Louise and Gene had been taking bets on when their older sister, Tina, would have a nervous breakdown about Jimmy Jr not inviting her to their school's Valentine's Day dance. Gene had betted on that day, the day just before the dance, but Tina still hadn't lost her cool, and he started to sweat, worried that he would have to do Louise's chores for a week. Of course, there was also the possibility that she would lose as well and Tina would be fine during Valentine's Day, the day she chose, but that was unrealistic.
"So, uh, I heard Jimmy Jr hadn't invited anyone to the dance yet," Gene said as he and Louise sat across Tina in a booth, helping their parents by refilling ketchup bottles. Louise growled and slammed her foot hard into Gene's, causing him to yelp. There was a no cheating rule in place, and Gene was just goading Tina with that question.
"He hasn't, but the rumor mill is saying he's planning on asking Jocelyn," Tina said. Her concentration on the ketchup bottles unbothered.
Gene and Louise looked at their sister intently. Jocelyn, best friend to Tina's nemesis, is who Jimmy Jr was thinking about taking to the school dance? And she seemed to be perfectly fine with that? For a moment both forgot about their bet and became deeply concerned for their sister.
"And you're okay with that?" Louise asked, knowing that question may tip the tide in Gene's favor, but she genuinely wanted to know.
"Yeah. They've gotten close lately, and I think it's sweet." Tina didn't look up from her work as she said this.
Louise and Gene looked at each other, both frowning. Ever since Tina attempted to sabotage Jimmy Jr's date with Becky, she had become extremely cavalier about him, and though this was what Louise had always prayed for, it still made her uneasy.
"You don't want to stop that? Or tell Jocelyn to back off? Isn't there a girl code where friends don't date each other's crushes?" Louise asked.
"Jocelyn and I aren't friends," Tina said, looking up.
"You sort of are. Your frenemies, like Tom and Jerry!" Gene said.
"T, you're taking this really well. I'm proud of you. But if you're on drugs, you gotta tell me now so I can get you help."
"I'm not on drugs, Louise, but thank you. And I'm taking this in stride because I'm kind of over Jimmy Jr now, I've moved on."
"Moved on to who?" Gene asked.
"Zeke?" Both Louise and Gene said in unison.
"Yeah, he's a sensitive soul with a bad boy attitude, what's not to like?"
"Well, first of all, don't you hate him?" Louise asked.
Tina shook her head. "Only because I felt like he really cut into my Jimmy Jr time, but now that I'm over him I've come to realize Zeke isn't that bad. In fact, I kind of enjoy spending time with him."
"Yeah, he's pretty insightful when he wants to be," Gene agreed.
"So you're just going to take it slow with him or something?" Louise asked. "Because the dance is tomorrow and you haven't put the moves on him yet. Are you expecting him to do it?"
"Well, the rumor mill is also saying he's going to ask someone with their last name starting with B out, and the only eligible person with a B last name is me, so I'm pretty confident he's going to ask me to the dance soon. Maybe he'll make a grand gesture at midnight," Tina said, still speaking calmly and assuredly.
"Yeah, Zeke's definitely the type of guy to do stuff at midnight," Gene said.
"Exactly, which is why I'm not worried. I just have to be patient," Tina said, self assured.
Louise and Gene looked at each other again. Both hoped for Tina's sake she was right, but both knew Louise was going to win the bet and by that time tomorrow she would be a nervous wreck.
When midnight rolled around Louise and Gene were both fast asleep while Tina laid in bed awake, trying to figure out the best way to casually act asleep for when Zeke would come and ask her to the dance. She turned one way, then another, not remembering how to lay in bed casually. She finally laid on her back again and sighed as she looked up at the ceiling. So long as Zeke thought she was sleeping would be enough, she didn't want to come off as desperate.
She waited and waited, anticipating her next great romance, but when she turned to look at her alarm, she frowned when she saw it was already twelve thirty.
"That's okay, maybe he's just running late," she mumbled to herself, trying her best to ease her racing heart.
As the clock continued to click, Tina was finding it hard to stay awake, even with her nerves, and lulled to sleep around one in the morning.
