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The Blackout

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Ice chips and vanilla flavoring rest like lead in my stomach as the cold slowly works its way through my body. The sun blazes down on me and my sunglasses almost aren't enough to shield my eyes from it. Pushing them up the bridge of my nose, I quickly grab an empty spot on a bench, slumping down. My clothes are rubbing me the wrong way and the slight sheen of sweat that covers my body makes them stick uncomfortably. Jesus fuckin' christ I hate Texas. I almost wish I was back in Washington again, watching the rain pelt against the windows. Watching John watch the rain with that stupid, buck-toothed smile on his face.

"Let's go outside, Dave!"

"Dude, it's raining. Now way. You tryin' to get me sick?" John tugs on my arm pleadingly and bites his lip.

"Please, Dave? You'll have fun! Really..." And of course he smiles up at me like I'm the only thing standing between him and his goddamn happiness. Maybe I am... I sigh eventually and hesitantly go outside like I'm some kind of goddamned cat. Here John let me rub up against your leg. A smirk graces my face at that and he turns to me, grinning at me from ear to ear. "Come on!" He runs around like a lunatic, barefoot and jumping into puddles. I huddle on the porch, not liking this at all. I look up slowly as the thunder starts, small shocks of lightning dancing through the clouds.

"John... Maybe we should go back inside-" Lighting strikes the tree next to John with a thunderous crack, blinding me for a moment and I cry out John's name. When I look again, John's covering his eyes and huddling on the ground right next a tree branch that's fucking on fire. "John!" Lightning cracks again and I run over to him, yanking him up and rushing inside the safety of the house, spots blasting in my vision. I hold him against the wall after I slam the door shut and try to move his hands away from his eyes. "John, lemme see. Come on, man." He finally lets me move his hands and I frown when he blinks rapidly.

"D-Dave! I can't see." That makes me panic and I rub his shoulders, unsure of what to do. Oh shit oh shit what do I do oh shit. "Oh god Dave what if it's permanent! I c-can't see anything!" My eyes are still adjusting as I pull him over to the couch. I sit him down on it and carefully rub his back.

"Man, you gotta calm down. I'm sure it ain't permanent." John continues to cry, heels of his hands pressed against his eyes. I say nothing else and just sit with him, arm slung around his shoulders awkwardly as I rub small circles into his back. Shit when the fuck does Dadbert get home. At no point does it occur to me to call 911 or his father, who's office and cellphone numbers are taped to the refrigerator. I just sit there like a dumbass trying to comfort my best friend when I should've called someone. Anyone. John calms down sometime later and I jump up at the crunch of car tires in the driveway. I run over to the door and fling it open, rushing over to John's dad, who's staring at the charcoaled branch in concern. "Dadbert!" His head snaps up, the concern on his face only increasing as he sees the panic on mine.

"Dave, what's wrong? Are you and John alright?" I frantically shake my head and grab his hand, tugging him inside,

"No! It's John! We were outside and shit it happened so fast and fuck John can't see!" I don't have to tug him anymore as he runs inside and over to John. I stand against the wall awkwardly as John's dad kneels next to him, talking. John shakes or nods his head every so often. After a few minutes he hoists John up and walks over to me with him.

"We need to take him to the hospital." I go cold all over and feel myself go pale. I unconsciously grab my best bro's hand as we slowly walk to the car. The ride is bumpy in places and I hold John close to me, more for my comfort than anything else. I continue to hold his hand, terrified as fuck. Everything almost seems unreal as we reach the hospital. A couple of nurses rushing him off to a room. A room they won't allow us to go into. I quietly sit next to John's dad as he fills out paperwork. The fluorescent lights glare off of the walls, making me feel sick. Sicker. Fuck. Yanking my phone out of my pocket, I shakily open my pesterchum app.

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering
tentacleTherapist [TT] --
TG: lalonde hey Lalonde
TG: Rose come on
TG: thats oksy
TG: ill just sit here with dadbert freaking out no big deal
TG: keep writing your wizard porn or w/e
TG: its cool...
TG: i just love sittin here staring at the wall
TG: wondering if johns gonna be alright
TG: fuckin hospital scenes man
TG: johnll wake up from his coma
TG: and ill run into his room
TG: and fling my arms around him all
TG: oh john dont you ever do that to me again
TG: and well kiss and flowers will bloom in the background
TG: itll be the kawaiiest shit ever ok
TG: rose...??
TG: damn

-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering
> tentacle Therapist [TT] --

I aggressively shut my phone off, shoving it into my pocket with shaking hands. I jump when John's dad lays a hand on my shoulder. Glancing up at him behind my sunglasses, I hunch in on myself a little.

"Dave, Are you alright?" I give a short nod and keep staring ahead at the wall.

"Fine. I'm way cool Dadbert. I'm like an ice cube over here. Chill as hell." He doesn't say anything and neither do I. Preferring silence to awkward waiting room talk. He sighs a little and gives my shoulder a squeeze before going back to fill out paperwork. Some time passes and a doctor comes out, all nervous looking. My stomach drops.

Long fucking story short, John's vision was- is still damaged. Blind on one side and blurry on the other. Even with his special glasses on. On second thought, I shouldn't be anywhere near John. I look down at my iced coffee, melted as shit and steadily growing warm. I let out a sigh and toss it into the garbage next to me. I have no idea how John could still be friends with me-

Shots shots shots shots
Shots shots
Shots shots shots
Shot shots
Shots sho-

I scramble for my phone, cursing Bro in my head. How many fucking times have I told him to not mess with my phone? The top left corner of my phone is blinking with a new text message and I open it without thinking.

Mike: where r u?

I consider my options and quickly text him back.

Me: nowhere
Me: what do you want???

There's a short pause and my phone buzzes again.

Mike: come over

I scoff at that and swiftly tap out my reply.

Me: yeah fucking right
Me: after how you treated me last time??
Me: no dice

Mike: come on babe. I already said I was srry
Mike: what else do u want?
Mike: u want me to write it out or some shit?

Yeah. Or some shit.

Me: leave me alone asshole

He doesn't text me after that and I head home, relieved.

I can already tell Bro isn't home when I open the door to our apartment and try to swallow the aching feeling in my chest at that. I'm sixteen. I can take care of myself... The black eye begs to differ, though. I lock the door and shuffle to the bathroom, avoiding looking at myself in the mirror. The tiles are cool as I sit on the floor, back against the wall.

Don't do it.

I fish my wallet out of my pocket, carefully grabbing out the razor from a card slot. The ache starts up again and I set the razor on my thigh. Rolling my right sleeve up, I blankly look at the scars and scabbed over cuts.

Fuck that.

What's a few more? Not like I don't have a plethora of 'em already. I convince myself, like always, that this is totally a great idea and that is a thing that should continue happening. The cool metal of the razor is like a gift in my hand as I hold it to my arm and breathe through my nose. The first cut has me gasping and I slowly look down to see blood already sliding down my arm. Why isn't he ever fucking home? Jesus, what'd I do that was so fucking bad? Why doesn't he care about me? The ache just grows and I proceed to mutilate the fuck out of my arm. Slicing the blade through my skin and generally making a huge mess of my arm and clothes. Should've taken my clothes off first. The blood seems pour from my arm as I tilt my head back against the wall, mind drifting in the searing pain. The amount of blood makes me ill and it strikes my vision as I look at it. Fuck cleaning up. I'll do it later. A long breath escapes me as I slowly get up with a grunt, replacing the blood flecked razor in my wallet and opening the bathroom door. I feel a lot fucking better now. The apartment is still empty, though. And Bro isn't going to show up anytime soon. Fuck that too. I don't feel better. I don't feel better at all.

Chapter Text

When I wake up the next morning, I'm dizzy and my stomach feels like a fucking void. I moan in pain when I shift, arm sleeve painfully pulling at my skin. It feels like my arm's on fire and shit why didn't I clean my arm off last night? I sigh as I sit up, hand hovering over my abused appendage. Groping for my sunglasses, I jam them onto my face and hear noise beyond my door. Wonder how long Bro's been home? I tug on a sweater before I get up and carefully walk into the living room.

"Bro?"

"In here, little man!" he shouts from the kitchen. I walk in, attempting to look chill as fuck in my sweater and aviators. He raises his eyebrow at my attire, then looks straight at the bruise spreading beyond my sunglasses. He walks over, grabbing my chin gently and tilting my head up. "Dave... Who did that?" I move his hand away and shrug, plopping down in a kitchen chair.

"Got in a fight. No big deal." He doesn't say anything for a minute and sits in the chair next to me, chin in his hand.

"There more bruises? That why you have that hot-ass sweater on?" I just shrug again and tug at my sleeves, making doubly sure they don't roll up. Fuck that noise. No way Bro is ever finding out. But... maybe he does know and just doesn't give a shit. Wouldn't be surprised. I stand without a word and grab myself a bowl of Lucky Charms. Magically delicious my ass. It tastes like cardboard going down and fuck I could really go for a cigarette right now. Eventually I'm just pushing mushy cardboard around in warm milk. Bro says nothing else, not like I thought he would anyways, and eats his own breakfast silently. I know he's looking at me from behind his stupid sunglasses, but I make sure to not even look in his direction at all.

"I should go, Bro. Got school and shit. Can't get into Harvard if I'm gettin' bad grades." He frowns at me and walks into the living room without a word. Whatever. Ass. Before I can even open the door there's a loud knock on it. I look at it in confusion and tilt my head. No one ever comes here. What the fuck? There's another knock and I fling the door open, ready to lay down some sick raps on whatever fucker decided to show up at the Strider household unannounced. All of the thoughts flee, though, as Mike stands on the other side. I stare up at him, mouth gaping a little. "What the fuck are you doin' here? How do you even know where I live?" In all the time we've been together, I never told him where I live. Not even the general area.

And he shrugs, like it isn't a big fucking deal that he's here and that my Bro's in the other room and oh fuck why is he here? "Followed you a couple of times. Who cares." I stare at him blankly for a moment, then the rage builds up inside me. I step into the hallway and slam the door shut.

"Do you know how fucking crazy that makes you sound! You can't just show up here you inconsiderate prick! My brother's in the fucking apartment," I hiss quietly. My chest is heaving and my fists are clenched at my side and oh god it looks like he's going to hit me he's going to hit me but I don't care. His hand clamps around my arm and I hiss in pain, attempting to pull away with no results. He scowls at me, stupid green eyes narrowed. I cringe as he pushes my sleeve up, revealing my grotesque arm.

"I thought I told you to cut this shit out." It's not a question and I know he doesn't want an answer, so I just stay silent.
His grip tightens and I suck in a breath.

"Let. Go. Of. Me," I manage, yanking my arm again and biting the inside of my cheek. All he does is twist his hand around my cuts, almost making me cry out. "Motherfucker, I'll-"

"Do what? Go cry to your precious Bro? Your Egderp?" He gives a smirk, pulling me up against him. I hate him. "You know they don't give a shit about you." You're wrong you're wrong let me go. "Even you're not that stupid, Dave." Tears prick at my eyes, but I won't give him the satisfaction.

"I said let go of me you unbelievable jackass!" I twist my arm out of his grip, cuts stinging and skin damp. I hastily yank my sleeve down, smearing even more blood on my arm. "Get out of my apartment. Get out of my neighborhood. Get away from me!" He stares over my shoulder and I turn with a vague hope that no one's standing there. Of course. Of course Bro is standing right behind me with his arms crossed. His always present Gurren Lagann shades perched on his nose. He comes forward and puts his gloved hand on my shoulder. God it feels so heavy resting there. Should his hand feel that heavy?

"There a problem here?" he asks, looking right at Mike, face unchanging. I stare down at the floor, wishing I would just disappear forever. Mike scoffs after a moment and wisely starts walking away.

"Whatever. See ya around, Davey." He gives a short wave of his hand and I know it's anything but friendly. Shuddering, I remove Bro's hand and take a few steps away from him.

"Dave. Who was that?" I shake my head, not believing that this is actually fucking happening.

"Just some asshole. Whadda you care? I'm goin' to school." I only get a few feet before he gently yanks me back by my hood, a frown tugging at his lips.

"I don't think so, little man. I think we need to have a talk." I don't put up much of a struggle as he drags me back inside and gently pushes me onto the futon. Resolutely staring at my hands, I decide to become a mute. Yep. Vow of silence. Like a motherfucking monk up in here. Don my robes and praise the lord or what the fuck ever. He shoves a bottle of coke at me, like he always does when we're having 'a talk'. The cold numbs my hands and suddenly I'm grateful for the protective sweater. For resons other than it keeps my arm from view. It almost feels like a piece of armor. Like nothing is gonna touch me or hurt me. Bro kicks back next to me, feet on the coffee table and hands cracking open his own coke. "So, Dave. Who the fuck was that?" Before I can open my mouth, he's talking again. "And don't even think about lying to me. I saw everything." Oh fuck everything? Even the? Oh shit. Oh no. Nonono. I don't say anything. Too tired and panicked to even try and weasel my way out of this. Oh fuck what do I do? What the fuck do I do? What if he saw my arm... "You owe him money? ...He a bully at your school?" Angrily, I stare at my hands, knuckles white as they grip the cold glass. "He seemed to know you pretty well." More silence. "Heh. You fucking him or something?" I know he's just joking and I try to not show anything at that, but it's hard and I end up jerking my head to the side. Bro is terribly silent for a long time and my heart feels like it's gong to burst. Bro gives a long suffering sigh and guilt twists my insides. "Why... I mean... Shit, Dave. I didn't even know you were into guys. Why wouldn't you tell me?" And god that guilt just twists like a fucking corkscrew. "Is that why you have that black eye? That fucker hit you, didn't he." It's not a question and I finally look up at him, startled to see his orange eyes. They're burning holes into me as I shakily remove my sunglasses as well. So, it's gonna be one of those kinds of talks. Bro takes his feet off of the table and grabs my hand. My knee-jerk response is to tug away, but he doesn't let go. "Dave, if someone's hurting you, you gotta tell me. Especially if it's someone you're... intimate with." And what if I told you it's you that's hurting me? What would you do? Beat yourself up? It's okay, though. Because I'm the only one hurting me. All of this is on me and me alone. "You're my brother, Dave. I care about what happens to you. Or did you forget that?" No. But you fucking did. "Come on, little man. I'm really trying here..." And that pisses me off more than anything else. I yank my hand back and stand, shoving my glasses onto my face.

"Leave me alone. I don't need your charity. I'm sure you have other things you wanna be doin'. Important things. I'm late for school." I rush out of the door, red converse slapping against wood as I make a mad dash for the street. I don't stop running until I'm half-way to school. Out of breath, I lean against the wall and check my pesterchum. What the fuck does Bro know anyways? He's never even been there for me.

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

EB: daaaave
EB: morning dave! :B
EB: are you up yet?
EB: guess you're still sleeping you butt
EB: anyways I wanted to tell you something
EB: i met a girl
EB: she really likes me dave!
EB: isn't that awesome?
EB: and she's so pretty too! she has blonde hair and her eyes are blue
EB: like the sky!
EB: and get this
EB: she loves Nic Cage movies!!! she likes pranks too! she's so perfect
EB: dave?
EB: well... guess i'll talk to you later
EB: :B

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

I grip my phone so tight I'm afraid I'm going to break it for a minute. John has a girlfriend now. A girl with blonde hair and not freaky red eyes who loves Nic Cage movies and pranks and god how could I ever compete with that? A new message flashes on pesterchum and I absentmindedly open it.

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

TT: Dave?
TT: Dave, John just told me.
TT: I'm so sorry.
TT: I know how much he means to you.

I definitely don't wipe any tears away as I respond.

TG: nah its cool lalonde
TG: you know me
TG: im so goddamn fine up in here
TG: bitches be like goddamn look at how fine that strider kid is
TG: hes so swag
TG: i wish I was as fine as him
TT: I see.
TT: I'm sure you're not emotionally distressed at all.
TT: I'm sure that you are 'so goddamn fine up in there' that you're certainly not crying or anything of the sort.
TT: You're words have convinced me, Strider. How did I ever doubt that you were anything other than alright.
TT: How silly of me.
TG: goddamn right how silly of you
TG: your psychobabble tentacle shit is getting weak rose
TG: are you feeling ok
TG: under the weather or some shit
TT: Dave I really wish you would talk to me.
TT: Or talk to anyone, really. You can't keep bottling these things up, Dave.
TG: w/e im late for school
TG: bye

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

TT: Dave, wait!

Jamming my phone back in my pocket, I saunter through the schools double doors a few minutes later. I bypass the office and head straight for homeroom, where I know stout and shouty is going to question me endlessly about why I was late and do I have any idea how worried he was when I wasn't right on fucking time. Sighing to myself, I slink into homeroom, ignoring the looks I receive. Just another fine day in hell.

Chapter Text

I'm a ball of nerves by the end of the school day and Karkat can tell. He keeps asking me what the fuck is wrong and I keep deflecting him with ironic, bullshit raps. He's completely exasperated with me right now and I don't blame him at all. He's especially worried when, during our last class of the day, I disappear for twenty minutes to finally take care of my fucking arm. I lock myself in the private bathroom across from the auditorium and try to scrub the crusted blood off of my arm without crying. Because Striders don't cry, like, ever. It's a rule. When I finally get my arm relatively clean, I'm a little surprised at how much damage I actually did. In fact, I think I went a little overboard... Fuck that, I went way overboard.

The cuts are practically gouges in my arm and they're bleeding a little from where I viciously rubbed the scabs off. Sighing, I press paper towel on them in hopes of stopping the little bit of blood flow. It works for the most part and I'm ridiculously relieved. My shirt is still a goddamned mess, though, but I can't really just take it off and throw it out here at school. And there's no way in hell that the blood is even going to remotely come off of my white-ass shirt. Guess that's just another piece of clothing I'll have to throw out. Not like I can't get more. There's bloodstains on my jeans too, but it's pretty impossible to tell with how dark the fabric is. I let out a very long sigh and just lean against the still running sink. I'm pathetic. What is wrong with me? But I know exactly what's wrong with me. Mike's what's wrong with me. Bro's what's wrong with me. John's what's wrong with me... John. I clench my eyes shut.

I've probably always liked John as more than a friend. I mean, even from the first moment of talking to him I knew that he was going to be a huge part of my life. No one else was like him. It took a few months to get super chummy, but when we did, we skyped. And holy shit when I saw him... I thought my heart fucking stopped. Someone call an Ambulance, Dave Strider has shut down. Someone get the paddles. Clear! God, his black hair and his sapphire eyes and his adorable overbite... That sun kissed skin and that way he just beamed at me. Right then I knew I was doomed. There was no way I wasn't attracted to that goofy ball of sunshine. Of course Rose, that flighty broad, knew something was up with me right away. Eventually she got me to confess to how much I liked Egderp and tried to convince me to tell him. Of course I told her fuck off right away. No way was I telling John how I felt. He's got this 'not a homosexual' hang-up. That's where the trouble started. The first time he ever said that to me. I thought my heart was literally going to break in two. It sure felt like it. Yeah, we joke about gay things a lot, but... That's all it is, just joking. He'd hate me if he knew I actually wanted to 'kiss his gorgeous man lips' and 'ride off with him into the sunset like I'm fucking Prince Charming'. And that was it. I never told him. He doesn't even know that I'm gay. I can't even imagine telling him. Rose keeps trying to convince me to tell him. Saying that he deserves to know. Besides, she's with that lady fashion designer or whatever and John doesn't care. I tell her it's different, though. She knows it's an excuse and calls bullshit every time. I'm just too much of a pussy to actually tell my best friend the truth. I am thoroughly convinced that he will end our friendship.

I dab the rest of the blood from my arm and flush the paper towel. I'm paranoid that someone will see it and know it's from me. Which is ridiculous because no one even knows I'm in here. Still... Better to be safe than sorry I guess. And god would I be sorry. Pushing all thoughts of John to the back of my head, I walk back to class with my head held high. Like I'm not in love with my straight best friend. Like the guy I'm in love with doesn't have a girlfriend. Like I don't cut my own skin open. Like my boyfriend doesn't hit me. Like my actually gives a shit. I completely ignore Karkat's prodding me in the side, instead intently focusing on the blank page of my notebook.

Once the bell rings, I pack my shit up as quickly as I can. I know Karkat is trying to get my attention, but I can't really be bothered. I don't want to talk. I don't want him to see me. I want to disappear into the night like a shitty, teen novel vampire. Never to be seen again. He tugs on the sleeve of my sweatshirt and I freeze briefly before turning to him. My face is blank and my hand is gripping my books like my life depends on it.

"What." My answer is curt and I regret it when a look of hurt flashes across his face. He gives me that look. That look of his that says, 'Hey asswipe I know something is wrong with you and you're going to talk to me like a man you prick'. I resign myself to my fate and gently pull my arm away. "Yeah, Karkitty?" He frowns and eyes me up and down., burgundy eyes narrowed.

"You wanna come over to my house? Kankri's picking me up, so we won't have to take the bus..." He doesn't just want to hang, I know that he wants to talk. I find myself nodding my head before my mouth even tried to form the words, 'Fuck no'. I haven't been over in a while anyways and I miss his house. He gives me a small smile at that, crooked teeth showing a little. I find myself smiling back. Karkat, I could kill you sometimes...

We finally make it out of the sweaty jungle that is our high school and into Kankri's car. He looks a little surprised to see me and I can imagine why. Like I said, it's been a while since I was at their house.

"Hello, David," he says with a smile. I frown, sliding into the backseat like the graceful Strider I am.

"My name's not David. It's Dave." Kankri glances at me in the rearview mirror with a frown.

"I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I thought Dave was your nickname and I didn't want to use it without permission." That leaves me without words for a minute and has me shifting uncomfortably.

"Kankri! How many times have I told you that his name is Dave!"

"S'fine, Kankri. It happens a lot. Honest mistake." Kankri nods his head while Karkat grumps in the front seat, feet on the dashboard. The rest of the ride is silent except for NPR quietly playing on the radio. I've ignored my phone pretty much all day, so I check it, just in case some shit might be going down. My pesterchum is blinking rapidly and there's ten new texts, all from Mike. Fucking stalker creep. I delete them all without looking, opting instead to look at pesterchum. Jade, Rose and John all sent me messages. I open the one that seems safest first.

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

GG: dave!!!! :D
GG: good morning~
GG: did john tell you that he has a girlfriend now??!!
GG: isnt that sweet :DDD
GG: john says shes really badass and loves nic cage just as much as he does
GG: but he probably already told you all of that!!!
GG: and i know because
GG: youre his best bro!! ;)
TG: sup harley
GG: :o dave hi!!
GG: what took you so long fuckass :3
TG: harley stop using karkats words
TG: hes such a bad influence on you
GG: hey thats not true >:(
GG: karkats a sweetheart ;D
TG: ugh do you have a crush that stumpy troll or something
TG: not cool harley you know hes my slave
TG: you cant just lay claim to another mans property like that
GG: if only you were a man you would have a valid complaint!
TG: wow ouch harley
TG: i am totally a man
TG: i am action hank
TG: srsly
TG: i am so goddamned rugged
GG: :/ pffft whatever dave
GG: you are such a girl
GG: youre practically rose!
TG: woah hey no need to get nasty
TG: i am ten times the girl that lalonde is
TG: and you can tell her that
TG: how could you insult me like that
TG: i thought we were friends man
TG: what did i ever do to you???
GG: ugh you are so confusing dave!
GG: BUT
GG: i will forgive you if you go talk to john!!!
GG: he wont shut up about wanting to talk to you sheesh
GG: hes even pestering me about it right now!
GG: jeez call him off! :(
TG: fine fine
TG: ill keep Egbert at bay
TG: see ya harley
GG: bye dave! :D

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

Jesus fuck I don't want to talk to John. So much for being a safe conversation... I certainly don't want to talk to Rose, so I guess my only other option is John. Goddamnit.

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

TG: sup
EB: dave!!
EB: holy shit where have you been?
EB: ive been waiting to talk to you all morning :(
TG: sorry bro
TG: school and shit
TG: gotta learn man
TG: thats like a priority
EB: hahah yeah right dave
EB: youre such a liar!
EB: you just didnt want to talk to me
TG: what no
TG: I legit think school is important
TG: I was late so I couldn't talk to you
EB: pffft whatever man
EB: aaanyways if youre done I want to tell you about vriska!!!

That kind of pisses me off. It's not like I was lying to him. School is important to me. And well... maybe I didn't want to talk to him, but that's not the point. What, does he think I'm stupid or something?

TG: sure man
TG: shoot
TG: tell me about your lady friend

God I feel sick.

EB: wellll she has blonde hair with like
EB: these crazy chunks of blue in it
EB: its so cool!
EB: also get this
EB: shes missing an eye
EB: shes like me!

Ouch.

EB: and wears this really neat eye patch over it
EB: and she has a prosthetic arm
EB: she said she lost them in an accident :(
EB: but that shes totally cool with it and nothing can keep her down for long

Sounds tough as nails.

EB: she loves the number 8 and has this weird thing for spiders
EB: bluh!
EB: she has a pet tarantula and wants to be some kind of spider researcher or something
EB: oh oh and she has a motorcycle
EB: how fucking neat is that??
EB: she said shell take me for a ride on it sometime!

Yeah, I bet she will.

TG: she sounds rad man
TG: she has the dave strider seal of approval
TG: hey i hate to cut our jam short but im hangin with Karkat
TG: I gotta go
TG: bye bro
EB: um
EB: ok
EB: bye dave...

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

I didn't think it would be that hard. My heart feels like a rock and the urge to hurt myself is overwhelming. Vriska. How fucking stupid. Who even has a name like that? And spiders? What a freak. Who even likes spiders? I scoff and turn my phone off again, determined to ignore it for the rest of the night. We finally pull up to Karkat's house and I'm a little nervous. I really hope his father isn't there... He's always kind of made me feel... weirdly vulnerable while I'm there. I get out of the car and stare at the house hesitantly.

"Hey, Karkitty. Your old man home?"

"Strider, you know perfectly well that my dad likes you. Christ almighty. You act like I'm bringing you to a mauling or something. Idiot."

"I resent that. How do I know your dad doesn't hate me? He always gives me this look. Like he's condemning my soul or looking at it or something." Karkat rolls his eyes and sighs heavily, pushing me towards the door.

"Besides the fact that we've been friends for years and he hasn't kicked you out yet? That's fucking stupid. What you just said. My dad isn't a preacher you asshat. You know he's an activist. And you know goddamn well my dad supports mine and Kankri's choices in life. He's never condemned anyone a day in his life. Why would you be any different? You're practically family anyways. You're like that last guest that won't leave. Now get your ass into the house. God you're stupid sometimes." I just smile and 'get my ass into the house'. His dad is sitting at the table, flipping through a newspaper. What a dad. He sharply glances up and I take a small step back, right into Karkat.

"Goddamnit, Karkat! Close the door. Christ." It never fails to surprise me when his dad swears, though I don't know why. It's obviously where Karkat gets it from. Their family is weird.

"Fine, fuck. Kankri was the last one in anyways." His dad just rolls his eyes, then smiles at me.

"Hello, Dave. Sorry if my son is being an abomination to the Vantas name again."

"Um... Sup. It's cool. I'm kind of used to it by now." Karkat makes an offended noise and Kankri sits next to his dad, desperately trying to not smile. Mr. Vantas looks me over, making me extremely self-conscious.

"How can you be cold in this weather? It's at least ninety degrees out. Are you sick? Do you want some tea?" Guess he noticed my sweater. It's only bright red and giant.

