The Whole World and You
Jack ignores all of it at first: the shy smiles, the sneaky but lingering glances, the happenstance of being always within sight, even though the amusement park was huge and crammed with people. That was all no big deal. Girls made eyes at him all the time. It's just one of those things Jack Kelly has learned to live with as a consequence of being his handsome, charming self.
It's not until early afternoon, after Les has already been on three rides and nearly puked up his pre-lunch ice-cream cone, that it becomes a problem. Because the girl isn't making eyes at him, Jack realizes as he watches David follow Les out of the men's room. She's making eyes at David. And that is ... Well, Jack doesn't know what that is, but it gives him a panicky feeling in his chest and makes him want to kick the girl in the nuts -- if she had nuts, which she doesn't, and it's not nice to kick girls anyway -- so he goes ahead and classifies it as a problem. Naturally he confronts said problem straight on by teasing David about it.
"So, what do you think? Gonna make your move anytime today?" he asks, with an elbow nudge to David's ribs and nod in the girl's direction.
"My what?" David rubbernecks every which way than the one Jack nodded, one hand gripping the shoulder of Les's shirt to keep him from barreling out of sight. "Your move, genius." He grips David's chin and points his face toward the Whack-a-Mole booth where the girl bites the corner of her bottom lip as she smiles and, yeah, that's proof positive Jack is right about her keeping tabs on them. Specifically, on David.
"Ja-ack!" David's cheeks flare pink and he jerks his chin out of Jack's hand. Jack shrugs. "She's been eyeing you all day. Just thought maybe you'd want to check that out."
"She's a person, not a thing," David corrects, and he sounds kind of adorably prissy when he's pretending to be offended. "It would be 'check her out,' not 'check that out.'"
Jack slides on a grin. "You're checking her out?"
David does his exasperated eye-roll-and-sigh combo as Les strains against David's hold like a puppy on a leash and they're on the move again, Jack smirking at David's back. He spins to trot backward a few steps and, sure enough, the girl's watching them go.
It takes another hour or so for Jack to realize that panicky, kick-her-in-the-nonexistent-nuts feeling means that he's jealous. He watches her watch them as she drifts around the Midway with her two friends, laughing and whispering with them in between catching David's eye to smile prettily. Every time he sees David smiling sheepishly in return he has to chant that thing about being nice to girls in his head. And when she "accidentally" bumps elbows with David as they wait in line for hotdogs and David goes all bashful and polite, Jack silently declares war.
They're at a sticky picnic table under the pavilion when the girl appears holding a diet soda and a falafel wrap, which is the closest thing you can get to healthy food at a Midway carnival. "Hi," she pipes, grinning bravely at David. "Mind if I join you?"
David sits up straighter and looks to Jack with wide eyes. Jack shrugs an I-told-you-so and tries not to look overtly resentful when David says, "Uhh, yeah. I mean, no! No I -- we -- don't mind," with another glance sideways to Jack. And when the girl smiles at Jack, he shoves an extra-large fry smothered in cheese sauce into his mouth. Les, who hasn't yet noticed the girl looming over his shoulder, laughs at him and follows suit, and Jack considers making Les his best friend instead.
Now that she's up close, Jack can see that the girl has freckles. Not the sprinkling-across-your-nose kind of freckles, though. She has the all-over kind of freckles that look like if they somehow bled together you'd have a really great tan. She has curly kind of reddish-brown hair and a tiny nose and blue tank top you can see down the front of. So, she's cute. Damn it.
"I'm Amy," she offers, dipping her head to chase David's gaze, which is glued to his half-eaten hotdog. Jack rolls his eyes and knocks David's elbow with his, and suddenly it's like all those manners Esther taught her son kick in and he looks up with a tidy smile.
