Chapter 1: Dave: Be Incompetent
If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? You like to think so. But what if that tree is a person and the forest is Bronxville High School? Though you’d like to think that wouldn’t change anything, society is a fickle thing. Apathy is the plague of the century. You’ve seen it firsthand. When you lived in Texas, you remember seeing an old lady get her purse snatched, and as she cried for help, the crowd just shuffled on without a break in the monotony.
You would like to say that you fall outside of this category. You would like to, but it wouldn’t be the truth. You could blame your brother and your “cool kid” upbringing. You could say it’s because you didn’t have your mommy and your daddy around to raise you better. But that’s just another excuse. When it really comes down to it, people just don’t give a shit, and that’s the reality of human nature.
Your name is Dave Strider, and you are not usually prone to human philosophy. That’s more Rose’s area. But as the resident egomaniac, you tend to notice more than people give you credit for.
Like that John Egbert kid in your biology class. You know that he moved to Bronxville in your freshman year. You’ve never seen him with anybody else and you’ve never seen him utter a word. You notice these things, but they were always irrelevant details. Sure, you knew of the kid, but it never mattered. Not until now, for your teacher has partnered you with him for the enzyme lab.
You saunter over to his table, cool as ever, and take a seat next to him, putting forward a noncommittal, “Sup?”
John stares at you from behind his square-rimmed glasses with an unimpressed look. A lesser man would have faltered beneath the weight of that blue-eyed gaze. It was cold. It was a look that said, “I’m only working with you because I have to. That doesn’t mean I want anything to do with you.”
But you’re Dave motherfucking Strider, so you don’t let shit like that get to you. “So, we’ve got a lab to do.”
John isn’t even looking at you. He’s writing something in his notebook and sliding it over to you. It says, ‘well no shit.’
The corner of your mouth lifts in a smirk before you get a thought. “Hey, are you mute?”
John shrugs, scrawling another note for you. ‘sure. whatever. let’s get this over with.’
“Right. I’ll get the liver because I am wicked awesome with a blade, and you go get the graduated cylinder and the peroxide.”
John gives a little wave before standing up and you assume he’s doing what you told him. In the meantime, you head over to the counter with the liver on it. It smells strongly of raw meat and it looks kind of like dark red tofu. It was no exaggeration when you said that you are wicked awesome with a blade, so you manage to cut four pieces of about the same size and bring them back to your lab area in a petri dish. John is already waiting there with the cylinder and the hydrogen peroxide.
“So, what variable do you want to change?” you ask as you set down the liver.
John writes, ‘i dunno. pH?’
“Alright. I’ll just get some bleach and hydrochloric acid then.”
The lab goes reasonably smoothly. John’s a good worker and he diligently records the results as you dictate them. As you clean up afterward and class winds down for the bell to ring, you turn to him and say, “Yo, so do you want to just use Google Docs to do the lab write-up? That way we can both just work on it whenever and it’s not a huge clusterfuck with us scrambling to organize shit at the last minute like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off.”
‘sounds fine,’ John writes. The bell rings and you stop John to continue.
“Sicknasty. Do you have Pesterchum?”
“So we can coordinate shit. Chill, dude.”
“Sweet. I’m turntechGodhead.” You rip a piece of paper out of your binder and write your chumhandle on it for him, but when you look up he has already left the classroom. No one just abandons Dave Strider like that. “Dick.”
“Maybe he’s just had a bad day?” Jade suggests.
“I don’t know. I don’t know who took a shit in his cereal this morning, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a goddamn prick to everybody. Like shit, no wonder he’s always alone.”
Jade pouts, her neon green eyes looking even bigger than usual behind her round glasses. Your cousin Rose gazes thoughtfully at John where he sits alone at a table in the cafeteria.
“Perhaps he is like you, Dave,” she suggests.
“What the fuck are you even talking about? I don’t sit around and angst at people for saying hi. ‘Dear Diary, today someone talked to me. I am so fat. I hate everyone. No one understands me.’ I mean, come on. At least when I’m a prick I have a reason for it.”
Rose gives you a pointed look.
“Okay, most of the time I have a reason for it.”
“You do tend to hold people at a distance emotionally. Perhaps John is similar in this regard,” Rose says. “Except whereas you hide behind a façade to conceal how you really feel, John shies away from human contact entirely. This could be a result of long-standing emotional abuse, or a traumatic event in his past—“
“Yeah, yeah, we get it, Lalonde. We all know you love to flagellate your intelligence around like some great, eldritch appendage that you use to molest unsuspecting lolis in shitty hentai films. That’s great. But I have some fucking science to do and a partner who acts like I have goddamn leprosy.”
“Well you know how difficult it is for me to resist little girls. I simply find myself overcome with passionate lust.” Rose smirks at you, flipping her blonde bob gracefully.
“Gross. Who would lust after little girls?” asks Jade.
You and Rose look at each other. “We’ll tell you when you’re older,” you say.
“Oh! I’ve got an idea!” Jade exclaims.
“Do enlighten us,” says Rose.
“What if we just invite John to sit with us? If he’s scared of people, we can show him that there’s nothing to fear and he can be friends with us!”
You blurt out, “That’s stupid!” as Rose says, “That’s… actually a good idea. I am glad you suggested it, Jade.”
“Perhaps then we can find out why he is trying so hard to hide away from people.”
You groan. “You just want to subject him to your tentacle therapy.”
“And if it does him good then you have no reason to complain, do you?”
“Ugh. This is stupid.”
“Yay! I’m so excited!” Jade claps her hands like a six year old. You resist the urge to let your face drop into your lunch.
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
TG: yo egbert
TG: hey man
TG: i said hey
TG: i know you can see this jackass
EB: who is this?
TG: wow im hurt
TG: like i am just heartbroken here
TG: how can you forget me after all the times we shared together
TG: nah its just dave
EB: oh, you’re the dude from my biology class.
TG: see i knew you wouldnt forget me
TG: i told them you really cared
EB: would you get to the point instead of just babbling at me? i’ve got homework to do.
TG: i tried to give you my chumhandle earlier but you just dropped me like i was hot
TG: you abandoned me like i was a cat with aids and you just couldnt afford the veterinary bills anymore
TG: its okay you can tell the kids i ran away just like you told them their last cat did after you scraped its body from the side of the road with a shovel
TG: is that all i am to you egbert?
TG: am i the town cat bicycle that you cant keep because i went and got myself aids?
--ectoBiologist [EB] is now an idle chum!--
--turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
John’s facial expression says everything for him: You again?
“Want to have lunch with me?”
John narrows his eyes and writes a note. ‘are you bribing me for something?’
“No, dude. I just wanted to discuss the lab and shit.” You silently compliment yourself for the cover.
‘can’t you just discuss it with me now?’
“The bell’s about to ring. Come on, coach. Give me a shot. I can still play. My arm’s not that broken. I can win the gold for us.”
John chews his lip for a moment, dark blue eyes studying your face carefully for any sign of deceit. You are so fucking glad you’ve got your shades on. ‘you’re weird.’
‘what’s with the dumb anime shades? are you trying to pierce the heavens with your drill or something?’
You’re taken aback. “They’re ironic.”
‘i don’t think that’s what ironic means, dave.’
“Shut the fuck up. You don’t know shit about irony. You just cannot comprehend the levels of irony I’ve got going on here.”
‘no, i just don’t really think you know what the word means.’
“I really think you’re full of shit.”
‘whatever, dude. feel free to walk around looking like a tool as much as you like. just don’t say i didn’t warn you.’
You narrowly avoid an outburst as the bell rings. “Whatever. The shades are fucking awesome; you have no idea.” You don’t know if John ignores you or just doesn’t care to stop and write another note.
“You look distraught, Dave. Is something the matter?” Rose says with a smirk.
“Shut up, Lalonde. I am fucking liquid nitrogen cool,” you say as you take your usual seat across from her. In a moment, Jade is bounding over to sit next to Rose, long, black hair flying wildly.
“Hey, Rose! Hey, Dave! Where’s John?” she asks.
“He didn’t make it,” you say bitterly. “He fought hard and he fought well, but in the end he succumbed to the battlefield.”
Jade leans across the table to punch your shoulder. “You’re so dramatic.”
“Whatever, Harley. Guess I won’t be seeing you at the memorial.”
This time, Rose punches you.
“What the fuck? Is this National Punch a Dave Day or some shit?”
“No, it’s National Dave is an Idiot Day,” says Jade.
“Now that we have all thoroughly beat around the bush, where is John, Dave?” asks Rose.
“I just want to say that it isn’t my fault. He diverted the topic as an elaborate ruse to devise his swift escape. Bam! Fucking ninja in the night. Well, you know, if ninjas were in desperate need of orthodontists and hair conditioning.” Jade punches you again. “Will you fucking stop that?!”
“You’re usually quite stubborn and persistent, Dave,” says Rose. “Tell me, how exactly did he manage to get you off topic?” The shit-eating grin on her face says that she has a good idea.
Fuck. Bail! “Who in the fuck cares? Shit happened; I got over it. I am still cool as a cucumber. In fact, I’m far cooler. Cucumbers are green with envy over how cool I am. And my shades are the cherry on top of this damn cool, motherfucking cake.”
“Who ever mentioned your shades, Dave?”
Shit. “I did. You got a problem with that? You got a problem with my shades?”
“No, Dave. Nobody has a problem with your shades. Is that, perhaps, what John mentioned?”
Shitfuck. Dammit. “No, man. He thinks they’re awesome too. Everyone does. It’s not even in question, it’s just an accepted fact.”
Jade giggles behind her hands, and Rose has an obnoxiously triumphant look on her face as she mutters, “Jackpot.”
“Guys. Guys, no.” Fuck your life.
From somewhere behind you, you hear a snort. You whip your head around to see John at his table, covering his mouth with a hand, eyes squinting with laughter. His eyes meet yours through your shades and he looks away immediately, all signs of his outburst gone in an instant.
Was he laughing at you?
Now it’s on. It’s on like Donkey Kong playing a few rounds of Mah-jong with the eternal Shen-Lung. That little bitch was laughing at you.
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
TG: word on the street is youve taken to watching me at lunch
TG: its okay
TG: i cant say i blame you
TG: i mean id stalk me too if i wasnt already me thus rendering the gesture an entirely pointless venture but i digress
EB: what the actual fuck are you talking about?
TG: i saw you laughing at me at lunch time today
EB: i wasn’t laughing at you.
TG: okay so you were laughing with me
EB: no, what you and your friends were talking about is really none of my business, and it’s not like i care anyways.
EB: because i don’t.
TG: no man its okay
TG: i totally understand
TG: im kind of a big deal
EB: oh my god.
TG: shh no more words bro
TG: i get it
TG: its this feeling you get that you just cant control
TG: and it starts with a beat and you just let it roll
TG: and when you hold it back you know its gonna take a toll
TG: so you can confide in me because i just gotta know
EB: oh my god.
TG: i realize not every man is all straight laced
TG: and i know not just a girl can have a pretty face
TG: so its nothing rude if you be digging a dude
--ectoBiologist [EB] blocked turntechGodhead [TG]--
“Bro, how do you talk to dudes?”
“Hmm?” Bro lowers the copy of Love Hina he’s ironically reading to look up at you.
“There’s this guy, and I’m just trying to fucking talk to him, and he gets all weirded out or starts twisting shit on me and I don’t know how the fuck to just talk to him. And then I have to introduce him to Rose and Jade and—“
Bro sets down his manga as you’re talking and envelopes you in a tender embrace. “It’s okay, lil man,” he says. “I’m glad you’ve finally decided to talk to me about it.”
“What are you even talking about?”
“You know, you didn’t need to hide it for as long as you did. I’m gay too, Dave.”
“What? No, no. Bro, no. That’s not what I’m even—“ The rest of your words get smothered as Bro draws your face into his man bosom.
“Shh. It’s okay, little dude. You don’t have to hide it anymore. I’m proud of you, lil man. You’re growing up. I have so much to talk to you about.”
“Oh god. Bro, no. Listen to me, you’re not understanding—“
“DON’T YOU DARE HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX. Shit, you probably don’t even know how to have sex with another dude. I’ll be right back; let me get my smuppets. You have to tell me all about your special man.”
“No, Bro! No! I’m not gay!”
“Man, to deny it at this point is just sad.”
“No, dude. Stop it!”
Bro steps back and watches you with his arms crossed.
You take a deep breath and let it out. “Look, I’m not gay. This dude is my lab partner and I’m trying to coordinate shit with him, but he won’t give me the time of day. I just don’t know how to get him to actually talk to me.”
Bro stares at you for a moment. A second later, he flash-steps away and returns to shove the bulbous rump of a bright orange smuppet in your face. As you choke on the voluptuous material he says, “Still gay,” and proceeds to flash-step back to the couch to continue reading his manga.
No one must ever know of this exchange.
John doesn’t speak to you the next day. When you try to get his attention, he just keeps walking as if he never heard you. The next few days after are no better. He hasn’t unblocked you yet either. When you check on the Google Document for your project, you can see that he’s done work on it; he just refuses to talk to you. You can’t tell if Rose and Jade are more annoyed or amused. Rose finally gets fed up and just demands you to give her his chumhandle. You’re admittedly, reluctant, but maybe Lalonde will have better luck than you. This kid is more goddamn trouble than he’s worth.
--tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
TT: Is this John Egbert?
EB: yes. who are you?
TT: My name is Rose Lalonde. I am a companion of Dave’s.
EB: um, okay. why did you add me?
TT: Because as dear as Dave is to me, he is incompetent and his social skills are rather lacking.
EB: are you his girlfriend or something?
EB: not like it’s my business or anything.
TT: No, I am not. I am his cousin and a friend.
EB: oh. sorry then.
EB: so what does this have to do with me?
TT: I simply wanted to apologize for Dave’s uncouth behaviour and extend to you an invitation to join us for lunch on Monday.
EB: no offense, but why would you do that? you don’t even know me.
TT: It’s a good opportunity to get to know you then, isn’t it?
EB: i guess.
TT: Glad you agree with me.
TT: Shall I see you tomorrow then?
EB: what? i never agreed to this.
TT: Excellent. I look forward to meeting you in person, John.
--tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
EB: what the fuck?
It’s John who approaches you on Monday with a note already prepared and a reluctant grimace.
‘so i guess im having lunch with you.’
You raise an eyebrow. “Really? Let me check my busy schedule to see if I can make room for you…”
John rolls his eyes. ‘fine then. i guess i won’t if it’s so much of a hassle for you.’
“No. Relax, dude; I’m joking. Come on, I’ll bring you before the council.”
The council, of course, is Rose and Jade. Rose’s black-painted lips quirk upward when she settles her amethyst gaze on you as you approach with John in tow. Jade’s grin grows into a vibrant smile and she’s practically vibrating with excitement in her seat.
“John,” you say when you arrive, “this is Rose, and this is Jade. And you guys already know about him.”
John gives the two girls a hesitant wave.
Jade immediately leaps out of her chair and takes John’s hand in both of hers, shaking it vigorously. “Hi, I’m Jade! I’m so glad to finally meet you! We could have gotten this over with way sooner but Dave’s a dummy.”
John withdraws his hand with a mildly concerned look when Jade releases it. As he sits down, Rose smiles up at him politely and says, “Hello, John. It is nice to see you in person.” John gives her a nod and a fleeting smile.
“There. Look,” you say, “we’re all a big happy goddamn family. Now let’s eat.”
Jade happily chatters away at John as you eat and you catch him smiling in amusement a few times before writing a reply. Rose watches on with an uncharacteristically gentle expression. You find yourself wanting to scowl. Rose and Jade wouldn’t have even known John Egbert existed if you hadn’t brought him to their attention, and now they’re acting like he’s some golden boy and the sun shines out of his ass. Meanwhile you feel like you’re being completely ignored. This is some serious bullshit.
Rose glances at your face and, upon seeing something there (and god knows how), smirks like the she-devil she is.
Goddammit, you wish she wasn’t so perceptive.
As lunch comes to a close, Rose says, “Well, John, we have enjoyed your company very much this hour. I think I speak for all of us when I say that you are more than welcome to share lunch with us for the rest of the week; and for as long as you like in the future afterward, if you should so wish it.”
John’s eyes widen slightly and he draws his eyebrows together. ‘uh, sure, i guess.’
“Excellent,” Rose exclaims. “I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.”
“On Wednesdays we wear pink,” you add. Jade punches you in the arm.
You regret nothing.
Chapter 2: Dave: Have Your Jimmies Rustled
The amount of positive feedback I have been receiving for this fic so far is overwhelming. I am very grateful to all of you and I thank you so much for your continued support.
And thank you, Broseph.
You stare at your computer screen as if your gaze alone will make the dulled letters in your chums list turn deep blue. John hasn’t unblocked you yet. It’s been two days and John still hasn’t unblocked you yet. He writes to you in class when you approach him, but it’s still always with this snarky attitude that could give Lalonde a run for her money. She’ll have to fight for her title as the snarky broad if this keeps up.
But the thing that aggravates you the most about it is that you don’t know why John acts so weird with you. He and Jade are like two peas in a pod, and he seems to have some kind of mutual respect for Rose. You don’t know what you could have possibly done to turn him off of you so much. You’re Dave motherfucking Strider; what’s not to love?
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
TG: when did you get so chummy with egbert?
TT: And hello to you too, Dave.
TT: To what do I owe this pleasure?
TG: im not in the damn mood lalonde
TG: whats egberts deal with me?
TT: I am afraid you are going to have to elaborate.
TT: I cannot assess the situation without a proper knowledge of what your circumstances even are.
TT: Believe it or not, I can’t read minds.
TG: hes just so goddamn standoffish and i dont know what the hell i did to piss him off so much
TG: like ill go to talk to him and his attitude is just like oh great its this guy again
TG: i would much rather cut off my own testicles and serve them up on a silver platter as a sacrifice to pazuzu than associate with him
TG: and when i do talk to him its like asking 4chan to rate my pics
TG: did you know he hasnt even unblocked me yet?
TT: Are you done?
TG: now im done
TT: Perhaps your lack of sincerity unsettles him. Did you ever think about that?
TG: coming from you
TT: While I may dabble in passive aggression from time to time, it is not an aspect of my personality that defines who I am or how I behave toward others.
TT: Your “irony”, however, is a trait you allow to shape your everyday interactions, thus masking all the integral components of who you really are.
TT: Because you try so hard to hide your vulnerabilities behind that persona, it makes you seem more mechanical, so to speak.
TT: Less trustworthy.
TG: wow lalonde
TG: that was a whole lot of bullshit
TG: just a heaping pile of fresh bovine excrement
TG: i could sell this shit as premium quality fertilizer and farmers would be lining up to get some of this shit
TG: theyd be making all kinds of mad cash from all the crops theyre growing
TG: americas agriculture businesses would expand and bam
TG: the economy is saved thanks to doc lalonde
TT: You see, Dave?
TT: This is exactly what I’m talking about.
TT: You’re not impressing anyone; and certainly not John.
TT: You asked for my advice and I gave it.
TG: when did i ever ask you for advice?
TT: It was implied.
TT: Good day to you, Strider.
--tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
--gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
GG: rose is annoyed with you :/
TG: well hello to you too harley
GG: shes just trying to help and you have to be such a dick all the time!!
TG: i dont really see why thats your problem
GG: because youre taking out your grumpiness on everyone else for no good reason! >:(
GG: just because youre jealous of john doesnt mean you have to be an ass
TG: woah woah
TG: who said anything about john?
GG: rose did
TG: goddammit lalonde
GG: well even if she didnt you make it pretty friggin obvious!
GG: youre just acting like a spoiled brat when he didnt even do anything wrong
GG: youre sixteen dave
TG: are you kidding me? he didnt do anything?
TG: the guy is a complete douchebag whenever i try to talk to him
TG: im fucking trying to make nice and you guys keep pulling your condescending bullshit when i get frustrated because he wont fucking cooperate with me
TG: im making an effort
TG: it just isnt working and i dont fucking know why
GG: im sorry dave :(
TG: yeah me too
TG: im sorry i blew up at you like that
GG: you should probably go apologize to rose too :/
TG: as much as i really hate the idea of giving her the satisfaction
TG: i better do that
TG: or else shell probably put some ancient curse on me that she got from one of her lovecraft stories
TG: ill be sprouting random ass limbs for the rest of my life
TG: tentacles will rage from my every orifice
TG: all will submit to my wriggling despairmakers lest they be touched inappropriately
GG: haha probably! :)
TG: later then harley
GG: take care dave
--turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG]--
Your name is Dave Strider and you are losing your cool. This kind of thing shouldn’t even be possible. You may not be a complete socialite, but you’re not used to being ostracized either. It just never happens. John can’t be an all-around terrible guy; if he was, there’s no way Jade and Rose would happily associate with him and include him in the group. So that means that the problem must be you. And now you’re even getting pissed at them, and it’s all because of what, some dorky kid who has a problem with you for no reason?
