Dave had not intended to get a tattoo, really.
Yes, he admitted they were not that bad, and he thought having one wouldn’t hurt, but…
He also thought that getting a tattoo as a statement for something, or simply out of rebellious attitude towards one’s parental figure, was simply not high enough on the echeladder of irony to justify the actual branding of his body.
So, he had never truly entertained the thought of getting one himself.
As such, when he had ended up walking in front of the local tattoo parlour, he had decided on an impulse that he might as well do his part in the whole ‘rebellious teenager’ stage and get himself some sort of ironic skin brand.
Not that Bro would care about it –but getting himself tattooed without telling his parental figure had enough underlines of irony that Dave was sure Bro would appreciate it.
Without giving much thought to the whole idea, he had then pestered John via phone; John was his best friend, and he wanted him to be the first to know about it.
His reply was instantaneous and filled with mixed feelings –on one side, John appeared to be envious and somewhat awed at Dave’s courage, as he would never have the guts to actually go and get himself a tattoo. On the other side, the derp was still somewhat afraid of these things, as his father had spent quite some time making them look worse than they actually were.
They had chatted for a while, Dave with his back pressed against the front window of the parlour, John from wherever he’d been at the time, mulling over the pros and cons about going through with it.
John had also promised not to tell anyone about it, in his own simple, Egbert–y way, but only if Dave promised to show him the finished tattoo to him via PesterChum.
In the end, Dave had agreed, even though his intentions were to just get some information about the whole tattooing process and be done with it.
The parlour was an accredited one, small but honest and clean –irony could get you so far, but even Dave knew enough of safety not to throw it all away by going somewhere unsafe.
He entered without a clear idea on what he wanted –he was quite torn between getting a very silly tattoo with strata after strata of ironic subtext or actually set irony aside and get a cool one– the little bell on top of the door tingling as he made his way inside. He headed towards the counter, eyes noticing an open folder on there, filled with more photos of inked skin than he really needed to see.
The owner had his back towards the door, and was the typical stereotype of a tattoo–artist, with both arms, neck and visible section of collarbone filled up with spirals, tribal signs and typical macho–guy tattoos.
Dave appreciated the subtle irony of an ‘I love my Mom’ tattoo on the man’s biceps before idly shuffling through a few pages of arms, necks, ankles and breasts covered with unicorns, flowers and skulls.
Nothing out of that folder screamed to be permanently marked onto his cool Strider skin, but that was ok –Dave had big plans that involved drawing something on his own, after all…
“So, whatd’ya want? Info or get some ink on ya?” the man’s voice was rough and low, and Dave looked up, his mind busy trying to shape what a perfect tattoo could be…
His gaze met a pair of pointed crimson shades, and his mind went blank.
The man wore a cheap pair of shades that one could get at any one–dollar store across the country, and the sight was nothing new, but…
All of sudden, Dave’s heart skipped a beat, and in the seconds that ticked by –seven seconds, because it was so easy to count time as it floated in the back of his mind– his brain was filled with things, pictures and sounds, and the force of it all was enough to send him reeling backwards, eyes burning.
Things he’d forced in the back of his head, things he hadn’t really wanted to think about, day after day after week after month
His lips opened on their own, mouth suddenly dry–
“A Libra,” he said, his voice strangely toneless and even, despite the inner turmoil he felt.
The man’s face twisted into a confused grimace. “A wha’bra now?”
“A Libra. The constellation,” he repeated, feeling the world return sharply into focus. “Do it in teal”.
He left the parlour an hour later, with a bandaged shoulder, heart still hammering in his chest, not sure what had just happened.
–– EctoBiologist[EB] began pestering TurntechGodhead[TG] at 16:45 ––
TG: stop with the eight thing
EB: hehehe why it’s cute
TG: not really. its as cute as my bros asspuppets
TG: its as cute as getting puppetdong on my face when i open the fridge for some apple juice
TG: thats how cute it is
EB: daaaaaaaave, i’ll pretend you didn’t say that. come on, i waited with bathed breath for you to come back so i could properly admire your tattoo! i bet it’s rad and ironic as hell!
EB: what did you get? a bird flipping off?
EB: a skull?
-– EctoBiologist[EB] has requested a pestervideo with TurntechGodhead[TG] ––
–– TurntechGodhead[TG] has rejected a pestervideo with EctoBiologist[EB] ––
EB: dave! don’t make me fall on my knees here, have pity of your bro
TG: while you should be on your knees anyway cause im the king of irony and youre just an apprentice, and i have to bestow upon you the whole shitload of irony and defeat once and for all your derpiness
Dave thought for a moment, fingers hesitating over the keyboard.
