For queer(underscore)fest on LiveJournal. Prompt was 'There are probably worse ways to figure out you're bisexual than by crushing on your stepbrother, but Josh can't think of any of them', aka the summary. Hope you enjoy it! Reviews are appreciated. :)
The moment Josh closed his laptop, Drake came running into the room. Raising his eyebrows, Josh asked, "What's up?"
"Quick! I need... something! Anything!" Drake started diving around random corners of their room. "I have a date with Tracey tonight and apparently it's our one week anniversary or something and she expects me to get her a present!"
"One week? Wow, I didn't know you could last that long," Josh said dryly.
Drake swiveled around and shot him a look. "Just help me get her something!"
"Well I don't know what Tracey likes—"
"Ponies! Rainbows! Girly crap! Anything!" Drake scrambled around his bed. "She's coming in two minutesand I need to have something to give her!"
"Why don't you just write her a song?" Josh suggested, watching his brother toppled off of his bed and nearly fall out the window. Luckily, he just landed on the desk. "I mean, you're good at improvising, aren't you?"
"Oh! Good idea!"
Drake pushed himself off the desk, dove for his guitar, and then ran straight for the bedroom door. On his way out, he called over his shoulder, "Thanks bro!"
Josh smiled to himself. Then he walked over to the couch in the middle of the room and sat on it. It was always nice to help his stepbrother out.
"I can't believe it," said Drake, coming into the room and slamming the door behind him. "I can't believeit! That totally sucked!"
"What dude?" asked Josh, glancing up from his summer work.
"My date!" exclaimed Drake.
"Your date with whom?"
"Wilma." Drake rolled his eyes. Josh watched him peripherally as Drake flopped onto the couch. "She wouldn't stop talking about herself! It was all, 'I play lacrosse every Saturday' or 'I really like this soup' or 'my favorite color's blue because that was the name of my dog who died when I was four!' I couldn't say a single thing about her, all she wanted to talk about was herself!"
"Mm." Josh continued working on his Environmental homework.
"I mean, could you think of another self-centered person?" Drake helplessly threw his head back onto the couch.
Josh turned to him in slight. "You?"
Drake scoffed. "I don't count. And you don't care. You love it."
"I don't love it. I get used to it," said Josh.
"Nah, you love it." Drake sounded like more he was reassuring himself than talking to Josh. He bent his head back and grinned at him. "You love everything about me."
"Don't get too full of yourself," said Josh, going back to his work. He didn't deny Drake's words.
Josh supposed that he had always had a minor admiration toward guys. It had been there for several long years, ever since he was a child—looking up to baseball stars, actors, singers. And even when in high school his hormones kicked in and he started dating girls, the hormones had triggered a little bit of these feelings of his towards guys too. He had merely pushed them aside, ignored them. He never thought they meant anything.
But many years had passed and long since Josh had broken up with Mindy, long since he had gone out on the last date with a girl, Josh felt like he was admiringguys yet again, even more now. Maybe it was because he had been so romantically for deprived for such a long time and just needed to do something to keep his busy. He didn't spend a lot of time with girls (watching Oprah repeatedly on the TV didn't count.) He was always with his guy friends, at school or at the movie theater.
And he was always with Drake.
It was hard notto always be with Drake—they had been living together, had been stepbrothers for about four years now, right? So of course he'd always be with Drake. They lived together. They fought together, threw parties together, got pranked by Megan together. Josh was used to being with Drake.
And now he was getting a little too used to Drake. Now, he realized that there was probably something more than just admiration for his stepbrother.
It was dinnertime in the Parker-Nichols household. Josh's father and stepmother were sitting on the couch, watching the television. Megan was perched on the armrest next to them. Drake was sitting in front of the TV screen, slurping his ravioli over the sounds of their program. A little behind him, Josh sat on a chair, eating his own dinner.
Josh kicked Drake's thigh. "Move back. You're going to hurt your eyes."
"So?" Drake didn't remove his gaze from the television screen. "I can just get them repaired at the doctor's."
"You can't get your eyes repaired. You'll need glasses."
"Ew! I don't want to look like a nerd." Drake shuddered. He still didn't move away from in front of the television screen.
Their mother looked up from her own seat. "Josh is right, you know Drake," she said. "You might need glasses or eye surgery if you sit too close."
"What, they're going to implant new eyes in me or something? No thanks." Still, Drake didn't move.
