Dave spent the rest of the day on his toes, keeping an eye out for John. He wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed when the final bell rang without seeing so much as a glimpse of spiky black hair. He packed up his things quickly and took the back door outside, walking as quickly as he could to the bus stop. If Dave stopped to think about it, he wasn’t even quite sure why he was going so out of his way to avoid his friends, besides the fact that even the thought of talking to someone made his stomach twist. What if they asked about John, and then he babbled and stuttered until they figured out the truth? Or, even worse, what if they started talking about something totally mundane and he was forced to nod and smile along?
Dave really didn’t think he could handle it.
He didn’t relax until the bus came, and he took his usual place at the back. His phone buzzed just as he settled into the luridly-patterned bus seat, and Dave whipped it out without even thinking. It wasn’t until he saw John’s name in his messages inbox that he remembered what Jade had said, and he almost stuck his phone back away.
However, his curiosity got the better of him, and Dave grimaced as he tapped at John’s name. The first message had been sent around lunchtime.
JOHN: hey dave where are you? i can actually eat lunch with you guys since i don’t have lunchtime practice today! it’s a christmas miracle!
JOHN: jade just showed up and said you were busy so i guess never mind.
JOHN: practice after school AGAIN. i am going to die.
JOHN: …dave is a loser who doesn’t know how to text back.
JOHN: you suck.
JOHN: seriously did your phone die or something?
JOHN: well i have practice now, bluuuuuuuuh, so have fun doing… whatever you’re doing, since jade is being all weird and secret-y about it.
Dave stared at the mess of letters for several long minutes. A man with a bushy beard in the seat next to him leaned over slightly in an attempt to glance at the screen, and Dave quickly tilted it away before giving the guy an incredulous stare. The man quickly turned back to the window, and Dave tapped out a reply. He read it over carefully a few times before sending it.
DAVE: sorry about that i was doing really important things that you would be totally jealous of if you knew what they were
Good enough. Dave flopped back in his seat with a sigh. Okay, he could deal with John, at least over text. He just wouldn’t think about how John had dreamed about doing sexy dream things to him, and how John wasn’t completely opposed to the idea of maybe making those sexy dream things a reality, and how Dave maybe really really really wanted that to happen, and-
“Goddammit,” Dave muttered, and the bearded man frowned disapprovingly. Dave ignored him.
Okay, maybe he couldn’t exactly deal with it. But he would find a way anyway, no matter how twisted up his stomach felt.
Dave slid his headphones on, leaned back, and made a conscious effort not to think.
The next few days seemed to drag on and on. Thankfully John was still busy with football practice for the second playoff game on Saturday, and his crowd of fans was larger than ever, meaning that it was near-impossible for them to spend any time face to face. Not that Dave was leaving anything to chance- he stayed out of John’s way as much as possible, and ate alone in his old niche behind the school. He never made a conscious decision to try to avoid everyone, but that was what ended up happening- whenever a familiar face appeared in the halls, Dave automatically ducked into a nearby doorway. It was easier than the alternative. He still reluctantly pulled out his phone whenever it buzzed, but after two days of sending nothing but one-word replies, the messages started to die down. Tavros had taken to giving Dave concerned looks whenever they crossed paths, but Dave stared resolutely at his feet and hurried away each time.
His phone had been silent for almost a full day when Saturday finally came. As the game approached, Dave turned it off and stuffed into his sock drawer where he wouldn’t be tempted to glance at it. He had absolutely no intention of going to the game- he couldn’t even talk to Tavros. No way he would be able to handle a huge crowd of people.
Instead, Dave sat in front of the TV, stared at a show he had no interest in, and proceeded to feel like a piece of shit.
Things had been going so damn well. He had friendsfor the first time in years, he was finally learning to fucking talk to people, to function like a normal human being- and then, just when he thought he finally had everything under control, it turned out that he couldn’t handle one little issue.
Sure, that little issue was the hopelessly dorky, unnervingly friendly, ridiculously attractive John Egbert, but that shouldn’t be enough to make Dave shut down. He should be able to handle this, and he wasn’t. He was taking the easy way out, cutting himself off from everyone just like he had before.
He was weak.
Dave turned up the TV, staring at it silently until Bro arrived home in the early hours of the morning and told him to get to bed. Dave obediently retreated to his room and lay on top of the covers, headphones clamped over his ears, letting the thudding base lull him to sleep as the first tinges of dawn lit up the sky.
Dave woke up, bleary and sleep deprived, and turned his phone back on to find six new texts- two from Tavros, one from Jade, and three from John. Dave gritted his teeth as he opened them one by one.
