Title: Five Stages of Falling in Love

Pairing: Dave/John | Some Dirk/Jake | Scarce Mention of Dave/The World

Summary: Houston's local heartthrob Dave Strider didn't think love would find him until it slammed into him at the park and spilled coffee on his favourite hoodie. Predictably, Dave doesn't handle love all that well and quickly spirals into a huge, sappy, lovesick mess as the object of his affection brutally massacres his cool kid facade without even realising he's doing so. Of course Dave would fall in love with the most clueless boy on the planet.

A/N: So I was randomly listening to the Warbler cover of Teenage Dream when suddenly a thought popped into my head: a lovesick Dave silently pining over an oblivious John is adorable. So I surfed a bit for a few one-word prompts to help me keep it going and got five fitting words:


And so, this abomination was born.

WARNING: This fic is literally corn slathered in sap and wrapped up in a fluffy to-go bag from the cliche restaurant. The corniest, sappiest, fluffiest thing I have ever written. Period. There will be an army of shipping bulldozers to drive though your feels and leave you sobbing as they float majestically out the fucking window. Or if this turns out to be shitty, which is at a 90/10 possibility rate, then you'll promptly back the fuck out of here and will yourself to forget.

Regardless of the outcome, enjoy the show.

Stage 1: Attraction

January was a horrible time of year in Texas.

It was colder than the top of Antarctica's merciless peak, shittier than a preschooler with diarrhoea, and twice as unnecessary. At least, that's how Dave Strider saw it. The 19-year-old blond adjusted his ever present shades as he ironically hunched over the disposable coffee cup in his hands as he walked towards his university, which was a good way away from his shitty apartment. But alas, it was the cheapest one he and his brother could find in a 5 mile radius to the University of Houston. And even then, it was much too far of a walk for him.

Oh, woe is he.

The carefully concealed disgruntled young man cut through a frosted park, sipping at his now tongue-friendly coffee with his iPod blasting in his ears to maybe help pass the time. It didn't. But that didn't stop Dave from silently jamming to his beats in relative peace as he passed under a stone archway. Or, so it was peaceful until a flurry of black and blue crashed into the unsuspecting blond - sending his coffee flying into his red hoodie and his jean clad ass flying to the pavement. "Shit," Dave hissed as he felt what was once his usual morning pick-me up soak into his clothes. He quickly shoved his iPod out of his ears and into the safety of his jean pocket as he assessed the damage, picking himself up from the ground.

"Oh gosh! I'm so sorry!" said a light male voice from across from him and Dave was suddenly aware of the company he had. A boyish looking teen was on his knees in front of him, scrambling to grab his binder and books and simultaneously apologising in rushed syllables. Dave raised an eyebrow at the stranger but his breath promptly caught in his throat as the boy looked up.

It should be illegal to have eyes that blue.

The teen before him had messy, windswept hair as black as coal and his pale skin was tinged pink with the cold. He had a dorky kind of look with his blue jacket, baggy jeans, cute overbite and a pair of black, square-framed glasses shielding the most vibrant shade of blue Dave had ever seen.

He scrambled up, almost tripping on his own feet - his arms full of books and binders - and gave Dave an apologetic smile. "I am so sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going." It took Dave several long seconds to recognise the English that was said to him. "I-It's cool, bro. Don't worry about it."

The stranger looked at Dave's hoodie, which was stained beyond repair. "But, your sweatshirt…"

Dave shrugged, mentally berating himself for stuttering earlier and gathered all his cool. Why was it so hard to stay impassive? "It's not my favourite." - that's a lie - "Don't sweat it, dude." The boy chuckled nervously and glanced down. He looked ashamed of himself and Dave's walls crumbled for a moment. "I… if you're sure, uh…"

"Dave," said blond blurted. He cleared his throat abruptly. "My name's Dave."

"Nice to meet you, Dave! I'm John," the boy - John - introduced with a soft smile. Dave's stomach plummeted. "Uh- Yeah. Nice to meet you too." There was an uneasy silence between the two and Dave was finding it harder and harder to keep his barriers intact. "So… John," he began hesitantly. "I was wondering if—"

"Oh no, I'm gonna be late for work!" John suddenly shouted, looking at his watch in shock. "I'm sorry, I gotta go. Uh…" He scribbled something onto a piece of paper with a convenient pen found in his pocket and tore it off, handing it to Dave. "Text me sometime, okay!" With that, John took off running in the opposite direction Dave was going. He slowed down just enough to look back and give Dave one last lopsided smile and fleeting wave. "See ya 'round, Dave!" he shouted behind him before gripping onto his books and speeding out the park.

