(Dear god, I churned this update out alarmingly fast. I actually finished it last night but didn’t have time to update it on here because I was being verbally shooed into bed. xD Fair warning though, the next update will not be so fast because I really do need to focus on schoolwork for these next two/three weeks! I mean it this time. In fact, you should yell at me if I do come out with another update at this speed because that means I’m neglecting my work. /terrible student)
Title: Houston, We Have a Problem
Pairing: Bro Strider/Dad Egbert
Rating: Overall: R
Current chapter: PG-13
Summary: Despite all of his cockiness, Bro Strider is still a virgin at 31 years old. After taking in a baby when he was 18 and fresh out of high school, he never had the time to really pursue a relationship. But after years of inadvertently cockblocking his older brother, Dave pays him back by introducing him to Mr. Egbert, unwittingly setting off a chain of reactions that results in Bro falling for the elder Egbert.
There was something soothing about being in Trouble. Just you, the dance floor, and the pulsing beat of the music that fills the club. Bro considered himself lucky that he got to work in one of the finest establishments that downtown Houston had to offer, surrounding himself with the illest of beats as he put his turntable skills to the test. He got to be a part of the nightlife, and spinning records in the DJ booth always gave him a natural high that lasted the night.
One such night, Bro was halfway through a mix when he glanced out at the crowd, and his eye was drawn to a group of businessmen, who stood out from the rest of the mob like a sore thumb with their suits and briefcases. This in and of itself wasn’t too unusual – they got the occasional rash of businessmen, who came in two breeds: those who were looking to loosen up and have fun after working in an office all day, and those who were desperate to return to their youth and wanted to be “hip” and fit in with the younger crowd of partiers. Thankfully, this group appeared to be of the former variety, as many of them were already laughing and loosening their ties.
So Bro wasn’t too shocked to see some businessmen paying a visit to the club. What did send a jolt of surprise shooting up his spine, however, was the fact that one of them was wearing an all too familiar fedora.
He waited until he finished his current mix to line up the next couple of songs and take a break, winding his way across the dance floor. Expertly navigating around a sweaty, giggling gaggle of girls, he craned his neck to locate the same fedora that he had noticed before. His heart skipped a beat when he realized that his suspicions were correct and that it was indeed Egbert who had sat down at the bar.
Bro grinned to himself. This was the first time he’d seen Egbert out of his element. He and Dave had visited for dinner several times over the course of two weeks and became quite familiar with his house. But tonight, Egbert was on Bro’s territory. Wiping his palms on his pants, he approached the other man from behind.
“Hey, Egbert, did I ever tell you how grateful I was to learn that you were a baker? Because it definitely explains your nice buns.” Bro was a man on a mission. Egbert remained unruffled every time he threw out a corny pickup line to get his attention, and he was determined to keep them coming until he finally caught the other man by surprise and provoked a reaction out of him.
Unfortunately, Egbert wasn’t easily fazed by his innuendo, and he simply startled at the unexpected voice and turned around to greet Bro. “Why, Broderick, what a surprise to see you! What are you doing here?”
“I work here,” Bro answered, a little put-out that Egbert didn’t even address his carefully planned pickup line, but he sat down on the barstool next to him anyway. “DJ Strider, at your service. I should be the one asking you what you’re doing here, so I’m going to do that: what got you in Trouble tonight? I’ve never seen you on my shifts before.”
“Ah,” Egbert said, loosening his tie and undoing the very top button of his shirt, and Bro had to swallow to maintain control. “I just got out of a very long and frankly quite tedious meeting. My coworkers and I decided to stop somewhere for a quick drink to reward ourselves for making it through it, and someone remembered hearing about this club, so here I am.”
“Well, you made the right choice,” Bro answered with a lopsided grin. “But hey, let me buy you a drink.” He beckoned to the bartender, a tall man with an impressive red-and-black mohawk. “Hey, Ruf…” he muttered, leaning in conspiratorially so that Egbert wouldn’t hear him. “Put all of his drinks on my tab, okay?” His partner in crime nodded in return, and a look of understanding passed between them.
