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How Striders Roll

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-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] gardenGnostic [GG] and tentacleTherapist [TT] --

GG: dave!! :D
TT: Hello Dave. How charitable of you to grace us with the gift of your presence.
EB: yes dave you’re late! again!
TG: sorry man
TG: was out scavenging for food
TG: wandering these empty planes fighting off other starving survivors for scraps
TG: i paid for these doritos with my blood ok
TT: Which for us plebeians means that you left your room to go get snacks.
TG: well yeah
TG: though i highly doubt these metaphorical penniless romans would understand the bullshit coming out of your mouth on a daily basis
GG: well rose to be honest…
GG: he does have a point!
EB: ooooh look at that sick burn!
TT: The betrayal. Et tu, Brutus?
TT: I’ll have you know the phraseology I employ is of the highest syntactic and semantic standards so that I may keep up with the refined decorum required in high-end argumentative environments such as 4chan and the YouTube comment section.
EB: hehehehe
GG: rose you goofer!!
GG: of course we love you and your silly banter just as well
TT: Jade I am ever perplexed by your ability to warm my heart even as you insult me.
GG: :p
EB: aaaaanyway.
EB: let’s get this movienight STARTED!
EB: or movienoon i guess for jade.
EB: so uh dave join the videochat already!
TG: ugh
TG: why did we need to start facecamming for movienight again
TG: whats even the point of using cams when they arent pointed at some old hobo jacking off his wrinkly dick
TG: on omegle trying to get an eyeful of that rare preteen boob flash
TG: even though surprise surprise it turns out to be a hairy manboob ninety percent of the time
EB: ew dave that is gross on so many levels :(
EB: if i hadn’t seen your face already i'd think you were an old creepy pervert.
TG: in my heart i am
TG: only if my untainted body would reflect all the uncouth shit my eyes have witnessed
GG: dave stop you are freaking john out again!!!!
GG: also it is more fun this way!! now we get to see your guys first reactions
GG: rather than just psychobabbles and interpretative raps that are only very loosely related to the movie
GG: so for me please?
TT: Yes Dave.
TT: That rare eyebrow appearing over the top of your sunglasses, giving us a hint of what humor might have look liked on the Strider pokerface. That awe-inspiring lip-twitch of repulsion whenever the screen cuts too close to Nicolas Cage’s unfortunately shaped face.
TT: It leaves us wanting for more.
TG: alright fine you can stop throwing yourselves at me
TG: give me a moment

 

As John starts defending his movie man crush (“what do you mean ‘unfortunately shaped’???”) you move to turn on your piece of shit webcam and rip off the sticker that had been shielding the lens.

To be honest you don’t think the whole webcam thing is as bad as you make it sound. It definitely lends some insight, and not just into the incomprehensible word vomit you and Rose tend to get up to. Actually seeing John getting all worked up over dumb movies, like he currently is, was what it took for you to realize he was one hundred percent genuine in all this.

You return to reading the chat.

 

EB: either way, nick cage awesome and just to prove that point we are watching one of his classics tonight.
TT: Do we have to.
EB: yes. you. do.
EB: rose you don’t get to complain since your last movie choice with the creepy murder clown almost made dave cry.
TG: lies and slander
TT: Ah, yes. Fond memories.
EB: also dave you are suspended from movie-picking privileges for tricking us into watching gross ecchi anime two times in a row.
TG: aw man you guys just dont appreciate ironic masterpieces do you
EB: so bottom line being for the next bazillion years it’s just me and jade picking the movies!
TT: Leaving us with a Nicholas Cage movie one week and a borderline pornographic furry depiction the other.
TT: How we suffer.
GG: jeeeeez rose for the last time just because no one wears pants in winnie the pooh it isnt like that!!! >:0
GG: anyway i saw see daves blond head popping up just now
GG: so lets gooooooooo!
TG: sorry jade but i think maybe you meant that
TG: we are making this
TG: …
GG: happen!! :D
TG: damn right we are
TT: Wait a moment.
TT: Dave, what’s that on your face?
TG: what are you talking about
EB: uh wow now that you mention it.
EB: dave is that… blood?

 

You move your hand up to touch your cheek and are met with the course texture of damaged skin. The cut had been so superficial that you hadn’t even considered treating it. When you remove your hand, however, it does leave a few drops worth of blood smeared over your fingertips.

 

 

 

It had been the result of one of your Bro’s traps gone wrong.

They often did. But that was kind of the point. You either learn or get mauled, simple and plain.

This one had involved shurikens and a detrimental lapse in your attention as you had just caught a sniff of sweet sweet nacho cheese odor. An open bag of doritos lay beckoning on the kitchen counter. A smell intensified by the fact that you hadn’t had the chance to eat dinner yet. A classic setup. Which you fell for.

Goddamn embarrassing is what it was.

 

TG: are you sure thats not just a glitchy pixel put there by this old ass webcam
EB: *EYES SUSPICIOUSLY*
TG: ugh
TG: okay yeah i guess im actually bleeding
GG: oh no dave are you okay?? :(
TG: yeah jade dont worry
TG: its just a scratch
TT: It looks painful for being “just a scratch.” What happened?
TG: nothing really
TG: just some bullfuckery you know how it is
TG: here look at me putting a dinosaur band aid on it and everything
TG: all it needs now is a kiss and itd be all better
GG: dave you got to take better care of yourself in the first place you dummy!!!
GG: that being said
GG: mwah <3
TG: thanks jade youre the best
EB: hmmmmmmmm.
TG: come on man look at it this way im just thinking of my future here
TG: how am i ever going to pull of the rugged on-the-road badass look without having at least one scar to show for it
TG: of course not a terribly disfiguring scar thatd be lame
TG: but a scar that asks questions like who is this man? why do i, a hot babe, feel so inexplicitly drawn to the vulnerabilitly that is no doubt hidden in his tragic backstory?
EB: okay fine.
EB: that reminds me did you know that nick cage has a barely visible scar on his chin?
EB: you can see it if you look really closely at him in ‘the family man.’ it adds a layer of mystery to his already rad persona as a solitary businessman.
EB: was it from a backstory that had been cut in the final revision? was it an actual scar that they just forgot to put make-up on in that particular movie? nobody knows for sure.
TG: john no
TG: i take it back
TG: i dont want to spend one more second thinking about cages weird face
EB: too late!
TT: So how long is it exactly that male celebrity figures have been a returning theme in your fantasies? We might be closing in on a breakthrough here.
TT: Let me get my notebook.
TG: oh god what have i done

 

You end up watching The Family Man and it is expectedly terrible by virtue of it being a movie that John enjoys. However John’s child-like excitement, Rose’s continuous bickering about plot holes, and Jade’s wholesome confusion about basic human concepts make it a fun watch nonetheless. As is usually the case.

Not that you’d ever admit that.

You are about to shut down Pesterchum to mess around with one of your new comics when Rose starts pestering you in private.

 

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: For the sake of keeping my alleged journal on your mental well-being up to date I must ask.
TT: What really happened to your face? Is it something we should worry about?
TG: no man that shits embarrassing
TT: Humor me.
TG: a man must keep some mystery about him damn it
TG: now for all you know i could be a wayward vigilante
TG: nicked by my arch nemesis during the height of battle while racing against the clock to save houston from the invading crab people army once again
TG: all the while the truth could be that a loose safety pin caressed my cheek while i was busy sucking soft velvet puppet dick
TG: the point being
TG: you can never be sure
TT: Judging by the graphically phallic nature of that metaphor, which you know is right up my psychoanalytical alley, I’d say I was right in worrying just by virtue of how adamant you seem on distracting me from this topic.
TT: So how about you actually tell me. “Spill the beans,” as they say.
TG: okay so
TG: how about we scope up all of these proverbial beans and shove them back into the can
TG: by which i mean how about you can the fake sincerity and put it back on the highest shelve of lalonde passive-aggressively where it belongs
TG: to be touched only in the most bitter of mother-daughter feuds
TT: Ouch. Have you ever considered that I may just be expressing my sincere worries as a genuine expression of my friendship?
TG: not a second no
TG: not when you start the conversation by literally referring to that fucking journal
TG: which you usually go on and on about when trying to pick apart my dreams and behaviors for homoerotic signs of my repressed sexuality
TT: Alright, point taken. I apologize for my tactless attempt at broaching this topic. It was not my intention. The ingrained patterns of speech by which I mean the constant bullshitting you and I are prone to are hard to break sometimes.
TG: okay
TT: Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it anyway?
TG: nah
TT: I see.
TT: Then I guess this is the part where I bid you goodnight.
TG: night rose

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

 

Chapter Text

It’s a Friday evening several weeks later. You are about to abscond to your room for one of your weekly movie nights when your Bro suddenly appears in front of you in the hallway. He nods his head upwards, then disappears.

You breath out and try to relax your tense shoulders. Damn. You hoped that after striving with him yesterday you’d be off the hook for at least a few days. But maybe you shouldn’t be surprised. Over the last few months you and your Bro have been striving more and more frequently. He even upped the difficulty of your overall training regimen, pushing you to your limits. Almost as if he’s preparing you for something big.

You would ask if you’d expect him to actually answer. Of course he’s way too cool for that.

You grab a sword out of the fridge and head upstairs.

 

 

***

 

You walk out onto the roof. Bro is standing near the edge with his back to you, katana in hand. A perfect parody of some obscure samurai anime, you bet.

“Hey Bro, can we make this quick? I’m supposed to meet up with friends in twenty.”

You gauge his reaction carefully, hand on the hilt of your sword. He looks at you from over his shoulder. “Depends. Think you can beat me that quick?”

You never beat him in a strife before and he knows it, knows that you know it. You draw your sword and brace yourself.

As usual he controls the phase of the fight. It is a particularly brutal one, his attacks coming in so fast that you barely have the opportunity to retaliate. You realize Bro is trying to prove a point. The point being that you are utterly incompetent and should in no way be trying to get out of practice early.

Which, fair. You shouldn't known better than to open your mouth.

But the fight drags on for-fucking-ever, and you grow increasingly frustrated despite your better judgement. When you finally get a swipe in it is sloppy and rushed. He easily parries by grabbing your sword arm by the wrist and landing you several meters away on your back. You gasp as all air is knocked out of your lungs in the process. Your sword clatters to the floor next to you.

“You’re impatient,” he notes.

You move to pick up your sword, breathing hard. “Geez, I wonder why.”

“Deal with it. A real enemy wouldn’t wait the fuck around for you to take a break.”

“Oh, come on!” you blurt. “I can defend myself just fine and you know it.” And wow that sounded hella lame but god if you aren’t tired and frustrated and this was like the fourth strife this week and you just want to talk to your friends right now.

“Prove it then.”

To no one’s surprise, you end up proving nothing. Your frustration just grows, not to mention your exhaustion. Finally a miscalculation on your part punishes you with an elbow to the face. The alarming force behind it buries your shades deep into your eye socket.

