Mom's going to spend the next week or two on bed rest.

Because we're killing the baby.

She's yelled this at us about a hundred times. Just in case we didn't catch it the first hundred when she was telling us at a regular decibel level.

She was supposed to go to Aunt Susan's, but she's kind of in this crazy hormone-swing and after she saw what Dad did to the backyard she didn't really want to leave him alone with us. I think maybe she was just saying that so she wouldn't have to go, though-- Aunt Susan stresses Mom out almost more than we do.

Anyway, Mom's laid up and Dad's working weekends to make up for it. Mom gave us a whole bunch of what-to-do's and what-not-to-do's, but Dad says he doesn't care so long as we can keep Mom in the dark and listen to him once he gets home from work.

It'd be wrong not to celebrate.

Unfortunately, most of their best ideas come to them when they're not actually allowed to do anything. Given free rein tends to make them lose their incentive.

The only thing they come up with is watching television they're usually disallowed to:

"Let's see if there's something really good on," Reese suggests with lifted eyebrows.

Dewey asks if they're going to watch cartoons, to which Malcolm and Reese share a look that clearly means a patronizing 'Oh, kids.'

It's an all right idea. Reese flicks through the channels with the volume low, sneaking glances at the hallway in case their mother decides to amble out.

She doesn't. They reach their destination without interruption.

Frankly their TV doesn't get the really good porn until after midnight, which makes this endeavor fruitless; they wind up with something that from actors to makeup to lighting looks hilariously cheap, like a group of friends decided to shoot it in their basement with someone's home video camera. All they get out of it is Reese saying 'Lookit her boobs.', Dewey saying he knows about sex but dear God what are they doing, and Malcolm emulating any one of the many girls by throwing out some keening, mocking moans.

Malcolm is in the throes of an imaginary orgasm when Reese suddenly turns off the TV.

Reese explains tightly, "We've got a couple hours of being totally unwatched. We should do something better."

Malcolm shrugs. Knowing their dad will probably be home before they are, he turns on the television just in time to see the woman finish up her own fake orgasm, changes the channel to something wholesome enough to be caught watching, and turns it back off.

He and Dewey hop off the couch to follow Reese.


The policeman is nice enough to escort them back home.

Apparently making Dewey tear loose with bloodcurdling screams while he hid out down the hall from the pediatrics ward in the hospital could be considered, in addition to being hilariously terrifying to little children on their first doctor's visit, very slightly illegal.

"Now we know," Reese said with a shrug after having all this explained to him.

"Oh, geez." Hal sighs as he opens the door to three grinning sons and an apathetic police officer. "Thanks, Tom."

Their father yells at them the instant the door is closed. It's a babbling rage that makes virtually no sense. They recognize his ire as being due to him preemptively suffering from not being able to have sex with their mom for a week or more-- a fact that would be almost sweet were it not so entirely horrifying.

They're sent to their room, where they're to stay until their mother is well again.

"What about food?" Reese asks.

Their father considers it. Haughtily, he replies, "That's not my concern." and shuts their door with a flick of his wrist. This doesn't disturb his sons, who know it will be taken back by dinnertime.

Malcolm waits impatiently for the footsteps to fade down the hall before he wheels around, grips Reese by the shoulders and says, "This is great!" in a way that is meant to be a whisper but is just a bit too loud for it to actually count as one. Malcolm's strides across the room and yanks open the window, swinging a leg out with practiced ease. His ears twitch in response to a sound behind him to give it subconscious evaluation. It's nothing, so he relaxes. "Dewey, cover for us until we get back."

"Why should I?"

Malcolm ignores Dewey to ask Reese, "You want to handle it?"

Reese gives Malcolm a nod. He says to Dewey, "'Cause if you tell Mom or Dad, I'll cut your face off and use it as a mask every day. Except on Halloween; then I'll give it back to and you'll be so happy to have your face back that you'll go as yourself instead of wearing a costume, effectively ruining your life and doubly ruining trick'r'treating, too."

"Reese!" Malcolm shouts before Dewey can say anything.

Reese turns to him. "What?"

Malcolm frowns. "Dewey, do you believe him?"


Malcolm gesticulates wildly towards Dewey, telling Reese, "See, that's 'what'. It has to be something you might actually do to him or it doesn't work." To Dewey, "Look, we'll get you a toy or something." Malcolm swings his other leg outside and hops out of the window. Reese quickly goes after him.

"I could just go out and get a toy myself, you know," Dewey tells them belatedly.

But he doesn't follow them.


Dewey doesn't sleep well when his brothers aren't back when he thinks they ought to be.

It's a silly sort of fear because for all the times any one of them has said 'This is definitely gonna kill us', it's never actually occurred to him that any of them could die. Besides which, they never gave him a timeline and Malcolm and Reese are both often out past midnight when they think they can get away with it; it probably shouldn't make a difference that they usually wait until they're supposed to be in bed before they sneak out. But it's a fear that is definitely real even though it's baseless. It begins as a restless itch in his legs that makes him pace their room back and forth. It then makes him talk to himself in annoyed mutterings about his brothers because it fills up the silence and allows him to be angry at them instead of worried for them.

Then he finally decides to just go to sleep, so he curls up in his blankets. This amounts to him staring out into the darkness, shivering at a partly-imagined cold and a very-real fear.