Megan nudged their father. "Walter, go get me some more ravioli," she instructed.
"Sure thing, pumpkin," said their father, taking her empty bowl. He walked off to the kitchen.
Megan hopped onto the sofa next to her mother. "Finally! I thought he'd never move!"
"I wish I could say the same about Drake," Josh grumbled, glancing to Drake again. Drake was still enraptured with the TV program—something about drowning celebrities. Or maybe it was boiling celebrities.
Stricken with inspiration, Josh looked to Megan. "Hey, Megs, think you can get Drake to move?"
"Why?" Megan scoffed.
"Because he'll burn his eyes out if he sits like that too much!"
Josh gave her a look. "Oh, come on. I'll do your homework for the rest of the summer."
"Deal." Megan jumped off from the sofa and then walked up right next to Drake. She reached out and pinched his ear. "HEY, GET YOUR LAZY BUTT OUT OF THE WAY!"
"Whoa—what!" Drake exclaimed, jumping up and crashing into Josh. Josh almost fell out of his chair. He righted himself, but didn't make any move to shove Drake off from clinging onto him.
"Megan, what was that for?" asked Drake, staring at his sister, wide-eyed.
Megan shrugged. "Just felt like doing it."
"And now you're not hurting your eyes anymore," added Josh. He was glad Drake didn't make the connection with Megan getting him to move and Josh being exceptionally glad about this.
Their father came back into the living room at that moment. "Hey, what was all that shouting about?" he asked them, handing Megan her ravioli.
Megan took it and grinned. "The boys are being losers, as usual."
Josh almost took insult to this, added with the fact that he had to do Megan's summer homework now—but having Drake a bit closer to him and not hurting his eyes anymore was all worth it.
"I have decided that I hate girls," Drake announced as he walked into the room, flinging in his coat before him.
Josh paused his game and leaned back to look at Drake. "Why?" he asked.
"Because they're stupid and talk and expect me to actually hold up a conversation with them and not want to make out with them for every five minutes! Because they would rather eat and discuss politicsthan kiss me!"
"Okay," said Josh, settling his video game controller down and turning to Drake, "let's pretend for a moment that you can actually hate girls for a few minutes. Why do you think you've only been able to hold steady girlfriend twice?"
"Because I get tired of them?" Drake sighed. Then he looked up at Josh. "And what about you? You've only held a steady girlfriend once."
"For a year," Josh said pointedly. Then he shook his head. "This isn't about me, anyways. This is about you. And why are you so bad at holding a steady girlfriend?"
"Because I get tired of them," Drake grumbled.
"So why don't you just hold off on going on dates for now until it's at a point where it's hard for you to get tired of just one girl?"
"But I can't do that! I can't notdate girls!" exclaimed Drake. "It's just not in my blood!"
Josh raised his eyebrows.
"It's not!" continued Drake. "I have to make out with a girl at least, like, once a day, dude. Seriously." He paused for a moment. "Though I guess you wouldn't understand..."
"Though I guess I could just find random girls to make out with, but not go on dates with..." said Drake thoughtfully. "Yeah! That's a good idea! Thanks for your help dude!"
He patted Josh on the shoulder and left the room. Josh sighed.
Drake's "make out with a girl once a day" plan lasted for a week, until their mother found out and scolded Drake for taking advantages of girls like that. Drake had told her that the girls were actually willingto kiss him—they always were, he insisted—but she merely sent him to his room, where Josh was, once again, playing video games.
"Dude, are you ever going to go out and do stuff?" asked Drake, walking into their room.
"Well Helen said I don't have a day shift during the summer," said Josh. "Just evenings. Until one in the morning."
"Isn't that... longer then?" said Drake, raising his eyebrows.
Josh shrugged. "I don't care. I get to stay up late!"
"Yeah, up late working." Drake rolled his eyes and climbed onto his bed.
Josh looked after him. "So, Mom's not letting you kiss girls anymore?"
"Oh, no." Drake waved his hand at him and picked up a nearby Rubik's Cube. "She told me I shouldn't, but that doesn't mean I can't."
"You know when Mom says you shouldn't, she's telling you you can't."
"She didn't say it," said Drake. "So it doesn't count."
"Right." Josh watched Drake play with his Rubik's Cube, his own game still on pause, and controller in his hand. After a moment, he said, "Hey Drake?"
"Um." Josh glanced away. "Do you ever wonder if there's a... a reason why you're so bad with girls?"
