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Perfect Little Freaks: 6.4

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July, 2019

Dave couldn't pinpoint the exact moment he'd first noticed that he was physically outgrowing certain things in his life. He remembered having to readjust the shower head if Rose had been in the bathroom before him, and moving the seat further from the steering wheel if she'd driven the shitbox last, back when they'd shared the so-called car in high school. He figured that he'd probably been in middle school when he'd started bumping his head on cupboard doors and it would have been around the same time that all of his clothes started being too short in the limbs.

He hadn't been able to fit comfortably in a bath since he was twelve.

When the bathroom door swung open, Dave lazily tipped his head back and glanced out from behind the shower curtain. The lights were off but he had a pair of his oldest Wayfarers perched on top of his head, just in case; with four people sharing one bathroom over the summer, there had been more overlap than usual.

"Sup, Rez?"

"I have to piss, Dave. Why else would I be in here?"

"For some of my most rad-tastic company, duh," he said, drawing the curtain closed again as he sunk back into the cool water. He unfolded his legs and stretched them out, flexing his knees a few times before he moved to rest the limbs up against the tiles.

"Your company is not that rad," Terezi replied.

He heard her put the toilet seat back down then turned his attention back to the video he'd been watching on his phone.

The fourth of July had been a long, hot day and after they'd all had more than enough to drink they'd gone up onto the roof to watch the fireworks over Manhattan. At some point, around his fifth beer, he'd suddenly felt overwhelmed by everything that had happened over the past month; his mom was married, he'd seen his sister for the first time in years, John was around every day, and his dad was living back in the same state as him. It was all too much for him to think about after the most he'd had to drink since New Years', so he'd mumbled something about being back in a minute to the entire living room, then disappeared into the bathroom.

That had been almost forty minutes earlier.

"Bullshit, my company is awesome," he said once the toilet flushed, pulling the curtain back far enough to glare in her direction, even though she couldn't see the expression. "Everyone loves me."

"See, that is definitely bullshit," Terezi said. She closed the toilet lid completely and sat down, with her feet up on the edge of the tub. "Why are you in the bath? Do you even fit in the bath?"

"Because I want to be, and no," he said, picking up his nearly-empty beer can from the opposite side of the bathtub. "I definitely do not fit in the bath."

"Ha, sucks to be you, Terezi said, and grinned. "Are you going to stay in here all night?"

"Probably, I've got everything I need, like my phone and another beer, and shit, like I'm in the bathroom so I can piss if I need to, whatever," Dave said, draining the last few mouthfuls of his beer before dropping the empty can over the edge of the tub. "How's the party?"

"It sucks, Dave. This party is you, me, John, and Karkat. I don't think it's possible to have a suckier party."

"Last year it was me, Karkat, and Sollux," he said. "It was so fuckin' bad, you got no idea, that shit sucked harder than the suckiest suck that ever sucked."

"Ooh," Terezi said, cackling. "We are at drunk Dave level two already."

"Bullshit, what's level one even?"

"Level one is when you are loud and obnoxious, but not in an endearing way," she said thoughtfully. "Level two means you have forgotten how to put your words together in clever ways and have rendered yourself incapable of dishing out the sickest of burns."

"And level three?"

"I have only met level three drunk Dave one time," Terezi said. "He was very lame and very cuddly."

"Well lucky for you there's plenty more of this around," Dave said, waving his beer in her face. "It's the Kings County shit, I walked around there yesterday and picked up like, enough."

"John was feeling adventurous so I made him a cherry coke, but instead of coke I used pepsi and instead of cherry flavour I used cherry vodka," she explained, dropping one foot down from the bath.

"Ew, why?"

"Because he is a stupid nerd who likes pepsi."

"It's gotta be a Seattle thing, right? Like, seriously, who even likes pepsi?"

"John does."

"Gross, I can't believe he's my brother."

"He asked me how much was pepsi and how much was vodka, and I said gee, I don't know John, I was not paying much attention to the non-existent measurements on this novelty cup that I can definitely see with my working eyes," Terezi said as she moved again to put both feet back down on the floor, after she kicked the empty can out of the way. "So the chances are fifty-fifty that he's going to be very drunk very soon, because that was not technically a lie."

