Notes: It’s a white Christmas here *see picture*. I’ve got family and food and warmth and I feel so lucky. I hope the rest of you are enjoying a wonderful holiday season, and that this post puts a smile on your face. Next Tuesday is New Year's Day, and I’ll be posting then too. Probably before as well. Have a delightful day, my darlins.
Part Nineteen: Signed, Sealed, Delivered
*the view on my front porch this morning*
Jonah thought it was kind of unfair that Garrett slept like a baby the night before their wedding.
Not that there was anything to be nervous about. Jonah reckoned that the big issues had all been dealt with—he hoped to hell they had all been dealt with—and the slate was about as clean as it could get. Claudia took care of all the details like she promised, Miles made sure he and Robbie and Wyl wouldn’t be called away unless something blew up (his words, not Jonah’s; Jonah didn’t think this family’s history with explosions was funny) and all they had to do was keep Cody occupied while it all got set up. A trip to the zoo had taken care of most of that time. The place wasn’t too big, but still had far more animals that Cody was used to seeing, and some interesting hybrids.
“I thought those were plants,” Cody said, watching with interest as a tigerlily pranced around a transparent greenhouse.
“It was, originally,” Garrett told him, still holding Cody’s hand. The kid hadn’t let go of him the whole trip, and Jonah couldn’t blame him. He kind of wanted to keep a hold on Garrett too, but he didn’t want to make his fiancé feel too claustrophobic, so he hung back and contented himself with bumping shoulders as they made their way from habitat to habitat.
“There was a span of a few centuries where cloning and genetic manipulation was a popular pastime,” Garrett continued, “and it was pretty easy for amateurs to fool around with whatever genomes they wanted to. Most of them did things that were pretty harmless, just once-offs as pets or something, but some of them got a little out of control. One of these people was a botanist, who pioneered what he called ‘mutobotany.’ He decided to take different plants and merge them with animal DNA to make brand new species.”
Cody frowned. “But we do that all the time, right? Scientists change plants and animals so they can help them survive better on new planets. And they do it for places like that other zoo, Chibi World. Right?”
“True, but those scientists have a lot of special training that lets them figure out what the best combination is for each new place, so they won’t all just die or overwhelm the local flora and fauna. And Chibi World is a closed circuit, those animals don’t get the chance to live in the wild,” Garrett explained. “This guy didn’t care about that, he just wanted to make new things. It took him a while, but eventually he crossed all sorts of animals and plants successfully. He was going to take them around in a big ship as a kind of travelling show, but the police found out what he was doing and raided his home.
“The botanist, who was a very wealthy man, had enough time to put samples of his experiments, all cryogenically frozen, into capsules and shoot them into space before he was stopped. He said his work would thrive even if he was locked away. And it did. Some of the capsules were found but most of them made it to their destinations, and they hit the ground and the new creatures woke up and headed out into their brand new environments. And some of them did really well, like this one.” The three of them watched the tigerlily silently for a moment, taking in the grace of its long central stalk, the leaves that were edged with hard green claw-like nubs and even, as its primary blossom opened as though it were yawning, the long red stamens that drooped out like three lazy tongues. “There are tigerlilies on ten different planets now, and they’ve eaten a lot of native species into extinction.”
“That’s not good,” Cody said with a frown. “He wasn’t very responsible, was he?”
“No, he wasn’t.”
“What was his name?”
“George Harmony Caractacus-Ledger.”
Cody looked up in surprise. “He was related to you?”
“A distance cousin, yes. He died about five hundred years ago, but he did accomplish his life’s goal. His hybrids have thrived.”
“Wow. Your family is so weird.”
“They’re your family now too, kiddo, keep that in mind,” Garrett teased him as they headed for another exhibit.
By the time they returned to the mansion Cody was exhausted and Jonah wasn’t far behind. They put him to bed, cleaned up and lay down together, and Garrett snuggled close instantly. “Did you have a nice afternoon?” he asked quietly as the bed’s temperature adjusted to their preferences.
“Real nice,” Jonah replied. “You’ve got family everywhere, don’t you darlin’?”
“Oh, you’ve no idea,” Garrett said, rolling his eyes. “We’ve got our claws into nearly every major disaster or triumph since the Federation began. The Caractacus clan is infamous. But no letting it get to you.” He poked Jonah’s chest. “It’s not important. There are so many of us that no one really cares what most of us do as long as the central line stays intact, which means I never hear from my grandmother, which is a wonderful thing.”
