Title: Pieces of You and Me
Rating: T/mild M (PG-13/mild R)
Warnings: bad words, slash
Author's Note: This was meant to be the epilogue to "The Best Man." However, it kinda got out of control and therefore has become the sequel instead. It's a collection of 26 vignettes about Drake & Josh as a couple, one each for the letters A to Z. Some of them are sappy, some are funny, some are a little smutty, some are even a teensy bit angsty. They are also not necessarily in chronological order. Enjoy!
Again, THIS IS THE SEQUEL TO "THE BEST MAN," but you don't really have to have read that one to understand most of this.
"Stop laughing," Drake said, sitting back, slightly disconcerted.
"I'm sorry," Josh said, trying to tug the corners of his mouth back into line. "I can't help it. This is a little weird."
"It's not like we haven't done this before."
"Yeah," Josh said. "But that one doesn't count. I was under the influence of an Oprah-induced euphoria at the time and could not be held responsible for my actions."
"Well," Drake said, looking directly in Josh's eyes. "I won't be held responsible for my actions if we don't kiss in, like, the next thirty seconds."
"Oh, yeah?" Josh asked, eyes twinkling. "What are you gonna do?"
Drake leaned in a little. "Very bad things," he whispered, smiling inwardly at the hitch he heard in Josh's breathing.
Josh swallowed, his smile gone. "L-Like what?"
"Shhh…" Drake said, bringing his hand up to Josh's cheek, his fingertips just brushing Josh's earlobe. "Now just relax."
"Okay," Josh whispered, leaning into Drake's hand a little.
Drake brushed his thumb lightly over Josh's bottom lip, holding his gaze, and smiled a little at Josh's slight shiver. He had him now; this was something he was good at. "Lean in a little," he said.
"Okay," Josh whispered and leaned towards Drake.
"Close your eyes."
"Okay." Josh's eyelids fluttered closed.
"Stop saying, 'okay'."
Drake closed his eyes and pressed his lips to Josh's then and they felt soft and warm against his own. They stayed that way for a few seconds, just making contact, and while it wasn't unpleasant, it was a little like he was back in kindergarten, kissing Jenny Wilson on the playground. Well, except for two things: he hadn't been in love with Jenny and she hadn't been everything he ever wanted.
He ran the tip of his tongue across Josh's bottom lip and when Josh parted his lips, Drake slipped his tongue past them, a frisson of desire shooting up his spine as Josh's tongue slid against his. And when Josh snaked his fingers through Drake's hair and a soft moan escaped his throat, Drake knew Josh wouldn't be laughing again any time soon.
"Morning, Laura," Drake said to his landlady as he walked into the kitchen the next morning, Josh following closely on his heels. Judging by the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, everyone else had already eaten and gone on their way.
Laura turned from the stove and flashed him a smile, her light blue eyes flitting quickly from his face to Josh's and back again. "Good morning," she said, turning back to the stove. "Sleep well?"
She asked him that every morning, but this time there was an obvious note of amusement in her voice that Drake couldn't miss. "Not really," he said and felt himself grin. "Josh snores."
"Excuse me?" Josh asked. He was standing beside Drake next to the island. "I do not." He looked at Laura, who was scraping the contents of an iron skillet into a red serving bowl. "Do I?" he asked her sheepishly.
Laura looked at him and smiled. "Honey, we sleep downstairs. I wouldn't hear you if you were screaming," she said and winked.
Josh blushed from the collar of his now-wrinkled golf shirt to his hairline. "Yeah, well," he spluttered. "I don't snore."
Drake laughed. "Josh, it's like a Harley-Davidson idling right next to my ear."
Josh met his eyes. "Alright," he said, smiling. "I snore. But I can't help it, okay?" He pointed to his face. "My septum is slightly deviated."
"Uh-huh," Drake said. "Sure."
Josh laughed. "It is," he said. "I saw a specialist."
Drake rolled his eyes. Looking at Laura, he said, pointing his thumb at Josh, " 'Specialist,' he says. This coming from the guy who has his allergist on speed dial."
"Hey!" Josh said, laughing. "Pollen is a very evil thing."
Drake shook his head, smiling as he sat down at the small four-seater table in front of the window. "So," he asked Laura, "what's for breakfast?" He poured two glasses of orange juice from the pitcher on the table and pushed one towards Josh as he sat down across from him.
"Tofu scramble with salsa and banana carob pancakes," she said.
"Sounds good," Drake said, meeting Josh's eyes.
Josh leaned in a little. "Tofu scramble?" he asked doubtfully, picking up his glass and taking a sip.
