You're not at all sorry about the decision to move. Overall, it's been infinitely better for Dave to get into a school that won't tolerate bullying or teachers that blatantly try to force their opinions on their students. Private school's expensive as shit, but you're still managing to keep up. Maybe even get a little ahead, since you're not working your ass off quite so much anymore, and have a bit of time to spend with the kid for a change.
Right now, though, he's in his room playing on his Xbox or chatting up one of his online friends. You, meanwhile, have a lady friend to entertain. And you are really, really getting into this chick. She's pretty, she can keep up with your banter, and hell she even likes your sword collection ("so what if they're shitty, they're just decorative anyways, right?"). So of course there's an interruption right when you've just finished tying her up to the bed and have your pants around your ankles.
An interruption of Dave proportions.
"Bro, I'm bleeding."
"Man, I'm busy, we've got band-aids." Not now, please not now. You're too cool to show your embarrassment at having your kid brother walking in on you, though.
"Not that kind of bleeding you dipshit."
You groan and pull your pants back up to turn around and look at the little man. "Then what... Oh." You've gone over this whole thing. Dave knew what he was getting into when he said he wasn't quite ready for hormone therapy yet. But shit, you didn't think it'd hit him this early. And by the wide, uncovered eyes and bloody khaki pants he's sporting, you don't think he figured on it either.
"Yeah, oh. Can we ask your lady friend to borrow something or am I gonna have to go down to the corner store and humiliate myself looking for the little girl's special needs." He's getting better at keeping his voice flat, even if you can see him shaking and ready to cry. You've never been more proud of him than right now.
"Go take a shower man, you'll feel better when you're clean. Throw your pants in the sink and let them soak while you're in there, I'll see what I can do." You wait until he leaves before turning to your entertainment for the night.
"You got anything for when you're on the rag in that massive thing you call a purse?"
She rolls her eyes. "I thought you had a little brother."
"I do. He had the misfortune of being stuck with ovaries instead of a dick, and he's still got more balls than most guys I know."
She makes a little noise in the back of her throat and pulls at her restraints. "Lemme go and I'll dig my emergency stash out. It should hold her—"
"Whatever. It'll hold both of you until you can run and get some proper stuff." She rubs at her wrists the moment she's got them free, and you toss her the gigantic purse she came over with. After a few minutes of digging, she throws a small package of tampons at you. You hold them out at arm's length, not really wanting to think about the whole thing, but you guess you don't really have much of a choice.
"Man, this is sick. Really seriously unhealthy, and not in any good kind of way."
"Don't know why you're humoring her with all this."
Oh god, not another one of these arguments. You rub at your nose, trying to stay calm and ward off the headache that's going to be inevitable at this point. Much as you've gotten along with this chick so far, you're perfectly willing to throw her out for being yet another insensitive bitch. You've lost more potential dates that way, you think, than any other kind of nitpicking.
"Don't even start, all right? I'll give you five bucks to run down to the drugstore at the corner and get Dave a decent supply. I don't want to go in and deal with this shit right now. My little brother needs me."
"Your little sister needs you, you mean. She's got the body, she's going through puberty. Are you seriously going to let her go through with this sick delusion?"
"It is not a delusion, all right? I have papers, I have a fucking diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder for him. Next year he's even getting his name and gender legally changed. You want to tell me how to raise my little brother, you can get the fuck out of my apartment right now and don't even bother coming back."
She stares at you, then starts pulling her clothes on. For good measure, she even snatches the fucking tampons out of your hand and stuffs them back in her purse. "I should call CPS. This is sick."
No one threatens to call child protection on you, and by god if it wouldn't land you in jail, you'd smack her right across the face for even daring to suggest it. "Get out. I don't care if the only reason I brought you over is to get laid, I ever see you around here again, I will personally beat your ass."
She hustles on out the door, and slams it behind her. You think you might hear her yell something, but the door between you muffles it just enough so you can't understand it. Your shades come off so you can rub at your temples and try to get the headache to go away. The apartment has to start getting cleaned up, just in case child protection does come by. And you are never, ever bringing one of your one night stands home ever again after this.
You knock at the door to the bathroom, and try to listen for Dave's voice above the sound of the water. "She gone?"
"Yeah, she's gone. Listen, I want you to stay in the shower while I go down to the drugstore. Door's staying locked, you know the drill if someone tries to come in." Toss on whatever clothing is nearby, no matter if it's filthy or clean, and grab the nearest sword. There's at least one in every room of the apartment, even the bathroom. That one gets cleaned every day just to make sure it doesn't rust.
