Your name is Dave Strider and you are 26 years old.
You have just gotten engaged.
The problem being that you have just gotten engaged to your best male friend in a furious fit of stupidity, champagne, one-upmanship and a weird warm-glowy feeling that occasionally (or more than occasionally) rolls around in the pit of your stomach and makes you act like a moron. You have, over the past 13 years and much careful experimentation, dubbed this “The Egbert Effect”.
You would like to state, for the record, that you are definitely, completely and 100% NOT A HOMOSEXUAL.
As Bro carefully describes to you what, as the DJ, he’s going to play at the reception (almost entirely a medley of Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha), you carefully nurse a Rock Star and vodka like a 16 year old girl who just popped her cherry at prom and try to figure out what the fuck happened over the past decade or so to land you in this mess.
The date is April 13th 2010, and, unlike April 13th 2009, it’s not a date of any huge cosmic importance. No apocalyptic video games being played by children to determine the fate of humanity, no first contact, no cultures clashing, interspecies romances blossoming, just a quiet spring day in the suburbs of Washington, USA, and one young man’s 14th birthday.
It was 1 year ago he last met his best bro of many years, DAVE STRIDER, but it is today that he will meet him again!
Your name is John Egbert and you are incredibly excited.
The grin as you greet him, hug him, is wide enough to break your face, and though he just stands there, stoic and unmoving, you know he’s stoked as well.
Best friends know these things.
You barely restrain a scream of delight when Dave presents you with a pair of ECTOGOGGLES which the NOTE OF AUTHENTICITY declares as the real pair Dan Aykroyd wore on the set of Ghostbusters, and you almost want to change your entire wardrobe just so you could wear them all the time.
“I swear, by the time we’re 20 I’ll have ended up buying you Nic Cage so you can keep him in your closet and sniff his sweaty gross-ass mullet now and then,” he says sardonically.
The next few hours turn into a good-natured argument about the cleanliness of Nic Cage’s hair, and you couldn’t be any happier.
-- arachnidsGrip [AG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB] --
AG: Hiiiiiiii John!
AG: I see you! >::::P
AG: What’s the smelly Strider 8oy doing in your hive, huh, hero?
EB: oh, hi vriska! i’m uh...just gonna ignore the idea that you guys still have that viewport thing.
AG: Oh please, John. Like I’m going to snoop on you!!
EB: oh, i got your present, by the way! it was great, thanks. :)
EB: dave’s staying over!!! oh man, didn’t i tell you?
EB: like a million billion hundred times?
AG: Yes, in fact, you did.
AG: Nearly 8teen times, to 8e precise!
AG: 8ut I didn’t mean that! I meant what is he DOING?
EB: uuuh. well he’s doing a bit of my pokemon game i was stuck on.
EB: and telling me how much my team sucks. uh no, dave, my team is AWESOME, so shut up!
AG: Uuuh, no, John!
AG: And stop playing that stupid human “Pokemon”. It sounds waaaaaaaay too much like Fidusspawn for a cool guy like you!
AG: Stupid stupid dum8 dum8!
AG: I mean what were you doing........
AG: Earlier? ::::O
This is a fantastic question.
What WERE you two doing earlier?
"So how's that girl in math class treatin' you, Egbert?"
You look away from the screen, and your go-kart screeches off the tracks. It was only a matter of time. You said you thought you might have a sort of half crush on a girl in your class a month or so ago, and Dave - for some reason - has become obsessed with the whole thing. It’s nice he cares, but it's been getting annoying.
"Oh, uh, Amy? Man, she's nice, but I really don’t think she’s interested in me being her boyfriend!"
Dave stares at you, his mouth twisted in that way that tells you you’ve said something stupid and he's trying to work it out, like riddling out how you could possibly be so dense, and how he could best verbalise exactly how dumb you are. It looks sort of like he needs to fart.
"Egbert, a girl could be sitting in your lap giggling and pulling down her top till her nipples are popping out and you'd still be saying," he ignores your blush and cry of "Dave!" and takes on a squeaky northern voice that you presume is supposed to be yours, "Oh I don't think she likes me like thaaaat, Dave!"
"Well I don't know! How do you tell if a girl likes you or not?"
You look at him as though he just started talking like Rose in the depths of her broodfester throes.
"Flirting, Egbert, flirtin'. That's how you tell if a chick digs you. Lay on a bit of that dorky Egbertian charm and see how she reacts," he says, and ruffles your hair affectionately. A bit of a weird habit for him to pick up, but you can’t help but kind of like it.
"Yeah, sure! Because I am sooo smooth, Dave! Like, Ben Affleck levels of smooth! I'll just bounce animal crackers on her belly and be as charming as Ben, shall I?"
"John, Ben Affleck is about as charming and smooth as old crumpled sandpaper wrapped around the world’s most crooked wrinkly dong," he says, and waits for you to recover from your giggling fit before continuing, "Look, if you shove a fucking cracker down a girl's drawers, she ain't gonna be happy with you. Liv Tyler must have gone straight to her trailer to wash crumbs from her pubes after shootin' that scene."
You pause the Playstation, leaving Coco Bandicoot's kart hurtling towards the lava, to throw your arms up in defeat.
"Well I don't know, Dave. Do you flirt with girls a lot?"
There is a split second of Dave actually shutting up that tells you all you need to know.
"No, alright, but I know this shit alright. Bro taught me all about how to play the game. And he is, like, the grand pimp macdaddy. I mean seriously one smooth operator. So I'm, theoretically, and genetically inclined to be, an expert."
"That's not the point, shut the fuck up. I just don't wanna get my hands dirty with the nasty-ass girls back home. So do you want my help or not?"
He gives you a look. It's one of those weird looks only Dave can pull off, all intense and expectant despite those big gold-framed shades covering his face, but it looks kind of pre-prepared. Like he's stood in front of a mirror or under a camera lens perfecting it.
It's a look that you think is probably supposed to be cool and intimidating, and just makes you feel the same kind of fondness when you look at Casey blowing a bubble. You just want to hug him and laugh.
"Alright, dude. School me!"
"Fine, babe," he answers, and after you raise an eyebrow at the sudden cheesy pet name, he quickly adds, "Strider flirting tip number 1: pet names. Useful with chicks who are also friends. If they don't go down well, you pass 'em off as a joke. Girl blushes or smiles or calls you something back, well. That’s just great."
You shake your head.
"I can’t say babe with a straight face dude. It sounds stupid."
"No way, Egbert. It’s foolproof. Try it."
Try it? You're pretty sure a girl hasn't suddenly materialised in the room. And using it on him seems...well, it's not gonna help you keep a straight face, that's for sure.
"C'mon Egbert, you a man or you a mouse, bro?"
"Jeez, jeez, calm down, uh, sweetie."
You burst out laughing, and Dave sighs as though you've just dropped about a million levels on the echeladder of his respect. Your title is probably now something like PITY NERD FRIEND EXTRAORDINNAIRE.
"No, okay, you can't laugh. And sweetie ain't right, you're not her fucking grandma. Babe, or baby, maybe, they're classics."
You burst out laughing, and Dave seems to just barely able to restrain the urge to wrap the cord of your Playstation controller around your neck. Your title is now NOT WORTHY OF SHOVELLING THE SHIT OF MY DEAD PONY.
"Okay, I'll take this seriously, Dave. I really do want to learn more about this. Especially from you, my sweet little hummingbird."
You manage not to start laughing, but that's mostly because you're thinking of Cameron and Trisha Poe, and Cameron's unyielding love and loyalty for his sweet daughter Casey and oh man you can hear the music, you're just going to start welling up if you think about this any more...
"Oh jesus, you're going to fucking cry. Hummingbird, really? Well...if you can say that with a straight face, reckon that's the best we can do. But we better move onto things that might be a bit easier for ya," he says, exasperation dripping off his every syllable. He shuffles a little closer on the bed, discarding the controller completely, and resting a hand on your thigh, and you jump like you've just been electrocuted.
He looks at you, you look at him, and for a very brief second, something changes in the room, and then...
"Jesus, John, what are you, a little yippy chihuahua that jumps and pisses the rug if somebody pets it? Chill, bro, I’m demonstratin' my next flirting technique."
"Oh," you say, laughing, embarrassed by your goofy reaction. It’s understandable though, he didn't exactly give you warning, and you don’t exactly have people touching your thighs all the time!
"Contact, dude. Nothing big, nothing on her chest or ass, no squeezing," he continues, laying his hand back on your thigh, "Something so casual it might be accidental. If she goes "dude what the hell you doing?" you just look embarrassed, apologise and laugh, take your hand right outta there, and keep your distance. Know your limits. You don't wanna be "that creep" gals chat about at sleepovers, do you, dude?"
"That creep? You're the one going around touching peoples' thighs, dude," you say, rolling your eyes, "I dunno, I'm kinda awkward. I give out hugs a lot, but I'm not really good at...oh jeez, you're going to ask me to practice on you aren’t you?"
"Don't see anybody else here."
You steel yourself, trying to imagine Dave as that girl from your class. They both have blonde hair and freckles, even if Amy tends to wear hers in pigtails and wears dresses and is most definitely a girl, but you guess it isn't too huge a leap. You still feel incredibly awkward when you manage to put your hand on Dave's thigh.
You both sit there.
It seems to be lasting a very long time.
"Jesus, okay, fine, just don't look so terrified. Look at her when you do it, fucking smile, show those charmin' buck teeth of yours," he says, and you do look at him and crack a smile, not because he told you to, but just because you can't help but grin at how he says it.
"Charming? Oh, Dave, you flatter me!" you say, half-laughing and shoving him playfully. You see him almost smile (Almost! Damnit, you need to try harder with this!) as he shoves you back.
"Just saying, I don't know how you're not getting all the ladies with that big-tooth goofball grin of yours," he says as the awkwardness melts away and you two wrestle on the bed, lightly shoving, tugging and elbowing, neither of you really gaining the advantage or attempting to take it.
"All of them?" you respond, laughing, and he nods as you both stop, just sitting and smirking at nothing in particular.
"All of ‘em," he says, not missing a beat.
"Gee, then I really don't know why I'm taking your classes, Dave!" you say, your arms looped around his waist. You hadn't even realised they were there, but hey, he seemed comfortable.
"Yeah, you probably can't steel yourself well enough for the minor gay chicken involved," he says, and you're close enough you can actually sort of see him roll his eyes behind the shades.
"That is so not a thing."
He snorts and ruffles your hair.
"It so is, dude. Poor little Egbert, oblivious to the finer details of gay cluckbeast."
"I am so not oblivious. And I can so steel myself," you say, and, grinning at how much this is going to make your Prankster's Gambit explode, shove your hands up his shirt to tickle his sides.
Dave makes the most uncool, high pitched yelping noise you've ever heard and you managed to shove him back as he's reduced a wriggling pile of high-pitched giggles, punctuated with the lamest snorts, and all sorts of strained death threats.
"I will kill you," he pants as you stop, wriggling your fingers in front of his face.
"No way. You love me too much, dude."
"Like every shitty love poem that's ever been written by Victorian douchebags about their finest bro, dude."
"Bluh, that doesn't even make sense."
"You don’t make sense," he snaps back instantly, and you grin at him, sort of just letting your forehead drop against his for a second, kind of worn out by your tickle-attack. This knowledge of Dave's severe ticklishness will undoubtedly serve you well for the future, and you can't help but feel as if you've achieved something.
This thought is cut short as Dave presses forward and kisses you. You only have a little while to absorb it, barely a second where you actually start kissing back, not wanting to be outshone, and a little part of you is just a little, tiny bit disappointed when he pulls away.
"Wuh?" you manage, finally.
"By international gay chicken rules...kissing beats tickling. I win."
He picks up the controllers and throws yours at you.
"Now let me kick your ass at this as well."
You break out of your shell-shock and grin, gladly taking up the controller and proceed to show him that he shouldn't get too cocky.
EB: man things, vriska.
EB: we were doing man things.
-- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
EB: hey rose!
EB: want to talk psychology?
TT: John, I don’t want to be rude or express any doubt in your sudden interest in my hobbies.
TT: But what have you done or what do you want.
EB: nothing, jeez!!!
EB: eheh, sorry. i just wanted to really casually talk about like
EB: psychology and people and teenagers and uh
EB: who was that dude you were telling me about? the creepy homosexual scale guy who made all those people watch those dirty films.
TT: Alfred Kinsey, John, he developed the Kinsey scale and pioneered studies into human sexuality.
EB: yeah him!
EB: i still think he’s kind of weird.
TT: John, does this have a point?
TT: I’m rather preoccupied with Vodka Mutini at the minute, she’s in heat and I have to wait until tomorrow to take her to the vet.
TT: I’m not particularly looking forward to all the questions a four eyed cat will invite.
EB: well, it doesn’t have a point really.
EB: this is kind of irrelevant to everything ever and you shouldn’t worry about it.
EB: it’s just general interest.
TT: I see. Now what would be this general interest of yours?
EB: er okay!
EB: is it normal for like, non-homosexual boys to kiss?
EB: like only once!
EB: maybe just when they’re messing about or something.
TT: Well, in fact, it is quite common John.
TT: Many teenagers do some harmless experimenting with same-sex friends, it’s perfectly natural.
TT: As long as both parties are consenting, few people will begrudge a harmless kiss.
EB: oh right! phew!
EB: wait! no! it’s not intriguing at all!
TT: Yes it is.
EB: no it’s not.
TT: It most certainly is.
EB: is not times infinity, HA!
TT: Oh dear, John has added times infinity onto the end of his argument.
TT: I have been sharply out-foxed.
EB: it’s okay, rose. nobody’s judging you for it.
TT: You never fail to console me in my darkest moments, John.
EB: uh, hehe. well, anyway thanks!
EB: that’s all i was wondering about.
EB: so what were you saying was wrong with meowgon spengler?
Your name is Dave Strider and you regret ever introducing John to gay chicken, and the wonders of embarrassing pet names.
After coming home from his 14th birthday, you occasionally slip him a babe, and he doesn’t even freak out. Not even the slightest moment of no-homo or Brokeback based panic; he just laughs and sends you a shitty text heart which you have to respond to, until eventually you’re both making romantic ASCII art and blingees in an endless contest of one-up-manship.
Jade determined that John made the best blingees, while yours were just woefully understated. You didn’t speak to her for a good two days as punishment for this verdict.
EB: guess what!!!!
EB: no dude, guess, come on.
TG: what i cant guess
TG: just tell me
EB: just guess!
TG: just fucking tell me
EB: just fucking guess!
TG: bill murray responded to your fanmail
EB: i wish!
TG: liv tyler you her spooge stained panties for you to sniff and jerk off over
EB: no, jeez, stop saying gross junk like that.
TG: i cant help it i derive my one joy in life from imagining you jerkin off
EB: i swear, i’ll send you pictures if you shut up and listen to me.
TG: what a filthy offer how can i resist
TG: alright alright just tell me already
TG: i cant take the tension
TG: sitting on the edge of my seat
TG: i can barely breathe here egbert the waiting is just too much
TG: gonna pass out here
TG: face turning blue
TG: pulse slowin down
TG: yo egbert are you still there
EB: oh sorry, i just went to get a drink! i was away for two minutes, jeez.
EB: so impatient.
TG: well come on then
TG: if im so impatient tell me before i sign off
EB: hehe. well...i can return the favor for my birthday soon!
TG: woah what youre comin to tx this december
EB: i mean...it’s not the same as you coming up to see me, really.
EB: but it should still be fun!
TG: what how
EB: can i tell you something embarrassing?
TG: you do all the time so sure
EB: shut up!
EB: but uh yeah. i was a little scared of spending my birthday alone this year.
TG: oh because of
EB: uh huh.
EB: so i was just really glad to have you there, dude.
TG: well that makes sense
TG: if my last birthday coincided with an apocalypse which ended in a higher body count than the black fucking plague
TG: id be pretty hesitant about blowing out the candles and donning the party hats too
EB: it’s dumb, i mean it’s not like dad’s gonna get kidnapped or whatever or that’s gonna happen again.
TG: come on how bad would our luck have to fuckin be to go post apocalyptic twice
EB: but still, thanks! :)
“Jesus dude, you’re such a wuss.”
“I-it’s illegal! Outrageously illegal. We’d be thrown in the slammer if anybody found out!” John says, his voice reaching a high, squeaky decibel you’ve never quite heard, and bats away the bottle of Smirnoff Ice you’re wriggling in his direction.
“C’mon, Bro’s out. He won’t care, I snatch from his stash all the time,” you assure him, shrugging and popping the lid off your bottle. It’s only a bit of a lie. “All the time” really consists of one disastrous incident with some cider you’d mistaken for apple juice when you were 9, but hey, close enough. You try not to wrinkle your nose at the weird, unfamiliar of alcohol as you take a (hopefully) confident sip.
You pass John a bottle and he stares at it long and hard. You can only imagine all the anti-alcohol pamphlets and after-school-specials that he’s combating with in his mind. You can only imagine the cap-wearing, skateboarding cartoon douchebag that’s running through his mind and telling him to just say no. You love the kid, but jesus is he ever a pampered little Daddy’s boy.
“What, are you chicken dude?”
It’s hilarious how John reacts to being called a chicken. All furrowed eyebrows, gritted teeth, hilarious glares and hunched shoulders. You fight back a smile at his expression. Jesus, is he Marty Mc Fucking Fly or something. You’d think that’d be a role you’re more suited for.
“No way!” he says, and snatches the bottle from your hand, wrestling with the bottle-opener to pop the lid off and then taking a long swig, before choking and spluttering.
“Woah, slow down Egbert, it’s not a fucking shot,” you say, patting his back.
“Urgh, tastes weird and burny,” he splutters, finally regaining his breath.
“That’s because you tried to swig it like fuckin Mom when faced with a bottle of tequila,” you say, instantly recalling the previous Christmas where Mom (as you’ve been bullied by her into calling her, to your intense discomfort) did exactly that. He offers you a weak grin, takes a slower, more cautious sip.
You slowly make your way through bottles of Smirnoff Ice and watching shitty movies together, until eventually John is overwhelmed by something or another, and tackles you, pushing you both backwards onto the bed.
“Dave!” he yells, more or less in your ear, and you cringe in pain and try to grab your drink off the floor, shifting under his weight. He just looks at you, really long and hard and thoughtful, and he’s red-faced and really drunk, you realise, and so are you, and jesus have you really spent this long just getting drunk and working your way through your ironic collection of terribad.
He reaches for the remote and Kangaroo Jack pauses onscreen.
“Whaaat?” you whine, forcing your elbow out from under his chest and taking a sip of your drink.
“Dave, Dave,” he repeats, eyes unfocusing for a second, before he goes back to his sort of intense glare. He has really long eyelashes, you think dimly.
“Egbert you’ve said my name three times, are you getting to a point or are you just going to squash me and say “Dave” over and over?” you said, growing impatient. He clumsily reaches up, bumping you in the nose and knocking your shades off balance, before managing to wrap his arms around your neck and shift up so he’s resting his chin on your collarbone.
“’Ello,” he says cheerfully, in a faux Australian accent.
“Hey mate.” You can’t help it. Somehow this is so funny and you want to join in and jesus being drunk reduces you to Egbertian levels of goobriety. Egbert’s goober levels, however, have surpassed all expectations, and he laughs into your chest.
He crawls up you and god, what the fuck, you’re kissing, all clacking teeth and glasses smacking against each other, and he’s giggling into your mouth like a giddy fucking school girl. You feel his tongue make contact with yours, and panic overrides all your thoughts and senses. All of them, but your competitive streak. You put a cork on common sense and the bubbling soda of “no homo no homo no homo” threatening to burst out the bottle in a sugary fountain of awkward, and kiss back with all the force you can give when you’re completely drunk and freaking out.
He pulls away and jesus you both look ridiculous, with your clothes all ruffled, hair in disarray and small, silvery trails of saliva dribbling down your chins.
“Egbert I don’t recall ordering the sloppy makeout. Emphasis on the sloppy,” you say, wiping your mouth on your sleeve. He mimics the motion and then “boops” your nose, complete with sound effect.
“You didn’t win last time.”
He boops your nose again, sitting up and dragging you with him, one hand hooked under your arm.
“I started, uh, staaarted kissing you back,” he slurs, finishing his drink with the most insufferably smug smirk you’ve ever seen, “Las’ time. But then you pulled away. So technically. Technically. By official gay chicken rules. I won.”
He grins at you, like he’s some douchebag murderer from Terezi’s shitty TV shows that just constructed the perfect alibi, and you can’t find it in you to raise an objection. You flop back against the arm of the sofa.
“Yeah, yeah. Just wait ‘til the next round. Best three outta five. Five outta eight. Whatever we’re up to,” you say, and he laughs again, leaning towards you and kneading his thighs through his doofy Ghostbusters boxers.
“Dave, uuh...oh shit.”
John Egbert then barfs all down your front.
He moans out a long, horrified apology as you hoist him up by his arms and drag him to the bathroom, resting him on his knees and pressing his head over the toilet. He mumbles apologies over and over and splutters up more vomit, and you sigh and rub circles onto his back.
“S’alright, John, just chill,” you say.
“Alcohol is bad, Dave,” he mutters, putting both his hands on the top of his head.
“You just have the liver of a little girl, dude.”
“Don’t talk like that to your – ugh, bluh - king.”
“I am the king of gay chicken, Dave,” he mutters, hacking out another glob of vomit, “It is me.”
When Bro arrives home, he takes one look at the empty bottles scattered about, the barf covering both of you, rolls his eyes and heads back out to the store to get some Ovaltine. You become grateful for that the next morning.
You spend your fifteenth birthday huddled under your blanket with an equally hung-over John, attempting to teach John to play poker, and listening to Bro rant at you about dumbass kids stealing from his liquor cabinet.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] --
TG: weve both been online together for like
TG: three hours now
TG: and you havent said hi
EB: hehe, sorry. hi dave!
TG: yeah so whats wrong
TG: cmon usually the second i come online you dogpile me with some stupid story
TG: hey dave today i pulled the fire alarm it was hilarious durrhurrhurr
EB: that WAS hilarious, thank you very much!
TG: i wonder how they knew it was me what a mystery derrrr
EB: they shouldn’t make the lever just look so
EB: obvious. and tempting.
EB: i didn’t expect to get in that much trouble.
TG: havent you seen those stupid school videos about prank alarms and fakey phonecalls tearing apart the fabric of the community dude
TG: it could have been your house
TG: it could have been your dog
TG: it could have been your unborn children
EB: pfft shut up dude.
EB: i’m sure grace and jake tyler egbert are safe out there. in the FUTURE.
TG: you have to be kidding me
TG: i pity those unborn children from the bottom of my heart dude i really do
EB: urgh whatever.
EB: i don't have the energy to argue dude.
TG: ok see now i know something is wrong
TG: you can never resist the urge for us to
TG: as lalonde so kindly puts it
TG: bicker like a pair of ninnies
TG: im not moved by your bluhs egbert
EB: nothing’s wrong!
EB: c’mon. :)
TG: oh a smiley face im really convinced over here dude
TG: thats it if i ever go on run from the law im having you construct an alibi for me
TG: clearly youre the master liar
TG: simply the best
EB: okay. don’t laugh.
TG: that depends on what you did
EB: promise you won’t laugh or i’m not telling you, jackass!
TG: okay okay fine
TG: pressing my pinkie finger to the screen as we speak
TG: this shit is an unspeakable vow its like were a pair of shitty nazi wizards or something
EB: it's an unbreakable vow, dave. and they're called death eaters.
TG: so spill
TG: i wont laugh i swear
EB: okay remember that girl i told you about, you know, my lab partner?
TG: the one you described as looking like a less pretty liv tyler yeah
EB: i did not say it like that! stop making me sound terrible.
TG: do that all on your own babe
EB: ugh okay, forget it.
TG: wait no im sorry no joking
TG: my lips are sealed until you finish this story EB: right okay.
EB: um so a while back i asked her if she wanted to go to the junior prom with me.
EB: and i think i might have said we would go as friends but also implied we would go as a date?
EB: and i also think i tried some of your moves but kept backing out at the last minute?
EB: so i don’t really know what she got from that.
EB: uh anyway.
EB: she said yes!
TG: hey good one man
TG: why didnt you just say youd scored yourself a sort of liv tyler lookalike for prom in the first place
EB: i’m not done, dave.
EB: uh, yeah, this was a few weeks ago actually!
EB: but today we had class and we were talking and then she told me about this new boyfriend she have.
EB: and uh i kind of butchered the frog we were supposed to be dissecting and asked her if she was taking him to prom.
EB: and she said yeah, and then there was this really
EB: awkward silence.
TG: how awkward we talkin here
TG: normal teenage awkward or awkward like any of ben stillers sad attempts to be taken seriously as an actor
EB: awkward like your brother and rose being in the same room.
TG: so that sounds pretty bad did she just not even think
TG: oh hey maybe it would be a good idea to let this guy know im ditching him
EB: she said she didn’t remember.
EB: i mean after a while she just went like “oh no! sorry john, but he is my boyfriend, i can’t just ditch him. i totally forgot”.
TG: she fucking forgot???
EB: thing is i’m not so sure. i tried to bring it up a couple of times beforehand and she just avoided the subject.
EB: i don’t think she wanted to go with me in the first place!
TG: why the hell not
TG: then whyd she even say yes i mean seriously what the fuck
EB: i guess she just felt sorry for me. she was probably just trying to be nice!
TG: nice my ass
TG: you could have gotten some other date who wasnt a complete lying harpy in the time it took her to be straight with you
EB: yeah, it’s kinda too late to ask anybody now.
TG: did you at least chew her out for it
EB: well no, i just said it was alright and i hoped she had a nice time.
TG: rolling my eyes hard here dude
EB: well i don’t know, it’s not she was being outright horrible about it! and she is my friend.
EB: maybe not so much after this but whatever.
TG: whatever fuck her man
TG: i mean that in the discard her like a dusty empty bottle of apple juice way btw
EB: i guess i’ll get over it. i mean i like her and everything but it’s not like she’s my trisha poe or anything.
TG: ok for once
TG: can we please have a conversation that doesnt include you comparing your life to con air
TG: is that too much to ask for
TG: i mean im all oh hey egbert so lets sit and have a half adult conversation for once and bam
TG: out come the long rambling descriptions of the way in which con air is a statement of a generation
TG: a generation youre even not involved in
EB: whatever, dave, con air is a great movie with a lot of universal themes! EB: the lessons i learned from it can be applied almost endlessly.
TG: ok whatever so this aint the girl youd get pregnant defend against muggers and then fly on a plane full of dangerous psychopaths for
TG: no big loss dude
EB: well, yeah, just i was kinda looking forward to it.
EB: now everybody knows about how she ditched me and it’s really embarrassing and bluh.
EB: if i go everyone will just laugh at me!
TG: what do you just attend sir assingtons prep school for rudeass dickshits or something
TG: if so im not sure how you passed the jerkass test to get in
EB: it’s a small school, dude, i’m pretty sure people would bring it up and it’ll be really awkward and dumb and urgh.
EB: and now i have nothing to wear my new awesome suit for!!! you better have some fancy party or something soon.
TG: god if itd make you quit your bitching egbert ill go with you
TG: blow peoples minds with our rad crosscountry bromance
EB: haha, yeah, that’d be pretty fun!
EB: won’t people think it’s weird?
TG: eh who cares man
TG: itll be something for them to talk about
TG: something other than some chick ditching you like a giant asshole that is
EB: pfft, well that’s true.
EB: sure, i’ll go and take my webcam and mic with me.
EB: just be sure to be on pesterchum when i do hehe.
EB: but it’s fine, i guess i could always just rent some movies or whatever!
EB: as long as i avoid anybody who wants to talk about it until the whole thing dies off it shouldn’t be too mortifying.
TG: i didnt know you were such a stickler to preserve your rep dude
TG: you shouldnt give a shit what those assholes think bro
EB: like you can talk!
EB: but thanks. i feel better now!
EB: you’re just staying home for your prom, right?
TG: yeah bros probably just going to force me to watch muppet treasure island again
TG: maybe ill crash it later if im bored dont know dont care
EB: too coooool to care, dave? haha!
EB: oh shit, i gotta go, my dad’s getting snippy and wants me to have my piano lesson already.
TG: alright cool
TG: catch you later egbert
-- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
You have a long night ahead of you. What stands before you is the entire series of Spy Kids, a VHS tape of Back to the Future the animated series (episodes 6 through 9), Top Gun, a pair of 3D glasses, a tub of ice cream and at least three packets of gummy worms.
Your name is John Egbert and you are fully equipped to skip prom. You push the first Spy Kids in, crack open the ice cream, and get ready to yet again enjoy Antonio Banderas’s charming and hilarious portrayal of the renegade-spy-turned-father.
“Christ, Egbert, you need to stop rescuing stuff from the bargain bin. It’s in there for a reason.”
You promptly choke on your ice cream, drop the tub on the floor and have your back slapped by a hand that isn’t even supposed to be here. You scramble to the floor and pick up the ice cream. After a moment of wondering if you were just delusional, you swallow and turn around, and see Dave sitting impassively on the arm of the sofa, as though he’s always been there, wearing a plushy red tuxedo that reminds you of the one he had in the game.
“Dave, what the hell?” you manage, “How did you get here?”
“From Texas?” you yelp. He shrugs, but there’s just the slight suggestion of a smirk.
“Egbert, I knew if I didn’t come you’d sit alone all night sobbing into a bag of candy and jerking it over Tom Cruise’s and Kelly McGillis’s tastefully done sex scene,” he says, “I said I’d take you to prom and I’m taking you to prom. Like I’m gonna let a little distance stop our insanely ironic mandate.”
You gawk at him.
He gets up and pats your shoulder, heading out the front door to his Bro’s legendary piece of shit car. He calls out to you as he opens the car door;
“So go get your suit before we’re late, asshole. I got you a boutonniere in the car.”
How the hell are you ever going to top this?
John, it turns out, is the shittiest navigator in the world, and you both turn up more-than-fashionably late, with the party already well underway and the buffet thrown open. And this is just fine with you, you’re pretty sure that only makes it even more ironic. You’re sure right now your irony echeladder is discovering new, unprecedented levels. If Bro knew what you’d borrowed his car for he’d undoubtedly be shedding a single tear of pride.
Except he’d probably find some way to twist it and be a dick, so you just told him you were going to see John and left it at that.
You knew Egbert went to some fairly fancy pants private place (his Dad doted on him with an almost ferocious relentlessness, there’s no way he’d let his little prince go to some shitty public school) but good gog.
“Jesus Egbert, it’s kind of amazing you’re actually a half decent dude, everybody here looks like a massive douche.”
John laughs and punches your arm.
“Dude, just. Don’t start any fights. I don’t need you making enemies.”
“But I’m so good at it.”
“You’re the worst date ever.”
John flits about from person to person, amiably talking to nearly everybody, but steering clear of a few key people you make a mental note to check out later. Everybody gives you a weird look, but John shrugs it off, introducing you as his friend.
“Oh? Oh, well we met online and he was coming up for the week anyway! So I just brought him along,” he explains, a surprisingly smooth liar.
“Yeah, I’m his mail-order bride. The most highly recommended and best groomed one on the site, at that. He paid top dollar for me,” you say quickly.
John rolls his eyes, and heaves a weary, half-affectionate sigh.
“He’s kidding, Miss Turnbull,” he says, and the lady shrugs it off and shoos you both away to talk to the next pair of students. John is dragging you about like an enthusiastic puppy taken out on its leash for the first time, and you get into a brief argument about having a picture taken (“Dad wants one!” “You make a face in every photo taken of you ever why would a prom photo be any better.”) before you give in to John’s impatient stare. You both make snide comments on all the shmoopy shots the couple in front of you are taking as you wait, and the cameraman obviously feels uncomfortable when it’s your turn.
In fact, a lot of people are giving you long, weird looks, and the guys especially seem to be keeping their distance. Like lingering too near two guys on a bogus date are going to make them come down with a severe case of the homos.
You would never admit it in a million years, especially not when John is oblivious and just enjoying himself, but you, Dave Strider, are starting to wane under their stares. You almost wish you had a sandwich board with NOT REALLY GAY written on it and a bell to ring. Not that the bell could possibly draw more attention than you’re already getting.
“Bluh! Dad snuck in some of his cakes,” John says, sniffing a small slice of lemon cake and looking at it as though it might be poisoned, “It’s Betty Crocker too.”
“Egbert, you have serious problems if you can tell that from the smell. Your nose must be more finely tuned to the batterwitch’s mixes than Terezi’s is to a spot of coolkid blood in a red room.”
He snorts and shoves the slice into your mouth. You catch the flash of a glance and a smirk (might have been a smile, probably a smirk, shit, you need to calm down) from a girl ladling some punch into a cup next to you.
John downs his punch and drags you away to dance to some shitty 80s tune he loves, probably ripped straight from some movie soundtrack. You’re finding it increasingly hard to make snarky comments about his terrible tastes in music.
John either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that people keep looking at you both. You suspect it might be a little of both.
A slow song starts, and before you can even try to move off the dancefloor his arms around your neck.
Goddamnit. He is too good at this fucking game.
Fine, you can play. He’s probably all talk anyway.
“Dude, if you’re challenging me to a slow dance off you’re going to fucking lose,” you say, a bit louder than you meant to.
“No way, you’ll totally wuss out before I do,” John says, grinning at you.
“Fuck you man, gay dance chicken is my major. You won’t know what hit you. You’ll be a broken man, never able to hear Whitney Houston without getting flashbacks like the world’s most grizzled Nam veteran.”
“Yeah right!” he says.
The song moves from Whitney Houston to Leann Rymes, and he grins like he’s the Cheshire Cat and you’re Alice who’s just tumbled down the rabbit-hole into shitty power ballad wonderland. He puts his head on your shoulder.
He’s starting to sing very, very quietly.
“I need to piss,” you say, pulling away from him, and he roars with laughter and pats your back, as though consoling you in your catastrophic defeat at his evil little prankster hands. It doesn’t matter what excuses you come up with, it’s written all over his face that he knows the round has went to him.
As you move away you see him go to talk to a group who were hanging by the dancefloor, and you get a few grins during your retreat.
You sulk all the way to the toilet.
Only when the fifth person kicks you up the ass by the punchbowl does he return and peel the kick me! sign off your back, giggling.
Your Prankster’s Gambit is fit to burst by the time Dave is driving you home, and you happily hang out the window singing along the radio. Dave is quiet, maybe still sulking from how much you kicked his ass both at gay chicken and your usual japery and tomfoolery.
“Get your head out the window Egbert, you’re not some mutt I picked up at the pound,” he said.
“Oh! Yeah, heheh.” You pull your head back in the car and roll up the window, smiling away at him and feeling really stupid and giddy and warm and just overall glad he’s here. There are some photos in your sylladex you’re going to show Dad the second you get home (only one of which was really sensible, but you’re sure he’ll appreciate the humour of the sillier ones too), and your best buddy of all time is here and you didn’t even have to talk to that girl tonight.
Dave, for his part though, seems tense, and your smile drops like a lead balloon when you grin at him and his lips don’t even twitch back.
“Uh, Dave, you had fun right?” you say, finally.
“With you, yeah,” he mutters, focusing on the road, even though it’s long and straight and empty, and there’s nothing he could possibly need to concentrate on you.
“Oh jeez, you didn’t get anybody being a jackass at you? I know some people there can be jerks but you’ve just gotta ignore them dude!”
“No, dude, it’s. It’s fuck it, fuck it, it’s stupid, never mind,” he says, waving a dismissive hand at you and gritting his teeth.
He doesn’t budge and tell you what’s wrong to anything reasonable, so you decide to go for an unusual tactic of persuasion.
“Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave, Dave...”
You could quite easily do this for hours. Eventually he sighs, and gives in.
“Dude, everyone thought we were gay. Like seriously no jokes probably-got-a-house-in-San-Fransisco homo,” he says finally, glancing over at you. You stare at him.
“So?” he repeats incredulously, and you try not to smile at the way his accent suddenly get stronger, “That means they’ll think you’re gay dude, I mean maybe for the rest of high school! And they definitely think I’m some flamin’ Brokeback Mountain twangy Southern tool.”
He looks at you as though you’re stupid.
“Dude, I don’t care if they think something stupid like that! You’re my best friend. That’s what I’ll tell them if anybody’s nosy enough to ask, and if they don’t believe that, that’s their problem,” you say, and shrug. It seems simply enough to you. It shouldn’t really surprise you that Dave cares. He always says he doesn’t give a shit about anything, or what anybody thinks of him, but he’s always tried so hard to be cool.
You guess that says a lot on its own.
“Heh, guess it makes you look pretty good Egbert, scoring yourself a hot exotic boyfriend,” he says, smirking. You laugh and roll your eyes.
“Pfft, exotic? Give me a break.”
“Sure, the charming guy who keeps saying rude, weird things to everybody and getting pranked all night,” you say, laughing, and after a pause and a look at the expression on his face, add in a kinder voice, “Most of my friends said they liked you dude.”
“Sure, whatever,” he mutters under his breath, but he’s relaxed a little, so you’re sure that somewhere in there you’ve said the right thing. You laugh.
“Hey, can we watch Top Gun when we get home? I haven’t seen that in years!” you ask, grinning.
“Seriously dude, Top Gun? Bro, it’d be less gay if we fucked.”
You pap him lightly across the shoulder.
“I was mostly asking to be polite. We’re watching it whatever you say.”
He rolls his eyes behind his shades, and smiles. It’s really quick, but it’s real and genuine and whenever he does it it’s always the best thing you’ve seen all day.
“Guess I got no choice then.”
GG: hehehehehehehehehehehehehe!!!! :P
GG: hehehe! :D hi dave!!!!!! is this you??
-- gardenGnostic [GG] sent turntechGodhead [TG] PROM001.jpeg --
TG: oh goddamnit
TG: is egbert making slideshows and showing these photos like an old lady who just came back from a safari in africa
TG: here is me with the monkeys
TG: here is me and bert with the rhinos
TG: here is me at the resort
TG: here is me and bert at the resort with some fucking italian couple
TG: you better be paying attention theres gonna be an exam after the powerpoint is done
GG: haha aww, its okay dave!!!!
GG: i think its really cute!! <3 and he only showed me these when i asked
TG: well as long as hes not toting them about or making them his screensaver or whatever
GG: heheh :P boys are
GG: i just thought it was soooo sweeeeeet i had to take the time to tell you!!! <3
TG: im honoured you took time out of your busy schedule of being a tiny rifle toting indiana jones to tell me what a sweetheart i am harley
TG: though really you should be praising the unspeakable levels of irony i achieved with this little trip
GG: uh ok, whatever coolkid :P
GG: i just think you two are a cute couple, thats all!! :D
TG: woah woah woah
TG: woah woah back up
GG: uuuh? :\
TG: harley i know you been out in the himalayas or whatever a long time
TG: rolling through mountain temples
TG: grabbing golden monkeys from stands
TG: training with kung fu monks or whatever it is youre doing
GG: ive only done the last one
TG: ok whatever
TG: point is i get you been out of range for a bit
TG: but i havent magically transformed into feather boa wearing nancy boy in your absence
GG: i didnt say you had!! >:o
TG: well you think ive been making kissy faces with egbert
GG: havent you?? :\
TG: no i havent
GG: :\ hmm
GG: your honour!!!!
GG: i would like to submit this to the court record!!!
-- gardenGnostic [GG] sent turntechGodhead [TG] PROM004.jpeg --
TG: that doesnt count we were just joking around
TG: there was this couple in front of us taking forever taking stupid schmoopy photos and we were just makin fun of them
TG: come on jade havent you got to grips with irony yet
TG: do we need another explanation
GG: sorry dave, but i cant take another irony lecture :P
GG: i swear the explanation changes every time you give it anyway
TG: motherfucking blasphemy jade
TG: dont speak such heresy in my presence again
TG: and does this really look like a fucking romantic photo???
-- turntechGodhead [TG] sent gardenGnostic [GG] PROM003.jpeg --
TG: take that
TG: fucking cram that evidence into your pipe and smoke it wright
GG: okay admittedly not but still!!! :P
TG: i cant believe he snuck that fucking lizard in his sylladex
TG: i mean its like oh hey sup egbert
TG: oh man good to see you bro lookin forward to us hangin out and being totally sweet since i havent seen you in like
TG: AUTO CASEY
TG: outta fucking nowhere
TG: big slimy salamander spit bubbles in my face
GG: hehehehehehe awww!!
GG: and this is really interesting!
TG: harley what you consider interesting is what i usually consider fucking opaque and indecipherable sciencey shit
GG: only science now
GG: but anyway blowing bubbles at each other is how they show affection!!
GG: i found a little tribe of salamanders once and they started doing that after id been there a few weeks :O
TG: wait since when did earth have little tribes of fucking three foot tall talking yellow lizards
GG: you mean thats new???
GG: i made a discovery, dave!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D :D :D
TG: oh my god
TG: you know what forget it
TG: im not so sure i want to know what weve done to the fabric of reality okay
GG: im still hoping to run into some crocs!!
TG: your insane girl bear grylls adventures aside for a second
TG: and make sure you get this down in the court record harley
GG: my typewriters at the ready, your honour!! O:
TG: let it be known that you can take down that little panel of me and egbert swapping spit from your shipping chart
GG: i don’t have a dumb shipping chart!!! im not karkat, fuckass
TG: i rue the day vantas taught you that word
GG: but alright dave, sorry!! guess i still have some people stuff to learn huh :P
TG: so much people stuff jade
TG: but hey thats what were here for
TG: to make you a half civilised human being
Your name is John Egbert and this is the first real date you’ve had. Or at least ever since you held Vriska Serket’s hand through the universe-shattered Scratch that tore you both apart for good.
The girl in front of you is pretty. Not Liv Tyler pretty, or even grown-up pretty, but high school pretty, with blonde hair, pink lips and a petite body. She wears tattered jeans and a t-shirt, even on a date, and rolls her eyes a lot, and maybe talks a little more loudly than she should, or gestures a bit more than she really needs to.
She was somebody you met in the school anime club. You only joined on a whim, really, something to fill up a few lunches. You own a few mangas, mostly stuff Jade has given you over the years, mixed in with a handful of horribly obscene ones Dave bought you to freak you out. One lives at the back of your freezer beneath old, freezer-burn-riddled tubs of ice cream, never to be removed again.
She cornered you one day when you were helping put away the chairs after your latest screening, asking about the weird guy you knew who wore dumb pointy shades as well, and from there she’d more or less decided you were going on a date.
She can be more than a little bossy.
If you could bottle and sell nervousness, you’re pretty sure you’d be a millionaire right now.
Dave coached you patiently all last night on Pesterchum, giving you some advice, some “moves”, and hey, maybe you could kiss her later? You think that could be nice.
Suddenly nothing you’ve ever learned seems applicable. In fact you’re suddenly very sure you don’t know anything. At all. Ever.
You almost drop the bowling ball when it’s your turn, you grin at her, and she looked unimpressed, bored even. Your COURTSHIP GAUGE is plummeting at a dangerous rate.
“Uh, have you ever seen Con Air?”
Your Courtship Gauge drops by an inch and you almost want to shake your fist at it – Con Air is a perfectly acceptable topic of conversation! Stupid judgemental Courtship Gauge.
She sits up and looks at you, “Is that the dumb plane movie you were talking about a few weeks back?”
“Yeah! I mean, yeah,” you say, “You kind of look like Monica Potter in it with your hair like that!”
“Who’s that?” she asks, clearly lost, and you turn to her and...you can’t help it, a lack of movie knowledge is the one thing that makes your face look as full as disdain as Rose does when she sees somebody in a gaudy outfit.
“She played Nic Cage’s loving wife, Tricia Poe. She’s been in some other stuff like...uuuum, she was in Saw! I think she played a loving wife in that too.”
Her face lights up like she’s a little kid on Christmas morning, and you feel yourself being slightly elevated from the position of Maladroit Klutsuitor, if only by a fraction.
“You like the Saw movies?” she says, grinning, and it’s all teeth.
“Uuh, well maybe not so much like them, I mean I’ve seen them, I’ve seen everything. My friend’s brother loves them, he has the puppet from it –“
“Jigsaw,” she corrects automatically, frowning. You clear your throat.
“Haha, oh wow, are you...into puppets? He is, that was the guy with the pointy shades, he’s like my best friend’s older brother. My friend’s always complaining about his weird buttpuppets –“
“Buttpuppets?” she repeats slowly, tilting her head as if she’s not sure she heard right.
“Oh! Yeah, he runs this site. It’s like...a puppet porn website? Haha, isn’t that crazy? Dave, my friend, is always getting caught on film if he ends up slashing some puppets up or putting one through the blender or something, and he makes, like, weird plays up with them or something...“
Your Courtship Gauge plummets at record pace, going straight from Maladroit Klutsuitor to Why The FUCK Are You Talking About Puppets.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] --
EB: i hate dating!!!!!
TG: your mom and i have been worried sick abou
TG: back up bro deep breaths
TG: inhale exhale inhale exhale
TG: whats the matter
TG: im guessing your date with the yaoithumping hambeast didnt go so great
EB: dave, she isn’t a yaoi-thumping hambeast. if anybody is a yaoi-thumping hambeast it’s me.
TG: you dont know what that means do you
EB: no, but i feel like one right now!!!!
TG: lets go back to inhale exhale
TG: inhale exhale
TG: in out
TG: deep soothing breaths imagine the ocean listen to those soothing ocean sounds
TG: or will the sound of the wind calm you down more i dont know
TG: uh egbert you there
EB: yeah, sorry. liv came over to see what was wrong.
TG: youre cuddling the goddamn bunny right now arent you
TG: john seriously
EB: i’m in emotional distress!
TG: alright run me through it
TG: trust me when you tell me itll turn from something terrible to an amusing anecdote
TG: youll be telling it at cocktail parties in years to come
TG: tell dave what the hambeast did
EB: pfft, why do you keep ragging on her, you’ve never even met her!
TG: just dont like her
EB: you’ve never met her.
TG: still dont like her
TG: if its a girl youre interested in im bound not to like her
EB: thanks so much, dave.
TG: hey you aint got the best track record
TG: as far as i see it just saves me time not to give any girl you like the benefit of the doubt and immediately presume shes a harpy out to grind your poor sweet heart into the dust
TG: i should start scoping all chicks who come within 30 metres of you for crazybitchitis ahead of time
EB: that’s so dumb i don’t even know what to say to it.
EB: it was my fault it went so wrong anyway.
EB: i just got so nervous!!
TG: you dork
TG: so what the hell did you say
EB: i started talking about your brother’s puppets.
TG: how the hell did you even get to that
TG: how is that a topic that even comes up
TG: did you just go oh yo my best bros big bro runs a puppet porn website
TG: goddamnit egbert
EB: i don’t know, it felt like work.
EB: like i was trying to force her like me.
TG: i mean
TG: thats how it works isnt it
EB: uh, i guess?
EB: i just thought it’d be, you know, fun.
EB: i mean we went bowling! bowling’s fun!
EB: there’s arcade games and hot dogs and slushies, how can it not be fun?
TG: please dont tell me you tried to show her your slick ddr moves or something
EB: no, uh, after i babbled about puppet porn we didn’t have
EB: much to talk about.
EB: and it was hard to really get her into doing anything, and she’s pretty resistant to doing stuff to begin with.
EB: there were a lot of random silences.
TG: so whats your reputation at school now
TG: the gay guy who likes puppet porn
EB: ...you don’t think that’s what they think, do you? i hope not!
TG: like you said
TG: does it really matter
EB: hehe, well no, but you know, it’d be better if that’s not what i go down in the yearbook as.
TG: john egbert
TG: most likely to have homosexual relations with jim henson
EB: but anyway uuh...i walked her home anyway, even if we were kinda quiet and it seemed like she just wanted the date to be over already.
EB: well i tried to kiss her on the doorstep! that's like, the done romantic thing to do at the end of a date, right?
EB: she tried to shake my hand.
EB: i bashed her in the face with my monster teeth.
TG: im really
TG: really trying not to laugh at that
TG: but i dont think even dave strider has the willpower bro please forgive me
EB: oh shut up!
EB: urgh bluh uuurgh.
TG: well that was coherent
TG: its alright bro even the most suave motherfucker screws up sometimes
TG: not every date can be some kind of matthew mccougheny dream
EB: and yeah, i guess. i just feel really dumb now. i was kind of excited!
EB: you know, it’s not like i get asked out often, or at all, so, y’know.
TG: hey cool it egbert im sure girls will be clamouring for your attention outside of high school
TG: youre only like some fucking ridiculously forgiving nice guy why wouldnt they
TG: i mean nice guy as in an actual nice guy not these whiny tools with constant shrivelled unused boners
EB: easy for you to say, cool guy!
