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The first time Mr. Egbert sees Dave

he thinks the boy is actually a ghost

Bro has been dead for about two weeks

and Dave’s been running for a little under that time  

Dave just up and left

he wasn’t even there for Bro’s burial

friends supposedly took care of it

his good ones

Dave’s protective sunglasses broke three days into his little marathon flight

so he’s basically been running blind in every sense of the phrase

by some stroke of luck he makes it all the way to the airport unscathed

buys a ticket from the first person willing to sell him one

it’s all the money he managed to take from Bro’s stash

and it takes him all the way to Seattle

and it’s the dumbest plan he’s ever had but his whole world just got broken so he figures nobody can blame him

Dave touches down in an unfamiliar place and spends a good handful of days just bumming around and getting a feel for the place

spends a few nights in a tree in the park

and yeah, by about week two of Life Without Bro things are looking

kind of shitty

so when this


stops in front of Dave.

he’s thinking either “Oh ok, I’m about to get murdered” or “Oh ok, I’m about to become a prostitute”

or both


a concerned voice asks him if he’s all right

which he has to fucking laugh at because

of fucking course not

it’s December, it’s almost his birthday, and the only person he ever loved and relied on is dead so


Dave can’t see this guy but he sounds like one of those smarmy business types who hasn’t lived a day without electricity and heating

he saves himself the embarrassment of squinting up at him and just keeps looking down

meanwhile Mr. Egbert is

mystified for some reason

who on earth

is this ghastly pale kid

sitting on the curb by himself

in winter

without so much as a good jacket

Egbert’s got a keen sense on disingenuous people

he can call out a lie from miles away

and he’s somewhat ashamed to admit he usually overlooks the homeless unless he’s making an effort to volunteer (usually a publicity stunt)

but this kid is

very real

and very much in need of help

Egbert doubts he’s even eighteen yet

he asks the boy the dumb question and gets a scathing answer

he’s still got plenty of fight in him

so Egbert asks him if he’s hungry

and he watches the boy turn it over in his head

and eventually look up and


no wonder he’s so white.

the kid asks for his name

he says “Call me Mr. Egbert.”

and pale pink lips tell him “Dave” in return

so Egbert says “Well David I know a good place to eat. I’d like it if you’d come with me. You don’t have to.”

and Dave pictures

one of those bullshit fancy restaurants

like it’s the only place guys like these even eat, right

and normally Dave would scoff and tell this chump to fuck off but

he just doesn’t

he just gets up and says “Lead the way,” and goes with him.

“Wonderful,” Egbert says, and leads him just around the corner to the parking garage

and if Dave could see in all this bright winter light

he’d have probably noticed

the building he was sitting in front of

with EGBERT & SONS over the entryway

Egbert doesn’t immediately take him to eat

he takes Dave to an upscale sort of mall

he pulls Dave right into a Nordstrom’s

and leads him around, checking racks and picking at things

until he’s assembled

a whole goddamn outfit

and Dave is just kind of



going along

thinking “what the fuck is this guy doing”

Egbert hands Dave a stack of clothing with labels he’s never seen before

“Here David, try these on.” Egbert’s got a sharp eye and he’s pretty sure all of this will fit him fine

he shows him to a dressing room and pushes him gently in

Dave sits in there for a good fifteen minutes.

eventually he comes out.

dressed to the nines, feels like.

Dave didn’t take anything but money with him

money and his iPhone

and now he’s shucked off the clothes he’s been living in for

way too long

and he feels like a grimy dog shoved into a fancy dog sweater

he looks at Egbert and he can kind of see him in the dimmer lights

Egbert just says “Excellent”

and then Dave is standing awkwardly behind Egbert as the guy buys him like

an entire suit, almost

and his old grubby clothes are in a fancy Nordstrom bag and

it’s almost hilarious but mostly it’s just fucking weird

“Sorry for the detour,” Egbert says like it’s nothing

Dave just can’t

get a fucking bead on this guy

he thought he knew people but clearly he doesn’t

Egbert doesn’t even take him to a fancy place he just takes him to a clean diner

and they just sit there and eat

Egbert keeps calling him David and he has to interrupt and say “It’s Dave. Just. Dave.”

and Egbert says “Dave” and whoops that

sounded really nice

coming out of his mouth like that.

Dave doesn’t even remember

the last time he had a burger this good

but then, hunger’s the best seasoning.

Dave can’t even bring himself to be embarrassed about inhaling his food

this guy pretty much already saw him at his lowest anyway, who cares.

Egbert offers Dave a milkshake after he’s cleaned his entire plate

and Dave has to say no

that’s just too ridiculous

who the hell does this guy even think he is

Egbert finishes his club sandwich and picks up the check, of course

and Dave stands awkwardly

about to say

thank you?

thanks for the duds and the grub?

thanks for blowing a bunch of money on a homeless kid?

Egbert stops him before he starts

“Would you like a job?”


what the.


Dave’s brain has stopped

who the fuck is this guy???

where does he get off buying Dave out like that?

he just wants Dave to owe him that much more later

he’s gonna end up dead in a ditch or something in a week

instead of saying any of that Dave just says “Sure”

“Splendid,” Egbert says, and he just

leads Dave back out to his car

a Bentley, he realizes

and Egbert takes Dave to this

mansion or some shit

there’s a fucking gate

and a front lawn that’s like twenty miles long

he’s literally only seen this kinda shit on TV

he didn’t exactly believe

places like these actually existed

but apparently they do.

and apparently this guy lives here.

Egbert opens Dave’s door for him because clearly he’s distracted by this

blatant Hollywood bullshit

he actually forgets his bag of clothes in the back seat

Egbert gets it for him while Dave stares up at the second floor balcony

Egbert passes him, Nordstrom bag and briefcase in one hand, key in the other

he opens his front door and Dave dimly hears him say “Please come in”

Dave is pretty sure he can still feel whiplash

like, last night he punched a guy in the stomach to avoid getting mugged and slept on a fucking bench.

and now he’s standing in the foyer of the most ridiculously pristine rich guy’s house

having had lunch and gone shopping

Dave’s sort of boggling to think

what the catch is to this whole thing

he’s not even legally old enough to work without a permit


he’s choosing to naively assume this guy means like

legit work.

like maybe a gofer or something

who knows

he’s been standing there just past the welcome mat for like five minutes and Egbert hasn’t even bothered to snap him out of it yet

Egbert figures he can wait to let Dave adjust first.

he knows how it looks.

pick a vulnerable kid off the street, buy him some nice clothes and a meal, offer him a job

easy for a pessimist to guess what that job would be

he has no plans to have sex with this young man

he appears to be the same age as his own son

off in boarding school.

come to think of it

he can probably lend some of John’s leftover clothes to Dave, until he can get him a new wardrobe.

crisp gray and black, he thinks

it makes his pale flush stand out more.

Dave eventually gets himself out of his own brain for a second

long enough to ask

“So this is your house, then?”

Egbert humors him and says yes

and says Dave is welcome to stay in one of the guest rooms if he wishes

‘if he wishes’

Dave snorts internally

he’s all hollow inside and doesn’t

really care if this turns out to be a bad idea

if this ends with Dave dead in a ditch


he just wants a good sleep for once

so he says “Yeah, ok, thanks”

and lets Egbert show him a room inside the labyrinthine house

the room is almost bigger than Bro’s old apartment

the first one they had

before it got a little better

before he died and it got way worse

Dave looks at the huge clean perfectly made bed

wonders who even made it for a second

before flopping face down on it

the door clicks and Dave realizes Egbert probably saw that, just now

oh well.

about an hour later Dave wakes up

and his mouth has that awful naptime fuzz

and he remembers where he is

and is honestly pretty relieved to be in the exact same position he fell asleep in

he sort of left himself wide open there

at least now he knows this Egbert guy doesn’t prey on the sleeping

the sun’s setting

and Dave dares a peek out into the hallway

sort of sneaks around

he ends up in

the living room? a living room?

how many living rooms do mansions have

he doesn’t know

but Egbert’s in it

typing something on a laptop

glasses on his nose

Egbert notices Dave fumbling around

slips his glasses off and looks at him and the light is low enough, finally

that Dave can see better




a really handsome guy.

color rises in Dave’s pale face and Egbert asks how his nap was

“Fine,” he says

Dave used to never shut up.

now he’s reduced to monosyllabic answers

“So I’m sure you must be wondering about some things,” Egbert says, like Dave isn’t wondering about EVERY thing

Dave just nods

“Well, first I’ll preface with: you can walk out at any time. I won’t be keeping you captive in any way,” Egbert says, and that

gets Dave a little nervous

like there’s gonna be something he’ll want to walk out ON

but Dave just asks “What’s the job”

and Egbert answers “Well, you have several options. I’d like to ask you some questions first if that’s all right.”

“Ok,” like he doesn’t owe Egbert at least that much.

“How old are you?”

“Gonna be seventeen.”

“How soon?”

“Couple days.”

“Oh my, well happy early birthday, then,” Egbert laughs and Dave just kind of aches. “Do you have any family?”


the pause tips Egbert off. he doesn’t press any more there

“Do you consider yourself outgoing or introverted?”

Dave shrugs, “Introverted I guess.”

“Alright. I think I can guess this one, but do you prefer formal environments or more laid back settings?”

“Laid back.” Dave’s pretty proud of himself for being so straight with all his answers.

“Do you have experience with household work, like maintenance or gardening?”

Dave mulls that over and deciphers its meaning. “I did all the cleaning at— where I used to live.”

Egbert smiles decisively. “Very well.”

“Would you like to be hired for a housekeeping job?”

Dave pictures

cheesy French maid costumes

and in any other life he’d jump at the chance, purely for hilarity’s sake.

“What were my other options.”

“Groundskeeping, but I think with your complexion it would be a little dangerous. and if you’d answered ‘outgoing’ and ‘formal environment’ I’d have set you up as an intern at the office.”

Dave thinks about it and it doesn’t take long to come back around to housekeeping

fuck, why not

“Alright. I’ll be your maid I guess.”

“Perfect.” Egbert closes his laptop and stands. “I’ll have Janine show you the ropes, as it were. You can start here next week.”

he goes over to a cordless phone— who still has land lines these days?— and calls somebody

maybe Janine

Dave just stands and waits, picking at his (slightly sleep-wrinkled) dress pants

entirely too fancy for him.

Egbert finishes his call, Dave guesses, and turns back

“That’s set. Now, as for your living arrangements and such,”

Dave just gets bowled over by this man

taking utter control

setting every little thing up

twenty minutes later Dave is somehow

this guy’s live-in maid, more or less

“Do you have any questions?” Egbert looks calm and satisfied

Dave can barely think of one

he comes up with

“Who are you?”

Egbert laughs and it’s a full and hearty sound

“I’m your new boss.”


“Not officially, I suppose, until you turn eighteen. but effectively it’s the same.”

“I hope you enjoy your stay here, as long as you choose to remain.”


kind of hopes he does, too.




Dave wakes up on December third

feeling completely unlike himself

he’s been living here for all of one and a half days

and he’s still reeling.

he goes into his— it’s weird to even think it— private bathroom

and looks in the mirror

and he barely recognizes the gaunt skinny ghost standing there

dark smudges under his eyes, collar bones sharp under the blue and white striped pajama top

that belongs to Egbert’s son.

it’s kind of big on Dave.

but he’s never been that tall and buff kind of dude, so that’s ok he guesses

he washes his face twice before stepping in the shower

because Dave still feels like this place is too clean, so he’s got to clean himself all the more to try to match it.

Egbert is already at work, Dave assumes, by the time he gets dressed

teenagers aren’t supposed to be conscious before eleven, honestly.

Dave manages.

Janine shows up and fills him in on what Dave’s new job will be

the old lady shows him the ins and outs of all the linens and shit, shows him where all the cleaning chemicals are, how to press and fold clothes

slipping in remarks about her gladness for retirement in between

Dave just thinks

what’s the use of changing bedsheets in rooms that nobody even uses

he doesn’t say anything and just accepts what he’s given

he also meets the groundskeeper

a youngish dude, probably mid twenties

tall and tan and his name’s apparently Jake

he claps Dave on the shoulder and says if he ever sees someone outside in the green, don’t call the cops because it’s probably just him

in fact it’s definitely just him, because nobody else is able to enter the property without one of Egbert’s keys

“MISTER Egbert! Sorry,” Jake says

Dave sort of figures that

people call him Mr. Egbert until they’ve earned some kind of right to drop the title

everybody just calls him Egbert.

Jake hands Dave a key off his whole messy ring of keys.

“This’s for the front door. Always have it on you!” and Dave just pockets it

he’s given the run around all day

absorbs as much information as he can which, he thinks, is a fair amount.

he doesn’t have to start working until after the weekend, which starts tomorrow, so he’ll have time to mull all this crap over

by late afternoon Janine is gone and Jake is finishing up his yard work or something.

Dave explores the house a little

Egbert DID give him permission to roam, as long as he didn’t try to get in any of the locked doors.

there were only two

out of like, forty-five or some ridiculous number.

Dave finds the room that leads to the balcony he saw when he first arrived

watches the sun set over the west wall

it’s like a fortress, in a really weird, suburban way.

again Dave wonders just what the fuck Egbert does.

wonders if it’s appropriate to ask

it should be, right?

he misses Bro.

he stops thinking and just stares at the railing until it’s dark

he thinks hard about Bro but doesn’t allow for tears.

suddenly there’s a metal noise in the distance

headlights glint at him across the lawn

Egbert’s back.

