Wondering if the beer in his hand was stronger than the proof on the bottle, Mike sat on his couch and stared at his brother as if he'd just expressed his intention to grow a pair of wings and fly to Mars. Which, to be honest? Sounded a damn sight more likely than what Steve had actually told him.
Leaning back in his armchair,his body the very model of relaxation, Steve nodded. There was a smile on his face that he couldn't keep back, even as the look in his eyes was a mixture of wariness and nerves. "I know this is a shock..."
"You think?" The words came out harsher than Mike had intended and he clamped his lips together before he said something in shock that he'd regret later. After all, they were the only Weston/Jinks brothers that talked to one another; it'd be a shame to blow that now. Counting mentally to ten, he took a deep breath, then another. "You're gay." A few minutes ago, that would have been stating the obvious. Now, not so much.
Steve just smiled, nodded once. "I am."
"But you're getting married." Steve's smile changed to a full on grin and Mike tacked on, just to be sure, "To a woman."
Another nod. "Yes."
Mike blinked, then blinked again, inches away from looking for the hidden camera. "You came out in high school," he reminded him. "We've known since grade school."
"Mike." Steve leaned closer, rested his elbows on his knees, his hands joined like he was praying. "I'm still gay. Always have been, always will be. This isn't some road to Damascus like conversion, I'm not going to join you checking out women..."
Which was a notion Mike couldn't even begin to wrap his head around, one of many in this conversation. "But you're marrying one."
"The one." The tone Steve used told Mike loud and clear that as far as his brother was concerned, the addition of the definite article was a deal breaker. Still not entirely able to grasp the concept, he just stared at Steve, who, after a long moment, rubbed his hand over his face. "Look, Mike, I know you're having trouble with this... you don't think it wasn't just as strange for me? I've known my whole life that I was gay, spent way too much time wondering if I'd ever meet the perfect guy and fall in love... and then one day I wake up and I realise I'm in love with my best friend. Who happens to be a woman." He shrugged and the hand that he rubbed over his chin and lips muffled a chuckle. The motion, the sound, the look on Steve's face, they were both familiar to Mike and it took him a second to register where he'd seen them before. Then the memory came to him, of a night like this one, long ago before the Carroll case gave him permanent nightmares, before Steve got exiled to the Badlands of South Dakota, when they'd sat in a bar, each nursing a beer and Steve had told him about a guy called Liam.
"And of course," Steve continued, raising his beer bottle to his lips, "that's when it got complicated." He took a swig of his beer then, lifting his eyebrows as he did so. There was a glint in his eye and Mike recognised the look as the one Steve had worn when they were six years old and he'd dare Mike to climb the tallest tree in their grandpa's backyard.
Figuring at least he didn't have to worry about a broken arm this time, Mike braced himself and asked, "That's when it got complicated?"
Steve shifted in his chair, tilted his head. Narrowing his eyes and pursing his lips he explained, "See, we work together. And she's... well, let's say she's on the command track? And the job can be a little... all encompassing."
Mike was in the FBI and he'd worked the Joe Carroll case; he understood all encompassing. "So not much time for a personal life?"
Steve chuckled, his eyes suddenly far away. "Oh, lack of time's not the problem." The sudden serious moment made Mike shiver for reasons he couldn't name and he took a long pull of his beer to cover up the reaction.
"So," he said, "does my future sister-in-law have a name?"
Just like that, the smile came back to Steve's lips. "Claudia," he said. "Her name is Claudia." The look on his face was nothing short of besotted.
"And I'm guessing you at least have a picture, since you didn't bring her along?"
Steve put down his beer and reached for his phone, tapping a couple of buttons. When he blinked, obviously surprised, Mike leaned forward. "What?"
"There's a video on here." Which Mike wouldn't have thought was that unusual until Steve added, "Which I did not take." He stabbed the screen and whatever he saw there made his shoulders relax. "Ah," he said, angling the screen towards Mike so they could both see it. "Claudia," he said and Mike leaned in closer.
"Hey, Jinksy." The woman on the screen waved with one hand, the other resting on her knee, knuckles white against the dark denim of her jeans. She wore a plain black long sleeved t-shirt that made her red hair stand out in stark relief and the expression on her face, nerves and wariness combined, was the same one that Mike had seen on his brother's face earlier. "I hope you don't mind me hacking your phone..."
Steve snorted. "Like there's anything I could do to stop you," he muttered.
"...But there are some things I think your brother might want to hear from me, so here goes..." She glanced down, took a deep breath. When she looked up again, she was sitting up straight, her shoulders back, staring straight into the camera. "Hey, Not-Jinksy," she said and the name made Mike blink. He didn't know if Steve's laugh was as a result of the name or his reaction to it. "I know Steve's probably filled you in on all the gory details... Hopefully not too gory, or I'll never be able to look you properly in the face... and I just wanted to say that I know this is a shock for you... It was for us too. But it's the real thing, for both of us. Your brother... and I know he's there and yes, Jinksy, you can keep this for the times that I will inevitably not tell you... he makes me happy. We've been through some... some pretty freaky stuff together and..." She shrugged, her eyes curiously bright. "We're a team. And the freaky stuff... even this freaky stuff..." She held up her left hand, a tiny diamond blinking in the light, "Isn't as scary when he's with me." She looked to the side and Mike didn't miss the flush of pink on her cheeks. He didn't need to be a profiler to work out that this Claudia wasn't usually one to be so open with her emotions. Glancing over at his brother, he saw that Steve's eyes seemed to be a little damp and if, as he looked back to the phone screen, he saw his brother lift his hand as if to swipe at his eyes, he didn't comment on it.
"So, I probably have not answered any of your questions... but hey, that's why I sent Jinksy ahead of me." Her eyes danced suddenly and Mike heard a chuckle from beside him. "And I'm really looking forward to meeting you. Jinksy, I'll talk to you soon. Love you." With a kissing noise and a wink, she leaned forward and shut off the camera.
There was a long moment of silence where the two brothers stared at the image of the woman frozen on the screen. It was Steve who broke the silence, declaring, "So... that's Claudia."
Mike chuckled, rubbed a hand over his face. "She seems really great." It was the honest truth and Steve nodded.
"She really is."
Mike drained the last of his beer, placed the bottle on the table with a resounding clink. "So, does this mean I have to start planning your bachelor party now? I mean, I'm assuming you came out here to ask me to be your best man, right?"
Steve waggled his head from side to side. "That... and to ask you to come home with me while I tell Mom..."
Mike laughed out loud and stood to get another beer. "Oh no, for that?" He didn't have to imagine their mom's reaction, even if it would take some of the heat off him. "You are definitely on your own."