Chapter Three
~Homestuck is not mine!~

"That is the biggest lie I've ever heard come out of your mouth, Egbert." Dave told him lowly, his voice rumbling in the air between them. "You're hurt," Dave brought up a hand to John's face again, not pausing when John flinched away, and touched his cheek gently. "and no one noticed…"

"I don't want anyone to notice!" John protested weakly, unable to brush the hand away. "I'm fine and it's all good! I can do this by myself!" John felt a traitorous tear break free and roll down his face, meeting Dave's thumb as the blond brushed the droplet away. The tender gesture unleashed a flood and, gasping for breath, John began to cry heavily as Dave coddled him and wiped at the seemingly-endless flow of tears. He never spoke, never joked, as John's distress surfaced and swept the black-haired teen away. The blond teen simply sat there with him on the stairs and tended to the emotional wound John was nursing finally, uttering the occasional 'shhh' as consolingly as he could.

When John finally calmed down, Dave helped him to his feet and the teens made their way to John's bedroom. Dave didn't speak, and John didn't trust himself no to make a fool of himself now that he'd been sobbing on the stairs like a baby, so the silence remained. In his room, John kicked the clothes out from under his bed, watching his blond friend inspect them critically from behind black shades, and sat on the edge of his bed.

"I've been having trouble… with some guys at school." John confessed, watching Dave poke his finger through a hole and remembering the sting of the cigarette as it burnt him. "It started… I don't even remember when, but this…" John waved a hand at himself callously, drawing Dave's attention away from the blood mess of his jeans. "It's been worse."

"And you haven't told anyone?" "No," John shook his head weakly, staring intently at his feet. "I couldn't. How lame would that be, telling my Dad some kids at school are picking on me?" John amazed himself with the venom in his own voice; did he hate himself so much? "I didn't want him to know… what they were saying about me."

"Saying?" Dave pressed, approaching John carefully and kneeling at his feet. He caught the glint of more tears in John's eyes before the teen looked away, focusing his stare on a Nicholas Cage poster.

"Names." John said obscurely, twiddling his thumbs together. "'Chicken legs', 'Egg-derp' … I-I didn't want to embarrass him. I was worried that he'd" –John's voice died in his throat as another tear fell and he struggled to continue. "that he'd hate me too if he knew… that I was scared to face all the other kids."John closed his eyes against another flood of tears and bit his lip when they fell anyways, trying to hold in the pathetic noises bubbling up his throat. "I don't want him to think I'm a loser too!"

"You're not a loser." Dave said fiercely, defending John from himself and the taunts that were haunting him. "You are not a loser, John Egbert. I've met losers before, and you are not one of them. You are strong, and smart, and funny, and geeky in the coolest fucking way."

"Liar." John snuffled, rubbing his eyes.

"Cool dudes don't lie." Dave told John seriously, batting the accusation away and putting a hand on John's knee. "How bad have they gotten you?"

"Once they were chasing me and I fell down some stairs." John admitted levelly, rubbing his wrist. "I dislocated my wrist and blamed it on myself. Dad bought that I lost my balance." He glanced at Dave, who was suddenly very silent, and pulled the collar of his hoodie up a little more. "I'm lucky this time… it's just some cuts and bruises."

"Lemme see, man." Dave said calmly, reaching up for the collar of his hoodie. John stiffened as Dave caught the fabric in his hand, stirring an anxiety he couldn't stop, and he struggled to hold his hoddie in place. "John?"

"I-" John could hear them taunting him again suddenly, turning his ears bright red with embarrassment. "I-" Dave bent his head into John's line of sight and, through his shades, sat with him until he released the vice grip on his hoodie. "Dave," John said suddenly, gripping Dave's hand with both of his. "promise you won't laugh?" Dave nodded, not trusting his voice, but John didn't let go.

With his free hand, Dave carefully removed his sunglasses and opened his eyes. "Promise."

John's tight grip on Dave's relaxed and, with a quivering lip, he let Dave carefully shimmy his hoodie over his head. He winced once, noticeably, as Dave tried to work the sweater over his injured shoulder, but Dave simply uttered a breathy apology and continued.

~Homestuck is not mine!~