John tugged at his father's hand excitedly, big blue eyes locked onto the building before them. Today was his first day of kindergarten and he couldn't be more eager to start.
"Come on daddy, hurry up!" He exclaims, jumping up and down with a giggle.
His father laughs and leads his son inside. His classroom was the first one by the door and John breaks away from his father to find a place to sit. There wasn't many other kids yet, but he spots another boy sitting by himself in a corner. John couldn't help but grin widely-this other boy was extremely pretty! With a smile lighting up his face, he runs over and plops down beside him. "Hi there, I'm John!" He states. The boy doesn't say anything, instead just looking at him with his red eyes. The smile slips from John's face for a moment, but it returns when he notices that the other boy is scribbling something on a piece of paper with a blue crayon. The red-eyed boy offers him a small smile as he slides it towards him. John picks it up and lets his eyes run over the messy lettering on the page.
"Your name is Dave?" He asks, "I like that name!" Dave's smile seems to widen at that.
Weeks pass by and the two boys have become close friends. They both enjoyed the same things and spent their playtime at the coloring station. John didn't mind that his friend was unable to speak-in fact, he liked exchanging crayon drawings with him instead! However, as Halloween began to approach, John decided he wanted to learn a new way to communicate with his best friend-he had seen Dave signing with his older brother and he wanted to give it a try too.
So, one day as he sat down to dinner with father and grandmother, he exclaimed, "Daddy, I want you to take me to the library tomorrow!"
His father paused in the middle of cutting his steak to give his son an amused look.
"What for, John?" He questions.
"I want to learn sign language so I can talk to Dave!" John states.
His father smiles at that. "Well then, I'll be happy to."
John squeals with excitement. He couldn't wait for tomorrow to come now!
Much to John's satisfaction, the next day comes quickly and he finds himself sitting at a small plastic table in the children's section of the library. The librarian had been more than glad to help him find the books he needed, making a remark to his father that it was great that he was interested in learning these things at such a young age. He didn't quite hear anything she said after that, as he soon became immersed in the pile of books that sat before him. He spends the afternoon practicing the alphabet and very basic words like 'Hi'. His father has a hard time tearing him away from his books and they end up checking out five different guidebooks-John was worried that this copy wouldn't have the same things in it that the other would and such things as that-before they return to their car.
Over the course of the next week, John continues to work on his basics. As soon as he came home in the afternoon, he would immediately rush up to his room and pull out his books to practice. He had decided that he was going to surprise Dave at their class's Halloween party by signing 'hello' to him and he simply couldn't wait to see the look on his friend's freckled face! It was going to be great and for once, he was looking forward to something other than the bucket of candy he'd be getting from his neighbors. When the day of the party finally comes, John is out the door before his father can even knot his tie.
"No need to get into a rush, John," His father states, kneeling down and adjusting the Ghostbusters costume John had haphazardly thrown on, "I promise you'll have plenty of time to talk with your friend today!"
John pouts, squirming in his father's hold. Mr. Egbert laughs at his son's expression and hands him his backpack before motioning for him to get in the car. John wastes no time in doing so, scrambling up into his seat and buckling his seatbelt as fast as he can. The drive to the school seems to take longer than usual, probably because he was so excited to get there. He doesn't even give his father enough time to say a simple 'goodbye' before he's out of the car and running up to the doors, backpack dragging behind him. His teacher greets him at the door and he utters a thank you when she compliments his costume. As he scans the room for his friend, a worried look comes onto his face. He didn't see him sitting at their usual spot and Dave was usually on time since his brother had to drop him off on his way to work.
Ms. Paint must've noticed something was wrong, as she quickly scurried to his side.
"Is there a problem, sweetie?" She asks, bending over to meet his gaze.
John hesitates for a moment.
"Do you know where Dave is?" He asks, trying to hide the disappointment on his face.
Ms. Paint offers him a friendly smile.
"Dave's mom had to take him to the doctor this morning, but she told me she'll bring him by before lunchtime," Ms. Paint replies, "Why don't you go play with some of the other kids until then?"
Before John can protest that idea, the woman's attention is turned towards one of his other classmates. He sighs and goes to sit at the coloring station. This day wasn't as great as he thought it would be. The morning drags by slowly, but finally at eleven o' clock, there was knock on the door. John could barely hold in his excitement when Dave stepped in and his grin grew two more sizes when his friend takes a seat next to him. He briefly contemplates whether he should surprise him now or later, but he decides that now would be the best time. And so, with a giggle, he signs one simple word: hello. The look on Dave's face is priceless. The hug he receives immediately afterward is even better.
