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From shapes in shadows

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“Don’t cry little dude. Don’t ever give them the satisfaction. Stay strong.”

He sniffles and wipes at his eyes. “But why won’t they leave me alone, bro?”

His bro smirks at him and ruffles his hair, Dave squeaking in indignation. “They can’t keep their hands off your sick Strider bod, that’s all. Just wait ‘til you get older, see the chicks start flowin’ in-“

“Dirk, can’t you at least wait until he’s ten?” He laughs.

“You know me, Rox, I can’t be tamed-“ and the memory shifts away in a sea of summer and laughter.

The scene changes.

“Daaave! Dave, wait up!” the boy’s face is blurry but his smile is brilliant and his eyes are as blue as the sky. Dave laughs and runs faster but then he trips over nothing and falls, hitting the ground with a thunk and then there are hands tearing at his hair, scratching at his throat and he can’t breathe

Get off him!” The other boy pulls him up from the ground and brushes off his shoulders, mumbling something under his breath while doing so. For a few moments he looks serious, but when he meets Dave’s eyes he’s back to his normal smile. “Jeez, Dave! Those weren’t even strong ones, how could you let them beat you?”

“Shut up, I totally could’ve taken them!” He laughs and Dave punches him in the arm.

“Ow! Okay, okay, you could’ve taken them, I give in!”

When Dave comes home he asks Bro to teach him how to fight.

The scene changes.

“-but it won’t go away?” He’s peeking through a hole in the floor to the room below. Bro is running his hands through his hair, messing it up completely. Dave frowns.

“No. I’m sorry.” The other man actually sounds regretful as he steps closer and Dave can’t quite bring himself to be mad at him for upsetting bro. “Dirk, I—“

“Don’t, Jake. Just… don’t.”

There is a tense silence for a few seconds and then bro sags against the wall and Dave has to look away because he looks broken-

“What can I do? He’s just a kid, Jake, he’s just a kid-

“I know, Dirk. I know. We’ll keep him safe.” And then bro is clinging to him and Dave silently crawls back to his room with the feeling that he intruded on something private.

The scene changes.

“Is there anything I can do to make you stay?”

They’re standing on the road outside the house and for once, the heat is actually manageable. Dave is pissed off, refusing to come out from his spot behind bro.

“No. I’m sorry, Dirk. It’s important.”

Bro sighs and corrects his shades. “Yeah, I know, I’ll just… Miss you, I guess. Gonna be tough keeping him out of trouble on my own.”

Dave’s attention is pulled away from the grownups by his friend pulling at his shirt. “Bye Dave!” he chirps. “I’ll miss you!”

“Yeah, whatever,” he says and mimics bro, fixing his shades. The faceless boy rolls his eyes and pulls him in for a hug before letting go and running back to Jake.

“We’ll be back,” they promise.

The scene changes.

they’re gone and he's alone and he can’t make it stop he can’t make them leave he can’t he can’t he c a  nt—

 

-------------------------------------------

 

He wakes with a gasp and a shiver – and then immediately berates  himself for being such a sissy. He’s a Strider, dammit, the only one now that bro’s gone( “We’re sorry, Dave. They couldn’t save him.) and no Strider will ever get their panties in a twist over some god damn nightmares.

But it’s just so frustrating – they’re not nightmares, not really, they’re memories, and there are pieces missing. He can remember bro, mostly, and the accident(  bro laughing with him and the sun and the heat and the pure exhilarating joy of living and then the other car the crash the pain the confusion and everything goes black), waking up in the hospital to Rose and Roxy’s worried faces ( I thought you were dead, Dave, they told me you might die please don’t die Dave please” and he had never seen her lose her cool like that and it was fucking freaky, yeah) and the message that he was alone.

The first few months after that are a bit hazy(everyone looking at him like he might shatter or snap any second and Roxy drinking and Rose being a whole damn lot more touchy feely than usual) but there are no gaps anymore, and everything since he changed schools to make it easier for Roxy to drive him and Rose every morning is crystal clear.

Before the accident there are… gaps. Huge chunks of time where he remembers absolutely nothing. Rose is there – hell, she’s always been there, ever since he was old enough to remember anything at all – and so is Roxy, and bro, of course, but other than that… gaps. Flashes and hints, but never anything coherent.

The shadows in the corner of the room shifts. He sits up and scrabbles at the table next to the bed for his shades (“Don’t ever take them off Dave, okay? They’re magic!). The moment he slips them on it disappears.

He walks over to check, just in case. Nothing.

Damn nightmares.

He pulls the window shut before walking back to the bed, taking a quick look at the time.  

Oh for god’s sake,” he mumbles before leaving the room. Time to kick his lovely not-really-sister out of bed. Roxy’d be pissed if they were late for school.

 

 -------------------------------------

 

Outside the window something is watching.

“Come on,” one of them says, “What are you waiting for? You’ve been watching him forever, we all know you want him and no one’s stopping you so why won’t you just take him?”

“You know why.”

“God, you’re boring.”

There’s a scoff and a quick scuffle. “Sure I am. Come on, let’s go.”

They disappear into the night.

Chapter Text

“-and later we’ll go through your class schedules for-“

He zones out. Doesn’t really give a shit about school. Never did. Worst case scenario, if he failed everything or got expelled or some shit like that, he could always get by on DJ-ing. Or photography, he’s always enjoyed photography, ever since he was little(a laugh and a warm smile and a “Dave, you moron, you can’t catch them on camera” and a haze of heat and time and rightness). So. No actual reason to pay attention.

Not to mention how fucking tired he is. Seriously, who decided living nearly an hour’s walk away from school was a good idea(“it’ll be okay dave you’ll live with us we’ll get by”) anyways? Roxy was awesome, but that was like the worst choice she’s ever made. And okay, yeah, the lack of energy might be more from not having gotten a decent night’s sleep in who knows how long(hands gripping at his shoulders things tearing at his clothes and he’s drowning falling can’t bre a  th e), but still.

And come on, it wasn’t as if there was a lack of empty houses, the town was practically empty-

“-new student, Jade Harley-“

The name snaps him out of his daze. His eyes dart to the front of the classroom only to be faced with a mass of dark hair looking like it really could use a brush. Or a haircut. New student. Huh. His interest lost, he’s just about to return to his daydreaming(“I’m not daydreaming, Dave, I’m fantazising!” “Yeah, sure, whatever makes you happy”) when she turns around to face the class, answering a question he must have missed with a confident “Sure!”

Her smile is warm and her eyes are gre e    n

---------------------------------

she fits so well by the flowers, looking almost like a fairy with her hair falling down her shoulders and dave remembers thinking that maybe this was what people meant when they said girls were pretty.

she smiles at him and he smiles back and she grabs his hand and laughs as she pulls him along to show him whatever miraculous things she has found this time because it’s always something new, with her, and dave wouldn’t have it any other way,

always smiling at him always laughing and hugging him and bright and happy and cheerful even when saying goodbye because “they said we’ll be back, so we’ll be back!”

he can’t remember her face why can’t he remember her face he

small delicate hands pointing at the grass saying “and only the small ones have wings, see…”

-------------------------------------------

He returns to reality when Rose throws something at the back of his head. The new girl’s standing in front of him now, pointing to the seat next to him. He’s completely missed what she said but it’s one of the only empty seats in the room so there isn’t really much of a mystery.

“Yeah, sure,” he says and she immediately sits down next to him, pulling out a brightly coloured pencil case from her bag. Dave lets his head thump down on the desk.

What the actual fuck?

He needed to stop with all this flashback-dreaming-without-sleeping bullshit. It’s creepy as fuck and really damn annoying, not to mention the fact that it’s really starting to freak him out and is he losing his mind? Usually it was only himself, his bro, that Jake-person and the kid with blue eyes. He’d never seen that girl before. What, so now he was randomly adding new people to the collection? Real smooth. No, seriously, Rose would have a fucking field day with this, nothing fascinated her more than the inside of his fucked up consciousness, she would love to hear about the girl by the flowers and her stories about-

about

He couldn’t remember what she was talking about, but it felt important, he should try to remember, he should-

The new girl(Jade, he reminds himself and pushes away the feeling of recognition because he can’t deal with this shit right now) is looking at him oddly and he realizes he’s been staring  at her for the last few minutes. Crap. She opens her mouth as if to say something, but he tears his gaze away and focuses on the teacher.

He’ll figure it out. Later.

 ------------------------------------------

The moment class is over he starts to gather up his things, stuffing the sheets of paper he’s been doodling all over back into his bags, doing his best to get out of there before the new girl finds the time to question him.

He grabs his bag, starts walking-

-and sees Rose’s face. He knows that expression. It’s the one that always ends with hours of interrogation(and one particularly memorable time a few sessions with an actual therapist. He still can’t believe she got Roxy to agree to that). Nope.

This is obviously a moment of choosing the lesser of two evils.

He turns to Jade.

“So,” he says desperately hoping he sounds nonchalant and normal and that the please save me from my sister please thoughts running through his head isn’t visible on his face, “You’re. The new girl.”

“Yep!” she answers, not missing a beat, “and you,” she crosses her arms over her chest, “is the guy who spent the first half of the lesson staring at me.”

Crap. Does this situation warrant an ‘out of the ashes into the fire’ or not? He risks a glance back at Rose. Nope, ‘lesser of two evils’ still applies.

“Er. Yeah. Sorry ‘bout that, I s’pose. Thought I recognized you from somewhere.”

That’s technically not a lie, seeing as she did trigger another fucking flashback and why can’t he remember their faces, seriously, fuck this shit, but a pretty lame excuse anyways.

“Oh,” she says, looking puzzled and a little… sad? What, did she hope he’d been staring at her because he found her attractive? Was she into the whole stalkery-twilighty-thing? Because yeah, that was kinda weird and stuff but hey people like what they like, he’s not judging, she probably has perfectly good reasons to do so-

It’s only when she starts giggling he realizes he said all that aloud. It’s only his impeccable self control(shut up) that stops him from face palming.

“I have got to stop doing that.”

“Not really,” she says, trying to stifle her laughter, “it’s kind of entertaining. Mr Strider, you may consider yourself forgiven-”

“How generous.”

“-but, um…” She bites her lip and looks slightly awkward. “Twilighty-thing?”

He groans. “Yes, I’ve seen Twilight, shut up, it wasn’t for me, it was for my sister-“ or so he’ll claim until the day he dies- “and besides, it-“

“No,” she interrupts him, “I mean… What’s Twilight?”

He stops walking. “Seriously? Did you just ask me what Twilight is?

“Yes?”

“Wow. How have you not heard about Twilight? It’s everywhere, spreading like the flu in a kindergarten-“

“Okay, okay, I get it! I’m kind of behind on my pop culture, jeez!” She shrugged. “My family’s kind of odd and we’ve been moving around a lot lately! Haven’t had that much time to watch – what is it even, a movie?”

“Close enough.” They walk in silence for a while. She’d averted her eyes when she mentioned her family – Rose’d have jumped on the chance to find out her secrets, but Dave knew what it was like to have people ask too many questions. If she didn’t wanna talk about it he’d let it be. Simple as that.

“So,” he says after a while, “Where’d you move in?”

The question makes her blink and tear her gaze away from the wall a few meters away, and for a second she looks disoriented. “Oh. Um! Not too far from here, it’s just… To the left by the library, and then over the bridge and a bit beside the meadow…” Her voice trails off and she makes a vague wave with her hand, but the description has Dave’s mind reeling.

“Maple Street?” he asks, trying not to sound too interested or distraught. That’d mean-

“Yeah,” she says. “Number three!”

-that she lives next to where he and bro used to.

Fuck.

There’s no reason why that should be connected to anything, he shouldn’t care, but he can’t quite control his thoughts and they are running away from him real quick right now and a distraction couldn’t be more welcome-

“Um. Just wondering. Do you live there too?”

-that was a really bad distraction.

“Nah. Used to, though.” His mouth snaps shut, and that really ought to be a clear enough indication that he doesn’t want to talk about this right now but apparently she can’t take a clue as well as he can, so she just plows on forward.

“Why’d you move?”

“Would be kinda difficult to take care of the place myself, y’know?” He throws her a look. The confusion is apparent in her eyes and he can’t help but take pity on her. “My bro died. So I moved in with an aunt.”

“Your-“ she starts and then she blinks. “Oh. Oh.” Her eyes fill up with tears and Dave suppresses a groan. Please don’t start crying, please don’t start crying, just let it go, damn it and maybe for once someone actually hears him, because all she does is take a deep breath and close her eyes for a while.

“I’m sorry,” she says, and normally that’d piss him off because no, you’re not helping, you didn’t even know him so just fuck off but she sounds so sincere and just this once he might actually believe she means it, “I’m really, really sorry.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

She only hesitates for a second before reaching out to hug him, hard and quick.

They keep walking in silence for a while. She doesn’t try to re-start the conversation, and he gets the feeling that she’s giving him time.

Not that clueless, then.

“What’s your next class?”

“Um.” She picks up her schedule and tries to look at it, but Dave snatches it out of her hand before she manages to read the unnecessarily small font(whoever made those things should get fired) and takes a quick glance.

“Great,” he proclaims,” we’ve almost got the same schedule. Come on Harley, let me show you how things work around here.”

He spends the rest of the day showing her around – tells her where to go and where to stay away from, where to find some peace and quiet, which teachers will let you get away with talking in class and which ones you ought to just sit down and shut up with. She’s a good listener, but sometimes she’ll drift away into some kind of dreamworld and spend minutes staring off into space for absolutely no reason.

She’s actually kind of sweet. He learns that she lives with her older cousins and an older brother, and that she’s actually one year younger than him, but started school one year too early for reasons she clumsily slides by. They talk about everything and nothing, and he makes her laugh and she makes him smile. Kind of.

Every time he turns around Rose is silently watching him from the other side of the room. He swears Roxy’s taught her ninja-ing or something. Damn them both.

She asks him about her, about Roxy(and she looks strangely nostalgic all the way through, a hint of sadness in her eyes and compassion in her smile, but no pity nowhere so it’s all good) and his life. His favourite colour(“red, obviously, are you blind, Harley, and that’s like the lamest question ever, do you think we’re in preschool or something-“ “jeez, dave, don’t be such a jerk!”), why he hasn’t taken his shades off yet(“what? the shades never come off, stuck to my face,” and she looks somehow relieved by the answer and he thinks what the fuck but then she changes the subject and he forgets) and he responds with questions about what’s up with her necklace(she fingers the odd pendant hanging around her neck, cords of some kind of thread twisted around each other creating a strange and captivated pattern before hiding it under her shirt saying “it’s a family thing, for protection) and why she keeps squinting when she looks at things(she laughs and seems embarrassed, telling him that she usually wears glasses, but that she somehow managed to leave them at home when she left for school) and things are actually going really well.

She asks him if he believes in fairytales. At first he thinks she’s joking, but then he sees her face and shit, she’s actually serious, isn’t she, this fifteen year old girl is asking him if he believes in fairytales and there really is no other way to answer that than to give her a flat no and a short headshake.

(then he remembers what he sees every time he shuts his eyes and the voices and faces in his dreams and quietly thinks that maybe, just maybe, he should.)

The last thing she asks before they have to part to head home(he actually does ask her to come with him to his place, it really isn’t his style to invite people over but Rose, he really needs a human shield right now and he knows she’d never go near the subject with others nearby but Jade replies that she needs to help her family properly unpack) is, strangely enough, when his birthday is.

