The Stain of Your Blood

By Gabi-hime (pinkfluffynet )

A/N: Watch for the random tense shift. I was going for something that ended up going in a different direction. Duriel is Ali's, Gabriel will always be mine. AoC errata. Some knowledge will probably make this make sense.


Summary: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The price of peace is bloodshed and war. The price of keeping the woman you love safe can't be numbered or figured, and sometimes the blood just doesn't wash out. Duriel/Gabriel HW Angst.

It's the waiting that's the worst. For her it's always been the waiting that's the worst, bare toes curled tight in the nap of the rug as she sits restless by they window and watches fat rainclouds spit equally fat raindrops at the ground. There are times to be poetic, when the wind and the rain rip you up and make you feel alive, burning down to your toes. Then you can call the rain beautiful – a thousand tears from heaven all at once weeping rapturous joy over you and the world and everything in it.

But then there's the waiting when the rain falls rude and heavy and you hate it because the gray of the weather is somehow the same gray as the gray of the trousers he was wearing when he left this morning, the same gray as your father's eyes when he kissed you goodbye one last time, the same gray that's just beginning to show at the temples of the first lover you ever had – of the only lover you've ever had. She would conduct a passionate love-affair in the middle of a storm – the storm itself was not the problem. It was the waiting.

It was always the waiting and the rain just made it worse.

He was out there somewhere, in the rain, or perhaps out of it, sheltered under an overhang in that deep-pocketed cloak, lance slung over his back and hunting, maybe for someone she knew. Had known. Even if she knew them, they would be past tense by the time he was finished with them. It was for the best and, somewhere deep, tangled up in her intestines, she knew that he spoke true, so she let herself be locked away, shut up tight in a treasure box that only he had the key to. She never wanted to go out on days like this anyway, not with the rain distracting her every waking moment.

No, it was better to stay, feet curled against the rug. She owed him at least that. He didn't ask her to stay in often, but when he did . . . she did as he asked. There wasn't anything out there for her now anyway, except him, and he'd be coming home . . . soon. Soonalmostnow.

It was the waiting, because she never knew when Samael might show up bloodstained at her door with a folded up cloak and his lance, never wanted to know it, but the vision of it haunted her sleep, haunted her waking hours whenever he quietly said, "Stay home tomorrow."

And he was good. He was so very good, and that was partially the problem. If something were to happen and leave her wrapped up in his discarded cloak, then it wouldn't be from his negligence - but then, they all lived in interesting times. It was the blood red writing on the wall. Sometimes terrible things happened to cautious people, and then they'd all be there, squeezing her hand and patting her on the back softly or firmly, however they thought she needed it and she's be twisting the little silver band around her finger. Such a shame, before even the wedding. Some fairy tales last only a few lines. Happily-ever-after tumbles out of your mouth too quickly and leaves you gasping for something more substantial, like his arms, taunt like wires bent until their breaking point.

And then all she'd have of him would be a short little ceremony of the wrong kind, all soot black and holding his cloak to her chest, to her belly where the other thing he'd left still rolled soft and slight inside of her. She hadn't told him. She'd been waiting, waiting until . . .

But then her whole life had been waiting. She'd waited for her fathers to come back home, and they hadn't. She'd waited half her life away growing up, waited so patiently on him until he decided that she had grown up enough, waited until he thought that she'd take him, perhaps, maybe. Maybe perhaps. She had decided the answer to his question four years before he'd asked.

And now she waited for him to come back, or for them to bring him back, and her hands tangled up in the sleeves of her tunic and she yanked it over her head, not caring that she had no other set of clothing here, not wanting to squirm into it even if she did. His bathtub was small and narrow and she ran the water to drown out the sound of the rain, her knees against her chest, trying to breathe slowly and easily. She laid her chin on the smooth stone lip of the tub and quaked softly.

She stayed there a long time, the water going from steamy to lukewarm around her. She didn't hear him before he spoke, but that really wasn't surprising. She never heard him unless he specifically allowed himself to be heard. She had gotten used turning to find him standing there, lance propped up a few inches away, within ready distance of his hand. He took no chances. He was watching her.

She was out of the tub before she could really stop herself, shedding water like a naiad in puddles he would eye solemnly later. He never left puddles, but then, he didn't have a curtain of owl-brown hair either. Her toes splayed on the stone, seeking purchase, and she stood in front of him, head cocked slightly to the side, the chill air already beginning to dry the water that still beaded on her body.