EB: don’t you wake up covered in bitches or whatever?
TG: you cant pull off the word bitches
EB: yeah i know.
TG: and yeah of course
TG: but thats just natural strider charm
TG: theres no mimicking it trust me people have tried
TG: and bros been trying to work out the formula for years so he can give it out to the needy and tragically swagless
EB: so no disaster dates for you, huh?
EB: you’ve had dates, right?
TG: what yeah
TG: of fucking course
EB: just. expressing my disbelief with punctuation.
TG: oh goddamnit egbert
EB: come on! look at the story i just told you!
EB: i’m not gonna laugh at you if you’ve never been on a date.
EB: daaave come on! tell me!
TG: ok fine ive been depriving the female world of this fine slab of manmeat
EB: so have any girls asked you out?
TG: ehh its not like im giving out the dateable vibe
EB: pfft what?
TG: well youre giving that out that whole pleading puppy please take me home thing
TG: im too stoic for that shit
TG: so yeah no dates for dave strider
TG: unless frog hunting with jade counts
EB: it might? i dunno!
EB: dating is hard!
EB: it’s hard and nobody understands, dave.
TG: its not that hard jesus
TG: and you dont understand anything
EB: i understand you.
TG: gay EB: i just mean i see through your dumb coolkid bullshitting! haha come on.
EB: i don’t get why you even do that with me!
TG: habit of a lifetime bro
EB: but yeah, i guess i’m not dating for a while too!
TG: hey bachelorhood is a sweet deal anyway bro
TG: bros before hos and all that cheesy ass dudebro shit
EB: hehehe, yeah! you should just move here and it can just be us goofing off forever instead of scary dates.
TG: only you would call a date scary
EB: aaaand...not dating...
EB: does decide one thing for me anyway.
TG: fun fact
TG: i get this horrible ominous feeling every time you break out the giggles and parentheses
TG: thats just mean dude
TG: i guess you feel better at least
EB: hehe. anyway, i’ll talk to you later dave!
EB: i gotta go give casey a bath.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB] --
-- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
TG: that better not be eight as im counting
TG: i thought we managed to train you out of that habit
EB: what are you taaaaaaaalking about? ::::)
TG: ok please dont do that
TG: im asking as your friend
TG: please never make the spiderface again
EB: pfft, ok, ok, sorry.
EB: i wanted to talk to you about something kinda serious right now anyway!
TG: sure shoot
EB: um! well, after we graduate, you want to go to college, right?
TG: guess so
TG: mean i could always just go spin out my sweet jams rack up some gigs at clubs bro has played
TG: but i dunno the prospects becoming less and less attractive lately
EB: heh...don’t wanna just follow in your bro’s footsteps, right?
TG: guess you could put it that way
EB: well, i can get that!
EB: i DEFINITELY don’t want to inherit the batterwitch’s empire!!!
EB: no fucking way.
EB: and building nanna’s joke shop back up doesn’t sound great either. so college it is!
TG: so what is this your own mini version of a career day
TG: are you gonna sit me down and talk to me about my future sir
TG: set me up with a local grocery store to do some part time work
EB: no, bluh, shut up.
EB: i wanted to ask WHERE you want to go.
EB: actually no, that’s not it.
EB: it’s not i wanted to ask you where you wanted to go.
EB: it’s that i wanted to ask if you if where you were going and if where i was going would be the same thing.
EB: or if you’d like the answers to those questions to be the same?
EB: want to go to the same college as me, dummy!!!
EB: we could be roomies!
TG: woah you serious
TG: because thats a big commitment there egbert asking if we can live together
TG: are we ready for that step in our relationship??
TG: youll be asking if we can adopt filipino children together next
EB: pfft, yes dave, i’m trying to lure you into my mantrap.
EB: i just want somebody to do my taxes and raise a family of adopted babies with me, muahaha.
TG: dont think you can pull a fast one on me egbert im savvy to your evil ploys
EB: okay, okay!
EB: now come on, dude, i really am asking!
EB: we can apply to the same college together, but we’d both have to work really hard to make sure we both get in.
TG: guess i wasnt really savouring the idea of having to share some shitty dorm with some losers
EB: you can just share a shitty apartment with this loser instead!
TG: youre not a loser
TG: hm well i dunno i might have to think about that one
TG: youre still better company than most anyway
EB: so is that a maybe?
TG: thats a yes
EB: :D! TG: yeah yeah
TG: try to contain yourself
EB: what, i am containing myself.
EB: i am a containment centre, dave.
EB: i am where they’re rushing e.t. and elliott when they both started getting ill and dying, dave.
TG: oh my god
TG: the shitty movie references are unending egbert for for fucks sake
EB: hey, you’re the one who had to “go to the bathroom” when e.t. was about to get into the ship!
TG: what would you prefer i pissed myself on your couch
EB: pfft hehehe.
TG: shut it egbert nobody cares about your crappy movies alright
EB: hey, have you checked the mail yet?
TG: no why have you sent me something
EB: yeah! go get it!
TG: ok lemme just say though
TG: if its any of the following items
TG: itching powder
TG: piss in an apple juice bottle
TG: a copy of con air
TG: any form of puppet
TG: or one of those stupid fucking fake butterfly things that fly out of the envelope like a fluttery ass bat out of hell when i open it
TG: i will drive down there and punch you in the face
EB: haha, oh please, dave, i never do the same trick twice.
EB: now go get it!!
TG: alright alright brb
-- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum! --
EB: uh dave?
TG: egbert you said there wasnt one of those fucking flying things in there
EB: it was a bird, not a butterfly!
EB: it’s orange! it kind of reminded me of davesprite.
TG: well thats great john
TG: bro started attacking it and smuppets were caught in the crossfire
TG: a million plush rumps died today thanks to your dumbass prank thanks a lot egbert
TG: actually yeah
EB: pfft, he just saw something bright flying around and his first thought was...
EB: better start swinging a sword at this.
TG: and trying to catch it
EB: is living with your bro sorta like having a really big cat?
TG: minus the fluffy affectionate side and plus obscene phallic stuffed animals yes
EB: so what about the actual present??? :D come on!
TG: well wtf john
TG: where did you even get the money from?
TG: actually why did you get it anyway?
EB: duh, dave, can you not figure it out?
EB: senior prom’s coming up.
TG: wait what
TG: stop duhing at me
EB: but this time, you’ll arrive a few days before the actual prom.
EB: mostly so you don’t have a chance to be a smartass and make me jump out of my skin again.
TG: egbert have you ever considered i might have plans
TG: my schedule is pretty tightly fucking packed you know jesus
EB: ...so are you coming out or what?
EB: coming. are you coming or what?
TG: yes but im just saying give a guy some fucking notice
EB: okay dave, see you soon! :D
-- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
TG: clever little shit
“Well that went better than expected.”
John is still giggling as he shuts the door behind you both, ssshing you between bursts of laughter. You roll your eyes and pick a stray piece of confetti from his hair. John thought it would just be hilarious to booby-trap the entire prom, but spent most of the night stumbling from confetti bomb to smoke pellet to whoopee cushion, as if he was intent on setting off all his traps just in case . There was something from the way the chaperones looked at him that told you plain as day they knew exactly who was to blame for all the pranks.
It was only after, between you both huddling in the corner having an exchange that basically boiled down to them going “You do it!” “No you do it!” and the glimpse of a bottle of vodka being passed back and forth between them (you would swear on your deathbed that Bro snuck it into your sylladex), were you both given the evil eye and discretely asked to leave.
This time, the prom photos mostly consisted of you two at Pizza Hut, any photos of you being furiously threatening John that if he breaks your camera you’ll break his legs, and then, later, both of you goofing about on the walk home.
“I told you it’d be fun, I had to prank my way out of high school, I just had to Dave,” he says as you both try to creep up the stairs and into John’s room. His hands are on your back, his head on your shoulder, and you’re gripping the banister to stay steady on your feet.
“You mostly just pranked me and yourself, dumbass,” you mutter, and he snorts and punches your arm, dragging you further up the stairs. You’re both, having failed to spike the punch, you’d both spiked your own Cokes.
Which wasn’t particularly prankster-ly. Or ironic, for that matter.
If you’re honest with yourself, it was mostly stupid.
You decide that if you and Egbert ever write a joint autobiography or something for some unspeakably dumb reason, “Mostly Stupid” should be the title.
“It was awesome, Dave,” he mumbles as you dump yourself onto John’s bed, thoroughly excited. It was only after you’d both reached the car that either of you belatedly came to the realisation it wouldn’t be a good idea to drive. You’d had to ditch your poor, crappy car in the city centre. You hoped to fucking God, who was quite likely the boy attempting to struggle out of his jacket three feet away, it’d be there in the morning. Bro would gut you and slice you up like he’s a Japanese sushi chef and you’re some unsuspecting eel.
John ditches his shoes and jacket, dumping himself on the bed next to you. You see his hand go up to try and loosen his tie before he remembers it’s a clip-on, and you snort at him.
“I can count all the people you pranked that weren’t me or yourself on one hand, dude,” you say, lifting up a hand and are about to reel them off when he slaps your wrist, “You suck at being a prankster.”
“You suck at being cool.”
“Sick burns, Egbert,” you respond drily, sitting up and looking over at the small, shitty TV in John’s room, leaning against him, “So what you forcing me to watch this time? I’ll take anything that isn’t fucking Mac and Me.”
“Heheh, Dave...uuuh. Before we throw on some movie and totally ruin your side of the night, uh, thanks. Tonight was awesome. And I don’t think it’d have been awesome if I’d been through it with anybody but you so. Yeah. Y’know!”
You clear your throat and refuse to let yourself look at him. Finally you manage to grunt out something that sounds like;
“Yeah. Well. You too.”
Something blocks your view and hits your forehead hard and you recoil.
“Fuck,” John swears and rubs his head.
You look at the red mark on John’s forehead.
“What the hell were you just trying to do?”
“Kiss you,” he replies, suddenly looking a little sheepish, but still managing to pop straight through your personal bubble right into No Man’s Land. And you mean that literally. Emphasis on the “man”.
“Really, dude? Because it feels like you were some pissed off bovine at a bullfight.”
“You’re the rude one that didn’t kiss me at the door. Bad Dave, worst gentleman.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake.”
You don’t know what the hell short-circuits your common sense for what feels like the millionth time that night, maybe it’s the coke-vodka-limeade you had, or the suspiciously stale breadsticks, hell, it may well have been the sad, humiliated look John gave you, like he was the world’s tiniest kitten and you were the asshole that just took its favourite toy from it, but you find yourself grabbing his face and pulling him into a proper kiss.
Oh well that’s
John pulls away first but you dive-bomb him, because what the hell was that, that wasn’t a feeling you were supposed to have felt having sloppy gay chicken kisses with your best bro.
Only that wasn’t so sloppy.
He grins at you. There are suddenly only three thoughts in your mind.
1. Why the fuck did you eat so much garlic bread, what the hell’s wrong with you.
2. What the fuck why is this great what the fuck oh my god oh god you’ve went insane it has never been like this it’s always been kind of fun or funny but that was like you were both trying for real and then oh my god fuck fuck what the fuck
3. Kiss him again, dumbass. And one of you seriously needs to take off your glasses, because the bridges of your eyewear are getting more action than you two right now.
You whip off your shades, and you see John opening his mouth, possibly to make some snarky quip about what a rare event this is, and dive in again to cover his mouth in your gross garlicy one, and somehow, in between everything else and all the crap that means it shouldn’t, it comes together to be something amazing.
The next time you part, neither of you say anything. John’s head is on the pillow now, and you’re barely an inch away from his face.
He smiles at you, and it’s not his usual, big dopey grin, it’s almost shy. And if there is anything John Egbert is not, it’s shy.
A totally new feeling you don’t even have a name for rolls around in the pit of your stomach.
He tugs you closer by your tie.
A much more familiar sensation follows it.
John licks his lips.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering gallowsCalibrator [GC] --
TG: sup tz
TG: whats goin down with me you ask
TG: oh nothing much
TG: just you know
TG: falling into a big spiralling hole of my own stupidity
TG: descending like some dumb little shit who fell into a well
TG: better hope some yappy collie comes to save me
TG: bark bark
TG: whats that lassie
TG: little davey strider fell down the well
TG: oh welp thats probably his own fault
TG: i mean he dug and built that fucking thing
TG: he should have put a bucket in there if he wanted in and out
TG: yeah yeah disgusting i know
TG: if youre imagining me tucked into a little pail get that image out of your head tz
TG: disgusting can you feel me judging you
TG: my bucket overflows at the minute anyway
TG: fucking kicked it over and spilled sloshy white genetic material all over the fucking floor
TG: gonna get on my knees like cinderella before the ball and scrub that shit
TG: scrubbing and rubbing like im max fucking ernst
TG: in fact i am goddamn max ernst
GC: UUUH >:?
GC: YOUR USU4LLY D3L1C1OUS CH3RRY T3XT T4ST3S 4S P41NFULLY SOUR 4S K4RK4T ON ST P3R1GR33S 3V3
TG: sorry are you puckering like i just shoved a lemon up your nose or something now
TG: just kind of having a crisis
TG: no need to worry
TG: im handling it like a champ
TG: because who gives a fuck right
TG: shits as chill as a cherry popsicle
TG: you like those right
TG: lets forget all that other shit i said and talk about cherry popsicles
TG: i am immediately regretting everything ive said or done tonight
GC: H3H3H3H3 >:] NOW TH1S SM3LLS MOUTH-W4T3R1NGLY JU1CY
GC: 1 S1MPLY C4N’T R3S1ST SUCH T4STY GR4P3 GOSS1P
GC: WH4T D1D YOU JUST DOOOOOOOO?
TG: im losing control of my life terezi
TG: im losing control
TG: of my
TG: oh shit hes waking up
-- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chump! --
GC: 1 TH1NK? >:?
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] --
EB: hi dave, you there?
TG: uh yeah im here
TG: been a while since we chatted huh egbert
EB: yeah. not since you went home.
TG: you been busy dude
EB: oh! yeah, i guess.
EB: you know. getting ready for college.
EB: and stuff.
TG: yeah college stuff all up in this bitch
TG: up to my eyeballs in college stuff
EB: haha, yeah.
TG: bros been on my case since i got back too
EB: dad’s been too. i mean, he’s been wondering if anything’s wrong.
TG: is anything
EB: uuh i mean, it’s been a little, y’know.
TG: ok john stop going uuuh
TG: typing out those uuuhs are only adding to the awkward
TG: ums count too
-- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
EB: erm, rose, can i get your advice?
EB: or just talk to you about something?
EB: it’s kind of personal.
TT: John, you should know by now my door is always open.
TT: In fact you should know, if it isn’t used I’ll leave my office and hunt you down, so strong is my urge to meddle.
TT: It’s the curse of my profession, I’m afraid, ensnaring my poor hapless friends in my therapeutic tentacles.
TT: Is this something to do with Dave?
EB: how did you guess?
TT: Well, quite simply, I knew recently he swooped down from Texas to take you to prom.
TT: As you had no mentioned girl troubles or other pre-existing problems before he arrived, it makes sense if something happened it was to do with him.
EB: haha, you need to stop being so smart sometimes, rose!
EB: i feel like i can’t even surprise you.
EB: your response to this story will just be like “yes john, i know, blahblahblah freud”.
TT: Would you like me to theatrically gasp in the appropriate places?
EB: if you wouldn’t mind.
TT: Consider me your willing and perfectly responsive audience.
EB: oh gosh, uuuh.
EB: has dave said anything???
TT: Unusually, no. He’s been rather quiet lately.
TT: This isn’t unusual when he’s staying at yours, John. I presume because you two are doing bro-things a simple girl like myself isn’t privy to.
EB: well yeah, but uh, we’ve not said much for the past day or so.
EB: something kinda happened when we got back from prom.
TT: Didn’t you get kicked out?
TT: Oh honestly.
EB: look, it was totally worth it, and we had fun anyway!
TT: I’m sure you did.
TT: Until aforementioned event, I presume?
EB: we didn’t have a fight or anything!
EB: rose, are you a virgin?
TT: Good God John where on Earth did that come from?
EB: oh god i’m sorry!!! i knew i shouldn’t have asked!!!
EB: that was so improper of me, sorry rose.
EB: it really wasn’t gentlemanly, oh man, forget i said anything.
EB: i can’t believe i just said something like that to a girl.
TT: John, calm down.
TT: If I wasn’t used to your occasional slips in tact, would I still be your friend?
TT: And for your information, yes, I am.
TT: I presume the problem alludes to sex, in that case?
TT: A problem which refers to sex and my dear brother. I wonder what this could be.
EB: oh god, wait.
EB: wait no.
EB: why is there no undo button on pesterchum??
TT: What’s the matter, John?
EB: it’s not that!!!
EB: i know what you’re thinking, but no, rose, jeez, no!
EB: we didn’t do that!!!!!!!!
EB: um if what you’re thinking of is what i think you’re thinking of.
EB: i mean.
TT: John, now I’m not sure what you’re talking about.
EB: err. well.
TT: John, know I would really like to help you, and that I won’t judge you for anything you may have done or may be feeling at the moment.
TT: However, if you choose to speak exclusively in non-fluency features, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do.
TT: Like those.
EB: sorry rose, i guess this is kinda hard to talk about.
EB: it’s super embarrassing.
TT: Oh, now you simply have to tell me. John, you’re tormenting me with my own insufferable nosiness.
TT: It’s well-established that my inability to leave a matter well-alone is my tragic flaw, John.
EB: okay i have something to confess.
EB: but please don’t laugh!
TT: I promise you I won’t laugh.
EB: err, sometimes when me and dave visit each other
EB: we kinda, like
EB: sometimes kiss and cuddle a bit and stuff.
TT: I see.
EB: are you laughing?
TT: No. I’ve had some small suspicions on the matter for a while.
EB: do you think i’m weird now?
TT: John, I’ve always thought you were somewhat of a weird guy.
TT: All the same, rest assured I think no less of you or Strider for this.
EB: and i’m not homosexual!
TT: I didn’t say you were.
EB: but you think i am now, right?
TT: It would be be foolish of me to make radical presumptions about your personal identity based on a few behaviours.
TT: That’s only something you can determine. I have no right to do anything of the sort.
TT: More importantly, it would make me a very bad friend if I went around presuming you were something you say you are not, wouldn’t it?
EB: thank you, rose. :)
EB: i mean it’s just kind of a joke.
EB: well. i mean, it started as one i guess.
TT: And now?
EB: now i’m not so sure what it is.
EB: we kinda went a bit further than usual.
EB: but it wasn’t like! anything like that!!!
TT: Would you mind telling me what you did, John?
TT: I’ll take those few minutes of awkward silence as a resounding “no”.
TT: Let’s tackle it from a different angle.
TT: How was it?
EB: well i dunno! it was kinda sudden and we didn’t know what we were doing and it didn’t last very long!
TT: Oh god, John, do you know what you’re doing to me?
TT: It will take me every spare ounce of self-control I have not to tease Strider relentlessly for what you just said.
EB: oh jeez, i don’t know! we were both a little bit drunk and we’d just been kissing a bit.
TT: Presumably there was something different if your usual activities so suddenly lead to something new?
TT: It sounds like there were some emotional changes that are bothering you as well.
EB: well, i guess.
EB: i dunno.
EB: i guess we were more into it or something?
EB: the kissing bit, i mean.
EB: neither of us were making stupid jokes or anything.
EB: it was good. really good.
TT: I see, and then what happened?
EB: rose, i feel like i should really, really clear something up here.
TT: Alright, John. Go ahead.
EB: neither of us were naked, okay!
EB: we both still had our clothes on, well uh, dave had his shirt and boxers and socks on but that’s close enough.
EB: so it’s probably a lot less weird than you think!!!
TT: John, I’ve already said I didn’t think it was “weird”.
TT: Though the fact you chose to blurt out that you were clothed slightly was.
EB: i wish i could stop saying things sometimes.
EB: it was kinda like. it wasn’t bad! i mean it felt good.
EB: but it’s just
EB: i think i liked the bits before where we were kissing, and the bits after where we were hugging more.
EB: ...though after a few minutes of the hugging bit i think we both started freaking out over what we just did.
TT: So this is when you both leapt out of bed and started making excuses to go to the bathroom or wash your hair or something of the sort?
EB: um. well, i got kinda scared.
TT: Scared? What do you mean?
EB: like i thought if we got up then it’d be really awkward.
EB: or dave would get angry or upset or something, and then i started panicking because what if i’d ruined our friendship or something??
EB: so i just. pretended to fall asleep.
TT: If I may ask, how the fuck would that help?
EB: i don’t know! it was just better than having to talk about it!
EB: and dave let me lie on him and i think he got his iphone out and started messing about on that.
EB: rose, what if he hates me for this?
TT: I highly doubt it’s even possible for Dave to hate you, John.
TT: John, it will be alright. So let me see if I understand the situation.
TT: You and Strider have been experimenting with each other on occasion, and under the influence of alcohol and awkward affection, you engaged in a brief session of frottage that has resulted in you feeling uncomfortable and confused, and left Strider, presumably, in much the same position.
TT: Now you’re not sure about your own feelings and frightened in case it jeopardises the close bond of friendship you two share.
TT: Considering that you both identify as heterosexual males, this is understandable.
EB: isn’t that something to do with painting?
TT: Oh, John.
TT: I love you dearly but you’re pushing me dangerously close to alcoholism at the moment.
EB: oh jeez, sorry!
EB: i should learn to wikipedia before i talk.
TT: A great pearl of wisdom, John.
EB: honestly rose, how do you even know this junk? and WHY?
TT: That is, as you say, none of your business.
TT: A writer occasionally has to research obscure or odd topics to best support her craft.
TT: John, if you do not shut up this instant, I swear I will begin tormenting Strider on this topic this second.
EB: uh, okay, sorry.
EB: that was me zipping my mouth shut, by the way.
TT: Heh, I gathered as much.
EB: i’m still a virgin, right?
EB: i mean like.
EB: we uh, finished but
EB: there were no butts or uh even, y’know.
TT: “There were no butts.”
TT: John I’m afraid I don’t understand that even means.
EB: oh god my face is so red.
EB: we didn’t use our butts! or, you know, other bits.
TT: I’m reaching for the key to my mother’s extensive liquor cabinet as we speak, John.
TT: Are you attempting to say you didn’t engage in anal or oral sex, or stimulate each other by hand?
EB: oh god.
EB: yeah, i guess that’s what i’m trying to say.
EB: it makes it sound like a police or doctor report when you say it like that...
TT: Apologies, I suppose my style of speaking can be a little clinical at times.
EB: no kidding!
EB: so does it count or not?? because i am kind of freaking out here!
TT: Unfortunately I can’t really answer that for you.
TT: Virginity is actually a fairly nebulous concept that’s hard to define, especially in this day and age.
TT: People have different views on what does or doesn’t count as losing it.
EB: um, so?
TT: So I don’t know, John.
EB: uh oh.
TT: As much as it always pains me to admit such a thing.
TT: It’s something very personal, so mostly I’d advise you to decide that for yourself.
EB: aren’t there rules for this sorta thing?
EB: or guidelines or something?
TT: You would think so.
TT: It would save many a lot of heartache if there was.
TG: wow ive never had less words to say
EB: oh jeez, dave.
EB: i’m so sorry!!!
EB: i’m being so awkward.
EB: oh man. i mean. after the thing the other week, we’re still friends, right?
TG: woah back up there bucko
TG: seriously john
TG: i dont ever wanna hear you ask that question again
TG: on the list of things i can deal with
TG: not being friends with you is in the bottom three
TG: right below playing that fucking game again and right above you going six feet under
EB: so, we’re still friends?
TG: if you wanna be
EB: oh man, of course!! i can’t believe you even had to ask that!!
TG: welp look at that my shoulders suddenly feel a little bit lighter
TG: wonder what thats about
EB: haha. :)
EB: and you know, my college application is already out there.
EB: but i can totally understand if you know, you don’t want to do that anymore.
EB: though i still want to! so if you still do
EB: well, you know.
TG: you kidding me egbert
TG: no way youre getting out of this
TG: youve signed up as my housekeeper already
TG: and what if i get roomed up with somebody who wont put up with me
TG: and trust me bro there are a lot of people who wont
EB: haha, guess that’s true! you are kind of a handful.
TG: oh like people wouldnt be sick of your pranky bullshit and the armageddon soundtrack on loop after a few days
TG: and god forbid if anybody you live with buys betty crocker
EB: pfft, haha, oh man, good point!
EB: guess it’s for the best if we just get put in our own little corner then!
TG: ill be looking forward to it
Your new apartment is a tiny flat on the very highest floor. You both agree this is perfect. You’ve always had an affinity for heights since that one special birthday spent soaring through the air (something you miss, just a little, when you sit on the roof with Dave and stare out at the sky), and Dave grew up leaping across the roofs of Houston. There are two tiny bedrooms, a small bathroom, cramped with a shower cubicle, a toilet and a sink (“Oh man. No bath? Poor Casey’s not going to like this.” “Egbert for Christ’s sake the lizard isn’t going to give a fuck.”), and a kitchen and living room that was squashed together into one living space.
The day you move in, you almost eject Dave’s turntables out of your new MOVING MODUS down the stairs (you had to spend about five minutes rubbing his back until he stopped hyperventilating), and realise too late that once you crammed the turntables and your piano into one of the bedrooms, there was no room for a goddamn bed.
On the inverse, when you took either of them into the other room, Dave’s double bed suddenly didn’t fit either.
That night, a fight ensues about who has to sleep on the sofa (“Dave, it’s your bed.” “Bullshit, I’m not lettin’ you crash on the couch in your own goddamn home.”), which results in Dave wrestling you off the sofa and throwing himself down to sleep and you, in a gesture of completely ridiculous competitiveness, stubbornly sleeping on the floor next to him.
You both decide for the sake of both of your spines just to share the double bed.
As such, one bedroom becomes yours, the other goes to Casey. You both run out of jokes about who has to get up and give Casey her midnight feed or about sharing the same bed out of wedlock within a week.
The apartment is small, the walls a bit thin, and the old lady downstairs bangs on the ceiling and comes up to screech at you both for any imagined crime, but you couldn’t possibly be happier, because it’s your own place, and you’re here with your best friend, and you know he feels the same.
You might have been nervous about college in any other situation. Thing is, no matter how bad a class goes, no matter how nervous you feel around the new people there, no matter how much you worry or don’t know what you’re doing, you can go home and see your best friend and force yourself on him for a hug. It’s pretty easy not to be scared when you’ve got somebody who you can trust to get your back, you decide.
Living with Dave, though, isn’t without its occasional weird moments. You discover he not only doesn’t have a clue how to cook, but he doesn’t even know what most cooking utensils are. He had to ask you what a whisk was for, describing it as some “weird betty crocker medieval torture shit”.
He also seems to have an aversion to the front door if coming home or going out alone. It suddenly makes sense when you remember that Bro would often lock the front door and completely forget about it, or steal Dave’s key just for kicks, and as such Dave has grown a habit of entering and leaving the apartment by climbing out the window or jumping across the roof.
You’ve only had a few heart attacks worrying about him falling though, you swear.
Then there’s the fact occasionally, when you open the fridge, there’s some weird dead preserved bug or, on one occasion, something that looked suspiciously like a brain (“Oh...yeah, that’s mine.” “Haha, you KEPT that?” “It’s my fucking brain in a jar, I’m not throwing it away.”).
You expected the photos of himself everywhere, since Casey’s room/the music room also doubles as a makeshift darkroom, but what’s new is that he occasionally pulls his camera and takes a snap of you, never failing to catch you off-guard. Usually you look incredibly stupid, caught mid-word, yawning, eating a sandwich or gawking at something on the TV, but every now and then you catch a photo you have to look at twice, because that doesn’t even look like you.
Sometimes you can’t find him in the morning, but you soon discover that on these occasions he’s always up on the roof. Every now and then he’s practicing sword techniques, but very often he’s just sitting, legs dangling over the edge, a weird look on his face that disappears the second he notices you’ve followed him.
The biggest debate since you moved in has been about wall space and posters. You slip in a few movie posters when Dave isn’t looking, likewise he pins a few posters of rappers, or some weird art prints you presume, in some intangible way, are ironic, or occasional comics he’s drawn that always make you laugh.
You never seem to reach equilibrium, so the walls are constantly swapping and changing.
You both get by pretty well on the inheritance that both Grandpa Harley and your Nanna left you, but you still insist on you both getting jobs. Dave didn’t feel too great about piggy-backing on the Egbert-Harley family funds anyway.
You get a job waiting tables for a little diner, not making much, but the tips can be good, and you don’t mind being on your feet or being friendly and nice to people all day. In fact, it’s kind of fun. Dave rolled his eyes when you told him as much, remarking that you’d clearly be in your element. Whatever that means.
Dave goes through a million little jobs. You have the sneaking suspicion that whatever he says, only about a quarter of these does he really get bored of and walk out on, the rest he gets fired from for being rude or weird or whatever. He goes from waiter to delivery boy to cleaner to a clothes store clerk, then from there to a very, very brief stint working in a sex shop (you find out later he got a shipment of Bro’s puppets in there and instantly resigned) to bizarrely, working at the local Build-A-Bear.
“Have you kept this one so long because it’s a safe way to remind you of Bro?” you ask him, grinning, one day when you pick him up from work. He slyly flips you off behind his back as he throws a bunch of stuffing-less bunny plushies into a crate and goes over to tell his boss he’s off.
No matter how many times he’s told you he’s not getting on the back of your piece of shit dorkmobile scooter, he always ends up bumming rides off you regardless. You can never manage to get him wearing a helmet though.
You’re slumped on each other one night, watching Monster Squad (Dave consented to watch it only if he was allowed to turn it off before “that piece of shit rap comes on and torments my poor eardrums”), and you realise you’ve never been happier.
Out of nowhere, Dave goes out with a girl from his work. It's only when he texts you later that night, telling you that he won’t be home until the morning, that you realise you can’t keep him all to yourself.
Living with John tells you a lot about him you didn’t know before. A lot of stuff you expected, the movie posters for one, the ridiculous paternal devotion to his lizard, but a few things come as a surprise.
You discover that John cannot take a shower without singing some terrible 80s tune at the top of his lungs. You discover that he’s actually an excellent cook, but if you ask him to make you a cake he starts batting you with his spatula like an angry housewife; that he gets homesick and phones up his Dad when he thinks you’re not paying attention, that he understands when you want to call Bro and “bullies” you into it so you have an excuse. You discover he’ll do anything to make you laugh until you snort, especially if it’s in front of other people, and especially especially if it’s in front of girls.
You discover he still has nightmares, just like you.
It’s these nights that make you glad John was so hell-bent on donating the second bedroom to his dear salamander princess. He always calms right the hell down if you swallow your pride and cuddle him, all the while trying to think more about how ironic this was rather than how warm he was.
You’ve never admitted to him that you still dream about Sburb sometimes, painful, jagged dreams of broken swords and blood and fire, and a menacing face with a slit eye staring at him with slathering jaws.
As much as you hate to admit it, you probably didn’t have to. There never fails to be the smell of cooking sausages or bacon in the air when you wake up after a particularly painful nightmare, and if you wake up in the middle of the night, feeling like someone’s driven an icicle through your chest, he’s always hugging you tight.
You two still mess around like you always do, broken up by the occasional sloppy make-out session, but never more than that, no, you always tug in the reins this time if John gets that look on his face again, even if it makes something in your chest ache.
He comes home one day with a new modus, his VEHICLE SPECTIBUS, and reveals the dorky blue scooter he’s assigned to it. It doesn’t go anything about 30 miles an hour, and he zips about on it in this dweeby helmet looking completely ridiculous. You’re almost embarrassed to be seen with him.
He insists on taking you out on it with every paycheque, and you two have been on more brodates to Olive Garden than either of you could admit without coughing and mumbling into your hands. John is almost relentlessly charitable, and living in the city is blatantly new to him, and you have to drag him away and force him not to just throw all his money at every homeless person you pass.
You only took him out to a club once, and aside from having to sneak past the bouncer, then struggling endlessly to get served (“Really, dude, lettin’ Terezi and Vriska make our fake IDs. What the fuck were we thinking?” “Why is my name Orphaner Dualscar?” “You got off easy. My name is Delicious Cherry Buns.”), it turns out John will jump ten feet if a girl dances too close to him, probably worrying about accidentally making her unsuitable for marriage or something.
You also made the mistake of letting him see you dance. Now he tries to make you do so for him when he’s bored, like you’re a pet dog he’s found out can do a really entertaining trick.
In the end, you actually like just sitting playing shitty bargain bin games with John than going out to some big party, and on the odd occasion either of you have one on campus to go to, and the other is remaining at home (A very rare incident, as you find that you’re almost exclusively referred to by the other students as “JohnandDave”, something Lalonde finds highly entertaining), the party is almost invariably escaped from early.
It sounds so stupid to say it, but, jesus, and maybe you never will aloud, it’s the happiest you’ve ever been.
The serenity is only ever shattered by Mrs Baldwin downstairs, an old lady whose main hobbies include complaining about imaginary noise as loudly as possible, giving the evil eye to you and John for the horrible crime of youth or something, and banging on her ceiling if there’s any sign of you two having a good time.
Today, she’s at the door, rapping on it with her cane.
“Mmf, Dave, your turn. I dealt with her last time,” John mumbles, shoving at your chest and not even opening his eyes. You sigh and get up as he turns over, pulling the quilt over his head. You grab your shades, but decide that this woman doesn’t get the privilege of making you put on trousers, and cross the living room in your shirt and John’s slimmer boxers to answer the door. Casey toddles out of her room, looking as grumpy as it is possible for a three-foot-tall bubble blowing salamander to be, and follows you.
You open the door as she begins to shriek (“You! Boys!” The only names she ever refers to you by) and lean on the doorframe.
“It’s fuckin’ eight in the morning you know. It’s Saturday, we’re students. Statistically, we’re likely to be hungover. Have some goddamn consideration.”
This was, apparently, the completely wrong thing to say, as her wrinkly face instantly lights up an angry red.
“I heard banging,” she says, “You know, you may have your own lifestyles, and I may be forced to be tolerant of it, but I will NOT tolerate you people thinking you can do anything you like.”
You raise an eyebrow at her, not understanding for a moment, then you remember.
“John sleepwalks, and he’s a fast fucker. I was just getting him back to bed,” you snap. She cranes her long neck around you, almost stepping right into the apartment and you wonder if it’d be more or less bother to slam the door right in her face. She’s looking at your bedroom door, slightly ajar, and then at Casey’s room, door left swinging open. Her expression darkens.
“A likely story,” she snorts, “And what is that?”
She jabs her cane at Casey, who makes the world’s most pathetic squeaking sound and you slap her cane away, growing less and less patient with every second of your life this woman wastes. What was her fucking problem?
“Our daughter, obviously, don’t you see the family resemblance? I’ve always said she had John’s eyes,” you say. Her face goes from red to purple, making her head look remarkably like some grody raisin covered in dust bunnies.
“You think you’re very funny, don’t you?” she says in a voice so scandalised you might as well have just pulled down your boxers and pissed on her leg.
“Yeah, I’m fucking hilarious. Feel like leaving now?”
She tuts and folds her arms at you, giving Casey another disgusted look, but throwing you one that has much more distaste, like you were a fat slug she just found on her kitchen countertop.
“Fine,” she snarls, “There are children in this building, you know, so don’t think I’m not keeping a close eye on you two. I don’t know why the manager lets faggots live among normal, good people.”
She says something else, but you don’t hear it, you slam the door so hard the noise drowns out the rest of her words. You slump your back against the door, trying to get rid of the thick, horrible feeling crawling over your skin.
John pokes his head out the living room door, groggy and confused, but with that look of worry on his face that never fails to tug at something inside you. Before he says anything, you shake your head, flash him a somewhat shaky thumbs up and wave him back to bed.
Your iPhone is on the kitchen countertop, and you snatch it up, scrolling down your contacts list.
There’s a girl at your work that’s been all over you for a few days now, and before you know what you’re doing, you’ve asked her if she wants to go out on Saturday night.
You’ve only just realised that you and John really, really can’t live like this forever.
-- arachnidsGrip [AG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB] --
EB: hi vriska.
AG: Is anything the matter? You look a little 8lue.
EB: uh, haha, well dave went out tonight, kinda suddenly.
EB: he’s never been away all night before.
EB: guess i’m a little lonely!
EB: been a while since i slept without him.
AG: Yeah, a8out that.
AG: What the heck is that all a8out?
EB: what is all what about?
AG: The whole sleepy cuddly stuff, it’s weird!!!!!!!!
EB: ah man, no, not this! i am not in the mood for this!
EB: vriska, no! me and dave aren’t a couple!
AG: I wasn’t sure.
EB: well i am now. we’re not.
AG: Is the whole gross huggy clingy stuff just some human thing?
AG: Trolls never ever do that stuff, not even m8sprits.
AG: It'd 8e crazy to do that here! You should 8e c8reful!
AG: He could slit your throat in your sleep!!!!!!!!!
EB: pfft, hehehe.
AG: What’s funny a8out that? >::::(
EB: nothing, vriska, nothing.
EB: it’s really, y'know, nice and fun.
EB: and out of everyone ever i would trust dave not to slit my throat, even if somebody had a gun to his head or something.
AG: 8luh, it’s sappy and sticky and like what stupid Karkat on his stupid preaches talks a8out.
AG: Though it does look a 8it
AG: Just a 8it though!
EB: of course, just a bit. :P
EB: urgh, sigh, man.
EB: do you think it’s a little lame?
AG: What, missing Strider?
EB: i mean it’s dumb.
EB: i just kind of want him all to myself.
AG: Wh8t? ::::\
EB: uh. well.
EB: i meant i don’t want to share him.
AG: ::::\ With ANY8ODY?
EB: i guess not?
EB: i dunno, i just
EB: if he’s staying the night with this girl she must be pretty special!
EB: and i don’t like the idea of somebody kinda getting in the way of what we have.
AG: I don't get it.
EB: why not?
AG: 8ecause it’s weird. You can’t just want 8NE person and that’s it!
AG: And not want THEM to not want any8ody else.
AG: It doesn’t make sense!
EB: oh because of
EB: then again, it might be weird for humans too.
AG: May8e you should start looking for a nice m8sprit!
AG: A REAL one, not a fakey f8ke lame one like Strider.
AG: Want me to go 8ack through your timeline and see who’s any good for you? ::::)
AG: I’m the 8est, and as you are my human 8oy, you are also the 8est and only deserve the 8est!
EB: that’s a sweet offer vriska.
EB: i think!
EB: but i think i should do this by myself.
It wasn’t that it was bad.
You’re fairly sure as losing your (official) virginity goes, that was pretty alright. Even good. She seemed to enjoy it, even if she pulled a couple of faces at first and gave you an unimpressed look that quite clearly said “I thought you’d done this before”.
Always a boost to a guy’s confidence.
The problem is that now you’re a billion blocks away from home, and you’re stuck in this girl’s house.
All your attempts to sleep have fallen flat on their face. You want to go text John, but something stays your hand, a sick, guilty feeling that makes your stomach lurch whenever you think about John right now.
Annoyingly, he’s all you can think about. The girl is sleeping soundly, quietly, without moving, keeping her distance from you. John snores and talks in her sleep, flops all over you, fidgets and, if he's close enough, ends up drooling on you. By all rights, he should be the world's biggest nightmare to sleep in the same room as, nevermind the same bed.
You suppose it’s god tier irony that now you can’t sleep without his annoying ass next to you.
You sigh and flop back down on the pillow, fidgeting and looking around her room, small and elegantly decorated, but with nothing that gives you any insight into what she’s like.
You couldn’t tell anybody what her favourite movie was, what her parents or childhood was like, hell, as your date progressed last night, you were starting to actually find her dull. She hadn’t made you laugh once, and nearly all of your jokes had earned blank stares of “I don’t get it” that always push you to the heights of your exasperation.
You’d kissed her on the doorstep. Because that was the done thing.
She’d asked if you wanted to come in, you said yes. Because that was the done thing.
You put Bro’s moves into motion and they actually worked. If you were honest with yourself, you were kinda surprised. You’d half expected it to be a complete disaster, but hey, the coolkid mask had its uses. You’d gotten so used to John tutting and slapping your wrist when your insufferable prickality started getting too high that you’d forgotten how much some people liked the façade.
You look at the naked, sleeping girl next to you. You can’t remember what the fuck her last name is.
You try to think about how proud Bro would have been scoping out some choice ass and manoeuvring into her drawers like the smoothest motherfucking operator there ever was. Bro would think he was the biggest pussy in the world if he knew you were sitting here, having just got down and dirty, moping and getting all “Oh no I wasn’t reeeeady I didn’t loooove her” like a goddamn girl.
All that comes to mind is a very quiet, blasphemous voice that reminds you of something you usually try to ignore; that Bro never had a real girlfriend, not once in all the time you knew him; that Bro rarely had friends over, that most of his time was spent with you, or on the computer; that his best friend was a fucking nightmare puppet and he ran a goddamn “ironic” muppet porn site; that no matter how good he’s been to you, no matter how much you like him, no matter how funny you think he is, he is kind of a weird, maladjusted loser.
Suddenly you just really, really want to go home.
An awkward breakfast and equally stifling car ride later, John welcomes you home with a wave and a smile.
You notice he doesn’t run up to hug you like he usually does.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
TG: hey rose
TG: im an idiot
TG: thats all
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
TT: I suppose admitting you have a problem is the first step.
A month later - two weeks after the girl from work finally gets sick of your shit and dumps you - John bounces home bearing a massive, cheesy grin and shoves his phone at you, the screen bearing a picture of him and a blonde, freckled girl in pigtails eating ice cream and pulling silly faces at the camera.
“Dave, this is Grace. My new girlfriend!”
“Oh. That’s great, man.”
He might as well have come home and kicked you straight in the gut.
-- ectoBiologist [EB] sent gardenGnostic [GG] ZOO001.jpeg --
EB: hehe, didn’t grace look really pretty in that dress?
EB: i mean she always looks pretty but when i met up with her that day i was just like oh wow!
EB: haha, so yeah, we went to see the parrot show. it was really cute!
EB: they wore little hats and i got one to say grace’s name for her.
GG: hehe awww :P sounds fun!!! im a little jealous
GG: i mean ive had some great dates
GG: but theyve always been like looking after injured tigers and exploring and stuff
GG: it must be nice to have a date where you dont have to worry about one of you dying somehow!!!!
EB: uh, yeah.
EB: though honestly jade, i’ve never really sat back and appreciated that part of it.
GG: um...theres just oooone thing
GG: what about dave???
GG: you two have been glued together for ages and ages and ages now!!
GG: hes not feeling neglected is he? :O
EB: oh no, he really likes her! if I keep making her come over, i think they’ll be friends soon enough.
EB: maybe i should see if she has any friends he might like. we could double date!
TG: i am a goddamn island
TG: a lone goddamn wolf
TG: so if egbert wants to go flitting off to the fucking zoo like a pansy lovestruck schoolgirl then you know what
TG: im a big boy and i can take it
TG: jesus its not like i dont need a break from the little fucker now and then
TG: glad to have her take him off my hands now and then keeping him entertained is exhausting
TG: its like he thinks im just his dancing monkey or something
TG: oh come on dave entertain us bash your cymbals together
TG: and im all
TG: ook ook ook whatever you say master of course you can drive me around on your shitty scooter
TG: but then hes just like
TG: wait i just scoped out a hot piece of ass
TG: gtfo and get back in the box dave im gonna go tap that
TG: tossed aside like the shittiest christmas present under the tree
TG: so yeah who needs his shit right
CG: WHY IN THE HOLY FUCK ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?
“Okay, so you know Grace has all these friends in show biz? Oh man, I mean a few years back she went to Hollywood and go to meet Nic Cage! Can you believe that? She has his autograph and everything. I’d give my left arm and every set of fake ones I own to meet Nic Cage. She wants to direct, her family’s all in cinema, she’s got all sorts of stories for movie club, and that’s why she always looks so pretty as well, because she’s learnt like all the professional techniques and stuff...”
John babbles away in your ear about the wonder that is his girlfriend. Privately, you try and mentally count all the conversations you two have had lately that haven’t been about her.
You’re pretty sure you could count them on your fingers.
Sometimes the praise dwindles a little, he goes all sulky and quiet, and if you ask he just whines that sometimes she just doesn’t get what you mean.
All the same, nearly every time he comes home from her house, never any later than midnight, he tells you in no uncertain terms that she is The One. She has been the Liv Tyler to his Ben Affleck, the Sarah Jessica Parker to his Matthew Mcconaughey, the Monica Potter to his Nic Cage (“You’re still my John Cusack though, Dave, don’t worry.”) and nearly every shitty you movie you watch with him now, he ends up comparing the male lead and his love interest to him and Grace. It doesn’t matter if you tell him he is fucking nothing like Tom Cruise, or point out that Grace isn’t somebody his Dad has hired to romance him into moving out of his house, he will come up with contrived reasons they fit exactly.
In a desperate attempt to make him shut up, you rented a copy of The Birdcage.
He still managed to decide by the end of it that he was definitely Robin Williams, while Grace was Nathan Lane.
She’s only visited you a few times, and the most irritating thing of all is that she’s actually a really nice goddamn person.
She even offered to hook you up with her friend who did fencing classes if you felt like learning some more styles of sword-fighting.
“Ha, and okay, you should have heard what she said about Johnny Depp, okay, it was so funny and –“
“Bro, as much as I like being on the Grace news alert – I mean really I’m gonna start a blog so I can keep the entire world as updated as I am – but aren’t you out with her tonight?”
“Oh!” John says, looking at the clock and leaping to his feet. He grabs his jacket from the floor and shoves on his shoes, waving at you as he rushes out the door, “Jeez, Dave, thanks! I’m taking her out for Thai tonight! You know she’s been to Thailand before. Apparently –“
“Egbert, your date.”
“Oh, shit, yeah! Later, Dave!”
He kicks the door shut behind him and you heave out a sigh. Casey hops onto the sofa next to you, nuzzling up against your arm and blowing bubbles at you.
You decide the only sensible thing to do is get extremely drunk and rant at the salamander about all the neglect you’re suffering at the hands of her adoptive father.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
TT: Ah, good morning Strider.
TT: I see you’ve finally crawled out of your little pit of self pity.
TT: Blinking your eyes into the bright sunlight, reaching for your sunglasses, and ignoring the painful pangs in your head as Lady Alcohol stubbornly inflicts her final injury on you.
TG: oh my god lalonde
TG: shut up please all im seeing is a blur of obnoxious lavender scented waffle
TG: its kind of amazing how even after all these years you still manage to pull off the same rambling writing style of the little girl who wrote wizard porn and hid it under her bed
TT: I believe the phrase is “Pot calling the kettle black”, Strider.
TT: So how are you feeling?
TG: like i got ran over by about three separate cars in four different directions
TG: and then somebody smashed my head against the pavement and offered me a woowoo to ease the pain
TG: they didnt warn me about alcohol lalonde
TT: They didn’t tell you, dog.
TT: Tired old memes aside though, you sound much improved from last night.
TT: Less distraught and much more coherent. I applaud you for heaving yourself up to these levels of sobriety.
TG: wtf i don’t even remember talkin to you
TG: then again i dont remember a whole lot beside a sort of slippering speeding descent into sangria fuelled madness
TT: It never fails to amuse me that your little sister and mother have manlier drinks of choice than you.
TG: stfu im trying to have a conversation here lalonde
TG: if i wanted a frosty criticism of my drinking habits id go to mom and ask her to prepare me a flirtini
TT: I’m sure she’d be more than happy to oblige you, Dave.
TT: Now, onto topics of higher importance.
TT: Might I ask if John is home yet?
TG: guess he must have stayed over that chicks place
TG: im proud of him lalonde my lil mans all growed up
TG: takin out a broad to a classy place and then rattling her headboard like an awkward pale casanova
TG: only took him four fucking months to be ready to bounce his pork pogo in her lady playground but never mind
TT: That’s not quite the reaction to his sexual prowess you had last night.
TG: alright what was i like briefly jealous that egbert was getting some while i was left at home with a copy of starsky and hutch and some cocktail ingredients we had lyin around after new years
TG: because trust me im already over it lalonde
TT: Perhaps our old friend copy-and-paste would be pertinent right now.
TG: im notffcukin wasted alalonde just listsen
TG: im telling you thatgiarl is no good
TG: andghes ditchin m e for her
TG: and tfuck iawhat ami all of a sudden
TT: I assure you, you are not, in fact, milk, Dave.
TT: And everything I’ve heard of John’s girlfriend indicates she’s a nice, friendly, intelligent and good looking young woman who treats him very well.