"Or he just won't drink it," Dave suggested. "Or he could pour it down the sink. Or throw it out the window. Now we're talking way less than fifty-fifty odds. Don't ask, I don't know, math was my shittiest subject at school."

"Everyone knows you were a huge nerd with an A-average."

"Yeah, but I had to study for those A's in math like a fucking idiot because let's get real here, Rez, I'm the fucking idiot in my family. My mom is a literal rocket scientist, like c'mon," he said, knocking back another mouthful of beer. "And for the record, I'm kinda shitty at math, not numbers. I'm good at numbers. It's the algebra and calculus shit that fucks me up."

"One time Tula got a C and mom took us to A&W to celebrate," she said.

"See? That's wholesome as shit. When I started getting A's my mom let me off 'rearrange the entire fucking kitchen' duty for a month, like that was a normal thing that everybody did."

"Your mom is crazy."

"Hey, only I can talk shit about my mom. Man, I love her so much," he said, with another scowl Terezi would never see.

"Aha!" Terezi exclaimed. "We have now seemingly crossed the threshold into drunk Dave level three. It is the early stages, but I am very excited to see him again."

Dave grinned and folded his legs back down from the wall, pushing off the far end of the tub to sit up a little straighter and create enough room for his feet. It wasn't comfortable, far from it, but the water was cool and the time alone with his thoughts had helped to calm him down from his silent panic earlier.

He was about to ask Terezi what she'd heard - her head had suddenly cocked to the left - when Karkat swung the bathroom door open without even knocking.

"Wait, isn't Dave in there?"

"Yes he is!" Terezi said, spinning around on the closed lid of the toilet to face the doorway, now blocked by both Karkat and John. "He is absolutely in the bath, see?"

She was looking in their general direction as she answered John's question; Dave just held up his half-empty can in a silent cheers, unable to think of what to say on the fly.

"Have you been in there this whole time?" Karkat asked.

"Maybe, maybe not," Dave replied with a shrug. "Depends what you mean by this whole time."

"The last thirty fucking minutes."

"Then yeah, I've been here this whole time."

"Hey, when Jade walked in on you in the shower that one time you flipped out, dude," John piped up from where he was standing out in the hallway. "What gives?"

"John, you're my literal brother and Terezi is literally blind. No one's seeing shit they haven't one, seen before, and two, seeing pretty much anything," Dave said. "Also, I wasn't totally fucking wasted when that happened so I had more fucks to give. But that said, I'm gonna get out now so you should all probably fuck off or something because I'm definitely naked back here."

"I mean the lights are off and it's pretty dark so I don't think we'd see much anyway," John said.

"The lights are off?" Terezi asked. "You've been sitting in the bath in the dark?"

"Duh," Dave said. "What's relaxing about a cold bath with a light on, Rez? Answer me that. But like, later. Get out for now."

"Gross!" John exclaimed, disappearing down the hall when Dave threw the shower curtain open. "So gross!"

"I am going, Dave," Terezi said as she finally stood up; she bumped into Karkat in the doorway as she tried to step around him, then dragged him out of sight by the hand.

Dave waved as they both walked away. He worked the plug loose with his toes and pushed it aside to let the water drain. When he stood up, slowly, it took a moment for his knees to bend properly in the right direction; something was stuck, a muscle, or a ligament, but only momentarily. More joints clicked back into place as he stepped out of the tub and back into a space more accommodating of his size.

Maybe it would have been better to just sit under the flow of the air conditioner, he thought briefly, as he flexed his toes to try and relieve the cramp in his left calf.

If nothing else, spending the better part of an hour in a tub of cold water with a local beer and Youtube had successfully rebooted his brain into a more relaxed state. He waited for the water to finish draining, taking with it his level two drunk-Dave neuroses, and flipped his Wayfarers back down onto his face so he could leave the bathroom and rejoin the world's shittiest Fourth of July party.

"Hey, John, how's your shitty cherry Pepsi?"

+++

For Rose, London summers were a complete and utter delight. The warm days and cooler nights suited her just fine, especially with the recent memories of hot and sticky New York City so fresh in her mind. Stepping out onto the street after she locked up the bookstore for the evening, she dropped her keys into her tote bag and set off down the block towards the nearest station.

