Chapter 1: Fever
Dave woke up to another of his splitting headaches, this one bad enough to twist his stomach in nausea. He jumped out of the futon and straight for the toilet, where he began his day upchucking for the third day in a row. He lied on the sort of moldy floor for about ten minutes after, waiting for the pain and nausea to subside before standing up. He simply couldn't understand these hangover-type mornings as he had been completely sober for a month, and even then it was one drink ironically drunk for a college party he crashed.
He checked his Pesterlog, and noticed everyone was offline, as expected. It seemed they were on their way to spring break in Houston, and was expected to come to his apartment at about noon. Except for maybe Jade, but that was a no brainer. Dave glanced at the clock on the lower right side of his computer screen. It was one 'o clock.
"Oh HELL no…"
Dave ran into the bathroom again, this time to the shower, taking off his clothes in the process. He closed the shower door and turned it on. The water was cold, but Dave ignored this while scrubbing his hair and body with the bar soap sitting in its holder. He got out when he felt presentably and ironically clean enough considering the time, flushed the still filled with vomit toilet, and started drying himself off with a bright red towel. All the while brushing his teeth and combing his hair into his all-time favorite style.
Dave darted out of the bathroom with the towel covering up his torso, and looked at the answering machine. He grinned, as it was a nice, ironic touch, and saw he had a message. He pressed the blinking button and listened while he got dressed.
"Yo, bro! Lissen, it's not like I'm trying to be a homo or anything. Not like I'm not being unironic, cuz dat ain't cool. But'chu need to see a doctor. Last night you looked just TOAST, man. Worse than a pothead, dog. And you ain't on anything, either. Lissen, bro. I don't love ya in a gay, homosexual clusterfuck or anythin', but I'm startin' to worry. It's like you're getting' sicker each day, and-" BEEP. Call deleted.
It was that kind of shit that made Dave move out in the first place. Sure, the area was kind of a ghetto, but the high-rise was halfway decent and relatively cheap. Plus he managed to nab a top floor apartment, perfect as he hated the noisy douches on the floor above when visiting other friends. Might as well drop some phat beats while he waited, but the door rang just when he turned on his turntables. It exacerbated his headache immensely.
He pressed the button on the intercom. "Yeah?"
"Hey, Dave! We're here!" It was John.
"Hey John, Rose, Jade. I'll buzz you guys up." He let go of the button and pressed the one next to it, then pressed the intercom button again.
"…Uh… how does this work?"
"Egbert! You're supposed to open the door when I'm buzzin', man!"
"Sorry, man! I've never really been to apartments before! Could you ring us in again? I think we're gonna get mugged any second now!"
"Pansy." Dave held the second button again, then went back to the intercom. "Rose, is he in now?"
"Yeah, Dave. Though now he's making me hold the door so we can get our stuff in."
"Hey, I'm new at this!"
Dave shook his head. "Lissen, do y'all know my apartment number?"
Dave could hear Jade giggle "Of course, silly! It's 19-D! You've told us that many, many times!"
He rubbed his aching forehead. "Just wanted to see if John knew."
John yelled, apparently away from the microphone. "I know that!"
"Just get the fuck up here."
Dave let go of the button, and realized that he should check his bathroom mirror. He glanced at it from his position right next to the apartment door and noticed scribblings in lipstick. It wasn't from any woman, and he doesn't quite remember how he got it. Regardless, today's scrawling was a grocery list, one that he thought he put on a scrap of paper. He quickly put the list into memory and wiped the red lipstick off of the mirror, just in time to hear his door knocking. Dave went through the order of locks needed to unlock his door and opened it. He was greeted with John, Jade, and their goofy grins, and a subtle smile from Rose.
"Hey Strider!" John dropped his bags and bro bumped Dave. "This place yours?"
"Yeah." Dave smirked. "Got great rent, but it's a little… small. Like a midget's testicles after jumping into an ice cold pool."
Rose looked around. The main room was about fifteen by nine with a tiny kitchen, and could only see two other rooms, both ridiculously tiny. "Indeed it is, Strider."
"Yeah. I usually sleep out here, since my room is full of my slick turntables and shit."
Jade shivered. "Is your home always this cold, Dave?" The only window visible had an air conditioner haphazardly jammed into it, chugging in cold air into the room.
"Yeah, I'm kinda cold myself." John glanced at the dial. "Why is it 69?"
"Think, Egbert. Besides, it's hot outside, and I'm freaking hot. Both ways. Since I am always quite the stud."
"Dave… you can't feel how cold it is?" Rose wasn't sure if Dave was serious or bullshitting.
"I'm sweating, Rose." Dave artfully caused a distraction. "Look, it's hot outside for March, and I'm sure the beaches are open today. How's about we go there and stop arguing like those bitches in those godawful reality shows?"
"Sounds good." John nodded.
"Yeah, I thought I'd need one." Rose concurred.
"Are there gonna be seagulls there?" Jade asked.
Rose smiled. "Of course, Jade!"
Chapter 2: Absent
Soon enough, everyone was ready for this impromptu trip. Everyone had gotten their swimsuits under their regular clothes, and everyone but John had gotten sunscreen on.
"Dude." Dave commented in-between a pang in his head. "You'll fry up out there."
"I will not, Dave. Sunscreen is for wusses. True bros take on the sun head on!"
"Dude, enough. I've gotten sunburned before, and it was not pretty. I'm not forcing you or anything, but wear some, man."
In the end, Dave could not convince John to wear the sunscreen, and all four went downstairs and outside to Dave's ironic clunker of a car. Dave swore under his breath for a good half minute trying to start it, but eventually won over machine. The drive took about half an hour, but felt like forever to Dave, his mouth drying up while his entire body was dripping sweat. Sure, his friends were sweating as well, but not to the extreme Dave felt, and the loss of so much water only hurt his head even more. Immediately exiting the car once at the beach, he ran up to a vending machine and bought two bottles of water, chugging one and a half of it within a minute. He went back to the car to chuck the half-full bottle into, took off his shorts, shirt and foot apparel, and barreled to the salty ocean water.
"Fish out of water, John!"
"Goddammit, Jade. You're too good at this game!" John couldn't help but pout.
"Yeah." Rose thought. "Are you cheating by looking into the future with your precognitive skills?"
"I can't help it, guys! I just know!"
Dave floated by on his back. "Yo, you children stop arguing. Papa bear's tryin' to relax."
Rose couldn't help but snark. "You mean to say that you sired all of us, Knight of Time?" It had visibly grossed John out a little.
"Shut the hell up or I'll smack yo' ass."
Dave took a deep breath of the salty air. His near constant headache had became a dull throb, perfectly tolerable considering the pain he had gone through. His ears were submerged, and the cool water had stopped his sweating. Dave smiled, and he could not ask for more, except for maybe some ill beats.
His ears could not pick up a lot from underwater, and eventually the voices of his friends got distant as he floated away from them and blended in with every other noise that reached his ears. Dave let his mind drift, forgetting most of his worries, simply savoring the relaxation. His iconic sunglasses blocked out the sun from hitting his eyes full force, more so when they were closed. Occasionally, about every fifteen minutes or so, he would open them for a minute or two to avoid falling asleep before closing them again. Around the seventh or eighth time, he opened them to a flock of seagulls above him, circling each other, making odd divebombs in a ritualistic courtship with a prospective mate.
Dave turned his head a little and glanced at the beach, which by this point was about 20 or 30 feet away. Several seagulls were waddling on the beach, cawing. Jade somehow had one on her head, much to her glee. One seagull caught his eye, as this one seemed to be eating the sand and not interested in any of the mating rituals. It took off, flew past Dave, glided for another 40 feet, then stiffened up and dived into the ocean. It didn't come back up.
"Brainless feathery asshole…" Muttered Dave.
Dave turned his head back up to face the sky once more. He closed his eyes and took another deep breath before opening them again. That minute incident seemed to bother Dave, as much as he tried putting it out of his mind. It was making him feel funny.
The sky was beginning to turn into an orange tinge. "Hey John, do you mind getting Dave out of the water? It's starting to get a bit cold."
"Okay, Rose." John ran up the beach where Dave started floating back towards and called out. "Hey Dave! It's time to go!" Nothing. "Huh. Must be asleep."
John's theory of sleeping was proved false when it looked to him Dave was moving. The right side of Dave's body was moving in a way that suggested to John that he was going to flip over. Instead, the disturbance of balance caused Dave's pevlic area to sink, dragging Dave with it. John instantly reacted, and jumped in the water. Meanwhile, Rose and Jade were looking on.
"What are those two idiots doing this time?"
Jade smiled. "Maybe Dave wanted to show John something."
Dave wasn't sure what had happened, but he was being dragged back to the beach by a panting John, who looked worried sick over his friend.
Dave hacked up water. "What the hell?" The coughing was hurting his head.
John got them both wading towards the beach. "I don't know! It looked like you were gonna swim, then you sunk and I thought you were sleep drowning or something!"
"Bullshit, John." Dave was leaning on his friend. "I was just chillin' when you rocked my world." He coughed some more. So much for the relaxation.
Rose and Jade ran up. "What happened?!" Jade frowned.
John sat Dave down. "Dave almost drowned!"
"Liar." Dave managed to say between coughing fits. "Yo' pansy self freaked out when I was flipping over to come back!"
Rose furrowed her brow. "Dave, that's an extremely idiotic excuse."
Jade kneeled down next to Dave. "Dave, are you okay?"
"Yes!" Dave growled. "Everyone just calm down. Don't get yer freaking biscuits burnt, because you'll still have to pay for them."
"Jesus, Dave!" John sighed. "I save your life and that's what I get?"
Dave got up and started walking towards the parking lot. "Dude, let's just get outta here."
