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"I miss school," John says out of nowhere as the three of them walk along a LOLAR beach. The rain is warm, so John and Jade have both stripped down to their underwear; Davesprite floats alongside them, still dry. He just…doesn't get wet. Jade is holding both of their hands as they splash along the edge of the water.

"No way, man," Dave (John can't think of him any other way, now) says quickly, falls silent just as fast, and John looks over at him but has learned not to ask the questions crowding his mind. Dave'll talk about it eventually, if he wants.

"I was looking forward to high school, you know?" John continues, looking down at his feet, watching his toes sink down into the wet sand with each step, then get splashed over by a foamy wave. The rain patters the sand, making little imprints that are satisfyingly, perfectly round. Jade's hand squeezes his.

"What's it like at school?" she asks. "I've never been! I only had the books about mathematics and nuclear physics that Grandpa left. And the internet," she adds.

"Oh my god," Dave says. "Jade, you are the most perfect person ever to exist." Jade says "heh heh heh!" in that way she does sometimes when she laughs, where she pronounces out all the syllables as if she's reading aloud from a book. John thinks it's so weird and endearing.

"School is fun, Jade! You have friends there that you get to hang out with and maybe you have classes with them, too! And it only sucks if you have a big test, those can be hard, or if you get in trouble because of your prankster's gambit, but I really liked most of my teachers and everything. And I played piano along with a cellist and a violinist in Ensemble and that was so much fun…"

Dave is shaking his head, and hooks an arm around Jade's shoulders. "Jade, Jade, don't listen to this nerd. Don't believe anything he says. His lies are so rotten even vultures won't touch 'em. They're packaged in bags with expiration dates written in fuckin' Roman numerals. Garbagemen are goin' on strike left and right over this shit. School is not fun, not ever."

 

"I went to the shittiest downtown public school." Dave doesn't wait for an answer; nobody ever interrupts each other when they exchange secrets like this at night. The lights are out in the room they've chosen to sleep in; Dave always lets off a little bit of a glow but not that much when it's only his head and wings protruding from a sleeping bag. In any case, it's not enough to keep it from feeling safe, to keep away the possibility of eyes and stares, and they can be nothing but soft voices, floating out of the dark.

They always sleep near each other. It was always assumed, never questioned. It's a little uncomfortable to sleep on the floor, but for now, it's necessary. Dave doesn't sleep, exactly, but does have periods of inactivity to rest and space out and defrag. None of them think they ever want to be completely alone ever again.

"The teachers didn't fuckin' care. They were just there to try and stop us from fighting each other. It was meaningless. I learned jack shit." He falls silent for a little while, and John feels guilt squirm in his chest over the way he talked about school before. It's such a waste. Dave's so smart. Smarter than John is, John suspects, and he suddenly wishes so badly that he could have taken Dave away up to Washington to live with him in his house and they would be best friends forever and he could have made Dave…all better.

"I used to get beaten up all the time, until Bro taught me to defend myself. I learned how to do that too well, I guess." Dave always sounds so different here, in the dark. John wonders why; his mind drifts to walls and windows and light switches. "I got suspended a lot, for fighting."

 

They're all relaxing on the couch they've alchemized in a room where they've also put an alchemized flat-screen TV. They're watching Alien and John isn't really paying that much attention to it. Jade has her fingers buried in the feathers of Dave's neck ruff; Dave has his head in her lap, tail curled up tightly on the floor where he sits.

There's moments like these that John feels weirdly left out. He doesn't know half of what happened between Jade and Dave; they never talk about it and John never wants to ask. He knows they were both sprites, together, and that there must be a billion and one sprite things that they both understand and he doesn't. He thinks they must both know the game, inside and out, its parameters lying as the skeleton under which the flesh of their personalities has been stretched. Maybe it's uncomfortable, maybe it pushes at their skins, too big, too sharp. Maybe it could cut them to ribbons from the inside out but it doesn't. They're just them, but he's just him, and he doesn't understand.

John leans against Jade's shoulder, and she puts an arm around him, pulling him in closer so that he can lay his head on her chest.