Drake snorted. "I'm not bad with girls." He continued playing with his Rubik's Cube.
Josh bit his lip. "I mean, your inability to be content with just one girlfriend for at least several months."
"What are you talking about?" asked Drake, frowning.
"Like if you're just... just bad with girls in general. You like making out, but you're not paying attention to the actual girl."
Drake set his Rubik's Cube aside and looked at Josh from atop his pillow. "Josh, what exactly are you trying to say?"
"I was just—I don't know." Josh looked down. "Have you ever considered the possibility of you being gay?"
Drake stared at Josh. Then he snorted again.
"That's really funny," he said. "Ha-ha."
"No, really!" said Josh, recognizing Drake's defense mechanism—spelling away the awkward with more awkward. "I mean, you're never good with girls, ever, and all you really seem to care about is the-the physical aspect of it, but there's always just the slight possibility that you're just not meant to—"
"Josh," interrupted Drake. "I'm not gay, okay?" He held his hands up. "I'm not." He slid off his bed.
Josh helplessly looked after him. "Are you sure about that?" he asked. "Have you even considered liking guys at all?"
"Josh, I may not know a lot of things," said Drake, heading toward the door. "But I do know that I'm not gay. I don't have anything against them. I'm just not."
"But," Josh started, but Drake was already gone.
The next few days were awkward—they didn't talk about what they had talked about, but it was still in both of their minds. Josh soon realized that he had said the wrong thing at the wrong place at the wrong time. Drake was behaving colder to him than usual—though Drake usually wasn't cold toward him at all, and it hurt. He didn't want Drake to be unhappy, especially if it was his fault.
His mother seemed to notice within a couple of days' time. His dad and Megan blissfully didn't see a thing.
"What's up with you and Drake?" his mother asked as they were setting the table for dinner on Wednesday.
Josh looked at her, a look of feigned innocence on his face. "What are you talking about?" His voice went up a few octaves.
His mother rolled her eyes. "Oh, you know what I mean," she said. "He's been ignoring you lately. Get into a fight?"
Josh nodded numbly, not knowing what to say.
His mother sighed.
"It's so sad, you two," she said. "Sometimes you get along so perfectly well it's like you're best friends more than brothers. And sometimes you guys really fight like you hate each other." She sighed again. "There's no middle ground between you two."
Josh smiled weakly. "That's us."
"Honestly, I'd say like you and Drake are in love with each other."
Josh nearly dropped the stack of plates he was holding. "W-What?" he practically shouted.
"Like an old married couple," said his mother, glancing at him. "The way you two are, you're practically married anyways. Even though you're brothers."
"Y-Yeah..." said Josh, straightening his posture and clearing his throat. "We're brothers."
Were they really like a couple? Married? Josh didn't know what to think of that—though some part of his brain certainly enjoyed the idea (he ignored this part). It was just strange. And yet, Josh realized that it was somewhat true.
But couples be damned. Josh wanted to make it up to Drake—what he had said, what he implied, whatever it did to set Drake off. He wanted Drake back, as a brother, as a friend. He knew Drake would come back somehow—he alwaysdid—but, for once, Josh wanted to be the one to get him back.
He knew this was the result of having a crush on his stepbrother. And actually admitting it to himself felt sort of good. But there were probably better ways of realizing that he was bisexual. It was just that this was the way Josh had figured it out. It could have been worse—or better.
Regardless, Josh acted on feelings and feelings alone. When the weekend rolled around, he got Drake middle-of-the-theater, preordered tickets for Robot Zombies, a movie that he knew that Drake wanted to see as soon as it came out. Which it did, that weekend.
Drake looked at Josh, and then took the tickets slowly. "This isn't some trick, is it?"
"Why would I trick you?" asked Josh, genuinely bewildered.
Drake shook his head. "Just wondering. Why'd you get me two?"
"Oh, in case you had a hot date this evening." Though Josh's gut burned at the very thought.
Drake looked down at the two tickets, and then back at Josh again. "Well I don't, and you're here," he said. "We might as well go together."
That, Josh hadn't been expecting. But he accepted with glee, anyways.
Josh checked the stove, adjusted the oven, and grabbed the china from the cupboard to set the table. He had just finished putting the silverware down when he heard the front door open, and then Drake walked into the kitchen.
Josh quickly ran over to him and slapped his hand over Drake's face.
"Ow!" shouted Drake. "What are you doing?" He flailed about.