Dave let out the breath he didn't know he was holding and slumped his shoulders, his left hand clutching the paper John had given him. "See ya, John," Dave called quietly even though the ravenet was long gone. He leaned against the inner side of the archway, his head thumping against the stone as he let out a sigh that almost sounded… longing. "John…" he breathed into the swirling chill of the icy breeze. 'What is wrong with me?' he thought as he stepped away from the arch, soaked in lukewarm coffee and appallingly late for class. 'Am I sick or something? It must be the weather getting to me. Yeah. I'm just sick.'

"Oh, you're sick alright," Dave's older brother - Dirk - stated teasingly as the younger blond slouched over the kitchen counter in dismay. Dirk tossed a bottle of Apple juice to his younger counterpart and Dave caught it easily despite his forehead meeting the table. "Lovesick."

Dave ended his foreheads mack on with the counter to glare at Dirk from behind his shades. Dirk only grinned in response and took a long, contemplative sip from his own bottle of OJ. "I'm thinking of a June wedding. 'Cause June's not ball-freezing like this bullshit. There'll be flowers and shit; we can get you a sweet white suit and everything."

"Dude, fuck off," Dave all but whined as his forehead was reunited with its one true love. "I barely know him. And you don't know him at all!"

"Ah, so it's a 'him'," Dirk smirked and Dave emitted a loud, frustrated groan. "Scratch the suit, then. You'd look gorgeous in a dress."

"Nah, John's obviously the girl," Dave remarked suddenly, lifting his head up to stare at the wall - his voice going soft as a smile involuntarily made its way on his pale face. Dirk's grin grew wider as he pointed at Dave with his bottle. "See? That right there; tells more of a story then words. You're falling hard, little dude."

"Shut up, I barely know anything about him!" Dave argued.

"Then change that," Dirk shot back challengingly. "He gave you his number, didn't he? Asked you to text him, didn't he? Just text and ask him out for coffee or something."

"What if he's straight?" Dave whined hopelessly, fiddling with his AJ bottle.

"What if he's not?" Dirk answered without missing a beat. Dave glanced up endearingly at the anime shades wearing blond. "Is that what you're telling yourself about Jake?" he asked indifferently. Dirks firm resolve faltered for a moment. "Maybe," he mumbled, his expression dropping at the mention of his growing infatuation with the British man. He shook it away quickly. "This isn't about me, dude. This is about you and your man-crush on little Johnny."

"Shut the fuck up, bro, before I end you."

"With the power of love~" Dirk sang and ducked out of the way of the oncoming shoe hurling with alarming accuracy at his head. "No but seriously. Text the kid and invite him to coffee. You might be surprised." With that said, Dirk strolled leisurely out of their kitchen and disappeared into his room - probably to pine over Jake in peace. Dave sighed and took out his phone, tapping into his contacts to stare at the number under 'John'. It was at that moment, Dave Strider made a decision.

'hey john, its dave…'

Stage 2: Denial

The little cafe was bustling at this time of day, especially in this season. Dave sat in a corner booth away from the crowd, scouting the door for a mop of black hair and clear blue eyes. He and John had devised a time for them to meet up for coffee, when Dave or John didn't have classes or work.

Dave blew on his steaming cup to cool the murderous liquid before taking a cautioned sip to quell the churning in his gut. What do high schoolers call it? Butterflies? Poisonous, merciless butterflies fluttering their razor wings against his ribcage in dire hopes of escaping his stomach to wreak havoc on the Earth and enslave mankind in their vicious rage? Whatever they were, they were making Dave uneasy.

A movement across from him brought his attention away from his coffee. John shot him his lopsided grin as he settled himself into the seat, taking off his knitted beanie and letting his hair stick up in all directions. His eyes looked even brighter than last time. Is that even possible? "Hi Dave!" John greeted in his boyish voice and Dave took a moment to collect himself, nodding at John in acknowledgement - not trusting himself to speak. John tilted his head (can he get any more adorable?) but said nothing as he turned to the waitress who had recognised the new customer and went to take his order. Dave took this opportunity to give John a look over whilst being totally not creepy at all.

