The Kingdom of Storms
1- In Which Elena Prepares
If Turner hadn't insisted they stop in Carlock to get new clothes, then it was likely they wouldn't have known about the wedding and would have missed it entirely. Elena was quite glad Turner had grown tired of wearing his older brother's clothes.
She didn't know how much time had passed since they all successfully came together and killed Judge Hunt, their mutual enemy. Phinn generally made it a point to remain completely closed off from the rest of the world. If she went by the length of Turner's hair as any indication, then it was safe to say it had been at least a month, which meant Hunt would be back as a demon any day now (if he wasn't already back). So, in addition to attending the highly anticipated royal wedding, they could find out if anyone had learned anything.
Over the past month (or so), Turner had morphed quite a bit so, when he tried on his uniform, it was actually too small for him. Sure, he had gotten slightly taller since he last wore it, but that wasn't the real issue. He had gained weight in all the right ways, transforming his utterly withered and skinny frame into a slim and powerful figure. Of course, he wasn't going to be winning any competitions with his physique because, frankly, he still didn't really fall into a perfectly healthy weight-range, but people would be impressed with how far he had come (comparatively speaking).
He was trying to grow out his bright blond hair again so he would at least resemble his old self. And admittedly, Elena did find his annoyance with having to get his suit tailored rather entertaining, but he was still the same Turner. Phinn had given him some training (a lot of training, actually), and he had put on some muscle, but he was still flirtatious, awkward and more interested in breaks than actual work. There were no instruments in the Kingdom of Storms, nor were there parties or celebrations, though Elena was sure he hadn't lost his affinity for music. He was probably looking forward to the wedding just to take a rest from training and get away from Phinn for a bit.
Phinn was very much unlike his younger brother. He had big, brown eyes, messy brown hair and a very powerful body. There was perhaps nothing that could disinterest him more than a leisurely event like a wedding since he'd much prefer spending his time avoiding social situations at all costs.
But Elena did her best to convince him that he had an obligation to go, if for no other reason than finding out information regarding Hunt. If there was one thing Elena could predict about Phinn, it was that he would generally listen to her. It was nice, actually. It made it easier to trust not only him, but also her own decision to pursue a relationship with him. Yes, their relationship by this point felt very stable and reliable. He made her feel good and, in return, she was certain she provided him with good feelings, even if he rarely said so.
After acquiring a uniform that would fit Turner, they were only a few hours from arriving at the Imperial City of Cerah, which was where the wedding was taking place. Phinn was sitting by and groaning as Elena searched through several trunks in order to find all the pieces to his uniform. He hated dressing up, but she had seen him wear it all at least once (when he had nothing else to wear), and she recalled he looked very handsome and mature in it.
"I don't have to wear it," he insisted, eyeing her as she emptied out another trunk that seemed entirely comprised of old jackets.
"Turner's wearing his," she reminded him.
"I'm the King's son. I can wear whatever I want, right?"
"Right, I guess. I just think everyone else will be wearing theirs. And it's a wedding so you should look nice. Besides, I like the way you look in it. Is that enough reasons to at least try it on?"
Phinn merely grunted in response. "I don't even want to go to this," he said. "You're making the fact that I am going even worse."
"It's been over a month. I'm excited to see everyone again."
"I'm not, okay? The bad shit always happens when I'm around my brothers and sisters."
Elena was going to tell him he was exaggerating but, to be totally honest, he was completely right. In the past, things always went wrong whenever the Sons came together.
"Well, it'll be okay," Elena decided. "I've never been to a wedding before. Have you?"
"So let's figure out what's going on together."
She discovered a jacket with the fancy brass buttons, then inspected it for blood stains. Satisfied, she put it in the pile with the rest of the clean pieces she had found so far.
"You gonna wear red?" he asked with some reservation.
She looked down at herself, already dressed in the official color of his flag. "As opposed to what?" she questioned, standing up.
"I don't know."
"Well, your brothers and sisters have taken all the other colors. Red will match your uniform and—well, I mean, you're not embarrassed that me wearing your color will identify us as a couple, are you?"
She had figured out the reason for his question only partway through her answer. Phinn was always tough and aggressive, yet she had managed to learn something extremely interesting about him during their short time together so far: he was oddly shy about most things. Perhaps this accounted for why he preferred to be in the sky and isolated from most people.
