read it, yes.
TEREZI: WOW TH4T K1ND4 FUCK1NG SUCKS >:/
TEREZI: 1 THOUGHT TH3 P4YOFF OF TH1S WOULD B3 COOL 4ND NOT SOM3 L4M3 FORM OF D3PR3SS1ON 1 4LR34DY H4V3
ROSE: Your mileage may vary.
ROSE: If you can happen to find us a therapist that hasn’t been tainted by the introduction of my teenage self’s theory into the Earth C psychology pantheon then we may find some better results. For now, I am the closest we have to one, and you already know how well this has turned out.
TEREZI: TH4T’S
TEREZI: Y34H TH4T’S 4LL SORTS OF SCR3W3D HUH
ROSE: But I digress. It is my educated guess that you’ll do somewhere between the realms of “fine” and “could be better,” unless you take on the entire aspect of mind like you’re Atlas and you're trying to find new ways to get yourself owned.
TEREZI: TH3 MOR3 YOU R4MBL3 TH3 MOR3 1 C4N F33L 4 M1GR41N3 COM1NG ON 4G41N >:\
ROSE: My point stands.
ROSE: This is all in reference to mental stability, though.
ROSE: If physical stability is your concern there is the option of, well.
ROSE: I won’t try to dress it up, so I’ll state plainly that you can, potentially, shift your essence between bodies and make yourself a hot robot bitch.

A slight wind flicks through the cave entrance and rustles Rose’s chiffon, though it isn’t enough to render it anything more than a stifled, choked motion. The fabric is frozen in place, an orange column in a wavering sea.

TEREZI: ROS3
ROSE: Yes?
TEREZI: TH4T'S DUMB
ROSE: Oh, but it was worth a shot, wasn’t it?
TEREZI: 1 KNOW YOU JUST D3SP3R4T3LY W4NT 4 ROBOT GF, BUT NO 4MOUNT OF W1L3S 1S G3TT1NG TH4T TO H4PP3N SO LONG 4S D1RK 1S BU1LD1NG TH1NGS F1RST
TEREZI: S3R1OUSLY TH3 OR1G1N4L FR4M3 YOU H4D B3FOR3 YOU TW34K3D 1T LOOK3D L1K3 4 D4MN BR1CK W1TH 4N ORBUL4R ROS3 H34D W3LD3D ON
TEREZI: RORB H34D?
TEREZI: WH4T3V3R
TEREZI: 1T’D B3 4NNOY1NG TO H4V3 TO D34L W1TH TH4T 1N TH3 F1RST PL4C3
TEREZI: 3V3N 1F 1 M4K3 MY 4LT3R4T1ONS TO B3 MUCH, MUCH S3X13R >;]
ROSE: One day our legacy shall be immortalized in steel and circuitry, and sapphic poetry will regale our silicon drama for histories to come.
MARYAM: Ahem.
ROSE: Yes honey?
MARYAM: Presently You Are Cheating On A Proper Timeline Counterpart Of Myself With A Girl Who Has A Mental Copy Of Her In Its Head.
ROSE: Sometimes life gets complicated.
SERKET: This is really f8cking stupid.
SERKET: I thought you two were having a sincere, emotionally vulnera8le moment, 8ut no, no, it’s just really fucking dum88888888.
SERKET: C8n’t either of you have a cathartic chat or is it always going to descend into 8arely restrained flirting? ::::/
ROSE: One is not easily shaken from the broodfester tongueing, Vriska.
ROSE: But yes, I’ll acquiesce.
ROSE: Any chance of a heartfelt, neurodivergent coming out followed by a tearful acceptance has been smashed by our own inability to stop being dykes. We’ve lost any emotional power it could have. My prattling on has doubly delivered a fatal wound, too.
TEREZI: Y34H TH1S GOT R34L DUMB HUH
ROSE: One more narrative rejected.
TEREZI: >:P
TEREZI: SO 4R3 W3 GO1NG TO 3V3N TRY T4LK1NG 4BOUT SOM3TH1NG S3R1OUS NOW OR 4R3 W3 FULLY G1VING UP
ROSE: Do you care enough to try resuming that?
TEREZI: 3H NOT R34LLY
TEREZI: 1S TH3R3 4NY MOR3 1 COULD S4Y OR 4R3 W3 PR3TTY CH1LL 4BOUT TH1S WHOL3 TH1NG
ROSE: If it gives any reassurance, I have it on good grounds that Davepetasprite^2 was plural for the short while they were present in our session.
ROSE: Godspeed, that beautiful thembo bitch.
TEREZI: OH TH3M?
TEREZI: Y34H 1’V3 FL1RT3D W1TH MULT1PL3 4LT3RS OF TH3M B3FOR3
TEREZI: NON3 OF TH3M 3V3R STUCK 4ROUND, THOUGH >:/
ROSE: I should not be surprised.

