He feels sick and disgusting, all the time. Sick of himself and disgusted with his own self-loathing. The naturally, too-bright blonde hair is blinding in the mirror, and the scattered freckles are not flattering at all. And the freakish red eyes that greet him every. Fucking. Morning. They're putrid. Nasty. Who has red eyes? Natural red eyes? Satan and freaks, he assumes and the shades go on. He's also not proud of how visible his ribcage is - that every curve sticks out to greet the fabric that shrouds his body. Also, who lives in Texas while being whiter than the fucking moon? Shouldn't he had developed a tan by now? Yes.
Dave Strider is a goddamn freak.
At best, his raps are shitty. His music is fucking terrible and literally he's only produced three or four okay songs over the period of four years. With a sword? World Record for the shittiest sword fighter in America. And it's true. How's he supposed to be any good if he can't even leave a scratch on Bro? How's he supposed to be any good if his body presents the proof - through a million bruises and scars - that he's generally, absolutely terrible? That's just it. He's not good at all. Dave's photography is... almost as bad as his drawing skills, which are absolutely terrible overall.
Dave Strider is a goddamn freak, a failure, and overall a waste of a human corpse.
John thinks he's kind of cool, albeit a little weird and outlandish. Rose can examine him like an open book, see all his insecurities. But she doesn't add a comforting word or two, just laughs and calls him a prick. She claims this to be a form of affection ("tough love.")
Jade Harley is a new girl at school who he can often times find passed out in the schoolyard, or on the track.
She's nearly as tall as him - which is kind of unsettling for some reason. She's a good friend of Rose's and a companion to John. To him, she's an absolute mystery that he can't even begin to solve.
Jade Harley is all smiles even when tossing around insults. Mad or upset or happy she's always expressing something on her rosy face. Apparently, she's from an island somewhere in the Pacific, but the dark skin and incredible stamina all came naturally. Bright green eyes obscure the hardened and strong look on her face, though the insistent smiling plays a roll in that too, he guesses. Dark, tangled hair rolls down to a few inches below her shoulders. Jade's athletic, loves to rough house and to just touch, and dogs. Bitch is crazy about puppies.
But the dog thing isn't all that of a problem. All the goddamn touching she insist upon is what bothers the fuck out of him. Sure, from John he's used to the frequent fist-bump and the occasional hug, and Rose he's used to the cocky, sisterly kiss on the cheek and the rare, comforting pat on the shoulder. But he's not used to getting tackled to the floor for a surprise wrestle or hug. Or getting pecked every which way by cracked and smiling lips. "She has a lot of love to give, Dave," Rose would say.
They hang out very little alone. Usually John and/or Rose will accompany Jade to his apartment or wherever the destination is. She is far too energetic for him; who'd rather spend a night playing video games and watching TV than he would shooting guns and camping. "You know, Dave," she says as she loses another digital brawl. "You can stop being so careful around me!" Jade smiles wide. "We're friends, okay?"
He freaks out because she can see past the facade and shitty attempt at coolness and Jesus fucking Christ is he always this obvious? Can anybody and everybody tell how much of a freak he is? Do they all recognize that he's hardly more than a bubbling mess of insecurities? No, no, he says as he breathes low and deep. They're blind and reckless and uncaring and Jade only saw because she's desperate for him to trust her. But fuck, how much did she observe? How long has she been suspecting his own self-hate? Possibly from the day they met. Dave Strider suffers through a night full of fears and restless sobbing.
He decides to give her what she wants and invites her over, alone, to his apartment. Bro taunts him about his supposed girlfriend and his reply contains a colorfully vivid description that weirds Jade out. Later he'll explain he was kidding.
The two play a few video games, and Jade is terrible at first-person shooters and impeccable at Grand Theft Auto. She's never held a controller for this sort of thing at any point in her life, so Dave spends nearly the first hour of her visit explaining joysticks and the A, B, Y, and Z buttons. She eventually catches onto his ironic act, faster than John did, and makes her own silly attempts at it. Remarkably, he laughs, honestly, and gives her small praise for her replies - though, honestly, they're not that good. Grade wise, he would give her a D, a B for effort, and an A for being fucking hilarious.
She comes over a lot after that. Rose and John still venture over from time to time, but apparently John had asked her out and they'd been too caught up with themselves to play Bro's shitty Xbox games. Whatever, Dave's happy John finally asked her out and happy that Rose didn't deny him despite her obvious trust issues. And he's happy that he can hang with Jade almost all he wants, but he doesn't care to acknowledge that.
The girl takes him to her property, which is two bus trips away and Dave wonders how he'll ever get home before midnight. He's also scared shitless when a humungous white dog pounces Jade into a bush and licks her face. "Bec!" she giggles, shouts, until he goes off and sniffs Dave. Afterwards Bec leaves to piss on the side of her house.
"He's a good boy," Jade comments mindlessly, leading him into her home.
It's... messy? No, more like "cluttered." There's various exotic objects all over the shelves and floor. Also, a shit ton of globes and blue babes.
Jade's grandpa is snoozing on the couch so the two of them just travel upstairs in an almost awkward silence until they reach Jade's room. Now this place is fucking messy.
