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Cataclysm Children

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November 22, 2011

This holiday has been nothing if not mercurial. I enjoyed such a pleasant trip to Washington, only to suffer extreme bouts of mood whiplash once we had set down on the tarmac at Sea-Tac. Most of it should have been expected, but I found myself infected with a strain of Jade's optimism, it seems.

The most disconcerting aspect of the holiday so far has been the outpouring of paternal affection. Mr. Egbert and Bro have both been somewhat unexpected sources of emotional support through my confusion and frustration. Bro's interest in my mental well-being has been particularly surprising, though not entirely unwelcome in the wake of the recent breach of my privacy.

I have also taken the time to go through my personal documents such as this and encrypt them. I will not have a repeat of Strider's irresponsible shenanigans.


Rose was jolted awake reasonably early by a hearty punch to her arm. Dave leaned over the back of the couch, a clear scowl on his face. "What the fuck did I do to deserve getting woken up to an ass-kicking from Bro at o'dark thirty? I went through your shit, so what, I've done that before and you never flipped off the handle like that."

Reaching for her headband on the coffee table, she sat up and set to straightening herself. It surprised her how little effort it took to maintain her calm exterior. "Look, Strider, if you genuinely don't know what you've done, there is very little point in trying to elucidate the matter."

After straightening out a bit, Rose left for the crowded kitchen. As usual, there was a giant stack of pancakes sitting in the middle of the table for everyone to take as many as they liked. There was nearly a gallon of warmed syrup and easily a few pounds of butter, again, for the gathered teenagers and adults to take as much as they wanted. Her mother was working on only a couple pancakes, Bro had a respectable five, John had a nice, even four on his plate, while Jade's was piled high and smothered in obscene amounts of butter and syrup.

Dave shoved past her and started putting several on his own plate before settling down next to Jade. "Damn, Harley, you might wanna watch how many of those you stuff your face with. You're already starting to pack on some pounds there."

John reached around his sister to smack at his friend's arm. "Shut up, there's nothing wrong with her having a healthy weight! It's cute!"

Rose smiled a little as Jade blushed. She still had to wonder... But now was not the time to ask. Instead, she placed three pancakes on her own plate, putting a pat of butter between them, and drizzling just a little syrup on top. Food acquired, she claimed the seat on the other side of John, who greeted her warmly. "Good morning! Was the couch okay? You looked pretty peaceful when we got up, but still..."

When her mother looked up from her plate to stare at John, Rose braced herself for the inevitable question. This was only going to turn into a passive-aggressive breakfast war. "Rose, dear, why on earth did you choose to sleep on the couch? I assumed your cot had broken, but now I realize that I probably should have asked before making plans to acquire another..."

She weighed her options while cutting her pancakes into evenly sized squares, not letting her emotions show on her face. Finally, she arrived at what she hoped was the response least likely to provoke her mother further. "My cot is indeed fine, so you may cancel your plans unless you feel we desperately need a spare. I was just feeling very unkind toward my 'Dearest Brother' last night, and did not think that sharing a room with him would be conducive to either of us sleeping peacefully." She let the sarcasm drip off the words, but kept her gaze pointedly on her breakfast.

It was so very satisfying when her mother turned her attentions toward Dave instead. "David, sweetheart, would you mind explaining what happened that made your sister so upset?" Rose recognized that tone of voice - sickeningly sweet, like poisoned honey. She smiled slightly and waited for Dave to slip up or show even the slightest weakness. As he was unused to dealing with his mother, he was only going to be ripped to shreds.

Today was starting out much better than the previous had ended.

By the time breakfast was done, Bro had packed away another plate of pancakes, John and Jade had both pled with Mr. Egbert until he made scrambled eggs (some of which Bro stole when he thought no one was looking), Dave had absconded with his plate, and Rose's mother had already started making mimosas. As Rose cleared her dishes, John laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"Hey, Rose, I have an idea!" His eyes gleamed with mischief, and his face was lit up by a wide, easy grin. There was literally no way Rose couldn't return his smile, though she tried anyway.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Well, it's pretty obvious that Dave was way out of line last night, and I was thinking that if you still were upset, we could bust out the old Gamecube and do the Smash Brothers thing!"

Oh, this would be the perfect way to really piss Strider off. "I would be delighted, John. It's been too long since we've pulled that thing out."

"Awesome! Jade's getting it set up right now." He grabbed her hand and pulled her back toward the living room. True to his word, Jade sat in front of the large TV, hooking up a blue Gamecube that had obviously seen some better days as well as four wireless controllers. Once she'd finished plugging everything in, she pressed the power button, then gave the console a solid thwap with a newspaper. The Gamecube start-up screen blazed to life on the huge television.

"All right, let's do this!" She twisted around so she faced the stairs. "David Fancypants Strider, get down here and prepare to have your butt served to you in triplicate!" she yelled.

"Yeah yeah, whatever." Dave clambered down the stairs, taking them two at a time, and it was clearly obvious from the start that he wasn't wearing a shirt.

"Dave, why are you deeming us all worthy to see the bruises from the beating Bro gave you this morning?" Rose tried to keep the remark respectably snide, but she honestly couldn't help herself from staring. His constant strifing gave him a lean, athletic build which was punctuated by freckles and faded white scars from stabs, slices, and gunshots he sustained in the Medium. How could a girl not stare?

