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Night Light

Chapter Text


Your older brother flicks off the light and you are cast into perpetual darkness. Snuggling lower into your covers is the only form of defense you have against the blackness that surrounds you. Asking to sleep with your bro would be weak. He's taught you to stand up for yourself and to fight through any sort of obstacle that stands in your way. But he did not prepare you for fear. Plain fear. This isn't something you can physically push or beat or kill. This is nothingness that closes in on you without any contact. The realness of the matter is that you-- David Strider, age 8-- are afraid of the dark.

A noise hits your ear and you flick your eyes towards the closet. There is something in there, you are sure. Your mind spins frantic images of the possible monsters that could be lurking behind toys and clothes and boxes. A catalogue of gouls whose only purpose are to scare you until your heart stops beating. A list of creatures that crawl and slither and secrete a sticky mucous that could bind you to the wall. A million skinny legs, tickling you as you are spun into a web-- a coffin. You learned about spiders and now you are sure a giant one is under your bed right now, or in the dark corner of the ceiling. She will tenderly bite your neck, you will pass out, and the next thing you know, your insides are liquid and she is drinking you like a human smoothy.

That's it. There is no use trying to sleep tonight when you are surrounded by so many enemies. Everything wants you dead. You can't find your voice and even if you could, you wouldn't want to show your bro that you are weak. He would tell you to figure out how to help yourself. He's your teacher, not your protector. You suck it up and throw the covers back. Looking around, you put a tentative toe to the floor. Nothing bites at your ankles from under the bed. Maybe the werewolf is asleep right now. You book it to the window, pull the rope down and the clatter of the blinds almost scare you, but the city lights illuminate your room, nicely.

You make a quick scan of the room and sigh in relief. There is nothing here that can hurt you-- save for a few smuppets. They are most likely asleep.

Creeping back to your bed with more confidence and an intense need for some shut-eye, you lay down, snuggle into your warm bed and promptly pass out.

This is the way you sleep for the next 5 years.

Chapter Text

This is the fourth time you've been sent to the principal's office this month with a bloody nose. It's not your fault he was talking smack about you and your bro. Things happen to people who talk smack. Not every one takes bullying laying down. Certainly not a Strider. You will get lectured now, but a pat on the back and an approving nod wait for you at home. You just have to zone out and wait for the red faced principal to run out of air so you can say 'great, I'll never do it again.' and stumble to the bathroom to clean yourself up.

You glance over at the boy who had an intimate moment with your fists today and he's staring down at his sneakers, blubbering. Wimp. There is nothing more depressing than someone who can't swallow what they ordered. You scoff audibly and he shrinks into a tighter ball. You are obviously the winner. Survival of the fittest.

When the both of you are brought to the principal himself, he sits you two down and begins to ask what happened. He looks exasperated. The look intensifies more every time you go through this. You can't help but feel some satisfaction, though you're not sure why.

The kid starts talking, first. You wait patiently. This should be good.

"I was minding my own business, talking with my friends, and then he just comes right up to me and start punching me!" He wails and you wince at the volume of his voice. A liar. You are not at all surprised.

The principal eyes him until he calms down. "Are you sure you didn't do anything to provoke him?" The kid shrugs and says there wasn't anything different about what he was talking about. The stern gaze of the principal shifts to you and you blink up slowly at him. "And you, Mr. Strider? Why did you attack him?"

You shrug, yourself. "He was talkin' shit so I had to do something about it."

He sighs and looks back at the loser, all snot and blood and tears. "What exactly were you saying about him?"

The kid avert's his eyes, nervously. "I... I was just sayin' what everyone else has been sayin'..." The look on the principal's face means he wants details and he wants them, now. Maybe this will shock him so much he'll actually do something to the real bad guys in this situation. No need for you to deal with more than you already do on a daily basis. You're tired of fighting your own fights. Where's the justice in the world? The kid doesn't look like he wants to talk.

"He said my bro is a porn star and that he'll fuck anyone who pays enough."

The looks on the two faces almost bring a smile to your face. Almost. The principal blinks, slowly letting the words sink into his brain before he can even speak. You think he is going to rip this kid a new one, which he should. What happens is the exact opposite.

A phone call is made, your brother is brought to the office and later on that week, people in perfect suits and hair show up and ask you all kinds of questions you do not fully understand. All you know is, people are tying to get in on your private life and Bro has more bags under his eyes than usual. Not cool.

The rumors come ten fold a week later and summer cannot come soon enough.

"Yeah, I totally found the website, it's not a joke."

"They're, like weird puppets and it's sooo gross. I don't even know what to think of Dave, anymore... Like, we're friends and all, but I can't even look at him."

"He must be into that weird shit, too."

"I heard he's in some of the movies, too. Dave is, yeah. It's probably how he's able to afford those shoes even though he lives in a total shithole."

Whispers and rumors and slanderous accusations and you are almost at your breaking point. It's not until someone asks you to suck them off in the bathroom that you snap for the fifth time that month. He corners you in the boy's bathroom on the second floor of the 8th grade building of your middle school. He's a good foot taller than you and you wonder if he's been held back. He tells you he knows what you do on your spare time and says he needs something to keep his mouth shut, else he's going to share the links he found. What links?

You tell him your dick down his throat would do the job nicely. How is he going to talk through that?

That's when he punches you square in the jaw and you hit the wall behind you with a crack. There is something in you that pulls and breaks and you are filled with more emotions than you know what to do with so you release them all at once on your poor victim. Lunging at him, he yelps and falls back and you beat on his face and hit chest and the side of his head until someone pulls you off, kicking and screaming. Why is this happening? Why do they care how your brother puts food on the table or keeps a roof over your head? Why are you brought into it like you are this vile thing that everyone is afraid of? You are so angry and you are so sick of everyone. It isn't until you are being held back by the arms that you realize your face is seeping blood and tears and you are sobbing out of control.

Your brother is brough in again to take you home and clean you up and you are suspended for four days. During that time, you get another visit from the suit people and more questions are asked.

"And what do you think about your older brother's work?"

You don't want to answer. It's none of her fucking business. "I don't care. What he does is his own deal. He gets paid, doesn't he?"

"Yes, well... you're not exactly legal yet and it's a questionable job. Do you believe the things your peers tell you about him?"


"Do you wish your brother did something other than host that website as a career?"

You do. But you can't say it with him sitting in the next room, getting drilled by the man who accompanied her. It feels like you are betraying him but you can't stop the grimace that shows on your face and she is scribbling something down on her note pad and you wish you could see it and tell her how wrong she is and to leave.

That night, your bro knocks on your door. He wants to talk. You hate it.

"Things are pretty bad, huh." It's not a question.

You don't look away from your computer screen but you at least reply with a "yep." He moves to your bed and sits on it, placing his hands on his knees and rubbing, nervously. You have not seen him like this before.

"It's going to change, Dave." He rarely uses your name and that makes you look at him. You wish you didn't. There are a lot of emotions trying to break through your perfectly kept indifference and the internal struggle is awful.

"Oh, yeah? What you got hired to work a 9-to-5 or something? Finally puttin' the ol' porn site to rest? What will people do without their fix, bro? I think you would be letting a lot of people down."

"Naw, Dave. It's not that easy. But things with you gotta change."

You're not sure what he's getting at.

"You can't be getting into fights like this, man. And since the rumors are all over your school and the little shits don't seem to be changing or moving along with their lives, you gotta get out of there."

"What." You are almot glaring. Almost.

"I don't want you comin' home every day with a black eye. One of these days, it's going to get worse and the more enemies you have, the more you're going to be in danger."

"I can handle myself."

"You're 13-years-old and stupid."

"Fuck you."

He sighs and looks away, taking his hat off and running a hand through his hair. "Dave, you're going to a different school."

"No, I'm not."

"You are. And you're going to be safe there. Don't start any fights, ya hear me?"



"Bro." You turn in your computer chair and look at him. "I don't know if you've noticed or not, but I usually come out the winner in these fights. These pricks can't even throw proper punches. You think all those years of training with you haven't paid off? I'm a fucking beast. Everyone's afraid of me."

"Do you want them to be."

No, you don't want them to be. But them being scared of you is better than you being scared of them.

Your brother gets up with a sigh and walks to the door. He places his hand on the frame and looks back at you.

"You're going. End of story. The brochure's on the table."

As soon as he leaves and you hear his foot steps down the carpeted stairs, you imediately log onto pesterchum and look for someone to complain to. You are not going without a fight.

-- gallowsCalibrator [GC] began trolling turntechGodhead [TG] --

GC: H3Y TH3R3 COOL K1D >:]
TG: hey tz

TG: oh you know
TG: same old same old
TG: got into another fight
TG: hows being homeschooled and having no social ability ever in your entire life treating you

GC: >:!

TG: yeah
TG: well shit no it was different this time
TG: motherfucker caught me in the pisser told me that he was going to tell everyone there were vids of me sucking dick or some shit on the internet and then he was like
TG: yeah i wont tell if you suck mine
TG: and i wasnt going to do that so i told him to fuck off and he punched me in the face
TG: so i jumped on him and basically won that fight you know how it is

TG: yeah im always ok
TG: bloods all gone and everything

TG: whatever
TG: naw
TG: thats actually why i logged on i need to tell someone about that

GC: >:?
TG: theyre sending me away tz
GC: TO J41L?! >:]
TG: wow no control your damn boner
TG: im not going to be your link inside the world of the justice system so relax will you
TG: but i might as well be going to prison
TG: its fucking unfair

TG: i dunno a different school theres some info in the kitchen but im not going to look at it
TG: fuck them
TG: fuck everyone


TG: guess youre right

Around the time you know bro is too busy getting his smuppet on, you slink into the kitchen and grab the brochure, thumbing through it. Skaian Disciplinary School. A crumby boarding school? What a stupid name. You read the short synopsis on the first page and find out it's an all boy's school for troubled youth. You have a dress code and a roommate and-- fuck a roommate. More people to give you a hard time. And they're all dudes. That means more fights, you're sure. That's all guys do, fight. You better start uping your training before you leave for this school.

The pictures are all of boys looking happy, throwing frisbees and footballs and eating delicious looking food and you know it's all a lie. A big fat one, too. You crumble it up and throw it away and stomp back to your room to take your anger out on video games instead of various household items. There is nothing in this world that can calm the raging fire inside of you right now, and it doesn't help that it's cloudy out tonight. You know it's going to be eerily darker than usual. Looks like you won't be sleeping this one off.


Chapter Text

You're not allowed to go back to your school the next day, or the day after that, or the week after that. In fact, you're not going back to that school ever. It is explained to you very carefully that you cannot finish middle school there, you will not be a part of the graduation ceremony, and you are bound to your house until you leave for Skaian Disciplinary School.

Woken at an ungodly hour, you are told your Miranda Rights by the suited people who seem to be frequent guests, now. She tells you that, for your own safety and the safety of the other students, you are going to stay home until the summer term starts at Skaian and you will be prepped for the transition of home life to boarding school life. Great.

You lazily shift your eyes to bro who says nothing and looks at no one.

"You will be given one roommate, whom you will be taking the same classes with. This is to build healthy relationships."

"More like forcing it on me..."

"...And, you will have a dress code. Black slacks and white button down shirts." She turns to your brother. "If you need financial help, we have papers you can fill out."

"I think I can handle some extra clothes. We're not desolate." You smirk at his response. There's the old bro. The one you grew up with. You knew he wasn't totally lost.

"Either way." She looks back at you and narrows her eyes. "Extra accessories are allowed if you behave yourself. You may wear any shoes you want, as long as they cover your toes and heal. As for you sunglasses..." She eyes they and you lean back almost defensively.

"No one's touching these."

"We'll see about that." She scribbles something on her note pad and looks back up at you. "If you decide that acting out is the best way to get you sent home, you are highly mistaken. The rules at Skaian are set in stone and even if you attack a teacher, you will just be there longer. Is that clear?"


"Skaian has a strict no-bullying policy. You will be watched almost constantly and we have security doing rounds all night through the dormitories so no funny business."

She finishes up and you are left with just your brother and a silent apartment. When he doesn't seem to have anything to say, you leave to go back onto your computer.

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: How did it go, young Strider?
TG: awful what do you think
TT: Are you sure you don't feel any sort of relief about this whole situation? I figured there would be some satisfaction in never going back to a school where everyone thinks badly of you.
TG: yeah well
TG: things arent exactly in my control if you know what i mean
TG: shits basically bogus and theyre going to tie a shorter leash around my god damn neck
TG: how would you feel

TT: Touche.
TG: and the worst part is that bro doesnt even give a shit
TG: hes all passive and to the side looking all dejected and shit like this is his problem

TT: You are his problem, Dave.
TT: No matter how much you want to deny it, he's probably suffering more than you are right now.
TT: He's most definitely blaming himself. I'm sure you realize that. You can't deflect how you're feeling by pinning indifference onto him.

TG: whatever
TG: im gonna go talk to tz now because she doesnt pull this psychotherapist shit on me every time we talk

TT: Just trying to help you out. That's what family is for.
TG: bah humbug etc
TT: I'll talk to you later, then. Good luck, dear cousin.
TG: yeah yeah

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

There are certain things you never thought you would be doing with your older brother. Shopping for new clothes is number 1 on that list. He takes you to a multitude of clothing stores you have never even heard of and it is quite possibly the worst day of your life. As if this boarding school deal wasn't already the 9th circle of Hell. And to make matters worse, you have to try on everything. And it's not like they are cool shirts with ironic logos ironed onto the fronts. These are just plain, white button down shirts that are starchy and perfect and hurt your eyes when you look at them. The pants are either too short or too long. Damn your perfectly angular waist. Through your complaining, you do get it finished. Seven pairs of each, just in case. He even buys you lunch and now that it's over with, it wasn't as bad as you really thought it was. Maybe if you did live a normal life, things would always be like this.


You wouldn't change how your brother does things for the world. You understand how his mind works and he understands your's and that is all you two need. Until you're getting into fights in school and being relocated to a high school prison. You did it all for him, too. That's what really gets you down.

The night after is spent sleepless. You had tried to go to sleep, you really did. But your mind wouldn't stop thinking. And then the noises started. Not ones that you think are particularly concerning... but bumps in the night. Creaking floor boards, shifting shadows, the neighbors downstairs watching a movie. All of these things keep you awake and you still can't help but think there is something in that corner of the ceiling, right in the shadowy part, that is looking at you.

It is, after all, better to stay awake all night than spend it tossing and turning from nightmares. You know you would have had nightmares, tonight.

The sun comes up and you, unknowingly pass out at your computer. You wake up in the late afternoon in your bed, though and wonder if your bro had come in and put you there. That is only a slightly embarrassing thought but you're too tired to care. Hunger hasn't hit you, yet so you get up and go to your computer and start it up. There is a message in your email from someone you don't know and the subject itself is enough to make you want to delete it, but curiosity gets the better of you.

Subject: greetings, new friend!

hi dave!
i bet you're wondering who the hell this is emailing you out of nowhere! i would be, too... don't worry. but also don't worry about who i am because we're going to be seeing a lot of each other in the near future!

i was told by the dean today that you would be joining us for the summer term which is cool. they have a lot of summer activities for us so we don't get bored and try to kill each other haha! not that that happens a lot here or anything! i haven't had any problems since i started here... it's not as bad as you think. i know that when my dad first showed me this school, i was really upset. but it gets better.

wow, i am probably boring this shit out of you! either way, i just wanted to introduce myself so we won't be terribly awkward when you move in! i'll also be the one showing you around, apparently. i hope i don't get lost, myself!

good luck!

You stare at the name for a second. Who uses the font colors when sending an email? This guy is super retro. He's also super fucking happy sounding and you know people like that already get on your nerves. This is going to be awful. You're already pissed off and you've only been away for ten minutes.

After getting something to eat in the kitchen, you come back to the computer and decide whether or not you want to answer him. Not yet, is what you come to. You close the browser and open up Steam and kill shit for the next four hours.

This is your ritual for the rest of the time you should be in school, getting an education. Bro occasionally brings you to the roof to battle and exercise. He says that just because you get to bum around the house for the next few weeks doesn't mean you are going to get lazy about it. You look forward to those times. They're the only thing about your current life that haven't changed. Keeps you sane, basically.

Two days later and you feel like you've left your new roommate hanging long enough.

Subject: Re: greetings, new friend!

yeah so youre my new roommate or whatever thats cool

least youre not out to kick my ass


That's all you need to say. You want to maybe ask if he has a pesterhandle but that seems a little too intimate for your taste. Emailing is just so tedious and you hate logging into it for things other than updates on your favorite blogs. He doesn't reply for the rest of the day. You only know this because you checked periodically. Maybe the isolation of being home has really got you starved for human companionship.

Pfft, yeah right.

