so first off i apologize deeply for how long this has taken to publish! vec and i fell out of touch for a long time but i managed to get them roped into one last roleplay for the sake of being able to finish this story. from here on out, sadly this project falls completely to me.

regardless of all that, if you've stuck around despite homestuck's sudden drop in popularity, i really really appreciate your support and continued interest in this story. and though i know this doesn't really make up for going on a more than year-long hiatus, vec and i included an extra pesterlog at the end of this chapter that is supposed to take place months before the events of the story.

as for our reviewers, i'd like to thank: Artemis Elric, PandasGoBOOMxoxo, Mori'sInsanity, Serpent-Chan, LyssiLuvr, Anonymous Avenger, Zouza, Patchworkhearts17, EijiNya, Mangritbooty, eridansscarvves, kind-of-heart, McMeow, CrewSoulReaper, Kuraitsuki Tukiko, amaya-nights rain, macaroni-massacre, meikka, Kurozaki, sesshomaruluvsfish, cowgirl158, Jensam, Joanie Dark, AnAverageLeo, GlitchOfSpace, PenDragon2.0, SomethingSnarky, nicoLIES, Envious Yet, Nekobishi, Acitone, Gin Anokoku, Riku Murasaki, Kuko-chan, krabcaq, Tristitia-The-Sin, AraylaRiddle, Ryoyoku, Damien Red, yvoi, SUPER EGG RONPA, Kuutamolla, Banri, iShadowHomestuck, Heiress of Blaze, EatinUrSoulz, Kasai-Kama, DevissiTRHW, MissLittleBoPeep, eMuffinator, R4zorSt4r, BlueRose1313, USUKdreamer, Coyoteclaw11, AEDReaper, SkyWritesHomestuckFics, Yaythe1st, Otakuchick01, DemiseKiss, Kit Bikyuu The Kitsune, engiebeeMediscoot, Keeblo, Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, Bomishna, ElizaBeGood, kodokuaga, 801Fujoshi, Ninistuck, Smexygecko, AnimeAddict2000, SlytherinUnicorns, el monarch, Iggy-BlindnProud, ReadrofBooks, and all the anons!

all of that being said, i've noticed the major theme among the reviews this time around has been a lot of requesting/demanding that i update the story. i am sure that this is not meant to be disrespectful in any way, but i just wanted to ask that if you feel the need to review, and in that review you feel the need to say any version of "please update," i'd prefer if you just didn't. it doesn't make me want to work on the story at all, it rather has the opposite effect. if you really want to review (and honestly this goes for any fanfiction you're reading), try giving constructive criticism, talk about the things you like or notice, or even just simply say thank you. all of those are much appreciated and motivate me to work a lot harder!

thanks again for being so patient with me, and without further ado, here's chapter 11.

The Figurehead of Queer Justice
My Boyfriend, the Shounen Protag

Even at five in the evening, the sun was still shining in that ephemeral way notorious of Western Washington, not directly but under cover of a light spread of clouds. Fernwood Park was beautiful even in the heaviest of rain, a weather condition not sparse in Maple Valley to be sure, but now the sunlight drifted through the dense trees in magnificent shafts. A warm wind rustled through, shaking the leaves of branches and jostling bushes, and John breathed easier in that breeze than he had in weeks. Not to say he was without trepidation, but sitting beneath a tree and thinking of nothing in the summer sun for a half hour was a relaxation he rarely enjoyed since the past few nonstop emotion-intensive weeks began.

For the longest time, he only remembered the feeling of wind. He convinced himself for years that the wind would pick up, heavy in the trees and the Slimer pogo still sitting unused in his front yard because he was excited or restless. He found himself growing fond of days based on how much wind he could feel. Even during rainstorms he would open his window just to let it into his room. But for all he loved the feeling of the wind, he never thought about it enough to understand that he wanted it back in his life as a part of him and not merely a weather pattern that would continue to occur regardless of his existence. John still lived for those days of warm breezes or wind blowing snow into his face, because the wind had been the only thing to make him feel strong, the only part of his journey that wasn't steeped in denial, or the denial of denial – John was never sure how deep down the horrors and inner turmoil had been buried. It was a fun adventure we had today, wasn't it? Terribly fun. Nothing like the brutal murder of everyone for whom you've ever cared, everyone you ever loved.

After several years, looking back on it – a rarity in itself for John – he thought that it might have just been necessity. Ruminating over the hellish tragedy that was Sburb while still in session could have made anyone want to give up. Referring to it as what it truly was could have made the difference between death – real death, no more rising up – and survival.

It took finally escaping the game and years of growing up all over again (three years gone like they'd never been lived, sixteen year olds stuffed in thirteen year old bodies, but experiences that took the mental capacity of decades), contact between their Alternian friends cut off when the paradox space that allowed them to communicate was destroyed along with the game, to realize that maybe this is just how he was. John had never been able to face anything that went deeper into his subconscious than what was needed to find the determination to not back down, to not question that winning was more than a possibility, it was fate.

There was no certainty as to what had changed, or if the only change was time, but the older he grew, the less scary it became to look inside himself and acknowledge the things about himself that made him feel insecure. Too silly, too mean, too forthright, oblivious, inappropriate. Gay.

It's hard being a kid and growing up. It's hard and no one understands.

John opened his eyes. It had been more than half an hour since he'd arrived, and with no sign of Daniel. Perhaps it had been naïve of him to think that Daniel would come. He supposed it was alright, in the end. Dave would be angry if he knew that John had been sitting around thoughtlessly (with his eyes closed, no less!) and not on the lookout in case he would get jumped again. But if Daniel didn't show up, no one would have to know. As far as anyone else was concerned, John just took a walk.