Bro sat back, and Egbert gave him a quizzical look that he chose to ignore. “Get the man another scotch,” he told the bartender in a more normal voice, glancing at Egbert’s glass to see what he had been sipping at when he arrived. “And if you could do me the pleasure of reacquainting me with my long-standing friend Jack Daniels, that would be pretty fucking sweet.”
“I’m on it,” the bartender said, getting to work and sliding a glass of ice across the bar. After sharing the same shifts as Bro for quite some time now, he knew his coworker’s drinking habits, including his fondness for chewing on ice between swigs of beer.
“Quite the gentleman,” Egbert said, an amused lilt to his voice as he accepted the refill.
Bro grinned and raised his beer. “What can I say? I learn from the best. You’re the paradigm of gentlemanliness, Egbert. Just look at what you’re doing to me, reforming this legendary badass into a straight-up gentleman with every second I spend around you. Better watch out, lest I encroach on your title, Obi Wan Kenobi.”
“I’m afraid you can’t surpass the master,” Egbert said, a playful smirk tugging at his lips as he took a long draught of scotch.
“It sounds an awful lot like you’re challenging me. Are you challenging me, Egbert?”
“Oh, never. A challenge would imply that you actually stood a chance at beating me. I was raised on good manners and chivalry, I’ll have you know…”
Bro had to marvel at the ease with which they bantered back and forth. It wasn’t often that he came across someone who could match his rapid-fire pace in a verbal battle. Egbert was as into it as he was as well, seemingly forgetting that he was drinking perhaps a bit too much, too quickly, as the bartender surreptitiously refilled his glass without protest.
Three glasses of scotch later, Egbert was definitely a little sloshed, while Bro, who had been tempering his beer with mouthfuls of ice was only lightly buzzed. He was crunching down on an ice cube when he slipped up and bit his tongue. Bro hissed at the sharp pain, swallowing the offending piece of ice and touching his hand to his mouth.
He looked up at Egbert. “I bit my tongue. Will you kiss it better?” he asked innocently.
He didn’t know how it happened, why it differed from his other ironic pickup lines, he just knew that all of a sudden, Egbert was kissing him. And he was more than okay with this.
Bro grinned, smirking against Egbert’s lips as he returned the kiss with equal fervor. He hadn’t expected Egbert to actually cave and respond to his constant goading, so the fact that he was actually reciprocating the thinly-veiled sentiments that lied beneath his perverse jokes and innuendo sent a thrill shooting up his spine. Fully aware of the fact that this was the first time he’d been properly kissed in ages, Bro poured everything he had into the kiss, years of pent-up sexual frustration colliding with lust and desire and the inexplicable attraction he’d felt for Egbert ever since the day that they met.
His hand drifted up to cradle the back of Egbert’s head, clumsily knocking his hat askew. He couldn’t think straight anymore. All he knew was that he was in heaven, losing himself in Egbert’s grip and basking in his comforting scent, a mix of Old Spice, aftershave, and the sweet aroma of the tobacco he used in his pipe.
And yet, it was Bro, surprisingly enough, who was the first one to break this kiss. The small fire that had been kindled in his chest grew bigger and bigger until it became too hot to handle and he was unable to withstand the heat. So he broke it off, panting heavily as he looked back at Egbert. The other man’s chest was heaving and his cheeks were tinted pink, looking as hot as Bro’s felt.
“I apologize. I… think I am a little intoxicated,” Egbert said, taking off his fedora and running his hand through his short hair.
Bro laughed breathlessly. “No shit?”
Egbert looked down at his empty glass. “…How many of these did I have?” he asked, bewildered.
Bro shrugged. “I dunno, I wasn’t really paying attention.”
The bartender spoke up in response. “That’d be your fourth.”
“Thanks, Ruf,” Bro said, somewhat awkwardly. He was suddenly keenly aware of the fact that they were in public and that Rufio had been present the entire time that they were kissing.
