He doesn’t turn up at the reunion.
There’s no uproar about it, but the subject keeps coming up as everyone tries to figure out whether they care. It’s weird to watch. Equius is the most bothered; he takes procedure a little too seriously, and the fact that one of your number is missing must strike him as the first rumbling of an avalanche. He’s obviously afraid the whole group will fall apart. He wants to organize a search.
Rose is at the opposite end of the bothered/not-bothered spectrum. She believes he’s making a dramatic statement, and acknowleging it would simply feed his narcissism. She suggests that when he puts in an appearance at last, you all simply pretend he was never missing.
As for you, you’re kind of curious but not enough to have an opinion. There are plenty of other interesting things going on. For instance, the reason you’ve all gathered at Vriska’s flashy Palm Beach mcmansion, rather than at Equius’s neo-Moorish mini-palace in Sonoma as originally planned, is because Vriska is under house arrest for reckless driving and property damage. She spends the weekend walking around in her swimsuit, showing off her ankle cuff like it’s a medal of valor and explaining that she’s learned her lesson: in human culture you’re only allowed to drive a car into your own swimming pool.
After the win, all you humans woke as pairs of twins, placed together in your familiar homes the way you always wished they’d been. John and Jane got the modest suburban house they grew up in, unchanged in every detail, except that instead of being jammed cheek by jowl with a hundred identical houses it now sits on seven acres of woods and lawn and rose garden. Roxy and Rose got their old house too, but where once it was isolated in the forest, it’s now a short walk from an ivy-infested college town with three good pubs and a huge library. Jade and Jake are neighbors instead of roommates — Jake in a mountaintop house that apparently got destroyed when he was little, Jade in her goofy moon spire thing — and their whole island got moved. It’s part of the Hawaiian chain now, a half hour flight from Oahu by pontoon plane. Which they have two of, and somehow woke up knowing how to fly them.
And your Houston apartment is in the same building as before, but now it’s a penthouse condo, and instead of having to jimmy a rusty lock in a smelly stairway to get roof access, you can just step through a set of glass doors into your private roof garden. It’s kind of less fun, in a way, but you don’t get tar on your shoes when you strife now because there’s cedar decking all over the place, so that’s nice. Also, the elevator works, and the lobby has a concierge desk instead of an old couch stained with wino pee.
The trolls’ new situations are less of a nostalgia trip. Troll immigrants to Earth don’t get to build Dr. Seuss monstrosities with randomly placed windows; they have to live in houses that meet local building codes just like everyone else. All of you players are equally rich now, so it’s kind of interesting that, for instance, Karkat got a little clapboard one-bedroom thing in a working-class trollish neighborhood in Tacoma, with a postage stamp yard, a chain link fence, and a stunted cherry tree. John’s theory is that Karkat always wished he could fit in and be normal, so he got the most normal troll house on Earth. Nepeta didn’t even get a house; she got an Airstream trailer and a National Park Service lifetime pass. She stays with Equius when she’s not out hunting or fishing or lying on a tree branch pretending to be a puma or whatever she does.
As for Ampora, you can’t actually remember where he ended up, if you ever knew. Probably someplace where wild hipsters roam free. Hollywood?
It’s not that the question is nagging at you or anything. You’ve got plenty to occupy your time. You hang out with John when he’s not setting off illegal fireworks with Vriska and Jake or trying to get Karkat to play mini-golf. You get sloshed with Roxy, and get lectured about it by Rose. You catch up with Terezi. You avoid Dirk, who’s avoiding Equius, who’s annoying the crap out of Aradia, who’s avoiding him, while at the same time trying to get Sollux to do something other than mack on Feferi. This is the best bunch of lunatics. You kind of wish these reunions happened every weekend instead of once a year.
Sunday morning, the party begins to break up. Taxis come and go as people head for the airport. Rose and Roxy came by train; you and Dirk road-tripped it, so you’ve offered to drive them to the train station. When it’s time to go, though, your brother is nowhere to be found. You search the place methodically, increasingly annoyed. What an irritating time for him to vanish.
Finally, you conclude you’re going to have to drive the Lalondes to the station and then come back for him — and lo and behold, there’s Dirk sliding out of the back of your truck, nonchalantly buttoning up his jeans. You’re not at all surprised to see a tousled Equius emerge a moment later.
Out of the corner of your mouth, you tell the girls, “Act like you don’t even notice. That’ll drive him crazy.”
Rose keeps a pretty good poker face. “It was good to see you again, Dirk,” she says politely.
Roxy laughs and wolf-whistles. “Have fun, boys? Jake owes me twenty bucks!”
You and Rose sigh in unison. It would’ve been so funny, too.
While Dirk and Rose exchange wordy, sarcastic goodbyes, Equius steps closer to you with the determined expression of someone who has embarrassed himself completely but knows it will get worse if he acknowleges it. “When you get home,” he says, nervously picking a tangle out of his hair with his claw tips, “would you be the one to stop by Ampora’s residence and make sure he’s all right? Someone must, and you’re the closest.”
“Why, where’s he live?”
“Gavis something… fiddlesticks, I’ve forgotten.” He digs in his pocket for his phone to look it up.
“Galveston,” you suggest.
You shrug. It’s a fifty minute trip from your place, and you like driving. “Why not. Text me the address. Did Dirk say no?”
“Oh. Well.” He gets his fingers snarled in his hair, and a fresh sweat beads his brow. “He thought he might come visit me for a few days.”
“Great. Good for you.” You raise your voice and aim your chin at Dirk. “When were you going to tell me I’m driving back alone, asshole?”
“Does it matter? You know now.” His voice is infuriatingly flat, but there’s a sort of soft curve hovering around the corners of his mouth that keeps you from being truly annoyed. Whatever the hell his issue with Equius was this time, he’s honestly glad to have resolved it. He’s your brother and you love him. If this makes him happy, well, Godspeed the both of them.
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