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[Panel description: John lifts his arms and shouts a greeting. Dave looks back at him.]

JOHN: hi Dave!!!
DAVE: oh hey.
jade just left, hope you didn’t want to check in with her.

[Panel description: John pulls Dave into a hug. Dave's eyebrows rise, and he leans back limply.]

[Panel description: John and Dave both sit on the edge of the roof, letting their legs dangle over the edge. The viewer sees them from behind. They're resting their hands on the edge of the roof, with their cape and hood trailing onto the ground.]

JOHN: no, I already got the name she needed to give me.
so I figured I should meet up with you so we can leave.
it's so great that we're going on a mission together!
last time we were in the game I missed my chance to hang out with you in person.
DAVE: didn’t you get 3 years of forced quality time with Dave sprite.
I'd think you’d be suffering a severe case of strider fatigue by now.
making home and gardens patented cleansing smoothies so you can detox while shitting the rainbow.
it’ll take at least a week to get your blood toxicity down to acceptable levels just a warning.
consider yourself lucky that your case is curable.
I can’t breathe into an interlock device without an alarm going off telling me I’m too cool to drive.
JOHN: Dave sprite doesn't count!
we didn't exactly have a lot of great times.
I mean, he's lightened up a little today, and I guess I can see where he was coming from on some things, but it still wasn't like it would've been if you'd been there instead.
DAVE: how.
just out of curiosity you get me.
gotta keep an eye on how the markets receiving my competitors product.
JOHN: I feel kind of bad complaining about him now... especially since we were all going to try to do better.
DAVE: consider this your free pass.
jade already dinged me on this one but I’m not asking about him I’m asking about me in relation to him that’s gotta be kosher right.
JOHN: well...
he was always brooding and moping around all the time! which got everyone down.
and he was so sensitive, he could not take a joke.
remember when he got upset that I said he wasn't the real Dave and you said you wouldn't mind? you're much more laid back about that kind of thing than he is.

[Panel description: The perspective switches to view the boys from the front. Dave raises both hands to aid his explanation, while John raises an eyebrow.]

DAVE: oh.
JOHN: um...
I still feel a little guilty talking about all this behind his back.
especially since apparently he was doing some of this on purpose "for my own good" or something??
which between you and me is still not very convincing.
DAVE: no no go on.
we need to see this to the bitter end at this point.
JOHN: ok...
he'd disagree with stuff I said probably to be surly, because it didn't sound like something you'd have a problem with before.
you never cared when we'd rag on each other, we were just being bros!
and that's before he started INTENTIONALLY trying to get under my skin.
I don't know, I don't want to be a douche about it, but the point is he wasn't much like you at all.
I guess it's fine if he wants to be more touchy!!! but it was definitely a surprise.
DAVE: oh boy.
JOHN: what, what did I say?
DAVE: nothing.
just,
no wonder.
JOHN: no wonder WHAT?
DAVE: I’m having seer level flashbacks of how this all went down.
damn.
so,
every time he did something you didn’t like,
you assumed it was because he wasn’t me.
JOHN: well when you put it like THAT, I sound like a jackass.
but more or less.
DAVE: look uh.
first I’m gonna establish that we aren’t the same dude anymore but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have some things in common.
like our stunning good looks for example.
JOHN: sure.
DAVE: and,
ok here’s an example.
remember when you said my bros puppets were terrible,
but I kept insisting they were the shit because I’d climbed that hill of plush foam ass and was prepared to die on it.
JOHN: yes, I remember! are you admitting you were wrong?
DAVE: sort of.
I never meant it.
had to keep up appearances you know.
that’s not the best example but the point is maybe I gave you impressions when we were all kids talking online that weren’t entirely accurate.
who’d have thought that right who would think people would go on the internet and tell lies.
obviously it’s been 3 years and we’ve all changed.
I don’t know everything you said or he said or the details.
but in general I can kinda see why you might have been expecting something different than what you got.
and that’s not all on him.
JOHN: oh jeez, you aren't doing the jade thing, are you???
DAVE: the jade thing.
what jade thing.
JOHN: like how she went crazy and then said she was making a bunch of stuff about herself up!
I’m not sure I can handle that from TWO people today.
DAVE: do I look like a rabid werewolf.
besides this is a facade maintained for ironic stoicism not repression there’s a big difference.
we’ll call it the Dave thing.
there can be a john thing if you want.
JOHN: what ever you call it, I am a little unsettled!
do you also want to kick me in the stomach?
DAVE: that’s oddly specific but no.
I’m not mad at you.
but even though I hear the guy was waging some sort of self sabotage campaign I can see why he might’ve been upset.
and maybe when he did stuff you weren’t expecting you assumed it was because of differences between us but that might not have always been true.
now the standard for comparisons back in town and if I do something you don’t like there’s no one else for you to blame.
I don’t want to ruin a friendship because of that so I might as well give you a heads up now.
dunno exactly what you were expecting but it might be a good idea to check your preconceived luggage at the gate before the plane takes off.
otherwise an expectation engine might blow and well crash-land back through the outrageous assumption zone rose already plowed us through and I’ve had enough terrible airplane crises today.
last thing we need is to be serial castaways trapped in metaphorical island purgatory together.