"You're not supposed to see!"
"Get—offme, Josh!" Drake managed to grab Josh's wrist and threw it down. Josh's skin tingled where he had touched it.
Drake looked around the kitchen. "What's going on? What did you do that for?"
"I'm making dinner today!" said Josh happily.
Drake glanced around warily. "And why did you feel like it was necessary to assault me as soon as I came in here."
Josh did his best not to blush, although he assumed that his best wasn't very good. "I'm making your favorite," he said. "Mac'n'cheese and ice cream cake with gummy worms."
"Why is the stove on? Can't you just microwave the mac'n'cheese?" asked Drake.
Josh did his best not to blush even harder. That failure was even worse. "I'm making it from scratch."
Silence. Josh turned around, his cheeks still pink, to see Drake at a loss for words.
Josh paced up and down his bedroom nervously, wringing his wrists. Would Drake like it? Would he hate it? No... of course he'd like it; he liked nearly anything that Josh bought for him, especially if it was something that had to do with his guitar (the one thing Drake liked more than girls.) But what if he thought it was cheesy? What if he thought it was useless? Or—even worse, what if he already had another one?
He nearly jumped at the sound of the door opening. Drake stood there, and stopped when he saw Josh looking like he was going to tear out his hair.
"Um, Josh?" he said, taking one step forward. "What's up?"
"I... have something to give you," said Josh, and ran over to the coffee table in front of the television to hide the case from Drake's view.
Drake followed him. "Okay..." he said. "What is it?"
"This." Josh thrust the case forward. He avoided looking Drake in the eye.
Drake was quiet for a moment. Then he said, "Dude, what isthis?"
"It-It's a new bass, since I know yours broke ages ago and you really wanted a new one, except you never had the money and Mom and Dad never wanted to buy you one, so—"
"I mean, dude!" Drake took the bass case and opened it, and then took out the bass. "Seriously, what did I do to deserve this? Allof this? Is it like, my birthday or something?"
"No, your birthday's not for a long time," said Josh, somewhat amused. "I just—I wanted you to be happier, so I just did some stuff and got you some—stuff." He broke off, his cheeks flushing.
Arms suddenly wrapped around him. Josh was stunned for a very long moment, in Drake's embrace.
"Thanks Josh," said Drake, once he broke away. "You really didn't have to—thanks." He smiled at Josh.
Josh smiled back.
It was something of a surprise when Josh, while scrubbing the counter, heard someone yell, "JOSH!"
Josh looked up. There, running in from the movie theater entrance, was Drake.
"Hey," said Josh, putting his rag down and grinning at Drake. "What's up? Gonna see a movie?"
"Not today," said Drake breathlessly. He gripped onto the counter to steady himself. Then he took out something from his jacket pocket.
"Today, we're going to see Oprah!"
Josh was stunned. "Oprah?" he squeaked.
"Oprah," Drake confirmed.
"But... but didn't she have a restraining order against me?" Josh recalled that time he had accidentally run her over.
"Not anymore," said Drake, grinning. "I talked to her and her lawyers and whatever and told them that it was an accident."
"Really?" said Josh. "You convinced Oprah Winfrey and her lawsuit that I didn't do anything wrong?"
"Well, I might have mentioned it was just really Walter who looks like you," said Drake shrugging. "But now we get to see Oprah!"
"We do!" Josh positively squealed. He couldn't believe it. He grabbed Drake's jacket lapels and kissed him straight on the mouth.
It was a normal thing they did, he knew, when they were overwhelmed with emotion. No one stared. No one asked questions.
And when Josh pulled away, Drake, though slightly dazed, looked as happy as he had been before.
But Josh couldn't help it. Drake had tasted wonderful when he had kissed him, and he realized why girls liked kissing him so much, why they were so willing. While Drake hadn't responded at all (he never did) to that past kiss, he still tasted insanely nice. Josh didn't know how to explain it.
What was more, kissing Drake was ten times better than when they had gone to see the Oprah Winfrey show that Saturday.
Josh wanted more. He'd kissed Drake so many times, but never before had he kissed him with the knowledge of wanting him. And Josh wanted Drake.
A few afternoons later, he was in their room, contemplating his feelings. He was so focused on his thoughts that he didn't even notice when his character in his video kept dying over and over and over again. And again.
The door opened. Josh suddenly felt the couch dip beneath him, and looked to the side to see Drake sitting next to him.
