He’s frustrating, to say the least.
Jake English is an enigma wrapped in a bucktoothed mystery swaddled in a mixed mash up of khaki and canvas and about fifteen computers.
He’s the kind of guy who, after a good bro saves his ass and pulls him through portals and navigates the end of days and drags him to a mountaintop and tells him that he’s got feelings for him, says “Oh.”
Not a real answer or anything. Not giving any indication toward his feelings on the matter. Just “oh.”
He’s an idiot, basically, and Dirk feels that much stupider for liking him. But when he realizes nothing is going to change any time soon, he chalks it up as an unresolved conflict and soldiers on.
They troop through the medium together, wander through a mess of what is practically Jake’s island but is now full of imps and has inexplicably become muddier than ever before, and go about things as friends do.
Jake behaves alternately like a spoiled child and a stubborn old man.
No matter what, he always gets his way. When he says they should go left, they go left, and if going left lands them in the path of a vicious monster, Dirk keeps his mouth shut and fights alongside his friend and when the dust settles they high five and carry on, bros.
Jake dives into things without thinking, without questioning or planning or preparing, and it sets Dirk’s teeth on edge but hey, he guesses that’s what he’s there for. The thinking stuff. He captchalogues things he thinks they might need and hands them off to Jake later, feeling like Mary fucking Poppins with a magic bag of tricks when Jake stares at him in awe and says hilarious things like “golly” and “well you are a right smart thinking gent, aren’t you?”
It’s even funnier in person. Precious, he almost wants to say.
When Jake declares that they should take a moment off from actually getting shit done to go explore some mysterious cave or another, they explore the shit out of that cave. They sleep on cool dirt and scratch obscene pictures in the rocks to mark their path, and when Jake rolls on to his stomach and looks at Dirk from the other side of the campfire, asks thinly veiled questions about his sexuality, Dirk gives him straightforward, honest answers. They make Jake blush and scoff, regardless.
Jake doesn’t handle emotions well. He doesn’t handle much of anything well, actually, and he flusters easily, laughs things off often, or worse, gets irritated and stomps away in a huff, all “bugger and blast” and “damnation.”
He apologizes after any disagreement, takes time to cool down and then comes back to offer Dirk a handshake, explains away his unsporting behavior and makes sure that they’re still the best of bros.
Sometimes he holds onto Dirk’s hand a little too long.
He doesn’t make it easy to dwell on things, not that Dirk lets himself do so often, always rushing forward, forward, forward, always pushing ahead.
He’s incredibly proud, almost obnoxiously so. He grins over small victories and recounts tales of past battles even when Dirk shuts him down and tells him it all sounds like total bullshit.
He knows Dirk will listen no matter what, sits extra close to him so his big stupid Texan heart gets all caught up in wanting and beats a little faster, so he’ll stay still and listen to him instead of flashstepping around and obsessively checking on every little thing.
He can’t decide if Jake is oblivious or just cruel. He’s got to know what he’s doing to him, right? He smiles at him, more than his usual goofy grin, more of a smug, knowing thing, and no, he’s just being cruel.
Dirk tries not to resent him for it but fuck if it isn’t hard.
Jake is an absolute ball of energy, always moving. He jiggles his leg when he sits, twitches and shuffles and kicks in his sleep, runs in place when he thinks they’re not getting where they need to be quick enough, and more often than not he grabs hold of whatever and whoever is closest and drags them into his excitement. He throws rocks, flips branches out of his way for the fun of it, picks up the very imps he’s fighting and swings them around, laughing out loud. When he’s not thinking too hard he grabs Dirk and swings him around too, like he isn’t embarrassed to be so close.
He kisses Dirk once, when it’s dusk and they’re sidestepping through a crevice, keeping out of sight so a pack of giant two-mouthed cats won’t wake and decide they’re a fitting meal. They just get too close to avoid it, end up nose to nose, sharing a breath, and before either has a handle on the situation, Jake has pulled away and wet his lips. He whispers something about how it is absolutely thrilling to be sharing this with him.
He sidesteps out of the crevice with Dirk close behind and later, when they get a chance to talk about it, he sidesteps right out of the conversation.
Jake is caught on the borderline between adorable baby faced boy and devastatingly handsome young man, and all Dirk can think is that he’s going to improve with age. He makes him squirm now, just inside his own head where it’s totally safe to squirm and no one’s going to notice, but as he marches along behind him he imagines his friend’s shoulders a little broader, his frame a little taller, and when he drifts into some concentrated thoughts on exactly what style of facial hair would best suit his face shape, he distracts himself to the point of stumbling a bit.
He corrects himself immediately, ninja smooth as ever, but somehow Jake still sees the slip up and laughs at him, “Ha- ha!”
That second ‘ha’ is always louder, higher, like he’s made some great discovery and the discovery is him, Dirk Strider the brilliant find, the rarest artifact in a pile of shitty knockoff best bro knick knacks.
And who is he kidding? He is pretty fuckin’ fantastic.
He’d call himself a prime specimen but he’s not that much of an egomaniac.
Jake is willing to admit that much, at least, that they are the absolute best friends. It makes Dirk sigh with how often he says so, how insistent he is that there are no two young men in all the universe with a better, stronger friendship than theirs. It could weather every storm, their friendship, he says. It could very well wrap them up in a thick coat of platonically protective affection on a cold winter’s night. It could carry them to the blasted stars and back!
He lays it on a little thick, especially with the eyebrow wiggling and collar loosening and seriously, it’s beyond the point of cruelty when he flirts. He’s just making an idiot of himself.
