TT: How is he doing?
TG: casey scrambled out of her room to come sit with me because it was sick of being clung to like a teddy bear
TG: he still just looks like a lost puppy when i try to go in to talk to him
TG: everythings more awkward than catching mom and dadbert having a sloppy makeout session under the wizard statue
TG: and hes been listening to always on my mind for the past four fucking hours
TG: but he switched from the elvis version to the pet shop boys one a while ago
TG: i think thats a good sign as far as anything in egberts shitty music collection can be a good sign
TT: Aren’t there some bro-guidelines you’re supposed to follow?
TT: While I would usher a heartbroken Jade away for tubs of ice cream and a stereotypical nail painting session, shouldn’t you be taking him into seedy bars to see scantily clad women?
TT: Don’t tell me your time-honoured code of the dudebro has failed you now, Strider.
TG: ok aside from the obvious jabs at me packed in there like little barbs under a perfumey rosey prosebouquet
TG: this is john were talking about here
TG: he practically averts his eyes when he sees a particularly sexy bared ankle
TG: if i take him to a strip club hell fucking explode
TG: and you know
TG: do i look like bro to you???
TT: Well, yes, there is a certain familial resemblance.
TG: for once will you please not be so goddamn literal
TG: and maybe help me out a bit here
TG: ive tried everything nothings cheering him up
TG: he just comes in from work or class and slinks away to play his piano or listen to some music or read that stupid sassacre book
TG: i had to pick his dumb ass up and tuck him into bed last night ffs he was slumped over it like you after a good bout of wizard slash
TT: Dave, have you never heard of the phrase “Time heals all wounds”?
TT: Perhaps we should just leave him for a while. He’ll approach you when he’s good and ready.
TG: yeah but
TG: lalonde jesus he really thought he was going to fucking marry this woman
TT: He was also briefly convinced he was going to marry me, and then very soon afterwards became convinced that his future, and bizarre ectobiological offspring, lay with one Miss Serket.
TG: that was when we were thirteen
TT: His general nature of committing wholly to something or someone with the slightest prompting hasn’t changed, Strider.
TT: Nor has his admirable but reckless habit of choosing to listen to his heart over his head.
TT: I know he had it bad for this girl, but you and I both know that he’s incredibly resilient for one who as boldly wears his heart on his sleeve as he does.
TG: im not saying hes not
TG: i still have to make him feel better
TG: fuck if im just gonna sit here awkwardly trying to talk to him about sports or the weather or some shit like that
TT: Your sports knowledge has done nothing but become more depressingly subpar over the years, even with John’s eager attempts to instil an appreciation for football in you.
TG: thats the point he usually finds the lack of fucks i give about how many touchdowns you can score in an inning or whatever hilarious
TG: theres gotta be something i can do here
TG: im not just gonna sit forlornly on the sidelines like the worlds shittiest cheerleader waiting on reserve
TG: watching all the other gals climb into pyramids and shake their booties to an adoring crowd while i sit there clutching my red card
TT: I’m not even going to bother attempting to correct any of that.
TT: It was practically incomprehensible.
TG: hes never had anything like this happen to him lalonde its knocked him for six
TG: he thought shed just be like oh okay lol
TG: or like
TG: oh wow im an sburb survivor too crazy right it was meant to be right john
TG: you me an ectoslime machine lets make it happen
TT: Oh dear. I’m sensing a rant.
TG: its like hes actually the most blissfully naive person in existence
TG: if there was an echeladder for complete pure of heart dorky obliviousness john egbert would be the highest rung achievable
TG: hes perched so firmly on that fucking rung nobody else can hope to get close
TG: whenever somebody does he has to ascend to further levels of unspeakably too nice for his own good
TG: cant let anybody step in on his territory
TG: theres nobody fucking like him lalonde
TG: i mean none of us would have ever even for a second considered telling anybody about that big mess of a fucking co op session
TT: I reiterate, Dave. He just needs time.
TT: Unless you have a healing salve for a broken heart in that hideous mess of a sylladex of yours, we will simply have to support him until it mends of its own accord.
TG: i kind of wish shed been a total bitch to him so i could just let serket at her like an angry attack dog
TT: Dave, let’s not bring the trolls into this.
TT: I thought all our recent efforts had been to stop them getting involved, as difficult as that may be.
