This was a request from Ranter, who wanted to see more of Owen’s family in the Modern AU–I’ll probably write another part or two to this one since some of Owen’s cousins stole the show here and I never got to the rest of his family, haha.
“Yeah?” Owen asked, spooning pasta salad onto a paper plate.
His cousin didn’t say anything, and Owen looked up. Odin had dyed his hair black now a few weeks before turning fifteen in May, which hadn’t done much to hide the fact that he, like most of the rest of his family, was a bundle of recessive genes. His red roots were showing and it was impossible to hide the familial freckles. His big green eyes were averted from Owen, looking down at some untouched coleslaw. “Odin?”
Odin’s name was Otis, but Owen hadn’t been able to talk as a child and had changed it for him. He jumped when Owen prompted him, as if he wasn’t the one who’d started the conversation. “Oh! Uh, nevermind.”
“Okay?” Owen saw the way he glanced over at his parents. Owen’s uncle Otto and his aunt Priscilla were at one of the picnic tables, interrogating Gavin about his dad’s political agendas.
Owen had given Gavin fair warning. He didn’t feel bad for him.
Odin still looked a little worried, and was fidgeting a little, fingers moving endlessly as he moved back and forth. “You okay?”
Odin nodded. “Sure. Forget I said anything. I, uh…it’s nothing.”
“Okay,” Owen repeated, having a feeling it was not nothing. But he wasn’t going to put Odin in a headlock and make him talk. He’d drop his pasta salad all over the ground. They were having a big family barbeque for Owen’s parents’ twentieth wedding anniversary and Owen didn’t want to ruin it by attracting ants.
He did, however, spend a good few more minutes getting food from the table, moving steadily farther away from the rest of the family as he did. Odin got a plate and started to get food too, also slowly.
It was only when Owen couldn’t stay at the table any longer and had turned that he heard, “I think I might be gay.”
Owen turned back around, saw his poor cousin standing there looking like he might die. “Okay,” Owen said, moving closer to him. “You think?”
Odin nodded. “I’m…not sure? But I…there’s this transfer kid and I…”
“Like him?” Owen prompted.
Odin just nodded quietly. “But! I also might just be scared of him? And I don’t know? Can you…help?”
Owen laughed, punched Odin’s arm, and Odin winced and moved back. “You want me to beat him up for you?”
“No! God, Owen!”
“So you’re not that scared of him, then.”
Odin looked at the grass. There was a carrot under the table and some ants were wandering around it. “How…did you know that you were…”
“It was…” Owen thought about it. Mostly he thought about Odin. He was fifteen, Owen figured. Whatever. “Gavin asked if I wanted to have sex with him and I realized I did.”
“Oh.” Colour rose in Odin’s face, even more than it already had, until it stained him from his forehead down to the collar of the polo shirt he was wearing because there were going to be pictures. “I accidentally saw Murph in his boxers last week and I had to spend an hour in the shower after.”
“Well,” Owen said, leaning in. “I’m no expert, but that sounds pretty gay to me, Odin.”
Odin nodded. “Well. Okay. I just…figured you’d be the one I could talk to, and stuff. Um. It’s okay if I talk to you about it, right? Like, more, later, when we’re not…” he gestured around at their family.
“Sure,” Owen said, and he pulled Odin into a one-armed hug, just for a second. “You’ll be okay. Try talking to the hot transfer student.”
“I honestly, literally don’t think I can do that.”
“You’d be surprised,” noticing Odin’s brother Pierre running over. “We’ll talk later, okay?”
Odin nodded. “Please don’t say anything, especially to my parents?”
“Of course not.”
“I say that because you’re shitty at keeping secrets,” Odin reminded him. “Like the time you lost your underwear and it took you five seconds to accidentally tell Aunt Liv.”
Owen rolled his eyes, pretending the memory didn’t make him blush. “There were extenuating circumstances,” he explained. “Besides, I’m good at keeping other people’s secrets, just not my own. They won’t hear about it from me.”
“Won’t hear what?” Pierre demanded as he joined them. “Are you guys keeping secrets? Tell me!”
