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NAKED ON MONDAYS: A Story of Some Kind

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PART ONE: KANDI

 

You bring it home not because you like it, or because the girl who gave it to you was particularly precious, but because you think that it might be a nice thing, a toy or something bright, to keep your baby brother occupied while you are at work.

It’s tacky, a bracelet of some sort, made of plastic beads and cat bells, and the seemingly random array of neon colours attract his attention immediately, when you set it on the bench and busy yourself in the cupboards to find something to eat.

“What’s this?” Dave asks you coyly when you turn back, jar of Nutella ready to go, and he’s got the thing in his hands, working the colourful plastic through his fingers. The bells tink cheerily, and you shrug.

“Dunno. Something from work tonight.”

Dave hums and tries it on his wrist. It’s much too big, and it knocks against his wrist bone, but you can tell by the way his young face betrays him that he likes it. Stupid kid… he is yet to learn the ways.

“Can I have it?”

“Sure.” Cool as a particularly cool cucumber, you unscrew the Nutella and reach for the breadbox. “You want some Nutella kid?”

“Yes.”

Dave’s six-year-old voice is a birdish chirp, and as un-smooth as it is you can’t help the little smile it wenches from you. He isn’t the worst brother in the world, you suppose. Eager to please and improving in swag every day. Maybe when he is older you will take him into the clubs you work with you, to teach him how to rip hot beats and lay down the tuneskis, but for now you will simply put him to bed at eight pm each night, lay a totally ironic kiss on his forehead, and tell, in your fractured-at-best Español, the elderly babysitter from next door to make sure he is up when you got home at seven.

Things are pretty good for you right now. And you think this over again when Dave takes the sandwich you make him with eager hands, his silly trinket clicking softly on the edge of the countertop, and beams at you with naïve sincerity. His miniature shades are fingerprinted and crooked, so you lean over and adjust them carefully.

“Thanks bro.” he crinkles his nose and rubs it with the back of his hand. “Are you going to bed now?”

“What’s the time?” you check your cellphone, even though Dave knows how to read the clock on the wall. He replies with the precise correct measurement.

“Seven twenty two.”

“Na.” you take another slice of bread out of the packet and stick the knife in Nutella to start on spreading your own. “I might walk you to school today.”

“Awesome!”

He seems delighted, and though you are tired you decide sleep is a sacrifice you can afford to make.

 

VI

 

Dave starts quite a collection. He just seemed so taken with the bits and pieces that soon, you start hunting them out, flirting with girls just for a piece of the plasticy jewels on their wrist, picking them off the dancefloor when the club closes, even taking them from people too stoned and rude to matter.

After a month, he has a two litre ice cream container full.

After a year, he has a whole bucket, and he wears a few pieces of it to school every day, handing it out to his friends and people on their birthday. It’s horribly lame, but you just can’t tell him to stop because it’s equally so hopelessly cute. Fucking Dave… one of these days you are going to have to teach him how to hide this innate cuteness under a façade of ironic slight of hand.  Right now though…

Na.

You always have Fridays off, and summer holidays are the rare ladder of days in which you can spend time with your little monster in comfort and calm, teaching him how to game, cook, strife… you had tried teaching him how to do the puppet thing once but he didn’t seem to take to it. You teach him the basics of music, and how to draw and write sweet rhymes… you suppose you should start showing him how to live up to the shades he never took off his stupidly cute little face now too, but you keep putting it off. What does it matter in summer break? Maybe in august, when he has to go back to school.

“Hey kid.”

“What?” he turns his face to you and pouts, pausing the game screen and letting his controller drop to his lap. The beads on his wrist clack and you pull a face. No wonder he can’t control properly. That jewellery is getting all up in his hand space and seriously retarding his finger function.

“Take some of that shit off. Its making you suck.”

Some part of you suspects that his suckishness is not entirely attributable to his trashy adornments, but you don’t want to admit to that yet. He’s young, there is still hope.

“Nah-ah.” He shakes his head and rubs his hand over his right wrist protectively. “It’s so not.”

“It is, look.” You lean over the hallowed middle cushion, neutral territory on the sofa of sitting, and take one of his hands in yours. You peel a few bracelets and cuffs off, some of them are quite intricate and well made, and drop them onto the coffee table under his unreadable gaze. Left with only three or four pieces on this hand, you reach for the other, and start removing the rest. You leave one on this hand, and then look at the surprising pile you have discarded.

“It’s cool that you want to wear this shit, but its not cool to walk around looking like some kind of neon Christmas tree. What do you even like this stuff?” You don’t really understand, sitting back and picking back up your controller. Dave sighs dramatically beside you and unpauses the screen.

“You gave them to me.” he accuses, steering much better now he is unbridled.

“If I gave you rat poison would you eat that shit?”

Dave does not reply, but you fancy that you can see his eyes roll behind his glasses.

You beat him easily and decide that it’s about time for lunch. Sandwiches all around sounds good, Nutella for him, cheese and tomato for you. You tell him this, ruffling his hair as you stand. He curls his lip, and tips back his head.

“Do you reckon I could have the same as you today?” he asks. “I don’t really want something sweet.”

“Okay.” Hitching up your jeans you make your way into the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink as well?”

“Yeah.”

“’Kay…” you walk to the fridge, grab the bottle of faggy peach tea shit he likes and a can of coke for you. As you set about making sandwiches, you hear the homely sounds of Dave moving around in impatience and boredom in the lounge, until suspicious noises evolve from them and you have to pause, half cut tomato in hand, and listen carefully to what may or may not be going on. It sounds like he’s playing with his stupid beads again, and you sigh, finishing up with the sandwiches, dropping them onto a plate and chucking the knife in the sink with a sword and a soggy smuppet.

You are startled to find, upon your return with snacks in hand, that Dave has slipped off the sofa and made himself comfortable sitting cross legged at the coffee table, snapping the elastic of various bracelets and scattering the beads everywhere.

For some reason, this is painful to see, but rather than hurry forward and stop him, you stand there lamely and watch as he selects another bracelet, this one green and punctuated with little Pikachu pendants, and breaks it just the same. As the beads disperse, and spray across the table, he sweeps them together and sets them in a pile to the left.

“… What are you doing?”

“Hm?” he looks up, sees you standing there, and shrugs. “I dunno. I was playing with one and it broke.”

“… So?” so you were thinking that if he was going to treat your stuff like this then you weren’t going to give him any more.

“So… I dunno. I didn’t want to throw it away so I decided I would get more beads and re-make it.” he returned to this activity as though it made all the sense in the world. “I could probably make a better one anyway. Do we have some stretchy string?”

“Elastic?”

“Yeah, whatever.”

You sigh, and shake your head a little in exasperation. What a weird little retard you were rearing.

“No. but I can get you some from the shop later tonight.”

“’Kay.” He tosses his bangs off his face and begins picking through colours and types, separating them into piles of glow in the dark, crystals, charms, brights…

Okay then. Let him please himself. Brother bonding time is over for Friday anyway. Now you are going to cloister yourself in your room and watch porn.

 

VII

 

You stop by the supermarket on your way home, to get milk and queerboy tea, even though its gone seven am and Dave will probably be up and almost ready for school by now. As he gets older, you find it more comfortable to get home later, and you stopped calling up that babysitter since you caught her stealing sponges. It doesn’t bother you all that much, giving him your trust. He’s a good kid. No matter how many letters you happen to get from the principal saying otherwise.

You are in line to pay for your groceries when the impulse stand catches your eye. Not because you are passionate about the woman’s weakly magazine of four for five dollar candy bars, but because the neon colours you see in the corner of your vision are oddly familiar, and you have to turn your head to check them out.

The things are beads, in a little pink packets with princesses on them, and the age reads ‘five years and up’. You are surprised, you had never thought about how all that jewellery of Dave’s was probably bought at a shop and made before. Wow. Looking at the price of the packet you realise just how much that bucket of shite Dave guards is worth. Fuck. And these beads weren’t even that flash. Not compared to the ones your little brother practically bathes in…

You look at the front of the package again and reach forward to take one off the rack. The plastic crinkles, you weigh it in your hand and sigh.

“Excuse me sir?” the checkout lady calls you forward and you look up, studying her briefly and deciding she’s nothing special, and doesn’t deserve a flash of your winning grin.

“Yeah, okay.” you move forward and drop the beads as well as the groceries on the conveyer, swearing that next time you buy him that shit you will buy it from like a craft shop, or somewhere less overpriced. Maybe you could check the internet or something, who knows. Dave doesn’t really need the stupid things, but you can’t explain why you just feel like you owe him? Like you want to give him something, encourage him to pursue something he loves because hell, as embarrassing as it is to say you really like seeing the kid happy. Of course, that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to throw the things at his head when you next see him. He needs to learn to always be on his toes. Awareness is rule number one in the Strider book of maintaining ones cool. After all, one can’t flip out if one is aware that at any given moment one might flip out. Or something.

Yeah, you don’t know where you are going with this exactly.

You pay for your stuff, and leave.

When you get home Dave has indeed gone to school, but he’s left you a beautifully ironic note on the fridge. All that’s written on it is a message about ‘big brotherly homo-kisses’ which you have to read twice and take a moment to hope that he doesn’t ever mention in front of anyone at school. You might have to talk to him about that. Its only recently Dave has begun leaving you notes and they have so far proved candid and sometimes disturbing snapshots inside the boys mind.

Good kid, you tell yourself again, but perhaps a little insane. It’s hard to tell.

You take the note anyway and put it with the rest of them in your bedside table, then go into the kitchen and dig around in the pantry for the Tupperware container with that cake in it. You notice that there is a large pile of Dave’s beads and stuff on the table when you go to sit down and eat, as well as some colour patterns and a skein of nylon elastic, but there are no complete pieces. Dave keeps those in his room thee days, and he no longer wears them to school. Only ever around the house, which suits you fine because it means you wont have to give him the talk about how wearing fluorescent pink and black bracelets in public isn’t cool, not even ironically.

Okay you think its cool but shhh, Dave can’t know this. It’s for his own good.

You waste the day fucking around with his shit, trying to make your own jewellery with his materials because you don’t have work tomorrow, and you had a red bull when you finished work this morning so you couldn’t sleep if you tried. Its two-thirty pm when you finally coma on the sofa, half made beaded necklace in your hot little hand.

 

X

 

Dave is installed in front of the TV, treating his eleventh birthday no different to how he treats any other day of the year except he’s wearing a wine red, cosy looking knee length sweater his friend Rose knitted him for a present and sifting reverently through the huge amount of beads you yourself had gotten him, and he had unwrapped just over half an hour ago. He seems utterly struck, examining the small sword shaped charms you had gotten him, and the other badass stuff you had ordered one day from some random German website that specialised in rave shit. Things like glow pendants and a book of kandi patterns. (Kandi, you had discovered the term somewhere inline, and you think it is quite accurate.) He’s decked out in only a few bracelets today, you always let him have the day off school on his birthday and this year you have taken the day off too, because he’s getting older now and you want to spend more time with him. Time that isn’t strictly beating his ass on the xbox on a Friday afternoon, or teaching him how to use a katana like a boss. You’re a bit tired, last night had been a real killer at work and some part of you wonders how much longer you can keep up this full time parent and full time DJ shit because hell you are nearing twenty seven now, which is nearing fucking thirty, and thirty is waaaaaay closer to fifty than seventeen.

Hell sometimes you forget you aren’t still seventeen, and it’s a real bitch.

You watch him from the corner of the sofa, slumped back over the pillows and nursing a can of beer, with your top jean button popped and a teenage mutant ninja turtles sweater on because its piss cold at this time of year and teenage mutant ninja turtles are cool, you like them totally unironically and think Dave should probably learn to appreciate them so too. There’s nothing good on TV and it’s too early to start cooking dinner, so you finish your beer and ooze off the sofa onto the floor beside him, nosing your way around and sticking your hand into his stuff to have a proper look.

“Fuck off!” he hits your hand out of the way with his pattern book and gives you a dirty look from behind his shades. You raise your eyebrows critically.

“Who gave them to you?” you ask, and he huffs, reaching for the reel of nylon he always keeps of the coffee table and hunting around for his pair of scissors.

“Whatever then.” Defeated he snaps off a length of nylon, picks a bead out of the neat little tackle-box case they came in, and threads it onto the end. You watch him do this crazy, finger knotty thing, and tie the bead in place. “You can be my assistant. Can you pass me the bead colour when I say?”

“Fuck no little man, I’m not your bitch.” You take the nylon with the bead on it and he makes an insulted noise as you study it. “How about you teach me how to do this shit. God, you must have like a million of these things now, maybe you should stop making them.”

“I don’t want to stop.” He tells you hotly, cutting himself another, much more generous length of nylon.

“What do you even do with them?” you ask, watching him do the same knotty thing with a bead, and straight from there begin to thread other beads on. He shrugs, and once he had threaded five into place, begins doing some sort of exceptionally complicated rethreading, so that every other bead on the line is held firmly and he can weave more beads onto the little fingerknit band he is making. He does it almost absently, and you are distinctly impressed. If you even tried, you would probably break your fingers.

“Put them in my room.” He says. “Why?”

Your turn to shrug.

“I dunno. Aren’t you supposed to give them away or something? Why did you stop giving them out to people at school? Didn’t the girls used to ask you to make them things?”

He freezes up to hear this, and his lips tighten into a firm line of hurt.

“no.” he lies. “That’s not true what the hell bro.”

You are instantly suspicious.

He does not elaborate on this any more but you watch him for a little longer, observing up close for the first time as a complicated, 3D cuff sprung from his fingers, patterned with pixelized shapes and letters that spelled out words that you’ve heard, but don’t know the meaning of. He works in silence, with ease and dedication, and you are almost proud to see him excel in something, even if it is unusual. It’s like when he brings home his school reports, and the only class he’s gotten all A’s in is art. Dave’s a great little artist, and even though you think it’s kind of faggy you are glad he’s got something to nurture. Something besides math, which is boring as all hell and you failed that shit anyways in school so who cared, or English, which he already spoke so what the fuck education system lay off already.

You feel a monumental rush of sentimentality and poke him stoutly in the waist.

“Hey, Dave.”

“What?” he drops the finished cuff on the carpet and rubs his nose on his sleeve. You take a deep breath, feeling hells of awkward because this is lame but you know it has to be said because what you wouldn’t have given, to hear it at least once in your life.

“I uh… I love you bro. you know that right?”

He is silent for a moment, hands resting on his knees, and your heart jumps. Oh fuck. Look now you’ve done it. Now you’ve shown him emotion and he’s not going to give you the respect anymore is he? Oh hell hell hell. You are wondering how easy it would be to yell ‘irony’ and convince him that it was all just a joke…

And then he turns his head, regards you hesitantly, and leans closer quick to peck a light kiss on your cheek. This makes you flush almost instantly, and he does as well, but neither of you say anything as he turns back away and picks up the piece of string you had discarded earlier, fumbling to set about making a new bracelet and perhaps pretend like that had never happened.

Ugh. This was so much easier when he was a baby, and you didn’t have to be ashamed of thinking him cute and vulnerable.

 

XI

 

“Are you going to work?” he catches you on the way out the door and you glance backward and nod.

“What about it?”

“I um…” he holds out a plastic Macys bag and pulls a face. “I was thinking about what you said before about giving it away? I was hoping you might take them into work and trade them for me or something.”

You frown and glance into the bag. It’s filled with pieces of his bead shit, of every colour, design and type. You sigh heavily.

“I go to work to work, dickbag."

“I know I know! But please? You were right, you are supposed to give them away and I have way too much. Can’t you just throw them at people?”

“Dave do you have any idea what these are worth?” you are getting impatient now, you don’t want to go around throwing maybe a hundred dollars worth of plastic into the seeming mass off bodies at whatever club you happen to be commissioned that night. “Fucks sake kid, this shit is expensive.”

“Well what’s the point of buying them if you aren’t going to do anything with it!” Dave pulls himself to full height and you think that suddenly, he’s a lot taller than you remember him ever having been. This is worrisome. “I can’t hoard them forever stupid, or I will end up on fucking Oprah or some shit. Worse yet, you will end up on Jerry Springer because your little brother drowned to death in an ocean of multi-coloured bling. Does that seem cool to you?”

You groan and shove him lightly back further into the flat.

“Whatever, whatever, I will get rid of your crap for you just stop moaning. God you’re a bitch sometimes kid.”

“Fuck off.” He pushes you away and turns, heading back into the kitchen. “Just tell me if they like them okay? And oh!” he re-emerges from the kitchen wearing a childish attempt to look intimidating. “Whatever you do don’t try and sell them, cause that’s fucking douche as and people will hate you for it.”

He fucking reads your mind, the little bastard. You roll your eyes behind your shades and leave, heavy bag of fuckery swinging against your left side.

 

XI

 

Work is a little less hectic than usual, its Wednesday and Wednesday nights are usually not killers anyway. You set up at around eight and have a beer or two, because you don’t start on the tables until ten and frankly you are getting tired already, so you get the barmaid to embellish your drink with a can of redbull. The end product is indescribably heinous, but you throw it back anyway, nursing the heavy bag of plastic jewellery on your lap and when you are finished, pausing for a moment, noticing that the lady who had served you is wearing a few loops of the stuff on her belt.

“Hey,” you wave her over, and she approaches with a bright smile.

“Hey…”

“Here.” You grab a necklace from the bag, a large one made up to look like some kind of really swanky expensive piece with crystal beads and matching colours, and drop it on the counter. “Thanks for the drinks.”

“Oh…” she looks down at the necklace in apparent surprise. You are entitled to free drinks at any bar in the city, so long as you have your business card with you, so she is not mistaken to look surprised. You don’t make a habit of paying for something you can have for free. “Did you make this?”

“Naw, got it from a friend.” You stand up and check your watch. This club is dead right now. The DJ who is on sucks dicks, and the lights aren’t even that low yet. People don’t usually show up until you start laying down the tunes, and that should be in approximately ten minutes. You observe her take Dave’s necklace though, and study it, and then smile a lovely little smile.

“Aww thank you! here.” She drops the necklace over her neck and reaches to her belt, removing a plush Pikachu on a beaded lanyard and passing it to you. “Keep cool sweetie.”

You don’t have time to decline the offer before she turns away, and standing there stupidly, feeling like you had just been cheated of your mission accomplishment of getting rid of these things like Dave had asked, you stared at the thing with weary familiarity.

You are going to have to think harder about how to do this.

 

XI

 

It is several weeks later that you actually get an idea, and just before you go on to the tables you go out to your car, (in the boot of which you have been hiding the bag of stuff since Dave gave it too you, he hadn’t yet asked where it had gone,) and fetch the things. From there, you return, get up on stage, and start rolling out a simple bassline to get the party started. There’s more people in tonight than there are on a week night, and the dance floor is heaving to the hammer of your synthetic symphony in the barrage of blinding flashing lights. Everything is a swirl of colour, everything is flashing or glowing or blurring together, and as you speed up the track, watching those bodies move faster, and lay down some more complicated layers to the music you leave the tables on auto for a moment, so you can reach down and take a handful of kandi out of the bag by your feet. You drop them beside the mixing board and leave them for a moment, so you can backplay some soundclips over the beat and maybe hook a few of the party goers to scream along. You remember that one occasion you managed to work the whole of east club into a frenzy, chanting the words ‘Striderstyle’ over and over again, and you always set your personal bar at at least half that funky every time you play. But tonight, you think you may just be able to notch it up to three quarters.

You pump up the volume and slide the bass, as you’ve done so many times before, and then you grab the bracelets and trinkets you had secured earlier and fling them easily into the crowd to your left. It takes some people a moment to realise its raining tacky jewels, but others respond almost instantly, hollering in excitement and leaping to catch the things. There is a surge in your audience, a crackle of interest inspired in the heart of every onlooker, and you shudder the blender of music a little and earn a loud roar of approval. You reach for another lot of jewellery, and throw more this time to the left.

You’ve got them. You have them right up in your hot little hands and smugly, you push up your shades and ease the track into a second. The sound of a hundred bodies moving en masse is audible over the lowering music for a moment, and then bam. You are back with the beats.

When the club is closed at five thirty am you have gotten rid of the whole bag, and managed to wind up your disciples to a point of almost orgasmic rabidness.

What can you say, you have that fucking touch right?

You see that some people, hellbent on perpetuating the ‘trade’ idea, must have fought their way through the sea of bodies that have now deserted the club to leave some exotic, intricate kandi pieces in front of your tables like some kind of alter offering. There are some bracelets, a cellphone holder, what looks like a blow up water wing and even a black bikini top with space invaders on the cups.

You pick this up in surprise and think that you will give this one back to Dave first.

 

XI

 

 

 

 

 

PART TWO: PUBERTY

 

 

“What loot did you get me?”

Dave has started to expect that when you return from work you will have with you some sort of trinket you have traded for something of his, and whatever it is, even if its just a ring or a keyring, he’s pretty much guaranteed to be delighted. He almost dies of excitement when you bring home a piece that is shaped like a pair of horn rimmed glasses, but tries and manages pretty well to hide this, studying them with a chill expression and then deciding that okay, he might just try them on. Ironically of course, because Dave has long since been familiar with the way.

“What do you think?” he asks, removing his shades (he has recently forgone the old pair you gave him many years ago for a pair from a friend, large ray bans from back in the day which you think are pretty swag so its all gee) and setting the obnoxiously yellow kandi on his nose. The colour clashes real bad with his eyes, you try to point this out but he brushes it off and returns his attention to whatever he’s doing. Trying to eat his breakfast and draw something maybe? He’s dropping toast crumbs all over his sketchpad, and so far all he’s drawn is a light pencil nest, but unperturbed now he is wearing his rad as all hell shades he returns to drawing and munching, ignoring you, for all purposes intensive and otherwise.

