The land of light and rain was full of gleaming colours hitting against the white chalk beaches. Water washed up and hit against the rocks and sloshed around, as rainbows were cast off from the reflection into the pale blue sky. The river underneath Rose Lalonde's house was flowing as strong as ever, and Dave Strider heard the water rushing beneath his feet while he stood in the entry way. In one hand he had an old backpack he had managed to rummage out of a closet in his house back on LOHAC, filled with a set of t-shirts, shorts, tennis shoes and a pair of swimming trunks. In the other hand he held a sword. The lands still had a few stray imps, but having achieved God Tier status, they posed no threat.
A long time ago he had gone on a meteor journey with one of his best friends, who was apparently his sister, and another lot of trolls. In three years they had made it past the difficult and long journey to arrive at a new Skaia. When he had gotten there, he finally met Jade and John, a sprite version of himself who he had lost track of, and the new four players, including a 16 year old version of his own brother. Shit had gone down, and somehow they managed to finish the final battle alive and intact. They had entered their new world, a world they had created. However their homes, where they had grown up in, were still set as they had been all those years ago on a random planet, kept tucked away in Jade's sylladex as always. They decided that it would be best to make use of their planets features. Christmases were spent in the snowy land of frost and frogs, and summer afternoons were spent in the warm and sunny land of light and rain. When things got too boring in their new homes, or their old homes, they spent time wandering about in the unfamiliar land of crypts and helium. If things were ever too boring they would liven things up by hosting consort parties in the mushroom farms of the land of wind and shade.
At the moment though, it was one of those days where they decided to spend an afternoon in the LOLAR. It was much to hot for LOHAC, but not hot enough to push the disgruntled teens into LOFAF to run around the snow. It was still early enough to stay away from LOWAS, and none of the kids could be bothered to go adventuring or exploring crypts. And so there Dave Strider stood in the entry way of Rose's home. The light shone in through her large window, dancing around the room energetically, bouncing off of his friends and the rest of her home. The doors and windows were wide open, letting the sun shine in. John had used his powers as the hero of breath to create a breeze through the house, cooling the hot teenagers down in the still boiling weather. The breeze was blowing Dave's hair around into his face.
"Ah Dave, I'm glad you could make it." Dave looked up to the top of the stairs where Rose stood in a short lilac dress, her hand on the rail. He nodded.
"Wouldn't miss it, Lalonde." he said. She began to descend the stairs; when she reached the end She nodded back then turned away to enter her kitchen. He followed her in suit, stopping and hoisting himself up onto her black marble counter. She shook her head and sighed, leaning over the counter and grabbing a martini away from Roxy, who whined in protest, stomping her foot.
"You're drunk." Rose said flatly, setting the glass on the counter with a small clack.
"Yeah I know, and I want to stay drunk!" Roxy responded, shaking her head and stumbling around the counter to the couch. She flopped down on it, lifting her feet up and letting her head fall backwards so she was looking at Rose and Dave upside down. "Bunch of bratty kids I've got, god." She mumbled, and Rose let herself laugh.
"Yes, we've heard this already. However I don't want to you to throw up while swimming. That would be disastrous; there are already enough dead fish in the sea." Rose said, picking up the glass and finishing the remaining liquid in one swallow. She grimaced, still not quite used to the taste of alcohol. She set the empty glass down on the counter next to Dave and walked around over to the sink behind Dave's back. He let himself slide down off of the marble, grabbed his bag off the floor and left the kitchen, leaving Rose and Roxy behind. He squinted against the extra sunlight that shone through the open windows, ones that weren't as abundant in the kitchen. He blinked a few times, until his eyes finally adjusted. It seemed that John had arrived with Jane and Jake, having brought them on the Breeze from their respective homes. They were all already decked out in their summer gear, wearing their swim trunks and gone shirtless, save for Jane.
"Oh man Dave, you haven't gotten changed yet? How can you even last like that, jesus!" he said, dropping Jake and Jane out from the air with a gentle thud.