But when he looked up, there was someone standing several meters away in the shadow of a nearby tree. Slowly his eyes adjusted, and John realized that Daniel was watching him from a safe distance.

The wind picked up a little, and Daniel seemed to notice that John was now quite conscious of his surroundings. John stood, wondering anxiously how long Daniel had been there, and why he hadn't just come over and alerted John of his presence. Several seconds of cautious silence passed, and John was surprised to feel a bud of anger and frustration growing inside himself. Not only was it frustration at himself for having frozen instead of fighting back, but anger that someone would ever want to hurt him for something so wildly out of his control.

"Why are you doing this?" he asked, no pretenses, no bullshit stepping around the bush. John wanted answers.

Daniel shifted his gaze away from John entirely and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Doing what?" he asked, tone completely flat, and oddly weary. The small bud of frustration rose into John's throat, suffocating him with a rage the likes of which he hadn't experienced in years. He pushed away from the tree on which he'd been leaning and walked over to Daniel.

"Are you fucking kidding me? Are you going to play like you have no clue what you did to me even when there's no one else around?" He still wouldn't look in John's direction.

"What do you expect? We're going against each other in a court case, how am I supposed to trust you?"

A strong gust of wind blew through the trees, and John didn't register that when he was only a few feet away from the other boy, Daniel took a step back. When he spoke, his words were laced with an almost vicious incredulity. "Really? What, do you think I've got recording equipment hidden somewhere on me? I'm just here to get a confession out of you? That's so stupid. I'm not the one who beat someone up over a rumor, here."

"I don't know, it's possible," he murmured defensively.

"Then why did you come in the first place!?"

Daniel didn't even answer. John wanted to throw his arms up in frustration.

"I just don't get how you can be okay with hurting someone who did absolutely nothing to you. It's not like there's ever a reason to hurt someone intentionally in the first place!" John moved closer, his anger buzzing and the fact that Daniel refused to look at him only fueling it. He was overly conscious of the fading bruise on his stomach, the black eye that hadn't quite healed yet, and he wanted Daniel to be conscious of it, too. "And then for you to pretend like it never even happened? Am I supposed to have punched myself in the face or something?" The wind was so heavy and loud that he had to raise his voice to be heard over it. "Do you even understand how fucking low that is? Not only does…" he trailed off momentarily, stuttering over his words as he continued, "…me being gay make me an acceptable punching bag, but it's now totally okay to pretend I'm invisible, like what you did to me is so insignificant that you're at peace or something pretending you didn't even do it? How is it possible for someone to be so big of an asshole? Do you seriously not have any clue about how horrible what you did to me is? Why can't you just – "

John stopped when Daniel fisted his shirt at the shoulders, twisted him around and pushed him up against the tree by which they'd been standing, his face too close and his lips mere centimeters from John's, a look in his eyes of hopeless desperation. The wind died down almost immediately, and John froze with the icy realization that wrote itself all over Daniel's face.

Before John could say anything, Daniel dropped him and ran away.


Warm hellos and offers of dinner welcomed him when he walked in his front door, but he waved them off with a forced smile and ziplined straight for his bedroom. As soon as the door was closed behind him he leaned against it and slowly slid to the ground. He was loathe to admit he felt shaky, but what just happened? What was he supposed to do?

John glanced at his computer and remembered that he probably did something to upset Dave last night. Best not to bother him about this right now.

He let out an audible whine and slumped onto the floor, pulling his phone out and wondering if he should text Rose. The longer he stared at her handle, however, the more the thought of talking to anyone about…whatever just happened made him uncomfortable.

Better to just go to sleep at six o'clock in the evening and forget all about court cases and boyfriends and other dudes who beat dudes up for having boyfriends who apparently secretly might want to have boyfriends themselves. Or maybe he should just forget all about dudes in general. Jade's cool and drama free, he and Jade should just be best sibling-pals and go on adventures and stop caring about real life problems.

He groaned and flopped into bed, barely looking at the screen as he opened a message to his ectosibling.

-– ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG] –

EB: jaaade when are you gonna leave your dumb island and start being a part of society.
GG: ?
GG: john youre weird
GG: youve been talking to me at such rare intervals and now all of a sudden youre messaging me only a day after we talked last!
GG: should i be worried? :p
EB: ok jade for one thing shut up.
EB: for two thing i'm sorry i'm a really shitty brother and friend and i hope you don't hate me for being so bad about talking lately. :(
GG: awwww john :'( im not trying to make you sad
GG: i totally get that youve been busy and stuff
GG: and also i guess having a boyfriend for the first time must be kind of exciting
EB: ...
EB: maybe you're right?
EB: i didn't really expect it to be too different because it's just dave. big deal!
EB: but i don't know. it is turning out to be kind of different but not in a bad way, i guess.
GG: thats good, john!
EB: yeah but i don't really want to think about that stuff right now.
EB: i'm really tired of everything! i've been thinking too much lately.
EB: you should tell me about whatever's been going on with you.
GG: well to be perfectly honest life has been kind of boring for a while :0
GG: living on an island is super fun and an adventure growing up, but now that im older it isnt as big as it used to seem
GG: im trying to figure out how i can go out and see the world
EB: wow, really? :O
GG: yeah!
GG: ive gotten in contact with some people who can probably help obtain a lot of records that my grandpa never kept on the island
GG: or if he did ive never seen them!
EB: records?
GG: yeah, like
GG: birth records and stuff
GG: that all our guardians forged since we werent exactly "born" in the typical sense
EB: oh yeah...
EB: i never really thought about that before.
GG: yep! our guardians all went pretty above and beyond to ensure our safety
EB: i wonder how that's even possible though?
EB: though i guess what's the point in wondering when i might as well wonder how a game that destroys the universe is even possible.
GG: were all kinda fucked up, john! :o
EB: good point.
EB: so what are you gonna do with these records?
GG: well, hopefully ill be able to get back into the system and as you suggested become a part of society!
EB: oh man! that's crazy, jade. it would be so cool for you to come live here.
EB: it'll be like old times, playing video games for a couple years on some crazy ship with dave and all the consorts.
EB: only less crazy and more like two normal ectosiblings being bros!
GG: putting the words normal and ectosiblings right next to each should not even be a thing but i guess for us that would be about as normal as we can get!
EB: so what's going to happen when you get everything figured out?
GG: i dont know
GG: im a little worried that ill make national news or something
GG: at least thats what the guy im talking to said might happen
EB: damn, we sure aren't that great at laying low after all is said and done!
GG: not really!
GG: it makes sense though, the way he put it at least
GG: ive been living alone on this island after my grandpa died for years! and no one knew
GG: im practically raised by wolves
GG: or at least a really big time and space jumping dog
EB: :(
GG: john stop that!
GG: im ok
EB: are you sure?
GG: its been years since everything happened, its not like i sit around and dwell on it all the time
GG: of course i miss bec but
GG: idk theres nothing i can really do about it
GG: id rather just not think about it too much
EB: well you'll get to be on the mainland soon enough! and that'll be waaaaaaaay better than getting raised by a dog anyways.
GG: ...
EB: not that bec wasn't cool or anything, but being around people is a lot better than just animals! even if people are sometimes assholes.
GG: ok john :|
GG: anyways i havent met too many assholes! besides you and dave of course :p
EB: hey! :|
GG: hahahahaha
GG: the guy who is helping me out with all the legal stuff is really nice
GG: while theyre trying to find my documentation, theyre also trying to locate my island so that they can send a rescue team
GG: who knows how long thatll take tho
EB: hopefully not too long!
EB: what'll happen to you when you come to america?
GG: im not really sure
GG: im almost 18 so im pretty sure theyll let me choose what i want to do
EB: do you know what you want to do?
GG: not really
EB: you know you're more than welcome to live with dad and me.
GG: your dad wouldnt mind?
EB: of course not!
EB: i'm not sure if he really remembers anything from sburb but i do think he understands that we're all sort of connected in some way.
EB: he'd probably consider you as much my sister as i do.
GG: john, as much of a dumbbutt as you are
GG: im really glad youre my brother :')
EB: haha, thanks jade.
EB: well now that i know all this cool stuff that's happening to you, i'll be sure to not be such a doofus and keep up on what's going on!
GG: good c:
EB: ok. i guess i should stop being a weirdo and go have the dinner my dad made for me.
EB: i really need to stop worrying him!
GG: yeah probably!
EB: i'll talk to you later, jade!
GG: bye john!

– ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG] -


"So where'd you go earlier, son?"

John glanced up from his plate but Dad wasn't looking at him. He returned his attention to his food. "Just took a walk. Needed to clear my head." He took a big bite and chewed, intentionally over-animated. "Food's good, dad." Dad hummed in response. He scarfed the rest of it down, hoping to escape before his father felt the need to ask more questions.

"You know you can talk to me about anything, right John?"

Damn, not fast enough.

John shrugged. "Sure, dad. I'm just tired." He looked up, suddenly remembering. "Hey, dad. What would you think if Jade came and lived here?"

Dad perked up a little. "Is she alright?" John grinned. How like Dad.

"She's fine, actually better than fine! She's getting off her island and is going to become a regular boring person over here. But obviously she doesn't really have anywhere to go once she gets to America, and, well…I kind of think of her as a sister."

Dad smiled at him. "I don't see why I couldn't think of her as a daughter." John matched his father's smile tenfold, teeth going everywhere.

"She'll be so happy!"

"Looks like you already are," Dad laughed. John jumped up and ran out of the room, yelling after him, "I'm gonna go tell her!"

Once upstairs, John collapsed on his bed. He was actually really happy at the idea of Jade coming to live with him, and getting to have a real life sibling. But he had sort of played it up to get out of the kitchen without worrying his dad. Thinking of Jade was a great distraction from what had happened today, but it wasn't all-encompassing by any stretch, and though he did send her a text about it, she didn't reply and eventually he was lying in bed and staring at his computer.

He considered making himself get up and log on. Dave would be wondering where he was if he wasn't too busy being grateful he wasn't around to bother him about feelings.

A pang of discomfort hit his stomach and he rolled over. "I ate too fast," he moaned quietly to himself.

No matter what he did, Daniel kept coming back to mind; the way his eyes had held such desperation and fear and desire. Nothing about this made sense. He groaned and clutched his pillow. Somehow, he didn't foresee sleeping very well. Nevertheless, he dozed off pretty quickly.


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

TG: holy shit youre online

TG: by which i mean i guess the freak weather event that impeded your connection must have passed

TG: or maybe it was something a little more homegrown like was there some sort of mutant reptile tromping around the streets of washington en route to japan

TG: the point im making here is that you werent around at all yesterday so i was wondering if something was up

TG: and also

TG: hi

EB: oh, hey dave!

EB: um, yeah, it was actually totally and obviously a mutant reptile on its way to destroy tokyo so...

EB: fortunately i made it out of that alive!

