Actions

Work Header

CJK237em1Vx: a modern epic. kind of. not actually.

Work Text:

You are already awake when Dave emerges from his bedroom, standing at the stovetop cooking up some French toast and humming along to the battery powered radio on the bench. He looks like death, and is like to continue doing to until he ingests about seven cups of coffee, the first of which you have already made and set at his place on the table. He has his shades on, and his boxers, but that’s about it, and it makes you in your track pants and tanktop feel a little overdressed for the occasion.

“Good morning starshine.” You greet him, scraping his toast out of the pan and dropping it onto a chipped charity shop plate. “Great to see you got your best clothing on for me.”

Dave grunts something that could mean ‘good morning to you too John you flawless human being’ or, much more likely, ‘go to hell’. He grabs his mug of coffee and swallows almost half in one mouthful. You sigh. Dave isn’t usually this bad in the mornings… only since he got fired from his job at El Pollo Loco. Hell, days he didn’t have lectures the man rarely even got out of bed anymore! And while you don’t exactly hate cooking for your best bro, and cleaning for your best bro, and generally playing mum, you are growing weary of the self pity Dave had taken to wallowing in almost constantly. Especially considering how these days, your pathetic wage is the only thing supporting you both.

It’s not an easy life, being two students living alone in the city, and you and Dave are learning this the hardest way possible.

Sighing you set Dave’s toast down in front of him and return to the stove to cook your own. You pluck the bread out of the egg goo and lay it carefully in the pan, listening to the sound of Dave crunching through his first slice and then downing the last of his coffee. You have to wait, before you broach the touchy subject at hand. Maybe you should give him more coffee. There is no such thing, as an overly caffeinated Dave.

He is alert enough, when you pick the coffee pot off the machine and approach to refill him, to watch you do so, his face turned upward, his cheeks ruddy because he hasn’t washed yet. He crunches his toast suspiciously, and you think he may just know that you are waiting to mention that so you try and divert his attention by calling on the fact that he’s up, and thus must have some sort of appointment today.

“What are your plans this morning?”

He shrugs, and reaches for his second cup.

“Might go take some photos…”

“Oh?” you are tempted to ask him if he’s been able to sell any of his photos recently, but decide to avoid that for now. You go back to nursing your toast, and try to keep the subject neutral. “Cool. What kind of photos?”

“… The usual kind.” His short reply assures you he still hasn’t had enough coffee. You swear and decide you may as well just out with it.

“Dave the power bill is due today.”

Silence. Just the sizzling of the fry pan, innocent but somehow accusatory. You scoop out your toast and turn off the element. You continue with your train of thought.

“The power bill is due today, and once again we are fifty dollars short. Also we still haven’t paid for last month, or the month before. How much longer until you get a job?”

You don’t want to sound like you’re nagging, but you sort of very much are. Dave hisses defensively, and raps his knuckles on the table.

“I told you, I’m trying!”

“Don’t get defensive!” you try and disarm the argument that’s about to take place, and sit down opposite him at the table. “I’m not saying you’re not trying I’m just saying…”

You stop there because you don’t exactly know what you are saying. Dave growls lowly and sinks sulkily in his seat. You sigh.

“It’s just that I’m really struggling to get hours right now is all. I would like to be able to come home at the end of each week and know that we will have enough money to cover rent and electricity and gas and you know, still have time to study.”

Dave has nothing to say to that, dropping the last of his toast on his plate and exhaling. The two of you sit in thought for a moment, the cars running on the road outside rattling the windows of the cramped flat, the ceiling fan rotating lazily in the breeze. The place needs a clean, but you don’t want to ask Dave to do it, even though you know that if he’s not working you would really love for him to do something productive with his time. After a while, he speaks.

“Well, why don’t you call the company and cut some kind of deal or something?”

This sounds like the best idea either of you are going to come up with, and reluctantly you lean back in your chair, staring above his head at the cracks on the ceiling and say that okay, sounds like a plan, except maybe he should do it because you have work today, and a lunchtime study seminar at the college. He agrees, and you are relieved but still strained by the edgy, terse way the two of you had to sort that. You are both too tired and too stressed, and this shows in the way you have been relating to one another lately. Dave’s been a terrific dragon, and though you don’t like to admit it you have been riding his ass pretty hard. The two of you could really use some bro bonding time…

“What are you doing this evening?” you inquire, digging into your own breakfast. He shrugs and runs his index finger around his empty plate, catching crumbs and licking them daintily off his point.

“Dunno. Sleeping?”

“Want to watch a movie? Dad sent me some DVDs the other day, I thought you might want to watch one?”

He thinks for a moment and shrugs once more.

“Sure. Whatever. What sorts of movies?”

“We can decide when we get there, I think.”

This must sit alright with Dave, because he does not reply.

 

---

 

It is nine-twenty-four pm and Dave and you have chosen the classic Gremlins movie, for differing reasons the both of you, to watch on your crappy five-year-old box TV. Dave seems quite excited about the irony of the film, what with how poor the graphics are and such, and you just like these sorts of movies so why not, right? Besides, if it got boring you could always chat some. You and Dave haven’t chatted for ages, and it seems like a dumb thing to miss but fuck you were dumb sometimes okay so whatever. You have popcorn and are both wearing your pyjamas, the stereo is on and the lights dimmed low. Everything is go, and even Dave, who usually seems short tempered and impatient lately, is relaxed, having indulged in a long bath and a long enviable walk around the park with Rose and Jade that gone afternoon.

You are just at the part about feeding them after midnight when without warning, the TV shuts off, the picture pulling to a white diamond before sucking to a fading dot in the middle of the screen, and the lamps click to black entirely, the only light in the flat leaching off the street and through the windows, from the headlights of cars seven storeys below.

You both sit in silence for a while, astonished.

“What just happened?” you ask after a while, and Dave swears, standing up and stalking to the light switch on the wall. The sound of it flickering angrily echoes through the dim, and you too make to stand up, the blanket the two of you had had draped across your laps slipping to the floor.

“Is the power out?” you ask, and he slams his hand on the wall, the thump giving you twice as many frights as the movie Gremlins ever has.

“Yes! motherFUCK.” You hear another thump, this one lower and more dense, and you think he must have kicked the back of the sofa or something. You can barely make out his silhouette in the darkness. “Goddamnit John! I said you should have rang the company.”

You are immediately offended, that he is trying to pin this on you.

I should ring the company? Really? Oh well sorry Dave but fuck you. You were supposed to ring the company. I asked you to.”

“Yeah, and then this afternoon I was out wasn’t I? Anyone with half a brain would have thought that logically you would have to take over. I can’t exactly ring when I’m out on the town. Pull my phone out of my pocket and wait twenty minutes on the line listening to Barbra Streisand while I’m trying to talk to Rose about my mental discrepancies, yes, sounds like a spanking idea! I think so John, maybe tomorrow when I’m out I can ring the tax depot, and sort out my returns.”

“Yeah,” you forsake sassiness for a low blow “for the job you don’t have!”

You don’t like being nasty, especially to Dave who is totally your best friend ever, but you just can’t get over your fury about this entire affair.

“You have a celphone, fuckface. Or, here’s this for an idea, you could have called this morning, when you were home.”

“Oh so now you’re blaming me, real charming John.”

“Yes I am blaming you! Congratulations you finally are getting it.”

“Fuck off Egbert.”

“No I will not ‘fuck off’ you fuck off, Dave.”

“This is your fault.”

“This is YOUR fault.”

To emphasize the point, you grab the TV guide off the sofa side table and fling it blindly at him, or at the shape of him, cursing when it misses and slaps loudly against the wall.

“Get on the fucking phone and fix it!”

“You get on the phone and fix it!”

“No you!”

“No YOU!” furious now you stalk around the sofa and in the general direction you know the kitchen to be. The phone is on the breakfast bar, but you have to scrabble for it blindly, finally finding the wireless and picking it up. Goddamnit Dave! Perhaps if this was the first time he had let total sloth and inadequacy as a human being get in the way of your living a functional life you could forgive him, but as it were it was not, and fucking hell was he useless? Did he really not have a single intelligent brain in his body? He didn’t even tell you he hadn’t rung either! He just left it, assuming you would have done so. Mother of god what a self centred little son of a prick. You grip the phone crushingly tight and stomp back toward him, kicking the leg of the table in your blindness but holding in the loud expletive because you didn’t want him to know he had worked you so up that now you were stumbling around doing yourself harm.

“Here!” you shove it at him in the dark. “Call them! Now! Leave a message or something I don’t care, but you had better sort his out. I’m going to bed, and guess what it’s going to be pissing cold because there’s no electric blanket. I hope your balls freeze off in the night.”

Dave, in enraged silence, takes the phone and presses the call button. It beeps, and makes not a single sound more.

“I can’t call anything.” He announces. “The power is out, remember?”

You bellow and strike your hand in the black. It hits nothing but you feel a little better.

You go to bed fuming, knowing you are going to feel ridiculously guilty and embarrassed about your outburst in the morning, but too bad.

This really is the final straw.

 

---

 

You are left with the chore of going to the supermarket the next morning, because Dave has slunk out of the house while you were still in bed, probably to go sit on his ass at some café and waste oxygen like the piece of hipster bullcrap he is.

You really are mad, aren’t you?

In any case, you only need to pick up a few essentials like toothpaste and noodles (which you suspect are going to be your staple food source for a while) and it is on the way out the door that you hesitate, wondering…

You have never considered the public noticeboard the supermarket offers for the convenience of its patrons, but you do have a few free Sundays upcoming, and if they are offering money you suppose you can look into doing some yard work or something. You guess. You don’t really want to but you have little choice.

Sighing you wander over, the large corkboard boasting notices in handwriting, print, full colour photos, everything you can imagine. A lot of ads for prostitutes, some wheelbarrows for sale, lost cats… nothing really in the way of work at all, and you find that somewhat upsetting. Disheartened, you are about to leave, but then you spot the little green card pinned to the corner, the words ‘NEED CASH?’ penned in black biro and then re-penned over top to make it stand out.

“Yes.” You hook your bag of purchases onto your left hand and reach to pull the card out from its pin. A corner remains as you tear it off, oopsie daisy but hey if you left it there someone else might take your cash and that would suck.

“Professional looking for confident outgoing college aged men. Full contracts or single stints available, more information and contact whiteandwilliams@gmail.com or call us”

There is a number listed.

Confident outgoing college men? You are all of those things! You might be able to do this.

You nod firmly and slip the card into your pocket.

Whelp, home time. Maybe Dave will be home?

A part of you hopes he is, just so you can give him some dirty looks.

 

---

 

“Oh. You are here.” You are met by a strange sight when you walk into the kitchen; apparently Dave thought that having been left for dead in the light department, he would go out and buy some taper candles and stick them in odd places around the house. Actually, this wasn’t too bad of an idea. But perhaps it would have been better if he had gotten torches.

It’s still too light for him to have them lit, but you immediately think they look appealing. Makes the place look more classy.

“Yeah.” He looks up from his textbook and reaches for his cup of coffee, probably made with water boiled on the gas stovetop. “I went out and got some candles and went to the electric company. The cuntbags said they would reconnect us as soon as we paid up.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Yeah that’s not all. Look.” He scoots a sheet of paper across the table at you and you regard it with suspicion, before you pick it up.

“What is it?”

“Reconnection statement, plus our debt, plus processing charge.”

Your eyes almost fall out of your skull.

“Eight hundred dollars?!”

Dave doesn’t reply, he simply sits there, looking uncharacteristically sheepish, the corners of his lips inclined slightly down.

“Let me get this straight. Our bill, which before this whole thing whatever this is, was two hundred and seventeen dollars fourteen cents. Right?”

In truth your powerbill was probably huge enough to start with.

“Yeah…”

“Plus overdue fees for the last how many months?”

“Five”

“Five months, that put us around at maybe four hundred?”

“Yeah.”

“And now they are telling us they want eight hundred dollars. Eight fucking hundred dollars?!” you can’t believe it. The number is enough to make you want to fall off your chair and embrace death. “That’s obscene.”

“Yeah…” Dave turns his face away in shame. And so he fucking should! This was his fault! If he had just called yesterday you could have avoided the reconnection and processing fees, and if he had gotten off his stupid ass and gotten his own job you wouldn’t even be in this mess…

You are just going to have to pay up, aren’t you? Hand over the eght hundred big ones from your own pocket? Fucking ace.

You are definitely though, not expecting him to apologise.

“I’m sorry.”

It’s weak and kind of pathetic, you look up and have to ask him rudely to repeat that, because you thought you misheard him.

“I said I’m sorry.” He says it louder, shoulders sloped in submission, colour rising in his cheeks. “It’s my fault. I’m a real ass for this, someone should just staple a big fucking sign to my forehead. Dave strider, useless flatmate and general piece of shit. Okay?”

You narrow your eyes, suspicious of his apology.

“Why suddenly so remorseful?” you pose. “This is weird.”

He shrugs and adjusts his shades nervously.

“I haven’t been pulling my weight so much lately.”

You scoff and lean back in your seat, placing the bill on the table and folding your arms. He continues.

“And I feel real shit about it. you’re fucking scary when you’re mad you know. Like rolling thunder lightning cyclone scary. I’d be impressed but frankly I’m in too much of a supplicant position to worry about that right now.”

You? scary? Haha no. But continues, please Dave. You feel like the more praise you can intimidate out of this guy while hes down, the better.

“So… what are you going to do about it?”

He shrugs.

“I dunno. Get a job?”

“Good plan. And hey, look what I got from the supermarket today.”

You see a flicker of fear pass over his face as you slip your hands into your pocket after the card, because practice has taught him that such a statement was usually (always) succeeded by an experience that could be classed only as gustatorily dubious, but this time it is not a jar of pickled meat or a strange Scandinavian candy, its simply a card, with a web address, that promises cash payouts.

“They want confident college guys, we are confident college guys aren’t we?” you pass the card to Dave and he takes it, eyes skimming (you assume, it’s hard to tell behind his shades) the words and his eyebrow creeping steadily higher as he does so.

“John, do you know what WhiteWilliams is?”

“No. Yeah. I dunno. Some guy who’s going to give us money?”

“Yeah, but do you know what for?”

“Dave I really don’t care, I’m desperate.”

“It’s an online porn company. You know… people subscribe and they get to watch the videos. WhiteWilliams do guy guy amateurs… like college guys… like us.”

He waves his hand, waiting for you to make the connection. You are, however, a little slow.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean if we say we can do this they are gunna want us to fuck. On the internet.” He sets the card down in the spine of his open book, closing it and securing the card as a bookmark. The book is about film noir cinematography and photography. “But if that’s what you’re down for…”

And then the words ‘gay’ and ‘fuck’ make their way through your filter, and you are instantly repulsed.

“What?!” disbelieving and deeply embarrassed you lunge for the card in the book, but he holds it out of the way and threatens to hit your hand if you don’t get it off his side of the table. “Oh my god no.”

“Wow, charming. Fist you ask me to be in a porn and then you flat up reject me. Asshole.”

It would seem Dave is back to his usual smug self, but you are too mortified to care. Damn your ignorance! Had you really considered this? Had you really considered sending to that address for more information? Ew! Ew ew EW! No way. Nope. Definitely not.

“I am NOT doing gay porn Dave.” Your sense of appalment knows no bounds. “No way, I swear I didn’t know.”

“Yeah, probably.” He flicks his hair off his face and sighs. “That’s what makes it so funny though.”

“How did you know what it was?” you accuse, trying to divert attention from your mistake (how could you have been so stupid?) Dave shrugs easily.

“I watch a lot of porn.”

Gay porn?”

“Sure.” He furrows his brows a little. “Don’t you?”

You simply stare at him in barely concealed disgust. You hope to god he never elects to mention this again, but you think that knowing Dave, this is improbable.

 

---

 

“Going for a shower John?” Dave asks you pleasantly that afternoon.

“Yeah, so I don’t have to slop around in the dark.”

“A gay shower?”

You make an angry noise and fling your fresh t-shirt at his head. He laughs, and ducks to avoid it.

“I’m only joking John! God, get a sense of humour.”

“I have a sense of humour!” you retort sharply. “I also have a job. Do you have a job Dave?”

He looks up from his spot on the sofa, still reading a book seeing as TV was a no-go, and raises his palms in submission.  

“Woahhh… calm yo tits bro. you don’t need to get defensive about it.”

You make an irritated noise and poke out your tongue, a childish gesture but god help you you were just a childish person sometimes, and finish your stalk to the bathroom, a small room which really only served its purpose and needed a real scrub.

You close the door, remove your glasses, and strip. The hot water is gas, and so you are puzzled when after turning the nozzle, stripping naked, and sticking your hand in the stream to check the temperature it is not hot or even lukewarm.

You turn it up, and while you wait lean over the sink to examine the faint spatter of acne on your left cheek. There’s this one blemish that has just been bothering you like no-ones business lately, and you are so tempted to squeeze it, but you cant do that shit anymore. Ever since Dave pointed out the scarring on your chin, you haven’t had the guts.

The water is not warm two minutes later either, and irritated and a little bewildered you shut the shower off and pick your towel up off the floor, tucking it around your waist.

“Dave?” you poke your head out of the bathroom and call to him. “I think the showers broken?”

“What?” he calls back, and you sigh.

“I said I think the shower is broken! The water is cold?”

“Then turn it onto hot.”

“I have tried- oh forget it.” too impatient to argue you pull the door open and stride out of the room down the hall. “I will just have to fix it myself.”

You slip behind him where he sits, (he doesn’t notice you parading through the flat in only a towel and if he did he says nothing about it, flipping a page of his book and scratching the shell of his ear idly) and make your way into the kitchen and your general household chores drawer which contained a screwdriver, some duct tape… all those things people who do things in the house need. You are rummaging through the drawer for a spanner (you aren’t sure why yet, you will just figure it out as you go) when a corner of paper catches your eye, a sheet attached to the fridge by a pineapple shaped magnet and at about eye level where you are crouched over the drawer.

“Oh…” a slow feeling of dread steals over you, and you forget the screwdriver, straightening up. “Oh fuck.”

Dave hears you curse, and you are aware of his jeans rustling as he sits up to look over the back of the shoulder at you.

“What?” he asks dryly. “Stab yourself or something?”

You remove the piece of paper from the fried door and groan. It’s a bill, a fourth warning overdue bill due three days ago that you had put there last week so you would remember to pay it.

The gas bill.

You had completely forgotten about the gas bill. You can’t read it without your glasses but you know that this one is worth $180, and you have no idea where the hell you are supposed to conjure that from. You are pretty good at pulling shit from hats thanks to many years of trickery tutorship, but this is something altogether else.

“No… oh fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.”

“What is it? Also why aren’t you wearing pants? Letting little John swing free today? Awesome, don’t leave me out, should I take my pants off too and we can have a wang party?”

“Dave shut up, I can’t listen to this right now.”

You are so pissed with yourself that you just want to ball up this piece of paper and cram it up your nose.

“I’ve fucking forgot to pay the gas bill.”

Dave remains silent for a moment, and it’s that silence that although it is marked by the ticking of the wallclock by the door, seems endless.

“You forgot to pay the gasbill?” he repeats slowly. You close your eyes in bitter annoyance.

And the Nobel Prize for idiocy goes to John Egbert: never has such a ridiculous fool been spawn on this earth.

“Yes.”

Dave sucks his teeth and exhales through his nose.

“Okay then. Now we are even.”

And as much as you hate to admit it, he is right.

 

---

 

Its nine-thirty and you are in your bedroom, reading one of Dave’s books by candlelight and seriously contemplating going to sleep. It’s too cold, and thanks to lack of gas you couldn’t even fill your hot water bottle.

Being poor really sucks.

You look up when someone knocks on your door, and you instantly assume who it is.

“What?” you call over your shoulder, he clicks open the door and you watch his candlelit silhouette sway in. he is carrying two somethings, one in each hand, and as he edges around the foot of your bed toward you, and you shuffle up closer to your pillows to make him room, you notice the stripes of golden candlelight glaze his shades.

“I got you a hot chocolate.” He tells you. “The guy next door let me use his kettle.”