“Great.” you tell him, ruffling his hair as you pass by and walk into the kitchen, stripping off your coat and casting it carelessly onto the bench. “Really makes me glad that I just spent my whole night slaving my ass off so you can go have an education.”

“Uh huh.” Dave finishes his toast without looking back at you, and turns his entire focus onto the page. You suck your teeth, open the cupboard, grab a warm can of diet Pepsi, and wander casually back toward him, peering over his shoulder at his work.

“What are you drawing for?” you ask, observing that the egg shaped whatever it was may have been a head. But you can’t be sure.

“Art homework.” He says. “I have to draw something I have that no one else does.”

“Pfft. Lame.” You sit down opposite him and push a few smuppets off the seat to make way for your own plush as fuck rump. “What are you drawing then? Cooties?”

Dave glances up, and without his shades on you can see this gesture, his reddish eyes framed by short, blonde lashes. He blinks, and pulls a face.

“You, dickbag. Now sit still.”

You are taken aback by this. So much so that you can’t even retort. He doesn’t seem bothered, drawing away as if nothing had been said, blonde bangs falling over his face. He needs a haircut.

Usually, you would be flattered if someone wanted to preserve you artistically. Maybe if say a pretty female patron decided she wanted to do some nude portraits, or other sorts of things to that effect, you would be overjoyed, but Dave? Well, art is his thing, you aren’t disputing that his comics are fucking hilarious, but well… as creative and clever as the kid could be he just… in terms of aesthetics…

He isn’t very good.

Awkwardly you clear your throat and look away, not sure you want to be drawn in his stupidly unattractive style. Oh vanity, you cruel mistress.

“That’s creepy little man.” You nurse the lip of your coke can and remove your hat. “Why didn’t you choose something else? Like your kandi stuff…”

“I thought about it.” he tells you shortly. “But then I realised that if I did that it was just going to end up looking like a pile of skittles or some shit, because that’s what it does look like, to the untrained eye.”

You suppose you have to agree on that one.

“Why? Don’t you think I will do you justice?”

Oh he’s right on the nose with that one. Of course, you lie, to spare his little whimp feelings.

“Na, it ain’t that.”

He hums, obviously not believing you but nit stopping his drawing, pencil scratching away at the paper merrily.

“Anyway.” He says, after a while. “Are you picking me up from school tonight?”

“Depends if I’m awake.”

“Well don’t bother setting your alarm, ‘cause I’m going to Egbert’s after school to play some games. Won’t be back until after five.”

“Okay that’s chill.” You rub your chin and sigh. Friday night tonight. Dave, while often staying at John’s on a Saturday, never made plans to be out of the house the whole of Friday night. Never. Sure he sometimes made plans in the afternoons, and during the day of course he had school, but at night? Never.

Both of you know why, but neither one of you wants to admit it.

You think it’s very touching, that he wants to spend this time with you, but have no desire to call attention to it and how weird it is for a thirteen year old boy to have such an attachment to his parental figure. Or perhaps not?

You’ve been doing it for ten years but you’re still very new to this filial thing.

 

XIII

 

“I’ve been getting extra tips because of you.” You inform him, over bowls of macaroni and cheese. “Since I started giving out your stuff my tips have tripled.”

“Hm?” he lifts his eyebrows and licks melted cheese off his spoon. “Is that a problem or…”

“No, no, its fine.” You sigh, a little put out, and turn to John who is sitting next to him at the table. “Did you want something to drink? Soda maybe?”

“Nope thanks I’m fine.” John grins and you jerk your head. Of course he’s fine. John is just fine. He’s a perfectly nice, perfectly normal suburban toerag who sits like a pretentious brat and laughs like a total lametard.

Ahaha, its’ not like you’re jealous or anything, that for the first time ever Dave has invited a friend over on a Friday night and that you won’t have the opportunity to watch a movie together. No way! You aren’t some kind of pathetic clingy looser. Not at all!

You notice that John has a few of Dave’s bracelets on, baby blue ones what match his insipid doe eyes. He notices you noticing, and gives you a chipper smile. It pisses you off somewhat and done with this shit you stand, picking up your plate and stalking to the kitchen sink to rinse your bowl.

What is wrong with you? Dave is allowed friends! You are being dumb, the Egbert boy has never bothered you before.

He bothers you a considerable amount more when, after cleaning up the kitchen, you make your way into the lounge and see that the two of them are sitting practically on top of each other playing your xbox, and they haven’t drawn the curtains either so all the heat generated by the little electric heater by the TV is being lost on the cold surface of the darkened windows. Way to blow up the powerbill, douche kid.

God you’re being immature and touchy today. You chalk it down to not having slept, after all you didn’t crash when you got home from work today, rather you took your extra tips into the town and bought Dave some more of his dumbass things, which he totally disregarded in favour of his pet looser over there so you don’t know why you even bothered, and decide that although its only nine o’clock you should maybe consider hitting the sack. After you’ve had a smoke of course. You’ve only recently taken up smoking, mostly because it helps you de-stress after gigs, and you find that it makes you feel much more like an adult. Shit, you will be thirty soon. Perhaps its time you started acting like it. You know… get a real job, stop pandering after your little brother and start thinking about kids of your own…

You have forgone this thought though for updating some of your porn sites, and at one am you are jolted awake by a hand on the back of your computer chair, shaking.

“Wake up assfuck.” Dave. You can tell, even though in the dim glow of the computer screen he could almost be someone else. “I wanted to talk to you for a sec.”

“What?” you groan, removing your lopsided shades and rubbing the bleary crust from the corners of your eyes. You are starting to get a bit of a headache.

“I just wanted to say thanks for the stuff you got me. But did you have to make me look lame in front of John?”

“You are lame kid.” You creak out of your computer chair and shuffle to your bed, collapsing on top of it and sighing. “What do you mean, does he not know about your dark secret?”

Dave is suspiciously silent, and for a moment you think he may be gone, but just as you are about to drift off again he speaks.

“Whatever man. Thanks though.” He sweeps down and spreads his arms over your shoulders awkwardly, to administer a brief squeeze, but it takes you a moment to realise, when you feel the weight on your body that Dave was trying to hug you, and by the time you can react he has already absconded back the fuck to his room.

You can’t fall asleep for ages after that.

 

XIII

 

Dave arrives home from school just as you have gotten out of bed and are mooching around the flat in your slippers and ironic love heart pyjama pants, cup of coffee in hand. Except he doesn’t look like he usually does, he looks more like he’s just fallen down a particularly large tree to get here, his hair is rumples, his glasses bent, and his jeans torn. He does not have his sketch book with him, which is odd because he usually takes his sketch book everywhere, and rather than respond to your casual ‘sup’ he hurries straight past you to his bedroom and slams his door behind him.

You are immediately suspicious.

“Dave?” you approach his door carefully, and knock. “Are you okay?”

“Fuck off.” Come’s the response. “I’m fine, just fuck off for a bit.”

You exhale deeply and run your hand through your hair. You aren’t stupid, Dave most certainly is not fine.

You move back to the kitchen, swallowing the last of your hot drink, and pick a blue smuppet up off the counter. It has freak googly eyes, and it’s just ironically hilarious enough that it might cheer him up, even though Dave doesn’t really like your puppets and he especially isn’t likely to like what you do with them. If he knew.

Then again, maybe he does know. The kid isn’t stupid either.

Weary, checking your watch because you have work again tonight, you make your way back to Dave’s door and rather than knock this time, you go to open it. You meet resistance, he has obviously locked the door, and you swear.

“Open the door kid.”

No reply. You rattle the knob and try again.

“Come on, open the door?”

A snuffling noise and irritated you kick the bottom.

“Dave open the fucking door! God I’m not going to tell you off or aggress you or shit, I just want to talk.”

Talk. About things. About growing older, being cool, having hobbies and reconciling the things one loves more than anything with the standards of society.

Finally, after a minute more of waiting, the door clicks open and Dave, stretched tall by puberty and shade-less, peeks out.

“What?” he snaps, through a noseful of snot. He’s clearly been crying, and you feel a dull ache in your stomach to see this. Dave hasn’t cried for absolute years.

“Let me in.”

“No.”

“Dave fucking let me in.” you slip in anyway, moving him aside, and close the door behind you.

Dave’s room is small and messy, but it’s a testament to his passions, from the small set of turntables you gave him to the black and white photos he has in shoeboxes on the shelf. His bed is unmade, his clothes cast over the back of his computer chair, and it smells a little like apple candles and body spray. You were not expecting it to smell that good, but you want to know immediately where Dave got the idea that burning gayass candles was appropriate a thing to do. And then you realised that calling Dave’s actions into question right now would probably not be a thing to do.

“So.” You fold your arms, still holding the smuppet. “What’s the problem kid?”

He scowls bitterly, wiping his red rimmed eyes, and turns to sit on his bed. You see that he has a large plastic box next to it, filled with colourful beads and jewellery and such, and are impressed with the extent of his collection.

“Nothing. It’s stupid.”

“Stupid.” You scoff and drop onto the bed beside him. “Stupid because you aren’t manning up and dealing with it or stupid because it really is just lame.”

Dave seems offended.

“You don’t leave much space in that option bracket for the accountability of others!”

“There is no accountability of others, you can’t blame people for your own problems.”

He looks at you, and you think that for the first time in your life you see resentment there.

“I don’t have problems!” he argued hotly. “Fuck you!”

And playing the part of the overdramatic teenager perfectly he throws himself down onto the bed and huffs. You sigh, watching him drag a pillow closer and bury his face in it.

“Dave.” You touch his back platonically and he fans his shoulders, as if to shrug you off. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Why do you care?” comes the muffled reply.

“Because I’m your big brother and I want you to be happy.”

He is silent for a moment, and then…

“Gay.”

“That’s not gay, this is gay.” You lean closer and sit the smuppet close by his face, so the proboscis is down and pressing against his cheek. He turns his face away, but you are unperturbed.

Hey Dave, its splinter the smuppet here being all fucking confused as to why you’re so sad.

“Fuck off.”

Splinter doesn’t want to fuck in any direction right now, which is weird cause usually he’s a horny little piece of shit. Right now he just wants to know what’s bothering such a talented, fine lookin’ kid so that he can tell his daddy, Bro Strider, god of everything awesome in life. Is that chill with you?”

Dave groans and props himself up, looking over his shoulder at you with a thin veil of disbelief hiding his amusement.

“You are being ironic right now aren’t you?”

You shrug, and wave the smuppet around in his face.

Splinter the smuppet is never ironic. Come on, tell your big bro what’s up.

Dave gives the puppet a deeply suspicious look, glances at you and observes that you are still wearing your most flawless poker face, and then relents.

“You’re right.” He says, sitting up and taking the smuppet from you so he has something to fiddle with as he talks. “It is dumb. It’s just me loosing my cool because people are cuntbags.”

“How are people cuntbags.”

He shrugs, really not wanting to say it.

“They just are! It’s like just because I’m not smart and I can’t talk to people that well and I like drawing they think they are cooler than me. which is bullshit because I’m clearly the coolest thing out!” he adds this last bit with a little too much emphasis, and that betrays the fact that he’s saying now only because he wants to fool himself into believing it. You nod, and move your hand off his bed to smooth his ruffled hair. It’s a very intimate gesture you would never do otherwise, but the situation calls for it you think. Instinct maybe. Misplaced affection. It’s hard to tell.

“I think you’re cool little man.”

He doesn’t respond and you carry on.

“But do you think it’s really worth giving up the shit you love just because a few assholes don’t think its cool? Really? I thought I taught you better than that.”

Dave shrugs and leans into the hand petting him. He has very smooth, pretty hair. Its lovely, you like it very much. You move in closer and drop your hand to his face, to stroke the tears off his right cheek.

“If you love what you do, and do what you love, then I want you to believe that that’s the coolest thing. Okay?”

He pauses, fingers squeezing splinter the smuppet testily, and after a while during which you fear he’s on the brink of tears again, he nods.

“Yeah okay.”

And for this you allow a small smile.

“What about irony though,” he asks suddenly “isn’t that supposed to be embracing what you don’t love? Like I can’t see you wanting to marry any of your creepy sex puppets or stuff any time soon. Seems a bit weird, even for you.”

“Well do you love irony?”

“… I guess.”

“There you go.” You sit back and regard his bow of kandi over his shoulder. The lid is secured, but there are pencil smudged fingerprints on the clip from where he has opened it after drawing. “Now come on and bring some of that jewellery stuff you like out into the lounge and get making them. We can have a movie night tonight or something.”

“Don’t you have work?”

“I can take a night off.”

He blinks at you, seemingly shocked, and then his face breaks into a real, totally not chill smile, but it’s so beautiful you feel a stab of pride inside for it belonging to someone of the same flesh and blood.

“Thanks man.” before you can say ‘homo’ he’s thrown himself at you and latched onto your neck. “you’re the best bro ever.”

Sometimes you forget he’s only fourteen, and still has maybe another five years of hormones and second guessing himself to come.

 

XIV

 

“Happy birthday.”

You open Dave’s bedroom door and throw the wrapped shoe box at him while he sleeps. He sits up and swears at you violently, but you have already disappeared back into the kitchen, making yourself something to eat before you go to bed.

“What the fuck man?!” an irate brother emerges from his bedroom, dressed only in boxer shorts and mist matched socks, and he is carrying the shoebox which you have taped closed with duct tape, in his hands. “Fuck you.” pissed, he throws the box back at you and you catch it, almost grinning. Dave is fifteen today, and he finally looks it, tall and built and well handsome, with the Strider freckles on his cheeks and shoulders and shade tan on the bridge of his nose. You are a little envious, because it feels like just yesterday you were that young.

“Way to say thank you dickhead.”  You throw the box back at him and open the fridge. Maybe a glass of orange juice or something? Yeah that’s cool.

Dave pulls a face as he catches it and indifferent he swaggers forward, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Wait until I see what’s in it first.” He remarks, taking a seat at the breakfast bar and reaching for a breadknife to cut the box open. “And wait until I see what you make me for dinner. What’s the plan for tonight?”

Oh cute, he still thinks you are staying in.

“You make your own dinner. And work, same as always.”

Dave seems shocked.

“What?”

“It’s a Saturday. I have work tonight.” You select a half eaten sub sandwich from the back shelf of the fridge, behind a stack of swords and some shuriken. “Learn your shit little man.”

And it is obvious that Dave does not like this. Dave does not like this at all. He is staring at you as though you may just be Satan, and his red cheeks suggest that he is at least a little bit upset. Or a lot upset. So upset that he claps down the breadknife on the countertop and bangs his hand flat on the surface.

“But it’s my birthday!” he whines, and the noise is grating and really uncool. “You always take the day off on my birthday!”

“I know it’s your birthday dumbass, that’s why I got you the present.”

“Oh a present is going to compensate for you bailing on me on the only day of the year everything is glory to Dave? Hey you know what if presets fix all then maybe the government should start buying shoebox gifts and passing them on to every victim in history as compensation. Throw them at their heads while they sleep and then skip into the sunset scotch free. Imagine how much faster racial discrimination would have decreased if Jim Crowe got everyone a motherfucking present. Real legit tactics there. And oh if you don’t like it, take it back! Get a gift certificate instead. Fucking ace.”

You sigh and open your sandwich, nudging the door shut with your hip.

“Just open it.”

He gives you a filthy look, picks up the knife, and stabs the package open, ignoring your ironic over-enthusiastic taping and pretty much demolishing the thing. He looks even less impressed with the contents.

“It’s an envelope.” He observes flatly. “Oh glory glory hallelujah praise be an envelope. I’ve always wanted one of those.”

His tone indicates that he most certainly did not.

“Open the envelope.” You tell him, feeling like you are leading in some kind of retard. “Fuck Dave learn to follow shit through before you get verbose on me.”

“Oh I’m sorry. Would you like me to write you a formal apology?” roughly he tears open the envelope, (you are shocked by how passionately upset he seems about this, you never dreamed he would have cared that much and you almost feel bad for disappointing him,) and takes out the folded sheet of computer paper inside. “I can write it up on watermark stationary and all, addressed straight to the illustrious Dirk Strider with kind regards from my ars-“

He drops his tirade when he sees what you’ve attached to the paper.

“What… what is this?” he raises the laminated card, the chord of which swings loosely over his arm. You glance at it, as though you’ve never seen it before, and shrug.

“Looks like some kind of a ticket.” You tell him matter of factly. “buttttt… if you and your butt want to post it back to me…”

He jerks it out of the way when you try and pinch it back off him, and slides off his seat to get out of your reach.

“A ticket?” he takes a moment to read it. It’s not just a ticket, it’s a VIP card, and after reading it he knows this. “This is a backstage pass.”

You shrug. There isn’t really a backstage at the club you are working tomorrow, but with that card Dave will have clearance to be around you while you mix as well as sit behind the bar or use the staff rooms and other facilities. It’s a safeguard, really, you don’t want him falling asleep on the dance floor.

“I thought you could bring some of your bracelets or whatever and trade with a few of the people there. Whatever.” You shrug, trying to look casual. Honestly, this was your main concern. You had conceived the idea while trying to think of a way to show Dave that it wasn’t weird or uncool to like the trashy jewellery, or to listen to trance on his iPod, or to be a crazy little hipster shit who didn’t quite fit in with the other kids of his generation. Even though he hasn’t mentioned it since the incident several months earlier, you can tell that it hasn’t been far from his mind and it hasn’t been far from yours either. He’s tough, tougher than you thought, and honestly every day you see him get home from school and take out his beads, or pull on that vintage and swag as shit record shirt every morning, or sit up until ten pm doodling at either one extreme of the talent spectrum or the other, you feel a deep sense of satisfaction and pride, that you have managed to instil such a firm conviction in him. He loves what he loves, he really does, and honestly you don’t believe you could have given him a better gift.

 

XV

 

Dave is excited about coming with you to work, but he does a good job of pretending he is not, jiggling his knee all the care ride there, fiddling with his shades and looking around with a strange expression on his face when it comes to actually getting in, and he is faced with the real crowds, real colour an real sounds for the first time. He has a rucksack over his shoulder, one you made yourself back in the early days of marionette pioneering, and it’s essentially a big red smuppet with straps and a zipper, so one can undo it and stuff his guts with whatever one so happened to have onhand. Today, it is filled with kandi, and you can see him just itching to take some out and start comparing it to some of the stuff swinging from the belts of various club patrons as you take his hand firmly in yours and lead him around the dancefloor toward the bar. It is only relatively early, there are few people and none are dancing, the evening is still at that particular almost stage in which people are just starting to get drunk, or dropping E, or sniffing cocaine in the bathrooms.

You hold this in mind when you point Dave to the staff toilet, behind the floating bar.

“That’s where you pee.” You tell him, flicking his lanyard and card. “You scan the barcode on that to get in there. The other bathrooms are fucking nasty.”

“Yessir.” You can hear the sarcasm in his voice. “I’m not a complete idiot you know, I can spot a bathroom for myself. Also, why are you still holding my hand?”

“Because if I let go of you you could be kidnapped and shipped off to Amsterdam. Sex slavery and such.” You release his hand and sit down at the bar, on one of the fixed stools. He raises his eyebrow but takes a seat next to you.

“Sounds fun.”

You buy him an orange juice and soda and yourself a Bacardi and cola, and spend maybe half an hour answering his questions and explaining the deal when it came to clubs and club etiquette. You can see his fingers itching to rip open his backpack and get trading, but he will have plenty of time to do that later, when you are up there. For now, you need to lay down some rules.

“So while I’m performing you stay by my turntables at all times, okay? I don’t care if you sit or stand or whatever, and you can stand behind me and do your gay jewellery thing, and maybe later if you don’t pull any funny bullshit I might consider letting you double team with me. You down with that?”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes. But if you make me look bad never again.”

Dave won’t make you look bad though. He’s a very talented record-mixer. Not as good as you, of course, but still fairly remarkable for someone whose passions lay in a different area all together. You wouldn’t trust him with a synth or anything yet though. He’s not naturally talented when it comes to digital programs and such.

As you talk, the club begins to fill, and the sub standard pre recorded music the owner plays before the headliner is supposed to hit the stage draws to the end of the tape. You don’t play this club often, and so there is a general sense of unsurity in the air about the mysterious ‘DJ Strider’, but let them wonder. They will soon learn.

And then its nine o’clock, and you and Dave, moving with the same practiced swagger and perfectly executed cool, make your way over to the DJ booth where they have the set up. You appreciate clubs like this, with their own setups, it means you don’t have to set up or pack up when you are done.

“Can I come in there with you to start.” he asks, as you pass around the back of a large bass speaker that still hammered Kevin Rudolph. You shrug and take your seat in the booth, reaching for the headphones and searching idly for a second pair.

“Sure. Here.” You pass him a second pair and shuffle over, there is not another stool but its okay because when you get a little further into the night you will be standing up anyway, and Dave can have the chair most of the time. “Listen and learn little man. If you want to put out some of your bead shit do it now, I usually put it down by the front of the tables so people can come and swap it when they like.

“Yeah, okay.” He leans against you and pulls off the smuppet pack, grabbing a handful of jewellery and dropping it over the front of the booth like an offering to the audience god machine. “Hey while we are here can you teach me some beats?”