"I didn't expect to find you . . . undressed," he always chose his words so carefully, as if he were rationing them up to save for small children elsewhere, who were suffering a word shortage.

A wry smile crept onto her face.

"Duriel, do people often wear clothing in the bath?" she asked innocently, as if perhaps customs were different in the country he came from, the country down the hall and around the corner, and up four flights of stairs from hers own.

He was silent. When he wanted to, he could make it almost drip tangibly, and it was this singular habit that made other people so uncomfortable around him, that frightened them. It had never worked on her, outside the first few minutes. Silence was golden, and somehow different between the two of them, she told herself. Theirs was companionable, not forced, even from the beginning, or at least, so she had decided.

Of course now, his silence was not one of tactile companionship, it was one of slight aggravation. She had learned long ago how to tell his silences apart, but she also knew, given a few more minutes, he would break the silence and answer her question. That was just how he was. Right now he was letting it hang in an attempt to make it clear that it was the sort of thing that you really didn't need to answer. She waited expectantly.

" . . . no."

"Then there you have it," she chirped, hands going up to his collar to straighten it where it had gone crooked. He smelled of sweat and blood, he smelled of working, and as she leaned in to kiss his neck, she let her mouth fall slightly open to taste the salt on his skin. He muttered her name in surprise, but then she was away from him again, fingers nimbly and silently undoing the eye hooks on his coat without so much as a by-your-leave.

"You're filthy," she observed absently, by way of explanation. And he was. He still had blood sticky in his hair like drying paint – her paramour, the artist, "The way you always come home you'd think the fallen exploded when you capture them."

" . . . we don't capture them."

She knew that. Oh, she knew that.

"You should really take a bath," she remarked, tugging his tailcoat by one sleeve as he shrugged it off.

"I know," he explained, one eyebrow raised, as if his presence in the bathroom should be enough to clue her in. She was already on her knees, flipping open the buckles to his boots in a matter of fact way that kept her out of his radius of easy motion.

"Then the tub is yours, Maestro," she offered, hopping up to sit bare-bottomed on the little counter that stood flush against the wall, feet dangling idly, as if sitting naked in his bathroom while he stood half-undressed was the most common thing in the world to her.


It was one word of honest and half-amused reproach. He could make her name mean so many things, a thousand different homonyms that meant 'be still,' 'you're terrible,' 'get down from there,' and 'I love you.' It was his fierce economy with words that made the ones he let escape that much more potent, made each one a heady high that she had become accustomed to.

"Duriel, it's cold out there. I am going to sit right here until you're finished because if you do put me out, I'm just going to go curl up in your bed. Your room is always too cold. I have gooseflesh and I'll surely catch pneumonia and die if you send me out, and you can't have that on your conscience."

"Have you considered putting your clothes back on?" he asked idly, hands still lingering on the hem of his undershirt, half turned up under his thumbs.

She smiled sweetly and blankly, as if she could not quite comprehend what he was asking, "I've considered it, yes."



" . . . never mind."

And the undershirt was up and over his head and he was fiddling with his trousers. She looked away demurely, hands folded in her lap, the way she knew that he expected her to look, despite how patently ridiculous it was. She'd seen him before, after all, even if the lighting had been dim and indistinct and she hadn't been much concentrating on the look of it all, but rather the feel.

No, she wouldn't look until he was well underway with scrubbing the blood off of himself and then she would look with impunity, while he was suitably distracted. She really didn't understand the double standard at all. She knew very well that he'd been watching her for years, over the top of the confidential documents that she now understood the significance of, across the park from the shade of a tree, nude in the curve of his bathtub as she sulked over his absence like an obstinate child.

But now, as he endeavored to rake someone else's life out of his hair, his back turned to her, she could swing her feet idly and pick out the muscles in his back, trapezius, deltoid, latissimus dorsi, the teres major where one set of his spurs showed, his larger set, all faint pink dried rust. She had always been good at anatomy. Raziel had always commended her on it.

"Did you have your wings out? They'll be bloody," she observed, curling her fingers against her thighs. They'll be bloody and I can come and scrub them, leaning my weight against your bare back because there's no way you can reach them, and I can only reach them by stretching, and then I'll count the grain of your muscles with my fingers and not my eyes.

"I don't spur my wings on duty. It makes too much mess."

Of course. That made sense. How would they really wear those cloaks otherwise?

