Marco sat lightly tapping his hands on his lap until Jean had to grab them to hold them still. “What’s got you so worked up?”
The freckled teen finally released his lower lip from between his teeth, “I’m just nervous...”
Jean deadpanned. “Yeah. I can see that. But why? It’s just your family we’re going to see for … What is it again?”
“Koningsdag,” Marco mumbled before realizing Jean probably wouldn’t understand the Dutch word. “King’s Day.” He hesitated before continuing, “It’s because none of them know I’m gay, and I’m tired of casually deflecting questions…” This was why the noirette teen had been insistent that Jean come with him after he received permission to return for the holiday. It was merged with a summer solstice as well because the Dutch populations in Jinae were few. Many different holidays were known from books brought in when the walls were first formed. A lot of the original traditions had been lost over time, but the holiday name and the celebrations had remained, and Koningsdag was changed to honour the current king within wall Sina.
Jean was silent a few moments, the only sound being the wheels of the cart they were riding in as it bumped along the cobbled roads. He wanted to choose his words carefully as Marco was visibly nervous – something he never made obvious – so this was really upsetting him. “Marco, you know, that family of yours is very loving,” the teen stated, shifting to sitting cross-legged. Marco looked up at him questioningly. “Back when you were still missing and we thought…” He looked down, still upset by the memory, before meeting Marco’s eye again to finish his thought. “I thought they deserved better than some ‘we regret to inform you’ letter, you know? The point is, they love you so much, I don’t think they would care what your sexuality is as long as you’re still alive.” Jean started to run a hand through the top part of his undercut when Marco leaned over and hugged him tightly.
It was a long trip that the two mostly slept through. Once they did get there, Jean got out first, taking Marco’s wheelchair with him, then picked Marco up and set him in the chair. Jean pushed Marco about halfway to Marco’s home before his family ran out to meet them.
Marco’s siblings ran out to them first, Michael linking his and Marco’s fingers before climbing onto his lap. The freckled teen cuddled his baby brother while his parents caught up with the siblings.
Marco’s mother smiled fondly at her sons while she went to Jean and to his surprise gave him a hug before saying something in Dutch that sounded happy. Jean turned to Marco in hopes of a translation but he was occupied in talking to his father while trying to keep his, rather energetic today, little brother from falling off the wheelchair.
“She said it’s nice to see you at a much happier time now.”
Jean nearly jumped when Matilda suddenly spoke up from behind him. Jean shot the laughing blonde girl a glare. Marco’s older sister was such a joy at times. He smiled back to Mama Bodt replying “It’s nice to see you again too, ma’am.” Matilda translated for her, she gave a nod before going to greet her son.
After all the greetings and welcoming hugs were had, the group went back to their little house, Jean pushing Marco’s chair.
Inside the Bodt house they had been already setting things up before Marco and Jean’s arrival; Matilda had been helping Michael make little orange flower crowns – not really a part of anything and just a Bodt family tradition for this holiday – while the parents were baking things all day. The inside of the little house smelled really good.
Once inside Michael slid off Marco’s lap to go gather up the flower crowns and the parents went to check on the food. Marco waited until Matilda joined Michael to help him before turning quietly to Jean. “I kind of want to tell them before we go out, so then I won’t be worried the whole time. But, if any of them are upset by it, it would ruin the night for everyone…”
Jean took Marco’s hand, giving it a light and reassuring squeeze, “You tell them whenever you feel right about it.”
Marco hesitated before loudly clearing his throat to get his family’s attention, while he squeezed Jean’s hand back. “I um,” he started in Dutch when he had their attention. He’d faced down titans and felt less nervous than he was right then. “Jean here’s my best friend but he, he’s not just my best friend. He um. He’s my boyfriend.”
Marco braced himself for any negative reactions. He mother set down the kitchen knife she was holding and walked over to her worried son, kneeling down so that she was eye-level with him. There was nothing but kindness in her warm brown eyes. She took her son’s free hand before speaking softly, “Sweetheart have you been afraid to tell us all this time?” Marco quietly nodded. “Sweetheart, as long as my children are happy and being loved and treated right, it doesn’t matter who they’re with.” The noirette teen blinked back a few tears, he had been hoping for a reaction like this, and he had known Jean was correct that he shouldn’t worry, but it was still an amazing feeling to actually hear these words. He looked up at his father who nodded in agreement, and then over to his sister who gave him a thumbs up. Marco’s attention was brought back to his mother when she wiped away a few tears that had fallen. “Baby, come here.” She leaned forward and hugged Marco tightly, who released Jean’s hand, and wrapped his own arms around her. While hugging him she softly rubbed his back and only after a few minutes did she pull away slightly. “Jean’s a good young man. Back before you were found all they did was send a generically worded letter, but he came all the way out here personally. I trust him to treat you right, sweetheart.” She kissed her son on the forehead before pulling back and standing back up.
When she went to put lids on their holiday dinner, Jean patted Marco on the shoulder. “Feeling better?”
The freckled teen nodded. He felt a lot better. Marco gave a single laugh, “It went pretty much exactly how you said it would.”
Jean grinned down at him, lightly massaging the shoulder his hand was on. “Told you babe.”
Michael approached the two, holding some orange flower crowns and wearing one. “Marco are you ok?”
Marco nodded, he knew his brother wouldn’t really understand what was going on. He was a bit too young to understand romantic love and a teary Marco was so rarely seen. “Yeah Mikey, I’m alright. Promise.”
Michael seemed to accept that as an explanation as he then handed Marco one of the flower crowns. “Me and Mattie made these.” Marco took the flower crown from his brother who then turned to Jean. “And one for you too!” He offered the second one up to Jean.
“Thank you Mikey!” Jean laughed as he put it on.
Marco laughed slightly once his brother went to give a pair of crowns to their parents and as he put his own on. “You’ve been pretty much accepted into the family, it’s mostly only been us wearing these every year. It was started by Mattie when she was Mikey’s age and I was a baby.”
“Aww baby Marco in a flower crown. That must have been quite the cutest sight. Almost lethally cute,” Jean joked.
Marco laughed. “Shut up dork.”
Once things had cooled off enough Marco’s family brought all the food outside behind the house, to a large table, roomy enough for the neighbours to join them. That also explained the huge amount of food.
Jean pushed Marco back outside, looking around. The Bodt’s open backyard had a lot of food, a house a few houses down someone was juggling, someone else nearby was humming and clearing their throat to sing, and giggling little kids were darting everywhere. Michael leaned towards them, and tracked the other children with his eyes, but didn’t move.
“Hey Mikey, want me to run around with you? Huh? Ever have a piggy back ride?” Jean asked the little boy who looked up at him wide-eyed and held a hand up to link their fingers. After linking their fingers Jean was allowed to pick the child up and set him on his shoulders, and held onto the boy’s legs. “Alright, hang on buddy!”
Marco laughed happily. Michael loved piggy back rides but he could no longer give them to his brother and the child often said that it just wasn’t the same from their parents or their sister. The noirette teen couldn’t believe he had been so worried about this. His whole family already liked Jean. How would it have not been accepted that they were in a relationship.