EB: hehehe.

TG: my boyfriend the shounen protagonist

TG: im truly a blessed man

EB: of course you are! it doesn't get much more manly and heroic than this.

TG: yeah

TG: i mean the thing is with the animes that often theres some completely bullshit twist by the end of it that no one can ever foresee in a million years on account of every member of the writing team all living in different cellblocks or something

TG: yknow like

TG: 'actually the freakish 50-storey reptile that stopped john egbert from logging on was developed by his boyfriends stupid circular monologuing'

TG: holy shit did i just manage to turn me confessing that i talk circular bullshit into a circular bullshit piece of rhetoric

TG: ignore all that

TG: how was yesterday

EB: you are a pretty impressive guy, dave. that is for sure.

EB: and well, yesterday wasn't really the greatest.

EB: i think the freakish 50-story reptile that stopped me from logging on might have been more about being kinda worried that my boyfriend is tired of me trying to get him to stop monologuing in a stupid and circular fashion.

EB: and then in order to destroy the reptilian beast i might have ended up doing something stupid that my boyfriend will definitely get angry at me for if he isn't already which let's face it he probably is.

TG: what

TG: wait are you NOT mad at the boyfriends stupid aversive conversation dodgery im getting tangled up in these layers of dynamic subtext

TG: wait no thats not even important

TG: what did you do

TG: are you alright

TG: where are you

EB: i'm fine, i'm at home.

TG: ok good thats a start

EB: we're gonna be heading to carolyn's office in a little while but,

EB: yeah i wanted to see if you were here first i guess.

TG: well i am

TG: sat here at my cinderblock piece of shit desk with the fans on full and my hair rippling gently in the manufactured breeze

TG: though my perfect visage is somewhat marred by this frown developing on my face

TG: on account of how youre still not telling me what you did yesterday

TG: also yes i am aware of the hypocrisy of highlighting your conversation diversion tactics considering the topic we just diverted from

TG: what happened

EB: dave, you're such a doofus.

TG: yeah

EB: and first of all, wait, did you really think i was mad at you?

TG: what gave you that idea

TG: i mean other than the palpable relief that you werent

TG: man i just

TG: seeing how this is gonna be the recurrent theme apparently i do dig that im bad at talking about shit

TG: or at least shit that pertains to me

TG: and if you were mad itd be completely understandable i mean i grate on roses last nerve sometimes and she suffers from exactly the same problem of effusive bullshit wordclouds

EB: basically i only got the idea because of your supposed "palpable relief" that i'm not because how could i be?

EB: i know you're trying your hardest, dave, and it's not like you've had the easiest time lately.

EB: i am honestly kind of shocked that you aren't avoiding me for all i try to force you to talk about things that probably make you super uncomfortable.

TG: what

TG: you dont force me to do shit

TG: like if you think the gentle encouraging coaxing you do as you wheedle me out of the torrid fog of my own verbage is FORCING

TG: no i

TG: i mean yeah sometimes i get kinda stupid and cant deal with it but it doesnt mean i want you to

TG: stop

EB: oh.

EB: really?

TG: yeah really

TG: you dont even know how hard it is for me to not conjure up a completely unrelated metaphor right now but i feel itd undermine the sincerity

EB: dave, i love you. and i'm also sorry that i'm so stupid.

TG: i love you too and quit insulting yourself

TG: i like that guy

TG: besides if anyone gets to insult you it should be me based on legit things to ridicule you over

EB: i am pretty sure calling myself stupid is a legitimate thing to ridicule myself over, because i am, and now even though apparently you weren't mad at me this whole time you're going to be because of how stupid i am.

TG: tell me what happened

EB: yesterday i had a meeting with all of the boys who beat me up and their families to see if we could talk sense into them.

TG: well

TG: i will admit theres a whole host of cacophonous noises fireworking inside my head right about now so ill just go for the basic question

TG: why

TG: also you said you were at home and were fine you didnt say you were uninjured

TG: did they hurt you

TG: what happened

TG: ok thats more than one question sorry focus on the why first

EB: dave, sheesh! calm down. seriously i am just fine and uninjured and safe in my room.

EB: why would they hurt me surrounded by their families, my dad and my lawyer?

EB: though...

EB: bluh, i'm getting to that just hold your horses.

EB: carolyn wanted to give them a chance to see if they would just own up to the fact that they are terrible people who beat kids up for stupid reasons but obviously they weren't going to budge, so we left and started looking through the cell phone records carolyn was able to get access to.

TG: my horses are being restrained as we speak but these are some pretty feisty stallions right here its taking all i got

TG: ok so carolyn set it up

EB: yeah so that meeting was totally safe ok? just, yeah.

EB: please don't hate me for this because i know this is exactly the kind of thing i promised i wouldn't do.

TG: how could i hate you for something like this

TG: i mean ok im confused and i guess one or two of the panic horses got free and are running around in the vast terrifying wilds of my brain

TG: but like at least you didnt go see them on your own

TG: which is what i was afraid of

EB: um.

TG: john

EB: dave, i...

TG: oh my god you said 'that meeting'

TG: did you see them again

EB: not all of them!

TG: john holy fuck

EB: please just let me explain dave.

TG: im waiting just

TG: yeah i mean it must have gone fine right i mean youre here and talking

TG: but those panic horses are nickering pretty loudly right now to the tune of 'what if it hadnt'

TG: ok sorry

TG: sorry

TG: go on

EB: the horses thing is kind of getting weird, but ok.

EB: i was just,

EB: i was really angry! reading the texts between all of them. at how they talked about me and called me a fag and basically planned out how they were going to ruin my life.