 

 

The pain is both immediate and dizzying. You stagger backwards, dropping your sword to clutch at your face with both hands. Your left eye is already starting to swell, obscuring your vision. “Jesus, Bro,” you swear. But when you look up with your other eye, he is long gone.

You wait around for a few minutes to make sure he stays that way. Then you take off your shades—god that hurts— to inspect them. They’re fine. Thank god. They were a gift from John, after all.

You look at the sky, which has turned almost completely dark over the course of the strife. You feel a headache coming up.

 

 

***

 

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] gardenGnostic [GG] and tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TG: sorry im late
TG: i was busy getting my ass handed to me by my bro on the roof
EB: oh man
EB: he wanted to strife you AGAIN
TT: Oh my.
GG: guardians can be so troublesome, always vying for so much attention
TG: you know it jade
TG: its fine tho
TG: ive been through this spiel basically since birth yo
TG: i know how to handle myself
TG: this is the part where you all imagine me as a muscular yet lean powerhouse the likes of which are only seen on sports magazine covers with the help of heavy duty photoshop
TG: except every single inch of me is real
EB: be real dave no one buys your lame cool act especially not after seeing your scrawny ass!
GG: soooooo cooooool!!
EB: jade you’re not helping!!!
GG: sorry :(
TT: I can only imagine the everyday struggles a man so outrageously handsome must face.
TG: oh dont even get me started rose
TG: bitches be flying at me left and right like moths to a flame
TG: except my fires are so damn hot i might as well be a fucking inferno
TG: you better watch out before you get burned
TT: I will try to keep that in mind.
EB: you know dave sometimes i feel like all this coming in late and all the following bullshitting.
EB: is just you having stupid excuses to put off watching the actual movie!
TG: any second i get to put off another reunion with cages gross face is a second i cherish
EB: HEY now :(
TG: but no man the strifes just come and go
TG: i cant predict when another may start
TG: also dont act like youre never suddenly gone during chats because of your dad
EB: haha yeah i guess he's a real hassle sometimes.
TG: well then you know how it is
GG: anyway i have good news you wont be having to look at cages gross face today!
GG: because iiiiim the one picking tonights movie!
GG: we are watching……
GG: wait for it…………
GG: beauty and the beast! :D
TT: Ah, yes.
TT: The classic that perfectly balances bestiality with a healthy touch of Stockholm Syndrome.
GG: rose you said you would behave ._.
TT: My bad.
TT: I will try to throw my common sense in the wind and numb out my mind with false promises of ballroom dresses and rich princes waiting to romance me.
GG: ok that doesnt sound very honest of you but i appreciate the effort!!
TG: oh yeah about that
TG: i cant be facechatting tonight
TG: just imagine my reactions in your fantasies using the abovementioned description
GG: aawwwwww :(
EB: huh, why? is your webcam broken or something?
TG: something like that

 

 

***

 

By next Monday your eye has changed from an angry red to an even grosser purple. Luckily most of it is hidden behind your shades. The edges of the bruise showing underneath its rims and at the bridge of your nose do garner some weird looks around school, however.

On Tuesday your history teacher takes you aside to ask you about it. His concern soon turns into annoyance however as you give an explanation that grows more bizarre by the minute. It involves basketball, a bear, alien abduction, and a deliberate amount of gross imagery. At one point your teacher gets so fed up with you that he tells you to get out already before he gives you detention, probably wishing he’d never asked.

It always works.

 

 

***

 

That week Bro goes easy on you. That is to say, easy for his standards, with only one smuppet trap and two (relatively tame) strife sessions. You appreciate it nonetheless. He often does this after you sustain a particularly bad injury. One evening he even plays video games with you on the couch instead of cornering you for a strife. It’s pretty neat, all things considered.

It also ensures that on Friday you have no trouble getting to your computer in time for once. Your eye feels a lot better now, its bruising barely visible anymore. You claim your webcam magically fixed itself and watch another shitty movie.

A day later you regret that decision.

 

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: Hello Dave.
TT: I know last time I tried to confront you about a similar matter my inquiry was not received well on account of my apparent insincerity.
TT: So let me start this conversation by stating that I hereby bury the passive-aggressive hatchet and swear solemnly not to dig it up until at least this log’s completion.
TT: Even as my fingers will strain for its loving caress, my superego will fight to keep those urges drowning under the iceberg’s peak.
TT: That being said.
TT: Be honest, what is up with you?
TG: k thanks im totally convinced now
TG: and therefore i will reward you with the truth which is that nothing is up
TG: not even the ceiling not even stars the sky of strider issues is so goddamn empty that it is as if you were staring straight back into the dark abyss that is your own soul
TT: Even as you avoid the question I can’t help but I appreciate the Lovecraftian appeal of that burn.
TG: youre welcome
TT: Dave your black eye showed underneath your shades yesterday. Something clearly went down.
TT: I don’t think Jade and John noticed but the fading bruise was telling enough.
TG: wow rose i didnt realize you enjoyed staring at my face that much for you to notice these kind of things
TG: you should have said so i could have just sent you a picture
TT: …
TG: ugh fine yes i had a black eye
TG: but like you said its mostly gone already
TG: so i dont see the problem
TT: How did you acquire it?
TG: shenanigans
TT: What kind?
TG: the kind that involves basketball a bear and me being abducted by aliens
TT: Basketball? Really Dave? You can do better than this.
TG: yeah sorry i guess that part was pretty far fetched
TG: anyway you should wait until the russian strippers come into the story
TT: Ugh.
TT: I didn’t want to do this but you are forcing my hand here.
TT: Judging by the color, the bruise seems to be about a week old.
TT: And last week you came in late to our movie night because you had been striving with your Bro.
TT: During the same movie night you claimed not to be able to use your webcam, presumably because you didn’t want us to see your injury.
TT: And then during the movie you kept disappearing for short intervals, presumably to get ice for your face.
TT: Leading me to believe that your Bro must have punched you a black eye during your strife session.
TG: haha wow lalonde
TG: thats a fuckton of assumptions and allegations you are laying down there
TT: Correct me if I’m wrong then.
TG: okay yes it happened during our strife
TG: it was just a training accident okay
TG: it happens
TG: a sleuthing job well done rose gold star if you ever apply for a detective job i will be sure to write you that recommendation letter
TT: So he’s hurt you before?
TG: oh man dont say it like that like theyre not just training mishaps
TG: the odd bruise here the rare sword scrape there
TG: though before you ask that scratch from a few weeks ago was not even from striving
TG: anyway its strifes of course you get shit on sometimes what do you think a strife is
TT: I’m not sure.
TT: I’m beginning to suspect that your definition of a strife is different from mine.
TT: For me it’s mostly a passive-aggressive conflict.
TT: Refusing insincere gifts.
TT: Making empty suicide threats.
TT: That sort of thing.
TT: I suppose I’ve subconsciously assumed the antics you and your Bro get up to were of a similar kind.
TG: haha no
TG: the fuck would i learn sword fighting if that was all
TT: So it’s a duel right? You get him back just as good?
TG: no man i wish
TG: i cant even harm a stitch on lil cal
TG: the guy and his puppet are as unreachable as his level of irony is
TT: Hm.
TT: Why did you never tell us?
TG: i do tell you guys
TG: like every other conversation
TG: remember all the times i complain about getting my ass kicked in strifes and about all of his goddamn puppet ninja traps
TG: we laugh it off remember like friends do when their guardians are being particularly ridiculous or hard to deal with like they are prone to being for some reason
TG: instead of embarking on a full investigation
TT: You never talk about the injuries though.
TG: i mean why would i
TG: its pretty outrageously uncool dont you think
TG: do you want me to crush jades dreams rose
TG: do you
TT: Dave I don’t think she would stop the hero-worship even if you were to lose a fight against a squirrel.
TG: well
TG: no reason to take my chances
TG: are we done yet
TT: I still find it suspicious how you are being so damn cagey about all this.
TG: rose for how long have we known each other now
TG: cagey bullshit is all we ever talk to the point that we dont even adhere to the regular english dictionary anymore
TT: I guess that’s true.

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

 

That evening, when you undress to take a shower, you do a double take at your mirror image.

A pattern of white lines and faded bruises decorate your skin. There’s scars from trying to catch falling swords out of the air, scars from blocking improperly, and bigger scars from failing to block at all.

As much as you hated the pain of every single one of these you could always simply understand them as the inevitable side effect of learning how to fight. Plus it’s not like Bro would ever seriously maim you.

And yet for some reason the image leaves a bad aftertaste in your mouth.

In true Strider fashion, you shrug it off and go on with your routine.

 

