There comes a point in his life when Drake Parker realizes that it's actually fair to say that Josh's hugs have changed his life. It's one of those realizations that, at the time, he really wishes he'd never had but which later on, he finds himself incredibly grateful for.
The first time they hugged was on the day they moved in together, and at the time, Drake could honestly say that he had no idea how he was even going to be able to put up with Josh. But the weird thing is, even then, he'd have had to admit that it was a nice hug.
After that first time, hugging Josh got a lot easier, because Josh always seems to want it. They still don't hug that often, but when they do, it's a big event. When Josh does something, it's never by halves. The hugs come with the exclamation, 'hug me, brotha!', and there's always a certain tone to Josh's voice that lets Drake know just how much it means to Josh that they're brothers now.
It doesn't take Drake long to start using the words as well (which makes Josh grin insanely) and not much longer for it to mean as much to him as it does to Josh.
As time passes, their hugs tend to get a bit longer. Drake finds it increasingly hard to let go of Josh, even when they're in public, and even when he knows they've already been hanging on too long. He likes it best when Josh picks him up and swings him around, because then he has no reason to feel guilty when the hug goes on maybe longer than it should since he can't be the one to pull away first, anyway.
Things are good, and for the first time in his life, Drake really feels…cared for. Oh, he knows his mom, Walter, and even Megan care about him, too, but that always feels more abstract than what he has with Josh. Megan is forever pranking him, and his mom and Walter have more of a hands-off approach to parenting, generally leaving him to work out his own problems and take care of himself, and with that comes a certain physical and emotional distance.
It matters less to him than it maybe should, but he has Josh now, and with Josh's frequent displays of affection, it's difficult to feel like he might be missing anything at all.
As they become closer, Drake finds that he throws himself into his relationship with Josh with a fervor he can't remember ever having in any friendship before. It scares Drake, how much he's come to depend on Josh, and he quickly realizes that the only way he can combat his fear is by pretending that Josh doesn't matter to Drake as much as he really does.
It only sort of works for him, but once he gets started, it's difficult to quit, even once it becomes clear how much he can hurt Josh just by ignoring Josh's feelings. Though he may be careless with Josh's feelings sometimes, none of that ever carries over to their hugs; quite the opposite, in fact.
Josh will be pissed one minute because Drake forgot to help him clean the garage, and the next minute, they'll be hugging like there's no tomorrow, Drake clinging and rubbing Josh's back, trying to apologize in that one gesture. Usually, Josh seems to understand.
Once in awhile, though, Drake will go too far. So far, in fact, that he knows that not even an actual worded apology will be enough, let alone one in hug form. He tries not to let that happen, because as much as it sometimes scares him to rely on Josh so much, the possibility that Josh might not forgive him for the shit he pulls is unthinkable.
It's just such an occasion that brings into sharp relief how much Josh and his bone-crushing hugs have changed his life. Drake pisses Josh off, like usual, but instead of the dramatics Drake is used to, he gets nothing. Just, nothing.
Josh ignores him, is done with him, and that's when Drake knows it's serious. The idea that Josh may never want to hug him again is one Drake can't quite deal with, and denial hits hard. Because if Josh doesn't need Drake, then Drake must not need Josh either. He can't need Josh.
Of course, it doesn't take long for him to crack. A lifetime without Josh is no life at all, and Drake can see it stretching out before him in startling clarity. No Josh to be there for him when he's in trouble, no Josh to share in his triumphs as he gets closer and closer to being the rockstar he's always dreamed of becoming, no Josh period.
Drake finally snaps, right in the middle of school, with everyone watching. It's one of the worst days of his life, and the only thing that can make it better is Josh. He finds himself begging Josh to forgive him, willing Josh to understand what he's saying, because although he can't make the words come out, he's trying to tell Josh how much he loves him. And Josh leaves him hanging.
As Drake rushes home from school, despite the fact that it's the middle of the day, all he can think about is that he meant every word of it, both the things he said and the things he didn't. He maybe kind of gets now why he reacted weirdly when Josh kissed him over the Oprah tickets, stomach dipping, heart pounding nearly out of his chest, lips tingly dangerously, wipe his lips quickly to rid himself of that ridiculous feeling. Because even then, he'd been invested, had wanted more, wanted as much as he could get from Josh. It makes this whole situation that much worse, realizing what he'd had and what he wants, and what now seems so out of reach.
He's worked himself into quite a funk by the time Josh gets home from school, and he can't see any way out of it. If Josh doesn't forgive him, Drake has no idea how to go on with his life as it is. He can't keep having Josh just out of reach but totally inaccessible. Somehow, he has fucked up worse than he ever thought possible.
Only, when Josh gets home, he starts acting like nothing has happened, as if he hasn't been completely avoiding Drake for days. Drake's heart leaps in his chest, because out of nowhere, he suddenly has exactly what he'd wanted – for things to be back to normal between them.
The only problem is that that doesn't seem like enough anymore. He wants to say something, to tell Josh that as grateful as he is for being forgiven, he wants to be closer than before the incident. It's on the tip of his tongue to say it, but Josh looks so happy to be brothers again that Drake can't bring himself to risk what he's only just gotten back.
In the following months, the only thing that seems to change is that Drake wants more than ever to just tell Josh that he loves him. It isn't until the following Christmas that Drake works up the courage to even try. Somehow, the threat of years in prison convinces him better than anything else that waiting is getting him nowhere. Not even the looming prison sentence being dropped changes his mind
At the end of the day, Josh hits him with a ball of cheese snow and runs off around the other side of the wood chipper, and Drake takes off after him, catching up with a flying tackle in the neighbors' yard. They both go down, but thankfully, not too hard. They're tangled around each other, and Drake is unsurprised to find that he has no desire to move at all. They're breathing hard, but neither of them tries to move away.
"I love you, brotha," Drake blurts out, and it comes out sounding far heavier than he ever thought he'd get, talking about feelings.
Even to himself, he sounds serious, and Drake has a moment of panic when he realizes he's totally put himself out there and Josh is just staring at him in shock.
"I love you, too, Drake." Josh sounds a little uncertain and a little like he thinks Drake should already know this, and Drake is sure Josh doesn't get what he's saying.
"No, I mean…"
Drake tilts his head the two inches forward it takes to press his lips to Josh's. Josh wraps his arms around Drake almost immediately, and Drake decides pretty quickly that he probably does get it.
Eventually, they have to get up and rejoin their friends and family, but not before their lips are kiss-swollen and their breathing heavy from something other than running around in cheese snow.