 

"Did I ever tell you about when my Grandpa died?" They're lying in the dark, again; Jade's voice is low, and sad, like it never is, when the lights are on. John feels a terrible pang of heartache for her. She's been so lonely, for so long, and sometimes John doesn't know if he and Dave can even start to make up for it.

"He got shot. I didn't know how, then, except, well, now I do. I was just a kid and I was playing with some pistols of Grandpa's, and one accidentally went off and it turns out that Tavros used his…communing with beasts thing, to make Bec open a portal and keep the bullet from hitting me. It just…hit Grandpa instead. Tavros didn't mean for it to," Jade adds quickly. "But Grandpa had been…oh geez. He had these big life-size lady dolls, and he was having tea outside with one. For a really long time I thought the doll had shot him. I thought they were alive, the dolls, I mean, when I was little, because Grandpa acted like they were. Wow. He was pretty crazy. Um."

Jade pauses for a moment, and John can hear her swallowing. "This is gonna sound stupid. But. I left…I left the doll there at the table for a really long time. I was really scared of her. Really scared. I used to look out the window, really a lot, to…check, that she was still there, and wasn't going to come kill me, too. And one day I was feeling really sad and really lonely and I got so angry that I…I killed her!" She swallows again, with more difficulty. "I ran up there with a rifle and I shot her through the head. And then I shot her again. And…and again." There is a rustling of motion as Jade turns over onto her stomach, her head on her arms. "I…felt so guilty afterwards. I thought I'd actually killed someone. I got so scared, and paranoid, like, someone had seen what I'd done, and I threw that doll over a cliff into the ocean…" She lets out a shaky breath, and John darts his hand out to clasp hers, tightly. "Someone…someone else go."

"I'll go," Dave says. "I only ever had one pet."

He's silent for a while, but nobody prompts him, nobody rushes him. "I was eight, or nine. It was a goldfish I won at a fair or some shit. I guess we went there on a field trip or, whatever, for school, and I came home with the fish. I thought Bro wasn't gonna let me keep it, but he dug out this old fishbowl from the back of a closet that he'd had since…fuck knows. So we put the fish in that and I kept it in my room on the table next to the window." He pauses again, and John stares at the ceiling. The better he gets to know Dave, the more he realizes just how many layers of bad memories there are splashed around on the inside of Dave's mind, dark and oily and thick. That feeling of wanting to keep Dave is back. It's almost like a tangible force, a pulling motion, between their chests.

"I fed it every night when I was getting ready for bed. But then I…stopped. It felt…it felt good to not take care of it. Bro never noticed. And when the fish died he didn't question it. I don't even know if he noticed it was gone. I know he didn't know that I starved it to death on purpose."

It feels so good to tell each other these things, things they've never as much as breathed to another soul. It hurts, like peroxide in a wound, but it feels so good afterwards, breathless and shaky and light as air. There's a long silence after Dave finishes, the longest yet, and John finally speaks up.

"My story isn't like the ones you guys told, exactly, but…" John says softly, and fidgets, finally clasping his hands over his chest. "I was in first grade, and there was this kid in my class that nobody liked. I didn't really care, I didn't mind her, but everyone else did, she was really quiet and had these bulging eyes and her hair was always all greasy. People always told each other that she ate her own boogers, and had webbed toes, stuff like that. We rode the same bus, and sometimes we'd sit together. I was her only friend, really pretty much the only person she would talk to, and she would tell me about how she just lived with her dad and about her three dogs and the rabbit that lived in a hutch in her back yard. And she'd tell me stories about going duck hunting and about how they'd go stay in a cabin at Skykomish River…I can't believe I still remember that…and they'd go fishing."

John feels that extremely familiar squirm of guilt and fear and embarrassment that he feels when he remembers this incident. He's never told anyone this, not ever. He feels so silly about still wanting to keep it a secret, because it's not a big deal, wouldn't seem like any kind of big deal, to anyone else. "I got carried away with pranking, a lot. I didn't understand what was funny and what was mean, yet, or what was mean in a funny way and mean in a really, really not funny way. So for some reason one day on the way home from school I thought it would be funny to tell her that she wasn't actually my friend, that I didn't like her at all and I'd been tricking her the whole time.

