Rose was not often lost for words. Her previous adventures and current pursued occupation had left her immune to shock-- or so she had hitherto assumed.
"...Not actually gay," she repeated. Who knew? Her realm was sight, not hearing; perhaps she had misheard.
But her brother nodded, cheeks slightly flushed, which he could artifice but never would. "I thought it was... like a round of gay chicken, you know? See who backs down first, and you know I don't ever back down."
"...Dave," she said, slowly. "You traveled halfway across the country to take him to prom."
"Well, yeah, it was--"
"I have always been astounded that he talks about you only slightly more incessantly than you talk about him."
"Well, uh, you know the dumb shit he gets up to, the fuck else am I supposed to talk about--"
"You're getting married tomorrow."
"Kinda let it go too far, huh?"
Rose massaged her forehead. "David Strider," she said. "There are two possibilities here. The first option is that you do not, in fact, score a perfect zero on the Kinsey scale, and have simply been unwilling to admit to yourself your sincere feelings of affection-- which would be a desperately common familial trait, might I remind you. The second option is that you are a fucking moron."
She tilted her head. "Well?" she prompted. "Which is it?"
"...Gimme a second, I'm thinking."
Rose smacked him with a wedding announcement.
"Hey, just 'cause you like being a fag hag doesn't mean I--"
Rose lit up in a blaze of white-cold fury. "--Welcome to the reception, motherfucker."
"Hey, hey, guys!!"
Rose looked up from the floor, where she had a knee on Strider's chest and had been preparing to smack him with a tackily embroidered pillow, to see that the fiancée in question was staring at them from the doorway, still more amused than distressed. "Oh, hello, John," she said, letting Dave up after a moment's hesitation. He stood, dusting himself off and glaring at her-- know him long enough, and you could sense it, even behind the shades.
"Man, I'm trusting you to take care of him tonight, could you please leave him in one piece 'till after the ceremony?" John grinned.
Rose sighed. "I shall attempt to return him undamaged, whatever idiocy he next chooses to display. Purely for your sake."
"Man, if you hadn't jumped me so sudden you know I woulda--"
"Dude, dude, it's like Spiderman versus Batman! It's totally impossible, and would you really wanna see them fight?" John frowned. "What did make her decide to kick your ass, anyway?"
"She was NOT--"
"--He's just nervous, and I judged he needed a distraction," Rose interrupted, perfectly smooth. And ooh, if looks could kill, she'd be in Skaia by now.
"Ha, I'm nervous, too!! I finally understand why people have crazy bachelor parties-- to stop you from going insane!" John laughed, a bit embarrassed. "I mean, it's so weird, to think we've come so far... I... can I tell you a secret? A really dumb secret?"
"Certainly," Rose said, before Dave could say a word.
"Back when this first started... I kinda thought we were just playing 'gay chicken'." John stuck a hand behind his head, ruffling the hair at the nape of his neck nervously.
Rose didn't laugh, though it took a supreme effort of will; instead, she looked toward Strider, seeing him swallow, hard.
"...What convinced you we weren't?" he managed, voice shaky.
A question in deadly seriousness; but John just shook his head, a goofy grin on his face, and walked toward Strider, leaning up just the little bit necessary to press his lips to Dave's.
Rose had long been in awe of John's therapeutic method; while his approach often seemed simplistic and horribly naive, somehow he had a way of delving straight to the deepest root of the matter nonetheless. Dave didn't hesitate more than a second or so before he was pulling John close, elegant motions speaking volumes-- insecurity, adoration, fierce protectiveness. She had just begun to wonder if she'd need to remind them of certain nuptial superstitions, or simply leave the room, when John pulled away, with a radiant, soft smile.
"See?" he said. "You'd have to be an idiot to miss that."
Dave opened his mouth for a second, then seemed to change his mind, pulling him close for another quick hug instead.
"Anyway, don't you two get in trouble tonight! Though I know I can trust you, Rose. Jade was saying something about neon and blackjack and hookers, and sometimes I really don't know if she's kidding or not." John frowned.
"Dude, you tell her if she doesn't bring you back in one piece? I'm staging a fucking Inquisition on her ass, she'll never see it coming."
"Okay, I'll tell her you said hi." John grinned.
"No, dude, I am serious here--"
"Don't do anything Rose wouldn't do! See you tomorrow!"
Rose could've kept the smug smile off her face as Dave watched John leave, obviously half-tempted to run after him; she just didn't see a reason to bother. There was no sin in enjoying a well-earned victory-- and besides, Dave wasn't even looking yet.
"...So I was kinda a fucking moron in both options, wasn't I?" he said.
"Yes, Dave," she answered, with sublime patience. "But don't be too hard on yourself for succumbing to environment and genetics. Or to the Egbert charm, for that matter. It happens to the best of us."
"...Shit." He let out a long breath. "Let's go get drunk."
Her lips twitched upward, and she linked her arm in his, leading him forward. "Another proud family tradition."