It had been inevitable, like all the sand inexorably shifting through the hourglass. These were the days of her life, and this was something that there was just no avoiding, just as previously there had been no avoiding her - tiny, bedraggled, wet from the rain and interloping, always. It had been a fact of nature. There were only so many sites to see in Conwy, despite the ancient comfort of the seaside castletown, and eventually she had been bound to run out of places to drag him to - the Crab Trap Museum, the harbor, Conwy's oldest tree, Britain's smallest house, and then a lovely Elizabethan townhouse that she had doted on until the cellars had given her a chill of times past and she had shivered and wanted the fresh air of the Promenade again. By that time, dusk had crept up around her hips stealthily until they were quite knee-deep in it. Then there was the last feeble gasp of bought time - dinner at Perry House, wine and meat taken in dainty bites, carefully. As if it were her last supper.

And in some ways, it felt like it was, a mind-driving, nail-biting wait until he inexorably, inevitably looked at his watch and calmly remarked, "It's getting late. We should go back, unless you have some other place you'd like to go."

And of course she didn't. They had already seen the oldest tree and the hairiest dog and the fishing boats going out against the setting sun, and although previously they had done a great deal of late night tresspassing on roofs and in buildings that were not their own, they no longer had any adversarial excuses. The cards were folded and the game had been played. They were not in Conwy as foes-come-lovers. They were there as respectable people, and as respectable people they had a respectable place to stay that they were expected to turn in to at a respectable hour. Although she was sure that he would follow her if she decided to take an unwarranted and midnight walk along the parapets of this extensive and walled elder city, she could not honestly force it in good conscience. Her hand had been played. She had no more cards left. It was only fair to declare so.

"I suppose you're right," she had smiled nervously as he had brushed a stray hair from her shoulder and swept her coat around her.

That this moment would come had been written since the first moment she'd turned to see him standing there, silent and guarded - impossible and inscrutable, from his brown oxford shoes to the collar of his labcoat and that horrifically drab tie. Perhaps he had not yet known that this moment would come between the two of them, but she had, had known it in her bones that had been scraped over with his name endless nights before; had known it in the endless nights of that winter and spring when she had woken cold and sweaty, burning fever hot, too frequently, too often, from the dream painted streaks his fingers left on her skin.

Or perhaps it had been written since that first moment when he'd caught her, gathered whirlwind of brown hair and green ribbon whipped over her shoulder so that she almost fell out of that impossibly small chair, and he had been standing there, silent and guarded, waiting for Raziel who would delightedly turn her over to him like a tamagotchi - feed the Gabriel, brush the Gabriel, cuddle the Gabriel, keep the Gabriel from actively and violently giving herself to death and surely she would someday digivolve into a fine wife. On many levels she was happy that their tumultuous love story was not common property as many such stories of similar venerability were at this point, like Arthur and Gwenhwyfar or Antony and Cleopatra. If it ever did turn public domain, then she'd have no doubt that the Japanese would have some sort of simulation game out for it by the next holiday season.

That this moment had come -had been- inevitable, but in the endless nights previous, when she had waited sodden on his doorstep or had traded innuendo filled repartee with him on nightdark rooftops, against his ebonydark piano, in the cold, sterile halls of St. Sebastian's, then it had been a far off dream spun of candyfloss and spiderweb. In the getting to this point she had been dogged, persistent, and sometimes, perhaps even ruthless - any means to an end. But now they were at that end - or at that beginning - standing on the cusp that she had strained against him for nearly two solid years to build. Now the candyfloss and spiderweb were very here and she was very tangled in them, lost and upside down, as if she'd never been free in the first place, which was, as she reflected, largely true.

This was the House that Gabriel Built, but she was terrified to cross the threshold.

It was easy as a hormone addled school girl in a plaid kilt with matching guilt, to mash through the difficulties and imagine only candles burnt low and sweat and scent and grace, to remember it as it had been, as some deep visceral part of her had been aching for - her eight seconds - peace and glory and pain and a mess of living all at once, like a hit of ecstacy straight to the base of your skull with force that'd knock your eyes out of socket. She was no nunnery girl in the wanting, and her body was cleft and nearly shattered from the force of those sensory memories lashed into her flesh in trinity - blood, breath, and bone.

