“So, what you getting all nervous about?” asked the qarin* serving dinner.
“Um, nervous? What makes you think I’m nervous?” replied the young qarin as his siblings glanced at him.
“Because I’m your father, Hyacinth, I know you better than you think I do,” quipped Mercury as he crossed his arms.
“Is it an ezen?” grinned the youngest.
“Pheme!” berated her older sister.
“But it’s true, Iris! Daddy says that boys tend to get really nervous when it comes to hving a crush on a girl!” blurted Pheme.
Mercury laughed, “I did say that, and it’s still true. So come on, Hyacinth, out with it. The sooner the better.”
Hyacinth sighed as he fiddled with his food , “Well . . .” He paused and glanced at his younger brother.
“What are you looking at me for? I’m not going to read your mind and do all the talking for you, you know.”
“Actually, I was hoping for some back-up, Hermes, but . . . I want to ask Rose to come over.”
“Dionysus’ daughter?” asked Hermes.
“What other Rose do you know?” quipped their father. He turned back to Hyacinth, “I don’t have a problem with it, but, isn’t it customary for you to go over to her house first?”
“Well, I mean, yes, but . . .”
“But we’ve already made it official, and . . .”
“Wait, what? When?”
Hyacinth glanced down, “Last week.”
“Oh, so that’s what all those cryptic clues were all about.”
“But I thought you knew!”
“I did, I’m just teasing you.”
“Dad!” berated Hyacinth. Pheme giggled while Hermes snorted. “Please don’t do this while she’s here,” he moaned.
Mercury winked at his two youngest, “Oh, alright, we’ll keep it down to a minimum, but if we have to do something to make her feel comfortable, we’ll do it, alright?”
“Well, as long as it’s not your usual, over-the-top attempts, and it’s to make her feel comfortable, I would take part in it as well.”
“Alright, sounds like a deal. When is she coming over?”
“Next weekend? Not this weekend, but the following.”
“Sounds good, then. We’ll have plenty of time to get things cleaned up and get ready for her. Oh, and I will need a list of all her favorite foods . . .”
“I’ll have that for you by tomorrow.”
“Great! This will be fun!” Mercury eyes twinkled as he grinned at his children. Hyacinth merely shot back a half-hearted grin, oh this would be fun alright, and incredibly embarrassing.
The days seemed to fly by, and the evening of Rose’s arrival was soon upon them. The house was almost sparkling clean, the only mess being in the kitchen as Pheme and Hermes helped Iris fix dinner. Mercury and Hyacinth had gone out to get a few final ingredients and would pick up Rose on their way back. Hyacinth became extremely nervous with every inch that took them closer to Rose’s house.
“Relax, you’re officially courting her now,” stated his dad as he patted him on his back.
“Yes, but, I still get nervous, I don’t know why. I’m not like you, Dad.”
“I know, it would be pretty boring if you were exactly like me,” grinned Mercury.
Hyacinth sighed and rolled his eyes, “Come on, Dad, this is serious!”
Mercury laughed, “I know, but this is a conversation for another time, don’t you think? We’re almost at your girlfriend’s house. And speaking of . . . it looks like they’re waiting for us. Hey Dion!!”
Dionysus groaned, “How many times have I told you not to call me that?”
“What? You make it sound like you have a problem with your name rhyming with Zion or something.”
“And you make it sound like you have a hard time remembering everyone’s full names, thus making you stick to nicknames.”
“Aw, you mean I can’t show your endearment to me?”
“Not by calling me . . . that. A different nickname, maybe, anything but that.”
“Tsk, tsk, apparently I’ve got some homework this weekend. Well, then, if you don’t mind, we’ll be on our way. Shall we, Miss Rose?” asked Mercury as he bowed to the young beauty standing behind Dionysus.
“Oh, um, yes,” she replied as she moved forward, but not before shooting an unsure glance at her father, a glance that did not go unnoticed by Mercury.
Dionysus merely nodded, “It’s alright dear, he’s been my best friend for years.”
“Oh, quite, I just hope he didn’t bore you with the details of our mischief back in the day, I want to be the one to tell those stories.”
A mischievous smirk appeared on Dionysus’ face as a glint sparkled in his violet eyes, “Well then, it’s a good thing I haven’t told my kids everything, otherwise, you would have been rather bored.”
“Oh come come, I’m sure I would have thought of something,” Mercury smirked back.
“Oh, I’m sure you will.”
Hyacinth cleared his throat, “Um, well, we really should be going. Rose, Dad? Uh, Dad?”
“Alright, alright, I’m coming. We’ll finish this another day, Dion,” stated Mercury as he gave an over dramatic bow.