“You can watch my hands, sure.” You reach for the fade on the automatic speakers, turning down the volume until Lil’ Wayne became silence and the chatter in the club could be heard. The mic is not on, you nod to it and Dave takes the initiative to do so for you.

“Evening ladies and gentlemen.” You introduce yourself as you always do, with a few dashing words and a slow sonic hum underneath to draw them in, catch their attention. The next part is always the hardest, when you leave off speaking and have to work the delicate spirals of the intro lines. You can feel Dave’s eyes on your fingers, and you have never been more worried that you will fumble, miss a switch or a slider, leave your pull on a spinning record for far to long.

You execute it perfectly, and the audience draws nearer. When you bring in the kick you hear a few cheers and suddenly you are only dully aware of your younger sibling still leaning against you, watching you create, and you begin to hear the colours, the lights, the flavours.

Everyone draws in a breath when you drop the bass, your stomach falls with it and you feel Dave’s fingers on your shoulder tighten, although you know, you can see on the inside of your shades that beside you he looks just as impassive as always. The vibration of sound echoes through you and through everyone, suddenly a whirling heaving mass of people on the floor. Your heart rate elevates, the adrenaline begins to scream.

As a DJ you are a digital shaman, you refract the energy of the people around you, spinning sensory details and skewing the borders of sound and mind, and although you would think it to be hard, having Dave hover next to you, you think also that he is a blessing. He is a focus, a crystal point which draws all your passions to him and unites them, turning it to a single, clean ribbon of sound. You are good without him there, but with him beside you you feel like you are showing off, like he is seeing and understanding something about you that you can’t say, and that makes you distinctly proud.

You wonder if there is something that makes him feel this way too, and hope that if there isn’t yet, he will find it somewhere in the vivid glam.

 

XV

 

 

The only bad thing, about Dave coming to work with you these days, is that suddenly his collection has exploded in quantity, and one Friday evening you come home from the grocery store to what you could only accurately describe as the rainbow apocalypse, a cataclysm of neons and plastic comparable to nothing you have ever seen in your life. Dave has hitched the laundry hamper, in which he now kept his Kandi, out of his bedroom and into the lounge, and emptied it out onto the floor.

“What the fuck are you doing little man?”

You set the items you just purchased (a loaf of bread and a bottle of orange juice) on the sofaside table and sit down cross legged beside him. He looks up from his work, sorting through the pile of bits and pieces, the rainbow of which is reflected in the lenses of his shades.

“Sorting my kandi.” He rakes his fingers through the pile and grabs a few pieces, picking them out and throwing them in a bucket to his side. “All the shit I’m keeping goes in here, everything else in here to give out for trades tomorrow.” He taps a large rubbish bag on the coffee table and goes back to picking. “Did you want to help?”

You pull a face. You were planning on grabbing yourself a cigarette and disappearing into your room until dinner, maybe post a few videos on your site or fashion a few more. You’re a bit horny, and while it’s a familiar feeling it’s a bit tiring, the horniness of an aging man rather than a game youth. You don’t really want to let the feeling pass, in case it doesn’t come back for a while…

“Do I have to?”

“I would appreciate it.” Dave glances at you again and you sigh, tugging off your fingerless gloves and plunging your hands into the plastic mountain before you both. Whatever then. Maybe afterwards you and him could get in some practice for your weaponry. You haven’t done that for a while, but whether that has to do with your lack of presence or his waning interest in the hobby you can’t tell.

“Okay, okay. Decided what movie you might want to watch tonight?”

Dave shakes his head.

“I was thinking about going to John’s later tonight.”

Of course he was.

This fills you with the strangest combination of annoyance and relief. With Dave gone you suppose you are free to get off later, but then with Dave calling off your movie night you probably won’t see him again until Sunday, the other night you have been having off for maybe six years now because face it no one goes to the clubs on a Sunday.

Oh wait, had he said he was coming to work with you tomorrow? Okay then. That was cool.

“alrighty.” You pick a beaded thong out of the pile and stretch the bands. You throw it into the reject bag and he doesn’t argue, carrying on with his own sorting of chokers and lanyards. In silence, the two of you carry on like this for a while, and you work yourself into an almost trance like state. It isn’t until Dave speaks again you realise that almost an hour has passed, and its growing dark.

“I think that’s enough for today.” Together you have cut the pile in half. “I guess I can just finish tomorrow morning while you’re asleep.”

“Yeah, if you are awake and home.” You are disbelieving, but put down the necklaces you are holding and stretch. “I suppose you want a ride to Egbert’s?”

“Yeah, that’d be cool.”

“Right.” You go to grab your keys and gloves of the table, but he stops you.

“But um, before we go, can we… talk? Just quickly? Won’t be a moment, I promise.”

You stare at his hand for a moment, which has clamped around your wrist, and notice that the back of it is spattered with freckles.

“Yeah.” You reply. “I guess.”

He nods stiffly and looks away, obviously embarrassed.

“Um… John has a girlfriend.” He tells you shortly. “I was just wondering if it’d be cool for me to get into the dating scene too sometime. If I wanted to.”

You snap your head around at him and stare. Behind his shades, and despite his smooth, casual tone, he is blushing plum red.

“Why?” you demand, suddenly protective. “Is there someone?”

“No there isn’t right now but…” he drags his teeth over his bottom lip and curls his fingers on his jeans. “I kind of want one. You must know, right? How to get a person to like you…”

“Oh.” You respond with sudden understanding, and your stomach clenches in what you can only assume is your very first experience of fatherly possessiveness. “So there is someone, but they don’t necessarily like you back.”

He doesn’t reply, but you know this is it.

“So are you asking me for permission, or advice on how to pick someone up?”

“… The second one. The first would be nice though.”

You scoff and fumble to draw on your gloves.

“The only way you can really get someone to like you is be your own sorry ass and hope they happen to be into what you got. Also it helps if you know how to go down cause bitches love that.”

Dave snorts and shakes his head.

“Yeah, great advice to give a fifteen year old. Get her wrapped around your face like a pair of glasses. Fuck yes, I may as well throw my shades out now because once the bitches hear about my magic tongue they will be lining up to become a permanent commodity on my mouth.”

“Why not? Could be fun.”

The small smirk which quirks Dave’s lip is cute, and he carries on with a calm that indicates he is no longer hesitant to talk with you about the situation.

“But about this person?”

“Yeah tell me about her.”

“Well…” he seems thoughtful, tapping his fingers on the carpet and dragging his statement out. “They are pretty cool. Pretty smart. A bit weird but we get on really well. Not even ironically either. Like some people I keep around for ironic purposes but this one is real.”

“Have you tried giving her some of these?” you gesture to the beads and he shakes his head.

“Na, I don’t think they’re into it. It’s cool though. I don’t care.”

“Hm.” You scratch your arm and think that this is a very uncanny conversation, especially because honestly, you had never seen it coming. It seems so adult, not like your normal Dave at all, and as much as this discomforts you you are relieved that he’s starting to take an interest in things like relationships and sex. “Well, you’ve got my advice.”

“Yeah, be yourself. Very ironic.” Dave says it with a tease in his tone but you wrinkle his nose at him anyway.

“I was being serious.”

“You’re being serious a lot lately.” He observes, pulling himself to his feet and stretching. “God, anyone would think you were loosing your legendary cool.”

And as you look at him, a younger, handsomer version of yourself, you can’t bring yourself to feel sombre about the idea that your bright colours may indeed be starting to fade.

 

XV

 

“Hey,” you notice the next morning when you get up that for the first time in an age, Dave is actually wearing a piece of his kandi rather than just hoarding it, an old, faded bracelet around his wrist, and that he appears to be making his own sandwich. Nutella. Hell, you haven’t bought a jar of Nutella for years! You think he either found it at the back of the cupboard or got it himself. “How long have you been home?”

“Two hours. Fucking hell bro, you lazy sack of shit.” He points to a sandwich on a plate by the microwave, and curious you move forward to pick it up and inspect it. it’s cheese and tomato, and you are distinctly impressed.

“This for me?” you ask him, and he shakes his head.

“Nah I made it for Cal, actually. Part of a three course buffet I’m working on, because that’s his favourite.”

“haha Little man.” You take a bite of the sandwich and pick up the plate. “wanna go sit in the lounge and watch cartoons then?” you check the clock, its only ten am. Dave nods and rubs a smear of Nutella off his bottom lip.

“Yeah, okay.”

He follows you into the next room and drops onto the sofa among a few smuppets, folding his long, thin legs under him and making himself comfortable while you hunt for the remote. You notice Kandi mountain is gone, he must have sorted it while you slept, and the bag of items to get rid of lies in wait by the front door next to your sneakers and his hi-tops.

“Sorted it out then?” you observe, hitting the TV on and throwing the remote back onto the coffee table, this time on top of the newspaper that had hidden it previous. “This shit?” you point to his single old bracelet when you take a seat next to him, picking up your sandwich again and taking another bite. Spongebob squarepants is on, a show the both of you enjoy for ironic reasons.

“Yeah, and see I found this right?” he held up his wrist, the hand holding his sandwich. “Look familiar?”

You shrug.

“Should it?”

“It’s the first one you ever gave me, dumbass.” He kicks you lightly with his foot and goes back to munching. “I always remember, because it’s got the ridiculous little bells on it. Fuck wearing this I could go out and become king of the cats. Listen.” He rattles his hand and the bell tinkles clearly, and you remember watching him pull on the very same bracelet suddenly and in vivid colour. You remember the size of him, his smile, his innate adorability and most of all the way that bracelet had been so big and neon against his wrist, outshone only by the excitement on his face.

“Yeah okay, I remember.”

“I’m not even kidding bro, look at this shit. It’s so bad its fucking legendary. Get whoever made this piece an art award because hot damn I’ve never seen anything so glorious.”

You roll your eyes. What a chatterbox you have reared.

“Perfect for a six year old.” You tell him. “Or a loud mouth little man with no taste in bling.”

“You’re just jealous.” He retorts, and you smile just the tiniest bit.

“Okay,” you decide. “I will bite. Come here and show me it, seeing as that’s what you clearly want to do.”

He practically leaps on the opportunity, finishing the last of his sandwich swiftly and moving closer to you on the sofa. The old thing complains beneath his shifting weight, but you aren’t bothered.

“Look at that shit. Is it spanking or is it spanking?”

“It’s pretty spanking” you humour him, taking the hand he offers so you can inspect his wrist. “But could you move your goddamned legs kid, they are uncomfortable.”

“Oh right.” He adjusts his position beside you, so it’s more comfortable a scenario to be in, him leaning against your side and looking right over your shoulder. He is very warm and very delicate, like his body is made of toothpicks or glass threads, and he smells like he needs a shower but not too bad because he’s wearing some kind of scent that you can only assume he got as a gift from somewhere along the line because its much to Calvin Kline slash Gucci slash whatever else fancy ass brands made perfume for queers these days for it to have come from a bottle of axe.

“You smell like a faggot.” You tell him shortly, dropping his hand to let it fall onto your knee, and he pinches his brow together in offense.

“Rose got me this perfume shit for Christmas. I’m wearing it ironically?”

“No, you’re wearing it ‘cause you like it. I can smell the homo all over your clothes.”

“Oh haha.” He doesn’t seem amused by this observation, and his sarcastic negation indicates that you have won this battle for emotional dominance. “Funny man.”

He does not move from right beside you though, and you don’t even notice this until much later, when he has to get up to go to the toilet and your left side is suddenly cold.

 

XV

 

 

 

PART THREE: DRAWINGS

 

You are sure you’ve made the right decision.

When you arrive home Sunday morning he is already up, and it gets more and more strange every time because well Dave used to be one of those shocking over sleepers. Why was he suddenly such an early bird? It makes little sense. You don’t greet him though, you aren’t sure how to yet, you have something important to say and well you kind of need to think about it because you don’t know how you are supposed to get it out. Instead you move through the lounge and into the kitchen, dropping your wad of cables and accordion case of records on the table carefully as you pass. Dave notices you, because he looks up from whatever he is doing and glances over the back of his shoulder.

“Morning bro.”

“Yeah.” Short, you stalk into the kitchen, pull open the fridge, remember you haven’t gone grocery shopping, and close it again with a sigh. Hell. You get out of the kitchen wander as casually as you can toward the sofa and your charge. As you round the back you see that whatever he’s doing is drawing, in some kind of A3 sketchbook with coloured pencils. You reach for the pad to try and look but he pulls it away.

“No man, don’t even.”

“Why not? I follow your lameass blog.”

And you do, and even though you enjoy it you can’t deny that he really did have talent more than the poorly executed MSpaint comics he posted there.

“Yeah, but this isn’t a comic so you can just fuck off.”

“Pfft.” You pretend you don’t care, sitting on the floor with your back against the sofa so you can stretch. “Little faggot. I bet you’re drawing gay sex or something.”

“Haha.” Disinterested in your insult he picks up the box of Faber Castel pencils beside him and pulls out an unusually short, compared to the others, orange pencil, replacing it with the yellow he had been using. “Actually I’m drawing tentacle porn.”

“Even better.” you remove your shades and tip your head back onto the sofa cushion, rubbing the bridge of your nose in an effort to relieve the tension there. Dave clicks his tongue and sets down his pad.

“Aren’t you going to make me some breakfast?”

“Hell to the no. I’m destroyed.”

“Old man.” He leans forward, dropping his pad onto the table and folding his legs under himself. You shuffle to sit a little straighter so you aren’t leaning against his leg, and he drops a hand onto your shoulder.

It’s a startling touch, hugely unexpected and somewhat shocking. Dave has never touched you intentionally before, and you jump like some kind of twitchy, guilty animal.

“Want a backrub?” he asks you flatly. “As a totally ironic gesture of brotherly affection?”

Holy fucking shit on a sandwich a backrub. Mother of god, you have never heard anything so fantastically glorious in all your life. Last time you had a backrub it was from that girl in graduating class who had the hots for you like no-ones business and that had been some fine shit. You can only imagine that now, twenty odd years later after a pained night of standing with your shoulders taught and your head bowed, it will feel even better. A million times better. A million BILLION times better.

“Yeah, whatever.” You tell him, trying to keep the excited croak out of your voice. “Knock yourself out.”

You aren’t sure if its excitement because of the concept or…

You try not to think about it.

Happily enough Dave shuffles sideways, passing the TV remote into your lap so you can change channels and setting his hands onto your shoulders. His thumbs ghost the nape of your neck and you feel the hair on your arms prickle. To play it off you change it to the cooking channel, and drop the remote onto the floor. Dave hums, and begins to rub your neck, and fuck fuck fuck your imagination isn’t kidding, that feels good. You grit your teeth to avoid making any strange noises and cross your legs. Dave, even though you can’t see him, retains the same composure he usually has and you are distinctly impressed by this. You can feel that bracelet of his brush your shoulder, he hasn’t taken it off in the many months since hes found it.

“Over a bit,” you direct him to a particular knot on your left shoulder.

Ohhh yeah that’s good. He finds the spot almost instantly and kneads it with a regular, firm circle. You fan your shoulderblades and sigh, letting yourself relax a little and trying to drag together a few words to explain what is going on right now. What’s on your mind. He’s your little brother, and he has to know…

“Hey bro.” you turn your chin up a little so you can see him from the corner of your eye, “while we are here, I reckon I should tell you that I’m quitting my job, so if you notice me hanging around a little more that’s why.”

This comes out a lot more offhand and careless than you had intended, and the simplistic way you stay it makes Dave stop, immediately.

“You what?”

“I’ve quit my job. You know… two weeks from now I’m done. Won’t be going back.”

He takes a moment to let this sink in and silently resumes rubbing out the aches and kinks in your shoulders and neck. The words that come out of his mouth next are not unexpected.

“Why would you do that man? What about money? What about my kandi?”

“What about your kandi, you haven’t touched it since we sorted it out a few months back.”

“Yeah, so! And what about me going to work with you sometimes? I liked doing that you fuckbag!”

You sigh, and wiggle your shoulders. Dave sure is getting rough with his rubbing, digging his thumbs right in that shit and crushing your shoulders in his hands.

“Well excuse me sultan spoilt, I forget that my entire life revolves around keeping you in plastic beads and remixes. Balls up little man, this is my decision, not yours.”

“Why would you make that decision though? That’s a stupid decision.”

“It’s not. I can’t keep pulling all nighters and we have plenty of money, I make thousands on puppets, remember?”

“Thousands, and what do you spend it on? More puppets? Great investment decision asshole!” fed up with this conversation Dave stops with the shoulder-rub, which was swiftly becoming more and more painful anyway, and stands up angrily. “Fuck you. Seriously.” He shoots you a dirty look and tired, fucked off and bruised because you knew he was going to react like this you groan, watching him stomp towards his bedroom and slam the door in his wake.

It only confirms the things you’ve thought for years, and you find it deeply upsetting. Things like all of Dave’s pride in having you as a sibling is motivated by your job and social status, that he sees you as an equal and not a parent, that he is still oblivious to the dying, aching kernel of youth inside of you which will one day emerge through the surface of your skin and probably disgust him. He still thinks you are twenty. He still thinks that you are young. That you can keep doing this forever.

It’s tough for you to point out that he’s wrong.

Upset, visibly so but no-one is around to see so who even cares, you lean over the coffee table and flop bonelessly over the edge. Your nose presses awkwardly on the wood, and the corner of Dave’s sketchbook (lying jauntily on top of a smuppet) pokes you in the cheek. A stab of immature frustration inspires you to grab it and stand up, stomping to his bedroom door and kicking on it to tell him you’re there.

“I have your book.” You shout. “Come out here and talk with me like a man if you want it back.”

The thump of something large being thrown at the door is all the response you get.

 

XV

 

Dave edges around you for the next week, and he damn well should the little shit, not even asking you about his sketchpad which remains unopened on your computer desk in your room. After nine days though, during which cold greetings constituted all your conversations, he approaches you while you are doing the laundry, looking haughtily cool and typically handsome, and starts folding a pair of jeans off the pile.

“Hey.” He greets.

“Hey.” You respond, picking up a pair of his jockeys and folding them into a neat matchbox and setting them on the stack. He looks at it in exasperation, sinking onto the arm of the sofa directly next to the laundry pile, and lets out a deep sorrowful sigh.

“Bro, when you do that I get creases in my underwear.”

“…” you look between him and the next pair, a cherry red cotton shortie, in puzzlement though its probably not visible behind your shades.

“Huh?”

He shakes his head, exasperated, and let’s himself fall to loll on the sofa back.

“Never mind…”

You both recede into silence, and you go back to folding laundry. After a while…

“I’m sorry.” He tells you stiffly. “That was totally lame of me.”

“It’s okay.” You assure him, even though it’s only partially, and you both silently agree never to mention this again.

 

XV

 

You keep Dave’s sketchpad though, by accident, and it isn’t until a month later you remember it and pick it up, thinking you should probably go take it into Dave’s room for him. Tonight he is out, at Egbert’s again, and you are making the most of this by cleaning up your computer area and probably editing a few videos for your porn site. Your hormones have spiked lately, and you can’t quite figure out why, but decide you are going to play along and enjoy it while you can. How old was Dave? Fifteen? Sixteen in a few weeks. Hell he is well overdue for bringing home a girlfriend or buying porn or something, and you aren’t sure how much time you have left before you have to start dealing with his hormones too. God knows if you aren’t ready to be an uncle yet. You haven’t even finished being a father! Or… a brother.

Or… a guy Dave looks up to, and who cares for Dave, and watches out for him, and wants him to be happy.

Actually these days you feel like more of the latter. Dave doesn’t really need a parent figure any more, he doesn’t want one and this much is evident in the way he treats you like another teenaged boy with whom to joke and lark. Easy for him, but he wasn’t waking up with a sore back every morning, or growing tired by midnight. It’s frustrating. And it’s gotten worse since you quit your job.

Discontent you wander toward Dave’s room and open the door. Inside is the same mess, except now there is significantly less neon jewellery in the box by his bed. What jewellery there is is set on his desk in a pail, and it looks lonely, without the rest of his former collection to accompany it. You haven’t seen him make any for ages.

Dave’s room is nice. You approve of his décor and of his levels of disorganization. There is just enough chaos to be comfortable, but not so much one can get lost. It’s nice, and it smells nice, like Dave’s fancy perfume and the fresh air which leaks through his cracked open window. Wow, weird to think that on three or so years Dave might be leaving this room, and everything in it, for something new and fantastic somewhere else. Weird and saddening, and it makes you feel positively ancient. Grey and boring and all used up. It sucks.

Thoughtlessly you flick your finger over the edge of the sketchbook, fanning the pages which are all cluttered with a blur of tecnicolour you can’t make out. At the back are plain graphite pencil plans for comics, and you glance over them briefly. They make you smirk a little, and curious you turn back, past the couple of pages of poetry or raps or whatever he writes and to the front, where his proper, non-ironic drawings were.

You haven’t seen Dave’s drawings in years, and honestly you are astonished.

Dave’s medium is coloured pencil. Where you prefer to paint with the bass Dave creates worlds with greens and reds and blues, his photography a companion for his drawing and his canvas much purer and cleaner than the echoing halls of sound to which you compose. His artworks are a testament to his paradigm, a surreal full-colour animation of his world with sweeping lines and blended, refined style. He’s drawn a lot of portraits, some of his friends (that Egbert and a couple of girls you have seen around before) some of birds and some even of strange woman in twists of motion, toned purple or orange or green and flowing to invisible music. They look like they had been drawn maybe while you and him were at the club one night but he must have simply memorised it and bought it home. They are good. Great. Brilliant even, a complex melding of comic and realism that strikes you as cute and accessible.