Chapter Text

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: Dave.
TT: I was mulling over our last conversation and it left me wondering.
TG: huh
TG: did it now
TT: To be more specific, you let slip that the cut on your face you were sporting a few weeks back was not caused by a strife. Among other things, I was wondering how else that could have happened?
TG: why are you asking
TG: havent you picked at my psyche enough to keep you going for at least a week
TT: It’s but a simple question. Why should I have ulterior motives?
TG: i just dont get why you are so goddamn nosy all of a sudden
TG: its like youre trying to create a historical atlas of every single dent on my face
TG: fyi if thats the case i claim dividend
TT: Maybe I simply care about what goes on in your life?
TT: (Rest assured that you’ll be paid fair and square when the first edition is out on the shelves.)
TG: ok good
TG: anyway the answers still no
TT: Hm.
TT: You know I could always ask Jade or John about it. Maybe you told them something you’re not telling me. And even if not, they would probably appreciate being informed about how their friend Strider keeps getting hurt for mysterious reasons.
TG: rose are you really threatening to spill my virgin secrets to the entire school
TG: after we pinky swore on it and everything
TG: this is a major breach of teenage girl sleepover etiquette if ive ever seen one
TG: equal in severity only to social catastrophes like telling the popular kids that i snore or snitching to my crush that i like him
TT: Him?
TG: or her of course if i were talking about me
TG: instead of going to great lengths trying to take the perspective of a teenage girl
TG: which is clearly what i was doing
TT: Right, obviously.
TT: Don’t mind me while I file that one away for later analysis.
TG: oh god please dont
TT: That being said, you have truly opened my eyes to the monster that I am.
TT: Threatening to invoke the help of those who care deepest about you out of a profound concern for your health and overall well-being. How could I?
TG: oh come on rose
TG: i mean fine ill talk but did you really have to add blackmail and guilt trips to your list of coercion techniques
TT: Yes Dave, I’m confident that it was necessary.
TT: I’m also confident that you’re self-aware enough to know why.
TG: the real question here is
TG: are you self aware enough to know what an insufferable know it all you are sometimes
TT: Of course. All part of the brand.
TG: heh
TT: So?
TG: alright alright im getting there
TG: what happened was
TG: well basically it was just one of my bros ironic ninja traps
TG: involving shurikens a bag of doritos on the kitchen counter as bait and me being betrayed by my primal instincts
TG: needless to say i didnt get out of dodge in time so it scraped me
TG: it was so superficial i didnt make a big deal out of it i didnt even notice i was bleeding until you know
TG: you guys pointed it out it in the chat
TT: Huh.
TT: You know at times like this I am hit with the absurdity that I find this more believable coming from you than you getting a black eye in basketball.
TG: haha yeah
TT: Don’t his traps usually involve masses of plush rumps though? This sounds rather ill-advised.
TG: i mean often puppets are involved yeah but not that time thank god i am so sick of puppets
TG: but the idea is the same really its just more training bullshit
TG: guess it doesnt really matter whether they are emotionally or physically scarring
TT: Ouch. What does that even train you for?
TG: its about staying on your guard at all times
TG: so that i dont fall for obvious shit
TT: Oblivious shit like fatal traps in the only place where you’d find food?
TG: i mean they wouldnt be very effective if i could just avoid it
TG: also its not fatal if you dodge
TT: Which you almost didn’t that time.
TG: yeah well i was distracted by the smell of doritos after not having eaten dinner can you blame a man
TT: And you did not eat dinner because…
TG: uh
TG: fuck
TG: usually when we arent getting takeaway he leaves me money for food but sometimes he forgets
TG: though in hindsight this time around it was probably just the setup of his trap
TT: Ah, I see.
TT: The fact that he starves you beforehand to make sure you go for his traps makes me feel so much better.
TG: god rose im not starving
TG: i have a food stash in my closet
TG: apple juice and fruit loops for days
TG: also a much smaller chance of being buried by swords if you open it unlike the fridge
TT: ...
TG: what
TG: whats with the judgmental dots
TT: Just… let me get this straight. You have resorted to hoarding food in your room because sometimes there is no food in the house or if there is it may be dangerous to get your hands on it.
TG: well
TG: technically yes
TG: but its a win win really the less i wander around the house the less chance he has to get the drop on me
TT: You’re scared of him.
TG: wow
TG: no? why would you even say that
TT: You are giving off the impression you are scared to freely walk around your house because of the constant possibility of getting surprised by either his traps or his strife sessions.
TG: are you calling me a coward
TT: No. I’m just trying to understand how you see these things.
TG: ugh
TG: should i lie down on this couch while youre at it to make the psychoanalysis easier
TG: i just dont always feel up to the confrontation 24 7 ok
TG: i know for a fact that you avoid the shit out of your mom on most days so dont act like you dont know what its like
TT: I do, but for different reasons.
TT: My mom is mockingly overbearing in a wicked imitation of parenthood. Any interaction she attempts with me carries at least three layers in the art of passive-aggressiveness, always looking for new ways to spite me. You are right in that on many days I’d rather not be subjected to the woman’s mind games.
TT: But even so she would never ever physically endanger me, or frighten me because she might.
TG: oh
TT: I mean, as long as I refuse to step into a car with her that is.
TT: Thank god for busses.
TT: Your Bro however…
TT: Dave, honestly, do you not see the issue with his… unorthodox approach to raising you?
TG: rose
TG: if unorthodox was a religion my bro would have been baptized at birth
TG: except the moment the pervy old priest guy tried dunking the holy jesus water on his head he ollied the fuck outta there
TG: no one had even considered skateboards as part of church lore untill that day not even the unorthodox church
TG: thats how unorthodox he is its not like i could have missed that fact
TT: I do not think that’s how baptism work.
TG: haha yeah
TT: I also do not think any of this is particularly funny. Your attempts at beating around the bush are much more transparent than you think.
TT: Being a weirdo doesn’t excuse him from being held up to certain standards.
TG: your loss then
TG: look whether you understand it or not is beside the point hes a badass everything else is just part of the brand
TG: oh look what i did there using your own words against you
TG: wonder what that feels like
TT: Ah, we’re back to your other major defense mechanism. Right on schedule.
TG: no thats just me calling you out for being an ass
TG: we are striders rose
TG: this is how we roll
TG: and that is all there is to say on the matter

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --



Predictable defense mechanisms be damned. It’s what she gets for being too nosy.

You log off pesterchum and glance over the top of your knees to study Bro sitting on the other end of the couch. He is focused on his laptop, probably editing one of his puppet porn videos. Nothing weird about this situation. Just two dudes hanging out, why would you hang out with someone you’re scared of? Rose’s accusation is so fucking baseless.

(Okay so maybe the puppet porn thing is a little weird, but it’s not like Bro wouldn’t kill you for trying to peek at his screen. Responsible big brother behavior right there.)

Either way, you are glad that even though you were just blatantly discussing him, for once Bro seems none the wiser. You’ve grown out of the delusion that Bro is able to read your mind (embarrassingly enough not that long ago), but his knack for guessing it right keeps you on your toes regardless.

The thing is, sometimes you do wish that things were different between you and your Bro. Of course Rose‘s account is exaggerated, an attempt to feast upon your supposed vulnerabilities. Something that, if you value your life, you should not give into. But that doesn’t stop you from wondering about it in private.

Because wouldn’t it be awesome if the whole Strider household atmosphere could cool down a tad? On occasion? Not in the sense in that the two of you should stop being so outrageously cool, because there is just no way around the fact that the Strider household is the most badass there is, but…

Sometimes you miss the days in which he’d let you talk his ear off without punishing you for annoying him. Or when during the early strifes he’d make you push him, fall over, and pretend that you did it all on your own. Or how about the days when there was actual food present in the house, even if it was just canned beans, that didn’t require you to estimate all the ways in which it could be a trap before touching it. Those days were pretty swell.

It's fine when Bro's focused on his own thing and Dave doesn't interfere, like right now. But any actual interaction with Bro is so goddamn tense. Hard for it not to be considering that shit may hit the fan at any time with the guy. Of course that’s exactly what he’s trying to teach you, but you’d appreciate a break every now and—

Without having noticed him shift you suddenly find Bro staring right back at you from behind his shades. Wait, what were you still staring at him for?

“What are you staring at me for,” he repeats your thoughts. God damn it.

“No reason,” you say flatly.

That was a wrong move. Bro closes his laptop to better stare you down. “Don’t lie to me.”

You hold up your hands. “No man I’m—“ Then you notice what you’re doing. The position of your hands. The fact that you’d been inadvertently moving your feet to the ground in case you need to bolt. “I uh…”

“If you’ve got something to say, don’t be a pussy and say it.”

You swallow. You’re not scared of him. Rose is wrong. You’re not. You can just talk to him and sort this shit out. “I was thinking about some things.”

“Things.”

“Yeah I, uh.” More than ever, you want to back out (read: flashstep the fuck away) from this conversation but now you have a point to prove. Damn it Rose. “Like about the food in the apartment…”

“What about it.”

Everything’s fine. You are going to play this cool. “Like, maybe for shits and giggles we could try using the fridge for its intended purpose for once? Just putting that out there. ”

“Hey, I'm not stopping you from using it.”

“The thing is a death trap, Bro,” you deadpan.

He laughs, taking it as a compliment. “I know. The shit’s wicked.”

“Bro, for real. I’m just saying, because…” Because I have to alternate between three different supermarkets so the cashiers won’t get too suspicious. Because sometimes you’re not around for days, forget to leave money and I grow really tired of eating through my dwindling stock of shitty-ass cereal three meals a day. “It’d be convenient,” you mumble.

His expression turns. You’re supposed to roll with the irony, not be a wimp about it. “This isn’t a hotel, you spoiled brat. Did ya forget where the supermarket is?”

“No, but—“

“Then stop bitching.” The finality of his tone shuts you up. And, ok, that answer sucked, but doesn't prove anything. The man loves his shitty swords, and it isn't like you can't work around that. Mostly.

"Anything else?”

You take a deep breath. You need to keep talking because otherwise you are never going to say it. "About the strifes. You think that just maybe… we could keep those to just some days of the week and not others?”

That one Bro doesn't find funny. In fact, he doesn’t react at all physically. Not that he’s usually very expressive, but that’s never a good sign. “Why,” he asks.

You avert your gaze. Just... get it over with. “Sometimes I don’t feel… I don’t always have time to be hit in the face with one so suddenly, you know? Like on Fridays, movie night with the idiot friends and all…”

“And you think that has a higher priority than staying on top of your game.”

The weight of his disappointment is crushing. “No that’s not—“

“Then what, Dave.”

I just want to relax sometimes? Eat, sleep and pee in peace for at least some days of the week? At least give the scrapes a chance to heal before you carve me some new ones?

You’re clenching your fists so hard that it hurts. Oh fuck. Shit. You can’t get upset now, you’ve already lost too many shards of your cool during this clusterfuck of a conversation and if you flip our shit now Bro will never let you live it down. Oh god. Come up with something less lame to say, you idiot.

Bro looks you over. “You’re acting fishy. More so than usual.” His eyes dart from you to your phone and back. “Who’ve you been talking to?”

Fuck fuck fuck. “Noone. I was just…” No. Time to abort mission. “You know what, never mind, forget I said anything.” You stand up to get the hell out of dodge but he’s quicker than you, catches you by the arm. Shit.

“Answer me.”

“It’s none of your business.” You lean your weight backward in an attempt to force him to let go. All its gets you is that he tightens his grip, fingers digging into your skin painfully.

“It sure as hell seems to be, if it gets you to start acting like a fucking crybaby.”

You make an effort to sound as indifferent as you can. “Who I was or wasn’t talking to is completely unrelated okay? I’m just having an off day.”

He doesn’t let go.

“Bro, lay off.”

He gives you a long, calculating look, making sure you know that he can keep you there as long as he likes, but then finally loosens his grip on your arm. You flashtep back into you room and shut the door all within one second.

You sit down on your bed but don’t relax a single muscle. Not until several minutes later when you are relatively sure Bro actually went back to work instead of coming after you to challenge you to a strife for being a lying little shit.

You don’t waste any time in changing the passwords of your computer, phone and pesterchum. Then you delete your past conversations with Rose to be on the safe side.

What were you even thinking.

 

 

***



 

When Bro leaves you a note (kunais it to your bedroom door) to strife that Friday evening your stomach drops. The day and time can’t be a coincidence, promising nothing good.

Of course he wouldn’t let you off that easily. But then again, this time you guess you deserve it. You should just… take it like a man, toughen up, and forget this entire disaster ever happened.

You are forced to explain how you are late to yet another movie night. How your webcam definitely seems to be broken again; yes, you have tried turning it off and on again.

And if it wasn’t a bitch of a night enough already, Rose is on your tail immediately.