But she was no longer a school girl and hadn't been one for almost a year now. They had split the heaven and moved the earth, and what had once been ink-washed fancies now became possibilities and then realities as she'd balanced like a gymnast on a ball, rolling pell-mell down a hill and into uncharted territory. She had been insistent, always bulling forward stubbornly, stubbornly happy because hadn't she shifted the world on its balance for the heart of one man? So she spared herself no time for doubts and second guessing and pardons to wait - and she knew he'd wait until the stars fell from the sky on her count. If it were left to him, she worried that they would both be dead and buried before anything was consumated, so she bulled and she bullied and she arranged and she planned and she oversaw with all the tact and grace that her genes (both the mundane and the angelic) could furnish because honestly, five thousand years was enough.

Of course, it had been much easier to tell herself that she was done with the waiting even as little as a month ago, when she'd stood beside him, shy in her shoes against the curve of that grand piano as he finally played for her, quietly and without words that further complicated.

Here, now, it was an issue of much more immediate concern.

It had been preying upon her mind since they'd first settled into their private compartment on the train from Paddington Station to Cardiff, when they'd had two long hours to fill with her prattle concerning card games, the inherent pleasantness of seaside Wales, and her worries that Johanna would not be able to manage all of them alone while she was away. He had commented that they were just going to learn to do without her for a few days at a time when she wondered aloud for the fifteenth time over whether Eden would remember to have a proper breakfast. She'd brought along a Welsh dictionary obstensibly as a prop to brush up her vocabulary, but really more as a distraction from his patient and heavy eyes. She sat across from him in the compartment as opposed to beside him, and when she wasn't discussing the possibilities of Piquet or trilling about how pleasant and musical the Welsh language was, she was pointing endlessly out the window at small black mountain cattle and wooly white sheep as if she'd never seen such unusual animals before and they delighted her senses like a trip to the circus.

"Look, Duriel, sheep!" she had cried triumphantly, like a baby who has just properly identified some varied part of his body.

He had looked at her, passingly amused, and then had admitted, "Yes, I had heard that there were perhaps some sheep in Wales. It is comforting to find that this is true and not simply a lie spread by the tourism board."

Cardiff to Conwy had been filled with even more sheep sightings, and once she had crawled into the seat beside him so as to better regard these sheep only to scurry back to her own place moments later as he absently shifted where he sat and his arm brushed against hers. At Conwy station she had ordered the bags sent ahead to their cottage, pointedly ignoring his few protests that they should at least make sure that the place they'd secured was habitable before seeing the varied sites of the town. She had not been ready then, was still not properly ready now, so she'd dragged him off to look at fishing boats and crab traps and the town's famed suspension bridge, and he'd gone along without much argument. It was her day, after all, and she could spend it how she chose, whether it be in his private company or as part of the public at large.

They were a part of the public at large.

The oldest tree turned out to be not that impressively old, being half the age of the man whose passport identified him as Matthias Eisenreich, and she'd commented on this as they'd stood in front of the gnarled old Yew, calling him by his given name. He hadn't responded for some minutes, and she'd almost begun to worry that she'd offended him in some way until he turned to her and blankly remarked, "Ah, that's me."

That had nearly killed her on the spot, because although he had previously warned her that he would possibly not remember to answer to his given name in her use, having never had experience with it, she had assumed he was joking, the kind of dry humor that he enjoyed. She had laughed, at ease for the first time that day since they had tied her up in white ribbon that morning and sent her light as a fairy down the Aisle of No Return. She had slipped her arm through his and tugged slightly, agreeing that yes, indeed, that was him, and he was going to have to get used to her calling him that in public. After all, she could not spend the rest of her days calling him "Doctor Eisenreich," as she had been until quite recently. There were enough askance looks to account for even now as she stood with her arm very innocently threaded through his without the further mess of misinterpreted nominatives.

"I shall try to remember," he had conceeded, and then she'd dragged him off to see the smallest house in Britain, neurotic again like a parakeet who has just been introduced to her new housemate and is considering plucking out all her feathers by way of greeting.