“I thought we’d left the preschool questions behind us by now, Jade, what happened?” he asks jokingly, trying to make her smile but she just rolls her eyes and, now that he thinks about it, she looks kinda tense.

“Come on, Dave! I just wanna know if I’ll have to rush to get you a gift or something, you never know, it could be tomorrow for all I know!”

“Close enough. Only a couple of days off, there. Three days. Sweet sixteen and all that jazz.”

She tenses up even more, and, yep, that’s definitely more than just a hint of worry in there, but before he has the time to ask what’s wrong she forces out a laugh that really doesn’t sound genuine and mumbles something about how she should be getting a move on and runs off.

There’ve been so many ‘what the fuck’-moments today he doesn’t even have the energy to react.

He turns around only to find Rose waiting for him.

“Fuck,” he says.

“Language, brother,” she replies breezily. She gestures for him to follow her and he does without thinking twice about it. “Was it another flashback?”

“Was what another flashback?” She gives him a look before answering.

“Stop stalling, Dave. We are talking about this, whether you like it or not.”

He doesn’t even try to suppress his groan. “There’s nothing to talk about, Rose. Still don’t know what they are, still can’t remember shit-“

“Still having nightmares?”

“-still, yeah, that, but it’s cool, I can handle it. Seriously, Rose. I’m fine.”

She ignores the last part. “They’re getting worse, Dave. You’ve had, what, three this week?”

More like three this morning, he thinks to himself, but keeps his pokerface and nods. She gets too worried. He’s fine, he really is, he just. Can’t remember. He stares down at his feet as they keep walking.

It doesn’t take long for her to break the silence. “What did you see this time?”

“A girl.” There’s no use lying to her. She’s always been good at seeing when he’s telling the truth or not. A bit less good at knowing when he’s hiding away information, but hey, no one’s perfect.

“Not the boy in blue again?”

“Nope. No sign of him.”

“Hm.” She looks thoughtful, but when he asks her what she thinks she just shakes her head. “I’m not sure. It’s just… odd.”

He can’t help but agree. The boy with blue eyes has been in, like, every single dream and flashback since he started having them(Rose had so much fun with that one in the beginning, holy shit), and him not being there is… rather disorienting.

“We need to find someone who can help.”

Dave shoots her a glare. “What? No. I don’t want people messing around with my brain. You’re bad enough, not dealing with any more of them.”

She glares right back at him. “I’m starting to think you don’t realize how serious this is, brother-“ she bites out and he stops walking.

Yes I do, Rose,” he snaps, “and if you hadn’t noticed, I’m the one with a fucked up memory here, so just let it go. Trust me, I know it isn’t good, but I don’t want people digging around with my memories-“ or maybe he just doesn’t want to remember “-and trust me, if you try to drag me off to some stupid guy in a suit to ‘talk about my feelings’ again I’ll move to Canada or something, god.”

She nods silently and the tension slowly bleeds out of the hall.

“I just want to help.”

“I know. But this isn’t something you can help with.”

They stand there for a while, watching each other in complete silence. This time Dave’s the one to break it.

“I’m heading to the library for a while before going home. Wanna come?”

She shakes her head. “No. I need to speak with Mother.”

He feels like slamming his head into a wall because Rose and Roxy make a killer team and he can tell by her face that she’s planning something, but instead they just nod their goodbyes and walk separate ways.

If this was a movie there’d be dramatic and possibly heartbreaking background music going on until they realized how much they actually love each other and god married or some shit like that, but this isn’t a movie and this doesn’t even really count as a fight, so no music. Thank god.

(He still starts singing that song from Titanic at the top of his lungs until he’s rewarded with the faint sound of Rose’s laugh, though.)

He wasn’t lying about wanting to go to the library, so he goes there and immediately heads over to the photography section. Yeah, he happens to like looking at pictures. So what? Inspirational and all that shit.

When he leaves it’s dark outside. Or, well, not really dark-dark, but dark enough for there to be shadows and thriller-vibes. And things moving in said shadows that always disappear when he tries to focus on them.

Fuck everything.

He heads on home and nothing happens.

----------------------------------------------

From the shadows, they watch.

“Oh come on,” one of them groans, “that was a perfect opportunity! Anyone would have taken that chance!”

“Shut up, I don’t care, I still have time.” It sounds like he’s trying to convince himself as much as he’s trying to convince the other. “I still have time.”

“Whatever you say, oh fearless leader,” the other figure responds. She grins. “But you’re not the only one interested in the coolkid. If you don’t hurry up, you might find that the rest of us aren’t quite as patient.”

It takes only seconds for her back to hit the wall and the cold steel to find her throat. His fingers are clenched around the handle hard enough to leave marks. Her smile only grows wider.

“Don’t you dare,” he hisses.

“Okay, I get it! I get it!” She pushes playfully at the hand holding the weapon, but he doesn’t budge. “He’s aaaall yours. Have fun with your little stalker routine! But don’t be surprised if you wake up one day to find there’s no one to stalk anymore.”

A warning growl, and he lets her go.

Her laugh echoes against the walls as she leaves.

Chapter Text

Getting used to Jade being around is really easy. She fits in with him and Rose like a missing puzzle piece, turning their duo into a trio in no time. Sitting three instead of two in the cafeteria isn’t as strange as he thought it’d be.

Being the new girl, he expected her to get quite some attention, at least in the first few days, but no one tries to approach her on the second day either. Now that is strange – at least until he realizes she probably destroyed whatever chance she had at being popular by spending a day with him. It’s kind of hard to be one of the cool kids when no one dares to talk to you. Jade’s creepy by association.

Apparently having lost a family member makes you scary and intimidating. Who knew, right? And Rose has been unapproachable since that time in third grade where she tried to hex one of her classmates.

It didn’t work, obviously, but it was plenty enough to freak people out.

The final straw in making people stay away from Jade is her weird tendency to suddenly stop in the middle of a conversation to start staring at thin air, looking as if she’s completely forgotten about everything. To be honest Dave finds it kinda creepy too, but, hey. He lives with Rose. He’s used to it.

They get along. And if she’s a bit odd at times, well… Dave really has no right to judge.

-0-

On the day of his birthday, Dave wakes up to a happy birthday card lying on his bedside table. Also, condoms, most likely courtesy of Roxy. The card is obviously Rose’s, though. Too few typos for anything else.

(When they were younger, she’d spend days painstakingly preparing the ‘perfect’ gift for him. He really doesn’t want to think about what it took to make her stop.)

He actually kind of wishes this was it, but even when he got them to calm down about it, the Lalondes were very into celebrating birthdays. And Roxy seemed to be completely incapable of resisting the chance to throw a party. Which means basically everyone, everywhere is invited, and they’ll all come, because Roxy does not hesitate a second to serve alcohol to teenagers.

A+ parenting right there. But neither he nor Rose have ever gotten drunk anywhere that’s not home, so maybe she actually knows what she’s doing.

Jade sticks to him like glue when he gets to school. She seems… skitterish. Nervous. Even more hyperactive than usual.

“Happy Birthday, Dave!” she blurts out the moment she sees him and hugs him. More like a tackle, really, but the end result is her arms around his torso, so he supposes it counts anyways?

“Mornin’,  Harley,” he says, carefully extracting himself from her grip. “What’s up?”

“I’ve got a gift for you! Because it’s your birthday! But-“ and she can’t seem to keep still, eyes flicking from side to side, never looking right at him, hands fluttering over his shoulders as if to brush off some dust or something, “-I can’t give it to you right now! It’s kind of big, and, it’d really be much better if you could come over to my house and get it!” (“come on, dave, let’s go! it’s your birthday, you can’t spend it holed up in here!”)

“Er. Yeah. Sure? I mean, I’ll have to be at Roxy’s party, first, but, yeah, I’ll be there.”

“Okay! Okay, great, that’s great!”

He really can’t resist to ask. “Jade, are you alright? You seem kind of…” He can’t find the word, so he just gestures at her.

“Yeah!” she says and her eyes meet his and she really doesn’t look fine, but he hasn’t known her long enough to say for sure, so… “Just. Um. Question! What time were you born? Like. What hour?”

He blinks(and is rather grateful she can’t see it. Shades are awesome.). That’s… a really weird question. But hey, it’s Jade, she’s been asking weird questions ever since she got here. He shrugs and answers.

“No clue. Ain’t really the kind of thing you feel the need to keep track of, you know?”

“Okay. Ooookay. That’s fine! It’ll be fine, everything’ll be fine-“ and now it’s starting to feel like she’s talking to herself more than she’s talking to him, but then her eyes flicker right back to his and she looks like she’s close to a panic attack, “-just. Dave. Please try to get there as fast as you can, okay? We’ll make dinner and everything, just please get there.

“I. Yeah, okay.” He gives her a really awkward hug and she’s shaking, what is going on here, but just as he’s about to ask she pulls away, gives him a shaky smile and a “Bye, Dave!” before running off, disappearing before he has the time to really react.

She doesn’t turn up to any of the lessons.

Something is definitely wrong here, that much if painfully clear, but Dave has no idea of where to start figuring it out. After realizing that Rose is starting to look suspicious of his distraction, he pushes the issue away to the back of his mind, deciding it can wait.

He’ll just ask her when he gets there.

-0-

The party is… not the greatest experience in his life.  That doesn’t mean Roxy isn’t a good party planner, it just means that he doesn’t like crowds. Not to mention the fact that none of the people who’re there are actually there for him. They’re just jumping on the opportunity to get free booze.

It’s five minutes past six when he finally manages to sneak away and start making his way to Jade’s. He sends her a short text message to let her know he’s coming and then tucks his phone back into his pocket, ignoring the sound indicating he got an answer. He needs a break from people. The thirty minute walk to get to Maple street should be just about enough.

The silence stretching over the town is almost eerie, the evening air cool and crisp. He could’ve sworn it wasn’t usually this dark at 6pm, though. Or this cold. He shivers and pulls the zipper on his hoodie up a bit further, wrapping his arms around himself to keep warm.

It’s kind of starting to feel like he’s starring in some bizarre horror movie. “Dave Strider and...” What, “The Unnatural Weather Conditions”? He snorts. Yeah, right.

If Rose was here she’d either go into a long lecture about what psychological conditions could cause a feeling of unnatural cold and ultimately come to the conclusion that he is being paranoid, or help him come up with conspiracy theories.

He kinda wishes she was.

He’s just turned into an alley he remembers as a shortcut when it happens.

Everything   shi f ts

It’s hard to breathe, he’s losing his balance, staggering against a wall, suffocating, and for a second he thinks am I really going to die like this? but then the pressure on his chest is gone, he can breathe again, and he pushes himself off the wall, standing back up to find that nothing has changed.

Yet everything has.

The alley is still empty, he can see it, but what he is seeing doesn’t compute with what he’s feeling. There’s… something. Something there, and he has no idea of what it is(“most of them are harmless, dave-“).

His breathing and the too-loud beating of his heart is the only thing breaking the silence. He takes a hesitating step away from the wall(“-but there are some who would like nothing better than to hurt you.”) and something slashes at the side of his neck.

He cries out, more in surprise than in pain, and instinctively flinches away, pressing a hand to his neck. When he removes it, there’s blood on his sleeve.

“Fuck,” he swears.

He can sense the presence behind him before it touches him, but he’s only got a split second to react and all he can do is twist to the right, so that instead of being tackled head first into the wall, he only loses his breath for a few seconds, falling to the ground but getting up and immediately starting to run.

This isn’t the same thing that cut him, it’s bigger, stronger(“and they’re faster, dave, so you have to be careful”), and he really doesn’t think he’ll be able to outrun it, but he has to try.

It crashes into him just as he’s dragged his phone out of his pocket to call for help. The phone falls out of his hand, sliding over the ground until it comes to a stop completely out of reach. Dave twists and turns and screams and tries to kick at it, but he’s never been good with fighting without weapons, and it’s all over in seconds. The creature pins him to the ground, something sharp – claws? – at his throat. Dave stops moving.

His assaulter doesn’t really look all that dangerous, he notes absentmindedly. Except for the claws and the teeth(and the eyes which are red enough to look like they’re burning, and the skin which – and it might just be the light – looks to be an ashen gray, almost black), he(at least it looks like a he, but you can never be sure with these supernatural creatures) could almost pass as human.

He gives the creature a weak push, just to make sure he can’t make it get off him, but all it earns him is a warning snarl and the claws pushing slightly harder, but still not breaking skin.

If there’s one thing Dave’s learned from strifing with his brother, it’s when to give up.

With a slow exhale he relaxes, letting his body grow slack and his head roll back, baring his throat. Come on, he thinks, come on, just do it, I’m not afraid of you. He closes his eyes, because as much as he wishes he was brave enough to stare death in the face, he isn’t.

He hopes Rose won’t miss him too much.

The creature on top of him makes a weird choked sound at the back of his throat and Dave can’t help but to tense up because this is it, this is it, he is sixteen years old and about to be killed by some weird vampire wannabe, but then his mouth is on Dave’s neck, right over the wound, and it’s hurting, it’s burning and-

and -

oh.

Chapter Text

The burning sensation is spreading through his body and he’s gasping for air, but somehow his shaky breaths turn into moans and he’s writing on the ground, filled with a need for contact, for friction, for something, his hips hitching upwards and his back arching towards heat and power but he can’t move can’t reach because he’s being held down and the thing’s still got his mouth on Dave’s neck, the spot of contact creating a focus for the feeling leaving Dave unsure of if he wants to push away or get closer.

He really shouldn’t be this turned on by the situation.

It feels like minutes, Dave growing more and more desperate to get up, get off the ground, just get out of his god damned clothes already but it’s probably no more than seconds, and when the creature above him wrenches his mouth away, looking as if doing so is physically painful, Dave actually whimpers, clawing at the ground to not lose his mind completely, the body above him shuddering in response.

He collapses on top of Dave, neither one of them speaking, Dave’s head still spinning and both of them breathing heavily, and then

there is peace.

They lie there in silence, their heart beats slowly synchronizing. No one moves. Normally Dave would be freaking out, would be asking questions, but whatever just happened has left him drained and exhausted and more than anything unwilling to break off the moment.

After that, a few things happen in very quick succession.

Someone rushes into the alley, breaking any remaining resemblance of peace with a high-pitched shriek.

Dave!” He looks up to see Jade standing there, eyes wide open and her entire stance screaming danger, get away. She looks terrified.

Behind her stands (a boy with blue eyes and a wide grin, a man in green and a little girl, a woman in bright blue speaking to his brother, “there are things in this world which we cannot understand. that most people live their lives without even seeing. we have reason to believe he won’t be that lucky”

endless strifes with his brother, because he needs to be faster needs to be stronger even if no one will tell him why

voices whispering behind closed doors, “we’ll charm them for him. as long as he’s wearing them, he shouldn’t be able to see them. and as long as he can’t see them…

his bro’s frustrated face, slamming his fist into the door. “so what do you do, then, to ‘make things better’? why are you here?”

a determined look, a man refusing to back down, a woman ready to do anything to protect what she loves. “We fight them.”

a friend when he was little, a boy he would always play with because he would show him how to make the things he saw go away, he could make them disappear, he could make it better, he

a boy named- ) “-John.”

