Walking into the Strider apartment, you’re struck by the mess. The place is usually covered in smuppets and junk anyway, but this is a different kind of messy. You pick your way through the piles of clothing and smuppets and broken swords until you find the elder Strider sprawled out on the floor of his bedroom.
“Dude, what the fuck?” you ask bluntly, before noticing the stench of vomit in the air.
“I’m sick, you idiot,” Bro groans, rolling onto his side.
“Clearly.” You crouch down and lay the inside of your wrist against his forehead- he’s burning up, and it the sick-smell is anything to go by, this is serious. “Where’s Dave?”
“I dunno… Hrk!” Bro suddenly scrambles for the trash can by the futon and vomits noisily for a minute or two while you grimace.
“Try and clean yourself up a little,” you instruct him, then leave the room to search for the younger Strider.
Amazingly, you find him curled up in his crib, safe and fast asleep. His face is smeared with what looks like apple sauce, though, and you shake your head. At least he’s being fed. With a sigh, you return to Bro’s room and find he’s still on the floor.
“You’re pathetic, dude,” you tell him as you crouch down again. Tugging on his arm, you manage to get him semi-upright and leaning on your shoulder. Somehow you push and shove him over to the futon and dump him onto it. He groans weakly and doesn’t seem to want to let go of your hand when you stand up.
You check the trash can before placing it within Bro’s reach and pulling the blankets up over his legs to his waist. The rest of the room is still a mess, but you’re NOT touching those smuppets. Not knowing what he does with them. By the time you turn back around to ask Bro a question, the oldest Strider is snoring, his breath thick and raspy with whatever infection is kicking his ass at the moment. Since he’s out cold, you reach over and remove his pointy shades, setting them on a nearby table.
Looking down at his sleeping face, you realize just how pale and definitely sick he looks. After a moment, you head for the bathroom and soak a rag in cool water; then you return and wipe Bro’s sweaty face gently, laying the folded rag across his brow.
“Sleep well, jackass,” you murmur affectionately, and leave him be.
Out in the living room, you take a look around and get started cleaning up the mess. You still don’t touch the smuppets, though. After about an hour, you hear Dave crying in his room and head in there to check on him.
“Sup, little guy?” you greet the tiny blonde child, picking him up and hugging him.
He’s still crying, but he hugs you back; you know he’s glad to see you. You check his diaper and find it clean and dry, so you figure he must be hungry. Miraculously, there’s a jar of baby food in the kitchen, buried under a pile of swords. Once you get Dave calmed down and fed, you give him a bath and dress him in whatever clean clothes you can scrounge up for him (Bro is notorious for forgetting to do laundry).
Carrying Dave on your hip, you return to the kitchen to do some inventory. The place is basically empty, with only a half-full gallon of nearly expired milk and a bottle of AJ in the fridge and absolutely nothing in the cabinets but swords and dirty puppets. Grumbling to Dave about his brother’s irresponsibility, you venture back into Bro’s room and grab his keys from the dresser, along with his credit card. You figure he won’t mind, at least not really.
Then you and Dave head out to the store, using Bro’s rusty old truck. There, you pick up enough food for Dave to last about a week, enough for you and Bro for a couple of days (you’ll come back once he’s feeling better), and some cold medicine. The cashier gives you a peculiar look as you pay for the groceries, and you realize he thinks Dave is your son. The thought makes you burst into a fit of the giggles and you simply can’t stop, laughing all the way back to the apartment. Dave gives you a look so similar to the ones Bro usually does that you end up laughing even harder as you try to carry a one year old and eight bags of groceries up dozens of flights of stairs.
By the time you get everything put away, you’re exhausted, but there’s still so much to be done. You play with Dave for a little while, then put him down for a short nap before dinner. Once he’s asleep, you attempt to navigate the kitchen in order to make a bowl of chicken noodle soup, only to be attacked by several bullshit booby traps during the process. You’re not exactly sure what Bro is trying to accomplish by making his kitchen a death trap, but you don’t particularly care, either.
When it’s ready, you carry the soup, a soda, and the medicine into Bro’s room. He’s somehow managed to fall halfway off the futon by now, so you nudge his shoulder with one foot.
“Hate to wake you, Sleeping Beauty, but you gotta eat,” you tell him, nudging him again.
He grunts and rolls over again- right onto the floor with a loud thud. This wakes him up completely and he realizes his shades are not on his face. He proceeds to start flailing around with one arm over his eyes.
You deadpan. “What are you doing?”
“Shades,” he croaks.
“On the table behind you, dummy.”
He snatches them and jams them back on his face before crawling back into bed, looking at you with an expression of suffering. “What’s that?”
“Soup, soda, and medicine. Now shut up and eat.” You shove the bowl at him.
He doesn’t take it.
“Eat.” You give him your fiercest glare.
“I’m too weak to do it myself,” he whines, sounding so pathetic that you actually feel kind of sorry for him. For about three seconds. Then you remember what a jackass he is most of the time, and roll your eyes.
“You seriously want me to sit here and spoon-feed you?”
He nods, practically pouting. You sigh and sit on the edge of the futon, depositing the bottle of soda and the medicine on the floor by your foot. Then you proceed to spoon-feed him, just like he wants, simply because you know he probably won’t eat otherwise.
When he finally finishes most of the soup, you hand him the soda and the medicine. He gives you that pathetic look again, and you know what he’s thinking.
“No. I am not doing that. You take that stupid medicine on your own or else I’m leaving your infected ass to suffer,” you state flatly, crossing your arms.
He sighs in defeat and swallows the pills, then lays back against his pillows with a sigh. You uncross your arms and give him a faint smile, reaching out and taking his gloved hand. He squeezes it once and then yanks you forward into a hug. You land on top of him with your face pressed against his chest and your eyes wide. Then he whispers something very, very softly and you almost don’t believe your ears.
“Thank you, (Name).”
“No problem, Brotato chip,” you reply cheekily, after a moment of stunned silence.
There’s another moment of silence, a long, drawn-out pause in which you can almost hear him rolling his eyes.
“Oh, fuck you.”
“Not ‘til you’re better, Brotein shake.”
“God damn it.”