There had been no time for love during the game, and the relationship that the four kids had had was one that went beyond love - it was one of complete and utter necessity. If they didn't have each other, they would have died
(gA: Everyone Has An Important Job To Do)
Simple as that.
Dave doesn't mind. That's the way it should be, really.
But they're not kids anymore and they haven't been in danger for a long time. And over the years, Dave found his feelings slipping into something different, something bright and warm and intense. It happens so slowly, that it's hard for Dave to pinpoint when he officially decided on the exact nature of his feelings for one John Egbert.
The quickest way to a man’s heart is his stomach.
This is complete and utter bullshit. Whoever settles on someone purely because of culinary prowess is a grade A douchebag. “Oh, but wait until you try her mango tart! It’s enough to make me want to get down on one knee.” Right, good luck fixing all your marital problems with lasagne.
Yet, when John visits Dave’s shitty apartment to celebrate his 16th birthday, laden with bags of flour and eggs and candles, it’s enough to make a flush rise up the back of Dave’s neck.
“Oh man, Dad’s taught me so many sweet recipes! I mean, of course they’re sweet, they’re cakes, hehehe. But sweet like the other kind as well, like awesome.”
“Oh my god, Egbert, stop taking. You’re lowering the strictly monitored levels of cool just by clicking your teeth together.” There’s no sting behind the words. There never is. And if anyone else had said it, they would have been introduced very swiftly to Dave’s fist.
The cake turns out pretty good, all frothy icing and HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVE piped in wobbly red letters on top. Bro’s out busy with god knows what, so it’s the two of them in the apartment and John insists on singing to him, no matter how much Dave protests. It’s so embarrassing and unnecessary, this one-man-chorus glowing in the light of his sixteen candles.
But Dave is thankful anyway.
John stays long enough until he knows where the cutlery drawer is, when garbage day is, where to duck and weave through puppets in the dark, when to dodge swords and other sharp instruments. And when he leaves, Dave has to play his music louder than usual to combat the sudden loneliness.
The game didn’t leave them without presents. John can still do his windy thing and Dave can still hop around in time. (Not quite as easily as he used to. Big jumps leave him drained and exhausted and Dave is keenly aware of the fact that in real life, death only needs to find you once.)
They’re seventeen and they’re running through a summer storm, trying to get back to Dave’s shitty pickup truck that they had left parked on the side of a lane in the butthole of nowhere, just field and wood and mud for miles around. They’re running and laughing, shoving each other into puddles, and finally John stops, bent over and trying to get his breath back.
“Dave!” he shouts, and the rain is so loud that Dave nearly misses it under the roar of water slamming into the dirt. “Dave!”
“Let’s just stop!”
“What! John, wait, no- ”
But John’s already launched himself over a wooden fence and he’s picking his way through waist-high grass and Dave swears and follows him. Water’s streaming down his glasses and the sky’s dark with soot-coloured clouds and it’s impossible to see. So he takes his glasses off and tries to follow that head of black hair, wild and untamed even when sopping with water.
John finally picks a spot and flops on to his back and pats the space next to him.
“This is inconceivably dumb,” Dave says, settling down and wincing at the mud making its way through his pants and the back of his shirt.
“You’re dumb. Anyway, there’s no one around, so we can-” And John raises his arms, stretches them straight up in the air above his head and the rain just stops.
Dave’s breath catches. No matter how many times he’s seen John use his gift, in or out of the game, whether to pummel monsters or just to cool down, it’s still magnificent. He watches the way John’s forearms tense and stiffen, manipulating the Breeze into a shield, watches the content and loose expression on John’s face. The earth is warm beneath them and the sound of the rain drumming on the dome of air above them beats a pleasant sound.
They talk and when they don't, the silence is comfortable and well-worn. John teaches Dave how make birdcalls with long threads of grass pressed between his thumbs. Dave throws John’s shoes out of their bubble and John, in return, drops the Breath just for a second so Dave is treated to a surprise shower.
“Asshole, I was just getting dry as well.”
