He groaned and rolled over, pulling the covers up over his head. Whatever time of morning it actually was, it was too-early-for-this-shit o'clock, and he'd been having a great dream about flying through a perfect sky until he was dragged back to reality.
The cover was tugged insistently, and he sighed, opening his eyes and glaring into the fabric.
"Bro, what time is it?" He asked, voice a little raspy as it tended to be when he'd just woken up. He felt his boyfriend sit down on the bed beside him, a hand settling on his hip.
"Like four AM, I think? I notice you locked your door again, like that will actually stop me."
"I was hoping you'd take the hint so I could actually get some sleep. I appreciate being woken up with kisses every morning, but at four? You used to complain if I woke you up at six!"
"I wanted to make sure I got up before you." Bro mumbled back, hand slipping away, and John sighed, rolling onto his back and sitting up as he pushed the covers down.
"Why did you-?"
"Merry Christmas." Bro said quickly, thrusting a small box wrapped in golden paper against his chest. John blinked, taking hold of it. A smile began spreading over his face.
"It's Christmas? Wow! I was so tired I didn't even remember, that's terrible. Um. Merry Christmas, Bro. You still didn't need to wake me up at four."
"Shoosh. Only gifts now."
"Seriously, dude, I feel like I'm gonna pass out any minute here. I should get some more-"
"John." Bro said firmly, putting a hand over his mouth and ignoring the glare John shot at him. "Open your present."
The younger man relented at the slight pleading tone in the Strider's voice, gesturing for his glasses and pushing them on as Bro handed them to him. Instantly, the mess of colours took shape, and he smiled behind Bro's hand, the blonde in the sweater Mom had graced him with this year (a dark pink thing covered in white ponies with ribbons in their manes) and looking almost respectable. Almost.
John looked down to the present as Bro lowered his hand, and slit the paper with a nail, peeling it open and revealing a plain black box beneath. Bro was watching apprehensively, and he swallowed as John used his thumbs to push it open, eyes moving from the box to John's face.
"I know it's stupid but I thought... I dunno, it's the sort of shit you're meant to do, right? So I thought..." He laughed nervously when John stayed silent. "Uh. Yeah, I probably shouldn't have..."
"Bro," John replied softly, without looking up. "Stop talking, you're ruining the moment."
The Strider fell silent, and John carefully reached into the box, fingers lightly taking hold of the ring inside and lifting it out so he could get a closer look. It was silver, thick, and set into a slight depression there was a heart, half solid pink stone and half outlined in tiny, inlaid gems. He blushed as he turned it over, toying with it and then sliding it onto his ring finger, pleased it actually fit.
"If you wear it there your Dad will think I proposed." Bro mumbled, and John chuckled, shrugging.
"Maybe I want to pretend you did."
Bro blinked at him and went red, and John grinned, revelling in leaving the Strider speechless. He traced the shape of the heart as he waited for Bro's voice to return, and when it did it was with an awkward clearing of his throat.
"There's a chain under the cushion for you to wear it on if you want."
"Alright. Maybe in a while I'll put it on. Right now, it can stay where it is." John shuffled over, kissing his cheek. "I can't believe you got me this, wow! My presents are so shit now."
"They won't be shit. They're from you."
"Oh my God, Bro."
"And you said I couldn't romance."
"I've got something else for you."
John sat back, giving him a look of mock annoyance. "Because giving me the ring wasn't enough to totally win the Christmas gambit?"
"Nope. You need to see my masterpiece."
"And what is-?" John broke off when Bro ejected the orange smuppet into his hands, offering it up with a grin. He stared, and then in a hushed voice, he managed, "Oh my God. It has freckles."
"It has freckles."
"And a hat."
"And glasses. And check it, I even made little leather-feel gloves."
John took one of the hands and felt them, laughing and then taking it off of the blonde so he could look it over. The stitching was amazing, and he didn't even want to know where Bro had got the materials from, especially for the perfect miniature shades. He squeezed it to make it squeak, and laughed again. "You made the squeak deeper, holy shit."
"Couldn't have Lil Bro sounding too high."
"So it's called Lil Bro then."
"Well yeah, then it matches Lil John."
He looked up to Bro as the Strider ejected the tiny doll and held it up, still in pristine condition. John's eyes widened. "...You still have that?"
"Never leaves my sylladex, unless I'm, uh... unless I'm talking to him."
"You talk to him?"
"Well yeah, I mean... Fuck, come on, John, you know about Cal, is this really that much of a push?"
"Does Cal get jealous?" John teased gently, still inwardly thrilled his present had seen use. Bro blushed.
"Sometimes. I've been trying to get them to get along."
Holy shit, Bro was the cutest thing ever.
"I love you." John hummed, hugging the smuppet to his chest as he leant back in for a kiss. Bro smiled against his lips, and when they broke apart he took John's hand, kissing his knuckles and then kissing the ring.
"I love you too, John." He murmured, moving it so John was cupping his cheek. "You can get some sleep now, if you want. I just really wanted to give you your presents."
"I'd rather spend the time with you." John smiled, thumb stroking his smooth skin. "You woke me up with adorableness."
"I'm not adorable, I am manly as fuck."
"Of course you are, baby." He laid the smuppet down on his pillow, carefully adjusting the shades so they sat straight. When it was just right, he turned back to Bro. "Come here and cuddle me like a man, then."
Bro pulled himself up onto the bed fully, moving up it and wrapping his arms around John. The hug was eagerly returned, and as John nuzzled into his shoulder he smiled, pretty certain this was going to be his favourite Christmas ever, if it carried on like this. Where his hands met behind Bro's back his finger found the metal again, playing with it, each touch filling him with warmth.
"So we've got a few hours to kill before anyone else will be awake." Bro murmured by his ear, following it with a gentle kiss there that made him shiver. "What d'you wanna do until then?"
"I was planning on just cuddling you and maybe talking, I guess. Do you have a better idea?"
"Let's hear it then."
"Looking out the window, I figure there's practically a whole garden fulla undisturbed snow. Crisp white as far as the eye can see." John felt Bro move a hand to gesture out wide behind his back, and chuckled. "I propose we go and wreck that shit. Angels and snowmen and whatever the fuck we want. Our reward for being up so damn early."
"I thought you didn't like the cold."
"Eh, I can stomach it if it means I get to spend time with you. Dave says you like the snow."
"Well yeah, I do, but..."
"But nothing. Get dressed in whatever horror show Rox made you, and then you can show me what the fuck is so great about frozen water."
Bro let him go, and John made a point of rolling his eyes at him, but stood and went to find his clothes regardless. He was actually looking forward to getting Bro outside, since he was pretty sure he'd never actually seen him out there, except for the first time he'd ever greeted him. Snow was great, and he would prove it to him, even if he was utterly certain it would take all of five seconds for the Texan to start bitching about how cold he was.
He hadn't unwrapped his sweater yet, so apprehensively lifted the parcel from where he'd abandoned it on his desk, prying open the paper and considering how bad it could be, given Bro's pony-strewn outfit.
"Bro." He said carefully, as it spilled out into his hands. "Did you talk to Mom, at all, about certain things we shared?"
"Whatever makes you say that, John?"
"Your sweater is covered in ponies."
John turned, holding his sweater up to himself, glaring at where Bro choked on a laugh. "And mine is covered with bubble blowing salamanders."
"Holy shit, Roxy." Bro snickered, grinning as John looked it over, the salamanders gold and the bubbles a light blue against a darker blue background. "Okay, so maybe I mentioned it. I wasn't expecting her to actually make us themed sweaters."
"You should've known her better than that, then." He put it to one side as he dressed, then tugged it over his head, smoothing down the front. "At least no one else will know what the fuck they mean."
"Yo, I am proud to bear Maplehoof's image upon my chest."
"Bro, it's a pony with a love-heart on its ass and a ribbon in its hair."
"Oh yeah, that thing just screams Pride."
Bro shrugged, patting one of the ponies and whispering that John didn't mean that, he loved her really. John snorted, but pulled out his sweater by the hem to look over his salamanders, secretly over the moon with how they looked. It was just like he'd imagined them!