Drake smiled, still not quite fully believing Josh was really there. "She's vegan," he said by way of explanation. Then he put one hand up to shield his mouth from Laura. "Besides, it's not that bad if you smother it with ketchup."
"I heard that," Laura said as she placed two large dishes on the table between them. She looked at Josh. "Don't let this one fool you," she said, motioning with her head at Drake. "He loves my tofu scramble." She looked back at Drake. "Don't you, honey?"
"More than sex," Drake quipped and laughed as Josh nearly choked on his orange juice.
Drake sank below the bubble-covered water and Josh's voice dissolved into a garbled collection of incomprehensible sounds. He held his breath and counted the seconds inside his head. His record was forty-two seconds under water before his lungs reached their bursting point.
Thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven.
He broke through the surface, gasping. Shit. Next time, he'd have to take a bigger breath.
When he regained his breath, he looked over at Josh, who was sitting on the toilet looking back at him with a patient expression. "What?" he asked.
"I know what you're doing," Josh said.
"I'm taking a bath," Drake said, smoothing his hands over his head and flinging the suds at Josh. They landed softly at Josh's feet. "Which, by the way, was your idea."
"You're avoiding," Josh said.
"I'm not avoiding," Drake said. But, of course, he was.
"Drake, I'm serious about this."
Drake sighed. "Yeah," he said. "I know."
"This place is too small for us," Josh said. "Besides, the walls have ears."
Drake smiled. "Well, if you weren't so loud…"
Josh smiled sheepishly, a slight blush creeping up his neck. "Not the point," he said. "The point is, we need our own place." He looked around the small bathroom, then back at Drake. "If for no other reason than we won't have to share a bathroom with four other people."
"What? You don't like having to put the seat down or seeing Janice's bras hanging on the shower rod?" Drake asked, smiling.
"I don't like having to remember to lock the door just to take a piss," Josh said.
"Is it locked now?"
Josh looked at the doorknob, then met Drake's eyes. "Yeah. Why?"
Drake leered at him. "'Cause you look a little dirty to me."
Drake didn't know how he ever let Josh talk him into this. They'd been at it for hours and Drake was exhausted. He was covered in sweat and grime, his back hurt, his arms hurt, and his head throbbed. He wasn't cut out for this.
When he looked over at Josh, Josh looked back, a goofy grin on his face. "Isn't this fun?"
"Yeah, there's nothing I love more than nailing studs in someone else's house," he said, smiling at his own pun. He still wanted to smack the grin off Josh's face, though.
"Come on," Josh said, nudging him. "You're doing something nice for someone less fortunate. Because of us, a deserving family is gonna have a new home."
"Yeah, yeah," Drake muttered. "You owe me."
Josh smiled and leaned in. "I'll thank you later," he whispered into Drake's ear.
The foreman, a big burly guy in a yellow hard hat, walked up to them. "We need a couple more people to nail on roof shingles. You guys wanna help?"
"Sure!" Josh said and Drake suppressed a groan. Maybe he'd get lucky and fall off.
They sat in the dark. A sudden storm had knocked out power in their part of the grid and there was nothing for it but to wait in the silence of the creaky Victorian.
"This is fun," Josh said.
"Yeah, it's a laugh riot," Drake said.
"I was being sarcastic, Drake. You remember sarcasm, don't you? It's your native language."
"What's your problem?" Drake asked, annoyed.
"I don't have a problem," Josh said, but in a way Drake knew meant he was lying.
"Bullshit. You've been acting bitchy all day."
"Bitchy? You make it sound like I have PMS or something."
"Need some Midol?"
"Fu–" Josh didn't finish.
"Go ahead, Josh. Say it. I dare you."
"Forget it. I'm not doing this with you."
"Why not? There's nothing else to do."
"Isn't there? I can think of a few things."
"Oh, yeah? Like what?"
Drake saw Josh stand up then, saw his silhouette against the window. "I don't know why I should be surprised," he heard Josh say to himself as he ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
"I'm going upstairs. Don't follow me."
Ten minutes later, Drake stood in the doorway of the tiny room they shared and looked at Josh, who was lying on the bed with his back to the door.
"Happy Birthday," Drake said.
It took a few seconds, but Josh finally rolled over. "You suck," he said, but Drake heard the smile in his voice.
"I know," he said, smiling in return.
Drake laughed at Josh.
"Don't laugh," Josh said, whining a little. "I'm freezing."
"I know," Drake said, giggling again. "I told you to buy another coat."
"You're loving this, aren't you?"
"I hate you."
