Martin tapped his fingers on his armchair. Calliope’s ear started to twitch in earnest.
“You’ve been doing that for the past hour, Martin,” the black cat finally said, dark blue eyes looking up at her companion.
“Has it been that long?” Martin asked, blinking down at her.
She crooked her head, “Is this about the phone call?”
Martin was silent. To appease his familiar, it seemed, he occupied his hands with his Book of Shadows, which was filling up nicely with bits of paper and other notes that he had written himself in his studies when he had (like only Martin could) forgotten the bloody book at home. Calliope’s tail twitched.
“It’s a wedding. You’ve known about the engagement for three weeks now.”
“I’m happy for them, Calli,” Martin replied, flipping through the dark blue book.
“I know you are,” Calliope replied. “But the requests were too much?”
Martin looked down at his familiar, breathing shallow now. “I’m her main Man of Honor. Her Best Man. Her other so-called groomsman is Simon, but she wants me as the Man of Honor!”
Calliope blinked and stood up, rubbing against her human as a comfort to him. “Is it the responsibility that gets to you?”
“No…” Martin replied, stroking her, “No. It’s just… She wants me to bring a bloody date and…”
“… the only person you want to bring you aren’t talking to because you ran away from him after he kissed you even though you’ve been in love with him since you found out you were part of your Family Legacy?” Calliope asked, looking a bit smug.
Martin looked away from her, but the familiar knew that her human was blushing, “Yeah.”
“Oh, Martin,” Calliope admonished. She began to play devil’s advocate, “You can take Arthur…”
“I—“ Martin started, but really thought about it. “What about Pippa? That girl he’s been seeing?”
“Sort of seeing. They’re off-again right now. They’re so carefree that they take it to their romantic lives. And you can ask him to the wedding as a friend. I’m sure Arthur would love to go either way. He’s, like I said, quite carefree when it comes to dating.”
Martin blushed, “Well… all right. I guess I should take a chance… I mean, I only have a week to ask him…”
“That’s the spirit!” Calliope cheered, rolling her eyes in the snarky way she usually did.
“Kaitlin… do you know why I haven’t got my Path yet?”
Martin was 15, and his sister was 16. Kaitlin had gotten her Path of Plants and was in the garden almost 24/7. She could see their mother from in the window, looking worriedly at her youngest son.
“No, Marty,” Kaitlin replied, looking up at her younger brother.
All three siblings had some shade of red hair: Simon’s was light, Kaitlin’s was dark, and Martin’s was slightly in between to two. They had gotten that from their father, though Angelina’s mother had been a redhead. Each Crieff child had also gotten their mother’s brilliant color changing eyes.
Simon was already making it in the world as an electrician, following in his father’s footsteps (it helped that his Path was the one of Electricity). Though Mr. Crieff was half-Fae, he had learned from his father that having a human job would help him in the world. So he had learned to be an electrician before meeting his wife. He hoped, if his youngest runt never got his Path, that Martin would take a hint and follow in his Dad’s footsteps. That’s why he gave Martin the van.
“You’re not a failure, I hope you know,” Kaitlin said to her brother.
“Says you,” Martin replied, sitting down in the dirt.
Kaitlin blinked at her younger brother. She didn’t wish Simon were here instead of at trade school. Mr. Crieff had died a year prior, so Angelina was all alone with her two youngest children. Simon was rubbish at being sentimental, just like their father. Somehow, Peter had learned to be sentimental with his wife and Kaitlin, but his boys were supposed to be men, and didn’t need sentiment from dear old dad. Simon was just the same.
Kaitlin sighed, smiling. She began patting the earth around one of the littlest of her plants. “See this little one?” she asked.
Martin looked to where Kaitlin was working. “Yeah.”
“This guy’s littler than the rest, but I can bet you a fiver that he will grow to be as strong, if not stronger, than any of the others,” Kaitlin told him.
Martin blinked, then burst out laughing, “Really, sis? You’re doing the whole ‘comparing me to a plant’ thing?”
“It works, okay!”
A few years later, that plant won best in show at the Bristol Farmer’s Market. Martin had to pay his big sister a fiver that year (because she has a memory like a freaking elephant).
That Wednesday Martin had a day off. Kaitlin and Annie kidnapped him for the day and took him to a lovely coffee shop in Bristol, where Annie’s two younger sisters met them. They were brunette and short like their older sister, but Jane (middle child) had light blue eyes and Elizabeth (youngest child) had brown eyes.
Jane also had a dove familiar named Frigga, and she was introduced as having the Path of Communication.
“Lovely singing voice. Can charm the pants right off you if she wants. But she’s too nice to do that,” Annie said.
Martin shook her hand, but was cut off from talking with her (about being a Communicator, not about planes) by Kaitlin, who just gave him a look.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, had a hedgehog named Diana, and she was a Healer.
“Your mum was a big inspiration for me. She knew our father, so she sort of took me under her wing,” Elizabeth told him.
“Where’s Simon?” Martin asked as Annie came back with a few coffees and started handing them out.