"Dude, you've wasted all your lives," said Drake, nodding toward the television screen where the words GAME OVER blared.
"What? Oh." Josh looked at it. "Yeah. I guess I did."
"I'll play with you so you don't suck as much." Drake grabbed a nearby controller, turned it on, and they started playing.
Josh was very aware of how close Drake was sitting next to him, how their bodies were pressed together. Had they always been like this? And Josh had only just noticed it now?
He watched Drake from his peripheral vision. Drake was focused on the game, his eyebrows furrowing in concentration. His body moved with him as he pressed on the button furiously, and he was biting his lips... Drake's lips...
Josh didn't know what overcame him, but in one second he was leaning over and kissing Drake—and in the next Drake was shoving him off.
"Josh, what the hell?" shouted Drake. It was rare when any of them swore.
Josh looked down into his lap. "I—I'm sorry..."
"Is that what this is all about?" Drake yelled, throwing the controller down. Josh looked back up. He had never seen Drake look so angry.
"All of this? All of this being nice to me, getting me tickets, making me dinner, buying a guitar? Asking if I liked guys?" Drake grabbed a random stuffed animal—Josh's stuffed animal—and threw it to the ground, out of anger and frustration. "Because you liked me? Are yougay, Josh?"
"I'm not!" said Josh hurriedly. "I'm not, I—I like guys and girls, but right now I only like you..."
"That's great!" said Drake sarcastically. "Just great! Why don't you go and tell me that you like Megan, too!"
They both paused for a moment. And shuddered.
"Well it doesn't matter," Drake continued. "You're not supposed to like me! You can'tlike me! We—We're brothers!"
Josh kept his head down.
"I'm out of here," said Drake, and then he left the room.
Josh wished that there was some other way that he could figure out that he was bisexual. He wished that there was a better way.
Surely, there were worse ways, though. Right?
Josh couldn't think of any.
Megan and his dad did notice their silence the next week this time. Josh supposed this was because their silence was more prominent.
"What's up with you and Drake?" asked Megan as she bounced a soccer ball against Josh's head in the living room.
"Nothing," mumbled Josh. He stared at the TV screen. It was off.
"You're a bad liar," said Megan. She stopped bouncing the soccer ball and hopped onto the couch next to Josh. "Now tell me. I don't wanthimmaking you miserable when that's supposed to be my job."
Josh barely managed to smile at her. "Yeah." He thought for a moment. "Um... Megan. You wouldn't care if I'm—if I were gay, right?"
"Why, are you?" said Megan eagerly. "Then I can come up with more names to call you—right." She stopped when she saw the look on Josh's face.
"I... I'm not, really," said Josh. "I like guys andgirls. Except right now I sort of—sort of like Drake."
"Drake?" Megan crinkled her nose. "Ew. Isn't that like, incest?"
"Maybe for you!" said Josh defensively. "Technically, we'renot related! You and I aren't even related!"
"Oh. Right." Megan nodded. "True. It's just that you two are both such boobs that I forget stuff like this."
"Can we focus?" said Josh impatiently.
Megan rolled her eyes. "All right, all right. So you like Drake. What's the big deal?"
"Well he obviouslydoesn't like me back..."
"How do you know this?" Megan asked.
"Well," said Josh, shifting uncomfortably. "I sorta kissed him and he might've... yelled at me. A little."
"A little?" Megan raised her eyebrows.
"You know how Drake is," said Josh. His cheeks heated up.
"But he didn't say he didn't like you, right?" said Megan.
"He didn't need to! It was implied!"
"He's a boy, Josh. If he didn't like you, he would have just said so. You should know that." Megan rolled her eyes. "And if he did, he would just be in denial about it. Youknow how Drake is."
"Yeah, but all of his girlfriends..."
Megan got up from a couch and threw her soccer ball at Josh for one last time. "You are hopeless," she declared, and then marched out of the living room without an explanation.
Josh did notice that Drake was starting to date less and less, even if they currently weren't speaking to one another. Josh didn't even bother making an attempt; he knew that any indication that he was trying to talk to Drake again would be shut down immediately. So he observed from a distance, from his post at the movie theater, from across the table during mealtimes, from his bed at late nights when Drake would creep in, thinking that Josh was already asleep.
Josh thought over Megan's words. Then he thought over Drake's. "We're supposed to be brothers!"he had shouted. They were supposed to be brothers. Step-brothers. Josh still liked him, though. It didn't change a thing.
