Josh, Evolving by Cole Parker

Chapter 28

What happens when two lonely boys meet in a shopping mall food court?

All three boys had been looking forward to the tryouts for the cross-country team.  Josh and Bryan had been talking about little else the past few days.  Josh had complained to Bryan that he had to work a lot harder than they did just to keep up with him and Eric, and it was because he wasn’t any good at running.

“That isn’t true.  You do great.  You’ll be as good as anyone there.  Just wait.”  Bryan had tried to encourage him, but Josh had been worried, and in a funk.

This was the day they’d been waiting for.  Josh was nervous at lunch, thinking about the tryouts.  Eric was next to him and Bryan was across the table, their usual alignment.  Cal usually sat next to Bryan, and this way Josh could look at her and spar with her, which he liked doing.

He was speaking to Eric but was being distracted because Eric’s eyes kept moving, first glancing at him, then past him and over his shoulder.  The third time he did this, Josh stopped in mid-sentence and asked, “What’re you looking at?”

“Mark.  Don’t turn around.  He keeps looking at you, and then when I glance at him, he looks down and blushes.  Remind you of anyone?”

“Hey, I don’t do that so much any more!  I’m getting better.  But Mark’s looking at me?  Are you sure?  How can you be sure?  He’s at the end of the table and we’re way down here.  Maybe he’s looking at you?  Especially if he looks away when you look at him.”

“Nope.  He’s looking at you.  His eyes don’t quite meet mine when I look over.  They’re pointed at you.  I think he likes you.  I can see why.  You’re really cute, you know.”

Josh blushed, and immediately hated himself for doing it.  He’d been controlling that really well lately.  But here, he just couldn’t help it.       

“Even if he is looking at me, that doesn’t mean he likes me.  He might be thinking of asking me for help with something, and doesn’t know quite how to go about it.  Something like that.”

“Nope, he likes you.  I can tell.  I know.”

“How could you know?”

“Because he reminds me of me.

“What do you mean?  You don’t like me that way.”

“How do you know?”

“Well, you don’t.  You like Bryan.”

“Actually, that’s what I meant, that I used to look at Bryan that way, so I know what it feels like.”

“Does that mean you don’t like him like that anymore?”

Eric glanced over at Bryan.  Bryan was talking earnestly to Cal and was focusing entirely on their conversation.  “I still like him a whole lot, Josh.  But I don’t have the crush anymore.  When I had that, it almost hurt to see him, and then hurt when he walked away, too.  The feelings were real intense.  I wanted to be with him all the time, too, and then was scared of my feelings when I was with him.  Now, I like him, but I know him, he’s my friend, we hang around together, and it’s just different.”

“You mean you wouldn’t want to, uh, do things with him?”

“Oh, sure, I’d love to.  But I don’t think I’m in love with him.”

“It seems confusing to me.” 

“You’re not the only one!” 

Josh laughed.  Then he asked, “But what about Mark?”

“Unless you want to encourage him, forget about it.  It’s his problem.  We all have that problem, one time or another.  Let him figure it out.”


----   []   ----


There were 42 boys dressed out and standing listening to Coach McKinley.  He was explaining how the trial would work.

“We’ve got a five mile course set up with orange marker cones.  You’ll all be timed, so when you get back you’ll know how fast you ran, and we will too.  I don’t want anyone pushing themselves too hard.  If you haven’t been training, getting ready for today, you’ll probably overdo your pace and end up walking part way back, and you could pull a muscle.  So don’t push it.  If you do end up stopping, it’s okay.  Remember, anyone that wants to be on the team can be.  But only the guys with the best times will compete in the meets.  Today’s tryouts will be used to help determine who runs in the first meet.

“You guys that are new to this, listen up.  The guys that were on the team last year, most of them are really fine runners.  They’ll set a pretty hot pace.  You’d be best off if you don’t try to keep up with them.  Run within yourself.

“Okay men, remember to watch the cones and stay on the course.  Everybody line up here.”