"She just sort of…turned white. She looked…really scary. She said her uncle was a police officer and she said that if you lie you get put in jail, and that she would have him come arrest me in the morning. I was so scared, I thought she was telling the truth. I was six, I didn't know what you could get put in jail for or not. I was really quiet and sad and scared all evening, and my dad asked me what was wrong but I didn't tell him, I didn't want to admit what I'd done. I remember lying in bed that night and looking around my room and thinking it would be the last time I'd ever see it. It was awful."

John stretches. His back pops, and it feels so good. "Then the next morning nobody came to arrest me and when that girl got on the bus she acted like nothing had happened. This is…hard for me to talk about. I still feel…really guilty."

There's another stretch of silence, then Jade is scooting closer to him and draping an arm over his chest, and Dave is resting his forehead against John's shoulder. John turns onto his side, an arm going around Dave, and Jade is spooning him, one arm over his waist. He leans his head back, giving Jade a sort of backwards nuzzle, to make sure she knows she's included, as he buries his fingers in the soft feathers of a wing.

 

Fireflies flicker gold against the heavy clouds and John is off, twisting the wind underneath him like a corkscrew in a champagne bottle. Laughter bubbles up inside him and spills over, clear and effervescent and heady, and this time they're going to clear the clouds, going to see LOWAS from above, the pulse of fireflies under the clouds muted and pretty and mystical like curtains around strings of lights.

Jade stands below them, laughing as they turn over and over in the air. She's pointing a camera at them, and John turns upside-down and waves at it before shooting up into the sky, chasing after Dave.

The fireflies flash again and Dave glows gold for an instant, in startlingly beautiful contrast to the wet indigo sky. John laughs again and whoops as they punch through the first layer of clouds, drenching themselves completely. They don't get much father up, though it was farther than last time, John proclaims ecstatically, shivering, when they touch ground and Jade shoves the camera in his face. John thinks Dave could make it up there just fine; extreme temperatures don't seem to bother him at all, but John knows Dave wouldn't leave him behind.

John knows there is a lot he doesn't understand about Dave, especially this Dave. This Dave is much more chill, more sincere, but he's so sad in a way that John doesn't know what to do for. He'll catch Dave looking at him, sometimes, and Dave looks so old and so tired that it almost breaks his heart. He never knows what to do so he takes Dave flying.

Dave tucks his uninjured wing around John and John relaxes against it, pulls the wing up to his chin like a blanket, fingers gentle against the feathers. Jade squirms her way under the wing, too, her camera thrust aloft and filming empty sky. John quivers with cold and stifled laughter.

 

"I like boys," Dave admits, that night, and John feels shock punch him in the gut. "I always have. Boys and girls, really, but the latter half ain't the secret."

There's deafening silence in John's mind for several awful moments. The thought of Dave liking anyone is…alien. The thought of Dave liking girls is alien. The thought of Dave liking boys is…even more alien. John guesses he always assumed his own future would be to someday fall in love with a girl, and get married. He assumed he would understand all of that when he got older, but somehow the thought hadn't extended to his friends. The future is nebulous, suddenly, and strange, and with a sudden dreadful twist in his chest he feels terribly self-conscious.

"How do you know?" John blurts out, completely shattering their secret-time taboo. There's an uncomfortable silence, and John claps both hands over his mouth. He feels too hot all over, lightheaded and surreal.

Dave finally answers, and the knot of anxiety loosens slightly in John's chest, only to tighten again in a different way. "I just know. It's the way I feel. Certain kinds of people always make me feel like nothing else in the world. I learned what sex was when I was eight, and it clicked into place like it was made for me. It was like the answer to a question that I hadn't even realized I'd been asking. Not that it matters too much, anymore, bein' a sprite now and all."

John frantically searches through his own memories of his childhood, and comes up with nothing. He was just a kid, then. Kids didn't have sexual feelings!

"Yeah, it was like that for me too! I just didn't have a name for what it was that made me feel so special. I think I like boys, too, mostly. But I don't know! Maybe it doesn't matter?" Jade muses. "I've been giving myself orgasms since I was six, but I didn't know that was something that there was a word for! I just sort of thought of it as, 'that thing I do that's super fun!'"