"Oh, I'm David. And this is Les," he gestures to Les, whose hair is sticking up in chunks and has cheese sauce stuck to the side of his mouth and looks six or seven instead of nearly ten because he's the runt of the Jacobs litter and never stopped playing video games with David long enough to go play outside before Jack came into their lives. "And this is my, um, friend. Jack." Amy lifts her eyebrows and, okay, the fact that David is so tongue-tied is unfortunately score one for her, but since he did manage to remember Jack's name, Jack calls this first round a draw.
They start talking school. She goes to Country Day, David (and Jack) go to public. She's on the swim team and plays tennis. David says he plays tennis on weekends sometimes (by which Jack knows he means exactly twice, and both times he whined the whole way as Jack dragged him to the civic center), but doesn't mention that he's in band. Jack frowns. David likes band. There's only one reason he would skip mentioning it, so Jack grudgingly tallies a point in her column and pretend-sneezes cheese on a fry to make Les laugh.
Amy says she does sports photography for the school newspaper; it will make her look well-rounded on college applications. David nearly quivers off his seat with excitement; he's the news editor for the school paper and has his heart set on the Journalism School at Columbia and -- wait. David's dream of attending Columbia is something his parents don't even know yet. He's only told Jack. And now he's telling Freckles here, all willy-nilly, how he wants to apply this fall?
Jack glowers. That's not okay. That was a thing between him and David. It was the thing David trusted Jack with, and Jack got to be all supportive about, and -- holy Jesus crap he sounds whipped.
But, well, he kind of is.
It's not like he thinks of David as his girlfriend, because David's not a girl -- even though, okay, sometimes he totally is. It's more like David is his best friend who he spends all his free time with and he has thought about kissing, once or twice. Daily. For about a year. Or since they met. And Jack's never been sure if he spends all his time with David because he wants to kiss him or if he wants to kiss him because he spends all his time with him, so he generally tries not to think about it. Except for the kissing part. Whatever.
Point is, Jack thinks of David as his and happily does whatever is good for David, whether David wants him to or not. It's just never ever occurred to Jack that someday he might have to share David, that there might be someone else David would want to spend Saturday afternoons being forced to play tennis with, or confess all his nerdy dreams to. And Jack's an only child so he never really learned to share, but he supposes he would try, if he has to. Because, ultimately, Jack wants all of David's nerdy dreams to come true for him, so if having a real girlfriend is on David's to-do list, Jack would help him with that. And that would mean sharing him. But no way does that have to start now.
"Whoa, hey, check out the banana hammock on that guy." Jack interrupts their in-depth discussion of how much using Quark for page layout sucks, or whatever, just to see how far gone David is. And because, seriously, that guy in the Speedo should be slapped with a public indecency fine. The beach is only two blocks away, would it've been so hard to put pants on?
He tallies a point in his column when David breaks away from his intense conversation with Freckles to say, in an overly patient tone, "Jack, can you please not say 'banana hammock' in front of Les?"
Jack frowns to keep up the ploy, but inside he's grinning. "Why, what's wrong with --"
"Why would bananas need a hammock?"
David points to Les and looks reprovingly at Jack. "That's why."
Jack reaches across the picnic table to gently clap Les upside the head. "Tell you when you're old enough to wear one."
"Wear one?" Les blinks.
David's grimace makes Jack grin for real, and Freckles looks like she's somewhere between amused and confused, so Jack decides to give himself another point.
After lunch they wander through the alleys of game booths again, where the air is filled with carny shouts and the smell of elephant ears. Jack keeps a hand on Les as they truck along with David and Amy while David does stuff like say "after you" and guide her through the crowd with a hand at the small of her back. Here and there Jack tries to squeeze into the conversation, but then the love birds have another "you have ten fingers? I have ten fingers!! OMGlet'sbefriends" moment over books or something, and just like that Jack falls off David's radar completely.
He trails behind with Les as David laughs and jokes with Amy. David even uses up tickets at the Ducks & Darts booth for her even though he was being all stingy with them earlier, when Jack and Les wanted to try to win that gigantic stuffed jungle frog at the stand with the super-powered water pistols.