Dave’s voice is barely more than a whisper, but apparently it’s enough, because the blue-eyed boy(John, John, John) sees him immediately, eyes widening behind thick glasses in a way that would’ve been comical if it hadn’t been followed by a snarled out “Get off him” and him rushing towards Dave – towards the thing holding him down – wielding a huge hammer Dave hadn’t even noticed he had.

The thing leaps off him, breath Dave didn’t know he’d lost being returned to him and his head clearing a bit, though not enough for him to be able to sit up. Apparently he’s not meant to, anyways, because Jade runs to him and lays a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s going to be fine, Dave, just stay down, John’ll fix it, we’ll be fine-“ and then he tunes out and turns his attention to the fight.

The dark skinned boy is losing, John’s every attack getting closer to hitting, his sickles(which he too seemed to have gotten out of nowhere, Dave’s kinda feeling like he’s left out of a cool secret or something by now) not offering any protection against John’s strength. He’s faster and lighter, and if it’d have been a running competition there wouldn’t be any competition, he’d win in no time, but now… John’s got the upper hand.

Dave isn’t sure who he’s rooting for.

Jade is frantically checking him over, gasping when she reaches his neck, and he wants to say what, it’s just a scratch, it can’t even be bleeding anymore but he gets distracted by another humanoid-vampire-alien-whatever-thing joining the battle, face covered in some kind of white paint and a close to manical grin stretching across his face.

He goes straight for John, weird club things on the ready, the other thing stepping out of the way without missing a beat, as if this is something they’ve been doing often.

“Gamzee,” he snaps, “Don’t kill him.

John’s face contorts into something resembling confusion but quickly returns to barely contained anger as he – Gamzee – manages to disarm him and press him up against the wall, John twisting to get away but not succeeding to do much of anything.

Jade swears beside him and Dave turns his gaze to her only to find she’s pulled out a gun out of nowhere, seriously, this is so unfair, pointing it at the thing he still doesn’t know the name of.

“Don’t move,” she says frantically and her hands are steady but her voice is shaking, “Not a step closer!”

She staggers to her feet, eyes wild and angry, gun not wavering from its mark, and Dave thinks she’s really going to shoot him, but then she turns her gaze upwards and screams.

John’s attempts to escape become more violent, kicking at Gamzee’s legs and there’s a hint of desperation in his eyes and when he screams it’s filled with panic and anger.

Jade! Go!”

She staggers backwards, accidentally slamming her foot into the side of Dave’s face, knocking his shades off. They clatter to the ground beside him.

“You idiot, don’t leave him there,” comes a growl from his left and when Dave looks up he understands what got everyone into such a panic.

It’s huge, almost completely covering the air above them, thousands of smaller shapes twisting around each other, creating something resembling a bee swarm, if a bee swarm had(fingers with claws and wings beating too fast) arms and faces that are anything but human(teeth tearing at his skin and clothes, dave screaming as they try to tear him apart piece by piece)

he can’t breathe

there’s an inhuman noise coming from it, voices shrieking in agony, a buzzing that tears straight into his brain, paralyzing him

he can’t move

he can’t move he can’t breathe he can’t scream all he can do is lie there as it comes closer and everything that happened before was nothing compared to this, nothing compared to lying here and waiting

looking at it as it reaches for his head laying a claw against his cheek slowly dragging it across his face down towards his neck-

And then the dark skinned boy is there in front of him, pushing himself in between Dave and the thing, slashing out with his claws and snarling in its face.

Mine,” he bites out. There is a staring match, a moment of breathtaking tension, and then it leaves, relief instantly flooding through Dave’s body.  He exhales shakily, slowly allowing himself to relax just the tiniest bit, eyes fluttering closed.

There is a low thud as the boy slumps to the ground beside him. Dave opens his eyes again to find that he’s breathing heavily, chest heaving. He’s cradling the hand he used to attack the thing with close to his body. Dave thinks it might be broken.

Their eyes meet.

And once again it’s Jade’s voice ruining the peace, what is even up with that, can’t he get just one second where people aren’t freaking out all around him, screaming “Get away from him!” while running towards them, gun forgotten on the ground.

The boy doesn’t even spare her a look, he just snaps “Sollux” in a way that makes it sound like an order, and within seconds a third gray skinned thing has come out from the shadows, holding Jade away from them with some kind of blue-red energy thing.

“Get here sooner next time, you piece of shit,” says the boy.

“Whatever you say, KK,” Sollux answers, a weird distortions to his s’s that’s kind of a lisp but kind of not.

Dave’s pretty sure “KK” is not an actual name, but hey, the others didn’t really sound like names either and he’s getting sick of thinking of him as ‘the creature’, so whatever. KK reaches down to him, ignoring John and Jade’s muffled protests, helping Dave sit up with his unharmed hand.

“Are you okay?” he asks. The concern in his voice sounds strange when paired together with the teeth and the claws, but…

“Yeah,” he answers. “I’m fine.”

He’s just about to start asking questions, most likely starting with what the fuck is going on, when the cut on his cheek stings and starts bleeding. “You have got to be kidding me,” he groans, but when he looks back up he freezes.

The tension in the air is overwhelming. Everyone has stopped moving, every pair of eyes focused on Dave. Jade looks like she’s going to start crying. Gamzee and Sollux look more like it’s hard not to drop everything and run over to slit his throat open.

“Oh, fuck,” whispers KK, low enough for only Dave to hear it, and then he tilts his face closer.

The scene explodes in noise. John and Jade are yelling at him to no, stop, don’t touch him, stop, run, dave, run and Dave really doesn’t understand, and then KK raises his voice and says “Sollux, you know what to do.”

Then he puts his tongue to Dave’s cheek. He’s licking over the cut, doing something, and John and Jade are screaming and Dave is burning again, but it’s the same burn as before and he doesn’t even care that there are four other people right there because he needs this.

KK is holding him still again and Dave swears in between the gasps as he writhes against the wall, just wanting to get closer, and it’s all too much but still not enough, and suddenly they’re kissing, desperately moving against each other and Dave is pretty sure that if they keep this up he’s going to cum in his pants but he really doesn’t give a shit.

Sollux doesn’t raise his voice. He doesn’t use the weird energy thingie. He doesn’t even move. All he does is say “Karkat,” and it sounds like a warning but not a very serious one, and KK – Karkat – still draws back from him, Dave wanting to scream at the loss.

Karkat doesn’t even turn around to look at John and Jade. He just gives Dave one last, burning look before turning away.

“Protect him better, you fucking idiots,” he says, and then “Sollux. Gamzee. Let’s go.”

And then they’re gone.

As he lies there on the ground, fighting to get his breathing back to normal, struggling to keep his thoughts coherent, he absentmindedly catalogues a very simple fact.

The wounds on his neck and cheek are completely healed.

Chapter Text

They sit in silence, Dave still slumped against the wall, Jade and John crouching down next to him. Their eyes are worried, wary, as if they don’t know what he will do.

Damn right they don’t, he doesn’t even know.

But he remembers now.

They moved there in early spring. Dave remembers the truck parked on the street outside, the boxes littering the side walk, the way they moved around each other, coordinated without having to say a word. He remembers seeing a weapon, a gun, and thinking that maybe they were bad guys, or maybe they were heroes, and then spying on them for several days before actually seeing.

It was Jade who broke their secret, she who had been so small then(is still small, a year is a long time when you’re young and adventurous). He’d seen her running over the meadows, sneaking into the forests, playing by the water, always followed by a big white animal Dave thought was a wolf.

He was also pretty sure it was one of his imaginary friends(that was what bro called them!) because no one else ever seemed to react.

But Jade could see it. She could see it and play with it and she petted it, like, all the time, and no one ever saw Dave’s imaginary friends. Because they were imaginary. Even when they scratched him or tripped him or hurt him, even when they left clearly visible marks, they were imaginary. Because no one but him ever saw them. Because fairies aren’t real.

When he was with them, they were.

His shades are still lying on the ground, but he doesn’t make a single move to pick them up. He can see now –  things hiding in the shadows, flying above the roofs, looming in the corners or lurking under the window panes. So many different creatures, all long limbs and fluttery wings and sharp teeth and hisses and growls.

They’re everywhere. Just like they always used to be.

John was the first person to ever be able to make them disappear. They were afraid of him, somehow, and Dave used it to his advantage as much as possible, always following John around even though John was two years older and a lifetime wiser.

John protected him, even if he didn’t know it at first.

He remembers the day they realized Dave could see things too, remembers the mixed reactions, the joy from Jade and hesitating smile from John and the worry and concern from Jake and Jane. Remembers when they tried to tell bro and it took them days to convince him, and how, the moment he realized it was true, he started teaching Dave how to take care of himself(in secret, because secret weapons are good weapons and Dave would need the very best).

There are too many things, too much to remember, and it’s all so confusing, all so long ago and he was young and stupid and never understood, never paid attention to the important parts so now there are so many questions to be asked and so many answers to be given.

His head should be spinning and his heart should be pounding, but his thoughts are clearer than they’ve been in ages. It’s as if he’s lived his life seeing through dirty windows and now someone’s cleaned them, and even if it’s slightly overwhelming it’s a thousand times better than before.  As if he can see the wind, feel the earth slowly moving and hear the sound of John and Jade’s heart beats without any effort.

He feels so alive.

He’d revel in the feeling for a while, but he really doesn’t have time for that shit.

“You’ve got some explaining to do,” he says, and they both flinch. “Where the fuck have you been, John?”

John’s face twists into surprise. “You remember?”

“Bits and pieces. Didn’t until now.” He gestures at his shades. “Guessing those had something to do with that, huh.”

Jade squirms, looking very uncomfortable. “We’re really sorry, Dave!” she says. “But you were safer this way!”

He just stares at her. “Sure I was, Harley. This definitely looks like safe, doesn’t it? Now, seriously, explain what the fuck is going on here.”

She shares a look with John and takes a shaky breath before nodding. “Alright. But not here. Come on, we’re going back to our place.”

They both stand up and John extends his arm towards Dave, helping him up from the ground. Dave pauses. There’s something he definitely ought to do before following them.

He picks his phone up from his pocket, swift fingers dialing Rose’s number. “Dave!” Jade hisses. “What are you doing, you can’t-“

“Yes I can, Harley,” he smoothly interrupts. “Not doing this on my own. Don’t worry, Rose is smart, you’ll like her.” Or not. Didn’t really matter. He wanted her there, so she’d be there.

“Dave?” Rose sounds confused. Oh. Right. He hadn’t told her he left. Well, wouldn’t that be awkward to explain.

“Sup, Rose. Listen, I kinda need your help for a while. Can you get out of there?”

“Dave, I hardly think this is the right time. You know Mother hates it when you sneak out, and-“

“Rose. Please. I’ll explain everything later, okay? It’s important.”

There is a brief pause, and Dave wonders if she’s biting her nails again. She does when she’s nervous or conflicted. If she is, she doesn’t show it, because when she answers her voice is calm and collected.

“Alright, then. I suppose I could do my best to escape unnoticed. Where are you?”

“Doesn’t matter. Meet me at Maple Street?”

There is no way she doesn’t remember the name, and this time the pause is slightly longer, and when she replies her voice has softened.

“Dave, are you alright?”

He hesitates before answering. “As alright as I can reasonably be expected to be given the circumstances. Hurry?”

“I will.”

He hangs up and turns back to Jade and John, bracing himself for the return to his past home. He hasn’t been there since the crash.

“Lead the way.”

 

The house looks just like he remembers it. Old and weather-worn, blue paint peeling from the walls. He remembers helping them paint it, sitting on top of bro’s shoulders in order to reach high enough. The only thing different is the state of the garden. Years of mismanagement have left it overgrown, more weeds than flowers, looking more like a jungle than an actual garden.

It feels odd, to see it again after all this time.

Rose meets them right outside the gates. If she’s surprised to see who he’s with, she doesn’t show it.

They sit down around the kitchen table, Rose immediately grabbing the seat next to Dave. She gives Jade a court nod and John a long, icy stare. Understandable. She’s never seen him before, and Dave calling her like that is really, really rare. Like. Happens just about as often as Roxy is sober. Which is never.

John gives her a nervous look and takes a small step back. “Um.” he says. “I’ll just. Call Jane and Jake. Jade, explain to them for me?”

His voice has turned pleading by the end, and the look Jade gives him just spells out “traitor” as clear as anything. John just smiles at her, shots Rose another nervous glance and quickly leaves the room. Jade turns to them, fidgeting in her seat. “So,” she begins, then pauses. “Um!”

She bites her lip and looks away from them. Dave can see Rose fighting not to roll her eyes at the display of embarrassment. “Just tell us what’s going on, Jade.”

“Yeah, of course! I. Just don’t know where to start?” She laughs as ducks her head down and this time Rose’s hand actually twitches. Dave’s not sure if it’s for a slap or a facepalm, but he can’t help but smirk anyway.

“How bout this, Harley,” he says, discretely grabbing Rose’s hand. “Start by telling us what the fuck that thing back there was, and we’ll move on to why you didn’t warn us after that.” Rose glances at him with something akin to curiosity and Dave suddenly remembers that she wasn’t actually there. And that she might not have seen anything even if she was. Oh well. He turns his attention back to Jade.

She inhales deeply as if to calm herself and he can see how tense she is and normally that’d make him back off a bit, but right now he needs answers. “Okay. Okay, yeah, I can do that. Um.” She twists her hands in her lap, throws one last glance over to the door John left through, straightens her back and begins.

“That thing,” and a shiver goes through her body, “was a demon. Um. There are quite many of them, really! Different kinds and everything. Humanoids – like the first one, Dave, those are dangerous and you need to stay away from them – and pixies – those can rarely do much harm, since they’re so small, and they’re really easy to get rid off, but they can get really annoying at times – and then there are the. Um. Yeah. There are lots of kinds! I just… haven’t really learned all of them, yet. I’m still in training.”

She looks down at her feet at goes silent. Rose is the one to break it, her cool façade still in place. She is really good at that. Even able to best him sometimes.

“I believe I am missing a few pieces of key information here, Dave, Jade. What exactly happened earlier? And why,” her voice goes even icier, “are we talking about occult phenomena as if they were real? Dave, if this is some kind of practical joke-“

“It isn’t, Rose,” he interjects. “You know I’d never take it this far. It’s real.”

She is visibly shaken, but only gives a court nod to confirm she’s understood. Dave can’t help a small surge of pride. Rose is awesome.

“As for what happened... “ He thinks back to the demons – Karkat’s – weight on top of him and the heat surging to his body and if he was anyone else he would have blushed, but as it is, he just finds himself intensely wishing for his shades. “Let’s just break it down to ‘there was a demon attack and shit got fucked up’, yeah?”

She looks at him for a long moment, curiosity evident in her eyes. I’ll tell you later, he thinks, and she nods, still impossibly good at reading him.

“Okay. Jade, if you could please continue? You said you were training for something. For what?”

“Oh! Yeah. We’re exorcists, see? John and me, and Jane and Jake! Jane and Jake are our kind-of parents. I’ve never really understood how we’re related, but they’ve taken care of us since we were little! They fight demons. Keeps them from hurting people, place out protective charms, kill those too powerful to be harmless – that kind of stuff! The world kinda needs us, since most people can’t normally even see them. That’s good in a way, though, since it means less panicking, but it’s also really bad, because everyone is left defenseless! So. We defend those who can’t defend themselves, and-“

A hand lands on her head, ruffling her hair, and John pulls out the seat next to her. “Jade, you’re rambling,” he says, giving her a fond glance. She smiles at him and mimics zipping her lips shut.  John looks over at him and Rose – and his smile gets a nervous edge the moment he does – before picking the thread up where Jade left it.