Egbert seemed to be thinking along similar lines, if the look on his face was any indication. “I… think I ought to go now.” Flustered, Egbert straightened out his wrinkled shirt, readjusted his tie, and grabbed his briefcase. “How much do I owe?”
“A grand total of zero dollars and zero cents. I’m paying for you and that’s that, so don’t even try to argue this point with me, because I will win by a long shot and you will eat my dust.” He held Egbert’s gaze resolutely until the other man cracked.
“Fine. But rest assured that I will find a way of paying you back. At some point in the near future.” Egbert got off the high barstool and stumbled a little bit. “I really… need to sober up before I get home, I can’t have John seeing me in this state.”
“Dude, tell me you’re not driving like this…” Bro said, unable to keep the concern out of his voice.
“No, oh no, someone else in my carpool is driving… If you’ll excuse me, I really must go find the rest of my coworkers, it’s getting late…”
Before Bro had the chance to respond, or even deliver an ironic quip —“Call me!”— Egbert was gone. Bro stared after him, feeling strangely empty inside. He slowly turned around to face the bartender. “Did that really just happen?” he asked, incredulous.
Rufio nodded and resumed cleaning the empty glasses behind the counter. “Pretty much, yeah.”
Bro groaned. “I am not drunk enough for this. Gimme another beer, this song’s almost over, and I go back on in two minutes.”
Two nights later, Bro was working at the club again and spent half of the night distracted because he was keeping a watchful eye out for Egbert. He failed to show up, however, and Bro was in a sullen mood by the time he threw in the towel and headed home at 2 A.M. It hadn’t been the best of nights to begin with, as he had had several disagreements with annoying drunken people who kept on badgering him to put on popular songs that would mess up his entire carefully planned playlist.
He had finally had enough when three tipsy, giggling girls came up to him and asked him to put on a Hannah Montana song, of all things. Bro flat-out refused to do so and told them that, quite simply, he didn’t want to. When they pestered him a second time, he claimed that he didn’t have the song. They pointed it out to him on the shelf behind him, and he was beginning to regret that he had ever stocked the record for ironic purposes. Fed up with snarky broads and their bullshit, Bro pulled it out, slid the vinyl record out of its case, and snapped in half with his bare hands with a sick sense of satisfaction. “Like I said, I don’t have the record.” He tossed the pieces on the floor and returned to his turntables.
While he counted this as a small victory, it didn’t do much to improve his overall mood. It was with an irritable demeanor that a disgruntled Bro left the club and hit the streets. Walking home, he pulled out his phone to check his messages, and the dark cloud that had settled around him lightened a little when he saw that he had a voicemail from Egbert. He dialed his voicemail and put the phone to his ear, reckoning that he must have missed the vibrating in his pocket when he was surrounded by the throbbing beat of the music.
“Hello, Broderick.” Egbert’s voice was tinny through the phone’s speaker, but it still put Bro at ease, and he felt better, simply hearing his voice. “I’m calling because of the… incident that occurred the other night.” Bro closed his eyes and stopped walking, fervently thinking to himself, Please don’t say that it was just a drunken mistake, dear god no. “If you are free at all tomorrow, I will be taking my lunch break at noon at The Purple Cat if you would like to join me so that we can discuss the matter. Regardless, I will see you soon, I’m sure. Goodbye.” There was a click as Egbert hung up the phone, and a tight ball of dread twisted in Bro’s gut. He did not have very high hopes for his next encounter with Egbert after listening to his voicemail, and he had to wonder if he’d done the right thing in kissing him back, or even instigating the whole game to begin with. He shut his phone and headed home, resigned to the fact that he would spend all night worrying about what tomorrow’s lunch would bring.
Despite spending several evenings with the Egberts, Bro had yet to properly introduce them to Lil’ Cal. For some reason that he could not comprehend, Cal seemed to be a bit off-putting to most people, as Bro knew from experience. That didn’t stop him from bringing Cal along with him the following day. He felt like he could use the moral support.
