You hear a car roll past; a glance at the clock reveals the time: 3:23. Sighing, you make your way to the bedroom and crawl under the covers. About five minutes later, the door creaks open and Dave pads in for a change of clothes before departing for the bathroom.
By 3:45, the bed creaks beside you and Dave is there. You instinctively turn to curl into his side. An arm makes its way around your waist and pulls you close. Your nose wrinkles a bit; he smells like smoke, alcohol and cheap perfume.
When you wake up, Dave is still passed out. You roll off the bed and begin your morning ritual of making breakfast and getting ready for work; even though you worked for a 'friend' you were still an employee.
You pour yourself a cup of coffee and while your bagel is in the toaster, you pour another mug for when Dave wakes up. Pulling a pad of sticky notes from the counter drawer, you jot down a quick note saying you'll see him later, punctuating it with a buck-toothed smiley face. Sticking that onto the mug, you bring it to the bedside table and lean over to place a peck on Dave's forehead before heading to work.
You arrive at Alternia, a local club/cafe owned and ran by a group of your friends, a few minutes before you're supposed to. Eridan sends a glare your way and clicks his tongue, "You're late."
Looking at your watch, you roll your eyes, "I'm five minutes early."
"Not early enough; therefore: late.'
"Sure." You mentally scoff at the high-maintenance man as you make your way to the piano. You hear Aradia humming her warm-ups and Nepeta tuning her bass- which she pauses to wave at you- and see Gamzee lazily licking the mouthpiece of the saxophone. You take a seat at the bench and unpack the sheet music from your briefcase, cringing at the suddenly very harsh lights that Sollux is trying to manage in the back. Out of the corner of your eyes you see Roxy and Tavros getting the bar ready for any mid-day patrons they might have. They always do.
People begin to shuffle in as you begin to play a soft tune, Nepeta works her way in, and Aradia's voice is resonating high and clear in the background. Gamzee jumps in with his own instrument, blending seamlessly with yours. It's a common combination- piano, bass, vocals and saxophone- but somehow, when you four play, the club is always full, even more so than when Dave, Rose, Jake and Eridan do their classical-techno thing.
The minutes turn into hours and soon it's your afternoon break. You bow towards the customers and quickly walk offstage behind the others. You quickly eat a late lunch and soon the four of you are back onstage.
A song you know well begins, and your fingers glide across the keys in time with Nepeta and Gamzee's instruments, as well as Aradia's singing.
Suddenly, a feeling manifests itself in your fingertips. The kind that happens when you're tired- where it feels like you're dragging a few extra pounds while moving your fingers. You bite back the sensation and continue to play.
A few songs later though; near the end of the set- the feeling comes back, and you stumble on a note. The patrons of the club don't seem to notice but Nepeta does. She shoots you a look and you shrug the best you can manage. You know what she was thinking though: 'What the heck was that?'
After your group's performance, you trade off with the next group. Before she goes on though, Jade corners you. "John, you stumbled up there," she says with a worried look.
You grimace, "You heard? Was it noticeable?"
She shakes her head and straightens her skirt, "You should take it easy John! You had pneumonia like a month ago for fuck's sake! We don't want you collapsing on us. You're our best pianist- other than Jane of course. But she prefers keyboards so I guess she's our best keyboardist?"
You chuckle dryly at her ramblings, "Nothing to worry about, Jade. I just went to sleep late last night. No biggie."
Jade frowns, "Well, when you get home don't stay up for Dave. Just rest, okay?"
"How do you know I stay up for Da-" her eyes narrow. "Fine! I'll sleep! That okay with you, mom?"
She smiles and pats your head, "Perfect."
When you get home though, you pop two Tylenols and settle yourself in front of your piano. That slip-up earlier was absolutely unacceptable. You don't care how much you sound like a stereotypical Asian father, but fuck. You are Jonathan James Egbert dammit!
You sit at the piano for a long time, working until you can barely hold your head up. A quick glance at the clock reveals a very blurry '10:47'. You've only been home for two hours... So why are you so tired already?
You sigh and pull the cover down over the keys with a sharp clack- and push the bench in. You stumble a bit but eventually make your way to the bedroom, collapsing on top of the comforter. You shiver at the sudden temperature drop- you just had to keep the window open at all times didn't you? Pulling the covers over you, you slip into a dreamless sleep.