"It's an art, John. You're forgetting I'm from Texas." Dave stated, turning his back to John to start ascending the stairs to find a place where he could get changed. Behind him, he heard Rose's front door re-open, after being slammed shut before. He then heard Jade's excited chatter mixing with John's. Dave entered the first door he found open in the large, wide hallway. It was Ms. Lalonde's room. When the eight teenagers had first met up and explored each other's homes, Roxy found her way to this room, revelling in the glory of who she had become in another universe. It was sweet to see her glorify in everything, and of course, the spare alcohol she had found. The same happened with Dirk, Jake and Rose, although there was not much to show for Dave, Jade or John. Yet the stories seemed to surpass that. The glory and admiration Dirk and Jake felt for Dave, the love Jane felt for John. They weren't the same, but at the same time, they were.
Dave shut the door with a click, dropping his bag on the ground uneventfully. He grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulling it over his head. He let the shirt drop to the bed in front of him, looking down at himself. His eyes shut as they glanced over the first mark on his stomach. He hated getting changed, he hated looking into mirrors any time his shirt wasn't over his chest, he hated the way there were marks and scars scattered all around his body. His shoulders rolled back and he took a deep breath, turning around. His eyes caught his appearance on the mirror and he stopped. The little pink marks on his chest, on his arms, on his shoulders, on his stomach. The game had been kind to his strength and stance, but not even achieving a god status had wiped the pre-game scars off his body. He began to shake; looking at himself and his hideous body made him feel sick. It happened all the time with him. With each glance at a scar, he felt a sickening twist in his stomach. A small stab on his right shoulder jolted his senses. A long, wide dash reaching from his abdomen to opposite his heart seemed to squeeze his heart. A set of small lines over his ribs made his stomach churn. More and more little scars scattered all over himself.
It was a few moments before he noticed the blur of his surroundings, or before his tears began falling freely on the ground in wet splatters. He was hideous. His body had been mauled by swords, hit and battered. It had made him stronger and he was so thankful for his training and rooftop strifes: they had saved him in SBURB. He refused to hold it against his Bro, because it helped more than it had hurt. He was strong, exceptionally strong now because of it, but in return for that he had all of the scars on his body to show.
"If you weren't so weak you wouldn't have these scars, you pathetic bastard." a voice whispered in his head. It was his fault, it was all his fault. He was weak, that was all there was to say.
Every other time he had visited Rose's planet and home, he had always changed into his swimming trunks but wore a shirt, and never touched the water. Never had he dove in with Rose. Never had he leapt in and sent a wave of water in John's direction. Never had he ducked underwater and caught Jade's feet to pull her under and make her yelp. Never had he gone swimming with his best friends. Of course he knew how to swim, but he still was always forced to create an excuse why he sat on the edge of the docks, or on the chalk grounds with his feet in the water.
At this point Dave had knelt down on the ground, hugging himself tightly in front of his glassy reflection. His tears were streaming down his face and he wiped his eyes with his fist, knocking his black shades askew. He choked back a sob, shaking his head and pulling his glasses off his face and setting them down. Rocking his body back and forth, he looked up at the mirror one last time with glassy red eyes.
What he saw in the mirror sent him over the edge. All that he saw was a weak boy with tears in his eyes and marked up skin. He saw someone who was weak and pathetic. Dave leapt up, letting out a loud scream and pushing his fist forward against the shining image. There was a loud crunch and the mirror shattered, and the image of the boy cracked and dropped down to the ground in a loud rain of falling glass. He stood there, panting slightly and leaning forward against the wooden frame that had begun to splinter. His fist was pressed against the wood when it began to seep blood.
"Hello?" A voice sounded outside the door, and when the door cracked open shyly Dave fell to the ground, letting his jeans kneel down against the shattered glass. His hands found their way back to his face and he began to cry into the blood and skin. The door creaked open fully and the person at the door stepped forward tentatively, letting out a small gasp when they saw the picture in front of them. The door shut again with a small click. Dave continued to let out gasps and sobs into his hands, leaning forward so his forehead rested against the mirror frame and his body racked with the jerky movements of tears and hatred.
"Look at you, you can't keep yourself together. You pitiful fucker."
"Oh my god,"
"Good work asshole."
"Dave? Dave, what happened? Are you… oh shit man."
