"Really Dave? You've done this before, what's the problem? Just get out there and blow their minds all over again." John said, playfully shoving the blonds shoulder as they both stood behind the stage curtain. They were currently at their High Schools end of the year talent show. As always Dave was going to be using his turntables, planning on showing off for his last year of school. He had taken all the saved mixes he had done for the last three school talent shows and spent weeks melting them together for his last year, he wanted it to be special after all. The blond teen glanced at John who stood beside him giving him the biggest, most confident smile that Dave always had a hard time producing on his own.
Nodding, the nineteen year old took a deep breath, smoothing out the black suit he had chosen to wear for the event, and making sure his shades were in place before he was called up for his performance. He glided onto the stage with ease, John following right behind him. Dave didn't acknowledge the crowd but that just made the student body scream and cheer louder for him.
He was happy that he had his friend with him, John always helped him through so much that it was nice to have such a stable person around constantly, even if Dave was the only one that could see him. All those years going through high school were hard, and the lonely nights that he usually suffered through with Bro out working so hard. They were all filled with the companionship of his best friend, and for that he was glad.
Dave stood behind his turntables, facing the crowd as they all cheered him on and clapped wildly, eager for him to start. Looking over to the event director, he waited for his go-ahead before he started, closing his eyes and letting his hands fall into the rhythm they were so used to preforming. He lived on his beats and mixes, and if it wasn't for John he would never remember to eat.
The set went well, just like John had told him, and his classmates loved it, as he knew they would. After the last beat faded he blessed the crowd with a bow before leaving the stage, John skipping after him.
"I knew it would be awesome!" John laughed, hugging the blonde’s shoulders as he made their way through the cluttered backstage.
"Yeah, yeah. Get offa me Egbert." Dave chuckled lightly, lightly jabbing the misty teen in his side, having to effect what so ever, but John let go anyway as they joined Rose and Jade in the front row. Once Dave sat down, John plopped onto the floor in front of him and leaned back against the blonds legs. Dave gave his attention to the stage as a couple graced the stage and started their duet, mindlessly running his hand through John's hair drawing Jades attention to him.
She smiled gently as she watched her friend run his fingers over an invisible force she couldn't see and sighed gently, leaning over to mention it to Rose. The elegant blond leaned back a little and took note of the actions as well, frowning softly as she took out a little note pad and scribbled into it. She patted Jades hand and shook her head before directing her attention back to the stage. The bushy haired girl sighed a bit and pouted, glancing back at Dave again before redirecting her attention once more.
John looked at both girls, frowning a little, silently wishing that they could see him. He missed talking with them so much, but there was only so much he could do as a spirit. He looked up at Dave as he carded his fingers through his messy hair and smiled weakly, resting his cheek on the teen's knee and sighed again.
"Everything okay down there, Egbert?" Dave asked, noticing his friend’s distress.
"It's nothing, don't worry about it." John chuckled lightly, humming softly. Dave nodded and frowning a little, knowing something was bothering him but he chose not to push it here, letting his mind wonder for the remainder of the show.
Once it was all over, the students were allowed to leave for the day, giving them a long weekend. Dave got up and said goodbye to the girls, ignoring Rose's look of knowing as he made his way out of the school. He casually made his way through town, walking and smiling at John as he blabbered on about different things from what people were doing around them, to the other acts of the talent show. On their way back to the apartment they passed John's house where Dave stopped for a moment and stared.
"Oh! Dave look! Dad's home, we should go say hi." John practically leapt around the teen before making a run for the door of his old home, phasing right through the door. Dave chuckled and followed after, wondering if his friend even remembered sometimes that he wasn't really alive. The blond shook his head and knocked on the door once he made his way up the front walk and waited. It wasn't too long 'til the door opened and Dave offered a small smile to the older man. James returned the smile fondly and opened the door farther, allowing the blond to enter his home.
"Evening David. You look rather nice today, special occasion?" Mr. Egbert asked as he closed the door behind him, leading the teen to the kitchen. He was completely unaware as John went bounding through the house, running up and down the stairs, happily talking about how things hadn't changed and that his room still looked the same with all his cool posters. Dave smiled a bit as he sat at the kitchen table, envious of John's endless energy and nodding to his father.
"Today was the schools talent show."
"Ah, you did well I presume." James stated more then ask.
"Of course." Dave watched John skip after them, bouncing around as he looked about the kitchen, making funny faces as he looked into the mixing bowl on the counter making Dave chuckle lightly.
"He's always baking! UGH! Same stuff too, Dave. Betty Crocker this, Betty Crocker that. Come on dad! Use a different brand for once, jezz." John complained, knowing well enough that his Dad couldn't understand him.
"I just finished a lemon cake if you would like a slice." James offered, looking over at the young adult.