"Wait up!" Jade was gathering the beach towels.
"You're seriously not going to drive after that?" Rose shouted.
"Dave, just get some rest. I have my license on me, I'll drive us back."
Dave opened the car door and threw John his shirt. "Chill out, bro." He coughed again. "Like I said, you freaked me out, popping up so unironically, throwing off my funky groove and shit."
John looked like he was going to say something, but instead grunted and started putting his shirt on.
"Dave, are you sure you know where you're going?"
"Hell yeah, Rose. Just gotta take the highway back, and boom, we'll be there faster than a whore to a Plump Rump convention."
"But we didn't even go on the highway on the way there." Jade commented from the backseat.
"Yeah we did. Remember that one street jumpin' with cars? It's technically a highway."
"That wasn't a highway, numbnuts." John muttered in his shotgun seat. "Face it, we're lost."
"I know where I'm going. I know this town better than my own homies."
Rose sighed. "Neither is much at all, then."
Dave flat-out ignored Rose, and continued driving, making a turn into a busy road. Dave knew this street, and he knew that it didn't lead back to his house. He just didn't want to admit it, because he remembered finding his way home perfectly from the same area several months before. The setting sun was getting in his eyes, and despite his sunglasses, the rays were burning right into his skull. Before long he had turned to another busy street just to get rid of the extra pain it was giving him. However, he had made a wrong turn, and was now in a middle-class suburb.
"I don't remember this place." John uttered.
"I know where I'm going, so don't flip the fuck out or anything."
Dave concentrated on the road, putting the concerns of his friends out of his mind. He scanned for a road that would lead them out of there, turned, and got even more lost. Eventually, he found his way back, but not before the sun almost setting completely under the horizon. Jade had fallen asleep on Rose by that time.
Rose reached into her purse and got out her smartphone. "I'm looking up directions, Dave."
Dave couldn't hear Rose. He felt time warp for him in a strange manner. It was moving, but he couldn't process any of it. John noticed Dave being completely out of it.
"Hey, Dave? Did you hear that?"
Dave didn't respond, and continued to stare vapidly into space. The car had drifted to a lane with opposing traffic.
"Dave, this isn't funny, man! Snap out of it!"
"Knock it off, Strider. This ironic joke of yours isn't funny!"
"Rose, this isn't a joke! He's really out!"
John was about to respond when a car barreling straight towards them honked its horn. John and Rose yelled, but John once again had his wits and took the wheel. He swerved Dave's car out of the way and back to the right lane just in time. He knocked Dave's foot off of the pedal and onto the break, and soon enough the car was crawling. John managed to apply the brake and put the car in park. Both John and Rose breathed a sigh of relief that they were no longer in immediate danger. Jade woke up and Rose explained to her what had happened, while John was trying to snap Dave out of it.
John checked Dave's forehead. "He seems a little hot, Rose!"
She tossed him the water bottle. "Try this!"
John unscrewed the cap and carefully opened his friend's mouth. He poured a little bit in when Dave started sputtering and thrashing a little.
"Dave! Are you okay? D-did you hurt any thing? What happened?!"
Dave blinked several times. "What? I'm as confused as you are."
"Well…" John rubbed the back of his head. "You kinda zoned out and nearly killed us all."
"Yeah. If John didn't do anything, either from lack of response time or through shocked indecision, we would've been all seriously injured at the very least!"
Dave appeared to have reoriented himself. "Dude, yo' imagination must be jumpin' today."
John ignored the jab. "Rose, do you think he might be sick or something?"
"The probability is high, John. Dave certainly looks like he fighting some sort of change in his homeopathy."
"Dude, I'm not a homo." Dave totally missed the point. "And I am not sick, and do not need a doctor."
Rose glared at Dave. "You nearly got us KILLED just now because you're sick!"
Dave froze. "Whuh? No, Rose. That couldn't be further from the truth."
Dave got out of his car and began feeling woozy. He hiccuped, and darted into an alley, where his friends could hear him vomiting. John frowned, and he and Rose followed when the noise died down.
"I don't need no doctor, man. Just gotta… a stomach flu. Or food poisoning… either of them do the same thing…"
John looked at Rose helplessly. "He is saying he feels fine enough to not have a doctor…"
Rose sighed. Looks like Dave will only play by his rules. "Very well, Dave. Next time during our visit, and we're taking you to one."
Dave sneered, but his headache began affecting his vision. He didn't agree to that, but couldn't help the fact that he needed to be led back to the backseat of his own car.
"Dave, you look terrible!" Jade frowned.
"Just the aftereffects of a wild night with my bros. So many whores, Jade. And they were stripping the walls with stripper, man."
"The hell…" John shook his head. "Jade, just make sure Dave doesn't puke all over you or something."
Jade nodded. "You can count on me, John!" She instantly fell asleep.
Dave fortunately wasn't nauseous enough to begin vomiting again, but his consciousness flipped forward numerous times, including when John was lightly tapping his cheek when they had gotten to the apartment. Dave took his keys back from Rose on the top floor and attempted unlocking his apartment door with his car key, until he was reminded of that fact. Despite further arguing, his friends turned off the air conditioner.
"Now I'm not gonna let you children's night get ruined. Do whatever out here, I'm gonna crash in there. Uhh, I think there's an air mattress in the closet over there. This unironic, iroincally timed food poisoning'll pass, man…" Dave trailed off, went into his already crowded bedroom and curled up in a pile of dirty laundry. "I'm perfectly healthy…"
Chapter 3: Indigestion
John stirred in the middle of the night, but Rose and Jade were still sound asleep sharing what little space there was on the air mattress. He always was a light sleeper, and going to bed considerably earlier had given him a case of insomnia. John scratched at his sunburnt face, got up and tiptoed over to the fridge. He saw a carton of milk, but after checking the expiration date threw it out. It made him think that quite possibly Dave really was telling the truth, and that he simply intended to give his friends a good time by ignoring his sickness.
He heard soft moaning and hurking sounds emanating from the bathroom. Speak of the devil, John thought, and he slid over to the half-closed door.
"Dave?" He reached for the light switch.
"Bro, don't turn on th-" John didn't react in time, and had turned on the light. John squinted his eyes, somewhat already readjusted from the light from the refrigerator a minute ago. Dave was wearing his sunglasses, but even then he instinctively covered his eyes.
"I warned you, man." Dave felt for the toilet, and stuck his head in it.
"Did you have any of that milk in the fridge?"
"Yeah. It was three weeks expired."
"I never drink milk, man. Think about it." Dave stopped to cough. "You're drinking something coming from cow nipples, and those nipples are placed very uncomfortably close to the crotch." The thought made Dave vomit.
"Then why did you buy some?" John was getting confused.
"I don't know, man. The other day I found a sandwich in there, and I don't remember ever buying or making or making some bitch make it…"
"Jesus, Dave. Why haven't you seen anyone yet?"
"Jesus, John." Dave mocked. "Why can't you see I'm fine?"
"Dave, you're vomiting for the third time in front of me, you zoned out twice, you can't remember half the things you can remember."
"Symptoms of food poisoning." Dave held his head, eyes still shut tightly.
"You just said you never drink any milk." John was careful not to wake Rose and Jade, though his voice did raise a little. "See? Your memory's fucking up."
Dave got his face out of the toilet bowl and slumped against the shower door. "I'll level with ya, since you're my dawg. There's this thing I'm goin' to tonight, I think. Is it Sunday?"
"Got a gig tonight, John. The ass of this concert is larger than an obese hag who still buys all her clothes extra skinny. It'll be hoppin' and boppin'. I'll be scratchin' and be making serious scratch."
"Five grand, bro."
"Man, I know. Been makin' me nervous. I can't screw dis up, man. I could be makin' a name for myself tonight or screw myself royal."
"Oh God, dude. What can I do?" John's eyes brightened, though Dave couldn't tell. "Maybe I can get Rose and Jade to come with me to see you perform."
"I can't imagine any of you there. Especially Jade."
"Dude, anything to stop you puking everywhere."
Dave sighed, headache alleviating a bit. "You're so goddamn pushy when you want to be, Egbert. Just tell those two we're going to a movie so they don't try to weasel their way out of it like rabbits squeezing in tight spaces just to piss off their masters."
John chuckled. "Sure thing, Dave." He got up. "Should I turn off the light?"
"Yeah." The bathroom became pitch black.
"Thanks, man. And thanks for, uh… saving our lives back there. Just didn't want the girls thinking I'm becoming a pansy or anything."
"Haha, yeah. Bros before hos."
"You know it, man."
Dave sat there, and listened. Eventually, he heard John's soft snoring among Rose's and Jade's. He got up and headed back to his room.
"You'll believe anything, Egbert." He smirked.
"Woah, woah, woah. He's taking us WHERE?"
John was taking fresh clothes from his rolling travel bag. "To a movie, Rose. He sorta feels bad about what happened last night and wants to make up for it."
"I don't believe that trite garbage in a second. Do you, Jade?"
"What's a movie, guys?"
John explained. "It's a series of moving pictures, sound and music that tell a story."
Jade squealed and clapped her hands together. "Yay, a story!"
"Rose, you gotta trust him every once in a while."
"Did you already forget that he almost killed us last night?"
"No, not at all, but he wants to make it up to us, so why say no?"
"John, remember back when we were playing Sburb, and you let one of those trolls kill you in an alternate timeline?"
"Yeah, and Dave saved my life."
Jade concurred. "That's true, Rose! And maybe Dave is really sorry for what he did and stuff and just wants to have us forget that ever happened, because nothing bad came out of it!"
Rose softened up. "I don't know, Jade, but… ugh… I just don't think this is Dave's intentions."
"Look, we'll know when we see it, Rose. I just don't think Dave would pull such a thing."
