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Misunderstandings

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He’s convinced that Chris and Ashley are trying to give him cavities. Not a day goes by that they’re not awkwardly flirting, sniping at each other over the strangest little things, or sneaking glances at each other when they think the other isn't looking. Often it’s all three in the same day.

It’s not only cavity inducing but also exhausting. Any more of this and Josh is going to start pulling his hair out.

Unfortunately it’s just the three of them this weekend, Hannah, Beth and Sam all having decided to go on some back to nature camping trip. This at least gives Josh enough time to hopefully nudge his friends in the right direction (or bash their heads together until they finally get a clue), for his sanity's sake at least. He does try his best to avoid lingering on what he thinks they’ll get up to once he’s successful, and gone. It’s a distracting uncomfortable thought. Certainly not what a friend should be picturing, especially when it involves his best guy.  

So, while Chris goes out to get supplies. Pizza and alcohol of course, he decides to have a little chat with Ashley. She’s wearing a cute little pair of denim shorts (that really draw the eye to her long, gorgeous legs), and a cute little plain red t-shirt.

Josh quickly averts his stare to the book in her hands, just in time as she turns to face him. “How long have you been friends with Chris, Ashley?”

“Not as long as you” she replies cheekily, slowly putting her book down.   As if that counts with matters of the heart.

“I guess” he concedes. “I was wondering if you’d tell me how you two met?”

Despite one eyebrow looking distractingly high after his question, Ashley appeared mostly amused by it. “Seriously, you don’t remember?”

He quickly shakes his head. Accepting this Ashley quickly counters with ““Why the sudden interest then, you've never asked before?”

He should have expected this, Ashley always was the smart one in their little group. Chris may be their resident nerd but he wasn't always great at reading a situation.

“Guess I just wanted to know a little more about you, after all we've been spending a lot of time together lately” Josh quickly fired back.

Appearing to mull his answer over, Ashley evidently decided to accept his reasoning as she motioned for him to sit. “We met because of you actually, remember when you called Chris to pick you up from Mike’s party because you were seriously wasted? Well I was the one who had to help him drag you to his car. I guess the rest is history.”

The silence that follows her declaration stretches out a little too long, both of them just looking at each other. Ashley eventually folds her arms primly across her distracting chest and leans forward towards him.

Whatever she was going to say however was unceremoniously cut off by the loud bang of the door as Chris swoops in. Josh decides to forgive his timing tough after he presents the pizzas. If his chest feels a little funny after their conversation, it’s probably just from eating too quickly.

_ _ _

 

Ashley’s gone out shopping with the girls. Josh and Chris are instead engaging in an afternoon of video games. Josh is kicking Chris’s butt at Mario Kart, but they’re making idle chit-chat as they play. Mostly because Chris is trying to throw Josh off his game, but it’s still a pleasant afternoon.

“So you and Ashley been on any trips to the bone zone” Josh jokes, smirking slightly as Chris’s character jerks around wildly on the screen. “If you have you can tell me, in fact I insist you spare no details.”

Chris doesn't look away from the screen. “There’s nothing going on with me and Ash.”

Josh gives him a brilliant, if slightly crooked smile “because you’re both waiting for someone to make a move.”

“If it were me I’d already be all over you it” He did not just think that. This whole matchmaker thing was just messing with his head.

Looking pretty dower Chris responds “I just don’t want to risk losing her.”

“If this is about you being worried about not being any good, I can help you with that.” Set him up with one of his old hook ups. It wouldn't be hard, Chris is a good looking dude, if he keeps his mouth shut.

“What, Seriously?” Oh no, he looks kind of freaked. Chris must not be into the whole no strings attached thing.

“Hey, don’t freak. It was just a suggestion.” Josh quickly reassures him.

 Despite this they spend the next ten minutes playing in silence.

Thankfully Beth saves him, texting him begging for an out from the shopping trip, so Josh is able to leave the apartment pretty quickly. The atmosphere had gotten pretty weird in there by the end, and Chris kept glancing at him with an odd expression marring his features. Josh could have sworn his eyes had flicked to Josh’s lips a few times.