Dave scrubs his eyes just in case and gets off the balcony, flees the sunroom

he tries to appear nonchalant when Egbert spots him just through the foyer

“Ah, evening Dave!” Egbert smiles and Dave tries not to smile back, but isn’t actually sure why he shouldn’t smile.

“Hi Mr. Egbert.”

“Did Janine show you around?” Egbert takes off his coat and Dave feels oddly like he should be helping him out of that. like he’s some kind of butler.

he guesses he kind of is.

“Yeah.” Dave touches his fingers to the key in his pocket. he notices Egbert surveying his clothes

he took the dress shirt from the day they met and wore his old (now washed) jeans with them

he sort of hopes he doesn’t look too



he doesn’t know.

“Good, good.” Egbert crosses through and passes Dave on his way to the huge kitchen

it’s seriously a labyrinth in here.

but Dave can now find the major places: his bedroom and bathroom, the living room, the kitchen, and the foyer.

he casually ignores the seventy other rooms

Dave watches Egbert move around the kitchen like he used it regularly

maybe he does use it regularly.


Dave fidgets and feels out of place. it’s becoming a familiar feeling. he tries to control it

“I guess so.”

Egbert makes dinner for two.


really good.

Egbert watches Dave while he eats, and maintains conversation

he makes a mental note to hurry and set Dave up with some new clothes

something that feels like a uniform, but can be worn casually just as well

his eyes follow the angled lines of the boy sitting across from him

looking quite hapless, all things considered.

the boy could use a bit more meat on him

if he doesn’t flee, there should be plenty of time to get him in a healthy place again.

he takes account of the dark circles around deep-set eyes

while he plans a wardrobe of polo shirts and dark slacks

at least one suit will definitely be in order.

Egbert doesn’t really

like to think of people as projects, but

sometimes they are just begging to be picked up and cared for. at least he’s freer to do so outside the office.

suddenly he remembers

Dave mentioned that his birthday was soon

“Dave, didn’t you say you were having a birthday in a couple of days?” Egbert dabs his mouth with a napkin

he sees the hitch in Dave’s shoulders.

“Oh uh. Yeah, actually.”

Egbert waits patiently for a beat

“It’s uh. Today.”

“Happy birthday, Dave.” Egbert smiles wide and asks if he’d mind if he made Dave a cake

last minute though it would be.

to his credit Dave doesn’t sputter like he wants to

he manages as much as “That’s ok, you don’t have to,” before Egbert overrides him gently

“It would be my absolute pleasure. Do you have any preferences? Dislikes? Food allergies?”

Dave flounders and comes up with “Vanilla, I guess, and uh, no allergies. Except seafood.”

Egbert files that away and finishes dinner quickly but calmly

the quiet “Thanks, Mr. Egbert” is music.

dinner is done and Dave just sort of hovers around the kitchen

watching Mr. Egbert work

listening to him make plans

who buys a new employee an entire closet full of clothes?

who has that kind of money?

apparently the same guy currently puttering around in a light blue apron and a fedora

fedoras are supposed to be worn by pretentious tools, and girls

not attractive businessmen.

Dave ends up agreeing to almost anything Egbert offers

tomorrow they’re going shopping

Dave’s life

is now officially ridiculous

he’s in some kind of waking daydream

he’s gonna wake up any minute now

he’s gonna wake up in Dallas and Bro’s gonna laugh at him for having such stupid dreams

and he’s gonna go to work and Dave’s gonna update his blog

any minute now.

but no

all that happens is

Egbert sets his timer

and tells him the cake will be ready in about thirty-five minutes

and that they can sit in the den while they wait

the den, it turns out, is not the same as the living room

Dave commits it to memory

he sits in a cushy chair and Egbert pours himself a drink

“Now, I don’t mean to sound presumptuous, and feel free to call me out on it at any time” Egbert starts, replacing the cap on his bottle of brandy

“But you’re not from this city, correct?”

Dave wants to ask what tipped him off, like southern drawl wasn’t his first language

“No sir,” Dave says, and though the ‘sir’ was a slip he doesn’t exactly regret it

“Then may I ask where you’re from?” he sips his glass


“Er, Dallas. Texas.”

Egbert can tell he’s being honest

and from the way he’s sitting he can tell the conditions under which he left

most likely weren’t very positive.

he said no family.

it’s possible he meant no family anymore.

he’ll get his answers someday, he doesn’t need them now.

“You’ve come quite a long way, then.”


Egbert lets it go

thinks about schooling options briefly

well, he’ll let Dave choose, if it comes to that.

“Can I… ask some stuff?”

ah, some return fire. good, Egbert thinks.


“You said you got a son, right? I mean.” Dave scratches his neck

Egbert catches on, “Why haven’t you seen him, you mean?” Dave nods.

“He’s living on campus at Bellingham prep. He’s only home on the occasional weekends and holidays.”

well, that answers that.

prep school kid

he sounds like a douche already.

but then, Egbert sounded kind of like a douche too, but look how that turned out.

“Ok, so… is he gonna be, I mean. All right? With…” Dave isn’t sure how to put it since he’s not sure how to talk around Egbert yet.

“With you living here? I should hope so. John’s never minded any of the other staff, before. Granted, these circumstances are a little different.” Egbert looks confident so Dave guesses he should be too

he acutely feels like a stray cat who hasn’t met the house pets yet

“Ok then.”

Dave doesn’t trust people that easily

he never has.

but Egbert

sort of commands it.

a loud ring goes off and Dave jumps

Egbert pulls the timer out of his pocket

“Five minutes to go!”

this dude’s honestly a mystery

Dave can’t recover

so he just follows Egbert back to the kitchen and watches him pull out

three entire cake pans

is he seriously gonna stack those?

did he seriously just make Dave a three-tier cake.

Egbert puts the pans on a cooling rack and turns the oven off

the kitchen is all sleek black appliances and polished surfaces

Dave realizes there’s

a fucking TV in here.

Egbert turns it on with a tiny remote, and they watch ESPN while the cake cools

Dave pretends to pay attention

he is pretty sure the game is like

soccer or something

the one with the helmets.

Egbert asks if Dave is into sports at all and gets a reflexive deadpan stare

and laughs at it

“Right, right. That wouldn’t be a good idea for you, I suppose.”

Dave doesn’t even have to recover from his slip-up

Egbert is just glad to start getting some honest reactions

instead of skittish line-toeing.

progress is their most important product.

Egbert slides the remote over to Dave and gets up

what now?

Dave watches him instead of the TV

and realizes he’s making the icing too

from scratch

Dave didn’t even realize that was a thing you could make from scratch.


slightly mesmerized

by Egbert’s arm as he beats something in a bowl

before Dave knows it Egbert has

literally made

chocolate icing

right in front of his eyes

“It’s a rather simple cake but I hope you’ll enjoy it all the same.” Egbert catches Dave staring

and Dave just sort of pulls fingers through his hair

and says “Yeah, should be fine”

Egbert lets the icing set in the refrigerator and checks the cake

he pulls a fancy

plate stand thingy

from a cupboard

and Dave watches him flip each cake layer


from their pans

stacking one on top of the other

it’s actually one of the most amazing things he’s ever seen

in a really dumb, domestic kind of way.

soon enough Egbert coats his masterpiece in chocolate

and brings it right to Dave

Dave feels like he should be standing for this, or something

like it’s an award being presented to him.

“That… that looks amazing,” Dave says

and Egbert just tells him happy birthday again, in a very warm tone

and in a distant way it really, really hurts.

Dave doesn’t give any pity-fodder

doesn’t say “This is the first real, homemade cake I’ve ever had”

doesn’t say “Nobody’s made dinner AND dessert right in front of me before”

doesn’t say “Nobody’s ever given me this much without asking for anything in return”

he keeps all that on lockdown.

Egbert cuts them both generous slices, makes Dave’s portion a little bigger

he even busts out the milk

and Dave eats

the most delicious fucking piece of cake

he has ever

or will ever

taste in his entire life.

“Holy shit this is good,” Dave breathes

realizes he should watch his mouth, probably

but Egbert doesn’t so much as blink, he just smiles and says thank you and watches Dave enjoy his birthday cake

it’s Dave’s third night here

and it already feels more like

a home

than he’s maybe ever felt.

Bro loved him and he loved Bro

but sometimes their place was less of a home and more of a base.

“Dave, what’s… wrong?”

Egbert’s hand is on his face and Dave jerks back

everything’s blurry


Dave wipes his eyes futilely

like the tears will stop if he just wills them to


Dave gets up and stumbles out, one hand guiding along the wall

Dave makes it to the foyer before he just

crumples to the floor

and clings to his knees for a few minutes

just trying to breathe

Egbert doesn’t follow.

he wants to, desperately

but he respects Dave’s right to be alone to gather himself

he hopes he hasn’t struck a nerve with all his blustering.

he probably has.

if and when Dave returns he’ll apologize

Dave spends

roughly ten minutes

trying to piece himself back together.

that was

fucking embarrassing

what kind of sissy piece of shit cries over cake?

Dave stands up shakily

clenches his fists and forces himself to be steady

to even his breath



just shut up and deal with this bullshit later, Dave thinks.

Egbert is relieved to see Dave reappear

the red rims of his eyes are stark

but he doesn’t comment.

“I’m terribly sorry, Dave.”

Dave swallows visibly

“You didn’t. do anything wrong, Mr. Egbert.”

there’s a tall, elaborate cover on the rest of the cake

he finishes the rest of his piece in silence.

the little TV is off.

Dave’s fork hits the plate with a soft clink and even though it’s probably barely nine at night

he says “I think I’m gonna go to bed.”

Egbert takes his plate for him and Dave thanks him for the cake.

Egbert says, “You’re welcome Dave,” and he pauses and catches Dave just before he’s through the doorway

“I know we don’t know each other very well yet, but if you ever need to talk about anything, I’ll listen.”

he sounds exactly like a father.

Dave turns back and nods at him

and Egbert watches him go

“Sleep well,” he calls to the empty hallway.

Dave strips down to his underwear and crawls under his cool, rumpled blankets

and sleeps without dreaming.




Egbert takes Dave back to the fancy strip mall from the day they met

the ride is quiet

but Egbert doesn’t push.

he makes his choices and this time Dave is a bit less hesitant getting in the dressing room.

“Come out and let me see when you’re done,” Egbert says, and Dave feels like a kid.

Dave pulls off and on clothes blindly and

he wishes he’d been paying attention to Egbert’s choices

because suddenly he’s staring at a reflection of white polo and black slacks and belt and

it’s almost like Bro staring back at him

and Dave clenches his fists until nails bite in

he doesn’t want to go out like this

doesn’t want to wear Bro’s clothes

but he does because Egbert told him to.

Egbert looks on in approval and hands him more clothes from a stack that seems to have grown already.

Dave can’t get the polo off fast enough. he throws it in the corner

and puts on things more innocuous

fingers moving mechanically

the day doesn’t end fast enough.

Dave broaches the subject about money and


and Egbert tells him not to worry about it for the time being.

Dave was trained to worry about money and expenses

so he can’t let it go until Egbert concedes

“You’ll be able to work it all off soon enough,” and Dave is reluctantly satisfied with that

he’ll be the best goddamn maid there ever was

once he stops being insane

Dave comes away with a few good sets of clothes and basic amenities. Egbert lets him go free to pick his own shampoo and toothpaste and Dave purposely picks the cheapest everything.

tentative boundaries are set.

Egbert ponders over many things when they return

in a way this is a nice break from work.

but he’ll immerse himself once more come Monday and leave Dave to his devices

the boy has undergone serious upheaval

and he hopes he’ll be all right in this empty place.

Janine will be there to finish training him, and Jake will no doubt get curious and poke in on him

and John will be home in a week or so

with any luck, everything will fall into place nicely.

Egbert subtly watches over Dave for the rest of the afternoon

makes a thousand mental notes

and files them away.

Dave tries not to look over his shoulder every five minutes

he feels a little caged so he tries to make himself scarce

Egbert’s almost

following him around.

it’s weird.


kind of nice?

Dave gets hungry around five but he refuses to ask and refuses to take

so he just kind of sits around insolently

until Egbert asks.

this isn’t his home

so he can’t justify taking up so much space


he does eye the cake that still sits in the kitchen

and figures well, Egbert did make that for him

so he should be free to have that.

Egbert makes him take two slices

and Dave thinks he

almost looks smug about it.

tentative boundaries are set and promptly poked with a stick.

the strangeness helps keep him focused on the present

and everything behind is pushed further back


after Egbert finally leaves him be, Dave looks at himself hard in the mirror

he still basically looks like a train wreck.

he pulls down the collar of his shirt

bones stick out pretty sharp

no wonder Egbert took pity on this poor fucking soul.

he grits his teeth

and feels starkly inadequate about everything.