No; you’re not going to let this fuck things up for you. You’re in a good place right now. Bro hasn’t been touring abroad since July and you’ve got two good friends who have got your back. You can’t keep going to Jade and Lalonde about this, and after last week, going to Bro is definitely out of the question. You have to do this shit on your own.
He rolls his eyes and writes a note to you. ‘what is it this time?’
“Rude. Just because I’m talking to you doesn’t mean I want something from you. I talk to you all the time,” you say.
Unfortunately, says the look on John’s face.
“We should hang out some time.”
John chokes on his spit for a second. Ha ha, loser. ‘what? why?’
You came prepared for this. You were born for this moment. “Why not? We can play some video games and shit at my house, and if you’re worried about homework we can work on it together just because I’m so charitable.”
John works his mouth a bit as he seems to consider your words, his overbite peeking out from between his lips every so often. ‘why are you trying so hard to make me like you?’
“What are you talking about? I’m not trying anything. Striders don’t have to try to make anyone like them.” You puff out your chest a bit for effect.
The corner of John’s mouth quirks slightly. ‘rose has you spot on.’
You aren’t expecting that. “What has she said about me?”
‘probably nothing she hasn’t already said to you, from the sounds of it. you’re kind of dense.’
“And now you’re insulting me to my face. I’m hurt, Egbert. I am very, very hurt. This is just like the time my prom date ditched me for that shameless whore. I thought he loved me, Egbert. We were going to have beautiful, beautiful babies together.”
‘are you gay?’ John raises his eyebrow.
What? “What’s it to you?”
John shrugs. ‘nothing. i’ll see about hanging out. i’ll just have to text my dad first.’
“Wait, so you actually will?”
‘i guess, if you’re so desperate.’
You lean back, adjusting your shades. “Cool. Let me know at the end of lunch.”
Rose doesn’t talk to you much at lunch, and she’s colder to you than usual. You know it’s just to punish you for yesterday. Jade throws you a few mildly apologetic looks that say, I told you so, but for the most part the girls just pay attention to John. At the end of lunch, John shows you the screen of his PDA (what high school kid carries around a PDA anyways?). There’s an affirmative message from his father displayed about going to your house after school. You raise your hand for a fist bump and John just kind of stares at you with a raised eyebrow before going back to writing messages to Rose and Jade.
Perhaps this won’t be so easy after all.
John meets you at the school doors so that you can walk to your apartment complex together. John seems content to simply walk in silence. You struggle to find something to say.
“How was the rest of your day? I hope you didn’t miss me too much.”
John rolls his eyes and doesn’t even bother trying to communicate with you. Dammit.
You’re still trying to think of something by the time you reach the building, and the best you can think of to say is, “Welp, home sweet home.” He doesn’t respond, so you just lead him up the stairs to the top floor, unlock your door and walk the dinosaur into your apartment. John gives you an odd look. You choose to ignore it. “Welcome to my humble abode. Make yourself at home and shit. No seriously, my bathroom’s that way. Anything I can get you? Food? Beverage? Condoms?”
John looks around at the place skeptically, his gaze resting on your brother’s décor.
One thing you should say about your brother: he has a thing for puppets; puppet pornography in particular. You have never been sure how much of it was ironic and how much was him seriously being into puppets. You have always been sure that you don’t want to know. He has this ventriloquist puppet named Lil Cal that he has used to help raise you since you were a little kid. You have a bit of a soft spot for Cal, even if he kind of creeps you out sometimes (all the time). Bro’s main source of income is also a website that hosts puppet pornography starring his own brand of home-made puppets he likes to call Smuppets. They have elephantine rumps and long, phallic noses, and they’re always scattered all over the house or set up in traps for you to stumble upon. You would never bring a date back here.
So as John stares at the erotic puppet paraphernalia, you find yourself compelled to say, “It’s my bro’s stuff.”
He looks at you and raises his eyebrows awkwardly as if to say, “I see.”
Great. You haven’t even done anything and you’re already fucking everything up. The only thing you can be thankful for at this moment is that Bro’s not home. You clear your throat. “So, want to play some video games? We can play Nazi Zombies on Xbox Live.”
John shrugs and you assume it means a yes, so you hop over the couch to sit on the cushions and pat the spot next to you where John hesitantly joins you. You scoop up the controllers and hand him one before turning on the console.
For a while the two of you just mindlessly shoot at zombies without a single word. It’s kind of depressing, really. Here you were hoping for the chance to show John that hey, you’re actually a pretty cool guy, and all you’ve accomplished is winning a shitty achievement on Xbox Live. Fuck you, Xbox Live. You have no meaning in real life.
Eventually the two of you get hungry and you make some Kraft Dinner for supper. With it, you drink from bottles of apple juice that you successfully snagged from the fridge without disturbing the array of shitty swords that dwells within its frozen depths. It tastes of victory. What doesn’t taste of victory is the fact that John has barely written a word to you all evening. The thought leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
You are honest to god doing homework side by side before you finally can’t take it anymore. This is enough bullshit. You will save the economy no more. You slam your pencil onto your notebook.
“Fuck, Egbert! What the hell am I supposed to do, walk on my hands over hot coals for you? Effin’ Christ! All I want to do is fuckin’ talk to you and every time I try, you’re a huge dick to me. An enormous, gargantuan, black cock. I feel like that little fuckin’ dog from Looney Tunes that’s like, ‘Hey, Spike? What are we doin’ today, Spike? Oh boy, Spike!’ and you’re the big bulldog that just does not give a single fuck whatsoever.” Your Texan accent is twanging all over the goddamn place and you do not even care. “I’m tryin’ to be a nice dude. I’m tryin’ to be a friend to you. What the hell did I ever do to piss you off so bad that you treat me like dirt?” Your pokerface has cracked.
John watches you impassively for a moment before writing a note. ‘this is the most genuine i have ever seen you act. usually you just hide behind your irony and lame metaphors. to be honest, it really just makes you look like a douche.’
You fucked up. You lost it on him and now he isn’t even going to talk to you at all. Great job, Dave. That was a real pristine job.
John suddenly cracks a smile.
‘you should get some better shades, dude. those ones don’t suit you.’
“They’re fucking awesome shades,” you say. “I got them from my bro and he’s got matching ones.”
‘well maybe you should do your own thing? apparently your brother likes puppet porn, so maybe you don’t want to follow in his footsteps.’
“Yeah, well when you find something better, let me know.” You mean to be sarcastic, but there ends up being a slightly sincere tone to your voice that you don’t like.
‘will do, strider. you know, you’re not as bad as you’d like people to think. you’re kind of a geek.’
“I am not,” you protest.
He gives a little breathy chuckle. ‘whatever helps you sleep at night, man. anyways, i should probably get going. i’ll see you tomorrow?’
Later that night when you go on Pesterchum, a message pops up that says:
--ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
EB: hey, dave!
Mission fucking accomplished.
Chapter 3: Dave: Advance Social Links
As always, for Zipra, and thank you to Broseph.
All in all, your interactions with John don’t change much. He’s still a witty asshole and you’re still as cool as ever (i.e., he still says you talk like a douchebag), but now there’s a different tone to it. Whereas before, John seemed to genuinely find you annoying, now he has this mischievous glint to his eye when he insults you. Smug prick.
Even after your enzyme lab was finished and handed in (how the hell was researching cheese relevant? What the hell?), you decided to remain seated next to John. At first the teacher protested, but when you said that you can speak on his behalf, she changed her mind. Now John will write down answers to questions in class discussions for you to vocalize, and damn, that kid is smart.
That is, when he’s actually participating and not passing notes and doodles to you.
John has become a permanent fixture among your group of friends. Jade adores him, Rose finds him charming, and he and you are always snickering at something or other when you’re not trading barbed comments. You tell him about your webcomic, Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, and when you bring it up on your phone to show him, he laughs his ass off in that little, breathy way he does.
‘this is fucking retarded! people actually read this shit?’
“That’s the point, asswipe. It’s so shitty it’s ironic,” you say.
‘i still don’t really get the irony thing, but whatever.’
The longer you get to know John, the more you learn about him. For one thing: you didn’t notice before that he never wears shirts with short sleeves. And as you talk with him more online, you come to find that John is something of an insomniac. You’re a bit of a night owl, so this arrangement works perfectly between the two of you.
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
TG: sup egbert
EB: not much, seeing as it’s 3am.
TG: then in an hour you have to make chocolate pudding
EB: why would i make chocolate pudding at 4 in the morning?
TG: because you have lost control of your life
TG: oh man i just thought of something fucking awesome
EB: you always claim to think of something fucking awesome at 3am.
TG: no man i really mean it this time
EB: you also really meant it the time you suggested creating super-soldiers by splicing human and dolphin dna.
TG: think about it dude dolphins have like fucking echolocation
TG: and the sex would be great
EB: …i never want to picture you having sex with a human-dolphin hybrid again.
EB: where’s my supply of brain bleach when i need it?
TG: why were you picturing me having sex with a dolphin person john?
TG: do you want some of these strider buns?
TG: fresh out of the oven and piping hot
TG: but im warning you bro these things are pretty expensive
TG: i mean this is a grade quality right here
TG: enriched with essential nutrients and everything
TG: they even got little goddamn crosses on them
TG: you really cannot get better buns anywhere else
EB: oh man. i don’t know if i can afford that, dave.
TG: ill tell you what
TG: just because youre my friend ill get you a discount
EB: oh boy!
TG: anyways back to my awesome idea
TG: i know im sorry
TG: we were having such fun
EB: …yeah. why don’t we go with that, if it makes you feel better?
TG: fuck you
EB: rude. buy me dinner first!
TG: anyways what i was going to say before i was so rudely interrupted
TG: were like the watchmen
TG: youre the nite owl because youre a geeky insomniac
TG: jade is dr manhattan since shes all into physics and shit
TG: and rose is the silk spectre
EB: wouldn’t i be dr. manhattan? my name is already john.
TG: fuck you youre nite owl
TG: so have fun banging rose
EB: actually, in that case, wouldn’t she have fun banging jade?
TG: oh dude youre right
TG: sweet hot yuris
EB: and who does that make you?
TG: im rorschach of course
EB: of course.
TG: because hes awesome and badass
TG: and im awesome and badass
TG: perfect match no?
EB: you are such a dumb butt.
TG: come on egbert why do you have to be like that
EB: you are so much of a butt, it’s like your anus is a black hole that consumes everything around it and makes them smell like butt too.
TG: then that must mean you smell the worst
EB: no thank you.
TG: why not
EB: because fuck you.
EB: fuck you is why.
TG: buy me dinner first
You like your middle of the night conversations with John the best. When he’s under the influence of sleep deprivation, it’s easier to joke around with him, and he’s more willing to indulge you as well. You trade music, porn (come on, you guys are sixteen. What do you expect?), and random videos that make you laugh.
You’ve never had this much ease opening up to a person before, and you wonder if it’s the same for him. Sure, you talk to Jade and Lalonde a lot; but Rose has to drag confessions out of you through ridiculous, roundabout means, and you usually censor yourself a bit with Jade. You may not talk about deep shit with John like you do with Rose or act as amicable with him as you do with Jade, but that’s because he doesn’t need it. He can take the full Strider experience without any reigns or sugar-coating. It’s refreshing, and it makes you want to show him more of who you really are.
Within a two weeks, John finally pops the question.
“So.” Bro smirks at you, resting his chin in his hand like a 50s housewife. You groan inwardly. “Egbert’s finally bringing you home to meet his father.”
“Dude, don’t put it like that,” you say. “It’s not like we’re dating or anything and he’s bringing me home for Daddy’s approval.”
“Isn’t he though?” Bro raises an eyebrow. “Isn’t this the kid you asked me for advice about before?”
“We are not talking about that, Bro. We do not talk about that in this house. It is a forbidden topic.”
He reclines in his seat on the futon, putting his arms behind his head. “Riiight.”
You ignore him and grab a box of apple juice from the fridge.
“So when do I get to meet him?”
You immediately do a classic spit-take. “What?! Hopefully, never.”
“Come on. Don’t I get to meet your sweet baboo?”
“He is not my sweet baboo.” You suddenly freeze, realizing what you just said. “Did you seriously just…?”
“Yep.” Bro looks smug.
“I can’t believe I walked right into that.”
“Ironic Charlie Brown reference secured.”
“You are such a fucking idiot.”
“Love you too, little bro.” He rolls onto his stomach and now rests his chin on both hands, crossing his legs in the air behind him innocently.
You make a noise of frustration and go to your room.
TT: So, are you nervous?
TG: what the fuck would i be nervous about?
TT: Meeting John’s father tomorrow.
TG: why does everyone put it that way?
TG: and no im not fucking nervous
TG: i am fucking chill as ever
TG: i am liquid nitrogen levels of chill up in here
TT: Who are you assuring? Me or yourself?
TG: oh come off it
TT: What are you nervous about?
TG: im not nervous
TG: im just mildly not at all concerned
TT: About what?
TG: i dunno its just
TG: johns disabled right
TG: since hes mute and all
TG: what if his dad is all overprotective and shit because of that?
TG: i just got the kid to actually start talking to me id rather not lose that already
TG: its pretty soon to be fucking up
TT: As opposed to “fucking up” later?
TT: I’m sure you will be fine, Dave.
TG: i dont know lalonde
TG: what if he chases me from the house with a shotgun?
TT: Did you have sex with John and impregnate him?
TG: what the fuck? no!
TG: there will be no mpregs here
TG: thats not allowed in america
TG: or anywhere
TG: that is restricted to the land of shitty fanfiction
TG: does this look like the land of shitty fanfiction to you?
TT: Then you have nothing to worry about.
TT: From what John has told me, his father is a very kind and open-minded man.
TG: well see i guess
TG: it will be the ultimate test
TT: Stop freaking out, Dave.
--tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
TG: im not freaking out
TG: fuck you signed out too fast
--turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
After school the next day, you walk home with John. You are definitely not nervous or flipping the fuck out. Nope. Not you. You stop at a convenience store to get a snack for the road. But finally, the moment is upon you. John opens the door and knocks on the wall, probably to inform his father that he’s home. A man walks into the living room from the kitchen, clad in a clean, pressed shirt and tie, and a white fedora with a black ribbon.
Oh shit. This guy is clean cut as fuck. You are definitely not freaking out. Definitely not freaking out. Definitely not freaking ou—
A pie pan full of whipped cream smacks into your face. John is laughing his ass off and you hear his breathy chuckles joined by a deep male voice. You hear the sound of flesh hitting flesh. They just fucking high fived, didn’t they?
You remove the pan from your face and lick the whipped cream from your lips before wiping it out of your eyes. Sure enough, they’re giggling like nuns reading Fifty Shades of Grey in the back of church.
Still snickering, John’s dad comes up to you and extends his hand. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you, son. You can just call me Dad.”
Your mouth twists in a slightly skeptical expression and you take his hand gingerly to shake it. “I’m Dave Strider.” While John’s dad has dark hair, he doesn’t look all that much like John. Weird.
John’s dad turns to him and makes some weird gestures with his hands, and John answers with even more hand signals. You realize that they must be using sign language. John writes a note and hands it to you.
‘come on. i’ll show you to the bathroom so you can get cleaned up.’
As you wash off the whipped cream over the sink, you say to John, “Jesus. I didn’t know your dad had a prankster’s gambit too. Is that a thing with you Egberts?”
John chuckles and holds his notebook in front of you. ‘yeah, pretty much. technically i’m just an honorary egbert though.’
“What do you mean?”
“Huh. I wondered why your dad didn’t look like you.”
‘hehe. yeah, that would explain it.’
You don’t even consider asking John about why he was adopted. Adoption stories are never good. John seems happy with his adoptive father now, so that’s all that matters; there’s no use in bringing up painful memories.
You go to John’s room and holy shit does he have terrible taste in movies. You poke fun at his posters and he brushes you off.
‘you’re just too caught up in irony to appreciate genuine good taste.’
“No, dude. Your taste is just fucking terrible.”
You push each other around a bit and end up having a short-lived wrestling match that ends with John sitting triumphantly on your back. The kid may be shorter than you, but he’s a lot stronger than he looks. The two of you chat some more and he shows you some of his stuff (“A magician’s kit? Really, John? And is that a Ouija board?”) before you settle down to play some videogames. You and John are pretty evenly matched in that department. The time practically flies by and soon enough, John’s dad is calling the two of you down for dinner.
Holy cock and balls on a cricket field, Dadbert is a fucking great cook.
He made a roast chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and sliced sweet potatoes glazed with maple syrup. It is goddamn heavenly.
You place a slice of sweet potato and make a sound of satisfaction as it practically melts in your mouth. “It’s like an orgasm in my mouth,” you say. “This is amazing, Dadbert.”
“Thank you.” He gives you an odd look; either for the comment or for calling him Dadbert. Oh well. It’s not a look of disapproval, and that’s all that matters.
When you finish eating, you help clean up, and then John’s dad comes out with angel food cake. Yep. You’re in heaven.
John groans. You shoot him a look.
“What’s wrong with you?” you hiss.
John writes a note. ‘it’s not that i hate cake, my dad just bakes obsessively. after a while you get sick of it. and he always insists on buying betty crocker mix. what the fuck? i swear that bitch makes everything. she’s like a brand whore.’
You snort and roll your eyes, but decide not to comment on it. “Whatever, dude. More for me.”
After dessert, John’s dad gives you a ride back to your apartment building and you thank him and John for having you over before giving John a parting fist bump. You’re feeling damn good; better than you’ve felt in a while. When you get up to your floor, you’re practically whistling as you go through the door and call out to Bro to let him know you’re home. Silence answers back at you. Maybe he got called in to DJ.
You head to the kitchen for some apple juice and your gaze falls on a note and two hundred dollar bills. The note says simply, ‘Dave, I’m so fucking sorry.’ The light on the kitchen phone is blinking, signifying a message. You already know what it is and who it’s from, but you press the play button anyways. Bro’s tinny voice comes out of the machine.
“Dave…” A sigh. “Dave, I can’t tell you how sorry I am. There was a group of electro bands and DJs touring together, and one of the DJs on tour had to bail due to a family emergency. So I got called in. It’s a month long tour. I took a look at the schedule, and judging from where I’ll be, I don’t think I’ll be able to make your birthday. I may be able to make Christmas though. I’m sorry, man. I feel fucking awful.
“I already bought your birthday present. It’s in my closet, so you can feel free to grab that when your birthday arrives. Or whenever. I’m not stopping you. I know I promised, but I figured I can get you more shit for Christmas while I’m out and about. I know that me being there is more important to you though, and for that I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t have to leave. But I promise I’ll be home for Christmas.” Bro pauses. “I have to go now. I love you, Da—“
You stop the answering machine before Bro’s voice finishes speaking. You don’t know if you can stand to hear any more right now. You sink down to the kitchen floor and hug your knees.
God fucking dammit.
You don’t want to go to school. You don’t want to have to get up and face people and pretend everything’s okay. You don’t want to have to keep up your image. You don’t even want to move from your bed.
But you have to.
Whether you like it or not (and you don’t), you have to keep going to your classes and please your teachers. Though you’d never tell Rose, you’re actually pretty fucking smart in school. You’d like to get a scholarship, but to do that you can’t just mope around at home because Bro’s gone.
So you drag your ass out of bed and force yourself to go to school. John pokes at you in biology class, trying to get your attention. You ignore him. You also ignore Jade when she calls you over to have lunch with her, Rose and John. Instead you go out to the bleachers. You rush to your locker at the end of the day and walk home alone, where you immediately flop down on your bed, do your homework, and go to sleep.
You miss Lil Cal.
You miss Bro.
Your Pesterchum app on your phone is blinking as multiple someones message you; green for Jade, purple for Rose, and blue for John.
You toss your phone onto the floor of your room.