He hadn't told Bro how he imagined them.
"Hurry up and get your coat on, John."
Like that his train of thought was derailed, and he blinked, frowning as he couldn't quite recall what he'd been going to say. He shrugged and chose to focus instead on finally getting ready to go out, grabbing his big, puffy snow jacket. He did it up after a few failed attempts to line up both halves of the zip, and then added in his scarf and a hat for good measure.
He had to wait in the corridor while Bro vanished into his own room to get dressed, but once the Strider emerged in a much sleeker black coat John grabbed his hand and excitedly dragged him down towards the main hall, and the door beyond it. This was going to be great! Plus if he caught Bro unsuspecting it was the perfect time to dump a load of snow down the back of his neck and fill up his prankster's gambit!
It was only when they emerged past the main staircase that John heard the door shutting ahead of them, and frowned, briefly pausing in step. Then he was forging on regardless. As he dragged Bro out into the cold with a muffled curse from the Strider, the person who had headed out before them paused and looked back over a slender shoulder.
"Oh." Kanaya smiled in greeting, adjusting the large, wispy scarf wrapped over her head and shoulders. "I was not expecting anyone else to be up so early."
"Nor were we." Bro replied, sounding a little let down. John squeezed his hand, then let go of it so he could rub his own hands together to warm them. Why the fuck hadn't he worn gloves? "What're you doing up?"
"I am afraid I am not exactly adjusting well to this time zone. I am an insomniac, so it is not unusual for me to be mostly awake, but what little sleep I manage to get has currently been displaced to the mid afternoon. Rose is still sleeping, I did not wish to bother her. I thought I might explore the grounds at night. I enjoy moonlight on snow." She looked across the glittering silver landscape, before turning to them, dressed in a shaped black coat with a green velvet sheen, and high black boots with flat, spiked soles for the ice. "Might I enquire the same of you both?"
"We were going to go have fun in the snow before anyone else got to it." John offered, then blushed and added, "Because we, uh... We couldn't sleep."
"I was not aware you are sharing a room."
"Bro came and woke me up." John answered quickly. The Frenchwoman raised a sleek eyebrow, but gave an accepting incline of her head. "I thought we should spend the extra time together! It's Christmas after all." He added cheerfully, spreading his hands.
"Ah, of course. Joyeux Noel, gentlemen." Kanaya smiled, before she tipped her head towards one of his hands. "And congratulations."
"Congratulations?" He repeated back, looking over at it and blushing furiously as he saw the ring that was glinting in the light. "Oh! Uh..." Beside him, he practically felt Bro tense, and for some reason it was that motion which tipped him into giving a smile, and replying with a cheerful, "Thanks!"
"John-" Bro began rapidly, so John quickly turned and kissed him, hearing Kanaya give a soft laugh behind them. When they broke apart he left their noses brushing, getting a look from Bro and giving one straight back.
"Well I will leave you sweet boys to enjoy the blessed hours still left before the dawn. May your day be a happy one." She told them both, and John smiled and waved as she sashayed gracefully away into the night.
"Great. Now someone thinks we're engaged, just like I fucking told you they would!" Bro grumbled at him, and John sighed, stepping back and adjusting the ring. "John-"
"Like I said, maybe I want to pretend."
"That's fine when it's just us, but the moment other people believe it, it's a blatant lie. Fuck, if it makes it back to your Dad I may as well have asked you, because like hell he'd let me back out of that promise, even if it started off fucking fictitious."
"Then why don't you just actually ask me?"
Bro stared at him, and John held his gaze as calmly as he could, heart pounding in his ears. Wow, this was the stupidest thing he'd ever done! He had no idea why he was even going with it, but now the words were out in the open, and he was doing all he could to read Bro's gaze as the Strider shut his mouth and let his gaze drift down to John's fidgeting hands.
Oh man, this was awkward. He was acutely aware of how ridiculous it was. Bro frowned, and ran a hand through his hair, and John just wanted to blurt out an apology, but he knew how bad that would look now. Instead he just stayed silent, even while more of his inner nervousness manifested on his face.
He could hear Bro's mind ticking over, and that worried him, because he'd never actually seen the Texan so deep in thought before. The more he thought about it, the stupider the initial point became. He knew back home that sort of marriage was okay - he'd done his research in the months since March, since he'd become pretty certain he was going to end up with a guy whatever happened - but it wasn't even remotely okay in Texas, so it wasn't like it would ever be a possibility! Hell, a lot of things weren't okay in Texas. He began to slouch a little in defeat as he waited.
On top of that, it wasn't the sort of thing he could ever see Bro actually doing. The fact Bro was taking this long to think about how to let him down was nice, but it was only giving John more time to dwell. There was the legal shit, and the age issue, and all sorts of things that meant nothing like that would ever happen. Plus they'd only been together for a year! It took way longer than that to ask stuff like this.
Oh God, he felt so stupid.
At last, Bro looked back to his face, and John smiled weakly at him, closing his eyes when Bro opened his mouth with a pensive expression. He didn't want to think about what he'd say! He was ready to be told how dumb it was, ready for the gentle apology or the harsh mockery that could follow. He was ready for whatever Bro said to him, right now.
Well then. Everything except that.
"Okay?" He said back in confusion, opening his eyes and looking at Bro.
"Okay, John." Bro held his gaze, tongue making his lip stud shift agitatedly before he slowly expanded, "This is me asking you."
"This is... What?"
"John, you said why didn't I ask you so I am fucking asking you. Don't make me do this all over-dramatically because I'm already fucking struggling here."
"You're asking me what?"
"Holy shit, John." Bro groaned, scrubbing at his face, before glancing around to check Kanaya was well and truly out of sight. "If you ever tell anyone I did this I will fucking murder you."
Bro swept some of the snow off of the porch with his shoe, then grimaced at John, clearing his throat like he tended to do when he was embarrassed. He stayed hunched over for a few seconds as they stared at each other, then groaned.
"John," He said firmly, as he moved to rest one knee on the space he'd cleared. John blinked down at him, brain finally starting to work again. "I am asking you."
"Oh my God." John mumbled at him. "Oh my God!"
"John, you're the one who told me to fucking ask! Don't freak out now!"
"But it was so stupid I didn't think you'd actually-!"
"Whoa boy, calm down, getting a little loud there." Bro's flush had grown deeper, and he reached up, taking hold of the hand the ring was on and squeezing it between his larger, hot palms. "Look, it's a yes-no question."
"But you haven't actually asked it yet!" John replied quickly, desperate for more time to think about this. Bro sighed, holding his gaze.
Oh holy shit, holy shit!
"I have been in dokis with you from the moment my brother bailed on you like the shitstain he is and we both bonded over your terrible taste in films and how much we wanted to punch him."
Oh God, he couldn't breathe.
"I have been an asshole to you, and you have forgiven me over and over for it. I have tried to push you away, and you have only ever waited to come back."
"I have never felt the way I feel when I'm with you, not with anyone else in my life, and I have been with enough fucking people to compare."
John squeezed his hands numbly, and Bro almost smiled.
"I know I really want to wake up everyday with you next to me. I know I never, ever want to have to leave you again."
He covered his mouth with his other hand, looking every bit the pathetic little girl he felt right now.
"So, on the off chance that someday we would find ourselves in a position it were possible,"
He nodded, starting to shake, and realising that he was a total child.
"If by then you aren't sick of my shit, and I've somehow managed to stay lucky enough to be with you,"
John actually laughed, and he saw Bro relax, smiling nervously down at him as the Strider continued.
"Would you, John, be my blushing bride,"
"And take me as your immature asshole of a husband?"
John made an unholy, high-pitched sound he didn't even think his broken voice was capable of making, lunging forward and hugging him tightly. Holy shit! Holy shit!
"Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!"
He felt Bro relax and hug him back as he ended up falling to his knees in front of him, the two of them wrapped up in each other so tightly he could barely even feel the cold. Nothing mattered right now but Bro. Nothing would shake his good mood today, not one fucking thing.
"I love you." He mumbled into Bro's shoulder, and the blonde nodded, holding him closer.