The boys all crowded together at the starting line.  Coach Mac raised a starter’s pistol and fired it.  There was general pushing and shoving, but after about 20 yards, the boys were sorted out and moving at a pretty good pace away from the school.

Josh, Bryan and Eric were running side by side in the middle of the pack.  At the beginning of the past week, they’d increased their training run to five miles every day, so none of them was worried they’d end up walking back.  They knew they could handle the distance.  They were only worried about the pace.

The pack was running considerably faster than the speed the boys had trained at, and they forced themselves to keep up with it.  After about a half mile of this, Bryan told the others to slow down.  He slowed, and the others stayed with him.  They were quickly passed by several boys running behind them.

“Why are we slowing?” asked Josh.

“We can’t run the whole way that fast.  I think everyone has too much adrenaline.  If they can all run like that all the way, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but I don’t think they can.  Let’s go a mile or so like this, see what it looks like then.”

They continued at the slower pace.  It was still a little faster than their usual training jog, but they were able to maintain it without it bothering them.  Bryan thought that might be due to their own adrenaline helping them out.

By the time they passed the three-mile marker, they had overtaken a significant number of straggling boys.  Some had just stopped and were standing on the path, hands on hips, breathing hard.  Some had just slowed down a lot and were slowly jogging onward.  Bryan looked at Josh and Eric. 

“How are you guys feeling?”

“I’m fine,” quickly answered Eric.  “I could up the pace a little.  We only have two miles to go.”


“I’m hanging in there.  If you guys want to push it a bit, I’m game.”

Bryan watched Josh.  He was plodding along with them.  He didn’t seem to be laboring too badly but wasn’t running as easily as the others.  But then, that was always the case.

“Okay, let’s step it up just a little.”

Bryan ran faster, and the other two sped up too, staying with him.  They kept that pace till they had reached the four-mile mark.  By then, they had passed several more boys who had slowed or stopped. 

They could see the better runners, a group of five older boys, considerably ahead of them.  There were eight or nine other boys spread out between that first group and them.

“What do you guys think?  Try to catch a few more guys, or just settle in and finish like this?”  Bryan’s breathing was a little gaspy, but he wasn’t panting hard.  Neither was Eric.  Josh was breathing hard, his face was red, but he was plugging along.  As usual.

“Catch some,” voted Eric, using as few words as he could.

Bryan looked at Josh.  Josh looked back and didn’t speak.  Then he began running faster.  Bryan smiled at Eric, then those two matched Josh’s new pace.

They managed to overtake six of the other runners by the time they reached the finish line.  They crossed it together.  Bryan and Eric immediately grabbed hold of Josh, who was wiped out by the effort, but smiling.

As he was sitting on the grass, recovering, Josh watched Coach Mac stroll to the timer, check some of the times he’d written down, then walk over to him.  He squatted on the grass next to Josh, and spoke softly to him.

“That was great effort, and a really decent time, too.  You three guys are going to help us this year.  We usually don’t have a lot of freshmen competing in the meets, but you guys showed me something.  I’m proud of you.  Your friends have a lot of talent.  You’ve got talent, too, and you’ve also got a lot of heart.”

“Thanks, Coach.  Yeah, I know they’re better than I am.  I have to really work hard when we’re training just to stay with them, and they’re not pushing as hard as I am.”

“Josh, I was watching you.  One of the reasons you’re working so hard is your form isn’t very good.  We can work on it.  We need to adjust your stride, your posture and the way you use your arms.  You’re not very efficient now.  I can help with that.  I can make it a lot easier for you.  What I don’t have to work on is your desire.  You’ve already got that.”

Josh smiled up at the coach, gratitude in his eyes.  “You’ll be able to help me?”

“Without question, Josh.  And you’re the type it’s fun to coach.  You’re going to get a lot better quickly, and you really care.  I’m going to enjoy watching you improve.”

“Do you think maybe the three of us will get to run in some meets?”

“Yeah. I’m pretty sure of it.  Keep working.  That’s the thing.  And tomorrow, I’ll start working with you.  Hey, I’ve got to talk to some of the others.  Take care, Josh.”