The next day, Jade, Rose and John still try desperately to catch your attention to no avail. On the way home from school, you find a large, dead beetle that you take home to dissect. You identify it as a specimen of alaus oculatus, commonly known as a click beetle. You carefully remove the wing cover and cut the wing from its thorax with a scalpel to observe under the kiddie microscope Bro got you when you were eleven. You absorb yourself completely in your meticulous work, and it works well as a distraction. When you finish, you place the remains in a jar with a number of other insect corpses you have dissected in the past and place it back on its shelf next to a jar containing a two-headed rat fetus preserved in formaldehyde.
Then you’re back to reality.
John holds on the longest. By the end of the week, he is the only one who refuses to relent. Rose must have convinced Jade that it was a lost cause. Under normal circumstances, you would appreciate the gesture from John. Right now though, you just wish he would stop.
He finally catches you at your locker after school on Friday. He thrusts his notebook into your face angrily.
‘quit your fucking moping and come with me.’
Can’t really argue with that.
You sigh and roll your eyes, but you reluctantly walk with John to his house. He sits you on the couch in the harlequin-infested living room and furiously writes a long message before slapping it down on your lap and getting up to go to the kitchen.
‘i don’t know what your problem with me is, but you need to stop. i thought shit went pretty well on monday but i guess not, seeing as now you’re avoiding us all like the fucking plague. you can’t tell me this is your irony bullshit either. you need to tell me what the hell is going on. you’re my best bro. i don’t want to lose you just because you’re being a butt-hurt douche over something.’
You frown. You didn’t think John would assume the problem was him. You look up as you hear him re-enter the living room. He sits beside you, but he doesn’t look at you. He’s just waiting for your response.
You swallow. “Look, John, this isn’t about you. I’m not mad at you for anything; you didn’t do anything wrong. I just want to be alone for a while. Sorry, dude.” You stand up and wring your hands. “I’m just gonna head home. I’ll talk to you whenever I feel less shitty, okay?”
John grabs your wrist as you start to walk away and you yank it out of his grip, speed-walking to the door. You turn the knob and you’re just about to step outside when something stops you.
It wasn’t a note scrawled on a piece of paper.
John Egbert, who speaks to his dad with sign language and communicates with everyone else through the use of notes, just called your name aloud.
Chapter 4: John: Unrustle Dave's Jimmies
I want to thank all of my readers for your continued support. It feels good, man. I can't even vocalize all these feels.
Nightmares are a common occurrence for you. You don’t get them as much as you used to, and they never make you terrified to sleep anymore, but their return is as inevitable as a cloudy day in Washington state. On the rare occasion, you’ll end up wiping a few tears away upon waking up, but you haven’t needed your dad to come running to your aid in years. When you were smaller, he would cradle you in his arms and wipe away the tears for you, whispering reassurances that everything was okay and he would always keep you safe and he was so, so proud of you. Moving to New York helped; new scenery; new people; nothing to remind you of how things were before.
Every morning, your dad reminds you to take your medication, and every morning, you tell him that you’re sixteen, not six. You don’t need his reminders anymore. He continues to remind you anyways. It’s a part of your everyday routine, like brushing your teeth and contemplating masturbating in the shower.
Life used to be pretty bleak, and you felt bad for lying to your dad every day about how much fun school was and how happy you were to be here. Granted, Bronxville was way better than Washington, but you didn’t have anyone here. You don’t ever want to see that look on Dad’s face again; that look of self-disappointment and inadequacy when he found out you—
No. You couldn’t ever let him look that way again. You love your dad, and so you lie because it makes him happy. It makes him feel like he’s done something right, and he has. You just don’t want to deal with people anymore.
Or at least that was the case before you met Dave Strider.
If you wanted to be witty, you’d make a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air remix about how Dave Strider got your life flipped, turned upside down. At first you thought he was a tremendous douche, but at the same time you were grateful to him. He made your lies a reality.
You looked forward to your energetic conversations with Jade and Rose’s elegant tones. Hell, you even enjoyed poking fun at Dave; he would make this little pouty face and stick out his lower lip slightly, and you don’t think he was even aware he was doing it. You would point it out to Rose and she would cover her mouth, saying she knows, and it’s kind of adorable. Adorable like a five year old pouting after being denied candy. That’s what it reminded you of.
Dave was full of shit. He always tried to act like he was so confident and cool, but you could tell he was just talking himself up, playing peacock even when there were no hens to impress.
EB: i don’t get why he does it. i would be far more willing to get along with him if he wasn’t so fake.
TT: It’s his defense mechanism.
TT: Dave has what is called an Inferiority Complex. He is constantly comparing himself to others and constantly finding himself lacking in some way or another. To make up for these feelings of incompetence, he acts cocksure and egotistical. It’s his way of coping.
EB: so to make up for feeling like a useless dickhead, he acts like a douchebag?
TT: Pretty much.
Rose offers a lot of clarity where you don’t understand, but sometimes she can become unsettling. She’ll make subtle probes at topics you would really rather not discuss. Luckily, she knows when to back off, but it still makes you wary for the next time.
Jade is the easiest to talk to. She’s sweet and thoughtful, and she also helps you out with your math and physics homework. You just want to adopt her yourself.
The first time Dave really stood out to you was when you were at his house and he finally lost it on you. Even though he still spoke in those weird, convoluted metaphors, you knew that what you were seeing was purely Dave.
And after that, you couldn’t stop seeing Dave.
To use a biology comparison, it was like you were a plant, and Dave was the specific frequency of light you absorbed for photosynthesis. You were constantly passing notes throughout class and talking even more at lunch. Then when you got home from school, you would text each other for hours over Pesterchum.
You hadn’t been this interested in another human being since you were a little kid and the world was a big, beautiful place full of endless possibilities. For the first time in nearly ten years, it made you want to speak.
Your therapist tells you that what you have is selective mutism induced by post-traumatic stress disorder. You are physically able to speak, but there’s some barrier in your mind that just won’t allow you to. You learned American Sign Language and your dad even did too so that he can communicate with you on your level, but for the most part you just write notes. Not many people are going to know sign language after all.
TT: So you’re telling me that you want to regain your ability to speak for Dave?
EB: not just because of him, but also for you and jade and my dad. dad would be so happy if i spoke.
TT: And yet this is only occurring to you now, after you and Dave have grown closer.
EB: well there was never anyone i would have wanted to talk to other than my dad before i met him.
EB: people are lame and i don’t like them.
TT: I can understand why you would see it that way, considering the nature of your mutism.
TT: Just take your time, John. I don’t want you to hurt yourself because you’re so eager to regain your use of speech. Just don’t push it; let it come naturally to you.
EB: thanks, rose. you’re like my therapist, except i don’t have to pay you.
TT: You are welcome.
TT: Do you think you could tell me what your Post-Traumatic Stress stems from? It may help me to better understand your situation in our future conversations.
TT: I’m sorry.
EB: it’s okay. i know you mean well. i just don’t really want to talk about that shit right now.
EB: or ever.
TT: Did you ever consider that the reason you want to speak again is because you’re in love?
EB: with who?
TT: With Dave.
EB: that’s pretty forward.
EB: damn. you really don’t mess around.
TT: I try.
EB: i don’t know.
EB: i’m not really into romance shit.
EB: i’d kind of rather avoid the matter entirely, you know?
EB: i mean, that doesn’t mean i don’t feel attraction or anything.
EB: i still think girls can be hot, and sometimes dudes aren’t too bad either.
EB: i guess that means i’m bisexual?
TT: That sounds like an accurate assessment.
EB: i made an accurate assessment!
EB: do i win a prize?
TT: As a matter of fact, yes.
EB: fuck yes! :)
EB: what is it?
TT: Self-satisfaction, John.
EB: aw. :(
EB: your prizes suck.
EB: i’m going back to jade.
--ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
GG: you know im really glad you joined our group :)
EB: uh, thanks. what brought this on?
GG: im just really glad!!
GG: youre so much fun to talk to, youre like the little brother i never had :D
GG: and rose is so relaxed around you, usually shes so serious!
GG: and i havent seen dave so expressive since he met you!! :O
EB: what do you mean?
GG: well he always used to keep such a straight face, and he always had to be sooooo cool 8|
GG: i mean he is totally cool, but now hes more like a person
GG: like i could get him to crack a smile sometimes, but you can actually make him laugh!!
GG: its nice seeing him so happy :)
EB: that’s kind of weird.
GG: no its awesome!!! :D
EB: do you like him?
GG: in that way?
GG: hmm not really
GG: i used to have a really huge crush on him when we were younger because he was always so cool and awesome
GG: but after knowing him for so long, hes more like a best friend :)
EB: oh, okay. i was just curious.
GG: i seeeeeee 8)
EB: don’t make that face at me.
You only wish you were that oblivious.
Every time you and Dave pass notes in class, you feel an electric tingle when your fingertips brush his. It’s so goddamn cliché and you hate it. You wish you didn’t know what it means. You wish you could ignore all of the signs.
When you can’t sleep, he’s the one you go to. When you find something funny, he’s the one you go to. You hate it, you hate it, you hate it. And yet you can’t stop.
So you invited him to your house.
Your worst mistake was shoving him after he insulted your taste in movies.
Wait—scratch that. Your worst mistake was pinning him on his stomach to end the wrestling match that ensued. When you’d caught your breath enough to notice how you were positioned (straddling his back and holding down his shoulders), your blood instantly redirected its flow down south, and you quickly got off of him before it got any worse.
It could have been worse. He could have been facing you.
Go away, boner.
Despite his stupid anime shades, Dave is an aesthetically attractive guy. He’s a little taller than you, and he has platinum blonde hair, slightly wavy, that sticks up in a few places. His skin is pale, and when you’re really close up to him you can see a scattering of freckles across his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose, and he sports this crooked grin. He has dark eyebrows and sometimes he’ll arch one perfectly if you say something particularly strange or interesting. You want to know what his eyes look like.
You’d be able to live with it if Dave was just a good-looking guy, but he can be such a geek too. He may act like he hates all of your movies, but he knows exactly what you’re talking about when you make references to Ghost Busters or Armageddon. Hell, he even makes some references himself.
Anyways, despite the close call with the impromptu wrestling match, you thought everything went really well.
That is, until he avoided you the entire next day.
Okay, maybe he’s just in a bad mood because of something, you thought.
But then he did it the next day as well.
Oh shit. Oh shit, oh shit, what if Dave noticed? What if you didn’t move in time? What if he thought you were a freak? That must be why he’s avoiding you. He found out, and now he hates you.
Your stomach twisted and you locked yourself in the bathroom when you got home that day. Your mind started spinning and you began to get flashbacks. You gripped the toilet seat and vomited everything out of your stomach. Even after you threw up, your body kept shaking, and you felt too hot, sweat clinging to your skin. You yanked off your clothes, leaving yourself in only your boxers, and you were glad your dad was working a later shift today. You flushed the toilet and went to your room, dumping your clothes in the laundry bin. Then you dug your pocketknife out of your nightstand drawer.
You popped the blade open and stared at it for a while, trying to clear your head. It was no use. Remembered voices and faces swarmed your mind like a plague of locusts. You brought the blade to your ribs and dragged it across your skin, leaving an inch and a half long trail of dark, pooling red. It hurt, but with the pain came sharp clarity. The pain distracted you from your thoughts. You pressed a tissue to the cut and let out a sob of frustration as the thoughts came back to clutter your mind. Taking deep breaths, you folded another tissue and put it under your leg before pressing the blade to the inside of your thigh, making an even deeper cut. The tissue caught the blood as it rolled down the side of your leg, and you scooped it up to dab at the blood and hold it to the slice in your flesh.
When the bleeding stops, you bury the tissues in your garbage can to hide the evidence and clean off your pocketknife before hiding it away again. You go to the bathroom to clean and dress the cuts before you head back to your room to pull on your pajamas.
By the next day, you’re no longer scared. Now you’re just pissed.
You finally catch him on Friday and practically drag him home with you. He tells you that he’s not upset because of anything you did (which fills you with instant relief), but then he gets up and goes to leave.
You can’t let him leave. You can’t let him leave, you can’t let him leave, you can’t let him leave, so you’re tearing your barriers to bloody shreds because you can’t let him leave; you have to stop him. So you’re opening your mouth and ripping through the last thing dividing you from Dave Strider and you’re saying:
Your name is John Egbert, and you are falling in love with Dave Strider.
If felt foreign to open your mouth and shape a word with your teeth and lips and tongue. It’s something you haven’t done in nearly ten years.
Dave’s pokerface is completely broken. He’s staring at you with his mouth half-open in disbelief. He looks completely dumbstruck.
“Did you just…?” he trails off, still unable to process what just happened.
You take a deep breath. “I’m not done talking with you yet, Dave. So get your smelly ass back here.”
He shuts his mouth and, nodding stiffly, moves back to the couch and sits down.
“You just… I thought you were mute,” he says.
“I am, but it’s a mental block, not a physical one.” You speak slowly, accustoming yourself to forming sentences aloud. “That was actually the first time I’ve spoken in a really long time.”
“Really fucking long. Like, almost ten years long.”
“Rose would be able to explain it better than I could.”
Dave whips around to give you a look. “Wait, so Rose knows?”
“I didn’t really have much of a choice but to tell her. You know how she is even more than I do.”
“True.” But he’s still working his jaw in thought. Something’s bugging him about it.
“Anyways, this isn’t about me; this is about you. I broke my nine year silence for you, so you better start fucking talking.”
“Right. Sorry.” Dave bites his lip for a moment before letting out a sigh. “Okay, so my bro is a DJ, right? And he also raps. Anyways, he’s good—like, really good. So sometimes he gets offered to go on tours. That leaves me at home by myself. He’s not completely irresponsible about it; he leaves plenty of money for me to get whatever food and shit I need. But now he’s left again, and this tour is going to be a month long. My birthday is in exactly a week.”
Ouch. “I’m sorry, Dave.”
“Yeah well, there’s nothing either of us can do about it.” He shrugs. “Hakuna matata, motherfuckers.”
You think on it for a moment. “Actually, maybe there is something we can do about it.”
You smile. “Why don’t you come here for your birthday? My dad will make you like, forty cakes.”
The corner of Dave’s mouth lifts up slightly, and it’s just enough. “I think I’d like that.”
“Still feel like moping like an idiot?”
“Good. Let’s watch a movie.”
Watching a movie turns into a movie marathon. You bring down your pillows and blankets from your room and make a fort in the living room to enhance your viewing experience. You change in your pajama pants and sleep shirt in your room and offer a pair of too-big pants to Dave. You make popcorn and ice cream sundaes and the two of you curl up in the excess blankets to enjoy your food. Dave makes witty commentary throughout all of the movies, and it would piss you off if you hadn’t already seen them a million times before, so instead it just makes you laugh. At some point, without even realizing it, you fall asleep, and you think you could get used to this.
When you wake up, you instantly become aware of three things. One: your dad must have cleaned up the dishes from last night when he got home from work. Two: Dave has his arms and legs wrapped around you like he’s a fucking koala clinging to its precious eucalyptus. And three: you have a severe case of morning wood going on.
You shift in Dave’s grasp and he mumbles unintelligibly, but he doesn’t wake up. Luckily, you find that Dave is a heavy sleeper, and you are able to extricate yourself from his vice grip and make your way upstairs to the bathroom to take care of your little problem. And by little, you do not mean the size of your penis. Don’t be an ass.
When you come back down to the living room, you can’t help smiling at the sight. Dave has wrapped himself around your pillow in your absence, and he’s burrowed his nose and mouth into the material, knocking his shades askew. You kneel next to him and gingerly run a hand through his hair (holy shit it’s soft). He leans into your touch not unlike a cat, and you linger just a moment to trail a fingertip along his jawline before you get up and go to the kitchen to start breakfast.
You’ve finished making the first round of waffles and have started frying some bacon by the time the smell of cooking food rouses Dave from his sleep. He lumbers over and leans on the counter next to you, watching blearily as you work.
“Man, that smells fucking awesome. Do culinary skills run in the family or something?” he says.
You smile and scrawl out a quick note. You notice a flicker of disappointment on Dave’s face when you don’t vocalize your response. ‘morning, sleeping beauty. dad thinks every man should learn how to cook, so he taught me when i was younger.’
“Damn. Your dad has class. He’s got class coming out of his ass.”
You grin and resist the urge to ruffle Dave’s hair. Seriously, fuck hormones.
Dad joins you and Dave for breakfast, and when you tell him about Dave’s situation (reverting back to sign language), he offers Dave to stay with you while his bro is gone.
Dave looks like he wants to say yes (and you very much want him to say yes), but he politely declines, saying he has shit to take care of at home, and instead he asks, “Is it still alright if I come over sometimes though?”
Dad tells Dave that he is always welcome here, and you can practically feel the emotion bubbling out of Dave even though he just utters a quiet thank you.
After your dad drops Dave off at his apartment, you immediately log onto Pesterchum.
--ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
EB: rose! rose! i talked to dave!
EB: out loud!
TT: That is fantastic progress, John. I am glad to hear it.
TT: You should feel proud of yourself.
EB: i just wish i could talk to you and jade too. :(
TT: Don’t worry about it, John. Just take your time.
TT: I look forward to the day I can hear your voice too.
EB: thanks, rose. :)
With Dave’s birthday only a week away, that leaves you very short on time. You browse the internet for ideas and cast your thoughts back to previous conversations with Dave, trying to think of a gift you know he’ll like.
You think back to an old conversation you had about movies, and you think about how stupid Dave’s anime shades are.
You get the perfect idea, but only if you can manage to pull it off in time.
You fucking did it.
You are the genius.
December third is finally here: Dave’s birthday.
Jade and Rose gave him their gifts at lunch time today, but you’re waiting to give Dave your gift until after dinner and cake. Jade wishes the two of you a fun time before you leave, and Rose gives you a knowing wink. Dammit.
Dad made three cakes for Dave’s birthday: one that you took to school this morning for you all to split at lunch, one for dessert tonight, and a third to take home for later. Dave seems genuinely pleased about it.
The two of you play video games and goof around in your room while Dad makes supper, and when it’s done, he calls you down to eat. Dad made some Chinese cuisine after you told him Dave likes Chinese food, and Dave praises your dad’s cooking reverently.
Your dad sings Happy Birthday to Dave, to his embarrassment, while you do a weird interpretive dance since singing isn’t really your thing, and then Dave blows out the seventeen candles placed in the icing. You eat a small slice of cake out of respect for the occasion, but Dave has no such reservations. Dad happily cuts Dave a huge slice of the cake, seeming genuinely glad to have someone who appreciates his baking so much.
When everything’s done, you bring Dave up to your room to open your present. You thrust the card into his face and he smirks before opening it. You have the entire thing memorized.
‘dear dave, happy birthday!!! i just wanted to take a break from telling you how much your gay butt stinks all the time and say what an awesome friend you are. seriously, on any other day i would be downplaying how you aren’t really as cool as you think you are, but just between you and me i think you might actually be that cool. i think you just gotta get out of your bro’s shadow and spread your wings dude!!!
‘so i got you these. they’re totally authentic! they actually touched ben stiller’s weird, sort of gaunt face at some point. i’m sure you’ll dig them because i know you lolled so hard at that movie. ok so for real, this is sort of a shitty present, but it is an ironic present because i know you wouldn’t have it any other way. maybe you can wear them ironically some time. they MIGHT even be more ironic than you and your bro’s dumb pointy anime shades.
‘anyway, have a good one buddy! and stay busy being totally sweet!
Dave’s hands are jittery with anticipation by the time he finishes reading the letter and he tears the present open roughly. He holds up the folded pair of shades from the Starsky and Hutch movie in one hand and the note of authenticity in the other. He stares at them in awe.
“Holy shit, John,” he says. “These are fucking beautiful in the most ironic way. It’s like God fell down all these stairs, and these shades fell out of his pocket and into my hands. It was just meant to be. Oh my fucking god.”
Without a moment of hesitation, Dave trades his anime shades for the aviators (too quick for you to see his eyes; damn). He breaks out in a grin. “How do I look?”
Dave smiles when he hears your voice. “Thanks, John.”
You smile back. “Happy birthday, Dave.”
He pulls you into a hug and you practically melt in his arms as you return it.
The two of you huddle in your blankets on your bed and watch Starsky and Hutch in Dave’s honor. He mouths along with the words nearly line for line, and when Stiller shows up in his aviators, Dave brings a hand up to touch his own. By the time the credits are rolling, Dave has fallen asleep against your side and you think to yourself, if only for a moment, that maybe falling for him isn’t so bad after all.