The more recent pages though, dated between now and three months prior, fill the later half of the book and in them you can see a drastic change in artistic flair, a restoration almost to realism, coloured pencil photography on the page.

It’s you. Dave has drawn you. ten-twenty-thirty drawings from studies of your profile, your stance, your eyes, to full colour entire page headshots, angle studies, in every imaginable domestic situation. Lounging on the sofa, playing a video game, shades on or off or even polishing your swords in the sink. Dave has been scrupulous with documenting you, predominantly in orange, and filling the spaces not clogged with descriptions of your form with drawings of his beads, reiterations of the jewellery he loved.

And you aren’t sure how you are supposed to react, upon finding yourself immortalised here among drawings of friends and beads and clubbers and other things Dave loves. Instead you sit there for a while in shock, feeling both soaringly happy and lost deep in pits of familial despair.

 

XV

 

“Dave?” you approach him in his room a few days later and he turns his face from his computer screen to look to you, his shades off and set beside his printer.

“Yeah?” he removes his headphones and closes down the music studio he has been playing with. Dave has always had a mild interest in mixing music, once or twice during your adventures in the club with him you let him have a turn, but he’s only recently started to pursue digital techniques. With age comes the ability to understand the theory and the programs, you suppose.

“Shut your curtains.” you gesture to his window, against which the night pressed urgently. He tisks and pushes his computer chair out from under the desk to stand up.

“I suppose next you’re going to want me to turn on my lights too?”

You shake your head, its light enough in here courtesy of the computer screen and the cut of yellow illuminated by the open door.

“Nah, its nothing that formal. Just wanted to talk a bit.”

“Yeah okay.” He leans over his side table to shut his curtain, t-shirt hem riding up over the elastic of his track pants, and exposing a sliver of pale, unblemished skin. “Get your ass into gear though, I have school in the morning.”

“Whatever.” You wander in and take a seat in his computer chair, leaving him to drop onto his bed and fold his legs underneath him.

“This isn’t about where babies come from is it?” he smoothes his hair and realises he isn’t wearing his shades, eyes widening in surprise when he goes to push them up his nose and his finger finds nothing. “’cause I know all about that shit already.”

“Na, its not.” You clear your throat and lean forward in your chair. “it’s about me, mostly.”

“What, you’re a douche? Yeah I know that too.”

“No not that! Shut up for a sec and listen.”

He falls silent and you take a moment to look at him, his colour faded to golds in the low yellow light from the lounge, his hair neat and his expression peaceful. Shadows pool under his eyes and cheekbones and make him look much older.

“I’m thirty two soon.” You tell him shortly. “I’m getting pretty fucking old.”

Dave scoffs.

“Yeah you are.”

You glare at him and try to carry on.

“And so are you I guess. Look, growing out of all your kid stuff and becoming old like me. Sucks doesn’t it.”

“Fuck bro if you’ve got yourself a one way ticket to mid-life-crisis-ville I want shit all to do with it. Stop this train right now I want to get fucking off.”

“No, shut up. All you ever do is spit words and it’s fucking annoying.” You hold up your hand and press on. “Basically what I’m saying is, these days I need you to know that it’s tough for me to get up in the mornings and its tough for me to keep up with babying you like I always have. All your life I’ve made you sandwiches, done your laundry, taken care of you and been your parent. I’ve given you advice and I’ve always been here to beat a kid for you or buy your shitty beads for you or teach you how to man a sword but I think its time you started to learn to stop seeing me like a caregiver and take care of yourself. Learn to be a big man and spread your wings a bit. Get a girlfriend, get a life. You’re moving out in a few years right and you need to prepare for that, and someday you are going to get married and you will have your own blonde haired shades wearing little sack of dicks to look after. It’s not easy, I’m telling you. I’m handing in my resignation now. Conversation closed.”

You wait a moment though, expecting him to pose questions and questions only, And so you are surprised when he looks at you for a moment, lips parted in puzzlement, and then announces

“No.”

You lift your eyebrows and wait for his response.

“No that’s not right, you’re making yourself sound like an old man.”

“Fuck don’t you listen kid I am an old man. That’s the whole thing.”

“It’s not the whole thing bro, what the hell, I so do not think of you as a parental figure and you so know that I never have.”

Wow. Ouch! After all that energy invested in him.

“You what?”

“God bro, you don’t get it. When other dads worked nine to five at an office my big brother worked making music in clubs. When other dads set up saving accounts my big brother spent thousands on the latest consoles, TVs, audio programmes... When other dads wouldn’t let their kids go abseiling on camp my big bro was teaching me how to hack a cunt to bits with swords. That’s badass man, that’s fucking ace. When other dads were forcing their kids into making friends and fitting in my big brother, this is you in case you haven’t figured it out yet because you’re surprisingly dense you know, was telling me the things every kid in the world wants to hear. Things about my dreams, my hobbies, my skills. How I was talented, or how if I wasn’t I could be if I did this. How I could like anything, do anything, love what I loved and be as cool as I could simply because when I woke up in the morning I was Dave fucking strider and nothing could touch me. You make it sound like all you ever gave me was laundry and sandwiches and money to go to school but you gave me more than that okay you gave me what I wanted even when you couldn’t always be there. You didn’t judge me for what I liked you supported it, and you are a fucking marvellous bastard for it. Don’t you dare quit on me now or I swear to god I will stomp on your face. Not even kidding. On it. Your nose will have the word ‘nike’ imprinted on it until the end of all time.”

You blink and pressed your lips together. Oh god oh god oh god it was that thing again. Where was he getting these ideas from?! Yeah you had encouraged him but wasn’t that what fathers did? What brothers did? Why was it that he saw such a gesture as something else? As something more equal, as the sort of gift a friend might give another. It was so irritating, being misinterpreted like this, and by now it’s much too late to change it without hurting him really bad.

You can’t respond, so he carries on.

“I know it sounds lame, and it’s pretty fucking lame alright so just bear with me for a sec, but damn bro you are pretty much the best thing. It’s you. And I just… I dunno what I would do without you man. Really. So stop saying all this scary stuff about being old and having to let go, because fuck that, no way.”

“Dave, please stop.”

“No!” he leans forward and shuffles toward you on the bed. “You were the one who told me that I could love whatever it was in the world I wanted to love, and as it happens I love you. You aren’t going anywhere.”

And he grabs your knee firmly to emphasize, before changing the subject entirely.

“I’m going to the kitchen. Do you want me to make you some toast?”

 

XV

 

You are a light sleeper, and feeling weight drop onto the end of your bed while you rest wakes you straight up, heart hammering, worrying that a figure out of your nightmares has slipped through the cracks of reality and is making to creep between your sheets.

“Dave?!” you are pissed when you recognise his silhouette, and kick at him weakly though your feet get tangled in the blankets. “What the fuck kid go back to bed! What time is it.” you look at the digital alarm clock beside your bed, the neon red numbers reading one fifteen am. “What are you doing?!”

“I had a nightmare.” He replies, not whispering at all, and the volume of his normal speaking voice seems startling. “Can I get in bed with you?”

“… No! What kind of teenager still needs to crawl into my bed because he’s had a nightmare!”

You throw yourself back into bed and pull the covers over your head, returning to your favoured foetal position as you go. You always un-curl yourself when you sleep, and end up sprawled across the mattress. It’s a bother, so every time you wake you have to fold yourself again in the hope you might have less messed up bed to re-make in the morning. So far, there had been no results.

Dave used to crawl into bed with you forever ago, maybe the last time he did so he was eight? He was always a shocker for nightmares, you couldn’t figure out why and he never used to tell you what they were… you had forgotten about them actually, until approximately right now. You had just taken for granted that perhaps they, like you hoped Dave would right now, had gone away.

No such luck.

You feelhim shift on your bed, crawling over your duvet and digging out a corner you have neglected to tuck quite properly. His hands are warm and petite, and though you swear at him as he wiggles himself into your cocoon beside you, you do not kick him away. Once he is in, he resecures your blankets, and without even asking permission curls himself smugly over your back.

“Fuck you bro.” he drops his voice this time, and the soft purr of his breath caresses your bare shoulderblades just enough to tickle. “I’m fucking scared.”

You roll your eyes. Dave. Scared. Funny joke.

“Just don’t steal my blankets.” You tell him, settling down and nosing your pillow comfortingly. He sighs, and buried his face in the back of your neck.

Sleep comes easier to him than to you, it’s a lot warmer with him draped over your body like this, but its familiar and he still smells nice, like Dave. His breathing is soft and regular, and although you feel your back getting sticky, pressed against the flat expanse of stomach his ridden up shirt has exposed. His hair tickles the side of your jaw, and after a while you relent, removing yourself from his grip just temporarily so you can unfurl, get comfortable on your back, and them pull his deadweight back against your side. Dave sleeps like he’s engaged in some kind of living death. He does not wake at all, rather he shuffles closer and comforts himself in the crook of your armpit, left arm reaching across your chest. You find this is a much more comfortable way to sleep, and the last thoughts that careen across the foreground of your mind before unconsciousness are ones of peacefulness, affection, and a reluctant sense that everything’s perfectly as it should be.

Its’ not weird, you tell yourself. It’s not weird at all.

 

XVI

 

When you wake up in the morning, at almost eleven o’clock, Dave is still in bed with you, awake, staring distantly at the ceiling. You are startled, but watch him watching oblivion for a moment, expecting him to snap out of the glazed eyed hypnosis he seems to be stricken in. you are glad you did not, as you usually do, sit up as you woke, rather its much nicer to just lie here and look at your brothers face bathed in the syrupy gold light of mid morning.

His eyes flutter and slide to you. You blink at him, holding the silence.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

Neither of you expand on this exchange, instead you remain as you are, still, studying each other, watching and waiting for you aren’t quite sure what. You are struck deeply by how uncanny a colour fills Dave’s irises, it’s something you have always played down, as being unimportant or un-precious, but in honesty they haunt you often. They symbolise Dave, everything about him is described so perfectly by their dissimilarity, their almost all knowing blade, the hellish suggestion of a boy who somewhere deep down was abnormal beyond the boundaries of which you have always let him know were okay.

But that was fine though, you were convinced you had succeeded. Even red-eyed and beautifully different, you have never had reason to believe Dave had ever thought of himself as alien.  

The sheets murmur when he moves, adjusting himself so that he can curl against you properly, and notch his head in the junction of your shoulder and your neck, his eyes hidden from view.

“Been up long?” you ask eventually.

“Since nine.”

“Why didn’t you get out of bed and make me breakfast, dumbfuck.”

He doesn’t reply, nuzzling your neck until you relent and sigh dramatically, lifting your hand to pet his hair like he was some kind of needy kitten.

“Fucking hell Dave. Are you sick or something?”

He shakes his head, holding quiet, and curls his fingers into the blanket on your chest. You think it is unusual for Dave not to be wordy in response.

 

XVI

 

He’s started making Kandi again.

Not much, not in bulk like he used to, but very, very carefully. You’ve never seen him work so hard as you watch him create some of these pieces. Sculptural works in their own right, almost, cuffs with 3D details and necklaces that, if they had been made out of fashionable beads, wouldn’t look out of place on a mannequin in department store windows. He looks ridiculous doing it now, tall and lanky and folded cross legged on the floor, a grown man playing with plastic, the rainbows reflected in the lenses of his shades once more.

You should probably tell him to stop but you can’t. You just… you can’t. Its confusing and frustrating and conflicting, because suddenly there he is and he’s ageless, three and nine and seventeen all at the same goddamned time. He’s perfect, and he’s a mess, and he’s weird and he’s your brother and you just… you can’t stop staring at him, wondering if on some level he is retarded, if perhaps he has no understanding of what’s appropriate, and then you start to blame yourself. Because what is wrong with it, really? Does it matter? Who cares? He doesn’t, and once upon a time you didn’t either.

It’s all too complicated. If you had’ve known that having a kid to raise would get like this you never would have taken him on. As soon as you think this though you are crippled by guilt, because then you start wondering what would have happened if he went to some foster family, that wouldn’t have bought him pastels and film and CDs by the hundreds, and you think that you can’t imagine Dave any other way than he is now, even though he’s a cyclone of god only knows what and you can’t tell whether you’ve done a good job but you know that you love him, you really truly love him, and it hurts you to wonder that on some level you probably screwed him up or screwed him over because you don’t know what you’re doing and then…

And then you tell yourself to stop.

You don’t know if other parents feel this way,

Or if it’s just you.

You don’t care because Dave is yours.

And from his spot on the floor in the loungeroom, he continues pulling baubles on nylon.

He’s okay.

Perhaps it’s you that has something gravely wrong.

 

XVI

 

You are startled when one evening, after a hard two hours trying to rewrite the format for your smuppet site, you mooch into the kitchen and see a stranger standing at your sink in what appear to be his boxers.

It takes you a moment to put two and two together, but you can’t escape the snare of that one moment, that feeling of vulnerable shock where thoughts of ‘who’s the hot piece of ass in my kitchen’ struck through your mind.

Finally you have thought it. Finally its happened. You don’t know how long the shadows of that thought have been cast over your subconscious, but you know that now, in a accidental slip of your guard, its out. You’ve thought it, it’s now officially an issue.

“The fuck you doing kid?” trying to pretend it didn’t happen (to late now, you may as well have said it out loud) you pull up beside him and look down into the sink, where he is washing dishes. He looks up when you set your hands on the bench but not because you said anything; his earphones are in and obviously he is listening to the scratched red iPod on the windowsill, the white wires of his earpieces swaying dangerously over the water.

“What?” he asks, tossing his bangs off his shades. “I can’t hear you.”

You pluck a headphone out and place your mouth by his ear.

“I said ‘the fuck you doing kid?’”

“Dishes, geeze.” He turned back to his washing and swung his weight onto his other hip. “What have you been doing? You’ve cloistered yourself in your room all day, anyone would think you’re keeping a pet whore in there or something.”

“Only one? I’m not that old Dave. Three at least.” You pop his headphone back in, stomach flopping nervously when he smiles and your breast puffing a little with pride. It wasn’t rare for you to make Dave laugh, but still. You set about making yourself a coffee, and think you might make him one too. Dave doesn’t really like coffee though, so you dig out the hot chocolate instead.

“hey.” You stop him when he drains the sink, wipes his hands on a tea towel, and then goes to ditch you for pesterchum or jewellery making  or who really knows what Dave does in his spare time these days. “Hold up, I’m making you a drink here the decent thing to do would be hang around and drink it.”

“I didn’t ask for a drink.” He tells you, looking over his freckled shoulder. You give him a dangerous look.

“Just drink it.”

You set the kettle under the tap to fill it and then pop it on the element to heat it up. Dave sighs dramatically and scratches his ear.

“Okay, fine. Just let me go log off persterchum, I was talking to Egbert and he’s probably waiting for me to come back.”

“Whatever.” You turn around and lean against the bench, daring to rake your eyes up his body and trusting your shades to hide it. he’s attractive, okay. You can think that without it being creepy, because its true. You relax a little, to be able to acknowledge this platonically, and try to convince yourself that that slip up from earlier had been a once off. Never again right?

Yeah, never.

 

XVII

 

 

 

 

 

PART FOUR: FOLIO

 

“Morning.”

You groan and turn away from the sunlight pouring into your room. What does he think he’s doing? Honestly, it’s like eight am. You’ve never gotten out of bed at eight am. What are you meant to do? What were the rules or whatever? The instructions…

“Fuck off!”

“No way, its my birthday bro, you promised I could pick what we do, and I say we go for a walk in the park.”

You grunt and sit up in bed, pissed off as all hell.

“A walk in the park?” you repeat lamely. “That is so dumb.”

“Ironic, dickbag. Now hurry up. And put on warm clothes its cold enough to freeze your balls out there.”

You believe him.

Less than an hour later finds the both of you wandering down the street in your jeans and hoodies, you sipping tersely from a paper cup of flat-foyer coffee and Dave wandering in that stupid way beside you. you don’t want to say the fresh air burns, but that shit fucking burns. The only people out this hour are joggers and kids about Dave’s age on the way to school. Dave graduates next June you realise, with a sudden halt to your grouch. Wow. That’s… upsetting.

“so.” You ask him through gritted teeth once you’ve emptied your coffee. The two of you have already walked six blocks in silence, and you are nearing the recreational part of town, by the lake. You are starting to pass by coffee shops, which are opening, and wish you had just waited ten minutes and gotten a proper coffee, instead of the piss poor excuse you had just finished. “Besides this walk bullshit, what were you wanting to do?”

“I dunno. Nothing really. I just thought it would be funny to get you out of bed this early.”

He turns to you and arches his right eyebrow. You ball your fists and try not to notice that his lips are chapped and pinkened by the slight chill.

“Whatever.” Still irritated you look away, down the road toward the park and its lush evergreen trees. Leaves which were not so lucky, yellowed by the seasons and having tumbled to the sidewalks in a soundless, deciduous symphony, skated along the gutters with breathy mumbles. The sound of birds high on tall windowsills was unfamiliar. Everything is so picturesque, so poetic. It’s almost surreal.

Dave sighs and brushes his hand through his hair. You grind your teeth and wonder, somewhat hazily, if perhaps there is something you have forgotten, something you have neglected to say…

You almost jump off the sidewalk when you feel something catch your arm, and its Dave, and he’s still walking beside you as though nothing at all is awry. His arm is light and delicate wound around yours and his shoulder bumps on your bicep as he bobs beside you, his perfume curls under your nose and unheeding he lifts his right hand, the one with the faded kandi bracelet on it to scratch his upper lip. The gesture is appallingly graceful.

You swallow your hammering heart and decide not to draw any attention to it. Sweat is beading on the back of your neck. When did it get so hot?

“Do you want to go to the pictures then or something? We can watch a Christmas movie.”

“Only if it’s the crappiest Christmas movie ever made.”

You jerk your head in agreement. That sounds good.

 

XVIII

 

 

You spend too long thinking, too long trying to figure it out, that you begin to go days without even seeing Dave, the only thing you have to know that he’s still even around is the sound of him showering, and moving around in the kitchen making himself dinner.

You are tired. Too tired. So tired and your brain hurts and you are sick of thinking about him. you can’t focus on anything else. Just him. because every time he smiles, every time you see his voice, you feel less significant, less like a human being, but also you feel more important than you ever have before in your life.

You keep thinking back to moments, instances in which he touched you, he smiled, or he said something that just made your hair prickle, and you run your hand through your hair so many times that its oily and limp. You can’t sleep, and so it is that at three am you are still awake, hunched over your computer doing your taxes and wishing guiltily, but also very much hoping to the negative, that he might have a nightmare and come into your room again. He hasn’t done that since that one time, but it’s the moment that sits the clearest at the forefront of your mind.

You are startled when you hear a thump from the lounge, and you sit perfectly erect, ears pricked.

A muffled swear, and you breathe a sigh of relief because even through a wall you recognise that voice. It’s just Dave, although what he’s doing up at three am you cannot begin to fathom.

Creaky and sore you stand up and rub the small of your back, hobbling toward the door and poking your head out.

“Kid?”

“Yeah? Fuck.” Dave moves in the dark lounge and you sigh, rubbing the heal of your hand in your eye.

“Did you walk into the sofa?”

“Yes. Why would you re-arrange everything like that?”

“I was vacuuming, I forgot to put it back.”

You had, while he had been at school, decided that now would be a good time to vacuum. For the first time in like six years. You had filled half the dust bag with discarded beads and smuppet fluff.

“That was dumb.” He shuffles and you lean against your doorframe, relieved to hear his voice again, even in the dark. “Fucking hell. A guy wants a glass of milk he needs a bloody map these days.”

“Stop complaining. You should be asleep.”

“So should you.” he edges around the sofa and you watch his shadow glide toward the kitchen. “Besides, I’m never asleep at three. Who sleeps at three? Three is for wimps. God.”

You pull a face, though he can’t see it, and follow him into the kitchen. A cut of yellow light falls out the door as you approach, indicating that he has opened the fridge, and when you creep in there he is, crouched in front of the thing in only Pyjama pants, his shades on his head, his profile sketched in cool gold. The shadows falling on his face make him look older, and his body folded down so he can see in is gangly and handsome, glowing faintly in the neon chill. His lashes are long. So long you can actually see them in this strange illumination, fluttering a little as he reaches into the fridge, takes out the bottle of peachy iced tea, and clips the door back closed. You hear his pants rustle as he stands, and the sound of him undoing the cap, over the sound of your heartbeat. Why did you come in here? Couldn’t you have just slunk back into your room and left him be? Residual instinct, you tell yourself. When Dave was little, and he stubbed his toe, he used to have you band aid it, nurse him back to health. You supposed the ghost of that habit had brought you to this point. What else could it be? Definitely, positively not a need to see him. to be around him totally unironically. God no. you aren’t loosing your shit that bad.

“Want a drink or something?” he shakes the bottle and the liquid sloshes inside. You shake your head, forgetting he probably can’t see it in the dark. Not getting an audible reply, Dave sighs and judging by the slurping noise, takes a drink.

“What’s on your mind bro?” he asks it with a soft, non-haughty voice and it makes you a little uncomfortable. “You’ve been acting weird latterly. Weirder than usual. Because face it man you’re fucking messed up.”

You snort, because wow is that accurate, but say nothing of it.

“It ain’t shit.” You tell him steadily. “I’m just… what did you call it? On a one-way trip to mid-life-crisis-ville.”

“Few years overdue for that don’t you reckon?”

“Oh shut up.” You swipe your hand out loosely and are startled when it catches his shoulder. Dave jumps, and swipes his hand up to sweep yours away.

