- AlwaysBoth: I almost want to shove him into forensic pathology, but that seems like such a horrible, awful idea. Poor PTSD-Dave
- Chiomi: XD
- Chiomi: doooo itttttt
- Chiomi: though, why would he go into it?
- AlwaysBoth: or, not pathology but anthropology
- Chiomi: or would he come out of a dissociative episode and find out that was his major?
- AlwaysBoth: You collect WEIRD DEAD THINGS PRESERVED IN VARIOUS WAYS.
- Chiomi: ohhh
- Chiomi: yes
- AlwaysBoth: i dunno, what degree goes with that?
- Chiomi: English Lit?
- AlwaysBoth: lol
- Chiomi: ^.^
- AlwaysBoth: he's actually the next Poe
- Chiomi: yes
- AlwaysBoth: XDDD oh god
- AlwaysBoth: I suddenly love that idea
- Chiomi: XD
- Chiomi: sick beats and dead things!
- Chiomi: it totally works!
- AlwaysBoth: TELL TALE HEART
- Chiomi: YES
- AlwaysBoth: Poestuck
[So… I’m pretty sure this is the last chapter? And that kind of scares me? I’ve never finished a multi-chapter fic before. I kind of don’t know what to do with myself. And their stories aren’t really done (you can read the next installment, from John’s pov here) but I had originally intended to cover more in this, and I feel like I’m kind of leaving them hanging? But… it’s done and… Ok. I’m gonna stop whining now. Have a final chapter]
>Dave: get contemplative and kind of morose
Little known fact? You actually really enjoy reading. It takes years of study to come up with sick rhymes like you do. Poe? Fucking master. Though, now that you consider it, you’re kind of disappointed that you don’t recall even a single “Nevermore” joke being made at or by Davesprite. Way to miss a great opportunity everyone. One of the many great things about crashing at the Lalonde place is Rose’s personal library. She’s actually got some pretty good shit in there between all the lengthy fantasy novels with not so subtle homoerotic subtext.
This was initially going to be the last chapter… as you’ll see, that obviously didn’t happen. I’d say the next chapter will be, but I honestly don’t know at this point.
>Introduce yourself again
Your name is Dave Strider, and apparently you have PTSD… Gog, that sounds like some kind of AA introduction. “Hi, I’m Dave Strider, and I haven’t had a drink in blaaahh blaaahh blaaahh.” It doesn’t help that Rose even quoted the whole “first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem” shpiel to you during your “talk.” You kind of wanted to argue, but she’s a crafty bitch with some weird idea that logic is a perfectly normal way of thinking. She had all sorts of reasons ready before you even opened your mouth… you think she might have even had a spreadsheet.
You supposed passing out from malnutrition and sleep deprivation and nearly flunking your first semester of college were pretty indisputable signs of a problem, since apparently “lies and slander” isn’t a legitimate response. And, honestly, it just felt like too much work. Words are too much work.
There’s a point, as you’re swimming in the middle of the Nile dodging hungry hungry hippos, where you start being honest about all the wrong things. For instance, you inform Rose after a time of roundabout psychoanalytic inquiry that you sleep like a fucking baby, and you admit to yourself that the scars littering your body are repulsive and who is ever going to want that? You don’t need to go to your classes, Striders are capable of literally falling asleep on a book and absorbing the knowledge through their pasty white skin, but despite these magical capabilities, you still have no purpose in life. Is it ironic for one as cool as you to live down by the river in a van? It won’t matter if you flunk everything if you’re already planning on dropping out. You don’t eat because you’re watching your girlish figure. John’s staying with his girlfriend; you think he might hate you; you think he’s probably got the right of it.
The thought of going back to Texas, to that apartment, to Bro, definitely doesn’t make you nervous. Bro’s the shit. And there is a very, very slight chance that your hot, southern-bred self is not equipped to handle northern winters. Whoever claims Hell burns hot is a dirty goddamn lying son of a whore beget by a goat. You know better. Hell was frozen over from the beginning, filled with fucking snow. Its location may, in fact, be the upper Midwest United States.
Things go back to normal. You and Egbert go almost everywhere together. When he asks for a night on his own, you
act like you have find something to do without him. You aren’t the only person in the world, and John’s a pretty friendly guy. It’s not the apocalypse worst thing that could happen. You won’t tell him, but you wish he wouldn’t tell you when it’s a date. It tends to send this sharp pain through your chest that is decidedly unironic, and you thought you’d rid yourself of that years ago.
