The clattering wheels of Dave’s board formed a steady rhythm as he took the familiar path to the skate park. The sun was just a hand’s breadth away from the roofs of the houses he passed, but it wouldn’t be dark for another few hours. He had plenty of time.
The park itself was nothing special- just a few graffiti-splattered concrete ramps and a rusty rail, looking out of place beside a kiddie playground and a big, ornamental fountain. But it was the best place around, and even on a school night a smattering of people could be seen on the pipe and jumps. Dave rolled up and stopped beside the fountain, where a pair of boys sat- one of them small and round-faced, with a slightly scruffy mohawk that could have looked cool if he gelled it up instead of back. The other was tall and lean, with a muscular jaw and a mop of tangled dark hair that flopped over his eyes. The smaller one waved cheerfully as Dave approached.
“Sup, Tav.” Dave took a seat on the edge of the fountain with them, leaning his board beside him.
“Did you hear the good news, about Gamzee?” Tavros was beaming, his nose ring wobbling back and forth in a distracting way. Dave shook his head slightly. “He got onto the starting lineup, of the football team! Again!”
Dave looked past Tavros to Gamzee, his eyebrows raising slightly in appreciation. “Nice going, bro.”
Gamzee just shrugged, a lazy grin stretching over his face. His eyes were red- Dave wasn’t surprised when his words came out heavy and slow. “Ain’t nothing special that I done. A motherfucking miracle, that’s what it was.”
“…right. Well, still, way to go.”
Gamzee’s grin stretched even wider and he tugged a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, holding them out in offering. Tavros waved them away, but Dave took one and slid it between his lips. A few moments passed in silence as the two lit up, and Tavros was the one to break it.
“You should try out for a team, Dave.” He nudged Dave with an elbow, who pushed him away.
“I will when you do.”
Tavros laughed and tugged up the leg of his jeans, revealing a prosthetic ankle. “I think I might have to wait, uh, until they start a high school Paralympics team.”
Gamzee laughed, but Dave just shrugged silently. Tavros sighed, exasperated, and elbowed him again.
“Oh, come on, Dave, I know you already thought of a comeback, for that thing I just said.”
Dave shrugged again, taking a drag on his cigarette. “Nah.”
“You’re lying.” Tavros tapped his fingers against the edge of the fountain. “In middle school, you had a comeback for everything! We would have those stupid, uh, rap battles, remember?”
“That was almost three years ago.”
“So, why did you stop? Don’t tell me it’s because of that stupid-”
“Shut up, Tav.” Dave raised his red eyes to meet dark brown, and Tavros backed down with a sigh of annoyance. Gamzee blinked blearily at Dave through a haze of cigarette smoke, as if he were wondering whether or not he was supposed to come to Tavros’s defense. Dave dropped his eyes to the ground.
They didn’t talk much until Gamzee and Dave had finished their cigarettes, and when they did, Gamzee pulled himself to his feet and stepped onto his board, the other two right behind him.
“Pipe first?” Tavros asked, and Gamzee turned toward it with a nod.
“Sure thing, motherfucker.”
Dave followed in silence, and the three pulled to a stop in unison at the top of the half pipe. Dave couldn’t help but notice how pale he looked in comparison to the other two- sure, they both had darker skin, from Tavros’s mom being Spanish and Gamzee being… well, Gamzee being whatever the hell he was. But it was still no excuse for Dave to look like he hadn’t left his basement in the past six months. His freckles stood out even more than usual.
“Go on, Gamzee,” Tavros prompted, and Gamzee shot them a last lazy smile before tipping his board over the edge.
Even stoned, he was good. Dave watched as Gamzee’s board slid back and forth, Gamzee’s enthusiastic shouts punctuated by Tavros’s cheers. It was a good run, and when Gamzee finally slid to a stop, a few other skaters took a moment to applaud him.
“You next,” Tavros said, and Dave didn’t argue. He pushed his board over the edge, bending low to get up speed as he hurtled downward- the slope flattened out suddenly, and then he was going up, up, up, and he reached the top of the other side to hang in the air for what seemed like an eternity. His body moved automatically, shifting his balance, bringing his board forward and around and then- crack- he was going down again, wheels rattling, wind pulling his hair back. Everything else fell away until there was only the board under his feet and the wind around him, until, too quickly, the run was over. He stumbled to a halt at the bottom of the slope, his legs slightly shaky from the adrenaline.
“Nice one, bro,” Gamzee called, back atop the pipe with Tavros. Dave waved slightly and hurried out of the pipe, board tucked under his arm.
Tavros slid down the moment Dave was out of the way, with a nervous whoop of laughter. The unnatural limp from his metal legs that was obvious when he walked disappeared the moment he stepped onto his board, and Dave couldn’t help but be a bit impressed by the tricks he managed to pull off even with his clumsy prosthetics.
The time passed quickly, and stars were beginning to appear by the time they parted- Tavros gave him a half-hearted invitation to come over to Gamzee’s with him, but Dave didn’t miss the way Gamzee’s arm wound itself protectively around Tavros’s shoulders. He declined with a not-quite-sarcastic quip about not wanting to be a cockblock, and turned to roll away before Tavros could form his embarrassed spluttering into words.
The air cooled quickly in the absence of sun, and Dave was shivering in his plain grey tshirt by the time he reached his apartment. It was empty, unsurprisingly, and Dave went through the motions of dinner and homework in silence. Bro still wasn’t home when he reluctantly slid into bed in the early hours of morning, not bothering to change out of his shirt. Dave closed his eyes as if they could block out the dark silence, and tried unsuccessfully not to dread the coming school day.