He’d wanted to show John his tattoo. But that was when Dave had been sure his tattoo was going to be something rad and silly and ironic and stupid. Not… not the one carefully hidden under bandages and the sleeve of his shirt, where he could almost fool himself into thinking it was not there.
It was wrong. He’d done that without even thinking about it, and…
John would never judge him, of course, and in the end it was just a tattoo, not a declaration of… something, but… he just couldn’t do it.
He felt stupid.
It was done, it was on his skin already, and he could not take it back, so he could at least man up and admit it, but…
No. he could not tell John about it.
Rose would have a field day if she ever found out, so of course there was no way he’d bring it up with her, either.
She’d say stupid things like how Dave was coping with missing Terezi, and how he just wanted to secure his memories of her with something tangible or some other shit like that.
Terezi had been his friend, and she hadn’t been the only one he’d made during the game, especially considering the three long years spent on the meteor –and then, afterwards, with meeting up, and winning and having to wait some more time together with all the reunited, revived trolls for their new universes to ripen up…
Rose would make Dave face the fact that ever since the end of SBURB, he had been denying himself closure, that trying to move on with his life despite everything that had happened before, was not what he needed.
Jade would probably understand, though –of all of them, Dave knew she would say nothing, let Dave get it out of his system, and then she would make a soft, quiet joke, and things would be ok.
Not solved, but ok.
But Dave didn’t feel like telling anyone. Not yet. Not now.
TG: sorry to disappoint bro but i didnt do it.
EB: what? but you wasted like ten minutes in front of that place talking to me about it! did you chicken out on me, dave?
TG: dont even start this. i didnt chicken out, egbert
TG: none of the tattoos were right for this brand of irony, man. not enough irony, not good enough to be branded on my hot body, bro
TG: not going to have anything other than perfection on the coolkid
TG: and you know bitches would bitch for even a second with the strider, let alone ten
TG: you are one lucky derp
He could picture John snorting on the other end of the computer, but if that kept him from getting too curious, then so be it, Dave Strider could endure some teasing.
His fingers tracing the edges of the bandage, Dave stared at the conversation with John, feeling guilty.
He’d just outright lied to his best friend, so he felt he should make it up for it, even if John didn’t have to know about it.
He’d just have to get a tattoo worth its name to show him, then.
TG: ill go find another parlour next week and see what they have. dave strider is going to get a fucking tattoo that will bring all the bitches together like sturdy men at a game of hockey
EB: … i don’t think that’s hockey Dave
TG: and then they pile onto each other and the stadium screams and points ring up to victory
EB: i also don’t think that’s how it works
TG: yea well man whatever
EB: your lack of knowledge on sports is really amusing, though. have you ever considered learning a bit about them? you know, just for the irony of it?
TG: irony doesnt work like that, egbert. besides sports are boring as hell.
EB: the fact that you believe that is what baffles me the most, actually.
TG: what can i do
TG: im too cool for that shit. cant cage coolness
TG: going to get some sick fires on now, pester you later bro
–– TurntechGodhead[TG] ceased pestering EctoBiologist[EB] at 17:10 ––
He focused on the blue writing on the screen of his computer, but concentrating on stuff was proving to be difficult, especially when the skin of his shoulder started itching.
When a flashing orange alerted him of Rose pestering him, against better judgement he decided to answer anyway.
Even Rose’s analytic mind was better than having to think about what he’d done.
–– TentacleTherapist[TT] started pestering TurntechGodhead [TG] at 17:25 ––
TT: You’ve been strangely silent, Dave. It is unlike you to not attack me with one of your ironic comments the moment you see my PesterChum switch to online mode. Does that mean you are perhaps ignoring me, in hopes of finding my attention elsewhere occupied so that I will be unable to dedicate your delicate mental health as much thought as it deserves?
TT: Or is your attention truly somewhere else, just this once?
TT: Your eloquence always manages to stun me into silence, dear brother.
TT: Does this mean you were not actually avoiding me?
TG: why would i ignore you, my dear sister in slime
TG: we are two peas in a pod
TG: which in this case is a huge shittube in the middle of nowhere that actually doesnt exist anymore
TG: lets not go there
TT: No, let’s actually probe deeper onto this complex subject, since as you were the one to bring it up, it clearly means you feel the unconscious need to talk about it.
TG: what, you cant even ask how i am before you get down to trying to crack my shell now
TG: really thoughtful of you
TG: my heart is weeping
TG: big, giant tears dripping down my chest
TG: bleeding tears signifying the pain i feel with the lack of brotherly relations we share. you and me.
TT: Go on
TG: youre actually writing this shit in your journal are you
TT: Would that bother you?