“Ahh…” it only occurs to you now that tomorrow morning Dave is not going to be able to have his coffee. You pledge to stay in your room for the entire day. “Well thanks. That’s real thoughtful of you.” you close your book and reach to take the steaming mug he passes you with his right hand. The one in his left is exuding the rich scent of decaf, which he always drinks at night so he can sleep, and he raises this to his lips as he sits down on the edge of your bed. He sits with his legs spread and his elbows resting on his knees.

“Don’t say that, sounds like I’m turning soft.”

“You are soft, dick.” You smile and sip your drink, its sweet and milky, exactly how you like it. You know Dave tastes your drinks before he gives them to you, even though he hates hot chocolate, because you caught him doing it once. You think it’s adorable, but don’t mention it because aggression tends to be his defence mechanism and you were nowhere near as skilled at sword combat. “Anyway, what did you want? I’m going to bed soon.”

“I dunno. Talk? I’m fucking bored man. Ridiculously bored. Like lit grad student in an advanced calculus seminar bored. If I got any more bored they would have to-“

“Dave.” Smiling wearily you cut him off. “Can you not fling words at me tonight? I’m too blarghhh to pay attention.”

“’Too blarghhh’ says the man unwilling to listen to the verbal pictures I paint on the air.”

“God shut up.” You swallow down half of your drink and lick your lips, thinking that you have never noticed how good a hot drink is at warming a person up from the gut. “Just be normal today, okay?”

“Fine.” He replies simply, and you half expect him to expand on that, looking at him critically. He sees you looking and shrugs.

“Fine what?” you ask him, to make sure.

“Just that. Just fine.”

“Okay.” You settle against the wall, legs sticking ludicrously over the edge of the bed, and nurse the mug in your lap. Dave clears his throat and you are aware of how awkward this is. Wow. When was the last time you had to fill the space between the two of you without the internet or television to buffer for you?

This is hard.

He breaks the silence, with something that you think is probably harder.

“So. I was thinking I might email the porno company.”

He says it smoothly and with practiced ease, although your own stomach drops in shock.

“What?”

He sighs and tips his head back, leaning against the wall.

“Well, its like this. Unlike you, I can deal with the idea of getting with a dude, and we really need the money. One day doing this shit and we can clear up this whole electricity bill shit no problem, and then another bam gas sorted. You don’t have to do it, I’m not saying that, I’m just saying that cause I don’t have a job, and I have more spare time than you, and I’ve been pretty much the most useless thing ever lately, it’s a decent option for me right? Don’t you think?” he turns to regard you through his shades and while he has made some good points you really aren’t sure how you feel about your best friend doing a gay film because you are struggling to pay the bills.

“Dave I dunno if I’m happy with that.”

“I’m not asking for permission. If I decide to do it I’m going to do it. I just thought you might have some thoughts.”

You bite your bottom lip, even though you usually try to avoid that because it tends to enhance the overbite you are pretty self conscious of at the best of times, and flex your toes.

“I think that makes sense,” you begin, trying to keep reasonable, “but I’m not comfortable with the idea of you fucking a stranger for money. On film. For people to jerk off to.”

His brow pulls and he tips his head.

“Dude… its’ my body.”

“I know that! I know that.” You feel dumber than usual for saying it, but it’s true. “It’s just you’re my best friend, and the thought creeps me out a bit. I mean what if they give you some creepy furry old guy? That’s sucky as. Also, it’s going to make me feel horribly guilty. I mean I go to work and I get to wear a fancy lanyard with the words ‘Barnes and Noble’ on it and you get to be screwed in the ass. That’s not fair.”

Dave cocks his eyebrow.

“You mean when you go to work you get to be harassed by pretentious students with their double choca-mocha-fucking-low-fat-three-sugar-lattes in hand and have to shelve books and I get to have an orgasm. Right?”

You pull a face.

“Don’t rephrase me. I mean what I said.”

Dave chuckles and looks away, his gaze swivelling to the far wall of your room, which is tacked with posters of your favourite movies. Usually, he would make some comment about them, but you suspect that you have reached a point in your relationship where there really is little more to say about a faded movie poster with Bill Crosby on it, or anyone else for that matter.

“It’s okay.” He assures you, finishing his drink. “I don’t mind. Honestly.”

And even though he says so, you still can’t shake the feeling of discomfort it instils in you.

The two of you fill another hour with idle chatter in soft voices, there is something about flickering candles that demand so much, and you are just beginning to re-familiarize yourself with talking to Dave, actually talking to Dave, rather than simply bantering over a show or an instant messenger, when the conversation lulls and he pulls his legs up to his chest in almost a shy gesture.

“Hey Egbert.”

“Mm?” you run your finger lazily around the lip of your empty mug and give him a small smile.

“You know how you said that you were uncomfortable with me having sex with a stranger?”

“Yeah.”

“Welllllll I have a suggestion. But don’t freak out on me when I say it because I only just got you not mad at me and I don’t need your knickers in a knot again okay?”

You laugh. You aren’t a total psycho.

“Go for it dude.”

He withholds his explanation, and it builds some suspense. More than it should have, actually.

“Do it with me.”

“… What?”

“The sex thing, do it with me. Like no homo, I swear to god, but we would make way more money as a pair and I trust you as lame and dorky as you are. Way more than some weird guy. And don’t look at me like that! Geeze! I said no homo.”

You can’t wipe the look of embarrassed disbelief off your face.

“Saying ‘no homo’ doesn’t make it not homo!” you inform him hotly. “Oh my god Dave I cant believe you would even…”

“John! Chill out. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, it was just an idea.” He raises his hands to indicate sincerity and leans forward. “It’s just it’s a lot of money John. Doing porn. And it only has to be weird if we make it weird.”

“It’s weird you would even ask this.”

“It’s not weird. It’s weird because you’re making it weird.”

“You used the word ‘weird’ too much in that sentence.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

A competitive quiet, in which your mind races and your heart rate elevates. The idea of doing… that kind of thing with Dave squicks you the fuck out, okay? You just… you can’t imagine doing that. It’s not right, for you. You don’t have a problem with Dave’s preferences, but for yourself… well…

Yeah. No.

It makes you uncomfortably aware of every part of your body, especially your sticky palms and clumsy hands. You aren’t sure what to do with them. Fold your arms, put them in your lap…

Having a body is hard.

“I don’t want to Dave.” You manage finally, and he sighs.

“Okay. That’s cool. I’m chill with that.”

“But I will think about it.”

Conversation ceases again, and you grind your teeth into your bottom lip so fiercely you are going to need hells of a lot of chapstick in the morning.

“You have a point, its heaps of money and I just really hate thinking about you having to do that alone. Just let me think about it tonight and I will tell you in the morning okay?”

He looks at you unreadably and you wish that he wouldn’t wear his damn shades all the time. Not doing so would make moments like this much easier on you.

“Okay.” He slides off your bed and stretches. “That’s cool. I’m cool with that too. Talk to you tomorrow ‘kay?”

“Yeah sure. Night.”

“Night.” He takes your mug as he goes, and gives you a final single smile over his shoulder as he goes, and you think that maybe you can let him do this by himself, can’t you?

And then you remember that thanks to your money problem you had to have an icy cold shower that afternoon.

God. Sometimes life just sucks, doesn’t it?

 

---

 

You feel a little queasy and washed out when you get up and make your way into the kitchen the next morning, but you have made a decision. After much tossing and turning and soul searching, that is. You really fucking hope you haven’t made a mistake.

Dave, un-caffeinated and un-shaded, his red eyes tired but sharp, watches you come in from over his block of uncooked noodles. You think its strange how Dave just eats blocks of noodles by themselves, but decide it’s actually pretty decent for a breakfast fashioned with no electricity or gas.

“Thought about it?” he asks, and you clear your throat, leaning against the bench and avoiding his eyes.

“Yeah.” You tell him. “I have.”

“And.”

Your mouth is dry and you are feeling horribly uncomfortable. Like your legs are too long or something, and you can’t stand right.

“Yeah I will do it.” you tell him, stumbling a little with your words. “But don’t you ever tell anyone. And as soon as the bills are paid, I’m done. No more. Ever.” You glare at him and he blinks calmly.

“Okay.” He answers simply. “I will call them later, at the library or something.”

You sigh and turn your back to him rubbing the heals of your hands in your eyes and wondering if that milk that had been in the fridge would be too sour to drink right now.

Fuck. Looks like you are going to have to eat raw noodles.

 

---

 

The process is quick and painless. Dave does most of your paperwork, he’s really quite serious when he needs to be, and you get a loan from his brother to cover your household costs until the applications go through and you both pass your HIV screenings. Unsurprisingly, you both show up clear for everything: you are a virgin (which really just makes this whole prospect even more nerve racking) and Dave has only ever had sex with Jade once, although he reported that as her friend it was ‘too creepy’ and you try not to think about this either because apparently it isn’t supposed to be creepy at all, when it is with you. The date for the first filming is set, you elect to do it at your own flat because you are in no way comfortable about doing it in a studio, and although there is a small, inconspicuous mark on the fridge calendar on the day neither of you mention it until the night before. You are too scared to, because every day that brings it closer you become more sure that the moment you open your mouth you are going to either throw up or back out, and you can’t do either of those things. This is for Dave, you have to keep telling yourself. For Dave.

He is your best bro, even if he is also the world’s biggest jerkoff, and best bros gotta stick together, even if it means playing hide the baloney with each others man meat. Besides, it’s not like you have personal boundaries when it comes to Dave. Fuck, you have lived together for two years, and before that you spent so much time at each others houses you may as well have been living together too. You had seen him naked, and vice versa. He had popped acne on your back for you (gross, you know. Don’t talk about it) and you had given him so many foot rubs you have lost track of the exact number. You had talked about everything, and even though as you got older stress and adult problems grew between you, and you shared less and spent more time being involved in your separate lives, he’s still your best bro. You still… love him.

Enough to not let him get fucked by some creepy weirdo from the porn industry.

He brings it up by addressing your name.

“You know… Egbert is a really bad pornstar name.”

You jump, as though he had just shocked you, and spin around to face him.

“What?”

He smiles, kind of supportively for Dave.

“Your name. I’m using my own, Dave Strider sounds good, but John Egbert? Chose a different surname. Also, it means you are more anonymous. You know…”

You aren’t sure if you should be insulted, although you don’t really ant your real name blazoned on the smutty internet. At all.

“What kind of name.” you go with, your voice is a little unsure but he ignores it.

“I dunno. Something better than Egbert. Only I get to call you that.”

You look at him in puzzlement and he pokes out the tip of his tongue. This instantly tells you two things. One: he is fucking nervous, Dave only emulates your own behaviours when he was nervous, and Two: he is trying to alleviate it by supporting you. You think this is sweet; Dave is just so sweet, really. It almost makes you feel better.

“Okay, fine. What name though? I don’t know any porn stary names.”

“Just choose one you like. Whatever.”

You think for a moment. Only one name comes to mind, and you are almost afraid to say it because you know he will laugh.

“… Cage.”

He gives you an arid look. “John Cage?”

You press your lips together, feeling roses bloom in your cheeks, and turn your face away. He sighs.

“John Cage sounds dumb. Go with Jonathan. Jonathan Cage.”

You mouth the name to yourself and hate to admit that he’s right. Jonathan Cage does sound like a pretty cool, kind of hot sort of a guy. Not really like you at all.

You like it.

“Whatever. I’m going to bed.”

“’kay. See you in the morning.”

“Night.”

You escape from the kitchen and Dave’s presence. You need to rest; you have a huge day ahead of you tomorrow.

 

---

 

“Okay, so. Blonde can be the pitcher right?”

You blink at the man with the camera in a daze, on the edge of your bed right next to your stoic best friend, staring into the eyes of three strange men and the reverse umbrella thingys which make the room seem much brighter than it actually is. Oh dear. You feel very ill right now, and you have no idea how the hell you are supposed to get it up in this situation. Oh god oh god… if you think about this too much you are going to spew. Technicolour yawn all over your bed, and bam, over. You are left with no money, and a debt to Dave’s brother that frankly is worth more than everything you own. Damn… that’s a depressing thought.

Luckily Dave has it together.

“Sure.” He smiles for the camera and the camera man gives a thumb up. The camera is rolling. Oh god that camera is rolling, and it’s filming you sitting here timidly and shirtless in your own sanctuary. Your own home…

Dave’s hand creeps across the bedcovers and secures comfortingly on yours. It’s an oasis in a dessert, a comfort when here you are, caught in the headlights. Oh dear you feel like you are going to faint. Is this real? Is this a messed up dream or something?

Is it too late to pull out?

The camera man addresses you next, and you almost fall off the end of the bed.

“Nervous?” he asks, most perceptively. “First time with a guy?”

“First time generally.” You respond shortly, in case you bring up your lunch. You’re sweating on your shoulders, and it’s so fucking gross.

Dave squeezes your hand and the man nods at you, understanding.

“It’s okay, I’m sure your friend will take good care of you.”

Dave sniggers a little and you manage to crack a weak smile.

“Doubt it.”

Dave laughs harder at this and even the producer gives a grin.

“Okay then boys. You can go ahead now.”

“What?” you ask dumbly. “Have sex?”

“Sure. Well, if that’s what you want to do.”

You think it’s good that your director/camera man has a good sense of humour. The boom operator is nowhere near so cheerful, and nor is the assistant standing by your door with a clipboard and a large light on a pole. You are about to reply when you feel Dave’s mouth on your neck, and the touch is so unfamiliar it makes you squeak, your fingers curling in the duvet cover. Fuck, did you just make a face for the camera.

Relax Egbert.” He breathes it against your ear as he returns, glasses nudging your cheek, fingers moving to stroke your hair back, so he can better access. “It’s just you and me right now, doing not-gay shit..”

You flush and incline your head so you can murmur something to him in response. You are aware of the camera guy watching.

I’m having second thoughts.” You tell him. “Can’t I be in a hetero-film?”

He looks at you for a moment, nose at yours, and then tsks.

Sure. But right now we are in a buttfuck one.

He kisses you on the lips briefly and your arms threaten to give way, bones turning to nervous jelly. Oh wow. Oh shit this is happening…

You have to fucking get it right.

 

---

 

Holy mother of God this is embarrassing. This is more embarrassing than having to give yourself an enema in the bathroom before you started this, and nothing could be more embarrassing than having to give yourself an enema in the bathroom before you started this.

 You want to die. You just… you want to die. Why is this happening? What did you do to deserve this…

“It’s no good.” Dave tells them matter of factly, pulling his mouth off your dick and wiping it on the back of his hand. “It ain’t happening.”

“Make it happen!” you hiss, unable to even raise your head in mortification. “Oh my god…”

“What’s the problem?” the director asks. “Just say it, we can edit stuff out later.”

“He can’t get it up.”

Oh god he said it he said it he actually said it fuck. You make a miserable noise and pull your legs up to your chest. Whyyyyy god…

Why.

“What do you mean he can’t get it up?”

You would think a porn director would be slightly more familiar with the subtleties of male biology.

“His boner is dead, man. Flatsville. Limp sock waving in the breeze.”

Oh god did he have to say it like that?

You writhe on the bed miserably and peak at the porno guy from behind your fingers, deeply ashamed as a male, a virgin, and a human being. He looks a little disappointed, but willing to compromise. You were new at this, after all.

“Fake it.” he instructs calmly. “Put your hand over your dick and pull it a little so it looks like… yeah that’s good.” He nods when you oblige. “And when he puts it in make sex noises. Can I hear a practice?”

You stare at him blankly, hardly believing that a man in his thirties, with a pony tail and button up shirt, could possibly say such a thing in all seriousness.

“What?”

“Make noise. I want to hear a practice.”

“Moan John.” Dave instructs you, sitting back on his heals on the bed and stroking his erection to keep it around, because of course he has a perfectly functional piece of anatomy. You swivel your eyes to him numbly and feel your lips part limply.

“Moan?”

He nods and makes a short, barely audible noise. It could be a moan, maybe, you can’t tell…

“Like that! Beautiful.”

The director really fucking likes Dave, apparently. You may be mortified, but not so mortified you can’t be offended. Naturally competitive as you are, although only when it comes to Dave, you try to make a noise too but it sounds more like a hippopotamus dying, and the look you get for it tells you quite clearly that on a scale of one to unfortunate it was pretty damn unfortunate.

“Yeah, okay.” The director adjusts the camera, it’s a decent camera, bigger than a hand held but certainly no big name movie studio Hollywood device, and beckons the boom guy closer to Dave’s side. “That will do I guess.”

Fuckit it’s just going to have to, isn’t it?

 

---

 

You get there in the end, and although you can honestly say you despised the feeling of having a dick in your ass you would be lying if you said Dave wasn’t great with his hands. Great enough to get you to at least cumshot a little. Which the director practically had his own orgasm over, actually.

Anyway. It is over now, and you have never been so relieved to see the end of something in your life. You lie there on the bed, catching your breath, running your hand thoughtlessly over Dave’s thigh as he straddles your chest and wanks himself in the general direction of your face, and from somewhere a million miles away, back in reality which in your panic you had forgotten had even existed, you realise that you can feel the quiver of his muscles under his skin, his heartbeat, the way his body moves as he breathes. He doesn’t make much noise, unlike you did closer to the finale (proper noise too- not near so morbid as your previous attempts), but his hips do snap at odd moments, and the hand not working over his length caresses your hair with almost worshipful gentleness. You think strangely, apparently out of the blue, that dicks are really funny looking things, especially hard, and Dave’s is no exception. His pubic hair is very light and fine, and he is circumcised. Bummer for him, you pity the fool who tried to take your foreskin off you, you know that much. It’s your favourite part.

You are distracted from this train of thought when you feel something hot and with the consistency of yoghurt splatter on your chin and lips.

Ohhh.

He tightens his hand in your hair and wide eyed, hardly daring to believe he just came on you, you look up from his pelvic region, past his chest, and to his face. The director had let him keep his shades on, you can see yourself reflected in them, distorted but there, and you look shell-shocked it could be a joke. There is thick white semen on your mouth, you can see it, and dribbles of it on your chin, and beyond the shades Dave looks utterly impassive, only the slight part of his lips and the flush on his face betraying that he’s just…

Holy shit.

You feel yourself blush, and you are so sorely tempted to lick it off because it feels so weird but oh god the idea of having his jizz actually on your tongue makes you feel sick all over again, but you don’t have much choice when he stops stroking and uses his hand to guide his cock toward the seam of your mouth, sliding the wet tip over your bottom lip and smearing his cum across it smoothly. You open your mouth to curse him out, your fingers in his thigh tightening to a death grip, and he takes advantage of this, forcing his head, covered in spunk, inside.

It tastes horrible. You try to sit up but he holds your head down and withdraws his cock, before pressing it carefully back in. You give him a death look and squirm helplessly, gagging on the flavour and your own tongue. Ew ew ewwww oh fuck this is nasty! The nasty cherry on the crappy fucking cake oh god this is bad.

He eases up, removing himself one last time and shuffling down your body. the corner of his lip is quirks triumphantly, and you give it a look of absolute loathing to express how you felt about that bullshit he just pulled, but you let him kiss your lips briefly because that’s what the director-captain-big-name-boss-guy said to so afterwards, even pulling him back because his lips taste sweet and it’s a relief after the bitter of semen.

Not so bad right?” he murmurs into your ear, and you kind of want to hit him.

Maybe for you!”

You push him off you as soon as the director says ‘cut’ and before anyone can say or do anything else, ignoring his indignant ‘Hey!’, you leap off the bed and immediately regret it because your ass and lower back fucking hurt. Holy shit. You were never putting anything up your butt again. Not even for money.

“Are we done here?” you ask shortly, grabbing your too-big Ghostbusters tee off the floor and pulling it on because even though you’ve just had sex (oh shit you’ve had sex) in front of these strangers and with Dave, you’ve never felt so exposed in your life.

And now, for every milligram of fear and doubt you felt before doing this, you are feeling a kilogram of self-disgust and shame. How could he? How could you? Oh this was too messed up.

