“Did Rafa tell you you’re getting married, Daddy?”
Max asks the question around a mouthful of blueberry porridge. Alec splutters into his coffee and his cheeks go pink.
Eventually he says, “Um, no, I wasn’t aware.”
Max rolls his eyes affectionately in a gesture he’s learnt from his parents. “I told him to tell you,” he says.
“Well, now I know.” Now he’s got over the initial shock, Alec doesn’t seem too concerned about his impending nuptials, much to Max’s dismay. “Who to?” he asks conversationally.
Max blinks at Alec. “It’s a surprise,” he offers, and Alec’s lips twitch into a smile.
“Okay,” Alec says, ruffling Max’s hair. “Am I gonna like him?”
“Sure.” Max swallows another mouthful of porridge and smiles. “You love him.”
“No, Daddy, you’re doing it wrong. You’re supposed to stand here -“ Max wraps his little arms around one of Alec’s legs and tries to tug him over onto the spot he’s told him to stand on, but moving a grown adult is quite tricky when you’re only four years old. He looks over to Magnus and Alec’s bedroom, wondering about calling Rafael over to help, but he’s tasked his brother with making sure Magnus is ready for The Big Event and doesn’t want to disturb them. Max looks up at his father (he has to tip his head quite far back) and pouts. “It’s got to be right.”
Alec looks like he’s smiling but trying not to when he apologises and shuffles to the left. Max huffs a bit, because his father does have to make things difficult, doesn’t he? He tugs on Alec’s hand and says, “Wait here, please. I’m gonna check on Papa.”
When Max enters the room, Raphael blinks over Magnus’ shoulder at him, make up brush in small hand.
“Is it ready?” Max asks. He clambers up onto the bed beside Raphael to look at Magnus, who’s sitting with his eyes closed.
“It?” asks Magnus mildly, opening one eye. The glitter around his eyes is messier than usual, because Rafael’s barely had two months of practice whereas Magnus has had hundreds. But Rafael is much better at colouring in the lines than Max is, so he’s done a much better job than Max could have managed.
Max plants a kiss on Magnus’ cheek in apology.
“Done,” says Rafael, a little shyly. He’s only been living with them for half a year, and he’s a lot quieter than Max is by nature anyway. Max beams at Rafael.
“Looks good,” he says. He wants to give something to Rafael as a thank you, so he snaps his fingers like Papa. Nothing happens. His face falls.
“What were you trying to do?” Magnus asks gently.
“Trying to get Rafa a sticker,” Max says.
“Okay.” Magnus boops Max on the nose and smiles. “Why don’t we try together?”
Max nods and on the count of three they both snap their fingers. A sheet of stickers lands on the bed and Max giggles happily, then peels one off and carefully sticks it to Rafael’s polo shirt. Rafael thanks him, then hops down from the bed. Max does the same, and Magnus stands.
“Ready, Magnus?” Rafael isn’t quite ready to call their parents Daddy and Papa yet, but he’s smiling up at Magnus, who’s smiling right back at him, and that makes Max happy.
They start walking towards the living room, Max up ahead a little so he can grab the pirate hat down by the couch and shove it on, marking him as being In Charge.
He stands in front of Alec. Max and Rafael start humming wedding-sounding music like they’ve rehearsed while Rafael walks arm in arm with Magnus towards where Max and Alec stand. Alec looks a little confused, but in a happy way, watching the proceedings with a smile. Max realises Rafael is obviously a better explainerer than he is, because Magnus looks like he knows exactly what’s going on.
They come to a stop. Rafael hops behind Max and says, “The ceremony is about to begin,” like they’d heard at Uncle Jace and Aunty Clary’s wedding.
Max holds out his hands and Rafael passes him the prepared couch cushion where two of Magnus’ bracelets lay. The cushion is held reverently by both boys, and together they lift it up so Magnus and Alec can take one each.
“Today Daddy and Papa celebrate their love for each other,” Max begins, just like he’d practiced, “with a hand on the rune and - I mean, a rune on the hand and a rune on the heart. And also a bracelet.”
There’s a pause in which Max and Rafael look expectantly at their parents, who are both shaking a little bit, lips twitching.
“Do the bracelets,” whispers Rafael. Magnus and Alec slip them onto each others’ wrists and stay holding hands once they’re done.
Max nods at Rafael, who hands him a face paint pen.
“With this stele - it’s just pretend,” Max says, whispering the last part, “they will mark each other with the Wedded Onion rune and - Daddy, don’t laugh -“
Alec is failing to restrain his laughter and now Magnus chuckles too. Beside him Max feels Rafael start to giggle.
“It’s not funny,” Max says plaintively. Whatever comes next in the ceremony has completely gone out of his head and his eyes are watery before he knows it. This was supposed to be perfect, something for Papa and Daddy and Rafa and him to do all together, and he ruined it, and now they’re laughing at him.
Alec crouches down to be level with his son in an instant, softly smiling. “Hey, buddy. We’re not laughing at you, you’re doing a great job. It was just funny that you said ‘wedded onion’ instead of 'wedded union'. I’m sorry if we hurt your feelings.”
Max looks at Alec for a moment. He supposes the image is quite a funny one, and he does always like making people laugh. “You did, a bit,” he says, “but it’s okay. I forgive you.”
Alec ruffles Max’s hair, and then Magnus is picking him up and planting a wet raspberry kiss on his cheek.
“Sorry, my little blueberry,” he says.
“It’s okay, Papa,” says Max.
“You want me to put you down?”
Max fixes his hands tighter around Magnus. “Uh-uh. I forgot what comes next.”
That makes everyone laugh again, but this time Max knows they’re not laughing at him, and he giggles too. Magnus says something to Max about not worrying because it’s definitely the best wedding of Alec’s that he’s been to, which Max doesn’t quite get, but obviously Alec does, because he tries to roll his eyes (but ends up smiling instead).
They end up all crashed on the couch, both boys marking patterns on everyone. Alec draws the Love rune on all three of them in face paint. Rafael tries to copy it on Max’s wrist, tongue poking out in concentration. Max glances away from his brother and catches their parents sharing one of their special Daddy-and-Papa looks where they both smile at each other with their eyes. He reaches out to take Magnus’ hand and snuggles in closer to Alec, letting Rafael continue drawing on him, perfectly content.