TG: of course it would
TG: its creepy as fuck
TT: Ah, always with the quips. Relax, Dave, it wasn’t my intention to miss a step of our usual conversations, but your amusing jumping to irony is always entertaining.
TT: Good evening, Dave, how has your day been?
TT: Is that ok?
TG: thank you
TT: You’re welcome.
TG: planning on analyzing the shit out of me then lalonde
TT: Actually, I wasn’t going to, but I have the feeling you are up to something, so I’ll just offer to listen to you if you ever feel the need to share what is bothering you with someone who can aid you.
TG: you would not aid me
TG: youd just psychoanalyze me until im a quivering mass of shit on the floor all tears and snot and open raw
TG: which is not exactly my idea of a quiet afternoon
TT: I didn’t hear you denying you’re up to something, though, dear brother. This just means you do not want to unload your troubles with me, which isn’t unusual at all, as you seem to think that opening up with others is a capital offence.
TG: not at all
TG: i have nothing to hide
TT: For all it is worth, I will be ready to listen if you need to talk it out, though. Despite my sterilized words, we are brothers, albeit from a ‘tube of slime’, as you so carelessly put it, and my care for you is not mere words said for convenience or for the sake of appearance.
TG: i know
TT: So yes, I’ll be here when you need me.
–– TentacleTherapist[TT] ceased pestering TurntechGodhead[TG] at 17:42 ––
Dave groaned softly, letting his head drop against the table, and did not move for a long while, lost in thought.
He knew Rose was just itching to find something to analyse, but he also knew that she meant well. Of all of them, Dave had been the only one to refuse to talk about SBURB –what John and Rose could not understand was that this was simply the way Striders did it.
There was no babbling and shitting bricks about stuff with them –they just pushed through until everything was in the past, and even if it hurt, it wasn’t important.
So what if Dave refused Rose’s help whenever she offered? It had been months, she should have given up already.
Dave was coping just fine.
His shoulder decided that was the perfect moment to send over a light twinge of discomfort, skin tingling, effectively calling him out of his lie.
He wasn’t coping well, not really. But he wasn’t ready to face that, either.
Looking up once again from his table, Dave noticed green text on his computer, and smiled slightly.
–– GardenGnostic[GG] started pestering TurntechGodhead[TG] at 17:51 ––
GG: oh hey dave :DD
GG: i hope you’re not busy!!!
TG: chill out harley im here
GG: :DD!! i dreamed of you last night dave!!
Dave paused, pushing his shades up his nose.
Jade could not dream events from the future anymore, and her dreams were now purely creations of her imagination, and as such, filled with adventures and with all of her friends starring as co-protagonists.
Rose had tried analysing them, but even the once Seer of Light had been unable to shed some light onto the mystery that were Jade’s complex, absolutely spontaneous dreams; so, much to her disappointment, she had to give up.
Dave still poked fun at her for that.
GG: you were on a boat floating in the sky!
TG: i hope i was the fucking captain of your boat harley
TG: im too cool to be a simple sailor
GG: hehe, of course dave! you were the best captain a dream boat could ever hope to have :D and your crew listened to every word you said!
TG: harley that is hardly a dream
TG: that is fucking reality
TG: whenever i speak the crowds listen raptly
TG: waiting for shit to rain on them from my lips
GG: hehe, yes, exactly!!!
TG: so what did i do on your dream boat
TG: brought irony to all the nations
TG: or what
GG: you had to rescue a princess!
TG: is that a hint harley
TG: was the princess holding onto a pretty pumpkin
TG: youve always had a certain attitude for being rescued
GG: noooo, silly!!! :)) the princess was your best friend and had been kidnapped and you had to find her!!
GG: but an evil sorcerer put a curse on you!!! :O you couldn’t remember the princess anymore!
TG: continue please, im hanging onto the seat like hell here
TG: if you don’t tell me the rest i will not sleep tonight
TG: are you this evil harley
GG: that is where i woke up :(( sorry Dave!!
TG: thats it
GG: yes, sorry :((
GG: it’s sad i couldn’t finish up the dream for a happy ending. you seemed to really like the princess :((
GG: i don’t know what i’d do if i were to forget someone important to me. it’s really sad!! i guess i would do anything to keep the memories with me!
GG: how do coolkids remember people? do you rap about them?
GG: hehe, no, that would be silly! you would do one of your cool drawings!! :DD maybe on your body so you would always be able to look at it and remember!
Dave’s fingers hovered above the keyboard, but did not move to type.
Jade might not have any more prophetic dreams, but she sure as hell had some very informative dreams over things that had happened for real, even if her skewed perspective didn’t allow her to understand that.
Then again, maybe it was better that way.
He had no intention of telling Jade how her dream was just far too fucking close to reality to be acceptable.