[Panel description: John tilts his head, making a confused expression.]

DAVE: did I lose you with that metaphor or are you stuck in TSA screening?
JOHN: uh...
DAVE: you ok?
is this one too many stunning revelations and your heads about to explode like the dudes in raiders of the lost ark at the sight of sorta sexy ghost ladies?
JOHN: those weren't ghosts, they were angels!
sheesh, Dave, really.
DAVE: good I’m glad this is what you’re fixating on.
JOHN: I guess I need to think about the rest of it?
a lot has been happening today, and a lot of people have been surprising me.
DAVE: sure take your time.
but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t start screaming "kill the imposter" and attempt to exorcise whatever demonic force has taken control of my body the first time I go off script.
JOHN: I will keep the torch and pitch fork mob at bay for the moment.
for now, we have someone to rescue!
so I guess I’ll put this out of my mind for now and try to have a good time.
DAVE: yup that’s the john thing right there.
JOHN: bluh bluh, what ever.
I don't have time to pass out in a drive way right now.
DAVE: wait what?
JOHN: never mind.
ready to go?

[Panel description: They both look behind them, where Dave sprite's silhouette approaches.]

DAVE: hang on looks like visiting hours aren’t over yet.

[Panel description: The three boys are rendered in sprite mode. Dave and John stand facing Dave sprite, who hovers.]

DAVE SPRITE: hey.
JOHN: oh! um, hi.

[Panel description: Dave sprite raises an eyebrow with a small frown. John turns away from him, looking annoyed.]

DAVE SPRITE: is there a problem?
JOHN: nope, nothing wrong here!!
DAVE SPRITE: ok.
glad I caught you.
JOHN: jeez, why does everyone have to talk to us before we go??
we're not going to drop dead, you know!
DAVE: it’s like they don’t trust us
DAVE SPRITE: I was talking to rose about john’s part of the plan.
JOHN: oh, is this what she meant by "regulating my behavior"?
DAVE SPRITE: basically.
she wanted to know how hard you could buzz around space time before it got out the flyswatter.
and I guess by virtue of throwing a tantrum about it I’m now the official go to guy about that even though I definitely don’t have a degree.
I printed my diploma off the internet don’t tell her.
DAVE: so what’s the damage?
is this mission the equivalent of giving time itself a wedgie?
JOHN: I already did that!
DAVE: wait really?
when?
JOHN: right before I came back and found out everyone had gotten killed.
it was a battle for the ages.
I’ll tell you the whole story later!
DAVE SPRITE: the story now is that any fucking with causality is going to get something’s attention.
the last one wasn’t too bad.
that troll zombie or whoever whose antics I completely missed out on sent us down a doomed timeline so getting it back on track was fine by English.
he wants to make sure his universe gets made otherwise he doesn’t happen.
which is the equivalent of twisting p space into a pretzel in yet another mobius double go fuck yourself.
the alpha timeline needs to make sure he gets made I think.
we can fuck around in all sorts of directions within those parameters and he doesn’t care.
but making him happen is enforced by virtue of him being behind essentially everything
to the extent that he embodies the timeline itself,
which means we can lay all the times it’s personally victimized us on him.
DAVE: finally a motivation to kill this guy.
DAVE SPRITE: I know right.
anyway this time you’re messing with his personal chronology in a way he won’t approve of.
he’ll find out about it.
even if he can’t intercept you because of whatever Roxy’s doing,
how did rose explain it?
there’ll be like
a tear.
a tear in the fabric of time and he’ll be able to follow it back to its source.
JOHN: me?
DAVE SPRITE: you.
this whole session really.
and since we’re not planning on banishing you to some godforsaken corner of the multiverse to throw him off the scent he’s going to find us.
so when you get back be ready for a fight.
JOHN: sorry!
that's not good...
oh man, you warned me about this, didn't you?
you said I had to be careful not to catch anyone's attention, and here I am doing it.
whoops.
but I don't think there's anything else I CAN do.
this is the best chance we have to save Roxy’s friend.
DAVE SPRITE: sometimes there aren’t any good choices.
you have to figure out whichever one is the least terrible and go with it.
DAVE: we had to fight him anyway didn’t we?
JOHN: yeah.
it was going to happen sooner or later, so at least we get to save his sister before hand.
DAVE SPRITE: whenever someone gets a power that’s too awesome to use you know they’re gonna get backed into a corner and have to use it.
narrative 101 shit right there.
right next to enchanted weapons and megalomaniacal big bads and every other facet of this adventure.
tell me when did we get this cliché.
JOHN: I’ll try to complete my mission unconventionally.
uh...
thanks for the help.
the warning, and, the other stuff.