Dave choked back a sob and pulled his hands away to look up, his red eyes staring past another set of shades into bright orange. He swallowed and began to stand up again. He managed a step before he collapsed, letting himself fall into Dirk's arms. As he scrambled to get a purchase for his feet and stand up again, Dirk wrapped his arms around Dave's torso and hauled him to the bed. Dave fell back against the plush mattress, pulling his legs up to his uncovered chest and dropping to the side. For a long while Dave lay in the foetal position crying, while Dirk sat gaping in silence, trying to find something to say. When Dave finally calmed down, for the most part, the two were left in silence before Dirk slowly pulled Dave's hand away from his chest, gasping at the sight.
"What happened Dave? Are you alright?" He asked, lightly ghosting his fingers over the drying blood and bits of glass shards. His hands barely touched his skin but every accidental nudge against the cracked shards sent a stinging pain through Dave's arm.
"I'm fucking pathetic and I'm weak!" Dave yelled.
"No, you aren't! I mean come on, you lead a whole revolution against the fucking batter-bitch!" Dirk said, letting Dave drop his hand and sit up.
"I'm not him, Dirk! That's not me, I'm not a hero!" Dave screamed, raising his fist. Dirk rose his hands up instinctively, ducking away and staying silent. "I'm not a hero, I'm not a leader, I'm weak and pathetic. Bro was a hero, but I'm not, okay? He gave me all these fucking scars to make me stronger but it didn't work, because look, I couldn't save him!" Dave's voice continued to rise, and tears started to spring up. It was at that point that Dirk began to notice the dark scratches and the deep, healed cuts. The fading jabs and the long, thick lines. The lumpy scars, the drawn out scars. The long, the short, the thick, the thin. The lighter ones, the tanned ones. They mixed in with his freckles creating a splatter effect on his skin. Dave sighed and got up, facing around so his back was facing Dirk, where even more scars had collected. Her raised his hands to his hair, running them through his light blond hair and staining a some of it red.
All the while Dirk stared, motionless, breathless, wordless. There was nothing he could say to put that hideous image out of Dave's mind; there wasn't anything that would work. Dave was pacing around the room, and Dirk got up to walk over to him. He swallowed, reaching out a hand slowly and carefully until it made contact with his skin, with the first scar. Dave froze. His back tensed up. Dirk's hand trailed down, following it from the end at his shoulder blade, down to his mid-back. From there it moved to another scar, a short lumpy one. His finger trailed around it, circling around it lightly. He began to trace each one of them until he reached the last one, a thin gash just under Dave's hairline.
He murmured, "I did this, didn't I." Dave sighed, turning back around to face Dirk. He looked at him, and Dirk looked up with his finger still hovering where it had been, just at Dave's neck. Their eyes met, and Dirk wordlessly threw his arms around Dave, pulling him into a tight hug.
"I am so fucking sorry," Dirk muttered, tightening his grip on Dave.
It wasn't Dirk that did that to him, it was Bro. It was a thirty-some year old guy with a hat and gloves, not a lanky teenager. However as many times as Dave tried to reason this to himself, he felt things tugging on his heart; the resemblance was uncanny and they shared some shockingly similar aspects in personality. It was Dirk, but it wasn't Dirk. It was and it wasn't, it was and it wasn't.. Dave pulled back, looking at Dirk. They both had tears welling up in their eyes: from guilt, from insecurity, from self-hatred.
"You're not Bro, you're Dirk and that's different man, you know it is!" Dave protested, and Dirk shook his head and Dave squirmed out of Dirk's tight grip, pulling his arms up and running his hands through his hair. He swung his leg around so he was facing the large window. He leaned his hands against the wooden window sill, stretching out and watching the bright colours underneath him. His eyesight wasn't the best, but he could still make out Jade and Jake leaping into the water and splashing John in the process. Jane was cautiously standing on the dock, covering herself sheepishly. Dave could only assume that Rose was either still in the house preparing something with Roxy or tucked into the shadows beneath temples or scrawny trees. Laughter was floating throughout the air, like they were oblivious to what Dave was feeling. But of course, they were.
The two stood in silence. Dirk walked over to Dave and hugged him from behind, lightly ghosting his fingers over his stomach, trailing circles with his fingers.
"I wish I could wipe them all away, Dave. I wish I could have gone up to my older self and told him there were other ways to make you stronger. I wish I could erase them all. I wish you could be the version of beautiful you wish you were, even though you are more beautiful than you can imagine. No matter what you think, it's not true, okay? None of it is true, you're the most beautiful person I've ever laid eyes on." Dave stood as still as he had been, leaning out of the window even more. His hands gripped the edge of the window sill. Dirk's hand pulled away a bit, just barely touching his skin. "I'm sorry, and I'd be willing to do anything to make you feel better. I'm yours right now, I'd let you put the same scars on me if you want, I'd let you do anything you want to me. I'm willing, you know that, right?"
