Send in the Clown

Josh is a family-oriented class clown looking for friendship in a new city. What he finds isn't exactly what he had in mind—Justin, a tattooed ex-druggie fuck up with enough baggage to weigh down an airplane. But tragedy soon forces Josh to stick with him, and together they figure out what the hell they want from life, one hurdle at a time.

A/N: This is a spin-off of Reflections, which is a spin-off of Confession (I know, I'm awful). You can read this one or Reflections first—your call. I wrote Reflections first, so it'd probably be better to read that one first (because this one will spoil Reflections pretty damn fast). However, all characters are given proper introduction in this novel as well.

Chapter One

"We would like you to take her."

"Excuse me?"
"You. We want you to be the father."

"I don't understand."

"We've been told you always wanted to be a father."

"Yeah, but . . . I don't . . ."

"We'd like you to take her."

I spent a lot of time staring out my window. I hadn't gone outside all day, and I really needed to call my mother. But I didn't want to leave without coming to some sort of decision, and that decision was impossible to make. This was pretty much the decision of a lifetime. I'd thought the decision not to go to college had really rocked my world, but this was harder. This . . . this could change everything.

Sighing, I looked down at my phone. I needed my parents for this, even though I knew their answer. Whatever you want, sweetheart, Mom would say. We'll support you in every choice you make. Gah. Why did they have to be so supportive? They hadn't screamed at me about the college thing or the gay thing or anything, really. The last time I remembered my mother screaming at me was when I was twelve and tracked mud all over her new carpet. That was more than ten years ago.

I slouched over and rested my head in my crossed arms on the countertop.

I didn't know what the hell I should do.

"Is something wrong, honey?" Mom asked as I bent over to pet Dozer, who wasn't breathing very well. No one was sure how much longer he'd last. I figured he gave this thing called life his best shot. No one could expect the dog to last forever.

"Um, I just . . . where's Dad?"

"In the garage, working on the car. Do you need him?"

I straightened. "Can I talk to both of you?"

"I'll go get him." Mom took a step, but then stopped and put a hand on my arm, giving me a sympathetic look. Sometimes I wondered how I'd gotten parents like these. Sure, I joked about having lame parents like every other guy out there, but everyone told me how lucky I was, and I guess they were right. I was frightened by how much I needed them right now.

"Always wanted to be a dad."

Duncan looked at me with vague disbelief. "Why?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. It's weird. Funny, the most devastating thing about coming to terms with my sexuality was the realization I couldn't be a dad."

Duncan snorted. "Well, can't say I understand. Keep those smelly, loud, and rude little turds away from me. Was one myself, and can't say I have any desire for a blast from the past."

He didn't understand, but then again, most young guys didn't. Justin had the same attitude. How could I explain it to them? Whenever a woman said "I want a baby," everyone grinned and cooed and said "Isn't that wonderful?" Whenever a man said he wanted a child, people looked at him like he was some sort of freak. What kind of man wants kids?

"It's just something I always wanted."

Some people have shitty pasts. I didn't. I didn't have a perfect life—no one does—but after being told on multiple occasions how envious people were of my functional family, I really started to believe that where I came from was good indeed.

My father was born and raised in Middle of Nowhere, Quebec, the kind of place where you spoke French and didn't ask questions about it. So my dad didn't learn English until high school, and he certainly didn't learn it with any adequacy until he decided to go to college in New York, which was where he met my mother. My mother's family wasn't pure New Yorker, but my Gran was, as my Gran was big into theater. When theater is your business, New York is the only place you can be.

My older brother was born six years before me, in the Bronx. My dad won the battle on the French name, Adrien, which was probably how I ended up with Josh, a very un-French name. I was born in Pittsburgh, because my family decided a quieter city would benefit the family life, and they couldn't even contemplate living in a small town. My dad had lived through that and decided never again.