 

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: “sorry bro trashed me real good on the roof just now”
TT: When John asked you why you didn’t attempt absconding you answered with “nah man he guards the door like a pitbull till hes done with me”.
TT: If even John is skeptical you better believe something is up. The only person you seem to have fooled at this point is Jade. But then again that doesn’t say anything because she has so little knowledge of human interactions she might as well have been raised by a dog.
TT: But please Dave, enlighten me as to how this sounds like yet another a perfectly healthy and acceptable thing for a guardian to do to their kid.
TG: jesus rose again
TG: can we not do this thing were you overanalyze every single little thing i do or say for one fucking minute
TG: i can understand your concerns about wanting this strider face to stay all handsome for you but
TG: ive already said all that there is to say on the matter
TG: literally
TT: How am I supposed to stand by and do nothing when you literally admit that your Bro is beating you?
TG: oh my god is that what you think now
TG: hes teaching me how to sword fight rose we have been through this
TG: stop seeing things that arent there
TG: i mean yeah it sucks sometimes but cant a guy complain without it being a federal fucking issue
TT: How does “trashing you” accomplish this exactly.
TG: he was teaching me a lesson
TG: shut up
TG: whatever youre thinking now shut up im not in the mood
TG: just let me watch this goddamn movie in peace
TT: Dave I have something to say that might be difficult to hear.
TT: Have you ever considered that him beating you to a pulp when you have no option to back out and no real opportunity of coming out on top
TT: even if you’re both holding swords
TT: to an outsider could very well appear as child abuse?
TG: well maybe
TG: but then this outsider clearly doesnt know me nor my bro nor the reasons hes training me to be a child warrior and should try sticking her nose in someone elses business for a chance
TG: how about you consider that
TT: Do you know the reason?
TG: no but my bro does
TG: he knows what hes doing rose
TT: Oh I’m sure he does.
TT: Just like I am sure he has reasons for his failure to provide you with a safe home environment and sometimes even fails to provide you with food.
TT: How can you not see that for the child neglect it blatantly is?
TG: i told you i can take care of myself
TG: i patch myself up after fights i know how to provide for myself with food
TG: how are those bad outcomes
TG: he made sure i was independent
TT: Dave you are literally 13 years old.
TG: so what
TG: so are you it sure doesnt stop you from writing wizard smut
TG: the world doesnt wait for us to grow up rose
TG: stop bugging me about this
TG: i mean it

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

 

 

 

***

 

 

Dealing with Bro’s bullshit was never easy but you’ve always been able to tough it out. As long as you don’t question it, it’s not that bad.

Rose’s accusation is ridiculous. Insulting.

But you can’t stop dwelling on it. You’re reminded when a well-aimed kunai almost buries itself into your arm. You’re reminded when a kick in your stomach leaves you with a foot-shaped bruise. You’re reminded when he doesn’t go any easier on you even though it hurts to move.

If you are to stay sane you can’t let her mind games continue to fuck with your head. You have to deal with enough of those already.

You can’t afford to freak out about this.

 

 

 

***

 

 

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: So how come we haven’t noticed this before? We’ve been videochatting with you for a while now and according to you you have been striving for, and I quote, “basically since birth yo”. Plus you sometimes send us your selfies and you seem unharmed in those.
TT: Although now that I think about it their terrible quality that you claim is ironic could definitely hide scars and such.
TG: jesus are you going through my selfies/old convos now just looking if you can find support for your obsessive theory
TG: what the fuck rose
TG: not cool
TT: Sorry about that. But regarding my question?
TG: he usually doesnt go for the face i guess
TG: gotta make sure this strider keeps his strider charm
TT: So what your insinuating here is that he usually makes sure to only beat you in places others wouldn’t notice.
TT: Others like teachers, friends, or maybe even let’s say, Child Protective Services?
TG: jesus rose its not like that
TG: hes not beating me god damn it
TG: its training how many times am i gonna have to tell you
TG: stop trying to spin my words around like this is a fucking interrogation
TG: a yellow umbrella you say? but just now you claimed it was red
TG: clearly this scumbag murdered his entire family the evidence is all there your honor i suggest putting this criminal in the slammer to rot away for a lifetime
TT: Exactly how many scars do you have underneath?
TG: …
TG: a few
TG: but damn it rose youre missing the point
TT: I think the point is that you are trying to avoid even thinking about how your situation is, in the very least
TT: “kind of messed up.”
TT: I get that this might be a coping mechanism that has served you well for a long time. But it is something you need to break out of if you want to get help.
TG: yeah right
TG: its not like fucking cps is gonna go and do shit
TG: if youre that easy to outsmart what are you even gonna do bro told me all about them and he was right theyre dumb idiots
TT: Okay if I may.
TT: Snarky bullshit aside and with no intent to spin your words at all. What you’re saying is that you have been in contact with CPS before and your Bro taught you how to mislead them.
TT: And I am supposed not to worry about this somehow.
TT: …
-- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum! --
TT: Fuck.



You stand up and walk away from your computer, shaking with anger.

She just doesn’t know when to stop, does she?

A strong urge to break something overcomes you but you don’t want to mess with any of your carefully collected loot, so you end up yelling profanities at the crows down below.

You don’t even know whom you’re furious with. Rose for driving you fucking insane with her accusations? Or yourself for not telling her long ago to stick it, instead slowly feeding her more and more fuel? Or maybe Bro for making it so hard on you to defend the Strider way of life. Or maybe the birds. They don’t care for your tantrum in the slightest, instead choosing to stick around the roof below your window being awful motherfuckers as always. Yeah, definitely the birds.

For a while you just watch them with your forehead pressed against the top of the window frame.



TT: Dave please.
TT: Don’t go like that, I think we’re onto something important here.
TT: At least let me know if you are alright.
TG: for the last time im fucking fine chill the fuck out
TG: i was just grabbing a soda or some shit
TT: If you say so.
TT: Can you answer my initial question?
TG: that depends
TG: is it just gonna give you another reason to shit on my bro?
TT: I wouldn’t have to if he didn’t turn out to be more of an terrible excuse for a human being every time you tell me more about him.
TT: So were you in contact with CPS or not? And on what grounds?
TG: yes on the grounds of i was sick of dealing with your crap
TT: Dave…
TT: Stop being obtuse. You know I’m just trying to help you.
TG: are you really
TG: cause i sure dont feel helped
TG: for the past few weeks ive been feeling shittier than ever and you just keep making it worse and worse
TT: Is it because my words have caused you to come to some uncomfortable realizations about your Bro?
TG: jesus fucking christ no you self absorbed asshole
TG: you know what im not even gonna defend myself here
TG: because im sure youd find some way to turn it around and try talking me into something else
TG: like whats next on the list
TG: oh maybe he sexually abuses me as well
TG: you would like that huh
TT: I mean. There sure are signs that could be interpreted in that way.
TT: Are you saying that he does?
TG: holy shit
TG: ok thats it
TG: clearly you have your head so far up your ass that you only hear what you want to hear
TG: and you know what lalonde
TG: fuck off
TG: what you need to get into that thick skull of yours is that its just a different way of life all right
TG: one that youre clearly failing to grasp with your prissy upper class upbringing with a guardian that gifts you ponies for your birthday
TG: my life isnt some episode in your favorite documentary about traumatized children being beaten with a belt every night by some evil stepfather
TG: longing desperately for someone to finally step in and notice their tragic suffering
TG: how about you go off and find some other victim to live out your long time fetish with of saving a tortured soul with your nonsense psychological mindfuckery
TG: cause im done with you

-- turntechGodhead [TG] blocked tentacleTherapist [TT] --

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

 

 

Chapter Text

The next Friday, you don’t show up for movie night. Instead you draw a SBAHJ update and post it on your website which you know Rose receives update notifications for.

The comic ends in bloody death by helicopter blades. It’s not even that funny even though you keep referring to the helicopter as a whirlybird. Whatever.

 

***

 

-- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

EB: hi dave!
EB: you weren’t there for the movie yesterday.
EB: rose told us it was probably because you were mad at her.
EB: but then she was all mysterious as to why you’d be?
EB: so…
EB: what is this all about??
EB: wait you haven’t blocked me as well have you?
EB: no then i couldn’t talk to you at all haha STUPID.
EB: so uh.
EB: tell me later i guess.

-- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

 

-- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

GG: dave!!!!
GG: my melodrama senses are tingling and YOU seem to be the source!!
GG: WAIT dont tell me yet
GG: did rose insult your raps again?
GG: did she make you cry by picking apart one of your weird dreams?
GG: did you realize you were more of a dog person and now you are tired of talking circles around her because she keeps bringing it up trying to convince you otherwise??? >:0
GG: ok phew im fresh out of ideas
GG: you can tell me now!!!
GG: …………
GG: dave?

-- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

 

***

 

Days pass in which you ignore your friends. Rose, still blocked, can go fuck herself. John and Jade deserve better, but talking to them would mean having to answer their questions, and you can’t deal with any more of those.

All you need is some time to get your head straight. At least that’s what you tell yourself, even when you only feel angrier and emptier as the days drag out.

You attempt to avoid Bro as well, but of course he doesn’t let you.

 

***

 

-- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

GG: yoooo!!
GG: sup my coolest brah?
GG: hehehe
GG: anyway you have no idea wat bec just came home with
GG: it is toooooootally cool even though youll probably say that i should get rid of that devil dog again
GG: hmmmmmm :l

-- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

 

***

 

One evening, when you are rifling through the kitchen cupboards for something to eat, one of them explodes. The sizzling of a fuse tips you off. Any other person might have, driven by mild concern, searched for the origin of the suspicious sound. Not you. You jerk your head backwards violently just as the deafening bang reaches your eardrums. A firework rocket bursts from the cupboard and screeches past, an inch from your nose, before crashing straight into the ceiling with a second boom.

The force of the blast has you stumbling backwards. Your feet trip over something—Little Cal, when did he get here?— landing you hard on your ass on the other side of the room.

You put enough distance between you and the firework’s impact to be safe from its aftermath of fiery ashes and sparks now raining down from above. You sit there, frozen in place, until it becomes clear that none of them is going to set off the powder keg worth of fireworks holed up in the sink.

You try to stand up only to realize you hadn’t been breathing. You press your head against your knees and try to calm down. Fuck. The small puffs of air that you manage to suck in are not enough. You dig your fingers into your hair which does absolutely nothing to help your bitch-ass lungs. What the hell? Other than the stray sparks that burned your hand during the rocket’s take-off you are completely fine. Bro pulls stunts like these all the time. By no means should this one affect you so much, close call or not.

Except it clearly does. You are shaking like an old lady being held at gunpoint. The ringing in your ears is so loud that the firework might as well have still been going. Still too little oxygen—is it possible to choke and die on nothing? Fuck, fuck, fuck, no, get yourself together. This is no time for having theatrical breakdowns. What if Bro is filming on you? What if he’s still around?

When you look up Lil Cal is watching you from the kitchen counter. It gets you up faster than should be possible given your anaerobic state. You haul ass back towards your room to freak out over what just happened in peace.