John walked into the bathroom and locked the door behind him. He carefully decided to put his clothes on the floor, then realized how stupid of an idea that was. He checked himself in the mirror, and saw writing on it in a red, waxy substance John couldn't put his finger on. It simply stated "IT KEEPS HAPENING".
"Dear God, I hope Dave's ok." John took some toilet paper and rubbed it away.
Chapter 4: Convulsions
Dave woke up feeling very good. His headache felt virtually nonexistent and didn't feel any sensation that he was going to throw up. He smiled, sat up from his clothes heap, and checked the time on his ironically analog wall clock. Two-thirty. Dave sighed, thinking at least the extra sleep would keep him up for his concert. He looked outside his room, and noticed his friends had gotten into his video games, but he didn't really mind, considering how late he slept in. Dave grabbed his cell phone from his dresser and dialed in a number. The person on the other end responded.
"Sup, man. Lissen, I have some of my homies in town. It's spring motherfuckin' break for them. Izzit okay if they get in for free?"
"No prob, my man. Just have them enter with ya over on the side entrance and everything will be arranged."
"Sweet, bro. Talk to ya then!"
Dave hung up and put the cell phone back on his dresser. After a quick change into new clothes and a quick fabric deodorizer spray, he joined his friends.
"Hey Dave!" John smiled, though somewhat oddly at Dave. "How are you feeling?"
"Better, man. Though I wasn't sick in the first place, better."
Rose scoffed, and killed John's character. Apparently it was a fighting game they were playing.
"I'm in next game."
"Dave, this isn't a freaking movie theater!" Rose was fuming redder than the sky in the slightly chilly parking lot.
Dave smirked. "Well, it's a theater regardless, innit?"
"He's right, Rose." John tried his best to not look like he was in it.
"I am gonna kill you two the moment we return to your apartment. That is, if you don't expire beforehand."
"If it makes you feel any better, Rose, I'mma give my keys to John here." He lobbed the keys over to John, who caught them awkwardly.
Dave shepherded his friends to the side entrance, and knocked on the door. It opened slightly, saw who it was, and closed the door to unlock it and opened up completely.
Dave fistbumped the man, no older than 25. "Yo, dawg. This be my peeps."
"Nice, dude. One of them yo' girlfriend?"
"Nah, man. But they all are cool."
"Sweet. Come in, guys."
Eventually, John, Rose and Jade got into the mosh-style audience pit, crowded on all sides by complete strangers. They each also had a small VIP sticker affixed to their chests.
"Hey, at least we're close to the stage." John rationalized.
"Yeah, and we get to watch Dave be so cooool!"
"Sometimes, deep down, I wish out of the four of us, that at least two of us had perfect rational cognitive abilities."
"You've been saying that all day, Rose!"
"Yeah! Forget all that stuff! Have a good time!" Jade grinned her goofy grin.
Rose cracked a small smile. Meanwhile, backstage, Dave was starting to cradle his head. The headache had returned while he was driving over to the theater, but only in the last several minutes did it become almost unbearable. He reached into his cargo pants and pulled out a small bottle of ibuprofen and checked the contents before taking the last little tablet it contained.
"Yo man." Dave jumped at his friend's voice. "You okay?"
"Yeah man. Just got a little headache. Nothing big."
"Okay dude. We're starting, y'all better drop some beats."
Dave nodded in approval, and walked out on-stage to his turntable booth. He saw his friends in the crowd, and gave the peace sign to them in a very casual, cool manner. He could hear John yell at him from the audience.
"Knock 'em dead, Strider!"
Dave saw the rapper that hired him for this gig appear on stage and begin the act. Dave ironically cleared his throat before starting up the turntables. The first three songs Dave was stellar, hitting every beat, making every scratch with such amazing timing and accuracy, the crowd was going wild. He saw his friends, and was satisfied that even Rose looked to have finally dropped that ridiculous theory of him being sick.
He started feeling off sometime during the middle of the fifth song. Even in his shades, the lights were piercing through them like nothing and hitting his retina like tiny suns. He turned his head downward, focusing on the turntables and the various dials and switches. Somehow he wasn't able to clearly see the tiny labels denoting what did what, but it didn't matter to Dave, as he had learned them all by heart. However, when he began seeing twice as many, he broke out in a sweat. It had suddenly gotten very hot to Dave, hotter than what he normally felt on-stage. His ears, which were heavily being relied on, started picking up static. It was a little at first, totally imperceivable to Dave, but it grew with his headache until he could barely hear the auditory cues he relied on so dearly. Dave was confused and frightened, but he had continued to desperately ignore that and tried continuing his job. He felt a fast forward, and even though it was a split-second one, he had missed an important beat. His hands confused themselves for one another, creating more mistimed beats and scratches. More fast-forwards. He saw his friends in a brief glimpse of visual clarity looking concerned. Dave's legs trembled. He couldn't understand this sudden wetness crawling down his legs nor the sudden taste of copper. Then Dave vomited right on the turntable, shorting out the circuitry, and collapsed in an unconscious, convulsing heap.
John was shocked. "Oh God, what's happening?!" He muttered obscenities to himself
Rose wished she could do something, but was lost in the moment to really wrap her brain around the idea to call an ambulance immediately. When she did snap out of it, Jade was crying, and John was no where to be seen.
"Shit, Egbert." She grabbed Jade by the wrist. "Come on, we have to find him."
"But Dave!" Jade sniffled.
Rose weaved through the stunned crowd with Jade in tow. "I know, Jade."
"Why are we going away from him?"
"I don't know! We have to find John, I guess!"
Rose had no idea what she was doing; she was going on the very first thing that came to her mind. Both got outside of the crowd, who was starting to realize that this was not part of the act.
"Rose, I see John!"
"He just went through that door!"
Jade pointed to a door labeled 'EXIT'. Rose and Jade rushed over to the door and went outside. They found John around the corner of the building with his cellphone, completely in a hysterical flipout.
"My friend just collapsed and he's convulsing!" John wringed his hands. "I don't know! I think so! He never tells me about shit like this!" More wringing. "I don't know, I'm visiting here!" Lip biting. "I don't know the name of the building!" John noticed Rose. "Where are we?!"
"I wasn't really paying attention, John."
"Goddammit!" John burst through the two women and off down the sidewalk.
"Damn you, John. You're scared of getting mugged, but leave two women in an alleyway."
"We should see if Dave is okay!" Jade whimpered.
Rose checked the door. "It's locked. Come on, let's try the main entrance!"
The two girls ran back to the front of the theater. Many people seemed to be leaving, either out of confusion or selfishly realizing the show was over and they would not get a refund. Security, upon seeing the VIP stickers, let the two in, and they rushed back to the stage. Dave was still convulsing, and it looked to be even more violent than before.
"Shit, a seizure." Rose gritted. "Dammit."
Rose held Jade, shielding her from the traumatic imagery. She looked around, and saw John run up to them.
"I called an ambulance. They're coming in a couple of minutes."
"John, he's been like that for four minutes. I've read a plethora of literature on medicine, and that is not good." Rose felt a little hysterical herself.
John, meanwhile, seemed a tad more composed, but still very nervous. "It's going to be okay. Dave always comes out on top…"
Rose simply sighed, still shielding Jade from what was happening. The paramedics came soon enough and in a flash were gone with Dave. John caught the name of the hospital they were taking him, and grabbed his two friends and ran to Dave's car. He prayed to God he wouldn't get pulled over for speeding.
Chapter 5: Coma
John had lost sight of the ambulance when a train had obstructed his path, but Rose gave him the directions from her smartphone. They were able to reach the correct hospital, and they all rushed in. John begged, pleaded with the receptionist to let them see their friend, but was outright denied.
"You gotta let us in!"
Jade added. "We've been friends for years! Please! He needs us!"
"Keep tellin' ya. Family only. Though you can wait in the waiting room over there in case his condition gets better."
John sighed. "Ok, then…"
They all went into the waiting room and sat there, too busy in their thoughts to really talk to one another. The high amounts of stress felt in the last few hours was starting to get to them, and Rose and John agreed to take shifts while the other tried to sleep. Jade wanted to be a part of this, but fell asleep before she could voice her opinion. Midnight came, and John decided to take first shift. Anxiety gnawed at his stomach for a full two hours before he woke Rose up for her turn. She wanted to knit to pass the time, and had the material to do so, but aside from the want to sleep was shaking too much to hold the needles anyway. Rose heard whimpering, and turned her head. Both Jade and John seemed to be in a fitful sleep. She took the one ball of yarn she had and placed it right nest to Jade's face. Jade grabbed ahold of the ball and stopped making noise other than her quiet snoring. John would have to endure whatever bad dream he was having, Rose surmised. Finally, it was 4 AM. Time for John's shift.
"Hey, wake up." She shook John awake.
"Oh God!" John had woken up crying.
"John? Are your inhibitions lowered from that fitful sleep?"
John clamped onto Rose. "Dave! He's dead! I should've stopped him! I didn't say anything! He's dead, Rose!"
Mothering instincts took over. "It was a dream, John. Just a bad dream. And even then, nobody could have guessed that his ailment was so severe."
It took a while for Rose to effectively calm down John, and had to turn to comfort Jade when she stirred. John signaled to Rose that he was going outside to get some fresh air, and after a nod of approval, did so. He went outside, and realized how cold it had gotten, and he was still wearing only a t-shirt and jeans. It at least woke him up for his shift. A tall, slender man popped out from the corner, putting a flask in his coat chest pocket, when he spotted John.
"Yo, man. Cold?" John nodded. "Here, wanna sip?"
"No, I think I'm fine. I think… friend isn't doing too good…"
"I know how ya feel, bro. Little bro got it bad sometime earlier, an…"
"Hold on. Are you a Strider?"
