It had actually gone better than expected, his father finding out. There'd been no big scene with the whole family, and nobody had been disowned, and he and Maeby hadn't had to run away to the house in Cabo and make a new life as a married couple somewhere no-one knew they were related and get a real car and a dog, maybe an Airedale, he was still working some of the finer details through.
He got the feeling, though, that as far as his dad was concerned they'd talked it out, it was over, and it never had to be mentioned again. That didn't seem right, and was definitely going to make things awkward once Michael found out Maeby was technically his daughter-in-law now. So over breakfast on the morning of the boat party, George Michael got up the courage to talk to his dad again.
"This thing with me and Maeby," he said, but he didn't even have his cousin's name out before Michael was shaking his head.
"You're still thinking about that? I thought we settled all this?"
"Yeah, sure, I know, but. It's been a day. And I've felt this way for a long time, for years, and it doesn't just stop because you want it to."
"We," Michael said, looking at him carefully over his cereal bowl and George Michael hurriedly said, "Because we want it to, right, I meant 'you' like... actually me."
"And it's not just you and me. Maeby's got to want this thing to stop to, right? She's only just turned sixteen, George Michael, she's going through this – confusing time for girls, when Lindsay was that age..." For some reason he trailed off there, looking confused. "Anyway, she needs you. Not as a boyfriend, she needs family. You're her cousin."
And then, angry and frustrated, George Michael lashed out with the thing he'd been thinking for a year: "At least I'm not her brother."
For the seven seconds before his father spoke, he would have given anything to take it back. This would be the yelling, and the disowning, and Maeby might not even want to go to Cabo.
Then Michael reached across the table for the Cheerios box and said, "Huh. Word really gets around in this family."
George Michael slid cautiously onto the seat across the breakfast bar. "Dad, I don't... I'm not judging you. Either of you. I know it doesn't change, y'know, the family or, or, who you are as a person or how you felt about Mom."
"Of course it doesn't, buddy. Your Mom was an amazing woman."
He couldn't believe they were actually talking about this. "And she never... knew...?"
"How could she?" Michael frowned at him. "How do you know, anyway?"
It had happened a year ago, the same crazy, amazing week he'd first made out with Maeby. GOB had walked in on them kissing on the couch while the living room collapsed into the sinkhole, and George Michael hardly breathed for the two days before he could get him alone.
"Please don't tell my dad," he blurted out before anything else. GOB glared.
"'Don't tell Michael'. Everyone's always looking out for Michael. Nobody goes around all, oh, don't tell GOB things. Or... I guess they could be, if they did I wouldn't know, so..."
"I mean about me and Maeby kissing," he said, and GOB's oh, we're still on that? eye-roll actually made him feel better. "It's kind of a relief to talk about this with someone, finally," he said. "Uncle GOB, did you ever – did anything like this ever happen to you when you were my age? With a cousin, maybe?"
GOB's mouth twisted. "Eww, no, that's disgusting."
George Michael's heart hit the floor.
All those times when he'd lain awake in the bunk below Maeby's, playing out this exact conversation with his family in his head – the yelling and the judgement and the awful, awful things Gangie would say – the one person he'd thought might possibly be okay with it was GOB, even if it was just because he didn't care.
However, while he was sinking into despair, GOB was carrying on, oblivious: "She's what, thirteen? That's gross. That's the sort of thing that gets a guy on John Beard's creepy perv show. Sixteen's a hard limit, George Michael, the law's the law."
"…eighteen," George Michael said. "The age of consent's eighteen. And I-I didn't mean my cousin, Uncle GOB. Who's fifteen, actually, not that that makes it any…"
"Fifteen?" GOB repeated, more to himself than his nephew. Then he shook his head and beamed, clapping George Michael on the shoulder. "You kids, you're growing up so fast!"
"You don't think it's wrong? I mean, we're family. I've been really worried about turning out like Uncle Buster and Gangie."
"C'mon, it's experimenting! All teenagers do it."
It was what he'd wanted somebody, anybody, to tell him this whole year. "Really? Even with a cousin?"
GOB shrugged. "Makes sense to me. You're only children."
George Michael found himself dropping his voice half an octave. "I wouldn't say we're children, exactly. I'm old enough to drive, or join the army with parental permission. Not to have sex, though, that's eighteen and it kind of worries me you didn't..."
"No, you're only children. No brothers or sisters to make out with, so you go for your cousin instead. Kind of weird, but I get it." GOB actually looked a little nostalgic as he said, "Sometimes I think your dad doesn't appreciate how lucky he was to have me around. Who else was he gonna practice with? Lindsay? Please! Lindsay could've dated any guy at our high school, Michael wasn't in her league on his best day. Not that he was in mine either, but unlike some people in this family, I understand brotherly love. But does he ever wanna talk about it now? Does he ever say 'thank you'?"
"I'm going to sit down," George Michael said faintly. GOB, by now on a roll, ignored him.
"Just don't let Maeby call the shots because she's younger. Oh, sure, that's how it all starts. Next thing you know she'll be giving you attitude about this 'not happening again' and 'making a clean break at college' and how you need to 'get your life together, GOB'."
George Michael had never really appreciated before just how much wounded anger could be conveyed by aggressive finger-quotes.
"And then when you deal with it and put your feelings to one side and plan a spectacular illusion to welcome his new bride into the family and one little thing goes wrong he acts like you did it on purpose, even though you very clearly told Tracey not to wear hairspray or anything else that might get flame-y." He shook his head, staring somewhere far off in the distance. George Michael didn't want to know what he was remembering. Watching his parents' wedding video had been bad enough.
"I'm sure you'd never do anything on purpose to hurt my dad. O-or my mom," he offered, and GOB snapped his attention back from wherever he'd been with a weak smile.
"You're such a good kid, George Michael," he choked out, and dragged him off his chair and into a hug. "Just like your mother. Beautiful, forgiving Tracey. I miss her so much."
"Me too," George Michael said, patting him carefully on the back. "I really wish she was here."
He was about to explain all of this to his dad – maybe the edited highlights, leaving out the part five minutes later where Uncle GOB had tried to stuff some kind of pill down his throat, since it seemed like their relationship... or whatever... was difficult enough – but he didn't get further than "It was about a year ago," when Michael said:
"I guess Tobias told you. Listen, I know this must be confusing, especially with this thing with Maeby, and missing your mom, but you have to understand that there is nothing going on between your Aunt Lindsay and me."
"Aunt Lindsay?" It felt like he'd missed a crucial part of this conversation. Maybe a crucial part of the way his entire family worked.
"Blood family or no, she's my sister. Getting married is just not an option, even to keep the company." He stood up and patted George Michael on the shoulder as he made to leave. "Besides. That'd make you and Maeby siblings. Isn't that even worse than being cousins?"
"Seems like in this family it's about the same," George Michael mumbled, dazed, but his father was already gone.