"Your spurs are still pink."

"I'll get to them."

And she knew he would, but she wanted to get to them instead, fist up a little handful of feathers that would make him squirm. He never squirmed, no matter how hard she tried to make him. As far as she was concerned, he had to be chiseled out of straight granite for as much as he'd reacted to her over the years. Maybe now would be a good time for a fainting fit, but then he didn't seem to be in the best of moods and she might crack her head open on the mirror or the floor and then he'd certainly be cross.

But she was tired of waiting for him to decide that it was acceptable for them to be together. Being engaged was almost like being married. It was halfway there. Besides, the ceremony was only another two weeks away, and they only had so much life to live.

Would people talk? People never talked about the two of them, except in the barest of whispers. You just didn't gossip about Duriel. He was that kind of person. Besides, Duriel had been sitting vigil at her bedside while she slept for a long time now, had trusted carrying her home with no one but himself and flatly turned away the bodyguard that the council had assigned her upon her election as archangel. If people weren't talking now, then their actual illicit deeds would arouse little interest. Gabriel was currently their favorite wholesome shiny bright girl. They saw her the way they wanted to see her and she accepted that. She cultivated that. No one seemed to remember that short years ago she'd been helping smuggle Samael into the ladies dressing room in the dorms. It was all his influence anyway. Except that it wasn't.

He was on his calves now, how blood had seeped into his tall boots she did not know.

"Duriel, if you had to describe me in one word, what would it be?" she asked suddenly, leaning forward almost double, elbows on her knees where they left red circles, the trail of her long hair spinning idle circles in his pink bathwater.

He was silent for some time, and she'd almost given up hope that he actually intended to answer. This was another one of those questions that he let hang in the air while he soaked his fingernails until they were soft enough to dig the rust-red out. When he spoke it was with gravity.


"Mm?" she cocked her head, waiting for him to continue.

"That's the word I would choose. Hand my brush to me? It's behind you."

"Duriel, you can't just say someone's name! That's cheating. I asked for a word. Like 'beautiful' or 'wonderful' or 'empathetic' or even 'obnoxious.' I'd settle for, I dunno, 'tidy,'" she obediently fished the brush from behind her back and handed it over.

"But you're not," he took it without looking at her, all crouched over and studying him as he began to scrub the spurs on his back, twitching just slightly from time to time.

"Not what? Beautiful? Wonderful? Empathetic? Obnoxious?"


"I am so tidy!" she cried somewhat indignantly, leaning back and settling her arms akimbo.

"Yes, so tidy that you leave your clothes on the floor of my bedroom when you decide to take a bath. I'm just glad Samael wasn't dogging me."

"Duriel. You'd sooner die of exposure than bring Samael home with you."

" . . . "

"And besides, you're avoiding the question entirely. What word? Tell. Make one up if you have to."

"I have already. 'Gabriel' describes you. If that doesn't suit you then I think your game needs better thought out rules."

She sighed and leaned back against the mirror, spurs brushing it delicately, "You're terrible."

He was silent again, still scrubbing his own spurs. One set was now a vague off-white ecru. That would do then. He started on the other.

"This is part where you smile roguishly and say 'Only sometimes.' Just like when I cuddle up to you and you move away and I say shyly, 'I don't bite,' you say 'how disappointing,'"

"Gabriel." So many ways to say it, all wrapped up in that one little turn.

"I am that I am, as you have so kindly pointed out."

" . . . you're terrible."

"You don't know the half of it," she wriggled in place and he stopped scrubbing to lay what was possibly a baleful eye on her, "Although you could if you wanted," she finished all singsong, wrapping her own arms tight around herself, skin on skin as she crossed her legs.

He said, "Gabriel," but she knew he meant, 'Don't tempt me.'

What was he talking about? She'd never dream of doing that, and she certainly wasn't doing it now, with her widest-eyed look of pure crystalline innocence knowing that the room was filled up with scent, her own, the sweat and soap and the blood that was almost gone. She certainly wasn't baiting him to wrap her up in his arms so tight that she'd break, maybe, so fierce and long fingered, strong and there had been bruises on her wrists the morning after, thumb prints half over the beat of her pulse, and he'd been so guilty, even if he hadn't said. 'Gabriel' meant 'I didn't mean it that way,' and now when his hands tightened around her, he would catch himself and suddenly go all soft-gentle at once. It was not in him to mark her up. It was just the strange kind of worshipful sweetness that was in him where others wouldn't look, where no one else dared. It was plain to her every time she looked at him.

