Straining his ears, he searched for the solid thud of the car door. The engine came to life with a soft growl, and the gravel crunched in hushed whispers as the car reversed out of the driveway. He breathed out a sigh of relief he hadn't even realised he'd been holding. With his lanky arms crossed behind his head, he flopped back onto the lumpy mattress and traced the cracks in the ceiling with half-lidded eyes.

He was roused from his daydreaming by a combination of two things: the incessant beeping coming from his computer, and the smoky smell wafting under the door. He sat up with a jolt, suddenly remembering something his Dad may or may not have mentioned about a cake being in the oven. Stumbling over his sheets, he dashed downstairs and was instantly blinded by a massive cloud of smoke.

Coughing and flailing uselessly, he managed to feel his way along the wall to the fire extinguisher and sprayed the crap willy-nilly about the kitchen. One hand covering his nose and mouth, the other still spraying in hopes of putting the fire out, he shuffled across the tiles until he found the door. He threw it open, almost falling out in the process.

He yanked the stubborn windows open too, and fished a frying pan out of the cupboard. The kitchen wasn't his natural habitat, so he had no idea where any utensils lived. After filling the frying pan with water, he turned his attention back to the oven, spilling three-quarters of the water on the way. Most of the smoke had cleared now, but the charcoal cake continued to crackle with flames. He tipped the water on it, and successfully invented steam.

The steam apparently didn't appreciate its own creation, flooding his eyes with tears and forcing him to cough and splutter all over again. Sniffling, he surveyed the damage to the kitchen – god awful smell, ruined cake, irreparable oven. Luckily, the fire hadn't spread too far. He knew his Dad would probably be most upset over the cake anyway. Maybe he could pour some icing on it, and he'd never be any wiser.

Tramping back upstairs, he grimaced at the beeping his computer was still emitting. In all that commotion, it hadn't thought to do a single helpful thing. He threw himself into his desk chair and madly slammed at his keyboard. Someone was trying to message him.

14:03 turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]

TG: hey egbert you busy

TG: seriously

TG: cause now is prime fucking time to be watching one of your lame movies

TG: hurry up or ill start rapping again

TG: dont make me do it

TG: ill do it

TG: im doing it

TG: the fridge is empty

TG: wanna eat but bro wont feed me

EB: ok ok! just stop!

TG: where have you been

EB: i don't want to tell you

TG: im just going to assume you were doing something dumb

TG: as usual

EB: i was not!

EB: the cake caught fire ok?

TG: that falls under the category of something dumb

EB: what do you want?

TG: apart from burning the house down are you busy

EB: not really

EB: i was just going to watch National Treasure

TG: great so youre not busy

TG: can i come over

EB: sure i guess

14:17 turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB]

John Egbert scrolled through his Chumroll, disappointed to find that nobody else was online. He set his mood to bored and waited for his slow computer to finally shut down. He spun in his chair and smiled to himself, gazing fondly at the movie posters that circled around him in a blur of awesomeness.

His chair tipped and his arms swung through the air, looking foolish, but managing to keep him stable. He considered spinning another few times, for good measure, but decided against it. Dave was coming over, and he didn't think a trip to the emergency room would be that much fun.

Sighing, he began tapping his fingers on his desk. On top of being incredibly bored, he was also sweating like mad in the unusual heat. Sinking low in his chair, he huffed and allowed his eyes to trace the ceiling cracks on this side of the room too. Man, his ceiling sure had a lot of cracks.

At the sound of the loud knock on his front door, he leapt up from his chair and dashed downstairs for the second time that day. He threw the door open and, without thinking, threw himself at Dave. "Hey, Dave!" he exclaimed excitedly, a goofy grin spreading across his face.

Dave hesitated for a moment, caught off guard by how damn happy John was to see him. He smirked, and wrapped his arms around the boy. "Hey, Egbert," he greeted. He pulled away and cleared his throat, regaining his cool composure. "You gonna stand there blocking the door all day, or what?"

"Oh, right," John flustered, hurrying out of the way. "Make yourself at home, I guess," he invited, locking the door behind Dave. Twiddling his thumbs, he continued to beam at Dave. "Can I get you a drink or something? I'm pretty sure we have apple juice."

Dave hid a grimace. He'd never admit it, but apple juice just wasn't the same anymore. Not after Bro's last prank. "Whatever," he said with a brief shrug, immediately sagging onto the couch and planting his feet on the coffee table. He stared at John behind his shades. The moron was just grinning at him in the doorway. He snapped his fingers. "Hop to it, Egbert," he ordered teasingly. "I'm dying of thirst over here."

