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Cities in Dust (shit let's be hardboiled)

Chapter Text


Water was running; children were running
You were running out of time
Under the mountain, a golden fountain
Were you praying at the Lares shrine?
But oh your city lies in dust, my friend
- requisite pretentious lyric at the beginning of a long fanfic



Your name is DAVE STRIDER and you were a bad kid. In hard-boiled detective terms, they’d have called you a “rotten egg”. The bad one in the batch. You were three steps away from blaring trollish hard rock from your bitchin’ motorcycle except that you preferred a more subtle brand of cool.

Bad boy is a hard style to maintain indefinitely. It is an image with a definite EXPIRY DATE. Yours was two years ago when you nearly died in an accident you would RATHER NOT DISCUSS. As you lay on the pavement staring at the stars (Scorpio in Libra, a chilly autumn that bit through your clothes) you thought about your life and made a list of all the places it had gone wrong.

1. Bro arrested on obscenity charges. Lead to -

2. Life in the foster system. Assumption is made that -

3. You would be better off with your own kind. Placed with -

4. A religious man with a bottle wife and curious hands. You snapped both his wrists and they -

5. Sent you back to the Orphanage where you -

6. Met Jade. Then you -

7. Lost Jade. Now you -

8. Are dying on a cold October morning.

You thought long and hard about fairness and empathy as you dragged yourself out into the street by your fucking fingernails. Always a chance a car’ll stop. If not, at the very least run you over- boy howdy, a swift and marvellous death that would have been, burst like a bag of rotted grain and painting the town red. Fucking highbloods woulda shit themselves.

You get this feeling about decisions sometimes, like every outcome is a possibility waiting to germinate, waiting to punch free of the seeded implication and bloom bloody red. There’s another universe where Dave Strider died that day; this is not that universe.

In this universe you lived and a month later you enrolled in police academy.

Your name is DAVE STRIDER and you are a cop. You are the Po. A pig. Fucking bacon sandwich. You are the Black Rat, Blue Meanie Doughnut Patrol and today you get to add another feather to your cap. Today you are a D as in Dick as in Cinder Dick as in Detective.


This asshole again.

He’s been trying to get your attention for nearly a month now. You tossed a few pity coins his way last Monday and he beamed at you like he was ten thousand puppy dogs and your fingers were made of hamsteak. Not really surprising that he’s upgraded his panhandling dramatics to stalking.


[you pause; turn; exhale a thin line of smoke]

>INFORM THIS CREEP ON NEWTERNIA’S LAWS REGARDING CRIMINAL HARASSMENT


kid look you know im a cop right

yup. detective today, though, isn’t it?

yeah thats what im sayin not that i have a problem with any pink gilded fairy fantasies you got bro but this fixation is getting a little illegal at this point

card tricks are illegal in newternia now? shit, that’s like my job.


[you pause... to contemplate how much of a dope this guy is.
he’s pretty dopey, but probably not a danger to anyone but himself.]

>INDULGE THIS WEIRDO


card tricks are you fucking kidding me

wanna see a card trick, dave?

no what i wanna know is how you know my name

oh. that’s easy!

i’m magic!


>BE MADE TO FEEL UNEASY BY THIS HOBO’S OBVIOUS INSANITY

>BE TOO COOL TO FEEL UNEASY

>GIVE IN AND SEE CARD TRICK


shit play it again sam

lets see that shuffle kid


[you cooly regard this shuffle. you find yourself admitting that it’s a pretty good shuffle. this guy’s got a talent, arcing the cards neatly like flipping through a dictionary. too bad card shuffling is basically the saddest talent to have you can possibly think of. an echelon of pathetic matched only by ear-wiggling, which you’re pretty sure this guy is good at as well.]

pick a card!

christ

what?

thoth i mean

any card thats how it goes right

wow, you’re a natural!


>PICK: ANY CARD

>DRAW:




>PUT THE CARD BACK IN THE DECK

>WATCH THIS WEIRD HOBO’S SHUFFLING SKILLS AGAIN. MAN IT’S JUST UNREAL. WHERE DO YOU EVEN GET SKILLS LIKE THAT?


two of hearts.

arent you supposed to pick it back out again

i mean dont take my word on it youre the expert but lets at least put some effort in here

no i mean, i saw that the card was cut in the middle. i’m kind of poor and haven’t really been able to afford a new deck in a while, so that kind of ruined it. the two of hearts is the only one that’s ripped like that.

wow im so impressed

you should be!

because the real magic isn’t actually in the trick.

uh huh


[you start smoking again; you are finished with this conversation]

um.


>BE NOT FINISHED WITH THIS CONVERSATION

[shit.]


what

don’t you want to know where the real magic is?


[the hobo makes this sort of fluttery gesture with both his hands, like birds flying away or maybe a giant squid strangling itself to death out of desperation.]

>RELATE TO THE SQUID’S DESPERATION


where is the real magic


>SAY THIS AS FLATLY AS POSSIBLE

it’s in my pants!


>LOOK AS UNIMPRESSED AS POSSIBLE

ha ha, no that was a joke.

the magic [A WINK] is in the choice. everyone chooses a different card. it says something important about your fate.

uh huh

so two of hearts means what that im some sort of mean hustler rocking out the nightlife

sorry to disappoint bro but im married to the job

actually i don’t know what it means

rattling down to my bones with awe right now

no, no. it will become clear in time is what i meant. it’s like a SEER’S prophecy!

just think about it! i promise, it will become clear to you when you wake up.


>STOP

>STARE

>INHALE SHARPLY


when i what

wake up. tomorrow morning, i mean.


>SIGH (RE: RELIEF)

okay look i finally indulged you gave you the sweet thrill of pulling a stunt with a smooth customer like me

what do i owe you

cards are free, strider.

right

but i mean, like.

if you can spare a dollar or two.

i mean, getting a coffee or soup or something would be nice, ha ha ha.


>BEGRUDGINGLY ENACT CHARITY

Your name is DAVE STRIDER and you have been asleep for a very long time. Today is the day when you finally realize your full potential. Today is the day you WAKE UP.