All their lives they'd lived for the competition with each other. Despite the three year age gap it wasn't always Michael trying to follow in Bryan's footsteps and do better (although that happened a lot), Michael just had that dynamic personality and adventurous attitude that occasionally it would be Bryan following after Michael.
For years it was an unspoken competition between them; when they were kids it was who got the best toys, who won the most matches, who had the prettier girlfriend, who got the best grades. After they both discovered their love for food it turned into who could make the most complicated things, the prettiest plating, the best jobs.
Some things though, some things weren't a competition. When Michael, at all of 20 years old, called freaking out about his girlfriend being pregnant, Bryan was there. When Bryan was in a serious car accident Michael freaked out as much as anyone. The support was there as much as the competition.
Which is why the competition was freaky and exhilarating and fantastic. Suddenly it was no longer an unspoken competition between them but a real one, one where every moment of their lives was recorded.
Well, not every moment.
It didn't become apparent that there was something more going on than just competing and supporting each other until the field dwindled down a little and the brothers decided to take advantage of the excess beds and take a room together.
Right after Bryan's two in a row elimination win with Michael winning the one just before that, and while they'd both gone into the competition expecting to be the best, by that point they'd realized just how dominant they were.
They'd escaped to their room after placing their bets in the 'what batshit thing are we going to have to work with tomorrow?' pool. Michael went with octopus, as he did every night using the argument that tentacles make good TV.
"So who do you think we're going to be up against in the finals," Michael asked. It wasn't even cockiness, just pure surety in their abilities.
"Jen," Bryan responded immediately, "Kevin probably, maybe Mike or Eli." Bryan stretched out on his bed and Michael flopped down on it instead of on his own like when they were kids.
"It's weird," he declared.
"Yeah," Bryan said staring at his brother. He didn't need to ask what was weird, everything was put especially them. They hadn't spent so much time so close to each other in almost 15 years, and even though the house was full of other chefs, half the time it felt like it was just the two of them.
"How are the girls doing?" Bryan asked, fishing for any question that would lead them away from where he thought they were going. It's not like they hadn't gone that route before, but not with a houseful of people and cameras all around.
"They're good, oldest is getting too grownup. How's your boy?" Michael asked as he scooted over until he was as close to Bryan as could be without actually touching him. Waiting.
"Great, I miss him," Bryan hesitated. "Do you think? In the house? With all the cameras?"
Michael let out a laugh. "Well we did it with our parents in the house, remember when I was 14?"
Oh did Bryan ever, eager to learn and to not suck because if there's anything Michael was it's a perfectionist he'd turned to the one person he knew he could ask. And Michael, being Michael and persuasive as hell, managed to rope Bryan into doing just that, and somehow over the years they just didn't stop despite the wife and kids. Not that it happened often what with living on opposite sides of the country and Michael's traveling before that, but it did happen.
"Ok," Bryan said before leaning in and giving his brother a kiss. Michael kissed back and closed the gap between the two of them. "I'm still going to kick your ass tomorrow," Michael said even as he started undressing Bryan.
"You wish," Bryan replied as he returned the favor.
Even in this, something designed to take away their thoughts, the competition never went away.