"Nah. That's fine. I'm just making a statement." He raises an eyebrow at that and crosses his leg over his knee.

"A statement. About what, exactly? That hey, I'd definitely like heatstroke. Bring it on sun. Are you challenging the sun, Dave? Because that's idiotic. You'll lose."

"Yeah, well, that's what they said when we invaded Vietnam and look at what happened. We totally won." Mr. Vantas just kind of looks at me for a moment, then snorts loudly, turning back to his paper. Thank fuck.

"It"s no wonder my son likes you so much. You're as weird as he is. And as bad at history."

"Hey, it's all part of the Strider charm." He makes a noncommittal noise and proceeds to ignore everyone. I take a glance at Karkat. He leaning against the wall, face as red as a chili pepper. I smirk at him and he flips me off. Our main means of communication. We silently go up to the bedroom and I immediately flop down on his bed, exhausted and sluggish. I feel the bed dip down where he sits next to me. He places his hand on the back of my neck and I shut my eyes tightly.

"Dave... What's going on with you? You've been so different lately. It... Fuck, it really scares me, Dave!" Startled, I turn my head and look up at him. I didn't expect a confrontation the second we got into the house. He removes my sunglasses and I fight the urge to burrow into his cocoon of blankets and pillows. "Fuck, Dave!" Guess he noticed my black eye. "What happened! Who did this! I'll murder them!" He snarls and I sigh, closing my eyes again. I can't lie to him. Well, I could, but I've been lying to him for the past few years. He doesn't know I cut myself still. He knew as soon as I started to. He used to scratch the fuck out of himself when his mom died. He knew what the signs were as soon as I started and begged me to stop. I couldn't say no to him. And I did stop for a while. Long enough to put his fears and suspicions to rest anyways. And he thinks that the only reason I wear long sleeves anymore is to hide the scars. I couldn't stand to see how disappointed he would be if I showed him my arm. My legs. Fuck, most of me.

"Some dick tried to mug me. I got the better of him, though, You should'a seen it. Grade A Strider moves." I try to give a laugh, but it just comes out as a pathetic bark of noise.

"Don't you trust me anymore?"

"Karkat, come on-"

"No! Fuck, Dave! I thought we were best friends! That we could tell each other anything! Why are you lying to me!" When I place my hand over his mouth, he glares down at me, daring me to say anything even remotely fucking stupid.

"You can't freak out." He seems startled at that and pushes my hand away.

"Dave..."

"Seriously. You can't, alright. Fuck, just... please?" The staring contest feels like it lasts forever. I let out a breath I did't know I was holding when he nods. "Alright. Alright..." I sit up, a sinking feeling in my stomach. Bad idea! Bad idea! Are you fucking brain-dead! "So, you, uh, remember that guy I've been seeing?" He frowns severely at that.

"You mean that assface with the mohawk and stupid plaid pants?" I nod and if possible, his frown gets worse, his face becoming stormy looking.

"He's... been hitting me."

Chapter Text

The silence is stifling. Karkat just stares at me for a long moment and I don't turn away, more scared of what would happen if I did turn away instead of looking at him. It looks like he isn't exactly sure about what he should say. His eyebrows furrowing and his fingers twitching in agitation. Then, he speaks. Voice rough and thick with emotion.

"Give me one fucking reason why I shouldn't go get my dad right now. Or the police." My arm shoots out, gripping his tightly.

"Karkat, please don't... You can't! It's really not that bad. I mean, I get my shots in too. It's not like it happens alla the time."

"Dave fucking Strider! I can't believe the garbage that just fell out of that trash-compactor you call a mouth! Abuse is abuse you idiot! Even if he hits you just once it's abuse! God, you've been seeing this guy for months! Has this been happening from the start? Why didn't I ever notice? God does your Bro even know!" I put my hand over his mouth again and he looks ready to bite me.

"Karkat shut the fuck up. Christ do you want your dad and brother to hear us?" I can tell he's scowling behind my hand. "Look, it's not a huge deal-" he slaps my hand away from his mouth before I get any further.

"Not a huge deal! This is a very huge deal! It's domestic violence!" I give him a blank look and cross my arms.

"You make it sound like we're married or something. Come on, you know me better than that. I ain't the kinda guy to be tied down." Karkat grips my shoulders. Some of his nail polish chips off onto my sweatshirt and I frown. He's really gotta keep up on doing his nails.

"This isn't a fucking joke, Dave. Your boyfriend is hitting you and you don't even care! Fuck, I thought you were better! I thought you cared about yourself now!" My eyes shut of their own volition and I place a hand on his, sighing.

"Look, I'm pretty much done with him now, so who cares?" He doesn't say anything again, grip just tightening.

"Pretty much done, or actually done? Dave... You can't see him again. Shit... How bad does he hurt you? Is that why you have that fucking sweater on? Because there's more bruises? Dave you better let me see right fucking now!" I shake my head, blonde hair falling into my eyes.

"No. Man, there ain't anything under there. You're being paranoid."

"...Dave. Do you really think I'm that stupid? Take your sweater off." I stubbornly keep my arms crossed, panicking on the inside.

"Man, if I'd known you wanted me to strip for you, I would've brought my lingerie." He shakes his head and stands, opening the door.

"I'm getting my dad."

"Wait!" Karkat hesitates and I take that opportunity to pull him back from the door. "Please, don't tell your dad... Look, I ain't gonna see that ass anymore, all right? You're right, I don't deserve to be hit, even once." Yes I do... I deserve everything I get. He sits back down on the bed and I sigh in relief. He takes my hands in his again, rubbing his thumbs over the knuckles.

"Do I need to take you to the hospital or anything?" I shake my head and lean back against the wall.

"Nah. I'm fine. Just a couple'a bruises. You know I wouldn't let anyone beat on me that bad. I train with Bro like, every day." That's a lie, though. We haven't trained in months. Not since I started thinking about just saying fuck it and stepping into his sword. I couldn't do that to him. He's still my brother... "I'm fine." God you're such a fucking liar. Karkat slowly nods his head and I give him a grin. "Wanna watch The Notebook?"

"You fucking know I do."

So we watch The Notebook, twice. And I would kill anyone who says my eyes tear up when Allie and Noah die together at the end. I should probably tell Bro I'm spending the night here, but fuck that. He's probably out DJ-ing or partying or whatever he does when he isn't saddled with some kid. I fall asleep in Karkat's blanket and pillow cocoon, only to wake up hours later feeling like I'm being roasted over a spit. I detangle myself from Karkat and wander into the bathroom, bleary-eyed and feeling sick. I shut the door quietly and yank my sweatshirt off. My eyes clench shut as I finally switch the light on. Nope! Nope! Fuck! I hastily flip down the light switch and lean over the sink, feeling ready to vomit. Oh my god fucking shit. No, best time to get a migraine. Awesome. My mouth begins to water and my eyes widen as I kneel in front of the toilet. It only takes a couple of seconds before I'm violently vomiting up dinner and whatever else is in my stomach. Breathing heavily, I grip the edges of the toilet, heaving again and whining pathetically. Nng... Oh go- And there it is again, only this time it's mostly bile. I hear the door creek open, but only groan when the light turns on again. I shut my eyes and someone's rubbing my back oh god stop "Nnn, please don't," I mumble. They stop rubbing my back and I press my forehead into my arm, the pressure soothing the pain a little.

"Dave, what's wrong?"

"Migraine..." The light is quickly switched off and I almost sob in relief.

"Can I help? Do you need anything?" I just groan again and lean against the bathtub. "Come on, we should get you back into bed. I stand as he supports me, one arm around my lower back and one across my chest. "Do you want to sleep on the couch or should I take you back to Karkat?"

"Karkat, please..." We slowly shuffle back to Karkat's room and I gratefully lie down in it. Well, more like kneel in it with my head buried into the pillow. I open my eyes as the bathroom wastebasket is placed next to the bed. I'm handed a cool washcloth and I take it, only moving my head enough so I can get it under my forehead.

"I'm just down the hall if you need me, Dave. Try to get some rest." I just groan and he leaves, softly shutting the door behind him. It takes me a little while, but I finally fall asleep.

Someone's trying to shake me awake and I weakly bat their hands away, not ready to get up at all.

"-ave!" Five more minutes, Bro... "Ho-... shit!" More shaking and I crack open an eye, glaring at the offender.

"Wha-? Sleepin-..." A scowl, angry burgundy eyes. Oh, it's Karkat.

"Holy shit, Dave. Wake the fuck up! Oh my god, Dave! Shit, shit..." I bolt up in bed, putting my hands on his shoulders.

"Karkat," I mumble, "What the hell? What's wrong with you?"

"What's wrong with me? What the fuck's wrong with you, you stupid prick!" I quickly regain my senses and frown at him, pretty fucking offended over that.

"Jeez, what'd I even do? That's no way to treat someone who's sick."

"...Dave. Look at your goddamned arm." Fuck. Oh fuck what?

"I... Karkat, it's not what you think." Biting my lip, I bring my arm up to my chest, cradling it protectively.

"Not what I think? I know damn well what it is! I thought you didn't do that to yourself anymore... Fuck, Dave. You never even stopped, did you? Did you!" My eyes begin to water and I shake my head no. "Jesus cocksucking christ! I don't even have to ask if you told anyone! I know you didn't! Fuck..." I don't know what to say, so I say nothing. "Why wouldn't you talk to me? I could've... I could've helped you. I could've done something. Anything." He places his hands over his eyes and I want to kill myself for hurting him this much. "How c-could I be so fucking stupid!" Karkat sniffles, his black fingernails digging into his forehead. I try to pull his hands away but he actually fucking snarls at me.

"I should go."

Nothing.

"I'm sorry."

Nothing.

"..." I yank on my sweatshirt, grab my shades and get the fuck out of there. Kankri and Mr. Vantas both try to talk to me, but I just run. And run. And I run until my legs are on fire and it feels like I'll pass out from lack of oxygen. I'm out of the little suburb and fucking... somewhere. Shit. There's school today, but there's no way I'm even going. Besides, it's Friday. Three day weekend. I'm definitely not freaking out. So Karkat knows. Hahah, big deal. Ain't like he'll tell... Nope. No way. He wouldn't. And the bone rattling worry sets in. He wouldn't! He can't... I shake myself and feel for my wallet in my back pocket. Still there, so there's that. My phone is heavy in my front pocket and I don't bother taking it out. What if he hates me now? The thought startles me so badly I almost trip over my fucking feet. Be aware that I am also standing still. I don't even entertain the idea and just walk, not really knowing where to go.

I'm sure Kankri and Mr. Vantas are worried about me right now, but I really can't bring myself to care about that too much, which makes me feel like shit. I just stop thinking all together. Do you read me? Houston, do you read me? Nope. Communications are down and the space trip is fucked. The Russians are gonna win the space war. But I don't give a fuck. Some jackoff knocks into me and I scowl, but otherwise ignore it. Like I need to get in anymore fights... Nope. Besides, they won't let me into matches anymore. Said they can't be responsible for some kid getting killed, which is bullshit. I ain't a kid. Maybe I could go to Six Flags, but that's really no fun by yourself. Sighing, I kick a random piece of trash and it skitters into the street. I imagine some poor soul hitting it and losing control, the crash causing a horrific twelve car pileup. God, what is wrong with me. I shake my head, stupid blonde hair falling into my glasses. I fucking hate my hair. It's too blonde and too shiny and too coarse and too everything. It curls around my ears and I hate the stupid waves in it. That's why I straighten this shit out every morning. Except this morning. Now it's a mass on top of my head and I don't think I could hate this day anymore than I already do.

The walk seems endless and I pull out my phone. Turning it on, I ignore everything else and immediately go to Tumblr, answering some shit and mocking the questions relentlessly. I reblog things I hardly look at and like things mindlessly. Getting extremely bored after about fifteen minutes, I put my phone away again and catch a bus to downtown Houston. I think about going to the Aquarium, but again, there's no fun if it's just you. I guess it could be relaxing, but... No. The Aquarium was one of the last places Bro and I went together. I guess that's a no on the Hard Rock café too. Goddamnit. Shit, maybe Gamzee's around. I could go for some partying right about now. Then again it's... I think for a moment, pulling out my phone once more. I don't even know what time it is. A frown rests on my face as I read the time. 12:45. That can't be right. It was morning when I woke up... Was woken up. Right? Whatever. Maybe there is a party going on. And if not, I'm sure Gamzee would let me hang around until there is one. Knowing him, that shouldn't take too long. I hope I can remember where he lives...

After about an hour of wandering around I decide, no, I don't remember where the motherfucker live and also I am really goddamned lost.

"Seriously... Worst day. No other day has been shittier than this." I walk into a little hole-in-the-wall coffee joint and order myself a big fucking cup of espresso. And like, three cheddar bagels. Once I have all of my shit, I sit at the table furthest back from all other sentient beings and take out my phone once more. Time to take the plunge I guess.. More goddamned texts from Mike and Rose and Bro and fucking everyone. Even Karkat... Know what? It can wait.Of course being seventeen, I don't do the adult thing and talk to anyone, I open facebook instead and search for Gamzee Makara. There he is. I send him a message saying 'Sup, I'm that freaky eyed friend of Karkat's and I was wondering if I could chill for a while. Oh, and also if there were any parties going on tonight let me know.'. Kicking back, I wait for his answer, if I even get one. Gamzee really shouldn't be able to function with how high he is all of the time, but he does. It's not like I really like Gamzee all that much... I mean, I guess he's fine for a Juggalo or whatever. Actually, I'm not really sure what he is. He always insists that he ain't a Juggalo. That it has to do with some kind of religion? What a weird fucking religion. Then again, I guess I really shouldn't judge. It's not like I have a religion anyways. Bro was never really one for anything spiritual, and I guess I'm not either.

I only spend an hour in the coffee shop before I leave, converse once again meeting the concrete sidewalk. Hey there old friend, how've ya been? Oh watch out for that gum? Thanks, man. I wander around for about twenty minutes before there's a facebook ping sounding off in my pocket. Seems like Gamzee messaged me back.

cOmE oN oVeR mOtHeRfUcKeR :o)

Well then. That settles that. Guess it's time to throw myself into the lion's den for a while.

Chapter Text

Welp. Here I am. What a shithole... The stoop is missing a huge chunk and plants are overgrowing on it. There's no railing and the entire complex looks like it's going to crash down on my head. You know... I don't remember it bein' this bad the last time I was here. Police sirens sound in the distance and I hop right up to the porch, avoiding the concrete steps entirely. Like I need to break my neck. Before I open the door it bursts open, causing me to stumble back in surprise.

"Heeey there, best motherfucking friend." Gamzee's stupid clown face smiles down at me and I frown, righting myself.

"Sup." He grins like it's the funniest fucking joke he's ever heard and steps onto the porch with me, slinging an arm around my shoulders. That's fine. I love having my personal space violated.

"Been a while since you and me crossed paths." I shrug and step past him into the house, glancing around at the pretty deplorable state of it. Empty bottles of Faygo and cartons of takeout everywhere. Wrappers and unidentifiable substances covering pretty much everything. I definitely don't want to know what they are. Shit. This was stupid.

"Yeah, well. You know how it is. Bitches and hoes all up in my business everywhere I turn. I barely get a moment to myself these days." Looking back, I see Gamzee nod slowly.

"Motherfucking miracles." Right. Miracles. He still has a boner for that stuff, huh?

"Yeah. So, any parties happenin' tonight?" Something big and furry rubs up against my leg and I almost jump through the roof. Looking down, I see that It's just some dumb cat. It almost seems like it's smiling up at me and meows in this tiny, squeaky voice. "Uh, hey... Cat." Meow~ "Right."

"There's gonna be a wicked candy bowl party at The Hole tonight."

"I thought no one went there anymore. 'Specially after half the roof fucking came down on us." Gamzee shrugs, bony shoulder poking against the fabric. I snort and pick up the cat, petting it's head softly. "It's a goddamned miracle that no one died." My hand freezes and I warily glance at Gamzee. I just said miracles... Oh fuck I hope he's not gonna- And just like that I'm picked up into a pair of stick-thin arms which are obviously a lot stronger than they look. He rests his chin on my head and the cat in my arm makes a pathetic mewling sound.

He sighs. "Motherfucking miracles..."

"Dude. You're getting your paint in my hair."

"Miracles..."

"Right. Miracles. Please for the love of your clown god put me down. You're suffocating your cat." Apparently miracles do exist because Gamzee sets me down in the next moment, smiling again. Does he ever stop smiling?

"Sorry, motherfucker. I was my getting feelings jam all on when you weren't. Hey, why isn't Karbro with you?" It's my turn to shrug as I sit on relatively clean spot on the couch.

"He had school today. A guy's gotta learn." The answer seems to satisfy him and he wanders off to parts of the house unknown. Wonder where everyone else is... I know Gamzee has roommates. Well, junkie roommates. Maybe they have jobs. A moment later I snort at the idea and shove the rest of the trash onto the floor. I stretch out on the puke green couch, the unnamed cat on my chest and purring up a storm. Guess I can lay here for a minute...

It's dark the next time I open my eyes and a bottle of something is shoved into my face. My throat is dry as desert and I grab for it, Stupidly, I take a long pull from the bottle and swallow. Mt breathe is instantly taken away and my throat feels like it's made of lava. I bolt upright and splutter, gagging on the alcohol. Someone pounds their fist on my back and I cough for a couple of minutes, desperately trying to not throw up.

"F-Fuck! Shit what the hell did you give me!"

"Heh, it's just some motherfuckin' vodka. Thought it'd get you ready for the party." My sunglasses are askew and I right them, quickly standing. "Didn't think you'd down it like a motherfuckin' fish out of water, though. You alright?" I nod and shuffle into the kitchen, drinking water straight from the faucet. I'm fine after a moment and Gamzee says we have to go now before everyone starts a riot.

We drink from the same vodka bottle on the drive to The Hole and I secretly hope Gamzee gets drunk enough to just crash the damn car. No. That's not fair. I don't want Gamzee getting hurt, no matter how much he annoys me. I glance down at the backpack between my feet, knowing how much shit we could get into for the stuff in there. Oxy and Vicodin. Percocet, Xanax, E. Other shit I can't even begin to pronounce. Not that anything's labeled anyways. Not to even mention the bottles of alcohol. Which Gamzee shouldn't even have because I'm pretty sure he's not even twenty yet. I really fucking hope no pigs just decide to pull us over for a friendly chat. We finally pass the city limits and to be honest, we're home-fucking-free at this point. We speed down the next twenty miles of rode to the abandoned warehouse dubbed as 'The Hole'. No one really knows why it's called that or who started hosting parties there, but that's the way it's always been. Though, Gamzee does most of the hosting now. The ride has this weird, comfortable silence and I find myself smiling, a little tipsy already.

"Man, I can already tell this party is gonna be fun. Everyone showin' up for this one?" Gamzee laughs and screeches to a stop in The Hole's 'driveway'. Which is just a big fucking dirt lot.

"See for yourself, motherfucker." Once the dust settles around us, my eyes widen at the amount of people here. I whistle and smirk in Gamzee's direction.

"Shit. Everyone in fuckin' Houston must be here."

"It's gonna be one hell of a party." I can see that the roof is still caved in on the one side. Like anyone was even going to bother fixing that. I grab the bag and hoist it over my shoulder. The, what I can only describe as a crowd, erupts when they see Gamzee come out. He waves at them and gets on top of his car, standing on the hood. All I can think is wow, you're gonna scratch up your paint job, man. Everything goes silent and he grins, slow and lazy.

"You motherfuckers ready to party?!" More cheering. Hell. I find myself cheering. "Well alright then! What the fuck are you waitin' for!" Then, a sea of glow sticks cracking and lighting up. It's a fun rule we have for this shit. Since there's no light, you have to brings glow sticks or other shit for light sources. I open my glow necklace and don it proudly, feeling like a motherfucking King right now. Gamzee hops off of his car and I steady him as he wobbles a bit. We walk into the warehouse together and we're greeted by a table full of bowls. They're already filled with pills and we contribute our own. Our alcohol goes on the long-ass table with everything else. Another fun rule is that you have to bring something to contribute. People tend to underestimate how huge these parties get and no way Gamzee can afford a hundred bottles of alcohol on his own. Maybe he can. I don't fucking know.

The bartender nods at us. Oh yeah, we actually have a bartender who comes and bartends this stuff for free drinks. The DJ is already spinning tunes. Shit, I've missed this. As tradition, Gamzee and I hook one of our arms around the others arm and drink the first two shots of the evening. No doubt that they're not actually the first shots, but that's just how things are done. Cheers are made and we grin at each other for a moment. You now, I think I lied earlier. I do like Gamzee. I forgot how much fucking fun it was to party with him. I stopped a few months back because, well, Karkat decided it was unhealthy for me. Don't get me wrong. I definitely shouldn't be coming to these parties, but fuck. I would've regretted missing this.

Hours into the party and it's fucking on fire. Holy shit. They're having fights out front and huge betting pool has been made. I'm higher than a goddamned kite and I don't even remember all of the people I've made out with. I think I've made out with them. Maybe I've done more. Shit if I know right now. Someone drag me off and honestly I don't care who it is. I just need to feel right now.

There's a tongue in my mouth

And my head bangs against the wall

And my clothes are off

And I'm on my knees

And oh god that feels so fucking good
Fucking harder

Biting

Blood blood tearing nails growling

My skin is made of liquid fire

Pressure and pressure and pressure and oh my god!

Fuck Fuck!

My heart fucking explodes

And sports are blasting everywhere and I fall

And I go down down down rushing in my ears

Blood freezing

Everything stills

.

..

...

"Dave come on motherfucker wake the fuck up! Dave wake the motherfuck up!" Nnng... "Dave come on man we gotta go! NOW." I slowly get up. My head is filled with cotton and I put my clothes on like a goddamned robot. Gamzee, is that his name? I don't remember. My feet are dragging along dirt and rocks and are those sirens and what is happening it's still dark. I get shoved into a car. I think it's a car. Shouldn't I be wearing a seatbelt? What're those lights shit what the fuck?

Next thing I know there's fingers shoved down my throat and I'm throwing everything back up and fuck who the fuck is putting their fingers down my throat oh my god please stop. They just keep getting shoved down my throat and I keep vomiting and it tastes like shit and I don't think I've ever been this miserable.

"Dave you got keep throwing up! Some motherfucker snuck in some bad shit. Fucking vomit!" And the vomiting seems endless and tears are rolling down my cheeks and I think I'm bleeding why am I bleeding? My thighs are wet and shit did I piss myself I can't stop crying and more vomiting I want to die and Gamzee is shooshing me and rubbing my back am I floating what happened? And then nothing.

I wake up again. God, is that my whole day? Waking up at strange intervals? My ass is on fire and I'm too cold and holy shit there's someone next to me. I look over and sigh in relief when I see Gamzee looking at me. I hope we didn't fuck. I don't need a STD.

Something's wrong. He's not smiling and he's staring at me intently. Shit, is he sober? I try to sit up but cry out, shards of white-hot pain shooting up my back. Gamzee pushes me back onto the bed, saying nothing.

"Gamzee... What the fuck happened?" He sighs heavily and I want to get up, but don't dare attempt it.

"Someone snuck in some really bad shit, Dave. I..." He looks away and I just now notice that most of his face paint is off. Oh shit oh shit what the fuck happened? It's gotta be bad.

"Gamzee-"

"I found you next to a corpse."

What?

"That guy you were with... The motherfucker's dead."

His eyes pin me down and my whole body goes numb.

"The police showed."

No.

"You had blood all over you."

I-

"Dave... I think you fucking killed him."

Chapter Text

Killed someone. I killed someone. That's what he just said, right?

I caused the death of another person. I...

I. Fucking. Killed. Someone!

I think that maybe this a never-ending, horrible, looping nightmare.

"I... There's no fuckin' way I killed anyone! Gamzee, come on, man. You fucking know me." I sit up despite my body's extreme protest. A groan escapes me as I lounge against the headboard. "Why would I even kill him in the first place? I'm pretty sure we had sex if the burning in my ass is any indication. Jesus, what the fuck did he do? Drive on home without even the courtesy of spitting on his dick first? Shit..." Gamzee sighs and slumps against the wall, shoulders hunching.

"Dave, you know how much drugs can fuck you up. I'm a great example of that." He tugs at his mess of hair for a moment before looking at me again. "You don't know that you didn't kill him, alright? All I know is that I found you next to a motherfucking, messed up corpse and that you were covered in blood. What am I supposed to make of that, huh?"

"So why bring me back here?" I take a quick glance at my body. My clean body in clean clothes. Oh great. Is everyone gonna get to see my fucked up body today?> "Did you clean me up?" He seems to shift almost uncomfortably before starting to chew on his fingernails.

"Yeah, fucker. Couldn't just let you lay in my bed all up and covered in blood and shit."

"...Oh. Uh, thanks, I guess. And I guess I should thank you for stickin' your fingers down my throat. I definitely remember that."

"I couldn't have you motherfuckin' OD on me. Do you even remember how much shit you took? It was a fuckin' lot, Dave. You could'a killed yourself. Or maybe that's what you were tryin' to do." Sending a sharp look in his direction, I immediately try to hide my arm. More out of embarrassment than anything else. He's already seen it. And the rest of me. No point in fucking hiding really. He reaches out and I keep my poker face on as he grasps my arm in his hand, inspecting it. "Motherfucker..." It's more of an exhausted expletive than endearment. "Why'd you up and do this to yourself?" I can't even find the strength to pull my arm out of his grip.

"I dunno'. Why does anyone do anything self-destructive? Life is getting the better of them and they need to cope. You should know the answer already Gamzee. Hell, isn't that what all of the drugs and alcohol are for?" Gamzee finally lets go of my arm and I take it back slowly, letting it rest in my lap.

"Yeah... I guess so." There's an awkward pause where I'm not sure what to even fucking say. I stare down at my arm intently, suddenly frustrated beyond belief with everything. I am so fucking done. Took the done train into Nopeville and vanished forever.

"So what the fuck am I supposed to do now? Jesus, could the fucking police come after me? You know they're gonna fucking find out you hosted that shit, Gamzee! And then oh hey, there was this blonde fag with him! Named Dave Strider or some stupid shit. Total douche. He's probably still with him! And then what the fuck am I supposed to do? I can't fucking go to jail! I don't even know if I killed the guy, so they can't book me for it, right?" Who the fuck am I kidding? I'm almost eighteen. They'll definitely get a murder in the first-degree conviction. Goodbye sweet freedom... I should probably be acting more hysterical than I am right now. Shit, I don't even feel like a murderer. I always thought that killing someone made you feel different somehow. More vicious or crazy or... jesus, anything really. But I still feel the same as I always have. Pissed at the world with intervals of overwhelming sadness. Maybe killing someone doesn't make you feel different. No, shut the fuck up. You don't know that you killed someone. My hands are clenched into fists and Gamzee covers them with his own hands. My eyes trace over his fingers. Painters fingers.

"Alright, first thing's first motherfucker. You have got to calm the fuck down, Okay? You ain't gonna solve nothing by bein' all up in arms and hysterical and shit. Second of all, the police ain't gonna find shit out, alright? Pigs're fuckin' stupid man. I mean, I still walk the streets free as a bird. So what does that tell you?" He runs his thumbs across my knuckles and scoots closer to me. "And third, no matter how fuckin' horrible the situation is, there's always a goddamned solution and everything's gonna be fuckin' fine, brother. You can stay here until this shit blows over. I've even got food and a bed." He pauses and gives a weak smile. "Well... I've got a bed anyways." I give a short nod and look down at our hands.

