You haven't been here in years, and it hits you with that pleasant nostalgic feeling. Dad has invited the two of you back to his place for the day. It wasn't a holiday or anything, but it had been a long time since you got to visit, what with college and the Real World things all coming at you. In your eagerness to see your hometown again, you've dragged Dave here way too early, so when he suggested taking a detour you easily allowed it.
You are surprised when he pulls the car over by a familiar park.
Kids are running around, and they have a new swing set that actually looks a little less than new. You're 27 now, you guess it was a given that changes had happened since the last time you were here - the night of prom, when everyone else went to the big after party, Dave drove you back out to the park with a shitty old boombox and played you some of your favourite songs you know he hates, and danced with you in the dark, kicking off your shoes and socks to let your toes feel the grass.
Parents eye you a little suspiciously when the two of you get out of the car and make your way through the park. You just had an entire five hour car ride here to talk, but somehow the second you fall into step with each other here, you both find so many words to exchange, memories to relive.
"I was scared to death," you laugh, bumping your shoulder into his, "you were so cool! And I was such a dork! I thought you were gonna, like, beat me up for my lunch money!"
He cracks a smile. Over the years he's eased into showing more emotions on his face in public, although it feels like it's only in private when you get him to laugh or cry or yell. "I thought I was so fuckin' cool," he admits, "I thought if I jus' walked towards ya, you'd be all kissin' the ground I walked on. I was such a fuckin' brat."
"You so were not! You were totally the coolest 10-year-old on the face of the planet, I swear! The smoothest, even!"
"Yeah?" He's smirking at you, and you nod quickly.
"Dude, I only talked about you for at least 8 weeks! All my friends got so mad at me! And Dad always just, like, chuckled and assured that we would go back to the park asap so I could look for you. I don't think he really thought I would ever see you again, though."
"I bugged the shit outta Bro about it. He never wanted to go back around, 'specially after he and that chick broke up, but I'd threaten to walk there so he's hafta drive me down an' drop me off," he hums, and you laugh at the notion. "Anyway, if ya were so taken with me, I wonder why it took ya so long ta say yes," he reminds.
Parents were starting to look less as they noticed you were keeping to yourselves. "I didn't believe it," you smile a little, tugging at your button down shirt, "I couldn't believe you'd want me!"
"I made it pretty fuckin' obvious," he notes.
"Obvious as Waldo!" He gives you a weird look, but you ignore it, "seriously, dude, you're hard to read, you know! You were the exact opposite of obvious!"
"Are ya really gonna make me say this, is this really what yer doin' here? I was fuckin' head over goddamn heels fer ya."
"I, uh, jeez! That day I told myself I was going to ask you! To prom, I mean. But I was gonna play it off, like ask you as a friend, if you didn't have plans and stuff. But then I went and said that thing about thinking you should only go on datedates, and I totally ruined it. I was so mad at myself. And I couldn't even dare to ask you for real. I think my excuse was that since you were from Texas, you might be Super Offended and, like, beat the shit out of me," he scowls a little at this. "I mean, it's not that I really thought that you were the kind of guy who would beat the shit out of me! It was just an excuse to chicken out."
"Yer such a dumb shit," he sighs, and you huff at him.
"I was a kid, okay! And it was PROM! It was very nerve-wrecking! You had a lot more guts than me. And a lot more coolkid charm. See if I asked you, it would have been dumb and awkward and you probably would have been like 'oh wow this guy is so dumb I don't like him anymore'!"
He raises an eyebrow at you. You seriously still can't believe he can do that so easily! You've spent your fair share of hours in front of the bathroom mirror trying.
"I woulda respected ya. Man, about time that Egbert kid admitted that he's slobbering for my manmeat," he assures.
"Okay, wow, way to word that there," you begin, "and also you are a big fat lying liar. Admit it! You were totally freaking out. You thought I was gonna say no."
"How could ya resist me? Ya said so yerself."