"Sure, that would be cool." Dave nodded, unbuttoning his suit jacket. John dramatically fell at Dave's feet sobbing. "Why Dave! Why! Don't do it! It's poison." He cried, trying to keep up the act before bursting into a fit of giggles, rolling around on the floor. Dave had to hold back from laughing at his actions as Mr. Egbert came over, setting down a generous slice of yellow cake that was slathered with white frosting.
"Thanks, Mr. E." Dave smiled lightly, taking the fork given to him and taking a bite of the cake. No matter how much he knew or was convinced to think, John's dad always seemed to make box cake taste like scratch. It should be illegal for box cake to be this moist and yummy. James sat across from him with a cup of coffee, all three of them sitting in comfortable silence, John opting to lean against Dave’s legs again, resting his chin on the blonde’s knee as he at his cake. It wasn't till Dave was almost finished with his piece of cake that James spoke up again.
"Have you visited him lately?" This made Dave stop and shake his head, sighing weakly as he set his fork down and let his hands fall into his lap, having to stop himself from reaching out and petting John's hair.
"I haven't..." He mumbled, staring at the left over bites of cake. John frowned a little at how withdrawn his friend had gotten.
"Jezz Dad! Did you have to bring me up? Now you've upset him." John sighed, grumbling at his father, not caring that the man couldn't hear him, wrapping his arms around Dave's leg. Dave knew that John wished his father could respond to him, knowing that he secretly wished others to be able to see and talk to him like Dave could. The teen finally gave in and moved a hand to run through John's hair again, if James noticed he didn't say anything.
"I think I should get going. Don't want Bro to start busting through the homes between the apartment and the school looking for me." He was exaggerating of course, but it was his own elaborate way of excusing himself in the most polite way he knew how. James nodded and stood, taking the plate from in front of him as Dave stood up. He stood by the door way as John hugged his father, though if James felt him they wouldn't know given he didn't react. Afterword’s the two friends quietly left the Egbert home and made their way to the Strider apartment in silence.
When they arrived Bro wasn't there, obviously working at one of his many odd jobs, earning money for the apartment with whatever he could. A couple jobs that Dave knew about was the puppet porn website that he had started ages ago, then there was the mechanic shop down the road that Bro worked at early in the morning while the night time found him as a DJ at different clubs or parties. He also worked part time at the Circle K that was a few blocks away, stocking and running the register.
This, of course, gave Dave all the time in the world to spend with John without getting weird looks from his brother. The eldest Strider still didn't think it was right for Dave to be claiming that he could see his best friend who, in reality, was lying in a coma at Liberty Medical Hospital. Though Bro understood that it had been three long years since the accident, but he was worried that his little brother was having these hallucinations because he was unable to cope with the fact that there was a slim chance of John waking up. It didn't help that before the accident John and Dave were practically attached at the hip during their childhood.
-FLASH BACK: 4yrs ago-
It was the start of the school year and all four friends were excited to be starting high school together. Bro had convinced James to take Dave and John school shopping together. Of course, Mr. Egbert knew that it was just the eldest brother making excuses to spend time with him, not that he minded. It wasn’t a secret that the older blond had a thing for him but he tried to keep it professional as he could with the boys around. But Dave and John would always see Bro trying to flirt with him anyway, causing them both to make the loudest gagging noises and then run off laughing when Bro would look back at them, most likely glaring. This of course left James chuckling softly and teasing the blonde the rest of the day.
If it wasn’t for Dave, John would have been going to school in dress shirts and ties, but the blonde haired teen demanded that Mr. Egbert let him pick out John’s clothes. The exasperated father just nodded in agreement, wanting this to be over with already. The older man had complained to Bro that next year he was taking the kids alone because he didn’t think he would be able to handle shopping with them every year through high school.
It was during the school year that Dave and John had gotten closer, no matter how many classes they didn’t share, they would always find ways to meet up in the hall before running for their next class. Bro used to tease Dave that he should just ask John out already and stop with all the flirting. This resulted in John freaking out a little and trying to distance himself from his friend. The idea of liking guys always freaked John out a little bit, but after a few weeks of being around his friend, John couldn’t take how depressed Dave seemed to have gotten. It hurt a little to watch the blonde get even more withdrawn whenever he would sit next to Jade at lunch, or talk to Rose about a prank he was planning instead of doing those things with him.
So eventually John appeared at the door of the Strider’s apartment and apologized to Dave, hugging the blonde and not letting go until he forgave him and hugged back. Jade and Rose were practically relieved when they seemed to have patched things up, having been worried about them both. Rose had actually tried to get John or Dave to talk to her about what was wrong but they would both clam up and refuse to talk again until she let it go and changed the subject.