“Yeah, sure I guess. Did you want a post shoot interview?”

“No!” you can’t even look at Dave as you pull down your top and bend a little, so the hem covers your genitals. “No I just want to have a shower and get the money. Oh fuck.”

You are freaking out. You are on a one way train to freakout city and there are no stops on the way.

Holy shit. Holy fucking shit in a shitbike this just happened. This just happened. They had it on film and people are going to watch it because you signed the release papers and everyone is going to see you get fucked to almost tears by your best friend in every orifice of your body.

You feel awful.

You excuse yourself shortly and hobble as fast as you can to the bathroom. A cold post-trauma sweat breaks on your forehead as you get there. You need a shower. You need a bath. You need something to get the feeling of filth on your skin.

“John? Bro are you okay?”

You spare Dave, still undressed, and the empty hallway a single betrayed glance over your shoulder as you wrench open the bathroom door.

 

---

 

The aftermath of your freakout brings embarrassment.

God it really is a rollercoaster with you, isn’t it?

You slink out of the bathroom an hour later, hoping you might be able to steal to your room without Dave noticing and maybe die. You can’t believe that you spazzed about that, but then again you totally can, and it’s very conflicting and confusing, and your ass still hurts like a total whore. You want to lie on the ground and make deeply self pitying walrus noises, but think that if Dave finds you in that position things would only get more awkward.

“Caught you.”

You jump near through the roof, when you hear his voice from behind and below you, and snap your head around to see him sitting on the floor, clearing having been waiting for you, his old school gameboy colour in his hand. You stumble, face flushing, heartbeat racing, and try to back away from this interaction. You are not prepared for this.

“Uh… hey… Dave.”

He stares at you flatly, glasses hiding his thoughts.

“Hey.” His tongue flicks nervously over his upper lip and you curl your fingers in the hem of your t-shirt. There is something here now, isn’t there? You knew there would be. He promised you is wouldn’t be weird but here you are in the aftermath and it is weird. It’s too weird. You can feel it buzzing around you, like mosquitoes of ‘Perhaps we took it a little too far’.

“… Are you okay?” he pulls himself to his feet and stretches, his neck clicking audibly. He’s actually a little shorter than you, but for some reason, right now you feel like the smaller man. “You seemed pretty upset before.”

“Yeah… no I’m fine. I just had a bit of a moment that’s all.”

“Some moment.”

“… Yeah.” You clear your throat awkwardly and look away. You see his face, his fine nose and pretty lips, and you think about the way he had looked fucking you, his brow creased, his impatient breath, his firm grip on your hips and your dick…

You hope you aren’t going to be stuck thinking about that every time you see him from now on, because that would be the sort of thing that could destroy a friendship.

Oh shit, you realise that while friendship had been the comfort that had convinced you to do it, it was also the thing you had forgotten to consider the effects on. Will this change your relationship at all? Is he going to see you differently now?

“Ass sore?” he asks you, noticing the tender stance you hold, your towel wrapped around your waist because you don’t have any pants that aren’t in your laundry basket at the moment.

“Fuck yes.”

It aches like you have never experienced before, but not even in your ass, in your pelvis. It’s like he has bruised something deep inside you, your spleen maybe, and you imagine this must be how period pain feels. It’s shit. You would rather have random embarrassing boners any day.

“Want a back rub?” He stretches and checks his watch. “It’s only five pm.”

“Um…”

Hells yeah you want a backrub. But wouldn’t that be strange, after what just happened…

Dave sighs and runs his hand through his hair.

“Or not. If you don’t want. I need a shower anyway.” He edges past you into the bathroom you have just vacated and you bite your lip, feeling inexplicably guilty.

“Money’s on the bench.” He tells you, and you turn to watch him remove his shades and lean toward the mirror to check the tired shadows under his eyes. “I thought we could order Chinese for dinner.”

“Yeah okay.” You close the bathroom door for him and he gives you a wary look as you do so, which you ignore. Perhaps if you can order the food, eat the food, and then make yourself scarce before Dave gets out you won’t have to deal with the inevitable post fucking pep-talk that needs to be had whether you want it or not.

The realisation that you and Dave have actually had sex hits you again with crippling force, and you wonder how long it’s going to keep doing that without warning.

Ugh.

You make your way to the kitchen, count the stack of fifty dollar bills on the bench (there is $800 there… wow. Not bad for one days work) and sigh, tapping your fingers on the bench and listening to your stomach grumble. You hear the pipes shudder as Dave turns on the shower. This is bizarre. This is really bizarre. You don’t feel any different than you did any other time in your life, even though you have just had gay sex, and yet in some ways you just do not feel the same.

You rub your neck and wonder where you left your glasses. You swear when you realise you have left them in the bathroom, by the sink. Or no! Wait!

Perhaps they are still in your bedroom. You don’t remember putting them back on during your hasty exit earlier.

You grab the cordless phone as you leave the kitchen, dialling the Chinese place as you go. They pick up as you reach your bedroom door and you try to smile so they hear it in your voice. “Hey, I’d like to place an order?”

Your room looks huge now, without all that clumsy equipment stuffed in it, and the only indicator of what had transpired there earlier is your duvet covers, which are rumpled and, you realise with a stomach flip, have a little bit of cum on them. The larger spot, a long ribbon of it, is your own. You can only assume that the small splatters close by where you had lain as he climaxed belonged to him, having missed your face.

Remembering the warmth of his ejaculate on your skin makes you uncomfortable, you run your tongue over your teeth and spot your glasses on the sidetable.

“Sure, what will you have?”

“Two boxes of beef noodle, one fried rice and a dozen wontons please.”

“Okay and that was for?”

“John Egbert.” You grab your glasses and give your address. The person (a girl you think) on the other end of the line makes a confirmative noise. On the way out of the bedroom you close the door.

“Thanks.” You hang up.

Dave is, as usual, in the shower briefly, you are sitting delicately on the sofa surfing channels when he emerges and he is only wearing a wifebeater and pair of puma trackpants, which you find distracting because there are scratches on his biceps you are sure you inflicted.

“Ordered food?” he asks you, pulling on his ‘ironic’ socks, the black ankle ones with the white pom-poms on the heal. You nod, and pull your legs to your chest. He sees you wince and cocks his brow.

“Alright dude?”

“Yeah.” You wish you could be like him, calm and stuff… “Sore butt still.”

He looks at you, and you squirm a little. You haven’t forgotten his offer of a backrub…

“Lie down.” He tells you shortly, standing up and looking down in a most condescending way. You stare at him almost fearfully and decide it’s probably in your best interest to do as he says. You stretch yourself on the sofa, stomach down, and try to get comfortable. It’s a relief not to have weight on your tailbone.

You swear when his weight moves onto the back of your thighs. He settles, straddling you, and runs his hands over your back lightly, in much the same way as you have done for him once or twice before. Before you two had even considered that one day you might…

“Where’s it sore?” he asks matter of factly.

“Lower back. Just above my tailbone.”

He doesn’t reply, instead moving to rub the area testily, trying to find where he’s supposed to focus his administrations. It takes a few pained ‘ah!’ and ‘oh fuck’ moments, but eventually he finds a technique, massaging gently but broadly with his thumbs, easing out the pain in your back a little. You are disappointed that the pain in your actual gut is not diminished at all. Your bladder still feels severely bruised, and you don’t even want to think about how much it’s going to hurt next time you have to go to the toilet.

Its silent in the living room for a while, you turn your head and kind of focus but not really on the TV. Family guy is on. You never really got this show, although Dave seems to know about off colour humour and ironic chicken based combat to find it somewhat entertaining. Dave’s motions are repetitive and soothing, and now you are here, prone and calming slowly, wondering when the next attack of ‘wait I just had sex with this guy’ will come. It’s unfortunate, but with relaxation comes a sorrowful sense of resigned embarrassment. You have time and clarity of mind now to reflect on the experience, and how it was, and what went wrong, and you observed it in your mind with a disconnected ambedo. Awareness of your surroundings, of your exhaustion, of Dave’s weight and warmth over your legs all became vivid.

“So you didn’t like it huh.” He speaks with typical impassivity, and it does not stir you from your kind of peaceful state.

“Nope.”

“Was I really that shit?”

“No, it wasn’t you.” you would feel pretty bad if your bad experience became responsible for Dave’s performance anxiety in the future. “It was me.”

“… You better not be saying that just to make me feel better.”

“I’m not. I’m just dumb, that’s all. I’m sorry.” You sigh and shuffle around a little, to get him to kneed one particular spot some more. “I was just really nervous, and I panicked, and then I felt useless because I couldn’t get hard and it’s stupid. I’m stupid. I ruined it for you.”

“Hey it wasn’t that hot for me either bro. Just remember that.”

Your lip twitches passively, and you think that it never occurred to you but whatever, if he says so.

“I mean,” he carries on, digging a little harder with his thumbs and oh that feels better than the sex. “It’s one thing to fuck your pillow, but it’s another all together to fuck a guy who responds like a pillow. Kind of disheartening, actually. I mean come on John, I’m a fucking sex god up here and all you could do was lie there and croak.” He pokes you in the back of the neck to imply he’s teasing, but you can’t help wince because yeah, he’s kind of right.

“They should give me a medal for doing that. Honest to god. Or a trophy, and a parade, and a public holiday every year to commemorate the day Dave Strider’s cock actually managed to make John cry. I felt like fucking Satan up there bro.” Exasperated, although this only becomes obvious toward the final half of his last sentence, Dave stops what he is doing and strokes his hand through your hair.

“If you hated the idea that much, you shouldn’t have done it.”

Oh well now you really feel shit.

“I’m sorry!” you tell him, really meaning it. “I just… it was really scary okay? You were fine, you did fine, everything… it was my fault. I won’t fuck it up next time.”

The words come out of your mouth before you can filter them. Next time? Why would there be a next time? You haven’t even considered a next time thus far. Dave notices the slip too.  

“… next time?” he asks you. “You wanna do it again.”

You wish you could kick yourself, but he is kind of in the way at the moment and the best you can do for now is turn your face helplessly into the sofa cushion and groan.

“I don’t knowwwww…” you complain. “But $800 is a lot of money. Like… more than a lot. I’m very conflicted.”

“Oh.” He taps your back lightly and you close your eyes. “Well okay then.”

“Will you?”

He doesn’t reply for a while, and then

“Maybe. I dunno.”

Your conversation is cut short by the doorbell. Your dinner has arrived.

 

---

 

You have a lecture the next afternoon, it runs late and so you miss the bus home, and Dave is already home when you arrive, back from his own seminar or social outing or whatever it was Dave had on that afternoon, you don’t care. He is sitting at the table, talking on the phone, and he jerks his chin at you when you come through the door and pull off your coat, setting it on the hook. Your hair is a little damp, it’s beginning to drizzle outside, and you are fucking cold. Why has he not turned on the heater?

“Yeah. No I know that. Uh huh. Uh huh.”

You look at him quizzically as he talks into the mouthpiece, wandering into the living room area and turning on the lamp and drawing the curtains on the grey, morbid cityscape. You flick on the heater when you pass.

“Yeah I know. Okay. Yes I will. Okay. Thank you… yeah. Thanks.”

He gives the phone a pained smile and hangs up, only then daring to heave a mighty sigh.

“That was the power company.” He informs you. “We are two days overdue on this months bill.”

You groan and sit down at the table opposite him, wincing a little but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was yesterday, thank god.

“Do we have any money left?” you ask.

“No, and we still owe bro two hundred for last month. Luckily for us this months is only small.” He gestures to the open envelope on the table by the salt shaker, you take it and pull out the slip inside.

“$92.50.” you read aloud. “That’s not too bad I suppose. We can take that from my paycheck.”

“Yeah but the gas bill is due in three days as well, and that’s almost two hundred. Plus food. I’m fucking sick to death of noodles. I never want to have to eat noodles again.” He lifts his hands over his head and stretches woefully. “Fucking noodles. I should be pissing noodles right now you know. I wouldn’t be shocked.”

“Please don’t, that will do all hell to our plumbing.” You refold the bill and slip it back into the envelope. “And I’m working five hours tomorrow, I can apply for more shifts over the weekend. I’m sure your bro can wait for his money, dude.”

Dave pulls a face expressing doubt.

“Maybe… but he’s going to hold it over my head until I pay him back every black cent. He owns my ass until I do.”

“I could ask my dad for money?”

“Could your dad afford it?”

You hesitate for a moment, thinking…

“No.” you realise sombrely. “I don’t think he could.”

“Then we are royally fucked, aren’t we? Time to start taking cold showers again, and watching our TV by candlelight. Hurrah.”

“Dave you cant watch TV anyway if there isn’t any- oh.” You realise he is being sarcastic too late. “Oops. Never mind.”

He probably rolls his eyes, but you can’t be sure.

“Anyway, my point is, we are poor. We knocked boots, and we are still poor. If you have any other great ideas as to how we are supposed to rectify this now would be an appropriate time to spill it.”

You shake your head grimly and rub your temples, where you can feel a tension headache threatening to spawn.

“No. nothing.”

“Right. Awesome. That’s just great.” He stands up and his chair squeaks angrily on the lino in complaint. “Fucking ace bro. fucking goddamn ace.”

“Don’t be mad at me.” you tell him defensively, recognising the strain in his voice as irritation. “It’s not my fault, I tried what I could.”

“I know it’s not your fault dumbass.” He gives you a bitter look and pushes his chair roughly back in. “I’m going to bed.”

“But it’s only six fif-“

He ignores you, turning on his heal and stalking toward the hall and his bedroom. Your heart sinks and you flop forward helplessly on the table. Dave is blaming himself for this, isn’t he? He always blames himself. He may act all uppity, but under it all you know you have never met someone so sensitive and self depreciating in your life. This is why you had been so hesitant to bring up the money thing in the first place, you knew he would flip and you knew he would beat himself up for not pulling his weight. Which he wasn’t, but he didn’t deserve to be victimised for it quite so much as he is doing to himself right now.

You hate seeing him like this, and you hate the idea of being once again without light and hot water.

There’s really only resolution to this dilemma.

 

---

 

You walk down the street toward the café with your workbooks under your arm, thinking as you go that you desperately need a new pair of jeans because damned if these aren’t the cock-crushingest ball squeezingest , honky tonk skinny jeans of all time and it’s not like you haven’t been limping enough for the last week. Your phone vibrates and you work it out of your pocket, checking Dave’s reply.

 

Sure. I can order your drink now what do you want?

 

You think about it for a moment, and reply.

 

orange juice is fine

 

You are almost at the café anyway.

This is the first time you and Dave have had an opportunity to talk for a couple of days, and this is the day you mean to tell him your intentions. It took a lot to work up the courage to make a decision, but now you have you are going through with it. You have to, especially since earlier this week… well…

You haven’t told Dave that yet, either. You probably should.

You know it isn’t your fault you lost your job. The store had been cutting back casual staff for a while now, and with your lectures interrupting the shifts you could actually take, and study interfering with evening callups, you were probably as casual as they come. You have one month. One month of paid employment left, and only now do you really understand the sinking despair you saw in Dave’s face every tense, money stressed morning.

But you have to maintain a smile, you have to stay cheerful as you can. Dave will pick up on any negative vibes and probably magnify them. You don’t want that to be a thing that happens.

The café you have chosen is one that gives half off to students, and Dave is already sitting in your favoured spot in the sofas by the back corner, close to the fire and far from the window. There are a lot of people in there, with the lunch rush, but you weave through them with little fuss when you arrive, dropping into the low, cubic sofa opposite him and reaching for the glass of orange juice waiting on the low table for you.

“Dave?”

He looks up from the WHO magazine he is flicking through and smiles.

“Hey man. Took you a while.”

“I know, lecture ran way over. Ugh.” You drop your books in the seat next to you and flop, exhausted. “How was your day?”

“I took a few pictures, found a real interesting dead bird on the pavement on my walk here.”

“Ew.”

“No. awesome.”  He sets down his magazine and sighs. “I’m looking forward to the weekend, are you busy tonight?”

“Nope.”

“Stay in with me, we can get Indian food and watch a whole season of MacGyver.”

“You hate that show.”

“I know, but it seems like the sort of thing you would be into.” He shrugs. “and I don’t hate that show. I don’t make a point of hating any show, Egbert, you should know by now that I am pretty much a completely passive entertainment Buddha, at peace with myself and the media machine.”

“You have previously expressed disinterest in that show?”

“Better.” looking quite sage, Dave pushes his shades up his nose. “But is that a yes?”

“Yeah sure, but first, I really need to talk to you about something, okay?” you drag your two front teeth over your lip and fiddle with the hem of your polo shirt. He nods, barely perceptibly, and settles back into the chair. You could almost believe Dave has no idea where this is going, but you know him far to well for that. You can see the tightness in his jaw, the forcibly calm way he folds his hands. You know he is thinking precisely what you are, you know it has never been far from his mind.

“I think I’m going to do it again.”

The ease of his shoulders could almost be relief, but they could also be despair, it’s hard to know, and so you immediately feel the need to justify yourself.

“look, I know it hated it, and I know things got a little bad after the first time, but I lost my job the other day and its easy money and honestly, I promise I wont freak out so much this time I swear it. Just come and do it with me okay because otherwise I will be the one going with strangers. I can’t not, Dave, look at us, I just feel like such a failure because I can’t support myself, what would my dad think? What would anyone think? I’m not playing supplicant and begging for money, I have more dignity than that, and I’m not living in a cold dark flat for the rest of my school career. This is it. The only thing to be done.”

Dave is silent for a moment, and your stomach drops because oh no, what if he has changed his mind? What if he didn’t want to do it any more? What if he was disgusted by the idea?

“Okay.” He responds eventually. “Okay, sounds good.” He folds his legs under him on the sofa and removes his shades briefly to clean the lenses. You glimpse his eyes for a moment, closed because this is public, the softness of his lashes alien to you.

“So shall I call the agency tomorr-“

“Yes.” You reply quickly, face pinkening with relief and embarrassment. “Yes please.”

And so, it is agreed.

 

---

 

The appointment is set for one week later, and your electricity is cut off again the day before, so honestly you are actually looking forward to the event because once its done you can pay your bills and get reconnected, and then the next week, when you are assigned to do it again, you can finish paying off your already outstanding debts. Your severance pay package was minimal at best; it had barely covered the gas bill. Dave and you had only agreed to two more shots thus far, but you would see.

You are considerably less nervous this time around, but all the same you feel those cotton ball shivers and that queasy feeling in your stomach anticipating it, especially when Dave taps you on the shoulder the morning when you are trying to read the paper, and suggests that now might be the time to go and shower, and sort out any… procedures you have to do before hand. He promised to help the crewmen set up when they arrived, and you agreed to this because you know that the crewmen in question have had to bring a large generator this time, for them to run their lights and electronics in your flat, and Dave is way better at that stuff than you. Hell, with you in the room something would be bound to go wrong, you know it.

So you shower and you clean, doing like the director guy had instructed you last time, using one of the horrible little plastic bladder things he had given you and not asked for back and making sure you were all set, all good to go. It is uncomfortable, but not near as uncomfortable as the first time around. Probably because this time you kind of know what to expect.

When you come out of the shower, wrapped in only a towel because face it you were going to be naked again soon anyway, you are surprised to see that the crew is already here and unpacked.

“Hi.” You greet them all, and they greet you back, and it’s surprisingly civil considering the sordidness of the situation.

You are also surprised at how swiftly you have become matter of fact about this. This strange disconnectedness, the voice that told you sternly ‘it’s just a job John, it doesn’t mean anything at all.”

Who would have known, you can be serious and responsible sometimes, when you have come to terms with the unchangeable. Perhaps you are more like your father than you would like to admit…

No. shut up. That was a terrifying thought and you don’t want a repeat of it.

“Eager are we?” the director nods to your towel and you blush. Oops, there goes your businesslike indifference.

“Well I am going to be naked soon anyway, I-“

“No, your right, you’re right. Get in there, Dave will brief you up. It’s a different shot this time, you’ll probably like this better.”

“I will.”

“Sure, why not? It was either this or a scatfilm.”