“The prankster’s gambit must always be filled,” John says solemnly, and tries to find his shoes.
The sky and the rain finally lighten and when they get back to the car, Dave catches John looking at him, lips slightly parted and cheeks warmly tinged.
Dave checks his mouth for the remnants of food, checks his face for any mud, and he realises that he’s forgotten to put his glasses back on.
He slips them back on and doesn’t miss John’s tiny sigh of disappointment.
(The next day, they both get sick.)
John finds it easy to make friends anywhere: school, the grocery shop, the library, the post office, jail, seriously anywhere. He sees some kids being bullied in the playground and he steps in and after a few words, they’re all back at la Casa de Egbert having gushers and milk.
Dave doesn’t make friends quite so easily. And that’s okay. At first, John bothers him about it and tries to encourage him to leave his room from time to time.
EB: come on man! people aren’t so bad!
TG: no way
TG: they have to be a lot cooler than just not so bad to hang out with me
TG: you gotta work for my attention
TG: cant just be flinging it about like candy from a pedomobile
TG: that would cheapen it
EB: eheheheh so I’m worth it then? :)
Yes. Yes he is.
After a lot of dodging and flashstepping around the subject, John finally understands that Dave doesn’t need to be surrounded by people to be happy. It’s always been him and Bro and the three sets of different coloured texts on his screen. And he’s cool with that.
EB: and you’re cool with that?
TG: why shouldnt i be?
TG: dont need pointless people taking up my air when i could be breathing it instead
TG: these sick fires need all the oxygen they can get
TG: if it goes out then bam your pokemons dead
EB: i think i get it.
And he does. He doesn’t nag or bother like Rose does. (Jade isn’t really in a position where she could tell Dave off for not socializing more. She was raised by a dog, after all.) John treats him like there’s nothing wrong with preferring not to be surrounded by bodies and chatter and noise and Dave fully appreciates this one day when they’re eighteen and hanging out at some fast food place. It’s the summer holidays and it’s impossible for John to go out and not bump into classmates, friends of his dad, other film club members, everybody.
Dave tenses a little when a gaggle of students spot John, call out his name and overwhelm the table they’re sitting at. John’s all genuine grins and enthusiastic back pats and hugs and he’s talking a mile a minute. But somehow, through the ‘how’ve you been’s and the ‘had a good summer’s, he notices how Dave’s face has tightened, how the black behind his sunglasses opens and swallow's Dave whole.
“Well, love to stay and talk, but Dave and I better get going!” he says loudly and Dave’s neck nearly cracks with the speed he looks up with.
“What! But we haven’t heard from you all summer!” One girl pouts and folds her arms. “Where are you going?”
There’s a collective groan and the girl backpeddles immediately. “Never mind.” She pats Dave’s shoulder good-naturedly. “Good luck!”
The two boys leave and Dave raises an eyebrow at John. “I haven’t pencilled our cinema date in, bro. You know I need forty-eight hours warning for anything. I’m a busy guy.”
“Yeah right! But yeah, do you want to go to the cinema? There’s a really cool movie out right now and it’s about aliens and how these two people have to-”
“What was that, back there?”
John tilts his head, eyes blinking owlishly behind his glasses. “What was what?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. I know you could have hung out with those goobers for the rest of the day. Why the sudden movie trip?”
He just shrugs. “No reason! Just felt a little crowded in there.”
Dave’s silent and when they get to the cinema, he doesn’t complain when John drags them towards what is possibly the shittiest movie of the season.
It's not a problem though. When John’s enraptured in a scene, Dave takes off his glasses and studies the way the flickering light outlines John’s jaw and the way shadow of his eyelashes fall over his cheeks. He leaves them off for the rest of the movie.
Even though the cinema’s maybe a quarter full, it feels like it’s just the two of them, just Dave and John, the way he likes it.
Maybe he’s always liked him more than he should, Dave finds himself wondering as he stares at John’s focused expression over webcam. The image is blurry and pixelated, sure, but it still captures the strong angle of his profile, the faint beginnings of stubble, the tip of a pink tongue slicking over front teeth in concentration-
‘Shit!’ He’s doing it again. The fact that Dave’s even noticing this puts another tick in the ‘love that transcends brohood’ list. But he convinces himself that there is no such list and that he’s allowed to appreciate his best friend’s goods without it necessarily being… something.