“That we shall, Merc,” Dionysus bowed in reply. The two grinned at each other before Mercury took off to keep up with Hyacinth and Rose.
“So, you knew my father when he was younger?” Rose asked after a moment’s silence.
“Ah, the young lady speaks! Yes ma’am, I did know your father when we were younger, we went through the entirety of school together as roommates and the best of friends.”
“What, what was he like?”
“Oh, much rowdier back then than he is now. But what can you say, having children tends to change a man like that,” stated Mercury as he smiled warmly at Hyacinth.
“You mean you were worse back then than you are now?”
Mercury laughed, “You’d better believe it, sonny, you haven’t seen the worst yet.”
“I’d prefer not to, thank you.”
“Of course not, but, you might get to see it, nonetheless.” Hyacinth glanced at Mercury oddly, but before he could say anything, Mercury was already talking. “Is there anything else the young lady wishes to know of her father’s past?” Rose nearly stumbled as she jumped, and grabbed on to Hyacinth for support. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Oh no, you’re fine, I tend to just get really lost in my thoughts.”
“Ah, I see. So would you like to tell us what had filled your mind with such riveting thoughts, or would you like to know more about your father’s past?”
“Actually, I would like to eat, I’m kind of hungry.”
“Oh, but of course! And here we are being so inconsiderate in taking our time! Come, come, our house is just around the corner!” Mercury put on a bit of speed and led the couple into his house. There they found that the table was set and dinner was waiting.
“Hello Rose, welcome!!” chorused Iris, Pheme, and Hermes.
“Oh, wow, why, thank you!”
“Come over here! You get to sit next to me, across from Hyacinth! That way, you can look into his pretty eyes better.”
“Wha . . . ah, Pheme!”
“What? Dad said so!”
“I just said she should sit across from you, I think she added the part about your eyes for emphasis,” replied Mercury. Hyacinth groaned, well, it had already begun. It could only get worse from there on out.
“How about if everybody sits down, dinner’s getting cold,” Iris calmly stated.
“A good idea. Oh, before we begin, allow me to introduce everyone properly. Rose, this is my eldest Iris.”
“Hello,” she smiled.
“How do you do?” Iris smiled back.
“Good, thank you.”
“This is my second youngest, Hermes, and my youngest, Pheme.”
“And you know Hyacinth!” blurted Pheme.
“Well of course she does, he’s her boyfriend!” quipped Hermes. Mercury cleared his throat loudly before another person could speak and eyed them.
“Sit, please,” he ordered firmly. The five quickly took their seats. “Good, now, Iris, if you could begin serving, I’ll help you hand out the plates.”
Iris rose from her seat, “Yes, let’s.” They took the plates off the table and walked over to the buffet table where the food was covered. As soon as Iris uncovered several of the platters, wafts of aromas sailed towards the table where everyone else sat.
Rose gasped as she turned to look, “Why, is that salmon with focaccia bread?”
Mercury grinned as he set her plate and Hyacinth’s on the table, “Yes ma’am.”
“But, but how did you know?”
“A little bluebird spilled the beans,” winked Mercury as he went back for another two plates.
Rose let out a giggle as she turned to Hyacinth, “You really shouldn’t have!”
“How’d you know my daddy was talking about Hyacinth?” asked Pheme.
“Oh, that’s easy, he’s the only one here who would know what I like!”
“Oh, right,” Pheme grinned sheepishly.
“See, you don’t have to tell everybody everything,” quipped Hermes.
“I wasn’t going to tell her!”
“You looked like you about ready to.”
“Alright you two, enough, we have a guest,” berated their father as he set their plates in front of them.
Rose glanced at Hyacinth, “What’s he referring to?”
“Oh, um, Pheme has this knack of telling everybody everything she hears,” explained Hyacinth.
“I do not!”
“Ahem, yes you do, young lady, a fault that is still in the process of being corrected,” stated Mercury as he and Iris rejoined them at the table with their plates. “Well, shall we go ahead and eat?”
“Yes!” the others chorused.
“Then what are we waiting for? Dig in!”
“Oh my, did you make this, Iris?”
“Hermes and I helped!”
“Pheme, if you want any praise, you wait your turn,” her father stated firmly.
Iris smiled, “Yes, Rose, I made it, and yes, with some help from Hermes and Pheme.”
“Wow, thank you so much! It tastes wonderful!” exclaimed Rose as she leaned over and gave Pheme a squeeze. She glanced at Hyacinth, “You didn’t tell me your family was really sweet.”