"Sure thing Bro." You can hear the shower turn down to its minimum pressure, and smirk as you head on out the door.
Of course, the drugstore has ungodly amounts of feminine hygiene products. Pads, tampons, ones for overnight (you grab those without hesitation), ones for light or heavy flow... God you are learning way more about a woman's period than you ever even wanted to know. Maybe in the next year or so you'll be able to start Dave on hormone therapy so neither of you has to put up with this shit anymore.
Finally, you give in and ask someone what to get. It is, honestly, ridiculous the amount of shit you have to get, and you stock up on as much of it as you can so you can avoid doing this for as long as humanly possible.
Dave's still in the shower when you return, and you call out a casual "Hey bro, I'm back," to let him know that you're not some creep intruding with hostile or perverted intent.
You knock at the bathroom door again, and wait for an invitation inside. Nothing comes for several minutes, so you knock again. "Come on man, I know it's sick, but we gotta take care of this, yeah?"
"… Yeah. Okay." The door opens up and Dave's standing there with a towel around his whole body. It covers up the barest hint of the curves he's starting to get, but it can't hide his face getting softer, more feminine. Maybe you can look into the prices for hormone therapy right now, while he still has a chance at getting a square jaw, of hitting a good growth spurt, of his voice changing like a normal teenage boy's.
"All right, so... Yeah." Even you can't quite hide the hint of disgust as you open up the tampon package. You know the theory behind it, but not really the practice. "Long story short, little man, you gotta stick one of these up inside you, and they'll absorb the blood for a few hours."
"What." He looks up at you, totally unable to keep his poker face up at that knowledge. "I gotta stick that inside my cunt and let it sit there?"
"Yeah I know, disgusting isn't it?"
"Won't it, like, fall out? What if it goes up too far? How do I get it out? What if it moves and I get more blood on my pants?"
God, you don't know the answer to any of this. You've tried to avoid finding out for most of your life, and you still have the urge to just point Dave at the internet and let him figure it out. But you need to be supportive, so you're going to brave through it, no matter how nasty it is. "Shit man, I don't know. But I did get some pads if it, like, leaks or something." Two sets, one for overnight and one for the daytime. Dave's an active kid, so you got one advertised to stay in place. You really, really hope it does just that.
"I don't think my boxers are cut out for pads."
Goddammit, more embarrassing shit you have to buy. And you can never find panties in plain white, either. They've all got girly flowery designs or lace or are bright fucking pink. Never, ever a plain pair of white skivvies. "We'll worry about that in the morning, okay? I really don't want to go in to Wal-Mart this late at night looking for little girl's underwear. They'll think I'm a perv."
"Bro, you are a perv."
"Yeah, but not that kind." He laughs, easing up a little bit. "Man, don't you have briefs around here somewhere? Use those for the night instead of your boxers. We'll do laundry tomorrow and head out to Wal-Mart to get you some ironically frilly lacy panties to get up in a bunch, and maybe stop by Denny's or something for brunch while we're out." Not necessarily in that order, true, but Dave already knows that.
"Yeah, whatever." He's stopped freaking out so much. That's good, because you were pretty sure you were about to flip your shit at the rate things were going. With him calm, you'll be able to keep your cool. For a little while, at least.
Over the next few days you really start to bust your ass on cleaning the place up. You're not taking any chances in case the CPS really do stop in for a visit. Hell, you even go out shopping for healthy foods. It's when you're coming back from a grocery trip that you see Dave just coming home from school with some dorky-looking kid with buck teeth and glasses.
"Hey little bro, who's the derp?"
"Bro, this is my friend John Egbert. John, this is my Bro." Dave has his hands shoved in his pockets, trying to be cool about having brought a friend home.
"Cool. Egderp, you can help Dave carry in the rest of the groceries." First time Dave's ever brought anyone over. You're proud of him, and a little relieved; you were worried he wasn't making any friends except online.
"Okay, sure!" For all he's so unironically derpy, John's got a lot of spirit and energy. He challenges Dave to a race down the stairs, and you call out for them not to do something stupid like break their necks. You open up the apartment and start putting away your armful of groceries as the kids bring their armfuls up and dump them on the counter.
