1) “You’re joking, right?”
“What do you mean by that?!” Emma puffs up, crossing her arms over her chest in indignity. “Why would we joke about things like that?! Well, I may be a different story… But didn’t you say before that Norman doesn’t have an inclination towards things like that?!”
She would have continued, but Norman chuckles easily and places a placating hand on the top of her head. (Ray keeps his stare from lingering on the motion. At the same time, there’s a swell of content in his chest, simply satisfied with seeing them together.)
“Now, now… I’m sure Ray doesn’t mean it that way.” Norman draws his shoulders up and smiles down at Ray. “He’s just a bit surprised by our proposal, right?”
He doesn’t like that scheming look in his friend’s guileless eyes at all.
2) “No can do. I refuse.”
“I REFUSE YOUR REFUSAL!” Emma jabs a finger childishly in his face.
“Wow! That’s the way! Go show him, Emma!” Norman claps, laughing at their antics.
Tch. Ray scowls darker. This pampering guardian and spoiled brat combi… Why did he get them together again?
3) “Stop being childish. This isn’t the same as back when we were kids, you know? We can’t do everything in trios.”
“Why?” Emma cocks her head.
“Hah? Must I explain something so obvious—” He’s cut off by the look in her eye.
“There’s no rule saying that we can’t do a relationship in trios, right? And even if there is… does it really matter?” That’s her ‘I’ll kill you look’. That’s her ‘Touch my family again. I dare you.’-look. Ray’s swiftly teleported back to that time when she realized he was experimenting on their younger siblings, and he falters, realizing his mistake. “Let’s do it, Ray! We never know till we try, and besides! It’ll just be one more status quo to break! This is nothing compared to breaking the cattle children out, right?!”
There she goes again, bouncing back into her charismatic mode like it’s nothing.
Ray checks in with Norman and finds him smiling indulgently. (All must be going according to his plan.) He takes a deep breath and—
4) “I’m just not attracted to you.”
“Even though you stare at us so much?” Emma blinks naively, tilting her head.
“D-Don’t misinterpret things anyhow you like!” Ray stammered. Shit. Norman’s eyes sharpen. (He has him by the tail. Double shit.) He coughs. “To begin with—”
5) “I remember you guys from day one of our meeting. And trust me, we’ve met in the nursery way before the house. Wouldn’t you feel creeped out dating someone who knows things about you that not even you are aware of?”
“Nay.” Emma doesn’t even hesitate. Ray’s brow twitches. “Afterall, who we are in the past isn’t who we are in the present, right?” She catches his hands in her own. “We want to date Ray now! So stop finding excuses to reject us!”
“To begin with,” Norman smiles, holding his chin pensively. “I didn’t realize you were looking over us that intently.” Lie. Ray’s brow twitches again. Norman’s just pointing out the obvious. “That makes you an even easier addition to our relationship, don’t you think?” He cocks a beam down at Emma.
The orange-haired bugger pumps a fist in the air and chimes an enthusiastic agreement.
Ray wants to slam his head in a wall. Prison break might be easier than this.
6) “Maybe you’re fine with it. But I’m not. Leave me out of this farce.”
“Nope!” Emma chimes with a close-eyed bubbly grin.
These idiots and their blockheadedness…
7) “Stop this nonsense, Norman! You’ve been in love with Emma for years! I’ve seen you! And now that you’re together, you're going to let me ruin it?!”
“Let me turn the question on you then,” Norman lifts a hand palm-up conversationally. “Why are you so convinced that things would turn south, Ray?”
“Things always have! You know that!” Ray inhales sharply. “Back then, during the prison break, if I had been a part of your plan from earlier on, Emma wouldn’t have had to lose her ear—”
“That’s part of my inability to plan ahead.” Norman retorts simply.
“If I had talked to you guys much earlier on, we might not have to lose as many siblings as we did—”
“We wouldn’t have believed you till we saw it with our own eyes.”
“Because I failed to lie convincingly to Mama, you had to leave for lambda 7412!” Ray grits his teeth. They leave him panting for several beats thereafter. Norman peers down at him patiently, with frustratingly understanding eyes. And Emma tightens her grip over Ray’s fingers, slipping her other hand into Norman’s loose grasp to give support. She leaves them to figure out the things they must.
“…But everything turned out alright because of that, didn’t it?” Norman points out. It’s enough to make Ray want to scream in frustration. “I inherited William Minerva’s name. I gained the power necessary to protect you two because of that.” Norman lifts his free hand, flexing it to peer down through the slim digits.
Norman smiles reassuringly at him.
“It’s fine to have more faith in us, Ray. Things have always been better with you around than without.” Ray hates how confident he sounds about everything. Digging his heels in, Ray looks away with a scowl.
8) “That doesn’t mean you like me the same way you do each other.”
“Well, of course there’s no way I can, right?” Norman smiles.
Ray jolts. It feels like he’s just been stabbed from the least expected angle.
“That doesn’t mean I don’t love you though. Ray, you know better than that.” Norman inclines his head, azure eyes shining knowingly. Ray stills. They both know that Ray has always given up too easily – on their family, on the people around him, and even thereafter, on the love of the ones held most precious to him. Norman cocks his head with a gentle crease of his eyes. “You’re an idiot, but I love you too, Ray.” He chuckles. There’s a hint of pink in the pale of his cheeks.