"Sure," Drake said. "And your lips aren't turning blue."
"How long do we have to stay here?"
"Only until the sun comes up." They'd been out all night and Drake had dragged Josh to the Harbor to watch the sunrise.
Josh looked at the horizon. "I think it's frozen, too."
Drake laughed. "Here," he said, stepping in front of Josh and grabbing his hands. Then he turned and leaned against him, wrapping Josh's arms around him beneath his coat and covering them with his own. "Better?" he asked, craning his neck to look into Josh's face.
"Mmm," Josh said. Then he snaked his hands beneath Drake's shirt and pressed them against his stomach. "Much better."
Drake flinched against the iciness of Josh's hands, then felt a jolt of desire so strong it stole his breath. "Josh," he said. "Let's go home."
Josh pressed his lips against Drake's ear and smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."
"Boobs in love," Megan said. "Gag me."
"We love you, too, Megs," Josh said, rolling his eyes. He removed his hand from Drake's thigh, where it had involuntarily rested as he and Drake sat on the couch.
"You two better be careful," she said, "or Mom and Walter will find out."
Drake looked at Josh, then at Megan, who stood in front of them wearing her blue graduation gown. She held her cap in her right hand, the tassel dangling loosely from the top. "The only way they're gonna find out," he said, keeping his voice low, "is if you tell them."
Megan smirked. "Or if they walk in on you two having sex on the couch."
"Megan!" Josh said, then blushed.
"What?" Megan asked, all innocence. "Just sayin'."
Drake stood up and looked his little sister in the eye. "What do you want?"
"Why Drake, I have no idea what you mean," she said.
"Bullshit," Drake said from experience. "Out with it."
"Well…" she said, looking at Josh, then back at him. "I've been accepted to NYU, but Mom and Walter won't let me go. They said it's too far away for me to be on my own. They want me to go to San Diego State." She looked pleadingly at him. "San Diego State is my safety school, Drake. My 'if all else fails' school."
Drake saw where this was going. "You want us to convince Mom and Walter to let you go," he said.
Megan smiled. "You're not as dumb as you look."
Drake smirked. "Deal."
"Wait," Josh said, standing and looking at Megan. "That's it? That's all you want?"
"That's all," Megan said sweetly. "You do that and I won't tell Mom and Walter you two are more than just roommates."
"Drake, man," Josh said, grabbing his arm. "Don't trust her. Remember all those times she tortured us as kids?"
"Vividly," Drake said, meeting his eyes. "But we don't have a choice, do we?"
Josh put on his brave face. "We could just tell Mom and Dad about us."
Drake just looked at him, one eyebrow raised. "Seriously."
"Well, if you're gonna do that, can I tell them?" Megan asked hopefully, looking back and forth between her brothers.
"No one's telling anyone anything," Drake said, looking from Josh to Megan. "Especially you," he added, pointing at her.
Three months later, Megan was enrolled as an incoming freshman at NYU.
"It's perfect," Josh said, smiling wistfully.
Drake looked at him. They were standing in the middle of the empty living room of a vacant apartment in Beacon Hill. The real estate agent hovered a couple feet away, trying not to look like she was eavesdropping. Drake eyed her then dragged Josh towards the kitchen. "Excuse us for a minute," he said to her, then disappeared with Josh into the tiny kitchen stuffed with gleaming new stainless steel appliances.
"Josh, it only has one bedroom," he said softly, letting go of Josh's arm.
"So?" Josh said. "We only need one bedroom."
"Josh, what are we supposed to tell Mom and Walter when they come to visit in September?"
Josh looked a little hurt. "We shared a room for four years, Drake," he said lamely.
"In high school," Drake said. "This is different."
Drake watched the weight of his words sink in, saw the change in Josh's eyes. Something went out in them and Drake hated himself. But he was right about this, dammit.
"Yeah," Josh finally said. "You're right."
Drake touched Josh's face, letting his fingers brush across his ear. "Trust me," Drake said and smiled.
Josh came with a strangled gasp and Drake pulled back and swallowed, then pulled away completely and rested his forehead against Josh's thigh. He was breathing heavily and heard Josh doing the same.
After a moment, he felt Josh's hands in his hair. "Hey," Josh whispered.
Drake tilted his head to meet Josh's eyes. "Hey," he said, smiling crookedly.
"Come here," Josh said, helping Drake stand. When Drake was upright, he said, "I can't believe we just did that."
"I couldn't help myself," Drake said. "You're just so hot when you're nervous."
Josh grinned. "You're just easy."