 

Weird. 

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“It’s not uncommon,” he murmurs to Ashley while they’re sat together, waiting for Chris’s class to finish. “Friends spend loads of time together, they get to know each other almost…” he shrugs “intimately. It’s not uncommon for that to lead to less than platonic feelings.”

“I’ll remember to remind you of that the next time you and Mike hang out.”

Josh tries to suppress an involuntary grimace at that mental image. Hannah would kill him! “Let’s be clear, if you’re afraid of taking a risk, don’t be. Either it works or it doesn’t, but I can promise you somethings are worth a little risk.”

She appears quite taken back, looking at him incredulously. “You think the reason nothing’s happened is that I'm afraid of taking a risk?”

“Aren't you?”

“No, it’s because of Chris. He’s too important for me to lose over some hypothetical relationship – that would probably end in flames anyway!” She responds angrily, and refuses to be engaged on the matter further.

____

He and Chris are lounging around in his kitchen, preparing drinks for when the rest of the group arrives. “I hate beating around the bush, so I guess I’ll come right out with it…”

“You need to grow a pair! I've been trying to lay the ground work but maybe you’re just not getting the hint.”

Then, as if the universe were mocking Josh’s plan the front door smashed against the wall as Mike, and the rest of the group, sauntered through the door. If Chris had recovered enough to respond to his little rant, he wasn't given the chance to voice his protests as the group swarmed towards them the drinks.

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Things had been tense between the three friends for some time now. It had even gotten to the point where Jess had tried to talk to him about it. Jess, who was never concerned about anything. Josh was officially calling an intervention. This had gone too far!

So after a slightly awkward discussion with his sisters, Josh’s apartment was officially blacklisted for the weekend. He certainly didn't want any surprise visits while he was wheedling whatever Chris and Ashley’s problem was out of them. 

They probably just wanted him to stop pushing.

 ___

This was a terrible plan.

It had seemed so simple. Something was wrong with his two best friends. Clue one: Chris never wanted the two of them to be alone any more. If Josh suggested doing anything that didn't also include Ashley he’d start to get flustered. The week before Josh had casually suggested that Chris should come over and they could study together, He missed his friend, but Chris had just started stammering out an excuse. The strangest thing was that Josh could have sworn he was blushing. Who blushes over school work?

Clue two: Ashley had started wanting to hang out with him more. While this wasn't exactly a warning sign that something was wrong, it had sent up red flags. Josh may consider Ashley one of his best friends but they didn't have much in common outside Chris. In fact they rarely if ever used to hang out unless Chris was somehow involved.

Ergo, there was a problem.

Unfortunately, Josh hadn't considered how horrible being stuck alone with two people who wouldn't look at each other for more than a few seconds would be.  He’s not proud to admit that when given the choice between toughing it out and trying to get the two to discuss their issues, or escaping to the bathroom for a nice long bath, he uses their preoccupation to bolt.

Fleeing was clearly the best choice. It wasn't cowardly, despite what anyone else may say. He was just giving them the time to work things out privately.  Best bro ever.

 ___

His friends could not take a hint. Just as he was shutting the water off, he hears a faint tap at the door. “What? I'm trying to take a bath.” He responds.

“Did you mean what you said, about taking a risk?” Ashley asks, voice nearly unintelligible through the door.

It takes Josh a moment to recall what she’s taking about. Is that why she’s been so quiet around Chris lately? Was she trying to build up her nerve?

“Completely,” he fires back quickly, suddenly glad that he’s only gotten around to removing his shirt. This is more important than a bath.

“I'm glad. I wasn't sure at first, we’re such different people, but I think you were right.” She says, and he if he was to remind himself its relief he’s feeling, well no one has to know.

“It has been known to …” his response however is quickly cut sort as he opens the bathroom door. He sees a flash of Ashley’s smiling face and then.

And then Ashley’s hand is in his hair and her mouth is on his.