When he drags you along with him to some inane lecture or takes you to some obscure, sleazy bar to see a local band he thinks you might like, though, you’re hard pressed not to grin like an idiot every time he looks at you. You’re still thankful he doesn’t wake up from your nightmares. And you’ve yet to have a panic attack or flashback or any of that shit you totally didn’t fight through during the summer, so you think you’re pretty solid. Even when he confesses that he’s decided to go into meteorology and won’t have any classes with you next semester. Egbert is a big boy, he doesn’t need to consult you on every
potentially life changing decision he makes.
>Dave: Get consulted
“I am afraid I must concede to being at a loss.”
“Well put that one down in the history books.”
“Yes, I am aware it is quite a momentous occasion.”
“Years from now, kids will be sitting in one of these shitty history classes going Rose Lalonde? At a loss? Blasphemy. Some little wizard somewhere just lost his magic. All your shut-in internet followers started crying and don’t know why.”
“Are you finished?”
“… Yeah, think I’m good.”
“Wonderful. I have been informed that the course schedule I originally intended to have next semester is… slightly faulty. It appears I inadvertently overlapped some of my classes.”
“Well shit, break out the time turner, Hermione.”
“That would be why I am here.”
“I’m just a tool to you, aren’t I? A watch that you don’t need to carry around. You call on me when you need something and then forget I exist. You do realize I can’t turn time back any more, don’t you?”
“Is this the part where I tell you you’re pretty?”
“Goddamn right I’m pretty. I’m the prettiest fucking princess this side of the Mason-Dixon line.”
“Just this side?”
“Bro won’t surrender his crown.”
“Shall I take that as an agreement to assist me in sorting out my schedule? I am afraid being a triple major is catching up to me.”
You end up scheduling two classes with her for the spring.
>Dave: Meet the slore
It’s three weeks from winter break that John introduces you to his girlfriend. Her demeanor reminds you of Spiderbitch. You don’t say this aloud because you don’t talk about the game anymore, but you do tell him you think she’s a manipulative slore and, to be completely unironic for once, he deserves a hell of a lot better. His smile gets strained for a moment and then he assures you that you just don’t know her well enough yet.
This seems to be his cue to bring her along on all of your outings. At the parties, it’s fine, but at the local band shows and anywhere else you can hear her when she opens her mouth, you can’t resist cutting her down. She’s clever enough she knows when you’re insulting her, but she doesn’t have the quick wit or eloquence to verbally fight back. Instead, she presses herself to John’s side and whispers in his ear, smirking like she thinks she’s got you beat. There’s no way John would choose her over you at this point.
Until the day comes.
“Uh… haha, sorry. This is hard, and kinda awkward. So, I think we’re going to have to cut our bro-time a bit.” You don’t say anything, and he squirms a little, but he doesn’t stop smiling. For once, you think it might annoy you. “Uh, Dave?”
“Yeah, I get it. Hoes before bros. Pails before ‘rails. I’m picking up what you’re laying down. Your sweetheart has a thorn in her ass with my name on it and she can’t seem to get it out herself so she’s having you do it for her.”
“Dave it’s not… It’s just, Lisa would be more comfortable if the time I spend with her wasn’t also the time I spend with you. She said… she says it feels like I’m cheating on her to her face because…”
“Because no one can resist such prolonged exposure to the Strider charm? Can’t blame you there, dude.”
“No, it’s just… well, she thinks you’re in love with me.” Your brain stops dead. You’ve avoided analyzing your feelings, so you honestly don’t know what they are or how to respond. “Dave? You’re… you’re not, right?”
“Oh…” he mumbles, and he can’t look you in the eye. “I… listen, Dave. I… damnit, I can’t do this Dave. I can’t deal with it. Things… things weren’t supposed to go this way.” Through the sludge your mind seems to have become, you vaguely note that he’s not smiling anymore. He is, in fact, crying. “I… you know me, Dave. I can’t… I can’t like you like that. That’s not how my life plays out. I think… I think maybe it’d be best if we… didn’t hang out for a while. Just kind of… spent some time apart?” He pauses a moment and then steps back to grab some of his things. No. Nonononono. John can’t leave you. You can’t do that again.
“Your new puppeteer says ‘jump’ and you go sky-diving? Two months of indentured servitude is enough to break up a bromance of 6 years? How are you denser than a black hole? You’re still that 13 year old kid jumping on the first treasure map some creeper hands you.”
“Fuck, I can’t believe you’re still siding with Spiderbitch over me.” Fuuuuuuuuck. That was definitely not cool. You can’t salvage this one, fuckass. You seem to be getting yourself into a lot of these situations lately.