When you wake up again, you're under the sheets nestled against Dave. Your eyes widen and you shoot up once you realize it's way too bright to still be morning. You let out a groan as your head starts pounding like a particularly bad hangover. But you know you haven't had that much to drink in a long time.
Dave blinks at you and grabs your arm, pulling you back down. "Mm back t' bed," he grumbles.
You struggle against him, but there's a vice-like grip around your waist, holding you in place. "Called n' told Amp'ra. Gave us both th' night off," Dave says with a sleep-heavy voice coated in his rarely-revealed Texan accent. "Now back t' bed. M' pretty sure y'have a fever."
"Just what were y' thinkin' sleeping above th' covers las' night?"
You just shake your head and close your eyes, simply happy with the concern Dave is showing. He's been pretty busy with work recently. Pulling the blankets up over your head, you cocoon yourself next to Dave, reveling in the warmth.
The next time you wake up, there's a cold pressure on your forehead and something is nudging at your shoulder. Opening your eyes blearily, you're greeted by Dave holding a bowl of soup and a spoon. "Wakey wakey. You haven't eaten all day."
You stare at him blankly and shake your head as best as you can without jostling the liquid ice pack.
Dave frowns and pulls the soup aside. He pulls you up and props you against a stack of pillows, "It's four in the afternoon. You haven't eaten breakfast, lunch, and the fact that the leftovers are still in the fridge all point to the fact of you not eating dinner. Now come on. Eat."
You shake your head again and lay back down, lucking your head under two of the four-pillow stack. "No!" you mean to shout, but it comes out as a pathetic whine at most.
Dave lets out an over-exaggerated sigh and pulls the covers up, settling in behind you. He pulls you close and rests his chin on your shoulder. "I'll feed you when you wake up again. You need food before you take meds."
You grunt, "Mm, whatever."
Dave scoffs and buries his nose in your hair, "I still have work later so I need to know you're okay."
You nod and roll over to face him, nuzzling into his chest and breathing in his comforting scent. "Don't worry, I'll be just fine."
When you wake up next, it's pitch black and Dave is gone. You feel even worse than before when you roll out of bed and shuffle out for some much needed water. With shaky hands, you're able to take a bottle of water and a box of saltines back to your room.
You've barely nibbled your way through a single cracker before you're jumping out of bed, muscles protesting, heading to the bathroom. You rip open the toilet seat and stick your head in. What little you've eaten comes back up, and you feel your stomach contracting in agony around nothing.
Tears well up in your eyes as you heave dryly into the toilet.
The sickening feeling passes after what seems like hours, and you flush the contents down the drain. You stand up, your limbs aching and stomach cramping, beside the sink. Flipping the light on, you groan at the sudden brightness. Once your eyes get used to the lights though, it's then that you can see just how bad you look.
And god is it bad.
Your hair is sticking up in all directions, and your face is pale- save for the dark circles under your eyes and your slightly red nose. Your sunken cheeks are flushed with exertion, and suddenly your mind flashes back to Jade at the club.
It really was just your luck to get sick after recovering from a bout of pneumonia.
Sighing, you turn on the sink and start brushing your teeth
You never do finish your food.
Like the day before, it's bright when you wake up. The only difference is that Dave is no longer there. Looking to the side, you spot a mug with an attached note written in red.
ill see you later-
You sit up slowly and are thankful that the nauseating headache is gone, even though your muscles still ache. You grab the mug with both hands and bring it to your lips, sipping at the cooled coffee. By the time the cup is empty, you've decided to get up and actually do something slightly productive today. Or at the very least eat a late lunch.
Setting your feet on the cold hardwood floor, you stand up and wobble just a bit, a sudden dizziness overtaking you. You make your way to the little kitchen and grab a small bowl imprinted with Spiderman, fixing yourself up some nice cereal.
You manage to eat about half of it before your stomach gives a great big lurch and you find yourself at the sink, coughing up the contents of your stomach yet again. At least this time there actually is something to throw up and not just air. You step back until you hit the fridge and let yourself slide slowly to the floor, taking with you some of the ironic artworks Dave had stuck up there with flower shaped magnets.
You cradle your head in one arm and use the other to wipe at your mouth. Your hand feels wet, but you chalk that up to excess saliva, so you wipe it off on your pajama pants. You don't expect it to stain them with... Blood?