EB: it wasn't about being a hero and helping the queer community at all when i read those. it was about me being angry, and that was it.

EB: but, i got daniel's number from the phone records and told him to meet me at the park a couple blocks from my house.

TG: jesus christ

TG: okay i mean im relieved at least it wasnt your hero complex again

TG: that thing is more trumble than its worth dude

TG: whatd he say

EB: ...

EB: god this is fucking stupid.

EB: he tried to...

EB: he tried to kiss me. i think. is what happened.

TG: he

TG: WHAT

EB: it was really weird and happened too fast i was yelling at him and angry and suddenly i'm pushed against a tree and he's seriously about to...

TG: im going to fucking kill that guy

TG: im going to like

TG: hitch a ride to the station right this fucking second and catch a flight for the express purpose of finding that guy and bending his hands backwards

TG: what the HELL sort of lowlife scumriddled shitbag thinks he can get away with treating you like that

EB: dave, calm down.

EB: i am ok i am just really confused, i mean he stopped he didn't actually kiss me.

TG: im just

TG: ugh

TG: shit

EB: dave?

EB: use your words, dave.

TG: ok im not mad at you

TG: i mean ok ill concur that it was tremendously fucking stupid of you to go tracking down this guy on your own but sometimes your inner shounen protag wont shut up until youve done some screaming at a shithead i get that

TG: but like

TG: was this guy performing some sort of jazzed-up imitation of a guy who likes to kiss guys as a way of mocking you or is he in fact an actual

TG: guy who likes to kiss guys

EB: well i'm glad you're not mad at me despite how stupid a stunt i just pulled, i mean looking back on it now i'm kind of realizing how terribly that could have gone.

EB: but...i think that's what has me confused.

EB: i don't think he was trying to mock me.

EB: it was way too intense and sudden and...just, if you could've seen his face, or how he ran away afterwards.

EB: i think daniel might be gay.

TG: shit dude

TG: but then whys he hanging out with a bunch of shitheads who make him rail on gay kids

TG: in fact scratch that why is he being a shithead who rails on gay kids

TG: the fuck kind of backways-ass logic is that

TG: have you told anyone

EB: you're the only person i've talked to about it.

EB: after meeting his dad i'm not exactly surprised that he's a shithead who rails on gay kids.

EB: his dad didn't say anything at the meeting but,

EB: you know sometimes you can just tell how a person is by their expressions and posture?

EB: i'm pretty sure his dad is extremely homophobic, which could explain why daniel was the first one to claim he's pleading not guilty, and why daniel was in with that crowd to begin with.

TG: man that sucks a huge quantity of ass

TG: im kind of reeling here i mean

TG: my brains processing it and sees the info but then is just like nope capn cant make this into a coherent logical thing that occurred

EB: i was feeling that way a lot yesterday, which is also part of the reason i never logged on.

EB: now i'm just really worried.

EB: it doesn't excuse him for beating me up but i'm feeling worse now about sending him to jail with a worse sentence than he would get if he just pleaded guilty.

EB: and i can't tell anyone because if his dad finds out...

TG: yeah i can dig that but john its

TG: like

TG: okay hes in a bad situation but he still made the conscious decision to beat you up and treat you like shit and no matter what justification you can find for it

TG: he still hurt you

TG: and maybe he stopped himself but he still tried to force himself on you which obviously im indescribable words of furious about but lets not go there

TG: im just

TG: im worried about you i dont want you to beat yourself up further for things you cant change

TG: you might be doing ridiculous superhero level type things every thursday but you cant change an entire broken system all by yourself

TG: i dont know what to say my wordcrafting skills have deserted me

EB: i know that him being in this situation isn't justification for what he did, i just,

EB: i'm supposed to be doing this to help people like me, right?

EB: yeah he made the conscious decision but what if it was a conscious decision based on really bad things like fear of his father and his friends and self loathing and things like that?

EB: i just feel like if he had some kind of support system he could be a good person. and i don't think he shouldn't be punished for what he did, but...

EB: fuck, i don't know.

TG: yeah

TG: this is heavy stuff man i dont think there really is a definitive answer

TG: at least with sburb we had the fucking goals and sprites even if they were glitched to kingdom come

TG: i cant believe im about to say this but maybe you could leave him a message or an email or something

EB: i don't want to do something that could be recorded in case his lawyer sees and shows it to his dad, though.

EB: maybe, i could arrange another meeting and get us to talk privately but with my dad and lawyer just outside in case anything happens again.

TG: that sounds like a better idea

TG: esp the part about keeping folks on standby

TG: i just dont want you to get hurt while trying to save people but ive beat that particular horse to death

TG: what is it with horses today

EB: i don't know dude, it's kind of weird, haha.

EB: bluh, i will try to make that happen. i'll give him one more chance.

TG: just you know

TG: be careful

TG: i could be there with you if

TG: thatd help

EB: haha, i think having my boyfriend in the room might not help him see reason.

EB: even if it would help me feel better.

EB: but having you outside waiting for me is good enough.

EB: wow, you will actually be here tomorrow, dave.

TG: i know isnt it awesome

TG: and yeah i can do that

TG: ill be the greatest bodyguard on standby you ever had

EB: and the cutest one too. ;)

TG: well naturally

TG: this is gonna sound dumb and saccharine as shit so bear with me and also you are banned from laughing

TG: but i think itll be a lot easier for us to do all sorts of shit when were in the same place

TG: like we power each other up or somethin

TG: its easier for me to be brave when i think about the crazy reckless crap you get up to

TG: so like hopefully it might work in the reverse too

TG: maybe

EB: dave you're really dumb and gay and perfect.

