At the head of the grand table wasn't a wedding cake, but instead a grand bowl adorned with rubies and emeralds, lapis and topaz, filled with peaches.
The scent of them overwhelmed the scent of the flowers that filled that island and everything that could possibly be pressed into service as a vase. Even Keita's mouth was watering, and he didn't even like peaches.
"Naoya!" Abel yelled in the silence that came upon everyone as soon as they stepped into the clearing where the wedding feast was about to begin. "You can't just leave those out! What if someone ate them and didn't know what they were? I told you that if you ever did that again…!" Hiro's new friends and their families hadn't seen him angry before. Hadn't felt the power that filled the now-rising wind.
"I set wards," Naoya told him, peeling off something that looked like a bar code sticker, as though he'd picked up that impressive piece of solid gold & precious stones at a store in some mall.
Fumi noted what a good idea that was: bar codes allowed storage of information that would allow someone to easily just print a custom seal by filling a few blanks into a program.
"What are those?" Ronaldo finally managed to say.
"My wedding gift," Naoya said, stepping to the side so Joe and his new wife could get a clear view of the bowl. "The peaches of immortality."
Makoto was taken aback. "As in Chinese mythology? And the legend of the Journey to the West?"
"Those too," Naoya agreed. "They're the fruit of the Tree of Life."
"T-thank you," Joe's wife stammered out, clenching her husband's hand tightly.
"What do they do, exactly?" Joe asked.
"Exactly what it says in the… Right." Naoya sighed. Most printed book in the world, an incredible waste of trees, and even those who believed in it, or rather especially those, never sat down and read it. "Physical immortality. The immortality humans were meant to possess from the beginning. Freedom from age, disease and infirmity. Times being what they are, I've already designed spells to allow myself and the rest of us to seem to age past our primes." He nodded at Atsuro. "Between myself, my apprentice and Fumi, there's no need to worry about the creation of new identities. I'm also considering expanding this island or turning it into a chain of them: even though my ambassador is on vacation, I sent messages to a few countries telling them to recognize it as an independent nation – and by the way, Seth, that's your birthday present for this year." Atsuro winced, because there was a reason he didn't let Naoya handle his own diplomacy. Naoya and the word tact didn't belong in the same sentence. "If you don't want the fruit, I suppose I could give you a few servants. I have hordes of them floating around doing nothing."
Joe opened his mouth, delighted, but closed it hurriedly when his wife elbowed him in the side. Well, he'd already decided that he wouldn't be late again, that he'd start being responsible. And since the world had ended before the meeting started & he wasn't fired, he still had a job.
"The peaches are fine," his wife said quickly as Joe finished mourning his chance at a life of leisure.
"He didn't tell us what they were the first time," Atsuro reminisced as he helped Yuzu, Makoto and the rest of the responsible adults who weren't taking the covers off the rest of the food and pouring drinks carry chairs from where they'd held the wedding to where they were going to eat. "It was after we won the fight, and instead of gloating or sitting on that throne to rest, when Abel's stomach growled Naoya looked thoughtful, disappeared and then came back with a bunch of peaches." Atsuro was practically asleep on the marble floor before Naoya got back.
"I was so thirsty I would have drunk poison," Yuzu remembered. "I ate so many I should have figured something was up when I didn't get sick." Juice dribbling down her chin, hands sticky enough it was almost an effort to detach them from her shirt when she tried to wipe them clean. "Naoya was smirking, but he just basically became god," god help them, "and there never was anything unusual about that." Naoya was Naoya. "The smirking, I mean. Although, come to think of it, he certainly always acted like he was god and the rest of us just had to do what he wanted. Except for Aunt Yuka. That's Abel & Hiro's mom: Naoya called her Aunt Yuka, so Atsuro and I ended up doing it too, even though we're not related."
Atsuro nodded. "Aunt at least. I know I slip up and call her mom sometimes. She's just like that, you know."
Jungo nodded, Airi too. Keita scowled from behind a stack of ten folded chairs, which was as good as admitting it.
"Like she's everybody in the neighborhood's mom," Yuzu agreed. "She organizes the local festival, and the PTA, and… everything."
"You keep calling him Abel all the time," Ronaldo said, curious. "That's not his real name, right?" That would be one hell of a coincidence.
"No, he's named Kazuya after his father. Naoya just started calling him Abel when he moved in, according to Mr. Kazuya, and they used his nickname all the time so they didn't get mixed up," Yuzu explained as she dropped her chair off & started heading back to pick up another.
"I didn't know he had a normal first name for years," Midori agreed cheerfully. "He tells everyone to call him Abel." Except for teachers and people who were being formal and used his last name.
"He looks familiar somehow," Airi's father thought. "Mr… Minegeshi, was it?"
"Well, he isn't exactly a police officer, but he does work with them. He manages a special canine unit that goes in after earthquakes and other disasters to find survivors, and trains guard dogs for the JSDF and stuff like that," Yuzu told him. "Maybe that's how you met?"
"Probably." The police also used trained dogs for finding bombs, among other things.