When he sees fingers sneak under the edge of the window that had been left cracked for his brothers to pry open, Dewey thinks it's a robber in spite of himself. He thinks of Reese saying on the topic, 'You're still cute, so they'd probably just tie you up.', then, when this didn't alleviate any of Dewey's concerns, he rolled his eyes and said he'd take care of anyone who broke into the house (and he did.) And maybe his fear is for himself as much as it is for Malcolm and Reese.

But then the window's open and Reese pulls himself inside. He turns around, stumbling, reaching out a hand for Malcolm. Malcolm nearly pulls Reese back through the window before managing to drag himself inside.

"Dewey awake?" Malcolm asks.

Reese appears not to have heard. Dewey closes his eyes nearly all the way, looking at his brothers through his eyelashes.

"Dewey?" Malcolm asks. He shrugs, tossing a bag in the general direction of Dewey's bed.

The desk light is on and Dewey can see that Reese and Malcolm's eyes are glassy-bright. Their faces are flushed. They're standing, wavering in tiny, tight circles about to fall but not yet sure of the direction they're going.

Dewey knows they're drunk.

"…party," Reese says.

He must have prefixed it with a 'Good' that Dewey didn't hear-- or perhaps Malcolm, being in a similar frame of mind, just understands-- because Malcolm answers, "Better if we'd been invited."

Malcolm wobbles forward into Reese.

Reese catches Malcolm by grabbing him by the hips.

"Think Dewey'll tell?" Malcolm asks, grabbing onto Reese's elbows.

Dewey wonders just what they're going to do when he realizes Malcolm's talking about ratting out their late-night outing.

"Dewey," Reese says.

Dewey wasn't moving much anyway, but he can feel himself freeze.

Reese just has to take time to go over his thought. "..thinks we're serious, right?…We could do like--"

Dewey eyes open a little wider when Reese leans forward and presses his lips against Malcolm's. When Reese pulls back, Malcolm leans forward, moving after the kiss most likely because of shifting balance.

Malcolm doesn't say anything. Dewey knows it's not for lack of ability; he and Reese have always found it hilarious that the one or two times that Malcolm's gotten absolutely wasted he maintained eloquence while walking into walls.

"…really gross him out," Reese says. "He'll want us outta the house."

"Mmm. No, Reese," Malcolm murmurs.

Dewey watches as Malcolm raises his hand.

Malcolm makes an odd motion that Dewey thinks would only make sense if Reese were a girl with hair in her face. He brushes his fingers past the curve of Reese's cheekbone until he can bend his fingertips around the ridge of Reese's ear.

Malcolm hesitates there, palm cupped over Reese's cheek, then with a forceful, jerking movement makes his hand slide to the back of Reese's head. He hesitates there, too. From there Malcolm moves his hand down Reese's neck and finally onto the more neutral place of Reese's shoulder.

He leaves it there.

Malcolm sighs with what Dewey would call 'relief', like he had pretended away any intimacy of the moment simply by pushing through it.


Malcolm and Reese spend all of their time together for three weeks: They go to school together, eat together, then immediately sneak outside to do who-knows-what together, getting in just enough trouble the brief time they're inside that there's no way their dad will either let them venture out of their room or pacify enough to check on them and apologize. They must feel either a little sorry or a little nicer for it because they give Dewey knick-knacks when they sneak back inside and Dewey sees them putting money into their parents' 'secret stashes' a few times. They must not feel too sorry or too nice for it, because they threaten to punch him if he talks about them doing either.

On the nights they do stay home they talk incessantly, curled up together in bed with faces close and legs entangled. If Malcolm feels like talking about something that's impossible to dumb down, Reese will pull a dictionary (he'd thought it's only real use was a paperweight, before) and a flashlight out from under the bed, and if Reese feels like talking about something impossible to smarten up, Malcolm will turn off his brain. Mostly they talk somewhere in the middle about things that are more subjective than factual and which interest them both equally.

He'd only been teasing them before, so when Dewey accidentally thinks that his brothers might actually be good for each other he's fairly certain he'll have to scrub his brain out with soap.


Their mother deems herself well near the end of the third week, her stomach maybe a little rounder than before. Malcolm and Reese don't see her up and about until after school, when she greets them at their bedroom door. The first thing does is ask them for their rent ('You didn't think I forgot, did you?'). Reese hands it over. She counts it in spite of Malcolm's protests that they wouldn't try to cheat her.

She pockets the money and moves onto the next topic:

"Well. Your father seems to think I've been unreasonable towards you two."

Their mother sits beside them on their bed. She's not so far along that she has to spread her legs and brace herself to sit down, but she does it anyway. Malcolm and Reese glance at each other; it's definitely a ploy at sympathy, they agree silently. They sit beside her.

"We don't think that. You have every right to be incredibly suspicious of your sons' motivations. You especially have a right to question their innermost emotions." Malcolm says. He and Reese look at her with exaggerated, wide-eyed innocence.

Their mother pats her stomach.

And damn it if that little action doesn't cause an inkling of guilt in spite of them both.

"There's no reason to be snippy. He might be right; I may have been a little…hormonal. So. I give up. I surrender; I can't be picking fights with you boys in my condition, anyway. I do, however, want to know how long you'd kept this from me; you know secrets aren't allowed in this house."

"Couple weeks," Reese answers automatically.

"Then next week will make it two months?"

"Right," Malcolm affirms.

"I'm impressed." She stands using the same wide-legged sumo-wrestler stance. Malcolm and Reese awkwardly stand with her as though to help, but unless she wants them to shout encouragement from the sidelines, they've really got nothing. "I'll see you tonight at dinner."

Not having had dinner with their family in over a month, Malcolm tries to guess as what's wrong with their mother:

"Think maybe she's losing her touch, being pregnant?"