How stupid. To get embarrassed over his own words…
“I love you too, Ray!”
Ray only has a fraction of time to react before Emma has tossed herself onto him. He catches her, head inching as far back as he could to avoid her round-eyed emerald stare.
“C-Cut it out—”
Emma continues staring, hard and pressurising in every way with that doe-eyed look of hers.
“You’re embarrassed!” She finally cracks a smile. That’s the one thing that allows Ray to gather the strength to shove her off him.
“Who wouldn’t.” He scoffs to hide his flustered blush. “The two of you must be the most embarrassing people I’ve ever known.”
“But the fact that you’re embarrassed must mean you feel something for us!” Emma lifts her pinky with an impish smirk.
9) “We’re family! This is practically incest!”
“It is?!” Emma squawks in realization, eyes growing wide.
Ray’s eyes widen. This is his chance! He takes a jab step forward, pointing an accusing finger.
“You’ve always viewed me as a brother, didn’t you? What makes you think you aren’t just mistaking camaraderie for love? Things like affection and hugs and kisses… Those are things that we did often back at the orphanage! Emma, you love Norman. There’s no doubt about that. But your feelings with regards to me is more platonic than that. And pretending that it’s more is—”
“That’s right! I love Norman!” Emma gasps, snapping out of her mulling look.
“Wha—” Norman gasps this time. He reddens to the colour of a peach. He smiles, flustered but thrilled. “I love you too, Emma!” Norman hooks his fingers over Emma’s.
“Now’s not the time for that, is it?” Ray deadpans dryly. Though he’s happy that they’re finally seeing the light.
“I love Norman the way I wouldn’t do for Gilda or Don or anyone else in the family! You’re the one who told me that!” Emma steps up to him, making him lean back at their close proximity. Emma tiptoes and she screams just as sharp pain punctuates Ray’s head with a dull, echoing ‘thud’. “That’s why… STOP DERAILING ME, RAY! I KNOW HOW I FEEL BEST, AND I’M SAYING THAT I LOVE YOU LIKE I WOULDN’T WITH ANYONE ELSE IN THE FAMILY! SO JUST ACCEPT OUR DECISION AND GO ALONG WITH IT!”
Ray bows over, holding his throbbing head.
Emma huffs in spite of the bump on her head, crossing her arms over her chest. Norman’s smile is full of mischief as he peeks over Emma’s shoulder.
“Are you regretting helping us out now?” Norman flashes teeth in his small grin.
“D-Damn it…” Ray hisses.
That’s the logic he presented Emma with in getting her together with Norman.
This is totally his defeat.
10) “…Why the heck do you guys even want me in your relationship so bad?” He finally musters.
“Do we even need a reason?!” Emma huffs, already fed up.
“We just love Ray!” Norman ducks his head, letting out a laugh full of unbridled cheer.
“Y…You’re all illogical… mad… stupid.” Ray can’t find the right words to describe them.
He just knows he shouldn’t be feeling so warm at heart listening to their words.
“Come on, Ray!” Emma stomps her feet. She hauls him back up, tiny hands firm where they find purchase on his shoulders. Ray blinks down at her fierce pout, bug-eyed. “For once in your life, just stop thinking and leap and see where you are thereafter! After all, we’ve both already made the jump, haven’t we?” She beams up at Norman at her side, smile turning marginally more tender.
Norman returns an equally enamoured smile.
The platinum-haired teen wraps his arms around the both of them, and it’s the warmest Ray has ever felt, wrapped up in the two people he thought he had lost for a moment back in Goldy Pond. Emma’s tiny in his arms. She’s been tiny since a while back. And when he peeks up, Ray’s stunned to see Norman’s gaze lingering on the both of them without a hint of envy. Just content, plain and simple, even when he meets Ray’s gaze and smiles wider. Unbridled love in all its simplicity.
(…And then, maybe something else.)
“Good job on securing him, Emma.” Norman finally grins.
Ray jolts, and realizes how tight their combined grips on him are.
“It’s all as planned!” Emma’s face scrunches with her impish snicker, full of teeth. Her bright-eyed gaze on his face is decidedly less than innocent.
“Let me go. Let me go, you—”
Emma wraps her arms around his shoulders and clings onto him for dear life. In a similar fashion, Norman’s arms tighten like steel beams.
“Hah… the both of you… you’re absolutely impossible.” He pants (sighs), dropping his head forward. If there’s anything he knows about their tenacity, it’s that it’s useless to resist once they have you in their grasps. “…You know it’s just going to be a rabbit hole going down this path, right?” He manages one last futile resistance anyways.
“Too late!” Emma pulls her head up at him. “You should have realized that the moment you got us together anyways!” She grins. “We would have definitely made you join us!”
“That was your one critical mistake.” Norman finishes her line, a self-satisfied look on his face.
Ray rolls his eyes even as the edges of his lips tug up into a lopsided smile.
“…But even so, I would have gotten you two together anyways.”
After all, he’s never seen them as happy as they are now.