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gallowsCalibrator [GC] --

TG: so my new roommate emailed me
TG: looks like i got a friend already
TG: arent you proud of me tz
TG: you should be i mean this is basically like the best thing to ever happen to me
TG: can you sense the sarcasm in my words
TG: because its there
TG: its always present that was a trick question
TG: tz
TG: where are you
TG: i know youre not doing hw that is so lame of you
TG: or is it a project
TG: whatever you freaky homeschooled kids do all day
TG: if youre playing a video game that is your only excuse for ignoring me
TG: because you know how i hate being ignored
TG: god damn
TG: it is so boring here
TG: like i literally do the same shit every day what he hell is this
TG: is this what its like being homeschooled
TG: but with math and shit to do on top of all the lame boring shit that already has to be done
TG: do you do your hw while you poop
TG: i think i would
TG: that would actually be awesome
TG: i think ill take my computer with me the next time i gotta drop a duece
TG: wow i am openly talking about poop and you have yet to drop by even a H3Y, D4V3! STOP! >:!!! or something
TG: what if youre like dead
TG: how would i ever know youre like on the other side of the damn country
TG: welp
TG: this is getting almost pathetic i am literally embarrassed of myself
TG: maybe i have cabin fever and thats why im talking to myself so easily
TG: ok well when you next get on i need to talk to you about this because i am basically freaking out
TG: ok
TG: ...
TG: last chance
TG: terezi please

GC: OMG, D4V3... 1 W4S 34T1NG! WH4T 4R3 YOU DO1NG UP TH1S L4T3?
TG: there you are thank god
TG: i almost offed myself because my bestie was ignoring me

GC: 4444WWWWW!!!!! 4M 1 R34LLY YOUR B3ST FR13ND?!
TG: wow ok dont get a big dick
TG: i got serious shit to say and you are going to listen to me

GC: GO FOR 1T, 1'M 4LL 34RS
TG: yeah so i got an email from the kid who im going to be basically living with for the next 4 years
GC: OOHH, 3XC1T1NG! >:!
TG: yeah except its not
TG: hes not really someone who i want to be friends with if you get what i mean
TG: too
TG: whats the word

TG: fuck you
TG: but yeah sure


TG: yeah right
GC: PL34S3 T3LL M3 YOU R3PL13D, 4T L34ST...
TG: course i did im a fucking gentleman
GC: >:/
TG: dont look at me like that
GC: WH4T'D YOU S4Y 1N TH3 3M41L?
TG: said hi
TG: aaaaand
TG: i made the assumption that he was not going to kick my ass


TG: what i didnt say anything mean about him to his face
GC: >:[

TG: oh fuck off
TG: you know youre just jealous that we get to hang out every day
TG: admit it

TG: ow god damn
TG: i dunno beginning of the summer or some time around there
GC: >:?

TG: yeah its all year round school
TG: like kids go there and they stay there

TG: i dunno
TG: guess it depends on how good i am
TG: you know if i bark when they tell me or not
TG: chances are im going for the ankles


TG: you dont gotta
TG: god damn
TG: well then be my fucking guest
TG: youll be disappointed anyway
TG: jesus what is taking you so long do you like what you see
TG: can you imagine me sitting on the green lawn in my yuppy school uniform chatting up all the boys
TG: bet ill be the most popular one there
TG: everyones going to want my plush rump
TG: thats what happens when guys go to all guy schools right
TG: what the fuck am i asking you for you dont even know what a school looks like
TG: get it because you are homeschooled


TG: id like to see them try
TG: what do you mean
TG: i dont got no fears

GC: >;]

TG: get that wink out of here
TG: im not even going to grace that question with an answer fuck you

GC: H3H3H3H3H3H3H3H3
TG: nope
TG: wow again for the millionth time fuck you

TG: pfft

The rest of your night is spent in the glow of your computer screen and the dark never creeps in on you. This is a good way to spend the more scary hours of the night. You hope that you're at least allowed a computer at this school. They can't keep you in the stone age, not nowadays... can they?

Because you can't be bothered with it yourself, you ask Terezi to look up more rules for you and she does so with enthusiasm. She tells you that you are only allowed sunglasses when you are doing outdoor activities like gardening (what), lawn work (are you fucking kidding me), lounging in the grassy fields (wow what like sun tanning or some shit), and helping out with other outdoor duties that will be assigned to every freshmen boy.

It's all so fucking lame.

Terezi tells you to get used to it because you literally have no choice and death seems like kind of a good way out to you, right now. This scares her and you're afraid you made her cry so you tell her it was a joke and that you aren't going to do anything like that. You're just really angry at the world right now. She tells you to never say that again and that you need to find better jokes. You feel guilty for a long time, after that.

Rose probably would've gotten the joke.

The night before you leave, bro knocks on your door and comes in to make sure you've been packing. He sits on your bed next to your suitcase as you silently fold clothes and place them in. It takes a long moment of this before you look at him and acknowledge his presence.


"How you feelin'."

You shrug.

"Are you nervous or anything like that?"

Another shrug. You fold some pants and place them in the suitcase. You can't even bring yourself to look him in the eyes. You know, even through two pairs of shades, he would be able to read you like a book and he'll see the glaze on your eyes and the dilation of your pupils and the raw fear you are feeling right now. You don't trust yourself enough to speak.

"It'll be okay, little bro. I know you're freakin' out and things look really fucking awful but this is probably for the best. And, shit, who knows? Maybe you'll actually make friends and not be so fucking lonesome all the time. Don't give me that look. You can't hide anything from your big bro."


There's another long silence and he rubs at the back of his neck before speaking again. Like he's trying to find the right words to say to make this not the worst moment in your entire life.

"I'll be able to visit... and you'll have vacation time where you can come home, like for holidays and shit."

"I know, TZ looked up the rules for me."

"Ah... so, she knows what's going on..."


Another awkward silence and you're basically done packing. You look at your computer and then back at your bro. You want this to be over as soon as possible. Yeah, you'll miss him and probably regret kicking him out when he's trying to have a sincere feelings jam with you, but right now it's embarrassing and you hate it.

"I'll, uh... wake you up in the morning and we'll head out, alright?"

"Yeah." And he leaves and you cry.

Chapter Text

Being the chill ass motherfucker you are, hectic doesn’t really mesh well with you. Neither does chaos, busyness, or being rushed. These, however, are all the things you have been forced to experience the morning of your big move.

Bro gets you up bright and early, but that doesn’t matter because you weren’t asleep, anyway. Too much to think about, too many fears. Terezi was able to keep you company for most of the night and in the early hours, Rose was there to answer your texts. Good companions, best friends.

You’re forced to eat quickly, you’re forced to put everything in the car as fast as possible, and you’re forced into a new life you’re not completely ready for.

The school looks exactly like it does in the brochure, just a little larger and more intimidating than you expected it to be. Part of that could be because it’s overcast. The other part might be because it’s going to be your prison for the next four years, just because you decided to stick up for your brother like a good human being. Shame on you.

The orientation is short because there aren’t that many new students. You’re in a group of maybe five boys and they all look as dejected as you feel. Your brother is with the other guardians, probably learning more about the school and the rules and being reassured that not only will their boys be safe, but they will also be successfully reformed into perfect young men. Ones that you can show off to the neighbors.

Leaning back in the plush theater chair of the auditorium, you cross your arms and survey your fellow prison-mates. The one closest to you is probably the tiniest person you’ve ever seen. It doesn’t help that he’s folded in on himself in a tight, angry ball. You’d like to say something to snap him out of it and maybe make him laugh but you figure that will probably earn you a glare and a fist to the face. They’d probably detain him and then lock him up in solitary confinement and the next time you see him, he’ll be a mindless drone. The boy in front of you is in a similar position, but you figure by the way he’s shaking that it’s not from anger but from fear. Aw, you know that feels, man. You know that feels. The other boys are too far away to be able to assess accurately, although you squint to try to make out their forms, anyway. One of them, you can tell is huge and probably in for killing someone. Yeah, definitely a murderer. Look at those guns. You’d like to buy tickets to the show, but you figure they’re sold out.

Before you know it, the dean of the school is telling everyone to stand up and is leading you out of the room like cattle to be reunited with your parents for one last time. The shaking kid who sat in front of you is already starting to cry. his dad, you assume, hugs him tightly. You meet your brother and he gives you a fist bump and tells you it sounds pretty lame here. Yeah, no shit.

He helps you bring your suitcases to your new room and luckily it’s empty. You pick the bed that isn’t made yet, assuming it’s yours since there are only sheets and blankets folded on the bare mattress. You turn to your brother, silently.

“Guess that’s about it.”

“I assume you can handle unpacking by yourself, then.”

“I dunno, man. It’s a lot of clothing to handle at once.”

“I believe in you.”

“Thanks for the support.”

“Yeah, you too.”

And that gets you right in the chest because he knows you’re in this situation because of him and how he lives his life. You stuck up for him, even if that awarded you with a bunch of fucking bloody noses and expulsion.

There’s a short silence before you fall into his arms in a tight hug. You didn’t think he’d hug you back but as soon as you made contact with his body, his arms were around you, squeezing tightly. The pressure dislodges your sunglasses but you don’t care. Fixing them means letting go and you’re not ready for that. It seems like he isn’t, either.

“Gonna miss you, man.”


“Be good.”


“eat your vegetables.”

“Okay, mom.”

“Don’t get into fights.”

“No promises.”

It’s around dinner time when you finally finish getting your side of the room in order. You hadn’t seen your so called roommate all day and you wonder if he was visiting his family or something. Classes don’t start for a few days, so they probably let him. That’s a little comforting. It’s kind of like college, here. Even if you weren’t even preparing yourself for another three years. Whatever.

There is a voice that comes out of a speaker up in the corner of your room and the booming makes you jump. You’re required to eat dinner at 6 and failure to do so without permission results in punishment. Whatever that means. You walk slowly there, trying to remember the route so you don’t have to use a map, next time. You bump into the little angry guy in line and he basically ignores you when you ask him what he’s in for. Rude. He even goes to sit by himself and the mystery makes you want to talk with him stronger. So, you plop right across from him when you get your food and that makes him at least look at you, even if it is a harsh glare.


“What the fuck do you want?”

“Companionship, isn’t that normal for humans?” He looks down at his plate and stabs angrily at the steamed vegetables. You look at your own plate and grimace. You’re no gourmet but you know that this isn’t going to be the most enjoyable meal you’ve had. You dig in anyway. “So, you’d like kill anyone or…”

“Stuff it, kid. I’m not here to indulge in idle chit-chat.”

You shrug. “Just curious. You look like a fighter.”

“Tch.” He doesn’t look up from his plate but there’s a strange expression on his face you can’t quite place. Flattery? Naw.

“I’m a fighter.”

“Oh really.” What a sarcastic douche. You like him, already.

“Yeah, your turn.”

“Oh my god, are you autistic?”

“Wow, rude.”

“Wow, shut the fuck up before I jam this food so far down your throat my fingers will tickle your large intestines.”

If you weren’t a Strider and emotions were easier for you to express, you would be busting a gut right now. But you’re not, so you only smirk at him.

The rest of your dinning experience is left in silence. He completely shuts down, not even reacting when you flick corn at him. Boring.

When you get back to your room, there’s still no sign of John, so you flop on your bed and stare at the ceiling for a little bit. You wish you could talk to Rose or Terezi but your allotted computer time is only on weekends from 11 in the morning to 6 at night. Super lame. Not only that, but it’s in the lounge where everyone can see you. There are computer labs in the library but they’re only allowed for those doing school work and since classes aren’t in yet, no one is allowed in the library. How are you supposed to get your gaming done? Shit, what about porn? You’ll have to say good bye to sweet release for the next four years. You’ll definitely kill someone, now. Don’t they know how libidos work? Shit.

During that particular train of thought, exhaustion overcomes you and you slip into a deep sleep that doesn’t subside until the middle of the night. When you do rouse, you are welcomed by a completely dark room. for a second, you wonder why your blinds aren’t open and why there isn’t any street light. You frantically look around for any source of light but the only thing you see is a dim line under where the door is and you remember that you’re not in your room, anymore. You’re in a sterile dormitory. Things are going to be different. Snuggling under your covers more, you try to work up the courage to just deal with it and go back to sleep but your mind is on overdrive and you can’t seem to keep your eyes closed because what if…

Finally fed up with the blackness that chokes you, you run to your desk and turn on the little lamp that was there when you moved in. Usually, it’d be for late night studying or reading, but tonight it is your savior. You can’t seem to actually go back to sleep even with it on. Uncomfortable and angry, you choke back the lump in your throat and try to think of anything that makes you happy with a big blank list coming up in your mind. If only you could go to a computer and talk to Terezi, things would be better. If only you could sneak into your brother’s room and wake him up like you used to when you were little. If only there was someone you could talk to to at least distract you from the scary corners of the room.

But there isn’t, so you can’t. You just stay awake for the rest of the night and hope tomorrow is easier.

You should’ve brought a night light.

Chapter Text

You're woken up by the door unlocking. Automatically, you reach towards your night stand for a weapon that isn't there and whisper a curse because you are not in your old room, dammit. You need to remember that because this is starting to get really embarrassing. Your attention is focused back at the door as a boy your age bursts in, carrying all kinds of luggage. That must be John.

"Yeah, just set them on my bed, dad, thanks!" His voice is so chipper, you want to throw up. He notices you around this time and his face lights up, instantly. "Ah! You must be Dave! It's really nice to finally meet you!" he drops the suitcases he was carrying and briskly walks over to your bed, his right hand outstretched. Does he want to shakes hands with you? Do people still do that? You take his hand, nonetheless, and shake it firmly. He laughs and then turns back to his dad. "Dave, this is my dad." You look towards his father and nod your head. He in turn tips his hat in greetings and then lectures his son on unpacking before the day ends.

After some heartfelt farewells, John flops onto his bed with a huff. You have yet to leave your bed even though there might have been breakfast that you missed. Though something tells you that you would've heard the anouncement over the intercom.

"Man, it's weird being back... How're you liking it so far?" You look at him and he's laying on his side, his head propped up by one arm, smiling.

You can only shrug. For some reason, he's got you speechless.

"Not the talkative type, huh? I could tell by your short email." And he laughs and it's a really refreshing sound. "Yeah, you don't have to worry about being bullied here. No one's going to kick your ass!" And he laughs again and gets up and walks over to his luggage, deciding which one he should start with. You slowly sit up and fix your glasses.

He finishes emptying one suitcase and turns to you, again. "Are you hungry? We can go get something to eat. I'm sure the dining hall is open." You nod once and get up to find a change of clean clothes.

"Do we have to wear our uniforms, yet?" You finally find your voice.

"Not until classes start, thank God." He sits down on the edge of the bed and swings his feet idly. "Do you always wear those glasses?"

You nod again, digging through your shirt drawer.

"Have they said anything, yet?"

You shake your head, no.

"Wow, I am basically talking to a statue!"

You look towards him with a raised eyebrow. He laughs.

"I'm just kidding, man! Lighten up! Haha." And he gets up and walks over to his nightstand. That's when you notice the clock. "Gosh, I hope I didn't wake you up. I forgot how early it is, here."

"I wasn't really deep asleep."


"S'ok." In the time he was looking at the clock, you were able to change your pants before he could look back at you. He catches you with your shirt off in mid change and you fight back the pink that tints your cheeks. How very uncool of you.

"Don't worry about getting dressed, man. There's like... no privacy at this school, anyway. It's basically run by voyeurs."

"That's fucked up."

"Yeah, well... we're all here for a reason." And you catch the slight darkening of his expression. You now wonder what he did to get him thrown in here. That seems like a conversation for another time because he's suddenly rushing you out the door and to the dining hall for breakfast. "You get to meet my friends!"

"Oh, great."

When you sit down at the table with John and some other boys you will probably be introduced to, your eye catches a small ball of anger, sitting alone again at the farthest table from every one else. You should probably find out his name. You kind of feel bad for him. Being here sucks enough, it's gotta be torturous to not have any sort of distraction. John catches you staring and follows your gaze.

"Is he new? I've never seen him before."

You nod. "Yeah, he came here yesterday, like me."

"Should we invite him? He doesn't look too happy by himself, over there."

"He's not a very happy guy in general."

John nods, knowingly and settles down in his own seat. Someone asks who you are and John introduces you, himself.

"Guys, this is my new roommate, Dave!" And everyone says hi. John then goes around the table and introduces everyone even though it won't make a difference because like hell you'd be able to remember their names the first day. "This is Eridan," You give him a quick glance. He's got his hair up in a douchey faux hawk. He glowers at you while mashing at his oatmeal.

"Hey." he says and you nod a greeting.

"And this is Gamzee," John gestures to a tall, lanky kid. He smiles warmly at you and it almost gives you the creeps. Almost. There is something off about his expression, like he's too comfortable to be here. You are suddenly reminded of the reasons boys get sent here and a chill runs down your back.

"And here's Sollux," Sollux glances up from a book and nods at you.

"Yeah, hi."

You nod back and John says that that is basically everyone. They banter and discuss the break and you kind of zone out because being in this kind of situation is so alien to you, you don't know how to react. John asks you questions periodically to get you into the conversation, but stops when you become almost unresponsive.

This is how meals are the next two days before classes start.

At lunch, Gamzee (you are pretty sure that's his name. He left such a scary first impression on you that you doubt you'll ever forget the name to that face) brings the scared cry baby you saw at orientation. His name is apparently Tavros and he's having a hard time making bros, informs Gamzee.

"Well, look no further, my friend! We're like the most friendly guys here!"

Wow, that is not saying much considering the only one who talks to you is John.

"See, I told you these motherfuckers were chill... you can up and sit with us whenever your timid heart pleases, my man..." Gamzee puts a reassuring hand on Tavros' shoulder and Tavros almost melts in on himself.

"Thanks, guys..." He whispers and sits down next to Gamzee. They're apparently roommates, like you and John. That's probably why Tavros is mostly talking to only Gamzee during the meal break.

John swallows a mouthful of soup and turns to Sollux. "What about your new roommate? Didn't they assign you a new one because what's-his-face graduated already?"

"Yeah, he'th thith little guy. Thuper angry and sthit." You choke at his lisp and that awards you a glare. "You got thomething to thay, pal? Becauthe I would love to hear it."

You wipe at your mouth and clear your throat. Oh, shit not already. "Naw, I'm cool. Shit went down the wrong tube."

"...Anyway, he'th an angry little shit, ith what I'm thaying. Like, won't even talk to me or anything."

"Have you TRIED making friends, Soll? Because, not for nothing..."

"Yeah, wow sthut the fuck up, Egbert. He'th completely unrethponthive. You try talking to the guy, he'th right over there." And Sollux turns his torso and points at the loner at the farthest table. John suddenly gets up, marches over to the table and you watch as they exchange banter before John is literally dragging him back to your table, kicking and screaming.

