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Fragility

Chapter Text

It was getting to be just a bit too much.

You've always had a bit of trouble making friends, despite your generosity and blatant modesty. Elementary school was alright, your dad always told you that if you were nice to people, they'd be nice in return, and there were a few kids you had befriended. None of those friendships had lasted very long. Maybe a month at the most. It was like they got bored of you after a while; like an old toy that gets forgotten under your bed after receiving a new one. You could deal with that though, you liked change too.

Middle school, however, that was when the older grades liked to tease you about being nearly friendless. They'd call you childish names like 'four-eyes' and 'buck-face'. But that was okay too, you just took it like nothing was ever wrong, mostly because you were used to it. It still hurt though, just the slightest little bit. Then you got your own computer on you 12th birthday, and met Jade, who introduced you to Rose and Dave. They accepted you. You found total solace in just talking with them.

They accepted you.

After a while, you stopped caring about real life friends, because you had your new internet friends. No one questioned you, so you went about your normal life. It was when high school reared it's ugly head that you began to question these people. Back in your younger grades, you thought it was just mindless teasing, with no real basis to it. Now you're in the 9th grade, fresh meat, and you guess you've never really noticed how much of a dork you looked like, because frankly, you had no clue. And it seemed like right after the first day, after the orientation, that a bulls-eye was stuck on your back for everyone to see. Names like 'four-eyes' and 'buck-face' had turned into insults like 'faggot' and 'homo'. You were absolutely sure you weren't either of those though. These were even more baseless than the ones from middle school, and you wonder if these teens had just gotten less mature over the summer.

But you still took it. Because it was normal, just a tad more severe than usual.

So soon enough, this big group of burly boys (you think a few of them were in the rugby and football team but you weren't sure) decided to test your fragility.

Mentally and physically.

At first it was only the name-calling, and the poking and prodding in the halls. They'd knock the books and papers out of your arms in the middle of a crowded hallway between classes. Sometimes they nudge you into a locker or a corner, or a garbage can that hadn't had it bag replaced in God knows how long. Sometimes you'd fall into it, and it took a bit of pursuasive explaining to the secretary to let you go home. Or even just a whiff of your oversized sweater that almost always, without fail, took the brunt of the rotten smells.

You took all of this without so much as even a dirty look to your offenders. You took it like a gentleman. A true gentleman.

They didn't like this.

Slow but surely, it got worse and nudges in the hallways turned into pushes, and then into really hard shoves. Shoves that were alarmingly close to poles and stairs and sometimes into open lockers. It was an old stereotypical situation, getting shoved and locked into a locker. But you were small enough. And then they'd leave you until they remembered you were still there, which more often than not was way past the last bell of the school day.

The name-calling was much more frequent, and much more socially offensive, but your neutral peers didn't say a word about it or against it and teachers had no clue. Well, either that or they just didn't care.

American school systems. Fuck yeah.

You still remember that one time you had been 'accidentally' knocked off balance and plunged nose-first down the concrete flight of stairs outside your school. Papers flew, books tumbled, and cue cards scattered like snow. You had been taken to the hospital that day with a fractured arm, three broken ribs, and a near-shattered shoulder.

The only upside to that was the fact your dad didn't let you go to school for a week.

He also got you a proper backpack.

And hey, new stuff was always a bonus.

It didn't really look new after 3 months of use though.

It had been hidden, lost, caked in dirt and garbage, and just heavily worn. You tried to take such good care of it, as it was just so helpful in carrying everything to and fro, but of course these people wanted nothing but to get you to the breaking point.

You were having none of it.

But soon enough, the passive-aggressive shoves had turned into full-on beatings that weren't under the watchful eyes of school officials. They called you terrible things and left all their marks on you. All over you.

And it hurt.

Your name is John Egbert and you're finally nearing your breaking point.

Chapter Text

Today is just going to be a normal day, you think to yourself, No more funny business.

This funny business being all the unwanted attention you get every waking day.

You've never really tried to avoid them, because they always see you no matter what. But today you are going to try to defend yourself. Well, it won't be really defending yourself, since you won't be trying to fight them, per se, but they'll have no idea what happened, when their leader is covered in water and party confetti. You've been planning this for a while, and your pranksters gambit will be through the roof.

But then, you can't help but wonder if this was all your fault anyway. There wouldn't be a problem at all if there wasn't something wrong with you, although you could never pinpoint exactly what it was. You've lost so much sleep over this question, and-

The alarm at your bedside table finally goes off, jolting you from your reverie. Your arm reaches out of the soft confines of your ghost blanket to smack the 'snooze' button, and you stand up, bringing the blanket with you. It was definitely a cold January morning.

Upon arrival in the washroom, you tried to tie the blanket around your shoulders like a cape, partly because it was warm underneath, but mostly because you wanted to look like a super hero. You knew it was lame, but there are just some childlike urges you can never say no to.

It ends up slipping down when you move your arms, so you slide it down your bare torso to fasten it around your pajama-clad hips.

You never know why it's such a shock when you see all the discolouration that adorns your body, it's been like that since the beginning of your 10th grade year. It might be something nagging at the back your mind, but somewhere in there, you know this shouldn't be happening.

But it is and there's really nothing you can do about it. Countless times you've felt the urge to tell someone, anyone, but they threaten you. They'll do something terrible if you do.

You turn your attention back to your sleepy face, with those bags and dark circles. So pale. You just can't wait to get some sunshine. Weather has been terrible lately.

You were downstairs and ready to go about ten minutes later, popping some bread in the toasters when you spot a blue sticky-note on the fridge with a note. You eye it curiously.

SON,

I WON'T BE HOME UNTIL A

BIT LATER THAN USUAL.

BE GOOD.

LOVE DAD.

You frown at the note. Dad already got back pretty from work pretty late anyway, and he was always gone by the time you woke up. Sometimes you'd fine notes in odd places, the fridge being where they were plastered to the most, though.

The toaster popping up startled you, and you notice that if you dawdle any longer, you'll miss the bus! You take the plain whole-grain toast between your teeth and shrug on your large black cardigan over your long t-shirt. Your wallet and keys are on the kitchen table, and you grab those as you walk past it into the living room and to the front door. Your backpack awaits you, hung on the wall. You sling it over your shoulder (which ached in protest to the weight), and leave your welcoming home.

Your morning was mostly uneventful. English was an easy enough class, and Art was always a but frustrating (you were a terrible artist!). Then lunch came around, and you felt a little giddy. It was time to put you plan to action before they found you.

Fast-walking in the general direction of the gymnasium, you accidentally bumped a few people people but didn't look back to see who they were. You were mostly invisible to them anyway.

Now standing in front of your destination, you open the door and peek your head in.

The coast was clear.

Time to put this plan into action.

You shimmy your way into the boys change room and set your backpack down to rifle through it. You emerge with ten packets of Kool-Aid, a large bag of paper confetti, and a bucket.

Oh, and a grin.

After a bit of asking around, you found out one of the people that regularly harassed you was actually the captain of the football team himself (so cliché) and that his name was Terrence.

Along with that, you also found at that he took a shower here every second day when lunch was half over and today was a second day, so you had a very limited amount of time for this before you got found out.

It took you a minute or two, but you found a locker labeled Terrence M in an almost illegible chicken scratch (typical athlete). It had no lock on it.

Score.

You open it slowly to minimize the noise you're making, which wasn't very much in the first place, but dear lord the smell. You'd think the captain of all people would be at least somewhat aware of their personal hygiene.

Before you get to the other part of your prank, you dump all the confetti into the bucket and set it in the locker where you know it will fall forward easily the next time it was opened.

A creak comes from the general direction of the entrance but you write it off as nothing. This school was old and rickety, creaking in the walls was a very common occurrence, especially with the old plumbing.

Now for operation Shower Sabotage.

You take all the packets over to the showering area (it was disgusting, what with all the black mold accumulating in the nooks and crannies), and unscrew each shower head, emptying two packets of juice mix in each of them (there were five) and screwing them back in.

You stood back to admire your handiwork. No one would suspect it was you.

Now all you have to do is wait a few days, and surely, it will be going around that Terrence had been totally humiliated and sticky with confetti at school! Haha, your heart was just racing at how sheerly awesome this was going to be.

(But you don't notice a large figure looming behind you, watching you.)

You pack up your backpack with everything else you had left and threw out the trash, humming a simple tune.

"The fuck do you think you're doin' faggot."

You think your heart stopped.

Chapter Text

You spin around and come face to face with none other than the team captain himself, all 225 muscled pounds of him. Lunch wasn't even close to being half way over why was he here oh God you were going to regret this and you were probably going to die and suddenly you felt microscopic under his dim gaze.

Shying away with painfully slow movements, you peep, "O-oh man, I didn't meat to i-intrude! J-just let me grab my-".

You couldn't finish your sentence, what with your sudden introduction to the to the cold, hard, ceramic floor.

Your mind raced, oh god, what if you couldn't get away this time? The gymnasium and change rooms were detached from the main school - no one would hear you out here.

A solid kick in the stomach brought you back from your thoughts, sending you rolling back a few feet and you cringe before his strong hand pulls you up by the collar of your shirt. Your gut wanted you to curl in on yourself, but you had to stand up on your toes to stay in contact with the floor.

He looked you in the eye, dull brown meeting bright blue. The expression he wore wasn't one of anger, or of sadness, or of pity. But it was disgust, like you were dirty, filthy, crawling with disease. Like you weren't worth the time of day to even consider sparing.

You could feel his warm, stale breath on your face and you wanted nothing more than to scurry away and hide; under your bed and wrapped up in your blanket, with the Con Air bunny your best friend Dave had gotten you those two years ago.

Terrence's upper lip curls maliciously, and you're suddenly being thrown against one of the concrete walls. You gasp in pain and surprise when your head comes in to contact first, bearing the brunt of it, along with your recovering shoulder. Your head was reeling and you felt so, so sick. Your knees go weak underneath you. You fall onto them, and support your weight with your arms.

"Just look at you, you fuckin' little homo," you hear condescendingly from above, "On your knees like a pansy, huh? Ya wanna suck my dick that bad don'tcha?"

Oh god, you can hear the smirk in his voice and you feel your blood run cold.

You don't know how serious he was about that.

You move fast, stumbling to your feet to duck under his outstretched arm. You snatch up your backpack and book it to the entrance. The knob of the door handle turns and you can almost taste the freedom on the other side.

It swings open though, from an outside force, and what awaited you made you want to vomit.

There, between you and the cool, fresh breeze, was just a few members short of the rest of the team.

You eyes must have been wide as dinner plates because you could see even Terrence in your peripheral .

Backing up hastily and shaking like a leaf in a storm, you turn your head back and forth wildly to scope out another exit you could narrowly escape through.

But you were only met with locker-lined walls and another blow to the stomach.

So you fall onto your tailbone accept your fate.

The second you got home, you vowed to never, ever, ever, try something as stupid as attempt to prank your main assailant.

You kick off your shoes and slowly trudge your way upstairs to your room. Your backpack was abandoned by your desk and you flopped down onto your bed, sighing heavily into the pillow. You were just so sore. So much worse than usual.

It was only about 5 pm and sleep sounded so good. But you have homework.

Not to mention it was only Monday.

And you think you failed that math test after lunch. Calculus is so fickle.

But then again, you didn't really care. What was the point of any of this? There was no point.

Nope nope nope. Not at all.

You were just drifting off, legs dangling over the bed frame, when the open laptop on your desk starts to try and get your attention.

You desktop had gone haywire after some practice coding went bad, so your dad ended up splurging and got you a laptop as a late middle school graduation gift.

You stand up begrudgingly. Seriously, people should just start figuring out when you didn't feel like talking.

You took the first two steps towards your computer chair, but you only rest a hand on the back of it when you notice your abandoned keyboard in the corner of your room. It had been much too long since the last time you had played any kind of music on it, whether it be scales or pieces that you've actually composed. You feel bad about it.

Whoever was pestering you (you knew it was Pesterchum because of those utterly distinct beeps) could wait a little while. You were going to get reintroduced to your old main hobby.

You take a seat in on the stool, and ready yourself. Pressing the power button, you warm up with a few scales so you can get a feel for the keys again. (***) After that, the notes just begin to flow, though slightly jerky. Now where have you heard this one before? It seems so very familiar...

Oh, that was right. You wrote this one a while ago. It had to have been a few months now?

Though you don't remember each note and keystroke by memory, your hands sure seem to.

Muscle memory was just such a cool thing, you wish the school system would've gone into more depth about it during science last year.

As the music filled the room, you play absentmindedly, sometimes repeating a bar or two, but you allow your mind to wander off into uncharted territory.

This being that, you think that maybe their insults really did have some sustenance.

Maybe not faggot, and maybe not homo, but sometimes you think that you're maybe in between the norm and the widely unaccepted. Or maybe you were nothing at all, as weird and uncommon as that would be.

But these thoughts were only brought to light a few months ago.

You think you might have fallen for your best friend, whom you think is completely straight, straight as an arrow.

He also lives two timezones away, and that just makes it all the harder the cope with these emotions.

But who knows, maybe it was just some weird-ass hormones settling in. Although your voice has already lowered considerably, you knew that there was still quite a few things in your brain, chemically speaking, that had yet to change.

But now that you brought your attention to your brain, you remember just how bad of a headache you have. You stop your playing abruptly, and stand to make your way downstairs for some water.

Now for whatever reason, you don't actually know why your head hurts so much. Did you hit it? Wait, school. What homework did you have? Have you even gone to school today? No of course you did. It's like you've suddenly just blanked out on everything that happened.

You pour yourself a cold glass of water from the tap and take a large gulp, sighing as you lean back onto the counter.

It didn't do too much, but it lessened the pain slightly. There was Tylenol in the first aid kit but those were pretty much for your dad, you couldn't take pills. The thought of ingesting some weird, compacted powder capsule just kind of scared you. You've never taken any in your life, always choosing to just man it out when you had sore muscles or a stomach ache or a headache.

But this throbbing was just something else.

Whatever, you'd deal with it for now.

You go back to your room, deciding that it would probably be a good idea to see who wanted to talk to you. You sit back in your computer chair and click the spacebar a few times for the monitor to start up again.

You check to see who was trying to talk to you. To your surprise, Dave was the first.

- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 17:27 -

TG: yo egbert

TG: you there

TG: hello

TG: earth to john

TG: dude dont stay online when youre not around

TG: rude

TG: but yeah i just wanted to tell you something that you will prolly appreciate

TG: i mean you should appreciate everything i tell you anyway

TG: but ill lay it on you when you get your ass back online

TG: peace

- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 17:36 -

Maybe you should've answered him, you were a bit curious about what he wanted to tell you.

A second person tried talking to you as well, and you open the associated window to be greeted by friendly green text.

- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 17:41 -

GG: john! :D

GG: i havent talked to you in so long haha

GG: john~

GG: joooooooohn~

GG: … helloooo?

GG: silly, why are you online if youre not there!

EB: oh, sorry jade!

EB: hehe, i was just playing with my piano is all.

GG: there you are! C:

GG: its okay! i know how much you love your music!

GG: speaking of that, have you written anything lately? you havent sent me anything in a while :(

EB: uhh, no actually. this has been the first time i've really sat down at the stool for a while.

GG: aw really? is something wrong?

How does she catch on so fast?

EB: no not at all! i've just been kinda busy lately.

A bluff. All you ever seem to want to do is sleep when you have a free moment.

GG: :C

EB: uh, changing the subject!

EB: you talk to rose lately? she's almost never online when i log in.

GG: really? because i just had a nice chat with her :)

GG: she said her mother was taking her to italy to 'get back at her for embroidering the throw pillows' heehee

That wasn't good. You had wanted to maybe ask her for some advice.

EB: oh... when is she leaving?

GG: ummmmmm, according to her in her timezone, tomorrow morning.

Well. There go your hopes of survival.

EB: wow so soon?

EB: that kinda sucks, i wanted to talk to her about something.

GG: oh! well you know you can always talk to me john!

Something inside you really just wanted you to just tell Jade.

But you didn't want to burden her with your problems, she wouldn't understand.

EB: haha, i know jade! you're like my sister and i can always count on you.

EB: but it's nothing important...

GG: hmmmmm

GG: are you sure :?

EB: yep!

GG: okay john whatever you say!

GG: but if things get too hot to handle you just tell me okay! :D

EB: no problem jade!

GG: good!

GG: buuuut im gonna go take a nap now okay?

GG: ttyl bro, heehee ;)

- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 17:57 -

You exit that window and pull up Daves. He was still online so you start bugging him instead.

- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 17:58 -

EB: dave!

EB: sorry i wasn't responding there, i was just kinda preoccupied.

TG: ah yeah

TG: so you werent just ignoring me right

TG: seriously bro my heart was broken

TG: bled all over the fucking carpet

EB: come on no need to be dramatic about it.

EB: i was just playing piano is all.

TG: alright that is an acceptable excuse

TG: so howd that go

EB: fine for the most part, i haven't really bothered to fiddle around with it for a while though so i'm getting kind of rusty.

TG: why not

TG: i thought you fuckin worshipped that thing

TG: then you let it collect dust

TG somethings bothering you aint it

Why was everyone being so perceptive today...?

TG: cmon spill

EB: do you even read half the crap you type?

EB: i've just been busy okay? nothing's wrong...

TG: uh huh

EB: what?

TG: not believing you

TG: somethings up

EB: ugh, dude, can we just drop it?

TG: yeah sure whatever

TG: if anyones giving you a hard time though you just gimme a holler alright

EB: yeah of course!

EB: so... earlier you said you had something to tell me?

TG: oh yeah

TG: so you know how its nearing the time that we're all supposed to meet each other right

EB: whoa already?

TG: yeah

TG: good news for you though

TG: youre gonna be the only one not paying airfare

EB: you mean...

TG: we're all coming up to washington

Oh no.

EB: but wouldn't it be better to go to roses place? i mean it's like, bigger and everything right?

TG: she wont be around

TG: lalondes gonna be up in rome taking sweet photos and ogling the marble statue dicks

EB: so shes not coming at al/

TG: unfortunately

They... they couldn't. Jade and Dave couldn't meet you. Not in your state.

Shit.

EB: so when are you and jade coming, exactly?

TG: you ask a shit ton of questions

TG: but idk

EB: oh...

Dave took a second to respond, you chewed on your thumbnail.

TG: dude seriously whats wrong

He said he was going to drop it...

EB: nothing's wrong! this is great news, hehe.

You just wanted so badly to tell him, and just get it off your chest. But you're afraid he'll stop talking to you if you did that. Who would want such a weak person as their best friend? Not to mention, the other things you want to admit to Dave.

But right now, you don't want to fuck up your friendship for anything. Especially not your enamoured feelings towards him

TG: you sure

TG: b/c dude you dont really seem to be taking this real well

EB: lies, i'm taking it like a champ.

TG: the champ of what

TG: utter bullshit?

EB: …

TG: yeah sorry too far

TG: besides thats me apparently

EB: yep, the title 'king of complete bullshit' will always belong to you.

EB: can't be out and about stealing your throne!

TG: good good

EB: i'm gonna go get some shuteye though.

TG: why its only like 6 in wa

EB: had a stressful day, just tired bro.

EB: but uh. actually i uh

No, you mentally berate yourself, Don't give in you idiot, this is your problem, not anyone else's!

EB: you know what, never mind.

TG: okay?

TG: then i wont keep you from your beauty sleep

TG: see ya

EB: night dave

EB: i lo

Holy shit. It's definitely a good thing you caught yourself there. But you pressed enter instead of backspace!

TG: what

EB: ehehe, nothing!

EB: bye!

- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 18:13 -

Your heart thumped so hard in your chest that you could almost see the pulsing in your eyesight. How could you have let that slip? So stupid! Stupid brain!

But you felt terrible. You were physically and mentally drained, so at least you had an excuse.

You skip out on dinner (you didn't have much of an appetite anymore) and decide to take a hot shower to ease your nerves and muscles before crashing in bed. And getting some 'beauty sleep'.

Chapter Text

Okay so maybe going to bed that early wasn't such a great idea.

It's 4am, storming outside, and you can't see yourself falling back to sleep like this any time soon; your brain is telling your body that it's had plenty of rest. Blasphemy.

Your back and shoulder crack and reposition themselves when you attempt sitting up. A wince crosses your features and you fall back onto your bed, feeling quite defeated already. You reach over to the digital clock to turn off the alarm completely.

Turning on your belly, you reach down to the floor beside your bed for your laptop. It was only there because you actually decided to do some schoolwork before you crashed. You place it on your pillow, and wonder if you should use your glasses with this too.

Opening the screen and starting it up, you decide against it. You were near-sighted, not blind.

Now you weren't entirely sure what you were doing, but you guess you could waste time until you had to get ready for school by dicking around on Youtube or something?

You pull up Typheus when the computer finishes loading, and were about to open Youtube when a flash at the bottom of your screen catches your eye.

Pesterchum? You thought you had logged out of that, but apparently not, because Dave was talking to you. You must have been set to idle, and the computer logged you back in when it started.

- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 4:14 -

TG: what are you doing awake so early

TG: jesus christ kid

EB: the same question could be applied to yourself, strider.

TG: this is the time that i wake up in the morning for school

TG: you should be snoozing your face off right now considering the fact that its 4 in the goddamn morning

EB: oh yeah,

EB: sometimes i forget you're ahead of me.

TG: what can i say i am a timelord you know

EB: did you just reference dr. who?

TG: hell yes

EB: wow dave.

EB: just wow.

TG: yeah i know im fucking hilarious but really how come youre up

EB: you know how i went to bed early right?

EB: well that wasn't the greatest idea because i am now wide awake, and the weather turned to shit and it's storming out.

EB: in other words, i don't see myself going back to sleep at all.

TG: aw does john need his bunny

TG: to protect him from the scary thunder

EB: i do indeed have the bunny right beside me, thanks.

TG: really

TG: that thing smells like shit

EB: not the one you got me, the one rose sent me.

EB: the con air bunny is being proudly displayed on shelf.

EB: besides i'd never sleep with that thing, it's too precious, haha.

TG: good its probably disease ridden

EB: yeah.

TG: either way though you should try to go back to sleep

TG: you probably need it

EB: oh god you have no idea!

EB: but i'll probably go web surfing or watch a movie before i go off to get ready for school and stuff.

TG: idk man you might lose track of time and be late

TG: cant have that on your records what with you and your perfect attendance

EB: my record is far from perfect, what are you saying even?

TG: really i just kind of pegged you as an a+ student

TG: nerd glassed and all

EB: nah.

TG: not up for debate i see

EB: dave i'm tired as fuck, so i'm not really feeling it. :B

TG: whatever you say ebgert

TG: bros gonna shut off the internet for fuck knows how long if i dont start getting ready though

TG: first world problems

EB: haha, yeah. have fun at school dave.

TG: if by have fun you mean be a total badass that all the ladies swoon over then ok

EB: definitely what i meant.

- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum! -

You suddenly aren't in the mood for the internet anymore, mostly because of the strain on your eyes but also because you were still really tired. Too much reading, too much clicking, too much thinking.

So the next best thing, you pop a movie in the DVD player. Today seemed like a good day as any for Donnie Darko. Despite it being creepy and depressing.

The next thing you know, you're cracking your eyes open, slumped over a pile of pillows and blankets you made, and your glasses are half off one ear, yet plastered to your face. The TV is set to Video 1 Input and your DVD Player is on the starting menu on-screen. That movie was definitely over, and light was streaming in from the window.

You had fallen asleep after shutting off the alarm. The clock read 10:27 AM.

You stare at it blankly, blinking once, twice, before sighing and laying your head back head on the pillows. What could one day of missing school hurt? Nothing. If you were to be completely honest with yourself, this was almost a relief. You needed a recovery day.

So you fixed up your bed, closed the blinds, and went back to sleep.


You woke up to the sound of the phone ringing downstairs, and unwrapping yourself from your cocoon, you try to get to it before it reaches the voicemail. It could be your dad or something! Maybe there was an emergency? The house almost never received phone calls.

Almost slipping on the kitchen floor in your socked feet, you reach the phone only to have the answering machine already beginning its message.

You've reached the Egbert household. Sorry for missing your call, leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

And whoever called certainly did leave a message.

"Hello, this voicemail is for John Egbert. This is Ms. Jericho, your math teacher. John I believe it's necessary for your to come see me after school the next time you get a chance, I know you take a bus though so I will keep it brief, but we need to discuss your grades dear. Thank you."

Okay so maybe skipping out today wasn't the greatest idea you'd had in a while. You could've made her class...

You make a note to yourself on the fridge to give her a visit tomorrow.

What time was it anyway? You check the analog clock on the wall. It was 2:35 in the afternoon! Why did you need to sleep for so long? Now your sleeping schedule was messed up. Shit.

Might as well do something productive though, like the dishes that have been sitting in the sink for a few days. You could clean those up, no problem right? Right.


Your name is now Dave Strider and you've just gotten home from an uneventful day at school. But who knows, anything could've happened and you wouldn't have given two shits because the only thing you've cared about giving any thought to today was your best friend.

You don't know why he's been so withdrawn lately, and to be quite frank it worries the hell out of you. You even took the long way home to think about it more.

You avoid your Bro (you don't have time to discuss why you refuse to be featured in a snuff puppet film), and close the door to your room upon arrival. Why not take the time to check up on your many blogs? You wanted to talk to John, see what's up, but you were a Timelord. He'd still be at school for a while.

So that's what you do, you pull up Hephaestus and reply to some messages, draw some shitty comics, post some bullshit, and be generally awesome.

All in all, you were finished within half an hour. Dull.

So fuck it, you were going to see who was online. Opening Pesterchum, you were a bit surprised that John was already logged in. Either he missed school (what a dope) because he was usually not back at this time, or had his his phone or PDA or whatever that kid used to talk on the go.

-turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 16:46 -

TG: yo egbert

TG: hello

TG: john egbert roger roger

TG: youve got signals from hq

TG: john

TG: jaaaaawn

TG: egbert

TG: egbert you dork where are you

TG: come on

TG: how dare you ignore me

TG: i thought we had something bro

TG: something special

TG: but i see thats all in the past now nbd

TG: dude

TG: what if i wanted to tell you something

TG: by the time you get back id have already forgotten

TG: im taking this all really offensively

TG: okay fine i get it

TG: not good enough anymore am i

EB: oh my god dave.

EB: i was downstairs okay? geeeeez.

TG: is being downstairs more important than your bff

TG: omg i am going to write about this in my diary

EB: i just woke up like 20 minutes ago.

EB: decided to go downstairs and clean up a bit.

TG: so you did miss school

TG: told you you shouldve gone back to bed

EB: i did go back to bed, but i put on a movie and forgot that i turned my alarm off and fell asleep.

EB: so i stayed home.

TG: fair enough

TG: you alright

EB: am i alright?

TG: yeah are you alright

EB: yeah i'm fine, why do you ask?

Should you just straight up ask him? Chances are he won't budge... but you might as well just dive in head first.

TG: i guess ive just noticed

TG: youve been kinda down lately

TG: and you shouldnt be

TG: i mean not that im trying to tell you how to feel

TG: because im not

TG: i just want the other you back yknow

EB: have i?

EB: oh...

EB: hehe, sorry about that!

EB: i'm fine.

TG: that is such a huge crock of shit

EB: why?

TG: b/c youre a shitty liar

EB: what if i'm not lying though?

TG: then thats my fault

TG: but i dont think im misreading you

TG: i mean ive known you for fuck knows how long

EB: almost 4 years.

TG: … ive know you for almost 4 years

TG: i should know the difference between a down and withdrawn john

TG: and a happy and chipper 'oh good golly gosh i sure do love nic cage!' john

TG: ntm you dont talk to me about whatever gave you a nerd boner that day whenever we talk

TG: and that shit was like religious for the both of us

You were going to type some more, but you felt the ramblings coming on. If you were going to interrogate, then flooding his monitor with your red text just wasn't going to be the way to do it properly.

EB: well, yeah i guess you have a point there.

EB: to be totally honest, i've just been really swamped with stress lately.

TG: okay youre stressed

TG: what kind of stress are we talking here

He took a moment to reply, going back and deleting whatever he was saying a few times before he got it out.

EB: just stress related to being a high school student?

EB: it's not a big deal really.

EB: totally okay!

TG: dont bs your way around it

EB: i'm not.

TG: yes you are egbert

TG: come on whatever you have to say ill hear you out

TG: might not be as good as rose but

TG: no scratch that im hella better than lalonde

EB: yeah but there's nothing to really else to say on the matter!

EB: i told you, you would just be disappointed to know that it's not a big deal, like, at all.

TG: john

TG: im not gonna let this drop like i did yesterday

EB: yes, yes you are!

-ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 17:02-

Well fuck.


You're now John Egbert, and that conversation almost took a turn for the worse. You feel terrible for closing the window and logging out, but what else could be done? Dave didn't need to know. Just thinking about it just made the headaches come back on, and you were sick of those.

You felt bodily tired again, yet your mind was a steaming engine. You know that you need something in your system, so you drink a glass of water and eat an apple (your body protested to the solid substance in your stomach but you manage to keep it down), and just lounge around the house, sitting or laying on every surface you can out of sheer restlessness.

You ended up watching a Fresh Prince rerun marathon on TV until your father gets home, which is an inexplicably late hour. He tells you to go to bed, so you do.

And you make sure to reset your alarm.


Chapter Text

The night was too short. Far too short. You want to just smack your alarm clock into oblivion. Today was just not going to be a good day, you could feel it in your bones.

Maybe you could sleep in another day? Would that be acceptable? Maybe you could skip the rest of the week and then come in on Monday with a forged note( "John has been very sick the past week, please excuse his absence. Sincerely, Mr. Egbert." ) and no one would know the difference.

No, that was a dumb idea. You couldn't miss school. Why set yourself up for failure when everyone else has taken up that role already? John Egbert, complete high school failure.

Scratch that. If life was a busy highway, you were drunk at the wheel. Destined to crash and burn at some point.

You wipe the metaphor from thought, sitting up in bed with the blanket tightly wrapped around your shoulders. You make a mental note to yourself to go to bed in pajama's from now on; just because it was warm when you went to bed didn't mean it was warm upon waking.

You slowly make your way out the door into the hallway, feeling off-balance. You stay upright with your hand on the wall guiding you.

When you flick on the switch in the bathroom, the light seems a lot harsher than usual and you haven't a clue why. You finish in there quickly so you can rest your eyes, the brightness was killing you.

After you got dressed and go downstairs, you decide that maybe you really should stay home one more day.

Mostly because you just fell flat on your face after your knees suddenly went weak, for no apparent reason.

And God dammit everything was swimming, everything was hazy, everything felt so off balance that it was almost laughable. Your glasses had fallen off as well and they were just out of an arms reach away from your fallen figure.

And you don't know what's wrong.

The lone fact that you don't know why you've been so out of it beats down on you. Jade and Dave noticed right off the bat, and yeah, you knew getting the shit kicked out of you daily might have been the root of it, but why is everyone just noticing now? Was your happy facade fading away?

The flooring beside your head takes a weak punch, and tears began blurring your already dull vision.

You don't want to be like this.

You want to be normal.

You want to be John again. The John that loved pranks and mischief, ghosts and shitty movies. The John that put his friends before everything else, the John that hated cake and would rather be anywhere but near his dad while he was baking-

Dad.

You miss your dad.

He was never around anymore.

Was work more important to him than you? Did he really need to be gone so incessantly? Surely your home's mortgage wasn't that expensive, surely you didn't eat all the groceries, surely you didn't use up all the electricity, or hot water.

Were you doing something wrong? Was that why he was always at work instead of being at home, in his study enjoying a nice smoke, or in the kitchen baking that horrendously branded cake mix?

You must have been doing something wrong. You know you were.

But you didn't know what.

You get up slowly, almost stepping on your glasses when you go to feel around for them, and find a pad of Post-It notes in the kitchen. You write on one, a message to your dad, and stick it on the fridge.

what am i doing wrong?

After this, you check the clock. The first bus would have been long gone by now, and the only reason you make this connection is because you've changed your mind. You'll go to school. Anything to get out of this house for a while, though it wasn't nearly as safe. Any way to just get away from all those old familial memories that just so happened to be attacking you all at once.

The kitchen was an extremely memorable place, you had done so much with your dad in this very room.

The thought that it was all in the past makes your chest hurt though.

You don't care that you'll be late for first period, you slip on your shoes and nearly forget your wallet, keys, and backpack on your way out the front door.


...

You'll never be able to get over how many dirty looks you get in the lapse of a whole school day.

Sometimes it felt like everyone was against you, like everyone wanted to see you fall.

When you walk into English, it seemed almost as if the entire class had stopped what they were doing, and kept their hungry eyes on you until you sat down in your regular seat and the teacher began his lecture again. You grab out your notebook and pen, taking down all the notes he had displayed on the Powerpoint as fast as you could before the slide changed.

Soon enough, after looking between your notes and the screen up front, a crumpled up piece of paper is placed in front of you. You ignore it for the most part, but after a while, curiosity gets the better of you and you set down your pen to flatten it out to see what it was.

What was on it was jarring.

It looked like this had gone through the whole class, there were different pencil and pen marks on it, in all different colours.

It wasn't the colours of the pens and pencils that shocked you though (that would be silly).

It was what had been written on it.

"where were u yesterday, punk."

"everyone thot you were gone 4 gud"

"dirty homo"

"why haven't you killed urself yet u dumb fag?"

"I don't want to write on this but really, everyone would be way better off without you."

"I hope youre ready fer whats comin"

"you seriously need to just go away, such an eyesore!"

"loooooooseeeeeer =P"

"you get the point yet or should we pass this shit round some more"

You tear your eyes away, this wasn't what you'd been expecting.

Crumpling it up again, you stuff it in your jeans pocket,and pack up all of your belongings hastily. You couldn't take this. Not anymore. Just noticing that everyone was staring at you and laughing under their breath, you book it out of your English class. The teacher called after you but you were already half way down the hall.

The bell just rung out, signaling break time, and students begin pouring out of classrooms from all sides, easily blocking you from running anymore. You push your way past them to the best of your abilities. You were headed towards whatever side exit you could get yourself to first.

You were going to stay home another day and no one was going to say otherwise.

That is of course if you're able to leave the premises unscathed.

You can see some of the looks you're getting; you wouldn't be surprised if your face was puffy from holding back tears. You honestly just can't believe what that note said. It wasn't just hearing those insults this time, it was physically written down. You could hold them and look at them and process each pen stroke, feel the pressure at which each letter of each sentence and statement was written.

When you burst out the side doors of the school, there was another thing you weren't expecting.

They were already there, lounging at the bike lock-up, bullshitting amongst themselves.

Now, it wasn't all of them, but a good number. You stop in your tracks immediately and turn-tail to get back into the school before they see you, but as soon as you turn back to the door, it closes and makes a loud, grating metal sound, enough to jar anyone from whatever they were doing within a 50 foot radius. You retreat back over to it though, maybe you could get lost in the crowd if they came after you...

It was locked.

This school hated you.

Building included.

You sink to your knees, hitting the concrete ground forcefully, you wouldn't be able to retreat. Your arm trails down the chipped paint exterior of the industrial door, and you place your forehead against it as your hear one of them coming up behind you, laughing darkly.

The touch chilled you, but it was nothing compared to the feeling of the warmth draining from your very being as you were forcefully pulled back up again and turned around to face this... this... What was his name again? You don't remember. You knew exactly who he was though.

But now you were facing him, and he just looked so pleased with himself, yet angry at the same time. It was disgusting, how the stench of his breath mixed with the heavy dosage of cologne he must have drenched himself in every day.

It made you want to gag. And you almost did. A slight choking noise escapes your throat as he pulls you up by your collar a little bit tighter, and he smirks at this.

"So where'd you scurry off to yesterday? We missed you, you little shit head." his friends (followers) chuckle at this insult. You don't reply though, you find somewhere else to look. Oh there was a tree right there if you looked behind him and changed your focus. Was that a crow landing on its bare branch there? Or a flying squirrel maybe? Did Washington even have flying squirrels?

He shakes you roughly, making you look at him again, "I'm fuckin' talking to you."

"I-I was at home."

"Doin' what?"

Over sleeping, dealing with pain you cause, sitting in the dark, self loathing, beating myself up over being too weak.

Lying to my best friends.

"Uh."

He forces you against the locked door, and you were fully prepared for a hit but you when you squeeze your eyes shut and nothing comes, he just tosses you at the group. You stumble against them, trying to regain some balance before you take the chance to just get out of the situation.

You run off in the direction towards the bus stop, and you can't comprehend why they let you go today.

This time when you get home, you immediately collapse against the door as soon as you close and lock it, breathing heavily.

Apparently running off the bus and sprinting home was one of your dumber ideas, but you just wanted to get home. You didn't think your chest would hurt this much, are you that out of shape?

But today brought something to light, you need advice from someone, you need to talk. Rose was out of the question for sure, and you would tell your dad but he was already so stressed from work (probably). That left either Jade or Dave.

You weren't going to tell Dave, he'd do something brash.

So Jade it was, and if you were correct, it would be about almost 9 am in the Pacific where she lived? Hopefully she'd be awake, but it wasn't something you were going to count on.

You take your shoes off and drag yourself up the stairs and into your room, sitting on the bed with the laptop in front of you on the pillow.

Of course gardenGnostic was online, when was she not?

- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 11:47 -

EB: hey jade!

EB: are you awake?

GG: hi john :D

GG: why arent you at school?

EB: ehh, reasons. not feeling all that great.

GG: oh okay. i hope you get better soon :)

EB: yeah me too.

EB: but jade, remember the other day when i said i wanted to talk to rose about something?

GG: yeah?

EB: and you said i could talk to you if i needed to?

GG: yeeeeep :)

EB: okay, well. i think I'm going to do that!

GG: really? okay! fire away! i might not be as good as rose but i sure can try

EB: ehehe, okay okay.

EB: so, say i have this friend who has kind of a problem?

GG: okay :)

EB: and, his problem is that people at school don't really treat him too well, like...

EB: maybe he comes back from school with bruises sometimes?

EB: and he doesn't know what to do about it!

EB: and i really don't know how to help him either.

EB: and um...

EB: yeah!

Alright. It was now or never, the moment of truth, but you are still worried she'll figure it out. You rub your cold hands together as you wait for a response.

GG: oh no!

GG: have you like, maybe told a teacher or something?

GG: this has made me really sad!

EB: oh geez jade, i'm sorry!

GG: no no, its not your fault john

GG: wait... its not you is it? youre not the friend?

How uncanny. You were stupid to think she wouldn't make that assumptions.

EB: oh, ahaha, no way!

EB: totally not me!

GG: are you sure?

GG: you can tell me!

GG: im worried john :(

This was a bad idea, you knew it was a bad idea.

EB: well... okay yeah, it kind of is me.

EB: but don't tell anyone, okay?

EB: please?

EB: man, i should've just kept my fat mouth shut.

GG: i promise!

GG and youre not fat! :)

EB: i know, i'm like, the farthest thing from fat really.

EB: i don't know how to keep my mouth zipped though.

EB: that's all.

EB: but the thing is jade, i honestly don't know what to do.

GG: have you told a teacher?

GG: or your dad?

GG: OR!

GG: tell me who they are and ill beat them down! : D

EB: haha, oh man you'd be able to out-muscle them any day i'm sure!

EB: but...

EB: they told me if i told anyone they'd do something terrible.

EB: i don't really want to find out what that is.

GG: oh no :(

GG: well someone has to know whats happening! are the people at your school that stupid?

EB: ehh, no.

EB: this has been happening for months and the people that matter are the people that have no clue

EB: they like to keep marks below the neck... students at my school don't really seem to care all that much...

EB: i even got this note today and

EB: no, shit, i should just forget about that.

GG: okay... but

GG: have you thought of moving schools, maybe?

GG: come live with me! ill homeschool you! :D

EB: jade, i don't know if i'd be able to handle island living, hehe.

EB: and trust me, i totally have! just my dad would ask questions, i don't really want him to know.

EB: he already has enough stress to deal with, with his work and whatnot.

GG: well um.

GG: you could say that your school doesnt have the course that you want?

GG: and this other one does, and you want to move schools now to save your from the hassle later?

GG: so theres no rush?

GG: oh john, you were right! i really dont understand :(

EB: yeah i know. that's why i didn't want to talk to you about it.

GG: but its good to talk to people!

This was useless, you knew Jade cared, but talking to her just made you feel worse. You've sucked her in and there was no going back. Probably.

EB: um, just never mind it okay? i'll get through it like the strong friendleader i am, haha.

GG: oh, but you shouldnt have to go through it alone!

EB: i have been for years, i don't see why i can't now.

Oh. Oh fuck.

EB: i mean

EB: shit.

EB: you didn't need to hear that.

EB: ….

GG: oh john :'(

EB: i mean just... fuck, whatever, just... don't tell anyone.

EB: don't even hint.

EB: i am totally okay to anyone who asks.

EB: not that anyone would ask, but still.

GG: no

GG: i really wish i could help!

GG: im actually crying right now!

GG: why would anyone do that to you?

You made her cry. You're an asshole.

EB: what? no, jade, please don't cry!

EB: i... i just really don't know.

GG: i cant help it! youre just so sweet and kind, why would anyone want to hurt you?

GG: its just so... ugh!

EB: i don't know... i guess everyone needs a punching bag right? even if it's a horde of 12 different people entirely. and who'd be a better candidate than me, right?

GG: okay...

GG: just... wrap yourself in bubble paper and mail yourself to me :(

EB: i would right now, if that was possible.

EB: so just uh...

EB: well, i guess i'll just have to see what i can do.

EB: but i feel like 100 times better after talking to you about it.

No you didn't. In fact, you felt terrible about it.

GG: good!

GG: ohhh i wish i could do more to help

You felt dizzy just thinking about it, fuck, you need some water or something, your vision was swimming.

EB: shit uh... gimme a second here...

GG: okay?

You stumble downstairs, trying to get to the kitchen before you fall flat on your face for the second time that day.


...

GG: john?

GG: its been a lot more than a second...


...

EB: fuck, sorry I took so long.

EB: jade...?

GG: oh! sorry, fell asleep :p

EB: yeah, sorry. i went to go get some water. i just got kind of dizzy for a second there, hehe.

EB: over-thinking everything i guess.

GG: oh no, what happened?

GG: did you actually go and get water?

EB: yeah, i find it helps with headaches and stuff.