The sun was warm on her skin and it soothed her in ways similar to the snow back home.

It was hot, for those who had lived in the country for their entire lives. The casual nature of the bookshop allowed her to get away with wearing shorts to work, along with sandals; everyone understood, it was hot. Her blouse, short-sleeved and made of a light, breezy fabric had earned her unending compliments throughout the day. My wife made it, she had said proudly to those who asked where she'd bought it. The sunglasses were secondhand; a pair of well-loved aviators with silver frames that she'd borrowed from Dave when his back was turned.

She checked her phone as she stood on the underground platform, waiting for the next train to arrive and take her home. It was Friday night.

By the time she walked through the front door of her flat, it was almost seven o'clock. She had stopped at the supermarket to pick up the few items requested of her - tampons, laundry detergent, something nice for dessert - as well as a handful of impulse purchases. In exchange, the Indian food had been ordered while she was still on her way.

"Oh yes, I'm sure you're starving and haven't been fed," she said to the two cats circling her ankles as she made her way to the kitchen to unload the groceries. "Hello?"

"Sewing room!"

The response didn't come from her wife, but her sister-in-law.

Rose put the detergent away under the kitchen sink and shelved the various candies and desserts in one of the cupboards. She took the tampons with her and threw them into the bathroom from the doorway, leaving them on the floor, before she wandered into the second bedroom to find the two Maryams.

"Hi," she said, leaning over Kanaya's shoulder to kiss her cheek. "What are we up to in here?"

"Scrutinising the new designs I've been contemplating," Kanaya replied, turning to return the kiss. "I think they're coming together."

"The dress?"

"The dress," Kanaya sighed. "I just cannot get the pockets to sit right with this waistline."

"And what's the point in a dress without pockets?" Rose asked facetiously.

"There is no point, Rose," Kanaya quipped in response and turned her chair away from the table covered in fabric scraps and pattern cut-outs. "You know this."

"Oh, I do," she said more seriously, but paused before she went on. "That would be the door."

"I'll get it," Porrim said, brushing past the two of them to let the delivery into the building. "Make yourselves useful and set the table."

Both Rose and Kanaya made themselves useful by setting out plates and cutlery on the coffee table in the living room. It was a quiet few minutes as they all dished out portions of rice and curry for themselves, passing the plastic containers back and forth until they all had enough on their plates. The conversation started up again soon after, between mouthfuls, as Rose relayed the events of her day; the bookshop was more eventful than Kanaya's bouts of summer study. There had been the usual deliveries, customers, and even a free iced coffee from the boy at the nearby Starbucks who had complimented her sunglasses. It would have been rude not to accept, she said. It was the magic of the sunglasses, attracting her brother's favourite things across the Atlantic.

"Well," Porrim said as they were all going in for seconds. "You both know I have a wonderful boyfriend, don't you?"

"Of course," Rose said.

"And a knockout gorgeous girlfriend."

"Yes, we know," Kanaya said.

"And an equally gorgeous boyfriend."

"Yes, go on."

"And the most delightful boyfriend in the country?"

"It's hard to tell who is who with you using adjectives rather than names, but yes," Rose said as she reached for the last samosa. "Did either of you want this?"

"No, take it," Kanaya said. "If you could pass me the rice, please."

"I'll take that when you're done," Porrim said, reaching across the table for more vindaloo. "Anyway, I only bring it up because if nothing else this kid is either going to be wonderful, gorgeous, or delightful, but I honestly couldn't tell you which until it pops out."

"What," Kanaya deadpanned.

"Congratulations, aunties."

"Really?" Rose asked, a beaming smile slowly working its way onto her face. "You're -"

"A surprise, naturally, but not entirely unwelcome," Porrim said as she took the rice from Kanaya. "You know me."

"More meddlesome than Ms. Meddling Meddler over here?" Rose suggested.

"I would take offence to that," Kanaya interjected. "But don't think I didn't see you throw that box of tampons onto the literal floor earlier."

"How could you have possibly seen that?" Rose asked. "Of course, by that I mean that I have no idea what you're talking about."

"A very smooth save," Kanaya said. "How long have you known?"

