Author's Note: Um, post-sburb AU, I guess? I know the rosy outcome of everything going back to normal is looking rather unlikely, but blarg. Let me have my idealistic ending~

Disclaimer: I do not make any money off of this and I don't claim to own Homestuck. 'Cause I don't.

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You figured when you and Egbert finally met up in real life, no danger or chat windows between the two of you, he'd be all for a totally bromantic hug-fest. In fact, you expected it. You prepared yourself for it. You were psyched for it. Well okay, let's not get carried away.

Point is, you were utterly surprised when you dropped your suitcase on the airport floor and went in for an all-out bestest-buddies bro-hug, and Egbert flinched away. Just for a second. But you noticed (of course you noticed). But then he was back and hugging the air out your lungs with all the strength his arms could muster. Which was a lot, thanks to those damned hammers he'd taken to swinging around.

You weren't about to miss out on this touchy-feely moment, but it seemed that, as soon as you'd gotten your arms wrapped firmly around the slightly shorter boy's shoulders, the hug was over. John was pulling back, looking slightly unsettled, and reaching for your suitcase. "It's great to see you, man!" He finally speaks, and it's with all the enthusiasm and cheer you remember hearing and finding admirably annoying during the game.

But that hug. That was some awkward shit. You glance at Mr. Egbert, and he's not giving you any sort of dirty look, or any sort of weird look in particular. So, you're pretty much at a loss.

Your name is Dave Strider, you are 14 years old, you have been in Washington for 15 minutes, and you already feel as though you've done something unbearably weird. (Not that you show it, or anything.)

On the way back to the Egbert residence, John chatters away about this and that, saying things like, "Are you sure Washington is cool enough for you, Dave? We can't have your irony melting off, or something," and you're responding with things like, "No sweat, Egbert. Your dorky state has gained some chill through my presence, alone." It's pretty much like that flinch never happened, and you two are just enjoying seeing each other outside a life-or-death situation. In fact, you're pretty sure that's exactly what's happening here. No weirdness abounding, no worries.

Except, later that day, when you lean right up against John to look at something on his computer screen- personal space? What the hell is that? Bro certainly never taught you there was any big need to value it- he flinches away again. Then he nudges you away with his shoulder and for a second- for half a second that you'll never admit existed (and people should take your word for it; you're the goddamn Knight of Time)- you feel a bit hurt. But then John is laughing it off and saying, "Jeez, Dave, if you want to see it so bad, why don't you just sit down?" and he vacates his chair.

You try like hell to figure it out in between all the bro-tastic times you and John have (urg, 'bro-tastic?' You're definitely going to have to flush that one from your brain). Maybe it's some leftover reaction from playing the game? You can get jumpy as hell sometimes, just sometimes, and Bro might even lay off if it's noticeable. Or maybe it's some rampant no-homo reflex? Or maybe you're just imagining it? (You cross this out as a possibility when John has a mini seizure trying to get you off when you plop down in his lap on the couch once.)

Still, barring those incidents, you have a fuck-roaring enjoyable time with Egbert and he returns the sentiment, and it's quickly agreed that, in his words, "this is sooo happening again."

And it does. It keeps happening.


Your name is Dave Strider, you are 17 years old, and you're waiting around at the airport for your boyfriend's flight to get in.

Yeah, you and Egbert started dating. It shocked everyone. Except for Bro, Mr. Egbert, Jade, Grandpa Harley, Lalonde, Lalonde's mom, and… Okay, so everybody and their grandpa saw it coming. Whatever. Doesn't change the fact that you love the little geek- even if the first thing he did when you two became official was pull up a chat with Karkat and announce to the troll how his shipping chart had been all wrong.

Ah, and there he was now; a beacon of messy black hair and completely sincere hipster glasses amongst the rest of the people, standing on tiptoe and searching for his ridiculous luggage.

You walk up to him and lay your hand on his shoulder to announce your presence- a necessary evil, unfortunately. You learned early on that surprise hugs will only earn you an elbow to the ribs and a scowl full of braces. It isn't that he doesn't like hugs from you (and god, that was one of the unmanliest-sounding conversations you two ever had), it's just he doesn't like to be touched without warning. It's no big deal, though- you're so on top of this being sensitive shit that it's pretty much second nature to give him a bit of warning before you glom onto him. He turns around at your touch and grins widely. "Surprise!" He cries, still wearing what you're pretty sure is the widest freaking grin you've ever seen him pull.

You're about to retort that you were expecting him, so it's not exactly a surprise, and then possibly call him a dumbass, but then you see what he's getting at. Well, no more scowls full of braces. "Well, shit, it's about fucking time you got those things off," You reply, "D'you have any idea how many times I've cut my tongue in the past two years?"