Chapter 5: John: Be Discovered
Sorry it took so long, guys! My updates will be sporadic, so even if it seems like a really long time since the last update, trust me, I am not dropping this fic like it's hot until it is complete.
You’re being pursued.
You can feel the footsteps behind you almost as loud as you can hear them, thumping down the hall behind you angrily. The doors are all so tall, and when you twist the handles, they refuse to turn and open for you. He’s starting to yell now, and you’ve reached the end of the hall. Oh god, he’s getting closer. You crouch and hunch over, trembling, and shut your eyes. You’re so scared.
He grabs your arm tightly, so tightly. His hand wraps all the way around the thin limb and you can feel the flesh bruising and you scream because it hurts and he’s crushing you and you swear the bone is going to break and you’re—
You’re in a cold sweat and your face is streaked with tears. Your back is too hot and you try to shift to remove your shirt when you notice the arms around your waist.
You feel a fuzzy warmth in your stomach.
The last effects of the dream are wearing off and you wipe your cheeks dry with your hands. Dave’s arms around you are grounding, comforting. When you hold your breath, you can feel his heartbeat against your back, and his breath is deep and calm with sleep against the back of your neck. Part of you is telling you to move before Dave wakes up, but the larger part of you is begging you to stay; just stay in his arms a little longer.
In the end, the part that wants you to stay wins out. You close your eyes to doze a little, and it feels good. You wonder if Dave is always this cuddly when he sleeps.
He wakes up about half an hour later, giving you a squeeze as he comes to. When he realizes how he’s positioned, he curses and very carefully extracts his arms from you, leaving you cold as he rolls onto his back. He stretches and sighs contentedly before you pretend to wake up.
“Mornin’, Sleeping Beauty,” Dave drawls.
You make a face and fling an arm out to smack his chest, resulting in an indignant “Ow!” from Dave.
The two of you get up and go downstairs where your dad has made chocolate chip pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Now this is something you can agree with. You and Dave stack the food onto your plates and promptly drown it in maple syrup before shoveling it into your mouths. Dave asks if there is any apple juice and looks strangely disappointed when your Dad answers with a negative.
‘what’s up, dude?’ you write to him.
“It’s nothing, man. I just find your lack of apple juice disturbing.”
‘do you like apple juice?’
“I do not like apple juice. Oh no. I love apple juice.” Oh god, he’s going on one of his tangents. “Apple juice and I have had a long and fruitful relationship. We have created many beautiful memories together, apple juice and I. Spent many days and nights just holding each other and drinking each other in. I proposed to apple juice in the fall, and we are having a spring wedding in the park. You’re invited, by the way. I figured you would like to see the joining of your best bro and apple juice in holy matrimony. In fact, apple juice and I are already discussing the possibility of having kids one day, and we’ve even started picking out names for them. Our firstborn is going to be—“
You cover Dave’s mouth with your hand.
“I think he’s telling you to shut up,” Dad says, looking amused.
Thank you, Dad.
You hate to see Dave leave when he asks for a ride home, and it’s hard not to grab his arm to stop him as he exits the car and thanks you and your dad for celebrating his birthday with him. The shades you gave him are perched on his nose and he carries his card and extra cake in his hands. And the smile he gives you is like a gift of its own. Jesus, that physically hurt to say, it was so cheesy.
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
TG: yo so how come egbert told you about his selective whatever the shit?
TT: My, you certainly are polite today.
TT: Might I interest you in a delectable “fuck you”?
TT: Or perhaps a warm “kiss my ass” straight out of the oven?
TG: but seriously
TG: how come he told you everything?
TT: Jealous, Strider?
TG: fuck no
TG: i just would have thought that was the kind of thing you would tell your best bro
TG: you know
TG: because its kind of important and relevant in every single way
TT: Dave, I believe you are missing the entire point of this.
TG: what are you talking about?
TT: You are the first person John has spoken aloud to since he was seven years old. Do you not see the significance of that?
TG: well yeah its pretty fucking sweet that he trusts me like that
TG: but i kind of would have liked to know that his muteness wasnt like a physical thing
TT: You are insufferable.
--tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
TG: wow that was way rude
TG: you are so not invited to my birthday party
TG: oh wait
TG: you werent
TG: because it was bro times
TG: fucking awesome bro times
TG: that you missed out on
TG: because you were too busy not being a bro
--tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
TT: Dave, stop spamming my chat client.
--tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG]—
Things change between you and Dave after that. You’ve become inseparable. If it wasn’t for the fact that Dave acts as your voice and you actually make him get his work done in biology class, the teacher would separate you two. You’ve become that notorious pair of best friends that are practically a single entity. Dave comes to your house every day. He never fails to poke fun at the harlequins all over the place. Sometimes he sleeps over, and every time, he’s either snuggling you or his pillow. And if you start snuggling back a bit, well, he did it first.
Jade snaps during the final week before Christmas holidays start. She slams her fist down on the lunch table and blurts out, “Will the two of you just get married already?!”
Rose tactfully hides a smirk with her hand and you feel your own face heat up. You look at Dave and see that his straight face hasn’t faltered at all.
“It takes time and patience, Jade,” says Dave. “If I want this marriage to work, I have to work for it. No lady wants a man who just rushes head-first into things. No. They want to know that their man can wait and stay devoted to them, like fucking Prince Charming. Isn’t that right, Egbert?”
You pause for a moment before writing your note. ‘did you just call me a girl?’
Jade bursts out laughing and even Rose gives a chuckle. Dave just smirks and you glare at him. But just like that, the awkward moment is gone. Part of you wishes Dave really was trying to woo you in some weird way, but you know he isn’t. He’s just joking around.
On the final day of school, you, Dave, Rose, and Jade all make an agreement to make your presents for each other rather than buy them.
You ask Dave if he wants to stay with you for the holidays, and he agrees to stay with you for a few days, but his brother promised he would be back in time for Christmas, so Dave says he wants to be there to make sure he doesn’t trip on something and die, because that would be the worst Christmas present ever. But you know that secretly, Dave just wants to be there to see his bro.
One day after Dave goes home, your dad takes you aside and asks you, “Are you engaged in a sexual relationship with Dave? Because if you are, I just want to know that you two are using protection.”
You splutter and sign frantically to him, ‘No, Dad! We’re just friends!’
Dad frowns at you. “Does he know that you like him?”
Dammit. You can hide some secrets from him (like the scars beneath your clothes), but there are other times when he can see right through you. ‘Is it that obvious?’
Dad pulls you into a warm hug. His arms feel safe and comforting around you. “I just don’t want things to end up the way they did in Washington.”
You feel a lump rise in your throat and you swallow it back down as you hug your dad back fiercely. You release him and sign back, ‘Dave’s not like that.’
Dad smiles at you and runs a hand through your hair affectionately. “I love you, son.”
You open your mouth and take a breath, because you want to tell him that you love him too so badly. You want to say it with your own voice, but you only manage to mouth the words. Dad reads your lips anyway, and he pulls you in for another hug and kisses your forehead.
Have you mentioned that you fucking love your dad?
On the twenty-second of December, Dave invites you to his house for the first time since you initially became friends. You pack an overnight bag (your backpack) and he answers the door of his apartment in a long-sleeved t-shirt that hugs his body and jeans. He gives his classical subdued greeting of, “Sup.” With a smile, you enter the apartment and Dave closes the door behind you. He shows you to his room and tells you to feel free to look around.
Dave’s floor is a jungle of wires traveling from the multiple amplifiers to the multiple sets of mixing gear scattered about the makeshift shelves of wooden planks on cinderblocks. His bed, which is really just two mattresses stacked on each other with blankets on it, is across from his computer. One of those fancy hipster cameras sits on the unmade card suit blanket. Come to think of it, there’s a string going from wall to wall across his room with photographs clothespinned to it. He has a pair of Japanese swords hanging on one wall (you think they’re called daisho when they’re paired like that, with one larger sword and one smaller) and a number of posters. On the set of hanging shelves are a bunch of those random preserved things in clear plastic that you see at the mall. There are insects, a couple fossils, and is that a two-headed rat fetus in formaldehyde? And it looks like there’s some kind of animal brain in a jar up there too.
“What do you think?” Dave asks as he reclines back on his bed.
You take a few breaths and say in a quiet voice, “It’s cool.”
Dave grins. “Glad you like it, because this is where we’re going to be sleeping.”
You smile and go over to the window next to Dave’s bed and look out. There’s suddenly a click and a flash and you startle, looking over at a smirking Dave with his camera in his hands.
“I’m sorry. I do not recall giving you permission to take a photograph of me. I did not sign the consent form,” you say coolly.
“There is no consent form, baby. I just take what I want.” Dave’s smirk grows.
Your mind tries to interpret that in a way it really shouldn’t, and you turn away so that Dave can’t see your burning cheeks. “Rude!”
The two of you end up playing video games on the couch a little too close to each other and knocking elbows and shoving at random intervals. At suppertime, Dave just calls for pizza and pays with the money his brother left for him. You end up watching “ironically” shitty movies afterward. By two in the morning, you’re watching Snakes on a Plane and having difficulty staying awake. You and Dave are leaning heavily on each other, and soon Dave just says, “Fuck it,” and you drag yourselves to his room. Dave just strips down to his boxers and crawls into bed and you remove your glasses, exchange your jeans for pajama pants and keep your long-sleeved shirt on. When the two of you are in the bed back-to-back, Dave starts talking to you quietly.
“Thanks. You know, for putting up with my shit and everything.”
“You’re my best friend. It’s my job to put up with your shit.”
Dave chuckles. “Yeah. You’re my best bro too.”
You listen to Dave’s breathing as it slows and deepens with sleep. You follow soon after.
Predictably, Dave is spooning you when you wake up in the morning. Even one of his legs is wrapped around yours. Speaking of which, his morning wood is jabbing you in the ass and this is totally not sexy, in fact it is kind of really awkward. Why do people even think this is sexy?
You try to shift your hips forward to get rid of the contact, but Dave mumbles and holds you tighter.
Fuck your life.
“You may want to cover that up.”
You jump at the baritone voice and look up to see a man standing in the doorway of Dave’s room. He has blonde hair just a little darker than Dave’s that flares out at the back. Even without your glasses, you can see that his body is all lean muscle and his jeans and black t-shirt do absolutely nothing to cover that up. A pair of anime shades like Dave’s old ones are perched on his nose. There is no mistaking the fact that this is Dave’s bro.
He taps his arm and gives you a nod, and you immediately look down to your own arm, where the sleeve has pulled up in your sleep. Your scars are completely exposed. With a jolt, you tug down the sleeve and glance furtively at Dave’s bro.
He walks over to the bed and kneels next to it, leaning in to whisper, “We’ll talk about this later.”
Eyes wide, you nod slowly and Dave’s brother ruffles your hair before leaving the room too fast for your eyes to catch.
Like a ninja.
Your heart throbs in your throat. Shit. You had tried so hard to keep this secret. You never wanted to talk about it with anybody.
Dave’s breathing changes and you know he’s waking up, but you can’t bring yourself to even feign sleep. When he realizes the position he’s in and the fact that you’re awake, he jolts back with an embarrassed apology, and you can’t help but snicker at him. Dave’s bro is standing in the doorway again as if he was never here earlier.
“Looking pretty cuddly there, little bro,” he says with a smirk.
“Shut up, Bro!” Dave throws a pillow at him.
He easily dodges and does that weird flash-step thingy over to you, holding out a hand. “The name’s Dirk. Don’t wear it out.”
You awkwardly shake his hand before you grab a scrap piece of paper on Dave’s nightstand and a pencil to write, ‘my name is john egbert.’
Dirk tilts his head to read it and gives a nod. To your amazement, Dirk then begins signing to you, ‘Nice to meet you, kid.’
Dave gapes at him. “What? You know sign language? What?”
Dirk shrugs. “I know a lot of things, little bro. This piece of knowledge just happened to come in handy.”
Dave gives his brother a wary look from behind his shades. “Sometimes your brain just creeps me out.”
Watching the Striders is kind of like watching Rose and Dave, except more manly.
You sign a question to Dirk with a grin.
“Does Dave always cuddle in his sleep like that? All the fucking time,” Dirk says with a devilish (and also kind of handsome) grin. “When he was little and had nightmares, he would always come to my room to sleep with me because he was scared, and by morning I had to practically pry him off of me with a crowbar.”
“Bro, that is so much bullshit!”
You and Dirk snicker without restraint as Dave continues his yelled protests.
Dirk ends up making a Western-style omelette and bacon for breakfast. Holy shit, this guy can cook.
“I don’t get it,” Dave says between mouthfuls. “You’re so fucking good at cooking, and yet you only do it every so often.”
“It’s all part of the charm, little dude.” Dirk eats another piece of bacon. His head is turned slightly toward you, and even if you can’t see his eyes, you can feel them. This makes you feel awkward, so you write a note and give it to Dave.
‘hey, so i don’t want to intrude on your family reunion thing, so do you think your bro can give me a ride when we’re done?’
You don’t miss the way Dave’s shoulders relax at the message. Under other circumstances, you would have been a bit hurt, but you can understand that Dave wants to have his own time with his brother since he just got back.
“Yeah, man. Sounds good.” Dave slides the note over to Dirk so that he can read it, and he gives you a thumbs-up.
Dave asks to come along when Dirk announces that he’s going to drive you home, but Dirk says no. Your stomach clenches.
There is an uncomfortable silence in the elevator on the way down, and it lasts until Dirk finally breaks it when the two of you are seated in his truck.
“So, Egbert, about those cuts… are your wrists the only place you do it?” he asks.
Hesitantly, you shake your head.
Dirk frowns. “Does Dave know? Does your dad know?”
You shake your head and sign, ‘Please don’t tell them.’
Dirk sighs and reclines in his seat, running a hand through his hair. “You know, by all means, I really should. Self-harm is a serious issue. Fuck, I was even there myself when I was a kid.”
Your eyes widen. ‘You were?’
Dirk pulls the lever to draw his seat back and pulls down his jeans and boxers a little. Thin white scars streak over his hip and disappear beneath the waistband of his clothing.
“When I was sixteen and Dave was eight, our parents died in an accident. Suddenly, we were all alone. I pulled a few strings with Child Services to let us live in an apartment together and let me take care of Dave. I’ve heard stories about the foster care system, and they aren’t pretty. There was no way I was going to let that happen to my bro. We came to an agreement: they would check up on us once a month to make sure everything was going okay and if we were alright, we could stay in our living arrangement.
“The life-insurance kept us going for a while, but I knew I had to find a good job, and fast, so I dropped out of school to look for work. I’m not going to lie, it was hard. It was damn hard. Sometimes the stress was too much and I would just hide in my room with a razor after putting Dave to bed and I’d cut the stress away.” Dirk has a wistful expression on his face.
“Eventually, the mixes I put online got some recognition and I managed to make some more money on that. Coming up with the smuppets eliminated our financial difficulties entirely. It was a bad time before that though. I don’t ever want Dave to see my scars. I don’t want him to think it’s his fault, because it isn’t. My worst fear is that one day Dave will do it himself, or worse: he already has and I just haven’t noticed yet.”
A wave of empathy rushes over you and you put a hand on Dirk’s shoulder, silently mouthing, “I’m sorry.”
Dirk gives you a sad smile and places his hand over yours. “I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.”
Dirk shifts his seat back into place, puts on his seatbelt and starts the truck, leaving you to your own thoughts as he drives back to your place with your directions. When he stops in your driveway, you put a hand on the crook of his arm to get his attention and sign, ‘You’re not going to tell Dave, are you?’
“No,” Dirk says regretfully. “It’s not my place to.”
‘Thank you,’ you sign to him, and with that, you exit the vehicle and open the door to your own house.
Your name is John Egbert, and you think that maybe you should make a small Christmas present for Dave’s brother too.
Chapter 6: John: Celebrate The Holidays
Another thank you to all of the continued support. The current version of this chapter is unbeta'd, but when my beta gets back to me, I will make sure to post any edits.
Your hands dance over the piano keys with a careful grace. After you got home from Dave’s apartment, you showered and dressed, and then promptly asked Dad to give you some privacy in his study with your laptop. He just smiled and agreed to let you be. He knows that you sometimes record it when you play the piano. But this time it’s not just to hear yourself.
You can’t make cool remixes like Dave can or knit like Rose can. You can barely tell a buttercup to a dandelion, so you’d be pretty fucking useless at gardening, so that’s up to Jade.
So piano it is.
Rose requested that you, Dave, and Jade bring your families to her house for New Year’s Eve, and that would be when you exchanged gifts. You really don’t have to start recording right away, but you want to see Dave sooner than New Year’s. It’s kind of really pathetic in a way, like you’re some lovesick teenage girl in a shitty vampire fiction. Though you suppose that if you took out the vampire fiction part and flipped the gender, there’s pretty much no fucking difference.
It is painful to admit even to yourself.
So here you are, playing some of Dave’s favourite songs on the piano and maybe adding in some of your own original compositions, but Dave doesn’t need to know that.
When you finish recording, you bring your laptop back to your room and do some minimal editing just to clean up the sound a bit, and then you start burning it on a disc. While that goes, you set to work on your present for Dave’s bro. God, this is going to be unbelievably shitty. You’ll barely even be able to pull off the irony card with how terrible this is going to be. You seriously cannot program worth shit.
You waste the entire fucking day on the hopeless endeavour, and then holy shit! It’s Christmas Eve!
Dad makes chocolate chip waffles for breakfast and you swear there is nothing your dad cannot make perfectly. He should totally go on Master Chef. He can chastise Chef Ramsay in a very fatherly manner for all of his screamed profanity and it will be awesome.
But you digress.
You ask Dad about inviting Dave and Dirk over for Christmas dinner, and with your advice, calls them at one in the afternoon.
Dirk declines politely, saying that he had something planned with Dave. You’re a little disappointed, but you’re glad they’re reconnecting.
So you spend the day with your dad. You play Christmas carols on the piano and Dad sings along. Then you go outside to make a snowman with him, which devolves into an epic snowball fight. You go back into the house shivering and Dad makes hot cocoa for the two of you. After you’ve warmed up by the fireplace, Dad asks if you will help him bake some cakes. You roll your eyes, but eventually he convinces you to join in. After that, you make cookies in the shape of Christmas trees, and then you eat them with a glass of eggnog while you watch nostalgic Christmas movies. There’s a brief break for Christmas dinner, which is fucking amazing, and then you resume again.
When evening falls, you help Dad carry the presents down from his room and stack them beneath the tree, and you both go to Nanna’s urn to wish her a merry Christmas before turning in for the night. Dad pulls you into a tight hug.
“I love you, John. Sleep well and merry Christmas,” he says.
You smile and sign back to him after the hug, ‘I love you too, Dad. Merry Christmas. Goodnight.'
When you go back to your room, you turn on your computer and log into Pesterchum, leaving a message for all of your friends.
--ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG]--
EB: jade! merry christmas! :D
EB: i hope you and your grandpa had a good day together!
EB: you’ll have to tell me about all the awesome presents he got you later. hehe. :)
--ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG]--
--ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
EB: hey rose! i know you’re not online right now. you’re probably busy having holiday passive aggressive battles with your mom.
EB: anyway, i just wanted to wish you a merry christmas and a good night!
EB: i can’t wait to see you guys on new year’s! :D
--ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
--ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
EB: hey dave! i know you’re super busy right now with your totally cool bro antics with your totally cool bro. watching shitty ironic movies together and just soaking up each other’s shitty fake irony.
EB: so i just wanted to tell you that even though you’re lame, i hope you’re having an awesome christmas!
EB: wish your bro a merry christmas for me too, okay?
EB: goodnight, dave!
--ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
TG: egbert you are so mean and rude sometimes it cuts me up inside
TG: i need a surgeon to go in and just fucking plaster my internal organs with bandaids
TG: our irony is not fake it is a way of life
TG: i didnt choose the ironic life
TG: the ironic life chose me
TG: deal with it bitch
TG: anyway you are lame and dumb and i bet you went and left sappy christmas messages for everyone else as well because you are lame and dumb like that
TG: anyway merry chrizzle up in this shizzle to you too shawty
--turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
Christmas day is a flurry of opening gifts with your dad and watching him smile and ruffle your hair as he opens his gifts from you. Dad gives you a pair of warm pajamas like he does every year, some new video games, some movies, this cool book on haunted locations in the northern states, and you even got your own laptop! He said that it’s because you’ll be going to college after next year, and it would be a pain in the ass (your wording, not his) to bring your entire desktop pc to college.