EB: and also i'm gonna kiss you as soon as i see you, high fives be damned.

TG: we can high five with our mouths that still satisfies the definition

TG: and yes i am all those things

TG: so are you though

EB: ok i'm pretty sure high fives entails needing hands because it's five FINGERS, and mouths should not be a replacement because that just makes me think you have five teeth.

EB: and i'm mostly just dumb and gay, but thank you.

TG: god why do you gotta be bringing semantics into this fine ill kiss you AND high five you and ill do it multiple times

TG: does that satisfy you

TG: you brought this fate on yourself

EB: that does satisfy me and it's a fate that i am more than happy to be stuck with. 3

EB: maybe we should high five so many times and so fast that it looks like we're just holding hands?

TG: now youre talking my language

TG: shit i can hardly wait to get on that plane

EB: it's tomorrow! it's so soon i'm gonna die of anticipation.

TG: please dont die

TG: thats like tripping at the finish line after all that champion waiting we did

EB: ok good point.

TG: i gotta help bro out with some stuff before i leave but

TG: youre gonna be okay arent you

EB: yes, i will be fine.

EB: it'll be hard to focus today because day dreaming about our really gay first meeting as you walk into baggage claim is starting to feel a little more important than legal stuff.

TG: haha well

TG: fwiw its gonna be a similar story here

TG: bros had to tell me to snap out of it too many times to count already

EB: wow that's adorable.

TG: no it isnt

TG: shhh

EB: yes it is!

TG: shhh i said

EB: it is really cute dave you are the cutest.

TG: god damn it

TG: ok well bros getting antsy and hes the one taking me to the airport so

TG: ill see you tomorrow

TG: like in realspace

TG: not on pesterchum

TG: woah

EB: i'm so excited, dave.

EB: and i do gotta go to meet with carolyn now, but,

EB: please have a safe flight and we'll be waiting for you when you get there!

TG: you can count on it

TG: i emailed my flight details n shit

TG: i love you

EB: i love you too! 3

EB: hehe, see you soon dave.

TG: heh

TG: see you john

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


Carolyn's small television was turned on to Fox News, where Daniel's and George's parents were being interviewed. John, as he expected, was having a lot of difficulty paying attention, but unfortunately he had more on his mind than just kissing Dave as soon as they saw each other.

"Would it be possible," John murmured, "to settle this outside of court?"

Carolyn and Dad looked at him in surprise. "That would defeat the entire purpose of putting you in the media, John," Carolyn said. "A big point in doing this in the first place is to send the message that the queer community is done lying back and taking the literal beating it receives on a daily basis. It's time for retaliation, and you are helping make that happen."

John looked down at his lap like a child being berated, and mumbled, "Sorry, yeah. Never mind."

They went back to watching the interview, and John tried to think about Dave and how great it was going to be to hold his hand and kiss him at every available opportunity and fall asleep next to him. Yeah, thinking about that was a lot more interesting than those parents spewing veiled homophobic bullshit, while their secretly gay son was watching.

When it was over, John turned to Carolyn. "Do you think we can arrange a meeting with Daniel? I want to talk to him."

Carolyn looked at him for a long moment, but finally replied, "I'll call his attorney and see if we can arrange that for Monday some time in between other appointments. What do you want to talk to him about?"

John froze momentarily but managed to say, "I just think that maybe trying to talk to them all in a group could be deterring them from trying to see reason. Intimidation isn't always the best medicine in cases like this, right?" She seemed to consider it for a moment but finally relented.

"Sure, John. I'll see what I can do and give you a call over the weekend."


Dad and John walked into their home earlier than usual, but Carolyn had assured them there wasn't much left to do. They had their meetings planned out for Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday was the big day. John was almost as excited to be done with this court case as he was that in twenty-four hours he'd be cuddling with Dave in his room.

John collapsed on the couch and closed his eyes so that he could keep daydreaming about Dave, and after a short while Dad came into the living room with almond butter and jelly sandwiches. "Son, can we talk?"

John took his sandwich and nodded, stuffing his mouth full so that he wouldn't have to answer him immediately.

"You've seemed a little off today, John. Why would you want to settle this predicament outside of court all of a sudden? I know Carolyn brushed it off, but I don't see you making a suggestion like that so lightly. Did something happen that I'm not aware of?"

John chewed on his sandwich for a long while, feigning that he couldn't answer because the almond butter was stuck to the roof of his mouth. Somehow continuing to lie to Dad after everything felt wrong. But what was he supposed to say? Daniel may have deserved to go to jail, but John didn't feel vindictive enough to out him when it was dangerous to be outed.

"I'm just tired, I guess. And maybe a little scared about going to court. I've been getting really worried that somehow they'll get away with it." Dad scooted closer to him on the couch and put an arm over his shoulders, holding him close.

"That won't happen, John. Of course it won't. All of the hard work you've done has been truly inspiring, and you have a big community, and not to mention a proud dad, behind you with full support. And Carolyn was right—we're doing this to send a message to the people who would want to hurt you. If we settle the case outside of court, everything you've put into this case will be useless."

John shifted so that he could wrap his arms around his dad's torso. "Thank you for always being there for me, dad," he said. He looked up to see Dad grin, and then ruffle his hair.

"No need to thank me, son. That's what dads are for!" He dislodged himself from John's arms and stood up, taking the plate with him as he headed for the kitchen. Just before he entered the door, he stopped and turned back. "Remind me one more time when Dave's flight gets in?"