He rolls his eyes. "Wow, I'm so glad you're happy for me, dude." You're never sure if he picked up the sarcasm from you or Lalonde. You're pretty sure it was you, though- Lalonde is always insisting you're a bad influence on John.

"You know it, babe."

Egbert scrunches his nose at the nickname- and, really, that's the only reason you use it on him- but his expression gets softer when you put your arms around his waist and pull him close. He puts his arms around your back and lets you hold him there. It took for-fucking-ever for him to be sure it was okay to just hug you back and, even though you know it's highly uncool, you celebrate every hug as a small victory. It isn't long before he's pulling away from you again, a bit awkwardly, and you let him. Prolonged physical contact isn't really a thing, either. But, as ever, it's cool. "C'mon, let's find my bag so we can get going." He's chirping- that verb should not be applicable to a 17-year-old boy, but he pulls it off pretty well so you don't tease him for it. Often.

It doesn't take long to find his luggage- it's a neon yellow monstrosity of a duffle bag that he always packs to the weight limit with crap then hefts it around like it's nothing. He also takes great joy in hefting it at you without warning, in which case you waste no time in tripping him as he walks unwittingly beside you. He'll then tease you about how much you're struggling to carry his bag- which you're fucking not- and you'll snark about how he can't stand to be away from home without his extensive collection of shitty movies. Your visits with each other start like this more often than not, but it works for you.

Soon, you're on the freeway and heading back to the shitty apartment you and Bro still live in after all this time (even though you're almost certain Bro could afford some place bigger and better). Some things still haven't changed- John is still chattering away like he did the first time you came to visit- but you know that when you get back home, as soon as you're really goddamn sure Bro is gone, you'll be doing more than playing video games and looking up brain rotting YouTube videos.

Egbert graciously lugs his bag out of the back seat for you and you head up the way too fucking many stairs to your apartment. On the walk up, you reach over and grab John's hand, lacing your fingers with his, and you have to quash the urge to smile when he squeezes back. You hate to admit it, but you're a pretty touchy-feely guy. Hugs all around, leaning on people, hands on shoulders, hand-in-hand, attaching yourself to the person sitting next to you while you watch a movie, that sort of stuff. Of course, those last two things you save exclusively for Egbert, but the point still stands. You think personal space is pretty pointless and that physical contact is just great, thanks for asking.

John, however, doesn't. It's almost always you who'll initiate touchy-feely time and it's always John who ends it. There are a few exceptions, of course- you remember John having a hellacious nightmare when you were visiting last winter and even though you felt like a grade-a ass for thinking it, it felt wonderful to have him be the one doing the clinging for once. Not that you cling. You are simply inexplicably attracted to John's physical presence and must be within at least two feet of him for reasons of science you don't want to get into. Don't let Egbert say otherwise.

The point which you seem to have gotten away from is that, ever since your first visit, it's been this way. Ever since you've begun dating, it's been more noticeable. Hugs require warnings, cuddling is rationed, sloppy make-out time is limited, and you never really were able to figure out why. Not that you didn't try- fuck did you ever try. However, online conversations always left John with an out and you never wanted to ruin your unfortunately infrequent visits with an argument.

Instead, you don't say a word as John releases your hand and you oblige and do the same as you walk through the door of your apartment even though there was really no reason to let go at all. "Hey, Bro." John greets your brother, who is sitting on the futon when you get in, and you can tell without even looking that your boyfriend is now suppressing a smile. He thinks it's damn funny that nobody calls your bro by anything but… Bro.

You lift your hand in your own method of greeting and he nods, acknowledging the two of you, before you veer off down the hall and into your room. Here, John drops his bag in the usual place and then leans in to kiss you. This sort of contact, he'll start. It's usually short and sweet, but whatever. You'll take it. Slowly, you place your hands on his hips and tug him closer, and you're embracing like you did at the airport but with the added bonus of face-sucking (okay, it's a little too tame to be placed in any sort of "sucking" category, but you can work up to it).

At the moment however, with a building full of neighbors, a living room full of Bro, and a day full of catching up to do, things remain fairly tame. His hands are on your shoulders and you're leaning against each other and your tongue occasionally reaches out to brush across his lips, but that's pretty much all you're up to when a pounding noise makes Egbert flinch (Striders do not flinch, you are no exception) and you break the kiss.

The pounding noise is coming from your door. "I'm going to work. Don't set the apartment on fire. And stop sucking face." Bro calls through the thin wooden barrier.

Do you have to explain the lack of face-suckage again? Really? "Yeah, fine." You call back calmly. You know he added the last part to get your ironic, metaphorical goat and you're not about to give him the satisfaction of knowing the bleatbeast is now in his possession.