He did wonder if Megan was right. If Drake really did like him. If Josh was only one half of their "married couple" fights, one half of who initiated their accidental kisses first. If Drake unknowingly felt the same way.
So Josh did the only thing one could think of to do when in his situation.
He dated other guys.
At first, he had tried online. Then he realized how stupid he was being, and instead asked out the only guy he knew who was gay at their school, Anthony Rivers.
He called him, and they both agreed that they should go out to the theater. Anthony had been surprised, but pleasantly so when Josh revealed to him that he was bi. It was the first time he had told someone directly—since he hadn't told Drake, per se, and with Megan he sort of used different wording—but it felt nice, telling someone.
He arrived at the cinema (it wasn't his shift today) in the afternoon. Drake, he noted, was busy making out with a girl at a nearby table. Something in Josh's gut twanged with jealousy, but he ignored it.
"Hey," he greeted when he saw Anthony at a table near the back, waiting for him.
Anthony smiled. He was a dark-haired, dark-eyed boy who had been in Josh's history class back in sophomore year. "Hey," he said back.
"Want me to get us some food?" Josh offered.
Anthony shook his head. "Nah, I'll get it," he said. "I'll pay, too."
"You don't really—" Josh started, but Anthony merely just shot him a grin and walked over to the counter.
Josh sighed, a bit happy. If he wasn't so obsessed with Drake, he wouldn't mind being Anthony's boyfriend.
Anthony came back with their food (two hotdogs, fries and soda) within minutes, and they started talking while eating dinner. Anthony, Josh discovered, was pretty smart, having had high B's and low A's in all his classes last year, in junior year. Anthony had won the Junior League Tennis match last year, and also was incredibly talented with the piano. Josh was impressed. He always did like instrumentalists.
When they were done their meal, Josh was about to get up to throw their trash away—when Anthony reached out and touched a spot near Josh's mouth.
"You have some mustard right there," he said, then leaned forward and kissed Josh.
It was light, but Josh couldn't deny that it was nice. Not as quiteas nice as it had been when he and Drake had kissed, but—still nice.
And when Josh pulled away, smiling, he glanced around briefly to see that Drake was no longer lip-locked with the girl he had been kissing before, but was staring at him and Anthony intently.
True, the date with Anthony had gone over pretty well. They had left on pleasant terms (though they didn't kiss again), and Josh thought that they could be pretty good friends.
But he actually didn't want to be Anthony's boyfriend, when he thought about it for the next few days. Anthony was nice and certainly talented, but—his academic intelligence felt too... strange. Josh was smart enough on his own, and though he appreciated someone he could have an interesting, knowledgeable conversation with, it just felt too formal. It was one of the main reasons he had broken up with Mindy; two smart people made good friends, not good boyfriends and girlfriends. Or, in this case, boyfriends and boyfriends. Josh wanted someone less smart, more interesting.
So about a couple of days later, he decided to ask someone else out. He and Drake still weren't speaking, but now Josh had something to keep him occupied.
There had always been rumors in their school that a guy named Mark was bi, so Josh took his chances and asked him out on Thursday. Luckily, Mark had said yes. Apparently he was.
Again, their date was at the cinema, which Josh didn't mind at all—he did, after all, have employee discounts (even though Helen forgot that he worked there from time to time.) He didn't even let Mark offer to pay, because as soon as he got there, he announced that he was.
"Great," said Mark, flicking the blond hair out of his face. "I don't have much money, anyways."
Josh was irritated, but it was an endearing sort of irritated. The feeling felt oddly familiar.
He went over to the counter and ordered nachos, fries and drinks. He carried the food over back to their table.
"Thanks," said Mark, grabbing a nacho. "Sorry, I hadn't really thought about what exactly we'd be doing on our date."
"It's all right," said Josh, and dug into his food as well.
"So," said Mark after a few moments of silence. "How's your summer been?"
"Oh... good, you know," said Josh, shrugging. "Mostly been working on my homework, actually."
"Nerdy, are you?" Mark chuckled.
"Hey!" Josh didn't know if he should be offended or not.
Mark waved his hand and smiled. "It's okay. I like that in a guy. Makes up for the brains I don't have."
"Oh, really?" Josh was pleased to hear that he actually likedhis intelligence. That was a first. "What about you? Your summer?"
"I play guitar," said Mark. "Been working on getting a band together, makin' some music."