John’s silent and staring at you with this odd expression. Confusion, maybe; horror, possibly; concern, definitely. And you don’t need it. You don’t fucking need his concern, because there is nothing wrong with you.
“D… Dave? What-”
“Egbert. Shut the fuck up and exit stage left.”
“Yeah, sometime around now would be great.” He opens his mouth one more time, but you’re pretty sure your glare is getting to him, even if he can’t see your eyes. He always was good at reading your expressions. You just hope he leaves before the stinging in your eyes turns out to be more than a dust mote.
He casts you one last look and then absconds.
>Dave: Be a train wreck
The next few weeks are an unwanted flashback to summer. You lose time. One moment it’s 7 in the morning and the next it’s 9 at night and Egbert’s awkwardly shaking you with this concerned look, asking if you’d moved and why you’re suddenly skipping classes and he’s sorry if it’s because of him but blah, blah, blah. You brush it off. These days you’re sure to only take off your shades when you’re alone. The dark circles around your eyes are such a dark purple they’re nearing on black. You don’t know how many classes you miss, how many assignments you haven’t gotten, how many meals you’ve neglected to ingest. You don’t know the last time you slept for more than an hour. And no matter how much you want to just deny everything is happening, you know you’re not going to be able to keep this up long without some serious repercussions.
Despite this knowledge, you can’t really bring yourself to care.
Chapter warning: graphic depiction of death
>Dave: Leave the nest
The ride to the airport, like the rest of the week before it, is uncomfortably silent. You didn’t apologize, because you know Bro wouldn’t accept it, and you don’t try to explain, because as long as you refuse to admit there is a problem, it doesn’t exist. You know Rose would have something to say about that, but you are definitely not consulting her. You’re chill. It’s not like you and Bro have ever been chatty Kathies with each other. That’s more the Egbert shtick. Even if Bro had started avoiding you and stopped leaving notes, you weren’t going to cry about it like some overdependent teenage girl whose lame-ass sparkly boyfriend won’t call her back.
He ruffles your hair, though, as he sees you off, and you can practically hear an “I’m proud of you, son” in the gesture, true DadEgbert-style. It’s an acceptance of the apology you couldn’t give, and you offer him a fist bump to show you got the message and convey everything you know other people would just say. “I’m sorry. Thanks. I’ll miss you… I love you.” And maybe it’s not ironic to not tell someone something they already know, but you think maybe the irony is in that you don’t always know these things.
You land in O’Hare airport in Chicago to find the three stooges waiting for you, and your summer issues melt to the background. This is your family before you, and they are alive. Visibly alive. And you’re not going to lose them again. No one is going to take them from you. You all pile on the bus and settle in for the three hour drive to your college.
>Dave: Settle in
One month later, things are going smoother than a baby’s ass. You and Egbert are better roommates than even Miss I-see-all Lalonde could have predicted. You haven’t decided on a major yet, but you and John both decided to get some of your generals out of the way and planned matching schedules accordingly. The only differences lying in the English course you share with blondie and the calculus course he has with Jade. You haven’t had any attacks, blackouts, etc. and even the nightmares have eased.
You’re taking in the college life, complete with frat parties that you and Egbert both attend. Kid’s more popular than you expected with how geeky he is. You suppose it’s sufficiently ironic. You approve. Sometimes you attend as a guest, others as the DJ, but you generally leave stone cold sober. You don’t need to wake up in another town next week, and no one needs to see you like that.
John Egbert is always happy. Always. Like Jade’s do— like Lalonde’s cat with a yarn ball. Like everything in the world is peachy-keen, hunkydory. Hello world, I’m shining so bright, a new day’s here, it’s really dynamite happy. And you think you’re pretty okay with that… even if he wakes you up at ungodly inhuman fucking disgusting hours of the morning with that suicide homicidal rage inducing Folger’s commercial. (You think maybe you know how Makara felt over the ICP thing now, but you’re not thinking about that.)It’s hard not to enjoy these times when you’re surrounded by that kind of eternal optimism.
>Dave: Deal with meddling ecto-sister
“Don’t you think you’re possibly relying on John a little too much?”
“Fuck off, Lalonde.”
“Very mature, Strider.”
“I’m the fucking epitome of maturity. If I was any more mature, I’d be decaying.”
“Ah, I see. Too mature. That must be the issue. Many apologies for offending your obviously overripe sensibilities.”
“Obviously you’re a little too aged yourself or you would have heard me the first time. Fuck. Off.”
“Very well. Just…”
“I’m here, you know. If and when he disappoints you. You can come to me.”