John remembers when he found out what sex was. He was eleven. Somebody had scrawled the word on top of one of the desks at school and everyone went "oooooohhhhh" when they saw it and John had to pretend he knew what it was, too, but when he got home he snuck away to look it up in the dictionary. The definition shocked him. It sent something more like a thrill of fear than anything else through his gut. It was adult knowledge. Something he shouldn't know about. Something he didn't want to know about.

"None of that stuff ever happened to me," John says, and he hates that he sounds a little miserable. "I don't know what you're talking about with…special feelings and all that. Maybe I'm not…old enough? But you guys are, you guys have known about this stuff since forever! I just never thought about it before."

"What about Liv Tyler? You like her, right?" Jade asks, and John can see Jade in his mind's eye, tilting her head to the side like an inquisitive dog.

John's cheeks heat up. "She's really pretty! But I don't know what that has to do with me, it doesn't make me want t-to do anything, to her, that's not…" John snaps his mouth shut, horrified.

"Maybe you're asexual, dude," Dave puts in, and John stays silent for a long time.

"I don't know," he says, finally, and curls up on his side, burying his head in the crook of Jade's neck. She strokes his hair, and Dave covers all three of them with a wing.

 

They finally alchemize John a new piano and Jade a new bass. Dave's salvaged his mixing equipment and turntables from his apartment and they start to improvise and it sounds terrible so they laugh and try something new, let's start in G and then go to F this time, see what happens. John says Jade could be a rock star, she's that good at playing bass, and Jade laughs and snorts and punches him in the arm, a little too hard.

None of them are used to playing with anyone else, except John, and John's only ever played classical compositions off sheet music with other kids who have the same music. He does write piano refrains; most of them he never shows to anyone else. 'Showtime' was the first thing he ever let anyone else hear. But writing music like that is personal, ultimately personal, while this is all about reading other people and oh wow is it scary!

The room fills with nervous music-stopping laughter and "oh no I fucked up!"s way too many times before they start to trust each other and not worry so much. Once they get into it, let go, they can feel the changes coming with breathless excitement, tonic to third to fifth to seventh, seventh, seventh, John playing arpeggios with his right hand and crashing down octave half steps with his left that Jade echoes and Dave speeds up the tempo of their backing beat and they follow it and then, with what feels like orgasmic bliss, they resolve. They repeat that same sequence over and over until John's forearms and Jade's and Dave's fingers are killing them. John scribbles the chord sequence on his forearm with a pen and Jade is bouncing up and down on her feet with twitching ears and a giant grin.

"We need to get some microphones in here, shit," Dave says, finally.

 

"I want it to be one of you that's the person I kiss first," Jade says that night, and the way she says it is just so practical, so Jade, that John can't help but grin this huge goofy grin thats so nervous around the edges that he's pretty glad it's too dark for anyone else to see. "But I don't want to pick. It's not fair."

"You should kiss Dave first. How awesome would it be to say you got your first kiss from a guy that's half crow?" John tries to sound jokey to hide the quaver in his voice but he's not sure how good of a job he just did. His hands are sweating. He feels so strange all over. He doesn't know how he feels about kissing.

"Heh heh!" Jade says, mischievously, "I won't kiss you if you don't want me to!" Now she's reaching over John to paw at Dave. "How many people have you kissed, huh, Dave? I bet this'll be your first too!"

"I've only kissed one other person. But I kissed 'em a lot." Jade stops her pawing, and kind of chuckles to herself. "There was this kid in my class that I used to sneak off with during recess and we'd kiss behind the equipment shed, or wherever. It was just something we did. I wasn't in love with him or anything. I dunno. It was pretty risky to do that stuff. But we did it anyway."

John feels that sinking feeling again. This is unreal. Have other kids really been doing this stuff his whole childhood and he's just been completely oblivious? It's as if an entire unseen world of supernatural creatures has suddenly been revealed to him. He doesn't want to admit it, but he's…kind of horrified.

"Welp," Jade says, standing up, striding over to the light switch and flipping it on. "Are we gonna do this or what?" John and Dave wince at the sudden brightness. John squints up at Jade; she's only wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and panties and socks. The socks are baggy, fallen down around her ankles, and her hair is messy. John likes her so much.