"You know you don't have to do this for me. There's places I could go..."

"Oh yeah? Like where, motherfucker? Do you even have a car? Or money to support yourself?"

"Hey, I've got a car. And some money..." He just looks at me and I admit defeat. "Yeah, okay. I wouldn't be able to take care of myself. Shit... Guess I'm stayin' here, man." He gives me a wide grin and hops out of bed.

"Good. How about I order some goddamned food? What do you want?"

"Chinese. And make sure to get dumplings." He nods and leaves the room with a bounce in his step. Oh yeah. I'd definitely have a bounce in my step if I was housing a murderer... I look around and try to spot my phone. God I hope it wasn't taken. Or my wallet. Fuck... Looking to my right I see my phone on the nightstand. Right next to my sunglasses and my wallet. Well, that's really goddamned lucky. I snatch my phone up and turn it on. I raise an eyebrow once it fully turns on. A fuckton of missed calls and text messages and pesterchum notifications. Shit... I dial Bro's number, heart pounding as I wait for him to pick up.

"Where the fuck are you?" Is the first thing I hear when the ringing stops. Letting out the breathe I was holding, I run a hand through my hair.

"At a friend's place. Why?" I hope that doesn't piss him off.

"What do you mean why? Dave, are you kidding? Get the fuck home or I'm finding you." I sigh and tilt my head back against the headboard.

"Look, Bro... I can't."

"What?"

"Something happened and... Look, I just can't come home right now."

He says nothing at all and I almost ask if he's still there when he finally speaks.

"Dave. What the fuck happened? Whatever it is, we'll fix it, okay? I want you home. You've got me really fucking scared, alright, Dave? I'm fucking scared."

He's scared? Bro is actually scared? Shit, what the hell am I supposed to do?

"Bro..." I mumble, closing my eyes. "I can't. I can't... I don't want you involved."

"Jesus, Dave! What happened!"

"I'm sorry... Just... I love you."

"Dav-" And I hang-up, hands shaking and short of breath. Oh my god... This is real. This is actually fucking happening. What if I never get to see Bro again, Or talk to John or Rose and Jade. What if, what if, what if... Everything crashes down around me at once and I pull my knees up to my chest and hug them, trying my best to cry and quietly as I can. I'm not sure how well it works.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Three days. It's three days before the cops come knocking the door down. Before they pull us out of bed and bark orders at us to get on the fucking ground and don't move. I watch as they shove Gamzee to the ground and cuff him, barely noticing when I'm shoved against the wall and cuffed as well. The metal bites my skin and they cuffs are way too tight, but I don't notice. It feels like everything is happening in slow motion and my ears are filled with cotton. I turn my head to look at Gamzee, who's staring up at me with the saddest expression I think I've ever seen on a another person. He seems to mouth a 'sorry' to me before they haul him onto his feet. I don't notice when the cops are talking to me, but I hear the next words as clear as day.
"Gamzee Makara, you are under arrest for the murder of Mike Cabbot. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be us-" And that seems to be where I lose my ability to hear. Gamzee's under arrest for... Mike Cabbot... What? Everything is surreal as they lead me to the police car and shove me in, locking the door behind me. The corpse was my boyfriend... I don't... What's happening? The ride seems endless and I'm pretty sure I'm crying on the way there.

I'm being led somewhere again and set in a wobbly chair. My hands are still cuffed and I jump as someone attempts to wipe my face off. There's a moment of silence where I begin to calm down and take in my surrounding. Everything is migraine inducing bright without my sunglasses.

"Mr. Strider? Mr. Strider. Do you know why you're here?" I shake my head because honestly, I'm really fucking confused and barely understand her words. "You're here because we believe you had a hand in killing Mike Cabbot." I shake my head and the officer, lawyer. I don't fucking know, sighs. "Mr. Strider, we found your blood and semen next to the body. And you were seen fleeing the scene with Mr. Makara. You were both covered in blood and... well, we have eye-witness testimony stating that Mr. Makara was seen holding a blood covered object, though we are not yet sure what that object is." This can't be happening. "We are also led to believe that you are the boyfriend of the victim." I want Bro, Oh god where is he? Everything is too real without my glasses to block it and I think I might pass out. I have never been more fucking terrified in my life. "It's looking very bad for you, Mr Strider. I suggest you start talking."

So I talk. I talk because I'm scared and I'm stupid and I should've waited for Bro and his fucking lawyer to get here. I tell her about Mike and that yes, he is my boyfriend and I tell her about how he hit me and beat me and made me feel like shit but god I would never even think about killing him. About killing anyone! I would never do that. I tell her that I had sex with someone at the party but I was higher than a fucking satellite and that I was too far gone to even know who I was fucking and god I'm so sorry I didn't want this to happen oh my god why would Gamzee do this? How could he do this? Gamzee might do drugs but he wouldn't hurt a fly you gotta believe me please.

The woman stands up and nods her head, motioning for someone behind the glass. Another officer comes in and leads me off to a cell, where the handcuffs are finally taken off. I slump against the wall and slide to the floor, head in my hands. Oh my god, I'm in fucking lockup. I'm going to jail. I'm going to jail, oh my god. I still fail to wrap my mind around the concept that Gamzee killed Mike. They guy he said I killed! I scowl fiercely and dig my nails into my scalp. Why would he say that? Does he not remember? Did he just not want to get taken down by himself? That's shitty. Fuck, Gamzee... I wish Bro were here. I wish anyone was here.
Where the fuck is Gamzee?

God why is this happening?

Where's Bro?

What's gonna happen to me now?

The tears start falling once more as I dig my nails into my arm.

Chapter Text

The air is stale as I walk down street after street, unable to name any of them and not particularly caring to know the names anyways. I keep checking my phone, hoping Dave will call me. Text me. Anything. 'Probably busy with that Karkat kid or what-the-fuck-ever. God I hate that kid. I hate the way that Dave hangs all over him. Acts like he's Karkat's boyfriend instead of mine.' My grip is almost crushing as I bare my teeth. I feel hair touch my head and curse as my Mohawk starts to wilt in this heat. Sighing, I kick a can out my way, wishing and wishing and wishing that Dave would get back to me. I don't like to go too long without hearing from him. Who knows who he might be screwing behind my back. Snorting, I try to fix my hair as best I can, but it's hard without any product.

The sun is harsh today as I wander around downtown Houston, darting in and out of shops to get relief for a few minutes. I shove various people out of my way as I make my way around town. Maybe they wouldn't get shoved if they'd stay on their side of the sidewalk. My tanned skin is covered in a sheen of sweat and I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. 'Where the fuck is Dave? Who the fuck is he with? I hate not knowing!' My heart stops when I round the corner. There he fucking is, alone, walking in the opposite direction. I want to call out to him, but decide to follow him first. See what asshole he'd rather spend his time with instead of with me.

It only takes a few minutes before Dave is standing across from a run-down duplex, seeming to hesitate before jumping onto the worn down porch. My eyes narrow as Gamzee fucking Makara bursts out of the door, giving Dave an easy smile. It feels like fire burns through my veins as I see Gamzee sling an arm around Dave, but then I almost smile as Dave easily steps out of the embrace. 'He knows who the fuck he belongs to.' When he disappears inside, I run up to the window, peering into it. They talk and Gamzee won't stop smiling and them Gamzee motherfucking hugs him! That son of a bitch! Doesn't he know who's property he's messing with! My nails digs into the palm of my hand and I certainly don't relax when Dave falls asleep on the couch with some stupid cat on his chest. 'I'll fucking remind Dave who the fuck he belongs to. I'm not gonna forget this, Davey.'

It takes a couple hours and it's dark before Dave wakes up. Gamzee's by his side in an instant and shoving vodka in his face like a moron. Dave chokes on it of course and it's only a few minutes before they come outside. I press myself against the wall and watch as they drive off, talking about The Hole. Of course. You'd have to live under a rock to have never heard of that place. I frown, though, because I thought Dave didn't party anymore. Which is a shame, I always thought he was a much better fuck passed out. I look in all of the cars on the block, snorting when I find a beat up station wagon with the keys in the ignition. 'What a fucking dumbass.' Within seconds I turn over the engine and follow behind Gamzee and Dave, keeping far enough away so they won't see me. My hands grip the steering wheel in anticipation of what's to come.

I park in the back when I arrive, watching inconspicuously while Dave and Gamzee go through the 'party starting ceremony'. How stupid. I snort in disgust as I watch Dave just shove a handful of pills into his mouth. 'At least it'll make him more cooperative. I watch him for a while. Watch him making out with other people, giving other people sloppy hand jobs and blow jobs. Watching him receive sloppy hand jobs and bow jobs in return. My blood fucking boils and I start to see red. How dare he. No! How fucking dare he! It doesn't matter that you two have hit a rough patch in your relationship, he still your boyfriend! He still belongs to you. And you're going to teach that little shit stain a lesson about that. Eventually I lose him in a sea of dancers and almost scream in frustration. The pulse of the music is drumming through my body as I frantically search for Dave, grabbing various people who look like him from the back. People keep trying to rub up on me and offer me shots and pills and fuck I swear I'm going to murder someone!

It's a couple hours before I find Dave, out of his mind and hugging a support beam. He can barely keep himself up and spills his drink all over himself, laughing. I roll my eyes and roughly grab his wrist. I drag him off to a secluded part of the warehouse and shove him against the wall. His head bounces off of the concrete and we both laugh. I crush my lips against his and my hands immediately wander underneath his shirt. I pinch his nipple and roll it between my fingers. My mouth curves into a smirks as he instantly turns into a puddle of goo in my arms. Tearing off his shirt, I push him to the ground and straddles him. My teeth sink into his neck as I bite him and I can taste blood in my mouth. 'Thinks he can get away with whoring himself out. I'll fucking mark him up. Show everyone that he's fucking spoken for. Little slut.' I let out a growl as I bite down Dave's chest. He writhes underneath me, uncontrolled groans and gasps escaping him.

Dave seems to push against me, but fuck that. I pin his wrist above his head and dig my nails into his skin, not letting go anywhere. Once he calms down, I yank his jeans and boxers past his knees, not bothering to take them off all of the way. I quickly flip him over, making sure to smack his head against the dirty concrete floor for good measure. Dave whimpers and I claw down his back. My jagged, bitten nails break his skin and drops of blood start to slide. I quickly pull my own pants down, scrabbling to free my half-hard cock. I hoist his ass in the air and I'm surprised he can even keep himself up. Barely. I wrap my hand around my cock, pumping it until it's stiff as board. Precum leaks out of the tip and rub it over my dick, more for easier access than anything. I waste no time in pushing myself into Dave. My nails claw at his back again and I keep my hand over his mouth to muffle any noise. My heart is hammering and Dave is moaning and rolling his head from side to side. I immediately start thrusting. I grip his hair tight and pull his head back, loving how goddamn helpless he is to stop me. I start to see blood each time I pull out and I laugh as it drips onto the floor between his knees. 'Yeah, this'll definitely teach him.' I bite my lip as the pressure already starts to build in me. It's been too long since I had a fuck this good. I lean forward, slamming my hips into him as I wrap my hands around his throat, squeezing and squeezing and squeezing. Dave claws at the ground and my eyes widen as I don't let up. But the next time I slam my hips forward, something hits me on the side of my head. I fall to the side with a pained yelp and my cock slips out of Dave. I clutch my head and another blow hits my hand. I scream and I swear something breaks.

"Augh! What the fuck!" A hit across the nose, the jaw, my eyes, my shoulder oh fuck! The blows come again and again and I taste nothing but copper. My arms do nothing to protect me and blood slides into my eyes as I gasp for breath. There's angry screaming, but it fades in and out with my vision. I turn over to see who my assailant is and scream as a goddamn golf club is brought down on my face. I swear my teeth are knocked loose and I start to choke on the mixture of blood and teeth. I try to say something, call for help, but all that comes out is a wet gurgling sound. My attacker leans over me. My eyes are almost swelled shut, but I manage to get a look at him. He's screaming at me. Screaming something. His face paint runs as he brandishes the club again. And suddenly, I know I'm going to die. But before I do, I understand just who my killer is.

"Night night, motherfucker!"

It's the last thing I'll ever hear.

Chapter Text

People watch courtroom shows on TV all of the time. But god, it’s so much different actually experiencing it.

“All rise for the honorable Judge Mason!”

It feels like I’m fucking drowning… I glance up as the judge walks in. Blonde. Ash blonde. Green eyes. Nice cheekbones. Why am I thinking about this? Gamzee is right next to me, shaking like a fucking leaf. I wonder if he’s going through withdrawal? It’s been about two weeks since our arrest after all. I doubt he’s been able to get drugs.

“Please be seated!”

And we seat ourselves. Bro is right behind me. I can feel his stare. I can feel everyone stare and I wish now more than ever that I had my shades. They wouldn’t let me keep them in lockup and like hell they were going to give them back when they transferred me to juvie. His strong hand touches my shoulder briefly and I relax a fraction. I’ll be okay as long as he’s here. Protecting me. Our lawyer, Ms. Pyrope, gives us a shark like grin, but I just frown. How can she smile in this situation? Then again, it’s not her ass on the line waitin’ to get called sweet meat. I give an involuntary shudder.

My palms are sweaty.

Knees weak. Arms are heavy.

‘Jesus now is not the fucking time you huge tool.’ I clench my eyes shut and it seems like in the next second I’m being called up to the stand. ‘Why isn’t Gamzee going before me?’ I glance at Terezi and she nods up to the stand. Well, the general direction anyways. She’s pretty good at seeing for a blind person. I shake as I take the stand, make the vow of truth and sit.

My cuts have all healed but I get the almost irresistible urge to scratch at them until I bleed. The most harm I’ve been able to cause to myself is banging my head against the wall and pinching and scratching. I hit myself a few time, but I don’t like it too much. It reminds me of… Mike. Another shudder.

“Mr. Strider.” And suddenly I’m focused again. “Can you recount to us the happenings of the night in question?” Frowning a bit, I lean back, arms crossed.

“I can, but I don’t remember a whole lot.”

“Please. Tell us what you can.” Sighing, I rub my eyes a little and lean forward, aware of everyone’s eyes on me.

“I went to my friend Gamzee’s house. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was looking for a distraction. Some fun…” I pause here for a moment. “He told me about a party he was hosting at ’The Hole’ that night. I figured why not? I hadn’t been there in a while and I missed the place. We drove there. Greeted everyone. Took a couple of shots and…”

“Yes, Mr. Strider? Please continue.” I manage to give him a withering glare.

“And took a bunch of pills. It was a candy bowl party. Everyone brings pills and you mix ’em in a bowl. Take what you want. I got real high and honestly didn’t know which way was up after a while. I probably made out with a lot people. Danced. Drank. Partied like I was dyin’. I remember someone grabbing me… I got shoved against a wall. My clothes practically got ripped off, I think… And I was on the floor. And everything hurt and I could feel myself bleed. At least I think I was bleeding. I can’t remember too well.” I glance over to Bro and I think my heart breaks at the sight of him. His jaw is tight and his eyes are suspiciously shiny. And it’s all my fault. “I’m pretty sure I orgasmed.” My cheeks heat up a little. ‘That was embarrassing to say…’ “And then I just… I must’ve blacked out. I don’t remember anything up until Gamzee took me back to his apartment and made me throw up everything I had taken. I remember that part pretty well…” Shrugging, I stare at the Cabbot’s lawyer. “That’s what happened.”

“Hmm. I see. That was very lacking in details, Mr. Strider.”

“I told you I don’t remember much. I was pretty wasted.”

“And you have no idea who it was that you had relations with that night?”

I blink. ‘Relations with? Who the fuck is this guy? Who even says that?’

“I would have said if I remembered.”

“I see. But you’ve been told who it was, right?” I glance at Terezi, but she makes no move to object. ‘Whatever.’

“Yes.”

“And who is the person you were told you had relations with that night?” I grit my teeth for a moment.

“Mike Cabbot.”

“And he was your boyfriend, am I correct?” Exhaustion.

“Yes.”

“And abusive, I’m told.” It takes me moment to answer.

I hiss out a “Yes.”

“Hmm. Abusive by your claim. There’s no real proof of it.”

“Objection! I didn’t realize we were here to attack Mr. Strider’s character.”

The judge nods. “Sustained. The jury will disregard the last comment. Watch yourself Mr. Lawrence.” He nods, turning to me again.

‘Oh what now?’

“I say that you do know exactly who you had relations with. And you figured it was the perfect opportunity to get rid of your boyfriend, right?”

“Speculation!” Terezi again.

“Sustained.” The judge gives a look to Mr. Lawrence that could freeze hell over.

“Your honor, if the questions keep progressing in the manner, why have Mr. Strider at the stand at all? He has already said time and again that he does not know who attacked him.”

“Attacked!” Mr. Lawrence shouts, obviously outraged at the idea. To be honest, I’m confused.

“Yes, attacked! There were no drugs in Mike Cabbot’s system and also no alcohol. He was stone cold sober and took advantage of my client while he was inebriated! Mr. Strider could not consent. Not to mention he’s underage. How old was Mike Cabbot again? Twenty-one? Twenty-two? Please enlighten me. That is statutory rape in my book! So yes, he was attacked. Mr. Strider is a victim here if nothing else.” My blood goes cold. ‘Rape? No… It was… It was just drugged up sex. So I didn’t say yes. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want it, right? I wanted to be fucked up. Obviously sex is going to happen when you’re that fucked up. No. It’s not rape. No. I was not fucking raped. What the fuck is she talking about? It wasn’t rape…’ I bite my lip and the loud bang of wood on wood startles me. I jump, looking to my right. The judge stares down at Terezi and Mr. Lawrence.

“You will contain yourselves in my courtroom! Now. Mr. Lawrence, please continue with your questioning.”

“Nothing further, your honor,” he spits, sitting back down on his side of the courtroom. Terezi holds her head high as she approaches me. I shrink back in my seat. ‘I don’t wanna be here. I wanna be with Karkat. With Karkat and Bro and John and Jade and Rose. This isn’t happening. We’re at the apartment and we’re watching shitty movies and eating pizza and acting like morons-’ A bang on the table in front of me and I jump again, letting out a small squeak. My face goes red and I resolutely stare at my shoes.

“Mr. Strider. Please pay attention.” I give the barest of nods and glance up at Terezi, the end of her walking stick safely resting on the ground now. “Now, Mr. Strider. You do understand that you are the victim here, right?”

“You’re honor! That is leading the witness!” Terezi seems annoyed and turns to him.

“It is not. He’s not even a witness you idiot. Besides, he is a minor and he was attacked by your client. I have witnesses and evidence. No matter what you think, Mr. Strider is a victim in this! Which I will prove right now.” The judge lets out a world-weary sigh and gestures for her to continue.

“Objection not sustained. Ms. Pyrope will continue with her questioning.”

“Thank you.” She turns back to me. “Dave.” She used my name… “You know that you’re a victim, right?” ‘A victim? Not really. I bring this shit on myself.’Instead of answering, I shrug.

She’s not too happy about this.

“Answer the question, Dave.” I clench my jaw and stare forward.

“I’m not a victim. I had sex with some guy. Who you say was Mike Cabbot. How should I know who stuck their dick in me? I was really high. Just because I couldn’t say no doesn’t mean I didn’t want it…” There’s a bit of murmuring in the courtroom and Terezi tilts her head to the side.

“Dave, do you even hear yourself? You said ‘just because I couldn’t say no doesn’t mean I didn’t want it’. You used the word couldn’t, which is interesting. Were you not allowed to say no to Mike?” I scowl and pull at the sleeves of my shirt.

“Who’s side are you on? You’re twistin’ my words around.”

“I’m not. You said you couldn’t say no. Am I wrong?”

“…”

“Hmm. Dave. Has Mike ever had sex with you without your consent before?” Now it’s my turn to tilt my head.

“Umm, no. I’m pretty sure I would remember if that happened.”

“And you’re so sure of that?” I get a sense of foreboding.

“…Yes…” She sighs and actually looks pretty sad.

“I’m sorry to tell you, Dave, but we found tapes.”

I stop breathing.

‘What…?’

“Tapes of Mike Cabbot having sex with you while you were passed out.”

‘No.’

All I can do is stare blankly.

“By your reaction I take it that you didn’t know.”

I can’t remember how to speak.

“We found at least twenty or so tapes. Mr. Strider. Do you understand now? You are a victim! We looked at Mike Cabbot’s cell phones records. At least a hundred texts in the span of two days sent to your phone. Some very violent. No replies from you. That must have made him angry.” She turns to the jury, but I’m still a thousand paces behind.

‘Tapes?’

‘Had sex with me and I didn’t know…’

‘Oh god. Oh god!’

“I believe that it was Mike Cabbot’s intention to find my client at that party that night and rape him. Possibly kill him! Dave had hand-shaped bruises around his neck and Michael Cabbot had Dave Striders blood on him! You tell me who deserves your pity here. Mike Cabbot, an abusive, pedophilic rapist! Or Dave. An unwilling participant in this scenario.”

I slump down in my chair. ‘I… rape. He… But why- I wouldn’t have- oh god. No.’ I grip my arm and twist my hand, I push my sleeve up and scratch and scratch and scratch. ‘Oh god oh god oh fuck!’ My fingertips feels wet and someone’s pulling me off of the stand and everything sounds like it’s underwater. Scratch scratch can’t move my hand oh god. I’m being shaken and my eyes can’t focus. I’m being held against a warm body and they’re touching my arm and I have to keep scratching I have to forget oh my god why didn’t they how didn’t I how couldn’t I have. I think I’m on my feet and someone’s touching my face. I jerk back and everything snaps into focus again. A nurse stand over me and my arm is bandaged. The courtroom is so noisy and the Judge bangs bangs bangs that gavel. I cringe with each noise. The judge stares down at me and I stare back.

“Maybe this would be a good time for a recess… Court will re-adjourned in a hour. Please take that time to pull yourself together, Mr. Strider. You may use one of the conference rooms. I nod and a guard follows me, Terezi and Bro. Gamzee is left behind in handcuffs, staring at me with this look I don’t understand.

Bro gently pushes me into a chair. ‘When did we reach the conference room?’ He sits next to me and Terezi sits on the opposite side of the table. I lean against Bro as he takes my arm in his hand, fingering the bandages. I try to pull away, but he won’t have it. He traces his fingers over visible scars. He saw them the first day I was in lockup, but it’s no less mortifying the second time. He tears up like last time, but unlike last time, he doesn’t outright cry. He doesn’t try to hug me through steel and tell me it’s going to be okay. He just gently touches my arm and pulls me against his chest. I let him. I don’t cry. I barely breathe. Terezi doesn’t apologize for what she did and I won’t ask her to. She probably just won the case for me.

The hour passes in Bro’s warm embrace and Terezi’s companionable silence. They walk me back to the courtroom, hands on both of my shoulders. Almost everyone is back in and the jury is already waiting.

The judge nods to me and I nod back. “Do the council have any further questions for Mr. Strider?” Two sets of no and I sit next to Gamzee again. He’s back out of cuffs and he touches my hand when I sit back down. I give him a weak smile and he faces forward. They call him to the stand and swear him in. Mr. Lawrence, once again, goes first.

They talk for a while. Talk about the party. Talk about me. It doesn’t take long for Mr. Lawrence to get serious. Gamzee already looks distressed enough as it is. I don’t know if he can handle this. I don’t want to hear him talk about it. I don’t. I don’t want to know what happened. If I hear about it… then it’s real.

“Is this object familiar to you, Mr. Makara?” I look, my eyes widening a bit. It’s a golf club. It’s fucked up and bent almost bent in half. Blood coats it. You can barely see any grey. ‘Oh god is that… Oh god, Gamzee. What the fuck did you do!’

I watch Gamzee swallow thickly, hands visibly shaking even from where I sit. “Y-Yeah, brother…”

“And could you please tell the court what it is?”

“It’s uh… It’s the club I hit Mike Cabbot with…”

“Mr. Makara. We all know you’re guilty of murdering him-” I get ready to shout something but Terezi touches my shoulder, shaking her head. The case is already lost for him. We all know it.

“That it is. Your fingerprints are all over it. Mike Cabbot’s blood covers it.” I think I hear a sob from the other side of the room. I can’t look. I can only focus on Gamzee. Pale, paintless Gamzee. Gamzee who killed someone because of me. Gamzee who welcomed me with open arms after months of ignoring him. Gamzee who shoved his fingers down my throat so I wouldn’t overdose. Gamzee who saw my scars and touched them softly and didn’t judge me and let me share his bed. Gamzee who held me at night and who bought me food and let me hold his cat and stayed sober while I was with him. Gamzee who hid me from the police to protect me. Gamzee…

“I believe you killed Mike Cabbot in cold blood! Perhaps you were jealous? Jealous that Mike was with Mr. Strider? So you figured you had to get him out of the way!” Terezi jumps up.

“Objection, your honor! This is a completely baseless accusation!”

“It ain’t l-like that!” Everyone stops talking. “I didn’t know who Mike Cabbot was! Or that he was Dave’s b-boyfriend!”

“Mr. Makara I suggest you confer with your lawyer-”

“No! I killed Mike Cabbot, but I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean it…” ‘Gamzee…‘ He lets out a sob and I wish I could comfort him. Instead I bite my lip and dig my nails into my thighs. Gamzee covers his eyes as his shoulders shake with repressed cries, tears escaping between his fingers. “That bastard was hurting Dave. You weren’t there! You didn’t see what I did! Dave was bleeding everywhere. Bl-Blood was dripping down his motherfucking thighs for god’s sake! His face was bleeding and god there was just so much blood. Oh god… I was fucking floating but I still knew what was happening! Dave was being raped. He was RAPED.” Gamzee’s long nails dig into his face. “His hands were around Dave’s throat… I thought he was going to kill him. I thought he was going to fucking kill him! I l-lost it. I snapped. He was killing Dave! I bashed his face in but I didn’t mean for it to got that far. I didn’t! I was just protecting him. I was just protecting Dave. I was just pr-protecting him!” He lets out a harsh sob, head buried in his arms. “D-Dave…” Mr. Lawrence nods and steps back. A guard has to help him back to our table, where he immediately leans against me, softly crying onto my shoulder. I wrap an arm around him, my other hand on his face. I try to wipe away the tears, but they don’t seem to stop.

“No more questions, your honor.” Terezi stands, letting out a deep sigh.

“I also have no more questions, your honor.”

They present the witnesses and the rest of the evidence. Gamzee moderately calms down while this is happening. He’s no longer crying, but he still clings to me. Before I know it, it’s almost over.

“Very well. You may both present you closing statements. Ms. Pyrope?” She nods, tapping her way over to the jury.

“Members of the jury. Of Gamzee Makara’s guilt there is no doubt. Yes, he killed Mike Cabbot, but it was not in cold blood. He was only protecting Mr. Strider, who has no guilt in this crime, might I add. Who is a victim. We have shown you the evidence. We have presented the witnesses. Now it’s up to you. Do not ruin these young boys lives. Yes. Boys. They are both still just children, despite Mr. Makara being tried as an adult. I beg of you to think long and hard about this. Gamzee Makara is not a hardened criminal. He is not a cold blooded murderer! He saw a friend in trouble. In need! Was what he did right? Of course not. But neither was what Michael Cabbot did. These kids do not deserve the harshest punishment imaginable. They need help. Please consider that. My case rests.”

The judge nods. “Mr. Lawrence?” He stands, smirking as he walks over to the jury.

