“It’s a stupid tradition,” Adam cut in over the argument, and it was evident from everyone’s faces that they were surprised to hear him supporting Talon’s case. “And definitely not worth the trouble.”

“Of all the people to be some kind of tightass about a bit of harmless fun–”

The unwelcome opinion was silenced with a dope slap so fast nobody saw it until it’d made contact with the back of the offender’s head, and Talon once again boggled at how much even he would forget that Adam was quite spry despite the other man’s age and the appearance of laziness he projected. Adam kept his hand raised, waiting to see anybody else stupid enough to say anything, and when he was met with the expected silence, lowered it again and let the silence steep for another moment before he spoke in a slow, patronizing fashion, as if explaining to a dull child: “It’s not about me. It’s not about you,” he spat, leaving out his usual ‘you fuckwits’ but his tone made it quite clear what he thought of the peanut gallery. “It’s not even about the lucky groom to be, except the part where he’s about to stand in a chapel and make vows to spend the rest of his life with Samui.” He swept his ‘I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-spell-this-out-to-you-fuckwits’ glare around the room as he rose out of his usual slouch to his full height. “And how do you think Samui will feel when word of this gets out to her–and she will find out one way or another, because you can’t keep gossip this salacious out of anybody’s ears–and she hears that you guys think of her as Talon’s ‘ball and chain’, even in jest?”

“She wouldn’t–”

The objection was much quieter than the earlier dismissive comment, but the dope slap Adam dished out on the second fuckwit who wasn’t smart enough to keep his mouth shut was much harder. “Yes, she would take it seriously. Of course, in front of you guys, she might be able to put on a show and pretend to laugh it off, but all of you know what sort of shit she’s gone through. Do you honestly think that your glib little comment wouldn’t keep her lying awake at night wondering maybe, just maybe, you’re right and Talon deserves someone better?”

“I didn’t mean–”

The strike on Fuckwit #3 was loud enough to echo.

“Of course you don’t mean any harm. You never do, because you always assume everybody not only reads your mind, but thinks the way you do.” Adam jabbed a finger into Fuckwit #3′s chest. “And that’s exactly your problem.”

“Listen,” Talon interrupted, trying to play the peacemaker before Adam could lay into them with the full force of his mounting fury, “I appreciate that you guys want to do something for me, but I don’t find any of your ideas all that great. Call me ‘Mister Killjoy’ all you like, but I’ve never thought of being a bachelor as ‘swinging wild times’, and I have no interest in waxing nostalgic over a part of my life that I want to be over and done with as soon as possible.” Talon forced a smile. “No offense, guys, but you aren’t good enough friends with me to joke about this kind of thing.”