Your eyes widen and your head whips back, making forceful contact with the fridge door. You gasp in pain, but something in your throat is keeping any air from entering or exiting. You begin hacking into your hand, trying to expel the obstruction.
You claw at the counter, pulling yourself up to stand at the sink once more. Cupping the hand not at your mouth under the rushing liquid, you bring it up to your lips and take a drink to hopefully clear your throat.
This seems to help a bit, because soon you're retching into the sink, tears streaming freely from your eyes and over your cheeks.
Your eyes widen in horror when you see the chrome ink, red splattering the sides and pink going down the drain. There is a dark red squishy looking lump about the size of a chestnut lying near said drain. You dry heave again and stick your hand under the water once more, directing the flow first to your mouth (the water you spit out ends up being of a pinkish hue too) and then around the sink to wash the blood down the drain.
The blood is soon gone, but the smell seems like it's been imprinted into your brain. The room starts spinning and you try to take a deep breath, but the heavy stench of iron makes it worse. "F-Fu-"
You can't stop yourself when you start tumbling to the floor.
You open your eyes to a pitch black kitchen and the smell of your blood still hanging in the air. Your eyes dart to the clock on the microwave and reveal that it is almost midnight. You've been passed out for over seven hours. Sitting up slowly, you put a hand on the counter above you to hoist yourself up. Using it for balance, you make your way to the far wall and turn on the kitchen lights.
Thankfully none of your mess got on the floor.
Grabbing another bottle of water, you head back to your room. Once in bed, your stomach grumbles loudly, but you ignore it. Just the thought of food makes you sick.
'Tomorrow,' you decide. This is more than just a fever. Tomorrow you'll go to the doctor. While Dave is at work of course- he doesn't need to worry more about you.
Yeah. Sounds like a plan.
The hospital building looms over you, tall and intimidating. You take a step in and resist the urge to go right back out.
Nope you definitely do not like hospitals.
You sigh and head to the direction of Urgent Care, waving a quick hello to the nurse before taking out you insurance card, an ID, and some cash. You've done this enough times to know exactly what to do now.
The receptionist checks you in and waves you down the hall to a waiting room. It's small with a broken TV stuck on the blue analog screen. There is an almost audible noise from the speaker that hurts your ears. Great, you feel another headache coming on.
Soon a nurse comes out in green scrubs and gestures for you to come in. He takes your height, weight, temperature and blood pressure- all the usual stuff. He asks your name and birth date, more standard questions. You're actually surprised that you're still giving coherent answers.
"So what brings you here?" the nurse asks, undoing the Velcro from the wrap on your arm. You rub at the spot absently.
"Uh well, I've been feeling a little sick lately," you murmur, eyes glued to the floor.
"Hm," he stands you up and brings you to another room. "Please put this on, Doctor Jones will be out in just a minute," he states, handing you a hospital gown. You strip down and put on the gown, taking a seat on the examination table. The paper covering it faintly reminds you of the wax paper your dad uses to bake.
Your meandering train of thought is derailed when a sharp knock comes at the door. "Uh, come in?" you answer weakly.
The door clicks open and in steps a man slightly older than you. His hair is an ash-blonde and the brightness of his blue eyes rival your from behind his own pair of wire-rimmed spectacles. "Hi! Mister Egbert, is it?"
You almost cringe at his boisterous voice. "John is fine."
He chuckles and extends a hand that you take, "Well Doctor Jones, at your service! You can call me Alfred, though."
You let out a weak laugh as you draw your slightly smarting hand back. Damn he had a tight grip. He heads to a station in the corner, snapping on a pair of latex gloves. "So, Nurse Kirkland said you came here because you were feeling sick?"
"Yeah, I guess I've been feeling really sick lately. I'm really tired and I get headaches.. I haven't been eating much these past few days either."
Alfred walks over and shines a light in your eyes. You recoil and squint, but you can more or less follow it. "And other recent illnesses?"
"I had pneumonia about a month ago, but that's it. I don't really get sick too much."
He hums, "Anything else? Anything at all."
You avert your eyes, biting your bottom lip as he sticks something in your ear to check your temperature again. By the time the thing beeps, you still haven't spoken. Alfred jots down something on a clipboard and turns to you, "You've got a fairly high fever, John. I'm honestly surprised you made it all the way here without collapsing."
He reaches for the stethoscope around his neck and brings it to your chest under the gown, "Take a deep breath."
