Your name is Dave Strider and you are so motherfucking happy you don't even know, bro. You are twenty-one years old and fresh out of college. To pay for the bills, you DJ at nights at Club Alternia (along with a majority of your friends) as turntechGodhead.
The... Incident was over five years ago and over those five years, you've more or less gotten over it. You still prefer wearing long sleeves to hide your scars, and sure- you get nightmares once in a while, but in your situation, it would be weirder not to have any residual trauma. Actually, nightmares or no nightmares, it wouldn't really matter because you always have John by your side to help you calm down. Even more so now that you two are married.
Today is a special day (at least to John it is- you've never really cared actually) because it is your birthday and to celebrate both the anniversary of your birth as well as the rare occasion that you two have the same day off (fuck, Ampora really works his musicians to the bone), you are out on a date.
John drags you out of the coffee place- almost causing you to burn your tongue on the extra hot latte- going towards a shop down the street. He releases your hand soon, and instead opts for walking beside you at a much more relaxed pace.
"Hehe- hey Dave!" he giggles amusedly.
You quirk an eyebrow at him.
"Now that you're twenty one, will you get me booze?" he almost snorts in laughter.
You smirk and wrap an arm around him, "Is this going to be a repeat of the 'Hey Dave! What's it feel like being a pedo?' thing we went over when I turned eighteen?"
He giggle-snorts and slaps your arm.
You smile and pause, straightening your scarf and coughing into your glove. Damn cold. You hate getting sick; they're such a fucking hassle... Though when John's fussing over you all the time, they've sort of grown on you.
John steps in front of you, resting his hands in the folds of your scarf. "You're looking a little flushed. Maybe we should've stayed at home..."
You shake your head and cough. He's right though, you do feel more ill than usual. "Let's just go."
The two of you walk on in silence at a thankfully slow pace. You shudder and huddle closer to John. He wraps an arm around your waist and pulls you close, "Aww, poor birdy. I'll make you chicken soup when we get home, okay?"
You nod and shiver slightly. Gog, just how cold was it today? You pull your scarf closer, straightening your ironic poofy earmuffs.
John tilts his head up at you, stopping in his tracks to take off his glove and bring a hand up to your forehead. His cold hand does wonders against your heated skin. You unconsciously lean into his touch. "Holy shit- Dave! You're burning up!"
You stare at him blankly; the sound of blood rushing through your ears is enough to drown out any sound. Suddenly your head is pounding. John steps forward and you put a hand on his shoulder to steady yourself, but apparently that's not enough. Your knees decide to give out and soon you're tumbling towards the ground.
The last thing you're aware of is John shaking your shoulders and screaming something, and the rough snow against your face- it's almost comforting.
The next time you open your eyes, it's to a splitting headache and the too-clear sight of a white ceiling. You're back in the hospital.
Gog damn you hate this place.
You glance to one side and see a dark sky outside the window; on the other, your shades are next to a box of apple juice. You faintly hear people talking outside the open door- glancing in that direction, you see the tall figure of your Bro next to Jake and John, speaking to an unseen person. They all look extremely nervous.
You slowly sit up and reach for your glasses, unfolding and placing them on your face before reaching for the box of juice with a shaky arm.
As you sip lightly at the juice (it seems like that is the only way you can drink it without it coming straight back up), you go over just what the fuck happened.
Okay- the last thing you remember was walking with John. You admit it was a little dumb going out with a cold- you swear it was only a cold; anything more (like a fever) and that would just be stupid- but John just sososo wanted to go out on a date because it was your birthday or some shit like that. You complied with his request.
You felt worse at some point, with your head pounding and your muscles aching so fucking bad you just wanted to collapse- and so you did. You couldn't even control yourself.
Fuck that must've scared John.
You set the box down on your lap and simply sit on the bed, waiting for the others to finish their conversation with whom you assume is a doctor.
You finish up the juice and- on your way back to return the box to its spot on the table, your grip falters and the cardboard container noisily clatters to the floor much louder than it should be capable of.
The conversation stops and all eyes turn to you. John pushes past your brother and practically jumps to your bedside. "Dave! You're awake!"
You nod and cough into your sleeve as the others make their way in.
"Sup Lil' Man," Dirk greets.
"Hey," is your only response.
The room is silent for a long, awkward moment. The doctor finally breaks it when he bends down to pick up the long forgotten juice box, dropping it into the trash. "Well Mister Strider, feeling better?"
You shrug, "I'm not unconscious anymore, am I?"
The doctor chuckles halfheartedly, "Yes, I suppose you're not. Are you in any kind of pain right now?"
You shake your head.
The doctor nods once and writes something down on a nearby clipboard. "Well, I assure you that you will be healthy enough to go home soon. We're just waiting on a few tests."
You quirk an eyebrow, "Tests? I thought this was just a cold."
You see John frown and gnaw on his lip, rubbing at his arm and shifting his weight from foot to foot. Jake is similar, and your brother is just scowling. "What, is something wrong? Lay it on me doc, am I dying?"
The awkward silence is tense enough to cut with a knife. If you weren't so used to keeping your stoic front, you would probably be breaking out into a cold sweat right now.
"I was being sarcastic," you say in a voice a little squeaker than you intended.
The doctor sighs, "It's not guaranteed... The tests are still running."
"Mister Strider, this might sound awkward, but I understand you've only only had one sexual partner?"