She said "Duriel," but she meant, 'Here I am.'

He looked at her for a long slow moment and then very resolutely went back to scrubbing his spare set of spurs. She kicked her feet again.

"I can do that if you want."

"I know," if possible, his answers were getting even shorter as they progressed. Soon he'd pass the point of no return and be stuck grunting monosyllabically. Well, that suited her fine. She could purposefully misinterpret grunts.

"But you don't want," she murmured exasperatedly, fingers tapping out an inconsistent rhythm on the pale flesh of her thigh. He wasn't looking at her quite purposefully.

"It's not a matter of wanting," he grunted – ah, there it was.

"Then what's it a matter of?" she demanded, drawing her knees up to her chest and scooting back so she was pressed against the glass of the mirror, glazing it with a sheen of heat.

"I should take you home," he was finished scrubbing, and he reached for the towel that hung on a bar in the wall. She darted forward to catch it, but he was faster than she was, even though she was much closer. He'd just come off of active duty where his reflexes were his life, so it really was not surprising that he snagged it, fingers tense, just as she caught the edge, tumbling forward as she lost her balance.

He had an arm around her waist before she had a chance to injure herself too horribly on the towel rack, and there she hung, carelessly slung under one of his arms. Time passed slowly, in heartbeats that pounded in her ears as her breath caught, the sharp angle of his hip tense against her stomach, holding her there, the towel forgotten and still danglingly limply from her hand. She whimpered softly, the sound half caught in her throat and hoped desperately that he would interpret it properly and not 'help, all the blood is rushing to my head.' All the blood was rushing another place entirely.

He said, "Gabriel."

He shifted her weight and sat her back on her feet, hand brushing the bare side of her breast as he did.

But he meant, 'Why do you do this to me?'

And she wanted to haul off and punch him and shout "It's a two way street! Why do you do it back?!" Most people were not aware of the fact that she had a fine temper when her passions were aroused. She should just stomp on one of his feet, collect her things and march straight home, stark naked and leave him to sort what he'd done out. That's all he deserved.

But no, he deserved more, and she couldn't really do that, knew no matter how flabbergasted he was, that he wouldn't let her leave without a stitch of clothing, and not so much to preserve decency but because he'd be forced to murder anyone who saw her in cold blood, and really, that was a lot of cold blood, even for him.

And she couldn't really do that to him, no matter how much she wanted to stomp on his foot. He'd just catch her before she managed to anyway. Oh, woe to be the lady of the captain of the secret police. If he were a plumber things would be so much simpler. If they were not at war things could go at an easier pace, one that suited him even if it did not suit her. If the stains on his clothes were from grass and dirty and not lifeblood, then they could have a thousand lazy afternoons where he could watch her do word puzzles splayed out on the floor on her belly while he pretended to do work. They could go to the park and he could push her in a swing (in public no less!) and maybe he'd even hold her hand and look like he cared about it (in a positive way). He might even one day kiss her in public, a little chaste kiss on the forehead. Maybe if things were different and they had a thousand lazy afternoons to pass them by.

But the world was not different, and she'd given herself openly and honestly and she'd been so good, waiting, watching everyone else she knew pairing off experimentally, changing out, kissing and telling, listening to Samael crow far into the evening a hundred thousand stories that just couldn't be true, giggling with Sandalphon about how strange it all was like she was an old hand even though everyone knew she was as virginal as snow, only warm nice snow - your little sister snow, not snow like Sadriel snow, that was Mount Everest in January snow. The only thing she ever got was an occasional paternal pat on the bottom from Raziel that left her feeling disturbed.

And even when she burned with it, she was so good, content to be jostled and carried half absently, content to spin on the dance floor with eyes for only one person who was rarely there, except in the shadows, always watching her, the intensity of his gaze enough to eat her inside out. Maybe that's why she'd be able to be so patient for so long. Just his eyes were enough, even if no one else saw and understood what they meant.

She said "Duriel."

And he traced the smooth line from her shoulder to her hip with one firm hand and she shivered underneath his fingertips.

But she meant, 'Onlyyoueverandevernomatterwhatonlyyou.'

And her question hung again in the air as she repeated it, her halo lighting the shadows on his face.

"Then what's it a matter of?"

Needing. It was a matter of needing.