I don't even...just...I have a bunch of feels for the whole Bro and Dave dynamic, okay? Especially with little kiddie Dave trying to be all grown up and Bro going 'fuuuuck, how do I do parenting?' There. That is my excuse for this. Have fun, and remember: some people once beleived that honeybees were born in the carcases of oxen, while others simply thought they flew out of Jesus's bellybutton while he was on the cross. True story.

You get a constant barrage of shit for what your Bro does for a living; the huge succession of things he does to keep the heat on. At any given moment, you rarely know how many jobs he is working and what they are, but everybody else seems to know and they take that opportunity to judge you for what he does. The other kids in your building made snide little remarks and their parents titter words like CPS that make your skin crawl. You really don't see what the big deal is; Bro isn't hurting you or anything, and he has a relatively steady source of income, which is a lot more than what you've noticed other people have. He never yells over the phone at people looking for money, and the bills never pile up on the kitchen table, and you know damn well that if you want a shower then there's going to be warm water waiting for you. He makes enough money to buy you new clothes before school starts, and he has a car, and the floor of your apartment is now a jungle of wires that you'd bet cost a pretty penny.

Every so often, though, you start to wish he had normal jobs. Or at least jobs that didn't require you to leave the apartment for hours on end. When he kicks you out—always before the people with the cameras arrive—you sulk around the roof of your complex and watch the crows. One of them has built a nest up on the radio tower and the landlord always says he'll get somebody in there to get it out because it interferes with the signals but he never does. The crows are pretty funny, but they're also pretty smart, so you like them. When the sun sets you thread your way down to the street, sometimes through the halls of your building, but if you're feeling adventurous, down the fire escape. You peek in the windows and make faces at anybody who sees you. Once on the street you'll curl up on the warm, crumbly sidewalk with your back against your building and fall asleep quickly, feeling lethargic and heavy from your day under the sun. Then Bro always comes out really late at night after his company has left, finds you, and carries you back up to the apartment, slipping you into bed.

And it's all good. It really is. Even though sometimes when you're locked out you get bored or hungry. It's just how the two of you operate. Sure, it's a lot weirder than how most people live but you make it work. Your unique little way of life that makes you feel sort of special because you know that nobody else on Earth lives this way.

Though…well, you hate it when he kicks you out and then it starts raining. Today it's okay though, because the rain coming down is warm rain and it's almost like taking a shower with all your clothes on. The crows aren't on the roof though, and the ones in the nest are bedded down and don't even squawk at you when you get too close. You can't fall asleep on the sidewalk when it's raining and you aren't very tired anyway so you stumble around the streets, feeling more and more bitter as the rain falls. Your thin jacket is soaked through and your hair is plastered down your skull. You can't even see out of your sunglasses because of all the water spattered on them so you shove them in your pocket. Nobody will look you in your freak eyes when it's raining so heavily and they have more important things to do, you hope.

Eventually, you end up across the street from your apartment complex in the greasy diner that never locks its doors because it doesn't have anything worth stealing and everyone knows it. The window into your apartment is lit, but the shades are drawn, so that means Bro is still busy. You sit at the bar in the restaurant, shiny with fast food sludge and spilled alcohol. The dumpy Cajun guy who runs the place slumps behind the register, rubbing his nose and eyes. He's a weird person who you've never learned the name of; he might have told you once or twice, but you can barely understand him through his thick accent. You think he used to work as the manager of aNew Orleansburlesque or something but have never bothered asking how he wound up inHouston.

"Your frère busy again?" He asks. You grumble something about not speaking French, but you understand what he said perfectly fine. You don't want to admit to anything so early. "Eh, oh well, right? You can stay here long as you like."