John: Dude, you clearly haven't lived until you've seen this movie, okay.
Dave: Well, considering that I've made it this far, I dare say I can do without seeing it.
John: Oh, c'mon, would it kill you to at least give it a try.
Dave: What was that? I think I'm choking on something.
Dave: Cough. Cough. Gag.
Dave: I'm afraid I can't go on much longer. Tell my bro I loved him.
Dave: Here lies Dave Strider, who died at the hands of John Egbert's shitty movies. May he rest in peace.
John: Very funny, Dave.
John: Seriously, dude, are you coming over or not?
Dave: Yeah, yeah, I'll be right over. And try not to eat all the popcorn before I get there this time.
John: No promises
With a chuckle, John tosses his cell phone to the side. He and Dave had been best friends for eight years now and they were practically joined by the hip. Not a day went by where they didn't at least text each other and if such a day did occur, well, you could probably assume that the apocalypse was nigh.
"John, I'm heading out to grab some things from the store," His father announces, walking into the living room, "Do you need anything?"
John shakes his head.
"Nah, I'm good," He replies, taking a sip from the opened can of soda sitting on the coffee table, "By the way, Dave's coming over again tonight."
His father merely hums. This was typical for them and he had long since gotten used to setting another spot at the dining table for his son's friend.
"Just make sure to clean up after yourselves when you're finished," Mr. Egbert states, adjusting his tie one last time before stepping out of the house.
John mutters a 'sure' even though his father couldn't hear him anyway and sets his soda back down. He was about to grab the TV remote and start channelsurfing when his phone suddenly goes off. Without a second thought, he reaches for it and flips it open. It was another text from Dave.
Dave: Dude, tonight might not actually be such a great time.
Well, that didn't sound too good. John frowns and begins to type in his reply.
John: Why not?
He gets a reply no less than a minute later.
Dave: It'd probably be better if I told you in person. Meet me at the park?
John: I'll be there as soon as I can.
With a sigh, John flips his phone shut and jams it in his pants pocket. He tried not to let his thoughts get the best of him-after all, maybe Dave got grounded again and couldn't come over. Okay, no, if that was the case he probably would have just told him he was grounded. Shaking his head, John scribbles a note for his father and slips his shoes on before stepping out onto his front porch. It could be a girl-Dave had never had a good track record when it came to dating. Then again, Dave wasn't really open about that type of thing. He runs a hand through his hair. The sooner he stopped thinking about it, the sooner he could get to the park and find out what the actual problem was. Without a moment's hesitation, John settles on his bike and takes off towards his destination. It only takes him about five minutes to get to the park and he finds Dave waiting for him on the swings. If the blond boy was upset, he didn't make any attempt to show it. Propping his bike up against a tree, he jogs over to where his friend was and takes the swing next to him.
"What's up, dude?" He asks.
Dave doesn't move an inch, his eyes focused on the vibrant orange hues of the sky above. John frowns, but doesn't say anything else-it'd probably be better to wait until Dave was ready to tell him what was going on. A few minutes pass, the only sound being the call of the birds flying overhead and their shoes scraping against the sand. Finally, after what feels like an eternity, Dave turns to him.
'I'm moving,' He signs.
John blinks rapidly, unable to comprehend what his friend just motioned to him.
Dave lets out an inaudible sigh.
'I'm moving back to Houston,' He signs.
John is speechless and it feels as if all the words he wants to say have been taken from him. His head is spinning now-was this really happening? It didn't feel like it was happening. He closes his eyes, wondering if maybe this will all be revealed to just be a dream when he opens them. His blue eyes are greeted by the same orange sky. So, it wasn't a dream. Dave has turned away from him again.
"Well, I guess it can't be all that bad," John says, moreso to himself than to Dave, "I mean, you're always saying that you miss your hometown and stuff, right? And we can still talk to each other-we've both got computers now. I mean, it's not like…"
His frowns deepens. He was already running out of ways to convince himself this would turn out okay.
"When are you guys leaving?" He asks hesitantly, almost afraid to get an answer.
'Two weeks,' Dave signs.
John slumps forward, his feet sliding across the sand and creating a streak.
"Would it be uncool to ask for a hug or something?"
Dave cracks a smile and shakes his head. They would end up sharing another heartfelt embrace two weeks later.