She was perhaps at her worst at the crap trap museum where she spent some minutes exclaiming over the cleverness of traps made to catch crabs after extrolling the virtues of fishing boats that were just so genius because they went on the water. He had been unimpressed by four hundred years of changing crab trap technology and had summarized his thoughts on the matter quite succinctly.

"How can there be crab traps through the ages? The crab goes in. He can't get out. You take him out and boil him. There. A history of crab traps, by Dr. Matthias Eisenreich."

"You remembered your name," she had smiled, moving to stand a little closer to him because she had a feeling that's what married people did while on holiday.

"I am making an effort," he admitted, and his eyes fell on her again steadily and she was reminded like a train wreck mashing her up to bits of nothing that the man standing next to her was now her husband and she was his wife and then could not handle the further progression of those thoughts and dashed off to look at another display with a childishly innocuous exclamation.

"Here's a crab trap from the 17th century. Look. My, it looks like it could trap crabs."

"Yes," he agreed, coming up behind her. She didn't need to turn to look at him to know that one of his eyebrows was raised curiously. "I am certain it once trapped many crabs, however, I feel that it currently looks like it could trap no crabs, as there is a large hole in the side."

She clasped her hands behind her back and tried to be calm and not to think about how very married she was, tried not to think about the fact that her name as she signed it was no longer Demeter Serraffield as she had mistakenly signed a claim check earlier, but Demeter Eisenreich, whose husband was theoretically German. How anyone ever could have imagined that Duriel was anything other than English to the balls of his feet mystified her. As Eden had once amiably put it: The old bastard practically shits tweed and water biscuits.

Whatever her new name was, her hand was curiously unsteady when writing it, as if the curl of the 'e' and the finish of the 'h' would come only with time and practice, as if she were a child learning her script again.

"Well," she said as pleasantly as possible, bouncing in place on her feet, "I'm sure that that's one of the reasons that it's now a museum piece. Here. In the museum," she finished so lamely that her fingers twitched of their own accord because she knew she sounded like an utter dolt and surely he thought that she was possibly brain addled and was wondering if mental incompetency were grounds enough for an annulment -

And then there was a touch, light as air against her back and she jumped as if she'd heard a gunshot, windmilling her arms frantically in an attempt to retain her balance as she went spilling forward, surely destined to destroy the last remaining seventeenth century crab trap. But then she was swept up and it was like a memory etched in her head and playing out in real time, and her calves were dangling over his arm and her coat hung loose around her like a dressing robe and his eyebrow was again raised.

"Demeter, this is just my private opinion, but I think you are perhaps overwrought."

She had blanched at that, in his arms as she had been so many times before, and had tried to excuse her extreme nervosia with a joke about coffee. He had been dubious, but had set her back on her feet again at her request and had not tried to prescribe a sedative, as she had worried he would. Afterwards she noted that he kept a much closer eye on her, and that made the small whispy hairs on her back stand on end in a very unsettling way.

But that had been before, when they had been about town and in the comforting presence of other people, when she could avoid his eyes by fastening hers very resolutely on the cobblestones or a candelabra or a vintage Edwardian crab trap. Now they were quite alone in the little cottage (which was considerably bigger than Britain's smallest house, as she now knew) and she had gone to unpack her things as he had gone to kindle the fire. Eventually, she had run out of things to unpack and straighten, and she had shyly come wandering back into the parlor where he stood, wordlessly staring into the fire.

The fire lit his face against the shadows that quivered in the darker corners of the room, painting the planes of his face alternately light and dark. For some reason, neither of them had moved to turn on the recessed track lighting set into the ceiling. She came up behind him and stood silently, trembling, and entirely unsure what to say or do lest she say or do the wrong thing and he be repulsed. Honestly, she had never properly been on a date, not the kind with flowers and kisses and dinner and clandestined behavior, and here she was: alone in a dark cottage in Conwy with her new husband. She raised her hand absently in front of her face and looked at the two rings there, one silver that had been set with green but now was set with red, the other simple gold and somehow heavy as a stone, slim and cool around her third finger.

"It fits you?" he asked, and she startled at his voice, as if she had forgotten that they both possessed facilities for speech and conversation. He turned slightly as he did so, the firelight catching his eyes as he side-stepped a pace so that she might also join him in front of the fire, if she so chose.