My parents wouldn't admit it, but I think I was a mistake. Who has a kid six years after their first if not because of a mistake? Maybe I was planned, but they agreed later that I had to be a mistake, because I made their lives miserable for a good ten years or so. I simply could not stay out of trouble, and while my parents were patient, laid back people, I was a devil child. I was polite, of course, and everyone always said I was adorable, but alone at home I was a menace. We all laughed about it now. Every since puberty, I calmed down.

Two years after me came Christine. My parents figured that with two boys, they'd like to have a girl, just to say they did. I got Christine into trouble more than not, but we still got along as kids, and I remembered riding our bikes along the streets of Squirrel Hill, curiously watching the Hasidic Jews leave synagogue. Religion was a thing we weren't raised with, so it definitely sparked our interest.

Obviously with my dad in the house, we all learned Quebecois French, which I always joked was the bastard child of French if you took it into the back alley and beat it with a spiked mallet. Whenever people learned I spoke French, they'd do several double takes, amazed that a guy as "American" seeming as me could rattle off in perfect (Quebecois) French. I didn't speak it with anyone outside of my father and occasionally my sister when we didn't want anyone to overhear us, so it wasn't exactly a big deal for me. No one liked his family much anyway, so we were pretty isolated from that part of our heritage.

Anyway, with my parents and siblings and Gran, I had a pretty kick ass childhood, mostly spent bringing dead insects home and making castles out of mud in the backyard. Pittsburgh was a good place, and I'll always remember it with fond memories, despite feeling the need to get out once I grew up. I needed to go bigger, and my family knew that. Gran still lived in New York, so I considered going there after high school, but on the other hand, my family didn't want to follow me there. I loved my family, and going anywhere where they weren't just a drive away frightened me.

Adrien got married to his high school sweetheart Petunia when I was in high school. I met her back when I was eleven, and even then I thought she was cool. She just seemed to fit, and I didn't say that because my whole family was hefty and so was she. She shared the same sense of humor as we did, the same values, even dressed a little like my mother did, in jean skirts and flats. She had a big nose and lips, freckles you couldn't hope to count, and frizzy hair she always kept back in a bun. When we first met, she brought brownies. All it takes in my family is to bring food and we'll love you forever. My family lives and breathes food.

"Will you be my best man?" Adrien asked me as we wandered the Strip, because it was a good place to go on the weekends. That was probably the only place you could buy squid in Pittsburgh.

"Really?" I was shocked. I had been convinced that he'd ask his best friend Ron to be his best man, and I didn't consider myself mature enough to take that position. I was only sixteen.


"Oh. Well, um, sure. I guess. Thank you. I thought you were going to ask Ron."

"Nah, you're my brother. It's important to me to have you up there, and Ron understands that."

I wasn't as close with Adrien—we all called him Addy—as I was with my sister, being as we were six years apart, but we were still closer than a lot of other siblings, because that's how you had to be in my family. Christine liked to joke that we were Italian in spirit.

"Okay. Well, then, sure."

Not exactly the most sentimental of moments, but we weren't terribly sentimental people.

Addy was the first person I told about my sexuality.

Let's be clear. My family was not religious, and my mother grew up in the theater community with my Gran, who had friends who were drag queens, so logically I knew my apparent gayness was not going to ruffle many feathers. At least not with Mom. Dad probably wasn't as liberal as her—he was sometimes still that country boy from Quebec—but I highly doubted he'd care either. After all, I liked to joke, a conservative Canadian was an American hippy. I was still scared though. I didn't want to be treated any differently. I wasn't the manliest guy in the world, especially compared to Adrien, who had opted out of college to work for a construction company, fixing cars in his spare time. I was a really theatrical guy, using every chance I had to entertain people and get them laughing, but I wasn't running around with bows in my hair either. I didn't know if my family knew and was waiting for me to say something, or if they were totally oblivious.

I don't know why I told Addy first, considering I was closer to Christine. But he was my older brother, and therefore I, thirteen years old, looked up to him. We were visiting Gran at the time and messing around on the beach, getting as sunburned as possible. We'd run off to get some burgers at a nearby stand when I stopped Adrien.