“Basically, what she’s trying to say is that we live our lives preventing creatures like them from hurting civilians. Like Dave. Or you.”

Dave can’t help but snort. “Yeah, you did a great job on that one.”

John flinches at the remark. “I’m sorry, Dave. We didn’t – we thought we’d have more time, before…”

“Before what?” Rose’s tone is still icy cool, but she’s squeezing his hand hard enough to hurt. John breaks eye contact, looking guilty and conflicted.

“Before Dave turned sixteen. It’s… “ He looks at Jade helplessly before turning back, speaking only to Dave. “It’s why you’ve been able to see them, Dave. There’s something… about you, about your blood that they want. Some kind of kill-you-get-immortality-slash-endless-power thing. We don’t really know much about it. That’s why we left, to find out more! We’ve never seen anything like this before. Jane and Jake are still out there looking for more information. They probably won’t be able to get here for another week, at least. We’re on our own until then.”

“And you couldn’t have thought to tell me?

“We didn’t think we’d have to! Your shades, they’re charmed-“ and of course they are, why wouldn’t they be, “-they were supposed to keep you safe from the smaller ones! And the bigger ones had never shown any interest, so we thought it’d be fine, but then Jane learned that it doesn’t fully activate until you turn sixteen, and-“

“-and by then it was already too late,” Rose cuts in, nodding thoughtfully. Dave is losing his cool so badly. His mind is spinning, connecting all the loose endings into each other but no matter what he seems to end up with pieces that just don’t fit and he-

There is a sharp flash of pain from his neck and he swears as his hand flies up to cover it. The skin is perfectly smooth, not a single hint of a scratch, but it feels warmer than the rest of his body. As if something is moving under his skin, a kind of pull, and-

Rose’s cool fingers against his forehead is what brings him back to reality. She is looking at him with unmasked concern, and Dave realizes that he must’ve been zoning out. Or, well. Almost gone in to a panic attack. Jade and John aren’t looking very happy either,  fidgeting in their seats as if they can’t decide what to do.

He needs answers.

“What did he do to me?”

Jade’s voice is hesitant, almost fragile when she answers, staring at the hickey on Dave’s neck.

“He marked you.”

Chapter Text

When they leave, they have answers. Things are slightly clearer, but a whole lot more complicated. The mark isn’t permanent, they said, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

“It’s like… a connection,” John had said, looking anywhere but Dave. “It’ll be able to sense you, kind of. Or, well, they could do that all along, sense you, but it’ll be much easier for the one who marked you. The mark is a… claim, I suppose. An ownership tag.”

Dave had just stared and then asked, completely deadpan, “Are you saying he collared me?” Rose had stifled a giggle and hid her smile behind her hand at the way the word made John squirm.

“Um. Yes? But it’s okay, Dave,” he hastened to reassure him, “it’ll go away in a week or so! And Jade or I will be with you at any point of the day. We won’t leave you alone. He won’t be able to get to you!”

Rose was the one to ask the question burning on Dave’s mind. “Why exactly would it be such a terrible thing for Dave to be alone with him? They’ve already spent time one on one, and Dave seems to be relatively fine. I understand that it’s not something to be wished for, but…”

“They’re monsters, Rose,” Jade had answered, any warmth completely gone from her voice. “We can’t let it near him. Dave’s blood is – it’s like a drug to them, to it. It’d kill him and it wouldn’t feel any regret. A single drop would be enough, it wouldn’t be able to stop itself.”

“But he did stop,” Dave couldn’t help but remark. “Right after… everything. The cut on my cheek, he just… healed it.”

It,” Jade had said harshly, “had help. If it wasn’t for that other troll telling it to stop, it wouldn’t have been able to control itself.”

Dave remembered the time before John and Jade had gotten there and let himself feel doubt.

He can still feel the strange pull under his skin, wanting him to leave Rose – and Jade, who’d insisted on following them home, because “just think of what happened last time, dave, we’re not letting you get hurt” – and run, far, far away. It’s… disorienting.

What is even more disorienting is being able to see again. They really are everywhere, the demons, small ones and big ones and things that could almost have been human if it wasn’t for a strangely angled spine or a much too sharp smile. Rose had asked John and Jade to help her see – they’d told her no, that it wasn’t necessary, that she’d just be drawing attention to herself if she did, that it was just too dangerous and she’d nodded and told them she understood, but Dave knew what Rose looked like when she’d given something up and this wasn’t it.

She’ll find a way around it. She always does.

The walk home is pretty uneventful, neither Dave nor Rose having anything they could say to each other while Jade still was there and Jade herself checking her phone every few seconds for some reason.

They’re only a couple of minutes away from their house when it happens. There is a flash of colour, a whoosh of wind and a girl whirls out from an alleyway, cutting off their path. She’s dressed in orange for some incomprehensive reason, dark hair even more unruly than Jade’s tumbling down her back and wings, big blue wings fluttering behind her. There are sparks of blue glitter-dust floating around everywhere. As if that wasn’t enough to clue him in that she isn’t human, her skin is the same ashen gray he saw on the others.

The corners of her mouth pull up in a smirk and it’s harsh, somehow, harsh and cold and mocking all at once. Rose takes a step back and Dave instinctively reaches for a weapon he hasn’t carried with him since he was thirteen, but she just laughs and looks over at Jade.

“So,” she says, “this is the wonderboy?” She steps closer to Dave but stops when she hears the audible click of Jade’s rifle.

“Vriska,” Jade bites out, almost snarls, and the strange girl laughs and takes a step back.

“Relax, Harley,” she says, dragging out the word in a way that’s almost comical. “I’m just a little curious, what’s the harm? Don’t you trust me?”

“You know I don’t.”

Vriska just keeps smirking and shrugs in a way that makes it obvious that that was exactly the answer she’d have expected. She turns her attention back to Dave, but keeps her distance this time, looking him up and down as if he’s some zoo animal rather than an actual person. It takes every ounce of self control he’s got not to squirm or look away. Instead, he meets her gaze dead-on, and her smirk grows even wider. Then she catches sight of Dave’s neck and freezes up for a split second, before dissolving into disbelieving laughter.

“No fucking way”, she wheezes. “He marked you? Karkat? Oh you have got to be kidding me!” Dave can’t help but to glare at her as she wipes fake tears away from her eyes. “What the fuck did Terezi do, threaten him?”

Dave frowns. “Who the hell is Terezi-“ he starts, but Jade cuts him off with a sharp “Dave, don’t.” He looks over towards her, but she’s too trying to stab Vriska with her eyes to give him the time of day. A quick glance at Rose reveals she’s just as perplexed as he is. When did Jade turn so hostile? Then again, Vriska is(or seems to be, at least, he can’t remember any of the others having wings) a demon, and Jade obviously didn’t like them much.

“Vriska,” she says. “If you don’t leave now, I will shoot you.”

Yeah, definitely doesn’t like demons.

Vriska scoffs and rolls her eyes, but pushes off the ground and slowly starts flying in the direction they came from. “Fiiiiiiiine,” she says, and then she gets an odd glint in her eyes and a strange tilt to her smile. “I was just about to leave anyways. It has been a while since I paid John a visit, don’t you think?”

She’s gone before Dave even has the time to blink, and Jade starts swearing violently. She looks towards John and Rose with a helpless expression, obviously having some kind of argument with herself.

“I-“ she says and then takes a deep breath before continuing, “I have to go. Dave, Rose, go straight home. Don’t stop. No detours, just straight home and then lock the door. That,” she says, gesturing towards the mark on Dave neck with a grimace and a wince, “will keep the small ones away, and the big ones can’t enter houses. It’s like in the stories, they have to be invited.”

Her hand twitches helplessly by her side. “Don’t invite them, Dave,” she says, and he thinks she might be about to start crying, oh god, “okay? They can’t be trusted, not even when they look like people! Not even when they act like they like you! They’re not human! They don’t work that way, loyalty isn’t even a thing for them, unless it’s loyalty to their stupid, fucked up traditions!”

And yeah, she is definitely crying now. Rose takes a step forward, gingerly reaching out for her. “Jade—“

“No,” she says and gathers herself. “No. I’m fine. You’ll be fine, just go home. I’ve got to help John.”

Her lips twist into a bitter smile, and then she leaves.

Dave and Rose start walking in silence. They’ve much to talk about, but neither of them really know where to start. Dave’s trying to connect the dots, but he knows he can’t do it alone. There’s… too much, he supposes, too many things that may or may not be true. Too many contradictions. He glances at Rose. She always was better at reading people…

“Hey,” he says, and waits until he’s certain he’s got her attention. “Were they telling the truth, do you think? Earlier?”

He doesn’t want to believe they’re lying – doesn’t believe they’re lying, because he remembers them, and he knows them, and they wouldn’t hurt him – but he can’t cross out the possibility just yet.

“I believe so,” Rose answers, her voice carefully neutral. “If nothing else, they were very convincing.”

He nods, and stares down at the ground.

“Dave,” she says, and stops. He looks at her. She looks back. It’s painfully clear that she knows he’s got something to say, and that they are quite definitely not moving until he’s said it. He breaks before even half a minute has passed.

“There was a time before they got there. Where he – it, I don’t even know anymore – I dunno, gave me this?” He holds his hand over the mark. “Something else had cut me, and he tackled me to the ground and held me down – dude’s got a grip like the fuckin’ hulk, Rose, I’m not even exaggerating – and he… Healed it, I suppose.” He shrugs. “But that’d mean he tasted my blood back then, too, and he – he didn’t do anything-“ and yeah, that’s not exactly true, but this conversation is awkward enough already, “-and he could’ve. No one else was around. If he wanted to kill me he could’ve done so right there, just ripped my throat out and bam, no more Dave, eternal youth or whatever officially acquired. It probably wouldn’t even have been hard. But he… didn’t.”

They keep walking in silence. Dave can’t keep still, hands picking at the hem of his shirt, but he keeps quiet. She’s thinking.

“I suppose,” she says after a while, finally, “that we shouldn’t rule out the chance that they don’t know as much as they think they do.”

He meets her gaze. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” she says, and oh my god is she smiling? There is no fucking way this will end well for him, “that John and Jade might be letting their personal experiences cloud their judgment. That they are basing their conclusions upon inadequate information.” She smoothes out an inexistent crinkle on her blouse. “I mean that they think that their information is the absolute truth, when really, it is just a small part of it. We don’t have the full picture, Dave. In order to optimize our chances, we should make sure to acquire it.”

“Oh, great,” he says, suppressing the urge to run and hide himself in his room for the next ten years. Or twenty. “What the fuck do you suggest we do, then?”

She is definitely smiling now. Dave is absolutely terrified.

“I suggest,” she says pointedly, and, fuck, she is enjoying this, isn’t she, she is taking some kind of perverse pleasure in his agony, why does he even like her, “that you learn the other side, as well.”

She looks straight at him.

“I suggest you try to speak with Karkat.”

Oh.

Chapter Text

He sits on the second floor balcony just above his room, staring out into the night. Getting everyone out of the building(“Yes, mother, we’re both perfectly alright, it’s just been a long day and Dave really needs to relax-“ and oh, she’s calling it ‘relax’ now, how great is that “-and we’d really appreciate it if we could just call off the party a bit early” and a strange, steady stare eventually followed by a nod) had taken time, and then there was the matter of telling Roxy(not everything, not yet, but that Dave had gotten the memories back and that the boy with blue eyes was here, in town, and that he really was much too tired to explain it all right now but tomorrow, maybe?) what was going on and then convince her to just let them go to bed. Or, y’know, pretend to until she’d fallen asleep(passed out on the couch, more like).

His shades are in his lap. He won’t be wearing them for a while now, he thinks. Rather he saw the things trying to kill him than be caught by surprise(and wouldn’t that be a lovely way to go?). He picks them up, turning them over in his palms a couple of times, thinking back on everything John and Jade had told him, everything he has learned, and then he turns around and glares at his sister.

“This is the worst idea you have ever had and I can’t believe I’m actually going along with it.”

She stifles a small laugh and blows him a kiss. “I love you too, brother dear.” Snapping the lid of a box she’d been rummaging around in shut, she stands up and tosses something at him. “Catch.”

It clatters to the worn floor beside him and he picks it up almost reverently. He recognises this(“No, Dave, that’s not right. You hold it like this, see and you need to focus, okay?), has held it in his hands so many times before, so very long ago.

It’s his brother’s sword, and he still remembers how to use it(though he will probably need a lot of training to find his way back to the level he had before). It feels so much lighter now than when he was little.

“Rose…”

“I figured it would be… irresponsible of me to let you out there without a weapon.” She shrugs, but he knows she’s well aware of how much it meant to him. Means. He gives her a short nod and turns back around, once again facing the night. Squaring his shoulders, he straightens his back and neck. He’s ready(no he isn’t. but there really isn’t any other choice.).

“Are you going to stay?” Even though he can’t see her, he knows she’ll nod.

“In a way. I’ll wait inside. If you need me – need anything – you call, and I should be able to hear you, but your conversation will be… private. Jade said they couldn’t enter houses without invitation. Don’t invite him.

He rolls his eyes. “I’m not stupid, Rose.”

“I know.” A small pause, and he hears her step across the floor, sliding the glass door open. “Good luck, Dave.”

And then she’s gone.

He stands there, just breathing, for a long while, and then he realises he has no idea where to go from here. Like. How do you summon a humanoid-demon-thing-who-even-cares who’s pretty damn likely to just kill you on sight? Should he cite an incantation or something? Draw a pentagram?

They really didn’t think this trough, did they.

“Hey,” he calls out, feeling pretty damn stupid, but it’s worth a shot, right? “Karkat, you out there? Karkat, KK, karkitten, c’mon, don’t leave me hanging here, demon boy…”

He stops. Waits.

Yeah, no, that didn’t work. The embarrassment levels are through the roofs, shooting up towards the stars. And eventual space stations and shit.

“Well, fuck.” He groans and tilts his head back, closing his eyes to just focus. There’s got to be a way. The link is still pulling at him – John and Jade said it’d help Karkat… sense him? Yeah, that. So… Telepathic connection? Would thinking of him really hard work?

He thinks back to the fight and the boy and the, er, being tackled to the ground, and then the, um. Heat shots up to his cheeks and he ducks his head back down. Okay, that is officially a last minute resort only. God, he wishes he had his shades.

A quick glance at the garden reveals that yeah, that didn’t work. Still no Karkat. No other dangers either, though, so… at least that’s good?

Focus.

Sensing, sensing, they can sense each other. Karkat knows where he is. It’s just that Dave has no idea how to make the reverse true, too. Karkat can sense his location, and… and what? It wouldn’t be too much of a leap to assume he can also sense other things about him. State of mind?

…whether or not he’s injured?

Worth a shot? After all, Karkat did seem pretty intent on protecting him(or, perhaps, keeping him alive until he can be killed properly) earlier…

It’s official. He’s an idiot. This is the stupidest fucking idea he has ever had.

…yeah, still going through with it. God damn him and his stupid ass ideas. Cheers.