"Hey, guys." John woke Rose and Jade up, both sleeping on each other. "I found Dave's bro."
Rose blinked, still half-asleep. "W-What?"
"Dave's brother. I found him outside. He's gonna see if we can visit Dave after the surgery."
"That's great, John, an- what? Surgery?"
"He told me that he got his brain infected with some sort of bacteria, and it made this thing…"
"You mean a tumor?!" Jade shrieked.
"No! Not that at all! But it did make this abscess thing? I dunno, but apparently it put a lot of pressure on his brain and caused all that stuff wrong with him."
"So what is the prognosis of our friend, John? He does take beatings with stride, hence why he's named Stri-"
"He's comatose." Silence. "It was a mixture of the pressure, fever, and that seizure thing."
"Did bro disclose how high the fever was?" Rose sounded frightened.
"No. All he said was it was the pressure. But it was pretty high."
"John." Rose twiddled her thumbs. "Dave…" She was at a loss of words. "He's probably not going to survive."
John sat down and protectively held Jade while she cried on his shoulder. "Yeah. Maybe. But he's still breathing, and I'm not gonna give up on my bro that easily."
"Y-yeah…" Jade sniffled. "All these things are happening to Dave, a-and they're scary, but I know he's gonna wake up."
John smiled and yawned. "Sounds like the optimism we need."
He could only hear what was going on. Slow beeps, inaudible murmurs, clanging of various tools he could not see. The pain was nonexistent, and it would be bothersome if he could gain access to that feeling, but his emotions were nonexistent. He could sort of feel his body, but it hadn't moved for so long that it felt numbed completely. Then his hearing faded, and all thought had ceased and was forgotten.
"Yo. Little bro's friends?" John, Rose and Jade woke up and saw the elder Strider walk up to them.
John snapped awake. "What happened?"
"Bro got outta surgery half an hour ago. Got dat thing drained like a bladder finally releasing its payload. He's getting medicine now, and I finally got dem to let you guys see 'im."
Jade popped awake. "Thank you!"
Rose rubbed her eyes. "Wait… didn't they have to shave his head or something?"
"Yeah, but it's cool, man. He's a street soldier anyhow. Been wantin' him to do dat anyway, but he was all 'No, bro, dis hair be cool. It's irony, man!'. But dis makes it more ironic, 'specially wit the army hat."
Rose furrowed her brow. "Aren't you worried in the least that your younger brother may perish from all the cranial trauma?"
"Yeah, but my bro ain't a pussy."
"God, both of you are impossible…" Rose muttered.
The four took the trek into the ICU, and after a couple of stops at various desks along the way, finally reached the room where Dave laid. Various monitors were hooked to his body, and an IV drip was steadily providing Dave a potentially life-saving medicine cocktail. An army hat was loosely affixed to Dave's head, and a smuppet was lying next to the fragile body on a table.
Rose was the first to comment. "My God, he looks so weak and helpless."
"Yeah." John added. "How long will he be like this?"
"Potentially as short as an hour, or as long as a lifetime."
Bro scoffed. "Nah. He's gonna wake up soon. Like I said, he ain't no pussy!"
"Yeah, I'm sure it's only gonna be a couple of days." Jade smiled.
"Now's not the time to be optimistic about it, Jade." Rose sighed.
John spoke up. "Yeah, but Jade has that future-seeing gift and shit, so I'm gonna stick by my bro, Rose."
Rose thought about this, and finally nodded in agreement. It wasn't as though Jade was totally wrong about these kinds of things before.
Voices. He couldn't make them out, couldn't tell exactly who was talking. But they came and went in a seemingly patternous manner, at least to Dave. Something was definitely wrong, but his lifeless shell and even inner workings could not allow anything more than a tingling sensation.
He heard the voices again, and simply sensed and instantly forgot about it. But he was starting to pick out words from the muddle, and the tingling became a more tangible sensation. Dave exhaled a soft moan, and he started feeling not only his body, but the bed as well.
Dave couldn't tell exactly who that was, only that it was masculine. His feeble attempts of movement seemed to excite these voices, so he kept persisting. They were becoming clear, and he could begin to see light.
"Wake up, bro."
"Come on, Strider!"
"You can do it!"
"Come back, Dave."
He focused all efforts to open his eyes, and through the cheering on, finally did. Four faces, two girls, two guys, looked at him in a cautiously excited manner. One of them, a guy with square glasses, spoke.
"How you feeling, Dave?"
His thoughts still had a sticky, muddy feel to them. "Crap."
One of the girls started talking. "Strider, are you feeling any sort of pain as a result of either the abcess or the resulting surgery?"
The other girl piped up. "She's saying if your head hurts."
"Yeah… a bit." Something was bugging him.
"I told ya, man. Butchu' look on the up and up."
"Thanks. Uhh…" It was beginning to sink in, but he ignored it. "How long was I out?"
The black haired girl answered. "Today's Friday, Dave. Five days."
Dave grimaced. "Dag, man." Realization began to kick in. "Oh God…"
The first guy talked. "What's wrong? Are you in pain? We can do something about that."
"No. No pain." Oh God, not this.
The first girl piped up. "What, Strider?"
"I should know who you are, but I don't know you guys faces."
John could tell his friends' enthusiasm was replaced with panic, himself included. He couldn't believe Dave got amnesia. It was stupid, and there was no way this was happening. John blurted out the first t hing he could think of.
"Do you remember our chumhandles? Ectobiologist? Ring a bell?"
A surprising answer. "Yeah, man. John has that screenname."
"What about Rose and Jade? …Bro?"
"Ugh…" somehow John thought it was hurting Dave's head. "tentacleTherapist, gardenGnostic, and broliathStrider, when on AIM."
John couldn't wrap his mind around this. "Do you recognize me as John?"
"I told ya. I don't recognize any of you, though you do seem to act like John."
John was going to respond, but Rose tapped him on the shoulder. "We shouldn't be overloading his cerebrum with all these questions, regardless of if he knows the answers. He needs rest."
"Okay, Rose." John turned to Dave. "We're gonna let you rest now, buddy. And don't worry about your memory. It'll come back, and you'll be back to normal!"
"…Kay." Dave sounded distant, almost lost in thought.
Dave really did feel tired, and despite his escalating sense of terror, he nudged it to the side as he drifted off. He was seriously hoping that this was one of those weird dream within a dream situations.
Chapter 6: Irritable
It had gotten late, and Bro had offered his place for his brother's friends to sleep in since the incident, because 'it just ain't cool not to'. It was about noon when Dave initially woke up, and about six before doctors gave an official diagnosis of prosopamnesia as well as a significant amount of short-term memory loss, evidenced through several tests. It caused his friends to want to stay for his sake for an extra couple of days. Their professors were jerks, however.
"Dammit!" John closed his cell phone. "I almost had all my professors give me some extra time off!" he sighed. "I can't leave my bro like this."
"True, John. Professors are idiots. I guess that since Dave isn't a near and dear friend to them that they simply don't understand the need for even an extra day or two off." She scoffed. "It's not like this is a run-of-the-mill type amnesia that has the ability to be resolved in a very short time period, but it's not like I'm making up new words just so I can "goof off" some more either." She facepalmed.
John had an idea. "Hey, Jade. Bec transportalized you here, correct?"
"Yep! He does when I ask him politely enough!"
"Could you ask him if he wouldn't mind transportalizing one of us down here for the weekend? Not all of us at once, but maybe one of us a weekend?"
"I could try! And I'm sure he'll have no problem with it!"
"I bet ya guys want to stay wit me for the weekends?" Bro asked. "Cuz dat ain't a problem, and I'mma make Dave stay wit' me until dis resolves. I can still kick his ass in fights, so if he refuses, I can make 'im."
John smiled. "I guess it's agreed then." He felt kind of stupid for not thinking of that before.
"But the chances of Dave actually being able to fully recover from this is laughably low! Guys, I know it's beneficial for one to be optimistic, but at this point we can't just handwave this!"
"We're not handwaving, Rose." Jade said. "But maybe if Dave notices that we're confident in him, he might get better. I don't know, Rose, but I'm not sure what would happen if we just handwaved him!"
"Jade has a point." John agreed.
"I don't know… Dave is almost dickishly stubborn and proud."
"Hey, my bro's cool!" Bro gritted.
Dave had enough with this matching game, and decided to simply use a brute force method to end it already. It was only 4 pairs of cards, and he saw what they were before the goddamn doctor flipped them over, but so far he only got one pair, and out of pure luck. It was causing one of those "This is stupid" headache, made worse when he was forced to repeat the memory match. The cards weren't even reshuffled, but Dave knew it wouldn't have made a difference.
"Now, Dave, try to remember which cards match, instead of just blindly guessing."
Dave spat out poisonous words to the doctor, but very begrudgingly complied for about two minutes, in which case frustration won over and he went back to his method. He managed to get one from memory, but ultimately flipped the fuck out when he couldn't remember any more. Dave didn't even notice the other doctor enter with a needle and other supplies in hand.
"I think they're doing something to him, now, but I'll let you all through."
The four uttered their thanks and walked down the hallway where Dave's new bedroom was at, out of the ICU. They got right to his door when they heard him scream.
"Just several more seconds, Dave, and it'll be over."
"I HATE FUCKING NEEDLES!"
The four decided it would be best to stand outside until given the okay to. When they were, Dave was flat on his back, clutching the sides of the bed.
John gaped. "Woah. What'd they do, bro?"
"They stuck a fucking needle in my fucking back, bro! Thought the scream woulda signaled somethin' goin' in somethin'!" It was official. Dave Strider was pissed beyond pissed, a temper tinderbox ready to explode.
John continued. "We finally set something up so that one of us could see you over weekends."
"Yeah, that's me."
"You live all the way in white-ass Washington or something!"