TT: Even you said that she seemed “alright for a fucking neurotic overachiever”.
TT: Which, considering how little inclined you are to like somebody unless they present you with a series of pandering shitty clip art about how cool you are, is practically undeniable proof of her status as a decent human being.
TG: no okayhy
TG: she treatsss him welifh e was like a regaular joe
TG: a misteter mc non special average
TG: shed oesnt tsreat him good enogjugh
TT: Dear, dear, Strider, you have very high standards for the type of girl our dear John can court, don’t you?
TT: You do realise he isn’t a southern belle and you aren’t his plantation owner father, don’t you?
TG: ashut up
TG: shes just doesnnt desrve him
TT: I sense the Strider protective streak emerging.
TG: hes sweet and perfect and stupida dand funny ok
TG: he is theberst okk lalonde olk
TG: the best
TG: n ot the bertst
TG: i dontt know what a berst is
TG: why isnt hhe homet yet laloden
TT: Presumably he’s simply enjoying his date with a charming young woman.
TT: And doesn’t think his oh-so-heterosexual roommate is currently throwing a fit in his absence.
TG: im niot laonely
TG: or gay
TG: stop saying iam
TG: astop saying it yin your head
TG: o can hear uyou thinkin in yourhead iy uo witch stop it
TG: were twins dumpass
TG: i can sense thaese things
TT: Oh dear, it seems I briefly forgot about our deep, ectobiological psychic connection.
TT: I feel so foolish.
TG: you should you bbtich
TG: hesdoesntl even ficuking hug me bproeply anymokre its like
TG: look bro if i wasnted the stupdd fcking dffuck off pat on the back staddning three fefegt apart dreal id go to bro
TG: feet fucking fergt how hard dsis it totype feetg
TT: Have you ever considered perhaps initiating hugs yourself if you feel his are no longer up to your standards?
TT: Will you also be putting our rare sibling hugs under inspection in the future?
TG: quatliy cotrtol is in the fuckkin in the hizhouse
TT: And then we wasted nearly two hours on that tomfoolery.
TT: You becoming slowly less lucid and me becoming slowly less amused and more exasperated.
TT: Until the connection was presumably cut short by you passing out in a manner most uncool on your keyboard.
TG: that isnt me
TG: does that uncool blabbering mess really sound like me
TG: i mean honestly
TG: i would think youd be able to discern the real dave strider from an imposter
TG: you get an f lalonde see me after class
TT: I highly doubt a very intoxicated hacker slash Dave Strider fan would take the time to hack your account and leave long rambling tributes to the wonder that is John Egbert on my Pesterchum.
TG: just some chump tryin to ruin my stellar reputation
TT: That isn’t even my name.
TG: it should be
TG: rosaline is a really old lady soundin name and
TG: and youre like my naggy old grandma
TG: what shut up they cant all be winners
TT: Indeed they can’t.
TT: I stand by my view that becoming so fiercely jealous and protective of somebody isn’t exactly typical “best bro” behaviour.
TG: lalonde ffs this is the last time im gonna explain this to you
TG: its called a bromance
TG: look it up
TT: I assure you, you’ve “schooled” me in a most “cold and biznasty” manner on many occasions in the past on the exact machinations of bromance.
TT: Bromance being a tiresome and homoerotic concept enough as it is.
TT: Surely you appreciate the irony that such a highly homosexual ideal has entered the highly homophobic culture of the dudebro.
TT: The thought must make you and your brother tight in your skinny hipster jeans.
TG: thats your brother and your dad whose throbbin standing salami snakes youre imagining
TT: I’m imagining nothing of the sort, I was simply turning a sexual phrase as you are so often inclined to.
TG: w/e lalonde the point is that me and egbert are tight as two guys can be without slobbering over eachs others soggy manbananas
TG: keyword being without
TT: I see.
TT: Well, if I may ask something Strider, has there ever been anybody in your life you liked more than John?
TG: what kind of stupid question is that
TT: Please answer, if you wouldn’t mind.
TG: yes i mind its retarded
TG: hes my best friend and i live with him of course i fucking like him a lot
TT: If you say so, but the sheer devotion you have for our dear friendleader remains as touching as it is unusual.
TG: oh come off it lalonde
TG: im his wife not his best friend
TG: wait no im his best friend not his wife
TG: fuck you im hung over and cant type
TG: aw shit lalonde egbert just came in
TG: he dont look happy for a guy that just got laid
TG: gotta go
-- turntechGodhead [TG] has signed off! --
TT: Yes, see you later too, Strider.
“Dave,” John manages to say, voice dry and small, and it’s the most heart-wrenching sound you’ve ever heard. You only hesitate for a second before crossing the room and pulling him into a tight hug, rubbing soothing circles between his shoulder-blades as he chokes out a few dry sobs.
“What’s the matter, bro? What happened?”
You pull away after a second, sensing he won’t tell you a thing when you’re squeezing the hell out of him like this. He wipes his eyes and nose on the sleeves of his jacket, sniffing and not saying anything for a second.
“Come on, dude, I’m not fluent in the language of the whiny bitch. You’re gonna have to help me here. Come on, it’s okay, what’d she do?” you say, the words coming out a lot gentler than you expected. You put a hand on his shoulder but he shrugs you off, swallowing and looking at you miserably.
“I told her about the game.”
John is hiccupping as you push a mug of hot chocolate in his hands. His Dad has sent you the mix when you first moved in, and until now it had sat untouched in the back of your cupboard. He sniffed pitifully.
Just make him stop crying, just do anything to make him stop crying.
“Well, that was a pretty dumbshit move, man, why did you –“
His shoulders shake and you stop yourself. Smooth, Strider, real smooth. Christ, you wish Jade was here, she was better at this touchy-feely feelings stuff than you, even your snarky tentacle therapist sister would do a better job than you right now.
You try to rub his back again but he shudders, shaking his head. You retract your hand, trying not to look like you’d just been stung.
“Right. Right, John, you feel like telling me what happened? Come on, it’s okay,” you say, hushing him, but even making Vantas’s ridiculous “shooosh” noise and patting his face fails to make him laugh. He sniffs loudly.
“Um, well, we went back to hers after our date and, well, y’know, it was gonna be you know, our first time, we’d talked about it before, a while ago, and she really wanted to. I was just not sure if I was ready or something I guess, but it felt about right now, y’know?” he says in a rush, and you nod, trying to focus on his words right now and not on the way your chest feels like it’s been squeezed by some big, cold hand.
“Yeah, I get ya,” you say, and it sounds a bit hollow even to you. He rubs his face on his sleeves and you go back into the kitchen to get him a packet of tissues. He takes off his jacket, finally, and you toss it into the laundry basket for him, sitting back down next to him and half-wishing that there was somebody else to deal with this.
“Well, y’know, we did, and I told her I loved her, but afterwards I felt really bad. Y’know, guilty?” he says, looking at you, as though looking for a bit of understanding. You sort of do get it, a little, you’d felt like a huge piece of shit after you’d fucked that girl from work. For more than one reason. But you suspect John had different reasons to you.
“Yeah, what for, how’d you end up telling her about the game?”
“It was when we were eating breakfast the next morning. I felt really, really dishonest. I mean I’d slept with her, but I hadn’t told her about the most important thing that ever happened to me in my life, it was like I was lying,” he mumbled, hiccupping again.
“Dude, she didn’t ask you if you’d ever played a fucked up video game with a bunch of aliens before. You weren’t lying,” you tell him, a feeling of dread settling in the pit of your stomach.
“Well, yeah I know that!” he snaps, and your shock must have shown on your face, because he instantly takes in a deep breath and says, “Sorry, sorry. I know you’re just. But I thought, well, we love each other right? I mean, I can’t not tell her about something so huge. She’ll understand. Maybe she even had a part in it?”
You look at him blankly, officially lost for once.
“Well, there’s nobody major in my life that, you know, wasn’t involved. If she’s important to me, she must have something to do with it...right?” he says, looking more and more uncertain.
“We’re not playin’ that thing anymore, John,” you say in a low voice, “You know that it doesn’t control everything anymore, right?”
“I know, I know,” he says, with that same rising note of impatience, “Just sometimes...”
“Sometimes it feels like it,” you finish for him and he shoots you what might be a sort of smile, desperate and relieved he wasn't alone, “Right, so then?”
“So then I tried to tell her, I tried to tell her right from the start, but she got really, like, really upset. She kept asking me if I was joking, but when I kept going she started crying, and I thought well, I can prove it, so I...well, I took out my old hammer to show her I still had something from then.”
“Oh God Egbert, you don’t scare the shit out of a girl and then pull a weapon on her,” you say, eyes going wide behind your shades, “What the fuck were you thinking?”
“Well, yeah, she screamed and told me to put it away, and I think I was starting to cry at that point too. I just really thought she’d believe me, Dave,” he says, voice suddenly rising, getting high and loud and you hush him again. The last thing you want is Mrs Baldwin catching a whiff of any reason to come slamming on the door. You might well just end up punching her in the face right now, and you don’t think punching a batty old lady in the face would really help either of your situations.
You swallow, and after a moment manage to say in a dry voice, “It’s a lot to believe, dude.”
“Y-yeah, well, she started yelling at me to stop as if I was playing a really, really bad prank on her. Then she started saying she knew I was way too good to be true and how her friends had all said that I was a weirdo and she could do better and –“
You almost drop your drink, swearing as you almost scald your hand, and he looks up at you in alarm.
“Bullshit could she, dude. Nobody could,” you say, before you can really stop yourself. You put aside your drink and start busying yourself with mopping up the hot chocolate you just slopped on the carpet.
He flashes you a quick, watery smile, but then shakes his head.
“For some reason I couldn’t stop trying to convince her, I was just, I don’t know, I was desperate for her to believe me. She looked really scared, Dave, I’ve never seen somebody look scared of me before. She said if I didn’t leave she’d phone the police,” he says, and then goes quiet, looking down at his hands miserably. At least he’s stopped crying, but god, that is not an expression John Egbert should ever have.
You open and close your mouth several times, looking and feeling stupid as you struggle to find the words that’d make him feel better. The whole being sensitive and comforting thing is hard enough for you on a good day, never mind when you’re hung over and you feel like your stunted little emotional range is being stretched to breaking point.
You shuffle forward and press your mouth clumsily to his.
He shoves you off, shaking his head.
You really, really aren’t good at this feelings stuff.
“Dave,” he says, then pauses for a minute, for a second looking as though he’s got something on the tip of his tongue, before he swallows and finishes it with, “I think I’m gonna go play my piano for a bit.”
He disappears into Casey’s room, the salamander trailing behind him, blubbing and tugging on his trouser leg.
You flop down on the sofa and bury your face in a pillow.
GG: oh god :(
TG: yeah i know its like yeah egbert try to make this story more depressing go on
TG: please play more sad songs on your piano
TG: this isnt making me wanna slit my wrists or anything
TG: the poor little dumbass
GG: what are you going to do????
GG: why didnt she just believe him, urgh!!!!
GG: nobody who really knows john would ever think hed lie!!
GG: or that hed hurt a fly
GG: hes the nicest, sweetest person youd ever meet :(
TG: ill agree with you that egbert would be more likely to adopt a fly as his insect daughter and give it a ridiculous bunny than hurt it
TG: but come on how believable is
TG: i saved the world with my internet friends
GG: um well, very, to me :\
TG: you can say that because you were there harley
TG: remember wed been groomed for that game like the finest bunch of child prostitutes on the apocalyptic pedophile ring
TG: anybody who hasnt been doomed to that shit their entire lives would find it a bit hard to swallow
GG: hmmm :\
GG: i guess i did grow up knowing something would happen
TG: harley you grew up with your own corpse stuffed and sat on the fireplace like the worlds most morbid fucking snowglobe
GG: okay good point, shut up dave :P
GG: so what are you going to do??
GG: justice must be served!!!!
TG: have you been talking to terezi
TG: because she and spiderbitch want to execute the goddamn woman in the gallows or whatever
TG: either way i snuck a quick look at egberts phone and called her up
TG: im gonna go talk to her tomorrow
You didn’t tell John you were doing this. He’d probably either have flipped out at you, or presumed that he was getting back together with her and start envisioning a picket fence, a well-trimmed garden and a million Egbert spawn in his future, and you couldn’t deal with seeing him that goddamn crushed all over again.
You spot her and she waves you over before sitting down next to some guy you’ve never seen, a big guy – the type of guy who could probably shove Bro in a locker and steal his lunch money - with blonde hair. He winds his arm around her and squeezes her shoulder with one large, tanned hand.
That guy better not be -
What you were thinking must have shown on her face because she quickly waved her hand and cut in;
“He’s my brother. Please stop looking at me like that.”
You relax a little, but still give the guy a cautious look. You think about shaking his hand, but from the look he’s giving you you guess he wants nothing to do with you. He probably tried to convince her to not even go to this thing. Funnily enough, Rose spent the entire morning trying to convince you the exact same thing.
You sit opposite them, this guy grunting an acknowledgement as you give him a “sup”, but then just continuing to try and burn a hole into your skull with his eyes.
“Guess you’re wondering what the hell all that was about, huh,” you say after a few minutes silence, reclining on your chair and folding your arms, trying to look as non-chalant and not-crazy as you possibly can. She nods, glancing at her brother.
“John isn’t crazy,” you say, leaning forward, her brother shifts at the motion, as though he’s sure you’re going to leap out of your chair and attack her. She doesn’t flinch, and just shakes her head.
“Has he told you about this entire thing? He says you were a time traveller, that you died,” she says, and you resist the urge to laugh. It probably wouldn’t help to correct her and point out that you died in the plural.
You sigh and massage your temples, then look up at her.
“Look, it happened, alright. John’s not nuts. I honestly don’t give a shit if you believe me or not, but it happened. Meteors falling, boom, boom, boom, boom, first contact, superpowers, the whole deal,” you say, and you suddenly feel that same, clawing desperation that John must have felt. A small voice in your head starts saying, over and over, “Believe me, believe me, we can’t share this with anybody, we’ve had to hold it in so long. Please just believe us.”
Her brother pulls her in tighter, starting to look unnerved himself. He could have probably picked you up and tied you into a knot, but he gives you a look as though you’re a bomb ready to go off. You feel a bit sick.
“Nobody could possibly believe that,” she says, shaking her head, “I know you two are close but you can’t just feed into his delusion like tha—“
“It’s not a fucking delusion,” you snap, surprising yourself, and she jumps. He gets up and you almost follow suit, suddenly raring for a fight, but she pulls him back down. If they knew how you could fight, how you and John could fight, two skinny, pasty guys that sit on their asses playing video games all day, they would have to believe you. Maybe.
You let out a breath you didn’t know you’d been holding and recline back on the chair. A good few minutes of silence pass.
“Fuck. I just. He’s really shaken up by this, alright,” you say finally, your accent seemingly deciding now is the time to get thicker, “Look, just see the goober again, once more...you were doing fine until he blabbed about this shit, right? I’m not sayin’ it was a good idea for him to tell ya, but you know he ain’t a bad guy, right?”
She looks at you, biting her lip and shifting uncomfortably in here seat. She looks at her brother, then you, then down at the table uncertainly.
“I can’t, sorry, that’s just. I like him a lot, really! But. No way can I deal with something like this, it’s too hard,” she says, getting up to leave, “Sorry.”
TT: How is he doing?
TG: casey scrambled out of her room to come sit with me because it was sick of being clung to like a teddy bear
TG: he still just looks like a lost puppy when i try to go in to talk to him
TG: everythings more awkward than catching mom and dadbert having a sloppy makeout session under the wizard statue
TG: and hes been listening to always on my mind for the past four fucking hours
TG: but he switched from the elvis version to the pet shop boys one a while ago
TG: i think thats a good sign as far as anything in egberts shitty music collection can be a good sign
TT: Aren’t there some bro-guidelines you’re supposed to follow?
TT: While I would usher a heartbroken Jade away for tubs of ice cream and a stereotypical nail painting session, shouldn’t you be taking him into seedy bars to see scantily clad women?
TT: Don’t tell me your time-honoured code of the dudebro has failed you now, Strider.
TG: ok aside from the obvious jabs at me packed in there like little barbs under a perfumey rosey prosebouquet
TG: this is john were talking about here
TG: he practically averts his eyes when he sees a particularly sexy bared ankle
TG: if i take him to a strip club hell fucking explode
TG: and you know
TG: do i look like bro to you???
TT: Well, yes, there is a certain familial resemblance.
TG: for once will you please not be so goddamn literal
TG: and maybe help me out a bit here
TG: ive tried everything nothings cheering him up
TG: he just comes in from work or class and slinks away to play his piano or listen to some music or read that stupid sassacre book
TG: i had to pick his dumb ass up and tuck him into bed last night ffs he was slumped over it like you after a good bout of wizard slash
TT: Dave, have you never heard of the phrase “Time heals all wounds”?
TT: Perhaps we should just leave him for a while. He’ll approach you when he’s good and ready.
TG: yeah but
TG: lalonde jesus he really thought he was going to fucking marry this woman
TT: He was also briefly convinced he was going to marry me, and then very soon afterwards became convinced that his future, and bizarre ectobiological offspring, lay with one Miss Serket.
TG: that was when we were thirteen
TT: His general nature of committing wholly to something or someone with the slightest prompting hasn’t changed, Strider.
TT: Nor has his admirable but reckless habit of choosing to listen to his heart over his head.
TT: I know he had it bad for this girl, but you and I both know that he’s incredibly resilient for one who as boldly wears his heart on his sleeve as he does.
TG: im not saying hes not
TG: i still have to make him feel better
TG: fuck if im just gonna sit here awkwardly trying to talk to him about sports or the weather or some shit like that
TT: Your sports knowledge has done nothing but become more depressingly subpar over the years, even with John’s eager attempts to instil an appreciation for football in you.
TG: thats the point he usually finds the lack of fucks i give about how many touchdowns you can score in an inning or whatever hilarious
TG: theres gotta be something i can do here
TG: im not just gonna sit forlornly on the sidelines like the worlds shittiest cheerleader waiting on reserve
TG: watching all the other gals climb into pyramids and shake their booties to an adoring crowd while i sit there clutching my red card
TT: I’m not even going to bother attempting to correct any of that.
TT: It was practically incomprehensible.
TG: hes never had anything like this happen to him lalonde its knocked him for six
TG: he thought shed just be like oh okay lol
TG: or like
TG: oh wow im an sburb survivor too crazy right it was meant to be right john
TG: you me an ectoslime machine lets make it happen
TT: Oh dear. I’m sensing a rant.
TG: its like hes actually the most blissfully naive person in existence
TG: if there was an echeladder for complete pure of heart dorky obliviousness john egbert would be the highest rung achievable
TG: hes perched so firmly on that fucking rung nobody else can hope to get close
TG: whenever somebody does he has to ascend to further levels of unspeakably too nice for his own good
TG: cant let anybody step in on his territory
TG: theres nobody fucking like him lalonde
TG: i mean none of us would have ever even for a second considered telling anybody about that big mess of a fucking co op session
TT: I reiterate, Dave. He just needs time.
TT: Unless you have a healing salve for a broken heart in that hideous mess of a sylladex of yours, we will simply have to support him until it mends of its own accord.
TG: i kind of wish shed been a total bitch to him so i could just let serket at her like an angry attack dog
TT: Dave, let’s not bring the trolls into this.
TT: I thought all our recent efforts had been to stop them getting involved, as difficult as that may be.
TT: We don’t want to exacerbate the situation by angering her or her friends or family with barely coherent threats from bizarre internet trolls.
TG: dont think serkets been listening to us telling her to shut the fuck up and let us deal with it anyway
TG: shes been on my case for a fucking week telling me to go throw that girl off a cliff
TG: vantas hasn’t been much better
TG: its like in one ear ive got serket and rezi babbling about vengeance and justice
TG: and in the other i get the troll messiah boring babble and romcom advice helpline 24 goddamn 7
TT: I presume from the disdain practically dripping from your text that his advice hasn’t been useful?
TG: about as useful as yours
TT: That was mean, Dave.
TG: urgh jeez alright sorry whatever dont start guilt tripping me
TG: i just want my best friend to not feel like shit is that so much to ask for
TG: am i demanding too much o almighty gods above
TG: oh wait our god is lying staring at the ceiling and letting the acid house beats of neil tennant wash over him
TT: Please don’t do anything ridiculous, Dave.
TT: I honestly mean no offense by this, but when it concerns John you can be little...
TG: well now youre just talking crazytalk
TT: Two words.
TT: Prom night.
TG: woah ok
TG: how is that never speaking of it again
TT: Just be there for him, Dave, that’s all anybody can do.
TG: be there for him sounds suspiciously like do nothing but whatever
TG: anyway i gotta run lalonde gotta be at work soon
TG: or like fifteen minutes ago
TG: those kids will have fed the rabbits play doh if i dont get there soon
TT: How anybody can actually think it’s reasonable to employ you is beyond me.
TT: See you later, Dave.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
Your name is John Egbert and your head is in a mess, almost as badly as it was on April the 13th 2009. You keep dropping trays, giving people the wrong orders, and were getting so muddled and distressed when your boss questioned you about it that he kindly steered you out and told you to go get some rest.
So you return to your post in Casey’s room, let Liv sit on your knee and wonder why you’re the biggest idiot on the planet.
Why the fuck did you think for a second it was a good idea to tell her? You’re sure even your Dad doesn’t really fully believe it, and he remembers bits and pieces of it, none of you four ever talk about it, in fact sometimes you can barely remember it yourself. If it wasn’t for things like Liv or Casey or Zillyhoo or the trolls that still routinely chat to you online you’d probably think you all imagined it yourself.
You hear Dave come in and call out to you, you say hi back, but he doesn’t barge into the room and attempt to bribe you with a copy of Point Break or some other great movie he grabbed on his way home (it’s like you being sad has suddenly gifted him with awesome movie taste or something), or just plain drag you out by your ankles and sit and try to make you laugh at him losing at old Spyro the Dragon games.
You feel like you’re being a little kid, and you’ve tried to enjoy yourself when he’s tried to cheer you up, you really have, but jesus, you still feel bad.
You touch the thin white scar on your chest, right over your heart. You know without even lifting up your shirt or feeling under it where it is. You’ve looked at it enough times in the mirror to know just where it is.
There’s some banging from the other room, probably Dave moving stuff about for some weird photography project or something. You let yourself doze off against the wall.
Dave bangs on the door, and then when you don’t get up to let him in, there’s a familiar low thump as he rests his back against it.
“Feelin’ better yet man? It’s getting boring having you get sulk all over the furniture,” he asks through the door, “I hope you know that Casey doesn’t like me being the one to give her a bath. Thrashed about all over the fuckin’ place and made a total tool of me.”
You laugh quietly.
“Uh, yeah, sorry. I kinda forgot, thanks for doing that though,” you say, and Dave hesitates for a few seconds.
“Hey, anytime. Somebody’s gotta keep this household running while you’re in pieces. You’re tearing this family apart Egbert,” he comments, voice rich with that same tongue in cheek internet-y humour you’ve grown so used to. You remember how it sounded kind of odd, at first, that sort of weird, dorky way Dave’s internet speech translated in real life. You really do like it though. A lot.
“If you divorce me in this time of great need, I’m only going to get worse, dude,” you say after a minute, snorting, and he laughs a bit more than the comment really warrants.
“Look, dude, I’d normally just barge in to get your mopey ass outta there but my hands are busier than Lalonde’s when she went to see the last Harry Potter movie –“ (“Eeeeeeew!”) “- So how about you just open the door and save me the trouble?”
You sigh and get up, fully expecting Dave to have some kind of trap or prank that’s supposed to cheer you up prepared the second you open the door. You open the door, and surprisingly there’s no fanfare, no pop of confetti, there’s just Dave, holding two bowls of what smells indescribable and looks like it may have once been spaghetti.
You sink back onto the floor as he pushes past you to enter the room, and he sits next to you, and hands you your bowl and a fork.
“Woulda put it in my sylladex, but the sassy piece of shit kept rejecting it, apparently it doesn’t recognise it as “spaghetti” or “pasta” or “food” or “goddamn take it you piece of shit modus”,” he says, clearly frustrated, and you can’t help but laugh. His mouth twitches a little as you do. Though the second you swallow your first mouthful, you realise that Dave’s hash modus may have had a point.
Dave puts his bowl aside with clear distaste after what could have only been two forkfuls, but you continue eating, suddenly realising just how hungry you are.
“I called your Dad,” he blurts out suddenly, and you turn to look at him, a piece of spaghetti dangling out of your mouth. Before you can slurp it up and ask why though, he continues relentlessly, “Just thought you hadn’t called him up for a while. And he’d probably want to know his little prince was having a rough time. The second I mentioned you were the slightest bit in emotional distress he was booking flights here.”
You grin weakly at him, you feel a really sudden, warm surge of affection for him. He doesn’t meet your eyes, as though trying to make his best friend feel better was somehow the most embarrassing thing he could possibly do.
“He’s comin’ over tomorrow,” he concludes lamely, “Probably has about thirty more cakes than usual for us ready by now.”
“That’s Dad. I guess it’d be nice to see him again. Thanks,” you say, and shoot him a genuinely grateful smile, which only prompts him to roll his eyes and wind his arm around your shoulders.
“Anything for you, honeybunch.”
You choke on your pasta and he has to smack your back until you cough something up and can speak again, you’re laughing that much.
“Oh man, you haven’t used one of those on me since we were like 15!” you say, grinning with delight at the sudden rush of nostalgia, “Are we still playing that game?”
“Nobody ever called it off,” he responds simply, shrugging. You lean into him, and rest your head on his shoulder. It’s a little awkward, since you actually have an inch or two on his height, but it’s still warm, and nice, and you feel like you sort of forgot he was there for a while. You discard the bowl, having digested enough of Dave’s cooking as is physically possible for any sane human being.
“What’s the score like then?”
“I’ll presume I’m winning.”
“What, no way.”
“Yes way, dude, I’m always winning. It’s just the way of the world, John, dear,” he says, gesturing with the arm you haven’t trapped around your shoulders. You snort and snuggle into him more fully, letting your eyes fall closed and your arms wrap around your middle.
“It’s the way of you being stupid, that’s what it’s the way of. M’totally winning right now,” you mutter, and you don’t need to open your eyes to know he’s giving you his most contemptuous coolkid eye-roll.
“Oh, careful with that razor-sharp tongue of yours. We’ll all end up sliced like salami if you keep waggling that thing about,” he mumbles back, and you can sort of feel his nose in your hair, probably just looking at you and trying to come up with some smartass comment.
His hand gropes for yours and holds it, loosely, as though he totally expects you to snatch it back from him.
You guess you have been, lately. You two hadn’t exactly sat this close for months, and you had resigned yourself to the couch for the last month of your relationship, ever since Grace found out you two shared a bed. She’d laughed it off and made a joke about it, but she’d still looked at you a bit oddly, and gave Dave a look you couldn’t quite place. Maybe jealousy, maybe suspicion, though there’d been a hint or something else.
You both sit quietly for a second, before you remember something and look up at him.
“Hey, you went to see Grace, didn’t you?”
For once in his life, Dave Strider looks like a deer caught in headlights.
“She sent me a message, an email. It was really long and nice but really, really sad all at once. She said sorry a lot, and then she said one of my friends had made her realise she had to at least say goodbye to me properly,” you continue relentlessly, ignoring the fact that he’s wriggling in your grasp like an animal that does not want to be caught, “That was you wasn’t it?”
You stare at him unblinkingly – you’ve always been better at a stare-down than him, especially when you’re close enough so he knows you can see his eyes through the shades – and he finally sighs and reclines against the wall.
“Yeah, what’s your point? Went to see what the deal was, make sure she wasn’t reporting you to the police, only decent thing to do,” he grumbles, and you smile a little at that sulky undertone in his voice, like he’s the kid who’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. You tighten your grip on him.
“Well, thanks, I know I’ve been kind of a pain –“
“- and you’re really worried about me –“
“- but it helps, you know. That you’re here, feel like I neglected you a bit –“
“Yeah, I’m a hollow shell of what I once was, Egbert, you flitting off and cheating on me like that,” he says, and you see the suggestion of one of his rare grins twitching his lips.
“I was thinking about you the whole time, dude, I swear,” you fire back instantly, and then add more thoughtfully, “I mean, I did talk about you to her a lot. I think she was sick of hearing about you.”
“I was getting sick of hearing about her to be honest,” he almost grumbles and you laugh quietly into his shoulder.
“Dave I hadn’t forgotten about you,” you say, hesitating for a second before you grin at him, “Suppose you could say you were always on my mind. I didn’t treat you quite as good as I should have -“
“I mean I know there were a bunch of little things I should have said and done, but I never took the time –“
“And maybe I didn’t hold you all those lonely lonely times, I mean...I guess never really told you I was so happy that you’re mine –“
“No, oh my God.“
“Just trying to tell you that if I made you feel second best, I’m so sorry, I was blind.”
“I’m going to kill you, Egbert. I’m going to kill you and they’ll never find the body,” he says, shoving you. You snigger behind your hand, starting to sing as he wrestles you to the ground. You shove back, more than a good enough match for him. He can’t keep you down long enough to stop you singing the entire song, at least.
You manage to pin him down, laughing helplessly into his collar bone. You’d almost forgotten how warm he was, how much you liked all the physical closeness he always attested he didn’t like, but never once even tried to put a stop to.
“I’m embarrassed for both of us,” he mutters, sitting up, and you just laugh more and sling your arms around his neck. He rolls his eyes.
“See you’re back to your old annoying self, then?” he asks, and however much he tries to add it you catch a note of something more, you dunno, tender in there. Sort of soft and warm, something that makes you feel weird. Like you’re glowing, or floating. Since those are both things you’ve actually done, you feel pretty justified in saying that.
You swallow and look at him, his glasses knocked askew in your fight, and those red irises visible from behind them. Something about the way he doesn’t jump to cover them back up like he would with anybody else makes a lump rise in your throat.
“I’m getting there, might take a little time yet. Still kinda hurts,” you say, smiling, and then release him very suddenly and stand up, “Oh jeez, if Dad’s coming over tomorrow, we better get cleaning. Dad will NOT like the state of this place.”
By tidying, you of course mean “grabbing everything and pushing it fully bodily into an available closet, slamming the door before anything could tumble out and both swearing empty promises to yourselves and each other that you would clean the place properly someday soon”. You pack away your turntables and put the spare bed down in its place, before both collapsing onto your bed.
John’s Dad arrives the next morning, greeting his son, who rushes over to hug him, with a pie to the face.
You get the bad end of a joy buzzer when you go forward to shake his hand, and this makes John laugh like the world’s dorkiest, snort-iest hyena.
Mr Egbert fusses over both of you, asking if you’ve been eating well, how your classes have been, if you’ve had enough food, how little Rose and Jade are doing, are you both quite sure you’re eating healthily, what job are you at now, Dave, please John you look rather skinny I insist you eat this cake, blah blah blah.
It’s not a very cool thing to admit, but you’ve always liked Mr Egbert. It was hard not to like a guy who’s sent you a birthday cake the size of your head every year since you were 9 years old, when you were just a kid his son met on the internet.
He doesn’t ask John about his girlfriend, carefully skirting around the subject, but there’s something about the way he hovers around, frowns when John gets that weird, thoughtful look on his face, that tells you he’s just waiting for the right time to bring it up.
He might find it hard to even find a right time. You suspect the G-word might become a dirty one in the Egbert-Strider household soon enough.
It’s only when he and John are preparing something for dinner (“Er, no, Dave, you cooked last night. Go sit down.”) do you hear them talking quietly, but they notice you eavesdropping and return to their previously cheery disposition, blabbering away about some sport or another they both follow. A sure fire method of making you go away if you ever knew one.
You sit eating with plates on your knees, Mr Egbert all the while telling you both that you should consider investing in a proper dining table if you could make the space. Considering that even when John has the urge to cook, you both just end up eating at the desk, poring over text books (or more likely, shitty blogs and stupid youtube videos), you’re not sure this is a great idea.
After you and John have cleared the dishes away (“Look, we have to clean these right away, I don’t want Dad thinking we’re really messy and gross.”), Mr Egbert takes out his pipe and tips out some tobacco into it.
“Ew, Dad! Don’t smoke that thing in here, bluh,” John snaps the second he catches sight of it. He looks at him in surprise and captchalogues his lighter again, shrugging.
“Of course, son, I’m under your roof, after all. Well, if you boys will excuse me, I’ll retire to the roof for a moment before dessert,” he says, heading out the door and to the roof. John looks at you, and then at the front door, then sighs and throws his hand up.
“Okay, now I feel bad. I’m gonna go keep him company Dave, we’ll be back when Dad’s finished his pipe,” he says, and dashes out the door after his Dad.
You shrug and lie on the couch, watching some shitty rerun of some shitty sitcom, and when it starts to rain and they still haven’t returned, the urge to go and listen in on private Egbert shenanigans is too high.
Fuck it, if John’s crying again or something you need to know. That or they’re trashing the roof with some dramatic final-battle prank-off in the rain, in which case you need to stop them before you get yelled at by the landlord.
They’re standing under an umbrella when you emerge onto the roof. You see the smoke from Mr Egbert’s pipe rising in a faint cloud under the rain and are about to call over to John, or sneak up on him and make him shit himself when you hear him say;
“Dad, how much of it do you remember? The – well, my thirteenth birthday, I mean?”
You creep away, and go back to the living room to wait for them.
“Bits and pieces. Some of them less pleasant than others. It was your day though, not mine, son,” is his very simple, polite reply. You sigh and shove your hands into the pockets of your jeans.
“I feel really dumb for telling her,” you mutter, and then add, sounding whiny even to yourself, “I really, really liked her, Dad, a lot.”
Dad pats you on the shoulder in that heavy-handed paternal way of his and takes another puff of his pipe. You wrinkle your nose a bit at the foul smell. Bluh! You thought you’d gotten free of that dadstink. Not being exposed to it for a few months always made you forget how gross it was.
“Love comes and goes, son. It’s admirable that you wanted to be honest with her, even if your execution wasn’t...perfect,” he admits, and you snort a little at how much effort it takes him to call you anything less than perfect, shifting the umbrella in your hands.
He goes off on a bit of a fatherly ramble about honesty and treating a lady well and love and blahblahblah, when you suddenly blurt something out:
“Dad, do I have to get married someday?”
He gives you a very odd look, and chuckles, ruffling your hair as though you were still 12 years old. You make a face at the indignity of it all – you’re a grown-up, goddamnit! Mostly.
“John, you don’t have to do anything. Have I not raised you to see your only obligation to anybody else as kindness?”
“Yeah, yeah,” you say, sounding every bit like a sulky 15 year old who was about to scream that nobody understood him, and try to brighten up a little, “Well. I just...I don’t think I want a girlfriend! Well I mean. I do, sorta. I really liked it. It was great but it felt a bit, funny. Like I felt kinda. Guilty.”
He gives you a curious look, and you clear your throat, promptly deciding to go no further with that line of thought that was absolutely necessary.
“Uh! But thanks, Dad. You’ve actually made me feel a lot better. We should go back in! If you’re done. Dave will start getting bored if we leave him alone much longer; he always gets whiny if I leave him on his own for too long.”
He smiles and simply says, “Your friends and family, odd as they are, will always be here, John. You should know that even without her, you’re very much loved.”
You roll your eyes, but your own smile doesn’t falter.
You wake up in a cold sweat that night, and the sound of you moving and panting wakes Dave up next to you. He lifts his face up off the pillow, always looking so strange without his shades; even with how long you’ve lived with him, and how many times you’ve glimpsed him without the ever-present eye-wear now, it still catches you kind of off-guard.
For once, he doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t need to say anything. He just shifts along and holds up his arm, and you gratefully squirm under it, resting your head on the same pillow as him.
Over the last few years, you’ve really grown to like the rain. Dave reacts to it like an especially disgruntled cat dropped in the bathtub. He comes home sopping (he always refuses your offer of an umbrella or a raincoat, muttering something about how uncool it looks) from head to toe, glares at you like it’s your fault, and then takes a shower and dumps himself on the sofa next to you, wearing a pair of your pyjamas.
You, however, love it. It gave you a good excuse to just sit inside with Dad, and now, Dave, and not worry about anything outside of that little bubble. It’s always like your world just briefly returns back to being just Dave, Rose, Jade and your Dad.
Since Dad left for home, leaving you both with enough cake to last you until Christmas, the rain hasn’t let up. You’ve went to work, went to class, and then came straight back home, Dave always there or an hour or so behind you. You feel a lot better for it.
Grace hasn’t been mentioned since Dad left, almost two months ago now, hugging you and wishing you the best, and taking Dave aside briefly for A Word. His only response when you asked him, sniggering, if Dad had been asking him to treat his son nicely, was to glare.
You’re glad it hasn’t been brought up again. Even Vriska has, with enough nagging from Rose, let it go.
Tonight, the movie is the Lost Boys. Dave is slumped on the other side of the sofa, his feet in your lap and you sit rubbing the ball of his foot with your thumb as he makes snarky criticisms of Corey Haim’s bad 80s haircut and civilian wardrobe. It doesn’t matter how many times you watch this movie, he still finds new jokes to make about it.
You’re fairly sure that you jokingly ask Dave if he’s a vampire when Jason Patric returns home sporting a pair of shades and a bad attitude every single time you watch it, but you still say it anyway.
“Egbert, I can’t believe you make me watch so much shit,” he says in his most exasperated voice, kicking you gently and letting his head loll back over the arm of the sofa, “Hey. It’s your birthday soon you know? The big two-one, you’ll finally be a man, bro.”
You tense up a little, squeezing hard enough on his foot that he swears at you. You offer him a small grin.
“Yeah, I realised yesterday,” you say, shrugging and attempting to sound nonchalant, “Why?”
Ever since you were 13, you’ve tried to keep your birthday toned down as possible. You haven’t even let anybody you met in college know what your birthday was. Your Dad still insists on making a big deal, mostly by baking you more cakes than you could possibly know what to do with. When you look back, you’ve either had Dave there or spent the day talking to him, Jade and Rose on Pesterchum.
“Wondering if you had anything mind. I’m guessing no. Rose and Jade both said they can visit that day.”
You nearly leap to your feet, and Dave swears again as you slop soda all over his bare legs.
You can’t help but grin like crazy.
“No, I’m totally fucking with you. They’ve both said they want nothing to do with you and you should not expect to see them anytime in the future. Of fucking course seriously,” he says, and you can sense his eyes rolling behind his shades, “I’m guessing I can tell them to come right on down?”
You more or less jump on top of him, and he swears again as he slops soda all down his shirt.
“Thanks Dave!” you say, grinning, practically nose to nose with him, “It feels like ages since I saw them.”
He shrugs and wriggles his arm free (you’d kinda trapped it between you both in your eagerness to try and give him a hug), giving you a quick squeeze before you sit up to get away from the gross, sticky soda all over Dave’s chest.
“Didn’t ask them,” he grumbles, “They practically leapt at the chance, even in Lalonde in her annoying snarky broad, can’t-make-anything-straight-forward – stop fucking sniggering – way.”
“Hehe, sorry. But still, that’s great. I can’t wait to see them.”
GG: hehehehe :P so dave has told you me and rose are visiting??
EB: yeah!!! oh man, the four of us haven’t been together in so long.
GG: haha my fault i guess!! i was too busy last christmas to come along
GG: ill make it up for you by making this birthday EXTRA fun!!!
GG: hehehe :P
EB: yeah! i bet!
EB: oh man, i have so much we can do. we can play rock band, me and dave FINALLY got a game of it.
EB: i call vocals though.
GG: dibs the drums!!! O: ive never played that game before
GG: or many games really hehe :P but im sure its great!!
GG: uuuh, if you dont mind me asking
GG: how are you?
EB: i mean, really well, actually.
EB: i didn’t think i’d feel this happy so soon.
EB: haha, don’t tell dave. he’s being so nice lately, it’s insane.
GG: hes not nice normally??? :O
GG: i can have words if he isnt
EB: well, he is nice.
EB: to me anyway! he’s still sometimes kind of a jerk to anybody he doesn’t know that well.
EB: it’s just kinda nice having his undivided attention!
GG: hmmm...interesting :|a
GG: (thats my contemplation face)
EB: stop that, jade.
EB: stop being rose. rose is great but one rose is enough.
GG: i wasnt being rose!! i dont think i read near enough books to be rose
EB: nobody does. she is the queen of books, jade.
EB: if somebody gets close to reading as many books as hers, she reads TWICE the usual.
GG: i bet she has book spies all over the country scouting out other people who read a lot of books
GG: she taps their phone and has the fbi monitor all their recent book purchases!! :O
EB: it’s true. the book monarchy is not something to be taken lightly.
GG: i just think its cute how much he cares about you!! i didnt mean anything by it
EB: i didn’t say i thought you meant something by it.
GG: you sure did think i meant something by it!!
EB: no, you thought i thought you meant something by it!
GG: no way! i am so sure you thought i meant something by it and now you think you can weasel out of thinking i meant something by saying i thought you were thinking i meant something by it!!!
GG: i dunno :P
GG: but did you think i meant something by it?
EB: well, yeah.
EB: did you mean something by it?
GG: a little bit, maybe :O
EB: i’m kind of losing track of what we’re talking about.
GG: me too
GG: but i just want to ask something i asked dave a few years ago
GG: are you two........
GG: a THING???? :O
EB: woah! jeez, no way!
EB: that got sorted out ages ago!
GG: huh? :\
EB: well. duh.
EB: i mean dave is not a homosexual, and neither am i!
EB: we like girls, jade.
GG: im not sure that how liking boys even works
GG: this smells a little fishy...
EB: there are no fish, jade, your nose must be off.
GG: eeeeeh well if youre sure john!!!
GG: saying it got sorted out sounds a bit
GG: weird though :O
EB: we just joke around a lot, that’s all.
EB: i mean maybe i took it the wrong way once or twice or maybe we took it too far a few times but we were both just joking around like buddies!
EB: sorry, jade, i’m talking to myself! ignore that.
EB: uh, are you bringing bec?
GG: smoooooth subject change mr smooth operator! >:P
EB: i know.
GG: i cant take how smooth you are!!!
EB: i know! i’m almost sliding out of this chair!
GG: smooooooooth! B)
GG: but ok mr awkward pants ill pretend i buy your crappy subject change!! :P
EB: thank you.
GG: and of course becs coming!!
This is by far the best birthday you’ve ever had.
You wake up to a new scooter sitting in your living room, a familiar wave-y, windy symbol painted on the back. When you almost knock Dave over hugging him gratefully, he just rolls his eyes and tells you that this embarrassing piece of shit at least goes faster than your current embarrassing piece of shit, but you catch a smile on his face all the same. You pick Rose up from the airport in it, wearing your Ectogoggles and looking thoroughly ridiculous.
“So, how much has Strider spent on you over the years at this point?” she asks, after receiving a quick hug. You just shrug and shove your helmet over her face with a cheerful “Safety first!” and drive her back to your apartment.
Jade is there by the time you get back, and Dave is attempting to stave off Bec’s eager attempts to lick his face. Even though Bec can no longer teleport, and actually has a face now, and is every bit the normal, if very large and intelligent, dog, Dave still swears that the creature is completely evil and keeps a safe distance from him all the same. Both Bec and Jade bowl you over the second you get home, before Jade flings herself at Rose too.
Rose’s present is a book, which you initially frown at before realising it’s a collection of original movie scripts of your favourite classics, and a knitted pair of gloves.
“Better than my fucking iPhone cosy,” Dave says critically, holding up the offending pink item, the one that had so frequently made him slow to respond to sudden pesters. You suppose it is hard to feel your iPhone vibrate through three inches of yarn, after all.
“I’ll happily knit you another one, Dave,” she responds, smirking.
You “Woah!” at Jade’s presents, little things she picked up on her travels; a painting of yourself in a blue hoodie done by salamander artists (it looked like they had had a bit of trouble staying inside the lines), 8 carved dice inscribed with weird symbols, a stuffed animal you’d never even seen before you have to hold at arm’s length (judging by the way Dave is staring at it, you guess he’s going to seize it for his Weird Dead Stuff collection), and best of all, a set of pranksterly equipment she collected from around the world.
She has to extract you from the Chinese finger trap (“You’ve SERIOUSLY never seen one of these before, Egbert?”) so you can open your other presents, wrapped in grey and navy.
One contains a stack of troll movies, and a note saying "HAPPY WRIGGLING DAY YOU WORTHLESS SACK OF SHIT.
YOUR FRIENDSHIP MEANS A LO HOPE YOU KEEP UP THIS RECORD OF MANAGING TO NOT FUCK EVERYTHING WITHIN A TWO UNIVERSE RADIUS UP AGAIN THIS YEAR"
When you unwrap the other gift, you find a letter from Vriska, a drawing of yourself (“Yeah, with about 150% more muscles, Egbert.”) in a wife-beater and eyepatch, and a bizarrely large pillow with Nic Cage’s face printed on it. For some reason, the pillow prompts Dave to laugh until his shades drop down his nose and almost off his face. Trolls are so weird.
Rose, Jade and Dave valiantly attempt to eat through all the cakes Dad has sent you, but even as it gets dark and Dave starts pouring cocktails (for himself and Rose), and beer (for you and Jade), you know there’s going to be cake in the apartment for months.
“A confession, is it?” Rose repeats, amused, sipping from her martini-in-a-mug and looking across at John. John nods, grinning.
The four of you sit in a circle on the living room floor, cross-legged and all slowly feeling what you’re pretty sure is the start of a night of being really, really drunk. John is nearly in your goddamn lap.
His arm is around you as he sings noisily about blessing the rains down in Africa, and Rose smirks at you. Any attempts to avert a musical crisis have been outdone, though you should know better than to try to wage musical war against John Egbert at this point.
You’ve went from Kidd Rama to Aerosmith, then to Sebastian and Belle to the Ghostbusters soundtrack, then your attempt to put Crystal Castles on was thwarted (“If we have to listen to this, you have to dance!” “Egbert, if you want a striptease, just ask.” “Like you would. Go on, then, I da –“ “Strider if you remove as much as one article of clothing I will make your life very unpleasant.”), and was swiftly replaced by Erasure.
You gave up when Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool magically turned into Toto’s Greatest Hits when you were in the bathroom.
Oh, Rose can laugh now, but the second Rosanne comes on, he’s going to be swinging her around the room and singing at the top of his lungs.
“Yeah, something you’ve never told any of us before!” he says, and you roll your eyes.
“Well then, if the birthday boy wishes it,” she says, setting down the mug and leaning back on her hands, looking up at the ceiling thoughtfully, “Hmm, well you recall when I told you that I had given up writing for the long-term?”
John and Jade nod eagerly, leaning forward, and you sense what’s coming a mile off. Rose grins devilishly at you all, snapping her head back to them.
“Well, that was a complete fabrication. If you’re curious, search for the username “Treacherous Teuthologist” on any respectable fanfiction website,” she says, sipping from her mug, pinky out. John and Jade laugh appreciatively.
“No such thing as a respectable fanfic site, Lalonde,” you say, rolling your eyes as Jade claps in delight and sticks her hand up in the air.
“Ooh, ooh! I have one!” she says, downing the rest of her drink (Jesus Christ on a goddamn cracker the woman was going to drink you out of house and home), “Hmm. Okaay...I had a little thing with Karkat for a while.”
John promptly spits his drink all over himself, and looks across at Jade, looking every part the scandalised older brother. You decide that pointing out that he’s the little brother would be a waste of time.
“Oh ho! I suspected as much. When we were 15, correct?” Rose says, tilting her head. Jade nodded.
“How did you know?” John asks, then looks at you as though for support, “She knows EVERYTHING!”
“Uh huh. I mean...didn’t really work, but whatever,” she says, a crease appearing between her eyebrows and her lip curling into a weird frown. You’ve seen that look on John’s face before, usually when the topic of Serket comes up.
“Yeah,” you say, quickly, not wanting this piss-up to devolve into a sobfest, “Puts any other long-distance fling right into fucking perspective.”
“Indeed. If I may say, my closer-to-home affairs haven’t been particularly successful either,” Rose intercepts, also sensing danger, “Did I tell you about that boy who, when I told him about you three, said that you were likely some unspeakably violent pedophiles and I couldn’t possibly really know you?”
“No,” you say, twisting round to look at your ectosibling, hoping that offense isn’t etched as hard on your face as it feels. John frowns, but Jade merely looks puzzled. The concept of internet safety was probably new to her, being raised by some fucking devilbeast on a crazy man’s island.
“What did you say?” John asks, leaning forward.
“Oh, nothing. The knitting needle lodged up his nose probably explained my feelings eloquently enough,” she responds, and both John and Jade fall about laughing again. You give her a little smirk, and clink your glass with her mug.