"No way. Remember when she was about to bust with Dewey and I called her a blimp? Never think ladders slow Mom down, even if she does waddle."

They run through several more ideas and in the end the most logical solution is Reese's: their mother has been replaced with a pod person.


The following Sunday she tells them to put on their best suits.

"Someone die?" Reese asks. "…Where's Dewey?"

"There's a new family in town. Dewey's spending the night. Now get dressed."

So they dress in their best suits, which had at some point been a dead or richer person's worst suits, their mother fusses with their clothes and tries to get Malcolm's cowlick down with a spit-slicked thumb, their father watches it all with a combination of excitement and dread, and they're on their way.


They arrive at a restaurant that has all it takes to be high-end except for the class: there're dressed-up waiters, a man on a violin, a tank full of live lobsters, a bar, and a buffet, but with bright lights and loud talk it still manages to feel more like a McDonald's than something to put on their good suits for.

Malcolm and Reese sit down with their father while their mother pulls a woman aside.

"Excuse me," their mother says, "I called ahead, about the violin." She points Malcolm and Reese out to the woman, "It's their anniversary."

"Oh, that's sweet," the woman answers politely. She confirms Lois' request, requests 'just a sec', and disappears.

Malcolm gapes.

Reese pays no mind.

Their father whistles nonchalantly.

Their mother sits down.

"You brought us here to embarrass us," Malcolm stage whispers to her, horrified.

"I'm trying to support you."

"There's nothing to support!" Malcolm exclaims. His mother lifts her eyebrows in victorious feigned surprise. She begins her prepared reprimand; they worried their father over nonsense, and what's worse they lied to their entire family. Malcolm recants, interrupting her. "I just mean it's not serious. We haven't done anything more than kiss."

"Malcolm. You can't judge a relationship's intensity by its sex," Lois mothers instinctively. She backtracks to fit the situation at hand, which deserves false advice for being itself a falsehood. "Still, I don't see why not. It's not like you're hiding anything. You two've seen each other naked every day since you were born."

Malcolm sinks, turtle-like, into himself as he contorts something like a smile at the disturbed passerby. Strangely, despite his sliding deeper into his seat, his voice grows more argumentative. "Has it occurred to you that maybe we're holding back so we don't embarrass you? That maybe we're showing you the common courtesy you never show us?"

"Don't try to claim decency. Weren't you the one who did nothing but play tonsil hockey with that girl--what's her name? The plain one. Sarah."

"Sarah was not plain. And this is totally different. Sarah wasn't my--" Achingly aware of the people sitting around them, he finishes with, "Reese."

"That makes a difference? Name one time, just one, that you two have ever tried to keep from embarrassing your father and me."

Calmly ignoring all of this, Hal hails a waiter.

"Now, I know this one costs the most," says Hal, pointing to an item on the menu, "But which one has the highest alcohol content?"

Malcolm, not really able to come up with an answer, looks to Reese.

"What I'm saying is, if we were in a place where all these," Hal runs a finger up and down the section, "came in jugs, which one would have the most 'X's on the label?"

Reese, having been scrutinizing the lobster lounging about in a tank by the wall, and long having grown used to such things besides, hadn't even noticed Malcolm and their mother were fighting. He mutters out of the side of his mouth to Malcolm, "You know, that fat guy at the buffet has sweat pants. I figure they still have a bit more stretch to 'em... It costs less if you want to keep the lobster alive, right?"

If Malcolm comprehends this he doesn't acknowledge it.

The violinist steps beside their table, nodding a hello to them all.

He challenges his mother quickly. "All right. All right. You want embarrassment, fine. You want us to be indecent, fine." Malcolm stands on his booth's seat, hauling Reese up by a shoulder to stand alongside him. He picks up his glass of water with his other hand. "I'll give you embarrassment. I'll give you indecency."

Reese keeps up his own conversation with Malcolm without encouragement. "Hand me one of the rolls." He gestures to the bowl of complimentary bread on the table. "I've got a clear shot of the dude carrying the soup."

"I'll go pull the car around," Hal says.

Lois touches her husband's arm to stop him. "No, Hal, wait."

Reese picks up the bowl himself. He throws a roll. He mutters, "Damn, missed."

"Reese," Lois warns. But her eyes are on Malcolm.

"I'd like to make a toast to my mother."

Malcolm speaks loudly, but it wouldn't matter if he didn't; the room is small and intimate; his voice carries to every corner. Everybody puts their forks down and looks at him. They seem strangely to do it first out of polite curiosity.

"But I think…I need to say something, first."

Malcolm hopes he imagines the collective sigh as they realize it's just some kid acting like an idiot.

"This," Malcolm pats Reese's shoulder, "is my brother."

The violinist begins to perform a soft, dramatic song.

The truth of the matter is that for all his talking, all his complaining, Malcolm's never been good speaking in front of people this way. It's not having an audience per se, because he tends to hold an unreceptive audience no matter where he talks. It's being isolated, where he can't pretend people are with him rather than around him. It makes his throat dry and his stomach turn. He's highly perceptive of the crowd members' expressions. They are, like always, more disdainful than he thinks they have any right to be. Were it not for his mother looking up at him he would sit down with a weak wave and a, 'Sorry for bothering you. Keep eating.' Instead he breathes deep, swallowing the lump in his throat as well as a good chunk of pride. "And we're in love." The response to this is certainly not imagined. Malcolm shifts uneasily. He subconsciously bends at the knees, his brain urging him to sit down and shut up. He forces himself to stand up tall. "You have to hand it to my parents; I thought they'd disown us when they found out how we felt about each other.

