There was always a problem keeping pens in the lab. Peter had noticed the phenomenon early the first few months he'd known Egon. Noticed that, despite however many pens Peter brought into the lab with him, stuck in every pocket of his backpack, sooner or later he would not only have no pens, but other than the one pen in Egon's hand there would be no pens to be found anywhere in the lab.

Taking the one pen away from Egon had become the name of the game, because Peter had figured if he didn't have any, Egon shouldn't, either. Peter had taken to doing so as often as he could, back in school, and he still did it occasionally, when the urge struck.

While making Egon venture out of the lab in search of a pen wasn't really the point, Peter did find it a nice benefit of stealing Egon's pens. Otherwise the only time Egon would come out of the lab was when it was on fire, or full of poisonous gas, or if the door to the lab's toilet was locked.

That, Peter did deliberately, to get Egon out of the lab. He'd even admit it, if asked.

But there was a point to stealing Egon's pens. It had begun, innocently enough, in an effort to retrieve the pens that Peter lost when he visited Egon in the school labs. After a couple of months he'd realised he would never get them all back, or even half the number he'd lost. He'd resigned himself to buying cheap pens in bulk or simply never taking pens into the lab in the first place.

After he'd stopped trying to recoup his pen loss, Peter continued stealing Egon's pens when he could. He'd sit and watch Egon work, talk to him whenever it wouldn't cause massive amounts of damage by completely ruining Egon's concentration, and generally hang out, waiting for Egon to set the pen down and move away. Peter would snap it up and pocket it keep his hand on it until he left the lab, to ensure he didn't lose it again.

Egon had never really seemed to notice Peter taking his pens. When he reached for one and found none, he would search for awhile, then, if necessary, head out of the lab to find one. It wasn't long before taking the pen from the counter when Egon's back was turned had been supplanted by taking them before his back was turned. Then Peter had moved up to slipping the pen out from under Egon's hand, or out of his lab coat pocket, while his attention was focused on his work.

And that was entirely the point. Because the first time he'd done it, Egon had simply let the pen go. Hadn't looked over, hadn't asked for it back, hadn't even seemed to notice it was gone. When it came time to write something down, he'd turned to Peter, who had been sitting on a stool chatting about the basketball team's chances of winning a game. Egon had looked at him squarely, for a moment. Peter had grinned, ready with a witty comeback. Then Egon had kissed him, and slipped the pen out of Peter's hand without so much as a word.

It was funny how habits got started, Peter thought as he headed up the stairs to the second floor of the firehouse. Egon was shut up in his lab, and Peter... felt the need for a pen.