Dave plans to throw himself headfirst into his new


and maybe he’ll outrun the shadows that want to creep in.

he breaks in his new toothbrush and goes to bed

his hands still have the habit of

reaching up to take off shades that aren’t there

and Dave thinks maybe he should’ve

remembered that.

but he’s apparently gotten so used to the ache of his eyes it didn’t occur to him to replace the lenses he lost an eternity ago.

he pulls the covers tight around him

and tries to get used to the fact that the heating system actually works

he falls asleep feeling consciously warm.

when Dave starts his first work day the place is empty.

he doesn’t even see the note on the breakfast bar until he’s done washing up after eating

(the cake is still his and it’s still there)

he picks the note up and brings it close enough to read

the letters are all pristine and capitalized



out of habit Dave turns it over just in case



that pulls a surprised laugh out of Dave’s throat

this guy’s a piece of work.

Dave bums around until Janine shows up

and she takes him with her on her rounds to actually get a feel for the job in its entirety

he ends up taking over for her when she can’t quite reach something to dust or can’t stay bent for too long

and Dave thinks well

it’s kinda humiliatingly domestic

but he can get used to this.

the old lady turns out to be pretty rad, honestly, and when she leaves for the day he says “Thanks Janine”

she tells him to call her Jane and says she’ll be back tomorrow.

the door closes and echoes up the high ceiling

this place is really enormous.

excessively so, in his own really, really, really humble opinion

Dave wonders what it must’ve been like growing up in here.

it’s a nice, attractive kind of place. picturesque, even.

but save for a few rooms the place is otherwise


the word bounces back at him.

Dave watches cartoons in the living room

just because he apparently can.

the phone rings and Dave almost jumps out of his skin

mostly because it’s not a ring he’s used to.

he sort of

stares at it

until it stops.

he checks the caller ID

and obviously doesn’t recognize the name or the number

duh, Dave.

wait, there’s

another note by the phone.




must really like leaving notes.

Dave is just grateful for the legibility.

evening comes on fast

no sign of Egbert yet.

that Jake guy didn’t seem to show up either.

oh well

Dave slinks around the kitchen

keeping as few lights on as possible throughout the bottom floor

eventually he gets up the gumption to actually take a look inside the huge black refrigerator

it’s all pretty much nothing but

ingredients for things.

he checks the freezer and

there isn’t so much as a frozen pizza.


then again

Egbert did make an entire cake from scratch.

somehow Dave gets the feeling that this guy doesn’t operate on takeout and prepackaged dinners.

Dave roots around for something he doesn’t have to cook

and finds a tupperware of

some kind of soup?

works for him.

heating up is no big deal.

he goes on a quest for a pan

and comes away victorious

then he spends about five minutes trying to figure out the digital controls on the oven

eventually the soup (or beef stew? that’s what Dave thinks it is) is bubbling softly over one of the smaller burners

and Dave feels pretty proud of himself.

he reuses the bowl from breakfast

and sits at the bar

and eats by himself

it’s pretty familiar

but it’s different.

nine PM

still no sign of Egbert.

Dave camps in the living room

because it’s close to the foyer

which is close to the door.

he wonders why he’s even waiting up for him.

because it’s polite?

he bums around on the excuse that he’s not tired enough to go to bed yet, especially since the last few nights he’s been doing like

grandpa bedtimes.

it’s half past eleven when the front door finally opens.


he pokes his head through the entryway

“Hey uh

welcome home?”

Egbert looks tired.

he smiles at Dave all the same.

“I hope I didn’t keep you up waiting”

Dave flinches “Uh, no, not—”

“…Not really.”

Egbert’s laid his things on the coat rack

and plucks his hat off with a somewhat knowing smile.

“If you want to go to sleep and I’m not back yet, please feel free to lock the door yourself.”

Dave actually didn’t

think of that.

he should have.

he says “Ok,” and tries not to follow Egbert into the kitchen

“Did you eat?” Egbert asks without looking behind him

“Yeah, earlier.” Dave rubs his arm.

Egbert catches himself, and laughs lightly. “Sorry, parental instincts.”

yeah, no kidding.

Dave watches Egbert fix himself a bowl of cereal and there’s a weird sort of connection he feels about that

“How was your day?” Egbert asks

and Dave stumbles a little through his recount of it

and he feels like he should return the gesture but he can’t get the words out.

“I’m glad you’re getting accustomed so quickly.”

Dave hates feeling at a loss for words.

but he’s been doing it a lot lately.

“Yeah, it’s no big.”

quiet seeps in

and Egbert suppresses a yawn.


“It’s kinda late I guess”

Egbert is looking at him and Dave feels really dumb

“Going to bed then?”

Egbert takes his empty bowl to the sink and Dave watches him stretch on the way

“Guess so”

“Alright then, goodnight Dave.”


it takes a few seconds for Dave to

actually start walking back to his room

he still didn’t ask how Egbert’s day went.

he goes up an ornate staircase

in what he is pretty sure is the west half of the house

it’s actually a pretty long trek to his room, all things considered.

there are a lot of shadows along the way but Dave doesn’t mind them.

sleep doesn’t come quite as easy

maybe because he’s no longer on the brink of collapse like before.

maybe because he keeps thinking about the way Egbert said goodnight.

Dave rolls over and eventually falls asleep.

Egbert sits at the desk in his room

reading through a few more documents

checking over the itinerary for tomorrow’s meeting

and it’s past midnight when he finally pulls off his glasses and stands.

he stretches his back and his spine pops softly in a few places; painlessly, thank goodness

he washes his face in the master sink

rubs his chin and examines the slowly graying stubble.

he still looks rather young for his age

especially compared to the other board directors.

and his brother, he thinks with a twitch of his lips

Harley’s only older by a handful of years, but his hair is already turning full-on white in a few places.

he grants that part of the cause is running their company

but he still allows himself to feel smug about being the good-looking younger brother.

he catches himself wondering

if Dave would find him attractive

and nearly drops his toothbrush.

goodness but that’s inappropriate, but now that he’s already thought it

Egbert doesn’t really see the harm in entertaining some small hypotheticals.

he slides into bed with a deep sigh

idly pictures a thin white face

with flushed cheeks.




the days develop a sort of rhythm

Egbert gets up early and leaves for work

Dave gets up a little later and gets used to his cleaning routines

sometimes Jake comes and talks to Dave

and tells him anything he wants to know, and some things he doesn’t want to know

(Dave ends up using Jake to learn more about Egbert, though he only halfway means to)

sometimes Egbert calls in the middle of the day to check up on Dave

then Dave tries to keep himself entertained until Egbert gets home

he knows he doesn’t have to wait up for him but

he does anyway.

Egbert’s grateful for the company

perhaps especially because it’s Dave.

Dave still doesn’t feel like he knows nearly enough about his


but isn’t really sure how much someone is supposed to know about their boss in the first place.

sometimes Egbert comes home fairly early

and sometimes Dave gives up and goes to bed first

he tries not to, but a guy can only sit around and watch TV for so long.

he knows there’s a computer in the little library (library/office? Dave doesn’t really know)

but he hasn’t worked up the nerve to use it yet.

the followers of his blog probably think he dropped off the face of the planet.

he basically did. Dave doesn’t really feel inclined to go back to the internet yet.

maybe once he’s settled better

paid off his debt

he can at least go buy a charger for his long-drained iPhone.

he’s kind of amazed he managed to keep it through his

running escapades

Dave just stays low

plays close to the vest.

Egbert wishes Dave would ask for more

but he supposes the boy doesn’t feel comfortable enough yet to do so.

and honestly he’s not quite around often enough to glean information for himself.

it’s a rather familiar problem

they say you can’t work full-time AND parent full-time

but Egbert did try.


does he?

John still calls him every Sunday

and Egbert does send the occasional text message to let John know he’s thinking of him

so he must be doing something right.

he’s anxious for John to return for the holidays

he wants to catch up

he wants him to meet Dave.

maybe they can

be friends.

Egbert sighs to himself at night

parenting is hard.

there’s a lot of missteps

and he only hopes John can bear with him

he already tried the “new mother” thing

it didn’t

really work out as well as he’d planned.

work was much easier in comparison

and in retrospect

if he hadn’t thrown himself so much into it

there would probably have been much fewer misunderstandings.

all the same

John is growing up into a fine young man

and he’s proud.

he hopes Dave will like him.

he finds himself thinking this a lot

possibly more than he should. he’s just nervous.

it’s not every day one comes across a boy like Dave

the need to take him in was irresistible.

Egbert’s always been the sort of

doting type

(folks around the workplace even jokingly call him “dad” sometimes)

but he’s never actually taken someone in so completely

or so young.

this is all sort of new.

and Dave is quite amazing.

Janine’s happily passed her torch to Dave

and while he’s sad to see her go, after so many years of loyal service and affection

he’s still incredibly glad Dave’s rising to her challenge so well

and having Dave live and work here at the same time has its own perks

Dave starts leaving the porch light on for him

so he doesn’t have to come home to a dark doorway.

sometimes they talk when Egbert comes home

and he picks up what hints he can

when he’s got the energy to fix a proper dinner when he comes home

he sets some aside for Dave to heat up the next day

Egbert thinks if

he can get Dave to stop dancing around with his words

or rather

learn to dance with them

he can find out everything he needs to know.

within a week Dave seems more comfortable

Egbert leaves his “paychecks” in envelopes in neutral territory

and gets most of it back the next day

he notices Dave has a phone

learns Dave had it all along, and just got a charger for it.

he starts to see evidence of Dave venturing out into town occasionally

and is satisfied by it, for some reason.

he comes home for lunch one day, just because he’s got an extra hour to kill for once

and the house is actually empty.

and Egbert remembers when he would avoid going home for lunch at all because of that very reason.

it’s odd

he hasn’t felt lonely in the slightest, since he met Dave.

the boy comes in and sees Egbert there and nearly drops his plastic shopping bag.

“Hello Dave,” Egbert smiles.

“H-hey Mr. Egbert. you’re… home.”

“Indeed I am,” the amusement in his voice is apparent.

“You went into town, I see.”

Dave nods

“Yeah, I

picked up some stuff.”

“Jake took you?”

Dave nods again.

“I’m glad you’re getting along with him.”

Dave scratches his neck and shuffles to the refrigerator

Egbert watches Dave put a bottle of coke in

and it’s terribly endearing, somehow.

there hasn’t really been soda in the house for quite a while

John only really got it as a special treat

and Egbert thinks maybe he will get some for when John comes home this weekend.

he doesn’t get to see whatever else Dave bought

and just watches him disappear and reappear without the bag.

Egbert remembers something he’d been meaning to ask

“How are your eyes?”

Dave looks up at him, startled.


“I mean,” Egbert puts his sandwich down (tomato, avocado, and beansprouts)

“Albinism usually entails light sensitivity and poor eyesight, doesn’t it?”

he’d freely admit he’d been looking some things up, if Dave asked

“Uh, yeah I guess.” Dave doesn’t meet Egbert’s eyes very often, or for very long, and it’s a habit Egbert would rather like to break

“I used to have shades but they, uh, kind of broke a long time ago.”

“And I just keep forgetting to replace ‘em.”

the truth is Dave can’t find ones that are cheap enough and dark enough.

Egbert fears the pinch around Dave’s eyes will become permanent before long

“Well, I know a place where you can get good sunglasses, with a prescription if needed.”

Dave cards fingers through his hair

“I never really…” he wets his lips, and they still look chapped even from where Egbert sits, “went and got my eyes tested or anything, so I dunno what prescription thing I’d need.”

“My eyesight ain’t that bad, it’s just the light, I guess.”

Egbert is going to get this boy an optometrist. but he won’t push it immediately.

“Well, the offer still stands if and when you want to take it.”

“Right. um, thanks Mr. Egbert.”

when Egbert heads back to the office he makes a stop along the way

and Dave wakes up the next morning to find a pair of really

nice looking black-rimmed sunglasses

sitting on the little fancy lion-footed table beside his bedroom door.

and Dave has to

lean a hand against the wall

and just try to cope

with this fucking guy

and his kind gestures.

Dave’s still wearing them when Egbert comes home that night.

Egbert doesn’t mention it once.

but he does sort of

catch the smile tugging at Egbert’s lips.

Egbert tells Dave that his son will be coming home for the holidays

and Dave

kinda panics.

he doesn’t have long to do it, since the mysterious John will be arriving tomorrow

Dave only just now started feeling semi-comfortable in Egbert’s house, cleaning his stuff and keeping everything looking nice and fresh

now he’s gotta meet his boss’ kid

and it’s kind of harrowing in a really stupid way.

John will not

be on the same level as Dave.

Dave is a kid pulled off the street and set to work for his dad

when he should technically

be in school like John.

but he’s not.

and if he’s honest he doesn’t really want to be, now that he’s had that sort of taste of freedom.

Dave just spends the rest of the day cleaning things

really, really slowly

while Egbert works in his office.

Egbert is really just as nervous.

he nearly fumbles the chicken he puts into the wok

luckily Dave does not catch that.

Dave asks what John is like

and Egbert is actually more than happy to answer

mostly because Dave outright asked.

Dave goes to bed picturing a kid version Mr. Egbert

and ends up thinking more about what Egbert must have looked like when he was raising baby John.

probably a few less wrinkles

maybe his hair was a bit longer and darker

or shorter

Dave reaches

for the bag he brought home the other day

pops the cap on the first bottle of lube he’s bought on his own

christens it

and thinks about


and doesn’t think about why.

he pretends it’s just stress relief

he’s a teenage boy, he can’t NOT jerk off once in a while

doesn’t really matter who he thinks about anyway, right? right.

Sunday morning

John comes home.

Dave wakes up early

at the same time as Egbert.