You shoot a look at John, and shake your head. "One consensually."
"Ah. I apologize for this- being in my profession, you always run the risk of being the bearer of bad news. I'm sorry Mister Strider, there's a chance you might have HIV."
Your name is Dirk Strider and you have no idea how you should be feeling right now. Your brother- the one you raised all by yourself when you were fourteen and ran away with his little five year old ass- is dying. It feels like just yesterday you were there rolling him out of the hospital two days after the incident that started this all. Well now you're back and this time- it's even worse.
About a year ago... He collapsed. Then again a few weeks ago. Gullain-Barre Syndrome apparently. As well as a few other things.
You walk beside Jake, who's in charge of the your nieces' stroller as you maneuver Dave's wheelchair around a lamp post on a sidewalk heading to the parking lot.
You feel bad for John, who has to go through all this emotional shit while he works at Alternia plus constant double overtime shifts to feed four mouths and take care of Dave's medical needs while still being the loving, caring husband, father, and overall relatively good person he is. Of course you and Jake are always happy to assist him- but still, it's a lot.
"Okay Lil' Man," you say later that evening, turning to Dave; "you're twenty two, married, with kids, and you're still not cultured."
Dave raises and eyebrow and Jake sniggers from his position playing with Casey and Kelsey.
"What I'm trying to say is that tomorrow night is John's holiday concert, and we're all going. Everyone- meaning Ampora, Zahak, and everyone in between. That includes us Striders too."
Dave rolls his eyes, but agrees fairly easily. It breaks your heart a bit knowing that he knew why you told him about the concert.
Might as well enjoy your last days little man.
Your name is Jake English and by golly- this is too much. Cousin John's been working his arse off at the club, and he's also been working at at least four other places doing various gigs and acts to bring in a little extra cash for Dave's medical bills and the girls' expenses.
You love your family a lot, that's for sure, and you can't bear for them to be suffering like this! So you and Dirk offer to babysit the girls when John's at work, and to help out with Dave's deteriorating condition in any way you can.
Oh dear- and deteriorating it is. You hate to admit it, but with his health as it is, you seriously doubt he'll make it through the month.
Your name is John Egbert and the fact that you haven't had a complete emotional breakdown is one even you can barely believe.
They're your main priorities. You would do absolutely anything if it meant that they would be safe and happy and healthy.
Problem is, there always comes a time when you can't to anything at all. That's usually when it counts the most.
He has been with you for as long as you can remember. Almost sixteen years now. It's a little unsettling how long it's been.
Since day one, when Jake took you and Jade on a play date with Dave and his intimidating older brother when you were six, you just knew that you would be together- even if it was just as friends. By seventh grade though, things started changing, and maybe, just maybe those catcalls of 'Fag!' and 'Homo!' were true... You told Dave about these feelings the summer before eighth grade, and he didn't say a word.
Oh god you had never been more scared because when you talked that summer, he acted like nothing happened. It scared you more when he started hanging out with Terezi and Aradia more. To stop being scared, you hung out with Karkat. He wasn't much of a help- just a constantly angry reminder that you were hopelessly in love with your best bro.
At the end of eighth grade- right after graduation when everyone was hanging out and talking to their friends in their fancy suits and dresses- it all changed. On June 6th, 2010, Dave kissed you. You were scared then too, but it was replaced with a fluttery feeling that made you happy- like playing on the swings during a windy day; except this was an infinite number of times better.
You were together, and absolutely nothing could tear you apart. It was perfect (save for a few dumb arguments, but what couple doesn't have those?). Senior year though, there was the... Incident. The Incident that completely fucked your lives over. Despite Dave's constant reassuring, saying that it happened Friday night and your date was Saturday night so it didn't matter if you moved it back or not, you still felt unbearably guilty.
No more than three years later though, on October 8th 2016, after you turned twenty, Dave dragged you to Vegas and in front of eighteen of your best friends- you tied the knot with Dave motherfucking Strider. You were a little scared- but that was mainly because you were worried the bouncer wouldn't let you into the club with your fake ID and you'd have to spend your wedding night with Karkat, Tavros and Nepeta at some pizza place, cursing the fact that your friends are all of legal drinking age. The man let you all in though, and it was the best night of your life.
One year, two months, five days. One year, two months and five days were apparently all you had to enjoy that carefree marriage. On December 13, 2017 Dave Strider collapsed on the street. Oh gog you were so scared out of your wits that you almost dropped down beside him. They ran some tests on him that night, then more on you the next day.
Before the end of that week he was tested positive with a few things, the most prominent being HIV (that later developed into AIDS) and Guillain-Barrè Syndrome.
Your tests all proved negative.
They rushed him to surgery, to hopefully stop the muscle paralysis before it got to be too much. Of course they did not have a cure yet, but after a bit of rehab, Dave was back on his feet.
Things almost went back to normal. At some point, you two decided you were ready, and filed the papers. By June 26th the next year you were sitting on the couch watching Con Air with your two beautiful little girls- three year old Casey and one week old Kelsey. Jegus you were scared then- but happy. So scared and happy you didn't even know how to react.
Five months later that happy went away. Dave had been feeling a lot healthier this past year and you wondered if maybe your lives could get back to normal.
Sometimes you wonder if things would've turned out better if you spent that day relaxing at home with your daughters. Maybe Dave would be okay.
Sometimes you wonder if things would've turned out better if you never told Dave you loved him. Maybe Dave wouldn't be a dead man walking.