A huge smile erupted on John's face at the mere mention, and Dad gave him a small smirk. "11 am!"

"Alright, well you'll have to go to bed early so that we can get up early to wait for him at the airport."

"I don't think I'll be able to sleep."

Dad chortled and went into the kitchen. "You'll have to try!" he shouted from the other room.


FOUR MONTHS EARLIER ==

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

EB: daaaaaaaave please tell me your dumb butt isn't away strifing or looking at dead things.

EB: or taking selfies again god forbid.

TG: whats wrong with my selfies

TG: look if you have a problem with works of art you need to take it up with the walker gallery or some shit not me

TG: or whoever else decides standards of modern beauty

TG: anyway sup im here

EB: whatever you're lame and so are your selfies and i am getting in contact with the walker gallery immediately to complain.

EB: but yeah how're you?

TG: haha jokes on you the walker gallery is a long distance phonecall

TG: its in like

TG: europe or some shit

TG: yeah im good

TG: playin some of that weird game where you build shit and then wait for little green men to come blow it up

EB: don't tell me you only just got into minecraft, dude.

TG: what no of course i didnt just get into it

TG: i was on the alpha list

EB: yeah, sure.

TG: heck the dude who wrote it like coded it and dedicated it to me

TG: if you were any good at readin code youd have figured that out by now

TG: anyway so what if im playing minecraft

TG: what groundbreaking feat are you doin with your leisure time

EB: you're so full of shit hahaha.

EB: and i just got back from school, so so far my only groundbreaking feat is talking to your lame ass.

EB: which is chill enough i guess, i'm way too busy lately.

TG: busy inflicting verbal wounds on completely undeserving innocents

TG: im just sayin if im full of shit then youre like

TG: the +5 bag of shit-holding

TG: literally full up to the brim with toiletfodder and then some

TG: but yeah time difference bites at times like this

TG: havent seen you rose n jade on at the same time in forever

EB: who are you inflicting verbal wounds on, aren't you too busy playing minecraft (which is way out of style now, get with the times strider)?

EB: yeah, time differences are lame. :(

EB: i don't know why jade isn't on more often, isn't she out in the middle of the ocean? it's not like she has school to go to.

TG: yeah shes probably planting more pumpkins which is obviously a thing that makes sense to do on a tropical island

TG: just gets kinda quiet on here is all

TG: and you can only bestow so much of your time on a mindless slavering fanarmy before you start to hunger for peer company

EB: pfft.

TG: not that youre my peer in any way shape or form

EB: what am i, then?

TG: idk

TG: john

TG: thats like at least 500 levels down from where im at

TG: look it up on your echeladder

TG: still a marked improvement from a fan of my shitty comic

EB: wow you're so lame.

EB: i don't think my name is a level on the echeladder, dumpass.

EB: though if it was it'd be higher than yours, so suck it.

TG: hey john do me a favor

TG: go lookup the number to the texas fire dept so that they can extinguish that righteous burn you just laid unto my kickin body

EB: doing it now, as long as you promise to pay for the long distance. i mean, i don't want you to burn to death or anything, but i don't know if it's necessarily worth the couple dollars i'd have to pay for the three minute conversation.

EB: oh my god, my dad is calling me downstairs, hold on.

TG: oh no its ok see that last remark was so icecold the entire fire is extinguished

TG: youre a hero egbert

TG: a savior of the average texan

TG: yeak k

EB: you know me, i do what i can do save people. mostly just the people who matter.

EB: jeez my dad needs to calm his tits.

EB: i think i'm getting a bit old for mandatory after school snacks.

TG: yo at least your dad asks before he disrupts your life

TG: haha what are you legit complaining that your dad got you a snack

TG: most i can hope for is opening the fridge without it springloading a bouquet of razorblades straight in my face

TG: anyway dude seeing as youre here and done igniting me w/ your sick verbal burns and then extinguishing me via indifference

TG: wanna play something together

EB: yes i am legit complaining that my dad forces me to come down and have a snack. i was in the middle of giving you the verbal smackdown, and i don't like to be interrupted.

EB: and yeah sure, what do you want to play?

TG: idk what u got

TG: i mean depending on the genre maybe the slaughtering wont be quite so bad on your end

TG: call of duty sound good

TG: if not theres l4d or something i dont really care

EB: hmm, i haven't played l4d in a while, that sounds good.

EB: team or vs?

TG: team

TG: cause yknow i mean

TG: only fair to let you finish the game right

EB: oh har har, whatever dude.

EB: you know i've kicked your ass on vs plenty of times.

EB: but ok! team works.

EB: team playing is more fun anyways.

TG: those were flukes

TG: also

TG: yeah

TG: k pick your dude

TG: or notdude

EB: hmmm maybe i will be zoey, she's cool.

EB: unless you want to be zoey, of course.

TG: ...

TG: yeah kinda

TG: yknow i mean

TG: red

EB: haha you're so predictable.

TG: shut up

EB: well if you're zoey then i'll be...

EB: bill? i can be the creepy old dude and hit on you or something hahaha.

TG: well who could blame you

TG: my ass looks great from here

TG: prep your grossest one liners were going in

EB: haha alright.

EB: ok can you not just rush ahead every time we leave the safe room? you always do that and i always end up having to rush in and save your ass.

TG: i found a thing

TG: i was gonna go get it then you got in the way thats not my fault

TG: oh shit

EB: oh shit what.

EB: oh yeah and finding a thing isn't a good excuse you'd find it if you stay with the group too.