TT: We don’t want to exacerbate the situation by angering her or her friends or family with barely coherent threats from bizarre internet trolls.
TG: dont think serkets been listening to us telling her to shut the fuck up and let us deal with it anyway
TG: shes been on my case for a fucking week telling me to go throw that girl off a cliff
TG: vantas hasn’t been much better
TG: its like in one ear ive got serket and rezi babbling about vengeance and justice
TG: and in the other i get the troll messiah boring babble and romcom advice helpline 24 goddamn 7
TT: I presume from the disdain practically dripping from your text that his advice hasn’t been useful?
TG: about as useful as yours
TT: That was mean, Dave.
TG: urgh jeez alright sorry whatever dont start guilt tripping me
TG: i just want my best friend to not feel like shit is that so much to ask for
TG: am i demanding too much o almighty gods above
TG: oh wait our god is lying staring at the ceiling and letting the acid house beats of neil tennant wash over him
TT: Please don’t do anything ridiculous, Dave.
TT: I honestly mean no offense by this, but when it concerns John you can be little...
TG: well now youre just talking crazytalk
TT: Two words.
TT: Prom night.
TG: woah ok
TG: how is that never speaking of it again
TT: Just be there for him, Dave, that’s all anybody can do.
TG: be there for him sounds suspiciously like do nothing but whatever
TG: anyway i gotta run lalonde gotta be at work soon
TG: or like fifteen minutes ago
TG: those kids will have fed the rabbits play doh if i dont get there soon
TT: How anybody can actually think it’s reasonable to employ you is beyond me.
TT: See you later, Dave.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
Your name is John Egbert and your head is in a mess, almost as badly as it was on April the 13th 2009. You keep dropping trays, giving people the wrong orders, and were getting so muddled and distressed when your boss questioned you about it that he kindly steered you out and told you to go get some rest.
So you return to your post in Casey’s room, let Liv sit on your knee and wonder why you’re the biggest idiot on the planet.
Why the fuck did you think for a second it was a good idea to tell her? You’re sure even your Dad doesn’t really fully believe it, and he remembers bits and pieces of it, none of you four ever talk about it, in fact sometimes you can barely remember it yourself. If it wasn’t for things like Liv or Casey or Zillyhoo or the trolls that still routinely chat to you online you’d probably think you all imagined it yourself.
You hear Dave come in and call out to you, you say hi back, but he doesn’t barge into the room and attempt to bribe you with a copy of Point Break or some other great movie he grabbed on his way home (it’s like you being sad has suddenly gifted him with awesome movie taste or something), or just plain drag you out by your ankles and sit and try to make you laugh at him losing at old Spyro the Dragon games.
You feel like you’re being a little kid, and you’ve tried to enjoy yourself when he’s tried to cheer you up, you really have, but jesus, you still feel bad.
You touch the thin white scar on your chest, right over your heart. You know without even lifting up your shirt or feeling under it where it is. You’ve looked at it enough times in the mirror to know just where it is.
There’s some banging from the other room, probably Dave moving stuff about for some weird photography project or something. You let yourself doze off against the wall.
Dave bangs on the door, and then when you don’t get up to let him in, there’s a familiar low thump as he rests his back against it.
“Feelin’ better yet man? It’s getting boring having you get sulk all over the furniture,” he asks through the door, “I hope you know that Casey doesn’t like me being the one to give her a bath. Thrashed about all over the fuckin’ place and made a total tool of me.”
You laugh quietly.
“Uh, yeah, sorry. I kinda forgot, thanks for doing that though,” you say, and Dave hesitates for a few seconds.
“Hey, anytime. Somebody’s gotta keep this household running while you’re in pieces. You’re tearing this family apart Egbert,” he comments, voice rich with that same tongue in cheek internet-y humour you’ve grown so used to. You remember how it sounded kind of odd, at first, that sort of weird, dorky way Dave’s internet speech translated in real life. You really do like it though. A lot.
“If you divorce me in this time of great need, I’m only going to get worse, dude,” you say after a minute, snorting, and he laughs a bit more than the comment really warrants.
“Look, dude, I’d normally just barge in to get your mopey ass outta there but my hands are busier than Lalonde’s when she went to see the last Harry Potter movie –“ (“Eeeeeeew!”) “- So how about you just open the door and save me the trouble?”