"I love you too. If you ever tell anyone I went down on one fucking knee I'll kill you."
"Hah! I'll tell them you fucking proposed with a rap if it makes you feel better."
"I got Cal to do it for me."
"Oh my God, Bro."
"You screamed yes just to make it stop."
"Shit, that would've been golden. Can I take this one back and do it again?"
"Nope! Too late now. You proposed in a totally romantic, non-ironic way, no take backs."
"Well, shit." Bro sighed, but when John pushed back he was smiling broadly, freckled cheeks redder than just the cold. "Guess that means I'm stuck with you now, in a totally romantic, non-ironic way."
"Do you regret it?"
For a few moments, they just knelt there, holding hands and smiling at one another. At last, Bro flinched.
"Holy fuck, I think my knees are actually frozen in fucking place."
John burst out laughing, standing and brushing himself off before he helped Bro to his feet. The Texan cursed and rubbed frantically at his damp knee to try and warm it up, until John caught his arm and put it around his own waist.
"We are going to go and find a patch of perfect snow." John soothed him, as he tried to keep complaining. "We are going to make snow angels and build snow smuppets and write all the curse words we can all over the ground. We will have a snowball fight you will inevitably win, and then we will go back inside and warm up in front of the fire with cocoa."
Bro looked down at him, then smiled, just a little, free hand scratching at the blonde stubble on his chin.
"Guess I can live with that." The Texan murmured, stooping to kiss the top of his head.
John smiled, and led him forward, not giving a fuck he was too old for skipping as he promptly did so all the way to their perfect patch of snow.
It was a few hours later when anyone else finally actually emerged. Bro had to go change his trousers when they got back in, but now he was sitting with John in front of the roaring fire, legs folded around where John was sitting resting his chin on his bent knees. Their cocoa was already finished, empty mugs beside them, and their freed hands were now resting on the floor, fingers interlocked.
The first person up was Rose, who gave them both a warm smile as she gracefully descended the grand staircase. John grinned back, and she swayed over, daintily folding her legs beneath her as she sat on the rug beside them.
"Good morning, boys. Good tidings of the season to both of you."
"Merry Christmas, Rose!" John replied happily.
"Have you both been up a while? I noticed there are wet footprints in the hall that I can only assume are melted snow."
"Yeah, we went outside for a while! We saw Kanaya, too."
"Yes, she left me a note saying she was going to go on a small wander about the grounds." Rose raised an eyebrow at Bro, tilting her head. "I am rather surprised those of us who are rather cold blooded were willing to stomach the snow. I would have thought you needed heat at all times."
"I was kept warm through the power of love." He replied calmly, and John snorted.
"Then the power of love is shit because you spent all the time we were out there complaining about how cold you were."
"Shoosh, stop ruining the sentiment. I was trying to be sweet."
"Bro, you have filled your sweet quota for today. You can go back to being an asshole now."
"Oh thank fuck for that!" Bro let out a relieved breath, instantly letting go of John's hands and jabbing him in the ribs. "Yeah, it was fucking freezing! I suffered through the whole fucking thing because I couldn't bear the thought of John giving me a sad baby panda look. It was like pre-emptive guilting, Lalonde, it was terrible."
"Fascinating. Tell me, did something happen, this morning? You both seem in terribly good moods."
"Yeah, well-" Bro began, but John cut him off by thrusting out his hand and showing her his ring.
"We're engaged!" He announced brightly, and Rose looked down over the heart, smiling warmly.
"That is actually fairly unexpected news. Congratulations to you both, then. I am very happy for you. Please do make sure I am present when you inform our dear Strider, John. I am sure his face will be priceless."
"Oh shit." Bro said blankly, "We have to tell Dave."
"I would assume you would tell your own brother, yes." She gave them an amused smirk. "Unless you are intending on telling him after the wedding."
Bro clearly thought about it, and John glared, elbowing him in the ribs. "No, Bro! You can't even consider that, come on!"
"Well you tell him then." Bro replied pointedly. John hesitated, because yeah, okay, that was not on his list of things he wanted to do any time soon. "Yeah, exactly. See? After the wedding sounds promising now."
"We can't do that to Dave."
"No, John, we totally could. You're just not going to let us do that to Dave."
"We aren't doing that to Dave, and we'll tell him together. That's the only way that's fair."
"I guess I can manage that." Bro grudgingly nodded, kissing his cheek. "But seriously, Dave's gonna go fucking insane."
"I'm gonna go insane about what?"
John looked up as Dave moved over from the bottom of the stairs, and instantly went red, laughing nervously and rubbing at the back of his neck. "Oh, hey Dave!" He mumbled, as Rose quickly stood and moved to a window to look out across the garden. John shot her a glare, catching her amused smile in the glass. Oh, so she'd stay close enough to watch, but not close enough to help! "Um. We just had something to tell you!"
"And what's that?" The coolkid asked casually, hooking his thumbs into the pockets of his jeans.
"Uh." John looked over his shoulder at Bro, who gave him an encouraging look. "Well! See. Me and Bro... We are, um..."
John paused, then sheepishly held up his hand, showing Dave the ring. There were a few beats of silence as it reflected in the black glass, and then Dave pulled his hands up sharply and raised them both to hide block John's hand from his view.
"Oh hell no."
"Nope! Not a thing that's happening! Not a fucking thing that's allowed to happen, holy shit!" Dave folded his arms agitatedly. "Take that thing off and let's all stop fucking with Dave, the joke was hilarious, now it's been done and we can all fucking move on."
"Dave," Bro said firmly. "We're not fucking with you, okay?"
"You're waving a fucking ring at me and leaving me to draw my own conclusions, and my conclusions are you're both assholes and this isn't fucking funny!"
"Dave, I proposed to John."
"I asked John to marry me."
Bro sighed heavily, and as he did, John swallowed, then looked up and held Dave's gaze as best he could through the glasses. If Bro wasn't going to convince him, he guessed he would have to.
"Dave," He said earnestly, as the younger Strider faltered. "It's not a joke, okay? I'm sorry."
"John, what the fuck are you thinking, man? He's... You're..."
"He's my boyfriend and I love him a lot." John replied, taking one of Bro's hands and squeezing it gently. "It's not like it means we have to do anything right now! It's a promise for the future. A promise that someday we will."
"Are you sure?"
"Dave, I'm sure, okay? I'm so fucking sure, you wouldn't believe it, dude."
For a moment, Dave put his hands to the side of his head, staring down at them, starting to ramble at a thousand miles a minute below his breath. John waited for it to pass as the blonde moved his hands to hide his face from view instead, and then at last he dropped them, clearing his throat and adjusting his shades.
"Cool. I'm happy for you."
"Oh! Uh. Thanks?"
"I'm gonna go grab breakfast, I'm fucking starving."
John watched as Dave turned and walked off like nothing was wrong, blinking and then looking over his shoulder at Bro. The Texan shrugged.
"Dave." He said dismissively, as though that explained everything.
John waited for further explanation, but when none came he settled back against his chest and let it go. He knew better than to push for more, especially about Dave. He guessed Dave was just okay with it now? It was weird, but whatever! If he was cool with it, that was great, right?
More people emerged, so he told them when they did. Jade screeched at him and tackled them both to the ground with a tight hug, Karkat applauded him with a roll of his eyes, Terezi pulled a face and muttered about lemon and blueberry pies, and Mom covered them with drunken kisses before vanishing off to drag over Dad.
John was panicking by the time his father approached them, his sweater black and decorated with a white pattern of playing card suits. As ever, there was a pipe between his lips, and that ever growing, disconcerting mess of black curls over his head. John didn't like Dad with hair. Dad with hair looked way too much like him.
He stopped in front of them, looking down at them, sleeves rolled up and what looked suspiciously like flour already on his arms. John watched silently as he took out the pipe and tapped it, blue eyes sweeping over the pair.
"Miss Lalonde says you wished to talk to me, John."