 

---

 

The ‘new’ type of shot being produced os a romance porno, and frankly this knocks the weird metre up a few notches before you could restrain yourself. The justification for it being that ‘you two are the only employees who fuck in a pair, and we want to play this up.’

You suppose it makes sense, but there’s something awfully guilt inducing about pretending to be Jonathan Cage, long time committed boyfriend of Dave Strider, on film, especially considering you haven’t done drama since you were fourteen and Dave played the part of a smitten boyfriend way to well. You suppose a lifetime of living la vida ironica had instilled him with kickass acting skills. Yeah, that must be it.

After an awkward between the sheets cuddles scene, during which you had to recite lines (‘Are you doing anything tonight?’ ‘Not really.’ ‘Wanna stay in and watch ghostbusters’) that were uncomfortably similar to conversations you and Dave have shared a million times before, he is silently signalled to kiss you, and the orchestrated falsity of impassionate and meaningless love making begins. From this point on, things are similar to the first time around, except you don’t have quite as much trouble getting it up, and Dave has to take off his shades which he would only do with much encouragement from you and a promise from the camera man that they would not, in any way shape or form, show his opened eyes in the finished film. Dave hates his eyes, you never understood why. You always thought they were stunning but whenever you mentioned it he would get shitty. They are round and childish, and they are fringed with long pale lashes, the irises a seeming auburn that seizes you, shakes you up, and drills right into your soul.

He told you once that he thought they made him look like a freak.

Well, excuse the terrible pun but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Beauty also, is in the hand of the money holder upon completion, and once the cameramen have left you and Dave count out the cash, enough to sort out the electricity dilemma, and shower together. You appreciate this, it means that he can wash your back where, thanks to your aching lower body, you cannot twist to reach, and you return the favour by washing his hair for him; something he has always liked.

It feels much more intimate and natural, than having sex on camera.

 

---

 

It’s the third time, a trial in Dave’s bedroom, rather than your own, that it happens.

You’re lying there, with your thighs pulled over his, grunting your way through having a cock jammed in and out of your ass, when he does something, something strange and something wonderful, that he has never done before.

“Oh GOD!”          

You fling your arm forward and seize his shoulder, almost crushing it, and jerk your body back into an uncharacteristically supple arch.

He stops, staring at you with wide, scared eyes.

“Ohshit John, did I hurt you?”

“No!” you give him a look, a desperately demanding look. “Do it again!”

He seems surprised, and takes a split second to look at the director. The director who gestures urgently keep going.

He leans closer, still looking at you with concern, and bends your legs back further than he probably should have.

“If I hurt you, tell-“

“Just keep going.” You hope briefly that the director will edit this out. It’s kind of embarrassing, having a conversation with him while he’s… you know… “and do that again, it felt…” you wiggle your lips, unable to say it like that. He tips his head, closer to yours.

it felt good.” you murmur, closing your eyes and sliding your hands down his arms, and over his back. “You’re good, Dave.”

He is silent for a moment, you feel his breath easing against your cheek, you smell his hair, feel his warmth and that strange hard thing inside of you, and then he moves, and he touches that place, and you sink your teeth into your bottom lip because that is so weird, but its so good, and wow it makes you drip precum like crazy. God its hard to describe, its like feeling something unfurl inside your pelvis, a trigger or something, and its incapacitating, humiliating, but fuck you never want him to stop. God yeah…

Dave.”

“Shit John…”

You jerk your hips over his, trying to get him into you deeper. This is a horrible position. Truly. Terrible. He seems to pick up on your frustration, thank god, releasing your legs and using his arms instead to hitch you up, pull you into his lap and against his chest, your arms draping around his shoulders and your face nuzzling into the crook of his neck. This is a position you have never tried before, and you like it a lot. It’s close, you can kiss Dave’s ear, talk to him, feel the tension in his back beneath your palms, and you can drive, control your own pace. You forget, briefly, that this is acting. That other people are watching…

For one moment, it’s just Dave and you.

Regretfully, this new position is not quite as effective when it comes to reaching that spot.

The feeling passes.

 

---

 

“Hey.” He passes you a hot drink over the back of the sofa and you take it gratefully, pausing your game of Mario Karts so you can focus all of your attention on him. Dave’s brother sent him his old N64 a couple of days ago, and you are making the most of it; you have been up for four hours already playing, yet to have breakfast, shower, or change, and he seems a little burry through your dry, square eyes.

“Thanks.” You smile and shuffle over on the sofa, to make him room, and he hops on. “What time is it?”

“Like, nine. Early. Too early.”

You laugh. “For a Saturday, sure.”

He gives you a look you can just see, sideways through his glasses, and you jam out your tongue. Your drink is still hot, you blow on the surface lightly to cool it and nudge your controller to him.

“Finish for me?” you ask, “I still need to shower.”

“Why shower man, it’s a Saturday. Just chill in your PJs like a swag mofo.”

“What if I decide to go out?”

“Do you ever willingly go out on a Saturday John? Is this a new thing I haven’t heard about? The John Egbert extra-domestic exchange program? Sign me up. Wowza.”

“Fuck you.” you draw your legs under you and return your attention to the TV as he unpauses, half way through your run of moo moo farms. The cheerful chiptunes fill the flat, and you sigh happily. This is good. This feels good. You feel good.

For one, you are finally out of debt.

For two, you are officially on semester one exam study, your exams (which you are feeling pretty confident about) starting next Wednesday, and for three? Well, this is the first Saturday afternoon you’ve had in a long time where you don’t have to go into work.

Honestly, there was little in your life so obtrusive as the twelve to four thirty shift you used to have to work every weekend. Why the hell would you want to go out today, when you have been going out on Saturdays every Saturday for the past year?

It made no sense. At all.

You sit there on the sofa peacefully, watching Dave exhibit his skills on that joystick, for another twenty minutes before you realise you are hungry, your hot drink long since drunk, and heave yourself to your feet.

“Breakfast?” you offer.

“Yeah, that’d be sweet.”

“What do you want?”

“You could make me some pancakes.”

You pull a face. He would ask for something more complicated than toast. Why could he never just ask for flour mixed in coffee? That would be easy, and high in carbohydrates. The good kind.

“I guess.”

“Thanks John, you’re the best.” He shoots you a grin, that is really more of a smirk but you know it indicates genuine gratefulness, and you are shocked when your stomach responds, tripping over itself, almost sending you toppling over.

Shit, what?

That was weird.

It passes quickly, and you ponder it almost fearfully as you make the pancakes, but when you return to the living space and drop the plate of sugary, lemony breakfast goods on the coffee table, and watch him shovel them enthusiastically into his mouth, the feeling does not return.

 

---

 

“Oh my goddddd…” you lie on the sofa, groaning and moaning, your stomach berating you quite passionately for your unholy consumption of marshmallows the whole afternoon. “Dave I feel so sick.”

“Tough nuts Egbert, I told you to lay off the sugar.” He bends over and picks the empty marshmallow packet off the floor. The plastic crinkles, and his legs block your view of the TV, so you swat him away, rolling onto your side and dragging a sofa cushion under your head.

“I suppose,” he stands in your peripheral, hands on his hips in a probably ironic gesture, “that you don’t want dinner.”

“no.” you wave him off, he is distracting you from the adventure time marathon. “And I’m not making you any either.”

“Whatever.” He disappears, but you can hear him drawing the curtains, plunging the greying living room into TV lit dim before he snapped on the corner lamp, and walks smoothly behind the sofa. “I might order curry for dinner. What’s that place that does the wicked Vindaloo? I could use a little spring cleaning.”

“Gross.” You can’t help smile, eyes not shifting from the TV, ears pricked and listening to him rummage in the kitchen, the marshmallow bag being jammed in the bin, the seal of the fridge sucking open as he makes to get some sort of beverage. “If you are that fussed about ‘spring cleaning’ there might still be an ass douche in the bathroom.”

“An enema, dick.” Dave returns to the lounge room and walks right up, standing between you and the television in a most irritating and obviously intentional manner. You stare at him blankly, pretending you have no idea what he wants, ignoring his fingers tapping the side of a chilled soda can, and the daintily arched eyebrow.

You win, because he sighs and tips his head wearily to the side.

“Can you sit up for a sec, I wanna put my ass there.”

You pull a face and oblige, deciding not to let this elevate to world war proportions tonight, letting him fall into the space where your head had been before settling back and making yourself comfortable in his lap. You had had an amazing, relaxing day, and you didn’t want a fight with Dave to taint the memory of it.

“Oi.” He looks down at you, corners of his mouth turned down, but you can tell from the crease in his forehead that he is faking it. “What am I? A pillow?”

“Yeah.” You grin at him, wincing when he crinkles his nose and touches the side of his cold, moist Pepsi can against your forehead. “You got promoted.”

“Fucking… fucking hell Egbert.” He shakes his head a little and looks to the TV screen, and you must admit it’s a relief when he removes the can, that shit is cold, a wet patch still tingling in your cheek. “Jesus Christ.”

You laugh and nuzzle his leg cosily, curling your legs up further and resting one hand on his knee. He cracks open his soda, takes a drink, and sets it on the coffee table.

“What?” you ask him teasingly. “Not impressed by my come back?”

“Dude if I wanted cumback, I would have wiped it off your chin.”

“…Oi!”

This was sudden, unexpected, and out of line. Way to ruin a good day Dave! And you had been so relaxed this evening as well. You hit his leg, hard, shocked by the retort, and he shorts obnoxiously, catching your hand when you go to strike him again. Woah. Woah woah woah that was a low blow. That was not cool, Dave. At all.

“Kidding.” He tells you, squeezing your fingers lightly. You glare at him, embarrassed as hell, and you can feel the hot cheeks and butterflies you have come to associate with any form of ‘sexualisation’ of what you have come to accept as your job, although you would never call it that out loud. You know its dumb, to get touchy over the porn thing being looked at as a sexual act rather than a business one, because its by all definitions a sexual behaviour, but honestly a distanced and professional perspective on the matter is your coping strategy. You can’t imagine how shit you would feel about this if you were thinking about it with an immature or sexualised state of mind.

“That wasn’t funny.”

“It was.”

“It wasn’t.”

“It was!” he shakes your hand kindly, which is extremely a delicate thing for Dave to do, and it explains a lot about how comfortable he feels around you. “But if it’s any consolation, you pull off jizz on your face better than any other guy I know.”

If he keeps talking like this your face is going to start issuing sparks.

“That’s not a consolation at all!”

“I dunno. I’ve seen a lot of guys with jizz on their face. No homo or nothing.”

You give him a look to indicate that you doubt this. That sounds pretty homo…

And then he does that thing you hate, because whenever he does it you just cannot stay mad at him; he wiggles one eyebrow stupidly, his lips still dead in a blank line, and you see your face reflected in his shades and god the complete ludicrousity of it brings a well of laughter up in your stomach and you explode into giggles, like some kind of stupid teenage girl. He chuckles, that line easing into an impish grin, another one of Dave’s hundreds of smiles familiar only to you. You think briefly how strange it is, that of all the people you know and even behind those shades and that public mask of indifference, Dave has one of the most expressive and honest faces. Its sweet in a way, sometimes he just makes expressions you wish you could touch. Right now is one of those times.

“You’ve been in a stupidly good mood lately.” You tell him, laughter dying down. He shrugs and drops a hand to your hair, raking his fingers through it lightly. It tingles, and you shiver, tilting your head so he can scratch your scalp.

“Well, I dunno about you bro but I’ve been getting laid weekly for the last little while and who’s going to complain about that?”

You bite back another smile and shift, your too-full stomach groaning in complaint.

Yes. This is nice. This is real nice.

Who would have thought that you and Dave having sex would have brought you this much closer?

 

 

PART TWO

 

You spread your legs and curl your fingers into the pillow, the bed shifting beneath your weight, and his hands press onto your pelvis gently but not so gently that you feel you could just push him off. It doesn’t work like that, with Dave. He always knows the exact amount of firmness to use during sex, the precise degree of soft. He’s a good lover, unlike you. It comes like instinct to him.

And so does sucking dick.

You tense your shoulders, canting your hips down sharply as he curls his tongue around the tip of your cock, lips wet and guarding his teeth.

“Oh Dave… fucccck yes. Yes. Yess keep going… oh.” Your breath catches and you roll your head back, mind training on the feeling of his fingertips pinning you to the mattress, the heat of his tongue, and the texture of it. Smooth, but not, somehow. You aren’t sure…

“Oh, Dave, yes… yes…” your lips part into an embarrassing O, you clench your ass and try to push up into his mouth. You don’t usually cum this fast, but orgasm is approaching and who are you to say no?

“Shit!” breathless, you drop a hand down and cling at his hair, the straws of which are smooth and fine beneath your hands. “shit, Dave, shitshitshittt!”…

And then you sit up, the fragile state between consciousness and REM shattered by your dream climax, leaving you direly horny, and not half bewildered.

Shit.” You mimic your dream self, looking around your darkened room as though you have never seen it, and its shadows before, and pushing sweaty fingers of hair off your face. “Holy shit.”

Your dick is rock hard and obnoxious in your boxer shorts, and it’s throbbing impatiently which scares and bugs you, enough to make your hands shake when you reach for the waistband and lift it to see what you could have told from beneath your sheets anyway.

Yeah, that is definitely hard. Definitely. It’s hells of hard. You feel like you are sporting an iron rod between your legs. You know you should probably jerk it off and go back to sleep, but as consciousness and awareness returns, so too does comprehension in relation to what had inspired such a physical response in you. What you had been dreaming about…

Oh hell no.

You are not wanking to your best friend. No fucking way.

Angry at yourself, and embarrassed because this is the second time this has happened this week, you throw yourself back down in your bed and bury your face in the sheets. Goddamnit you will not become a slave to your hormones! You will not let your body become accustomed to Dave’s. That is fucking weird. Too weird.

You roll onto your stomach, wincing when the friction in your shorts tingles in your sore dick, and grunt. This was so dumb. It’s only started recently, and you don’t know why because its not like there hasn’t been opportunity for these sorts of feelings to arise between the seven or so times you and him have fucked. You would have thought that if they were going to happen, they would have happened ages ago.

Apparently not.

It was frustrating as hell, the way you were starting to respond to Dave in a way that was not really platonic enough to correspond with your feelings. These dreams, for example. Random thoughts of sex (which you still aren’t enjoying as much as everyone seems to think one should, so god only knows why this is) with him, unexpected boners when he was around. It isn’t like you are even sexually attracted to him! You aren’t, not at all. He is still just the same old Dave, with his lanky limbs and espresso permanently in hand. Still that guy with the dumb shades, and too skinny ass, and that dull default expression of boredom when he is out and about. He is still that weirdo who listens to Miranda Cosgrove ironically, and paints his toenails because quote ‘it makes me feel pretty, Jesus Egbert’ and you still aren’t sure if he’s being sarcastic.  

There is nothing remotely hot about him, nothing at all. In fact, you would probably have to say that Dave, for all his massive dorkyness, is actually totally un-hot. Even if you were a girl who might be considering having an interest in him. You will never understand, what it is this weird obsession your body seems to have with his.

Much to your ire, though, you cannot get to sleep until you get yourself off. You do it, reluctantly, and then swear to yourself you will never do it again.

Of course, you know you probably will.

 

---

 

“John!” Dave barges into your room one Friday night while you are trying to skype your dad and thumps a bottle of tequila on your computer desk. “Jade’s invited me to a party tonight, I kinda want to go but you have to come with me. Having you stand next to me makes me look even more attractive to the opposite sex.”

You stare at him, insulted and shocked, and he stares straight back at you without remorse, even though you know he didn’t mean that.

“Dave I’m trying to talk to my dad.”

“Oh… Hi Mr. Egbert.” Dave waves at the webcam and leans carelessly against the edge of your desk. “But for real though man, come with me. We haven’t been out for ages. Soon we will start greying and collecting cats.”

“We will not be collecting cats! Look, can I finish talking to my dad please?”

“Come on John.”

“No.”

“Come on John.”

“No.”

“Come on John.”

“No!” you push him away lightly, peeved by his assuredness. “I will talk to you when I’m done talking to dad!”

Dave gives you a dry, unimpressed look and sighs.

“Fine. But don’t be up and moaning to my shit if the fiesta train has chuchued off without you.” He grabs the bottle of tequila and shakes it casually, the dry little worm thing in the bottom floating limply in the current of booze. You look at it in disgust. Where had Dave gotten the money to buy tequila, anyway?

Oh, right.

Never mind.

“Okay, Dave. Okay.”

You wait for him to leave your room before turning back to your somewhat startled looking dad.

“Sorry, dad. Where were we?”

 

---

 

You end up going to the party with Dave, and you end up getting absolutely bladdered. You have never really been much of a drinker, but holy shit you downed more tequila that night that Dave, and he practically drowned himself in it. You think that probably, somewhere in the back of your mind you probably know you should cut down on the alcohol intake, because otherwise you’re going to pass out or piss yourself or strip and start dancing, but that voice is silent now, still latent, and besides, across the room, cast in the sparkling lights of disco ball fireflies, there’s this woman. And oh fuck what a woman. You’ve been watching her eye you up all evening and hot damn if you haven’t been shyly avoiding looking at her for most of the night too.

Is this real life, or are you just too addled by the liquor to know? Where is Dave anyway, hell you haven’t seen him for ages, he could be comaed in a stairwell for all you know. Getting laid even. Shit, how come Dave gets all the action? How come Dave gets to bang all the bitches?

You pull yourself up from the sofa you are sitting on, ignoring the insipid chatter of whoever it is trying to hold a slurred conversation with you, and make a beeline (that ends up being more of a dizzy snail trail) toward her side of the room. She sees you coming, in the sliding lights, and the music booms and the chatter becomes deafening, and your heart is beating so fast it feels like one of those scenes in a cartoon where you feel like each beat is ejecting it through your chest…

“Fuck John there you are!”

You almost trip over when a hand grabs your wrist and a face blurs into focus to your left. Shit Dave looks hammered, even in the dim. His cheeks are red, his hair is rumpled, and his shades are skewed.

“I have been looking for you all evening man. Shit. Shit.”

He pulls you into a fierce hug. And you sway dumbly where you stand in bewilderment.

“I thought I’d lost you man.” He rubs your back comfortingly, and now your heart is beating hard for another reason. You try to push him off but he’s stuck to you like shit on a blanket. You can still see your hottie out of the corner of your eye…

“I thought I’d lost you.”

He shudders and you realise deliriously that the big stupid fuck is crying. Jesus Dave you ridiculous drunk. Half angry, half bemused, you pet his head and try to extract yourself from his arms.

“Dude it’s cool, its okay look, I’m here. Look.” You manage to hold him away at arms length, almost being shoved back into him by a large aggressive woman pushing past, toward the food table. “It’s cool. Look. It’s cool.”

He sniffs and wipes his nose on his sleeve, which is already speckled with alcohol.

“Yeah I know, I know. It’s just… it’s just…” he pushes up his glasses to rub his eyes. “I really love you man. You know?”

“Yeah Dave I know. I know. it’s cool. Hey.” You grin sloppily and pull him close again, to whisper in his ear. “See that girl over there? By the stereo?”

Dave hesitates for a moment, hands still up from where he’s rubbing his eyes, and then slurs.

“Yeah…”

“Help me get her home man. I wanna fuck her.”

“Whoa!” he seems shocked to hear this, even through the miasma of liquor. You can smell the sharp metallic tang of alcohol on his lips, and you think dopily that you probably stink of it too. “Jesus Egbert, you fucking heartbreaking cunt. You don’t piss around do you?”

You laugh and turn your head over your shoulder, to look at her again. She’s still there, leaning against that wall, watching the both of you. You think you have never seen anything so hot in your life. Her shapely legs, her heavy tits stretching her shirt. Her hair his long, her eyes on fire. Yes. You want that on your dick. Now.

“Fuuuck no come on Dave help me.” Without thinking about it you shift your hands to his stomach, sliding them up to his chest. “I want her real bad. Like… real… like a person wants a thing. Yeah.”

“Yeah bro I getcha she’s fucking hot.”

