William never brings his friends home. Sometimes Gigi thinks he doesn't have friends aside from Bing and Caroline and George, and she's not sure if your college lab partner -- who you had to get along with if you didn't want to fail, and who was also the sweetest guy on the planet -- and his sister, and the guy who's been your friend since before you were born, really even count.
And if William doesn't bring friends home, he really doesn't bring dates home. Gigi is a freshman in high school the first time she ever dares to bring up the dating subject, and her brother just says, "Gigi, that would be inappropriate" in that forbidding way that he has, and Gigi is too embarrassed to mention it again for six months.
She thinks about it, though.
She's not stupid and she's not a kid -- she understands what William gave up for her. While everybody his age went to college on the east coast and studied abroad and went to raging keg parties and everything else Gigi saw in movies, William went to Stanford, and he lived off-campus and came home every night in time to eat dinner and help Gigi with her Algebra I homework. He went to all her swim meets and her parent-teacher conferences, which they renamed brother-teacher conferences and Gigi privately started calling "William intimidates the crap out of my teachers" conferences.
William has done so much for her, and Gigi worries. She wants him to be happy and have tons of people around him who love him, the way she does, because William has made sure that she's surrounded by people who love her ever since their parents died.
She worries even more -- even if she's furious and won't speak to William for three days when he refuses to tell her what happened -- after George goes away.
"You should make more friends," she tells William a month after she makes up with him.
He sighs over the dinner table, but he must hear something in her voice because he looks at her again. Gigi is really nervous. William is weird about this stuff and she wants to make him proud, not weird. She doesn't let her voice shake, though.
"You work too much; you never have any fun," she says.
"Gigi, I enjoy my work," he says. "And I have plenty of fun -- we saw that exhibit at the science museum last week."
"Fun with people your own age, William," she says. "You get to worry about me; why don't I get to worry about you?"
"A fair point," he says, and he sets down his fork. "If I made more of an effort to attend social gatherings, would that help your worrying?"
"Yes," says Gigi, and he nods.
"I'll work up a schedule and we'll agree on it," he says, which is so William that she beams at him, and he smiles back.
It's a start, Gigi thinks, though she still wants him to date too. It'd be a little weird at first, probably, but she loves the idea of a warm, funny sister; someone to draw William out of his shell and to gang up on him with Gigi. At the least, she'd settle for knowing that he isn't avoiding dating because of Gigi. That would be stupid.
When she carefully tests the waters, mentioning how Caroline said she wanted to go to the new fine arts retrospective that Gigi knows William wants to see, he says, "Well, then we should call her." When Gigi makes sure that Caroline is free and then fakes sick the night of the opera house gala so William can't take her as his date, he insists on staying home with her and she has to pretend to sleep off a migraine.
So Gigi's matchmaking attempts don't go well. Her friend ultimatum is a better success -- as agreed upon, William goes out with friends or casual acquaintances at least three times per month, and they aren't allowed to talk about work. When she teases one too many times about whether new-media consultant Fitz Williams is a real person or someone who William didn't even bother to come up with a creative last name for, William invites him over for dinner.
Fitz is real. He's also cute and funny and he treats Gigi like a grownup. When William's in the kitchen checking on the food, Fitz leans across the couch and says, "So what's the deal on this whole parent-teacher conference thing? Your brother's spent the last week prepping like he's a general and he's gonna go to war."
"We call them brother-teacher conferences," says Gigi, and the friendly light in Fitz's face drives a confession she wouldn't normally make. "William mostly scares my teachers."
"Oh, does he?" Fitz says, grinning at her in a way that Gigi immediately loves, where she's in on the joke. "New name suggestion: brother-teacher thunderdome. Two professionals enter, only one leaves!"
William looks pleased when he comes back to find them laughing. He doesn't even bat an eyelash when they exchange email addresses and Fitz promises to send Gigi a detailed explanation of what makes Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome so ridiculous.
