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Perfect Little Freaks: 6.4

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January, 1987

His face was impassive as she walked through the living room, deliberately taking her time to pass from one doorway to the other. She noticed the way he drummed his fingers on the arm of the couch, his other arm in his lap as he clutched the VCR remote. His cheeks were flushed, just a little, as if he'd overheard someone talking about him from the next room over.

Or he'd been caught doing something he wanted to keep to himself.

"That was Mom on the phone," Roxy called back over her shoulder from the kitchen. "We're having chicken pot pie for dinner and she asked me to put it in the oven. She's leaving the office in ten minutes."

"And?" Dirk replied, annoyed. He hit play on the remote, and the Oilers game from the weekend started up again on the TV. "There, see? That side step," he added, as if continuing a long-abandoned conversation.

"And is your buddy staying or what?"

In the living room, Dirk shook his head tersely at the other boy who seemed equally as alarmed by Roxy's suggestion.

"We're just watching Gretzky. He's leaving in four minutes."

"Why four?"

"Two minutes in the period, two to put his jacket on."

"Fries or pasta?" Roxy called, slamming more cupboards.

"Fries! Shut up!"

She seemed to make even more noise after that; stomping around the kitchen in her heavy slippers, rummaging through oven trays, opening and closing the fridge.

Between the sounds of his sister trying to cook dinner for the family and the crowd cheering on the recorded game as the period siren rang, Dirk reached across the couch and pulled the other boy towards him by the front of his shirt; he kissed him, hard, then pushed him away again before either of them could forget where they were.

"You want to borrow the tape?" Dirk asked, raising his voice and making his footsteps across the living room as equally obvious as his sisters' in the kitchen. "I already watched it twice yesterday."

"Sure, I'll bring it to practice tomorrow," the boy said; Dirk's ears pricked at the kitchen sounds coming closer.

The visitor was standing in the foyer by the time Roxy trudged back into the living room; Dirk was back on his end of the couch staring intently as Bob Barker introduced the prizes for that evening's episode of The Price is Right.

"Rad. Later."

The door slammed, sending a light flurry of snow into the front hall.

"So why were you watching the game for a third time?" Roxy asked, dropping down onto the other end of the couch from her brother and offering him the bag of Cool Ranch Doritos she was carrying.

"Just the highlights," Dirk said without looking away from the TV game show.

The tips of his ears were still red.

"Cool," she shrugged, and dug her hand into the bag.

"Don't you have homework to do?" Dirk snapped.

"No, I finished physics," Roxy said brightly.

"What do you mean you finished it?"

"I mean I finished the textbook. I finished physics."

"It's only January."

"Yeah, my teacher is gonna get me some shit from one of his college professor buddies to do for the rest of the year," she said, as if the fact she'd finished an entire semester of work almost four months early was nothing. "So are you guys dating or what?"

Dirk felt the colour draining from his face even as he struggled to keep his expression flat.

"I'm not a fucking fag."

"That's not exactly what I asked," she said, rolling her eyes as she licked all the flavour off one side of a perfect dorito. "I just asked if you were dating."

"I'm not," he said, through gritted teeth.

"Not dating or not a fag, because at least one of those things is a lie," Roxy said, as one of her legs shot out to stop him from standing up. "Dude, just tell me."

"I'm not telling you shit," Dirk snarled, shoving her leg hard enough that the momentum forced her to fall off the couch completely and spill her doritos onto the white carpet.

"Hey!" Roxy shouted after her brother as he stormed out of the living room. "I was just asking!"

His bedroom door slammed shut so hard that his third grade school photo fell off the wall in the hallway.

+++

Roxy didn't bother knocking, because she heard the Beastie Boys start over for a second time from her own room next door; it was loud enough that Dirk couldn't be doing anything that required him to actually concentrate, but not loud enough that their parents could hear it from downstairs.

Even Dirk knew better than to try that shit when MacGuyver was on.

"Fuck off," he said bitterly, flipping a page in Lord of the Flies. "I mean it, fuck off!"

"Nah," Roxy said, settling down on the bed next to him with her legs crossed. "Didn't you already read that over the summer?"

"Test next week," he muttered; if she wouldn't leave, he could just ignore her. At least she'd closed the door behind her. "What do you want?"