"A few weeks now," Porrim sighed. "But I was hardly going to ring you up while you were on holidays to tell you, was I? And then you both looked like you needed some time to settle back in after getting home and here we are a week later. So as of Wednesday, I'm at eight weeks. It's early days yet, but there you have it."

"How did it happen?" Rose asked, spooning out more curry onto her plate. "The obvious aside, I've got a vague understanding of how that works."

"No idea. It's the first time in what could only be described as a very lengthy history that the pill has failed me. If my timeline matches up, and I know it does right down to the specific evening, I can tell you that there is absolutely no way of telling which one of my boys is responsible."

"Have you told mum yet?" Kanaya asked.

"I'll give it another few weeks, if she hasn't figured it out by then," Porrim said. "And I'm sure she'll figure it out on her own, you know what her instincts are like."

"I'm going to be a human aunt," Rose said, still grinning widely. "Unless you're growing a hybrid of sorts in there."

"Unfortunately, no. It's definitely human," Porrim smiled. "But like I said, I couldn't tell you which variety of human. Everyone's happy, of course, and we've always had something of a your uterus, your decisions consensus about the possibility."

"It's just your partners who know at this stage?" Kanaya asked.

"As well as you two, and I'm willing to allow you to spill the beans, Ms. Lalonde, to your brother and to your brother only," Porrim said. "Since you obviously want to let him know he's failed you by only giving you a feline nephew."

"On the contrary," Rose said. "It's probably for the best he's only provided me with a cat who has a job title instead of a name."

It was much later that evening, long after Porrim had left for wherever it was she was heading on a Friday night, that Rose found herself listening to the soft lace curtains fluttering in the breeze as she watched her wife feign sleep. It was too hot to close the windows entirely and the traffic outside still built up whenever the nearby traffic lights switched to red, but she was warm and content, and surrounded by cats. Her inability to sleep was, for a change, fuelled by joy rather than despair; Kanaya rolled over to face her and begrudgingly opened a single eye to confirm that she was indeed still awake.

"This heatwave is absolutely your fault," Kanaya said, with a small frown. "Clearly it's followed you home from New York."

"That is indeed how climate change works," Rose quipped. "God forbid someone journey from Hawaii to the Arctic."

"Hm," Kanaya said as she closed her eye again. "I have the strangest feeling that Jade is set to make that trip next week."

"Blaming everyone but yourself, I see. I do recall you wishing, back in the depths of winter, for the unending cold to disappear into the void and never return, or something along those lines."

"You dare to quote me to myself like that when I am suffering, Rose? I could file for divorce on those grounds."

"Go ahead, I'll purchase a fountain pen for the paperwork and start practicing my calligraphy."

"You wound me," Kanaya sighed. "And why are you still awake? Is it to enjoy my suffering?"

"We're going to be aunts," Rose said quietly. "Real aunts to a human child."

"Human perhaps, but a product of my sister."

"Oh, shush, you know she's made for it."

"She'll be amazing," Kanaya mumbled. "Now go to sleep and stop thinking up ways to kidnap this human child."

"We have to decide what kind of aunts to be," Rose said. "Are we going to be the strict kind? Take a leaf from my uncle's book and be doting but sporadically absent? Spoil the child at every opportunity?"

"We're going to be overbearing and over-involved and you know that perfectly well," Kanaya said, with as much feigned sharpness to her tone as she could manage as she was drifting off. "Go to sleep, Rose."

"Goodnight, Kanaya, light of my fucking life."

"I'd make an obscene gesture in your direction but my arms have melted off, so you'll have to imagine it, if you would."

"Of course."

Rose was warm in the summer breeze, content, as she closed her eyes and started counting slowly down from a hundred to try and trick her own mind into a more calm place. She breathed deeply a few times, but gave up on it, and the counting, before she even made it to the eighties.

"Just how overbearing would it be to start looking at infant socks? They're just too small to be real, right?"

"You need to get on my level, Rose. I've had an Amazon wishlist for this since I was fourteen."

+++

-- golgothasTerror [GT] began pestering timaeusTestified [TT] at 09:16 --

GT: Prepare yourself for what im about to say because i have no doubt its going to knock your socks clean off.
GT: You were right and living out of hotels again after an extended break from doing so is driving me batty.
GT: So permission granted to begin scouring property listings and expand our already unnecessary portfolio. Keep in mind that i need to be able to launder my own work uniforms in house with more parameters to be decided shortly.