“Still, it’s a hell of a family legacy,” Jonah couldn’t help but point out. “You really sure you want to take my name?” It was something they’d argued about, a little, but Garrett had been adamant.
“Technically we’re hyphenating,” he said carelessly. “The ‘Caractacus’ will still be on all the legal documents, but it’s going to be silent. Besides, Garrett Caractacus-Helms is such a terrible mouthful, and I’d never do that to Cody. Garrett Helms is better.”
“And you’re sure Miles doesn’t mind?”
“Are you kidding? He would have changed his own name if he thought he could get away with it. Dad was the bane of every poor private in the marines, they spent hours practicing how to say his last name if he happened to walk by. Everyone who fucked it up thought for sure he was going to have them cleaning out antique latrines or digging ditches by hand just for the hell of it, but he ignored it all for the most part. The smart ones just called him ‘sir.’” Garrett kissed Jonah’s chest. “Stop worrying, everything will be fine. Go to sleep, baby.”
Garrett had followed his own advice easy enough and Jonah had tried to do the same, but it was no use. He was getting married tomorrow. Married. Married. Most people never even bothered with it these days, they’d enter into short-term contracts with someone else or do a civil union that gave them Federation status without ceremony, but marriage was considered old-fashioned, something only the quaintest or most serious lovers undertook. Marriage was a lot more common among naturals, who’s shorter life spans gave their actions a sense of gravity that most folk didn’t have, but here he was. Getting married. Blending everything about their lives. All of the crazy Caractacuses, all the brilliant ones, all the leaders and all the outlaws, Jonah was forging a connection to them through Garrett, his own crazy, brilliant man. And who was he? There was no registry that held his name, no lineage he could point to with pride. Drifters were almost entirely their own folk, and not much for record keeping.
Jonah slept fitfully, his mind spinning from place to person, from the past to the future. Not out of nervousness, just out of…consideration. And when morning finally came around he was exhausted, while Garrett jumped out of bed like he was Cody’s age, all smiles. “Come on, we have to get ready!”
“When you’re coherent enough to articulate an actual argument, I’ll listen to you. Until then, up!” Garrett whipped all the covers off the bed, leaving Jonah bare to the crisp morning air. “Up up up!”
It was going to be one of those mornings.
His mind wandered all through breakfast, just fruit and coffee for himself, and listened to Cody play with Renee and Miles joke with Garrett and Claudia organize things in the background. This was his new normal. Not just for the duration of this trip either; they’d be back, regularly, thanks to Jack. This was a real family, doing things together. This was his life now.
“Hey.” Jonah looked up from his coffee into Garrett’s slightly concerned face. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Jonah smiled. “I’m good, darlin’.”
“Good.” Garrett kissed him sweetly, then stood up. “I’m going to go get dressed.”
“Can I watch?”
“You can help if you want,” Garrett offered with a grin, but in the end Jonah left him alone for it. He wanted it to be a surprise.
His own clothes were elegant but comfortable, a dark navy three-piece suit that made him feel like he was stepping out of an earlier time, but with all the amenities of modern fabrics. It adjusted automatically to his size, and the tie blended its own color to match the suit and his shirt. He shaved, tied his hair back—he’d offered to have it cut and Garrett had very firmly declined—and figured he was about as ready as he was going to get. He went to grab Cody, who had his own new suit that he was trying very hard not to fuss with, and the two of them headed outside.
The wedding ceremony was held in the mansion’s small garden, a tidy maze of flagstone walkways and flower beds, dotted with occasional trees and bushes and, because this was Claudia’s house, a tiny vineyard. A natural grotto formed between some of the vines and a stone archway, and the vines were laces with pale blue flowers, their tiny buds barely blooming yet. Squarely underneath the arch was a holographic projector, where Jezria would be broadcast to officiate. There was even a lectern to go in front of her, a real one so that they could lay the paperwork out.
When Claudia had said simple she meant it. There was no formal entrance, no additional ceremony. Robbie and Wyl met Jonah and Cody on the veranda just above the garden and walked with them down to the grotto. Jezria was already there, in holograph form, wavering slightly in the dappled afternoon light.
“Excellent, we’re halfway there,” she said as he approached. She was wearing a long blue dress with gold trim that looked simultaneously official and fashionable. “Naturally Garrett is late. He would be late to his own funeral.”
Cody instantly frowned, and Jonah spoke up fast to ease the moment. “Thanks for doing this. I know you’re a busy woman.”