“I can’t trust him to come to this Wedding Party Meeting,” Kaitlin replied, “He’s got a pregnant wife and a booming business. Besides, I’ve got three days until the wedding and I wanted to finally give the big reveal.”
“I thought you weren’t doing anything fancy,” Martin replied, “You were going to drive to London with your closest family, sign some papers, and then go to a posh club just outside London, and then you were going to take off for Paris.”
“Yes, we are,” Annie replied, “Everyone’s bringing a date, though, so that scratches off ‘only close family.’”
“What’s the big reveal? We all have to wear eggplant purple?” Elizabeth asked, holding back a giggle.
“No, but I was hoping to get Marty here in a dress,” Kaitlin replied.
Martin blushed, but Calliope only purred from her spot on the table. “Not this again.”
“Marty, you were adorable as Princess Martin when you were ten.”
“Only because you and Simon were playing knights and I was the youngest, so I had to be the princess.”
“He was adorable in this old dress of mine. I’ve been trying to get him in a dress ever since. Nearly made it at my graduation party from University,” Kaitlin replied.
“Before I ripped the thread right out of the seams and made a fool of myself by falling in the pool?” Martin asked, getting a little testy.
“All right, you don’t have to wear a dress,” Kaitlin replied, “No, I have no big reveal. I just want you to be there, Martin, on Friday night so I don’t totally freak out. Annie and I are sleeping in separate hotels here in Bristol before we set out and meet at the registry offices in London in the early afternoon. Elizabeth and Jane are going to be there for Annie, and since you’re my man of honor I just thought it would be your duty to be there for me.”
Martin nodded, “I’ve warned my boss that your wedding is this weekend and I think she’s relented to letting me off work.”
“Good,” Kaitlin said, taking his hand, “Then I’ll see you Friday night?”
“Oh,” Martin said, rubbing the back of his head with his free hand, “Yeah.”
Calliope smirked at him, “You’ve got tomorrow to get a bloody date, my friend.”
“Shush,” Martin told her, putting his hand over her face.
“Why do I have to be the princess?” a little Martin whined to his two older siblings.
“Because your sister is being a child and making us play knights and princesses,” Simon replied.
Martin was ten. Kaitlin was eleven. Simon was fifteen.
And all three were very bored.
“You’re bored. I’m bored. And Mummy and Daddy did tell us to include Martin in our play. I don’t want to be the princess ‘cause that’s sexist, and Martin came late,” Kaitlin replied, picking up a long piece of wood. “No powers, Simon, ‘cause we don’t have ‘em yet.”
“Fine,” said Simon, powering down the electricity he was putting through his piece of wood. Simon really wasn’t that bright if he was still trying to conduct electricity through wood. He would learn better. In time.
“So?” Martin asked, looking at the dress he had been forced into. Not only was it a bit garish (think Cinderella from the Disney movie), but also it was an odd color scheme of purple, pink and orange. Martin remembered that Kaitlin had played the evil queen in some primary school production at some point, and Angelina must have kept the dress for sentimental reasons.
“You look gorgeous,” Angelina said, and snapped a picture.
“It won’t see the light of day until you tell me it can,” Angel promised.
Martin glowered at her until she went away, still, despite her promise.
Kaitlin and Simon played their knight game, with Martin as the damsel in distress. The next time they got bored and played, Kaitlin made Simon the dragon, and Martin was upgraded to a knight. When Simon decided to fight dirty and kidnap Martin, Kaitlin fought tooth and nail, figuratively, to save her fallen comrade. She really was the best sister in the world.
When Martin was nineteen, he went back home and Angelina showed him the pictures of him in his princess dress, pictures that were dutifully placed in a folder that would never see the light of day. When she was cooking dinner, Martin destroyed the pictures by putting them in the trashcan on the desktop.
Kaitlin gave the dress to the local homeless shelter when she was eighteen, but she kept the image of Martin in a dress for years to come.
“Arthur…” Martin said.
It was just before Martin’s last flight of the week, and a Thursday at that. Martin could never get the hang of Thursdays.
“Yeah Skip?” Arthur asked as he continued to Hoover the aircraft after the flight.
“Are you… doing anything on Saturday?” Martin asked as Calliope climbed up a nearby seat to get away from the Hoover.
“No, I’m not, Skip,” Arthur replied, as cheery as ever.
It was then that Douglas barged in, “Martin, it’s been twenty minutes, are you coming in to do your logbook or not?”
“Skip was just about to ask me something, Douglas. It sounded rather important, or Martin’s just nervous. He’s reddening a bit around those high cheekbones of his,” Arthur pointed out.
With both men staring at Martin, the captain was gasping a bit like fish before Calli swatted him with her paw (sans claws, as was her way) and he managed a—“Um.”
Douglas raised an eyebrow, “Martin, honestly. Get over yourself and talk to Arthur instead of me like you usually do!”
“Kaitlin’s wedding is Saturday and I need a date. Will you go with me, Arthur?”