TT: Is this you trying to sext?
GT: No im being serious. I know you love the bureaucracy that comes with contracted purchases.
TT: I'm so turned on right now.
GT: Youre not. Im being serious!
TT: So am I.
GT: Oh shut it. Keep it close to work and look for two bedrooms. It doesnt matter if theyre small but i have an idea in mind that not only saves me from myself but also solves another problem. And stick to a REASONABLE BUDGET!!
TT: I went into your office on Monday afternoon, by the way. I found no less than four abandoned mugs with milk in them strewn around the room, so if you've got any recollection of there being more than four, for the love of God please tell me now or I'll have to quarantine the room in another five weeks.
GT: This is exactly what i mean by an idea which saves me from myself. Look i just want to be able to make my own breakfast and spend a nice half hour in the bathroom without being interrupted mid shit by housekeeping because i forgot to flip the flipping sign on my door!
TT: Very specific of you.
GT: Its happened twice now.
TT: What's your idea then? It's going to impact the search.
GT: Id like to give our john the option of living there to keep an eye on the place in the weeks im at home. Hes currently sleeping at daves flat and it might be nice for him to have somewhere not at his college to go for some down time.
TT: Interesting proposal. But let's get back to the search parameters and financial details. Who's buying?
GT: Happy to do it myself but youre welcome to invest.
TT: Still turned on, for the record.
GT: Shall we call it fifty fifty?
TT: Let me crunch some numbers first but I'll find the optimal split. I'll see what I can find within a ten minute walk and organise walkthroughs for this weekend, how's that sound?
GT: Like someone is a little too keen but it would hardly be the first time for that!!
TT: Hey, I'm not the one who started a conversation with the sexiest opening they could dream up.
GT: Youre insufferable.
TT: You lasted a week and a half in a hotel before deciding to dive right in on another property purchase, colour me impressed. Really.
GT: I think i might have left half a slice of toast on my desk.
TT: You did, and I found it already. Dave says you're catching up with him this weekend, what's the plan?
GT: I've got a shoot on saturday morning so ill be busy most of the day but hes apparently going to change my mind about in and out being as good as it is. I was following the conversation for the first half but then he went off on a bit of a tangent and i sort of tuned out.
TT: Sounds about right.
GT: Im at work now though so i should probably head off. Send me the links to any potential properties you find and ill browse them later on while i suffer in my hotel.
TT: I'm prioritising the search over my own work, I'll get you a full list complete with viewing appointments by lunch.
GT: You are incredible.
TT: Don't you know it.
GT: Sorry i wasnt finished. You are incredibly overzealous!!
TT: Says he who just told me to find him an apartment so he can shit in peace. Remember back when I told you that was something you miss when you're raising two kids, and you just laughed? Well who's laughing now, English? Who the fuck is laughing now?
GT: Still me. But im not the one turned on by bureaucracy which is admittedly not the oddest thing ive ever said in that regard, is it?
TT: Talk to you later.
GT: Did i just regain the upper hand in this contest of witty words?
TT: Love you, talk later.
GT: Ha!

+++

"Hey," Dave said, knocking on the doorframe before he propped himself up against it. "I'm microwaving lunch, you want anything?"

Karkat gestured briefly over his shoulder with a finger; surprisingly, it wasn't his middle finger. He finished punching out the end of his sentence and went back to fix the few errors he'd made before finally spinning his chair around to give Dave his full attention.

"What?"

"You hungry?"

"Why?"

"Because as it turns out the clock keeps moving no matter how totally absorbed you get in your work, and I mean that as like, a general you, not you you, because I'm guilty as shit too, but it's three in the afternoon so I was gonna nuke some shit from the fridge. You want in?" Dave asked as he glanced around the cluttered but tidy room.

"Fuck. Yeah, shit. I was busy," Karkat replied, turning back to his computer. "Give me five."

"Tell me about it," Dave said. "But hey, I've made some good fucking progress today, remind me and I'll show you later. Any food requests?"

"Yeah, don't spit in it."