Gee Dave sure did get ejaculatory with his words when he was drunk.

“Tell you what, bring her home, and let me have a slice too.”

“Aww what?”

“Yeah. Honest bro it will be fucking sweet as. Do it. Do it.”

You will never, ever be able to figure out in retrospect, what in the name of hell makes you think right now that this is a good idea.

 

---

 

Reality kicks you in the face sometime later, when you have successfully rounded up the woman, gotten her home and naked, and she’s on your bed sucking your best friend off.

Holy shit holy shit holy shit this is happening what is going on last time you checked you had just arrived at a nice peaceful party and downed a shot or two with Dave beside you. He had said you would both be home and tucked up in bed by ten pm, maybe with a hot chocolate and a good book. He had promised.

And yet the timepiece on your side table glows two am, you are beginning to feel really sick, and now that you actually had seen that girl naked she is looking approximately 340x worse that she had before. Her butt is weird and jiggly, and goddamn were bras liars. You had absolutely no idea up until now that the only reason the boobs of non-surgically enhanced woman were actually boobed shaped was bras.

Also, why the hell is she sucking Dave’s cock? Only you got to suck Dave’s cock, thanks very much!

You shake yourself, and blame that thought promptly on the drink.

You finish undressing and jump onto the bed, dragging her off him (not at all roughly! What is she complaining about,) and pull her shoulders around so she can fellate you instead. God what did she think this was? Slut. Dave hisses at you and you give him a partially apologetic smile. But not really. Besides, can’t he make use of himself? Eat her out maybe, while her ass is up in the air like that? You aren’t going to do it, the thought disgusts you.

And then oh yeah she’s got her mouth around your dick, which isn’t even half hard yet, and she’s licking it all up like its candy or something. Wow, is she bad at it. Or perhaps Dave is just good. It’s hard to tell. Why are you thinking about Dave right now? God.

You bite your lip, trying to get your thoughts on track. Where were you?

Oh yeah.

How the fuck did this even happen!

You remember wanting this girl, and you remember saying Dave could share, and you remember getting home and everything seems legit so you have no idea why… you kind of want to stop but also you really, really don’t. The disbelief about this makes it even more thrilling, you aren’t horny but you are confused and you think you are still a little drunk and you don’t know what is happening what are you doing?

Boy are you confused right now.

“Push her over on her back John.” Dave leans over the girl and places his hands on her shoulders, “I want to get in on this.”

“Can’t it wait ‘til I’m hard?”

You are talking to him like she’s not even there. If you were more sober, this would probably strike you as weird. As you are however, it does not.

“You will get hard, just get her on her back. Oi!” he addresses the girl, pulling her head off your dick and yanking her to face you. “Get on your back.”

She looks at him with uncomprehending eyes and parted lips, gasping for breath, her hair everywhere. God she looks hopeless, you wonder if that’s how you look too, when he fucks you.

Oh shit it happens again. You are slapped in the face by that whole ‘you and Dave have had sex’ thing, and that turns you on more than anything that’s happened so far tonight.

The girl rolls over and you get to see her completely bared flesh, her breasts, her stomach, her naked cunt which looks real strange to you, you always preferred a little bit of hair. She gets right back on sucking you from below, her hands lifting to curl around your thighs, and you lean back a bit until your hands touch the sheets, you are arched into her mouth, knees either side of her head.

Dave looks at you briefly, he’s still wearing his shades, and you will him silently. Take them off.

He drags his teeth over his bottom lip, and touches the leg of them unsurely.

“Do it.” you assure, “you can put them back on when…”

When she sits up. When there comes another possibility she might see your face.

Right now you want to see into his eyes.

He pushes his shades off his face, letting them sit on his head, and you swallow because even intoxicated he is gorgeous, flushed and messy, but handsome in the face and enviable and whoa wait you do not find Dave attractive. Stop that. Stop that bullshit right now.

Graceful long limbs nudge her legs apart and he gets between them, bending down so you can see his bangs fall forward, his hands press up between her thighs. There’s a moment in which you see a flicker of silvery wetness, the part of her yielding under his thumbs, before he takes a deep breath and dives in, lips sealing over her clit, eyes fluttering closed. She shudders, and her grip on you tightens with a choke. You feel the ghost sensation too. Fuck, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty goddamned good.

You think distantly, watching him go down on this stranger (who’s name you never even caught) that this is his first ever time performing oral sex on a woman. He seems to be pretty good at it, although you definitely don’t know what he’s doing. You would probably need a map to figure your way around a pussy…

You get more pleasure from watching Dave tease this useless girl than you do from her unskilled mouth.

You aren’t really sober enough to feel guilty about this.

 

---

 

Morning.

Fucking morning.

More like ‘mourning’.

You have never felt this terrible in your life.

You groan and drag your head off the pillow, your brain throbbing, as if it was trying to crawl out your nose, your mouth dry and fuck did it ever taste bad. How much did you drink last night? Where are you? Was this Dave’s room? Hadn’t you fallen asleep (passed out) in your own bed the night before?

You can’t be fucked thinking about it. Right now you just want to drop your face in the pillow and die.

“Good afternoon John Egbert you fucking Casanova bastard. I thought I heard you lamenting your lot.”

Dave’s voice curls in your ear and you grunt, dragging the pillow closer to your chest and whining. Holy hell you are never drinking again.

“Piss off…”

“I bought you a doughnut and a hot chocolate.”

Your interest is only mildly piqued, although you aren’t altogether sure your hungry you could go for that drink. Your tongue feels like sandpaper. The only think more discombobulating than this is when one falls asleep at five pm for a nap only to wake again at six thirty.

And we all know how utterly terrible that feels.

“Go away.”

“I got you some nurofen too.”

You drag yourself into seating position, his sheets slipping off you and puddling on the mattress, and make grabby hands.

“Give it.”

Dave smiles crookedly and obliges, dropping two pills into your one palm and pressing a steaming mug of frothy chocolate into the other.

“Where’s my donut?” you grunt, tossing back the pills with a gulp of drink. In the fog of your hang over, it seems way too sweet, but you know in your mind that it is actually absolutely perfect.

“I ate it.” he tells you simply, watching you set the mug on the sidetable and reach for your glasses, on top of his digital clock radio. “Sorry.”

“Fuck you.”

You replace your glasses and rub your temples testily.

You remember last night up to a point. You remember coming home, you and Dave, and you remember fucking up this chick from the party too, and by fucking up you mean really disturbing her shit. Like you two tore into her like a cracker on Christmas, and honestly the memory makes you feel ashamed and guilty. Shit man. That was your virginity. And you wasted it pounding the pussy of some bitch you didn’t even catch the name of…

“Where’s the girl?” you ask him flatly, raking your hand through already destroyed hair. He pulls a face.

“I called her a cab as soon as we were done. like shit I was going to usher her out in the morning when she was sober and might remember the way back.”

“Was she that terrible?” you frown and flop backward onto Dave’s bed. There’s a strange dryness in your throat which you try to swallow, but it was having none of that. Your head pulses and you wish yourself a swift and painless death. This is bad man. This is the shittiest feeling ever.

“She was pretty bad. Alright when you’re pissed…”

“You were pissed too.”

“Not even like you man. Fucking lightweight. I was sober halfway through.”

You groan and tear his blankets up, pulling them over your head. Light arrows through your corneas, and chips away at the back of your skull with cruel metal claws. Fuuuuuck this man. Really.

“Why am I in your bed.”

“Cause you puked in yours.”

Oh god.

You are very glad, in that moment, that you have a blanket over your face.

“… Are you serious.”

“Yes.”

“… Did you…” your face is so hot it burns, and you feel it agitate your headache, pounding in your frontal lobe increasing with the influx of blood. “Clean it?”

“Oh hell no man that’s fucking gross shit! You have to do that. It was bad enough getting you into the shower.”

You whine miserably.  Goddamnit Dave, useless asshole, standing by the edge of the bed in jeans and a top looking prim and clean and not at all like he had demolished almost half a bottle of tequila the night before.

“What’s the time?” you mumble through the blanket.

“One thirty.” He sits down and you feel the weight shift, you scuttle away so you don’t roll into his side. “But it’s time you get up. You will feel hells of better when you’ve had a shower or shit.”

You don’t want a shower. You grumble some incoherent swears and hope he understands.

“Geeze John you pussy. Don’t make me drag you. Baby’s fist hangover heaven help us someone call the marines. John is dying woe is me, what shall I do, however shall I go on? Literally the worst thing that’s ever happened to me and oh shit proms tomorrow!”

“Okay! Okay!” you sit up and glare at him, furious with the very notion of having to lie there listening to him spew vocabulary at you. “I’m doing it I’m doing it. Ugh. Can you grab me some pants?”

He stands up and picks up a red bathrobe off the floor, tossing it too you carelessly. It hits you in the face and you fume.

“Thanks.” You snap, pulling it on and noting absently that it smells like Dave’s shampoo, a girly one that he claims he uses ironically but you so know it’s because its called ‘BlondeBombshell colour boosting Hair treatment’, and smells like apples. Dave Strider everyone, the fucking homo king of all homos ever, can we get a round of applause to him?

“Can you make me some food then?” you ask him, stumbling out of bed, falling into vertigo and having to stabilise yourself on his desk. “Like eggs or something? I might be starving when I get out.”

“Whatever.” He reaches for you and smoothes down the lapels of the bathrobe, which whoa, what the hell. “I guess I better get to it then, ‘cooking the man some eggs’ and other such condescending mission statements by which I should live.”

You almost collapse in shock when he plants a brief kiss on your cheek, and once again you feel an immense wave of warmth bursting through capillaries and exhausting your skin. What just happened?

He doesn’t stick around for you to ask.

 

---

 

Astonishingly, he was right about the shower helping, and even more astonishingly still he wasn’t kidding about the eggs. There is a large plate of eggs on toast and pan fried sausages waiting for you when you come into the kitchen, and apparently indifferent Dave himself is sitting on the sofa, feet on the coffee table, watching a Dr. Oz re-run. You pick up the plate and edge over, clearing your throat and waiting for him to shuffle over and make you room.

“What?” he turns his face to you and you bite your lip.

“Can I…”

“I suppose.”

He shuffles over and you sit down beside him, nudging your ass into your own personal groove and setting your plate on your knee. Its good, Dave sure knows how to cook a hot breakfast. Even if it is almost two in the afternoon.

You finish your food in silence, trying to listen to the TV doctor discuss the evils of free radicals and how breathing oxygen can kill a guy but really trying to figure out what the hell it had been that possessed Dave to kiss you, had he been being ironic? What was the deal? Did you dare ask?

“So,” he breaks the silence after a bit and you turn to him, wondering if he is going to bring it up and save you the trouble. “Going to clean up your yak?”

You groan and ruffle your damp hair. That’s right. That’s a thing you still have to do.

“I guess.”

It is a bit of a challenge to drag yourself to your feet but you manage eventually, stretching and cricking a bone in your neck. Your headache swims a little and you vow to yourself you would be going to bed early tonight. No excuses.

“Where’s the Febreze.” 

“Dude, you are going to need more than a couple of squirts of febreze.” He turned to you and gave you a pitying look. “But its in the laundry cupboard behind the towels.”

You grumble a thanks and stalk to commence cleaning.

Seriously though, you are done with alcohol. Forever.

 

---

 

You and Dave have ‘work’ on Monday, so you miss course just for a day to make it, cleaning what you need, getting ready, and it’s almost become a ritual to you. Nerves are a thing of the past, as is awkwardness, and when the camera guys show up you invite them in for a coffee.

“Some day you two need to come into the studio and shoot for us,” the director tells you, eating one of the tollhouse cookies your dad sent you last week in a care package from home, his companions sitting around the table and nodding in agreement. You lean against the bench (because there are no extra seats) and smile dryly, because no way in hell are you letting Dave fuck you outside your own house. That was the forbearer of other things, like being asked to let someone else nail you, or something, and no that is not an option. The only person on the face of the earth you had sex with is him. Simple.

Oh, and that girl you lost your virginity to two nights ago. You hate to admit it, but that happened, it’s an issue.

Shut up. You did so loose your virginity to her.

Dave doesn’t count. Where is he, anyway?

“Sup.”

He wanders into the kitchen wearing clothing he obviously just pulled out of the laundry basket, one of your knit sweaters and a pair of pyjama pants you had told him to put in the laundry like four days ago, because they had a suspicious stain on them which he swore wasn’t cum but you both knew it was. Not giving a fuck about the company, he dives a hand into the cookie tin and grabs one, taking his place beside you against the bench and biting off a lump with his back teeth, because damn are these cookies tough pellets of shit.

“Ugh.” He pulls face and shoves the cookie at you. “Raisins. Gross.”

“Don’t give it to me!” you tell him, tossing the bitten biscuit into the sink where it landed with a clunk. “Gross man. Now I have your spit on my hand.”

You wipe your hand on his sleeve and he rolls his eyes behind his shades. You know he does it, even if you can’t see.

“Hey guys?”

You are interrupted by your workmates slash bosses, you aren’t really sure as to how you are supposed to address them.

“Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” Dave tells them, standing up and folding his arms. “Can we do it in my room, Egbert’s smells like puke.”

You could have quite happily punched him.

 

---

 

“Fuuuuck John. Oh god John… yes. Yes, yesssss…

You grit your teeth and squeeze his shoulders, rocking your hips smoothly over his cock and trying to find it, because you know it’s in there somewhere. You would never admit it, but you have been googling prostate stimulation a lot lately, and fuck do you want to have an orgasm from it. Real goddamned bad. Not that there was anything wrong with letting Dave cum inside you, then jerk you off with a tired hand (hmm… now that you think about it, it some improvements couldn’t hurt,) but well…

It got a little boring, in the end.

Dave has his shades on this round, and as much as you like his shades and the fact that he probably wouldn’t quite be Dave without him, this irks you. You kind of want to pull them off and toss them aside, but you cant because A) you are pretty sure he would cry and B) you kind of don’t really want anyone to see Dave without his shades but you. This is truth. Though the winking cameras lens has long since become an irrelevant detail in the background, you still think about things like this; some part of you still understands that people out there… watch this.

This position is doing nothing for you. You give him the ‘swap now’ signal (a gentle but probably when you did it rough tug on his ear) and fall limply when he guides you over, onto your back, and hitches both your thighs over his. With practiced precision he glides back into you, your toes curl and you think that anyone watching would probably mistake this for pleasure, but the expression on your face does not escape Dave. He leans down precariously to kiss you, and play a little with your throat because he knows that is something that gets you pretty turned on. The camera man doesn’t like it, because it cuts the view off a bit, but he can suck your dick because yeah is Dave ever good with kissing, the measured pressure, the feeling of his teeth gliding over your skin… it almost makes up for the painful feeling of having a large firm vegetable kind of object, which is actually a dick and attached to your friend, thrust in and out of you with little aim, or finesse.

You are understandably startled when his stance over you wobbles, he almost falls sideways, and accidently hammers into you on a strange and unnatural angle. The head of his cock rakes flat and firm against a place nestled deep in the core of your pelvis, close to your stomach, and you squeak because it’s there and wow lucky much he’s actually found it.

“That’s the spot!” you tell him, with the same amount of urgency you would tell him to send a missile to that pixel guy behind the tank, or release your goddamned banana skin already because Donkey Kong was going to win otherwise. “Keep going like that!”

This presents a problem, naturally such a strange angle is going to be difficult to emulate, but Dave is a quick thinker and he pushes you over sideways, straddling the inside thigh of one of your legs and pulling the other over his shoulder. It must be hell of a bend for his back, but good god it works he gets it dead on again and you feel a flood of pre-cum issue from your dick. Finally feeling like you are getting something out of this anal fucking business you let your head fall back and jerk your hips to meet him. Shit man. Shit. You spring a hand down to work your cock and he moans breathlessly, his grip on your upper thigh tightening.

Dave usually comes before you, the only time he didn’t was in your very first shoot, where he had to suck you off before he could even begin fucking you. Thank God, according to your wallet anyway, your stupidly camera shy dick is long since cured but what to do about cumming when there isn’t a tongue to catch your jizz, nor his hand to pull your foreskin just rough enough back and forth over your head? You know your own body too well, your palm lacks all the thrill and intimacy of Dave’s but it certainly knows its job. Combined with the alien strikes of bliss throbbing from where he is fucking you, you are edging pretty fast and then hurtling into blind orgasm with a heedless, unashamed cry. Oh hell is he ever going to give you shit for that later. Right now your can’t care though, the edges of your vision blurring back into focus, aftershocks buzzing through you messily and making you shudder. There is cum all over your hand.

Dave speeds up his hips, if only for a moment, before he slips timing and collapses against your raised leg. This pushes it back uncomfortably and you swear, but he stumbles an apology through his own climax, quivering helplessly against your limb and looking at you with desperate eyes over the top of his shades. They threaten to slip right off his nose, the bridge of which glistens with sweat, his lips make word shapes that he never utters, and as soon as it is over and he falls over, you draw him against your chest and listen to his panting.

God that had been a good fuck. This is the first time, after sex, that you actually felt like you wanted to cuddle with Dave. Not just kiss him briefly and then scuttle shamefully to the shower.

You really just want to curl up with him and kiss his face and tell him ‘shit dude that was pretty top alright.’

Of course you can’t do that though, this is a professional organization! Things have to be done by the book.  You kiss him chastely on the lips and let him drop his head onto the pillow. He looks a bit dazed, but that could just be tiredness. It’s hard to tell.

“Fuck John.” He pants, curling his fingers in yours and leaning in, so he’s breathing against your ear. “I fucking love you too.”

… That pretty much kills the mood though.

Entirely.

 

 

Once again though, silence seems golden.

If Dave notices anything strange about the way you jump up off the bed and hurry to the bathroom he says nothing, and he doesn’t mention it all evening, as you skirt around him suspiciously, or the next day, in which you avoid him entirely because what the hell he still hasn’t approached you? This is weird. Perhaps you had been imagining things?

But no. that’s impossible. Dave had definitely said ‘I love you.’

What does that even mean, besides the obvious? Really? You are too scared to ask incase you had heard him severely wrong.

Rose Lalonde, a close mutual friend and honorary bro, despite her female status, is the first to notice that something is up with you one day on campus. You are eating lunch with her, as you regularly do, and she is sitting there talking in long exquisite sentences about her boring as all living hell psychiatry course when your mind begins wandering down odd alleyways to strange little places. Places that involve you and Dave cuddling and sharing pizza, or walking along romantic piers holding hands. She cuts through your thoughts with sharp words though, and brings you promptly back to earth.

“John, are you okay?” she takes a large bite of her sandwich, and embarrassed you stir your pudding cup, staring into the chocolaty goo as though it may just contain the meaning of the universe itself. “You have been considerably less forward with your insolent and bemusing comments today.”

You glare at her, but it becomes clear she is joking when she gives you a knowing smile and winks, setting her sandwich down on her plate and reaching for a napkin. The University tuck shop is fancy, like this. You appreciate it, it’s perfectly fine for you, but some part of you suspects that Rose would like it better if there were perhaps some gothic violin in the background, candles, and blood red table cloths on which to wipe ones fingers discretely. Alas no, it is pretty much an ordinary cafeteria room, which once again you are fine with, Rose is not.

Ah but you are digressing, the dilemma at hand is the way in which she surveys you, over a plain pen scratched table, a twinkle in her eye suggesting that she knows just a little bit more than you would like her to.

“You are enamoured with someone, aren’t you?” she looks quite smug at having announced it, and immediately you flush, embarrassed because pfft no the very notion was stupid, and yet…

“I am not.”

“You are, oh my god John look at you. Your ears are bright red.”

You can see she badly wants to tweek them. Thankfully, she withholds.

“Come on John. Tell Rose. You can trust me, cant you?”

You huff and look away. It’s not a matter of trusting rose, it’s a matter of admitting things to yourself that you aren’t really sure you want to yet. Until you yourself come to terms with whatever… this is, she is just going to have to wait.

“I’m not ‘enamoured’ with anyone, thanks.” You tell her sternly, spooning another helping of pudding in your mouth. “I’m just… bewildered, that’s all.”