You sigh and get up, fully expecting Dave to have some kind of trap or prank that’s supposed to cheer you up prepared the second you open the door. You open the door, and surprisingly there’s no fanfare, no pop of confetti, there’s just Dave, holding two bowls of what smells indescribable and looks like it may have once been spaghetti.
You sink back onto the floor as he pushes past you to enter the room, and he sits next to you, and hands you your bowl and a fork.
“Woulda put it in my sylladex, but the sassy piece of shit kept rejecting it, apparently it doesn’t recognise it as “spaghetti” or “pasta” or “food” or “goddamn take it you piece of shit modus”,” he says, clearly frustrated, and you can’t help but laugh. His mouth twitches a little as you do. Though the second you swallow your first mouthful, you realise that Dave’s hash modus may have had a point.
Dave puts his bowl aside with clear distaste after what could have only been two forkfuls, but you continue eating, suddenly realising just how hungry you are.
“I called your Dad,” he blurts out suddenly, and you turn to look at him, a piece of spaghetti dangling out of your mouth. Before you can slurp it up and ask why though, he continues relentlessly, “Just thought you hadn’t called him up for a while. And he’d probably want to know his little prince was having a rough time. The second I mentioned you were the slightest bit in emotional distress he was booking flights here.”
You grin weakly at him, you feel a really sudden, warm surge of affection for him. He doesn’t meet your eyes, as though trying to make his best friend feel better was somehow the most embarrassing thing he could possibly do.
“He’s comin’ over tomorrow,” he concludes lamely, “Probably has about thirty more cakes than usual for us ready by now.”
“That’s Dad. I guess it’d be nice to see him again. Thanks,” you say, and shoot him a genuinely grateful smile, which only prompts him to roll his eyes and wind his arm around your shoulders.
“Anything for you, honeybunch.”
You choke on your pasta and he has to smack your back until you cough something up and can speak again, you’re laughing that much.
“Oh man, you haven’t used one of those on me since we were like 15!” you say, grinning with delight at the sudden rush of nostalgia, “Are we still playing that game?”
“Nobody ever called it off,” he responds simply, shrugging. You lean into him, and rest your head on his shoulder. It’s a little awkward, since you actually have an inch or two on his height, but it’s still warm, and nice, and you feel like you sort of forgot he was there for a while. You discard the bowl, having digested enough of Dave’s cooking as is physically possible for any sane human being.
“What’s the score like then?”
“I’ll presume I’m winning.”
“What, no way.”
“Yes way, dude, I’m always winning. It’s just the way of the world, John, dear,” he says, gesturing with the arm you haven’t trapped around your shoulders. You snort and snuggle into him more fully, letting your eyes fall closed and your arms wrap around your middle.
“It’s the way of you being stupid, that’s what it’s the way of. M’totally winning right now,” you mutter, and you don’t need to open your eyes to know he’s giving you his most contemptuous coolkid eye-roll.
“Oh, careful with that razor-sharp tongue of yours. We’ll all end up sliced like salami if you keep waggling that thing about,” he mumbles back, and you can sort of feel his nose in your hair, probably just looking at you and trying to come up with some smartass comment.
His hand gropes for yours and holds it, loosely, as though he totally expects you to snatch it back from him.
You guess you have been, lately. You two hadn’t exactly sat this close for months, and you had resigned yourself to the couch for the last month of your relationship, ever since Grace found out you two shared a bed. She’d laughed it off and made a joke about it, but she’d still looked at you a bit oddly, and gave Dave a look you couldn’t quite place. Maybe jealousy, maybe suspicion, though there’d been a hint or something else.
You both sit quietly for a second, before you remember something and look up at him.
“Hey, you went to see Grace, didn’t you?”
For once in his life, Dave Strider looks like a deer caught in headlights.
“She sent me a message, an email. It was really long and nice but really, really sad all at once. She said sorry a lot, and then she said one of my friends had made her realise she had to at least say goodbye to me properly,” you continue relentlessly, ignoring the fact that he’s wriggling in your grasp like an animal that does not want to be caught, “That was you wasn’t it?”
You stare at him unblinkingly – you’ve always been better at a stare-down than him, especially when you’re close enough so he knows you can see his eyes through the shades – and he finally sighs and reclines against the wall.