(Dave’s very good at lying to himself.)
Then he realises that John has been trying to get this attention for the past few minutes.
EB: so I was thinking about the dorms in north campus.
EB: you know the ones by the humanities block?
EB: i mean, it’ll be a bit of a trek to the science department, but that’s no big deal.
EB: what are you even doing?
EB: okay, fine, when you decide to stop spacing out just let me know.
TG: sorry bro
TG: totally away with the fairies
Dave winces and hurriedly types more before John can read more into it and somehow make a link between that particular choice in phrase and Dave admiring how the line of John’s collarbone disappears into his shirt and oh shit.
TG: decided to chill out with my sparkle bros
TG: it was all wands and fairy fluff and my little ponies galloping off into the sunset
TG: man you should have been there
EB: man, a fairy party sounds great, but we really need to talk about where we’re going to live at college!
College accommodation. Right.
They weren’t kids anymore. They were growing up and entering a new phase in their life. A new, normal phase that they were going to be able to share together. Rose was going to some fancy college with some scholarship to do some psychology degree. Probably. (Dave can never remember the specifics.) And Jade had already been accepted into a physics programme abroad and was probably one of the youngest people to ever be on it.
Which leaves him and John. Him and John. Not just for summers or Christmases anymore. Not just for lazy days at a Texan park or snow fights in Washington, but they’ll see each other everyday. Dave swallows the lump in his throat. They’ll be living together, becoming physical constants in each other's lives.
(Tick, tick goes the list.)
TG: does it have to be dorms
TG: dunno if i can handle living with a with a whole santasack of douches
EB: you don’t know that!
EB: there might be some pretty nice people there. :)
TG: there might be some pretty terrible people there too
TG: like hilariously terrible
But the truth is, they probably can’t afford getting a place of their own, not yet at least. But the idea of it, a shared space with bits of him and bits of John and arghhh he’s doing it again.
So they decide to apply for the dorms John’s picked out and request rooms neighbouring each other and John’s bubbling with excitement, almost like one of those dumb salamanders except adorable and his eyes are wide and blue and so, so happy and
and as Dave hugs an armful of John close to him when they first see each other at college, breathes in deep the smell of cool air and sunshine, he decides that he doesn’t care whether the list exists or not. He’ll just deal with it the same way he deals with most things he doesn’t know how to deal with.
(Dave’s very good at lying to himself.)
The rooms are more like glorified cupboards than bedrooms. Dave’s brought a widescreen TV and his music gear and John’s got a keyboard (a present from Dad. Bringing the piano might prove be a little too tricky) and his Colonel Sassacre, which could take up a room by itself.
Dave’s trying to figure out a way to get his turntables on the desk and still have enough room to actually use it for work when John pokes his head through the door and says, “I have an idea!”
“How about we have one room for our stuff and one room for us?”
There’s a part of Dave that wants to point out that turning one of their rooms into a storeroom probably has all sort of problems and what about keys and, uh, beds? But the other part of him short-circuits at the idea of sleeping in the same room as John and, well, this would have probably happened sooner or later anyway.
So John’s bedroom becomes their living room, complete with gaming system and surround sound, mini-fridge for apple juice and swords. They turn John's bed into a sofa with some shitty pillows they find at a charity store. They even have some other people over sometimes for pizzas and xbox, who, to Dave’s relief, aren’t as hilarible as he thought they’d be.
They’re not often in the bedroom. They only really use it to either actually do some work or to sleep. They couldn’t lift John’s bed (it was attached to the floor) so they create a pile next to Dave’s. An honest-to-gog pile, feeling jams included and everything, and sometimes (he’ll never admit this), when Dave wakes up early, he’ll watch John’s face poking serenely out from the mountain of pillows and scarves he’s been buried under. And then John would wake up and Dave would have to look away quick, because he’s not protected anymore.