Taking a deep breath, he places the sword at the side of his wrist and cuts. A little pressure, and the blade slides through the skin, quickly drawing blood. He holds his arm out in front of him, adrenaline dulling the pain, and stares out at the back yard, all senses on alert. There is a whispering in the wind, a buzzing, but it feels less like Karkat and more like- like the swarm, from earlier. He fucking hopes that’s not it, because god knows he could never fight that shit.

Would it even be able to enter, though?

Come to think of it, does the balcony count as inside the house? This needs to be like, investigated or something – where are the safe areas, where does he need to keep an eye out for murderous bloodsucking demons, that kind of thing. Is school safe? Do they need an invitation for that, too?

Something grabs his wrist.

“You’re a fucking idiot,” it growls, and Dave snaps back into focus just in time to stop himself from trying to fight back – the sword is still clenched in his hand, and he’s close enough to use it. He could inflict heavy damage, if nothing else.

Would be kinda rude to cut the guy you intentionally summoned, though, demon or not.

“Yeah, I got that,” he replies breathlessly, the corners of his lips trying to twitch into a smirk. “Worked, didn’t it?”

He gets a dark glare in response. Karkat’s eyes are even redder than his. It’s fascinating – he’s never seen that kind of colour on anyone but himself before. At long last he understands why everyone else makes such a big deal about it.

Down to business. This was his(well, close enough) home, his turf. He’d be damned if he was going to let Karkat have the upper hand, and standing this close was uncomfortably close to just that. Especially combined with the fact that Karkat quite obviously was a shitload stronger(possibly due to the whole demon thing, but still. Dave had never been able to build muscle, he was forever destined to be that pale, scrawny kid) than him. Er. At least Dave was taller? By, like, two centimetres. Bluh.

He tilts the edge of the sword a bit and presses it lightly to the side of Karkat’s stomach. Not quite a threat, more like a- a warning. Yeah, a warning.

“I’d suggest you let go now,” he says in a calm voice that does not at all match his actual feelings. “We need to talk, and you bet your ass it ain’t gonna be like this.”

The air is heavy with tension and Dave can’t help holding his breath, but after a few seconds of intense staring Karkat actually listens, letting go of Dave’s wrist and taking a small step back. Dave exhales, lowering the sword and his arm.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay.” So far, things are going pretty good. It’s been, what, two minutes? and all limbs are still intact. Awesome. Now he just needs to figure out what the fuck is going on, ask some intelligent questions and hopefully get good answers. And not get killed. That would definitely be a plus. Whelp.

“Are you going to say anything else or did your stupid-ass plans only go as far as to cut your fucking wrist open to see what happens? That was absolutely brilliant, by the way, there was absolutely no chance of dying horribly as a result of those actions, keep this up and you’ll reach 100 with no problem-“

“Hey!” Dave says indignantly. “What were we supposed to do? These things don’t exactly come with an instructions manual, y’know!”

“Oh, I don’t know, something less likely to get you fucking murdered?”

Dave blinks. That right there is important somehow, something about, getting killed, about, oh, right;

“Why do you care?” Karkat gives him a baffled look which just screams ‘how can you even be this fucking stupid oh my god’, so Dave presses on without giving him a chance to talk. “According to John and Jade, you want me dead. All of you-“ he gestures towards the yard, towards nothing, towards the world “-would like nothing better than to slit my throat and drink my blood or something equally disturbing and cliché-“ Karkat’s eyes widen just the slightest bit and a small shudder goes through him at the mention of the whole blood thing, and ew. Just, ew. “-and they’re exorcists,  they ought to know this stuff. Says it’d give you – some kind of energy, eternal life, along those lines.”  He shrugs nonchalantly. At least he hopes it looks nonchalant. God, he wishes he had his glasses. Couldn’t he just ask for them to be de-charmed or something?

John and Jade,” and the words are spit out with disdain, “have now officially been confirmed to be even bigger idiots than you. Wonderful.” He sighs, sounding really frustrated, and Dave is like, 90% sure he’s-

“Dude, are you blushing?” and then, because no one’s ever taught him to stop while he’s ahead, because he has no fucking self-preservation instinct, “Oh my god, that’s hilarious, hang on let me get my camera-“

“Shut up. I just don’t want to be the one to explain this.” He glares as if challenging Dave to say anything else, and Dave mimics zipping his lips shut. (Karkat is still totally blushing, though.)

“Okay, so, I’m going to hope that those incompetent-“ he rattles off a bunch of words Dave doesn’t recognise but which are probably at least half composed of swear words “-have managed to teach you at least the basics of this thing and go straight to the part where I explain how awfully, indescribably wrong they are.” A pause. “Well, they’re technically mostly right. But still fucking wrong.” Dave itches to tell him something like ‘if you keep glaring like that your face’ll get stuck in a frown, brighten up, kid’ just to see what’d happen, but one, he’s not that suicidal, and two, this is good, this is progress, they’re getting answers.

“I don’t- We don’t, those of us who have any sort of self-control or are capable of thinking whatsoever, want you dead.” He scoffs. “That’d be dumb. You’re the-“ a string of syllables Dave isn’t even going to try to copy, “-killing you would just be a waste. The weaker ones still might, seeing as they’re well aware that’s the best they could ever hope for, but the rest of us, we’re. Well.” The blush is even more apparent now, blood tinting gray skin red. He seems to be fumbling for words. “Look, it doesn’t even fucking matter, okay, so I’ll just-“

“Of course it matters. You’re talking about my life here, I kinda think I have the right to know.

It turns into a staring match, neither one breaking eye contact, neither one of them willing to back down. There’s a strange, prickling sensation by Dave’s throat, right at that stupid mark.

Oh, right. That one was probably important, too.

“You left this,” he says, reaching his left hand up to gently tap it. Karkat shudders and looks away. “Why?” John and Jade had described it as an ownership claim, but according to the actual expert(who may or may not be lying his ass off, a small voice in the back of his mind remarks), they’ve no clue what they’re talking about, so might as well hope for a confirmation. “What does it even do?”

“It’s just a mark, dipshit.” Dave stares. Karkat groans. “Yes, okay, fine, it’s-“ he gestures hopelessly, fumbling for the words, “-a, er. Connection-enabler? Mind-soul-blood bond?”

He shots Dave a questioning look, but there’s no help to be found. “It… binds you? Me? It tells the others that you’re-“ he breaks off, and when he continues it’s obvious that he’s revised his choice of words, but Dave’s not really willing to press the issue anyways, so. Meh. “-not prey.”

“Keeps me from being killed, you mean.”

“…yeah, pretty much.”

“And the ones who don’t want to kill me?”

Silence.

“Oh for fuck’s sake- come on, just tell me, this is vital information you’re withholding here.” He sighs, rubbing his hand over his face. Karkat’s eyes follow it- no, not his hand. His wrist. There’s still blood, though the wound is mostly dried over, and, yep, tonight is officially the evening of Extremely Bad Ideas. “Alright, then. You’re not gonna give it to me just like that. Okay. I can deal. How about a trade?” A small wave with his left hand. “You might not want me dead or whatever, but blood is still a thing for you, right?”

“Yeah,” Karkat mumbles after a small pause. “It heals. Gives energy.”

“Exactly. So. You answer that question, you get to, I don’t know, drink from me? Is that what we’re going to call it? Do the strange licking routine again?”

“I could just take it, if I wanted to.”

“Yep,” Dave says, without missing a beat. “But if you do, I will go straight back inside and cut my throat open afterwards.” Karkat flinches, and Dave prays his poker face is as good as he remembers it being. He’s never had to make a bluff this risky. “You can’t enter houses without invitations. I go in there and off myself and no one could get whatever you want from me. Now wouldn’t that be a waste?”

He’s holding his breath. It all comes down to this, now. He could never go through with it – he’s trying to stay alive here, committing suicide would be rather counterproductive – but if he’s lucky enough, Karkat won’t realise that. Or maybe it’ll just be important enough not to risk it.

It’s not really playing if the stakes are low, is it?

“Fine.”

What.

Apparently his bewildered staring is annoying, because Karkat starts glaring again. “I said fine, you dipshit,” he snaps. “But if you can’t keep up, that’s your problem. Not mine.”

“Yeah, sure, of course, I’ll just-“

“Shut up.” He takes a deep breath before continuing. “So. Blood is great in general, life sustaining substance necessary for survival and so on. Anyone’s blood’ll do, if keeping yourself alive is all you want. But then there’s people like you, and you’re a whole lot rarer, and. Better tasting?”

“They’re McDonalds I’m gourmet food?”

“Shut up.” This glare is the most vicious one yet, and the blush is back on full effect. It’d be kinda cute if it wasn’t for the fact that Karkat could probably kill him in three seconds flat if he wanted to. “As I’ve been trying to tell you-“ ahahahahah no “-most of them – us – them – don’t actually want you dead, or you’d never have lasted past your first birthday. There’s another part to it, and we can’t do that – well, technically we could, but it’d have no fucking effect – until you’re sixteen. Which you are. Congratulations.” His expression is looking strangely much like a ‘please god no just get me out of here’. Serves him right, really. “Killing you grants, not quite immortality, but close enough, but only for an individual. The clan, the family, is more important. And the clan is granted prosperity if- if you-“ he’s blushing so much now, holy shit “-join it. By. Joining with the- the leader.”

Dave frowns. “Wait, you mean like, sex?”

Karkat’s blush somehow deepens even more. “Yes. Are we done now? Can I leave?”

“You mean all I have to do for this thing to be over is to have sex with someone? Oh my god, why does it need to be such a big thing, I’m not exactly a blushing virgin over here-“ well, yes, he is, but there’s no need to say so “- so what exactly is the problem? A one night stand with some hot demon chick and I’m out of there, awesome-“

“It’s not that simple.” Well, fuck. Should’ve known there’d be more complications. “A union like that is permanent, you-“ another string of words he can’t keep up with “-it can’t be broken. No ‘one night stands’ involved, it’s permanent.”

“Huh.” Well, fuck. “So. Sex equals marriage, no take backs? Demons don’t do divorce?”

“Not with you.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Oh.

Well. This is kind of pretty much definitely not what he expected to hear tonight. Wait, fuck, does that mean-

Karkat marked him. And what they were doing back then wasn’t exactly- oh. Oh. Blood rushes up to his head and suddenly the night feels strangely warm, his throat dry. Well.

“Stop looking at me like that,” Karkat says. “I’ve done my part of the trade, now man up.”

Right. Trade. Blood. Nodding shortly, Dave takes a step closer, raising his wrist to Karkat, who grabs it. His hands are cold, and Dave can’t help but shiver, breaths becoming shallower and shallower even before Karkat’s lips touch his skin.

Then the feeling is back – the heat pulsing under his skin, the feeling that he can feel everything, painfully aware of even the slightest breeze against his skin yet unable to focus on anything else than Karkat’s breath against his wrist, and his tongue flicking over the wound, lips closing and for fuck’s sake this was definitely not supposed to be as ridiculously hot as it was, but his head is buzzing and feeling is all he can do and he doesn’t even realise he’s moaning until Karkat makes a strange whine in the back of his throat and tugs on his arm, pulling him down to the ground and then they’re kissing again, teeth clacking together in an urgency they don’t have any reason to feel-

Someone taps their fingers against the door. Rose. Right. He’s not supposed to-

this isn’t-

not if it’s permanent-

“no,” he manages to say, pushing himself backwards, gasping for air. “no.”

It stops. Their breaths are heavy in the silence and he is painfully aware of Karkat’s presence, thighs pressed against his knees, everything so close-

but no. not now, not like this – maybe not ever. no.

It takes effort, mental and physical, but he stands up, shaking only a little. He feels drained and full of energy, all at once – though at this point he’s probably just running at adrenaline. It’s late as fuck, and it’s been a long, long day.

He walks towards the door without looking back, thoughts once again too messed up to make sense of. Time. That’s what he needs right now, time, and sleep. Preferably the kind without dreams.

Hah. Fat chance.

Karkat’s fingers ghost over the mark on his neck and he shudders, inhaling sharply, but not flinching away from the touch. He hadn’t even heard him move.

“I’m not going to let you die,” he says, and Dave’s not sure he was supposed to hear, because when he turns back around Karkat is already gone, the garden disappointingly empty. He lets his breath out in a shaky exhale.

Okay. Okay. Still alive. All limbs intact. Information acquired.

He enters the house again, feeling light. Rose meets him by the door and he gives her a short nod.

Mission motherfucking accomplished.

Chapter Text

“-yes, mother, but-“

He wakes to sunshine filtering in through the blinds and Rose’s voice coming from the hallway, muffled by the walls. There are steps on the floor rapidly coming closer and he groans, grabbing a pillow and pressing it down over his face. No. Sleep. Sleep is good, he would very much like to have some more of that-

“-no, Rose, this is serious, I can’t just let him-“

“-yes, I know, but-“

-but it kinda sounds like there’s an argument coming so no more sleep for him. Wonderful.

The door to his room slams open and Roxy storms in, holding something that looks awfully familiar – oh, right. He probably shouldn’t have left the sword lying around like that, but c’mon, he was tired.

“What,” she says, thrusting it under his nose, “is this?”

Rose gives him an apologetic look as she sneaks into the room, silently closing the door behind her. “Um,” Dave says and shrugs helplessly. “A sword?”

All he gets in return is an angry glare. “Dave.” She taps her finger on the blade and oh. Oh. He never cleaned the blood off the blade. That’s. Rather unfortunate, really. (He is so screwed. They are both so screwed. Roxy is going to murder them. And then feed them to the cats he is ninety percent sure she’s still hiding somewhere, despite Rose’s insistence that they really couldn’t take more in. Fucking cats.)

He’s torn from his(totally intelligent, shut up) musings by the fact that Roxy is still staring at him, awaiting some kind of answer. Well, then. He looks over at Rose, who is quite determinedly not meeting his gaze. Well, then.

“It’s… kind of a long story?” he says hesitantly. “Kind of, long and complicated, really.”

“Good thing there’s no school on Saturdays,” she smiles sweetly.

They are so screwed.



She stares at them over the kitchen table, disbelief coupled with a horrified acceptance in her eyes. “So,” she says and swallows nervously, “Demons, hey?” and then she groans, tipping her head into her hands. “God, I need a drink.”

“No you don’t”, Rose injects smoothly. “We need you, mother. Clear-headed and unintoxicated.

She meets her gaze calmly and there is a moment of extreme tension, and then Roxy slowly exhales and Dave can feel the tension bleeding away.

“Okay,” she says. “Okay. What can I do?”



“Rule #1:,” she says, leaning forward over the table, “is not to invite any strangers in. A relatively reliable source has told us they are unable to enter houses unless invited. Therefore I suggest you never ask someone to come inside. If they’re human they don’t need it, if they’re not we don’t want them. Simple as that.”

He stands in the backyard, swinging the sword in front of him(all wiped off and prettied up. Joy).  The movements feel familiar, but he can’t remember, he’s not quite doing it right, and for some reason he thinks youtube videos might not be sufficient tutoring this time.

How much of a chance is there that John knows how to use a sword?

“Got it.” Roxy is listening intently, entirely focused on the subject at hand. Dave experiences a sudden rush of affection. Say what you want of her skills as a mother, but she’s always listened to them and given her all when it’s needed. Bro was kind of the same(only less talking, more snooping around until he found out whose ass to kick in order to make things better). “Rule #2?”