"Can I tell you something?"

"What is it?"

"Um . . . it's really awkward, and I don't know how you'll take it . . ."

"You break something of mine again?"

"No! God. I didn't break anything. It's a . . . personal issue."

At that, Adrien smirked. "Wet dreams?"

"What? No! Um, nothing like that. I just . . ." I bit my lip.

"Come on, Josh, You can tell me anything."

That's what I needed to hear, so I took a deep breath and said it. "I think I'm gay."

Clearly he hadn't been expecting that one, because his eyes bugged a little. I had worried that maybe since he was big and tough that he'd feel required to act like an asshole, but instead he just looked me over and shrugged.


"Okay? That's all you have to say?"

"Sure. I believe you. Do you want to talk about it?"

"I haven't told Mom or Dad yet."

"Okay, well, tell them when you're ready. But you know they won't care, right?"

"You sure?"

Adrien snorted. "Of course I'm sure. Dude, Gran works in theater. Mom grew up in the dressing rooms of queeny gay men. I don't think it's an issue."

"Okay, but I'm still nervous."

"Don't be." Adrien slung an arm around my shoulders, squeezing me firmly. "You're still my kid brother, and you're still their son."

"I'm not totally sure."

"You have a crush on someone or something?" Adrien let go of me and stepped into line at the burger stand. I got in behind him.

"No. I just know."

"You should tell Gran too. She'll probably throw you a coming out party or something."

"No! I don't want a stupid party. I just want everyone to know it and then forget about it."

"Alright, I won't bring it up again."

There was a long silence, and then I said, "I'm kind of afraid."

"Of the 'rents?"

"No. Of everyone else." I looked around the crowds all tanning on the beach. Who knew how many of these people would hate me for what I was? I knew what lay in store for me outside of my house, and I didn't like it.

"Anyone gives you crap, I'll come kick their ass for you. Has anyone teased you?"

"No one knows but you. I'm not obvious, am I?"

Adrien snorted. "No."


"Even if you were, so what? Still my brother." Then he reached over and ruffled my hair, and I protested loudly. What a jerk.

My conversation with my mother, who was making cookies at the time, went like this:

Me: Uh, Mom?

Mom: No, you do not get any of these cookies, Josh.

Me: Uh, it's not about that.

Mom: Oh?

Me: This isn't exactly easy. But Addy said—he said you'd be okay with it.

Mom: What did you break this time?

Me: I didn't break anything, Mom.

Mom: Well, then spit it out.

Me: I'm trying, but you keep interrupting.

Mom: You keep stalling. If you would just—

Me: I'm gay!

Looooooong silence. For the first time, she turns around to look at me.

Mom: Gay for who?

Me, confused: Uh . . . men?

Mom: Obviously. What kind of men? Young men? Old men? Fat men? Skinny men? Men in furry suits?
Me: Mom! I'm not a furry!

Mom: I'm just asking, that's all. It would be a little strange, but of course I would still love and accept you.

Me: I am not a furry! God, I shouldn't have even told you. I'll be in my room.

Then I march off.

Mom, calling up the stairs: Still love you, darling!

Only later did I find it funny.

Most kids hated high school. I didn't. I almost liked it. True, class was boring as hell and my grades were usually mediocre, but I loved all my friends, and every time I look back at it, I had the time of my life in those short four years of my life.

I got along with everyone, but I especially liked hanging out with girls. Not sure if it was because I was gay or if it was just the kind of girls I hung out with. They weren't into make-up or shopping or anything like that, though of course they had their shallow moments, which I didn't mind either. However, theater girls are nuts, so most of our time was spent goofing off. Sure, I goofed off with my "bros" too but there was always competition with them, and I wasn't a competitive guy. I just liked doing things for the fun of it. Also, fat jokes were a thing with the guys. I didn't mind fat jokes, because I participated in them too. However, my girls called me cute. Guess which was better for my ego?