After a delicious Christmas brunch, you sign into Pesterchum on your old computer to see what sweet loot your friends got.
--ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
EB: merry christmas dave!
EB: what sweet loot did you get?
TG: sup eggs
TG: i got loads of sweet loot
EB: like what???
TG: well for one thing my bro made an add on for my turntables to make them sound sicker than ever before
TG: and thats pretty much the most important thing i got
EB: wow! that’s really cool, dave!
EB: except not, because it’s totally lame just like you.
EB: i got a laptop!
TG: wow congratulations john
TG: you have now entered the twenty first century
TG: you have left the nineties behind for a brighter future
TG: a bunch of your family and friends are all applauding for you in purgatory while congratulating you
TG: now you can wake up on a beach with some chick you masturbated to and strangle her
TG: oh shit you havent seen that
TG: bro and i will educate you
EB: i’m not sure if i want to be educated!
TG: you do
TG: trust me
EB: no, i’m pretty sure i don’t!
TG: too bad its happening
TG: you cant stop this
TG: you cant stop the beat
EB: you just quoted a shitty musical at me, didn’t you?
EB: you so did.
TG: not me
EB: whatever. want to hang out tomorrow?
TG: yeah thats cool
TG: my place or yours?
EB: yours. i want to give you and your bro your christmas gifts.
TG: instead of waiting until new years with jade and rose?
TG: i am shocked and appalled egbert
TG: shocked and appalled
EB: so is that a yes or a no?
TG: oh hell fucking yes
EB: anyway, my dad is calling me, so i gotta go for now.
EB: i’ll see you tomorrow!
TG: later egbert
--ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
When you knock on the door to Dave’s apartment, it’s with an air of excitement. You wrapped the cd case for Dave’s gift and as for Dave’s bro’s… well, there isn’t really a way to wrap a USB. But it’s red and you put some Christmas stickers on it, so it will have to do!
You’re prepared to ambush Dave with a hug when he answers the door when you notice what he’s wearing and start snickering. Dave is decked out in a pink, footed onesie with cats all over it.
“Like my sweet new threads?” Dave asks.
You’re doubled over with breathy laughter. They are the best.
Dave steps aside to invite you in and you remove your coat and shoes. When you look up again, Dirk is by Dave’s side and he’s dressed in an orange onesie with monkeys on it.
“Sup?” says Dirk.
You grin and sign to Dirk, ‘Holiday tradition?’
“Don’t you know it? Ironic gifts of pajamas are a Strider family tradition,” he says.
‘I brought gifts for you and Dave too.’ You beam and wave the USB and wrapped cd at Dirk.
Dirk raises an eyebrow.
Dave wrinkles his nose. “Wow, guys. Way to leave me out of the conversation. Merry fucking Christmas, Dave. No one’s going to talk to you because we’re too busy communicating in languages you don’t fucking understand. May as well start clicking at me or performing an interpretive dance.”
You roll your eyes and sign, ‘Don’t be such a drama queen.’
Dirk watches your hands and says to Dave, “John says, ‘stop being a fucking pussy.’”
Dave makes a face. “What? John wouldn’t say that to me. He loves me too much. Right, John?”
You roll your eyes and hope like hell your face isn’t red. You thrust the cd into Dave’s hand and give Dirk the USB.
“Thanks, man,” Dirk says, and then he’s gone, probably to his room, leaving you and Dave on your own. You get out your notebook and write a note to Dave.
‘so are you going to open up your gift or what?’
“Yeah, yeah. Come on, you impatient dickhead.” He heads over to the couch and flops down on it and you take a seat next to him. Dave tears the wrapping paper off of the cd and opens it, frowning when he sees that there’s no song list included. “What’s on the disc?” he asks.
‘just listen to it.’
Dave brings you to his room and puts the disc into his computer, playing it out loud. Then he sits on his bed and you take a seat next to him, watching his face carefully for any reaction. You lean back a little, dubiously trying to sneak a peek behind Dave’s shades. From what you can see, his eyes are closed. His face looks completely relaxed as he listens to the music; your music. This is one of the songs that you composed.
You’re gripped with the sudden urge to bridge the distance and press your lips to his.
You resist the urge.
“What is this?” Dave asks after a while.
‘me playing piano. duh.’
“Well I know that, you horse’s ass. I mean what song is it?”
You flush a little as you write this message. ‘actually, i wrote it.’
Dave sits up straighter and turns to look at you. “Woah. Really?”
Fuck you, that is so not a blush. ‘uh, yeah.’
Dave gives you an impressed look. You stare down at your hands. One of which is now suddenly covered by Dave’s.
“Thanks, man,” says Dave. “You’re really good.”
Your heart throbs. Yes, your heart, not your penis, you asshat. “You’re welcome,” you say quietly. Dave’s hand leaves yours and he pats your back. You aren’t sure if you’re relieved or disappointed.
“I’m not done your gift yet since I was expecting you to wait until New Year’s like everyone else, but trust me, bro, it’s gonna be fucking awesome.”
You snort. “Totally.”
You bump shoulders and this is actually really nice.
The wait for New Year’s is agonizing. You finish recording and burning the disks for Jade and Rose early and spend the rest of the wait playing your new games and reading the book your dad got you. You write down a few haunted locations that you especially want to visit.
When New Year’s is finally here, you and your dad pack into the car and drive to Rose’s house and holy shit! Rose’s house is fucking huge! You knew her family was wealthy, but you didn’t know they were fucking rolling in dough! Her mother greets you and Dad with a flirty smile and you’re pretty sure she’s a little tipsy. She introduces herself as Roxy, and she leads you and Dad through a grand foyer with a weird wizard statue in the middle of it to the living room, where the fireplace is blazing and a tall Christmas tree is glistening with lights.
Rose is dressed in a white cashmere sweater, a black skirt, and stockings and Dave is wearing a red button-down shirt and black jeans. You’re relieved, because you were starting to feel a little under-dressed in your blue dress shirt and black pants. Rose invites you to join her and Dave on the sofa and she offers you and your dad the choice of hot cocoa, coffee, or hot apple cider. You accept some hot cocoa and your dad has coffee. Your dad, of course, brought a Christmas cake which Roxy places on the table she has set up against the wall with some other snacks. Dirk is seated in the armchair across from the sofa with his own mug of hot cocoa, for once having foregone his hat, and it seems he has been strifed into wearing a white dress shirt and black jeans.
‘where’s jade?’ you write to Rose.
“She will be arriving shortly with her grandfather,” Rose says.
“Oh God…” Dave groans and from the corner of your eye you see Dirk’s mouth twitch in a half-smirk. Is there some kind of history there?
‘i brought gifts.’ You hold up the two wrapped cds.
Rose smiles and places them with the other gifts under the tree. “Thank you, John.”
Not a minute later, the doorbell rings and Roxy totters off on her high heeled shoes to answer the door. You hear a loud, feminine exclamation and there’s no mistaking that it’s Jade. She runs into the living room and leaps onto the couch right on top of your, Rose’s, and Dave’s laps, giggling happily. She’s wearing a white blouse, a black skirt, and stockings. You tickle Jade’s feet playfully and she squeals, kicking them with delight. Goddamn, she is cute.
Roxy walks back into the living room with Grandpa Harley, who is carrying the gifts. He wears glasses not unlike yours, and he has a pretty intense mustache going on, and a full head of salt and pepper hair. He’s dressed in a white button-down shirt and khakis. As they walk under the arch to enter the living room, Roxy stops them.
“Oh! There’s mistletoe!” She points to a cluster of leaves and berries hanging above their heads. Jade’s grandpa chuckles and kisses each of Roxy’s cheeks, much to her delight. Grandpa Harley turns to you with sharp green eyes and smiles.
“And who might this strapping young lad be?” he asks.
Rose stands and gestures to you, and then your dad. “This is our friend, John Egbert. And this is his father.”
“A pleasure to meet you, boys!” says Grandpa Harley. He comes forward to shake both your hands, and you smile politely.
At that point, you all seem to sort of group off: you with Rose, Jade, and Dave; your dad with Rose’s mom (and they’re being kind of flirty and it’s kind of weird); and Jade’s grandpa with Dave’s bro, who is giving him some odd looks.
After everyone has settled in and conversed for a while, Roxy announces that it’s time for you guys to exchange gifts. You give Rose and Jade their wrapped cds and explain with a note that it’s recordings of you playing the piano, and they thank you with smiles. Rose gives you all sweaters that she knitted herself. Yours is a deep blue that matches your eyes just as Jade’s green sweater matches her eyes, and Dave gets a deep red one. You all don them with pride, and only a little protest on Dave’s part because he is obligated to. Jade gives Rose a pumpkin pie that she made herself, and she gives Dave a disc that simply says “drop the bass!!!” on it, much to his amusement. You’re guessing it’s an inside joke of theirs. And to you, Jade gives an apple seedling. You raise an eyebrow at her.
“It’s tradition,” Jade elaborates. “The first New Year’s I spent with Dave and Rose, I gave them plants too! I gave Rose a rose bush and Dave got a cactus!”
Rose nods serenely. “It’s true. If you saw the rose bush in front of the house, that was from Jade.”
You think you can vaguely recall seeing a small cactus plant in Dave’s room. Huh. Cool.
‘but why specifically an apple tree?’
“Because you’re like an apple tree,” says Jade. “You started out all fragile, but now you’re growing all tough and strong! You can be abrasive, but you can also be really sweet if people reach out to you.”
Holy shit. Did you mention that Jade is fucking cute?
You smile and hug her, mouthing next to her ear, “Thank you.”
Like you, Dave gives everyone music. He tells you that he always makes custom remixes for everybody for Christmas. You’re so excited to listen to it when you get home!
It’s at that moment that Dirk tosses a USB at your head. You pick it up and see that it’s the USB you gave him, and you give him a look of confusion.
“I liked the pong game you made,” Dirk says with a straight face. “So I decided to make a quick gift for you as well.” His mouth pulls up into a smirk. You are suddenly frightened to find out what he did.
After that, you all dig into the snacks more freely, and Rose gets her violin from her room to play Christmas carols on it.
Every so often, people get caught together under the mistletoe. Dirk and Roxy just laugh and kiss each other’s cheeks. Rose gives you a swift peck on the lips before returning to the sofa, leaving you red-faced and spluttering. She winks and tells you that it’s practice. You blush even more. When Rose and Dave get caught under the mistletoe, they just snicker and Rose kisses Dave’s chin while he kisses her between the eyes. Weird-ass cousins. Jade gives you an obnoxiously energetic kiss on the lips when you’re under the mistletoe with her, and then does the same to Dave. You’re a little jealous, but it’s not too bad since it seems everyone gets the same treatment, as you see when Jade and Rose are under the mistletoe together.
Everyone looks at each other awkwardly when your dad and Rose’s mom are under the mistletoe together. Dad dips her dramatically and kisses her passionately, and she giggles as she kisses back.
Oh dear god.
Then when Dirk and Grandpa Harley are under the mistletoe, Dirk mimics with Grandpa Harley what your dad did with Roxy, kissing him like a movie star.
Dave is pressing his face into his hands with embarrassment.
When Dirk finally breaks the kiss, Grandpa Harley looks rather flustered himself, exclaiming, “Fucking dickens, Dirk! Again?!”
It isn’t until later in the evening when you and Dave are under the mistletoe together (which may or may not have happened on purpose). You blush a little and lean forward to let your lips brush against Dave’s cheek, and then he leans down to kiss yours. You can feel the heat rise to your face. It feels wonderful, but it isn’t enough.
Finally, it’s 11:59 and Roxy brings everyone up to the observatory while the volume on the television on the floor below has been turned up loud enough for you all to hear the countdown. You’re all huddled together, looking out over the New York skyline and waiting for the fireworks to start; Jade to your left and Dave to your right. Everyone shouts along with the ten second countdown, and when you all reach zero, you cheer loudly and you can see fireworks exploding all across Bronxville and in the city beyond, lighting up the sky like neon fire. You turn a little and see Dave’s face, lit by the fireworks and he’s smiling all bright and open and he’s just so fucking beautiful.
You touch his jaw with your fingertips to turn his face toward you and then you’re leaning in to press your lips to his.
Your name is John Egbert, and you are kissing Dave Strider.
Chapter 7: Dave: Check Yourself Before You Shrek Yourself
To my readers, thank you so much. I love reading your comments and anticipating how you'll react to different things. This one is for you guys.
And Zipra too, of course.
And Broseph. Because Broseph.
Fireworks are exploding all over the sky and everyone is cheering and your best bro is attached to your lips.
Your name is Dave Strider, and you are currently being kissed by John Egbert.
It’s times like these that make being the narrator very difficult, because there are absolutely no words to describe your thought processes right now. However, there is a symbol that conveys the general idea quite eloquently:
While your first instinct is to pull away out of surprise, you don’t, because this is your best bro and you don’t want to be an asshole. But with your mental faculties offline you’re not kissing back either. John pulls away a few seconds later with half-lidded eyes and flushed cheeks and wow, okay. He kind of looks a bit hot like that. You’re wondering if this is what he would look like after having sex and let’s just backpedal that thought right there because this is your best friend and that is kind of awkward!
“Um,” you say articulately.
John is starting to look more nervous and less sure of himself.
“You like me, don’t you?” Wow. That was a grand leap of logic. Moron.
John nods, looking away with embarrassment because this has suddenly turned really weird and probably not at all like the romantic confession of mutual affection he was imagining.
You sigh. You really don’t want to fuck this up. “Look, I’m going to need some time to think about this. And I honestly mean that; this isn’t one of those cases where I’m pussying out just so that I can think of a way to let you down nicely. I legit have to think about this because I honestly don’t know how I feel right now and this is all pretty sudden so I kind of have to let myself process it. I’m a shitty old Windows 95, not some fancy-ass Windows 8 like they’ve got now.”
John nods, not looking at you and looking like he wants to be anywhere but here. Shit. How can you salvage this?
“John? No matter what I decide, you’re still my best bro, okay? Even if I don’t feel the same way about you, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop being your friend. That would be a dick thing to do and I am not a dick, contrary to what Rose might tell you.”
You think John tries to give you a smile, but it looks more like a pained grimace. You’re pretty sure this is the best you’re going to get.
Luckily, the Lalondes’ New Years’ party gets wrapped up pretty quick after midnight, so there isn’t much opportunity for any awkwardness between you and John to settle in and make a home. You sit in the truck next to Bro as he drives and you hope he didn’t see anything because it would be just like him to bring it up and you don’t know what to say.
“So I was right.”
Oh boy, here we go.
“You and Egbert, huh?” Bro says.
“I don’t know,” you mumble.
“Well the two of you were all lip-locked at midnight.”
“He kissed me.”
“That doesn’t automatically mean that I’m devising some tedious plot to win the ultimate prize of John Egbert’s coveted D. I’m not you,” you say.
Bro tips his head in acknowledgement. “Touché.”
Normally you would piss around on the internet for an hour or two before going to bed after the party, but tonight you immediately strip down to your boxers and flop into bed. You don’t go to sleep yet though. You meant what you said to John; you plan to think about it. You guess now is as good of a time to start as any.
You try to think back to how this all started. When did John start liking you? Were there any signs? Oh shit. Maybe it was because of how clingy you are. What if you were subconsciously leading John on? The last time he slept over you woke up with your morning wood up against his ass. Oh god. You were subconsciously leading him on. But now here’s the hard part: just how do you feel about this?
You think about how it makes you feel to be the only person John will speak aloud to after years of silence. You think about his kind-of-endearing overbite and those dark blue eyes. You think about the way his voice sounds a little hoarse at first when he speaks due to disuse. You think about how warm and solid he feels in your arms when you wake up clinging to him.
But do you like him more than platonically? Can you picture yourself wanting to touch him? Can you picture yourself getting off on his pleasure? Sexuality has never really been a huge concern of yours; whether you liked guys or girls wasn’t a source of stress or confusion. You guess it has to do with the way Bro raised you. Bro never acted like it made any difference what gender you were attracted to, likely because his own sexuality is pretty flexible. You masturbate like any normal teenager does, but you never really cared if you were masturbating to guys or girls. But therein lies the question: can you get off to this guy? Do you think you could be sexually attracted to John?
You grab your iPhone and plug in your headphones, putting them on. You go to your albums list and find the one John made for you and you select one of his original compositions to listen to. You feel his music wash over you. You wonder what he was thinking of when he wrote these pieces. You wonder if he was thinking of you.
Could you love John Egbert?
Maybe. Maybe you could. Maybe you couldn’t. But does John deserve a maybe? That’s bullshit. John deserves a straight up answer; something definitive. Yes or no. None of this half-assed rubbish.
You decide to sleep on it and keep thinking about this later. May as well review the question with a fresh mind in the morning.
The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is log into Pesterchum on your iPhone. Well, you say that it’s morning it’s a relative term; in all actuality it’s just after noon. You perk up when you see that John is online and you immediately open up a chat with him.
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
TG: hey egbert
--ectoBiologist [EB] is now an idle chum!--
TG: dude i know youre there dont ignore me
TG: look im not here to give you flak or anything
TG: and im not going to pretend nothing happened like a complete douchebag
TG: i havent made my decision yet but im trying to kind of get a better sense of judgement on this shit
TG: because im not fucking around and half assing this bitch
TG: i am balls deep in this bitch
TG: you could say that i am motherfucking entrenched in this bitch
TG: so thats why i wanted to know if you could come over today
TG: you can sleep over since its the last chance well really get before school starts again
TG: so what do you say?
--ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG]--
TG: ill tell bro
TG: when are you coming over?
EB: when do you want me over?
TG: well i literally just woke up so i still have to shower and all that bullshit
TG: so in an hour then?
EB: wow, you’re really lazy.
EB: i can do that.
TG: cool see you then
--turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB]--
John is wearing the sweater Rose made for him when he comes to your apartment. You let him in and he gives you an uncharacteristically sheepish smile and a wave as he enters. After he sets down his bag, he pulls his notebook and pencil out of it and writes to you, ‘i brought my laptop and some of my new games. i still have to check out the present your bro gave me, so i figured i may as well do it here so that he can have the satisfaction of seeing my face. this may or may not be a good thing.’
“Sorry to let you down, bro, but it’s probably a bad thing,” you say. If you know anything about Bro, you know he likes to get people’s metaphorical goats, and since he and Egbert seem pretty chummy, he’s even more likely to target John’s herbivorous land mammal.
As if he knew exactly what you and John were talking about, Bro suddenly appears in the room and assumes a nonchalant position against the back of the couch.
“Sup, Egbert,” he says with a nod.
John signs something to him and you grumble to yourself in incomprehension when Bro chuckles. You wonder if Bro learned sign language just knowing that someday you would bring home a friend who uses it so that he could spite you. It definitely seems like the kind of thing he would do. But of course, that would imply Bro can see the future, and that is just ridiculous. How would Bro even see the future? Twixt the bulbous globes of smuppet ass? Now you’re just making yourself sick. The point is: people don’t see the future. Period.
John gestures for you to follow him and, well, that’s a sign anyone can recognize. He leads you over to sit on the couch and he gets out his laptop, booting it up and retrieving the USB that Bro threw at his head last night. Bro sits in the armchair next to the couch and smirks. Oh boy, here we go. After John signs in and his personal settings load, he plugs in the USB and opens up the single program saved on it.
John doesn’t exactly whisper or talk, but when he mouths the words, he annunciates very clearly so that you and Bro can both tell exactly what he wants to say: “God fucking dammit, Dirk.”
Bro starts snickering and when you lean closer to John to see what’s on his screen, you groan with exasperation. You’re going to guess that the program was once a really shitty rendition of a generic Pong game because the game mechanics themselves are slightly glitchy, as if the game was programmed by someone who really isn’t all that skilled at it. But everything else? It’s all Bro. The background for the game is puppet-themed, and the two platforms that the ball bounces off of are smuppets that squeak whenever the ball makes contact with them. Across the background flashes, “You are the star! It’s you!”
John sets the laptop aside and leaps at Bro, fists flailing. Bro is still laughing like the devil as he fends off John’s attacks. Eventually, Bro manages to restrain John’s arms and he pulls the kid into a headlock to give him a noogie. You can hear John’s breathy giggles. You smirk a little out of fondness. You can’t help but find John’s laughter endearing.
When the scuffle ends, John turns off the laptop and the entire episode seems forgotten, because John pulls out his new video games and flashes a wide grin at you. You, John, and Bro end up playing games until one in the morning, breaking only to gorge yourselves on Chinese takeout for dinner. It feels like family.