EB: i don't take drugs, medicinal or what have you.

GG: aww, dammit!

GG: : (

GG: why can't i do anything helpful?

GG: why are there PEOPLE like that?

EB: oh no no no no. it's not them.

EB: i just have started to get headaches recently.

GG: have you been to a doctor?

EB: no?

GG: you need to go!

GG: it might be something serious! :(

EB: i don't think it is though... i mean.

EB: i don't remember having any recent head trauma.

EB: at least i'm pretty sure...

GG: see!

GG: go to a doctor!

GG: PLEASE?

GG: please john?

GG: for me?

GG: i don't want to get there only to have to take you myself! :C

EB: ugh, geez, fine, i'll go to the clinic or something.

That is if you get a free chance to. If only to spite Jade though.

EB: i'm sure it'll be nothing though.

EB: like, i'm certain.

EB: just to make you feel better though.

GG: good! that makes me feel way better

GG: but its not just for me, its for you too

GG: way more for you in fact

EB: yeah, okay okay.

EB: i'll go the next time i can.

EB: i've been kinda swamped with homework and stuff, math is really confusing.

EB: so uh. i'm gonna go now okay?

EB: i'll tell you how things are going tomorrow, with the headaches and stuff.

GG: okay, stay safe! :)

- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] 13:04 -

You go to bed that day with a dreading feeling in your stomach.

Chapter Text

You don't know what time it is, but your alarm hasn't gone off yet. You've been awake now for a while, just staring at the generic textured ceiling just above you. It was a bit blurry (curse your eyesight).

A very subtle light had crept through your window, past the blinds, and that tells you it must be at least 6:30. The days were still quite short as it was mid January, and the snow had only come once during the holidays, lasting for no more than a week. You were sad to see it go; the white flakes had layered themselves perfectly in your front yard, on the bare tree you could see out your window. You had even repositioned the furniture in your room so you could have the bed beside it because you wanted to watch it fall before you fell asleep each night.

The snow was so pure, and it was refreshing to watch it gently fall. More than once you contained the urge to just run out there in the middle of the night and lay in it.

Sometimes you think you should have just taken that chance, because soon enough, the snow flakes turned into rain, and the rain turned all that snow into slush as it melted into the earth, the drains, the lake. Said lake had even frozen over before the weather started to warm up.

Now it just rained and rained and rained profusely, and the only blue you've seen above has been faint cracks in the overcast sky (which were scarce).

You turn your attention away from the ceiling, and to the clock. True to your estimate, it was just about 6:30, and if you listened real closely, you could here some shuffling from downstairs. It seemed your dad hasn't left quite yet, and you ponder whether you should go downstairs to see him off to work.

The thought was quickly banished. You didn't want to get out of bed if you didn't need to. You weren't due to start waking up for another half-hour, at least. And you didn't particularly feel like talking to him.

You turn on your side, facing the rest of your tidy room, and close your eyes. You don't know what you'll do when Jade and Dave come, you haven't even asked yet. Maybe you could tell them that your dad said no so they couldn't come, but that would be extremely rude on your part, and disappointing on theirs. And Jade would come now, no matter what. You don't even know how she'll get to Washington, what with living in the south Pacific.

You could face her though, it was Dave you were worried about. He was like Rose in the way that he could pick up on things with ease, free to observe everything under the shield of tinted glass. It's like those two were siblings though, maybe they were separated at birth or something. They even look alike.

Another thing would be how you feel about him. You try to not get sappy when you converse with the blonde, always choosing to respond to his nonsense with sarcasm or emphasizing on how you genuinely dislike his stupid rapping and hobbies. It was difficult, keeping what you felt to yourself. Every once in a while, you wonder what it would be like to just tell him, to spew out all those gross sappy things, and you imagine him saying he felt the same.

Like that would ever happen though. He's a self appointed 'hot piece of heterosexual mansteak' and you knew you had no chance. You would make everything weird.

But when he comes and sees you like this, there'll be no way the thought of telling him would even cross your mind (hopefully) because he'd ask question after question and just generally get all up in your business about why you were being such a douche about talking to him about your situation.

When he sees what you're really like, he'll leave. You know he will.

Why would someone like Dave want to be friends with someone like you?

There was no way he actually cared, it was just an ironic gimmick.

The front door downstairs opens and closes, and you can just barely hear the jingle of the doorknob as he locks it from the outside. You sit up, using the window sill as leverage, to watch him in the car as he pulls out of the drive way and rolls off.

You try to ignore the pang in your chest when you realize you missed a perfectly good chance to really talk to him.

You try to reason with yourself though, might as well start getting up.

You're done upstairs fairly quickly, but when you enter the kitchen you remember that little note you left for your dad. He's probably seen it, it was so stupid, why did you forget to take it down?

You get yourself over to the fridge only to see that it was gone, and you wonder what your dad did with it. He probably thinks you wanted attention or something and threw it out, or...

Wait, what was all that stuff doing on the table?

An empty bowl sits there, clean by the looks of it, along with a spoon and glass in the same condition. A box of Cheerios and a pitcher of what looks to be (fresh) orange juice was on the table too.

There, on the box, was a sticky note, and your dad's big and blocky writing.

JOHN,

YOU'RE DOING FINE. I'LL ALWAYS

BE SO PROUD OF YOU. PLEASE

DON'T EVER THINK OTHERWISE.

AND EAT SOME BREAKFAST TODAY,

YOU'RE A GROWING BOY.

LOVE DAD.

It took you everything you had to not start crying right then and there, but it apparently wasn't enough. Quiet tears run down your face and a sad smile graces your features. Something like this would have usually only made you roll your eyes but still feel pretty happy.

But this is incredibly emotional for you. You thought he was done caring, that you were not as good as you used to be.

Well, you know you're not, but the reassurance in the note makes you not feel that way as much..

You get the milk out of the fridge for the cereal, and sit down to have some breakfast.


Your school day goes by fairly quickly, which was a bit unusual. On most days, you would stare at the clock in your last class, waiting for the bell to ring so you could leave the place you hated so much. Everything seemed like a blur, as you were mostly out of it, just day dreaming, anyway.

You name was called once or twice to answer questions on the board, and you had babbled an answer when they finally got your attention. They were all just shots in the dark though, you honestly had no clue what was going on. You think teachers just like to pick on the students that aren't paying attention just to humiliate them or something.

When that last bell rings, the first thing on your mind was 'clinic'. When you attempt to leave the campus through the exit you always take, you look down briefly to see a foot sticking out in front of you. Before you can register that someone was going out of their way to trip you, you continue your steady stride and stumble over them. Your arms reach out to to cushion the fall for the rest of your body out of sheer reflex. That wasn't really a good thing to be doing on such solid floors though, because when your wrists hit the ground, it send jolts of pain up both your arms and straight to your head.

It took you just a second to get over it though, this wasn't anything new. You hear the barking laughter coming from a group of girls, and you automatically assume it was them. You send a less than nice look their way, getting back on your feet only to topple back down onto your knees because of the sudden surge of dizziness. They're still chattering behind you, in high squeaky tones and all you want to do is make them stop they were being so loud can't they see that your head hurts shut up shut up shut up! You use one hand to cradle your abused head.

"God all you did was fall over, get the fuck over it." one spat.

"No wonder everyone beats up on you, you're such a pussy." another jeered.

They leave after that. Good riddance, you could only take so much of their voices after a while.

The pain dulls down soon after that, and you feel like an idiot for kneeling in the middle of the hallway for such a long time.

When you finally muster up the strength to stand and leave, you do, and you make the walk to the bus exchange, and the fact that it wasn't raining kind of surprised you. Better make the most of it, you don't have your umbrella today.

When you get there, you take out your bus schedule, and try to find out which route you needed to take to get to the small walk in clinic you had in mind, but only because you weren't about to lie about going to get your head checked out.


After John had disconnected the other day, he hasn't spoken to you since, and that just makes you uneasy all over even though it's only been like two days. You don't know if he's really okay or not, and no one's kept you up to date on him.

Not to mention you just really want to talk to someone. You miss the little punk. He might be a total jerk to you a lot of the time but you wouldn't have it any other way.

He wasn't even online today.

The only person you'd be able to talk to is Harley, and sometimes it can be a little much, no matter how chill (in a spunky kind of way) she is.

You've taken to just spinning in your computer chair absentmindedly, until you hear a beep coming from Pesterchum. You were really hoping it was going to John, but you were pulled back down from your optimistic thinking when it was just Jade.

- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 18:03 -

GG: hey dave!

GG: i think you should entertain me or something because im really bored right now haha

TG: harley i would defs drop the most entertaining shit on you but this coolkid extraordinaire is just not feelin it today

GG: oh what why? D:

TG: i dont know

TG: im just not

GG: ….

GG: is it john?

TG: man you must be working those crazy ass prophetic cogs in that pretty little head of yours

GG: am i right or …?

TG: yeah youre right when are you not

GG: course i am! im never wrong about these things strider ;)

GG: but whats wrong? maybe i can help or something :?

TG: hasnt talked to me in a while

TG: ie like 2 days

TG: and i think i kind of pushed it

GG: pushed what? : O

TG: i think i pressure him a bit too much when i was trying to get him to answer me what was wrong

TG: and the little douche isnt even online today nor was he yesterday

TG: idk just shitting my pants in worry but not quite

GG: ohhhhhh

GG: well i think hes just at the clinic today so theres nothing wrong!

TG: clinic

TG: whys he at a clinic

GG: uhh

GG: just went with his dad or something for check ups!

GG: no biggie, nope nada!

TG: right

TG: thats the whole story though right

GG: yeah!

GG: why do you ask?

TG: whoa cool your jets there i was just asking

GG: sorry... its just kind of a

GG: thing?

GG: omg i should just keep quiet now

TG: for sure

TG: you do that

TG: work that silence harley work it from the bottom up

TG: feel the undeniable burn slash tingle combo in your vocal cords

GG: haha, what?

GG: yep thats what im doing kind of but not really!

TG: but then again if you do know something then i would seriously like to hear it

GG: i know... its probably hard not knowing how he is

GG: especially since you LIKE like him!

TG: whoa holy shit

TG: we do not speak of that jade

TG: how the fuck do you even know

TG: that kind of thing is for me only you know jesus

GG: eheheh... well i guess rose kind of told me offhandedly a couple months ago?

TG: what the bloody bazongas

TG: i didnt even utter a single forbidden word to that psychobabbling broad

TG: wait nvm its lalonde of course SHE knew

TG: witchcraft i tell you

TG: fucking witchcraft

TG: no wait i bet cthulhu told her in her dreams

TG: what an asshole telling everyone my deepest darkest secrets gosh

TG: they could turn this into some shitty movie

TG: it would be egbert worthy even

GG: okay okay i get it

GG: geeeeeez dave :P

GG: no need to ramble on about it! its not like its a big deal you know : O

TG: i am not making a big deal out of it

TG: how dare you assume that

TG: i am so betrayed harley how could you

GG: *ROLLS EYES*

GG: but anyways, john is totally fine

GG: so dont worry about it okay???

TG: alright alright

GG: oh yeah! before i forget i need to tell you something!

TG: yeah what

GG: i dont know if ill be able to make the trip to washington now :'(

That wasn't good, that would only leave you and John and your weird teenage feelings.

TG: what why

GG: the plane that leaves supplies and mail for my island said he couldnt take me D':

GG: not even to hawaii so i could take a real plane!

TG: what an ass cant he see that this is important shit

GG: apparently not! so that would only leave you and johnny boy :'(

GG: but then i guess it could leave you some good bro bonding time (or another kind of bonding time ;) )

TG: no god dont even go there

GG: i just have one word of advice for when you get there

GG: take care of him okay?

GG: hes really not doing too well...

TG: uh

TG: sure can do i guess

GG: also if youre the only one going then i think you should book your ticket asap for the soonest flight

TG: why

GG: because... because of reasons!

GG: yeah, reasons :)

TG: yeah okay whatever you say

GG: good! okay i have some stuff to do, aka my garden needs watering :)

TG: alright i know you love your silly botanics so ill leave you to it

GG: pshhh! theyre not silly!

TG: whatever harley you can say that all you want

GG: meanie, haha

- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 18:38 -

You mess around with miscellaneous things around your room for a while, but leave to go find something to eat. It took you awhile of dodging all the shit falling out of the cupboards, but you eventually find an unopened foam cup of instant noodles among the weaponry.

When you're done making that and go back into your room, you're surprised to find John online.

Time to bug him. You want to find out why he's 'not doing too well'.


When you got to the walk in clinic, you were surprised to see it nearly empty. You had gone up to the receptionist and with a bit of explaining, you told her you were really sorry about not booking an appointment and that you just wanted to get your head checked out. She asked you where your parents were and you told her your dad was at work. She inquired about a mother and you said you didn't have one. She gave you a look that was a cross between pity and something apologetic but after that she only asked for your name said you'd be able to see the clinic's doctor in about half an hour. She gestured over to the waiting room, you smiled in thanks and took a seat.

The wait seemed like it wouldn't be long, but it felt much more drawn out than it should have. There was a mounted television in the corner of the room, playing some talk show you didn't care about, and an overly rambunctious child with their mother. She was so loud, that little girl. All she was doing was jumping around and yelling about something, with her mom trying to shoosh her, and soon enough she gestured at you, "Honey look, see that nice boy over there? I bet you're giving him a headache!" she says, and you just wanted to tell her 'You have no idea' but you don't because that would be rude.

You just smile meekly at the little girl and offer her a small wave when you notice they're both looking at you.

Her mouth shaped into a little 'o' and her eyes went a little wide, like she thought she didn't know. She used her small hands to cup around her mouth, and whispered loudly over to you, "I'm sorry mister!" and to be honest it was extremely cute. She reminded you of Casey Poe, but with bubbly light brown hair and a tooth missing in the front of her top row.

You mimic the little girl's hand placement, and whisper back at her, "It's okay," and she gives you a big toothy grin, like she's achieved something amazing. The mom just gives you a small smile of thanks, and the little girl is relatively quiet after that, but you still see she's a bit restless. Feeling bad for her mom, you leave your backpack on the chair and go over to the front desk to get the remote for the TV. You change the channel from that stupid talk show over to the kids channel and Spongebob was on. You bet she could use a little more sponginess in her day, and you could too to be honest, though you couldn't even see her from where you were.

You get back to your seat to see that she was totally entranced in the TV now, resorting to sit down on the chair beside her mom's and just staring at it. The mom shoots her another smile and you can't help but feel good about it.

It wasn't too much longer after that when a man comes out from the area beside the front desk, and the little girl runs over to him and wraps her arms around him in a hug. He must have been the dad. The mom joins them as he picks her up, and as they walk out the door, speaking in hushed tones, the girl waves at you one last time, and you wave back as the big door closes behind them.

Another man emerges from that area just as you were going to watch the episode of Fairly Odd Parents that had started. This one was wearing a stethoscope and a white coat and was holding a clip board, "John?" You stand up almost too fast and nearly stumble, but you caught the back of the chair before anything seemed too off about it. You take your backpack and follow him into his small office, and sit down in the chair appointed to the patient.

You can't help but feel really claustrophobic and nervous right about now. Not even Colonel Sassacre would be able to help right now. You bet he could even gauge the level of total nervousness right about now, if he wasn't, well, you know, dead.

He shuts the door, and writes something down on the clip board, "Name?"

"John Egbert."

"Great, your date of birth?"

"April 13th, '95."

"And you're how old?"

"15."

You're just answering generic questions like this, like your dad's name and his date of birth (you're just surprised you even remembered either of those) and medical history before he got to the real questions.

"Alright John, so what brings you here today?" he starts.

"My head has been a bit uh... off? lately I guess."

He quirks a brow and writes something down. Gosh, is he just writing everything you're saying or something? "Off as in how?" You try to find some decent words to use without looking like an idiot, "Um, sometimes my balance is a bit off, and I get a lot of headaches. My memory's been kind of shoddy too. I'm also sleeping a lot and I don't really have much of an appetite... uh... and I guess concentrating on stuff like schoolwork and tests is kind of hard too. Sometimes lights seem a lot brighter and noise is really hard on me too..." well you didn't sound too stupid, so that was a bonus. He just nods and writes more of this down. What was this, a therapy session?

"John, take your sweater off please." he says, putting the stethoscope in place in his ears. You thank the heavens you were wearing a long sleeved shirt today, he didn't need to see those beat-up arms of yours. He asks for you to stand and take deep breaths as he places the hearing bit on your chest. You do, and he listens from the front and the back.

"Seems a bit rattly, are you getting over a cold?"

"Oh, uh, I don't know, maybe?" You pull your sweater back over your head.

"Mhm. Now, have you had any head trauma recently? And if so, from what?"

Think of a something to say, Egbert, it's not that hard, "I fell."

"And where did it hit your head?"

"I... I don't remember."

"Do you remember the impact?"

"Not clearly, no."

"I see."

"..." It didn't really look like he believed you fell, but you really don't remember what it was from. Something must have happened though. Your headaches have been pretty nonstop since Monday.

After this, the rest of your time in the office consisted of you doing a bunch of different tests, like balance (which you failed pretty badly), memory (he held an object briefly before hiding it behind behind him and you had to remember what it was), strength and sensation (and you were already a pretty frail guy so the results of this were a no-brainer, but your feeling senses were generally okay), vision (you wore huge, thick glasses, so yeah this was also failed, but everything was much too bright for your liking) and your reflexes (which were also really shitty, god, why was everything passing in such a blur?).

"John, under normal circumstances I would have admitted you to a hospital for one night so doctors which better knowledge of neurological injuries could look you over, but I think you'll be alright on your own as long as you have your dad or someone with you to help," he explains, and you can't help but let out a breath of air you didn't know you were holding. Going to the hospital would complicate everything, "But I am almost completely sure you've been suffering from a concussion. That's what your symptoms and test results point to."

"Oh. Really?"

"Yes."

"I don't need to take any kind of pills do I?"

"Unfortunately, yes. The longer a concussion goes untreated, the worse it gets, and your headaches are most likely caused by swelling. I'm just honestly surprised you haven't gone into a coma yet, sleeping with a concussion is extremely risky."

Fuuuuuuuuck.

"Uh, is there any alternative? Sorry, I'm just... really uncomfortable with pills."

"No, sorry. I recommend Tylenol if you have it though."

"Oh, I only have Tylenol at home, but I think the bottles pretty empty."

"I see. Tylenol is alternatively called acetaminophen and it would do much better than Advil would, which is also called ibuprofen and increases the risk of cranial bleeding. I can set you up with a bottle of acetaminophen to start with free of charge if you'd like."

"... Uh... alright I guess."

He nods and leaves the room for a moment, leaving you to think about just how fucked over you are now. Pills? Why did this have to happen? And you have a concussion? How did THAT even happen in the first place? So many questions and concerns and you didn't even want to think about it.

He comes back with an unlabeled orange medicinal bottle, the kind with the childproof cap. You watch him as he takes out a sheet of sticker paper and writes down some specifications, like your name, the kind of medicine it was, and the recommended dosage for someone your age, by the looks of it.

He sticks it on the bottle and hands it to you after a moment of scribbling, and you look over the terrible handwriting. He explains to you what you should do with it, what times you should take it, and that it works best on a stomach full of food. You just eye the dual coloured capsules wearily.

A bit later, he lets you leave with a bunch of doctors notes in equally shitty handwriting (because you apparently shouldn't be doing too much schoolwork in your state), and sees you out the door. You mutter a thanks and he just pats your back.

The receptionist from earlier just gives you both a look.


You get home just as it starts to hail a bit, and you thank whatever deity helped you get home before getting caught in the middle of it. Now what you need to do is report to Jade, and hope to the high heavens that she kept her promise.

You flop onto your bed with the laptop, and log in to Pesterchum.

- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 16:49 -

EB: so uh...

EB: i think it was a really good idea you told me to go.

GG: : O

GG: why what happened?

EB: apparently i have a pretty bad concussion.

EB: he said he was just really surprised i haven't gone into a coma while sleeping yet.

EB: and uh...

EB: well i guess you kind of saved my life.

EB: ….

GG: oh god

GG: john im so sorry!

GG: what else did he say?

GG: john?

EB: well, he asked what it was from and i told him i fell.

EB: of course he didn't believe me though.

EB: but he prescribed me something for the swelling and headaches...

EB: i guess i'll have to pop pills after all...

GG: promise me youll take them!

EB: :/

GG: even if its the only drug you ever take in your life ever!

GG: i want you to get better

EB: i want me to get better too.

EB: but my god, these things are pretty big.

GG: can you cut them in half maybe? or are they capsules?

EB: they're capsules unfortunately.

GG: :(

EB: to be honest, i'm just afraid i'll choke on them or something, because i've never taken pills in my life.

EB: so this is kind of scary.

GG: have you told your dad at least? :(

EB: no...

EB: and i don't plan to either!

GG: well please try and take those meds!

GG: and i know you dont want to tell your dad because of stress

GG: but

GG: dont you think he'll be more stressed if he finds out from someone else?

EB: well, the only person that knows pretty much everything is you, and the doctor only knows about the concussion. and if the thing about patient/doctor confidentiality is true, then he'll never know.

EB: it'll be better for everyone that way, i can tell.

GG: but john, what if it isnt?

GG: what if something happens to you?

GG: something bad?

GG: no one is going to know anything :(

EB: something bad, like what?

GG: idk!

EB: i think i've got this all under control!

GG: what if the bullies do something!

GG: what if they go too far!

GG: i dont want to lose you john!

GG: youve already got a major concussion!

You back up for a moment, your eyesight begins to blur so you rub at your eyes.

EB: jade you're making me cry.

EB: i'm...

EB: i'm trying to stay optimistic about this.

EB: i'm not thinking about the what-ifs right now.

GG: fuck optimism!

GG: i want you to be *safe*!

EB: …

EB: i know.

EB: um, shit. dave's pestering me

GG: john were not done here yet!

GG: damn it!

You minimize her window and pull Dave's up.

- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 17:18 -

TG: yo john

EB: hey dave.

TG: whats goin on bro

EB: hehe, nothing really actually.

EB: sorry for blowing up at you the other day.

TG: nah its cool

TG: just concerned for my best bro right

TG: gotta know whats up you know what im saying

EB: yeah totally.

TG: so

TG: do you want to answer me now or

EB: uh.

TG: please

TG: look i even asked nicely

EB: dave...

EB: i just don't really want to talk about it.

TG: yeah ok

TG: but then what am i even here for

TG: best bros tell each other shit right?

TG: and i most definitely have not been feeling the bromance for a while now

EB: yeah i'm sorry about that...

TG: no dont be im just trying to making sure youre okay

EB: yeah i know, uh. brb.

TG: aight

You can't help but think he knows something but isn't trying to let on.

Jade...

EB: jade you haven't mentioned anything to him have you?

EB: he's not acting like himself.

GG: uhh, no not really!

GG: maybe he noticed john

GG: cause thats what friends do when others are down

GG: you need to tell people!

GG: …

GG: or

GG: or i will!

EB: jade!

EB: please no!

GG: i cant let things go on like this!

EB: you made a promise!

GG: john

GG: your one of my best friends

GG: i dont know what id do if i lost you because of some stupid ass bullies!

GG: and i know it sounds really selfish

GG: but im sure dave and rose would feel the same!

GG: and god john...

GG: what about your dad!

GG: fuck

GG: just please tell someone!

The weather reflected your state, the heavy rain and hail in sync with the tears running freelydown your cheeks now.

EB: i...

EB: oh god this is really serious isn't it...

EB: i'm the biggest idiot, it is me.

EB: shit... i really don't know how to tell anyone though.

EB: you finding out was just an accident.

EB: that just... happened. you figured it out...

EB: but like...

EB: shit.

EB: i need a moment.

EB: give me a minute...

GG: john...

EB: just a quick breather...

GG: please come back soon :(


He said he was on brb, but he must have closed the chat completely because it said he ceased pestering you after about ten minutes of idling.

Fuck that.

- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 19:38 -

TG: jade will you just tell me what the fuck is going on

GG: uhh

GG: nothing is going on!

GG: why do you ask?

GG: oh wait

GG: ahahaha dont worry about him!

GG: erm

GG: :) :)

TG: dont

TG: just cut the crap

TG: youre just as bad at lying as he is if not worse

TG: come on i know somethings up

TG: and dont just suddenly disconnect like he just did to me please

GG: ahhhh :C

GG: he made me promise not to tell anyone! D:

TG: so you do know

GG: …. yes :(

GG: but im not allowed to say!

GG: :(

GG: i really wish i could

GG: but he has to say it himself! :(

TG: wow dont i totally feel like a trusted friend

TG: b/c hes made it pretty the fact that he wont spill pretty fucking crystalline

GG: no no!

GG: he didnt tell me, i guessed

GG: dont think that its anything against you or anything, because its not!

GG: hes just scared :(

GG: and im not allowed to tell you, but if you guessed...

TG: either way its not like id judge him for it or anything

TG: but if i guess eh

TG: well he obviously prompted you or something

GG: its good that you wont judge him

GG: and yeah, he did a little...

GG: oh geez please dont take any of this to heart!

GG: i forced most of it out of him!

You were getting pretty goddamn fed up by now, and you just hoped that Harley could fucking see that you weren't messing around right now. You lean on your desk with your elbows and massage the bridge of your nose in exasperation.

TG: fuck

TG: just fuck

GG: ohh, just...

GG: please talk to him!

GG: convince him to talk to you!

TG: youre saying that like i havent been fucking trying

GG: oh no!

GG: i didnt mean that, nooooo :C

GG: god this is all going terribly!

TG: no its just

TG: ive noticed this huge fucking change in behavior

TG: and he wont tell me whats fucking *wrong*

TG: i feel like a shitty friend

TG: im supposed to be his best friend for a goddamn reason

GG: maybe he just doesnt want you to look down on him...

TG: what no why the shit would i do that

TG: i just wanna help him through it because if anything he is like a big bag of sunshine and rainbows and stupid movies and if ANYTHING i look up to that little asshole

TG: i honestly just dont even care that i sound really uncool saying this

TG: but im really concerned

TG: … i dont want to lose him

GG: :(

GG: me neither :(

GG: but listen

GG: i cant tell you because i promised him

GG: but i didnt say anything about not giving you clues

TG: shit well then lay it on me

GG: its to do with his school like okay?

GG: and the people at his school not being very... nice

GG: …. whats pretty common at school dave

TG: oh fuck man idk

TG: wait

TG: shit jade hes not being like

TG: bullied or harassed is he

GG: ….

TG: youre fucking kidding me right now

TG: right?

Oh you hope she wasn't lying to you. You're blood was just boiling. No one touches John.

GG: im not...

GG: youre right dave … :(

When's the next flight, you're booking right now.

Some people are going to get sent to the ER and you don't even give a shit.

TG: shit

TG: fuck fuck shit godammit

TG: theyre hurting him

GG: :'(

TG: FUCK

GG: please talk to him?

GG: he wont tell ANYONE and he has a really serious concussion at the moment

GG: like, weeklong that hasnt had any treatment whatsoever

TG: what

TG: no

GG: and im so worried

GG: please dave

GG: please … :'(

TG: as soon ad he gets back online

TG: i am going to be on him like flies to a pile of shit

TG: you dont even know

TG: and im just so pissed that i cant think of a better metaphor

GG: :(

GG: just i... i dont know what to do dave! i havent done anything like this before

TG: yeah well neither have i

TG: but egberts always been there for us through thick and fucking thin

TG: so you know what im gonna try my best

GG: i know :(

GG: i managed to get him to go to the doctors but thats about it

GG: he literally wont tell anyone!

TG: the docs yeah but only to get his head checked out right

TG: and yeah i noticed

GG: mhm :(

TG: jesus i owe you for that he couldve dropped like deadweight without warning

TG: concussions are dangerous motherfuckers

GG: i know...

A familiar jingle, John's logged back in. About fucking time, Egbert.

TG: yeah well according to my chat client hes back online so imma see if i can ease it out of him.

GG: okay

GG: see if you can get him to think any sense

GG: or see any sense

GG: god im so upset i cant even type

TG: hey dont worry

TG: well fix it ok

GG: man i sure hope so...

TG: and i wont tell him you said anything ok

GG: kay :)

TG: anyways yeah ill talk to you a bit later

GG: bye :)

- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 19:57 -

You just hope that you really can fix it.


When you said quick breather, you really tried to mean quick breather, emphasizing the qucik part. You think you took way too long though, and now you're all wet because you decided it would be a good idea to go out walking in the hail and rain to the lake to just stand and stare at the angry surface.

You rub a towel through your wet hair and sit back down at the computer.

EB: ahaha...

EB: so my quick breather ended up being me taking a walk to the lake and just standing there.

GG: have you taken your pills yet?

EB: no... well i tried but it didn't turn out too pretty.

GG: have you tried maybe putting it in your food?

Ugh. Food.

EB: well, no actually.

EB: i haven't.

EB: i'll try that.

At the bottom of your screen, Dave's window is flashing furiously.

EB: christ dave is being really persistent.

GG: i think you should talk to him

GG: hes your best friend too

EB: i know.

EB: but talking to you is hard enough as it is.

EB: i didn't even mean to tell you in the first place.

GG: but still!

GG: hes really worried john!

GG: he really cares about you!

EB: … i know.

EB: god i feel so bad about it.

… You pull up his window just to see what he was typing to you.

- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 18:01 -

TG: hey john

TG: ok so that whole disappearing act was totally not as cool as you thought it would be

TG: because hey i know you i bet you were trying to be a fucking magician or something stupid like that because thats just something youd do

TG: stupid head

TG: look ive resorted to using elementary school insults thats how much ive lost my cool

TG: you big poop

TG: dumb face

TG: hey man dont make me break out the insult thesaurus

TG: hes a crazy ass dinosaur i fucking assure you

TG: ripping everyones goddamn heads off all over the word

TG: i mean world

TG: but hey that typo still kind of works anyway

TG: but back to the point at hand man

TG: i dont even care if you dont reply but

TG: no fuck that i think you should still reply to me

TG: youre gonna see this anyway

TG: but you said it had to do with being a high school student

TG: youre stress that is

TG: but idk man

TG: i have this feeling that someones bugging you

TG: are you being like

TG: fucking harassed or something?

TG: y/n

TG: all signs point to y

TG: but thats just in my fucking head

TG: john come on i need something to work with here

...What? You go back to Jade's.

EB: wait.

EB: waitwaitwait.

EB: hold up.

EB: holy shit.

EB: jade.

EB: jade he figured it out

EB: oh my god.

EB: no no no that's not good!

GG: why not?

GG: if he knows you can talk to him!

GG: maybe he can help?

GG: listen

GG: to

GG: him

GG: and talk!

GG: i know its hard, but he cares about you so much john!

EB: but out of everyone, i didn't want him to know the most!

GG: but why not?

EB: because i fucking like him!

You blew it, right then and there. You wish you could take messages back oh God Jade is taking a really long time to reply.

EB: no, wait, ignore that.

EB: just holy shit ignore the hell out of that.

GG: john...

GG: its okay :)

GG: just talk to him alright? i'm sure hell understand.

GG: youve got nothing to worry about!

What. Why is she being so calm about that outburst?

GG: and you guys can just calmly talk it out and sort out whats best!

GG: and... hes booking the soonest plane tickets.

EB: the soonest?

GG: hes really worried!

GG: we all are!

GG: and i'm sure rose would come too if she knew

GG: but should probably tell you this before i forget

GG: i wont be able to make it there :(

EB: what, why not?

GG: the person who usually drops off supplies and mail in the plane first told me he could take me

GG: but now he won't even take me to hawaii to take a real flight!

EB: wow what a dick.

GG: hahaha, i know right!

EB: so it's just going to be me and dave then...

GG: yeah

EB: i don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

GG: honestly john, i think itll be awesome okay?

GG: and besides, so what if hes a few weeks early right?

EB: i just don't want such a happy occasion to be ruined by this bullshit.

EB: it's definitely not ordeal... don't want to be doted on.

GG: i seriously dont think you have a choice :/

GG: and hopefully itll all be over before then

EB: yeah. hopefully.

GG: oh john, im so sorry about whats happening :(

EB: don't be sorry, it's not your fault.

EB: but i have some stuff i need to get to, homework and all that stupid crap.

EB: talk to you tomorrow?

GG: okay :(

GG: please dont be sad john!

GG: well help you through this!

EB: i'm not sad, i'm just...

EB: really frustrated

EB: and sick of it.

- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 18:23 -

You sigh in complete exhaustion.

This was not how it was supposed to be.

You remember that you left Dave completely hanging, so you might as well talk to him briefly and not be a prick.

EB: yes.

EB: okay, you've hit the nail right on the head.

TG: oh fuck

TG: really?

EB: yeah... but dave oh my god i am so fucking tired right now it's not even funny.

He took a second longer than he should've to respond and it made you a bit uneasy.

TG: remember to take your pills ok

EB: ... how do you know about that?

EB: aughh i knew jade told you!

TG: nah man i guessed and then she told me the rest

EB: it's almost as if i can't trust anyone anymore!

TG: hey calm your flaming tits ok

TG: who gives a flying fuck

TG: i know now and were gonna fucking help you whether you like it or not

TG: so just take them

TG: and get better

TG: cause if you dont ill bloody well make you when i get there

EB: … fine.

EB: i'll take the fucking pills.

EB: just... god get off my case about it okay?

TG: i just want you to be ok

EB: i know dave, i know.

EB: i've gotten enough reassurance from jade to cover it for the both of you.

TG: good

EB: so... when's your flight?

TG: saturday

TG: in the morning

TG: also dont worry about coming to pick me up alright i got that shit covered like icing on your old mans cakes

EB: okay, but god don't mention that crap here!

TG: fine i wont but fair warning ill probs be there by sunday morning alright

EB: … alright.

EB: i'm going to go do some homework or something though, so i'll talk to you tomorrow okay?

TG: sure

TG: be good you hear me

EB: i will :B

- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 18:44 -

Screw homework, that was just an excuse.

You instead take a shower and go to bed. Completely forgetting your meds in your backpack.

Chapter Text

It felt like you were standing in the middle of nothing, a big open space, but at the same time it was almost claustrophobic; stuffy and warm. It was completely dark, and your limbs wouldn't move. There was only a faint white noise and your eyes were sealed shut.

The last thing you remember was going to bed after a shower... you spoke to your... friends before, and they told you to remember something... what were you supposed to remember?

The more you tried moving though, the more it worried you. You couldn't move, it was dark, it was stuffy.

If you just stopped thinking, maybe you'd start dreaming. Yeah. That would be a good idea.

Soon enough, it stops being so dark, but only slightly. There was a figure not too far away. You couldn't make it out, but it looked male to you. The figure kept getting closer, but it didn't look like it was moving. It was unnerving, just getting bigger and bigger. There were more of them in the distance, all slowly moving towards you. But you couldn't move.

"Weak."

They... they were speaking.

"So weak."

What?

"Stupid."

"Worthless."

No...

"Die."

"Kill yourself."

No no no!

"No one wants you."

"Dad doesn't care."

No... he cares.

"Your friends don't care."

But- but they do!

"They wouldn't care if you were gone."

No...

"Dave wouldn't care if you died."

He'd... he'd care. He'd be devastated.

"He thinks you're worthless."

But...

"Friendship is just an ironic gimmick."

No it's not...

"You said it yourself."

I... I did?

"Just an ironic gimmick."

You stopped responding, the remarks were getting more grotesque and violent, self deprecating.

But you couldn't tune it out.

"There's a nicely sized rope in the garage."

"The knives in the kitchen are very sharp, have you tried them."

"Or maybe the shaving razor in the bathroom."

"That would leave such a mess though."

"Messes are so rude."

"Living is much more rude than a mess though."

"You don't want to be rude, do you."

Please...

"Please what."

Stop...!

"Die."

I don't want to die...

"Everyone else does."

The figures are almost smothering you at this point, they keep muttering away. You feel the ghosting, barely there touches. Your breath is hitching, and suddenly it's hard to breath.

Not everyone...

"Everyone."

"All of them."

"Even you."

I don't want to die...

"Even you."

No, dammit...!

They keep repeating that line, like a chant. Even you, even you, even you.

Did you want to leave?

No... you didn't.

Right?

Something rang out in the distance, a shrill beeping, but it felt far away. The noise was drowning out the chattering though, and slowly got louder. Louder louder louder.

Finally able to move, you snap your eyes open to the first thing you see, the pillow clutched between quaking arms in front of you. You had it in a death grip. That shrill beeping turned out to be your alarm clock, and you don't think you've ever been this grateful for it. You reach over to turn it off and then focus on your breathing. All of that was just a dream, there was no reason to be still freaking out over it like a little girl.

But it was terrifying. None of those things could have been true, right? You sure hoped not.

Your skin was overly clammy underneath your blanket; your feet and hands were covered in a cold sweat. So much for your shower.

Your body felt especially sluggish this morning though, and you can feel it when you try to sit up.

Fucking headaches.

If you could stay home today, you would, but you've been putting off seeing your math teacher. She wanted to talk to you and there's been nothing but stupid interruptions. The semester was almost over, and you needed to pull your act together before you failed another class. You don't care about art, you've been flunking since you got stuck in that hipster hell, but math was something you needed to go anywhere in life.

But what life? You weren't going anywhere. No one wants to hire a loser.

...You need to stop with these thoughts. They weren't going to help you get through the day. That's all you should be focused on, just getting through the day so you can come home and prepare for when Dave comes on Sunday morning. That meant cleaning yourself up, informing you dad (probably via note), and finding out how to hide your dark circles and bruises.

Maybe it was about time to invest in some concealer? You wonder how many funny looks you'd get wandering through the cosmetics section at the local drugstore, looking lost amongst all the makeup.

To be honest, it really was a silly thought.

You've been sitting in bed for a really long time though. It was time to get ready before some other stupid thought crossed your mind.


School was boring. You just wanted to get to the end of class so you could talk to your teachers about future homework. You might have been pretty keen with the timing of certain miniscule affairs, but you didn't know how long you'd have to stay with John before you deemed it was safe to leave for Texas again. Something in tells you that he'd be alright after a few days, but that was somehow also complete bullshit, like school.

You fiddle with your pen, and the teacher sounds like the dude from Charlie Brown. Womp womp womp womp... God, just get on with it. No one cares about mononucleosis unless they go around eating everyone's faces. And even then, no one cares.

Then boom; there it was. The bell signifying lunch break.

You didn't unpack your stuff for class, you didn't even bring anything. You doubt it all would fit in your small book bag though honestly, but you stride over to the desk of your science teacher after most of the students had left..

"I'm gonna be gone for a while." He looks up at you from some papers and seems a bit skeptical of your tone, "Really now?"

"Yeah, so I'll need whatever lessons you've already cooked up for what notes or whatever we need for finals. I dunno how long I'll be away for."

"Where are you going?"

"Up country."

"Where up country?"

"Does it matter?"

"Yes, I'd like to know where you're going on such short notice." His low voice pisses you off. Sounded like he didn't believe you.

"Fu- fine. Washington. I'm going to Washington." Hopefully that'll shut him up.

"Why? What's so special about Washington?" ….

"I got a friend up there that needs some help." Can't get any more sincere than that.

"... help?"

"It's seriously none of your business. All I need is homework."

"Fine, geez, be that way then," he pushes himself over to some metal cabinets on his wheeled chair, in a childlike manner. How this man was qualified to teach students with his level of maturity astounded you. He digs around for a moment and you swear he was taking longer than necessary just to annoy you. The fact that everything was annoying you irritated you further, and that was just completely irrational.

You just blame it on being incredibly high strung after finding out what was really happening to John. You couldn't believe you had no clue. What a shitty friend you were.

He finally turns back around with a small stack of paper in his hands and staples it before handing it to you, "This is about two weeks worth of work and reviews. I'd give you less but if you don't know how long you're going to be gone then this is just precautionary." You had this nagging feeling you'd be there for a bit more than two weeks, but you push it away and look through the pages, "If you stay longer though I won't hold it against you or something like that."

This guy might have been a total loser, but he had his nice moments.

You mumble a thanks and leave to the library or something. Might as well start some of this like the responsible student you were.


When you get on the bus this morning, toast in hand, the voices from your dream (mock nightmare, you correct yourself) come back to you. You chew absently, unaware of your surroundings for the most part. The more you think about it, the more the voices seem familiar to you.

Some sounded like the people at your school, some sounded like your dad. One's voice even resembled that of the clinic's doctor.

Most of them though... they sounded like you.

When you were physically and verbally attacked, that wasn't you, but in your mind, it seemed like you were this way purely because of yourself. Maybe you were your own god that brought yourself down to size.

It seemed like the most logical explanation, especially since dreams like that have happened in the past. But this is the first time you can remember it clearly.

It seemed far-fetched to you, and highly selfish, but maybe, just maybe...

You would be better off gone.

Your brain hammers within its confines and if you could make it stop, then you would. But there was no way you'd be able handle taking that medication. You tried, well, once, but that was enough for you. You know you're being a baby about it, but old habits (or lack thereof) die hard.

The bus pulls in, so you collect your things and pile out along with a few other passengers. It always seemed like you were the only student that took this particular bus in the morning, and you take comfort in that fact. You don't ever want trouble before the day has even started.

Class was usually a totally different story though, and nothing can ever stop you from being nervous upon entering. Maybe anxiety was a factor, because your throat and lungs constrict when you push open those doors. Every time.

If you could go back to life in elementary school, hell, even middle school, then you would. Even if you were terribly lonely. Anything was better than the constant paranoia of getting jumped and wailed on every day.

The worst of this week had been Monday though, so maybe things were starting to get better? Was it possible that they were starting to ease off on you? Especially with the run-in on Wednesday. They let you go.

You smile to yourself absently when you walk into the school, stuck in your thoughts. You're pretty sure you had art today first, so you head for the arts wing of the school and pass the theatre and photography rooms on the way.

Jade was so wrong about this, you muse, I really do have everything covered. This is going to end soon, I know it.

You find amusement in how fast the nature of your thoughts changed within the lapse of exiting the bus, to sitting in your usual spot in art. You doodle in your notebook as other students enter the room, and if they gave you any dirty glares, you weren't paying enough attention to know.


The last bell rang, and after a quick word with your instructor and acquiring more future study materials, you leave as fast as you can while still looking cool and aloof (but you weren't too successful because there you were, speedwalking down the hallway while shoving papers in your bag).

Some girls you walk by try to get your attention, and it's the same group that try this every day.