John slides down in his computer chair, letting out a groan. The past week had been one hell of a ride-finals had never been his strong point-and he couldn't be more happy that he could finally relax. His eyes land on the calender pinned above his head-only one more week until winter break and then he could put off any thoughts about high school until January. Settling into his chair and kicking his shoes off, he moves his mouse to wake up his computer. He was hoping that Dave was online. They hadn't been able to talk to each other in the past couple weeks since both of them were so busy with school and he was dying to have an actual conversation with him for once. Much to his joy, there's a little green symbol next to Dave's username and without a moment's thought, he double-clicks it.
John: Hey, what's up?
Dave: Nothin' much. Got time for a video call?
John: Are you kidding? I've always got time to stare at your face.
Dave: Your girlfriend must be so jealous.
John: Who, Rose? Oh yeah, she's so jealous. After all, who wouldn't be jealous of the illustrious Dave Strider?
Chuckling, John clicks the video call button. It only takes a couple seconds for it to connect and a webcam screen pops up at the top of the chat window. Dave offers him one of his crooked smiles, waving slightly. John forces down a blush and tries to ignore the army of butterflies that crops up in his stomach. Okay, so when he was saying that he always time to stare at Dave's face? He wasn't exactly kidding. In fact, while he would never admit it out loud, he actually kind of sort of maybe liked Dave-not like in a 'We're bros, of course I like you' kind of way, but in a more than friendly way. Like, way more.
Dave Strider was a handsome boy, there was no denying it. John had always known his friend was blessed with good looks, but it didn't really dawn on him how attractive he really was until the summer before their sophomore year. They'd been video-chatting late one summer night and it was really hot in Houston, so Dave had casually slipped his shirt off. John didn't really think anything of it-I mean, why would he? They were best bros, after all, and it wasn't like it was the first time he'd seen Dave without a shirt on. But he let his eyes wander a little more than he should have and well, shit. Suddenly he couldn't stop thinking about the way his platinum blond hair fell in his eyes or how he wished he could kiss every single freckle that dotted his face. He supposed it was only a matter of time before it happened-he had always said that he couldn't see himself spending his life with anybody other than Dave…
Dave: Dude, I know you have a huge mancrush on me, but can we tone down on the staring?
John: Sorry! I guess I got lost in my thoughts there.
John: So, anyway, how's life treating you?
Dave appears to frown on the other end, but it's gone before John can say anything about it.
Dave: Well, as we all learn after we leave the crib, life's a huge bitch…though I guess she's been nicer to me than most lately.
Dave: Broke up with that girl I was telling you about.
Dave: She needed somebody who could actually put in their own two-cents during an argument, if you know what I mean.
John: She was the one that was a bit of a loudmouth right?
Dave: Right…what about your girl?
John: Yeah, now would probably be a good time to mention we broke it off. Turns out I wasn't exactly…"her type".
John feels his heart skip a beat when he sees that Dave lets out an inaudible chuckle at that.
Dave: Oh man! That is hilarious. I think I'll need a moment to compose myself here.
John: Oh yeah, that is sooo hilarious.
John: But anyway, it was an easy break up. You'll be happy to know that she is currently involved with a lovely young lady from her knitting club.
Dave: Well, congratulations to her then. Tell her ol' Dave sends his regards.
John: If she's not sent into a rage by the mere mention of your name, I'll be happy to.
The two sit there for a while, staring at each other. It was comforting that they could just enjoy each other's company without needing a conversation. John takes this time to drink in the image of his friend, memorizing every little freckle on the other boy's face and examining every wrinkle in his shirt. He smiles as his eyes reach the aviator glasses perched on Dave's nose-he had given them to him as a birthday gift and he was glad they were always put to good use. His mind had started to wander into a territory way off limit when the little ping from his computer brings him back to reality.
Dave: So, there's actually something I need to tell you…
At that, John's heart begins to pound in his chest. The possibilities behind that statement were literally endless and over fifty percent of them weren't good. He quickly hides his fear, not wanting Dave to catch onto the fact that he was worried.
Dave seems to hesitate for a moment, a look of uncertainty on his face. John listens to the clackity-clack of the other boy's fingers swiping across his keyboard, his eyes trained on the three little dots signaling the unsent message on the chat screen. After what felt like a century, the message pops up on the screen.
Dave: I talked about it with my parents and they're going to let me fly to Seattle for Christmas.