He looked scruffier then last time. His hair was a spiky mess adorning his head and his cheeks was stained a gentle red. He wore a light blue hoodie today with a green ghost-like symbol printed neatly onto the front; it sort of looked like the Slimer poltergeist from 'Ghostbusters'. From the looks of it, he donned a nicer pair of jeans then last time. Dave's eyes wandered up to his face, taking in his facial features and soft looking skin. His eyes zeroed in to his neck - or more specifically, the tiniest bit of collarbone shown just above the neckline to his hoodie. Dave tore his eyes away from the patch of skin he was burning holes into and sipped his coffee to distract himself. This was insane. Sure, the kid was cute, but he wasn't attracted to him. Besides, John's probably straight as a Crucifix. As opposed to Dave, who was as straight as an orgy of rainbow coloured boys in flaming pink feather boas and lacy garter belts.

In other words: 1. Dave is not, repeat, not attracted to John and 2. He really needed to make up something better to compare his sexuality with.

"Thanks!" John called out as a waitress walked off with his order. Dave smiled discretely into his drink but quickly pulled up his wall of indifference as John turned to him. The younger (he had no idea how old John is but he looked younger than him at least) gave Dave a shy smile and fiddled with the edge of the table. "So, uh, how are you, Dave?" he asked, giving Dave a look from behind his glasses and Dave let a smile slip.

So much for indifference.

"I'm great, man. Not exactly cloud 9 but hey, this ain't a RomCom where the blond beauty falls for the derpmaster." That elicited giggled from John and Dave felt slightly accomplished. "How 'bout you?"

"I'm okay," John answered when the giggles subsided. "Just chillin', trickin', standard 'derpmaster' material," he smiled mischievously. Dave chuckled.

"So, how old are you, anyway? You never got around to telling me," Dave asked on a whim and John smiled again. "It's rude to ask someone their age, Dave!"

"Bullshit. It's only rude if its an elderly or a chick. What? Is there something you're not telling me here, John? Or should I say, Joan?"

John laughed loudly at that and reached over to shove Dave. Dave was slightly startled by the fact that he was touching him but quickly composed himself. He wasn't some love struck teenage girl. He was the ironic, cool and impassive Dave Strider who did not have a crush on the derp before him.


"How dare you dent my pride! I am all man!" John protested lightheartedly, trying to gain control over his laughter. Dave smirked. Better. "Could have fooled me, John."

"Shut up. I'm 18, okay? I turn 19 in April. Jeez."

18, huh? Cute and legal.

Dave was suddenly appalled at those thoughts but fought to keep this on the down low. "18, huh? You go to college?"

"Yeah! Houston College, actually," John answered proudly, smiling politely as the waitress brought him his order.

Really?! "Really?"

"Yeah, just started."

How come I haven't seen your cute ass on campus?! "How come I haven't seen you around on campus?"

"You go to that college too?"

Yeah! "Yeah."

"Cool! I probably have different classes then you. I'm still getting used to it. What are you studying?"

The conversation went on. From there they talked about the college, the campus, the teachers, their hobbies, interests, etc. Dave learned that John loved magic tricks and pranks, that he was from Washington state and was staying with his cousin for school, and that he was a Performance Major. In turn, Dave told John about his turntables, his mix tapes, and that he was doing a bachelors in Music. He also learned that John played the piano, which Dave found surprisingly attractive. Which didn't mean he found John attractive. No way.

Dave was a little taken aback at how easy it was to maintain a conversation with the ravenet. It flowed freely and majestically like a river of cute tidbits, sarcastic remarks and tomfoolery. Dave relaxed into John's company and was starting to enjoy the black-haired boys presence. He didn't realise just how much he enjoyed it until he and John parted ways, promising to do this again sometime. The realisation slammed into him like a freight train halfway down the street towards his and Dirk's apartment. During his walk, Dave's mind wandered to John and his shy smile, his snarky remarks, refreshing laughter. His adorable attitude, his childish demeanour, his amazing, sapphire blue eyes—

Dave stopped dead in his tracks and the emotional train of doom plummeted through his soul. The butterflies were back from the dead, sawing at his ribs with little mercy as Dave's brain drew blank in shock and realisation.

He didn't have a crush on John.

He didn't have a crush on John.

He. Is. NOT. In. Love. With—

… Fuck.

Stage 3: Realisation

Dirk was microwaving a bowl of instant mac n' cheese when Dave crashed unceremoniously into the apartment, red faced and looking like he ran from a pack of aggravated African lions. Dirk raised an eyebrow at his younger brother's out-of-the-ordinary behaviour as he ran to the couch and dove on it, slumping against the pillows in apparent defeat. Abandoning his mac n' cheese, Dirk made his way to the couch where Dave was strewn dramatically against the tattered throw pillows, hugging one to his chest as his face contorted in pain. "The fuck was that scene about?" Dirk asked, frowning at Dave's expression.

