Introductions are always the hardest for him.
You’ve noticed it, how he stays silent when in the presence of a friend of yours until you introduce him. You’ve always wondered why. When the two of you first met, it was simple to exchange names. But then again, you were both thirteen, and not self-conscious about anything (okay, so your teeth did lessen your smiling moods back then).
Today is Dave’s nineteenth birthday, and you’ve taken it upon yourself to invite a few of your friends that you’re sure he’ll enjoy being around. It’s 4:13 p.m., just roughly an hour before the guests arrive. Your blond friend has no clue what will hit him, are you excited. You already planned everything out with your friends. Drinks, movies, music, and maybe a stop at a club or two before the night is out. You all had your fake IDs, courtesy of the class rebel Vriska in your fourth-period class.
Strider’s voice snaps you out of your daydreams, and you turn to him. He has a bit of cake on the side of his lip, the white frosting and crumbs making you smile.
“Thanks. For, y’know, being here.”
You blink and tilt your head into your palm. You’re both sitting at his kitchen island, the dinner and cake spread out in front of you two. “Of course, I’d be here, man. You’re my best friend! There’s no way I’d let you celebrate your birthday alone.”
“No, I mean…” He sighs and sets his fork down. He’s having trouble with his words, which means he’s about to get emotional, and when Dave gets emotional, you get emotional as well. “When I say being here, I mean being here, with me. You’re always at my side, and, well, I really fuckin’ appreciate that.”
Your smile only widens, and you reach out with a napkin you’ve grabbed to wipe away the cake on his mouth. “You’re welcome, Dave. Like I said, you’re my best friend. I would never leave or hurt you.”
He smiles, and God, you love his smile. It’s rare to everyone else, but around you, it’s common. When you first met, he was smiling. Whenever you’re around, he’s always smiling.
The doorbell rings, making you both jump. You stand up and head to the door, Dave right behind you. It’s his house, so that’s no surprise, but you usually answer the door since he’s a bit reluctant to most of the time.
The look of shock on your face when you open it to see your friends must have been priceless. Rose, Jade, Jake, and Jane all stand in front of you, holding gifts for Dave.
“Guys?” You glance behind you to see Dave staring down at you. Being four inches shorter than the guy really sucks, and you can’t see behind his shades, so you have no idea what he’s thinking right now. You look back to your friends and laugh nervously. “Ah, didn’t I say five?”
“We decided to come early!” explains Jade with her classic grin. “So we can get more partying done!”
“Partying?” echoes Dave. This is not good. Nothing is going according to plan.
“Didn’t John tell you?” says Jake. “We’re all going out to have fun tonight! Happy Birthday, by the way!”
You wave your hands in front of you to try and get them to stop, but the damage is already done. Dave mutters something along the lines of “I’m going to be sick” and practically bolts to the bathroom upstairs.
“Dave!” You wave the four inside and close the door, running after your best friend. You find him in the bathroom of his bedroom, hurling up the cake and steak he had earlier.
“Dave…” You walk over to him and kneel down, slowly rubbing his back.
“Why did you invite them?” he says to you through gritted teeth, before another wave of nausea knocks his attention back to the toilet.
“I’m sorry. I thought that maybe if you and the others were to hang out, you’d be friends with them.” To your ears, it was a shit excuse, so you try to clear it up. “You’re always so quiet whenever I’m with other friends. You don’t introduce yourself. I thought that maybe now would be a good chance to have you do that.”
“I don’t introduce myself for a reason.” Dave takes a deep breath to steady himself, then looks to you. You’re surprised to see tears running down his cheeks. “I’m Dave Strider, John. Strider.”
You flinch, knowing what he means by his emphasis. His guardian, well, he and Dave never were on good terms. Your dad knew Bro, as Dave called him. And it was your dad who learned of Bro’s occupation with strange puppets. Soon, everyone under the scorching sun of Texas knew. And everyone assumed Dave would turn out to be like Bro.
“Prove them wrong, Dave.” You stand up and hold out your hand. He takes it and stands, stumbling over to the sink to rinse out his mouth. “Prove to everyone that you’re not like that. Don’t hide.”
Dave turns on the faucet and grabs his toothbrush, avoiding saying something. You sigh and lean against the sink. “Start with your own introduction. Make it yours.”
He spits into the sink and grabs the mouthwash. You wait until he's done gargling it. “Fine. I'll try.”
You hold out your hand again, and he seems to hesitate before taking it, following you back downstairs. You give his hand a gentle squeeze and let go once you both reach the bottom of the stairs.
The others are standing in front of the door, holding their gifts awkwardly as if waiting for something to happen. You look to Dave and nod your head. He sighs and steps forward.
“So, hey. Name’s Dave Strider, or Dave Egbert since he and I are practically married.”
You snort out a laugh and cover your mouth. You can't believe this guy.
Your friends seem to pause at the name Strider, and you tense up with worry. Jane and Rose are the first two to smile at Dave and introduce themselves. Jake and Jane follow, excitedly holding their gifts out to Dave. You relax when you see a ghost of a smile on Dave’s face.
Later that night, all six of you go to a club, Alternia Alternative something or other. You get fairly tipsy with Dave and all you can hold onto are warm lips, red staring down at you, and an ache in your backside.
The following morning, Dave Strider asks you out. And he starts to introduce himself as Dave Egbert as a boyfriend joke and soon, years into the future but not many, a husband joke.