“Bewildered?”

“Yes.” You glance at your pudding cup critically and sigh, setting it on the table. “Bewildered as to how that pudding ever came onto the market. It tastes like arse.”

She cocks an eyebrow, small smirk turning the corner of her lip as she reaches for the empty package.

“Yes, no wonder. Look, the brand is Betty Crocker.”

 

---

 

 

You get home and go to open the door of the flat, but it is locked, so you end up having to waste ten whole minutes digging through your shit for your keys.

You swear angrily when you realise you haven’t got them. Fuck. Dave had said he would be home all day today.

“Hey Egbert.”

“There you are!” you snap around and glare at him, watching him swagger down the hall and drag his own keys out of his pocket with a merry jingle. “Weren’t you supposed to be home?”

“I was downstairs getting the mail. Look.” He passes you the key and waves a handful of letters, bills, and a brown hand addressed package in your face. “We got a package from the company.”

You study him critically. Why would the company (you both know what company he meant, don’t even pretend that you don’t) be sending you a package?

You unlock the door and step in. Sure enough, the flat looks only recently vacated. The TV is on, it smells pleasantly like creamy chicken soup, and the heater is humming in the sitting room and warming the space significantly. You sigh in relief and step in, peeling off your coat and rolling up the sleeves of your top. Dave follows and closes the door behind him.

“Is it more money?” you ask him, setting your messenger bag in the corner by the sofa. “That would be pretty nice of them.”

“Nah, its not money. I think it’s a DVD.”

He tugs open the cutlery draw and takes out a steak knife, hacking the package open easily and withdrawing a crystal-case and a letter. The case holds a plain white disk, heavily printed with black text, probably warning about lawsuits, copyrights, and other legal things you don’t understand. You wander over and take the case off him to read it.

The copyright holder reserves the right to the content on this disk. It may not be resold, hired, or shared for free or for profit, doing so may incur legal consequences. This disk is for the private home use of those whose names appear on the enclosed contract ONLY, In accordance with blah blah blah. You pull a face and set down the disk, leaning over Dave’s shoulder to peak at the letter he’s reading.

“It’s a copy of our first videos.” He surmises, “We have to sign this paper saying we won’t share or copy or distribute it, or return the still sealed disk within thirty days of receiving.”

You hesitate, plucking the letter from his hand and scanning the formal looking text yourself. His summary though pretty much nailed it.

“I didn’t know they sent us a copy?” you asked, kind of, giving Dave a puzzled sort of look. He shrugs and removes his shades, rubbing the heals of his hands in his eyes. He looks tired, his undereyes boasting faint bruises, but he looks content. Healthy. Happy.

“I think it said somewhere in the contract. We can send it back if you don’t want it?”

You stare at the innocent looking disk on the table and swallow, suddenly realising that there it is, right in your kitchen, actual proof that you and Dave…

For the first time in ages you feel that wave of surrealism, but it passes swiftly as you straighten up, shake your head, and turn to the cupboard to take out a mug and the canisters of coffee and hot chocolate respectively.

“I don’t care.” You tell him lightly, unsure how you felt about that. “Want a hot drink.”

“Yeah, that’d be sweet.”

He folds the letter neatly and sets it on the table, next to the disk.

“Just don’t put salt in it this time. That wasn’t fucking funny.”

You smirk, remembering the childish and undeniable joy that such frivolous japery brought you not four days prior.

“Don’t throw a shit just ‘cause you cant handle me Strider.”

Dave snorts, and goes to install his ass on the sofa. You feel a distinct and overwhelming sense of affection for him, and it is this alone that stops you from indulging in a repeat salt-related performance.

 

---

 

Dave puts the disk by the TV, amongst numerous video games and DVDs, and you both sign the form and jam it in the assorted things drawer so that you have it, if ever the lawyers come knocking. The next couple of days are busy, and you forget about it, at least until Dave comes home one evening with his camera in hand and his face drawn, tired, and clearly mad.

“What’s up your ass?” you ask, glancing up from your game of snowboard kids, and he growls lowly.

“Nothing.” He tells you. “Just that girl we dragged home. She’s being a bitch.”

You frown and pause the game.

“When did you see her?”

He gives you an incredulous look.

“She’s in my photography workshop, dickass. It was an art school party. Colouring outside the lines and shit. Art students don’t live fun lives you know.”

You roll your eyes, sincerely doubting the truth in that statement.

“Try being a biology student. What does she even want?”

“Your fucking cellphone number.”

He looks distinctly pissed off and you pull back, confused.

“… Seriously?”

“Yes.”

“What’s her name?”

“Unimportant detail Egbert.”

“Is not.”

“Is too.”

“Is not.”

“Is too! A crap by any other name would still be a minging fucking piece of whore shit.” He glowers at you from behind his glasses and you sigh, trying to cock an eyebrow in your most quizzical manner and failing spectacularly. He folds his arms and brings a foot up to rest on the edge of the coffee table. In the dusky glow still threading through the uncurtianed window, Dave looks handsome, warm, and exotic.

“It’s Vanessa.” He relents. “She’s a bitch. I’m telling you.”

“Why did you bring her home if you knew she was a bitch?”

“I don’t know John okay I was drunk and horny and have you tried saying no to you? Fucking mission impossible.”

Whoa boy. Dave sounds fucking shitty alright. He hasn’t been this mad since his brother sent him a blue smuppet for his birthday. If you recall correctly that had ended in soft toy carnage, the corpse of the thing impaled on a fondue skewer and pinned to the front door in a macabre and exultantly ironic ‘welcome to the house of Stregbert, please knock before entering’.

As disinterested as you are by this forgotten lay (your attention span always was ridiculously short) you do not want to come home one day and see her tied, nailed, or gorilla-glued to any surface of your flat.

“It’s no big deal man.” You pass him your controller and stand up, his homecoming an indicator that you should probably start cooking dinner. Its nothing special, just microwave mac and cheese, and you know he’s going to complain but he can just fucking deal with it already. “Just tell her I’m not interested.”

“I did, several times.”

“Tell her I’m gay.”

“You are gay Egbert you great flaming faggot.” He resumes the game and removes his shades, tossing them heedlessly onto the coffee table by the remote. “If you were any gayer you would shit rainbow puking unicorns. They would have to rename Seattle  Homoville, birthplace of John Egbert the worlds largest thunderqueer. Parades would be held in your honour. Don’t try deny the truth.”

You swallow, a little uncomfortable at how honest a turn that your flippant and somewhat joking comment had taken. Dave doesn’t seem phased, swearing when he realises that you were playing that character he hates, and is probably going to have to reset the game if he wants to play it his way.

“Whatever Dave.”

“Yeah see I know everything.”

“Im not listening to you.” You edge into the kitchen and yank open a cupboard at random, just to cover the sound of his fingers tapping over music which ebbs easily through the open plan room.

“What? Can’t hear me over how gay you are?”

“Nope, not listening.”

“The hills are alive with the sound of Homosexuality Egbert. Embrace it.”

“Still cant hear you.”

“John.”

“What?” you jerk your head around to look at him, a little irked but not too badly by his teasing. You know that’s what this is right? Just teasing? “If you say one more thing about being gay I’m going to put pubes on your face while you sleep.”

He blinks a few times, clearly measuring how homoerotic such an act would be on a scale of one to ten. He makes a decision, declines to point it out, and instead lets his character loose the game.

“Do you remember anything that happened the other night? With Vanessa?”

You pull a face and shrug. Kind of. Not really. Should you care?

“Sort of? I remember the sexing, if that’s what you mean. But then… everything kind of blank.”

“Hm.” He studies you for a moment longer, his face unreadable even without his shades, for what feels like the first time ever. “Okay. Just wondering.”

He resumes his playing and sparing only a moment to ask yourself ‘what was that about?’ you return to sorting out the two of you dinner.

 

---

 

Dave is called immediately back to Houston the next week, something to do with his brother and sword accidents you don’t quite know what, and so it is you have to cancel your work appointment for that week and spend three long and boring nights alone, surfing channels, doing school sort of shit, and eating without having to cook extra for him.

You also find yourself pretty fucking horny, which isn’t unusual but you can usually count on being able to have sex at least once a week as of late, so its kind of frustrating that you have to get off the old fashioned way, with a bit of the flesh friction, or whatever weird name Dave might have to call it you aren’t sure. You always sort of liked the terms Dave used to refer to acts like jacking it, or fucking, but you would never tell him that, or you would never hear the end of them.

You just tell yourself your going to fap, and accept that, settling down on the sofa with a wank rag and your laptop, wondering how long its going to take you to find some decent porn tonight.

It doesn’t take a psychic to predict that twenty minutes later finds you unsealing the yet unwatched disk of you and Dave, motivated more by boredom and curiosity than… you know. The desire to jerk it to homemade porn.

You cross your legs to avoid the temptation to touch yourself while you watch it and set the disk in your DVD drive. Dave doesn’t need to know you’ve watched this. No one needs to know. You’re just… wondering, that’s all. You don’t mean any harm by it.

You have to admit, it’s weird to see yourself on video.

You have always felt this way, ever since you were little and your dad brought home a handheld camcorder. There’s something deeply unnerving about seeing your own face and movement on a screen, it brings back memories of the thoughts that went through your mind at the time, feelings, reflections… you always have trouble recognising yourself, but then again sometimes the connection you feel with the videoboy is so deep and intimate it makes you feel weird and spacey. You often wonder how on earth your favourite movie stars can do it. It blows your mind how when they must see themselves on screen, its not even themselves they are looking at, but a character, a stranger in their skin.

You shake the feeling and skip through the first and second videos because you know they are going to be horrible and awkward, and you have to admit the amount of skin you see as you speed through is scandalous and discomforting. Are you really that naked, under your clothes? Really?

You observe with morbid fascination as you come to the third video, and if your memory serves you true (which it does) this is the video you first began to feel calmer, more comfortable. Sort of. It doesn’t really show, but you remember it and so you feel empathy for the John on the screen.

You are only four minutes in, watching the John and his Daveish counterpart kiss messily and (you hate to admit it) a bit desperately, when the phone rings. You leap as though you have been caught in grave sin, slamming your laptop closed and leaping on your vibrating cell.

“Hello?!” you practically scream into the mouthpiece. “This is John speaking!”

“Woahhhh! Shit Egbert calm them tits it’s just me.”

Dave’s voice crackles over a hundred miles and you flush, just hearing it in real time, after listening to video Dave only two or so minutes before, is making you feel awfully perverted.

“Oh, okay.”

“What’s up man you sound fucking guilty as shit. Were you petting the lizard?”

“No!” you defend, pushing your laptop away. “I so wasn’t. Why would you even think that?”

“You sound-“

“No.” you cut him of firmly and change the subject. “What do you want?”

“Uh… I was just ringing to see if you could do me a favour?”

You groan and stand up, smoothing down your shirt and trying to chill a little.

“I suppose so. What?”

“Could you go into my room, open my bedside drawer, and find the envelope with my bank account details on it?

“I guess.” you grumble and mope through the flat to oblige him. The top draw is already slightly open, you tug it out and grab the wad of neatly organised envelopes inside. Who would have thought that Dave, of all people, would be so on top of his affairs?

You find a bank statement, read out the account number at the top, and he thanks you, probably scribbling it down somewhere with the point of his tongue poking out, like he does sometimes when he’s really concentrating.

“What do you need it for?” you ask him, sitting on the edge of his bed, reinserting the statement in the envelope, and slipping the envelope back amongst the others in the drawer. Dave sighs.

“Bro is setting up and automatic payment into my account. We can talk about it when I get home.”

You crease your brow and rub the back of your neck thoughtfully.

“Um… okay?”

“Yeah…” he sighs and you hear paper shuffling, and a pen clicking. You bite your lip.

“How’s your trip?” you ask lightly. He hums and you immediately feel dumb for asking.

“Shit.” He replies. “It’s boring here and it stinks. Can’t wait to get home. Why? How’s life without me?”

You smile wanly and flop back on his bed, staring at the ceiling pinned with a large poster of Adam Sandler. There is a small photo of Nick Cage up there too, courtesy of you, but Dave had magic markered a moustache on him, thus ridding him of his usual haughty charm.

“Um… kind of lonely I guess.” You shuffle up so you are lying on his bed properly, and it smells of him, pleasant and familiar. “Boring.”

“Watch some porn or something.”

You grin shyly and kneed his pillow.

“I tried. I um…” you hesitate, unsure if you want to tell Dave this. But Dave won’t care, he knows what’s happened anyway, it’s not like you have anything to hide from him. “I was just watching the DVD the company sent us when you called.”

“Ohhhhh…” he made a noise of understanding and you scratch you ear sheepishly, though he couldn’t see it. It felt kind of nice telling Dave that, actually. Like a child sharing a secret on the playground. Something precious and embarrassing that you can give to another person; one you completely and utterly trust.

“That explains why you were as jumpy as a grasshopper in a hot skillet.”

You snigger. Dave says the dumbest things, when he’s been back in Texas for a few days.

“I didn’t get that far.” You tell him, and he nods on the other end, static rippling over the line and making you suddenly aware of how far away he is.

“Was it good?”

“I dunno. I told you. I didn’t get that far.”

“You should wait until I get back so I can watch it with you.”

“Awwww… curious are we?”

“No. fuck no. I want to watch it strictly for irony sake. Nothing more ironic then terrible porn.”

You laugh and wish that he was here, so you could punch him playfully on the shoulder.

“Yeah okay.” you tell him, wincing when your phone beeps a loud ‘low-battery’ complaint. “But I should probably go. My phone is dying.”

“Yeah I heard. You still going to pick me up from the station on Monday?”

“Sure. Just text me the time.”

“Okey. Oh and John?”

“Mm?”

Dave hesitates and you smile into the mouthpiece, waiting for him to say something else. He doesn’t in the end, simply settling for ‘laters’, and hanging up.

You sit there for a moment, looking at your phone in bewilderment, but are unable to come up with an explanation.

 

---

 

“Can I have a drink of your soda?” Dave leans over the table and reaches for your drink. You recoil and hold the drink in question out of his reach.

“No, gross Dave do you have any idea how disgusting that is?”

“… Dude, you’ve had my dick in your mouth. What the fuck?”

You give him a look, and sip your drink purely to spite him. He makes a good point…

“Fine.” You relent, sighing dramatically as you can about it and handing him the cup. Dave smiles a little and takes it. Your fingers brush his and small sparks twinkle in your hand, courtesy of that brief contact. He looks different, since coming back. Or perhaps he doesn’t. Perhaps it’s you who is looking at him differently.

He is so handsome, even sitting here in a crowded station stuffing his face with French fries and soda. Even with a pimple on the flare of his nostril, and chapped lips, and slightly peeling skin on the very tip of his razorblade nose. You wonder briefly, if he sees you in a similar light.

You close your eyes briefly and recall the feeling of his kisses on your face, and the soft murmur of his voice.

I love you too.

When you open your eyes again, he is the first thing you see. He doesn’t seem to have noticed that you even looked away, sucking soda up the straw and gazing around the station lazily.

“Have you rescheduled our appointment?” he asks. You smile and smooth your hand through your hair.

“Yeah. Tomorrow afternoon.”

“Cool.” He takes another drink and the sound of ice and emptiness rattles in the cup. “I could really go for a fuck right now.”

You laugh, even though you know he’s serious.

 

 

PART THREE

 

It gets warmer and Dave seems happier; he always did prefer the summer months, filled with tank tops and freckles and sno cones dribbled in cherry syrup. You have to bid farewell to your favourite season, and the nights of hot chocolate, a cosy heater and videogames on a rainy afternoon, but you are filled with a shy optimism the first morning you wander into the kitchen and see Dave is up before you, tall paper cup of iced coffee (probably from the café down the street) by his hand on the table. He’s wearing his shades and his pyjamas, and talking on the phone.

“Who is it?” you mouth at him, pulling open the fridge and grabbing the carton of milk, which you drink from without bothering to get a glass.

“Work.” He mouths back and you nod. Dave isn’t usually a morning person. But not even he can resist the allure of a crisp, light dawn, the sweet fresh air curling through an open window in the lounge. You sit down opposite him and kick his foot lightly under the table.

“Uh huh…” he kicks back and you grin. “That’s fine… look can I just talk to John about it? Yeah. No he’s here with me now. … No I want to think about it. Yes I will call you back. Okay. Okay.”

You frown at him, placing the milk down next to his coffee and stretching to play with the carton flap casually.

“Bye.” He closes off the conversation and heaves a sigh, setting the phone on the table.

“What did they want?” you ask, nudging his foot again.

“They wanted to know if we would do a group sex video.”

You pull a face and jiggle your leg when Dave catches your one bare foot between his two and holds it there.

“Um, no. I don’t think I will be doing that.”

“Yeah that’s what I thought.” He scratches the back of his neck and strokes his left big toe over the top of your foot and around your ankle. “But… I dunno. I reckon we could talk about it? The way he said it he was thinking three chicks on the two of us, which you have to admit sounds pretty sweet.”

You do have to admit that that does sound a little bit sweet. So long as they aren’t like the girl he and you had brought home that last time. You’d be a horrible liar if you said that the idea of having three chicks on you didn’t turn you on, but also you realise quite acutely that if there was at any stage going to be three girls on you that meant that at some other point there was going to be three girls on Dave.

You do not like this idea anywhere near as much.

You are not, as a rule, a possessive person. You have no qualms with Dave using your stuff, or giving out pencils like some kind of stationary bitch in lectures, and you’ve never really been ‘about’ ownership. The instinct to protect your territory, and to be jealous, is a new and startling one. And it has very little to do with sex. Very little indeed.

“No.” you tell him simply, “I don’t want to do it.”

Dave studies you almost disbelievingly across the table.

“But dude… it’s women.”

“I still don’t want to do it.”

“… Why not?”

“Because I don’t!” irrationally irate, and somewhat hurt that he is actually considering it despite your objections you pull your foot away from his and slump in your chair. “That’s weird. I don’t want to have sex with strangers, even if they are girls. That’s even stranger than doing it with a friend.”

You don’t want to have to watch Dave kiss someone who isn’t you; you don’t want to have to see him go near another admittedly overrated and somewhat repulsive pussy again.

“That’s my decision.”

“Well what about what I want? We’re in this together man, up to our pits in cum and smut. Maybe I want to wet my dick for once? Ever think about that?”

“You wet your dick regularly.”

“You and me don’t count, Egbert.”

Ouch.

“You and me counting would be weird.” He looks distinctly sour when he stands up and snatches his iced coffee unhappily off the table. “Wouldn’t want this shit to get weird, right?”

Oh Dave could just be so spiteful when he was angry. You give him an evil glare, but elect not to argue back. Maybe after he has stalked from the room and sulked for a bit, he would come around.

You feel grimly triumphant knowing that he can’t do it unless you do.

 

---

 

“Woah John what’s wrong with you today?” Rose notices something is wrong as soon as you thump your textbooks on the table. You simply growl and collapse into your seat.

“Nothing, why?”

“Well…” she draws a delicate and critical eye over your rumpled clothes, your mussed hair, your probable sulk painted on your face. “you’re looking somewhat stressed today. More so than usual. If I had to guess I would estimate that the probable cause is a romantic one, because you have been notoriously smitten of late and your expression bears the weary shadow of one deeply troubled by the tides of fickle amore.”

You can’t be bothered with any of her long-winded wittery today. You look at her flatly and narrow your eyes.

“What?”

Rose sighs dramatically and reaches for the small pot of yoghurt by her apple and salad roll.

“Your crush has irked you.” She translates for you, and you scowl.

“I don’t have any crush.”

“Are you kidding John? You have it bad. I almost feel sorry for you, sitting there with a dumb smile on your face all day. Just admit you’re in the throws of love and I will be more than delighted to help you sort yourself out. Okay?”

You groan and rest your forehead in your hand, elbow set on the table. Rose though… you could probably put off admitting this sort of thing to Jade, and Dave is the epitome of ignorance concerning your feelings, but Rose? She would dissect you alive. She will pull you thread by thread, and not rest until she has tormented every last secret from your broken flesh. She will eat you…

All you can do is throw her a bone, and hope that she would be distracted from deeper matters.