Dave laughs, sitting up, his tail coiling up to support him inside his sleeping bag. He looks up at Jade, the corners of his mouth quirking up just a little, and John loves his profile, loves the little creases under his eyes that you only notice from the side, behind his shades. Jade comes back over and sits crosslegged in front of him; John is still lying on his side, arm under his head, and somehow he can't take his eyes off them.

Jade grabs Dave by the shoulders, and pushes her mouth against his. Dave's eyes flutter closed, hands on the floor behind him, bracing himself. John watches them intently.

They're breaking apart, now; Jade is blushing, Dave is giving that little half-smile again. John decides this could be okay, because seeing them happy makes a little glowing ball of light swell in his chest.

"I like you, Dave," Jade says simply, fixing him with her eyes. "I like you, too, John," she continues, turning her gaze to him, cocking her head to the side. "But if you don't want to kiss that's OK."

"I…I'll think about it," John says, his voice kind of squeaky. The little grin she's giving him is making that ball of light brighter and brighter.

 

Their private party they have for John's birthday (and the first anniversary of their journey) is completely silly. They have a big birthday cake and enough sugary punch to send John and Jade through the roof. They've hung party lights up all around their rec room of sorts and the lights are dimmed. They've got DDR set up on the main TV, and karaoke, and they're all wearing formal clothes that they spent forever attempting to alchemize: Jade's got a huge, green ball gown with puffy sleeves and elbow-length gloves; Dave's wearing a Victorian-style jacket with slits down the back that are kind of awkwardly snapped around his wings; John's wearing a bright blue tuxedo and bow tie.

"You both look, great," John says shyly, and Jade grabs him around the waist and hugs him tightly. She grabs Dave by the sleeve and hauls him over, and they share a triangle-shaped hug for a moment before Jade bounds off and starts lighting the candles on the cake.

"Ohmygod, Dave, I am so sorry," Jade exclaims, later, horrified, when she realizes that there's no way Dave can play DDR with them. Dave just smirks and tells Jade she'll only be forgiven if she can manage to beat him if he sits on the floor and uses his hands. They try, Jade hiking up her voluminous skirt to reveal sneakers, and John almost laughs himself sick behind them on the couch as Dave wins again and again. Jade finally falls backwards onto the couch, laughing and panting for breath, skirt hiked up around her thighs. She doesn't shave her legs, and John doesn't think she could possibly be any more adorable.

Jade strips off her gloves and flings them at Dave. One lands on the floor and one lands on his wing, and he picks it off with a thumb and forefinger, letting it fall to the floor. His mouth is twitching into what looks way too much like a smile, and John leans forward, staring in fascination.

"I give up, John, you play!" Jade is shoving him off the couch and he almost lets himself be pushed off before he catches himself and jumps back on Jade.

"No way!" John laughs, and they dissolve into a wrestling match.

Eventually they decide to do some karaoke. Jade starts off with the Squiddles theme and John guesses this must be what people mean when they say love is blind, because she really, really cannot sing but John only finds that fact to be completely adorable. He tacklehugs her when she finishes and she shouts with laughter. After that John chooses "How Do I Live" and expects Dave to make fun of him, but instead Dave just kind of chuckles. John's not nervous about singing in front of others -- he was in chorus as well as ensemble all through middle school, after all. Over the past year, though, his voice has been doing all kinds of weird jumps and breaks. It's just Dave and Jade, here, though.

After John is done, and Dave applauds slowly while Jade hollers and claps loudly, Dave steps up and chooses a song. The mic in one hand, he points at Jade with the other. "This one's for you, babe."

It's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman", and John gives an exaggerated groan and rolls around pretending like he's dying. "What, it's ok for you to do LeAnn Rimes but it's not ok for me to do a little Aretha? Sick, dude, sick," Dave deadpans during the intro.

When he starts singing, John and Jade change instantly from giggling to each other to staring at him. His voice! It's…warm, and dark, with just a little bit of roughness around the edges, which Dave seems to be able to control with emotional precision. His…his voice is beautiful.

"Dave, you fucking jerk! Why didn't you tell us you could sing?" Jade bursts out as soon as he's done. Dave just shrugs, and Jade lunges at him and starts pummeling him with a couch cushion. John bursts out laughing again, and Jade keeps hitting Dave, who has his arms up in defense, laughing and yelling "jerk" with each whump of the cushion. "How could you get any hotter? It is not fair!"