"I saw you," she said. "I totally saw you macking on him so I came back up here, but then Mom rang so I tried to be as loud as possible," Roxy said, watching her brother's face closely as she spoke. "I mean, I kind of knew already, but you knew that I knew, right?"

Dirk risked glancing up at her over the top of his book, his eyes flicking up and then back to his spot on the page without skipping a word.

"What do you mean you knew? There's nothing to know."

"I literally saw you with your tongue down his throat."

"No, you didn't."

"I mean, I did though."

"Take a fucking hint, what's your damage anyway?" Dirk snapped, slamming his book shut. "You saw shit, okay?"

"Chill out, I'm not gonna tell anyone, fuck," Roxy said, rolling her eyes. "I don't care, like, at all."

"Whatever."

"Serious, I don't. If I cared I would've left your porno magazine in the bathroom last October instead of shoving it into your backpack before anyone else saw it." She let that comment hang in the air between them. "And I wouldn't have convinced Dad to pay for that team building camp you went on at the start of the hockey season."

He just stared at her in the moment of silence between The New Style and She's Crafty.

"I'm not like that," he said, narrowing his eyes as he cautiously tested her response; not that he'd admitted to anything.

"Like what?"

"That."

"Gay," Roxy supplied, when her brother seemed incapable of even saying the word. "I already told you I don't care."

"Shut up!" Dirk yelled as loudly as he dared, diving forward to tackle his sister off his bed. "I'm not a fucking faggot!"

He had her pinned to the floor by then, one fist clenched as it gripped the front of her shirt and the other resting on the carpet beside her face; to her credit, Roxy had only been briefly shocked when he knocked her backwards.

"Okay, okay," she said, raising her hands in surrender. "You're not, whatever. Just your boyfriend is, right?"

"Shut up!" Dirk hissed again. He lifted her off the floor by her shirt, just far enough that when he let go, her head dropped roughly back onto the carpet. "Get off my back and shut up, because the absolute last thing I need in my fucking life is you getting me kicked out, or kicked off the team, or my fucking face kicked in!"

Roxy just lay on the carpet beneath him, waiting. When she didn't say anything, Dirk sat up on his knees and ran his hands through his hair; he was shaking, but he didn't know why. When his sister dragged herself back on the carpet, disentangling her legs from his, he didn't try to stop her.

"So on Saturday night, I was at this party, right, and I totally made out with one of the senior girls from the Catholic school," Roxy said, tightening the scrunchie in her hair. "It was freaky hot."

"What?"

Dirk had only just made it back to his feet by then, and for the briefest moment he considered kicking her, hard, in the ribs. He clenched his fists again and stepped over her instead.

"What?" Roxy shrugged. "I was totally drunk. It was still hot though, and she was a good kisser. Whatever, we're talking about you not me and now it's your turn."

"It's not a fucking game," he snapped. "Why can't you get that through your thick skull? There's no game, there's nothing to talk about, just leave me alone!"

"Okay," she said irritably, as she sat up on the floor and leant back against the side of his bed. "Like, you can say that if you want but it seemed kinda like you were totally okay with it when you were all over him before."

"I'm okay with it, but you know who's not? Dad. Or Mom, or basically anyone else in this fucking city, or state, and I've already had my ass handed to me over it this week because that's my fucking life, right? I get my ass beat by one guy every fucking week or he opens his mouth and I get my ass beat every day by whoever wants to take a fucking swing," Dirk hissed. "Are you happy now? Lucky you, now every time you fuck up you can parade me out like I'm so sorry for embarrassing you again Daddy but at least I'm not a huge queer like Dirk!"

"You're okay with it?" Roxy asked after a tense silence, more gently than before.

"Yeah. Not really, I guess. I can't do anything about it, so," he shrugged; it was more of an involuntary twitch than anything else.

He couldn't do anything about it. He'd tried for years, because he could manipulate almost anything if he tried hard enough. Everyone made a big deal over Molly Ringwald movies but even watching them over again on video made no difference - she was pretty, yeah, but it was almost like he knew she was pretty because everyone said so. He didn't want to kiss her, didn't want to take her to prom, nothing.

He'd seen Top Gun at least four times in theatres, and it wasn't the action sequences he kept replaying in his mind.

Roxy patted the carpet beside her and he sat down, reluctantly, leaving enough space between them to let her know he needed the distance.