"True," Drake said, tucking Josh's shirttails back into his trousers. "But only for you."
Forty-five seconds later, they walked back into the restaurant and Drake slid back into the booth next to his mom. "Who wants dessert?"
Josh was furious; Drake could see that. And as usual, it was his fault.
"Josh, I'm sorry," he said, knowing it would only make Josh angrier.
"Fuck your 'I'm sorry', Drake," Josh said. "You had no right."
They were standing amid a sea of still-packed cardboard boxes in the living room of their new two-bedroom apartment and Josh was nearly shaking with fury.
"I was looking out for you," Drake said. "You don't want to work for people who can't accept you for who you are. I was doing you a favor."
"A favor?" Josh smiled maliciously. "Please, don't do me any more fucking favors." He paused, took a ragged breath. His face softened just a little. "I really wanted that job, Drake. Shit, I needed that job. We needed it."
"You'll find another job, Josh. We'll be alright."
Josh looked away, somewhere off in the distance.
"Hey," Drake said, touching Josh's cheek. "Look at me." When Josh finally met his eyes, Drake said, "We'll be alright."
Josh reluctantly nodded.
Handcuffs. That's what Josh had finally confessed to him last night when Drake had asked him about his most secret fantasy. He could've done without the whole, "Mindy never wanted to try it" part, but hey, whatever. The fact that Josh had been able to tell him without sweating was a good sign.
Drake pushed through the front door of Good Vibrations and slid his shades to the top of his head. A young woman with a diamond stud in her nose looked up from her magazine and said, "Can I help you?"
"Handcuffs," Drake said.
She pointed him in the direction of a small display on the east wall. Drake perused the selection quickly; he knew exactly what he was looking for.
He didn't have the heart to tell Josh he'd already been there, done that. His wrists hurt just thinking about it.
There was something about the words 'spin cycle' that always made Drake laugh. Probably because they usually conjured something dirty in his mind. Of course, the DVD instruction manual could give him dirty thoughts, too. He was just wired that way.
He was chuckling to himself as he sorted through the basket of clothes at his feet. It was his turn, Josh had reminded him when he asked where all his clean socks were. So here he was. Not his ideal way to spend a Friday night, but no problem. He could be just as Becky Homecky as Josh.
Bending down, he grabbed a pair of Josh's jeans from the basket and shook them out. Then he checked the pockets, starting with the left hip pocket. It wasn't until he reached into the left back pocket that he found something. Pulling it out, his eyes widened.
It was a condom. It was red and apparently tasted like strawberry and was most definitely not the brand he and Josh used.
He found Josh lying on his stomach across the bed, propped up on his elbows, a book open in front of him. "What's this?" he asked, tossing the rubber onto the book right in Josh's line of sight.
Josh picked it up and gave it a cursory glance. "It's a condom," he said, tossing it on the bed next to him and turning his attention back to his book.
"No shit," Drake said. "Whose condom is it?"
Josh sat up, closing his book and setting it on the night stand. "Apparently not yours," he said.
"I found it in your jeans." Drake hated that he sounded so petulant.
Josh's brow furrowed and he picked up the condom, looking more closely at it. Then he smiled. "Oh, yeah," he said, dropping it on the bed again. "Some guy gave it to me."
Drake couldn't speak for a second. "Some guy gave it to you? When?"
"I don't know. Couple days ago, I guess," Josh said, shrugging. When Drake didn't say anything, he said, "You're jealous."
"I am not," Drake said. But he was.
"You are," Josh said, his smile growing wider. He climbed off the bed and stood in front of Drake, running his fingertips lightly along Drake's jaw. "I think it's sexy."
Drake swallowed. "Tell me who gave it to you, Josh," he said, unable to let it go yet.
Josh rolled his eyes and let his hand drop. "I don't know his name, Drake," he said, exasperated. "It was some guy with an AIDS awareness group. He was giving them to everybody."
Drake just looked at him, then felt himself relax. After a moment, he felt a lascivious grin spread across his face. "So…strawberry, huh?"
It had been six months since he and Josh got together and Drake hadn't written anything, not even a verse. He chalked it up to one of his regularly scheduled dry spells, except there was one difference: This time, he was afraid he wouldn't snap out of it. It was just that the year without Josh had been so prolific for him, full of angry and angsty songs that killed in all the clubs.
But he wasn't angry anymore and while that may be great for his psyche, it was a bitch for his career. People didn't want sappy, they wanted raw. Sap was for teenage girls and Molly Ringwald movie soundtracks. Real music was supposed to hurt.