Bro walked into The Purple Cat, a quiet café tucked away in a corner of a business district, and scanned the room. He spotted Egbert sitting at a table at the far end of the room, eating his lunch. Egbert looked up from his salad and, spotting Bro, smiled.
Taking this as an invitation to proceed, Bro headed over to the table, and Egbert removed his briefcase from the opposite chair to free up a space for him.
“Hey,” he said, lifting a hand in greeting as he approached the table.
“Good afternoon, Broderick,” Egbert replied. He nodded at the puppet hanging around Bro’s neck. “Who’s this?”
“Oh, this is Lil’ Cal, my man, my homie, mi amigo.” Bro plopped himself down on the chair across from Egbert and untangled Cal from where he was chilling on his shoulder. “Here, give him a fist-bump. He loves fist-bumps.” He held out one little fist until Egbert obliged and bumped knuckles with the puppet. Satisfied, Bro pulled up another chair and placed Cal on it.
“You seem very attached to him,” Egbert observed.
In that moment, Bro’s infatuation with Egbert grew even more precisely because Egbert referred to Cal as a “him,” not an “it.”
“Yeah,” he said, fondly regarding Lil’ Cal. “I’ve had him since I was a baby. Always have. He was pretty much the one constant throughout my life, the only family I had up until I took Dave in. When I was little, I used to use him as a pillow at night. Brought him to school and carried him around with me until that wasn’t cool anymore. Then I just kept him in my locker. But yeah, we’re inseparable. He’s my buddy.”
Bro looked up from Lil’ Cal to find Egbert watching him with a strange expression on his face. It wasn’t judgmental or weirded out, like Bro was afraid it would be. Instead, Egbert’s eyes were soft, his mouth curved in a half smile.
“That’s sweet,” he said simply. “I feel privileged that you would share that with me.”
Although he would later deny any and all accusations, Bro became a little flustered when he realized the magnanimity of what he had just revealed about himself. He wasn’t used to talking about himself or telling people about his past and his personal relationship with his puppet. But there was just something about Egbert that made him feel comfortable enough to talk about such matters. He wanted Egbert to know him, really know him for who he was beneath the mystery of his shadowy, cool persona.
Still, he hastily stumbled over himself to lighten the atmosphere and the conversation away from this track. He was getting ahead of himself, putting too much on the line. He didn’t know if Egbert wanted this. For all he knew, Egbert had invited him to lunch with the purpose of telling him that their kiss was a mistake, a product of his being smashed out of his mind.
“Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have brought him along though. He’s my best bud and all, but he does kind of make for an awkward third wheel on this breathtakingly romantic date for two. He just didn’t want to stay at home alone. You know how it is.”
Egbert didn’t reply at first, and Bro was beginning to feel jumpy, his poker face mere seconds away from crumbling.
“Mr. Strider,” Egbert finally said after an agonizing few moments of contemplation. He set his fedora down, resting his elbows on the table. He leaned forward, fixing Bro with that intense piercing gaze of his that always did funny things to his stomach. “You are perhaps the oddest, most outlandish…” —and it was not cool at all, the way Bro’s heart plummeted at his words— “…and strangely intoxicating man I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.”
Bro’s racing thoughts screeched to a halt, and he had to backpedal. “Wait. So, uh…. This is a good thing? I didn’t scare you off with my utterly superb kissing skills and planned-in-advance innuendos?”
“Why, did you want to?”
“Well, I’m glad then, because I have a proposition to make. I know this seems a little backwards, given that we already had an, ah, intimate moment…” Egbert said somewhat delicately. Bro snorted, and Egbert allowed himself to grin in amusement. “I know, I know. But, if you are amenable, Mr. Strider… I’d like to ask you out on a formal date.”
Bro’s face split into a grin. “You’re on,” he said.
“Excellent. Shall I pick you up on Friday at 7:30, then?”
“It’s a deal.” He extended one gloved hand, and they shook on it.
While he would never outwardly show it, Bro was giddy the entire walk home. It wasn’t until he made it through his front door that the glow faded, and he realized something crucial.
He hadn’t been on a date in 15 years.