John looks a bit uncomfortable and backs away with a final squeeze of your shoulders. Yeah, Bro has all your goats, the bastard. You can hear the front door open and shut, along with the metallic click of the lock and now you and John are pretty much alone for the night. "So, we gonna make up for five and a half months of separation or what?" You ask said boy.

"I dunno. You're not suggesting anything untoward, are you, Strider?" John asks with a smirk.

"What do you take me for? My intentions are completely toward, you don't even know. We're talking me taking one of your gloved hands in mine while you blush like a maiden at me over your lacy fan. I can express my undying love by reading poetry written by some dead guy. We'll call Lalonde to chaperone. Real chaste shit."

Rolling his eyes, John sits down on your bed. "I'm sure Rose would get a kick out of all the homoerotic undertones in that scenario."

You snort and settle down next to him. "Egbert, that didn't make any sense." You inform him.

John gives you a little shove. "So? Where would I even get a lacy fan, anyway?" He scoffs.

The question is so stupid and so kind of utterly Egbert that you actually laugh and he joins you.


A few hours later, the two of you are still in your room, still on your bed, watching some movie you're not paying attention to because it probably sucks- you've long since come to terms with your boyfriend's terminal inability to choose decent movies. There's a half-empty box of pizza sitting on your desk and John nagged you into submission when insisting on making "real" food for breakfast. You wished him luck with your deathtrap of a kitchen.

John is sitting closest to the laptop, his attention rapt, and you're sitting behind him, leaning against the wall. You've been eyeing him rather than the movie for at least half an hour now and he has yet to notice. He's sitting cross-legged, elbows propped on his knees, and you really want to just sort of sidle up behind him, put your chin on his shoulder, maybe wrap your arms around his waist, rest your chest against his back… Maybe you could just reach over, slowly…

You put your hands on his waist first, as a warning, and he glances back at you, but doesn't move. You move instead, leaning forward, resting your head on his shoulder lightly and wrapping your arms up around him. He tenses up a bit, but lets you stay. He even reaches up and puts a hand on your wrist, so you relax and lean in even more, pressing against his back like you wanted to. If hugs are a small victory, you can count this one among the big boys.

It lasts for all of 23 minutes.

Then John starts fidgeting. He takes his hand off your wrist and shifts under your grip a little. You figure it might just be him trying to get comfortable and loosen your arms a bit. He still fidgets. Then the sighing starts, as he presses back and forth in your arms. You heave a sigh of your own, annoyance and exasperation, and release him completely, leaning back against your pillows and crossing your arms over your chest. No, you're not fucking sulking, what would give someone that idea?

John's shoulders slump even more. "Sorry…" He mutters, pretty much making you feel like a total ass in the space of two seconds.

You sigh again, regret. "It's fine." You mutter in reply.

"No, it's… you can, y'know, come back, if you want. I won't move around or anything. Promise." He's craning his neck around to look at you and you can practically see the guilt coming off him, even through your shades.

You mean to say something reassuring, really. Tell him it's totally fine, you don't need to plaster yourself to him like a needy bitch, seriously. Instead, what comes out is, "Yeah, you will."

His brows draw down and he's frowning at you. "No, I won't. Seriously, I don't mean to, I just…"

"Don't like the whole touching thing, I get it. Whatever." You shrug.

John blinks, still frowning. "I… Sorry." He sighs and turns back around to face the movie.

And then, because you're apparently feeling like a petulant dickwad tonight, you say, "Are you sure it's not just that you don't want me to touch you?"

That warrants a complete 180, and Egbert is now facing you entirely, looking confused. "What?"

You shrug again. "I'm just saying. You used to maintain that you were nothing but 100% heterosexual and now you're dating your male best friend. Who you don't let hug you for more than a few minutes at a time." He still looks confused and you toss the last shovelful of dirt out of your own grave, "I don't need you to be dating me out of pity or some shit if you're that uncomfortable."

His eyebrows rise into his bangs and good fucking god, why can't you ever keep your goddamn mouth shut. "What the hell, Dave? Dating you out of pity? Where- where the fuck did you get that idea?"

Your mantra of shutupshutupshutupshutup doesn't appear to be working because more shit is coming out of your mouth before you can stop it. "I don't know. Maybe because you freak whenever I touch you. You won't let me hold you for more than a few fucking seconds," That's an exaggeration, but you can't stop fucking talking, "Because you never seem interested in touching me."

You expect him to get angry, to start a shouting match. Instead, he looks like you slapped him across the face. And, fuck, you kinda did. "I- I… shit," He swears quietly before looking up at you with the patented Egbert kicked-puppy stare, "Dave, I'm sorry."