“Hey! Don’t hit a man when hid guard is down.”

He moves fast. Lightning fast. Like, you ten years ago fast, and before you can react he has your arm pinned behind you, his chest pressed to yours, his other hand at your throat and tipping your face up, baring your jugular and trembling through his palm when you swear.

“Fucking hell Dave! I wasn’t going for a strife here.”

“Neither was I.” his voice is smiling, and it’s easily the most beautiful sound you’ve ever heard. “I just thought it would be fun to exercise my skills…”

“Yeah.” You wriggle your wrist out of his grip and he releases you, dropping his hand slowly to the bench beside your hip where you set yours back on the counter, bracing yourself. “Some skills little man.”

“They should be, you taught ‘em.” He sniffs and glides the hand on your throat down your chest. “Speaking of which, we haven’t had a chance to practice combat for ages. You’re going to get slack if you aren’t careful.”

“Oh hell no kid. I may be ancient, I’m not useless.”

“Are you kidding bro? Have you seen me? I am a legend. I am a god.”

“Humble too.”

“Shut up grandpa. The big boy is talking.”

Your stomach does a really worrying thing, and you feel your heart shock tremor like an earthquake right through your body. Dave brushes tighter against you and instinctually, the hand not holding you up moves to his waist. It hesitates for a moment, but then falls there, precisely where his waist sweeps in, cool palm against his warm, smooth skin.

“Promise me we strife again before I finish school.”

He addresses that issue, that realisation that soon Dave will be a high school graduate just as highly educated and highly capable as you, with a simplistic, childish promise. “And promise me you will take me out again to a club like we used to when you worked there.”

You swallow, and squeeze your fingers on his waist lightly. His stomach presses against yours, and his hips shift just a degree, and you realise that Dave’s pubic region is sitting against yours, notched there like a puzzle piece fits in its respective slot. He’s warm and he smells so good.

“Yeah,” you manage. “Okay. But what do I get out of it?”

You can hear him pausing to think, hear his mind clicking, processing…

“I’ll make you something. Some sweet bling, ironically of course. It can be fluro pink and have charizards on it or some shit I don’t know. And then when you pass strangers in the street they will be like ‘hey wassup with that sweet dude and his charizard jewels’? Because who wouldn’t want that shit right? I mean, gellie bracelets are cool but they won’t scare a guy will they? Ain’t no one gunna mess with a man who has a charizard bracelet. Why? What do you want?”

You sigh longingly, half deeply pained and half euphoric, because here you are, listening to him talk, and god does he talk shit but oh its glorious, poetic, beautiful shit of you ever heard it.

“That sounds good little bro. sounds real cool.”

And with a shaky smile into the dim you move to embrace him, gliding your one hand to the small of his back and the other to cradle the back of his head, and you hold his startled body close, feeling him relax into you slowly and listening to his heartbeat betray the passing of time in the dark.

 

XVIII

 

You collapse through the door, wasted. Not even drunk, just exhausted. You never wanted to go to a club again.

But you can tell by the way Dave teases you that he is totally exhilarated.

“Fucking hell man.” He shoves you out of the way, swaggering to the kitchen clearly pissed to high heaven, cheeks red and his hair rumpled. “You are old and dried up aren’t you?”

You groan and drop onto the sofa, letting your head roll back. Well, with this gesture you have fulfilled half of Dave’s dying-youth requests.

You are startled from your rest though when you hear a horrible retching sound from the kitchen.

Ah shit. You recognise that noise. You haven’t heard it since fourteen year old Dave ate a rotten taco, and instantly you leap up, running to the kitchen to clean up or start swearing or god knows what, and you are very surprised to see that rather than just barfing all over the floor, Dave is bent over the sink, vomiting several bottles of coke and Bacardi into the drain and struggling to hold his bangs off his face.

“Goddamnit Dave I told you you were drinking too much!”

Angry, you stride over and hold his head, tucking his hair behind his ears as his shoulders shudder and he lurches forward again, bringing up what was, five and a half hours ago, his dinner. His shades slide down his nose so you remove them, and with the hand not stroking back his hair you rub the small of his back. He curls his fingers on the edge of the sink and swallows a few shaky breaths.

“Okay?” you ask flatly, trying to express the displeasure in your tone of voice. He nods and straightens up, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” He coughs, and it comes out on a semi-laugh. “Shit. Wow. Wasn’t planning that.” He shook himself and you stroked his hair back carefully, tenderly, and you are somewhat more gentle with him than usual. This is partially due to your tiredness and partially due to your genuine affection. This is your Dave, your baby…

Okay, this is the moment you stop thinking of him like this. The man is eighteen. He has just finished spewing his guts into the sink. You can’t keep thinking of him as a child.

You shake your head and draw him close, burring your nose in his hair. He smells like sweat and clubs and vomit, all traces of his usual scent gone. You don’t care how un-aloof this seems. Even though right now your aloofness levels are probably as low as they have ever been, his are right now too.

As is becoming commonplace you simply enjoy his closeness, and with the feeling that it’s the right thing to do you take him to bed to sleep with you, because, you tell him, if he gets sick again he can wake you up and you will just have to take care of it.

 

XVIII

 

Dave shows up from school that week with a pamphlet among many, on top of the pile of community college applications and pens from Texas Tech, and throws all but this one in the bin.

“Whatcha got there.” You are sitting on the sofa in your pyjamas, playing playstation three and eating your way through a bag of country kitchen brownie cookies like a fat cunt, and you don’t miss the corner of the flyer as he sits down beside you and tries to slip it into his pocket.

“Oh… nothing. Just an application.”

“For what?”

“Oh… you know…”

You don’t know. You pause the game and turn to him, trying to look critical.

“What?”

Dave hesitates, picking at his fingers in a shy, uncharacteristic gesture, before sighing and brandishing the pamphlet in your face.

“Fine. Art school. Is that cool with you? It’s just… I don’t think I have high enough grades to get into a college…”

You grunt. That’s probably true.

“Johns already gotten into some school in Seattle and Rose has gotten into a University. Jade is going overseas and I feel like I have to do something ‘cause otherwise I will be lying around on the sofa all day eating my way through bags of biscuits like some fatass white trash benefit sponge, right?”

“Oi!” you lash out of him and he laughs, leaning just out of the way.

“I am not on the benefit.”

“No… you’re not that fat either. But still. It would be nice to do something you know? Get a nice shiny certificate, so that I can wave it in peoples faces and draw nudes until my hand falls off. Right the fuck off bro. right the fucking fuck off, like that hand from the ada’ms family thing or whatever, scampering around and- “

“Dave shut up.” Why in the name of hell did he insist on all that talking?! “How much is this art school going to cost?”

“Well… that depends. See….” He shuffles across the sofa and points to a clause on the pamphlet you’re holding. “This bit says that there are full fee scholarships available. And some partial ones paid in cash. All I have to do is put together a folio or some shit and send it in before the dates.”

You scoff, passing the booklet back and shuffling in your niche in the sofa cushions.

“Dave like thousands of people apply for those things. You’re good but not that good.”

“Are you kidding?! Are you seriously kidding? I could get all of these things, I bet. You seem to forget that I am a Strider.”

You hesitate in your response, because now you think about it, Dave has never been in a real competitive situation, beyond your personal strifes, before. You can’t be sure how well he’s going to take it when he fails…

“Dave, I’m really not sure. Its not like I can’t afford to pay full price.”

“I know that.” He almost thinks the notion laughable, and this is evident in the cocky tip of his chin and the smooth tone of his voice. When did Dave lean to be so cocky? Goddmanit…. You had not intended to teach him that. You suppose it must be a genetic thing, because back in the day you had fancied yourself quite the hot  shit too, but honestly you aren’t… you aren’t sure Dave is ready to fail. He lives such a mediocre, non-remarkable life already, to have his ego detracted from what little he has seems awfully harsh.

Dave is not ready for the real world yet. He isn’t…

But he isn’t taking no for an answer.

“so I thought I would major in photography, but I might take something else as well for ironic purposes. I can’t decide what yet…”

“Jewellery design.” You ejaculate without thinking, mind still focused on how you are supposed to handle deeply indignant and unvictorious Dave. He cocks an eyebrow and inclines his head in consideration.

“Yeah, maybe.”

The two of you sit in silence a moment longer, and then he heaves a sigh, dragging himself to his feet.

“Whatever. So hey, wanna get your sword out sometime soon? I graduate in a few months you know.”

“yeah yeah I’m getting there.”  Short, you run your hand through your hair before grabbing another biscuit to eat. He gives you a small, almost invisible smirk over his shoulder and sways to his bedroom.

You think that at this rate Dave will be lucky if you can even hold a sword.

 

XVIII

 

A week before you decide to do it you get practicing again, motivated to perfect your body, restore it if only temporarily to your former glory just for the night, just for the occasion. You are lucky, latent under all the fluff you have gathered your muscles are still in good working order, you are still fast, you are still skilled. Your sword moves, though dusty, return to you like the lyrics of a long forgotten song, and when Friday evening rolls around, and he comes through the door with a big black folder he has been working on non-stop for weeks, you are ready for him, sweeping around and pinning him to the wall before he can even drop his satchel.

“Evening little bro.” you lean in close so he can see the flash in your shades. “Hope you’re ready for it.”

Judging by the shock on his face, he is not at all ready for it, but you are distinctly impressed when seamlessly, he irons out the unsurity and meets your eyes through two slim plastic windows.

“Sure am bro. Hope you’re ready to get your ass crushed.”

“Haha, bring it kid. Bring it on.”

You stroke the flat blade of your katana along his leg and he tilts his chin back, smirking just a tiny bit.

“Meet you on the roof?” he asks, lips barely moving. You give him a smile, a real smile.

“For old times sake.”

 

XVIII

 

You aren’t sure if he let you win for old times sake, or if genuinely he couldn’t beat you.

It doesn’t really matter. An hour later, as the evening slides over the city and buildings begin to pop out in an illuminated skyline, you have him on his back, knees scraped, shades crooked, his chest rising and falling swiftly and the smile on his face as real and beautiful as you’ve ever seen it. You forgot, how wonderful a feeling doing this gives you. The adrenaline, to which once upon a time you were hooked, is throbbing in your veins, the dopamine is charging between synapses and flowing in your body like a tide. You feel seventeen again, and Dave is just there, on his back, lip split and looking starry in the blue glow of the night. Far below you can hear the sound of cars striking down the road, up here you can hear your heart pounding.

You exhale, puffing with pride, and drop your sword.

“Some things never change eh?”

“Yeah.” He pants, letting his own weapon fall out of his hand with a clatter and wiping his mouth sloppily on his sleeve. “I was always terrible at fighting wasn’t I?”

“Yeah. You weren’t the greatest.”

You offer your hand and he takes it, stumbling to his feet and adjusting his clothing and his shades.

“Doesn’t matter. I suppose strifing isn’t your forte. You’re still pretty decent though. I’m proud of you.”

“Yeah.” He swings the hand of yours he holds, and steps closer. “I know. Insert lame filial sentiment here.”

You roll your eyes and look away, to the winking cityscape preying at the edge of your apartment building. A pale breeze lifts your bangs, Dave’s perfume, weak from the long day he’s played, teases the edges of your senses, and you are overtaken by a bittersweet sensation of nostalgia, because this is the last time, isn’t it? The final evening spent up here with him. No more will you engage in combat, no more will he struggle to beat you at something he was only ever miming to make you happy. Dave had his own passions now, his own skills. He is an entity separate from you and though you have guided him every step of the way now is the time in which you must step back, let him go, and be there to catch him if he falls.

Really.

You turn your face back to him and meet his eyes, as best you can through dark and shades. He stands there for a moment, studying you back, and then creases his nose in a way that expresses that this is stupid, changes have to be made.

“Here.” He removes his shades, and reaches for yours, letting him push them up and set them carefully on your head. “That’s much better don’t you think?”

You blink, Dave’s eyes are alight with the glimmer of a million lamplights, his features traced in delicate silver. He’s warm, your body is pulsing, and he looks so open in that moment, so calm that you almost don’t recognise him. Since when has Dave been readable? Was even his ironic attitude fading now? You suppose that as the years go by Dave is just going to become less and less like the child you knew, but you think that’s not really a bad thing. After all, Dave is still cool. He will always be cool. He will always have the best taste in clothing, hobbies, and he will always, no matter what anyone else says, be Dave.

“Wanna just sit up here for a while?” he asks, chin turning just a degree. You shrug and release his hand.

“Sure.”

The two of you wander to the edge of the building, and the ledges that separate you both from the roads far far down, and sit there in silence for an hour or maybe more, thinking, you aren’t sure about what, remembering…

Until almost in silent agreement he curls his hand into yours and shuffles closer, perhaps because of the cold or perhaps for some reason else. You run your thumb over his fingers, the air rolls and Dave sighs.

You press your lips together to quell the silent thrumming, the warmth in them that murmured starvingly for a not-entirely platonic kisses.

 

XVIII

 

“Show me?” you catch Dave packing his scholarship folio one day at the kitchen table, trying to get it into a big courier bag with some, but not much, success. He jumps, but plays it off smoothly.

“Oh, yeah. Whatever.”

He tries to look careless, but you can tell by the proud way he straightens his spine that he is extremely happy with himself and his work. Critically, you take the folio. You are not an art expert, but you can try.

The folio is constructed primarily of photographs, and coloured pencil drawings of most things, but predominantly and not surprisingly they are of you. You can’t bring yourself to mind.

“It’s cool.” you tell him lightly, “but it doesn’t really stand out does it? Heaps of people have folders of photos and drawings.”

“Yeah whatever. Keep looking.” He waves his hand, and the bracelet on his wrist clicks against his baby-G watch. You pull your face and oblige.

Drawings of you soon become drawings of smuppets. Drawings of  swords, drawings of Cal and Kandi which soon become photos again, but not normal photos, photos of sculptures. Or not really sculptures, jewellery. Tacky plastic jewellery, which documented like this didn’t really look tacky at all. You look at the details, the colours, the shapes, and you think for the first time that actually, these things, these items that Dave creates…

They are amazing. Really amazing.

You can see the passion, the care in each and every one. It touches you, and you have to hesitate before you respond.

“Well…” you start, reaching the end of the folio and passing it back. “that’s different.”

“I know. That’s the point. Its going to stand out now isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I reckon so.”

He smirks and tries slipping the folio into the courier bag again, it goes in with little fuss.

“Wanna watch a movie tonight?” he asks, turning and leaning on the edge of the table. “Something bad. Truly terrible. Worst movie ever sort of a deal.”

“Sure.” You lean beside him and brush a lock of blonde off his brow. “We can go to the video store later.”

“kay.” He stays there for a moment, lips curved gracefully, and watches you from behind his shades in that soft way he does when he thinks you won’t notice.

“You got lines.” He observes, stroking his pointer finger lightly over the creases around the corner of your mouth. “Haha, shame old guy. Should I start looking for nursing homes yet or what?”

You knock his hand away, trying not to smile.

“Fuck up shitbag, you’ll get old too one day.”

“Will not.”

“Will too.”

“I will not. When I start getting lines I will mount a rocket powered skateboard and ascend to space, or something gloriously similar. Frankly I find the notion of me aging insulting.”

“Oh what ever little man.” You poke his own mouth with your gloved hand and he tries to jerk his face away. You catch him though, and wearing a competitive line in his brow he nips at your fingertip, perfect teeth scraping your skin.

“Hey! Teeth are unfair game. Only whores bite.”

“Unfair my ass, I saw my advantage and I took it.”

“Dirty playing cunt.” You wipe his spit on his cheek and he laughs, the smile rendering a shallow dimple in his left cheek you have never noticed before.

“You will survive bro, I believe in you.”

“Whatever.” You stop rubbing your finger on his cheek and stroke your hand down his neck instead, then back up, skating your fingers admiringly over the shell of his ear. You feel your irony lag for a moment, and your affection spike in what you can only assume is a senior citizens plea for help.

“Hey Dave,” you ask, the thought occurring to you seemingly out of the blue. “Who did you go to prom with?”

He shrugs.

“Didn’t go to prom.”

“Don’t you have a girlfriend?”

“Nope.”

“Have you ever had a girlfriend?”

“No.” he gnaws his lip and looks at you in puzzlement. “Geeze, what’s with all the proby questions suddenly.”

“Oh, nothing. I just… I just realised you’ve never brought a girl home before. Egbert doesn’t count, right?”

Dave laughs and adjusts his shades.

“No, Egbert most certainly does not count. I think he’s asexual or something, he can’t even hear the words condom or orgasm without skeeving right out. It’s hilarious.”

“… uh huh.” You study him carefully, looking for a trace of lies in his expression. “So then… why no girlfriend? Am I missing something?”

“No reason.” He shrugs a response. “Not really. I have someone I like though, I’m not one of those anything goes weirdos.”

“Oh.” You are relieved to hear it. “Good. That’s good.”

“Yeah, I thought so too.” He smiles and bows his head. “I wish I could say I made more progress with them than when I asked you for help about it, but no such luck. Stupid right? I can do everything in the world but I can’t get a person to even kiss me. Not even if I make it obvious.”

“Clearly you need to make it more obvious.”

“How much more obvious.”

“I don’t know, have you even tried to make a first move? God I can’t believe I’m giving dating advice to an eighteen year old.” You stand up off the table and drop the hand by his face. “That’s lame bro.”

He shrugs, looking quite devil may care.

“Seduction is not my strong point.”

“Are you kidding? You’re a strider. Seduction is your strongest point.”

“Oh. Okay. So when was the last time you got laid then?”

You have to stop and think about that. You know it had been in a bathroom at a club…

Oh dear. That is quite embarrassing isn’t it?

“None of your business.” You defend yourself sharply. “At least I have gotten laid.”

He really doesn’t seem to care.

“I have someone I like a lot, and I talk to them a lot, and I think they like me alright too. It’s not worth ruining a relationship over, because otherwise we will be sailing on the good ship social awkwardness for a long time to come and fucked if I can be bothered with that silliness, plus no way am I getting with someone I don’t care about. I have two fingers and I know how to get myself off, I don’t see what’s the big deal about fucking.”

You groan, despairing. You have raised a romantic. You can’t help but wish these unfavourable traits had shown themselves earlier on in his rearing, when you could still stamp them out. But oh no… when he was little he was too busy being stupid with beads and stuff for you to notice anything sensually awry. Typical. Fucking typical…

“Fucking is awesome okay? Trust me you don’t want to go through your life pining after someone who won’t give it to you, it’s not worth it.”

He cocks his head cryptically and you groan. You can’t be fucked arguing this today, you have puppets to mail or something you will find something to do.

“Just make a move already.” You tell him. “it’s weird having an eighteen year old virgin slobbing around the flat all the time. Weird, and honestly kind of disappointing.”

You can’t see him eyeroll, but you know he’s doing it.

“Whatever, grandpa.”

You grit your teeth, and decide to let it be.

 

XVIII

 

You are laying down some sick beats for the first time in ages when he strikes, and he does it with the flashingest step you’ve ever seen before in your life, suddenly he is there and his hand is on your table stopping it where it was and stepping on one of your chords, so the amp makes a horrible electrical screech and you have to throw off your headphones in horror.

“What?!” you are mad, but not that mad. Not mad enough to scare him off anyway, because there he is waving a letter in your face like he’s king of everything ever on earth and smirking in that particular, most shit eating way.

“Look what I just got…” he sing songs it, passing the letter over. You snatch it, reluctantly, and give him a filthy look.

It’s a letter from his art school, dated three days earlier, pleasantly informing Dave strider that he has won the second partial monetary scholarship with five thousand dollars.

You read it, pause to look at him to gauge whether this might be a joke, and then read it again.

“You… actually won it.” you state flatly. “Wow. You actually…”

“Did I tell you I was good or did I tell you I was good? I told you, I motherfucking told-

“Me about stairs yeah okay whatever I just…” you turn off the turntables and pull up the stool behind them to sit down. “Holy shit little bro. that’s a lot of money for some pretty pictures.”

“It’s a lot of money for anything, when its cash in my hot little hand.” He rubs his thumb and two primary fingers together, looking smug as all hell and swaying a little in excitement. “But seriously though. Did I tell you, or did I-“

“Okay! You told me!” his childish reversion to unbridled excitement is sweet, and it takes a lot not to laugh at him and rumple his hair. “Okay, I’m impressed. Good job kid. Good job.” You think about it for a moment, handing the letter back. Normally, when Dave did good you would buy him pizza or something. Well, you did when he was a kid. Although that doesn’t seem enough for well… this.

You are still astonished. Five thousand dollars for drawings? Really?

“So uh… did you want to celebrate this somehow? A movie or dinner or… something?”

“Yeah actually I do.” He hops forward smoothly and throws his arms around your neck. “Kiss me.”

It wasn’t really a request so much as a statement, and he has secured his mouth on yours before you can really even interoperate the words, the tone, the everything…

There’s a fleeting moment of warmth and softness and fireworks go off behind your eyes like white light bubbles popping and spreading like ink on wet tissue. He presses against you, his fingers stroke your hair just briefly and then he’s pulling you both apart with a loud slick noise, sliding his arms away and stepping backwards.

“I’m going to John’s.” He tells you, positively glowing. “Don’t try and wait up, I might be a bit late for old folk like you.”

And he leaves you standing there lamely, taking your bike jacket off the door hook as he exits and letting the door slam in his wake. Your mouth his hot, your hands are shaking, and you can feel your knees threatening to give way under your entire weight.