 

***

 

-- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

EB: hey.
EB: ……
EB: ……………………
EB: oh COME on.
EB: i can see you are online.
EB: just.
EB: where are you man?

-- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

 

***

 

After the fireworks incident, you stop venturing out of your room to hunt for food. Unfortunately it doesn’t stop you from freaking out about nothing from time to time, especially during or after strifes for some reason, but at least you feel a little bit more in control of it now. You only eat from your own stash, or when Bro actually remembers to order takeaway, or thanks to the miraculous invention that is school lunches.

You don’t pick the habit back up even after your food stash starts running dry.

You’ve done this before, in a futile attempt to avoid his surprise attacks. And every time, when you’d reach a certain point of hunger that makes you consider the edibility of paper, you’d give in.

Except this time you don’t.

You don’t know why.

Or maybe, as Rose would probably tell you if the two of you were still talking, you don’t want to think about why.

 

***

 

-- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

GG: ok dave PLEASE get your head out of your ass and make up with rose already!!!
GG: she CLEARLY wants to talk to you
GG: but is unable to because you are being a HUGE BUTT!!!!

-- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum! –

GG: :(

-- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

 

***

 

The hunger and your brain consistently being on the verge off a freak out don’t do you any favors in battle. You are late to react. You take risks that you really shouldn’t. It results in you being handed some of the worst smackdowns in the history of smackdowns.

If Bro notices, he seems to be cool about it. Cool in the sense that he doesn’t seem to care at all. Once or twice when he notices your sword shake during strife, or your breathing go erratic, he tells you to stop being a pussy and keeps going. Maybe he thinks that your weakness of mind will fly past with enough rigorous training, because he sure as hell doesn’t hold back on that.

You now sport bloody noses and bruised ribs on an almost daily basis. What is left of your mental energy you spend on figuring new ways of weaseling out of questions and stares you are getting at school.

You hate the thought that if anyone truly saw you now, they would side with Rose's conclusion.

You hate how sometimes you’re not even sure of the counterargument yourself anymore.

Although most of the time, for better or for worse, you can't bring yourself to truly care. You're so tired.

 

***

 

-- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

EB: can we please stop doing the no talking thing.
EB: it has been going on for weeks now
EB: i don’t get it :(
EB: like what is going on with you?
EB: does it have something to do with you and your bro?
EB: cause it seems to me like the two of you have been butting heads more than usual lately…

-- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum! –

EB: aaaaalright maybe not that then uh.
EB: is it because all the jokes rose makes about you being a homosexual?
EB: or are you actually a homosexual and that’s why it bothers you so much?
EB: in that case you should just say so because we wouldn’t judge you for being a little weird you know!
EB: UUGH that came out wrong. i didn’t mean that it’s weird, just… different? i guess? definitely not something to make fun of. i’d ask rose to shut her flighty trap about it right away.
EB: hell i'd even stop making jokes about it myself!
TG: for the love of god john
TG: i cant watch this anymore
TG: you may lay down the lgtb ally rainbow flag youre aggressively waving at my face
TG: im not gay
TG: why does everyone always assume that
EB: okay sorry!!! jeez.
TG: anyway is that what roses been telling you behind my back
TG: i cant believe this
EB: what? no she hasn’t.
EB: in fact she hasn’t told me ANYTHING!
EB: no one does! rose says she can’t talk about it. you aren’t talking at all.
EB: even jade is more in the loop than i am! because even though she is upset at least she seems know for some spooky psychic bullshit reason that you will start talking on your own at some point.
EB: but me.
EB: im grasping at straws here trying to figure out why two of my best friends suddenly can’t STAND each other.
EB: and why you can’t stand any of us either, apparently.
EB: i thought we were friends dave.
TG: oh
TG: oh shit john
TG: fuck man im sorry i didnt mean to fly off the handle on you like that
TG: and uh
TG: ignore you
TG: like that wasnt part of the plan either
TG: not like i did it because i have some kind of hella secretive grudge against all of you or something
EB: okay…
TG: look man know that might have seemed like it
TG: but whatever this shitstorm is its between rose and me
EB: well, alright. i guess i accept your apology.
EB: if only because i really want to hang out with you again.
EB: still… what even happened between you two to mess things up so badly?
TG: look its not important
EB: okay so CLEARLY that’s a lie.
TG: ok yeah maybe it is but id just rather not go down that abyss of idiocy right now
TG: she was being a huge bitch about something now i dont want to talk to her end of story
EB: FINE i’ll drop it. for now.
TG: thanks
EB: so are you going to show up for movie nights again at least?
TG: not if rose is there
EB: :(
TG: sorry i cant deal with her right now
EB: it’s just not the same without you!
EB: roses crazy tangents just get so depressing without you to match up with something equally wordy which indirectly makes fun of her bullshit spewing.
EB: jade tries to make up for it by being extra over the top cheerful but you can tell her heart isn’t in it.
TG: ouch
TG: that sounds kind of awkward
EB: that’s because IT IS!
TG: but nothing i can do about that for now
EB: *SIGH*
EB: fine then sulk for a little longer.
EB: will you at least watch a movie with me?
TG: right now?
EB: uuuhm yes?
TG: hell yeah i thought youd never ask
TG: but uh
EB: dont worry you even have to show your stupid face if you don’t feel like it! we can just chat.
TG: yeah thanks
EB: i’ll go as far as to pretend to picture you are this good-looking muscular dude you always go on about.
EB: although for your information, to me that would be McConaughey.
TG: oh god gross john
TG: now all im gonna think about is you creepily fantasizing about his face every minute of the movie
EB: hehehe
TG: oh my god that was your plan all along wasnt it
EB: hehehehehehe

 

***

 

-- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TG: so i heard your spooky powers were at it again predicting my future and shit
TG: btw do you actually have spooky powers or is this just a ploy to get me to talk to rose?
GG: that depends!
GG: do you feel compelled to go through with it now that it is written in your magical destiny???
GG: because in that case the first option is a definite possibility!
TG: well
TG: before i answer that i need to know are we talking the good or the bad kind of destiny here?
TG: like is it the good kind in which ill find out i have magical powers get to wear a cape and have this adorable sidekick follow me around?
TG: or the bad kind oedipus level of bullshit in which ill kill my dad and marry my mom neither of which i knew i had beforehand
TG: cause that would be kind of a deal breaker no matter how hot my mom turned out to be
GG: dave you big drama queen……
GG: the good kind of course!
GG: my powers are benevolent
TG: ok
TG: youre not messing with me arent you
GG: maybe!!! >:0
TG: haha
TG: look whos being all cool and mysterious now
TG: i gotta step up my game else this frizzy haired dog lady might take my place as the sole reigning champion of cool
GG: pssssh you dont have to worry silly!!
GG: i could never be as cool as you youre like the PRESIDENT of cool!
TG: aw jade
TG: you may have just moved my stone cold manly heart by an inch
GG: hehe :p
GG: i missed you too you doofus <3
GG: but
GG: NEVER
GG: do this to me again :(
TG: fuck
TG: i wont i swear
GG: neither to john
GG: ESPECIALLY not to john you hurt him worse than you probably realize
TG: yeah
TG: yeah im sorry about all that ill try to do better
GG: its fine i forgive you dave just dont do it again!
GG: soooooooo does this mean ive convinced you to go make up with rose? :D
TG: hell no
GG: oh………
GG: are you going to do it later?
TG: do i have to
GG: dave its best not to go against my spooky powers!
GG: that i may or may not have!
TG: didnt you just say they were benevolent
TG: this seems contradictory
GG: …………
GG: …………
GG: ………… busted
GG: but really dave i believe it would be for the best!
GG: if you tell me what happened maybe i can help?
TG: id rather not go into detail
GG: vague summaries are permitted!
TG: …
TG: fuck it why not
TG: theres this thing down in my life right now that can be hard to deal with
TG: and rose picked up on that and tried prying it out of me
TG: but in that way that she does like this is was a game to her cracking me for all my secrets
GG: oh no!!
GG: that sounds pretty mean of her
GG: should i pummel some sense into her
GG: or at least give her a STERN talking to >:(
TG: no its
TG: the thing is some of the stuff she said kind of hit close to home
TG: like shes probably saying all that shit because she cares or whatever
TG: she just really overstepped i guess which only makes the thing harder to deal with
GG: oh no
GG: dave are you ok??
TG: look ive been
TG: …
TG: not great
TG: but i really dont want to get into that right now
TG: i have to get going soon anyway so
GG: thats fine you can just tell me when you feel ready!
GG: but will you at least think about talking to rose again soon?
GG: even if she was mean to you i think you should give her a chance to explain herself!!
TG: im not sure jade
TG: but i guess ill consider it
GG: thats all i ask!
GG: ill look forward to having the four of us together again next movie night <3
TG: yeah
TG: wait what
TG: what does that mean i didnt even say for sure i would even talk to her

-- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

 

***

 

In the next few days you reconnect with John and Jade. They make jokes and laugh at yours. They allow you to complain about your Bro’s antics and complain about their guardians in return. It’s familiar. It’s confortable. You can’t believe that you thought cutting them out of your live, even temporarily, was a good idea.

But then you always have to go back into reality, which isn’t as confortable. No matter how much you try to ignore it. You are so hungry and tense now every single day and Bro still doesn’t do anything about it.

Not a single thing.

The question why eats at you from the inside out. You wish you had someone to talk to about it, but the only person who even remotely knows what’s going on is Rose.

Well. No time like the present to sell your soul. You halfway promised Jade anyway.

 

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

-- turntechGodhead [TG] unblocked tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TG: hey rose
TG: sup
TG: me? yeah i havent been so hot
TG: some shit going down with bro
TG: …
TG: ok so i know youre reading this
TG: theres no way you wouldnt with your overwhelming attraction to the dramatic
TG: and lets not forget your hard on for being right about things
TG: so where are all these snarky lalonde remarks and i told you sos i have been hyping myself up for all these days?
TT: I’d rather not go that route.
TT: I was getting tired of us not talking so if anything I’d like to refrain from doing anything that might get me blocked again.
TG: oh thank god
TG: me too
TT: Alright.

-- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum! –

TT: Dave?
TG: oh sorry
TG: im still here im just
TG: uh
TT: Oh, good.
TG: god this is awkward
TT: An astute observation.
TG: i mean
TG: do we ever even talk in sentences this short
TG: whats up with that
TT: Anyone reading this conversation might be inclined to think that the only thing that could have happened to us is that something incomprehensible stole our true selves away. Leaving us here as just the shell of our former selves while our souls are left screaming for all eternity into a void that is so suffocatingly thick that even the Gods, would they have cared, could not have heard us.
TG: is that a horrorterror trope you just described
TG: in purposefully long sentences
TT: Why yes, it is.
TG: haha thats fucked up rose
TG: …
TG: alright so i guess youre waiting for some kind of explanation from my side
TG: which is fair i suppose because i was the one ignoring you for like two weeks without an explanation
TG: well any more explanation than just snapping at you and blowing you off
TG: which is a pretty shitty move considering we talked almost every day before
TG: but then i even went the full asshole route and dragged john and jade down with us in this ocean of nonsense melodrama
TT: Four weeks.
TG: huh?
TT: We haven’t been talking for four weeks.
TG: oh damn
TG: jesus i am such an asshole
TG: i mean what the fuck its like i walked straight past asinine to skyrocket my sorry ass into the stars past the gods of asininity
TG: they wouldnt care either but at least theyd watch me like
TG: wow look at that asshole go
TT: Dave, although entertaining, please stop whatever you’re typing now to add to that uncharacteristically self-deprecating escalation that is that is that metaphor and allow me to say something.
TG: yeah ok
TT: It is I who should be apologizing.
TT: I shouldn’t have been surprised when you told me to can it after years of insincerity and trying to psychoanalyze your brains out for fun
TT: and then when you really tried to get me to lay off all I did was push more and more.
TT: You were right in that I was so caught up in my own vision of how this would play out that I didn’t even consider how you’d react to me just
TT: “dropping it like its hot”
TT: as you would describe it,
TT: instead of being there for you as a friend.
TT: Therefore I am the one who should apologize.
TT: Sorry.
TG: ok so
TG: im not gonna try acting all coy like you have nothing to apologize for
TG: because that’s just not true
TG: you were freaking me the fuck out
TG: and yes maybe that implies that you were right about some things
TG: but only some things dont you fucking dare quote me on this
TG: anyway i had crossed that line of stubbornness where id rather cut off my own arm than admit you were right about the color of the sky
TG: so maybe this can be the moment that we mutually agree that we are both enormous socially inept asswad excuses for human beings and put that behind us.
TT: Agreed.
TG: ok good
TG: anyway i hate to cut short this tear jerking reunion here but i sort of need to go do something now
TT: Alright.
TT: Speak you later?
TG: yeah

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

 

There isn’t shit all that you need to do right now. You know it and you are pretty sure she knows it too. You hope this can be just one of those things that you silently agree to never acknowledge in any way whatsoever.

It is kind of pathetic that you’re afraid of talking to her for longer than five minutes but whatever. You’re trying here. You can ask her about it later.

 

***

 

The next movie night you surprise John just by showing up. Jade isn’t surprised (figures) but the sheer happiness that leaks out the both of them already convinces you making up with Rose was worth it.

What follows however is a severely awkward moment in which the two of them vigorously attempt to get you and Rose to explain. The two of you haven’t even talked that far yourselves yet, sticking to small talk only, even though you can tell it has been wearing on Rose’s patience endlessly. You are surprised that, rather than throwing you under the bus now, she actually helps you pull off the legendary amount of bullshit needed to evade having to answer anything.

Maybe you should give her some more credit. She kept your situation to herself for all these weeks even if Jade and John had probably been nagging at her about it constantly.

But then that moment passes and is replaced with a large serving of terrible movie that has the four of you falling back into your old dynamics of idiotic banter and friendly jabs sooner than you’d believed possible.

You and Rose still give each other a wide berth for the most part. Your jabs are somewhat lackluster, falling flat halfway through more than once. You guess that is something that may need a bit more than one heartfelt round of apologies to repair.

Nonetheless, you feel yourself relaxing for what is probably the first time in weeks.

 

***

 

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

TT: Hello, Dave.
TT: When we first started talking again earlier this week it seemed like you initiated the conversation because you had some issues weighing on your mind.
TT: I just wanted to make sure… I mean, how have you been holding up?
TG: haha i knew it
TG: you can act like you dont care all week but secretly you are dying to know whats going on with bro arent you
TT: It was never my intention to come across as non-caring. I was just trying to give you space.
TG: the great all knowing lalonde giving space?
TG: is this some kind of new therapy technique you havent told me about yet?
TG: at least make sure its evidence based
TG: unless im like the first subject then i guess you gotta start somewhere
TT: Listen Dave, if you don’t want to talk about it, you can just say so.
TT: I won't pretend that I'm not curious, but I'd step off.
TT: I just wanted to give you the opportunity.
TG: nah im just messing with you now
TG: that thing about habits being hard to kill off right
TG: and maybe
TG: maybe also cause this is kind of an uncool subject to talk about
TT: I get it.
TT: Take your time.
TT: On my part, I’ll try to not get carried away with analyzing what you’re saying, if that’s what you’re worried about.

 

You take a deep breath. She’s right, this was originally what you wanted to talk to her about. And here she is, offering to listen.

No need to be an ass about it.

 

TG: uh
TG: where to even start
TG: bro has just been more of a dick than usual i guess
TT: More of a dick how?
TG: well i mean
TG: tbh he has been more or less normal
TG: thats the thing i guess it started with me
TG: i had to be difficult about his stupid traps
TG: had to keep having these fucking moments
TT: Moments?
TG: idk its stupid
TG: i should get over it really
TT: If it’s any comfort, I’ll promise not to make fun of you for it.
TT: Not even indirectly.
TG: yeah ok just
TG: im not really sure how to describe it
TG: theyre like temporary moments of weakness
TG: something sets me off and for no reason i just freak out so bad
TG: and i cant fucking
TG: breathe
TT: That… seems like it sucks big time.
TG: jesus it does
TT: If you’ll allow me to take a guess, I’d say what you’re describing sounds very indicative of some kind of panic attack.
TG: yeah panic whatever you wanna call it
TG: but you know it shouldnt matter
TG: like i would get over this ive dealt with insane shit before
TG: but bro has had like zero chill lately
TG: he refuses to slow down for my sorry ass to stop being a huge baby
TG: or
TG: even acknowledge it really
TG: neither does he acknowledge that i havent been eating
TG: unless kicking my ass extra hard during strifes now that im less able to defend myself counts as acknowledging
TT: Jesus…
TG: no wait forget i said that
TT: I’m afraid I won’t be able to, but I’ll pretend I have for the sake of keeping this conversation civil.
TT: Can’t you avoid what’s causing you the panic in the first place?
TG: avoid bro you mean?
TT: Well.
TT: Your words, not mine.
TG: i mean
TG: ive been avoiding his bullshit traps lately
TG: although thats kinda part of the problem now
TT: Is that what you meant about not eating?
TT: Because that’s just rather worrying.
TG: yeah
TG: yeah i know is not like imma keep it up forever tho dont worry
TG: anyway and ofc theres stifes cant skip those
TT: Have you tried?
TG: ha
TG: when i was younger i sure tried
TG: enough to know that i sure am not skipping strifes no more
TG: ever
TT: Should I even ask?
TG: probably not
TG: no really dont
TT: …
TG: listen rose its not important
TG: i just want things to go back to normal
TG: when i could just go into the apartment hang out grab some food without being moments away from a freaking out as if id just fallen into a pit of snakes
TT: Were things ever normal though?
TT: From what you’ve told me before you’ve always been super tense about all those surprise attacks.
TT: Your current reaction is probably just the result of years and years of repetition of exactly that.
TT: Just because you were dealing with it better back then didn’t make the abuse that he was putting you through any less damaging. Or any less wrong for that matter.
TG: rose its not
TG: look i get that hes pulling some shit that really no great that has led you to believe that
TG: because hes super aloof and tends to be really hard on me
TG: with the training and putting me in dangerous situations and all
TG: believe me im not a fan either it sure aint helping with my current
TG: issues
TG: but its just his way of protecting me by trying to make me tough enough to face the world
TT: “Protect you” ? By hurting and scaring you to the point of panic attacks?
TG: fuck
TG: yeah ok ill admit that his approach turned out a lil counterproductive alright?
TG: but knowing him he doesnt even notice what its doing to me
TG: im sure
TG: probably
TT: Are you even convinced yourself anymore?
TT: Seems to me like even you are beginning to grasp just how shallow these justifications are. Yet you insist on clinging to them.
TG: hey how about we dont have this discussion again
TT: No, I think we should.
TG: k rose
TG: thats enough im pulling down the curtains for psychoanalysis today
TG: the shop is closing
TG: please contact us again at office hours striders are not the type of pushovers to work overtime
TG: unless youre here for high quality raps because thats a 24 7 business
TT: I… Alright.
TT: Thanks for being clear about your boundaries.
TT: I might take you up on that offer though.
TT: Have you ever written a rap about the zoologically dubious?
TG: no but wanna see me try butcher the genre?
TT: Hell yes.

 

You realize that you really missed Rose as well. It’s nice to have her back.

Chapter Text

In the end, Bro is forced to acknowledge your eating problem when you straight up faint during a strife.

On schooldays your hunger is manageable. One of the lunch ladies keeps heaping up your plate extra high whenever she spots you. In another lifetime, you might have been bothered by the pitying look that accompanies her handing you the food. But at this point they’re the only meals you are reliably getting a day, so you wolf them down without complaint.

Today, however, is a Saturday. You saved your last bag of Cheetos for Sunday, meaning that you haven’t eaten anything all day when he orders you upstairs.

You never claimed this not-leaving-your-room-for-food plan was a good idea in the long run. In your defense, you never thought it would run this long.

You feel lightheaded just ascending the stairs, to the point that you are forced to pause halfway to steady your cartoonishly wobbly legs. The sensation continues all throughout the strife. Performing clean dodges and flash steps proves to be stupidly hard when even just standing on your feet takes a monumental effort. You push through, though, knowing better than to claim illness as an excuse to get out early.

After half an hour of bro wiping the floor with you it happens. One moment you are parrying a strike and the next thing you remember is falling to the floor like some Japanese schoolgirl.

 

 

***

 

When you wake up, you notice three things. First, you notice the right side of your body stinging like a bitch. Apparently Bro failed to heroically catch you hit the ground like in the animes, shame on him, but to be expected. He also didn’t skewer you the moment you lost consciousness so you guess beggars can’t be choosers. Two, you notice that you’re in your bed, which IS odd. Did he… carry you down here? You open your eyes and—

Three, Bro is still there in the room with you. Oh fuck.

He is lounging in your computer chair with his phone out. When your eyes meet—wait where are your shades?— he drags the chair closer to your bed and plops his ass back down on it. Before you are fully able to register what’s going on, he hoists you up by the front of your shirt. You flinch when his other hand comes around, your elbow shooting up to protect your face (too slowly, of course, you’re not even fully awake yet, what the hell) but all he does is… point?

 

 

“Care to explain this?”

You force yourself to lower your arm and hope Bro doesn’t pick up on your stupidly rapid breathing. Right, okay, you are overreacting, nothing is going down just yet. Calm down.

Your eyes follow his finger to the exposed skin from where your shirt is hiked up. For a moment you think he’s pointing at the bruises, but that wouldn’t make sense. No, he’s pointing at your ribs. Your ribs, which are… far more discernable than they have any right being.