Dave rolled over to face his brother, his shades shielding nothing for once and that in itself scared Dirk. Dave exhaled deeply and closed his eyes, removing his shades to lay a hand on his forehead while looking utterly defeated. "Bro…" he began and Dirk was ready to call the police - the ambulance - the fire department - the FBI - Rose Lalonde!

"I'm in love."

It took Dirk a record of 10 minutes staring blankly into the void of space-time before he flipped his shit. "What?! That's it?! Fucking bastard, I thought you were dying - holy shit! You gave me a fucking heart attack!"

Dave remained impassive, silently watching as Dirk pretty much flip the little coffee table and loudly muttering about "fucking brothers" and "I was about to call Rose. Rose".

"Bro, this is serious."

"So is a heart attack!"


Dirk stilled in his attempt to hurl his katana out the window. Dave was sat up, staring at him with burning red eyes swirling with an emotion Dirk was all too familiar with. Dirk sighed as Dave glanced at his lap, feeling lost and heavy with his epiphany. "I told you, man. You're falling hard."

"I know that," Dave whisper-shouted in exasperation. He ran his hands through his hair, tugging at it in a show of frustration. "It's just, why me? Why him? He's straighter than a goddam pole!"

"You don't know that," Dirk argued softly. But Dave was having none of it. He rolled off the lounge and onto the floor, sitting up to grab the nearest pillow and pulling it into a chokehold - as if he were trying to choke the emotions out of him. "I'm losing my cool. I'm losing my fucking cool all the time because of him and I like it. Fuck it, I like him. But it's never going to happen."

"You don't know that," Dirk stated firmly. Walking up to Dave, he placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, clambering to the floor with his brother. "You're never gonna know unless you take a chance. Love isn't an easy thing to come by these days and if you don't go for it, you're gonna live a life of 'what if's' and trust me, you don't wanna go down that road, man."

Dave sighed and nodded, throwing the pillow up and retrieving his shades, a determined look flashing in his eyes before he hid them away. "Okay. I'll try, but if it goes wrong, I'm blaming you."

Dirk shrugged and got up as well, mentally wincing at the upside-down coffee table. "Good. I don't want the wedding plans go to waste," he remarked with a smirk, dogging yet another shoe thrown in his direction.

Dave was resilient. He needed to be smart with his words if he wanted to get the information he needed out of John without being questioned by the blue-eyed Derp Highness. He had to be sneaky when it came to small shows of affection and the inevitable loosing of his cool. And he had to be patient because no matter how clear his signals are - he could paint the words on the wall with his own blood and hand John his still beating heart on a silver platter - the boy still wouldn't get the message. Dave needed to be clever about this and clever he was.

It was mid-April when Dave had finally gotten something - tiniest of hints - out of John. The two were enjoying the crisp but thankfully not bone numbing Autumn air, drinking from their disposable cups of coffee as they walked through the park and talked about nothing and everything. Their relationship seemed to be based around coffee 'dates' and bromantic escapades in the park even though John insisted he simply enjoyed the park and that Dave needed to appreciate it more. Dave fought to not point out that it was the very park that they had first met in. That'd seem very gay of him.

Dave quickly learned that John was enthusiastic about pretty much anything except bakery and harlequins. John's family owned the Betty Crocker franchise and despite being loaded, John preferred to earn his own pay. That and John had a deep-set hatred for his own products, explaining that Betty Crocker was virtually the only thing his father used in the kitchen and growing up, it grew to be traumatic.

Dave in turn shared small tidbits about his brothers occupation, but only telling him about robotics side of it and leaving out the smuppet portion. He did John a favour by doing that. In his eyes, John should be bowing in respect for his consideration.

Dave also found out that John was a self-proclaimed heterosexual, and despite that putting the blond off a little (A lot. He almost broke down and cried about it in his room until Dirk appeared and promptly slapped him in the face with the backhand of reason) he discovered that John was indeed so far in the closet that he couldn't even see the door. That was enough for Dave to get the safety rope and dive head first right in that deep, dark closet to rescue him - like some sort of crevice explorer except horizontal.

Dave said something that made John laugh and Dave took this moment to let his walls down for a moment and relish in the sound. Jesus Christ, he had it bad.