But apparently, The Incident wasn't done with your two yet, because week after Thanksgiving during a date, Dave collapsed again. This time, the doctors told you his legs were useless now. The disease was too far in. His arms followed two weeks later. Oh god he was just torn apart into a billion tiny pieces when he was no longer able to work his turntables or hold Casey and Kelsey... Or you.
Now you turn to the small crowd and grin, waving slightly before walking offstage.
Gog you are so tired. You just want to go home and collapse on the bed and not wake up until next year.
How do you know Dave will even last that long?
You get into your car to pick up Dave and the girls from Dirk and Jake's place. You owe them so much for taking care of your kids and for helping Dave get to his doctor's appointments when you're at work. It hurts that you can't be there for him more. To hold his hand and hug him and remind him that he's not a bother when he has to go through an especially stressful or painful treatment session and feels like complete shit afterwards.
But you can't pay the bills with hugs and love.
You step out of the car and make your way up the drive, hopping up the porch stairs even though your head is pounding and your legs are killing you. Two quick raps on the door alert the inhabitants of the house that you're here.
"Hey," Dirk greets, stepping aside to let you in.
You take the invitation and smile back, "Thanks so much again for picking up Dave and for taking care of the girls! I'm glad there's work other than Alternia though! I could always use some more money to pay the bills," you chuckle, going straight to the guest room where you know the kids are.
Dirk nods, staring at you blankly. "I see."
There's something weird about the way he looks at you.. As if he wants to say something, but just won't.
You grin at him with a smile that doesn't reach your eyes and gently scoop Kelsey up and into her seat, Dirk pulls Casey in and cradles her in his arms and follows you out into the car.
Back inside, you look around, "Asleep?" you ask.
Dirk nods, stepping to the master bedroom, "They fell asleep after debating the actual probable uses of whips in an Indiana Jones-esque situation."
You snort and gaze at the two, Dave's head lolling forward to his chest and Jake hanging off of the arm of the couch, hand brushing up against the wheel of Dave's chair. You're sad to break the serene moment, but the girls are in the car and the sooner you're all in bed the better. You lean over Dave and give him a kiss on his pale, gaunt cheek, papping the other one lightly. "Come on Birdy, time to go home."
Dave groans and straightens up, blinking up at you. "Mmokay.."
You smile and get behind him, taking a hold of the handles and starting to wheel him out. You wave at Dirk as you help Dave get into the car, "See you two tomorrow!"
He nods solemnly and waves back before stepping inside.
An hour later and Casey is in her little bed and Kelsey is in the crib next to her. You get in bed next to Dave and bend his legs a bit, pulling his arms forward. He stirs when you run a hand through his hair. "Hm?" he asks with a tired red eye.
You smile sadly and tangle your arms and legs together, "Nothing... Just sleep."
Dave doesn't reply, and looks at your entwined hands. He lifts his gaze back up to yours, "I wish I could still feel my hands," he whispers. His vocal cords are getting weak now too. "I want to hold you again."
You shake your head, "No, hands are overrated."
You silence him with a peck on the lips, eyes growing moist. With a light squeeze that he won't feel, you force a chuckle as loud as you dare without having your voice break. "Oh gog Dave. Stop it, okay?" You hate this. "Listen to me for one second." You hate lying to him. "We'll make it through this together." You hate lying to yourself. "When you're back to normal we'll go on a Normal Family Outing- yes, with a capital NFO- with the girls and we'll have fun and run around... Okay?" You hate getting your hopes up when you know it's a futile situation.
He nods and moves what little he can to rest his head against your chest. You're the one who ends up moving toward him though.
Your name is Jade Harley and you're a little excited, a little nervous, and just... Bluh!
You spring up the steps and open up the door to John and Dave's house with your spare key. "Jooohn!" you call out in your best singsongy voice as you skip in.
John waves at you from the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee in hand and a bagel half way to his mouth- face covered with crumbs. "Hmfy Jadfe," he greets.
You grin at him and grab a dish towel, practically assaulting his face and the crumbs on it. "Messy messy!"
He grumbles and takes a sip of coffee to down the cream cheese slathered pastry, "Whatever... But hey- thanks for coming so early! I have to be at the studio by eleven for practice and then it's straight to the hall for dress rehearsals before it's curtains up! Oh gosh- I'm actually a little nervous! It really doesn't matter how many times I do it, performing in front of large crowds always gets to me! Ahaha..."
You giggle and pap his face, "Shoosh Bunbert, only piano now."
He rolls his eyes and grabs his suit jacket, slipping on his coat before heading to the door. "So- Dad'll be here to pick up the girls around three, and their bags are already packed so you don't have to worry about that. Emergency numbers are on the counter and I've got poison control, paramedics, animal control, police, Dave's doctors..."
You nod and hand him an umbrella and his briefcase, "I know John! I'm not a thirteen year old babysitter from the school down the street- I've done his before! Now go or you'll be late!"
He gives you a quick hug before you shove him out the door, "Thanks again Jade!" you hear faintly after the door's been slammed shut.
You take a deep breath and go to pour yourself some yummy orange juice. Meh, might as well get Casey and Dave's breakfasts (waffles and plain oatmeal-because of his now very delicate stomach- respectively, and some apple juice for both) set while you're at it.
It's not long before Casey's toddling down the stairs, her long black hair all mussed from sleep. "Daddy?"