You have no idea why you pick that moment to be a little shit—are you TRYING to set him off?—but you do. “That'd be my stomach. Maybe you’ll even find a fabled nipple if you go slightly higher.”

Bro’s expression is wholly unamused, annoyed even, but he does drop his grasp on your shirt. Your head lands back into the pillows and he yanks your shirt back down for good measure. He then leans back and crosses his arms.

“Can the bullshit. You pass out. I pick you up and you weigh as much as a goddamn toddler. Haven’t you been eating or something?”

“Geez, I wonder.” Despite just being told off, you hear anger rising in your voice, as if it’s been building there for a long time. “How would you come to that conclusion, given that I haven’t touched any of the food or money in the apartment for weeks?”

Bro holds up his hands. “Jesus, I just figured you were eating someplace else.”

So he noticed? He noticed and didn’t… “When? I always come straight home from school!”

“Fuck if I know. What do you expect me to do, watch you eat?”

“What do I expect— Well here’s a suggestion, maybe I would still be eating if the kitchen didn’t explode in my face every other day!”

“Are we back to this again? Don’t be such a wimp and get over it.”

“But…”

“And stop trying to pin this on me. I ain’t the one who decided to go all anorexic like some an attention-starved bitch.”

You open your mouth to argue, because what the fuck, but close it again before the first sound leaves your throat. Because although you are pretty sure the stunt you’re pulling wouldn't count as anorexia, can you really deny that this was a plea for attention? Wasn’t that subconsciously a big part of the reason you were doing this, to see if he’d intervene?

God, you’re like a baby crying fake tears just to get its mother’s attention. You avert your eyes, your face burning with shame.

“Nothing to say for yourself?”

You don’t answer, keeping your gaze fixed on the wall to the right of you.

He sighs deeply, frustrated with your lack of response.

“How do you think you’re gonna build muscle if you’re not eating?”

Of course, that’s what he would care about. You shrug, which continues to piss him off, because nothing pisses him off more than you downplaying the importance of your training.

He pulls you up to face him by the collar of your shirt and this time, it is a threat. You gasp. “Listen up you little shit. I don’t care about whatever sissy teenage phase that you think you might be going through, but this?” he stabs a finger at your ribs again, painfully so, “This won’t fly here, understood?”

“Or what?”

The words hardly left your mouth before he smacks you across the face, whipping your head to the right. Years of training in the act of keeping your cool keep the prickles you feel in the corners of your eyes from forming into tears.

“Understood?” he repeats.

You blink back at him, note how his free hand is still hovering in the air. You nod.

He releases his hold on your shirt. You move your hand to rub at your cheek.

You hear him swear under his breath. You’re beginning to get the idea that he has no idea what to do with you either. He finally gets out his wallet and presses a twenty in your palm (holy shit that is a lot money) and tells you to go feed yourself. Your mouth waters as you mentally calculate how much food twenty bucks will buy you.

He stands up. “Don’t pull this shit again,” he says. And then he’s out.

You rustle the paper twenty between your fingertips thoughtfully for a while. Handing you money for free was… uncharacteristically benevolent of Bro. He might have also threatened you with violence to start eating again, but you guess those are the only ways a cool guy like him could show affection. And that’s good, right? Wasn’t that what you wanted?

But then why do you still feel so conflicted?

Why can’t you shake the question of whether he would have noticed you starving if it hadn’t hindered you from strifing?

The question of whether he would have cared?

And whether it was really necessary for him to hit you?

If you would’ve possessed the Lalondian determination for passive-aggressive bullshit, you’d not use the bill out of spite, instead folding it into an origami apple and giving it back to Bro. But you’re so goddamn tired of being hungry. And you should probably not continue to anger him on purpose. So instead you search for your shades and shoes and take the money straight to the supermarket.

You buy yourself lunch (breakfast? early dinner?) and devour it one foot outside of the supermarket like an animal. It takes you a moment to realize that the cashier was looking at you funny because of the red mark on your cheek. You return home on a full stomach, but with your head just as empty of answers as it was before.

 

 

***

 

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TG: okay rose bear with me here
TG: what if i came to you and asked you a hypothetical question
TG: would you be willing to pretend that this hypothetical question has no bearing on reality whatsoever like hypotheticals usually end up doing
TT: You are asking, hypothetically, if I would pretend not to ponder the roots of yet another hypothetical inquiry that you are presumably yet to ask. I’d say that this in no way convoluted semantic nightmare seems like the most logical and therefore agreeable course of action.
TG: okay sweet so this is how it goes
TG: imagine a fake imaginary world in which there is a dave
TG: and he has this older brother slash guardian figure whos a pretty cool guy right
TT: Right…
TG: the thing is though
TG: his bro tends to be rather harsh on him during swordfighting training
TG: and sometimes he hits his lil bro not even under the guise of training just cause hes angry
TG: lets say thats a thing that he did just now
TT: Shit. Are you…
TT: I mean. Go on.
TG: and like i get that thats a messed up thing to do right
TG: like a lot of things he does are probably messed up but shit like this probably takes the cake
TG: but still how could you call that abusive
TG: when a moment later he also sticks out his neck to help dave
TG: and he kinda had a really good reason to be angry in the first place probably for the good of the lil bro
TG: so clearly his bro cares a lot
TG: i guess what im asking is how can those two mutually exist?
TG: because i still cant wrap my head around that
TG: hypothetically speaking that is
TT: Of course.
TT: Well, first off. Can you really say that his Bro had a good reason to be angry?
TT: Because honestly I’m doubting the existence of an excuse good enough to warrant violence in a situation like this.
TG: well lets just say dave wasnt eating for stupid reasons
TG: and his bro was trying to put a stop to that
TG: thats a good reason right
TT: Still… by hitting him?
TG: yeah well i guess the hitting was only because dave decided to be annoying afterwards
TG: so i guess he was just pissed
TG: how is this important
TT: I’m just saying if that argument falls apart so easily, how can this dave be so sure that his Bro did it because he cares for him? That his Bro cares for him in general?
TG: of course he does
TG: hes my bro
TG: the other daves bro not mine haha clearly
TT: Family doesn’t always… work the way it’s supposed to. One does not ensure the other, sadly enough.
TG: yeah true
TG: but in that case i just dont get it
TG: why would he go through so much trouble raising someone otherwise? you wouldnt do that if you hated someone
TT: Well that “trouble” is really just some basic stuff that’s expected of you in the first place as a kid’s guardian.
TT: It doesn’t say shit, honestly.
TG: still
TT: I guess what he’d have to ask himself is, at what point do the cons outweigh the pros?
TT: If this was just a one-time thing I’d view it differently than if it happens systematically.
TG: idk man
TG: all depends on where you draw the line right
TG: how can you ever really know
TT: The fact that you have to doubt that is probably a bad sign in its own right.
TG: ah
TG: i guess
TT: Even if he did care for him though, abuse doesn’t necessarily mean someone hates you.
TT: Someone who cares for you can still hurt you.
TT: Maybe especially them.
TT: Dave?
TG: hey how about we call this conversation a day then and disregard that daves scenario as the fantasy that it is
TT: Can I say one thing though before we do that?
TT: Now that this scenario is still fresh in our minds.
TG: if you must
TT: Alright.
TT: I’m not sure about the current situation this hypothetical Dave is in, nor do I presume to know.
TT: But if he ever felt like he needed to get out of there because things were getting to hot to handle,
TT: and was looking a place to stay,
TT: I’d say yes, no questions asked.
TG: ok

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TG: thanks
TT: Don’t mention it.

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

 

 

***

 

The money lasts you for about a week. After that nothing changes and you guess you have to go back to risking your ass and sanity in the appartment again.

You don’t know why you expected anything else.

Guess that’s that, then. You’ve had your tantrum. Now all that rests you, as Bro said, is to get over yourself.

Your fingers tremble like nobody’s business but you manage simple acts like opening cupboards and searching his stuff for money.

When literally nothing happens to you for the first five days you are very close to believing that Bro actually feels guilty about the whole thing and is going easy on you after all. In hindsight he was probably hoping just messing with your expectations, fucking classic, because on day six he pulls out big. A trap sets off literally all the fireworks in the sink and about a thousand smuppets come flying your way. You’d appreciate his dedication to fucking with you to the point that he’s willing to risk burning the place down if you weren’t freaking out so bad about the noise and the movement and the fact that you almost lost fingers in an explosion again.

You drop the cereal that was in your hands and make a break for your room.

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TG: rose
TG: fuck
TG: i cant do this
TT: Dave?
TT: Are you okay?
TG: peachy
TG: what do you THINK?
TG: you turd
TT: From what I’m gathering here you’re definitely not okay. Otherwise you’d never be caught alive letting an insult that weak leave your mouth.
TG: i cant breathe you fuck
TT: Oh.
TT: Shit.
TT: Didn’t mean to burn your burning game while you are in the middle of having an episode.
TG: oh my god
TG: did you really just
TT: Shit, my bad. Again.
TT: I wasn’t prepared for this at all, it seems, and now I am flubbing. Terribly.
TG: god
TG: and people think youre the tactful one
TG: i cant believe i live in a world where john once told me he thinks you speak gracefully
TT: He does?
TT: No, wait, scratch that. Let me start over.
TT: What’s going on?
TG: told you
TG: im not breathing right
TT: Are you hurt?
TG: no
TG: but its been like ten minutes
TG: why do i still feel like im dying
TT: Okay.
TT: First off, try to calm down.
TG: what you think i havent thought of that
TT: Well, keep trying.
TG: such a help
TT: Maybe focus on just breathing for now?
TG: fine
TT: It’s okay if it takes you a while.
TT: You’re not going to die.
TG: yeah alright
TT: …
TT: Dave?
TG: still trying
TT: That’s good.
TT: …
TT: It’s at moments like these that I wish I had some actual experience in the field of psychology.
TT: For all my posturing my actual knowledge of the field roughly equals jack shit.
TG: not that i dont love that youre admitting to that but
TG: youre like 13 years old
TT: Yeah, well. Still would be nice.
TT: What I can claim is that I’m rather well-versed in some very specific subfields of it.
TT: If you consider diligently digging through Wikipedia articles to be a valid method of study.
TT: And if you consider Freudian dream analysis and horrorterror hallucinations to be valid subfields of psychology.
TG: heh
TT: Maybe I should consider a career in exorcism instead.
TG: are you sure
TG: feel like youd be more interested in summoning the demons that banishing them
TT: Probably.
TT: How are you doing over there?
TG: feeling slightly better
TG: i guess
TT: Would you get worse again if I ask you what caused this?
TG: no you can ask
TT: Did Bro…?
TG: well not yet but he will
TG: shit was exploding in the kitchen again
TG: and it just set me off so bad
TG: and now i didnt eat dinner and when bro gets here hes gonna be so pissed that im skipping food again
TT: Even though the only reason you’re doing that is because he keeps rigging the kitchen?
TG: thats the point
TG: im expected to be able to deal with this shit not let it bother me
TG: its a strider thing
TT: Not to encourage your lack of eating but… Maybe for this one time won’t notice?
TG: he will
TG: he must have been around
TG: else there were at least cameras
TG: he joked about not making him watch me eat but i bet i means thats exactly what hes doing
TT: I really have no other way to phrase this, so I won’t. That’s really creepy.
TG: yeah
TG: oh fuck
TT: Huh?