You stride passed them, and ignore the sounds of disappointment behind you. You wanted- no, needed to go home and start packing for your flight in the morning, just to reassure yourself.

Maybe 10 minutes into your walk home, you feel your iPhone vibrating in your pocket as you neared the local park. Pausing to take it out, you are elated to see that John was pestering you (shut up your stomach did not have butterflies for a split second there) though you were set to invisible. Moving over from the sidewalk to leaning on a tree, you see what's he's sent you.

- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 14:42 -

EB: hey dave.

EB: just wanted to let you know that my phone is going to die in a little bit and i am going to be a bit late getting home today.

EB: so don't freak out when i'm not online when i usually am, ok?

EB: hehe, bye. :)

TG: shit wait im here yknow

TG: whats up man

EB: oh hi!

EB: i was just sitting in the library actually. doing homework.

EB: what are you up to?

TG: nerd

EB: speak for yourself!

TG: mhm

TG: i was just walking home

TG: you on your lunch break or something

EB: yeah.

TG: do you have food

EB: no but i ate breakfast and i'm fine with that.

TG: dont make me go all mother bear mode on you bro

TG: shits way too ironic for someone like you

EB: pshh, as if.

TG: you should still be eating though

EB: i just said that i'm fine dude.

TG: whatever floats your boat man

TG: just make sure the ship doesnt sink

TG: rabid fans dont like that kind of shit

TG: flipping tables and putting em back nicely

TG: on their blogs

EB: …. what?

TG: nvm you need to get out more

EB: get out more on the internet?

TG: yes

EB: how does one 'get out more' on the internet?

EB: that's like, the best example of an oxymoron.

TG: youre an oxymoron

EB: and that makes sense.

TG: does in my head

EB: adding this to reasons why i don't ever want to know what's going on in your head. :B

TG: shit man you have a list

TG: thats great cuz youd seriously just spontaneously combust from the overwhelmingly cool enigma that is my think pan

EB: …. is that some new slang term for brain?

TG: yes love it or list it

EB: i don't even know dave.

EB: i don't even know.

EB: and stop making references to tv shows.

TG: fine be that way

TG: im making a harumph noise

TG: and im stomping my feet as im walking away from you with my arms crossed

TG: cuz you offend me so much all the time

EB: cool, i guess this means i've won today.

TG: oh yeah so why are you getting home late

EB: i have to meet with my math teacher after school.

TG: why

EB: flunking.

TG: oh

TG: exams are really soon tho

EB: i know.

John was actually really good at math when you met him online in 7th grade, he had even helped you through some of your homework over video chat in your 12th and 13th years. You were getting solid B's now since you've grasped the concepts. But he was failing?

TG: any particular reason

EB: for what?

TG: for not passing

EB: well to put it simply, there is a surplus of people that hate me in that class.

Go figure.

TG: how often do they bother you

EB: every day? i hate going to math, so i actually skip it a lot :/

They're fucking up his future by doing this, and that pisses you off more than you'd like to admit.

TG: oh

EB: it's alright.

TG: no not really

TG: stay safe though

EB: i will i will, geez.

TG: hey one more q

EB: yeah?

You almost didn't want to see his answer to this, but you really need to know.

TG: did you take one before sleeping last night

EB: uhhh.

EB: i am not following.

TG: you know

EB: ?

TG: those things

EB: dude just spit it out. :/

TG: the cocksucking pills did you take one before going to bed

Oh, how you hate it when he takes too long to reply. You bite the inside of your cheek.

EB: um, yeah of course i did!

EB: i took two just like how it told me, yep.

TG: if i find out youre lying i swear to gog

TG: i mean god

TG: wow finger slip way to ruin a perfectly good tense moment

EB: the moment was tense?

TG: nvm

EB: ok then.

EB: oh fuck. talking to you used up like the rest of my battery!

EB: bye dave!

TG: shit sorry

TG: see ya

- ectoBiologist [EB] lost connection! -

You have a nagging suspicion that he didn't really, and the thought really scares you. Sleeping with a concussion is so dangerous, and he doesn't understand.


You hated lying. You hated lying so much, but there was only an extremely small portion of your troubles that you are willing to share with other people, Dave included unfortunately.

At the beginning of lunch break, you made a stop at the P.E teachers office with one of the many doctors notes, and you got yourself out of that class with a real, legitimate reason for today. He asked questions about how you got it and if you were treating it properly, and you managed to either dodge most of them or bluff your way through. Either way, you have an extra hour and a half in the library, so instead of using your time to go through your notes like you should, you just lie your head down on your arms on the table and yawn.

You could've sworn you only had your eyes closed for a few minutes, but before you know it the bell is ringing and you need to pack your things to get to math. So much for all that extra time, what a bummer.

As one of that last students to make it before the bell rang out again, you had to find a suitable seat because yours had been taken. There was one right at the front where your teachers desk was, and there was another in the back where you'd rather not be.

You don't care about looking like a teachers pet, you weren't about to start being paranoid again. You've been doing so well today.

So you sit down right at the front, and Ms. Jericho gives you a warm smile.

Too bad you don't even recall the what happened between laying your head down (again) and now.

You're being nudged, and it's Ms. Jericho's hand on your shoulder.

You lift your head just a bit too fast (you didn't mean to sleep the whole class) and it was enough to jolt your brain enough to make it start hurting again. You try to push the pained expression away from your features as you look up, and it works judging from the smile on her face.

The clock reads 2:40, meaning class ended 10 minutes ago.

Your eyes dart between her and the clock and you wring your hands nervously, "Oh my gosh, I didn't mean to fall asleep!" you blabber, trying to regain your bearings, but you feel incredibly embarrassed. Hopefully you didn't snore.

She gives you a knowing smile and begin to wonder how many different smiles this woman has mastered, "No no dear, it's fine. We didn't even do anything educational, I popped in a movie and we watched it on the projector because I forgot all the materials for today at home," she laughs. You sigh inwardly with relief. So you didn't miss anything, "And besides, you looked tired anyway so I didn't bother you." she walks back to her desk, the heels on her feet clack on the floor softly. Sitting down, she gestures you over, "Okay, so I think it's about time we had that talk hm?"

Oh yeah. You were still kind of failing.

You take out the math notes from your backpack (you'd need a new one soon) and sling it over your good shoulder as you stand and meander towards her.


- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 15:12 -

TG: yo harley

GG: hey dave! :)

GG: whats up?

TG: nm got home a few minutes ago

TG: just wanted to give you a heads up from john

TG: hes getting back late so dont get your panties in a bunch about it

GG: oh, did he text you earlier?

TG: yeah

TG: smart move

TG: id have done an acrobatic pirouette off the handle

TG: again

GG: ok, thanks for filling me in : D

GG: bluh im kind of curious though. whys he going to be late?

TG: extracurricular teacher meeting

TG: kids flunking math

GG: aww that sucks!

GG: hope he doesnt get caught in the rain later :/

TG: are you predicting the weather now or something

TG: shit sounds complicated

GG: no i was bored earlier so i went online and checked the weather for a bunch of places!

GG: if i could predict the weather, maybe my flowers would be a little brighter! : D

GG: because yknow, there arent any weather stations for this area.

GG: ooh, maybe i could make one?

GG: why didnt i think of this before, geez!

TG: how would you make one

TG: no wait i dont actually want to know sorry

GG: ruuuuuude!

TG: i said sorry

TG: ok so go make your little weather machine i need to pack

GG: when are you leaving again? : O

TG: like 10 am or something

TG: so i can sleep in a bit

TG: probably a good thing ive been feeling like shit lately

TG: not the good kind of shit though

TG: is there a good kind of shit?

TG: no i dont think so but yeah i feel like shit

GG: do i need to ask why?

TG: nah i think you already know

GG: oh dave :(

TG: we dont need to start another pity party here thanks

GG: im not trying to! i just feel really bad because there isnt really much else that i can do to help! :C

TG: welp

TG: im good i can handle myself

TG: just keep on talking to john

TG: hes still a bit cagey with me

TG: but especially when im on the flight and traveling the world and all that bullshit

TG: if i want wifi id have to pay some ridiculous amount of money and that is a thing that most definitely isnt gonna happen

TG: so thats what you can do to keep helping

GG: ok :)

TG: good im gonna go and do that now then

TG: better bring a winter coat filled with down feathers people in washington almost live in igloos you know

GG: john almost lives in an igloo?

TG: yep trufax

GG: WHOAAAA that is soooo cool! like literally!

TG: ahaha yeah

TG: k so bye

TG: talk to ya later

GG: bye dave <3

TG: btw no one actually lives in igloos anymore

GG: wow way to ruin my dreams! :C

- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 15:27 -


With your newly acquired study sheets and words of approval from your math teacher, you're finally on your way home. The week may have started on a pretty terrible note, but you think you'll be okay over the weekend. Nothing can stop you now.

As you push the side exit open, you realize maybe not everything was peaches and cream. There was a literal downpour at your feet, and every morning you seem to always forget your raincoat.

If you were to be completely honest with yourself, it should have become a habit to bring it with you everywhere this time of year. This area of Washington rained a lot and it stretched up into British Columbia even.

Thankfully you kept an extra umbrella in your locker for when you forgot your default one (which happened all the time, as much as you didn't like to admit your forgetfulness). You think the main reason you never use it anymore though was because of the kiddie design and the overall amount of area that was kept dry underneath. And with that being said, it wasn't very much.

Better than nothing though, so you backtrack through the empty halls and try to remember which locker was yours.

You eventually locate it and take out the itty bitty umbrella. There some extra pens, pencils, and notebooks all stacked neatly in there as well, but you leave them be.

You shut and lock it, fiddling a bit with the umbrella as the button was sticky from disuse, but as you turn the corner, you accidentally bump into someone.

Someone almost a head taller than you who was kind of stocky.

You back up to apologize after stumbling a bit, but your breath catches when you see his uniform.

This kid was a fucking football jockey.

He looked younger though, and didn't have that disgusted glint in his eye like the others usually did when they caught a look at you.

You pivot on your heel and nearly start jogging the other direction, intent on the prospect of having him not follow you.

Though as a football player, of course he'd be swift as fuck on his feet. In two seconds flat he's right behind you, got his hand on the handle of your backpack, and trying to get your attention.

"Christ, kid will you just wait a minute?"

You turn your head slightly to make eye contact, "I-I really need to go."

"I know but just hear me out." he says, removing his hand from your bag. You take a few precautionary steps back, keeping distance just in case. You remain silent to allow him o continue.

"Just wanted to say sorry about the assholes on the football team. I mean, I wasn't there when they pummeled you on Monday, or any time before that really, but I just thought an apology was finally in order."

You weren't following.

"I'm not following."

"I said sorry. For Terrence and his legion of dickheads beating up on you."

You blink rapidly and try to grasp what he was saying. No one's ever spoken to you like this, and you were certain no one's ever apologized to you. Things really were starting to see the light.

Your mouth twitches slowly into a small smile, and your teeth are slightly visible.

"Thanks for that, uh..." You try to remember a name, you've probably heard it before, and it's just on the tip of your tongue.

"Oh, uh, Kevin." He seemed a bit unsure of his answer, but you think nothing of it.

"Kevin. Okay, it's nice to meet you, but I need to go now. Bye" You smile again and try to leave it at that, but he's on you again,

"Hey, wait, I could drive you to the bus stop." He faltered a bit on this as well.

"No it's fine, I got my umbrella and everything!" You wave it around a bit to show him, but it ends up popping open and you made a small noise of surprise before fumbling to close it again and walk away.

"That thing is small as shit, and it's literally pissing. Just come on, it's fine." He seemed more and more insistent with every word and takes a step forward, and you can't help but think that maybe it would be a good idea. After all, you were doomed to be wet and freezing by the time you made it through your front door.

And who were you to turn down such a gracious proposition?

Things were going really well today for the most part, so against all your better judgement you decide to accept his offer.

"Well, okay I guess. Do you know where it is?" His eyes darted around the hallways, possibly looking for something but you weren't sure, "'Course I do. Let's go."

You follow him, still slightly unsure, and he takes out his phone to text someone.

You get to the car after a minute or so, he was parked relatively close to the school so neither of you got too wet, but you're unsure of which seat you should take.

Kevin must have noticed this, "Get in the back, I have my shit in the front there." You nod and open the back passengers door hastily and pile in with your belongings. A shiver runs up your spine, and you shake lightly and quietly as he shuts his own door and starts the engine, forgoing his own seatbelt.

The rain permeated the somewhat awkward silence, and you can't help but notice that Kevin looked slightly nervous as he tapped his fingers against the steering wheel.

He pulls out his phone again and replies to a text, before handing you a box of apple juice from the front cup holder. You take hold of it tentatively, "Uh."

"Just drink it. No one ever sees you eat at school or whatever. And I don't even like apple juice."

And old inside joke sparks your next statement, "Dude what if someone did something to it? I don't think it takes a genius to reseal a juicebox," you chuckle. He visibly pales as you say that and you mentally berate yourself for saying anything. He was just driving you to the bus station, banter wasn't necessary and you don't think he really wants to talk to you. "That's dumb, just drink it."

You heed him (kind of feeling like a dog, but you weren't going to push it. Who knew what he was capable of), taking the straw from its plastic confinements and poking it through the hole in the box. You sip idly. There was an odd aftertaste, but it was a brand of juice that you've never really tried, so you buck up and deal with it.

After a few minutes, you feel your eyelids drooping and you try your hardest to keep them open. He must have taken a different route to the bus station though, because the scenery is unfamiliar to you as you look out the window to see through the rain for street signs or landmarks.

"Hey, uh... where are we right now?"

"Somewhere."

"Will we be there soon? I don't want to wait in the rain for the next bus to come around..."

"We'll get there when we get there." he snaps, and you immediately shut up.

You don't know how long you both were driving in the heavy rain, and you ended up drinking 3 juiceboxes it was until you finally stop in... was this a parking lot? You looked to be no where near where you were supposed to be.

"Kevin, seriously... where are we?" there was a hint of panic in your voice and the final question came out a bit odd sounding to your ears, and your vision swam slightly when you moved to get a better look at your situation.

The jock doesn't answer you, he just sighs heavily- sadly almost- and takes his phone out once more to text someone unbeknownst to you.

"Please, I-I can't be here."

"..."

At first you wait for an answer, but you give up on him, going to unlock the door and leave.

Something was wrong though, you felt too woozy and your eyesight was too hazy for this to be anywhere near normal. When you go to unlock the door and open it, you fumble around frustratingly before mustering enough strength to push it forward.

Now there was just something about you and doors and people on the other side that you didn't want to see.

You've been conned, tricked, fooled into this.

It was never Kevin's intention to take you to the bus stop. He took you somewhere that you didn't know of, somewhere that no one would hear you or see you or know where you are.

There on the other side of the door, soaking wet and annoyed, was Terrence.

No. Oh God no.

When you go to close the door again, he grabs hold of it and slams it open, bringing you out by the arm and tossing you onto the muddy concrete as if you were really just made of rags. He leans into the car and says something to Kevin as you try to regain some sense of up and down, "You took way too fucking long. This little shit better be all good and drugged for how long I had to wait in the pissing fucking rain, asshole. Now you can get your ass out here and come help me."

... Help him do what?

You stagger to your feet and try to make a meager escape in your hysteria. You don't want to know what they have planned. You never ever want to know

You got maybe a good 5 feet from your starting point when one of the takes and pulls a fistfull of your hair back. You let out a small cry, but try to silence yourself when you catch yourself making noise. You know how much he gets off on your pain, it's disgusting. You want this to be unenjoyable for him this time, because you always make noise and you see how his face always twists into some sick version of what it normally was.

They take you to a more forested area close to the abandoned parking lot and you follow with minimal resistance. The sooner this beating gets over with, the sooner you can figure out how to get home.

It starts off normally, you're thrown to the ground and you attempt to get into the best position to not have to take all of the damage, but dammit, your old bruises were acting up and the pain was almost excruciating when he kicks you repeatedly in the spine and abdomen.

You felt the pain head on, but your reactions to it seemed delayed through your limited and dim awareness.

He did say something about being 'good and drugged up' though, and through the hurt and suffering, maybe you could just close your eyes and black out.

Maybe then you wouldn't feel anything.


He said he had a meeting with his teacher, and that shouldn't have taken more than an extra half hour. You don't want to admit it, but you were seriously beginning to worry the shit out of yourself. you know what kind of shit could go down, but you weren't prepared to think about what may or may not be happening to John right now.

You tried to update your blog, but your mind wandered from the subjects you were attempting to cover. You tried making another installment to the 10 part Nacho Arc in Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, but your hands were shaking too much to get a proper line out of the mouse. Whatever you got out wasn't ironically shitty anymore, it was genuinely terrible.

Thankfully Jade's trying to get your attention. Maybe you can get your mind off things.

- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 19:13 -

GG: dave its getting really late...

... or, you know. Not.

TG: i know

GG: do you think hes okay?

TG: probably missed his bus or something i wouldnt worry about it too much

GG: ok well you dont have to worry, but im kind of scared! D:

GG: i mean... sure he had a meeting but wouldnt he be home by now?

TG: idk just keep your head up

TG: read a book fertilize some flowers

TG: go on a wild pumpkin chase

TG: check the weather again or something i dunno

GG: but ive already done all that!

GG: i cant just go do something when one of my best friends might be hurt or in trouble!

GG: something doesnt feel right. i have this dreading feeling in my stomach and i really think something is wrong

She had a point and you knew it, but you were going to be the calm one.

TG: yeah i know how you feel ok

TG: we dont know anything for sure yet thought so save your energy for when we actually need it

TG: im not totally sure for when we WOULD need it but eh

GG: dave stop being a jerk!

GG: youre only being nonchalant because you dont know everything!

GG: *I* dont even know everything, but i know enough to know *when* i should be freaking out!

TG: apparently not because youre flipping your shit at the wrong time

TG: just buck up bronco johns gonna be back soon enough

GG: >:C

- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 19:20 -


You know he's fed up with your silence, because you're being pulled up to face him by the collar of your now soaking hoodie to face him. You bite the inside of your cheek to keep quiet when he yanks your hair. Some blood dribbles onto your tongue and you swallow harshly.

"You must have told someone." he accuses, "You fuckin' did, didn't you?"

"I-I... no I didn'-" you stutter weakly.

"Fucking liar. Who did you tell?" You feel tears in your vision and your nose starts to burn.

"Not going to answer me huh?" Terrence lets go and you fall back with jelly legs against a tree.

You struggle to stay awake as he says something to Kevin. Your head lolls sideways and you feel the exhaustion come on from whatever they stuck in that juice.

You just really want to stay awake now, but it was rapidly becoming a problem.

He comes back over and flicks something out of his pocket as he leans over you, but you don't catch what it was, "Do you remember that little chat we had a while back?" he starts condescendingly, "When I said I'd fuck your shit up if you uttered a word to anyone?" You open your mouth slightly to reply 'no', but all that came out was a quiet whimper as your eyes slipped shut and your brows drew together in silent agony.

He shoves you roughly in the shoulder, "Who did you fucking tell!"

The cold was numbing your skin and God you just want to go home why won't they just let you go home? "Mm.. my- my friend..."

"That's almost laughable."

"Yeah... laughable."

"Who was it really."

"'m not lying..."

You vaguely hear the lowering of a zipper and that's the last thing you remember before you gave in to your body and let your consciousness slip away.


When you wake again, the first thing you notice is how dark it is, but then you realize you were laying down in the backseat of a car with something akin to a makeshift blanket over you. You were soaked to the bone, and your glasses were absent from your face. Odd.

Welcoming the warmth, you attempt to sit up only to be stung with an intense, albeit dull pain over most of your body. A small noise of discomfort escapes your throat and you instantly regret it when the car suddenly lurches forward and a pair of red-rimmed eyes make contact with your own.

"John? Are you awake? Holy shit you are thank God."

It was Kevin, and he looks like he's been... in the middle of some emotional turmoil. You nod slowly. "Okay, okay good. Alright John, I know what neighbourhood you live in, but I don't know your house. I've been driving in circles for almost a fucking hour now," he yammers nervously, "What street are you on?"

"21605 Fir Drive," you mutter.

"Fir? Fucking excellent; I'm on Fir right now. House with the green spring-mounted ride in the front yard?"

"Sounds about right..."

"I'm pulling in."

You feel the car slowing and turning, and the bump you have to drive over to get over the dipping sidewalk. He keeps the car on but shifts it into 'Park'. You sit up with the help of the back of the seat, ignoring the blatant pain, "Hey... wh-what exactly happened? And where are my glasses?" you ask quietly. He hands over your glasses which were apparently kept up at the front with him, and he almost looks concerned, "You don't remember?"

You slip them on and look at the digital clock in the front of the interior. It was nearly 7:30 pm! Oh no Dave and Jade were going to ream you out so badly... "Uh, remember what?"

He looks conflicted, "Never mind, I think this'd be best. Do you think you can walk to the door yourself or do you need any help?"

"I think I got it," you reply, hooking your backpack (that you grabbed from the passenger's seat) over what you think was your good shoulder. It sure did ache though. He pipes up again, "Alright, well, if you fall on your face on the way over there, don't blame me." he settles back at the wheel.

You flip your hood over your head (the rain never stopped, nope.) and opened the door with a little push. When you got to your feet, you nearly toppled over what with the all-out assault on your head and body from standing up too quickly.

You miraculously get your way to the front door with your keys in hand without too much trouble. When you get the door open, you shoot Kevin a kind of half-smile in thanks for the ride home after you fell asleep. You don't think he saw though, as he was already pulling out of the driveway. You shut and lock the door behind you, opting to take another shower in addition to the one you had the night before. Rain did funny things to your hair when left untreated, and Dave was still coming in two days. Had to look somewhat presentable, right?

You manage to get upstairs after a long and semi-painful journey with the railing, and you deposit yourself in the bathroom and flick the light on. You strip slowly and quietly, feeling stiff.

But what you weren't expecting was several new bruises and lacerations on your entire body nearly.

You've had enough experience with injuries to tell they were new.

Really new.

As you run your hands up and down your torso with wide eyes and constricted brows, you can't help but notice a spattering of small, individual bruises that vaguely resembled handprints.

There were still imprints of nails.

Someone had a vice-like grip on your hips, and there was an undeniable burning sensation in your lower back-

Wait.

Oh.

Oh no.

It was starting to come back to you now. Kevin didn't take you home immediately, Terrence made him drug you and take you to some weird old parking lot/forested area duo.

And... then he asked who you told.

Once he said to you, that if you said anything to anybody, that he would do something terrible. This was that something.

Fuck...

Terrence, he...

God you can't even say it.

Suddenly you felt like there were layers of dirt and grime accumulating on your pale and discoloured skin. Your breath quickens and you turn on the water for the shower much hotter than it needed to be.

As you step in, the water burns and pulses against you but you could care less. When you locate the bar of soap and loofah, you scrub at every surface of your skin violently, reopening some cuts. It stung, oh did it ever just feel like needles rupturing your skin. But you've given up caring about that already.

Fuck, you felt filthy.

And you just can't believe that had happened.

You finally feel the tears well up in your eyes. Sobs racked your body as you just fell to your knees under the water and let everything out. The pain, the bottled up emotions, the denial. It all washed down the drain, along with your facade.

Your name is John Egbert, and after 5 years of physical and mental abuse, you've finally cracked...

No.

You're just broken now.

- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 20:48 -

EB: jade?

GG: john!

GG: there you are!

GG: omg

GG: i was so worried!

GG: whats up?

EB: yeah uh, i'm really sorry about that!

EB: i uh, missed my first bus home because of my math teacher. not doing very well in hr class.

EB: then i missed the next two buses after that because uh.

EB: the weather.

EB: yeah.

GG: john

GG: what happened

GG: please, you can tell me!

EB: it started pouring halfway and i forgot my umbrella, so i went back to school to get it!

EB: i'm not lying!

GG: and then?

EB: i had to wait for the fourth bus! i was completely soaked, even with the umbrella.

EB: so I came home and took a nice, warm shower.

EB: and then i realized that you and dave were probably totally flipping out!

GG: okay

GG: i believe you

GG: im just glad youre safe!

EB: haha, yeah...

EB: safe and warm under a blanket on my bed with my laptop.

EB: don't wanna catch cold right...

GG: john, maybe it is nothing

GG: but the way youre talking

GG: it seems like theres something going on

EB: there's absolutely nothing going on!

GG: oh my gosh john, if you wont talk to me, then at least talk to dave!

GG: were just worried about you

GG: have you been taking your drugs?

EB: gosh why do you have to say it like that?

EB: drugs, bluh.

GG: omg, have you been taking them?

EB: as much as i can.

EB: i hate to.

EB: but i have to.

GG: yes yes you do!

GG: and please continue to take them!

EB: yeah, will.

EB: they're disgusting, but still...

GG: but theyre there to help

You back up to sneeze a few times. You hope you haven't caught your death out in the rain.

GG: john?

EB: yeah?

EB: i didn't leave, sorry.

GG: dave will be there by sunday at the latest

GG: hold up till then

EB: sunday... that's right. that's so soon.

EB: god, i look terrible.

GG: i bet you look fine

EB: no.

EB: you'd lose that bet.

GG: aww

GG: well john

GG: he will be there soon and everything will be fine

EB: ... that's a nice thought. i think a lot of my hope has seriously faded, jade.

GG: well, keep strong!

GG: dave is on his way and ill be here to talk to you all the time!

EB: ... ok.

EB: so exhausted right now.

GG: please be strong :C

EB: i've been trying.

EB: i really, really have been.

EB: so uhm ,talk to you tomorrow then i guess?

GG: yeah definitely!

EB: haha, yeah.

GG: hell be there soon john.

EB: i know, jade.

- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 21:08 -

When you go to bed, your heart feels like it was about to leap out your throat. Out of all the lying you've done over the years, that had to have been the most in one go. You wanted to talk to Dave, but something told you that he was probably in bed because he was offline. He did have a flight to catch in the morning though right?

You start to think over your day, but when you get to what had been mostly forgotten, you don't think you'll be able to sleep. You don't want to get out of bed to wander around though, so you do the next best thing. You sing to yourself quietly as you begin to cry, and you silently hope you never wake up in the morning.

"Summer move forward and stitch me the fabric of fall

Wrap life in the brilliance of death to humble us all

How sweet is the day

I'm craving a darkness

As I sit tucked away with my back to the wall

And the taste of dried-up hopes in my mouth."

Chapter Text

You didn't want to go to bed before you made sure that John was okay, but it had gotten late and you needed to be awake in the morning. Not that you wouldn't have gotten up anyway, but your flight wasn't going straight to Washington; it was going to be stopping in at least 5 more states on the way. That meant jetlag, exhaustion, and probably a bit of stress from sitting in a small, stuffy plane for god knows how long (well, at least you got the best deal you could for a flight on such short notice, and that was what counted).

When you do wake up however, at about 8:00, the first thing you do is log into Pesterchum on your phone while still laying in bed, just praying that Jade had spoken to him and was online.

She was set to away. Well, duh, it was probably like 3 or 4 in the morning for her..

You try to get her attention anyway.

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 8:07 --

TG: jade
TG: jade
TG: hey
TG: you need to fill me in
TG: youre sleeping and im a dick i know that already
TG: but john came home right
TG: wake up man
TG: you have like 5 computers on you at all times i must be at least somewhat pissing you off by now
TG: harley
TG: haaaaaarley
TG: dont leave me hanging like this i need to leave soon
TG: ish
TG: well not really i dont need to be there for like and hour and a half
TG: ....
TG: jade wake up
TG: godammit harley
TG: ok fine im just going to wallow in concern then
TG: by myself
GG: omg dave
GG: whyyyyy????
GG: why did you need to wake me up ._.
GG: i like, just got to sleep
TG: oh
TG: uh
TG: well sorry then i guess
GG: ughhh no its fine
GG: ok so what do you need me for?
TG: go read what i said
GG: kay.
GG: ohh.
GG: yeah he came home after a while...
TG: whats with the ellipses
TG: those are never good
GG: well, he said he missed a bunch of his buses to get home because the weather went really bad and then had a shower when he eventually made it back
GG: but like
GG: the way he was telling me about it...
GG: just the way he was typing, it was like he was lying
GG: dave i think something seriously wrong happened
TG: ...
TG: wrong like how
GG: remember how i said i got a really bad feeling in my stomach? well i got that again when he finally got a hold of me
GG: but it was like tenfold
GG: i can tell somethings gone wrong
GG: and im not exactly sure what...
GG: but dave you need to get there as soon as you can ok? D:

Goosebumps made themselves apparent on your arms. The room's temperature felt like it dropped several degrees.

Jade was always right about these things.

TG: shit
TG: yeah ok
TG: i know i told you two id be there tomorrow at the latest but i think ill be there later tonight
TG: planes are fucking stupid though so i dont know
TG: im being pretty cryptic up in this bitch
GG: no, not really :)
TG: no stop youre hurting my swag
GG: anyways, you should go and get ready right?
TG: yeah thatd be a pretty smart plan wouldnt it
GG: yes it would! now im going to try to go back to sleep =_=
TG: alright cool ill message you when i get there
GG: bye~

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 8:18 --

Time to get your act together.


You were going to throw your alarm out the window. Figures that you forgot to turn it off the night before. With a sudden burst of annoyance, you reach out and grab it, ripping the plug out of the outlet and throwing it in some random direction. You hear it crash noisily into your open magic chest and you grumble tiredly, rubbing your eyes. Your lashes stuck together; tear crusted and dry.

It seemed like it took far too long to finally fall asleep the night before, and when you finally did, the low rumbling of thunder just over yonder changed that immediately.

So all in all, with the light finally streaming through your window, the alarm clock splayed out in the chest somewhere, and the incessant ringing in your ears, you conclude that today was going to suck in more ways than one.

You didn't get any more than maybe an hour of sleep to yourself, but you had the whole night to be claimed as a prisoner of your thoughts (well, at least semi-consciously).

You don't want to believe anything had happened yesterday, and you don't think you'll be able to come to terms with it. You don't remember if your dad has work tomorrow, but he hasn't had a day off in three weeks so you don't bet on it. It would probably be for the best though.

You draw your knees to your chest and the blankets back up and over your chin. You were tired. So fucking tired and sick to your stomach. You've reached another breaking point, and all you wanted to do was just say fuck it all and throw in the towel because it was damn well tempting.

You sort of just felt like you've been nailed by a kamikaze dump truck.

Hell didn't even describe how you felt with even the slightest bit of accuracy.

You bite down on you lip until you could taste blood and you dig your chewed nails into your palm, screwing your eyes shut and burying your face into the pillow.

I'm fucked up.

Your house would be completely quiet if it weren't for the rain pounding at the window, and you just really want it to stop. You want absolutely no sound. You want the silence to just swallow you; take you to some alternate reality where things were normal, where the sun shined and where you could laugh freely.

Yawning and nestling down further in amongst the blankets, you shiver and shut your eyes against the dim light of the bedroom; the thin curtains were drawn firmly across the window, keeping everything outside hidden from view. Everything has piled up and you didn't want to deal with it. All you wanted to do was bury yourself and never climb out of the hole ever again.

Bury yourself 6 feet under, that is.

It could be comfortable down there for all you knew, so why the fuck would you want to not just do it? It wasn't like there was much to come back to. Your dad liked to say (or write, rather) otherwise, 'Oh son I am so proud of you. You are the best son a father could ask for.' There was no way in hell that he would feel like that at all if he ever found out about what a pathetic excuse of a sophomore you were. And your friends... they just pitied you. You were a burden to them, in different ways respectively.

There was no way that they actually cared. Not at all. This is just for show.

Especially for Dave.

He was probably just making a show of visiting you, and ironic gesture of sorts. It felt like he was concerned what with the brief conversations you've had with him about this problem in particular, but you doubt it. You almost wish you didn't form that stupid little (see: enormous) crush on him, on your best friend. It's not like he'd ever return your feelings anyway, and telling him would just be futile.

So what was there left working for?

Reopening your eyes some time later, you look around groggily, wondering where the heavy thumping noise was coming from. It was disrupting your silence. You could feel it in your temples, all down through your body and it makes every inch of you hurt. Then you realize it was a migraine forming, and not someone knocking at the door. Probably from not bothering with eating or something, as that was how your headaches usually started. Well, that or because you haven't taken any medication. But either way, when you turn your head and look around, everything blurred dangerously and you groan, covering your eyes and pinching the bridge of your nose at the same time, as if doing that would push the pain away.

What to do, what to do, you wonder, rolling onto your back and sighing.

Lie in bed for the remainder of time as your mind is slowly eaten or crawl to the kitchen, try to eat something, and crash on the sofa for the rest of the day to watch cartoons?

You don't like either idea because you'd rather stay in bed for the rest of the day, but you sit up all the same, shutting your eyes as a vertigo ensued and the room twisted and turned in a way it wasn't supposed to.

Rooms were not supposed to turn inside-out; they were to remain stationary for as long as possible. There was no swaying and wiggling and curving. They were made of solid wood, gyprock, insulation, wires, cords, pipes. Things that were logical; things that functioned to a set degree. Things that did not curl into ugly monsters at the whim of a pain-addled and depressed brain.

Unless you were living on the other side of a looking glass, then it was okay and you should probably get used to it. Maybe it could even be fun, looking at things through a kaleidoscope as everything swirled while you did absolutely nothing but sit there, watching and wondering.

But this was Washington State, not an Alice in Wonderland story, and you needed to get up, force some kind of food and drink down your throat before you collapsed.

You shiver when your bare feet touch the cold, hardwood floor; toes curling and a soft curse being hissed. A hiss that was either from the unwanted cold, or the painful spasms of your muscles and stiff joints. You take the blanket with you, and nearly trip on it a handful of times on your way down the stairs.

Meandering down into the kitchen with another yawn playing on your lips, you open up one of the cupboards and grabbed a glass from the same cupboard with a hand that was trembling a little more than it should have been, you turn on the tap and fill the glass, bringing it to your lips for a long sip. You didn't notice how dry your throat and mouth were until you felt the water streaming into your stomach.

You barely register a new note on the fridge. You didn't think to put your glasses on (stupid idea) so you're forced to get real close and squint.

MIGHT HAVE SUNDAY OFF.

I WILL LOOK INTO IT.

LOVE DAD.

Oh.

You just look at it blankly after reading it, before going back to the counter and resting against it, wondering what to do now.

You slide down along the cupboard to sit upon the floor, resting your head back against it. Everything was just sitting on you like a dead weight; all these dreary emotions that you had bottled up over the years. You felt like you were suffocating beneath it all - the guilt, the self-directed anger and loathing, the nausea, the anxiety. Someone had turned on the taps while you were lying on the bottom and now you were back to drowning.

Nothing could ever work out for you. Not even this would.

A sigh passes your lips and you shut your eyes as the beginnings of the migraine finally start to dissipate. At least there was one small blessing hanging around for you, right?

No, not really, but it was the thought that counted.


Bro apparently felt the need to make himself really seem like a caring parent today, and wouldn't let you take a couple buses to the airport yourself. You don't know whether he was just trying to be ironic, or if he really was concerned and to be frank, you didn't really care. Either way, he drove you there after stopping at some fast food joint real quick to grab you some breakfast.

That part just weirded you the fuck out.

You had to thoroughly check the food before eating it in the old orange pickup truck, and it turned out that he didn't do anything to it (even if it was handed to him through a window where it was then promptly handed to you, who knows what kind of crazy ninja shit he could pull to replace certain parts of the stuff).

Before you get out of the truck with your luggage to actually get into the airport and wait for the actual plane, he puts a hand on your shoulder when you open the door. You tense up.

"Under any normal circumstances, I wouldn't let you skip school to go visit your little boyfriend-" "John's not my boyfriend." You snap. He continues, flat as ever, "Don't interrupt me. You know what I mean. And I know you haven't gotten to telling me what the fuck is up, but I've got a pretty vague idea," he says.

"All I'm trying to say is, don't go off doing somethin' that'll land you in the middle of a fucking precinct, alright?"

You take a moment to find the right retort, but only one comes to mind and it's painfully honest.

"I can't guarantee that."

You hop out and slam the door and with your belongings in hand, you make your way across the parking lot and into the airport.


You made it back upstairs, partly because you wanted to wash up but mostly because it was far too cold on the first floor. No matter how much you rubbed your hands up and down your arms, they were still oddly numb. It felt weird, but comforting. There was only a very dull and residual pain now, and the cold made sure of that.

Another reason would be because you really needed to pee.

So you did that, and the clothes from this weeks showering were still lying on the floor and it kind of bothered you. Just because you didn't want to do much of anything didn't mean you could just sit around and do absolutely nothing (as much as you didn't want to admit it).

You start by picking up all the laundry and backtracking downstairs into the laundry room, setting up the washing machine and checking your pockets so you didn't accidentally throw a pen in there and stain everything.

But you find that note you'd forgotten in your jeans.

And all you could do at this point was stare at it in your trembling hands.


What a fucking doozy.

Your flight has finally landed and you're just about ready to punch the mother with the screaming baby 3 rows behind you. Thankfully it's only been like that for about half an hour now, as opposed to the whole God know how many hours.

You're all left sitting in your seats though. Other flights were landing and apparently you were all last on the priority list. Goddamn does this aimless waiting ever just tick you right off. That screaming kid was at it again and all you could do was sit, listen, and try to tune it out. Your phone was half dead and you were wise enough to know that blasting music through your headphones would just drain it. You still needed to call a cab to pick you up.

You bounce in your seat anxiously and they eventually get to herding everyone off. You don't think you've ever been more grateful for natural and non recycled air.

Carry on in hand, you get to customs (again. What was the point of going through this shit twice?) and when that escapade is over and done with, you're finally able to spot out your stuff in the luggage carousel.

Now you were ready.

So ready.

Man you've never been this ready in your life.

Definitely. Oh yes.

...

Oh God you are seriously not ready for this.

Minding the rain and sighing, you exit the building, punching the number in for the local taxi service in your phone after taking it off airplane mode.

"Hey, yeah I need cab at the Sea-Tac entrance asap... Dave Strider... Just look for a blonde dude wearing some rad sunglasses."


You've been sitting here for... for... god you can't even remember. You've lost track of time.

You're back in the bathroom, back against the locked door and new tears streaking down your face. Held limply in your left hand is your father's razor, and your right hand is clenched, palm up, hard enough that the tendons are taut and pronounced.

'why haven't you killed urself yet you dumb fag?'

You let out a breathy chuckle and tilt your head to look at the ceiling, silently position the razor over your exposed wrist.

To answer that question, you really don't know.

You press down with just enough force to break the skin. You didn't feel it.

'dirty homo'

A little harder.

'everyone thot u were gone 4 gud'

A bit more.

'everyone would be way better off without you'

You squeeze your eyes shut, refusing to look. You could feel it; warm and thick and running down your forearm, soaking up in your sweater and dripping onto the ceramic flooring.

'you seriously need to just go away, such an eyesore!'

Again.

'-everyone would be way better off without you.'

And once more.

'loooooooseeeeeer =P'

Your toes curl and you gasp, eyes snapping open and the razor dropping between your legs. You felt it all at once and holy shit you feel really lightheaded and your wrist was stinging and pulsing and just gushing crimson. Your arm is covered in blood and there was a substantial puddle forming on the floor.

You maneuver onto your knees, opening the cupboard door under the sink and blindly feeling around for the first aid kid with your good arm. When you find it and drop it in front of you, you fumble with the child safety lock, trembling violently.

You never once thought that you'd stoop to the level of self harm. Ever.


-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 14:48 --

TG: yo jade
GG: dave!
GG: are you there yet??
TG: no im in the cab
TG: like half way there from the airport
GG: ohh ok.
GG: he hasnt been online all day so i dont know how he is right now...
GG: you told me to talk to him but i couldnt! sorry...
TG: what actually
TG: shit man
TG: better not be dead or something
GG: dave dont even joke about that
GG: just dont
TG: ok im sorry
TG: im just really nervous
TG: like when i get there what the fuck am i supposed to do
TG: just knock on the door and his dad answers
TG: hello there mister egbert im your sons internet friend im gonna be staying for a while
TG: lol nope sorry dude you may be 16 and super cool looking but you are actually an axe murderer have a nice day and dont walk through the lawn on your way out pls
TG: tbh i dont even think he knows im even coming
TG: and what if john answers the door what do i do then
TG: drop all my shit and take him away to a safe place would probably be the first thing thatll cross my mind
TG: im talking a happily ever after disney scenario
GG: well idk!
GG: i dont think his dad will even be there
GG: so i think the best thing to do would be to just assess the situation and act accordingly?
TG: oh god you sound like rose
GG: i do not! XD
GG: but i think you should just do what you think is right!!!
GG: and also make sure hes taking his medication!!!!!!!
TG: i really just dont think he has
TG: at all
GG: yeah i can tell he hasnt D:
GG: which is just super terrible! i mean, i know hes been sleeping and stuff and nothing has happened yet...
GG: but sooner or later hes not going to be so lucky....
TG: ugh just dont make me think about it ok
TG: i cant even begin to think of all the shits id flip
TG: people are dying by my hand though
TG: probably
TG: idk bro just said to not get arrested and hed be cool with it basically
GG: : O
GG: youre actually going to go out of your way to beat the shit out of people??
TG: what are you talking about i wouldnt be going out of my way nosiree
GG: ughhh now i have two teenage boys to worry about!
TG: no way
TG: i can take of myself thanks
TG: pretty sure we already went over this
GG: yeah but still...
GG: i really care about you guys and john getting hurt has already really upset me!
GG: i dont know what id do if something happened to you to!
GG: how would i explain everything to rose?
TG: yeah i know
TG: heads are gonna spin but ill be fine so dont worry about it
TG: oh my fuck were pulling in
GG: oh! ok well just dont panic!
TG: i am so not panicking
TG: why would you even say something like that
TG: alright i gotta pay this asshole
TG: and then
TG: and then idk
GG: just remember to try and keep me updated!

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 15:11 --


You didn't bother washing your arm before wrapping it up and you did a pretty piss poor job of it, but it would have to do for now. You had to clean up your mess before it stained. You don't know how it happened, but you got blood on basically all surfaces of the bathroom.

When the small room reeked of lemon scented anti-bacterial scrub, that's when you decided it was clean enough. You dump the paper towels into the garbage can and put the cleaning supplies back under the sink. You go back to your room and attempt to figure out what time it was but then you remember the incident you had with the clock this morning. You lie down and check your mp3 player (which you kept in your bedside tables drawer, but rarely used) and it was just nearing 3pm.