From then on, everything had been going fine. John had soon became well known for being Dave Striders best friend, doing things others wouldn’t even dare to do and that made him just a little more popular. But as the school year came to a close John had convinced the blond to sign up for the talent show. This of course took John a lot of persuasion, and it was surprisingly the first time Dave brought up dating again since the incident at the beginning of the year.
John sort of scooted around the subject, but whenever he would push Dave about signing up, the blonde would always shoot back that he would if John went on a date with him. Of course the dark hared teen tried to weasel out of it, claiming that he totally would go out on a date with Dave, because they were the best of Bros ever. But Dave always corrected him, telling him that he wanted go out on a real date. One where the teen would pick him up a quarter to seven, take him out to dinner and hit the movies.
It eventually happened, John had agreed and said that they would have a real date after the talent show, not wanting to distract Dave from his practicing or whatever for what he was going to do for the show. The blond could deal with that, what he couldn’t handle was the fact that Bro was shoving it in his face. Teasing him and telling him that he knew it was going to happen sooner or later. John’s dad however was a bit unsure about everything, but after he noticed that John was actually looking forward to it, he just smiled and told his son that he was really proud of him and that he would love him no matter who he dated.
After the talent show, on a warm June Saturday, Dave showed up on John’s door step, dressed in his nicest clothes, and holding a small bouquet of lilies. John laughed over it and Dave claimed that it was for ironic purposes only, but John knew better, the blush that was creeping up on Dave’s cheeks gave him away, standing out brightly under the Stiller shades that John had given him for his birthday before school. Dave nodded to Mr. Egbert who had come to the door with his son, grinning a bit at the flowers as well. James took the lilies in favor of putting them in some water while the boy’s went out, warning the youngest Strider that John was to be home before eleven. Dave gave a silent chuckle and nodded before taking John’s hand and leading him away.
Given that they were both way too young to drive, Dave had planned on taking John to a local pizzeria and then to the ninety-nine cent theater that was a few blocks away from the other’s house. Everything was going well, Dave was able to make John laugh a few times at his jokes, and of course John did more than enough talking for the both of them. Dave just nodded or hummed in response, smiling a bit as he watched his best friend from behind the safety of his shades. When they were done eating, they headed to the movies where the boys were surprised to run into Jade and Rose who were there with their dates; Karkat and Kanaya. All four of them seemed to be going on a double date. Rose gave them both knowing smiles while Jade just squealed and hugged them, giggling and teasing them as they waited in line for their tickets.
Kanaya seemed to keep to herself unless she was directly engaged in conversation, really only ever talking to Rose. Whereas Karkat was grumbling and cursing under his breath, blushing and shouting whenever Jade turned her attention to him, getting extremely embarrassed more times than often which caused him to curse and spew empty threats to cover it up. This made John laugh and start teasing the ginger as well.
They would have all sat together but all three couples were going to see three different movies. Jade promised to meet up with Rose and Kanaya later after their movie and then proceeded to drag Karkat to their theater, but not before winking teasingly at Dave and John. After which Dave and Rose shared a discreet nod before they separated ways with their respective dates. John laughed a little, giggling over what had happened and hugged Dave’s arm, smiling as they walked to their theater.
After they left the movies it was evident that the girls were already gone, their movies were apparently shorter than the John and Dave’s. It was around nine or so, the sky was already black, so Dave slowly led the way back to John’s house. John, being the big cheesy person he was, insisted on holding hands, swinging them back and forth between them smiling. Though as the night wore on and the closer they got to home, John had scooted closer, nuzzling into Dave’s shoulder as they walked.
It was that night.
No one saw the car as the boys were crossing the street.
The last thing Dave remembered was an explosion of pain that spiked through his hips and his right side, being thrown clear down the street.
When he woke up, it was to a dark room filled with an annoying beeping noise. Glancing around the room, eyes barely open, he only saw Bro who was slouched in a seat next to him, hat pulled over his face, chin tucked into his chest, obviously asleep. Not knowing what was going on, Dave tried to move, letting out a pained whimper. Of course he wasn’t exactly worried about himself, he needed to find John. Where was John? Why was it so hard to talk? What happened? Why wasn’t John with him?
Any chance he had to move caused him to make some sort of pathetic noise of pain but he didn’t give up, but it was loud enough to wake Bro who instantly pulled the cord next to his bed to call for nurse assistance. Dave flinched away as the lights were turned on, turning his head away from the bright lights, barely able to understand what the nurse was trying to say to him. He just started to shake his head, desperately trying to reach for something, anything, after a while though he passed out again without getting any answers. Where was John?
When he woke up again, Bro was still there and standing next to him was a dark haired guy who looked high as a kite and the nurse. They were all talking and Dave was pretty sure he heard Bro threaten the messy haired man next to him. The teen had tried once again to sit up and failed, giving a whimpered sigh and sinking back into the pillows behind his head.