It wasn't until two in the morning that Zeke found the opportunity to sneak out of his home and hop onto his bike. His parents stayed up longer than he had anticipated, but once he was sure they were fast asleep he sped off towards the Belcher's home to perform his grand gesture of love. He was nervous, but excited, and he did it at night because in the event that he was rejected, he could just call in sick to school tomorrow and save himself from the embarrassment of being rejected on Valentine's Day. The cold night air and empty streets exhilarated him, the calm giving him confidence that his plan would work rather than fill him with dread that he was a fool to have ever hatched this plan to begin with.
When he arrived at the Belcher's home after a few minutes, he walked around, trying to figure out where the window he wanted was, and hoping that he wouldn't accidentally wake up Bob and Linda. Once he was confident he had found the correct window he pulled out the bunch of small pebbles he had in his shorts' pocket and began throwing them up with exceptional accuracy.
Gene was in his bed, sound asleep. He was a deep sleeper, and a sound as mild as a pebble hitting his window wasn't enough to rouse him, but the gentle steadiness of the sound was getting to him. He groaned and rolled around in bed before finally opening his eyes slowly, not sure why he was waking up when it was still dark out, but he said, "Oh," when he heard another pebble hit his window. Though his instincts told him to go call his parents, afraid that the person outside his window was a murderer of some kind, he still looked out the window and was surprised to see Zeke outside. Gene opened his window and peered out. "Tina's window is the one next to mine."
"I'm not here to see Tina, I'm here to see you," Zeke said, grinning.
"Oh, why?" Gene asked, annoyed that Zeke would pick his precious sleep time to ask him about his sister.
"Can you meet me downstairs?"
Gene pressed his lips but he nodded. He closed his window and headed out his room and down the stairs to see what Zeke wanted. He was already planning what he would request from Tina for being such a good brother and telling Zeke exactly what to do to win her over. But his dreams of making Tina do his homework were cut short when he opened the door to Zeke holding out a stuffed bear holding a small heart filled with chocolates.
"Will you go to the Valentine's Day dance with me?" Zeke asked.
Gene could feel himself blush, but he said, "That's good, say it just like that for Tina. Do you want me to go get her?"
Zeke giggled, he lowered the bear and shook his head. "Tina? No, why? I'm not asking her to the dance, I'm asking you."
"Oh. Why? I mean, I was already going to go. I don't think you need to personally invite someone to go stag at a dance with you."
Zeke frowned. Was he really wrong about this? But his gut was never wrong. "I'm not inviting you to go stag with me. I'm inviting you to go with me as my date."
Now Gene was blushing hard, his heart slamming in his chest. "A date? You want me to be your date?"
Gene felt dizzy and was glad that he was still holding onto the door so he didn't fall. That didn't make sense, for Zeke to want to ask him out to the dance. Tina was positive he was going to ask her. "But you said you were going to ask someone out who's last name started with a B and Tina's the only one who fits that bill," he said, rushed and dazed.
"Last time I checked your last name also started with a B," Zeke said. "And where did you hear that?"
Gene shrugged. "The rumor mill."
Zeke shook his head and held out the stuffed bear once more. "Look, Gene, I like Tina, but I see her more like a sister now. Sure, maybe I use to have a crush on her, but the more I got to know you the more I realized you're the Belcher my heart was falling for. If you don't want to go to the dance with me I understand, but you're the person I want to go with, so how's about it?"
Zeke was smiling, and Gene could tell he was starting to blush. "Uh, but what about Tina?" Gene said, stalling his response.
"What about her?"
"She was convinced you were going to ask her out. She's kind of has a crush on you now that Jimmy Jr let her down. Again."
Zeke rolled his eyes. "I don't want to be her second choice. And besides, she's always up and down with J-Ju, I don't want to be her rebound or an in between relationship."
Gene thought about that and nodded. His sister's feeling for Jimmy Jr were all over the place, and regardless of how sure she seemed, he knew she wasn't completely over him.
"Gene, if you don't want to go to the dance with me, I understand," Zeke said, his voice trembling and a sad smile on his face. "But I'd still like you to keep the bear. And there's no hard feelings between us."