My best friend was Kylie, and I told her everything. I didn't like to talk about deeper emotional stuff most of the time, because I preferred jokes. To me, life was just a barrel of laughs, and I struggled to get serious when I needed to. Kylie claimed I covered up my insecurities with humor. I told her I had no insecurities.

"Sure, whatever," she'd always say. "And my vagina is purple."

"Like jam?"

She hit me.

"How am I supposed to know what colors vaginas are? I don't have one, nor do I want to be in one."

"Ugh, whatever."

One time Kylie's boyfriend got jealous of all the time she and I spent together. Made no sense to me, since he knew I was gay. Maybe it bothered him when we hugged, but I hugged everyone, as did Kylie. When my girls needed hugged, I hugged them damnit. Hell, when my guys needed hugged I hugged them. It was just something I did. One advantage of being fat, I guess. People seemed to think you were made out of marshmallow fluff and hugged you a lot.

"He's heard stories of guys faking homosexuality to get close to certain girls."

"That's ridiculous," I told Kylie as I painted her nails. I could fix a car and paint nails, because I was multi-dexterous like that. "I wouldn't have to fake anything to get close to you. You're not exactly closed off."

"I don't know what his problem is."

"Besides, he's way hotter than me. What is he going on about?"

"Oh, Joshie." She reached over and squeezed my face in her hand. "You're cute."

"Yeah, yeah, we're all cute here. He's still batshit insane."

"Boy has insecurities and likes to push them on me. Whatever. I can hang out with who I like, even if it's a straight dude."

Kylie occasionally tried to set me up, but her only attempt failed. I wasn't good friends with any gay kids, as crazy as that sounds, being as I was so involved in the theater. Shocking to say, most of the theater kids in my school weren't gay. There were two gay boys and a bi girl, but we were acquaintances at best. I heard a lot of drama happened in such circles, and I was not interested in it. However, Kylie believed that I needed to "flower" and asked me if I wanted to go on a double date with a guy she knew. He went to our school, but I didn't even know who he was. Apparently he was one of those Math Team nerds. That would explain why I never saw him—I was in stupid math, on the account that I hated math.

The guy was cute, in a nerdy, awkward way. Unfortunately, I am total shit with anything leaning into the romantic spectrum, and I was twice as awkward. Kylie couldn't understand why someone as outgoing and obnoxious as me just went mute in the presence of this guy, and to tell you the truth, I didn't understand either. But Ben—his named was Ben—found it alright, because he asked me out on another date.

It was doomed to fail, but we tried anyway. Two awkward kisses and three dates later, he stopped calling me, and I figured that was the end of that. Kylie got pissed and demanded I go to his house and bitch him out, but I shrugged. Chemistry wasn't happening, and you couldn't force what wasn't there. I let it go.

Eventually I told her that I thought I had a problem.

"I just can't see people as more than friends."

"What do you mean?"

"I look at a guy and think 'that guy is hot' but that's it. I usually feel no desire to date him."

"So you just want anonymous sex?"

"No. God. I just think the romance machine in my head is broken or something."

"You just haven't met the right guy."

"I'm sure," I said sarcastically.

"For God's sake, you're sixteen. Give it a few years. You'll find your mojo."

I didn't find it when I was in high school. And then two weeks after I graduated, my family and I moved to L.A.

I find it funny that when we moved, we all moved. Gran and Adrien too. Petunia had gotten pregnant literally days after she got married, so now they had my young nephew to move too. True to Moreau family tradition, he was raised by more than just Petunia and Adrien. My parents and Gran did what they could, and many a night was spent babysitting. Most guys would lament it, but I enjoyed it. Hayden was a hilarious baby, saying all sorts of crazy things and getting into every possible forbidden place he could manage. Looking after him was an exhausting job, but Hayden loved me, and that was all the payment I needed.

We went to L.A. because Mom got a job at the same time my father was able to purchase a junkyard, because my mother was a part-time metal sculptor and my father had helped operate a junkyard back home. I can't tell you how much cool shit he brought home for us as kids. I had never been further west than Houston, so I welcomed the chance to experience a different culture than the cold and cloudy one I'd left behind. The sun was foreign to me, as were the warm winters. Going outside in February in a light jacket just blew my mind.