Wow. Wow. You did not see that coming.

 

XVIII

 

You and Dave don’t talk about it, but you do go to his graduation. You wear a suit and everything, and you blend in well with the other parenst, sitting through the total bore of an assembly, listening to the principal drone on about success or half full glasses or who really knows you don’t even care. All you can do is sit there and stare at your little brother on stage, sitting in a neat row with the others, in black robes and a stupid hat. Hes looking very pleased with himself, wearing a smug smile and a glancing occasionally at John, who too is sitting up there in his robes.

You can’t wait for it to be over. God. It’s painful.

Finally though, the call is made, the students cheer…

You remember your graduation. It seems a million years gone away.

 

XVIII

 

 

 

 

 

PART FIVE: KISSES

 

“Hey.”

“Shit!” you almost jump out the window when you feel arms slip around your torso, and a body press lengthways against your back. “Holy shit Dave you gave me a fright!”

He laughs condescendingly and buries his face in your back.

“Sooooo cool bro.”

Flushing, you tighten your grip on the edge of the bench. Your heartbeat has not slowed since he pounced on you, and you want to strike at him for that, but decide against it, clearing your throat and trying to maintain cool persona.

“Shouldn’t you be getting hammered at the post grad party or something?”

“Hm? Oh yeah, I could do.” He gives you a firm squeeze and sighed. “But I thought it might be cooler if we chilled here instead. Watched a movie maybe? But you and I gotta go to the supermarket first.”

“… What for?”

“Champagne or something. God.”

He lets his arms slip from around you and moves around to your side.

“But first, you owe me something.”

“Pfft. What for?”

“Graduating. Think about it numbnuts.” He crooks his finger, and you turn your face to him critically. You stand there for a moment, staring at him in limbo…

You finally relent, leaning forward and pecking his lips as lightly as you can.

“Go get my keys.” You grumble, running your hand through your hair in an attempt to hide your pink face and quivering lips. “And hurry up about it.”

 

XVIII

 

Dave is curled beside you in your bed, he’s still wearing the pressed black trousers he had been wearing for his graduation, his head rests on your chest as together you watch the emperors new groove just like you have watched a million or so movies before. Or at least, that’s what it feels like. Maybe not a million… a few hundred? At least five hundred. Possibly more.

You are sharing a cheep bottle of bubbles, its so sweet you doubt it could even contain alcohol, but Dave seems to like it, swirling the pinky golden liquid in the bowl of his plastic glass. He sniffs, shuffling up beside you a little and tipping a mouthful of wine back, emptying the last of his second helping and setting the glass on your side table.

“Tastes good.” He comments, and you shrug, passing him your own half drunk helping and pulling yourself up the headboard, to stretch your arm out behind him.

“It’s not bad.”

“Hm.” He drinks this too and places the glass with the other. With the wine drunk he has an arm free to drape around your chest, which you allow, if hesitantly. You realise that right about now you are going to have to start to draw lines in the metaphorical sand, because you’re pretty sure that whatever is going on between the both of you, you suspect that it’s probably not socially acceptable in any way shape or form. Up until exactly now, you have never felt like your relationship with your brother was anything more than an average one, just like everyone else’s, but you are beginning to suspect that Dave… maybe Dave has a different opinion.

He slides closer, curling a leg around one of yours, and you swallow because oh dear that is definitely a bit far. This isn’t right, it isn’t appropriate. It’s all very in appropriate but Dave is Dave and just like always you can never, ever say no to Dave. Damnit, you would do anything for the kid, you just really wish he would stop being so… touchy. Is that normal? Maybe he’s just being ironic. Maybe.

“Hey bro.” he speaks gently, and you grit your teeth, refusing to pull your eyes from the TV.

“Yeah.”

“… I love you.” He noses the sleeve of your top, it rustles faintly and you can hear it through a dizzy cyclone of shock and anxious heartbeating. “It sounds dumb but… um…” he laughs awkwardly and rakes his hand through his hair. “Fuck. I dunno. I’ve never said it before and I just thought… yeah. Pretty much.”

You swallow, unsure if you trust yourself to respond.

“Yeah.” You reply. “Me too. Love… thing.”

Dave nods and moves, if possible, even closer. He is practically mounted on your left hip now, so high up in your grill you can feel his nose against the side of your neck and his breath down your shirt.

“I know you love me fucknuts, you told me so.”

“I did?”

You are stalling. You know you did, you remember the instance perfectly, but face it who needs words to see that Dave means everything to you. Or at least he means everything you have left. You have always…

You jump when you feel him lift your shades off your face and toss them onto the bed on your other side, propping himself up on your chest and tossing his bangs out of his own, unshaded eyes.

“Fuck off.” You try, moving your head in inability to see the movie which you are not watching anymore anyway. “I can’t see.”

“suck’s to be you, then.” He smiles a little, and a lock of blonde slips from behind his ear and tickles your face. There’s a painful moment of silence in which you have no idea what you are supposed to say or do, you just stay there sprawled against the back of the bed with your kid brother on top of you, distracted by his lips, the stroke of his cheekbones, the lightness of his hands on your breast.

This is so wrong. God oh god he had to stop.

“Dave what are you doing?”

“Trying my luck.”

“Can you stop?”

“Why? Can’t handle the irony?”

“How is this ironic? You’re hitting on me, I can tell. Stop it.”

“Why should I? I’m only doing what you told me, dick.”

“So it doesn’t bother you that you are coming on to your own brother? We’re related Dave, I changed your fucking diapers. Stop.”

Significantly shaken you shove him off. He makes a deeply indignant noise, but to show him that it’s okay, he’s a little drunk excitable and you yourself area little vulnerable, you don’t get off the bed or anything, you simply sit up straight and lotus your legs beneath you.

“You’re a good kid Dave,” you assure him as sternly as you can, and its hard because you’ve never done stern before you don’t know how. “Don’t fuck it up.”

He is silent, sitting there and looking at you like you had just spat in his face. He just… he does not look happy. Dave is not, right now, a happy man. It upsets you more than you would have liked to admit but what were you supposed to do?   

“What?” You look away, unable to relax. For some reason you are super aware of your clothing and your body weight on the bed. You don’t like it at all.

“It’s no big deal little man, just go back to watching your film. We can just forget about it okay?”

The tone with which Dave regards you suggests that actually not this is definitely not okay.

“Um no. Can we not forget about it? Like, ever?”

“Huh?”

“Can we not forget about it? Please? Because I really like you and well fuck me for thinking that you weren’t a total jerkoff under all the cunt. Fucking hell. Fucking hell bro.”

You are startled to have a pillow thrown forcibly at your head, and feel the weight on your bed shift as he moves off.

“Burn in hell.”

The words feel like a kick to the already churning gut.

 

XVIII

 

You’ve blown it. You’ve blown it like a whore at a stag doo and now you haven’t got a single idea regarding how you are supposed to make it better. You sit up long after the movie ends, right through the credits until it rolls back to the menu screen, and you really don’t feel like you can listen to that annoying tune one more time.

A heavy thump from the kitchen rouses you from your semi-coma, you think briefly as to what it may be, and then slide off your bed in haste. Dave’s up to something, and you aren’t sure what. You’ve never seen him that upset before, you aren’t sure how he might react…

But when you crack open your door and peek out, you see nothing. Nothing at all…

Except a slice of warm yellow light from the kitchen, suggesting that he is in the fridge, messing around with your shit.

You go to call to him, but can’t get the words out. Instead, you exit your room and move toward the kitchen, as the light cuts out, the sound of the fridge resealing echoing over the drone of the DVD in your bedroom. When you get to the kitchen, it is only the uncurtianed window that silhouettes your younger sibling, standing at the bench and unscrewing the top of his bottle of faggot tea and setting the cap on the bench. The air is stuffy with the sense of someone crying, that particular atmosphere that you cannot quite place your finger on but you can tell its there, something that falls below the conscious radar but you can feel it, on your skin, and on your back. Its not you, it must be Dave, and though he must know you have moved into the kitchen behind him he says nothing at all, taking a mouthful from his bottle of tea and rescrewing the lid. You approach him hesitantly, and upon reaching his side lean against the bench, blocking him into the corner crook of the jutting breakfast bar. He’s trapped, and this makes you feel a little more secure, though he doesn’t react visibly you can feel him shrink away emotion wise, turning his chin up just a little, to hide his greyscale cast face. The lack of shades makes him look ridiculously younger.

“Little man… Dave.” You sigh and brush your hand through his hair gently, trying not to be hurt when he jerks away from your touch. “Don’t, can you just listen to me for a sec? You’re being a complete ass right now.”

He presses his lips tighter together, but does not respond. You sigh, and try to think about how to say this.

“Dave, bro, its not… its not like I haven’t thought about it, okay?” this is a subtle lie. You’ve never thought about it, in such specific terms, but you can’t deny that the ghost of such ponderings have never been far from your mind. Perhaps they have always been there, growing so gradually that you didn’t even notice, to erupt some day in the future in a spectacular mess of unspeakable actions and unrequitable feelings. Dave is the only person you have ever truly cared for.

“It’s not like I haven’t thought about it, but its not as simple as you are making it. its not like something you can just do, like draw a picture or lay down a mix. It’s more complicated than that. For a lot of reasons.”

He laughs sardonically, clearly not believing a single word, and you notice that he is jiggling his leg, a gesture of agitation you recall from his earlier teenaged years, perhaps when he was often bullied, or had failed a test, or something.

“Na man it’s not complicated at all.”

“It is.”

“It’s not complicated! Oh my god Bro, how is this complicated.”

In an unexpected and swift motion he turns to face you chest to chest, wrenching your hand off the cold hard bench top and pressing it roughly against his breastbone. He is flimsy and delicate under you, but you can feel the throb of his heartbeat faintly through bone cage and cotton. It’s urgent, distressed, but firm and powerful. Your own heart skips a beat, the gesture taking you back years, to holding this man in your arms, a tiny fraction of what he would someday be, and feeling him pulse like a tiny heart in his own right. Alive, elusive, precious.

“I really just…. I love you, okay? So much. You can’t imagine… I just…”

He flounders for words, and this disturbs you deeply because Dave was never short on words. Ever. You hate to see him like this, it makes you feel ill, distressed, like you’re having your guts wrenched through a laundry roller, but you aren’t sure what he expects you to do. You feel even worse when he sniffs deeply, his silent tears breaking into shaking sobs, the chest on which your hand rests quivering fearfully.

“Do you hate me?” he manages, after what seems like forever. You bite your tongue, thinking that for so late it was considerably hot, and curl your fingers into his shirt.

“Of course I don’t hate you. I could never.”

The idea of hating Dave horrifies you.

He sniffs, it’s a disgusting noise but you don’t notice, and releases your hand to rub at his eyes pitifully.

“I’m sorry.” He confesses. “I really am.”

And you exhale, feeling like the two of you may just have passed a very significant, very dark stage in your relationship, through unknown doors to unknown places, and while you aren’t yet sure where you stand you are relived to have it through with, at least until next time, the next dilemma, the next time…

For now you run your hand up to cradle his face, sweeping away tears with the pad of your thumb and wondering if it would be appropriate to give him a kiss, or to embrace him, or anything to make him feel okay. Because it is. Its okay. It’s okay…

It’s not okay, really, but you have to let him believe it is. You don’t know if you can deal with any more emotional Dave. Emotional Dave is a startling and difficult thing, and frankly he scares you.

Stiffly you kiss his forehead, his hair smells really nice, but you don’t stay there long enough to enjoy it.

“Come back to bed.” You tell him softly. “We can talk about it in the morning.”

 

XVIII

 

You do not talk about it in the morning. You don’t talk about it for several mornings, but you both know what’s happening and you both understand what it means. It’s difficult, in the summer. Dave is home almost every day, and you run into each other often, passing awkwardly in the hall like a pair of former lovers with a bad breakup under their belts, but it wasn’t, because you didn’t, you were just two siblings with a big dark secret, and that in a way was worse.

Much worse.

There’s something scary, but thrilling, about the way his calf touches yours when he sits beside you on the sofa, and how he drifts around you when you do the dishes together, only to be swept away again in a split second of time. He is inconsistent, one moment he’s there and the next he’s not, and you look for him when he’s gone, but try to pretend he doesn’t exist when he’s around. You communicate briefly, asking him about how his preparing for Art School is going, asking him how his friends are, requesting that he pick up some raspberry jam at the supermarket, when he goes into town, and he responds in a deadpan, almost too careless manner. Its scary alright, but once again, it’s profoundly thrilling.

August brings long hot days, in which you find yourself sprawled half naked on the sofa with the window open and ice bags on your stomach, the stagnant breeze barely rotating the blades of your broken ceiling fan, your sweat sticking you to the back of the sofa on which you sprawl. It also brings Dave in his underwear, and though he rarely leaves his room undressed you catch him a few times, slinking to the kitchen when he thinks you are in the shower, or out, looking like a complete and utter cumslut with his hips prominent and shining, his little ass filling out the seams of boyish shorties.

“Hey bro.”

It is on a day of such unfathomable heat that he startles you, approaching your sofa dressed in a red t-shirt and black jeans, shades bperches innocently on top of his head. “it’s a nice day. Do you wanna go ouside?”

“… outside where?”

“Wherever. The park?”

I thought we could talk.

He doesn’t say this, but you understand the meaning instantly.

“Yeah I suppose. Let me get dressed first.”

You heave yourself up, and slouch into your room. There’s a tank top and some cargo shorts in your laundry basket, which you employ immediately, and your cap is on your computer chair, soon to be installed on your head. Comfortably public-appropriate, you wander back out and grab your phone off the coffee table. Dave is by the door, playing with the earphones of his iPod.

“Good to go little man?”

“Sure.” He stands up off the wall, and gestures you out the door.

It’s odd to go outside, you haven’t left the house for maybe a week, but its pleasant. There are people about, and the tall buildings around your area keep the harsh sun out, and you feel no pressure to talk to your brother he’s happy to just walk beside you, listening to his music. You catch a glimpse of your reflections in a window as you pass, and it actually takes you a moment to figure out which reflection belonged to whom. Dave looks so much like you do in the face it’s scary, you privately hope he also received your ability to look endlessly young. In your thirties, you are still asked for ID when buying alcohol at a supermarket.

If only you felt so young as you looked, when you had to scrape yourself out of bed each morning,

The park to which Dave wordlessly guides you is one of the few places in the city lush with old oak trees and grass that stayed green and long underfoot even in the driest of summers. It is close to the council building, in the centre of the city, and so the sound of traffic is never far off even if you are unable to see the roads through the trees. There are plenty of people there, with kids and dogs, and you pass by a playground on your way, one you took Dave to, when he was only a small tyke, but had been unable to take him back since the time some punkass kid with fat cheeks and an ugly face had pushed him off the swing. This memory stirs feelings of sentimentality in you, you hit his arm as you pass, and he pops out one of the buds in his ears to listen. You hear the buzz of his music faintly, over the sound of kids playing.

“Remember this place?” you ask him. “I brought you here a few times.”

He stares at you unreadably from behind his glasses and tilts his head.

“I think so.” He responds after a while. “I used to like that pogo ride didn’t I? The bird one?”

“Yeah.” You grin, seeing the pink flamingo pogo ride in question, its paint faded and chipped since he had last ridden it. “Even when you were a brat you had an eye for the ironic.”

“I don’t think I liked it cause it was ironic, I think I liked it because it’s the coolest fucking ride in the park, no arguments.”

“Wanna go?” you half tease him. “Or are you scared you will break it with your fat ass?”

“Fuck off, I know I will break it but it won’t be on account of my fat ass. That shit can’t even handle me right now.”

You scoff.

“Whatever.”

When you reach the other side of the park, closer to the business district and further from the main roads and shopping arcade, you spot a wooden park bench, under a large shaded tree which looked like it would be heaven to sit under, get a little relief from the sweat inducing sun pounding down on you both from the heavens. Hell, you haven’t been out in sunlight like this for so long that your shoulders aren’t even freckled. All the ones you had in your youth have faded into whiteness. Such delicate skin can’t take too much UVA so soon.

“Hey.” You point to the seat and he shrugs, and walking in an uncannily similar lope you migrate toward it, stepping into the salvation of the shade and dropping into the cool wooden hammock for your ass. He stands there and watches you for a moment, and rolling your eyes behind your glasses you sigh, flinging your arm over the back of the chair and jerking your head for him to sit next to you. He grates his teeth over his lip lightly, and does, settling down and then to your initial shock and embarrassed acceptance, taking your arm off the back of the seat and looping it around his shoulder.

“I’m cold.” He lies, tossing his head in a dare to contradict him. You put aside your startlement, and shrug.

“Okey dokey little man.”

And you cast your gaze over the park, glad that this is not so awkward, when you and Dave aren’t alone.

You think you are beginning to understand why Dave wanted the two of you to leave the house. Things certainly were getting fraught in there, when you two were the only people each other saw.

“So.” He remarks casually, after a comfortable pause. “I thought we could talk a bit? You know, get some shit off our chests.”

“Yeah, okay.” It’s surprisingly easy to accept what you are about to converse about, when you are out here in the open. Anyone could hear you, but it is precisely this that assures you they won’t. Such is the beauty of hiding your deepest shame in plain sight.

“So do you wanna start?”

“Nah, you.” you glance at him, and observe that he looks well composed and casual on the surface, though he is playing with his bracelet and this betrays some unsurity.

“Sure, okay. That’s cool I guess.” He inhales and puffs his cheeks, looking for a way to phrase this…

“So about us.” He settles on eventually. “what’s happening there? You haven’t um… you haven’t said no yet, that’s all.”

“yeah, nah I haven’t have I?” you think, letting your head drop back, your focus drawing to the quivering filaments of leafy green quivering on the web of branches above you. “Haven’t said yes either.”

“Well do you want to give me an answer? Because that’s kind of what I’ve been waiting for and so far you’ve been holding out on me like the pope holds out on the rest of the Catholics out there.”

You frown at this analogy. Since when has Dave thought in theological (and controversial) analogies?

“Um, yeah, sure I guess.”

He is quiet, and your heart begins pulsing a little faster for the first time.

“So… that’s your answer then. Sure?”

“No.” you decline, because that’s not your answer that was just your agreement with his comparison. You don’t really exactly know your answer yet. It’s hard to know your answer when neither of you have really said out loud what’s going on. “No its not.”

“So what is your answer?”

“I dunno. You haven’t really asked me a question.”

You realise you are being an asshole, but really you are buying time. This is hard. Oh dear this is hard. You continue on.

“Like I said, its not like… I haven’t considered. Like… its pretty obvious what’s going on here.”

It’s not really. It’s not really at all.

“But then, it ain’t that easy either. I still don’t really understand…”

“On your part or mine?”

“Both, really.” You jam the hand not resting on his upper arm into your pocket and adjust yourself in the seat. “it’s just… it seems pretty messed up to me.”

“How is it messed up?”

You arch your eyebrows at the obvious question.

“Wow Dave, are you kidding?”

It’s clear from the serious line of his lips that he is not. You wish you were more gifted, when it came to expressing the thoughts that happened to sit on your mind.

“It ain’t right kid. You know that?”

“I know that.”

“So why? It’s just. Not right.”

He sits there for a moment, studying you. Long enough for two joggers to run behind your bench, not sparing you either a glance. Eventually, he speaks.

“First of all, just because something I know isn’t right doesn’t mean I feel it isn’t right. And second, since when have you given a single rats ass about what’s right? What happened to bro lives-by-his-own-rules-Strider? Or did he disappear with your inclination to do anything besides lie on the sofa all day like a fatcunt and criticize the assholes who go on the Jerry Springer show?”

“A lot of those assholes deserve criticizing, that’s why they go on the Jerry Springer show.” You try and maintain your cool façade for as long as you can, though Dave’s observation on the whole matter had shaken you somewhat noticeably.

“Nice subject change, slim shady.”

“I was getting there! Geeze.” Defensive and suddenly suspicious you lean closer, dropping your head and your voice so you are whispering in his ear, and only he can hear it. “But I just need to clarify. We are thinking about the same issue here, aren’t we? About you and me…”

“We are talking about in- ow!“

“Sh!” you silence him, punching his arm so he drops the word, and gives you a filthy look.

“What was that for?”

“Don’t say it out loud.” You tell him firmly. “Not yet. You could have just said yes.”

“But then how do I know we are talking about the same- OW!”

You punch him slightly harder this time, not enough to bruise, or really hurt at all, but you are immediately glad that you have raised, even accidently, a whimp, who though capable preferred complicated word smithing to actual conflict.

“It’s chill, little bro. its chill. Wanna go get some ice-cream, I’m sweating fucking bad over here.”

He scowls at you, having never mastered your flawless pokerface himself, and rubs his arm.

“Whatever. But we haven’t finished talking yet, have we?”

No, you really have not.

 

XVIII

 

You two talk again some evenings later, the temperature has dropped and so you close the window, wearing a t-shirt and shorts as you lie on the sofa and switch between watching the price is right and Dave, cross legged at the coffee table constructing a kandikini. You have finally figured out wheat he’s being doing with the stuff he’s been more recently making; he’s been visiting some clubs around town early evening, and giving them to the proprietors in exchange for money, so they can then pass them out to patrons. This you are pretty sure contradicts the entire principle of kandi culture, and you consider it a little disrespectful, but do not bring it up because really Dave is passed the stage of really caring about clubbing. He has talent, sure, and if some day he wants to pursue a career in underground entertainment he’s a shoe in, but for now the thrill of the rave is faded, all he has left of it is fond memories and a skill he can use to his advantage. At least until he begins his jewellery course in a couple of weeks, and then you suppose he will be putting aside his plastic altogether, replacing it with glass and butterfly clasps and crimping pliers.