The bedroom is a sunglasses-free zone.
“It’s just me and you in here, it’s not like anyone else will see!” John begged and nagged and has even gone as far as freezing Dave’s glasses in a block of ice in trying to persuade him to take off the shades when it’s just the two of them. “Besides, you’ve taken them off in front of me before!”
Yeah, but that was back when Dave didn’t get this funny knot inside his stomach whenever John laughs at one of his crap jokes, back when he didn’t feel a flush rise at the back of his neck whenever John leans over his shoulder to see how his new comic’s going.
Now Dave’s worried his eyes will betray him. It’d just take one sappy look and the entire rooming together operation’s blown assupwards into the sky. (Possibly.) Dave doesn’t want to think about it.
So he doesn’t and plays the role of the best friend and tries not to let his yearning leak out from his pupils.
But finally he agrees after a bout of homesickness strikes John particularly hard. The lights are already out and John is sniffling and shaking in his pile and Dave’s heart just twists like a wet towel and he’s climbing out of bed and burrowing into the pile. He pets John’s hair and they’re suddenly transported back to when they would huddle together for warmth on that damn asteroid floating in the middle of inky black frozen space and he’d pet John’s hair just like this so many years ago and he knows that John’s thinking of the same time and place…
John quietens right down, hand searching awkwardly for Dave and bumps into his nose. Dave lets the hand skitter across his cheeks, feel the structure of his face, pull the sunglasses off and thumb gently over the paper skin of his eyelids.
Dave sleeps in the pile that night.
John apologises in the morning for how uncool he was and how he’s lucky to have a buddy like Dave he can count on. Dave just nods and says anytime bro whenever you need a feelings session we can burrow like a couple moles and his mouth keeps running and running because he’s not sure how he feels right now.
But the sunglasses stay off, so surely, that says something.
As John hasn’t really spent his teenage years strengthening his body against alcohol, it only takes a couple of drinks to smash through his brain like a wrecking ball through a tower made entirely out of bacon.
Dave, however, is related to Mom Lalonde and had inherited her apparent invincibility and near inhuman tolerance.
They had been playing table football with a couple of John’s chemistry buddies, which had been just okay until someone had the bright idea of adding beer to the mix. And then it became infinitely more hilarious. Reaction times were slowed to the point where John was reduced to staring dumbly at the table, trying to remember how his hands worked.
It was when his legs buckled and he folded neatly over the table, cheek pressed wetly against the glass that Dave decided that he probably had had enough and he drags John home.
Or tries to, at least.
“Egbert,” Dave says through gritted teeth, trying to lead John out of the middle of the road. “Please work with me here, before you accidently die.”
“I can’t! I’m immorrttaaalll,” John sings, hugging Dave close. Dave sighs.
“We don’t know that for sure, bro. And I really don’t want to test the theory out right now. We can have a pretend peanut party later or something, but I’d rather not see you get – ”
“Hup hup,” says John, wrapping his arm around Dave and suddenly they’re flying and holy shit holy shit holy shit.
“John, you are drunk!” Dave yells, legs cycling wildly. The wind supporting them seems to be just as intoxicated as its master and it tosses them carelessly around the sky. They drop dangerously fast and Dave’s heart falls into his throat, but the Breath catches them again and they rise, toes skimming treetops.
“Whoops, turbulence! Seatbelts on!” John laughs and tightens his grip on Dave, holding on with both arms now, thank fuck. “I can show you the world!”
“Oh my god, really?!” (But there’s a level of irony in this that Dave appreciates.)
The cold air forces John to sober up a little and the flight becomes smoother and the breeze even warms up and playfully musses Dave’s hair. He tries not to cling too pathetically on to John’s arms. (Which are strong and solid and comforting around his midriff, but anyway.)
It’s a clear night and if anyone looked, they'd see a sharp black silhouette sail across the wide, glowing face of the moon.
“Just like ET!”