"Are you okay, dude?" he asked as nonchalantly as he could when John almost fell over in laughter, gripping onto Dave's shoulder to steady himself. Dave felt his stomach flutter but ignored it as John calmed himself, pulling himself upright with some difficulty. Still sniggering, John walked on and Dave couldn't help but notice how much closer they were - their shoulders now brushing with every step. It was way too much. "You wanna get any closer there, Egbert?"

The sniggers ceased immediately and John took a healthy step back, stuttering an apology and averted his eyes. He could be blushing, but Dave rationalised it as just the cold air, nothing more. Dave smirked in amusement as John tripped over his words in embarrassment and finally took pity on him. "Calm down, John. I was only teasing you and your homo shenanigans."

John huffed but smiled at Dave and continued walking with a reasonable space between their shoulders, humming contently as he watched the leaves fall - with Dave watching out of the corner of his eye. It was then that the gravity of what just happened struck him.

John didn't deny it.

John always denied it.

Dave closed his eyes and counted to 10. No need to get too excited. Not need to trip over his pride and blurt his deep, dark secrets to someone other then Rose.

But there was a need. Dave had known John since January and they've hung out more times then they should. Believe it or not but Dave picks up on things fast. And by fast, it means no secret is safe from David Holmes. Dave notices and notice he did. Noticed how John was very defiant about being a heterosexual. Noticed how his arguments got weaker as the snow melted. Noticed how he didn't even bother to say anything today, only a smile and a huff. Dave noticed and if this wasn't a sign sent from God himself telling him to grow some balls and coat them in generous amounts of liquidated steel, then he didn't know what was going on.

But when Dave looked over at John and saw the ravenet watching the sky, eyes bluer than the sea wide with curious delight as the leaves swirled in patterns across the park he loved so much, as long, delicate piano hands came up to rake through his hair as he smiled the smile that made Dave's knees shake, he knew he couldn't do it. He couldn't do it yet. It was too early, far to early.

He needed to prepare.

Stage 4: Infatuation

Dave sighed as he leaned against the counter for support. "John… I have something to say." Eyes darted up to lock with his own. "I've known you for some time now and— fuck, no, hold on." He sucked a breath, the face across from his never breaking the gaze. "We've been friends - best friends - for a long time now and remember how you said you didn't want us to keep secrets from each other? Well, there's something I haven't told you about." His face was unreadable. "And if you feel uncomfortable around me after I tell you this then you can leave if you want. I want you to be comfortable with what I'm about to tell you." Another breath, another pause, another bout of silence. "John… I—… I li—… I really lik—…" Breathe. Keep it steady. "John, I think I'm in lo… I'm in looooooh fuck this shit!"

Dave slammed his hand against the sink, watching his reflection mimic his movements. He couldn't say it. He couldn't even say it to his fucking mirror; he was that weak. Ragged puffs of breath escaped his lips as Dave glanced up to glare at his reflection - shadeless and vulnerable. Crimson eyes bore into the reflective glass, willing it to shatter or explode or anything so that he didn't have to look at himself. Dave slipped his shades on and turned away. He couldn't do this.

It was already August. AUGUST. He still didn't have the adequate sack required to be a man about this. He was still wielding baby balls. Baby tricycle training-wheel balls. This was bullshit.

Resisting the urge to shatter the mirror himself, Dave exited the bathroom and made a bee-line to his bedroom. He made a point to slam his bedroom door out of a fit of justified, soap-opera worthy dramatics before swan diving onto his bed with the intention of making a cocoon and lying vacantly in it until he hatches into a blossoming scrotum butterfly complete with the manly balls required to face John Egbert.

It's times like these where Dave thinks to himself: if he weren't gay, he'd be concerned about the amount of male anatomy he thinks about on a daily basis.

Rolling onto his back, Dave stares at the ceiling and contemplated his objective. Operation "Woo The Oblivious Derp" had been underway for almost 8 months now with still pending results and it was starting to drive Dave insane. 8 months of what Dirk liked to call "swooning silently from a distinguishable distance" and Dave was still wallowing in his own hopelessness and self-pity that he couldn't just say it! How hard was it to say three little big words; eight insignificantly significant letters? What was stopping him from throwing on the Strider charm and sweeping John off his feet as he had done to many young, pretty things in the past?