Time sure does fly by. Maybe you can get a nap in?

You roll over to your back and rub your eyes. Your chest hurt so much, clenching with every single breath you took.

You were just getting to sleep when you heard the doorbell being rung.

You bolted to sit up straight and you run a hand through your messy black mop. Looking outside the window, you could just barely see someone at your front door. You had no clue who it could have been though. Girl scouts? No it was still a bit too early... Religious pamphlet pushers maybe? Seriously, they should just get the point and not come back after you've already refused them so many times before.

You stand and make your way back downstairs, minding your footing. The last thing to need to do is fall. You put on your best refusal face and reach for the door handle, albeit a bit lethargically. With a turn, a pull, and a quiet creak, it opens. You peak out to see that it wasn't who you thought it'd be.

All the blood drains from your face and you think you might be sick.

He's way too early.

He's way too early and you're not ready for this.


Chapter Text


You don't really know what you were expecting. But it wasn't this.

John is standing right in front of you, looking like a deer caught in headlights. He's hiding his arm behind his back and fuck he just looks so miserable and lost and scared. His eyes are rimmed red and his face is pale and gaunt. The huge sweater he was wearing just made him look smaller than he already was.

It took you every restraint you had to not punch a hole through the wall or yell at him for not telling you about this sooner.

You must have looked severely pissed off though, because when you move to enter the house, he flinches. He fucking flinches away from you. His best friend. You would never hurt him. And he should know that.

Oh God something really did happen yesterday.

Regaining some composure, you finally step inside and he moves right out of the way and backs up to the foot of the stairs. The house was dark; really dark and you could barely see with all the curtains drawn and blinds closed. Your shades didn't help.

John looks clearly panicked...

Then you remember you told him you weren't coming until tomorrow.

You slip off your shoes and abandon your luggage by the door, moving towards him slowly and trying to keep eye contact. He must have been doing something private.

"Egbert, you alright?"

John leans up against the wall, opening to the staircase right beside him. If he was planning to bolt upstairs like what you initially thought he was doing, then he must have just prematurely given up.

The smaller boy smells strongly of lemon scented cleaner and a tinge of something else you're trying to identify. His arm is still hidden behind his back. You scan him.

"You're - you're early." His voice was croaky and hoarse and you bite your tongue before you have the chance to snap at the world, "Yeah, sorry about that. You uh, you weren't online today so I couldn't tell you." Assess the situation, assess the situation, Jade's text kept bugging you, Do what you think is right.

Well, what you thought would be right would be someone swallowing their own teeth. You seriously doubt that was what she meant though. You have to take care of John, first and foremost.

But you really just don't know what to do.


Okay. Okay. This was going to be Okay. Capital O and everything was going to be just Okay.

Oh holy shit who are you kidding.

Dave is on the other side of the door, looking thoroughly surprised and maybe a little mad. No, actually he looked really mad. You needed to go and wash yourself up, he can't see what you just did to yourself. Dave moves to enter, and you back right off. Maybe you could get your chance to go upstairs, say you have to pee and just stay calm.

But he's right there and he looks like he wants to talk right now. The blonde steps forward.

"Egbert, you alright?"

Your head starts to pound, and you resist just falling back against the wall and cradling it.

How are you going to stay normal when you're this close to breaking down again? He was looking you over really hard, you could tell through the shades. Just his whole demeanour was screaming I'm analyzing the fuck out of you. In any other situation you'd probably be blushing.

"You're- you're early." you clear your throat.

Dave keeps shifting his weight from one foot to the other,"Yeah, sorry about that. You uh, you weren't online today so I couldn't tell you." you mentally facepalm. You weren't online today. You forgot all about them. This concussion was messing you up more than you thought. How could you forget?

Okay, calm down Egbert. Put together your plan of action, you fucking idiot.

Keeping your arm carefully hidden behind you, you start up the stairs backwards, putting on your best smile and just hope it's convincing, "Ahaha, sorry I seem so surprised! I mean, I just wasn't expecting you 'til tomorrow!" you exclaim, clearing your throat again, "You can uh, leave your stuff wherever, make yourself at home," you turn around, "I gotta pee!" and make a move to high tail it upstairs-

You legs didn't move fast enough. You just trip and fall forwards.

Dave is by your side in a split second, "Fuck, dammit John are you alright?" he asks, gently helping you move into a sitting position on the steps, "Yeah, yeah I'm oka-". You hiss in pain as he moves your arms away from your head, and when he touches your wrist through the sweater, you jerk your arm away. He stops all movement and stares at the still slightly damp sleeve, and only two words make sense to you right now..

He knows.


That's what you've been smelling underneath that lemon waft. You've been smelling blood. John's blood. It was soaked on his sweater, that's what he was trying to hide.

"John... please tell me that's not from what I think it is."

"Uh, Dave I don't know wh-what you're talking about!"

"All that fucking blood that's starting to crust on your sweater, that's what I'm talking about."

"That's not blood, that's uhhh, mud. Yeah, mud." He scoots up a step.

"For fucks sakes, I'm already here, and I'm here to make sure you're okay. Stop lying."

"I-I'm not, I swear!"

You don't know if it hurts more knowing that he thinks he can't trust you, or the fact that the boy you love is sitting right in front of you after hurting himself and blatantly lying about it.

It's pretty much the same thing though.

In a single swift movement, you're carrying the dark haired boy up the stairs with one arm under the backs of his thighs, and the other supporting his upper back, pretty much just cradling him against your front. He tries to wiggle out of your grasp, "Hey! Hey- ouch, dammit Dave what are you doing?"

You take him to the bathroom and switch on the light with your elbow, with the full intention of really checking him over.

That lemon scent was overwhelming in here.

You sit John down on the toilet seat lid and speak softly, touching the sleeve a bit, "We need to fix this, is that alright?" this is what you could do to start out to help.

If he lets you, that is.

"Just wait! Uhh, Dave, l-let's do this later," John stands up and hides his arm again, "You're probably tired from your trip, right? Why don't I go and get you some food, o-or you can go and have a nap. You can use my be-" you cut him off right there.

"Egbert, you're babbling worse than Harley was, and my problems are much less important right now," You push him back down with your hands on his shoulders, but mentally kick yourself as a flash of pain crosses his features, "Now you have to tell me. Why did you do that to yourself?"

He hangs his head.

"John."

And then he sniffles a little bit.

You get down on one knee in front of him and just barely notice a pile of bloody paper towels in the garbage bin. Your teeth grind, but you keep a straight face.

"Can you please tell me why?" you ask again.

John starts to shake and then he just bursts, "I-I didn't know what I was doing just everything that's happened just started to pile up and I was having these nightmares because I'm so exhausted and my head's always hurting and there was this note I got the other day that I refound and Terr-" he stops himself there and starts to rub his eyes, trying to steady his breathing and visibly pale again. You deflate. He was going to say a name.

First thing's first though, you need to clean him up. God forbid he do it himself.

"Alright, we can talk later, tomorrow even, but just let me check out the damage and we'll just start there."

"Which part of the damage..."

"What do you mean which part? The part on your goddamn arm, John." But then you realize, oh. There's probably a lot more fucking damage.

He just slowly pulls up the sleeve, and looking at the semi new wound just makes you sick.

You keep calm though, as best as you could. Someone needs to stay level headed, but some little voice in the back of your head was screaming that it wouldn't be you.


You let Dave clean and disinfect those cuts, and it really hurt, more than the actual infliction itself. And you were just so embarrassed that he found out so easily, so quickly. There really wasn't much you could do though, seeing as it was your fault in the first place. If you didn't cave in and do that to yourself, you wouldn't be in this situation, and you could've made Dave something to eat, let him go and take a nap while you fixed yourself up. Like practicing your smile, and applying ice to some bruises to make them go away faster.

But you let yourself just go at it. Fucking idiot.

Time passed at a crawling pace, and it was mostly silent save for the harsh beating of your heart in your ears and the occasional huff of discomfort. The cloth he was using was just soaked in peroxide and holy shit, it stung like a bitch.

Soon enough though, Dave was done with the peroxide, and your entire forearm was wrapped tightly in a new gauze (the original one was thrown out into the garbage bin, and you saw a flicker of sadness in Dave's face when he tossed it in. But it was gone just as fast as it appeared).

"Now you should probably get out of those clothes, that sweater at least. We're gonna have to soak it in cold water too so it doesn't stain or anything." Dave's voice just barely cracks and you're surprised you even noticed it.

That's not how this was supposed to happen, Dave was going to come and go... right? Because this was ironic, right? Yes, that's the reason. He's making it sound like he gives a shit, but he doesn't. You know he doesn't. None of this matters right now. Not at all. You're sure of it.

"I'll go and change then... just gimme a minute." you say quietly Dave steps aside to allow you into your room.

You close the door behind you and rummage through your drawers and closet for your other big hoodie, and nearly have a panic attack before you find it under your bed. Why it was there, you didn't know, but at least you had it now. You change your whole outfit; abandoning jeans for pajama bottoms and your t-shirt (that you had on under the bloodied sweater) for a tank, throwing the hoodie on top. You go back out to meet Dave in the hallway, but he was coming upstairs with his bags.

"Hope you don't mind if I put my stuff in your room. I can bring it back down though if you wan-"

"No way! By all means, just make yourself at home! It's not like there's anywhere else for it, I wouldn't let you sleep on the couch or anything. You're my friend, haha. Put it wherever you want to." you had to make it seem like you were totally okay, but to be honest, it was difficult. The sooner he was gone though, the sooner it would be better and you'd be able to take care of yourself...

Take care of your physical and mental health, or your death.

Wait, what? Where did that come from? You didn't want to die! You still have your whole life to live out!

Fuck... the voices in your head were just getting harder and harder to ignore...

Dave just quirks a brow and steps inside, eyeing the walls.

"Have a lot of posters going on in here. Does your room double as a worshipping site too or is this normal?"

"Pfft, what? I've had these for years! Have I not told you about my posters yet or something?"

"No, I just didn't think they covered up every surface, is all." Dave sniggers.

"There is plenty of white space still left on the walls, you're making it seem like I'm a crazy movie nerd."

"But you are a crazy movie nerd."

"... yeah. Yeah, I am."

"Well, at least you're admitting it. That's the first step in the rehabilitation process."

"Oh my God, Dave."

He sniggers again, and set his bag down and starts to look through it for something.

Bickering. Irony. This means nothing. Nothing at all. Just keep at it John. You are totally okay. He doesn't care.

You feel a little dizzy again, so you meander over to your bed and sit down slowly enough so you don't jostle yourself too much.

Dave calls over from the other side of the room, hands still occupied in his bag, "Hey, John. Where do you keep your DVD's in here?"

"Oh uh... in the cupboard in my desk. Why?"

He walks over and dumps a portable DVD player on you with its charging cord before crouching in front of the desk to open said cupboard and browse the contents, "Thought we could curl up and watch a couple. Shitty weather man, not much else to do, really."

"I have a TV right there. Do you not see it? We don't need to use this Dave." you gesture to the medium-sized TV you have in the corner, equipped with a DVD and VHS player underneath.

"Yeah, and? The sound on this is fucking phenomenal, and so is the definition. Plus it's easier to get comfortable. Your argument is invalid."

"Agh fine." you give in, but then pause to think, "Wait, so, are we just going to cozy up on my bed and watch movies?"

"That was what I had in mind, yeah." the blonde brings over a pile of movies, and you spot Con Air somewhere in there among the assorted titles. Dave wouldn't ever watch Con Air if he didn't have to...

It was still probably your favourite movie though. So this was okay in your book.

He shrugs off his coat and tosses it over so it sat on his bag, and found the nearest outlet to plug the player into.

"Alright, which one first?"

"Um, Iron Man?"

"Then Iron Man it is."


About 5 movies later (even Con Air!), you're thoroughly tired, and a quick glance to the top corner of the screen tells you it was passed 10 pm. Wow. You're usually in bed way earlier than this, and your concussion wasn't helping.

And you don't know how it happened, but you were pretty much laying on top of Dave's chest while he'd situated the portable DVD player on his lap.

And it hurt.

It hurt knowing that he would never love you the way you love him.

You quickly banish the thought to save yourself from any more heartache. There's been too much of that lately.

You're both about halfway though Monty Python and the Holy Grail when you speak, "Hey, Dave, I'm getting really tired," and almost as if to prove your point, you yawn. He looks over at you, "Yeah? Me too actually. Here," he hands you the contraption, excessively warm from being used for so long, "Keep watching that to keep yourself awake. I'll go make something real quick so we don't go to bed hungry."

"'Kay."

And with that, he leaves, presumably to go make food. Hopefully it wouldn't be something too heavy, so you could keep it down.

Ever since last night, you've just been overly nauseous. And you know exactly why.

God you hate yourself for letting that happen.

You set the player down beside you, still playing, and turn on your side.

You were too tired to deal with this right now.

Way too tired.

Maybe tonight you wouldn't dream of it.

Maybe tonight you wouldn't dream of anything at all.

Yeah... that would be really nice.


You had the full intention on making John finally take his medication tonight, before he went to sleep. Jade's text just wouldn't stop haunting you for fucks sake.

GG: which is just super terrible! i mean, i know hes been sleeping and stuff and nothing has happened yet...

GG: but sooner or later hes not going to be so lucky...

It could happen at any moment; the moment where John falls asleep.

And never wakes up.

It's something you don't want to think about.

So you're going to prevent it, right here and right now.

When you get downstairs, your first stop is the door. You lock it, but your destination was the hanging rack beside it, with John's backpack.

You take it down and rummage through the pockets so you could find a little orange bottle (assuming that it would be orange, that is).

You check every pocket twice, and every breath you took got shorter the longer you searched, because if you couldn't find it here then you were screwed. And it wasn't in the bathroom; you had checked when John was changing. You take off your shades and rest them on the top of your head for a better view in the dark home.

When you eventually do find it, you let out a breath you didn't know you were holding. You zip up all the pockets, hanging it back on the wall before heading into the kitchen to make a simple jam sandwich or something.

You set the bottle down on the counter quietly, opening it to find that they were in capsules, which just made this a lot easier. You read the bottle. It says to take two at a time.

Getting out the bread and jam, you throw together a simple sandwich in record time, and cut it in half.

You weren't about to overwhelm John with food, seeing as he wasn't eating a lot as it is. You were going to share this with him.

But there was going to be a bit of a difference between these halves.

You separate the bread on his half, taking and opening two of the capsules and emptying the contents onto the jam like a light powder.

Hopefully he didn't taste it.

Hopefully it worked.

Fixing it all back up again, putting the food away, and shoving the pills into your pants pocket, you head back upstairs to present John with the food.

You could still hear the movie going, so he was probably still watc-

Why is he laying on his side.

And not watching the movie.

Shit, shit, shit, shit.

You ran over, setting down the food hastily and nudge the boy.

"Egbert, hey, wake up man. I made us a sandwich and it's probably fuckin' delicious."

No response.

You move the DVD player onto the floor, ignoring it completely as you shake him.

"John. Wake up."

No response.

"Fuck."

You clamber onto the bed and pull his head onto your lap, papping and prodding his face in an attempt to make him swat you away or piss him off to the point that he wakes up again.

No response.

You were slowly getting more desperate, this wasn't supposed to happen.

"Shit, shit, shit, what do I do goddammit," you slap his cheek some more, "Egbert tell what I'm supposed to do, please, just... just wake up and tell me about how lame my rapping is," shake shake, "and how stupid my hobbies are," nudge nudge, "or how ridiculous my shades are," tremble tremble.

"Just please wake up."

His head lolls to the side, and you lose it. The movie was still playing in the background.

You want to just drop everything and call an ambulance... but you do the next best thing to calm yourself down. He'd be okay, you just needed to calm down.

So you sing to him, that stupid song he liked so much.

"How do I... get through the day without you, if I had to love without you, what kind of life would I have?" you were getting words wrong, but you didn't care, as long as you had the tune. Your voice was cracking, "Oh and I... I need you in my arms, need you right here, you're my world my heart, my sun, if you ever leave, c'mon that would take away everything good in my life..."

He shifts a bit, but you keep going.

"And tell me now, how do I live without you? I need to know, how to I breath without you? If you never know, how will I ever, ever survive-"

"...You're getting the words wrong, idiot."

You ease up immediately, "You fucking suck. I was serenading you, could you not tell?"

"I was trying to sleep." he opens his eyes, and looks at you blearily.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. You scared me for a minute, prick," you reach down to pick up the plate, inwardly relieved. You hand him the half with the medication snuck in, "Bon appetit, or... whatever those gay French waiters say."

He sits up and eats it.

John was eating the sandwich.

And wow that sounds so dumb.

But you were just so much more relaxed now. He'd be able to go to sleep, and his headaches would stop. You did the right thing by coming when you did, because he might not have made it through the night. A heavy weight was lifted from your chest, and you eat your half as well before John starts to look at you funny. You'd be sure to tell Jade later, when he was sleeping.


You don't see why Dave needed to wake you up again, but he sounded kind of freaked out when he was singing to you.

It was kind of sweet, but you didn't know why.

You both finished your respective halves with the movies still playing on the floor, and you stretch and collapse onto the pillow while Dave shuts down the DVD player and puts it away. And ow, you shouldn't have just fallen onto that pillow, because you hit it a bit too hard and it made the bruises hurt...

No, fuck, that didn't happen. You turn to face the wall and bury your face in said pillow.

Kevin didn't take you away in his car, he never drugged you, and Terrence didn't-

"John, you alright over there?"

"F-fine."

"If you say so... I'm changing in the bathroom." he says, keeping the door to your room open.

You use that time to compose yourself again, getting under the blankets and setting your glasses aside.

When Dave comes back in, he asks you something you didn't even think about.

"So where am I sleeping?"

Damn it.

You were too sore and tired and emotionally drained to get back out of bed to go and get blankets, so you suggest the first thing that comes to mind.

"Just get in beside me."

...And then you stop to think about what you just did.

Dave doesn't really seem to give it much thought as he gets under the covers right beside you, though he seemed a bit cautious. He moved slowly, almost as if he didn't want to disturb the peace of something stupid like that.

"Alright then. Night man." he says quietly, setting his shades on the bedside table where yours were.

You fight the blush that spreads across your face.

The boy you love was laying beside you in bed.

And you were littered in bruises and wounds so you couldn't really accidentally cuddle up in the middle of the night without hurting yourself.

Fuck.

"Yeah... goodnight, I guess."


You listen for the change in John's breathing, the signal that he was actually asleep, and within about 10 minutes, he was out. It was probably safe for you to get out your phone now.

You had put it beside your glasses on the table, so you grab it and set it to silent mode.

- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 23:08 -

TG: jade

TG: i did it

GG: dave!

GG: omg you did what?

TG: i got him to take that medication

GG: what how? : D

TG: well i snuck the powder from the capsule in his sandwich

TG: so like he didnt actually consciously take it

TG: but its in him and it should be working on helping out that brain damage hes got going on

GG: ahhhh dave, thats GREAT news!

GG: but other than that, how is he? o_o

TG: uh

TG: well he wasnt looking too good when i got here earlier

TG: kids pale and has the biggest bags under his eyes

TG: trying too hard to look okay but you can just

TG: see the goddamn misery in his eyes

TG: it hurts me just looking at him

TG: and hes a tiny fucker

GG: short tiny or skinny tiny?

TG: only a bit shorter than me believe it or not

TG: but he doesnt eat pretty much ever

GG: oh no!

TG: fuck harley thats not even the worst of it

TG: when you said something happened last night

TG: i think you were totally right

GG: !

GG: why what else what wrong with him? D:

TG: jade

TG: he sliced his wrist open

TG: it was like his whole forearm was tokyo and godzilla went ballistic

GG: oh my god! DDDD:

TG: and he tried to hide it from me even though there was blood fucking everywhere

TG: almost like as soon as i got there he had finished

TG: i nearly lost it

TG: and i still havent looked over the rest of his body

TG: im actually scared about what i might find harley

GG: oh nooo okay dave just dont be scared!

GG: you did really well today and im so proud of you for taking care of john

GG: (especially the meds part!)

GG: but for right now, youre just gonna have to stick with it

GG: because whether he wants it or not

GG: this boy needs your help! D:

GG: ...

GG: dave?

GG: you there?

TG: yeah sorry he was just kind of squirming for a minute there

GG: dave are you both...

GG: sleeping in the same bed?

TG: yeah why?

GG: ... aghhhh all this tension!

GG: dave when this is all over you should just ask him out

TG: get out

TG: no seriously just get out

GG: noooo im not kidding!

GG: just go for it!

GG: just make sure hes ready for it!

TG: harley this is the thing that isnt going to happen

TG: ever

TG: because john doesnt like me

TG: we are bros and thats that

GG: you are so blind, dave

GG: but i kind of agree!

GG: just make sure everything is over first

GG: and it might take a while

GG: but itll be totally worth it

- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 23:36 -

TG: wait what are you talking about

TG: fuck seriously jade

TG: hrnnnrnngn

TG: fine whatever im tired anyway

- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum! -

Chapter Text

You've been waking up a lot throughout the night, partly because of some nagging feeling of being afraid to really fall into a deep sleep, and partly because your wrist was really itchy! But of course those weren't the only reasons.

While trying to force your fingers through the tight bandages to scratch the scabbing wounds, you edge closer to the wall, and away from the sleeping form beside you. You were really cold, and Dave was really warm. Trying to get closer to that heat source probably should've been the most logical thing to do, but it made you nervous, scared even. What if he woke up with your cold feet between his legs and freaked out or something? That would be so embarrassing. Not only that, but you haven't really been this physically close to a person in a really long time.

So you were having some issues with it.

Unable to find out what time it is, you opt to stay stationary on your designated side of the bed. Every time Dave moved, even a little, your breath would catch. And even though you just thought it was completely stupid, you couldn't calm yourself down.

You turn onto your back after your hip starts aching. A soft orange glow from the solitary street lamp outside gave your room a faint light, so unable to sleep, you try to make out images in the popcorn-textured ceiling.

You idly wonder why ceilings always had those bumps in them, and weren't flat like the walls. Maybe it had something to do with decoration? You didn't think it was anything special, they were just a bunch of uneven speckles. They were sometimes nice to look at though. But maybe it was to make rooms less generic and plain. Your room was pretty plain, and you can admit that. That's what the posters were for, to make things a little more exciting (but you've been considering taking them down for a while, you're mostly over a lot of these movies. They don't seem to carry sentimental value like they used to), but now that you really think about it, maybe those bumps on the ceiling were there so people wouldn't go insane in a small, white box. Yeah, that's what they were for. For a little sizzle or... something.

This is stupid.

Dave shifts again, and instead of his back facing you, he turned over, and his limp fingers just barely graze your hypersensitive arm. You frown and move away a bit more.

More light peeks through the curtains over your window, and you realize that it was morning. Meaning you had a reason to get out of bed now without it seeming too odd.

Maneuvering carefully around Dave, you exit to the hallway and into the bathroom. You didn't bring your glasses, but that was okay. Things didn't really seem to be as blurry as usual.

You finish rather quickly, but not before inspecting the trash bin for anything your dad could deem suspicious; bloody rags, bandages... things like that. But it seems Dave took care of that for you already... Jade probably told him that you don't want your dad to know. Pretty considerate, I guess...

There wasn't much else to do, so maybe you could just hang out in your room, on the computer or something. There's nothing to really occupy yourself with on the internet anymore; no social networking sites to check up on. You used to have something like that, but stopped after people began using applications to verbally attack you. Anonymously, of course. But when they were anonymous, you tended to not think of them as real people in the moment, since there was no name along with those damaging words. The only downside was that you didn't know who it could have ever been.

You should delete the whole account soon. It's probably overflowing with messages by now.

Standing idly in the upstairs hallway, fiddling around with the bandage under your sleeve, you fail to notice a door opening, a door that needed a little oiling.

"John, why are you up so early on a Sunday?"

You jump a little, and turn to face your dad. You can't tell if he's gotten taller, or if you've gotten shorter since the last time you talked to him face to face.

"Um." No John come on. Think. You're more intelligent than this, "I-I was just uh- I had to pee?"

Okay. No you weren't.

"You should probably go back to bed, son," he says, yawning, "You look exhausted."

You nod, just barely. Oh, if only he knew. If only he knew what you've been going through.

You hear the creaking of floorboards coming from your room. Shit, what if Dave woke up?

Dad sends you an almost guilty look; he hasn't made much of a move yet. And neither have you.

And you're not exactly quite sure how to handle this? With slightly dull vision, you notice the grey in his hair, and how it was much more prominent than how you remember, along with the stress creases in his face. There was just a certain weariness in the way he looked overall. You remember that he works really hard, and that he cared a lot about his job.

And you also remember that he most likely cares more about his job than you.

The carpeting near your feet is just suddenly a lot more interesting to look at.

Holding both arms across yourself in a sort of half attempt to hug yourself (to keep in some body heat), you abruptly stop regarding most of what was happening around you. The dumb portraits melt away into the background, as do the walls and the ceiling and the floor. Your dad too. Nothing is there, you're just on your lonesome. Kind of like how it's always been.

You're trying to get a hold on yourself but it won't work. Everything feels too far away, and you're too far gone in a self destructive train of thought to be even faintly cognizant of a pair of warm, strong arms making their way around you.

You're tucked away in the crook of your fathers shoulder as the first sob scratches its way out of your mouth.


Your name is Dave Strider and holy hell is it ever early.

Like, you've never actually woken up like such an early bird without the helpful reminder of an alarm clock. Even then, the only real reason you get up in the morning is because you don't really feel like flunking sophomore year. Bro wouldn't let you hear the end of it (aka death-matches on the roof everyday. No exceptions. All. Summer. Long).

But your main focus here is where the fuck did egbert go.

You sit up in the unfamiliar bed, feeling the other side to find that it was still a little warm.

The toilet flushed in the bathroom and you hear the tap running for a few minutes. Soft footsteps ease their way back into the hallway, and you can tell it's John.

Ok. All he did was go to the bathroom. Chill, Strider.

Playing around with your phone to make it look like you weren't just sitting there, you still kind of just listen in. His dad came out, and they started to talk. From what you've gathered so far, they don't exactly talk or do much of anything together thanks to his demanding work schedule.

You stand up, slowly easing yourself closer to the door to hear what they were talking about in the most non creeperish way possible... Shut up, you were curious. The floor creaks a little and you inwardly wince.

Standing only a few feet from the door, you hear Dadbert tell John to go back to bed, and it's pretty silent after that. No one's moved and it was making you a little wary. You brows press together. Were they whispering or something? But then you hear choked, muffled sob.

John was crying.

God damn it.

You feel pretty fucking inconsiderate right now, but you take a seat at the younger boys desk, waiting it out. You don't like listening to the sound of another person's hurt, but you wanted to know what note this was going to end on.

It quiets down after a few minutes, and you only hear quiet sniffles if you listen closely enough. His dad mumbles, what you assume to be, comforting words.

"I-I'm sorry about that."

"Why are you apologizing?

"I-I.."

"Son," he starts, "I am, and always will be, so proud of you, and everything you do."

"..."

"Now, go and get some rest."

It takes a moment, but John sulks back into the room, walking right past you and towards the bed. He sits down, crosses his legs, and faces the window. You look at him expectantly.

Neither of you say anything.

It was an uncomfortable, and somewhat awkward silence, and you just wait for him to say something.

Twenty minutes later, and still neither of you have moved.

You seriously think you should do something at this point, because it didn't seem like John was even registering your presence.

You clear your throat a few times to see if you can get his attention.

His eyes stayed locked on the window.

That obviously wasn't working.

Okay.

You were out of ideas. Of course it'd be easiest to just be all, Hey, Egbert, I'm still over here you know, but quietness was so thick, and you were too, well, intimidated by it to do anything.

In the end, you just press your lips together and turn back around.

You try to focus on any noise that John was making behind you, but he was literally just not uttering a single thing. Honestly, there was more going on downstairs than there was in here.

Speaking of downstairs, you hear the door open and close, and the sound of it being locked.

You perk up when you finally see that John moved.

Pointedly trying to not look at you, he gets onto his knees, scooting toward the window above his bed. He rests his hands on the sill.

The door to the car opens and closes.

The engine is started.

The car rolls out of the driveway.

It's silent again for a good sixty seconds.

"Dave," he says, still staring out the window, and it startles you out of your reverie.

Then he turns around to look at you, and your heart nearly breaks at his expression. He's been crying the entire time, and now you're rooted to the spot.

"I try so hard... to be a good person," he hiccups, "so why is it that bad stuff happens to me anyways...?"

That's when the sobbing starts.

You're by his side in under a second.


John: Sob like a little girl who just dropped an ice cream cone loaded with three scoops of her all-time favorite flavor.

Yeah shut up, you're doing just that. Don't have to rub it in.

The outbursts rattled in your chest, making every inch of you hurt, like how you felt when you got home on Friday.

A lump lodged itself smack in the middle of your throat, and it just got worse when Dave tried to get you to calm down. You find yourself the focus of another warm pair of arms. But only this time, they're attached to the boy you love.

Suddenly, it's really hard to breathe.

"Shh, John it's okay. You're fine, we're both fine."

No, no it's not fine, or- or okay. Why is he even hugging you, he doesn't give a shit! Even your dad earlier... He said that he'd get the day off today. That never happened. He left anyway. He wouldn't have left if he really cared. This is all just a show... some big, elaborate, sick joke. A complex, sadistic prank on your emotions that will most certainly cause their prankster's gambit to skyrocket.

Regardless of all this, your head ends up settled on Dave's shoulder, and you're hugging yourself. It's almost like you want to get close, but you're trying to keep a safe distance at the same time.

You're actually surprised when he starts to hum, as if he actually cares- which you are almost completely sure he doesn't. At first you don't recognize the song... wow, Dave can hum really softly. It sounds familiar, and you can almost remember- Oh.

"How Do I Live isn't the only song I listen to, you know," you manage to choke out between sobs.

He just hums a bit louder in response, and you feel the corners of your mouth upturn a little bit. You bury your face in his shirt so he doesn't see, and just let the gentle vibration calm you down.

This was stupid, but you've stopped caring. Really, you've stopped caring about a lot of things. And right now, you're okay with that.


When all was said and done, Dave managed to get you downstairs and coax you into eating something for breakfast. He insisted that you "Just chill out and ogle some kiddie toons. I mean, seriously, there's nothing ever worth watching on a Sunday, but I'm sure you'll be captivated by Harry and his Bucket Full of Dinosaurs."

You just scoffed and changed it over to the news.

There wasn't a lot happening. Apparently there was a robbery in Bellingham, and some sort of Christian movement in Spokane. You just kind of space out until the weather report.

Turns out it's going to be relatively dry for the next few days, tomorrow onward. A small blessing. Hallelujah.

Dave plops down beside you after he was done taking away your empty bowl (you forgot there were Cocoa Puffs. It was delicious, even though now you felt a little sick).

"So the torrential downpours are on their way so cease and desist."

"Yeah, looks like."

Dave leans on the arm of the couch, and looks at you.

You gnaw on the inside of your cheek and keep your eyes fixed to the television. You feel the headaches start again.

"How you doin' over there?" he asks.

"Fine." you grate out. You bite your cheek a little harder, because you sure didn't sound fine.

"I dunno man, looking kinda pale."

"I'm a pale person."

"..."

"What?"

"What."

"You keep looking at me."

"Can't keep my eyes off your ridiculously large sweater. How are you not drowning in that."

"I like big clothes, bite me."

"I'll have you know that I will actually bite you if you say that again."

"Bite me." Pfft. He won't actually - Ow! Shoving him off you, you rub your upper arm where he bit you through the fabric. It wasn't hard, or meant to hurt, but there was a scabbed up gash there, "Christ, I never thought you'd be that sensitive," the blonde says, trying to sound indifferent. Though he seems to have stiffened up a bit.

"No I just didn't think you'd actually do it," fantastic excuse but wow that really hurt.

"Uh huh. Oh yeah, there's a uh, note on the fridge for you, if you wanna go check that shit out."

Dad left you a message.

Yay.

(That was sarcasm, by the way.)

You make your way to the kitchen, and adjust your glasses to read it.

"I APOLOGIZE FOR BEING UNABLE

TO GET THE DAY OFF. WORK LOAD HAD

INCREASED 10 FOLD. AND WHO IS STAYING OVER?

THERE WAS AN EXTRA PAIR OF SHOES AT

THE DOOR. I RECKON YOU'RE HAVING FUN?

- LOVE DAD."

You blink at it a few times, and write one back.

"it's fine. i know you're busy. and dave

is going to be here for a while, he's visiting

from texas. i'm pretty sure i told you

about him before, he's one of my penpals.

hope you don't mind."

It's fine.

No, you're a liar.

You don't even remember when you started lying.

In the middle of trying to pinpoint a day, or a month, you don't notice Dave behind you.

But when you do, you nearly jump out of your skin and launch to the other side of the room.

Defense mechanism. You get snuck up on a lot, right before getting roughed up.

"Whoa, calm your shit. I was just going to ask if there was any AJ," he affirms, "But I can go back and sit my ass back on the couch if my beautiful face scares you that much."

You regain your bearings, "I.. oh. Uh. I don't know if there is any. Haven't gone through the fridge in a while."

"Guess this means I gotta be self-sufficient, a'ight." As he opens the fridge and peers in, you shuffle back into the living room, and lean on the back of the couch.

You don't know how much more of this act you can keep up.


The rest of the day was mostly spent lounging around, watching movies in John's room. Of course if this visit was caused by any normal circumstances, you would've probably been bugging John or throwing down some sick rhymes the whole time, just to piss him off. But you know how unstable he is, and it was really weird for you to force yourself to be so... well, subdued for such a long amount of time. It was putting a damper on your patience, a virtue you never really thought of honing. You liked to pretend you were a patient guy, though. Aloof, cool, so chill. Yeah.

So after dumb Sunday cartoons, a couple movies (on John's tv because he told you the portable player you brought was straining his eyes, even though he didn't seem like he was interested in them anyway), and you going down to make food every once in a while, you noticed his electronic keyboard in the corner of his room, forgotten.

"Didn't you say once you play the piano?" you questioned, turning to John as he was deliberating over what to watch next, "Why's it all covered in a hefty layer of dust, then?"

"I fiddled around with it earlier this week... I play, but I've just been dealing with all... this, right?" he says, gesturing a bit.

"Can you play it right now?"

"I- what, why?"

"All we've done today is immerse ourselves in the fictional lives of hollywood actors and cartoon characters. Thought we could change up the pace a bit, you know what I'm saying?"

"But Dave, it's piano. And I haven't played in forever. I'll mess up and look like an idiot," he mumbles, looking between you and the instrument, "You'll never let me live it down."

Is that seriously the vibe you usually give off?

Shit.

Maybe you should tone it down... but on second thought...

Nah. Gotta contain some normalcy.

"Heh, no way. I'd never make fun of you, Jonathan." you jest in a mild mocking tone. He comes right back at you, unphased, "Gee, thanks a lot, David."

But then just goes back to his mess of movies cases on the floor.

"C'mon man, just one song?"

"..."

"Please."

"..."

"I'm being polite, check it."

"..."

"Pleaaaaaase."

"..."

"Pleaaase please please please please please plea-"

"Oh my God Dave will you shut up?"

"Only if you play something."

"..."

"Dude."

"... Ugh, fine."

"But it has to be a whole song. Three minutes minimum."

"What? Dave!"

"I'll start again."

"Okay okay, just stop."

"Strider, one. Egbert, zero."

"Really? Ugg."

You just kind of smirk, and he makes his way over to the stool and sits down after dusting it off a bit. He turns it on, and raises the volume slightly. You follow, but bring over his desk chair and sit on it backwards, resting your elbows on the back.

John readies himself, and plays a scale or two. You can't help but notice how long and thin his hands are. You can understand this though, because he's played piano for a lot of his life, but they were too thin. John was just too thin.

"Got anything in mind to play?" you inquire.

"Um. I don't know. I was thinking Clair de Lune maybe?"

"Debussy?"

"Yeah."

"Go for it."

This was a song you kind of knew. Well, you think John linked it to you on Youtube like 6 months ago. You'd listen to it when you were feeling especially dumb and sappy and hormonal. Because you were secretly a dweeb like that. Whatever, no one knew about it but you.

But if that's what he was playing now, then the notes weren't coming out right, and it was off key. He keeps on restarting, but it continues to morph into a different song. Something kind of distressed and somber. He gnaws his bottom lip raw, obviously frustrated. He was subconsciously trying to play out his emotions. You go along with it.

"Thought you were gonna play some Debussy."

"I'm sorry. I can't, it just... keeps on coming out as another song."

"Don't apologize dude. Just play the other one then."

"I can't."

"You just were though."

"No, I mean, the whole thing. Because you said you wanted an entire song."

"And why's that."

"Because... because I need to sing for that one so I don't get lost. I don't have the sheet music for it."

"So? I don't care if you've gotta do a little opera show to keep it consistent."

"I hate my voice though, and it'll be weird."

"Egbert. Stop. It's just me. No one's judging you."

"... Alright, alright."

You feel triumphant at this point.

But when he starts playing, you sink back down and listen.

This song had a very morose tone, but you don't know if it was because he was playing it that way, or if the original was really like that. It was slow and troubled, and soon enough, his voice picked up along with it, mid verse.

"- craving a darkness, as I sit tucked away with my back to the wall... And the taste of dried up hopes in my mouth, and the landscape of merry and desperate drought. How much longer, dear angels? Let winter-light come, and spread your white sheets over my empty house..."

The room seems a bit chillier. He's closed his eyes too, no longer looking at the keys. John's voice is silent for another while, but he does sing quietly again.

"Summer move forward and leave your heat anchored in dust... forgotten him, cheated him, painted illusions of lust. Now language escape, fugitive of forgiveness, leaving as trace only circles of rust..." He clears his throat a bit, and goes over the chorus again. You can't bring yourself to even move.

"And the taste of dried up hopes in my mouth, and the landscape of merry and desperate drought. How much longer, dear angels? Come break me with ice, let the water of calm trickle over my doubts."

Then he got a little louder.

"Come let me drown. Angels, no fire, no salt on the plow. Carry me down... bury me down..."

Much to your dismay, he quieted right back down. Almost like he didn't mean to get so emphatic.

"And the taste of dried up hopes in my mouth, and the landscape of merry and desperate drought. Once I knew myself, and with knowing came love. I would know love again if I had faith enough. Too far is next spring, and her jubilant shout... so angels inside... is the only w-way out."


You didn't mean to get so carried away. You only expected to sing quietly- Dave wanted to hear the piano, not your unpleasant, pitchy singing voice. Really, you don't know where that sudden burst of energy came from. It vanished as quickly as it came however, so you quieted yourself again.

It didn't stop Dave from questioning you, though.

"...What was that?"

"What was what?"

"That."

"Drought."

"What?"

"Drought," you reiterate, "That's what that song was called. It's um. It's about writer's block."

"Doesn't sound like writer's block."

"Well, it is... I know it sounds like, other shit, but I swear it's originally about writer's block..."

"Okay then." Dave's expression is unreadable as ever.

"Um." you look down at your hands, and turn off your keyboard before hiding them back in the sleeves of your sweater, rubbing them together, "So that's that! Moral of the story is my singing voice sucks, and none of my playing goes according to plan," you stand up abruptly, feeling cold and sick and sore and just generally terrible. You just played for Dave and you have no idea why. And you played... well. That song. Because you could play nothing else.

"Well I'm not painfully hemorrhaging from the eardrums, so I don't really see where you're getting that idea from.

You attempt to wrap the blanket on your bed around your shoulders, and you find yourself curling up, head resting on a pillow. You were really cold. Cold enough that your teeth chattered. And so, so tired.

"Bed already? It's like 8."

"Does it really look- like I care."

"You should," he states, coming over to sit on the edge. You feel the mattress dip in his direction, "Still need to hash over what we're going to do when the sun rises and the flowers bloom and the birds start having asexual sex."

You wait for him to continue. Because you have no clue what this dumbass was talking about.

Dave finally gets the message.

"Tomorrow's a Monday. Also known as the worst day of the week, AKA a school day. What should the plan be." he says, pausing for a couple seconds before correcting himself, "Actually, scratch that, here's what we'll do."

Okay great. You'll just let Dave come up with the plan. Yeah. Let him do his thing. You yawn.


"I'm going to head to school with you, but you won't be going to class or anything. The only thing in the itinerary is gonna be get there, get homework, and skedaddle back here."

John makes a disgruntled noise, and finally replies, "How long should I stay home then?"

"However long you need to? I don't know. Guess until you get a bit better."

"But like... what if my dad finds out and gets mad or something?"

Right.

Dad.

You forgot about him.

Damn.

"We'll figure it out later. Just gonna stick with this for right now if that's cool with you."

"Sure."

After that you're pretty sure he's fast asleep Sighing, you find out where the Egberts keep their towels and extra bedding, and put together a little makeshift bed before taking a shower. You let yourself think for a bit under the hot water and soap.

You actually kind of like John's singing. So he shouldn't be so self conscious about that kind of shit because it's dumb, even if his self worth was clearly really low. Secondly, you think that song actually gave you a subtle glimpse into his psyche. And it was pretty bad. No, like, really bad. Somewhere in that brain of yours that never shuts up is a nagging feeling that he might've been suicidal. And since you've already caught John after he's inflicted harm on himself, this idea wasn't too far fetched.

He also seems detached. Depressed maybe? All the cheerfulness is forced. It makes you sick. You hated this artificial John, and you don't think it's just because he was different online.

If anyone bugs him tomorrow in your presence, you're going to royally wreck some shit.

The hot water starts running out and getting cold, so you get out, towel dry, and dress yourself.

It would probably be a good idea to talk to Jade again.

In John's room you shut the door quietly. It still wasn't very late, but you'd rather not disturb the peace. You turn up the heat a bit too. Poor kid was shivering his ass off.

As soon as you got situated comfortable in your next on the floor you reach up and grab your phone from the bedside table.

- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 21:49 -

TG: yo harley

TG: you there

TG: or is there something captivating your fine ladylike attention right now

TG: like the weather machine

TG: hows that coming along anyway

TG: i mean i dunno if you were actually serious about it in the first place

TG: itd be pretty chill though

TG: climate magic all up in here

TG: you could tell me if the news broadcasters were actually right for once when it came to the weather report today

TG: deadly water droplets gonna yield for a bit

TG: but texan temperatures are far fucking superior

TG: even in the dead of winter

TG: spring is just peeking over the horizon thousands of miles away

TG: smack dab in my peripheral

TG: you can barely register it but its there

TG: on the wind

TG: groundhogs and giant bunny rabbits shitting pastel eggs all over your house

TG: i never had that though i just had filthy proboscis all the time

TG: always ass deep in that shit

TG: stone cold did not give a fuck

TG: wait the fuck am i even talking about

GG: i dont know dave, i was just waiting for you to burn yourself out

GG: im glad you didnt start rapping though!

TG: i dont burn i blaze

GG: whatever you say! : D

GG: so whats up? hows washington? : O

TG: cold and wet

TG: to be completely honest washington blows so far

GG: i can imagine. youve been dealing with john though too, so i can see how it would make you feel like crap!

TG: crap is the understatement of the 21st century

GG: ohhhhh how is he anyway?

TG: sleeping like an angel

GG: are you sharing a bed with him again...

TG: nope i got a faceful of hardwood floor this time around

TG: lucky me

TG: jk i got like three blankets underneath me my back wont hurt too bad

GG: good. so like what about today? what happened?

TG: oh uh

TG: today was pretty emotional for john at least

TG: and he apologized a lot

TG: its weird

TG: usually were such class a assholes to each other

TG: mostly him though

TG: doesnt seem right

TG: not to mention im not bombarding him with words all the time

TG: keeping patient and all that

TG: cant start throwing down sick fires

TG: keep the peace yknow

GG: um. good job then i guess? haha -u-

GG: i guess that would be pretty good, but just make sure youre not too mellow?

GG: i dont think it would be a good idea to coddle him

GG: er, not coddle. uhh damn i cant think of the right word at the moment!

GG: but i think he told he something about not liking pity?

GG: i dont quite remember, but i believe it was something along those lines!

TG: duly noted

TG: ill try to not make myself look like a goddamn tool

TG: that shit wont fly with me anyway

GG: uhh k.

GG: sorry if i seem weird right now! i think bec got me kind of sick :C

TG: oh lame

GG: yeah i know! sometimes i really wonder what to do with that silly dog! ehehe -u-

GG: and, i dont know if im kind of intruding right now, but what kind of emotional stuff?

TG: cried twice

TG: had to comfort him

TG: not that i mind or anything

TG: i got him to play the piano for me

TG: that was all well and good until the song got really depressing

TG: he sang a with it too

TG: heartbreaking shit right there

GG: oh noooo D:

GG: but i guess thats a better way for him to get out bottled up emotions instead of

GG: um

GG: that other thing he did

TG: yeah

GG: also i researched a lot of that kind of stuff after you told me!

GG: you probably already know lots about bullying and self harm and stuff already right? well i think i understand a bit better

GG: i still hate it though : C

TG: uh yeah i know tons about that shit

GG: by the way! i think rose is coming back soon

TG: oh seriously

TG: cant wait to greet her snarky mouth again

TG: or fingers whatever

TG: ok so yeah rose is coming back soon and?

GG: i was wondering if i should tell whats been happening

GG: but i dont want to impede on your or johns privacy or anything!

GG: ...should i?

GG: she could probably help...

TG: im not the one to say

TG: you should probably talk to john first

TG: its up to him what you tell rose

TG: shell probably figure it all out though sooner or later

TG: but im actually yawning right now like im trying to inhale the pillow

TG: so imma let you go

GG: aw, ok. goodnight dave!

GG: and when you and john wake up, tell him im still thinking about him (and that he should pester me soon heehee) !

TG: aight

TG: ttyl

- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 22:28 -

Chapter Text

"Why aren't you happy, John."

I guess I've just... forgotten what happiness feels like.

"Then stop pretending."

I can't though. I have to keep this up.

"There's a way to end the hurt."

Don't say it... don't you dare.

The dark figures, they've come to haunt you again.

Go away.

"Nothing matters to you anymore."

That's irrelevant, go away.

It just gets louder.

"There's an alternative to all this."

"One day you'll break down."

...

"One day you'll set yourself free."

"You have no one to pull you back out."

I have Dave...

"You have no one."

They're getting closer.

They're on you.

You can feel it.

But you're paralyzed.

"There's no one to save you from drowning."

...

"The taps have turned back on, just kick the bucket already."

Go away!

"You don't belong here, you don't belong anywhere."

"That's why that happened."

"It was punishment."

"It's a pointless battle."

"There's no hope."

"Give up now."

That's when you get fed up, and muster up the strength to push the figures away.

The faces are revealed.

They're all you.

You scream.


You become aware of half your knuckle in your mouth, with you biting down on it, and someone shaking you. You make several odd squeaking noises despite your best efforts, and squeeze your eyes shut.

"John. John are you okay. Goddammit open your eyes. Before you eat your hand, come on."

No. No no no no no. You can't open your eyes again. They'll- you'll be there. Mirror images of you, telling you to off yourself. WIth legitimate reasoning. You don't want to see that ever again. You bite down a little harder to muffle another noise. Your other hand grips your hair, and you pull, trying to hurdle yourself back into reality.

You're lifted off the pillow, and onto something warmer.

You feel a hand on yours.

Clamping down on your knuckle a little harder, you sputter and try to just breathe.

It takes you a while, but you eventually calm down. It was just a dream. It's only you and Dave right now. Your chest is tight, and it hurts, but you feel the oncomings of a headache start to fade.

You're almost at peace, not even caring about anything outside of this. This... odd, and kind of awkward embrace, if you could call it an embrace. But Dave had to speak, and he obviously made sure you were alright enough (and no you weren't admitting you were not alright, that would be dumb) to handle conversation.

"What happened on Friday."

freeze.

It wasn't a question.

The blood drains from your face and you feel like you're going to puke.

You've been telling yourself that absolutely nothing happened on Friday, and that's exactly what you need to tell him. Nothing happened.

"Nothing... nothing happened on Friday," you whisper, unable to get your voice to actually work.

Dave waits a few seconds to reply, sighing, "I don't want you to lie. Whatever it was, it couldn't have been terrible enough that you wouldn't tell me, right."

But it was.

Oh God, it was...

With your head still half on his lap, you turn your face away from him as you start babbling.

"N-nothing, no, i-it was just the weather. I-it started rain- raining so bad a-a-and I went back to get the umbrella. I swear that's- that's all that happened." and you stop yourself before your voice cracks any more.

Dave's obviously not completely satisfied, but he doesn't say anything else.

You sniffle a few times and mentally smack yourself, gripping and squeezing the the sheets under your hand.

The blonde just rubs his nose and sighs before pulling up your frail body to sit between his thighs, your legs off to one side and shoulder against his chest.

And he just...

He just holds you.

One arm around your waist, while his other hand cradled your head and held it to his shoulder.

There was a certain kind of stiffness, you could tell, but you were trying too hard to not start sobbing out all your fears and worries and pains onto his shoulder to really pay it much mind.

It was damn well tempting in this position.

But you can't. You won't. You nibble your lip instead, focusing on the wall, and the way your shoulder ached (it still hasn't fully recovered from when you were pushed down those concrete stairs).

You don't know when you started thinking about your dreams instead.

You don't know when you started crying again.

Daves holds you a little tighter as you draw your knees up slightly, and starts to hum.

His voice picks up after a while. It's a lullaby, but you didn't know this one.

"Hush little baby don't say a word. Dave is gonna buy you a mockingbird..." he murmurs softly above you, rocking slightly.

You eventually find it in you to speak... well, mumble, "...What do... what do mockingbirds even do, anyways."

"They sing."

"So, what if it doesn't sing, then...?"

Dave abruptly stops.

You're confused. Why'd he freeze up? This is a legitimate question.

"...It'll sing."

"Not for me... I wouldn't even sing for me."

Dave lets out a breathy chuckle, "Guess we're getting married then."

That's when you pause, mouth twitching into something reminiscent of a scowl. You swat Dave's hands away from you and push yourself off the bed and stumble to the door. You open it, look at him once, and retreat into the hallway.

Staggering into the bathroom, you shut and lock the door, sliding down along it to sit on the cold, hard, and frighteningly familiar ceramic tiles that make up the floor.

For a minute, you thought he was really there for you.

But Dave is just fucking you around now.

You hide your face in your hands, lay down on your side, and curl back up on the bathroom floor.

He doesn't understand.

The voices were right.


 

You were really glad you decided to camp out beside John's bed last night, because you could have potentially gotten a black eye. You woke up to the sound of him thrashing around and screaming into his hand.

The first thing you do is throw your shades on and pull yourself up to look. He was fidgeting on his side with his knees to his chest and the knuckle of his index finger on his mouth and he was literally shrieking. The blanket was bunched up at the end of the bed and there was a sheen of sweat covering his flushed face with that raven hair plastered to his forehead.

The next thing you do is stand up and lean your knees onto the side of the mattress and attempt to pin him down so he'd stop moving around; so he couldn't potentially hurt himself, or you.

You've never woken up or comforted a person during or after a nightmare. This was all pure fucking instinct.

And it scared the hell out of you.

When you finally got him calmed down, you popped the question. Something had to have happened on Friday, and he was keeping from you and Jade for whatever reason. You think he might have gotten roughed up out there or... or something. You keep on trying to rule out possibilities, but there were far too many to do that.

When he stuttered out an answer, you felt completely helpless at that point. He's never going to tell you, not until it starts eating him alive. So you just do the next best thing and pull him onto your lap. When you notice the first tear slide down John's already puffy cheeks, you hold him a bit tighter and start to hum, rocking to and fro.

And god fucking dammit, you've never felt this gentle before in your whole life.

But something about the situation just calls for it.

You even start to sing. You assume he knows this one. Everyone should. It's just one of those songs that everyone knows, no matter what.

"What do... what do mockingbirds even do anyways."

"They sing."

"So, what if it doesn't sing, then...?"

You stop. He couldn't be serious right?

"...It'll sing."

"Not for me... I wouldn't even sing for me."

You think of anything you could do or say, to lighten the mood.

So you joke around, and reference the next verse of the lullaby.

With a breathy (forced) chuckle, you jest, "Guess we're getting married then."

But then he does something you weren't expecting.

He smacks your hands away and leaves, and the look he gives you before he walks out that door kills you.

You fucked up.

You don't jump into action until you hear the bathroom door being slammed shut, and the click of the lock.

On the way there, you nearly trip over your own feet because you were paying more attention to that door, and you kept on going over what happened in your head, trying to figure out how the situation went stale. It was fine until you mentioned marriage, but you don't know why that was such a taboo topic?

You thought of trying to just barge in, but as soon as you actually reach that door, you abruptly stop in front of it.

What do you do?

What can you do?

How can you make this better?

You obviously can't comfort him. Whatever he's mad about, it was because of you.

He just ends up locking himself away, whether it be emotionally, or in the fucking bathroom.

And... shit.

You have your ear against the door now, and...

And he's crying again.

No... not crying.

He's fucking sobbing.

Because of you.

Because of what you did.

Because of what you said.

Some friend you are.

It was because of the damn 'Guess we're getting married' thing. It was an offhand comment because of the song, and because you would fucking love to be married to John one day.

Who are you kidding.

John doesn't love you.

He's never going to love you.

To be honest, you don't think he even likes you at this point.

Jade is full of shit this time around.

You turn around and slide down the door, pulling your legs up to your chest. You clasp your hands together in front of your face and sigh, shutting your eyes behind tinted glass. There was nothing you could do but wait it out. You don't even worry about his dad. From what you could tell, it was mid morning, he should've left hours ago.

You don't know how long it takes for something to happen. It could've been an hour, but it could've been only 10 minutes. Your ass was starting to go numb, nonetheless. You didn't notice the shuffling and quiet noises coming from behind the door, but when you do, it's too late.

The door opens, and you find yourself with your head smacked on top of hard tiles.

Well this sure is embarrassing. John gets an eyeful of you at his feet.

You don't particularly feel like getting up.

"What are you doing, Dave."

"The closest thing to moping a Strider can ever hope to achieve."

"W-what? Why?" and he sounds genuinely confused.

"Thinking about how badly I fuck up all the time. And how you probably hate me," you say evenly, shrugging your shoulders for emphasis. His face is upside down to you, and you notice that he looks... well, generally pretty normal. Aside from the way his pretty little face is contorted into complete confusion.

"Uhh, geez..." He steps over you and holds out his hand for you to take, albeit a bit nervously. You do, and note how cold he is as he helps you up. And the way he avoided looking at you during and after. You're torn over whether you should apologize or not.

You stare at John staring at his feet until he walks off, back into his room, feet making quiet padding noises against the hallway carpet. You follow him in after a brief moment of nothing.

You walk in and lean on the doorframe. He has his hands shoved into the bedside table drawer, and he pulls out what looks to be a simple mp3 player, the kind with only like 2 to 4 gigabytes of memory.

The silence is a little awkward. You cross your arms over your chest.

Once John turns on the little contraption, he gets a gander at the screen, which was illuminating his face slightly in the dim room.

Apparently he did this to look at the time.

"It's um. It's almost 11. We can take the 11:35 bus to my school and get there by the lunch break if we're still doing that..."

Oh yeah. You forgot about that. How intuitive of you.

"Alright then," but... wait, "But man, are you sure you wanna go? My wakeup call was pretty intense, and I'm pretty sure yours was too." John seems to be avoiding looking directly at you. You don't blame him at all.

"No I... we should go."

"...Affirmative."

"Just uh... how long do you think it'll take?"

"Getting your shit together and leaving homebound again?"

"Yeah."

"I dunno. Anywhere from ten to twenty minutes depending on how fast we get to all your classes."

"And then we're leaving?"

"Immediately, yeah."


 

The time it took for you and Dave to get ready to go out was actually pretty calm. Neither of you mention what happened earlier, and you're grateful for that.

After you locked yourself in there and had a good cry, it seemed like it had been ages. You kept telling yourself to get over Dave, to get over all your dumb emotions. It worked, for the most part. You finally dragged yourself off the floor and washed your face with cold water to expel any residual puffiness in your face, and you've accepted the permanent bags and dark circles under your eyes a while ago, so you didn't pay any attention to those.

You didn't expect to see Dave tumble ass-backward as soon as you opened the door though. And he looked genuinely sorry. You didn't know what to do, so you just helped him up, feeling the slightest bit sympathetic.

After all that, and after Dave whipped you both up something to eat before facing the outside world, you set off to walk to the bus stop. You brought your backpack and phone just in case, and bundled up in 2 hoodies.

You think you looked really out of place next to Dave. His look wasn't over the top, but he obviously dressed a lot better than you did; clad in a red and black letterman coat, dark blue skinny jeans, and worn red hightops. If you actually observed him (which is something you did a lot, shh), you could see his white leather belt. His headphones hung idly around his neck too, and of course you can't forget those signature aviators. He walked with his head held high, in a manner you wish you could mimic. And obviously the cold didn't affect him as much as it did you.

But true to the weather forecast, it wasn't raining. It was just windy and overcast, but as much as you liked the wind, it chilled you to the bone, even though you're wearing two hoodies. You should've thrown on an extra shirt or something, you can't wait to get onto the warm bus, and you jog a little bit every once in a while to catch up with Dave. You usually walked really slow for whatever reason, and even the small bouts of physical activity caused you to be a little breathless and lightheaded. Every once in a while, your knees would go a little weak, but you always caught yourself. You couldn't tell if Dave noticed or not, but you hope he didn't.

"It's just up here," you say, finally walking steadily beside him, pointing forward. He nods.

There's no bench at this particular stop. Dave ends up leaning his shoulder against the pole, and you stand on the other side, fiddling with a loose hem at the bottom of your top sweater. You notice the tips of your fingers are an odd shade of purple, and the skin around your nails was dry and raw from being chewed so frequently. At least it didn't hurt anymore when they bled. A small blessing, you guess.

But the silence this time is just plain uncomfortable. Neither of you were saying anything. And Dave thinks you hate him. That just made this all different kinds of weird because as much as you hated to admit it, you could never hate him.

You stand stock-still, slightly hunched over against the cold. Dave spares you a sideways glance, but doesn't do much passed that.

The bus rolls up in front of you both not too long after that. You step on first, eager to get out of the cold, and swipe your bus card. Dave uses change. You find a window seat near the back and take a seat, rubbing your hands together. Dave sits himself beside you, and puts his headphones on. Twenty minutes. That's how long this ride takes. You're going to use the time to brace yourself for what was about to come, and focus on breathing in, and exhaling all your anxiety.


 

There was twenty minutes of awkward silence between you and John while you shuffled between songs on your iPod. Twenty minutes of regretting saying that dumb marriage line to him. Twenty minutes of deliberating over whether you should say something or not. Twenty minutes of wanting to wrap your arm around his shoulders and make him stop shivering.

Twenty minutes of looking forward to someone getting the beating of a lifetime.

And this time, that person wasn't going to be John.

John pushes one of the Request Stop buttons, and you two pile off at the next stop. You could see the school from where you stood, it was just down the block. You both hurry over there. John tells you that lunch break has already started, but no one's allowed to leave the building until the next bell goes off a little later.

Alright, sweet. So either his teachers will still be in their classrooms, or in the faculty lounge. Shouldn't take too long at all then.

When you reach school grounds, John visibly pales, and you hate to think of all the shit he's gone through and all the times he's walked through those doors knowing that he was a walking target.

You follow him around the school, room to room, and notice that most people were either looking at both of you with the dumbest and most judgemental faces you've ever seen, or tried to ignore you both completely. There was a little whispering going on, too. You glare at them all.

No wonder he hated this place so much.

After some time of navigating through the halls, groups of people, and several classrooms, John turns around and grabs your hand mid-stride. His hands are calloused and cold, and you think the only reason he did this was so you didn't lose each other. That didn't stop your stomach from flopping around once or twice though.

"Faggot."

John freezes, automatically dropping your hand and you nearly run into him. Your eyes narrow dangerously as you look back through the crowd.

"What, did you bring your little boyfriend to come and protect you today?"

There he is.

Some jock kid in a letterman jacket like you, but his was grey and white. He came up towards you and John, and you instinctively move John behind you, mouth pressed into a straight, short line.

"What a fucking wimp."

More murmurs from the onlookers. People have started forming a circle around you all. More people chime in;

"I knew he was a homo."

"Such a freak."

"Loser."

You know earlier that you were anticipating something like this, but you couldn't go off beating people within an inch of their lives. How delusional could you be? Looking back at John, you see that he's slowly started backing up, eyes wide and completely terrified.

You need to get out of this situation now.

You grab his hand again, and begin to pull him away and out, "C'mon, let's go. You're better than this."

You feel his hand slip away from yours though. You turn around, only to see that jock asshole grabbing and spinning John around, and holding him still by the collar of his shirt.

Before you can react, you hear him say something.

"Is this the kid you told."

And then something snaps in your mind.

This is Terrence.

This is the person that hurts John on a regular basis.

Before you can even stop yourself, your jaw is clenched tight and your teeth are bared like a wild animal.

And your fist finds itself slamming into this kid's pearly whites.

Your rage is the only thing controlling you right now.

To be honest, you're actually pretty okay with that.

Terrence falls over, holding his face, and you hop right on and straddle him as you punch him repeatedly.

"DON'T MESS WITH MY BEST BRO."

Punch.

"I WILL FUCK YOU UP."

You clip another tooth.

"IF YOU LAY -"

And land one right in the side of his head.

"ANOTHER FINGER ON HIM-"

That's going to be a bitch to hide later.

"EVER AGAIN-"

You think you're knuckles are bleeding.

"I WILL END YOU, SO HELP ME GOD."

You stop when you realize he wasn't even conscious. His nose was broken, obviously, and a few teeth missing.

Your job is done here.

Well, with him at least. There is a point you'd like to make.

You get back on your feet, and step away from the kid's limp body. People looked terrified of you. And they damn well should be.

John's fallen down in the process as well; sitting with his legs sprawled out in front of him and eyes still wide.

You point at him, and begin to speak, addressing the students that make up the ring.

"Why would anyone hurt him. Give me ONE good reason."

No one says anything.

"He's nice, he fucking cares about people," you announce, "Sure, John's dorky. But he's a kind person. Has absolutely no tact, but he wouldn't hurt a fly. But YOU guys, you've hurt him to the point that he's hurt himself." you gesture at everyone, looking over their shocked faces. A few whispers are exchanged.

"John's just like any of you. He has his own interests; movies, pranks, all that great stuff. He likes baked goods, he believes in ghosts, he owns every Nicolas Cage film out there, he loves stage magic, and has some weird grudge against Betty Crocker and clowns. And to top it all off, he's an amazing pianist."

Mouths are agape at this point. Jesus Christ, did they seriously think he was just some mindless mannequin or something?

"He's a normal kid. So why choose him."

...

"Because he's quiet?"

...

"Because he doesn't have many friends?"

...

"... Because of how he looks?"

No one's been answering you, and you're kind of surprised no one's gone and gotten the staff. Looking over the crowd, you scoff and carry on.

"It's fucked up no matter how you look at it," you state, "Next time you wanna harass someone, come at me instead. I'll take it without batting a delicate eyelash. But John doesn't deserve this bullshit," you point at the beaten kid on the floor as you say that, "NOBODY. Deserves this."

"So I don't care if who you are, I don't even care if you're not a part of this.

But you do not

under any circumstances

tell someone to kill themselves,

or hurt someone to the point of them hurting themselves.

Because you know what, you sacks of shit?

There are always going to be some major fucking repercussions," you spit that part, and the words drip from your mouth like venom.

You scan everyone again for added emphasis, and then without any warning you pull John back to his feet and pull him out the nearest side door.

You could've sworn you heard a handful of people applauding on the way out.

You were both halfway across the field, speedwalking, when you notice John's legs repeatedly buckling underneath him. You slow down and hold him upright, one arm around his back. He looked like he was in shock and his eyes didn't seem to be focussing focussing properly. As you maneuver your head to get a better look at him, you see a small smile, and he starts saying something. Then you hear someone else approaching, and John's face drops when he hears whoever it is.


 

You have no idea what just happened.

One second you were being pulled away with Dave.

Then Terrence towered over you, gripping your collar. You don't even remember what he said.

The next thing you knew was that Dave was beating the living piss out of him.

And then made a fucking speech to what could've been the whole school for all you know.

A speech about you and why they were wrong to hurt you.

After that you just kind of... zoned out.

Dave pulled you outside. It was a flurry of movement. Everything was a flurry of movement. All the colours and sounds meshed together, and by the time you were outside and attempting to keep up to Dave's jogging on the field, you could barely tell up from down. When Dave stops and holds you upright, it hits you.

He's not fucking with you.

He was never fucking with you.

Dave cares.

Dave cares.

He turns his head to look at you, and you smile at him. It wasn't a very good smile, but it was the best you could manage. You open your mouth to say something, the words just dancing on the tip of your tongue, but then you hear it

You hear Kevin. You hear him approaching.

"Hey John! Blondie!"

No. No no no no nonononono.

oh god i don't want him take me away again and drug me

Your heart starts beating erratically.

he's going to hurt me again they're going to rape me no please not again i can't do this

You tremble like a leaf in a storm.

i can't help myself

You feel yourself going numb.

i'm going to die

This morning's breakfast is threatening to litter itself on the grass.

someone please help

You. Can't. Breathe.

dave...

Your vision blurs before finally going black. You don't even remember hitting the ground.


 

Oh God no what's wrong with him now.

As soon as someone called out to you both (nobody calls you Blondie and gets away with it, but you'll let it slide this time), John stopped what he was doing, and everything just went downhill from there. He started to shake and he pulled away from you, wringing his hands together. His breathing was completely ragged, and it didn't even look like he COULD breathe.

And you definitely didn't expect him to collapse like dead weight with only one word on his lips.

'Help.'

Whoever the hell was trying to talk to you needed to fuck off. Right now.

It happens in a complete blur; you catch the falling boy before he hits the ground, and carefully lower him onto the slightly damp grass.

"Oh my god, is he okay?"

You get on your knees beside him, and lower the side of your head over his chest.

You think he was having heart palpitations.

Shit shit shit shit.

"Sh-should I call someone ove-"

"Piss off!"

That effectively shuts him up.

John's face was scrunched up, and he was a bright shade of red. His chest was heaving but there was not a single sound coming from him that sounded like inhaling or exhaling.

Then it re occurred to you. You don't think he's able to breathe.

This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening.

You need to get him to breathe.

Right.

Now.

And only one thing comes to mind.

You turn back over to see if that kid was still there, and he was. Standing awkwardly and dumbfounded like he didn't know what to do.

"If you want to help, then call a fucking ambulance because he's not breathing," you command, sounding a lot more scared than you ever have in your life.

"O-okay," he fumbles to get a cell phone out of his pocket and starts frantically pushing buttons as soon as he turns it on.

Ambulance or not, if you didn't get air in him right now, he could die.

For the love of God, you hope this works.

You tilt his head back with one hand, using the other to pinch his nose.

And taking one deep breath, you press your lips to his.

You don't think about how chapped they are, or how cold and lifeless they are. Or even that your were basically kissing your long time crush. You just focus on getting the air in.

And after a few more breaths, it starts to feel more like a procedure, and less like you were just macking on him. You subconsciously hold him a little closer, just praying to whatever deity that's up there that John is going to be alright.

You don't stop until someone pulls you away, and you were about to argue until you saw their uniforms. The paramedics must have pulled in when you weren't paying any attention. They lift John's limp body onto a stretcher and carry him back to the truck with haste. As they lift him up, you spare one last glance at the kid who called them for you (and you notice that people had been watching this all from the school. Pricks), before running to join John in the back.

You had to tell them you were his cousin before they let you on, since you either had to be family or a significant other to ride in the back of an ambulance to the hospital.

As they closed the door on the back of the truck, and the paramedics strapped a mask to John's face and checked him over, you stood just enough out of the way that they could could their job, but close enough to clasp the unconscious boys hand in yours.

"It's gonna be okay, John... You're gonna be okay."

Chapter Text

We're going to start this out simple.

Your name is Kevin Novak, and you used be to a victim of bullying.

It never escalated to anything more than verbal insults, but it was bullying all the same. The only thing is, is that it was only through middle school.

Your family generally moved around a lot because of your dad's job. He was a college coach for a whole bunch of different sports, and a lot of schools wanted him. Your last relocation was from Wisconsin to small town Washington State, and you couldn't be happier. It gave you a chance to start anew.

Your dad had made sure you'd be set up on the football team when you started at the local high school in Maple Valley right at the beginning of the year. You had just been enrolled and you were in 11th grade.

It wasn't until the football team started training when you met him. His name is Terrence Meadows. And apparently being a part of the football team meant you weren't a loser anymore. Suddenly you started hanging out with all these guys, and you were pretty happy about that.

Then you witnessed first-hand what they did in their free time.

You'd never really noticed him before. His name was John, and he was a sophomore. Small, quiet, and kinda dorky looking. He never did much to draw attention to himself, in fact, you think he was always trying to blend into the crowd, and you believe he had a really good reason for it.

Terrence and the other guys had pointed him out to you, using the term, "Fresh meat."

You just walked away.

Apparently this whole change in status quo meant you had to be the bully now.

You weren't going to do this. Ever.

It made you anxious just thinking about it, and how he had it even worse than you did.

You would never hurt him.

That was, until Terrence started threatening you.

Help him, or end up like John.

You could not

end up

like

John.

Terrence had explained some long-winded plot of his, saying you had a minor role. All you needed to do was get the poor boy to drink some apple juice spiked with rohypnol and drive him to the pre-determined location.

And to not

help John

get

back

home.

He gave you a menacing glare, making sure you understood him.

You hesitated for a second.

You didn't want to do this.

But you looked down and agreed anyways.

There was nothing else you could do.


Before you even started your part in this, you had to apologize.

You apologized to him. For all of them. For anyone who's ever hurt him, or insulted him, or laughed at him, or told him to take his own life.

You apologized for what you were about to do

and for what was going to happen later.


You shouldn't be driving.

You feel like you're about to faint, your head is spinning, your heart is racing and and there's a huge lump in your throat that you've been trying to swallow back down.

and John is in the back seat

sipping on apple juice spiked with a fucking date-rape drug.

He doesn't even realize you're not taking him towards one of the bus exchanges.

You keep on putting off the last few turns towards your final destination, contemplating what to do

but you finally turn into the parking lot.

You feel your blood run cold and you think you're going to puke.


You can hear them.

You were supposed to leave after you dropped him off- instead, Terrence had himself a hissy fit and tried to get you to in on it. You stood in the rain, short of breath, watching as he took John by his hair and over by the thicker, overgrown trees and bushes. Every strangled noise the smaller boy made had you wanting to drop dead right then and there. You waited for Terrence to get preoccupied with him (just about after the drug really kicked in and made John conk out) before taking off back to your car. You parked it behind some trees and started waiting.

You could hear their snotty laughs, their snarky jokes being thrown around as they rape him.

You weren't the only one waiting though.

One of the other guys sat in the passenger seat of your car, waiting it out with you as you laid your forehead on the top of the steering wheel, attempting to quell your incessant nausea.

"I can't do this," you mutter.

"Do what? You're not doing anything," he replies.

"I can't not do anything about this. It's... it's passed the point of harassment or bullying and went straight into a damn situation that could get us all thrown in prison and-"

"No, Kev, chill. I fucking know. But he won't even know."

"What do you mean 'He won't know'? Do you not HEAR them?!" the way you look at him must have gotten some sort of message across.

He's silent.

And you need to do something.

This needs to stop.

You fumble around for your phone, and dial three numbers that everyone and their mother knows.

"I-I'm calling the cops-" you stutter, but right as you were about to hit 'Call', he snatches it away from you and takes the battery out.

"You outta your mind? Jesus fucking Christ, we'd all be completely screwed-"

"I'm completely ready to take liability for what I've done," you state, making a reach for the pieces, "This is my fucking fault!"

but

you stop dead mid-grab.

when you hear a weak yelp

followed by chorus of laughter and cat-calls.

You feel another wave of nausea.

You shouldn't have agreed to bring him here. You should have taken a stand, anything... anything but this.

You step out of your car and empty the contents of your stomach against the trunk of a nearby tree.


An hour later and everyone is finally gone. An hour of taking turns, seeing who could make the worst marks on John's body as they hit him and violated him to lengths of a most illegal nature.. An hour you had to wait before you could silently creep over to John, trembling at the sight of him.

Trembling at the thought that next time that could easily be you.

You tentatively dressed his limp body back up on soaking wet and dirty clothes, then carry him silently back to your car. You carefully laid him down in the rear seats, avoiding being too hasty, and covering him with an old jacket you found in the trunk. It would work as a temporary blanket, right? Fuck, where did he say he lived again? You know the neighborhood, so you drive back to the general area that he's supposed to live in.

Shit, he's waking up.


He didn't remember a thing.

He looked weak and tired, but just smiled happily at you and waved goodbye.

As you sit parked in your driveway after the longest drive home in your lifetime, you stare down at your hands in disbelief of what you've just caused.

You clasp them together, closing your eyes as you silently murmur to yourself,

"Lord forgive me, for I have sinned."

Chapter Text

You don't know what's happening right now. You're seeing so many faces above you. And they're all laughing. And it's cold and they're loud and they're making it hurt.

No. No no no no no it's like you can't move. You can't move and you can't see straight and the sounds and faces blend together and oh god it hurts. You hurt everywhere.

You hurt everywhere.

You're shaking. Something is shaking your shoulders no please don't, it's sore. You want to make the shaking stop but you can't move you're paralyzed. Another sound is drowning out the taunting laughter. A different voice. There's another voice mixing and it's getting louder and louder and it's talking to you but you feel like you can't respond. The faces start fading to black.

"John, wake up."

Wake up why would you wake up you're not even sleeping. Haha, what a funny joke. And that's not even your name. You don't have a name, you're nothing, you have no identity, and you're a broken piece of something that was probably never even whole.

"Open your eyes."

Your eyes are open. You can see everything.

Everything is nothing.

Everything is a big, dark empty space with nothing. Not even a switch to turn off the taunting voices.

"John, please."

Who is John?

You're not John. Just like this darkness, you are nothing.

But also everything.

And everything hurts.

It's just that at the same time, you're numb.

The voices get louder.

You want to stop being nothing so you can turn them off.

You hate the voices and your head hurts god it hurts so much worse than everything else why won't they stop talking can't they see you're in pain why can't they stop talking for once it's just one simple request

to just

shut

up

and leave you

alone.

Is that really so much to ask?

"Please, please John. Wake up."

Wake up...

Maybe you are sleeping?

Maybe this mystery voice is right. You wonder if waking up could make the voices be nothing instead of you. Maybe you could be John?

That's a nice thought.

You try to wake up; try to follow the mystery voice's instructions.

You open your eyes.

But it's too bright and someone's hovering over you and there's something in your hair and

"You alright?"

but then suddenly you're frantic

and you don't understand.


You've decided that you hate this. You hate that you have front row seats to this, and you hate that you can't do anything about it right now.

After you and John got to the hospital, everyone had pretty much shooed you away. John had his ID in his wallet, so they identified him and pulled up records without a problem.

They called his dad, too, because he was there within 30 minutes of your arrival. He spared you a look, a really weird look, but was too preoccupied with the doctors to converse with you. You inwardly thank them for the opportunity to avoid his dad. You have nothing to say to him.

No one asked for you or had any questions for you even though you were the one there with him while it happened. It being a panic attack, and not fucking cardiac arrest like you had first thought. It's already been a few hours, but you're still a little shaken over it.

John had been stabilized fairly quickly though, and was soon moved from the emergency ward and into a bed separated from the rest of the hospital by a solid door in room 1202. You just end up following and waltzing in as the nurses leave, taking a seat in a generic hospital chair, waiting for him to wake up. You were alone, but there really wasn't much privacy. It wasn't like the staff was loud or anything, but hearing constant footsteps whirring back and forth through the halls made you uneasy. Like, really uneasy. Fearful, even. Your leg wouldn't stop bouncing and you were picking at your nails, and that was a really old nervous habit that you thought you grew out of years ago. And it's dumb, because you know he's going to be okay. It was just a panic attack but damn. You almost feel like you're about to have one yourself, because this isn't just any random person or normal friend, this is John. This is the boy you love.

This is the boy you love and you're sitting in a fucking hospital room beside him, waiting for a sign of consciousness.

So to put it simply, you really just want him to open his cerulean blue eyes again.

He hasn't really moved at all since before he collapsed on you.

And it's unsettling as fuck, okay?

You moved your chair to sit on it backwards, arms resting on the back and chin held up on your hand; just like when you were listening to him perform for you. As your knee bounces erratically, you replay that memory in your mind, over and over again. Over the course of what you believe to be is at least couple hours, a woman comes in and out, leaving folded pieces of paper on the table on the other side of John's bed. She doesn't say anything.

You lay your head down on your arms just as you feel your phone vibrate in your pocket, making a very familiar chime..

 

- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 16:23 -

GG: dave!

GG: ive been messaging you all day, what the heck are you doing?

GG: i got another really bad feeling earlier but you havent been answering your phone

TG: what seriously

GG: yeah bro, how out of it are you?

TG: stfu

TG: a lot of shit went down today ok

TG: the shit was a 300 meter monument against the skyline like the fucking statue of liberty or something

TG: people for miles would observe and admire this work of architectural art

TG: that is until some asshole came to fuck the shit up

TG: imagine a gorgeous landscape view of this monument alright

TG: now imagine a multitude of explosions

TG: making said monument fall to the ground as nothing but mere fucking rubble

TG: in record time

TG: the aftermath was completely brutal

TG: children screaming and sirens roaring in the distance

TG: and before the dust even settles

TG: freakin godzilla shows up again and smashes the remains down into nothing

TG: no one got out alive

TG: the world is devastated

TG: and yeah

TG: thats been my day so far

GG: i cant tell if youre over reacting right now, but im just going assume that you are completely serious D:

GG: dave what happened?

TG: fucking hell

TG: i dont even know where to start

TG: just

TG: ok

TG: get ready to read all about our super duper day

TG: egbert woke me up because of a nightmare or something so i just

TG: tried calming him down right

TG: and it wasnt really working so you know that song hush little baby

GG: did you sing john hush little baby?

GG: omg

TG: im not done yet give me a goddamn minute

GG: okay okay, go on!

TG: and you know the first line

TG: about the mockingbird

TG: he asked me what mockingbirds do and i said that they sing

TG: and john told me that it wasnt going to sing for him

GG: : O

TG: so i just

TG: tried to lighten the mood right

TG: the line after that is the one about the diamond ring

TG: so i joked around with it and said

TG: like the biggest fucking idiot on the planet

TG: "guess were getting married then" invisible quotes

TG: and he stormed out and locked himself in the bathroom

GG: ...

GG: yeah, you are definitely worthy enough for that title

GG: no wonder he stormed out!

GG: you are blind!

GG: i dont understand why you are both so damn dense!

GG: its one thing to share a bed with him 'no homo'

GG: but then you go off and joke about marriage and diamond rings?

GG: when he obviously doesnt know the original song in the first place!

GG: ughhh dave i want to punch you not even kidding djghdslfkjsh

GG: this isnt rocket science dave

GG: i would know!

TG: whoa wait what the hell

TG: why am i suddenly the bad guy?

TG: its not like i just knew he didnt know it

TG: jesus fucking crackers

GG: just

GG: ughh dave you two make me want to pull out my hair :T

TG: ...

GG: uhh sorry for cutting you off there !

GG: go on? ...

TG: uh

TG: ok

TG: i camped out in front of the bathroom for a bit and he opened up

TG: i fell back with the door

TG: like a tool

TG: said i was moping

TG: because i fucking was

TG: you have no idea how *bad* i felt

TG: gasp

TG: see jade dave has emotions

TG: but we didnt talk about it after that

TG: i made breakfast

TG: and we ollied outtie to pick up some homework from his school

TG: no way i was about to make him go back and attend class

TG: no fucking way

GG: that doesnt down like a falling monument though...

GG: youre not done yet right? : O

TG: oh

TG: no i just need to readjust a bit

TG: sitting in this chair is literally like trying to get comfortable on a smoking hot car hood

TG: so we got there after an awkward as fuck bus ride

TG: (seriously you have no idea how hard it is for me to stay quiet for elongated periods of time)

TG: (its like im sonic but i cant run)

TG: (and the earth ran out of corndogs)

TG: (oh woe is me)

GG: aw, daveee :(

TG: sh im not done yet

TG: we got to the school

TG: crowded as the lineup to hell

TG: got almost everything together

TG: and egbert just kind of

TG: reached back and grabbed my hand

TG: i assumed it was cause he didnt want to get separated?

TG: people were staring though but i guess he didnt give enough fucks to renounce the intertwining of fingertips

TG: so that was all well and good before some asshole calls him a faggot

GG: !

TG: turns out it was like the leader of the jackasses

TG: so naturally i beat his face to a pulp

TG: fucking preached about the church of nonbullying to everyone else

TG: and got john out of there

GG: you go dave!

GG: but whats so bad about that...? : O

TG: credits aint rolling

TG: so i drag him out of there right

TG: some kid runs up

TG: calls me a fucking blondie but thats besides the point

TG: and john has like a panic attack or some shit

TG: faints and literally just

TG: he stopped breathing jade

TG: well he didnt stop he just physically couldnt

GG: WHAT?

GG: oh my god is he okay?!

GG: hes not dead is he?!

TG: do you think id be this calm if he was dead harley

TG: hes fine i think

TG: im actually sitting in front of his hospital bed rn

GG: oh thank goodness!

GG: i dont know what i would do if john died D':

GG: howd you get him to breathe again?

 

You pause for a moment before answering, glancing at said boy and pressing your lips into a thin line.

 

TG: you know cpr and rescue breathing are probably the only useful things high school has taught me so far

GG: wait, you did cpr...

GG: on john?

TG: yes jade my sexy lips touched johns haughty little mouth

TG: jeez you always interfering with my love life

TG: and it wasnt cpr it was only rescue breathing

TG: mouth to mouth resuscitation

TG: forcing life into a lifeless body

TG: whatever you wanna call it

TG: but theres a difference

TG: ones for oxygen and the other is to keep the heart beating

TG: i mean look on the bright side at least i didnt have to do cpr huh

TG: so yeah the kid that ran up called 911 while i was lifekissing john

TG: they came and took him to the hospital

TG: now hes asleep in his little paper coated bed and im sitting here waiting for him to wake up

TG: end of story

TG: roll credits

GG: wow...

GG: so was john the monument?

TG: ...

TG: yeah something like that

GG: oh man dave im so sorry!

GG: i really wish i could do more to help

GG: actually, speaking of help

GG: i um

GG: told rose what was going on

TG: oh hell no

TG: shes gonna have a goddamn field day with this

GG: actually no!

GG: she seemed a lot more concerned than cynical

GG: rose is johns friend too, you know

TG: sighs

TG: yeah i know

TG: and its just that john doesnt actually want people to know

TG: telling her was supposed to be up to him

GG: im sorry! it just slipped out okay :c

GG: and he probably would have said no though!

GG: plus i think she wants to talk to him anyways

TG: yeah knowing her then probably

TG: but then again shes most likely just itching to talk to someone other than her mom

TG: or reverse talk because she doesnt talk to momma lalonde

TG: its like all passive aggressive notes right

TG: actually just scrap what i just typed it makes no sense whatsoever what even the fuck is reverse talking

TG: oh my god what am i saying

GG: kay x)

You look down at your shoes, and pinch yourself briefly. You needed to chill out. You were starting to sound like an idiot. Enough like one that you even you could tell which, you admit, wasn't often.

 

GG: but im also pretty sure john wants to talk to her too

GG: i think it was near the beginning of last week

GG:he told me he wanted to talk to her about something and was kinda bummed when i told him about italy

GG: at least thats what i remember

TG: i should probably give her a holler later anyway

TG: tell it to her straight

TG: might be able to talk to the egbert too once hes awake

TG: pretty sure he still has his phone in his backpack

TG: also about when did you two natter

GG: uhhh one moment

GG: i must consult with my colorful reminders

TG: ok

GG: …..

GG: oh! I think it was this morning

GG: i mean for me

GG: probably wouldve been around noon for rose

GG: im kinda surprised she hasnt texted you yet though

GG: but then again, maybe she has and you just didnt pay any attention

GG: like what youve been doing to me all day ahem :p

Your head snaps up from your phone when you notice John stirring in his sleep, making a few barely there whimpers as his breathing picked up from deep inhales to shallow panting.

