"Yo, Egbert, I'm here," Dave huffed cooly, letting his duffle bag fall to the floor rather unceremoniously, and shutting the door behind him. Above him the ceiling began to quake as the boy he knew so well thundered down the stairs and tackled Dave to the floor in a hug, laughing like a mentally deficient seal the whole time, "oh god, calm your tits Egbert, jesus."
"Aha, sorry Dave," John said, picking himself up off the floor, his grin widening by the very second. Dave gave him his best poker face, his mouth so straight a line you could have balanced a level on that upper lip. John just laughed, offering the blond a hand up, "I guess I'm just a little excited! I can't believe you've never gone camping before!"
"I didn't realize it was a crime Bro and I didn't go all Brokeback Mountain down in Texas. I'm sorry we didn't bare the scorching heat and get all cozy in a tent together for a weekend. How was I to know sharing a small, cloth-made home with another man was—"
"No way, man, it's nothing like that," John said, taking up Dave's bag and leading them into the kitchen area, "Brokeback Mountain was a terrible movie! Camping here is just pure, unadulterated badassery as we try to live off the land for a few days! In a tent!"
"Dude, way to cut a bro off in a middle of a totally sick speech. So not cool."
"Oh, sorry, Dave."
"Whatever," Dave drawled, opening his mouth to start another speech on how uncool the other boy was, when the disastrous state of the kitchen caught his attention. A large canvas bag leaking Egbert's clothing occupied most of the floor space, next to a few sleeping bags and the packed up tent. Dingy metal utensils were scattered around the kitchen table, occasionally joined by metal marshmallow sticks. Frying pans, spatulas, cups and a tabletop heater cluttered up the counters. A cooler with its lid popped off made its home in front of the ajar fridge, delicious confectionaries and unopened pop bottles half way between being packed and being still in the fridge.
It was like a war zone. A mid-packing war zone.
"What...happened here? I thought we were gonna be roughing it."
"Oh, ha ha," John looked sincerely embarrassed, his cheeks turning a bit pink, "my dad is making me bring all this stuff. He's letting us take the truck, I guess the least we can do is humour him and bring all this crap."
"John, you're eighteen years old. When are you going to tell your old man you don't need to bring cake into the woods with you?" Dave leaned in closer, his face inches away from John's, "or are you still daddy's little boy?"
"Whatever, man," John said, pushing Dave away with as much force as a puppy. His face was as red as a tomato, now, and with all the clutter in the kitchen there was nowhere for him to escape. He laughed awkwardly, staring up into the abyss of Dave's sunglasses. Moments ticked by and the Strider never moved an inch, even though John's cheeks were flaming. Finally Dave took pity on him, smiling smugly and leaning back against the wall, cool as ever. John looked flushed and started feverishly packing his strewn clothing back into its bag, his face still red, "I mean, I don't want to...disappoint him. If anything ever happened to him—"
"I hear ya, bro," Dave said, "but we're sure as fuck not taking the cake."
"Dave," John huffed, "it might come in useful!"
"...Yes, useful. Okay, John, but if I catch you tip-toeing into the woods to throw it in some bear's face as a prank, I will take the truck and leave you out there." Dave said, stuffing his hands into his pockets.
"It's a deal," John said with a laugh. He chucked the last few cans of various soda products into the cooler and sealed the lid tightly. Then, with his other hand, he grabbed his sleeping bag and started to shuffle towards the door, adding, "grab some of this shit man; we'll get the truck packed up and get out of here!"
Dave wordlessly complied and within the hour the pair were pulling into 'Pine Oaks' camping grounds. It was mid October, and the leaves were already abandoning their branches, falling to the ground in a golden shower. After registering in the main office; a dated old, stuffy room made to look like a cabin in the woods, Dave and John were off into the wilderness.
Their camping site was in the middle of the grounds, sandwiched in between a family with several young brats, and a retired couple with an RV who smelt like pickles.
"Yep, this is it. Just how I always imagined it," Dave drawled, his fingers hooked in his belt loops, rocking back and forth on his heels as he watched John unpack the truck, "the great outdoors." He whistled appreciatively. John rolled his eyes.
