The room’s dark when you wake up, illuminated only by some yellow streetlight shining through the window, and the duvet covering you does nothing to stop the cold sweat that’s soaking your skin. You kick the blanket off quickly, desperately, and the movement causes the sleeping man next to you to stir.
“Dave?” He must’ve been fast asleep until you woke him up, and his voice is slow, heavy, and his words slurred. “Dave, ‘zzat you?” He turns over, and you stiffen up before he can put those tired blue eyes on you.
“Yeah, it’s me.” You lean back against the shitty particleboard that serves as a makeshift headboard for your bed, trying to look as casual as possible. He blinks once, twice, and then grins that goofy, bucktoothed grin that seems like it’d be just plain dorky if he wasn’t at least twice your age, with a mustache that would have made any old-timey boxer jealous, and wraps an arm around your waist. He only does this when he knows that something’s wrong, so you try to bullshit your way out of this; you don’t need him to worry about you, not now and especially not at his age. You don’t want to give him a heart attack or some shit. “Fucking blanket’s too damn hot.”
He “hmm”s, nuzzling his face into your hip, and fuck, does that mustache of his tickle. “Bad dream ‘gain, huh?” he murmurs, and you tense up a bit. You nod, a tiny, almost imperceptible movement of your head, because he knows, he always does, and there’s another sleepy “hmm” buzzing against your hip before he moves to sit up and look you dead on in the face with those sleepy old eyes of his. “How’d you die this time?” He asks, quietly, and as much as you’d like to forget the dream (nightmare) you just had, you can’t deny him an answer.
“There was a dog,” you say, voice barely above a mumble, but you know that he can hear you anyway, because the room is almost silent otherwise. “A big black dog, except like one of those shitty anthro ones with bird wings that you see on DeviantArt, except it actually looked pretty fucking decent. The eyes were in the right place, even if he was wearing pointy-ass anime shades, and he had this crazy ripped-up rainbow costume and a fucking shitty-ass sword and--” John nudges you in the side, not hard, just enough to tell you that you’re getting off track, that it’s the middle of the goddamn night and you’re both tired and that he really wants to hear about your shitty dream but you’ve got to get back to sleep at some point in the near future.
“I was asleep on the floor, but it wasn’t really me, ‘cuz I was thirteen or some shit and wearing a suit that looked like it was made out of a pool table--”
John interrupts you again, this time with that breathy, chortling laugh that most sitcomes reserve for the comical grandpa. “Dave,” he manages between short whuffs of air. “Dave, why the hell were you wearing a suit? I can barely get you to put on a shirt with buttons!”
“Dude, lay off.” You shove his shoulder lightly, frowning. “It’s a fucking dream, all right? And it was a sweet suit, man, I’d totes wear that if it existed.” John stops laughing, but he’s still got that dopey, buck-toothed grin on his worn face. You continue with your story now that he’s quiet again. “Anyway, this freaky anime dog-bird-dude came at sleeping sweet-suit kid-me, I woke up and bam--” You snap your fingers. “Throat’s ripped open like a bunch of presents at a birthday jam for a six-year-old and I’m watching myself bleed all over my sweet felt duds.” You slump back against the cheap headboard of your bed, and John’s arm wraps around you in an awkward attempt at a hug.
“That’s not so bad. The one three nights ago was worse,” he starts, and you can’t help but laugh, a bitter sound that isn’t as gentle or happy as his because you are not happy right now.
“You weren’t there,” you tell him, voice hitching like you’re going through puberty all over again (and it wasn’t that long ago that you were going through it for the first time). “You couldn’t feel it-- the fucking fear , or knowing that I was about to die, just another doomed Dave in the popular and long-running sitcom series of dying Daves, airing this Wednesday at ten on AB fucking C.” You laugh again, growing hysterical as your heart accelerates in your chest because it hurts, it fucking burns to remember how you felt in that hellhole of a nightmare, how you feel every goddamn night that you have these dreams, and they are so regular, almost constant , and it’s starting to drive you up the wall. You can feel John’s chest, big and warm and hairy like he’s some sort of link between black bears and homo sapiens, squishing itself against your clammy, hairless torso like he can somehow calm you down just by reminding you that he’s there, and dammit, he’s right, because it grounds you. You take a deep breathe, the shuddering sort of breath that makes you feel like you’re a scared five year old hiding from a thunderstorm again, and exhale slowly.
When you’ve done a few more deep breathe-slow exhales, John rubs one of his big, soft hands on your stomach, in a soothing motion that’s better suited for a little kid with a stomachache. “They’re dreams, Dave,” he tells you while you focus on breathing, on the feel of the older man against you. He laughs a little, and you know that this time, it’s because he’s nervous and worried, worried about you . “There aren’t any shitty furries with swords coming after you in your sleep.”
The room settles into silence as you calm down, and you start to drift back to sleep when John speaks up.
“Do you ever dream about kids?”
Now it’s your turn to laugh. “Dude, you’re already got a kid. That one dude who doesn’t like me hanging around, remember?”
“I mean other kids.” John removed his face from your side to look up at you. “Kids arriving on meteors.”
You give him an incredulous look. “You haven’t been in my stash again, have you?”
“I’m serious, Dave!” John frowns, and he looks just as dopey when he’s annoyed as he does when he’s happy. “What if a kid came out of the sky on a meteor and just... crashed? And you died, just like that?”
“Scary shit, man,” you tell him. “That’s serious Spielberg shit right there, complete with shitty animatronics and bright green lighting effects.”
John chuckles, pushing you lightly. You slide down a little, making yourself comfortable next to him with your head on a pillow that is as plush as his rump. The room’s silent again, and before you can start drifting off again, you say, as quietly as you can:
“I don’t want to die, John.”
There’s a pause, and you think he might’ve fallen asleep again, so you decide to doze, too.
“I know.” And John’s arm tightens around your waist. “I don’t want you to die, either.”
The way he says that makes you think, but before you can ask him if he’s afraid of dying, he starts talking again.
“I don’t think I could live without you, Dave,” he says quietly. “And that isn’t some sappy movie bullshit. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you. Everything just feels...” He flounders for words for a minute before picking up his flow again. “Everything feels better with you, like there was something missing from the world before I had you.”
“You’re gonna die someday, dude,” you say, not even acknowledging whether you feel the same way (you do, he knows you do, you just don’t need to put words to it). “You’re going to die, and--”
“You’ll be okay,” John reassures you before you can finish that sentence. “You’ve got a movie deal, you don’t need me. You’ll figure out how to stop her.” His voice grows quieter with each word, and before you can ask him who he means, or what you’re supposed to figure out, you hear the soft snore that tells you that he has somehow managed to fall asleep while having a conversation with you. It’s not really all that surprising or unique; it’s one of those old man things that makes him a little less hot and amazing, but it’s endearing as all fuck.
So what if you have horrible nightmares where you die a hundred different deaths? So what if John’s at least twice your age and is probably-- definitely going to die before you do? Right now, you’re here, you’re alive, he ’s alive, it’s 1994, and you have a long way to go before either of you die.