You shrug, curling tighter into yourself on the bar stool. He shrugs and goes back to forking through the cash register. You don't like this place, not really. It's lit with fluorescent bulbs that always flicker and some of them are hanging from the ceiling, bare and plastered with moths. It is always either playing Ray Charles or smooth jazz from tinny speakers hidden all around the place; you don't really mind the Ray Charles because Bro sometimes listens to that at home, really late at night when he tells you that you should appreciate all music that has soul in it, but the smooth jazz pisses you off for some reason. And, of course, there's the guy behind the counter who's always so ready to tell you a good joke but then say the punchline in French, or look at you with heavy sympathetic eyes and offer you a free soda for no other reason than that he says you look under the weather. Oh, you can't stand that guy.

Today, thankfully, he doesn't seem to be too chatty. He just stays behind the register, puddling through the money looking sort of lost. The nosy bitch who works in the kitchen and always wears fake rhinestones yells at him a couple of times in Italian and he yells back in French, and you can tell that neither of them understands what the other just said. You don't know who the Italian woman is, but she pisses you off more than the smooth jazz.

All goes good until your stupid stomach grumbles. You hadn't been very hungry that morning, and even though Bro made you promise to eat something since he'd be busy later, you didn't. Now that you think of it, you haven't eaten all day and you hurt inside. You peek over your shoulder to make sure that the apartment is still off-limits, just in case Bro decided to retire early; nope, lights on, curtains drawn.

The man sighs and takes a five dollar bill out of the register, slipping it to you. "Here. Go get something to eat, please?"

"I don't need your fucking money." You grouch, too hungry to come up with a suave retort. He looks taken back.

"Mon dieu! Watch your mouth, child, you're too young for that language."

"Why not?"

"You are only eight, nine at the most."

"Seven." You correct him and he groans helplessly, muttering fast things in French.

"Please take the money. If it makes you feel better, pay me back."

You look at the bill on the counter, stained around the edges and absorbing the fat from a piece of gristle. Bro has always told you to take any money you can, no matter how much you have, because it could very well all be gone on the morrow. But he also told you to keep your dignity above all else.

It only takes you a few seconds to make your decision. With a cold sneer, you push away from the bar stool and you are out the door. You can feel the man watch you sadly, with pity, and it grates your nerves to know anybody would dare look that way at you. You aren't a charity case. You don't need help. You are perfectly fine on your own, damnit.

You close your eyes as you cross the street, something Bro told you never to do. He didn't tell you to look both ways because he knows you better than that, but he told you to at least keep your fool eyes open. You know he'll never figure out you just crossed the street blind, an empty sidestreet where only the dying drive so there really wasn't any risk, but it makes you feel good, this opposition. You're just feeling so angry now, indignant that he's left you out in the rain. Honestly, who the fuck even does that? Kicks their kid brother to the curb so they can shoot a porno in the apartment? Maybe your Bro isn't so great, you think. Maybe it isn't okay, the jobs that he works, maybe you would rather be poor than have him doing these things.

Thoroughly riled up, you slink into the lobby of the building, then into the elevator. You're going home, no matter what he says, because you're cold and wet and hungry and just…need somewhere to be that isn't completely lost.

In the hall whose tacky floor is right out of the Shining, you bang your fists on the apartment door as obnoxiously as you can manage. You could always just walk in, since Bro probably hasn't locked the door, but you want him to let you in. You want to force him to open up, to see it's you, and then if he has the nerve to tell a sopping wet, shivering kid with a protesting stomach that he can't come in, you might just leave. You kind of hope he'll let you in, though, no matter what you'll see.

"What is it?" He calls from within. Everything goes deathly silent in there; before there was a lot of giggling and a couple of gasps, but now everyone's shut right up.

"I'm hungry."

"Dave? What the fuck're you doing here? You know I'm busy."

"I'm hungry." You repeat plaintively. You don't care if you sound like a whiny little bitch.

"Jesus, Dave, just give me…give me half an hour, okay?"

You don't say anything in the most critical way you can muster.


"Could I just come in quick and get something?"

"Please just hang tight for half an hour, and then you can come in, I promise." He's getting annoyed.

"I'll just let myself in." You reach for the doorknob.

"Shit." You hear Bro stumbling over a lot of things before he throws himself against the door to keep it closed. "Dave, just hold out, would you? You're so goddamn needy sometimes. Not cool."

