In the Family Way

By Gabi-hime (pinkfluffynet )

A/N: Another delirious little one shot. If you've been keeping score, this one happens two weeks after The Stain of His Blood, and approximately three weeks after Eight Seconds. Oh yeah, we can do math baby. Gabriel is mine, Duriel is Ali's, and you probably want .org This is HW story, meat and bone.

Summary: When is a good time to break such news? Gabriel will find the best time, be sure of it.

She smelled of cinnamon and sweetness and of her own roses, a few of which had left petals that lingered in her hair even now as she curled warm and safe, the smooth line of her jaw nestled in the hollow of his neck, against this throat where she could count the beat of his pulse without trying. It was done, this thing that had started so many years ago when he had first glared at her, brows drawn, because she was not what he had intended to do with his life. She had fallen apart then and there, and when she had finally stopped to put the pieces of herself back together, she found that they did not fit in quite the right way, not in the same way, and she had known. He was what she had to do with her life, regardless of cost, regardless of consequences.

You give yourself up too easily, her matron had warned her, sensing her devotional attitude early like the warning sign of future trouble that it was.

No, not too easily, she had laughed like the rain in summer, warm and gentle, but heavy with her intent, Not too easily, but perhaps too well.

She knew herself, recognized her own patterns and desires, her own shortcomings and faults. She knew her own soul and its inconsistencies, was willing to revel in her decadence and fall humble against her personal sorrows. She lived her life full and fine, like a plum hanging heavy on the tree, and she loved her life and she loved herself deeply and without regret, loved the world with the same careless grace, so it really should not have been that surprising when she had burst into her full ascension the spring of her sixteenth year, bringing a rain of cherries down on her head from a tree that had been in gracious blossom moments before.

It should not have been surprising.

But of course it had been, and she had stood there, sticky with the juice of a half a hundred overripe cherries that had all come down directly on her head at once, covered over with the blossoms they had dropped in their mad rush to fruit, looking for all the world like someone who has been tarred and feathered. They hadn't run her out of town. They had elected her archangel. Her life was always roses, roses and overripe cherries, and butterflies that lived and died as she walked. They were all mayflies against the windows some days, but for her, that window extended to eternity.

And of course, he had been there.

He had always been there, from the moment she first opened her eyes and the breath had caught in her throat like a chunk of the air just too big to swallow, and she had blushed mad like a spring lamb. And she had been, graceless and graceful all at the same time, awkward and well-meaning, but very, very transparent. She had been glass then, glass to everyone who had cared to look. At least she had been a very pretty glass. Fluted edges, she thought. She still had nothing inside her, to fill her up like the jam set aside for morning breakfast. Now she was rosehips and cherries in amber jelly, in amber honey, preserved for next year or tomorrow. Preserved forever, full and fine. Forever full and fine. Then she had been empty and open, a little girl playing at being grown, a little girl who had already decided how everything was to be.

And because her life was roses, everything that she had set to be came to be and cherries fell from heaven and crowds shouted her name and she was hauled on shoulders high, and he had dropped to his knees for her, and there had been sunshine and bliss and warmth and forever that had lasted the time it took her to put on her shoes, careful and slow, and then there was this.

Now there was this. This thing that had started was done, but it was also beginning. She was a butterfly testing her wings. She had tested them. She was flying, and like the butterflies who spun out their lives in her shadow, at the length of her arms when she rode full ascension, she knew her time was numbered gold and green across the life that she could see when her eyes lost their focus.

You will live forever, they told her.

I will live forever, she had laughed, sweet like the white silk of new corn, Until I die.

And it was so, and no one could contradict a truth like that, even though she'd felt him catch as she'd said it, felt him catch and not seen him catch, because he'd been standing a good twenty feet behind her, out of her line of vision, out of her field of touch. But she had still known, the same way she knew the tangle of her broken body, small like a teacup knocked off the table to shatter on the flagstones and how it haunted his rainy midnights the same way a childhood friend grown long and rangy in arm wrapped up in one too many cloaks haunted hers.

I will die and you will die, and I pray to god that I die first, because you're stronger, and I couldn't live – but we will not die today and we will not die tomorrow, for the world is full and fine.

