It was an all around bad idea; Malcolm knew that much for sure.
He'd been caught off guard when, out of the blue, Reese suggested they go out on a "real date" because, at first, it had seemed like such an unexpected, odd, un-Reese-like thing to say. But after the initial shock, he was able to grudgingly admit to himself that it was consistent with Reese's approach to their...whatever it was they had. Reese could be an asshole and an idiot, but there was sensitivity beneath it all, and an overwhelming desire to belong. So the proposition that they display a little more traditional affection wasn't too farfetched after all.
But that didn't mean it was a smart plan, or that it would work out well in practice.
"What do you mean, a realdate?" Malcolm asked warily under his breath, glancing over to the couch to make sure Dewey was still paying attention to the TV.
Reese grinned wickedly and leaned forward with a conspiratorial eyebrow wriggle. "You know, like we'd go out and do stuff," he whispered. "Like a movie or something. And dinner." Malcolm raised his eyebrows skeptically. "I'd pay," he added.
"Don't you think," Malcolm responded delicately, "that...perhaps...someone might, uh, recognize us? And that this might get back to Mom?"
Reese waved a hand dismissively, taking a big bite of his sandwich. "We'll drive out to the city. No one will know us." He looked at Malcolm expectantly. "So? What do you think?"
Malcolm sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Reese..."
Reese frowned. "You don't have to be such a whiny bitch about it," he hissed, standing up to put his dishes away.
Tossing another discreet glance at Dewey, Malcolm stood and moved to place a hand briefly on his older brother's shoulder. Reese stiffened and shrugged if off moodily.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, close to Reese's ear. "I'm not trying to be like that. I just want to be...I don't know, careful about it, okay?" He leaned back against the counter, shifting on his feet uncomfortably. "It's just that we could get in serious trouble just for going out in public like that together for being two guys, let alone brothers. So I'm just nervous about that. You understand that, right?"
Reese frowned slightly, scraping the scraps on his plate into the garbage disposal. "You don't have to talk to me like I'm a baby, dude."
But his voice had a playful ring to it, so Malcolm knew he was forgiven, and he smiled. "So, you mentioned a movie. Did you have anything specific in mind?"
Reese smirked. "Not exactly, but I'll think of something."
Although he would never admit it to anyone (indeed, it had taken some time to half-heartedly admit it to himself), Malcolm thrived off of drama and craziness. Somewhat ironically, it kept him grounded and sane. Stability was foreign and awkward for him; prolonged periods of intensity and stress were his secret comfort zone.
So when his date with Reese went horribly, spectacularly wrong, he couldn't help but burst into hysterical laughter on the car drive back. It was just too perfect.
Their first stop was the "movie" Reese had selected, which was not, as Malcolm had anticipated, a mainstream theatrical release at a regular cineplex, but a random indie action flick playing at some fucked-up back alleyway theater with only five rows and velvet cushioned chairs. There was only one other person in the the room with them, some 20-something-year-old guy with a scraggly beard and a trench coat slumped over in the back row, snoring to beat the band. Malcolm suspected he was homeless.
Sitting down near the front together, Malcolm looked at his brother with raised eyebrows and Reese shrugged, holding out the bucket of cheap popcorn which Malcolm accepted.
The movie was awful, and about as unromantic as conceivably possible. It had a lengthy, unremarkable title, there were no big names, and the production quality looked only marginally better than the home video montages of childhood Christmas moments Hal made the family sit through every December. The story was impossible to follow; from what Malcolm could gather, it involved a trio of overweight, retired mall cops who were trying to recover a satchel of heroin (or money, or gold coins, or whatever) from an androgynous night club owner who beat someone to death with a pimp cane every ten minutes on the dot.
After about the twentieth ketchup coated bludgeoning, Malcolm leaned over to Reese and whispered, "A bit heavy-handed, eh?" Reese snorted and elbowed him, his eyes still on the screen, a mixture of amusement and confusion on his face.
A little later, once the action slowed down and the movie transitioned into the boring pseudo-artistic "thinking man's" section of the already nonsensical story, Malcolm checked to make sure their fellow theater-goer was still in dreamland, then slowly leaned over with his best attempt at a seductive smile and started kissing Reese's neck. He choked in surprise when his brother backhanded him.