A surprised laugh, a real one, bursts suddenly out of Dave, and John can't help but laugh even harder at that, launching himself into the fray and tackling them both over onto the floor.

 

"I haven't talked about everything, yet," Dave begins, and his voice actually sounds nervous -- John's never heard him sound nervous and it makes him suddenly nervous, too. "When…" He stops. When he starts up again there's a resignedness to his voice that makes John's heart clench, as if he's saying, I have to say this even though saying it may kill me. John rolls over onto his side, pushes his forehead supportively against Dave's arm. "When I was little, I'm talkin' four or something, that's the earliest I can remember it, anyway, I…when I'd be watching something, where someone would get tied up, or hurt, in…certain ways, it…turned me on. A…a lot. As much as I could be, being that little. I used to play stuff, by myself. I'd tie up action figures and…it felt so…good, to play those things." Dave is shaking, now, John can tell. "The point is…I've always been like this. This is my biggest secret. It's always been my secret. When I'd get hurt, I liked it. A…lot. I took a lot of stupid risks, I think, but it was worth it for…getting injuries…and, getting bandaged up…"

John's mind flashes to all the times, countless times, over the past year, that he and Jade have changed the bandages around Dave's middle, tenderly cleaned the torn edge of his severed wing. John feels heat rush to his face; that protective feeling lunges inside him, breathless and important. It's all he can do to not bowl Dave over right now, wrap desperate arms around him that need to hold and hold and hold.

"It's different than sex, though, it's not…the feeling…it's this feeling of rightness, you know? Like a giant flashing marquee spellin' out the word 'YES,' with fireworks bursting in the background and…" Dave makes a small, exquisite sound, and falls silent.

"I think I'm in love with both of you," John admits after a few moments, voice shaky, "and I don't know what to do about it." Jade throws her arms around him; Dave buries his face in John's chest.

"Me too," Jade says, sounding so small, muffled against his neck.

"Yeah," Dave says, too, his voice rough.

 

It's time to change Dave's bandages again. Dave does seem to be getting better, somehow; not quickly, by any means, but he's definitely bleeding less than he used to. He doesn't soak through the bandages nearly as quickly, anymore, and now they only need to be changed about once a week or so.

A few minutes after John wakes up that morning a feeling of anticipation coils tightly in his stomach, and he lies there for a little while, letting his mind wander, that nervous feeling occasionally fluttering alarmingly into his throat when his mind flicks back to what they're going to have to do later. Eventually he can't stand it anymore, and runs off to shower and brush his teeth.

Later, once Jade is ready, too, Dave floats into the bathroom, sitting up on the edge of the sink. The air is still damp from the showers, and warm, and John feels it collect like a sheen of sweat on his skin. He raises a shaky hand, pushes his damp hair off his forehead, and undoes the small knot holding the end of the bandage around Dave's middle in place. Jade's doing the same thing with the bandage on his wing, and Dave raises his arms, locking them above his head, to allow John to unwrap him, to being rolling the bandage up along the length of itself with practiced hands. When he gets near the end he slows down, gently, gently peeling the bandage away from the wound itself.

John is aware, now, more so than he's ever been before, of so many little things. The way Dave's breath caught when they began to unwrap him. The way his breathing is even and regular, now, but it's become heavy, only just labored enough for John to notice. The way his eyes are closed, but his eyelids flutter every so often, in tandem with small intakes of breath. John feels heat rush to his face, and he ducks his head, concentrating on the damp cloth now in his hands. He gently touches it to Dave's front, and Dave gasps softly, his breaths coming the tiniest bit faster as John dabs at the edges of his wound, bright yellow coming off onto his cloth.

John starts on the wound on Dave's back, and glances quickly over at Jade. She's blushing, too, and as their eyes catch for a moment, Jade gives a little half-smirk and looks shyly off to the side. She noticed, too. John feels his blush deepen.