“It’s not a secret if we tell you, stupid,” Odin muttered, hands in his pockets.
“Awww, come on,” Pierre whinged. “Tell me. I’m super good at keeping secrets. I never told anyone about the time I saw you signing the wrecking ball song!”
Odin flushed all over again as Owen tried not to laugh. “Except for Owen just now, you little…”
“Owen doesn’t count!”
“Hey,” Owen said.
“That’s, uh. Not what I meant? Come on, tell me and I’ll tell you a secret too.”
“Fine,” Owen said, since Pierre wasn’t going to go away. Odin gave him a ‘please don’t kill me’ sort of look, but Owen smiled and pulled Pierre closer. “Odin sneezed in the coleslaw by accident.”
“Sh-shut up, Owen…” Odin said, playing along and trying not to look relieved.
Pierre’s eyes went wide, looking at the untouched bowl. Then he giggled. “That’s super gross. I won’t tell, though!”
“You’d better not,” Odin told Pierre in his most threatening big brother voice, which really wasn’t that threatening at all.
Pierre giggled again. “I’ll tell you my secret too! I’m not wearing any underwear!”
“Weirdo,” Odin accused, while Owen high-fived Pierre.
“Want to see?”
“I think we’re good,” Owen told him with a laugh. He didn’t need to be responsible for anyone losing their clothes. “Hey, Louie.”
Louie had probably seen all the boys talking and come over for no other reason than not to be left out. He raised his arms in quiet insistence that Owen pick him up, which Owen did even though he was four and perfectly capable of walking. Then he took a celery off Owen’s plate and started munching on it. “Mommy said you was gossiping. What’s gossiping?”
“It’s when you talk about people too much,” Owen told him. He’d wanted that celery.
Louie nodded, chewing on the celery contemplatively. “She also said to tell you that Ron is here.”
“Is he?” Owen asked, looking around. He didn’t see Ron, but Aunt Liv had just come around from the front of the house, so maybe he was parking. “I wasn’t sure he’d come.”
“Is he still, uh…” Odin glanced over at their uncle Tommy, mom’s brother. He was talking to Liv’s husband Will in quiet tones.
“Yeah,” Owen said simply. It didn’t escape his notice that Ron and his dad had arrived separately and that when asked earlier, Uncle Tommy hadn’t known when Ron was getting here.
“Still what?” Pierre asked.
“Ron works in a magic store,” Owen said, because Pierre could probably deal with the fact that Ron and his father didn’t get along, but Louie was little and wouldn’t understand.
“Really?” Louie asked, bright eyes going wide. “Is he magic?”
“I don’t think so, but why don’t you ask him?”
Louie nodded, stole another celery, and slid down Owen’s body to land on the ground, racing around the side of the house. Pierre looked after him, then at Owen and Odin, who were a walking normally. “You should go with him and make sure he doesn’t fall,” Owen told Pierre.
“Yeah, right!” Pierre ran after Louie in a flash.
“How do you do that?” Odin asked him as they went around the house.
“Make him do things without making it seem like you’re making him do things,” Odin said. “He never does things when I try to make him do things.”
“That’s because you’re his brother and he has to compete with you. I’m the cool cousin who he wants to impress. Besides, I don’t tell him what to do, I distract him so he doesn’t notice it wasn’t his idea.”
Odin nodded along, frowning. “Wait, you’re not the cool cousin. I’m the cool cousin.”
“Nah, you’re the gay cousin.”
Odin spluttered for a second, glaring at Owen. “I never should have opened my goddamned mouth.”
“If you opened your goddamned mouth in front of hot transfer student, you wouldn’t be having an existential crisis,” Owen reminded him.
“No, because I’d have spontaneously combusted after forgetting my own name!”
“Uh-huh,” Owen agreed. “Because you’re the gay cousin. Hey,” he said to Ron as they approached, leaving Odin to glare ineffectually at him.