The coach winked at him, ruffled his sweaty hair, and walked off.  Eric immediately came over and slumped down next to Josh, and then Bryan was on his other side.

“What’d he say?” asked Eric.

“He said Bryan and I were in, but you weren’t good enough.”

Eric’s jaw dropped.  “WHAT?  How could he say that!  We finished together!  Hey, I’ve got to talk to him!  He can’t do that!”  Eric jumped up, started to walk away, then saw Josh and Bryan rolling on the grass, holding their stomachs with one hand, their other clamped over their mouths, trying hard not to laugh out loud.  He stopped.  “You assholes!” he said.

Then they couldn’t stop themselves.  They roared.  Other guys turned to look at them.  They didn’t care, they just laughed.  Eric looked disgusted.


----   []   ----


Josh and Bryan took their shower together that night, and Bryan, after the success at the tryouts, was feeling frisky.  It had been three days since they’d messed around, and Josh was eager, too.

There was none of the fumbling and awkwardness now that had accompanied their first adventure.  Additionally, Josh wasn’t the same person.  He had been eager then, but timid and nonassertive.  Now he was sure of himself and not shy about asking for what he wanted, and making sure Bryan was as satisfied as he was.  They were two happy, relaxed boys, drying off.

When they were back in their room, Bryan sprawled on the bed, Josh sat at the computer.  Josh turned around and looked at Bryan.  He grinned.  “You look awfully comfortable.”

Bryan was lying spread out on the bed, the picture of teenaged self-satisfied ease.  He even had a relaxed smile on his face.  He looked like he thought he owned the world.

“I am, Josh.  And I’m happy.  Another two weeks, and I’ll be your brother.  You know that?  Well, I guess you do.  We’ve talked about it enough.  But every time I think about it, I can’t help feeling good.  I love saying it.  Your brother.  I hope you feel as good about it as I do.”

“You know I do.  I love you, Bryan.  Not just for what you’ve done, but because you’re you.  I love you.”

Bryan didn’t respond.  His smile just got broader.

Josh continued.  “But I want to talk to you about something.”

“I’m listening.”

“Okay.  I think about things a lot.  And, since we’ve been planning for the adoption, I’ve been thinking a lot about what you told Eric.  Bryan, you made a lot of sense.  You probably don’t remember.  You told him why you didn’t think you should do things with him, you know, sex, even though you liked him and kind of wanted to do that.  What you said was really smart. 

“You said sex could get in the way of the type of relationship you wanted to build with him.  You said you wanted to be his friend, get to know him and who he is, and then, if things develop in that direction and you both feel the same, maybe sex could be involved, maybe not, but you’d be on equal ground and the sex wouldn’t be the fundamental part of the relationship.”

“Yeah, well, actually I was a little worried.  He said he had a crush on me, and by the tone of his voice, he sounded like he had it bad.  I like sex.  I like it a lot.  I like it with you.  I know what it feels like, and the thought of doing it with Eric when he felt that way was scary.  I really thought he could get hurt if I didn’t like him as much as he did me, and the fact is, I don’t like him in that way.  I only like one person that way.”

Josh didn’t hear what Bryan meant by that, focusing instead on the point he was making.  “Well, for whatever reason, you were very smart, and what you said sounded right.  And I’ve been thinking about it.  We’re going to be brothers soon.  We have a great relationship now.  I don’t want anything to come between us.  I think sex could do that.  It’s so important.  It’s so easy for someone to get his feelings hurt.  Let’s say we keep having sex together, and I’m really desperately in love with you, but you’re in love with the sex, and then Julie starts flirting with you.  See the risk here?”

“Why did you mention Julie?”

“Because I’ve seen how you look at her.  I see everything, you know that.”

“So are you saying you don’t want to have sex anymore?  Because I have to tell you, I like the sex we have—a lot.”