The peaches were delicious, sun-warmed and so sweet it felt like a sin to slather them with cream or ice cream. It very well could be, Fumi thought, amused. Time, time to understand the universe in. Best gift ever. Mmm. She wanted Naoya. JPs? Research budget? Who cared?
Armies of angels to experiment on? She steepled her hands together over the bowl, watching her quarry.
"I don't think she's blinking," said Airi.
"Wafu…" Hinako swallowed and put down her spoon, electrum chiming against the gold bowl. "What?"
"Fumi. She looks like a snake," Airi realized. "She's staring at Naoya, haven't you noticed? It's really creeping me out."
"Oh? More than usual?" Loki said, sitting across from Hinako. After looking her over, he muttered, "Well, that's inconvenient."
"What do you mean, usual? You'd better not think of doing anything to Fumi," Airi told him, leveling her spoon at him. She'd been sitting with Hinako at the bachelorette party, she'd heard about the pranks he liked to pull from his own mouth.
"More than the usual magnetic attraction humans with angel, or fallen angel, blood have to those whose natures are so close to the divine. And these days, that means all humans. Angels were 'programmed' at their creation to adore god: it was written into their very souls. Even rebels couldn't break free of it, and it was passed on to their descendants. Naoya, Abel and Hiro all have charisma of their own, but there's a part of both of you that wants nothing more than to kneel at their feet and sing your adoration eternally, become an army to conquer the world in their names so everyone can share that mindless bliss." Loki rolled his eyes. "No wonder YHVH got sick of his angels so quickly, after making them into such toadies. Lucifer was his favorite because Lucifer somehow managed to have a spine. He's still obsessed with his creator. Keeps inserting him into every conversation to the point that it bores me terribly.
"Oh, I've seen some who manage to fight it enough to hate Cain or even Abel on sight, feeling that impulse to submit and violently rejecting it, but hate and love are two sides of the same coin, they're both forces that pull us towards others. In times when humans were more aware of the worlds around them, they might have recognized what was happening, guessed that they were children of a god or suspected that they were casting a glamour on them. But this is something else. Your friend is, shall we say, single-minded. She's never been attracted like this to anyone, or even especially interested in anyone, including Hiro. She would be intelligent, of course. A large amount of magical power," was a given. "So much for the theory that Naoya's lack of conscience was because it was in the part of his soul that was surgically removed."
"Huh? What?" Hinako asked, startled.
Loki waved a flamboyant hand at the part of the tables where Hiro's family sat. "Adam, Abel and Cain all had parts of their souls taken from them and placed in separate bodies. Your Hiro escaped that fate because his grandfather thought that breeding with his brothers' other halves would be enough, as long as he made a good effort to be fruitful and multiply." He glanced around, then decided it didn't matter if this was no longer a secret: the real reason he'd kept it so was to annoy Naoya when he found out. "The singer Haru is Abel's other half, although it puzzled me that she longed for death while she was in the Lockdown." What had that said about her other half, the one Loki actually cared about because he was Naoya's weak point? Was it a reflection of how guilty he felt for everything that had happened to his brother and the world because of him? "In any case, that's why she possesses such an affinity for the universal language, and so much power half the Bels were desperate to destroy or possess her even though they didn't know she was another Bel."
"So they're soulmates?" Hinako's eyebrows rose. "I didn't think those existed."
"They don't, not in the sense of two souls intended for each other. The three of them are single souls split in two. Look at Abel and Haru, then look at your Hiro's parents." The way they were turned slightly towards each other was the least of the many signs. "When they met each other, there would have been an instant connection. It's really self-love, but probably that's why their creator thought of it. Although I doubt he had the honesty to admit that he was a little too enthralled with himself." He'd certainly expected his creations to adore him as much as he adored himself, no matter how he mistreated them. As a father, Loki couldn't condone that sort of thing. Oh, everyone else was fair game to Loki, but not children, especially one's own.
"Darn." Airi pouted. "So it's not romantic after all." A proper universe should contain soulmates, she thought like the girl she was. If this happened again, she was going to get Al Saiduq to make people soulmates. Maybe…. Aargh, why did she keep thinking of that annoying standoffish Keita!
"I'm going to get another peach," Hinako decided.
"Get some brandy while you're up, I'll show you a tasty trick." He was a fire god, after all.
"So Fumi's going to get a guy?" Before she did? Well, Fumi was older, Airi knew, but still! Fumi! Any sane guy would run away! Jungo hadn't run away from her experiments, but that was because Jungo was pretty slow. She liked him after all, but he was so, so… Jungo.
If she used a zan spell to launch the bouquet after it was tossed, and then ran really fast in that direction while everyone else was still staring…
Yeah, it was a superstition, but she'd had stupid Kama oogle her belly button.
Unfortunately it turned out Yamato had the same idea (although he was probably trying to keep anyone else from monopolizing Hiro. Probably.), and the two of them kept hitting it higher and higher like a volleyball until Al Saiduq got worried that Mrs. Yuzuru's flowers would be ruined and flew up there to keep it from getting smashed when it hit the ground.