"What the fuck are you doing?! And who the fuck are you, anyway?!" He yells and you stiffle a laugh because wow this kid is just so ridiculous. Isn't he embarrassed at all?

"I'm forcing friendship on you, what does it look like? Now, stay put right here. Dave, make sure he doesn't get up." You choke on your apple juice and stare at John completely dumbfounded.

"Excuse me?" But John is already retrieving the kid's food and placing it neatly in front of him before taking his seat between you and the little screamer.

"This is so fucking retarded, I can't even think straight. Did that just happen? Tell me that didn't just happen." He asks Sollux who just laughs right in his face and you are at a loss for fucking words.

"Gueth I should at leatht introduthe him. Thith ith Karkat. He'th new."

"Yeah, obviously you dumb fuck." And Sollux elbows him.

The conversation at the table simmers down into something normal until John asks you the one thing you really just wanted to avoid explaining altogether but was completely fated to as soon as you were forced to come to this school.

"So, how'd you get thrown in here, Dave?"

It takes you a moment to clear your throat and scan the faces of everyone at the table before you can even start to think of how to go about explaining it.

"One too many fights."

"Yeah, no shit, asshole." Says the kid you think is named Eridan, the douchey one. "We're all in here for fightin'."

"Yeah, my brother... but we all got different stories as to why we were all about the brawling, you know?"

"Yeah, like Sollux fought some kid over a gameboy color-- retro, right? And he almost got sued by the kid's mom and this was the only way she wouldn't press charges, right Soll?"

"She wath thuch a bitch..."

This goes on for a little bit and you think you're in the clear when you notice Tavros staring at you with concerned eyes. Jig's up.

"It's okay if you don't want to talk about it... I understand." He looks so very sad and you wonder what he's been through. "I don't really want to talk about why I'm here, either... not yet, at least. Gamzee understands." At the mention of his name, Gamzee zips into the conversation, all half-lidded eyes and slow speaking.

"Sometimes, you know, people just isn't ready to open up to a fucker... you gotta coax it out of him, like."

"I just need some time to relax and you know... trust... people." You know that feels.

"Hey, yeah Dave! If you're not comfortable, just let us know! We've all been there, really." You didn't even know John was paying attention to this conversation and it almost makes you flinch away from his hand when he places it on your shoulder. "But if you ever want to talk about anything, I'm here!" And he beams you a smile that is so bright and powerful, it ignites some feeling in your chest you can't rightly place.

By the end of the meal, you find out that Gamzee was part of a robbery that turned into a fight at his local drug store. You also found out he had suspicious articles on him when he was arrested. Mind-alterations, he called them. The things that get you really fucked up, he said. Maybe that was why he left such a bad taste in your mouth. He wasn't all there in the head, he felt dangerous.

Eridan tells you the story about a girl he was in love with at his school. She was the prettiest he had ever seen and went as far as to describe her body type, how her hair shone in the sun and how she smelled.

"Wow, weird." You mention and he snaps a glare in your direction.

"Excuse me, dipshit? I am tryin' to paint you a picture of Miss Universe so pay the fuck attention. Anyway, she was litterally Miss Universe."

"Literally? Were you in love with a fucking celebrity? Are you insane? You're in the wrong institution--" Karkat spits.

"She wasn't LITERALLY Miss Universe, but I bet she would be if she were older and in that competition-- That's not the fuckin' point! God. Anyway, this girl. She was really flippin' hot and I was gonna ask her out. Got her flowers and everythin'. I waited for her at her locker after school one day, and when I catch her walking down the hall, she's on some dick's arm. The fuckin' floozy. So, I fought 'im." He shrugs and leans back in his chair, crossing his arms, as if it was no big deal.

"That's not the end of the story..."

"Yeah, okay so I fought him and he kicked my ass and we both got in trouble, but the thing is... she took his side. After all of that, the flowers and even some poems I had written her and put in her locker, she chooses that guy! So, I fought him again... and again... Until they sent me here."

Those are the only stories you get to hear and you're a little disappointed because you'd rather here how someone like John was put in this school. You get absolutely no strange vibes from him, nothing sinister or dangerous or unpredictable. You try to imagine him just snapping under some pressure and going bat shit insane on anyone near him, but it just doesn't mesh well. He's just happy John.

Well, you've got a lot of time to find out.

That night, he talks your ear off and you wonder if Sollux is doing the same to Karkat. He had showed you how to get your class schedule and you two had compared them to see which classes the two of you had together. It turns out that 4 are the same and those are the general education classes, like math and English. He has some different extra classes than you. He's in a music class which sounds really fucking interesting, not. Classical is not your thing. And also a gym class. You have gym too, but it's when he's in music, and an graphic design class. You think your brother probably pulled some strings to get you into that.

John says good night to you around 10:30 and flicks the light off and your body stiffens at the shock of how dark it is. You'd really like to crawl out of bed and turn the light back on but you know that not everyone is like you. Shit, no one is like you. You're already 14-years-old and you can't even sleep with the lights off. So, you stay awake, wide-eyed for most of the night. Trying to will the monsters away.

Chapter Text

Your first day of classes isn’t as confusing as you thought it would be. John is with you for your first four classes which is a huge help, you think. The uniform isn’t much to be desired. There isn’t a lot of room for movement. You don’t like feeling choked and the buttons on your shirt are so high up, that is exactly what it’s doing to you. Maybe, if you are good enough, they will let you get away with not going all the way because you are having a hard time breathing. The pants are too starchy and they itch and you wish they were at least flattering. Weren’t uniforms supposed to be like, a fetish to people? How could anyone get off to these pants?

Your first period class is probably the most interesting you’ve been in your entire school career. The teacher is something else. She introduces herself and then tells you her entire life story as if any of you are awake enough to give a shit. She’s so enthusiastic about her speech that it is a little hard not to get engulfed in it. Not to mention the subject matter of said story is rather unorthodox, even for a high school class.

“Tha name’s Roxy, Roxy Lalonde. How are you guys? You really don’t have to answer, that is basically a rhetorical question. Haha, wow tough crowd. Okay, so seriously I’m going to be teaching you guys, uh what is this class, hold on.” She peeks down at her desk and realization noticeably hits her in he face, “Science! This is like, a biology and physics class, mix! You guys are super lucky to have me as a teacher, because I am a biologist. I know, it’s pretty fucking amazing— oh, shit. I probably shouldn’t be cursing, you guys are still little babies. Welp! If you won’t tell, I won’t tell.” And she winks at everyone and you can assume that most boys will keep this promise. Hell, all of the boys will keep this promise. She is the most exciting thing to happen to you since you got here.

She goes on to tell you about how she used to be a college professor but after one too many DUI’s and a public intoxication report in the local news where she lived, she was laid off and this school picked her up as a sort of rehabilitation. So, this is where she’s working now until she finishes up her AA meetings and that makes her laugh.

“That’ll be awhile, pfft. I always forget that is a thing I have to do.” And she laughs again. It’s pretty contagious.

You must’ve zoned out during Global Studies because the next thing you notice is a folded piece of paper flicking you in the temple. You panic and glance at the teacher who is writing something on the board. The coast is clear, you unfold the note.

dave! earth to dave! are you as bored as i am because the drool coming out of your mouth is a pretty good indicator. :B

Your eyebrows knit together as you look over your shoulder at John who waves innocently. You scribble a reply and flick it back at him just as the teacher is turning around and asking if anyone has any questions.

this is lame as tits how can you even handle doing this every day
also fuck im hungry is lunch after this

John raises his hand and asks the teacher a questions pertaining to the subject and you are really impressed because you don’t even know what the subject is, at the moment. He’s quite the multitasker. When the coast is clear again, you find the note plopped right back on your desk and a you hurriedly unfold it.

lol it’s just like public school, though! you can’t tell me you didn’t pay attention there, either! you’re gonna have a hard high school career, man!
and yeah it’s right after this class. don’t get too excited. the quality of the food goes down when everyone falls back into the semester flow… it’s basically awful, is what i’m getting at.

John chats your ear off all the way to the dining hall and you admit that you’re not used to this kind of human interaction and you lose track of a lot of what he’s saying but shit, practice makes perfect. The one thing he mentions that catches your attention and keeps it there is a secret base.

“What was that?”

“What was what?”

“The last thing you said…”

“I hope they don’t service tomato soup because it tastes like piss?”

“No, the thing before that. Like, seriously why the fuck would I care about tomato soup.”

“The secret base?”

“Yeah. What is that?”

John's face lights up, instantly. “Oh that! Well,” and he leans closer to you as you stand in line for whatever it is they decided to serve today. His eyes shift from left to right like there are people who are trying to eavesdrop on your conversation. “Last semester, we found this area in the woods outside school grounds… It’s really secluded and the teachers don’t know about it, we’re sure.”

“Sounds illegal.”

“Oh yeah, it basically is. But, shit we are so under lock here that we need something to get away from Big Brother, if you know what I mean…”

“Aren’t like, half the guys here dangerous, anyway? Like, the only reason they’re not in prison is because of the age laws?”

“Buh, that is not important! Anyway, we found it when they were letting us ride the horses and clean them and stuff and one got away, so we went after it— Sollux, Eridan and me— and that’s when we found it. There’s a huge opening in the fence and yeah, we found the horse but that place was something else.” There’s a distant look in his eye. Something like and admiration for, what, nature you guess. “So, basically… sometimes, when they let us out for some free time, we sneak away there. We didn’t tell the teachers that the horse went out that far, so they basically never notice.” He leans in closer and you can smell his deodorant which, you note, is pretty nice smelling. “And sometimes, we’re able to meet at night but only when we plan it. That takes some time.”

“So, why are you telling me all this? I could literally walk up to the dean and rat your ass out.”

John’s eyebrows raise in disbelief. “You wouldn’t, though. You’re not like that, I can tell.”

Yeah, right how can you tell? You’ve only know each other for the last four days. There is no way. But, he has a point. You would gain nothing but enemies and you don’t want your roommate as an enemy. Not that you can see John really, truly hating anyone. Still, risking it is stupid. So, you tell him that he’s right and he beams an all-knowing grin at you that you wish didn’t shine so brightly in your eyes.

Things go without pretty fucking smoothly until your math class. During role, the teacher eyes you down after you answered your name with a monotoned “yeah.” She doesn’t seem pleased about something and makes it clear soon enough.

“Is there a reason, Mr. Strider, that you are wearing sun glasses indoors?” She peers down at you and you can almost taste the condescension rolling off her. Where the fuck does she get off?

So, you reply with the only way you know how in situations where you are faced with someone snootier than yourself.

“Whoa, what I’m wearing sun glasses? I thought it was just dark in here.”

The class snickers and you almost smirk. Almost. The teacher looks really displeased and you are really satisfied with yourself. She sniffs in, her eyes narrowing.

“We keep to a very strict dress code and every student is responsible for abiding by it.”

“I must’ve not gotten the memo.”

“That is ridiculous. Take them off.”

“What, no.” Your hand goes up reflexively to hold them in place. “They’re mine.”

“You may wear them when you are outside, that is what their purpose is. When you are indoors, in my classroom, you will remove them. Do you understand me?”


“You are trying my last patience, Mr. Strider…”

“I’m not taking them off.”

“Dave, you should probably do what she says…”

“No, that’s fucking stupid.” You snap at John, turning towards him in your chair. He eyes the teacher nervously. When you look back up at your teacher, her expression is dark and raging. You are promptly sent to the dean’s office with your sun glasses confiscated.

Good first day.

You don’t see John until dinner where you are hounded by questions you really don’t feel like answering. You just want to move on with your life. Your security blanket being snatched away is bad enough without the sudden embarrassing popularity.

“What’d they do to you, in there?”

“Flog you with a rusty spear?”

“I bet you have to write thomething really thtupid, like an apology no or thome shit.”

You sit quietly, staring down at your food and wait for the questions to stop and when they do you look up and tell them that your glasses were simply taken away and that you have to earn them back.

That night, as the two of you are getting ready to sleep, John asks why you need your glasses so badly.

“Seems like they’re more of an inconvenience… You can’t care that much about some stereotypical coolkid persona…”

“Yeah, well that’s the reason. Pretty boring, I know. You are allowed to drop the topic, I won’t hold it against you.” But, he doesn’t.

“Is it like some emotional crutch?”


“I bet it is. You must feel really vulnerable without them on, huh?”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“I mean, why else would you wear them? It’s not like they help you see any better. Do you need actual glasses? I didn’t think so. I bet you wear those to help hide your emotions. The eyes give a lot away, you know. I mean you can see every expression through the eyes. You keep a pretty intense pokerface up, but I bet your eyes give away what you’re feeling, easily. Yeah, see! You’re totally embarrassed, right now! I can tell! Hey, don’t turn away!”

You roll over and pull the covers over your head because fuck him.

Sleep comes easier that night and you think it’s partly because of how tired you’ve been since you got to school there. It also helps that you stayed under your covers and that helped you stay distracted from the darkness. You focus on your own breathing and John’s long, even breaths and you fall asleep.

Unfortunately, your sleep is plagued with nightmares and you don’t stay asleep for long. In your dream, you are being chased down an eerier version of the long corridors of Skaian. You’re not sure what it is that is chasing you but it’s veiled in darkness and it’s closing in fast. When you are able to look over your shoulders, the darkness is right on your ass and you are jolted out of sleep right when you get consumed.

You sit up, shocked and panting. The adrenaline slowly wears off and you can scan the dark room. The choking fear lingers and you wish there were a street light close to the school. You wish it weren’t so dark. You find John’s sleeping figure across the room and he’s still motionless, breathing evenly. Good. You didn’t wake him up. Either he sleeps like a fucking Snorlax, or you managed to not call out in your sleep. Hiding under your covers again, you attempt sleep and it doesn’t come. The only saving grace is that you were woken up close enough to when you have to get ready for classes, anyway so after a few minutes of tossing and turning, you decide to just go to the showers before everyone else.

John’s surprised to see you up and ready when he wakes up and you tell him you are basically a morning bird. He says he didn’t expect that from you and that he is the total opposite but that’s cool. Everyone’s different.

In your first class, another note gets flicked onto your desk but this time it’s in a horrid violet color and you glance around, secrelty to try to figure out how would write this. No one’s looking at you and John is basically passed out with his head propped up and a pencil in his hand, so it’s obviously not him. You open the note and read the wave writing.

hey loser its eri
wweve decided that you need those glasses back
i know how it is bein attached to accessories and all
so wwere gonna meet at the secret base i know john has told you about it
we allowwed that
anywway more deets at lunch
be prepared etc

Get your glasses back? What, like a heist? You decide this chump doesn’t exactly need a polite reply via note, so you turn to him when the teacher isn’t looking and give him one stern nod. He nods back and goes back to his book. You never really considered him a friend, and you still don’t but you appreciate the sentiment. Who knows, maybe he’s not such a douche afterall.

As soon as everyone has their food and is comfortably seated, Eridan looks you sternly in the eyes.

“Yeah, so that was bullshit what they did you. We put up with a lot here, and yeah we knew what we were gettin’ ourselves into, but some things are just overboard.”

“Your glasses ain’t hurtin’ nobody.” Gamzee smiles at you. Your glasses would be a perfect cover for how nervous you must look.

“We know where they keep all the shit they take from uth, too. It’th in the deanth offithe, back in thith thafe that has one intenthe code.” Sollux adds.

“Yeah, so how the fuck are we going to get it back? This sounds like some afterschool kid show level plotline, here. I’m not really sure…”

“Dave, don’t worry.” John has the most confident expression on his face and it’s almost scary how well he wears it. “We’ve done this before.”

“Whoa, what?”

“Yeah, Sollux is always getting shit taken from him.”

“I bathically know every part of the deanth offithe, it’th not that difficult of a conthept.”

“One time, my man was all up and playing some shit on his calculator in math, right? Teach walks up and is like, ‘yo that don’t look like no calculous to me.’ Sollbro says the funniest shit that ever hit my ears, I swaer…” Gamzee pauses, “wait, what all was it that you said, man?”

Sollux rolls his eyes. “I told her that it didn’t look like calculouth becauthe it wathn’t calculouth and then I called her a moron and I wath thent to the deanth and I had my calculator confithcated and had my parenth called and they were all pithed off. It wath really fucking annoying.”

“And you got this calculator back…”

“Of couthe I did. That shit wath like eighty buckth— of my own money. I hacked it and everything.”

“Haha, tell ‘em what you were playing on there, Sollux!” John laughs and claps a hand on his shoulder. Sollux smirks.

“Thuper Mario Broth.”

“That’s possible.”

“Yeah, duh. How do you think I wath playing it? Anyway, I mapped out the deanth offithe when he had me in there, lecturing me, and I even thaw him put the calculator in the thafe. Not too thmart on hith end…”

“What are you, like a savant or something.”

“Wow, rude.”

“Yeah Dave, he’s just like a genius or whatever.”

That’s when Tavros pipes in for the first time since lunch started. “H-hey, has anyone seen Karkat?”

Gamzee blinks slowly at Sollux. “Ain’t he your roommate?”

“Yeah, but I haven’t theen him thince last clath.”

“I hope he’s not lost… this school is, wow, really big, and everything.” Tavros looks worriedly over his shoulder at the entrance. “He would probably, uh definitely, want to be in on our secret base… right?”

“I’ll tell him tonight in the room before he goeth to thleep…” And the subject is promptly dropped.

The rest of you day is spent wondering how the fuck this is going to play out and trying to keep the dread and bile from coming up.

