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Thousand-Yard Stare

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Bro woke to footsteps; and as always was instantly alert. “Dave? What the fuck...”

Suddenly the futon was full of shuddering, sobbing thirteen-year-old; and though it had been a few years Bro still knew exactly what the hell to do. Before his brain could even process the situation, he already had his lil bro cradled in his lap. He knew better than to ask what was wrong, and simply held him close. Fuck, what had made him this hysterical?


“You look a little under the weather, Strider.” She said it in a conversational tone, but truth be told, Rose was rather curious and concerned. Her friend was pale, shaky and eerily still. “Nightmares?” She slid onto the bench next to him – there really was nothing comfortable on this asteroid.

He didn't answer her, face unchangingly stoic. That in itself was a little creepy, the fact being that as much as Dave prided himself on his 'pokerface', it hadn't take Rose long at all to realize that he was almost unequivocally awful at it. His mouth frequently twitched, and his so-called deadpan more often portrayed nervous confusion than anything else.

She sighed, deciding a more direct approach was necessary. She placed a gentle hand on his tense shoulder. “... there's no shame in having them. We all know you saw far more during the game than any of the rest of us, after all.”

Dave started to chuckle. At first she thought he was crying, as he kept his mouth clamped shut and shook from it, but before she could open her mouth to say anything he was actually laughing.

She'd always imagined that her friend's laugh would be, well... cute, if he could be made to do it. Awkward and vaguely embarrassed like everything else about him. Now, god... he wasn't just laughing but she could see his teeth, and something about it terrified her to the core.

It sounded oddly empty.

“But you're the seer, Rose.” He said, face contorted with that horrible smile. “You're the seer, you're supposed to see.”

“Dave, are you...”

“You were supposed to see!” He actually shouted it, and she jumped. She'd never regarded Dave as something capable of intimidation before, but now... he seemed almost a force of nature.

She was on her feet, staring at the boy that should have been her friend. He was not Dave, not right now, he couldn't possibly be! She started to back away, but he stood as well and advanced towards her, every inch of height he'd gained on her now a mile.

His expression had fallen, and he was shaking violently again. From the tilt of his brows, he looked like he was about to cry. Perhaps only a temporary psychosis, a fascinating but terrifying phenomenon no doubt likely in these sorts of cabin fever situations... she gave pause, tilting her head to observe him.

Dave reached out with trembling hands, and with only a moment's hesitation, she took them. Yes, he seemed alright now, just scared. She should be able to find some technique to prevent another episode like that.

“I'm s-sorry, Rose...” he choked. “S-so sorry...”

Rose gave him a serene smile, then squeezed his hands gently. “It's quite alright, brother dear. I'm sure I can do something for you.”

“... I need to do something for you...” The desperation in his voice was rather cute, it was just like him to need to make any assistance up to her.

She raised a brow at him. “If you insist.”

Slowly, he released her hands raising one to her face. Rose wondered vaguely if he was going to attempt to kiss her – more confused cabin fever shenanigans, but she was sure she could make it out of that with minimal awkwardness – when she was suddenly spun so quickly that the next thing she knew, her back was pressed to his chest and one of his large hands was crushing over her mouth and nose.

Her reaction was instinctive. She did not for a moment think it a joke, Dave was not the type to ever joke that way, so she instantly began clawing at his hand with her long nails, struggling for all she was worth, kicking, trying to scream. In the small part of her mind that was not panicking she was sure he'd snap out of it any minute, it was just the psychosis again, when he heard her muffled screams surely he'd come to his senses and let go.

“I-It'll hurt l-less this way...” his breath was hitching with sobs and her eyes widened as she realized he was utterly aware of what he was doing. She tried to scream his name, but it was only a soft muffled sound. Her ears were ringing and her lungs were burning.

Rose could feel his blood on her fingertips as she clawed desperately, vision starting to go fuzzy and indistinct. Her struggling weakened, though he was so much stronger than her that it'd been hopeless from the start.

She fought to draw breath against his palm one last time, then her body started to jerk. Dave pressed his forehead to her shoulder with a harsh sob, cradling her as she finally went limp. “I'm s-so sorry... but I've figured it out, Rose... it h-has to be this way.... we c-can't... we can't win...”



It was such a shy, hesitant little voice; but even if the list of people it could have been wasn't ridiculously small, John would have recognized it anywhere. If nothing else it was the soft Texan accent that gave it away. He span on his heel so quickly he almost tumbled over, heart swelling with excitement. “Dave!” He charged down the hill at full tilt, crashing into his best friend with a hundred percent of his admittedly not inconsiderable weight.

Dave could not possibly keep his footing, landing hard on his ass before both of them rolled a few more feet down the hill. John was giggling like an idiot and still clinging to him, but he would considering he hadn't been the one landing on his ass. He immediately started rambling, bubbling over with excitement.

“Dave! I just can't believe you're finally here and you're so tall and you... uh, what's wrong?” His face went from joy to concern in an instant – Dave was sobbing quietly, and not even trying to hide it. He usually went to pretty fucking great lengths to hide his emotions, so...

“Oh... oh, oh god. Oh fuck... Dave... did you just... your bro... I-I'm so sorry!” John sat up, rubbing his hands over his face. Wow, he was such a fuckup, he should've realized... he had to fix it. He held out his arms, giving Dave a pleading look. “Here... come here, Dave. Please. Right now. This'll... it'll totally just be between us guys, right? My lips are completely sealed. Tight as my dad's tupperware!”