“Well, it really all depends on their mood. The majority of the time, they’re nuts.”
Rose giggled, “Aren’t all families like that?”
“Even yours?” asked Pheme.
“Oh, we have our squabbles,” winked Rose.
“Hyacinth, calm down, she’s naturally curious, like every child her age. And she only asked a question, Miss Rose can choose to say yes or no.”
“Please say yes!” pleaded Pheme. “I want to know!”
“Um, I know you do, but, that’s between my family and me,” Rose slowly stated, glancing over at Mercury to see if she answered correctly. He merely smiled back.
“But I want to know!”
“Pheme, she said no, don’t argue with it. A no is a no, and you need to accept that,” remarked Mercury.
“Yes sir,” huffed Pheme.
“But, speaking of your family, how are they doing?”
“Oh, they’re doing quite well, thank you,” smiled Rose. There was a moment of awkward silence as they finished eating.
“Well, that was really good, Iris. Shall we eat our desserts in the sitting room?”
“Yes!” chorused the group.
“Alright, let’s go! Don’t worry about the plates, I’ll take care of them when I get back,” stated Mercury before leading them into the sitting room. There, he proceeded to pour wine for everyone and set out two bowls of fresh strawberries.
“Wow, this almost feels like my birthday again,” muttered Rose before she took a bite from a strawberry.
“Well, Hyacinth did want everything to be perfect,” remarked Hermes.
“And he and Dad wanted to have all of your favorites for dinner!” reported Pheme.
“I see that. It’s wonderful, thank you all.”
“You’re welcome!” chorused the family.
“So, Miss Rose, what is it that you like to do?” asked Mercury as he lounged back in his chair.
“Oh, I like to garden, and read, mainly.”
“Oh? How interesting. What do you like to read?”
“Anything and everything, practically,” she chuckled.
“I see. Anything in particular that stands out as a favorite?”
“Well, I like a lot of the fairy tales. I always go back and reread those.”
“That’s wonderful! Oh, uh, yes Hermes?”
“Why are you asking the questions, Dad? Shouldn’t Hyacinth be doing that? After all, she is his girlfriend.” They glanced at Hyacinth.
“Oh, uh, it’s, it’s fine with me if Dad asks the questions,” he grinned sheepishly.
“But Hermes does have a point, she is your girlfriend. Is there anything you’d like to ask her?”
“Um, well, um, uh, which fairy tales are your favorites?”
“Well, The Flower Queen’s Daughter is one, Felicia and the Pretty Pinks are another, but I think Beauty and the Beast is my all around favorite by far.”
“Huh, just like Psyche.”
“What did you say?”
“Is there anything you want to ask Hyacinth?” Mercury asked. The five blinked in surprise, they all knew he had said something else, but, if it was only to get their attention, they figured it best to go along with it.
“Oh, um, I guess.” She turned to Hyacinth, “What are your favorite fairy tales?”
“Oh, um, I think my favorites would have to be Princess Finola and the Dwarf, The Golden Branch, and East of the Sun and West of the Moon.”
“Oh, those are good ones!”
Hyacinth grinned as he ran his fingers through his dark brown locks, “Right? Not that you picked horrible ones yourself, I mean . . .”
“Oh good grief, don’t tell me I have to take the lead in my own son’s love life.”
“If you two are really interested in each other, you’d try and talk a little bit more, don’t you think? And don’t give me the shy business, young lady, you’re anything but.”
“Oh come on, don’t you remember? Your dad and I are friends! Out of everyone on Olympus, I’d be the first he’d tell anything about his children! Just saying.” Rose just about stared at him before bursting out laughing.
“Nothing really gets past you, does it?”
“Hey, it’s part of my job,” winked Mercury.
“Apparently, however, I don’t think everything that I have to say is for younger ears.”
Mercury nodded, “Well then, I think a couple of younglings should get to bed.”
“What?” blurted Hermes.
“But I want to hear everything!”
“Exactly why you need to go to bed. Because until we can trust you to keep that mouth of yours under control, we’re not going to take any chances.”
“But why me?” asked Hermes.
“Because I need you to be hall patrol. Now get going.” The two youngest moaned and groaned their way up the stairs followed by their father. Once the two were situated in their rooms, he quickly dashed back down the stairs and ushered the other three out into the garden. “Alright, now there’s less of a chance of being overheard,” he winked.
Rose smiled, “Thank you, I don’t want this to reach certain ears. Though, to be honest, my being here in the first place might not have been such a good idea.”
Mercury’s eyes went back and forth between Hyacinth and Rose, “Alright, spill it, what’s going on?”
