"Sorry bro, airplane's stuck on the runway."
"Then take a choo-choo train."
"Derailed in Oklahoma."
"Whoa, tragic. Hijack a semi."
"Dave, for the last time, I'm not feeding you. Get up and get it yourself."
"Uh-oh, heads up, I feel some waahs coming on. Brace for impact."
"I swear to god, one of these days, I'm gonna suffocate you in your sleep."
"I love you too, babe."
Dave Strider, master of the poker face and shrugger of shoulders, was acting flippant as usual, but John Egbert knew better.
Dave was weird about food. He treated it like it was worth more than it cost him. For example, if he bought a three dollar bag of bagels, he would eat them one-half at a time to make it last twice as long. Mac and cheese always got mixed with a bag of plain pasta to thin out the little packet, never mind if that made it taste kind of bland (he would counter this by adding a shit-ton of pepper, which always made John scrunch up his nose with the urge to sneeze). He drank tap water, mostly. Lots of cheap tea. Every once in a while, he would treat himself and buy a jug of generic brand apple juice, and water it down a little. He never bought coffee or soda, and he treated pricey energy drinks like they were poison. He ate lots of eggs, bananas, and other cheap, high-calorie foods. He used to eat his weight in peanut butter, but gave that up when he moved in with John.
This whole "feed me" thing... He wasn't actually trying to get John to do it; he was just talking because he needed to talk, all the time, and he needed John to talk back, all the goddamn time. John loved it (usually), but sometimes he got worried too. He knew that, if he actually did do what Dave was asking, Dave wouldn't react like normal. He wouldn't revel in the stupid irony of being spoon-fed by his best bro; he would just get awkward. Because he was weird about food. He had to pick and choose what to eat by himself, because if someone else made the decision for him, he lost his sense of control and that freaked him out.
John had no idea Dave had this "thing" when they first moved in together, so he had made the mistake of buying a cart full of junk food, thinking that they would christen the new apartment by trashing it, but Dave hadn't looked excited; he had just looked sick. After that weirdly tense week, John took Dave grocery shopping with him and he made sure to just watch this time. It turned out that Dave ate a lot healthier than he expected, and literally bought just enough to survive. After a while, John felt a little guilty and sort of started to do the same, though he tended to stock up more than Dave did.
Every once in a while, John would get sick of cooking and bring home an extra large pizza with a bunch of garlic sauce cups and Dave would lose his fucking mind. John started to suspect that stuff like that — pizza, takeout, milkshakes, whatever — were practically treats to him. Dave didn't talk about it and explain why, but John wondered if junk food and other frivolous things only came into the Strider household as rewards.
After a few weeks of living together (and they were awesome weeks, full of video games, procrastination, and easiness; turns out this was the best decision ever), John started to pick up on more of Dave's odd habits. Dave did laundry as sparsely as possible. He fully utilized the sniff test and, if a shirt passed, it got worn twice. He had a lot of underwear to prevent having to wash as frequently. Luckily, he didn't ever smell that gross. Just sort of like deodorant and dirt or something. It was actually kind of nice, familiar, and he never skimped on showers. They were always fast, five minutes or less, but he took one every day.
Strangely, he seemed to be okay with spending money on things he wanted. One time, when they were poking around and goofing off at a local swap meet, Dave had found some guy selling an old view camera complete with film holders, lenses, a case, and even a box of a hundred sheets of film for three hundred bucks and he nearly shit himself. Before he had a chance to run away, John had convinced Dave to let him front the cash, and he agreed immediately. Dave went through the box of film in less than two weeks, ate nothing but ramen for four, and John had never seen him so obnoxious (i.e. happy).
When it came to stuff he needed though... he continued to cut as many corners as possible. It seemed to work out okay, and John tried not to pressure him, but sometimes he wanted to shake Dave and remind him that it was fine, John had a lot of savings and inheritance money, and Dave didn't need to worry about anything. He didn't shake him though. He just sighed to himself and kept his mouth shut.
Then one day Dave's sneaker ripped. It was one of those nasty tears, right along the rubber sole from the arch all the way back to the heel. He had caught it on his bike somehow and it ripped straight through the weathered fabric. He came home sullen and dark, emanating an aura of don't fucking talk to me, and John watched him out of the corner of his eye as he yanked off the offending shoe and glared at it. It was kind of a funny image — he glowered at it like it was his arch enemy or something, oh man that was a terrible pun, file that away for later — but at the same time, it was kind of unsettling. After a few minutes, Dave stalked off to his room without a word and stayed there for the rest of the night. John left him alone.
The next morning, he saw Dave pull on those same sneakers, but the one that had ripped now sported a strip of duct tape. When John took a second to think about it, he wasn't sure if Dave even owned another pair of shoes. All he could remember were those filthy red Chuck Taylors. He figured it was a temporary solution until Dave got another pair.
Turns out, it wasn't. Dave still wore that same pair every day.
Days turned into weeks, he still wore those same trashed sneakers, and John decided he didn't like seeing them anymore. Well, they were sort of cool, he guessed; they definitely looked carelessly apathetic, which seemed to a part of Dave's crafted image, but... It was kind of sad too. For some reason. John couldn't really think of why, but he felt weird knowing that Dave was wearing shoes that were basically garbage. After a month of seeing that strip of duct tape slowly start to fray and crease and become one with the left shoe, John decided to surprise Dave. He looked up the size when Dave was in the shower and bought a new pair, same color, same everything. The next day, he gave it to him with a huge grin.
Dave just stared at the box in silence and John suddenly wondered if he did the right thing.
"You didn't have to..." Dave started and then trailed off. John snorted and raised his eyebrows.
"Uh, yeah I kinda did," he said and gestured to Dave's feet.
"Dude, Lefty's falling apart."
"Lefty's a fucking trooper, thank you very much. 'Sides, it's just a flesh wound."
"Uhh, yeah okay, maybe in post-apocalypse land where all shoes suddenly vanish or get eaten by bears or something. You seriously needed a new pair. Seriously."
"Shut up, Dave, jesus, just have your shoes and wear them too."
Dave shut up, but suddenly things were distant. Dave scrunched up his eyebrows a little and John realized he hated the shades that he had given him, because they were unfair; they hid a lot, and John was okay at reading Dave's face around the frames, but not perfect. He had no clue what Dave was thinking, if he was happy or pissed, grateful or insulted, and that sucked. That sucked because he thought that it would cheer him up, but apparently he didn't know Dave as well as he thought he did. And that just really, really fucking sucked ballsacks. He wanted to know everything about Dave, wanted to make him happy, and suddenly he didn't know how.
So he scratched the back of his neck and huffed a falsely happy-go-lucky, "All right, well I gotta get back to work, so..."
He got a short "yeah" in return and when he turned around to walk back to his room, he felt the speed of his thoughts start racing. He shut the door behind him and went straight for his phone.
Right. Whatever he wanted. Okay.
Better figure out what that was.