a/n: written for a prompt on the kink meme. this story is among the first I've written for Homestuck, and I'm mostly worried about characterization at this point. any concrit you could give would be appreciated.

He's screaming by the time you reach him.

You'd dropped what you were doing at the first messages (hey...if you're not busy or anything, i think i kinda could use some help, haha), moving all the more quickly as they quickly grew in desperation (oh no, i think he's going to try something...shit i don't know what to do, please hurry), but you hadn't moved fast enough.

Soon, he's lost the ability to type coherently (oh gog oh god noplease he's giong to i can't please no please), and shortly after you finally discern his location (fourht floor b the stiars please hurry i can't see antyhing), the messages stop coming at all. You're running as fast as you can, but it's too late to save him from his demons, from the psychological remnants of that terrible, abominable game.

Unlike you, John Egbert is not afraid of the dark.

But he is afraid of enclosed spaces, has grown terrified of them in the years since gaining the ability to command the air currents around him like a second sight, and when you find out he's been trapped in a storage closet without so much as three square feet of space to breathe, your mind becomes a blank haze of festering hate.

A part of you is afraid for yourself as much as him. It's been a long time since you've allowed yourself to surrender to the darkness that continues to gnaw along the edges of your soul, and if something were to happen to John Egbert, you might cross a line you were lucky to step away from once.

But you force the horrorterrors back down your throat and keep running. You and John have classes at opposite ends of the sprawling campus you both share, and it's been a good fifteen minutes since he first contacted you asking for help. You don't know the identity of his tormentor. It's probably better that way, for now.

You throw open the door to his building and hurtle up three flights of stairs in quick succession, shoving aside any bewildered students or professors unfortunate enough to be caught in your path. There's a faint ringing in your ears, incessant and grating - it's almost enough to make you miss him.

But you hear it, then, and you can almost feel your heart skip a beat in your chest when you register the faint sound for what it is - John crying out in terror and desperation, pounding against the door of his makeshift prison. With another burst of adrenaline you pound your feet down the hall, one after the other, until they've finally led you to him.

The end of the hallway is deceptively quiet. Few university students have classes so late in the afternoon; John doesn't mind the extra hours. It gives him free time during the day to hang out with you and Dave and Jade, lounging in the common areas or exploring the furthest corners of campus.

He's so painfully bright, even after the horrors of the past have left each of you with such crippling nightmares. You don't understand why anyone would want to harm him like this.

In another moment, the pounding starts again, more insistent, and John's pleas for freedom give way to strangled screams. There's a boy your age, perhaps a little older, standing outside the custodian's closet with a stolen ring of keys in his left hand. He's smiling.

"Chill, Egbert, chill, Jesus," the boy laughs, laughs at John's misery, and your blood boils as you approach, steps slowing to an even walk. If you keep running, you won't stop when you reach the perpetrator; you'll sweep him to the ground and smash his head to the tiles and tear out his eyes with the needles you keep in your book satchel, the needles you hold close even after all these years.

And that won't help John.

When you get close, movements mechanical and forced, the boy turns to you, smile slipping in surprise but not fading entirely. "Can I help you?" he asks, eyes uneasy.

From the closet, John lets out a broken wail.

"The keys," you ask, numb with rage. You hold out a hand, palm flat, because if you clench it into a fist it will come away bloodied.

He balks. "I'm just havin' a little fun with him," the boy says, gesturing lamely to the closet, and as if on cue John resumes his desperate pounding against the door, with another scream. Your eyes narrow.

"He is claustrophobic. You are filth," you say, beginning to shake with the effort of not maiming him while John's sobs are echoing so closely beside you. "Give me the keys."

Warned by something in the darkness of your purple eyes, the boy obliges.

The key has barely turned in the lock before the door slams open, propelled not by John's hand but a violent burst of wind. Eyes widening in alarm, you catch John as he stumbles out of the closet, trembling and sobbing and still not quite emptied of his screams. A sudden breeze sweeps down the hallway, rattling against the windows, and you realize with a bolt of panic that you have to calm him down before he attracts too much attention. The boy who locked John in the closet is already spooked at the unexpected gust, looking around for the source, and he is precisely the last person you ever desire to know of your group's tightly-woven secrets.

"John," you breathe into his ear, and he hiccups through tears in response, curling in closer to your embrace. "John, listen to me. You have to calm down."

"I – " he tries, then dissolves the sentence into a desperate sob before trying again. The wind stirs. "I, Rose, I. I."

"John," you repeat, keeping your voice even, trying to ground yourself just as much as him. Can't lose control. Can't lose control, no matter how hard it is, no matter how much they refuse to understand. He was the one who taught you that. "John, I'm here. I'm here."

He curls his fingers in the fabric of your sleeve, pressing his forehead into your shoulder with another shaky sob. The wind slowly dies down.

The other boy, the perpetrator, has long since fled, and you resist the urge to commit his face to memory, holding John tight against you for long minutes until he finds the strength to stand again. You take his hand and lead him back to the dorms, allowing the feel of his fingers threading through yours to cool the darkness of the voices, clamoring for revenge in the back of your mind.

No, revenge is out of the question. Your efforts would be better spent comforting John. But perhaps – perhaps – you won't resist the urge to pass along this particular story to Strider and Harley at a later date. They could do whatever they liked with the information.

You're only human, after all.