“So do I.  I like it a lot too.  And I don’t think it’s a problem right now.  I just think it could get to be one.  And I don’t want that to happen more than I want to have sex.  You gave Eric a hypothetical choice.  Sex or friendship with you.  I want you to think about the same thing.  What if we continue with the sex, and our relationship suffers for it?  We’re only 14.  We’re going to change a lot in the next four years.  But we’ll still be brothers.  I want that to be the most important thing, not the sex.”

Bryan was quiet for awhile, thinking.  Then he said, “Josh, I really love the sex.  I really love you, too, and the sex is only part of that.  I guess I can get sex someplace else.  In fact, I think at this age we’re supposed to be looking to do that, get it someplace outside our home.  I don’t want to do anything you don’t want to do, you know that.”

“And I don’t want to force you to make that choice, our relationship or sex.  But what I feel is, even if I don’t ask you to make that choice, the nature of our relationship will force us to make the choice.  If we continue to have sex together, we’ll have one type of relationship, and it will be different.  It’ll be thrilling and sexy and exciting and complicated.  If we don’t continue, I think it can grow deeper and more profound.  I don’t know why I feel that way, I don’t know any more about this stuff than you do, but in my gut, it just sort of feels that way.  Basing our relationship on how we feel about each other, our trust, our mutual admiration, seems better than taking the chance on sex messing things up.

“I’ve been thinking about what’s ahead of us.  In the next few years we’ll both see people we’ll be attracted to.  Everyone else will too, and they’ll be dating.  We’ll want to, too.  What will happen if you start dating Julie, and I get jealous?  Or Eric?  Say you make out with her, or him, feel one of them up, and want to talk about it with me.  But you can’t because you know I’m jealous.  So you talk to someone else.  See, already, we’re not as close as we were.  And I’d know you were making out with her, or him, I could tell from the way you both acted, and the jealousy would eat me alive.  I don’t think we can help this, unless we don’t date, don’t get involved with other people.  And we’re 14.  We’ll want to be free to do those things.  We’re not old enough to commit to each other like that.  And we don’t know how we’re going to feel next year, or even next week.”

“You’ve really thought about this, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, a lot.  Because I like the sex too, and don’t really want to stop.   I just think we need to.”

Bryan put his arm over his eyes, the position he used to think in.  He considered his feelings for Josh.  Doing so, he realized he was deeply in love with him, and that the feelings weren’t wholly sexual.  He loved Josh’s character, his determination, his kindness, intelligence, humor, everything about him, even his self-conscious blush, and he especially loved how they interacted together; when his thoughts were on what he liked about him, sex was just one part of it.  He loved messing around with Josh, he loved the feeling of sexual intimacy they had, but just as much he loved the strong bond they’d formed.  His love of messing around with Josh grew from the wonderful feelings that filled his body when they were doing it.  But it was more than that.  He also loved how he could make Josh feel just as good as he himself felt when they were doing those things.  He didn’t know if this was typical of someone his age, but he knew kids his age, and he doubted it.  Kids who were 14 were very much into themselves. Boys talked about getting laid, getting blowjobs.  It was always about themselves; a partner was just a necessary accessory.

He didn’t know if his feelings for Josh, the ones that were so strong right now, would last.  He knew they were both 14 and that they’d never experienced much in their lives like what they were experiencing now.  But, in spite of all that, he was very aware that the love he felt for Josh, and the feelings he had about sex with him, were something he never wanted to give up and couldn’t imagine having with anyone else.

He thought about all this, and about what Josh had just said and how passionately he’d felt about it, then sat up on the bed.  “Well then, how about a compromise?  We stop doing it whenever we want, and instead cut it back, just as sort of a way to stay connected, be extra close to each other, but not get really get attached that way.  And, if either of us feels we’re getting too attached or want to stop for any other reason, we talk honestly about it and decide what to do and if that means stop altogether, we do.”

“What’s this, The Bryan Compromise?”

“Maybe. How’s it sound?”

“What does ‘cut back’ mean?”

“I don’t know.  How about, say, three times a week?  I know, that’s going to be a real hardship, but we could try it.”

“I don’t think you’re taking me seriously.”

“I’m negotiating.  Twice a week would be really hard.  Cruel, even.  But maybe we could try it.  How about that?”