Bullshit. Sliding open the drawer in the side table, he reached in and pulled out a small notepad and pen and sat up, leaning back against the headboard. He reached to his right and flipped on the small lamp.
Josh stirred beside him but didn't awaken and Drake looked over at him. He was lying on his stomach, his right arm buried under his pillow, his left hand curled in easy repose in the space between them. Drake reached over and brushed the back of his hand over Josh's cheek. Josh sighed.
Drake smiled a little and turned back to his notepad, propping it on his knee and clicking his pen open. By the time the sun rose, he had the makings of a song that would make Molly Ringwald swoon.
"It's alright," Josh whispered, his voice rough around the edges.
Drake's hands closed around Josh's knees and he met Josh's eyes in the lamplight. A knot of desire burned at the base of his spine. "Are you sure?" he whispered. "'Cause it's okay if you don't want to."
They had gotten carried away as usual, and had made it all the way to this point before they realized they were out of condoms. They'd never done it without one before; Drake had always insisted – not for his protection, but for Josh's.
His last blood test told him he was clean, but there was still that little voice in the back of his mind telling him it was better to be safe than sorry. Which was surprising, really, since Drake had long made a habit of ignoring that little voice.
But this was different. This was Josh.
"Drake," Josh said, reaching up to cup Drake's cheek. "I trust you."
Drake swallowed down the sudden lump in his throat, hot tears springing to his eyes. "I love you," he whispered.
Josh smiled. "I know."
Drake looked around the table at his family, all gathered at the house in San Diego for Thanksgiving. His parents sat one on each end. Josh was next to him and Megan and her boyfriend, Wesley, sat across from them. Grammy was missing, having decided to go to Atlantic City this year with a group of ladies from her building. He'd barely touched his food; he was much too nervous.
He looked over at Josh, who gave him a small smile, then went back to his conversation with Walter, completely oblivious to Drake's plans. Drake looked across the table at his sister, who was laughing at something Wes was saying and drinking from the one glass of wine she was allowed to drink every holiday.
Drake looked over at his mom, who was looking back at him with concern.
"You haven't touched your dinner," she said. "Is everything alright?"
Drake let the question sink in, then took a breath, let it out, took another. "Josh and I are lovers," he said, loudly enough for the whole table to hear.
A cascade of utensils dropping against dinnerware echoed in the suddenly-quiet room. He felt Josh tense beside him, felt his mother gaping at him. Megan nearly choked on her mouthful of wine and Wes patted her lightly on the back.
"For over a year now," he continued, looking at Walter and then at his mom. "Josh wanted to tell you a long time ago, but I wouldn't let him. But I'm telling you now."
He felt Josh's hand slide over his thigh beneath the table and he looked over at him. Josh was smiling at him and despite the thudding of his heart against his ribs, he felt himself smile back, covering Josh's hand with his own.
"Would someone please pass the cranberry sauce?" Megan asked into the silence.
"Faggots," the guy hissed at them as he passed.
They were on their way home after one of Drake's late-night gigs. Drake had his guitar slung crossways over his chest and leaned tiredly against Josh, who walked beside him, his arm curved loosely around Drake's neck. They both looked up at the word, then looked at each other.
"Drake," Josh said, shaking his head, seeing something change in Drake's eyes. "Don't."
But Drake had his hand up. "Just a sec," he said and turned around. "What did you just call us?" he called after the guy.
The guy turned and Drake could tell by the unsteadiness of the movement that the guy was drunk.
"Faggots," he said, slurring the 's'. "Fuckin' freaks."
Drake shook Josh's hand off his shoulder and walked over to the guy, anger warming his skin. "Say it again," he said, his voice low. "To my face."
The guy grinned crookedly and said it again and Drake smelled the sharp odor of beer on his breath.
Then he punched him.
"I don't like this," Josh said, pacing the floor in their old room. "It's too quiet."
Drake watched him pace from his perch up on the loft, where he was lying on his right side, propped on one elbow. "Relax, Josh. They're just talking," he said casually, smiling. "It was quite a shock, you know."
Josh stopped pacing and turned to look at him. "I still can't believe you told them."
"You wanted me to," Drake said.
"Josh, you were right. We couldn't keep it from them forever."
"I know, but…"
"Josh. Listen to me. Telling them now or telling them later – either way, they know."
Josh shook his head, but a tiny smile drew up one corner of his mouth. "Did you have to do it over dinner like that?"
"Better to do it quick," Drake said, grinning. "Like tearing off a band aid."
Josh cast another worried glance in the direction of the door. "What do you think they're talking about?"