"Got it," he said, with a mock salute to the back of Karkat's head before he turned to walk back to the kitchen.

He pulled a second plate out from the cupboard and moved to stare into the fridge. After carefully considering the lack of viable options, he pulled out an assortment of takeout containers and started trying to split the leftovers as equally as possible; at least, he tried to split everything evenly but gave himself the obviously larger half of naan bread, since he was the one doing the cooking.

Karkat showed up just as the microwave beeped loudly to indicate that his lunch was ready. Dave slid the plate across the counter to him and swapped in his own food to heat it up as well, then tossed two forks down onto the bench.

"Pad thai and korma, what a fucking combination," Karkat said. He snatched up one of the forks and took his plate across to the couch, where he sank down into the far corner to eat.

"There was more pad thai so if I ate that you'd bitch about getting a raw deal with the korma, and if I had it I'd bitch about you getting the noodles, so I split everything to avoid the bitching but here we are, bitching anyway," Dave said as he dropped onto the other end of the couch and put his feet up on the coffee table. "So what're we watching?"

"House Hunters International."

"Good, I mean this is obviously the superior House Hunters. Oh shit, you know this dickhead is gonna want his giant ass backyard in the middle of Barcelona, what a fucking idiot," Dave said through a mouthful of noodles.

He almost dropped his plate when the front door burst open.

"What the fuck?" Karkat, on the other hand, managed to spill korma down the front of his t-shirt.

"Sorry!" John exclaimed as he almost fell through the doorway with Terezi on his back. "It's an emergency, but like a super gross emergency! Coming through!"

"To the bathroom, John! The bathroom!" Terezi shouted as he went to put her down in the kitchen.

"What happened?" Karkat asked. He'd managed to scrape the food back onto his plate before he abandoned it on the coffee table, hurrying after John.

Dave shovelled the last of his own lunch into his mouth before he followed as well.

"So what happened?"

Dave stopped in the hallway and peered into the bathroom, where John and Karkat were hanging back as Terezi stood in the bathtub with water blasting out of the faucet.

"I have garbage water in my crocs!"

"I said I'm sorry!" John exclaimed, backing further away from the tub so he could avoid the splashback. "I thought you heard me say to watch out because there was a huge pile of trash right there!"

"Obviously I did not hear you, John!" Terezi yelled back as she fumbled over the various bottles of shampoo and other shower necessities until she found her own body wash, and doused her feet and shoes with the soap.

"Don't you have like a crazy sense of smell or whatever?"

"Yes, and I was too busy smelling all of the other garbage in New York because all of New York just smells like hot garbage!"

"Wait, so who's fault is it?" Dave asked, struggling to keep up with their back and forth arguing.

"Don't fucking encourage them," Karkat muttered.

"John was too busy playing with his phone to tell me about the trash bags!"

"It was important!"

"I stepped in garbage!"

"It was Jade!"

"Oh, if that is the truth then you should have just told me that before I yelled at you," Terezi said as she finally kicked off her shoes. She crouched down in the tub and started scrubbing between her toes.

"Really?"

"No, John! I am blind, remember!"

"So are we finally throwing the crocs out or what?" Dave interjected from the doorway. "Hey, hold up," he added.

John ignored his comment, as well as the hand that reached out to get his attention, and shoved his way past Dave out into the hallway; Dave leant back and watched as the door to his own bedroom slammed shut behind him.

"I am going to hack my feet off at the ankles," Terezi said. "And then I am going to put my feet under your pillow while you are sleeping!"

"John left," Karkat said, waving wildly to get Dave's attention. He gestured to himself then Terezi, then from Dave to the bedroom, scowling as he pointed to the phone in Dave's hand. "Dave too. What do you want me to do?"

"Hack my feet off at the ankles and put them under John's pillow while he sleeps!"

It would have been funny if he hadn't recognised the look on John's face as he'd stormed out.

Dave took the hint and stepped away from the bathroom door, trying to step lightly so it seemed as if he'd already started moving before Karkat's last comment. He knocked on his bedroom door and waited, even though it seemed pretty obvious that John wasn't going to respond. After a few moments he opened the door anyway and latched it closed behind him.