 

TG: yeah anyways

TG: gotta beat it

TG: i am needed elsewhere

GG: wait where are you going?

GG: whats happening?

- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 16:57 –

GG: omfg

- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 16:58 –

You shove your phone in your pocket and stand over him, quickly scanning the door to see if anyone was coming in. There wasn't, so you turn back your attention to John. He was squirming and mumbling slightly. Small words like don't, please, no, stop.

You feel your eyebrows constrict and you let your fingers gently comb through his hair, and there's and painful pang in your heart when you realize he was dreaming about something he couldn't control and was pleading for it to stop. You grimace and retract your hand when your fingertips graze over the tell-tale bump near the base of his skull.

By the time he breaks into a cold sweat and starts to struggle against the sheets, you decide it would be in his best interest to wake up. You begin to gently shake him by the shoulders, "John, wake up."

Instead of that, he groans and tries to sink back into the bed. Tries to get away from you.

You don't think that's a good sign.

You place your hands on either side of his face, taking a different approach. You lean over a bit closer and make sure to enunciate your words, "Open your eyes."

Again, this wasn't working.

You pap his cheeks, "John, please."

He's biting the shit of out his lips trying not to yell. You can tell.

You're beginning to be a bit more desperate. Christ, what you wouldn't give to just hold him until it passed. The thing is that you just don't want it to pass. You want to see him conscious again.

"Please, please John. Wake up."

shit this is so fucking idiotic striders dont fret they are dominant like lions god damn it

Your train of thought is mostly consisting of long strings of profanities as you keep on trying to wake him up, but it didn't take too long before you could see his eyes moving behind the lids.

You breath completely catches when they finally flutter open, if only slightly. You're absolutely elated holy shit yes there's that brilliant blue hue you love so much. You feel the corners of your mouth tug upwards a bit as you retract your hands from his face and place them back in his hair, and you don't even care that your phone is trying to get your attention. You just feel the urge to kiss him again.

"You alright?" you ask in an undertone. It's an obligatory question.

Instead of answering you, John glances around briefly, looking lost and perturbed. Then he looks at you and the smile runs away from your face when he smacks your hand away (for the second time today) and curls on his side, pulling the sheet up with him and over his head. The first thing that makes itself apparent is the nagging fear that you did something wrong.

Again.

"Dude," you pull the sheet back down, but he only hikes it up again, "What's up with you?"

John sticks his leg out and pushes you away with it, "Nothing," he croaks. You hear him cough.

That's when it hits you. You are so sick of this game. This constant game of 'Are you okay?' 'I'm fine.' 'No you're not'

He's always denying your help and you hate it.

You tug on the blanket again against his will, "John, you need to tell me what's going on," you say evenly, "I'm only trying to help, okay? People don't just freak out and collapse out of nowhere and stop breathing at the sounds of someone's voice. That's fucked up."

He huffs quietly. You give up trying to pull the sheet down, opting to just try and talk to him. You choose your next words carefully.

"Listen, you're my best bro, and how you've been acting the past few days just isn't fine or normal. And you can't say that nothing is wrong, because nothing sure is fuckin' right. I'm scared as shit right now for you because you're not okay, and I don't get scared often, let alone admit it. You should know that. So just tell me what's wrong so we can make it better. Please."

He doesn't respond.

"Egbert, look at me."

"Leave me alone."

"John-"

"Just go away! Please..." he pleads, pulling the sheet down to show only his eyes, and stares at you through your shades.

You gawk at him before just giving up and walking toward the door. You'd say you're a bit mad, but you're not. You'll leave him be. You will leave him be.

"Don't tell anyone I'm awake..."

Sending a quick thumbs up his way, you shut the door behind you. You'll make sure he gets some space, and you could probably use the time to grab something to eat anyway and check your phone.

But the only emotion you picked up when he looked at you was sadness.

You think he's given up.


As soon as the door closes, you allow your eyes to droop closed for a moment and let out a relieved sigh. You know he won't tell anyone.

Scanning your surroundings with blurry vision, you conclude that yeah, this is the last place you want to be ever. And you would've opened up a bit and talked to Dave, you were considering it, but decided against it as soon as he said "That's fucked up."

You know very very well that you're fucked up. Too well. He didn't need to repeat it for you.

You should've said no, that today wasn't a good day to go to school, that you needed some more time to heal the mental scars you accumulated over the years, to heal the blows that ripped your skin back open. But you never thought you were this far gone already.

But school... it feels like it was a dream. Terrence getting pounded by Dave in the middle of a hallway, in front of so many people, and speaking out on your behalf. You barely even remember what he said. And then passing out on him in the field... that's really fuzzy too. You have the feeling that you wanted to say something to him, but you don't remember what it was.

You hear footsteps outside the door, and then it hits you again.

You're in the hospital.

They all probably know. They all probably know about all the bruises, the healing wounds, the scars, your way-below average weight-

Wait.

Your wrist.

Shit.

You sit up and pull your sleeve up your arm, examining it. The gauze has been replaced with a new one; expertly wrapped and pristinely white. Your face crumbles as you pull the sleeve down quickly and look around for your glasses. They were on the bedside table, beside a pile of folded paper. Cards?

You really really really don't want to know.

But curiosity gets the better of you eventually.

You pick them all up at once after putting your glasses on, straightening them all out on your lap, and start looking over them all.

And they were fucking Get Well cards from kids at school. As you flick through them, they were mostly from groups, but only with their names signed, and no personal notes. How hard would 'I'm sorry for making fun of you,' or 'We apologize for what happened,' be to jot down?

These all mean absolutely nothing to you. They're all just some no-faced idiots looking for a little recognition. That's all this was about-

There's one that's just a folded piece of lined paper from Kevin.

You try to slow down your breathing before you have another episode.

With a trembling hand, you set the other ones back on the table, and swallow the lump forming in your throat. You unfold it, and read it only once.

...

...

...

You sweep all the other ones off the table and into the garbage can and reach down to the floor for your backpack. You need your phone.

It's eating you alive and you really really need your phone.


You find the fact that there's a McDonalds right across the street from a hospital really fucking dumb and ironic, so of course that's your first choice. You'd really rather not eat hospital food anyway, and this was close. You passed his dad in a lobby again having some deep sounding conversation with a really old and professional looking lady. You just kind of slinked by.

Finding a suitable table with your tray of over-salted food and gigantic fountain drink, you finally pull out your phone from your pocket, shoving a few fries in your mouth.

Welp.

Jade was right, it just so happens that Rose has been messaging you all day without you really knowing.

Oops?

Oh well, you've got a lot on your plate right now (ha ha), so there's an excuse. You take your online status off of invisible. You sure are popular today.

 

- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 18:22 -

TT: Hello Dave.

TT: Finally decide to be online today?

TG: oh god here we go

TG: time for that tentacle therapy we all know and love

TT: Indeed. How's Washington going for you?

TG: you should know i thought harley gave you all the nitty gritty details

TT: Well, I wouldn't put it like that. I was told in quite the rush of exclamation points and emoticons.

TT: But I can't say I'm not slightly surprised.

TT: A situation like this was something I have been expecting for some time now, but I've had insufficient evidence to support such a notion.

TT: That trip of mine had terrible timing, didn't it?

TT: And before you ask, yes I made extra copies of the male marble statues for you. I made sure they were the highest quality images as well.

TG: no stfu i dont care about that

TG: lets not argue about my "homo undertones" today

TG: but you knew?

TG: how the fuck could you even tell?

TT: I didn't, it was merely a hunch.

TT: Remember Dave, I'm fairly certain that analysis is my strong point, which I believe you should also be fully aware of by now.

TG: ok but thats not what i meant

TG: what is mean is how did you pick up on it

TT: Simple conversation, Dave.

TT: I pay attention to detail.

TT: And I'm sure if you went through your Pesterlogs with John you'd be able to arrive the same consensus as well.

TG: ...

TT: Though I'm curious. Jade only told me that John's been getting bullied and had a concussion, and also that you took a trip to visit him and make sure everything was alright.

TT: Maybe chivalry hasn't died after all?

TG: what

TG: is that really everything she said

TG: jade told me and made it out to be this big deal

TG: bigger than texas

TG: and everything is bigger in texas

TT: As hard as it may be to believe, yes.

TT: I'm just surprised you haven't confessed your unprecedented feeling of true love for our dear friend.

TG: off is the general direction in which i would like for you to fuck

TT: Someone's on edge.

TG: got a lot going on alright cant always be stone cold and totally radical

TT: I can't believe you just used the word "radical" and didn't mention anything about irony.

TG: best start believing

TT: But I'm sitting by the window sill of my humble abode, laptop perched precariously on my socked knees, crying out my most heartfelt pleas for more information on the much bigger picture.

TG: just ask jade to copy paste our log from earlier to you

TG: i dont want to get back into it

TG: lets just say that were at the hospital and im waiting for his dorky ass to wake up

TT: Oh no.

TT: Has it genuinely gotten bad enough to require hospitalization?

TG: panic attack

TG: seriously though just ask jade

The Pesterchum app makes a ding noise. Looks like John found his phone. Out of habit, you switch back and forth between his handle and Roses. ectoBiologist. You'll have to ask him what that even means one day, you think. It seems Rose got the notification as well.

 

TT: Or perhaps I could just ask John himself.

TG: uh

TG: yeah i guess

TG: he wanted to talk to you anyways so

TT: Ah, perfect.

TT: I look forward to our chat.

TT: Enjoy the rest of your fries, Dave.

- tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 18:37 -

TG: are you kidding me

- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 18:37 -

You set your phone at the other end of the tray and start on the rest of your meal, shaking your head in amused disbelief.


 

- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] at 18:38 -

EB: hey rose!

TT: John.

EB: oh, did we send those at the same time?

TT: I would seem so, yes.

EB: huh, weird.

EB: so, uh.

EB: i need to tell you something.

EB: or just, i kind of need to talk about stuff.

TT: I heard, and I would like to catch up with you as well.

TT: How have you been, John?

EB: well, not very good.

TT: Oh dear. Is that why you wanted to talk to me?

EB: well, yeah, i guess.

EB: but you have to promise you won't say anything until i'm done.

TT: Absolutely. I've been told I am a magnificent listener.

EB: ok, thank you.

EB: so um.

EB: i bet you already figured something like this out, but i've been getting bullied at school.

EB: and it's not just dumb kiddie things like name calling and stuff, but actual cold hard

EB: harassment and beatings.

EB: and i didn't want anyone to know but now it feels like everyone knows.

EB: that was my worst fear just because i've always been the tower, i should be able to figure it out and handle it myself.

EB: when you guys were having trouble with life, i could be there to help

EB: it was kind of like my job to be that unmovable rock.

EB: now it's just eating at me, and i don't even want to go into the details of what's been going on but i just really have to for my own sake.

EB: even though i don't

EB: really want to...

EB: but it's like the only thing i was good at

EB: so if i can't be the tower anymore, then my only good quality is just

EB: bam, gone.

EB: and then i started having these thoughts

EB: like maybe i would be a lot better off gone.

EB: and no matter how hard i try not to think about it, i know it's true.

EB: you and dave and jade are my best friends

EB: but i'm pretty sure none of you need me.

EB: your lives would be the complete same if i just kind of disappeared off the face of the planet.

EB: when dave and i were at my school today, he beat the crap out of

EB: out of terrence

EB: and for a moment i thought

EB: 'wow, is this what i've been missing out on?'

EB: but then it just kind of shattered.

EB: did you know having a really bad panic attack kind of feels like anaphylactic shock?

EB: when i was in 4th grade, a kid in my class brought something with peanuts for lunch and i couldn't take it. i didn't even know. it scared me so much though. i never wanted to go back to school, but of course i had to.

EB: this is going to be a really dumb metaphor, but it's kind of true.

EB: a lot of stuff in my life is turning into peanuts.

EB: if i'm exposed to it much longer, i'm going to have an allergic reaction and die.

EB: and i don't even know if i'm okay with that or not, and it seems really fucked up.

EB: even dave said so.

EB: haha.

EB: by the way i'm talking to you right now, i seem pretty calm right?

EB: i'm actually anxious and shaking really bad and i don't know if i can trust anyone.

EB: i don't know if trusting is something i'm capable of.

EB: i trusted someone on friday to help me get home and that's the day everything just

EB: died and withered away.

EB: that was the point of no return.

TT: What happened on Friday?

EB: i'm not even going to beat around the bush today, i'm so sick of it.

EB: plain and simple, i got drugged and raped in the middle of a parking lot out of town in the rain.

EB: and i'm done.

EB: i'm so fucking done.

EB: when i got home, i knew it happened, but i couldn't recall it.

EB: i get nightmares though. of people laughing and shouting, and it's cold and wet and it hurts so much.

EB: i was stark naked and bent over backwards on a log

EB: they took turns and

EB: i don't want to keep to to myself because i just don't care.

EB: i can't even cry about it anymore because i deserved it.

EB: i should've stuck up for myself but i waited

EB: and waited

EB: and waited some more.

EB: and that was my punishment so i might as well come to terms with it.

TT: Oh my God.

TT: John I'm so sorry.

EB: if any of this

EB: i don't know, makes you uncomfortable,

EB: you don't have to read it.

TT: No, it's alright. Are you going to continue?

EB: i guess.

EB: all i kind of want to do is disappear.

EB: dad's always at work, his notes don't help me stay positive anymore.

EB: no one as school gives a shit.

EB: i don't want to burden you guys with my problems.

EB: and dave is just fucking around with me anyway. loving him physically pains me.

EB: it's like this one huge ginormous fucked up lie topped in peanut crumbs.

EB: and i want to die. disappearing and dying just seem so similar now.

EB: i want to fall asleep and never wake up

EB: or bleed out in the bathtub

EB: or dangle from a tree, pirates of the caribbean style

EB: or jump off a building and smack my head open on the ground

EB: or sink to the bottom of the ocean.

EB: i'm already drowning so i don't think there'd be much of a difference.

EB: i just don't care.

TT: John, you poor dear.

TT: You should get some air and calm down.

TT: Maybe opening a window would be a good option.

EB: don't patronize me.

TT: I'm not.

TT: I'm just merely suggesting something.

EB: you know

EB: that actually seems like a good idea.

EB: some nice, cold, crisp january air.

TT: Precisely.

EB: i think this hospital has roof access...

EB: hey rose?

TT: Yes?

EB: i wonder how tall this building is.

TT: Pardon me?

- ectoBiologist [EB] lost connection! -

TT: Oh my fuck.


You took Rose's advice and skimmed through your old conversations with John. There's nothing too out of the ordinary until pretty recently. And you read over something twice before going back and asking, "What?"

 

EB: i lo

TG: what

That was from the beginning of last week. 'i lo'. The fuck is that? Is it like an acronym or someth-

 

- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 19:10 -

TT: Dave, you need to get to the hospital roof right this instant.

TG: oh shit

TG: did bro find me because im kind of in the middle of something

TG: tell him to calm his tits ok

TT: STRIDER I AM NOT FUCKING JOKING.

TT: IT'S JOHN.

TT: ROOF.

TT: NOW.

TT: HURRY.

TG: shit

Chapter Text

You are seriously freezing. Wandering around barefoot on these cold, hard ceramic floors wasn't helping that at all. You really wish you had a pair of slippers, or socks even. But that won't matter in a few minutes anyway.

Clutched in your right hand is Kevins letter, and in the other, your phone that died at a really inconvenient time. You couldn't find any of your clothes in your hospital room. You only had your t-shirt and boxers and you were covered in gashes and cuts and bruises for everyone to see. You were on display like some kind of circus freak now. But you don't care. All you want to do right now is find roof access.

Surprisingly, the hallway you're walking down right now is completely barren of anyone; nurses, doctors, patients... Maybe you do have a little luck after all.

You wander the halls for another good few minutes or so, taking the elevator up to the top floor to find a roof access door.

Finding it eventually, you just kind of stare at it in disbelief for a while. You lift your hand to the knob to turn it, but then stop.

Why are you walking barefoot in this hall with no one around? Why are you wanting so badly to get to the roof? You... you just want to see how tall the building is. To gauge the distance. That's it, you're pretty sure. There's absolutely no way you're going to try to hurdle yourself off the edge, right? That's the absolute last thing on your mind...

You sigh exasperatedly. Instead of denying it any longer, you take your hand off the door and raise your fingers to your lips. You close your eyes to this decision and take a deep breath.

It's all you can do.

You're damaged goods. You can't be repaired. You have lost your will to even deliberate over it anymore.

A shiver runs up your spine as you pull the door open, eyes fluttering open once again. You let the heavy metal door close behind you, and lock it for good measure.

You won't be interrupted.

As you make your way upstairs, it feels like you aren't even in control of your body. Your heart is pounding against your ribcage painfully, but you don't stop, not even for a second, because if you stop, you don't think you'd be able to push yourself to keep going. It's only a few more steps until the next door; the one that actually leads outside. It's frigid as you push this one open against the wind; body already trembling from the physical exertion.

Unable to push it very far, you end up having to shimmy your way through the small opening you had made as you almost get crushed between the door and it's steel frame. The temperature must have been sub zero; your still slightly damp hair suddenly felt stiff. It looks like it rained too, or at least drizzled lightly. Your foot is wet as it touches the concrete, and the jolt of the cold goes straight up your leg and you almost consider turning back.

Taking another step right as the door slams behind you, you decide against it.

This is it.

This is really, truly it.

As the wind pummels into every inch of you, you've never felt more alive. This feels real; every single one of your senses were operating at full speed and it was exhilarating. The more steps you take, the better it feels. This must be what being high feels like or something.

You look to the sky. The sun must have set hours ago, you can't even tell what time it is. It wasn't so dark that you couldn't see anything though. Street lights shone on the overcast sky, giving it a stale orangey glow, which reflected on the concrete and rusted steel workings of this area.

You take a few more steps, noticing that you can't feel your hands, feet, or the tip of your nose. In fact, it almost felt like said appendages were burning. You stop again and roll your ankles, continuing you observations just as it begins to drizzle again.

This roof looks like it's neglected. You don't think anyone comes up here very often. It's rusty and dark and dreary and just... it's sad. It's lonely just like you; it's seen the best and the worst weather here for so many years, and toughed it out so people could still come up, but no one ever does. It's almost like this roof was just waiting for you, and this is the last place you're going to be seeing before you're gone. You won't ever go to a carnival or Disneyland or travel the world or talk to your friends or watch a movie with your dad. You won't ever see Dave again.

And that's... that's okay. You're okay with that. They don't matter. Nothing else matters and this is okay.

You're gonna be okay.

If you look past the adrenaline rush from the wind and the cold rain drops cutting through your skin, you realize you just feel like a ghost. You're not happy, you're not sad, you're not angry. You feel numb and uninspired and empty. You can't get any worse. You are cursed and that's why nothing ever works for you.

And then you realize how tired you are.

You rub at your eyes, displacing your glasses briefly, and take a few more measured steps toward the small barrier to the edge.

You hear a few car engines through the roaring wind in the parking lot below. And then you remember that there are real people down there. Real people with their own lives and families and friends and morals. Real people you could traumatize if they see you. Real people who could call the police. Real people that probably don't want to see your brain served on a sidewalk.

You don't want to hurt anyone.

Lowering yourself to your knees, you peek over the edge. You don't see anyone walking around or anything. You thought you saw someone running haphazardly towards the entrance, but you could barely see very far down, even with your glasses. This building was really tall. At least 20 storeys.

You really almost don't want to do this in the offchance that someone actually sees you. But then... why do you care about what anyone else thinks? It's no one's business what you do with your life, and if you want to throw it away then so fucking be it. It's your choice. You know what you're doing, you know what you're getting yourself into. Or out of. You know what you're getting yourself out of. And finally you're the one with the reigns.

You turn around and sit down, back against the barrier as the moisture soaks into your boxers. You lean your head back on it and let the light rain get into your hair and trickle down your face and neck and set down the letter and your phone beside you, forgotten for the time being.

This is being drawn out much longer than it needs to be. You want to get it over with but at the same time you just want to sit here and let the cold envelope you. It was getting to the point where you just felt warm, and it was really nice.

You think you'll just stay like this for a while.


You don't think you've ever ran this fast in your life.

You bolt across the street without looking, nearly getting clipped by a car and the horn blares but you barely hear it. Your eyes are fixed on the top of the hospital as you sprint to the front entrance just in case you see something. Seeing through the slight drizzle it was a bit difficult, especially with the droplets accumulating on your glasses but you manage well enough.

If Rose meant what she thought you meant, then there was seriously no time to spare whatsoever, and even with your lungs heaving you keep trying to run faster and then, get this, you nearly trip over your own damn feet several times.

As soon as you get to the entrance, you slam the door open and take off in the direction your gut tells you first.

jesus christ i really am sonic the hedgehog

the corndogs are back and my corndog is john

gotta go fast

You wipe it from thought before you start to laugh at yourself, and scour the halls for any kind of sign. You slow your pace down to a jog so people stop fucking gawking at you.

Instead of taking the elevator you pass by, you hop up the stairs being very mindful of your footing,you can't waste time, and any seconds you spend slipping or falling could be seconds that john is throwing himself over the edge, but you're still pretty swift on your feet. The last thing you need is to fall and break your nose on a cement step when a life is at stake, holy shit.

Bringing you back to your point, yeah, John.

Pulling the door open to the eerily empty floor, you look to your left, then right. It should be around here somewhere. You take the left, and pull off your shades to rub away the residual moisture from the rain outside on your jacket.

Your heart is still beating a million times a second.

The walls almost feel like they're pulsating around you until you remember that it's just you. It's only you freaking out and worrying that you're already too late.

You find the Roof Access door twenty-someodd paces later and you all but launch for the knob and turn-

It's not turning.

are you fucking kidding me

You keep rattling and shaking it in utter disbelief; this could not be fucking happening. John locked the door on you, on everyone.

It takes no second think-through as you start slamming your shoulder into it repeatedly, still rattling the knob and frantically repeating to yourself pleasepleasepleasepleaseplea seopen.

Right as you think it won't budge, there's a cracking metallic noise.

One more hit and the lock breaks.

You shoot up those next stairs but stop abruptly at the exit door and bite your lip.

This is reminding you of when he locked himself in the bathroom.

Only this time, if you wait for him to come back, he won't.

This means you need to bring him.

This door is heavy and cold and you can hear the wind violently beating against it and you can't even imagine how he's dealing with that out there. You push the door open and finally spot him sitting against the barrier.

Oh thank Jesus you made it on time this was going to be okay and you could both go home and talk or maybe just not talk at all maybe you could sleep and you could make sure he has no more nightmares and-

You think you stop functioning when he sees you and stands up and you think he's turning into a Smurf.

This is not, by any means, going to be easy.

And your whole body nearly shuts down as he shuffles closer towards the edge.


Your head snaps up when you hear something to look around, sight obscured by rain and your exhaustion. When nothing really catches your eye, you were going to lay your head back down on the concrete. But then you see red. And then more red. And then light hair and eyes hidden by stupid aviators.

It took you a lot longer than it should've to stand back up, your body was completely numb but it felt like it was burning, and it was the best feeling you've had in awhile. Through this, you're trying to figure why he's here? How did he even know, you didn't tell him and you're 100% sure you locked the door why is he here he needs to go right now.

He starts getting closer and you step back out of instinct. He stops right in his tracks, and for a split second you almost believe you have control over the situation.

You think you see him move again though and that's when you just crumble completely and yell at him without even thinking about what was coming out of your mouth.

"Why do you even put up with me?!"

"..."

"It's just some sick thing do you for irony isn't it?!"

"..."

"That's all it is! I know that's all it is!"

"..."

"You only hang around so you can use me as your prop! I'm nothing but a giant joke to you aren't I?!"

"..."

"See! I know what you're up to! So why are you keeping it up?!"

"John, listen-"

"I DON'T WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY BECAUSE IT'S OVER ANYWAY!"

Do it.

Just fall back.

It'll be over before you know it.

"There's nothing you can do to make this better Dave! So just stop!"

A particularly strong gust of wind nearly has you toppling over and finishes this for you, and you have no idea how you stayed upright. Ignoring Dave for a moment, you peek over the edge again, muscles cramping and teeth chattering violently. You may have felt overly warm earlier, but now you're just in pain beyond belief; head and heart pounding synonymously. You just want relief.

Do it.

Do it now.

It's over.

The voices are right. It's over. Just one step and you'll be free. There's nothing to be afraid of, it's not your problem anymore.

No more problems. None. None at all. You just need to say goodbye. You've got too many irons in the fire and they're all going to go out now.

You turn your head to face Dave again

and his expression rips you apart from the inside out.

He tore off his glasses at some point and now it's just bright, piercing red. And they're scared. They're absolutely terrified. And it's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen.

Those eyes show you sadness and pain, concern and anguish, panic and something else, something deeper.

And you realize that you don't want those eyes to be scared. You want them to laugh and smile. You want Dave to laugh and smile.

You don't want to hurt Dave by doing this.

You don't want to hurt anyone.

And you'd never be able to commit fucking suicide of all things right in front of him.

You...

You love him too much.

You involuntarily step forward, away from the edge and collapse to your knees, hitting them hard enough that you could actually feel it.

Your body begins to tremble as you break down again convulsively; you can feel it throughout every inch of you. And it hurts so much. Warm tears burn as they streak down your face and the sensation disappears as quickly as it came. You sob even harder when you feel yourself being lifted off the wet concrete. You're so stupid. This is so dumb and idiotic and you can't believe you actually thought you could pull something like this off.

"I'm sorry," you cry, "I'm so sorry."


This isn't some fictional scenario, this isn't just some thing that only happens in depressing books and movies and documentaries about kids you don't know that live halfway across the globe. This is real life and it's happening right now and the only thing keeping you from falling apart and decomposing on the concrete is your instinct.

Your instinct was telling you not to mess up. Your instinct was telling you that if you do, then you are going to hurt for a really, really long time. A lot of people are going to hurt for a really, really long time. And you really, really don't want that to happen.

He was threatening to jump and to be honest, you think that that would be the worst way to go. If he changes his mind halfway down, no matter how much he screams, the sidewalk was still going to meet him at the bottom. No matter how much he screams, you wouldn't be able to catch him. You might as well just follow him.

John was yelling at you. He thinks- no, he believes and is totally convinced that you are putting up an ironic show of sorts. It couldn't be farther from the truth, nothing at all could be farther from the truth. But your instinct was telling you not to move. You need to pretend he has control over what's happening right now, and in a way, he does. Because you sure fucking don't. But he needs you to, even though he doesn't realize that.

But he has it all completely wrong and it hurts to know that this is what he really thinks of you. You're pushing down the urge to tear up, your throat contorting painfully.

"That's all it is! I know that's all it is!"

"..."

"See! I know what you're up to! So why are you keeping it up?!"

"John, listen-"

"I DON'T WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY BECAUSE IT'S OVER ANYWAY!"

Fuck, no, he's getting that glazed look in his eyes again. You need to stop talking. You need to stop right fucking now.

"There's nothing you can do to make this better Dave! So just stop!"

He's an unpredictable variable; he thinks this is his only way out but you don't know if he will go through with it or not. He's shaking violently and is looking over the edge again and this is not okay this is not going to end well you need to do something.

But your instinct has you rooted to the spot.

A sudden powerful gust of wind nearly topples him over but he stays up and in that moment you swear nearly have a heart attack.

You don't know why you took of your glasses. You don't. Maybe it was your instinct again. You don't know at this point and you don't really care.

Your name is Dave Strider and you are petrified.

Your name is Dave Strider and you're not as good at protecting your friends as you thought you were.

Your name is Dave Strider and your best friend doesn't trust you.

He doesn't trust you and you can't save him because you are terrified of what he might do in the next few seconds.

But then he looks at you and something breaks. He breaks and steps forward and falls to his knees and shakes.

You're surprised- no, you're taken aback.

John's not doing it.

It takes you a moment to realize you can move again and you all but fucking sprint over to him. You kneel beside him for a few short seconds and look him over, unsure of how to get him out of the cold without hurting him. You need to do it fast though, he's colder than ice.

Instinct. Right. You have that. Your instinct says to pick him up and take the initiative.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he cries, muffled in your coat as you lift him off the ground. He weighs next to nothing, and you grab the damp paper and his cell phone too and usher him back inside. Your insides are twisting and your heart is racing and you feel faint but only because this was the closest call in the history of close calls of forever.

You hold him up with one arm, dragging yourself and him back inside, and once you both get back in there, you fall back to sit on the floor and pull him between your legs, taking off your damp jacket in the process and draping it around his trembling shoulders. Then you basically wrap yourself around him to warm him up.

Yeah.

This isn't weird at all.

"Dave I-I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he repeats,

"Stop, it's okay now. Just don't apologize alright? Not your fault..."

"Not just that, but I..." He takes his head off of your chest and looks at you, all soaking wet hair and disheveled glasses and tears and shivering and... fuck it's only just now that you remember you took off your glasses. He's staring right into you and he's going to make a snide remark because that's what he does and man you're so screwed.

"Dave...you're crying?"

Wait, you are?

Oh.

When did that happen.

You quickly wipe the moisture away with your bare wrist before bringing it back behind John and your begin rubbing his back, fingers tracing ribs and shoulder blades and prominent vertebra.

You look down, avoiding anymore eye contact, and don't bother unhooking your glasses from the collar of your shirt. He lays his head back down on your chest and lets you touch him. He doesn't press you for answers or anything like that. Maybe he expected the eye thing. You don't know.

His shaking lessened after a while, but his breathing pattern was still a bit uneven. You're just waiting for him to burst into tears again. Shifting slightly, you bring your bodies closer together. For body warmth distribution of course.

But it makes your heart ache.

Why can't you ever just tell him how you feel?

Fuck everything.

He's so sad, but he's so beautiful and amazing and quirky and you don't understand him. At the same time though, you feel like you do, at least you want to understand him.

You feel your phone vibrating but ignore it. It was in silent vibration mode for a reason.

Lifting your head up slightly as the dim light of the stairwell flickers, you either press your face into John's hair for no reason or leave a really really light kiss on the top of his head. Just like how you're don't care to know about other things, you don't care to know which one it was with this action either.

John moves a little. You feel him swallow harshly. He hasn't anything to eat or drink since this morning and he probably feels like shit. Not to mention he just threatened you to jump off a building, and it makes you wonder what gave him that final push. He talked to Rose, so he probably told her that that was what he was up to. You'll have to reassure her that he's okay really soon before she has an aneurism or something.

"Hey, Egbert..." you start quietly, unable to find your voice.

"Mm..?"

"You know you can tell me anything right?"

"..."

"And that the only thing I'm going to do is try to help you. I'm not being ironic," you're trying to rectify his beliefs. He's gotta know you're not being ironic and that you are not using him as an ironic tool, "This has been the longest 3 days of my short life and I have not been ironic for a moment of it alright, just gonna get that out there."

Yeah wow hopefully you haven't word-vomited your way to pissing him off again because that just seems to keep happening lately due to your lack of tact around real people. Or maybe tact has nothing to do with it, maybe you're just an undercover asshole and don't know it yet. You look and sound like an asshole all the time because even though you try to help it usually just backfires and punches you in the gut. Said punches are never pulled either.

With that said you're really surprised when he hugs your torso, burying his face into the crook of your neck.

You almost think your heart jumps into your throat but then remember that this is strictly platonic and he just needs comfort and someone to talk to, that's all this means and that's all it ever going to mean. You need to learn how to come to terms with that and stop having homo thoughts holy shit strider youre so fucktardedly shallow start learning about how this isnt about you and apply the knowledge to real life, dumbass.

"I'm tired..."

"...If you need to get your nap on then that's fine, I like to believe I'm an excellent pillow."

"No not just... sleepy tired but... tired of keeping secrets."

Oh.

Maybe you should brace yourself.

"I'm really sorry for not telling you important stuff when you wanted to know, I-I just had this mindset that you were messing around and... all that stuff I said earlier..."

"Well we've got it all settled out now," you sigh, holding him a little tighter, "If there's anything you want to tell me then go for it."

"Remember when you... asked me about friday a few times? And I told you nothing happened?"

If he wasn't speaking so slowly and quietly then he'd probably be stuttering. He hasn't told you before but he's telling you now this is important don't fuck up Strider.

You nod.

John pulls away from you a bit but looks anywhere but your face. He's still a ruffled mess and he's quivering a bit.

It's a few minutes of this. But you wait. You're not a patient man, but you wait.

It's unsettling.

He pulls his knees up closer and leans on you once more, probably giving up on words and sighing unevenly, "I'm sorry, I just don't know how to explain it..."

"Just say whatever comes first."

John shuts his eyes, conflicted. You keep rubbing his back.

"I got raped."

jade was right something terrible happened

Your jaw clenches John must have felt you stiffen up because he looks directly at you, eyes worried and crushed and he looks like he's about to break again, "I didn't even know until I got home and I've been denying it, I know I've been denying it and I'm so sorry I didn't mean for it to happen-" he chokes on a sob, "Please don't be mad at me,"

You spend the next 20 minutes trying to reassure him that it's not his fault and never will be, and that you're not mad at him because how could you be? Of course it scared you out of your wits but fuck, no, you're not mad.

He tells you about falling asleep in class and meeting with his math teacher, to how heavy the rain was and his little umbrella, and about this other kid named Kevin and how he offered to drive John to the bus exchange. John told you about how nervous Kevin was, and about the apple juice, and how they were all spiked with rohypnol or something like that, and how Kevin made him drink a bunch of them. John tells you how fuzzy his memory was getting at this point but you urge him to keep going. To keep remembering. He tells you about the parking lot out of town, and how Terrence ("The guy you beat up at school,") pulled him out of Kevins car like a ragdoll and led him into somewhere more undercover by his hair.

Fuck, the more he talks the more you just want him to stop.

John's explaining everything though tears now, but you don't stop rubbing his back. He tells you about how he thought it was going to be a normal beating, how he was thrown into the dirt and kicked repeatedly; his back, his ribs, his abdomen, his thighs. He tells you that Terrence thereafter accused him of telling someone about all the abuse and bullying and that John agreed because he told Jade, but couldn't quite articulate it properly to Terrence because of the pain accompanied by the drug and concussion...

At this point he's speaking really slowly, still through tears. He tells you that he didn't remember anything after that, but when he got home, he was about to take a shower when he saw all the new cuts and bruising, and hand shaped marks on his hips. After that, the memories of what happened to him only came back through nightmares. He tells you that even more people came and had their way with his body. Then he lays his head back down on your shoulder and just sobs and apologizes and whispers something else you don't catch.

You want to scream and kick something. Your heart is racing again. You can't get over how responsible you feel. You're just so mad and you want to murder this Terrence guy. Fuck a broken nose and a missing tooth you want him dead.

But John doesn't need that. He needs you. And he's your priority right now, nothing else.

But now you finally understand him. You understand why he's so depressed. You understand why he self harmed and why he almost got himself killed. It's because he's been suffering in silence and fear and skepticism, and he thought he couldn't trust anyone. Because that asshole was threatening him from the start and Kevin broke that trust when John reached out and tried.

Honestly, you hate them both.

You card your fingers through his hair and try to get him relaxed again, maybe even have him sleep. You start humming and it eventually turns into words.

"I remember when you lost your head,

sometimes I wonder how you stay so sad when you're so beautiful.

And I remember every word you said,

how you were scared because you never been somewhere so beautiful, so beautiful.

So now you tell me that you're on the mend,

sometimes I wonder how you don't go mad when you're so beautiful."

Chapter Text

Making out patterns in the ceiling seemed to be something you did a lot. The hospitals were a lot different though, all weird black splatters and squared off panels. When the light starts seeping in, that's when you can finally find images. You really wish you had something else to occupy yourself with though. Everything you see is messed up in some way or another.

You look over to your side. Dave is sleeping in one of the two chairs, slouched with his head resting on his chest and hands folded over his stomach with his glasses set on the table beside yours and you feel terrible. He should have gone home, but he stayed. You shouldn't have told him anything, you should have just jumped. He didn't need to have that kind of information dropped on him and you just... you feel so fucking bad about it. Even his jacket is still draped over you, and he's got nothing keeping in heat but a t-shirt. But you can't help but feel that it's just another turned page in a book that's ending hasn't been written yet. You can't take anything back so now you have to deal with the consequences. You don't want to but you have to. And you know you have to.

As more light creeps in, you tentatively reach over to lightly graze your fingers over Dave's own. He's so warm, he just radiates heat. You don't even remember the last time you've just been so warm on your own, and he's like a sun. Like a coin kept in your jean's pocket or like clothes fresh out of the dryer.

Your eyes trails up to his nose, dotted in freckles that you wouldn't normally be able to see. You reach up from his hand and lightly sweep his bangs out of his face, looking for patterns in the freckles instead of the ceiling this time.

There's this feeling you have that you need him though. You'll never have the guts to tell him how you really feel, but it'll pass and it'll be fine. You'll tell him to forget about everything you said last night, and he'll go home eventually. You still need to figure out what no need to do about your Dad and your school and about your anxiety, especially. You remember just looking at that note and your breathing just start to become slightly irregular. You don't know how it got to this point. It's hard to believe that it was only about a week ago when you thought everything was normal and okay. You really, truly believed that you were okay.

When Dave shifts, it jolts you from your thoughts and you pull your hand back like you've just been burned.

You turn and pull the jacket over your head and hide from the rest of the room. It smells like him.

You're an idiot.


Okay so maybe sleeping in a fucking hospital chair wasn't your best idea. You weren't about to leave the night before though, no matter how much John's Dad asked you to come back with him.

After that whole fiasco the night before, John did actually fall asleep on you. You had to carry him all the way back to his room without really being noticed, which really shouldn't have been hard, but with a 90 pound sleeping boy in your arms it kind of was. Then you just waited, and ignored your phone and everything else. You tried ignoring his Dad too when he came in to see John make sure everything was ok (ha ha) and he seemed to try not pay any attention to you either. Maybe you both just didn't have anything to say to each other. Then he asked you to go home with him and you refused. And you kept on refusing when he asked if you needed anything.

Despite everything, you think he felt like a terrible parent for letting this even happen to John. You kind of felt bad for him.

But that was last night. As you rub your abused neck, you shoot a glance at the analog clock on the wall. It reads 8:28. Or 8:27. You can't really tell.

You grab your glasses off the table before standing and stretching, a few bones popping back into place. You look down to John, checking to see if he's still asleep-

Is he.

Hiding under your jacket?

Is he awake?

"Hey, Egbert, you up?"

Instead of answering you, he just kind of shifted before letting out a small, "Yeah."

You rub your nose and sit on the side of his bed, looking off to the wall, "How long you been up."

"I dunno."

There's kind of an awkward silence for a moment. What do you even talk about after what happened yesterday?

"...You feel any better?"

"Dunno."

You consider over your options. You know John needs someone to talk to, and even though you are seriously not well equipped in the area of emotional expertise, you're going to have to try.

"Do you uh... wanna talk about it or anything?"

Wow.

"Not right now."

Okay so, by 'Not right now' he means he still does want to talk about it at some point (hopefully) soon, and he didn't say 'Not now' which would have made you think he never wanted to talk about it which wouldn't have been very good and all your efforts would have gone to waste and wow damn you think in too many run on sentences and you never sing for anyone ever this kid better be grateful for the shit you do for him.

Except not really, because you'd do it again if you had to. It seems like it's the only thing you can do to calm him down.

"Dave," he says, not bothering to show his face, "You should go home."

Wait what? He shuffles and you look back down at him, skeptical, eyebrows knit.

"Excuse me?"

"I said you should go home..."

"And what makes you think I want to go home?"

"..."

"I ain't going anywhere for a while, better get used to it."

"I'll be okay, you can go back."

"I don't think anyone needs a repeat of last night, John."

After that, he doesn't respond for a good while. Neither of you move other than him shifting away from you. And you try to ignore the stupid idea in your head telling you you're making things worse by being around him. It's not until he finally pulls your jacket down from his face when you can see him.

And he looks more miserable than he did yesterday. His nose is red and his hair is starting to get stringy.

At the very least, he wasn't crying.

(but every time you see his eyes like that it makes you hurt in places you didn't know could hurt. how much more lame and gay can you get)

"That wasn't even supposed to happen, don't hang it over my head," John follows up, voice wavering dangerously.

dont you fucking dare make him cry again

You somehow manage to keep a straight face, "I'm not, I just want you to stay safe."

Apparently you weren't lame and gay enough yet.

"You don't understand though."

"I think I understand well enough at this point, but you know what's weird? The word understand. I don't get it, if you know something and you get it well enough, why don't you stand over it? I fuckin' overstand the situation; I overstand the shit out of it because standing over things is just what I do ok."

(wow that was stupid, okay retard we think youve rambled enough)

John gets a mock-inquisitive look on his face and turns over, hiding once again, "If we were on Pesterchum right now I'd have told you to shut up like 5 minutes ago."

Oh, ouch.

Okay you know what, you're just going to sit your ass back down in that chair and do what you do best.

...uh.

Actually rapping and talking too much are what you're pretty sure you do best and you're also pretty sure it wouldn't help the situation.

Maybe you should just stay quiet. That was pretty much John's way of saying he didn't want to talk and that he didn't want you to talk, specifically. And you're not a total jackass okay, you can respect boundaries. It's not very often that you do but today it's going to be a thing you do.

To be honest though, this is frustrating. He's sending you mixed signals and one minute he wants to be touched and held and wants to talk to you but then the next he just shuts you out utterly and completely.

You suck it up and get off of his bed, flopping back in the chair. You're lips are pressed together in thought. You both ignore each other while your legs bounces.

When his Dad finally comes in again at around 10, you take it as your cue to leave. But he came with that woman you saw him talking with in the lobby the night before.

Something twists in your stomach and you don't bother trying to get your coat back.


You ended up wandering town for a bit, looking for somewhere to hang out while things settled down a bit.

You almost froze your fucking ass off before finding solace at a library; you are not used to the weather here ok.

You grab a magazine and sit down somewhere near the back, but drop that shit on a table because you're not going to be reading a magazine, you have things to do. Taking out your phone, you open up Pesterchum. Everyone's online for whatever inane reason (well everyone but John but that's obviously a given).

You have a fuckload of messages from both of them, so with that in mind, maybe talking to them once at a time wouldn't be very convenient...