"Um." John replied, the only thing he could force out right now. Dad was going to be so mad! He never dealt well with anything to do with Bro, so he would be terrible about this! John fidgeted and tried to think of a way to explain that didn't lead into a lecture about him being too young for such commitments, or about really needing to spend more time with other people before he made such a decision. Dad hadn't stopped looking at him. John needed to think of something to say soon, or he just wouldn't be able to tell him-
John jumped as Bro spoke, looking back at him in a slight panic and then looking back to Dad. The two older men were sharing a look that was practically unreadable, and then Bro nudge John's arm, encouraging him to raise it. Reluctantly, John did, and Dad looked the ring over with a small nod.
"Bespoke?" He asked casually, taking another drag on his pipe.
"Very pleasant on the eyes."
John slowly withdrew his hand and started twisting the metal to and fro, no longer entirely sure of what was going on. The usual cold tones weren't in their voices, which threw him off completely. He'd known they were being civil to each other, sure, but he'd thought that something like this would break it!
"Obviously this isn't a short-term engagement?" Dad asked carefully, a little suspicion creeping in for the first time.
"'Course not. It's gonna be a long fucking while, not until everything's settled, and I mean holy fuck, I'd probably have to move State."
"Good." Dad smiled. He smiled. John stared at him. "Then I am proud you have made a promise of romantic commitment, so long as you keep your promise and uphold it into the future."
"Oh. Um. Thanks?" Wow he was saying that a lot today. "I will, though! I really mean it."
Bro kissed his head, and he blushed, smiling to himself. He did mean it, and that felt good. Dad nodded. For a moment, his hands clasped, his own thumb rubbing the golden ring he'd worn as long as John could remember.
"I have cooking to get on with, but... thank you for feeling you could share this with me. I am glad you have decided to pursue a romantic relationship, and I will be as supportive as I can of it."
John felt a little out of place as he nodded, because wow. Okay. This was the same man who had tried almost successfully to kill Bro nine months ago.
What the fuck?
"You're gonna bake us a cake right?" Bro asked hopefully, as Dad turned to head back to the kitchen. Dad paused, chuckling, as John elbowed Bro sharply for even mentioning the accursed sugar devilry.
"Of course I am."
"Lots of frosting."
"I am sure I can accommodate that wish."
"You, sir, are the fucking best."
Dad laughed, and headed away, and John turned to face Bro, folding his arms and glaring. "Don't encourage him!"
"John, shoosh. He's baking us a cake."
"I don't want him to bake us a cake!"
"Yeah, but think about it. He's baking us a cake. One of those I'm proud of you son things. He's cool with this."
"You really think a cake proves he's cool with this?"
"A cake and the fact his smile reached his eyes. See, one of us was watching him without freaking out."
"I wasn't freaking out!" John replied indignantly, and the Strider snorted, mussing up his hair.
"John you were twirling that ring so fast I'm amazed the friction didn't set your fucking finger alight."
He stiffly dropped his hands to his sides, and Bro snickered, leaning forward and gently rubbing their noses together. "You're fucking adorable."
"Says the man covered in 'majestic stallions'."
"Don't you be talking shit about Maplehoof, we've been over this. She is the shit and you're a fool if you think otherwise."
"Whatever, dude." John stood and stretched his arms, and Bro sighed, clearly reluctant to move. With a shrug, the younger man stepped clear of his legs, turning and then just managing to stop himself walking straight into Dirk. "Oh! Hi, Dirk, I didn't see you-"
The machine put his arms around him, hugging him tightly and actually lifting him from the ground, which made John give a small noise of panic. When Dirk dropped him, there was a broad smile beneath his vibrant eyes, and John gave him a weak one back.
"Dave informed me of your upcoming human matrimonial ritual. I am overjoyed for you, father."
"Father." John said back, moving slightly so Dirk could see Bro, but the robot continued looking straight at him. "Um..."
"Human tradition dictates that by entering such a legal relationship with my father you become a further parent to me. Were you unaware of such conventions? Regardless, I intend to honour them." He cuddled John again, buzzing happily into his chest as John awkwardly patted his back. "You give better cuddles than other father. I will see you at breakfast!"
With that he was cheerfully bobbing away, and John stared after him, snapping out of his daze when Bro stood and tapped his shoulder.
"-Dirk's Dad!" John said abruptly, and Bro snickered, tugging him into a hug."Oh my God!"
"John, calm down. It's not that fucking bad."
"I can't be Dirk's Dad!"
"Too late, babe. You said yes. You knew the risks."
"I didn't think- Oh my God! Can I take it back?"
John whined quietly, but he was pacified a little by the flurry of light kisses Bro pressed to his cheek, his boyfriend still hugging him close. His initial shock dimmed after a few minutes of cuddles, and then he sighed, shoving the Strider back. "Well you get Dad as a Dad! That's just as bad!"
"Shut up before I change my mind and take it back."
"No takebacks!" John replied, prodding his chest triumphantly. "We're both stuck with it now."
"Well we'll just have to suffer together then, won't we?"
They smiled at each other, and John took his hand, their fingers interlocking with a gentle squeeze. All of the freaking out, the real freaking out, could wait. They had a long time ahead before anything actually happened. For now, it was a promise, but it was a promise he was proud to have made and recieved. A promise that Bro wasn't going anywhere, and nor was he, and whatever the future was like, they'd be facing it together.
"You wanna actually go eat?" He murmured, and Bro shrugged, looking over towards the full table.
"Maybe. I was pretty happy just chilling with you."
"Bro Strider is turning down food? Holy shit, are you ill?"
"I'm sick with the lovebug, baby, I think I need some physical therapy."
"Oh my God, that was terrible!"
"You fucking loved it, don't even lie."
John chuckled and started tugging him to the table, because whether or not Bro was going to eat, he fucking well was. They ended up surrounded by laughter and chatter, and Karkat and Dave both fighting to take exactly the same jug of apple juice, despite there being about ten of them along the stupid table. John sat and watched them for a while before he started grabbing food, and was halfway finished loading his plate before he finally remembered to let go of Bro's hand.
"This is actually some pretty sweet shit, John."
John grinned at Dave as the coolkid rifled through the box of art supplies he'd bought him, pulling out packets and smaller boxes as he cast an expert eye across them. So far, it was all approval, which was great! He knew Dave was into that sort of stuff, so it had been the obvious choice of present for him.
The Texan had bought him a dark green suit embroidered with his favourite little ghost, looking perfectly tailored. It was weird, given Dave hadn't seen what he looked like now before a few days ago, and after a little prodding the younger Strider admitted Rose and Kanaya had made it practically the day before, using measurements Dave had grudgingly got from Bro. Kanaya insisted it had been no trouble, but John still pointed out everyone else had managed to think of presents before they arrived.
Dave response had been to hand him a card with the bill for the smuppet attached to the inside and a scrawled note explaining if you hadnt used the fucking thing i wouldnt have to pay for it. John had choked a little and hidden the card as soon as Jade leant over to have a look.
Whether or not they understood it, that was not something he wanted anyone else seeing!
His drifting mind was pulled back to the present as a wrapped bundle was dropped unceremoniously in his lap by the small metal rabbit (now complete with Santa hat) that was dishing out the gifts. He laughed and gave him a gentle fist bump as Seb offered a tiny fist, and then the robot had hefted the sack he was dragging and was moving on to throw boxes at Karkat and Jade.
He looked down at the parcel and groaned as he realised it was gold and that meant he had been bought yet more things to make his own gifts feel lame. He shot Bro a glare and saw the elder Strider was still playing with the fancy video camera John had bought for him, and that helped, because okay! At least one present had gone down well.
Reluctantly, John looked down to the present, starting to unwrap it. As he tore through the several layers of paper, he finally reached the blue fabric beneath, the very end of a light blue swirl exposed.
Something flickered in the back of his mind, and his hesitation went, fingers tearing apart the rest of the wrapping paper in frantic excitement. The swirl was actually two, and he picked up the pullover by the shoulders to look at the shapes, long hood still curling and collecting in the paper.
"My hoodie!" John said excitedly, instantly starting to pull it on.
"Well it is yours now, yeah." Bro told him over Kanaya's head, and John grinned at him, nodding as he tugged up the hood. "Saw it in some weird hipster shop. Don't know why, but it made me think of you."