You smile and scoop her up, "Sorry hun', Daddy's at work. Let's get breakfast and then we'll get you dressed. Gramps'll be here some time after lunch and you're going to sleep over with Kelsey! You excited?"
You see her face light up in excitement, "Grampa!"
You giggle and guide her to the dining room, setting her on top of the counter as you stick two blueberry waffles in the toaster. After a few minutes of playful tickling, you bring her down to sit at the dining table. You place the waffles on a Spiderman plate and deliver them to her with lots of spastic arm movements and a dramatic bow. "Your waffles, good ma'am.
She laughs with glee and claps her hands together, bowing in return, "Thank you milady!"
You ruffle her hair a bit and straighten up, "Okay- sit tight and eat breaky, 'kay? I need to wake up your lazy dad!"
When you finally get to the room though, you see that Dave is already awake. "Hey there sleepyhead!" you open up the windows to let some fresh air and light into the room before turning to face Dave. He hasn't moved. "Dave?"
His eyes dart over to you, and he looks distressed. Actually- no. That's an understatement. He's scared. Frightened. Terrified.
"Dave what's wrong?" you move to sit on the bed, lifting his head to your lap.
His mouth moves slowly, and you have to really strain your ears to hear him even when you lean down. "Can't feel my arms," is what you think you hear.
"You can't feel your arms?"
He nods. Or twitches. Either way you take that as a yes.
Ohgoshohgoshohgosh this isn't good! You carefully set Dave's head on a pillow and jump off the bed, running straight to the phone, grabbing the list of numbers on the counter. You don't hear Casey ask you what was going on.
You dial the number as fast as you can with your shaky fingers; it takes you a little longer than you'd like because you have to redial the damn thing like a bajillion and one ti- "Doctor! Oh god- help!"
You just know that he flinched a bit on the other side of the line, but he coughs, and sounds a lot more calm than you when he speaks. "Hello? May I ask who this is and who you may be speaking for?"
"Jade! This is Jade Harley- John Egbert's cousin speaking for Dave Strider. Doc- you've got to help! Dave- Dave said- well, not really said, more like mouthed- but oh my god! He said he can't feel his arms! Oh my god help!"
The doctor sighs, "Okay Miss Harley, I understand. I... Will you be able to bring him to the ER immediately? I can meet you there."
You begin to nod, but freeze. The girls. Oh- shit! Fuck! Okay. You can do this Jadey. Can't let Dave down now. "Okay. I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
You feel a light tug on your skirt, and turn to find Casey giving you the biggest puppy dog eyes and pout you've ever seen (excluding John because he can out-pout anyone). "Aunt Jade? You're... Sad?"
You bend down and hope to whatever thing is up there that your smile is as convincing as you think it is. "Honey go get in the car. I'll be out with Dad and Kelsey in a lil' while, okay? Can you strap yourself in?"
She nods, saluting you with her left hand, "Aye aye captain!"
You immediately head to the girls' room and, as gently as possible, pick the sleeping Kelsey up and run to the car. You strap her seatbelts in place before double checking Casey's. Once you deem them both relatively safe, you sprint to Dave, hastily unfolding his wheelchair.
'Arms don't fail me now!'
You carry Dave to his chair and make like the Flash in your haste to get to the car. Once he's safely inside too and the chair has been thrown in the back, you pull out of the driveway and get on the road.
It's a blur, to say the least, by the only the you remember is making the twenty minute drive to the hospital in record time- with speeds that would put Speed Racer to shame.
True to his word, the doctor is there waiting for you. Some nurses get Dave to a stretcher and they are off. You run back to the car, and to a confused Casey and a crying Kelsey.
You unhook them both and bring them inside, gently rocking Kelsey in your arms, humming softly while Casey sits beside you. After a long silence, Casey speaks with a quiet voice, "Daddy's not okay." It's not a question.
"You're right Casey... He's not."
"Will he get better?"
"I hope so..."
You know it should disturb you (at least to some extent) that a four year old is asking you these things, but it doesn't. It sucks, but the sooner she knows that her Dad might not make it to her first day of kindergarten, the better. At least in some twisted definition of the word.
Long before the doctors come back, Dadbert is there. You hand the girls off to him and soon you're alone with your thoughts.
First off, what to do: wait. Okay, that was easy. Next- what not to do: Don't tell John. Or anyone else for that matter. Well, at least not now. Why? Because John is already stressed.
Knowing that Dave no longer has feeling in his arms will just break him.
A broken John is no good. A broken John can't play piano. If he can't play piano, his bosses will get mad. If his bosses get mad, say goodbye to any job that isn't at Alternia.
No, you will not tell him. Well- at least not until after his show. Or until you reeeeally have to.
Wow- that took less time than you expected. So again you're left alone, mind now free to wander the various outcomes of the situation. One possibility is one you rule out though: the possibility that Dave is going to die.
Well- Dave will die eventually... Probably sooner than that actually. Just not right now.
The ground you're staring at is suddenly covered with blue scrub pants and black shoes. You blink up to seethe kindly face of an aged nurse. "Miss Harley? Please come with me."
You jump up and follow her to a room in the recovery wing. A quick glance to your watch says it's a little past three- you've been here for almost five hours. You step inside and are greeted by the Doctor, standing by Dave's bedside. He's hooked up to a respirator.
