Stowaway, 90

Weddings Should be Joyous Occasions with As Many Loved Ones as Possible Present

Ao3 Link

“This should be pretty easy to modify,” said Hyel, the seismologist. Seismology was the study of earthquakes, but among merpeople it was also the most-studied branch of magic, and Hyel was a practitioner of it who worked for the Prime. “Human magic is different, but all I’d need to do is layer a little of my own work on top of this and it should work.”

Should is a very dangerous word when we’re talking about potential suffocation and sudden crushing by immense oceanic pressure,” Pax explained to xer. “I would really prefer a great deal more confidence than should. Like will, for example.”

Hyel flared xer frills in the way that Pax, after a week in Nilmeain Kasar, had learned to associate with a smile. “You’ve learned ‘Vyle far more rapidly than anyone expected you to have done, Pax.”

“It was foolish of them to assume I wouldn’t,” Pax said with a smile of his own. “But so have Denver and Louis, and you should be appreciative of their abilities as well.” Louis had picked up the merpeople’s language after just a day. Pax wasn’t yet fluent, but could hold a conversation. Denver was a little slower, but he was getting there. Sylvester had also learned it very quickly and was teaching John, who wasn’t struggling as much as Pax had anticipated, which was frustrating because it meant he was learning faster than Natalie.

Hyel nodded over at them. Xer scales were mostly red and black, and xer body paint was in patterns that made Pax think of sunsets. “That’s to be expected of the Degma.” ‘Degma’ meant ‘seconds,’ but Pax preferred to leave it mentally untranslated because it sounded fancier.

“Perhaps,” said Pax. “But it’s still impressive and you should be impressed. As I will be impressed when you’ve both modified the portal ring and I have not died going through it.”

Hyel looked down at the ring, which Pax was letting xer hold on the condition that xie not go anywhere with it. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t let the Degma or their friends come to harm. I’ll make sure it’s safe before anyone uses it.”

“Excellent. I understand these things often take time, so please take as much as you need.” Pax had other things to do today anyway, like watch Denver get married. The merpeople weren’t joking around with this; they’d set up a ceremony very quickly. It had only been a week since they’d come down here.

“I understand. It may take a few minutes. Thank you for your patience.”

Oh. Pax had expected it to take a few days. “That’s very acceptable, thank you,” he said.

“I told you,” said Denver, coming over from the table. They were in his rooms at the castle complex in Nilmeain Kasar. “Hyel is very good at what xie does.”

“You flatter me, Degmen.”

“The wedding’s not for another few hours, Hyel,” Denver reminded xer. He was tapping his foot against the ground, which was making him float up, then he’d fall again, and tap his foot some more. “I’m just Denver for another few hours.”

“You’re never just anything,” Louis told him, catching Denver around the waist. “And there’s still time to change your mind.”

“I’m not changing my mind,” Denver said, nervously. “I’m not nervous.”

He and Louis were all done up in some very elaborate paint for the wedding, long lines across their bodies in slightly luminescent green-yellow that looked quite nice on them. Pax himself had found some nice body paint in a shade of blue Nate thought was flattering and had let someone apply it for him so he could be dressed the way a friend of the Degma-to-be was meant to be dressed at an underwater wedding. Paint didn’t stick to Nate, but their hosts had found some bright pearls to augment his chain. “It would be okay if you were nervous,” Pax said. “Getting married is a rather big step, even if by human standards it’s a relatively short commitment. And I know you’ve been getting to know Alse very well this last week, but you have only known him for a week, so it can be a bit daunting to agree to be bound to him by mysterious submarine contract law that we don’t fully understand.”

“I’m starting to think you’re nervous, Pax.” Denver was smiling. “Are you worried about being at a formal event with no clothes on?”

“Yes,” Pax said, though he was not, because he’d been at many events with no clothes on this past week; he was getting used to it as part of his immersion in the local culture, even if he was looking forward to going back to the ship where pants were a thing. “I am. But nobody else will be wearing clothing either, as is the custom here, so it’s fine. Also I’m not the one getting married. If you’re interested in deflecting your nervousness so you don’t have to admit to having it, perhaps you could deflect it onto Louis, who is also getting married soon?”