“Ms. Pyrope is right, you know. These are children. Who committed murder! I say they are both guilty! Dave Strider an accomplice if nothing else. Please, justice needs to be done here! Michael Cabbot and his family deserve justice to be done for this heinous crime. You saw the pictures of Michael Cabbot after Gamzee Makara bashed his head in with a golf club! And he tries to tell us he didn’t mean it.” He scoffs and straightens his tie.” Men and women of the jury, I say that the harshest punishment is in order! Please, this family needs justice! Thank you.”

The jury take less than an hour. My heart pounds when they come back. We all stand, and Gamzee and I grab each others hands at the same time. We shake, and we stand so close to each other. Trying to find some source of comfort. There is none to be found.

“Jury, what say you about Dave Strider?” A man steps forward.

“On the charge of Murder One, we find him…” No breathing. Absolute silence. “Not guilty.” I could collapse. “On the charge of Manslaughter, we find him also not guilty.”

“And what say you about Gamzee Makara?” The jury pauses for a long moment and Gamzee squeezes my hand hard.

“On the charge of Murder One we find him not guilty.” The courtroom bursts into noise and the judge bangs the gavel and calls for order. “And on the charge of Manslaughter, we the jury, find him guilty…” Gamzee bows his head and his grasp goes limp. The judge nods solemnly and looks towards us.

“Dave Strider, you will not be going to either juvenile hall or jail, but you will go to court mandated therapy for no less than one year.” His gaze slides over to Gamzee. “Gamzee Makara… You have been convicted of the crime of Manslaughter. I sentence you to ten years in prison with the possibility of parole in five. You will go through rehab and therapy as well for no less than a year. Court is adjourned.” I look over at Gamzee, who is already being pulled away.

“Gamzee,” I murmur. Before they reach the door, Gamzee pushes the guard and grabs his gun. It all happens so fast.. Everyone is shouting at once and all I do is stare. He holds the gun to his temple and I shake my head in disbelief. Tears slide down his cheeks and I step out from behind our table, slowly approaching. Someone tells me to stop, but I don’t listen. “Gamzee, please. Please no… You can‘t.” he puts his finger on trigger.

“I c-can’t live with this… I killed someone! I killed that kid! F-Fuck! I don‘t care about jail, but I took a l-life!” A sob rips from his throat and I hold my hands up. “I have to even it out!”

“No,” I whisper. He just closes his eyes and presses the barrel of the gun against his head harder.

“I’m a murderer.” He takes a slow, deep breath. I rush him before I can think about it. His finger pulls back.

Time stops and our eyes meet.

Bang

Chapter Text

The gun clatters to the floor and Gamzee and I go down, hitting the floor with a cracking sound. There's ringing in my ear, buzzing in my skull. Hands are pulling me this way and that. 'What happened? Is Gamzee okay? Someone tell me what happened...' The ringing is subsiding, being replaced by too loud voices. Shouting, shouting, shouting. 'Make it stop...' Bro is grabbing my shoulders in an iron grip, shaking me.

"Dave! Oh my god Dave! How fucking stupid could you possibly be!? He could'a killed you!" I'm pulled flush against his chest and he strokes my hair and kisses the top of my head. His strong hands comfort me and I shut my eyes, unable to make myself look at anything else. 'No, no he's not dead he can't be dead. Sweet jesus if there is a god don't let him be dead!' Bro is whispering in my ear, but I can't pay attention. My whole body feels cold and I think I might faint.

My hands feels sticky. I have to look. I have to look. Fuck oh fuck... Sticky. Sticky. They're so sticky and warm. My eyes open to slits and I jerk back when I see all of the red. So much of it. More than I've ever gotten on them before. My chest feels constricted and I finally glance behind me. Gamzee's prone figure is on the floor, blood pooling around his head like a halo. 'Oh jesus I wasn't fast enough he's dead oh god gamzee is dead.' Paramedics surround him, pressing their fingers to his neck and trying to stop the blood flow.

"We've got a pulse!"

'W...What?'

"Quick, get him in the ambulance!"

'But he shot himself... All of that blood. How can he be okay?'

Bro grabs me, taking me out to his car. I don't put up much of a struggle. He buckles me in since I've apparently lost feeling in my entire body.

"He's gonna be okay, kid. We're gonna go to the hospital and clean you up and you'll be able to see your friend in no time, okay?" I try very hard to believe him, but I can't. How can anyone survive a shot to the head? I mean... Sure, there're survivor stories, but shit like that doesn't happen to me and my friends. And the repercussions are always horrible. Brain damage. Loss of motor functions. Fuck. I wouldn't want Gamzee to live like that. He wouldn't want to live like that. I rest my elbows on my knees and put my head in my hands, wavy hair clutched in a vice grip. I'm silent, barely breathing. Bro just pats my shoulder a couple of times before focusing on the road again.

I lean all of my weight on Bro as we enter the hospital. My legs feel like jelly and I'm sure to fall if either of us lets go. Bro gently pushes me into a chair and walks over to the receptionist. She nods her head a little, pointing off to the side. I stick and unstick my fingers. Everything smells metallic. I should probably feel sick to my stomach, but I don't feel a whole lot right now. Is this what going into shock is like? I still feel cold...

Bro hauls me out of my chair and drags me into the spacious bathroom down the hallway. He pulls my shirt off and I let him. It's soaked in blood anyways. Bro takes paper towels, wetting them with warm water and soap. I feel embarrassed as he wipes me down, but I don't say anything and thankfully neither does he. Eventually I'm all cleaned up. Well, for the most part. I'm just glad my hair and skin aren't slick with blood anymore. Bro just gives me his shirt to wear and I carefully take it. It drapes on me after I put it on and Bro's lips twitch a little and I find that mine do too. 'Right. Like we can all be so muscular.' He just wears his suit jacket and goes back into the lobby. Terezi is waiting for us when we come back out, along with a few police officers and a man I don't recognize.

"Dave." Ms. Pyrope says. "These police officers would like to question you, but I told them that under the circustances, that might not be so advisable." I nod at her, unconsciously moving behind Bro a bit. Terezi turns to them. "Maybe we could do this some other time. As a newly free man I'm sure the last thing Mr. Strider wants to do is talk to the police anymore." They seem unhappy, but leave regardless. "I'm sorry about that, Dave. I tried to tell them no the first time, but they insisted they come here for you to tell them to fuck off in person." I just shrug my shoulder and she looks off to the side for a moment. "Have you heard anything about Mr. Makara?" Bro shakes his head and her shoulders seem to sag. "I don't know what posessed him to do something like that!" She grips her cane tightly and her lips press into a thin line. "He didn't need to do that..." I just stare at the floor until I feel the comforting weight of Bro's hand on my shoulder. I look up and he gives me what I'm assuming is a reassuring smile. I just shake my head and look back down. His hand remains where it is, though and I'm glad for it.

We wait for hours. No word. Nothing. The strange man is still here, sitting on the other side of the lobby. I have no idea who he is. Maybe a relative? I don't know. I didn't think Gamzee had any family left.

I keep falling asleep and waking up on Bro's shoulder, but I'm sure he doesn't mind. Especially if the arm wrapped protectively around my shoulders is anything to go by. I'm shaken awake and I become alert as I see a doctor walk out, grim expression on his face. 'Oh god... is he dead? Oh fuck...' We all stand and out of the corner of my eye I see the unknown man come over.

"You're all here for Mr. Makara, right? Well, I certainly don't have good news, but Mr. Makara isn't dead. That doesn't mean he's out of the woods, though. We aren't exactly sure how much damage was done by the bullet. It wasn't lodged in his brain, but it clipped his skull, shattering some bone and uh, tearing through some brain matter. We operated and the wound is sealed, but like I said. We aren't sure how much damage was done. He's extremely lucky that he missed as he did. A few more centimeters down and it would have been disasterous. He won't be awake for a long time, though. We put him into a medical coma. Give his head some time to heal. I would suggest coming back in a few days to see him. He might be awake, but will be in quite a bit of pain. I'm very sorry about this. It's horrible when this sort of thing happens, but know that we are doing everything in our power to make sure Mr. Makara will recover from this." He shakes our hands and the stranger follows him back down the hall, talking to him frantically.

"Come on, 'Lil man. Let's get you home, okay? I'll cook that god awful campbell's chicken soup you like so much, alright?" I nod tiredly, completely exhausted from today. "And I know there's a whole jug of apple juice with your name on it too." I give a small grin, shutting my eyes for a moment and finally breaking my silence.

"Hell fucking yes."

We reach the automatic doors and I give one look behind me. 'What's going to happen now, though?'

Chapter Text

It's been a little more than two weeks since I've been home. Imagine my surprise when I walked through that door to find the apartment fucking spotless. I don't think I've ever seen it that clean. And it actually hasn't gotten messed up yet. The smuppets are in neat little piles and the weapons are all gone. Or put away. Not that I can really blame Bro for that. If my kid brother was cutting himself I sure as shit wouldn't keep sharp as fuck weapons laying around. Speaking of cutting myself...

I glance down at my arm. The cuts are still pretty goddamned visible and I'm sure the scratching didn't help. I sigh a little. Sometimes I'll see Bro give quick glances to my arms. It's subtle, but I notice it every time. It makes me uncomfortable, but... Like I said. I can't really blame him. He probably knows I've hurt myself since being here, but if he does he hasn't said anything. Maybe he doesn't know how to bring it up. Or maybe he just doesn't know... But I'd be really surprised if he didn't.

My computer chimes with yet another message. I can't bring myself to look at it. I haven't even looked at all of the other messages since I got back. Everyone's probably worried. John's probably worried... I shut my eyes, trying to block out the thought. Sweet, dumbass John. I can never tell him about this. Any of them. What would they say? I can't even bear the thought that they'd stop being friends with me, so instead I don't say anything. Scoffing, I roll over on my bed to face the wall. My sunglasses dig into my face, but I don't dare remove them. I haven't taken them off since since Bro placed them back on my face. Just right in the middle of eating. Slid them onto my nose without a word. I was too stunned to even mumble out a thank you. I'm sure he knows how grateful I am, though. I close my eyes, wishing everything would disappear for a moment. Just a moment so I could have a little respite.

I tiredly open my facebook app, making sure I'm still shown as offline, and open up my messages. A bunch of new ones from my friends. I ignore those though, instead opening the message between me and Gamzee. I must've read it a million times now. God... if I hadn't of gone and messaged him he would still be ok. Mike never would've followed me there. Gamzee wouldn't even be in the hospital right now if it wasn't for me. My chest feels like a black hole at the thought. 'This whole mess... This entire thing is my fault. Fuck. Fuck me. Fuck this. I'm such a... Oh god.' I squeeze my eyes shut and blindly grope for the razor under my pillow. I grab it, sharp edge cutting into my thumb. I hiss and pull away, inspecting it. There's only a tiny bead of blood on it and I stick my thumb in my mouth, licking it clean. I sigh and grab the razor again, careful of the sharp edge this time. My hand doesn't tremble and my heart isn't jackhammering as I sit up and press the blade against my arm. I just take a breath, holding it as I swipe the razor across the underside of my arm. I just keep digging it deeper as I go. Blood drips onto the pant legs of my jeans, but I don't care too much. Eventually it hurts too bad to continue and I run out of clean skin, previous injuries getting in the way. I toss the blade across the room and it lands with a dull, metallic thunk onto my desk. My entire arm is warm as I look down. Small streams of blood slide down it and I almost panic at the sight of some of the cuts I made. 'No, no... Calm down. So some of them could probably use stitches, but whatever. It'll be fine. This is what I wanted. I chose this.' I lay my hand over them, shuddering at the sticky, wet feeling afterwards. 'Don't think about it.' Yeah right... I haven't be to do anything but think about it since I got back home. Every day. I replay that scene in court every day. I wonder what else I could have done. If I had only acted sooner, would Gamzee still be in the hospital? Would he still be laid out in bed. Unresponsive. Seemingly dead. Yes, I usually decide. Everything would've been fine if I had only done something sooner instead of standing there like a fucking idiot. I press my hand to the cuts harder and some blood leaks past my fingers. I just sigh and let my head fall back against my bedroom wall. 'What am I gonna do?'

It's not like therapy helps. Then again, like Mr. Nitram says, 'I can only help you if you want to be helped, Dave...' And I always say, 'Sure man. I wanna get better.' And I can tell by the sad look he gives me that he knows I'm bullshitting him. Sometimes Bro comes to sessions with me. Those times are the worst. It feels like there's this wall up in between us and no matter what anyone says it'll never come down. We both know how uncomfortable we are, but refuse to address the 'elephant' in the room. Everything is so different in therapy. It's like this game I don't know the rules to. And if I say the wrong thing then it's 'Bye, Bye, Davie' and 'Hello psych ward'. Being bound up in a straight jacket isn't really top on my priority list.

I can feel the blood start to cool down. It's stopped leaking past my fingers and I finally breathe a little. I grab the towel from under my bed, hissing as I wipe off the blood with the rough fabric. My cuts start to bleed again and I grit my teeth, grabbing the stained ace bandage too. I wrap my arm tightly and frown as it burns. Sometimes I really wish I could stop, but then I wouldn't know what to do. I mean... what would I actually do? Talk to Bro? Shit... I think he's even more distant than he was before. And that shit hurts, but it's not like I'm not used to it by now. It's not like I hoped Bro would actually start to give a fuck about me. Would actually stay home. I know it's been only two weeks and yeah, maybe we are still settling into things, but I can already tell where this is going. It's going to be just like before. Barely speaking a word to each other. Talking through text. And by talk I mean telling him what I want him to bring home for food. Looking down at the bandage, I scowl when I see that my arm has bled through. 'Motherfucker... I don't got another one right now.' I shake my head and lay back down on my side, arm resting above my head.

I'm a little startled when my phone rings a few minutes later. I check the I.D and it's Karkat. I bite my lip, thumb hovering over the 'answer call' button, but in the end I just silence it and throw the thing back down. I'm too scared to answer, to be honest. Everyone's heard about what happened by now. It was in the news, on T.V. I'm sure Karkat hates me. Thinks I'm a disgusting excuse for a person. And let's face it, he wouldn't be wrong. A sudden wash of tears burn my eyes and I blink them back, frustrated at myself. 'Don't cry you pussy. You don't get to cry.' Instead I grab a handful of my hair, pulling on it to distract myself. Tears invade my eyes again, but this time for a different reason. 'I can never face him again.'

There's a loud banging on my bedroom door and I almost panic before thrusting my arm under my pillow and telling Bro to come in. I mean, who the fuck else would it be? And I was right. My brother comes into the room, grey hat gone but shades still on. He just stands in the doorway for a minute and I'm not sure where he's looking. At me, probably. He walks over to my desk and I'm confused before he picks something up off of it. 'Oh... oh shit. I forgot about that. Fuck...' He turns to me, severe frown tugging at his lips. He turns the razor over and over in his hand, then sits on the edge of my bed, still inspecting it. For blood maybe? I don't know, but I wish he'd stop.He finally sets it down on his thigh, turning his body towards me.

"Dave," he says softly. I quickly look at my pillow. "Dave," he says again, this time a little stronger. He sets his sunglasses next to my face, but I just turn my head away, unable to face him right now. I know he's going to want to see my arm. I'm not ready for that. "Please... I know I'm not good at this. I know I... I know I'm a shitty excuse for a brother, but please. Please for the love of god talk to me, kid. I wanna help. I don't... I don't really understand why you do this. I mean, your therapist gave me books but.. I just wanna help you. You're all I've got in this world, Dave. You and me and Lil' Cal. It's not much, but it's our family. It's always been like that. I can't lose either of you." I look at his hands, balled into fists and shaking. I'd flinch if I thought for even a moment that he'd ever hurt me, but this is Bro. He might hurt me emotionally, but he'd never hurt me physically. I'm almost afraid to look at his face, but when I do, I'm shocked. A couple of tears make their way down his cheeks, splashing onto his white polo without a sound. "Dave, please don't hurt yourself. It kills me that you d-do this." His voice breaks and I immediately sit up, throwing my arms around him. He hugs me back, muscular arms making me feel safe.

"Dammit, Bro..." I mumble, feeling guilty as sin. "You know I can't stop just like that. I wish... sometimes I wish I could, but. I just feel like I have to. Alla the time. It's hard, man. I mean... it's like how you were with alcohol a few years back. When you felt like you couldn't stop drinking? That's what it's like." He just holds me tighter, chocked back sobs loud in my ears.

"Oh god," he whispers, trying to pull me even closer, which is silly considering I'm flush up against him anyways. I just press my cheek against his chest, unable to do anything but hold him while he cries for the first time in years. Well, crying for the first time in years that I know of. "I'm so, so sorry," he murmurs, hand running through my messy hair. "If I had known... if you had told me... How did I not see it." It's not a question, but I try to hold him tighter all the same. "I should've seen it. I'm a terrible brother. Mom and Dad were wr-wrong. I'm not the best big bro anyone's e-ever had. I'm just a fuck up." I feel his tears fall onto my head and I pull back, frowning at him.

"Man, come on... Don't say shit like that. You are the best big bro anyone's ever had. I'm the one who fucked up, okay? You didn't know because I didn't want anyone to know. Hell, I even fooled Karkat for years..." He stares down at me.

"Years?" He asks quietly. "Dave... how long have- Did you start this because of-" He can't finish his question, but I jnow what he's asking.

"It uh... I'm not saying it wasn't a factor, but that's not the whole reason why. It was just a lot of things on top of a lot of other things, alright? It's not your fault, Bro. I chose this. To do this to myself..." He shakes his head vigorously, hair barely moving at all.

"No, it wasn't your choice, Dave. You didn't- I should have seen this. I didn't give you any other options. I made you do this. This is on me, Davey." I raise my eyebrow, smiling slightly.

"Heh... you must really be feeling it right now, huh? You haven't called me that since we had to share a bed." I grin and grab my blanket, pulling it around the both of us. Bro used to do this when I was real little and upset. Or if we were both scared. Or if we were hungry and couldn't buy anything. But things haven't been that way since the smuppet business took off way back when. Suddenly we had everything we could want. Food, heat, electricity, cable, computers... Shit, we pretty much never had to want for anything ever again. But the problem was that the more Bro worked, the more we drifted apart. And I know he just wanted a better life for us, but it hurt to see him be so distant and uncaring towards me. I guess the stress of being richer than god and running a large corporation got to him.

Bro smiles down at me and we lean against each other. And it feels like we're a family again. Striders against the world. Nothing can touch us as long as we've got each other. That's what we always used to say. His fingers touch my bandaged arm and I almost don't resist the urge to flinch away. He starts to pull away after I go rigid, but I grab his hand, placing it back on my arm.

"You can see, if you want..." Maybe I'm more ready for this than I thought. "Just please don't freak out." He nods slowly and unwinds the blood stained bandage. I hear him suck in a sharp breath once my arm is exposed. I wait for some kind of yelling, but it never comes. He just holds my arm gently, like it'll shatter if he's too rough. I hiss when he touches the new cuts, though. He leans his head down after a moment and I wonder what he's doing until- 'Oh... Oh uh. Damn. Is he kissing my cuts?' And sure enough he is. He kisses my scars. All of them, being extra careful with the new wounds. My cheeks flush in embarrassment and wow those are definitely not tears in my eyes, nope. I hastily wipe at them anyways. He looks up at me then, crushing me against his chest once more.

"I love you, 'Lil Man. More than anything in this world. I love you. Please don't ever think I don't, alright? You're the one thing I unironically care about in this whole universe. And I don't know what I'd do without you. Please, Dave... Please believe that."

And you know what? I actually fucking believe him.

We hug for the rest of the day, soaking up each other's comfort. Pausing only to take a piss or grab junk food. Eventually we move to the living room where we watch Disney films until three in the morning with 'Lil Cal on our laps.

I think that maybe... Maybe I'll be okay. I can only hope that talking to my friends will go as well as this did. But I really fucking doubt it.

Chapter Text

It's another week before I open up pesterchum. A week of Bro working from home and making us kraft dinner and playing video games with me. A week of him holding me through the worst of my urges and making me hot chocolate with those stupid pink marshmallows I like so much. Another week of making slight progress with Mr. Nitram. It's been a pretty great week and I couldn't bring myself to ruin it by opening the flood gates. But now it's time. I yank my sweater sleeves down. Covering the new cuts. Well, what'd you expect? A person doesn't quit just like that, no matter how much they may want to. Fuck, I'm distracting myself. Like I said. I open up pesterchum, coming online for the first time in a month. I only have to wait a few moments before six logs open up all at once on me. I blink behind my shades, then close all of them out except for Roses'.

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

TT: Dave, oh my god.

TT: Dave please answer me.

TT: Dave I swear I will haunt your dreams for the rest your life!

TG: yo chill

TG: im right here so dont go all voodoo crazy on me k

TG: i will thank you to stay far away from my brain lalonde

TT: Oh thank fuck. David Strider what on earth is your problem!

TT: Do you know how worried we've all been?

TT: Especially poor Karkat! He's this close to hurting himself again, Dave.

TG: woah what???

TG: come again

TG: he better not have

TT: Well, I couldn't really blame him, could I! His best friend disappears and his other
friend is in a coma! He's been so worried I'm surprised he hasn't snapped yet!

TG: oh... so you know about that huh

TT: I know about all of it, Dave.

TT: And I'm so very sorry, but you shouldn't have ignored us like that! I thought...

TT: I thought you might have tried to kill yourself. Or landed yourself in the hospital. None of us knew!

TT: And we couldn't get in contact with your brother.

I pause, leaning back in my seat to take a breath. 'Shit... I really fucked up. Alright, time to try and fix this.' I frown. 'If I can...

TG: im sorry rose

TG: i was scared you guys would stop being friends with me if i told you anything

TT: Dave...

TG: and i couldnt stand thought

TG: so i just didn't say anything

TG: i figured youd all hate me

TG: and think that im a horrible person

TG: and youd be right

TG: but i didnt want any of you actually thinking that

TG: so i figured t was better to not even say anything

TG: im sorry

TG: im sorry

TG: im really sorry

Tears burn at my eyes and I cover them under my sunglasses, throat contacting with held back cries. 'Oh god I'm sure a horrible friend. Fuck. Fuck me. What've I done? I fucked everything up!' pesterchum chimes and I sniffle before looking up.

TT: I love you, Dave. We all love you. John. Jade. Your Bro. Even John's dad loves you. John keeps telling us how worried his dad's been since telling him we haven't heard from you in a month.

TT: It's alright, Dave. We'll all get through this. And don't think that you've fucked anything up, because you haven't. We were all just so worried. You really had us terrified.

I snuffle again, the tears still coming.

TG: im sorry

TT: Don't.

TT: Don't you start that. Everything's going to be ok. Do you believe me, Dave? We'll all help you through this because we love you so much.

TG: ok.

TG: i believe you

TT: Good. Now for fuck's sake.

TT: Please talk to John. His messages are blowing up my laptop.

TG: k

TG: thanks rose

TG: <3

TT: <3

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

I sit there for a monent after Rose ends our conversation, then glance at the blinking ghostlyTrickster window. 'This is it. Talkin' to John. Maybe I should check in with Jade first...' I click on her window, but she goes offline a few seconds later. '...'Fucking narcolepsy I swear to god. I let out a long sigh, then click on John's chat window with shaking fingers. It's filled to the brim with unread messages, but I don't even bother reading those. Instead I go straight to the brand new ones.

-- ghostlyTrickster [GT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

GT: jesus Dave just answer me!!!!!!!!

GT: i know you talked to Rose

GT: Dave please

GT: i'm your best friend...

GT: come on man

TG: sup

GT: daaaaaaaave ::::o

GT: holy shit!

GT: Dave where have you been!

GT: we've been so worried! ::::(

TG: yeah rose said you guys were pacing back and forth and squaking like birds

GT: she did not!

TG: totally did

TG: like angry hens she said

TG: flappin yur wings and shrieking without mercy

GT: Dave...

TG: yeah...... sorry

GT: Dave, I was so scared. Well I was mad at first because you were ignoring me, but then I was scared because I thought something bad might've happened!!!!!!!!

GT: Dave what happened? Where did you go for such a long time?

I sigh and rub my eyes, still stinging from talking to rose. 'I should just come out and say it...'

TG: i was in jail

I wait. And wait. John doesn't answer for a long time and I start to bite the skin on my lip, tearing small pieces off. It starts bleeding.

GT: Hahah. Are you serious?

TG: yeah...... im serious john

TG: i was in jail

TG: had a trial and everything

GT: !!!

GT: Oh my god Dave what even happened!

TG: got caught up in a murder nbd

TG: was found not guilty obviously

TG: or else i wouldnt be talkin to you

TG: so yeah

TG: ive been in jail and shit

TG: i was real scared during the trial but w/e

TG: least im home now

TG: but john i have something else to tell you

TG: and its really not easy ok

TG: but i have to tell you

TG: john

TG: are you listening

GT: yeah. sorry Vriska just called but I told her I was busy.

My hand clench and I shut my eyes for a moment, then slowly open them back up. The wall of bright red and blue text makes my eyes hurt for a moment.

TG: also you cant freak out

TG: john please dont freak out ok

GT: ...

GT: Dave I don't like where this is going

GT: what is it?

GT: you know you can tell me anything

I take a few deep breaths and stare at the screen for a while.

GT: Dave...

GT: please answer me

GT: you're really scaring me

Right... Like pulling off a band-aid.

TG: ive been cutting myself

TG: and i have been since i was thirteen

TG: and i know how bad it sounds

TG: but bro found out and im getting help

TG: and im really trying to stop

TG: john???

TG: john come on

TG: dont leave me hangin

TG: john dont do this to me man

TG: ......

GT: Dave

GT: I

GT: I don't know what to even say

GT: how could you keep this from me!

GT: I'm your best friend! don't you trust me Dave??

I grit my teeth and sit on the edge of my chair.

TG: i didn't tell you because i knew you'd react just like this

TG: i know you feel hurt that i kept this from you

TG: but no one else knew either

TG: and i didn't know how to ask for help

TG: please dont be mad at me john

TG: i cant stand it when youre mad at me

TG: im so sorry about all of this

GT: Dave.

GT: I really need to think about all of this.

GT: Can I text you later??

TG: sure man you know i always have my phone on me

GT: ok Dave. And please don't hurt yourself alright??

TG: yeah man of course i wont

GT: <3

I hesitate, then send of my own heart. It's the hardest thing I've had to type out.

TG: <3

-- ghostlyTrickster [GT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --

I just turn off my monitor and hightail it to the bathroom, everything about that entire conversation overwhelming me. I don't mean to, but I end up slamming the door shut. I lean against it and cover my eyes. My lashes are wet with tears and I sniffle, trying so hard to fucking lose it.

"Dave? Please open up the door..." I choke back a sob. Bro... I push away from the wall and fling the door open. I must look a mess because Bro takes one look at me and pulls me against him, hugging me so hard I almost can't breath. I hug him back, sobbing pathetically into his tank top. "Shh, shh... It's alright, Davey. It's gonna be okay." I shake my head, but he just runs his rough fingers through my curly hair and leads me to the futon in the living room. Wrapping me in a blanket, he hums to me. I just keep crying.

After a long, long while I finally calm down, but neither of us are willing to let go of the other. "Can I see?" he asks. I just hold up my arms and he pushes up the sleeves of my sweatshirt, saying nothing when I know he can see the new cuts from this morning. He kisses them, like he has been doing and gets up. He comes back with the first aid a moment later and fixes me up. I open my mouth to apologize when he shakes his head. "No. Ya don't hafta do that. It's ok." I just nod and we settle on the couch again, Bro holding me as we watch movies. "I love ya, Dave."