"Hey, dude, she'll be fine. We'll take her to the Mayor's vet and get her up to date on some shots or whatever, you know she's just being dramatic because she can," he said, as he sat on the floor and leaned back against the side of his bed.

John was lying on the rug, staring up at the ceiling. He didn't respond to the joke so Dave waited before trying again.

"This is Terezi we're talking about, right? One time, I almost walked her directly into oncoming traffic and she's still like, one of my best friends. And I mean like shit, Karkat's almost let her fall off a subway platform fuck knows how many times and she still wants to fuck him, so I can pretty much gauruntee you she'll get over this pretty quickly. John?"

John had taken his phone out instead of listening to anything Dave was saying. When he seemingly found what he was looking for, he held out the device in Dave's general direction and waited until he took it.

The iPhone screen was filled with back and forth messages; he skimmed them over, trying to work out what it was that John wanted him to see.

GG: i have no idea john!!
GG: i have no idea when i will be able to visit you because i am so busy all the time dealing with the mess grandpa left me to fix!!
GG: he couldnt even leave that mess somewhere easy to find and now i have to figure out how to get from kiribati to this island but he never let me take flying lessons so i cant even do that myself!!!
GG: stop asking me i will tell you when i know!!!!!

Dave closed the messaging app and switched off the screen to John's phone, then tossed it over his shoulder so it was up on his bed.

"Dude, you gotta remember I've been through shit like this with Rosie and Mom, I can't do shit unless you tell me what you need me to do," he said quietly.

"It just doesn't stop being so dumb," John said, turning his head. "I know it's dumb because now Jade is mad, and I'm lying on the floor like a dumb idiot loser. Why doesn't it stop being dumb, Dave?"

"I don't know, dude. I'm not the guy who can answer those questions, I'm just the guy who can temporarily band-aid the situation so it's a bit less shitty for a while. I mean, I'm also the guy who can run his mouth so fast his brain doesn't realise the dumb shit he's saying and make everything worse, but mostly the band-aid fixes," Dave said. "I'm real good at making appointments and shit too if you need me to schedule anything in, but shit's up to you," he added, more tentatively than before.

"Maybe."

"You run the show, dude. You wanna go out for some one-on-one secret best brother buddy burger time?"

"Can I just lie here on the floor being sad for a while first?"

"Yeah, sure. I'll give you some privacy," Dave said, pushing himself up from the floor. "You know I'd cut off my own dick if it meant I could just lie on the floor being sad for you, right? Like I know that's such a dumbfuck Gryffindor thing to do but everyone knows emotional management is more of a Hufflepuff thing."

"But I'm a Hufflepuff," John said, rolling his head over to watch Dave as he moved.

"Okay, so it's more of a Karkat thing than a me thing, I'm more of a 'want to fix it' guy."

"But Karkat's a Gryffindor too, isn't he?"

"Yeah, he is," Dave said, with a soft snort of laughter. "But he's like, the Spiders Georg of the house, he got all the feelings knowledge and the rest of us just got the pure unadulterated self sacrifice bullshit."

"Huh."

"Yeah, whatever. I'm gonna get back to work so when you're finished lying on the floor being sad just come find me, okay? I'm like, work-working, not just fucking around."

"Okay," John said.

"You sure you wanna be alone?"

"Yeah. Thanks, Dave."

"See you later, bud," he said, closing his bedroom door again as he left; on the opposite side of the hallway, Karkat and Terezi's door was closed as well.

Dave dropped heavily down into his desk chair and tipped his head back, just briefly, to try and process everything from the last twenty minutes; there was no way he was getting any more work done for the day. He gave his iMac a few minutes to wake up properly and swiped across to catch up on a handful of chat windows.