There are no questions when you and John change into your pajamas with your backs turned to each other and crawl into your bed together. He doesn’t question when you wrap your arms around him either.
“You’re my best friend, you know?” you whisper.
“I know,” John whispers back to you.
You give him a squeeze. “Goodnight, John.”
You don’t let go of him before falling asleep because you know you’ll just end up snuggling him anyway. You have come to accept this as an inevitable fact.
For once, you’re the one who wakes up first. Without any deliberation, you decide to take advantage of this opportunity. John’s breathing is slow, deep, and steady and you can feel his lungs expanding and contracting. He feels warm and very alive. Carefully, you move up onto one elbow so that you can lean over him and see his face. John looks peaceful in a way he never does when he is awake. You didn’t even recognize the slight stress in his features until now when you’re seeing him so relaxed in his sleep. Your gaze moves to his hands with his slightly curled fingers. Gingerly, you raise your own hand to touch his, tracing the shape of his fingers and the slight curve of his nails. You trail your fingertips along the palm of John’s hand, and as your eyes slip down further, you see that John’s sleeve has pulled about halfway up his forearm. Your initial thought is that you’ve never seen John’s bare arms before, but the thought disappears as you freeze in horror.
The soft underside of John’s arm is covered in a web-like network of scars. Fresher red scars and old whitened scars. You’d make a metaphor about how it looks like he was attacked by a mountain lion, but you’re too shocked and the sight is too horrible. These scars don’t belong here. Not on John Egbert’s arms. Not on the arms of your best friend.
“John,” you whisper urgently. He mumbles sleepily. “John, wake up.” His deep blue eyes blink at you owlishly, and then he goes still in realization. A mix of fear and guilt appears on his face.
“What the fuck is this?” you demand.
John looks like a deer in the headlights for a few seconds and then he looks like he might cry. Oh fuck. That’s not the reaction you wanted. You’re not sure what you wanted.
“John, come here.” You pull him into your arms and hold his head against your chest. You hope this is comforting. Is it comforting? Yeah, you think so. At least you feel a hell of a lot better. After a moment of hesitation, John wraps his arms around you in return. Without thinking, you begin to stroke his hair with one hand. A feeling swells in you and you find yourself thinking that you never want John to be upset enough to hurt himself again. You want him to be happy, like he was earlier when he was playing games with you and your bro. And more than that: you want to be the one making him happy.
You’re not in love with him; not yet. But at this moment you’re positive you could fall for him.
“John,” you murmur softly.
He looks up at you, biting his lip nervously. His eyes look huge without his glasses. You wonder how bright they’d look without your shades. But that doesn’t matter right now, because you’re placing your fingertips at his jaw to coax him forward and now you’re kissing him gently. You hear a small hitch in his breath and you pull back to look at him as his cheeks begins to flush.
“I don’t love you,” you clarify, “but I could if you’ll give me the chance.”
John’s eyes widen and he hugs you tightly, making you smile despite yourself.
“Thank you,” John whispers.
You snort and roll your eyes, ruffling John’s hair. “Don’t thank me, you dickmunch. This isn’t a favor.”
John laughs a little and yeah, you’re definitely not regretting your decision.
Chapter 8: Dave: Fall In Love
Once again, a huge thank you to all of my readers and supporters; reading your comments always makes my day. A special thank you goes to KK for editing this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Being with John Egbert comes more easily than you expected. Rose seems pretty smug about it and Jade squeals about it at first, thinking it’s the cutest thing ever. Your school is more open to differing sexual orientations, but you and John don’t show much PDA anyway. Not because you’re worried about it, but because neither of you really feel the need to flaunt to the world that the two of you are a thing that is happening. So you’ll just hold hands sometimes when you’re sitting down for lunch; simple things.
Bro jumps up and shouts that he knew it when you tell him that you’re dating John, and the next time you go to his house, his dad practically shoves a cake into your arms and tells you he’s proud of you and John. You are not sure if you’re more embarrassed by Mr. Egbert’s enthusiasm or mad jazzed that you just got a free fucking cake.
As time goes on, you become concerned for how buddy-buddy John and Bro are getting. Not that you think John would ever cheat on you. No, that isn’t the problem. The problem is when they start pulling joint pranks on you and run off, giggling and high fiving each other. Bro pretty much thinks John is the greatest thing since sliced bread and has essentially adopted him as a second little brother. You’ll never admit the fact that you’re actually glad about this; Bro is more involved in your life than ever and the way John just beams when he pulls off a prank makes your heart doki.
In March you get your learner’s permit and Bro starts taking you out of the suburbs to practice driving on the rural back roads. You catch on pretty quickly with Bro’s instructions and he lets John come along. You try to show off your wicked driving skills and end up putting Bro’s truck into the ditch. John laughs at you. Bro lectures you later, telling you to never show off again while driving because it’s dangerous and it risks not only your life, but the lives of your passengers. It’s very rare for Bro to lecture you about anything, so when he does you know shit’s serious. You promise him you won’t show off again, and you keep that promise.
Your first fight with John happens during the final week of March. The two of you are chilling in your room; you’re updating your blog on your phone and John is reading a Game Bro magazine. At one point, John sets the magazine down and turns to look at you.
“Hey, Dave?” he says quietly.
“What were your parents like?” he asks.
You freeze and you feel a pang in your chest. Fuck. Don’t show anything, don’t show anything. “I dunno, man. It was a pretty long time ago,” you mumble.
“You have to remember something!” There’s an edge to his voice that you can’t really place. You’re too busy trying not to think about what you’ve lost.
“Fuck, Egbert! Well what were your parents like?” you snap.
“I…” John’s face looks a little pale. He shakes if off with an attempt at a grin. “What are you talking about? You know my dad, ha ha…”
“I mean your real parents.” You knew it was a dick thing to say. You fucking knew it and you said it anyway.
You think back to when you first met John, how blunt and flippant he was about what he was thinking. You see nothing of that now, in fact he looks somehow smaller. His eyes are wide and his face is as white as Casper the traumatized ghost.
“I have to go,” John says abruptly, and he stands up before you can protest.
“Fuck off.” He exits your room without another word and you hear the door to the apartment as it closes after him.
Fucking adoption stories, man. They’re never good.
When John doesn’t show up at school for the rest of the week, you know you fucked up big time. After John continues to avoid you when he comes back the next week, you know you really fucked up.
--turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
TG: rose i fucked up
TT: So soon, Strider?
TG: fuck off
TT: Now, now, Dave. That is no way to speak to your beloved cousin.
TT: Care to explain how you “fucked up”?
TG: i asked john about his parents and he freaked out and left
TT: Why did you ask him that?
TG: he asked me about my parents and i just kind of flipped
TT: Oh, Dave…
TG: i know it was really fucking stupid
TT: You still miss them a lot, don’t you?
There’s a pause.
TG: i do
TT: I miss them too.
TG: i know
TT: You know my mother would have taken in you and your brother in a heartbeat, right?
TG: yeah i know
TG: but you know how bro is
TG: he cant stand to be indebted to anybody
TG: has to do everything all by himself
TG: the only reason he even moved us to bronxville all the way from houston was so that i could be with you
TT: Mother all but begged him to move in with us. She wanted to pay for the move as well.
TG: no wonder he never came with me when i went to visit you guys
TT: Yes, that seems to be the most likely reason.
TT: Getting back on the topic of John.
TT: While evidence is not conclusive, I believe that his parents abused him.
TG: well no shit
TT: Just be careful with him in the future, Dave.
TG: i guess i have to do something really big for him dont i
TT: That would likely be an effective method of reconciliation, yes.
TG: hey rose?
TT: Yes, David?
TT: You are welcome.
You decide to look for memorabilia from some of John’s shitty movies. His birthday is coming up in a few weeks anyway, so you can combo this shit. He got you the shades from Starsky and Hutch, so it’s only appropriate that you get him a movie prop in return. It is also the kind of shitty, sentimental thing that he would go crazy for. Or make him go crazy for you because yes, this is the point.
You look up various movies John has mentioned until you find the perfect gift. While you recall John telling you he really isn’t a fan anymore, you also remember that Con Air was John’s favourite movie as a kid. Bam. There’s the fucking stuffed rabbit that was in the movie. John will be falling ass over heels for you all over again and woah holy shit who would have thought that a prop for such a shitty movie would be so expensive? There’s an auction for it on eBay and the most recent bid isn’t exactly cheap. There is but only one solution.
You go to Bro and whine that you want to get John a birthday gift, but you don’t have enough money for what you want to buy him.
“You like John, right? Why don’t you pay for it?” you say.
In response, Bro challenges you to a strife and tells you that if you can beat him, he’ll pay for it. You retrieve your swords and go to the roof. The fight lasts a good half-hour before Bro finally manages to catch you off guard and pin you. He agrees to pay half.
Even with your perfect birthday gift secured, you are slightly nervous when you go to John’s house on the thirteenth of April. What if he thinks it is shit since he doesn’t like Con Air anymore? What if this was all for nothing and he doesn’t even want to be your boyfriend anymore?
The thought is strangely distressing to you.
You knock on the door and John’s dad answers with a wide smile.
“Hello, Dave!” he says.
“Hey, is John around?” you mumble.
John’s dad directs you to his room and you take off your shoes inside the door before you make your way up the stairs to John’s room and knock on the door. John opens the door and looks surprised when he sees you there. Why does he look so surprised? It’s his goddamn birthday. Of course you’re going to come see him.
“Hey,” you say. “Happy birthday, man. I brought you something.” You lift up the present and give the box a little shake.
He stands aside a little awkwardly and you sit on his bed. John sits a little ways away from you and takes the gift from you, opening the envelope attached to it to see the Sweet Dave and Hella John card you made for him with an additional apology note inside. Then the rude fucker goes right to opening the gift instead of accepting your heartfelt apology first and easing your nerves. When John sees the rabbit and the note of authenticity, he blinks with shock for a moment before he grins widely and turns to you, throwing his arms around your neck. He whispers into your ear:
“Well we may not be wearing filthy wife-beaters, but this is as good as it’s going to get.”
Relief floods through you and on impulse, you say the first thing that comes to your head even though you haven’t fully processed the thought: “I love you.”
You and John both freeze. Holy shit. You actually said that. And holy shit, you actually meant it. You love the way John feels in your arms right now. You love the way he smells and the way his hair tickles your chin from this position. You love his eyes and his laugh and his smile and the way he still treats you like his best friend instead of just his boyfriend. You love him.
John looks at you and smiles brilliantly, saying quietly, “I love you too, Dave.” And then he’s kissing you and you’re kissing back. You gradually lie down and pull John on top of you so that you aren’t just leaning toward each other like idiots, and you feel the warmth of his body against yours. He enfolds your lower lip between both of his and his overbite catches on the sensitive flesh, making your breath hitch and your arms tighten around him. When he releases your lip, you give John’s bottom lip the same treatment, but then you decide to spice things up by brushing your tongue against it lightly. John’s lips part instinctively and your tongue tentatively ventures forward like an explorer on Hellmurder Island, but all caution is thrown to the wind when John slides his tongue against yours willingly, coaxing it further into his mouth so that he can suck on it, making you moan softly and hold him flush against you and your penis turns to diamonds.
You reach past the haze of the impromptu make out session and yep, that is a boner and it certainly is yours. You feel your face heat up and John must feel your dick against his thigh because when he finally pulls away from the kiss, panting for breath, his cheeks are flushed a deep red. Damn. He looks really good like that. You wonder how he would look if you—that is enough out of you, penis.
“Wow there,” John whispers. “Somebody sure is excited.”
You roll your eyes and give John an unamused look. “Yeah, so I suggest you get your leg out of my crotch unless you want to do something about it.”
John snickers. “You’re so homo it hurts.”
“Bite me, bitch.”
John proceeds to bite the side of your neck and you groan before he pulls away and rolls off of you with a breathy laugh. You end up watching Armageddon together and you stay the night. You consider the day a success.
So what was that about not showing PDA? Yeah, seriously fuck that. While you and John don’t engage in sloppy make outs in front of everyone, the two of you become veritably attached at the hip, constantly holding hands and always walking each other to classes and hugging before parting ways, maybe adding in a discrete kiss on the cheek if you’re feeling especially adventurous. When you’re over at each other’s houses though, you are all game. In short, there are gratuitous sloppy make outs and an overabundance of awkward boners that you are too nervous to do anything about.
Soon enough, year-end exams are over and it’s summer break. After the first week of July, Rose’s mom makes a proposition.
“Bro, come on! You’re being a fucking pussy.”
Bro lowers his Cosmopolitan magazine to stare at you. “I am not going to fucking East Hampton for two weeks to babysit you little shits.”
“It’s not just going to be the four of us; Aunt Roxy is going to be there too.”
“Even worse.” Bro lifts the magazine in front of his face.
“Dude, don’t be such a jackass. She said that if you don’t join us, we’re not going at all,” you protest.
“I am sure that John’s dad will be glad to take you and your friends to the beach.”
“Yeah, but we won’t be staying in the Lalonde’s cottage.”
“Dave, don’t do this to me.”
“I will buy you an entire pack of orange soda.”
Bro looks up at you again. “What brand?”
“I fucking hate you.”
Jade gets a ride down to the Lalonde’s beachside cottage in East Hampton with Rose and her mother while Bro begrudgingly drives you and John. John scratches notes excitedly to you throughout the whole two hour drive, and you’d be lying if you said his enthusiasm didn’t get to you as well like some viral contagion. When you finally arrive at the cottage, you get out of the truck to get your bags, but Bro just sits there. John frowns at him and signs something.
“No, John. I am not fucking excited,” Bro replies.
John frowns with confusion and signs something else.
“No, it’s not about you guys. It’s actually…”
Rose’s mom chooses that moment to come out of the cottage, calling out, “Dave!” She hurries over to you and pulls you into a tight hug that makes you choke. “How was the ride, honey?”
“It was great, Aunt Rox,” you force out. “I can’t breathe…”
“Oops! Sorry!” she giggles, then turns toward the truck and screeches, “DIRKY!!!!”
Bro frowns so hard you think his mouth is going to fall off his face. “Oh fuck no.”
You and John watch in astonishment as Roxy throws open the door of the truck and practically fucking drags Bro out, squishing his face in her hands, much to his displeasure, and going on about how thin he is and asking if he’s eating properly. Bro looks like he would rather get hit by his own truck than endure this.
John gets out of the truck and approaches you, writing a note. ‘is this why your bro didn’t want to come?’
“Yep,” you say as you watch Roxy continue to maul your brother with unwanted affection. “Aunt Roxy loves me, but she fucking adores Bro.”
You and John manage to get your bags from the truck and sneak into the cottage while Aunt Roxy continues her loving assault on Bro. You are met with a smirking Rose and an absolutely beaming Jade.
“You’re here!!” Jade tackles you and John in a hug, nearly bowling the two of you over. Rose approaches far more calmly.
“Come along then, boys. I’ll lead you to your room,” Rose says.
“Wait. ‘Room’? We’re sharing?” you say incredulously.
“Did I fucking stutter? Unless, of course, either of you have a problem with that.” Rose’s grin turns fucking insidious and you narrow your eyes at her from behind your shades. That sly bitch.
“No problem at all,” you say, taking John’s hand in yours pointedly. John rolls his eyes.
Your and John’s room is a decent size with two single beds. As soon as Rose leaves to let the two of you “settle in,” you move to one of the beds and start pushing. John blinks at you.
“What? You look like I just whipped out my dick and started doing la cucaracha.”
John blushes furiously and writes a note, holding it out to you. ‘what the fuck are you doing?’
“Pushing our beds together. What the fuck does it look like I’m doing? Now if you want some Strider cuddles, help me out.”
John immediately comes to your aid and the two of you soon morph your beds into one double bed.
“Thanks, sweetheart. Love ya.” You kiss the side of John’s head and ruffle his hair.
He wrinkles his nose and attempts (quite futilely, you might add) to flatten his hair again as he mumbles, “Fuck you sideways, Strider.”
John punches you in the arm and grabs his swim shorts before leaving you snickering in the bedroom by yourself like a loser. You decide to cease being a loser and put on your own black and red swim shorts before you go out to the living room where Rose and Jade are already waiting in their bathing suits. Rose wears a tasteful black bikini while Jade wears a bright green one-piece.
“Lookin’ good, ladies,” you say as you join them. Jade giggles and Rose raises an eyebrow. John exits the bathroom moments later in navy blue shorts and a long-sleeved rash guard and you wolf-whistle at him. John smacks your arm.
“Aw man! And here I was hoping we would finally get to see John’s obviously sexy body,” Jade complains.
John laughs breathily and you smirk even as you feel your stomach twist because you know the real reason John is keeping his body covered up.
“How do you even survive the heat with long sleeves all the time?” Jade asks. “I would die!”
John gives her an easy smile and shrugs before gesturing for you all to follow him outside and you wonder how he even does it. The four of you go down to the beach and run into the water. It’s a bit chilly, but goddamn does it feel great after the burning sand. Jade jumps the waves playfully and you race John as far out as you can until he is forced off of his feet by the water, grinning. The two of you go back to Rose and Jade in the shallower water, standing with the waves up to your stomachs.
“Oh, John! I can’t believe it slipped my mind earlier, but how do you intend to communicate with us while swimming?” Rose asks.
Fuck. Why didn’t you fucking think about that?
“Good thing he has an interpreter then, isn’t it?”
You turn around and oh fuck no. “Brooooo!!!”
Bro is standing knee-deep in the water in an orange fucking speedo.
You hate your life.
When it gets dark out, you have a bonfire in the yard and gather around the fire pit. You all go around the circle to tell scary stories, and Bro interprets for John when he tells his. It is the group consensus that John tells the best ghost stories, even if ghost stories are dumb. John sheepishly tells you that he has a thing for paranormal lore. After gorging yourselves on s’mores and after Bro has finally forced Aunt Roxy to stop drinking, he sends everyone to bed and grumbles about babysitting.
You strip down to your boxers and John asks you to turn your back to him while he pulls on a shirt and pajama pants before laying down next to you, setting his glasses on the nightstand. You snuggle in behind John and wrap your arms around him.
“You don’t have to hide yourself from me, you know. I already know about it,” you whisper.
“I don’t want you looking at my body,” John whispers back. “It’s ugly.”
You press a kiss to the back of John’s neck. Then another. “No it isn’t.”
“How would you know? You only saw one arm.”
“Because it’s you.”
John stills in your arms and after a few moments he turns around to face you, lips parted and dark blue eyes awed. He brings his hand up to stroke your cheekbone with his thumb as he whispers, “I love you, Dave. So much…”
The words come effortlessly. “I love you too, John.” You close the distance and kiss John gently, and you feel him respond immediately, soft lips pressing against yours in return. The kisses are chaste, just the light meeting of your mouths over and over and you feel like you could do this forever and goddamn, you really love this kid.
You end up falling asleep in each other’s arms and it is the cheesiest fucking thing ever. When Rose comes in to wake up you and John in the morning and finds the two of you in that position, she tells everyone and no one lets it go.
Your best idea comes three days later when you decide to go skinny dipping in the middle of the night with John. John protests at first, not wanting you to see him naked, but you remind him that with your shades, all you can really see of him is the paleness of his skin. He concedes with an exasperated sigh and you drag him out in your swimming gear, saying that if it makes him more comfortable, the two of you can strip down and throw your shorts ashore after you’re in the water.
The water is surprisingly warm when you step in, but John reminds you that the water hasn’t gotten warmer, it just feels like it has since the night air is cooler. You strip off your shorts when the two of you are waist deep and John hesitates before he removes his rash guard and shorts and tosses them ashore. You go over to John immediately and wrap your arms around his waist from behind, resting your chin on his shoulder. John freezes up at first, but after you kiss his shoulder a few times and start to rub his stomach with your thumb, he relaxes in your arms and leans back against you. It feels really good to hold him like this. You like holding John anytime, but the skin-on-skin contact makes it feel far more intimate, especially since you have never felt much of John’s skin before at all.