Dave stayed where he was, not responding, and John crawled over to him. He did not intend to give Dave a choice, it was obvious he'd come to John for some bro comfort and it was all his stupid fault for being a big idiot about it. At first Dave flinched almost violently away from the touch, but John wrapped his arms around him and just squeezed him tight and the other boy finally gave in. He curled against his friend and wept.

John wordlessly hugged him. Even the best pranksters know things have to be serious as hell sometimes. It took a while, but Dave finally started to quiet, slumping weakly against him.

“... you gonna be okay, man?” He said it in a softer voice then he'd known he had. Dave tilted his head to look up at him, neurotic confusion clear even through the shades. His cheeks were a puffy, red disaster, but before John could think much more than that Dave had crushed their lips together.

It was a desperate kiss, and wet and salty and unbelieveably clumsy... but it wasn't so bad.

“Wow...” John was completely lost for words, placing a slightly shaky hand on Dave's face. “Wow, Dave, I...”

“I'm glad I got to do that.” Dave's voice was a dry husk.

John's mouth was still working to form more words as caledscratch appeared in Dave's hand, quicker than blinking. In a flash the extended tip of the blade was through John's chest, in the exact location of his heart.

It was instant – and, when Dave spun back the sword's time – nearly bloodless, as the blade ceased to exist and brought the external wound with it. Still, tears ran anew down his sore and swollen cheeks, and he dropped the sword from his numb hand, wrapping his arms around John to lower him gently to the ground. He straightened the boy's clothes, smoothing them almost reverently even as his tears splashed down and soaked into the fabric. He closed John's wide blue eyes with gentle fingers.

He would have curled up then and there and cried, even the few drops of blood on John's shirt enough to make bile rise in his throat, but he had not enough tears left and not enough in his stomach to vomit, so he simply summoned his timetables to his sides. Trying to control them with hands that shook so much was an undertaking, but with one last look at his best friend's body, he spun away.


“D-Dave! Oh my god...” Jade nearly tripped over her own feet, clumsy with her concern as she scrambled over the uneven ground to get to her friend. “I saw, oh my god, is John alright?!” She bit at her fingertips, wide eyed and pleading as she stumbled to a stop in front of him. She'd seen John all limp in Dave's arms, surely hurt, and got only more worried when neither of the guys answered her pesters.

“He's just havin' a lil nap.” Dave's flat tone trembled and cracked, and it was then that she saw the tear tracks on his face. Both hands went to her mouth as she really took him in, and she chewed her nonexistent nails right at the quick when she saw the strain in his posture, the tight fists at his sides that shook so violently. The bottom dropped right out of her stomach.

“Dave, Dave what happened to you...?” she reached out a frightened hand to grab one of his, instinctively; trying to still the shaking and maybe calm him.

The movement seemed to stir him into action. The shaking doubled, even his breath trembled now, and a rough hand came up lightening quick, pawing at her face, tangling in her hair. “Shhh... S-shh no...” His other hand was there now too, and she twisted, a pang of guilty fear in her chest. Something was very wrong with him, how had she not seen it before? He was squashing her cheek with one hand, the other petting her uncomfortably hard, fingers catching in her hair and pulling it.

“Dave! Stop, you're hurting me!” She said firmly, hating herself for fearing him. She dared not even think of what he might have seen to make him act this way. Oh god, John...

He acted as though he hadn't heard her, though a few fresh tears escaped from under his shades.

Acting on instinct, Jade wrapped her arms around him and hugged the desperate boy tight. It was obvious he needed her, needed someone, so she relaxed against the chest of her longtime friend. The hands on her cheeks became immediately more gentle, no longer gripping, and she sighed with relief. She let him stay silent for a few moments, as clearly he was not ready to talk about anything.

“Jade?” his voice was slightly husky, far more level than before yet utterly broken.

She looked up at him obligingly, summoning up her brightest, sweetest smile for him. “Yes?”

“... I think you oughtta have a nap too.”

Jade barely had time to raise her eyebrow and purse her lips in a questioning 'o' before his hands clamped down tightly on her face; and he twisted with all his might. The crack was loud and final. As soon as it sounded, Dave's grip came loose of it's own accord, the body crumpling at his feet. He was left staring blankly at his empty palms.


Bro's usual silent vigil had not worked, so he'd moved on to rocking and gentle shushing like he'd used when Dave was very young. Finally, he had to give in and ask the big question; starting to get worried as hell.

“What's up?” He kept sobbing on Bro's shoulder, taking no notice, so the man just tried again. “Dave, what the fuck's the matter?”

“I. I c-can't...” Dave choked, and Bro's stomach tightened with worry; he could hear the rawness in that throat.

He kept concern out of his voice, however – leaving it cool and untouchable as ever it was. “... hey. What can't you do?” he nudged the boy's shoulder gently when he didn't get an immediate response. “Dave.”

Finally, Dave looked up. He wasn't wearing his shades, and Bro's eyes had adjusted to the dark. The man's jaw dropped when he met a gaze that saw into forever in the face of his baby brother.

Bro did not hear the click. With a final rough sob, Dave pulled the trigger. Gore sprayed his cheek and forehead, but the fucking bullet missed him, and feeling it zip past his ear made him break into a fresh torrent of sobbing.

“I c-can't w-watch ev'rybody die n'more...”

Dave raised the gun again, needing both hands to keep it steady. He pressed the cold barrel into his swollen, red eye socket.

He pulled the trigger again.