[Panel description: Dave sprite leans in. John angles his body away from him with a frown.]

DAVE SPRITE: it’s what I’m here for.
literally.
JOHN: sure, but you didn't have to do it.
DAVE SPRITE: come back in one piece ok.
I need some humor in my life.

[Panel description: John leans his head back. The word ‘roll’ is written in a long arc over his head.]

JOHN: rolls eyes.
ha-ha, very funny.
see, you don't need me for quality comedy content.
DAVE: before we go there’s something I wanted to say,
in case anything happens.
DAVE SPRITE: what the fuck dude do you want to die?
that’s cinematic suicide right there you might as well fondly regard a photograph of your wife and infant child at that rate come ON.
DAVE: sure but you cut me off before I could relay potentially important information,
thus also dooming me to Hollywood certified extinction.
DAVE SPRITE: damn.
let’s acknowledge that my entire existence is the kind of death omen dreamed up by a one night stand between Edgar Allen Poe and a taxidermist and move on.
what is it?
DAVE: about the shit we said.
or I said.
DAVE SPRITE: nah we can admit to shit being said on both sides.
if we’re admitting to that happening but apparently it’s gotten out everywhere at this point despite mutual vows of silence.
I think rose is putting the whole episode together in a broadside.
DAVE: I guess you had a few decent points mixed in with the standard altself mudslinging.
and,
I’m sorry you got the shit end of the timeline stick.
and that I didn’t have any better contingencies in place than shaking the stick around until the shit flew off again.
but about my "purpose" or whatever.
maybe you do know what’s best for me.
maybe you are my spirit guide or whatever the hell sprites are supposed to be in a fully functioning play through of this game.
but I can’t be the better you.
I can’t fulfill whatever idealized vision of yourself you wished you could do or be.
I’m having a hard enough time being me.
so if there’s some ultimate achievement you think we need to unlock before this is all over you’re going to have to do it yourself man.
I don’t know what I’m going to do but I have to figure that out on my own.
really on my own not on the words of dubiously also me versions of myself with three years of going through other bullshit.
DAVE SPRITE: fair enough.
it’s not like you were wrong about everything you said either.
I was trying to push everything off on you since I’m way past when I was going to stick around.
so I guess we both have to figure out what we’re here for now.
DAVE: right now its cherub wakeup machine and bodyguard.
could be worse I could be a Wal-Mart greeter.
DAVE SPRITE: what’s your plan if you run into any version of English out there?
DAVE: dunno.
guess I’ll have to fight him won’t I?
can’t change a prophecy right?
that’s what rose says anyway and she should know.
use the sword everyone keeps insisting on.
fulfill my cosmic destiny so skaia will shut up about it already.
not much of a plan but it’s all I’ve got right now.
DAVE SPRITE: you’ll figure it out.
DAVE: because I’m the alpha?
DAVE SPRITE: nah.
because that’s what we do.
we make it work.
see you when you get back.
DAVE: there you go again jinxing us.
quick is there any wood to knock.
JOHN: none of that matters, because we're going to be JUST FINE.
sheesh, you're both being such downers! nothing terrible is going to happen.
look, I’m totally jinxing all of us right now and I don't care, because none of that is real.
DAVE SPRITE: you heard him.
if anything goes wrong it’s on john now.
DAVE: agreed.
scapegoat secured.
JOHN: sigh.
you guys are super funny today, I am laughing on the inside.

[Panel description: John puts one hand on Dave's shoulder and raises the other in a wave. Both are turned away from Dave sprite but looking over their shoulders.]

JOHN: are you ready to go?
DAVE: I guess.
see you later.
JOHN: be back soon!

[Panel description: John and Dave glow blue and vanish.]