The Snowball's tonight. You agreed to DJ in exchange for a cut in Dave's tuition, so you can afford the night off to help him out by making sure the music he's gotta dance to isn't totally lame. It's all gotta be teen-safe and bullshit like that, but you can work around that while still making it cool. On the downside, that means the two of you have to be there way early. You assure the school it's fine for Dave to hang around and help you out if he wants, this shit's expensive but he knows how to handle it because you taught him, and because he knows he'll get a beatdown of epic proportions if any of it gets damaged.
He's rocking in his little tux. His own personal logo – a broken record symbol – is embroidered into one of the lapels (hand-stitched and he'd better fucking appreciate it), and the cool black is offset by a nice red bowtie and a deep maroon waistcoat-vest-thingy. Whatever it's called, it's underneath his jacket and helps to distract from the faint outline of the binder he's wearing under it all. Thank god that they've got good air conditioning in here, because you'd be sweating your ass off underneath all those layers.
You get your equipment set up and let him mess around and spin some beats while waiting for the other kids to show up. He knows you're basically the mystery parent at school, since only Lalonde and Egbert have ever really seen you, so being here for him tonight helps a bit with that. Show that yeah, he's got a guardian, you're the coolest big brother he could possibly ask for, blah blah blah. A brother cool enough to let him play around on expensive equipment, which is always cool in any kid's books.
The first few to trickle in are his friends, and you let him off to go chat with them while deciding what you want to work with in the way of slow songs. For now, you try to stick with stuff you know is popular, even though you think it tends to lean towards absolute shit. Maybe later you'll mix in some classics and current good stuff.
One of the kids comes up and tries to bother you. No, little lady with the big dorky glasses, this DJ does not take requests. Dave thankfully comes up and starts to drag her away, but you catch him mouthing 'exotic' towards you. This must be the adventuresome little gal-pal, Jade. Since Dave pulls her up to the empty dance floor while John and Rose go do their thing together (boy won't Egbert have a surprise on his hands once they start going somewhere), you decide that you can do just one thing for her.
You cue up a song called Gilded Sands and watch Dave start moving around the dance floor with his friend. She starts pulling this belly dancing routine, and you can tell that your little bro is finding the whole thing hilarious by the way he has trouble keeping his poker face.
More kids start trickling in, and you have to start mixing in other songs, some of them more popular and school-safe, others from your own personal stash of music. It's easy to lose track of time once you get into the swing of things, and all you really have to do is remember to mix in some slow sections every now and then.
Dave's taken off his jacket and draped it over a chair somewhere. You can't blame him, with all the kids moving around inside the building it's gotta be getting damn hot for him. But he's still got his vest on to hide his binder a bit, and from the way he's chatting with some kid you don't recognize, he's probably gone and started flirting.
You want to be proud of him, but you can only feel dread. You're okay with him being gay, but what happens when he comes out to someone he wants to get serious with? What'll they say, what'll they do? Dave's been through enough shit already, he shouldn't have to deal with someone who genuinely likes him that finds out he's got the wrong equipment and gets judgmental on him.
After a few hours, you start to lose track of him. He's a big boy, you can let him go off and do his own thing for just that long. At least, that's what you keep having to tell yourself. You don't like Dave wanting to do anything but slow dance with someone else. God forbid you think of him kissing. You'd probably punch the poor guy in the face if you caught your little brother playing tonsil hockey with someone.
Your phone starts buzzing in your pocket, and you pull it out to see Dave's cell phone number flashing on the caller ID. You set a few pre-mixed songs up on queue, and step away from the turntables so you can actually hear the call. You really hope it's not him bragging about getting to second base with someone.
"Yo, sup little man?"
There isn't an immediate answer. Instead, you hear background voices yelling and... it sounds like taunting. But then Dave's voice pierces through that. "Help!"
You don't even think, you just drop the phone and start running. He's not on the dance floor, you'd have seen a fight starting up from your position. Nothing outside, just a few chaperones having a smoke and not doing their goddamn job. "The fuck are you all doing? My little brother is in trouble, help me find him before I break all a your goddamn necks!"
They jump, then start to spread out. One of the teachers comes along with you, and suggests looking inside the bathrooms and locker rooms. You tell her to check the bathrooms, you'll check out the locker room.