“Okay, fine, you got me. There’s this person I like and they are being generally annoying at the moment. Happy?”

“Quite.” She picks up her salad roll, small smug smile curving her black lipstick pout. Neat precise fingers pluck a slice of beetroot from the bun and lay it carefully aside on a napkin. “So… what’s the problem?” she addresses you as she plucks apart her roll, and you watch her perform this surgery with reluctance.

“It’s complicated.” You tell her, because things don’t get much more complicated than “I’ve been letting my best friend fuck me for months no homo and now I want all the homo but he wants to bang three strange women at once someone kick me in the face”. At least not in your upper-middle-class-white-bread-college-boy world. “I like them, but I feel like it would be too weird to be in a relationship with them, you know?”

And then she looks at you with such a precise cadence that you know she knows exactly who you mean. You wait for her, perched right on the edge of humiliation precipice, waiting for her to ask the question she already knows the answer to.

It’s Dave isn’t it.”

You are therefore startled, when she does not.

Instead she takes a slow bite from her beetrootless roll and chews thoughtfully.

“Well, I understand the feeling that you’re having, of sex with a close friend being weird. Sex is a pretty big deal, after all. But just remember, you can always build up to that. You know? Start small… little dates and stuff. Things that barely feel different from the already obvious bromance you probably have with this anonymous and no doubt charming individual. That won’t be too weird. And eventually you should be able to use this bridge to cover the gap that is poles friendship and sex. With minimal embarrassing trespasses.”

You stare at her flatly, unimpressed with her advice because um, hello, getting to sex really was not the problem. You were already way all over that. The problem was the actual striking up of the ‘romantic’ relationship she was prescribing, and making him realise that you are even fucking interested in him. Was this how all people went about finding partners? Good god, what a needlessly complicated endeavour. Of course, you cannot in any way shape or form let her know that you and Dave have previously and repetitively done the dirty. You decide it will just be easier for everyone involved in this small therapy session (you and Rose) to simply nod your head and make a non-descript noise.

“Yes…” you shrug, casting your eyes away and onto the floor, which was suddenly and inexplicably fascinating. “I suppose you’re right.”

Rose looks exceptionally pleased with herself.

“John, sweetheart, I’m always right.”

You don’t argue.

 

---

 

You think a lot about Dave and your sex lives over the next few days, though you talk to him rarely, and every time he tries to approach you you shoo him away because frankly you are not ready for this. This isn’t weird because of the sex. Oh no. this stopped being about sex a long time ago. This is weird because Dave. How fucking long have you known Dave? How long has he been the most best and platonic and broiest of bros? how hard would your fifteen year old selves have laughed if you could just go back and tell them ‘hey, dudes, one day John is going to be totally lovestruck with Dave so prepare to suck each others cocks’.

Your estimate; pretty fuckdamn hard.

This is the worst kind of crush, an alien and consuming feeling, tinged with the guilt of fifteen years of honourable companionship. How pathetic of you, to be backing out on your bro now, when he was on the verge of a vagina onslaught, when a year ago you would have done anything in the world for Dave to help him get laid? You were men, you got each others backs like that yeah? After all, Dave had helped you out with the lady nabbing. It was thanks to him you even managed to convince that strange woman home with you. Without Dave winging you, you would never have lost your virginity.

Don’t you owe him?

And despite knowing, your intrinsic brocode demanding your adherence, some new and obnoxious part of you sunk stubborn heals into the soil of your gay dumb emotions and said ‘fuck off. Dave is mine.’

And he’s not fucking yours at ALL and you repeat this several times, demanding that that particular part of you just shut the hell up.

Why is life so hard? Why do relationships suck?

You think that you may never know the answer.

Your life takes a frustrating turn the day you come home from a lecture and see that Dave is in the sitting room, the sofa which you usually keep folded up down, so as to make a wide and crisp pillow covered bed, clean neat pressed sheets, (Dave is a complete sucker for crisp laundry. He irons the sheets himself after every load, and demands that you never tell this to anyone,) crinkling as he lounges and plays somekind of DVD on his laptop.

“What are you doing?” you ask him, a little peeved because that sofa bed is rusted and it’s a bitch to put back in. You are always the one stuck with the job because you are more muscular than your flatmate. Dave looks up when he sees you from the corner of his eye, despite not hearing you, the headphones on his head isolating the noise from the video he’s watching.

“Huh?” he pulls them down and you set your books on the coffee table, which he has shoved out of the way, beside the television.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh. Waiting for you to come put in the sofa, fucking duh. Are the glasses cosmetic or something?”

“No.” you flush angrily and glare at him. “Why is the sofa out?”

“I don’t know John I felt like building a fort. Is that so wrong? To want a citadel of ones very own, with a cross point on the wall that reads ‘garrison sweet garrison’? Something to spill burning tar over the sides off, blinding my enemies and all that? Because I ache for it.”

You look around, nothing the sofa cushions thrown recklessly in the corner of the flat.

“Oh. Okay…” you push your glasses up your nose tiredly. “So where’s the fort?”

He tisks and replaces his headphones. “Okay, you got me. I wanted to lie down and watch Jeremy Kyle, okay?”

That sounds slightly more believable. You groan and rub the side of your face, feeling drained from the effort it takes to be angry at Dave and upset at yourself, for still being unable to approach the topic of importance.

“Fine. Whatever. Jeremy Kyle is stupid anyway.”

He looks almost offended at this.

“It is not. It’s fucking sweet.”

You decide you’ve had enough of Dave and his Dave-ness and make to escape in the direction of your bedroom, before he calls you back.

“You know what else is delightful?” he asks, and you hesitate, looking back to him.

“This DVD.” He waves the disk case with your video from the company on. It takes you a minute to recognise, but when you do your stomach drops.

“What about it? Did you watch it yet?”

While the idea of watching it with Dave makes you uncomfortable and shy, the idea of Dave watching it alone makes you feel considerably worse.

“No, but I thought  that we could watch it together tonight. Maybe it will convince you to broaden your fucking horizons, get me?”

You doubt it, but you give a shrug of nervy consent to watching the DVD tonight. While you are irate and unhappy with him is as good a time as any to watch a semi-professional recording of your sex.

 

---

 

“Did you bring popcorn?”

“I don’t really feel like this is an appropriate popcorn eating occasion.”

“Yeah you’re right.” Dave pulls his legs under him, perched in his corner of the freshly re-folded sofa, and gnaws absently on a hangnail. You set your jaw and extract the disk from its case, it glints fakely in the light, silver pulled spectrums of colour across the surface. You elect to watch it on the TV, using his PS3 as a player, and sit down beside him with the controller in hand.

You glance at Dave before you press play, your hands irrationally sweaty, and your fingers twitchy with unsurity. You remind yourself again, of how unbearably awkward it would be if you were to watch this without him there to poke fun and break the reality of what actually happened, but it is little comfort. Besides, you are still pissed at him.

You don’t think on this long though, isolated fascination with what you are watching consuming you in your entirety.

 

---

 

You and Dave sit together at the table, eating dinner, though you are more occupied with pushing your spaghetti around your plate than actually consuming it. Your mind is a million miles away, still lost in the memory of watching two strangers embrace on film. Well, you know they aren’t strangers, really, but fuck did they ever look like strangers. Except somehow, also, they were not. Watching porn, generic everyday porn featuring nameless, faceless people, it was nothing. It made you feel nothing though you were never one for it, you do understand the disconnection one feels when observing two people you have never met giving it to each other. You understand the sole point is not to fall in love, but to get horny, and the sort of ‘strangers’ that are presented are of a different type entirely to the stranger you might one day see in a mirror when you aren’t expecting it, a shocking glimpse of yourself how everyone else sees you when you pass a flash of reflective glass by.

That was the kind of stranger you saw in the videos, and you have to admit to yourself that now you understand how rose could see it. Anyone with eyes could see it. How long have you had a mad crush on your best friend, and never had a single clue?

This isn’t funny. And boy do you ever know funny.

This is straight up dire and embarrassing.

Does Dave know?

“So Egbert.” He addresses you for the first time since you sat down, and you jump in your seat. Woah, Dave. You had completely forgotten that the real life Dave was sitting opposite you, fully clothed, shades on, and not pounding you into a mattress like a jackhammer. Fucking Dave though. Goddamn. He was like a sex god on that tape. Whereas you just lay there like a desperate whore. In the window of your memory, you thought you remembered Dave being nervous, or shy, but perhaps it was just your imagination because the Dave on camera was someone else entirely. The precise opposite to the John you thought you knew, but it turns out you actually don’t, with the kaleidoscope longing in his eyes. The two of you were complimentary on the glass of a screen, just like you are in real life; it’s just a different kind of complimentary. Or maybe it’s the same, simply caught in a moment of surprise.

“What?”

Dave scrapes his fork over his plate, twirling  a tomato covered knot of spaghetti onto the prongs.

“You and me. We match. The salt and pepper on a great and historic gay fuck sandwich. You are pepper.”

You stare at him dryly, as if you couldn’t have figured that out on your own…

“Yeah.” You find yourself having to admit. “I guess we do…”

He meets your gaze with a mirror stare, and your focus suddenly snaps on your reflection, caught in one of those stranger-frames. Your eyes are blue, your hair is black. You have larger than average front teeth and bronze skin. These are details you know, but juxtapositioned as they are in this exact instance, they are unfamiliar. Dave knows a stranger. Or maybe you do. Oh this is very confusing, this is more of a personal crisis than that time you freaked out because your dad doesn’t actually like harlequins.

Is this even a thing that’s happening, or is it just the part of some fractured and sick wet dream?

You don’t really want to know, to be honest.

“We would make a good couple.” He sates, voice smooth and even and totally void of anything you can grip to, dissect, or make sense of. You swallow and look away.

“I guess we would, probably…”

You both fall silent; the only sound the clock ticking on the wall, or the tink of your fork on the edge of your plate.

You and he would make a great couple though. You fit together so well. You look right together. Alien, but right. Ebony or ivory or whatever you want to call it, you aren’t really a poetic person (that’s Dave’s domain), but it’s true.

Well it would be, if he would just fucking like you already.

“We already are a good couple. In work I mean.”

He lifts an eyebrow and you carry on.

“So I don’t see why you want to change that.”

“Well…” Dave pulls out his reply and you swallow, dropping your eyes. “I dunno. I always felt like you would be the one wanting to change that, before me.”

He finishes his spaghetti and set his fork at five.

“You know its weird, we’ve been fucking for months and we have never actually talked about it. Lines to draw and other bullshit, no touch zones, emotional yields…”

You realise that once again he is right. And that is very strange. But you think it would have been eons easier to discuss this before messy feelings got involved.

 

---

 

Dave and you talk.

You go for a walk to the lake in the city, you carrying a bag of expired bread loaf, him geared for summer in cuttoff jeans and a white V-neck. He has freckles on his shoulders, and you try not to count them as he walks evenly beside you, lips pursed and holding back his thoughts. You are nervous, and you think that he knows this by the time you reach the edge of the lake, shaking pieces of bread into the water and watching ducks kamikaze dive to retrieve a crumb. Usually, you would break the bread, grate it between your fingers and scatter it evenly across the surface of the weed whorled water. Today however you simply dump it all in and watch the shitstorm. Which you regret because now there is no bread left you have nothing to distract you from the matter at hand.

You hope Dave will start, but you know he won’t. Instead you suck a breath and take a stab.

“You and me. We are bros, right? Best friends?”

“Yeah.” Dave answers, and you see him slip his hands into his pockets from the corner of your eye. “We should have agreed about that before, shouldn’t we? Because now look at us standing here awkward as all hell twiddling our thumbs and shit. Like teenagers.”

You go to tell him that you are teenagers, but you think that this is no longer an argument, because he turns twenty one next winter and you are twenty in a few weeks. How is it possible, then, that you are acting like such kids?

“Yeah? Well, we didn’t.”

And some part of you is glad of this. He sighs.

“you’re right.”

This is a rare victory. When it comes to matters involving Dave there is a single rule and a single rule only: Dave is the one who is always right.

The two of you are silent for a moment longer, and you too stick your hands into your pocket, scrunching the empty bread bag in your fist. The ducks squawk over the last oily spirals of stale bread, and sparrows dart overhead. Lively green leaves quiver in the curling spring breeze, joggers circle the lake and no-one spares a glance to you or him, two young men standing by the water like good friends, talking, probably without a single pain in the world. The wind flutters over your face, and you realise for the first time how fresh it feels on your warm cheeks. You can smell Dave’s body spray.

“John?”

“Mm?”

“… I like you. You know, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet. Which face it you would have to be as dumb as a mud fence to not. And I mean not just any run of the mill mud fence I’m meaning fat, dirty straw and shit stuffed edifice to end all others. The sort of thing that would make Frank Lloyd Wright spew in envy.”

You stand there, feeling about as emotive as a mud fence because you were not expecting that at all and it’s taking a moment for you to process what he has said. Perhaps this is a good thing. Because yes, of course Dave likes you. It would be a real problem if he didn’t, but whoa hey did he mean it like that?

“… Excuse me?”

Dave shrugs, bending down and picking a handful of pebbled gravel off the path beneath your feet and plucking one out of his hand.

“I like you. Have for ages. You know… romantically…”

“… oh.” You flush, and wrap your arms around yourself. “Yeah. Okay.”

He throws a pebble into the lake, it plinks a fair distance in and you watch the ripples spread. Your hands are starting to clam and his sudden and unexpected confession is making your heart beat off kilter. Dave likes you though. He does. Dave likes you, and while you are relieved to hear it it also makes your heart sink, because oh god what a fucked up mess the two of you are in now? And how much does he like you? Why would he want to fuck girls if he likes you? Unless this is some kind of mission to prove something to himself? Or to you…

Dave takes your silence as an indication to justify himself.

“I knew you weren’t into it, but I always kind of hoped you know? Like, this isn’t even about sex, don’t get me wrong the sex was great, but some part of me thought that some day maybe you might be able to open your mind a bit. Its tough to keep our job and that separate though…”

He has exhausted his handful of gravel, and bends to retrieve more.

“I think it’s pretty hard for you too. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have sex with someone you aren’t even attracted to. And then someone you aren’t sure about. Or how you’re supposed to act around someone you are fucking. It’s different… but I know the principles. I’d do anything for you, Egbert. Anything in the world.”

Once again out of stones, he drops his hands to his side and looks distantly over the water before you both. You swallow and try to tighten your knees, because your legs are shaking a bit, and it’s hard to hold yourself up. You think he’s telling the truth, after all, he was willing to bang strangers just to bring in money. That took some amount of dedication right? You suppose that perhaps you have always known Dave had some sort of crush on you, sure, but you had never anticipated that that crush might actually mean something, or become something.

“If you like me so much, why don’t you marry me?” the retort comes out half hearted and you turn to him, almost shy. “Or why didn’t you say something earlier even? That would have been a nice thing to do. And why did you volunteer that night to help with that girl? And why would you want to have sex with three other women? Why do you even like me I don’t understand. I’m confused.”

“I don’t know, I was jealous. I figured that so long as I was there, you wouldn’t have a choice to take me or not. One girl or three girls. And we both know I would rather die than tell you. I’m warning you now as soon as we get home I am going to eat a whole bottle of drain cleaner. This is probably the most magnanimously humiliating conversation in recorded history right here, and we are having it. I feel like a tool.”

“You are a tool Dave Strider.” You still aren’t sure how to word what you want to say. “Everything about you is a tool. You’re the biggest, stupidest tool I’ve ever met. You are confusing, and annoying, and even when I can see straight through you I don’t understand what you are thinking. It’s like you did this to me on purpose. You were the one who made this weird. You and your touchy feely lovely dovey bullshit. Making me chocolate… neck rubs. Jesus Dave. Jesus Christ. How did I ever fall for that? All my adult life you have been there coming on to me and I didn’t notice. What is wrong with me?”

His lips cut a thin, hurt line, but he doesn’t reply. You exhale deeply and move your hands under your glasses to rub your weary eyes.

“If its any consolation,” you tell him shakily, “it worked. I hope you are happy with yourself, you little ruiner. Getting under my radar like that. And you knew, didn’t you? You knew I was falling for you, but you didn’t stop. Why didn’t you stop?”

A strain of despair leaks into your voice and he is guiltily silent. You know what he is thinking though. Probably a ribbon of cool, triumphant and smug thoughts. But then you can’t be sure. Perhaps this time, his façade is a genuine expression of what’s happening behind the one way windows of his shades.

“I was pretty surprised, Egbert, I would have never thought… I never intended to make you. It just happened. Kind of like a side effect of satisfying myself.”

“Selfish.”

“I’m not a good guy, okay? I’m pretty low, we get that. I’m a porn star, I can’t get a job, and I’m even failing fucking photography. I’m stupid, and I’m shy, and I’m useless and weak, I don’t have any redeeming features and you were all I had. You made me feel like I wasn’t a total fuck up, and I needed that.” He moves his arm in a way that suggests he is reaching for you, but pulls back. “This is so fucking gay…”

“This is gay you fucking made it gay. You made me gay. How is that even a thing?”

“I don’t know. Maybe its revenge for all those stupid kids pranks you played on me when I was a kid. Well haha fuck you Egbert now you’re the one who got punk’d.” his decibel of his voice lifts and you try to calm yourself. He isn’t angry at you right now, he’s angry at himself. Thanks to your guilt trip, Dave is going to be beating himself up for days, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. “Wait a minute though, Aston Kutcher will be out and in your face in a moment, and you will be on TV. Folks will look at you and go ‘hey, it’s that dork who got punk’d by the gay porn star. Sound fun John? Does that sound like a fucking circus of delights?”

“Shut up Dave oh my god!” you want to punch him. “Sometimes you don’t even make sense! Don’t get defensive okay I’m not mad at you!”

You are, but not much. Not enough to want him to get worked up.

“I’m just… generally annoyed okay? This is too weird. I don’t know where I stand.”

“Right here.” He states simply. “On the edge of a public lake, being stared at by a mother and two joggers who think you are having a ‘who’s pushing who into this lake first’ squabble with your boyfriend.”

“Well maybe that’s what I am having right now! Shut your stupid dumb butt face for a moment please. I’m trying to think.”

Well, now he knows. He probably knew earlier, but now he double knows, and you are flustered, and you are upset and feeling dumbly emotional, and you just want this trouble to be sorted out so that you and Dave can go back to being totally platonic bros again but you know that’s not the case. Your relationship has been irrevocably scarred; you and him will never be able to go back to that again.

But you can build it. Build it up on what you have.

“I like you too, okay? So let’s just agree on something. Something until we can sort out… what we want to do. Let’s not go crazy.”

You are sorely tempted to scream ‘boyfriends’ and run around holding hands, because you have never actually had a romantic relationship before and have always wanted to be in one of those cute couples that hold hands and rub noses and call each other names from 1980’s movies. You had already decided you want to be Gozer.

Shut up. That title so suits you.

Shut up.

The two of you wait in awkward silence for an idea to pop out of thin air. Eventually, Dave offers a suggestion.

“… Do you wanna date? Take things slow?”

You think about it for a moment, hesitant and unsure, because although you and Dave have been talking for years, this is the first time you have talked like this. So seriously, so intimately. You liken it to how you imagined a first dance with a girl would feel. Nervous but thrilling, at the same time. The idea of dating Dave was much lighter than the concept of being together with Dave, and you think that over all, it’s a good place to start.

“Okay.” You agree. “Sure. Dating is fine.”

He hums his agreement, and you stand there a little while longer, before asking him self-consciously if he thought that maybe the two of you should head home.

 

---

 

You sit up late and write a list of rules, which you are too shy to actually show him, so instead stick on the fridge with a magnet before you go to lecture the next morning and hope that he will see it. He does, because he pens a little ‘O.K’ in the bottom, but he doesn’t mention it when you get home which you are grateful for. The list reads as follows.

 

DAVE AND JOHN’S DATING RULES: the dos and do nots of going out together.