- turntechGodhead [TG]opened a new memo at 10:42 -

- turntechGodhead [TG] invited gardenGnostic[GG] and tentacleTherapist [TT] to memo -

- gardenGnostic [GG] joined memo at 10:43 -

GG: holy shit finally! D:

GG: dave are you ready to stop ignoring us or what?!

- tentacleTherapist [TT] joined memo at 10:43-

TT: I'm extremely tentative about this.

TT: But I would have to agree.

TG: listen i know you girls want the d

TG: but i got busy ok

TT: Dave, he blatantly admitted to wanting to commit suicide to me, and you chose to let us worry all night.

TT: Was it really necessary?

GG: no kidding! rose sent me that ENTIRE CONVERSATION too!

GG: do you even realize how much she blamed herself?

TG: uh

TT: Jade, it's fine.

TT: I'm sure Dave saved the day, didn't you?

TT: Please say you did.

TT: Because believe when I say that my next statement is being said in the nicest way possible;

TT: If you let him jump off that building I will fucking piss on you and everything you love in the most passive aggressive manner you could ever imagine, Strider.

TT: Excuse my language.

TG: omfg rose no why

TG: i opened this thing to sort things out because yeah wow i know cutting you two off after that was a dick move

TG: but why piss on me

TG: piss on the assholes that made it that way

TG: at least then itd be justified i mean come on

TT: My apologies, you're right. That was out of line.

GG: you guys are dumb :P

GG: just tell us what happened! omfg

TG: wow keep your pants on ok give me a minute to collect my thoughts

TG: rose gave me scarring mental imagery just let me compose myself ill be with you in a moment

GG: ...

GG: ok times up now SPILL : O

TG: how detailed do i have to be

TT: As detailed as you're comfortable with.

TT: In other words I'd like you to explain with brutal explicitness.

TG: or yknow how about you both just zip it and let me say things

TG: i started this memo and i could just as easily close it

TG: seriously what is it with this hot mess of fresh fuck that i have to deal with

Yeah okay, you thought this would be a good idea but they're just fucking mad at you

That was kind of mean though, oops.

GG: rose is just on edge, dont worry about it ok? and dont close the memo either ok i would so punch you in the mouth :C

TG: fine whatever

TG: okay so after rose pestered me i fucking ran my white ass down the street and up to the top of the building

TG: i was like kid flash or sonic or something just a blur in your peripheral

TG: so fast no one even saw me pass

TG: anyway i got to the top floor but it turns out he locked the roof access door from the other side

TG: cue me flipping my shit all over the place and breaking the lock

TG: hopefully no one had that on security video i dont really want to explain to bro why i came home with a wa fine under my belt

TG: so i get to the top but by this point im questioning myself and pouring out the rest of the half empty glass thinking i was too late already

TG: but then i finally spot john sitting against a concrete barrier just

TG: all unmoving n shit

TG: keep in mind that there were like killer winds and some rain and he was in nothing but a t shirt and boxers

TG: dont hold this against me but i was going to take him back down like right that second but then he stands up and stares me down and screams at me and nearly gets himself blown over

TT: Do you recall what he was saying?

You actually remember in great detail. Word for word, even. Remembering what happens next is something you don't actually want to remember though; you'd rather cut it out from memory completely. All you could see was John, shivering and hopeless and angry and sad and empty and screaming at you, only 20 feet away. So close but so fucking far.

TG: yeah somewhat

TG: shit like 'why are you even putting up with me, this is all ironic isnt it? you only stick around to use me as an ironic prop, im just a huge sick joke arent i?'

TG: tried telling him that no, that was the last thing on my mind i wasnt trying to be ironic and wasnt using him but he cut me off

TG: 'i dont want to hear what you have to say because its over anyway'

TG: 'theres nothing you can do to make this better so just stop'

TG: and he turns around and looks down

TG: dramatic camera pan here of me rooted to the spot like i could literally not do anything thats how freaked out i was

TG: idk why but i ended up whipping my glasses off in the heat of the moment

TG: i dont know how it happened it just did

TG: and john must have been having some sort of inner monologue going on because the moment just seemed a lot more drawn out than it should have but then

TG: epic plot twist

TG: he looks right at me and then something just kind of snapped i guess

TG: because he stepped away from the edge and just collapsed on himself and started bawling his eyes out

TG: my legs are fully functional at this point go me

TG: i nab him and back the fuck up back into the stairwell inside the building and hes all 'im sorry, dave, im so sorry'

TG: apparently this was all so intense that even i shed a few tears it was all pretty painful honestly

TG: after that he told me what happened on friday and the events leading up to it and i felt like the lowest piece of shit on the planet

TG: like even worse than gum stuck on the bottom of your shoe because some asshole downtown decided itd be a good idea to spit that nasty c-food where people walked

TG: mostly because he said 'please dont be mad at me i didnt mean for it to happen'

TG: then theres me and im all holy fucking christ its not your fault omg

TG: all and all there was a lot of crying and hugging and emotioning

TG: when he was done i just kind of held him all up and close and sang for a bit

TG: he fell asleep on me and i carried him back to the hospital room because i am the most gentlemanly of gentlemen

TG: k done

GG: im crying oh my gosh no D:

GG: why did this have to start?

GG: i just

GG: im so fucking MAD AT THOSE ASSHOLES FOR DRIVING JOHN TO ALMOST-SUICIDE!

TT: Likewise, Jade.

TT: Dave, how about this morning? How are things now between you and him?

Uh.

Well shit, you have no clue.

TG: i have no frickin idea

TG: i woke up to him hiding under my jacket this morning but he was really

TG: shut off again

TG: i asked is wanted to talk and he basically kind of told me off in that passive-aggressive-john way he has

TG: i waited till his dad came before i left

TG: thing is though he went in with some other chick so im a little

TG: uneasy about it i guess

TG: chances are they found all the marks on his body

TG: plus throw in the whole godzilla on forearm thing

TG: i dont want him getting thrown into a psych ward he doesnt need that he needs a person who loves him that he trusts to talk to and sort things out

TG: i walked to the library in town in the rain because he got mad at me though so

TG: but im kind of at a loss for once its kind of embarrassing

TG: and you both keep saying all this like you think i know what to do right off the damn bat

TG: this isnt easy and its not fucking fun either

GG: i think rose and i know what you should do though

TT: And soon, might I add?

TG: please

TG: enlighten me

TT: Jade and I have some interesting snippets of information that John has let slip to us.

TT: You may be surprised, but try not to do an "acrobatic pirouette off the handle," please.

GG: yeah, and maybe after you see them you wont be such a frickin doorknob about everything :/

TG: im not a doorknob just tell me what i need to know holy fuck

TT: Jade, please take the lead.

GG: kayyyy~

GG:EB: jade he figured it out

EB: oh my god.

EB: no no no that's not good!

GG: why not?

GG: if he knows you can talk to him!

GG: maybe he can help?

GG: listen

GG: to

GG: him

GG: and talk!

GG: i know its hard, but he cares about you so much john!

EB: but out of everyone, i didn't want him to know the most!

GG: but why not?

EB: because i fucking like him!

EB: no, wait, ignore that.

EB: just holy shit ignore the hell out of that.

Your eyes widen of their own accord and your stomach does a backflip. The judges give it a solid 8.

TT: My turn.

TT: EB: and dave is just fucking around with me anyway. loving him physically pains me.

EB: it's like this one huge ginormous fucked up lie topped in peanut crumbs.

TG: ok so

TG: its mutual

TG: he and i are mutual with the homo feels is that whats going on

TG: where are you two going with this my heart is about to leap out of my fucking mouth

GG: we are going to 'dave strider needs to confess his feelings for john egbert to give said egbert something live for'

GG: 'and maybe kiss and snuggle a little'

GG: 'because that would make everything like 5879831 times better for everyone'

GG: we were going to let you figure it out yourself, but everything just got really drastic and desperate times call for desperate measures!

Apparently you've been pacing. John likes you. John loves you. He used the word love to Rose. He used the word love when he was talking about you but he believes you feel the complete opposite holy fucking shit this whole time he loved you. You feel heat rising up to your face in embarrassment.

TT: I think I have somewhat of an explanation handy for his mood swings pertaining to you, Dave.

TT: He gets close when he's too emotionally distraught to want to pass up the opportunity for another to be near him and be comforting him, regardless of what he thinks of you and your motives. I have the feeling he also just doesn't want anyone to help him carry the weight of his problems due to some sort of martyr complex. He doesn't feel he deserves anyone's sympathy or kindness at all.

TT: Extremely low self-worth is also very possible; thinking that no one could ever possibly care about him when they clearly do. He feels he doesn't deserve it at all.

TT: Plus, his father is frequently absent from his life, pulled away from home because of inappropriate work schedules and work load.

TG: tldr

TT: You're insufferable.

TT: TL;DR, John wants to get close, but doesn't feel like he deserves it so either shuts himself off or just goes with the flow to avoid conflict.

TT: You need to show him you love and care for him, and mean it, to break him out of the cycle.

TT: It's necessary, you can't argue this at all.

TT: I can't think of anything else to fix the problem, unfortunately.

TG: wait so then

TG: like last week he sent me something kinda funky when he was saying goodbye

GG: what was it?

TG: i lo

TG: then he was all 'OOPS GOSH THAT WAS NOTHING HAHA BYE'

TT: Obviously he was about to say 'I love you' but caught himself halfway.

GG: and then denied it because he was being bishie uke as heck! :3

TG: jade no more yaoi animes for you

GG: D:

TG: okay so

TG: im still trying to process all this

TG: hello yes this is dave strider im not available right now try again in a few minutes

TT: Just think of something creative and sweet to do for him the next time you see him.

TT: I assume you're staying at his house, so maybe when you go back.

TT: And remember to confess your undying love for him, because that would be the whole point.

TT: How you do it though, we'll leave to you.

TT: But unfortunately I must get going.

TT: I have other business to attend to.

GG: what is it? :O

TT: My Mother decided it would be a good and funny idea to sign me up for the school band as a trumpeter when I am clearly a violinist.

TT: After dealing with the repercussions of miscommunications plus what happened yesterday between me and John, I have subjected myself to spend my free time concocting and plan to get back at her.

TG: haha sick

TT: Absolutely ill.

GG: super debilitated :P

TG: debilitated thats a new one

GG: i couldnt think of any other words synonymous with sick or ill ;p

TT: Well, I'll be on my way now.

TT: Hopefully I'll speak to you two soon.

- tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased responding to memo at 11:54 -

TG: welp

TG: lalonde isnt the only one concocting shit up

TG: i should probably fan out and see what this dinky town has to offer

GG: its not THAT dinky

GG: i google mapped it and its actually kind of cute : D

TG: i should probably google map it too huh

GG: well i guess you should if you dont want to get lost off your ass, haha

TG: hey harley

TG: youre typing kinda weird like

TG: you alright

GG: yeah, just a little tired no big :P

GG: and remember, bec got me sick! im all sniffly and stuff :' O

TG: oh

TG: have a nap then ok

GG: ill try! : D

TG: yeah like itll be all that hard for you

GG: whatever omg

GG: bye!

- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased responding to memo at 11:59 -

TG: sighs everywhere

TG: why is this so hard

- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased responding to memo at 12:01 -

- turntechGodhead [TG] closed memo at 12:01 -


You immediately go back to hiding under Dave's jacket and only peek out when your Dad and some other woman steps in, and they both look really down. Well, your Dad at least. The lady just kind of came and walked in like she owned the place.

You chew on your lips. You don't know what they're going to say, you don't want to know what they're going to say.

Dad takes a seat in the chair Dave was in (he looks exhausted), and the woman remains standing. She's old and has a clipboard and a pen and you swear if she starts writing things down...

No one talks for a while though.

Maybe if you shut your eyes they'll go away after a while.

You try that. You try that for at least 30 minutes.

But they never do.

When they start speaking to you, you don't really listen. They're asking you about school. You just kind of shut your eyes count your breath intake. In, one, out, two, in, three, out, four. It sounds wheezy, and it's starting to tickle. No, fuck, don't cough. Don't cough you idiot. They'll know you're awake and that's the last thing you want right now no no no.

You try to get away with just clearing your throat but nothing ever goes your way, you brace yourself and start hacking your lungs out, whipping the jacket off your head and hunching over the side of the bed, face buried in the crook of your elbow. You feel your Dad's hand patting your back in a very Dad-like manner and you don't want him to touch you but you can't tell him right now, you're too preoccupied to say anything. Your nose starts to burn. You want to throw up.

When the coughing finally subsides (it feels like hours have passed), you plant your face firmly back into the lumpy pillow, feeling breathless and weak. Your vision is swimming like... like back when your concussion was really bad last week.

They both know you're awake now and talking to you but instead of tuning it out, you legitimately can't hear them. It feels like someone shoved earplugs so far down into your ear canals that it's going to take surgery to remove them and be able to hear again. The whole room is twisting in a way that it shouldn't be.

You wrap your twiggy arms around the jacket and wait for the room to stop swaying, for the noises to become less muddy. You hold onto Dave's coat like a lifeline, fingers digging into the fabric, so you don't become delirious; something to keep you attached to reality. You curl your toes, bunching up the sheet.

As the radio static and white noise fades away, you finally notice your Dad hovering over, trying to get you to respond to him. But just hovering, like one small touch was going to break you into itty bitty pieces. This is upsetting you. This is really really upsetting you. You can't even begin to fathom how pathetic you are to him, how much of a failure you are.

You feel a sneeze coming on and it's only now that you realize that you're sick. You're physically sick, and sick in the head too. You don't know what you even want anymore. All you know is that you want to get better but dammit you don't know how.

When you finally work up the courage to look up at him, you bite your cottony tongue.

"John? Are you alright son?" he asks uncertainly. His eyes are wide and glassy, and he smells like car exhaust and tobacco and aftershave, and not sugar and cake and paper like how you remember. Like how he used to so long ago.

You attempt a reply but all that comes out of your mouth is a sad little noise when you know you're capable of so much more. You just don't know what to say or how to say it. A quick glance over to the bedside table tells you that your phone is there. The note is gone, but there's an unopened bottle of water. Pointedly not looking at your Dad, you untangle your arm from the coat and grab it. It takes you longer than you'd liked to open it, but you do eventually, and down half of it in one go.

You set it back on the table and take a while to draw out your answer.

"Yeah. I'm ok," you manage in a small, measured voice.

He finally moves away from you and takes a seat once more, sighing. He looks really tired. You fight the urge to hide again because that lady looks a little miffed, all her wrinkles deep and pronounced. You don't know who she is or why she's here, but she makes you really uncomfortable. If they expect you to talk about anything, she needs to leave.

She stares at you like you're some sort of science project.

Yeah, you really hope she leaves.


It's almost as if the fact that everything seems to close to you right now is a small blessing from the aliens above. Because, you know, aliens. Well, maybe not everything, but this little area you've gotten yourself to has quite the selection of shops and cafes and recreational entertainment.

(not that you're going to postpone dealing with your emotional distress to watch a movie and buy a fancy chai latte or anything)

(no matter how tempting it seems)

(you could totally go for a hot chocolate or a coffee though)

You end up in a Dunkin' Donuts because why the hell not. It's not like you really have anywhere to be right now. Fuck Rose thinking you can come up with perfectly immaculate plans on the spot, this shit takes time and thought okay. You actually have no idea how you're going to tell him how you uh... love the shit out of him without seeming insincere, because let's face it, he still has it all totally worked out in his head that you're messing around with the fragility and brittleness of his state of mind. (Which isn't the case. Obviously.) You have the feeling you'll figure it all out in due time though. Due time meaning soon. Soon meaning by tonight. Hopefully before tonight, even. Not that there's anything going on tonight, you think.

Man, how are you even getting back?

You glance outside. Across the parking lot is a Goodwill. Hey, maybe you could run in there later and grab a second hand sweater or something. Your balls were like one gust of wind away from shriveling up and dying out there. Not even sugarcoating it.

Waiting in line and subconsciously rubbing your bare, speckled arms, you take a look around. You've never actually been to one of these. They're everywhere, but you've never actually taken the liberty to walk into one and pretend to be one of the masses. And coffee is actually pretty shitty. You just drink it when you're dead tired, which is exactly what you are right now. You don't even know what a chai latte is. Sounds like something a douche would drink. Any kind of douche. Maybe not a redneck douche, but a city douche. Then again, you get called a douche a lot. Maybe you are a douche? Maybe you should order a chai latte for the lulz. Because why not, you're a fucking douche.

The lady at the cash is failing to get your attention with redundant "How can I help you?"'s. Apparently you were at the front of the line and spacing out. You get snapped back into reality after the dude behind you nudges you and order a chai latte. You end up stuttering. They don't even have chai lattes. Cash lady suggests a mocha. You end up settling for that instead, and with an extra shot of espresso.


The second you pull into the driveway with your Dad after a silent and awkward drive home, he offers to help you into the house like you're some sort of delicate figurine or something. After all the discussion earlier, he still doesn't believe that you can function by yourself. You can! You just... you're in a rough spot right now. You refuse, not even able to look at him. Not even really because you're still upset but... you don't think you're really all that ready to look at him. You shouldn't feel like that though, it's not fair to him.

That lady never left. Dad told you she had to stay, she's here for your own benefit, son. No, what she wanted was for you to get psychiatric help. She wanted you to stay in the psych ward for a week because of your mutilated arm. No one even mentioned your other ailments, just the cutting. It surprised you that they didn't bring it up, but you were also just... so relieved. You don't want to tell your Dad what you've already told Dave. Not just yet. You want to come to terms with it first. You want to do it properly, and you want to know Dave is with you when you do it. But you fiercely refused to go to a loony bin. You really didn't want to go. You had no good reasons not to though. The only thing that pulled you out of that was your excuse that Dave is staying here, I can't just leave him, right? Dad gave you a look, and just thought for a moment. Then he was on your side. He didn't want you to go either. He trusts you but just... not on your own.

That's what he said, and you didn't get it until he told you that he still has to go back to work. He wants Dave to look after you. It wouldn't be fair he said, to send Dave home after all the trouble he went through to get here.

You were a weird sort of happy. And kind of scared, actually. You were a total asshole to him this morning. You just... you don't even know why. He's been trying too hard to help you and you keep pushing him away. You've been pushing everyone away. And you keep on reminding yourself about when you had first told Jade what had been going on with you, and you kept telling yourself how much of an ass you were for making her cry.

And Rose.

Oh no, Rose.

You really hope she's okay oh man you hope Dave talked to her or something.

Just, holy shit. You're an ace dickhead.

AUGHHHHHHhhh...

Right when you were about to abscond upstairs, your Dad comments that Dave wasn't around.

"Where did your friend go? If you find out I'll go pick him up and bring him back here before I get back to work." he says, heading into his study.

You don't actually know. Hopefully he didn't wander off and get himself lost.

"I don't know, I'll text him."

You scramble (more like hobble and wipe your nose on your wrist for good measure. You're totally sure that you got sick) upstairs with your dirty clothes from the hospital in a plastic bag they brought you. Dad came with extra clothes for you this morning too. You drop it on your bed and look around in it for your phone, hearing the crumple of paper inside. Instead of throwing your phone in a bag with old clothes you should've just pocketed it, wow. Oh, there it is.

You plug it into the wall charger and turn it on as soon as you can. You just... you really want to talk to Dave. You want to make sure he's okay.

You wait for the annoying jingle of the phone turning on and unlock it, opening and logging into Pesterchum. There's a stray piece of gravel wedged into the case but you'll get it out later.

Dave's handle is whited out. You really hope he's there though.

- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 13:42 -

EB: hey, dave?

EB: where did you wander off to?

EB: i really hope you didn't get lost and have your phone die, too.

EB: that would be pretty shitty.

EB: i'm out of the hospital and everything.

EB: and i guess it went pretty well.

EB: not like, last night or anything, but this morning.

EB: like.

EB: after you left?

EB: i'm sorry, i'm not really good at this.

EB: i've been acting like a pregnant woman and it's not very uh.

EB: becoming of me.

EB: as a 15 year old boy.

EB: just.

EB: forget what i just said, oh my god.

EB: but seriously, where are you?

EB: you'd better not be ignoring me

EB: my dad wants to pick you up and bring you back here before he has to go back to work.

EB: and i don't really uh

EB: want to be left alone at home.

EB: it's too quiet by myself.

You don't even really care that you're beginning to stray from the point of why you started pestering him in the first place. You're just... you're mixed up right now. And yeah, you don't really want to be alone.

It's a few more seconds before you want to start sending more messages, but Dave's handle flashes to online. Your stomach does something weird.

TG: i was chilling at dunkin ds

TG: sipping on a paper cup of coffee like a middle class douche

EB: oh, ok.

EB: are you still there?

TG: no

TG: but i will be in a few

TG: see you when i get back then

EB: okay, i'll tell my dad.

- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB] at 13:56 -

Those were really curt and to the point remarks, Christ, you really hope you didn't make him mad at you because you were an asshole to him this morning. You're all mixed up. You don't know what you need or what you want but you just... you know you need him and you don't think you would be able to handle it if he was mad at you. It's not like you don't deserve the scorn or anything though.

You go back downstairs and knock quietly on the door to the study. You tell Dad where Dave is, and he heads back out. But not before ruffling your hair and telling you to be good. He says you'll have more time to talk tomorrow.

You decide to take a shower and wait for him to drop off Dave. It'll help you get your mind off things, you hope.

In the meantime though, yeah, wow, you hate how much of a terrible person you are.

Chapter Text

It didn't actually take very long for a white Honda to pull up outside of the cafe. You thought you'd have more time to gather your thoughts but nah, John's Dad is one reliable dude. He honks and waves at you to sit in the passenger seat. You take the back instead. No big. You keep your eyes trained on the outside world through the window, objects passing in a tinted blur.

You idly pull at the collar of the sweater you picked up from the Goodwill. It was pretty dumb looking, but it fit you well, and it was warm. At the end of the day, that's all you really cared about. In your pocket though, you sift a cheap, faux-diamond ring that you only spent 2 dollars on through your fingers. You didn't even think of buying it when you walked in, but the jewellery section fucking beckoned you. It was utterly perfect. It sparkled at you, it said buy me, give me to the person who means most to you. You thought about it and it made sense to you, and now you have a totally foolproof plan.

So foolproof.

You're not nervous about it or anything.

Not at all.

Striders don't get nervous.

If Dadbert has been trying to get your attention, you haven't noticed thanks to your music. It's been repeating the same song for about an hour now. You haven't bothered to change it at all. You're alright with not talking to him though; s'not like there's really much to say anyway. The ride doesn't take as long as you had expected, but as he pulls into the driveway you start to get cold feet.

The two of you get out of the car one after the other. Dad unlocks the door you for and just kind of gives you a quick pat on the back before going back to his car. You think things are kind of awkward because there hasn't exactly been a proper introduction yet or something like that, but you don't dwell on it.

The house is quiet when you walk in, but you hear the shower going on the second level. A quick trip upstairs has you fumbling slightly with your headphones to set them back around your neck.

You don't really need to think twice about knocking on the bathroom door. Rhythmically, you might add.

"Yo, Egbert. I'm back."

You hear something clatter to the bottom of the tub. Probably a bottle of shampoo or something. You can't help the snicker that pulls itself through your lips. But you have to be careful.

"O-okay! I'll be out in a minute!"

Taking your headphones off from around your neck, you walk into John's room quietly and unplug them from your phone, leaving them on the desk. You thought your nest of blankets would still be on the floor, but someone took the time to fold them and set them nicely aside. Pfft, parents. Seriously, you were literally gonna just crash on it if it was still there. Instead you flop onto John's bed unceremoniously and make yourself at home. On his bedside table was a few trinkets, a lamp, an unplugged alarm clock with a slightly cracked screen, and that piece of paper you remember from the night before.

You would like to leave it since it's... well, not fucking meant for you, but your inner nosy douchebag gets the better of you.

remember what curiosity killed dave dont be the pussy

no wait that means two completely opposite things

Against all better judgement, you unfold it hastily. It's in black pen and a lot of the water smudged the words away, making the paper more of an off white, but it's still legible. You're surprised it didn't fall apart into goop like in that one scene in Lilo & Stitch when the map got blown away and run over by a semi in the rain.

Dumb connection, but the point still stands. You start reading.

Dear John,

I'm so sorry.

I'm really, really, really sorry.

I know you're probably getting a lot of these letters from other students, or rather half assed cards with small, scribbled noncommittal apologies on them.

I'm not going to do that.

I just want to say i'm really sorry for everything.

I didn't want to drive you.

I didn't want to get involved at all.

Before I moved here, bullying was a problem for me, too- even though it never went past verbal stuff. You know. "Faggot", "Gay", homophobic shit.

And when Terrence told me to drive you, he said I had to, or he'd do something worse than what was going to happen to you.

And I was so scared of him; I couldn't let that happen again, not after I thought I had gotten passed the bullying in my life.

I couldn't not drive you.

I had to.

I tried to do something about it, I tried calling the cops, but they stopped me, they took the battery out of my phone and told me to leave. I wasn't even supposed to take you home. But I had to do something; I couldn't just leave you there.

I still feel guilty about everything.

I should've said no, I should've stood up to Terrence.

But I couldn't.

And I'm sorry.

You have every right in the world to hate me, to be scared of me, to not want to talk to me. But, maybe if you don't, we could try to be friends?

Because really, I know that's what you need most right now.

Friends.

And maybe next time, I'll stand up to Terrence, like that one kid did today.

-Kevin Novak

Well.

That sure did shine a tiny little light on a few things. Who was Kevin though? You know who he is because John mentioned him, you think, but you don't know if you've run into him or not.

You fold it up and set it back on the table just as you hear the shower being turned off and the curtains opening. You check the time on your phone.

It's only when the door starts creaking open you remember that you probably should've waited somewhere else whoops.

You fail to face it, instead just staring at your phone until John makes a kind of strangled noise accompanied by a stutter, then you look up in spite of yourself. He's all cuddled up in a huge poofy towel and his hair is just flopped in front of his eyes like a wet mop, and his glasses are fogged up and holy shit it's the most adorable thing you've ever fucking seen.

"Uh, hey Dave, could you like... get out for a sec?" he asks, not to you, but just more in your direction.

Then he pulls the towel tighter around himself and you notice the sharp angles of his arms and shoulders, and a few stray marks on his thighs.

You stand up quickly, "I'll be downstairs," and slip out of the room, nabbing your headphones on the way out. John closes the door behind you quietly. You trek down to the living room, face in hand, and sit on the couch. He was hiding marred skin and stuck out joints. And you don't blame him, either.


It probably would've been a good idea on your part to just bring some clothes into the bathroom and change into those when you were finished to avoid awkward confrontation, but no, you tend to not think ahead. You really need to work on that.

You dress yourself hastily with whatever you still have lying around. You can only find long sleeved shirts, no pullover hoodies or anything. You shiver as you pull a navy blue shirt over your head, nearly tripping on yourself and knocking your glasses off. After that, you scrounge up some briefs and pajama pants and thick white socks that go up past your ankles. Then you just kind of... fall back onto your bed. Your hair is still kind of damp, but you don't mind at all. You rub the exhaustion out of your eyes, effectively sending your glasses askew anyway.

I need to just make it through the day, you reason with yourself, it's just Dave.

You know what you told him last night when you sobbed it out on his shoulder, you know what you did. And you know you can't take any of it back. You need to be truthful, you need to...

Hell, you need to tell him how you feel.

Even if he doesn't feel the same way, you need to get it out. Your emotions need to have closure before all the bottled up feelings come unglued and you do something stupid again.

You get up slowly, still feeling creaky, and sniffle a bit. Yeah, just a little sick. Dave's probably wondering what you're doing. Honestly though, it's more or less your stomach that spurs you into action. You haven't eaten since yesterday morning. You go downstairs, minding your footing, and spot Dave fiddling with his phone on the couch.

"Uh, hey Dave."

"Sup," he acknowledges, and you can't tell if he's looking at you or not.

"I was going to go make something to eat," you reply, "and I dunno if you've eaten so you're free to join me?"

"Can I have a bit of input on what we should make?"

"Uh, yeah, what do you want?"

"Chocolate chip cookies."

"Are you being serious right now?"

"Yes."

"I mean like, real food Dave."

"How about after."

"After is, uh, okay I mean, if we have the stuff for it."

You almost think you were being ridiculous. You don't know why you were so nervous. It's just Dave, and he's already making you feel better without knowing it (chocolate chip cookies? seriously? hehe).

You both find yourselves pushing open the swinging saloon-like doors into the kitchen (you never really understood why they were literally saloon doors) soon after, looking around for something to eat and the necessary things you need to for cookies, which in all honestly shouldn't be that hard. Just because there hasn't been much baking going on lately didn't mean that there wasn't going to be flour and sugar and butter and vanilla... all that good stuff. There was no reason for there not to be.

Daves looks through the pantry and moves things onto the counter to look around more, one of the food items being a loaf of multigrain bread (awesome) and in the fridge there was cheese and margarine and thin sliced deli meat...

"Dave, do you think you can find any tomato soup in there?"

"Uhh, yeah lemme see." he says, ducking down to his knees to look through a lower tier. He pushes his shades up to the top of his head to see better, you'd assume, and you catch yourself staring. Even though his back is facing you and you can't see him properly, you really wish you could see his whole face again... you always suspected, but you never really knew his eyes were red, and they're just really pretty and-

No. You push that thought to the back of your mind because wow, that was really fucking cliché, even for your tastes.

So cliché. So damn cliché. Every other love story always has some scene like 'oh they gazed into each other's eyes, the doorway to the soul, and saw into the other's heart and then they leaned in for the kiss-'

You nearly sputter at how gross and cheesy that thought is, it's literally dripping in cheese. Not even good cheese, but like those individual cheese slices you buy in packs at the grocery store. And they got left out in the sun and melted on a humid August day. That's how grossly cheesy and dumb that thought was.

Dave's voice pulls you out of your thoughts, "Yeah, found some, why?"

You blink a few times and try to remember what you were doing. Bread. Margarine. Cheese. Uh, tomato soup? Right! That's what you were doing. Food. Good food. You need to remember where the pots and pans are hidden.

"I wanted to make grilled cheese and soup," you offer after a brief moment of thought, turning around and bending over to look in the cupboards for the necessary cooking utensils. Your lower back still kind of aches, but you ignore it.

"One can or two."

"I won't have that much, it kinda depends on how much you want, Dave."

"Then two it is."

"Heh, are you serious?"

"I've never been more serious in my life, did you actually think I was about to pass up the opportunity to eat a shit-ton of soup for free. Canned soup is a rarity in the Strider household, same with fucking bread and cheese and all that other crap you've got going on in here."

"Didn't you tell me you blended a puppet once and tried to eat it?"

"I didn't eat it, it was one of Bro's creepy ass Saw toys and it had a camera in it so I blended it in the heat of the moment."

"You didn't eat it?"

"Jesus Christ, of course not."

"You should've eaten it."


If you didn't know John any better, you'd be surprised that he's so efficient at cooking stuff. Even something simple like this, grilled frickin' cheese... It's kind of like 'whoa where'd dorky dumb awk john go, how is he so good at this providing sustenance thing,' except you kind of always expected it. You don't even think you're really needed here. He's got this shit covered. You could always sway his attention with words but hey, you're hungry. Why slow the process down, this is tight as hell.

You stir the soup while John fishes out a spatula from the darkest depths of one of the many drawers, and checks the sandwiches on the pan. He made 3 ("Two for you," he said, and then he called you fat and you rebutted with the fact that you were a goddamn growing boy. "Pfft, yeah, your ass I bet.") and the pan was a little too small so he had to move them around a bit so they all cooked evenly. You're just glad that he was in a better mood. The kitchen was warm from the heat of the stovetop, and it smelled good too.

So he was checking sandwiches and you were stirring soup. You have only just worked out all the clumps that were taking up all your attention.

And just...

Everything is just so damn domestic and you're just kind of tiptoeing around what to say to him because you don't wanna sound like an idiot. Like, commenting on how domestic this all is, how he would make a fantastic wife, and then he's smack you and you'd both laugh. At least that's what you'd expect him to do under any other circumstances that you were here.

Instead, he wouldn't laugh, he'd freak out and think you were being a dick again just like with the mockingbird and marriage thing, then he'd lock himself away in a big old tower. From the base, you'd yell out, "John Egbert John Egbert, let down your guards and let me explain! I'm sorry! I'm an idiot!" and he'd just slam the shutters closed because it's true.

Your shoulders are touching and he kind of bumps into you, muttering a small 'sorry'. Without thinking, your unused hand inches into your pocket and fiddles with the ring. You feel your face get hot and you try to will it away, but it won't go.

"There are plates in the cupboard to your right," he informs, "These are done."

You weren't expecting him to say anything; okay, plates, cupboard to the right. You leave the spoon in the pot and venture off into the cupboard to your right.


The television was on and playing MTV as background noise. You pretend that you're watching though. The food almost takes the nervousness off your mind, it's fucking awesome. Kim Kardashian makes a dumb comment about her boobs.

John's eating pretty silently. You're pretty sure that his concussion has almost healed, he hasn't really been looking very stumbly or dizzy or anything, and you're really glad about that. Stupidly happy. He doesn't deserve dealing with something like that. He doesn't deserve any of the shit he's gone through and you're just so fucking glad that you came when you did. John snorts at something Khloe says.

"This show is ridiculous," he comments, sipping on his soup, "What are they even famous for?"

"Being friends with people who are actually famous for shit," you say offhandedly, "and having a Beyoncé worthy wide load ass. Aside from pony cartoons, Bro watches this shit for the weirdest reasons."

"Reasons like what? I thought he was a lame white rapper with a puppet obsession."

"Like I can't even fathom the reasons, that's how fuckin' weird. And rapping is awesome. Don't even go there," this is actually a pretty comfortable situation, just sitting around and eating and watching TV. This couch was kind of lumpy. You stick your unused hand back into your pocket. Is now the right time? Should you wait until later? What if his Dad comes back soon and you have to wait longer to get it out? Don't you have to leave soon? You try to swallow down the lump forming in your throat. You pull it out of your pocket and side-eye John to see if he was looking. He was staring the second half of his sandwich. It was starting to get cold. Looks like he thought if he could focus his laser vision on it, it would get all embarrassed and hot so he could eat it at its best.

You straighten your back but keep your eyes on your lap, where your hands are. Where the ring is. The fake little glass diamond glitters slightly in the dim light.

It was now or never. You clear your throat and John throws you a sideways glance. Your stomach does something stupid. You try to will your stomach to stop doing stupid things. This one time in fifth grade, your whole class had to write speeches and then read them out to the class. You stuttered out the first line or so and then threw up from stage fright. That's kind of how you feel right now. You don't think you'll throw up, you grew out of that phase, but...

No, shut up. Just say it. "hey john, i want to tell you something," you'll slide your shades up to the top of your head and take his hand, "i like you in a more than best bros kind of way, and..." you'll slip the metal band onto his ring finger, "i was hoping you'd feel the same. i fucked up yesterday but i really do want to marry you one day-" No fuck that's corny as shit, no. You'll need to expunge that last little bit; you don't want to scare him.

Okay. Here goes. You ahem one more time to get his attention. He tried to avoid looking at you straight on, but he's not looking at his sandwich anymore.

"Hey John."

"Yeah?"

"I uh, want to tell you something," okay, this is the part you slide our shades up and grab his hand, but your body isn't moving. This isn't going to work fuck dammit-

"What is it?"

"I uh- Did you know there's a town in Texas called Ding Dong?"

Well.

Fuck that's definitely what you meant to say.

John just raises an eyebrow at you, the most confused look on his face.

"Okay?"

"Ahaha, yeah."

"Dude, you're acting kind of nervous, you alright?"

Shit okay he knows something's up.

ABORT MISSION, HOUSTON, PULL A FUCKIN' U-TURN YOU WERE TRAINED FOR THIS. DON'T DISAPPOINT ME NOW THE PRESIDENT IS COUNTING ON YOU.

You shove the ring back in your pocket, "More okay than okay can get, just thought I'd let you know."


Making cookies was actually the best suggestion you've made all day. You got demoted to dish duty as John wiped down the counters for residual crumbs and soup splatter before joining you in putting things in the dishwasher. You almost thought he was going to go back into the living room but then ended up commenting on how clean the kitchen was with some distaste.

"Let's make a mess."

"Hell yes."


You've both successfully made a gigantic mess.

There is flour and sugar everywhere, dough splattered on the cupboards and walls and bits of butter and shortening on the stove. There's at least half a cup's worth of chocolate chips on the floor too. And John threw a handful of flour at you (awesome, you're like Casper the Friendly ghost now).

But neither of you could find any eggs. There wasn't anything you could use as a substitute either, so they wouldn't bake properly. You're effectively shaking flour out of your hair over the sink as John ties up bags of sugar and puts them away in the pantry. Making a mess means you kind of have to clean up now, and in retrospect, throwing shit around wasn't the best idea. Sure was pretty entertaining though, for at least a while. One of you is going to have to break out a broom.

"Dave, so about this dough, what should we do with it?"

"I dunno, eat it?"

"We could get sick though, couldn't we?"

"Nah. Raw eggs are what would make you sick, and we didn't put any in, so."

"That's true."

You step back from the sink with one final shake of your hair and step on a fucking chocolate chip, these fuckers are harder than rock what the hell. John works on the splatters on the wall and you find the broom in the back room.


Trying to make everything seem normal was taking a lot more out of you than you first thought. You know you're not okay, but this pretending was pushing all those ugly-nasty thoughts way to the dark crevices of your mind. You wish they would stay there, but they won't, and it's exhausting trying to keep it that way. As nice as the carefree acting was, you needed a little bit of downtime before you end up bursting a little bit

So you suggested a movie. Simple, easy, all you had to do was be mindful that Dave was still with you and just focus on the movie.

And also eat the cookie dough. Unbelievably, it turned out a lot better than you thought it would.

The house was starting to cool down. It wasn't really all that late in the evening, but it was definitely a bit colder than it was earlier. You wanted to get under a blanket and lay your head down. You're not wearing anything heavy and warm and you're honestly surprised you're not all that sick with a cold from the time you spent last night in the freezing rain. A few sniffles here and there, but it wasn't anything bad.

Kitchen good as new, you get Dave to be the keeper of the dough. As in, you get him to bring the spoons and the bowl of it up to your room while you just try to keep yourself in check. Your smile was faltering, you were tired.

You follow behind Dave up the stairs, still not quite trusting yourself to hold your own weight properly. You felt like a thin wire sculpture teetering around with an outer layer of Jell-O melting in mid-day sun.

In other words you felt like you were about to fall down and fall apart and stay that way.

A movie would really help.

Dave flicks on the light with his elbow when he gets there, you're only a few paces behind. He sets the bowl and spoons down on the desk and you sit on the edge of your bed, yawning. He looks at you expectantly from your peripheral and you keep your gaze fixed on your socks. Suddenly your wrist tingles like it's covered in mosquito bites and you bite back the urge to rip of the bandaging and dig your nails into the wound to make it stop.

"Okay Egbert. You're the one who wanted a movie."

Your head buzzes. His voice is so even and collected and smooth and for a split second you wonder if you could ask him to sing for you again. You keep your mouth closed just in case it slips.

"Mhm?"

He shifts from one foot to the other, hands hovering over his pockets just before making the short trip to your movie cabinet in the cupboard of the desk.

"It's your call. What do you wanna watch, I'll pop it in."

"Oh God, uh," you draw at a blank. What do you want to watch? Something long, definitely. Something with substance. Something with a range of lovable, quirky characters with and a really great and tear jerking soundtrack... You glance over quickly at your posters and the first thing you lock eyes with is Bruce Willis' determined and photo-filtered 2-D headshot gazing somewhere into the distance. Good enough.

"Armageddon."

Dave scoffs amusedly, opening the cupboard and looking around for a moment, "That is the first thing I've heard you say all today that you sounded really sure about."

"Haha, yeah..." you trail off, craning to the side to pick up Dave's folded blankets from the foot of your bed and set them beside you. Might as well just bring it all up since you were watching it together, "It's a really great movie, why wouldn't I be sure about it?"

He locates the VHS and, true to his word, pops it into the player. You set up all the blankets and pillows kind of haphazardly as the VHS player boots up and the beginning credits start playing, which is okay because you have seen this movie. Dave shuts off the light and and hands you one of the spoons before flopping down beside you and putting the bowl of cookie dough on your nightstand. You offer him his blanket. He holds his hands up in a 'Nah man, I'm good' type of way. Fine by you, you start wrapping it around yourself instead. You're cold, you'll take all the blankets you can get. It's not like he needs it or anything. Dave is already really warm on his own.

Maybe it's that silly sweater he's been wearing since he got back. You still haven't asked him about that.

You missed the first part, the narrative talking about the first asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, by thinking about this. Another asteroid has just slammed into the shuttle, killing the crew. You give the movie your full attention.


A very large part of you wants to bail and hang out in a bathroom stall like a loser in a typical high school movie, but the other part, the somewhat logical part, is telling you to not fucking do that because it would mess this entire thing up and Rose would pee on your stuff. And you'd really rather not have Rose pee on your stuff.

The movie is about an hour or so in, and you have only just started eating the cookie dough. You offer some to John but he refused, which is fine. Just because everything has calmed down and evened out somewhat, doesn't mean you're going to coerce him into eating stuff. You know he gets put-off easily from food. Totally understandable, you get that.

John has somehow managed to wrap himself in some sort of cocoon and is watching the movie with this really intense look in his eyes and you can't stop staring because it's the most emotion you've seen since you arrived (but that's not counting the few times he's broken down, this is a good kind of intensity, intensely good, intensa-good, holy shit you could make that a brand name or something but what would you be marketing no wait why the fuck are your thoughts doing an acrobatic nosedive into an Olympic pool of liquid ramble again this isn't okay).

You think this is how John should be normally, when he's not depressed and trying to throw himself off of high altitude buildings, when he's not focusing on trying to put on a big fake smile. This is John and that small logical part of you feels fucking honoured and the other part that wants to bail is calling you a big huge gay that needs to stop being weird and just get it over with.

Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler have decided to break away from the chaos that is the space station where the rest of the crew are being ridiculous; they're having some sort of sexy picnic with animal crackers and "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" is playing in the background.

So speaking of weird, John has been tugging up the blanket to further hide his face and you can tell he's smiling and kind of squirming. That's when it hits you.

This is one those moments for him when watching a movie.