My eyes still burn and I wipe my nose. "Love you too, Bro." I think about the fact that I still have to talk to Karkat and grab Bro's hand without thinking. He holds my hand though, rubbing my knuckles with his thumb. Jesus, why'd I ever think talking to everyone would be a good idea. I pull my phone out of my pocket. Six new texts from Karkat. I bite my lip and just put my phone back. Maybe I'll talk to him tomorrow.

Chapter Text

I wake up on the couch, crushed in Bro's arms and swealtering under the heat of the blankets. Groaning, I carefully get off and crank the air conditioner up to eleven. I push my lank hair behind my ears and pull out my phone, warm from being in my pocket all night. The clock reads one twenty-five pm and a frown tugs at my lips. 'Oops... didn't mean to sleep so late.' I look up a little at Bro, still sleeping on the couch. It's so... strange. Him acting like this. We hadn't hugged in a few years before all of this shit happened. Maybe he thought I was getting too old for affection. I mean, I am a seventeen year old boy after all. He had every reason to think that. Besides, it's not as if he's the most emotional person ever. Letting out a soft sigh and smile, I turn and walk into the kitchen. My stomach growls and I'm so hungry I feel sick. God I hate waking up.

I grab the gallon of applejuice, drinking straight from the cold bottle. I shut my eyes when I swallow, parched throat feeling a fuckton better. "Oh man... I love you, AJ." I carefully put the juice back after pouring a glass and grab the bagels, popping two of them into the toaster. 'Man do I love bein' able to find everything. Another good thing that came outta this mess.' I shake my hair out of my eyes and grab the cream cheese and butter, stomach growling in anticipation. 'Come on you fucking bagels. You gotta be done, jesus christ. They pop up a moment later, steaming and golden-brown. 'Aw yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about.' I generously spread cream cheese and butter on them and sit down at our ridiculous children's dining table. The colors assault my eyes like they have for the past seventeen years and I find myself smiling wider. 'Every year we talk about gettin' an actual table but we never do.' I scarf down my bagels and chug my applejuice, feeling a thousand times better afterwards. I pull out my phone again after placing my dishes in the sink and actually look at the screen this time. I raise my eyebrow when I see that I have six new texts. All from John last night. I bite my lip and check out the missed phone call instead.

From Karkat. Of course it is. And there's a voicemail. I hesistate, then punch in my pin number.

0413

John's birthday.

There's a deep frown on my face as the message crackles to life.

"Dave... Dave please pick up the phone."

His voice is still gravelly like it always is, but it sounds so defeated. He lets out a long sigh and there's a moment of silence.

"I'm so damn sorry I freaked out. If I hadn't... maybe none of that would've happened."

My breathe catches, though I don't know why. Of course he knows. Everybody knows.

"Please Dave. We've been friends forever. I just... god."

Such a long pause. I bite my lip, really not wanting to deal right now.

"I just need to see you. I need to know that you're ok. I'm so worried... I don't expect you to really answer me back. It's been a month. Hahah, you probably hate me. But that's alright. I just wanna see you. If you get this, come over to my house. I'll be home. So will my dad and Kankri. They send their love, by the way... Bye."

And shit here comes the sting in my eyes. I quickly end the call and let my phone clatter on the table. I place my head in my hand, trying my best not to fucking lose it. Again.

'Oh god should I go? I should go. No no no I can't... Oh fuck what if he's hurt himself?' I almost stop breathing. 'He sounded so unlike himself. So fucking quiet. I did that. I did that!' I pull at my hair, the sharp pains comforting, making me forget those thoughts for a moment. 'I have to see him. Christ... I'm such a selfish ass lord. Of course he's hurtin'. It's Karkat. He a small bundle of hurt covered with anger. I know that. I know that and ignored him.' And just like that, the comfort Bro gave me last night is gone. I can't seem to pull myself out. I nees to cut. I need to cut so bad I think I'll fucking scream myself horse if I don't.

My heart feels strained as I rush to the bathroom, carefully avoiding looking at Bro in the slightest. I'll stop myself if I do. Just one. Just one cut. No will know. Not Bro. Not Rose. Not Karkat. No one. Quietly, I shut the door, not making a peep. I bite my lip again as I creep over to the shower, turning it on full blast. Steam rises up almost instantly and I turn the bathroom fan on for extra noise. My feet feel like they're glued to the floor as I catch sight of myself in the mirror. Hair mussed from sleep. Rings under my eyes from nights I lay awake in bed, unwilling to disturb Bro for comfort. My red eyes. My fucking red eyes I hate so much. That none of my friends know about. 'Boy son, you sure are pale!' Ha! Hahaha! So funny! My blonde hair. Ha! Not blonde. White. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck! I sink my fingers into my hair, messing it up even more and yanking at it. It doesn't matter how many times I dye it 'sunshine rising' blonde. It always goes back! My eyes are alwayd red! I'm always gonna be a freak and a burden. I don't deserve my friends. I don't deserve my Bro... I don't deserve this.

Fiercly slapping my hand on the sink counter, I stare hard at my reflection. Ready to fight myself. 'I don't deserve to feel this way. I don't. I don't I don't! I deserve better. Better than more scars. Better than more tears and blood and hatred! I'm a good person. I'm a good person! I am. I really fucking am. Come on, Dave. Come on. Your Bro is right out there. Right there. Ten feet away! Wake him up. Wake him up! You don't have to do this!' I glare down at my exposed arm, scowling at the disgusting pink and white scars. 'I don't need more. I don't!' Tears flood my eyes again and I clench my teeth. I swear to god my lungs are gonna collapse. My chest feels constricted and my muscles tense, ready to lash out at any moment. "Don't you do it. Don't you fucking dare you coward..." The threat is no louder than a whisper, but the words bang against the walls. They echo at me, loud as church bells, bouncing in my head. I yank open my drawer and pull out my shaving razor, quickly pulling it apart. I slice my finger in the process, but just hiss and keep going. Finally I have the blade out. It's a familiar thing as I turn my arm over and press against the skin. My arm is locked. I'm frozen. 'Just one. Just one and then no more. I swear. No one has to know.' I take in a deep breath, staring intently as I push just a hair harder before slashing the blade across my arm. The air leaves my lungs in a gasp once the cut is made. Then it hits me. I just really fucked up. My skin is split open, but there's no blood yet. I throw the blade into the sink as blood wells up in the gash. It spills over after a moment, sliding down my arm. It's so warm. 'Aw fuck. Aw shit! I watch as blood splashes onto the floor, standing out against the orange tiles. I decompress, letting out a soft cry. 'What'd I do! Oh shit why'd I do that!' I cover my mouth with my hand in an attempt to muffle my sniffles and half-chocked sobs. Steam from the shower sticks to my skin and I slowly take my clothes off and step into the scalding water. I make a noise of distress and turn up the cold, slumping against the wall after the water turns warm. I still feel blood sliding down my arm and stick it under the water. White hot pain. I clap my hand over my mouth to stop my scream. I pull my arm back as I continue to cry, wishing Bro was in here with me. 'He' gonna be so upset. God why am I such a fuckup? Why why why.' My eyes screw shut of their own volition as I slide down to sit on the floor of the shower. I bring my knees up and rest my chin on my chest. It feels like the end of the world. I sniffle pathetically and keep my arm pressed against my body, hoping the bleeding will stop soon. 'Please stop. Please stop. I can't let Bro know. He can't know about this...'

I sit in the shower for what feels like forever. The water has cooled down a lot since I first got in and my fingers are pruny. I slowly stand, knees cracking as I do so. My arm still presses against my chest even as I get out and turn the water off. Bro's gonna be annoyed that the hot water's gone. I automatically grab the first aid kit from underneath the sink and fumble with the bandages. I hold down one end with my knee and place my arm in the middle of the bandage. I somehow manage to wrap it decently despite smearing blood on it at points.

My face is expressionless as I wipe the blood from my arm and clean the floor. It feels as if my mind has grinded to a halt. Next stop numbing despair. All aboard! I shove the bloody rag to the bottom of the hamper, heart pounding. 'I'll just have to get to the laundry first.' I press my arm to my side as I leave the bathroom, definitely not wanting Bro to see any of this shit. I very quickly abscond to my room where I throw on some clothes, including my red hoodie. It's an indication of what I did if nothing else is, but maybe Bro won't be paying attention. I nod to myself and swagger out the door, wallet in pocket and shades on my face. Bro stares at me from the futon, but I walk to the door after grabbing my phone. I tug my converse on with a frown.

"Goin' somewhere, lil' man?"

I don't dare turn around.

"Yeah. Karkat's."

He says nothing for a moment and I grab my skateboard.

"Want me to drive ya?" I take a breath and stare down the doorknob.

'It's a long ride on my skateboard... Damn.'

"Sure man. Better get movin', though. Got places to be." He frowns a tad and heads to his room, coming back out a moment later dressed and carrying a backpack. 'What? Whatever, ugh.' He ruffles my hair as he walks past me, striding down the hallway. I lock the door and follow sans one cool ass board.

Our walk is silent down the many flights of stairs and it makes me nervous. I can't help but fidgit until we reach the bottom of the complex.

We walk out onto the parking lot. A moment later we reach his beat-up, orange truck and clambre into it. Well, I do at least. Bro just hops right in. Quiet again. The only sound being the 'ironic' bluegrass station softly playing. 'Bro is such a liar. He totally fucking loves this shitty music.' I glance at Bro who is, in fact, bobbing his head along to this shitty music. I just let out a breath of air and slump against the seat.

We make it to Karkat's place in record time and I saulte Bro when I get out of the truck. He tells me to text him if I need to be picked up, peeling out of the driveway after I grace him with a stiff nod.

I slowly turn to face the Vantas household. One story. Flowers growing down the walkway. I'm scared out of my fucking mind. I shuffle up to the door, knocking on it hesitantly. The door opens and there stands Kankri, red t-shirt and white pajama pants. Hair a fucking mess. Then again, I didn't even brush my hair before I left. He has bags under his eyes I haven't seen before. All I can do is frown.

"...Dave?" He perks up when he recognizes me, then pulls me into a surprisingly strong hug. "Dave, I'm so glad you're here! We've all been out of our minds with worry!" He pulls back then, giving me a small smile. "Also I'm very sorry for hugging you without permission." I shake my head as he gently guides me into the house. "And I'm sorry for my apperance. I haven't been getting much sleep lately, I'm afraid." I push my sunglasses up and glance around.

"It's uh. You know... ok."

Silence rings between us and I feel embarrassed for some reason. Maybe because the last time he saw me I was rrunning out of the house like a bat outta hell. Nah. That can't be it. Adjusting my sweater sleeves, I shift from foot to foot, uncomfortable.

"So... is Karkat here?" I look to Kanki, who seems to be studying me.

"Yes. He's in his room right now, probably still asleep. Dave... I don't want to overstep my boundaries, but please be careful with him. He's been very, well, fragile for a while. My father and I constantly worry over him. Especially since the last time he was like this was after our mother passed away and... you know how that went." I nod at him and shove my hands into my pockets.

"Yeah man no problem. I'll be the gentlest of creatures with him." He smiles me then, making a shooing motion towards the stairs.

"Go see him then. He'll be very happy to see you." I'm already halfway up. The third one from the top creaks and I smile lightly at the familiar noise.

Suddenly I'm face to face with a very surprised Karkat, who no doubt ventured out of his room to see who the fuck it was. He breathes my name out and I have an armful of shaking Karkat just then. He clings to me, beating his fists on my chest.

"You asshole! You fucking ass munch!" My eyes are wide and I feel a million times worse than before. "Do you even have any idea how worried I've been?! Day and night, waiting to hear anything from you, you incredible douchecanoe!" He keeps hitting his small fists against me and I take it, more than willing to have him let out his emotions onto me. "How could you just abandon me like that! How! I love you and you left me!" My cheeks flush, unused to having Karkat say that to me. I walk us to his room as he continues to shout. Sitting us down on his bed, I wrap his red comforter around us and hold him close.

After a very long time his shouts cease and we just sit there. Quiet. It's pretty dark in his room, Shades shut and lights off except for his computer. Karkat shifts in my arms and I look down. He looks right back at me. I open my mouth but he shushes me.

"I love you." I raise my eyebrow and rub his back.

"What? I know man. Love you too." He scowls and places his hands on my shoulders.

"No, dickwad. I love you."

And that's when Karkat Vantas presses his fucking lips to mine, hands curled into the fabric of my sweater.

Chapter Text

It takes me all of three seconds to gently push him away. Not hard enough to make him fall back, but firm enough to let him know I'm not fucking around right now. He stares up at me, black hair in his eyes.

"Look. Karkat..." I frown and I can feel the slightest of trembling under my fingers. "I didn't know. Um. Know you felt this way? I mean. You know I love John..." His expression turns ugly and I'm frigtened for a moment. It passes though and my frown just deepens. "Christ." I let out a sigh and push my hair back. "Why do this now? Is this what you wanted? To kiss me? To... I don't know. This isn't the only reson you wanted me here is it?" By the look on Karkat's face, all signs point to no. He grips the sleeve of my sweater tightly, red fabric stark against caramel skin. He wants to scream at me, I can see it, but he just lets his head drop against my chest.

"No." It's a faint response, but there all the same. "I just... after what happened-" I can imagine the twisting of his lips and furrow of his brow. "I thought I'd never get the chance to tell you. It fucking scared me. I thought I'd never see you again. Never get to talk to you. Apologize to you..." I'm actually surprised by that and rub his back a little. "I'm sorry. For... for what I did. Not kissing you. The other thing. When you slept over. That was really shitty of me, but I felt so hurt. And really, really betrayed, Dave. I thought, 'Dave is my best friend, but he can't even give me the curteousy of coming to me with his problems.' I was so goddamned furious, but that's not an excuse I guess..." I lie back, pulling Karkat with me and stare at the glow stars we put on his ceiling when we were twelve. His dad had just rolled his eyes at them and made us swiss miss with ghost marshmellows. I smile then and can feel Karkat's eyes on me. "What?"

I let out a gruff laugh and turn my head to look at him. "Heh... Nothin'. Just remembering that time we stuck all of those fucking glow stars on your ceiling. Can't believe you never took 'em down." He rolls his eyes, arm resting across my abdomen.

"'Course not, idiot. That's one of my favorite memories..."

We lie in silence after that, just listening to each other breathe. 'It's not weird,' I think, 'Holding Karkat after he kissed me... Maybe it's 'cause we've been friends for so long.' I don't know, but I wouldn't trade this for anything. It was so fucking stupid of me to stay away. Christ, I don't know what I was thinking.

It's a long time of lieing on Karkat's bed, I think, when there's a knock on the door.

"Hey kids?" Oh, Mr. Vantas... "I brought home Taco Bell. Think you wanna come down and eat?" Karkat and I sit up and detangle ourselves from the sheets.

"Be right down, Mr. V!" I call. I hear the third step from the top creak as he goes downstairs. "You think he got cinnamon twists?" Karkat laughs and it's the best sound I've heard in ten thousand years.

"You fucking know he did."

We race down the stairs and fall against each other as we reach the kitchen, grinning and clutching our stomachs from laughter. The table is pretty much covered in Taco Bell and we dig right in. We all eat like we're starving, but that's how it's always been. Kankri's just a bit more polite about it. I swear, he could eat twelve chickens and still have room for ice-cream and shit.

We all make light conversation, but there's an undercurrent of tension you can't miss. An elephant in the room. And I can't help but think it's because of me. In fact, I know it is. I catch Mr. Vantas trying to not look at my arm from across the table, but I just keep smiling and eating. Kankri keeps his eyes on his plate and Karkat makes no show of hiding his looks at me. This goes on for another five minutes befores I set my glass down harder than neccessary. Everyone stops what they're doing to (openly) stare at me. I push my sunglasses up higher and set my face to emotionless. I'm safe behind my glasses.

"I know ya'll keep looking at me. I don't know if you know this but none of you are subtle at all. Like fuckin' bulls in china shops." I let out a sigh and quickly throw off my sweater before I can think about it. It makes no noise as it falls to the floor. I make no noise as I look straight at Mr. V. "Well, there you go. I know that's what you guys wanted to see. And I know damn well all of you have somethin' to say. So go ahead." When no one takes the initiative, I roll my eyes and sip at my Baja Blast. "Don't worry. I won't break. Or run out this time." Mr. Vantas places his chin in his hand, a hard look on his face. Kankri fidgets with his napkin and resolutely doesn't stare at my arms. Karkat absolutely stares at my arm, the bandage with drying blood on it. His mouth is open a little and he grips the edge of the table, white-knuckled. My cheeks flush with embarrassment and Mr. Vantas reaches across the table to place his hand on mine.

"Dave..." His voice is so smooth. Comforting. It makes me want to cry. "I don't exactly know everything you're going through right now, even less how it feels, but you're like a second son to me. I just want you to be happy. And safe. And you know where we are if you ever need anything. You're more than welcome here any time. You should already know that. And for fuck's sake, Dave, you don't have to hide around us. We won't judge you. Not for anything. It's not how I was raised and it's certainly not how I raised my children." He squeezes my hand. All I can do is stare. Mr. Vantas let's go after a minute and eyes my bandage. "How bad is that? Do you need stitches? Because I can give you stiches if it comes to that."

I shrug after a moment and look at my arm as well. "Uh... I don't think so. It's not all that bad." 'Ugh you liar. You totally need stitches. That's gonna be a nasty-ass scar...' Mr. Vantas nods and nobody says anything for a long moment, until Mr. V abruptly stand up and goes over to the refridgerator.

"Hey kids, how about we have some ice-cream and watch Mean Girls?"

I grin at the suggestion and grab up my sweater. "Sounds fuckin' awesome, Mr. V." I pull Karkat and Kankri into the living room, taking my usual spot on the middle of the couch.

We have a great time once the movie gets going. We make ridiculous commentary and laugh so loud the neighbors probably want to call the police. I can feel my phone buzz, but ignore it. It keeps buzzzing. Regina George just threw around the burn book pages when my phone buzzes once again and I sigh, pulling it out. I get curious glances when I answer, spitting out a yo.

"...Could I please speak to Mr. Dave Strider?" I go cold all over. This can't be good news. No one calls me Mr. Strider.

"This is him." I stand up and Kankri pauses the movie.

"I'm very sorry to tell you, but your brother was brought into the ER here at St. Josephine's. His truck was hit at an intersection and his injuries are very severe. We can have someone come pick you up if you need a ride." I feel frozen and almost drop my phone. Mr. V is talking to me, but I can't hear him. All I hear is my heart pounding in my chest, blood rushing in my ears.

"N-No. No. I have a ride," I mumble.

"It is imperative you get here as soon as-" I hang up.

"Dave? Dave what the fuck? Did something happen?" Karkat. He takes hold of my hand, but I pull away and throw my sweatshirt back on.

"Bro. Hospital. Drive me please," I manage. Before I know it we're all packed in the Vantas stationwagon and speeding down the road. All I do is stare ahead, praying to an invisible being who isn't even there that Bro's going to be ok. 'Please be ok. He has to be aalright. Not Bro. Not Bro.' I grab onto Karkat and he puts his arms around me, trying to comfort me where no comfort can found. 'This is all my fault. I should'a told him to fuck off when he wanted to drive me. I should've told him I ain't twelve. Don't need a ride. Should've told him I love him...' My grip on Karkat tightens as does his grip on me. 'I didn't tell him I loved him. Oh god...' Tears well up in my eyes as I try to not fucking lose it.

I totally fucking lose it and Karkat's shirt is paying the wet penalty.

Chapter Text

I throw off my seatbelt and sprint into the hospital when we arrive. Luckily St. Josephine's is only a few minutes away from the Vantas house. I shake as I stop in front of the nurse's station and place my hands on top of it. The nurse looks up from her computer, a smile on her lips that can only be fake.

"Yes? Can I help you young man?" 'I look like a fucking wreck lady, of course you can help me!' I don't say that, though. I'm too terrified to sum up my wall of sarcasm right now.

"Please. My brother was just brought in. He was in a car accident. Dirk Strider. Um, he's twenty-eight years old. Blond hair. Orange eyes. I know he was brought here." My voice wavers like nothing else when I speak and I tightly hang onto the ends of my sleeves with my hands. "Help me out man..." I push my glasses up higher, still clutching my sleeves. Like I need a fucking nurse to see my arm. I need that like a hole in the head.

The nurse's coral pink nails clack against the keyboard as she looks up what I can only assume is my brother's file. "Oh yes," she finally says. "He's still in surgery I'm afraid, then he'll be moved to the ICU. We have a family waiting room if you like." She looks behind me and I turn. Karkat, Kankri and Mr. V all stand there, varying degrees of concern on their faces. "Are they relatives too?" I give a quick nod as she has another nurse lead us off, her pitying eyes watching after me. Fuck that. I don't need anyone's pity.

She tells us to wait right here for Dr. Rydell, like we're gonna go anywhere fucking else.

A couple hours pass and I wearily pull out my phone so I can pretend I'm actually doing something instead of continuously thinking about what I'd do without Bro. Like, not financialy, that don't matter much. I mean, it's nice to know I'll be taken care of but... Bro's been so good to me since that whole Mike fiasco. He's like the Bro I remember from when I was little. And he's one of the only things keeping me going if I'm perfectly honest. I let out a soft sigh and tune out the chatter of the Vantas clan.

It's only half an hour after I pull out my phone and I'm already sick of it. I continuously get messages that I don't bother reading and scowl down at my phone. I feel stressed beyond all belief. This never would have happened if I hadn't of let that puppet fucking idiot drive me! How many more people am I going to fuck over because of my teenage stupidity! Tears burn at my eyes and I blink furiously behind my shades. I won't cry again. This is ridiculous. I lean forward, elbows on my knees and hands over my face. 'Oh my god how did this even happen? Why is all of this happening...' My heart hammers in my chest. 'What am I going to do what is going to happen now! Who's next?!' There's a hole in my chest, gaping. Hurting. It feels like a vaccum. One that doesn't pick up dirt and leaves behind even more dirt and fuck idk where I'm even going with this.

The slow shift of the rooms double doors has me jumping to my feet. A tall, portly man comes out, frown on his face. He holds a clipboard and looks very, very tired.

"Family for Mr. Dirk Strider?" I nod and hear movement behind me. "Immediate family only please." Someone squeezes my shoulder and I lift my head up higher before walking over to the doctor.

"I'm his younger brother." He nods and sighs a little.

He frowns. "Parents?"

"Dead," I reply. "It's just me and him. I'll be eighteen next month." He nods to himself.

"Very well. Would you like to take this to my office?" I almost say no, but end up nodding. "Alright then. Follow me." I turn to look at Karkat before we leave the waiting area. He tries to smile at me, but it comes out as a grimace instead. I wave goodbye.

The walk doesn't take long. We go up another floor and his office is the third one down. He opens the door for me and ushers me inside. "Would you like something to drink? Coke, water? I can make tea..." I clear my throat.

"Coke is fine." The doctor nods, handing me a frosty one. He takes a seat behind his desk and rubs his forehead.

"Well, Mr. Strider-"

"Please. Call me Dave."

"Alright, Dave." He leans forward, expression serious. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you how severe the crash was. Considering your brother is in the ICU at the moment. To be honest, your brother was lucky. The other driver was thrown from his vehicle. We honestly don't expect him to make it through the night..." He pauses here and seems to think for a moment. I wish he would hurry the fuck up. "Now when I say your brother was lucky, I mean that in the sense that he's alive and kicking, for the most part. You see... his truck rolled quite a few times. What's worse is that he was hit on his side of the truck. His left arm was completely shattered. We had to put metal rods and plates in. I thought for sure we would have to amputate it for a while, but thankfulky it didn't come to that. He had severe whiplash and fractured his skull against the window of his door. We still don't know how many times he may have hit it. There was a lot of swelling in his brain, but thankfully no bleeds. We had to release the pressure, though, so don't be alarmed when you see that his head's been shaved. There could he possible brain damage, but we won't know to what extent until he wakes up." I just open my coke, the crack of the tab startling me for a minute. The carbonation tickles my nose briefly before I take a large gulp. "I'm very sorry to also report that he seems to have broken his spine in at least two places. He might be paralyzed, Dave." I almost choke up my coke. "Injuries like this? Well... a lot of people don't usually get better from them. He might never be able to walk again. Move again. Or use his left arm fully."

"But... he's left handed."

"I'm very sorry. We did the very best we could. We could always perform more surgery later, though... It would be extremely expensive, not to mention on top the other bills you'll be getting and the physical therapy your brother will need..."

"We can afford it," I bite out. "There ain't no goddamned way my brother's gonna be paralyzed for the rest of his life!" My texan always shows when I'm upset. I hate it. "I want the best physical therapist for him! The best surgeon! Not bein' able to walk
.. to do anything, would kill him..." Dr. Rydell slowly nods and studies me.

"I'll give you some numbers. In the meantime, you can see your brother if you'd like. He just got out of surgery not too long ago. He won't be awake, but I'm sure you'd like to see him anyways." I quickly nod and stand, carrying my coke with me as he leads me off. We pass back through the ICU waiting room and I wave at the Vantas's before disappearing again. Just as we reach Bro's room, Dr. Rydell stops me. "I just want to warn you again, your brother has been through a horrendous car wreck. He was T-Boned by a garbage truck. He doesn't look very good right now." I just shake my head.

"Let me see him." The doctor opens the door without a word, closing it again after I step inside. I instantly look at Bro, tensing at the actual sight of him. Bruises everywhere. Cuts. A gash across his forhead. His body looks like one big bandage. He looks like a mummy. His right eye is covered up and I bring my hand up to my mouth. 'Jesus shit did he lose an eye too?' I sink down in a chair on his right side, carefully taking his cold hand into my own. Bro shouldn't feel this cold. Shouldn't look this pale. Be like this. The tears come before I can stop them and I gently set my coke on the nightstand. I sniff. Bro looks so wrong this way. He looks so weak. So... dead. I shake my head and rub my thumb across his knuckles. His shades are nowhere to be seen. Neither is the backpack he took with him. I wonder what was in it...

An hour passes. I've finally stopped crying and my drink has gone warm. My arm is on the railing of his hospital bed and my face is in the crook of my elbow. I take my phone out once more and Dial Rose's cell from memory.

One ring.

Two-

"Hello Strider."

Make it one.

"...Hey." There's a bit of static on her end and she says nothing for a minute.

"Is everything alright? You sound... off." I sigh into the reciever and rub my sore eyes.

"Bro's in the hospital." My throat becomes tight again.

"Wha-"

"Car wreck. Rosie, he might never walk again..." I hear her breath catch and I blink away the beginning burn of tears. I only call her that when I need comfort. When I'm scared out of my mind.

"Dave I'm coming down there. I'm getting on the next flight. I'm bringing Jade and John. You need your family right now." I nod, forgetting that she can't see me. "Expect us there by the late evening. I'll make this happen. Can you stay with anyone until we get there?" It takes me a moment, but I reply quietly.

"Yeah... Yeah. Karkat." She seems to let out a relieved sigh.

"Okay. Good. Stay with Karkat, Dave. Get some rest. I swear everything will be fine." I have a hell of a time believing that, but I give her a soft yeah. "Please be safe, Dave. I love you."

"I love you too, Rosie. I'll be ok until you get here. Swear on my shades."

"Good. Call me back tomorrow, alright?"

"Okay. Bye."

"Goodbye."

We hang up at the same time and I give a soft smile, imagining her rushing around to get shit together. I close my eyes for a moment and text Karkat.