"We kept trying to fight it, knowing how it'd reflect on them and on us. The emotional connection was easier to ignore; we don't talk about our feelings anyway, so wasn't really anything different. We could've faked that, if it had only been that. But the actual longing, the need--" he surveys the crowd, including them, "You know." he has to move his gaze from one face to the next quickly; if he looks at one damning face for too long, he knows he'll bust out with 'Haha, just kidding! We really are horrible people, if that makes you feel better. Just not in the way you think.'

Malcolm licks his lips before continuing. The lie wheels through in his head, grasping at truths for leverage. "We had to try harder to restrain from the physicality that such a relationship usually comes with. But then, our mother…." he looks lovingly down at her. He gestures at her with his glass. "She told us to go ahead, hold hands. Kiss. Even when she encouraged us," He sees a waiter talking to a bulky man near the entranceway of the kitchen, so he speeds up, "we still fought her for what we perceived as normalcy.

"But she continued to support us. She brought us here, not just to show she accepts us, but to celebrate us. As we are, as her sons."

The bulky man is striding towards their table. Malcolm talks even faster; beneath his voice the violinist begins a crescendo:

"And we've realized she's right! We shouldn't care what society dubs 'normal', for what is normalcy, really? In the most restrictive terms, who is normal? So we've decided to finally express the physical manifestation of our love! When we get home, for the first time, my brother and I are going to have passionate, mind-blowing sex!" Perhaps he was speaking too hurriedly to be wholly understood but there's no doubt that this proclamation was comprehended. He bestows the horrified crowd with a smile. He continues, enunciating more carefully than before, "All thanks to our mother, who taught us what's right, what's wrong, and to believe in ourselves above other's opinions of us." The violinist stops the instant Malcolm's voice dies. Malcolm lifts his glass, looking his mother straight in the eye. If looks could kill he'd be keeling over backwards.

They all could hear the sincerity in Malcolm's voice.

Reese evaluates Malcolm seriously, trying to pick out every truth based on emotion instead of technicality.

Hal slides low into his seat, pretending to look at a menu.

Although she gives him a tight nod to show she respects his effort, Lois seems to be less than thrilled at Malcolm's theatrics. She looks very much like she's just going to bypass the chase to go straight for the kill, ripping into them until they expose their lies.

What stops her is when the bulky man-- his chubby hand acting as a Vaudevillian cane hooking around a bombing performer too late for it to matter-- grabs Malcolm's arm and pulls him to the ground.

The water was spilled anyway, but it's his mother pushing him aside to get to the bulky man that makes Malcolm drop his glass.

"Don't you dare put your hands on my son!"

"Look, lady, I'm the manager--"

"Does it look like I care who you are?"

Malcolm thinks he mostly deserved to be yanked down (though he would have preferred it to have happened while he was still talking, if only to save him some humiliation), but he points out neither this nor the fact his mother shoving him out of the way hurt more than the manager manhandling him did. It's definitely better if she releases her rage on some stranger than keep it stored up for him. Lois keeps ranting, saying that Malcolm was wrong and he'll make it up if he has to but putting hands on him was still inexcusable, the manager ought to learn manners if not the law. She pursues the manager every time he tries to take inconspicuous steps backwards.

"Usually we manage to get dinner before we ruin it." Hal sighs. He puts his napkin back on the table. "Now, I'm getting the car. Stretch your hamstrings, kids; I'll open the door but I doubt I'll be coming to a full stop."

Reese shrugs. He tosses a roll in the air and catches it. "I've been wanting to practice my fastball."

Malcolm looks quickly to Reese but makes no attempt to stop him.

The pitch is incredible, clearing their mother's head by a hair's breadth to clobber the manager between the eyes.

Reese steps unnecessarily onto the table before hopping down and scurrying off like a squirrel.

Lois takes only a second to call after Reese ('You can't throw food at people outside of our house, either, Mister!') before she whips back around to continue her tirade.

Malcolm shines his best pityingly endearing grin at the manager even though it's a look he hasn't actually pulled off since he was younger than Dewey. He and his mother are the two members of their family who would never be waited on, on account that they could both theoretically survive in the wild, so he quickly gives her up to rush outside.


Having dived headlong into the car and sped off with tires squealing before Lois had even managed to get out to the parking lot, Malcolm and Reese sit in the back of the minivan, knocking into each other every time a corner is rounded until their father deems it safe to go the speed limit.

Reese fiddles with his hands. He throws Malcolm a sidelong glance. Malcolm seems to anticipate it, catching the gaze as it comes.

Reese's arm lifts a little. His fingers twitch. His arm lifts higher, his hand knocking Malcolm upside the head as their dad stops suddenly at a red light. He cautiously, slowly, drapes his arm around Malcolm's shoulders, then stares ahead as though nothing were amiss.

Malcolm looks at Reese curiously. It's not that they never touch. It's just the opposite- they touch frequently both in rivalry and in friendship. An arm around the shoulders can be a fight instigator just as much as it can be something to sink comfortably into, depending on the meaning behind it. But the one constant is that it's always done without hesitation. It's always an automatic way to pull the other into a chokehold or half-hug.

"Nice…throw." Malcolm's surprised to find his voice sounds nervous.

"Yeah, thanks. You too; good, um." Reese looks away. His arm twitches like he might move it but Malcolm sidles against him, encouraging him to keep it in place. "speech."