“Oh,” said Denver. “That’s a great idea. Louis, you must be nervous, right? It’s okay, marriage really isn’t that big a deal.” He took Louis’s hand. “And remember, we like Alse and also we’re pretty much going to be kings, which is pretty cool. And thanks to the portals, we can visit home whenever we want, and Pax and Edwin can come visit us too, if we want them to.”

Louis put his other arm around Denver, as well as his tail. “What are you doing?”

“I’m making you feel better. You were just saying last night that you were going to miss Edwin while we were down here, but there’s really no reason he can’t visit us in our awesome new palace after the wedding.”

“Well, I was saying that, but you were also saying it…”

“There’s no reason he can’t visit you in your new palace before the wedding,” Pax interrupted. “Hold on, but there’s no reason we can’t just go get him right now and ask him to attend the wedding. I’m sure he would, he’s a very thoughtful and kind person and he cares a great deal about you as I understand it.”

“Wait…” Denver said, looking up at Louis. “Louis, he’s right. Edwin could just come to the wedding. I’m sure he would.”

“You don’t…” Louis’s wings stretched out, then in a little. “You don’t think he’d be upset that we were marrying someone who isn’t him?”

“Of course not, he’s like us. And if he is upset we can just convince Alse to tidally marry him too, I’m sure he’d be fine with that. Edwin should be at the fortress, as long as he and Gavin haven’t gone to go kill another evil overlord or something. Hyel, how long before that portal is ready?”

“Just another minute, Degmen,” said Hyel, not looking up from it. “It’s very curious. It seems as though the transportation spells embedded in this already have hooks in them as if to allow for attachments. It’s even simpler than I expected to modify the spellwork. I would love to speak to the human who made this, if possible.”

“Unfortunately he’s an evil spider demon; a spider is like a crab but with more eyes,” Pax explained. “So I’m not sure if that will be possible. I might be able to put you in touch with one of his employees though. If we’re going to go get Edwin, we should go to the ship and find out if anyone there wants to attend your wedding. They’re all very close with you and before you make the obvious joke I do mean emotionally, so we should also speak with the captain and see if she wants to go acquire them for us.”

Denver nodded. “Okay, you go do that and I’m going to go talk to Alse. We have a few hours before the wedding, so it shouldn’t be an issue for us to pop to the capital for ten minutes.” As he was speaking, he took advantage of Pax’s distraction—not that Pax was distractible, but he did like to be giving his full attention to anyone who was speaking and especially to Denver, who was very important to him—and hugged him very tightly. “I love you. I know I’ve said that a lot lately, but I love you, you’re honestly the best person in the world, Pax.”

“I was actually ranked fourteenth on the last poll, directly behind my brother Robin, but thank you for your support,” Pax said, hugging Denver back. “I love you too and your happiness is important to me.”

Nate added his arms to the hug. You deserve to have your family at your wedding, Denver.

“Thank you, Nate. I love you too.”

Louis added his arms and wings and tail to the hug, holding all of them. “Thank you,” he said to Pax. “It will…mean a lot to me to have Edwin here.”

Pax nodded, trying to awkwardly hug him as well. This was the greatest number of nude people Pax had ever hugged simultaneously whilst also nude, but he couldn’t find it in himself to be bothered by that. “Consider it my wedding gift to you since I didn’t get you anything. I should go speak to the captain and you should speak with Alse.”

So they went to do that, and on Pax’s end at least it was really very straightforward and not all that interesting, and soon they were all back in the room, where Hyel had finished doing seismology on the portal ring. “This ring is interestingly sized,” Hyel told Pax as xie returned the ring to him. “If I didn’t know what it was for, I’d assume it was meant to adorn the human genitalia. Specifically, it appears it would be the right size to fit your…”

“Don’t worry, I’ll explain human adornments to you some other time,” Pax interrupted, taking the ring. “For now, all you need to know is not to listen to either of your Degma about them ever. It will work?”

“Yes, I tested it myself.”

“I was gone for sixteen minutes.”