"Ow!" he spluttered, rubbing his cheek. "What the fuck was that for? I thought you wanted to have fun."
Reese threw him a quick, stern glare, then turned his eyes back to the screen. "Later! I payed twenty bucks for this piece of shit, and God damn it, we're going to watch it!" he reprimanded.
Malcolm groaned. "Oh, come on! You make a shit-load of cash that stupid job of yours. Plus we might be able to get a refund."
Reese looked at him with a such a fantastically disdainful expression that Malcolm would have laughed out loud if he wasn't still sore about the slap (gentle as it was). "I'm paying for dinner, too, and it's not going to be cheap."
Somewhat sobered by that, Malcolm raised his eyebrows. "Oh? Where are we going?" he asked curiously.
Reese gave a one-sided smile, still watching the screen determinedly. "You'll see," he said in a sing-song voice that, to Malcolm, screamed trouble.
The movie ended with the villain giving a lame, ten-minute dying monologue about the dangers of greed, and the house lights inexplicably shut off, leaving Malcolm and Reese to feel their way to the exit (guided mostly by the snoring of the still snoozing gentleman in the back row).
After flipping the bird to the ticket taker, they got in the car and drove a few blocks over to the restaurant Reese had reserved: some high-class, bourgeoisie place with an unpronounceable name.
Malcolm stared at the building in disbelief as Reese pulled the car into an empty spot across the street. "Reese, this is really extravagant. It looks like it's probably black tie only." He turned to see his brother pulling two suits in plastic bags out from under his chair.
Reese grinned at him, tossing one at him. "You're right, it is. So we should get changed now."
Staring at the bag in his lap, dumbfounded, Malcolm sputtered wordlessly. "Wh-? Re-? Where did you get these?"
"They're ours, dumbass. The special occasion suits Mom keeps in her bedroom closet."
Malcolm rubbed his forehead. "Dude, what if she notices?"
Reese scowled at him as he pulled his shirt over his head (which made Malcolm's stomach do a backflip). "She won't. Hurry up and put it on." After they were changed, they stepped out of the car and looked each other over. Reese straightened Malcolm's bow tie and flashed a wide grin. "You look adorable," he said half-mockingly, half-sincerely.
With a snort, Malcolm punched him in the shoulder. "Shut up."
Once inside the restaurant, it became abundantly clear that it was completely wrong for their situation; if indeed there was such a thing as a proper venue for a gay, incestuous romantic outing.
Everyone in the room looked like they had their heads up their asses; it was socialite central. Malcolm was pretty sure he saw the mayor and his wife seated over at a corner table.
"Reese," he hissed through gritted teeth. "Are you sure this is a good id-"
"We have a reservation," Reese cut in as the host walked up to them. "Steinbeck. Two."
Malcolm glared at Reese as the man went to check a list under his podium. "Steinbeck?" he muttered. "Are you kidding me?"
"I had to read one of his fucking books for school last month," Reese hissed back at him. "It was the first name that popped in my head on the phone. Sue me."
The host returned with an absurdly foppish smile and head tilt. "Right this way, young gentlemen," he intoned ridiculously. As bad fortune would have it, their table was right in the middle of the room, under the giant chandelier. There were about seven or eight much bigger tables surrounding theirs, accentuating Malcolm's already palpable sensation of claustrophobia. "Would you care to sample one of our imported liquors, sir?" the host asked, beckoning a waitress over with a sharp hand gesture.
"No thanks," Malcolm said politely. "We're not-"
"He's joking," Reese interjected with an enormous phony smile Malcolm had seen a million times before when they were trying to lie to Lois. "We'll have a bottle of this," he said, pointing at a small picture on the wine menu. "Bring it with the meal, please. We'll just have water in the meantime."
"Very good, sir," the host replied, and sauntered off with his nose in the air. The waitress, a college-aged girl who looked bored out of her mind, wrote their order down and scurried off to an adjacent table.
Malcolm leaned across to his brother. "Reese, what the fuck are you doing?" he whisper-shouted. "We're underage. If they card us, we're screwed."
Reese shook his head with a smirk. "Malcolm, Malcolm. You should have more faith in me." He reached into his pocked and produced his ID card. "I know a guy who knows a guy who was able to get me a fake. Pretty believable, don't you think?"