And he'd carried her in, carried her all the way here, as was proper, as was right, but they'd crossed the threshold and then she'd squirmed like a mad thing and he'd almost dropped her from surprise, almost, but not quite, and then his grip had tightened, gentle but firm, and then she'd smiled at him, gentle but live, a smile that said You have not yet guessed the extent of my plan, and then her dress had come apart in his hands as the light burst around her and she fell back into her other self, into her true self and her own roses were there again, not only twined up in her hair but on the flagstones, growing up under her feet. It would be a mess to clean in the morning. It was not the morning, not yet, or it still was, not yet noon, and she was green.

She was green like envy and and grass and the shape of the leaves in the tress that still ran thick with sap, green like the wood that bent under her feet, bent under her hands on that cherry tree, her cherry tree, green like the water, warm and lazy in summer, green like the stones that glittered half smooth half cut all pebbly silk in the weapon that was now bound to her soul, green like plumes on the garden wall's cockerel, as green as herself. As green as sin.

Marry in green, be ashamed to be seen.

But she was not, never had been, and never would be. Green was her dance, her waltz step, and it sang in her soul, and as her toes brushed the stone, her wingtips brushed the ceiling, and his eyes settled on her soft sloped like an easy drift in winter.

She was devoted, but he was reverent, and always had been, and once, if only for once, the shine she graced the masses with graced only him, full and fine.

And then it was gone, like a whisper shadow passing over her as she let out her breath and settled, the sheen of the exertion dewing her brow. He still held most of her dress in his hands, like the remnants of a silk spun cocoon that she no longer needed, split open down the back from the force of her two massive sets of wings flaring out unapologetic. He looked at her, and then down at the silk in his hands and said very practically,

"You've ruined your dress."

She had laughed, cocking her head just slight to the side and offered, "Duriel, I don't plan on getting married again any time in the near future."

Her hands had gone automatically to her back, before she could stop herself, fingering the slim line of golden links that bound one spur to the next. She looked relieved, "My cuffs held."

He shook his head, "I don't know how." Her unexpected full force ascension had upset the end table by the door again.

Her explanation was simple, "I wanted them to hold." Full and fine. Like her roses.

And perhaps that was the reason it had happened that first time, in that first moment – not because she was fertile, but because she had wanted it. Her life was roses, and this was one last piece. One last piece that he, as yet, did not know about. She stirred against him comfortably. They were being quiet together.

As good as she was at filling up the spaces in between with words, she was equally good at leaving off entirely. She sighed and it was a dreamy, contented sound.


"Mm?" he was thinking. He was always thinking.

"Nothing. I just like your name."

He paused a beat, and then another.

"Thank you."



"Did I tell you?" she asked lazily, bringing one slim fingered hand to rest on his chest idly.

"Mm." It was absent and non-committal, but she knew what he meant. How can I know if you do not tell me?

"I'm pregnant," it was as easy as that, the soft slide from state to another. She knew very well that she had not told him, had been waiting, until now. "And I really do like the way your name sounds."

The silence hung over them for a beat, and then another and then she could feel his muscles catch all at once as he brought her chin up to look at her, "Stop. What did you say?"

"That I like the way your name sounds," she smiled, content has a napping cat.

"Before that."

She let her eyes round thoughtfully as she considered, "That I liked your name."

"After that."

"Oh!" she said, as if she had finally come to understand what he was asking. She repeated herself with the same casual pleasantness, "I asked if I had told you that I was pregnant."

" . . . no," and then there was the briefest pause and it all came out, "Wait. No. I mean no, you didn't mention it, not 'no,' I am denying the . . . no, you did not."

She could no longer contain her wide eyed innocence and finally quivered with giggles.

"You're not joking are you? You are serious, aren't you? This is not a - "

"I'm as serious as pie," she said helpfully, finally recovering herself as she rolled onto one side to face him.

"Gabriel. Pie is not very serious."

"It depends on the pie," she clarified, still smiling. Full and fine, so very full and fine.

"Gabriel," she could hear it in the way he said her name. She brought his hand from her face to settle it over her smooth belly.

"This is very serious pie."

"You are then. You are," he repeated, as if doubling his statements might make them more true. She raised her eyebrows slightly and nodded to confirm. She was. She was indeed, and suddenly she was pulled very close, his hands running over her shoulders and her arms as if she were something new that he did not properly understand. The next thing out of his mouth was something she had not particularly expected, "Have you been to the clinic then, to see Sandalphon?"