It's a corny, romantic scene, this is literally your chance, this is your fucking chance and suddenly you're getting nauseous vibes. It's now or never.

Your hand shoves itself into your pocket for the ring, "John?"

He doesn't even look at you, "Shhh."

"John," you turn to look him, and he shushes you once more.

"Dave this is one of the cutest parts, shh."

You're bugging him, you're just gonna put the stupid metal band back in your pocket and wait until things get boring or something and you stop feeling gross and nauseous and fuck you didn't think this would be so difficult, you know that he feels the same about you and-

"John I think you're pretty."

You freeze.

That wasn't what you wanted to say.

John finally does a 180 a gives you his full attention.

God fucking damn it you're really stupid you're going to mess this up so badly.

Chapter Text

Your name is Dave Strider and you just told your best friend you think he's pretty while fondling a faux diamond ring in your hand that you have been planning to give to him all day.

You're basically fucked if you don't figure this out.

He looks really confused and possibly even a little scared, eyes wide and teeth dug into his lip.

"What?"

Oh fuck you're getting stage fright. The ring feels like burning metal in your hand.

"Uh."

"Dave you need to tell me what's going on, I don't want this to happen again," he hesitates, breathing shakily. The movie is still playing, illuminating the room. John pulls the blanket tighter around him, a pseudo-shield to protect him from you and your assholish ways.


You're only just putting the pieces together, but Dave has been acting kind of weird since he got back, like with the whole 'Ding Dong' thing, and tiptoeing around everything he does and says and...

If he starts fucking with you again, you're not sure what you'll do. He just called you pretty and already you can feel your nose start to burn. But you don't want to run out on him, you can't. You want to know what he's trying to say before you leave him in the dust. As much as you don't want to, this all somehow needs to get settled before you snap and do something stupid.

Dave's hand is clenched tight around something, knuckles white and he looks like he's chewing on his cheek because one side is hollowed out slightly. You can see the reflection of the movie in his glasses and for a brief moment you just want to rip them off and look at him. You want him to be genuine and and no matter how truthful he is normally, you just don't want them on.

You've been waiting for him to do something, to say something, but he hasn't moved at all. He's like a deer caught in headlights. And you don't know what to do either.

You're waiting for him to pull a classic Dave, to change the subject seamlessly and talk his way out of it, but it just doesn't come and that scares you.

There's an explosion in the movie, everyone is frantic and panicking, one of the engines has blown. Your heart is beating so fast that it feels like your engine is going to blow.

"Dave, please say something."


You've been going through every possible scenario for the passed minute, for the passed ridiculously elongated and needlessly tiring minute. Worst case scenario, you somehow manage to make him cry and he hates you and Jade punches you in the mouth while Rose pees on your stuff. And you'd really rather not have Rose pee on your stuff.

Best case scenario, you apologize about Monday morning and explain what you meant, and then tell him you love him. His reaction would hopefully be positive. Keyword here being hopefully. But you're like five seconds away from giving yourself a migraine and you really want to go catch your breath for a few minutes but when you think about breathing you remember to let out the air you've been holding in for fuck knows how long and-

"Dave, please say something."

And that snaps you out of your reverie. You spur into action. It's literally do or die right now and death is not an option. You pull your shades straight off your face and put them on top of your head and blink out the sensitivity. Then you coax John out of his blanket-wrap and you're pretty sure he's about to faint from being so terrified why does he look so scared he's not supposed to be this scared and then you remember that he's cocooned for a reason, he's cold 24/7. And also you just threw off the shades. He knows this is serious. He knows this is serious and he hasn't left let.

When you finally get him out of it sufficiently, you scoot a little closer still not making eye contact. There's yelling in the background from the movie. Pausing it would've been a great idea but you don't know how well you'd have handled the silence.

Words. You need to make words happen.

But first you just kind of.

Take his hand.

Yeah.

He seems to relax only slightly at this, but that's fine. You're going to make this work.

"Remember on Monday morning when I had to calm you down, and I did this stupid song for you, about the mockingbird?"

John nods.

"And then I said something about marrying you because you didn't think the bird would sing?"

He nods again, a bit more tentatively this time.

"I was making a reference to the next part of the nursery rhyme and I should've known better and for that I'm really fucking sorry."

John blinks a few times before somehow having a minor epiphany, "I didn't know that was part of a nursery rhyme."

"Yeah, Rose and Jade coined me in on that and I felt like an idiot," you say, mentally preparing yourself for the next thing that was about to spew itself from your mouth, "But the thing is that I... I really do want to marry you someday because I fucking love you to the moon and back and even further than that and when you locked yourself in the bathroom it tore me in half because I knew you didn't believe me and I made a stupid reference because I just assumed you knew what I was talking about and that it was at least half a joke."

His grip on your hand tightened significantly, and when you actually look up to face him he has literal rivulets of tears forming in the corners of his eyes.

He hasn't left yet.

You finally unclench the hand with the ring in it and slowly slide it onto his ring finger. It's a little loose. He doesn't know where to look, the ring or your face. Tears are finally dripping from his cheeks onto the comforter in small spots. Without prompt, you take the pad of your thumb and wipe them away. He doesn't recoil. Or do anything that gives you the hint he wants to leave.

This is a good thing.

"So I just... yeah. I've been talking to you for years and I should've told you sooner but I didn't because I always assumed I'd get horribly rejected but I don't even fucking care about that anymore. I just want you to know that even if you think no one could care less about you, I would honestly do anything to make sure you're happy and have everything you need alright? And that's the absolute truth."

That was flat out the most deplorably sickeningly sweet thing you've ever said.

You'd slap yourself in the face for being such a fucking sap but

your face is kind of occupied.


Dave's saying the damn sweetest thing you think you've ever heard, and if it weren't for all the emotion you can see in his eyes, you'd swear he was fucking with you again. But he's not. He honestly loves you, and he's doing all these things just for you, just so you're okay. You're already crying, but with all this, this emotion just filling your heart, a whole new wave of tears wells out of your eyes. Only this time, they're from joy. They don't stay there for very long, because Dave's hand is cradling your cheek and he's wiping all your tears away with his thumb. Your heart is racing a million miles per minute, no, per second, and you feel light as a cloud, almost as if you were floating.

This is honestly the best you've felt in a long time.

So before you can second guess yourself or actually think any of this through, you throw your arms around his neck and crush your lips against his.

Needless to say, you have approximately zero to no experience in kissing- but this is what you're supposed to do, right? Lips against lips, and hope for the best? You're pretty sure that's what you're supposed to do. Dave tenses at first from your sudden kiss, but instantly relaxes once he seems to realize what's going on. He moves his hands down to the back of your shoulders and tilts his head away from yours, so that your lips aren't just some kind of awkwardly mashed together... thing. Yeah.

Kissing.

Honestly, kissing isn't what everyone makes it out to be. In all movies you've seen, they make it seem like something totally normal or cute or something, but. Honestly, you don't know how to feel. You have probably the worst case of butterflies you've ever felt, so much so your hands are even shaking a little, and your heart is beating so fast you can't even feel it anymore. You can't feel most of your upper body, actually, and your surroundings have just. Vanished. Poof. Gone. If kissing always feels like this, you don't think you could ever get used to it- you haven't even pulled away yet and you already feel disoriented. You don't know if the room is spinning, or if it's just your head, or what. But even through all of this, it still feels amazing.

The kiss can't last for forever, and too soon you're pulling away with a little gasp, opening your eyes to find a pair of red ones staring right back at you. There goes your heart again, melting into a pile of goop right in your chest, and all you can do is smile as you bury your face into Dave's shoulder and hug him as tightly as you can.


You can't actually really believed that just happened. You're chest is fluttery as hell and you can't help but smile like an idiot as John buries himself into your shoulder and just hugs you as tight as he can. You'd say you've got a major case of butterflies or something equally as teenage-girly, but no. You've got pterodactyls. Fucking hard-ass, straight up pterodactyls tearing up your insides in a way that you're not sure is entirely pleasant or not.

He pulls away and just beams at you, arms still around you, and only manage about half a smile when you realize that these are not pleasant pterodactyls in the slightest. Your expression completely drops and you have to rip yourself away from him and out of the room and straight to the toilet and hunch over and-

Yep.

You still haven't grown out of nervous puking.

John must've run in after you, you feel your hair being pulled away from your face and your shades gently lifted off the top of your head so they didn't fall in, god bless. That would've been a mess of the grossest proportions.

"Dave are you okay?" he asks, rubbing your back a bit.

"Y-yeah, just, nerves."

"You sure? I told you the cookie dough would make you sick."

You lurch over before you can even correct him again.


Dave eventually doesn't feel as sick so he washes out his mouth and you lead him back to your room to watch the rest of the movie which you had both neglected to pause during all of this commotion and emotional drama. You hop into bed and Dave follows your lead, and you can't tell if he's exhausted or cautious. You're pretty sure he's just tired like you though. Sitting with your shoulders press together, you take the blanket you were using earlier and put it around you both, taking another and spreading it across your legs.

You don't feel cold at all for once. You cuddle into Dave's arm and focus on the end of the movie, even though your eyes hurt from crying so much and even though you've already seen the end at least a billion times. Your head rests comfortably against Dave's shoulder and he rests his head against yours, and you can't help but let out a happy sigh.

The boy you love loves you back.

There is literally nothing that could put a damper on your mood right now.

The loose ring on your finger slides around a little as Dave laces his fingers between yours, and all you do is smile.

"...Dave?"

"Hm?"

"I love you."

"Love you too, John."

If there's one thing you're not mixed up about, it's that you love Dave with your entire heart.

Chapter Text

You awake with a start, eyes shooting open and body tensing. You can't move. You can't move you're in the backseat of a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu and the rain is pounding against the window, your backpack is beside you, your eyelids are heavy and the metal posterior of the car rips through the fat droplets making a sharp, constant sound and you can't move and it's happening again.

You try to open your mouth to argue, to plead, to beg, to stop the car and let you go. You need to go home. You need to go home and talk to Jade and Rose and Dave and Dad and tell them you're okay and that everything is okay but you can't because you can't move and the only thing coming out of your mouth is silent screams and apologies.

I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I didn't do what you said, I'm sorry I told, please let me go I'll never do it again you don't need to do this I swear I know what's going to happen please don't do this don't hurt me I don't want to die again, please. I know what you're going to let happen and it's going to kill me please take me home I'll never say anything ever again I'll rip out my vocal cords and destroy my airways and I won't say a thing.

I'm begging you.

You give up after a while, nothing is changing and everything is blurred and melting. The driver is melting and the seats are melting and the dashboard is melting and you're not melting.

You're not melting.

You're still there and this feels familiar but at the same time it's foreign. Your movement is still limited but your toes… You can wiggle your toes. Your hands are tucked between your chest and something else warm and solid and you can feel the warm solid thing beneath your fingertips breath and vibrate. A white noise that had filled your ears before is slowly diminishing, being chased away with a soft tune. You press your face against this warm thing and the tune only gets louder.

You stay like this for a few minutes before you're really awake enough to come back to the real world. Your eyes open for real this time, damp and sore.

The solid warm thing is Dave.

He wasn't a dream.

You have to look down at your hand.

There's very little light but you can see and feel that the ring is still there too, you didn't dream that up either.

But you still do dream and you dream up the scariest of things and you have the sinking feeling that those dreams won't go away.

It doesn't matter if you wake up alone or not either because no matter what, your heart and lungs burn and your body tingles with the need to drag a blade across your skin. You don't want to and you know you shouldn't but you're afraid you'll give in one day and no one would be able to stop you, not even yourself or your dad and you feel like a prick because Dave's here and he always has been there for you but you're too selfish. He loves you and you love him but you're scared, you're so scared you'll mess up and he'll hate you despite the sweet words he told you last night and his sweet voice lulling you back into reality.

But the harsh reality is that this won't last forever.

Dave needs to go home soon and nothing will change.

You'll have to go back to school and it'll just start again, so what's the point of it all when you could just stay in bed all day with the time you have left with Dave. It's not like you'll bring your grades up or achieve anything, you might as well just. Take the rest of the school year off and get your shit together. You don't know how your dad would react to that but it's absolutely pathetic and there you go again. You're shaking and you want to cry and you don't know if you'll be able to do this by yourself again.

The humming suddenly stops and you remember where you are again. Dave stays silent for short while and you don't know why he stopped, then he pulls you tight, flush against his chest.

You're not going to break, you're not going to cry. You shut your eyes tight as he begins carding his fingers through your hair.

Dave shifts slightly and you think he's going to start humming again, but he actually forms words and soft melodies this time and

you can't hold this in, your body won't let you.

Your nose burns and the lump in your throat hardens into rock, and you sob. You just sob against him again, and you feel selfish and terrible because you're just not strong enough to be able to survive after he leaves.

You just want to stick your head back in the clouds.

And eventually you do.


It's nearly four in the morning and for whatever reason, you're waking up. You can't blame this on timezones. Nope nope nope you've been here long enough for Texan time to not be a problem for you. However, this wakeup didn't feel very natural. You take a moment to make sure all limbs are attached to you and accounted for, which they are. Honestly you don't see a reason why they wouldn't be there in the first place. It's not like anyone would have come to harvest your toes and a kidney like you live in the Genetic Opera universe or something ridiculous like that.

Eyes still shut (you never even opened them in the first place), you yawn, and that's when you remember that John is still sleeping beside you. He's probably what woke you up in the first place; you went to sleep snuggled up close, you're just beside each other now.

Your eyes blink open, accommodating the low light with ease. He's trembling and making shuddery breaths and you only notice now that you're awake enough to tell.

And it hurts, dammit.

This isn't going to be easy in any way, shape, or form and you guess you forgot all about that last night after the TV was shut off and you two were a tangle of exhausted limbs and tired kisses under the sheets. It was sweet and slow, just the gentle touching of lips. You're pretty sure he didn't even mind when your hand slid up absently under the hem of his shirt to rub lazy circles on his hip until he fell asleep when he was too sleepy to press his lips to yours anymore. And even after, you kissed him wherever you could without nudging him around too much. His forehead, his cheeks, his hair. You were just. So thrilled you were finally able to do that. And you kept at it until you fell asleep yourself.

Everything was copacetic. It was nice. For a few hours, there were no problems, there was no anguish, there was no crying or sobbing or apologies or glossy red eyes or tears or anxious vomiting. There was just... love.

You love him.

And you're never going to stop loving him. You'll grow old with him and you'll continue to love him even if you have to arm wrestle alzheimer's for it. And Jesus Christ, since you've gotten here your fucking thought pattern has changed drastically because there is no way you'd ever think that if you were still sitting at home online in your boxers sipping disappointedly at an empty box of apple juice.

But maybe you should stop thinking about it and do something about this though.

You scoot yourself closer and hook an arm under his head, effectively pulling him up onto you, and wrap the other around his middle. He's always so cold and it just reminds you of how small he is, but you desperately hope to whatever deity is out there that he's not having a night terror because the morning he was screaming and thrashing about is still very fresh in your half-awake mind. You press your face into his tuft of hair and shut your eyes again after pulling one of the comforters back up and tucking it around John's shoulders. From there, you do what you assume is the go-to action to get him to relax, and just start humming something. You don't know what it even is, this is just an automatic reaction at this point.

For a short while you think John actually begins to loosen up and sleep peacefully again, but you're actually pretty sure he woke up because his whole body tensed, but soon after he settled and moved a bit, pressing his face into your chest and wringing his hands that were trapped between your bodies.

This whole time you don't stop humming until you hear the small noises in his back of his throat. That's when you stop for a moment just to listen, just to make sure and bring your hand up to sift your fingers through his unruly mess of hair.

You only start again when he begins trembling. It's not cold trembling, but scared trembling. And you can deal with cold trembling by using your body as a blanket, but scared trembling is something that's a bit more difficult to deal with because you want to fix it forever but you can only offer a temporary solution which always seems to be your voice.

"You're free, a lover drinking in the sea. And we will let the water fill our lungs and sleep."

John feels like he's trying to make himself smaller in your hold, burying his face even further in your chest. You wonder for a second if he can even breath with his face pressed so close like that, but he is, and he's trying to control it actually. Trying to control his breathing because he's about to let something out.

"Love, we go down, go down. Breath, it's over now, over now... We can love, we can love. And the birds will sing our song in halcyon."

He shifts to let himself breathe, and if only he could just... take your breath and exhale a resolution to it all.

"You're free, a love is coming home to me. The sea will pull our bodies down into the deep. Love, we go down, we go down... So breathe, it's over now, over now. We can love, we can love."

As soon as you say it's over now the second time, the dam just breaks. It breaks into giant wooden splinters that might as well be spears and they get wedged in your throat and you struggle to keep making a melody. You've never really been the empathetic type but this affects you personally and you do not like it one bit.

You carry on, ignoring your own emotional response because all that matters is John's, he's all that matters to you right now.

Redundantly but altogether unnoticed, you repeat the song multiple times, at least six or seven, before he goes limp and callous and breathing easily through both his nose and mouth (he sleeps with his mouth open a little bit but he doesn't drool and it's really cute).

You take a moment to take in his features again in the dark, looking down at the sleeping boy. His cheeks are red and splotchy, eyelashes glistening in the absence of light somehow, hair sticking out in every which way. You pat it down gently and lean towards him to just press a quick kiss to his forehead. It is 5:14am now according to the bedside alarm clock, and you think that's a good time to try to go back to sleep yourself, if your river of thoughts and concerns and hypothetical situations and long winded metaphors cools down before the sun starts peeking out from behind the thick layers of overcast clouds.

Chapter Text

Blank.

That was a good descriptor for Terrence a lot of the time.

On his own, he was silent. Never spoke a word, only approached people if he had to and liked to observe a lot, you noticed. You never really knew why. It's a little unsettling, honestly. His tendency to watch people. It wasn't like, idle glancing either, but intense staring. You don't know if he knows he does this or what, but you also don't think he means it maliciously. Because his gaze is never poignant, just there.

Like you said. Blank. You don't know what he's thinking. You don't know if you want to know what he's thinking.

You have a lot of mixed feelings about him. On one hand, he's charming and laughs at shitty puns and is an excellent team captain. On the other, he's dangerous and you know he's dangerous.

It's taken you a while to figure this out, but he only shows those emotions when he has a goal, or is in a situation that he needs to act that way. Like two sides of a coin and the rim around it too. One side a manipulative, threatening liar, the other side engaging and charismatic peoples-man, the rim vacant and watchful.

His eyes were always dead though. Like he wasn't even a real person, just some robot in a human flesh suit. Made you wonder, and you're sure you're not the only one that's come to this conclusion. What you did however was post your situation online, nothing illegal though, nothing he made you do, but if this is a precursor to some sort of disease or mental thing then you want to know.

And people told you a lot of different things. He was a narcissist, he was antisocial but a good actor, some kind of psycho, None of these helped you. You asked again, worded things slightly differently, and you found a viable answer within a few hours later that evening.

A sociopath.

It's a daunting word but you've heard it before, so you did more research on it that night.

The definition you got?

A person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience.

This seems like a pretty big breakthrough, and it sounds entirely possible. But it's a Sunday night and your backpack full of English homework is glaring at you from across the room so it would be a good idea to get on that before you get too tired and miss the deadline for your free-write essay. At the same time though, you know you won't be able to focus on it because the fear of having your door being busted down by the police and arrested for what you enabled on Friday is killing you, and you need something to focus on, something where the answers are already in front of you, and you just have to look for them. Because you're a simple guy, and it might be internalized but you need something to pin the blame on, not just yourself and some other guy, but just. Something deeper.

You're a simple guy and you want answers.

Because you can't get the image of him throwing that poor kid John on the ground and grinning about the power he had over him. Before that day you'd never seen him yell. Well, sometimes he'd yell halfway across the football field because you were slowing things down, but angry yelling. At that point he'd forgotten about you so you got back in your car and waited, and listened, and sat and did nothing as your lifespan was cut short by at least ten years because of how fucking terrified you were.

If he's a sociopath though, for real, none of that was genuine. It was a scare tactic. A scare tactic to get John to talk. A scare tactic that went too far. A scare tactic that went above and beyond normal means and you're afraid. Not only for yourself and John, but everyone who joined in. Everyone who even knew. Even those who didn't, like the students at the school, and Terrence's parents and your family and Johns' parents who weren't home when you dressed him up (it was a big soggy blur, you barely even remember it).

A few minutes ago you shut down your computer to head to bed; you'll work on the essay during lunch break tomorrow. You know for a fact sleep won't come easy, so you can use this time to think more about it and try to come up with something, despite knowing you'll be tired tomorrow. That's fine, you totally deserve it. God knows what John has to go through every night. You don't even want to think about it.

You have the sinking feeling though, that him targeting John was at first just to see how far he could go, how far he could push this kid over the edge. Testing the waters, you guess. Then it just got out of hand and he just couldn't stop. You're not rationalizing it, no. But you think that could be a good starting point. If it has a starting point, it should also have an end, but when will that end be? When Terrence stops himself? When John goes to a new school under a different name? When you all get thrown in prison for raping a fifteen year old boy and being accessories to crime?

The scare tactics are running you dry though. You read that sociopaths have no attachment to anyone. If John told someone and ratted Terrence out, then someone would find out and action would be taken. If he did that to ensure it didn't happen again, then the attention seeking must be focused on another aspect. He's smart, he know's that what he's been doing can put him away, and you guess he doesn't want that.

There's probably a lot of other possibilities, but tomorrow's a Monday, and your trains of thought are being cut off by jolting awake after drifting off, so you think it's a safe time to call it a night.

You say that but you don't get to sleep for another three hours.


Monday mornings are always really underwhelming, but you've got math second block, and then lunch, so you can use your math time to maybe take notes. Not on math, but Terrence. You've never taken his weird behaviour into real consideration before, you just thought it was you overreacting. He sits one desk up and two to the left from you. Perfect for spying. Miss Jericho has already checked homework. You were only half done, but Terrence, from what you could see, did all the work. He glances at you when you think he was occupied with writing something down. You turn your gaze down immediately. Once bit, twice shy. You don't want to stir anything up. Not right now, at least.

The whole class period is spent like this; you not paying attention to the lecture and trying to pick up Terrences' idle ministrations and him stealing glances from you. He's suspicious, and probably already knows exactly what you're trying to do. He's also probably labelled you too much of a coward to take action against him. The lunch bells goes off far too soon. He gathered his stuff up preemptively and is gone within seconds before you even think to clip your papers back into your binder. You have to head to the library to finish up that essay though, which is fine. It's only monday.

You hope John didn't come back though, not yet.

You hope he's at home in bed watching Pokémon or something and eating icecream, because fuck does he ever deserve it.

You head off to the library, saying 'hey' to anyone you passed that you knew like you usually did, and everythings pretty calm for the first twenty minutes of it. The library during lunch break is always busy. Students doing homework, groups hanging out, and there's always that gross group of freshman boys who take up all the computers to play Minecraft together, so everyone who needs to use them for real shit need to get there early to get a spot. The librarian is pretty chill too if not a little scary. He's got this really unsettling stare and it always makes people think he's mad at them, but he's not. He's cool. Sometimes he'll even let you print stuff on the colour printer for free.

Regardless, you're clicking on the tabs of your browser absently with your headphones plugged in and playing some good music, when you notice a lot of people are leaving. And by a lot you mean at least half the library is being cleared out, just by kids leaving. You check the time at the bottom of your screen, completely confused. The bell hasn't gone yet? So what's the hurry? You have the feeling you should really so check it out though, you don't like not being in the loop.

You leave your stuff at the lab computer and head out, faces of people you know blurred in the crowd outside the door, and you force your way in, force your way to the action.

And shit.

There is definitely action.

You don't know how it started, but there's some blonde kid with these huge gold-rimmed aviators smashing in Terrences' face with his own two knuckles. The crowd is neither silent nor loud and it's disorientating. Who is this kid? Why's he beating the shit out of Meadows? There are so many questions buzzing through your head at light speed, and none of which are being answered by staring at this display of aggression, and the blond kid is saying something but you can't hear over the sound of the brunets' face being brutalized.

Your eyes try to focus on something else, you need something else to direct your attention to, and there he his. John Egbert, looking like he just tumbled ass-backwards off the turnip truck and is sorely trying to grasp the situation. His eyes are glazed over and hazy from what you can tell, and you want to go over there and ask him if he's over but then the sounds of violence stop, and who you assume to be John's friend stands up. And points at the boy in question.

And the delivers a speech that has you and you're pretty sure a lot of other people feeling like they've been sucker punched in the throat, and by the time he's done, no one has the courage to say a word.

This kid just comes into the school with John, kicks Terrence's ass, and proceeds to render everyone speechless.

That takes some real guts.

It takes a moment for it to really sink in, and before it even can in most people, he's pulling John up from his seat on the linoleum hallway floor and leading him out the nearest exit.

A handful of people applaud him on the way out.

And the Terrence you thought was knocked unconscious just sits up and lets his nose drip onto his jacket. The look on his face says I probably shouldn't have said or done anything, but it could've been worse and I probably deserved that from a normal standpoint. Then he just stand up with his hand over his mouth and leaves like he has no care in the world.

He's not interesting to you right now, you follow the two out of the building when it's clear enough to push past the iron doors.

Your heart is beating fast, faster than any sprint across the field with the football has ever left you.

They're nearly on the other side of the common field, the blond one leading John by the wrist but him lagging behind. They slow down and stop he they say a few words while John gets assistance to stand up straight and that's when you start running over because there might be a problem and you want to make sure you can help, nervous sweat making your t-shirt cling to your back underneath your jacket.

When you're in earshot, you call out.

That's where you think you royally fuck up. As you get closer, you can see he's shaking and turning blue in the face and wobbling around. And then he falls, and it's the slowest few seconds of your life.

Shit happens thereafter, and you get yelled at to call an ambulance (which you do without hesitation) after he lays his head down to listen to his heartbeat and what he does is start doing mouth to mouth. You don't interrupt, you barely say a word, you just ask for an ambulance.

It arrives within minutes while the blond kid keeps up the resuscitation, and just takes John away on a stretcher.

They're gone before you can even understand what just happened.

Despite classes and homework and your essay being due, you go back to the library, gather up your things, get into your car and just drive just to regain your bearings. Then you get the brilliant idea to write John a letter and leave it at the reception desk at the hospital. It takes you nearly an hour to write, and another half an hour to drive there and track his whereabouts down, but you do, and. You just. Feel like your threads have all been pulled loose. You don't know what to do. You know that if John comes back, you want to be his friend, despite how much he probably hates your guts. You want to work through that.

Your mom is texting you, phone buzzing in your pocket. You gave her her own ringtone, she literally begged for one for like a week. Sugar Sugar by the Archies just as requested. Your mom is great.

You check it real quick, it's not like you've left the parking lot yet. She took out chicken breasts or something for dinner and is gonna be home late. What, she wants you to cook 'em? Tough luck, it's not like you ruin everything you touch or anything.

Not at all...


You woke up Tuesday morning with a head full of nothing and a faceful of pillow. You're really good at accidentally suffocating yourself in the middle middle of the night. Your dad does it too, though, so apparently it's hereditary. Y'know. Suffocating yourself on a pillow when you're sleeping or whatever.

School is normal. You don't see John, you don't see Terrence, no one says anything.

And everyone knows he got the shit kicked out of him, but are spreading a sarcastic rumor. A rumor that he just happened to fall down the concrete flight of stairs outside the school, and landed face-first.

None of the teachers have clued in on anything , and you don't think any of them will.

You still have a really bad feeling though.


Wednesday rolls around, and you are already really tired of the week. Feels like it's taking forever. Maybe it's all the thinking you can't seem to stop doing. You even lost sleep and got really annoyed when your phone alarm went off and you have no place in your heart for alarms. Not to fucking mention marimba is the worst. So upbeat and cheerful, but you know there's an underlying bloodthirst. A passive-aggressive bloodthirst that gets off on waking unsuspecting teens up in the morning. That's your theory.

You eat toast and orange juice and head off to school after your mom berates you about missing your last two classes yesterday, telling her it wouldn't happen again. You dad just laughs and says to cut you some slack.

Your morning class is weird though. During morning announcements, the principal reminds the teachers to pick up a stack of newsletters to give out during second block, and yadda yadda yadda. There's a lot of talking going on, and it's stupidly hard to listen to. The girl who sits beside you asks if she can borrow a pen just as they end.


Second block, your math class? Terrence showed up today. His face, from what you can tell at this angle, is completely busted up. You heard he got some teeth knocked out but it doesn't look that way.

The white bandage over his nose contrasts harshly with his tanned skin and dark, sharply outlined bruises.

The second bell rings and no one is saying anything.

Miss Jericho is reading over the newsletter as she hands them out. Her eyes are rimmed red. You don't think she tried very hard getting ready today either. She's wearing tennis shoes and jeans today. You've never seen her wear jeans or sneakers before.

You're too fixed on why your teacher is dressed differently to notice the reaction your classmates are giving the newsletter, and Terrence sinks back in his chair. Everyone who's gotten it has their eyes glued on him.

When it finally comes to you, your stomach sinks to your toes and you really.

Really.

Don't want to read it for some reason.

How bad could it even be? Maybe it has something to do with getting new lab computers and grieving the loss of the old ones to a middle school.

Haha.

You wish.

One girl at the back sniffs and then you finally read it.

You skim over it mostly, only stopping to reread a couple lines.

"To our great sorrow, there has been a death in the school. John Egbert, class of 2014, is no longer with us. Our heart goes out to his father and best friend, and the school will take appropriate measures to provide the utmost care and understanding to our grieving students."

Your heart nearly stops.

You must be either reading this wrong or you're still dreaming.

A brief beep signals another announcement in the middle of a destructive train of thought, "Please excuse this interruption. Terrence Meadows, to the office. Terrence Meadows to the office immediately."

And he just. Stands up and leaves. He doesn't even bother taking his things. Hell, he didn't even bother unpacking.

The door closing on his way out is deafening, your ears already ringing.

This is all just an elaborate hoax. You know it.

But your teacher is crying behind her desk.

Chapter Text

Sunlight pools in through the dusty window above you. It's warm, almost unseasonably warm for reasons you don't really care to investigate. You'll write it off as John's dad turning up the heater before going to bed. Yeah. That's pretty reasonable. He came back right? At the moment you don't particularly care but it's always nice to know. You breath out your nose steadily. The pillow attempting to support your head is flat. You shift slightly to maybe fluff it up a bit, eyes still shut. As you do that though, your arm brushes up against something soft.

John.

He's facing away from you, snoozing away silently. You sidle up behind him gently and press a kiss to his shoulder (or what should be a shoulder). He doesn't make a move, not from what you can tell in your half-asleep state of awareness, but that's okay, you don't want to wake him up just yet anyways. Sleepy morning cuddle sessions aren't something you're familiar with or anything, but if it came down to it, needless to say you wouldn't be opposed.

(It will indeed come down to it and you're already excited about it.)

You wrap one arm around his waist. Or at least you think it's his waist? Yeah, that's his waist. It feels weightless, and you revel in being able to call yourself the big spoon. Well. Of course you're the big spoon, you're you. You're Dave Strider, and is all how it's supposed to happen, this is how it's supposed to be.

So when your eyes finally blink open, and all you find in front of you is a pillow, you're astoundedly confused. Especially when you look around, and you're not even in John's room, let alone his bed.

And then it all comes crashing down, just like how it does every morning.

Ever since that gust of wind on that dark, wet, cold night on the roof of the hospital, you've been making shit up. You've been making up all up as you went along because there was no way, no absolute way, that John was dead.

But he was. He is.

That one fateful breath of air, teetered him off the building. He was so light, and the wind was so strong, and it caught his shirt, and essentially just. Pulled him off. It was that one last muttered breath of "do it. i'll do it for you."

And you ran forward so fast, only after you really came to terms with what was going on, that you nearly fell off yourself. It was almost in slow motion, you remember the individual icy droplets hitting your face like small knives, you remember the way the sky glowed murky orange from the streetlights-

You remember feeling that you were going to have a heart attack and you remember the piercing yell that quickly faded and abruptly stopped, and you remember falling to your knees at the edge of the building, hitting the barrier so hard it knocked the air right out of your lungs with your upper half teetering over the edge.

You remember your eyes struggling to focus, and then you remember in disgusting detail, what was his small body on the concrete below.

Bloodied, broken, and utterly dead.

John is dead and it was an accident.

He had so little left to give and was ready to end everything, and you didn't help him. You tried, but fate-

Fate? Huh.

Was it meant to be like that? Accidental, but ultimately written off as a poorly planned suicide? Was fate the active antagonist here? Against him? Against you? His dad, and Rose and Jade and that other redheaded kid who called the ambulance that got you and John here in the first place?

You still don't actually know what happened that started this in the first place. All you knew is that you were on the top of a fifteen storey building, and that your best friend, the pranking master, was dead.

Oh, how you wished this was all some sort of sick prank.

You had hunches, and you made some mental connections, and the moment you saw him down there, something snapped, and you didn't believe it. It didn't happen. You faked, you talked to yourself, you sat in the staircase inside the building mumbling to yourself, like you were narrating it all like a story with foreign wording. Bad metaphors and even worse allusions like a shitty young adult novel.

Sometimes, you're pretty sure you still are.

You lied to Rose and Jade, they heard the truth weeks later in a lapse of calm, you laying in bed because you couldn't last a day of school. The first thing your teachers asked when you got back were various iterations of "how was your trip?"

You never meant to blatantly lie like that to the girls, it was just that the reality of the situation just hadn't registered in your brain properly like it should have. Of course that's no excuse, and neither of them talked to you for a week or two. You didn't even bother explaining yourself, and you're still waiting for Rose to come around and remind you that she's going to pee on your stuff for letting this happen.

After you finally had the courage to leave the staircase, you went back into his hospital room, pulled the curtains, sat back in the chair you claimed as yours and blanked out. Your brain just shut off, like it overheated and crashed, like your desktop computer does every summer. Soon enough there were nurses, then police, then his dad. You'd been questioned, they assumed you pushed him off, like it was a homicide. You'd have taken great fucking offense if you could feel anything. The left you alone and you don't know how long had passed. Your phone vibrated in your pocket urgently. You ignored it, pretended you didn't feel it go off.

When Dad could finally speak to you, he asked you what happened, why is his only son, only family, in a body bag being transported to the nearest morgue and all you said was that he was depressed, he was scared and he was lonely and he was hopeless and he felt betrayed. That his heart and his mind and his body were in pain, and you couldn't do anything to help because fate pushed him over the literal and metaphorical edge.

He asked you why you or John never told him, he could've listened and gotten help. You told him it was because he was gone so much, John didn't think he cared anymore.

Dad keeps his head down and tugs on his tie. He tells you he was working overtime to save up because his job was getting unstable. Newer, smarter, younger people applying for his place in the business. He had to show his employer how capable he was at what he did because he really couldn't afford to get laid off. He tells you that he must've overestimated John's patience, and you tell him no, it wasn't just him. He asks what you mean, and you spill that he was getting bullied.

The look on his face could kill a man. You're glad it's not you it's directed at you.

He then slips you a twenty dollar bill and says he'll call a cab for you, and that even though he can't offer up much, he tells you he's proud of you for trying, because he knows that John was, is, your best friend, and that he is so so sorry for not stepping in.

This hurts you because he has just lost his son to apparent suicide, yet is trying to make you feel better.

When you stood up to leave, he did too, and he hugged you. That was the moment you went back to fabricating your own reality.

In hindsight it was a bad way of coping, because here you are now, laying in bed in sheets that probably need a good run in the washing machine on a dank spring afternoon, clutching the second pillow to your chest like a lifeline.

And maybe it is.

Reminders are everywhere too, from your sunglasses sitting on the table to the photos hanging by clothespin spanning from one end of your room to the other. He always demanded to see them in the infrequent video calls, and when finally caved and pulled a few down he said you were dumb for hanging silly selfies everywhere, ("theyre ironic john how many times do we actually have to go over this").

You're obviously still not okay. How do people even get over these kinds of things. Well, that being said it's not like you want to 'get over' it because of obvious reasons, but anything to make the suffocation stop. You know there are parents out there who have lost their children because of freak accidents, there are people dying because they don't have enough to eat, there are people out there, kids even, that have it a million times worse than you do.

You feeling like this, whatever this is? it barely feels justified.

But at the same time, you watched your best friend of almost four years die.

When you put it like that, it's gets increasingly justified. You can't even imagine how Jade and Rose feel, with you lying like you did. Normally when this kind of thing happens, doesn't the community band together for support? To make change? Isn't that something that happens in real life?

Or it could be like one of those things that happens just in the media. It's not real. It's not like it matters all that much though, nothing feels very real anymore though anyways.

Out of nowhere, your phone buzzes on the table, cutting through the silence sharply. You have to reach over the pillow you've been clutching to your body to get it, and when you do, you knock something small off the surface onto the carpet and you mutter under your breath ("What the fuck Strider, you clumsy bastard.") It's too early for reaching and stretching and grabbing shit off your mess of what you call a floor. You can barely see it anymore anyways, it's covered in clothes and cords and papers and empty instant noodle containers.

You have to do some pretty fancy acrobatics to bend your arm appropriately to actually get your hand down there, like. Really fancy. The absolute fanciest. And no, that gross noise totally wasn't you grunting in pain when your shoulder popped back into place.

You finally graze your fingers over what dropped, and you pull it back up in front of your face for inspection.

A small silver ring.

You remember this.

You did a stupid thing the following day; you left the house without your coat, and wandered for hours, exhausted because you were unable to sleep, empty because you couldn't bring yourself to eat. You ended up at some sort of shopping village, a strip mall kind of thing. Seeking warmth and a discounted sweater, you went into the second hand shop and found one you liked with stars that fit you kind of big... an acrylic pullover, just a little bit scratchy with a small buildup of pills where the bottom of the sleeve met your palm. But before you went to pay for it, you found yourself in the jewellery section.

Looking back on it, you're not sure why, but in that moment, you rationalized buying that ring because you were going to buy it for John. You were going to pay three dollars and ninety-nine cents plus tax for that ring, and you were going to present it to him in the least embarrassing way possible.

You're very thankful that the elderly woman working the cash register didn't ask you any questions when she rung up your purchases. You probably would've gone into hysterics.

A quick trip to a coffee shop later (Was it Dunkin' Donuts? You don't remember. It could've been any old cafe.) you found yourself being honked at in the parking lot. John's dad who went to find you, because you left the door unlocked and your coat on the floor. He said you can take the front seat, but you sat in the back. It felt safer back there, and you had more room to shove your hands in your pockets to save them from going numb from the cold.

That night, almost twenty four hours of pretending had you physically sick. His dad was gone, dealing with some stuff, and all you could do for the better part of an hour after a movie was vomit into the toilet, and you couldn't tell if you were crying or laughing. When you look back on it, it was probably both.

You told Rose and Jade that everything was cool.

Speaking of which, you bet they're trying to get a hold of you. That's why you got your phone in the first place, that's how you got got in this stupid train of thought.

It's Jade.

- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 13:26 -

GG: are you awake yet?

TG: no

GG: i know something inconceivably terrible has happened

GG: but you can't keep shutting yourself off like this dave

TG: okay but wait

TG: im probably interrupting you by saying this but im not i literally just woke up and im not awake yet

GG: oh. okay, thats fine ! i was just going to say that i feel just as bad as you do and we should all be here for each other

GG: you left the group memo last night though, we were just about to talk about what to do from here, wherever this is

TG: its only been like three months why do we have to do anything

GG: its been a painfully slow three months then huh :(

Feels like it was just yesterday. Probably because you just woke up from it again. How many times has it been now? You keep dodging them both, they just want to 'sort things out' and 'get things running at least a little more smoothly'. You're personally not ready for it.

TG: its fine

GG: obviously its not though! i can stop pestering you? if you want to go back to sleep maybe :((

TG: good idea

GG: okay

GG: ill talk to you later then?

TG: yeah

GG: really

GG: lets talk later
TG: ok

- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 13:34 -

You shove your phone under your pillow, sighing and dropping your face back on top of it. You want to go back to sleep but seeing as how you're letting your thoughts run rampant at the moment, it's probably not going to happen.

You don't know what you're going to do.

Just. Live on, you guess. Live and let die.

Fuck.

You scrunch your face up, nose beginning to burn.

"It's not fair."

You bring your hand up to clutch at your chest, the grief and guilt building up painfully.

"It's not-"

You curl in on yourself, whimpering your next word.

"-fair."

And you need to have a sense of finality, you need to know that this is real still. Too often have you tried to call his house to just go unanswered, too often do you log off of pesterchum because his name is whited out due to being disabled.

(One time it blinked on, ectoBiologist was feeling Chummy. You nearly had a heart attack before sending a message only to be answered with 'This is John's dad. I'm trying to figure out how to deactivate this account for safety reasons.")

(You couldn't read past the first sentence.)

What you think you can do just to calm yourself down is go up to the roof and hang out, risking sunburn but being able to overlook the city. You could bring your camera with you? No, no that's too overkill. You don't want to distracts yourself, you mostly just want to feel some sort of breeze and get out of your gross stuffy room.

Yeah.

You sit up, rubbing your face for a moment before pulling some pants on. Nothing fancy, just some sweats and putting the ring in the pocket, like good luck or something. Bro is nowhere to be seen when you leave, but that's alright. The TV in front of his futon is on the pause screen of MAD SNACKS YO. so he couldn't have gone too far.

The trek upstairs is a short one, and the exit door is unlocked as usual.

You haven't been up here in a while. Too many bad vibes associated with the tops of buildings. You find a seat near the ledge though, not dangerously close, but you can still see over the edge, and one leg is dangled over the side. Nothing too dangerous. The sun beats down on you, and there's barely a breeze, but it's infinitely better than your suffocating room. The brightness takes a little time to get used to, but it's nothing you can't handle.

From there you pull the ring out of your pocket and just. Hold it in your hand.

Part of you wants to throw it off the edge, to get rid of it, so you never have to remind yourself of John Egbert again, but where would that get you? Absolutely nowhere.

You could still give it to him one day. Maybe like how people used to be buried with their belongings and a hefty amount of money, this small material item can be carried along with you when it's your turn.

A small gust of wind hits you from behind, like a warning or something. What, you gonna push me off too? Good. End it.

How great of a novel would that make. The active antagonist was the wind all along.

Random thought, you ate dirt as a baby because you thought it tasted good.

Eventually you'll let the dirt return the favour.