Your name is Dave Strider.
And your best friend is dying in front of you.
“Dave! Dave it hurts!!”
His eyes are squeezed shut, tears beading at the corners with his hands fisted in the sheets. His body is wracked with tremors and his skin is tingling, hot then cold, then hot again.
You flounder, standing over him, watching him squirm and convulse in pain, body spasming and voice hoarse from screaming. You can’t stop the pain, you can’t even ease it. You can only watch, eyes wide with horror, and yell at yourself for letting this happen.
How could you let this happen?
“DAVE!” he screams, arching off the bed with smoke pouring off his skin and veins popping out as the blood within them burns and sizzles. He kicks out his feet and hits you in the leg. It hurts, and it’s enough to pull you from your stupor.
“I’m sorry,” is all that tumbles out of your mouth. It’s all you can say as you lean down and gather his burning body into your arms, his skin ice cold then broiling then ice. His breath against your neck, ragged and punctuated with whines, whimpers and sobs.
“Make it stop!” he wails, clawing at your back as his body twists and writhes against yours, tears coursing down his face and evaporating with a sizzle against the stovetop that has become his skin.
“I can’t!” you shout. And it’s more like you’re wailing yourself because you can feel the wetness in your own eyes and you’re cursing yourself over and over and you can’t deal with him crying like this. Him screaming like this. You can’t deal with it even though you know it will be over soon and you know what its results will be.
And then your traitorous eyes wander over to the shotgun on your dresser, and you wonder if it wouldn’t be better for you both if you did make the pain stop. The pain he’s in now, and the pain he’ll be in when the transformation is complete, when he realizes that his entire world has gone up in flames and his life’s about to fall apart.
“Dave.” He’s sobbing, but the twitching and twisting of his body is waning and you can feel the heat fading from him as his skin and blood cools. All the tension is leaving him and he is going limp against you. Your eyes wander back to the gun and you realize that this is your last chance. If you don’t do it now you’ll never do it, and you’ll have doomed your best bro to a life of being damned, hated and hunted.
Slowly, gently, you untangle yourself from him and lie him back down on the bed. He has gone silent. He’s not shaking anymore. He’s not crying. He’s perfectly still and his skin stopped alternating between Dante’s fucking inferno and Antarctica and is now weirdly cool. Not freezing cold, but too cold to be human.
You stare at him.
His eyes are closed and you can see the veins in his eyelids. You can see the veins on every visible inch of skin. From his strong, well-muscled arms to his pale neck and the bits of leg poking out from beneath his jeans. His hair is a mess as usual, looking like he either just had sex or tried to house a family of birds up there. His glasses are still on but they’re skewed and it’s simultaneously adorable and making you want to cry. It’s John. It’s all just so John.
Fuck you can’t do this.
One hand goes up to run itself through your hair, the other twitches at your side as you continue to throw glances at the gun sitting on your dresser.
Fuck. Fuck. You need to do this. You can’t not do this. It’s John. John the happy-go-lucky goofball who is so kind and sweet it should be illegal. You can’t let him turn into what society sees as a monster. You can’t put him through the hell you and your bro go through. What the Trolls downtown go through. You can’t.
You stand up.
You walk to your dresser.
Your hand closes around the gun.
You stand and shake.
You swear at yourself and pick up the gun. You almost drop it. You put it down, wipe your sweaty palm, and then pick it up again.
You walk back to your bed and sit down beside the body of your best friend in the entire world.
You slowly raise the gun and level it with your best friend in the entire world’s forehead.
He opens his eyes.
You’re suddenly met with a familiar brilliant blue. All wide and sparkly and looking like a fucking summer sky. Except the familiar blue is also different. The pupil is slit like a cat’s and there’s a silver ring edging it. He looks at you, confused. His eyes flicker from your face, to the gun, then back.
“Dave?” he whispers, his voice hoarse and gravelly and sounding like he just woke up from a six-month hibernation. “What’s going on?”
And then there’s that voice. That same voice you’ve heard laugh and giggle at your ironic gestures and pout and cry at shitty movies and the one who can talk your ear off but also listen and you can see those adorable rabbit teeth of his and oh shit you can’t.
“Fuck,” you drop the gun. Probably not the smartest thing but the safety is still on and all you can see are those huge baby blues and- “Fuck.”
And then you’ve wrapped your arms around him again. Pulled him upright and against your body, hugging him close like you’re afraid something is going to rip him away from you. Your teeth dig into your lip and your head is ringing with you cussing yourself out but you don’t care. Because you need John here, in your arms, and not with a bullet in his brain.
He shudders against you and you are reminded that John is different now. That he has been changed and warped and is no longer human and that this is a huge problem and is going to fuck so much shit up and-
He shudders again and you feel his hands grab at your shirt. He opens his mouth against your neck and you feel his breath, cool and icy, against your skin. Teeth that are far sharper than they should be graze the area and you hear him release a needy whine.
And then there’s a burst of pain as he bites down, his teeth digging into your flesh and his grip on your clothes tightening. You hiss and jerk backwards, but it’s you who’s locked in his embrace now and his arms are around you as his lips move against your throat.