"C'mon, Egbert, I'll show you what Bro got me for Christmas." You raise an eyebrow. You didn't get him much, just an outdated DJ set only slightly better than yours. You'd found it at an estate auction and nabbed it up for a mere couple hundred. It made Dave lose all pretense of being cool and call you the best big brother ever for getting it for him. Some of the best money you've ever spent, in all honesty.
You can hear Dave laying out the derp some sick beats, freestyling just to impress. And then you hear that old keyboard that came along with it start to play. You have to assume it's John, since it's way too good to be Dave – he never could quite get the hang of the keys.
The music plays through you, too, and you allow yourself to move along with it as you finish putting away all the food. It all goes to shit when, surprise surprise, there's a knock at the door. You keep your cool when you open it up to find a couple of government goons standing there with an official badge. "Child protective services. Are you Ambrose Strider?"
"Yeah. Call me Bro." You figure you should at least try and be polite, give off a good impression. The better you can show that you're not fucking Dave up, the sooner these guys can leave and get off your back.
"I'm Susan Haliburton, this is my colleague Brian Schuster. We're here about your sister, Evelyn."
You hold up your hand, trying to keep them from talking too loudly, even though you're reasonably sure that John and Dave can't hear these guys over the music they're making together. "First off, it's Dave. Secondly, he has Gender Identity Disorder and I've got the papers to prove it. Thirdly, you call him Evelyn in front of the kid he brought over from school, he will flip his shit and you will regret it. Are we clear on that?"
Miss Haliburton there looks a bit put out, but you give props to her partner for taking it in stride. "Very well, Mister Strider."
"I told you, call me Bro."
"All right... Bro. May we take a look around?" How kind of them to have not stepped in yet. You move aside and motion for them to take a look around. Thank god you had the foresight to get the place cleaned up. Maybe that's even part of the reason Dave brought his friend over. It might be a bit of a hassle, but you figure you might be able to work with not having it be a total pigsty in here all the time.
"Feel free. Lemme just pull Dave away from his friend for a few moments, okay? I gotta ask him something."
Both of them look like they swallowed a lemon or something when you say that, but neither of them tries to stop you. You barge in on Dave and John, jamming away like there's no tomorrow. They look like they're having a blast, and you hate to interrupt. "Hey Dave, I gotta talk with you. Alone for a moment."
Dave turns the volume way down and tosses a set of headphones to John. "Here, knock yourself out for a few minutes so we don't have to listen to that awful racket you call music."
John laughs, the little derp, but puts the headphones on and starts playing again. You pull Dave into your room, not quite trusting the other kid to not listen in. "How much does your friend in there know about you?" According to the school records, Dave is a boy. He's been passing pretty well, too, so you've got a good guess as to exactly how little John knows about him.
"Jack shit. What's up, Bro?"
"CPS is here, thanks to that bitch that was over here the other night. I don't think you want the derp to know you've got a chick's body. Probably not right now, at least."
Dave shrugs. "Eh, knowing John he'd probably just laugh it off and ask me what it's like to have tits. But yeah, I don't really wanna tell him yet." The unspoken 'if ever' is there, in his voice and his body language. It's subtle, just like you taught him to be, but you can still tell even if no one else will be able to.
"All right. They probably wanna talk to you about me raising you. Just stick to the truth and it'll be fine." It's not like you abuse the kid, or deprive him of anything. Sure, the place is usually a mess, but it's at least presentable if not spotless by now. You feed him, keep him healthy... What could they possibly have against you aside from that bitch called them for?
"Hello David. I'm Brian from Child Protective Services. What can you tell me about your brother?"
"Best bro in the world. Couldn't ask for a better one." Oh god he's turning on the charm. Not his usual flat monotone, but the sickeningly sweet kid-charm. You have no clue where he learned it from, because you sure as hell didn't teach him that, but it has always made teachers and adults everywhere melt. Too bad he won't be able to keep hold of that much longer, although maybe you can help him refine it into a way to seduce whoever he wants into bed with him.
"I'm glad to hear that. Do you know what your brother does to make money?" Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit they know you run a porno site and they want to see if Dave does. Of course Dave knows, he's even helped you design some of your more popular puppets.
"Does a bit of DJing at nights, and he runs some, like, plushie store online." You gotta hand it to the kid, he does not miss a beat. You can see Brian over there scribbling something down, and the chick who was so offended at finding out Dave was a boy is heading into your room.
"S'cuse me, but Dave doesn't really go into my room that much, and sure as hell doesn't do it without me in there." You stare her down, looking just over the top of your shades to really intimidate her.