You suspect that Dave had taken your suggestion of the jewellery course with a spoonful less irony than he should have, the letter saying that he had been accepted into this course plus darkroom photography, digital photography master class, and traditional drawing stuck to the fridge with one of the oldest magnets you have, a Spiderman one that came with the bread bag once, as some kind of promotion. He stuck it there as a casual reminder to himself, you believe it boosts his moral because since the day at the park you and him in terms of conversation, or any inclination of hope he might have, has been a total dessert.

Or at least to him. he has no way of knowing the maelstrom of confused thoughts and feelings rumbling around your mind, he is much to busy seeing you blank and intimidating, as you always have been.

Because you see it now, you can feel it. Really feel it. You feel the electric touch of his eyes on your skin, you feel the way he moves, the way he breathes, the way he walks and sits and is. And you don’t just feel it physically either, you feel it somehow else, deeply and expressively on a level of sensory experience yet unexplored. Its like the way you hear that electronic buzz, when the only appliance on in a silent apartment screams to you in a way you can’t describe as audible but you know its there. You know it.

Its frustrating, but exhilarating. Helplessly exciting, because the more you think about it the more you get worked up, the more you comb your hand through your hair and the more you cross and uncross your legs, and the more you do that the more he looks at you, and the more you looks at you the worse it gets until one evening you are so desperately stricken with static that you absolutely can’t sit still, and you end up sliding off the sofa and next to him, creeping so close that you are practically breathing down his neck.

“Looks good kid. What’s it for?”

“You put tits in it.” he tells you simply, and you quirk your lip.

“I put tits in it? Why don’t you put tits in it.”

“I don’t have tits.”

“Not your tits.”

He hesitates, and you cock your eyebrow.

“I don’t like tits.” He states simply, reaching for another handful of beads. You pull a face, already knowing this, and lean closer.

You suppose you shouldn’t really feel this comfort, being close to him, but his proximity is easing the tingle and he smells lovely and you just feel so good, his skinship, though distant, is just beyond your reach and right now you could just touch it. You could just put your hand out and do it, and he would let you…

“So what? You confess to being a faggot?”

“Pretty much.”  He sighs as though he doesn’t really care and erects himself, flexing his shoulders and removing his shades.  “At least I’m not in denial.”

“Who’s in denial?”

He gives you a mordant look, and you wiggle your eyebrows as if to egg him on.

“I’m not in denial little bro. But I’m definitely not a homo.”

“I never said you were.” He blinks and his lashes flutter. “take ‘em off bro.”

You are startled for a moment, not understanding.

“Huh?”

“The shades. Loose ‘em.”

“Oh.” You are both relieved and disappointed at his meaning. “Right. Whatever.”

You do so, and he gives you a little smile.

“You have lines around your eyes.”

“I do not.”

“You do. But don’t freak out they don’t look bad. Besides. Smile lines.” He screws up his nose. “Not that you ever smile.”

“I smile plenty, just usually not… outwardly.”

This earns a scoff. He leans back, supporting himself on his arms.

“Do I make you smile?”

You have to pause before you answer this, unable to tell if it’s a trap. It sounds like a trap. Anyone with half a brain can tell it’s a trap…

“Course you do kid. All the time.”

This makes him smile, and Dave has a positively gorgeous smile. It shines in his eyes, and you think that it’s a bit of a shame that this is usually hidden behind his glasses.

“Yeah, I’m pretty great aren’t I?”

“Pfft. No. not even.”

He shrieks when you pounce on his waist and try to tickle him. you haven’t tickled him for ages, and are surprised to note that he is still sensitive, his cool shattering to a million glassy shards, his foot flailing helplessly and sending a flay of beads all over the carpet when he kicked his container full.

“Oh my GOD stop IIIIT!”

“Psh.”

“fucking STOP it fuck fuck fuck FUCK YOU MAN!” you don’t think he is anywhere near as angry as the words he’s spewing as you wrestle, working his sides up to his chest and underarms, darting with all your speedy prowess to places that you think will respond well. He misbalances, you follow him down, pinning him to the floor and destroying him to the backing track of swears and empty threats choked between laughter you absolutely love.

“Fuck you man!” he repeats it, struggling and hitting your chest and clawing your face but doing no damage at all really. You ease off and his struggling dies down, fading to heavy panting and flushed cheeks. His shades slip off his head and land on the polished wood floor with a click.

“Fuck you.” he breaths it in time with his heaving chest, and you give him a smarmy, self satisfied sort of a look.

“Fuck you.” it’s repeated helplessly as he lets his hands fall back, framing his face against the floor. “Goddamnit old man.”

“Mm.” you study him closely, running your gaze over his face but repeatedly drawn back to his lips, which are full, dark, and silky with wetness. “You still mad you can’t beat me little bro?”

“Are you kidding? I’m mad you still haven’t kissed me.”

You decide that just this once you will give a dog a bone, and you do.

It’s unanimously the best and worst decision of your legendary life.

 

XVIII

 

Unsurprisingly, Dave does not want to move out, rather he resumes his life as a high school graduate and art student in much the same manner he would have resumed his life otherwise, and this doesn’t bother you all that much because it means that you can still creep up on him and embrace him from behind, and watch stupid movies together, and listen to him mix music lazily, if the inclination took him.

It also means that Dave has let himself become even more of an installation in the house, and honestly you are surprised. You would have thought after eighteen years of living here he would have been about as ingrained into the woodwork as it is possible to be, and yet as the days wear on you are beginning to notice the place become even more Daveish than usual, be it the black and white photographs you come home to in the hall one evening, the underwear thrown lazily into the corner of the bathroom after he showers, or the shampoo which he has started to leave in the shower even though up until now it had only been you who did that. Dave’s shampoo usually lived in his room, with his shower gel, deodorant, and the rest of his queer smelling body products.

You observe that he has changed brands, since you last bought him shampoo four or so years ago. The new stuff looks considerably more expensive, something he must have gotten with his own pocket money and Kandi funds, and its specialised for blonde hair. You are in the shower when you notice this, and are so intrigued by the suave packaging that you pick it up and read the label.

Lively blonde colour boosting shampoo.

Wow. Weird. You hope distinctly that this is ironic.

You pop open the cap and have a sniff.

It smells great. Not fruity or flowery, but sweetly chemical, like most shampoos do. If you had to say so, you think there might be a trace of something honeycomb toffee in there? But you wouldn’t put your money on it.

Besides, who cares about what was in the smell, what was important was that you recognised the smell.

You stand there sniffing it appreciatively for a moment longer, before you realise that its making you feel a bit peculiar between the pins, which doesn’t bother you but you think should probably stop. Its just not appropriate, okay? No matter what Dave says, or what questionable behaviours the two of you practice, you feel that up until this point you have executed all your actions with flawless reasonability and fair, justifiable restraint.

You’ve done a good job, and the thought of throwing away what you have only just come to accept recently for something else makes you distinctly uncomfortable. Things are perfect just the way they are, thank you very much. You and Dave are in a good place. A comfortable place. You can carry on like this without a problem, neither siblings, nor something more, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, especially not you or him. he’s still fine, like a toy in its packaging, which like a good fan you refuse to open, but sleep tightly with it tucked under your pillow.

You set the shampoo back on the shelf and dry off, swaggering back to your bedroom with the towel wound around your waist. Dave is in the lounge playing xbox, but he does not pay you any attention as you slip past, to busy yacking on the headphones to John, who is probably on the other side of the country by now.

You fistbump Cal absently as you cloister yourself, and drop your towel onto the floor, unsure what you are supposed to do with yourself right now.

You swear when you realise you forgot to wash your hair.

 

IXX

 

Chirstmas eve.

It’s cosy, and you think you have never had a better night.

You and Dave elected to spend the whole day together, because he had been at lectures for his birthday and then that same night gone drinking with friends, and so you are indulging in the quiet times you can share here and now, drinking hot chocolate ironically and watching Christmas with the Kranks or Cranks or whatever who really cares anyway in your room. Peacefully he lies on the sofa, with his head in your lap, and you nurse his hair absently, touching his forehead, stroking the light curve of his eyebrows, and once even, when you dare, his lips, which have been fascinating you significan’tly more lately.

“Bro can you not.” He bites your fingertips and you snatch your hand away.

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Cause those are my lips. They have very particular functions and shit.”

“What kind of functions.”

“God, bro, not too many difficult questions at once.”

He flicks his eyes to your face and your heart shocks. You don’t break the contact, though the effect is faded thanks to your shades. Your hand caresses the side of his face, and you dear to ghost your thumb over his bottom lip.

“Answer it and you can ask me something.”

“No deal. Fuck off.” He pushes your hand away, but snuggles closer into your lap. You return to stroking his hair, distracted by little besides the feeling of his breath easing over your thigh. You are comforted by his closeness, but also discomforted by it. You hope that soon things might balance out, that you might reach some kind of equilibrium…

You doubt it. the longer you sit there with his head on your body you the more you become aware of it, a quiver that sets itself deep in your pelvis and floods your body gradually, a thumping, muffled feeling of warmth that you always associated with perhaps wanting to kiss. To touch. To make love…

Your grip in his hair tightens briefly, but you don’t say or do anything, simply remaining where you are and trying to concentrate on the feeling, magnify it, expand it, feel it in every cell of your being. You think of how it would feel for him to slide his hand up your thigh and press into you, how warm his hands were, what his grip might be like, how gently his tongue would curl around the tip of your penis and-

No. no no no not right now. You can’t think about that, however much you want.

He senses a change in the tension of your hand, and responds to it, yielding his head and sighing softly.

“How’s your study going?” you ask him, attempting to distract yourself “alright?”

“Yeah, fine. Getting it done.”

“Enjoying it?”

“Yeah I love it. I’m the only boy in the jewellery class though.”

“I’m sure that’s true.” You are touched with fondness to hear this, and you decide he is old enough now to be told what you really think. “You know I’m proud of you, that you did that course.”

“Why? Taking irony to new levels?”

“No. because… I dunno. You really love it. I like seeing you pursue what you like doing.” You pause for a moment and chuckle. “Why do you think I spent all that money on cameras and mix tables and VIP passes to clubs I would honestly have preferred you never even went near.”

He flicks his tongue over his lip and tries not to look pleased.

“Yeah…even though you’re pretty much the biggest asshole ever you’re still the coolest.”

“Aren’t I just?” you bow closer, catching a curl of his perfume, a curious twist of his shampoo and the eau du he favours, and its exhilarating.

“Yeah…” he looks at you, reaches for your face, and strokes his hand over the side of your cheek lovingly. “But you know what I love more than that?”

“Sure do little man.” You let him pull off your shades as he has so many times before. They are dropped carefully onto the coffee table and he props himself up, closer to your face and closer to you. “Merry Christmas.”

You let him kiss you, briefly, like the chaste kisses you have shared before, but when he goes to pull away you hold him there, pressing your mouth on his once more. He makes a soft noise and sits up a little, grabbing your face and jerking his head back probably uncomfortably so that you can kiss again. The awkward angle makes it hard to continue, so you pause the kiss with a gentle suck to the point of his upper lip, promising more when he moves a little to make it more ergonomic.

“Oh wow.” He sits up straight, back to you, and shakes his hair out. “Sorry I-“

“Hey I’m not finished yet!” you secure your arms around his waist and pull him into you, fluttering your kisses over his neck and cheek “this is my Christmas gift too.”

You turn his face to yours, holding his chin in one gloved hand and secure another kiss, except this time, instead of keeping your lips closed like you could pass it off as simple brotherly affection, you let them part a little, your tongue tasting the soft curve of his mouth for the first time. His lips are smooth, not chapped at all, and free from sticky lipgloss or lipstick or anything besides the flavour, that beautiful, gentle flavour.

“Oh my god bro…”

He half giggles, half whines at you, when you part to breathe. You smile.

“I have a name you know.”

“It’s weird, since when have I called you by your name?”

“You can’t call me bro when I’m macking on you kid.”

“You can’t call me kid when I’m letting you.”

You hesitate, not wanting to forgo the term of endearment you to which you were so attatched.

“Can you just say it once? Just once?”

He looks at you unreadably for a moment, and then sighs.

“Dirk.”

It sounds nice on his lips, but doesn’t quite have the same feeling to it. It’s strange… you like it but…

You think that right now you just want to kiss your brother.

“Never mind kid, the first way was better.”

You can tell by the sneaking smile on the corners of his lips that he agrees whole heartedly.

 

IXX

 

“Is this weird?” he asks you, swaying into the sitting room Christmas morning wearing an ironic Santa hat and carrying a cold beer for you and glass of iced tea for him. you look up from your position under your fantastic lush green plastic tree, decked out on blinking lights and tinsel, and set the PS3 game you are studying down on the floor, with the other jumbles of gifts he had gotten you. They are typical brotherly things. Games, socks, that sparkly green kids toothpaste you like, and a keychain you suppose he made himself with orange beads. You got him a Nintendo DS and some new jeans, the old ones are too short and expose his ankles, but you’re pretty happy with the amount of leg he’s exposing right now. He hasn’t changed out of his boxer shorts yet. But neither have you.

“Yeah it’s pretty fucked up.” You take your beer as he drops beside you and crack it open. He shrugs and brushes a strand of felled hair off your shoulder.

“Does it bother you?”

You shrug.

“A little.” Happy with your haul, you sip your beer and eye the mess of wrapping paper cast all over the floor. “Does it bother you?”

“No.” he kisses your cheek simply and sighs. “Not at all.”

 

IXX

 

 

 

 

 

PART SIX: SEX

 

“Don’t turn around.”

You almost shit your pants when hands clip over your shades, slipping them off and tossing them god only knows where. Someone warm and slender is pressing against you from behind, although you have a distinct suspicion who.

“Do you mind?” you are trying to sort the old food from the swords in the fridge, and it’s not an easy feat when his hands are blinding you. “I’m cleaning this shit right here.”

“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t fucking notice.” He tugs you backward, you hear the fridge door thumping shut over the low drone of the rain outside. It doesn’t often rain around your town, and you suppose that you should have anticipated Dave to try something. He tended to be weird in the rain. Like a cat before a lightning storm. Generally… skittish.

“I guess I will just back off then, go slinking back to my room without sneaking my hand in your pants and jerking your dick ‘til you cum.”

Woah fuck.

Fuuuck.

“What?”

“I said I’m going to wank you. Or, I was going to. But seeing as you don’t want it I think I will just piss off. Back to the kingdom of Dave and stroke one out alone.”

“Whoa hey no! Hold up!” you try to pry his hands off your eyes with minimum success. “I didn’t say no little bro.”

“Didn’t say yes either.”

“Well I wasn’t really expecting to be blindsided. Can you… the hands?”

“Nope.”

You want to punch the smirk in his voice right out of him. But also you want to suck it clean off his face.

“Why not?”

“It’s less weird for you if you can’t see me, right?”

You suppose this is true. The two of you haven’t gotten hot and heavy yet, besides long nights spent kissing and licking each others mouths until they hurt, but you did find it a lot easier to do this sort of thing when you can’t see his face. The man who you ravish, who you adore and take extreme pleasure in reducing to a breathless little doll beneath you is your blood, your flesh and your bone, but he’s not the same child you changed as a baby, or walked with every day to school. He’s changing, he’s dynamic, he’s unpredictable and here you are, at his mercy.

Good god that’s hot.

“Yeah. I guess.”

“Then go with this. Just listen. Think about it, listen to my hot fuck voice and imagine how it would sound moaning the shit out of your name.”

“Oh fuck kid.” You laugh, not because you are amused but because of the genuine irony of the situation. How many times have you used that voice before? Those words… “you’re pretty good.”

“I had the best teacher.”

He removes his hands, obviously trusting you not to look at him, and smoothes his hands clumsily over your chest. You can feel his breath on the back of your neck, and decide it might be fun to see where he goes with this.

“What else do you know?”

“Nothing much, I’m still waiting for him to fuck me, then we will see.”

“You got a dirty mouth you little cunt. Your big bro should have taught you better.”

“My big bro is a filthy pervert, he wouldn’t know better if it bit his ass.”

This really makes you laugh. God he was a killer this one.

“Says the man threatening to spank my weasel.”

“Spank it good old man, real goddamned good.”

You flip right out when his tongue strikes up the side of your neck, and suddenly the harsh light of the kitchen overhead lamp is inappropriate. You just want to be isolated, in the dark with only his warmth, his body, and the sound of the rain.

Shit, you are becoming a romantic in your old age. You remember, once, despairing that you had raised one. Fancy that.

You let your eyes flicker closed.

“Shit man.”

“Shut up, you don’t need to commentate everything.”

He moves his right hand lower, a mirror to your favoured one, your left, which creeps shyly down his thigh and secures on his leg, and leaves it lightly, just above your belly button.

“Just focus on my voice. My words. The voice and words you gave me. Hear it? I sound like you. I fucking love how I sound like you. “

“Trippy shit…”

“Shh you’re commentating again. Just focus on my voice…”

He is silent for a moment then, so your ears are left trying to listen for a voice that is withholding, biting the silence, just beginning to tease your senses in every single way.

When it comes again, it is different. It is softer, rougher, but much fuller. You hear it deep down in the core of your soul.

“Think about how good it will feel, the day you let me do it. About my fingers, sliding over your hips and the waist of your shitty jeans. I got nice fingers, don’t you think bro?” in inquiry, he slides them up to your neck and your wolfish grin broadens. He does have nice fingers, they are reasonable, sensible, good for clit flicking or ass poking or whatever tickles his particular fancy. And he has nice nails, rounded and smooth, and you can feel them sliding over your skin.

You remember what he said about keeping quiet, and do precisely that.

“Think about those fingers curling around your cock, tightening them, pulling it gently until you’re totally hard. Its good right? I’m good with my hands. Fucking good. I’ve danced alone for years, to the beat of my palm. You’re a good DJ but I bet you don’t know what its like to really feel the hammer of that bass.”

Fucking shit he’s good at this. Perhaps that mad vocabulary had a purpose after all. Beyond laying down sick rhymes, anyway. Which now you think about it he hasn’t done for a while.

You know he still writes, Dave’s always been a writer, but honestly you’ve never been interested. Right now you are happy to just listen to the roll of sounds.

“But I’m going to show you how. What’s it like when you do it, by the way? You were a damn good teacher bro but you never told me how. I had to work it out all by my self. One night too many thinking about your lips, ‘cause those bastards are fucking ace. Best lips. Like rose petals or some other queer shit except gayer because they are attached to your faggot face.”

God, okay. He was going to have to be a little lighter on the dirty talk if he wanted to get you on the road to bonersville.

“Bro, chill out, I’m here, I’m listening. You don’t need to slam me so hard. There’s no ice in that freezer that’s cold enough for all these burns you’re laying down.”

He hesitates, his breath quivering for just a moment, before he exhales again, softly, and the rain outside lifts in volume.

“Fuck. Right. My bad .”

“It’s okay.” It’s comforting to hear him unsure again, and you are glad to give him this one last piece of advice. “Try again. Don’t force so much this time.”

“Right.” He clears his throat and starts again. “Where was I?”

“You were giving me the handjob to end all handjobs, I believe. And suck my ear.”

“What?”

“Just do it. I’ll show you later, but do it now.”

Unsurely, and still unseen behind you, he leans closer and presses his mouth against the shell of your right ear. Its cute, and it tickles.

“Keep going.” You murmur, squeezing his thigh lightly. “you’re doing good little bro.”

“Okay. You want me to keep going?”

“Course I do. Fuck kid I’m standing in the kitchen with my eyes closed waiting for you to get me off, if it doesn’t happen I’m going to be real fucking pissed.”

“Get you off? How do you propose I do that? Do you want me to use my hand or… shall I suck your cock?”

He exhales and flicks his tongue out to lick the lobe of your ear.

“Do you want me to lick your dick like an ice pop, rubbing your balls, stroking the base where my mouth can’t reach? ‘Cause I can do that too, okay? I can stuff my mouth with you, swallow you as best I can. Do you want that?”

Yeah you want that. And you feel like he might want that too, because you can feel his dick pressed on your ass like a railroad spike.

“I wouldn’t hate that.”

“Good. Great. Spanking, after that mouthful I can stick in my ass and all, ride that motherfucker like a pony. God bro. Fuck.” His mouth on your neck is hot hot hot.

“Fuck I want to touch you.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah.”

“You can’t.”

“… I know.” He grips you closer to his body, his arms shaking just a little, “I know.”

You feel every thread of pain in his voice.

 

IXX

 

January brings a storm, the stray edge of a hurricane or something who knows, and the cold is an excuse for him to creep into your bed in the middle of the night. Of course, this is a surprise when you wake up in the morning, but not an unwelcome one. When the grey, cosy light from outside sneaks between the gaps in your curtains, and your brother is illuminated just right, he’s beautiful, peaceful, the embodiment of all that you love.

You lie there, studying him for a long while, the way in which his hair falls on the pillow, a whitish gold which shines even in the cool, the way his long lashes sweep his cheeks, which are freckled, the pale line of them curving where his shades protected his face.

He sleeps curled, like you do, and his breath wavers over the pillowcase, the sheets rising and falling in time. Adorable.

You want him.

You want him in a way that aches, a forbidden sweet way, more colourful than his creations, more moving than your music. You want him. you want to kiss him, hold him, touch him. You want to hear him short of breath, sighing in bliss, you want to watch his face when he cums, not just once but a million times.