You make your way to Dave, grabbing his hand as you turn to face the doctor. "Doc... Is he okay?"
He sighs and runs a hand through his graying hair. "It's hard to say. It seems that treatment has not worked. We're not sure if he'll make it through the end of the year."
You nod and look down, staring at his thin, pale arms.
The man gives you a sympathetic pat on the back and walks out, shutting the door behind him.
An unknown amount of time later, Dave wakes up. His eyes dart to you, the window, then the clock. It's five.
He locks eyes with you, and something tells you that he wants to talk. You lean down and bit, and focus all your attention on his moving lips, "John's... Performance..." is what you think you hear.
"Yeah- it's in an hour," you answer.
You jump a bit in surprise. "What!"
"Get my clothes... Help me get dressed."
"Wait- Dave you can't be serious! John'll understand if you can't make it this time. Next year!" If a miracle happens and you live that long..
Dave more or less glares at you, and shakes his head as best as he can. "No."
You pause, knowing that any further argument would be useless because Dave has already made up his mind. You sigh in defeat, "Fine... I'll ask the doctor."
It takes a bit of begging and pleading, but you eventually convince the doctor to let you take Dave out until eight. You come back with two sets of clothes for you and Dave, change, and are on your way by 5:30- just in time to meet up with everyone else.
"Jade! Dave!" John waves excitedly as he makes his way towards you two. He eyes the IV pole and oxygen tank next to Dave, as well as the respirator over his mouth. His smile drops, "What happened?"
You cough and wave him off, "Oh, nothing! Dave was coughing a bit. We just stopped by Urgent Care real quickly. Nothing to worry about! The girls are with your dad so they're okay!"
John frowns, but nods and bends down to press a kiss to Dave's forehead. "Hey Hummin'bird, thanks for coming! The others are over there."
You nod and let John push Dave toward the others while you trail behind, letting them have their alone time.
While the two of them go off to talk to Karkat and Sollux, Dirk, Jake and Rose immediately approach you.
You bite down on your bottom lip and look around at them nervously, "U-Uhm.. Uh- hi! You guys look awesome! Is that a new dress, Rose?"
She nods, "Yes. It was a gift from Mother."
You giggle, "You're probably planning something big to get her back then!"
Rose nods again, and puts a hand on your arm, "Jade, calm down."
"Cousin you're shaking for frigg's sake!" Jake chuckles nervously as he musses up your hair.
Dirk steps forward and you can see the tense muscles of his face set in a frown, "Something happened to Dave."
You avert your eyes and instead settle for looking at Rose's perfectly polished Mary-Janes, gnawing on your bottom lip and ignoring the growing taste of blood. "Dave... The doctor said he probably won't make it through the year." Your head snaps up and with the most desperate look you can muster, you beg them not to tell John.
They agree, albeit hesitantly.
Your name is Rose Lalonde and you have to admit- even your masters degree in psychology isn't enough to help you deal with the fact that your brother is going to die.
It is about forty-five minutes into John's performance, and even though you can't say that you can completely get lost in his melodies, you are certainly close to it. You can see why they chose him, of all people, to perform time and time again.
The music just flows from one piece to the next- and even if one is sad and the other is happy, it doesn't make a difference because he can just make it work. The subtle nuances of sorrow though, are there throughout his entire time on the piano.
You can barely register it, but a quiet coughing derails your train of thought. Looking immediately to Dave a few seats over, all you can see is Dirk hunched over him. He shoots Jake a quick look before slipping out unnoticed. Jake follows almost immediately.
'Something's wrong,' is the only thought in your head.
You make eye contact with Jade, who is frowning. She shakes her head and settles back into her seat. Before you know it though, the fifteen minute intermission has begun and John is practically running toward your unusually somber group, smiling and laughing.
"Oh my gog guys can you believe it? This is so cool! It's only half over, bu-" he pauses and looks around, "Uhh... What's wrong? Where're Dirk and Jake? And... Dave?"
The others avoid eye contact, Karkat scratches at his arm awkwardly and opens his mouth, only to close it again. Ah. So you and Jade weren't the only ones who noticed the Striders' departure.
"John..." Aradia steps forward and puts a hand on his shoulder. He whips back, breathing hard. "John, calm down."
Jade steps forward, hands raised up. "John don't do anything rash-"
"What Jade? What do you think I'm going to do!"
Jade flinches, and you take her place in front of him. "John."
He turns on you, "Rose, I have to finish this performance. I'm not going to go and run after..." he shudders with a repressed sob, "Dave. I have... I have to finish this." He shakes his head wildly and lets out a choked sound. "I-I have to get to my dressing room..." He points in a random direction and runs there.
You know his dressing room is on the other side of the building.
Your name is John Egbert and your life has officially gone down the drain. Well, not really. Kind of. Look- it's complicated.
You know you can't leave the hall, but at the same time you know that you might not make it through the performance without somehow breaking down.
Looking outside the window of the room you found your way to and into the slightly cloudy night sky, you steel your facade and dial Jake. He picks up immediately, whispering quietly into the phone. "I'm so sorry John, we just couldn't stay any longer."
You nod, despite the fact that he can't see you. "I know. Is he okay?"
Jake lets out a pained sound, "It's not looking good."
"Is he with you?" you're surprised at how level your voice is.
"Okay, I'll... I'll keep my phone on. When you can, just... Put me on speaker so he can hear, okay?"
He murmurs a quick agreement and a "Good luck John," before you head back to the stage.
