Gamzee thought he was going to come back. All of them, really, but especially him. That was the nature of the game, after all, everything feeding back into itself, renewing, reviving. Gamzee was unsure that any of them could die if they wanted to, when you got down to it. They had probably been cursed since before the dawn of the universe.

She came back first, which Gamzee found intolerable. No one could figure out why he walked across the room and punched her in her pixie jaw, not even Karkat, not even Vriska herself, who could never figure out why anyone felt anything. She fell to the floor with a thud, and she gave him a dark look, one that suggested nothing Gamzee was interested in.

She didn’t try to deny killing Tavros, though she could have, because no one was sure if Gamzee was even capable of telling the truth about what happened in those murky hours, and Eridan was for the moment beyond anyone’s questioning. When Karkat asked her, she laughed her short, staccato laugh, “Yeah, that was me, who else would bother?” and Gamzee wanted to hit her again, keep hitting her, blue blood spattering across his face and up the walls and smeared across the floor where she tried to crawl away. Karkat, only now beginning to understand, gently squeezed his hand, and Gamzee felt the sudden swell of viciousness ebb away. “He’ll come back, too,” he told himself again, “They all will.”

Aradia returned next, or perhaps never left, she wouldn’t say and it didn’t matter, anyway. Karkat anxiously asked her about the rest, as though she’d know (of course she’d know). She blinked at him and said, bewildered, “They died,” and that was all.

The computers still worked, a little bit anyway. Gamzee could load up the timeline and watch Tavros smile as he stood shaky on his new legs. He could scroll backwards, and watch him crying as he left Vriska to die in a pool of her own blood. He could watch Vriska’s colors bleed out, over and over again, and he could stroke himself and watch his own colors explode across the screen and against the back of his eyelids. He could watch Tavros’ body tumble into blackness and land with a crunch far below, but he didn’t. He could watch their first kiss whenever he shut his eyes, and feel the prickle of Tavros’ hair against his fingertips.

They all came back, eventually, but none of them had seen him, none of them knew how to get him, none of them knew where to start. Gamzee stared up at the ceiling, cold stone against his back, Karkat stretched out beside him, their arms touching. At some point there was a kiss, soft and languid, but nothing else. Nothing was ever that easy, or simple.

“This is going to hurt,” the girl with the dog-ears said, and then she plunged her hands into Gamzee’s chest, rich purple blood pouring down her arms and dripping heavy into puddles on the ground. Gamzee screamed, and the girl’s eyes were soft, pitying, but still she dug and pulled and prodded. He could feel his heartbeat slowing, feel the blood draining away, leaving him grey and empty. She was breaking his curse, unraveling what had been decided in the dawn of creation. Death has no meaning without permanence. Blackness creeped into the corners of Gamzee’s eyes. Amid the swirls of color, the spectrum twining back on itself, Gamzee saw the girl’s eyes light up, and she drew her hands back, holding something small and good cupped in her palms.

The blood was gone, the pain was gone. Gamzee was laying on the stone floor, and he could feel Karkat pressed against his back, still sleeping. Above him was Tavros, smiling wide enough to show all his teeth. Gamzee wondered if she really had killed him, but then Tavros pressed his fingers to Gamzee’s mouth, and Gamzee closed his eyes. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.

“I knew you’d come back.”

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