Dave: gonna stay here tonight
Dave: derp twins and tentacle sis are comin down tomorrow
Dave: ttyl
Dave: <3
Karkat: WELL I CAN'T MAKE YOU COME WITH ME, SO GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP.
Karkat: UGH CRABDAD IS FUSSING
Karkat: DON'T WORRY, I'LL HOLD HIM BACK
Karkat: NIGHT DAVE. SWEET DREAMS.
Karkat: <3
Dave: hahah you too karbaby

I grin a little and get off the phone. I lower the railing on Bro's bed, leaning forward to rest my upper body on it. I won't let Bro out of my fucking sight. Not now. He needs me. Once more I grab his hand and quickly fall asleep to the beeping of Bro's heart monitor.

That night my childhood nightmares of Bro dieing come back with a vengeance. Him being impailed by his own sword. Dieing to protect me. Protecting me because I'm not good enough. Because I'm not a hero. I'm just a fuckup.

Only ever a fuckup.

Chapter Text

The nurses never made me leave that night thankfully. I don't think I could have handled being away from Bro for any length of time. My back is stiff and there's a crick in my neck, but that's okay. I don't really mind. Stretching and yawning again, I look at the clock. Five in the afternoon. Letting out a sigh, I slump back into my chair. Rose called me this morning at ass o' clock to let me know they'll be here by eight. Nine at the latest. I tried to convince her that letting me pay for air fare and shit would have been a great idea, but she wouldn't hear it. Stubborn broad.

Bro still hasn't woken up. Not even a fluttering of his eyes or a changing in his heartbeat. The doc said he probably wouldn't wake for a few days. I glance at his shaved head and sigh again. Bro'll throw a fit about it when he's awake. He had always taken such good care of himself. And his hair. I rub my forehead in exasperation. What am I talking about? He's lucky to fucking be alive. I'm lucky that he's alive. I lean back and slump down into the chair, just so unbelievably exhausted.

Rubbing my aching eyes, I huff and turn my head as the door clicks open. A plump, very friendly looking nurse bounces in, carrying a tray of food. Her blonde hair curls behind her ears and is just shy of brushing her shoulders.

"Hello there, dear!" It's like she's the embodiment of sunshine. "Thought you might be hungry after spending all night in that chair." She tuts at me and sets the tray on the nightstand. "Honestly! They could have at least gotten you a cot!" Her curls bob as she shakes her head. "Well don't you worry, sweetheart. Old Ms. Paint will take care of you!" 'Old? She can only be about thirty...' I see her green eyes roam over me as she turns around. Once she reaches my bare arms, I lift my chin defiantly, but she barely pauses. "I brought chicken salad and apple slices for you, sugar. And orange juice and apple juice, but I can get milk if you'd like?" I shake my head and adjust my crooked sunglasses.

"I love AJ." She nods to herself and proceeds to straighten up the incredibly tidy room

"I'll keep that in mind, then." Ms. Paint glances towards me, frowning a bit as she pushes the tray closer to me. 'What kinda last name is Paint anyways?' "Eat," she commands. "You'll make yourself very sick if you go on like this. Then what will your brother do?" That incredibly underhanded guilt trip has me diving into lunch. Dinner? Whatever, it's free fucking food. Ms. Paint leaves with a smugness in her step that I didn't know was possible. 'Wench.' I frown and eye the apple juice. 'No. That's not fair. She's doin' her job...'

A few more hours pass and I'm starting to worry about my friends. Maybe they're having trouble getting here? Shit, I knew I should've just picked them up. I get up to stretch my sore body. My muscles practically scream and my bones crack. I could use a fucking massage. Karkat gives nice massages... I cringr. Those thoughts I've been keeping at bay are rearin' their butt ugly heads. They're whispering in my ear like some kind of temptress. I wish they'd shut the fuck up. I still can't believe he kissed me. I shuffle over to the window, resting my throbbing head against it. 'How didn't I notice? Has he always liked me? Why didn't he just fuckin' tell me? Maybe I wouldn't have ended up with Mike if he had...' I steer way the fuck clear of that area. ABORT MISSION. ABORT. I fucking backflip out of that shit. No way am I spending another precious Strider moment thinking about that motherfucker.

I gaze over the city, lit up and bustling with life. It just makes me feel bone tired. A plane blinks across the sky and I turn back to Bro, placing myself on the edge of the bed. 'I wonder what he was thinkin' before he crashed...' His hand is cold when I take it into mine. 'These hospitals are always like fucking Antartica. Christ. You think they could turn up the heat a little. We ain't Polar Bears.' Huffing in agitation, I pull the blankets up to Bro's collarbone, doing my best to cover his arms despite IVs in them. 'I shouldn't have let him drive me... Shit.' I try to shake the thoughts off like I have been the past couple days, but like always, it doesn't work. I place my hand on the wallet in my back pocket, remembering that I keep a razor in there. I scowl at myself. 'First of all,' I tell myself, 'I'm at the fucking hospital. Cutting myself here's a damn good way to get put under observation. And that's not what Bro needs right now...' My eyes stray towards the bathroom door in spite of those thoughts. 'No. Stop that. You fucking can't you incredible douchbag.' I startle a little as I hear the door behind me click open, cutting me off from my pity party. I smile as wide as I can. My dumb friends finally showed up. They smile at me, but I can tell it's strained. We all stand still for a minute, not really knowing what to do.

Then Jade yells out, "Dave!" Flinging herself at me and almost knocking mer over. She's taller than the last time I saw her, and I have no problem resting my head on her shoulder. Though I wish her jungle of hair would get out of my mouth and nose and eyes and god who even has this much hair! She hugs me tight and I grin. 'Thank fucking christ they made it. "Oh Dave we're so sorry we're late! My flight was delayed and then the three of us missed our plane out here and we're so sorry!" I pat her back and let out a relieved breath.

"Hey it's alright. I was just worried ya'll had died or somethin'." 'Ugh. My texan is showing.'

"Are you kidding me?" John pipes up. "We couldn't just leave our best bro hanging!" My lips twitch slightly as I try to not grimace. 'Right... Bro. Oh man.' Hearing an 'oomfh!' from John's direction, I come back to reality. Rose is frowning at him and John's rubbing his shoulder, glaring.

"What he means to say," she drawls, "Is that we could never leave you all alone when you need us, Dave. What kind of family would that make us?" I grin and open my arm so she can join in on the strider huggin'. She carefully steps into the hug, holding herself back from launching at me. Her thick frame presses into my side and I rest my hand on the back of her neck. Her forehead is warm against my collarbone, her lilac perfume a comfort. "Really, Dave..." she stresses, "We love you." I clutch at her shirt a little.

"Yeah, Rosie... I know." John's awkward shuffling of his feet is pretty obvious. I look up and grin at him, calling him over with a jerk of my head. He beams and runs to us, practically bowling us over in the process. His hand is on my cheek and my skin goes off like fucking fireworks.

"We missed you so much, dude," he mumbles and I swear to god he's sniffling oh god oh no. Shit if he starts then I'm gonna start and it's gonna be a snot fest. I just bite my lip and close my eyes. My family's here. They're here and that's all I care about. Everything's gonna be ok. And I hug them just a bit tighter for it.

Chapter Text

We talk all through the night after we're through clinging to each other like babies. And by all through the night I mean right up until about ten when the doctor gently kicks them out. It only takes me a moment to throw on my hoodie and offer to drive them to my apartment. No way in hell are they gonna stay in some cockroach infested motel. After all, Bro'll be ok for a few hours, right? I mean... what could it hurt. He won't be wakin' up for a couple more days anyways. 'You mean if he wakes up at all...' I roll my eyes at myself before looping my arm through Jade's. I have to raise my arm up a little to reach her elbow. Sure shot up like a fuckin' weed. If I'm honest, I'm a little jealous of her. Bro's about six-three. When's my growth spurt gonna happen? I frown as I realize I don't have a car with me... Rose jingles keys in front of my face.

"Don't worry, Dave. As always, I have your ass covered." I snatch the keys and huff.

"Thank you, Saint Rose. Where would me and my plush rump be without you." She grins and almost seems to glide over to the car. A purple Aveo, really? How the fuck did she even get a purple one? I let go of Jade and plop into the driver's seat, ready to go go go, there's no stoppin' meeee! I push the key into the ignition and turn it, the engine roaring to life. Jade hops into the passenger seat and I only take off after checking that everyone's safely inside and buckled. We make it to the apartment in a twenty minute drive that should have only been ten at the most. No harm in being careful, right?

I unlock the apartment door and usher everyone inside. I spread my arms out and smirk. "Welcome to Casa De Strider! Please please, hold the applause. You guys are makin' a scene." I place my hands on my hips amd take a deep breath. I can hear Rose let out a breath behind me and then the inevitable happens. John trips over an orange smuppet and I jump over, catching him around the waist before he hurts himself. He breaths shakily and clutches at my arms, nails digging crecents into my skin. I right him as I grit my teeth. For a small guy, he sure is heavy.

"Gee, Dave! Haha, I almost became one with the floor!" I shake my head and brush invisible dust off of my shirt.

"We can't all have the smooth moves like you, Egderp." I kick the orange smuppet into the living room, and it makes a satisfying smack against the wall. 'Stupid dick plushies.' "You guys hungry? We can make nachos. Or I can order out..." Jade immediately jumps onto the offer.

"Can we get chinese? I never get to have take-out on the island!" She's bouncing on her feet and her excitement makes me grin.

"Sure, Harley. I know a few good places."

So that was that. We ordered chinese, watched My Little Pony and shitty B Horror movies until four in the morning. Rose and Jade insist on taking the futon together and I give John my room, unable to bear the thought of anyone staying in Bro's room who isn't me. I curl up under his sheets and hug his Dr. English; Jungle Adventurer body pillow to my chest. I almost drift off when my phone suddenly blares 'Thrift Shop'. I look down at the caller ID, but the number isn't recognizable in my sleepy haze.

"Hello...?" I slur, hand on my forehead. All I hear is breathing on the other side for a moment, then...

"...H-Hey, motherfucker." My breath catches in my throat, my eyes widening impossibly. "I uh... heh. I remembered your number and needed to call you up. They tell me I've been outta comission for um... a couple months. Like three." My stomach is doing somersaults and my heart hand-springs.

"Holy shit," I breathe out, "I gotta be dreamin'." I run my hand through my hair and blink.

"Nah, man. This isn't no dream. It's me, alright... it was weird, I woke up and my old man was sittin' next to me. I thought I was hallucinatin'. Or my dad was dead too. Then the doctor walked in... told me what all up and happened. How you saved my life, motherfucker. That it... that it was a miracle I woke up at all." My eyes start to burn and I harshly bite my lip against the sob that builds up.

"Gamzee... I'm sorry. I'm sorry about all of it. Do they um- Are they still sending you to jail?" He chuckles mirthlessly.

"Yeah. Yeah they are. Gonna give me therapy and shit. Work through my problems. I'm already gettin' detoxed, friend." There's a large pause. "Will you visit me, Dave? Here? Or in jail... I just wanna see you. Thank you. I need to know you're ok." I start to nod, which is stupid because I know he can't see me.

"Sure man. I'll be by tomorrow." He sighs in relief.

"Thanks, motherfucker. Doc says I gotta go. Night, Dave." I hold the phone extremely close to my ear.

"Night, Gamzee." I hang up and toss the electronic onto the desk. It clatters to silence.

I'm not even prepared for this.

I can't deal with all of this shit at once. It's too much. I shut my eyes against the outside world and fall into a fitfull sleep full of blood and gunfire.

Eventually when I wake up for the fourth time, I creep down the hall and into the bathroom. The light blinds me despite being dim. I frown and kneel down, moving the loose tile behind the toilet. I almost stop myself, but I start feeling crushed. 'No. I need this. I fucking need this.' The razor shines as I pick it up and I feel disgusted. But that's nothing new. I lean against the sink cabinet and hold my left arm up. The scars have only faded a little. The one I made before Bro's accident look like a guilty stamp. A fucking Scarlet B for betrayer. I frown and hold the razor to my arm, right below that purple scar. I don't think about it as I slash the blade across, blood instantly welling up and spilling down my arm. I gasp when I finally breathe, the pain is like fire. I start panicking when I see tthe laceration I've made. 'Shit oh shit. Fuck! Fuck!' I grasp at the hand towel and hiss as I press it against the gaping wound, trying to stem the blood flow. All it ends up doing is soaking the fabric an ugly burgundy. 'Oh no! God why did I do that!?'

There's three sharp knocks on the door and I go completely still.

Rose's sharp voice cuts through the dull buzz of the light. "Dave? Are you almost done jerking off in there? I would like to use the bathroom as well." She doesn't sound like she's trying to joke around.

My voice wavers when I answer. "Yeah, you broad. Just calm your tits, a'ight?" I hear her foot tap against the carpeting. She's upset.

"I assure you, David, that my tits are very soothed. What are you doing in there? Did you fall in?" I snap.

"Jesus just fucking wait!" My heart sinks into my feet and Rose tries the door's handle after a stretch of silence.

"Dave. Please open this door," she begs. "I won't be mad. Just please open up." She tries the handle again when I don't answer. "I'll open this door myself if I have to! Dave, I'm worried. Open up!" I resign myself to the consequences and reach up slowly, carefully unlocking the door. It doesn't even take a half a second to open and Rose it suddenly on the floor next to me, holding my arm.

"Shit," she mumbles. "Damnit, Dave!" I laugh weakly.

"Thought you weren't gonna be mad..." She says nothing as she grabs another towel and holds it against the split skin. "Just leave it. It'll stop eventually." My arm feels Blazing Saddles hot.

Rose sounds panicked, "Dave it's not stopping!" I try to push her back.

"Yes it will." I don't have the energy to roll my eyes. "I've done this before. Give it a few minutes." She presses the towel harder in response.

"You might dead in a few minutes!"

We sit there for an eternity, but it was only a couple of minutes in reality. The bleeding does slow to a stop at some point, but I'm too tired to remember when. Rose half-carries me back to Bro's room and tucks me in after tending to my arm.

"We're going to talk in the morning. Get some rest." There's no need for her to say that. Once my head hit the pillow I was already out.

Tomorrow will be hell.

Chapter Text

The next morning is, in fact, hell. I'm slow to wake up and my whole body feels like it was hit with a semi. Holy shit... I glance down at my arm and blanch at the very thick ace bandage swaddling my arm. It's tinged red and I feel sick to my stomach. I could almost throw up. No... wait, I'm actually gonna throw up. I retch over the side of the bed and into a waste bucket just as the door opens, spilling light onto my face.

I feel fucking miserable as Rose lays a clammy hand against my forehead, reducing the ache there slightly. She lets out a soft breath. I really, really fucked up. I can't even get out a thank you as she hands me a wet washcloth.

"I almost called for an ambulance, you know. In all honesty, I should have. It took me an hour to clean up all that blood, Dave. There was a small puddle and it stained the tiles. I told John and Jade about what happened. There were pretty damn pissy when I couldn't give them a reason as to why you , however unintentionally, tried to kill yourself." My head jerks up at that, making my blonde locks sway.

"I wasn't tryin' ta kill myself! Damn, you people are all alike with this shit. Self-harming doesn't always mean intent to fucking die. I would think you of all people would know that considering how you always go on about how read you are in psychology!" I almost regret my words as her lips thin into a line and her fingers fidget with the waistband of her pajama bottoms.

"Well, David, it sure seemed that way as I was soaking up all of your blood with paper towels!" Rose takes a deep breath, trying to retain some semblance of control. "We were right there, Dave. Right in the same apartment finally. You've called me at four in the morning before over this. So why didn't you just come to me?" I can't think of anything to say to this. "Did you just want to? Is that what it was? You wanted to hurt yourself because you don't know how to deal with your emotions? Because you're good at hiding?" I chuckle grimly and stare up at her.

"You're one to talk about hiding,
Ross
." She sucks in a sharp breath and hurt flashes across her face. I scoot back a little, feeling guilty. Why did I say that? God... I'm an asshole.

"I know what you're doing," she utters. "You're trying to hurt me because you don't want to face what you've done. Well, Dave, I am hurt. I am hurt, but It's not going to deter me from this." My shade-less eyes stare into her violet ones and I grip the covers tightly.

"Why haven't you told them? You trust them don't you? I mean, you're all up on me about confessing everything to you guys, but look at you. You can't even tell them about yourself. Does Kanaya even know? Or am I just special." Her purple nails dig into her thighs as she scowls.

"I told you because I thought you wouldn't hold it against me! But here you are throwing it back in my face..." She shakes her head and shifts on the bed, sitting cross-legged. " It's none of your business, but Kanaya does know. She supports me and loves me no matter what is under my skirts for your information. Now, let's get back to you. Why didn't you just come to me?" The silence stretches into something twisted and uncomfortable. "You know I can out wait you, David. If there's a department you lack in, it's most certainly patience." I huff and look out into the Texan sunrise.

"Fine... Maybe I wasn't actively trying to kill myself, but I wouldn't have cared if I had died. Heh, all over a stupid phone call." I see her tilt her head in my peripheral vision. "Gamzee woke up," I reply to the unasked question. Her violet eyes widen a fraction in surprise. "Yeah... all awake. Called me last night askin' for me to come visit. I was ok at first, but I kept havin' nightmares about... Uh, being at court. I just lost it I guess. I didn't even think about comin' to you. Any of you..." I bury my head in my arms and let out a shuddering breath. The bed moves, then dips again. Roses warm arms wrap around my shoulders and I lean into her. "I'm sorry for callin' you Ross. That was really shitty of me."

'Yes, it was... I forgive you, though. I forgive you because you're my family and family just can't help but hurting each other sometimes. I will be forced to smack you if you do it again, though." I look up and she winks. I laugh. Looks like things are ok between us for the time being. I know this isn't the end of this conversation, though.

Rose ends up bandaging my arm up again, still unhappy about how it looks. I only end up yelling once, when she pours peroxide all over it. Jade bangs on the door, but we ignore it. Once it looks like my arm is mummified, I get dressed, throwing a hoodie on for good measure. Rose and I make pancakes for everyone while Jade and John gives us looks they think we can't see. John won't stop looking at my damn arm.

I announce that I'm going to the St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital to visit a friend. We all jump into Rose's rental and she drives us this time. The drive takes about fifteen minutes will all the goddamn traffic, but honestly? The longer I stall this the better I feel. Rose says she going to take the rest of them to the mall while I visit. I promise to text her if the need arises.

I walk in, head held high and my knees weak. The nurse at the desk informs me that Gamzee's room is the third floor up. At least I can stall this by three more minutes.

My hand is on the handle of the doorknob and I carefully push it open. Gamzee looks about how I expected, so I don't gasp in surprise or whatever. He's skinny. Well... skinnier. Christ. His hospital gown hangs off his shoulder and he has no makeup on. His hair's mostly grown back except for this bald patch where he... shot himself.

Gamzee turns towards me, his eyes focused somewhere to the left. He chuckles. "Heh, that you up in here, Nurse Ratchet?" I carefully step in and close the door. 'Maybe he lost his vision? I knew there was no way he was getting out of that without somethin' fuckin' him up... Damn.'

"Nah, man. It's Dave." His scars stretch as his face lights up the fourth of July.

"Motherfucker! I knew you'd come visit. C'mere brother. Lemme all up and hug you..."

We do hug, for a long damn time. I ask about him not knowing who it was and he says that he can sort of see, but everything looks blurred. Like so blurred he can barely make out shapes, and kind of dark too. The doctors say his vision might get better over time and with corrective surgery. I offer to cover it, but he says that his dad's already got it covered. I'm pretty surprised by that. Like I said, I didn't even know he had any family left. We only get an hour before an orderly kicks me out, telling me that Gamzee needs a lot of rest. I comply and promise to visit him again an a few days.

The visit leaves me drained and I text Rose, telling her to grab some Taco Bell and come get me. They arrive in less than ten minutes and I hop in, grinning when Rose shoves a bag at me. We stuff our faces on the drive to see Bro and John asks if I want them to come in with me. I nod in assent and Rose pats my knee briefly. I have to stop myself from yelling at her about keeping both hands on the wheel.

John and Jade sit on the bench by the window and Rose takes the chair while I sit on the bed. We talk about school mostly, about college, jobs. I definitely wanna do something with music. Movies maybe. John wants to be a Paranormal Investigator, what else? Jade's just going to travel for the rest of her days and Rose says she hasn't actually decided. That surprises me. I thought for sure she would be the one who had everything figured out. Before I can grill her about it, I hear a deep groan from behind me. My head whips around and I see Bro's eyes twitch.

"Dave, wha-" I shush Jade and stare intensely. His amber eyes slowly crack open and I smooth the wrinkle in his brow.

"Holy fucking shit," I whisper. I can't believe he's waking up!

"Uggh, Davey?" He mumbles, exhausted and out of it. "Dave, what happened? I don't 'member comin' home last night?" I take his hand and squeeze it.

"Bro," I start. Shit, he wouldn't remember would he... "I know you don't remember, but you had an accident. Your truck rolled. A lot. It was real bad... I've been waitin' for you to wake up." He looks confused and hangs onto my hand tighter.

"Wh-What happened to Cal? Is he ok?" I look away.

"Um. He got burned when your truck caught fire. I brought him home, but... He's in pretty bad shape, dude. I'm sure he misses you, though." Bro's eyes water and I wipe away a few of his tears.

"I can always stitch him back up... Shit. Cal probably hates me." I shake my head at him.

"'Course he don't. Come on, Bro. How could Lil' Cal hate you?" He struggles to sit and I gently push him back down. "You shouldn't do that-" He grips my hand and I stare at his face. It's alight with fear. "Bro-"

"Dave! Dave, I can't- I don't feel my legs. I can't move them!" His heart monitor starts to go crazy and I don't know what to do. "Dave, Dave what the fuck! I can't feel my legs! What happened!" He struggles even harder to get up and I place my hands on his shoulders. 'What the fuck am I supposed to do? Oh shit I never thought...'

He can't feel his legs... Fuck.

Chapter Text

I can only stand by helplessly as two orderlies run in. One restrains Bro as the other injects something into his IV. My brother gives one last panicked look to me before slowly falling unconscious. I look behind me. Jade has her hands over her mouth, eyes shining. Rose is clutching John’s shoulder while John grips her hand. They all stare at me and I quickly turn back around before they can catch me flipping my shit.

The orderly releases Bro finally and gives me a wary look. They look at each other, unsure as to whether they should kick us out or not. They pat my shoulder as they pass by.

“Just… Shout for us if he wakes up again like that, alright?” I don’t trust my voice, so I just nod. I don’t move as the door clicks and only twitch slightly as I hear movement from behind me. Rose’s arm hold me tight around the shoulders and I lean back against her. I stare straight ahead, unblinking. Dirk can’t feel his legs anymore… ‘How the fuck am I supposed to make this better? This ain’t something’ you can just fuckin’ fix. Shit… What am I supposed to do?’ I let out a deep breath. I don’t cry. I just… can barely feel anything right now.

“Dave…?” Rose questions. “Do you want to go back to the apartment? Do you want to stay here? I understand if this is too much for you. One of us could stay here instead?” Her words are cautious, almost like she’s afraid I’m gonna freak. I just might still.

“I uh… Stay here, I guess. Don’t wanna leave him like this.” I feel here nod against me, her hair tickling my neck.

“Would you like us to stay?” I nod in response and release myself from her hold, sitting back down on Bro’s bedside.

The time passes quietly. Tensely. I fuck around on my phone and glance at Bro every couple of minutes. I don’t know when he’s gonna wake up again. I don’t know what I’m gonna say when he does. ‘Sorry man, sure sucks about that walkin’ thing. Guess ya gotta live with it.’ No goddamn way. He’ll walk again. I’ll fuckin’ make sure of it. It’s awkward when no one tries to strike up conversation. I guess I’m alright with that considering.

I check my voicemails from Karkat. I text him, letting him know that Bro woke up for a few minute. He is, of course, ecstatic for me. I don’t tell him about the rest of it.

It’s two in the morning. John and Jade are curled up on the windowsill bench, restlessly sleeping. Rose is quietly tapping away on her laptop. My face is highlighted blue as I scroll through miracle stories about paraplegics regaining their ability to walk on my phone. Why am I even reading these…

I startle violently when a hand gently places itself on my side.

“Dave.” It’s a controlled, over calm voice that greets my ears. I look down at Dirk, his eyes look wet and I bite my lip.

“Uh.. Yeah, Bro?” His face seems to crumble all at once.

“I can’t walk anymore.” There’s no question lurking in his mumbled voice. God those wires sticking in his skin look painful. Rose has stopped tip tapping away at her laptop by this point.

“No… You can’t. But-” Bro just presses his face against my thigh and I don’t know what to do for a minute. I can hear the hospital door softly shut and I silently thank Rose for the privacy. My hand rests against his neck for a moment before I start rubbing his shoulder gently, trying to give him any kind of comfort. It probably doesn’t work that well. I’m probably about as comforting as a spider in an unknown, dark corner of a room right now. Don’t stop me from trying, though.

Thankfully the derp twins stay asleep while Bro softly sobs against my leg. I’m sure that fabric doesn’t feel too good. I eventually lie down next to him, tucking his head under my chin and wrapping my arms around him as best I can.

“Shh… I’ll stay right here with you, man. I won’t leave you’re side. I promise.” After a long, long time. Like, the suns gets a chance to start rising time, Bro’s choked back sobs trail off. He breathes deeply in my arms. I wish I could do the same. I’m running on Taco Bell and caramel flavored coffee right now. I’m fucking exhausted but completely wired at the same time. It sucks dick.

Rose wander back in at some point and sits there quietly tapping away at her laptop again. She’s probably talking to Kanaya.

God my arm is so numb right now. I can’t even move my fingers. I’d move into a more comfortable position, but… I really don’t wanna chance waking Bro up. I’d feel like an asshole, so I just lie there, wishing I could sleep.

Someone shakes my shoulder and I groan, turning my face against the sheet underneath me. When the hell did my eyes close? The shake gets harder and I really can’t help myself from snapping out a “What?”

“…Dave.” That’s Bro’s voice. My eyes immediately snap open and my heart pounds.

“Yeah, man?” I manage to slur out. He’s real silent for a moment and I wake up a bit more. “Dude? What is it? You need something’?” He bites his lip and I tilt my head a little, then I feel it on my hip. The bed’s a little wet. Oh. …Oh. Um. Well shit. I slowly get off of the bed and walk over to John and Jade. I knock their heads together, waking them up.

“Ow! Dave what was that for!” Jade yells, rubbing her temple.

“Get up.” My voice is flat as I throw my wallet at them. “Go with Rose and get coffee and doughnuts and shit. There’s a Starbucks right down the road.”

“Sheesh fine…” She pouts and goes over to Rose, much more gently waking her up. After a few minutes they leave, fucking finally.

I turn my attention back to Dirk. “So. You want me to get a nurse or something’? Dunno’ if I should be movin’ you and shit with your spine all screwed up.” Straight to the point. Nothing awkward about that. At least I’m trying to not make it awkward, but fuck it feels all levels of awkward. I mean, it’s not his fault. Doc said this might happen. Bro stares at the ceiling and sighs.

“Just… Go get a nurse.” I nod and peek my head out the door, gesturing to the first nurse that walks by.

“Yes? Can I help you?”

“Yeah, uh… Look, my Bro got in an accident and his spine’s all fucked up. Um, Doctor said he might have some problems with uh… Going to the bathroom and uh- the bed is…”

“Oh!” He exclaims. “Oh yes, Room 302, Mr. Strider. Well, let’s get him cleaned up and the bed sheets changed, alright? Just wait for me, I’ll be right back with some help.” Gotta give him points for not being weird about it. Then again he’s a nurse in the ICU. He does this every day. I go back in, meeting Bro’s orange eyes.