After John has calmed down even more, you finally remove your arms from John’s waist and swim around. John splashes you playfully and an all-out war breaks out with the two of you wrestling and dunking each other. In a totally-but-not-shocking-at-all development, this ends with the two of you making out and getting awkward boners, or that is: awkward until John’s boner ends up touching yours and rainbows fly. John’s breath catches, but instead of pulling away like you expect him to, he just presses closer and, oh shit, that feels good. You cling desperately to one another and hiss at the contact as you rub together. Your hips rock in a steady motion, creating a fucking divine friction and you swear masturbation will never satisfy you again because John’s face is inches from yours, flushed and panting in the darkness, and he’s holding you like he’s never going to let go and it feels so fucking good and—
You reach orgasm in an embarrassingly short period of time and after John comes a minute later, he snickers at you and you swat his arm. When the afterglow settles in, the two of you just hold each other in your arms and look at each other.
“Hey, Dave?” John says quietly.
“I want to see your eyes.” John’s hands come up and his fingers tap the frames of your shades lightly.
You freeze up. Shit. Your knee-jerk response is to tell John that you’re not comfortable with people seeing your eyes, but he’s fucking skinny-dipping with you after hiding his body for as long as you’ve known him. At least in the dark John shouldn’t be able to see how fucked up your eyes are. Still, it is with an edge of reluctance that you say, “Okay.”
John gently pushes your sunglasses up to rest on top of your head and you keep your eyes closed until you feel his thumbs brush just beneath your eyes. Finally you have to look at him, and when you do, he’s looking into your eyes and giving you this smile that just makes your breath catch because holy fuck, no one has ever looked at you like this before. Slowly, John leans in and brushes your lips together, and then you’re holding him tightly as you kiss him back because even if he couldn’t see the colour of your eyes that was a better reaction than you ever could have hoped for.
It takes a while for you to part, and when you do, you keep holding each other’s hands as you head ashore and replace your swimwear and your shades. After you get back to the bedroom and change into sleepwear, you hold each other under the blankets.
Your name is Dave Strider, and as John falls asleep in your arms, you swear you will never let him go.
End of the arc. Now shit gets real.
Chapter 9: John: Be Paranoid
Thank you to all of my readers and to Kayla and Broseph. This is for all of you, and, of course, Zipra.
The summer passes relatively quickly. It’s strange for you; you’re used to spending your summers mostly by yourself or with your dad. But now that you actually have friends to hang out with, you find yourself astonishingly busy between Jade dragging you around national parks and Rose bringing you for day trips at her cottage again. Most of all, you spend time with Dave.
Having a boyfriend is an entirely new experience for you. You’ve been experiencing a lot of firsts with Dave; first date, first kiss, first shared orgasm. After that first time on the beach, Dave takes about any opportunity he can get to press himself against you and you can’t exactly say you have a problem with that! At the beginning of August, Dirk buys an old Ford for Dave, and then Dave comes over even more.
“The first time we go all the way has to be in the back of my car,” Dave declares one day after the two of you have a particularly enthusiastic bout of rutting on your bed.
You turn to him, adjusting your glasses and trying to catch your breath. “What?”
“It’s a cliché, and it would be ironic as fuck,” Dave reasons.
You sigh and sit up, pushing back your hair. Gross, your boxers are all wet and sticky. “Maybe I want it to be nice.”
Dave makes a face at you. “Ew, no. Why would you want that? What even is nice when it comes to sex anyway? You just kind of force your nasty, sweaty bodies together and make awkward grunting noises at each other like some tumultuous celebration of disgusting bodily fluids.”
You throw a pillow at him. “You’re disgusting.”
Dave chuckles, catching the pillow. “You and me, baby, ain’t nothin’ but mammals.” He pulls you in by the shoulder and catches your lips in a kiss. You can’t help but smile against his mouth. You settle against Dave, laying on his chest, and rest your hand over the steady thudding of his heart. After you calm down, you lay your head on his shoulder and sigh.
“You should take off your shades more often.”
Dave pauses before starting to stroke your hair, mumbling, “I don’t really like taking them off much…”
“Because of reasons.”
Dave just trails off in an incoherent murmur. You want to push him, but you can tell that he’s uncomfortable with the topic.
“I need to change my boxers. Do you want to borrow a pair?” you ask.
“Hell yes, I do. I would love to have an article of clothing that has touched your bare butt rub up against my bare butt. It will be so fucking intimate.”
You snicker and kiss his jaw before getting up. You grab two pairs of boxers from your drawer and, with a grin, shove one pair over Dave’s head.
“Charming,” says Dave as he pulls them off of his head. You giggle breathily as you hurry to the bathroom to change.
The time at the beach wasn’t the only time you’ve been naked in front of Dave. There were two other times as well, but you insisted on complete darkness. You don’t want him to see the extent of the damage you’ve done to yourself. He doesn’t need that burden.
Sometimes when you go to Dave’s apartment, he and his bro bring you to the roof to watch as they spar with their swords. If you were younger it would seem really cool, but now they just look really dumb and dorky. Like, here are these two young adults on a roof, swinging around swords at each other and completely serious about it like they’re characters in some shitty anime. You seriously wonder what practical use the Striders would ever have for their skills with a blade. Most likely there isn’t any use for that knowledge at all, but it keeps them in shape and you would be lying if you said you haven’t noticed the lean muscle in Dave’s arms and shoulders and the thicker muscle in his calves. Dirk packs even more muscle than Dave does and from an objective point of view, he’s actually pretty hot. You’re surprised he doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend; but then again, he seems to focus most of his time on Dave. Aww.
“Yo, Egbert, you want in on this?” Dave calls out to you, bending over to rest his hands on his knees as he catches his breath mid-spar.
You give him a questioning look, then turn to Dirk.
Dirk shrugs. “I don’t see why not. Ever use a sword?”
You shake your head and Dirk walks over to you.
“What kind of weapon would you like to use?”
You think back to some of the weapons you’ve used in World of Warcraft and sheepishly sign, ‘Hammer.’
Dirk smirks at you and looks you up and down. “Alright. We can see about that. I have some more shit in my room and I’m pretty sure I’ve got a warhammer around here somewhere.”
‘You are such a fucking nerd,’ you sign.
Dirk sticks out his tongue. “Bite me, fucker. With those teeth you could even leave a mark!”
You give Dirk the middle finger and he chuckles as he heads into the apartment building. Dave grins and walks over to you, slinging an arm around your shoulders. “So you’re a hammer guy, huh? How would you like to hammer me into the—“
You shove Dave away playfully. “Ew, you’re all gross and sweaty!”
“Remind you of anything?” He wiggles his eyebrows at you.
“Ugh, Striders!” You make a face of disgust.
Dirk returns moments later, tossing a replica of the Ebony Warhammer from Oblivion at you. You gasp in surprise and the head of the hammer hits the roof because holy shit that is heavier than you expected. Dirk and Dave snicker at you and you glare at them before hoisting up the hammer and charging at Dirk, swinging it in a semi-graceful arc. Dirk flash-steps to the other side of the roof and you want to chastise him because there is no way that is fucking fair. You can’t flash-step.
You charge for Dave next, striking down toward his head with the hammer. Unlike his loser brother, Dave stands his ground and raises his sword to block the attack. The impact is heavy, and at first you’re concerned about Dave because he stutters back a step and his arms give a little.
“Shit, Egbert!” Dave says, “I didn’t know you had arms like that.”
You give him a cheeky grin and draw away out of the reach of his sword. You feel a disturbance in the air behind you and turn just in time to parry a strike from Dirk’s blade. Dirk gives you a smirk of approval before he flash-steps away again like a loser.
This becomes the norm; Dave fights with you like a man and Dirk flash-steps around to test your reflexes like a tool. You would feel like a loser if this wasn’t so invigorating. This must be why Dirk and Dave have these spars.
Your hammer just strikes against Dave’s sword again when you feel Dirk move behind you again. You part your hammer from Dave’s sword and use the momentum to spin around with a strike when you feel a starburst of pain in the side of your back, gasping with surprise. You drop the hammer and you hear swords clatter to the pavement. Immediately, Dirk has a hand on your shoulder, making you flinch.
“Are you alright?” Dirk demands. You blink at him, baffled, and Dirk turns you away to give him better access to the cut. He begins to lift your torn shirt and out of reflex, you punch him.
You hear Dave say, “Woah, John!” but you’re already running to the fire escape. Distantly, you know that they could easily catch up to you by flash-stepping, but you’re not thinking about that right now. Your mind is a whirlwind of fight or flight, fight or flight, and you can feel the adrenaline rushing through you like water through a broken dam. You get yourself to the Strider’s apartment and make a beeline for the bathroom, slamming the door shut and locking it behind you before you collapse back against it with relief, panting. You’re safe. No one can hurt you here. Wait, what are you thinking? Of course no one’s going to hurt you; this is Dave and Dirk.
They just did.
You feel a drop of blood slide down your back. It was an accident.
Dirk hurt you.
He didn’t mean to! It was an honest mistake, and it barely even hurts. Striders won’t hurt you, Striders won’t hurt you, Striders won’t hurt you. You mouth the words to reinforce it. Striders won’t hurt you.
You hear Dave and Dirk enter the apartment and then Dave is at the door, voice sounding almost panicked.
“John? Are you in there? Please let me in! Are you okay?”
You close your eyes and take deep breaths. You can do this on your own, just like you have plenty of times before. You ignore Dave’s worried calls and strip off your shirt, getting some toilet paper and twisting around to dab at the cut for a better look. It looks clean and it’s not very deep. You search the bathroom cabinet for some medical supplies; there are sure to be plenty kept around for cases like this. You find the medical kit at the back and open it up. There’s some shit you don’t need, but you take a cotton ball and soak it with antiseptic before running it along your wound with your lip between your teeth. Then you cut a piece of gauze and use medical tape to secure it over the cut. There. Good as new. You put away the medical kit and oh fuck, Dave is freaking out.
“Dirk didn’t mean to! He really didn’t! Shit, are you breaking up with me? You’re breaking up with me, aren’t you? I swear it will never happen again. I’ll get the cat declawed and blunt down all the swords. Not a single fuckin’ thing will harm your delicate flesh. Food fight at lunch? Fuck that. I will hurtle myself in the path of that single grape. Its trajectory will never meet its true target, for I, Dave Strider, am a valiant man and I happen to care about you a fucking lot! I will go into politics and fight for stricter gun laws…”
You sigh and pull the pen and notepad out of the pocket of your shorts, writing, ‘shut up, you dorkasaurus,’ before sliding it beneath the door. Dave pauses mid-rant and you can hear him pick up the paper. You write another note and slip it beneath the door as well. Dave picks up that note as well, and then his feet pad away. You wait. Moments later, the feet are padding back and then Dave taps on the door.
“I brought the shirt…” mumbles Dave.
You unlock the door and open it slightly so that Dave can reach in with the shirt you requested and drop it on the bathroom floor. The moment his hand has retracted, you shut the door again and pull on the borrowed shirt. It’s a basketball tee with long, red sleeves and a broken record on the front. You look at yourself in the mirror for a second, smiling slightly because you know Dave loves this shirt. You’re okay. You’re fine.
You open the door and Dave is standing right there, of course, looking like a kicked puppy. You let out a huff of laughter because you have never seen Dave act like this. When he sees your smile, Dave raises his hands like he wants to throw himself at you but is scared he’s going to freak you out like a timid gazelle or some shit. You step forward into Dave’s arms instead, wrapping yours around him. You feel the tension leave Dave’s body and he settles his hands on your lower back, nuzzling the side of your head.
“I’m okay,” you whisper so that just Dave can hear.
“I was worried…” Dave replies.
You give him a gentle squeeze before releasing him, then look for Dirk. Dirk is sitting on the living room couch, clearly trying to look inconspicuous. You ignore the act and go over to him, flopping down on his lap and wrapping your arms around his neck. Dirk flails a little awkwardly before he hugs you close.
“Sorry,” Dirk murmurs.
You pap his jaw where you punched him as a weird apologetic gesture, then give him an affectionate squeeze.
Dirk’s hands slide down to your ass and give it an affectionate squeeze.
That is enough hugging for now.
You find yourself oddly optimistic when school rolls around. You never had anything to look forward to before, but now you get to look forward to your senior year with Dave, Jade, and Rose. You have AP English with Rose, calculus with Jade, and Dave convinced you to take music with him. You’re going to miss him in biology this year.
Dad drops you off with a good fifteen minutes before class, and Jade waves you over to where she, Rose, and Dave are sitting in the grass outside of the school. You sit down with them and smile easily.
“John, my man, you are looking quite sharp in those fresh duds, so to speak,” says Dave. “So sharp that I could scratch my corneas just looking at you. Good thing I’ve got protective eyewear, man. I would be fuckin’ screwed.”
You look around at the new freshmen arriving as your friends talk. It’s strange how much you’ve changed in less than a year; you never would have cared to see the faces of any new students before. You never thought anyone would want to wait for you to write notes anyway, and most people aren’t fluent in sign language. You see a group of girls giggling together as they walk toward the school, and then behind them you swear you see a cascade of wavy, black hair—a woman’s—and you freeze. Where those dark locks go, those eyes follow…
“John? Jooohn. Helloooooo! Snap out of it!” A pair of fingers snaps in front of your face and you instinctively turn to the source. You jump as you see the black haired woman right there—never mind, that’s Jade.
“John? Are you okay?” asks Jade. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
You blink at Jade for a moment before quickly scrawling on your notepad, ‘i’m fine! i just kind of zoned out there for a second, hehe.’
Rose gives you one of her piercing looks and you ignore it. Dave takes your hand and laces your fingers together. A paranoid part of you wants to shake his hand off, but you don’t because what you saw was just your imagination.
You have calculus first. Dave said that anyone who schedules calculus first thing in the morning is a tremendous douche, but you actually don’t mind too much. You’ve never had much trouble operating during the mornings. You make sure to pick the seat behind Jade, and she grins back at you for a moment before turning to face the front again like a good student. You’re too nice to tell her that you just wanted to sit behind her so that you could sneak pranks behind her back. Your first act of villainy is to tie gum wrappers in little pieces of her hair like ribbons. The prank goes horribly wrong when Jade sees them later and thinks that they are adorable in a quirky way and asks you to do it again sometime. Foiled again! Mark your words, you will get Harley later.
Biology is your second period class, so you’re on your own for that one. It basically sucks not having friends in that class, and that’s really all there is to say on the matter. You have no idea what you will do for labs.
At lunch time, Dave pulls you down to sit flush against him, and you can’t help but blush slightly at how okay he is with public affection. It’s like Dave wants everyone to know that you’re his and that would be creepy if it wasn’t so nice because it’s you who he wants. Jade shows off her gum wrapper ribbons and Rose covers her mouth with one hand as she laughs at your pouting face.
English with Rose is next, and once again, you take the seat behind her. Rose immediately turns, smirk in place.
“Touch me and I will end you, Egbert,” says Rose.
You flutter your eyelashes at her innocently and you see the corner of her mouth twitch as she tries to resist laughing. Sadly, she succeeds, and then she’s turning away from you again. You stick out your tongue at her.
Music class with Dave is where things should get interesting. Hypothetically. You hope. You sit next to him and he takes your hand briefly to give it a squeeze. You smile at him. The teacher goes around and asks each student what instrument they play. Dave tells the teacher on your behalf that you play the piano, and then says that he plays guitar. You frown and scrawl a note.
‘you do not play guitar, you liar.’
Dave murmurs, “Shh. I thought it would be ironic to learn because bitches love a man who can play the guitar. They say guitarists are good with their fingers; want to find out?” He wiggles his fingers at you and you feel your face heat up because wow, those are definitely not the thoughts you should be having in class. Dave snickers at you and you punch him in the arm.
After school, Dave declares that he is coming over to your house and you can’t stop him. He calls his bro while the two of you wait out front for your dad to pick you up. You absently look around as you wait, wrinkling your nose at all the students boarding their buses and the smell of cigarettes from the kids still milling about. In the corner of your eye you see a flash of blue; but’s it’s not any blue. It’s that blue. You feel your throat close and in this moment you couldn’t speak even if you wanted to. In some part of your mind, you can register Dave trying to get your attention, telling you that your dad is here, but you can’t move. The blue turns toward you and you bite your bottom lip hard and then you’re grabbing Dave’s wrist and bolting for your dad’s car.
“Woah, John! Where’s the sniper?” Dave exclaims with surprise. You get into the back seat as fast as you can and buckle in. Dave puts on his seatbelt a little slower, looking concerned, and Dad seems to catch on to your urgency because he pulls out onto the road quickly. You let out a sigh of relief.
“Is everything alright, John?” Dad asks.
You nod, trying to catch your breath.
“Sorry for the intrusion, Eggs,” says Dave. “John just whisked me away like a damsel in distress. He probably saved my life on some level. Hope you don’t mind keeping me at your castle for now.”
“That’s fine,” says Dad. “I made apple crisp.”
Dave smirks to hide his glee. “Perfect.”
You’re barely paying attention to them.
When you get back to your house, you hurry up to your room and Dave follows after, telling you to hold your horses. You curl up on your bed and tense up when you feel your mattress compressing behind you, but then Dave’s scent is surrounding you as he wraps an arm around your waist and snuggles close.
“Want to talk about what happened earlier? You freaked me out a bit there, dude. You looked fucking terrified,” Dave mutters to you softly.
You shake your head; you couldn’t talk right now even if you wanted to. There’s pressure in your chest. You turn around to face Dave and hug him around his torso, burying your face in his chest. Dave “shhh”s you, which is pretty dumb considering you can’t even make a sound. Verbalization seems like an alien concept right now. You’re thankful for it anyway, and for the way Dave starts stroking your hair. The process is slow, but you can feel yourself gradually calming down. After a while longer, Dave taps your chin to get you to look up at him and then he kisses your mouth softly. You kiss back slowly at first, but then you lose yourself to his lips, letting him drown out all of your fear with the taste of him. Dave doesn’t take it any farther than kissing, and you are thankful for that too.
You don’t see that black hair or that blue for a week. This time, it catches your eye on the way to the convenience store with Jade on a Wednesday. Your breath chokes up and you grab Jade’s hand, squeezing her fingers so hard that she gasps in pain. It happens again on Saturday, this time when you’re going out for pizza with Dave.
TT: What has been happening, John? Jade and Dave keep telling me that you are having these episodes of panic.
EB: i’m fine, rose! just a little paranoid i guess! it’s just my imagination.
TT: So what you meant to say is that you are having posttraumatic flashbacks?
EB: yes! that is exactly it!
TT: You sound more like you are trying to convince yourself than like you are trying to convince me.
EB: that is a lie! lies and slander!
EB: evil scary lies from an evil scary witch!
TT: I am worried about you.
EB: i know. and i’m telling you that you have nothing to worry about!
EB: i’m fine! my brain is just being dumb. if something happens i’ll tell you, okay?
TT: If you are sure, John.
TT: I suppose there is nothing I can really do as long as you refuse to disclose your fears to me.
EB: yeah, yeah. i know. you’re the best. :)
You’re not fine. You’re afraid to step outside. Dave notices, Jade notices, Rose definitely notices; and the worst part is, you don’t even know if you’re really seeing these things or not. You’ve had flashbacks so many times. What if you can’t separate your fears from reality anymore?
Dad makes a cake for you in an attempt to comfort you, and you actually find yourself eating it now. The sweet flavor is comforting on your tongue; a reminder of the father who loves you. You sit next to Dad while he watches one of his old sitcoms as you snack on the cake. You can feel your dad’s warmth emanating from where he sits nearby. You’re safe. Dad’s here. You can hear him and see him, feel his presence, smell his cologne and taste the care he put into baking the cake for you. After you finish the cake, you set the plate down on the coffee table and pretend to fall asleep so that you can lean against Dad without looking like a little kid. He chuckles and pets your hair. You relax even more.
You see long, black hair on the way home from school.
EB: fuck it! i can’t do it anymore!
EB: rose, i keep seeing them everywhere i look. :(
TT: Who are you seeing, John?
EB: and i am so fucking scared, i don’t want to go outside anymore!
TT: Have you spoken to your father about this?
EB: no. he knows that i am worried about something, but i haven’t told him…
TT: When was the last time you saw your therapist?
EB: a few months ago.
EB: everything was going really great with dave and you guys, so i didn’t need any help then.
TT: I would recommend you see about booking another appointment with her then. Perhaps she can get to the bottom of why you are having these flashbacks in public.
EB: i don’t want to see her.
TT: John, you should consider yourself lucky that you have a therapist at all. There are many people in need of help who cannot afford the care of a therapist.
EB: i know, i know!
EB: but i don’t need some professional to go to.
TT: John, I am being serious.
EB: i know!
EB: but the thing is,
EB: i already have a therapist for free!
EB: and that is you!
TT: While I am very flattered, I do not have any professional degree. I do not have the legal authority or credibility to act as your therapist.