Egbert’s dress shirt has the top two buttons undone

and Dave remembers last night and his stomach flops

John arrives in a sleek blue sedan

and Egbert leads Dave outside to greet him

Dave compulsively pushes the bridge of his shades up

as John gets out of his car.

“Dad!” is the first thing he says

and like a ten-year-old he practically jumps in the older Egbert’s arms

“Welcome home, John” Egbert responds affectionately

and Dave suddenly realizes

he has no idea how he’s supposed to be introduced to John.

is he Egbert’s employee?

is he his ward or something?

the Egberts finally stop hugging and John pulls back

Dave notes the navy blazer with a pretentious looking insignia on the breast

“Son, I’d like you to meet Dave,” fuck here it comes

“He’s been staying and working here for a while, and will continue to for a while longer”

and that’s all Egbert says and John accepts it with a simple, “Ok! It’s nice to meetcha Dave.”

he sticks out his hand and flashes Dave a smile

eyes crinkling in a familiar way behind unfamiliar glasses

Dave’s somehow not surprised that

John is taller than he is

but he’s comforted by the fact that he’s not taller by very much. couldn’t be more than an inch or two.

he shakes John’s hand and says “Yeah, likewise,” and feels

ridiculously professional all of a sudden.

Egbert smiles at Dave from behind John

Dave’s heart skips a little and almost forgets to release John’s hand.

“Well, let’s get inside,” Egbert says, and John retrieves his bags from the back seat

and Dave follows them in.

they all sit at the dining room table instead of the breakfast bar

John compliments the brunch Egbert made

says how much he missed eating his food

Dave feels a little out of place, but also

slightly smug

because he’s always eaten with Egbert in the kitchen

and it was somehow more intimate than sitting here

and not just because there’s now one more person here with them

it’s odd, feeling he’s both on the inside

and on the outside

of all this.

John is

only really like his father in appearance, Dave thinks.

where Egbert is calm and smooth John seems to be a little more bubbly and excitable

he gestures more when he talks

he’s a bit of a dorky preppy kid but

Dave isn’t totally put off by him.

he even responds when John includes him in conversation

listens when he launches into a story from school, about people Dave will never meet

he’s a nice kid.

Egbert is happier than words can tell

John accepted Dave instantly

and while he expected the slight retreat into his shell

Dave seems to be making an effort with John

and it’s silly, and perhaps a little misplaced, but he’s proud of Dave.

John brightens the house up in a way it hasn’t been for a long while

Egbert’s happy to have his son home again.

he smiles and thinks about the plans he’s already set for Christmas.

makes addendums

to include one more.

John asks Dave questions

point-blank, in a way Egbert doesn’t

and Dave flounders to answer

“So Dad said you’re from Texas? hehe, how’re the winters there?”

Dave shrugs a little stiffly, “Not as cold as here.”

“Haha, that’s for sure.”

John prattles in a way that’s not exactly annoying.

he’s filling the silence and Dave thinks there might be a reason for that.

he keeps coming around to ask about Dave

and Egbert’s only half listening as he responds to a business call

so when John asks how Dave’s parents must feel having him all the way out here

Dave has nothing to buffer between them.

“Uh, they’re…”

“I don’t…”

Egbert belatedly realizes the quiet that has fallen on his other ear

sees the look on Dave’s face as he catches Egbert out of the corner of his eye

it pierces his heart and Egbert almost drops his phone

he tells his subordinate “I’ll call you back, I’ve got to go.”

John is beginning to realize he’s made a mistake

“John, I forgot to mention there’s a bit of cake in the kitchen if you’d like to have some”

and Dave doesn’t even care that it’s his cake

“Um, sure Dad,”

John takes the hint

and Dave struggles

to keep a straight face

*  ”Dave,” Egbert starts, but doesn’t know how to continue

because he’s not sure what line John just crossed

Dave swallows.

“I don’t”

“I don’t know who my parents are”

“And m-my”

Dave breathes sharp

Egbert’s on his knees in front of Dave sitting on the couch

“My brother’s dead,” Dave whispers almost silently

“Oh Dave,” Egbert breathes

his arms slide around Dave’s thin shoulders without a single thought and Dave clings with stuttered breath

Egbert is

suddenly immensely thankful

to have found this boy.

Dave’s hands shake and he hides it by clutching Egbert’s ironed white shirt

his eyes are squeezed tight

sunglasses pinched against his nose

he forbids himself from crying.

he does not

allow it.

Egbert’s smell is crisp

and he clings to that instead

clings to him.

slowly he controls his breathing

Egbert’s huge warm hands rub his back

hold his head

Dave is not the hugging type.

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m so sorry,” Egbert whispers

Dave swallows and says nothing

he forces his hands to relax

flatten out against Egbert’s back

keeps himself from indulging too long

“I’m ok,” Dave says

and no he’s not

but he starts letting Egbert go

and Egbert lets him slide through his fingers

he touches his knuckles briefly to Dave’s slightly flushed cheek

John peeks back through the short hallway between the kitchen and the living room

feels very much like he’s said something wrong


he always does it

he can’t help it

he can’t see those invisible lines everyone’s drawing

keeping certain stuff off limits

Dave seems to be pretty important to Dad already

and John wants to

make an effort for him

but John guesses he got too curious

Dad could’ve warned him about what not to ask

but it’s not his fault.

he’s always got a lot on his mind.

maybe too much.

Dad comes and finds him and John ducks his head

“Sorry, Dad.”

“It’s all right, John.” Egbert pats John’s shoulder

John’s going to apologize to Dave later

“I didn’t mean to upset him, if I did.”

Egbert’s smile is tight, a little sad. “Don’t worry about it, son. You didn’t know,” he pauses. “I didn’t know. He’s…”

“He’s still a little shy, so just be careful what you ask about his past.”

John nods

“Ok, Dad.”

Egbert plants a kiss on John’s crown

takes him back into the living room with Dave

the last of the cake untouched.

Egbert steps out and returns the call he ended abruptly, while John recommends watching a movie

Dave nods with a quiet “Sure.”

John puts on Ghostbusters to try to lighten the mood

(and also because Ghostbusters is great)

and starts awkwardly, “Um, I’m sorry if I said anything to upset you back there.”

Dave stiffens imperceptibly. “‘S fine.”

John smiles apologetically. “Sometimes I talk too much and get too curious about stuff. So like, feel free to ignore me or call me out on it, ok?”


considers him

and says “Alright.”

they watch the movie in

less-than-awkward silence

eventually John can’t take it anymore and says “Ok so please tell me Bill Murray is the best.”

Dave looks at him sidelong

“Dude Bill Murray is totally the best.”

“In everything.”


John smiles wide and says “Thank you Dave. Thank you. Nobody at my school even knows who he is.”

“Wow that’s a fuckin’ travesty.”

“I know!”

Egbert ends his call and hears two distinct voices talking over a movie

and smiles.




Egbert has been watching them.

they’ve both drawn to each other in a way Egbert hasn’t seen before

within a few days they’re nearly finishing each other’s sentences

but at the same time

(granted, Egbert has no real point of reference)

Dave doesn’t quite seem the same.

there’s almost no trace of that shaken frame when he first met Dave

which, honestly, is a good thing.

but now Egbert can hardly read him at all

he thought he was getting close to figuring him out, until he gave the boy those sunglasses

and Egbert thinks maybe that

they’ve always been a shield for him.

work calls him away less often as the month draws near its end

and he’s free to start gearing up for the holidays in earnest

usually John would be falling into step with him while they set up the tree and start making Christmas treats

but now he’s with friends

and with Dave when the boy’s not “working”

he seems almost


but for the warm smiles John still gives him.

maybe if he starts making peppermint bark, the boy will come back around.

Egbert wonders if Dave will like it, too

wonders what his Christmases were like.

Dave never does “holiday” shit.

it was always kind of a waste of time and a waste of money

and yeah some of it is simple teenage apathy

but really, he’s got other things on his mind besides ritzy foliage and piles of sugar

John’s pretty cool.

he’s been giving Dave the runaround with friendshippy advances at every turn

and it’s kind of all Dave can do to deflect some of them

it’s not that he doesn’t want to be John’s friend

honestly, he’d have loved to have a best friend like John back home.

but the fact remains that

Dave is basically a servant and John’s his employer’s son.

there’s a disconnect

the whole “worlds apart” cliché

while they can bond about movies and music and other shallow nonsense

there’s still so much John has never known

that Dave has known all his life.

he feels stupid but he’s almost walking on eggshells around John

just to keep himself from letting something slip that John will catch

catch and pull on until he can see the whole thing

which he’s not

may never be

ready for.

so he keeps it casual and shallow and the bare minimum. he’s known the game of secrets forever

it’s fairly simple to show just enough to satisfy John’s powerful, but fleeting, curiosity

they hang out in John’s room sometimes

mess around on his computer

John asks if Dave goes to any of the sites he does

finds out about Dave’s tumblr and tindeck

Dave’s never actually had

a captive audience

like this.

John likes his pretentious slam poetry and his hilarious raps

Dave almost feels like

creating more.

but now’s not the time

not yet.

he values his solitude now that he’s caught between two Egberts.

John pokes and pries a lot more than his dad

but, almost luckily, John’s also out doing shit even more often than Mr. Egbert

Dave assumes he’s hanging out with friends or something

he’s been invited a few times so far but he’s turned John down every time.

he doesn’t want people

watching and asking questions all the time.

he wants the quiet

and calm

and unassuming peace

the kind of steady almost-understanding that Mr. Egbert gives.

but at the same time, being stuck under that gaze for too long makes Dave feel like

there’s something deeper there

but he absolutely does not want to dig

he doesn’t know what he’ll find

and he’s not scared he just

doesn’t like walking blind.

he pushes his shades up while he dusts the hell out of a bookcase filled with statues

he picks up each one, almost familiar now

some of them have wings

some of them are jesters or something

one is like, some kind of cat or fox lady.

he keeps them all from gathering dust and it makes him feel kind of

subtly important.

like he’s in charge of making sure these things aren’t forgotten.

little pieces picked by Egbert, or given to him, or whatever the case

Dave snorts at the sentimentality and places each piece back on the clean shelves.

slowly he’s getting used to this place

shifting to fit as best he can.

Egbert’s been wandering while Dave works

Dave doesn’t realize what he’s doing, at first

until he sees the foyer

where Jake and a couple other guys are pulling this

enormous fucking tree

through the door.

Egbert’s got boxes set out at the foot of one of the staircases

and Dave sort of remembers that, oh yeah, some people actually decorate for Christmas and stuff

so that’s what he’s been doing in almost every room Dave left after cleaning.

he thinks himself sneaky in his own house, huh.

he slips back out of foyer hallway number three

finishes his rounds and comes back when they’re all gone but for Egbert.

Dave finds him starting in on decorating the base of the tree

humming to himself.

Dave doesn’t recognize the tune but he uses the sound as cover

moves up until he’s right behind Egbert and says, “Nice tree.”

Egbert jumps about three feet and lets out a startled “OH! Goodness Dave you scared me!”

Dave can’t stop himself from grinning a little

years of practice.

“Setting up for Christmas huh?” like it wasn’t obvious.

“Yes, and I could use a hand if you don’t mind.” Egbert recovers quickly. commendable.

there’s a ladder by the stairs and it’s slower work than Dave would like

but he doesn’t mind helping out in the least.

there’s a lot of junk to put up here

Egbert just keeps handing him more and more baubles and shiny tinsel until he says it’s time to move over

keeps startling him by sliding down the ladder instead of stepping like he’s supposed to.

Egbert keeps a solid hold on the sides.

when it’s all done

it actually looks pretty nice

Egbert says, “Wonderful job, Dave.”

and Dave doesn’t know how to reply so he just asks if there’s any more decorating that needs doing.

they set up one more tree in the living room. a smaller, fake one with more humble decorations.

Dave helps to dig through the box of ornaments

and it’s quiet, comfortable work.

Dave’s never actually set one of these things up until today. he doesn’t mention it because he doesn’t want to sound like a pathetic loser.

Dave finds a bunch of little bits of branch and leaf tied together

thinks it’s holly or something

“Ah, you found the mistletoe.”

Dave nearly drops it

instead he looks at Egbert, who

has an odd look on his face

and Dave holds the mistletoe up over his head silently.

Egbert looks at Dave like that

and he can’t believe that he’s actually thinking about

kissing that boy

silence stretches too long

the slight twitch of Dave’s lips draws Egbert’s attention


Dave is expecting Egbert to flush slightly and laugh him off

he’s not expecting him to look at him with honest intent.

Egbert’s eyes are right on his, finding them through his shades easily

Dave panics

a laugh that doesn’t sound like his escapes his throat

“Just kidding.”

he tosses the mistletoe back in the box

Egbert snaps back to reality

he was really about to do it.

the ramifications of kissing Dave

would probably be catastrophic.

Egbert feels like a bullet was dodged, but he also feels

like he missed his chance.

John comes home to a fully decorated house

that’s completely silent.

“Anybody home?” John calls through the foyer

“Kitchen,” Dad answers

John finds him elbow deep in batter and chocolate

“Whoa! Starting already?” John hops on a barstool and watches his dad putter around

something seems kind of

not quite sad, but close

about him

John’s not that good at reading people, but he knows his dad

he gets a hint when he asks “Where’s Dave?”

Dad pauses in his stirring before answering, “Um, I believe he went to his room.”