The draining sensation is powerful and painful and at the same time sends all sorts of feelings shooting through you. Your eyes roll back in your head when he sucks and if you could form any sort of coherent thought you’d be seriously ashamed of the moan you just made.
He drinks deeply and fast and soon you’re slumped against him, eyes half closed as your best friend in the entire world goes to town on your neck like it’s a vintage wine and he’s a Lalonde. Your body twitches and shudders and a small part of you wonders if you’re a masochist or if it’s an actual a side effect of being fed upon. Because you are barely aware of the pain through this strange pleasurable haze that’s descended and you’ve definitely been making more of those shameful moans.
You’re so out of it that you barely register when he pulls away. It takes awhile for you to pull yourself back into awareness. Slowly, the pleasure fades and you become more aware of the throbbing pain in your neck. You feel yourself being laid down on your back and at the same time sound bleeds back into your world and you hear heavy sobbing from directly above you.
It takes awhile to place it but the second that you realize it’s John you haul yourself back into consciousness so fast you practically put yourself in a time warp.
Your eyes snap open and you try to simultaneously sit up and say his name, but all you do is kind of jerk a little on the bed and gurgle.
…Shit. How much blood did he take? You can’t even fucking feel your fingers.
“I’m so sorry!” he’s sobbing, and though your vision is blurred you can see his face over yours and those bright blue no-longer-human eyes and all the tears dripping from them.
“I-I can’t b-believe I…I…I’m s-so sorry! I-I’m a m-monster! I-I’m one of th-them a-and I-I….Y-you-!”
He’s hysterical and hiccupping and you manage to muster enough energy to raise a hand and smack him in the face. You were actually trying to give him a comforting pat but you lost control of your hand on the way down and it fell kind of heavy.
He stopped babbling though, so whatever.
“N’monstrrr,” you slur, blinking lethargically and wishing for the world to stop fucking spinning. “Still m’Jhn. Al’ays m’Jhn.”
God that was horrific. And he’s still crying but now he’s clutching your hand like it’s his last lifeline and you guess it kind of his.
Because what the fuck is he supposed to do now?
Your eyes wander to the area you know the shotgun is and your stomach twists painfully. There really was no way that you were going to kill him. Not John Egbert. Not the adorable derp with a heart of gold and a smile as bright as the sun. Not your best buddy of seven years.
But what the fuck is he supposed to do now?
The city you live in is riddled with ‘taint’. People who are said to be ‘tainted’ with some form of Darkness. The Trolls are the main ones, living in the city’s lower regions and staying the hell out of sight. Others include those ‘mutated’. It’s not hard to spot a tail or a pair of furry ears among the crowds of Derse however carefully hidden they appear to be. And of course, the actual Agents themselves, the dark demons haunting the streets. There are many different types of Agents, and getting attacked by one will either leave you dead or infected with some dark illness.
Like your best bro, who has been turned into a Rainbow Drinker.
“Calm down,” you mutter, and you’re already feeling a bit better and less light-headed which is good because you were getting fucking tired of your bed pretending to be a merry-go-round. You manage to sit yourself up and shift yourself closer to him. Your hand is still in his and his skin is icy cold against yours. His face is streaked with tears and he’s still hiccupping and he sort of collapses into your chest, like all the life’s gone out of him. Which it kinda has.
“What am I going to do, Dave?” he wines, face buried into your shirt, “I’m…I’m…,”
“Yeah I know,” you answer. And then you wince because that was kind of abrupt and rude and he really doesn’t need this right now. But you’re almost as stressed out about this as he is and your fast recovery-ability only goes so far and him leaning against your chest is kinda not working too well with how weak and jelly-limbed you’re feeling.
But you don’t say any of that. You just wrap an arm around his shoulders and rest your chin on top of his head. Blood loss be damned.
“You’ll be okay,” is what you say, even though you know it’s a lie. “We’ll be okay.”
But you won’t.
No one in this godforsaken city is.
Because despite making up almost a third of the fucking population those who are ‘tainted’ are ostracized and persecuted mercilessly. The Trolls squat in filth and fear in the deepest pits of Derse to avoid being killed by zealous ‘anti-Darkness’ fighters. Those with mutations hide them desperately or risk being attacked and beaten in the streets. People who have been infected drop off the face of the earth. Because the infection is usually one that makes it impossible to live among normal humans any longer.
Like craving their blood.
“It’ll be okay,” you repeat again. “We can get through this.”
You’re lying to him.
You’re lying to yourself.
Behind your shades your eyes darken and you go back to cursing every god in heaven as well as those damn Agents and yourself as well. Yourself for letting this happen.
Because it’s your fault.
Of course it’s your fault.
You with your red eyes and black wings and dark abilities. Fucking Child of Misfortune, that’s what you are. And now your misfortune has leaked onto one of the most important people in your life.
You hold him as he cries and promise to fix it. Even though you know you can’t.
Because your hell, the hell of every tainted being in Derse, is now his hell as well.
And there’s nothing you can fucking do to change it.