Chapter Text

The Secret Base turns out to be a clearing in the small woods right outside of the field behind the actual school building. John leads you there during the kind of recess the school allows everyone on particularly nice days. It's interesting to note that, even though this is your first time where you are allowed to go do something on your own, it feels a lot more relaxing than most of the time you are, you know, doing anything else inside the school. A part of you wishes you weren't wasting this precious time to go break the rules and run through some prickly bushes. John says it's worth it and you believe him.

The clearing is about the size of a living room. John walks over to the circle of logs in the middle and turns to you.

"Well, this is it! Beautiful, huh?" He smiles and plops down on one of the logs. "We haven't been back here in a while..." He muses.

"So this is it? I thought there would be more cover or something. What if you guys get caught?"

John just shrugs like it literally is no big deal and says that they haven't been caught yet. That is the typical mindset of your new friends at this school. You wonder if John is the ringleader in all of this. He does have an outgoing personality. You could see him being in charge of a lot of things.

He pats the spot on the log next to him and you obey, for some reason.

"So, what do you think? Is it everything you dreamed and more?" He nudges you with your shoulder and you lean into the contact, you don't know why. That is weird. What.

"It's pretty, uh... outdoory."

He snorts "Yeah, okay Tavros."

"Shut up, it's bitching. Is that what you wanted to hear?" You nudge back and it turns into a short shoving fight before you both hear a twig snap. You're on your feet in a flash and ready to fight or run like Hell when Gamzee steps into the clearing. John laughs and greets his friendly, warmly. You have to take a second to calm down.

"Whoa, was I fuckin' late or something?" He drawls.

"No, I was just showing Dave where it was. You're just in time! Is everyone else coming?"

"Man, I don't even know about that. Can't even find my motherfuckin' roommate..."

"Oh shit, are you sure he's okay? Maybe we should look for him..." John looks at you, concern all over his damn face. You can't stifle the sigh.

"I'm sure he's fine. He probably just prefers being alone."


The three of you settle down and you find out that Sollux plans on getting your glasses back a lot sooner than you think. You're not sure why he's going so far out of his way, risking his freedom, to get you a shitty pair of glasses back, but maybe he just feels your pain. Whatever, you're not one to look a gift horse in the fucking mouth.

"I gotta admit, it'll be ashame when you get them back!"

"What. Why."

"Dave, your eyes are pretty awesome, has anyone told you that?" And you fight back the pink you know is tinting your cheeks. No one has ever described your eyes as being anything but freaky. You were hoping that no one would notice but shit, red isn't exactly normal.

"Whoa, you're right, motherfucker. Them orbs are all kinds of mystical. How do you go about being born with them babies?"

You change the subject in a heartbeat and they let you.That is too much attention for one afternoon. You want your sunglasses back even more, now.

After shooting the shit for about more 20 minutes, John says you should all get back before people start to notice and this worries you until you make it back to the school and no one seems to have given a good Goddamn.

Before dinner, you're able to get some much needed computer time in which you contact Terezi right away. Luckily, she is always online. It's a homeschool kid thing.

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gallowsCalibrator [GC] --

TG: tz its been a while
GC: >:0!!!!!! D4V3!

TG: nah theyre still pretty ridicks here but its not so bad
TG: made some friends

GC: 1 4M L1TT3R4LLY 4LL 3Y3S

TG: no way
TG: this isnt gonna turn into one of those after school specials where the kid with troubles comes home and tells his mom how great things are turning out because of one guy friend he was able to make who like
TG: defended him when he was getting bullied or something
TG: its not like you would know what an after school special is so i guess this metaphor is completely moot anyway

GC: >:/

TG: nah shits pretty cool
TG: oh i got my sun glasses taken away

GC: >:!

TG: yo smd no ones even said anything
TG: well

TG: my roommate said they were cool looking
TG: nbd
TG: oh and gamzee said it was like a miracle or whatever
TG: but thats it

GC: >:O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TG: stfu
GC: G3T OV3R 1T?!
GC: H4H4H4H4H4H4H4H4H4

TG: naw im gonna get them back apparently
TG: one of my homeboys is gonna do that ish for me
TG: or whatever


TG: yeah what the fuck are you implying
TG: whatever
TG: i gotta go and eat dinner
TG: theyre kicking me off


-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gallowsCalibrator [GC] --

At dinner, Sollux reveals to you his secure plan and the look on his face is that a pure bliss. He is so fucking excited to one-up the dean. It's almost sickening. But, whatever. You're getting your shades back and all will be right with the world. No harm, no foul.

"Dave..." John breaks the silence as you idly flip through a reading assignment. You blink up at him. "I think... that when you get your glasses back from Sollux, you should probably not wear them to that class..." The sincere concern in his voice is really touching.

"Why, you think they'll take them again? Sollux could just get them back. He's wily enough to pull it off a second time."

"Yeah, but what if the dean catches on? Then you'd be in a shit ton of trouble and that would, you know, suck." He shrugs at you and you're locked in that deep blue gaze. Wow, your sunglasses would really come in handy right about now. "I'm just saying... better safe than sorry."

"The point of the glasses are to hide these freaky fucking eyes from everyone so I don't get made fun of." You jab a thumb towards your eyes for emphasis.

"They're not freaky, Dave!" John throws a fist down onto his bed where he's propped up in his elbows and you flinch backwards. "You shouldn't ever be ashamed of any part of yourself!"

"I'm not..."

"Then you wouldn't care about some dopey sunglasses!" He shoots back.

"Whoa, that's coming from someone who wears square-ass glasses..." Maybe getting defensive isn't the right way to go about this.

"My glasses have a purpose, at least! You don't need your sunglasses. You're just using them as a crutch for whatever reason and that's... that's just stupid!" He throws his arms up and even though he's calling you out and you're nowhere near your comfort zone, you have to stifle back a laugh. "I think you should wear them less and less when you get them back, Dave. It'll be good for you... This place is for growing and rehabilitation!" And his smile is so dark and coy, he's making fun of you and you are really impressed.

"Oh, yeah? And what if I don't?"

"I'll confiscate them, myself."

"Yeah right, asshole."

"You think I can't wrestle them off you?"

"Son, I know you can't."

"Yeah well, keep those glasses on in class and you'll find out."

You smirk and he throws a pillow at you.

Your name is Dave Strider, 14-years-old, and you are engaging in your first pillow fight, ever.

And you think it's actually quite fun.

Chapter Text

You find yourself in front of your computer, scrolling endlessly on some blog but the screen is blurry and the images don't make sense. You call for your brother to bring you something to drink and the door creeks open. You turn slightly because after saying 'bro' a few times without an answer, you start to get a little annoyed. Eyes go wide as the figure standing in the door is not your brother but the dean of the school and he's green and ominous and melting.

Screaming does nothing because your voice is gone. All that comes out is squeaks as your vocal chords whine in protest. The figure turns towards you oozing out of the doorway and more into your room and a black tar billows out from behind him. You fall out of your chair and scramble to your feet but it does nothing to put distance between you and this monster.

Your desk crashes in front of you which does nothing to stop your attacker. It lets out a low chuckle and the desk disolves under the tar which bubbles and sizzles and you know that it's hungry for you. You kick at it, catching your sneaker in one puddle of ooze. The shoe sticks and you are stuck and horror creeps up your spine as the ooze creeps up your body, turning into cold, choking hands that push too harshly on your body and are too big. The hands smooth over your collar bone and up your neck and now you can't breathe. The push up your jaw and finger tips pull down on your eye lids and you wake up in your dorm room, panting and sweating.

John is at the side of your bed with a hand on your shoulder. You look around, trying to find your bearings, still dilerious from sleep.

"Dave, are you okay?" His voice is shaky and concern is painting on his face.

"Wh..." You rub at your eyes and find moisture there which is really embarrassing. "Was I talking in my sleep?" You manage out, trying to still your own voice.

"Talking? You were screaming, bro..." He sighs and sits down on your bed, next to you. "That must've been some nightmare." When he takes his hand off your shoulder, you sort of miss the contact. "I had to shake you to get you to wake up, saying your name didn't work, haha."

"Shit, sorry..." You run a hand through your hair and take another deep breath.

"No, it's okay! I'm just glad you, you know, stopped screaming... It sounded really painful. I was kind of scared..." He shrugs and smiles sheepishly at you from under his eyelashes and your stomach flops in a way that is really nice.

"Yeah, sorry... thanks for waking me up, I guess..."

"Yeah. Are you okay to try to sleep again? Do you want to talk about it more?"

"Nah, I'm fine. Go back to sleep."

He does reluctantly and you stay awake the rest of the night. Every time you close your eyes, you see the ooze and when you keep your eyes open, you see it in the corners. It turns out to be a long, sleepless night.

This turns into a pattern. Every night, you have a different nightmare. Sometimes you scream, sometimes you just thrash and John is either there, keeping you awake or fast asleep, himself. Either way, you are always left to yourself afterwards to think about the dreams and the rest of the night and wishing there was something that could brighten up the room, even just a little bit.

A week or so later, Sollux places a box in front of you at lunch and you glare up at him. Not that you really want to glare, but because you can't seem to help it. Every light is too bright and every movement your eyes move, strain them. Your patience is almost nonexistant and everyone is getting on your nerves. You had snapped at John when he closed his drawer a little too roughly. Your head's been pounding ever since.

"Merry Chrithmath."

You peer down at the box and take it heistantly. Opening it reveals your sun glasses, neat and unbroken and just as you left them when they were taken from you. Placing them back on your face is emotionally reviving but the pressure hurts and you rub at the bridge of your nose.

"You alright, Dave? You've been a little off today..." John asks and you glance at him.

"Just got a headache is all... No big deal."

"The nurthe hath athprin. Anyway, do you want to hear about how I got your shitty glatheth back? It'th bathically a great thtory."

You want to say no, but he'd tell it anyway, so you let him. He had to get something of his confiscated first, which was easy enough. The rules make any sort of hand-held video game during classes completely intolerable. He had to lose one of his psp's but he said he could always get it back the next time his parents visited because that's usually how it works. They don't want to anger the parents. He was able to get your glasses back the same way he usually got shit back and walked right out of the office when he was done getting reemed and that was the end of that. You thank him but you just want to go back to your room and sleep while it's still bright out.

After your last class, you're able to get an hour's sleep in your room before a mandatory recess where you slowly make your way to the court yard. John's already out there and he waves you to come over but you point over to an oak tree and he nods.

Settling under the tree with your sunglasses snuggly placed on your nose, you let your eyes slip shut and fall into a twilight daze. The sun feels good and the breeze is nice and you're out in a minute.

When you wake up, you're overly aware of another presence. You look to your side and see John sitting next to you, one knee propped up with his head resting on it. He's doodling in the ground and you wonder how long he's been there. You are also hyper-aware of the contact your shoulders are having and you sit up more because that embarrasses you.

"Morning, Sunshine..." John smiles at you and you cough.

"When did..."

"When I noticed you about to fall over, so I sat down here to prop you up! How was that sleep, by the way?"

You nod and look down at your lap. "Not long enough."

"Do you keep having nightmares?" Answering that isn't an option because you can't seem to lie and you don't want to worry him. He seems to get the point, anyway. "Do you remember any of the nightmares? Maybe we can, I dunno, decode them and figure out what is scaring you?" But you know what scares you and it's really fucking stupid for someone your age. Your pride won't let you answer this, either. John seems to get fed up with talking about it and he gets up, suddenly, brushing off the back of his pants. "Well, when you want to talk about it, you know where to find me."

And he walks away, leaving you to feel like the biggest tool in the shed.

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: I have to admit, I am really surprised to see you on, tonight. You must be behaving.
TT: I almost have to admit that I am impressed.

TG: yeah yeah hello to you too
TT: So, how are things going at this new school? I would be lying if I said I wasn't concerned for your well being. I knew you would be safe, but I wasn't sure you would be fairing well, emotionally.
TG: shits awful but im getting by
TT: Terezi has told me you've made a small group of friends. That is great considering what you had at your previous school.
TG: yeah theyre legit
TT: You're not being very talkative. Please tell me you're doing homework.
TG: naw we have to do that shit at study hall which is lame
TG: like why cant i fucking do my own work on my own fucking free time
TG: oh thats right because i dont have any

TT: Retract the claws. You seem agitated, would you like to talk about it?
TT: I really enjoy listening.

TG: yeah i know you freak
TG: and no i dont because there is nothing to talk about

TT: I feel very sorry for your roommate.
TG: what the fuck why
TT: Because he's going to be dealing with you like this for the night and that is really unfortunate.
TT: I feel like that is a job only your brother is capable of pulling off correctly.

TG: yeah well
TG: bros not here so

TT: How is the separation going? Are you feeling any animosity towards him or sadness? Do you miss him?
TG: i miss the shit out of him
TG: and there really isnt anything else to say on the matter
TG: im not sure when ill be able to see him again either which is fucking bullshit
TG: but whatever i earned it amirite

TT: I think what they are doing to you is wrong and you should've had more of a say in what happened to you. I think it was good that you left that stupid school but I think your current situation is almost counter-productive.
TT: I wish I could do more than just talk with you over an instant messaging system.

TG: sok
TG: aint nothing no one can really do
TG: fuck i am so tired
TG: let that god damn accent through in my fucking typing

TT: Is it hard to sleep there?
TG: damn right it is
TT: For everyone?
TG: naw john sleeps like a rock most nights
TT: And the nights he doesn't?
TG: hes waking me up because i was yellin or something
TG: i keep having nightmares nbd
TG: probably the stress of the situation or whatever

TT: I'd say that is a very good deduction and I am really impressed, Dave. You must be learning from me.
TG: yeah right
TT: Tell me about these nightmares. Maybe I can help.
TG: naw i dont wanna talk about them they are really convoluted and shit and i wouldnt be able to describe them even if i wanted to
TT: I see. Fair enough.
TT: I'll let you off the hook this time.

TG: phew
TG: that was sarcasm i dont actually give a fuck

TT: So, how are classes going?
TG: fine mom jeez get off my ass
TT: Well, if you don't want to talk about your problems and you don't want to talk about your classes or your friends or your brother, then what do you want to talk about?
TG: why do we have to talk about me why cant we talk about you
TG: thatd be a nice change
TG: because like fuck

TT: I assure you my life is much less interesting than yours.
TG: yeah
TG: all you do is write fanfiction all day and blog about other people

TT: And I know you don't care about any of those things, so let's talk about you.
TT: So you're roommate hasn't committed suicide from having to deal with you...
TT: He must be a saint.

TG: dont talk shit about john
TG: hes cool

TT: Is he, now?
TG: yeah hes chill as fuck
TG: thats about it

TT: You have never spoken so highly of someone you've just met before.
TT: My interest is piqued.
TT: Go on.

TG: thats it
TG: what else do you want from me
TG: oh john hes so handsome and smart and kind
TG: i just want his nerdy dick in my butt
TG: is that what you want to hear rose
TG: of course it is
TG: im sure youre going to be saving this conversation for later to either use as smut inspiration or to fucking analyise me like you always do

TT: You really do know me.
TT: But, if you don't want to talk more about him, then I will drop it.

TG: k night
TT: ...Good night, David.

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

John saves you a seat at dinner. It shouldn't embarrass you as much as it does but you take the seat, anyway and stay mostly quiet during the meal. The only time you speak is when someone asks you a question and when you do answer, it's short and to the point. It's not that you're in a particularly bad mood. You're just so tired and talking to Lalonde isn't always a walk in the fucking park. Sleep is the only thing you really want and the worst part is that you know it's still ellusive to you.

That night, you spend it awake most of the night, not even able to close your eyes until light starts to seap in through the window and that leaves you with about two hours of sleep. At least there were no nightmares.

You, as usual, get up before John and head over to the bathroom to shower and ready yourself for the day. It's also usually empty. You can hear someone else moving around in there and you walk in with caution. You're still not used to being safe and being at school at the same time. When you round the wall, you hear something clatter on the tialed floor and you back up distinctly. Some one curses and picks up the fallen objects and you realize that it's Karkat. You relax, slightly and enter the bathroom.

"What are you doing up so early?"

He yelps and almost drops his tray of shampoos and soaps again when he rounds the corner and sees you standing there.

"What the ever loving FUCK are you doing here? You scared the shit out of me, Strider!" He spits at you.

"Well, I was about to get ready for class. Is that something I can't do? Are you the fucking bathroom police, I don't see a badge."

"Stuff it, douchebag." He goes to the sink and slams his tray down before picking out his toothbrush and turning the water on.

"Whoa, I'm not a calzone, last time I checked." And you make your way to the showers, picking a stall and turning on the faucet. "Where've you been, anyway?"

He spits in the sink. "Why the fuck would you care?"

"Because we're friends."

"I don't have friends. Don't be retarded."

"Whoa, calm down. There's a lot of people against us, we gotta stick together as prisonmates."

"Whatever." And he leaves. That's strange. Maybe he's having a harder time adjusting to boarding school life than you are. Who'd think you would be doing a better job than someone else at something.

John bumps into you on your way out of the shower and stammers an apology. You shrug it off and continue and try to ignore the fact that his face was totally pink when you saw him. You also try to ignore the obvious fact that he was avoiding your eyes and you have to ignore the idea that maybe it was because you were dripping wet with nothing but a towel around your waist. There is no reason why that would make him blush, you tell yourself. There is no reason for you to wish you were wrong.

Chapter Text

There is no other time you can think of where you wanted your sunglasses more than you do, right now.

Another sleepless night leaves you squinting at the chalk board, trying your very hardest to figure out what the fuck the teacher is saying and why you can’t seem to understand anything that is coming out of her mouth. You’re pretty sure it’s your fault and not because she naturally slurs her words.

Man, if your shades were just somewhere that wasn’t the top of your dresser in your room, you could place them snugly on your face and let them mask your closed eyes as you finally get some sleep.

You ignore the irony of wanting darkness to hide your eyes at all times considering your fear. What a stupid thing to be ironic about? That is not the kind of cheap irony you like to partake in.