The performance continues all too quickly, but before you begin once more- you place the phone on the piano's sleek black top. "This one's for you," you whisper almost inaudibly.
Your fingers move of their own accord, flitting over the keys and forming elegant, classical (with slight undertones of your favorite jazz sounds) renditions of old Christmas songs. There's an undeniable feeling of sadness and melancholy exuding from you though.
Soon you morph from a rewritten medley of 'Ode to Joy' and 'Angels we Have Heard on High' into a song even more familiar. A song written just for you. A song written by Dave.
Your fingers numbly play the familiar chords of the theme song to your favorite movie, and you faintly hear the words, 'Without you there'd be no sun in my sky... There'd be no love in my life, and there'd be no world left for me,' echoing in the back of your mind. He really wanted to work that part of the song into his mix.
Tears prick at your eyes and you don't have a thought in your brain to remove your fingers from the keys as you begin a piano version of a mix Dave always played while training or strifing with Bro. You remember working so hard to compose an arrangement in time for his birthday about a year ago.
You faintly register moisture under your fingers, and blink down to look at the keys- only to find your vision blurry. You let out a breathy chuckle and close your eyes, smiling sadly. Without missing a beat or stopping the tears, you begin another carol. With the music amplified by the speakers, you can almost drown out the thoughts brewing in your mind and the murmuring in the crowd.
You take a deep breath and smile widely at the crowd, bowing deeply before puling at your sleeves to wipe roughly at your cheeks. You bow again and wave a few times before straightening. Your pocketed phone now turned off. You don't even bother with grabbing your briefcase and hurry past the backstage crew, running to your dressing room and hastily grabbing the keys to your car. Tears are still running down your face.
'Pleasepleaseplease don't be too late...'
Apparently the gods listened to you, because when you get there, Jake is already waiting. You follow him to a room where Bro is standing at the side of Dave's bed. He looks to you before placing a quick peck on his forehead and walking out.
"Hey Hummingbird, how ya feeling?" you ask quietly, stepping up to take a seat next to him.
He shoots you a pained smile, "Great job..."
You chuckle lightly. The years have long since stopped, and you card a few fingers through his soft hair. "Thanks. I played a few song just for you, you know."
He closes his eyes and nods, "Thanks babe."
Pressing a quick kiss to his nose, you bring your hand down to twine your fingers together. He lets out a small yawn and you smile. "Need me to get you anything?"
He shakes his head.
"Would you like me to leave?"
This time, he shakes his head with just the slightest bit of added energy.
"Okay. Do you want me to lay down with you?"
He nods again.
You gently scoot him and a few wires and tubes out of the way before swinging one leg onto the bed and bringing the other up to meet it as you lay down. Wrapping an arm around Dave's too-thin shoulders, you pull him closer to you.
Somewhere in the back of your mind something says this has happened before.
You unconsciously begin humming a song, hand coming up once more to stroke Dave's hair. Before you know it, the humming turns into light singing, and there are tears pricking at your eyes once more.
"How do I... Get through one night without you. If I had to live without you, what kind of life would that be?"
You take a deep breath and nuzzle his neck. You didn't have much time left to tell him exactly what you wanted... You would make this count.
"Oh now... I need you in my arms need you to hold. You're my world my heart my soul... If you ever leave, baby you'd take away the best thing in my life..."
You feel him twitch in response to the slight lyric change. Of course. You could never forget your two daughters- no matter the situation. How would you explain this to Casey? Even if she probably won't remember when she's older, three year olds these days can be really perceptive.
"Without you... There'd be no sun in my sky; there would be no love in my life... There'd be no world left for me.
"And I... Baby I don't know what I would do. I'd be lost if I lost you.. If you ever leave, baby you'd take away everything real in my life...
"And tell me now... How do I live without you? I want to know. How do I breathe without you? If you ever go... How do I ever... Ever survive? How do I... Oh how do I live?"
Your voice definitely cracked in a few places, the lump in your throat being too much to ignore. You scoot down so your're level with Dave again. Rubbing roughly at your cheeks, you lightly brush away the moisture on Dave's cheeks too.
"Dave you assface.. We've been together for what- sixteen years? How do you just expect me to live without you?" you laugh almost harshly as more tears streak down your face. "God. I love you so much... Please don't leave me..."
Dave blinks at you and opens his mouth just slightly. "I'm sorry."
Your name is Dave Strider and... Huh, dying is a lot different than you would've expected. Other than the suffocating feeling of your burning lungs, it's not so bad. You lost feeling in your arms and legs a long time ago, so they're not causing you pain. Actually- you kind of wish that you could feel them... Then you can feel John's arms around you.
You can barely register a hand running through your hair and then a pair of lips pressing to your forehead. Suddenly your heart beats a little faster and your stomach feels all fluttery.
You're not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but you decide you don't mind it. It makes you feel all nice inside despite your failing organs.
Your lungs are burning and your heart slows back down. You hear a quiet sob and the arms around you tighten. Lips are pressed against yours, and you barely notice John mouthing words against them.
"I love you."
You close your eyes and try to settle even closer to him. You're not sure if he hears you, or if the words ever even make it out of your mouth, but you hope he hears your, "I love you," back.
You smile inwardly and repeat it, mouth barely moving anymore, until you get tired and everything finally fades to black.
"Remeber this is due in three weeks, so I suggest you get cracking! Class dismissed."