"Go," Dave muttered,
"I said go!" Dave snapped, squeezing his eyes shut. His grip tightened. Dirk pulled his hands away and stepped back, backing up to the door. When he reached it he nodded quickly, even though Dave couldn't see him. His hand found the doorknob and he twisted, pushing it back into the hall.
"Alright, but you should come down sometime." He mumbled, backing up and shutting the door with a small click. Dave exhaled through his nose, turning around and grabbing his glasses off the ground and slipping them on.
"Hey, Dirk!" Jake hoisted himself out of the water and jogged over to where Dirk was making his way to the beach. Dirk had changed from his black jeans and t-shirt to a pair of orange swim trunks, going shirtless for the time. Jake met him half way and smiled, throwing an arm around his shoulders. "Oh god isn't John just a stunning fellow? How's your brother do-"
"Not my Bro." Dirk muttered, shaking Jake off of him and walking towards where Rose sat. Jake stopped and rose an eyebrow.
"You alright, Dirk?" He asked, following after him again. Dirk paused before nodding.
"Yeah, fine." Jake looked at him and slowly nodded, stepping away and leaving Dirk to talk to Rose.
"Where's Dave?" Rose asked, and Dirk sighed, glancing back up to the window from the room he was just in.
"No idea," He said.
"Is he alright?" She asked and Dirk shook his head.
"No, not really."
Dirk sighed and sat down on a towel next to Rose. She wore a pair of fancy sunglasses not too unlike Dave's. She was decked in black bikini and reading. He leaned back on his hands and watched Roxy run around, chasing Jane with a beach ball. Jake was wrestling John in the water and Jade was merely cheering one of them on- who she was cheering Dirk wasn't sure. Dirk flopped backwards underneath the thin branches that offered next to no shade. Thank god for sunglasses, then.
A long while passed since Dirk had left Dave alone, and he had spent his time staring at himself in the mirror. He had changed into his swim trunks, and looked at himself with his shirt, and then off, then on and so forth.
"You're even more pathetic because you can't even face your friends, you can't face your fucking brother, or sister."
"Dave!" Jade leapt up out of the water and pointed to the doorway of Rose's house, where Dave did in fact stand, quite shyly. Dirk sat up and turned to Dave, his eyes widening behind his glasses. Dave stepped out from the shadows and let the sun hit his bare torso. Dirk swallowed. His scars and scratches weren't covered as they had been the last times that they had all gone swimming. No, this time Dave only wore his swim trunks and his sunglasses. Jade stopped mid-stride when Dave stood directly in front of her and she could clearly see the marks that covered his body. The chatter and noise had died down to the splash of the waves and Dirk could hear his heart beating fast against his chest.
Jade took a slow step towards him until she was directly in front of his chest. She reached one hand out until she was almost touching his scars, as if she wasn't sure if they were real or a play of the light. When she came to the realisation that they were indeed real, her hand flew to her mouth and she gasped.
"Oh my god Dave, are you… what happened? Was it the game?" She said hesitantly, like she didn't want to hurt him, or like her words, if said wrong, would engrave another deep scar onto his skin. Dave meanwhile stood still.
"Come on Dave," Dirk thought "You're the cool kid, you know how to deal with this stuff."
He watched Dave take a deep breath and roll his shoulders back, stretching out his muscles. Dirk could only imagine what was going on inside his head. The thing about Dave was that his Bro had taught him to keep a straight face no matter what. Even when Dirk could tell, due to his earlier conversation as well as sort of being the person that raised Dave, that on the inside he was more than likely falling apart. And yet, here he was, half naked, showing the marks he had sobbed about in bright sunlight right in front of all of his friends.
This, Dirk realised, was truly being brave.
"Of course, Jade. What's not to be alright about?" He shrugged (Dirk detected a slight shakiness to his movements) and stepped around her confused face and taking steps to the shore of the water. She turned around and jogged after him. Rose glanced sideways at Dirk who was still sat still in the shade, frozen. He met her knowing, unsurprised gaze side on and realised that she too knew about the scars and markings. She was a seer of light after all. Yet he didn't think that was it.