Hyacinth glanced at Rose, “Did Narcissus threaten you?”
“More like he threatened you,” Rose grumbled softly as she glanced down.
“With what? It’s not like Narcissus could kill him, Hyacinth would have beaten him up twice over before he could lay a hand on him,” quipped Mercury.
“I’m sorry, but who’s Narcissus?” asked Iris.
“The iye who transferred to our school last month, he insists Rose is destined to be his wife.”
“And from what I’ve heard from Apollo, the guy’s both vain and selfish,” added Mercury. Rose and Hyacinth nodded. “But, why are you so concerned about it? What was his threat?”
“He, he said he would turn Hyacinth into a flower or a weak animal and kill him that way,” muttered Rose.
“What, really? I would have thought he’d come up with a more demented plan than that.” The three blinked.
“More demented than that?” asked Rose.
“Darling, when you’re in my line of work, you come across a lot of weird things. Point is, I wouldn’t worry about it. I’m sure Hecate could undo whatever he tries to do, however badly he does it. And I’m glad you’re worried about Hyacinth’s safety, but he’s a big boy and can take care of himself. Besides, if you back up Hyacinth, Narcissus would have to think twice about trying to harm either of you.”
“Well, if you put it that way . . . may I speak bluntly?”
“Good, because I think that Narcissus is a good-for-nothing, rude, selfish prick who not only thinks too highly of himself, but thinks only of himself! And if he thinks that I should be grateful with his attentions, he’s got another thing coming!” she blurted angrily. She glanced at their surprised faces and could feel a rush of ichor flooding into her face. “I-I’m sorry, that was . . .” She was interrupted by Mercury’s laughter.
“Well, as they say, every rose has her thorns, and this Rose is no different,” he grinned and winked. “And I have a hunch Narcissus isn’t the only fellow who should fear your wrath.”
“Oh, but Hyacinth shouldn’t . . .”
“Oh no, Hyacinth is technically on par with you in terms of temper. I mean, the flower hyacinth doesn’t have thorns, but it can get irritating.”
“Which means you two are perfect for each other!”
“Oh no, Dad, please, don’t!”
“Too late, it’s official, you two are getting married and having such beautiful children, probably named after flowers. Hmm, Lilac and Bluebell look like they could be descendants of a Hyacinth.”
“Excuse me, are you planning our future?” exclaimed Rose as she placed her hands on her hips. Iris clamped a hand over her own mouth to stifle the giggles that threatened to make the situation worse.
“Dad, we literally just started going out! We don’t know if we will work as a married couple!” blurted Hyacinth.
“Well, you certainly like each other enough to be concerned over each other’s well-being, and to back each other up against me. Those sound like good signs to me.”
“Alright, you three, let’s not have a volcano erupt in the garden. Besides, shouldn’t you two be getting Rose back home soon? It’s getting late,” pointed out Iris as she stifled her laughter.
“That is true,” commented her father.
“But I feel like I just got here!”
“Oh good, we made it pretty fun for you then,” grinned Mercury.
Rose laughed, “No, he’s right, it was actually fun. Maybe next time we’ll really talk.”
“Oh, this should be interesting.”
“Dad,” grumbled Hyacinth.
“Alright, alright, let’s go,” stated Mercury as he led them back into the house. Rose paused when a picture caught her attention. It was of an ezen with flowing, brown hair, inquisitive caramel eyes, and a smile that looked like it could change into laughter at any moment.
“Was this your mother?” Rose asked as Hyacinth drew closer. He merely nodded. “She’s lovely.”
“Her name was Lara,” remarked Mercury as he and Iris joined them.
“May I ask, how did she die?”
“I’m afraid I can’t answer, that involves top secret information, and as of right now, only Zeus and I can know of it.”
“I’m sorry she’s gone.”
“It wasn’t your fault, but thank you,” Mercury smiled sadly. “Well, shall we be off? I’m sure your parents would like to have you back at home before they head to bed.”
Rose chuckled, “I’m sure they would.” She turned to Iris and gave her a hug, “And thank you again for dinner, it was delicious!”
“Oh, you’re welcome! I’ve never made focaccia bread before, so it was a treat for me to make something new!”
Rose grinned, “Well, you did fantastic for your first time!”
“Alright ladies, time to go,” stated Mercury. Rose gave Iris another hug and the two said goodbye before she followed Hyacinth out the door. Mercury closed the door behind them and the three walked back to Rose’s house. Mercury slowed down a bit so the couple could have a little time by themselves, sort of.
“So um, Hyacinth?”
“Why did you pick those three fairy tales?”