“I believe this revelry requires more...means I require...somebody get me another drink,” she says, holding up her now-empty mug. John responds by pouring a mix of Mountain Dew and vodka into it. She stares at him for a second, then sighs and seems to accept the classlessness of the whole situation.
The four of you continue to offer up embarrassing stories and confessions. John tells you about the time he tried to do magic at the school talent show, and managed to accidentally set an entire flock of doves loose in the school building. Rose tells you about a brief phase she had which involved joining a cult to spite Mom, and then noisily practicing the rituals in the living room. Until Mom also signed up and she gave it up in disgust, that is. Jade tells you about an incident she had with a blind alligator, which explains something very surreal Terezi attempted to tell you a while back.
“Strider, I can’t help but notice you’ve failed to offer us any amusing anecdotes.”
All three of them look at you with identical, expectant looks.
“Nope,” you say, automatically, and John groans, resting his chin your shoulder.
“Spooooilspoooort,” he whines, tugging on your arm, and you stick out your tongue at him. Jade giggles.
“Nothin’ to say, Dave Strider doesn’t have embarrassing stories.”
You have no doubt that Terezi is sending an endless stream of contradictory messages to your iPhone at this very moment, and you’re suddenly very glad it’s in your back-pocket. Not that John hasn’t fished it out of there before.
“No way! What about your brother’s puppets?” Jade offers.
“Or maybe all the times you’ve flown off the handle or broken a sword in half?” John says, grinning.
“Or perhaps the endless phallic imagery plaguing your dreams?” Rose offers, wriggling her fingers. John laughs helplessly into your neck, shoulders shaking as though it’s the funniest goddamn thing he’s ever heard. You flip her off and internally call her every single insult you can think of. Which is, naturally, a goddamn lot.
“Come on, Dave, we’ve all given a bunch of dumb stories and confessions and stuff,” John says, shoving you playfully. You fold your arms, refusing to indulge him in a bout of completely pointless wrestling for once, and shake your head.
“Nope,” you repeat.
“Come oooon, Dave!” Jade whines. She drums her fingers on the carpet and leans towards you expectantly, and with her hair pulled back into a ponytail you notice her face is exactly like her ecto-brother’s, only with green eyes. In that instant, she looks exactly like John when he’s trying to get you to do something dumb. Fuck, that does not help.
“Nope,” you say again. John rolls his eyes and heaves a sigh.
“Okay,” he says, lifting up a stern finger to you, “You say something and I’ll tell a story or secret or whatever I’ve never told you ever.”
“There are things you don’t tell me?” you repeat, and judging by Jade and Rose’s giggling fits, you didn’t manage to keep the scandalised look off your face. John rolls his eyes.
“Some things, yeah. C’mon. Are you in or not?” he asks. You sigh.
“Great, on three!” he says, “One. Two. Three!”
You blurt out the first thing that comes into your head, while John blurts out his secret.
“I wet the bed until I was 10.”
“I think I’m falling in love with you.”
GG: oh my god rose say something D:
TT: No, we shouldn’t interfere.
TT: One of them is bound to say something soon.
GG: ITS BEEN EIGHT MINUTES!!!!
“Kidding!” John says after what feels like the most torturously long minutes in existence, holding up his hands and grinning.
“Fuck man, I knew you were fucking with me,” you say, ruffling his hair and then pulling him into a noogie, “I can’t fucking believe you got that out of me for nothing.”
“Haha, man, until you were 10!? I knew you then!” he laughs, trying to pull you off him, “Good job Dad wouldn’t let you stay over when we were that little, it would have been disastrous.”
“The trauma of tonight might prompt me to start again, dumbass, you’re really pushing it tonight. Playing with my heart like that, man, you’re fucking terrible,” you say, as he manages to wriggle free and jumps on you, the whole thing quickly devolving into a half-drunk wrestling match on the floor. Familiar territory, at least.
Jade and Rose look at each other, frowning.
You thank God for alcohol, because without it you’re pretty sure it’d be hard to push past that last sticky cloud of horrible awkwardness, but push past it you do. The rest of the night continues to be, even with that small hitch, The Best Birthday Ever.
You spend a good few minutes annoying Dave by swinging him around the room to your favourite Toto song. You discover that Jade has apparently never encountered a karaoke machine before, so you soon find she usurps the mic from you, and you’re left to beat the little fake plastic drums instead. You have a four-person dance party in Casey’s room to some of Dave’s newest mixes. Casey pops an angry bubble at you as she leaves, Liv clutched in her tiny hands, to go sleep in your bed instead.
Rose, it seems, has taken up shot-drinking in the past few years if only to spite her mother by surpassing her drinking abilities. You’re not so sure anybody could do that, but she’s at least surpassed her brother, who is slumped on the floor in a passed-out, uncool heap.
“Don’t worry, John,” she says, batting you away as you try to scoop him up off the floor, “I’ll tuck him in for you. I was the one who brought him crashing to his knees, after all.”
You back away as she slings his arm over her shoulder, and staggers into your bedroom to put him down to sleep. You almost miss the nod she gives to Jade, and your stomach lurches unpleasantly.
Jade and Rose working together is a formidable force. You have reason to feel nervous.
“John, come here, we should wash up,” Jade calls, and you follow, humming and clumsily drying off damp, chipped mugs and glasses with a teatowel.
“Man, I can’t believe Dave tried to challenge her. He should know you can’t beat any Lalonde in a drink-off, they’re simply the best there is,” you say as Jade tries to open her mouth and say something. She glares at you, and you just hum on, wiping the same glass down over and over, “This has been a really, really great birthday, Jade. Thanks.”
“John! What was that about earlier?” she shouts, and you “shoosh” her frantically, gesturing towards the bedroom door Rose has just emerged from. You’re glad she seems to be preoccupying herself with carrying Casey to bed. Though you can’t help but feel a prickle of annoyance when you overhear her calling your dear sweet baby girl “Viceroy”.
“John,” Jade repeats, more quietly, nudging you. You shrug.
“I was just kidding, Jade!” you say, cheerfully, continuing to wipe the now bone-dry glass with a now soaking-wet teatowel, “Me and Dave do this stuff all the time. It’s just guy junk.”
“John, you should have seen your face when he said nothing back!” she shouts, and you shoosh her again, more urgently this time. She claps her hands over her mouth, as though, bringing all the sound back in, then continues in more hushed tones, her expression distraught, “It was like watching a million orphaned puppies cry. While somebody played the world’s saddest violin song in the background.”
You laugh quietly and she thumps your shoulder with her fist, and you whine out a pathetic “Oooow!”. She ignores your plight completely.
“It wasn’t that baaad,” you say, with another shrug.
“But is it true? You can tell me, John,” she says, ditching the dishes and wrapping an arm around your shoulders. You shrug again, concentrating on putting the clean glasses and plates and cups away.
She suddenly grabs your wrist and, with a look of utmost concentration and solemnity on her face, hooks her pinkie finger with yours.
“I pinkie-promise it, John,” she says gravely, “I won’t breathe a word to anybody if you tell me something.”
You giggle again at her expression, and she just squeezes your little finger tighter.
“Aah, jeez. It’s nothing, Jade, I mean, if I meant it, it’s not like. Yeah,” you say. You’re not even sure what that was supposed to mean. Judging by the look on Jade’s face, she doesn’t either.
“Well, you know! If I meant it, I couldn’t...do anything. About it. And you know, we’re both boys. Men. I mean.”
Jade continues to stare at you as though you’ve suddenly sprouted a second head, and that head has started babbling in Greek or something. She tilts her head, looking, for a second, completely like Bec when faced with a mirror.
“Soooo?” she says.
“Well, you know, being all normal and stuff is hard enough without...without erm...” you trail off with a vague hand-gesture that you hope somehow explains everything you don’t know how to put into words, because you’re not sure the words are even ones you know.
“Is it really that...not normal?” she asks, frowning. You open and close your mouth. You don’t really have a good answer for that. Thankfully, Jade continues on cheerfully and saves you from most likely shoving your foot in your mouth.
“I guess I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been normal,” she says, grinning and scratching the back of her head, and you realise that you’re mimicking the motion exactly, “I’m still really happy though! You don’t have to be normal to be happy, right?”
“Right...but, well...oh jeez, Jade! Sorry, can we talk about this some other time? I’m really drunk and I just want to enjoy my birthday, okay?” you say, feeling a headache coming on and reaching for another bottle of beer. She stares at you for a second, then sighs and smiles.
“Oh, okay. Darn you for being so hard to say no to!” she says with a expression of mock anger, shaking her fist at you.
You just grin and take a deck of cards out of your sylladex, eager to change the subject and distract the both of you.
“Dave’s been teaching me all sorts of card-games. Want to take me on?”
You remember all too late about Jade’s brief time in Vegas.
You can only hope Dave’s good enough to win your Xbox back.
Rose throws herself on the sofa, despite your numerous protests and insistences that you and Dave should give your bed to the her and Jade for the night, and goes to sleep later. Jade, similarly unmoved by your attempts at chivalry, curls up with Bec after successfully crushing you at every card game you know, plus Battleship, just to add insult to injury.
You sneak into your room and kick off your jeans, wriggling into bed next to Dave. He’s lying on his side, back to you, and his eyes squeezed tight closed.
You roll your eyes.
“I know you’re awake, Dave,” you say, prodding him. He continues to pretend to be asleep and you sigh, “Come on, you snore like a bulldozer when you’re actually asleep. And you curl right up. You don’t look that cool when you’re sleeping.”
He continues to ignore you and you sigh and shuffle closer to him, wrapping your arms around his middle.
He turns right around, façade of being asleep deserted entirely.
“You are NOT making me the little spoon,” he says, and you snort.
“Why not? You suck at being the big spoon. I’m an awesome big spoon.”
“Like hell are you. You’re a little spoon through and through.”
“Totally you, dude. I’m like...a soup lady - ladle. And you’re a teaspoon. The one aforementioned soup ladle – lady stirs her fancy tea with. That is the difference in our spoony qualities.”
“You’re wasted, man,” he tells you. You snigger and rest your forehead against his.
“Oh and you’re not?”
“I’m sobering up, been here for a good hour or two dude,” he says, yawning, “Hey. Uh. Bout...well. Nah. Whatever, not a conversation for 5 in the mornin’, I think.”
“Let’s go to sleep, Dave, I’m tired.”
“Yeah. Yeah, good idea, I’m fucking exhausted. Night, John.”
-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB] --
CG: ALRIGHT, THAT IS IT.
CG: THAT IS FUCKING IT.
CG: THIS IS DRIVING ME FUCKING CRAZY.
CG: I CANNOT POSSIBLY ENDURE ONE MORE FUCKING SECOND OF YOUR STUPIDITY FROLICKING ALL OVER MY VIEWPORT. I AM TWO SECONDS AWAY FROM SPEWING UP HIDEOUS CHUNKS OF MY DISDAIN ALL OVER MY GODDAMN SCREEN AND IF THERE IS ANY GOD AT ALL, HOPEFULLY MY CONTEMPT-VOMIT WILL SURPASS THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN OUR UNIVERSES AND SPLATTER ONTO YOUR STUPID INSIPID FACE.
CG: THE DOCTOR IS IN THE HOUSE, JOHN EGBERT. I AM CRASHING DOWN ON YOUR HEAD LIKE THE ALMIGHTY TROLL WILL SMITH TO DIAGNOSE AND REMEDY YOUR STUPID HUMAN LOVE PROBLEMS.
CG: NOT THAT I FOR A FUCKING SECOND UNDERSTAND WHY THE HELL YOU FIND IT SO HAAAAARD WHEN YOUR ROMANCE SYSTEM IS SO BREATHTAKINGLY STUPID AND SIMPLE IN DESIGN.
CG: IT’S ONE GODDAMN QUADRANT YOU BELCHING HONKING ASSTRUMPET.
CG: THE EASIEST ONE.
CG: AND SINCE THROUGH OBSERVATION IT SEEMS STRIDER IS THE ONLY HUMAN ON YOUR SPINNING DIRTBALL OF A PLANET CAPABLE OF PARROTING BACK YOUR OTHERWISE INIMITABLE LEVEL OF STUPIDITY, IT SEEMS CLEAR TO ME YOU ARE THE ONLY ONES THAT COULD POSSIBLY STAND TO BE THE OTHERS MATESPRIT.
CG: SO HERE IS MY DIAGNOSIS, HIKE YOUR UGLY BOXERS UP TO YOUR ARMPITS IN SHAME AND LISTEN. YOU TWO ARE PERFECT FOR EACH OTHER IN THAT IT STOPS EITHER OF YOU INFLICTING YOURSELVES ON ANY OTHER PERSON ON YOUR PLANET WHO ISN’T A COMPLETE INCOMPETENT LOSER.
CG: AND HERE I AM NAIVELY GIVING YOUR ENTIRE RACE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT LIKE THE KIND-HEARTED FUCKING SPREADER OF PEACE I AM.
CG: BECAUSE IF THIS IS ACTUALLY HOW ROMANCE WORKS FOR EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON YOUR PLANET I WILL THROW MY HANDS UP IN THE AIR AND CRY FOR MERCY FROM THIS ONSLAUGHT ON MY THINKPAN BEFORE WEEPING AND DISCONNECTING ALL THE GODDAMN VIEWPORTS THAT LET US PEEK INTO THIS PATHETIC CHARADE OF OH NO I CAN’T TALK ABOUT MY VERY SIMPLE HUMAN FEELINGS.
CG: LET’S JUST DISCUSS WHAT PIECE OF LUDICROUS EARTH CUTLERY WE ARE MOST LIKE INSTEAD.
CG: THAT ISN’T TOTALLY RIDICULOUS IN ANY WAY.
CG: I SWEAR LISTENING TO THAT CONVERSATION MADE MY IQ TAKE A SUDDEN FUCKING NOSEDIVE INTO LEVELS OF DUMB THAT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS EGBERTIAN.
CG: NOT TO MENTION THAT THE SHEER VARIETY OF HUMAN KITCHENWARE IS COMPLETELY WASTEFUL AND POINTLESS AND ONLY DEMONSTRATES YOUR RACE’S ABILITY TO FOCUS SOLELY ON THINGS THAT AREN’T EVEN SLIGHTLY FUCKING IMPORTANT.
CG: NOW WAKE UP YOU LITTLE BARFBASKET AND ABSORB THE MIGHTY AND INCREDIBLY HELPFUL FURY OF MY LOVE SLEUTHING AND GO MAKE HORRIBLE KISSY FACES WITH STRIDER SO EVERYONE HERE WILL STOP WATCHING IT LIKE IT’S SOME TERRIBLE FUCKING VERSION OF TROLL DAYS OF OUR LIVES.
CG: MAYBE THEN I WILL BE ABLE TO ACTUALLY WATCH TROLL DAYS OF OUR LIVES WITHOUT EVERYBODY FUCKING WANTING TO WATCH THIS SLOPPY SOAP OPERA INSTEAD.
CG: I MISSED THE FUCKING WEDDING EPISODE LAST NIGHT THANKS TO TEREZI’S INSISTANCE ON WATCHING YOU AND STRIDER’S PATHETIC SHENANIGANS, ASSHOLE.
CG: YOU ARE TEARING THIS FAMILY APART, JOHN EGBERT.
EB: karkat, do trolls get hang-overs?
EB: because if you guys do, i think you really will forgive me for not reading any of that.
CG: FUCK YOU, JOHN.
EB: but i’m sorry you missed your show or whatever.
EB: and thank you for the present! those movies look really cool, i’m going to watch one with the guys after breakfast.
CG: YOU’RE WELCOME.
CG: BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT I CAME HERE TO FUCKING TALK TO YOU ABOUT.
CG: NOW IF YOU’D JUST STOP DROOLING OVER YOURSELF LIKE A SENILE EARTH CHIMPANZEE WE CAN HAVE A NICE FRIENDLY DISCUSSION ABOUT HOW YOU’RE A COMPLETE MORONTOOL AND EVERYTHING IN YOUR CULTURE IS PREPOSTEROUS AND MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE.
EB: i really hope you don’t talk to people like this when you go out to do your weird troll activism stuff.
EB: that’s not really a good way of promoting cultural sensitivity.
CG: IT’S NOT ACTIVISM, AND I’M NOT PROMOTING CULTURAL SENSITIVITY.
CG: I’M PROMOTING
CG: HEY GUYS, GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR BLUE BLOODED ASSHOLES AND STOP MURDERING EACH OTHER. MAYBE THIS SHOULD BE A PLANET WHERE WE DON’T ALL MINDLESSLY MURDER EACH OTHER AND MAKE EACH OTHER AND OURSELVES FUCKING MISERABLE FOR NO GOOD REASON.
CG: NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN TO ME.
CG: THAT’S BOTH ADDRESSED TO YOU AND THIS IMAGINARY CROWD OF DISCIPLES.
EB: man, you’re like
EB: angry alien gandhi.
CG: EGBERT, FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
EB: i’m sorry karkat, i’m not sure what you’re talking about! i don’t feel too great right now.
EB: hold on.
CG: OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE, JOHN, I CAN SEE YOU.
CG: WARN ME BEFORE YOU DO THAT. I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU EMPTYING YOUR STOMACH CONTENTS INTO YOUR PORCELAIN WASTE RECEPTACLE.
EB: gee, sorry! it’s not like i really wanted anybody to see me barf.
EB: maybe you guys should just stop looking through those viewports if you’re so sick of it?
EB: i mean you could just ask us what’s going on rather than turning us into some creepy voyeuristic sitcom.
CG: NO, NOT HAPPENING.
CG: I DEMAND 24/7 SURVELLIENCE IN CASE YOU FUCK SOMETHING UP AGAIN.
CG: IF SOMETHING GOES HORRIFICALLY WRONG ON YOUR SHITTY PLANET, I NEED TO KNOW SO I CAN CALL THE MORE COMPETENT RACE TO ARMS AND TRY TO SALVAGE YOU FROM THE DESECRATION YOU’D UNDOUBTEDLY INFLICT UPON YOURSELF, LIKE THE BENEVOLENT GOD I AM.
EB: is that a really, really round-about way of saying you just want to make sure we’re alright?
CG: JOHN I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE PUNCHING YOU AND ANY PORKY HUMAN SPAWN YOU CREATE IN THE FACE IF YOU DON’T STOP.
EB: alright, alright.
EB: so what’s your point here? me and jade are about to go out to the store, i haven’t got much time.
CG: MY POINT IS SORT YOUR GODDAMN LIFE OUT, JOHN.
CG: INSTEAD OF JUST BROADCASTING YOUR RED INCLINATIONS OUT TO THE ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD LIKE AN IMPRUDENT ASSHOLE AND THEN PANICKING AND GOING
CG: OH HAHA GUYS JUST KIDDING.
CG: YEAH, HILARIOUS, FUCKING LOL.
EB: oh jeez, karkat, sorry, my head hurts so much and i keep reading everything you say in your voice and that’s only making it worse.
EB: and i bet your voice is deeper and even louder now too.
CG: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
EB: let’s just talk later, dude. i feel like such crap right now, and you’re kinda hard work when a guy’s not feeling his best.
CG: OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE, FINE.
CG: BUT DO OR SAY ONE MORE THING THAT MAKES ME WANT TO FURIOUSLY THROW RANDOM SNACKS AT THE SCREEN AND I WILL NOT HESITATE TO UNLEASH AN ALMIGHTY TROLLOCALYPSE ON YOUR HAPLESS ASS.
EB: haha, okay, bye!
-- ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] --
CG: AND FOR FUCK’S SAKE WILL YOU PLEASE JUST GO AND
CG: OH GODDAMNIT JOHN.
You wake up groping for a non-existent John, and stupidly yell out for him to get back in here until you’re ready to wake up, before slowly realising that Rose is probably sitting in the kitchen over a bowl of oatmeal and smirking her fucking face off.
You grab your shades and stagger out of your bedroom, head thumping, and see that you are, in fact, completely correct.
“Good morning, Strider,” she says, putting her bowl down on the kitchen bench and wiping her mouth, “John has gone to the store with Jade. Something about Ovaltine. They should be back momentarily.”
You’re not sure where the hell Rose got a pair of straighteners from – you and John definitely don’t have one – but her hair’s done perfectly already, as is her make-up, while your hair is sticking up at stupid angles and your hangover is pounding your head relentlessly.
“Meanwhile, why don’t we have a little chat?” she says, and you get a horrible, ominous feeling in the pit of your stomach. She pulls out one of the two grubby patio chairs you have around your cheap patio table (you both figured you should get some form of dining table, and it had basically boiled down to “Well, that’ll do.”), and sits on it backwards, kicking out the one on the other side for you.
“Sit,” she instructs. You consider telling her that she sounded exactly like Mom in that moment, but last time you said anything of the sort her knitting needles came out and got dangerously close to your nostrils.
Instead, you decide to just go along with it and sit down.
You start timing it in your head to see how long it takes her to start asking you about your feelings.
“Now, would you care to explain your feelings on one John Egbert?” she asked. Yep, less than a minute. You owe yourself a buck.
“My feelings being that he’s a goober, you mean? I thought they’d already been laid out multiple times like plates and cutlery at the world’s snootiest restaurant,” you say, shrugging. She rolls her eyes and kicks you under the table. Your “Ow, fuck, Lalonde!” doesn’t move her, and your plight goes unacknowledged.
“You know what I mean, Dave. I had a peek into your room this morning. Tell me, do you two sleep in such a tight embrace every night?” she asks, and you slump down in your chair, sulking, and her lips curve into a triumphant smirk.
“Yeah, so? A guy can’t give his bro a hug on his birthday? Lalonde I thought you were all for this touchy feely new man shit,” you say, and she taps the tips of her nails impatiently on the table. You can’t help but feel slightly as if you’re being cornered.
“Strider, you share the same bed –“
“No space in the other room is there.”
“You were blabbering inanely about him while I was trying to get you to bed last night.”
“Thanks to somebody encouraging me to practically inject tequila into my bloodstream.”
“He said he was falling in love with you last night.”
“He’s got a weird sense of humour, Lalonde, always has.”
“Anyone would think from your behaviour that these feelings are reciprocated,” she ploughs on, stubbornly ignoring your protests or attempts to talk some sense into her, and gazes at you expectantly, “And don’t say anything containing the word “bro”, for the love of all that is good in this world, Dave. One gets so tired, between you and Father, of hearing that word.”
“Okay, will you please stop calling Bro “father”. It’s really fucking weird. And he’s not even here for you to freak out.”
“You are, though.”
“Touché,” you admit, leaning back on your chair, “So what, you think I’m in love with John, yes homo, whole deal?”
“Well, yes, that’s my theory. I think it isn’t wholly unjustified, Jade agrees with me that there’s something “fishy” about you two lately,” she says, nodding, and then catches your expression and adds very quickly, “And I’m not trying to impugn on your identity or emasculate you. Nor does having a homosexual attraction actually make you any less of a man.”
You huff. There’s about a million things you’d like to say to that, but you suspect anything you say will end in Lalonde giving you a lecture on how not all gay guys are big nancy boys blahblahblah, whatever. If there’s one thing you want to avoid, it’s a Lalonde lecture on your day off.
“Fine, whatever. Look it’s perfect as it is, okay, we’re not ruminating on something that could ruin it,” you say, throwing your hands up. She raises an eyebrow at you, putting down her cup of coffee.
“So you admit it?” she asks, sounding extremely surprised for somebody who was so sure of her theory five minutes ago.
“No, but c’mon. Everybody is. A bit more attached than the oughta be. It’s John,” you grunt, letting all four legs of your chair clatter back down onto the floor. She gives you a weird searching look, and then to your surprise, doesn’t say anything. She quietly takes another sip of her coffee. She looks thoughtful for a moment, wiping her lipstick off the rim of her mug with the edge of her sleeve.
“I suppose he is very special, Dave. No point denying that,” she mumbles, shrugging, “I can’t help but think you’re pushing the boundaries of what’s just natural platonic affection, though.”
You open your mouth to say something else, something witty about Rose projecting her own Egbert-lust onto him or something, when the door comes up and John calls “I’m home!”, swinging a plastic shopping bag in one hand. Jade grins over at you and Rose, shaking off a sopping wet umbrella before giving it back to John to put into his strife deck.
He pulls out a carton of apple juice from the bag and pours you a glass (“100% not squeezed from Howie Mandell, dude, I swear.”), and starts making bacon, eggs and sausages (veggie ones for Jade) for all four of you.
“Dave, you are aware you’re sporting an exceptionally dopey smile at the moment, aren’t you?”
You sit up and put the pokerface back firmly in place.
A few hours later, and you’re dropping Rose and Jade off at the airport. Jade snaps a photo of all four of you on the camera Dave gave her, though you noticed that he spent a painstakingly long time showing her how to use it correctly, and actually physically wince when she nearly dropped it. She hugs you, then Dave, and then you pull Rose into a squeeze. You and Jade stand sniggering at Dave and Rose’s shared inability to express open affection for each other as they give each other a brief hug, before springing apart like the other has cooties.
You make the world’s lamest snorty-sniffy noise and rub your face on your sleeve. Jade promises she’ll write and email and send loads of cool pictures, while Rose and Dave just stand, made awkward by you being so close to tears in a public place. Dave pats your shoulder and you grin at him.
Their planes are called, Jade goes first, waving frantically while she’s shepherded into the gate, and shouting promises to send you plenty of photos and stuff. Rose simply smiles at you both and tells you to take care of yourself, and then they’re both gone. Maybe until the end of the year. You can’t help but feel a little depressed about it.
“So, bust out the scooter, John,” he says as you exit the airport, “Embarrass me, but make it quick. Thought you wanted to get some real gaming in this afternoon now the girls are gone.”
“Now Rose isn’t here to totally kick your ass at it, you mean.”
“Whatever, come on, shitty scooter, let’s go.”
It’s the first time he’s ever tried to actually encourage you to get onto your scooter, but hey, there might still be alcohol in your system! You are so not drink-driving, not even a little.
“No way man, not unless you have a breathalyser thingy to make sure I’m good to go.”
He just groans and slings an arm around your shoulders.
“You’re fucking ridiculous, but fine. If we’re walking, we’re dropping by Gamestop. I bet there’s at least one shitty movie game we don’t own yet.”
EB: well, duuh, it’s not like i like guys.
EB: i mean, it’s nothing like that. i don’t think i’d want to kiss some random boy or something.
EB: and girls are pretty.
GG: so?? i think girls are pretty :P everyone thinks girls are pretty
EB: well yeah, but this is kinda different, hehe.
GG: are you still so worried about being normal or whatever???
EB: i guess. a little.
EB: but i dunno.
EB: i mean i’m really really happy when i don’t think about it, but really really sad and worried when i do.
GG: youre thinking youre better off just not thinking about it?
GG: its what id do!!
EB: haha, yeah. pretty much.
EB: but it’s not just that.
GG: what else is it??
EB: uh. man. this is so awkward to talk about.
GG: you dont have to tell me if you dont want to O: i just want to help!! <3
EB: it’s a bunch of other stuff. and look at my history!
EB: well, jeez, let’s make a list!
EB: people i’ve said i love you or something like that to.
EB: 1. vriska.
EB: she called it off an hour after we were thrown into separate universes.
EB: i get why she did it, but. still.
GG: trust me john it wouldnt work :(
EB: i know.
EB: 2. grace.
EB: we break up a few hours later. you know the story.
GG: john its totally different!! she wasnt really one of us, was she??
EB: i guess not.
EB: 3. dave.
EB: well. you know.
EB: if i could stop feeling weird about him i would, it’d make everything a whole lot simpler!
GG: would you, really?? :O
EB: maybe, anyway?
GG: hmmm :\ you dont sound too sure
EB: yeah. well. he’s just
EB: pretty special, i guess.
CG: RIGHT, YOU.
CG: I’M SWALLOWING WHATEVER SHREDS OF PRIDE I EVEN HAVE LEFT AND ENDURING THE SHAME RIPPING APART MY PROTEIN CHUTE TO TALK TO YOU.
CG: I’M EXTENDING MY WELL-WORN AND WAR-TORN OLIVE BRANCH HERE AND WRIGGLING IT IN YOUR UNWORTHY FACE.
CG: FROM ONE CANDY EYED FREAK TO ANOTHER, I’M SUGGESTING WE BOTH SHUT THE FUCK UP AND STOP GOING OUT OF OUR WAY TO SHOVE OUR MUTUAL DISDAIN DOWN EACH OTHERS THROATS LIKE SO MANY OF EGBERT’S LUSUS’ PASTRY GOODS.
CG: NOW ARE YOU SATISFACTORILY SHUT THE FUCK UP? YOU LOOK QUITE ENOUGH.
CG: NOW KEEP THOSE LIPS PRESSED EVEN MORE TIGHT THAN USUAL YOU COMPLETE AND UTTER FUCKING WASTE OF YOUR PLANET’S ATMOSPHERIC OXYGEN AND LISTEN TO ME.
CG: BEFORE YOU GO OFF DOING SOMETHING INCREDIBLY STUPID AND MAKING EVERYTHING A FUCKLOAD HARDER FOR EGBERT THAN IT NEEDS TO BE, MAYBE YOU SHOULD ACTUALLY JUST SIT AND BE STRAIGHT-FORWARD FOR ONCE IN YOUR WORTHLESS LIFE.
CG: RATHER THAN COMPLETELY FUCKING BLOWING EVERYTHING YOU WANT OUT OF YOUR ASS IN YOUR RELENTLESS EFFORTS OT MAKE A COMPLETE INSUFFERABLE PRICK OUT OF YOURSELF.
CG: WHAT DO YOU EVEN HOPE TO ACHIEVE BY THIS??
CG: ARE YOU HOPING THAT SOMEBODY WILL PAINT A FUCKING PORTRAIT OF YOU AND HANG IT UP IN THE EMOTIONALLY STUNTED DOUCHEBAG GALLERY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS OF STUPID ASSWIPES TO GAWK AT.
CG: IT’LL BE GREAT JUST YOU AND ME HANGING UP ON THAT WALL TOGETHER FOREVER. THE THRONGS OF IDIOTS BEHIND VELVET ROPES SHARING HUSHED OPINIONS ON THE SUBTELETY OF THE BRUSHSTROKE THAT MAKES YOUR FACE SO VERY VERY PUNCHABLE.
CG: AT LEAST WHEN I GOT MYSELF UP THERE I HAD A BETTER REASON THAN YOUR PITIFUL ATTEMPTS TO KEEP A GRIP ON THE NORMALCY THAT WAS, QUITE FRANKLY, RIPPED AWAY THE SECOND YOU DECIDED TO PUT YOUR OWN BRAIN IN A JAR AND PUT IT UP ON FUCKING DISPLAY.
CG: OR THE SECOND YOUR SWEATY WEIRDO MAN LUSUS DECIDED TO TEST HOW WELL YOU COULD BE THROWN OFF A ROOF.
CG: UNLUCKILY FOR HIM, NOT TO MENTION THE REST OF US AND ALL OF YOUR FELLOW EARTHLINGS, YOU JUST SPRUNG RIGHT BACK UP DIDN’T YOU? SHAME.
CG: STRIDER I AM SAYING THIS OUT OF THE GOODNESS OF MY BLADDER BASED EXPANDING AND CONTRACTING CARDIAC SYSTEM.
CG: GO SORT YOUR LIFE OUT BEFORE HARLEY MAKES GOOD ON HER LONGASS RAMBLING RANTS AND ACTUALLY KICKS THROUGH YOUR WALL AND SLAPS YOU UNTIL YOU’RE SEEING LITTLE FUCKING CARTOON CLUCKBEASTS CIRCLING AROUND YOUR HEAD.
CG: AND IT ISN’T VERY FUN TO GIVE UP SOMEBODY IMPORTANT JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE AN UNSPEAKABLY STUPID PRICK, TRUST ME.
CG: SAY SOMETHING ALREADY, STRIDER.
CG: I CAN SEE YOU, YOU PASTY LITTLE SHITSTAIN. UNLESS YOU’RE ASLEEP BEHIND YOUR ABSURD WOMEN’S EYEWEAR YOU’RE READING THIS, SO STOP PRETENDING YOU AREN’T.
CG: AND DON’T ACT LIKE I HAVEN’T GOT A FUCKING POINT, BECAUSE I HAVE SO MANY POINTS RIGHT NOW YOU CAN’T PICK ME UP WITHOUT RISKING PRICKING YOUR STUPID FUCKING PINK FINGERS.
TG: oh wow
CG: YOU PEOPLE ARE FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE.
TG: anyway thats all very fascinating grey text youve barfed all over my pesterchum but i gotta go
TG: got a date
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] --
CG: OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE I GIVE UP.
Rose told you just not to think about it, so that’s what you’re doing. You’ve decided to go for something that has been your friend even longer than Dave has, your battered old PS2. Dave hadn’t been able to win the Xbox back. In fact, he’d almost lost your old SNES. Luckily Jade felt bad about taking it. You’re sure with soldiers to avoid, government conspiracies to unravel, you can totally just blank out your mind and focus on the endless cut-scenes before you.
You jump as the door opens and slams close, and Dave slumps down on the sofa next to you, hands jammed in his pockets and watching you play, not even saying a word.
He left for his date less than two hours ago.
“What happened?” you say, pausing the game and looking at him, “C’mon, I know it didn’t go great. You’re sulking like crazy, man!”
“Blasphemous, Egbert, Dave Strider does not sulk like a pansy little girl.”
You have to snort at this.
“Are you kidding me? You’re like, the resident king of being really moody over stuff. I mean, not that you say anything, but...” you trail off, scratching the back of your neck. He makes the most absurdly sulky huffing noise you’ve ever heard and you laugh and wrap an arm around his shoulders, tugging him down to lie in your lap.
He gives you a weird look, and you hesitate, awkwardly, wondering if this is one of those “We-Did-This-Then-But-We-Don’t-Do-This-Now” things, but he sighs and relaxes after a second.
“I have no idea what fucking possessed me to ask this woman out, it was a goddamn nightmare,” he grunts, turning over to watch the pause screen as though it was the most interesting thing in the world, “She was an idiot.”
You roll your eyes.
“You say that about everybody. You don’t like a whole load of people, Dave.”
“Bullshit, I’m a generous soul, deep down, Egbert. Hell. I like you.”
You crack a wry smile at that.
“Oh, ha ha,” he says, “Are you gonna keep playing this game or what?”
You unpause the game and continue to play, one hand occasionally reaching down to pet Dave’s hair and play with it when the characters were talking or something. Since this was Metal Gear Solid, that was a lot.
“So you don’t like her, then?”
Dave snorts, shifting a little on your legs as Revolver Ocelot makes some ridiculous meowing sound on screen. Normally Dave would spare a good dozen jokes just to that moment alone, but apparently he isn’t in the mood.
“Egbert, does it really sound like I was going to call her back? Hell no, I got outta there. I just wanted to go home as soon as we got there. Fuckin’ awkward, she got all pissy and asked why I’d even asked her out if I was just going to look all moody or talk about my roommate the whole time,” he grumbles into your thigh, “I think that is me officially off the market for the rest of my slime-given life. Fuck it.”
“I hope you weren’t too rude to her, dude,” you say, frowning, “You can be really mean when you wanna be!”
Dave responds to this only with a vague “muuuuh”ing sound.
“Hey, I’m just saying! You’re not particularly gentlemanly,” you continue, the mental image of yourself digging your own grave flashing through your mind.
“Dude, I was raised to be an ass. Obnoxious ass is practically my product description. If I’m not an ass people return me to the store, shouting about false advertisement and making empty threats of lawsuits.”
You are mauled by an alligator onscreen, and Dave laughs.
“You’re not actually an ass, dude. Mostly.” You grin and he shifts around, presumably just so you can see the exasperated expression he’s making at you, and you continue before he can make some smartass comment, “Why’d you ask her anyway?”
“Just figured it’d been a long time since I’d so much as seen a boob.”
“Oh that really disproves what I was saying earlier. You are the gentleman Dave, it is you,” you say, smiling a little despite yourself, “Ha, wanna know something dumb?”
“You’re going to tell me anyway.”
“Well, when I started going out with, y’know, I’d only asked her out because, well, I thought you were dating. Remember when you spent the night in that girl’s place?” you say, and oh my god that sounded a lot smoother and less rambly in your head.
He sits up so fast he smacks his head against the bottom of your controller, and twists around to face you.
“You have gotta be kidding me,” he says, looking as though he wants to punch himself in the face. You’re pretty sure you have an identical expression. You grin sheepishly and set the controller down on your knees, Naked Snake’s mission entirely forgotten.
“Yeah, I dunno, I just got all freaked out. I thought, like, if you got a girlfriend we’d drift apart or something?” you say slowly, trying desperately not to shove your foot in your mouth for once, because goddamnit this is important. You fiddle with the cords of your hoodie absently, “I mean, it’s bad enough Rose and Jade are off doing their own things. Not that it isn’t great! I mean, I’ve seen Rose’s paintings, she’s really good, and Jade is doing all sorts of cool stuff. Just...”
“If I fucked off you’d end up alone, right?” he says. His voice sounds a little and he has an odd expression on his face. You really wish he didn’t have his shades on all of a sudden. It’d be so much easier to figure out what that face was meant to mean if you could see his eyes properly.
“Man, well I’m not going anywhere!” you say suddenly, a bit more loudly than you really meant to, and you notice you’re holding hands, and wonder when that even happened, “I think I like hanging out with you more than going on a date with a pretty girl.”
Okay, now he is definitely rolling his eyes, but it’s just in that half-smiling way he does when you’ve said something he actually likes. You’re kind of (or really, really) tempted to lean forward and kiss him, but something holds you back.
“Well. Yeah. I’d be pretty cool with some exclusive platonic cluckbeast thing. I must just be some hardcore bromantic or something,” he says drily, then groans and snatches the controller from you, “Jesus Christ on a fucking cracker, Egbert, are you seriously going to listen to every single codec conversation in this piece of shit? It’s like letting Kojima just squat over you and lay a big fat pseudo-science turd on your unwitting face if you don’t skip this bullcrap. Let me show you how to do this.”
You dive on him and wrestle him for the controller back, shouting all the while about how important the character interaction is in this game. The controller gets kicked to the floor and skids under the tv stand, and you end up kissing him anyway.
TT: So, am I right in presuming you and John have, over the past few months, closed the doors to any other possible suitors?
TT: And yes, I’m sure the female world at large is weeping at your grade-A loins being taken off the market, before you even say anything Dave.
TG: hey come on lalonde thats not cool
TG: stealing my sarcastic lines before i can even say them
TG: youre just ruining the game
TG: and yeah we have the strider egbert shop is locked up right now
TT: I grasped about as much from what John said as well.
TG: why what did he say
TT: Well, the main jist was that he was very happy.
TG: is he
TT: Would you care for me to divulge more?
TG: whatever if you wanna bore me with an endless tangent on the indecent amount of garbage john says about me be my guest
TG: not like i can ever stop you when you feel the desperate need to talk my ear off anyway
TG: it makes us all very uncomfortable all this macking you do on your brother rose
TG: better watch out or ill tell mom on you
TT: I see.
TT: Well then I’ll shut my perfume-scented trap and not bore you with either my clearly relentless incestuous flirting, or what John said.
TT: As I know what John says is always of the least interest to you possible.
TG: so you got a point here
TG: did he say anything that would slather my name in injust slander
TT: Not at all, Dave, try and quell that prickle of paranoia and insecurity.
TT: I’m just rather curious about how you and John seem to have decided to continue your never-ending game of toeing the line between platonic and romantic entanglement, while simultaneously both deciding not to have any future girlfriends.
TG: wow im amazed how often you manage to say a lot of words but not one of them is interesting
TT: You might find this interesting.
TT: A little blue birdy let slip that your mouth is no longer as chaste as it once was?
TG: woah woah woah what
TG: what is that meant to mean
TT: What do you think, Strider?
TG: my mouth has never been chaste lalonde
TG: i was born into this world thrashing around in ghostgoo calling everybody a stupid asshole
TG: fuck was my first word seriously ask bro
TG: he was so proud he bought me an actual toy not a smuppet or anything
TT: Strider, it is a little late to play the fool when you’ve already expressed horror at my newfound knowledge.
TG: no im playing this card
TG: john gets to all the time its not fair
TG: on that note god fucking damnit john
TT: I assure you, the blame should really lie with me. He slipped up when I was questioning him.
TG: questioning him what are you the homosexual police or something
TG: dont you have better things to do
TG: huff some paint read some allen ginsberg smoke some dope
TG: whatever it is you art school girls do these days
TT: Ah, how well you know me and my sisters.
TT: I do, however, occasionally like to take breaks from my endless hours of drug taking and Beatnik poetry to catch up with my brother and best friends.
TT: Are you honestly worrying that you’re not in both categories?
TG: shut up you just said that weird
TT: I honestly just wanted to inquire how things were, since the subtle shift in your relationship status?
TG: oh yes weve been debating whether or not to change from single to taken on chumbook and everything
TT: You’ve both already changed it.
TG: aw shit i forgot
TG: oh jesus all the messages bro has left fucking hell
TT: He doesn’t seem to be condemning it, exactly.
TT: I’m not sure what he is doing, though.
TG: and that was just to see who chickened out first
TG: just forgot to change it back
TG: keep up with the subtle chess moves of our contest of one upmanship
TT: Dave, I honestly think chess is a bit too much of a sophisticated and subtle game to describe the one you two are playing.
TT: It’s more like a very long, emotional game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.
TG: as always sis
TG: thank you
TG: so much
TG: for your input
TG: i dont know how id ever get through my life without you there to make endless snarky asides like a little perfumey feste
TT: You’re welcome.
TT: All the same, Dave, let me just ask an honest question, no sarcastic barbs included.
TG: my birthdays not til next week lalonde
TT: Be quiet.
TT: How are things?
TG: all that just for how are you lalonde jesus
TG: we need to take you back to human etiquette 101 let you eat a book or two to get this shit down you
TG: how are you is usually the first question people ask you know
TG: you dont have to precede it with this ridiculous back and forth snarky horseshit
TT: You don’t need to precede the answer with ridiculous snarky horseshit either, Dave.
TG: well if youre gonna be a pain in the ass about it fine
TG: things are fresher than my phat beats and tighter than your ass is around the stick in it
TT: Charming, Dave.
TG: what was that for anyway not like you ask shit like that outright
TG: you prefer to bring on the torture and drive me insane by playing feelings jam twenty billion questions
TT: It is a much-loved past-time of mine.
TT: Regardless, I just wanted some simple testimony for future reference.
TT: I have more than enough, thank you.
You spend your twenty-second birthday in the much the same way you spent your fifteenth. Instead of listening to Bro rant at you, you listen to John sleepily sing happy birthday at midnight, and then spectacularly lose to him at poker in the morning.
Ever since you were fourteen, you and Bro have been summoned to the Egbert household for Christmas day every year. Mr Egbert, being who he was, naturally practically took in Jade as his own after finding out he was John’s sister. Since he was "courting" Mom, he was also pretty relentless about bonding with Rose.
Lalonde, naturally, took this as an act of passive aggression and was convinced for several years that Dadbert was secretly a master of subtle insults and psychological torment. No matter what John said, it took years for her to really be convinced that he and Mom weren’t laughing at her behind her back.
You still catch her eyeing him a bit suspiciously now and then though.
Naturally, he only thought it fair to try and extend his ridiculously wide paternal net to you as well, somehow dragging in Bro by the ankle as well.
As much as you hate to admit it, you’d never liked Christmas a whole lot before then. It was always just a case of playing a few new video games, having to be incredibly cautious about his presents since there was always the very, very high chance that the box just contained a smuppet explosion, and watching Bro get rat-assed and force him to watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Usually, he’d then ask you to hold the camera as he got an idea for some bizarre Yuletide puppetporn vid.
Okay, so maybe it hasn’t been so much as “not liking it a whole lot”, and more “Christmas is just a day packed with puppet-related trauma wrapped in tinsel and twinkly lights”, but hey, what can you do.
Every year Bro bitches about not wanting to go hang out with the fucking Brady Bunch, but if there’s one thing you’ve learnt over the years is that saying no to John’s Dad is more or less the world’s most impossible goddamn task.
When Bro phoned to say they wouldn’t be showing up, he just put his foot down (“The family that saves the universe together stays together, Strider.”), refused to hear any arguments on the matter, and graciously threatened to wound his pride further by buying your plane tickets if you both didn’t come along quietly.
Sulking, Bro loaded up the car and drove you up to Washington.
Sometimes you suspect that Rose might have a point. Egberts definitely know how to get what they want, even if they were all sugary and nicey-nice.
So, as usual, you come home (or back to Bro’s from home, depending on how honest you’re being with yourself) for a week, and then you’re both getting in Bro’s legendary piece of shit car to make the trip to Washington for Christmas. It’s like every shitty Christmas movie ever made, and you do it every year.
You’re halfway there when Bro pulls over to get some sleep. He says that, but you take up the backseat while he fucks off elsewhere to do god knows what. You just know if he comes back with a dead crow for breakfast when you’ve got a stock of Pop-Tarts to defend yourself against Bro’s makeshift culinary skills you’re not going to be happy.
“Yo,” Bro said, appearing in the driver’s seat again out of nowhere and nearly making you jump out of your skin. Goddamnit, a few months without seeing him and he thinks he just has to flash-step everywhere just to remind you he can do it.
“Just so we’re clear, you and bitty-bert aren’t gonna be fucking under the Christmas tree, right?”
You throw something you grab from under the chair (a smuppet, surprise, surprise) at him, but he dodges, catches and suddenly you’ve got a smuppet ass in your face.
“Piss off, Bro. How many gay jokes am I gonna have to endure?” you grumble, pulling your blanket up and turning away.
“Depends how long you’re here, lil bro,” he says, reaching over to ruffle your hair, “When you two are acting like the most domestic fairies in San Fran how am I supposed to resist a few cheap shots?”
You bat his hand away from your hair with a grunt.
“Bro, you make a living off filming big-donged Miss Piggy rimming big-donged Kermit the Frog, don’t even bring cheap shots into this. I’ve been abstaining from cheap shots all my life. I’m like the opposite of Mom in that regard,” you tell him, shifting and trying to get comfortable. It was a lot easier to just sleep in the back of the car when you were fourteen, not so much when you’re a fully grown man and suddenly you don’t have anywhere to put your legs.
“Last I heard you were sweepin’ up hairs in some salon for prissy bitches so you could save up and get Egbert a new lame-ass scooter,” he drawls back.
“Left that place now, said some chick’s new expensive do looked like Amy Winehouse’s on a bad day.”
“As usual, you’re an awesome role-model. Who the fuck else praises their kid for being an asshole?”
“Dave, you ain’t a kid anymore, if you haven’t noticed. You’re just an asshole. You wanna stop being one, then you’ll have to do it yourself. Outta my hands, man.”
You open and close your mouth, and scratch your cheek. You can feel a thin layer of stubble under your fingertips.
“So are you ever gonna stop being an asshole? Or is it an old dog-new tricks situation? Because you’re nearing your forties, Bro, shit’s getting sad.”
He goes quiet for a second, and you wonder if you’ve actually got him to stop trying to one-up you, when you realise he’s messing around with the CD player. Some weird, muffled noises start playing, sort of humming and mumbling. It sounds vaguely familiar.
“Figured this would help you get a good night’s sleep,” he says, and vanishes.
You sit up with a jolt when you realise what you’re hearing is the sound of John sleeping.
You lunge into the front seat, eject the CD and snap it in two as though it’s a copy of SBurb 2 or something.
“What the fuck, man, oh my god. You are the most disturbing human being in existence, holy shit,” you shout out the door. You throw yourself back down on the backseat, making a mental note to absolutely rip apart the apartment for any signs of Bro-tampering when you get home.
Your phone beeps under your elbow.
EB: hey dave, make sure you get here on time! don’t turn up crazy late when christmas is nearly done AGAIN.
EB: if you don’t turn up on time, you will be the grinch, man. the grinch that stole christmas from the egbert household.
EB: well not so much stealing, i guess it just didn’t arrive.
EB: fine, the grinch who didn’t turn up for christmas because he and his bro got lost and wound up at a gas station in aberdeen while our turkey was going cold.
TG: one time that happens seriously
TG: your inability to let a single fucking thing go continues to astound me egbert its like youre this sponge for all the things ive done wrong in my life
EB: i’m keeping a tally of them so i can read them to you on your deathbed.
EB: it will be my final way of getting on your nerves.
TG: you are the goddamn winter of my discontent man
EB: that’s a compliment, dummy.
TG: shut up im just tired
TG: and we should be there for tomorrow im taking the wheel and making sure we get there in one piece in the morning
TG: ps youre no longer allowed to talk to bro ever again hes a freak
EB: pfft, whatever. your brother's funny.