It takes all John has to not burst out in excitement. His eyes dart to the calender once more-Christmas was only a week and a half away!
John: Oh my God, that's absolutely awesome! But would it have hurt you to give a guy a little more warning? I thought I was finally done with all of my shopping!
The sight of Dave's grin is enough to make John melt inside.
John bounced on the balls of his feet impatiently, his eyes scanning the airport. Dave's flight was set to land in about fifteen minutes and oh man, his heart felt like it was going to jump out of his chest! His mind was a frazzled mess-the past week had been spent trying to finish up the last of his schoolwork, buy Christmas presents, and fix the house up for Dave's visit. He had somehow managed to make it out of that alive, but it might've been better if he had just keeled over. He was worried-extremely worried. What if things were different between them now? I mean, sure, they talked on the computer and texted each other all the time, but none of that was face to face. And even if things weren't different, well, they probably would be after what he did today.
He'd been practicing it ever since they ended their video call. It was three words, ones that were fairly simple on their own but extremely powerful when put together: I love you. It was risky, especially considering that it could completely ruin the rest of his friend's visit. He breathes in and out, going through the motions once more. He makes a fist, concentrating on doing everything right. He lifts his pinky, then his index finger. Finally, he outstretches his thumb. That was easier said than done. Way easier.
Breathing in and out once again, he turns his attention to the large screen above his head. Ten more minutes now. He begins to pace back and forth, practicing over and over again. This had to be perfect. It just had to. He tries to preoccupy himself by playing a few games of Temple Run on his phone, but he just can't focus on anything other than Dave.
Dave, Dave, Dave.
Sighing, he shoves his phone back in his pocket and turns towards the window facing the runway. He thinks he can see Dave's plane on the landing strip, but he's not sure. The next few minutes pass by in a blur. Flight 205 from Houston is unboarding. His heart begins to pound against his chest, it's rhythmic thumping drumming out a nervous song. He absentmindedly wipes his palm on his pantsleg and pulls his phone back out. There's a text from Dave, asking him where he's standing. He replies that he's right underneath the flight tracker by Gate 19.
He's drifted off into his own little world again when someone taps on his shoulder and jumping slightly, he whips around. And there he was, Dave Strider himself, tall and blond and freckly. He didn't have his shades on for once and John couldn't help but notice how cute he looked wearing a hoodie. He forces down the blush threatening to paint his cheeks.
"Dave!" He exclaims.
Dave shoots him a toothy grin, holding out his arms for a hug. He's more than happy to comply, wrapping his arms around the other boy's torso and squeezing tightly. Dave ruffles his hair before he releases him and he shoots him a half-hearted glare.
"I hate it when you do that," John states, smiling nonetheless.
Dave laughs silently. The two stand there in the midst of the bustling airport crowd, neither of them making the first move.
Finally, John decides that he's put it off long enough and with a nervous smile, he says, "Dave, there's something I've been wanting to tell you for a while now."
Dave looks at him intently, obviously putting all of his focus on what he was about to say. Inhale, exhale. You can do this, John. His hands shaking slightly, he puts up a fist and offers Dave a nervous smile. He extends his pinky, then his index finger, and finally his thumb.
Dave's mouth drops open slightly and John winces-was that a good sign?
"So, uh, yeah, I guess we can pretend I never did that!" John stammers out, "Man, what was I thinking?"
He's about to turn around and start looking for his father when Dave takes him by the shoulders and motions for him to pay attention. He keeps his eyes on the other boy, noting the uneasy smile on his lips. Oh God, he was going to reject him. He should've known this would happen. He just had to go and act like an idiot. John Egbert was officially…
Dave's arms are suddenly wrapped around his waist. Wait, that wasn't right. He looks up at the blond's face, confused. Dave gives him a smile-possibly the sincerest smile he'd ever seen grace his face-and mouths the words, 'I love you too'. The world around them seems to disappear at that and suddenly all he can see is Dave, Dave, Dave.
"You love me," He manages to choke out, blinking back tears that he hadn't realized were there.
Dave nods and John notices that he had tears in his eyes too.
"You big doofus, why didn't you tell me sooner!?" John exclaims, snaking his arms around Dave's neck, "I'm telling ya, it would've saved me so much more trouble!"
He feels himself melt at the sight of that inaudible laugh he'd fallen in love with. Dave's the first one to move, smashing his lips against his. It felt warm and it felt like home and it felt like…