It is pretty cool though, after Dave stops freaking out. (Which he manages pretty well, he thinks.) He doesn’t really care about anyone seeing them. Two guys floating? Really? Really? And now the city below them is made up of light, with the motorway winding through the black canvas like a great glowing snake and lake like a mirror, reflecting the stars and it’d be romantic if weren’t also terrifying.
But there’s something about this, Dave realises, that he’s actually very at home with. His life in John’s hands. John the trustworthy, John the Friendleader, John the Hero. And Dave trusts John. And John trusts Dave to trust him. And Dave trusts John to –
It’s like a never-ending circle of friendship, Dave thinks, totally calm now even though they’re flying higher than ever. It’s actually wonderful and so, so intimate, riding together on John’s Breath.
John looks down at the top of Dave’s head. “You alright?”
“Hehe, you’re so lame!”
When John notices the red blinking lights of an airplane coming dangerously close, he brings them down to a dark, grassy area, near the music building. Dave lands first, steadily on both feet. John follows, but heavily, tiredly. He leans heavily on Dave, who supports him.
“That was fun, huh,” John mumbles.
“Oh yeah, definitely. Drunken Peter Panning is definitely the way I want to spend every Friday night.”
“Hehe… hey, wait!” John yelps as Dave picks him up, bridal style.
“My turn now to be Prince Charming, bro. You got to be Aladdin and I’m feeling that you haven’t played your fair share of princess.”
John looks cross, tucked up against Dave’s chest, but surprisingly doesn’t complain. Nobody’s around, after all.
(Dave has to put him down twenty minutes later, though, and carry him piggyback the rest of the way. “Too many gushers, man!”)
In November, Dave gets a girlfriend, much to the surprise of everyone, himself included. He’s not entirely too sure about the whole thing, really, but going along with it for now seems to be the easiest thing to do.
John’s face goes curiously blank when Dave tells him, before breaking into a wide smile. “Congrats Dave! Knew the ladies couldn’t resist the Strider charm for long!”
“I dunno, bro. There wasn’t a lot of charm going on when it happened.” It’s true. They had met at a gig somewhere. She had lost her friends and decided that they were probably elsewhere drinking and stuck with Dave. Turns out they liked and hated the same music. So when Dave turned to leave, so did she and they ended up getting some pizza together and suddenly they were going out. She was boisterous and energetic and he was mostly apathetic so he just went with it.
It doesn’t hurt to have a girlfriend, he thought. But when he sees that brief flash of panic in John’s eyes, he realises that something’s up.
“You alright bro?”
“What?” John shoots a startled look at Dave, who watches him carefully. They’re sitting in the ‘living room’ so John has to deal with the darkness of Dave’s shades. He squirms. “Yeah! Fine! Peachy. Why shouldn’t I be alright?”
“Dunno man, you’re all fidgity like a bareass Matthew Macconahay just burst into the room and you’re trying to hide the most awkward boner.”
“Yeah, well, you would know.”
Then John noogies Dave as hard as he can because he knows Dave absolutely hates it. Dave shoves him off and tries not to look like an angry bird.
And suddenly everything is fine again.
(Still, John gets kind of funny whenever Dave goes to meet her, just clams up on the sofa and says, “Have fun!” in that tight, controlled way of his when he’s trying to hide something. Dave thinks about asking Rose, but decides to leave that as a very last resort.)
It takes Dave until he and this chick have been dating for about a month for him to finally get it. When he does, he wants to kick his past self in the face for not seeing it sooner.
John is jealous.
Well, he’s going to have to fix that. Can’t leave his best bro hanging after all. He looks through all his facebook contacts, trying to find a suitable ladyfriend. No one even comes close to Dave’s standards and he logs off in a huff.
When he meets Kat for lunch, she takes one look at him and says, “John again?”
He’s too surprised to hide it. “What.”
She rolls her eyes. “You always hunch over when you guys have had a spat or something. For all your talk about your pokerface, you’re actually pretty straightforward.”
Maybe this is another reason he’s stuck with Kat for longer than a few days, he thinks as he grumpily orders a panini. She can somehow see straight through him, coolkid persona or not. Also, she isn’t all touchy-feely or hand holdy or clingy. They seldom kiss.