Zeke attempted one final time to hand Gene the Valentine's Day bear and this time Gene took it from him. It was small and white, with red lining his inner ears and nose. Gene touched its soft ears and smiled.
Zeke smiled as he watched him, but then he took a step back. He knew when to give up.
"Yes," Gene finally said, looking up at Zeke and smiling. "I want to go to the dance with you."
"Really!" Zeke was grinning and stepped towards Gene.
"Yeah!" Now Gene was nodding and smiling. He never wanted to think about it, because it was Zeke and he always thought he had a thing for his sister, but Gene felt the same way. The more he got to know him, the more he found himself falling for him. He never thought the feelings would be reciprocated, Zeke seemed too butch for that. And he was afraid of telling anyone, even Louise, whom he confided everything to, because he thought he would be made fun of.
"Oh, Gene! I'm so happy, I could kiss you!" Zeke stepped forward and that's when both paused, their smiles wiped from their faces. If they kissed, it would make all this real, and neither boy was sure if they were ready to make these feelings real. In fact, now that they thought about it, having their first date at the school dance seemed much too public. Gene was scared and Zeke was anxious, but still, Zeke pushed through those feelings. He cupped Gene's face gently and softly pressed his lips against his. Squeezing the bear tightly, Gene closed his eyes and kissed him back. They kissed chastely a few more times, both boys developing butterflies in their stomach. Zeke pulled away and dropped his hands. He looked down and felt incredibly bashful. "So, uh, I'll see you tomorrow at school?"
"Yes! School! It's the place we both will be tomorrow!" Gene said, suddenly feeling incredible self conscious.
"Alright," Zeke said, taking another step back and raising his hand. "I'll see you tomorrow! Good night!"
"Good night," Gene said. He closed the door and rushed upstairs to the living room window in time to see Zeke ride off into the night. He then went into his bedroom and crawled back into bed, his arms forming a death grip around the bear. He was the Belcher Zeke wanted to ask out. And he said yes! Despite knowing that Tina wanted to go to the dance with him. He felt conflicted, on the one hand joy, his feelings were reciprocated, on the other hand shame, he was a terrible brother and betrayed his older sister. He whimpered and buried himself under his covers, his face pressed against the bear. He wanted to forget the terrible thing he'd done, but he couldn't help but imagine how nice Zeke's lips felt and tasted against his own as he drifted back to sleep.
In the morning, Gene was ready to write off what happened at night as a dream, until he saw the bear still in his arms. "Ah!" he screamed, and pushed himself away from the bear so violently, he fell off his own bed.
"Gene! Breakfast is ready, get up!" Linda said, knocking on his door.
"Coming!" Gene said, his voice weak. He got up and quickly got dressed. He put the bear under his pillow so no one could see it. He didn't know how he was going to face his sister that morning, but he bit his lip and headed out.
"I can't believe my calculations were wrong," Tina said to her family.
"Maybe he doesn't like you, which is honestly a Godsend because he is not that great," Louise said as she ate her cereal. Gene walked into the kitchen with his head down and began eating his cereal as soon as his mother put the bowl in front of his face.
"But the rumor mill can't be wrong. They said he was going to ask someone with the last name starting with B to the Valentine's Day dance. That's me. I'm the person whose last name starts with a B."
"Maybe you shouldn't put so much stock into what rumors are being tossed around," Bob said as he flipped through the paper.
"No, you don't understand, the rumor mill is never wrong. I'm going to have to talk to Zeke and ask him what gives."
"You know, I for one am glad a boy didn't come to my house in the middle of the night to look for my daughter," Bob said, folding his paper down so he can see Tina.
"Oh hush, Bob! I think it would have been romantic! In the middle of the night, just the two of them! I sweet kiss to seal the deal! What's not to love?" Linda said, sitting down with her own cereal bowl.
"Yeah, Dad, what's not to love? That's it, I'm going to talk to Zeke when I get to school."