Only this time, John wasn't just some young, pretty thing. He was John Egbert, the dorky, clumsy, snarky, sarcastic boy that had managed to single handedly steal Dave's heart without so much as lifting a finger let alone become fully aware that he had stolen it in the first place. Hell, Dave's bleeding, beating heart was surrendered at Egbert's feet the second he made contact with his fucking siren eyes! Dave never believed in love at first sight, always arguing that it was a sappy piece of shit for girls. Well then, guess who's a girl?

Dave fought the urge to slam his head against a brick wall. Why was this so painful? It was almost pitiful. The infamous Dave Strider - the apathetic cool dude constantly drowning in pussy, the producer of the illest of beats and the sickest of rhymes, the impassive player who held everyone's hearts from the very first conversation - was in love. Undeniably in love with the cutest, most oblivious dork on the planet.

And it hurt.

Dirk knew it from day one. He knew it the second Dave walked into their apartment and announced he felt sick after faced with a question about his day. He couldn't shake those words from his head - "Oh, you're sick alright. Lovesick." Fuck Dirk and his all-seeing, intuitive eyes. Fuck love for slapping him in the face and shitting on his life. Fuck John for being such a gorgeous piece of ass.

Dave was 110% infatuated with John. Happy, universe?

He needed to tell him. He needed to tell him. He didn't want 'what-ifs'. He didn't want to live his life with only the idea of the possibility that John could have been his. He didn't want to blow his chance and someday see John with someone else. Someone that wasn't him.

Dave steeled himself as he got up from the bed and made for his wardrobe. He and John had already arranged to meet at the park later that afternoon and Dave was going to do it. Today was the fucking day he stopped being a prissy little pansy boy and evolved into a burly manly hairy man. Dave shoved his wardrobe open and grabbed a shirt at random (a red on red gear symbol shirt), pulling it on and knocking his shades askew in the process. He straightened them out and ran his fingers through his sleek blond hair, combing it down as he grabbed his phone and wallet and headed out his bedroom with sheer determination in his steps. He wasn't stopping. He had finally grown titanium fucking balls and he was going to tell John he was in love with him immediately.

On second thought, maybe he should have a drink before he leaves.


Dave stood at the entrance to the park, staring at the black-haired beauty sitting on the bench just a little ways from him. God, he's such a cutie and dear God he sounded like a sap. Wasn't he supposed to be a man now? With chest hair and everything? But men can appreciate the prettiest guy on the planet, can't they? No, no they can't. Only Dave can. Fuck them, John was his.

Dave resisted the urge to physically face palm as his possessive instincts kicked in. Jesus Christ, what the fuck was he doing? Didn't he have a not-date-but-hopefully-will-turn-out-as-one with John to get to? Taking a breath, Dave gathered every drop of cool he managed to hold onto in his system before John came around to flushed them away and walked up to the object of his affection.

John looked nice today. His hair was still a huge mess, but more of a fluffy softness then a spiky wind-swept. His skin was gaining a slight shade of tan from the Springtime sun and almost seem to radiate a soft glow. He donned a blue shirt with a light blue windy symbol on it which suited him really well, brown shorts that went to his knees and worn sneakers. He looked so simple but to Dave, he was absolutely amazing.

God dammit, being in love was making him sound like a girl.

John smiled as he caught sight of Dave and jumped a little in his seat. "Hi, Dave!" he greeted with so much enthusiasm, so much happiness, Dave couldn't help but smile at him. "Sup, Egderp," he replied nonchalantly and mentally applauded himself for keeping his cool. "Shall we be going?"

"Yeah!" John answered, jumping up to join his friend on the path. He tripped a little on his feet, his sneakers dragging across the cement as he held Dave's arm for support. Or at least, it seemed to be for support. Dave noticed that he didn't let go after he righted himself and began walking with him, keeping his arm in a light grasp. Dave shook the thoughts out of his head as the shorter male looked up at him. "You said over the phone that you had something to tell me?" he asked, tilting his head a little. God dammit, John, must you make this so difficult? "That can wait. Where to today?"

"Oh! There's this cafe that opened not far from here, like down the street, that apparently makes a really nice latte," John explained, flashing Dave another smile. Dave inwardly grinned. Outwardly, he smirked. "Lead the way."

True to his word, the little cafe was only a little ways down the street and was, in fact, the mothership of all latte's in the world. Dave almost succumbed to the urge to get on his knees and bow down to the barista like a little coffee bitch. But because he was trying not to look like an idiot on The Day (which was so important that it deserved capitals for both words), he vowed to kiss the feet of the manager of the cafe some other time.