He sits down heavily and Kat just squints at him over her coffee cup until he finally says, “I think I need to get the bow and arrows out and play cupid.”
“What, for John?” She laughs. “Just because we’re going out doesn’t mean he needs a girlfriend too!”
“The guy’s miserable. Just moping around our room all day, shitty movies on repeat. I can quote you Fifty First Dates word-for-word right now. Give you an impromptu performance of the romcom of the year.”
“Hmm.” She looks out the window for a second, watches the snow swirl down. Kat and John had met but only very briefly, due to the fact that John excused himself about fifteen minutes after she arrived. “Sorry, chemistry homework, you know how it is.” And he dashed away to the bedroom. Dave had to drive her home because of the fact that he and John now share the bed. (Winter is harsh and the pile just isn’t warm enough.)
Kat appears to be thinking hard and Dave watches the expressions play over her face as she comes to a conclusion. “I’m going to go,” she says, a sad little frown at her mouth. Dave is about to say something, but she shushes him. “Before I do, I want you to think about a couple things.”
She tells him about how Dave doesn’t shut up about John. About how Dave treats her right but only that. About how, for girlfriend and boyfriend, they’re really more like friends. About how, remember, she can see straight through him and the soft, soppy look he gets on his face whenever he’s talking about his best friend screams at her that there’s something going on there.
About how she doesn’t think that John’s jealous of him for having a girlfriend.
“Just think about it, okay?” She puts on her scarf, gives him a quick, friendly peck, and steps outside and is lost in a flurry of snowflakes.
Dave sits there, slumped in his chair, looking utterly relaxed except he’s all twisted upside, all pianowire taut and tense. He sits there for about ten minutes, before pulling out his phone.
TG: i think ive just been dumped
TG: and thats all there is to say on the matter
He doesn’t even have to wait for a reply.
EB: where are you?
EB: no wait, never mind, that’s a dumb question!
EB: i’m coming to get you!
EB: sit tight!
Never mind the fact that John’s supposed to be in class right now. And that the snow is coming down thick and fast. And that it takes about half an hour by foot to get to the cafe Dave’s in.
(Dave notices how John doesn't say Oh noooooooo :( or anything that would suggest he's particularly torn up about it.)
He waits until John bursts in, covered in snow and wearing a ridiculous puffy jacket and matching hat and his cheeks are flushed and it’s then that Dave realises that he’s not twisted up inside at all. His chest feels tight, like his heart’s inflating in his lungs. He’s just so happy to see John and how could he have even considered trying to find him a girlfriend when really, he wants him for himself?
John buys two bottles of apple juice and slams one down in front of Dave. “Dude are you okay?”
“Yeah, actually.” And he actually is.
It takes a break up for Dave to understand what he wants and for the hope that John might also be similarly interested to start budding inside him. Christmas comes and goes, the both of them spending it with their respective guardians. (Dave gets a pair of sweet headphones from John while John gets a collection of magician DVDs in return.)
But they return to the dorms for New Year. Rose and Jade are due to join them for the first of January for belated celebrations and the boys have shit to shift if they want anywhere decent to sleep. (Naturally, the girls would get the bed. John insisted. “Do you really think that Rose would sleep in a shitty pile of scarves?” “She has before bro.”)
It’s the 31st of December and John has way too many fireworks. “I can’t believe you’re just planning of firing those out the window,” Dave says, eyebrow quirked as John marches in, face barely visible over the heap of rockets in his arms.
“Don’t worry, man! I’ve got this.”
He does, kind of. Dave’s too nervous about John accidently blasting his hand off, so he’s glad when an unexpected rain falls hard and heavy and John has to dismantle his crazy fireworks apparatus thing. Maybe it was for the best. "Maybe it’s god’s way of telling you not to be a fucking idiot.”
“You’re just jealous that you didn’t think of it first. Seriously, when I get the patent for this, so many boonbucks. So many.”