"I can't take it anymore!" Gene shouted, startling everyone. He turned to Tina with tears in his eyes. "Tina, the rumor mill wasn't wrong, Zeke did ask someone to the dance who's last name starts with B, but that someone was me! He came here last night around two in the morning and gave me a Valentine's day bear with a heart filled with chocolates and asked me to go to the dance with him and even though I knew you wanted to go to the dance with him I still said yes and then we kissed so now we're going to the dance together but I'm the worst brother in the world and I'm so sorry!" Gene gasped and then buried his face in his arms on the table and started to cry.
"Woah," Bob said.
"Yeah," Louise agreed.
Linda watched her two children, not expecting this turn of events. She wants to cheer for her son for having a date to the dance and let him know that she's proud of him for being who he is, but she also wants to comfort her daughter for undoubtedly having a broken heart. She felt frozen in place.
"Oh," Tina said, blinking and processing what was just said. "Well that's okay." She reached out to her brother and rubbed his back.
"It is?" Louis asked, thankful she was still young enough that she didn't have to deal with this sort of drama.
"Of course! Gene, if you like Zeke, then I'm so happy he asked you out to the dance! You're not the worst brother in the world. I just wanted to go to Zeke to shove it in Jimmy Jr's face, but you two going together because you like each other is a much more beautiful reason to go."
"You wanted to shove it in Jimmy Jr's face?" Bob said, concerned that his daughter had those types of thoughts.
"It wasn't a very good plan," Tina says, looking at her father. "But really, Gene, please don't cry. Tonight's the dance and it should be a happy and exciting day for you!"
Gene sniffled and lifted his head. "You really aren't hurt? I didn't want to steal him away, but I really like him."
"That's so sweet, how come you never told us?" Tina asked.
Gene wiped his face with his arm and shrugged. "I didn't really know how to say it. And plus it's Zeke, I thought you guys were going to make fun of me."
"Oh, honey, we would never make fun of your crushes!" Linda said, and Bob agreed.
"Yeah, Zeke's a cool dude," Louise said, feeling guilty that perhaps Gene meant she would be the one to make fun of him, which was an accurate assessment, but she didn't want him to cry or feel like he needed to hide.
Tina stood up and hugged her brother tightly, and Gene hugged her back. "You don't need to worry about anything Gene. We're all really happy that your crush likes you back and I'm not upset at all! I hope you two have a magical night tonight because it's what you two deserve."
Gene sniffled again and smiled. "Thank you, Tina."
"Think nothing of it."
Gene and Zeke were the talk of the rumor mill. During regular school hours they spoke casually and as though nothing was changed between them, but once the dance started it was apparent they were there as each other's date. They walked into the school gym holding hands, both in ill fitting suits. Though normally not one to shy away from attention, Gene felt overwhelmed as all eyes were on him and Zeke, but Zeke squeezed his hand tightly and that helped calm his nerves. It didn't hurt that Tina and Louise were with them as well, creating a protective barrier to ensure that no one even thought of speaking ill of their brother and his date.
"What the?" Jimmy Jr said. He was standing by the fruit punch alongside Jocelyn and Tammy. The three gawked as they watched Zeke lead Gene to the dance floor to slow dance with him.
"Oh my God!" Tammy squealed. Though her own crush on Zeke long since extinguished, she was still frustrated that someone like Gene could be more appealing for him than her. She had half a mind to confront him about that, but that was when Tina walked over to them.
"Tina! Did you know your brother is slow dancing with Zeke?" Jocelyn asked, concern apparent on her face.
"Yes, I'm aware, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. How are you three enjoying this dance?"
"It's okay, I guess," Jimmy Jr said.
"Did you come alone, Tina? That's so sad!" Tammy gushed.
"I'm here as a strong single woman who's ready to mingle and to support my brother and Zeke during their budding relationship."
"That's so noble," Jocelyn said, her voice serious and impressed.
"When did that start? I'm Zeke's best friend, how come he never told me he had a crush on Gene?" Jimmy Jr said, jealousy apparent on him. The four turned in time to see Zeke twirl Gene, causing both boys to giggle and lean their foreheads against each others.
Both Jocelyn and Tammy gasped. "Oh my God, you've lost him forever," Jocelyn said.
"This is honestly so beautiful," Tammy added.
"Maybe you're just not as trustworthy as you think you are, Jimmy Jr," Tina said, shrugging.