"We're gonna use my dog to get us here!"
"We've decided on a round-robin visiting scheme. John will take the first weekend, me second, and Jade will take third."
"And I'm interested in dis shit WHY?"
John treaded as lightly as he could. "We want to help you in any way that may be of benefit. Uh… if you don't want us, that's okay."
"Nah, man. I never said nothin' about not wantin' you guys down here. Dat's why I wanted you guys… down here?" Dave looked confused.
"You invited us down here for the week of Spring Break, but it didn't exactly turn out right."
"Ah. Right. Sorry about all dis, man."
"It's cool, Dave. It could've been much worse if we weren't here." John paused. "But then again, not."
Bro bluntly butted in. "Bro, man, lissen. I'mma not gonna care whatchu gonna say, but you're livin' wit' me until dis blows over like the e…"
"No. God, no. I'm not going back to that apartment filled to the fucking ceiling with goddamn smuppets!"
"The smuppets are cool, bro. You sayin' that they're not?"
"That's exactly it!" Dave growled.
"Dude, not cool!"
"Dick! What'd I ever do?"
"You were an asshole! Mom and dad always let you do shit to me!"
"Dude, dad died and ma left to be some skank. Not necessarily at the same time, bu…"
"Bullshit!" Dave sat up, forgetting the fact he had a spinal tap earlier.
"Nah, man, it's true! They didn't do nothin' for us together!"
"Get the fuck out of here! Get out!"
"Fine, bro!" Bro stormed out. "Yo' still movin' in, man! I ain't trustin' ya t' be able to live on yo' own!"
It was a very long, very tense silence. "He IS trying to protect the very last thread of any immediate family and kinsmanship he has."
Dave gave one of his most dirty glances. "Shut up."
"Hey, stop being such a dick, Dave! Rose is right. Your brother just wants to make sure you don't kill yourself like a retard somehow."
"Piss off, John!"
Bro could hear outside the room the bitter, heated argument, laden with insults and swears, most of them coming from Dave. The quiet, cheerful one made a plea for peace. He then heard someone get knocked down, and then more squabbling.
"Get outta here, dick!"
The arguing lowered to utterances of bitter words to opposing parties and finally, silence, when the three finally left, all with varying degrees of perturbance, John easily being the most ticked.
"Your brother's an asshat, and that's all I'm gonna say."
Somehow, Bro could not help but agree.
Chapter 7: Memory loss
They had come to visit Dave the next day, though no one said a word. It was more out of courtesy than actually liking Dave at the moment. The incident was quickly forgotten in Dave's memory, though he could sort of feel that something had happened just yesterday causing his friends and sibling's coldness. They had stayed for only half-an-hour, before saying their goodbyes, with Rose and Jade mentioning they would be on Pesterchum, and John saying he would return the next weekend. It creeped Dave out to see even Jade not her usual, peppy self.
He hadn't noticed when he had forgotten about it.
Wednesday or Thursday the next week, after intensive physical care for the pathogen responsible, he went home to Bro's apartment. Despite having very temporary memory and significant memory loss, Dave finally had Bro pinned down by his cap, shades, and general mannerisms, as well as the somehow stuck memory of smuppets. So it surprised Dave when he didn't see a single one when he entered and was shown to his old room. It was quite nice, though somewhat disturbing. Dave turned in for the night sometime later, but had forgotten where his room was, and had went into his Bro's room, with the entire smuppet collection crammed in.
"Ironic that I should take your comments to heart."
Dave didn't know what Bro had meant, but simply rolled with it. He took a shower the next morning, and happened to glance at himself in the mirror. This was his first time seeing himself in a mirror since what had happened, and if he had his hair, he might've recognized himself, but the emergency shave and stitchwork gave an already unfamiliar face nothing to go off by. Dave felt his stomach turn, and felt total dread hit his brain. He knows it's him in the mirror, yet it was a total stranger looking back at him.
"Fuck." Only a tiny bit of solace was taken to the fact that at least his hat kind of gave the vibe of a street soldier kind of thing. It didn't do much, though.
Dave was silently working on one of his remixes. Somehow, trying to ignore the fact that his memory would drop how he was trying to remix a song and even forget what he was remixing in the first place wasn't working out. But he had woken up early in the morning and found what he surmised was a work in progress on his computer desktop when he couldn't get back to sleep. That was 4 AM, and it was now 2 PM. Bro had returned from shooting a collaborative smuppet film, and ninja'd his way behind Dave, and threw down a wad of cash in front of him.
Dave jumped back a little. "What's this?"
"Three grand, man. Dickhead manager di'int want t' pay you a cent, but me and yo' buds down dere worked out a deal."
"Bro, whatchu talkin' about?"
"Yo' gig. The one y' almost… uh… anyway, two grand was taken to replace dat turntable y' desecrated wit' yo stomach."
"Aren'tchu gonna say thanks t' yo' bro?"
"Uh… yeah. Thanks?" Dave was too confused right then.
"You're welcome, man. Now get ready. Taken you back t' the hospital. They want t' do tests on ya."
"Fuck." Dave buried his head in the desk. "No, man. I'd rather not."
Dave seemed to have forgotten of his Bro's ninja abilities, and without any other protest he had been put into the car. "Shit, man."
Dave forgot what he did in those five hours, but he knew it was five hours he would never get back. They had gotten a report of almost everything to do with Dave, with very long notes concerning which specific aspects of memory was affected. He just wanted to go back to his room and sleep, only because what he was doing before was forgotten, and was feeling unexplainably tired. He had just curled up when his computer was trying to grab his attention. Dave sighed and got up, and noticed an item in his system tray blinking. Pesterchum.
"Goddammit! Fuck!" Dave opened it up and doubleclicked on Jade's flashing chumhandle.
TG: how long have you tried talking to me
GG: for days!!! John said he couldn't make it so im coming over!!!
TG: what. Whats going on is this some of that gaslighting shit cuz theres enough gas to fill a fucking truck
GG: D: your memory hasn't gotten better???
TG: apparently not
GG: well maybe I can help while im over!! Unless you still think were in ur way >:(
TG: what no I have no idea why you think I think that
GG: then you still want us over then??
TG: sure why not but you live on hellmurder island how can you get over here?
GG: bec, silly!!! Anyway here I come!!
Dave wasn't sure what was going on, and thought to contact John to ask him just what was going on. He doubleclicked on John's chumhandle, and typed up a message, but when he hit enter, the chatbox displayed the message "[EB] has blocked [TG]. The message cannot be sent."
"Christ, what got his Twinkies crinkled?" He was going to talk to Rose and see just what happened, but was interrupted with enthusiastic knocking. He got up to open the door, and was instantly squeezed into a hug.
"Jesus, you're squishing me!"
Jade let go. "What's up? How are you feeling?"
"Fine, if you take away the fact that I have no idea what I did today, or any other day."
"Yo, bro! Didja remember t' clean yer stitches there?" A blank response. "Sup, Jade. Couldja help him?"
Jade grabbed Dave by the wrist and dragged him to the bathroom. Dave plopped down on the toilet seat and watched Jade find a bottle of antiseptic and a clean rag. He fidgeted with his hat.
"What's wrong, Dave? It's not gonna hurt for too long!"
"It's just… I dunno if y' want t' see it. It's kinda gross and shit…"
"I think I can handle it, Dave!" She started putting the pure alcohol onto the rag.
Dave hesitated for a long moment, then caved and took it off. Jade noticed Dave grimacing as the alcohol touched his wound, but was more interested in his reddening cheeks.
"Dave, are you embarassed?"
"A-a little…" Dave was shocked at himself. "I look like a freakin' cancer patient."
"It's already starting to grow back, Dave! It looks prickly!" Indeed, it was. "Would you rather have cancer?"
"Nah, Jade! I mean, at least I'd die from it than from embarrassment, but still, no." Dave shoved the hat squarely back on. "I'd rather not have had dis happen, Jade. And I'd rather not have John getting all PMSin' on me."
"He's pretty mad at you." A pause. "Rose and I still kinda are."
"Goddammit, Jade. What the hell did I do?"
"Well, you kinda exploded at us after Bro said he was gonna make you live here, and you said some pretty nasty things to us. You basically said we shouldn't help you and that we'd only be useless."
"You punched me and knocked me over when I was trying to tell you to not say such things. And then you insulted John really bad when he told you not to do that."
"You don't remember any of that?"
Jade made a goofy grin. "Well, Rose and I are over it now, so don't worry about us!"
"I guess John's still bitchin' about it?" Jade nodded. "Shit… I can't even talk to him now. He blocked my ass on Pesterchum!" Dave trudged back to his room.
Jade followed. "I'll talk to him! I'll tell him you're sorry about it and that you take it all back and junk and you'll both be bros again!"
"No… I was kinda right about you guys not helpin' me."
Jade looked hurt. "Why, Dave? Why wouldn't you want us now?"
"Y'all don't need to see me like dis, man. I only recognize you because of your messy hair, I have nuffin!"
Jade realized what Dave had meant. "You mean you can't recognize yourself?"
"…No." Dave buried himself in his bedsheets.
"Oh, Dave." Jade hugged Dave. "We'll be here, and we'll help you get better no matter what!"
"Please stop, Jade. All's I need is some rest, and I'll be back in the game."
Dave gently nudged out of the hug. "Jade, I just need some time alone."
Jade backed away, to the door. "Okay, Dave. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Jade. Please don't tell them anythin' except dat I don't need 'em." Jade ever so gently closed the door.
Dave turned over on his stomach, and made a primal, guttural yell into his pillow. It didn't matter if Bro and Jade heard, because he would just forget the event. Jade had heard the cry, and after some consideration, reached out for her lunchtop.
