There’s No Right Way to Grieve, Only What’s Best for You and Your Family
“I don’t, uh, want to be an insensitive jerk,” Twig said, sounding a bit nervous. He was glancing at the privy door, where Gavin had just gone.
Owen nodded, patting his shoulder. “Okay. What is it?”
“Um.” Twig was blushing, and took a deep breath. “What’s going to, like, happen? Like, Sir Gabrielle is going to be the queen now, right?”
It was a fair thing to want to know. Owen also understood why Twig had waited until Gavin wasn’t here to ask. “Yeah. The funeral’s going to be on Peta.” Today was Jamia, so that was four days away. It seemed like a long time to wait for a funeral to Owen, a week from when Gerard had died. But there was a lot to plan for a king’s funeral.
“Right. And then the coronation?” Twig asked, still looking nervous.
“It’ll happen the same day,” Owen told him. “The funeral’s in the morning, obviously, and it’ll take a while. After that we’ll go back to the church for the coronation. I guess there’s a whole ritual for it, but the idea is that the actual coronation part where Gabrielle gets made queen will be at sundown.”
“That’s a long day of rituals,” Twig muttered. “I don’t mean it like that. I’m not resentful.”
“I know,” Owen assured him. “Nobody thinks you are.” He didn’t look forward to having Grey Rain sit in formal clothes for an entire day so soon after the wedding either. But maybe Owen wasn’t giving him a enough credit. He knew this was important and he’d been taking all the stuff about Gerard’s death super seriously so far. Apparently he’d talked to one of his gods and had decided that he needed to be more committed to being a priest.
“Okay.” Twig shifted a little. “I just feel weird and awkward. Like, it’s not about me and how I feel. But it’s kind of scary that the king died so I was worried a bit about what was going to happen. And I’m sad that Gavin’s dad died and I feel bad for him. And I just don’t want to say the wrong thing and I’m not very good at like, telling people what my emotions are and stuff. So yeah. I just wanted to know what was going to happen. Thanks.”
“It’s going to be okay,” Gavin said, opening the privy door. Twig fell out of his chair. “I appreciate you worrying about me, but I’m not bothered by you wanting to know what’s going to happen. Everyone does.” He came and sat down.
“Y-yeah,” Twig agreed, blushing. “I kind of…hoped that you wouldn’t hear that conversation actually. Sorry. “
“It’s okay. Thank you for worrying about me.” He took Owen’s hand.
Twig nodded, standing. He brushed himself off. “Um. You’re welcome. I…when my mom died, I really didn’t want to talk about it or have anyone talk to me about it, especially not right away. I didn’t know how you felt about that and I figured you were maybe tired of everyone in the world talking about nothing but your dad dying all the time, which is…kind of why I haven’t really said anything to you, but I just…don’t want you to think I don’t care, because I do.”
Gavin smiled at him. “Thank you. I know you care. You’re family, Twig, you don’t have to feel bad about how you act.”
Twig blushed deeper, shuffling his feet. “Thank you,” he muttered. “I guess you guys aren’t moving to High Haven now, huh?”
“Not right away,” Gavin said quietly. “We’re going to stay here for a while. The optic of the queen’s brother leaving town right after she’s coronated would be bad. But we are going to go eventually.”
“Okay.” Twig swallowed. “Okay. Thanks. I’m really sorry.”
“I’m really sorry about your mom,” Gavin said, making Twig look down. “I won’t talk about it if you don’t want to, but if you ever feel like it, just let me know, okay?”
Twig nodded. “Okay. This seems like a time to hug.”
Gavin nodded, and he hugged Twig, and Twig was only a little awkward to Owen’s eye. While they hugged, the door opened and Grey Rain came in with Greg, talking. And then he ate the whole thing!
Greg put his hand over his mouth a second to hide a laugh. Is that why they call him Oak Eater?
No, that’s because his teeth are strong like trees! He looked over and noticed Owen and Gavin, and looked a little embarrassed. Greg did too, looking away.
“Hey,” Gavin said, noticing them too. Hey. Guys. You don’t have to stop being happy just because I’m here. It’s okay.
Greg shook his head. He had a little clip in his hair to keep it out of his face and it looked like he might have a little bit of makeup on today around his eyes. Sorry. We weren’t trying to be inappropriate.
It’s not inappropriate to be in a good mood, Owen promised them. Don’t feel bad about not feeling bad.
We do feel bad, I promise! said Grey Rain. I just got excited telling Snowball about Oak Eater and a lot of the stories about him are kind of funny, is all. He was covered in fading burn marks from the ritual he’d done the other night to send off Gerard’s soul, but he’d promised he was okay and that it hadn’t been as big a deal as the mess in his room had made it seem. The morning after that, he’d gone outside and come back with a bunch of sticks, which he’d fashioned into a little bird’s nest and clipped into his hair beside his left ear. It was a fetish for a god who’d helped him out, he’d told Owen.