“I haven’t said I agree with any of this yet.”

“That’s a good negotiating ploy.  Gives you the upper hand.  But I have two offers on the table.  Your turn.”

“Okay.  I’ll give in more than I want to, but only because I’m weak.  And horny like you are and don’t see much on the horizon that’s going to help with that.  We’ll make it once every two weeks.”

Bryan grimaced, shook his head, stared at Josh for a moment, then said, “Done.  Now, since we decided this a second ago, the fortnight starts a second ago.  So, wanna fool around?”

Josh pounced on him, and eventually Dr. Warren had to call up the stairs to quiet them down.


----   []   ----


It was Friday, and the cross-country meets didn’t start for three weeks yet.  Everyone was at lunch, and Eric was talking about the weekend.

“We should probably run after school today, and I was thinking you guys should stay the night.  We could run, then eat dinner, then go to a movie.  How does that sound?”

Bryan glanced at Josh, then said, “Sounds great to me.  Anything special you want to see?”

“Yeah, there are three or four out right now that I want to see.  We can look at the times in the paper and choose one.  This okay with you, Josh?”

Josh was sort of daydreaming.  His mind was elsewhere.  He was biting on his lower lip, a sign of nervousness he was trying to stop.


Josh looked up at Eric, then said, “I’m thinking.  I’m going to do something.  Hold on.  I hope this works.”

He turned and looked at Cal, who was sitting across from him and was engaged in a conversation with Julie.

“Hey, Cal, want to go to the movies tonight?  With your Prince Charming?  And some other people.”

“Huh?  You’re asking me to the movies?”  Cal had a look of surprise on her face, which quickly was lost in her smile.  Awareness and something he couldn’t quite read came to her eyes; Josh thought he could see both satisfaction and anticipation.

“Yeah, I am.  Wanna go?”

“Sure.  That’d be great.”

“And Julie, do you want to go, as Bryan’s date?  He’s too bashful and shy and scared and immature to ask you himself, but I’m sure he’d like to go with you.”

Julie looked surprised, then glanced at Bryan, who was looking dumbstruck.  She blushed and said demurely, “Well, maybe, if he’d ask me himself.”

Eric was looking puzzled.  Josh looked at him and winked.  Then he got up and walked to the other end of the table.  He squatted down for a few seconds, then stood and walked back to the others and took his chair.

“Okay, Mark wants to come, so there will be six of us.  I’m sure we can get someone to drive us, seeing as how there are nine parents involved.  I’ll take charge of calling everyone after school and getting it all set up.  If you each write your phone number down and give it to me, it’ll be easier.   Uh, Bryan?  You want to ask someone something?”

Eric was looking distinctly nervous.  He grabbed Josh’s arm and pulled him up.  “We’ve got to talk,” he muttered.

Outside the cafeteria, with no one within hearing distance, he said anxiously, “I’m not out, Josh!  How can you be inviting a boy to be my date?  You can’t do that!”

Josh wasn’t the least bit apologetic.  “Relax.  I didn’t.  I wouldn’t do that to you.  I told him you were too shy to go with a girl, but we wanted an even number and you’d been mentioning how you’d like to know him better.  I told Mark I knew you were too shy to ask him when the rest of us were going on dates, and that you were worried about how it would look if you asked him.  I told him you were hemming and hawing and I just got impatient.  He was delighted when I said you’d like him to go with us.  He got a big smile and blushed.  I’m not so sure his eyes were pointing at me like you thought they were.”

It was Eric’s turn to blush.


----   []   ----


Getting ready for the date, Bryan was constantly grinning.  He couldn’t stop.  Finally, Josh had had enough.

“Okay, what’s so damned funny.”

“You are.”

“I am?  What’s your dumb grin got to do with me?”