“Hey,” Ron said, offering a weak smile. His boyfriend was with him, or at least Owen assumed that the skinny guy in black was his boyfriend. “I don’t think you’ve met James. James, this is my cousin Owen, and his cousin Odin, from his dad’s side.”
“Hello,” James said, smiling at them. “I’m sorry we’re late. I tried to get Ron to close the store early, but several people in a row came in and needed their chakras aligned.” He managed to call them stupid without so much as changing the tone of his voice, which was an impressive skill. Gavin also had that ability.
“What’s a chakra?” Louie asked, even though he was hiding behind Pierre.
“It’s a point of energy in your body,” James told him.
“Like in Naruto!” Pierre announced.
James frowned. “I don’t think fish paste has chakras, but I’ll ask next time I speak with a tantric yogini.”
“It’s an anime,” Ron said, hand on James’s shoulder. “The characters are ninjas, and…nevermind. Pierre will explain later. Fellas, can we get inside? We need something to eat.”
Pierre nodded, pulling Louie out of the way, but not so much out of the way that they weren’t still in the way. “Do you really work in a magic store?”
“Yes,” Ron said, smiling. “James is a witch.”
“Ron, don’t tell them that.”
“But witches are girls,” Louie said, accusatory.
“Only sometimes,” James told him.
“Wow…” Pierre looked at James now. “Can you do magic?”
James smiled down at him, mysterious. “What do you think?”
“Uh…Odin says magic isn’t real.”
“Odin is named after a god of wisdom and he says magic isn’t real?”
“Well…Odin’s not his real name.”
“Quiet, Pierre,” Odin muttered.
“Anyway, I asked what you thought, not what your brother said.”
“Well…wait.” Pierre frowned, looking from James to Ron to Owen and back again. “How did you know he was my brother?” To be fair, they didn’t look much alike. Louie’s sister Willow was the only one in the family who’d inherited someone else’s colouring, but Pierre looked more like his dad than Odin did, plus his hair wasn’t dyed.
“How do you think?” James asked.
Pierre looked at Louie, who looked back. James smiled again. “Come on, can you show me where the food is? I’m very hungry.”
“S-sure! It’s back here. Come on!” Pierre took James’s hand and pulled him and Louie along, Ron following with Owen and Odin.
“Sorry about him, he’s had too much sugar.”
Ron shrugged. “He’s happy, it’s fine. It’ll do James good to talk to someone excited. Is, uh…my dad here?”
“Yeah,” Owen said.
Ron’s expression darkened, and he looked at the grass. “Okay. He hasn’t met James either, so I guess now’s as good a time as any.”
“He seems nice.”
“James.” Ron’s dad was an asshole.
“Oh.” Ron blushed, nodding. “Yeah. I’m lucky to have met him.”
“Plus you can get free chakra alignments,” Odin joked, making Ron chuckle.
“How old are you again?”
“Old enough that you can assume it was a euphemism,” Owen said.
Odin’s eyes went wide. “It w-wasn’t! That’s not what I…”
Ron chuckled some more, though. “I do get free chakra alignments, from time to time.”
Now Odin just blushed, looking away.
When they got back to the backyard, James had been waylaid on his way to the food table. Pierre had dragged him over to Louie’s sister Willow, who was also sometimes a witch, and their mom and dad. “I’d better go save him. Or at least introduce him, before he gets annoyed,” Ron said, hurrying off in that direction, though he himself got waylaid by Owen’s mom, who he had to hug before he could do anything else.
Gavin was now talking to Owen and Odin’s grandparents, which seemed to be slightly more challenging for him than Aunt Priscilla had been. Dad and Uncle Otto were at the barbecue, ostensibly barbecuing but mostly gossiping. Ron’s dad didn’t seem to have noticed that his son had arrived. Odin’s sister Phoebe was waving them over to the patio.
Odin was smiling. “They wouldn’t care at all, would they?”
“I’m still not ready to tell them.”
“Only because I need like ten years to work up the courage to say it is all.”
“I get it.”
Odin nodded. “We’re really lucky, aren’t we?”
“Yeah,” Owen said, pulling Odin over to their family. “We are.”