TAVROS: hEY DAVE, uH, I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW I SAVED YOU A SEAT, aND WE’RE IN ROW B 24,
TAVROS: i’M NOT SURE IF YOU’RE LOST, oR MAYBE JUST LATE, bUT YOU MIGHT WANT TO HURRY BECAUSE THE KICKOFF IS, uH, rEALLY SOON,
JADE: hey dave where are you? the games about to start!! :o
JOHN: i’ll be looking for you in the stands again. wish me luck!
JOHN: wow the game was crazy, i still can’t believe we won! where were you? nobody said they’d seen you.
JOHN: dave? did you lose your phone or something? everyone’s kind of freaking out right now.
Dave stared at the screen for several long moments. He felt nauseous, and filthy, and generally like the worst friend in the history of the universe. He could deal with cutting himself off from people, but he couldn’t make John worry or feel guilty. He just couldn’t.
Dave tapped at the new message button on his phone.
DAVE: hey lalonde
It took an antagonizingly long time for Rose to reply, but when the familiar string of purple syntax finally appeared on his screen, Dave couldn’t help but sigh in relief. There was no point backing out now. Dave was determined to fix this, and if that meant giving Rose more psychoanalysis-fodder, so be it.
ROSE: Hello, Dave, have you finally decide to return to society? Quite a few people were worried when you didn’t show up at the game yesterday, John especially. I think he was counting on you being there.
DAVE: yeah i know im an idiot and thats part of the problem can you please shut up and let me spill my deepest innermost secrets to you
ROSE: Please, sit down on the couch of self-reflection and tell me about what’s bothering you.
DAVE: ok so long story short
DAVE: i have the manliest of all man crushes on a certain derpy jock asshole
ROSE: I know.
DAVE: ok not even going to ask how you knew that but anyway
DAVE: according to jade that same derpy jock asshole had an r rated dream about me and is being i quote weird about it unquote
DAVE: but at the same time apparently he isnt against the idea of toasting his dream wang over the fires of my burning dream passion
DAVE: and im not even supposed to know but ive been avoiding him all week instead of actually trying to do something about this
DAVE: and hes still texting me and acting all worried about me even though im a huge asshole
DAVE: so basically
DAVE: what the fuck am i supposed to do now
Again, it seemed to take an eternity for Rose to reply. Dave was very near throwing his phone at the wall when several messages finally popped up.
ROSE: For the purpose of appearing professional, I’m going to try very hard not to call you an idiot.
ROSE: As for advice, I suggest that you simply try talking to him.
ROSE: You two can get your feelings out in the open, and decide whether or not genital-toasting is the best course of action.
DAVE: thats basically what jade said i guess but its really not that simple
ROSE: Is it ever?
DAVE: i mean okay yeah it would be easy if we could just agree we want to have sexy hijinks together but first of all i dont just want his dick i want him as like
DAVE: a guy
ROSE: A boyfriend?
DAVE: fuck I don’t know maybe
DAVE: anyway theres a shitload of problems that come with that
DAVE: the first of which being hes a superjock who has the whole school chasing after his ass and there is literally no reason for me to even be on his list of bangable and/or dateable people
DAVE: second of all hes in the middle of the football playoffs and the last thing he needs is me throwing this at him while hes already stressed out
DAVE: third of all i have not kissed a girl since that redheaded chick with freckles on her chin in eighth grade
ROSE: I seriously doubt John cares about how many chin-freckled girls you’ve kissed, Dave.
DAVE: shut up lalonde you know what i mean
ROSE: I’m afraid I don’t, actually.
DAVE: god dammit lalonde do you not get it
DAVE: hes totally out of my league
Dave sighed, leaning back. It was embarrassing, and pathetic, and he felt like a preteen girl freaking out because the boy she liked had glanced at her, except he was handling this far worse than any preteen girl could ever manage. Ugh.
His phone buzzed.
ROSE: I can’t believe I’m saying this to you, Dave, but I think you’re underestimating yourself.
ROSE: It’s already clear that John enjoys spending time around you as a friend, and he has apparently said himself that he could see you in a romantic light. I really don’t see anything stopping you.
DAVE: did you not listen to that whole thing where he is basically the troy to my gabriella
DAVE: except hes never going meet me at a karaoke bar on new years eve and find my slightly fetishistic love of math endearing rather than pitifully lame
DAVE: and also that instead of flirting with him as we sing duets im just avoiding him like a tool
ROSE: I’m going to ignore that reference in an attempt to take you seriously.
ROSE: Dave, do you honestly that John cares at all what people think of him? This is the boy who went trick-or-treating as a ghostbuster last Halloween.
ROSE: If John was really conscious of his appearance, I doubt he would even speak to half of the people he calls friends.
DAVE: having dorky friends and dating a weird monster eyed possibly dangerous loser are totally different things
ROSE: You asked for my advice and I gave it to you, Dave.
ROSE: Talk to him.
ROSE: And stop thinking so badly of yourself.