Disclaimer: Ngozi Ukazu owns the characters and setting. The Mountain Goats own their lyrics.

Jack first started liking the Mountain Goats back in juniors. There was something about "No Children" that just captured how he felt back then. Then, in rehab, "This Year" was one of the songs he had on repeat (along with "Call and Answer" by the Barenaked Ladies, "Thistle and Weeds" by Mumford & Sons, and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"). He felt like the Mountain Goats knew what it was like at the bottom of the hole he'd fallen into, and maybe they also knew the way out. (If there was a way out. He wasn't totally sure about that.)

But around the time Jack got his acceptance letter from Samwell, the Mountain Goats put out a new album, All Eternals Deck, and ever since Jack first bought it on iTunes and listened to the opening track, he'd had "Damn These Vampires" stuck in his head a good quarter of the time, at least. The thing was, by this point he wasn't actively wrestling with the question of whether to stay alive anymore. He wasn't as desperate to hear the words "I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me" as he had been in rehab. But that didn't mean things were anywhere close to easy, and lines like "Crawl 'til dawn, on my hands and knees" and "Someday we'll try to walk upright" and "When the sun comes, try not to hate the light" made him feel seen.

And then Jack arrived at Samwell and met Shitty Knight. The thing about Shitty was that he was simultaneously the hardest person to ignore out of anyone Jack had ever met, and he also completely snuck up on Jack. Or at least, his friendship did. Shitty himself may never have snuck up on anyone, and Jack was certainly aware of Shitty's presence when Shitty was around. But Jack wasn't sure when Shitty went from being "that obnoxious walk-on" to "my best friend." It was probably a measure of degrees, a frog boiled slowly, with Shitty sliding from "that obnoxious walk-on" to "the guy on the team who seems to hate me the least" to "the guy who stood up for me when the seniors were needling me about the overdose" to "the guy who talked me through my latest panic attack" to "my best friend."

As guilty as Jack felt about it later, he hated Shitty at first. Shitty's hockey was mediocre at best, which maybe wasn't all that surprising for someone who didn't get recruited, but it still bothered Jack, and that was before even throwing in Shitty's utter loudness. Jack was used to locker rooms, okay, he could handle thumping music and guys yelling to be heard over it; he could handle loud arguments and exuberant cellies. But for fuck's sake, it wasn't necessary to swing wildly between ebulliently excited and righteously enraged without ever taking a moment to just be calm.

But then Shitty started to be righteously enraged on Jack's behalf, and ebulliently excited about things that Jack was interested in (sometimes even things Jack had suggested he check out), and as the two of them started hanging out Jack started to see that Shitty did indeed have the capacity for quiet (or perhaps Shitty was just now developing that capacity). And it was glorious, honestly. Kenny—Parse—was the only best friend Jack had ever had, but now Jack had Shitty, and Shitty was so much better. Arguments—of course there were arguments; they were both human—didn't devolve into screaming or manipulation, nor did they feel like the end of the world. The good times felt relaxed, not desperate. Shitty made Jack happy, or at least less sad and anxious, nearly all the time.

Even with Shitty's friendship, Jack still felt like he was in "Damn These Vampires," crawling 'til dawn on his hands and knees, struggling to walk upright, trying not to hate the sun. But now he wasn't alone, and he believed this despair and malaise wouldn't last forever.