But, even though his siblings and a few choice soldiers knew about their relationship status, they hadn't exactly come out as a couple yet. Wearing his color at such a public event would get news to travel very fast. People of the cities liked gossiping about the Sons above all else.
"If you don't want them to know, I'll wear a different color," she told him.
She smiled at him as he averted his eyes at the notion. "No, it's fine," he said. "They're gonna find out sooner or later, aren't they?"
"Right. Might as well be today." She checked the pile of his uniform. "I think you just need a belt and shoes and you're all set. Where would I find that stuff?"
"I have both of those things," Phinn pointed out, gesturing to the ones he was currently wearing.
"Phinn, I'm not a fashion expert by any means, but trust me when I say none of that matches."
Phinn groaned as if this at all inconvenienced him (since she was the one doing all the work). Before he had to reduce himself to looking through belts and shoes, there was a knock at the door, so he sprung to his feet and instructed whoever was there to come in and be a distraction.
Elena sighed as Turner entered, weaving a bottle of whisky. "Who's up for some wedding pre-gaming?" he cheered.
Elena slapped her forehead. Turner was already wearing his glaringly white and pressed uniform, which would wrinkle if he lifted his arm too high or stain if he spilled water on himself. Yet, he was organizing a drinking party, which was fairly typical of him, and Phinn was desperate to do something besides get dressed, so he eagerly agreed.
"Turner, you can't drink," she reminded him.
"I know," said Turner reassuringly, handing the bottle over to Phinn. "I'm just going to watch and live vicariously through Phinn."
Thanks to Turner's extremely severe head injury that had nearly killed him, he had brain damage that he had to be careful of, changing many things about his lifestyle to accommodate his injury. Unfortunately for him, this meant he couldn't drink anymore—probably forever. It used to be the one thing everyone knew him best for. Now, most people pretty much knew him best for the brain damage that sobered him.
Elena shook her head at Phinn, trying to discourage him, but he had clearly already made up his mind, opening up the bottle and taking a long drink as Turner watched him excitedly. Admittedly, Phinn was actually rather harmless and surprisingly more agreeable when he was drunk. But this was a very public event. She didn't necessarily want him getting plastered right before they came out as a couple.
"Fine," said Elena. "Do that, then. But don't blame me when you start over-sharing all your feelings with your siblings. You know you get friendly and start saying nice things to people when you get drunk."
Turner laughed under his breath as Phinn's face shifted to a distinct expression of horror at the thought of being pleasant company. He immediately stopped drinking and shoved the bottle back to Turner. "You were trying to set me up for that, weren't you?" he demanded.
Turner laughed harder. "That's funny, not everything is a conspiracy against you, Phinn!" he commented, screwing the top back on the bottle. He noticed the red uniform on the floor and asked, "You're going to wear yours too?"
"Yeah," he grumbled.
"How classy of you," he said teasingly.
"Turner, you're wearing yours!" Elena said since it was apparently Turner's intention to make fun of Phinn for wearing his uniform.
"It's not unusual for me to be classy," said Turner defensively. "I'm a classy guy, after all. Phinn: not so much."
"Shut your trap, T," Phinn commanded.
"Is Anya coming to the wedding?" Turner asked.
"Definitely shut your trap, T," Phinn repeated, raising his voice.
The Anya situation was terribly complicated. Anya herself was terribly complicated, after all.
Anya was Phinn's mother. Her relationship with Phinn was simultaneous extremely close and extremely distant. It was rather difficult to understand, actually, because sometimes they seemed like the picture-perfect mother-son duo, while other times, Phinn would allow her to beat him much more than anyone should be permitted.
Elena had been extremely nervous about attempting to come in between this destructive (and confusing) relationship. But, similarly with everything else, Anya was not consistent with her feelings about Elena.
She was like three different people. Sometimes, she seemed kind of friendly. Those days were nice, but also distinctly creepy. She would be open and tell Elena stories about when Phinn was a child. Elena liked those days.
On other occasions, days would go by where Anya just seemed to be missing completely. Elena might spot her at the end of a hallway, but she would duck into another room, obviously avoiding her. Admittedly, Elena sort of liked those days too.
Then, every once and a while, Anya would be hostile and angry. She would be purposely confrontational, start arguments and discredit just about everything Elena tried to say. On those days, she would be particularly violent towards Phinn, who would always silently accept her abuse (even though he threatened her if she hit him again) in Elena's place. There were times her violent behavior extended towards Turner as well, but he was not nearly as patient with the woman as Phinn was. Understandably, Elena was not fond of those days.