But, your eyes burn something fierce and it is definitely doing you no good considering you have no idea what the fuck people are saying at you. John looks worried but you can’t be sure if that’s the sleepiness playing tricks on your brain or if it’s something he is genuinely feeling. He pats you on the back and you think he mentions something about you taking a nap during recess again but you can’t be sure of that, either. A nap sounds pretty fucking wonderful, though.

He leads you to a tree and you plop down on the dirt and hope you’re not sitting on an ant hill and he pats your head and tells you to have sweet dreams and you’re pretty sure Karkat laughed at that. Only pretty sure, though.

The nap ends up being completely dreamless which is fantastic. John’s the one to wake you up and you glare up at him because the sun hurts your eyes. He flinches back and gives you some space and you’re not sure why he didn’t just help you up like the bro he is but your attention span can’t be bothered with thoughts like that, right now.

For once, you are looking forward to laying down in your bed with no bright lights making your head throb and you wonder if this is how most normal people feel when the sun starts to go down and the troubles of the day hang heavy on their shoulders. Toying with the idea of talking to John about these thoughts only lasts for a few moments before you rethink how stupid that would be. Telling John about your fear of the dark would be something that would make you seem really weak and vulnerable and what have you learned from your brother? Not to be a fucking pussy, for one. You deal with your own problems, yourself. John can’t be bothered with your issues and you can’t be bothered with being judged unfairly and you know firsthand how cruel people are.

When John comes back, he greets you in a way that seems kind of guarded and that worries you. Maybe he had some sort of confrontation in the bathroom and the thought of someone picking on John, even if you were just doubting his sincerity, really gets your blood boiling. You gotta ask.

“You feelin’ alright?”

He blinks at you, turning back from his dresser where he was picking out a shirt to wear. You try not to stare too obviously at his torso. He laughs, but it doesn’t reach his eyes and that is all the answer you need.

“Yeah, I’m peachy! Why do you ask?”

You shrug. “Just seem kinda not on top of your game, right now is all.”

“Oh man, I am so on top of the game, you don’t even know.”


“What, you don’t believe me?” He shrugs into his shirt with that same breathy laugh he usually incoporates into conversations. You give him a face that should read as, yeah no shit I don’t believe you why did you think I asked in the first place, and he seems to get the picture. “Alright, yeah I’ve been feeling kind of down.”

“Wanna talk about it or…”

“Not really…”

The room goes silent and the tension is almost choking you and this is one of the reasons why you choose to be alone. But, even when you are alone, people still seem to seek you out. And human companionship to you means a fist to the nose and another detention. How can people form healthy relationships in the first place? That information was never taught to you. Maybe if it had been, you wouldn’t have wound up in this place with the fights on your permanent record.

Which reminds you…

“Hey, Egbert.”

“Hey, Dave.” He doesn’t look up from his book.

“How’d you even get in here, anyway? Like, you don’t seem like the kind of kid to snap when someone messes with you or like, do anything illegal.”

He looks up at you for a while and you are caught in those really, really blue eyes of his. How are you able to see the color from across the room, you don’t know.

“Wait, you don’t know?”

“Naw, man. You never told me.”

“No one has?”

“Uh, no. Why the hell would I be asking you if someone had already told me?”

“Alright, Ms. Sass. Jeez…” He puts his book down and brings his knees up, hugging them. “I got into some trouble last year and they didn’t know where to put me to keep me in check, so here I am.”

“That’s it?”

He shrugs, “More or less.”

“More, please.”

“Goddamn, Dave… It’s really not that interesting of a story! It’d bore you to sleep…”

You would not mind that.

“I’m down for a good bedtime story.” You mimic his sitting position and he snorts a laugh. This one sounds a lot more genuine. Points for cheering up your roommate.

“Okay, fine…” He sighs and shifts, getting comfortable. “I had a teacher in my old school who was really awful. Like, probably the biggest, meanest person I have ever met in my life. One time, this kid forgot his homework, right? She asked him, you know, where his homework was— did he even do it? He tells her, jokingly, that his dog ate it. Now, imagine this kid, smirking like the little shit he was, give him a Brooklyn accent and that is like a perfect portrait of who he was. She didn’t think it was too funny, right? So she took out a ruler and literally slap him on the wrists. Like, no lie. Everyone was so shocked. I think I heard someone whisper that they were going to tell their parents and get her fired. I don’t know what happened because if anything did, it was after I got put in here.

“Anyway, she had taken things from me in the past. Any time I had some sort of item that wasn’t ‘school appropriate,’ it would wind up in her drawer and I wouldn’t ever see it again. Yeah, she was supposed to give that kind of shit back at the end of the year, but she was notorious for not giving a fuck about rules that she didn’t put down, herself. Most of the stuff she took from me were things from the local gag store. Really replaceable stuff. I usually didn’t care. Except this one time…” He leans over and you lean in, too because this is kind of getting interesting. “Okay, so I haven’t actually told anyone here this story with this much detail, so you better feel really freakin’ important.”

You nod.

“My dad’s a pretty swanky kind of guy. He’s got a lot of these old pipes from any era you can think of and they’re really cool. Well, one of my friends at the time didn’t believe me that he had a pipe that was literally made in the eighteen hundreds. He told me I was lying, told my friends not to believe me and they kind of took his side. I mean, it’s not like any of them ever came over or anything like that. I usually don’t like to have friends over because of my dad and his weird… uh, obsessions… So, there was no way of really proving I wasn’t bullshitting around with them.”

“Having a pipe like that doesn’t sound that ridiculous. Why did they believe the prick so easily? Like, so what if they never been to your house? Who’s to say your dad didn’t have some cool shit lying around his place?”

“Haha, about that… I kind of had a reputation of being sort of… uhm, untruthful.”

“What, like you lie a lot?”

“I did. Not to like, save my own ass or anything. I just thought it was fun to make up really incredible stories about myself and the things I would see? I dunno. It was something that I practiced because I really want to do stand-up but you know, how many opportunities does an eighth grader have to get ready for that kind of career?

“So, the kid started spreading rumors about me and I kind of started to get bullied which sucked because I didn’t know how to deal with that. I don’t know a think about throwing a punch… And it wore me down until I couldn’t handle it, anymore. So, I brought in the pipe I was talking about which was a bitch to actually sneak out of my dad’s house. And I showed it in the hallways to the kids who doubted me and they were really impressed and the kid came over and took the pipe and said that it seemed like a cheap fake to him. I was so angry, I pushed him and he hit the lockers.” John stops and looks down at his hands, like he was genuinely regretful of what he did to this asshole kid who really did deserve it. “Everyone was kind of shocked and I still can’t believe I did that, to this day. So, some teachers come over because they hear the ruckus and one of them grabs me and another picks the kid up and that teacher, the mean one, comes over and says that she saw the whole thing.

“I first just got in trouble for assaulting this kid, but then the whole issued with the pipe comes in and they think I’m doing drugs on campus. They call my dad and he has to come in for a conference with my principal and the teacher. If she hadn’t seen the pipe, I wouldn’t have gotten into the same amount of trouble that I did, I think.

“My dad was furious, more so that I snuck into his things. He didn’t think I was actually using it and that was the only amount of relief I got from that situation. The kid got off with just a short talking-to. The teacher told my dad about all of the gag toys I bring into her class and how much of a disruption I was and how I lie and shit like that and he was really annoyed with me.

“It got to the point that I would either be home schooled or sent to another school and that’s when my dad was told about this place. Apparently, the whole drug thing was just too much for a suspension to handle and I needed to be kicked out. And that’s what happened!” He smiles but you know he really hated telling the whole thing like that and you feel kind of bad.

“Whoa… Man, that sucks. You were just forced to do all those things and then you got punished for it.”

“Yeah… Well, that’s life! I just kind of go with it and try to be happy wherever I am! I mean, even if it’s different and weird and uncomfortable, it’s still new experiences and I can add these stories to my act! Nothing is wasted.”

And that’s when you realize how very precious this person is to you and how you want to protect him for as long as possible.

Chapter Text

— turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gallowsCalibrator [GC]

TG: yo tz i need some advice
TG: for a friend
TG: not me
TG: just making it clear that i am asking on behalf of someone other than myself because they asked me for advice and i didnt know what to say
TG: is that believable and normal
TG: fuck what would you know youre homeschooled
TG: are you awake
TG: like youre not idle
TG: come on tz i only have a short amount of time on the computer before i have to go to dinner
TG: i lied and said that i was doing research for an essay im probably going to bs the night before


TG: i said id get it done
TG: but that isnt the point right now jesus
TG: the point is i need advice
TG: for my friend…

CG: >;]

TG: wow nevermind

CG: >:[

TG: sorry man
TG: wo-man
TG: this is just kind of delicate and i want to get to the bottom of it
TG: for my friend
TG: so that they are not uh
TG: worrying about said problem
TG: anymore


TG: ok fine
TG: so this friend

TG: stop
TG: this friend likes this other friend
TG: both of our friend
TG: mutual friend

CG: Y34H 1 G3T 1T
TG: ok
TG: so they like them but they are no sure how to handle it because its kind of messy and unorthodox ya dig
TG: like this is not the usual guy falls for girl type thing

CG: 1 S33
TG: if only it were that easy amirite
TG: uhm okay so this friend feels like the things he is feeling are actually really fucking wrong and that hes only feeling them because of some sort of weird obsession with acceptance and
TG: fuck

CG: 1 F33L L1K3 TH1S 1S MOR3 OF H3R 3XP3RT1SE…

TG: i didnt want to have to
TG: but i feel like i should
TG: maybe
TG: i dont know
TG: you know what screw it
TG: forget this conversation ever happened

CG: W41T D4V3!

— turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gallowsCalibrator [GC]

You log out and run your fingers through your hair and rub your eyes. They're so sore. That wasn't the best idea you've ever had. you've had a lot of shitty ideas but that is definitely up there with microwaving hot dogs and beating the shit out of anyone who ever made fun of your brother. But if you hadn't done that, then you'd probably be a lot more fucked up emotionally and you would've never met John.

Augh, fuck. That is exactly the last thought you wanted to be swimming around in your head right now. It just complicates things more and you have enough on your plate. Some alone time would be nice so you can properly sort out your thoughts and maybe talk to Rose because even though you hate it, she usually is really reliable in that department.

John meets you in the hallway and you try not to notice how cute that is. You catch him picking at his nails, all lanky and awkward against the wall. The smile he greets you with is so warm that you fight back your own smile.

"How much did you get done?" He asks, breaking the silence as you walk to the dining hall.

"Uh, not much..." And it's true.

"Well, you still got time."

Yeah, four years, you think.

You meet up with the usual gang and are surprised to see Karkat next to Sollux at the table.

"Hey guys!" John happily plops down at a seat and you take yours right next to him. The usual. Everything is cool. "How was your day, Gamzee?"

"Aw man, shit. It was all but a motherfuckin' miracle. Lemme tell you. Somethin's in the air makin' everyone all up and pissy about everything." And he goes into a tirade of problems with teachers and not being able to get his nap on in study hall and that's about the time you zone out because sleep is something you still aren't getting and that could be part of the reason why you can't figure out this John thing on your own. Maybe if you slept more than three hours every night, you would be able to articulate what you are feeling so that you could get a move on in this situation.

You are brought back into the conversation by the sound of Karkat's voice.

"Huh?" And he looks at you like you are the worst thing he has ever seen. This isn't the first time you've been looked at like this but it still really surprises you.

"Earth to fucking asshole, come in asshole." He grinds out and you ask again.


"Did you really not hear any of that, Dave?" John gives you a weird look and you kind of hate it.

"Yeah, so fucking what?" You don't mean to sound as defensive as you do.

"Uh, well we were just talking about another trip to the secret base. Karkat and Tavros still haven't gone there, yet."

"It's kind of like a initiation." Eridan drawls. You want to correct his grammar so badly but you can't even pick out what was wrong with what he said, let alone tell him. You end up fighting back a yawn, instead.

"Yeah! So we're wondering if you are down for doing it tonight!" John beams at you and even though maybe tonight is the night you'll finally just pass out and sleep, the thought of being alone in the room while it's also dark makes your skin crawl and you find yourself saying yes.

That night, John schools you on how this is going to go down. It's mostly exactly the same as the other time except because there are so many of you going, things have to be timed and the stakes are higher.

"Basically, Eridan goes first because he's alone-- don't laugh! Then we go, then Gamzee and Tavros, then finally Sollux and Karkat. It goes in increments of twenty minutes." He holds up two fingers for emphasis. "I will walk to the bathroom first, then you come in ten minutes. I will go into the very last stall, clutching my stomach for theatrical reasons, I keep the stall door open, slip out the window and when the stall door closes on its own, I'll be gone! You will then do the same, got it?"

"God damn, that is an intense plan... and everyone does it this way?"

"Naw, just us since we're the closest to this bathroom." He shrugs but the smile on his face is sincere and content. He is so excited for this night and you feel it vicariously through him. That is some potent happiness. "I'm really glad we're doing this. It's so fun and I've been wanting to take you there at night for a while."

Whoa, what?

"whoa, what?"

John blinks at you like a deer in headlights and sputters. "I mean, 'cause we're like bros, now and bros hang out and do shit together and-- fuck... uuh... You know what I mean!" He punches your arm and you rub at it but smile a little.

"I know what you mean, calm down Egbert." You chuckle until a pillow makes contact with your face and your glasses press uncomfortably against the bridge of your nose. "Yo, what the fuck?"

"That's for embarrassing me for no God damn reason!"

Your second pillow fight ever ensues.

Making it to the secret base turns out to be pretty uneventful. You find yourself having some trouble getting through the window in the bathroom. Getting a handle of keeping the stall door open while also jumping to get to the door is more difficult than you originally thought, but you manage to accomplish it, even if it was a little on the messy side. John tells you that the security cameras don't record sound so the girly yelp you let out isn't something that will jeopardize your plan.

"Okay, okay, okay, I got one..."


"What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in a hole?"

"I dunno, what?"

"Phil! Haha!" You chuckle at that. "What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in a hole for a long time?" You shrug and kick a small rock. "Pete!" Okay, that one was pretty funny and you laugh more sincerely this time.

"Alright, here's one..."

John gasps. "You, Dave Stride, have a joke?! I bet it's riddled with subtlety and ironic undertones..."

"Wow, shut the fuck up and listen."

"I'm all ears."

You pause to look behind your shoulder because you thought you heard something rustling and also for dramatic effect.

"Knock, knock."

"Oh, come on! A knock, knock joke? Are you serious?" he laughs and you shove him in the shoulder. "Alright, alright calm down! Who's there?"


You see him roll his eyes but he answers anyway. "To who?"

"To WHOM..." You say in the most condescending manner you can muster and he bursts out laughing.

"That was a good one. I am impressed, this is me being impressed. Can I use that one? It's seriously great!"

You shrug "Go for it."

You make it to the small clearing and see Eridan huddled at a flashlight. He starts slightly when you walk up and glares up at you. "About time."

"Yeah, yeah," John chuckles and sits down across from Eridan. You awkwardly sit next to John because what the fuck else are you supposed to do? "Did you run into any trouble on the way here?"

"Heard some shit in the forest but other than that nothin'."

It takes about 45 minutes for everyone else to show up and the fun to start. You think it's supposed to be fun. You just kind of feel like a wallflower. Even though you've been around these kids for a while now, you don't exactly feel apart of the group. John tries to help, though.

"Man, yeah I got a girl back home, you know..." Gamzee drawls out slowly, leaning back against a log. "Prettiest thing I ever did see, or some shit romantic like that."

"No one cares, dipstain." but Gamzee just places a hand on Karkat's shoulder and laughs, shaking his head slowly.

"You're a little young to be all about the understanding of affection and shit."

"I'm the same age as you! And how do you know? I might be the fucking Freud of modern courting."

"Oh yeah? Well, how many ladies have you swooned? I bet none." And you could see the fire in Karkat's eyes as he glared over the flashlight at Eridan.

"That has noting to do with anything that I am talking about right now. I personally think we're all a little young to even be talking about this! We're not emotionally prepared for relationships, don't be ridiculous. As it were, I am an untainted flower and even though I have zero experience, I know how the shit fucking works because it's common sense." He pauses, you hope to take a breath. "And furthermore--MMF"

"I'm gonna stop you there, little brother and tell y'all a tale woven from the finest breath a minstrel ever did pluck from his lute..." Gamzee moved his hand across the sky and you looked despite yourself up into the stars.

"Luteth don't breathe. You should've thaid noteth inthtead."

"That isn't even close to what my point is all being about. But, man... girls. If there ain't a more beautiful creature in this whole world." He pauses for a while and Karkat's patience snaps before anyone else's does.

"Is that it?" He squeaks. "Is that really what you interrupted me for?"

"I forgot what I was talking about for a second..." He blinks slowly.

"Holy fuck."

"Alright, calm down. This is like the sissiest conversation I have ever been apart of!" John laughs. "I'm sure Karkat is like the master at knowing girly emotions--"

"Becauthe he ith one, himthelf."

"And Gamzee is the master at spotting all the babes!" John throws his hands up in exasperation. "I think we should change the subject."

"Why, are you that emotionally handicapped that you don't understand one a the most fundamental human emotions?" Eridan says, condescension plastered on his face. You don't like it.

"What? No! I just can't contribute at all to this conversation! I don't have a crush."

A thick, sticky lump lodges itself in your throat and you are glad it's so dark because you don't have your shades right now. You don't like to play around with vulnerability but you are now and it's winning. You scan the faces of everyone huddled around the flashlight and none of them seem phased. That's right, it's only you. Clearing up the emotions in a split second, you try to refocus on the conversation but you're not sure what everyone is talking about now. How long did you zone out for?