I passed on college, even though I was sure I would have made friends and had a blast. My family wasn't poor, but it would have been a bit of a burden, and I didn't have the drive. Education wasn't really my schtick. When I was sixteen, I got my EMT license, so it was easy to get a job doing that at the closest hospital. The pay was shit, but I got to drive an ambulance, which had always been a fascination of mine. EMTs and paramedics were good people, so I almost enjoyed going to work. Stress was high, but I was good with it. My laid back nature ran in the family.

Making friends wasn't half as easy as it was in Pittsburgh. People weren't as cold here as they were in New York, but people here were more often than not snobs. I couldn't understand it. I got along with my coworkers, but outside of that, it was nearly impossible to get the time of day from people. In Pittsburgh, people opened your doors and smiled at you, a small-town attitude in a bigger city. L.A. was totally different. It was every man for himself.

It got me kind of bummed. I called my friends from home a lot, which was the only way to cheer myself up, outside of babysitting Hayden. Christine had made a few friends, but she went to high school, where it was easier. I was beginning to regret not going to college.

Then the day at the pool happened.

I was swimming around with a gurgling Hayden when I saw him. He was hard to miss, considering I'd never seen anyone swim in full make-up. He was exactly the type you didn't see in Pittsburgh—black eye shadow, tattooed arms, the sort of fuck-off glare destined for the world of rock n' roll. He was also pretty damn hot, in my humble opinion, despite his short stature and bony physique. It looked like he hadn't eaten in two weeks.

He came with a girl who seemed far too normal to run in the same crowd, but they looked a little alike, so I assumed her to be his sister.

I didn't want to be a creep, so I just glanced at him occasionally out of the corner of my eye. He didn't smile once, and it was clear he wasn't interested in making friends. If he'd shown any sign of openness, I would have given him a "hey there", because I was a friendly guy, and I wasn't afraid of social interaction.

Unfortunately, he didn't look at me.

"Babababa," Hayden said, clapping his hands in the water.

"Hey, there, buddy, aiming for my face?"

Petunia swam over. She didn't work, something she and Adrien had agreed upon shortly after Hayden was born. She'd tried going back to work, but the stress got to her, and I think she made a better stay-at-home mom. We were currently swimming in the pool at their apartment complex, which I thought was great. Apartment complexes didn't have pools in Pittsburgh, because there were all of about two weeks you could swim in a Pittsburgh summer.

"How's Hayden?" she asked.

"Enjoying the heck out of this swimming pool."

Petunia protected her face as Hayden smacked the water again. Then she laughed and cuddled him. Hayden was far more interested in the physical properties of water than cuddling his mother back.

With Hayden occupied, I threw another glance at Mean Emo kid, who had slipped into the pool since I saw him last. Now he was treading water in the deep end. His big Jew fro wasn't even wet. Haha, Jew fro. Sure saw a lot of those in Squirrel Hill, which had been Pittsburgh's Jew-central neighborhood. All my neighbors had curly dark hair and ordered Chinese food on Christmas.

I was just about to look away, but his head wobbled for an instant and he went under the water with nothing more than a quiet schloop. I waited for him to come back up, but he didn't. That's when I knew that something was probably wrong.

I was a strong swimmer—fat floats, you know—so I was over to him in several strokes. No one even seemed to know anything was wrong until I'd pulled him over to the edge of the pull and hauled him up onto the concrete. He had passed out alright, and I didn't think he was breathing.

Good thing I was an EMT.

Usually when I did mouth-to-mouth I had my trusty little plastic mouthpiece, because what movies don't tend to show you is a person's tendency to puke shortly after being revived. Which is what Mean Emo kid did. Not much, but a little. Not exactly my best French kiss, I must say. But I was glad to see him alive and choking. By that time, his hysterical sister had run over and bent over him.