Dave fell asleep at around 9 in the evening, but didn't wake up until about 2 PM the next day, but he felt exhausted as all hell. He had no memory of the day before and, as a result, no memory of Jade coming over until she exclaimed he was awake and bellyflopped on him.
"Jade! What are you doing here?!"
"I'm staying for the weekend to help you get better!"
"W-what day is this?"
"Saturday! I came over last night!" Dave stared at her blankly. "Don't worry! I wrote down what happened at the hospital for you!" Dave looked more confused. "Wanna play a board game or something?"
"We don't have any board games, Jade."
"Don't worry! I brought some!" She showed the selection. "Come on! It'll get your mind off of forgetting!"
Dave knew Jade would be persistent, so he just picked a game at random. Monopoly. It took all day, but he ultimately won by Jade's amazingly bad luck.
"…Don't I usually lose to you?"
"Jade… it ain't cool to take a dive."
"I didn't. I honestly thought I wouldn't. Maybe I confused one game with another."
Dave sighed. "Don't matter. Not like I ain't gonna know I won anyway." Jade failed to interject. "But it's just some stupid board game. It ain't like dere's a message to it."
"Why would there be?"
"I dunno, Jade."
"Oh hey, messages! I talked to John last night! He said he's not quite as mad with you since I said you sounded sorry about most of it."
"Quite? Most of it?"
"He's still pretty mad, and I'm not sure if the whole "I don't want help" junk hit his soft spot or made him more upset, but he has unblocked you, and that's the most important part!"
Sunday morning came, and Dave woke up somewhat early considering his very late time going to sleep. He walked outside his room and noticed Jade. He nudged her awake.
"You've been here the whole weekend, right? I mean, I handed your ass in some game, didn't I?"
Jade latched onto Dave tightly. "That's right! You're remembering things!"
Dave ran off to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. Jade followed and saw Dave as his expression of anticipation turn into disappointment.
"Dammit… Jade, don't ever get a bro's hopes up."
Dave could barely muster himself up to give Jade even a wave goodbye that evening. As much as his desire to stay calm and cool fought, it had been defeated with gloom.
Chapter 8: Hurt
"Good news, Dave."
Dave looked up from the chair he sat in. His brother had left to use the restroom.
"Your blood tests and brain scans have turned up negative on any sort of disease."
"And better still, your short-term memory recall improved by twenty five percent."
The doctor sighed. "You can't really expect everything to just come back all at once, Mr. Strider. Your prospoamnesia hasn't improved much at all, I'm sad to say."
"But we're hoping that as your recall improves that maybe it can improve your facial memory as well. But the odds aren't really in your favor."
A pause. "Your brother said you seem less talkative and energetic."
"It's probably very difficult to come to terms with this."
"Man, there ain't no terms. The terms and I are together and shit. The state recognizes us as being legally married!"
"Are you sure about that? If it'll help any, I can give you the number of a good psychi…"
"No, man. I ain't cracked."
"Well… are there any friends you can confide in?"
"One of dem knows about psychology and shit."
"It would be a wise idea to try talking to them. Bottling all of this in can't possibly help your situation."
"…Maybe… but I'd rather talk to dad."
"Your father has been dead for quite a while, Mr. Strider."
"…He's not, I swear to God."
Dave had been in his room for days, only coming out to use the toilet, shower, eat, and go to accursed appointments with various doctors. He had found this unfinished remix sitting on his computer desktop, and strived to complete it. In fact he kept seeing the file every morning and rediscovering it. But his short memory life had worked against him, and what should have been about half a day's work turned into nearly a week. If he brushed his hand across his cheeks, he would feel stubble growing across it.
This obsession obviously concerned Bro, so Thursday night he forced his younger brother to shave and took him to a still-operational grindhouse to watch several ninja movies in an ironic gesture. Dave gave up trying to understand the first movie from all the faces blurring between each other and forgetting the plotline halfway through. Still, he watched for his brother's sake.
They got back to their apartment very late in the evening, almost at around midnight, and reached the top floor. Dave thought he was seeing things when he went into his room and saw a blonde older teenager asleep in his bed.
"Goddamn, dis be some Goldilocks shit, and I'm the…? Oh HELL no… Rose?"
The woman stirred. "Strider?"
"How'd you get in here? Did Bro send you?"
"Dave!" the woman got up. "It's me. Rose."
"I know. You're… here? Visiting?"
"Precisely, Dave. Looks like your short-term memory is slowly recovering since the hospitalization on the Ides of March."
"It's Thursday, Rose! And what the hell is Ides?!"
"I don't have class Friday, Dave. And the Ides is the middle of the month, usually the 15th. I believe you are not aware of the famous Shakespearian play Julius Caesar?"
"Nah. And I don't wanna turn my room into some sort of classroom."
"Fair enough, though the parallels between you and the most famous ruler of a dead empire is staggering."
"Couldja just get off my bed so I could sleep?"
"Sure thing, Strider. And where should I sleep?"
Dave woke up the next morning in a cold sweat. He could only remember the stifling terror from his sleep, but not much else. His mind snapped back to last night, though, and his fear was replaced by excitement. Rose came after he ironically went out with Bro to something. Dave jumped out of bed and burst out his room.
"Rose? Rose!" He spotted her in the kitchen preparing breakfast.
"Dave? I'd thought you'd wake up smelling eggs and biscuits."
"The hell are…" Dave ignored that. "Rose! Last night! You were asleep in my bed!"
Rose hid a grin. "Sounds like your memory's returning, Strider. Might want to record this in your journal."
"Journals are for fags, Rose! …And girls."
Rose held up a moleskin journal labeled as Dave Strider's journal but not actually labeled by him.
"Where'd you find that?"
"On your desk. Couldn't help but skim through it, as some sort of payback long overdue, though it seems to just be notes for some remix you're working on."
"Dontchu know it's impolite to read other people's journ- wait, remix?"
"Yeah, Dave. A lot of it was disorganized, scratched out, ecetera. However, put this note that you remembered the previous night."
"Do you want the frying pan burning your face?"
Dave went to find a pencil.
"Damn, this shit's delicious!"
"Thanks, Strider. I guess you were perturbed last I saw you." Dave looked confused. "You're reaction is what I expected. This was back at the hospital."
"Maybe it would be beneficial to type up a synopsis of what had occurred between the fourteenth of March and the present?"
"Yeah, go do dat. Just don't mess wit' my files."
"I won't do that right now. But that one incident at the hospital really infuriated us over you. Jade and I have more or less put that behind. John still seems pretty upset at this, and really messed with the visitation schedule due to his rumination."
"You went on a tirade over how we're not going to be of any benefit to your recovery after your Bro told you that you were going home with him."
"Yeah… that sounds familiar. But Bro's bein' ironically nice and not leavin' his damn smuppets everywhere."
"Are you certain it's not genuine kindness?"
"Well, anyway, you really steamed John after punching Jade in the face and insulting him."
"Yeah, I don't think I've talked to him in weeks…"
"It'll be his birthday on the 13th."
"Shit, already?" Dave choked a bit on his eggs.
"Yeah. Jade and I will force him to come over. It'd be nice if you two were able to patch things up. Last I heard, John still hasn't unblocked you."
"Wow. He sounds pissed… I'm… sorry?"
"I already know you are. Jade, too. Maybe I should tell John that?"
"You know… he probably likes Jade more than we think."
"Protectin' his catch." Dave grinned.
"Definitely a possibility, Strider."
Rose secretly grinned watching Dave stubbornly trying to solve a memory-based puzzle in the video game she had brought over. Dave did not know his doctors on a personal level, unlike Rose, and would prove to his friends that he wouldn't get upset over such a stupid thing as a puzzle. She was secretly recording her findings into her laptop, while keeping a simultaneous chat going with John.
"413…2? Dammit!" Dave's character got shocked and lost a bit of health.
"Want to know the answer?"
"No, Rose! I ain't gonna give up in front of you. You ain't the man, I am!"
Rose scoffed. "Typical of you to say that." She typed a message to John.
"Whatchu doin' over there, anyway?"
"I'm trying to convince John to give you another chance. I think it's going pretty well. He sounds way more reasonable than a week ago, that's for sure."
"Thanks, Rose. Appreciate that." Dave went back to the puzzle. "413…1?" Affirmative. "4?" Puzzle completed. Dave pumped his arms up in celebration. For a fleeting second, he felt like himself.
Rose woke up in the middle of the night and heard groaning and choked sobs from the bathroom. She tiptoed her way to the closed door and lightly knocked on it, only to hear more of the same. She turned the knob and opened the door.
"Dave?" Again, more groaning and sobs, but she saw him huddled against the shower, right next to the toilet. She was afraid. "Dave? Are you feeling ok? Are you sick? Do you have a headache? Should I call a doctor?"
Same thing, and it was unnerving Rose.
"Dammit, Dave, don't do this! Dave?"
Rose ran out of the bathroom and returned with a glass of water, holding it to Dave's lips. The vague scent of chlorine caught his attention, and he gulped it down.
"Can you hear me?"
"Y-yeah…" Dave sniffled.
"Do you have a headache?"
"No, Rose. My face…"
Rose held his face up to hers and scanned it. "There's nothing wrong, Strider."
"Who's in the mirror?" This struck Rose as odd, until she remembered his facial amnesia. It didn't occur to her that he wouldn't recognize his own face in her half-sleep until then. She heard feet pad their way to the bathroom.
Bro's head popped in "Yo, what's goin' on? Bro?" He swooped in and turned to Rose. "Don't worry, Rosie. I'll handle dis."
As much as Rose hated that nickname, she obliged, and stepped back to let Bro handle Dave. She didn't hear any chastising or name calling, but more of the soft, protective reassurance usually reserved for parents soothing a child. It sounded almost alien, especially in possibly the least likely place for such a thing to happen. Dave seemed more responsive to his brother's sympathy, though still in hysterics.