"Right." Malcolm looks at the back of his father's head. The jig will probably be up when their parents have a time to discuss the events that took place, but for now Malcolm assumes their dad's still an ally and speaks so he doesn't spoil it. "I probably shouldn't've said that in public. Getting up there was stupid."

"Yeah." Reese stares at him, deep and searching. It's a little hurt, a little hopeful, a little sad, a little content and every single one of these emotions keeps Malcolm from looking away. Then Reese says, "You almost wet yourself."

"I did not, Dilweed." Malcolm wedges his elbow sharply into Reese's ribs.

"Chill out." Reese's hand moves from where it dangles against Malcolm's chest to his temple. He draws Malcolm's head gently against his shoulder, ostensibly to get Malcolm to calm down.

Malcolm is overcome with the unique sensation of knowing the situation is weird without actually feeling it is.

"You know…." Hal's fingers drum anxiously on the steering wheel. "There's a lot of responsibility you might not be prepared for in-"

Malcolm sighs. "Don't worry, Dad, you don't have to give us 'the talk'."

Hal lets loose with a relieved, nervous laugh.

"Right. We've got this gay stuff down pat," Reese says.

Dad's always twitched like that, right?

"I meant because Mom still thinks we're faking, so she wouldn't care what Dad told us."

"Oh, sure, that, too."

"That's not a good reason either," Hal whines. "I shouldn't have to tell you to be responsible because you already know about the consequences, not because your mother won't care."

Malcolm's head bobs agreeably, his cheek rubbing up and down Reese's shoulder. "Okay. We're responsible."

"Good thinking, Dad, we should be prepared. We're all agreed: If Mom does ask, that's what we'll tell her."

"No, Reese." Hal says with the voice of a man resigned to his fate, "This means I have to." He rubs at his eyes tiredly.

"No, wait, hey, Dad." Malcolm quickly leans up between the front seats. He had expected his dad's threat to be an idle one. "You told us this before, remember, using our action figures. It took like an hour --"

"Then you won't mind another fifteen minutes."

"Dang." Malcolm plops back into his seat, landing a little closer to Reese than before. The entire length of their legs touch and Malcolm leans his head against Reese's shoulder again without prompting. His hand rests itself easily against Reese's thigh as though it were so near he simply didn't notice it was not his own. Reese shifts uncomfortably, only succeeding in knocking Malcolm's hand into his lap. More uncomfortable shifting neither gets Malcolm to pay attention nor get them into a less awkward position.

Reese shoulders Malcolm away.

"What?" Malcolm asks, quietly.

"Your brain so big you can't hold your own head up?" Reese mutters back.

Malcolm, squinting in the darkness, notices the sanguinity of Reese's face. "No. I just didn't mind…" His own face goes hot, so he scoots over to his own side and glares into the back of the passenger seat.

Their father's talk becomes confusing and babbling background noise.

Reese starts throwing furtive glances to Malcolm. Malcolm's own glances follow Reese's back. They both look intermittently at what they can see of their father's head, wondering to the point of paranoia just how much the other has said and done just because their dad's in the car.

This is all that happens for the next twelve and a half minutes.

Reese slides over. He presses his mouth against Malcolm's ear so that there's no way their dad could overhear. "Seriously, you didn't?" he asks in undertone when they're near their driveway. He tries to ignore the involuntary shiver his breath causes in Malcolm.

"Didn't what?" Malcolm snaps back.


Malcolm's not nearly so good at being quiet, even when he talks out of the corner of his mouth. "If I said I didn't, then I don't. If I said I did, then I do. Even considering your cerebral limitations that shouldn't be too hard to figure out." He pauses as his brain connects to what Reese is talking about. His entire face softens. "Oh. No, I--"

"Well, I'm glad we had this talk," Hal says as the car draws to a halt, clearly not happy at all. "Now I'm going to go pick up your mother, and I hope you keep this little conversation in mind."


"You have any idea what Dad was talking about? Were those euphemisms or what?" Malcolm shuts their door behind him, listening to the hum of their minivan as their dad drives away.

" 'Or what'," Reese answers distractedly.

Malcolm drops onto the bed beside Reese. "What's with you?" He watches Reese with interest, mentally going over anything he could have done to upset his brother. "Oh, right. I'm sorry. About what I said at the restaurant." Malcolm folds his legs up under him as he shifts around on the mattress.

"Forget it."

Malcolm doesn't like apologizing. It always, physically more than emotionally, feels like an attack on his pride. It starts out feeling like someone just hauled off and slugged him in the gut. Then it evolves to feel like he tore himself open, insides exposed and waiting for judgment. Waiting for condemnation or acceptance. It kills him being examined like that.

But what hurts even more is when there's no response one way or the other. When someone just dismisses his apology as something trivial. It's probably wrong of him to apologize for the reason of finding self-peace even if he does also want to appease the other party, and to that degree he knows he ought to let it go.

He can't.

"No, I mean it. I embarrassed us in front of total strangers who might have kids, so we might get our asses handed to us the second we step outside, made Dad give us 'the talk'--kind of--, probably got us grounded, and Mom will most likely be able to convince Dad we were only doing this to pick fights with her. I screwed up everything. Doesn't that bother you? Aren't you at least going to hit me?"

"Maybe later." Reese shrugs. "Hey, I've been thinking." He talks quickly; in spite of what he just said if he thinks about what he's doing, he's going to chicken out.

"But…." Malcolm frowns at the dismissal but concedes that his apology is a lost cause until Reese is less distracted. "Yeah?"