"Oh my God, it's so great!"
"Dunno what you're gonna do about walking with that hood, though."
"Uh..." For some reason, he hadn't even thought about that being a problem. John looked down the blue trail, then smiled, taking hold of it and wrapping it around his neck several times. "There! I can wear it like a scarf!"
"Guess that's what you're meant to do."
"That or you can only wear the thing in fucking wind tunnels." Dave observed, looking it over with a frown.
"Well as I can't just do a windy thing, I guess I'll have to wear it like this." John adjusted it, then smiled at Bro, who was looking back, clearly pleased. "I like it! It feels really comfortable."
"You're welcome." The Strider paused as a blue box was waved up at him, and he laughed. "Hey, another one of yours. Thanks, Seb." He fist-bumped the rabbit, then gave a small salute down to it. "You're the shit, little guy."
The robot swaggered on to Rose and Kanaya as John silently watched Bro unwrap the gift, knowing from the shape of it that it wasn't the Friendship Is Magic DVD he'd also bought him. It was the other thing. The important thing.
"Sweet. I needed a new music player." Bro announced, lifting the iPod out of it's box and turning it over, the thing the same gold as his eyes. "Thanks, John."
"Um." He laughed nervously. "I put some music on there, too. I mean... It's only a few songs, but I thought you'd like them."
"Oh?" Bro pulled out the coiled earphones, sliding off the paper holding them together and letting the cord unravel. He plugged them in, and swiped his thumb across the screen as he pushed them into his ears, settling back and closing his eyes.
John waited for the piano he'd recorded to kick in, and he saw the moment Bro's eyebrows rose, and his mouth opened slightly, and all the little subtle signs of surprise that quickly turned to the ghost of an emotional smile. He bit his lips and fidgeted with his hood, waiting for a sign, a response of some kind more obvious than the subtle inflections of the Strider's face.
At last, his eyes opened, and he looked at John. Without a word, Bro nodded, and that was enough John knew it was perfect. He blushed and smiled, and Bro smiled back, taking out the earphones with a slight reluctance as he took the next, neon pink package from Seb.
John took his next present as Seb offered it, wrapped in grey paper smattered with crabs. Three guesses who that one was from! He grinned at Karkat as he began tearing into it, opening the folds to find a box-set of the Fresh Prince. He paused, then gave Karkat a look.
"I was thinking we could watch it together." The older boy muttered, and John snorted. "Hey, you need an education in good fucking television and there's no better place the start."
"Seriously, you fucking idiot. Put it down gently and marvel at its fucking beauty. That shit is the greatest thing ever filmed for television."
John chuckled and did so with overdramatic, reverent bowing of his head. Karkat leant over to slap him and he dodged, grinning and pushing Karkat back, his smile fading when he looked past him to Jade.
She was staring at her reflection in a hand-held mirror with an odd expression, eyes cloudy and lips apart as if she were going to speak. Her free hand was still up in her hair, distractedly adjusting what looked like a white dog's ear on a clip.
It suited her, in a really, really weird way.
"Jade, that looks great!" He called, and instantly she blinked, looking over at him in confusion and then smiling broadly.
"Thanks, John! Dave's friend Nepeta made them for me!" She quickly put in the second one, adjusting it with a smile. "Gosh, they feel so light! These will be great for dressing up."
"You still play dress up, Harley?" Karkat frowned at her, and she rolled her eyes straight back, giving him a small grin. "Why does that surprise me? Why does anything surprise me? I'm being handed presents by the fucking robotic rabbit child of a machine that is practically fucking human. I should be so past shock now I just take everything in my fucking stride."
"Seb is cool!" Jade told him firmly, and he grimaced, but wilted under her glare. The next time Seb passed him Karkat hesitated, before giving him a small, reluctant fist bump. The rabbit practically skipped away.
John sat and enjoyed watching everyone else opening their gifts. Dave was flipping his shit about being given one of Bro's 'actually not that shitty' swords, and Bro was demanding his own present back, glaring when Dave said he wasn't getting it after the whole proposal thing. Their retorts to one another were drifting dangerously close to rhyming.
He was briefly distracted from their argument when he saw Dad lean over behind Bro and tap Mom on the shoulder. John watched them head in the rough direction of the kitchen before he lost interest. They were probably already going to start on dinner, because cooking was clearly all Dad could think about given how much of the day he'd already spent baking.
John's attention turned to where English and Dirk were sitting, having been given some sort of blanket with sleeves for both of them to share (probably by Mom, given how pink it was) and were currently apparently trapped in it, English struggling to get out as Dirk just giggled. After a while Seb hopped up onto the couch and vanished under the fabric, and after a bit of wriggling it was hoisted off of them. The rabbit desposited it in Dirk's lap, looking as pleased as his expressionless face allowed when Dirk beamed and patted him on the head.
Kanaya, Rose and Terezi were all gathered around discussing the dress that Kanaya had made her girlfriend, a beautiful flowing thing in oranges and golds. As Rose held it up to her shoulders and smiled coyly over at the Frenchwoman, Terezi was excitedly asking if Kanaya could make something that pretty for Dave, who promptly abandoned his argument with Bro to take notice and start recommending a style and colours to suit his 'fine ass figure'.
Abruptly, the quiet hubbub was shattered by the loudest screech John had ever heard, and he leapt up instinctively, halfway to equipping his hammer before it occurred to him it hadn't been a scream of fear. Curiously rather than in a panic, he moved over to the couch to look past it, and choked on a laugh. Mom appeared to have knocked Dad off his feet over by the side of the room, and was currently either trying to eat his face or kissing him in ways that still made him want to go bluh. Dad was attempting, weakly, to push her off, but she had a vice-like grip on his shoulders and clearly wasn't letting go any time soon.
"Well. This is certainly not in any way humiliating to watch." Rose muttered beside him, and he glanced down at her, chuckling when he saw she had a hand over her eyes. "I am so glad your father chose to visit with you, John. Heaven forbid I miss such a wonderful experience."
"It's not that bad, Rose!" He replied, nudging her shoulder. She snorted.
"I can hear it, John. I am certain it is just as bad as it was before I covered my eyes. I am glad your tolerance for our parents doing such nauseating things is apparently so much higher than mine."
"Pfff, Rose, you're such a-"
His voice was drowned out as Mom suddenly sat up, noticing the eyes all fixed on her and giving a manic smile.
"I'M GETTING MARRIED!" She screamed at them, bouncing up and down where she was astride Dad's stomach and clearly winding him. John blinked at her, and Rose sighed, before giving a slow, lone clap. "I'm getting married!"
"Oh for fuck's sake, Roxy!" Bro groaned. "We fucking talked about this!"
"I don't care! I'm totes gonna have a big white dress an' loadsa flower girls an' a huge cake an'-" She silenced herself by covering Dad's face with kisses, and then actually got off him to stand, clenching her hands and shaking with excitement as she squealed. "Babies, babies Mumma is gettin' married oh my God!"
As Dad was still sprawled out on the floor, John decided to move over and help him to his feet. Like his motion broke everyone else out of a daze, he was followed by a rush of people who clustered around Mom and gave her congratulations she excitedly lapped up with high pitched exclamations of joy.
John offered Dad a hand and he took it, standing and brushing himself off as he gave John a slightly blank smile.
"You really thought you could do it quietly?" John asked, waving a hand towards Mom.
"I probably should have known better, I admit." The older man shrugged, scratching at his hair as he watched her bouncing up and down. "I was not quite expecting that reaction."
"Well you totally should have been." They both watched for a while, as Rose gave clearly snarky yet no doubt inwardly sincere congratulations. "Um. You didn't tell me you were planning on asking her. I mean, you didn't have to, but I thought maybe-"
"I was not going to, prior to a few days ago. I mean, I had debated it, but I was still falling on the side of waiting. Then I had what I shall term my discussion with Strider, and I realised inwardly my reasons for delaying were mistaken."