“Yeah, what’s your point? Went to see what the deal was, make sure she wasn’t reporting you to the police, only decent thing to do,” he grumbles, and you smile a little at that sulky undertone in his voice, like he’s the kid who’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. You tighten your grip on him.
“Well, thanks, I know I’ve been kind of a pain –“
“- and you’re really worried about me –“
“- but it helps, you know. That you’re here, feel like I neglected you a bit –“
“Yeah, I’m a hollow shell of what I once was, Egbert, you flitting off and cheating on me like that,” he says, and you see the suggestion of one of his rare grins twitching his lips.
“I was thinking about you the whole time, dude, I swear,” you fire back instantly, and then add more thoughtfully, “I mean, I did talk about you to her a lot. I think she was sick of hearing about you.”
“I was getting sick of hearing about her to be honest,” he almost grumbles and you laugh quietly into his shoulder.
“Dave I hadn’t forgotten about you,” you say, hesitating for a second before you grin at him, “Suppose you could say you were always on my mind. I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have -“
“I mean I know there were a bunch of little things I should have said and done, but I never took the time –“
“And maybe I didn’t hold you all those lonely lonely times, I mean...I guess never really told you I was so happy that you’re mine –“
“No, oh my God.“
“Just trying to tell you that if I made you feel second best, I’m so sorry, I was blind.”
“I’m going to kill you, Egbert. I’m going to kill you and they’ll never find the body,” he says, shoving you. You snigger behind your hand, starting to sing as he wrestles you to the ground. You shove back, more than a good enough match for him. He can’t keep you down long enough to stop you singing the entire song, at least.
You manage to pin him down, laughing helplessly into his collar bone. You’d almost forgotten how warm he was, how much you liked all the physical closeness he always attested he didn’t like, but never once even tried to put a stop to.
“I’m embarrassed for both of us,” he mutters, sitting up, and you just laugh more and sling your arms around his neck. He rolls his eyes.
“See you’re back to your old annoying self, then?” he asks, and however much he tries to add it you catch a note of something more, you dunno, tender in there. Sort of soft and warm, something that makes you feel weird. Like you’re glowing, or floating. Since those are both things you’ve actually done, you feel pretty justified in saying that.
You swallow and look at him, his glasses knocked askew in your fight, and those red irises visible from behind them. Something about the way he doesn’t jump to cover them back up like he would with anybody else makes a lump rise in your throat.
“I’m getting there, might take a little time yet. Still kinda hurts,” you say, smiling, and then release him very suddenly and stand up, “Oh jeez, if Dad’s coming over tomorrow, we better get cleaning. Dad will NOT like the state of this place.”
By tidying, you of course mean “grabbing everything and pushing it fully bodily into an available closet, slamming the door before anything could tumble out and both swearing empty promises to yourselves and each other that you would clean the place properly someday soon”. You pack away your turntables and put the spare bed down in its place, before both collapsing onto your bed.
John’s Dad arrives the next morning, greeting his son, who rushes over to hug him, with a pie to the face.
You get the bad end of a joy buzzer when you go forward to shake his hand, and this makes John laugh like the world’s dorkiest, snort-iest hyena.
Mr Egbert fusses over both of you, asking if you’ve been eating well, how your classes have been, if you’ve had enough food, how little Rose and Jade are doing, are you both quite sure you’re eating healthily, what job are you at now, Dave, please John you look rather skinny I insist you eat this cake, blah blah blah.
It’s not a very cool thing to admit, but you’ve always liked Mr Egbert. It was hard not to like a guy who’s sent you a birthday cake the size of your head every year since you were 9 years old, when you were just a kid his son met on the internet.
He doesn’t ask John about his girlfriend, carefully skirting around the subject, but there’s something about the way he hovers around, frowns when John gets that weird, thoughtful look on his face, that tells you he’s just waiting for the right time to bring it up.
He might find it hard to even find a right time. You suspect the G-word might become a dirty one in the Egbert-Strider household soon enough.
It’s only when he and John are preparing something for dinner (“Er, no, Dave, you cooked last night. Go sit down.”) do you hear them talking quietly, but they notice you eavesdropping and return to their previously cheery disposition, blabbering away about some sport or another they both follow. A sure fire method of making you go away if you ever knew one.