Even before you get into the locker room from the gymnasium entrance, you can hear noise. Whoever is hurting Dave is in for a world of pain. You don't care if you go to jail, you are not letting anyone get away with hurting your little brother.
You try to move in slow, hoping you can catch them in the act instead of scaring them off. You're fearing the worst – what if they're raping him, what if they're trying to kill him, what if what if what if. Things only look worse when you come around the corner and see him topless – no binder at all.
The kid closest to you turns around, and you grin in a bit of nasty pleasure as he goes pale. "The fuck are all of you doing to my little brother?"
The others in the group pull away, similar expressions on their face. Except for one. "We're just teaching your little sister here what her place is."
Dave kicks that little smartass right in the crotch, and you can see him wince even as he does it. He's gotta be hurting bad. "The fuck happened in here? It had better not be as bad as it looks or I will make damn sure you kids wind up in jail."
No one moves, except for the kid still whimpering in pain from the kick to his groin (and good fucking riddance). Finally, Dave pushes himself up. You can see the stiffness in his movements as he goes for his dress shirt and binder. "I got too hot out there, so I came in here to take my binder off for a few minutes and cool off. Camden and his little gang decided to follow me."
You stare at the other kids, looking for verification in their faces. "They try any funny business?"
It's a small relief to hear Dave snort. He's not actually as good at hiding his real feelings as he thinks he is, so the fact that he can laugh it off means a lot. "Nah, just tried to kick my ribs and face in."
There's footsteps echoing out in the halls, and you motion for Dave to just cover himself up. "Yo! In here. Caught some troublemakers beating the shit out of my little brother."
A few other chaperones come in, and you recognize one as a teacher. He takes a good look at the boys and shakes his head. "This lot. Come on, boys. Let's go call your parents."
You grab the teacher's shoulder, looking over the top of your shades at him. "I don't know about any of the other parents, but if these boys don't get kicked out for this shit, I'm pulling Dave and finding a different school for him." This isn't a public school – you're paying damn good money to make sure Dave's in a safe environment. If that safety is taken out from under him, then dammit you will relocate entirely if you have to.
"We have a zero tolerance policy on this sort of thing, Mr. Strider. We will be contacting you next week to ask you and David a few questions." He nods towards the kid that Dave kicked in the balls and sighs. "Camden and David have gotten very close to fighting in the halls. I can't say this entirely surprises me."
Yeah, you remember those few times the school called you with a warning about Dave's behavior. He always insisted that the other kid provoked him. With any luck, you won't have to deal with this again. You wait until the other kids are ushered out, then go sit on the bench next to Dave. "Lemme see, kiddo. I gotta know if we need to take you to the ER or if it can wait until morning." An emergency room visit is not in your budget, but you can work around it if you have to.
He grumbles and unbuttons his dress shirt, slouching as he lets you poke and prod at his ribs. "Looks like there's gonna be some nasty bruising there, but I don't think anything's broken." And he should definitely not wear his binder until all that bruising heals up. "Guess the dance is over. Grab the rest of your clothes, little man. I'm gonna go start packing it in."
"I don't wanna go out there."
"'Cause of that little bastard?"
"I bet the whole school knows by now."
You ruffle his hair and hug his shoulders, careful not to squeeze too tight. "You can't run away from this, dude. If he hasn't ran his mouth off, you get to tell everyone yourself. Be the bigger man. If he has, then own up to it. The school ain't gonna do anything – they already know about you and Rose, they treat you all right. They'll also keep the other kids from making it as bad as sixth grade."
He shudders at the reminder of that terrible year. It was when you drew the line and started looking for places that had strong anti-discrimination laws that specifically included gender identity on their list. Aside from that one little shit and his friends, Dave's been really happy here, too. You don't want to have to pull him away from his closest friends.
After a moment, he nods and starts buttoning his shirt back up. You can see him slouching, trying to hide his chest (it's gone down in size a bit but he's still gonna need top surgery if he doesn't want to rely on binders for the rest of his life), and you wish that things could have turned out differently. He could have been born a boy, or he could have identified as a girl, or tonight could have never happened. But you trust him to make the right decision about what's best for him.
"Not really, but let's go."