John paused, cheeks heating up nervously as he coughed and then asked, "Was it to do with... Mom?" He didn't have to say anything else. Dad nodded, dropped both arms to fold them over his chest, but carried on smiling, something John had never seen him do after his Mom was mentioned. "I'm glad you asked her, though! She's great, and I mean, she makes you happy. I'm proud of you, Dad."
Dad blinked and looked at him, then laughed, putting an arm over his shoulder. Rose was moving over to offer less sarcastic well wishes, Jade bouncing along in her wake, and John ducked away to go and talk to Mom, who just hugged him and squealed again, covering his face in vivid pink stains.
"You could fucking help me clear up instead of just watching me, you cocksucking assholes."
"Nah, bro. Looks like you got it covered." Dave observed from where he was lying with his head in John's lap, not looking away from where he was swatting at the end of the blue hood like a cat with a toy. "We're your moral support. Here to cheer you on. Yay, go Karkles. You're the fucking best, you tiny dick. All of that shit."
Karkat stood, putting his hands on his hips, shooting them both a glare. He appeared to have made it his mission to tidy up the mass of wrapping paper that surrounded the base of the tree, and while he was making quite a dent, there was still a load more for him to shove into the black bag he was dragging around like a depressed Santa. John gave him an apologetic smile and gestured at where Dave was trapping him, and Karkat just rolled his eyes, muttering to himself as he returned to his work.
John chuckled and settled back down into the nest of paper the couch had become, watching Karkat stooping to grab some of the more colourful scraps. Dave's attention was apparently caught, and he whistled.
"What?" Karkat snapped, straightening.
"Oh hell no, babe, bend back over. That's one fine ass you've got right there."
"Fuck you, Strider."
"Oh would you, sexy?"
Karkat snorted and returned to what he had been doing, ignoring the next time Dave whistled. The Strider snickered, rolling his head back to look at John, giving a smirk. "That ass, John. I can see why you went there."
"Yeah, because obviously I wouldn't date someone because of their personality or anything ridiculous like that."
"You're going out with Bro, of course you fucking wouldn't."
John chose not to grace it with a reply. He watched Karkat pause as some of the paper shifted and moved, and then Seb had popped out from it, rolling it into a large wad and offering it up to the impromptu cleaner.
"Uh. Thanks, you weird little fucker." Karkat mumbled as he took it and shoved it into his garbage bag, then gave Seb the customary fist bump as the little metal fist was offered. "Do you want to help or something?"
Seb disappeared back into the paper, but balls of compacted rubbish started rolling over towards Karkat a few seconds later. He smiled slightly, taking them as they appeared. "See, Strider? Even the fucking rabbit does more work than you, holy shit."
"Hey, I am exhausting myself over here admiring the view."
"Well get a good fucking look, because that's the most you're fucking getting."
"Don't say that, babe. Can't resist the Strider charms."
"Pretty sure I fucking can."
John tried not to laugh as Dave sat up, eyebrows raised above his shades. "That sounded like a challenge, Karkles. Was that a challenge? Because if it was prepare to be fucking seduced. Look at this perfection, bro. You can't resist. All it'll take is a fucking snap of my fingers and you'll be all flustered at my feet 'cause Senpai fucking noticed you."
"Oooh, Mister Strider." Karkat cooed back, letting go of the bag to clasp his hands. "I'm fucking swooning. Truly, you are a master of romance."
"Damn fucking straight."
"Maybe you could show off your obviously perfect fucking figure as you actually fucking help me do some work."
"Eh." Dave slouched back down to lie as he had been. "I don't want that ass that badly."
Karkat snorted and returned to what he was doing, and Dave snickered, putting his hands behind his head and relaxing into John's lap. There were still a few hours before dinner, and as the adults had been drafted into getting food ready, the kids had drifted off, although Dave couldn't be assed to move and had looked pathetically at John until he agreed to stay with him. They'd spent the rest of the time watching Karkat's one-man, and now one-rabbit, quest against the mess the present opening had left.
Movement caught his eye beyond the short, angry young man, and he waved at Jade as she slowly approached, hands hidden behind her back and a nervous smile on her face. She moved one hand to wave back, then crept up behind Karkat, pausing and taking a deep breath.
With the same hand, she tapped him on the shoulder, and he grumbled as he stood and turned to her, glaring.
"Harley, what the fuck do you-?"
Jade whipped up her other hand and Karkat had all of a second to glance up at the mistletoe she was holding in it before she had grabbed his cheek and stooped to kiss him, his eyes widening in shock and confusion. John choked and Dave gave a loud wolf whistle at them, as Jade tilted her head and Karkat's eyes fluttered. He raised his finger in their rough direction, his other hand over hers, and then she had straightened, grinning down at him with ruddy cheeks.
"What... the hell?" Karkat stammered at her, and she giggled, turning and bouncing away. He stared after her, then looked at them, spreading his hands in confusion. "What the fuck?"
"I think she likes you, dude." John suggested slowly. Karkat spluttered. "That or she just decided she really desperately needed to make out with a short, angry asshole."
"She doesn't like me! I would have fucking noticed!"
"She had mistletoe." Dave said suddenly, swinging to his feet and hurrying off in the direction she'd gone. They both watched him, then looked at each other, and John shrugged.
"You're the relationship master. Why else would she do that? Come on, Kar. She likes you."
"One kiss doesn't prove anything."
"No, but how about all the times she hangs out with you when you come round? Or the whole always doing the punching you on the shoulder thing?"
"How is that romantic, John?"
"It's how she bonds with guys, blame Dave."
"I blame Strider for a lot of things, I'll add this to the list." Karkat frowned, still bright red, then mumbled, "I would have noticed, John! I always notice."
"Well maybe this one time, you didn't."
The blush on Karkat's dark cheeks had finally settled, and he looked down, before abandoning his work and hurrying off in the direction Dave and Jade had both absconded to. Seb reappeared a moment later with more paper, and his ears drooped as he dropped it in the bag, which he then sat beside, chin resting in his tiny hands.
"Hey, he'll be back, dude." John told him, and Seb turned towards him, head bobbing in a nod. "I bet if you kept tidying up you'd be his best bro ever."
With a little electronic noise, Seb was back on his feet, diving into the mess with new urgency. John laughed. Okay, when he'd first been told Dirk had built a rabbit, he hadn't really got why, but holy shit. He was adorable. That was enough reason to consider him awesome.
"Oh, Jo-ohn." Dave called in a cheerful sing-song, reappearing around the tree. John raised an eyebrow at him as he moved over and hopped into the taller man's lap, swinging one long arm around John's neck as he waved Jade's mistletoe above their heads. "Pucker up, Egbert. It's bad luck if you don't."
The words made John chuckle. "Y'know, Dave, if you hadn't told me that, I probably wouldn't have ended up with Bro."
"What-?" Dave began quickly, but John was already leaning in to kiss him, and his question faded as their lips pressed together, the hand holding the mistletoe dropping it to sink into John's hair instead. John fidgeted as their glasses clacked, pulling back for a second and pulling off Dave's shades before the Texan could react. He crushed their mouths together before Dave could start complaining, and now it was comfortable, and Dave tipped his head into it, the angle allowing for those little, slick kisses John adored. He caught Dave's lip between his teeth and sucked on it until the coolkid made a soft sound, then dropped it with a smack and tilted forward into a deeper embrace. Dave's hand slid down his neck to press flat to his chest and push him back against the couch as the blonde followed the motion and ended up above him, and the kisses dwindled, slowly, until they split apart and Dave looked down at him with exposed, bright eyes that matched the colour of his cheeks.
"Merry Christmas, Dave!" He said cheerfully, and Dave rolled his eyes, reclaiming his shades and pushing them back on. "Didn't you like it?"
"It was fucking great, and you're an asshole because you know it was." He coughed, straightening his sweater, before off-handedly adding, "Still time to back out of that shit with Bro, John, Rez is pretty open minded and I'm sure she wouldn't mind trying out a six-hundred-and-eighty-nine some time."
"Dave. No. How would that even work?"
"See one of us would be in her mouth and-"
"Okay, I take it back, I don't want to know!" John glared as Dave snickered, then shrugged. "Friend kisses are still cool, though."