"What is it we were going to do after Mom thought we were this awesome couple?"

"What do you mean?"

"That was the point, right? To prove her wrong? Make her and Dad think we were great together?"

"…Yeah, I guess so."

"Well, what then?"

"I dunno. I hadn't thought about it. It was just supposed to make her pissed, us exceeding her expectations. You know she hates it when we succeed. We'd break up after, I guess."

"Wouldn't that make Mom right?"

Malcolm opens and shuts his mouth several times. His mouth tightens and his eyebrows furrow, obviously at a loss as to how Reese came up with this before he did.

Reese shrugs again. He doesn't bother to explain that he's been planning this conversation for a week; that's the kind of thing that makes you look like a girl. He excitedly scoots closer to Malcolm. He speaks conspiratorially, emphatically moving one hand in front of him in several quick chopping motions to get his point across. The other hand finds itself curved against the center of Malcolm's back. "Now, see, the only way I figure we can make this work is if we stay together."


"Just 'til Mom croaks."

"So, yeah, we stay together forever."

Reese nods with serious resolve. "Okay."

Malcolm holds off on saying anything more sarcastic. He normally supports being blunt because subtlety doesn't do anything but waste time. But the more he gapes at Reese, the more he knows if he's going to turn Reese down on this, he has to do it easily. And the more he thinks on it the more he realizes that the idea of even doing that makes him a little sick.

But that's just dumb.

It isn't like Reese was being serious. Reese was being Reese. He caught upon a good point and then went nowhere with it, a footballer running the ball to his own team's end zone.

This does surprisingly little to placate Malcolm. He looks down at the bedspread. He starts his turn-down with a compliment, "Reese, I mean, this whole thing worked out pretty well for being off the top of your head, but…."

Reese frowns at him, affronted. "It wasn't off the top of my head."

"I know it's you, but--You couldn't think of any other distraction than….--Are you saying you wanted to kiss me?"

Reese's face goes pale. His eyes go wide.

"No. I'm saying you've got to stop acting like such a fag, putting me in situations where I have to kiss you." Reese takes a swing for Malcolm's face, and like always he connects beautifully. But this time it's different; after Malcolm exclaims, "Ow! Reese, you buttmunch!" in response, neither of them try to leave the room, and there's no ensuing brawl to knock books or action figures or papers into disarray. Instead, the animosity just stales, shrivels, and dies.

Reese stands, nervous.

Malcolm rubs his cheek. Aiming his gaze at Reese's bare feet, he says, "'Cause if you do, you could just tell me, you know." He finds himself following Reese up. He manages to meet Reese's eyes for a brief second in spite of the fact they're both trying to look everywhere but at each other. "I wouldn't get mad." When Reese swoops in closer, Malcolm moves instinctively away until his back knocks against the door. "I-if," he says, bracing for another punch. "I'm not saying you do."

Reese stands there, breathing into his face, for a long while, visibly mulling it over.

"All right," Reese answers finally, as carefully as he can.


"I do."

"Oh." Malcolm swallows. "Gross," he says, but there's no force behind it.

You know that saying 'Don't ask questions you don't want the answers to'?

How come no one ever said that to me?

Reese is suddenly so close that for Malcolm to look anywhere but straight into his eyes would seem conspicuous. The thoughts come rapidly: Pupils. Dilated. Plenty of light; could be physiological indicator of attraction. Could be he's telling the truth. But, c'mon, pupil dilation? There are indefinite variables; it's not an exact science; don't focus on it, Buttwad, find something more concrete. Past experience. Okay. It's Reese. He's probably lying. But what does he have to gain from lying? He could make me look like a total jerk; he'll pull the 'I'm kidding' card and then I'm the only one who looks like I've got a gayass crush on my brother. But he's never really done something that vindictive.

Reese licks his lips.

So just assume Reese is telling the truth.

All right, no problem.

I just have to think of--

Then Reese's mouth is pressed against his own; Reese's body is pushing savagely against him, making his side knock against the doorknob. It's amazingly hard to think with Reese's tongue teasing along the insides of his mouth, but Malcolm tries. He buries his hands in Reese's hair in an attempt let his body defer long enough for his mind to find the rational solution. There has to be one.

Malcolm, through having an abundance of paranoia, has long attempted to prepare himself for anything. He has thought of bullies, of car crashes, of dog attacks, of every sort of gory injury he could (and, knowing his family, probably would) get himself into. In his youth he even prepared for a zombie apocalypse until he finally decided that the possibility of the occurrence was minute enough that he could focus on other, more probable problems. It is, of course, true that when these situations actually came up there was often a hitch, a new variable he had to incorporate. But the ideas, the actual, basic problems--

He'd thought he'd thought of everything. Everything.

He does not, however, have stockpiled a solution to Reese kissing him, mouth hot and desperate and wet and tasting a little like mouthwash and toothpaste, minty and clean. To Reese biting down on his lower lip, the veins growing warm as Reese's teeth glide against them, his blood raised but not yet spilling.

Malcolm tries to calm himself; he couldn't have a solution; that would mean he'd have to think it remotely possible. He would have had to think about his Reese's hands up his shirt, making his muscles quiver involuntarily and his lungs unwilling to take in air; heart bloodless but still beating; goose bumps; hair on end; toes sliding against floorboards as he pushes upwards; fingers curling tight in Reese's hair; a keen, wordless sound escaping from his lips and into Reese's.

Into his brother's.

The haze hanging over his brain lightens for an instant of partial clarity.