EB: see you tomorrow, dave! :) sleep well!
Surprisingly, and despite the fact Bro could be ready to attack you at any minute, you do.
You don’t even manage to touch the front door before John throws it open, beaming at you and Bro like it’s the first time either of you have ever visited casa de Egbert. He hugs you (shut up Bro shut up Bro please for once just shut up), and, proving once and for all he never learns anything, offers to shake Bro’s hand and just has to awkwardly wipe his hand on his jeans when he’s left hanging.
“What the fuck are you wearing?” is the first thing that comes out of your mouth.
He looks down at the hideous-ass sweater, which looks like something he raided from the wardrobe of retarded Home Alone or something, as though he’d forgotten he’d been wearing it, then laughs. Rose appears behind him, peeking over her shoulder and smirking at you.
“Don’t worry, Strider, I’ve made one for you as well, of course,” she said, presenting you with a bright orange lumpy something you’re not sure you can even justify with irony. What the fuck kind of Christmas jumper has goddamn crows on it?
John is already wrestling it over your head as Rose turns to Bro and promises him that she hasn’t forgotten about him, presenting him with an even uglier sweater with “#1 Dad” painstakingly embroidered in gold on the chest, inside an intricately knitted heart.
“Yeah, got you somethin’ too, princess,” he says without missing a beat, and then whips out a dress. You’re surprised you don’t go blind just from looking at it. Obviously hand-sewn from plush puppet ass, it’s covered in frills and bows as though it was stolen from the set of a knock-off dollar-store Disney film.
Rose’s smirk falls like a tonne of bricks.
Mom is, naturally, completely and utterly fucking trashed. Since this is one of her favourite days of the year – one where it’s socially acceptable to be pissed before 1pm – this comes as no surprise to you, Rose, or anybody who has ever came into contact with Ms Lalonde in their lives. Sometimes you’re pretty sure John’s Dad is the only one who hasn’t figured out she’s a fucking lunatic.
Calling her as much didn’t stop her licking her thumb and rubbing an imaginary spot of dirt off your cheek though, to your increasing indignity.
If you’re honest with yourself, your dignity flew off the handle and out the fucking window years ago. All that’s left is a big mess of cool and uncool that’s just waiting to be fully Egbertised. You swear that soon you’re going to start having nightmares about horror-movie transformations, in which your teeth get about ten times bigger, your hair gets ten times messier and you acquire a passion for Colonel Sassacre’s Crappy Jokes and Fuckery.
Thankfully, you’re still pretty good at not being honest with yourself.
It’s this that allows you to simultaneously roll your eyes with Bro at every single thing that the Egbert-Lalonde-Harley bunch did, while being totally pulled in by their ridiculous picket-fence weirdo shit.
“Can’t believe you pull me into this shit every year lil bro. John must be really fucking at sucking cock if you can deal with this,” Bro tells you as Jade just laughs and shoves a paper crown from a cracker on top of his cap. You bristle, but decide it isn’t really worth getting into a “no homo” argument with him right now, since he seems to be on some kind of major asshole streak lately. More than usual, anyway.
Mr Egbert shoves a slice of cake at you before you can even sit down, and Mom is already pouring you a drink (“Here you go, sweetheart.” “For fuck’s sake Lalonde if you’re gonna insist on doing the lovin’ mother thing don’t just funnel vodka down the kid’s neck.”). John hands over a lumpy stocking stuffed with presents, grinning, and Jade natters away at you and tears off the wrapping from her own presents.
You’re not sure you will ever get quite used to how fucking domestic, how borderline normal it is. Jade’s devilbeast always manages to run off with Lil Cal as well, and Mr Egbert long-ago banned any smuppets inside his home (none of you saw the full argument - it resulted in Bro walking out of the room wiping pie off his face and looking disgruntled, and Mr Egbert calmly puffing on his pipe) so it’s one of those very, very few times you’re in the same state as Bro and don’t end up suffering some kind of blunt-force puppet trauma.
All through dinner, Mr Egbert floats around shovelling more turkey or potatos or gravy onto somebody’s plate if it was starting to look “A little sparse”. Bro and Rose glare at each other across the dinner table, daring the other to be the first to change out of their respective gifts. Mom insists over and over there wasn’t enough brandy in the gravy (“The height of class as always, Mother.”). The big white barky piece of shit curls around Lil Cal, chewing some steak Jade cooked up for him and making a big gory mess of the kitchen floor. You and Bro both feel a little sick watching it. Jade tells Mr Egbert, attentive as ever to his pseudo-daughter, a million stories that almost all seem to end with her very narrowly avoiding death. You see him getting paler and paler with each macabre tale.
John just keeps smiling at you.
“How long ‘til you end up dropping out anyway?” Bro asks later, as he always does.
“Bro, fuck’s sake, I’m graduating this summer, why are you so convinced I’m gonna fuck it up?”
Bro shrugged and downed the rest of his drink, clearly trying (and failing) to keep pace with Mom.
“Like father like son, I guess lil man. Though since you’re not boning all chicks on campus I guess that doesn’t hold true,” he drawls. You snort derisively and pick at your slice of cake. You long ago realised what John always whined about when he always talked about all the ridiculous fucking amounts of pastry his Dad made him suffer through.
“I’ll give you five bucks if you ain’t thinking about the John kid right now,” he says, suddenly, making you jump. You glare at him and stick out your hand.
“Then pay up, was just thinking about how much cake his Dad shovels out. He only has one goddamn oven, how is he keeping this output level so high?”
Bro shook his head and jabbed at you with the tiny umbrella from his drink.
“Bullshit were you not. The guy is all you talk about sometimes. And you ain’t getting five bucks from me even if you try and pry it out my cold dead fingers.”
“This from the dude boning a college-ful of imaginary girls,” you grumble. You don’t see the guy in months and he’s done nothing but load up on random shit to fling at you like a monkey at the zoo. You shove the cake aside for Jade to devour and continue, “And I know that, man. You are the biggest tightass I have ever met.”
“Hey, I bought all your iphone, and all your dumbass cameras and shit that nobody else gives a fuck about for you to get your talentless paws all over. And your turntables are from yours truly,” he says, and ruffles your hair, “Be grateful, chump. I could have just thrown your little baby ass into an orphanage the second you crashed down onto Beatdown Records and blew it into chunks of brick and vinyl.”
“Bro, you’ve told me outright the only reason you didn’t was some kinda ironic attempt to raise a puppet demon child,” you tell him, “Or some stupid shit like that, I dunno, I forget.”
“It was the eyes, little bro. Figured I could scare the neighbours -” (“Low fucking blow, man.”) “- convince them I’d performed some satanic puppet rite on you or something. Sesame Street meets the Exorcist, that kinda thing. Don’t worry, I considered just throwing your useless ass out plenty.”
“Bro, mean!” Jade intercepts, hitting him on the back of the head.
“Dave, come on. My pussy alarm is going off like mad here. Do you need the little girl to stick up for you now, dude?”
Jade’s expression hardens.
You get up and make a swift exit from the table. In the past, you’ve learned first-hand it’s not pretty if anybody implies Jade is at all a weak little girl. You can already hear her challenging him to a something-off of some description. You hope Bro’s dumb enough to try arm-wrestling her.
John’s somehow vanished in like the five fucking minutes you took your eyes off him, as he tends to do. Rose catches your eye and splits off from Mom and Mr Egbert. She trots over, holding up the ridiculous train of her dress.
“Urgh, this thing,” she says as she reaches you, yanking the end of the material from under Bec’s paw, “I will make Strider pay for this. I’m already mentally composing a 50 line epic in my head, as an ode to his unsurpassed paternal skills. I’ll get some scented paper and write it in the most expensive ink I can find as well. That should really burn him.”
“I like how basically you’ve found everything you’ve ever wanted in a Dad in Bro. Somebody who’s just as fucking psychotic as you are,” you say, “It’s like some fucking weird M Night Shyamalan horror movie about father-daughter relationships. Tellin’ you Lalonde, only a matter of time before one of you end up murdering the other with the gift of a carnivorous potted plant or something.”
“If any of the botanically dubious were readily available, Dave, I would have made the purchase long ago,” she says, “Anyway, that’s not the point. John is upstairs - you should go see him before he comes back down. Mother is currently preparing tequila shots. I suspect you wouldn’t really benefit when John inevitably takes up the challenge. Nor would his father appreciate it. Now, up you go.”
“What? You’re not the boss of me, Lalonde,” you tell her, wondering if this is some insane Machiavellian plot of hers, or some unscrupulous prank John has managed to rope her into.
She sighs, glares, and opens her mouth to make some smartass comment or start on a lecture, and you just quip a quick “Fucking hell I’m going already, chill out Lalonde” and ascend up the stairs.
John emerges from the bathroom, and jumps when he sees you there. You shove your hands into your pockets and lean against the wall. You suddenly realise you’re not really sure why you came up here. You start to feel like a bit of a dick.
“Oh, Dave! Did you need to use the bathroom? Go ahead dude.”
“What, nah. A guy can’t come up to see his best bro?” you say, and then quickly add, “And Bro has took it upon himself to get right the fuck on my nerves today so whatever.”
John just smiles in a bit of a weird way, like you were some retarded ass budgie banging their face against the mirror, wondering who the feathery asshole on the other side was. Bang bang bang, keep going dumbass, you’re never gonna learn that feathery asshole has been you all along.
“Ha, he doesn’t seem much worse than usual, dude,” John says, taking your hand, “He does seem a lot to work with. I mean all he ever does is call you a dumbass or whatever! Are all brothers like that?”
“Hell if I know. You and your Dad aren’t,” you say, and he laughs, a little awkwardly. You’re not sure jokes about the hideous mess that was the Sburb player family tree would ever go out of style.
“He’s a lot fucking worse than usual; the jokes about you have trebled in weight. I’m being bared down upon like the fucking Atlas of shitty gay jokes,” you say, and John makes such a worried face you have to quickly continue, “It’s not against you. I mean he rags on you a bit, bro, but whatever. It’s mostly just to piss me off anyway. Well he’s gonna have to try harder, cos it ain’t working.”
“He’s just lonely, dude.”
You look at him like he’s just told you “Well you know what I really feel like doing today, Dave? Dodging meteors and crazy dog men, that sounds like a great way to spend a day”.
“You kidding me, John? Guy’s a fucking lone wolf if there’s ever been one. Striders are built that way. Not social animals. Got too much shit going on in their heads to pile on the woes of the world anyway.”
“Uh huh, Striders are totally like that. Because you totally don’t sulk like a rejected puppy if you’re feeling neglected or anything,” John says, rolling his eyes as though you’re the dumbest person to ever exist, “Think about it, Dave, you were the only real person he had for ages, now you only see him a few weeks of the year.”
“So? Dude, he was barely there when I lived with him full time, he doesn’t give a shit,” you say, and he sighs. You make a face at him. You’re pretty sure you know your own brother better than John fucking Egbert does.
“He does, dumbass, shut up,” he sighs, punching your arm. From downstairs you can hear Jade rediscovering the karaoke machine, and what sounds suspiciously like Bro and Mom getting into another argument.
“What’d Rose send me up here for anyway? I was expecting a dumbass bucket trap waiting at the top of the stairwell or something,” you ask suddenly, and John jumps, and then grins in that way where you can’t tell if he’s embarrassed or planning something or both.
“Well I didn’t send for you, haha, just kinda mentioned to Rose I’d like some time alone,” he says, fidgeting and stroking your knuckles with a thumb, “Something I been thinking about.”
“What?” you ask stupidly.
He shoots you a Meaningful Look, capital m, capital l.
You still only gets what he means when he wraps his arms around your neck and starts kissing you. You only hesitate a second before you’re pulling him in closer, and curse Lalonde for shoving these fucking sweaters on you both, because it’s too hot and it feels like there’s about thirty fucking inches of yarn between you both now, and that is, all of a sudden, way too goddamn much.
You’ve stumbled through into John’s old room, the faces of B-movie actors staring at you from every available bit of wall-space, you sorta feel like they’re judging you, and you’ve both dropped on the bed and started pulling off those stupid fucking sweaters before you can even begin to think again.
Christ, you both just keep going further and further with this shit, especially over the past few months. He’s already pawing you through your jeans, a bit clumsy and uncertain. Your hands are fingering the narrow lines of his waist. You’re a bit more familiar with the contours of his torso than you should be.
Your no homo klaxon is ringing a fucking multi-storey car park orchestra in your ears.
“Wait,” you say, gasping, and John pulls away from you glasses askew and cheeks flushed and goddamnit you feel like you’re not actually getting a whole load of blood going to your head right now.
“What’s wrong?” he asks, all genuine confusion, honest worry, seriously about two seconds away from giving you a speech about how he can Wait Until You're Ready and Respect Your Boundaries. Your heart is doing a stupid little fucking dance in your chest.
Fuck it, you’re not giving him the satisfaction of seeing you back out.
“Nah, forget it,” you tell him, sloppily pressing your mouth to his again, hooking a leg around him, you gotta get extra points for that.
You’re trying to work off his belt, goofy fucking Batman buckle and all, when he stops you, and instantly you’re wondering if you’ve done something wrong.
“Something the matter, John?” you ask, before you can really help yourself. You just can’t find it in you to slow down, like maybe if you go a fraction of a second slower you’ll think about it and panic and not be able to do this, and you’re alarmed by how much you want to.
“Uh, yeah, hold on,” he says, tongue between his teeth, and he ejects something from his sylladex onto the bedside table. You turn your head on the pillow to look across at it. There is nothing short of a small mountain of lube and condoms sitting next to you.
“Did you rob a pharmacy or something, dude?” you say, grinning in a way that makes most people want to punch you in the face, and he blushes furious red.
“Told you, I’ve been thinking about it a little while now,” he says, squirming, “Always be prepared, man!”
“Please, for the love of God, don’t quote shit you learnt in the boy scouts while we’re doing this,” you tell him, finding it hard to resist ribbing him a bit, “Just wondering how many times you think we’re going to do it.”
You indicate the disproportionate amount of condoms he’d bought, and he flushes an even brighter red.
“Shut up, I just wanted it to go...you know, smoothly,” he mutters, with an expression that suggests he wants the floor to open up and swallow him. He dips back down and starts wriggling down your body, mouth against your skin hesitantly.
“It’ll be fine, man,” you say quietly, sounding ridiculously fucking awkward even to yourself, but you feel John smile against your thigh.
You’re both interrupted soon by a knock on the door and sugary, syrupy voice calling out;
“Davey, sweetheart, are you and John quite alright? I’m about prepare some Cosmopolitans if either of you are interested.”
John breaks off from what he was doing, and lifts his head up to smirk up at you.
“No, shit’s chiller than a polar bar’s left nut in here, it’s cool, go back downstairs,” you snap, lifting your own head up. God fucking damnit. You give John’s head a meaningful push downward, but he completely ignores your efforts to make him return to the task at hand, and he just giggles into your thigh.
“Don’t take that tone with me, young man. And John, sweetie, are you alright too?”
“Yes, he’s fine,” you snap before John can even get a word in. He responds by blowing a raspberry against your belly and forcing you to make the most undignified noise that has ever left your pursed lips. He grins, obviously feeling the benefit of a Prankster's Gambit increase well-earned. You slap a hand over your mouth. If you make a sound that worries her, she’d probably invite herself into the room, which is by far the last goddamn thing you want right now.
“Alright, sweetums. Remember, if you need anything, snacks, protection, anything, Mommy’s only –“
“Right, that’s great, now will you please fucking -”
You hear her tinkling laugh and the uneven clip-clop of her heels as she goes downstairs. John is grinning as though he’s just won every lottery on the planet at once.
“The woman is a plotting evil old hag, I swear,” you breathe through gritted teeth, and he laughs and moves back up until you’re nose-to-nose. You half-wish he’d just go back to what he was doing, but there’s something about his face that suggests he has other plans.
“Alright, calm down, Rose.”
“Dude, don’t call me my sister’s name when we’re naked, come on,” you say. John laughs quietly, and you’re very, very aware of his breath on your skin all of a sudden.
“Jeez, it’s cold,” he mutters, tugging the quilt on top of both of you. He starts kissing you again and you stiffen up like you’ve just hit goddamn rigor mortis. You curse Mom and everything she fucking stands for and has ever goddamn done. Combo broken, game over, reality rushing back in a big gay blast. You so can’t do this, the klaxons are ringing and they’re goddamn deafening at this point, and the rings just sound like a fucking chorus of gay gay gay gay gay gay.
John pulls away from you and rests on his elbows, his eyebrows pulling together at the look on your face.
“You alright Dave?” he asks, and gives you a familiar, shy smile that grabs all the logical thought in your head and tosses it out the goddamn window. The level to which your life is completely fucking out of your control is ridiculous.
“Dave? Are you okay?” he repeats.
You nod and feel yourself smile back.
AG: John I am so PROUD of you 8a8y! ::::)
EB: vriska, are you going to do that every time?
John gives you such a fucking look when you’re about to leave that you make sure Bro is distracted with trying to get Cal back off Bec (“Give him here you fluffy piece of shit, I’m having flashbacks over here. Lalonde, Egbert, you could help rather than just sit back and laugh.”) and kiss him quickly on the doorstep.
His big dumb smile manages to stave off the inevitable freak-out until you get to Bro's.
-- gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
GG: you had sex!!!!
TG: look harley youre gonna have to be a little less obtuse here
TG: i know you wanna talk about delicate matters tactfully
TG: with the utmost respect for my fragile girl feelings
TG: but youre gonna have to be a bit more direct here
TG: i dont even know what youre trying to say
GG: you had seeeeex
TG: and did not
GG: did too
GG: you so did!!!!
TG: wheres your proof jade
TG: oh thats right you got nothin
GG: bluuh, you always make everything such a federal fucking issue
TG: what are you talking about i never make anything any sort of problem where wed need government agents to chopper in for
TG: are you implying i make metaphorical mountains out of metaphorical molehills because i take offense to that
GG: bluuuuuh!!! drama queen!!!!!
GG: ok well how about all day after christmas john looked reeaaally pleased with himself??
TG: that could mean any number of things
TG: johns an easily pleased guy he could have just beat me at one of his shitty video games after all these years
TG: oh who am i kidding its more likely that we fucked than that happened
TG: his dad might have just made a funny face with his bacon and eggs that morning or something
TG: thatd be enough to keep his tiny brain entertained
GG: how about how he kept asking if you were alright??? and being all touchy feely
GG: more than usual anyway, i guess!! hehehe :P
TG: so he fusses over me like like the worlds most annoying mother hen
TG: this is not news to anybody jade
GG: you were walking kinda funny all morning.........
GG: and john sent me that when you fell asleep
TG: oh for fucks sake egbert
TG: you are about as subtle as a brick to the face i swear to god
TG: wait if the stupid goober idiot just texted you the second i nodded off
TG: why the fuck did we go through this twenty questions bullshit
GG: because its funny!
GG: duuh!!! :P
TG: you and egbert are some serious horror movie shit
TG: like the fucking twins out of the shining or something
TG: only instead of holding hands and going up and down in that stupid elevator you both just choose to torment me as much as possible
GG: shut uuuup dave :P
GG: so yeah
GG: as i was saying......
GG: you had seeeeex!!!
TG: can you not hear my exasperated sighs from wherever the fuck youve managed to get to
TG: because im sighing pretty hard here
GG: hehe :P
TG: so is there a point to this or are you just rubbing my nose in this
GG: rubbing your nose in it.........? :\
GG: im just saying congrats silly :P and teasing you a liiiiiittle bit
GG: you know its usually a good thing when people who love each other have sex!!!! :O
TG: i what now
GG: errrr my inner rose just told me i should probably stop talking >____>
TG: your what
GG: you know, that little rose voice in my head that tells me when im being silly or about to put my foot in my mouth!!! :P
GG: kind of like in cartoons when the guys got a little angel on his shoulder or something :O
TG: oh yeah that inner rose
TG: of course makes perfect sense
GG: i think im gonna ignore her for a minute
GG: ssssh little imaginary rose ssssh
GG: im flicking her off my shoulder as we speak!!!
TG: alright any reason why youre knocking your tiny angelic lalonde off her perch
TG: if shes anything like real lalonde she should be twittering in your ear and writing you angry poetry as we speak
TG: and diagnosing you with schizophrenia or something
GG: well uh rubbing your nose in it??? whats THAT supposed to mean >:\
GG: im just a little suspicious of what you said there >___>
GG: because if john ends up heartbroken AGAIN i am so not going to to be happy!!!! >:(
TG: ok point one of many jade
TG: calm down
TG: point two
TG: quit jumping the not so hypothetical gun and put your rifle down ok
TG: where did egbert getting his little dork heart broken come into this
TG: point three
TG: youre enjoying that arent you
GG: hehehehe :P
TG: anyway so this conversation is done
GG: but you didnt actually answer ANYTHING??? :\
GG: youre slithering out, you little slither-er!
TG: oh damn you caught me harley
TG: my ability to dodge a question like so many of your bullets is nothing next to your super sleuthing powers
GG: you didnt really dodge them :\
GG: uh, anyway!!!!!
TG: yep just moving smoothly on from shooting me to death and corpsesmooches
TG: sorry did i ruin our slick transition there
TG: oh god not the angry face
GG: bluuuuuuuuh!!!!!! >:( i just want to make sure youre not being dumb
GG: im not assured :|
TG: oh my god jade
TG: let it go
GG: but i dont get why youre upset :\
TG: im not upset
GG: you SOUND upset
TG: well im not just let it go jade
GG: :| im not stupid, dave
TG: i never said you were
TG: just its not a thing i wanna talk about ok
TG: lets get off the haha dave took it up the ass haha what a fucking pussy train alright
GG: that is so not what i was even saying :\
TG: well its pretty much implied from the situation come on
GG: that is so not how it works :|
TG: jade you practically lived under a rock your whole life ok i dont think you know this shit
TG: stop linefacing at me
GG: stuff like that has nothing to do with real life stuff though!! its silly to worry about, and youre silly
GG: i still dont get what youre freaking out about!!!
TG: because im not freaking out jade cant you sense my unspeakably thick aura of chill
TG: scientists have been wondering for the past 22 years about this worldwide drop in temperature
TG: puzzling themselves sick over this riddle
TG: hint the answer is me
GG: hmmmmm >_>
EB: hey, i’m gonna pick something up on the way home!
EB: pizza or chinese, dude?
EB: come on, you better get quicker on the responses.
EB: i will just get pizza covered in junk you don’t like just to annoy you if you don’t hurry up!
EB: i know for a fact that if you get further than three feet from your iphone you pretty much drop down dead.
EB: it’s like your daemon or something!
EB: is that how they worked?
EB: i don’t know that movie was dumb.
TG: sorry egbert just batting away these girls with a stick
EB: by girls you mean jade and rose, don’t you?
TG: yes but shut up
TG: not the point
EB: hehe, why are they on your case this time?
TG: can you not just accept that im completely irresistible and ladies fall over themselves for the chance to nag me
TG: shame they have to compete with you for the top spot of nagging me
TG: yapping and biting my ankles like the worlds most bucktooth chihuahua
EB: ok whatever, i am walking into the pizza store now.
TG: but i want chinese
TG: i even said when you left for work
TG: does what i say just pass through your ear echo across the empty chasm of your head and come out the other end egbert
TG: oh holy fuck i just did the whole why dont you ever listen to me thing didnt i
TG: you fucking tricked me into that
EB: you need to stop blaming it on me whenever you do or say something lame!
TG: but youre usually the cause
EB: and yeah i know, i’m in the chinese place.
TG: then what was the point of talking to me are you just trying to test your lame causing abilities
TG: i hope you know how much more terrible you make my life just by being in it
EB: i won’t get you rice crackers then.
TG: hey what no
EB: and soooorrry if i just felt like checking up on you!!
EB: you seem like something’s bugging you lately.
TG: oh for fucks sake why are you lalonde and harley always convinced that im just secretly trapped in this big glass case of emotions
EB: you pretty much are.
TG: oh whats that pungent odor assaulting my nostrils
TG: oh yes its egbert serving me up a big steaming platter of bullshit yet again
TG: you only have to go around serving people plates of crap at work you know
EB: you only say the food’s crap because i can’t get you it for free.
EB: and you sure you’re okay?
TG: yes damnit seriously
TG: urgh just well talk about it later ok
EB: fine, fine.
EB: i’m getting sweet-and-sour by the way.
TG: you are instantly forgiven for everything ever
You don’t expect Dave to talk about it later at all. You know him a lot better than that.
You think he cheers up a little when you come home with take-out and offer him first player for once.
Despite the fact he wrestles you for it and loses every time, he declines.
“You know,” you say conversationally, pushing your feet against his and watching him zip past you on the track back into third place, “If you want me to take 2nd player you could just ask.”
“More your deal dude,” he tells you, focusing on the screen and swearing as Neo Cortex flies past him and you manage to power-slide into a pit of lava, “Holy shit. We suck at this game.”
“Pfft, no kidding! I blame these battered old controllers,” you say, grinning, “And what are you talking about, more my deal? How many times have you had to come running after me?”
“Not that many dude,” he mutters, furiously smashing into a crate then hurtling into the lava himself. He looks on the verge of throwing his controller down for a second.
“Oh sweet, I got enough fruit for the speed boost! Man Dave, you’re so off your game,” you tell him, nudging him, he sighs and lets you rush into first place, rolling his eyes as Crash’s weirdly human-shaped girlfriend presents Coco with the first place trophy.
“Not feeling it, dude,” he grumbles, tossing the controller down and flopping back on the sofa, “Maybe one day we should you know, play good games, rather than pieces of shit that should have been buried long ago when we started getting more polygons on cell phone screens.”
You mentally go through your list of Stuff To Cheer Dave Strider Up
2. Video games
4. Letting him lecture you on pretentious music
5. Clip art
6. Pretending to goof a prank
It gets to be kind of a long list after a while.
You go for option 3.
-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
TT: Dave, I’m about to tell you something quite personal.
TT: With some sexual partners I like to engage in a little practice known most commonly as pegging.
TG: what the fuck
TG: why did you say that
TG: why cant i unread it
TG: holy shit hand me the bleach and the steel wool gonna scrub my brain right to the stem
TG: too bad kim and aggie are telling me that shits never coming off
TG: thats a permanent black mark on my hippocampus i hope youre happy
TT: I will ignore the fact you just referenced a daytime TV show, the audience of which is generally painfully limited to bored housewives, since I actually have a point.
TT: Other than just to amuse myself with the irony of you being raised in a hotpot of sexual fetishism and constantly talking about what a “NSFW spectacle” your mind is, but being quite possibly the biggest prude I have ever met.
TG: lalonde shut up
TG: my brain is still trying to repair itself
TG: im just sitting here quite content with my lot in life and all of a sudden bam
TG: little sisters chatting me up about stuffing something obscene and plastic up some dudes brown river
TT: Spare me the theatrics, Strider.
TG: and im not a prude lalonde jegus dick
TG: its like you dont hear the constant obscenities coming out of my mouth or something
TT: Hm. If you say so, Dave.
TT: Regardless, what do you think my point was?
TG: you have a point
TT: That’s what I just said.
TG: nope dont see it
TT: Ah, fine, being difficult as usual, I see.
TT: Fine, here is my point. “Taking it up the ass” as you so kindly put it does not make you a “pussy”.
TT: Please stop internalising your dudebro notions of sexuality and beating yourself up over them.
TT: As far as I see, you’re only making yourself unjustly miserable.
TG: oh what
TG: have you been fucking snooping about again
TG: fussing and meddling and getting your powdered nose all up in my business
TG: smearing inch thick pure ivory foundation all over my business and getting your snarky broad snot all over it
TT: How charming - you remember my preferred tone.
TT: I do mean it though, Dave. You seem to enjoy causing yourself a completely undue amount of stress.
TG: what are you talking about
TT: Where is John right now?
TT: Yes, but where?
TT: How nearby?
TG: on my leg what
TT: Do you see how quickly you get defensive, Dave? And how stubbornly avoidant you are?
TT: I’m not trying to shame you.
TG: welp feels like youre doing it
TT: I’m really trying not to, Dave, I mean it.
TT: I think I just don’t know how to talk in a way that isn’t completely insufferable and condescending in every way sometimes.
TG: you aint that bad come on
TT: Thank you.
TG: was that sarcastic or not
TT: That was sincerity.
TT: Though now I very much doubt your reassurance.
TG: yeah soz about that
TT: Now, Dave, you care about our dear friend John deeply, and that isn’t a question.
TG: wait hold onto whatever other bullshit you were going to say
TG: johns waking up
TT: I suggest you talk to him.
TG: should i???
TT: If you feel up to the task.
TT: As we all know what a cruel and judgemental person John Egbert can be.
TT: I mean there’s barely any chance of him listening to you kindly and attentively. I mean, he is, of course, not the type of person to treat a known serial killer with nothing less than full respect and kindness.
TT: And it’s certainly not as though the boy adores you or anything.
TG: ok ok i get it point taken
TG: jesus could you possibly lay on the sarcasm any thicker i could practically put it between bread and eat it as a fucking sandwich
TG: peanut butter and snarky broad horseshit
TG: oh and lalonde
TG: promise to never ever tell me anything like that again
TT: I will try my best to respect your delicate sensibilities in future, Dave.
“Christ, living with you is like having an oversized puppy,” Dave says as you come to and sit up. He pockets his iPhone.
“I don’t see you ever shoving me off, dude,” you tell him, slumping back down on him before he can get up. He makes a big show of sighing and rolling his eyes (“There’s not even anybody here you nerd.”) before making an equally big show of surrendering, and you feel such a surge of fondness for the idiot it’s totally ridiculous.
You go for the remote, but he snatches it away from you. You turn your head back up to look at him.
“Dude, remote-snatching? Lame!”
“Hey, if you start watching some Iron Chef bullshit or whatever I’m not going to get a word in edgeways,” he tells you. Normally you’d fight him for the remote and your honour back, but there’s something about his face that tells you that you should just sit tight and listen to him.
He sits looking at you silently for a good few seconds, his lips twitching a little like they always do when he’s planning some big impressive speech.
“Christmas,” is all he manages for all of that.
Well you should have seen this coming for a while.
“What? You didn’t regret it or anything did you, dude?” you say finally, after feeling like you’d just spent the longest seconds in existence hanging off the edge of a really, really high cliff.
Dave, since he’s a total asshole, drags out the feeling of vertigo by mulling the question over.
“No. Well...damnit. No, shit, I really don’t,” he says, as though this is news to him. This does nothing to ease the flippy-floppy thing your belly has chosen to start doing now. He inhales and continues on like he’s scared you’re going to just run out the front door and never come back if he doesn’t hurry up, “Look, John, that was just pretty fucking far. More than going long, outta the stadium stuff. And it didn’t reflect too great on me, I mean Bro would be asking me when I was gonna go west or some stupid shit like that since I somehow ended up being where the stupid fucking nancy boy would –“
“You’re being dumb,” you say, and sit up.
“Oh,” he says. You take one look at the expression on his face and you kind of just want to bundle him up forever, even though you know that he’s his own worst enemy, and it wouldn’t be that easy to make not ever feel bad again.
“I mean, it’s not like I er...well, you know. It’s not like people can throw a bunch of stupid stereotypes at us and they’ll stick and mess with our DNA like some gross ectoplasm or something-“ (You catch him half-smiling at your stupid simile, you just know he’s biting back some snarky remark, and feel a little heartened by this.) “- and, well. Y’know. Nothing like that makes you any less of Dave or makes you deserve any bad thing you Bro tries to say about you. As far as I see it we’re just the Dave and John of Guy no matter what, right?”
He only sort of smiles, but when you hug him he squeezes you back and keeps you there, and that’s good enough for you.
Your name is John Egbert, and you are pretty sure you will never know everything there is to know about Dave Strider.
This is saying a lot, since you’ve been best friends with the guy since you were about 9, and living with him for almost four years now. For example you didn’t know that he feels the urge to take the magnetic Ws from the fridge and use it as a fake moustache. He dropped it like it was on fire the second you came through the door.
You didn’t know he can’t handle roller-coasters for shit, looking pale and green while you and Jade were bouncing off the walls, high on adrenaline, and trying to drag him back on again. Or that he will become totally pathetic and whiny if forced out of his comfort zone, which was anywhere where there was a Starbucks every few feet. You didn’t know that, for all his big-talking, being raised by Bro means he’s never been able to bring himself to watch porn. Since he never brings them anywhere near you, you didn’t know he really likes peanuts either.
Discovering all these new little weird things all the time is actually pretty neat! Sometimes you’re sure he’s finding out new stuff about you as well now and then too.
He has freckles on his thighs, some even reaching up and dappling his hips. That was new.
One thing you didn’t really expect though was that Dave does not shut up during sex. Not like, dirty sexy talk, which is kinda good because you think you’d be awful at that and wouldn’t really know what to do if the situation arises where you have to say something sexy without it sounding completely ridiculous the second it leaves your mouth. He just blabbers, getting more incoherent, until it’s just swearing and random mumbles and words and noises. You would never say it to his face, but you think it might actually be because he’s nervous. He always goes off on his big metaphorical tangents when he’s feeling on edge.
You can understand.
This is all still pretty new to you, too.
You’ve had disasters. The first time you were well, uh, on the bottom you kinda got a bit overzealous and pushed back and well...it really goddamn hurt is all you’re saying. Dave stopped and you could tell he was panicking a little, even through the staunchly enforced poker-face. Dave’s had his freakouts, backing out (you couldn’t say backing out to his face, you don’t want to turn this into another game of chicken) from something at the last minute, leaving both of you getting redressed in awkward silence. The more you think about it, you realise that for a guy in your early twenties, you don’t actually know as much about sex as you should. Especially not when it’s two dudes, and your only real source of info on how to do it right has been in panic-stricken google-searches while Dave was at work.
To be fair, you never really expected this.
It sounds really, really dumb now, but when you were a kid, you’d always thought by the time you were this old you would have gotten engaged to a nice girl. When you tell Dave as much, he rags on you to no end. Which you really did expect.
You didn’t expect him to get all edgy, and start asking you if you wanted a girlfriend, oh-so-casually asking if there’s a girl at work, at class, anywhere else, you’ve got your eyes on. He only ever looks half-assured when you say you’re still happier just hanging out with him.
Your name is Dave Strider and your brain is breaking down so thoroughly under this obdurate gay chicken assault that you have nearly told John that you love him about five times.
You are kind of flipping the fuck out.
TG: and thats not everything
TG: the man is fucking unyielding
TG: an inexorable force of homosexuality trying to break my resolve and it is not going to fucking crumble tz
GC: D4V3 1 ST1LL DONT UND3RST4ND WH4T HUM4N G4Y 1S SO PL34S3 STOP R4NT1NG 4BOUT 1T
GC: YOU 4R3 4CTU4LLY M4K1NG M3 G3T S1CK OF TH3 T4ST3 OF CH3RR13S
GC: WH1CH 1S SOM3TH1NG YOU SHOULD F33L T3RR1BL3 4BOUT
GC: WHY 4M 1 NOT SM3LL1NG 4N 4V4L4NCH3 F4WN1NG 4POLOG13S FOR M4K1NG TH3 B3ST COLOUR T4ST3 4S DRY 4ND BL4ND 4S K4RK4TS T3XT >:[
TG: all im saying is he has to back out soon
TG: and then ill sleep easy for once
GC: YOU SL33P L1K3 TH3 CUDDL13ST L1TTL3 CL1NGY 34RTH M4RSUP14L B34R D4V3 >:]
GC: 1V3 S33N YOU SNUGGL1NG 4W4Y L1K3 YOU 4R3 4 F1DUSSP4WN W1GGL3R 4ND JOHN 1S YOUR F1DUSSP4WN M4ST3R
TG: tz i get that youre still jonesing for my magnificent human cock but can you please not watch me sleep
TG: get your jollies somewhere else
TG: thing is john is gonna flip out and move his ass to the sofa one day
TG: probably when he realises he is basically wasting his life and sloppy idiot affection on yours truly
TG: and then hell fuck off and hook up with the girl of his dreams and get his heart broken or whatever the fuck
TG: and like ill be there to stitch it back up a fucking gain after being ditched so brutally
GC: BLUH TH4T M4D3 NO S3NS3!!!
GC: D4V3 1F YOU 4R3 SO 1NS1ST4NT ON JOHN B31NG 4N 34RTH HUM4N HOMOS3XU4L CLUCKB34ST WHY DO YOU 4LSO B3COM3 SUCH 4N 4NGRY 4NGRY STR4WB3RRY WH3N H3 DO3S
TG: ok there was not a word of that i understood
TG: im just gonna presume youre sitting there talking about licking cherry koolaid off the floor like the classy lady you are
GC: TH3 PO1NT 1S TH4T YOU 4R3 4N 4DOR4BL3 L1TTL3 R3D FRU1TY RUMPUS 4SSHOL3 BUT YOU 4R3 V3RY S1LLY >:]
TG: oh haha very clever calling me a fruit
TG: youre not just a classy fucking broad youre the classiest fucking broad
TG: my sides are splitting please help me doctor
TG: im sufferin from three cracked ribs from my friend tzs hilarious gay wisecracks
GC: G4Y HUM4NS 4R3 FRU1T
TG: ok fine gay humans are fruit can you not smell the stench of fruit salad emanating from egbert every time you as much as dribble near him
GC: S33 YOU C4N K33P B31NG 4LL SN4RKY SN4RK 4ND COOL BUT 1 T4ST3 NOTH1NG BUT TH3 ST1CK13ST M3SS OF R4SPB3RRY BL4ST 1 H4V3 3V3R L41D TONGU3 UPON 3V3RY T1M3 YOU T4LK 4BOUT JOHN
GC: 4ND YOUR STUBBORN R3FUS4L TO JUST 4DM1T TH3R3 1S NO SUCH TH1NG 4S 4 PL4TON1C M4K3OUT S3SS1ON 1S 4NNOY1111NG!
GC: B3C4US3 TH3R3 H4V3 B33N SO M4NY M4K3OUTS 4ND 4LSO M4NY 1NST4NC3S OF TH3 HUM4N 4CT OF LOV3 OR WH4T3V3R VR1SK4 W4S C4LL1NG 1T
TG: oh jesus fuck shes been watching johns shitty movies again hasnt she
GC: 1 DONT UN3RST4ND HOW FLOPP1NG 4BOUT ON TOP OF 34CH OTH3R 1S 4 PHYS1C4L HUM4N R1TU4L OF 4FF3CT1ON BUT 1F TH4T 1S WH4T YOU L1K3 TO DO COOLK1D!
TG: fuck off
TG: anyway johns done with his insufferable obsessive studying for the day so i gotta go
TG: hes got something dumb planned idk
GC: WH3R3 4R3 YOU GO1NG? 1S 1T SOM3 N3W HUM4N D4T1NG PL4C3? 1TS 4LW4YS FUN W4TCH1NG TH3M >:]
TG: no its not a new human dating place
TG: and do you people have nothing better to do than watch us fucking about seriously???
GC: 1TS R3L4X1NG >:[
TG: great so we are basically your fishtank
TG: and i dunno where were going ill ask
GC: OK4Y BUT 1T B3TT3R NOT JUST B3 YOU TWO S1TT1NG 4ROUND T4LK1NG 4ND 34T1NG 1N 4N OL1V3 G4RD3N TH4TS BOR1NG
GC: TH3 OL11V3 G4RD3N WH1CH CONT41NS NO OL1V3S 4ND NO G4RD3N WH1CH 1 TH1NK 1S R34LLY M1SL34D1NG 4ND WHO3V3R P1CK3D TH4T N4M3 SHOULD B3 T4K3N TO TH3 G4LLOWS
TG: oh goddamnit he has to be kidding
TG: he is too fucking good at this tz
TG: were going rollerblading you are the bane of my goddamn life john
GC: TH4T SOUNDS D4NG3ROUS >:O 1M 1NTR1GU3D
TG: anyway later
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gallowsCalibrator [GC] --
GC: W41T D4V3 YOU D1DNT GR4B 4NY OF YOUR BL4D3S
GC: THOS3 UGLY SHO3S W1LL NOT PROT3CT YOU FOR LONG!!! >:O
“I am going to fail sooo much,” John whines, letting his empty bottle roll away. You roll your eyes and pick it up. While you’re at it, you remove the biology textbook he’s mournfully draped over his face.
“Bullshit, dude,” you say, starting to become painfully aware you’re not really walking in a straight line and you have finals tomorrow. He rolls off the sofa completely, grabbing you by your ankles.
“I’m gonna fail and it is gonna suck,” he mutters into the carpet.
“Fucking hell, Egbert, get up,” you say, trying to lift him by the arms but he goes limp like a little kid in the supermarket, and you let him flop back down onto the floor. He whines meaninglessly into the carpet again and you just give up, flop next to him and run a hand through his hair. He responds by crawling onto your lap and then burping into it. A smooth fucking operator as always.
“You’re really drunk, bro,” you inform him, forcing him to sit up because he’s in that stage where he can and will barf forcefully onto your jeans if left there.
“A bit,” he informs you in what you imagine is supposed to be a really haughty, holier-than-thou voice, but just comes out as a sort of indecent slur. He starts clumsily, sloppily kissing your neck, as if in vengeance.
“Dude, you’re really fucking drunk,” you repeat, pulling him off you. There’s a certain level of difference in your respective sobriety levels, and it would make you feel like the biggest douche if you continued as you both are. He just makes stupid, whiny comments and pushes his face against yours until you kiss him back a bit, all the while wondering what you did to earn this goofball.
“You’re just kind of. Offensively. Frigging...I don’t know. Great,” he concludes lamely, and then continues more steadily, “Perfect. So, so perfect. Perfect-a-mundo.”
“Perfect-a-fucking-mundo?” you repeat, “Am I living with the goddamn Fonz?”
“I ruin every moment I’m ever in,” John informs you, almost gleefully, looking as though he’s not sure whether to be regretful or proud of this achievement. His eyes return to the scattered textbooks and remnants of the supposed study night you were having. He let out a mournful wail; “Dave, I’m so fucked for this exam.”
“You know this shit,” you tell him, gesturing vaguely at the papers and books scattered everywhere, “I’ve not been able to get your nose out of a fucking book for weeks. Just don’t be hungover. I got Ovaltine if we need it.”
“Strider secret recipe,” he mumbles, and then starts giggling away to himself, and you roll your eyes and pull his arm over your shoulder, pulling him up. You’re taller and broader than him, but just barely, and he’s a dead lead weight of dork.
“Gonna have to force you to go to bed here man, your Dad will kill me if I let you sleep through a final. It’ll be a massacre of blood, guts, and Betty Crocker.”
He hurls on your shoulder, and you barely even flinch.
You get a first class honours, and the first thing that comes out of Dave’s mouth is “I told you so, dumbass”.
You have to wrestle Dave’s results off him, and he looks so ashamed you momentarily feel fucking terrible for it, before you see he actually did really really well, for all the time he’s spent bitching at you for studying too much.
You call Dad and you can’t help it, you end up chattering away at him for two hours, practically bouncing up and down on the spot. Dave just sits next to you, and when Dad asks to talk to Dave, he looks slightly like a really hipster deer caught in headlights. You just push the phone at him, and he responds with the most uncool “Uh. Sup?” you’ve ever heard. You can’t help but roll your eyes – Dad is probably giving a patented fatherly I’m-So-Proud-Of-You speech, and judging by Dave’s bewildered expression he doesn’t know what to make of it.
You can’t get him to call Bro.
He texts him later, but he doesn’t tell you what he says back.
It’s only when you open the mailbox later, and see a brown envelope waiting for you, do you both remember your contract expires just after graduation.
You don’t seem to get five seconds to yourself before Rose and Jade are over, bearing gifts and congratulations. Dad comes down, hugging both of you (albeit Dave somewhat awkwardly), and insisting on taking a photo of you in your robe and mortarboard, to your intense embarrassment. He is so lame sometimes.
You don’t see Dave’s Bro at graduation.
Something about that bothers you a bit.
Everything’s packed away, for the first time since you got here, you’ve put your moving sylladexes to use again. You’ve taken the piano, all of Casey’s things (you’re pretty sure she didn’t have this much when you got here, and you’re pretty sure you didn’t buy all of them), the spare bed, more than half of your DVDs and less than a quarter of your video games, almost all the posters, while Dave takes the turntables, the beanbag, the double bed. Neither of you know what to do with the ratty old sofa, so somehow it ends up launched off the roof and away into the horizon.
Dad is waiting for you downstairs in his car, and Bro is driving down soon enough to take him back to Texas.
You both stand looking at each other, Dad sitting both patiently and expectantly in the car. Sometimes you think no matter what, Dad will still want you to stick around as his little kid son.
“Welp,” Dave offers, hands in pockets, “Guess this is us done.”
“Um. Yeah,” you say. What the hell did you say to somebody you basically centred your life around for the past four years?
“Yeah. See you around.”
GG: hows the job hunt going john??? :)
EB: oh, haha, that?
GG: yes john
GG: that :\
GG: the job youve been looking for for months now???
EB: wow yeah, i guess i better get back on that horse soon!!
GG: jooooooohn!!!! as your big sis i need to keep you from becoming a slacker
EB: i’m not a slacker! that’s so unwarranted.
EB: i’ve been busy.
GG: john :|
GG: what are you wearing right now???
EB: what has that gotten to do with anything?
EB: just pyjamas, why?
GG: ok i KNOW it is not pyjama time in your timezone yet >:\
EB: i just got home early, jade!
GG: from what????
EB: job interviews.
GG: for what?
EB: um, lots of jobs.
EB: all of the jobs, jade. all of them.
GG: you havent left the house today have you
EB: nope, not once.
EB: i was just tired, i needed a lazy day, and there was this game i really wanted to play!
GG: and this game was.........?
EB: crash team racing?
GG: john, youre supposed to be finding work with your fancy pants degree!!!
GG: or doing something else cool or getting a house and stuff
GG: not playing dumb playstation games
EB: woah, woah, what.
GG: it is dumb, john
EB: no come on, it’s genius!
EB: it totally revolutionised
EB: spin-off racing games...
EB: um wow yeah, even i can’t really follow that argument up properly.
EB: and hey, you don’t have a job!
GG: duuh, john. im an ADVENTURER!!
GG: and ive got some other stuff under my belt
GG: i mean i kinda bought mandalay bay last time i was there >__>
GG: never mind that john :P were talking about you right now
EB: so you now own your own tropical island and a casino?
GG: and the betty crocker company >_> and whatever else grandpa left me
EB: don’t remind me.
GG: its ok john, i dont pay that much attention!! i think it might be bankrupt now :P
EB: jade, you should probably be kind of concerned about that.
GG: now come on, you need to find your own thing john!!!
GG: arent you bored of sitting on your butt all day?
EB: a little, yeah.
EB: dad’s just been telling me to take my time, though.
GG: of course he has john :\
GG: he sees nothing but the absolute best in you, silly!!! :P he probably thinks youre on the cusp of something
GG: and you could be, i mean you of all people could do anything
GG: you have the power to revolutionise the world!!! :O
EB: my shirt has a dried up noodle on it.
EB: actually, it’s looking kinda grody in general, dave’s gonna be pissed.
GG: are you wearing daves shirt???? :P
EB: a little?
GG: hahaha!!! johns thats precious <3
EB: hey, don’t make me sound like a little puppy or something.
GG: hehehe :B
GG: maybe you should put it in the wash and take a shower and go outside before it gets dark though??? :O
EB: but i don’t wanna, i was fine sitting in front of the computer all day!!!
EB: i spent my entire childhood doing it, why not now?
GG: are you really fine with that :O
EB: well, okay, kinda not really.
EB: gets a little lonely and boring sometimes.
EB: now that, you know, i got used to actually having my favourite people in the same room as me.
GG: that plural is suspicious >__> thats a shifty shifty plural
GG: but see, you should you know, get yourself out there!!
GG: i always say a day where i dont have an adventure is a day wasted :D
EB: well, isn’t that because you just lived on that island and couldn’t really do anything for ages?
EB: i mean, for normal people we kinda have to take things more slowly and stuff and wait for things to work out.
EB: oh jeez, sorry, that was kinda harsh wasn’t it?
EB: i don’t mean you’re not normal!! you’re perfectly normal and nice, oh man, i’m a jackass.
GG: but youre kinda right >__> i mean i just had to spend my time when i was a kid waiting for crazy world changing stuff to happen!!!!
GG: but since i got out into the REAL WORLD (:O!!!) i started to think
GG: most people do that anyway!!! for even longer too, maybe even forever :O
EB: well i dunno, what do i even want jade?
GG: why are you asking me? :O
EB: well who do i ask???
EB: not like i have nanna or vriska telling me what to do.