He wishes he’d have never stopped practicing. Things would be so much easier if he had kept it up, somehow, if he’d made sure never to forget the simple drills Bro taught him, but Roxy had never liked the sword-fighting, and after what happened he’d never been brave enough to ask what happened to it. (He wonders, did they keep his, too?)

“Rule #2,” says Rose, and then hesitates, just a second, but enough for Dave to realise she’s just winging it, “is to keep it secret.”

Roxy rolls her eyes. “Yes, sweetie. I’m not that stupid. Come on, what else? Do we at least get like, magic sidekicks or something?”

She winks at Dave, who snorts and then stifles his laugh as Rose sends him an icy glare.

“Not that I’m aware of, no. Asking John and Jade for some kind of magical protection might, however, be a good idea. We’re not likely to last long on our own.”

At least he hadn’t completely stopped exercising. He’s still relatively strong(just not strong enough) and he’s one of the fastest kids in school(but could he outrun a demon?). He’ll be fine. He’ll practice. He’ll get stronger. He has to.

“Dave,” she says to him, once Rose has left, “I need you to listen to me now. This,” and she taps her finger on the bloodied blade again, “won’t happen again. Do you understand? It can’t. You intentionally put yourself in danger-“ and she talks right over his protests that no, it wasn’t all that dangerous, I knew(well, thought, really) he wouldn’t kill me and- “and that is not okay. We’re trying to keep you safe. Please don’t make that any harder than it has to be. There’s nothing, nothing, that is important enough for you to risk your life like that for. Do you understand?

And he nods and mumbles that yes, he understands, he won’t do it again(but he knows that there are things worth dying for, and if he thought it would help more than it’d hurt, he’d do it again in a heartbeat).



On Monday they’re met with familiar faces as they step out through the front door. Rose raises an eyebrow, but gives John and Jade a polite nod and then steps away, keeping her distance(and also putting Dave between them and her. Jerk). Dave just groans.

“Jade,” he says, giving her a deadpan stare, “what is this. Are you babysitting me.”

“Nope!” chirps Jade and gives him a bright smile. “Just, you know, keeping an eye out. For. Things.”

“We’re guarding you,” says John, quite matter-of-factly. “It’s too much of a risk to leave you unprotected, so…”

“So you will make sure he isn’t. Fair enough,” says Rose, and Dave gives in. No help from her, apparently. Rejoice, one and all, for the one chosen to have hot interspecies sex in the near future(he makes a note to come up with a better nickname. As soon as possible.) has acquired a pair of nannies. Disguised as bodyguards. This is fantastic.

Not.

He rolls his eyes(and then remembers that he doesn’t have his fucking shades, which means everyone saw it) and slumps. “Fine,” he says. “Fine. Faith in humanity officially abandoned-”(and he raises his voice to talk over Rose’s ‘finally, he sees sense’)”-and forgotten, how are you doing this, exactly? Jade, we don’t have the same classes, John, you don’t even go to our school and sorry not sorry but people are not very likely to believe you’re even fifteen so that option’s out and even if you somehow get around all of that, there’s the tiny little fact that you won’t be particularly useful bodyguards given that you can’t sneak weapons into a school.”

John looks vaguely fascinated. “Does he always talk that much without breathing in between?”

“Defense mechanism,” Rose replies promptly. “Most likely caused by perceived inadequacy in more physical aspects of warfare, coupled with-”

“Blah blah blah pot meet kettle also I’m still right here.”

Jade has the nerve to laugh, god damn her. “Sorry, Dave. What John meant to say was that a) I’ll follow you around whenever I get the chance and then John will pick up the slack, which he will be able to do because b) he’ll be working there!”

Dave blinks. “Wait, what?”

“Your janitor had an accident. I’ll be filling in for her until she feels better.”

Huh. Something about that sentence is strange. Like, maybe, how the ‘accident’ part is sounding kind of more than slightly suspicious.

“...dude, did you attack our janitor.

“What? No! I would never do something like that!”

Dave stares him down. “Not sounding too convincing there, really.”

“I swear, I didn’t!” John meets his eyes for just about half a minute before he winces and looks away. “Really, I didn’t! But, well…”

“But?” Rose prompts.

“...but there is a tiiiiiny possibility this girl I know, Vriska, did it for me. I didn’t ask her to, and we haven’t spoken in ages, so I can’t be sure, but it does kind of look like something she’d do? She’s always looking out for me!”

“Getting you into trouble, you mean,” mumbles Jade, and wasn’t Vriska that girl they met on his birthday? Jade didn’t seem to like her much then, and judging by her tone and general attitude that’s… still very much a thing. She looks positively murderous. “It only ever hurts people, John, I can’t believe you’d say that!”

“Hey!” John protests. “She was a very good friend to me, Jade, and you know that I’d be dead if it wasn’t for her help! She’s just… a bit eccentric, that’s all.” He shrugs. “They don’t do morals the same way we do, it isn’t her fault.”

Jade is glaring at him and looking like she’s about to start shouting when Rose cuts in. “I’m sure this is a fascinating subject, and trust me, we will be talking about it later, but Dave and I would prefer not to miss first period, and I believe we were promised protection? Not to mention that neither one of you has made the slightest attempt to answer Dave’s question about how you’re planning to protect him unarmed. I must admit that I am quite curious about that myself, so, if you would please…”

Gesturing at the road, she begins walking. It only takes Dave a fraction of a second to decide that he’d rather come with her than stay there and watch the exorcist siblings fight it out(though now that he thinks about it, that does sound rather awesome. Hell, maybe he should reconsider). John and Jade are with them a few meters after that, Jade toying with her necklace and looking down at the ground.

A heartbeat later there’s a barely-there flash of light and then she’s holding a rifle.

Dave instinctively grabs Rose’s arm and nearly chokes on his own spit. “Harley, what the hell.”

“You did ask us to explain!” she protests and aw hell no does she think they can’t see her smirking? Dave can so see her smirking. He releases Rose’s arm with a pointed glare in Jade’s general direction and gestures wildly at nothing in particular.

“That was not an explanation! That was - if anything - a really fucking shitty demonstration which did not actually explain anything it all and where the hell did you get that.”

“Well, actually, what you asked her to tell you was how we were planning on protecting you unarmed, so technically-” John dodges the fist Dave half-heartedly swings at him, still laughing as he ducks behind Jade. “Can’t tell you much, trade secrets and all, but basically Jade is really kick-ass when it comes to magic-y stuff.”

Jade laughs and pushes him off her back. (They sure bounce back quickly from arguments, Dave notes. Stopped being angry just as quickly as they started and- nope not going there, analysing people’s behaviour is aaaall Rose’s area of expertise.)

“It’s this, see” she says, lifting her necklace from her throat and holding it out towards them. “Like John said, I can’t tell you much, but it’s like a…” She shrugs helplessly. “There’s room inside it and I can put stuff in and take stuff out whenever I want? There are restrictions, of course, and they’re not very durable, but they’re really useful and not that difficult to make. John’s just bad at it.”

Rose nods thoughtfully. “Could I learn?”

“Maybe? I mean, there’s nothing stopping you, but…”

“But you’re not sure you’re willing to teach me.”

Jade shrugs apologetically. “Yeah. Sorry!”

“No, I understand completely.” (There’s no way she’ll leave that at that, either. Really though, magic space-folding charms which are basically real world bag of holdings but cooler? Hell. Fucking. Yes. They are so getting their hands on that, damn the consequences.) “You might want to put that away, though. Could be difficult explaining why you’re carrying a rifle around with you in the middle of town with not a crime to be seen.”

The rifle is gone as quickly as it had appeared(and yeah, definitely getting their hands on that), and a few minutes of mindless chattering(Rose asking more about different classes of demons and about what magic can and can’t do, Jade and John taking turns answering and or rejecting questions plus Dave and Rose having a silent conversation composed entirely of staring at each other and eventually boiling down to ‘so… you do your psychology bullshit to get more information and i’ll go look through the library for magic books that aren’t shitty rip-offs? yeah sure sounds great’), they split up and head off to face the real challenge; school.

(seriously, dave would take fighting demons over doing homework any fucking day. if one of those demons happened to be karkat and the fighting just happened to end in activities that would bump the rating up to nc-17, well. a dude can dream, right?) 

Chapter Text

It doesn’t take long for the entire bodyguard-stalker deal to become routine. He and Rose have made some subtle(and other, less-than-subtle) inquiries about various magic-y stuff during the past week, but so far, no luck. It’s kind of… weird. Dave had thought that Jade at least would be pretty easy to break, considering how much she talks, and John seems to be pretty dang terrified of Rose so it’s nothing less than a fucking miracle that he’s held out this far, but despite their combined efforts(and they are a force to be reckoned with), it’s been nearly five days and they haven’t managed to get hold of any interesting information at all.

Nor have they managed to distract them enough to sneak off on their own, together or apart. Why.

Seriously, at least one of their tricks should have worked by now, but whenever they try to pull something on John he just gives them a knowing smirk and threatens to assign detention just so he can keep better track on them(which is ridiculous because one, the dude is only three years older than them and should be painfully aware of how frustrating detentions are and two, he’s filling in for the janitor. can janitors even give detention?), and if they try to pull something on Jade, she laughs and tells them that ‘that won’t work on me, I’ve learned from the best’.

So, on the downside, it’s kind of looking like he’ll be stuck with having a pair of glorified babysitters for quite some time. Especially since they managed to talk Roxy into effectively grounding them both - no leaving the house unless John or Jade is with them. Bluh.

On the upside, he hasn’t been attacked and or molested even once while under their vigilant watch. He still sees the things, all of the time, literally always, but none of them have even dared to try to come near him while Jade’s there glaring at them. (Though, he admits, that might also be because of his- because of Karkat’s- because of the mark, which, coincidentally, brings him onto the next point.)

On the completely neutral no feelings attached to this fact whatsoever side of things, he hasn’t seen Karkat. At all. Not a word not a sigh nor a whisper and, also, the mark is kind of basically fading away. He can barely even see it in the mirror anymore;  yesterday he had to lay down and really focus to feel the connection (and even then it was faint and distant), and today, he hasn’t been able to feel it at all. It’s just. Empty.

To be honest, that part kind of sucks. No pun intended.

There’s nothing there anymore, but he still finds himself absent-mindedly covering his neck with his hand at times, touching the skin where it used to be(should still be he absolutely 100% does not think because he is not insane) as if he could somehow bring it back. Ugh.

Rose has noticed, he knows she has, and he can just feel her itching to talk to him about it. Jade’s noticed too, though he’s pretty sure she doesn’t know how often it happens. Everytime she’s seen it she looks like she’s about to go off on an angry rant, and Dave doesn’t really want to hear it, so he’s done his best to just… change the subject and redirect her attention to something else.

They haven’t dared to push her to tell them about Vriska yet. She’s been too upset, too wound up, looking like the slightest provocation would be enough to justify shooting someone down. It’s a lot more intimidating than he thought she even could be.

He’s pulled out of his musings by a rare and much treasured announcement from their teacher: “-and since you’ve all been working so hard, and this is your last class for today, I figure you’ve deserved to leave a few minutes early today.”

Oh hell yes.

He looks over at Rose and she smiles at him, barely able to conceal her excitement. Jade’s not in this class. This should give them ten, maybe twenty if they’re lucky, minutes before either one of them manage to get here. Hooray for small windows of freedom!

They shove their books back into their bags as fast as humanly possible(dave being careful not to jostle certain… other things he keeps in his bag these days) and leave side by side.

“I’m heading to the library,” says Rose. “There must be something of use there, and if nothing else, it will be delightful to have some time to myself again.”

Dave snorts. “You don’t say? And here I thought you enjoyed the constant supervision.”

She shoves him playfully in the shoulder before answering. “And here I thought I’d taught you better than that. Give me your demon stalker any day and I will relish the attention; this, however, is slightly out of my comfort zone. What’s your plan?”

He shrugs. “I dunno. I just really want to take a walk, actually. Kinda miss the solitude, you know?”

“I know.” They stop at the library entrance, and, completely unprompted, Rose leans forward and hugs him. “Be careful, Dave. Your demon may not seem all that dangerous, but we both know he’s not the only one. Don’t go too far.”

“I can deal,” he says, and then, as he registers what she said, “Hey, he’s not my-

-aaand then she’s gone. god damn it, rose.

Ah, well. Better get out of here before John or Jade realises they’re gone.

------------------------

Walking is brilliant. Dave hadn’t fully realised how much he missed it until now - not the actual walking, mind, but the small freedom of actually being able to choose where to go entirely on his own.

Actually, that’s… that sounds pretty pathetic. Oops. Finding pleasure in the small things is still a thing normal people do though, right? Because Dave feels so fucking normal right now. The absolute normalest.

...if only there weren’t so many stares.

See, normal stares - the kind you get when you stop hiding your freaky-coloured eyes in school when it’s been years since you last skipped out on wearing your shades - he could handle, those were easy, you just ignore them and keep doing your thing, but this? The excessive-amount-of-things-looking-like-they-want-to-murder-you kind of stares? Yeah, not quite as easy to ignore. The feeling of being watched hung over him like- like Roxy’s headaches did when she’d been drinking too much.

...the memories of what happened last time he walked outside alone are still very vivid. He’s pretty sure he’ll never properly forget, and it’s making him a bit uneasy - just a bit - but as long as he stays to areas with people around, he should be fine. He thinks.

Worst case scenario, there’s a kitchen knife in his bag.

What? Only an idiot would willingly stay unarmed knowing that there’s actually people after them.

Trying his hardest to look inconspicuous, he shrugs his backpack off his shoulders and feels around the bottom of it for the kitchen knife he put there the second day of school, careful not to cut himself(...there is a tiny possibility that he just kind of threw it in there without protecting it or the bag properly, but come on, he was in a hurry and he’s been really careful with the bag. mostly). The staring is kind of- it’s getting on his nerves, okay, and it’s really feeling like whatever it is that’s holding them off won’t keep doing so for long.

His phone starts buzzing in his pocket and he swears, nearly dropping the bag in surprise.

The edge of the knife nicks his finger.

“Are you fucking kidding me.”

Still swearing under his breath, he jerks the zipper shut, stuffing the injured hand in his pocket and grabbing after his phone with the other. (It might be alright. It really is just a scratch, and there hasn’t been that… that sudden atmosphere change, like last time. Then again, this time everything’s been feeling pretty threatening from the beginning.)

“Sup,” he says, tucking his phone into the space between his neck and shoulder to be able to toss his bag back over his left arm. “How’s it hanging, Harley?”

Dave,” comes the reply and oh, that’s not Jade, that’s John. Huh. “Where are you?”

“Walking,” he says(and really, that’s just the truth, isn’t it?). John groans loudly.

“You know what I mean, Dave, we’ve already told you it isn’t safe, just tell me where you are and I’ll come get you-”

Dave rolls his eyes. “No need, John, I’m fine. I’m coming back now, okay? Just needed some time to myself.” He crosses the road leisurely, picking his right hand back out of his pocket to hold the phone while he puts the backpack on properly. A car honks at him and he makes a rude gesture at it.

“Hey,” he shouts and gestures at the white lines on the ground. “Crosswalk, pedestrians take precedence!”

It honks again, louder, and he quickens his pace up a bit, glaring at it. The moment he’s far enough out of the way it speeds back up. As it drives away, the person riding shotgun leans out the window and shouts something at him, but they’re too far away and he can’t hear what they’re saying. Shrugging, he puts his phone back against his ear.