"W-wait, no, Reese," Malcolm tries, not pulling away only partially because the door stops him from doing so. "If this is just a sex thing or whatever, it's not even worth having, you know? We've both had girlfriends, and I don't know how far you've gotten, but I got pretty far with Nikki and there's probably at least one other girl on the face of the planet who'd be willing to--"

"If it was just a sex thing, we'd be doing it, not talking about if it was just a sex thing." then Reese's mouth catches Malcolm's again. When he next pulls back. he explains this, too, "Like you said, we've been going out, what, two months and we haven't done crap, though---"

"No. We told Mom we were going out two months. We've only really been going out six weeks."

They both stare at each other, stalled by his words.

Maybe there hadn't been love but there had been the familiar butterflies and stomach flips and feeling better just for having the other near. There were near-touches and real-touches and dates they could have faked but went on instead. Neither of them are good with relationships but they've had a few and this was always how it went before they blew it. There's a definite peaceful shame in realizing this.

"So this is for real." Malcolm has to say it, so he can double-check it in his mind. He isn't very offended by Reese answering 'Yeah.' like it's obvious. Maybe it is. The revelation pounds against Malcolm's logic but only nudges at his emotions.

They're not the sort to feel guilty when they think they're in the right, or even when they're walking the moral line, but years of history tell Malcolm that the society they've built up to is one where this is undoubtedly wrong. And if this were legitimately exposed, the general consensus would far outweigh any opinion he could have on the matter. All things considered this shouldn't feel like a secret, a good portion of their neighborhood having been told but, maybe because they've only just discovered the truth themselves, it still feels hidden.

Malcolm kisses Reese and it's warm and enticing. He asks, "Who're we going to tell?" sincerely hoping that the answer is 'Nobody', just in case it's the secretiveness that keeps his guilt at bay.

"A bunch of dorks we don't know in a restaurant."

"Shut up."

"Dewey," Reese's voice is serious but his mouth is smirking. It could be because they're always competing, or maybe it's that they know each other so well, but Malcolm catches the meaning and knows what Reese is trying to do.

"Dad," Malcolm answers in an effort to one-up him.

"We already told Dad. Negative 2 points, Loser."

"Damn." Malcolm pops the top button of Reese's shirt. "Aunt Susan."

Reese, with a derisive 'pfft', ups the ante easily. "Francis."

Their eyes narrow.

Reese's remaining five buttons pop-pop-pop-pop-pop open beneath Malcolm's deft fingers.

Yeah, I know, telling all these people instead of just, well, none, only makes it way worse for both of us. But I can't just let him win.

"Grandpa Walter." Malcolm wraps his arms around Reese's neck, drawing Reese nearer. "He'd probably forgive us for wrecking his pool, but this'll guarantee you never even get close to his inheritance. "

"Grandma and Grandpa. They'll kill you for gaying up the one grandkid they like."

Malcolm tangles his fingers in Reese's hair thoughtfully. His nose touches Reese's as he pulls their bodies together. He discards any bluff as a smile stretches across his face.

Reese's eyes widen. He shakes his head. "No!"

"Mom," Malcolm concludes with triumph. "Have fun convincing her."

"You called her, you get her."

"Hell no. We were calling them for each other, Doofus."

"No way. You have to tell her."

"Oh, yeah? How come?"

"You run faster."

"Over the short-term, maybe. But we've got to go for duration."

Malcolm's right. Reese calls bullshit and insists Malcolm's speedier-- they both know it's not true, but Reese holds strong. Malcolm quirks an eyebrow. He's right on the edge of bringing up several occasions of being caught by Reese and forced to eat dirt. There is, his eyes read clearly, a greater chance of getting struck by lightening on the same day he wins the lottery than there is of him telling his mother the truth.

It's then that Reese makes the lucky discovery that his tongue on Malcolm's neck is pretty persuasive.

"…Okay, fine, I'll take Mom, but only if you take everyone else." Malcolm arcs into the lick.

Well, hell, scratch that. Very persuasive.

"You think hostage negotiators get close enough to use tongue on the perps?"


Reese drops the question, doubling back to accept the offer before Malcolm can renege. "Deal."

Reese gives him a kiss that has all indications of being quick. Malcolm, hands still on the back of Reese's head, deepens it. Reese steps forward into the kiss, pressing Malcolm flush against the door.

Malcolm rocks up against Reese, his own pelvis grinding against Reese's, setting off a chain reaction that starts with Reese's reciprocation: a thrust causing a thrust causing a thrust.

An automatic self-curl comes with the pleasure; toes and fingers bending in towards feet and palms, Malcolm's head bowing down, Reese's shirt collar suddenly between his teeth, cottony dry in his mouth even as it's wetted by his tongue when he makes grunting 'ah's. His mouth moves from Reese's shirt to Reese's collarbone. Reese slides his shirt off smoothly and Malcolm murmurs in approval of the further-exposed flesh. Reese's hand is hot against Malcolm's hip yet magnificently cooler in comparison to his own body temperature when it goes down the front of his pants, barely finding room between jeans and underwear, barely able to find its way down for all their movement against each other.

Malcolm feels a scream or something like it housed in his chest cavity, trying to escape before it outgrows him. It rockets up his throat and he stifles it with an open-mouthed not-quite-kiss against Reese's jaw. Some of the sound escapes where there's a gap between their flesh, like wind underneath a door; a high-pitched whine with just enough impact to reveal how much more it could have been. As good as it would have felt to release it, it feels better to hold onto it. An overpowering energy of want stuck inside him, sliding back down his throat to fill him up.