Her eyes found his face again and the brow that had once again furrowed itself, just as she knew it would. He was worried. He was worried already. She laughed gently.

"Duriel, don't you think that you'd be the first one that I told?"

"Well, I," he paused, "I suppose so. Gabriel, we need to see about this immediately." She could feel him stirring against her even now, and she knew she'd have to nip this in the bud or have the rest of her wedding day spent carted from place to place.

"Duriel. I'm fine. We're fine, I promise. Sit still or I will tie you down."

"But how do you know that, Gabriel, I really think we should - "

"Duriel," she repeated seriously, gently pressing his shoulder back down, "I can see, remember? I would know if something is wrong because I can see. I'll go see Sandals tomorrow if it will make you feel better, but I am not going right now."

This seemed to pacify him at least a little and he settled again, drawing her close, but so careful, until he startled suddenly, "Good lord, we need a bassinet!"

"Duriel!" she could not keep the amusement and slight exasperation out of her voice, "I want you to take a deep breath and count to nine silently, slowly."

He said nothing, but she knew that after a moment he was doing as she bid, could count the breaths as his chest rose and fell, kept count with him. Finally he looked at her again and she smiled.

"Now, how many numbers did you pass on the way to nine?"

"I can count, Gabriel, but really, why -"

"How many did you pass?" she was gently probing and insistent and knew that he would answer because she was asking, despite him being extremely preoccupied.

"Eight, Gabriel. I passed eight."

"Very good, now see, we have at least as long as that to go before we worry about bassinets, all right?"

"How far are you along?" he asked, still not satisfied.

She tucked her head under his chin, "Three weeks. Not enough to upset propriety."

He rolled her out from him, palm on the ball of her shoulder and said very seriously, "Raspberries. on. Propriety."

She laughed again and he smoothed her hair with this hand.

"So it was - "

"Mmmhmm," she confirmed, slipping close to him again.

He paused again, and she could tell something had caught his attention and he was turning it over in his head.

"How long have you known?"

She suddenly found his forearms much more interesting than his face and turned her attention there as she carelessly answered, "Since."

His brow furrowed again, she could feel it furrow even if she wasn't looking.

"Why didn't you say something until now? Did you," he stopped for a full beat, and she could feel his voice, rough and raw, "Did you think I wouldn't - "

NOW was a time for raspberries.

"Oh no!" and she was rolling onto her stomach so she could see his face clearly, so he could see hers, "On no, of course not. I would never think that, never ever. I know that you - "

She wracked her mind for words to set the situation straight, to make him know what she felt, but the ones she found didn't fit, too small to fill the hole that she had made in avoidance of the issue. She slipped one arm around his neck and kissed him, half from the want of it, but also half so for at least a few moments she wouldn't have to think of a way to finish her abrupt little statement.

Finally, she rocked back against herself, eyes thoughtful, and finished as simply as she knew how, " - love me."

She had meant it as an invitation, but he did not take it as such, apparently still preoccupied. He gathered her in his arms absently, like she was a bundle of stray sticks,

"Why then?"

Because I knew you'd be like you are now, worried, distracted, thinking too much, and then you'd be out there, dripping death and black and knowing that you'd leave behind not one, but two, not me, but us. Yours. If you slipped, if it all fell away, and that way, I could safeguard you. For once, I could protect you from something you did not yet need to know.

"There was just too much," she said softly, "I didn't want you to worry."

He finished the thought that she'd left hanging in the air, "The way I am now."

She was thoughtful for a moment before answering, eyes large and dark, "Yes."

"Then why tell me now? You won't show for a while, will you?"

She smiled again, this answer she could offer full and truly, "I thought you might like to know."

And relief settled deep in her bones because he laughed, throwing his head back as he did, drawing her tight against him. It was warm and safe and very full and fine. After a while, he spoke.

"You wanted this, didn't you?"

His neck was warm and she could count the beat of his pulse without even trying, "More than anything."


"We're going to have a very large and respectable family, I hope you know," she went on pleasantly.


"Yes. It's required," she explained.

"By who?" he asked, bemused.

"By me," she continued, "It's the life in me trying to get out. My father was the same way, you know."

"He was?" this seemed to have caught him by surprise, but then he paused, "Which one?"

"Both actually, but Samandriel in specific. It's hard to explain to someone who can't see it, but it's so beautiful."