“Sorry, got a bit distracted - anyways, I’ll be right back, just meet me outside the school and-”

Someone pushes him back into the road, right in front of another car.

Shi-”  

he grabs at the air but there’s nothing there to anchor him-

there’s car’s wheels shriek as it tries to brake but it won’t be able to it’s going too fast he’s-

his phone falls to the ground and fuck, they’ll never let him out of their sights again-

someone in the crowd is screaming but what good will that do it’s not like they can help him now-

he is falling-

and then he lets his instincts take over, letting himself fall and hit the ground at a roll instead of trying to regain his balance. He’s back at the other side of the road in seconds, shakily getting back to his feet, breathing heavily and heart beating like crazy from the left-over adrenaline. Wow. That was a really unpleasant experience.

He looks back across the street only to see a swarm of demons - tiny ones, barely the size of his fingers - murmuring angrily amongst themselves. One of them makes an ugly face at him and if it wasn’t for the shock he’d probably flip it off or something, but as it is, he just stands there staring.

Not just the big ones that are dangerous, then.

“Oh my god,” blurts someone hurrying over the street, “are you okay?

Dave takes a deep breath and pats himself down, dusting off his jacket. “Yeah, I’m fine. No worries, didn’t you see my super-slick ninja moves back there? I’m a fricking superhero, no need to worry.”

The person(it’s a dude, dave notes now that they’re closer, probably a couple years older than he is. john’s age?) giggles nervously. “Yeah, they were pretty slick. Where did you learn that?” and then, before Dave gets time to reply, his face turns stern. “You could’ve died. You need to visit a hospital.”

“What.” he says completely deadpan, and then shakes his head(which really should count as a clear dismissal, which is why the dude should not follow him when he goes back across the street to pick his phone back up. “Dude, no, I’m totally fine, no broken bones or anything.” (though, now that he’s out of immediate danger and his adrenaline levels are making their way back to normal, his left elbow is feeling kind of weird and his hip aches quite a bit. Must’ve landed on it wrong when he fell. Ow.)

“You could’ve died,” he repeats.

“Yeah, thanks for rubbing it in,” Dave mumbles and hold his hand up to shut him up while he talks to John. “Hi.”

“Oh my god, Dave.”

“That’s my name.”

“What happened? You just disappeared, there was screaming, we thought-”

“Yeah. Sorry.” He inhales slowly before continuing. “I tripped over something, fell into the road.” There’s a shocked gasp from the phone and he continues hurriedly, drowning the protests out with a “I’m fine, didn’t get hit by any cars or anything, don’t worry, I’m coming right back to you-”

“Nnnno you’re not,” says the stranger cheerfully, “you had a bad fall and almost got hit by a car, you’ are not in any condition to go anywhere by yourself. Come on, if you don’t want to go to a hospital, at least let me follow you home.”

Dave groans. He’s nowhere near having the energy to fight this battle right now. “Yeah, sure, whatever. Sorry, John, say hi to Jade and Rose for me and I’ll see you later. Bye.”

“No, Dave, wait-”

He hangs up and turns to glare. “Don’t you think you’re pushing a bit too hard? I don’t even know your name.”

“Zach.” he says, sticking his hand out. Dave doesn’t take it and after a few seconds he awkwardly puts it back down. “Aww, come on, don’t be like that. Where are we going?”

“...few blocks north. Should be fifteen minutes’ walk.”

“What? No, you’re not walking that far after an accident like that. My apartment’s just five minutes away, I could-”

I’ve only just met you. I have no reason to trust you at all and really, every second you keep pushing drives me one step closer to just call for a god damned taxi and get out of here on my own already.”

The guy(Zach. Right.) groans and tips his head in his hands. “I know, I’m sorry, my girlfriend always tells me I’m too intense and I still keep screwing myself over - but please, let me help. You’re bleeding, and-”

“Wait, what?”

“-I’d feel awful if I didn’t help you, and-”

“I’m what?

Zach stills. “You’re bleeding,” he says carefully, and taps the side of his own head. “Right there. Not much, but it means you must’ve hit your head pretty badly.”

Oh. Oh, shit. Blood and a head injury and oh wow, he probably should’ve just let John pick him up after all, but hell if he’s going to admit that now. Suddenly following Zach home doesn’t sound like all that bad of an idea, because creepy human is way better than murderous demon, when you think about it.

“Okay,” he says, and Zach beams at him in a way that reminds him of Jade(and sends of another wave of toned-down guilt. maybe he should’ve listened to them. maybe.) before grabbing his hand and pulling him with him away from the street.

“Great! Come on, it’s just over this way…”

Chapter Text

They haven’t gotten far, but Dave is feeling extremely uncomfortable. Zach’s behaviour hasn’t changed in the least, but nonetheless, something is different.

On one hand, there are less demons around. On the other, there must be a reason for that, Dave’s body is giving him hell and is, you know, actually aching pretty badly, and to top it all off, there’s also less people around than before, which is a decidedly bad thing under the circumstances.

“Hey,” he says, interrupting Zach’s little monologue about… something, whatever, “Where did you say your apartment was?”

Zach makes a noncommital gesture. “We’re almost there. You’ll see.” and then he keeps talking, swiftly changing the subject.

Dave is keeping a pretty good eye on him after that, which is why he sees the punch coming. He ducks under Zach’s arm and runs a few steps forwards before turning around to face him again and, oh.

“Dude, what the shit?” He looks around for a way out - the alley they’re at doesn’t look like it’ll lead to a dead-end, but it’s unfamiliar territory and he’s not sure where he’d end up if he ran.

Looks like he might have to do that either way, though. Zach’s eyes are-

they don’t look all that human anymore.

So. Either psychopathic human out to fucking murder him or psychopathic demon, also out to fucking murder him. This is great.

There’s a strange creaking sound from Zach’s direction and he smiles, the corners of his lips stretching in a way that’s actually pretty disturbing when paired up with the staring. “Dave,” he says(and really, fucking really, is he actually going to do the face-heel-turn plus complete-personality-switch right now when did dave’s life turn into a shitty movie), “what do you think you’re doing?”

Zach steps forward, and Dave runs.

...fuck. fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck he should’ve seen this coming(why didn’t  he see this coming? - yeah, yeah, slight head trauma and shock but still) he knew everyone was out to get him and he still followed a stranger home, what made him be so stupid, he knew not all demons looked particularly much like demons(but zach didn’t look demony at all, what the hell) this is fucking insane-

He stumbles over the curb and keeps running as fast as he can, but his hip is still aching from the fall earlier(it feels like so long ago, all of a sudden), and he knows he won’t be able to outrun a demon.

Well, then. If he’ll have to fight either way, he might as well save his energy.

He runs around the next corner and then stops, fumbling with the zipper on his backpack. He should call Jade, he knows he should, but they’d never get there in time, so instead, he reaches into his bag and brings out the knife, takes a deep breath and steadies himself against the wall so that when Zach comes, he’s ready.

When he rounds the corner Dave pushes off the wall with everything he’s got and drives the point of the knife into Zach’s stomach as hard as he can with a low grunt as the air is punched out of his stomach. Zach freezes up and exhales - it’s a whining, abnormal sound and Dave wonders if he managed to puncture a lung - and Dave lets go of the knife, backing away. He’s breathing rapidly, calculating his next step - will it be enough to stop him? to slow him down? if he ran now, how far could he go?

He’s torn from his panicked planning when Zach opens his mouth to cough up blood(and it isn’t red, it’s black or something, looking more like oil than blood and Dave thinks he might throw up if he keeps looking so he tears his gaze away and focuses on breathing). “Now, Dave,” he says, voice scratchy and definitely not sounding very human anymore, fuck, “that wasn’t very polite. Is that how you normally greet new friends?”

“Wasn’t planning to be your friend,” Dave mumbles, still backing away but he knows he’s screwed now, Zach is- is changing, there’s a cracking sound as it looks like his arms are popping out of their sockets and he rips the knife out of his stomach with a sickening squelch. Blood splatters on the pavement.

“Oh, really?” says the- the thing, Dave can’t even call it a person anymore, it looks like something out of a shitty horror movie, all disjointed limbs and stary eyes and are those teeth, jesus fucking christ why him and then he keeps talking and why won’t it just stop, “Because I wanted to be your friend, Dave. Be your friend forever and ever. It’s such a shame.” He sounds almost regretful. “You could’ve lasted for weeks, Dave, if you hadn’t made it necessary for me to kill you.”

Had he heard this speech in a movie, he would have laughed and joked about how the script writers should be fired. But now, actually directed at him, it’s nothing short of terrifying. His breath is coming in short gasps but the adrenaline is pumping through his entire body and he can barely even feel the aching anymore.

He’s going to die. He’s going to die, and-

You know what? No, fuck that shit, he is not going to get killed by a werewolf wannabe just because he took a god damned walk. He is not going to die today.

He is going to motherfucking survive this and go back home so that he and Rose can laugh together at Zach’s shitty lines. He’s doing this, he’s fucking making this happen, just watch him.

When Zach pounces at him he’s ready, throwing himself to the side and rolling, getting back to his feet in the middle of the street. Easier to move out here. Zach snarls and jumps at him again, but he dodges and-

and this won’t work for long. He already knows he can’t run, so that option’s out, and while he’s pretty damn skilled at dodging he kind of gets the feeling he will grow tired before Zach will. He needs to be able to get in a good hit.

Next time he doesn’t dodge. He ducks down instead, punching upwards with his entire body, aiming for the knife wound from earlier. He hits. He knows he does, because Zach makes the same whining sound as earlier and Dave’s hand comes away covered in the black goo.

This time there isn’t time to dodge as teeth dig into his shoulder and he screams.

The pain shoots through his body and he tears himself away from Zach’s grasp, still screaming. Holy fuck that was painful, he’s-

He can’t-

His left arm hangs uselessly at his side as he gasps for breath and tries not to jostle it too badly. Fucking useless, what’s he supposed to-

The knife. He needs to get the knife, and then he needs to slice its fucking throat open, because this isn’t working(and Zach is straightening up again because wow guess what superspecial magical blood which gives energy and all that shit meaning that not only does he get hurt but Zach gets stronger and all of this is such fucking bullshit how are these odds fair in any sense of the word??).

He takes a deep breath, ignoring the pain from his shoulder(just a bit longer, just until he can cut him down) and feints to the left before making a run for it. There’s a frustrated growl from behind him and he speeds up, just a little bit longer, just a few more steps(don’t think about how it’s getting closer, don’t think about what happens if he misses), just a-

His fingers close around the handle and he spins, slashing backwards with a frustrated scream.

Everything… stops. For a few seconds he just stands there, breathing heavily with the knife buried in the side of the demon’s neck, it’s eyes staring at him but not really seeing, and then he rips the blade out, staggering backwards.

Despite all his determination, he didn’t expect that to actually work.

Zach hisses(and then splutters, black goo dripping from his lips) and brings his hand up to press against the wound. “You,” he snarls, but weakly, stuttering, “you fucking vermin, how dare you-”

And then it comes to a stop as Dave kicks him as hard as he can in the stomach. Zack falls to the ground with a low thump and Dave slumps against the wall, trying to get his breathing back under control.

“Well,” he mutters to himself. “That could’ve gone worse.”

He leans his head against the wall, closing his eyes, just for a short while. He just needs to- just needs to catch his breath, and then he’ll call someone, and they’ll bring him back home and fix his fucking shoulder, and everything will be fucking fine(and he does not look at the body at his feet and he does not look at the knife and he has not committed murder today because it doesn’t count if it’s in self-defence).

Someone else comes around the corner. She’s tiny, wearing a blue dress, and her hair is put up in a braid. Dave swears under his breath. “Listen, I know what it looks like,” he starts, but the moment she sees the body she stops and shrieks.

“Hey hey hey,” and fuck what if she calls the police on him how is he supposed to explain this, “just calm down, okay, hear me out here-”

You killed him,” she snarls, and he realises.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me.”

She’s not, and he barely has time to push away from the wall when she comes at him, still screaming. “You killed him, you fucking murderer, he was mine and you killed him-” and after that things only get worse. He still can’t move his left arm without it hurting like he’ll and he’s exhausted.

He’s not-

He can’t-

She slams him against the wall and he’s not even sure when he started screaming again, but everything hurts and he is bleeding, her nails tearing into his chest and he’s really going to die this time, john doesn’t know where he is jade doesn’t know where he is no one will be coming for him he’s going to die

his vision is going blurry and he can’t even scream anymore, not enough air to make any sounds at all except for the dry sobbing as he gasps for breath

he tries to struggle but she digs her fingers into his shoulder and it hurts everything hurts

a dark shape tears her away from him with a snarl and he slumps to the ground, not having enough energy to keep himself upright. There’s a sound like something breaking(her neck?) and this is his chance to get away, to run, but he still can’t move and he still can’t see and there’s nowhere to go. today is the worst fucking day.

there are footsteps coming closer and then someone crouches next to him, touching his shoulder and brushing their hands over his chest lightly, almost tenderly. he tenses up automatically, flinching away from the touch(and that was a shitty idea, what part of everything hurts hadn’t he managed to understand?), and then-

“You’re a god damned- how could you ever think this was a good idea, what the hell were you thinking, you’re gonna get yourself killed faster than an infant on a racetrack and I won’t always be here to protect you you incompetent douchenozzle” and, oh. All the tension bleeds out of his body(haha, bleeds) and he slowly lets himself relax. It’s okay, now.

“Hi, Karkat,” he pipes up weakly, but Karkat just keeps on talking right over him, -”what the fuck made you go out alone if you can’t even protect yourself-”

“Hey,” Dave protests(still weakly), because dude, pride, “I was holding my own perfectly fine until he brought in backup!”

Karkat just snorts. “Yeah, sure, if ‘holding your own’ entails nearly getting yourself killed-”

And killing a demon-”

“-sure, you were ‘holding your own’. God, it’s like you’ve never even learned basic fucking self-defence-”

Karkat steps up and away from him, beginning to pace back and forth, gesturing agitatedly as he keeps ranting about Dave’s inability to behave like a normal person and/or protect himself properly. Dave watches him, vision slowly going back into focus. He still hurts like hell(aaaand will probably need medical attention. maybe jade’s got some magic-y stuff for that? he can dream, right?), but there’s no immediate danger(he doesn’t think he’s going to bleed out, and Karkat doesn’t seem to be all that worried about the possibility either so it’s probably fine,) and he’s something more important on his mind, and Karkat gave him the perfect opening for it.

“So teach me.”

What.” Karkat stops dead in his tracks and turns to stare at him. Dave fights down the urge to squirm under his gaze. He never- never wants to feel that defenseless again. He needs to learn.

“You say you don’t want me dead, and that I’ll get myself killed walking alone without proper fighting skills. Well, I’m not gonna stop walking alone, so.” Deep breath. “Sounds like the best solution is for you to teach me proper fighting skills.”

“I- You-” Huh. Looks like he actually managed to make him speachless. Current score, Dave:1 Karkat: negative one hundred. Or something.

“Don’t stress it, dude, we have all day,” he says and is rewarded by a vicious glare.

“Why don’t you just ask your little exorcist friends? I’m sure they wouldn’t mind teaching you how to fight if it meant you going out to violently extinguish my entire god-forsaken race, hell, they’d probably be delighted, ask nicely and they might even help you do it!” By the end of it, his voice is sounding more like a snarl than anything, and Dave’s breath catches in his throat(but this is Karkat, and he wouldn’t hurt him. Probably).