"Justin!" she cried, grabbing his shoulders as he vomited a bit more on the concrete. I spit into the grass, making faces. Nasty. I needed something to rinse out my mouth with. "Justin, oh my God, are you alright?"

"Hey," I said, leaning back on my knees and taking a few deep breaths. "Give him some air, will you?"

Petunia was running over too now, carrying Hayden across her shoulder. "Josh? Josh, what's happening?"

By now the whole pool was standing over here, all six of them. All I did was ask for water, which was granted. I used it to gargle and spit. Next time I was carrying my mouthpiece.

Justin was done choking now, but he wasn't getting up. I moved to his side and checked his pulse. It seemed regular. I still wasn't sure if he was okay, since he wasn't terribly animated and he had just passed out in the middle of a pool.

"How are you feeling?" I asked in my most professional voice. He looked up at me through slitted eyes, probably due to the piercing sunlight. He was cuter up close, despite the acne scars along his jawline. He had such tiny little eyebrows, obviously plucked. Strange kid, really.

"What?" he asked. His voice was smoky and rough, but that might have come from the whole "nearly drowning" thing.

"Do you need to go to the hospital?" I asked.

"Who are you?"

"Dude, you just passed out in the pool. I saved your life."

"I what? Zoe?" He looked up at the blonde girl who was hovering over him worriedly. "What happened?"

"I don't know!" She looked at me. "What happened?"

"He passed out, I think. Nearly drowned."

"Ugh." Justin rolled over onto his stomach, squeezing his eyes shut. "I feel awful."

"Do you want to go to a hospital?" I asked.

"I'm fine."

"Sure? I'm an EMT. I can take you there."

"You're an EMT?" Zoe asked me.


When the action died down, people drifted away. But Zoe and Petunia stayed there, waiting until Justin felt prepared to stand. Zoe reached down and slipped an arm around his waist, letting him use her to get to his feet. When he slouched, I offered my arm too. Between the two of us, we were able to get him up. He really didn't look good. I wanted to take him to the hospital and get him checked out, but Justin resisted.

"I'm fine. Just not feeling hot today." He glanced at me. "You gave me mouth-to-mouth?"

"Yeah. Vomited a little, you know that?"

His face fell, then scrunched in disgust. "Are you serious?"

"Don't worry about it. I'm happy you're alive, that's all."

"Oh God."

"Like I said, don't worry about it."

He shrank away from me, but he mumbled a soft, "Thank you," so at least he had some manners. I found him to be a pretty typical breed of Los Angeles gay boy, two parts emo and one part punk, but that was okay with me. It was something new for me.

"No problem. Still think you should go to the hospital. You don't look too great, dude."

"I'm fine," he said curtly, hugging himself. "Zoe, I'm fine. You can stop hovering now."

"You almost died and you're telling me to stop worrying? Mom—"

"Mom doesn't need to know. I'm fine."

"Of course Mom's gonna know. I'm calling her."

"No. Don't."

"Justin, shut up. I'm calling her." Then Zoe pulled her phone from her purse and walked away in her bring pink flip-flops to make the call.

"Ugh," he growled, whipping his head around to glare at the pool. I glanced at his scrawny inked arms, at the ribs that poked out of his chest. The kid needed some kind of help, not sure what. I didn't want to be that asshole guy who claimed to know everything, but I felt too intrigued to walk away from this. I'd never met anyone like this guy, and my curiosity was piqued.

"I'm Josh," I said, holding out my hand.

He stared at my hand for a good ten seconds before slowly uncoiling his arms and shaking my hand. He seemed suspicious, though I didn't know of what. I just saved his life. Didn't that deserve a little gratitude?

"Justin," he said.

"I like your tattoos."

"Oh. Thanks." He pulled his hand away and re-crossed his arms. Not a talker, I guess. After a few seconds, he decided to say, "My uncle did them."

"Artistic talent run in the family or . . .?"

"Nah. Well, I'm more musical than visual."

"Really? I play the guitar. You play too?"