“Bluh bluh.” Still, that rain looks pretty awful and Dave had been planning on going out later to pick up some stuff before the girls arrived. And finding anything open on the first of January is goddamn near impossible. “I’m gonna head out. Need anything from the store?”
“Nahh. Be safe darling!”
Dave swoons. “Thanks honeybunch,” he says, and John dodges the exaggerated airkisses.
Dave steps outside and immediately says, “Fuck.” God it’s cold. It’s pitch black and freezing, but there’s a lot of students out and about, girls tottering in high heels and guys in fancy dress despite the weather. The rain makes it hard to see and Dave’s too stubborn to take his shades off. Even now, cycling through the almost storm. He has to wipe the drops off the glass every so often and his bike wobbles periously.
He gets to the store, eventually, and without incident. He leaves it ten minutes later with an armful of snacks and a crate of soda, which he plans on tying to the back of his bike somehow. He’s standing on the corner under a flickering streetlamp, shoving his sopping hair out of his face with his forearm and
there’s the scream of tires clingling desperately to the wet ground and Dave doesn’t even have the time to turn to look as the force of several tons of metal ploughs straight into him. He hits the ground hard and is still.
The drivers may have been drunk or not. Perhaps it was the thick curtain of rain or bad tire treads or even the broken streetlamp. But it doesn’t matter why it happened. What matters is that Dave is lying crumpled on the pavement, glasses cracked and snapped.
‘This is such a goddamn shit way to go,’ he thinks muzzily. There is pain, somewhere. Or maybe everywhere? Why couldn’t he have fallen down some stairs or something? There’s enough irony in that to let him die happy. They could have engraved I TOLD YOU DOG on his gravestone and John would have to laugh at that and not cry because that would break Dave’s heart and why is he thinking about this?
It hurts to breathe. ‘Think, think, THINK.’ Stay conscious, stay alive. Maybe, just maybe, if he concentrates-
He feels time slowing down, feels the streams of blood through the tears in his body turn sluggish and slow, feels the ebb and flow of his breath through his lungs, feels his thoughts tick like an aging clock.
Good thing he’s had so much practice dying.
Then he hears snoring. Dave blinks and shifts. He opens his eyes properly and it’s bright, all white linen and white curtains and white sunlight streaming through wide windows. He turns his head with a wince and his glasses are quietly sitting on the bedside table, patched up with tape. He wants to put them on, but the pain that shoots through his arm when he moves is too much.
Ah. It’s broken. That’d be why. He hears the noise again and looks around, and can’t help but smile.
John is there, sitting in an armchair with his legs propped up, head back and snoring. There are soft bruises under his eyes and his skin is pale and he looks like he’s been wearing the same clothes for several days.
In fact, those are the same clothes. Jegus, how long had he been out for?
“Jo-“ Woah, okay, that hurt. “John.”
John wakes with start, blinks sleepily at Dave and he lifts a casual hand in greeting. “Sup?”
His eyes go wide. “Dave. Jesus Christ.” And then John’s hugging him and fuckkkk that hurts but Dave can’t bring himself to toss his friend off him because there are so many words and they’re coming out fast. “Don’t you ever do that again oh my god do you know how fucking worried I’ve been how worried we’ve all been haven’t been able to sleep thank god you’re alright thank god thank god thank god-“
John’s crying, the tears soaking into the front of Dave’s hospital pjs and he’s gripping Dave as if someone’s going to take him away. When John draws back enough for Dave to look at him, to properly look at him, pale and sobbing and so full of fear and relief and love that something rises through Dave and he has to say it.
“I love you,” he blurts out and John freezes. His mouth goes slack and he stares, wide eyed and wide jawed.
It takes a break up for Dave to understand what he wants and a near fatal accident for him to confess.
He has never wished so hard for his glasses.
Then John’s blubbing again and just going, “Dave Dave, oh my god, Dave.” And this time his hug is a tad too tight and John feels Dave’s sharp hiss and leaps away. “Oh jeez I’m sorry. Are you alright, did I hurt you-“
“Egderp, I’ve just survived a slamdown with a car. Cuddling with you is not going to kill me.” Oh shit that was the wrong thing to say because John’s tearing up and oh god Dave just wants to pass out again to avoid having to deal with this.