"You bought a fake ID?" Malcolm said disbelievingly.
"Yeah. I bought you one, too." He pulled out another card and slid it across the table.
Malcolm stared at it, open-mouthed. "Where the hell did you get this picture?...Is that...is this a-" He looked up at Reese, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. "Did you take a picture of me while I was asleep?" he asked.
Reese shrugged. "Perhaps."
Malcolm groaned, putting his head on the table. "I look ridiculous. No one is going to believe this is real."
"Oh relax, will you? Just be yourself and do your genius thing, and the waiter will think you're 21 anyway. Trust me, he won't even ask to see it." He rolled his eyes. "You act like you're 60, worrying about everything."
"I do not!"
The waiter returned with their food surprisingly quickly, which became clear once Malcolm got a good look at the minuscule servings they had been treated to. A classic high-class rip-off. Malcolm's fish was too hot to eat for a few minutes, so he sipped his glass of water awkwardly while Reese poked at the slimy whatever-the-fuck-it-was on is plate and chewed it slowly, pretending with all of his might that he was enjoying it.
The meal itself was mediocre and unreasonably pricey, but the conversation didn't turn sour until the wine arrived. Malcolm was still nervous about being caught, so after it was decided that he would be the designated driver, Reese proceeded to get thoroughly hammered.
"Did I...did I ever tell you..." Reese mumbled sleepily, fifth glass of wine wobbling dangerously in his hand as he swayed back and forth, "Did I ever tell you how much I love you, Malc...Malcolm? Did I ever tell you that?"
"Yes, Reese," Malcolm replied dully, chin propped up on his hand, leaning forward slightly in preparation to catch his brother if he fell. "Many times."
"No, no...not like in...not like when we're fucking..." Of course he had to transition into an uncomfortably loud, alcoholic yell during the end of that sentence. A couple of people nearby turned and scowled disdainfully at them.
"Shh!" Malcolm hissed, snatching the glass out of his hand and putting it out of reach. "What the hell is wrong with you tonight?"
Reese looked at him with soulful, pitiful eyes, and in spite of his annoyance, Malcolm had to suppress a laugh. "Noth-...nothing, Malcolm." He burped silently, and rubbed the back of his hand against his mouth. "I just wanted to have a fun...a fun even-...evening...before we talked about Francis."
Malcolm frowned in confusion. "Francis? What are you talking about? What's he got to do with anything?"
At this point, Reese clearly was walking the tight-rope between vague awareness and complete disorientation. His eyes rolled back for just a moment before snapping back into sharp focus. "You know," he said with a companionable grin. "That he knows about us."
Malcolm felt his stomach turn to ice. "Wh...What?" he asked, his throat turning dry. He scooted his chair closer and put a hand under Reese's chin, tilting his head towards him. "Reese...listen to me very carefully. Are you telling me that Francis found out about our...you and me?" Reese looked at him blankly for a few seconds, then, to Malcolm's horror, he started sobbing loudly. He leaned forward into Malcolm's chest and started sniffling grossly. Looking around nervously, Malcolm patted him on the back in an attempt at being comforting. "Uh...calm down. It's okay, dude..."
"I'm sorry..." Reese groaned drunkenly, his tears dampening the front of Malcolm's suit. People were beginning to stare. Malcolm could feel their eyes boring holes into the back of his skull. Even the mayor was peering over from the corner with a disapproving glare. "He figured it out because...because we were spending so much time in secret," Reese babbled. "...And he talked to me about it, and he asked me what was going on...and I panicked...and he figured it out, and I'm sorry...and I didn't mean to..." He sniffled, pulling back and wiping his eyes.
Malcolm pinched the bridge of his nose. "Oh, great," he muttered. Forcing a smile, he patted Reese's knee encouragingly. "It's okay, I'm not mad. It was an accident."
Reese looked up at him questioningly, and after a few seconds, Malcolm's response registered, and a happy grin lit up his face. Before Malcolm could stop him, he leaned forward and pulled him into a sloppy kiss.
People were definitely staring now. Although his eyes were closed, Malcolm could hear some outraged muttering and a few disgusted gasps. Yet, weirdly, in spite of everything, he still found himself getting a little turned on.