TG: hey chill out ok im good at this game

TG: ohhh SHIT

TG: boomer

EB: goddamnit dave.

TG: shut up shut up shut up

TG: wait no i got this

TG: hahaha oh man suck it

EB: yeah whatever you mean the cpus got this.

TG: no im carrying their random algorithm-supported asses is what you mean

TG: FUCK

EB: see you keep getting ambushed because you keep going ahead!

TG: why doesnt this game have a fucking medic or something

TG: id pay for that crossover

TG: id pay like

TG: 10 whole bucks

EB: wow that is a lot of money.

EB: such a heavy spender.

TG: i know right

TG: im not kiddin around here

EB: well if you wanted to play tf2 you could've just said so.

EB: here hold on i'm gonna heal you.

TG: thanks

TG: nerd

EB: pfft, whatever.

EB: you're welcome.

TG: ugh shit the nets lagging again

EB: it's ok i got your back.

TG: you mean the cpus got my back

TG: jk thanks

TG: shit this is so annoying

EB: it's cool, dude. i'll just stick by you until your computer stops being a piece of shit.

TG: how romantic

TG: stick up some candles and play music loud enough to drown out the zombie roars and well have ourselves an outing

EB: you know me. i do like to treat you right.

EB: dude, do you hear the tank.

EB: i mean, over the loud romantic music.

TG: oh fuck

TG: yeah here we go nets back on

TG: hold the beethoven swell

TG: and i expect a dramatic embrace in your old man avatar arms by the time all this is over

EB: you will get more than a dramatic embrace if i have any say in the matter.

EB: ok i think it's dead! thank god i had a molotov.

TG: ok i will admit for this one time

TG: as a special limited edition utterance

TG: that you totally saved my butt for this playthrough

TG: dont get used to it though its not my fault my net was being a shrivelled chain of rat testicles

EB: man, with compliments like that it's a wonder i'm not falling in your arms right now.

EB: how does anyone resist you, tg? your charm is a force of nature.

TG: too right

TG: and ive got the body to back it up

EB: hehe, whatever.

EB: there's a witch over there.

TG: cool i got it

TG: ah

TG: ok like i know you keep tellng me not to run ahead but if yall could keep up thatd be great

EB: ok ok i'm coming to catch up.

EB: man the zombies like you.

EB: your charm even affects the undead, dave, aren't you special?

EB: woah fuck, smoker got me.

EB: a little help please?

TG: yeah yeah i got it

TG: also wow how do you manage to unleash all this sass while were getting mobbed by hordes of undead

TG: impressive skill there egbert

TG: ok lemme pick em off you

EB: hehe, i just can't help myself around you.

TG: hey i love you too but the flirtations can wait til were in a safehouse

EB: uh haha sure whatever dude.

EB: if you can stand to wait that long.

EB: heyyy hunter please help.

TG: itll be a challenge to restrain that long but ill get by

TG: ok i got your back

TG: computers lagging again and bros screaming at me to fix it

EB: uhhh, should we stop so you can actually fix your internet?

EB: i mean, playing l4d is fun but it's not that urgent.

TG: nah its cool it does this now and again

TG: we can finish

TG: besides weve not played together in like what

TG: months

TG: bro can wait he enjoys shouting himself hoarse

EB: see i don't understand why you think that guy is so cool.

EB: but sure whatever let's finish this campaign.

EB: has it really been months though? i swear we've played more than that.

EB: maybe not, i don't know. i guess i have been stupidly busy.

TG: yeah well me too come to think of it

TG: shits been getting real

EB: how real are we talking?

TG: eh you know

TG: jobhunting

TG: actually studying

TG: i was kinda coasting before but

TG: ever since finishing up with everything sburbwise it kinda makes you want to give everything your best shot dont it

EB: yeah...

EB: oh shit there are way too many zombies here, i know you want me to catch up but i literally can't, come help me.

EB: um, but yeah. i guess that's why i'm busy all the time. it's easy to stay distracted, ya know?

TG: ugh fine im doubling back

TG: dont worry i stocked up i can handle it

TG: yeah i know what you mean

TG: kinda dont want to linger on shit too long

EB: no, lingering on shit tends to have bad consequences.

EB: nice shot on that boomer by the way.

TG: why thank you

TG: you dont think this stupid game shit is gonna require us to go into therapy when were 30 do you

EB: haha i don't know, i hope not.

EB: what would we even say?

EB: i found a pipe bomb over here, do you want it?

TG: yeah pass it my way

TG: and i dunno

TG: wed probably have to talk in allegories

TG: or frame it in dreams therapists love dreams

EB: ok here you go dude.

EB: do real therapists love dreams or is that just rose?

TG: good question

TG: i figure its in enough movies that its gotta count for somethin

TG: also there were enough asshole dreamselves involved that its not even as though were really lying here lbr

EB: yeah that's true enough.

EB: do you think it's kinda weird that rose always seems to want to talk about our feelings re: sburb and everything but never wants to talk about herself?

TG: kinda weird

TG: shes always been like that though

TG: regular old fussyfingers prying her well manicured talons into unsuspecting peoples business

TG: then spraying out a fugue of wordbabble when you toss her a sup

TG: i guess we all got our ways of coping

EB: i guess so.

EB: i hope she's ok, though.

TG: yeah me too

TG: ill get round to dropping her a line at some point

TG: man bros gonna scream a hole in my wall if this keeps up

TG: i gotta jet kid

TG: raincheck on that romantic zombiedate

EB: oh, ok.

TG: nah seriously ill hit you up soon

EB: yeah yeah, you always do.

TG: later

EB: bye.

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