"This isn't the fun part of camping," he insisted, setting down the large cooler, "it's the campfire at night, under the stars, telling ghosts stories and roasting marshmellows!"
"Oh, ghost stories. You'll have to hold me, I might get too scared," Dave fake-shuddered, "seriously Egbert, I know how hardcore you are about ghost stories."
"Ha ha, yeah," John sighed. He sat on the bumper of the truck, hands on his knees, "I especially like the stars. Looking up at all those millions of stars and wonder who created them." Dave studied him for a long time. John could feel the eyes fall on him through those shades.
"God?" he finally shrugged, sitting down on the bumper next to John. The cool octorber air blew through their jackets and made their hair dance in the wind. John laughed.
"Yeah, I guess."
"I don't know, man, Bro never took me to church," Dave shirked his shoulders and stood up, reaching into the back of the truck to pull out the box of utensils, "why, you feeling something else?"
"No...yeah...sorta," the other boy's dark eyebrows knit together, his smile turning into a small frown, "it's like I got this feeling..." he sighed, before laughing merrily and jumping to his feet, "aha, it's nothing, really. C'mon, I'll teach you how to set up the tent. Or rather, I'll tell you how to set up the tent, then laugh mercilessly at your failure."
"Oh, not cool man, not cool."
"I'll point, too."
The sun set faster than they had anticipated. By the time they had the tent set up (which had included a lot of pointing and laughing, and a can of coke to the face for John), and everything put away, the crickets were already out and chirping. John lit a fire in their tiny fire pit, and they sat around it, the orange flames painting their faces in hues or red and white. John had found a stick in the nearby woods, sharpening it down with his swiss army knife Dad had given him for his seventeenth birthday. Dave watched him curiously, curled up in his red hoodie as if it were the arctic circle, and not Washington state.
"What? No way, man, it's like, nearly tropical for October!" John looked up at him, giving him a derpy, toothy smile, "move closer to the fire, if you want."
"Not a fan of fire," Dave shrugged.
"'Cause you've never seen it so close before?"
"No...more like...I've seen too much of it," Dave said through tight lips, staring at the fire through his shades, "well, it's a weird nagging feeling...like it happened in a different life...to a different me, or something."
"I get that too, sometimes," John's blue eyes grew wide in the firelight, "when I feel a strong gust of wind, one that nearly knocks me off my feet...it's like a déjà vu..."
"Yeah," Dave nodded. They sat silently poking at the fire a little longer, breaking into a bag of marshmallows containing enough sugar to keep them up for days, and had John giggling like a fourth grader. A female fourth grader, "so, how about those ghost stories, Egbert?" Dave yawned, sitting back in his lawn chair with his arms behind his head, "I'm ready to be spooked."
"Ahaha," John giggled—freaking giggled, there's no denying it—before looking off to the side, chewing on his bottom lip, "oh, well, it's not really a ghost story. But it's a scary dream I keep having over and over."
"Oh?" a sole, blond eyebrow was raised, "I dunno man, if it's not a ghost story—"
"It's still pretty spooky!"
"I'm quaking in my boots."
"It's got aliens in it," John said with a smile, "twelve of them! Though in my dream we didn't meet all of them—"
"Oh, now I'm in this dream, too? Is it turning into some sort of freaky fantasy of yours? Should I be concerned for my virgin ears?"
"Yeah you were in the dream," John nods, laughter on his lips, "Rose and Jade were too!"
"Now I'm intrigued," Dave said, "these aliens got names?"
"Yep! There was one who looked really scary but was totally not at all, his name was Karkat, and he was my friend," John sighed wistfully, "and one was totally into you, Dave, in this dream!"
"Woah bro, I don't know where your subconscious got 'having freaky alien dudes hanging all over me' as one of my interests. Though I understand how tempting my glorious visage can be. I'm not sure if these freaky extra terrestrial bros of yours could even handle this face—"
"No, no, it was a girl alien," John laughed, "named—"
"Yeah! Woah, how did you know?" John's eyes were wide and sparkling, "do I talk in my sleep or something? Have you been spying on me?"
"Nah," Dave shrugged, looking up at the stars, "...nah, the truth is, I've been having dreams like this too. I have for a while now."