You sit eating with plates on your knees, Mr Egbert all the while telling you both that you should consider investing in a proper dining table if you could make the space. Considering that even when John has the urge to cook, you both just end up eating at the desk, poring over text books (or more likely, shitty blogs and stupid youtube videos), you’re not sure this is a great idea.
After you and John have cleared the dishes away (“Look, we have to clean these right away, I don’t want Dad thinking we’re really messy and gross.”), Mr Egbert takes out his pipe and tips out some tobacco into it.
“Ew, Dad! Don’t smoke that thing in here, bluh,” John snaps the second he catches sight of it. He looks at him in surprise and captchalogues his lighter again, shrugging.
“Of course, son, I’m under your roof, after all. Well, if you boys will excuse me, I’ll retire to the roof for a moment before dessert,” he says, heading out the door and to the roof. John looks at you, and then at the front door, then sighs and throws his hand up.
“Okay, now I feel bad. I’m gonna go keep him company Dave, we’ll be back when Dad’s finished his pipe,” he says, and dashes out the door after his Dad.
You shrug and lie on the couch, watching some shitty rerun of some shitty sitcom, and when it starts to rain and they still haven’t returned, the urge to go and listen in on private Egbert shenanigans is too high.
Fuck it, if John’s crying again or something you need to know. That or they’re trashing the roof with some dramatic final-battle prank-off in the rain, in which case you need to stop them before you get yelled at by the landlord.
They’re standing under an umbrella when you emerge onto the roof. You see the smoke from Mr Egbert’s pipe rising in a faint cloud under the rain and are about to call over to John, or sneak up on him and make him shit himself when you hear him say;
“Dad, how much of it do you remember? The – well, my thirteenth birthday, I mean?”
You creep away, and go back to the living room to wait for them.
“Bits and pieces. Some of them less pleasant than others. It was your day though, not mine, son,” is his very simple, polite reply. You sigh and shove your hands into the pockets of your jeans.
“I feel really dumb for telling her,” you mutter, and then add, sounding whiny even to yourself, “I really, really liked her, Dad, a lot.”
Dad pats you on the shoulder in that heavy-handed paternal way of his and takes another puff of his pipe. You wrinkle your nose a bit at the foul smell. Bluh! You thought you’d gotten free of that dadstink. Not being exposed to it for a few months always made you forget how gross it was.
“Love comes and goes, son. It’s admirable that you wanted to be honest with her, even if your execution wasn’t...perfect,” he admits, and you snort a little at how much effort it takes him to call you anything less than perfect, shifting the umbrella in your hands.
He goes off on a bit of a fatherly ramble about honesty and treating a lady well and love and blahblahblah, when you suddenly blurt something out:
“Dad, do I have to get married someday?”
He gives you a very odd look, and chuckles, ruffling your hair as though you were still 12 years old. You make a face at the indignity of it all – you’re a grown-up, goddamnit! Mostly.
“John, you don’t have to do anything. Have I not raised you to see your only obligation to anybody else as kindness?”
“Yeah, yeah,” you say, sounding every bit like a sulky 15 year old who was about to scream that nobody understood him, and try to brighten up a little, “Well. I just...I don’t think I want a girlfriend! Well I mean. I do, sorta. I really liked it. It was great but it felt a bit, funny. Like I felt kinda. Guilty.”
He gives you a curious look, and you clear your throat, promptly deciding to go no further with that line of thought that was absolutely necessary.
“Uh! But thanks, Dad. You’ve actually made me feel a lot better. We should go back in! If you’re done. Dave will start getting bored if we leave him alone much longer; he always gets whiny if I leave him on his own for too long.”
He smiles and simply says, “Your friends and family, odd as they are, will always be here, John. You should know that even without her, you’re very much loved.”
You roll your eyes, but your own smile doesn’t falter.
You wake up in a cold sweat that night, and the sound of you moving and panting wakes Dave up next to you. He lifts his face up off the pillow, always looking so strange without his shades; even with how long you’ve lived with him, and how many times you’ve glimpsed him without the ever-present eye-wear now, it still catches you kind of off-guard.
For once, he doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t need to say anything. He just shifts along and holds up his arm, and you gratefully squirm under it, resting your head on the same pillow as him.