"They're probably wondering which one of us is on top," Drake said.
Josh turned a dark expression on him. "Stop it," he said.
Drake grinned again. "Either that, or they're debating which one of us to kill first."
"That's more likely," Josh said. "In fact–"
There was a knock on the door and both of them turned to look at it.
"Drake? Josh? Can we come in?" Walter asked through the door.
Drake met Josh's eyes, then smiled. "Yeah," he called, sitting up and descending easily from the loft. "Just let me find my pants."
Josh gave him a pointed look and mouthed, "Stop that," as he walked up the steps to the door. Pulling it open, they saw their parents standing side by side, matching pained expressions on their faces.
"He's kidding," Josh said, laughing awkwardly. "He's had his pants on the whole time." Then he cleared his throat roughly and ushered them in.
He wished he'd never opened it. Of course, he'd always been an 'act now, think later' kind of guy.
And he'd really wanted to know.
He sat cross-legged on the bed, Josh's lockbox laying open in front of him, and stared down at the small object resting in the center of his palm.
Josh's wedding ring.
He was surprised the sight of it hurt so much.
"What are you doing?"
Drake flinched at the sound of Josh's voice in the bedroom doorway and closed his fingers around the ring in his palm. He couldn't look at him.
Josh walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge. He picked up a couple photos, then dropped them again. "You could've just asked me," he said softly.
Drake looked up, met his eyes in the dim sunlight filtering through the curtains. "I'm sorry, Josh," he said.
A small smile curved Josh's lips. "It's okay," he said and held out his hand.
Drake knew what he wanted and dropped the ring into Josh's palm. He watched Josh pick it up and look at it, saw the emotions skim across his eyes like storm clouds.
"I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it," Josh said.
"Do you regret it? Coming here, I mean," Drake said, finally putting a voice to his worst fear.
Josh held his eyes. "No," he said sternly. "No way." He dropped the ring back into the box and scooted closer to Drake. "Drake, listen to me. I regret a lot of things. Hurting Mindy. Hurting you. Waiting until it was too late to tell you how I felt. But I do not regret us. This, our life…it's all I've ever wanted. Okay?" He grabbed Drake's hand and squeezed.
"Promise?" Drake asked, smiling a little.
"Well, at least until something better comes along," Josh said, grinning.
"I guess that means you're stuck with me, then," Drake said, squeezing Josh's hand in return.
When Drake's brain was functioning again, he thought, We are getting very good at this.
"Yes," Josh said, kissing the side of his neck. "We are." He looked into Drake's face and laughed. "You were thinking out loud again."
"Was I?" Drake said between breaths. "Huh."
Josh slid his hand up Drake's chest, which was slick with sweat and still heaving with labored breaths. "You're so cute when you're incoherent," Josh said, pressing his lips to Drake's ear.
Drake turned his head towards Josh. "Is that right? Then right now, I must be adorable," he said, smiling.
Josh smiled. "Not really," he said, teasing. He sniffed the air over Drake's chest. "You stink."
"Yeah?" Drake said, then showed Josh he wasn't completely exhausted by flipping him over and pinning him to the bed, holding his wrists to the mattress with his hands. "Well, I smell like you."
Josh looked up at him, his hazel eyes dark with desire, and tugged at his wrists. "You better," he said, his voice thick.
Walter was reading aloud from one of a fistful of brochures he'd gotten from the visitors' center that morning. "…The view of Boston from the site is magnificent, particularly if you go the hours the graceful white tower is staffed." He was looking at a brochure about the Dorchester Heights Monument, where they were now headed.
Their parents had gotten into town last night and had wanted to get an early start sightseeing this morning. Drake and Josh had made a very late night of it once they had dropped their parents off at their hotel and were therefore dragging their heels this morning.
Of course, visiting historical monuments was not Drake's idea of fun when he was awake. He stifled a yawn. "I've seen it, Walter," he said. "It's not that great. Take my word for it."
But Walter was having none of it, continuing on like he hadn't even heard. "It says here this is where Henry Knox hauled all the cannon he captured from Fort Ticonderoga. Right under the noses of the British, under the dark of night. That's exciting."
Drake rolled his eyes and looked over at Josh, who was walking next to Audrey. "The war's over, Walter," Drake said. "Besides, the only British person I know is Charlie, the homeless guy who lives down the block from our building."
"Charlie's not British," Josh said, meeting Drake's eyes over Audrey's head and smiling. "He's from Cleveland. He just likes to speak with an accent."
Drake laughed. "See there, Walter? The British are officially gone from Boston." Walter shot him a look over his shoulder.