Stuffed animals litter the floor, as well as various pieces of clothing and electronic bits and scraps of paper, and posters tilting every which way are pasted carelessly to her walls. They all seem to be written in Japanese, or Chinese, or something, so he gathers she's into anime. And these little octopus motherfuckers. They're kind of creepy, just staring up at him all cheery and happy. It reminds him of one of John's shitty movies. Anyway, Jade's room is pretty cool, he decides. Her bed is pretty nifty looking, too (but who the fuck says nifty?).
She doesn't have any video games, or a console for such things, so the two of them play with Jade's stuffed animals. It's actually pretty fun, Dave guesses. This storyline where the purple octopus has robbed and totally fucking served the pink wolf-thing and ran off into the sunset with the wolf-thing's lady friend proved amusing for nearly two hours. Jade wasn't so keen about how rapping about the guy's fashion choice was exactly serving him, but he says she just doesn't get the irony. Jade laughs and the pink-wolf-guy eats the purple squid-thing.
Dave begins to feel a little more comfortable around the girl. He doesn't like that his stomach does backflips when she smiles but he can suffer through that. He figures that, in a way, she's kind of like a small little paradise for him. He more or less forgets his insecurities and he's actually not as... poker-faced around the girl. She makes him smile, and he's okay with that.
A week later, he shows her his music folder. There's nearly three hundred songs, a majority of which blow, but he plays them anyway. The earlier beats make him cringe a little, but luckily the songs barely ever pass two minutes. "I like 'em!" Jade announces during one he's not particularly happy with. She's not a whiz about remixes and turn tables and junk - she only has a guitar and a flute so she usually just jams solo on those things - but she finds it all rather inspiring.
"How?" he asks.
She explains it's really, really cool that he can swipe his hands across this giant layout of buttons and pads and knobs and create such totally sick jams! "There's like a billion controls on this thing! How do you even know which one does what? It's so cool that you know, y'know?" Jade smiles at him and the next song doesn't seem as lame as it usually does.
Summer rolls around and the very first fucking thing to leave John's mouth is, "Let's swim!"
"Yeah!" Jade agrees in a heartbeat.
Dave's silence and Rose's quiet smirk seems to pass for a, "Why the fuck not?"
And why the fuck not?
Because he's an anorexic fucking freak; how the fuck is he going to swim around with them not questioning his ribs and scars and what the SHIT John! Yeah, he muses, his sister's shape is hardly better than his own, but fuck Rose doesn't - Rose doesn't swim. That's a thing she just doesn't do. She'll come with a fifteen inch book and laugh at the rest of them fuck around.
Rose does just that and they all arrive at John's house to chill out. Jade still doesn't understand this totally alien concept of decency, so she walked a mile in only her swimsuit - which is kind of an athletic type, he guesses. For racing or some bullshit. John opens the door, all dripping wet and excited, and pushes them all into the backyard. Jade does a cannonball into the pool.
Dave, for as long as he can, stays under the shade of an umbrella with Rose until he is forced into that hell pit of a pool. John dunks Jade and his sister speaks, "Insecurities got your tongue, Strider?"
"Woe is me, am I right." Her ever weird ways of comfort.
"Indeed. Don't be so scared to get in that water, no -"
"You're the one who can't swim."
"I'm also the one who is completely confident of them self. Tell be, Dave, what troubles you so as to not let the world admire the ever whitening mountains known as your ribs?"
"You too, Rose."
"I can't swim, Dave. I have no reason to become shirtless at this moment."
The argument is won and Dave removes the shirt he'd been hiding under. Five hundred layers of sunblock and an umbrella later, the sun still burns his skin. "Marvelous. Now, if only you'd stop feeling so watched. Everyone here is your friend, you know." Rose returns to her wizard shit and Dave - almost not ironically - belly flops into the pool.
John stare at him for a fraction of a second and suddenly he's all queazy and shit and wants out (GET HIM THE FUCK OUT) but Jade splashes him, all bubbles and giggles, and the screaming in his chest dies down.
Rose smirks behind her novel at this development.
John is away for the fourth of July, and Rose spends this evening watching her mother so she doesn't become an orphan. Dave and Jade end up taking a bus out of the city limits and lighting up all sorts of cool shit. This her first encounter with fireworks and goddamn for a moment you could have sworn she fell in love with those things. Although, twice, she nearly blows off her fingers. Nonetheless they still light up everything they bought in all of five minutes, and it's quite the light show. After awhile a few random teens show up and do the same until a decent sized group of assholes is lounging in the fields.
Dave and Jade sit in the grass - which after awhile becomes really fucking itchy and holy shut there are bugs all over this goddamn field - and enjoy the other explosions.
And it's loud, almost deafening and he wants to itch the skin off of his arms when Jade removes his shades to stare into scarlet eyes. For a moment, for several, he doesn't even notice because it's always so dark. But the explosion of white behind Jade's head is what makes him realize it and he whispers, "What the actual fuck."
"Your eyes are really pretty, Dave!" she says, all excited while folding up his shades and putting them on the ground. "Rose told me you were albino, but I always thought no way, right? But nope! Your eyes are really great," Jade rambles.
"Uhm," well fuck.
Jade laughs and they don't kiss but their foreheads touch and he's completely fine with that.
"Okay. But fucking seriously can we get out? This place is shit."
She laughs again and the two leave - not holding hands, but she's got her arm around his waist and it probably looks gay as hell but that's okay, too.