There was the subtle movement of Dave's head that indicated he was rolling his eyes. "Shut up, my last clean shirt got covered in syrup, so I started up a load of laundry."

Jade tossed a controller at his head, which he caught with ease. "Bluh bluh words. Just sit down and choose your character."

The remaining controllers were divvied up between Jade, John, and Rose, and characters were selected. Dave chose Young Link (Rose assumed the irony was too great to pass up), John claimed Ness, Jade chose Mr. Game & Watch, while Rose preferred to play as Princess Peach. Characters chosen, the carnage began.

The first match was predictable: Dave exploited a glitch in the level to handily take care of his opponents in a matter of minutes. Jade threw her controller at his head in retaliation for his cheating, and the second match had everyone focusing on keeping Dave away from glitchy areas. It resulted in his thorough and utterly humiliating defeat at the hands of Peach's umbrella.

The subsequent matches followed a different formula. While the other three would focus on containing Dave, Dave would focus his fire on one of them (often John), resulting in one dying and the other being near-death. It was then only a matter of time before the remaining players fell to Mr. Game & Watch's sausage attacks.

"Jesus, Harley, what the fuck?" demanded Dave after the fourth match she won in a row. "Game & Watch is the shittiest character ever, how are you even doing that?"

"Sausage attack!" she cried, picking up a throw pillow and tossing it at Dave's head. He deflected it easily, but the second smacked him square in the nose and dislodged his sunglasses.

"The fuck is with you trying to break my shades? These were a gift you know. Near and dear to my own teenage heart." Dave put a hand to his chest, feigning a hurt look.

Rose could not pass up the chance to tease her sibling. "Yes, of course, how silly of us to forget that they serve not only as a 'cool accessory' but also as a symbol of your undying sexual devotion to John."

"Yeah, gosh Jade, I'd be devastated if those got broken! Without those shades, Dave and I can never consummate our love!" John put a hand to his head and pretended to swoon. Like a flash, Dave caught him and dipped him back, all while making the most ridiculously duck-lipped "pucker up" face.

"Gimme some sugar, my homoerotic burrito lord," he crooned.

"Oh my god, Dave, gross!" John's words were punctuated by a giggle-snort as he shoved Dave's face away. In retaliation, Dave thrust out his lips further and made lewd sucking noises, which only caused John to snort harder and squirm out of his grasp. "Dude, no, that face! It's too much!"

Dave dropped John the remaining foot to the floor and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Whatever, man. You don't want a piece of this hot Strider action, your loss."

Jade rolled her eyes, her hands on her hips. "Maybe he just doesn't think fish-lips are sexy? Why don't you try learning how to properly kiss a girl before you start slobbering all over my little brother?"

"You making an offer?"

"What? Ew, no!" Jade stuck out her tongue and made a weird, disgusted face. "I'm saving my first kiss for my true love, just like in all my animes!"

"Hate to break it to you, Harley, but it's either you or my ectosis, since John's hot lips are off limits." Dave crossed his arms over his bare chest, drawing Rose's eyes to the smooth skin stretched over lean muscle and dotted with scars and freckles.

It was a challenge Rose just couldn't pass up. "Unlike Jade, I am actually practiced in the ways of romantic affection. Does my experience frighten you, Strider?"

Dave cocked his head in her direction, a small sneer working its way onto his face. "The only thing that scares me about you is the fact that you might have vagina dentata, Lalonde."

Rose tried to tamp down the immediate response. Her attempt was a total failure, because only the barest of moments passed before she allowed snark to take over. "I was unaware that my confessed sibling lust was reciprocated so much that the thought of such a ridiculous notion is enough to ruin your fantasies."

"Well shit, when you throw down the gauntlet like that, how's a man to refuse the challenge?" With a grace born of a lifetime of practice, Dave unfolded his arms, pulled Rose to her feet, and tipped her back. She froze, heart skipping a beat when she felt his arms slide around her. It felt like time stretched until everything seemed to be moving in ultra-slow motion (considering Dave was right next to her, it might even have been possible).

She was intensely aware of the heat rolling off his body, and when his lips met hers, it felt almost like fire. Dave was impossibly warm, the press of his lips impossibly soft. One of his hands slid up her back and curled in the hair at the base of her neck, sending a shiver down her spine. His other hand drifted lower, resting quite firmly below below the waist. He pulled her closer, close enough that Rose could feel his heart pounding against her chest (or was that her heart that was beating like a bird's?). She felt his teeth graze her bottom lip, followed by the insistent press of his tongue.

Unsure of what else to do, Rose panicked and pushed at Dave's shoulders. Despite having wanted this very thing, it was an entirely different situation than she had imagined, and she just couldn't tell if her brother's actions were genuine or merely a joke gone too far. In short, she needed space to clear her head and think.

Time snapped back into motion like a rubber band stretched beyond its limit, and Dave, seemingly mirroring her panic, dropped her back on the sofa. "Ugh, god, now I need to go brush my teeth to get the taste of snarky horseshit outta my mouth," he mumbled, almost tripping over the back of the couch in his mad dash for the stairs.