"Oh! My stepbrother's in a band!" As soon as the words left his mouth, Josh immediately regretted saying it. The stepbrother who'd been ignoring him for two weeks now.
But Mark looked interested. "Yeah? Drake Parker, right?"
"Er, yeah," said Josh. "He's—They're sort of on hiatus now. So we—there's nothing interesting going on, really."
"Aw man, that sucks," said Mark.
They ate and talked some more. At one point, Mark asked him,
"Josh, why did you ask me out?"
Josh hesitated. Because I thought you were bi, probably wouldn't work as an answer. He didn't want to seem too desperate. He looked into Mark's eyes, and admired the lock of blond hair that fell in the middle of his forehead.
"Because you're cute," he told him.
At that moment, Drake entered the movie theater.
Josh and Mark hadhit it off rather nicely, but Josh realized that blonds weren't his type. He told this to Mark, and Mark laughed and told him that it was okay, because brunets weren't really his type either.
He didn't really look for any dates after that. But apparently dates were looking for him. Because just a few days after his rather nice date with Mark, Josh was on a replacement afternoon shift at the cinema again when a dark-haired boy walked up to the counter and asked him baldly, "Are you single?"
"Er, um." Josh glanced around. He pointed to himself. "Are you talking to me?"
"Yeah," said the boy.
"Uh," said Josh. "I guess not. Why?"
"I noticed that you've been on some dates with guys here," said the boy. "And, I dunno, I was just wondering if you wanted to go out with me sometime? And you're kind of hot."
"Oh." Josh was extremely flattered. "Well, my shift's almost over right now, so I guess... we can catch a movie, if you want?"
The boy's face brightened up. "Great! I'm Nathan, by the way."
"Josh." Josh smiled and checked his watch, just as it turned five o'clock. "And now I'm free. For today, at least."
"Do you work here every day?" asked Nathan.
"Well, not everyday. Just weekdays at night, usually," explained Josh. "And whenever Helen calls me in."
"The scary one?"
"Yeah, that's her." Josh chuckled.
They went to see a movie—a comedy, which both Josh and Nathan enjoyed and laughed along with. When they were done, they both agreed to eat dinner here at the theater. Josh got them food.
"So do you come to the theater a lot?" asked Josh interestedly, over their nachos.
Nathan nodded. "Yeah. Whenever I can get away from doing homework, at least." He rolled his eyes.
"I find homework to be very fun, thank you very much," said Josh, though Nathan just laughed at him at this.
"I figured," he said. "You seem like the smart kind of guy."
"Do I now?" Josh beamed. "What else do you do then, aside from watching movies and admiring smart guys?" Josh was flirting right now, he knew it.
Nathan shrugged. "Oh, I dunno. Play football, basketball, that kind of stuff."
"No instruments?" Josh inquired.
"Music isn't really my thing," said Nathan.
"Oh." Josh chewed on a tortilla chip slowly.
Nathan kicked him gently under the table. "That doesn't mean I'm not fun, though," he teased, and they both laughed. Out of the corner of his eye, Josh could see Drake with some girl at a nearby table, watching them.
Nathan was nice too. Unfortunately, Josh just didn't have too much interest in him. Nathan was pretty fun, yeah, since he liked the same sort of comedy movies that Josh (and Drake had) liked. But Josh wanted someone with more flair. With more talent.
Okay, he was picky. But since Josh couldn't have the guy he wanted, he could be picky as much as he liked.
Sunday afternoon found him in the kitchen, setting the table for dinner. Luckily (or at least to some part of Josh), Drake was out tonight so it was just going to be him, his parents and Megan. Josh was just putting the last plate down when the doorbell rang, the front door opened up and Josh heard his father call, "Josh! It's Trevor!"
Trevor? Josh ran out to see his friend standing there in the doorway. He smiled slightly.
"Hey Trev," he said. "Come in."
Trevor shifted on the porch. "Um, actually," he said to Josh. "I was wondering if we could... um. Go out."
"Go out? Sure." Josh grabbed his wallet, and then called out to his parents, "Mom! Dad! I'm gonna be out!"
"Out where?" asked his mother, coming in from down the hall.
Josh nodded out the door. "With Trevor."
"Um, actually Josh," said Trevor. "I meant like... go out. As in, on a date."
Josh turned to him, flabbergasted.
"On a date?"
"Er, well, I heard you were gay—"
"Josh, you're gay?" said his dad who had come from the living room.