“I’m just marveling, that’s all.  I saw something today I didn’t think I’d see for a long, long time, if ever.  I saw you take charge in the cafeteria today.  I saw you plan something in your head that involved a number of different people, some you don’t even know very well, and then you went ahead, with no qualms, no hesitation, no reservations at all, and just orchestrated a first date, a first date, for six different people.  And made it work.  I’m feeling a little like Dr. Frankenstein.  I think I created a monster.  But what I’m really grinning about is you.  I’m thinking about a boy in the mall not all that long ago that was so afraid he’d been caught looking at me, just looking, he was going to run away before I even sat down to talk to him.  Then today I saw a boy take charge of himself and five other people as though he was born to it.  What I saw today was the complete and total evolution of Josh.”

Josh stopped brushing his hair.  He thought about what Bryan had said, then responded.  “If that’s true, you know why, don’t you?  There’s no way any of this could have happened if —”

Bryan interrupted him, his face a shade redder than it had been.  “Hey, no more talking; get a move on, will you?  We’re going to be late.” 

Dr. Warren had been roped into performing chauffer services for Josh and Bryan and their dates, and Eric’s mom was going to drive him and Mark.  Josh got out of the car at Cal’s house, feeling nervous but good; he went to the door and knocked.  He was invited in, introduced to her parents, and then escorted Cal back to the car.  He had all sorts of questions running through his mind all that time: what did her parents think of him, what did she tell them, should he take her hand walking back to the car, should he put her in the front seat or suggest she sit in the back?  When they got to the car, Bryan had moved to the front seat, so that question at least was answered.

When Bryan escorted Julie back to the car, the issue was raised again, but Julie solved it herself, opening the back door, getting in, and then telling Bryan there was plenty of room in the back for all of them.

There was, but of course they were all jammed together that way.  No one seemed to mind.

They met Eric and Mark outside the theater.  Mark seemed less shy than he acted at school, and in fact was quite excited to be with the other kids.  Eric, normally one of the least shy kids on the planet, was the one who seemed hesitant and reserved.

Josh had the same feeling of overall uncertainty sitting in the theater watching the movie that he’d had before picking Cal up.  Should he put his arm around her?  Should he reach for her hand and hold it?  What about his knee touching hers?

They all walked from the theater to a coffee shop across the street.  They ordered desserts and ate them and chatted, waiting for Eric’s mom and Dr. Warren.  And then, finally, they were all being driven home.

Julie’s house was the first stop.  Bryan walked to the door with her.  Josh watched, entranced.  Even Cal had stopped talking and was watching.

Bryan was surprised that he wasn’t uncomfortable.  He’s expected to be, thinking about it beforehand.  But he was with Julie, who’d been going out of her way all night to show him that she liked him.  Julie was cute, and he felt very much in control.  At the door, she stopped and turned to him.  They were inches apart, looking at each other.  It was the most natural thing in the world for Bryan to put his hands on her shoulders, lean in and give her a brief, soft kiss.  She kissed him back.  Then he said goodnight, and walked back to the car.

Josh and Cal had seen the entire thing.  Both now knew the ground rules, and so when they arrived on Cal’s doorstep, were both ready.  Except Josh, unlike Bryan, was a ball of nerves.  Still, he had an example to follow, and Cal was quite apparently eager.

Josh kissed her.  Longer than Bryan had kissed Julie.  When he got back in the car, it was to face Bryan’s huge grin.  He tried to keep a straight face, but couldn’t help himself.  He grinned back, and the two boys high fived each other.  A right of passage had been successfully accomplished.


----   []   ----


Lying in bed that night, neither boy was ready for sleep.  Even though they’d already discussed the evening, they couldn’t seem to stop talking about it.  What they’d discussed up to now had been details of the evening.  Eric had seemed to warm up to Mark and was less reticent by the time they were in the coffee shop, less worried about how it looked.  Josh had said to Bryan that he thought the two made a cute couple and something might grow out of this, while Bryan had replied that Mark acted a little immature, and so maybe wasn’t right for Eric.  They’d discussed the girls’ reactions to things in the movie.  They’d talked about a lot that had happened, but hadn’t said a word about the important things.

Finally, Josh did.  He rolled on his side and looked at Bryan.  His curiosity had got the best of him.  “So, what do you think about Julie?”