“That was enough time for me to run several tests.” Hyel frilled at Pax, seeming very pleased with xerself. “It works, I promise. I’ll even go through first if you’re nervous.”

Pax anticipated that xie just wanted to go see some humans up close, and he’d just had this conversation with Denver and Louis, so he didn’t bother correcting Hyel’s misplaced concern, but that was all okay. “That’s perfectly acceptable; in that case, I’ll open the portal to the ship first, because I doubt anyone in the capital will speak particularly useful Gronnde. Denver, which door would you like this affixed to? I know you’re going to be tempted to say the door to your bedroom, but…”

“The door to the bedroom for sure,” Denver said with a smile.

Pax sighed, and went over to affix the portal ring to the door that slid open to reveal Denver’s bedroom, which, like many rooms in the castle, was circular and lit by very fascinating lines of light that were controlled by a touch near the door. Some very large windows overlooked the spirals of Nilmeain Kasar, which was rather breathtaking, if any of them had breath to take under the water. The merpeople had many things that humans didn’t, and though a lot of them seemed impossible, most of them apparently weren’t magic. They had a way of harnessing energy from under the ground to create lights and heat and allow other devices to work, which was all very useful since they couldn’t light fires.

Anyway, he affixed the portal ring onto Denver’s door and tapped the mechanism to open it. It worked as intended and revealed the deck of the Coral Witch, which Pax had missed.

Hyel stepped through the portal before Pax could stop xer, and stood there on the deck. “See?” xie said, looking around. “Perfectly safe.”

Natalie shrugged. “So it is. We’ll see you back here shortly.”

“We’ll likely be back before you,” Pax told her, as Natalie stepped through. He waited a second to make sure she was breathing acceptably and not dying, and then closed the door.

Denver opened it again, to a snowy courtyard. “Oh,” he said. “This is going to suck a little bit.”

“Yes,” Pax said, intuiting why. It was very cold and snowy and also outside there, and they were naked and wet here. “Perhaps Louis could go through and move the portal to somewhere slightly less outside so that we humans don’t freeze to death.”

“I can do that,” Louis said, stepping up. He kissed Denver. “I’ll be right back.” And he stepped through the portal, shutting the door behind him.

He did not come right back, but that was okay. Pax floated there a moment, looking at Denver. “So Alse was accepting of your decision to have your boyfriend at your wedding?”

Denver nodded. “He said that the people I love should be there. Apparently some of his other suitors are going to be present too, merpeople from other imperia that he wants alliances with. He told me not to have my feelings hurt if he ends up negotiating his next wedding in the wake of ours.” He smiled, flexing his shoulders a little. “I told him not to have his feelings hurt if I discreetly fucked some of his suitors at our wedding. He requested that I inform him which ones were good at sex. We get along really well. I actually like him a lot.”

“Good. I know you only agreed to do this for our sake, so I’m glad you at least like him,” Pax said. “I feel bad for putting you…”

“Don’t,” Denver said. “I’ve already told you I’m happy to do it, and doing it is already making me happy. I’m getting married to Louis too. And I’m a bit nervous, maybe, but I am really am excited. And besides, I think I can help Alse be a better Prime.”

Pax had no doubt that he could. “It seems to me that he’s mostly controlled by his advisors. You should help him figure out how to not be that.”

“That’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Denver grinned. “He knows how to run Ran Errevir. He just needs help being allowed to actually do it without being threatened with removal every time he does something his council doesn’t like.”

Pax nodded. Being the Prime wasn’t the same as being a human king. They were chosen by the merpeople’s gods, the Deepest, who communicated through a series of natural symbols including some nearby vents. But if the Prime did a bad job he could be removed and replaced with one of his many siblings, who weren’t as good as him because they weren’t marrying Denver. Pax hadn’t met any of them, but he planned to keep an eye out during the wedding. “Marrying you will help solidify his position if only because he’ll have two Degma who can intimidate anyone who tries to be rude to him.”

“Yeah.” Denver shifted, scratching his balls. “Did you know that Degma isn’t just the title for the Prime’s spouses? It’s specifically the title for his first spouse or spouses. Nobody else he marries is ever going to be his Degmen. Just me and Louis. It’s actually a really big deal.”