When they reached the tower, Walter could barely contain his glee when he learned they could climb to the top. Ninety-three steps later, the four of them stood gazing at an amazing view of the Harbor through the narrow glazed windows.
As Audrey and Walter studied the view from their window, Josh moved up beside Drake and surreptitiously hooked his right index finger around Drake's left pinky, his body shielding the sight from their parents. Drake smiled out at the view.
"I'm dying," Drake croaked from inside his cocoon of blankets.
Josh rolled his eyes. "You're not dying," he said. "But if you don't stop whining, I'm going to kill you."
Drake stuck his tongue out at him, then grimaced. "It's not nice to threaten sick people, you know. It's, like, bad karma or something."
"I'll take my chances," Josh said. "Now drink this." He was sitting on the edge of the bed and held a steaming mug out to Drake.
"What is it?" Drake asked, eyeing it suspiciously.
"Cyanide," Josh said, deadpan.
"Ha-ha." Drake emerged from his cocoon and sat up, leaning back against the headboard and taking the mug from Josh. He sniffed at it before taking a tentative sip. Then he made a face. "What the hell is it?"
Josh smiled. "A hot toddy," he said. "Grammy gave me the recipe."
"I knew it," Drake said. "It's a conspiracy. You're both trying to kill me."
"Just drink it," Josh said. "Baby."
Three toddies later and Drake was sleeping like a baby.
Drake knew Josh liked to watch him. At first, he chalked it up to the fact they hadn't seen each other in over a year, but he soon came to learn that Josh just liked to have him in his line of sight, just liked to have his eyes on him.
It was okay with Drake; he was used to it. He had eyes on him all the time when he was on stage.
Of course, they didn't look at him the way Josh did – with eyes full of love and barely concealed desire – and not one of those other pairs of eyes made Drake feel like he was the most important person in the world. Made him feel secure. Made him feel warm and needed and wanted and like he could die tomorrow and it would be okay because he would die happy.
Only Josh's eyes did that.
"Mindy's getting married," Josh said as he walked through the front door.
"Huh?" Drake asked absently. He was slumped into the sofa, watching television between his shoeless feet, which were propped on the coffee table in front of him.
Josh plopped on the sofa beside him and shoved a small, embossed piece of paper in his face. "Mindy," Josh repeated, "is getting married."
That caught Drake's attention this time and he looked at Josh, wide-eyed, sitting up and grabbing the invitation. He read it out loud. "Mr. and Mrs. Robert Allen Crenshaw request the honor of your presence blah, blah, blah… Mr. Steven Bradley Whitcomb the Third…" Drake looked up, smirking. "Sounds like a fun guy."
Josh nodded absently and Drake could see his thoughts flit behind his eyes. He rested his hand on Josh's knee. "You okay?"
Josh just looked at him. "Yeah," he said, his voice flat. "I'm great."
"You sure?" Drake asked. "'Cause you look a little shell-shocked."
"I was just thinking," Josh said, a slow smile spreading across his face. "What do you wear to your ex-wife's wedding?"
Drake stared at him. "You don't actually want to go, do you?" he asked, incredulous.
"Why not? She invited us," Josh said.
"You, Josh," Drake said. "She invited you. I don't see my name anywhere on here." He waved the invitation in the air between them.
Josh took the invitation from Drake's hand and read it. "Right here," he said, pointing at the RSVP card. "It says, 'Name of Guest'." He smiled.
"She invited us, Drake," Josh said. "That's a good sign, right?"
"Or a trap," Drake muttered.
"Come on," Josh said, giving Drake his puppy dog look. "Please?"
Drake sighed. "Fine," he said. "For you." Then he found himself pressed against the arm of the sofa with Josh's lips covering his.
When they came up for air, Josh was lying on top of Drake, his face buried in Drake's neck. After a moment, Drake smiled. "So I was thinking," he said. "What do you wear to your boyfriend's ex-wife's wedding?"
Josh just laughed.
24. X ray
"Stop being such a baby," Drake said.
"It hurts," Josh whined.
"I told you to be careful," Drake said. "But, no. You did it anyway."
Josh looked up at him from his wheelchair. "I was trying to impress you," he said, smiling.
Drake shook his head. "Impress me? Kill me, more like."
"Six weeks," Josh said mournfully. "Six weeks."
"Look on the bright side," Drake said. "It could always be worse."
"It could be me with a broken arm."
"Cute," Josh said, smirking. "I love you, too."
Drake laughed, then leaned back against the wall, looking impatiently down the hall. They'd been there nearly three hours already.