"Who is… what… the mirror… who is that other dude?"
"Man, that be you."
"I'm supposed to know my own face! Why can't I?"
"Calm down, man. Ya gotta work on it like on yer music."
"But it's me! Not some goddamn beats!"
"You're right, man, but ya still need to. Come on, it's late anyhow."
Bro got his brother up and gently shepherded him back to his bed, still making soft, parental reassurances. Rose never saw such a sight, and was still watching as Dave drifted off to sleep. Bro got up and closed the door softly.
"He's been like dis, lately."
"What do you mean?"
"Mopin' and shit. He did dis coupla times dis week."
"How were you able to get to him?" Rose whispered.
"Dude, he's my bro. And I'm worryin' about 'im again. Either mopin' about hisself or obsessin' wit' his projects. He just keepin' up appearances wit' you."
"I am well aware of that."
"He needs yo' help, even if he says he don't want it."
"I know that as well."
Bro and Rose looked at Dave's door, then to each other, before going back to sleep.
TT: John. It's important you talk to Dave.
EB: why should I?
TT: Jesus, John. Are you still upset over that?
TT: Because rumination never helped anyone.
EB: god, rose, I dont know.
TT: I know he has said multiple times that he does not want our help, but he seems to be suffering.
TT: I don't think I've ever seen quite a display of sibling affection before.
EB: then let bro handle it.
TT: He seems stressed about these recent situations as well. I'm wondering if Dave has given you his case of dickishness some weeks back?
EB: well, okay, maybe I'm being an ass, but he didn't have to resort to what he did.
TT: I know, but he does seem sorry for it.
TT: So please. Give him a weekend. He needs his 'best bro' to help him realize this isn't a helpless situation he's in. Which it sort of is, but his progress with memory recall could worsen, and possibly start a spiral.
TT: We've mutually agreed on a specific visitation schedule for his benefit. You came up with the idea, after all.
EB: well when you put it that way, ok.
EB: but one asshole remark and I'm not being his bro ever again.
TT: Dammit, John. Asshole remarks are his forte.
EB: dammit, rose.
Chapter 9: Tired
John grumbled to himself when he finished packing his bags. Sure, he didn't have class Monday, but it didn't mean he could stay an extra day for some "birthday shenanigans", as Rose called it. He wanted to leave on Sunday night, and that was that. He sort of realized how much he was being stupid and a dick, but thought of it even stupider to just go on as if nothing happened. He had unblocked Dave for about a week, though, and the messages Dave sent did bring a seed of doubt. They were mostly repeated messages of being sorry and asking for forgiveness, and it was conflicting with his rooted hatred for his friend.
Bec had materialized in his dorm room, and barked at John several times.
"Keep it down, Bec. Either the guards will come and ask why I have a dog, or the girls will come and pet you to no end!"
Bec appeared to shrug, and transportalized himself, John, and his luggage to the front of Dave's bro's apartment door, before transportalizing back to the dorm. Pets by young women did sound good to Bec. John knocked on the door, and after several seconds the door went through its locks to open. Bro ushered John in.
"Glad you came, man. Bro ain't doin' so good."
"What do you mean?" John half-feigned in worry.
"He's just been in his room. He was working on dis one remix, but he hasn't been doing much of dat since Rosey left. Now he's mopin' and shit. He ain't the bro I know anymore, man. Been thinkin' about takin' him to a bud's party dis weekend t' help him snap outta it."
"Sounds like… a nice thing to do."
"Yeah. You'll be drivin', though."
John had gotten to Dave's door when he heard that. "Dammit."
He opened the door. Dave was sitting at his computer, with thick stubble, a case of acne, and a sickly pallor.
Dave turned his head. "John?"
"Yeah, it's me."
"You look… shitty."
"I feel shitty, John. Been like one, insanely long hot summer day, yo. My clothes be stickin' to my skin, it's so hot."
The room actually did feel hot to John, like it had no ventilation in days, and the heat and bodily stench was evident. Pity took over him, as well as a sense of duty. He dragged Dave from his room and into the shower. John turned on the faucet, and closed the door shut behind him. He heard Dave get the message when he turned on the hot water and apparently threw off his soggy clothes. John went into the living room and waited until Dave finished up in there and got dressed.
"Better, John?" It looked like Dave had shaved and found some fresh clothes.
"Much. And it looks like your hair's growing back nicely." John noted.
Dave blushed, and went back to grab his hat. John admonished himself for bringing the embarrassment up, and offered Dave to take his mind off of it with some video games. Of course the wording of that John also felt was stupid, but Dave seemed to ignore it and agreed to some gaming. Bro popped in to join, and it more or less became an all-nighter of games. Dave didn't say much, but seemed to keep going until none of them could hold a controller.
The next evening, Bro drove himself, Dave and John over to the party, and within fifteen minutes got drunk, but not before telling John not to have Dave drink anything. Probably would have worked if John didn't lose track of Dave in the thick crowd. He was sitting up against the wall close to a doorway.
John sat down next to him. "Dude, why aren't you enjoying yourself?" He saw Dave's face look a bit red.
"Maybe I just ain't feeling like it. Jesus…"
"Christ, man. I want to help, but you're being all tough-guy hush-hush about this."
"I… s-should know a lot of these people… I know who they are, but they all look and sound alike."
"Dude, so you'll mix 'em up. Getting drunk won't make it any better."
Dave grumbled something to himself and guzzled some beer. John simply could not understand how people could withstand that cough syrupy sting.
"Why are you even doing this, anyway?"
"Forgettin' about forgettin'. L-like a two tiered irony sexycake. And a hot chick pops out when that's reached, a-and I can be myself."
"Dude, you'll only make yourself worse, and Rose said something about a spiral when that happens."
"She never had to deal wit' losin' yer face." Dave could tell John was confused. "Ya know how t-the first thing someone a-associates wit' a name is a face? W-well, remove t-the face, and dere ya go. No biggie, right? B-but when it's yo' own, y-you… I dunno… y-ya l-lose dat one, uhh… w-what were we talkin' 'bout?"
"Why you're unironically, yet still ironically, drinking in the first place."
Dave sloppily grinned. "See, man? M-might as well get used to it, cuz I ain't gonna get much better."
"Don't give me this emo shit, Dave."
"Nah, man. I a-ain't some pansy!"
"Then why are you talking like one?"
"C-cuz… dis is all I-I'm gonna be… o-one day to the next…"
John and Bro had woken up the next day at around the same time. John was kind of amazed at how resilient to alcohol Bro seemed to have become, as he was up and already filming the latest smuppet film in his room.
He poked his head in when he was sure Bro wasn't filming. "Bro, it's Dave."
Bro sighed. "Yeah?"
"He said some things last night, at the party, but he could've just been wasted or something…"
"Naw, probably the same shit he be spewin' t' me, man."
"I'm concerned about him."
"So am I, bro. The other day, man…"
"Yeah, Rose told me about it… been doing that lately?"
"Almost every night. It's fucking ridiculous."
"I hear you."
"Man, if only he took my fucking advice in the first place… y'know, I thought the same thing that happened to dad was happening to my bro."
"What exactly happened?"
"Exactly the same thing dat happened. Dad got sick, didn't go see anyone, but it was more outta work and shit than fucking pride. So yeah, he collapsed one day, rushed him over and found fucking brain cancer and far too fucking late to do a damn thing, like when ya college types walk in to class and realize 'oh shit, I forgot my final paper!'. Ya can't run back, grab it, and run back again. It just ain't possible."
John felt sympathy well up in him. "Wow. That must've been really rough."
"Fuck yeah it was. Bro couldn't wrap his little mind around it like a burrito and eat it. So when mom disappeared he shat out the idea they left to be a pimp and ho, and no matter how many times I tell him to he just won't flush that shit away."
"Well, he is proud on a douchebag level, but…"
"Dude, I was shitting myself when I got dat call sayin' bro was in the hospital spazzin' out. I thought it was happenin' all over again! I was shittin' you guys when I said he'd come outta it. I even told 'im dat, and how relieved I was when he did, and he just bluhs on about how dis is the best it's gonna get!"
John rationalized. "We don't know what he's thinking or trying to understa…"
"No shit. But he's really startin' to annoy me with dat crap. But… I can't show dat to him. I'mma hope he finally gets his head out of his ass and do somethin'."
Bro trailed off and started setting up the next scene for the film, and John took this cue to leave and talk to Dave.
Dave simply wanted to be left alone to brood the second he woke up. The previous day was a blank, and still could not remember a single person's face. He disgusted himself for both being unable to recall anything and the way he was dealing with it, but he surmised there was no other way to deal with it.
"Hey, Dave? It's John."
"No, bro. I ain't in the mood."
John chuckled. "Sounds like you had too much last night."
"Bullshit. I only drink for ironic purposes!"
"…Can I at least come in?"
"Naw. I just want to be left alone."
"Dave, stop being all tough and mancho."
The joke cracked a smile. "…Okay. Come in."
John went into Dave's room. "Hey, you're not even out of bed yet!"
"Come on, dude. Are you seriously giving up this easily?"
"Maybe. Dis ain't some shit where I can't find my goddamn keys, Egbert."
John's voice rose. "I know, dude. But you're acting like it's never going to improve!"
Dave sighed. "It's the most realistic thing to do, man. It ain't like dis is a fantasy world where everythin' reverts to its original state and is forgotten about by the next episode."
"You know, if I was the one with the brain injury and moping about it, you'd be telling me to fight to the death with it. Remember all those times I was having some sort of federal fucking issue with something and you kept telling me to get through it?"