“A couple’a nurses will be here in a minute.”

He doesn’t say anything, just goes back to trying to burn holes into the next floor up.

When they show, he gets moved onto a gurney and they ask me to help sponge him down. I do it without complaint, or without thinking about it at all. They give him a new catheter and change his clothes. I switch mine off for the semi-clean ones in my backpack. They offer to wash my other ones for me and I don’t protest. I sit with him on the bed again once they leave. His hand feels cold when I grab it and cling to it.

“Hey,” I mumble softly. “…You alright, man?” His grip is so weak as he tries to squeeze my hand. I don’t know if I can do this.

“I hate this.” And what the fuck am I supposed to say to that?

“I know. But you got me to help you through it” I can’t bring myself to say, ’We’re doing it, man. We’re making it happen.’ I can’t force any humor into this situation.

Nothing else is said after that. We hold each others hands until John, Jade and Rose get back with close to thirty dollars worth of Starbucks. I look in my wallet after I get it back. None of my money is missing and when I look at them they just kind of shrug and grab their own doughnuts. I roll my eyes and that’s the end of it.

We all chat silently as we eat, with the exception of Bro. He’s completely silent the whole time. I feel bad that he can’t have any of this. Liquid diet until his jaw fully heals up. Christ he’s gonna lose so much weight…

The rest of our day is nothing but chatting, getting fast food and watching netflix on the hospital‘s free wifi. Bro seems content to listen to us be stupid almost adults. It’s nice I guess. I can almost forget we’re in a hospital after my brother had a horrifying car crash. Except I can’t really. It’s not something you can shove to the back of your mind. And it’s something that Bro’s probably going to have to deal with for the rest of his life.

Stuck in a fucking wheelchair… For the millionth time I ask myself how we’re going to deal with this. How are we going to get through this? How's Bro going to cope? It seems fucking impossible. What the fuck do I do? Why the fuck is this happening...

Chapter Text

It's nine at night when John asks me to take a walk with him. I raise my eyebrows, but comply. Bro's asleep again and Rose and Jade are talking about... Something. Cheeses? I don't fucking know.

I assume this talk has everything to do with feelings or whatever, and I definitely don't want an audience for that. So we walk the halls and shoot the shit. I ask how Dadbert's been and he tells me fine. Good thing. His dad's way too fuckin' nice. I swear it's like he's the perfect father or somethin'.

It's silent for a good five minutes, then we stop walking. We've reached a dead end hallway with a set of stairs and a blinking light. Oh great. Is this the part where John turns out to be a serial killer and keeps my heart in a jar? Because I am so not ready for that.

I'm actually shocked when he gently takes hold of my wrist and turns my arm over.

"Um..." That's really all I can manage to articulate at this moment. Like obviously he had seen the bandage. Hell, the only other shirt I was able to change into was my short-sleeved Goosebumps one. His fingers slowly brush down it and my face feels like it's burning to ash. "Dude," I stress. Because really what the fuck, John? He bites his lip and that dumb overbite becomes even more prominent if that's possible and jesus I'd give anything to know what he was thinking right now.

"...Is this because of me?" Hahah woah, I take back my previous statement. I don't want to know what he's thinking.

"What? No!" I reassure him. I mean... Yeah. A lot of them were because of him, but it's not his fucking fault. He didn't hold a balde against my arm and cut my skin open.

"I'm sorry," he murmurs. And seriously, what the fuck.

"John. What the fuck. What's up with you?" He just stands there, holding my hand and looking like he's about to cry.

"Dave... I know a lot of these were because of me. Because... You like me, right?" And I swear to fucking god my blood actually turns to ice. "Dave?" I suck in a sharp breath and manage to yank my arm away. Hurt flashes across John's face.

"Who told you," I demand, voice cold.

"W-What? No one!" He claims. Bull-fucking-shit!

"It was Rose, wasn't it?" He says nothing. "Wasn't it!" He looks away and that's all the proof I need. "Ugh, goddamnit! Why'd I ever trust her!" I tug at my hair and John grabs my hand harshly, pulling it down. 'Ow! Fuck...'

"Stop that! That's self-harming behavior!" I roll my eyes because really that's all I can manage at this point.

"And what blog did you read that on?" He frowns at me and steps closer. Er... Personal space. Violations. Does this mean nothing to you, Egderp?

"I did a lot of research after you, um, messaged me that one night," he says softly. That really fucking throws me off. "You're my best bro, Dave. I would do anything to help you get better." He places his other hand on face and I know what's coming, but I just. Can't. Stop it. It's like trying to stop watching a car crash. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Then he lays one right on me. Right there in the hospital. He barely moves and I stare down at him with wide eyes and a pounding heart.

Kissing John is... Not exactly like I thought it would be. Ther're no angelic voices singing or heaven's light shining down upon us. Sparks don't fly. Firworks don't go off. My foot doesn't 'pop'. There's nothing there. It's just sad.

I take him by the shoulders and gently push him away from me. His face practically radiates fire and he won't open his eyes.

"John. Dude... This isn't what you want. I know it isn't." I hang my head and sigh. Letting go of him, I sit down on the stairs. "Look... it's rad that you'd go to these extremes to make me happy or whatever, but this can only lead down a one way street to hurtville, man." I shake my head and stare down at my hands, then clench them. "I've liked you for years... And I always kept hoping, maybe one day, you'd quit it with your 'not a homosexual' thing." I let out a heavy sigh. "But that was wrong of me. You like chicks. It's just how you're wired. Just like how I'm wired to like dudes.. I can't change your sexuality. It'd be shitty of me to try." I glance at him only to find blue eyes staring back at me. "Besides... I don't want pity love. And that's exactly what this would be. We're better off as friends than we'd ever be as lovers. And you know what? I think I'm strangely gonna be ok with that down the road." I don't tell him about how it makes me sick to think of myself in any kind of sexual relationship anymore. "So." I stand up and open my arms. "Best bros?" Better to get this resolved now than to never talk about it.

It takes a moment for him to throw his arms around me and hug me like a bear. When'd his shoulders get so broad? He sniffles and I roll my eyes fondly. 'What a fucking baby...'

"I'm sorry," he mumbles into my shoulder. "I just wanted to make you better."

"Yeah, well..." I rub his back. "It's the thought that counts. It's what best friends try to do."

I think I always knew that John would never be with me. That any kind of romantic relationship never stood a chance. It's hurts. It fucking hurts like hell. But of all the shit that's gone down with me lately? My unrequited queer-ass love for John is the least of my fucking worries. He likes boobs and I like dick. That's that I guess... I'll just... Have to get over it.

Oddly enough, I think of Karkat in that moment. 'Yeah...' I smile, knowing John can't see. 'Maybe I'm on my way to gettin' over it already.'

No one says anything when we come back looking worse for wear or how John's eyes are red and puffy. I've never been more grateful for silence in my whole life. We just all lie down together in a mass of limbs and watch 'Ghost Adventures'. John's face lights up like a christmas tree when I pick that show.

You know... Just friends is just fine with me.

Chapter Text

It's strange not having them here: my friends, that is. It was only the fourth time we'd all been together, but I already got used to their presence in my life in those three short weeks. They couldn't stay forever and I wouldn't demand they stop their lives for me. There were a lot of tears hugs when they left. Not all at once, but within a few days of each other.

John left first. He had to get back to school and help run Dadbert's Joke Empire. A hug was there, even if it was stiff and awkward. He could hardly look at me after that kiss. Not that I'm the one who practically tongue fucked his mouth, but whatever.

Jade was after that. I got her hair in my mouth while she was holding me tight and telling me to stay healthy so she won't have to come here and 'kick my Texas ass'. God I miss her...

Rose was the last to leave and her goodbye was the longest, and the teariest huggiest by far. She's like a goddamn octopus. Wouldn't let the hell go of me for a good five minutes. She made me swear upon obliteration of my dead things in jars to contact her before I thought of hurting myself. I agreed to put her mind at ease, though I know in my soul I don't really mean it. It's too easy to start once you're alone. She probably already knows that, though. I'm good at disappointing people.

 

I don't stick around much longer after I no longer see her plane in the light-polluted night sky.

The hole in my chest reappears and in vain I try to stamp it out. Back into the fray again, I guess...

The drive back to the apartment is lonely with only Flogging Molly keeping me company. I stare ahead blankly, half-listening to the lyrics.

If there's one thing I have said
Is that the dreams I once had, now lay in bed

A rumble of thunder sounds off and my frown deepens slightly. I was hoping to beat the rain home.

As the four winds blow, my wits through the door
It's been the worst day since yesterday

My brow furrows and I wanna smoke so goddamn bad.

I don't dare keep my hands anywhere other than two 'n ten, though.

Fallin' down to you sweet ground
Where the flowers they bloom
Well it's there I'll be found

I let out a sigh as the first spatters of rain fall against my window. 'Welp. Fuck that plan, I guess. Just fuckin'... Just drive and don't flip.' I tell myself, slowing my speed down to thirty in the forty-five zone.

Though these wounds have seen no wars Except for the scars I have ignored

I glance at the radio quickly in irritation.

And this endless crutch, well it's never enough

Rain starts pelting against the windshield and I immediately turn on the wipers.

It's been the worst day since yesterday

I try to ignore the uncomfortable stirring in my heart, but I know it's been starting up, building, since John left.

Hell says hello, well it's time I should go

I shake my head and focus on driving, gripping the wheel tight. 'Bro still needs me. Just focus. Fuckin' focus and don't think.' This is bullshit.

To pastures green, that I've yet to see

I find myself glancing at other cars. Thinking. What if. What I drifted over just enough to...

It's been the worst day since yesterday

I jerk my car when a loud honk passes by me, causing my heart to pound and my eyes to widen.

"Fuck!" I cross two lanes and slam on my brakes once I'm on the side of the road, skidding to a halt. I shake. Resting my head against the wheel, I take short, deep breaths. 'Shit shit shit...'

I slap my hand hard enough against the dashboard to sting and lean back. I stare at the top of the car and blink.

Thinking of nothing, I sit until the shaking subsides.

Mumbling, "I should get home..." I lean forward and grab the wheel again. The clock reads 6:56 pm. I stare incredulously. 'A fuckin' hour and a half?' That can't be right... What the fuck? I let out a slow breath and tear my sights away from the clock, carefully merging onto the road again. 'Alright, new car needs a new clock. That's... gotta be it. Electrical's fucked up.' music drifts into my hearing again.

'My pulse slows, as my eyes begin to close. There's a fire inside this beating heart but it only beats for you.'

I turn off the radio so fast I think I might've broken it. 'Ok. No music. Nope.'

I make the silent drive the rest of the way without any more incidents and sigh in relief when I finally park in the apartment complex.

I slam the door shut and lock up, practically running inside afterwards. I look back outside as water pours from the skies and winds whip by. It moans and I shudder.

I take the stairs, too nervous about the power going out to use the elevator. I don't think for the entire fifteen minute trek up the stairs. I won't let myself.

All the lights are off once I step inside the apartment. Bro must be sleeing again. He does that a lot. I kick my shoes off and quietly go into my room, shutting the door and locking it after a moment of thought. And suddenly it's like something rushes into me. I walk the couple of steps to my bed and fall onto it. I throw my shades off and bury my face into my pillow. Pulling the covers over myself and curling up, I breathe unevenly, ready to lose my shit.

And I don't even know why.

The tears sting like they always do as I sob as quietly as I can into my pillow, wondering what the fuck is the matter. The world feels like it's crushing in on me and I clumsily pull my wallet out of my back pocket. A razor slices my finger when I pull it out from behind my license and fuck it.

It feels good.

The tears don't stop when I suddenly sit up and put the edge against the inside my arm. They drip onto my comforter as I dig the razor in. White hot pain flares when I pull it across my arm. The air rushes from me and my stomach drops.

I slice my arm apart and I don't stop until I'm lightheaded and panting for breath. My blankets are soaked in blood and I fall back. My lips part and I just try to breathe as the ceiling spins. 'Woah...' my phone buzzes in my pocket, but I can't be bothered. I hold my bloody arm against my chest and close my eyes.

I don't care how bad I just fucked up. At least I feel loose now.

Chapter Text

Hazy and slow. That's how I wake up. Everything in me aches with a fierceness unrivaled. My head is filled with cotton and my mouths tastes like shit. It's like waking up after drinking yourself half to death. That's okay, though. I can deal with that.

Letting out a slow breath, I roll over and try to get myself sat up. It takes longer than I thought it would. I try to throw the blankets off of myself and let out a half-strangled scream with the sensation that brings. My arm comes half unstuck from the crusty, still damp fabric. It yanks against my semi-sealed gashes, reopening them pretty fully. Blood starts to carefully dribble out, teeny drops slipping down over dried blood.

I cringe and toss my bangs away from my eyes.

I have a fucking problem. I grab the glass of water that I always keep by my my bed and set it between my ankles, trapping it there for a moment. I stuff as much of the neckline of my shirt into my mouth as possible and just breathe for a minute. 'This is gonna fuckin' suck.' I bite down on the fabric and grab the glass of water. I squint to try and, I don't know, lessen the pain somehow. I dump the whole glass down my arm and on top of the blanket stuck to my skin. I breathe harshly and groan in agony as it washes into my cuts. Tears sting against my eyes as I rip the blanket off of my arm. The water really helped, but despite that the half-formed scabs still get yanked off. My arm starts trickling blood and I fall back in a daze, losing myself in excruciating pain. My phone seems to almost buzz angrily. I reach for it, grasping it in shaky hands as I answer.

"...Hello?"

"Dave? Hey, do you... wanna hang out today? I haven't seen you for a few days, so..." It takes me a moment to catch up.

"Oh, Karkat, what's up. Yeah, we can totally hang out. What time you want me to come by?" He seems to hesitate, then answers me slowly.

"Dave, are you okay? You sound really off..." I pick my arm up, small drips of blood make their sluggish way down.

"I... not really." He says nothing. "What time do you want me to come over again?" He huffs a little and I smile.

"I'm picking your ass up. Be ready in fifteen, strider." He hangs up the phone and I let if drop onto my chest. '...Shit.'

It takes me too much time to get showered and dressed. It hurts to move at all and I have the blossoming of what promises to be a spectacular headache. My arm's bandaged up and ready to go. I make sure I have my wallet, phone and keys before checking on Bro. I gently open his door, he has his back turned away and I sigh slightly. Better leave him a note.

bro,
karkat literally forced me into hanging out with him so i'll probs be gone for a while
please call if you need me for anything
- Dave

I sneak up and place it on his bedside table. I hope he'll be ok alone... I make my slow way down to the lobby and spot Karkat sitting there, impatiently tapping his foot against the floor. He stands up right away when he sees me.

"You asshole. I said fifteen minutes and it's been thirty." I shrug and adjust my shades.

"Sorry. Had to check on Bro. Left him a note." He seems a little embarrassed after I say that, but shakes if off quickly.

"He's gonna be fine. Let's go, you piece of shit." I smile softly as we walk to his car.

We eventually arrive at the parking lot of a Starbucks. I raise my eyebrows at his choice, but he doesn't notice. He just has his head hanging down, staring at the steering wheel with his hand still on the key in the ignition.

"...Karkat?" I'm a little concerned and reach over, carefully placing my hand on his forearm. He sighs heavily before turning his head in my direction. He glances at my covered arms briefly before looking at my face. I bite my lip gently.

"Dave. I have to talk to you. Um... I'm not sure how to bring this up." He crosses his arms upon the steering wheel, resting his head in them. I relocate my hand to his shoulder, nervous as fuck.

"Ok... Well, what is it?" I already have a pretty good idea of what it is, I'm just waiting for him to verbally announce it.

"We- Kankri, my dad and I... We. Um. Don't think you should be living with Bro for a while."

Dead fucking silence. I never expected this. Then I lose my shit in a spectacular fashion.

"What! I can't belive you'd even say that! Jesus christ, Karkat, what's you major fucking malfunction?" I rip my hand away from him, unbelievably hurt by his words. I hold my head in my hands and stare at my shoes.

"Dave..." He sighs and I can hear him shuffling around a little. "Look, we're not trying to hurt you. Just, we're really concerned, okay? Jesus christ. Every night I worry you're gonna kill yourself! And... God, I don't even wanna know how bad your new cuts are. And I know you have new ones." I try not to listen, but it's hard when you're in such close proximity with someone. "It's not good for you. Or him for that matter. Your Bro can't stop you if you're hurting yourself. He barely gets out of bed from what you've said. What if he needs you and you're not around? Anything could happen... I know you guys can afford as many caregivers as you want. We don't wanna rip you away from him. God no." He moves closer to me, but I just curl on myself tighter. "Look. You obviously can see him whenever, we just think maybe you should live with us for a while. We can look after you. Help you. You can focus on you with that therapist of yours, Tavros, right? Dave?"

I swear to god I can't fucking breathe. I jerk and scramble for the door, flinging it open amd stumbling out.

"Dave!"

Everything sounds muffled. I blindly run. Run away from Karkat. From that entire fucking conversation. I can't.

I absolutely can fucking not. At all.

 

Oh god where am I even going?

I end up in some store. It seems like everyone stares as I run towards where I think bathrooms might be. I slam open the door of the restroom. Which one is this? I lock the door and slide down it, grasping myself around the middle while taking deep shuddering breaths.

Shit shit what do i do are they right oh god bro would die whay if he dies what am i gonna do no do without him shit fuck help h e l p oh nono oh no i can't can't do this can't handle this

I yank my sleeve up and tear my bandages off. My nails sink into the new cuts easily as I rake them down the entire length of my arm. I do this and do this until I can start to breathe again. And when I finally take stock of myself... Holy shit, blood's on everything. My shirt. Under my nails. My pants and the floor. Goddamnit. What do I do now?

Are... are they right? Is living with Bro hurting the both of us?

God... I let my head fall against the door, banging it gently. I need to talk with Bro.

Chapter Text

My coffee's going cold in my hand as I stare at my phone. Once I finally picked myself up off of that dirty bathroom floor, after cleaning it as best I could, I made my slow way back to the Starbucks. People kept giving me concerned looks, but no one approached me about the blood on my clothes and my dark red shirt sleeve. I'm surprised no one called the cops. The barista looked especially panicked while taking my order. I guess they just all make up for my lack of concern.

Karkat and his vehicle were nowhere in sight when I got to the parking lot and to be honest I was a little disappointed. I had wanted to apologize for my freak out. He probably thinks I'm dead or something. After that quick thought, I send him a short 'I'm fine' text. I don't bother looking at his reply.

I need to make a fucking decision. If me and Bro living together is fucking the both of us up, we need to try and deal with it. No matter how much it's gonna hurt. Like Karkat said, I'll be able to see him again, but it's not healthy for him dealing with his shit and worrying about mine too. Fuck... Resting my chin in my hand, I open my internet's browser.

For the next hour I research local caregivers and physical therapists. I don't even bother with the cold coffee I'm still holding onto. It's more a comfort thing. Idle hands and all, you know.

God my arm hurts...

I bang the heel of my hand against my forehead a few times. I'm starting to get a tension headache. Fucking just... Fuck. I exit the browser and go to my contacts, scrolling down to Tavros Nitram. My thumb hovers over the phone symbol for a few seconds before quickly tapping it. No going back. I need a session today. I can't wait for next Thursday. After four rings and four missed heartbeats, the phone is picked up.

"Um... Hello. This is Tavros Nirtram! How can I, uh, help you?" I say nothing. "...Hello? Maybe, ah, you have the wrong number?"

Clearing my throat, I give a faint, "N-No. It's Dave. Strider."

"Oh! Hi, Dave. What can I do for you? Er... are you alright? Normally you don't call me." He sounds so concerned. He probably sincerely is. He's so... nice like that, I guess. I mean, it's not a bad thing? Just. Weird.

"Yeah. No, I'm... pretty fucked up right now. Do ya think maybe we could have a session? I know we had one a couple'a days ago, but..." A pause. Will he say no? Am I bothering him? Has he already left the office for the day? Shit, shit. I have to talk to Tavros-

"Yeah! I mean, I, heh, already left the office for the day, but if you'd like you could come to my home? That is, if you're comfortable with it. I could give you the address or I can pick you up? Um, is that alright? Entirely up to your discretion, of course." I bite my lip and set my nearly full cup down.

"Please pick me up? I really think that would be best." If I try to go by my own will, I'll just end up going somewhere else. To probably hurt myself more. Or worse.

"Of course! Just tell me where you are, Dave. And I'll be there as fast as my, ah, legs can carry me, hahah!" Oh god, Tavros. Please don't. I give a halfhearted snort regardless. Tavros really tries.

"Heh, yeah. I'm at the Louisiana Street Starbucks." Does Tavros drink coffee? I mean, they have tea too so... "You know where it is, right? By the Randall's?"

"Yeah, definitely. I try to stop by every morning to get myself some ah, tea. Kind'a silly going to a Starbuck's for it, right? Heh, anyways. I'll be there in about, er, ten minutes, okay? Don't go anywhere, Dave." I nod, then realize how dumb I am.

"Yeah sure, I await with baited breath, my savior." He gives a soft laugh and I can practically see the small smile on his face.

"Your knight in shining armour is already on his way! Bye for now, Dave." He hangs up the second before I do and I'm smiling faintly. Alright, time to try to patiently wait for my therapist to pick my ass up so I don't go jumping off a bridge or scratching my arms to raw meat. Oh wait. Already checked off. I sigh heavily and drop my phone to the table. It clatters loudly as I press the heels of both palms into my eyes. My sunglasses drop to the table as well. God fucking damnit...

Before I know it, I hear a honk outside. I shoot up straight and look out the slightly smeared window. There's Tavros in his Hippie Van. Christ almighty. He waves and I gather all my shit up, jamming my glasses back onto my face in the process. Alright. Here's hoping he won't force me to the hospital in my state. I deposit my five dollar coffee in a bin before going outside, kind of regretting not drinking it after making the barista fix it up for me. Oh well. Not like they don't have to make a million of these in a day. What's one undrunk one?

Hopping into his van, nothing is said for a minute. I can feel tension and don't even need to look to know that Tavros is staring wide-eyed, deeply unsettled by my appearance. Disturbed probably. Or maybe in resignation. Hard to tell what with all the definitely not avoiding I'm doing by staring out the window. I buckle myself in just to break the silence.

"Dave. Um, oh wow. Should, uh. Shit." Well that's new. I don't think I've ever heard him swear before now. I hope I didn't accidentally make him break some 'no swearing' vow. I turn towards him finally. "Can I trust you to be totally honest with me?" I nod slowly and he leans back in his seat. "Do I need to take you to a, ah, a doctor?" Like a private doctor? Not a hospital? I let a out a slow breath and close my eyes for a moment.

"I don't know, actually... my arm's pretty messed up. I've had worse, but, um. I definitely reopened some bad wounds. So, maybe? Would I have'ta go to a hospital?"

He shakes his head, red mohawk swaying gently.

"No. Not if, er, that'll make it worse. Hmm..." He tilts his head to the side, thinking for a moment. "I'll take you to a friend of mine. He's a medical prefessional. He doesn't practice anymore, but he, um, helps out people in need. Is that okay?" His hands clench amd unclench around the steering wheel, fingers tapping in anxiety.

"Sure, what's this good samaritan's name?"

"...Kurloz Makara."

Well. That was very unexpected. Wow. I briefly think it over. Nothing wrong with it. Worst case scenario, Kurloz blames me for what happened to Gamzee and refuses me aid. Nbd, really. I can always clean myself up. I mean... I don't even know if Gamzee still talked to Kurloz after Kurloz moved out. Or if Kurloz even gives a shit about Gamzee.

"Sure, man. Let's roll." Tavros gives me a relieved smile and carefully pulls into the late afternoon traffic. He cranks on the air and I stare forward, unsure of where this is going to go, if this goes anywhere at all. Hopefully not anywhere that sucks. I've had enough for today.

Chapter Text

The house isn't some grand thing when we pull up to it ten minutes later. It's two stories tall and tiny. More like an apartment with two floors. There's Halloween decorations scattered around and I raise my eyebrows a little. Bitchin'.

Tavros must notice because he laughs a little. "That's Kurloz for you, alright. He, ah, is always in the Halloween spirit. Heh." I smile a little and try to mentally get ready for this.

"Oh, I bet. The Makara's are just kind of spooky motherfuckers in general." He laughs as he parks in the drive. Right behind a... an I-Roc Z painted like a skeleton? Oh, holy shit. Wow. I might have to bring Bro here to see this!

My smile slowly falls from my face as I think about him. Alone in the apartment without me. Depressed probably, wondering when I'm coming home. He might need help with something and I'm not there. I squeeze my eyes shut and suddenly there's a hand on my wrist that makes me twitch.

"Dave? Um... Please stop digging your nails into your hand." My eyes shoot open and I look down. Sure enough my nails are near gouging into my skin and I yank them away as if burned.

"Damn, I hardly noticed..."

Tavros purses his lips slightly. "Yes, I gathered. You're not exactly the type to just, uh, harm yourself while anyone's looking and that's worrisome." I nod slowy and stare down at my lap. "Dave..." I know he wants to say something, but must think better of it since he clears his throat and gets out of the car. I push my hair back and hop out onto the pavement. With chalk drawings. That's... Maybe he has children. Kid's are pretty cool. All non-judgemental and shit. Always willing to spend time with you and play pretend. Shit's rad. Tavros wheels up next to me and pats my side.

"Ready?" He asks with a small smile.

"Oh yeah, you know me. Always up for a rad stitch job."

"Hm, maybe you should start sewing instead of cutting then." I'm thrown off by his blunt remark. I forget he even says things like that sometimes.

"Pfft, yeah, and end up like my cam-boy, puppet fucking brother? No way, these Strider bits are for no one's eyes." He makes an expression I can't place when I say this. We arrive at the door and I knock.

"Is that, er, right? Interesting." What's 'intetesting' about that? Like what, he just wheels around with his bits hangin' out? Disrespectful man. A skeleton face appears before me and I almost yelp in surprise. The manifestation says nothing, but seems to light up when he spots the apparent nudist next to me. He squats in front of him, taking his hands and squeezing them.

"Hi, Kurloz. How are you?" Oh, so that's Kurloz? Damn, he's changed a bit. Like not talking and looking like a skeleton. What the hell happened? I stare at his face, noticing what looks like stitch holes above and below his lips. 'Oh man. There's a fuckin' story behind that shit I bet. Damn...' What's he doing with his hands-oh. I see, sign language. I can make out maybe two words and that's it. Guess I just thought it wasn't important to learn.

"As much as I'd like to say that this is a social call, Dave here actually needs, ah, your medical expertise." Kurloz brows furrow slightly as he glances over, eyes widening when he finally takes in my bloody apperance. He sucks in a sharp breath and look back to Tavros, quickly glancing down at his arms. Tavros gives a slight nod and Kurloz slumps a little. I turn away in shame. 'Well. Don't I feel like shit.' A warm hand falls onto my shoulder. I look up to Kurloz who's giving me what I'm sure is supposed to be a reassuring smile. It doesn't work. He steers me into the house. I barely have time to make out the interior before I'm being led to a room in the back of the house. The room we step into is exactly like stepping into an exam room. Guess Tavros wasn't lying about this guy being an ex-doctor or whatever.

The stitching doesn't take long. Kurloz numbs my arm. A lot. He gave Tavros a long, hard look after pushing my sleeve up and Tavros stared right back, not backing down. I rub the gauze a little after we're done and Kurloz gives me a nod, smiling and patting my shoulder.