John disappeared into the kitchen (which still smelt kinda funny?) and Dave fished around the couch cushions to locate the remote. Flicking through the channels, he concluded that absolutely everything on TV was total shit. Seriously, couldn't they at least play good reruns? Who was he kidding, good reruns didn't exist.

"Here," John announced, smiling and placing a glass of apple juice on the table in front of Dave. He nudged the blonde with his foot, getting him to make room on the couch. "Ooh, Becker is on!" he exclaimed, reaching for the remote to turn the volume up.

Dave held the remote just out of the boy's reach. "Oh, no you don't," he said. "We are not watching this crap." He turned the TV off and tossed the remote on the table, almost spilling his juice. It didn't matter; he probably wouldn't drink it anyway. He smirked as John crossed his arms over his chest, his signature move when he was pretending to be pissed off. He wasn't fooling anybody.

Sighing, John unfolded his arms. "So, what do you wanna do now?" he asked. Dave just shrugged, not being very helpful. "Well...I got a new computer game for Christmas," he suggested.

"You told me about it," Dave replied, rolling his eyes. "It's only one player, remember? And it sounds pretty lame, anyway. I'm sure you were the prime, if not sole, contributor to the company's annual sale count."

John laughed. He thought the game was cool, but he didn't even care that Dave was dissing it. If he was being honest with himself, which he always tried to be, he hadn't seen Dave in a while, and he'd really missed him. It was one thing to pester him, but another to hear his snide comments in person.

"I guess we could watch a movie?" he offered, pushing his glasses up on his nose. He already knew what Dave's answer would be, and his mind wasn't working fast enough to defend his DVD collection, so he quickly added, "At the cinemas."

"You're paying," Dave agreed instantly, smirking. He chuckled inwardly as John's shoulders sagged. He hadn't had to pay for a single movie ticket yet. He knew that deep down, John didn't mind, otherwise he probably would have swallowed his pride and forked out the money himself. But John didn't need to know that. He could keep believing whatever he wanted to.

"Fine," John agreed, standing in a stretch. "Just let me get my wallet." He momentarily disappeared upstairs to search his room for it. Jogging back downstairs, he collided with Dave, clattering to the floor in a very ungraceful pile of limbs and apologies. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry, D-" He cut off midsentence, suddenly aware of how close he was to Dave. His heart was beating so hard, he wondered if Dave could hear it.

Any snarky comments fled his mind, and he gulped. Under the weight and heat of John, he was almost being crushed, but he didn't mind it. John's uncertainty didn't pass by him unnoticed either. He struggled to contain his thoughts and plastered a smirk on his lips. "Fuck, you're clumsy."

"I-I'm sorry, Dave," John stammered, still unable to stand. A gentle nudge from Dave had him in motion, though. He clambered to his feet, reaching out a hand to help Dave up too. Dave ignored the gesture and stood up on his own, brushing the dust off his jeans. "Should we go now?" The blonde nodded, already headed for the door. John locked it behind them, and followed him down the driveway.

His bouncy, excited attitude returned, and he walked circles around Dave, grinning and chattering about comics. Dave, with his hands shoved in his pockets, maintained that his comics were far better than anything John had ever read. The houses they passed all looked the same, but that was suburbia for you. It didn't take them long to reach the main street, but they'd worked up a sweat by then.

Dave heaved the glass door open with his shoulder, and held it for John. The cool air that greeted them was a relief and they both sighed. Approaching the counter, John asked for two tickets to – probably something awful, Dave wasn't even paying attention. Wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, he dug an elbow into John's side to get his attention. "Got much money left?"

John handed him his ticket, and pocketed his own, shaking his head. "Just enough for one drink, if you don't mind sharing." He knew Dave had the money to get his own drink, but he also knew that he wouldn't, for whatever reason. He didn't mind sharing, and to his surprise, Dave didn't put up a fight either. He bought them a frozen coke and they joined the line in front of the cinema doors.

Shuffling along with the crowd of noisy people, they trotted down the narrow aisle and claimed seats somewhere in the middle. The lights dimmed and the curtains split to reveal the screen, but nobody stopped talking, since it was only the previews. "I've been dying to see this," John said, grinning at Dave, who looked uncomfortable in his seat. "What's up?"