She looked at him blankly and then turned her attention back to the ring and caught his meaning, "Oh yes. It does. It fits as if it were made for me."

"It was," he reminded, and she thought she could just catch the hint of amusement in his voice. Amusement that she was still not entirely used to, after all the hurt and hate and rage she had so commonly heard there. This new Duriel - this old Duriel, she did not know how to handle, had never planned this far in advance, never bothered to plan this far in advance. She took a few small steps forward, and then took a deep breath and moved to stand by the fire, because they were married now and she couldn't avoid him forever.

"It was," she agreed, and started to move to stand against him as she had always wanted to, as she had often tried to, but then, he had always been shoving her off before, dismissing her gracelessly, and perhaps now it would be the same, and she didn't want to upset him, not today, so she awkwardly caught herself and folded her arms over her chest, cross her heart like she was still a little girl making promises. She was silent for some minutes, and they both stood there, her front getting hot from the closeness of the fire even as her back was chill. Finally, she tried thoughtfully, "Matthias?"

And this time it was only half a beat before he turned and looked at her, curious, his eyes a deeper crimson, "Yes?"

She blushed and tried to smile, "Oh, it's nothing. I was only testing."

"My results?" he prompted.

"Favorable," she offered, ducking her head slightly so that her hair fell into her face. She waited for what he would say next, but then her breath caught in her throat as she felt the brush of his hand over the nape of her neck as he swept her hair gently to one side. She trembled at his touch, shrinking under his hand the barest bit, and suddenly he was as still as death. His hand might have been stonework, for all that it moved, poised a breath above the fine hairs of her neck. She froze similarly, head still bent, eyes tightly shut because she knew now she'd done something to upset him, that she'd done something wrong or incorrectly, and now things would be ruined before they had even started -

His voice, when it came, was curiously soft and devoid of emotion, "Are you afraid of me?"

Her eyes shot open at this, because how was it that she could always blunder so terribly and now he thought the worst about her and was hurt, she knew, and it was her fault, it was her doing. Before she could stop herself she moved so that she could see his face and caught his eyes with her own, trembling and everblue and still frightened, yes, but not of him. She raised one hand to close over his and drew it down between her own, wrapping both of her arms around his as if she might never let him go, "Oh no, of course not. Never. I could never be afraid of you, Duriel. You'd never hurt me, ever. You'd die before you hurt me. I honestly believe that."

"I've hurt you before - " His voice was still dead soft and she shook her head, as if a flurry of her brown hair might settle the matter officially.

"There were mitigating circumstances at Anagni, Duriel. And besides, I forgave you for that ages ago. After all, I threw the first punch," she smiled, tugging on his arm, and he raised his other hand to cup her shoulder and she was reminded how very close they were standing, his open palm on her shoulder, and it took every nerve that she had to stay calm and collected and not fall to pieces right there.

"I killed you, Demeter," he insisted.

"A thousand years ago," she sighed exasperatedly, "Honestly Duriel, that's not what I've been nervous about, I promise." She raised her hand unsurely to his face and settled her fingertips there. The hand that he had laid on her shoulder followed it up, and at first she wondered if he meant to push her away and almost backed down, but his hand only covered hers thoughtfully, catching it between his face and his palm. She swallowed and then tried to continue, "You see, I'm nervous because - because - well - I've never been married before, Duriel, not this time at least, and my, well, I'm very married now, aren't I?" She tried to slow herself, but it was all pouring out whether she wanted it or not, "We're very married married, aren't we? I'm just getting used to that. I'm not sure how to be, how to act, what to do - goodness, I've never even been out with anyone before, not properly, and I never really considered it this far, you see? I know I must be saying some terribly idiotic things - "

"Yes you are, and yes we are. Please continue, as I often enjoy your 'idiocy,'" he interruped her briefly, raising the hand that had been poised over her neck to curl in front of his mouth, as if he were about to cough.