Your name is Casey Egbert. You are 14 years old. You live with your adoptive father John Egbert, and your younger sister Kelsey Egbert- like you have been for the past eleven years of your life (sometimes you stay with uncles Dirk and Jake when Dad has a performance- it's often, what with being a pianist and all). You are currently in 8th grade. The class you just exited is Language Arts. It is pretty okay; you don't mind it most of the time.
You pack up your bag and exit the room, clutching the assignment paper tightly in your hand. You've got to remember to interview your dad's friends sometime this week.
When you get to the front, he's already there in his little Civic (you swear you're going to inherit that one day). For some reason he never let you walk places- even though your house was just a few miles away.. The first time you asked, he got upset and almost begged you not to—if only for his wellbeing.
You didn't ask again.
"Hey Case!" he greets with a smile as you plop yourself down in the passenger side of the car. "Whatcha got there?"
"Hiya Dad, it's just an assignment sheet for Language Arts. Have to write five minute speech on a parent without directly asking them anything. Which reminds me, can I research around the house?"
He nods, "Of course you can! But I'm not responsible for any mental scarring if you dig up any especially disturbing skeletons in my closet."
You giggle and poke his cheek, "I know! I'll just ask Aunt Rose and she'll do some of her patented Tentacle Therapy!"
You two continue the banter until you arrive at Kelsey's elementary school. Thank cod for your three year age difference. You loved your sister, but sharing the same school with her? No thanks. By the time she'd be in high school, you would be an upperclassman at least.
The three of you finally get home around 3:45- fifteen minutes of lazing around before heading off to starting your homework.
Soon it's dinner and Dad's dragging Kelsey to the piano again- as he does almost every night. He used to do the same with you, but you had made it clear years ago that you were definitely not the same pianist type of person he and your sister are. You much preferred Uncle Jake's drums.
Another hour or so of mindless television later, and Dad is herding Kelsey off to bed while you use the excuse of 'school work' to kill some time on the computer. He agrees, but tells you to be asleep at 3:30 at the latest. You happily oblige.
The next morning is Saturday morning. You get up, check up on the MSPA website, shower, eat, and then throw yourself on the couch for a much needed nap.
What? You're no day person. You much prefer the night. Less light to strain your eyes. Seriously, sometimes you contemplate just wearing sunglasses all the time.
Dad and Kelsey pull you off the couch a little past noon for some Nutella slathered lunch, and suddenly you have enough energy to make your brain function properly.
"Can I snoop around your room now?"
He snorts, "Sure! I'm just going to drop off Casey at Karkat and Sollux's place for her sleepover with Sarnas, okay? Call me if there's an emergency!"
You nod and wave bye to your sister, jumping off of the counter on which you were sitting and run off to the master bedroom of your condo.
From the moment you enter, you see that the room is very musically inclined- awards in the shape of music notes (as well as a bunny in glass) line a bookshelf in one corner, and framed sheets of overly complicated music line the walls. Three walls are painted your dad's favorite shade of blue- but the fourth wall is painted an almost shocking shade of red. Over the years, you've come to appreciate that color- even going as far as asking your dad if you could repaint your room from dark blue to red. He looked slightly shocked, but granted you permission. You sometimes regret it- what with the red being a lot more prone to shining in your eyes when the sun finally rose- but you love the color too much to change back.
There is a four-poster queen-sized bed covered in blue sheets in the back center of the room. On the bedside tables on either side are pictures of family and friends. They're nice- and told little stories of their own, but not the stories you want. You want the story of Dad's early life. You want the story of the pranking king, John Egderp.
Thankfully, that story is buried right at the foot of his bed. Literally and not so literally.
There's an airtight, fire-proof, earthquake-proof, hurricane-proof, flood-proof, zombie-freakin'-apocalypse-proof chest painted the same shades of blue and eye searing red under lock and key filled with the most precious things known to Jonathan Egbert at the foot of said man's bed.
You open up the bedside drawer and pluck out a key. Taking it you unlock the chest- revealing a keypad. You type in the passkey (413+123) and pull it open.
You stare at the contents of the box in slight awe. There are folders containing (probably) important documents, notebooks, binders... But you move those carefully out of the box and to the side, rummaging about until you reach the bottom. There you find a large old converse shoebox labeled with a record insignia.
Curious to see what was inside, you stand up and walk around the clutter, jumping onto the bed and setting the box on top of the fluffy comforter. As if you were going to reveal a severed head or something of the like, you take the top cover off.
You didn't even realize that you were tense- but you still visibly relax when you see the box is devoid of any decapitated body parts. Instead, there are several things inside. The first thing you remove is a pair os snazzy aviator shades. There are also a pair of headphones (in the same shade of red as the paint on the wall) connected to an old iPhone. Beneath it all is a package wrapped in cloth.
You take it out and soon realize that the cloth was actually a shirt with long red sleeves and a symbol similar to the one on the box- but was broken. You set the shirt down on your lap and open up one of the three red notebooks is covered. As you flip through the pages, almost every page is covered in red ink in the form of a fading, almost messy scrawl. At the end of each page is a signature stating it as a copyrighted work by one turntechGodhead. It's the same with the other one. Setting those aside, you pick up the smaller notebook.