"Friend kisses are chill as fucking ice if they're always like that." Dave stood and took the mistletoe, twirling it between his fingers. "Think I'll go find Rez. Should probably make sure the actual love of my life gets some Strider loving."
"I'll make sure I get my fill from Bro."
"Ugh. Don't fucking remind me. I'm gonna bet now you two are planning the fucking wedding that you'll be ascending the sexual echeladder to the level of Actual Fuckbuddies."
"Dave!" John laughed, then blushed and added a quiet, "...Maybe."
"Try and keep the noise down."
"Don't worry, Dave. I'll be just as quiet as you!"
Dave shook his head as he turned and ambled away, and John watched him as he walked, right to where he paused at the bottom of the stairs. Rose and Kanaya had been gracefully descending them, and Dave offered up the mistletoe with a shrug. "Yo, Lalonde. May as well get in on this. Steal a kiss from your hot girlfriend."
Rose chuckled, reaching for the plant, but as she did so Kanaya quickly put her arms around her and swept her off of her feet, leaning forward so they ended up at a slant, face to face.
"My dearest Rose, if you desire me to kiss you, you need only to ask." Kanaya announced, and Rose's blush deepened. The Frenchwoman leant down to kiss her passionately, black lips meeting green in a loving embrace, although it was a little ruined by Dave turning away and pretending to throw up. As they broke apart and straightened, Rose smiled bashfully and adjusted her skirt, and Kanaya met Dave's gaze, holding it as she gave a smug smile and waggled her shaped eyebrows.
"That was certainly something." Rose said pleasantly, hooking her arm through her girlfriend's. "Thank you for the offer, though, David. It appears it will not be needed."
He shrugged and headed past them, and they both chuckled at one another, breezing off towards the door and vanishing outside with identical waves to John. Alone again, he turned back to watch Seb happily crushing the paper into the sack, bouncing up and down on it to force it in. There were still a couple of hours before dinner, and now he had no company. After a few minutes, he tugged out his phone.
-- ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering timaeusTestified [TT] at 17:15pm --
EB: hey bro!
EB: how's dinner going?
TT: You want to know how dinner is going?
TT: The bird is on fucking fire and Roxy tried to put it out with her martini.
TT: Dad is now putting that shit out while still whisking whatever the fuck he's making.
TT: Jake has drunk all of the fucking brandy that was meant to go in the dessert.
TT: He is waving a fucking cleaver about at face height while announcing he can't find the chopping board which is right in front of him.
TT: Dirk is tasting everything he's meant to be cooking and has just taken a mouthful of cinnamon.
TT: He is now running around screaming about needing water.
TT: And whatever the fuck I was meant to be cooking is pretty much fucking charcoal at this point.
TT: I am going to die in this hellhole.
TT: Send fucking help.
Despite how Bro made it sound, by the time it was dished up dinner actually looked presentable.
Admittedly English was practically unconscious where he was leant on Dirk's shoulder, and there was certainly a certain smoky quality to the air, but it looked like somehow they'd pulled through and put together a solid attempt at the meal. Bro kissed his cheek as he sat down, gesturing over it with an expression of slight pride.
"It's edible, I promise."
"I'm sure it's great." John replied, smiling at him. "I'll be blown away by your cooking skills."
"I'll be honest, Dad basically cooked the lot. Me and Rox made it look pretty."
"And what did English and Dirk do?"
"Jake sat in the corner slurring out of tune sea shanties at us and Dirk stopped messing around and helped Dad after I threatened to disconnect his tongue."
John laughed, and spent a moment with his head resting against Bro's arm, before he forced himself to straighten and looked over the meal with every intention, as always, of sneaking the best looking food onto his plate before everyone else arrived. Dave slid into the seat beside him, as John had taken his usual seat beside Bro, giving him a small smirk and a pucker of his lips before he turned to grabbing the finest looking jug of apple juice.
John rolled his eyes at the side of Dave's head.
Karkat slouched in, cheeks still slightly red, and John was pretty sure he hadn't stopped blushing since the incident earlier. He went to pull up a chair opposite them, and as he did, the figure of Jade loomed from behind him, and she hoisted him clean off his feet.
"HOLY FUCKING SHIT PUT ME DOWN!" He screamed, kicking wildly and punching the arms wrapping tight around his chest. "HARLEY! HARLEY I WILL FUCKING MURDER YOU! PUT ME DOWN BEFORE I-!"
Jade giggled and kissed the top of his head, and his complaints died with a quiet gurgle. She took advantage of his sudden lack of motion to quickly sit, pulling him into her lap and snuggling her cheek against the side of his head.
"You're so cute, Karkat!" She announced happily, unhooking one hand from him to reach for her glass. Karkat stared into space, cheeks back to being a vibrant red, and then hunched a little, but apparently decided he was quite happy to stay sitting where he was.
John grinned at him and mouthed, 'she likes you'. Karkat shot him back a decidedly murderous glare.
Then Dad was at the head of the table, catching everyone's attention by tapping his pipe to the side of his glass, and everyone turned to look his way, for a smile, and a toast, before the meal.
They'd drawn straws to see who went first.
Dad had set up the webcam and microphone, and after Dave was deemed the victor, he settled into place with Terezi leaning on his shoulder, and the others gathered around him, placing a call after sending a message to check they were ready at the other end. For a while, dots blinked across the screen, and then it filled with a large, tinsel-strewn front room, the video not quite flowing smoothly, but still rapid enough nothing was lost.
Gathered around Tavros on the other end were Nepeta, a tall man of their age in cracked dark glasses who was lingering behind her with his arms folded uncomfortably, and a pretty, blue-haired girl, arms draped around Tavros' shoulders in an apparently intimate way. Dave had opened his mouth to speak, when she leant forward and grinned broadly.
"Wait! Is that this John?" She asked, in a heavy Russian accent. Dave rolled his eyes as John looked at him questioningly.
"Yeah, Vris, this is John. Great to see you too."
"Vris?" John repeated to him, and Dave muted the microphone as he looked up to him.
"Oh! Um. Why the fuck is she asking about me?"
"I dunno, John, she asked me if I knew any available guys and at the time you were still sailing on the SS Whore It Up, so I said I'd introduce you. As that ship has apparently sunk..."
"You could still introduce us."
Dave gave him a look above the glasses, clearly judging him quietly, before turning to the screen and unmuting himself. "Yeah, okay. Vriska, John, John, Vriska."
"Hey there, little boy blue." She purred at the screen, and John gave a smile, feeling his cheeks heat a little. Okay, so first girl to pay him attention! This felt strange. "Dave's told me all about you." Vriska added, dragging out the 'all'.
"Nice to meet you, Vriska!" He replied brightly, and her smile widened.
"My handle is arachnid's grip, John." She paused and batted her eyelashes. "You should add me."
He nodded, pulling out his phone to do so before he forgot what she was called, and as he fiddled about with his keyboard he heard Dave mutter, "Now that trying to hook up with my best bro is out of the way, Merry Christmas, guys."
"MERRY CHRISTMAS!" Nepeta screeched, clearly having been waiting to do so. John looked up in time to see the tall man catch her shoulder and drag her back from where she had practically head-butted the camera, and mutter a quieter repetition of her words. Tavros just laughed quietly.
"How is, um, your holiday going, exactly?" He asked with a smile.
"It's been great!" Terezi leant forward, giving one of her practically fanged grins. "There's tons of snow, and John's Dad can actually cook, so no half-assed burnt meal for me this year!" She cackled. "Plus the new people are cool! There's Miss Plum, Miss Mint, and my personal favourite, Mister Strawberry Shortcake!"
"And do they, um, have names?"
"Yeah, Tav, and I just told you them!" She replied, looking at him as though he were stupid.
The groups traded banter for a while, before there was a call on the other end, and they all looked off camera. After a few moments of Tavros calling in what sounded like Spanish, he looked back to Dave.
"Um, is your, brother, there?"