"It's not that I'm not happy," she shook her head again, "I'm so very happy, honestly, more than I've ever been and truly. I'm just also - nervous. It feels as if I've but the cart before the horse and I'm just now discovering this and I don't know what it is I'm supposed to do with my cart before my cart horse," she finished and then took a deep breath, as if a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Now she had only to wait and see what he thought about all of this.

He coughed, then he choked and made some further strangled sounds, his hand over his eyes, and she was nearly ready to demand if he needed the heimleich manuver until she realized he was laughing and she was just terribly unused to hearing it.

"Demeter," he began, struggling to marshall his voice into a closer semblance of normalcy, "You never cease to amaze me. I did warn you against this," he paused and then pressed the hand against his face a little closer, "Although I am glad that you did not listen."

"I've never been a particularly good listener," she sighed, despairing perhaps a little early, "You know that."

"I do," he agreed, then he quivered again and she knew he was still laughing, "You are telling me now, that you have gotten cold feet?" He looked as if he were considering bringing up all the times previous when she'd stood on top of his shoes or spent rainy nights in the confines of his house wearing precious little more than one of his spare shirts, but he did not and for this she was grateful.

She felt as if she should just have it out and go put on a hat that was clearly labled 'dope.'

"Yes," she admitted glumly, then cocked her head, "I'm sure everything will be splendid because I am very happy, I'm so happy, but while I get used to it you might have to listen to me say deeply stupid things about sheep and boats and crab traps. I promise I'll get used to it, I really will, and everything will be wonderful again, because I like you so very much, Duriel. Matthias Eisenreich with two t's."

He looked at her steadily, and then shook his head and was it possible that he was smiling?

"You," he said definitively, "Are the most impossible woman on the face of this earth, and there is no one else that I would ever consider marrying. Fortunately, I am well aquainted with listening to you talk," he paused again and then he seemed to straighten and become more serious, "Demeter, I have waited for five thousand years. A little more time does nothing to harm me. We will go at your pace and only at your pace. You may relax. I am not going to barbarously drag you off to my cave."

"Not like last time," she chirped, finally feeling more at home in the situation.

"What do you mean by 'not like last time,'" he asked darkly and she smiled.

"The first time we made love," she reminded patiently, shifting slightly from one foot to the other as if she were playing hopscotch and the game delighted her, "May Day, when you dragged me barbarously off to your cave."

He choked again and then commented, "I am afraid I must respectfully disagree with your interpretation of those events. As I recall, you were the one who threw yourself over my shoulder and demanded being barbarously dragged off, Demeter Serraffield."

"No," she shook her head, and this time she wasn't denying what he said, not exactly, and she spun one finger idly above her head and suddenly her halo lit her face with a soft candleflame glow and the spurs popped loose behind her ears, drooping from their hours of forced restraint. And she smiled, and it was warm and gentle and infinitely more herself than the fidgeting and nervosia was, "Call me Gabriel."

His halo answered hers, and as she stood on her toes to kiss him she was reflected that it perhaps was not so bad that she had gained a few inches in this incarnation and that he had lost a similar amount, because it made the process less logistically difficult - and then she didn't think much of anything at all, because he was right and they were right and it had been five thousand years, and still this was restrained and not forced, and she knew this ground, this was her ground that he'd given up to her ages ago and it was warm and sweet and telling, and his arm had gone around her waist without thought, and she had leaned against him as he drew her closer, his other hand tangling in her hair as if he wanted to smooth the waves from it, and she was stretching up, stretching higher, and she did know how to rise into his mouth because she had learned how ages ago, or it had been in her always, and perhaps it was no longer obscene that he kissed her as if she were much older than sixteen, or seventeen, or however many years the calendar read at any given point and she found calendars largely useless anyway, when it came to such numbering -

And then there was a heavy sound against the far wall, like a gunshot, and his halo was doused in a fingersnap and and he shoved her entirely behind him, so that his shilouette covered hers. She had drawn up against him tightly, frozen, waiting for a further sound as if they might be caught by the decency police or child welfare or some similar agency, and then he said very quietly, "Put out your halo."

She hadn't even thought - so she wordlessly killed her halo and he scooped her up without further discussion and carried her swiftly to the most interior room and there dropped her, pressing her against the wall and a heavy wardrobe.

"You stay here and be very still," he said shortly.

