“When are you getting married?”
The squeaky voice from right behind him made Gabriel jump half out of the couch, clutching his heart before turning to face the tiny speaker. Lottie was five years old, cute as a button and apparently impossible to rattle. Unlike Gabriel who was sweating under his collar. He adored his niece, but what the hell did you even say to something like that?
“Uh,” he said stupidly, glaring at Raphael who was having little success hiding his smirk over in his comfy chair, way clear of the disaster area Gabriel was no doubt about to create. “W-why do you ask?”
“Because mom says that her and daddy got married because they were in love. Daddy says you and uncle Sam love each other. Why aren't you married yet?” Big, brown eyes stared at Gabriel accusingly, as if it was somehow a massive crime not making an honest man of Sam yet.
“Uh...” he said again. “Well... it's complicated.”
“No it isn't,” the little lady frowned. And that was definitely a snicker from her father. The bastard.
“Yes it is,” he insisted. “Because... uh... you gotta do it right, you know?”
Lottie blinked at him before unceremoniously planting herself on the couch next to him. “I know a lot about weddings,” she reassured him. “I was the flower girl at aunt Gracie's wedding, and I helped pick out the invitations. I had a wedding for my doll Miss Anne on Tuesday and it went very well.”
“Oh? Who'd she marry, then?”
“... she married the dog?”
“Mrs Anne Dog doesn't discriminile anyone,” Lottie said, nose in the air. Gabriel bit his tongue.
“That's good,” Gabriel croaked. “Good philosophy.”
“So if you need help planning the wedding, I can help!”
“Woah, cool your jets, kid! Someone needs to ask first!”
“Aren't you gonna ask?”
“Why do I have to do it?” Gabriel argued.
“Because you're rich, so you can buy a nice ring!”
This made Raphael finally perk up. “Where'd you hear that, Lottie?”
“TJ says that uncle Gabe is loading!”
“It's loaded, and no I'm not. Not as much as I was, anyway,” Gabriel pointed out.
Raphael rolled his eyes. “That not the point. It's rude to gossip about other people and their money, so it looks like I'm gonna have to have a little chat with your brother.
“But you want to buy Sam a nice ring, right?” Lottie said, sticking to the topic at hand like a burr, to Gabriel's immense discomfort.
“Well... yeah, but... look, sweetie, I can't just ask him out of the blue. I don't even know if he wants to get married.”
“Of course he wants to, dummy! Everybody wants to get married!”
Gabriel looked into her eyes, shining with delighted conviction and felt like he was about to tell her Santa wasn't real.
“Uhm... a little help here, bro?”
“Ohhh no, I'm not touching this one with a ten foot pole. You're on your own,” Raphael said with a smirk. “I'll be here to offer fatherly comfort after you break her heart. It's one of the perks of being a parent.” Gabriel glared at him before turning back to the expectant kid next to him.
Lottie was still staring at him with a toothy smile, hands clasped in her lap and obviously expecting to be told that of course everybody wants to get married. Oh boy.
“Okay, here goes. Lottie, honey... some people don't want to get married.”
“Why not?” she asked, truly baffled, as if she simply could not conceive of such a thing.
“Well... some people just prefer to be alone. For... a lot of different reasons. Other people just want to be together without doing the whole marriage thing. So you see, if I ask Sam and he says no, then where will we be?”
Lottie blinked hard as this new horrifying information settled in her mind. “But... but... uncle Sam loves you!”
“I'm sure he does, pumpkin. But that doesn't mean he wants to marry me.”
“Then why don't you ask him about it?”
Gabriel grimaced. “Gah. Because! Because then he'd know I was planning it and then it wouldn't be a surprise anymore! And you'd want a good proposal to be a surprise, right?”
Lottie's serious nod made Gabriel heave a quiet sigh of relief. He didn't mess it up, thank god. For a while it was quiet in the living room, Lottie apparently lost in contemplation following the bombshell. Gabriel made a rude face at Raphael who countered with sticking his tongue out at Gabriel, happily lowering the level of maturity in the room. But their brotherly taunting shattered when Lottie hopped off the couch and faced Gabriel dead on.
“Don't worry uncle Gabe. I will ask Sam for you.”
And then she marched out of the room, presumably in search of Sam. Gabriel's jaw slowly dropped. “What the hell just happened?”
“I'm not sure,” Raphael said, laughter bubbling up between his words. “But just to be on the safe side, I think you'd better go buy a ring, little brother.”
Gabriel slumped back into the couch with a groan. “Fuck. This is a nightmare.”
“Speak for yourself,” Raphael chuckled. “I haven't had this much fun in years.”
“Last time I checked, that was your department.”
This made Gabriel sit up slowly, eyes narrowed. “Do you really wanna go there, bro? Because I got blowjob jokes from here to the moon.”
“Bring it on,” Raphael challenged.
“You'll be sooooorryyyy,” Gabriel sing-songed before snagging his own neglected beer off the coffee table and leaning back into the couch again with a smile. Raphael smiled back and then made the mistake of taking a long gulp of his beer.
“And really, I'm more the suckee than the sucker, if you know what I mean.”
Exactly as planned Raphael's beer ended up mostly in his lap, and Gabriel howled with laughter. Revenge was sweet indeed.
And if he had to have an awkward conversation about the future when he came home, then so be it.