“Careful, sounding a little bitter there.” This time, the look he gets actually makes him wince. “Sorry, too far. Anyways, I just… I dunno. Jade uses firearms and John has his weird hammer thing. At least your weapons are bladed.” He shrugs. “‘sides, I’ll be fighting demons, won’t I? Might as well spar against one, too.”

“...so you want me to teach you how to fight.”

“Yeah.”

“You want me to teach you how to kill my own kind, fully aware that I’m not human-”

“Haven’t we already had this conversation once? Yes.” Dave meets his eyes dead-on and tries to hold his gaze steady. “I want to learn. I want you to teach me. Will you?”

There is a breathless moment before he answers, a few, endless seconds where he cannot feel his heart beating and his blood runs cold because what if he says no-

“...yes.”

Before Dave’s able to properly register the word, Karkat is gone again, just as quickly and quietly as he came, and he is alone. Dave’s head falls back against the pavement(ouch.) and then it hits him. He said yes. He’s actually going to be sparring against a demon(sparring sessions that might, he very deliberately does not think, also come with the added benefit of hot make-out sessions. okay, who is he kidding, he is totally thinking that). Hell. Fucking. Yes.

He punches the air in victory before locating his phone and making a call.

“Rose? I might need you to pick me up.”

 

Chapter Text

The amount of fussing after what Jade had taken to calling “the stupidest stunt you’ll ever pull” (a name that dave, for the record, absolutely resented, because come on, he could do way worse) was unbelievable.

...wait, no, actually, it was probably directly proportional to the amount of damage he’d managed to rack up. He still couldn’t move his left arm without his shoulder hurting like fuck, and any kind of movement aggravated the wounds on his chest.

Roxy had taken one look at him and then forbidden him to leave the house(or, apparently, his bed) until she deemed him recovered. John and Jade had been over as soon as they heard he was back(they’d waited for him about thirty minutes before going looking, he’d heard), both absolutely furious with him, demanding to know what had happened. He told them about Zach(and got a small rant about how stupid he had been which, yes, thank you, he was well aware of), but a quick judgement made him decide to keep Karkat’s involvement to himself. There’d be less conflict that way.

Rose, on the other hand, had waited until everyone else had gone, and then demanded he tell her the whole story.

So he did.

She’d nodded, looking very thoughtful, and then fallen silent.

------

“Ow!”

“Sorry,” she murmurs and lets up on the pressure. He squirms uncomfortably, trying to escape the sting of the alcohol against his wound. “Stay still,” she admonishes, and presses the fabric back against his skin.

“But Rose,” he whines, trying to look as pitiful as possible. “It hurts.”

Rolling her eyes, she takes a step back, scrutinizing him for a few seconds before nodding determinately. “Can’t possibly be as bad as when you got them. Now hush, we need to get you bandaged up.”

She’s right, of course. Doesn’t make it hurt any less. He tries to relax, keeping himself still through sheer willpower, as she winds the bandage around his chest. His exhale turns into a hiss when she pulls a little too hard over one of the worse scratches.

“Ow!”

“I do believe I’ve already apologised once tonight,” she says, not even slowing down, “and that’s if you do not count the one I had to give John and Jade after being found.”

Dave snorts(and then tries not to whimper as the movement makes Rose’s hand slip and slide against his shoulder). “You got off easy. Did you hear them back then?”

“I did. Can’t say I blame them.”

“...yeah, me neither.”

They sit together in companionable silence as Rose ensures that her work has been satisfactory and finishes up, moving away to wash her(already clean) hands. “Tomorrow,” she says calmly, “I will go to visit John and Jade. If I am lucky, they will agree that it has been… less than advantageous to allow us to walk around unarmed.”

“You want them to teach you magic?”

She shrugs. “Maybe. I was hoping, at least, to be given a pair of Jade’s amulets. It would feel safer if I could carry something sharp around with me without fear of detection, and potentially, arrest.”

“We can agree on that part, at least.” He pauses. “Karkat said he’d teach me to fight. Do you want me to-”

She shakes her head almost before he’s finished the sentence. “No. While he has not yet actively tried to hurt you, I-” She pauses for a second before finishing the sentence. “We should not put all our trust in him until we know exactly what he’s trying to do, and why.”

Dave blinks. “We know what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to-” and he makes his voice as ridiculously flirty as possible for the next words “-seduce me.”

He waggles his eyebrows. She visibly fights the urge to facepalm. “Yes, but why?”

“What do you mean, why? I’ve told you, there’s the,” he makes an indecipherable gesture, “not-actually-prophesy thing. I’m their whatever.”

“Yes. You are. And as it has already been established that he does not want you dead, we have no reason to distrust his words about his ultimate motives. But,” and oh no, he knows that look, she’s about to say something that will make him doubt his sanity again, “what’s taking him so long?”

“What.” Actually, no, scratch that, she’s making him doubt her sanity. “Rose, what.”

She sighs before elaborating. “If the union is permanent, if you had no way to break it off, then there is no reason to wait. No disadvantages to just-” oh. oh. “-taking it. You. He’s had multiple chances, and he hasn’t - and I’m not saying I think he should, trust me, I am indescribably happy that he has not, but…”

“But you don’t understand his motives.”

“Exactly.”

Well, shit. Actually, out of that perspective(a demon perspective, why), Karkat’s actions don’t make much sense.

“God damn it, Rose.”

“Why, Dave?” she says, giving him that pseudo-innocent look that they both know very well he can see right through. “You wound me.”

He makes a grimace at her. “I thought I had it under control, and then you come say things like that, and now I’m just confused.”

“It might be nothing.”

“It might be important.”

“Or I might be reading too much into things. Who knows? Maybe Jade is entirely wrong about demons. Maybe she’s mostly right, but Karkat is an exception. Maybe he has a soft spot for humans.” She doesn’t say it, but the words are right there in her eyes when he looks at her. Maybe he has a soft spot for you. “There’s not much I can say other than to trust yourself, Dave. If you decide to believe he has good intentions, then I will stand with you. If you decide you want him gone, then I will do my best to assist.”

“...thanks, Rose.”

She shrugs. “You’re welcome.” Leaving the room, she throws her parting words back over her shoulder. “Though, next time we sneak off, we’re doing it together.”

“Love you too, sis,” he throws back, smiling.

So. Problem at hand: trusting the demon, or not trusting the demon?

...actually, put that way, it doesn’t even sound like a dilemma. The choice should be obvious, only-

-had karkat had any ill intentions towards him, he could’ve acted on them ages ago.

Fuck.

---------

He wakes to a soft tapping on his window and groans, trying to pull his blanket back up over his head only to wince and drop it back down when he remembers how restrained his movements are right now. Rolling over on his stomach, he glances at his digital watch. Who the fuck comes by at 3:30 in the morning?

It’s only then he realises that the sound came from the window, not the door, and suddenly he’s wide awake.

He gets out of bed, carefully, and makes his way over to the window, opening it just a small bit. The evening(morning? who even cares) air is chilly on his skin. It feels better than he’d care to admit. Another thing that feels better than he’d care to admit is realising who his mystery visitor is(though really, who else could it have been?)

“Sup,” he says casually to the demon hanging onto the tree right next to his room.

“...hi.” Karkat looks intensely uncomfortable and Dave fights the urge to smile.

“So, why’re you here?”

“Just. Checking up on you.”

Dave stares blankly at him, pretending not to understand in order to provoke a proper reaction, and sure enough, Karkat hisses and frowns at him. “You were hurt.”

“Well, yeah. Comes with being, and I quote, an ‘incompetent douchenozzle’ without survival skills who, coincidentally, has done pretty good with the surviving thing so far, if I may say so myself.”

Karkat rolls his eyes. “Oh come on. You’d be dead several times over if it wasn’t for me.” When he looks back at Dave there’s something - a challenge? - in his eyes.

Dave doesn’t even blink. “Yeah,” he admits casually, “I would. Betcha I could still take you in a fight if we evened out the odds a bit.”

A smug smile is slowly spreading across Karkat’s face, and Dave can’t help but mirror it. “How much is ‘a bit’?”

Shrugging, he thinks it over for a few seconds. “A month. Give me a month of sparring and I bet I’ll have kicked your ass at least once by the end of it.”

“As if.”

“Scared?”

“As if. You’re on.”

“You won’t even know what hit you.”

They stand there for a moment, just smiling, until Karkat breaks the silence and ruins at least half of Dave’s good mood by asking about the state of his injuries. He self-consciously rubs his hand over his shoulder. “Dude, they’re fine. Rose helped me clean them out and everything, no risk of infection or whatever crazy diseases demons could carry.”

“But they still hurt.” It’s a statement, not a question, and Dave sends him a vaguely frustrated glare.

“Well, yeah. I don’t know about you, but us humans” he puts extra emphasis on the word not really knowing why, “tend to take a pretty long time recovering after near-death experiences. They’re not about to just go away.”

Karkat is quiet for a short while, and then he seems to brace himself. “They could,” he says, hesitantly. “I mean, If you want me to, I could…”

Dave’s heart starts beating faster. “Yes,” he says, keeping his voice as level as possible. “You could.”

Karkat flicks his gaze down to Dave’s bandaged chest and then looks back up, meeting his gaze straight on. A paus. A deep breath.

“May I come inside?”

Dave exhales slowly, leaning against the window pane, considering. Karkat is a demon. Karkat wants his blood - no, that’s not true, Karkat wants to weird-demon-marry him forever and always which is possibly even more creepy. Karkat cannot hurt him if Dave does not let him in. Right now, this house is a safe place, a sanctuary, and that could be broken if he said yes.

Nonetheless… Karkat cares about his survival. Karkat cares about keeping him safe. Karkat is giving him the choice.

Karkat has listened when he has said ‘no’.

“Yes,” he says, and opens the window.

---------

Karkat unwinds the bandages slowly, careful not to hurt him necessarily. (Normally Dave would protest the too-gentle treatment, stating that he is not fragile and will not be so easily broken, but tonight it is a welcome change of pace.) Neither one of them speaks - there is much to be said, but not right now.

The last bandage comes loose and Dave takes a shaky breath as Karkat nudges him back onto the bed, settling on top of him and presses his mouth against Dave’s injured shoulder.

This… is not like before. Where the first time was like a raging wildfire, this is more like a steadily burning candle - still warm, still dangerous, but not as rushed, as urgent. There’s time.

Karkat’s mouth slides down from his shoulder to lick across one of the scratches on his chest and he inhales sharply, the gasping sound breaking the silence. His back arches into his touch almost without Dave asking it to(though he certainly doesn’t protest).

Everywhere Karkat touches him there is warmth, stripes of fire all across his chest, the heat pooling down to below his stomach. He feels like he’s in flames, shaking apart within himself, and judging from the way Karkat shudders when Dave pushes them closer to each other,  slotting their hips together and grinding, he feels much the same. There’s a low whining at the back of Dave’s throat and Karkat answers with a muffled groan as he moves upward, sucking hard and sinking his teeth into Dave’s neck, at the same place as before, determinately leaving his mark on his skin.

Dave whispers “yes” and exhales in a shudder as he surrenders completely, going limp in Karkat’s arms.

He is burning, and all is right with the world.

---------

He expects the bed to be empty when he wakes up, but it’s not. Karkat is still curled up around him, arm splayed out possessively over his chest. For a moment, Dave just lies there. Watching. Considering. Then he gently nudges Karkat awake, smiling when he blearily looks up at him.

“Morning,” he murmurs. “Wakey-wakey, sunshine.”

Karkat groans and pushes his face back down into the pillow. “Go back to sleep, asshole.”

Dave snorts. “Yeah, sure. Just figured that you might want to consider getting the hell out of dodge before Roxy comes in here and finds a half-naked-kind-of-dude in my bed. Somehow, I don’t imagine that conversation going down too well.”

“...point.”

Karkat pushes himself off the bed and stumbles over to the window, rubbing his eyes as he goes.

“Wait,” Dave says before he really realises he’s saying something. “That didn’t count as sex, right?”

“Still wearing pants, aren’t you? 

 

 

 

 

 

...aaand that's where it ends! sorry. the entire chapter is very forced and doesn't exactly flow naturally, but that's as good as we're gonna get rn. 

Here's what I'd planned out for how the story ends(new author is free to follow it or come up with something entirely different) (these are my actual planning notes they might not make a lot of sense to other people):

Things that should be happening in FSiS(by chapter?)

  • Rose gets held hostage(...by Vriska?), Dave keeps it a secret due to following stupid conditions and goes off to find her on his own, is nearly killed while doing so and is eventually injured badly enough that Karkat decides not to leave him in the normal mortal world but instead brings him to the demon-y realm. yay. Rose gave him her blessing to do this. (this is rose's final flipping point to deciding to learn magic no matter what, she's not about to stand around being HELPLESS for fuck's sake and then she fucks everyone else up but that's okay bc she's badass.)

    • She then breaks into the demon realm when Dave’s been gone for too long, completely fucking unflappable being like ‘Hello. If you don’t mind, could I speak to my brother?’ and Karkat is so frustrated it’s just ‘ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND WHAT MADE YOU THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA’ and then somehow there is Kanaya ok there must always be rosemary

  • They go back to normal world and Jade&John are freaking the fuck out like ‘DAVE ARE YOU OKAY OH MY GOD WE ARE SO SORRY DID THEY HURT YOU DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR FREE WILL WE WILL NEVER LET YOU OUT OF OUR SIGHT AGAIN’ and dave is mainly just annoyed because yeah it was kinda shitty but he’s fine now and karkat helped him and then he realises that is apparently the entire problem and eventually Jade tells him the Tavros story.

    • There was this boy, this other exorcist that Jade knew once, and he was really sweet but kind of shy and also occasionally kind of creepy and he met someone. Met Vriska and well basically he’s dead and gone now and Vriska got wings out of the entire thing so there’s that all demons are evil motherfuckers stay away (dave doesn’t)

  • Somehow Dave starts hanging with Tz idk Karkat’s not very happy about it but dave's a stubborn bastard and doesn't listen. also karkat's gotta go out of town for a while bc demon business, he assigns sollux as dave's body guard, they bond over how much of a fucking idiot karkat is sometimes. it's a civil broship they get by alright. 

Endgame: Dave, having grown sick of Karkat’s dragging it out shit, trusts Terezi and comes with her to… somewhere. She hurts him. Badly. Also, rape-y undertones and actual tones as she not only very nearly drinks him dry to make him more compliant but also tries to get in his pants. Creepily.
After a way-too-close call(meaning dave is bleeding like fuck and can't really move anymore), Karkat and Sollux arrives. There’s a scene here; I believe it concerned Karkat holding his sickle at her throat and growling as she laughs and taunts him because ‘as if you have the guts to, couldn’t even take the kid when he threw himself at you, you’re pathetic’ and then he breaths, once, twice, steps away and goes to help dave instead(dave tilts his head towards karkat instintively and karkat wants to kill her so badly but that's not what he does) and terezi laughs and laughs and then, cradling dave in his lap and lifting him up bridal style to get him out of there, karkat gives the order. ‘sollux. blind her.’
 

 

aaaaand that's all i have. 

thank you to anyone who read this long! and i am really sorry for letting you guys down <3