After he landed, Airi stamped up to him. "Girls are supposed to catch the bouquet! Girls!" He was cheating! Alright, yes, she'd started the cheating, but still!
"Oh. Human customs are so interesting. Does this help?" Al Saiduq asked.
Since he was wearing a flowing costume, it took Airi a minute to notice anything different, but then he lowered his arms, and she saw the fabric cling to the curve of a delicate waist unlike her stocky, practically nonexistent one. Above it were the slight mounds of small, tasteful breasts the opposite of her own, which Airi was well aware were grotesquely huge for her age, the relic of when she'd been seriously overweight. There was only one thing to say to that. "Aargh!"
Al Saiduq blinked after her as she stalked off and Hiro caught up to him, Yamato, Midori and Hiro's parents following him. Yamato's scowl convinced him that the former septentrione really had done something wrong. "Oh dear," she sighed as Midori stepped close and looked her up and down.
Midori's eyes sparkled as she felt one of Alcor's too-thin arms. "I know some people who would love to hire you as a model, if you ever need money." The practically-emaciated look and white hair that might not technically be natural, but it didn't need dye, either.
"The people in magazine photographs? I modeled my Ticos on them." If that was what humans were used to looking at. "But would humans really want to look at me?" Why?
"Leave that up to Aunt Midori," she said, patting Alcor's shoulder. "Come on, let's find you a bikini while everyone's digesting."
Hiro's parents found out (thanks to Naoya, Abel or Hiro himself) that Yamato had never had home cooking and Al Saiduq had barely had any food at all.
The two of them were invited to come over for dinner, or every meal, or better yet stay at the couple's home in Naoya and Abel's old rooms until everything with the government got sorted out. Oh, and take packed lunches with them when Makoto arrived not with Yamato's limo but with her personal, more discreet car to take them to JPs.
Hiro and Daichi begged them to please stay, because if they did Hiro's mother would pull out all the stops and cook all their favorites. Io also became a frequent guest.
Abel and Naoya found out that their mother was going to be making all her best recipes and showed up for the dinners, which expanded to include Naoya's apprentice, Yuzu and of course Makoto should take a packed lunch with her, since she was going to so much trouble. And stay for dinner. And bring that nice young man Ronaldo with her, when he was in the area.
Joe and his new wife were still on the island, celebrating their honeymoon. Keita was also staying there for now, trying out the whole meditation training camp thing to see if it helped his boxing. Hinako and Airi had joined Haru and Abel at Gin's bar and Abel's apartment/studio. Airi was using Abel's keyboard to remember her old skills and train to become Hinako's accompanist. Her father had been offered his job back, since they believed he was just part of the mass resurrection. Gin found Jungo a job with a friend of his, since Gin's bar was too far away from his home for him to commute.
Dr. Otome was once again busy at JPs, studying all the resurrected members as well as making sure that they were fine, as the world's level of supernatural activity returned to normal after the stunned near-silence that followed the world's restoration. After, of course, she and her daughter took a family bonding vacation on Hiro's awesome tropical island.
Fumi continued her work at JPs, but she began to correspond via e-mail with Naoya, picking his brains on advanced magical theory. When the two of them worked together they looked rather alike, and made Hiro remember what Fumi said, about how every scientist had to be a little bit mad. Saiduq made a durable test subject, but sadly he wasn't much help when she wanted to study humans.
Yamato continued his survey of junk food with the ruthlessness and demand for the best that characterized him in all aspects of life, tracking down the okonomiyaki vendor who had just given Yamato the first non-health-food he'd ever eaten and hiring him to work at the local JPs cafeteria (making Yamato even more beloved by his staff) and giving the man with the candy a scholarship for his daughter. The former rioters were very understanding about JPs not sharing their food and resources now that JPs actually had done something worthwhile with them and gotten them their old lives back.
Ronaldo and his mentor continued their investigative work, this time investigating Yamato's superiors, the ones who had authorized the shooting of nosy people and the creation of psycho test tube babies (coughYamatocough) for their nefarious purposes.
Naoya tripped over a black cat in an alley, but was fine except for a scraped knee.
Abel and Haru continued to sometimes discuss adding more band members, but didn't think they'd get around to it anytime soon. Not until he got his PhD and Airi graduated, at least.
Hinako took finding out she was a demigoddess rather well, and decided to embrace her heritage by learning their traditional dances, since there was an opening in the Norse pantheon for a goddess of dance.
Al Saiduq mostly stopped appearing behind people, but that was because the dimension he used to wander in and out of wasn't there anymore. After Midori chopped off most of the bird's nest passing for hair, taught Saiduq how to use a comb and took him shopping (refusing repayment, because he'd helped cute little Hiro), he was upgraded to dangerously cute and often had to be rescued from the clutches of new JPs staff, ladies at the marketplace and strangers with candy.
And so they all survived happily ever after, or at least until the next time humanity was doomed.
I found art of fem!Alcor in a bikini on tumblr after being alerted that there was fic on there. Had to do it, or rather Midori did.