“It goes to show how important you are.” Pax tried to lean on the wall but found it quite challenging. “And how important this alliance is to them. At least as much as it is for us.”

“It’s just a bit weird,” Denver said, with a sigh. “How much I care about being good at this. Outside of the alliance and what it means for us, I mean. I want to be good at this for Alse. That’s weird, right?”

Of course it isn’t, Nate said. That’s what a husband is supposed to do.

“I guess so. It’s…the last time I was this worried about disappointing someone was when I got taken onto the Coral Witch’s crew.” Denver blushed, looking away.

Well. Pax cleared his throat. “You may have been nervous about joining us, but it’s going to be a very long month without you there. You’re the best morale officer anyone could ask for.”

Now shifting in place, Denver continued to look away. “Louis is taking a long time,” he said, pointedly.

“He is indeed taking a long time,” Pax agreed, because he knew how Denver felt about emotions. He looked at the door. “But I wouldn’t worry about it. Though it’s well known that dragons don’t generally give a shit about other people’s schedules, Louis cares a great deal about yours and in this case your schedule is also his schedule, so there’s no cause for alarm, as he probably just got held up in one of his dragon dick-measuring contests, which he will of course win unless he happens to run into Joey, who is in the capital, to be fair, but probably if that happens they’ll just measure horns instead because Louis isn’t really the kind of person to instigate contests he can’t win unless they’re against Sir Ox.”

“Who is also in the capital,” Denver sighed. “And is potentially with Edwin. Oh, maybe he’ll just find Edwin and bring him here so you don’t have to go to the capital naked.”

“I’m not naked, I’m wearing culturally appropriate body paint.” That was a very important distinction to Pax. “But yes, that would be very kind of him, and if we end up spending more than a minute or two there I will need to obtain clothing.”

Denver nodded. “It really means a lot to me that you’re willing to go there even though it might mean strangers would see you like that.”

“You and Nate are the only people I would do that for,” Pax said quietly. “Besides, I think all the time down here has helped me become more comfortable with nudity generally and particularly my own.”

“Does that mean you’ll sail naked with me?”


He’ll think about it.

“Okay.” Denver casually floated up to the ceiling, holding onto a ring up there. “Do you like Hyel? Xie’s very curious about humans and xie and xer friend Toay would like to conduct research into our culture. They’re the ones I told you about before.”

“With the sexy research, I remember.”

“Yes. Toay is one of Alse’s siblings, but not one of the ones who wants his job. I was thinking they and Hyel could join you on the Coral Witch at least for a while. Hyel would be happy to fulfill most of my duties as morale officer in my absence, I have a feeling.”

Pax also had a feeling of that. “I don’t have a problem with that, but I’m not going to have sex with them.”

“Of course not, though it would be a huge oversight in your book if you didn’t.”

He’s not wrong, Nate said. Imagine a book about merperson culture and biology that doesn’t include at least one chapter on reproduction.

Pax rolled his eyes, but he very nicely allowed them both to spend upwards of a half-hour trying to convince him to a merthreesome for the sake of research. They did have some compelling points, he was forced to admit. Fortunately, he wasn’t actually forced to admit that before Louis came back. “Sorry that took so long,” he said, as the door opened.

“It’s fine.” Denver floated down to the door and walked through without a care, looking around. “This isn’t the fortress.”

“No, it’s the castle,” Louis said. He held out some clothes. “The fortress was practically empty. I borrowed these from Edwin’s room. Turns out he’s at some party here that’s a big deal, and I figured you guys would rather not walk all the way here and freeze your dicks off like I did.”

Louis had assured Pax many times that dragons were incapable of being cold, so Pax chose not to worry about the sanctity of his genitals even as Denver looked them over for signs of frostbite. “Thank you,” Pax said, dripping on what was probably an expensive carpet. The clothes were too big for him in some places and too small in others, but he put them on gratefully even if they clung to him because he was wet. Pax chose to pretend that the outline of his entire body and especially his middle was not clearly visible through the clothes. “We are now much better dressed to go to a human party. What is the party commemorating, if I may ask? Or is it just a fun party?” Pax hoped it wasn’t an orgy. He didn’t have time to attend another orgy and he didn’t think he’d get any more useful theological information out of Sully even if he did.