Arthur blinked, finally turning off the Hoover. “Well, Skip. I would love to.”
Martin exhaled as smoothly as he could.
“But, Pippa and I are back together, and we’re going to the carnival that day,” Arthur continued, and Martin’s head lolled back as he groaned. “Don’t be like that, Skip. I would love to have gone with you. I just already had plans.”
“Yes, well. Now I’m going to be a stigma at my best friend’s wedding!” Martin whined.
“I thought it was your sister’s wedding,” Arthur put in.
“Kaitlin is my sister and my best friend at the same time. She and I… were closer than me and Simon, or even Kaitlin and Simon, were. Kaitlin and her fiancée are… are my best friends and I don’t want to stigmatize their big day,” Martin explained.
“Aren’t you forgetting something, Martin?” Douglas suddenly asked.
Martin looked to him, his initial blush darkening as he remembered that incident four weeks ago.
“I know you haven’t said a word to me beyond orders in the flight deck, but I am still here, and, judging by the way that we acted around each other both at your mother’s and at your front door, I am willing to go with you to the wedding. You can either feel like your ruining your sister’s wedding by being the only one without a date, or you can man up and take me as your date.”
Martin thought of Kaitlin and all she did for Martin when they were children and then teenagers. “All right. Saturday you can drive me and my sister to the registrar’s office in London, and then we’re going to a club just outside London for the reception.”
“See you then,” Douglas replied, and left the aircraft.
Arthur only smiled at Martin and said, “I think you and Douglas look great together. I mean, with me it would have been a bit more awkward since I’m only two inches taller than you. The tall-person/short-person couple is better looking, I think.”
“Thanks, Arthur,” Martin said, but his head was elsewhere.
And Calliope was settling on his shoulders in scarf-mode again, purring his ear off. Smug little familiar…
Friday night Martin was at his station calming his sister down in her hotel room. After a hard night of Kaitlin freaking out and wailing over the tiniest detail of everything to do with the ceremony, Martin finally got her to sleep, and finally slept himself. Saturday he and Kaitlin drove with Douglas to London, meeting Annie and her sisters at the marriage registrar’s office. The papers were signed, and they were off to the club just outside town.
Martin immediately sat off to the side and watched Douglas chatting with Annie’s sisters. Calliope said nothing, as she was off with Athena, Kaitlin’s familiar, talking about their humans’ childhoods together and bemoaning the fact that Martin’s Path had to come so late because they knew they would have had so much fun together.
Finally, at request of Angelina, the DJ played a slow song, and the newly wedded couple started off the dancing. Elizabeth and her date followed, and then Jane and her date. Simon and Robin had a hard time doing much dancing, so they swayed from side to side with the down beats in the song. Angelina found a nice gentleman to dance with, and so only Martin and Douglas were left not dancing. Douglas swept over to Martin and held out his hand. “May I?”
Martin looked to Calliope, who rolled her eyes and nudged her head forward as if to say ‘Go ahead, you idiot.’
Martin shyly took Douglas’s hand and let him lead him onto the dance floor. Kaitlin winked at her little brother, and Martin blushed, pulling his chin in to his neck a little.
“Small ceremonies are rather nice, I think,” Douglas said, trying to make conversation.
“You had big extravagant ones?” Martin asked, not meaning for it to sound so bitter and failing.
“I had wives who had been bred to want big extravagant weddings. You and your siblings obviously didn’t. Simon told me Robin and he eloped and your mother wasn’t phased by it.”
“That’s true. He told us before he eloped, which is probably one of the reasons Mummy wasn’t phased,” Martin explained.
“Ah,” Douglas replied.
They were silent for a minute.
“You… you thought there was something between us that day?” Martin asked, feeling rather bold in doing so.
“There’s something between us right now, Martin,” Douglas replied.
Martin looked away, forcing his blush to die down, “It’s just the atmosphere. There are several girls out there that you can have.”
“I don’t need them, Martin,” Douglas said. “I need you. I need to know that you’re ready for my attentions, because honestly I don’t think I can wait any longer for you to find yourself. You’ve have sixteen months to get over being part of your Family Legacy, so I know its not that that’s keeping you away from me… so what is it?”
“No one’s… ever liked me back… like I like them. You’ve seen me try to talk to someone who’s even remotely attractive. What makes you think… a relationship with you would fare any better than my hopeless attempts at talking to anyone else?”
“You know me,” Douglas replied. “You can talk to me just fine.”
Martin sighed and shook his head, “I can’t… jump in as quickly as you can.”
“Then we’ll start out slow,” Douglas replied. “Dinner, next Friday. I’ll pick you up at your apartment at seven, and you can make your decision on the Monday afterwards whether you want to do it again or not.”
Martin looked up at Douglas, crooking his head in confusion. Douglas was being so… so understanding and kind in this moment and… the music was ending.
Martin pulled away, “Sure. And thank you.”
Douglas leaned down slowly and kissed Martin chastely on the cheek. “You’re absolutely welcome.”