The sun was setting as the two of them made their way back to the park, idly chatting about anything that came to mind. To be really honest with himself, Dave thinks that that is what made him fall in love with John in the first place. Their ability to just talk and be comfortable around each other. Though, it wasn't the only thing about him that Dave loved. John seriously didn't know how effective of a weapon his eyes were.

As they were nearing the stone archway that lead into the park, Dave slowed down a little until they were both standing under the arch. This was the spot, the exact spot, that they had met. If Dave was going to do this, then he might as well make it soap-opera worthy. "Hey," he muttered softly, catching John's attention. "You recognise this?"

John looked confused for a moment before glancing at the archway. A soft smile appeared on his face and Dave was thanking any entity that will listen that he won't look like an idiot. "Yeah," John answered equally softly. "This is where we first met," he chuckled, reminiscing. Dave felt a fluttering in his abdomen but choose to ignore it. "Heh, yeah." There was a silence after that, the kind of silence that feels comfortable at first but quickly descends into a suffocating pillow of social death. Dave cleared his throat. "I gotta tell you something, John," he spoke into the breeze. John glanced up at him curiously as Dave took an inconspicuous breath. Here we go, Strider. No chickening out now. "I've been meaning to tell you for a really long time now, a super long time, but I couldn't because it's hard. It's something that doesn't seem hard to say but when you actually go to say it, you get kicked in the balls.

"We've been best friends for a long time. 8 months and 20 days now. And I really think you have the right to know how I— … how I feel." John's eyes widened a little and Dave took a step closer to him. "I… if you feel uncomfortable around me after I tell you this then I can leave and we can forget about it if you want. It's up to you. I want you to be comfortable with me after I tell you." There was another pause. A silence thick enough to cut with a knife. John's eyes were wide as the dawning realisation struck as Dave slid off his shades, revealing his eyes. John gasped as cerulean met with crimson; heaven met with hell.

Dave's words caught in his throat before he could say them. Fuck, not now. Please not now. He still couldn't do it. Fucking don't stand there like a retard, Strider. Holy shit, you've gone too far to just give up. For fucks sake, kiss him already!

Before the words could even register to Dave as a thought process, he leaned in and pressed his lips to John's. It was awkward at first, with John frozen on the spot and Dave only slightly moving. This wasn't Dave's first kiss, no, but it was his first kiss with someone he truly loved. Dave lingered for a moment, eyes closed tight because he was afraid of what he'd see, before deciding that John obviously didn't love him back. Sad and disappointed, he began to pull away when something stopped him.

John stopped him.

At the last second, as he was pulling away, John had slipped his arms around Dave's shoulders, pressing him closer as he kissed back softly and tentatively - obviously unexperienced. Dave sighed in relief and pulled the boy closer, relishing in this moment as if it were his last minutes on Earth. They tried to find an angle that worked for them both and when they found it, the stayed there, both unwilling to let go. The kiss was soft, sweet and slow, blanketing them in a hazy softness as the world around them stopped existing. Only they existed. Dave ran his hands over John's sides and John buried his fingers into Dave's hair. It was a perfect moment that Dave didn't want to end. Unfortunately, the human body requires a certain chemical mix only found of planet Earth called "oxygen". How tedious.

They pulled apart, panting and red-faced, as they leaned their foreheads together and saw each other in a different light. Or in Dave's case, saw John in a much brighter light. In Dave's eyes John was under spotlight and Dave absently wondered if he was an angel. "I love you," Dave finally confessed, staring into the younger's eyes.

It really should be illegal to have eyes that blue. So illegal.

"I love you too," John whispered and Dave felt like he was floating on cloud 9. Seriously though, if he wasn't holding onto John, he'd be floating into the fucking atmosphere. Houston, we have a Strider.

"So does that mean your a homosexual now?" Dave asked with a smirk. John rolled his eyes and laughed softly, bumping his forehead gently against Dave's. "Nah. I'm davesexual. I only have eyes for you," he answered happily, flashing Dave THE smile that made his heart stutter. He grinned, taking in every inch of John who was finally his after a year of dicking around like a lovesick fucker. Leaning in, Dave stole another kiss from his newfound and gloriously official boyfriend.