Jack thinks that it's weird how he's not jealous that someone is hitting on David instead of hitting on him, it's that someone is hitting on David and it's not him. He also thinks this is a very mature approach to the situation. The part that sucks about it is that David, who is usually totally oblivious to all flirtation (Jack knows -- he's tried), seems to know exactly what the girl is doing and he is doing it back, which Jack thought was, like, impossible.
As if to further disprove him, David buys Freckles cotton candy, and that's got to be like a gajillion points, and Jack can't take it anymore. He shoots a dirty glare in their direction, which they of course don't see, and yanks Les's wrist. "Come on, we're going to the Scrambler."
It turns out the cheese fries–Scrambler combination makes Jack feel queasy. It's either that or the raging amounts of jealousy twisting around in his gut. They go again anyway.
Les's eyeballs are spinning and he's incapable of waking in a straight line when they get off the second time. Jack corrals him over to where David and Amy sit on a bench across the way. David has his arm along the back of the bench and both of them leaning together over their shared bag of cotton candy, smiling, foreheads almost touching, like they are little kids swapping secrets. The sight makes Jack want to march Les directly to the car to leave David stranded, but then Jack would be leaving him alone with her, and God only knows what could happen. Plus, Esther would be kind of mad if he came back with only 50 percent of her sons. Jack looks at Les, who's wobbling on the spot in his too-big shorts and t-shirt, eyes still rolling aimlessly in his sockets. Okay, so more like 30 percent.
"Ready to call it a day?" he pipes, bringing his hands together with a loud clap. David and Freckles jolt.
David does his big blue regretful and longing stare at Freckles, but pushes himself up. "Yeah, I guess we should be going."
Freckles smiles from where she sits, eyes and cheeks squishing up adorably at David. "Okay, you have my number, right?" Jack considers hurling on her shoes. "Yeah, sure do. And I'll call you. Soon," David promises and gives her a quick kiss on her freckly cheek and yeah, all right, that's it.
Jack grabs David's hand and pulls and shouts, "Nice meeting you!" without meaning it and without looking back.
On the way back to the car David babbles about how awesome Amy is and what she said and what she thinks and what she likes. Jack gives Les a piggyback ride half because it will keep him from throttling his brother.
Les is limp with sleep by the time they reach David's Honda.
"You want to hear something funny?" David asks as Jack finagles a dead-to-the-world Les into the backseat of the car. He doesn't answer because, really, if it's about Amy (and of course it is) there's no stopping him anyway. "Amy said that at first one of her friends thought Les was ours."
"Ours? He's yours!" Jack scoffs, offended in that way only children get offended when they are forced to imagine having siblings -- and partially to deny all responsibility for whatever food stains are going to appear on the car's upholstery when they pull Les out.
"I think she meant that her friend thought he might be our kid."
"Pssht, what? That's ridiculous. Yeah, he's kind of runty but there's no way I'm old enough to have a kid," Jack rambles. "I mean, I would've had to be like ten when ..."
His mind catches up with his mouth then, flashing through images of what it takes to make a baby and how he can't do that with David. Well, he could (oh God, he could), but it wouldn't have the same result because David's not a girl -- except when he is -- and so there's no way they could have one unless they adopted, but to adopt you have to be older and married and -- oh. Ours.
Jack knows he's blushing, and he has to clear his throat before he can talk. "So, uh, what'd you tell her?"
David gives him this half-smile, half-exasperated, half-smitten look and closes the car door, leaving little space between them. "I told her what she'd already figured out -- that he's my little brother," he says, sneaking a hand to Jack's hip and leaning in to peck him on the lips, "and that I'm yours." In the second Jack is stunned speechless he gives Amy a gajillion more points and makes her an honorary best friend.
The second after that he's still speechless, but it's because David is his and he's kissing him and grinning.
Title from the song of the same name by Tally HallBack.