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TT: Oh.
TT: Fuck indeed.
TT: Is this what I think it is?
TT: Please say it isn’t and you were just sick of hearing me talk.
TT: Just… contact me when you can.

 

You hear him enter the apartment and you barely manage to close your conversation with Rose before he appears in your room. You hate how easily he comes into your room now. By some unspoken agreement he’s always left you alone in here, only coming in when you screwed up badly enough. You’re screwing up a lot, lately.

Haha, funny how your lungs are back to pretending like they’re peanut-sized just like that. You dig your fingers into the arms of your computer chair and try to hold on to your poker face with all your might.

“What did I say about you not eating?”

No battles to be won by being cheeky now. “That I should cut that shit out?”

“So what do you think you are doing.”

You bite the inside of your mouth. “Just give me some money then alright? I’ll buy it myself, like before.”

His look hardens, and you belatedly realize your mistake.

“You think imma keep spoiling you like that?”

You shake you head, but the seed had been planted.

“If that’s what you want, you’re gonna have to earn it. Meet me upstairs.” You feel fear welling up in your stomach. Strifes are never good news when he only initiates them because he’s pissed at you.

“Shit Bro, there's no need," you try. "I was just one time, I swear.”

“Did I say that was optional?”

You go white and your hands tremble as you pick up a sword off the wall. You follow him up anyway because you know you could still get it worse.

Up on the roof, he doesn’t mention how badly you are hiding your lack of calm. On your part, it’s not hard to see how disappointed he is in you.

He doesn’t leave much of you whole that strife. You’re not even sure if you can call it a strife anymore because it seems pretty clear he isn’t attempting to teach you anything, except maybe the lesson that nothing comes easy in life.

 

 

***

 

After that Rose gives you her phone number to call when you panic, so that she at least has a better idea of whats going on. You agree on the condition that she keeps quiet if Bro ever bursts in like that again because you’re afraid Bro will force you to cut contact if he ever knew how much she knows (how much she could tell the cops).

 

 

***

 

In the end Bro’s crude method works, if you count the fact that you’re eating again and not the number of panic attacks that it brings you once you flee back into your room.

You call Rose during a particularly bad one after staring at the number for an eternity. She flubs just as much as before but in the end it’s listening to her voice rambling on and on that calms you down.

It's something.

But not even you are going to pretend anymore like it's a solution.

 

 

***

 

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TG: hey so
TG: i know its been a while but i still want to apologize for the shit i said about your mom
TT: What instance of you making inappropriate sexually themed comments about my mom are you referring to here?
TG: oh fuck you too
TG: you know thats not what i meant
TT: Me too?
TT: My, my, the Lalondes must be high on your list ;)
TG: oh my god
TG: you motherfucking piece of
TG: no wait that came out wrong stop what youre typing right now
TG: ugh
TT: Never change.
TG: uuuuugh
TG: as for what i was trying to say
TG: i was talking about back we were fighting a while ago
TG: and i sort of maybe implied that you werent allowed to complain about your mom just cause you guys are rich or something
TT: Oh, that.
TT: Don’t worry about it.
TT: You were rightfully angry with me and clearly just lashing out.
TG: yeah but
TG: for all your sarcastic comments and hilarious retellings of battles of one upmanship i know dealing with her gets to you sometimes
TG: especially with the drinking and shit
TG: so i shouldnt have said that
TT: It’s fine, Dave.
TT: Honestly, now that I know about the bullshit you have to put up with on a daily basis, I get that you were right in that my mom’s shenanigans pale in comparison.
TG: no look thats exactly the bullshit i wanted to address right
TG: this isnt the suffering olympics and if you feel like shit about something thats just how it is
TG: so if you ever wanted to vent about that
TG: or anything
TG: you dont have to play it down on my behalf
TT: That’s… very considerate of you. Thank you.
TT: What brought this on so suddenly?
TG: nothing just
TG: thought you should know that
TT: Huh.
TG: oh come on dont act so surprised
TG: you are hurting my delicate feelings here
TG: they are on the floor being stomped would you look at this mess
TT: I’m sure your delicate feelings will recover from this manhandling.
TT: You just pleasantly surprised me. Take it as a compliment to your ego or leave it for all I care.
TG: ugh
TT: And to answer your implicit question, I don’t necessarily wish to discuss anything of the sort right now. Maybe some other time though.
TT: I’ll keep what you said in mind.
TG: k cool
TT: So, dare I ask…
TT: How have you been faring?
TG: eh well you know the most of it now
TG: im
TG: surviving i guess is what you could call it
TT: Dave…
TG: i know
TG: just give me some time
TG: theres something i need to figure out

 

 

***

 

Two weeks later, when Bro invites you to a strife, you make the decision.

 

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TG: hey rose
TG: remember that offer you made?
TG: i guess you didnt actually expect me to but i may have to take you up on it sometime soon
TG: although it all depends maybe i wont have to ask you for favors ever again
TG: in that case please tell john and jade that
TG: no wait fuck it nm not gonna go down that rabbit hole
TG: lets see how this goes down first
TG: thanks for everything

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

 

As you move around the apartment to find a throwaway sword, your phone starts and doesn’t stop buzzing. You don’t pick up even when she moves from pestering to trying to call you. You know that if you talk to her now, you won’t be able to go through with it. So instead put your phone down on a shelf and walk away.

 

 

Once upstairs, you linger in the doorstep, the anxiety gripping at your limbs tightly, trying to make you reconsider. Bro is on the other end of the roof, watching you. You step outside.

Bro lifts his sword up in the air. A sign for you to do the same, to initiate the strife. You draw yours and throw away the holster, but don’t yet raise it. Your gaze lingers on its sharp edge.

You hate sword fighting.

You hate the ridiculous amount of scars you have to show for a training that you never even asked for.

You hate having to think about how the traps he sets up around the house are a lot more fatal than they should be. How so often there is nothing stopping a shuriken or firework from flying straight into your skull. How, if ever came down to that, Bro would probably not even be around to scrape your brain bits off the floor.

You hate having to think about how what you always wrote off as cool aloofness towards your needs could very easily be been considered indifference and how the perspective shift you needed in order to see that was not even that big.

You hate having to wonder whether he ever gave a fuck about you at all.

You look him dead in the eye and throw down your sword.

 

 

It’s a very deliberate action, the statement clear.

Bro momentarily lowers his sword in a rare show of what must be confusion. That soon passes as he looks at you, down at where your sword had landed, then back at you, his disdain palpable in the air. He waits for a moment, as if to give you a final chance to right your mistake.

You don’t budge. Had this been a movie right now would be the moment to turn around and walk away like a badass, but your legs are shaking. A sad little defiance this was.

Bro points his sword at you. “If you’re too little of a man to fight, you might as well learn to dodge like a motherfucker,” is all the warning you get. A blink later and he’s gone, the air around you moving.

You try to go for the door to the staircase but it slams shut before you can even initiate the flash step. Shit. You change your direction to jump as far away from him as possible.

He stands by the door, watching you. “Face me, you coward,” he jeers, and then he comes for you with a deadly precision.

What was a strong feeling of dread before turns into an overpowering fear that makes your blood run cold. Your heart is beating so fast it hurts. You try to get out of the way of his of his slashes before he executes them, managing to stay ahead of him only by the slimmest of margins. He swings like he intends to kill. Even if you’d try blocking it wouldn’t end well, not when you have nothing but flesh to block with. It becomes clear that sooner or later his blade is going to end up in your arm, if not worse.

Is this another lesson?

Another way to make you strong?

Or is he just that willing to hurting you?

You are so focused on his blade that he gets you with a kick in the stomach. It’s viciously forceful and almost sends you flying off the roof. You fall just short of that, hitting your head against the edge of the roof as you go down.

You can’t pinpoint whether the sudden urge to vomit is caused by the pain in your stomach, the pain in your head, or sheer panic. You roll to your side gagging, desperately trying to keep it down. The reflex settles after a few moments. You stay down on the ground regardless, panting, until the end of his blade moves into your vision. Your breath catches.

Bro stands over you, his katana pointed at your chest. “Get up,” he tells you, flicking up his sword.

You don’t make any move to do so, hoping foolishly that if you just stay still you won’t have to.

You wish he’d drop his sword and lie down next to you. The two of you would share a moment to stare at the sky in contemplative silence. Then he’d ask you what the hell you thought you were doing.

You wish that he’d pierce your heart here and now and be done with it. At least you’d know for sure then.

Instead he kicks you in the ribs.

“You heard me the first time.”

As you crawl back on your feet your body sways. Your head feels dizzy, unfocused. You think you remember this is what a concussion feels like.

You hear him moving again and realize that unless you reconsider jumping off the building you are not going to get away from him now.

You try to hold your ground as he renews his unrelenting barrage of attacks on you. Dodging in close quarters turns out to be a lot harder and he slices your hands, your arms, your side, even nicks your neck while you’re still stumbling for balance. They’re mostly superficial but it’s still a lot more blood than you’ve seen in one setting in a long time. You don’t have time to let that distract you, though.

You finally succeed in performing a countermove. He makes a horizontal swing at your guts. Rather than dodging backwards, like he’d expect you to because all you’ve been doing so far is move away from him, you jump up and forward, clearing his sword –and therefore a potential dismemberment— by an inch. You push off his shoulder with your feet, which sends him tumbling forward. He swears. In a stroke of good luck you even manage to stick your landing, now several meters away from him.

Seeing your chance, you make a straight line for the door.

You almost reach it, too. But your head is too foggy to notice him getting up. Too gullible to anticipate the strike from behind, even from him.

A scorching pain runs through your back. You’re suddenly back to full clarity as you feel every inch that the sword travels in slow motion. The initial sting when it pierces the skin of your back just above your hipbone. The ice cold burn when it cuts deeper into muscle as it moves up your back. The final pull of flesh when the blade exits only when it reaches your shoulder.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this isn’t a cut you’re just going to walk off, even with stitches.

You go down immediately, crumple face first into the cement. This time you don’t get up, nor does he ask you to.

You remember being in so much pain that breathing doesn’t just seem, but actually is impossible.

You remember Bro swearing and moving around you at lightning speed.

You remember being in excruciating pain for a long long time untill the blood loss finally takes you.