Nobody thought that either of them wasn’t upset, but also neither of them had known Gerard that well. When Owen had been little his great-grandfather Oswin had died, and he’d barely known the guy. He’d been sad about it, but mostly sad because his family had been sad. Owen waved them over, sighing. People get sad in lots of different ways, he told them. I don’t want you guys worrying that you have to be sad the right way, okay? Nobody’s going to think you’re doing something wrong because they see you smiling.
And if they do you shouldn’t listen to them, Gavin added with a nod. Red Wolf is right. I don’t want you feeling like you have to start being sad every time you see us. You can feel however you want to feel.
Okay. Greg smiled, sitting straight suddenly. He looked at Owen. I’m sorry, I forgot. Fang Singer is outside, she wants to talk to you. She said it won’t take long.
Gavin sighed. “Aria, you can come in,” he called. She opened the door a second later, and he shook his head. “I can be sad about my father and still be present for a conversation.”
“I’m sorry,” Aria said, looking uncharacteristically sheepish. Edwin came in behind her, shutting the door. “And my condolences about your father. I really do just need Owen for a minute.”
“What is it?” Owen asked.
Seeing that he wasn’t going to get up and walk away with her, Aria sighed. “We found the trail of the sorcerer who put the hell portal together. It shouldn’t take us long to track them down. Cleo and I can do it on our own.”
Owen nodded, but he could hear that that was only the first half of the sentence. “It’s not like you to hide the bad news,” he said.
Aria nodded. “I figured the circumstances might call for it.”
“I did tell you,” Edwin muttered.
“Yeah, yeah. We picked up the trail because they did manage to break the one we arrested out of prison.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Gavin said, massaging his forehead. “Can we not keep anyone in a prison cell in this city?”
“Apparently not,” Edwin said. “There have been a half dozen prison breaks this week.” He sounded tired.
“Security all over the city is heightened,” Twig said, looking uncomfortable again. “Because of, you know. That means they had to pull people from things like guard duty. It doesn’t help that all the nobility and royalty in the world are still here and now aren’t going to leave until after the funeral. A lot of petty crime is sneaking through the cracks as long as it’s not visible, too. Are you using magic to track them, Aria?”
“Yes. They teleported in and out of the prison. Cleo is still trying to figure out how they got through the wards all over the place. We’re dealing with someone pretty clever.”
“Okay.” Twig made a face. “The bitch who we fought in the cave was strongarming the Rock Boys. Seems like she promised them some stuff like dominion over the city’s criminal underworld and whatever. The Rock Boys are kind of the number two gang and I guess they thought this person could help them take out the Starlings, which there are definitely going to be some pre-emptive retaliatory murders, and I’ve just realized this is not the ideal setting to get into this.” He cleared his throat. “The point is, if magic doesn’t pan out, it’s worth hitting the Rock Boys up, she might have forced them to hide her. They don’t tell anyone where their main hideout is, but it’s the cellar of a tavern called the Red Sun on Joy Street, there’s a password to get into the back room, which is ‘splinter,’ and then the trapdoor is locked but the key is under the third barrel from the back on the left-hand side of the room.”
He looked up, realizing everyone was looking at him. “What?” he asked. “I investigated.”
Twig shrugged. “The Rock Boys’ main weakness is that they’re susceptible to violence. Do you want help with them? I know how to talk to them.” Grey Rain was leaning in as Greg translated, so Twig turned to him a bit and said it’s with punching.
Grey Rain smiled at him.
“Okay.” Aria crossed, then uncrossed, her arms. “Thank you. That’s all I wanted to say. Cleo and I will handle it, you two don’t need to worry about it right now. Just, you know.”
“You have my royal permission to make an arrest and Owen will pay for any ensuing property damage, yes,” Gavin said.
“Thank you. I’ll leave you all alone. Sorry again.”
Gavin nodded. “You and Cleo come over for supper sometime next week. We never hang out.”
“Sure, if you’re…”
“I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t want to,” Gavin promised.
Aria smiled, and gave another nod. “Okay. See you.” She departed.
Gavin rested his head on his hand for a second. Edwin came over and sat with them at the table. “I suggested she come back tomorrow or something, but it seemed important, sorry.”
“No, it’s fine,” Gavin said. He looked up. What I really need is for everyone to stop acting so weird. Everything is weird enough as it is. Grey Rain, can you tell us a story about Oak Eater?
Sure! Grey Rain beamed. But if I tell you, you have to promise to plant some trees in the spring and dedicate them to him!
They all promised, and Grey Rain started telling them a slightly horny story about three brothers lost in a forest at night. It was pretty funny. Everyone laughed a little by the end.
Owen didn’t know if it made Gavin less sad. Maybe it made him differently sad, for a little while. And maybe that was good enough, right now.