The first page is an angled shot of two boys- one with blonde hair (lighter than yours) wearing the same pair of shades in the box, and a boy with messy black hair, buck teeth, and glasses. He looked like a younger version of... Dad?
me and egbutt dec '08 - thanks for the shades you dorkwad
The next page you flip to is a little better angled. It showed the same two boys in large fluffy Christmas sweaters sitting on a couch near a fireplace (along with a few others) drinking out of mugs with cheesy designs. It wasn't very noticeable- what with all of the action going on around them, but their fingers were entwined on top of a blanket.
taken by harley christmas '10 at the egberts
You flip through the many pages- people you recognize appear every once in a while, but it's mainly filled with pictures of a younger version of your dad and that unknown blonde guy (whom you've decided to refer to as TG).
A little less than half way through is a shot of TG with Uncle Dirk, Uncle Jake, Dad, Aunt Rose and Aunt Jade. They're all gathered around TG, who's on a hospital bed. He looks pretty torn up. You look to the bottom of the page, and see that instead of the usual red writing, it's blue.
dave on the way to recovery! :) september '13
The pictures become sparse for the rest of the year and half of the next- but when they do, there are many pictures of large groups of the guy Dave with your dad's friends. By this point you can conclude they were obviously in some kind of relationship. The thought is backed up with more proof when you get to a picture around 2016. It's a picture of your father in a loose red sweatshirt, hanging off of one shoulder, and a pair of blue boxers with a wavy design all tangled up in the bed sheets. The light is shining in through a window and it catches his hair in just the right way to it makes him almost shine. A closer look and you see there's a little trail of drool leaking from his lips.
i get to wake up to this asshole every morning. im the luckiest guy in the world oct. '16
The next picture is of Dave carrying Dad bridal style in front of a little chapel lined in neon lights dubbed "A Little White Wedding Chapel". They're surrounded by all of your dad's closest friends- everyone from Aunt Aradia to Mister Zahhak.
At the bottom is a note, finally made it official- me and my kawaii waifu at the little white wedding chapel. get ready vegas 20 of the sickest people on this little planet of ours are coming your way. where making this happen
The adjacent page is filled with signatures and little notes in ink colors of all kinds and more different types of syntax than you could imagine.
The next page is a picture of various people collapsed at the bottom of a staircase: 'i warned you about stairs bro
i told you dog! i told you man! i told you about stairs.
The pictures are really sweet from this point, following your dad and Dave throughout their married life. Around late 2018 though, Dave looks increasingly sick. Finally, at the end of the book- the second to last page is a group shot of the same twenty people dressed formally outside of a place you recognize as McCaw Concert Hall in Seattle. Dave is in a wheelchair this time.
my holiday performance. dec '18 it says in blue ink, through it's a little hard to read though, because the writing is shaky and it is splotched with tear stains.
You close the book with a heavy heart and frown, before pausing. Apparently there was a picture tucked behind the page you were just on. You turn to it, and see that it is a picture of a flat grave marker, framed with flowers from different species and colors. Dave Strider: December 3, 1995 - December 21, 2018 it said. King of Irony and Knight of Time was the inscription. On the other side- right on the inside back cover of the book were the words i miss you. in blue ink.
You quickly close the book and return the box to it's original state, fixing up the room and heading downstairs. Dad is on the phone, but you tackle him with a hug anyways, burying your face in his t-shirt.
"Case?" he asks, covering the receiver with his hand. You just let out a sob and hug him tighter. "Hey Sol I'll call you back. Just email me the schedule, yeah? Okay- Okay- I know- Okay bye. Say hi to Karkat for me!" He clicks it off and soon you feel arms around you. "Casey? Baby what's wrong?"
You blubber incoherent words into the soft white cotton an shake your head, tears escaping freely now.
"Casey honey, I can't understand. Can you say that again?"
You slowly look up and rub at your eyes. He puts a hand on your shoulder and guides you to the couch where you plop yourself onto his lap. He brings a hand to ruffle your short blonde hair with a smile- but his eyes are pained. Your dad never was a good liar. "Now can you tell me what's wrong?"
You pout at the green slime ghost on his shirt, "Why didn't you ever tell us?"
"Tell you what?"
You raise your eyes to look at him head on, your dark blue clashing with his light blue, "Dave Strider."
His breath audible hitches and you feel him tense up. "Y-You saw the box."
You nod, "Who was he?"
Dad sighs and runs a hand through his hair, messing it up even more. "He was... Well, you saw the box, right? We were best friends since we were kids all the way up to... Well, you know."
Your dad takes a deep breath and tells you more or less what happened back then. You could tell he was only telling you the most vague version, but you don't push it. By the end of his story you're clinging onto him and crying on his shoulder, making his already damp shirt even wetter. He's sobbing too.
"W-Why can't I remember him?"
Dad shakes his head and holds you tighter, "You were three, 'hun. Too young to actually remember anything.. You might have some memory of him, but that's unlikely."
You sigh, "Can you tell me more about him?"
You take a deep breath step up to the little podium at the front of the class. Tonight is parents' night and it is the night you are supposed to present your speech to the class- one of ten students with the highest graded essays- as well as their parents. You give your dad a small smile and make eye contact with your uncles- as your secondary guardians, they happily agreed to come.
With a deep breath, you begin.
"Hello, my name is Casey Egbert. The assignment was to write about a parent and technically- I am! It's just that... Well, he can't be here." You pause to look up at your family; they all have varying expressions of sadness plastered on their faces. "This is a speech about Dave Strider."