"No, seriously guys that's not even funny! Come on!" John protests and you glance at him before asking what the fuck happened because you were thinking about something else.

"We were jutht buthting Egbert'th ballth."

"Did you have to use that many 's' sounds in that sentence? I'm literally dripping in your saliva."


"I will hit you."

"Haha! Wow, yeah, don't even worry about it, Dave! They were just making fun of me and it was so hilarious and they got me good, yeah!" John pushes Gamzee's shoulder lightly and he blinks at him. "But they're done now and we're moving on to something else, right guys?!"

"Man, I don't think none of that was jokes, you know... And so what? Ain't nothin' wrong with loving a brother..." Gamzee drawls and you glance at John who is staring daggers.

"Yeah, except when it's not true! I'm not into anyone, especially Dave!"

Okay that's it. You get up and promptly walk into the dark woods.

Chapter Text

"Shit." You hiss through clenched teeth as you catch your toe on a tree root. You stumble forward and look down to see what it was you tripped on and by the time you look up, your face is in some sort of web and you yelp and sputter because fuck spiders, seriously.

You hate this forest. You hate how dark it is. You hate your situation. You hate your brother for sending you away. You hate everyone who ever made fun of you or him. You hate your friends for bringing up stupid topics to talk about. You hate their stupid secret base. And you hate John.

After about 5 minutes of aimlessly bulldozing through a forest you're not familiar with, you plop down on a log and run your hands through your hair as you rock back and forth, trying not to freak out as much as you think you have to.

It was dumb of you to think you had a chance. Of course John wouldn't have feelings for you! If he were to like someone, it would be a pretty girl who said 'yes, dear' whenever he requested something-- who wore pretty dresses every day and made him lunch and all kinds of other gag-worthy cliche shit you can come up with. She would probably have long hair and long lashes and a delicate neck and be literally the opposite of you. There is no way he would look at his bro and think, 'aw yeah, I'd really like to get with that hot piece.'

You decide to not kid yourself anymore. That is a stupid thing and you're stupid for being so naive. Sighing, you get up and compose yourself and try to figure out which direction you came from. You can hear your name in the distance so you guess following that is a start.

As you begin to walk, a hand claps down on your shoulder and you see your life flash before your eyes. Cackling brings you back to your senses and you clench your chest and pant heavily.

"Oh man! That was so funny, you should've seen your face!" John shines a flash light at you and you glare into it's light.

"Knock it off..."

John lowers the light and blinks at you. "Why'd you run off like that, anyway?"

"I didn't run off, I walked away."

"Yeah, okay" He rolls his eyes. "But, why did you do that? Was it something one of us said?"

Answering isn't an option because you're upset again and you don't want anyone to see the anger plastered on your face, so you keep your head down and you turn away from him.

"Secret base back this way or..."

John's quiet for a moment before he walks passed you and down a small path. "It's back this way, yeah." You follow silently.

You get questioned a few times but after they notice you aren't going to answer them, they all seem to let it slip. Mostly, everyone.

Karkat grabs your shoulder and the two of you fall back a bit.

"You're not fooling me."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" You try to tug your arm away and fail.

"It's so obvious why you got up and walked away like a pussy, I could write one analysis. You know why? Because that's all it would take to make everyone agree that you like your doofus of a roommate."

You size him up and turn again. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Bullshit, you don't. I'm not a fucking idiot and I don't care about your pride or your reputation among these fucking losers to ignore the fact that when that buck-toothed asshole said he didn't like anyone, especially you, you got up and walked away. It's not rocket science, it's common fucking sense. So don't even try to brush me off like I'm making this shit up."

You hope to God the darkness is blocking the look of shock on your face right now. "S-so what...? Maybe I had to go take a leak and I couldn't hold it in, anymore?"

"That doesn't dismiss the way you acted when you came back and how you're acting right now, Mr. Defensive Prick."

"I don't like getting lost in the woods at night. That would make anyone feel like a huge fucking tool."

"What? No. I know what I saw and I know what I think is right and you're going to fess up." He yanks at your elbow again. You cannot believe this kid.

"Well, you thought wrong." You pull your elbow back and break free before turning and briskly walking to catch up with everyone else. You hope that ruined his night, not that he seems like he needs help ruining things, but you don't like being called out, especially by the village dickweed. You tried to be nice to that kid and this is what you get in return? Shit.

"What'd Karkat have to say to you?" John asks when you jog up to him. You shrug it off and stay silent the rest of the night. You've had enough confrontation for the night, you don't need to talk to anyone else anymore.

Sleep still doesn't come to you and you spend the night staring into that one particularly dark corner and imagine a little demon with spikey hair and piercing red eyes whisper your love of John into his ear as he sleeps soundly on the other side of the room. You can't help but think that demon looks a little like Karkat. Your blood runs cold and now the dark is the least of your nighttime worries. If he tells John your secret, everything could literally be ruined. You've made friends, kinda, and you haven't gotten into any fights. You'd consider this a huge fucking success and that guy wants to ruin it for you.

Hell no.

Hell fucking no.

The next morning you bump into Karkat in the bathroom like you figured you would. You had remembered him being there that one morning a few weeks ago when you were having a really bad night's sleep- or lack, there of. He glowers at you and you block his way with your arm.

"No way, we're gonna have a little talk, bro. Mono y mono."

"So, now you want to talk? That is just rich, you know I was trying to help you last night? I'm not out to get you or anything. I just know a big, fat liar when I see one."

"Yeah, cool, whatever. Just keep it between us, okay?"

"Is that a confession? You mean to tell me that I actually was right and you're the one who is owning up to it? Is it my birthday? This is a Christmas fucking miracle."

"Yeah, ok, shut the fuck up real quick. Someone could hear you."

"Doubtful. No one's up but the two of us. What's wrong, anyway? Can't sleep?"

"You're asking a lot of questions that I don't give a damn enough to answer. I just wanted to make sure you're gonna keep your yap closed about John. I don't want anyone knowing, especially him."

Karkat gives you a long stare before sighing. "Yeah, okay. I won't tell anyone, even if they ask."

"Especially John."

"Especially John."

You move aside to let him through and he sends you a sideways stare.

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: I talked with Terezi the other evening.
TG: you dont say
TT: Well, that was a quick response. I don't suppose that means you would like to know what we discussed.
TG: considering youre even telling me im going to go out on a limb here and say it has something to do with me
TT: Yes.
TT: What's been going on? Are you okay?
TG: peachy
TT: If you honestly don't want to talk about it, that's fine. I want you to know that I'm always here to listen if you need it.
TG: yeah i know
TT: How are your classes?
TG: fine
TT: Are you getting along with everyone?
TG: yes mom now lay off
TG: i dont need to be babied like this
TG: im not completely helpless
TT: Well, maybe if you let me know what's actually bothering you, I wouldn't have to probe you for answers.
TG: there is nothing going on
TG: everything is normal
TG: uh for once
TT: Alright, then.
TG: actually
TG: okay
TG: uh so like what would you do if you sorta had fee
TG: you know what nvm
TG: its whatever i cant do this bye
TT: Wait!

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

You are the biggest wimp you know. This is ridiculous.

You can't seem to get into the conversations at dinner and John notices. You can tell because he tries to bring you into whatever they're talking about but after a while he deflects questions from you and makes up excuses and you wish he wouldn't be so nice. You don't deserve it. You're here because you've hit kids and made them bleed. You've fought against teachers trying to peel you off of the kid that called your brother a faggot. You clench your fists and the thoughts are pushed out of your mind.

Talking to someone new could help. Maybe an adult who won't ask too many questions, someone who's been in your shoes and knows what to do. There is someone who comes to mind and you're guessing it's okay to talk with her. The problem is getting that alone time and not making a huge deal out of it. You decide to stay after class and ask for a moment and just tell her the vague details and see where that gets you.

Hope can feel really nice but it's also really terrifying. You're definitely not sleeping tonight.

Chapter Text

It's almost time. You nervously check the clock as Ms. Roxy rants about the current politics in the biology world. As soon as she dismisses the class, you will stay behind and talk with her about your problems. Out of all of the authorities at this school, she seems like the easiest and most down-to-Earth. You go over in your head what you want to ask her. You want to try to understand these feelings for your roommate. These feelings are much too intense for a normal 14-year-old to be feeling but you're not a normal 14-year-old. Maybe Ms. Roxy will understand that.

The bell rings and everyone gathers up there things and trickle out of the classroom. John asks why you're not getting up and you, calmly, tell him that you just have to ask the teacher something then you'll be heading to your next class. He tells you he can wait for you but you shoot that offer down. You don't need him sticking around throwing you off your groove and finding out your secrets.

Ms. Roxy notices you standing by her desk and she smiles up at you. "Hey, Dave! What's up? You need something?" You fidget with your binder and then ask to talk with her about something. She agrees, a little worried and lets you sit down.

"I have a little bit of a personal problem..." You begin. This has become harder than you originally thought.

"Well, I might have a little bit of advice!" She laughs and that eases up your nerves a bit.

"Yeah, well, I hope so. Uh..." You clear your throat and look down. "So, I have this friend... uh... Back home." You glance up at her and she's staring at you. Good, she's paying attention. "And they are pretty important to me." She nods. "And, uh... Well, I'm having a hard time labeling them, I guess? Like, yeah we're obviously friends. Like this person is great and I can't even imagine a time without them. They've changed me as a person, like a shit ton. But, I've made friends, recently... uh, as well. And they don't have the same effect that this person does. Does this make any sense?" You look up at her again and she is smiling.

"Honey, sounds like you got the hots for them."

You lean back in your chair. "Yeah, I was kind of afraid you would say that."

"There is nothing wrong with that! Liking someone is a really great feeling! I mean, sure it can turn pretty sour and you'll probably go through more heartbreak in your life than not, but I mean that just reminds us that we're alive, right?"

"Tch..." You glare down at your knees. How can she be so optimistic about this?

"Listen, Dave. The worst thing you can do is suppress these emotions. Don't deny them, let them through and acknowledge them and then maybe you can find the courage to tell this person how you feel about them. It might turn out better than you think!"

Tell John?! You thought this would be helpful, not suicidal. You play out the scene in your head. You tell him, he not only rejects you, he tells you never to talk to him again because you're gross and you're a freak. That's the end of it. You lose a very important friend and a roommate and then everyone else will stop talking to you and that will be it. Middle School all over again. Everyone will hate you, everyone will want to kick your ass. Except this time, you'll be defending your own name, not your brother's. And would it even be worth it? No way.

"Yeah, I'm not going to do that." You say, flatly.

"And why the hell not?"

"Because I know how they'll react. It's not worth it."

"Then why are you coming to me with this problem? You seem to have it aaaall worked out." She says, sarcasticly. You glower up at her.

"Because! I don't know... I thought maybe you'd give me some advice on how to to make these stupid feelings go away. I don't want them. They just complicate everything and I don't need this in my life, right now. I have enough shit to deal with..."

She looks you up and down and taps a pen on her desk. "You said that this is a friend from back home, right?" You nod, nervously. What is she getting at? "And you're friends with them?" You nod again. "And you want me to continue to refer to them as genderless, right?" Oh, fuck.

"Okay, they're a guy." That seems to surprise her.

"Is that why you don't want to tell him?"

"Uh, fucking duh. I get enough flack for what my bro does for a living. I don't need people getting on my case for almost the same thing, too. And it's not like I suddenly like the dong. It's... It's just this guy. He's different."

She nods slowly, taking it all in. "I can see why you're so against this whole confession thing, now. But I still think, if he's as special as you think he is, then it wouldn't hurt. If you really think he'd tell people and throw you under the bus, then he's not worth your affections."

Would John tell everyone? Would he sick the entire student body on you just because you want to kiss him a little? Part of you says of course not. John isn't like that at all! But another part of you, the one that is skeptical of everyone's intentions, thinks otherwise. You don't know what to believe.

"Listen, Dave." She grabs your attention by leaning forward and lowering her voice. "If you don't think he'd keep it between the two of you, then move on. No one deserves to be disrespected by the ones we love." You lower your head. "But! If you think he'd be cool about it, then I say go for it! The worst he can say is no! I doubt you'll lose a friend over something little like a crush!" She laughs and she's right. You should probably just suck it up and tell John. You thank her and get up to leave. She offers to write you an excuse because you're ten minutes late to your next class. You thank her for that, as well. "Oh, and Dave!" You turn to look at her. "Try telling him when the two of you are alone, maybe at night! You never know what could happen!" She winks at you and you nod, until realization hits you.

"Hey, I said he was a friend from back home."

She smiles and waves.

She knew the entire time.


You walk down the hall and you don't want to walk into this classroom and have everyone look at you. Being the center of attention fucking blows. What if the teacher doesn't believe you were talking with another teacher? You don't want this to turn into some sort of messy hassle. You have the note, anyway. Might as well just chill out until the class is over and then give it to him after everyone leaves. That sounds like a much better plan. You dip into the nearest bathroom and pick the last stall. Sitting on the toilet seat, you wish you had your phone because this is going to get boring soon. And just when it does, you jolt at the sound of the door slamming against the wall as someone comes in. You lift your feet up and listen. They make more noise, slamming things around than you thought was humanly possible, so you take a peek. It's Karkat and he looks pissed. You open the door and stroll out, hands in your pocket.

"S'up, princess."

"What the fuck do you want, Strider?" He snaps at you and you shrug.

"Just playing hookey. Same?"

He looks at you angrily. "None of your damn business." He shoves his hands in his pockets and there's an awkward silence. Still, you'd rather be out here than in a classroom, disrupting the flow of everything.

And, you suppose, you aren't ready to face John, yet.

You scuff your sneakers on the tile floor and clear your throat. "So, I, uh... I talked to someone about John." You lean against the wall and stare down at the floor. Karkat eyes you for a second.

"Bet they told you the same damn thing I told you."

You shrug. "Maybe."

"Gee, I wonder why? Maybe it's because it's common fucking sense. You know, for a smart ass you're really fucking stupid." You glare at him. "I'm just saying, you're never going to know what will come of it if you don't tell him."

"And what if I don't want anything to come of it, shit stain, what then?"

"That's a fucking lie." He jabs a figner at you and you stand up, prepared for a fight. "You can't possibly see the one you love every minute of every day without wanting to share your feelings with them at least some times. And even if that were true, I can tell from just how you look at him that you want something more than just this dinky little friendship."

"It's not dinky. It's perfectly acceptable this way. No fucking drama, no unnecessary mess. Just bros being bros."

Karkat stares you down for a moment, then sighs. "Whatever you say, asshole. Have fun lying to yourself." And he leaves you alone in the bathroom to think it over. You kick a stall door, instead.

John questions you relentlessly after class, asking why you weren't there and what you were talking about with the teacher and if you were in trouble. It's really quite sweet that he cares so much, you just wish he didn't. You give him a bullshit answer, that you needed to talk to her about the information she was teaching and that it took a lot longer than you thought. He doesn't bring it up for the rest of the day, but he offers to help you study whenever you want, which you don't. You don't need another reason to be alone with him.

That night, John keeps his desk light on later than usual. He's finishing a project for one of his extra classes and you greet the light, happily. For the first time in a while, you sleep like the dead, not waking up at all during the night and feeling rejuvenated in the morning. This gives you an idea but you don't know how well it will go with John. It might mean admitting your deepest fear and you ain't about that life.

The next night, you wait until John's breath is deep and even and you creep out of bed over to his desk. You will yourself to focus on the desk and not the dark corners of the room or what could be lurking behind you. John turns on his side and makes a small moan and you stop dead in your tracks. He's not awake, but he's right there, with the most peaceful look on his face and you flip on the light, illuminating the room a little and getting a better look at him. His long lashes, his deep black hair, those adorable front teeth, it can all be seen better in the light. And you are ready to sleep.

When you wake, John is standing in front of his desk with his hand on his chin. You find your sunglasses and put them on.

"Yo, dork. What the hell are you doing up already?" You yawn.

John half turns towards you, keeping his eyes on his desk. "Yeah, sorry... I, uh... I coulda sworn I turned this light off before I went to bed last night..."

Your heart skips a beat when you remember what you did. If you tell him, you have to explain yourself. If you play dumb, nothing happens.

"Whoa, yeah that is weird."

"Do you think... This place is haunted?" He turns to you with the dumbest smile you've ever seen. You chuck your pillow at him.

"Don't be dumb it was probably just a short in the wiring or you didn't turn it off. You're pretty scatter-brained."

He chucks the pillow back at you and just tells you to get ready, laughing. With that mess gracefully avoided, you do just that. But you obsessively plot out how to get away with this the next night and the night after that, because this a much better sollution than actually dealing with the root of this fear like a sane-minded person!

You solve the threat of John figuring it out by waking up ealier than him to turn it off. You still lose sleep, but you're getting a significant amount more than usual and that is something to be thankful for. And the best part is, John has no idea. This lasts for a few weeks and then John is planning out a new trip to the secret base. You're now immune to John's sponatenous trips out of your room at night. You have the route memorized and the timing down pat. So does Tavros and Karkat and you're all now official members of the group.

Muddy sneakers thud on wet ground as you trudge through the school yard and into the forest. John doesn't say much, but you catch him smiling under his sweater hoodie. It's a nice scene, him covered up from the cold, smiling as he puffs out cold breath. You force yourself to focus on the trail ahead. It's only when John stops and speaks that you allow yourself to think about him, again.

"Uh, hold on a second, Dave. I've been meaning to ask you something." You do stop and you do swallow thickly because nothing about that sounds good. He waits for you to say something and when you don't, he just continues. "Well, okay first I guess I should get this out of the way." He turns more towards you and puts on the most determined, confident face he can muster. you step back a bit. "Dave. You know you can tell me anything, right?" You nod hesitantly. That seems to relax him a bit. "Okay, good. Because I just feel that you don't talk about a lot of things that bother you and like, hey, what are friends for, am I right?" He laughs and you shove your hands in your sweater pocket and scuff the floor.