You lift your eyebrows and lean into him farther.
"Shit, alright, I may have been freakin' out a lil. Just a tiny bit."
"A smige, even?"
"Man! I can't believe how well I still know this place! It still feels like home!" He pulls you over by a tree, and you're glad to see it's still around. You run your fingers against the bark, feeling its familiarity. "It's amazing. It's like it's our place, only that's dumb. Because, y'know, it's a park."
"Nope, our place," he disagrees, and you give him a big grin, "totes our place. Our names should p much be engraved in the entrance." You open your mouth to make a suggestion, but he quickly cuts you off, "Egbert no, I will not carve our names in this tree." You frown at him, but his choice seems to be made.
"Jerk," you pout anyway.
"I'll do ya one better, though," he's smiling at you, and it makes you feel a little uneasy. he's got something up his sleeve, and that's unnerving when it's a Strider!
"What?" You ask carefully, watching him like a hawk.
"Ya look scared," he notes, and you pull a face.
"I'm a little scared. I know from experience that Striders and surprises are a force to be reckoned with. Remember when you told your brother about us and he said he had a surprise for us?" He frowns at the mention of it. You'd been really scared of his brother rejecting you, but in reality he turned out to be a pretty great guy. Weird, yeah, but he was understanding and stuff.
The puppets, though.
That sure was a surprise....
"No, I got somethin' much better," he assures, "at least I hope so. It better be."
"Okay, come on, Dave! The suspense is killing me, jeez!" You chuckle, but it's cut short when Dave grabs one of your hands.
"John," he's smiling at you again, but it's somehow softer and oh gosh, it's really nice, you can't even imagine what life would be like if that was the only smile he smiled.
"Y-yeah," you gulp, and in one of his easy movements that looks less careful than it does simply smooth, he's suddenly on one knee, still holding your hand, and you get so dizzy oh gosh that you almost fall. This seriously can't be happening. This is not a Dave Strider thing to do. This morning before you left he challenged you to an hour of L4D2 before you scrambled out the door to see who would get to drive. This can't be happening.
"John Egbert," he's reaching into the inside pocket of his coat with his free hand and you rock back a little.
"G-gosh," you panic as he pulls out a little, innocent box, "Dave, gosh!"
He's smiling like you're a fucking idiot, and you are actually, before he asks "will ya marry me?" And you swear to all that is holy, you almost faint. Like, the world gets dark for a second and everything.
"Gosh," you breath, staring at the ring he's offering. It's simple, but it has something engraved in it you can't see right now.
"An answer besides 'gosh' would be appreciated," he notes, and you cover your mouth with the hand he doesn't have.
"Yes! What, gosh, yes! Did you even think I would say no? Oh my gosh! Yes!" He slips the ring on your finger while you're busy freaking out and then shifts back up to his feet, and you lean into him trying to catch your breath while you figure out who needs to be told, how to tell Dad, what to do, what to say.
He wraps his arms around you a little and he lays what you think might have been a kiss on the top of your head. Actually you are positive. Because what the heck else would he even be doing!
You turn your face up to meet his lips, all lit with giddy excitement, and it's only when you pull away and come slowly back down to Earth that you realize some people are clapping for you, some kids are pointing, and yeah, some people are sneering. You teeter on your feet before Dave takes your hand and starts leading you back to the car.
"Anyway, don't wanna be late," he's mumbling, and you can see that he's blushing a little around his shades. You nod and thank the people who are congratulating you, and even get the guts to stick your tongue out at some of the sneerers (only the ones you can tell Dave can take on) before you keep his pace back to the car and slip into the passengers seat, admiring the new edition to your hand.
In little letters you can read that "Promise." is engraved into it, and you smile like the big fucking dork you know you are. "I love you," you muse. "Gosh, Dave, I love you."
"You better," he snickers.
"Promise!" You beam at him, and you can tell he's rolling his eyes at you.
You're so lucky this is real.