EB: who cares about that stuff?
EB: besides, your chumhandle says right in it that you are a therapist.
EB: tentacle therapist.
EB: i think we have this settled.
TT: Do I have a choice in the matter?
EB: nope! :)
TT: Very well then. I shall do my best.
TT: Can you think of anything that has happened recently that could have triggered a posttraumatic response?
EB: uh… well at the end of august i joined in on one of dave’s strifes with his bro and i got cut.
EB: i flipped out and hid in the bathroom for a while to calm down, but that was it.
TT: There is a possibility that this is what is responsible for your flashbacks.
TT: Perhaps the pain triggered the memories of your past trauma and caused them to crop up and plague your mind, dwelling in your subconscious to be brought up when you feel vulnerable; i.e. in public where there are many people.
EB: i guess that makes sense!
EB: but just…
EB: how do i deal with the fear from it?
EB: i literally get frozen with fear until i can snap out of it enough to run for my life.
TT: You take medication for your anxiety, correct?
EB: yeah, it was prescribed to me years ago.
TT: Have you been taking it regularly?
EB: well duh. i have to.
TT: You could speak to your physician and see about raising the dosage a little.
EB: maybe i will.
EB: i just hope i do not become some drugged up zombie because of it!
EB: thanks, rose. you see? i told you that you were a good therapist.
TT: Actually, you just told me I was a therapist.
EB: oh. well you are a good therapist.
TT: Thank you, John.
You feel a lot better after your conversation with Rose. In fact, the next day you don’t have any moments of panic. You let your guard down as much as ever, and Dave gives your hand a squeeze to show how happy he is that you’re feeling better. At the end of school, he brings you close and kisses your lips. You blush at the publicity.
“I love you,” Dave murmurs.
You smile widely and mouth, “I love you, too.” This time, you pull Dave into the kiss, smiling against his lips happily. You feel warmth swelling in your chest and you can’t believe how much you love this guy. He is your best friend and now that you have him, you have no idea what you would do without him.
Your dad is working a little later today, so you have to walk home. Dave kisses your forehead before you go and you almost have a spring to your step. When you get home, you grab a bag of Doritos from the kitchen and dive onto the living room couch, flicking on the television to treat yourself to a viewing of Little Monsters. You’re about halfway through the movie and giggling at Howie Mandel’s antics when there’s a knock on the door. You pause the movie and set your empty chip bag on the coffee table, licking your fingertips as you walk over to the door. You wonder if it’s Jade visiting or a door to door solicitor. You open the door, putting on a friendly smile, and then you freeze.
The woman standing at the door is a little shorter than you, and she has long, wavy, black hair that falls down to her ribs. Her hazel eyes pierce into your own and her perfect, red-stained lips are curved up in an easy smile.
“Hello, John,” she says, teeth flashing.
You feel sick. You think you might throw up. Your hand drops from the door and you suddenly feel very, very small. You shape the words with your lips, but your voice is nowhere to be found.
You’re trapped by those hazel eyes. You see warmth in them, but you don’t feel it; that warmth isn’t for you. It can’t be. But the woman—your mother—keeps smiling.
“Can I come in?” she asks.
No. You step back and to the side to let the woman into your house. In the back of your mind, you think of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and how he could not enter an abode without permission. As the woman steps over the threshold and removes her dainty shoes, all you can think of is, you’ve done it. You’ve let her into your home. She knows where you live. Now she could come and get you anytime. You silently lead her to the living room and gesture at the couch before you go to get a glass of water for her. Old habits die hard.
“Thank you, John,” says the woman when you set the glass in front of her. “You have a very lovely home here with your guardian. It’s a nice neighborhood.”
You stare at her.
“What’s the matter, John? You haven’t spoken a word since I got here.” Her false concern makes you feel nauseous.
You take a deep breath before pointing at the woman. Next, you make a thumbs-up and touch your thumb beneath your chin, dragging it forward, then you pat your hand flat on your chest. Finally, you spread your fingers, palm out to the woman, and tap your thumb just below your mouth twice.
“Ah, you speak Sign Language now?” the woman smiles, clasping her hands together. “Were you in some kind of accident?”
You blink. She doesn’t even know that you stopped talking after you were removed from her custody.
Miraculously, your hands don’t shake as you take your notepad and pencil out of your pocket, writing, ‘where is he?’ and handing the note to the woman.
“Oh, your father and I are staying at a hotel in town. We didn’t just come for a social visit though.” She sits up straighter and turns to you with a smile, taking your hands. You flinch. “We’re taking you home, John. Your father and I have taken a parenting course, and we decided that we want to have you with us for your last year before you leave for college; isn’t that wonderful? We will be a family again!”
You shake your head, horrified, and try to pull your hands away.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” She won’t let go of your hands. “Oh, don’t worry! I am sure you will make plenty of friends back in Washington. In fact, maybe you can reconnect with some of your old friends!”
You don’t want new friends. You don’t want to go back. You want to stay here with Dad and with Dave and Jade and Rose. You want to scream. You want her to stop fucking touching you.
“Is it alright if I come back tonight with your father? We’d like to discuss regaining custody of you with your father,” says the woman.
It is not alright. It will never be alright. She needs to take that man and go back to Washington and never darken your doorstep again, and she needs to stop touching you!
The woman sighs with relief. “I’m glad. I’ll see you again tonight then, John.” She kisses your forehead and gives your hands a squeeze before releasing them and standing up. She goes to the door and you follow her numbly, watching as she puts her shoes back on. “It was wonderful seeing you again, baby. I missed you.” You wouldn’t respond if you could.
The woman pulls you into a hug and you stiffen uncomfortably.
“Just hold on tight, Johnny. You’ll be with Mom and Dad again soon. We have so much catching up to do.” And then the woman is gone.
For a few seconds you just stand there, shell-shocked, and you feel wetness on your face. You start shaking, and then the silent sobs begin. You curl in on yourself. You feel so weak. You couldn’t even say a word to her. You couldn’t just tell her, “no.” You run upstairs to your room and open the nightstand drawer. The next thing you know, your arm is stinging and there’s blood and “NO” has been carved into your skin. You grab a tissue and press it to the cuts, nearly blinded with tears. With trembling hands, you take your PDA from your pocket and text Dave, begging him to pick you up.
You don’t receive a text in return, but five minutes later Dave’s car is in your driveway and you run down the stairs with your house keys in one hand and your PDA in the other. You hurry out the door and lock it behind you before pocketing the keys and running over to the car, opening up the passenger door and getting in next to him. Dave turns to you, looking concerned.
“Dude, what happened?” Dave asks.
You shake your head; you can’t speak. Dave seems to get the message anyway, because after you put on your seatbelt, he puts the car in reverse and pulls out of the driveway and onto the road to drive you to his apartment. Only after he has safely parked the car at the complex does he notice your arm.
“Holy fuck, John!” He gapes at the blood on your sleeve and you scramble out of the car self-consciously. Dave locks the car after he gets out and immediately approaches you. You flinch out of reflex but Dave ignores it, taking you firmly, but gently, by the wrist and leading you hurriedly up to his apartment. When he drags you inside, he calls out, “Bro, get the medical kit.”
Dirk doesn’t even question his instructions before going to the bathroom to retrieve it. In the meantime, Dave brings you to his room and sits you down on the bed. Dirk brings the medical kit and a damp cloth, leaving the room afterward to give you two some privacy. Dave pushes back your sleeve and carefully dabs at your cuts with the cloth, and you don’t even react when the fabric catches on the edges of your wounds. Dave hisses when he sees the word carved into your skin. You can practically feel the anger emanating from him. He puts antiseptic on your cuts next before finally bandaging them up. Satisfied that you’ve been tended to physically, Dave sets the medical kit on the floor next to his bed and turns to you again.
“Can you talk?” asks Dave.
You shake your head, not really looking at him.
“Got anything to write with?”
You shake your head again.
“Can I touch you?”
“Okay, I’ll take that as a resounding no. Shit. What the fuck happened, man?”
You lay down on Dave’s bed and bury your face in his pillow. It smells like him. You can’t stand to be touched right now, but the smell is comforting even if your mind is still racing and you feel like you’re going to vomit. Wait… Oh fuck, you are actually going to vomit. You scramble to the side of the bed and grab the garbage can in Dave’s room just in time to retch. Dave curses and you can hear him pacing about his room anxiously. When you’re done, Dave takes the garbage can from you and knots the bag in it, taking it out of the room. You hear a murmured conversation between Dave and Dirk, and then Dirk is entering the room and sitting next to you on the bed.
“Hey. Dave told me you’re having difficulty communicating. Need an interpreter?” asks Dirk.
You shake your head and curl in on yourself, trying not to cry again.
Dirk watches you for a few moments before he gets up. “Stand up for a moment, would you?”
You comply reluctantly and Dirk takes the comforter off of Dave’s bed. He gestures for you to sit down again, and when you do, Dirk carefully wraps the comforter around you like a cocoon.
“There,” he says. “Do you feel any better?”
You hesitate a moment before nodding, hugging the comforter a little more tightly around yourself. It feels a little more secure like this.
Without warning, Dirk removes his anime shades and sets them on his head to look at you without obstruction. To your wonderment, his eyes are a warm shade of amber. He smiles at you softly and says, “You’re safe here, John. Dave and I will protect you. Let me put my number in your PDA; that way you can always get a hold of me.”
You bite your lip and nod, taking your PDA and handing it to Dirk. He silently adds his number to your list of contacts before returning the PDA to you.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
You shake your head and Dirk stretches.
“Alright then. I’m going to send Dave back in here. If you need to stay here for a while though, you are absolutely free to.”
You mouth, “Thank you.”
And then Dirk leaves only to be replaced with a concerned Dave.
“Better?” Dave asks.
You open up the note program on your PDA and type, ‘a little.’
“Can you tell me what happened now?”
You take a deep breath before typing. ‘my biological mother is here. she and my biological father want to regain custody of me and take me back to washington.’ You show what you wrote to Dave.
“Oh fuck. Well what did you tell her?”
‘i did not tell her anything. and that’s the worst part. i am such a fucking coward, i couldn’t even tell her i didn’t want to go.’
“Well when is she seeing you again?”
‘she wants to meet with dad tonight to discuss it.’
“Why don’t you just tell her you’re happy here and to fuck off?”
‘it’s not that easy, dave… and besides, she probably wouldn’t care anyway! i don’t know why they suddenly want me back now of all times, but they sure as fuck are not going to give a single shit about my input. and even still i can’t face her. i can’t face HIM. i’m just really scared, dave.’
Dave pauses. “Can I hold you now?”
You nod and right away, Dave shuffles over and pulls you, comforter and all, into his arms. He kisses the top of your head, murmuring, “They really hurt you, didn’t they?”
You sniffle and nod again, pressing close to Dave. ‘i don’t want to go with them.’
“Okay, so let’s say they talk to your dad tonight; I’m sure he knows about your history, so I highly doubt he would be willing to give you up so easily. Your dad loves you,” says Dave.
You nod comprehendingly and open your cocoon of blankets a little as an invitation. Dave immediately worms his way into the blanket cocoon next to you and wraps his arms around your waist, kissing your cheek.
“I won’t let them take you away from me, okay? You signed up for this shit, and I’m not letting you get out of your contract early.”
“And how long am I bound to this contract?” you whisper.
You smile, closing your eyes, and Dave kisses your cheek again.
“I love you,” you say.
“I love you too.”
For a while, Dave just holds you close to him and lets you feel his warmth and safety. You sigh and press your cheek against his shoulder.
“Does your dad know you’re here?”
You shake your head.
“Alright, I’ll get Bro to call him.” Dave starts to pull away and you grab his arm.
“Wait!” you whisper. Dave turns to you and you bite your lip for a second. “I want to see your eyes.”
Dave sighs. “John…”
“Dirk showed me his.”
Dave shoots a look of disbelief at the door and murmurs, “I’ll be right back, I promise.” He extracts himself from you smoothly and leaves the room. You burrow under the blankets but you can still hear their muffled voices. You hear the door open a minute later and then there’s the sound of a drawer opening and clothes rustling. Footsteps pad over to you and then the bed compresses next to you.
“I brought you a clean shirt,” says Dave. You reach out with one arm to take it from him, dragging it under the comforter with you so that you can change your shirt out of sight. What Dave brought you is less of a shirt and more of a hoodie, but that’s fine by you. The fabric is thick and it smells like Dave. When you’re done changing, you drop your bloodied shirt on the floor next to the bed and peek at Dave. Dave pulls the comforter away from you a little so that he can join you in it again. You look up at Dave’s shades and chew at your bottom lip. Dave sighs in defeat. “Okay.”
Gingerly, you reach up and take the arms of his shades between your thumbs and forefingers and slowly slide them off of his nose, lightly tossing them over to the nightstand. Dave’s eyes are closed, but you admire what you can see, like the way his pale freckles are scattered across his skin. His eyelashes are dark like his eyebrows, contrasting with the platinum blonde of his hair. You cup Dave’s face in your hands and run your thumbs along his cheekbones. You can hear his breathing hitch.
“Open your eyes,” you whisper.
Dave takes in a deep breath and lets it out before he finally opens his eyes and looks at you eye-to-eye for the first time. This time it’s your breath that’s catching because his irises are a brilliant shade of red. There is no way Dave’s eyes can naturally be this colour but why else would he be hiding them? Unlike the rest of his face, Dave’s eyes are amazingly expressive and you can see how nervous this is making him, like he’s afraid you will reject him over something as dumb as the colour of his eyes.
“They’re beautiful,” you tell him, and you keep stroking his cheekbones as you stare into his eyes with awe.
Dave blinks a few times with surprise before looking away with embarrassment and you tap his cheek to make him look at you again with those remarkable eyes. You press your forehead against his.
“I love them,” you say.
Dave makes a half-strangled sound and kisses you passionately, wrapping his arms around your middle. You kiss him back eagerly and snake your own arms around his neck. Your chests are pressed together and you can feel his heart beating wildly as his lips move against yours fervently. You smile into his mouth and then Dave is pulling back to kiss at your jaw and neck over and over.
“I love you,” Dave says breathlessly between kisses.
“I love you too.” You run your fingers through his fine hair.
“Can I try something?” asks Dave.
You feel so much trust for him that you nod, and then Dave is kissing your lips again. His hands slide under your borrowed hoodie and run up your sides, making you arch your back reflexively. Next, his hands move over to your front, roaming your chest. Dave lays his palms flat against your skin to feel your heartbeat, and then he thumbs experimentally over one of your nipples. You suck in a breath because holy shit, you are more sensitive than you thought you were; or maybe that’s just because someone else is touching you. Dave smirks against your mouth and then he’s gently pinching your nipples, making you gasp and arch again. His hands then trail to your back, feeling the contours of your shoulders and spine before going back to your front, gliding down slowly. His hands are soft against you, and then he’s pressing his thumbs into the indents of your hipbones and rubbing. You shudder.
“Is this okay?” Dave asks against your lips.
You shiver and nod. “Yes.”
Dave moves back to kiss your sternum, and then down further to kiss your stomach, then just above the waistband of your jeans and suddenly you know exactly where this is going.
“And this?” Dave murmurs against you.
“Yeah,” you tell him nervously.
Dave hooks his fingers in your waistband and slides them around to unfasten the button of your jeans before dragging down the zipper. Then he pulls your jeans down your hips a little so that they’re, well, out of the way. Dave kisses your hip and begins to palm you through your boxers. You sigh at the feeling and look down to see Dave’s red eyes gazing back up at you. You reach down to tangle your hand with his free one and he gives it a gentle squeeze. Dave stops palming you, but you don’t complain because he’s unbuttoning the front of your boxers and then he’s touching you directly. Your legs part as much as your jeans on your thighs will allow and then your toes are curling as Dave guides your erection out into the open air. He strokes you a few times and just stares at it. You lick your lips in anticipation and then you gasp because yep, Dave just kissed your penis. He kisses it again, holding it firmly at the base, and then he kisses it once more before dragging his tongue up the underside. Your breath catches and you squeeze his hand.
“Is this okay?” he asks.
“If you stop, I will kick you until you die.”
Dave chuckles and then he’s swirling his tongue around the head of you and you have to close your eyes because it feels so good.
“Oh yeah, and sorry if I’m terrible at this; I’ve never done it before so—“
“Will you shut up and put my penis in your face?”
Dave laughs and then he puts your penis in his face, by which you mean he takes the head of it in his mouth and sucks on it rhythmically. At this moment you are glad you don’t have a propensity for making noise because you would have moaned right there. Dave cautiously takes a little more of you into his mouth and then begins to bob his head slowly, sucking on the way back. At one point his teeth graze you and you hiss because that was not pleasant at all. Dave flicks his tongue against you in apology, opening his jaws a little wider to better accommodate you and that is much better. It takes an effort not to thrust, but your legs squirm and you arch your back every so often. You make a tiny sound when Dave’s hand starts to stroke what he can’t reach with his mouth, and you tangle the hand that isn’t gripping his in his hair, not pulling him down on you, but just anchoring yourself to him. You watch Dave and you can see his hips moving behind him as he grinds against the mattress.
You whisper to Dave in warning when you feel yourself getting close, but he just takes it as encouragement to quicken his ministrations. Your breaths grow heavier and you’re squirming more and more as the pleasure builds, and then your vision goes white and you gasp when it reaches its peak, stiffening from the intensity of your orgasm. Your entire body goes boneless as you slowly come down, panting to catch your breath. When you finally regain motor control, you look down to check on Dave. His face is flushed and his eyes are glued on you, propped up on one elbow with his other hand down his pants, touching himself desperately.
He immediately moves up to kiss you messily and you squeak as he brushes against your oversensitive penis. He slips his tongue into your mouth and he tastes fucking nasty (holy shit, he must have swallowed) but you don’t stop him and you would touch him if you could. Dave tenses and whines against your lips and you realize he’s coming already and holy fuck. Just… holy fuck. You tangle your fingers in his hair and kiss him harder, and after a minute he gradually starts to respond again.
“I love you,” you say. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
“I love you too.” Dave’s voice is a little slurred and his Texan accent is more pronounced.
You tuck yourself back into your boxers and pull your jeans back on properly. Dave wipes his hand on the inside of his underwear before he pulls it out and wraps his arms around you, sighing contentedly. Satiated and saturated with oxytocin and vasopressin, you and Dave drift off to sleep.
Sometime later, you hear a voice deeper than Dave’s saying your name. You wrinkle your nose and open your eyes, blinking up blearily at Dirk’s face.
“Your dad is here to pick you up,” says Dirk.
You smile and stretch, feeling satisfied. Dave mumbles sleepily and holds you tighter. You kiss his forehead. He grumbles and you kiss his head over and over to wake him up. He finally lifts his head and glares at you indignantly.
“Up you get, kid. John has to go,” says Dirk.
Dave groans as he rolls off of you, rubbing his eyes. You sit up and give Dirk a nod in thanks. Dave eventually drags himself up and leads you to the door. He rocks a little on his feet in front of you.
“Love you,” Dave mumbles.
You kiss him closed-mouthed, lingering to mouth against his lips, “I love you too.”
Dave smiles. “Got your PDA?”
“Text me later, okay? And good luck.”
You smile widely at Dave and wave before heading out the door. Dad is waiting in the hall for you with open arms, and you run into them, hugging your dad tightly.
“Ready to go, son?” Dad asks.
You nod, and for the first time in years, you take him by the hand as you go down the stairs together to leave. You and Dave must have slept for a few hours because it’s already dark when you get outside. Dad opens the passenger door of the car for you and you get in quickly as he moves around to get in the driver’s seat. The ride back is quiet, but you are still riding on the high of being with Dave, so you don’t mind as much. When you get on the house, you’re about to head upstairs to your room when Dad shakes his head and gestures to the living room couch. You frown and take a seat, and Dad sits next to you, turning his body to face you.
“Your birth parents came over for dinner tonight,” says Dad.
You shiver, the memories of what happened before you went over to Dave’s apartment returning.
“They wanted me to hand over custody of you to them, but I wouldn’t allow it.” Dad pauses and takes his pipe from the pocket of his trousers, chewing on the mouth of it out of habit. His eyebrows furrow. “They’re taking me to court, John. They want to file a custody case.”
Your eyes go wide and your throat closes up with panic. They’re going to take you forcefully.
Your name is John Egbert, and you are fucking terrified.
And now I have to do some research on American child custody laws. Aw yeah.