“Yes, yes. ‘Fucking off.’”
The first time John goes somewhere and doesn’t invite you along, you’re thrown for a loop. You don’t splutter or anything stupid like that, you just sort of stare at him for a minute, and he gives you this apologetic look, like he feels sorry for you. Like he knows thinks you’ll be lost without him towing you around. It’s ridiculous.
>Dave: Nod off.
You’ve gotten complacent. Whatever would Bro say? (Probably nothing, he’d just beat your ass strifing ‘til you got the message.) You’re entirely unprepared for what’s waiting for you when you fall asleep.
It starts, as it so often does, with a splash of red and the smell of blood. You watch as your insides decide they don’t want to be inside anymore and escape through the gash in your abdomen. You fall forward, but you don’t hit the ground. Instead, you’re in a giant pot, red crocodiles nakking around you, and you can feel the boiling water scalding your skin. You try to get out, but the metal of the cauldron is too hot to touch, and when you reach out too far one of the reptiles sinks his knife-like teeth into your arm… except those aren’t teeth, they’re the spikes you’ve been impaled on.
One after another, the deaths cut you to pieces and peel off your skin, burning you to a crisp. You half expect to be served to the horrorterrors on a silver platter. But you’re not. That never happens, because it never happened. You stumble through and each death becomes clearer, more painful, more real as you go from the ones that would have happened given extenuating circumstances to the ones that you almost died yourself. You, instead of every dead you you had ever had to sidestep. And then come the worst, the impact of the bullets sends you tumbling backward, and there you are, drifting before the bomb that will create the Green Sun, staring into the eyes of your sister, knowing you’re going to watch her die.
Your world explodes in a wave of emerald, and you can’t look away as her flesh and muscle and organs are burned from the bone, which soon crumble to ash and disappear.
You wake up sobbing to an empty room.
I’m sorry for how short these all are, that’s just how they come out.
It is 3am on August 17th, and you have spent the last four hours in a far less amusing reenactment of The Hangover. You are currently seated at a 24 hour coffee shop on the opposite side of Houston from your apartment. You’re not entirely sure how you got there, but you’re fairly certain liberal amounts of alcohol were involved. To make matters worse, you’re almost positive most of your drunken shenanigans happened the evening of the 15th. You’d finally managed to retrieve your wallet (complete with the fake ID Bro gave you for your 18th) and phone from a bar you had passed out near, at least $70 down and 48 missed messages up. Sorting through them was a bitch.
>Dave: Go home.
You don’t make it back to the apartment until almost six because the buses don’t start running before five, and you don’t have enough money left to afford a taxi. Despite the hour, Bro is waiting for you when you get home, sitting in the living room, shades off. He stares you down, and there’s a nagging guilt in the pit of your stomach. This is all your fault; you’re such a failure; what have you done? You stare back through your shades, shoulders slouched in a silent apology, but that’s all you can muster. You’re so fucking exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally, that you can’t bring yourself to react. Can’t bring yourself to care how worried your guardian had probably been. You were gone for a day and a half.
“Where were you?” he asks, without pretense. Shit’s for real. He’s mad.
“Took a wrong turn at Albuquerque. I’d have been home sooner, but you taught me not to drink and drive.” … Shit. Wrong response. You’re a bit too slow to apologize. Suddenly, he’s flash-stepping in front of you, anger held tightly in the tenseness of his limbs and his unshielded glare.
And fuck, but you’re back at your quest bed on Lohac. Your pulse is pounding in your ears, matching the eternal tick-tick-tick of the planet’s clockwork and every bit as loud. Everything’s thrown into this weird, sharp focus. Bec Noir is in your face quicker than a baby-mama on Jerry Springer, sword cutting through your neck before you can react. You freeze. It all stops.
You feel nothing, you hear nothing, you see nothing. Your lifeless body slumps to the ground… You’re… not dead. You’re not dead. You think maybe you never died this way. Not like that matters, though. Devil-dog is still looming over you, your blood dripping from his blade. Finally, you react.
In an instant, you call a sword from your strife specibus and lash out. A little too slow, since you only manage to graze him, but graze him you do. The big bad is quick enough to avoid the majority of the damage, but blood still flows freely down the open wound on his arm. Bright red blood. Like your own. Like Bro’s when… like…
Oh… oh fuck. Your stomach reels at the sight of Bro standing before you, clutching his bloody arm. This is all your fault. You’re such a failure. What. The. Fuck. Have. You. Done?