Dave looked at him seriously, and it made his stomach flip – in a good way, he guessed? It kind of made him want to take Dave's shades off so he could see his eyes. But it also made him a bit nervous. "Egbert," the blonde said slowly. "Is this a Nicolas Cage film?"

He felt his ears turn red. "Uh, yeah it is," he answered with a sheepish smile. Dave covered his face with his hands, grumbling and muttering something about 'I hate you.' He'd known that would be his response, but he'd brought him anyway. He didn't really know why. Maybe he should have chosen a movie that Dave would have liked. He guessed it was too late now.

Dave just shook his head slowly, gritting his teeth and forcing himself to watch the screen as the opening scene began. Jesus, oh god no. He just could not take Nicolas Cage seriously. He groaned loudly, gaining himself a disgruntled glance from the guy directly in front of him. He really couldn't care less. For Egbert's sake though, he decided to keep his comments to himself. The kid would probably cry if he got banned from the cinemas.

"Psst," John hissed suddenly, leaning close to Dave. There was a break in the action, and he realised it wasn't necessary to lean in quite so close, so he pulled back slightly. Only slightly. "How can you see the screen properly with your shades on?" he whispered.

Dave gave him a wry smile. "I can't," he replied. "Probably a good thing, too." The action was picking up again, and Mr Cage was back on screen, glistening as he ran down a dirt track. An unexpected explosion made the audience gasp.

Beside him, John actually jumped in fright, his hand instinctively seeking out Dave's. A smirk leapt to his face. If he hadn't been a Strider, it might have been a genuine smile, but that wasn't the case. He cocked an eyebrow at John, but the boy was glued to the movie, his mouth slightly agape as his hand squeezed Dave's.

Fortunately, the Cage survived. The tension in John's shoulders relaxed and he realised he was holding Dave's hand. He let out a small squeak and immediately let go, clasping his hands in his lap and avoiding Dave's gaze.

But he was starting to get kind of thirsty, so he reached for the frozen coke that was wedged in the cupholder between them – at the same time as Dave. Their hands bumped. He bit his lip. How cliche. Dave gave him a sideways glance that he didn't understand, before snatching the drink up. He drained a fair amount of it, and then handed it to John, who hesitated, staring at the straw. The straw that had just been in Dave's mouth. Maybe he should have gotten two straws.

Dave snorted at him, partially amused. It had been John's idea to share, after all. Why was he freaking out about it now? "Just drink it, Egbert," he mumbled, staring blankly at the screen. He snuck a peek in his peripheral vision. He watched John take a tentative sip, and then apparently forget all about the straw-sharing deal, as the tell-tale slurping from an empty cup soon followed.

Feeling refreshed, John shoved the now empty cup back in the holder, but Dave caught his hand before he could return it to the safety of his lap. He looked at Dave, surprise shining in his eyes even in the dim lighting. Dave answered by twining their fingers together and not taking his eyes off the screen. John gave his hand an experimental squeeze and he swore he saw Dave's lips twitch.

Dave found himself thinking that the rest of the movie might not be so bad. As long as he could stop himself from hurling at Nicolas Cage's dialogue, that was. Finally, the credits began rolling. Dave tried to resist the urge to start whining. He failed miserably. "Man, that movie sucked."

John began to blush as the lights turned back on, hastily untangling his fingers from Dave's. "I really liked it," he said thoughtfully. "I think that the–" Dave cut him off with a sharp gesture. "Oh, come on! It really wasn't that bad." The blonde simply shook his head and stood without another word, gesturing that John should follow suit. They shuffled out of the cinema and pushed through the heavy doors out into the heavy heat.

"Ugh," John complained, a layer of sweat already shining on his skin. He opened his mouth the elaborate on how much the heat sucked, but promptly snapped it shut again. He knew Dave probably wasn't the right person to be complaining to. After all, he used to live in Texas.

"Good move," Dave commented, catching on to John's train of thought. Glancing at his phone, he noted that it was mid-afternoon. "Mind if I stay over?" The words felt weird in his mouth. Inviting himself over was something that used to happen fairly regularly. John's place was safer than his; Bro wouldn't hesitate to strife even if he had guests. But he hadn't been able to hang out with John much lately, thanks to exams and all that wonderful crap. It kind of felt like he'd slipped out of that groove. He almost felt rude. Almost.

"Sure," John agreed without a moment's hesitation. He grinned his dorky grin, and even though he knew his face was still red, he clumsily slid his hand into Dave's. Dave stared at him for a second and not for the first time, he wished he could tell what the blonde was thinking.