EB: well, ok, vriska does but her advice almost always comes down to wearing sleeveless tops or an eyepatch if she can’t translate it into troll terms.
GG: you can do anything you want john <3
EB: that’s a lot of options.
EB: can’t there just be a list of three and a cursor?
GG: nope!! thats no fun
EB: no way, that sounds way more fun.
GG: does not, bluuuuuh!!!!
EB: does too, bluuuuuuuuuh!!!!!!!!
EB: not having something you’re SUPPOSED to do is scary!
EB: and i feel really cut off from you guys so i just end up sitting around feeling sucky.
EB: it is totally lame, and the more i think about the more appropriately ashamed i feel.
GG: it is a LITTLE lame
EB: dave probably would have forced me to put my resume in a couple of places i’d been looking at by now.
EB: or, i dunno.
GG: ummm, john are you sure youre okay?
GG: youve sounded off lately :( tell me whats up little bro!!!
EB: being at dad’s house is just...weird ok.
EB: i mean he still bakes me all these treats and pranks me now and then but i dunno.
EB: um, i guess i just didn’t think this far ahead.
EB: i didn’t think this is how it’d end up.
TT: Alright, alright, Strider, fine.
TT: What’s bothering you?
TG: what nothing im peachy keen lalonde
TG: where did i say i needed your snarky broad consultation up there
TG: oh yeah nowhere
TT: Of course. I forgot you liked to send me endless onomatopoeia until I responded for nothing but the pure joy of hammering the U key into submission.
TG: alright alright so whatever im kinda bored
TT: I see. Is Father failing to amuse you? Have his old tricks finally gone stale?
TG: they went staler than the cakemix at the back of egberts cupboard years ago lalonde
TG: and stop calling him that ffs its disturbing
TT: Would you prefer I called him “Daddy”.
TG: dont ever do that
TG: i will literally cut off all ties with both of you if you resort to that in your endless game of parental one-upmanship
TG: move to switzerland change my name juergan snowboard
TG: maybe start selling potted plants out of the back of a van
TG: cut off all ties with the ectofamily
TT: That’s a very unusual and specific fantasy, Dave.
TT: Would you like to elaborate on it more?
TG: no ive already forgotten what i said
TT: Ah well, and here I was with clipboard and pen at the ready, my high school psychology textbook splayed across my lap.
TG: ok lose the fucking pen freud im about to start laying down some shit
TG: i keep beating bro
TG: strifewise i mean
TT: Forgive me for saying this Dave, but should this not be this be cause for celebration?
TG: well i guess but thats not the thing
TG: the thing is me and egbert had stupid play strifes and shit but it wasnt for real
TG: im totally out of practice and taking his ass down to the ground
TG: kind of mad anticlimactic
TG: that not strike you as weird???
TT: Not really.
TT: Do you still see your brother – see I abstained from calling him Father just to spare your delicate feelings like the kind and thoughtful sister I am – as the untouchable pinnacle of coolness and masculinity of your childhood?
TT: Hm, well?
TT: Proverbial four-eyed cat got your tongue, Dave?
TT: Oh Vodka Mutini you fatty old thing, stop crawling all over me.
TG: ok so who still really thinks their parent whatevers are the same guys from when they were fucking twelve
TG: egbert doesnt think his dads on a malicious cake hate campaign
TG: you dont think our drunken lush of a mom is some conniving shrew that would put fucking katherina minola to shame
TG: for the most part
TT: I’m still a touch uncertain of her shrew-like nature but yes.
TT: I suppose our relations have been much more amiable ever since I reached adulthood.
TG: yeah so whats the point of this exactly
TG: are we saying
TG: oh hey daves a different dude from his douche 13 year old self!!!
TG: because thats kind of a fucking given for any person older than fifteen
TT: No, what I’m saying is that it’s somewhat different with you.
TT: You grew up moulding your identity around your brother.
TT: The only exception to this rule was when John entered the scene, might I add.
TG: yeah so
TT: So I can’t help feel you may be experiencing some cognitive dissonance seeing your brother from a grown man’s point of view after all this time.
TG: what you think i never figured out me and him were kind of losers lalonde
TG: im not stupid i had that shit pegged when i was 14
TT: You’re not a loser, Dave.
TT: And your brother is a good man.
TG: no hes a dick
TT: And he’s also a dick, yes.TG: i dont fucking know
TG: im beating him and its easy
TG: and its boring
TG: really fucking boring this whole come at me bro lets duel on the roof like a pair of total dumbasses
TG: better hope nobodys looking out their window right now to see two grown ass adults pretending to be ninjas up here
TG: whoops gotta go dave got puppets to sell gg bro
TG: or waking up with a blue smuppet next to you because hes such a witty fuck
TT: You sound frustrated.
TG: its not that
TG: well yeah hes being a pretty fucking taxing ninja master or whatever hes supposed to be at this point
TG: i dont know
TG: hes doing the shit we used to do when i was like twelve but tripling the workload
TG: its kinda
TG: alright you breathe a word of this to him or egbert and ill choke you with one of your shitty necklaces
TG: but it kinda
TG: seems kinda desperate
TG: i dont get what the fuck his deal is i mean its bullshit
TG: and he keeps getting all pissy at me for whatever
TG: like i dont wanna trigger some shitty ass smuppet trap and he acts like i just dropped my pants and took a shit on cals expectant wooden face
TG: idgi he tells me how great it was to get fucking shot of me and then if mention john its all huff puff whine oh you wanna move back in with your faggy bf man seriously we need to get you some serious pussy
TG: its annoying as ass
TT: Have you ever considered that parental figures are people with thoughts and feelings that do the best they can, Dave?
TT: It’s a fairly important realisation to have.
TG: bro doesnt
TG: and how does that help my situation at all lalonde i mean really
TG: doctor doctor my bro is an annoying asshole who is driving me fucking insane
TG: is your brother a cat or small fern young man
TG: no doctor hes a person
TG: well theres my shit
TG: HOLY SHIT the road to familial harmony is paved and open in front of me
TT: Out of curiousity, what would you and John have been doing right now?
TG: idk probably playing some sweet indie game on his dumb laptop
TG: because itd have been my turn to pick tonight
TG: probably actually have something to eat im fucking starving
TG: no point gettin groceries because bro calls me a little girl if i do and makes me feel like a dipshit about it
TT: What about during the day?
TG: what idk
TG: is this you making a timetable or something
TG: we dont have a set fucking schedule for our random shit
TG: probably would have hung out or went out in the city for whatever i guess or got my ass dragged to some crappy ass movie
TT: And what did you do today?
TT: Will you please stop saying that.
TG: sat on my ass in front of the computer updated ye olde blogs
TG: swung a sword at bro a bit when he actually showed his face
TG: about it really
TT: I think you’ve went native, Dave.
TG: wtf is that even meant to mean
TG: do i look like sam worthington dancing amongst oversized glittersmurfs to you
TG: is john the pocahontus to my john smith
TG: what are you trying to say
TG: did egbert sing some musical number about every rock and creature having a name i missed out on
TG: or was there maybe some crappy montage about becoming one with the egbertian or something
TT: I don’t think you realise how ironic it is you choose now of all times to start spouting things about movies.
TT: I’m just saying that maybe your previous lifestyle isn’t satisfactory to you anymore?
TT: Perhaps you’ve outgrown that little tiny niche of the world that is your brother’s apartment?
TT: Alas, it’s inevitable. One day the little insufferable crow will spread his wings and become too big for the nest.
TG: oh my god will you shut your perfumey trap
TT: Face it, Dave.
TT: You’ve been Egbertised.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] --
TG: yo sup
TG: so whats been going down in the egbert household today bro
TG: undoubtedly you have many a fucking fascinating tale about whoopee cushions to share with me
TG: note the extreme typed sarcasm on fascinating there
TG: because your endless stories of egbertian pranking mishaps are about the least fascinating shit i can think of
TG: or are you gonna update me on your fruitless efforts to become a productive member of society
TG: you know that aint gonna happen
TG: well maybe saving the entire fucking universe makes you sort of productive
TG: but hey thats old hat at this point right
TG: come on man dont leave me hanging
TG: dont act like you cant fit me into your schedule egbert
TG: dont i come before making nic cage endless clip art fanmail in microsoft publisher
TG: you aint there are you
TG: well ok whatever im bored so just respond to this whenever
TG: havent settled back in here properly because bro is a massive assdick and this city is a shithole
TG: i think i prefer our old shithole apartment to this shithole apartment
TG: at least there was a blissful lack of puppets in said previous shithole
TG: though the puppets dont actually spook me so shut your toothy fucking face
TG: not anymore
TG: you just get sick of them after a while
TG: really sick of them
TG: anyway so i just thought i should say hey
TG: not really had a whole lot to do
TG: or a whole lot i wanted to do
TG: i mean most of my shit still isnt unpacked but do you see me leapin to my feet to amend this
TG: hell no that shits boring
TG: whatever you dont have to respond to that not like ill remember half the shit i just said
TG: hit me up when youre free bro
TG: yeah cool
-- turntechGodhead [TG] is now an idle chum! --
-- ectoBiologist [EB] is no longer an idle chum! --
EB: oh, wow, i totally missed you, didn’t i?
EB: well i dunno, maybe you’re still here but just busy doing some lame hipster bloggy things!
EB: say something if you’re there, you horse’s ass. i know your photography tumblr isn’t THAT engrossing.
EB: i could do with talking to you. i just woke up.
EB: it’s like two in the morning or something here.
EB: i have just been having some really nasty-ass dreams bro, you have no idea.
EB: well actually you do. out of all people, you have an idea.
EB: it was just kinda worse tonight.
EB: for ages i’ve been used to having a nightmare and then i wake up and you’re there and it feels kind of okay.
EB: well, more than kind of okay. pretty okay.
EB: kind of pretty really okay.
EB: gaaah, i’m not making any sense!
EB: i dunno i just don’t like you not being there dude, you’re really good at making me feel less crappy.
EB: haha, even if you suck at saying comforting nice things. still, what you do do works.
EB: not that you do anything.
EB: not that you need to. i know everything’s alright just cos you’re there, i guess.
EB: ummmmm, okay, wow, i should stop talking!! this is embarrassing.
EB: well i just wanted to drop a message really, better if you were online but i guess i can just leave it here.
-- ectoBiologist [EB] is now an idle chum! --
-- ectoBiologist [EB] is no longer an idle chum! --
EB: i miss you.
TG: holy shit john
TG: i am so goddamn sorry
EB: huh, what for?
Living with Bro after so long isn’t something you’ve found yourself very well-equipped for. Sure you can send him tumbling legs over ass down the stairs, and you can still shout down a half-hearted “IT KEEPS HAPPENING” to appease his need to see your irony levels up high. Except for the fact SBaHJ is a thing you haven’t updated in over five fucking years, and that beating him shouldn’t leave you feeling empty and stupid.
You thought when you finally managed to get one over on him, it’d be a big rush of feeling and freedom and finally, finally fucking getting out of his shadow.
Thing is you haven’t been in his shadow for a long time. And it’s not because you’ve climbed the irony echeladder and kicked him out of the top spot, seating yourself as King. There isn’t confetti falling, Bro taking off his hat and giving it to you (You admit this was a really stupid fantasy you had when you were 12 when you finally managed to kick his ass) and saying well done bro - now are the hero; it is you.
You just kept fighting, nothing changed, not so much as an approving nod in your direction, an apology for all the shit over the years, just the same shit. Something seethes inside of you.
You’re just not some sort of creepy mutant part of him, maybe as a kid you felt like some chip off the hipster asshole block that was trying to re-immerse itself into the bigger picture. Maybe he still thinks you are. And maybe he still thinks you’re not good enough.
Maybe without the game, maybe without John, maybe your life would still totally centre on this dude and one-upping him in his stupid games.
BRO ROOF NOW. is all the note above your bed reads. You groan and get up, grab your (not so crappy) sword, boot Cal off your bed (stupid creepy little asshole) and storm up to the roof.
Bro swings a sword at you the second you get up there, and you flashstep to the top of the AC unit, and stare down at him. He waits for you to make some stupid quip, maybe saying that you’ve got the higher ground, real Star Wars shit up in this bitch.
Instead you just toss your best sword to the ground with a clatter of steel against concerete and shove your hands into your pockets.
“Ain’t in the mood, Bro,” you tell him. He dives for you again and you dodge, easily, landing on the edge of the roof this time.
“Kid, there’s no such thing as not in the mood, a strife is a strife,” he said, spreading his arms and palm and all but inviting you to “Come at me bro”.
“Well tough, I can’t be fucked with this. What’s the point, exactly? Game’s won, set and match, need a new save file,” you drawl, wanting to just go back to your room and go back to bed because you don’t want to do this. You’re sick of this. It’s all really, really amounting to nothing, just nothing over and over again.
He looks at you, sneering and you half want to get your sword out again and strife him just to wipe the stupid superior look off his face because you’re no better than me, asshole.
“Come on, dumbass, what the fuck’s the problem? Knew you were getting soft as fresh shit living with that loser,” he goads, “I know it’s all daisies, fairies and fudge-packing back at the Egbert place but you better be ready for a real strife here.”
He wants you to react, and you do, after all these years you still fucking rise to the bait like a dumbass, and his smirk just gets more and more punch-able when he sees you tense, every muscle screaming for you to leap, roll, grab your sword, beat him into submission. You could do it, you could do it and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as hard as you’d always imagined.
You’re so dumb, still falling for his shit, still wanting to beat him down, still so desperate to stop him trying to make you feel like shit, or maybe he doesn't try. Maybe that’s just something he does, maybe that’s just how he treats people.
“Thought I was outta your hands at this point, dude,” you say, leaving the sword and opening the door to head back down the stairs, giving him the most dismissive, condescending hand-gesture you possibly can, “If I feel like kicking your ass sometime I will, don’t worry.”
Even with your back to him, you can feel his glare burning into your back, furious like he’s eyeing up some traitorous scumbag who let the side down. Somebody who fled when the enemy attacked, a traitor to the crown, should be kicked out of the country and shipped straight to North Korea, if not shot behind the shed like the world's shittiest Old Yeller.
That’s when you feel the boot to your ass and tumble down the stairs.
“That was fucking cheating,” you inform him, when he finally (finally) shows his face the next day. He shrugs, feet up on your desk and looking as though he doesn’t have a solitary care in the world. He leafs through an old textbook of yours with a look of utmost (and practised, rehearsed to perfection) boredom.
“All’s fair in strife and war, little man,” he tells you, dry and condescending, as he tosses your book to one side and leans back on the chair, every bit the insolent little kid. He is so trying to irritate you, “You weren’t playing so I had to up the stakes a little. Quit your bitching.”
He never comes into your room. This is just another one of his ways of getting under your skin, trying to get you worked up. Maybe he’s hoping you’ll throw some pissy little fit like a little girl and tell him to get out.
Maybe he’s just in here because he’s bored and doesn’t know how to actually say he wants your company, your inner Lalonde informs you smarmily.
“I dunno why you bothered with this shit so long,” he continues, indicating your old university books, all on photography and musical theory, even one or two on the stock market you picked up after a spate of nostalgia (turns out real stocks were much more complicated than ones ran by insane red crocodiles) and all the things you spent the past four years on, still in a box on the floor. He kicks it, “Total waste of time man, when you could just peddle some half-assed shit online and make moolah from that. And ain’t like you’re any good at this.”
You grunt and ignore him, not looking up from your handheld. If you flipped your shit every time he pissed on everything you liked that wasn’t shrouded by miles and miles of feeble irony and justifications because liking stuff wasn’t allowed, it wasn’t cool enough. Just another rule you have to work around in the Strider household.
He raps his fingers on the desk, dicking about on your computer and rummaging through your files. You let him, whatever, if you slap him away he’ll just call you a prissy little girl protecting his diary, then come snooping later anyway. Privacy is a thing that just stops being a thing under his roof, and that ain’t news to you.
“Shit man, you got anything interestin’ on here?” he tells you, mournfully, “What you been doing for the last four years?”
“Oh you know, man, getting a degree and shit, I know that’s a foreign concept to you high school drop-outs,” you tell him dryly, lying staring at the ceiling and ignoring him. Ignore him long enough and he’ll get bored and go away, way it’s always been, don’t rise to the bait, never ever rise to the bait.
Bro just makes a dismissive “feh” noise at you and gets up.
“Whatever man. I’m gonna film some shit for the site in the next room. If I need any advice on amping on the homoeroticism I’ll ask you.”
You wait until the door is shut and check for Cal’s glassy blue eyes, before turning around on your bed and drifting to sleep.
Jade is offline.
That’s not an usual state of affairs, girl still takes her naps even if she’s at risk of being eaten by a tiger or whatever insane thing she’s gotten herself into, and that’s not when she’s off doing amazing shit that quite frankly put your mundane life to shame.
Terezi’s out too.
Probably stringing up some poor asshole by his ankles for not listening to one of Vantas’s boring-ass space-jesus sermons with the appropriate amount of reverence or whatever the fuck her deal is. Point is, woman’s insane and has a lot of irons in the fire to fuel said complete and utter fucking balminess.
You remember something she said about having to prepare work for a show or some fancy pants artsy shit like that. You keep promising to go see her but then it just doesn’t happen. The times it did it was because Egbert got your ass in gear and practically made you. He said if left to your own devices you’d probably just hole up in your room with your computer like a hermit.
John’s name sits in navy blue at the top of your chumroll.
You sign off.
Bro isn’t there the next day when you finally roll your ass out of bed and into the living room. All that’s left is a scattering of smuppets, and a camera that points to a lewd scene featuring what looks like some kinda deranged version of Bert and Ernie.
You notice the glasses and shades on said puppets and tear them in half, tossing them out of the window.
Bro drops from the ceiling like a massive fucking psycho and slashes down with his sword, near damn slicing your fucking arm off. You fall on your ass with a ragged “Jesus!”.
“Failed the test, bro,” is all he says before disappearing like he always does.
You try to resist the great urge to smash his camera off a wall.
You fail to resist the urge.
Bro isn’t happy, you can tell. You watch him through the sliver between your door and the doorframe. He picks up the pieces of camera with that same, straight-faced expression he deal with everything in his life (including you), and you suddenly feel like a big giant fucking piece of shit stuffed into some stupid hipster shirt. Like you’re suddenly regressing back to teenage angst and kid tantrums. Then you remember you never did any of that, not out loud where Bro could sneer at it, make you feel like a dumbass for crying or shouting or anything else.
All that shit had to go somewhere. Strifing could only work off so much.
He tosses the pieces out the window without a glance at your door, all “Whatever, don’t give a shit, don’t give a shit how much it costed, don’t give a shit how much it means” and you sort of want to start banging on the door and yelling at him to react to maybe one single fucking thing you do.
Instead you take a deep breath, open up Hephaestus and get ready for an evening of mindless scrolling and refreshing. You refuse to give him a reaction.
EB: jesus, dude, what were you thinking???
TG: i havent done anything
TG: whered this come from
EB: i got a package today from your address, jesus, dave, what the hell.
EB: i nearly crapped myself! that was not a funny prank.
EB: that was just dangerous.
TG: i have no fucking idea what youre talking about
TG: these are just nonsense words to me
TG: dont tell me youre some future egbert and im being chastised for stuff i havent done but is completely inevitable for me to do
TG: because that is shit i quit long ago
TG: on the anti time travel wagon as it goes even the trolls are linear nowadays
TG: dont start that again my poor heart couldnt take this suddenly turning into some shitty version of time travellers wife
EB: i still can’t believe you liked that book.
TG: it was good ok stfu
EB: and dude, you know i appreciate your attempts to prank with me, but come on!
EB: fireworks?? i don’t know how you got them to do that when i opened the box but jesus christ dave!
EB: they almost blew my face off.
TG: woah wait what the flying fuck
EB: so that wasn’t you?
TG: whatever that is wasnt me no
TG: you seriously think id do that holy crap
TG: no prizes for guessing which asshole loser was the one to do whatever it was
TG: fucking hell
TG: the stupid fucking asshole what is he playing at this is such complete and utter horseshit i cant even
TG: right im gonna go sort some shit out
EB: oh, ok.
EB: see you later then.
TG: no wait
TG: youre ok right
TG: your dad too
TG: youre not hurt or anything
EB: no. we’re both ok.
EB: yeah, yeah i’m okay! not a scratch, dave, i swear. i was pretty lucky.
TG: ok cool later
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB] --
“What the fuck, Bro, what was that stunt you pulled on John?”
It all comes out in one sharp, angry breath, and your pokerface is in pieces on the floor with that one sentence. Bro just swings around on his computer chair, actually sitting backwards on it, and stares you down. You almost want to look away, like a dog being stared down by the alpha male, but you’re shaking, fucking shaking, with anger and you’re not letting this go. This shit has crossed the line, the line you’ve been letting him push further and further fucking out for years.
“What’s your deal, lil Bro? Nothing the big hero of Sburb can’t handle,” he says, shrugging his shoulders and lifting his hands in some stupid “welp what now” gesture, and you suddenly find yourself grabbing the chair and throwing it over so he lands straight on his goddamn ass.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what we all need. Explosives to the fucking face, a good dose of them in the morning should really keep our reflexes sharp in case meteors start rainin’ again,” you say, not quite able to control the words flooding out of your mouth, “Should I be giving you a bowl of cherry bombs and milk for breakfast? A glass of goddamn arsenic? Jesus dick.”
He gets up smoothly, readjusting his hat.
“You don’t shove me down, kid,” he tells you, still deadpan, but something’s changed in the room, there’s some very fucking angry and oppressive elephant in the room now, shit you’ve never talked about and carefully avoided all your lives, and now it is pissed the hell off.
“You act like it’s going to happen again, Bro, what the fuck. It’s done. Game over, insert new coins. Thanks for fucking playing. So don’t nearly kill people just for the fuck of it,” you say. The words are coming out really fast, too fast to think or stop or try to recover what the hell just broke, “And I’m not a goddamn kid.”
“I don’t see the big deal,” he says, dryly, “Shouldn’t you be keeping your chill a bit better than this?”
“You could have hurt him,” you say, about ten times sharper and more sincere than you meant to. Bro’s face changes into a sneer, he knows he’s got something on you now, something better than shitty puppet asses, and you silently beg him not to fucking laugh, don’t fucking laugh. You will lose your shit completely if he laughs like a giant asshole about this.
“Hey, maybe it would have rearranged his face, made his teeth more human or something, y’know?” he says, and he’s totally waiting for you to smirk and crack out a chuckle. He’s damn near ready for that fist-bunp, and you’re not going to give him it.
He shoves his hands in his pockets, leaning his shoulder against the wall.
“Right, right. Lil man, one of those dicks you’ve been takin’ up the ass must have broke something, because your sense of humour has taken a real hit lately, it’s just tragic,” he says, and you tense. It’s not jokes he’s never made before, jesus. And it’s not like you’ve never called him gay or something but he knows that isn’t fucking cool, he goddamn knows and he’s still doing it because he’s thinks he’s fucking fifteen or something and can get away with anything. Like he’s too clever to be a giant doucheballoon.
“Shut up,” you snap, “Don’t act like an ass and think it makes you cool, alright, it’s fucking bullshit and you know it.”
“Wha – Jesus did you not learn anything? Has all my tutelage went out one ear and out the other, or has spending so much time with the John kid just fucked all the cool out of you, because seriously lil man, you’re being really fucking lame right now. You need to stop actin’ like you’re too good for this shit or whatever the hell it is. You’re such a dumbass, I mean –“
You don’t know what makes you do it, but all of a sudden your fist is coming forward and you punch him square in the nose, and he staggers back, falls and holds his face with one hand, stupid shades knocked askew. There’s blood on your knuckles. They throb painfully. That was more than just a fucking punch and both of you know it, and you think it’s over. That’s it, all that complete and utter anger and resentment you’ve felt for everything he’s done over the years, made you feel shitty over the dumbest things, made you profess to love the things you hate and hate the things you love, not let you care about your friends unless you’re all about to goddamn die, the swords, the beatdowns, never having food in the fridge, never being able to do anything right, feeling like such a fucking failure because he couldn’t be fucked to just give you a thumbs up now and then and -
What you don’t expect is for him to get up and punch you back, hard enough to make everything spin. You fall to the floor, and something cracks.
EB: oh my god.
TG: and then he ran for it while i was getting up and trying to see if my nose was fucking broken
TG: probably up sulking on the roof whatever dont care
EB: what the hell man, that’s awful. i’m so so sorry. he's kind of a difficult guy but i never thought he'd do something like that.
TG: so yeah
EB: you keep saying that. what are you sorry for?
EB: you didn’t punch ME in the face.
EB: and you didn’t send me a box full of bomb either.
TG: dude i thought i made it clear
TG: i mean cracked lenses all twisted outta shape the whole thing
TG: things are no fucking good now
TG: and like hell im wearing my old ones
TG: i mean he could probably get some ironic ass aviators from the dollar store
TG: shits not exactly the same though is it
EB: hahaha, that’s what you’re so upset over?
EB: you are so dumb.
TG: hey what
EB: i don’t care if they’re broken dude, i’m not gonna get mad at you.
EB: they’re ridiculously old at this point anyway! i should’ve got you new ones ages ago.
EB: you’ve had them strapped to your face for like twelve years now.
EB: kinda grody, dude.
TG: hey what
TG: its not grody
EB: they probably need to be disinfected.
EB: get the swat team in!
EB: or those guys from monsters inc, that probably works a little better.
TG: oh yes john thats what I need right now
TG: yellow suited monstrosities descending from the ceiling and spraying me with fucking alien disinfectant
EB: they were monsters, not aliens.
TG: whatever dont care
TG: but like shit man ive had these for years
EB: exactly. i didn’t expect you to wear them to begin with! it’s not like they’re not kinda silly looking.
EB: but you did and you took really good care of them and they lasted you really long.
EB: it’s not like i think you busted them yourself.
EB: haha, you are so dumb.
EB: i can’t believe you get punched in the face and that’s what you’re worried about.
TG: hey me and bro strife all the time
TG: though this isnt anywhere near the same thing really
TG: aint like fighting just to look cool or stay ripped
EB: ripped? pfft.
TG: yes ripped shut up
EB: if you say so, hehe.
EB: but seriously dude, are you okay?
TG: my face looks like a giant pile of shit but hey no broken nose i think im good
TG: but i think im done
TG: ive officially had enough of his shit right about now
EB: i can understand that.
EB: you know that not living together thing?
EB: that was dumb and we shouldn’t do that any more.
TG: good idea
TG: what do you think of me getting the soonest flight to washington then
TG: i mean i dont wanna crash at your dads and be a big leeching asshole sucking his resources up but
TG: you know ollie wants outie over here
EB: an ollie’s a skateboard move, not a dude, dude.
TG: oh my god
TG: just shut up
EB: hahaha! you totally thought ollie was a guy that was getting out, didn’t you?
TG: ok yes
TG: shut up
EB: (totally never going to.)
EB: but of course that’s okay!! you can just stay here for a little while we look for a place.
EB: and you know dad likes you, he really won’t mind.
EB: it’s not like i’ve been doing a whole lot, really.
TG: what seriously i thought you were job hunting or whatever the fuck
TG: you been afk all the time lately
EB: that’s because i’ve been 100%ing all my spyro games.
EB: and getting all the achievements on all the crap on my steam account...
EB: i’ve been bored, ok!
TG: thats cool guess i cant really call you a goober for it
TG: all ive done lately is complete the fucking pokedex for gods sake
EB: which one?
TG: all of them
TG: ive been bored too fuck off with those ellipses
EB: somehow, i figured that out.
EB: so when can i expect you?
There’s no big reunion hug when his plane finally touches down and he emerges from the gate, after what feels like hours. Dave just approaches you, looking weird without his shades and the big ugly black eye spreading across his face (he didn’t put ice on it, did he? You wonder if he even knows you’re supposed to do that) and offers you a slight nod and a fist-bump.
You expect Dad to make a fuss, tell him to call his Bro (you can make a pretty good guess that he hasn’t told him anything, just got up and left), but he doesn’t. Dad just greets him with a handshake when you get back home, and doesn’t look when you hold his hand.
He’s officially sleeping in the guest bedroom, but you leave the door open and feel relieved when he crawls in next to you.
The Egbert family table has become a mess of newspaper clippings, for rent notices, a completely fucking confusing array of apartment listings that say words like “cosy” and have photos that, to your trained eye and to John’s completely clueless eye, obviously aren’t telling the whole story.
The two of you have been going through these all day, re-examining budgets, arguing about whether it’s close enough to John’s work (the grad school thing he found two goddamn weeks after you moved in). John is treating this sort of like he’s Napoleon putting together his attack plans for fucking Leipzig. You sit downing Mountain Dew and trying to pull on your big boy pants and decipher what all of this real estate bullshit even means.
In the back of your head you can hear Bro’s voice making jokes about how fucking domestic it all is, but you push him to the back of your mind.
“John, where the hell is Escrow?” you ask finally, dumping an apartment listing you were running through with a fine tooth comb (or in this case, your best Hello Kitty marker) on the table and leaning back on the chair.
To your indignation, John bursts out laughing.
“What? Bro, I don’t know your shitty little state, how am I supposed to –“
“Escrow isn’t a place, dumbass,” he says, grinning at you, “It’s like...a legal...thingy.”
“A legal thingy,” you repeat dryly, and John throws his arms up in despair.
“I don’t know! Ask Terezi, she’s like a dragon lawyer or whatever, right?” he says, looking at you imploringly, like you know something you’re not telling him.
“Dude, do you think trolls really give a shit about real estate? If Terezi can’t have somebody hanging by their throat for it, or if it doesn’t taste of strawberry ice cream, she doesn’t give a shit,” you say, eating a chunk of one of the many cakes Mr Egbert had baked for you two just this morning.
“Um, well. I don’t really know what it is either. Think it’s important?”
“Dunno. Might be.”
John considers this for a second before looking over his shoulder and making a single, annoying syllable;
Dad seems pretty glad that Dave is here. He’s been fussing over you endlessly since you got here, constantly asking what your plans were, what you wanted, and you think he noticed that you weren’t exactly feeling great being a billion miles away from Dave again. You moping about in his old clothes is not exactly subtle, as Rose kindly pointed out when she dropped in on you last month.
You’re both scrubbing cake batter off the walls, while Dave is attempting to give Casey a bath upstairs (there had been an incident) and he says something that almost makes you choke on your gum;
“You and David are intimate, are you not?”
He slaps your back and, you swear, behind the hat and nose and gentlemanly airs he is trying not to LAUGH. Sometimes something about Dad reminds you what an evil sense of humour he has.
He is one in a long (well, ok, about 3 generations. Or 2 and a half, depending on how you look at it) line of pranksters, you suppose.
Coughing up a gross wad of spearmint onto your hand and quietly squashing it under the kitchen counter, you turn to look at him, hoping you don’t like half as mortified as you feel.
Judging by the way his face softens and he lays a hand on your shoulder, you guess you do.
“Who SAYS it like that?” You manage finally, sounding every bit like a 12 year old sick of his uncool Dad. Dad just chuckles at you and shakes his head.
“Would you prefer I worded it how Mr Strider is inclined to? Something about butt fu-“
“Ack! Dad, no, stop!”
He laughs, properly, the exact same almost-snort you have, and shakes his head, putting aside his sponge. He conjures a pipe from his sylladex and lights it. Ever since you were 21, he’s been offering you one, and ever since you were 21 you’ve been wrinkling your nose and shaking your head.
“In all seriousness, John, if you are in a serious relationship with this man, I’d very much like to hear so,” he says, puffing on his pipe, “It honestly doesn’t matter to me about your preference, as long as you’re happy and well.”
You fidget under the enormous wave of guilt that washes over you. You should have talked to Dad about all this way, way earlier. You should have known he’d want to know.
“I’m not, y’know, homosexual. Well, ok. Maybe it makes more sense if I say I like girls. I STILL like girls. But yeah,” you say, and scratch the back of your ear, “I guess we have something pretty special.”
“I’m still proud of you, son,” he says. To your embarrassment, you can’t resist the almost reflexive eye-roll and long-suffering “I knooow, jeez!”, but he just smiles nostalgically, taking another puff of his pipe.
“You don’t think it’s weird then? Because I pretty much...uh, yeah, you know! Haha,” you say, offering him a toothy grin and kicking your bare feet against the linoleum, “But yeah. It’s a serious thing.”
“No, John, I don’t think it’s weird. Dave isn’t a young man without his...eccentricities – “ You snort. “- but overall he’s a kind, clever young man and I’m proud of him as well.”
“You should try saying that to him,” you tell him, a little dryly, “He’d explode.”
You hear a familiar squeaking and “glub glub glub” and a now-clean-now-dry Casey toting a fluffy red bath-towel bounces into your ankle, tugging on your pants leg. Dave follows, rubbing his hair dry with a towel and looking damp and disgruntled.
“You owe me big for that, Egbert,” he grumbles, and cocks his head when you loop your arms around his middle and squeeze, “Ok, I was thinkin’ more you pay for pizza next time, you don’t have to turn everything into a hugfest. What’s up with you?”
You shrug and release him. You can’t get over his eyes being bare all the time lately. Thanks to the past few years living with him, you find him pretty easy to read anyway, but it’s just like a blown cover now, or something.
“Nothing, numbnuts, heh,” you say, smiling inanely and way wider than the situation warrants, and he gives you a blank look that you respond to by tossing a wet sponge in his face, “You’ve got to give me a hand scrubbing this place down.”
TT: So how are our intrepid first-time-buyers doing?
EB: oh, hi rose! :D
EB: haha, we’re doing pretty good. we’ve found one place that’s pretty good.
EB: it’s in the city so dave can’t bitch about there being nothing there.
EB: haha, man, it’s been pretty much all he’s done since he’s got here.
EB: waawaa john why isn’t there a dunking donuts down the street waa waa waa!
TT: I thought he might be in such a state.
TT: City folk are so insufferably needy for bright lights and noise. I think I may retreat back into the woods when retirement comes.
EB: you should do it now. you sound like an old lady anyway!
EB: no, that’s so not what i meant!
EB: i mean you should just do that if that’s what makes you happy!!!
TT: And here I thought you were making some horrible passive-aggressive jab at my hobbies. It was like it was ten years ago.
TT: Hm, perhaps. It may be easier to focus on my art outside of the hustle and bustle of New York, after all.
EB: sounds like a good idea to me, rose!
TT: You sound like you’re in a very good mood.
EB: oh, yeah. i guess i am. :)
TT: It makes sense.
TT: I mean you’ve finally managed to peel yourself off your father’s sofa and start progressing in life, and showering properly. Not to mention being reunited with your best friend slash room-mate slash probable life-partner, so your emotional and sexual needs are being fulfilled once more.
EB: roooooooose! >:|
TT: It’s just always worth seeing your reaction.
EB: i don’t know why you have to dissect my life like that.
EB: and make it sound so...clinical.
EB: i’m the doctor here, rose!!!
EB: well, um, in title eventually anyway.
TT: How foolish of me.
TT: By the way. Has Dave’s brother attempted to contact either of you?
EB: no, he hasn’t.
EB: i’ve been trying to not mention it to dave, he looks kinda miserable every time it comes up.
TT: Oh dear.
TT: Well I suppose I can confirm that he isn’t in much a better state, as he’s somehow got it in his head to annoy his dear daughter every hour of the day now.
EB: oh jeez, what has he been saying now??
TT: Nothing very coherent, I’m afraid. He’s worse than Dave at his very worst recently.
TT: He and Mother have been engaging in a healthy dose of alcoholism together recently. Likely to complain about the ungratefulness of their offspring.
TT: Or, in Mom’s case, because any excuse to drink Malibu straight from the bottle is a good one.
EB: man, i don’t know. i really don’t think dave wants to talk to him.
EB: can it wait?
TT: Of course, I just think they should eventually attempt, in their emotionally stunted way, to reconcile.
EB: yeah, i think so too.
EB: but not right now!
EB: maybe after we’ve moved in and sorted stuff out and bluh, all that junk.
EB: dave’s just starting to cheer up!
TT: Well, whatever you think is best, John.
EB: oh yeah, when we move in you should come visit!
EB: jade too! if she’s not too busy with all her shenanigans.
TT: That girl has so many shenanigans, John, but I’m sure she can find time her busy, busy schedule for you two.
TT: As can I.
EB: great! :D
EB: anyway, i gotta go.
EB: we’ve gotta go look at this place one last time before we decide.
TT: Alright, have fun, John.
“I like it,” you tell him on the walk back to the bus station. His hands are stuffed in his coat pockets (the Washington weather still doesn’t treat his Texan sensibilities very well), and he has one earbud in his left ear and his nose buried in the (passive aggressive) scarf Rose knitted him.
“I mean, it’s pretty roomy, it’s in a nicer neighbourhood than our last place, not TOO far from Dad, but far enough that he can’t wake us up with a cheesecake every morning, and pretty close to where I need to get to for work. And there’s a bathtub!” you continue. Dave will never understand the importance of a good bathtub that isn’t at the top of your stairs. That’s fine with you. He can miss out on how fun rubber ducks and bubbles are if he want. His dumb loss.
You, however, plan on investing in a metric fucktonne of toy boats and bubblebath.
“Was pretty cool,” he tells you, shrugging and fiddling with his headphone wire.
“What?” you ask, frowning and looking at him, studying his face. Eyes (bare, still bare, and he’s doing well, some people do double-takes, one little kid pointed, but he’s fine, if a little quiet) cast down to the ground, mouth pulled tight closed.
“Nothin’ man. It’s just pretty permanent right? Not just a college thing.”
“Dave, do you think I’m going to shackle you to a chair and make you watch Gone in Sixty Seconds over and over for the rest of your life?” you ask him, hoping the exasperation is dripping off every syllable. He snorts at that and baps you across the back of the head.
“I wouldn’t put it past you, asshole. You’re a relentless little fuck when movie night rolls round,” he says, expression brighter already, “If I refuse to watch Ghostbusters with you you spend the rest of the entire goddamn week moaning ‘Zuuuuuul’ every time I open the goddamn fridge.”
“I still count the time I managed to actually GET into the fridge as one of my greatest accomplishments,” you tell him, checking the area and then looping your arm with his. He heaves out a sigh, like the weight of your stupidity is actually forcing the air of out him.
“Yeah, man, you’re a real high flier. Your ambition is unparalleled, John Egbert. I don’t think anybody’s ballsy enough to actually even dream of making Dave Strider shit his pants by jumping out of the goddamn fridge pretending to be some shitty 80s movie monster,” he says, and he’ll go on like this for like fifteen minutes if you don’t cut him off, but hell, he likes his stupid rants. You let him ramble on a bit longer.
“Right, right, Dave, I’ll stop packing myself in fridges like Indiana Jones from now on. And Crystal Skull was great, shut up,” you tell him finally, hopping onto an empty seat at the bus station, warming your hands on your breath.
“Ok, cool, I’m making that a new house rule.”
“We have house rules?”
“We do now.”
He smiles to himself briefly before the pokerface snaps back in place, and you have to wonder if it kind of stings every time he does that.
“So are we taking it?” you ask as he fishes change from his pocket for the bus.
“Damn right we are,” he says, shrugging and pushing a dollar and some spare change into your palm for the bus, and you can’t resist keeping hold of his hand until the bus comes. After you pay, he grabs it back.
“Ha, awesome. We’ll have a housewarming party or whatever and everything,” you tell him, grinning.
TG: we have a problem
GG: what??? O:
TG: this place is huge
GG: you guys are moving in today right?? yaaaay :D
GG: send me pictures!!!! lots of them
GG: before you contaminate it with your boyness and make the poor place smelly and gross
TG: ok thanks thats great jade
TG: youre not listening to me here though
GG: oops!! hehe :P
GG: ok ok
GG: whats the crisis???
TG: ok you remember our previous accommodation
GG: the cramped smelly place yes
TG: thank you for that
TG: ok thing was we only ended up in the sleepin arrangements we were because of lack of space
TG: couldnt not lay down my slick as shit turntables
TG: and john might actually die if he doesnt have access to a piano he can sully by playing goddamn dont wanna miss a thing on
TG: now we got plenty of room for this shit and two bedrooms
GG: dave, are you asking me how to ask him to share a bed without it seeming you want to?? :\
TG: yes please
GG: you are so dumb
GG: does EVERYTHING have to be such a federal fucking issue??
TG: problem solved apparently
-- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
EB: haha, oh man.
EB: you ARE so dumb.
EB: we only have the double bed, dumbass.
TG: well w/e i was just seeking confirmation that was how shit was going to go down
TG: maybe you wanted to set up shop in caseys basket or something how am i supposed to know
TG: i wouldnt be surprised if you wanted to spend the next whatever many years snuggled up to your aging salamander of a daughter
EB: i can read the screen from here, idiot. we’re on the same sofa.
TG: ok smartass how about from this angle
TG: hope you like a chestful of hot laptop
EB: heh, well NOW i can’t.
TG: ok good
TG: now you shush
TG: better take this off before i render you infertile or something
TG: a million egbert sperm crying out as they wither and die under wifi radiation rays or something
TG: idk is that how radiation works
EB: i dunno, but i am pretty damn sure that’s not how chests work. or sperm. or wifi.
TG: shush you knew what i meant
EB: and no, i don’t want to sleep in a basket with casey.
TG: ok but if you want to get like a spare bed or something we can make the trip to ikea
TG: i will slog through that hideous swedish maze of a store
TG: i will suffer the cheap hotdogs
TG: the foul meatballs
TG: the small children diving in and out of the ballpool like fat fleshy american dolphins
TG: just so you can get a shitty racecar bed neither of us will be able to put together
TG: youre welcome
EB: oh man, dave. shut up.
EB: stop being neurotic and close your laptop!
“Dave?” you say, tentatively. Not out of shyness, but because Dave is attempting to make scrambled eggs. He eyes the butter and whisk with the exact same mix of fear, distrust and loathing he usually reserves for when Sesame Street pops up on TV. You can’t help but feel that distracting him too much would result in some horrible eggy explosion.
“Mmm?” he says, not disengaging from his kitchenstrife (Whiskkind vs Gonnaburnthefuckoutofyoureggskind), but he’s listening. You lean back on your chair, slippers on the dining table, running your tongue over your teeth thoughtfully.
“You know your brother’s been talking Rose a lot lately, right?” you say, deciding, for once in your life, to approach something with something somewhat like tact.
He grunts. Yeeeah, you aren’t feeling too great about this conversation.
“Yeah, so? A guy can’t hang with his ghost-goo daughter?” he tells you. You can only see the back of his head, but the lines of his shoulders seem tighter and angrier all of a sudden, “I don’t care what the dude does, man. Got nothing to do with me.”
“I just thought you’d wanna know. He’s not doing too great,” you continue. It sounded less desperate in your head.
“Nope, don’t care,” he tells you, making one stiff shrugging motion with his shoulders as he shoves scrambled eggs onto a plate, “These edible? You can put your neck on the line first, hero.”
Yeah, maybe you can save this for another time.
After a much dramatized trial of said eggs, you assert that they are not, in fact, going to kill either of you or burn through the kitchen floor and you both strife (forkkind) over the more evenly cooked bits.
Your phone buzzes on the kitchen counter.
TT: Ah, John.
TT: Just thought I’d inform you that Mr Strider is passed out on my goddamn couch.
TT: To use the internet vernacular of the better-forgotten noughties;
EB: oh my god.
EB: sorry this is so late rose, me and dave were busy.
EB: but is mr strider seriously on your couch?
TT: Indeed. He casually strode, pardon the pun, into my life, proceeded to then sniff my art supplies, eat some of my food including the Pop Tarts and then promptly fell asleep on my couch.
TT: It is no laughing matter John.
EB: i guess not, but seriously, he’s just...on your couch?
EB: you’re like halfway across the country from him! what the hell.
TT: I’m aware of that. Apparently, though, Mr Strider is no stranger to hitchhiking and found it necessary to travel to my tiny apartment and take up all of my goddamn room.
TT: John, I can’t understate how completely inconvenient this is to me.
EB: um, rose, i know it sucks but he’s visited you before.
EB: on one of your weird passive-aggressive father-daughter times or whatever it is striders and lalondes do.
TT: This is a different situation.
TT: It is pre-planned. Weeks in advance. Boundaries are set, the time and date we will get out of each other’s hair and return to our lives after a brief familial bonding session is in the not-so-far future.
TT: And he doesn’t interrupt anything else in my life, such as a close personal friend I happened to be entertaining that evening.
EB: you had somebody around?
TT: Yes, you could say that.
TT: Yes, “oh” is an appropriate reaction.
TT: It’s hard to maintain an appropriately romantic and sentimental atmosphere when your drunk dudebro of a father is cutting a hole in your door and shouting in a thick Texan accent about “dipshit ungrateful fudgepacker sonbros”.
TT: It’s not funny.
EB: ok, sorry, i mean
EB: well it kind of is but it isn’t.
TT: He then proceeded to give my friend what looked like a very uncomfortable speech about a certain event from 2009.
TT: This was before he tried to sell him pornographic puppet paraphernalia.
TT: Yes, John.
TT: Fucking “oh”.
EB: oh man, rose, i am so sorry!
TT: He’s waking up now, he seems somewhat more sober.
TT: I’d infer he’d like to speak to Dave, despite the numerous insistences he made that I was his favourite child a mere two hours ago.
EB: oh man.
TT: Would you do me the favour of putting him on the line?
TT: John, I am no big fan of the elder Strider either at the moment myself, I assure you.
TT: Especially seeing as his most recent act was, as Dave would put it, “muffblocking” me.
TT: However, all the same, it’s much better for them both if they talk to each other.
EB: i dunno.
TT: You dunno?
EB: rose, he’s actually happy right now.
EB: if he doesn’t want to talk to his brother-dad-thing i’m not gonna make him.
EB: what if he’s better off not?
TT: You can’t be suggesting he’s better off cutting out the only family he’s had?
EB: look, it sounds bad like that.
EB: but when you’ve got a guy that throws words like “dipshit” or “fudgepacker” at him.
EB: well maybe i don’t like dave being around that guy! even if they’re family.
EB: especially if they’re family.
TT: You know that, much like Dave, his brother doesn’t mean the things he says.
EB: i know. i don’t care.
EB: doesn’t mean he should get away with saying them.
EB: it still makes dave feel really shitty!!
TT: Look, John, there are a lot of factors at play here.
TT: Mr Strider does care for Dave, a lot, I’d wager.
TT: However, even before a certain day in April all those years ago he wasn’t exactly the most apt guardian, either in showing Dave earnest affection or in raising him in the healthiest ways.
EB: he was crap.
TT: Yes, I suppose.
EB: look, i know he and dave should make up.
EB: but does it have to be right now?
EB: i mean how come every time we’re happy something has to mess it up?
TT: Just the way of the world, I’m afraid, John.
TT: It comes down to Dave’s decision in the end, you realise.
EB: i know. i will tell him when he wakes up that his bro’s at your place.
EB: but if dave doesn’t want to talk to him, he doesn’t get to talk to him.
TT: I suppose that’s fair enough.
TT: Though I still can’t help but feel you don’t grasp the full situation.
EB: i get stuff sucks for him at the moment.
EB: that doesn’t mean he gets to make stuff suck for dave as well.
TT: I guess you may have a point.
TT: I don’t know, John, I’m not really a counsellor.
TT: Precocious claims of a know-it-all thirteen year old girl aside.
EB: you’re plenty good at this stuff, rose. :)
EB: better than me anyway! hehehe, i’m already dreading telling him about it in case he gets all upset.
TT: I think you’re better than you give yourself credit for, John.
EB: well i dunno! seems like his life would be a lot easier without me in it sometimes!!
TT: Oh my.
TT: John, what must the world look like from your perspective? Is up down? The sky red? Left right?
TT: I simply cannot express the level of delusion you must be experiencing.
EB: ok, ok, i get it! it’s just a sometimes thing.
TT: John, I assure you, you have the adverse effect on Strider.
TT: By himself, Dave would thrive on making his life much, much more complicated. Not to mention much more miserable.
EB: huh. you think?
TT: I’m quite certain.
EB: hehe, well if you say so rose! thanks!
You don’t tell Dave the next morning.
This is partially because any attempts to wake him up before you left for a seminar were met with angry grunts and mumbles that sounded something like “I swear to fuckin’ Gog Egbert”, so you just decided to let the drama queen have his beauty sleep.
You also don’t tell him when you come home.
You don’t really have a reason for that, he was just sprawled on the couch playing some crappy game on his iPhone and Casey was dribbling on his stomach, and he occasionally snorted or smiled at something on the screen, and didn’t look like he was exactly about to leap up and have a Serious Conversation.
You don’t tell him when you’re getting dinner ready, because heck, you have to concentrate. It takes a lot to make the perfect bacon sandwich, and you’re not one to ruin good bacon. You’re of the opinion that anybody to ruin good bacon should just be exiled to the moon.
