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Usually they had copious amounts of coffee mugs with ridiculous phrases embossed on them. Among the most commonly used between them were ones that said “World's #1 Grammy” and “Smile If You're Horny!”. There was even one that was littered in text, though the topic was “Retirement Swear Words”... all of which were fucking stupid by the way, like why would you say 'photocopier' instead of 'motherfucker', that's just dumb, if you're gonna curse, do it like a normal person, say 'motherfucker', you motherfucking pansy.

Some of the mugs had chipped or broken over the years. Dave once knocked one from the shelf, and there went Maxine in all her sarcastic glory. Some of the mugs had been misplaced here and there or gone missing forever (though Dave did find one of his favourite mugs trapped in the confines of Cal's slender arms while the puppet gleefully smiled at him; he still hasn't tried getting it back).

The young Strider briefly remembered there being an old tan mug with random British slang on it, but one day it just went missing, and Dave hadn't found it since. Maybe Bro had accidentally broken it or something.

A few of their mugs stuck with them despite all the horror stories of the other ones that didn't make the cut for the past 16 years of Dave's life. There was this totally sick one that Harley got him for his fourteenth birthday in the shape of a rubix cube, and Bro tended to favour the black mug that had a tetris game printed on it. Either that or Bro drank from a mug that had a 62%-full loading bar on it that said “Please Wait... Sarcasm Loading”.

Mugs were very convenient, and sometimes a bit of a consolation thing, especially for Dave. Dave used his hands to communicate all the time, being mute and unable to utilize a set of vocal chords, and they got cold often. Whenever he held a mug, there was usually something warm in it, and Dave would revel in the feeling. Sometimes he would hold a mug of hot water because it felt nice. He couldn't explain it; it was just a comfort thing.

Texas had mild winters, and contrary to popular belief, it did snow occasionally. It would be the perfect excuse to ask Bro to make hot chocolate, and a lot of times, Bro did it without being asked. He just knew. Before Dave entertained the idea of asking and raised his hands to catch Bro's attention, milk was already in the microwave and the cocoa powder was out (spoon included).

It was especially appreciated after they would strife for an hour or two outside in the cold without shirts on. Bro seemed to favour throwing him mounds of snow during some of their training (some childish thing of his, hell if Dave knew). When that happened, the younger Strider would get up and find that Bro was already back in the apartment, heating up milk. Sometimes Bro used water if they were out of dairy again (most of the time, though, Dave was too busy wrapping himself up in a blanket because fuck, he just got thrown shirtless into the snow, he was cold).

Sometimes Bro was a hardass and said they were out of hot chocolate when Dave knew for a fact that it was in the third cupboard on the right side of the fridge. But getting it while dodging seven stars and two rigged steak knives was more work than it was worth sometimes (Bro always came up with new patterns to keep Dave on his toes).

The thing was (and it took Dave four and a half years to understand this) was that Bro always always always had a reason for what he did, regardless of whether the rules of irony applied. And because of that, Bro was that infuriatingly difficult puzzle; Dave could never figure out his brother's intentions until those intentions occurred. Bro was always two steps ahead of him and it frustrated the hell out of the younger Strider.

There were days that Dave went without holding a mug that would turn him into a silent, fuming brick wall that would be mistaken for PMS if he had the boobs to go with the moodiness. It wasn't his fault that he was mute and had to sign and his hands got cold, and it wasn't his fault that he was so attuned to the comfort of a hot mug because of that. He didn't choose this – it was just how he was. He had been brought up this way. The poor blood circulation didn't help the situation in the slightest either.

But even with his more-often-than-not douchebag older brother giving him a hard time, Bro had a silent understanding underneath his bullshit, which was the main reason Dave hadn't gone insane in his presence, much less in his upbringing.

The “quit being a little bitch” that Bro often threw his way still annoyed him, though.

Dave sighed and closed his laptop – today was an off day for the brothers. No workouts on the roof, Bro didn't have a gig, everyone was offline from Pesterchum, and everything around the apartment was mundane and boring. Come to think of it, the past few weeks had been off; everyone seemed to be off doing their own thing and it left Dave... well, for the lack of a better word, lonely.

He looked down at his hands – he couldn't feel them very well. They twitched and he blew on them, hoping his breath would warm them up. It wasn't a cure, but it was a nice temporary solution.

His door suddenly opened, and he snapped his head up. Bro stood in the doorway, holding two mugs; one was the “Sarcasm Loading” mug and the other was the rubix cube mug Dave adored so much. They were both steaming despite the chilled dollop of whipped cream on top. Dave tilted his head slightly and signed out 'what's this for?'

Bro just shrugged, walked over, and handed him the mug. “Just a hunch.”

Dave was very confused. Usually Bro snuck up on him and noogie'd the ever-loving shit out of his hair, then flash-stepped back to his room to update his website. He didn't walk into Dave's room calmly, give him a mug, and not have any strings attached.

Guess it's best not to have a gift horse and be looking for teeth.

Dave looked down at the colourful mug of hot chocolate. The warmth spread from his palms to the tips of his fingers as he grasped the container and he reveled in the feeling. If there was an equivalent of a non-sexual orgasm for Dave, this was it. When he drank the first sip, it was slow, like a sensual kiss from a lover. At least, that's what Dave imagined. As his hands got warmer, it made Dave think that they were being wrapped up in much larger hands that shared heat.

Actually, there was a hand over his. Dave looked up to that Bro had set his mug aside, his free hand covering Dave's much smaller ones. And he was close – very close. Dave's eyebrows furrowed, mouth slightly open, unable to sign any inquiry due to Bro's hand obstructing his. The mug gently hit the desk.

When Bro was this close – and they weren't fighting – Dave tended to relax, just on instinct. When Bro was this close, he wouldn't do anything. Sometimes he pulled a prank or two, but that was usually when he was flash-stepping around Dave, or throwing Lil Cal at him. Not when he was leaning in slowly like this.

To Dave, Bro was this thick, impenetrable wall of protection and even though the blows on the roof were like getting hit with a tire iron, that same force kept everything else at bay from Dave. It was like being hugged by Bro, even though neither of them were touching each other and Dave couldn't remember the last time Bro was close enough to be within hugging distance (assuming Bro allowed it).

With Bro this close, Dave could feel the warm breath from the older Strider on his face. A million scenarios flashed in his head and his body froze. Dave's eyes were wide behind his sunglasses.

The older Strider leaned back a few inches and ruffled his hair. “C'mon, let's find a shitty B-rate movie.”

Well, if he couldn't have that, he could at least enjoy the warmth from Bro's hand. His mug was suddenly cold by comparison.

Maybe Bro could warm that up, too.