"Yeah... Yeah, I know." You manage.

"Well if you do know then what's up?" you peek up at him. "You seem kind of off about something, recently and like, you can talk with me if you want. Like, I know you stayed back and talked with a teacher but you never told me how that went or what it was about or if you're in trouble about something. I mean, I'm your roommate! I'd like to think I'd be the first one you'd come to."

'Well, you would be if the issues weren't about you.' You think, bitterly. What you allow yourself to say, is this, "It was nothing... I told you it was about school work."

John laughs and you flinch. "Oh, come on, man! You think I was going to believe you'd be in there talking to a teacher about school work for an entire hour? You? Dave Strider, master slacker? Hell no. I wasn't born yesterday, Dave..."

"Shit." You turn to run and he stops you by stepping forward and reaching out to grab your shoulder.

"Seriously, Dave. You can tell me things. I don't judge. And you know, it might make you feel better."

"I highly doubt that." You say through clenched teeth. His hand drops and you turn back towards the path. "Come on, they're waiting for us." You hear him following you again after a moment.

"It'th about time, you guyth are really fucking late. Do you even have a watch?" Sollux spits at you when you arrive through the bushes.

"Calm down, Lisperella. We made it, didn't we?" You spit back and he scoffs. That's when you notice that the two of you are the last ones there and everyone had been waiting.

You sit next to Karkat who glares at you. You translate that as a greeting, so you nod one back at him. John sits across from you and you know you've fucked up. He looks hurt, though you can tell he's trying his damndest to cover it up. If it were that easy-- to just tell him-- you fucking would in a heartbeat and you wish you could tell him that but even that is too much.

A conversation about something starts up and you drown it out by staring at the flashlights in the middle of the circle. It'd be cooler if you guys could build a fire but that would for sure allert the authorities that you guys were most definitely out in the woods and not in your beds. Karkat nudges your elbow and you look at him, lazily. His eyebrows raise and you know exactly what he wants to know. What did you do to piss John off. He probably thinks you told him that you like him and that's his reaction, which is exactly what you're afraid of. You sigh and shake your head and he stares across the way at John.

"I'm going to talk to him." He says under his breath.

Your head snaps up. "Wh... Are you serious?"

"Well, you're not doing anything right, so let me throw you a fucking bone and show you how it's done." He hisses back.

"You will do no such thing, my man." You whisper. You pause to make sure no one is looking at either of you. "I am figuring this out, myself. I don't need loudmouth assholes with no credentials in this field ruining everything. I got this."

He scoffs. "You sure do."

"Fuck off." You want to leave. You want to leave this forest and this school and go back to live with Bro and just never deal with people, again. Luckily, Karkat drops it and you spend the rest of the time just listening to everyone else's problems and avoiding your own. The only thing on your mind is the awkward walk home and how are you going to fix this? The meeting ends much too soon for your liking and you leave silently with John and everyone else. It's not until you're safely back in your room and getting into bed that he speaks to you, again.

"Do you still not want to tell me?" He says, sitting up in bed and looking down at his blanket. You look away, because it's embarrassing and because it hurts you to see him look this betrayed. You're not well versed in the art of friendship but even you can tell that you've royaly fucked up. But how do you fix it? You rake your figners through your hair and that's when it hits you. Sure, you can't tell him that you want to smooch him so bad it hurts, but you can reveal to him another secret, and one that has been bothering you for much, much longer.

"I never told you why I'm here."

"Yeah you did, you told me you got into a bunch of fights."

"Yeah, but I never said why I got into those fights." He doesn't say anything. He just looks at you with intensity. "For most of my childhood, shit, all of my childhood, I've been forced into fighting for the sake of my pride. You know, like, how kids are fucking shitty and they'll laugh at you for anything. Yeah, well that was basically every day for me. And it just got worse and worse when I started midddle school. Kids got more vicious, they knew more, had more amo to spit at me. Meaner words, ya dig?"

"So, you were picked on a lot?" He says and you can taste the pity.

"That's a fucking understatement. First, my eyes. Most kids is just scared of what they're not used to seeing." You shrug. A vivid memory of a little girl calling you a demon when you chased her on the playground. You didn't even know what a demon was back then, but she started crying and it was your fault so you started crying and that's when you realized that you were different. "Then, it was my size. Dudes grew bigger and picked on the little guys." John nods. "And then... My bro's website was discovered by some idiot at my school. Didn't know until everyone was talking about it and laughing at me and calling me gross and all kinds of stupid kid shit."

"What was the website?" He asks, wide-eyed and wondering.

"Tch. Do you honestly want to know? It's so fucked up, I'm not surprised people were disgusted by me. I mean, I'm related to the guy who invented the smuppet."

"What the fuck is a smuppet?"

"Let's just fucking keep it at that. I'm sure your imagination isn't stunted so much that you can't guess why a bunch of middle schoolers would be grossed out by something like a smuppet." He makes a face like he gets it and you move on. "So, basically that's why I'm not all up on your lap, telling you every little thing that bothers me. Like, I know you're not the kind of guy who'll punch me in the eye because I'm a red-eyed freak, but it's just... you know, precaution."

"So, you just have a hard time opening up to people, that's why you can't tell me?" You nod. "Well, shit! Why didn't you just say so?" He laughs and you blink up at him. "I mean, I'm an understanding guy, I'm not going to force you to do something you're not comfortable with! And here I thought it was because you didn't think we were good enough friends. Phew! I am so relieved, dude, you have no idea." He huffs and laughs, laying back down. He reaches over and turns off the light. You stiffen up, instantly. "Well, I'm glad you told me. I mean, it really sucks that that's what you went through but, aren't things better now? I mean you haven't been in a fight since you got here, have you?"

"Naw." You manage. Your eyes dart to a far corner of the room. You thought you saw something move there.

"And you got me and the guys, so that's something, right?"

"Yeah..." Your eyes shift to the other end of the room and you toy with the idea of asking him to keep his little light on.

"So, I mean this might sound crazy, but it's kind of a good thing that you came here. I mean, sure it sucks ass and the rules are awful but at least you have friends, now."

He's right and the sentiment distracts you from the crippling fear of this dark room.


John yawns and you figure he's dozing off now and you envy that. You need to remind yourself of the good things this school has given you. Sure, you miss your bro like most people miss the fucking point, but you'll be able to see him soon, and then you can show him that you're doing better and you can tell him about John and your other friends and damn it feels good to belong. Even if where you belong is a school for deliquent youths. At least you're all fucked up together.

Chapter Text

You wake one dreary Saturday morning to John pacing the room. You feel around for your sunglasses before opening your eyes and asking him what the ever loving fuck he was doing on a weekend.

"It's happened again, Dave." He says, not even looking up from his walking.

"Oh, no way. Are you sure it happened again? I thought once was enough." You lace your voice with as thick of sarcasm as you can muster while still being completely drowsy. John doesn't acknowledge it so you fling over your covers and get out of bed. He walks up to you and the closeness makes your face tingle with blood.

"Remember when my light was turned on in the middle of the night and I didn't know why?" He gives you a serious look and as fast as the blood went to your cheeks, it drains and you swallow thickly, not trusting your voice enough to speak. "Yeah, well it happened again! Woke up this morning and it was on!" He walks over and inspects his light. You suspect he'd been doing that a lot before you actually woke up. "I've wiggled the switch and the cord and the plug and it doesn't even flicker! But I was so sure I turned it off last night... Hell, I don't even remember using it yesterday." He looks up at you and you flinch. He knows. He knows. He knows. He kn-- "I am almost one hundred percent sure it's ghosts."


"Ghosts." You stifle back laughter and he glares at you.

"Yeah, ghosts. Unless you have some other option, Mr. Strider, by all means, lay it on the table but I have crossed every other possibility off of the list and it has to be ghosts."

"You're insane." You chuckle, shaking your head, more because of the relief of not being caught than his asinine assumption.

"Just like every great explorer and inventor." He gives you a charming smirk and you blink, looking away. "I can't recall and specifics, but you get my point." He laughs and you plop down on your bed and yawn.

"So, if it's ghosts than there's nothing you can do about it, huh?" You offer, hopeful he will just accept it so you can keep sleeping soundly at night.

"No..." He paces again. "No, I can't let them have a false sense of security. Not like this." He sits down on his bed across from you. "I'm gonna get proof."

"Proof." You deadpan.

"I'll leave out a little camera... Or... Or I'll leave out traps or stay up all night!"

"John, you are starting to actually sound insane."

"I'd have to get permission to use my cell, though. I don't know if they'd let me keep it over night. Maybe if I said I was using it for a project? Oh, but I would have to get permission from a teacher as proof. Shit, what do you think, Dave? What would be the best way to go about it?" He blinks up at you with impossibly blue eyes.

"I'd leave it the fuck alone." You manage to say with your normal, steady voice. "Ain't no reason to go through all that shit just because your light turns on by itself."

"But Dave!" He jumps up and crosses the small space between you, clutching your arm. "Ghosts." You blink dully at him behind dark shades.

"No, John. I am cutting you off. No more crazy adventures for no reason. The secret base is enough to get us flogged with a rusty pike. I ain't gonna sit back and watch you throw away your good record just for some off chance you think this has anything to do with ghosts."

"But what if I do get proof and it's enough to show to the world that ghosts are real and I become famous? You could be famous too, Dave!" He whimpers and you sigh, dramatically. "If anything, it'll be fun!" He winks at you and your mouth stretches into a tight, thin line.

"What do you need?" You finally say and he jumps up and cheers. There is no reason why you relented so easily.

"I'm going to have a talk with the guys." He finally says as you get ready for breakfast. there is a distinct feeling of dread filling up your stomach but you push it down and hope it's just you worrying too much.

The prospects of ghost hunting overtake John's conversations. The next few days are filled with him coming up with plans and ideas, scrapping them and coming up with more, and he tells you all of them. You give him as much help as you can without completely crushing his hopes and dreams but you're still worried. There is one way to completely end this and save him the trouble of getting caught doing something he shouldn't, but you're not ready for that. Every time you think about even telling him it's because you can't sleep in the dark, your voice catches in your throat and you cough and sputter something about swallowing spit down the wrong tube. So, this is where you're stuck. Your only hope is that the other guys can help talk some sense into him.

"No, guys it's really not that difficult! Listen, if I could just get something to record video, or... or even audio, then I can leave it out and possibly catch something." He whispers eagerly at lunch on Monday. You watch everyone give each other glances.

"Okay, since no one else will say it, I'll take one for the God damn team. John, what the ever loving fuck do you think you're playing at, here?" Good ol' Karkat! You can't even remember why you didn't like the guy.

John's face falls. "Well, I-I, you know, I just thought that... th-that..."

"That this place is fucking haunted?" Karkat doesn't sugar coat anything. "Listen to yourself and then sit back and slap yourself right across the face because that is the dumbest thing that has ever come out of your mouth."

"Well, wait now, uh, I mean if anything, it sounds kind of, you know... exciting? Maybe?" Tavros speaks up and you see the surprise on everyone's faces. All but Gamzee who doesn't seem to be paying much attention to anything.

"A course the freakin' loser would choose now of all times to say somethin'." You glare at Eridan but internally thank him for his blunt words, even if they make Tavros recoil and look down at his lap. You still cannot let John do something this stupid. You know it will get worse.

'You could just tell him, you fucking idiot, save you all the God damn trouble.' The thought crosses your mind for the millionth time and you bite the inside of your cheek.

"Yo, brother, chill your gills. Ain't nothin' wrong with a little bit of adventure. We bust out of this dump every other week to frolic in the damn forest and steal back sunglasses from the principal. What is a little ghost hunt gonna do to hurt us?" You blink slowly at Gamzee, not expecting any reason to come out of that mouth. First time for everything.

"Well, if you all want to risk your asses on somethin' as dumb as this, then you can just count me out. I ain't sneakin' out of my room to chase nothin'."

"You know, I think I'm gonna have to thide with Eridan on thith one." Sollux finally say something and John deflates right before your eyes. You might actually win this one.

"Aw, man but Sollux, I need your technological expertise!" John whines and Sollux shakes his head, putting up a hand.

"No." John slouches in his seat and you fight back the urge to rub his back. "But, if you do manage to get thomething, bring it to me and I'll help clean it up." He gives John a smile and you slap your forehead.

"This is insane. It's so fucking insane." You mutter to yourself but it's covered by John's loud question.

"Okay, so then who's with me?"

No one answers, not even those who defended his idea. That gives you some hope but if you know John, which you do, you know that that will not stop him. He'd go and do it alone, as long as he had a way of doing it. Which he did. During class, he scribbles fervently on paper, obviously mapping out everything he needed to do and get. By the end of the day, he has a solid plan, outlined nicely on a piece of loose leaf and Sollux's help with getting the proper supplies.

"This weekend, Dave. I'm doing it." He tells you as you both lay in bed. You had been staring at a particularly dark corner when his voice came up out of his side of the room.

"And nothing I could say could make you keep it to our room, right." It wasn't a question. John was going to go big.

He sits up and crawls to the end of his bed, spreading out the paper. "I'm going to place Sollux's cell at the end of the hallway on our wing. I will keep my cell to record some stuff I do as I walk the opposite wing. I did a little bit of snooping after class in the library and googled this place. It's been around for a while! I really lucked out!" He crosses his arms and rests his chin on them, regarding his scratchy outline, fondly. You wish you could see his face more clearly. "Heh, it might be a little scary but I've wanted to do something like this for a long time, so... I mean, there's no time like the present, right?"

"I'll go with you." The words are out of your mouth before you can stop them. You chalk it up to being too afraid to be alone in your room at night but you know it's because you're worried about him getting caught and you can keep an eye out for him while he keeps an eye out for fake ghosts.

John pushes himself up with his hands. "Wait, really?"

You nod but then realize he probably couldn't see that. "Yeah."

He breathes out a laugh and you love the sound of it. He thanks you a lot, jumping across the room and landing on your bed to clap his hands on your shoulders and thank you over and over. You guess it meant a lot more to him than you originally thought. Allowing yourself to smile, you wrestle him off of you bed and he shakily apologizes and gets back into his own bed before thanking you again and explaining the plan in greater detail. You half listen, focusing more on the fact that you'd rather he just stay in your bed.

By the end of the week, Sollux has a hold of not only his cellphone and John's but yours as well and you stare down at it when he plops it into your hand.

"Merry Chrithtmath." John thanks him and turns his on. You thumb at it but nothing more. Surprisingly enough, you have bigger things on your mind than being reunited with your favorite piece of technology. You toy with the idea of texting Terezi or your brother but you decide against it. No need to give them any more reason to get you in trouble. You don't know what the principal will do when he figures out you've stolen your phone back from him.

"There isn't anything I can say that will make you reconsider this suicidal mission, is there?" Karkat says, crossing his arms. John happily shakes his head. Karkat's eyes dart over to you and your shoulders stiffen under their gaze. "And you, Strider? You're almost stupider for getting involved. Weren't you against him doing this in the first place?" You shrug. He stares at you with eyes that say he knows what you're up to but you actively ignore it.

The night of the hunt arrives much faster than you would've hoped. You didn't dare risk turning the light off at night at all this passed week, lest John had set booby traps without you knowing. You quickly fell back into your few-hours-a-night sleep schedule and you hope that you can keep your temper with sleep ripping at the corners of your eyes. John doesn't seem to notice the droop in your morale as he gets everything ready.

"We won't go out until around two in the morning. Think you can stay up that late?" You nod, especially if the lights go off to keep all suspicions away from your room. He keeps you busy with small talk and jokes and wordplay games and time flies almost faster than usual before he's getting out of bed and opening the door slightly to check the halls. You put on a black hoodie and throw his dark blue one over at him. John at least had the brains to think to wear dark clothes and that gives you a bit of a peace of mind. He slips into his sweater and peeks his head out of door again before motioning you to follow.

The lights are dim in the hallways and you know from your visits to the secret base at night that a lot of the halls aren't even lit, especially the ones that lead passed the cafeteria and into the classrooms. John eyes the surveillance cameras but they've never caught you before. You figure no one even bothers to look at them. They might not even work. Still, John creeps slowly to the end of the hall and places Sollux cell in the corner, facing out. He had a recording app installed and it should be good for 20 minutes. That wouldn't be enough for a real ghost hunt but this was John's adventure and Dave was going to sit back and let him figure out all the kinks.

"Okay, listen." Suddenly John is very close to your face and you inch back a little. He whispers a command in your ear and the breath on your neck almost makes you miss everything he says. You repeat it just to make sure you got it all and he nods once before heading down the hallway.

You bring your cell with the same app to the other wing and leave it facing down the hall in the same manor before heading down towards the dark parts of the school.

"You know, in retrospect, I should've just done this with our room first, but this covers more ground, don't you think? Whoa..." He didn't seem to realize how close you were staying to him and when he turns back to look at you you're almost nose to nose. He laughs nervously. "You that scared, huh? The great Dave Strider."

"Shut up and stop putting me on these dumb pedestals... I ain't that great." You mumble and he chuckles a little. You glare at the back of his head, or what you can see of it in the growing darkness.

"Right, right... even your pride won't let you get praise." He shakes his head. "You're a strange kid, you know that?"

"I'd like to think I'm unique." You say as nonchalantly as you can. Truth be told, you didn't like John praising you because it gave you false hope and that shit is for sissies.

"Oh, you're unique alright..." You think it was meant to sound sarcastic but it just came out sounding soft and you hate that your mind goes there instantly. Doesn't matter what he says, if it sounds the least bit affectionate, your heart seems to jump like he's confessing his undying love for you.