>no kissing or hand holding in the flat.
>no kissing or handholding in public unless both of us say its okay.
>no funny business or sexual shenanigans.
>work doesn’t count.
>we go on normal dates, like dinner, or the movies. We take turns choosing where to go.
>neither of us can see other people for dates etc.
>both of us must be fully conscious of how strange this is, and if we are ever in an awkward situation then we must remember that both of us know how strange this is, so don’t feel… scared or something.
>even if this doesn’t work out, we will still be bros.
>I don’t want to have sex with you at any time in the near future except for work. Before I could even consider that we would have to stop being bros first.
>the decision to stop being bros will not be made lightly. Also, we both have to agree.
>no more cuddles, backrubs, hot chocolates, or other abnormal crushy things allowed. They are too coupley and romantic and strange and I can’t handle that right now.
>add any rules if you need to under these.

 

You hope that this list will keep your relationship stable, and balanced, and under your shaking thumb.

 

---

 

“Hey Egbert.”

“Yeah?” you are shaving when he knocks on the bathroom door and edges in. You are aware that you are still half bearded with white foam, which you always thought makes you look stupidly old, like your dad, but Dave is used to it now so you don’t bother wiping it off. Instead you rinse your razor under the faucet and resume shaving, without turning back to look at him. You don’t really want to. Every time you catch his eye you trip or drop something. You don’t want to accidently shave off your nose because you can see his lashes through his shades.

“Are you doing anything tonight?” he poses, and you shrug, turning up your chin to address the stubble on your jawline.

“No. not really. I don’t know. Why?”

He pauses, the silence pregnant with expectation and the scraping of your razor on your chin. And then he asks.

“Wanna take me on a date? Dinner or something.”

You jump, jerking your hand and nicking a pimple under your lip. Garnet blood spits in the sink, two fat droplets, and you have to push him aside so you can reach the toilet and tissue roll to mop it up.

“Shit…” you murmur, dabbing at the spot. “goddamnit.”

Dave clears his throat and sits down on the edge of the bathtub. Your bathroom is cramped and cluttered already, its even worse with two fully grown men in there.

“Sorry.” He clips and you sigh tiredly.

“It’s not your fault.” You tear a square of tissue off and stick it to the tiny cut. “I’m just… ugh. Yeah. Okay. That sounds good.” you set your razor on the sink and reach for the towel. You have missed a spot on your right cheek, you realise when you wipe off the last shreds of foam. “Dinner okay?”

“Okay.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“You decide.” He brushes his fingers through his hair. “Not pizza hut.”

“mm.” you think you don’t really want pizza hut anyway. You kind of… want to do something special.

But how ‘special’ and romantic can you get without Dave freaking out? Without freaking yourself out even.

You will just have to spend the afternoon thinking about it.

 

---

 

Dave looks gorgeous.

He looks so handsome. Dave is handsome. You feel stupidly unattractive sitting opposite him at the table, with your hair that wont sit flat no matter how many times your wet it down, and your awkward old glasses, and especially your dumb attempt at a best outfit. Even wearing a shirt and a waistcoat, you look sloppy, though Dave should be the one feeling guilty because he’s the one wearing a long sleeved tee to an Italian restaurant.

Awkwardly enough, perhaps simply to be ironic on Dave’s part, he orders a pizza and a bottle of sparking apple juice. You order spaghetti, because you have eaten here before and you know it’s good. Just enough garlic for your tastes. The atmosphere of the restaurant is a little too intimate though. It is lamplit, and piano music hums under the chatter of lovers talking, laughing, and clinking wineglasses cheerily.

“I thought you didn’t want pizza.” You point out as the food is delivered and he shrugs, letting his shadeless eyes drift around the room. His glasses are set on the table by his glass, at your request, and he looks different without them; twice as stunning as usual.

“I didn’t want pizza hut. Jesus Egbert. Learn your shit.”

“Call me John.” You tell him softly. I’m your date. Egbert is too familiar. In… a backwards way.”

He goes to respond, but hesitates, clearly thinking better of it. You sigh, looking away in shame.

This is painful. So. Fucking. Painful. Usually, being with Dave is easy. You always know what to say, you are relaxed, you are happy. Being with Dave in this setting though is terrifying. It’s as though he is judging you. Which is stupid because if Dave was ever going to judge you he would have done so years ago. Dave wouldn’t judge you. Ever. What was there to judge? He already knew every little thing about you.

Perhaps this was why it was so unnerving.

Unnatural, and strange.

“John.” He tries, and though you have heard him use your name before it is significantly more precious, meaningful this time around. You wish you will be able to recall this sound forever.

“Dave.”

“John.”

“Dave.”

He smiles a little and leans forward over the table.

“What’s wrong, John? Scared?”

“… Is it obvious?”

“Yeah. It’s okay. I’m scared too. This is… pretty out there. Nice place though.” He shrugs and looks around again. “You fucking closet romantic. You should have warned me. Here I was expecting a bucket of French fries and a can of coke.”

“Are you complaining?”

“Oh hell no. this is mad good. Hey, You’re smiling.”

You straighten your expression, not having realised you were being sucked back into that place of broship. That place you are desperately trying to escape right now.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t apologise. Jesus.” He crosses his arms and leans closer. “I know you’re a dork, its okay.”

You flush and clear your throat.

“Can we start the date already? You keep poking fun at me, like I’m going out with someone else and you’re trying to wind me up.”

“Right. Sorry.” He plays with a napkin and smiles privately to himself, the sort of smirk that usually would have looked smug, behind his glasses. “I guess we had better start dating the shit out of each other then. Right?”

“Right…” butterflies clutter your stomach and you shuffle in your seat. “That’s a good plan.”

“Hm.” You are quiet for a moment, before he picks up the conversation again.

“So. Tell me about yourself.”

You stare at him blankly, unable to come to terms with what he has just said. Did he really… has he just…

You start laughing. You laugh straight at him and a smug grin curls across his lips and he sniggers too, because holy fuck how dumb are you. What kind of a question is this? Seriously? Dave who has known you since you were six is actually asking…

Only now do you realise how utterly dumb the notion of ‘dating’ is. How can someone ever expect to know and fall in love with someone you have never known, someone who you cant laugh with, and share secrets with, and especially how the hell can anyone expect to share their entire soul with someone across the table at some strange eatery simply by explaining something about themselves in brief words. It seems so shallow, and so unimportant.

“This is so stupid.” You tell him, leaning across the table, magnetised towards him. “Look at us. We are dicks.”

“Aren’t we just. Oh, thanks.” He sits back so the waiter can set your drinks on the table. He goes to pick up the pretty glass bottle of apple juice and pour it, but you get their first and knock his hand aside.

“Allow me.” you pour two glasses, one for him and one for you, and he laughs and thanks you almost sarcastically for your chivalry.

“Wow. Flashy.”

“Heh, yes.” The bottle makes a heavy but pleasant noise as it is replaced on the table. “Closet romantic remember.”

“Shut your face John.”

You are still paddling in the shallow end of the conversational pool, but it is something. You wonder briefly if you were going about this entire dating thing the wrong way… maybe you are. Perhaps you should have both just stayed at home and watched B-grade movies.

Yes. That would have been divine.

Instead you are sitting here in a posh joint giggling like schoolgirls, not sure what to say at all. At least not until Dave offers precisely what you are thinking.

“I don’t know why we need to do this sort of thing, honestly. Because we kind of already know everything we need to know about each other. And we’ve already had sex. We’ve already done the couple thing for months…”

“I know. But can’t we just go slowly? It’s still hard to accept that I like a guy.”

“Get a little tequila in you and it’s not a problem.”

“What does that mean? Making cryptic allusions is not an attractive feature.”

He wiggles his eyebrows and slouches back in his chair.

“It means that remember the night you were hells of wasted and spewed in your bed?”

“Ugh.” You had been trying to strike such an even from your memory. “What about it?”

“You were all over me like ants on a lolly. If you had been any more into me that night you probably would have broken my ass.  Don’t you remember anything?”

You stare at him in blank disbelief, mind trying to knit together the obscure gaps in your recollection. He was kidding, right? Surely you would remember something like that happening?

But no matter how many times you rewind, and try to rub the blacked out blur off the tape of your memory, nothing surfaced. Bits and pieces of her, that girl, and then waking up again in the morning in hell, but otherwise…

Very little.

You think your body still memorises moments, brief flashbacks of sensation, of bone crushing closeness and good feelings, maybe scratched records of heavy breathing and the odd needy moan of pleasure, but overall, little. And having a great gap in your mind like that is scary, because only now do you realise that something you had previously been totally unaware of could have happened while you were out, and you would never know.

Your jaw fell open.

“Did we…!”

“Huh? Oh no. no. fuck no. you were way too gone man, you couldn’t even cum with the girl around. You fucking tried it on though, and you are one smooth drunk if there ever was one. You uh…” his brows furrow in the effort to recall. “You said that you loved me, and then asked me if I took checks, but I never got the punch line because you puked all over your bed and passed out. It was fucking gross. Just so you are aware of the extent to which it was gross.”

Oh wow.

Suddenly you are embarrassed about it all over again. How could he even look at you after all that?! Really? You are instantly glad that you never got to finish that pickup line though. It went to many places, none of them good, all of them painfully, groan worthily lame.

“Oh my god!” you despair, covering your face with one hand. “I am so sorry. Holy shit. That’s horrible.”

“Yeah that’s what I thought. But uh…” he clears his throat and reaches across the table to touch your arm. “if it makes you feel any better it’s all sort of blurry for me too.”

“I told you I love you?” you ask him, not caring how sober he had been at the time. “Oh my god that’s awkward. Fuuuuck…”

“Actually that was my favourite part. You looked like you meant it? But it’s hard to say through beer glasses.”

“Still…. Still…” you sink forward over the table, wrapping your arms around your head.

Dave is silent for a moment, before he touches your hand and you sit up, instantly skittish.

“Do you though?” he asks, fixing stunning eyes on yours. “Love me?”

“I…” you don’t want to say yes, even though you definitely feel something for him, and you don’t want to say no either because that would be lying, and you don’t want to hurt him. “I don’t know?”

He blinks for a moment, before grinning teasingly.

“John loves me.”

“I what?”

“John fucking loves me haha fuck you Egbert I am the best you love me.”

“I didn’t say that!”

Dave Strider is the worlds worst winner. Even as the biggest, gayest homo ever born he still manages to make you feel stupidly small on the odd occasion, clumsy, clueless, like a child. He’s always been bad for teasing, but you think that if him and you are going to get together he’s going to have to stop.

“Dave, if you don’t shut up I swear to god I will make you pay for your own dinner.”

He doesn’t seem bothered, shrugging easily and craning his head to see where the waiter might be with the dessert menus, though you have hardly touched the main course.

“Whatever man. My money is your money too.”

You hate to admit he is right.

 

---

 

The two of you come home earlier than you had expected, but at a time that feels appropriate and comfortable. Dinner was nice, and the conversation easy once you got past the unfortunate clog at the beginning, and once again it is becoming difficult for you to identify a line between ‘friends’ and ‘more than friends’.

He walks a little in front of you, and with his consent you place your hand on the small of his back as you step into the elevator to take you up to your flat. He jams the third floor button and folds his arms, and you feel your lips twitch into a smile.

“I had a good time tonight.” You tell him, rubbing lightly. The fabric of his shirt is pleasant and warm.

“Me too.” he admits, turning his face to yours. “Do I get a goodnight kiss or is that taking this a little too fast for you?”

You smile widens and you snigger, because the idea of giving Dave even the tiniest, most chaste of kisses still seems alien and exciting. Your lips tingle and you are suddenly acutely aware of them, and how nice it would feel to slide them against Dave’s mouth…

“I dunno.” You jest lightly. “I’ve never kissed a boy before.”

“Are you going to try it?”

“Maybe.” You bite your lip and your stomach drops, half because of the sensation of the lift shuddering to life beneath you, and half because wow, you two are alone, in a tiny space, and holy hell you could totally kiss him right now. Smack smack smack right on the lips. Do you dare?

The elevator jerks to a stop and the door clicks open before you have made your decision. Dave quirks his lip.

“Too late John.”

“Ah.” You grab his arm when he goes to leave and jam your thumb on the close door button. It barely avoids catching his sleeve in the seal. “Not yet. Gosh Dave.”

And as the elevator descends again you pull him closer and kiss him, and even though its not the first time the metaphorical fireworks crack, and everything is alight with sparks of happiness and excitement, and Dave seems surprised but happy to oblige. When you get to the bottom you pull apart, lips warm and ghosted with his, and he grins a full, beautiful grin that is completely not cool at all but its fucking gorgeous so you aren’t going to point this out.

“Woah.”

“Yessss…” he tries to compose himself brushing down his hair. You give the doorman a bright wave over his shoulder as you go to close the lift doors for a final time and re-ascend, because what doorman is expecting to be met with a pair of kissing youths when the elevator dings open and well he did have every right to look startled about it. “That was pretty ravishing, bro. my panties are soaked.”

“Don’t make fun of me.” you laugh, slipping your arms around his waist and nosing the side of his neck. “fuck you.”

“That’s not very slow and steady a suggestion. Anyone would think you are trying to reduce me to a breathless swooning mess.”

You squeeze him briefly, extremely tight, and release him as soon as he gasps a complaint.

“What?” you ask when you reach your floor and step out, “the breathless swooning mess thing was your idea.”

That isn’t what he meant, but you thought yourself quite witty for thinking of it.

 

 

Dave’s body slides over yours easily and you tie your fingers in his hair, searching his mouth hungrily and letting yourself drown in his taste and his smell and the feel of his legs curling around your waist. The sheets rumple beneath you, and your hands cannot travel everywhere you want them to on such short notice, but oh is it good to be this close to him, hips against hips, his pricked nipples grating lightly against yours. His hair is soft and tickles your face, his breath is hot and impatient against your neck, kisses rain on your face and throat and you moan palely, considerably embarrassed.

“Hey guys can you stop for a second please?”

Dave jerks up and you groan, frustrated with the whole fakeness of the situation. The fakeness you had never noticed before. It is hard; you find your body driven by instinct, aching to do something that perhaps wouldn’t necessarily be camera friendly. Sometimes it just feels easier, more natural, for you to turn away from the lens to suck Dave’s throat. Or to touch him a little more aggressively than the role you are prescribed by the director.

“Yeah?”

“Could you calm down a little? Dave you look like you are going to shoot your load any second.”

You observe Dave’s jaw tighten in embarrassment and he huffs, sitting back and combing his fingers through his hair.

“Sorry.”

“Uh… yeah.” You look between him, and into the harsh umbrella of white light before you. “I’m sorry too.”

“It’s okay. Just relax a little this time.”

Yeah, you concur as you drag him closer and let him resume his manhandling. You wouldn’t want it to look like you and Dave were actually involved or anything.

After all, the two of you were supposed to be taking it slow.

 

---

 

You cook dinner that night with Dave hanging over your shoulder, watching you push vegetables around the beaten charity shop wok until they become glossy with oil and heat.

“Smells good Egbert.”

“Better than the food at the restaurant?” you ask, and he smirks, brushing an invisible fleck of dust off your shoulder.

“Dunno. I haven’t tasted it yet.”

You grin and take the wok off the heat, reaching for the wooden spoon by the microwave and using it to dish the food into two plates. Dave happily takes his and wanders into the lounge, to sit on the sofa. Typical. Disregarding the table you had gone through the effort to set and-

Whoa. Stop. You sound like your dad.

You decide to simply grab your cutlery off the table and join him, sitting on the remote and cursing as you dig it out from under your ass. Dave watches you indifferently and you consider hitting him in the face with it.

“Shut up.” You tell him, dropping the remote on the coffee table and getting your dinner in a comfortable consumption position. “Don’t say a word.”

“What?” he asks, chewing a piece of broccoli lazily. “I was just going to lay down a smooth line or two, but if you’re not into it then I won’t.”

“No smooth lines.”

“But-“

“No. only eating now.” To emphasize you fork a piece of meat into your mouth and give it a testy chew. It’s a little rubbery, but not bad. At least you are eating it in a comfortable atmosphere.

“What’s on?” you ask, bringing a foot up and resting your heal on a coaster. “The TV, I mean.”

“Dunno. Movies? Cartoons? Porn?”

“Let’s not watch porn.” You tell him easily, nudging the remote with your toes and pondering if it would be appropriate for you to change channel with your-

Ew. No John. Stop.

That’s gross.

“Yeah agreed.” Dave is silent for a moment, in which only the sound of stir fry eating bothered you both. After a while he cut in again, and you lend him an ear as you scrape the last of your decent meal out of your plate.

“Has it ever occurred to you how fucking weird porn is man? Like… in the past couple of days I mean. Have you ever really thought about it before? Or is that vacant expression on your face a genuine example of ‘you get what you pay for, no exchanges or returns or money back’?”

You are confused by this question and give him a bamboozled look.

“What?”

“Porn.” He answers simply. “It’s fucking weird don’t you think? That two people who might even be strangers would do something so intimate just so that people on the other end can jack off to an imagination scenario. Essentially it is a giant multi-faceted exercise in the fucked up and dubious designed purely to appease the libido god. I mean, it’s not real, right. The people who wank over it get this so why do they do it? For the emotional disconnection and isolation? Fucking strange dude.”

You stare at him for a moment, before you present a somewhat put out argument.

“You watch porn.” You state, and he shrugs.

“I did, until I realised what its like actually making porn. What we do man is nothing. What we do is real life in the industry, because we work in our home, without fluffers in the wings, and we have known each other for more than maybe a day. But its not real life, is it? nope, at best the shit we do on camera is a picture of our relationship that’s been mangled and chopped and double exposed until it resembles maybe a ghostly lurk of what is actually there. You gotta agree with me on this Egbert come on.”

He has made you think now he has phrased it like that and you knot your brows, trying to dissect his diagnosis and respond accordingly.

“I… suppose?” you look at him through your smudged glasses and think absently, in the distant back of your mind, that he is deeply handsome. Or perhaps you just feel that he is handsome, the flattering light a side effect of your softness toward him. “But what has that got to do with anything?”

A startling thought occurs to you.

“Are you breaking up with me?!”

Already? Really? Oh wow that had to be a world record.

Dave seems startled.

“What? No! Oh fuck no. no way at all shit can you imagine how awkward that would be for the next six months? No way am I breaking up with you dude, at least not until I have a house of my own.”

Somewhat comforted, but the shock of that split second concern still strong in you, you settle down and collect yourself. Wow. That fear had shaken you more than you would have suspected.

“I’m not breaking up with you,” he reiterates, finishing his food and placing the empty bowl on the floor by the sofaside. “But I am saying that I still reckon we need to consider our choices. Because as flattering as it is, I don’t think I’m happy with fucking a guy hundreds of people all over the world get their rocks off for. And uh…” he falters, and your heart jumps when you realise that he’s probably going to say one of those REALLY EMBARASSING EMOTIONAL THINGS that Dave usually avoids and when he does say them, only ever says them once.

“I’m not really comfortable with letting people who aren’t you watch me have an orgasm any more either. The Strider train… it’s sort of exclusive.”

You are silent for a moment, letting this statement percolate through the grain of your mind, before the stealing inclination to smile seeps across your thoughts.

“Oh my god Dave, you romantic dickbag.”

“What?!” his face flushes, and he is immediately on the defensive. “What? I’m just saying that it’s my honour as a man to be true to my lover. Sorry I’m so old fashioned. Jesus.”

“No,” you laugh, leaning forward and grabbing his wrists happily. “it’s not that. I’m just… fucking hell. You are so. Cute.” You kiss each one of his hands and he flushes deeper, a velvet plum red that you want to call adorable, at your own risk.

“I’m not cute.”

“You are cute. You’re adorable.” You grin at him and lean forward, which is a much more awkward manoeuvre than you would have liked to think, your legs far too long and Dave far too distant. “And I like you a lot, okay? Enough to even quit my job. On one condition.”

He looks at you suspiciously; from this distance you can see his eyes through dark shades.

“… What?”

“In real life, I get to be on top.”

He doesn’t even think about it before responding.

“That’s a deal.”

You kiss on it.