“Oh, well, um, I guess I wanted to be like those princes, and be willing to suffer anything for the ones I love, even if they’re my annoying family.”
Rose giggled, “Even though your father said you could be irritating?”
“Hey! That was only when I was younger, now that I’m older, it’s different.”
“Oh really? How so?”
“Well, I guess I was trying to be just like my dad in his younger years, being mischievous and all. But it didn’t quite work out the same way for me as it did for him. Sometimes my pranks would backfire on me.”
Rose snickered, “Oh, that must have been a sight.”
“It certainly was, but after the tenth time, that was it for me and decided to quit the pranks. But, that didn’t make me want to be any less like my dad. I guess, well, I guess I saw my dad in those princes, the best side of him, and I wanted to be like that.”
“And what about you? Why did you pick your three fairy tales?”
“Oh well, now that I think about it, I think it does have to do with my mom. The three princesses of my fairy tales showed great courage and patience. Not many would see it that way, but, they really were courageous. It wasn’t because they were completely unafraid, no, courage is about facing your fears, and all three of them did exactly that. And by doing so, helped their princes win the day. As for why it connects with my mother, well, she has great patience, and I mean a lot of patience. Your father only has four children to deal with, my mother has eleven. I mean, sure, we older ones help around the house now, but for a while, it was just her when my father was gone. And though several of my siblings could have driven her mad, she stayed calm throughout it all, and very patient. I will never forget it.”
“I don’t think something like that is easily forgotten,” muttered Hyacinth. “Like how my dad has been able to pull himself together after mom’s death to take care of us. It was just as hard on him as it was for us, but, he thought of us first. I don’t think he’s allowed himself to properly grieve.”
“Well, now that you and Iris are old enough to handle things without him, maybe he can ,” suggested Rose.
“Well that’s just us, Zeus still needs him to do his job. If Zeus can let him go for a week or two, then yes, he’ll be able to, but until then, it’s not happening.”
“Oh,” muttered Rose. The two fell into a silence for the rest of the walk, their hands brushing up against each other. But in a matter of minutes, they had made it to Rose’s front door. Rose knocked as Mercury came up behind them. The door was opened by an ezen with sparkling green eyes and her blonde hair pulled back in a braid.
“Oh, Rose, you’re back!” she exclaimed.
“Did you have fun?” asked Dionysus as he joined his wife at the door.
“It was wonderful, yes,” stated Rose as she turned to smile at Hyacinth.
“Hey, come on Dion, she was at my house, I’m the king of fun,” grinned Mercury.
“Uh-huh, right, well, you’d better get in and get ready for bed, Rose. You still have school tomorrow.”
“Right. Goodnight Mister Mercury, thank you for having me over.”
“Thank you for coming, it was a pleasure to have you,” replied Mercury as he kissed her hand.
“Goodnight Rose.” She turned to walk into her house, but turned and gave Hyacinth a quick peck on the cheek before dashing into the house. Hyacinth stood there stunned as the door practically closed in his face until his father grabbed him by his shoulders and turned him around.
“Come on, little lovebird, Dion’s got a point, school’s back in session tomorrow, so you need to get your sleep. And as your relationship progresses, you’ll get to kiss her more and more,” grinned Mercury.
“Are you still set on us getting married?”
Mercury scoffed, “At this point, it’s practically a given.”
“This has technically only been our second date!”
“But it’s not the second time you’ve talked to her. Besides, it’s the teamwork that counts.”
“Yes, but we’re not even adults yet, so, we’ve still got time to figure this out.”
“Yes, but not much time before you are adults.”
“And if this whole thing with the qutrubs goes down before then?”
“Then you’ll just have to continue courting her on the island, no biggie.”
“Dad, when will I be able to tell her? About the real you? What I really am?”
“Hey, it doesn’t matter if you’re full-blooded qarin or only half, you’re still my son Hyacinth, the amount of powers you have doesn’t change who you are as a person.”
“I know, but, still I would like to tell her eventually.”
“I know, and that will happen sooner than you think, don’t worry.”
“Don’t worry? Because when you say that, that means the qutrubs are getting closer and closer, as well as the time for when we’ll be leaving Erth.”
“And you’ll all be safer. Don’t worry, this will work out. Now come on, we should get you to bed too, there’s a lot that still needs to be done between now and the evacuation, and I’m going to need everyone’s help.”
“Right.” The two quickly made their way back to the house where, before long, the lights were out, and everyone was sound asleep.
*Qarin – One of the species of the djinn, primarily human in appearance, but they have diamond-shaped irises and pupils and golden “blood” called ichor.
Ezen – female qarin
Iye – male qarin