Rose, clearly recognizing the conversation to be done, starts to float towards the back of the cave without a word, likely heading for the alchemizer labs to create more horrific shitposts of nature. She exits—

TEREZI: W41T!

Rose turns around.

ROSE: What is it?
TEREZI: DO YOU
TEREZI: DO YOU 4CTU4LLY TH1NK D1RK WOULDN’T B3 4BL3 TO F1ND OUT ON H1S OWN? OR TRY TO M4N1PUL4T3 1T?
ROSE: Two things:
ROSE: One. Dirk has never been able to read others on the road to ultimate self well.
TEREZI: ...HUH
TEREZI: W4SN’T H3 4BL3 TO F1GUR3 YOU OUT W3LL?
ROSE: It was overt what was happening to me and I was in an emotionally pliable state from the start.
ROSE: Neither point applies for yourselves.
ROSE: Two.
ROSE: You are much, much more powerful than he is, and I doubt you’d have any trouble dealing with his weeb theatrics if worse came to worse.
TEREZI: HEHEHEHEH
TEREZI: 1’M GL4D YOU C4N UND3RST4ND HOW STRONG 4ND DYK3Y 1 4M >:]
TEREZI: OR
TEREZI: W41T
TEREZI: W3 4R3?
TEREZI: SH1T PRONOUNS 4R3 DUMB FOR TH1S
ROSE: You can take your time.

Rose ex—

SERKET: W8!!!!!!!!
ROSE: ...

The voice solely rang out inside Terezi’s head but it still felt loud enough to leave its ears rattling.

SERKET: When do we w8nt to meet up again?
ROSE: …
TEREZI: SMOOOOTH
SERKET: Shut up >::::/
ROSE: You’ll know when we do.

Rose flashes a brief smile, and, finally, exits. Terezi idles in place, turning around to sniff past the cave entrance.

It.

Doesn’t know what to make of that conversation?

Sure, it was productive, within some margin of the word, though nothing feels any different. Rose knows. Rose is supportive. Dirk won’t interfere. Dirk can’t mess with things. It still feels the same.

There was no revelatory moment of understanding, no pitch of self-acceptance, accompanied by a crescendo of comfort and congratulations, underscored by a leitmotif of deep, thematic meaning.

They’re just plural.

And nothing has changed.

MARYAM: It’s Almost As If Narratively Perfect Moments Of Self-Realization Are A Fabrication Invented By Writers, And That Personal Growth Takes Place Over Longer, Formative Periods Of Time, Where We Can Truly Figure Out Who We Are With Respect To The World And Ourselves.
TEREZI: SHUT UP 1’M H4V1NG 4 DRAMATIC 1NT3RN4L MONOLOGU3

It leans down to nibble away at the tip of their cane, teeth following well-incised grooves as a quiet stim to pass the time and sift through thought after thought after thought. Those never stop coming, do they? The Deltritian sun is high in the noon sky, and the light it wafts over the outside plains sets the vegetation in a strange, off-green glow. Shadows land near perfectly under the arboreal ambulators, like perfect silhouettes of their branches. It feels set apart from the environment, like an invasive element whose stark contrast breaks the composure.

Terezi has been on Earth. It knows how disorienting alien environments can feel. This, however, feels different. Truly alien. Like something that always existed far past its zone of understanding and is now in full smell for the first time.

SERKET: You wanna go outside?
TEREZI: HM? >:?
SERKET: Y8u’re sure sniffing at it intentently.
TEREZI: HMMM

Its nostrils have been flared for the past several minutes.

TEREZI: W3LL
SERKET: Can y8u think of anything 8etter to do or are we just going to keep this up?
TEREZI: TRU3, TRU3
TEREZI: DO YOU W4NT TO—
SERKET: I’ll lead the way!!!!!!!!

And she sets them off, almost at a full sprint. Terezi has to struggle to keep the cane moving in pace.

MARYAM: Are You Sure This Is A Wise Idea?
MARYAM: We Are Heavily Fatigued, And If We Push Ourselves We May Have To Rest In Potentially Hazardous Wilderness.
SERKET: It’ll 8e fiiiiiiiine, trust me!
TEREZI: W3’LL F1GUR3 1T OUT

We’ll figure it out.

We’ll figure it out.

No matter what happens they always do, don’t they?

Terezi’s brain won’t stop boiling. The maelstrom of Disjunction, in all its flaming glory, won’t stop whirling. But so long as they have each other? So long as they have the emotional support to make it through it all, to push through the flames and shatter the traumatic, predestined cage of ultimate ascension? They’ll survive. They’ll survive, and no amount of mental hell is going to bring them down.

Terezi is sure of this.

Breaching the cave’s shadows, Serket leads them out into the wilderness.

They pass out under a tree several hours later.

Terezi, still reeling from the events of the day, considers this a raucous success.