Turning back to the beach, he saw his four other friends stop in their place: Roxy was still floating and clutching onto Jane who was also still and seemingly puzzled; Jake bobbed up and down on the waves as only his head was above water; John stopped and stood up, making his way over to the beach after seeing Jade freeze and Dave come out into the sunlight. He squinted against the sunlight and jogged over to Dave and Jade when the water was shallow enough. Dirk was too far away to hear what they were saying, but he could see John's face rapidly change from curiosity to confusion to shock and back to confusion again.
"You know about him and all of his-"
Dirk stopped and turned back to Dave. Alright then. Jade was fretting around behind him nervously, and John's eyes were wide. Jake had swum closer and had started climbing out of the water to see what the fuss was about, as were Roxy and Jane. They were crowding around Dave, trying to hold their curiosity in as to not seem so insensitive. And all throughout, Dave stood still and let their reactions play out in front of him. Dirk imagined that things weren't that simple for him, and he was trying hard. That, or he had moved away to a different state of mind.
And so, they continued to question him until eventually things died down. They had finally finished getting their fair share of Dave and ending. Dirk stood up and walked over to the six of them. Rose followed in suit, setting her book down and standing behind Dirk. The eight teens stood in an awkward silence around Dave, still awkwardly glancing at him, his chest and each other.
"So this is why you never went swimming?" Jade mumbled suddenly, and Dave turned around to face her. He was still and motionless, but from right next to him, Dirk noticed his adams apple bob up and down slightly. After a pause he nodded. Jade sighed, shaking her head, twisting back slightly so her back was towards his.
It was a quick flashing movement she spun her fist around and hit his shoulder. The other six stepped back in surprise. Of course she didn't want to hit his face, but at the very least he was pushed back a good deal, his foot jerking back and making him unsteady. He winced and looked up at her.
"Dave! That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, you ass!" She screeched, grabbing onto his wrists. She was tearing up slightly, pulling them up to her chest and grasping them together tightly. The others stood motionless and silent, Dave as well. He looked down at her through his shades and swallowed. She shook her head, wrapping her arms around him.
"I would," she paused "I would never do something like change my opinion of you just because you didn't have flawless skin. Never! We're not those kind of people, Dave!" She shrieked, and everyone else nodded.
"You're still awesome, Dave!" John said, hugging onto him as well.
"The most bootyful, Davey!" Roxy said, leaping onto his back. He froze, until a smile broke out onto his face. Jake and Jane smiled, joining the group hug centred around Dave, giving him a massive hug. His eyes shut behind his shades, and he leaned into his friends clutches. Rose and Dirk managed to let out a smile, joining in as well.
"Alright, time to head back?" Jade said, opening her sylladex and taking out the other planets, letting them spin around.
"I'm going back to LOWAS with Jane and Jake for a while, but we're ready anyway." John said, grabbing his stuff and putting it in his sylladex. Jake and Jane nodded.
"I decided that I would stay here for the time being, and have invited Roxy to stay as well." Rose informed her. Surely Roxy would have nodded, had she not been passed out on the couch of course. Jade looked at Roxy, giggled, then nodded.
"Alright, well I was going to go back to LOFAF because I need to check on the frogs, and do some cleaning!" Jade said, turning to John, Jake and Jane. After she transported them to LOWAS, she turned to Dave and Dirk. "Are you guys going back now?" She asked, and they nodded. Her hands glowed a lime green for a second, and soon enough they were back on the golden battle ship. Dave made his way back to his room, Dirk walking with him part way, until Dave reached his room and Dirk was to carry on to his.
After things had calmed down with Dave, they did indeed go swimming. And they had a great time, managing to forget about anything that was shown on Dave's skin. Scars were forgotten in exchange for sun, sand and swimming. Roxy managed to mix up some drinks for them, which, according to Rose 'Gave the party an interesting twist'.
"'Night, Dirk." Dave muttered, slightly drunk. Dirk paused instead of walking on, turning back to Dave. They looked at each other behind their respective shades, and when Dave let his eyes flutter shut Dirk pressed a kiss onto his lips.
"You're beautiful, and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise, not even yourself."