Dad doesn’t say stuff like uh or um unless something’s wrong.

“Oh, okay.” John doesn’t press.

he tells Dad about his day and helps him clear spaces for the cooling racks

and he feels warm and nostalgic

he kind of wants Dave to feel it too.

but he can never get a full answer from him, and Dad told him to be careful, especially about family, and Christmas is all about family stuff

so he’s not sure how to bring him in short of pulling him bodily.

he briefly considers doing that.

it kind of sucks having to tread so lightly around some people

but John understands that not everybody’s foundations are as solid as they seem, that people hide things that hurt

he just wishes he could tell them apart from everyone else.

he’s always been missing these things.

John’s had more than his fair share of pranks accidentally turn into a victim’s breakdown

everybody likes him, though, so they don’t hold it against him

sometimes John wishes they would, just so he’d learn his lesson

instead he keeps going on thinking it’s all harmless fun and shallow water.

Dave seems stronger than that.

but he’s afraid to test it.

so he sits in the warm kitchen light until dad’s all done

then he makes the silent trek to the other half of the house

finds Dave’s room

knocks on the partially open door.

Dave is lying on his back pecking fingers on his phone

and there aren’t any lights on, but the curtains are open to let the last dying flecks of light through

“Dave? Can I come in?” John asks, because politeness is important.

“It’s your house, dude.”

“Well, yeah, but it’s your room, so.” John lets himself in anyway.

“So you guys got all the decorating done, I see.” John watches Dave nod without looking up from his phone

John gets the same feeling he had around Dad, and decides he might as well make it quick

“I just wanted to say that Dad’s made a bunch of stuff down in the kitchen

and you should come try some.”

Dave looks up, finally

but he says, “Thanks but no thanks, I ate earlier.”

John scrunches his face

“You don’t even want to try some of his peppermint bark? It’s almost cooled and everything.”

“Nah, I’m good.”

“Come on, Dave, I promise it’s really tasty. There’s also cookies and cake,” John sings a little

“Look, I’m not in the mood, okay? Sorry.” Dave barely remembers to tack on the apology.

John wants to push but Dad told him to be careful so he can’t

he goes a more passive aggressive route instead

“Well, if you change your mind, it’ll still be there later.”


John tries not to pout

Dave totally sees him pouting.

he feels bad but he’s really not in the mood for people anymore

especially not really handsome, tan, blue-eyed people.

John finally leaves and Dave breathes easy again

he goes back to focusing on how huge of a tool he was earlier in the day

what the fuck was he even thinking?

that was so stupid

Dave berates himself hard to distract himself from the fact that Egbert was totally going to do it

and how that tiny moment made him feel way more wholeheartedly excited than he had any right to be

he contemplates rubbing one out but he decides against it, because both Egberts are still up and about, even though they’re on the other end of the place.

in the end Dave can’t actually resist his hunger

because he lied like an asshole about eating earlier

so he waits until ten to slink back into the kitchen

where it’s hopefully empty and quiet.

Dave makes a brief stop to check the living room

John is playing video games (badly) but he’s alone

at this hour Egbert should be in his office, or wherever he goes; Dave doesn’t actually know

the kitchen

is occupied.

damn it.

he can’t turn back, though, because Egbert’s already seen him.

Egbert watches Dave come in like a ghost.

he tries not to sound smug or overbearing when he asks if Dave is hungry.

“I… yeah. kinda.”

he knows Dave didn’t eat

and felt terrible about it

and, perhaps arrogantly, wondered if he was the cause.

he puts down his paperwork

and almost turns the main lights on

but Egbert realizes Dave’s eyes are uncovered

so he only keeps on the light coming from the lamps behind the breakfast bar.

“There’s some steak and home fries left in the fridge if you like, as well as plenty of dessert.”

Egbert steps lighter and softer than Dave feels he should.

Dave picks the latter

and he sounds more lost that Egbert thinks he’s ever heard.

he wants to apologize for earlier

but he doesn’t even know what ‘earlier’ was.

or was going to be.

“You are… really good at baking, Mr. Egbert.”

there’s a slight awe to the boy’s voice

and Egbert graciously accepts his praise

but suddenly feels distanced by his title.

Egbert hasn’t felt this unsure about someone in years.

never quite like this.

he watches Dave eat

without trying to look like it.

he can’t focus on the black and white forms sitting in front of him so he pushes them away again.

Dave finishes and puts his plate in the sink himself.

he stands beside the kitchen island

like he wants to say something

and Egbert wants to hear it, or say something back

he stands.

Dave looks up at him and Egbert hasn’t seen his eyes in a while

and is struck with how pretty they are.

Dave’s lips part

but no sound comes out.

only faint noise from the living room echoes through

and it’s like neither Egbert nor Dave are even there

Dave wants to move

Egbert wants to move

it’s unbearable to stand like this and finally Dave cracks

“Thanks for the food.”

Egbert responds in kind, “You’re welcome, Dave.”

Dave swallows and

takes a step

“I, uh”

if he addresses it then Egbert will know he was serious

and then he doesn’t know what will happen after that.

“Sorry about


he words it vaguely so Egbert can take it any way he wants.

Egbert’s heart aches just watching Dave

and listening to him in the half-light of the room

“There’s no need to apologize, Dave.” Egbert’s tongue feels heavy.


Dave closes his eyes and when he opens them Egbert seems nearer than before

“I guess I’m…” Dave swallows again, “gonna head back. To my room now.”

he says that but he doesn’t move

Egbert does.

“Good…night,” Dave says

and it sounds like a question.

he’s stuck standing there looking up at Egbert and he can’t tear his eyes away for a second

he doesn’t have a shield and he doesn’t have an excuse.

Egbert chances

a hand on Dave’s shoulder

and says “Goodnight,” in return

and his voice sounds so close and intimate.

Dave stares at Egbert’s lips.

he’s tall enough that he’d have to

lean up on his toes to reach, probably

but Egbert leans down instead

and Dave’s heart is thrumming against his ribs painfully

and he pushes his lips to Egbert’s so softly they barely touch.

the hand on his shoulder is warm and gentle

and he presses a little harder

and Egbert presses back.

it’s soft and light and gentle and warm and it’s

the best feeling Dave’s probably ever had.

it scares the hell out of him.

Dave’s eyes are wide when he pulls back

and Egbert almost thinks he’s done wrong but for the heavy pink tint to the boy’s cheeks.

he lifts his hand and lets him go

Dave takes a step back

and slowly disappears into the shadows.

John goes back to his room at some point

and Egbert follows shortly after to his own room.

he suddenly wishes he’d given Dave the spare room on their end instead.

but maybe it was for the best

he wouldn’t have wanted to chance Dave hearing anything through the shared wall.

Dave is suddenly thankful to be at the other end of the maze

so he can moan into his pillow almost as loud as he wants.




* Dave’s not thinking about all the things he feels

and tells himself to just be glad to be here.

it’s almost Christmas Eve

and Egbert has stayed home four days in a row preparing.

John’s excited as all hell

and he can’t help from getting Dave a bit stoked too

despite all the tiny nagging worries stuck in his head.

Dave gets up same time as Egbert every morning

consciously or unconsciously, he doesn’t

care to know

he just sits quietly and eats cereal before he starts the day of window-cleaning

while Egbert brews coffee and reads the paper.

it’s nice but for the elephant in the room.

Dave hasn’t been able to meet Egbert’s eyes, even through his shades, since the night they kissed

and even Egbert seems a little

he wants to say nervous

around him.

it feels wrong, because Egbert does not look the nervous type at all; he’s nothing but calm confidence

(Dave ignores the fact that his point of reference is very small, having known him for less than a month)

he’s almost too polite, now. almost formal.

Dave feels

slightly alienated

he’s used to that sensation

it’s just been a while since he’s last had to feel it.

Egbert is, truthfully, still shaken.

in the light of day, everything was in stark relief

that night was several levels of inappropriate

but while Egbert doesn’t

regret it, necessarily

he doesn’t know how to proceed. if he should proceed.

Dave is starting to withdraw again, he can see it plainly

and it hurts to know he did that

 but he’s unsure, for the first time in a long time, how to deal with his feelings.

he slowly decides to leave them out, for now, and focus simply on Dave and John, as well as Jake

Christmas is very near and there is a family banquet to prepare.

Egbert smiles softly to himself while he begins his marinades

and feels glad to have John back, and Jake and Dave here

and Harley will be coming

and Janine

and Ms. Lalonde, if she can make it

the gathering will be small, all things considered

their crew motley

but Egbert wouldn’t have it any other way.

John enjoys sleeping in.

he also enjoys sneaking up on Jake and Dave while they work

though, curiously, Dave has the sharpest damn senses he’s ever encountered.

he actually scared John while he was trying to scare Dave

John was sneaking up behind him and Dave just went, “I know you’re there” and he stumbled back

John silently vows to totally get him soon.

he also verbally vows.

but Jake is a more fun target, anyway

a quick pinch to his hip and Jake jumps three feet

it gets easier every time.

then Jake pulls him behind the bushes and he gets his ‘revenge’

fair trade, John thinks.

he rocks his hips up eagerly against Jake’s

and idly wonders if Dave would be receptive to something like this

he’s so closed off it’s hard to figure him out

but something makes him want to try.

Dad’s words constantly echo in his head to be careful

but the more he (slowly) learns about Dave the more he thinks that maybe Dad is just overly cautious.

Jake’s lips pull John back out of his head

and he lets Jake give him a proper welcome home.

Dave’s eyebrows rise slightly at John’s puffy red lips when he comes inside

but he doesn’t comment.

pretends it’s just the cold that got to him out there.

he goes back to cleaning the nine hundred million windows in this place.

he’s saving the windows and glass doors in the kitchen for last

not just because Egbert’s in there

but mostly because Egbert’s in there.

one of these days Dave will actually count all the rooms in the house instead of just assuming a ridiculous number

but for the moment he is content to continue thinking of this place as a big old labyrinth

one that’s slowly becoming a familiar habit.

toward the end of the window marathon Dave dimly realizes that

Christmas generally means presents

and he has a quiet panic attack wondering if he’s supposed to get something for the Egberts.

and what about Jake?

Dave just kind of

ignores that anxiety and hopes they don’t expect anything out of him.

he’s sure not expecting anything out of them.

(except maybe that ham he’s seen in the refrigerator.)

the sun is already starting to set by the time Dave makes it to the kitchen windows

at that point Egbert’s come back around to start his slow cooker dishes

he freely admits to going totally overboard with food

but most of it is consumed by Eve’s end anyway, one way or another.

Harley loves his cooking

has done since they were young.

Egbert’s eyes stray to Dave while he chops vegetables for the soup

wonders what his brother must have been like

to, assumingly, raise a boy like that.

His eyes stray too far and Egbert ends up watching the sharp lines of Dave’s arms and back move while he cleans

a flush creeps onto his face when he realizes what he’s doing

imagining those lines unobscured by clothing

Dave slows his motions and starts to look over

Egbert looks away just in time.

he goes back to his work.

Dave watches him in turn

Egbert’s hands working the knife smoothly

long fingers curled around the handle

he bites the inside of his cheek

turns back to the clear windows reflecting his stupid pink face back at him

quit ogling the boss, idiot.

Dave moves to the glass doors

stares out at the garden and covered pool and hot tub

he has yet to actually go out in the backyard proper.

he’s only just allowed himself to start poking at the computer in the library

John half-teases him for his baby steps

Dave doesn’t care. he goes at his own pace and not a step faster or slower.


he shakes his hair out of his face

slips through the doors to clean the other sides

way easier to get the outside here.

most of the other windows remained fairly clean both in and out, but it still sucks getting the ladder for the higher windows that couldn’t be opened or reached on their own floor.

it’s tempting to just use the place as a parkour jungle gym and get his cleaning done that way

but Dave’s already been caught using ledges and window boxes to clean from

and Egbert gently insisted he use a ladder for safety

so how could he say no?

never mind Dave was plenty skilled enough to safely continue his own way

he couldn’t deny Mr. Egbert.

he doesn’t really want to, anyway

he’ll do anything for him, probably

pathetic as that is.

with a nice long stretch and a crack of spine and neck

Dave finishes his work.

he comes back inside and the smell of delicious food springs back at him

he physically can’t stop the quiet “Mmmmm” from coming out

Egbert turns with a start at Dave, sees him in profile, eyes closed and smiling

“Smells amazing.”

Egbert breathes again, murmuring a quiet “Thank you Dave,” and pulling his mind back out of the gutter.

he ends up replaying that humming moan in his head once Dave is gone.

it’s quite difficult to put feelings out of his mind, after all, with Dave around all the time.

John joins his dad in the kitchen and Egbert welcomes the distraction.

he regrets sending John away.

John’s long forgiven him, but it doesn’t erase the anguish in the beginning

he takes comfort in his son’s company all the more, now, at the very least.

distance does make the heart grow fonder.

his boy’s grown up to be so handsome

handsome and intelligent and kind.

any parent would be proud of John

and Egbert feels lucky to have him.

John helps him finish putting the soup together

gets a kiss on the top of his head

gives a “Jeez, Dad” and a laugh in return.

Egbert smiles warmly.

“So, Uncle Harley’s coming tomorrow night, right?”

“That’s right, John.”

“And Jake and Janine and Dave, too, right?”


“Ms. Lalonde may join us too.”