He makes an idiot of himself a lot though, when he goes trail blazing and ends up stung by weird insects, when he goes leaping off hilly areas and lands in the mud, making a mess of everything.
He makes Dirk cringe with how badly he bangs himself up, how filthy he is, and when he announces that he’s changing clothes, to spare Dirk’s modesty, all he does is turn around and shimmy out of his muddied clothing, knowing damn well that Dirk is ogling the hell out of him.
He shakes his ass more than necessary because of it, the rat bastard.
Jake isn’t quiet often, that’s more Dirk’s thing, but when he is it’s a sign that he wants Dirk to do the talking. So Dirk talks.
He speaks softly about their goals in the game, about robotics and artificial intelligence and about what the girls are up to, about his dead brother and he feels younger than he is, younger than he’s ever felt before.
He sits on his hoverboard, legs dangling over either side, fifty feet above the hoard of imps that want to tear them limb from limb, and huddles Jake in his arms because he knows he likes this tender sort of bullshit, even if he won’t own up to it.
Jake strokes his hair sometimes, when feeling too young takes its toll and it’s his turn to be held and feel okay for a while.
He’s wise and all-knowing in his infinite idiocy, and he fires off these quick quips of advice, fortune cookie bullshit and proverbs from another era. He talks about the grandmother he never knew and about the things that bother him and puts a positive spin on it all, makes things look brighter. He stops being an asshole for a minute and Dirk remembers why he held out hope for three years.
Jake is always kind of an asshole. It’s not intentional, and Dirk can’t entirely blame him. It’s just that lack of thinking, lack of caring. He rushes into things as casually as ever and sometimes it turns out really badly.
Badly like they’re cornered by a giant fucking monster spider.
Badly like Dirk is left hanging upside-down in a web roughly the size of Montana (or maybe it’s more like ten feet wide, whatever,) with his hoverboard just out of reach, unable to help while Jake ducks and dodges and runs between the monster’s long, white legs, looking terrified and exhilarated.
“Be there in a moment, dove!” He calls from underneath the beast’s massive abdomen, and Dirk sighs because Jake is always slipping up and calling him by stupid pet names when he’s not thinking.
“Two shakes, lad,” He shouts, and if he strains his eyes Dirk can see him scaling the side of the spider’s body, laughing as it screeches, “I’ll have this old girl under control lickety split!”
Dirk hangs from sticky thread and waits, patient and impassive and carefully holding his shades in place through what is mostly will power and partly facial contortion.
He suspects he might look like kind of an idiot right now and tries not to think too hard on that. He really, really doesn’t like to be seen out of sorts.
Far below him, Jake has climbed onto the giant spider’s back and has got her in something of a headlock. He looks like he’s having fun, and Dirk wishes he could punch him from up here.
He hangs and waits and half-watches as Jake directs the enormous arachnid like he’s the king of the spider rodeo and submits to the hot pulse of hormones that take hold of him when he starts thinking of Jake in full cowboy attire.
It’s at least a pleasant line of thought to traipse through while his friend is otherwise engaged, wrangling the giant spider and directing it away, riding the damn thing back down the cliff face and out of sight.
He can still hear it though, chittering and screeching its spider noises, interwoven with the distant sound of Jake’s enthusiastic shouting.
He doesn’t worry too much, and after a single gunshot, he doesn’t worry at all.
He hangs and waits and eventually Jake comes back into view, flushed face popping up from the rocks below, glasses askew, calling up that he’ll have him loose “in a jiffy.”
Dirk rolls his eyes. He asks if Jake killed it and the look he gets in response is definitely one of chagrin.
Jake admits he’s always felt just a touch guilty about killing spiders.
Rather, he gave it a stern talking to and scared it off with a gunshot.
Either way, he reassures, it’s not coming back to bother them any time soon.
Still laughing, still out of breath, he climbs up to where the spider’s web hangs, gets a hold of Dirk’s hoverboard and climbs onto it, carefully nudges himself closer and closer till they’re face to face and he can get to work on freeing Dirk from his trapped position.
He borrows a knife, an inferior weapon, he notes, to cut away the thick web holding him.
He stops halfway through freeing one arm though, leans back to study Dirk, smiles wide and reaches up to slide his shades off.
While he’s blinking in the light, frowning at the invasion of personal space, Jake is looking into his eyes and whistling through his teeth.
Straight-faced, Dirk asks that he kindly refrain from whistling at him, as it’s hardly a gentlemanly thing to do.
He blushes at that, predictable, apologizes, just as predictable, and swears up and down he didn’t mean anything by it.
He follows that up by stroking a hand over Dirk’s cheek, a surprise that straddles the border between pleasant and torturous, and he’s smearing dirt on Dirk’s skin when he says, quietly, “But golly you do confuse me.”
Dirk maintains that he hasn’t done a damn thing to confuse anyone. He’s perfectly up front about things, except of course for what he wants to keep as a secret under lock and key, and if anyone is confusing around here, it’s one Mr. English.
Which makes him laugh, the unbelievable ass.
Once he’s done laughing though, he leans in and kisses him, careless as ever. He kisses him softly, then not so softly, pins his already trapped arm with one hand and Dirk is all too aware of how his shirt has ridden up from being upside down, how his head is pounding, how his heart is in his throat.
He is aware of just how badly Jake English is playing with him and it is endlessly frustrating.
He asks, when Jake has pulled away and resumed cutting him free as if nothing ever happened, what his intentions toward him are.
“Haven’t the foggiest, my good man,” Is his answer. Chipper, childish, absent-minded as an old man.
Which is probably the best answer he’s ever going to get.