"So, thanks for the patch up. I really appreciate it. Don't like hospitals much..." He nods a little and smiles softer. He turns to tavros, signing with him for a few moments. I pull out my phone, frowning at the notifications. I have some from my friends but... None from Bro. We at least talk if I even leave the house. And it's been a couple hours since I left. I don't like this. I fidget as I send text after text and message after message. This is wrong... Something's wrong! My breath comes short and harsh and I dial Bro's number. It just keeps ringing. Then goes to voicemail. My eyes widen and someome touches my arm. No! He always, always, answers his phone! I pant and my arm is being rubbed.

"Dave? What's the matter? You're really, really, er, scaring me." I tremble like a leaf, only mumbling

"Bro," before I try calling again.

More voicemail.

"Somethin's wrong. Really wrong. I feel it. Tavros we gotta go!" He nods and wheels towards the door, giving Kurloz a pat.

"We can catch up later." He nods and we rush to the van, I've already dialed 911.

"This is the 911, what is your emergency?" I can barely buckle myself in before we speed off.

"My brother!" I yell. "He's home alone and no one's around and he's in a wheelchair! He won't answer his phone and I think he's hurt! You gotta send someone, please!"

"Of course. I need the address, sir." I shakily rattle it off and and keep running my hand through my hair.

"Just please hurry," I say weakly.

"They're on their way right now. would you like me to stay on the line with you?"

"No." I end the call and give Tavros directions. We get there in seven agonizing minutes. Tavros shouts as I jump out of the still moving van, spotting the EMTs wheeling someone up to the Ambulance. The face isn't covered and I sprint up. I get close enough and nearly scream when I see Bro's face. I grasp onto the gurney.

"That's my brother! What the fuck happened?!" They give a glance and one EMT opens her mouth slightly at my bloody clothes as they hoist my dead looking brother inside the vehicle.

"...As far as we can tell, he slipped from his wheelchair trying to get into the bathtub. He hit his head and almost drowned." I nearly vomit and fall to my knees.

"I'm going with you!" They look at each other then nod to me. I jump in behind them, looking back to where Tavros is.

"I'll follow, Dave!" he shouts, already getting back in his van. The EMTs close the door and sound the siren as we speed off. I sit down heavily and just fucking stare.

This my fault. If I just would'a been home. If I would'a just got a home nurse for him to begin with. If I wouldn't have pulled my stupid teenage angst bullshit... They were right. So fucking right. I can't take care of Bro while I'm like this. It'll kill him and me both. I brush his wet hair off of his face and stare in determination.

I'll get better. I'll get better and he'll get better and we'll live happily ever after.

We have to. We just have to...

Chapter Text

It's only about an hour before a doctor comes out. She strides towards me, giving me a small smile.

"Dave, right?" I nod and she adjusts her coat. "Well, your brother's going to be just fine. He's got some fluid in his lungs so he's going to be having a hard time breathing for a while. We're going to keep him under observation for a couple days just to make sure he's alright though, ok?" I nod slowly and just clench my fists. "May I ask though, and I mean no offense, but... Why was your, from what my records state, newly parapalegic brother home alone? Surely you have a day nurse for him?" I blink behind my sunglasses, lips thinning a bit as I start to shake.

"I'm getting one for him. I had planned on talkin' it over with him once I got home, but..." The doctor is silent before seeming to shift uncomfortably.

"I see..." She says. "Well, just make sure to get one if you can't be home. Accidents like this happen often if the patient isn't monitored."

"Right." She hesitates and I stare, waiting. "Are you aware..." I cock my head to the side slightly as she looks me over. "Um, do you have any injuries we need to look at? That's an alarming amount of what definitely looks like blood on your clothes, so forgive me if I'm a little concerned." Tavros tenses next to me and I keep my lips sealed for a moment. I've already gotten them stitched, I don't exactly need more aftercare. What if she forces me, though? I'm a minor still, but I don't think she knows that.

"Nah, I was paintin'. I do that splatter shit, ya know? Pollock?" Tavros squeezes my knee and I dig my nails into my hands, ready to sprint.

"Hmm..." She stares at me a moment longer before turning on her heel. "Well, I'll come back and get you when you can see your brother, alright?" She leaves without another word and I deflate in my chair, letting out my breath all at once.

"Tell me, what was the point of lying to her? You're, uh, already here. Why not take advantage of the healthcare?" I turn to him slightly.

"You saw my arms. It looks like a fuckin' suicide attempt to anyone else. They'd put me under suicide watch and lock me up. I'm a minor, what do ya think would happen?"

"Was it a suicide attempt, Dave?" I shake my head and sigh.

"That's why I called ya... I... I thought I might-" Cutting myself off, I grab my hair and tug a little. "And I was scared. I didn't want to..." Tavros pats my knee gently and when I look at him again, he's smiling.

"You may not see it, Dave, but you are getting, ah, better. You called me instead of doing something even more reckless. From what you've told me, your periods of cutting are becoming further and further apart. You're doing, uhm, just fine, ok? You're getting there. That's what matters, right?"

I nod slowly and find myself smiling back a little. "Yeah... Definitely." I carefully place my hand over his and he seems surprised. "Thanks for everything, by the way. You do way more for me than you should." Tavros squeezes my knee again and shakes his head.

"I just do what any decent person would." We leave the conversation at that and continue sitting in comfortable silence. We wait another thirty-five minutes before the doctor comes out again.

"You can see your brother now. He's a little woozy. Just a warning." I nod and tavros pats my knee.

"Do you want to do this, um, alone? Or do you want me to come in with you?"

Shaking my head, I slowly stand. "Nah. I should do this alone. He ain't comfortable around strangers. 'Specially now." I hesitate for a moment. "Wait for me?" I ask. I'm a little uncomfortable asking, but... I have a bad feeling.

"Yeah, of course. I'll be right here, ok?" He gives me a smile and I just nod back. My stomach feels like it's sinking and I don't know why. The doctor leads me down a quiet hallway. It's eerie. I roll my eyes at myself. I watch too many horror movies.

Dirk's staring at the ceiling when we walk in. He doesn't even look at us.

"...Bro?" He blinks and I walk a little closer. Hearing a click behind me, I turn and the doctor's gone again. I walk closer and place my hand on the side of his head. He says nothing and my heart feels like it's folding in on itself. "I'm so sorry," I whisper. "I should've been there. I shouldn't of left you alone..." Bro turns his head, looking up at me. He doesn't seem super aware right now. 'Maybe I should just come back...' Before I can fully form the thought of leaving, Bro grabs my hand, holding it. I tilt my head slightly and frown.

"Not yur fault," he mumbles. "Did it myself."

"Bro, it ain't your fault. I should'a been home watchin' you and-"

"No..." He blinks slowly and my frown just deepens. "Did it on purpose." He manages.

I stare. And I can't say anything. It feels like ice has creeped into my veins.

"What." My voice is flat and I just keep staring. "You..." I can't fucking say it. Swallowing past the lump in my throat, I try to breathe normally. "You slipped on purpose?" I just... I need to make sure I didn't hear him wrong. Tears start sliding down his face and I hold onto his hand like a lifeline.

"Y-Yeah," He sobs out. I cover my face with my hand and bite my lip so hard I can taste blood. Tears seep in between my fingers and fall onto the bed. My whole body shakes and it feels like a stab each time I hear Bro sob or whine. He sniffs loudly and I hand him a tissue. After he blows his nose, he attempts to sit up. I push him back down gently and he tries shifting the blanket. "Gotta show ya." I dread what that means. I don't even want to fucking know at this point. I grasp the blanket and close my eyes, pulling it away quickly. Bro starts crying in ernest again and I hold my breath as I look. It feels like the wind's been knocked right out of me.

Burns.

They're all over his legs. Small, big. Circles. From cigarettes? Lines too. Some of them are still blistered and scabbed. Shit. FUCK. Has he been doing this since he got out of the hospital? I wish I was hallucinating. I feel like I'm losing my goddamn mind! I can't even talk. Is this how everyone else feels about this shit? Christ...'

We just keep crying, crushing each others hands in an attempt at mutual comfort.

I eventually end up lying next to him, face pressed against his shoulder. Bro's obviously exhausted, but refuses to fall asleep yet. We stopped the waterworks a while ago and the silence has stretched on long enough.

"Ok... There's no way the hospital don't know about those burns. We're gonna get you a therapist, alright? A real good one. I'm gettin' you a physical therapist too." I take a deep breath. "Should'a done it right after ya got out... Gettin' you a day nurse too, alright?" God. This is such a fucking mess. "Bro... I'm sorry if any of this is 'cause of me. I know too much about this shit to think it's all me. But some of it's gotta be." I clutch his hospital gown in my fist. "And I'm sorry..." I feel like I'm choking as I force myself to not start crying again. Bro puts his arm around my shoulders and pulls me close.

I fucking lose it all over again. I feel gross as I soak his shoulder with tears and snot. Bro shakes next to me. Fuck, how much of today am I gonna spend crying?

"'M sorry. So sorry." Bro mumbles. He kisses the top of my head and I just can't handle this.

Once I calm down, I can actually speak again. "It's ok. It's gonna be alright, ok? I promise. We're gonna work through this. The two of us. I won't leave your side." I glance up at him and he smiles shakily back at me.

"Ok."

And that's the end of it for now. We can talk later. We got time.

It's not long before Bro falls asleep and I cover him back up with the blanket.

"We're gonna be fine," I whisper, turning around and leaving. 'We gotta be.'

Chapter Text

I'm getting ready to leave the room again when the doctor comes back. She takes in my defeated posture and red eyes, smiling sympathetically.

"How did your visit go?" I shake my head and hug myself.

"Ignorance is bliss," I mutter, laughing brokenly.

"He showed you then? His legs?" I nod and hear her sigh softly. "Obviously we were surprised when they brought him in. Once he woke up, he kept apologizing and calling for you." She pauses and I watch her feet get closer. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it before. I thought it would be better if he admitted to it himself. If not, I would have told you when I came back." I nod, still not really up for speaking. "Dave... did he tell you if he did this on purpose? Slipping in the tub?"

I freeze. What should I say? What would I want in this situation? Digging my nails into my arms, I try to make a decision. 'It doesn't matter what I want. What matters is what's good for Dirk.' I finally look up, still not prepared for the reality of my words. I can't keep pretending I can fix everything by myself. I'm no prefessional. I can't help him.

"He said..." I take a deep, shaky breath. "He said he slipped on purpose." I squeeze my eyes tight and whisper, "He tried to kill himself." The doctor is silent for a moment, then places her cool hand on my shoulder.

"I see," she says quietly. And I'm sure she does see. "Well, thank you for telling me. That must have been difficult. We'll get a nurse in here and place him under Suicide Watch for the next seventy-two hours. He'll be alright, Dave." I just nod again and she pulls her hand away. "You should get some rest. You look like you're ready to collapse." 'I feel ready to collapse.' I clear my throat.

"Yeah, that's probably a good idea. See ya tomorrow." She smiles as I finally leave, hunched over while I shuffle back to the waiting room. Just... Fuck everything right now. I pull out my phone and text Karkat.

Dave [sent]: hey can i come spend the night
Dave [sent]: some heavy shit just went down
Dave [sent]: im sorry about earlier you just freaked me out

Karkat [recieved]: OF COURSE YOU CAN. AND IT'S OK. I PRETTY MUCH ANTICIPATED THAT REACTION. I'LL BE HOME WHENEVER YOU'RE READY TO COME OVER.
Karkat [recieved]: OR DO YOU NEED A RIDE?

I frown a little, thinking it over. Going home by myself for any amount of time is probably a bad idea. I don't think Tavros would mind giving me a ride again, though.

Dave [sent]: nah im good. i got a ride
Dave [sent]: thanks though

Karkat [recieved]: JUST LET ME KNOW IF YOU NEED ANYTHING.

Dave [sent]: i will
Dave [sent]: see you l8r

Karkat [received]: BYE

I smile for a moment after slipping my phone back into my pocket. Once I reach Tavros, and he's still there after waiting so long, he's focusing on his phone. I sit next to him and rest my head on his shoulder. He doesn't move for a moment, then puts his hand on my back.

"Hey," he says quietly, "Did it go alright?" I roll my head against his shoulder, trying to indicate 'fuck no' without having to speak. I can almost feel him frowning in question. "I, ah, thought he was relatively ok? Was that not correct?" Laughing mirthlessly, I rub my hand across my sore eyes.

"No. Ya know what happened? Ya know what the fuck he did?" Tavros keeps rubbing my back, not answering. I sniffle. "He slipped in the tub on purpose! He tried to fucking k-kill himself!" Hot tears roll down my face and I shudder. "He's got burns all over his legs..." Tavros pauses only to wrap both of his arms around me. Jesus, is this how I make everyone feel? Why did I ever start cutting myself?

"Oh, Dave... I'm so sorry. Victims of, uh, trauma develop PTSD a lot of the time. Especially if there's physical trauma involved. When gone untreated, these, ah, kinds of tragedies tend to happen. He might even be having flashbacks and nightmares..."

"I should'a talked to him more. Should'a made sure he knew I was there for him." I sniffle again and Tavros hands me some tissue. I mumble a quiet thanks.

"You have to understand that even if you, uh, did all that you could, this might have still happened. It's a good thing you listened to , ah, your instincts and made that call. I'm proud of you. You did good." I nod a litttle against his shoulder and try to stifle my crying. I'm completely exhausted. "I don't think you should be alone after this, though. Do you have someone to stay with? You can, uhm, stay with me if not." I finally lift my head from his shoulder and smile a little.

"Nah, that's alright. I already asked Karkat if I could stay with him. Thanks for offerin', though." My phone chimes, but I ignore it. "Can you give me a lift to his place, though?" Tavros nods at me, giving my shoulder a pat before letting go.

"Of course. Do you need anything from your apartment?"

"Yeah, I should probably grab some clothes and some'a Bro's stuff. Is that alright?" Tavros smiles.

"Wouldn't have offered if it , ah, wasn't." Can't argue with that.

The trip to my apartment is fast. I grab clothes and my laptop. I grab some of Bro's dumb mangas for him to read. I would'a grabbed his sewing shit, but... I don't think they would appreciate me bringin' him needles. Right before I leave I think to grab the newly restored 'Lil Cal. I'm sure Bro'd appreciate the company. I lock up and practically run back to the parking lot. Something about the apartment has just been makin' me uncomfortable lately.

The short ride to Karkat's is pretty quiet. The sun is completely gone at this point and the soft droning of NPR is making me drowsy. Neither of us move after we park.

"Hey, Tavros..."

"Yes?"

"Would you consider being Bro's therapist?" I can see him turn towards me out of the corner of my eye.

"Well. It would be, um, unusual. That is, to council family members in different sessions. I don't think it should be, ah, a problem, though. Did he tell you he wanted me as a therapist?" I shake my head.

"No, I just think you'd be the best option. I told him I was getting him a therapist. Should probably talk about our options, huh." He nods.

"That would be best. It won't help him if you, er, force him into something he doesn't necessarily want." I sigh a little.

"Yeah, I know. I just want him to be alright..." Tavros grabs my hand, holding it for a moment.

"He will be, Dave. Just support him." I nod and get out of the van, making sure I grab all my shit.

"Thanks for everything today. You're a saint." I grin as he smiles.

"I'm no saint. I just do what I think is right, Dave. Like anyone else I, ah, suppose." I give one more smile before shutting the door and walking down the all too familiar path to Karkat's front door. I hear Tavros tires crunch against the driveway as he leaves and I grin a little. Tav's a good guy.

The door is almost immediately opened when I knock on it. Crabdad's stern face looks down at me for a momemt before seeming to recognize me. Before I know what's happening, I'm being pulled into a tight hug.

"Dave! I haven't seen you in such a long time!" He holds me at arms length and smooths the hair back from my forhead. "How are you? Are you doing alright? Are you hungry?" I smile despite myself.

"Fine, yes and nah. Maybe later though."

"Alright. Karkat said you were staying the night? And that something had happened, but he didn't know what." He looks down at my clothes and sucks in a sharp breath. "Dave! What happened?!" I bite the inside of my cheek and look off to the wall.

"I... This... doesn't have anything to do with what happened. Um. I don't know. Maybe we should have a family meeting?" Crabdad nods and steers me inside.

"Of course. We need to catch up anyways. You kids are turning my hair grayer with worry." I grin a little as Mr. Vantas shouts, "Kids! Dave's here!"

Kankri inmediately comes from the study. "Dad, I'm twenty-three. I'm hardly a child." Mr. Vantas rolls his eyes as Karkat wanders down from the upstairs.

"You'll always be my baby. Besides, you're Agender. I'm not going to go around shouting 'boys' or 'sons' am I? No, because that would make ms a horrible person and also parent. Now quit bitchin' and tell Dave to come see us more often." My face burns a little as I smile at Kankri, their arms open in invitation. We hug and Kankri mumbles at me to visit more often. I nod and hear snickering. Karkat's leaning against the stair railing, laughing into his hand. I roll my eyes and open my arms. He practically sprints into them.

"Hey."

"Hey." I sigh contently and rub his back. "I'm sorry..."

"Me too. It was a dumb thing to suggest."

"You were just tryin' to help. I'm an idiot." I feel a hand on my shoulder and look up.

"Not that I don't love hearing my kids call themselves idiots, but we should probably talk."

Once we settle down on the various furniture, none of us are really sure how to start.

"So..." I eventually start. "Any questions. Or maybe I should just start from the beginning? I'm... not really sure what to say here."

Mr. Vantas speaks up after a moment. "How about why you've got blood all over your clothes. I'm pretty concerned about that."

At this point I'm ashamed and embarrassed, so I don't answer right away. "That was me bein' stupid... I reopened a bunch of injuries and had to get 'em stitched." No one says anything and I don't know if I should be thankful or worried. Taking a subtle glance around, they all have these sad sympathetic faces on. It makes me feel like shit.

I deserve it.

Karkat's low voice speaks up. "What happened? You said something went down but didn't say what." I shift and wring my hands together.

"Bro tried to kill himself." Karkat's quiet answer of 'fuck' has me sighing. "I know. He slipped in the tub on purpose. He's got burns all over his legs... Shit." I wipe at my eyes as Karkat sits next to me, putting his arm around my shoulders. "I'm gettin' a therapist and a nurse is gonna be at the apartment around the clock if I got anything to say about it."

"I'm so sorry, Dave. Is there anything we can do for either of you?" I look towards Kankri and shrug a little.

"Just be there for us? That's all."

"Of course we will. You can call us whenever. I know your brother's made a point to not come over, but he should start. We'll all have dinner, alright?" I smile at Mr. Vantas as I lean into Karkat's side. I'm so sure of what I'm about to do, but...

"Thanks... dad." I know it's right when his eyes shine and a grin splits his face.

"It's no problem, son," he says quietly. "How about you kids get ready for bed? You're probably exhausted. Unless you wanna eat first." I shake my head and stand, Karkat following.

"I'm good. I'll eat a big breakfast. Promise." We all hug goodnight and say 'I love you' to one another.

Once Karkat and I are lying in bed, I take his hand in mine, squeezing it. I hope it's not too late...

"Dave?"

"Karkat... I just." I turn on my side so I can look into his eyes. "I know I'm not stable. I'm a bad choice in any category. And I don't deserve you or your family."

"Dave-"

"No, it's true." I squeeze his hand again. "I'm a blind son of bitch who can't see what's right in front of his fuckin' face. Who can't see love when it's right in front of him." Karkat's eyes widen a bit. "I just hope I'm not too late for it, Karkat. I'm a such a dick. So wrapped up in John and all my personal shit I could never see you. I couldn't ever see just how much I was hurtin' you. Couldn't see what I truly wanted. I'm so sorry... I love you, Karkat. So much. And... Please, if there's still a chance, do you want to see if we could work out?"

Karkat doesn't speak for a long time, but he doesn't move or pull away. I'm not sure how this is gonna play out.

"Oh, Dave..." Up this close, I can see the tears spill over from his eyes. "You have to be sure. Be absolutely sure you want this with me. That you can properly handle this. I know that you know that love doesn't fix mental illness. And I know you know I'm Asexual. You gotta be sure, Dave. I couldn't handle you wanting me and then throwing me away over something like that." I scoot closer to him to hold him against my chest.

"I'm so sure. I've thought about this for months, if I'm honest. God, I love you so much, Karkat. you've always been there for me. Always. You hold me together. You're a rock. You make me want to be a better person. God, every time I think about you it's like fireworks go off in my heart!-" I'm cut short by warm lips being pressed to my own. Karkat's hands cup my face and I hold him tighter, never wanting to let go. I can't believe I was ever so stupid. I can't believe I almost missed this running after a straight boy that I knew wouldn't ever want to be with me. Tears fall from my own eyes while we kiss slowly, trying to put everything of ourselves into this one moment. I never knew kissing someone could be like a religious experience. It's like being reborn.

Like I'm being brought back from the dead.

And I'm so fucking happy I'm alive.

Chapter Text

"You're not even trying!" I shout. I don't stop wrapping Bro's burns, though. I scowl in frustration. He just keeps declining! Spiraling so fast I can't even keep up. He even stopped going to physical therapy... And no matter what I say or do, it doesn't seem to help in the least.

Bro pushes my hands off of his leg.

"Ya have no idea how hard I'm tryin'. What do ya know anyways? Ya don't know shit about life."

Are... are you fucking kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

I stand, throwing the supplies onto the floor and kicking the table over on its side.

"Fuck you! How can you say that to me?! You know what I've been through!"

"Feel better?"

"No, you prick!"

I step forward, but stop when there's a loud pounding at the door. Probably the day nurse back from his break. I give bro another glance before making my way to the front door.

"STRIDER!"

I stop, furrowing my brow. That ain't the nurse. I hear a breath being sucked in sharply behind me. Turning, I see Bro staring at the front door, eyes wide.

"Wha-"

"Don't ya dare answer that door." I frown.

"What're you talkin' about? Do you know them?"

"Strider! Open the damn door or I'm busting it down, chum!"

Who even is this clown? I go to the door again, but before I can even think about turning the knob, it flings open, revealing...

Some old guy in a sweater vest? What the fuck?

He brushes past me and I follow right behind.

"Hey! Assclown! You can just go busting into people's houses! There's this thing called the law and-" The man turns and presses a finger to my lips.

"Shush." I nearly bite him.

Next thing I know, he's trying to pull Bro out of his wheelchair.

"Hey, fucker! Knock it off!" I try grabbing onto his arm to move him, but for an old guy he sure is a solid block of muscle. "Let go'a him!"

"Get up, Strider! You've been moping too long!"

"Jake..." Is that this assholes name?

"No! I heard about everything! Roxy talked to Jane and Jane talked to me! I can't believe you! Trying to kill yourself and falling back into old habits. What's wrong with you, kid?!"

Bro looks to me, betrayal on his face. I dunno what that look's for. Not like I talked to these people I don't even damn know.

But... hang on. Ain't Roxy Rose's mom or somethin'? And... Wait, Jake? Jake English? Jade's Grandpa?

"Dave!" I jump, startled. Someone pounces on me, nearly sending me to the floor. And that someone has a lot of hair.

"Jade? What the hell?"

"Oh gosh I'm so happy to see you!" I can practically hear the smiley emoticons. I hug her back fiercely, ecstatic. "My Grandpa wanted to see your Bro and I tagged along 'casue I missed you!"

"Damn, I'm glad you did. I'm so happy to see ya." We pull away and Jake's still trying to pull Bro out of his chair.

"Hey, man, uh... I dunno' if you noticed? But he can't walk."

"Poppycock! He's just not trying!"

Welp.

I'll give him that.

"How do ya know my bro anyways?"

"You kidding me? I used to train this whippersnapper back in the day! How do you think he learned to fight so well? Trained by one of the best Colonels of the British Army, son! Broderick, why didn't you tell him about me?! We had so many great adventures together!"

This is unreal...

"'Dunno," he mumbles. "Just never came up I guess..."

...What... What the hell?? When'd all this happen? I mean... I guess I don't know much about his life before he got custody of me. Seriously, what the fuck though?

"Alright, Strider! I suppose once again I'll have to take your life by the reigns and get you back into to shape! No need to thank me, ol' chap! It's my pleasure as one of your oldest and dearest friends!"

Bro says nothing, just remains in his chair and staring at Jake. Not like he can get up and walk out of the room or something.

"Still the strong, silent type I see! That's ok! I'll do enough talking for the both of us, hahah!"

This guy sure enjoys being loud.

"Alright, kids! Jade, take Dave out and have some fun! Broderick and I need to have a long, long heart to heart!"

"We really don't."

Bro's eyes practically scream at me to not leave, but... I think he needs this. This may be the thing that finally helps him. With that in mind, I take Jade's hand and lead her out the front door.

"Later, Bro. See ya, Grandpa."

"Bye-Bye, kids!"

I hear shouting as I lead Jade down the hall. I try to not worry. The day nurse walks up to us as we reach the lobby and raises his eyebrows at me.

"What're you doing here? I thought your brother wasn't supposed to be alone."

"Uh... he's not. He's with an old, er, friend. Go ahead and let yourself in, though. But be prepared for an old guy yelling and trying to pull my brother out of his wheelchair."

His eyes widen and I squeeze Jade's hand.

"What?!" He tears off up the stairs and I let out a sigh of relief. At least I don't gotta worry as much now.

"So, Dave! What do you wanna do?" I smile up at Jade and head outside.

"Wanna see Karkat?"

"Yeah! Oh, I haven't seen him since the hospital!"

"Sure he'll be happy to see ya again, Harley."

We hold hands on our way to the bus station and then all the way to Karkat's house. We stop for ice cream at one point and Jade ends up smashing some onto my face. We laugh and waste the rest of our ice cream trying to out-ice each other. It's a nice afternoon. I really hope Karkat's home so we can all hang out. Maybe I should've texted him first. Oops.

Chapter Text

Okay...

Okay. So.

Hey, everyone. I'm not sure if anyone still cares about this story or follows it, but I wanted to say some things.

I haven't touched hide nor hair of this work in... oh, 5ish years? I'd like to apologize to everyone who cared about this for never finishing this story. I had every intention to do so, but a lot of shit happened in life and I think about this story often and much more frequently as of late

I started up this story in 2013 and continued writing it til 2015. I was in a horrible, horrible place in life and honestly this story and everyone who loved, commented or kudoed kept me going. I still think about and read through reviews often to remind myself that I'm not completely worthless as a writer or creator or even as a person. I don't think people understand how much comments mean sometimes. And some things have gotten better, but not all. This story meant so much to me. This story and you all still do.

I've recently gone through my previous works and while I don't hate them, there's a lot of things I really want to fix and rewrite. this story is one of them. There's things I could have handled better in this story and plot holes that need to be fixed. I was only 21 when I wrote this. I was young. Well, younger. I'm about to be 27 and I feel like I'm a completely different person and author now. I'd like to flesh out this story more and redefine what it is.

I don't know if anyone would be interested in me redoing this story and doing it more of a justice than I did five years ago. If any of you are interested in me rewriting this I'd love to hear it from you. Since I suppose there's no sense in revamping it if no one cares that much for it. Let me know in the comments below if that's something you'd like to see from me. If there's enough interest then I intend to redo the whole damn thing.

Stay frosty, space cowboys and let me know below what your preference is

And again I'd just like to thank every single person who held this story in their hearts and helped keep me going. You're all wonderful and I so, so appreciate everything over the years and every kind word I've ever received from this