John lights up a little, “Cool! is she gonna bring Rose, too, if she comes?”

“Most likely.”

John hugs Egbert suddenly. “Ahh, we’re gonna have a full house!”

the pangs in Egbert’s heart offset John’s glee

and he regrets anew the distance between their tiny family.

Dave lays face down on his perpetually unmade bed, ‘work’ shirt off and belt on the floor.

it feels weird having a job, he guesses.

he’s still a pretty long way off from repaying his debts

(in truth he’s not even sure how much he owes in the first place)

but the small allowances he makes for himself are still nice.

he’s never needed much to survive, and since food and shelter are already more or less taken care of

he’s pretty sure he can consider himself living well.

vague emotional turmoil aside.

John comes up and tells him dinner is ready

and Dave briefly considers not going down

just out of a dull wish for a repeat performance last time he slunk into the kitchen after hours

but he rolls face-up and tells John he’ll be down in a minute

pretends he didn’t notice John staring at his naked chest.

Dave’s pretty sure John flirts with him sometimes. like, sixty percent sure. which is better than nothing.

he’s not used to the kind of attention that doesn’t involve freakshow fascination, so it’s hard to parse John’s meanings half the time.

either way, this extra confusion is… definitely not something Dave needs.

he’s got enough of his own.

he drowns his hypothetical sorrows in warm delicious food

and doesn’t really look directly at Egbert, when he can help it

John steers most of the conversation anyway

giving Dave an idea of what to expect for tomorrow night

and he mentally prepares to meet a bunch of strangers.

one of whom is related to Egbert.

Dave hopes that

doesn’t add to this already confusing clusterfuck of conflicted feelings.

he goes to bed early instead of watching a movie with John.

morning comes like night never happened.

Dave dresses and heads down and Egbert’s in the kitchen as usual

Egbert half-smiles at him, “You didn’t have to get up so early, Dave.”

Dave looks puzzled, briefly. “I didn’t?”

“It’s Christmas Eve. You don’t have to work on holidays.”


hadn’t actually occurred to Dave.

“Well, I’m already up so I might as well stay up.” Dave shrugs. then remembers his meager manners. “But thanks, Mr. Egbert.”

Egbert’s smile widens and Dave lets himself bask in it.

he wants to kiss him again.

John wakes up a little earlier than he usually does, buzzes around the house excitedly

Dave lazes around in the living room with him for a while, killing hours until dusk starts setting in.

John asks how Dave usually celebrated Christmas

and Dave’s been learning to talk better with John, so it doesn’t shut him down or hurt as much to talk about things from before

so he just admits he never really did Christmas that much, and John accepts it

promises he’ll catch Dave up on all the Christmas junk he can handle

Dave just nods.

Egbert pokes into the room and Dave instinctively pulls his feet down from over the arm of the couch

“Dave, would you mind coming with me for a moment? I have something for you.”

stomach clenching and heart suddenly in his throat, Dave gets up and follows Egbert

he almost hesitates when he’s led to the hall that leads to the Egberts’ rooms

he’s never really been in this part of the house except to quickly clean

and has never actually entered Egbert’s room.

Egbert opens his door and holds it for Dave, gesturing him inside

Dave steps in carefully

the door closes softly.

“So,” Egbert begins with a clearing of his throat

“I know it’s not quite Christmas Day yet”

“but I thought you could use this tonight.”

Dave has no idea what Egbert means

his brain betrays him by pulling Egbert’s words deep in the gutter and he can’t stop the flush of his face as he swallows on nothing.


Egbert’s reaching into his closet

and Dave watches anxiously

until he pulls out a garment bag on a hanger.

“I hadn’t the chance to get one for you the last time, so I suppose this was a perfect opportunity.”

He pulls the zipper and for an instant

Dave almost thinks it’s going to be a French maid outfit

but instead a crisp dark suit stares back at him

complete with a dark red tie.

Dave stares at it for a long moment

it looks really, really nice

and really, really expensive.

Egbert seems to catch the look on his face because he says, “Now, this is a gift, and I refuse to allow you to pay this back.”

Dave’s mouth just kind of opens and closes a few times



Egbert nearly beams and wow at that, too

“If you’d like to try it on, you can use my bathroom.”

Dave’s head snaps up


private bathroom


“Uh, ok.”

Egbert hands him the garment bag and their fingers brush

Dave gulps and backs up a few steps before finally turning and heading into the bathroom

it’s big and bright and clean

he almost forgets why he’s in there because he’s too busy admiring the huge deep bathtub

Dave pulls the suit out and


it’s fucking NICE.

he peels his shirt off first

pointedly doesn’t look at himself in the large mirror

tries to ignore the fact that he’s totally getting naked in Egbert’s private bathroom

his dick doesn’t listen to his brain, though

and it takes all of Dave’s concentration to not get hard while he slips on his new dark slacks.

Dave’s never actually put on a suit before

but he’s probably admired enough men IN suits to figure it out.

he smoothes his hand down the front of his black vest

it’s got some kind of

subtle striping on it

they sort of shine a little in the light.

Dave pictures Egbert picking this stuff out.

his heartbeat speeds up and gets loud

and he pulls the jacket on.

he’s pretty sure he did the tie wrong

but he looks pretty fucking good.

Dave pulls the bathroom door open silently and steps out

Egbert’s eyes look him up and down and it feels intensely different from the last time.

there’s a quiet excitement, almost an anticipation

the breath is nearly frozen in Dave’s lungs when Egbert murmurs, “Perfect.”

“Ah, but the tie.” Color rises in Dave’s cheeks.

Egbert steps close and pulls the silk out of its messy knot

deft fingers rework it into a proper Windsor

smooth it down along his chest

Dave shudders slightly.

Egbert’s gaze flicks back up to Dave’s face, vague surprise registering on his face

like he just realized how close they are

Dave’s lips part almost imperceptibly

Egbert finds his eyes behind the shades easily

there’s a single

silent beat

Egbert’s fingers curl instinctively around Dave’s tie as the boy pushes up and kisses him firmly.

Dave grips broad shoulders and presses close

nearly whimpers in relief as Egbert’s lips push back just as hard.

a warm hand threads through the hair at the back of Dave’s head

trapping him so, so willingly

Dave dares a flick of his tongue against Egbert’s lips

gets a response immediately

and Egbert’s tongue is stroking his and


if it weren’t for his arms twining around Egbert’s neck he’d have fallen weak-kneed to the floor

the hand on his tie slides to support him around the waist and Dave clings tighter

his hips push against Egbert and he swears to god the groan he gets echoes into his ribcage.

“Dave…” Egbert murmurs against his lips

“Oh fuck,” and he could just come right then

Egbert stops, though, one hand slipping from Dave’s hair

the pitiful noise in the back of his throat rises unbidden as he meets Egbert’s eyes

“Dave, oh my goodness,” his hands pull away like he’s been burned

he can almost


the regret in his voice

and it hurts more than Dave is willing to admit

he staggers back and his hand finds the edge of Egbert’s desk

face red and arousal plain as the tent in his pants.

Egbert’s frozen where he stands

Dave’s voice is rough when he asks “Why’d you stop?” while he catches his breath.

Egbert looks at that boy

from his ravished lips to the half-loosened tie to the erection pressing tightly against his slacks

guilt courses through him just enough to keep him from going back for more.

“D-Dave, god.” He passes fingers over his mouth, gathering himself long enough to tear his eyes away. “We should… not be doing this.”

the look on the boy’s face breaks his heart.

“Why not?”

Egbert struggles to come up with an answer.

“You’re so young…”

Dave scoffs and he sounds wounded

“I…I’m your employer.”

the set in his jaw says Dave’s going to fight for this

his excuses are falling flatter each time


Dave licks his lips. “You want me.”


do. yes.”

the admission drops heavy.

“Then why…”

the low slope of Dave’s shoulders make him look so lost

and Egbert regrets telling him no.

he makes amends, tentatively

“Just… not yet.”

he can give him that much.

a promise of ‘later’

Dave’s crushed

but he understands.

“Ok,” his voice sounds just a little dead.

“Not yet. But soon.”

Egbert can just make out the determination in Dave’s eyes as he levels them with his.


the boy’s still half-hard when he retreats into the bathroom silently.

Dave slumps against the door

head hitting it softly.


just when he thought maybe

he could be done with dancing skittishly around him for good.

he doesn’t even want to jerk off in here anymore.

Dave crams his old clothes in the garment bag

pushes his tie under his jacket and wears his suit out.

Egbert’s on the edge of his bed and he looks almost as torn up as Dave does

“How soon is soon.”

“I… I don’t know,” Egbert says, and it’s hopeful and damning at the same time

Dave stops in front of Egbert, bare feet framing socked feet

he barely has to lean down

to kiss him chastely, one more time before he leaves the room and breaks the spell.

Dave’s earned that much.

John whistles appreciatively as he passes through the living room in his new suit

Dave stops and does a little twirl to show off

gives him a snarky “Merry Christmas” as he struts off, leaving John laughing behind him.

he goes to his room and puts his clothes away, feeling drained.

he’s got an entire night ahead of him, hanging out with strangers during awkward family holiday time

better get ready.

the company, as it turns out, isn’t all that bad.

Jake is there to back Dave up on ‘the help’ being welcome

Harley turns out to be pretty badass for an old guy

and by the time the mysterious Lalonde(s) show up, Dave’s almost off edge.

talk flies across the loaded dining table for ages

the younger Lalonde, Rose, eyes Dave through her lashes

and he’s almost unnerved enough to push his shades further up his nose.

she watches him while her mother compliments Egbert’s cooking with a wide toasting gesture

Dave watches Egbert

and is somehow relieved to see him just bow his head slightly with a warm smile.

Harley recounts some crazy-sounding stories to Jake and John, and Dave catches himself listening in

catches himself again with his eyes wandering back to Egbert.

they both meet eyes as they drink

Dave’s sorely tempted to wink at him

but Egbert beats him to it.

it takes all of Dave’s willpower not to do a legitimate spittake

that coy fucking bastard. this isn’t fair.

he wishes he was close enough to sneak his foot up Egbert’s leg in revenge.

still, a large part of him is just glad they didn’t slip back into stilted words and awkward shifting.

feelings have been addressed (he’s pretty sure) and it’s

no longer a matter of if

it’s when.

Dave slowly unwinds through the night as food continues to appear on his plate.

the older Lalonde rapidly unwinds when wine is brought out. Dave almost wants to try some, but he figures it probably tastes just as bad as all the other booze he’s tried.

Jake sneaks John a sip from his own glass and Dave watches the poor kid shudder at the aftertaste.

Dave’s ready for the dessert round when it comes.

so, so ready.

Egbert is glad to see Dave acting amiably all evening

he hopes it isn’t all an act, though.

he’s quite confident it’s mostly genuine by the time coffee, tea, and cakes make the rounds

Dave looks simply radiant and he wants to tell him that.

he laughs with Janine and Roxanne’s banter instead, and saves his thoughts for later.

it’s nearing ten by the time everyone gathers in the living room

the tree Dave and Egbert set up together shines brightly

and Harley commandeers the bags and boxes under the tree, some of which were only placed there hours earlier

“This one is… to John, from Rose!” he tosses it a short way to John and he catches it easily

Rose gives a small “Tsk” at the handling but smiles all the same when John wraps his new scarf around his neck

“Dashing!” Harley says and John hugs the girl and kisses her cheek

Dave eyes everyone, amused but wary

he finds comfort in his place next to Egbert on the longer couch.

gifts pass between hands, some jokes and some sincere

(most of the joke ones were from Harley or John)

and eventually people start growing drowsy.

Egbert offers rooms to everyone but only Jake ends up accepting

so goodbyes are had and Dave actually means it when he says “It was good meeting you,” to everyone when they shake his hand.

the atmosphere eases almost instantly when Harley leaves last

Egbert sees him out the door and comes back to see John and Jake on the small couch, several movies strewn on the coffee table

“Where’s Dave?” Egbert tries not to sound too curious or concerned

“I think he just went to the kitchen,” John calls without looking up from the small debate with Jake over which movie to watch.

just as promised, Dave sits at the breakfast table

one foot swinging gently

sunglasses sitting in front of him.

“Are you all right, Dave?”

Dave looks up at him and he seems content, if worn out.

“Just a little tired.”

Egbert smiles, “I don’t blame you. A bit more boisterous company than you’re used to, no doubt.”

the lights are low and the air is warm.

Dave’s lips draw up on one side, a half-grin. “No kidding.”

“You still enjoyed yourself, though, right?”

“Yeah,” Dave’s tone and the look in his eyes tells Egbert more than that.

Dave’s gaze is drawn past Egbert, and he turns to follow

John’s leaning against the doorway

“Jake and I are gonna watch movies in my room instead of the living room. So I guess goodnight in advance!”

Egbert takes John’s one-armed hug and says goodnight

watches him take an extra plate of cookies and tarts with him

and just like that he and Dave are effectively alone.

“Maybe we should follow their lead,” Dave says, and for a moment Egbert thinks he’s going to bed as well

until he looks up with a near sly look on his face

“Want to watch a movie in the den?”

“I’d love to.”

they retire to the smaller room.

Dave settles into the huge chair that could easily fit three people

draws his feet up and flushes a little when Egbert comes to sit close next to him

for their merit, Egbert does turn the TV on to It’s a Wonderful Life.