+++

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] at 15:48 --

TG: harley
GG: hi dave!!
TG: dont hi dave!! me
GG: D:
TG: holy shit i cant believe im saying this but here we go
TG: i mean i can believe im saying it but i cant believe i have to say it
TG: but holy fuck harley theres a good fucking reason your grandpa never let you take flying lesson and as your cousins cousin slash somehow common law brother i am actually forbidding you from doing just that now hes out of the picture
TG: jesus fucking christ

GG: im not an invalid dave!! just what do you think gives you the right to tell me what i can do?
TG: because a
TG: i have john lying on the floor wallowing in his clinical fuckin depression because youre not sure when youre visiting
TG: you dying in a self inflicted plane crash would fucking end him
TG: b
TG: youre not an invalid but youve got a fucking condition that puts you out of action whenever you emotionally swing too far
TG: and we all know the medication doesnt fucking help with anything except sometimes getting you most of the way through a full nights sleep
TG: and c
TG: i dont want to fucking read about you dying in a self inflicted place crash
TG: is any of this getting through to you
TG: you fly you die
TG: hire someone

GG: wow
TG: so help me i will call your dad
GG: i get it okay!! you can stop now :(
TG: do you really get it or are you just saying it to shut me up and youre gonna do it anyway
GG: i have not decided yet and its none of your business anyway!!!!
TG: except it is my business when your decisions are gonna irreversibly damage my brother
TG: who by the way is already irreversibly damaged but lets not add to the trauma
TG: why are you so stubborn

GG: because i havent slept in two days i dont know where i am going because im following a fucking treasure map left to me by a bonkers old man who didnt tell me any of this before he died!!!!!
TG: okay but did you tell him any of that before you ripped him a new one
TG: or did you just skip straight to the ripping
TG: trick question
TG: he showed me and im pretty fuckin sure you skipped straight to the ripping

GG: uuuuuugggghhhhhhhhhhh
GG: everything is so messed up right now

TG: youre telling me
GG: i just need more time to fix all the things im fixing before i can even think about coming home at all!
GG: i have two weeks off work because we are in between shoots right now and thats the only reason i can even do this but noooo john keeps asking me when i can visit
GG: i have a map dave
GG: grandpa had an actual map with an actual x marked on it

TG: thats it
TG: an x on a map
GG: no he wrote the coordinates as well i think the x was just for effect
TG: no one would have ever guessed your grandpa liked doing things just for effect huh
GG: no they would have he did that a lot
TG: look harley
TG: you do what you gotta do
TG: but were all being like
TG: real fucking gentle with john right now capiche?
TG: give it a day apologise to him and tell him you were stressed
TG: its mostly true
TG: ill tell him to stop pushing

GG: shit!!!!
TG: ?????
GG: i found a pilot gotta go
GG: tell john i love him and ill talk to him tomorrow!!!!!

TG: cool okay
TG: tell your hellbeast i said bork

GG: :P :P :P

-- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 16:13 --

+++

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] at 16:13 --

TG: all g
TG: question mark

CG: WE'RE DEBATING THE PROS AND CONS OF STERILISING THE OLD CROCS VS. BUYING A NEW PAIR.
TG: bin the old get some fashion sense case closed
CG: SORRY, NEW PAIR ACQUIRED. THEY'LL BE HERE TOMORROW WITH FREE EXPRESS SHIPPING.
TG: youre an enabler you know that right
CG: SOME WOULD CALL IT SUPPORTIVE.
TG: supporting unhealthy behaviours sure
TG: im taking john out for burgers when hes done lying on the floor being sad for a while
TG: thats a direct quote btw

CG: OKAY. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE'RE DOING YET.
TG: a romantic viking croc funeral down the east river
CG: I'M NOT THAT MUCH OF AN ENABLER.
TG: i mean you are
CG: COMING FROM MR. 'WE'RE ALL BEING LIKE REAL FUCKING GENTLE WITH JOHN RIGHT NOW'.
TG: harley you fuckin snitch
TG: is she just sending you screenshots now

CG: ONLY WHEN YOU'RE BEING A BITCH SO PRETTY OFTEN THESE DAYS, I GUESS. HOW LONG ARE YOU PLANNING TO LET HIM WALLOW TODAY?
TG: about ten more minutes
TG: turns out hes got this whole thing with jade going on in the background so its not like he had a meltdown over the garbage water
TG: id invite you guys but i told him it was just gonna be us to get him to agree

CG: WHAT A FUCKING SHAME.
TG: now whos the bitch
CG: IT SURE ISN'T ME, CONSIDERING WE'VE JUST DECIDED ON OUR OWN PLANS FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT.
TG: gross
TG: i mean like go for it be safe dude high five
TG: but gross

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] at 16:20 --