Stage 5: Love

"Holy shit Bro, get your tongue out of that poor guy's tortured throat for one second. Breathing isn't a privilege, it's a requirement," Dave sighed as he watched his older brother make out with his recently established boyfriend who had just arrived with John to drive them all to see the New Year's Eve fireworks. Usually both Striders would stay up in their apartment and watch the ball drop on television but that night was a special night and they mutually decided to go watch the local fireworks display with their respective dates.

Dirk pulled away from Jake and turned to his sibling, leaning against the doorframe and crossing his arms. Behind him, the British boy flushed darkly and attempted to make himself smaller. It was clear how he and John were cousins.

John was surprised to find out that Dirk had a huge man-crush on Jake; him playing a big part in getting them together. Turns out Jake was the cousin John was living with and Jake babbled about Dirk almost as much as Dirk raved about Jake. It was easy for Dave to invite Dirk over to John's apartment and leave quietly as Jake appeared to greet them. Of course, Dirk almost beat the shit out of Dave for setting him up but hey, he's happy now isn't he?

"You've got your Derp, I've got mine," Dirk said with a shrug and Dave honestly couldn't argue with that. John rolled his eyes and scooted past Jake and Dirk to see his own Strider. Dave smiled at the sight of his own boyfriend and greeted him with a quick, strictly PG kiss before taking his hand in his. "We gonna hang here and make out all night or are we gonna go and see some romantic fireworks?" Dave remarked, leading John towards the door where the other two had resumed where they left off. Jake was the one to pull away this time, taking Dirk's hand and leaning against him. "Come on, Strider. Let's go see fireworks." Dirk mock-groaned in disappointment but went with Jake anyway.

The car ride was mostly filled with idle chatter and the occasionally banter about the music selection between Dirk and Dave. Night fell quickly and cars filled the roads as everyone and their mother was going out to watch fireworks being shot in the sky by experienced men rather than idiotic teenagers and pressured dads. Jake parked the car in the closest spot available and the group of four claimed their spots furthest away from the crowd.

Dave and John sat huddled against each other on a low stone wall, John's head resting on Dave's shoulder and Dave's arm wrapped securely around him as the waited for the fireworks display to start. Dirk and Jake had disappeared somewhere, probably to a secluded, shadowed area to make out or be huge dorky saps together. Not that Dave was complaining. He let a fond smile slip as John snuggled closer, tracing absent circles into Dave's knee. Oh yeah, not complaining.

"Remember when we first met?" Dave asked suddenly, rubbing John's arm in his musing. John glanced up a little. "'Course."

"Remember how you ran into me, spilled my coffee and dropped your books like a clumsy idiot?" Dave continues, letting a smirk escape. John nudged him playfully and chuckled at the memory. "Yeah?"

Dave hummed and inhaled the delicious scent of John's Apple scented shampoo. "Y'know, when you looked at me for the first time, that's I fell in love with you."

John blushed several shades of brilliant red before burying his face into the crook of Dave's neck. Dave's breath hitched a little as he felt John's lips brush against his throat innocently. "Shut up, Dave! You're just saying that."

"Nah, 's true, babe. You got eyes of a fucking siren. They captivated me and lead me to the death of my cool. I had a funeral for it and everything. Shit was depression, yo." John giggled at Dave's attempt at acting cool. He learned quickly in their relationship that Dave did that a lot to hide the fact that whatever John was doing at the time was getting him all flustered. He found it endearingly cute.

The crowd was starting the countdown as the fireworks display was nearing its start. John moved back a little to look up at Dave and the blond promptly removed his shades, letting them rest in his hair. "Hi," John whispered shyly and Dave really didn't think John could get any more adorable. "Hey," he answered back in an equally breathy tone as the seconds to New Year's Day steadily declined. They drew closer as the seconds ticked on, eyes sliding shut and breathing slowed. Dave suddenly made his New Year's Resolution:

To never let John go.

The crowd shouted "One!" and the fireworks erupted as the two boys lips collided. The kiss was just like their first; slow and sweet. John tilted his head to deepen the kiss as Dave simultaneously brought a hand up to John's face to cup his cheek. There was no fireworks in the kiss, no huge inner moment that are constantly described in fluffy romance novels and fanfictions; only the feeling that they belonged together. That this was extremely right and that they were made for each other. It was an impossible sensation to describe but both parties knew that there was no other feeling like it.

"I love you, John Egbert," Dave murmured as they parted for air, red eyes meeting blue in a clash of opposing colours.

"I love you too, Dave Strider," John breathed back and time stood still as the two boys cuddled under the stars as they began a new year. Together.

January was a wonderful time of year in Texas.