He does, the next day. He starts the email, "Hey! GGD!" and Gigi loves it. No one has tried to nickname her since she was three and couldn't pronounce her own name. Then she keeps reading and realizes that he pointedly credits his ex-boyfriend with introducing him to the wonders/horrors of old Mel Gibson movies.
She knows Fitz would be too much older and too friends-with-William even if he was straight, and he couldn't have known about her crush, but she still hides under her pillows for a while.
In the meantime, Gigi stubbornly continues Operation Caroline. When she repeatedly mentions how pretty Caroline is, William says, "Yes, I suppose her face is aesthetically pleasing," and then he says awkwardly, "Gigi, you understand that you can tell me anything, right?" and then Gigi has to explain to her brother that she's not gay.
That's when she figures it out.
William is never interested in women and he's so intensely private and awkward about these things, and he's dropped so many hints. Everything Gigi wanted in a partner for William and a sister for herself -- it can still be someone awesome who's already in their lives.
And it doesn't have to be a sister.
"Hi," says Fitz's voice, and Gigi seriously considers retreating deeper into the attic. "Yo, GGD. Can I come up?"
If she said no, she thinks he'd actually go away. She thinks about it, sitting on the steps hugging her knees, and then she says, "Okay."
Fitz's head appears in the brightly lit doorway below her. He waves and she waves back, her stomach roiling with embarrassment. He comes up and sits a few steps below her.
"Sooo," he says, and she feels a little sick again, "was I gettin' a little bit of a matchmaker vibe down there, or am I totally losing it?"
"Um," says Gigi miserably, because that's an understatement. "You're not totally losing it."
"Always good to hear," he says, friendly like always. They're quiet for a moment. "Gigi, you know your brother's straight as an arrow, right?"
She gathers herself and doesn't say, 'Well, now I do.' She thinks about it a minute, then says, "Is it bad if I wish he wasn't?" Fitz blinks at her long enough that she knows she threw him off and she has to explain. "I just want him to not be alone; I get scared he's alone because of me. And I thought it'd be nice to have another brother-- or, okay, I guess a sister, but I thought if it was you--"
"That's one of the nicest things anybody's said to me in, like, forever," he says, and it makes Gigi smile, "but, just for the record? Your brother? Super straight."
She nods vehemently. "Got it."
"And me -- don't get me wrong, your bro's one of the best dudes I know. But Gigi?" She looks at him, curious. "Not if he was the last guy on Earth."
She claps both hands over her mouth and starts giggling.
"Some weird plague comes along and kills every single dude on the planet except me and Darcy and we're staring at each other 'cause there's one blanket and we've gotta conserve body heat--" (Gigi is full-on laughing now, forgetting about how terrible it was in the kitchen, Fitz's startled silence and William turning red like a tomato.) "And I've just gotta say no, uh-uh, I'm gonna freeze to death, okay?" He grins at her as she wipes tears of laughter off her face. "I'm never gonna feel that way about your brother. And you," he points at her, emphatically and fake-sternly, with a packet of tissues, "should talk to him about how you're feeling."
"Okay," she says, and she accepts the tissues so she can dab at her smeary eyeshadow.
"But you and me can still be bros, right?" he asks. "Darcy, he's just slow with this kind of stuff; I don't think you should blame yourself for your brother being a total llama."
Gigli wonders if she should be offended on William's behalf. "A llama?"
"Have you seen a llama? They're the awkwardest things, I swear to god--"
Feeling disloyal but unable to help herself, Gigi cracks up again.
"But he'll get there, one of these days," he says, looking up at her. "Even if you and me have to drag him kicking and screaming after he meets some awesome lady. We'll make it happen."
"Promise?" Gigi asks after thinking about it. She's way too old for pinkie swears but she trusts Fitz not to judge when she offers her hand.
"You've got a deal," Fitz promises, and they seal it with linked pinkies and conspiratorial grins.