“I don’t know, I haven’t seen anyone I know yet,” Louis said. “I guess Edwin is getting anointed. Don’t know what that means. The guard practically passed out before I could ask the rest of my questions.”

“Oh,” Denver said. “That’s a really big deal. We can’t take him away from that, it’s going to be important to him.”

“It might also be important to him for you to at least come say hello on a big day for him,” Pax said, pulling Denver away from the portal. “Let’s go.”

Denver nodded, and let Pax drag him out of the room, into a very nice palace-style hallway that had had nicer paintings in it last time Pax had been here, though to be fair they’d probably had to hang the uglier ones after Pax had stolen one of the nice ones. When they were halfway down it, a knight stopped them, indicating that security had been improved somewhat since Pax had last been here. “Halt,” he said, holding out a hand. “Who are you?”

“I’m Pax,” Pax said. “If you go through the palace’s lists of people who are permanently invited, you’ll find me under the name Patrick Oberen Nevell the Third. But also I’m Prince Gavin’s friend.”

“Oh. Oh, hi,” said the knight to Louis, and then Denver. “You guys are Edwin’s boyfriends, I remember you. I guess that means you’re not murderers.”

“That’s an assumption you can make,” Denver said with a smile. “Is Edwin around?”

“Yeah, in there. I guess the party just got started?” The knight shrugged. “I guess you guys can go in. Don’t kill anyone, okay? It would make me look bad even if it would also prove me right.”

“As much as I appreciate the value of being proven right, I don’t plan to kill anyone,” Pax promised. “At least not today. Thank you for your help and dedication, sir knight.”

“It’s just Twig, actually.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Pax said. Twig, Actually moved aside for them and Pax headed into the room, which was probably still called Queen Grace’s Parlour no matter that Pax had explained to several people that it hadn’t been used, built or even decorated by Queen Grace and also wasn’t a parlour. It was all laid out with food and decorations and full of people. Pax saw Gavin and headed over to him, breaking off from Louis and Denver, who’d spotted Edwin. “Hello, your Highness,” Pax said, bowing a little bit. “Sorry for crashing your party, but Denver and Louis wanted to see Edwin because they’re getting married and wanted him to be there. I hope you don’t mind if we stay for at least part of the party.”

“Sure, the more people who aren’t just here so I notice them being here the better,” Gavin said. He didn’t seem particularly fussed by this or Pax’s state of dress. “This is why we have portals, right?”

“I think we actually have portals so we can save the world,” Pax disagreed. “But we’ll discuss that later. I have a few things you might like to know about merpeople.”

Pax told Gavin the various things he might want to know about merpeople, letting Nate do the same even though Nate thought that Gavin would be more interested in sexual organs than political structures, and then after that, he went and enjoyed the party. Denver and Louis spent some time with Edwin before rejoining Pax. “He’s going to try and get away after he’s anointed,” Denver told Pax, beaming. “He said he’d rather miss his own party than my wedding, which I’d rather he didn’t do, but we compromised and he’s going to come for the wedding part of the wedding and then probably leave to come back here.”

“I think that’s a very good compromise,” Pax decided. “Especially considering you two planned these conflicting events without realizing it.” He was looking around the room, and his eyes stopped one figure. “Excuse me, I think that’s my brother over there and I’d like to go talk to him and make sure he doesn’t hate me for betraying his father figure. I’ll be back to get you so I can introduce you to him also.”

He went over to the person he was pretty sure was Jacob, who was wearing very fancy and well fitting clothes and standing with a cute boy whose hair was in his eyes. “Not sure this was a good idea,” the boy was saying.

“It is,” Jacob promised, and it was definitely Jacob. “Getting out of the academy for a bit will do you good, and…hi.”