Anya had never struck or harmed Elena in any physical kind of way, but it did get exhausting having to deal with her eternally fluctuating mood swings. Besides, her words could get exceedingly hurtful.
In general, regardless of what mood Anya was in, Phinn did not like people talking about her. Especially Turner. This might have been because Anya had cared for Turner in the past following his mother's death. But Elena got the feeling it was probably because of the popular rumor among the people in the cities that Turner and Anya had an inappropriate sexual relationship.
Turner vehemently denied these rumors, of course, though Anya seemed to intentionally give vague answers that always left Elena slightly curious. It was extremely unlikely. And, if it did turn out to be true, then it would not go over well with Phinn. Definitely not.
"Our dad's going to be there, probably…" Turner mused as if Phinn had not instructed him to stop talking. "So Anya's probably not invited."
Elena recalled someone telling her once that Anya had castrated the King. She didn't know if this was true because there were a lot of rumors floating around, especially about Anya. But, if it was, that would explain why the King did not allow her to come near him.
"She wouldn't have wanted to come anyway, all right?" said Phinn as if he was in an argument with Turner even though they obviously agreed.
"Do you think it will be embarrassing that I show up without a date?" Turner wondered, directing his question to Elena rather than to Phinn. "You know what I mean? You oughta go to a wedding with a date, don't you think?"
"I don't think it will be embarrassing," Elena offered.
"I feel like I should have a date," Turner mused, unconcerned with Elena's response.
"It's not about you, T," said Phinn. "You're not the one getting married, right?"
"I hope I'm not the only one without a date," sighed Turner. "You think I'll be able to meet someone at the wedding?"
Phinn let out a long and pained groan. "Go away," he ordered.
"I could probably at least get laid afterwards, you think?" Turner went on.
Elena was starting to think that she had spent too much time with Turner recently and, as a result, he was starting to view her as a buddy rather than as a girl that didn't necessarily want to hear about stuff like that.
"I don't really care what you do during or after the wedding, all right?" Phinn said, his voice rising as his patience with his younger brother quickly expired. "After the wedding, you can go with someone else. I've taken care of you long enough, okay?"
"Aw, come on, you're not serious," said Turner playfully.
Phinn made that threat fairly often. Whenever Turner started to annoy him too much, he would decide that Turner had worn out his welcome on board the Kingdom of Storms and command him to choose one of their other siblings to leech off of. In the end, Phinn never followed through so Turner didn't bother getting freaked out about it anymore.
It was unlikely that this time would be any different than the other times.
Phinn was doing Turner a massive favor by letting him stay in his Kingdom and, all the while, teaching him how to fight. He was getting pretty good at it, as a matter of fact, but it wasn't all happening for free. Somewhere along the lines, Turner agreed to teach Phinn how to read. When he asked, Turner immediately went to Elena to tell her about the request, even though Phinn had specifically told him to keep it a secret. Elena urged him to help so their relationship could be symbiotic, and Turner agreed. It would be a lot of work to teach Phinn anything, but if he wanted to better himself in a way that might help him connect to other people, then Elena was going to encourage it in any way she could.
All the while, Turner was also teaching her new things as well. Since meeting him, he had given her several dance lessons, so she asked for more. In their free time, they cleaned out a section of the essentially abandoned dance hall and he taught her various moves. It was very fun to hang out with him one-on-one, and it usually happened early in the morning. Both she and Turner tended to wake up early while Phinn slept in for several hours.
And, while she wasn't keeping it a secret from Phinn, she was pretty sure he didn't know about it, unless Turner had told him at some point. She knew for certain that she and Turner were only friends, but there was no telling how Phinn might react. She didn't want him to subconsciously get more violent when they trained together, so she and Turner just agreed to not bring it up.
Although, she did promise him at least one dance at the wedding.
"We're going to be at Cerah in a couple of hours," Elena said, clearing her throat, hoping to change the subject to lower the tension. "Phinn, you should probably start getting ready, you think?"
Phinn's eyes narrowed at Turner. He frowned heavily and then looked at Elena. "I guess," he muttered.
"You think everyone's going to be there?" Turner wondered in a way that suggested he wasn't actually looking for an answer.