His mother turned to his dad. "Pay up."
"—and I was just, well, if you really don't mind me being interested..."
"Of course I don't mind!" Josh said quickly. And then, turning to his parents, "I'm not gay, I'm bi."
"Ha!" said Megan, appearing out of nowhere and holding her hands out. "Both of you, pay up!"
"Oh, great." Trevor looked relieved. "Shall we go then?"
"We shall," said Josh, pleased and following him out of the house.
They walked to Trevor's car and Trevor drove them to the cinema, where they agreed to go to. (Not like they had many other options, anyways.) Along the way, they talked about random stuff that had happened toward their summers, though Josh tactfully didn't mention his fight with Drake.
Josh had always liked Trevor, in a pretty friendly way—he was fun and outgoing, wasn't too smart and boring, and he had been in Drake's band at one point, in the seventh grade or something like that. Josh had actually met him through Drake when they had become brothers, and Trevor was usually pretty nice to him. Josh actually hadn't consideredhim before, but now that he thought about it—Trevor had a nice face, nice body, had straight dark brown hair and brown eyes. Josh could definitely see him going out with him.
But as they entered the theater together and discussed what they could get for dinner—Josh really didn't care, and Trevor was in the mood for hot dogs—Josh still felt like something was missing. He and Trevor were having entertaining conversations, he was easy on the eyes, and Josh knew him well enough as a friend that 'going out' with him wasn't too alien of a concept. But... it felt like something was missing.
And Josh knew what it was. It was just that Trevor wasn't Drake.
They finished their conversation about teachers next year and lapsed into an easy silence. Josh peered up at Trevor and decided to ask him something.
"Yeah?" Trevor glanced over at him.
"Do you really like me? You know," added Josh, when Trevor opened his mouth. "Like, really like me? A lot?"
Trevor contemplated the question. Then he looked at Josh and shrugged. "I dolike you," he said. "I mean, I've been on dates with other guys before, but I'm pretty interested in you... I've always admired you, a little bit."
"Oh." Josh nodded. "And um. Do you really want to know my feelings?"
Trevor opened his mouth again, perhaps to say yes, perhaps to say no—but Josh never figured it out because at that moment, Drake appeared out of nowhere and tugged on Josh's arm.
"Excuse me," he said to Trevor, not sounding sorry at all. "But I need to talk to my dear brother for a moment."
Drake dragged him away to some secluded spot near the wall. And before Josh could say anything, Drake demanded,
"What are you doing?"
"W-What?" stammered Josh, staring at Drake fearfully.
Drake flung his hands around and practically hit him. "What are you doing? I thought you liked me?" he said.
"S-So?" said Josh. "Why do you care, anyways?"
"Because!" Drake exclaimed. "You—You've been going out on dates with random guys I've never seen before except for Trevor, even though you said you liked me, and it doesn't make any sense!"
Josh pushed him away, regaining his confidence. "So?" he said again, sneering. "You said that I'm not supposed to like you. Yousaid that we're supposed to be brothers."
"Yeah, but..." Drake trailed off.
Josh raised a single eyebrow. "But?"
"It's just—ugh! You like me! You're not supposed to be going out with other guys!"
It suddenly dawned on Josh what was happening.
"Are you jealous?"
"No!" Drake said immediately. Then, more calmly, "No, I'm not jealous. I just..." He bit his lip and looked up at Josh. "Do you still like me?"
Josh sighed. "In all honesty, yes," he said. "But since you didn't even seem to considergiving me a chance, I decided I should move on. Or something like that."
"He's not a bad date." Josh shrugged.
Drake still looked hesitant. "Then... Then what if I said that we could be together? Would you still try moving on?"
Josh blinked at him. Was Drake asking him out?
"Are you asking me out?" he blurted.
"No!" Drake said again. "I just can't stand seeing you with other guys! Going out on dates, calling them cute... kissing them!" He shivered.
"So you were jealous," stated Josh.
"I wasn't! I just didn't want you getting hurt!"
"Because you were jealous."
"I wasn't jealous! It was all out of brotherly interest."
"So you're asking me out now?" said Josh.
"Yes," said Drake firmly.
"Because you're gay?"
"Hardly." Drake scoffed.
"Because you like me?"
"As a brother," said Drake.
But he didn't say no. And that was good enough for Josh.
He took Drake's hand and squeezed it. "As a brother," he echoed, a smile dancing on his face.