“Hello,” Pax said, a few feet away. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

Jacob hugged him so fast that Pax barely had time to hug back before they both fell over. “I was so worried about you,” Jacob said. “Holy shit, I was so worried about you after you quit, Pax. I heard you were okay and also that you work on a boat now, which is super cool, but I was so worried for you.”

“I was worried for you too,” Pax said. This was a much more positive reaction than he’d hoped for. “I’m glad you’re okay.” He didn’t ask about Dominic. He wasn’t going to. “I do work on a boat, I’m the acting first mate. I’m actually only here for a short time, I’m visiting with my friends. Also, this is my fiance, his name is Nate and he’s slightly sensitive about the topic of his not having a body.” He showed Nate to Jacob.

Jacob nodded, touching the front of Nate. “Hi, Nate, I’m Pax’s big brother Jacob. Before you get married to him, you and I have to have a long talk about the best way to treat him, he’s fragile.”

“I’m not fragile.”

He’s really not, Nate agreed. It’s really nice to meet you, Jacob. You’ll have to tell me some stories about Pax. Who’s that with you?

“This is my boyfriend,” Jacob said, gesturing at the boy. “His name is Peter. Peter, this is my brother Pax.”

“Hi,” Peter said, offering Pax his hand, which Pax shook. “It’s really nice to meet you, Pax.”

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Pax said honestly. He was happy for Jacob. “I hope you’re being very kind to Jacob, because if you’re not I’ll find out where you live and fill it with spiders and not the friendly kind.”

“I’m…trying my best,” Peter said, smiling in a reserved manner. Pax hoped he hadn’t upset him.

“Peter’s a student at the mage’s academy,” Jacob said, bouncing with excitement. “Pax used to be a student there, though not the magical kind.”

Pax and Peter had a great conversation about the academy and its teaching methods. It turned out Pax’s favourite teacher there was still teaching, which was nice to know. But most importantly, he and Jacob caught up for a good while. Jacob was unofficially working for Prince Franz, which was quite amusing to Pax, and had another boyfriend at the academy who wasn’t here tonight but was named Isaac, which was an acceptable name. Halfway through all of that, Pax met another of his brothers, which was really very abrupt, he thought.

“Hey,” Ignatius said, hugging Pax just as tight when he appeared out of nowhere, which was impressive because he’d gotten considerably more muscular since Pax had seen him last and so he must not be using his full strength. “I didn’t know you were going to be here.”

“Neither did I,” Pax said, hugging back. “I’m so happy to see you, Iggy. I hear you’re a wizard now.”

Ignatius was, as it turned out, a wizard, and was also engaged to a nice young man named Gus, who shook Pax’s hand very firmly and who could definitely hear Nate even if he pretended not to. Pax had honestly only expected to be able to enjoy this party vicariously through Denver, Louis and Edwin rather than on its own meritorious qualities, but he spent the whole time with his brothers, and honestly by the time it was time to leave, he was disappointed.

The knighting ceremony had been very nice and Pax was happy for Edwin and the other knights who’d been promoted, though he didn’t know any of them except for Parry, of course. “I have to go,” he told Jacob and Ignatius. “My friends’ wedding is very soon and I don’t want to miss it, but I’m in contact with Cyrus and Matthias and Roberta and Alec, so we should all get together sometime and catch up, I’d really like that a lot.”

“Me too,” Jacob said. “That would be really great.”

Ignatius nodded. “It was really good to see you, and to meet Nate.”

“I enjoyed meeting Gus and Peter as well. They seem very good for both of you, respectively,” Pax said, smiling at them. Denver and Louis were waiting for him by the door with Edwin. “I’m very sorry to run so fast, but I really do have to go. I love both of you and I’ll see you soon.”

They let him go with just one hug each, and Pax went to the door smiling. He hugged Denver. “Thank you for getting married at this exact time, it caused me to reunite with two more of my brothers.”

“Just let me know if you need me to get married again and I’ll be naked before Louis can finish forging the rings,” Denver said. “Come on, we said we’d only be gone a few minutes and it’s been like two hours. The wedding’s going to be soon.”

“I can’t believe you came here for me two minutes before your wedding,” Edwin muttered, as they went down the hallway.