Dave sat up from his bed. "…Yeah, I do. But sometimes it wasn't one of those whiny, faggy "problems", ya know? Like dat one time ya flipped your shit and ended up locked in the nut house."
"That's exactly what I'm trying to say, Dave. That looked impossible, and now I'm…"
John nodded. "Yeah!"
"But dude, dat was just some psychological stuff goin' on."
"I know, but still! The main thing is to fight!"
Dave sighed again. "Dat may sound easy for you, bu…"
"Horseshit, Dave! It's not, and you're being a goddamn pussy for not taking it like how a man should and instead angsting about it like some lame goth kid!"
"Yeah, but their problems are stupid and self-centered."
John facepalmed and could only sputter half words. Dave could tell his friend was getting frustrated and very annoyed, but Dave continued to hold his stance to be true. Hell, he'd already forgotten waking up, so he considered John's point to be moot.
"Dave, we care about you, and we don't want to see you like this!"
Dave was shocked into speechlessness for several seconds, spilling out his share of nonsensical utterances. "S-so?"
"If I didn't care about you, I wouldn't have called an ambulance."
"Then Rose would've."
"What if she didn't?"
"I doubt she has a cellphone, but if she did and did not care wouldn't have called either. You'd be DEAD." John made sure to punctuate that last part.
Dave scoffed. "I've seen myself dead, back when we played that game."
"And future you reminded me of the friendship we had and possibly saved my life from a giant monster."
Dave was struggling at this point to come up with an argument to destroy John's damning evidence against him and his depressive views. To be frank, he was tiring of this. It was pointless. John couldn't convince him otherwise. So why was he shedding tears?
"Dude, are you okay?"
Dave looked at John, and seriously considered pushing his friend out of his bedroom. But he couldn't muster it up. Instead, he just lied down and covered himself up completely in his sheets, and sniffled. If anything, John should get the message and leave, but John insisted to stay. John was, however, uncertain how to approach his best friend breaking down in front of him, and was quite sure punching Dave would do nothing except cause more shit. So he just sat there and watched his best friend disintegrate in front of him.
John wasn't sure if Dave was Dave anymore.
EB: okay this is getting weird rose.
TT: Does it involve Dave?
EB: hell yeah it does.
EB: i'm not shitting you, he'd rather spend his goddamn time lying in bed all day.
EB: i even asked if he wanted to go play some video games and he said he didnt want to.
EB: he was crying for fuck's sake.
EB: swear to god he said to screw being manly.
EB: dave would never do such a thing. it's like some shit trope shits do.
TT: I was afraid something like this would happen. I wonder if Jade will be more than happy to relinquish her turn so I could work with him?
EB: goddammit rose this isn't some sort of psychoanalysis shit you can just pull.
TT: Dave will only continue to refuse more professional grades of treatment until he is otherwise forced to do so, if he continues at this rate.
EB: dammit I even tried the whole thing about caring and shit. nothing.
TT: It's probably time to consider the option that we're just too inexperienced to help him out on a deep level.
EB: bullshit, rose.
TT: Even with near lifelong experience, I'm afraid he may not respond to my help. Except for maybe an occasional snark or two.
EB: dammit i'll do it. fuck my birthday plans.
TT: Sounds like you've gotten over the fight several weeks back.
EB: i'm not, but i'm not gonna be a dick to him now. seriously, if you could see him now you would know.
TT: I'm sure I will, John.
Chapter 10: Companionship
John awoke the next morning from the door buzzer. He stretched, got up, and answered the door, and saw a deliveryman with a fairly large brown box.
"Is this David Strider?"
"No, but I can get him."
John went over to Dave's room and knocked on the door. "Dave?"
It sounded like Dave was woken up. "Hu-what?"
"Some dude has this package for you."
Dave opened the door and cautiously made his way to the apartment door. "Oh. Jesus Christ, don't make me think some guy's having some sort of bone bulge, will ya?"
The deliveryman blushed. "I don't even know you."
Dave signed for the package. "And I don't, either."
Dave dragged the heavy package into the apartment and stared at it. He very vaguely remembered having ordered something, and that spark of hope itself set his heart racing, as something this large coming in from the mail must have taken more than a day to arrive.
"You… don't happen to know what this is, right?" A vague inkling of a memory was trying to claw its way into consciousness.
John saw Dave return to his bedroom and heard shuffling around as he tried to find something that could offer a clue. Dave apparently sighed and plopped down into his desk chair, followed by a confused "Huh?"
"Dave? What is it?"
"…I think you should open the package."
"Just do it or I'mma go get a birthday cake for you instead."
John quickly found a pair of scissors from the kitchen drawer and cut open the box. "Wait, is this my birthday present?"
"Hell yeah. Found this thing I printed the other day on it, so it's gotta be it. So I'mma stand here and watch."
John was confused, but did what he assumed Dave wanted him to do. Dave looked on as John's eyes brightened and an extremely silly grin stretched across his face.
"Holy crap, is this…?" John was holding up a beige jumper suit with the namepatch labeled "SPENGLER".
"It is, John. The exact one. It even has a certificate of authenticity to prove it. There's also more."
John pulled out another jumpsuit, this time with the custom nametag of "EGBERT", and finally a handmade replica of a proton pack. He was mindblown for a moment, then almost squealed in joy.
"Heh. Now ya can go to cons and shit dressed up as a Ghostbuster, meeting other people dressed as their favorite anime characters, goin' around wit' their pocky and hadukening each other and shit. 'Cept you'll be the guy constantly grinning cuz of all these interests crashing into one another like an 18 car pileup of interests."
"This is AWESOME. Thanks, Dave!"
John couldn't hold back his incredibly silly smile, which in turn caused a much smaller smile to form on Dave's face. Just looking at John and his excited merriment was enough for Dave to feel satisfied about the whole idea. Then, he felt something gnaw in his brain, an almost discarded memory of when he first met John face-to-face. The goofy smile was there as well. Dave felt his heart race again, and he looked at John's face, who somehow managed to look at Dave's, though in a more awkward fashion.
"What's wrong, Dave?"
"John… I…" He almost lost the memory. He needed to focus more.
"…You're not gonna start making out with me, are you?"
"Hell no! No! No way! It's…" Then it clicked. John no longer had a strange face, but one totally recognizable. "Oh, God…"
"What? Y-you're not getting sick again, are you?" John was reaching into his pants pocket for his cell phone.
"John, I recognize you, man!"
"What? You mean my face?"
"Yeah, John! What else would I be sayin'?" Dave was stunned when John latched onto him in a tight hug. "Dude, what?"
"You're getting better, Dave!"
Dave blushed. "Y-yeah. I suppose I am. Uhh, stop hugging, Egbert." John relinquished.
"Is everyone's coming back to you?"
"I dunno." He thought for a second. "Y-yeah. I think Bro's coming back to me, a-and I think I'm rememberin' mine. It's hazy."
"Look in the mirror and see."
Dave was stunned. "No, John. I-I can't. It'll just make me look stupid. Y'know, like all those animals who think it's some other animal in the mirror, and then they hump that mirror."
John stared at Dave, and again the two locked eyes. Dave finally folded when he became too disturbed to look any longer.
"Okay, man. Jesus…"
John scampered to the bathroom with Dave and stood to the side while Dave took a good, long look into the mirror. His expression was deadpan serious, and it looked to John as though maybe Dave wasn't remembering. Dave kept staring at himself, picking out the various details of his facial features, out of half show for John and half for himself. The jaw, his nose, his brow, and everything else, but it wasn't coming back to him, except his eyes. He took off his shades and looked straight at himself. His amber eyes, while without the flame that punctuated them, looked very familiar to him, that they were his. Then it came to him. They were his. Everything was his, but he already knew that. But he knew it was unmistakably his own. It had came back to him. Dave's eyes widened, and his mouth was agape.
"John… I remember!"
John's eyes brightened, then charged in for a bear hug. Dave couldn't help but laugh as his previously lifeless eyes sparked back into life.
Rose listened to the several remixes Dave had created. "Strider, you are truly a man of your work."
Dave couldn't stop combing his fingers trough his hair. "Damn right, Rose! I think these babies'll be ready to hit the scene soon, wailing from the doctor what smacked their ass."
John came in heaving with a large box. "Oh sweet Jesus!" he exhaled as he put it on the ground. "Moving sucks! Why do you prefer the top floor, for fuck's sake?!"
"Dude, I don't wanna douchebag upstairs neighbor!"
Rose had to hold in her snarky comments and help John get the last of Dave's equipment out of the box. She thanked whoever that Dave lived in such a tiny apartment and thus didn't really have much stuff.
"I'm a bit curious as to how you managed to get your old apartment back."
"Bro bribed the landowner. Don't worry, he can do that shit."
"Maybe not legally, but still."
"Hey, what's the difference now?" John noted.
"Exactly, bro." Dave fistbumped John. "Yo, did Jade fall asleep?"
John poked his head outside Dave's bedroom. "Yeah. Out like a light."
"Well, wake her up. I'm taking all y'all out to a show I'm playin'."
This piqued Rose's interest. "Is this going to be your first one since that…"
"Hell yeah. I was itchin' to come back after two months, but everything was still fucked up. But it's motherfuckin' July now!"
John and Rose put down the equipment on Dave's desk. "Did the doctors allow you to return to normalcy?" She asked.
"Fuck yeah. And I ain't gonna get lost like last time!"
"…Do you know the man in charge of the venue? What he looks like?"
Dave was tiring of Rose's prodding. "…S-shut up. It ain't perfect, man."
"Fair enough, Strider."
Dave cooly walked on stage and got behind the turntables. He could see John, Rose and Jade in the third or fourth row, cheering him on. He had practiced for weeks, wiping away the rust that had came from disuse. Dave made a scratch to test out the equipment, and it came out loud and clear. He was going to finish this time.