"Stop being an asshole and let me in!"

"I said no."




"I said—"

"Bro, come on!"

The door is flung open. Bro's lurking there, glaring at you, with a pair of unbuttoned, hastily put on jeans slung around his hips—you vaguely notice that they're girl jeans, too, but Bro pulls stuff like that a lot since he says Striders have great legs. Behind him you see a couple of women and a couple of men and more than a couple of puppets. But that doesn't register much because Bro looks absolutely furious.

"Could you just fuck off for thirty goddamn minutes? What's so fucking hard to understand about that?" He yells and you are thoroughly terrified. Bro's never yelled at you before, at least not like this. Usually it's just because you're on opposite ends of your apartment and he needs something, or because you've really done something wrong. But he's never sounded this angry, like you're merely something in his way that is easily disposable. And you guess you had no place bothering him at all, seeing as he's been a little stressed lately because he lost one of his jobs and it's almost time to pay rent and he spent a little too much on a new speaker after the old one blew out.

You can't look him in the eyes as you gulp, stagger back a little, and then bolt down the hallway toward the elevator. You hear him groan "oh shit…" and then turn into the apartment, yelling "everybody, just get out."

"But…" Come several confused protests.

"I said get out."

As you wait for the elevator nervously, he darts out of the apartment doorway, tugging on a white button-up shirt to be socially acceptable. It doesn't help that it isn't buttoned at all, or that he doesn't have shoes on, or that his mouth is wet and there's glitter under his eyes. The elevator dings and you jump in, mashing the button for the bottom floor near hysterically. The doors close as he pulls even with you, but he doesn't stop; Bro doesn't waste any time. He's probably headed toward the stairwell and with anybody else you knew you could be out of the building before they were even halfway down the stairs but Bro is fast and above all, he's determined.

With each floor the elevator stops at to pick up another passenger, your heart beats a little faster. The elevator is naturally slow and generally crappy without all these stops. By the time you reach the bottom floor, elevator half full, you push past the forest of legs, stepping on the toes of a woman whose eyes don't point the right ways. She starts to reprimand you but you're almost to the door by that time. The door to the stairwell opens and Bro stumbles out, barely looking flushed. You're out in the lukewarm rain and hightailing it down the sidewalk before he's halfway across the lobby.

He crashes through the front doors after you. "Dave!" He yells after you once. When you don't slow down you hear him mutter a faint tune of profanities before deciding not to waste any more breath.

You know you can't win, because no matter that you're the fastest kid in your school, Bro is probably the fastest guy in the world and his legs are much longer than yours. You stumble over the concrete hopelessly, the rain getting in your eyes and making the ground dangerous. But it isn't a water-slicked newspaper that does you in; no, it's your own stupid shoelaces. They have untied themselves and now you're keening forward for a faceplant. All you can do is stretch you arms out and hope that your palms don't get torn up too badly.

You lay facedown on the pavement, spitting gritty rainwater off your lips and carefully not moving your hands and abjectly not noticing your blood, until Bro stops beside you. He crouches down for a moment, then sits. You can see him from the corner of your eye; he doesn't look too tired but he looks worried, and his perfect spiky hair is now droopy and lank and surprisingly long. He forgot to put his glasses on so you can see his orange eyes, every bit as freakish as yours.

"Jesus. I'm fucking sorry, okay? I shouldn't have said that." He offers, scooping you into his lap and putting his hand on the back of your head. For some instinctive reason, you lean into him, chalking up this reaction to the fact that you don't know what else to do. It's a little uncomfortable, both of you overheated and just about soaked to the bone, but you don't mind it too much. Just sitting in the middle of the city sidewalk wrapped up in the closest thing you have to a parent and you know that if anybody comes by Bro isn't going to move for them.

You offhandedly wonder if this is what it feels like to have a normal life and then you suppose you don't really mind because this is your life, no matter how fucked it is, and this is your Bro who, no matter how tough he is, is still hugging you and actually apologizing. You guess it's pretty okay.