“Hey there my brother.”
They all spoke at once, giving Dave an instant headache, shaking his head again and closing his eyes again. He didn’t want to deal with so many people at once, he just wanted his best friend.
“John… John?” His head lulled to the side a little, looking up at his brother, desperately wanting some sort of answer. “Where’s… John…? Bro…?” He simpered, his voice raspy and his throat hurt as he talked, but he didn’t care.
“Your friend is in the ICU right now, Mr. Strider. He had to go through some extensive surgeries.” It was the Nurse that had answered him, Dave took a moment to move his head and look over at the women.
“He’s in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Your friend sustained major critical injuries from the accident and had to go through multiple surgeries to correct the damage. The doctors did all they could…but he hasn’t woken up yet.”
Dave gave a broken ‘oh god’, closing his eyes again and shaking his head, giving a wheezed whimper. It was the first time in a long time that Bro had seen his little brother cry in front of him, let alone anyone else. But given the circumstances, he didn’t say anything about it, instead running his gloved fingers through his dingy hair, holding his hand with the other.
It wasn’t till weeks later that the hospital had deemed Dave well enough to go back home. Of course the first thing he wanted to do was to visit John. They had kept Bro up to date with his friend’s situation and as far as Dave knew, his friend…his crush, had yet to wake up still but he was at least alive.
It was there in John’s room that Dave had broken down crying again, now in the presence of his brother and his best friend’s father. Bro had rolled Dave’s wheel chair up to the side of the bed where Dave instantly latched onto the sleeping teen’s hand, leaning against the side of the bed and crying into the sheets. James had put his hand on Dave’s back, gently rubbing circles between his shoulder blades and humming softly. The two guardians shared a look, James shook his head and Bro rubbed his eyes under his glasses giving a harsh sigh. They left Dave by John’s bed side, giving him some time alone with the comatose boy, stepping out to talk to each other privately.
It was also an awkward time for Bro, having watched the man he had flirted with and idolized as a parent brake down just as Dave had, telling him that John was in a coma. It was also the first time he got to hold James in his arms, and it was for all the wrong reasons. But he did what he could to console the older man, rubbing his back lightly and holding him close.
After a few minutes, James pulled away and Bro (above all the things he considered against the ‘Strider way’) kissed the man on the cheek before squeezing his hand and going back into John’s room. It took a bit of convincing to get Dave to agree to leave the room and the hospital all together. As they passed James, he made a gentle comment that he didn’t blame Dave for any of this but the blonde was too busy crying into his hands as his brother wheeled him out to the main lobby.
It took a while for Dave to finally close up to his normal poker face, though it was more natural then schooled, completely devoid of any emotion what so ever. It had taken a few more weeks for Dave to even start talking again. Soon enough though he was falling back into his old habits, but he would get a little quiet during the mornings after his shower, staring at the scar he had across his hip.
It was about a week or so before school started up again that Dave started having ‘visions’ of his friend. It freaked Bro out a little and it was enough to take him to a therapist given that Dave had broken down again, curling up in his closet with his hands over his ears, sobbing into his knees. The therapist had assured Bro that it was normal for teens to go through this type of thing after losing someone. Dave of course bit back at the women that John wasn’t dead, that he was going to wake up and he knew he was, any day now. Of course all three of them knew it was a lie, John had been in a coma for the past two and half months now.
The week was filled with more tears and hiding, but slowly Bro started to see Dave regain his control again, and was really surprised by it. What he didn’t know was that his little brother was coming to terms with the fact that this vision of john, his best friend that he had been falling so very hard for, was there to stay. When school started again, Bro had gotten Dave another pair of aviators even though he knew that they wouldn’t mean as much to him as the ones John had given him, but they served their purpose.
Of course the first day of classes was hard for him to handle. It took both Jade and Rose’s help for Dave to keep himself together. Jade would sit with Dave while Rose went up to speak to their teachers, each time explaining to them what had happened to John. Of course John’s spirit couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that others couldn’t see him, only Dave. After school had been hardest for the blonde because John was freaking out that the others were speaking to him, that no one would even acknowledge that he was there. It had taken Dave breaking down again, shouting at the spirit that he wasn’t really, and that for some sadistic reason only he could see him.
That night though, Dave lay curled up under his covers, cuddling with the spirit of his best friend, the friend that was still lying in the hospital, unconscious, with and eighty-five percent chance that he wouldn’t regain consciousness again. And that is how Dave handled things, relying on the non-existent being of his best friend for the rest of the year, and not once going back to the hospital to visit his body. Why should he go when he had John with him every day?
In some twisted way Dave was convinced that John had come back for him and him alone, and that was how he dealt with what had happened.