They set the wedding for three months later, at Fireholt. Nikola and Justin were inclined to perform the ceremonies the night of the engagement, but Wisteria counseled for an engagement period. She was particularly concerned that Justin reflect on the decision. “You’ve never truly considered this possibility before, I think, and it does mean you will never have a legal wife all to yourself. Our marriage will be secret, but nonetheless legally binding. It’s a large step along a difficult and ill-lit road.”
“The two of you are the only family I have ever wanted. I never desired a ‘normal’ family and long ago resigned myself to bachelorhood,” Justin noted, but he allowed Wisteria’s prudence to persuade him. At times he did still reel at the vastness of it, at the realization of a future he had never dared dream of.
They invested some time discussing the wedding beforehand, though the preparations were still orders of magnitude simpler than for Nikola’s wedding to Wisteria.
“No need to plan for guests,” Justin remarked. It was well after midnight, late in the Ascension season, and the three of them were snuggled together among the maroon velvet blankets of his broad bed.
“Actually…” Nikola looked at the two of them.
“What, did you want to invite your parents?” Justin teased.
“I didn’t want to invite them to my first wedding,” Nikola retorted.
“That’s not true,” Wisteria said.
“Perhaps not entirely true. But there is someone we could invite, if we want guests. A few someones.”
Justin gazed at him askance. “Have you checked your mind for signs of possession lately, Nikola? Perhaps you should.”
Nikola stuck his tongue out. “I was thinking of Anthser. Fela Southing knows, too. Not about the wedding itself, but you know they won’t be shocked by it. They’d be pleased.”
“It would be nice to have witnesses,” Wisteria said. “Didn’t Anthser say there’s another greatcat who knew already? One of your parents’ greatcats?”
“Jill. It might look a touch odd if we invited her out, but Anthser could without exciting comment.”
Justin pushed himself upright amongst the plump pillows of his bed. “You can’t be serious about this.”
“Why not?” Nikola rolled onto his side, propped up on one elbow to look over his wife at Justin.
“Because the more who know, the more danger we’ll be in of being detected?”
“But they already know,” Wisteria said.
“Making them part of it will reduce the chance they’ll expose us,” her husband added. “If we leave them to draw their own conclusions, they may end up accidentally betraying something they don’t realize they need to keep secret. Frankly, I’m amazed Anthser never did so. Perhaps greatcats have better instincts for this sort of thing than I’ve given them credit for. But I still think it would be safer to tell them upfront what we’re doing and why they can’t talk about it.”
Justin sighed, looking between his lovers. It went against his instincts. But so does marriage itself. Yet this is what I want. And a wedding should be witnessed. “If you’re certain…”
“I am,” Nikola answered, while Wisteria snuggled close to Justin and kissed him.
He closed his eyes. “Very well. No need to resort to seduction to convince me.”
Wisteria ran her tongue over the curve of his ear. “What if I want to resort to seduction to seduce you?”
Chuckling, Justin pulled her into his arms and scooted closer to press her into Nikola’s body. “Then by all means, do.”
Before the Ascension season ended, Wisteria had rearranged their lives in other ways as well. She felt the three of them spent too much time apart, and one by one produced unexceptionable reasons for them to be in the same parts of Newlant at the same time more often. The high demand for Nikola’s Blessing during Ascension was clearly because Gracehaven needed a mind-healer in residence, so she arranged to rent a house there for a month during spring and fall that he might be more accessible, and they agreed Justin would invite them to stay a week or two now and again to keep demand manageable. Justin took a stake in the Vasilvers’ mining operation in Fireholt, giving him a business reason to visit there more often. Wisteria even spoke of spending part of the summer in Comfrey Viscountcy: “It’s a good half-day’s travel from Gracehaven by greatcat: I suspect the demand for a mind-healer would justify a month there.” When everything was added up, they’d spend no more than a few weeks apart at any given period, and perhaps six or seven months combined each year would be spent living in close proximity.
As on every Sunday, Fireholt was empty of staff for the day, but Nikola had ordered an elaborate dinner of storable foods be left for their dinner. Jill was visiting from Anverlee, nominally as Anthser’s guest.
The greatcats set up decorations in the petitioner’s hall. They rolled a white carpet runner down the center of the hall, hung Ascension curtains of gold and purple over the windows, and white and gold streamers from the new gaslit chandeliers. It was festive and cheerful, if not exactly like a wedding.
Justin could not order wedding clothes without raising eyebrows, but he wore an elegant white suit with gold and indigo jewelry. Nikola and Wisteria had snuck their own wedding clothes out of storage. Nikola left the long cape off for now, as he took the officiant’s place at the front of the hall. Jill, Anthser, and Southing were gathered to one side, whiskers spread with pleasure as they watched Justin and Wisteria enter from opposite ends of the hall.
It shouldn’t make this much of a difference, Nikola thought, unable to restrain his smile as his lovers met before him at the center of the hall and knelt to one another. We’ll still be in danger of discovery. Many would regard these weddings as even more abominable than the previous nature of our relationship, where at least we laid no claim to legitimacy or divine blessing for our actions. Could the Savior ever approve such a thing?
But the divine presence in his mind offered no hint of sorrow; nothing but warm pure love washed through Nikola as he presided over the marriage of his beloved. Is this why I could never cure myself of this passion? Because there is no madness at its root to destroy?
But even if human society would revile this union, the act of marriage mattered to Nikola, more than he had realized even when they proposed. After years of no promises, no words of love, nothing but the ever-present now: this was something entirely other. A vow that they would remain together, steadfast, no matter what happened. A pledge that there was more between them than temporary forbidden pleasure. A promise that their love was mutual, their commitment unshakeable. As the walls rang with Wisteria’s recitation of the vows, as Justin smiled uncontrollably at her, Nikola found himself blinking back tears of joy. Justin was half-right. This cannot possibly be happening.
Yet it is.
After Nikola pronounced them united and they kissed, the new Lady Comfrey officiated while Nikola married Justin. They’d not had time to rehearse the performance: Justin and Nikola both stumbled over their vows at different points, and laughed at their mistakes, and smiled at the adaptations they’d made to the traditional vows since both of them were men. It was ersatz and strange and as wonderful as their shared relationship. When Wisteria touched their joined hands to seal the marriage, Nik felt the Savior’s presence in it, just as he had at his wedding to Wisteria.
After Nikola and Justin exchanged a not-at-all-chaste kiss to the roaring approval of three greatcats, Wisteria donned her cape again and took Justin’s left arm. Nikola took his right, and they processed from the hall as solemnly as if an audience of thousands had been watching. Three greatcats could not match the level of noise at Nikola’s first wedding, although at this proximity it almost seemed they did.
“Is it very wrong of me, my husbands,” Wisteria said, “that I spent my first wedding wishing we could skip the formalities and the audience and elope, and now I find myself regretful that I cannot proclaim my love to the world at the second?”
Nikola chuckled. “I was thinking the same thing. I wish all Paradise could know.” They paused outside the main entrance to the petitioner’s hall to wait for their guests to join them.
Justin squeezed their arms close. “We know. That’s all that matters.”
And it was.
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