After dinner, you swear.
What comes out of your mouth is totally not what you were going to say but rather the thing that you kind of wanted to say rather than the thing you should have said. He consents to watching Blades of Glory with you (not without bitching a little) and your resolve crumbles into dust.
Ok, you are seriously going to tell him. You try to mentally weigh out the pros and cons of talking about it right now.
- You just had sex, surely that means he’s in a good mood?? You hope??? So it’d be easier to bring up possibly crappy stuff? Wait, or would that just ruin a good mood? You’re not really sure how this works. You can’t really think of a movie with an equivalent situation. Man, you wish you could talk to Karkat or Vriska right now.
- You just had sex, who has a serious and kind of depressing conversation after sex? What’s WRONG with you, surely that’s awkward? Or maybe not? I mean one time you ended up arguing about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and looking them up on Wikipedia afterwards surely THAT’S worse? Why isn’t there a rulebook? Oh god, why are all the movies Karkat sending you failing you right now. You’re never watching a movie with troll Justin Timberlake again.
Oh...fuck it. Whatever, you’re just going to keep putting it off if you don’t do it now.
“Dave?” you mutter, nudging him. He mumbles unintelligibly into your shoulder. You sigh and nudge him again. You know the asshole’s not asleep yet. You shake him again and he half-opens his eyes.
“Dude, I’m trying to sleep here, need my beauty sleep to maintain these good looks. I know you wouldn’t know ‘bout what us girls need but it’s pretty important that we get our twelve hou –“
You put a hand over his mouth, rolling your eyes.
“Dude, just. Shut up for a second,” you say, “Ok, you know your brother?”
He pushes your hand off his face and nods. He already looks like he’d rather go back to burying his face in his pillow and doing the poor impersonation of a sleeping person.
“Well, he’s at Rose’s and she wants you to talk to him,” you say, bracing yourself for some grumpy rant and for him to turn over and start making loud, fake snoring noises like a total douche. Instead all he does is quirk an eyebrow at you.
“How the fuck did he get to Lalonde’s place?”
“Ha, oh man, I know right?” you say, grinning a little despite yourself.
“Shit. I bet she’s pissed.”
“She is. It’s...kind of hilarious,” you say, trying not to snigger. Oh man, it’s so not funny, poor Rose. But goddamnit it is a little funny. Only a little. Dave snorts and makes a vague motion that you take to be a shrug.
“Not really anything to do with me, dude,” he tells you, and goddamnit he is going to pretend to be asleep again if you don’t do something. You do the only thing that makes sense. You steal all of the covers.
“Oh, what the fuck Egbert, we’re not fourtee – stop it it’s fucking cold, damnit.”
He attempts to tug the back but you slap his hands away, rolling yourself up in the blankets like you’re some kind of man-boy-burrito. Dave looks really ridiculous when he’s sitting butt-naked and sulking, you note, and usually you’d rib him a little about it but damnit, you are a man with a mission tonight. And that mission is to make Dave Strider talk about his feelings. You wonder if fighting Lord English again would be easier.
“I’m not giving these back unless you admit it is totally your business!”
“It is totally my business,” he says in a completely flat monotone, “Now stop letting me die of hypothermia, my balls are about to drop off here.”
“Ew. And it’s not that cold,” you say, scrunching up your nose in disgust. You take mercy on his stupid Texan ass and give him back some of the quilt anyway.
He tugs it over himself, sighing, and for a second you see him grope at the bedside table for a pair of glasses that aren’t there.
“Right,” he says, settling for pinching the bridge of his nose instead, “So what Lalonde’s playing teaparties with Bro and suddenly the father-daughter passive-aggression well has run dry and she wants me to extract him like a particularly stubborn tumour. Is that the up and up of it?”
“Well, no, dude,” you say, “Look, I said if you didn’t want to talk to him you wouldn’t but I am just trying to say it’d be better if you did. Because family arguments are a thing that is bad and should be resolved.”
“He nearly blew your face off,” Dave points out quickly. You cringe.
“Yeah, dude, I know. Come on, he’s pretty wacko but well, I don’t know. I think he just doesn’t deal with stuff well,” you say, well aware that “doesn’t deal with stuff well” might be understatement of the century for a guy who thinks brotherly bonding involves throwing each other down stairs, “I’m just saying. Talk to him, maybe? Get an apology out of him?”
“Dude, the guy didn’t apologise for all the times he’s nearly sliced my fucking head off, why would he start now for a couple of gay gags pushed too far.”
You cringe again. Man, you wish this would stop being a deal that was such a big deal. That’d be really nice.
“So not what this all is about, Dave,” you tell him.
“Eh, guess not,” he tells you. He goes quite for a split seconds, but then continues in his usual, rapid rambling way; “And who the fuck uses the word ‘wacko’ seriously? What decade did you drop out of? Are you going to take me to a fucking malt shop later?”
“I wish. Malt shops were pretty cool.”
He groans like you’re the biggest idiot he’s ever laid eyes upon. And you’re strangely fine with that.
“Look, just. Bro was my fucking hero up until I was like 13 when it turned out he could get skewered like a pig on a barbecue just as much as anyone else,” he says, making a vague gesture with his hand. You frown. For a split second you remember Dad’s body on the floor, his shirt bloody, and that feeling of a safety net being just taken. Or whatever it was that got snatched up in the claws of something way, way bigger and more complicated than four kids and their tiny families. You’re not totally sure any of you got what was taken that day back, not completely.
“Yeah, I get it,” you say, shifting a little so that you’re closer to him, because you almost rolled off the bed earlier taking all the blankets from him, “Ha, who’s your hero now? Lemme guess. It’s Snoop Dogg isn’t it? Or, oh man, that kid from Sweet Cred, that’s who you want to be.”
He slaps your elbow.
“Yeah, Egbert, I’m endlessly admiring and idolisin’ some fuck-off Bart Simpson ripoff from a shitty candy range, how d’ya guess?” he grumbles, even as you laugh and boop his nose in the most annoying way you know how. He pulls his most deeply unimpressed face, about a 9 on the “God, shut up, Egbert” scale.
“Ha, just trying to lighten the mood, man,” you say, grinning.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, John. Just he keeps trying to act like that shit’s still coming, like I’m still his little fucking Padawan. The ironic Luke to his jackass Obi-Wan,” he tells you, shaking his head, “It’s a pain in the ass.”
“Ha, like I don’t know that? Dad’s only just starting to stop acting like I’m his baby son now.”
“But you are a big baby, dude.”
“Will you – Dave, shut the fuck up, we’re having a moment. We’re bonding.”
“Just making sure you remember that you still get your Dad to get cockroaches for you.”
“They’re gross, ok, just because you like to preserve them and put them in ice cubes like a big weirdo with big weirdo hobbies,” you say. He laughs.
“Look, I’m just saying, we kinda...I dunno. Grew up a lot while they weren’t around. If that makes sense. It can’t be that easy,” you tell him, suddenly wishing you had Rose’s vocabulary and eloquence, but he seems to get the gist anyway, following your hand gestures with his eyes.
“So you should probably try again, I guess,” you finish, lamely. He hums in a non-committal way and takes a sudden interest in looking at your fingers.
“Guess. Dude did cut a meteor in half for me.”
“Uh, what?” you repeat, and he looks up, a sudden expression of horror overtaking his face.
“Shit I never let that slip, and now I tell you? Fuck, man,” he swears, and rubs the back of his neck, “Fine, whatever. So Bro kinda saved my ass back at the start of the game. Wouldn’ta even got into the medium otherwise.”
“Ha, you’ve kept that a secret from me all this time.”
“It was embarrassing as shit trying to climb up to a fucking bird-ghost guarding a spectral egg, alright, all reaching up my chubby preteen paw up like Pooh Bear desperate for some honey. Falling at the first hurdle like a broken-kneed pony doomed to the glue factory. Dying at the tutorial level, running Mario face-first into a clusterfuck Goomba orgy at world one-one, losing to Gary in the fucking lab, lame shit,” he grumbles, and you laugh and tug the stupid idiot closer to shut him up.
“How is that even a thing worth worrying about, seriously. Your priorities are messed up.”
“So sorry that I didn’t want you to think I was a useless douche,” he says, voice heavy with sarcasm, “I’ll be sure to broadcast all my fuckups from now on.”
“Oh like I’d ever think you were a useless douche,” you tell him, almost wanting to laugh at his stupid sulky face, but you think just smiling gets across how dumb worrying about something like that is.
“Yeah, yeah, I know you’re too nice to think somethin’ so blatantly schoolyard mean –“
“It’s got nothing to do with me being nice. You’re just not useless, or a douche, or a fuck-up.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t say I was. Jesus. But thanks, I guess. Always good to know I haven’t fallen to some unspeakably new lows in your esteem lately,” he says, shrugging, “Guess I’ll catch up with Bro later, if he even wants to and isn’t too busy trying to train Lalonde as his new ninja grasshopper or whatever.”
"Ha, didn’t sound like he was up to any ninja crap to me, dude, but ok,” you say, laying an arm across his chest, “Night.”
You do not talk to Bro the next day.
John’s frowning up a storm at you when he comes back home from work and lectures and you’ve just been lying on your ass playing Pokemon Pinball on his old Gameboy all day, but hell, he’s not the one who has to try to talk to King McDouche like a grown-up. You need to try and decide on what the fuck you’re going to say.
“Yo Bro sorry I threw a fit and moved out but maybe sending explosives to somebody’s door isn’t a good idea?”
“Sup man sorry we haven’t exactly been on good terms for a few years but I just keep rememberin’ you as murdered man-kebab.”
“So turns out I don’t want to be anything like you after all. Welp. Sorry about that.”
“John’s not getting out of my life so you should just get used to it.”
Oh yeah, all those are gonna go down like a tonne of fucking bricks.
John looks up from his laptop at you, nudging you with his foot and twisting the screen so you can see it. Lalonde’s username has just popped up to inform him her snarky broad ass is online.
“Want to talk to him now?”
“Eh, not right now dude, watchin’ this shit,” you say, nodding towards the TV you’d not been paying a lick of attention to for the past hour. He sighs and goes back to typing up shit for his dissertation.
You are such a wimp.
-- grimAuxillatrix [GA] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB] --
GA: Hello John
EB: hey kanaya! :D haha, what’s up?
EB: wait, what is up? why are you talking to me?
EB: ok, what have i done? all i’m wearing is jeans and a t-shirt.
EB: i could NOT have done that wrong, right?
GA: No John I Am Not Here To Discuss Your Fashion Choices
GA: I Long Ago Gave Up On That Venture
EB: hey. >:(
GA: Apologies John But Some Subjects Are Just Too Difficult To Work With
GA: I Am Messaging You On A Different Matter Entirely
GA: Rose Mentioned That She Was Having Some Human Family Difficulties
GA: Despite The Fact You Are Not Considered Part Of Rose And Daves Human Family You Are Involved For Reasons That Seem To Relate To Daves Human Quadrants
GA: This Is Mildly Confusing But Human Sibling Relationships Are Already Rather Alien To Me So It Hardly Matters
EB: oh! you’re talking about dave, right?
EB: i dunno, he doesn’t want to to talk to him right now.
GA: Let Me Just Clarify One Thing Before I Start Fussing And Helping
GA: You Are In Fact Trying To Negotiate Between Two Stubborn Quarrelling Parties Who Are Being Obstinate In Their Refusal To Be Mature Or Civil Or Act At All Reasonably
EB: i wouldn’t put it like that, but yeah, i guess.
GA: To Use A Human Phrase Coined By Human Earth Romantic Poet John Keats
GA: I Know All About That Shit
GA: I Am Certain John Keats Said That
GA: So Allow Me To Offer My Advice
EB: uh, ok, go ahead!
GA: I Assure You Dealing With Vriska Has Given Me Exquisite Experience In This Area
GA: My Advice Is Foolproof
“Argh! Holy shit, what the fuck, Egbert!”
John Egbert just bit you.
John Egbert just fucking bit you.
He just grins at you and reaches over the seat, putting his laptop onto your knees, indicating towards the chat with Lalonde he already has open.
“Hey, feel lucky, she suggested monopolising your attention with a chainsaw.”
“With a – what? Oh whatever, don’t care,” you say, hoping that your voice is adequate to communicate the sheer thick level of exasperation you’re feeling right about now. Is this your really fucking weird method of forcing me to talk to him?”
“I guess,” he says, shrugging, then grins, “Mostly I just wanted to see your face. Just, do it if you want to alright. It’s...like, there, if you want to.”
“Right, right, ok, I get it. It’s not really “just if you want to” if you want me to this badly, dude,” you inform him. He laughs.
“I kind of didn’t want you to bother at first,” he says, awkwardly climbing over the back of the sofa and sitting down next to you, “I just, I know it bothers you and I know you’re gonna have to deal with it sooner or later, so why not just...deal with it on your own terms, y’know? Rather than when you’re not ready or not expecting it.”
You narrow your eyes at him.
“That sounds suspiciously like Lalonde-talk through an Egbertian filter,” you say, and he puts his hands up defensively.
“No, it’s me, I swear!” he protests, waving his hands as though to bad away your accusations, “Look, I’ll take a bath while you talk to him, if that’s what you’re gonna do. You probably don’t want me looking over your shoulder. As tempting as it is to try and read the whole thing.”
"Guess you got a point, John."
"Yeah, so, maybe you should try fixing it. If it doesn't work, well, we can work something out. Not like I'd let him be a dick to you again."
You shrug in the way you know he knows can be taken as a nod, and he squeezes your shoulder before disappearing into the bathroom.
TT: Not to mention that he’s been using all of what he refers to as my “shittier” clothes to sew more of his ridiculous phallic puppets.
EB: yo lalonde egberts gone
TT: Strider, I am at the end of my very frayed rope.
TT: I am far too old to be constantly dealing either of our parents on an everyday basis. I was quite happy with the cordial relations we have, seeing each other every so often, exchanging the odd witty remark online.
EB: right right yeah i know
EB: look gonna swap to my chumhandle and talk to him alright dont get your snarky broad drawers in a twist
EB: oh what youve been nagging me to get him out of your hair for like a week now youre changing up your mind
EB: jesus give me a break here lalonde youre gonna have to make it clear what you want outta me here
TT: Apologies, Strider.
TT: I just wanted to remind you that not everybody was as lucky as you after the game.
EB: wtf are you talking about
TT: Not everybody was as lucky as you and John, or our mother and Mr Egbert.
TT: Even us four - meaning myself, you, John and Jade - at least have each other’s unwavering understanding and companionship, even though we’re all leading drastically different lives now and can’t be at each other’s sides all the time.
TT: Just some food for thought.
EB: yeah right ok
TT: Now, I’ll go extract him from the sofa and put him in front of the keyboard for you.
TT: Please ignore any furious sounds on pen on clipboard, I’ll certainly not be taking any not for future reference or anything.
EB: ok hold on
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
TG: go for it
TT: sup lil bro.
You’re half-dozing, arms around Casey, when Dave climbs into bed with you. He’d been preoccupied with the computer for the past few hours, and you’d tried to crawl into bed to give him privacy. Getting to sleep proved hard when all you wanted to do was go back and nose and meddle, but this was Strider stuff. You don’t think it’d help defuse the situation. You kinda suspect you being in every part of Dave’s life might be part of the problem.
You twist around to face him as he kicks off his jeans and nudges them off the bed with his foot.
“How’d it go?” you ask, circling your arms around his waist because you can tell he wants you to, even though he’d never do anything approaching asking you to.
“Alright I guess, y’know, guy’s the same as always,” he replies, and you must have pulled a face or something because he continues on pretty quickly, “Only this time he was coming up with his tail between his legs rather than being some obnoxious prancing alpha male about it.”
“Oh,” you say, brightening up, “That’s good! Think it’ll be consistent?”
“Who knows, dude,” he tells you, talking even as you try to kiss his stupid tired face, only managing to kiss you back after he mumbles, “For now I think we’re good, though.”
TG: long time no see i guess
TT: whats it been anyway. like three or four months or some shit like that.
TT: dude i dont know who has a fucking calendar anyway.
TT: huh think a smuppet calendar would sell. i should check that shit out.
TG: shut up
TT: yeah yeah i know you hate the smuppets and shit. jesus relax.
TG: im not trying to start a fight about smuppets
TG: you think after all this stupid stalling and getting nagged at from all directions by twin sisters and johns im just gonna come in here swinging for another stupid fraternal civil war
TT: dont need to snap little man.
TG: i just want to talk to you without you trying to distract me with stupid shit about puppets
TG: in fact can none of this contain puppets
TG: not like ive been traumatised by all this puppet bullshit or anything
TT: is that what all this shit is about???
TT: one too many plush rumps and bam youre lapping up cocks like the worlds thirstiest bitch in the worlds most phallic desert.
TG: christ what no
TG: thats not even vaguely whats happened here i mean that isnt even orbiting the same goddamn sun as whats happened here
TG: jesus you are fucked up as all hell
TT: guess so.
“Shit John, I don’t know, the guy’s got all sorts of issues with what’s went down the past decade or some shit,” he tells you, lying almost with his whole face in the pillow, and your arm slung around his back, one rubbing what you hope are comforting circles into his shoulder blade.
“It must be kinda hard, Dad can’t even remember it totally,” you tell him, “And Ms Lalonde can’t either, Rose says she used to try all sorts of therapy things to try and get her to remember the whole thing.”
You feel him shrug, and he turns his head so he’s looking at you with one eye, half his face still obscured in the pillow. You kind of want to boop his doofy ruffled face but it is probably not the time and he will probably make some dumb sulky face at you and then the booping just won’t stop.
“Sounds easier to me,” he grumbles, “And it ain’t just that. It’s. This.”
He makes a vague gesture with both of his hands, rolling onto his back. You sit up and can’t help but laugh at him a little.
“What?” you say, incredulous and amused and jeez you shouldn’t feel so giddy and warm when his words fail him.
“This,” he says, continuing the same stupid two-handed waving gesture, and then bounces on the bed to sit himself up for emphasis, and you shoot him a dirty look when he almost wakes Casey up, “This whole Bert-and-Ernie fucking deal. Bickering over who does the damn dishes and who’s gonna take the reptile daughter for a walk.”
“Casey’s an amphibian,” you correct automatically.
“Whatever,” he says, clicking his tongue against his teeth, “Dude takes issue with this domesticity homo...stuff. Ain’t cool enough for him.”
“He’s not the one doing it,” you say, and gets that look on his face. That expression he gets when he comes out with something he’s never been able to think of in his weird trapped coolkid way. You know he’s sort of trapped in himself, like he spent so many years building up all these defences and habits and now he can’t get out. It’s easier for other people to get in, but you’re not sure you even totally do that.
Digging in and piercing his outer walls, burrowing under his skin and dissecting what he’s thinking, that’s always been Rose’s thing. Jade has always been able to see right through him, but she lets him keep it, his dumb coolguy persona, most of the time, because it’s important to him even if it’s stupid.
You just sort of extend your hand to pull him out, and he almost always takes it.
TG: i know i fuck up a lot and you probably want me to renounce the strider name or whatever at this point for letting my irony gauge roll down into the negatives
TT: hey that aint it kid.
TG: how is that not it
TG: you always made out like if i wasnt chill enough my ass would be out on the streets holding out a paper cup for spare change
TT: you little dumbass is that seriously what you thought.
TG: whatever im just saying
TT: no you lil shit.
TT: christ you are so stupid sometimes.
TT: i mean jesus i practically throw orange popsicle you out the way of a goddamn plunging sword and you think im gonna have you sucking dicks in an alleyway so you can buy yourself a box of lucky charms and another rag for your cardboard box.
TG: why the hell would hobos be eating lucky charms
TT: dude i dont know im just rambling here.
TG: and dont call me stupid
TT: aight aight already.
TG: damnit bro you are making this such hard work
TG: thats an apology dripping with sincerity right there
TT: im trying asshole you dont need to bite my damn head off.
“So with two defensive stupid assholes trying to sort out their differences or whatever, it kinda kept dissolving into stupid arguments about shit,” he continues, looking every bit as irritated at himself as he should be at Bro, “So I don’t know if I’m gonna have said something he’s just gonna simmer over and throw back in my face or shit.”
“He has way too much time to think and stew over things,” you say in the most reasonable tone you can. You’re pretty sure Dave’s brother doesn’t do a whole lot. Sure, he updates his site, but he doesn’t have an actual job outside of his gross butt-puppet stuff, and it’s not like he has a game to train for or get Dave ready for.
You were just apart from Dave for a few months with nothing to do, and you were almost a pathetic mess of driving-yourself-crazy at the end. You don’t want to think of what being totally alone and purpose-less for so long would be like.
“Guess,” Dave admits, mumbling, and you can’t help it, it’s so dumb but you’re cupping his face and stroking his cheekbone with your thumb like he’s some precious princess or something and he’s giving you a look that quite clearly tells you he thinks you’re being an idiot.
“He’ll be fine! We’ll see him soon anyway, he’s invited for Christmas at Dad’s, as usual,” you tell him, and he groans.
“Oh yeah, like that ain’t gonna be awkward. Even Jade and Rose are pretty thorny with him at the mo’, and they usually get on ok enough. I mean Jade gets along with anyone,” he says. You roll your eyes.
“Well, excuse them for caring about you, dude.”
TT: so whats it about anyway.
TT: come on man. youve had like what
TT: one girlfriend ever??? For like a week?????
TG: hey not my fault if she couldnt handle the stridemachine
TT: i thought we agreed that neither of us could have that.
TG: whatever its a dumb nickname
TT: its ironic.
TG: no bro
TG: look this shit we always say is ironic is just shit we wanna get away with doing
TG: its like a fourteen year old boys excuse for watching mlp
TG: when really hes just dazzled by the magic of equestria or whatever the fuck
TT: hey maybe for you yo.
TT: i know you sit there at night brushing applejacks mane and sobbing about how shes the only one who understands you.
TT: i am perfectly legit about this shit.
TT: about being non legit about it anyway.
TG: i was worried youd say that
TT: hey would you prefer i was legit about the puppets.
TG: oh hell no
TG: wtf is with those things anyway
TG: look i dont care how ironic it is nobody in their right mind would think filming a twelve year old boy being showered with fuzzy dildos was normal
TT: hahahaha oh man.
TT: no thats great you still buy that.
TT: they aint even dildos little man.
TT: the noses are floppy and theyre made of fuzzy polyester dumbass. how would anybody shove that thing up their assdiamond anyway.
TT: i just wanted to freak you out.
TG: you fucking dick
TT: well sorry about the traumatic childhood or whatever.
TG: you know what invalidates an apology almost automatically
TG: putting or whatever on the end
TG: but whatever i guess
TT: it aint my fault if this redress is lacking sincerity
TT: but hey you gotta take it unless you want rid of me
TG: oh god i should have guessed is this how its gonna be
TG: are you gonna be throwing down the sick beats until i give the ok
TG: well all i gotta say is take a seat because i gotta lot to say
TG: its been weeks n weeks since we saw eye to eye
TG: and i know talking things through aint our main technique
TG: we aint no egberts having a feelings jam but bro this is our preliminary exam
TG: we aint getting through unless we can resolve this shit in a slam
TT: yo little bro youre losing the beat keep on track
TT: if we gonna get defusing you better pick up the slack
TT: theres a lotta tension in the air we need to cut
TT: lets call this inspection and repair so i gotta say what
TT: whats got you so pissed when i feel like ive missed
TT: ten years of your life while you were collecting up grist
TG: hey you really skipped out on a decade
TG: it aint just about that game we played
TG: dont get me wrong that shit was legit
TG: we aint ever gonna forget that canine threat
TG: but hey theres a time when somethings gotta let
TG: i got my trauma armour and i think i can get by
TG: cos im no longer a warrior im just the dave of guy
TT: hey thats all well and good but i aint gonna lie
TT: its hard to forget when you were the first to die
TT: you aint been here and i aint been there
TT: you been all queer and i been nowhere
TG: hard to let you in when its always been heir knight witch and seer
TG: we always been somewhere we cant share i mean you dont know that last fight
TG: now we got our own niche those kids that were once god tier
TG: and it aint always easy to remember the puppeteer
TT: i get it i get it i aint gonna forget it
TT: you kids got the hero quality i lost
TT: theres near no comedy in being outta your caste
TT: you dropping the beat there lil man.
TG: well im just saying
TG: you just werent supposed to die bro
TT: not like i wanted to lil dude but i did what i had to.
TT: lil dude seriously you aint so little. need to stop calling you that.
TG: yeah kinda
TG: sorry man i guess im just still tripping over this broken pedestal or whatever
TG: we should have aired this shit out years ago
TT: were stupid this doesnt come as news to either of us.
TT: it aint so crazy you ran off anyway.
TT: this aint been your home for fucking years now.
TG: i guess
TG: i could have at least fucked off on good terms rather than throwing a grade a tantrum and tossing my bowl of fucking spaghetti against the wall and trying to tip over my high chair
TT: im the one who fucking punched you.
TG: i punched you first dude
TG: but yeah im still a little annoyed at you for that
TG: i mean i can take a hit but breaking my shades wasnt cool man
TT: you have spares.
TG: not the same
TT: yeah yeah i know.
TT: part of you and egberts legendary no homo bromance i know dude.
TG: are you gonna start dissing me and egbert again
TT: shit. no calm down dave.
TT: i swear i wont say another word.
TT: i shouldve stopped on the gay jokes when i realised shit was getting real.
TT: its just fuckin weird.
TG: gee thanks
TG: that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy bro
TT: hey i thought i fucked you up badly enough youd turn into a nun and start living in a cave like a hermit.
TT: i wasnt exactly expecting you to start chokin another guys chicken for him and for it not to be the result of a lifetime of being suffocated by puppet cock.
TG: christ no
TG: what has lalonde been telling you has she been psychoanalysing me
TG: its got nothing to do with that alright
TG: dont think you have to go to a fucking confessional for that
TG: forgive me father for i have sinned i have sent my sonbro down the slippery path of lube and sodomy
TT: and lalonde aint said shit. she just been glaring at me a lot and mumbling under her breath.
TG: i wonder why
You thought he’d fallen asleep, but he fidgets and whines out a “whaaaat?” into his pillow.
“You guys totally rapped didn’t you.”
TG: so to be blunt about it the deal is this shit aint changing
TG: livin with egbert i mean
TG: and the rest of the whatever with john too
TG: and if the whole him being a big sloppy puppy to me and slobbering all of my finely carved face grosses you out
TG: well that just sucks for you
TT: fair enough.
“Haha, it’s so true. Striders actually have to rap about their feelings or they can’t do it,” you honestly can’t stop giggling. Partially it’s the mental image of Dave and his brother having a feelings jam slam beatdown, and it’s partly the really grumpy look Dave is shooting you.
“So, it’s how we communicate,” he grumbles, “Just like how your Dad has to squash fucking cheesecake up your nose as a greeting, we have to throw down the wordsmirth gauntlet and get our rap on.”
“You are such a nerd,” you tell him, squeezing him to you before he can snap out a snarky comment.
“Gee, thanks, John, I definitely needed your mantitties in my face,” he grumbles, squirming for a little freedom from your vice-like grip. You give him some, but only a little.
“You love my mantitties, Dave, don’t even den – hey! I do not have mantitties.”
“Ha, no way man I’m being engulfed in your rolls of fat here.”
“Gross, dude. And no you’re not!”
“God, just so fat I don’t –“
You kick him.
“I hate you. Seriously,” you grumble, “And I was about to say something all heart-warming and junk, but you’ve ruined it. I hope you’re happy.”
“Delighted. I won’t have to listen to one of your barf-worthy cheesetastic speeches, I should be doing a little fucking jig,” he tells you.
“But yeah, whatever. Thanks for pretty much nagging me relentlessly until I talked to him,” he says, and it’s just about the most begrudging gratitude you’ve ever heard and you laugh and comb your hand through his hair.
“Heheh. You’re welcome, hummingbird.”
“John, what happened last time you called me that.”
“...You punched me in the jaw.”
“And what did I say’d happen next time."
“You’ll punch me in the jaw.”
“Good, consider that rule still in place. Only reason your head is facing the right way now is ‘cos I’m fucking tired as shit,” he grumbles, and you snort. He is so full of shit.
“Alright, whatever dude! Go sleep if you’re so tired, you huge killjoy,” you say, sighing with all the possible exasperation you can muster, “Night, Dave. Love you.”
As you’re dozing off, you hear him mumble something back that might have been “I like Blue’s Clues” or “I lost your shoe”.
You’re sure it’s what you wanted to hear, though. And that’s good enough for you.
GG: hey guys hey guys hey guys!!!!!! :D
TG: woah, jade you seem
TG: oops, crap, hold on.
EB: you seem pretty pumped about something!
GG: heheheh :P
GG: i am! :D
GG: guess who just got a super duper cool offer to do something super duper cool and be on tv??? :D
EB: woah, really?
GG: yeah!! :P somebody asked me to be on this kids wildlife show thingy
GG: basically they follow me and bec around with a camera and watch us do cool stuff!!!
GG: ive had a lot of complaints from certain stick-up-their-butts fuckasses about my language already though... :O the editing team are having a hard time apparently
EB: gee, i wonder why.
GG: but hehehe yeah!! thats not the only good news though :D
GG: weeeeell theres a wolf pack bec knows im on the watch for in washington
GG: buuuut ive got a little bit of time before i have to really get my adventurer butt out there sooooo
GG: guess who has time to visit her best friends sweet new pad ;D
EB: oh man jade.
GG: how pumped are you????
EB: so pumped!!!
EB: but hehe, i’ll make sure we both take a little time off work and stuff.
GG: dave has a job now :O
GG: howd you manage to get his lazy smelly butt off the couch long enough??? :O
EB: oh, that was easy.
EB: i just called him my housewife one day.
EB: he was working again within the week.
GG: heheheh! :P niiiice
EB: haha, you’d think! he’ll probably get bored of that soon enough, i swear. he gets all worked up if he thinks people might not think his job is coooooool enough.
GG: what a loser :P
EB: hehe, yeah i know.
EB: but yeah, please, come over!! it’ll be great to see you again. we haven’t hung out with you in so long.
GG: i knooooow!!
GG: but we will and itll be awesome and we will party so hard we will never be allowed back
GG: raise the roof!!
EB: bring the house down!
GG: hehehe :)
GG: sooo, soon ok?
“Jesus Christ, Jade,” Dave is saying, barely able to hold back laughter as Jade huffs and puffs at him. You’re giggling uncontrollably, hanging off Dave’s arm and trying not to look Jade in the eye. Ectosibling bond or not, you are still pretty sure if you incur her wrath it wouldn’t be pretty.
“Dave!” she pouts, drunk and stumbling, “I’d never taken a bus before. The driver’s seat was empty. It seemed sensible I should take it.”
“How are you not in prison. How the fuck did we not get a hysterical call this morning,” Dave says, shaking his head, and then taking on a stupid false girly voice about two times higher than Jade’s, “Help, help, Dave, John, I’m in prison and they’re asking for money and oh god do I have to pay bail for Bec too?”
She elbows him hard in the side. He stumbles and you grab him, pulling him upwards again.
You had just hit some random bar in town. You and Dave don’t really go out much...or...you know, at all, despite all his talk that he’s totally going to be some big nightclub DJ. The only times he’s been in a nightclub he’s looked totally uncomfortable. Well whatever, point is, neither of you had any idea “where was good” as Jade had asked, so you just dove in somewhere that looked relatively quiet and cheap and then Jade ordered enough alcohol to kill an elephant.
Point is, Dave is barely able to string together a witty retort, attempting a coolguy swagger while nearly tripping over his own feet in the least cool way ever and you’ve somehow ended up walking with your hand in his back pocket! Whoops! At least your hand is warm now, even if it’s full of butt.
“Because not everybody is a jerk, Dave! The bus guy dealie was really nice to me about it,” she says, with a short grin and a shrug, “Guess I’m just lucky!”
“No kiddin’,” Dave mutters.
You snort and lean against him as Jade animatedly tells you all about what happened on the way here. The streets are quiet, all apart from a few kids hanging around on their bikes.
They start following you and shouting in high, mocking voices.
“Little shits” is the first thing out of your mouth by the time John drags you and Jade back home. Jade is furious, and it was only by John grabbing both of you and continuing to walk and talk that it didn’t end in bloodshed. Or at least you and Jade getting into a big argument with the little assholes. That’d have looked really good, a fully grown man and woman flipping their shits at some bratty half pint kids.
It wasn’t like they’d even done anything that bad. They’d cycled behind them, shouting stupid quips like “is that your boooyfriend” and dropping the occasional homophobic slur like it was the funniest thing that had ever been said. John had tightened his grip on you, and you’d valiantly managed to not try to wriggle out of his grasp like a stupid insecure baby.
“They were like...what, fourteen, Dave?” John says. As usual he’s completely fucking unfazed by the exact shit that shakes you to your core. You feel a vague twist of jealousy in your gut. He brushes everything bad ever said to him off so easy.
“That’s no excuse!” Jade says furiously, throwing her arms up and making Casey jump off her lap in fright, “Even if you’re young you shouldn’t be going around being rude to strangers over something that doesn’t matter.”
“Fourteen year old boys, Jade,” John says, as if that makes everything ok, and shrugs.
“We weren’t that obnoxious when we were fourteen, dude,” you point out, quickly. How the hell is he taking the side of some little mini-douchebags? To your surprise, he gives you a little, weird grin.
“We were totally that obnoxious!” he says, laughing, “At my prom we stood behind people in line for photos making gagging noises and sniggering at everyone.”
You throw yourself down onto the sofa with a sigh.
“We never followed people around talkin’ shit at them.”
“You used to troll people on the internet,” he points out, flopping down beside you and trying to urge Bec to turn on the TV. You wince as the fluffy fucking hellbeast brushes past you. You don’t know how John or Jade got over that quite so fast either.
“Hey, hey. Hey. We ain’t talking about my sordid 4chan past, alright,” you tell him, “I’m a better man, Egbert, I have begun to teach myself not to waste all my time begging for attention from the internet.”
Jade giggles. It’s the most ominous sound you’ve ever heard.
“I still have all your old photos from when you were like...thirteen,” she says, covering her mouth with a hand, and John instantly joins in. Your face is probably a perfect caricature of horror and you suddenly really really wish you had your shades.
“Hah, oh god! You too? I probably have some in a computer file somewhere. Little hipster Dave duck-facing at the camera –“
“Haha, oh god, you remember when he used to take photos of himself like, posing with apple juice.”
“Oh yeah! Like he used to take all these photos of himself drinking from a bottle of apple juice like it was the most hardcore thing in the world –“
“Why are you doing this.”
“Pfft, you were such a little douchebag, Dave,” John says and then he actually fucking ruffles your hair, like you’re some rambunctious little tyke who just drew cocks all over the walls with Mommy’s most expensive tube of lipstick.
“Thank you, both of you, so much for the reminder that my thirteen year old self was a little obnoxious douche on wheels that stamped his embarrassing existence all over the internet,” you say, putting a hand over your face as you wonder about how much of your old shit is still circling the proverbial internet drain hole, “Thanks so much.”
“You weren’t sooooo bad,” Jade assures you, “Just totally fully of it -”
“Feelin’ good here, guys.”
“And swimming really deep in denial.”
“Yep, feeling great right about now.”
“And really desperate for attention,” John chimes in.
“John, you are the light of my life.”
He grins at you, all easy affection and a sort of weird genuineness that always makes you feel some shit people would only ever write in a fucking poem and you shake your head.
“Right, so, we’ve learnt that thirteen year old boys are douchebags,” you say, throwing your hands up, “What a stunning revelation. To put it simply, fucking so?”
“So don’t give a crap about what a bunch of dumbass kids said, Dave.”
“I still don’t get how being a kid boy means they’re allowed to act like jerks,” Jade says, throwing her hands up and getting up, “If you ask me, you’re BOTH idiots. Now Bec needs walkies before bed.”
At “walkies” the fucking hellbeast is up on all paws and following Jade out the door, tail wagging. You take the opportunity to collapse onto John’s shoulder.
“I didn’t give a shit.”
“You give a shit, Dave. Like, more than anyone ever,” he says, smiling to himself and flicking through the TV channels mindlessly, “You are a sensitive and delicate flower.”
“Oh yeah, I’m just a regular spring daisy. A princess waiting for her brave and noble knight in an ugly sweater and jeans to come rescue her,” you snap, pressing your face into said ugly sweater.
“It’s not all a bad thing.”
You normally would have asked how the hell referring to you as a sensitive and delicate pansy flower was not all a bad thing, but the alcohol has already caught up to him and he flops limp against your shoulder.
CG: LOOK, ALL I’M SAYING, IF YOU CAN SCRAPE THE BRAINCELLS FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE DEPRESSINGLY VACANT BARREL OF YOUR SKULL TOGETHER LONG ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND IT, IS THAT TROLL RICK MORANIS OFFERED FAR MORE TO MULTIUNIVERSAL CINEMA THAN YOUR HUMAN RICK MORANIS AND HUMAN JIM CARREY COMBINED.
CG: AND DON’T EVEN GET ME FUCKING STARTED ON ALL THAT TROLL JIM CARREY HAS DONE FOR THIS CIVILISATION, JOHN, DON’T EVEN GET ME FUCKING STARTED.
EB: oh my god, karkat.
EB: is this what listening to me talk about movies is like? remind me to apologise to dave a lot later.
EB: i just said i need to talk to you, and then i made the mistake of mentioned will smith and it’s been like half an hour since!
CG: WELL, EXCUSE ME FOR PRESUMING THAT YOU MAYBE WANTED TO INITIATE A LITTLE CIVILISED CONVERSATION FOR ONCE ABOUT THE FINER ASPECTS OF ALTERNIAN CINEMA.
CG: DID YOU EVEN WATCH THE TROLL DREW BARRYMORE BOXSET I SENT YOU YOU UNGRATEFUL BELCH STINK?
EB: well, uh.
CG: BZZZT, WRONG. IF THIS WAS THE ALTERNIAN FAMILY FORTUNES OF OLD YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN KICK FACE FIRST INTO THE SUBJUGGALTOR’S LAIR FOR HIS MOTHERFUCKING PAINTSET.
CG: BE GRATEFUL THAT MY MAGNANIMOUS NATURE HAS ERADICATED SUCH A PRACTICE.
EB: ok, ok, if i say you are the best alien messiah ever can i please talk to you about something?
EB: though i am sure you are doing a great job out there and everything, i just don’t think i get troll culture enough to totally appreciate it.
CG: DING DING, WELL DONE, EGBERT, THAT’S THE MOST INTELLIGENT AND SELF-AWARE THING YOU’VE SAID FOR SWEEPS.
CG: YOUR PRIZE IS A MOMENT OF THE VERY FINITE RESERVES OF MY FREE TIME FOR WHATEVER WHINY ASS PROBLEM YOU HAVE.
EB: hehe, it’s something you’ll like helping me with, i promise!
Jade has to leave before Dave’s birthday, which kind of sucks a little, but you can’t help but be a little relieved! When you tell her as much she wriggles her eyebrows at you, and you give her a little shove. She gets into her ride (woah! the jeep that came to pick her up looks sort of like the one from The Troll Hunter), does a double-pistols and a wink at you that’s the most bizarrely nostalgic thing. You shoot back as she’s driven off.
“Jade’s same as ever,” Dave comments on the bus home (“We’re not riding that scooter John, it’s icy as shit out.” “Wimp!”), “Jesus, it’s like she’s an immovable fucking rock.”
“Dude, I wouldn’t say that,” you say, rolling your eyes, “She’s like, a big-time celebrity now. Did you see that little kid staring at her in the store?”
“The kid was probably staring at the fucking giant-ass mutt following her around,” he says.
“You’re not going to get over your dislike of Bec, are you?” you say, frowning at him. He just shrugs. You can pretty much take that as a clear-cut “Nope, never”.
You tut at him. He can be such a big baby sometimes. You’ve gotta admit it, though, if Bec wasn’t such a nice, calm dog, you’d maybe be a bit more nervous around him.
“You better have something big planned for my B-day, man. If you think Dave Strider accepts anything half-assed you’re wrong,” he warns you, and you grin at him
“Haha, I dunno, I was thinking we order Chinese and I don’t make you watch the Wicker Man again.”
You are Dave Strider and you wake up on your 26th birthday to John shaking you by the shoulder and all but dragging you ankles-first off the damn bed and shoving some (debatably) clean clothes at you.
“Afternoon! Jeez, you still sleep like a log. Happy birthday,” he tells you, grinning and pointing to a small cluster of boxes on the dining table, you spot Rose and Jade’s usual contributions in lavender and green and a box so garishly yellow and red and snot green and pink it can only be from one toothy fucking lunatic. Behind that, something orange, something pink, something indigo (probably completely fucking illegal in every way, as it is every year from him) and then the yearly Dadbert cake. Scattered through the pile are John’s contributions.
John’s pile is always about five times bigger, with friends from work and college and his old clubs sending him things, but you’ve kind of minded less and less every year. For one, you kinda take John being giant fucking moon zero-gravity steps ahead of you as a given, and for two (a very Lalonde-ish voice in your head tells you that’s not the right phrase but fuck her), you take John being out of everyone’s league as a given.
And for three (shut the fuck up, Lalonde), as much as you hate to admit it, you aren’t really one for big dos. Not like Bro did a whole lot in the way of Pass-the-Parcel or Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey when you were a kid. Even at the tender age of 7 you’d understood that bringing classmates back to your apartment for stupid pointy party hats and cake would end miserably for everybody involved.
You should probably be the guy who throws the bigass party and invites everybody he knows, or at least that’s a guy you think you used to try to be at some point.
John’s plans, which involve just a bit more than noodles and not being submitted to Nic Cage completely fucking overacting in every single line of the damn script, are always more than enough.
“Lemme guess, you’re gonna make me open them in some stupid order or something, aren’t you?” you say, eyeing Bro’s, Terezi’s and the stupid juggalo’s packages with more than a little nervousness. Any of those three could be fucking deadly or toxic – you have pretty good reason not to put it past any of them.
John snorts at you and hands you a mug of coffee and some freshly made (late) breakfast, “Don’t be paranoid, dude, think I wouldn’t be pretty cautious about mysterious packages after what your bro did? Just go ahead.”
You swallow the piece of bacon in your mouth and instantly seize up Bro’s present.
“He went home, right?” John asks, watching you fight through the absolute shit tonne of tape Bro insists on wrapping every fucking package he ever puts together in.
“Yeah, Rose texted me to tell me I was forgiven, so he must’ve, I mean I didn’t expect any mercy at all to begin with. Girl’s a relentless grudge-machine,” you say, and swear as your sword snaps like a twig against the force of Bro Strider’s ultra wrapping. Eventually John snatches it from you and eases the wrapping off with such a deep look of exasperation you find yourself mentally scrambling for an edit-undo button.
“Oh, damn,” you say.
“Oh noooooo,” John groans, loudly and suddenly, making you jump out your skin, “He totally stole my idea.”
“It’s not amazingly original,” you comment dryly, turning the cheesy gold-framed aviators over in your hands. They’re almost exact. If you didn’t know any better you’d say they were the very ones that once sat on Ben Stiller’s creepy gaunt face and later were on the business end of Bro’s fist. The note doesn’t say if they’re the real deal repaired or some replicas. In fact, all the note says is “so yeah whatever”.
“It’s very sentimental, shut up, you gave me a mixtape one year,” he snaps, punching your arm and then sighing and pushing a package into your hands, “Damn, and here was me thinking this’d be all...moving and stuff. Stupid Strider stealing my thunder.”
You tear open the package and ignore a note that falls out (“YOU BETTER APPRECIATE THIS, FUCKNUTS”) and remove a second pair of shades.
“Men in Black, man! Will Smith originals, Karkat helped me out, I mean he near enough stalks troll and human versions of the guy. I kind of had to twist his arm a bit, though,” he says, “You always crack up at that dumb movie, man.”
“You’re the one who laughs in the right places, bro,” you say, hooking the shades Bro sent on the collar of your t-shirt and trying your new Smith shades on, “How do I look?”
“Like a complete douche.”
“Perfect,” you say, then push them back to the top of your head.
“I hope you’re not gonna back to wearing them all the time like a weirdo, Dave, I’ve kind of gotten used to seeing your face around,” he warns you, “I’m not sure I can handle a coolkid relapse.”
“Oh like hell you’d even let me,” you begin, all geared and ready for a rant, “You’ve got me on such a tight leash Mom keeps leaving me rude ass messages about me being more whipped than the cream on a Black Russian.”
“Shut up, Dave,” he says, smile not budging an inch as he leans towards you and wraps his arms around your shoulders.
“Now open your other presents, dummy, I wanna see what Jade got you!”
After you and John actually manage to actually fucking get at Mom’s present (she gets a kick out of packaging her yearly alcohol tithe in captchalogue cards that take thinking like a l33t alcoholic lady haxxor to open up), it doesn’t take long before he’s easing you back into bed.
You tell him if he makes some kind of stupidass joke about being the final present or whatever you’ll throw him out, he laughs and assures you the joke got old the first time he did it.
You are Dave Strider and you’re not sure you’ll ever get used to being this happy.
TG: jade we got an emergency here
TG: sos man the life boats start handing out life preservers put your hands over your head and prepare for impact
TG: captain harley whats your report
TG: come in captain harley we need your ok before proceeding
TG: were being attacked and told to hold fire may we proceed captain
TG: no its too late
TG: too late were all dead
TG: rip dave strider and his loyal crew
TG: he died doing what he did best
TG: being ignored by certain farmstinks
GG: dave, oh my gooood
TG: oh hey
TG: whats up
TG: hey dont read any of that up there idk what i was saying
GG: too late dave :P ive read it all you big doofus!!!
GG: hehehe so whats the emergency?? :O
TG: its a big one
TG: a doozy you might say
TG: if you were completely functionally retarded and ever thought doozy was a word you could use without sounding stupid
TG: hope youre ready for it
GG: stop being a drama queen and just tell me what the problem is dummy!! :O
TG: right fine rob me of my moment why don’t you
TG: the problem is
TG: i dont know what to get john for christmas
GG: here is that all?? :P
TG: yes thats all this is a major catastrophe jade
TG: i dont wanna break my present buying stride i mean i just know hell outdo my ass if i dont do something amazing
TG: then itll be like
TG: jesus dave i practically had to sell my left kidney for this for you and you just got me some shitty dvds whats wrong with you im moving out
GG: /rolls eyes
TG: dont you roll your e eyes at me missy
GG: ill roll my e-eyes at you as much as i want mister!!!
GG: you could ask him? :O
TG: i did
TG: he just shrugged and told me he didnt really want anything in particular
TG: i mean maybe a new stupid scooter but hes attached as all shit to his old one
TG: got no family heirlooms i can bestow upon him unless he wants a crateful of puppet dong
TG: im pretty sure my username is becoming infamous for being that dude who keeps buying the memrobilia from shit movies at this point
TG: so idk im stuck
GG: hmmm that is a doozy!
GG: im sure john will love whatever you get him though, dave :P honestly
TG: just because the dudes easily pleased dont mean i can half ass it
GG: i totally know what you can get him!!!!! :D why didnt i think of this before
TG: ok great hit me
GG: one of these! :D
TG: woah what
TG: jade no what the hell
TG: are you trying to confuse and seduce me into holy gay matrimony with shitty clipart is that what this is
GG: awww why not :(
TG: because thats insane
TG: i mean itd get him pretty good but it doesnt change the fact its completely fucking insane
GG: get him pretty good? :T what the heck?
TG: i mean dont get me wrong hed be fucking delighted who wouldnt be
TG: but christ what no
GG: aww, i thought it was a good idea!! and i dont see why not
GG: even becs a married man now!!
GG: yeah i know, i thought maybe he was kind of rushing into it because hed only known this wolf like maybe a week or two but he seems happy!! you and john have known each other since you were like 9 you should totally go for it <3
TG: im not whating because im debating about whether or not bec was being fucking impulsive here
GG: no, really, look!!! :O it was such a cute wedding
-- gardenGnostic [GG] sent turntechGodhead [TG] doggywedding0001.jpeg --
-- gardenGnostic [GG] sent turntechGodhead [TG] doggywedding4223.jpeg --
-- gardenGnostic [GG] sent turntechGodhead [TG] doggywedding0123.jpeg --
TG: stop it
-- gardenGnostic [GG] sent turntechGodhead [TG] doggywedding1023.jpeg --
-- gardenGnostic [GG] sent turntechGodhead [TG] doggywedding3014.jpeg --
TG: youre not listening to me are you
-- gardenGnostic [GG] sent turntechGodhead [TG] doggywedding3288.jpeg --
TG: holy god how many of these do you have
TG: stop stop stop
TG: i dont need to see photos of fluffy devilbeasts stuffed cruelly into dumbass costumes
TG: christ is this gonna be on your show???
