"Have you heard the rumors going around about us at the office?" Hughes demanded of Roy.
Roy shook his head in disbelief. "I have. I can't accept it. Someone has got to put a stop to this slander."
"What is the world coming to? Can't a pair of brother-officers spend an occasional evening in each other's company, enjoying a glass of port and catching up on old times, without people thinking—"
"I mean, it's patently ridiculous! You and I? Sleeping together?" Hughes snorted disdain, and spared a hand to push his glasses back up his face. "Ridiculous! For one thing—"
"For one thing," Roy interrupted, "I'm straight."
"You're straight? I'm straight! It's even more unbelievable to contemplate!"
"Excuse me?" Roy slanted Hughes an unfavorable look. "How is it any harder to believe that I would be straight than you?"
"Well," Hughes said smugly, "in the first place, I'm married. You can't get much straighter than that."
"One woman only," Roy dismissed. "The proof is in repeat trials, old boy. Why, any number of women in Central can attest to the truth of my orientation!"
"Can they?" Hughes was unimpressed. "You know, it's not that hard of a task to get any girl off the street to fall for you—now, keeping her, on the other hand, requires true commitment—"
"Commitment, or a lack of imagination," Roy said dryly. "Or poor reflexes. No, the true mark of a man is how well he can play the field, sow his wild oats..."
"I suppose you do need some way to compensate—"
"Compensate?" Roy squawked, nearly knocking Hughes' glasses off as he rounded on him. "Compensate for what?"
"Well, for your appearance," Hughes said cheerfully. "You have to admit, old boy, not many girls like a man who's prettier than they are—"
"My features are feminine? Have you looked in a mirror lately, Hughes?"
"Excuse me?" Hughes said indignantly. "My figures are distinctly more manly—for one thing, I have a beard—"
"Yes, and her name is Gracia," Roy snorted.
"What did you say?!"
"I'm just saying, it's a touch of the pot calling the kettle black," Roy said hastily.
"I have a small child at home!" Hughes ranted. "What further proof of my heterosexuality should I need to present?!"
"All this is quite beyond the point," Roy said firmly. "We're certainly agreed on this score, that these rumors have nothing to them."
"Right. Absolutely nothing," Hughes agreed.
"We're both straight. Completely, totally, and absolutely. You and I both like women, not men—"
"Don't like men one bit," Roy said, then quickly added, "Not to suggest that I'm some kind of, er, misanthrope."
"Of course not," Hughes said immediately. "I quite like the company of men. In a completely straight, acceptable, platonic—"
"—brotherly way," Roy nodded decisively. "Anyone who doubts my preference for the fairer sex needs only to ask Georgia. Or Victoria. Or Marie. Or—"
"—Katherine, or Sarah, or Annabelle—"
"—Clara, Louise, Jessica—"
"—what is it?"
"Could you move a bit faster while you're ranting?" Hughes complained, shifting around uncomfortably.
"Oh. Yes. Sorry," Roy said, getting his mind back on track. He found himself some better leverage, and picked up his breath. "So as I was saying, these rumors—"
"Quite. Completely fabricated. No truth to them at all."
"Nope. None at all."