"Assuming they've heard about it, I bet they will be," Elena replied, figuring he was referring to the rest of the Sons.
"It's kind of weird," Turner determined. "Do you think there would be any other event that would get all seven of us in the same vicinity again?"
"When Hunt comes back," Phinn pointed out.
"No, I mean voluntarily," said Turner. "I mean that it's a happy thing, and we're all getting together because we want to. Is there any other thing you can think of that would do that?"
"I don't think there's anyone else you all mutually care about enough," Elena said.
"I guess there isn't any other person who would invite all seven of us to his wedding," said Turner with a shrug. "I can't believe we almost missed it. You think he would have gone ahead and had it anyway even if the two of us weren't there?"
"He can't wait around for you all to find out he's getting married," said Elena. "It's kind of a big deal, after all. He's the King's brother."
"I know who he is," said Turner. "I'm just glad he's doing good enough to get himself married. You know what I mean, Phinn?"
Elena hadn't been too surprised when she originally heard the news that Hayden was getting married. She didn't know what he had been up to in the past month, though she could assume it was a lot of recovery. Hayden was the half-brother of the King and, as a result, the uncle of all the Sons. Though, he was considerably younger than the King—at only twenty-four, he was closer in age to his nieces and nephews than he was to his brother.
On paper, it sounded weird that he was marrying his nephew's cousin. It did make it seem like he was already related to the woman he was about to marry. In reality, Hayden and Emma weren't related at all. It certainly made the already mangled family tree even more contorted and bizarre, but there was nothing indecent about the union.
Personally, Elena was thrilled. And, to be frank, the marriage would have likely never come about if Hayden had not been shot. So, in that sense, it was kind of a good thing.
And, although people usually got married prematurely (as far as Elena was concerned with this world), she knew the slightly peculiar courtship between Hayden and Emma had been going on for years.
When Phinn finally relinquished an agreement, Turner excused himself. Apparently, he was only wearing his uniform to see what it felt like, and he still had shower and do more getting ready.
Phinn visibly relaxed after Turner left. He crossed his arms and wandered back over to the bed, sitting himself down, looking like he was thinking very hard. Elena watched him and then asked, "What's the problem?"
He raised only his eyes to her from his seated position. His response was merely a light shaking of his head.
"Come on," she urged him.
After he let out a sigh, he answered: "Maybe you shouldn't wear red."
"Oh. Why not?"
Phinn put both his hands on his face and shook his head. "I don't know, okay?"
"What, are you embarrassed? Or were you thinking about what Turner said about him not having a date?"
"How many of them do you think will? I think it's weird, all right?"
Elena sat down next to him and rested her hand on his arm. "Phinn, it doesn't really matter," she said. "If you don't want me to wear red, I won't. We can keep it a secret."
"I just don't feel like dealing with people and answering their questions," he said, now grunting through his teeth as if Elena had refused him. "You can go to the wedding. I don't want to go, all right?"
Elena only waited as he started to bite at his nail. She knew he would go back on that statement so she didn't find it necessary to try to convince him. If she gave him enough time, he'd come around on his own.
"We can go in separately," she suggested.
"No," he said, almost interrupting her. "I want to go in together."
He still wasn't looking at her. She rubbed his arm and nodded. "Okay."
"And you can wear whatever color you want," he said, standing up and walking towards the door.
She watched him go. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to take a shower," he mumbled.
As he left the room, Elena sighed and lied down on the bed. It was true that Phinn was generally a very unpredictable person, though she firmly maintained that she was doing relatively well trying to decipher and understand him better. It took time and patience, but she also knew he was trying very hard to open up to her and be more candid, so she appreciated every little inch he gave.
She wasn't quite at the point where she could define her feelings for him, and they never talked about it. But she certainly had love for him. She just couldn't simply say if she was in love with him, but that was primarily because she was afraid of phrasing it like that. The two of them were comfortable and happy with one another. They didn't have to complicate things by forcing a name on it.
Maybe that was what Phinn was worried about. Maybe he didn't want to have to explain what was between the two of them because it was easier to go without putting a name on it.
Sure, it was a little childish. But it wasn't as though she ever thought Phinn wasn't a childish person.
The last thing she wanted was for Phinn to have to worry about something like that when he already had so much to worry about. So, she'd wear something that wasn't red—but she'd also bring a red dress to wear just in case he changed his mind.