Jimmy Jr frowned. "No. I'm going to talk to Zeke about this right now." He started walking towards them but Tina grabbed his shoulder and stopped him. "Tina, let go."
"I wouldn't do that if I were you, Jimmy Jr. You can talk to Zeke later, but for now he's giving my brother the time of his life and you'll have to go through me in order to stop that."
Jimmy Jr sighed and rolled his eyes. "Fine, whatever. Did you want to dance?"
"Oh," Tina said. She blinked and wasn't expecting that question. "I thought you were here with Jocelyn."
"He just needed a ride but we're not here as a date or anything," Jocelyn explained, serving herself some punch.
"Huh, maybe I should stop listening to the rumor mill," Tina said under her breath. "Sure, Jimmy Jr, I would love to dance!"
The two made their way towards Zeke and Gene, who had started dancing more lively as the music moved from romantic to pop.
"So when did that start?" Rudy had asked Louise when she arrived with her siblings. He was dressed in a sharp suit with a cup of punch in his hand.
Louise watched as her sister and Jimmy Jr joined her brother and Zeke and sighed. There would be no winner for the bet between her and Gene. "Last night, apparently. Zeke came in the middle of the night to ask Gene to the dance."
"Well that's sweet."
"Yeah," Louise said, frowning.
"It's just that Gene said he's had a crush on Zeke for a long time now, but he never told me. You think it's because he doesn't trust me? I wouldn't have said anything bad to him about it."
"Oh." Rudy looked at Louise and then turned to Gene and Zeke, who had lost all bashfulness as they began showing their obvious affection for each other along with all the other dancing couples. "I think Gene just needed space. Sometimes secrets are fun 'cause we get to keep them to ourselves. I wouldn't take it so personally. Now you know and now you can be part of their happiness."
"I guess," Louise said, not entirely satisfied by that response.
Rudy turned and watched her. He placed his cup on the nearby table and extended his hand towards her. "May I have this dance?"
Louise looked at his hand and then at him. She shrugged. "Sure, why not?"
Rudy was ecstatic as he walked a very bored looking Louise into the dancefloor. She would never admit it, but she was happy at the prospect of dancing with him too.
Another slow song had started, and Zeke pulled Gene in to dance, his hand on his waist. Though the evening had started with slow dances, Gene still felt uncomfortable, not sure how he felt with Zeke taking charge of the dancing, but still enjoying the feeling of his hands on his waist while his own were hanging around his neck.
"Tonight wasn't half bad, huh?" Zeke asked.
"I'm enjoying myself," Gene said. He looked down, making sure he wasn't about to step on Zeke's foot, though he didn't think he would mind much. "So what's the plan after this?" He looked back up at him.
"What do you mean?"
"Yeah, how does being boyfriends work?"
"How should I know, you're the one who's been in a relationship before."
"You've never dated anyone?"
Gene frowned. How could that be. If even someone like him had a girl crushing on him, surely Zeke must have had some luck in that department before. "Well, that was a weird time for me, because at first I didn't like her, so we broke up, but then I did like her, but she broke up with me, so I don't think I'm the best judge of how these things work."
"My only frame of reference is Jimmy Jr and Tina-"
Quickly, Gene shook his head. "Let's not do that!"
"I don't want to do that either!"
"So at least we agree on that."
"I'm sure we'll agree on a lot more things as we keep going."
"So far we agree on not being like Jimmy Jr and my sister, that tickling is fun, and that two butted goats are worth the journey," Gene said, counting on his fingers.
"That's a great foundation to start a relationship," Zeke said, laughing.
"The absolute best," Gene agreed.
They smiled at each other and as the song came to an end, Zeke leaned down and kissed Gene chastely on the lips.
"This is so beautiful," Courtney said. She had tears in her eyes as she watched the couple dancing from the sidelines.
"Didn't you dump him?" One of her friends asked.
"Well yes, twice, but I still want him to be happy. Gene's a good guy, he deserves to be happy."
"Didn't he also send you to the hospital?" Her other friend said.
"Okay, that's enough out of both of you," she said, rolling her eyes and walking away from them so she can enjoy Zeke and Gene's romance in peace.