It didn’t seem to matter, as Jade moved easily to other, not–dream–related topics, and Dave felt his shoulders relax, even if only slightly.
For the rest of the day Dave tried to ignore the way his shoulder itched, determined to not think about his now branded skin.
He felt the first lingering threads of uneasiness roll by the more he tried not to think about it, uneasiness mixed with guilt for having done something so final with his own body. Something to be reminded of every time he moved his arm; he could only hope that Bro wouldn’t notice.
It definitely was not ironic, and the itch just made it downright unpleasant.
The following morning though, he couldn’t back off anymore, especially since he knew he needed to clean up the tattoo, as the guy at the parlour had stressed out more than once.
Slowly, with trepidation and with no small amount of regret, Dave peeled off the bandage and removed the gauze, looking away for a second, unable to face the tattoo.
It was stupid. It was really stupid, unironic at best, and–
He stared into the mirror, eyes focused on the small, teal–coloured symbol on his shoulder, and his muscles relaxed instantly, the bandages falling into the sink.
With trembling fingers, he slowly traced the contours of the tattoo, feeling his skin slightly slippery under his touch.
He shifted closer to the mirror, tilting sideways to get a better view of it.
It looked small, right there on the curve of his arm, and the skin around it felt as raw and red as it looked.
Small but ok.
He could almost hear Terezi’s cackling voice echo in his mind, the hint of a smile that wasn’t mocking, just warm.
‘1T LOOKS GOOD ON YOU, COOLK1D’.
“… Yes, it does,” he murmured in the silence of the bathroom, his heart thumping wildly in his chest. “It does”.
And suddenly it was ok.
The following week, he returned to the parlour.
The man motioned him to sit down, and had a look at the tattoo, nodding to show it was fine and Dave had not fucked up with it.
“You here for another, kiddo?”
Dave shrugged, almost as if to show his lack of inherent interest, and tapped his fingers on the handle of the chair, deep in thought.
For the whole week, he had cradled the small tattoo on his shoulder with as much care as he could, unable to let it rest, brushing his fingers on the texture at least once every few minutes, until he was sure Bro must have known something was up with his arm, even though he hadn’t asked about it.
He really didn’t want to get another tattoo, though, so maybe just admitting what he’d done to John was the best course of action.
Besides, he was sure John had already caved in and told everything to Jade –she’d dropped far too many hints during their last few conversations, which showed how she knew something.
It was not going to be long until either of the two slipped in front of Rose, and then…
“Well, I–” Dave trailed off, fingers brushing once again on the tattoo on his shoulder.
Terezi’s smile was dangerous and amused in the back of his mind, sharp and there, not like a dream or a memory, but feeling as if she was there, as if he’d just spoke to her.
The longing he felt, the raw need to just see her again, share a laugh, draw some stupid mural bickering about who ate the last red chalk…
He missed her.
There was no sugar–coating that could ever make that sound remotely ok. He’d lost a very close friend, someone he’d cared for.
He missed her smirks and her cackles, he missed the way she would lick his face to gauge whether he was telling the truth or not, he missed the way they would team up to tease Karkat and make fun of him, and…
Fuck, she wasn’t the only one he missed.
The thought hit him with enough clarity to rob him of his breath.
For that single instant, a second stretching on, a single heartbeat, Dave felt the heavy burden of the distance he’d put between himself and all the others as fresh and painful as it had been the day after SBURB sent them all back.
He was not going to see her again.
Terezi had been someone important for him, yes, and there was no shame in admitting the feelings he had for her were deep and raw and open. She was a blind alien with a creepy smirk and a fixation with law stuff, and… she’d been one of the best friends a coolkid could ask for.
And with this, Dave had to admit something else…
She was not the only one he missed.
With different intensity, but there all the same, raw and painful, Dave had allowed others to grow close to him –others that had wormed their way in and that now refused to leave him alone.
He was not going to see them ever again, either. Important people. Friends. More than friends.
He left the parlour one hour later with a fresh, brown Taurus sign on his left shoulder blade.
The tattooed owner had looked at him funny, and had asked him if he intended to get the whole fucking Zodiac on his body, to which Dave had replied with a snort and a light shake of his head.
It didn’t matter what that man thought. In the back of his mind, a hesitant voice was speaking up, with a hint of a pleased smile, and that was all that mattered.
‘uUUUUUUH,,, iTS A NICE PLACE FOR A TATTOO, i THINK, wHERE WINGS SHOULD BE,,, iTS NICE,’
Maybe Tavros could not fly, but Dave thought it was quite neat, too.
Besides, with the comforting throb of his back came the knowledge that he had enough skin for a few more tokens. Places that belonged to a few more important reminders.
There was no way he would ever make himself forget.