>Dave: Wake up
Your name is Dave Strider. You’re sitting on the rough, wet pavement of some back alley. You don’t know where you are. Even more disconcerting, you don’t know the date or time, though you think it’s some point in mid-August. It’s night, you think, from the look of the grey-orange sky above the buildings, but whether it’s just past dusk or just before dawn, you’ll have to wait and see. There’s a body propped against the wall further down the alley, where it’s too dark to make out any distinguishing features. It’s not moving, but it’s wearing a light blue hoodie, soaked with something dark, sitting in a patch of something that shines like liquid, and you know it’s John. You know he’s dead. You know you need to do something.
You can’t move. Your chest is tight, your mind is relatively quiet. It repeats, over and over, the same sentence. ‘john is dead john is dead john is dead john is dead’ You’re not panicking. You don’t feel anything really. You just stare at John’s dead body, twenty feet from where you sit, as your mind tries to process what you already know. Your best friendleader is dead, game over. Reset?
The sky is darker, and you can barely make out the shape of the body when it finally moves. The drunk stumbles past you, almost tripping over your immobile legs, and disappears out of sight. You hardly notice. You’re still staring at the spot John sat dead, unable to think or move, and the puddle your hand rests in might be blood, but you don’t care. None of it matters. None of it registers. John is…
>Dave: Wake up
You have twenty-two unread texts when you wake up, along with a crick in your neck, a bruise on your tailbone, and a chill from the now cool night air. Bro had left you two messages, one letting you know he’d be out late, there was take-out in the fridge, don’t forget to eat your veggies. The second informing you that you should at least invite your boyfriend over to meet the family before letting him take you to some cheap hotel for the night (the Strider equivalent of “Where the hell are you? Are you okay?”).
The other twenty texts were from John, who Bro had apparently questioned when you weren’t home after he got done with his gig. This would have surprised you before the game. The two of you had always kind of stayed out of each other’s business (probably for the best when Bro’s business included smuppet smut), but you’d both died now and came back without a craving for brains. So, things have been different since that nightmare had ended. Anyway, these texts were a bit more straightforward (“hey, where are you? you okay, dude? your bro texted me you’re missing. heeeeeeeey! helloooooooo?”), and could be ignored ‘til after you’d slept more… in an actual bed.
>Dave: go home
The apartment is dark when you get home, but it’s nearly four in the morning, so that’s to be expected. Bro’s already asleep as far as you’re aware, but you’re prepared for a strife anyway, just in case. Like a fuckin’ boyscout you are.
Nothing happens, though. The trip to your room is uneventful, and you’re so exhausted that you don’t even care that there’s a pile of smuppets on your bed. You shove them to the floor, flop down fully clothed, and fall into a blissful coma ‘til what will hopefully be a more acceptable hour… preferably in the late afternoon.
>Dave: wake at a better hour
Five is not a better hour. Five is Grandma’s liver casserole at a family reunion. One only partakes in it if she’s standing there, glaring at you until you take a liberal portion (and then you try to sneakily dump it in a bush when she moves on to the next victim). And yet, here you are, plate loaded up with fresh, steaming, slimy, chunky, possibly squirming 5am casserole, preceded by an appetizer of horrorterror-and-death-by-stabbing nightmares.
You’re definitely not ready to be up yet, but there’s no chance you’re going to get back to sleep. You still spend a good hour trying, though. The light from the rising sun permeates your cheap curtains (football print). It creeps across the room, over the ceiling, and when it finally falls in your eyes, you drag yourself out of bed.
You don’t work today and have no other plans, so you’re not in a hurry to prepare for the day. Instead, you flop yourself down before your turntables and start mixing. For a moment, you recall another set of tables that altered something other than sound… but you push that aside. You have ill beats to drop, sick fires to start.
It’s around 11 when your stomach protests your neglect of it. You take off the headphones just in time to hear the door shut. Bro’s gone. You’re not sure where, but it’s likely to one of his many jobs. You stopped keeping track of them years ago. There was a small space on the counter free of puppets and junk where he’d left a sandwich and a note (Eat something, dumbass. A mother worries.). You hadn’t even known there was bread in the apartment, let alone any of the other stuff. There definitely wasn’t any room in the fridge for it.
You eat (after checking the food for any surprises), and take a second to mollify Egbert (whoa dude coming on a little strong there), before grabbing your camera and hitting the town. By the time you saunter back home, you’ve got a memory card full in equal parts of quality and shitty pictures, and yesterday’s craziness is a thing of the past.
The next couple weeks pass without incident (well, except for the nightmares, but no one has to know about those but you).