Chapter Fifty-Nine

"Um, so what did you two talk about yesterday?" As soon as I asked the question, Mark and Gray both sat down their forks and stared at the wall behind me. I had thought they had been acting strangely since then, but now I knew it for sure. "Are you guys not hungry?"

"That's not it," Gray muttered. I waited for him to go on, but he said nothing else. He just looked back down at his plate and began to eat again. All without even meeting me eye to eye.

"What is it then?" He tried to hide it, but I was sure he had jabbed Mark in the side given how the other jerked in his seat. To my surprise, my brother even glared at him for it, but after he did, he was just as quick to grin back at me. "Are you going to tell me, or is this one of those guy things?"

Gray all but choked on his stuffed potato when I said it, but soon enough he was shaking his head as he coughed and eventually had to leave the room. That, of course, meant my brother and I were alone, and for whatever reason, I felt uncomfortable.

"Don't worry about him," Mark assured me. "He's just in a little bit of shock is all. I'd tell you to give him time, but you know him better than I do."

"You would think so." I did my best to understand Gray's quirks as they showed themselves, but even after all this time of being together, I still found it difficult to reason with him. He hated to argue with me, so more often than not, he would just leave the room like he had done so just a moment ago. "Did you two get into an argument?"

"No, no," he insisted, glancing back towards the bedroom door. "I just asked him something he wasn't ready for, so I wouldn't worry about Gray for now." The man in question stepped back into the kitchen, his face still red, but he didn't say a word to either of us. "Oh, that's right," my brother continued, turning his attention back to me. "I actually wanted to ask you something, too."

"Right now?" Mark shook his head. "Well, then when are you going to ask me?"

"I was thinking about later tonight," he explained with a smile, "but that wouldn't be a good idea, would it? I mean, you do have work tomorrow, and as much as I don't understand it, I know you wouldn't want to miss that."

"No, I wouldn't." After all, it seemed silly to me that we had to talk about it in private, and I wasn't about to miss work for the sake of whatever it was they had apparently talked about.

-/-

I had tried to get Gray to tell me just what was going on, but whatever I asked, he would become unusually quiet. Oddly enough, he was never irritable about it, but he did look embarrassed. Not that it was a very hard thing to do.

"Like I said, Claire, don't worry about him," Mark kept saying. "He's a grown man. If I said something I shouldn't have, he'd tell you." I did my best to trust my brother, but the whole time, I kept wondering just what they were planning between them. Of course, it didn't help when just what they were planning to worry. Mark kept telling me not to fret. Then it was all I could do.

Finally, after what seemed to be the longest week of the past week, I was let in on their little secret.

Mark, being the showman that he was, had to make a grand show of it. There was a show, a dinner, and even a limo from the restaurant to the club- all of which made my head spin. However, if I looked like I was surprised, he didn't mention it. He would just smile as always, and we were off to whatever was next. The club was certainly the most unusual thing I had ever seen, though. To be honest, I was startled by what went on there, but my date for the night just laughed.

"Come on, Claire, there's nothing to be afraid of," he chuckled. "This is supposed to be fun."

"But I'm not..."

"You're not what?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. I immediately looked down at my mini dress, and as soon as I did, I was sure my face was the same shade of pink as the fabric. "Oh, you look fabulous, so don't even go there."

"I thought you hated that word," I teased him. My brother worked hard not to smile, but not surprisingly, he couldn't quite manage it. He seemed so like his usual self that it was hard for me to imagine it had been so long since we had actually sat down and talked. "Now, what did you say to Gray that made him so upset? He seems... off to me."

"You really are-"

"Worried, yes," I agreed with a sigh. It was really a wonder that we could even hear each other speak, but just as I was about to ask him if we could go to some place quieter, a drink was put in front of me. "What's this?"

"A Shirley Temple," Mark replied. He nudged the glass toward me, but when he did, my expression must have changed into something ugly. "Oh, relax," he said and rolled his eyes. "Just because Gray doesn't drink, that doesn't mean you can't." After seeing I didn't agree, he tried again. "It tastes good, you know."

"Maybe that's the problem."

"You really know how to ruin a good time," he huffed. "Do you honestly think Gray became an alcoholic after having one drink? No, it takes time and one beer right after another until you can't even think anymore, and apparently, he-"

"Are you going to tell me what you two talked about or not?" I hadn't meant to snap at him, but even with that being the case, my brother certainly looked surprised. Not that I wasn't as well, of course. "I'm sorry," I murmured, feeling my face warm. "I didn't mean to get so upset."

"No, I went too far with that one," Mark insisted. He took a sip out of his own glass, but not being familiar with such things, I had no idea what kind of drink was in it. However, just when I was about to try my own as an apology, he gave me my answer. "All I did was ask him when he was going to marry you. That's all."

"You what?" He blinked. "How could you ask him something like that?"

"I figured it was about time someone started asking," he replied with a shrug and a well meaning smile. He was so proud of himself, but all I could do was sigh and shake my head. "What? You never thought about it?"

"We haven't even been together for a year," I reminded him. "Mark... this isn't something you try to rush." He nodded his head, but I had a feeling he didn't understand what I was trying to say. For someone like him, a performer, it was only the logical thing to do. After all, that's what happened in the movies, wasn't it? "I mean, I would like to, but-"

"Then you ask him," he suggested. "This isn't the 50's anymore, you know."

"But I..." My face turned red again. "Well, I really like it when the man does these things." I knew it was old-fashioned, but while I never thought of romance and the like all too often, I still knew it was just one of those few princess kind of things I wanted. "If we do get married, though, it'll be when we're ready."

"Hate to say it, sis, but that sounds pretty boring to me. With him doing it anyway." Mark laughed as he said it, but one look at my face was apparently enough for him to let it all go. "Okay, fine," he sighed, rolling his eyes. "Have it your way."

"Of course," I agreed. With that, I pushed away my drink, and as far as I was concerned, we were done. Not so much because I was mad, but because I felt like all the life had just been drained out of me. No wonder Gray had felt like he did after hearing my brother even suggest the idea...

Which is why I didn't understand just why I kept thinking about it all the way home.

-/-

Author's Note: Um, I think my eagerness to end this story finally showed itself... but I really did try to give the story a decent ending while making sure there was enough to continue in a sequel. With that, here's not the sixty chapters to come!