Malcolm's hands move, resting momentarily on Reese's chest before slipping to the back of Reese's pants. He hooks his thumbs over the waistband of both pants and underwear and starts tugging down without undoing button or zipper. It would be wholly ineffectual were all of their good clothes not so ill-sized. As it is, he has to only scoot his hands around the half of the waistband each can reach, tugging Reese's clothes down in intervals.

Malcolm manages a low, guttural, meaningless sound when he succeeds enough to release Reese's cock, feeling its length warm against the heel of his hand.

Reese inhales sharply. His stroke against the front of Malcolm's underwear becomes harder-faster before stopping completely.

This is--


"Reese, come on."

Reese's hand is back out, fumbling with Malcolm's zipper for easier access.

This has to--

Malcolm's hands move up Reese's shoulders, pulling at his back, fingernails too short to scratch but long enough to dig, to prod, urging him on.

We're going to--

An intelligent comment: "Crap, Malcolm."

Met with an equally intelligent response: "Yeah, really."

When Reese tugs his pants down, they are still high enough that Malcolm is only vaguely aware of the sudden coolness around the legs of his underwear.

He is certainly aware when Reese grabs his underwear and makes them join his pants mid-thigh.

He is amazingly aware when Reese next grinds against him.

I'm fifteen years old and I'm about to--

"Oh, God."

--get screwed for the first time. By my brother.

Everyone wants to be able to say that.

The haze hanging over his brain again lifts for an instant, this time for a clarity absolute.

"Reese, wait," Malcolm mumbles into Reese's neck. He can taste Reese's sweat on his lips. "Reese, get off me."

His voice is strangled and wet, incomprehensible, so Reese keeps on going, lips against Malcolm's hair; hands sliding to Malcolm's back, then lower. Malcolm shoves him backwards just enough that there would be inches of room between the entirety of their bodies were their hands not bridging the gaps. After being so close, being inches away is more than enough.

"We can't do this."

"You'll have to turn around," Reese supplies helpfully. He has the air of someone who knows what's going on but doesn't want to.

"No. I mean it. We can't." Malcolm hikes his pants up, just a bit, idly.

"Francis had a ton of girls in here and Mom only caught him once. We could probably get away with way more stuff since we're both supposed to spend the night here."

"That's not why." He uses his most responsible voice. "It's just we need something to fall back on in case this doesn't work out. 'At least we didn't have sex'." Malcolm nods firmly. His head is swimming. He stops to think.

Finally he continues a little less surely than before. "In fact, we should probably keep from a lot of stuff, anything really physical, in case we can't control--"

It could be Reese's eyes, heavy-lidded but excitedly bright.

It could be Reese's breath, tickling hot against him.

It could be Reese's hand, calloused on heel and fingertips, against his backside.

It could be Reese's cock radiating a warmth that he can imagine against his stomach, if not actually feel.

It could be his own very demanding arousal.

It could just be an overwhelming case of irony.

In any case, Malcolm says, "Screw it."

Reese is right. We've been going out over a month and have barely gotten past first. It's completely okay to mess around a little. We're entitled.

He wraps his hand around Reese's cock and starts an arrhythmic stroke that eventually finds its pace. Reese readily returns the favor, his touch throwing another temporary hitch into Malcolm's rhythm. They kiss messily as an afterthought punctuating their actions. They say nothing to each other that has any meaning, instead relying on one-word expletives. Reese's grunts are louder but Malcolm's are more frequent and it all has a rawness they never expected by looking at Playboys or even touching themselves.

Malcolm comes first, and when he does it's not mind-blowing. It's just a peaceful, easy sort of release. He stalls against Reese, bites his lip, shuts his eyes not-quite tightly enough to keep his lids from fluttering, rests his head back against the door, and with a single spasmodic tightening of his body it's over.

Malcolm will open his eyes to look into Reese's for only an instant--

Reese feels strangely outside of himself for this instant; catching Malcolm at his most intimate, calm and unguarded, unthinking. It's this instant Reese will think of when they tell everyone the truth one at a time and Malcolm's high-strung enough to revert to the old nail-biting habit he'd outgrown by the sixth grade; when they have sex for the first time and Malcolm's saying 'go on' and he means it even though his entire body's unnaturally tensed, eyes included; when they break up on their graduation day-- with both of them covered in the God-knows-what that Reese had had packed dutifully into a canister until it exploded-- and Malcolm's yelling loud with all his muscles so taut he could just snap like a rubber band.

This is the first time that Reese sees Malcolm entirely for what he is, and even though Malcolm isn't in a position to see the intimacy of the moment, Reese knows that this alone keeps 'not having sex' from being any sort of saving grace.

When he comes, Reese is both happy and disappointed that Malcolm's eyes are shut again, keeping the knowing from being returned.

"For the record," Reese says when his breathing has normalized, "I lasted longer."

"Yeah, I'll be sure to write it down in our minutes." Malcolm's eyes open again, first giving a quick glance down as he watches himself wipe his hand against his crumpled pant leg. He looks back up to Reese. Though for a second Reese hopes it isn't, the moment of knowing everything about Malcolm is definitely gone.

With an amazing amount of certainty Reese realizes this just means he'll have to take it upon himself to relearn it all.

*Episodes referenced in this story: The Cheerleader, The Robbery, Malcolm's Girlfriend, Family Reunion, Malcolm Holds His Tongue (offhandedly; Malcolm's revealed to be a nail biter in this episode), Long Drive, and Graduation.*