"This is an impressive sword collection. Does Dave play with them at all?"
"Man those are just a bunch of shitty-ass decorative swords." You walk over to the nearest set and pull one out. "See, too dull to do anything." On this set, at least, but you're not going to let her know about the others.
"I'll be asking Evelyn about that."
"Dave. You call him Evelyn and he will cuss you out under the best of circumstances."
She gives you this little scowl and keeps going over your room. It's the worst room in the house right now, but it doesn't have food growing new forms of life anywhere around, so at least it's not hazardous. Unless some of your laundry's been sitting there for longer than you remember it being, but that's not a crime.
Susan sniffs a little, then goes into Dave's room. John's still in there, jamming away on the keyboard, but he looks up at the strange face and pulls the headphones off. "Oh... hi?"
"Chill, little man. Someone thought I was messing Dave up and this lady here s'just gonna look the place over and see that I'm doing fine." You glare at her from behind your shades, since she can't tell the difference in your expression otherwise.
"Oh. Okay!" John gives a giant buck-toothed grin and puts the headphones back on to start playing again. You see him turn the volume dial down, though, and there's a preference for playing something a lot slower. He's trying to listen in, and you silently put a tick of approval in his favor for being sneaky.
The woman pokes and prods, and starts to mess with the turntables when Dave walks in the room. "What the fuck are you doing messing with my shit, lady." His deadpan voice hides the anger you know is simmering right underneath. Dave's always been a bit protective of his stuff, even with you; having a total stranger come in and mess with one of his prize possessions is not going to let him keep his cool for very long.
"Now that's no way for a young la..."
"Twelve year olds pick up all sorts of nasty language from everywhere, so I'm only gonna say this once. Get. The fuck. Outta my room." He reaches for his bokuto, brandishing it threateningly. John pulls the headphones off, eyes wide and those buck teeth chewing on his lip.
"Dave, what's going on?"
"Nothing Egbert. This lady was just leaving. Right Bro?"
You nod and motion towards the door. The other guy is tolerable, but damn this bitch nearly broke your brother's cover. You're beginning to wonder if you just have bad luck with women, period. You wait until the door's closed and Dave starts cranking up the volume on his turntables before looking at Susan with a smirk. "Satisfied? I told you he'd flip his shit if you tried breaking his cover. He's passing at school, his friend doesn't know he's transgendered, and he sure as hell isn't ready to tell the kid that just yet. Now, I could probably sue for that fuckup in there. Emotional grievances, because he's happy in his private school and I had to move away from Texas to get him away from bullying. This is the first time he's ever brought one of his friends over and I'd like to keep seeing that kid over because it makes my little bro happy. Finish up your goddamn report and get the fuck out of my apartment."
Susan turns white as a sheet, and nods before meeting back up with her partner. They have a little chat, and Brian says that they need you to sign a release on Dave's medical forms. Once they take a good look at them, they'll send you a nice little note telling you whether you passed their inspection. You don't even need to wonder – the threat of a lawsuit isn't going to have them coming back any time soon once they see you're clean.
You really, really hope, at least.
The Egbert kid keeps coming over. Dave really seems to like him, and you keep the place cleaned up just so John isn't tripping over puppet ass and swords every time he stops in. You make sure they do their homework, and that John's dad picks him up at seven sharp, every day. At least Dave has a friend, you keep telling yourself.
When Dave's thirteenth birthday rolls around, Egbert gives him this shitty pair of aviator sunglasses. Just like Ben Stiller wore in that shitty-ass movie. Dave shows you a certificate of authenticity. Not just like the pair of sunglasses, the pair of sunglasses. John assures the both of you that they're ironic on some level. You both know they are, but it's fun to watch Egbert faltering and trying so hard to be cool.
Dave switches his old shades, the ones you gave him years ago, for those dorky aviators. You're all right with that – it gives him his own style. Kid's gotta step out from under your shadow at some point, after all, and you give him subtle encouragement.
And one day, he drops a bombshell on you.
John isn't over for a change. Dave's in his room, hunched over his turntables. His rhythm's off, the music just isn't coming naturally to him. What comes out is a chaotic, melancholy wreck. "Hey man, what's up?"
"Tried to kiss John."
Welp. Your little bro's gay. That's fine. Compared to finding out he wasn't a girl, coming out as gay, or maybe even bisexual, is relatively tame in comparison. "So?"
"So he panicked and pushed me away. Said he wasn't a homosexual." Oh. Ouch.