“What do I think about her?”


“I don’t know what you mean.  She’s nice, she’s really pretty.  She gets all A’s.  Her mom seemed nice.  She seems to like me okay.  What is it you’re asking here?”

“AAARRRGGGGG!  You know what I mean.  Stop beating around the bush.  Talk to me!”

“Oh, you want to know how I feel about her?”

“Yeah.  Like you didn’t know.”

“Well, gee, Josh, isn’t that a little private.  How do you feel about Cal?”

“Since when did we start having stuff that’s private between us?  I can tell you exactly how I feel about Cal.  And I expect you to reciprocate!”

“Well then?  How do you feel?”

Josh didn’t reply for a moment.  How he felt wasn’t all that simple.  And he really wanted Bryan to go first.  Bryan was always more confident than he was.  He was the one who should go first.

“You tell me first.”

Bryan heard the uncertainty in Josh’s voice and didn’t hesitate.  “All right, I will.  I like her.  She’s nice, and she likes me.  She’s fun and funny, and we get along well together.  And when I kissed her, you know those sparks you keep reading about?  There weren’t any.  You know you keep seeing in stories when a guy gets his first kiss, how so often he gets hard?  That didn’t happen.  I liked the kiss.  I like Julie.  Maybe all that other stuff comes later.”

Josh digested that, and knew it was his turn.

“I like Cal, too.  Tonight, it was much different from at school.  There, it seems like we’re competing all the time.  That makes us close, somehow.  Much closer than I am with any other girl.  Tonight wasn’t like that at all.  She wasn’t competitive. She wasn’t trying to beat me at anything.  She was making an effort to be with me, like an equal.”

He stopped, and stopped long enough that Bryan had to prod him into continuing.

“I learned something tonight, Bryan.  I learned that I relate to her better intellectually than physically or emotionally.  She’s nice and all that, but kissing her felt wrong, somehow.  I don’t think it should have, but it did.  Is there something wrong with me?”

“No, there’s nothing wrong with you.  You’re young, and maybe she’s not the right person for you.  Or maybe she is, and you just have to spend more time with her.  Wasn’t this why you wanted to do this?  To learn about her, and yourself, and dating and everything that goes with it?”

“Yeah, it was.  I’m just surprised I didn’t feel more than I did.  I thought I would.”

“Maybe you never will, with her.  Maybe she’s not the right person for you in any way but an intellectual one.  But you’re sure to find someone that is right.  That’s what dating’s all about.  Perhaps we’re not ready to fall in love yet anyway, at our age.”

Josh thought about that, and saw that Bryan was right.  He wasn’t worried about any of this.  He still had a long way to go.  And then he had a thought.

“You know, I already have the best friend in the world.  And beside that, I feel more when I touch you, and kiss you, than I think I ever would with Cal.  So if it doesn’t work with her, I’ve got a built-in spare.”

Bryan chuckled, yawned, then turned over and spooned back against Josh.  He grabbed Josh’s arm and pulled it over his chest, securing them together.  He said, sleepily, “Friends forever, huh?  I think I could live with that.  And who knows, maybe even more.”

Josh smiled.  It was dark in the room, and Bryan had his back to him anyway, so never saw Josh blush.  He did hear what Bryan said under his breath, though, said so Josh wouldn’t hear.  Josh did hear, however:  “I know who I love already.  When he knows for himself, I hope it’s me.”

Josh didn’t say anything, but he heard.  He heard, and his heart seemed to open wide.  He knew he already loved Bryan; he hadn’t realized the depths of Bryan’s feelings for him.  A warmth and contentment filled him, and the fancy talk he’d expounded about dating others, not having sex with each other except occasionally, being brothers first and foremost, all fell away like inconsequential blather.

He pulled Bryan tighter into him and wiggled a little, then a bit more, and Bryan recognized their two weeks weren’t up and something had changed.  He grinned, wiggled himself, and things happened that happen when two boys who love each other are pressed so tightly together, and it was quite a while before they even thought about sleeping. 

When they did, they both fell asleep smiling.


The End

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