Justin nodded slowly. "Sing a little too."

"Awesome. I can't sing worth shit, but I wish I could. I'm not surprised about you though. You look like an artist."

"Why do you say that?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. Tattoos. Make-up. Had the vibe."

"You don't look like an EMT."

I ran my hand through my bleached hair. I had a tendency to go a little crazy with the hairstyles and hair colors. Right now my hair was a little tame, but I also had piercings, a bridge piercing and one in my lower lip, as well as one in each ear. My metal wasn't as impressive as Justin's, who had a plug in each ear and a ring in his eyebrow, nose, and a labret. But the piercings were so tiny that they almost looked glued on. So while I didn't normally go for pincushions, he pulled it off well.

"I was a theater kid before I was an EMT."

"Don't look like that either."

I crossed my arms. "What do I look like?"

Justin shrugged. "I don't know."

There was a short silence. There probably wasn't much more to talk about, but I'd gone two months in this place without meeting any new people, and goddamn it if I was going to go any longer. So I did what I always did and got bold.

"Hey, so . . . I just moved here a little while ago."

"Yeah? From where?"



"Anyway, I've been trying to meet new people, make friends, you know."

He was eyeing me suspiciously now. "Yeah." Not exactly the welcoming gesture I was going for. Lucky for him he was hot and I was desperate.

"So I was wondering if maybe we could, like, go bowling or something."

"You mean like a date?" he asked. It was no question if Justin was gay. His voice, his mannerisms, and his make-up spoke volumes for him already. I didn't mind the obviously gay guys though. I almost liked them more, because they were different. I liked variety in life.

"No, I mean like two dudes hanging out and bowling."

He stared at me for a moment. "Are you gay?"

"Why do you care?"

"So you are."

"Whatever, man. I just want a friend to go bowling with, that's all. Maybe get a coffee. Bitch about traffic over the phone."

"And you're asking me because . . ."

"Because I just saved your life."

"Yeah, thanks for that, but I don't think that makes us friend material."

"I'm out of options at this point." When he just glared at me, I sighed. "I'm not hitting on you, and no, this isn't a date. I just want a friend, okay? I'm trying to be honest here. My family is great and all, but I'm getting sick of them by now."

"And the fact I'm gay has nothing to do with this?"

"No, not really. You just seem like someone I'd get along with. You know, we both play guitar and shit."

"That makes us compatible friends?"

"Do you always play hard to get and does it ever work?" I asked, frustrated. I never had to work this hard for a damn friend. I was ready to bail on this guy, figuring it wasn't worth it. Someone this closed-off had to have issues.

Justin stared at me a long time before hunching his shoulders around his ears. "I'm just in a shitty mood."

"Is this a normal thing or . . .?"

"Do you always just ask random guys out to go bowling with you?"

"Yeah, lots of the time." I didn't know why this was weird. Always worked for me. "It's how I've always made friends. What am I supposed to do, wait around for people to come to me?"

Justin sighed heavily and looked down at his feet. "If I say yes, will you go away?"

"Well, sure. Until we go bowling."

"Fine. We can go bowling."

"Great! Let me have your phone number."

Justin rolled his eyes and sighed heavily, like some sort of jaded celebrity signing yet another boob. But he gave me the cellphone, and I decided that Justin would be my new challenge. Normally I didn't take on challenges because they were more pain than they were worth, but what the hell. This was a new place with new opportunities. Mom told me to get to know some locals. No one looked more Californian than Justin did. He acted like it too.

I best get used to it.

A/N: From Wikipedia: [I]t's a theater reference meaning 'if the show isn't going well, let's send in the clowns'; in other words, 'let's do the jokes.'

An expert on mouth-to-mouth I am not. Please correct me if the procedure is incorrect. As always, my art is on my Deviantart account, linked on my profile. There are spoilers in my art, however, so proceed with caution (unless you've read Reflections. Then carry on). The quality of this particular work is ambiguous—I kind of just wrote it for me. XD