• Two hours late. Again. What could possibly keep someone like John, who lacks a social life in every definition of the term, from arriving somewhere on time? Normally, Dave would worry, but John always showed up exactly two hours late and perfectly okay. Every damn time. Dave did not really question why his partner in crime was always so terribly and uniformly late, nor could he due to the cacophony caused by other patrons in the crowded airport that made thinking in general all too difficult. He drummed his fingers impatiently on the top of his suitcase, scanning the masses of people for any sign of his friend.

    Bing! his phone chimed, in no possible way a reference to the over-hyped search engine. Dave pulled his phone from his pocket to check his newest message.

    'sorry I can't be there to pick you up. can you call a taxi?'

    That was complete bullshit. John had always picked Dave up from the airport when he came for a visit. Even the very first time they met when they'd only ever spoken on Pesterchum. What could be keeping him from coming?

    Dave pressed "reply."

    'dude i dont have any money for a ******** taxi'

    Sent. He rested his chin in his palm as he waited for a reply. How could John honestly expect a kid his age to carry money for a taxi? Of course, he had money. But he wasn't going to spend it on transportation. No way in hell.

    Another bing! played over his phone's speakers.

    'i'll pay for the taxi, just hurry.'

    Dave shifted a bit to let his cheek replace his chin in his hand. Ouch...! Why did that hurt? He pressed on his cheek again to make sure it wasn't some sort of phantom pain. He felt another weak surge of pain. A bruise? A bruise....leftover from a fight with Bro, perhaps? Dave hadn't noticed until now because he never needed to look in the mirror, and he never needed to look in the mirror because the gods themselves had decided that Dave would wake up the best-looking man on the planet every damn day.

    Wait, John had mentioned that he'd pay for the transportation, so why was Dave sitting around reflecting on the fact that he was beautiful? He slowly stood, trying not to get too terribly dizzy after having sat for over two hours. After regaining what he had lost of his balance, he grabbed his suitcase and headed for the main entrance of the airport.

    Finding a taxi wasn't hard since no one was ever really coming into this unnamed city as were leaving it due to its overbearing simplicity and stifling atmosphere. At least, Dave thought so.

    After a few miles and a brief conversation with an exotic taxi driver from Germany named Alexis, Dave was outside of John's homestead. Dave told Alexis to wait a moment for the little ebony-haired boy to come bounding out the front door with payment in hand. Several minutes passed and Alexis was getting more and more anxious. Dave persuaded Alexis to let him retrieve John from the inner sanctions of the house. Alexis reluctantly complied. Dave left his briefcase in the trunk to reassure Alexis that he wasn't gonna run off without paying.

    Dave took in the familiar sight of John's cookie cutter of a house as he walked the few short steps to the door. Bing! the doorbell chimed in all its originality.

    One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten...

    Dave rang the doorbell again, twice this time.

    One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten...

    He gave it a couple more good rings.

    One, two, three...Ah, to hell with it.

    He vehemently began pushing the doorbell's button as if his life depended on it. He kept at it for a good thirty seconds before pausing and adding a couple more bings! for good measure.

    A few more seconds and Dave heard the deadbolt unlock. A few seconds after that and John's spiky-haired little head with poking through the crack between the door and its frame.

    "Oh, hey." he half-smiled. His voice sounded kinda scratchy and his glasses were askew. He didn't seem like the cheerful little brat Dave had come to know and like with a certain degree of irony.

    "You got the money to pay the driver?" Dave inquired, trying not to let the small amount of concern he held for John's current state show through in his voice. Not that he really, really cared. He was too cool to really, really care, of course.

    "Oh...yeah, I got it." John replied wearily. "Hold on." He disappeared into the house for a moment, only to emerge with a small number of bills in his hand. He handed them to Dave with a slightly shaky hand. "Nice bruise, by the way."

    "Yeah, yeah." Dave grinned before taking the money to Alexis, who told Dave to get his crap outta his trunk. My, waiting had made him a bit touchy. Dave grabbed his briefcase and slammed the trunk closed just before Alexis sped off screaming "Dummkopf!!" or something. Damn, dude. Just damn.

    Dave lugged his briefcase up the sidewalk to the door where John stood with a weathered grin and crossed arms.

    "What are you smiling at?" Dave chuckled. He reached out to ruffle John's hair in a friendly manner, as he often did, but retreated when he saw John flinch uncomfortably. Uncomfortable for Dave, that is. Something was definitely up.

    "Do you want me to take that up to my room?" John asked, motioning toward the suitcase.

    "No, I got it." Dave replied, picking up the suitcase and entering John's home. He glanced around. Everything looked the same, but something was just off. Nonetheless, the issue at hand was getting Dave's luggage up to John's room. He made his way up the stairs, trying to lean just so as to counterbalance the weight of the suitcase and not fall down a flight of ******** stairs.

    Once safely inside John's room, Dave felt compelled to ask about John's odd behavior, but he refrained from doing so seeing as it wasn't any of his damn business.

    "Have you noticed?" came John's small voice after quietly closing his bedroom door.

    Dave responded with a short intake of breath, otherwise known as a gasp. Certainly John couldn't read his mind. He turned to face the small boy who had his back pressed to the door in an almost defensive manner.

    "You mean you haven't?" John said, sounding a little upset.

    "I-I have."

    "And you're not worried?" John gave a wry little laugh. He was definitely not acting like himself.

    "I am."

    A long, relatively awkward silence followed. The reason for the awkwardness was unknown to both boys.

    "I wanna show you something." John muttered, breaking the overbearing quietness. "Just don't get all weirded out, okay?"

    Dave simply nodded. He tried his best not to blush as John's hands curled over lower hem of his own shirt and pulled upward. But Dave's slight embarrassment at the prospect of John removing his shirt was shortly replaced by concern. Just above John's belly button and slightly to the right was a large purple mark, similar to the one on Dave's face.

    "Who hit you?"