A sound catches your ear and you slide up against the wall. John does the same and mouths a question at you. One step at a time, you slide against the wall and peek around the corner. Nothing there, just darkness.

"Unless people patrol in the dark, we're still alone." You sigh, thankful. John fumbles with his phone and turns the app on.

"Then it might be a ghost!" He walks fearlessly around the corner and you hurry to catch up, looking over your shoulder, a little scared.

His pace slows until he's completely stopped and you can hardly see anything. You grope around for him until he hisses for you to sit down.

"I'm going to ask some questions... see if anything shows up." You humor him, as long as you just have to sit there quietly. The darkness seems loud in your ears and you focus on John's soothing voice as he whispers our questions with a few minutes between each. You repeat this every hallway you pass until you see a glowing light.

"John." You grab his shoulder and pull him towards the wall.

"You think someone is out here? It's almost four." He sounds a little bewildered and you keep your eyes on the light.

"Could be someone patrolling." You whisper.

"Could be a janitor."

"But shit, at four in the morning?" You hiss, irritated. If it is someone then you need to find a way back to your room as quickly and quietly as possible.

"Should we investigate?" John sounds a little too eager to get expelled.

"Sshh, just wait." You hear rustling and something wheeling across the floor. John inhales sharply and you can feel sweat bead on your brow. This just got a lot more nerve wracking. You're now completely sure it's a janitor and the sounds are getting uncomfortably close. "John." You say under your breath. He's too far out in the hall, trying to get a good look of whatever it is that's coming this way. You grab his wrist and whirl around and pin him to the wall, panting heavily. This is much too stressful for your liking. The noise gets louder until you hear it right around the corner, you pull your hood up to hide your blond hair and press John harder against the wall. Your breathing stops as you hear sloshing on the floor. It moves away and you press your mouth against John's ear. "We need to get out of here. Slide against the wall and don't scuff your sneakers." You feel him nod and you begin your small journey back to a safer, lighter hallway.

It's not until you reach said hallway that you realize you had John pinned against a wall and you remember how warm he was and how close your height is and how you could feel his breathing against your chest. You become incredibly self-conscious and go to apologize before he's heading down the hallway and snatching up Sollux's phone. He spends the rest of the little adventure quiet and you assume it's because of the shock of almost getting caught. Maybe this will deter him from any other attempts at finding ghosts that don't exist. You hope so.

When you finally slip back into your room it's almost 4:30 and you are exhausted. You kick off your shoes and flop down on your bed, face first. John flings the phones on his bed before taking off his sweater and shirt and climbing into bed. You watch him with one eye. John searches one phone, Sollux's, for the audio and looks up at you. "Should we listen to them now or tomorrow?" He sounds breathless and shaky.

"Well, I would like to sleep sometime soon... that's a few hours of audio we have there, you know?"

He looks down, his brows knitting together. "Yeah, I guess..." He must really want to find something. You doubt he will. If you allow him to listen to these files, it will just leave you both tired and him disappointed.

"We can listen to them with the guys later." You suggest. His head snaps up.

"No way! They weren't here and I don't want them to laugh at me if we come up with nothing... If anyone besides me is going to listen to these and help me, it's you."

You turn your face away from him and close your eyes. "Whatever you say, bro. It's your ghost hunt."

In the end, he crawls under his covers and turns out the light.

"What if we do find something, Dave? What if it's not nice? You know, like an evil spirit..." He says after a while. You weren't asleep. Like fucking clockwork, as soon as the lights went off, you woke up, eyes shifting and everything.

"Then you'll have the proof you want."

"Yeah, but what do we do if we find something evil in this school? I mean, we live here! I don't want to be pulled out of my bed in the middle of the night or flung down the stairs just because I found them..." He sounds small and timid and vulnerable and everything you feel on the inside. "Haha, shit now I'm all nervous..."

"Why don't you turn a light on? You might feel better." You offer and it's partly for your own good. He does and you pass the fuck out.

You dream about following a wall and it goes on and on so far you can't see the end of it. But you keep walking anyway, on hand lightly dragging fingers across it's slick surface. Whenever you look at the wall, where your fingers touch turn to ripples of static and it mesmerizes you. Even though it is dark, you aren't scared like you feel like you should be and there's a warm on your chest that makes you swell with happiness. You hear a whisper that tells you it'll be fun and everything will be okay and you follow that whisper into the darkness, never missing a step. It doesn't seem to end and neither does your determination to keep walking and following that voice and when you wake up you hear yourself say something but you're not sure what. John stirs and blinks at you before shaking his head and greeting you.

Maybe it's just the sleep in your eye but he looks a little flustered. For a second, you feel like what you said could have been his name but there is no way that you would be stupid enough to do that, even subconsciously. Still...

John doesn't give you enough time to dwell on that because he is bouncing back and grabbing for the phones. He crawls onto your bed and looks at you expectantly. You gulp the lump in your throat down and scoot a little closer to hear the audio.

"I'm okay with skipping lunch for this if you are." He looks up a you through black lashes and you can't bring yourself to say anything, so you just nod and he pushes play. The first audio is nothing. He catches a few blips that seem hopeful but you chalk it up to problems with the phone and Sollux getting a few texts.

The next audio file on your phone goes about the same way. John looks dejected as all Hell but you assure him that there's his phone with the questions he asked still waiting to be listened to and that seems to brighten up his spirits.

He bites his lip and hits play and you lean in close to get a better listen. As he lists off his questions, there isn't much to hear until the end, right before you say something about hearing the janitor. John looks up at you with wide eyes and a huge smile on his face.

"Did you hear that?" He say, his voice shaking with excitement. You look back down at the phone in disbelief. He presses rewind and you both lean in, turning your faces to get a better angle at your ears.

It's more clear this time around, once you know what to listen for, and sure as shit, there is a strange whisper after John asks if they are still suffering.

"No fucking way..." You whisper and John breathes out sharply.

"That is so God damn creepy..." He rewinds and you listen again, this time it gives you goosebumps. "God, that is soooo creepy!!!" He doesn't sound too creeped out, but you won't bust his bubble just yet. You're still a little shaken up that you actually possibly caught something. He listens to it again and looks up at you. "What do you think it says?"

"Uhh..." You listen to it once more and blink at him, a chill running down your back. "'Yes?'" He nods and you finish up the tape in case anything else was captured. Nothing pops up other than your frantic whispers about what could possibly be in that other hallway, getting closer. You suddenly remember how bold you were, pushing him against the wall and you look down, hiding your flush and rubbing your eyes with a hand. Can't show him you're embarrassed. It was nothing to him. It was nothing at all.

After all the audio was listened to, John looks at you for a while before sitting up and giving you a soft smile.

"Thanks for doing this with me... I would've definitely gotten caught I had gone alone."

You clear your throat and rub the back of your neck. "It wasn't really anything, you know... just trying to help a bro out, you know?"

"I know you went 'cause you were worried about me. I'm not dumb, Dave!" He laughs and you try to regain your dignity as an aloof, arrogant prick but your soft underbelly was always showing to John. He was just too much of a pal to let you know. "I mean, I wouldn't have thought to hide against the wall or wear dark clothes! So, you know... thanks." He says with a shrug and you blink up at his face. There it is, that soft expression that looks like he could possibly like you as much as you like him, but before you can dwell on it any further, he hugs you tightly and is off your bed in a flash, getting ready for the day.

Chapter Text

“No fucking way.”


“Don’t you dare sit in front of me, with that shit eating grin and tell me that you caught some sort of paranormal whisper on an app on a fucking cell phone.” Karkat pauses to take a breath. Unfortunately, it was just a pause. “And, another thing! What if you two had gotten caught? Did you even think about the consequences of this little charade? You could have been put under so much fucking interrogation- what if they found out about the secret base…?”

You take this opportunity to tune him out and glance over at John who looks, angry? That wasn’t what you were expecting to see.

“Well, we didn’t! So, stop being a buttface about it!” John shoots back.

“‘Buttface…’” Karkat scoffs with a huff. You glance back at John.

“The whisper is definitely a ghost and we didn’t get caught, and no one knows about the secret base so all of this whining is completely moot!” John takes a few deep breaths and his neck snaps in your direction. Your shoulders tense and he stares at you, expectantly. “Right, Dave?”

You just give a little shrug.

“Promise we won’t do it again, mom.” Karkat and John seethe at the same time and that has to be some kind of accomplishment. At least you think so.

“God dammit, Strider.” And Karkat leaves it at that. In fact, they all do. The subject gets changed and you can’t help but feel a little bad for John. He looks pretty dejected that no one else was as excited about it as he was. You can’t really blame them, though. The whisper could be any number of things and they did do something really fucking stupid. That couldn’t be argued. Still, you’d rather be here, after it happened, than have John still wondering why the light gets turned on every night. But guilt gurgles in your stomach. Looks like there’s going to be another reason to not sleep. Fucking great.

It doesn’t help that John sits on his bed and plays the recording over and over again, trying to figure out what it says. Every night.

“It’s not ‘no.’” He mumbles to himself. “Well, it’s not anything with just one syllable. It’s longer than that…”

“Here, let me give it a listen.” You hop onto his bed and take the phone, placing it against your ear. John looks at you with big, doe eyes which you make a point to not gaze into lest you get caught staring into them. You press play and listen intently. “Hmm. I think…” You rewind and play it over for effect. “Yeah, it’s saying… something like… Goooooo to sleeeeep, Joooohn Egbeeert,” john punches you in the arm and pushes you off his bed, huffingly.

Later that week, you get a letter from Bro.

It doesn’t quite process, when the teacher who hands out mail places the envelope in your hands. You stare at it and think that this isn’t really like Bro. Someone had probably made him do it. Or someone is impostering him, playing a prank- trying to bully you even in the safety of this boarding school. You start to shake with anger. Being here for so long made you forget what bullying felt like but that one thought made all of the bad feelings come crashing back and you tighten your grip. You would have torn it up if it hadn’t been for Karkat placing his hand on your wrist and snapping you back to reality.

“Calm down, you raving lunatic, before you rip up something important. We don’t get spam mail here.”

You stare daggers into his hand until he takes it off your wrist. That dangerous glare shifts to the envelope and you, with great force, loosen your grip and somehow make it to your desk.

“So, are you going to stare at it like an idiot all day, obsessing over what could be said on a fucking piece of paper or are you going to open it?”

“I think I’m going to stick with the former there, Vantas.”

Karakt shrugs and goes to sit in the seat in front of you.

You examine the lettering on the back of the envelope. Yep. That’s Bro’s scribble. Writes like a damn doctor, or so the stereotype goes. You flip it back over and hold it up to a light. Maybe if you could catch a word of what it says, then you might calm down enough to open it. Maybe it was Bro reaming you for not writing him first? That’s sappy enough to be ironic enough to be a possibility. It could also be an elaborate plan to get you out of this place.

Unfortunately, it’s none of those things.


Got some letter from that school talking about something having to do with guardian visitations. So. Guess I’ll be coming down for that. How are you hanging. Bet it’s better than home. Hope you’re not getting into any fights. Guess I’d hear about it if you were. No news is good news.


You take careful note of all of the words scribbled out and rewritten and the ink blotches along the lines. Part of you is touched by the fact that he took the time to write to you instead of getting the information to you some other way. Not that you would ever tell anyone you feel that way, especially not said older, much cooler brother.

Karkat shifts and you realize that he’s still here, waiting for you to tell him what it says before he loses his damn mind.

“There’s gonna be some visitation thing or whatever. I don’t know. Guess Bro’s coming.” Did that sound as nonchalant as you wanted it to? Karkat just nods, looking contemplative.

“Well, then that’s a good thing?” He asks, pensively. You can tell he’s tiptoeing around things, trying to keep your fragile feelings safe. Not that he needs to. Not that you get nervous talking about these kinds of things. Like, how you want to make Bro proud, and how you can’t sleep without a fucking light on…

“He’s my bro.” And you leave it at that. Karkat doesn’t push it.

Bro didn’t tell you when this was happening.

You reread the letter again while John takes his nightly shower. It’s not an incredibly long ass letter, anyway. Nothing on the back or in the envelope. Maybe you should just ask someone.

“Parent Visitation? Yeah, they do that here sometimes. Why, is one coming up?” John asks, tilting his head. You catch yourself watching the water run off his hair and think about how cold it must be before blinking and looking him in the eyes. You end up just shrugging.

“Just got a letter about it.” You manage. It’s really fucking inconvenient for you when he comes back into the room with just a towel on. For real.

“Oh? Like from the school or… who was it, your brother, right?” He rubs at the side of his head with a smaller towel, reaching for the letter in your hand. You let him take it, not really caring if he got it wet and smudged the ink. Nope. “Talkative guy, huh? Not like Strider Jr. Haha!”

“You know how it is. Us Strider men have to keep it cool, short, and to the fucking point. We don’t get caught up in pointless details. No way. Straight to the task at hand.”

“Yeah, okay Mr. Cool McHippington.”

“Hippington-- Ah!” Jonh’s hair towel smacks you in the face, sopping wet and smelling like his shampoo. This has just been the weirdest fucking day.

The only person who is able to get you any information on this Visitation event is Sollux and it doesn’t come without some trouble. Nothing was easy with that guy, you had figured out in your short time at the school.

“What do I get out of thith?”

“Uh, how about my unwavering friendship and a fruit roll up?” You offer. Sollux gives you a blank stare through his glasses and then goes back to his handheld. You shift your weight to the other foot and sigh. “It’s just a fucking date, Sollux. You literally don’t have to look up from your game.”

“Date?” Tavros appears out of fucking nowhere, which would have made Dave start a little if he hadn’t been so intent on getting an answer out of the nerdy little fuck he was staring down at. The look on the other boy’s face is enough to make Dave go on a beat-down rampage.

“No, for fuck’s sake. Stop right there I know exactly what you’re thinking, Tav and it’s not that okay just keep walking with your little lunch tray, I have business with Captor.”

“It really isn’t any of… of my business, what you’re into…”

“Holy shit.” You hear Solux snort a laugh from behind his video game and you shoot him a death glare, no shades inhibited. He doesn’t even flinch. How hard was it to get a fucking date for this big event that should be more popular and talked about than it was. Something was off. You need to figure out why.

“Look, I will literally do anything for you- in my power- to get you to tell me when Parent Visitation is.” You glance around and then take a seat across from him, leaning over the table. He glances up once. “I have someone coming to visit me but they didn’t tell me when it was happening so I just want to know so-”

“Tho you can prepare?”

“Y… Yeah…” You think that’s the reason. It’s probably the reason.

Sollux pauses his game and puts it on the table. “Rumor hath it, it’th at the end of thith month.”

“Okay. Cool.” You move to get up but Sollux starts talking again.

“It’th not what you think it ith.” That’s pretty chilling but he doesn’t give anymore information and you’re stuck dwelling on that rather foreboding statement for the rest of the day.

You take the evening recess time to get on the computer and talk to one of your friends. Maybe ask them what they think and if they know anything about it. At least Rose would be able to visit if she ever felt like it. And she was a sharp girl with a lot of knowledge about things no one else ever seemed to care about. Unfortunately, only Terezi is on.

-- gallowsCalibrator [GC] began trolling turntechGodhead [TG] --

GC: W3LL 1F 1T 1SN’T TH3 3V3R 3LUS1V3 D4V3 >:]
GC: D1D 1 S4Y TH4T TH3 L4ST T1M3?
TG: yeah im just chilling on the computer right now which is great because i was wondering if you knew anything about the visitation at this school
TG: maybe you could do some snooping and then get back to me
TG: this sounds like some weird mission im putting you on as if youre some amazing hacker that used to work for the government but then you found out too much and they were going to kill you off but you got away and now you do underground jobs for anyone who can pay you enough
TG: but you dont ever give your real identity away
TG: you just go by
TG: tanktop
TG: ive always been a good student i dont know where you and rose get this idea that i am some moron who only cares about what other people think of me
TG: i s2g tz…
GC: 1’M K1DD1NG! 1’M K1DD1NG!
TG: yeah maybe
TG: not that ive found
TG: its kinda weird
TG: like the one person who knows that i asked just said
TG: it’th not what you think it ith.
TG: he has a lisp
TG: i was doing it for added effect.
TG: but yeah thats all i found out
TG: oh and that its supposedly at the end of this month
TG: like does no one care about seeing their families like
TG: i know theres bound to be a shit ton of homies who dont like their fam but like there has to be guys in here who do
TG: like john is pretty close with his dad but he doesnt know jack shit
TG: which is kind of unsettling now that i think about it
TG: maybe i should ask him about it…
TG: alright cool thanks tz

That was almost a waste of time. But nothing is a waste of time when it’s with Terezi, you’re pretty sure.

When John gets out of his usual shower and comes back into the room, and when you try your very hardest not to oggle your good friend and roommate’s slick, wet upper body, you bring up the visitation thing again. To your surprise, he doesn't seem that perturbed by the subject and it being the main thing you've been talking about since you got the damn letter in the mail.

“Sollux told me the date, or as close to the date that he knew, I guess.”

“Oh that’s great! When is it? I think my dad might come? Or I should ask to call and ask…” John opens his top drawer and pulls out some boxer briefs and you slyly note the white clouds all over the soft blue of the fabric. It’s disgustingly cute and disgustingly John.

“Do we get phone calls here?” You say to distract yourself and prove that you’re still in this conversation and not all over the fact that he’s half naked in the same room as you with underwear in his hand.

John just shrugs, completely oblivious to the storm that is your feelings. “I think so? I’ve never tried asking before but if it’s with a family member and it’s supervised then I don’t see why not? It’d be kinda fucked up if they denied us that, you know? Like we’re worse than criminals in jail, or whatever.”

“If the fucking belt fits.” John laughs at that and you crack a smile.