And then he was gone.

She really could not have begun to say how long she stood there in that dark room, small and collected in the corner between the wall and the wardrobe, her eyes slowly adjusting to the near absence of light, but she was still and she was quiet and after a while she even had the courage to peep around the wardrobe at the rest of the room. Of course, it would have to be the room she had been so carefully avoiding previously. She slumped against the wall and tried not to imagine what might've made that sound. Yes, they had defeated the grand master of evil. Yes, they had released all the souls held by contract, but not all the demonic manifestations had been particularly excited with this new chance to do good things with their lives. It could possibly be a disgruntled demon who'd tracked her all the way to Conwy, despite Metatron's carefully run intereference, or it could even be a zombie going through the back alley rubbish. Such things were still known to happen, even in these golden days.

She was considering going after him, even to the point of dropping her mace out of the air and catching it in her free hand when he suddenly appeared in the doorway, blocking out most of the feeble light. He groped for a switch and then they were bathed in soft light from a lamp that sat on top of the rolltop desk near the door frame. As her eyes again adjusted she caught his threads - green and live and rewoven so carefully - and was relieved to note that he looked none the worse for wear.

"It was a cat," he said, rubbing his temples, "A cat stuck in the bottom of a rubbish bin."

"Oh, poor darling. I'm sure he was very happy to have someone let him out of there," she soothed, moving to take his arm as he was obviously somewhat aggravated.

He said nothing in response to this so she tugged his arm, "You did let him out of the rubbish bin, didn't you?"

He rolled his eyes slowly, as if making an important point, "Yes, Gabriel, I let him out of the bin, if only because I knew if I did not then you would go back out there and let him out yourself and possibly get yourself filthy in the process. I also shuttered all the windows while I was out so no one calls the authorities because of suspiscious bobbing flashlight movement in a guesthouse," he finished, gesturing again to the top of her head where she had the presence of mind to again flare her halo.

Again his answered, and they stood together in the doorway, her mace still dangling limply from one hand.

"I'm glad it was only a cat," she shook her head, raising her mace to hold it flat in both hands, as if it were a majorette's baton, "I suppose after everything that's happened, I'm still a little nervous."

"As you should be," he advised, rolling back the top of the desk so that she had a place to lay her greenstone weapon, "It is rarely inadvisable to be alert."

She stared at the mace in her hands and then moved to lay it on the desk as if it were something more mundane, like an ink pot or a moleskin planner, "I am glad it was only a cat," she repeated, sighing an unfortunately experienced sigh, "Because I am sufficiently tired of bashing in skulls."

"You shall never have to do it again," he said flatly, eyes shifting from her to the greenstone mace which had seen its share of combat and heartbreak over the last year. She folded her arms against herself and leaned against him. He seemed somewhat surprised by her sudden closeness, but did not protest, simply gathered her up as she would be gathered and held her there without further comment.

"I hope not," she answered into his chest, for a moment content to do nothing more than soak up the luxury that the care and warmth of his arms provided.

"You won't," he said again, quiet and adamant, and she believed that if pure will could make such a thing do, then he would make that thing do. After few moments, he raised an idle hand to one of her still droopy headspurs and caught it very delicately between his fingers. She closed her eyes and leaned against his hand and he asked, "Doesn't it strain you to keep them in constantly?"

"It does," she answered softly, "It did more at first. I used to get headaches from it, but now it's not so bad. Now it's only - it's like having your arms taped to your sides so you can't move properly. It's more confining than anything else, and it's horrific when one of them itches when you're some place where you can't dare scratch it. I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to let them out," she paused and considered something, "When we go . . . home together, I can keep them unclamped all the time, at home. That will be so nice, so very nice."

"It's not so terrible then, being married to me?" he asked, the touch of amusement back in his voice as he very carefully felt over the contours of that small spur, as if he might milk the strain out of it.

"Not so terrible, although perhaps Ellie would have still made me a prettier bride," she agreed, laughing softly as she drew away to kick off the ivory mules she was wearing. He let her go, and she neatly arranged her shoes at the corner of the wardrobe. He turned to take off his coat and hang it in the wardrobe, and when he turned back to her in his shirt sleeves, he was ambushed. She resolutely caught him by the lapels and steadied herself as she stepped onto his oxfords, "In the World According to Gabriel," she whispered as if she might be passing him a note during exams, "This is the part where you kiss me."