"What is?" his voice had the slightest edge on it, and she was once again reminded that he did not care terribly for Samandriel. Her other father.

"Conception," she said thoughtfully, "You see, when you're over there, and I'm over here, I can see you, and you're full and thick, like a rope, always bound so tightly. I noticed the first time I met you."

"You're talking about seeing." He meant lifethreads of course. She didn't talk about it very often, mainly because it defied description. They didn't really look like ropes, or chains, or vines, or drapes or chords or anything at all that she had a word for, but it was the best way to describe them to someone who could not see them.

"Yes. So when you're over there, you're full and thick and tight, except when you're hurt, then you have flyaway strands."

"So that's how you know."

"When you're hurt and shamming it off? Yes. I'm more like a necklace – not as thick, but made of smaller, thinner threads. I have more, all woven together, and around each other, probably because one of my fathers was the virtue of fertility and this is partially my pie. The baby," she felt herself smile again, despite herself, "The baby has two threads right now. She started with one, and the other has just started to thread around it," she crossed two of her fingers, "Like this."

"She?" he asked amusedly.

"She," she nodded resolutely, "I do want half a dozen boys, all like you, but this is a girl."

"How can you tell?"

"I can't," she admitted, smile breaking again, "But I know." Because the plums are full and fine this year, and my life is roses. "So when you're over there, you're a rope, and when I'm over here, I'm a necklace. But when we're . . . together, and when you let yourself go, we're one thing. One beautiful thing. It's why I always keep my eyes open. So I can see it."

" . . . "

"You're not embarrassed are you?" she asked, concerned. This was certainly not a topic she could imagine discussing at the coffee table, but here – maybe it was too soon -


"And then the one thing became this thing. It became her. And she's beautiful. He could see something like it too, you know, Samandriel-papa. He said that that's what drew him to her, always and forever, he said."

"Jabriel," he said, and she was not sure if he had supplied it as the obvious answer or asked it as a question.

She nodded, "Yes. It's hard to imagine, for me at least, what that must be like – sharing the person that you cherish with someone else. He loved Zadkiel-papa too, you know? Because he knew that Zadkiel-papa loved her to breaking himself. He told me so."

"When you were four?" he asked incredulously.

"When I was four, " she agreed, "He said that over top of her, it was like she had a net of roses, and that was all he saw, whenever he looked at her, the roses, and her eyes, and that made anything worth it, made everything worth it. I don't remember her at all, and I didn't understand what he meant for a very long time. After all, how can you love someone if the person you love doesn't love you back wholly? How can you allow that?"

He was silent, and she lay her ear against his chest, where she could hear the beat of his heart, "But I think I begin to understand it now. It's not a question of allowing. You just love. You can't stop your heart once it's settled, once it's decided. If you try too hard to fight it, it might well burst." She closed her eyes and sighed again, "Which is why I've decided that we're going to have more children than you can count."

"I can count to a fairly substantial number, Gabriel. Past eight."

"I know," she laughed again, "I'm counting on that, although you've certainly done a poor job at the outset. Do you know how many children I should have by now?"

She felt his chest shake underneath her as his chuckle rumbled out, "No, how many. Two? Three?"


"SIX?" his exclamation came thunderstruck and clearly unintended. He smoothed the sand as quickly as possible, "I think your addition needs work Gabriel, unless you were taking into account the miracle of twins. Multiple times."

"Duriel, please think back to your life science lessons. I know you had to have some, at least. I've been ovulating since I was twelve."

"Since you were twelve? Gabriel, I hadn't even met you when you were twelve. Surely you do not intend to put all of this on me."

"You met me when I was four, or before that, when I was two, or one, or just born, or not born yet. You saw me. You knew I was there."

"But I hardly think - "

"No," she said levelly, "You think too much, and that is part of your problem."

"Well then, pardon me for not abducting you from Matron's dormitory and starting our family off on time then," he was somewhat exasperated by this train of the conversation, but she can tell that he was amused by it as well.

"Well, it is a setback, but it's one I think I can handle. We have made a good start already."

"You can see her," it was a statement of fact, but as he laid his hand over her stomach again, she knew that there was a touch of longing there. He would not see her for months.

"She's beautiful," she assured again, covering his hand with her own, and lacing her fingers underneath his, "Like this."

"Like you."

And her world was full of roses, and the plums were full and fine.