Well. If you didn't feel like the scum of the Earth before, you certainly do now. You want to say something, but John beats you to it. "I know… I make things difficult for you, don't I? And, I don't mean to! I just… I don't know, get really uncomfortable when people are touching me. It's really nothing personal, I promise! And Dave," He pauses and stares into your shades, as if he wants to make sure you're listening. As if you'd drone out in the middle of his goddamn heartfelt speech, "Please, please, please don't think I'm dating you out of pity. I… I really like you. A lot. I really like being with you. Do you know that?"

"Fuck," You mumble, running a hand through your hair, "Yeah. Yes. Yes, I know that. I just… Why?"


"Why does it make you uncomfortable? You'll never tell me and… fuck, John, I don't get it." You admit. You reach up to thread your fingers through your hair again and jar your shades in the process. With little consideration, you reach up and yank the things off your face; it's not as if John hasn't seen you without them and if he's opening up, taking them off is the least you can do.

He's eyeing you carefully, not like he doesn't trust you, but like he's not sure he should say anything. "You're just gonna think…" He trails off and huffs, "Look, did Bro, like, hug you and stuff when you were little?"

You raise an eyebrow. The 'what are you implying?' is implied. "I mean, did he do… affectionate stuff, I guess? Y'know, give you a hug, pat you on the head, put a hand on your shoulder to comfort you, whatever…" John elaborates.

"Yeah…" You draw out the word slightly, a bit confused. What was he getting at?

"Well… my dad didn't, really." He shrugs, "I mean, don't get me wrong! He's, like, the best dad ever. It is him. Even with all that stupid cake. But he was never all that comfortable with touching people either, and so he never really did that sort of stuff… So, I guess I just never really got comfortable with it?"

"You don't sound too sure about that, Egbert. Is that really all that makes you freak about being touched?" You feel a little bad for probing when he already looks uncomfortable, but if you don't get all this shit out in the open now, it's never going to happen.

"Isn't that enough?" he asks, a sort of edge to his voice, "I mean, I guess- It's just… Well, if most of the times you were in contact with people it was when they were beating you up, you wouldn't like physical contact very much either!"

Your eyebrows are torn between rising to your hairline and scrunching in confusion. They get stuck somewhere in the middle. "Excuse me?"

"What? I told you I got bullied a lot in elementary and middle school." He said defensively.

"Yeah, well, you kinda left out the part where that was pretty much the only contact you had with people." You deadpan, years of practice keeping the tension out of your voice.

He just shrugs again. "Look, it's not like I have 'Nam flashbacks, or something, I just… get uncomfortable. It's weird being so close to a person already and then I don't like feeling like I'm… I dunno, trapped? I guess?" He frowns, "No, that sounds, dumb, sorry, I-"

"Nah, it's not dumb," You dismiss his worries with a shake of your head, "It makes sense. But you could've clued me in sooner, jackass."

"I guess…" He looks away, "Sorry."

You sigh. Well now what? Glancing around, you can see the movie has ended, so you shut your laptop and place it carefully on the floor before an idea hits you. You go back to your spot against the pillows, laying back a bit and making yourself comfortable, ignoring John's confused looks, then gesture to him. "C'mere."

He quirks an eyebrow but obliges, scooting over and sitting next to you. Gently, you reach up and tug him down until he's reclined slightly next to you, flush against your side. You turn to face him. "We can work on this, if you want. Start slow, y'know? Look, both hands where you can see 'em." You raise your hands to show him and he chuckles, "We can lay here and talk or some shit, okay?"

John smiles at you and you feel him relax at your side. "Thanks, Dave." He says quietly.

"Yeah. No problem."

There is silence for a bit before John breaks it. "Maybe… maybe it would be okay if you put your arm around me. A little?"

You're too busy turning so you can sling your arm over his waist to ask how the hell you're supposed to do it "a little." He seems okay with how you do it, anyway.

The two of you stay that way for at least 40 minutes before John asks you to move your arm. It might just be because he wants to change position, because he does. Then you're not touching anymore and you're a bit disheartened until he reaches over and links arms with you and grabs your hand, meshing your fingers and squeezing tightly.

It's not quite what you want, and you're pretty sure he knows, but you're also pretty sure that, if it means the two of you can be together, you can wait until he gets more comfortable.

God, you're such a sap.


Author's note: Done and done. Finally. This was so hard for me to write because I have massive issues with physical contact and it was one of the things that ended my last relationship. Writing about the same problems we had, but from the other side, made me kind of feel like a horrible person… But anyway, I hope this came out alright!