“You looked wonderful tonight, Dave.”

Dave’s cheeks warm from that alone. “Don’t I still?”

“Even moreso.”

christ, his tone leaves Dave’s heart stuttering.

“So this is what you meant by ‘soon’ huh.” Dave shifts a little to face Egbert more, leaning slightly on the arm of the cushy chair.

it’s Egbert’s turn to flush

he’s got to admit that now that cards were laid, he can’t take them back.

“I suppose so.”

Dave suppresses a shudder.

he moves closer


this time you’re not gonna say we can’t, right.”

Egbert covers Dave’s hand with his own, and it’s probably the most intimate touch he’s ever felt

instead of answering, Egbert cups Dave’s cheek and leans down

soft kiss immediately turning needy as Dave rises up to meet him.

Dave’s hands fist in Egbert’s starched collar

hands move around his waist and Dave crawls eagerly onto Egbert’s lap, straddling him

breaths shorten between kisses, growing nearly desperate until Egbert steadies him

Dave’s fingers unfreeze and slowly trail down the older man’s warm broad chest.

Egbert slips under Dave’s jacket and he moves to let him slide it off

swallows as gray-blue eyes rake appreciatively down his skinny frame.

Egbert’s palms find Dave’s sharp little hips and they fit perfectly

he’s already hard and it’s useless to hide it

Dave slips his arms under Egbert’s jacket, taking his body heat as he clings around his chest

the smooth lining brushes against the backs of Dave’s hands and he shivers when Egbert pulls him closer.

the quiet gasp Dave makes when his erection hits solid mass is muffled by Egbert’s lips and tongue

Dave prays to not be shut down again.

Egbert asks Dave if it’s all right to touch him

he’d laugh if it wouldn’t just turn to a shaky moan

he practically begs him to

almost every other word he says is “Please”

Egbert watches his every reaction as buttons are undone, shirttails untucked, belt loops cleared

‘touch starved’ comes to mind and Egbert’s heart aches dully

presses small kisses along Dave’s fine jaw as his hand dips below the waistband of his boxers

Dave’s soft cry is loud to Egbert’s ears.

he twitches desperate and hot in Egbert’s hands and he pumps him slowly

and Dave clutches his shoulders, burying his face in Egbert’s neck and bucking against him

warm panting and sweet moans drown the movie in the background

just listening to the boy is a wet dream in itself.

Egbert’s blood runs hot and he is soon lost to the sound of Dave’s pleasure

he leans back into the overstuffed chair, pulling Dave flush with him and maybe less-than-accidentally letting the boy’s cock brush against his own

the high breathy “Fuck” that escapes Dave’s mouth is gorgeous in sound

he rubs insistently against Egbert, hands still locked behind his neck.

“Am I going too fast?” Egbert murmurs against the flushed skin of Dave’s neck

“God, no, it’s ok, it’s perfect, jesus” Dave babbles

breathing high and shallow

Egbert shifts long enough to pull himself out, watches Dave watch him, biting his lips redder.

profanity issues almost nonstop from Dave

a part of Egbert wants to chastise his vulgar language but he kisses him quiet instead, hand curled around them both.

Dave bites Egbert’s lips gently and he cries silently when he comes

two small tears fall in quick succession down Dave’s cheeks as he rides it out

it startles Egbert almost enough to stop

but he’s kissing Egbert again and still rocking against his cock

Dave is just

a gorgeous boy

Egbert can’t help but nearly crush him in his arms

one of Dave’s hands finally grows brave and reaches between them

his fingers are thin and cool against his burning skin and Egbert groans as Dave pulls him off.

“God, Dave,” is all Egbert can say

and he pushes up into Dave’s hand and comes, words losing all meaning.

Egbert melts into the back of the chair

and Dave is looking at his hand

almost in awe.

Egbert pulls a handkerchief from his front pocket

takes Dave’s hand and cleans it, then moves to wipe up the rest between them.

Dave tucks himself away and Egbert does the same

but neither of them moves away

and Dave tucks his face into the crook of Egbert’s neck

breath evening out slowly.

Egbert rubs circles on the boy’s back, nearly able to feel the bumps of his spine under the cloth of his open vest and shirt.

afterglow has never felt so sweet.

Dave sighs in definite contentment

Egbert echoes it, stroking his hair.

“That…was amazing,” Dave eventually murmurs against Egbert’s chest.


eventually Dave falls asleep curled into him.

Egbert lifts him like he weighs nothing, holds him close and takes him to the master bedroom.

Dave half-wakes long enough to let Egbert pull the rest of his clothes off gently

sinks into the soft mattress, scoots back into the warmth of Egbert’s body behind him

Egbert smiles into Dave’s snowy hair

drifts off with arms tight around his thin waist.

on Christmas morning Dave wakes up feeling warmer than he ever has

and allows himself to feel safe for a few blissful moments before having to get up and retreat to his own room.

he gets dressed half-heartedly

leans down and kisses the corner of Egbert’s mouth before slipping out silently.

Dave pokes his head around the corner at the same time Jake is sneaking out of John’s room

they catch each other.







they both

agree to pretend

they didn’t see each other

as they make the walk of shame to the guest wing.

Dave showers and changes and shows up fresh in the kitchen

for once he’s beaten Egbert, so he starts the coffee first.

Jake shows up next, looking slightly less ashamed than when Dave last saw him (twenty minutes ago)

he puts a mug out for Jake and he takes it gratefully, adding milk and sipping loudly.

after shuffling around awkwardly for a few moments they finally meet each other’s eyes

Jake cracks up first and Dave follows not long after

and Egbert comes in to the sound of them laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Dave stifles the rest of his laughter with his hand.

he pours Egbert’s coffee for him, cream and sugar.

Egbert looks surprised that Dave knew how he takes it.

Dave’s only been watching him for weeks.

John trudges out dead last

stretching and yawning in his nicest blue pajamas

a far cry from his usual basketball shorts and t-shirt sleepwear

Dave smirks at Jake and he has to hide his returning smile in his coffee.

“Merry Christmas everybody” John beams.

“Cheers!” “Yup” “Merry Christmas, John” are his responses

a few presents remain under the living room tree

and the four of them pile in once more

it’s even more informal than last night

and the gifts are smaller and more sentimental

and Dave feels like he

wants to be a part of this next time.

John puts in a movie that they all actually watch, this time

and if Jake sits a little too close to John

or if Egbert slings his arm along the back of the couch where Dave sits

nobody mentions it.


:: closure ::


it starts with a phone call Dave gets

right after he’s finished sucking Egbert’s cock in his office.

it makes Dave go whiter than usual

and he escapes into the hallway before Egbert can hear anything

it’s a little jarring and Egbert’s immediately concerned, even as he tucks himself back into his pants

(Dave has gotten so good, not a drop of cum anywhere)

he waits for Dave to return and he does

seven minutes later.

Dave looks more withdrawn than Egbert’s seen him in a very long time

not since their meeting a year and a half ago.

in fact the similarity of his demeanor

tips Egbert off

about the subject of the call.

“I… I need to”

Egbert watches Dave take a long, deep breath, and he sees a little confidence bleed back into him.

“I need to go back to Dallas.”

the sentence hangs all on its own in the clean, tidy office

and instead of asking why Egbert asks, “How soon?”

“How long?”

Dave’s lips are still swollen and pink and he nibbles them before answering

“Soon as possible? Just a couple days.”

he obviously

does not want to go.

Egbert is not the type to make blind leaps

but he trusts Dave

more than trusts Dave.

“I can book you a flight” he says, leaning back and waiting.

Dave swallows and clutches his phone

they’ve been working on this.

“Will you

come with me?”

Egbert rises and goes to him, pulls him close

“Of course.”

Dave’s got some explaining to do.

they leave at the beginning of the next week

John is there to see them off

and Dave does little more than shuffle behind Egbert all the way to their first class seats.

legally he is an adult, yes. but that doesn’t mean he has to act like one if the alternative is deferring to Egbert

he’s giving himself mixed signals and he doesn’t know whether to be straight-backed and mature or docile and demure

Egbert is so casual about laying his hand over Dave’s

while they take off

the fist he’s made just melts away.

the ride is nearly silent but for small murmurs between them

and Egbert doesn’t blame him for closing up; privacy is extremely valuable to Dave.

he’ll let the boy come to him shortly. he’s already learned his lessons about pushing before.

Egbert takes the lead from landing to rental car to hotel, hangs the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, and waits

while Dave calls the person (Egbert assumes) they are here for.

tells them he’ll see them tomorrow.

eventually Dave joins Egbert on the bed

and there are a lot of things unsaid between them

‘thanks for coming with me’

‘thanks for being patient’

‘thanks for not asking before I’m ready’

‘sorry I’m never ready’

Dave picks none of these to say.

“So’s this count as a honeymoon?” is what he does say.

Egbert gives him a look that’s half amused and half chastising, and Dave feels stupid for defaulting to jokes

but it’s an old defense mechanism that rarely fails him. except with Egbert.

Dave resists the urge to curl his knees up against his chest, spreads his hands against the stiff bedcovers instead

he also resists the urge to blurt every thought, like how these covers aren’t nearly as soft as they could be, it’s like they never heard of fabric softener

Egbert’s arm lies heavy across Dave’s shoulders and he both tenses and relaxes.

it’s difficult to not just look up at him and kiss him

because while that would be an incredibly enjoyable experience, it’s also not what they’re here for.

Dave needs to tell him what they’re here for.

he breathes.

“So that was. One of my Bro’s old friends.”

there’s nothing but silence and steady breathing to distract him

“He got ahold of my number and. Called.”

Egbert’s hand curls warmly on his shoulder, encouraging.

“I have to meet him at his place tomorrow, because he’s,” Dave gulps, “got some stuff for me. From… from Bro.”

Dave feels like there should be some kind of reference guide for this kind of shit

explaining to your benefactor/lover why you ran away after your brother’s mysterious death

it’s like a fucking episode of The OC or something.

“Apparently he actually had something to

leave behind.”

it’s hard to talk and Dave doesn’t know where he’s supposed to go with this

“Do you want me there with you when you go?” Egbert asks

and Dave just nods

and lets himself be pulled tighter against Egbert’s side.

“Thanks,” Dave mumbles

grateful for a lot of things.

“You don’t have to tell me everything at once, Dave.”

it’s so much more than Dave deserves

he wants nothing more than to tell him everything but they both know how hard it still is.

Dave feels weak for curling against Egbert and falling quiet.

Egbert has long understood that Dave is still deeply hurt

he’s concretely learned very little about Dave

he doesn’t know where he went to school, or what his brother’s name was, or how long he’s been dead

but these are trivial things compared to what Egbert does know.

he knows Dave is a hard worker

has very deep-running affections for people

he knows he’s sharp and witty

fiercely loyal

loving and selfless.

Egbert’s throat tightens as he realizes

he’s in love with this boy.

his fingers stroke Dave’s hair softly, easing him into sleep.

Egbert stares at their dark reflection on the TV screen across the room

thinks for a long empty while, with Dave breathing quietly against him.

Dave only remembers the way to “Mr. Zahhak’s” home via bus routes

so Egbert simply enters the address into the rental car’s GPS.

he isn’t sure what to expect from this man

but he’s wary from the tense set of Dave’s jaw.

the building is fairly nice. the lobby is clean and the elevator doors are unmarred.

Dave stops in front of the door and takes a very

very deep breath.

Egbert’s hand finds the small of Dave’s back.

skinny fingers pull into a fist and knock.

the door opens within ten seconds and

an enormous man stands before them.

he takes one look at Dave and envelops him

Egbert’s heart seizes for a half-second until he realizes it’s a hug

a very strong one, if the crack in Dave’s voice is any indication.

Dave’s hands are tiny and white as they slap Mr. Zahhak’s back

“Oh, my,” he says, and releases Dave

Egbert almost laughs while Dave wheezes, hand on his chest.

Zahhak turns to Egbert

and they assess one another.

Egbert knows he’ll pass whatever test this man will give him. the shift of glasses and soft-spoken introduction confirms this.

“I am Eric Zahhak,” his handshake is firm and Egbert returns it evenly

“Thomas Egbert. Pleasure to meet you.”

they are ushered inside quite graciously and Egbert vaguely wonders about this man’s upbringing. he keeps his eyes on Dave.

“I have been extremely worried about you, David. I had nearly given up hope of contacting you.”

Dave rubs the back of his neck and feels like a child

he doesn’t really want to play catch-up in front of Egbert

mostly because he still feels acutely guilty about not telling Egbert everything in the first place.

Zahhak offers drinks and Dave refuses while Egbert accepts.

before they can start pussyfooting around Dave bites the bullet

and apologizes for leaving.

and he’s surprised when Zahhak says “I do not blame you for wishing to flee. Your circumstances were unfortunate, and

while I would have been happy to be your guardian

I respect your desire for freedom

reckless as you were about attaining it.”


tries not to look at Egbert

and looks at his hands instead.

“I… yeah. That was dumb.”

“You’ve suffered a great loss, David. Nobody will hold you in contempt for the choices you’ve made.”

Dave’s fingers tighten and he feels


and he’s starting to remember why he left.

“But that is neither here nor there. I’ve got some things for you.”

Zahhak gets up and exits the room and Dave finally dares a look at Egbert.

he looks calm in a way that’s almost unsettling

but the understanding, reassuring smile he gives Dave erases that.