It’s quiet, save for the beeps of machines and John’s sniffles. For once, Dave has nothing to say. He just reaches out carefully and slips his battered glasses back on before he says more stupid things.
“I called you,” John finally says, when he get himself under control. “I called to say that we were out of gushers and then a lady picked up instead. She found you on the sidewalk and called the ambulance and- and-“ He takes a deep shuddering breath. “God. Do you know how scared I was, when I heard the sirens in the background? More scared than I have ever been.”
“John-“ Dave starts, but John continues, blinking the tears furiously away.
“This isn’t the game anymore. We can’t just die and come back and I’ve lost you too many times and, and you looked so broken and tiny and fuck, man.” John moves closer and grasps Dave's shoulders gently, whose eyes are wide and scared behind his shades. “Never again,” John says. “And I can’t believe that I wasted so much time to tell you.” He presses his face into Dave’s shoulder and Dave can’t stop the hope bubbling up inside him.
“Are you saying-“
“Yeah man. I love you too.”
Surely this has to be a scene in one of John’s movies. Dave tells him so and John snickers. “Directed by Andy Tennant.”
“Dude, Hitch. Come on.”
“Well I’m sorry if I can’t keep up with your every growing list of guycrushes-“
Then John kisses him and Dave shuts up, just concentrates on the feeling of John’s lips against his chapped, dry ones and the feeling of John’s fingers fisting his shirt.
When he backs away, John grins. “The only guycrush I have is right in front of me.”
“Oh my god. You did not just say that.”
“That was totally a thing that was just said.”
And Dave laughs until he’s crying too, tears streaming down his face and John just pets his hair and shooshes him. And he stays with him.
Dave is out of hospital about two weeks later. It seems that a lot of the initial damage was prevented from worsening due to Dave’s Knight of Time powers and his in-game God-Tier immortality probably helped speed his recovery along. The drivers of the offending car hadn’t been drunk and anyone could have skidded at that corner. They came to see him and offered to help with the hospital fees. Dave said no until John forced him to say yes.
Until he was released, Dave had to endure excessive motherhenning. Bro was constantly in and out of his room, telling him that no broken arm was going to get him out of strifing. “Strife didn't protect me from hydroplaning cars, you ass!” he snaps and flings a pillow at Bro. He wakes up later to a bed full of smuppet hiney.
The girls came as promised, even though most of their stay was spent in the hospital. Rose gives Dave a knowing look and Jade goes through the whole ‘if you hurt him’ speech and Dave nearly scoffs, but remembers that Jade still has her crazy space powers. So he nods instead, safe in the knowledge that he wasn't planning on knowingly hurting John.
Rose knits him an armcast-cosy. Dave actually wears it.
Kat comes to visit him, fruit basket and get-well card in hand, and Dave tells her everything. He feels like he owes it to her and he’s actually relieved when her face breaks into a genuine smile.
So two weeks later, Dave’s still limping around a little. “Dude,” John says, fretting over Dave just as he’s about to hobble to class. “I still think we should get you a wheelchair. I’ll push you around and everything!”
(They meet half-way. John pulls Dave along the snowy pavement on a child’s sled. Dave puts on a santa hat for irony.)
Dave heals in time and it’s strange, he thinks, that nothing between them really changes. They still do the same stupid shit as before, play music together, cook together, live together, be together.
“When did you realise?” he asks John one day, and John knows exactly what he’s talking about. They’re lying together on their ratty sofabed, bare feet touching and legs entwined. Dave wraps his arms around John’s middle.
John shrugs and laces his fingers between Dave’s against his stomach. “Dunno. I guess I’ve always felt like this. I guess I just didn’t know what it was until now.”
“God that is so sappy.”
John tilts his head back Dave kisses him, slowly, sweetly. John sighs with contentment and Dave feels John’s stomach flutter under his fingers. He moves his mouth to the soft skin of John’s neck and-
Nothing between them changes except for a few things.