“Of course they did, they love you,” Pax assured Edwin, who blushed. The room with the portal in it was a bedroom, and Louis had affixed the ring to a wardrobe door, which was now open. Pax sighed, and took off his clothes. “I’m afraid you’ll have to undress,” he told Edwin. “Merpeople don’t wear clothes.” Edwin was already undressing before he even finished. “Oh, well, excellent.”

Telling himself that Edwin was Denver’s boyfriend so of course they had so much in common and of course it was okay to be naked in front of him, Pax opened the door and stepped through, mentally thanking Hyel and xer magic for not letting him suffocate. The others followed him, Edwin needing steadying by Denver.

Several people were waiting in the room, including Natalie and Alse, both of whom seemed agitated. “That was much longer than a few minutes,” Natalie said, arms crossed.

“Yes,” said Pax. “I apologize, there was an impromptu party and time isn’t real. But we’ve got Edwin.”

“Sorry,” Denver said to Alse, in Daolo. “I really didn’t mean to freak you out. It’s a bit of a long story.”

“It’s okay.” Alse touched Denver’s face just below his eye, then did the same for Louis. “I knew you’d come back. Hello Edwin, I’m Alse. I hope you don’t mind my marrying your partners.”

“Not at all,” said Edwin, shrugging. He was looking around a lot. “I hope you don’t mind me being really out of my depth here. I didn’t know merpeople were real.”

“That’s completely understandable,” said Alse. “We’re very real and very happy to make your acquaintance. I hate to rush everyone, but the ceremony is very soon.”

“Right,” Denver said, looking down at himself. His paint was smudged. “Right. I need to get repainted, and so does Louis. Edwin, can you and Pax stay here and help us?”

“Yeah, sure. What are we doing?”

“Just follow my lead,” Pax told him, smiling at the captain. “Is everyone else here?”

Natalie nodded. “Even Sharon, after what I’m told were some very complicated modifications to Hyel’s spells. She has to leave right after the wedding.”

“Excellent, I’m so glad everyone could be here. I’ll see you as soon as Denver is painted again.”

Everyone but the four of them left, and some of Alse’s servants appeared from somewhere with paint, which they carefully applied to Edwin while Pax redid Denver and Louis’s paint. Pax let himself be repainted as well, and then they were gathered in the doorway. “It’s going to be okay,” Pax said, holding one of Denver’s hands and one of Louis’s. “You can do this.”

“I know.” Denver looked at Louis. “I don’t think either of us is nervous anymore.” Denver kissed Pax’s cheek. “Thank you.”

“It was my pleasure, Degmen,” Pax said, bowing, and Denver laughed as he over-rotated. “I should go out and wait with everyone else.”

“Let us just have a second with Edwin,” Louis said, and Pax nodded, moving away.

Are all weddings this complicated? Nate asked.

Royal ones, I expect. Ours won’t be this convoluted, Pax promised. And will also include more pants.

Maybe, Nate teased, squeezing Pax’s butt.

Edwin rejoined them, done up in some very nice orange paint, and Pax took him down to the large, globular Zevel, which was part throne room and part temple, seemingly. Many, many merpeople were around, all oriented around a globe of light in the middle. Being the only humans (as well as the only god and the only pelican) around, it wasn’t hard to find the crew of the Coral Witch, and Pax led Edwin over there. They had a pretty good view of the globe, mostly floating near the centre. Sylvester was there too. “There you are,” he said. “Heard you took a detour.”

Pax nodded. “I met up with Jacob and Ignatius. I’ll tell you after, but they’re excited to meet you again.”

“Oh, fuck me,” Sylvester said. He was holding John’s hand. “It is a good fucking day, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Pax agreed. The room went dark, but for the globe in the centre. “It is.”

Denver, Louis and Alse came into the room, pulled towards the globe by a gentle current that only seemed to touch them, which they entered together. It flashed and then enclosed them, shining brightly but never occluding the three people inside it, holding hands.

What they were doing was sealing an important alliance that would help them defeat the Sea King, Pax knew that. But all he could think, as he watched the wedding unfold, was that Denver and Louis both looked so very happy.

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