"...Oh." John's smile turned into a small frown, his protruding front teeth chewing on his bottom lip, "then you know how it ends."
"Let's see, does everyone you love die in your dream?"
"Yeah...yeah..." he runs a hand through his messy black hair, then took off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes, "like I said, it's pretty spooky."
"Don't you think it's weirder that we've both had the same dreams since, what..."
"Since I was thirteen."
"Yeah. That strikes me as a little odd, Egbert," he looked to John, giving him a small smirk of a smile, "maybe we were abducted by these aliens, and they've surprised the memory."
"Hah," John straightened up again, placing the glasses back on his face, his wide smile returning, "maybe! That's a good theory...let's run with it! Maybe we can go on talk shows, now! David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien!" Dave snorted.
"Yeah, just wait; 'All new tonight: two freaks who dream about the same freaky gray skinned kids, and claim to have been abducted, and potentially artificially inseminated by the aliens!'" he gestured with his hands across the sky, as if showing off the billboard to their new show. John laughed, shoving Dave in the arm.
"Gross! I don't get artificially insemi-whatevered in my dream!"
"Oh, maybe that's just mine, then. I think it's that Terezi chick. Touched my nipple and now I'm teen pregnant."
"Dave!" John laughed, shaking his head, "god I was being serious!"
"John, really? Have you ever been serious, once in your life?" He raised an eyebrow, tilting down his glasses to look his best bro in the eyes. John snorted, and shook his head, looking away, up into the sky.
"No I guess not." He sighed and sat back, looking up to the twinkling stars in the sky. You could see them so well out here in the country, unlike in the city with all the light pollution. It sure did make him feel small and insignificant, "do you think it's a repressed memory?"
"A what?" Dave had apparently moved on from the topic and was now skewering a marshmallow on a metal stick, "no, man, a repressed memory is me being pelted with fuzzy hot puppet ass my whole life and still able to function like a semi-normal adult male. This is more like...some stupid story we made up as kids and are only remembering now."
"A story? Maybe..." John shrugged, "I keep getting this weird feeling, though, whenever I dream about it...like, maybe, it really did happen and we just can't remember."
"The Scratch." Dave murmured.
"...What?" John sat up, looking at his friend. He looked red and gold in the firelight. Dave shook his head, looking just as bewildered as John, the coolkid facade crumbling little-by-little.
"Nothing. I don't know."
"You said 'The Scratch'!"
"Yes, yeah I did," he shrugged, jutting his stick into the fire, "crazy talk."
"No, no Dave do you remember?" he found his hands to be restless, ringing against each other, or pulling at the hem of his shirt, "The Scratch was supposed to reset the game. It would bring everything back to the beginning and would wipe everything that the game ever caused; including our memories! These weren't dreams—they—it...it really happened, Dave!" John's hands hand now found themselves running through his hair, twining around clumps of thick black strands and pulling. Dave was shaking his head, sunglasses skewed aside by the hand rubbing at his eyes.
"You remember it too, don't you?"
"Yes—no, John, it was just a dream, not something that actually happened—"
"Just a dream? A dream that we both have? I bet if we call Rose and Jade, they've probably been having them, too!"
"I don't know, John, this is crazy—"
"SBurb," He said, falling back into the cool grass, a smile pulling at the corner of his lips, "for my thirteenth birthday."
"Yeah, yeah," Dave dropped his stick with the burning marshmallow into the flames, falling back next to John, "shit...so you think...it all really happened?" He pulled off his glasses, looking to John with naked eyes, "are you just shitting me here? If this is one of your pranks I will kill you so hard you can't come back as a God Tier."
John laughed, "no, I'm not shitting you! But you know what this means?"
"We've played computer games with gray-skinned aliens?"
"Yeah! And...maybe...they're still out there." He looked up to the stars, watching the twinkle and blaze hundreds of light-years away. Dave scoffed.
"Yep. And maybe they're thinking about us, instead of filling buckets with their kismet fishes or whatever," even he was smiling, though, "or, maybe they're thinking about us while they're filling buckets," he winked at John, who snorted. They laid silent for a while, their air around them cool, yet you could almost hear the buzz of electricity as they thought, trying to remember as much as they could, "Yo...John."
"We should go camping more often."