It took all of twenty seconds for the host to fast walk over and tap Malcolm on the shoulder forcefully. Malcolm pulled away from the kiss and looked up at him with red cheeks.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you gentlemen to leave," the host said in a cold voice, folding his arms imperiously.
"Uh, yeah. Umm...okay." Malcolm stood hastily, pulling Reese to his feet, who grunted in discontent.
"I don't wanna go, Mal..."
"Reese..." he hissed, glancing around the room, his embarrassment reaching peak levels. "Shut up. We need to go. Now."
Reese puked on the sidewalk outside, leaving a nauseating stain on his black jacket, but once they were back in the car, he seemed much more lucid. Once they were back on the highway, he cocked his head to look at Malcolm and spoke softly. "Sorry if I embarrassed you." It was at this point that the ridiculousness of the night finally caught up with Malcolm, and he dissolved into a hysterical giggling fit. Reese looked surprised for a beat, then grinned ruefully. "Shut up..." he said affectionately, flicking Malcolm's arm.
"Hey, don't mess with the driver," Malcolm snickered, wiping tears of laughter out of his eyes, as he squinted ahead at the dark road. They drove in amicable silence for a few minutes before he spoke again, a little more seriously this time. "So how'd he take it?"
Reese thought for a couple seconds, then nodded his head meaninglessly. "Pretty well, considering. I mean, he flipped his shit and everything. But he didn't threaten to disown us. And he said he wouldn't tell Mom or Dad. Or Dewey. He was weirdly okay with it."
Malcolm let out a sigh of relief he didn't realize he'd been holding in. "Seriously? Just like that? He didn't even care that his younger brothers are fucking each other?"
"Well, no. He cared. Like I said, he flipped out when I told him. But I think he thought you and I were sneaking off and doing meth together or something like that. So in comparison, it probably didn't seem like that big of a deal."
Malcolm snorted. "Most people wouldn't see it that way."
Reese shrugged, yawning slightly. "I dunno. You know Francis is cool about most stuff. After he gets used to it, at least."
"Yeah, I guess you're right..." Malcolm paused, a thought occurring to him. "So...what were you so worried about then?"
Reese frowned at him. "Hmm?"
"Well, if Francis isn't going to rat on us...if he's really okay with it, more or less...then why were you so worrying about telling me?"
Reese looked down at his feet, turning red. After a long pause, he whispered, "I was afraid you wouldn't forgive me for messing up."
Malcolm put one hand on the back of his neck and stroked him affectionately. "Reese...of course you were going to mess up."
Jerking in surprise, Reese stared at him, jaw agape. "Huh?" he asked, stunned.
Malcolm sighed, squeezing his brother's neck gently. "Look, man. I love you. You mean more to me than anybody else. But you're an idiot. At least when it comes to keeping secrets. There was no fucking way you were going to be able sit on this forever. You were always going to spill the beans to someone. We just got lucky that it wasn't Mom. Although I'm sure that's not too far down the road."
Reese glared at him indignantly. "I can too keep a secret!" he muttered sullenly.
Malcolm snorted. "Yeah, whatever."
"Uh-huh." Reese punched him in the arm "Ow! What did I say about messing with the driver?"
When they got back to the house, Hal's car was already back, so they had to change outside and hide the suits in the garage for the time being. Back in their regular clothes, they slipped in past their parents, who were asleep on the couch with the TV still on, and crept into the bedroom. Dewey was already snoring.
Closing the door quietly, Malcolm slipped off his shorts and sat down on his and Dewey's bed and picked up his alarm clock to make sure it was set. Reese plopped down on his bed with a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry for the shitty date," he whispered.
Setting the clock back down on the headboard, Malcolm gave him a lopsided smile,. "I actually kind of had fun," he whispered back, wriggling his eyebrows. "In retrospect, it wasn't the worst time we've ever had."
Reese chuckled tiredly. "Yeah, I guess so." A mischievous light popping into his eyes, he flashed a grin at his brother. "Hey...if you're not too tired, do you wanna sneak outside and..."
Malcolm raised his eyebrow. "No fucking way." He lay down, snickering at Reese's disappointed expression. "Tomorrow," he added gently.
"Tomorrow morning," Reese said quickly.
Malcolm closed his eyes, yawning. "Tomorrow morning after breakfast."
"Deal. I'm holding you to that."
All in all, not too disastrous for a first real date.