"If it helps, I'm really, totally okay with it," she said.

"Bullshit," he snorted.

"What? I am. It's wild, I know, but I've known you your whole life," Roxy said. "And I've seen you do some pretty fucked up shit so if you're gay it's like, not even the most radical thing you've done this year."

Dirk vaguely recalled the school suspension he'd been given a week into the Fall semester; he'd deserved it, because he was solely responsible for setting off the fire alarm in the hopes that his shop teacher would forget to give him a detention for smoking after the evacuation.

"I am," he muttered. "Queer."

"I mean, the hardcore gay porno magazine I found in the bathroom kind of gave it away," Roxy said. "It wasn't mine and that's our bathroom so it was a pretty quick process of elimination. How'd you even get that, anyway?"

"Stole it."

"Aw, you're doing petty crimes without me now?"

"We stole smokes like, twice," he said.

"That was fun," Roxy said with a smile. "We should do it again sometime," she added, elbowing him when she noticed he was peeling the corner of his thumbnail. "I won't tell anyone, cross my heart."

"I'll just deny it if you do. I don't look like a fag and I'm not gonna start dressing like one."

"What if someone finds out?" Roxy asked. "What do you want me to do?"

"Tell them I'm not," Dirk scowled. "Because in two and a half years I can move to the city, or even fucking California if I want. It's not that long."

"What if it's Mom and Dad that find out?"

"I'll kill myself before they can ship me off to fuck knows where to get my ass beat, but like, institutionally."

"No, really," Roxy said, elbowing him again. "I wanna help, what if they find out?"

"Yesterday when you were watching MTV Dad said if I ever came home looking like Boy George he'd beat me himself," Dirk said. "Then I passed him the wrench. It was a bonding moment."

"So we don't let them find out, cool," Roxy said. "I hate to break it to you but I'm getting out of here for college as soon as I can, like for different reasons but we've got the same shitty parents so you can't hate me for it."

"That's not why I hate you," he scowled.

"You don't though, I'm the best older sister anyone could ask for and here's the deal that proves it," she said. "College, right? So that means you've got half a year of me to just like, make a totally big deal of myself around here. You know, like if they focus on me there's less attention on you. I'm willing to do pretty much anything except get pregnant, because they'd definitely ship me off for that and you'd just be back to square one. I applied to Princeton. Astrophysics."

"Cool. They'll probably take you just because you're a girl."

"I know, it's awesome. I totally played that up in my application letter."

Dirk chewed the corner of his thumbnail to even out the jagged edge left behind where he'd torn it earlier.

"Did you really kiss that girl or were you just trying to make me feel better about existing?"

"I kissed her, yeah. It was kind of hot but I think that was only because my boyfriend was watching. I just wanted to see what it was like," Roxy shrugged. "It was okay. You still haven't told me if you've got a boyfriend."

"No," Dirk said, still staring across the room. "He's got a girlfriend, anyway. We just fool around sometimes."

"He's cute," she said, with a sad smile her brother didn't see. "How long have you been just fooling around?"

"Since hockey camp, before the season," he admitted. "He kissed me so I punched him for thinking I wanted him to. Then I kissed him so he punched me. Sometimes we skip the punching, but it's hard. There's always people watching who'd do a hell of a lot worse than throw a punch if they found out. You really won't narc on me?"

"Not for macking on a guy in the living room. But if you ever fuck with my super nerdy equation chalkboard again, I'll snap every single record you own."

"Wasn't me," Dirk said quickly.

"Yeah, because Mom can do calculus." They both laughed at the thought, Roxy more loudly than her brother. She put a hand down on his knee and pushed off the floor until she was standing. "I gotta bounce," she said.

"You think things will ever change?" Dirk asked suddenly. "Like, actually change?"

"You mean like, in general? I hope so," Roxy said, patting his head as she sat back down, on the edge of his bed this time. On the floor beside her, Dirk leaned over to rest his cheek on her knee. "But I don't think anything's ever gonna change in this house. You're pretty cool though. I'm on your team, promise."

"Great, a hacker girl and a faggot, fucking amazing team." The record moved on to the next song. "Awesome, my favourite track," he deadpanned.

Roxy burst out laughing and fell backwards on her brother's bed as the sound of Girls filled his bedroom.