"I had to do something to improve that ugly ass dress you were wearing. It looked like you were wearing a couch," Eric teased. Joe rewarded him by throwing a hot roll at his head which he caught and happily ate.
"Anyway," Nathan said, drawing back everyone's attention. "I, being the good brother that I am, offered to beat her up. Dad was at a loss, but still somehow managed to slap me upside the head when I offered."
"You did not!" Alice sounded horrified.
"He did," Joe agreed.
"Anyway, once dad decided I wasn't going to kick her butt we hung around, waiting for Joe's mother so he could talk to her. We waited two hours and she never showed. By then dad fell in love with the little brat," Nathan said teasingly.
"So did you, big guy," Joe said, sorting through the silverware.
Nathan chuckled. "Of course I did. I knew right off the bat that you were good sister material. So dad who was at a total loss and this big baby," he jerked a thumb towards Eric, "decided she should come home with us where everything could be straightened out. Mom gets one look at her and gushed and decided she was keeping her."
"So, you like, all adopted her?" Camie guessed.
Everyone except Caitlyn shook their heads. "Not exactly. Even though I think Dad mentioned more than once before he passed away that he was going to kidnap Joe and adopt her we never made it official."
"He would have to," Alice said with a watery smile.
"It didn't matter what the law says we all heard him referring to Joe as his little girl so it didn't matter," Eric said, earning a sad smile from Joe.
"So she never lived with you?" Camie asked, seeming determined to find out exactly what Joe's role was.
"She became an instant fixture in the house. She went with us everywhere, did her homework here, had chores here, but her mother wouldn't let her move in with us which was okay until she was about fourteen and then she started to sleep over here more often until she was living here and mom told us to go get her stuff. She stayed here until after she'd been working on the ambulance for a while and could afford to live on her own. I think she was nineteen at the time?"
"Yes," Joe said as she finished setting the table and started placing bowls of food on the table. "I moved out a month or two before Eric did."
"Only because you stole the apartment I wanted," Eric pointed out, stealing another roll.
Joe simply shrugged.
"Okay," Camie said slowly. "So Eric and Joe are like brother and sister?"
Eric and Joe shared a look of horror. Nathan winced and even Alice shook her head, looking like she might be ill.
"That's a seriously horrifying thought," Joe muttered. "Kind of disgusting actually."
"Damn straight," Eric said, saluting her with his half eating roll.
"Eric, why don't you sit over here?" Alice asked, gesturing towards the empty seat next to Camie.
Eric kept his smile pleasant. "I'm fine where I am. Besides, I wouldn't want to interfere with your time with your friend."
His mother scowled in his direction. He didn't care. He came here to spend with his family and meet his brother's new girlfriend, not be set up with an ice bitch, who was now sending glares at Joe every time she thought no one was looking.
Seriously where the hell did his mother find these women? The last one she brought over had just separated from her husband and wouldn't stop bawling throughout the entire meal. Did she really think he was desperate?
"But-" Alice started to argue their seating arrangements.
"I'm already settled, mom. Everyone is. Let's just eat, shall we? This smells too good to let get cold," he said, gesturing to the platter of pot roast and large serving bowls of side dishes.
Camie smiled coyly as she stood up. "I can just move over there if you want. I'm sure your mother just wants to have a chance to sit next to Joe," she said, starting around the table to his side.
His smile became tight as he reached out and snagged Joe's arm just as she set down the large pitchers of water and ice tea on the table.
"Hey!" she said, slightly stumbling under his grip.
Eric ignored her squeaks of protest and yanked her ass down in the seat next to him. Camie paused mid-step, throwing Joe a glare that by all rights should have killed her on the spot.
Joe took one look at his expression and smiled sweetly, too damn sweetly. "You know what, if you want this seat I don't mind. I'd love to catch up with Nathan and Caitlyn," she said, starting to get up.
He put his arm around her and hauled her back down, keeping her firmly in place. Keeping his tone and expression light he said, "But you and I really need to talk."
"No we don't," she said, trying to get up again. She really was enjoying screwing with him too much, but after what he tried to pull with Greg last night she didn't feel too bad.
"Sure we do," he said, holding her firmly in place with one arm while he started spooning food onto their plates. "We really should discuss our trip tomorrow."
Caitlyn smiled. "You're going on a trip tomorrow?"
Eric said, "Yes," the same time Joe said, "No."
"I'm going on a trip tomorrow. Eric's inviting himself along," Joe clarified.
Nathan snorted. "Since when does he need an invite? You guys go everywhere and do everything together. I think it's pretty much assumed at this point that where one of you goes the other will follow."
Camie looked murderous. Joe seriously wondered where Alice found these women and thanked god that she never tried to set her up. The prospects were truly frightening.
Joe scoffed as Eric ladled gravy on her potatoes the way she liked it, perfectly in the middle with none of it spilling over. "That's not even remotely true. We have lives outside of our friendship."
Nathan scooped mashed potatoes onto his plate as he said, "Name one major thing either one of you did without the other present or a vacation or even a small trip you took without the other."
Eric chuckled lightly. "I've done plenty of things without Joe there and I can assure you I haven't been with her for everything she did either."
"Name one thing and I will give you each a hundred dollars," Nathan said smugly.
Joe and Eric shared a look as they both thought it over. Joe started with the big events in life, the simple things to remember. There was the time she lost her virginity, but Eric had been in the car several spots over doing the same thing so that didn't technically count. First kiss was out too since Eric was the one to give it to her on a dare. Driver's license? Graduation? EMT training? First job?