He hunched over her body, dead silent and focused with his expression taught and unreadable. The only giveaway to his actual feelings at that moment was the near imperceptible trembling of his hands as he reticently grazed her face with his fingertips.


His name. It was as if he were submerged in water, a mile between himself and the sound of his name, repeating. "Dave. DAVE." Shut up. His brow furrowed slightly. His hand moved over her mouth and nose. No breath. His heart was thumping hard and fast in his throat and it was all he could do to keep his breathing steady. "Harley," he mouthed, barely a whisper. Her eyes were slightly open, a hint of brilliant green against placid, pale skin flecked with blood. Dave shuddered and laughed. No, not really a laugh. It was almost a sob, almost the hitch of the breath; a prelude to a scream. "Harley" He said, louder this time, but breathy as he struggled to keep his tone even and to hold his limbs steady, a shuddering hand hovering over her right cheek. He was steadily losing control of his breathing and his eyes were wide beneath his sunglasses. "Harley" he said more urgently as if he could reach her if only he could call loud enough for her to hear. He stared silently for a second. And another.

And another.

Despite himself he was trembling and pressing the bridge of his nose flush against her forehead; his breath creating clouds on her glasses. "Jade." He mumbled against her face. "Jade. Jade. JADE." His breath hitched with every repetition of her name, and he began repeating it faster and more fervently as his composure slipped. "Oh my God, Jade. Come ON." His body convulsed and he shook her. His heart was racing and he kept his face to her, eyes wide open, searching for any signs of a breath or a pulse. He could hear the blood in his ears and he repeated his mantra, her name, and he shook her again. Harder this time.

And then.

And then he was kissing her. There was nothing romantic in the gesture, there was only desperation. He kissed her over and over and over. Tiny successive kisses on her lips and her eyes and her cheeks and his words were breathless and choked and half a sob; a sob that was more anger than despair. He wrapped one arm around her torso to lift her to him and cupped her face with his other hand, thumb thoughtlessly spreading the blood on her cheek as he kissed her more. He clutched her to him as he tried and tried and failed to revive her.



"Wake up."


John was staring at Dave hunched over his sister. He was hesitant to approach him, he had never seen Dave lose control, but the blonde was shaking in a way that terrified him. He had tried talking to him, calling his name, asking him what had happened. From the pallor of his sister's skin he thought he knew, though, but he didn't want to believe it. Rose's hand had found his and he could hear her choking back a muffled sob beneath her free hand. He was acutely aware of the group of people who slowly moved in around him; his friends and allies, all lost in terrified silence at the lifeless body of Jade and the form of Dave above her, quickly losing control of the calm he normally shrouded himself in. At that moment, he wasn't sure what upset him more; the loss of his sister who he had spent the last three long years really getting to know and love, or his best friend convulsing with grief over her body.

How did it happen? They had all been so involved in their own fight that he didn't know if anyone had seen. Was it a heroic death? It would not have been Just, killing her could never have been Just, and he believed that fervently. Desperately. If it wasn't Heroic or Just, wouldn't she be okay? She would wake up. She could wake up. He held onto that idea as if it was a lifeline, but he couldn't control the knot that formed in his throat when he realized Dave was kissing her. Trying to resurrect her when he knew it was impossible.

He hadn't realized it before, but it was so painfully obvious now. The gentle way he had always treated her, differently from everyone else. His heart felt heavy as he walked toward his best friend and blinked away the beginnings of tears in his eyes. The idea that she could wake up kept his heart from plummeting, but the vision of his best friend in anguish was more than he thought he could handle. Dave was screaming his words now, his voice breaking awkwardly. John had never heard him scream.

Dave had gently laid her back on ground, hunched over her with his face still so near to hers. He was shaking from the effort of not screaming, both of his hands against the cold ground in tight fists. He breathed hard and erratically, visibly attempting to hold back something far worse.

And then Dave felt a hand on his shoulder, and the fight rushed out of him and he went slack. His breathing slowed and his expression went blank. Not in the way it always was; the Strider "poker face" he and his brother had patented. It was empty. He didn't move, his face still pressed against hers, his shaking arms barely holding up the rest of his body from collapsing onto Jade's.

And he spoke to John, his voice strained and his throat dry, but he was calm. At least he was calm.

"Just let me stay. Just let me fucking be."

He wanted to take him away from her, but right now simply keeping him calm was more important. Eventually they would have to separate them, but it could wait. He could give him more time. "Okay, alright," said John. "I'll be here."