You try to breath in- you do. But you find that you can't. He looks at you, "A bit deeper please."
You shake your head, "I'm sorry- I can't. It hurts."
Alfred pulls away and nods, hanging the tool around his neck. "I see. Is there anything else you want to add to your list of symptoms? It could be important."
You raise your eyes from the floor and look the doctor in the eye, releasing your lip from its place under your teeth, "I uh, I kind of collapsed last night. After I was coughing up uh, blood." your voice shrinks and you're reminded faintly of your bartending friend. Your eye dart back down as he writes more things on the paper.
"Well that certainly is a big thing. I can't form any sure diagnosis right now, so I'm going to have you schedule an appointment with Mr. Braginski over in reception so we can run a few tests." He finishes off by jotting something down in scribbly writing on a sticky note and handing it to you. "See you soon, John. Hopefully we won't have to do those tests after all."
You nod and wave goodbye before he exits the room and you change into your clothes again.
The drive home is a little unsettling, you're a little paranoid about falling asleep or fainting at the wheel- but you eventually make it home unscathed. You eat a miniscule piece of toast and pop two Tylenols before you hurriedly get dressed for work.
Fuck- you missed work the other day. Eridan's going to have your head.
"I'm sorry for the short notice- but I've decided from your symptoms that it would be best if you come in for a few tests. Though they do call for you staying the night here at the hospital."
Your heart skips a beat. Just what kinds of tests were they planning on doing on you? "Uh, sure. I can do that. When?"
"As soon as possible. The operation-" Operation? "-will take a few hours- it's not heart surgery or anything, a lung and kidney biopsy will do. Recovery's going to take a day or two though, so plan on taking those days off from work unless it's absolutely impossible that you can't."
"Of course, I'll talk to my boss.. I just have to settle a few things, but I'll be there tomorrow."
"Yeah- take your time. Thanks for your cooperation, John!"
You press the end button on your phone and pocket it- only to take it out again and clock on speed dial 2. While waiting for the call to be picked up, you look around at your apartment's living room area.
When you first moved in here with Dave, you knew it was going to be amazing. But what with your sudden illness and Dave's constant shifts working over time... God- really. Who even worked that much? You've known him for years and Dave was never one to put much effort into anything that didn't interest him. And with how irritable he's been lately...
Sometimes you wonder if he's just using work as an excuse to-
"Hey Dad," your voice comes out as nothing but a whisper at most.
"John? What's wrong son?"
"Noth- well, something." You glance toward the open door of your bedroom, where Dave is lying asleep after a night of 'work'. "I'll tell you when I get there. Do you think it would be too much of a hassle if I stayed with you for a few days? A week at the absolute most."
"What? Of course son. You aren't having any problems with Dave, are you?"
"No- no. Nothing like that. Look, I'll tell you when I get there, okay?"
"Fine. When can I expect you?"
"Okay then," he sounds a little suspicious, pausing before adding as quick "bye son."
"Bye dad, see you later."
You take a shallow shuddering breath. You have to leave. Just what were you going to tell Dave? Should you just talk to him? Or should you sneak out and leave a note? No- that sounds shady. Augh- whatever. You'll deal with him when you get to that point. Right now, you need to pack.
Making up your mind, you head to the room, staying as quiet as you can to start putting things into your bag. You take clothes, your wallet, laptop... Would the hospital need your medical records? Or do they have those there? They're around here somewhere... You're pretty sure Dad has a copy. You'll bring them though, just in case.
Once finished, you sit back and relax. That took way more energy that it should have. You decide to lay down next to Dave for a bit- at least until he wakes up again. Calling Eridan can wait a little while longer.
You snuggle into his chest and let out a long heavy sigh.
When you wake up, it's late afternoon and Dave's looking at you. His eyes look as tired as yours- with dark circles and bags around them. His smile looks a little too forced too. You hope your grin doesn't look like that.
"Hey," comes his voice, creaky with sleep.
"Morning," you smile a bit and scoot up to kiss him quickly on the lips. He doesn't return it with much enthusiasm.
"Fuck- today's my only day off. We've both got work tomorrow..."
Your heart skips a beat. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Right. You've got to tell him. But how? Should you say you're leaving for a family reunion or something?
"O-Oh, I'm not going tomorrow."
"Why not?" his eyebrows wrinkle together.