GG: bluh ok, if youre gonna be a big grump about it i WONT show you photos of bec’s adorable big fat doggy wedding :P
TG: you know i think i can live with that
GG: and no, the producers didnt think thisd be appropriate for broadcast :( they seem pretty stressed out with me most of the time
TG: oh gee i wonder why
TG: but yeah that is not an option jade
TG: ill have to look around some more see if theres actually any ghostbusters props left out there that havent been destroyed or sucked into the black hole that is johns movie collection
GG: aww, ruin my totally awesome idea why dont you??
GG: but ok dave if youre sure :P me rose and ms lalonde just think its a good idea at this point, thats all
TG: wait mom thinks what now????
GG: oops, gotta run dave!!! later!!! <3
-- gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
“You realise your Bro’s probably going to turn up down there too, right?” John asks, putting his book (you don’t see a title, but you do see Serket’s symbol on it. You can’t help but feel there’s something ominous about that) down on his lap, “And if you two start fighting at Christmas Dad is really going to just throw both your dumb butts out on the pavement.”
“Jesus I know dude, you’ve only mentioned it, like, twenty times,” you almost snap, growing irritated with the constant reminders that you have to see the last dude that punched you in the face soon enough. It’ll take less than an hour for the train to arrive in John’s hometown at this point. If you were to take a guess, Bro probably won’t arrive until later anyway, probably not until Christmas, arriving just in time to sit his ass at the table and get free food. Not like he wants to look like he wants to be there or anything.
He laughs with a not-too unpleasant snort and kicks the side of your ankle lightly.
“Look, all I’m saying is try not to ruin Christmas, Dave! I get you’re the Grinch enough without you strifing with your brodad in the Egbert family kitchen and totally tearing the place to shit-bits,” he warns you, “Any funny biz rears its head and me and Jade will have to intervene, that’s just how it’s going to have to be.”
“There’s not going to be a strife,” you tell him quickly, “Jesus, what do you think I am, like, ten? And Bro’s getting so old he’ll probably break a hip or something, anyway.”
“He’s not that old, Dave. Though it is still pretty funny to see a guy his age in a cap and popped collar.”
“We’re too old for a cap and popped collar, dude,” you say, groaning as a crawling sense of embarrassment takes hold of the pit of your stomach. This stupid squirmy sensation has the audacity to turn itself into apprehension pretty fast because fuck you are going to see this guy again soon.
John snorts and returns to his book, taking your hand.
Just as you expected, Bro isn’t there by the time you get to Casa de Egbert. Mom greets you at the door (“Damn, are they living together now?” “Man, you think? When did that happen?”) with a sloppy, drunken kiss on the cheek that makes you scrunch up your face and wipe the offending spot with your sleeve, and John with a sloppy drunken kiss on the mouth that makes him blush like a goddamn virgin on prom night (...goddamnit) and makes you grab the back of his jacket. As usual, Mr Egbert greets you with a handshake (joy-buzzered) followed up by an awkward manly hug (you supply most of the awkward).
Jade and that goddamn fuzzy monster of hers is already at the table, drawing on her pictionary modus to make more totally unnecessary Christmas decorations, but she damn near launches herself at both of you when you enter the room, Bec prancing dangerously around your heels and trying to get his dogslobber all up in your face (“Dave, stop cringing you big baby!”). John is all over the goddamn hairy animal in a split second, all but rolling around on the floor with the hairball.
Rose arrives later, smiling and presenting them with a copy of some fancy comic book (“Graphic novel, Strider.”) she got published, which found itself immediately lost in Mom’s clutches and put on a literal goddamn velvet pillow and pedestal. You swear to god the woman just carries things like this around for the sake of being a smartass. You should be taking notes.
“Damn, well no sense waiting for Strider to show up,” Mom says, gesturing wildly with one hand, “Let’s have some brandy.”
It’s the 24th of December and, whether you like it or not, Christmas with your dysfunctional ecto-family is well underway.
“Dave I think I need to burn this book,” you tell him, holding up your copy of what Vriska assured you would be “the only dum8 8ook you’d ever need!”. Dave looks up from your computer, raising an eyebrow.
“There was like a pirate lady and she – lesbians, Dave!”
The eyebrow rises higher.
“No it’s more than tha - Look all I’m saying this is getting into uncomfortable territory and since the main character is kind of Vriska’s grandma I’m not sure how I feel about reading this,” you continue, shaking your head, “Either way, this going in the trash. Far away.”
“And thus Egbert’s intense sentimentality to presents strikes again,” he tells you, smirking. You kick his chair.
“Shut up, dude. Just because you hang onto a present for a billion years doesn’t mean we all do,” you defend yourself quickly, “Besides, I’ve read it. I just need to. Unread it. Like soon.”
“Alright, alright, dude, go exorcise the evil lesbian book. The guy you have homosexual sex with will be sitting here stewing in your hypocrisy.”
“That’s not even a little bit the issue he – look if you’re not careful I’ll make you read it!”
“Oh, the horror.”
You kick his chair again. You’re fully resentful of and fully aware of the fact he probably wouldn’t be the slightest bit scandalised by Vriska’s grandma doing unnerving mindcontrol things to ladies, and this thought keeps you in a pleasant sulk as you head down the stairs, careful not to and wake up the sleeping Rose and Jade in the living room.
Unsurprisingly, the bin in the kitchen is already stuffed to the brim with empty bottles of wine, boxes of cake mix (bluh!), discarded Pictionary modus creations and doggy kibble (Jade...?). You huff and shove your slippers on, ready to brave the cold winter night for all of a minute and a half while you walk down to the garbage can.
When you open the front door you’re greeted by the sight of a familiar legendary POS vehicle.
Ditching the book in the trashcan you tap on the window, but Mr Strider is next to you before you even get a proper look inside the car.
“Any reason you’re wandering around outside in your PJs and slippers, kid?” he says, before you can even get out a “Hey Mr Strider why are you sleeping outside in your car”.
“Just, had to take the trash out,” you say, and hey, it’s like almost the truth, and he rolls his eyes, “Anyway, why don’t you come inside? It’s freezing out here, I could get you a sleeping bag or somethi –“
He cuts you off with a wave of his hand. He interrupts people a lot, you think with just an inch of tired irritation.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I didn’t exactly want to just break into the house and, hey, I got here late. Not like I was planning on going to sleep anyway.”
“Ok, if you’re planning on messing with Dave or somethi –“
“I’m not, Jesus, relax. Why do you always expect me to do somethin’ fucking unconscionable?” he interrupts again, shaking his head. You open your mouth, but think better of it. You could list a million reasons why you could expect him to do something insane and possibly dangerous, but you’re tired and you want to go to bed and you want to peel Dave off the internet before its 4am and he’s trying to show you some stupid article he found.
Instead you sigh and open the front door, leading him inside.
You can count the amount of times you’ve been alone with the elder Strider on one hand, but you’re not sure it’ll ever stop being awkward. He seems like the kind of guy that makes anyone and everyone uncomfortable, it’s not like you can talk to him about a whole lot.
“Where is the little asshole anyway?”
“He’s...asleep. You can talk to him in the morning,” you lie. Dave’s tired and his brother looks wiry and alert, and if they start yelling or fighting or something they’ll wake everybody up. By the look on his face, he knows you’re lying, and you look guiltily down at your feet. He shrugs and kicks his shoes off.
“Right, forgot you were calling the shots now.”
“I’m not calling the shots, dude. I don’t run his life,” you say, trying not to lose your patience. You want to go upstairs and sleep but you really can’t until you’re sure his brother isn’t going to do anything stupid.
“So you ain’t looking out for him at all?”
“No, no, what? That’s not the same thing at all,” you say, pulling a face. You feel sort of like this whole conversation is being pulled out from under your feet, “Look, I’m his friend I’m not like his boss or his owner or whatever, that’d be kind of weird and complicated and Dave seems like the kind of pet that’d pee on the carpet just to annoy you anyway.”
You stop. You know you’re getting off-track with this.
“Ok, the point. The point is I’m not trying to steal him,” you say, and you know to some small extent you pretty much have anyway. His expression remains stubbornly deadpan as ever.
“Look, get some sleep! Dave’ll see you in the morning.”
“Whatever, I guess a bro’s got to pop some Zs now and then anyway. I’ll just crash on whatever floor space is looking ready, don’t start fussing over blankets and shit. Say goodnight to Dave for me.”
“Right,” you say, shaking your head, “Goodnight Mr Strider.”
He vanishes into the kitchen (you make a mental note to check for any swords stashed in weird places) before you sigh and head up the stairs. Dave is still at the computer as you re-enter the bedroom.
“What took you so long?” he asks, as you flop onto the computer chair with him.
“Your Bro arrived at a totally stupid time, he was in his car when I went downstairs,” you explain, sharply aware of the inherent ridiculousness of what’s coming out of your mouth, “He says goodnight by the way.”
“That’s nice of him,” he says, shrugging and still scrolling down some stupid photography site he was browsing. You wrap your arms around his neck.
“Daaave, stop acting like you don’t care because you totally do and it’s stupid. You’ll see him at breakfast in the morning.”
“Yeah yeah, I know, dude. Urgh, I was kinda hoping he’d just suddenly not come, it’s gonna be a full-scale fucking fiasco.” he says.
“Dude it will not be that bad, come on, you guys talked it out right? Rapped it out, whatever Striders do.”
“Well, yeah but –“
“Shut up and stop flipping out, drama queen,” you say, sliding onto his lap.
“John, your face is in the way of the screen.”
“Good, you spend way too much time on the computer, dude. Especially when I’m trying to sleep.”
“Oh like you don’t?” he says, and you huff, “Alright, alright, hint taken, you’re tired and needy like the world’s most obnoxious cat, I’m being an irritating keyboard tapping pain in the ass. I’ll turn it off.”
“Thank you, now come on, bed-time dude. If you don’t think Bec and Jade are gonna be banging on the door and barking early in the morning you’re just so wrong.”
You wake up with your face squashed into Dave’s shirt, Bec barking and Jade knocking and shouting at the door. You peel yourself from the covers and the loop of Dave’s arms.
“Hey, Dave, are you coming down?” you say, sitting up and shaking him. Dave makes a noise probably best transcribed as “mnnuurghgharghhhmmm” and rolls over, pressing his face into your hip. You roll your eyes and climb out of bed. Whatever! If he doesn’t want homemade pancakes and Ms Lalonde’s breakfast cocktails, that’s too bad for him.
Dave’s brother is already at the breakfast table, half asleep under the lip of his cap and having what looks like a really one-sided conversation with Ms Lalonde (you can’t catch a word she’s saying, her rambling machine gun rattle is worse than Dave’s when she gets going).
“Morning son, where’s Dave?” Dad greets, ruffling your hair and adding yet another plate of stuff (you’re going to make sure none of it’s box-mix before you eat).
“He’s being a lazy ass as usual. He’s still asleep,” you say, yawning and sniffing the pancakes before you. It doesn’t smell like box mix, anyway. It’s probably safe to proceed.
“Ha, I’ll go give the little asshole a wake up ca-“
Ms Lalonde’s hand is on Mr Strider’s arm before he can even get up, she smiles like she’s about to spit daggers in his face. Passive aggressive daggers.
“Strider, please, let Davey have his lie in. I’m not done talking to you yet.”
Jade is digging into her third towering stack of pancakes when Dave comes down the stairs in boxers, shirt, socks and shades, glancing over at his brother.
You let out a little weird laugh in relief (Dave’s so stupid, jeez) and tug him down to kiss his gross morning-breath mouth.
“Have you and Dave thought about marriage, son?”
You have just spat whiskey all over your Gameboy Colour.
“D-dad!” you snap, glancing over to make sure Dave was still fully invested in whatever dumb video game was playing with the other Strider-Lalondes. Since he hadn’t bolted out the back door, and his brother hasn’t starting making some unhelpful comments or rude noises, you figure he didn’t hear.
“It was a reasonable question,” he says, with that little sly smile that suggests he knew exactly how you’d react and delighted in every second of it, “It’s been an idea that’s been bandied about quite a bit as of late. Jade’s rather keen on the idea.”
“Of course Jade is,” you say, sighing and turning off the (fantastic) retro piece of shit Dave gave you. Bard Quest is going to have to wait for some other time. Jade probably has some pretty weird idea of what weddings include anyway. In all honesty, you’re a little scared to ask.
“Well, have you? Dad says, refilling your glass as though you hadn’t just spat your drink everywhere like a little kid.
“Well, I dunno! Seems like kind of a thing that Dave would freak out about,” you say, continually glancing over to the blonde heads on the sofa in the living room and starting to feel your face get hot like you’re fourteen years old and have just stumbled onto some unsavoury pictures of Sailor Moon, “I mean, maybe, but, everything is really, really great right now. I don’t want to mess it up.”
“Hm,” is all Dad says, lighting his pipe (“Outside, dear!” You’re kind of amazed, she hasn’t even looked away from the screen) and leaning back on his chair, one hand going down to pet Bec’s head.
“Well, son, you know your relationship better than me. If you’re happy, we’re all happy for you. Even certain characters that will remain unnamed,” he said, pointing his thumb blatantly towards Mr Strider.
You almost say something else before you’re interrupted by Jade’s shriek of “Eggnog!!” and throwing open the fridge door with enough force to make the table shake.
John already in his room when you make your escape from the snapping claws of a drunk Mom and drunk Bro and drunk snarky pain-in-the-ass sister (“Daaaave, please, I’ve got Rorschach tests just ready to be used, don’t be so stingy about revealing your continued focus on phallic imagery) and he looks up at you with a grin.
“Woah, hey John. What you hiding up here for?” he asks, “Couldn’t take the heat?”
“You could say that dude!” he says, throwing himself down on the bed, “Jade and Dad have been pretty relentless at me. Even Bec seems to be yipping at me a lot.”
“No fucking kidding, I’m getting the third degree on all sorts of circumstantial shit. At least Bro’s well-behaved, I mean, as far as it gets from a weird guy that puts swords in the fridge and brings dead horses back to the house. He’s just been a regular smartass rather than a complete pain in the ass.”
He rolls onto his side and grabs you by the arms, dragging you onto the bed before you have time to react. He should be glad you’ve had too much to drink to put up much of a protest beyond “Egbert, you ass” and smacking him on the chest.
“Eeh, whatever, we’ll go back down later.”
“Oh hell no, if we come down after being in the same room alone for longer than five minutes Mom’s gonna wolf-whistle,” you say, cringing at the thought of it. John just laughs and paps you on the cheek like you’re a monumental dumbass.
“You’re too easily embarrassed, dude. Though you’ve made a lot of progress lately. You even said the H word last night.”
“What H word? Horrible, as in, John you’re a horrible person?”
“That burn didn’t even make much sense,” he says, “Hey, who knows, maybe you’ll be able to say the B word out-loud!”
“Oh hell no,” you tell him, “We are way too old for the B-word. I draw the line right here.”
“What? We missed that window?”
“For sure. I mean jesus dick it makes us sound like a pair of fourteen year old goddamn girls, just no.”
“I wasn’t even aware that was a window that could get missed.”
“Well it is,” you tell him, ruffling his hair. He slaps your wrist away with an expression of feigned irritation.
“Well what am I supposed to call you then? Best friend so doesn’t cut it.”
“Look, anything that isn’t hummingbird.”
“We’re not Starsky and fucking Hutch, dude, do you see us driving around in a shitty red car?”
“We’re also not 50 and trying to barely mask our disdain for each other. Our disdain is right there in the open.
He laughs and shoves a pillow over your face.
“Dude you are impossible!” he says, grinning, rolling so he’s slinging one arm over you and resting his chin on your collarbone, “What then?”
What Rose and Jade and Mom have been nagging-slash-teasing you relentlessly about for the past two days is the first thing to pop into your head. Fuck, these woman are going to be the death of you.
“Dave? Hellooo? Earth to Dave?” John says, snapping his fingers in front of your face.
“Damn,” you say, snapping out of it, “Buttbuddy. Definitely.”
“Well, damn, I don’t know, who are the nosy fucks that insist on asking anyway?”
“Well, yeah, I guess! I just wish there was a snappy way to explain it to someone though that wasn’t totally unsuitable to your delicate palette,” he says, “Not that it really matters, we’re good the way things are, right?”
-- gallowsCalibrator [GC] began trolling turntechGodhead [TG] --
GC: D4V3 >:[
GC: 1 4M SO S4D
GC: 1 4M SO V3RY V3RY S4D
TG: woah ok guess i better get my head in the game and get ready to feelings jam then
TG: warning you just woke me up from a nap so my rad comforting internet back pats may not be as up to scratch as usual
TG: so what is it
GC: YOUR HUM4N CHR1STM4S 1S OV3R SO K4RK4T M4D3 M3 T4K3 DOWN TH3 D3COR4T1ONS 1N MY OFF1C3!!!
TG: oh for fucks sake
GC: TH3Y W3R3 SO D3L1C1OUS THOUGH D4V3 >:[
TG: ok im sure this is a major tragedy but please is this what you woke me up for
TG: im a very emotionally distressed guy at the minute terezi i need my catnaps
GC: >:] 1 JUST N33D3D TH3 D3L1GHTFUL T4ST3 OF YOUR LOV3LY CH3RRY T3XT GRUMPYGUSS
GC: YOU PR3TTY MUCH SUCK 4T COMFORT1NG 4NYON3 4BOUT R34L TH1NGS B3C4US3 YOU 4R3 SO UP YOUR OWN BUTT
GC: H3H3H3H3 >:P
TG: thx for that terezi ill treasure that flattering comment on my character forever
TG: and you act like all i ever do is talk about myself jesus dick do you not know me better than that
TG: i think i got more tact in me than that
TG: im just really fuckin sick of everyone getting on my back lately that all
TG: and here i was thinking you had some issue more serious than karkat making you take down the ludicrous amounts of red tinsel youve undoubtedly got wrapped around all the dragon busts in your terrifying office
GC: DR4GON BUSTS
GC: TH3R3S 4N 1D34 >:]
TG: you should definitely get some made for vantas by the way im sure hell appreciate millions of hideous draconic stone gargoyles snarling at him from every which way
TG: but anyway what dragon busts are stupid and so not what were talking about
TG: unlike you im not some kind of insane dragon obsessed womanchild who still hasnt stopped going on stupid rp sites or whatever the fuck it is you do
GC: H3H3 YOU C4N M4K3 FUN 4LL YOU W4NT COOLK1D BUT 1 H4V3 W4Y MOR3 FUN TH4N YOU 4ND YOU KNOW 1T
GC: 3V3N 1F 1T 1S 4S F34RSOM3 DR4GONR1D3R N3OPHYT3 R3DGL4R3 SOM3T1M3S!!!
TG: at least youre being your usual psychotic self so i guess that all checks out
GC: WH3N 4R3 YOU DO1NG YOUR 34RTH HUM4N PROPOS4L?
TG: oh fucks sake
GC: H3H3H3H3H3! >:D
GC: OH COM3 ON D4V3 1 W4NT TO S33 YOU 1N YOUR CUT3 L1TTL3 34RTH HUM4N SU1T 4G41N
GC: 1 4M ROOT1NG FOR YOU TO PR3S3NT JOHN W1TH YOUR F1N3ST SPO1LS OF W4R OR HOW3V3R YOUR DUMB SP3C13S DO3S 1T
GC: K4RK4T WOULD PROB4BLY KNOW BUT WH4T3V3R
TG: seriously that it im done with the entire female species
TG: im grabbing john and were going to move to a fuckin island where there is no internet and no insane women meddling in my affairs all the time
GC: 1S TH4T HOW YOU DO 1T? >:? SOUNDS 1MPR4CT1C4L
TG: what im saying here is fuck women tz
GC: BUT YOU DONT >:]
GC: H3H3H3 LOOK 4LL 1M S4Y1NG 1S TH4T 1F YOU PROPOS3 SOON VR1SK4 W1LL OW3 M3 4 D3L1GHTFUL 4MOUNT OF BOONBUCKS
GC: UNL3SS YOU W4NT JOHN TO W1N TH4T 1S? DO YOU HUH DO YOU D4V3???
TG: im 26 fucking years old do you seriously think that is going to work on me any more
GC: Y3S >:]
GC: JOHN M1GHT 1F YOU W41T TOO LONG 4ND TH3N YOULL H4V3 TO B3 TH3 BR1D3 4ND K4N4Y4 S4YS YOU R34LLY DO NOT H4V3 TH3 SHOULD3RS FOR 4 GOWN
TG: yes that right there sounds exactly like how it worked
TG: hundred per cent accurate human knowledge happening here
TG: but seriously will you and spidertroll please stop making bets on me and johns life I feel like a fucking greyhound
TG: you dont seriously think johns gonna ask if i dont right???
GC: M4JOR1TY VOT3 4T TH3 M1NUT3 1S TH4T H3 W4NTS TO
GC: YOU TH1NK 4BOUT 1T
GC: YOU TH1NK 4BOUT 1T GOOD >:]
GC: 4LSO YOUR HUM4N M4N LUSUS 1S 4BOUT TO DROP FROM TH3 C31L1NG
-- turntechGodhead [TG] is an idle chum! --
Dave is pretty consistently jumpy the days leading up to New Years Eve. You don’t know if it’s because his Bro is still trying to keep the jump on him, despite you persistently reminding him that Dave isn’t a tool that needs to be sharpened, and a lot of stern looks from Jade and Rose alike, or something else. Either way, it stopped being funny by the 27th and by the time he almost jumps three feet out of bed when you try and wake him up on the 31st, it’s just gotten plain annoying.
“Dude, chill, it’s me!” you say, snorting as he sits up, “Everyone’s went out anyway, even your Bro got dragged out. I’ve banned him from my room anyway, after him scaring the crap out of you the other day.”
“Yeah,” he says in a voice that very much suggests he doesn’t get the point of anything you just said, “So, what, you were bored and can’t let me have a much needed lie-in?”
“Oh yeah, sure, sure, not like all you do at Dad’s house is laze about like a jackass,” you tell him, ignoring his whiny resistance and tugging on his arm, “Come on, I’ve got something for you!”
“You – what?” he repeats, stupidly, sitting up straight and rigid all of a sudden. You grin and tug him to his feet.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
TG: he composed a fucking song thats it im dead hes killed me
TG: woke me up with a fucking heart attack and then pulled that on me
TG: add another dead dave to the pile
TG: send help
TT: *Le sign.*
The day is spiralling very quickly out of your control by the time the ball is about to drop. Mom and Mr Egbert are bickering over the correct way to open a bottle of champagne (“Dear, this is very expensive and the way you are suggesting will end in nothing short of an explosion.”), John has his arms slung around your neck with his chin in your hair, Jade is trying to explain some really fucking weird salamander New Years tradition to Rose and you can’t get that damn piano tune out of your fucking head.
You are a man on the edge of doing something, and it is so going to be something on the end of either extremes. Hell, it may well end in a Dave-shaped hole in Dadbert’s kitchen, a comical dust cloud rising from behind your scurrying feet and hitting John square in the face, leaving him wiping his glasses and looking so fucking forlorn.
If you did that, though, where the hell would you go? You’d pretty much be wrenching out the key lynchpin in your life, suddenly floating directionless like some douchebag protagonist in a crappy romantic comedy Vantas would know about. Like Dane Cook after he’s been told Hollywood no longer has any need for punchable faces and smug asshole protagonists to play alongside actual attractive leads. Jesus, your pop culture references are getting way hells out of date.
Either way, you’re downing this bubbly like it’s going to go fast (and with Mom in the room, it probably is). You’ve got a lot on your mind.
You feel like it’s going to be a long night.
This word serves as your only warning before you’re pulled into the bosom of your inebriated ghost-slime-whatever-mother, a clumsy hand made way too strong by the frequent use of fistkind papping (or more accurately, sort of clumsily punching) you on the head.
It’s hard to talk with a face-full of maternal boobs, so you settle for pulling her drunken ass off of you so she can get to that actual damn point of dropping in on you when you just want to go upstairs and take a piss.
“Davey, Davey, Davey,” she repeats, shaking her head as you finally get yourself some room to breathe. She drags you outside and sits down on the front porch, gesturing to the place next to you, “Sit.”
Oh Jesus. The last time this happened she’d tried to impart some wisdom on you. Unfortunately, it came out sounding suspiciously like the speech fucking Mufasa gives to that little kitten shit about the circle of life or whatever, and just left you with a thumping headache by the time Rose came to your rescue. She doesn’t seem much in the mood for re-enacting movies about singing lions, thankfully, instead just downing the rest of her drink.
You opt to sit next to her, deciding that you guess your poor bladder can survive a Lalondesque ramble for a bit. She doesn’t really like being ignored a whole lot. It’s a family trait.
“Dave, ok...seriously time now,” she tells you, checking behind her and closing the front door, “What are you gonna do?”
“I was gonna go take a nice long piss to take some of this alcohol out of my bloodstream, but somehow I think that ain’t what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, fucksticks, you know what I mean, David,” she says and jesus does she sound like her daughter when she full-names you like that, “We’re talking about your long-term infatuation with the littlest Egbert, sweetheart.”
“Right,” you say, suddenly really wishing you’d just went to the goddamn toilet, “What about it?”
“Well, kiddo, you’re the one who brings up John this John that, blahblahblah, in every other conversation. The obsession is exhausting, and you’ve taken up a recent freaking-out tactic over the possibility of matrimononial bliss. Honestly, you don’t stop going on about it.”
You look at her.
“Matrimonial,” she amends.
“The fuck? I don’t stop going about it?” you repeat, horrified, “You harpies are the ones that –“
“Sweetheart, really. We talk about it because you bring it up and steer the conversation back to sweet ol’ John constantly with your constant oblique references and half-hearted complaints. The jury’s out and undecided on whether it’s cute or just annoying,” she says gently, as though to somebody who is going to freak out if something’s worded the slightest wrong way, “I loathe to be the one to remind you of this, but we do have an awful lot better to do with our lives than run around after you. Hence I elected myself as representative of house Egbert-Lalonde-Strider-Harle – yes, that’s a thing dear, don’t make that face – to encourage you to chill the hell out and think about what you want.”
“I don’t steer it back to Egbert constantly,” you huff. Unfortunately, every conversation you’ve had with everyone here all week (or more like for the past fucking billion years) pops unbidden back into your mind and
Maybe Rose has a point when she says you lack self-awareness to almost Fitzgeraldian point. Whatever that means.
“It’s something people do in impressions of you, sweetheart,” she says, laughing and patting your shoulder, “Really though, just think about it. Don’t punish yourself so much, Dave.”
She stands up and heads back inside.
“And please, for the love of god, please stop acting like everything is some big imaginary contest, Dave.”
“I got you a present.”
John Egbert is tearing up.
“It’s a little durty.”
It is fast approaching four in the fucking morning, the lights are off, you’re half asleep, still a little drunk, and John Egbert has recovered an old, dusty DVD (who even watches DVDs any more) from the crap in his old room, and he’s sprawled across you, making small snuffley noises into your shirt as he rewatches his childhood favourite.
“Jesus, why haven’t I watched this movie in so long, Dave? Why did I ever pretend to grow out of this?” he says.
“John, seriously, it’s like thirty years old and in no way deserving any sort of recognition as a classic of cinema. Jesus. I can’t believe we’re watching this again.”
“It is a timeless classic. It even says so on the Amazon reviews. So shut up and stop criticising poor teenage me and his fine choices in cinema, ok, you did that enough when you were a douchey fourteen-year-old.”
He hiccups as little Casey bad-child-actress Poe shies away from her Dad’s crappy piece of shit gift. Trisha can’t-emote-for-shit Poe looks on in blank confusion as How Do I Live Without You swells like a goddamn brain tumour in the background. You think John must have seriously developed one in all the viewings of this he put himself through as a kid.
“This song does kind of suck though,” he admits, “Jeez, you know when I was a kid I thought this would literally be my life.”
“What, you’d grow up to have deplorable hair and clothing choices, just like Cage? Gee, well I got great news for you John.”
“Ok, shut the fuck up, not what I meant. I’m just saying it’s kinda weird. Didn’t think it’d turn out like this.”
“Welp. If you regret anything say it now, or forever hold your peace or whatever.”
“Nah,” he answers instantly. He shrugs. His grip tightens on you in some tiny, barely perceptible way.
You feel some vague lump in your throat that has nothing to do with this bullshit faux-tear-jerker movie.
“Jeez, paranoid much, Dave? What a wuss,” he says, laughing, “How long has it been at this point? A really long time.”
“Fuck, dude, I don’t know, not like people really believe that happy endings are a thing.”
“They are so a thing,” he says, his chest heaving in a low sigh. You both go quiet for a moment. John reaches over you to grab the remote, switching off the little portable TV. The only light in the room now is the slip of light from the crack in the door.
You can’t possibly go to sleep. Your head is spinning, John’s weight is heavy and warm on top of you, you’re suddenly aware of how he’s all you can smell, that little melody is still in your goddamn head. Fuck.
“Anyway, point is, we have it pretty good and you shouldn’t worry so damn much! I don’t think there’s anything strictly wrong with just letting yourself have stuff,” he continued, breaking your stream of thought.
“I do let myself have stuff. You’re constantly bitchin’ about me splashing our cash on expensive camera crap.”
“You know what I mean. Stuff. Not stuff.”
“Yes, totally crystal clear and not even more obfuscating, thanks for that, John,” you say, and he huffs, rolling off you and lies next to you. You tug back some of the covers he took from you with this spiteful, warm-depriving movement, eventually having to give in to his obnoxious iron grip and wriggle closer to him. You slip his glasses off and put them on the side, because you know he’ll fall asleep in them if you don’t.
“Fuck it, you know what I mean,” he sighs, “You can be really difficult, dude. It’s totally on purpose too.”
You grin a little in the dark, “Yeah, alright, I get a kick out of deliberately being a pain in the ass sometimes. Who doesn’t?”
He smacks you in the shoulder with the back of his hand.
“Jesus! And to think my Dad was asking if we were getting married earlier.”
“Oh, relax. I brushed it off pretty fast,” he said, “I was just like, ‘Dad, seriously? Do you really think Dave would be up for that?’.”
“Oh fuck you, are you kidding?” you say, instantly, before you can stop yourself, and grab his wrists, pushing against him and finding yourself wrestling clumsily with him in the dark, your knees knocking together under the sheets, “I’d marry the shit out of you.”
He laughs, pushing back and knocking the flat of his palm against your nose, before he manages to dislodge you from on top of him, his knee hitting the skin of your thigh. You allow him to push you back down before he gets bored of the whole stupid tussle and just lies back down next to you, still flashing his teeth in a big stupid smile.
“Yeah, sure! I’ll remember that, dude.”
“Serious here, dude.”
He twists his mouth, the very cartoon expression of “uh, yeah right!”.
“No, I mean. Why not?” you continue, gallantly, or not so gallantly, because your heart suddenly seems intent on cracking every goddamn bone in your body, and you hear your voice come out sort of weird, and you’re suddenly so so glad the lights are all off, because you don’t want to know too much about the face he’s making right now, “Seriously.”
He looks at you with an expression you can’t quite make out in the darkness.
“Ok. Uh. Just for clarity’s sake. Are you proposing to me, Dave?”
You’d say that all your self-control was going into not saying “Nope!" in the most strained, high-pitched voice imaginable, jumping out of bed and running a mile in all your indecent glory to escape the utter rejection and embarrassment incoming, but honestly self-control isn’t even in the equation right now. You’re operating purely on stupid Egbert-based decisions and urges, and you’d say this was totally new to you but even you can’t bullshit yourself that much. It is the exact opposite of new to you. This is what you’ve been doing since you were fucking thirteen.
Instead you say, in a voice that sounds much calmer than you feel;
“Well, I ain’t got a ring or anything, but yeah. That’s the general idea.”
He doesn’t say anything for what seems like an insanely long time. You think out of a chain of very stupid things you’ve said in your life, this is by far the most stupid and most completely insane.
A smile? Okay. That’s better. That’s a lot better.
“Yeah, I think marrying you is definitely a thing I could do.”
You’ve not flown in a very, very long time, and you’ve almost forgotten what the hell it felt like. This comes pretty close.
“Well holy shit lil bro,” is the first thing out of Bro’s mouth when you tell him. It’s the first weekend in January and you’re standing in his shithole of an apartment, hands in your pockets. Your ring finger remains significantly unbanded (you and John spent about three hours looking at ring brochures and having a continually more confused-sounding exchange of “What are we supposed to be looking for here?”, “Are these supposed to look different?” and “I have no idea what we’re doing here.” before finally admitting defeat to the incomprehensible world of jewellery), but you don’t think that matters so much. The sentiment is there all the same. Details are just in the making.
“Yeah, damn,” is all you manage in respond, sitting down on the futon and kicking away a plump-butted smuppet almost on reflex, “I don’t know what the hell happened. I mean dude I –“
“I – what?”
Bro doesn’t even turn around from his computer, where he’s uploading something you really, really never want to know the details of. He makes a dismissive gesture with his hand.
“Look, way I see it is if John is back in Washington informing bigger Egbert and Lalonde about this plan, you can bet your ass they’re dibsing the hells out of drinks and cakes and whatever else the fuck proud parents-slash-step-parents-slash-whatever-who-the-hell-even-keeps-track-of-our-family-tree-any-more get all excited about when their kid is tying the proverbial homo knot,” he explains, “I’ll have you know I resent the idea you don’t think I’ll be getting my finger in this nuptial pie when those two are flaunting their talents for baking absurd amounts of cake and materialising alcoholic beverages out of the thin air.”
You guess that’s his blessing then. You rub your temples, glad he’s at least on board with this but you were kind of hoping for a bit more of a conversation and not just him going off on some big ramble at you like usual.
“There’s some drinks and stuff in the fridge if you wanna bust some out to celebrate or whatever,” he adds after a moment of silence, as he tests the audio on his video. Damn, the guy needs to calm down, his excitement is getting out of hand. He’ll be throwing confetti in your face and swinging you around the room next.
You dodge some errant blades as you go to the fridge, and suddenly you’re thirteen years old and the past thirteen plus years seem like they happened in a split second.
You help yourself to a drink and sit down, you need a fucking breather. You sit and watch the back of Bro’s head as he starts looking through his seemingly infinite folders of music, and try to figure out what the hell just happened.
Dave still isn’t home when you finally get back late Sunday night. Dad and Ms Lalonde had just about talked your ears off all weekend and asked you about fifty billion questions, each more excessively flappy and embarrassing than the last, you thought Dave would be back by the time you managed to claw yourself out of their grip.
You guess it’s alright for the eternal part-timer, but dang! You thought he’d be back by now. You just hope he and his brother aren’t doing something stupid and dangerous like they usually seem to be doing. If he gets himself killed five seconds after he frigging proposes you are going to be so peeved.
Turning on your laptop (hey, what else are you supposed to immediately do after you get home?) you sit yourself on the sofa and get yourself ready for a long evening of blogging about movies. Maybe Jade feels like streaming all the Paranormal Activity movies with you or something.
Pesterchum flashes the second you sign in.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB] --
TG: so yeah hi
EB: dude, why aren’t you home! i thought you’d have gotten done with talking about feelings and dumb flowers and stuff way before me.
EB: or did your bro finally break down and shed manly tears in light of your blossoming as a true woman?
TG: yes he wept deeply at his sweet maiden daughter finally being swept off her fucking feet into a life of white picket fences and making like idk lasagne or something
EB: i’m sure it was very heartfelt and emotional.
EB: i wish you’d filmed it so i could see such beautiful displays of genuine feeling myself.
TG: yeah it was pretty intense i smell an oscar on the way
TG: shit maybe like a dozen of them start banging up another set of shelves john were gonna need them for all these sweet gold awards heading my way
EB: sure, i’ll moped down to ikea. make sure we get some strong swedish support for all these movie awards for you and your bro’s superb displays of emotion.
TG: strong swedish support sounds like an ad for weird sports bras or something
TG: and yeah im getting all sorts of tearful letters from actors and shit man
TG: strider strider how do you show such heartbreaking emotion so perfectly shit man im giving up the game i aint going anywhere with my crappy career
TG: love john travolta
EB: ok, can we stop being idiots for like two seconds?
TG: yeah alright
EB: in all seriousness, how did it go?
TG: p well
TG: just need to crash at bros tonight too because ive worn myself the fuck out and dont feel much like driving the swagmobile home
EB: ok, haven’t we agreed if you call your crappy car the swagmobile one more time i’m going to drive it into the sea?
TG: so was the award ruse like
EB: no, shut up.
TG: you totally just laughed
EB: i did not!
TG: w/e point is as long as you laugh at my stupid jokes im going to keep making them you cant stop me
EB: yeah, yeah, yeah, i know, dude!
EB: what you worn yourself out doing?
EB: oh yeah.
EB: i know that’s pretty exhausting for you.
TG: stfu you know what i meant
TG: i got my mad contemplation on
TG: meditated on everything you know how it is
TG: came to the conclusion im pretty ok with all this
EB: haha, well i’m glad you are dude!
EB: i mean
EB: this is gonna sound kinda dumb.
EB: but i get kinda worried you’re gonna bail on this or whatever.
EB: only a little!
TG: i got this
TG: you see this glimmer in my eyes this be DEVOTION
TG: getting all mad matrimonial up in this shit
TG: i even looked up what a centrepiece was today
EB: excellent as always, dave.
TG: bro suggested a large clay dildo
TG: no i mean for party favours or whatever
EB: still no.
TG: fine fine whatever bridezilla i just thought it was a better suggestion than his horse faced smuppet suggestion
TG: im inclined to at least compromise with the guy as of late
EB: hahahaha, oh jeez! no way, dude, that’s completely terrifying.
EB: your brother is completely terrifying.
TG: yeah i know
TG: anyway ill be back early tomorrow morning
TG: should prob catch you before work i think
EB: hahaha, it’s fine, dude! don’t force yourself to get up at the otherwise unheard of hours of 7am to catch me.
TG: nah ill manage
EB: alright, alright. i guess i’m not entirely opposed the idea of seeing you before i go off to wear jackets with elbow patches and talk about ectobiology.
TG: ok that cant possibly be what you do
TG: no one else would ever believe thats a thing
TG: and i would never let you wear a jacket with elbow patches thats tragic
EB: it’s close enough to what i do, dickface. >:B
TG: oh little buckteeth emoticons thats mature
EB: yeah, yeah, whatever! anyway, you should really go to bed soon if you’re gonna drive early tomorrow.
TG: yeah good point
TG: alright sure
TG: gnight john
“Feels pretty damn final, doesn’t it?”
You look up from your scribbled notes, where Dave is suddenly standing over you, jacket and hair wet from the rain. Fuck, you wish he’d stop doing the flash-stepping thing; it’s far more alarming and obnoxious than it is impressive. Though you guess if times ever get really hard he can have a budding career as a cat burglar or something.
“Ha, you posted them then? Well yeah, that is pretty final,” you say, your pen between your teeth. You’d spend a good long time going through the calendar with a fine tooth comb to pick a date, purely because you didn’t want it to land on any combination of numbers that had previously been associated with the world goddamn ending. You’d really prefer the world not end any time soon.
It’s not a date long-off at this point, the confusing affair of trying to figure out how weddings even worked almost completely behind you, suits fitted, invitations mailed out at your badgering. Dave had just done them since you didn’t really care a whole lot what a bit of paper looked like, so you can’t help but get the horrible, sneaking feeling that there had been a lot more clip art involved than there ever should be in anything.
He shrugs off his jacket, throwing it over the back of the sofa and perches himself on the edge of your desk as you continue you work, rubbing his damp shades on the sleeve of his shirt as he stares at you.
Finally, you look up.
He opens his mouth for a second, and then closes it, shaking his head. He hops off the desk, still giving you that weird look, sort of disbelieving, and you can practically hear the cogs in his head turning.
EB: wow, that is a lot of “o”s.
GG: yes it is
GG: but that is not the point! the point is we need to have you a radtastical bachelor party soon
GG: just you and me, bro!!! :B
EB: uh, jade, not to burst your bubble but...
EB: aren’t bachelor parties usually just with guys?
EB: not your sister?
GG: yes they are
GG: but youre marrying your only guy friend who is not in space
EB: good point.
GG: and besides, i have studied the fine art of party rocking long and hard
GG: i think i know how to do this
GG: come on!!! you cant spend the night before your wedding just arguing with dave about what crappy take out to get
EB: that was so not what we were going to do.
GG: it so was
EB: was not.
GG: was too
GG: come on! how often do i get you to myself
GG: we can go to awesome places and play blackjack and see if we can spot hookers and reminisce about times gone by
GG: also we can talk about lots of things and wear groucho marx glasses and itll just be really fun
EB: ok, that does sound pretty awesome.
EB: i think i have been pulled on board with this plan.
It’s the last night of your bachelorhood, and you’re spending it sat on a bed in a hotel room, as your sister struggles into a binder, tie and braces for her “satirical crossdressing expression of brohood, to soothe the undoubted assault to your masculinity you’ll be suffering at the hands of your big send off into married life being spent with your perfumey-mouthed little sister”.
You are more than a little crapping your pants.
She emerges from the bathroom, sort of looking like a skinnier, shorter version of you with a girlier face. And thinner eyebrows. Buttoning her cuffs, she sits down beside you, tossing the carefully embroidered pillow she made into your lap.
“Ok I’m pretty sure “tacky velvet pillow with a poem on it” was not on the gift list,” you ask, rolling your eyes. She smiles.
“Now, where would we be as a family if I didn’t constantly assault you with much unneeded passive-aggression?” she tells you, “Besides, somehow I don’t see how “don’t get us toaster or something like that I mean what the fuck we’ve got all that shit why would we need any more pointless crappy kitchen stuff” at all constitutes a gift list.”
“You’re the one who told us “new Xbox” wasn’t a valid option,” you hear yourself whine, and she snorts, “Look, Rose, all I’m saying is that this pillow is the actual gayest thing I’ve ever seen.”
She raises an eyebrow at you, and you steel yourself for what is undoubtedly coming.
“Dave, I usually hold off on describing the sexuality of anything not particularly capable of having an orientation, but I’d say this entire arrangement was of an entirely homosexual persuasion.”
“Well. It’s not. Actually,” you say, slowly and awkwardly.
“Not actually gay. I mean, either of us.”
Rose squints at you like a person with a very bad headache who just got a very bright light flashed in front of their eyes. She pushes her hair back with a hand, breathing out through her teeth. You feel the small pulse of a voice muttering “well not totally true” in your head.
“Not actually gay,” she repeats, slowly.
Your mouth starts running of its own accord. The phrase “gay chicken”, a concept you really, really started to resent by the time you were sixteen and it started to just hurt whenever you had to rationalise it, drops out of your mouth, all the while Rose is giving you that same stare that expresses with no level of uncertainty what a tool you sound like, and you become slowly more certain of what a pack of lies everything you’re saying is.
Eventually she sighs, massaging her forehead and speaking slowly.
“There are two possibilities here. The first option is that you do not, in fact, score a perfect zero on the Kinsey scale, and have simply been unwilling to admit to yourself your sincere feelings of affection-- which would be a desperately common familial trait, might I remind you. The second option is that you are a fucking moron,” she says, and you should have some really witty retort for this, “So which is it?”
You stare stupidly, and manage to say, “I’m thinking.”
A tacky pillow hits you square in the face, and you squawk like an imbecile and almost fall off the bed, holding up your hands defensively, “Hey, just because you like being a faghag doesn’t mean –“
Wrong answer. Rose yelled, and hit him again, growling something like, “I swear – so stupid – if you hurt that boy – you –“.
“Heeey, hey, guys!”
You’re saved by a cheerful call from the doorway, and there stands your knight in shining armour here to save you from this pillow-wielding witch. Or, in this case, your knight in a “I’m with stupid” t-shirt and removing a beaglepuss from his nose. He grins at you both, babbling away like an idiot like usual, and Rose steps off you, prim and proper as ever, and you barely resist the urge to stick your tongue out at her.
“He’s just nervous,” Rose says, looking at you pointedly – very pointedly you can practically feel the points digging into your goddamn skin – and then back at John with a serene smile, “I judged he needed a distraction.”
“Ha, I’m nervous too! I finally realise why people have crazy bachelor parties – to stop you from going insane!” he laughs, continuing with a sheepish smile, “I mean it’s so weird, to think we’ve come so far, and. I. Can I tell you a secret? A really dumb secret?”
You know what’s coming, you totally don’t want to hear it, but before you can say a damn thing or steer the conversation to his ridiculous outfit or something much safer, Rose nods and permits him to continue.
“Back when this first started, it was like. I thought we were just playing “gay chicken”,” he said, and he looked like he wanted to say a lot more, but fell quiet at Rose’s inquisitive gaze and whatever dumbass expression you had on your face.
“What convinced you we weren’t?” you say, finally, and jesus you sound stupid, you wonder how long this guy has been killing you like this for. You couldn’t even put a number to it.
You apparently were too caught up in the big wriggling nervous mass that is your thoughts, because all of a sudden John is kissing you and this
“See? You’d have to be an idiot to miss that!”
You ignore the smug look on Rose’s stupid face and hug him, before you hear Jade yell for him down the hall, and he pulls away with a grin.
“Anyway, don’t you two get in trouble tonight! Though I know I can trust you, Rose. Jade was saying something about neon and blackjack and hookers, and sometimes I don’t really know if she’s kidding or not.”
He laughs even as you find yourself babbling, running out the door even as you take an awkward step forward to go and follow him like you always do, and if the wind changes Rose will be stuck with the expression of “overly smug asshole” for the rest of her life.
You turn back to her, accepting defeat. The homosexual lifestyle, 1; Dave Strider, 0.
She simply links her arm with yours, standing and looking entirely satisfied with herself.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself for succumbing to the Egbert charm, Dave. It happens to the best of us,” she eases you, obviously entertained.
“Yeah. Shit,” you say, vaguely, and then give in, tugging her arm, “Let’s go get drunk.”
-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] --
TT: And so, how are the Egberts enjoying their honeymoon?
TG: oh hell no
TG: if anything were the striders dont try to pin the egbert name on me
TT: Egbert-Striders, then.
TT: Oh my fucking God.
TG: but yeah its been good i mean weve been offline for like a week what do you expect
TG: that is like a testament to what a good time is being had
TG: we actually managed to pry ourselves off pesterchum for seven consecutive days its a miracle
TT: Praise the internet gods.
TG: thatd be us four just btw
TT: Of course.
TG: but yeah its pretty good i mean we aint stopped doing shit all week johns been over the goddamn proverbial moon like a squirrel who just found an untouched stash of acorns in the middle of winter
TG: only these acorns are me taking him rad places and letting him touch the sweaty palm of nic cage
TT: Oh? How did he react to that?
TG: best sex ive ever had
TG: ill have to write his ex a thank you note for setting that up
TT: I didn’t really need details quite so intimate, but thank you so much, Dave.
TG: youre welcome
TG: hi rose!
TT: Hello John.
TG: i know you two are doing your snarky weird bonding time, but i’m gonna have to tear dave away from the computer if we’re actually going to get to the waterpark with time to spare!
TG: he can embarrass me with sordid stories he SHOULDN’T BE SHARING later.
TG: soz john
TT: Oh, by all means, feel free to steal your husband back from me. I just thought I should check in and make sure he hadn’t messed up in some cosmically stupid way.
TG: nope, no messing up.
TG: and jeez, it’s not like he will. he’s not that bad.
TG: anyway, see you rose!
TT: Talk to you later, boys. Enjoy yourselves.
-- turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --
“You know if I burn I’m gonna lie in the hotel room for the last two days making you feel guilty about the blatant disregard you gave my delicate constitution, right?” Dave says, even as you smear some sun lotion over his nose, rolling your eyes as best you can.
“Please, Dave, I’ll hold the stupid parasol over your head the entire time if you’re going to be a big baby about it,” you promise solemnly, twisting him around to rub some on his shoulders, “Even on the rides. That’s just the kind of guy I am.”
“I’m sure you will,” he says, lips twitching, “And I’m sure the lifeguards will be totally ok with that flagrant disregard of every health and safety rule in the universe.”
“There’s probably a loophole. Or they’ll take pity on me when they realise I’ve married a guy with the skin colour of egg whites who burns the second he actually receives light that isn’t from a computer screen. Hell, they might just think you’re a ghost or something.”
“Shut up, you’re hardly an outdoorsman,” he says, grinning as you hug him round the shoulders and grab his hand, dragging him away from his stupid computer and his weird blog empire and the internet posing he’d otherwise spend the afternoon doing.
“More than you. Now, come on, I want to at least get there before the sun goes down.”