"Please don't tell Mom and Dad," Josh said. "Or Megan."
"Oh, right," Drake said, looking at him. "Like I'm gonna tell 'em you broke your arm while performing a little mattress gymnastics." He smiled at Josh's blush.
"Besides," he said after a moment. "I don't have to tell them. We've got video, remember? I can just show 'em." He grinned.
Josh groaned and rested his head in his good hand. "We are so burning that."
It had started over something stupid; Drake barely remembered it now. But they'd been at each other's throats for three days and the atmosphere in the apartment was toxic. Josh had slammed and locked the bedroom door last night and Drake had been left to sleep on the goddamn couch.
Now, his neck was killing him and he had a pounding headache.
He hated it when they argued – especially since it was usually his fault.
But not this time. On that much, Drake was clear. Josh had started this one, had said something snarky to Drake when Drake walked in the door three hours later than expected three nights ago.
"I have to work, Josh," Drake had said wearily, propping his guitar case against the wall by the door.
Josh had gotten up then, had walked over to him and leaned in, inhaling deeply. Then he'd said, eyes dark, "You have to drink, too?"
"I had a couple beers with Remo," Drake had said. "So what?"
"So…nothing," Josh had said and had gone straight to bed without another word. They'd been sniping at each other ever since.
Drake still didn't see the problem. His gigs helped pay the fucking rent. And buy food. And pay for all the other shit they had.
Like this couch, Drake thought angrily, shifting his weight against it. And that TV. And that coffee table. And that lamp. And Josh's goddamn subscription to National Geographic.
"You're not the only one with a fuckin' job," Drake muttered under his breath.
Drake tilted his head back and saw Josh standing behind the couch, looking down at him. Upside-down Josh said, "I'm sorry."
You should be, Drake wanted to say. But he didn't. Instead, he maneuvered his body on the sofa so he was facing Josh over the back of it. "Me, too," he said.
Josh smiled crookedly. "I worry about you," he said. "I can't help it. And when you don't call to tell me you're gonna be late, I kinda freak out."
Drake smiled back and tilted his head. "Does this mean I can sleep in the bedroom tonight?" He rubbed his back dramatically. "One more night on this thing and I'll be in traction."
Josh's smiled widened. "I don't know," he said, walking towards Drake. "I kinda like the idea of you tied to a bed."
"It's stuck," Drake said.
"Oh, no, no," Josh said, shaking his head frantically, pushing Drake's hands away from his fly. "It can't be stuck." He started tugging frantically on his zipper, to no avail. After a few ardent tugs, he looked at Drake. "What are you laughing at?"
"You," he said, grinning. "This." He motioned around the tiny closet they were standing in. "It's funny."
"No, Drake. It's not," Josh said and started tugging at his zipper again. "This," he added, his efforts evident in his voice, "is so far from funny it's not even in the same galaxy." He gave up again and stood there panting, looking disheveled.
Drake couldn't stop laughing.
"Stop," Josh said between his teeth. "They'll hear you."
Drake pressed his lips together and did his best to swallow his laughter. "Okay," he said, another giggle escaping. "Okay." He took a breath. "Let's just think about this for second."
"We don't have a second, Drake," Josh whispered. "The speeches are about to start."
Drake smiled. "That's actually a good reason to stay in here."
"Just shut up and help me, okay?" Josh said as he went back to toiling with his zipper. "This is your fault, anyway."
"My fault? I didn't even want to come here," Drake said, kneeling down in front of Josh and pushing his hands out of the way. Then he took the tiny pull between his fingers and started tugging.
"The closet, Drake. The closet," Josh said. "We're in the closet because of you."
"Oh, no," Drake said, looking up at Josh. "I came out of the closet months ago, remember? Mom's still in shock." He grinned evilly as he slid his fingers past Josh's fly.
"I'm glad you think this is so funny," Josh said. Then he looked up at the ceiling. "I can't believe this."
Drake smiled when he felt Josh begin to harden beneath his fingers, then felt Josh's hands on his ears. "What are you doing?" Josh hissed at him, but Drake could see his eyes beginning to glaze over a little.
"Helping," Drake said, tugging at Josh's pants.
"No," Josh said, trying to push Drake away, but not putting a lot of energy into it. "This is how we got in this predicament in the first place."
"Predicament," Drake said, giggling. "That's a good word." He coaxed Josh out of his boxers and grinned when he heard Josh groan from deep inside his chest. Looking up, he saw Josh tilt his head back and close his eyes.
"Mindy won't even notice we're gone," Drake said, turning to the task at hand.
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