Another kmeme fill. In response to a Bro + Davesprite Gen prompt.
breath normal, nerves normal
It was never something you could change.
You knew you were going to lose – knew for years and years before this even got started – but fatalism had never really been your thing, so you'd railed against it, attempted to buck fate and finally take control of something in your life. You had to keep Dave safe – that's what big brothers do, after all – and you'd felt like you had a good shot of it, with bird-Dave at your back.
Then the shadow man had changed, somehow, and when the wet snap of shifting bone had quieted he'd looked at you and you'd just known. Something had clicked with the finality of a gunshot in your chest, then, and your throat had felt so hot, so tight because when the monster smiled its mouth was packed with sharpened wolf's teeth and nuclear green fire. The worst part in that single split second you had before everything would end, was that you'd known how useless resistance would be, how inevitable your death was and you'd felt so small and worthless because if Big Brother couldn't keep the monsters from under the bed then how could you expect Dave to?
And after that it was over and once the sound of tearing bone and flesh and Dave (bird-Dave but still inarguably your Dave) trying to swallow the howling being ripped from his lungs had settled down to a heavy, labored wheezing you were flat on your back, winded and tired and something very close to scared. The Halloween monster of a man had pressed his heel onto your chest, up by your neck and on your collarbone, until it had snapped and you'd kept quiet through the terrible pain of it because you couldn't give him that satisfaction. The mandogman had peered down at you, his face split in a crocodile grin before sliding the blade of your sword through your chest, the steel driving through your sternum slow, like he was savoring it, and it had felt like somebody had clocked you square with a fucking hammer.
It didn't hurt. Not right away.
You couldn't help it, you had reached towards the wound, hands shaking and feeling stupid because you knew you were dead no matter what you did and it's not like you could hold the blood in, anyway.
You'd dreamt of this before, on multiple occasions but it had never been like this. Never did the monster stand over you while your blood began to pool beneath you in a wickedly sluggish leak. No, in the dreams, you always died a little more dignified, with something very much like acceptance on your face. It hadn't been like this at all.
And now, now with all that terrible half-memory still burning up your brain, the man with a face made of shadow and hate reaches down and steals your shades. The sun is too bright in the endless sky and you hiss, turn your head away and squint at the crumpled orange mess that used to be some incarnation of your brother. The monster leaves in a burst of heat and he takes Cal with him, leaves you to die lonely and with blood starting to spread on your chest, fanning from the wound like something holy.
Your fingers curl into the sticky fabric of your shirt like a lifeline, like doing so will keep your breath steady and even. You close your eyes; try to ignore the heady pain that's threatening to break through the adrenaline and endorphin fog your nerves are in. Your vision is swamped with red behind your eyelids, the sun is so bright and you're so unused to unprotected sight, and you can hear coughing as bird-Dave crawls nearer to you.
Then you can feel shade on your face, can stand to open your eyes because he's got his good wing fanned over you, blocking out the naked sun. The edges of the feathers glow with a yellow halo, not unlike what's leaking from his chest and the remnants of his other wing. You feel like you've let him down and it crushes you, suffocates anything warm you might've felt from his presence because this is your fault. You didn't protect him.
"You okay?" and it's hard to say, wet sounding and choked because your breathing comes in, goes out as a rattling wetness in your chest and blood bubbles in your mouth, swells out the corner and cakes on the side of your face from the heat.
You can't tell what he's thinking behind his shades and that hurts, too, because you need him to just be open with you now – you're dying and too tired of posturing. He must get it, must be able to read it in your face, because he takes them off and even though his eyes are as orange as the rest of him, you're relieved enough to smile weakly. You want to do something reassuring, pat his shoulder or smooth his hair or something that lets him know you're still strong enough for both of you even if it's a lie.
"'Course I am, man," he says in a croaking voice that reminds you of the crows that used to haunt the roof of your apartment building, his taloned fingers covering the wound in his gut, "Who do you fucking think I am?"
You laugh, sort of; it comes out as a garbled mess of blood and spit and coughing. He gets serious, his eyebrows betraying his worry and distantly, beneath the miasmic cloud of hurt that's spreading out from your chest, you wonder if he's seen you die before. There's something to the darkness in his face that speaks of it, but for the life of you (haha, worst joke, bad Bro) you can't work out how that's possible.
Your shirt clings to your back with a clammy wetness and you know it's blood holding it so tight to you from the rusted smell of it, overwhelming and somehow fading, too. Everything is fading, dimming and, right, it's because you're still dying even if you just feel like falling asleep.
Dave – no qualifiers anymore, you don't care if he's a bird, too, because he's Dave and you're so proud, so stupidly fucking proud because when did he get so brave? – watches you closely and when you start coughing, your whole chest shaking as the force of it rakes up your ribs and leaves gobs of blood on your teeth and chin, he shifts closer so you can feel his presence all the more.
You want to say, thank you. You want to say, Dave I am so, so proud of you and everything you've done and no, no, this isn't ironic at all because, Dave, I love you.
Instead you say, "M'so sorry."
It resonates on his face, melts into this weak lipped frown and soft eyes that leave you choked on something that's not blood, not death. Your throat and mouth are dry as desert sand and you can't follow up with anything reassuring, so you smile and very, very weakly reach up and he brings his wing lower so you can fist your fingers into the down-soft shorter feathers. You can tell it calms him, somehow, from the way his shoulders slump and the long wisp that you're not sure is a tail settles to the ground, stops writhing and unforming and forming again in the air around him.
He nods, looks away from you so that you don't see the way his eyes are watering.
You're both quiet and it feels good having him here with you because nobody wants to die alone, regret heavy and thick on their tongue and the last thing they'll ever know.
Already the terrible ache in your chest is dissipating, letting up, and it gets to be too much keeping your arm high and your hand falls slack by your side. Dave starts, like this surprises him, and when he looks back at you there's a thin line of neon blood on the corner of his mouth and you should feel guilty, but you're so tired. It should be hot, you should be sweltering beneath the heat of this alien sun but you're not, you're starting to feel vaguely cold, a little hollow, and it's lulling you into something calm and wonderful and you're not scared for Dave anymore – any Dave – because if he can be this brave here with you now, in the face of your death and his own (though he's playing it off like he's okay because he thinks he needs to keep strong for you), he can handle anything this damn game can throw at him.
He pulls his wing in close, folds it in against his back, and shifts closer still even though you can't feel any heat from him anymore. Your vision is spotting, shapeless pockets of darkness dotting the sky and that's okay, too, because you've done all you can and you think he'd be proud if he knew to be.
So you close your eyes.
You can't feel much, but the naked sun is bright on your face and the fingers curled into your shirt go limp.
Dave's saying something and it sounds very far away and you want to want to say, shhh, shhh Dave, it's okay I'm okay you're okay but you can't, you can't because everything is beyond you now in a warm place full of light and quiet and something you can't quite name.
He'll be okay.