As soon as they finish bandaging him up again, Jade is on Dave in an instant, pushing him up against the mirror, her hands on his shoulders, at his neck, in his hair. They kiss roughly, Dave's hands coming up to grab at Jade's back, and John's heart is pounding in his chest. Before he can think he's sitting up on the counter, too, reaching for them, one hand going to the nape of Jade's neck, the other to the side of Dave's face. They break apart from their kiss, both looking up at him with half-lidded eyes, and John leans in and catches Dave's bottom lip in between his own. Dave arches against Jade, one hand leaving her back to fist in John's hair. Dave's lips are so soft, and then his breath is so hot against John's skin when they break apart, their foreheads together, and John can feel Dave's pulse racing where he has his hand against his throat.

"Fuck," Jade whispers, and John pulls away from Dave to look at her. Her face is flushed, her lips parted, and her eyes slip shut as John leans in to kiss her, too. She giggles in delight against his lips, and John can't help but laugh, too.

 

Much, much later, maybe in eighteen months, maybe in twenty, they'll come back to the battleship from LOFAF, or maybe from LOWAS, or LOLAR, and they'll flip on the lights and John and Jade will leap onto the king-sized bed they'll finally have alchemized. Dave'll stretch out lazily on his stomach, and they'll run hands all over his back, carding through the feathers at the base of his wings. He'll turn onto his side, one arm around John's neck, and he and Jade will kiss, lazy and sloppy and open, until Jade gets impatient and wriggles out of her shirt and guides Dave's hands to her breasts. Jade will have decided long ago that she doesn't like having anything inside her; that's fine with John, and Dave doesn't really seem to care either way. John will have Jade's head pillowed on his knees, stroking her hair and neck, leaning down to press sweet upside-down kisses on her panting mouth, and Dave will lift her skirt, pull her underwear off over her socks, and tongue her clit.

Eventually Dave will pull himself up her body, and she will wrap her legs around his hips and rock against him. He and John will touch foreheads, and John will press feathery, affectionate kisses against his nose, his cheeks, his lips. They'll look into each others' eyes and Dave's will be so serious; John's will have laughter-creases at the corners.

Then Jade will laugh, breathlessly, gripping Dave hard around the shoulders, thrusting up against him one last time before collapsing into a boneless, giggly mass. They'll dote on her, now, kissing her overheated skin as she shudders all over with aftershocks of pleasure. Dave might cup her breasts in his hands and start thumbing her nipples again, and Jade will writhe, before batting Dave's hands away for being way too intense right then.

A little later it will be Dave's turn; he'll hold completely still as Jade and John gently tie a blindfold over his eyes and his arms behind him, a crisscrossing of ropes and knots that forces his arms backwards. They'll have mastered it, now, and they'll have mastered the best way to tie his wings, back, too, still careful of the healed-over stump of the left. Dave will be breathing hard, then, and he'll arch up, his head falling back, exposing the column of his throat, and John and Jade will sit back, let him be for a little while, let him get worked up in his own way. John will stroke Jade's bare side, loving how soft she is, and Jade will kiss his throat, smiling the whole time. Eventually Dave will make a small, almost anguished sound, and lean forward, falling to the bed chest-first, breathing high and desperate. Jade will kneel next to him, pull his head back by the hair, grin wolfishly as he lets out a strangled moan.

She'll talk to him, then, ask him what he wants, tease him with words. She might rake her nails down his back, or pretend she's going to untie him, to force him to beg. Usually this culminates in her pulling him up by the hips, administering a series of sharp smacks to his backside, and Dave will make the most incredible noises, gasping, trembling all over. When Jade is done it'll be John's turn to sooth him, to run gentle hands all over his body, to rub over the raw, tingling places Jade has smacked, and Dave just falls apart, head thrown back, hands flexing, body arching and writhing. When they'll finally untie him he'll barely be able to move, and they'll pull him back to lie between them, still shaking and vulnerable and when they untie his blindfold no one will ever mention how wet the inside of it is.

Sometimes they'll be finished, then; sometimes John will want to get off, sometimes not. He won't like to get undressed, and he won't really like to be touched by the others. They won't mind him getting himself off, though; they'll just hold him tightly between them, kissing his face, linking hands over his chest, as he undoes his belt and pushes a hand down his pants.

But that's much, much later. For now, though, there are still so many secrets to share in the dark.