Zahhak comes back with what looks like a metal tackle box

Dave recognizes it as the same one that sat under the kitchen sink for years.

the box is placed on the coffee table between them

and Dave assumes they expect him to open it here.

his fingers pry open the clasp and he tips the lid up slowly

there’s a small ring of keys, some folded papers

a black bank bag

and a bright pink flowery envelope.

Dave picks up the envelope first

opens it to find a sheet of teddy bear stationery

the ink is not glittery like he’s expecting.

it’s black.

Dave keeps his fingers loose as he reads

“Hey little guy. If you’re reading this

then you were right.”

Dave pushes a hand through his hair and struggles to continue reading

“You can save the ‘I told you sos’ for later. In the meantime check out the other boring junk I left in the box for you. All our records are there, as well as the keys to a safety deposit box full of gold and gemstones and doubloons and shit.

Nah, I’m kidding. It’s just your college fund. The bank bag’s got some cash if you need it immediately.”



the paper back up.

and doesn’t finish reading.

he keeps a steely control on his voice and thanks Zahhak for keeping this safe for him.

Zahhak asks

if Dave is happy where he is, or if he would like to return.


emotionally compromised, feeling more drained than ever, extremely bereft

“really happy where I am now.”

warmth spreads in Egbert’s chest at Dave’s words.

the shift in body language the instant Dave opened the box put Egbert on edge

the boy looks ready to shatter but the comparative strength in his voice is reassuring.

Zahhak thanks Dave for coming back and makes him promise to keep in touch.

he also thanks Egbert for watching over Dave in his stead, and apologizes for his shortcomings therein.

Egbert absolutely means it when he says “Meeting Dave was the luckiest thing to ever happen to me.”

“Then he is in very good hands. Thank you, Mr. Egbert.”

“It’s my pleasure.”

Dave clutches the box to his chest like a lifeline

and they leave.

Dave tells Egbert which bank to go to

and he pulls everything out.

they sit in the car quietly afterwards

Egbert waiting for Dave

while Dave tries to collect himself.

Dirk Strider is buried in an incongruously respectable-looking cemetery.

* Dave stands by himself

looking straight down at it

eyes dry and mouth set.

Egbert watches him by the gate

white hair tousled by a warm breeze

and it hurts to think how at home he looks against the backdrop of thousands of dearly departed souls.

Egbert can no longer take seeing Dave there like that

and goes to stand with him.

Dave jumps at the hand on his back

looks up at Egbert and sees the sad expression on his face

he almost asks why he’s even got that look; it’s not like he knew Bro.

but that’s a shitty thing to say, so he says nothing

he just turns and pushes his face against Egbert’s collar.

lets warm arms cage him in.

holds him there.

Egbert orders room service at the hotel

they eat quietly because Dave doesn’t have the words

to thank Egbert for


Egbert takes a shower and Dave steps in behind him

hands already taking over

Egbert stops Dave’s hands with his own

says “You don’t have to force yourself”

but Dave’s fingers claw into firm soapy skin, gently

“I need you.”

Egbert’s heart melts instantly

he turns to face Dave

naked and wet and beautiful and utterly vulnerable

kisses him firmly and holds that slim waist tight as Dave’s arms slip around his neck.

Dave whines softly as warm fingers close around his cock, pushes his hips up into them

breath hitches and he bites his lips, and any intent falls away as Egbert strokes and pets and rubs.

Dave comes embarrassingly fast but he’s too fucked up to care right now

he lets Egbert rinse them both off, hardly bothers with towels after

pushes the older man back against the pillows

watches his eyes in the lamplight as he licks up the shaft of Egbert’s cock.

Dave remembers the intense, almost frightened thrill the first time he actually saw it

keeps that in mind as he takes it down to the root and holds it there

closing his eyes as Egbert’s fingers thread through his hair.

Dave worships that huge dick

focuses so solely on it that he doesn’t even notice the tears that start sliding down his face

until Egbert’s thumbs smear them across his cheekbones.

his eyes snap open and the tip of Egbert’s cock slides out from between his lips

the breath he releases

is nearly a sob

Egbert burns for him even while his heart wrenches

watching Dave cry as his cock twitches against his cheek.

he wants to tell Dave to stop but

that hot wet mouth swallows him again determinedly

and Egbert can only groan and thrust up into him

unsure whether to be encouraged or discouraged by the whimpers Dave is making.

Egbert’s hands push Dave’s hair back

and Dave can’t even see past his own stupid bitch tears.

so he keeps his eyes closed and covers Egbert’s hands, guiding him to push down

silently begging Egbert to fuck his throat.

Egbert understands.

he’s never forceful, never rough, always intense

Dave’s mouth is warm and his throat is tight

this boy is perfect and it breaks Egbert’s heart.

Dave lets him set his own pace, fingers at Egbert’s thighs tightening when it’s too hard to breathe

they haven’t done this very many times yet

there’s still a little trial and error.

Egbert’s overcome by Dave’s utter sweetness and when those puffy red eyes open and find his

the sheer emotion there makes Egbert come.

Dave ends up with tears and semen streaking his cheek and trailing down his lips



and gorgeous.

Dave smiles shakily

wipes his face clean with the towel left on the floor.

he’s flushed a deep pink and his voice is barely there when he says “Thank you.”

Egbert pulls him in by the back of the neck and kisses those bruised lips softly.

they brush their teeth together

crawl into bed together

and Dave almost doesn’t hear Egbert’s soft deep voice slipping out in the darkness

“I love you, Dave.”

all he can do before falling asleep is snuggle deeper into Egbert’s warm chest.




they wake up at almost the exact same time, Dave just a second after Egbert

Egbert smiles softly and kisses Dave’s forehead

and wow it

should be illegal for someone so much older than Dave

to be so cute.

their flight doesn’t leave until one so they spend the morning lounging around

making out on the bed and watching the food network

they finally get their act together around noon to grab a quick lunch before heading out.

Dave feels considerably lighter than he did coming in.

but there’s still that little bit of guilt in him

over the fact that Egbert still doesn’t know everything

and he knows Egbert doesn’t mind Dave keeping secrets like this

that’s why he wants to tell him.

because he doesn’t ask for it.

they hold hands during the flight home

and John picks them up.

Dave squirrels away his safe box deep in his room, but leaves the pink envelope out

he puts that inside his bedside drawer.

Egbert considers opening

a savings account in Dave’s name.

just so he’d have somewhere safer to put that money.

he spends the rest of the day just

thinking about Dave’s future

and his past.

John takes off in the evening to see a movie with “some friends”

so Egbert and Dave sit in the den

Egbert quietly working and Dave sprawled on the loveseat watching AMC.

Dave’s almost nodding off already

he’s just

really tired for some reason.

“Dave would you like a pillow.”

he jumps and Egbert is smirking at him

two can play that game, old man.

“Yeah, come here and be my pillow.”

Egbert is relieved to see Dave slipping back into place

getting comfortable again after an emotionally trying couple of days.

he stops what he’s doing and pulls his tie off

joins Dave and lets him shift and squirm

until he is actually using Egbert as a pillow.

he loves being with Dave.

Dave nuzzles Egbert’s chest and enjoys the sound of his breathing

thinking that just a few years ago he’d balk at showing this kind of grossly sincere affection.

fuck that immature noise.

Dave’s got a really handsome, sexy, intelligent older gentleman sugar daddy.

he’s gonna show as much goddamn affection as he wants

physical or otherwise

and if it involves him

tiptoeing around the L word

nobody’s gotta know.

Dave leaves a lot of things unsaid in his life.

sometimes they just

take a long time to get out

that’s all.

like the fact that he really

really wants Egbert to fuck him.

he’s actually surprised, and maybe a little worried, that Egbert hasn’t really broached that subject

but there’s only so long a guy can go without

wanting a little more.

he sighs against Egbert’s chest

he fucking loves cuddling.

it is pathetic.

he could just purr from Egbert’s hands, rubbing his back and stroking his hair

Dave realizes, not for the first time, how warm and comfortable and— fucking happy— Egbert makes him. just by being there.

“What’s on your mind, Dave? You’re quiet.”

instead of admitting to thinking about sex


he takes a long breath

and says, “I… wanna talk about my brother.”

Egbert’s hands stop but he doesn’t remove them. “Should we get up?”

Dave shakes his head

without actually lifting it off Egbert’s chest

“Alright. Take your time, Dave,” Egbert says, hand on Dave’s back resuming its soothing motions.

Dave takes almost a full minute to start.

“Dirk was eight years older than me

and he pretty much raised me.”

“We lived in like, a foster home for a little while. Until Bro turned eighteen. But honestly I don’t remember much of that.”

it’s a little easier to talk when Dave doesn’t actually have Egbert in his line of sight

just hears the hum in his chest and the hands on his back.

“Bro worked pretty much nonstop

just to support us”

Dave’s fingers twitch and grip the fabric of Egbert’s shirt lightly

“and he wouldn’t even let me get a job to help out, because he wanted me in school.”

“Eventually we got a steady income and moved to a decent place

but we ended up

not really being able to maintain the rent and the bills that well.”

Dave sighs long and low

“So he started taking… other jobs. That made quick money.”

he doesn’t say anything for a long moment until Egbert encourages him quietly, “What… sort of jobs?”

“Like… crunching numbers. For people.”

“Like an accountant?”

Dave hesitates, “…kinda.”


he helped do bookwork for a nearby gang.”

“He never did anything illegal, all he did was add shit up for them, nobody ever got him to do anything else.”

Dave’s defense is quick and Egbert understands

or thinks he does.

“I told him not to do it, I told him I could make money off donations to my blog, but he wouldn’t-” Dave stops

Egbert waits

Dave swallows his voice back down, eases the cracks in it. this shit is hard.

“He wouldn’t take it. He was too stubborn and dumb.

He kept working his other jobs, his good ones

but he started leaving at night more and more often.

I never got to figure out just how much they were giving him for doing all their fucking math.”

Egbert doesn’t even bother chastising Dave for his language.

“Eventually he

eventually there was a night when he didn’t come home at all.”

Egbert tightens his hold on Dave, just slightly.

“He always told me if something happened and he didn’t come back, that I was supposed to go to Zahhak’s place. So I did.”

“It took almost a week for them to finally fucking tell me that

that Bro got caught in a goddamn drive-by right while he was leaving.”

Dave buries his face in Egbert’s chest for a second

just breathes while Egbert rubs his back.

“Zahhak was gonna adopt me and said he’d handle all the f-fucking

funeral costs and shit

but I just up and left.”

“I up and left and then a couple weeks later I met you.”

he can’t bear to tilt his head up to look at Egbert’s face.

Egbert doesn’t say anything for a long moment

he just holds Dave close

eventually he whispers, “I’m so sorry Dave,” but it feels like a weak consolation.

Dave’s hands move until he’s just

lying on top of Egbert and hugging him.

“So that’s

what happened I guess.”

it’s the first time he’s told


this much.

it’s strangely liberating.

in a sad, empty sort of way. like wow, Dave’s life sure did kind of suck.

“Thank you for telling me,” Egbert says, and it’s not really something Dave expects to hear

“I owed you that much.”

“You don’t owe me a thing, Dave,” and wow, he

wasn’t expecting that, either.

Dave does finally look up at Egbert

and he’s heard those clichés like

someone being so perfect they steal your breath away, and whatever

but Dave really does suddenly have a bit of trouble breathing looking up at this guy.

Egbert leans down and Dave leans up

without prompting

their lips meet in the middle.

Dave presses a few more kisses to Egbert’s mouth

and a few more

and a few more

until he’s just a little lightheaded

maybe more than a little hard.

he’s not necessarily looking to get hot and heavy all over the couch

Dave just seems to always find himself flipping on like a switch around Egbert

pretty much without fail.

“Dave, why don’t we go to bed a little early.”

it takes a second for Dave to catch on, because he’s still used to going to his own room to sleep, most of the time.

Dave likes the master suite a whole lot more.

not even just for the fact that there’s a giant bathtub and a huge soft bed and the room’s been recently soundproofed.

it’s because it’s Egbert’s space

it’s easy and comfortable and safe.

Dave likes feeling safe.

Egbert treats him like no one has ever treated him before.

he’s amazing, and perfect, and knows every tell Dave has

every sensitive spot

and Dave finds himself opening up more under Egbert’s hands and tongue

definitely under his tongue.

Egbert’s never asked for



but wow, turns out rimjobs are fucking amazing

A+ would scream into the sheets again.

Dave hasn’t come that hard in a good while

he’d have come again if Egbert rubbed his cock against his ass any longer


jesus christ.

Dave almost wishes he had more huge soul-scarring secrets to share

for a reward like that.

they take a hot bath at midnight and their voices echo against the walls.

Egbert jokes lightly about Dave’s screams

gets a jab in return about his own hard panting.

Dave plays with Egbert’s stubble while they brush their teeth

Egbert smiles and kisses him, minty-fresh.

Dave drops his spare toothbrush back in the cup with Egbert’s, doesn’t bother getting dressed as they slide into bed.

he suddenly feels

kind of married.

Egbert kisses the top of Dave’s head

and they really don’t need to say anything more.

but Dave plucks up the courage as they’re drifting off



it’s a mumble but it’s still mostly audible

“Love you.”

“I love you too, Dave.”

they both have good dreams, locked in each other’s arms.