“And a sleepy one,” she added, “it’s still dark out over here. You’re lucky the last tsunami passed us by, or the connection might not have gone through. Ah, there he is!”
Jonah turned around and saw Garrett, flanked by Miles and Claudia, and his brain promptly went offline. When Garrett wanted to get dolled up he went all the way, and clearly he thought this was an occasion for it. His suit was a single long piece, strategically split and lifted along the hips and shoulders to give the appearance of formal lines. It was the color of the ocean on Pandora, dark green foam at the high collar drifting into blues and grays as it drained down to his feet. He had dusted subtle hints of silver along the sharp lines of his face, and his hair pulled forward to frame his face with soft, perfectly sculpted curls. He didn’t even look real until he smiled.
“Daddy!” Cody bapped him on the arm. “That’s a bad word.”
“That good? Really?” Garrett preened theatrically. “How gratifying.”
“Now that the bride is here,” Jezria said dryly, “let’s commence. Miles, you have the documents?”
“Here.” Miles put a thin piece of digitized paper and a pen down on the lectern.
“Perfect.” Jezria folded her hands together and looked at them. “Gentlemen, on the surface this is very simple. Once you sign this piece of paper, you will be joined in the eyes of Federation law. That’s the easy part. A marriage, however, is a partnership. It’s a committed bond between two people, a symbol of their relationship that cleaves them together when the trials of their lives would cleave them apart. It is a demonstration of the strength of your love for each other, and a reminder that you have chosen a more serious path than most. Marriage, in the end, is about two people becoming one. Do you have anything to say to each other on the subject?”
Ah right, the vows section. Jonah looked at Garrett. He had said everything he needed to say over these last few days, but he had to make sure Garrett knew. “No matter what happens to us, or how we change, you’re the one I want. Nothin’ about life is easy, but you make my life so much better just by being in it.” He reached out and took Garrett’s hands in his. “I love you. I always will.”
Garrett’s grip on his tightened. “I didn’t even know I was looking for you when I found you—both of you,” he added, smiling at Cody. “And now I can’t imagine life without you. I’m sometimes reckless and often stubborn and I know I’ll make mistakes, but I also know you’ll never hold them against me. I can only strive to be as good to you as you always are to me, and I will. I love you. You make my family complete.”
“Well said,” Jezria applauded. “Have you decided to exchange tokens, or should we get down to the signing?”
Rings were incredibly old-fashioned; tattoos had been far more popular for centuries, but this was a Drifter tradition that Jonah didn’t mind carrying with him. He held out his hand to Cody, who looked momentarily nervous. “Um…” He glanced back at Wyl. “I think I…”
“Here.” Wyl passed him the ring and Cody passed it to Jonah, who turned back to Garrett. It was a simple band of heavy white gold, with their initials engraved on the inside. He took Garrett’s left hand and slid the ring onto his third finger, like Drifters did when they got serious, and then kissed his knuckles.
Garrett’s casual aplomb had vanished. His eyes were shining and he looked like he was on the verge of having to sniffle, but he held it back long enough to take the ring his father was holding out to him, this one of red gold, and put it on Jonah’s hand. One tear finally escaped, and Jonah heard Wyl snicker.
“I knew it! I win.”
“Try to be gracious,” Robbie muttered. Garrett glared at both of them.
“You were betting on whether I’d cry?”
“More like when,” Miles said, looking more than a little smug.
“I hate you all.”
“Before this devolves into name calling,” Jezria interjected, “why don’t we finish things up? Both of you need to sign the marriage license.” She stepped back as far as the projector would allow her image to go.
Garrett stepped around the lectern, took up the pen and signed his name with a flourish. He passed the pen on to Jonah, and he put his name on the line just below Garrett’s. Their new, combined last name sprung up below that, and Garrett grinned.
“Just call me Garrett Helms.”
Oh hell, it was real. It was all real, it had really happened, Garrett was his. They shared a name. They shared everything now. It was…
Jonah reached out and pulled Garrett into a crushing embrace, kissing him too hard, too possessively but Garrett just melted into it, letting Jonah lead. People were speaking, laughing, Jezria was trying to direct but none of it mattered. It was done. Garrett was his.
He felt Cody tug on the back of his jacket and broke the kiss to let their son into their hug, but ignored the rest of it for now. In a minute Jonah would make room in his heart for everyone else, but right now, it was completely full of the two people he held in his arms. He had what he wanted. He had everything he wanted.