Dave sighed heavily, but rocked back in the seat and bellowed for Bro. The elder Strider sauntered over from where he'd been talking to Mom and English, and Dave gestured vaguely at the screen as he reached them, just as on screen Tavros wheeled slightly sideways. In the space he'd freed up, a man who was clearly a little older than him but related, with a similar cut of hair, although dyed brilliant red, leant on the desk and flashed a dazzling smile.
"Sup, Rufioh." Bro said with a nod as he moved to see the screen clearly, slinging an arm over John's shoulder.
"Hey, Bro! Been a little quiet here without you, man... How you doing?"
"It's all cool. No complaints."
"Nice. Well... Merry Christmas... Happy Hanukkah... Whatever floats your boat, y'know? Hope you're having a good one."
"You too, Nitram."
With a double thumbs-up that Bro gave another curt nod to, he was gone again, and Tavros wheeled back to the centre of the screen.
"Well, at least my, uh, brother, is happy, now. We should probably go, Dave, we were going to, watch a film, or something. Nepeta insisted."
"And it's going to be purrfect!" The girl added, clapping her hands. Dave shrugged, and gave a typical, disinterested farewell, but he was almost smiling when he rolled back the chair and called to English it was his turn with the camera.
They were shunted out of the way as English and Mom descended on the computer, Mom managing to grab Bro's arm before he successfully slipped away with them. The younger generation dispersed, but John ended up lingering with Karkat and Jade who, from the constant hand-holding, he was pretty certain were probably a thing now.
Karkat bounced in place a little impatiently as he watched English making big grand gestures at the screen, upon which the smiling visage of John's nemesis was emblazoned. He shot her a glare, though she would not see it. The intent was still there. The Batterwitch deserved none of his kindness. None of it.
At last, the adults moved away, and Karkat slunk to replace them, Jade and John in tow. As they settled down, John noticed that for some reason, his father had moved over. Dad simply gave him a smile as John narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
Karkat logged in as himself, and then a few minutes later he finally got a call to connect, the screen this time a fairly dark living room, covered with decorations that were actually stabbed to the wall with knives. The camera was still being adjusted by Slick, who was cursing under his breath, though it was muffled by his cigarette. He seemed to end up happy with it, and sat back down heavily.
"Hey, Dad. Merry fucking Christmas."
"Whatever. Happy Holidays and shit, brat. Same to you, Egbert." He added in a more respectful tone, and Dad smiled again.
"A very Merry Christmas to you, Slick."
John looked between them blankly, and Karkat clearly saw his expression in the image of them on the screen, leaning back in the chair to give him a frown.
"I didn't know our Dads talk." John told him, and Karkat rolled his eyes.
"John, your Dad has been coming over and playing fucking poker with my Dad and his friends for six fucking months. How have you fucking missed this?"
"I... uh, I guess I just didn't notice?"
"How could you not..." Karkat squinted at him, confused, before shaking his head and looking back to Slick. "The holiday's been great, thanks for not fucking asking. Yes, I miss you, despite the fact you're a total fucking asshole. I hope you're having a good time. I grudgingly love you, Dad."
"I was enjoying the quiet until every other fucking member of the Crew turned up, I guess I kind of miss your constant screaming, and yeah, whatever. Love you too."
"So adorable." Jade whispered to herself.
"Oh. Yeah. I have a girlfriend now." Karkat told Slick, jabbing a thumb at Jade.
"She tried to kill you yet?"
"No, Dad, that is literally just you and Snowman."
"Yeah, well, if that broad stabs you in the back, don't say I didn't tell you so." Slick shrugged, then looked thoughtful. "Well. I have a dog now."
"What?" Karkat asked quickly, and Slick briefly stooped off camera, returning to view holding up a small black Scottie dog puppy, which instantly had Jade making affectionate noises at the camera. "Dad. Dad. You can't look after a plastic fucking plant, what sort of shitting miracle happened to make you capable of looking after a dog?"
"Shut up, you little ungrateful shit. I can look after Liquorice just fine."
"It's her name, she likes it. She doesn't give a fuck what you think, and nor do I."
Slick glared, hugging the dog protectively to his chest and scratching its back as its tail wagged furiously. It yapped up at him, and for a moment, he smiled fondly, before seeming to remember people were watching him and scowling at the camera.
"The dog stays." He said firmly, and Karkat sighed.
"So when are you even coming-" Slick's words were lost in the loud blare of a party horn as it unravelled into view beside him, and he jumped and cursed, swatting wildly at it. It rolled back out of shot, and then a shorter man wandered into view behind him, Slick jerking down his headset and audibly continuing to curse as the man gave him a cheerful smile and then blew the horn in his face. With that he'd leapt up, headset falling from his neck, equipping a knife, and diving for the troublemaker.
He was halted by the sudden, quick intervention of a hulking figure, who held him back as he plucked up the small man and placed him on one shoulder. He carried him away, and Slick followed angrily, apparently having forgotten he was meant to be talking to his son.
There were a few moments of awkward silence, save for the muffled noise of Slick's ongoing rant, and the random toots of the horn. Then the seat shifted, and casually a young man who couldn't be much older than twenty sat down and calmly picked up the headset, sliding it on and carefully adjusting it.
Karkat sighed and stood, which John was confused by, until Dad replaced him in the seat.
"Myung-Dae-nim, annyonghasimnikka?" He said in a quiet, polite voice, bowing to the screen.
"Ah, Hyung-Shik-ssi, annyonghaseyo." Dad smiled. "How have things been with everyone, Droog?"
"They have been well. I have been dealing with more serious matters than have bothered the minds of my associates, as usual, but they have been cheerful enough." He gave a thin smile, gesturing airily over his shoulder at where the small one was running along holding a cookie aloft as Slick continued chasing him with the knife, and the tall man apparently serving as their babysitter lumbered along wearily behind them. "Nothing I have done is to be shared, of course, but I would say nothing to give you any bother."
"I'm glad to hear that. Has your day been a good one?"
"If we do not count the typical murder attempts, Spades setting the table cloth alight, and Deuce opening everyone's presents without noting who was to receive each one? It has been wonderful. Hopefully your day has been one befitting the spirit of the season."
John was watching in bemusement, and finally glanced at Karkat, who waited for him to open his mouth, then rolled his eyes and supplied, "Droog is like your Dad's best fucking friend or something, John. If you paid more attention you'd probably know that."
John glared at him, but chose not to respond. He looked back to his Dad as the older man told Droog about his new engagement in what was as close to he ever came to an excited voice, and Droog patiently listened back, smiling and nodding along to everything he said.
They'd gathered one last time before bed, to share a hot drink and laughter around the fireplace. John was shifting his mug from hand to hand, not really listening, mind elsewhere.
You'll be ascending the sexual echeladder.
He took another sip of his cocoa, eyes darting over everyone and then settling on where Bro was standing talking to Dirk. His cheeks flushed, and he quickly dropped his gaze to the swirling white cream making patterns atop his drink, dragging his teeth over his lip.
After a minute, he moved his hand from the side of the mug, looking down at the heart on his ring. It brought a flutter to his chest and left a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, which stayed with him when he pressed it back to the warm ceramic.
You know what you want and screw what other people say, it's time you manned the fuck up and took it!
"Yeah." He mumbled, taking another sip and looking up more confidently to Bro.
He tipped his head back and downed the rest of his drink, leaving the mug on the floor and then meandering around the group to Bro. When he reached him, he tugged his arm to get his attention, dropping his hand so their fingers interlocked.
"Bro. I was going to head to bed. Are you, um-" He stopped, then started again, "Would you come with me?"
"...Yeah, 'course I would." Bro replied, leaning in to kiss his forehead. "You wanna sit and talk or something?"
You don't have long with him nearby, so make it fucking count.
"Something like that." John gave a small smile. He leaned up as Bro stooped again, lightly pressing their lips together. "Love you, Bro."
"I love you too, babe." He murmured warmly, nuzzling at him before he straightened back to his full height.
John blushed and squeezed his hand. As everyone else said goodnight and started to go their separate ways, he tugged the Strider after him, heading to his room with a determined expression as his heart beat quick in his ears.
Go get him, John!
He nodded to himself, managing a smile.
Go and fucking get him.