"I uh- my nanna." Okay, good start. "She's sick." Better... Go on? "My dad wants to fly over and spend some time with her."
Dave frowns, "Do you want me to come?"
Shit. You didn't think of the possibility that he might want to go with you.
"Nope," you reply a little too quickly. He raises an eyebrow, and you continue, "It's no biggie. You've got work! I'd rather not get in the way of it."
The frown softens as he runs a hand through your hair in a rare show of tenderness. You miss when he used to do that all the time. "Fine. How long for?"
"About a week. Three or four days at the least."
"Tomor- and you're just telling me now?"
You flinch. You hate lying to Dave. "Sorry... I'm leaving for my dad's house tonight."
He catches your eyes, and blue clashes with red for a tense second. "I'm taking you." There's a hard sort of tone to his voice and a determined look in his eye that won't let you say no.
What's the harm in letting him drive you to Dad's? It's only like an hour away. "Okay. After dinner."
It's almost sunset by the time you two get on the road. Your backpack is on the floor and your PDA is on your lap. Your fingers tap away on the keys. forming a message to your dad.
we're on our way, be there in about an hour.
i told dave i was visiting nanna with you.
please play along and i'll explain when he leaves!
You really don't expect him to receive it- much less reply; but the text comes barely two minutes later.
okay son. i'll see you then. i've got cake if dave wants to take some home.
Breathing a sigh of relief, you settle back into your seat, arms reaching out to lazily play with the hand Dave wasn't using to steer. You pull it towards you, pressing it to your face and placing a light kiss to his palm. "Thanks for bringing me," you murmur.
Dave grunts in reply, still entirely focused on the road. "Yeah."
"Bye Dave thanks for bringing me."
"No problemo man."
You hesitate, biting your lip before pulling him into a tight hug. "I love you."
He's silent, but brings a hand up to run through your hair. "I know. Love you too," he whispers, before placing a kiss on your forehead. "Be good."
Your goodbye lasts a few more minutes, and almost has you crying by the time Dave leaves.
You're not dying. You're just going in for some tests.
Not dead yet.
As you close the door after Dave, the click of the lock seems to reverberate around the room. Silence.
Your dad stands behind you, clearing his throat and giving you that look. The one that makes him look like an old-timey mafia member with his fedora and rolled up dress shirt sleeves. He chews almost impatiently on the mouthpiece of his pipe. "Do you mind telling me what's going on now?" he asks with a raised eyebrow.
You look guiltily at the ground, rubbing at your arm. Wow, when'd it get so hot in here? "Dad..." you breathe, shifting your eyes to look up at him."I-I'm sick."
"I'm not sure. They want me to come in for testing..." Your eyes clamp together as you grit your teeth. "I'm sorry."
You feel strong arms wrap around your shoulders, pressing your face into heavily starched cotton- stiff and scratchy, but at the same time soft and familiar. Just so Dad.
"Son..." he hugs you tighter, "Why didn't you tell me sooner? And don't say you're sorry. This isn't your fault."
"B-But I wimped out. I'm an adult. I'm supposed to take care of myself. Instead I called up daddy when things got hard. God I am waste of space. It is me."
Dad pulls away, holding your shoulders at arms length. He gives you a different look this time, one that doesn't seem quite like a glare, but isn't soft either. "Jonathan James Egbert. Stop right there. If I somehow taught you to think that way, then I am by no means a fit parent. Son you are not a waste of space and don't you ever say or think that again."
"No buts. Now go to your room and rest. I assume we're going to the hospital tomorrow?"
"We'll leave after lunch." He pulls you in for another hug and places a kiss to the crown of your head- like he used to when you were younger. "Call me if you feel anything okay?"
"Yeah, thanks Dad."
With the help of two Nyquil you manage to fall asleep without too much trouble. You do end up waking up every four hours after the medicine has worn off; and when it's time for you to leave, you look and feel horrendous.
"It's Tuesday, you fat nasty trash..." you say with a half hearted smirk before sip your coffee.
"Hm?" Dad asks from his spot behind the counter, finishing up his own drink.
A few more moments are spent in silence before you hear the click of a mug being placed in the sink. "I'll take your bag to the car. Come on down when you're ready."
You shake your head and gulp down the rest of the coffee. "No, I'm good."
"Are you sure?"
Smiling, you hoist the backpack onto your shoulder, "Yep- let's go!"