You aren’t sure why you are so overwhelmed by it this morning. Perhaps it is the fugitive way he has intruded, the naive belief that you aren’t going to whack him in the face with a pillow for daring.

Gently, more lovingly than you ever would if he was awake, you caress his face. His cheek becomes his jaw, his jaw his neck, and he jerks his head, disturbed, but un-waking. His sigh of breath stirs you deeply.

Shyly you lean closer and kiss his forehead, a butterfly kiss, followed by a peck to his lips, then his cheek, then his jaw. This must have perturbed him a bit, because he groans lightly and rolls over, onto his back. The sheets pull, and a light sound of amusement slips you. You kiss his temple, and smooth down the blankets over his body.

What can you do? Yu have to do something. It’s driving you mad. You’re hot, you’re restless, you’re horny as all hell, and there’s only one thing that can satisfy you.

It’s him.

This has gone on to long, straw on straw, detail on detail, increments one by increment more.

You’re gunna suck that dick.

You’re gunna suck that mans dick until he’s screaming your name. But once. Just once. You swear.

The sheets balloon as you pull them over your head, and you stop only briefly to kiss his clothed stomach on your way down. His underwear is light and you pull it aside with little care because roughness doesn’t matter, he’s going to be awake soon enough anyway.

Once the monster is unleashed, it’s unleashed. That’s the way. The only way. You haven’t preformed any sexual acts for years. This is going to be good.

“fucking shit bro what- oh!” he yelps in a ridiculously uncool way when you dive between his legs and lick the joint between pelvis and inner thigh, sucking your mouth hungrily to the root of his dick and twirling your tongue briefly in his clean blonde pubic hair. The sheets fall on your head, but they are soon being waved again, adjested as he scrambles to sit up, caught between confusion and heart stopping excitement because now you have his dick in your mouth, which isn’t a hard feat while he’s flaccid but things are getting hard fast and if the short of breath cursing from above the sheets is a gesture of how its going its only going to get harder.

“Oh my Jesus CHRIST bro! hellshit, hell SHIT!”

“Watch your mouth!” you release him, swiping your tongue over your bottom lip and catching your breath. “Apologise and I will carry on.”

“… Oh… okay. I um…” you can’t see him, but just imagining him flustered, propped up by his elbows in our pillows and blushing  apple red makes you want to jump him. He tries to compose himself, but only has minimum success. “Sorry. Sorry. Don’t stop.”

You could quip something witty and cruel at this point, but decide not to leave a bro hanging, curling your tongue around the head of his boner and listening to the drawn out ohhhhh that results.

“ohhhh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck yeah that’s fucking good.”

There’s that filthy mouth again, are you going to have to scrub that with soap? Maybe rinse it with cum?

No, you kind of like this. You never had Dave pegged for a moaner. You thought he would be more of a silent type, but fuck you’ve never been happier to be wrong. He doesn’t say much, but the noises he makes are long, primal, erotic…

Screamers always annoyed you, and gigglers creeped you out, but filthy mouthed moaners are precisely your type, they are just so cute when they think they can drive you, sinking their hands reverently into your hair and inclining his hips down to accommodate your mouth. You visualise the arch of his back, fantasizing about the fullness of his mouth, and as you caress his heavy testicles you close your eyes, paying attention to his fraenum and the sticky, translucent precum that drips lazily from his tip. His breath becomes laboured, his hips twitch, and sympathetic you move your hands to jerk him, sucking at the tip, thinking that after all this time you haven’t lost any of your skill or charm. You still knew how to mouthfuck to oblivion, and that was good. That was real good.

He’s really gasping for breath now, his hips jarring urgently, and you have to move closer and over him to pin him down. His legs quiver, his hands tighten, and a single moment, right before he ejaculates into your mouth, he makes the longest, most erotic noise you’ve ever heard in your life, his entire frame quaking enough to beat the headboard against the wall twice.

“Oh shit.” He’s gasping, plucking at your hair as you register that your mouth is full of cum. “oh shit. Oh shitshitshit…”

‘Good?’ you think as you resurface, spitting his seamen onto his cheek and giving him a shit eating grin. He’s too shaken to care, staring at the ceiling and pushing back his hair with trembling hands. His face is still red, the wad of jizz glowing them handsomely, and his eyelids flutter as he blinks.

“Shit bro. just… shit.”

“Today,” you announce firmly, leaning over and pressing a confident, firm kiss to his lips, “is going to be a good day. Got it little man?”

He nods weakly, and you wonder how long it will take for his shakes to fade.

 

IXX

 

“They don’t have strawberry milkshakes, little man.”

“Bullshit.” Short tempered, Dave flashes his shades at the woman over the counter and she shies away, and insipid slip of a woman anyway, next to your towering brother she looks positively microscopic. “What do you have then?”

“Um… lime, banana or chocolate?”

Dave groans and looks at you for help, bjt you can’t hep him any more. He’s not a four year old on the playground and you can’t fight all his battles for him.

“Fine.” He snaps, snatching a straw from the dispenser on the counter and pulling off the paper. “I guess I will have banana.”

The McDonalds girl keys this in, presses enter, and everyone rushes around getting your McOrder sorted. Dave gives you a look that suggests he expects better service from a heartless fast food corporation and you smirk at his naivety, ruffling his hair with soft affection.

“Don’t look so grumpy little man. You’ve been in a real diva mood lately.”

“I have not.” He responds, sticking the end of his straw into his mouth and chewing it fiercely. “You’re imagining shit.”

The order is assembled, and the two of you McAbscond to a table by the window, far from the play place and the children that fling ice cream around like it isn’t a luxury reserved only for youth in developed western countries. Dave drops into his straw and the kandi bracelets on his wrist clack together. They are the only thing on him that betrays the fact he’s a raging homo, his black jeans red button shirt combo clean and masculine. You are beginning to  loose your inhibitions when it comes to admiring him in public; his cute ass, the freckles on his arms, even his beautiful hair, which you have come to adore in a way you can’t express with words. You just wish he would stop being so sassy. Its not an attractive quality.

“If there’s something wrong little bro you know you can talk to me.”

He gives you a look and you raise your hands in submission.

“Or not. That’s cool too.” You reach for your burger and pop open the clam box. “How’s school going?”

He is silent, and you have a moment to take a big bite of your lunch and chew a little, before you look to him seeking your absent answer.

“Well?”You manage around your mouthful. The corners of his own lips twitch into a frown, and he brushes his bangs behind his ear.

“I want sex.” He tells you. “Now.”

You almost spit your burger across the table.

“Holy fuck Dave!” you set your food down and look for a napkin to wipe your fingers on. There are none, so you wipe them discreetly onto the seat and place both your hands flat on the table. “You can’t just demand sex. Also, no. Double no. absolutely no.”

His face falls even further, and although you feel guilty you are putting your foot down. This is where it stops.

“Bro… Dave.” You lean closer and drop your voice, in case someone overhears. Why do you and he always end up having secret, morally moot conversations in public?  “if you want sex then go find a boyfriend.”

“You are my boyfriend.” He answers aggressively. “Fuck me.”

“…” for the first time in your recallable memory, you are speechless. Dave stares at you steadily. Obviously he does not understand the implications of… this.

“Not only is this an inappropriate place to discuss this but no way in hell am I crossing that line. Ever. End of conversation.”

Oh boy does he look unimpressed. His lips press into a hard line and he turns his face away. He is still fiddling with his chewed, unwrapped straw.

“You suck me off and make me fellate your fucking puppets so you can rub one out. I didn’t realise there was even a line.”

You grit your teeth tightly.

“That’s different.” You tell him. “That’s not sex.”

Exactly. And that’s my problem. There. You asked I told, don’t hate on me for telling you the truth. Fucking truth to end all truths too, don’t you think?”

It’s a pretty big can of incestuous worms alright. You suck a breath, marvelling at how fast things went from a nice lunch at the local grease joint to serious ethical dilemma. You would be lying if you said you hadn’t thought about actually putting it in him, but no way would you ever dream of actually…

Dave was your brother! That was just not right.

“You do realise how morally questionable that is, right?”

“No, bro. actually I’m an idiot, and it never occurred to me once that it might me inappropriate to want your brother to fuck you through the floor.”

“So why would you even bring it up?”

“Because who cares. This is between you and me. We aren’t hurting anyone, are we?”

You study him critically and suppose that you aren’t hurting anyone outside of the relationship, although the long term effects on him you can’t be so sure of.

“Still.” You muse, letting the conversation die and reaching for your drink. “I’m not convinced it a good idea.”

He clicks his tongue in irritation and you eat the rest of your meal in awkward silence.

 

IXX

 

“Hey little man.” You approach him from behind, curling your arms around his waist as he stands at the breakfast bar, talking on the phone. “Hang up for a sec, I want to talk to you.”

Talk nothing, you are fucking horny and you want a wank. But you can’t say that when someone is on the line, they might hear it. Dave hesitates in his conversation, and looks at you from the side of his shades.

“Uhh… yeah. Hey Egbert?”

“Yeah?” you hear the staticy response through the line and Dave places one of his hands over yours in a securing gesture.

“I have to go. Can you call me later?”

“Sure!” the boy sounds eager, and Dave allows a small smile of relief as he finishes up.

“Cool. See ya.”

“Bye.”

You grin wolfishly when he hangs up the phone and bury your face in the side of his neck, hands gliding over his stomach and parting, left moving down and the right one slipping up toward his chest.

“What do you want?” he asks you teasingly, as if he doesn’t know. “You here to fuck my little ass?”

“Pfft, no.” you grate your teeth lightly along his neck and rub the crotch of his pyjamas confidently. “But I do want to fuck your dirty mouth, and lick you out like the whore you are.”

This is obviously the wrong thing to say, because he stiffens in your arms and pulls roughly away.

“No.” he tells you coldly. “I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

“Aww what?” irritated you run your hands through your hair and try to follow him toward the sofa. “Why not?”

“Because no. you don’t get to touch me until you let me ride the beef truncheon. This is the new rule of casa de strider. Okay?”

No. no this is really not okay. You look at him with absolute shock on your face and he seems totally indifferent, turning on the playstation and dropping into his favoured corner seat.

What can you do? Seriously. In this situation, what can you do?

You end up going to bed and fapping furiously, although it doesn’t really help you feel much better.

 

IXX

 

You are going absolutely crazy.

Dave hasn’t so much as looked at you for three weeks, an you just can’t keep jerking yourself off every time you think about maybe considering actually caving to his demands, or your going to get carpal tunnel.

Its driving you batshit insane, and your balls are bluer than papa smurf’s. It’s like you are sixteen again, constantly horny and an emotional wreck. How is it possible you miss someone’s skinship this much. Hell, how is it possible someone has this effect on you? All your life you have been the impassive, the unaffected, the passionless cold godhead who gave people orgasms by looking at them and got shit done and fucking ruled over your dominion with a chill fist. Why now then, are you breaking? Why now then, can’t you close your eyes without seeing him there?

You break.

You suppose there is something symbolic about the supplicant role you accept when you pull yourself from your online porn business accounts one evening and sigh, removing your fingerless gloves and shades and leaving them on the computer desk before you wander out, to the lounge in which Dave is sitting scribbling in his sketch book. He glances up when he hears your door open, but says nothing, turning his face back down and carrying right on.

“bro.” you begin, feeling like a complete tool because not only are you showing disgusting weakness and neediness you are actually having to ask for this yourself. Since when did you have to plead with Dave? You suppose in a way its like when he was little, and you embodied everything he admired and wanted and were the means for him to become enamoured with something in life, except now its opposite and you are the one drowning when he isn’t there to give you what you want. Its ironic, but not the sort of irony you liked. If one can even like irony, that is. You aren’t all together sure.

“what?” he doesn’t look up from his sketchbook and you are both glad of this and pissed off, because god Dave, here you are practically gagging for the most pathetic thing imaginable and he doesn’t seem to have a single fuck to donate to your charity of giving a shit.

“Want to sleep with me tonight?” you ask, trying to avoid the exact thing you want to say. He shrugs.

“What for? No point is there. Besides.” He closes his sketchbook and gives you a significant look which you can read even through polarised lenses. “Isn’t that crossing a line?”

You swallow your pride and lean on the doorframe, trying to look indifferent.

“Yeah. But maybe it’s a line I want to cross.”

He looks at you for almost a complete minute then, and you look directly back, hoping he isn’t seeing your fluttering heartbeat or sweating palms in your eyes. holy shit really? Did you just agree to sex with… oh god this was wrong on a lot of levels. Like, a million levels. Piss loads of millions of levels. Why though? Why?

If anyone finds out, what will they think of you?

“You don’t look so sure about that, old boy.”

“Really?” you stride forward, grabbing his arm and yanking him to his feet. “Do I taste sure about that?”

“Wha-“

You kiss him the, really kiss him, and fortunately he does not seem to sense anything nervous in the kiss. When you part, his glasses are askew and his lips are red. He seems dazed.

“Wow.” He manages eventually. “Okay. Wow.”

“Damn straight.” You kiss his nose and release him, taking a step backward toward you room and beckoning him to follow. “Now hurry up before I change my mind.”

You have only ever seen Dave move so fast a few times in your life. You are impressed, and proud to see that flashstepping is genetic.

 

IXX

 

He insists on a shower first, and so you are left alone for ten minutes to think about what’s about to happen, listening to the blast of the showerhead on the tiled floor.

It’s a good thing you love the kid, ‘cause otherwise you and your dick would have been sick of his bullshit a long while ago.

Yeah, you suppose that’s true. You love Dave with everything you have, and you wonder if perhaps it is about time you say it again. The handful of instances you have already told him this makes every new instance seem more precious, like the diamond set in a ring or the floral back notes in a perfect perfume. You know these metaphors are faggoty as all hell, but you decide they sum it up best, and think that after the sex, you are going to give him the biggest, most perfect ‘I love you’ he has ever heard in his life.

You are thinking about this still when, completely naked, Dave crashes into your bedroom and slams the door shut behind him, leaning on the back of it and looking at you with a bone crushing flame of lust in his eyes.

“Fucking do me old man.”

His hair is still damp, it traces rivulets of water down his cheeks, his skin glistens and his lips are glossy and inviting. His shoulders curve and his stomach is a smooth sexy slant, sucking your eyes down his body to his marvellous bubblegum thighs and his dick, (with which you are already well acquainted,) in its nest of blonde hair between his legs.

Mother of god. It’s a miracle he isn’t glowing.

You catch him when he throws himself at you, pulling off your wife beater in a flurry of motion and clearing your mind of all thought. His mouth attaches on yours, and its messy because he is being a little over enthusiastic with his teeth but you don’t care because you can feel him, his entire naked body, for the first time and he feels good. Really good. Deliciously, perfectly good.

He kneels over you and yanks down your jeans and underwear, diving headfirst into your crotch and sucking your dick into his mouth. It stirs a sensation in the root of your spine, but you need a little more yet. No matter, you can wait. It’s a pleasurable journey on which to embark.

It’s a quick journey too. Soon you are quite hard, and its beginning to feel quite good, and you are raking your fingers through Dave’s hair like it is the last and only thing in the world. Because wow. Wow.

“Fucking yes. Oh god little man… holy shit.”

You scrape your teeth over your bottom lip and guide his head on your cock, your eyes fixed on the ceiling because its definitely too much right now, for you to watch your little brother suck you off, slowly, quickly, passionately, like the whore he could have been some other day. He is bad, but it was this sloppiness that makes it great; it betrays his urgency, the same urgency he has been keeping so secret under an intimidating exterior, and the same urgency as you yourself have felt leaking out from the cracks of your cool façade. You feel his shoulder pumping against your hip, and realise that he is jacking himself off. Shit that is hot.

“Okay?” he asks you, lifting his face and meeting your eyes. You think briefly that it’s a shame your first time has to be rushed like this, you would have liked to try it more slow and intimate, but then you realise that there are a million more opportunities to make love ahead of you, so you shouldn’t be so worried. Maybe tomorrow morning, after a long, post orgasm rest, you would be able to go again with a little more deliberance.

For now, this is great.

 

IXX

 

“Oh my god. Oh yeah… yeahhh FUCK!” he leans forward over you and pulls hard at your hair. “fuckfuckfuuuuuck.”

“Language.” You reprimand him weakly, jerking your hips up into him and making him pull a face that you would make fun of him for later. Dave does not have a very dignified jizzface, you know this already, and apparently nor does he have a very dignified ‘being fucked in the ass’ face either.

It’s a shame, considering hes such a cutie, but despite it being unflattering and weird it drives you crazy because it seems to be attached to your own sex-drive for some reason. It’s like puppets.

You don’t know why puppets make you horny, nor do you know why Dave’s sex face makes you horny, but they both do and you just roll with that, even if you have to feign irony about it.

It doesn’t hurt that if feels fucking good to finally do this. Shit you haven’t had sex for years, and honestly you were never all that great at ‘dancing alone’. Well, you had thought you were, but turns out your not. Nope nope nope. Not at all. Not compared to this. Fuck Dave will be lucky if he can ever walk properly again. And he sure wasn’t kidding about wanting it. Hell, if he got any more slutty you would have to give him a bit of a slap. It’s appealing, having a cock hungry whore all over you, but only to a point.

“Fuck language.” He presses his mouth to your neck and you groan gently, skating your hands over his smooth moving hips. “Language is for whimps.”

You think this is funny, under the gauze of pleasure from his body, because he just seems to adore words usually, but neglect to say so. There will be time to mock him later, when he wasn’t riding you hard.

That was still going to be a thing you did, by the way. Teasing and mocking him. just because you were lovers now, didn’t mean you weren’t still brothers.

He’s getting a bit rough with his hands in your hair though, you reach for one and shift it, kissing his palm and wrist and glaring at him from your place in the pillows.

Calm down! Jesus.

He shakes his head limply and his brow creases in an emotive cry, declining the very idea of doing so.

“Do you have any idea how long I’ve waited for this?” he gasps at you angrily. “Don’t look at me like I’m doing something wrong!”

“You’re doing nothing wrong!” you defend, lacing your fingers with his. He bites his lip and jerks his hips on you again roughly, and you wince. “Just calm down.”

“I am calm!”

There is nothing calm about his tone as he buckles forward. You catch him against your chest and push him over, taking the drivers seat and sucking your teeth when your own rough gesture makes him jerk his head back and grunt. The chords of his neck spring up, his lips part slightly; you press your mouth to his neck and kiss it, not caring really if you give him a hickey.

He gets there pretty quickly after that, tearing at you violently, his body tightening like a bow and then pinging into contractions, shuddering, groaning, cursing as it tosses him around, roughs him up a little, rolls over him again and again.

Dave cums like a girl, well he does when he’s being fucked, and his shaking is some of the best vibrations you have ever experienced. Absolutely. The best. Better than the bass or the kick or the anything. Anything. You feel him curling his arms around you, and think that considering how hard he just orgasmed it would be rude of you to carry on banging him, so you withdraw and slip your hand between the two of you to finish yourself off. When you get there, he growls, raking his hands up through your hair which feels pretty damn spanking, and clutches you in a death grip which you struggle to escape.

“Dave.” You try and pull away from him and manage only to fall sideways, pulling him with you onto his chest. “What are you doing? You’re crushing me.”

“Cuddle.” He demands, squeezing tighter briefly. “I want to cuddle.”

“Since when have you been so confident about what you want?” you unwrap his arms from around you and adjust him so that he is lying a little more comfortably against your chest. “God Dave, where is the love.”  

He looks up at you from his position with wide auburn eyes, pupils blown, his brow glossy with sweat.

“Stupid question, doesn’t deserve an answer.” He brushes his hair off his face and sighs. “fuuuck. That was good though . Good job.”

“Pfft.” You raise your hand and ball it. “Brofist?”

He sniggers and obliges.

You lie there for a while afterwards, looking at the ceiling and smiling a little, your fingers curled affectionately over his. Its funny, in a way, although you can’t precisely select which. Is it ironic, comic, black…

Well you know it’s messed up anyway. Really messed up. That shouldn’t have just happened…

You tell yourself to shut up because you had eighteen years to process how inappropriate it would be for you to impale your brother on your dick. Apparently, the paperwork never went through.

“Hey Dave.” You release his hand and skate yours to the nape of his neck, brushing your fingertips where you know he will feel it all the way down to his toes. “Are you happy? Doing this?”

“Hmm?” he nuzzles against your chest and the sheets rustle comfortably. They are a little cool with sweat. “Of course I am. Why?”

You shrug and run your palm over his back.

“just checking…” you hesitate, thinking that there’s something else you should say, and you are suddenly quite aware that you can smell his hair, his beautiful shampoo and his delicious perfume, and you just want to lie here forever with your baby in your arms. “But if you ever change your mind, let me know.”

“I won’t change my mind.”

“You might.” You don’t want to turn this into a lecture, but you fear you probably will. “You might. We shouldn’t be doing this you know; some day you might get that through your stupid head.”

“Don’t want to.”

You groan.

“Since when have you been so damned sure about what you want? Jesus Dave. Really?”

“I love you.”

“Yes I know that but you shouldn’t.” You are almost upset at his stubbornness. “It’s not healthy. Why didn’t you just fall in love with someone else?  What do I possibly have to offer you? Look at me, I’m an old man.”

He is silent for a moment, but when he speaks it is with a seriousness he doesn’t usually use.

“You were the one who told me that I could love whatever it was in the world I wanted to love.” He remarked. “That’s a valuable liberty. And as it happens, I love you.”

 

 

 

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