"Is that so?" he stated more than asked, and the question was almost rhetorical as it was half lost against her skin as he bent to kiss her, one hand slipping down the curve of her spine to steady her. She needed it this time, the steadying hand, more than she had previously, before the fire. She was a gymnast on her ball again, and she'd just made a slip that was sending her breakneck down the Matterhorn with nothing to catch onto but the knot of his tie, which she realized after a moment she was trying very earnestly to undo. Without anything more complicated than the taste of him in her mouth and his hand bracing the bottom of her spine, such decisions were markedly easier to make. Two fingers traced up the inside of her wrist, and then he'd caught and stilled her hand on his tie as he broke the kiss.

He held her hand up by the wrist as if to examine it, and raised an eyebrow, "Gabriel," he said, barely containing his chuckle, "You are sending me mixed messages."

She cocked her head winsomely and drew one virginally clasped hand to her lips, "Why, Kingfisher, it was my understanding that neckties had no place at all the the budoirs of the happily married."

He released her hand and looked as if he very much wanted to fold his arms over his chest. He was denied this privelege by the fact that his other hand was still very much occupied in the area of her sarcospinalis. After considering this problem more deeply for a moment, he apparently satisfied himself that the position that his hand was currently in was worth more than the ensuing dry conversation that would result from his removal of it.

His two fingers over the beat of her pulse and his thumb on the back of her wrist threaded deliberately down her skin, pressing back the angora and silk of the sleeve until it collected in a bell around her elbow and his fingers had settled midway up her forearm, giving her wrist its limited range of motion again, "You have," he said, eyebrows half raised in a look of indulgence, "A point. Surprisingly."

Her fingers again left to their own devices, they followed the rabbit into the hole and had soon left his tie hanging knotless and looped only loosely around his neck as if he were publically a very casual person and preferred all his vestments similarly arraged. Her face had schooled itself into the model of seriousness, as if she were the surgeon and he was her patient and everything was quite entirely all business and brusque bedside manner, her only tells the tiny laughlines at the corners of her eyes as she began to thumb the buttons of his waistcoat open, his fingers sliding down to her elbow to give her freer range.

As he patiently let her fingers fumble about her business, first at his waistcoat and then at his collar, she suddenly lost her composure and threw back her head, laughing very softly, as she had done long ago, in a different walled castletown, "Let the record show," she said as fell back a pace and turned out of his arms, circling him lightly on her toes as if following the steps of a very particular dance, waistcoat tugged off as if she were still squiring him, "That Demeter Y. Serraffield, Heir General of the Earldom of Oxford, Viscountess Serraffield, and Archangel Gabriel holding the Sefira Yesod, believes in miracles."

She finished her pose tours and came to stand before him again, bare toes splayed against the hardwood, "Ecce signum, Duriel. We are here together and I've just slung you out of your waistcoat and yet you do not look entirely displeased. That is miracle enough for any man or beast. You are being positively libertine."

"I am being positively married," he corrected patiently, eyes intent on the hand she had folded at her throat, over the catch of the zipper that split her tunic collar to hips, "And I have always had concrete evidence of miracles despite my best attempts to disbelieve."

"Halos and angels and wings and everything," she supplied, holding to the lilt in her voice so her mind could not dwell too heavily or too darkly on the reprecussions of a smooth and nonchalant downward tug.

"No," he said, whisper rough as his eyes settled heavily on her, half dressed and shrugging off her tunic, white silk, french lace, camisole over bare skin, and inside her brain her thoughts collided inanely, because he had seen her barer, yes, but not in this particular situation, not with his ring on her finger and her hands folded shyly under her chin, "The only miracle I have ever counted true and faultless is you."

She ducked her head so her hair fell into her face, embarassed by what he offered as plain truth. Sleeve in hand, she waltzed and turned again and he let her go tolerantly.

"You love me too well," she murmured thoughtfully near against his back as she took possession of his shirt, bundling it up in her arms like a comforting blanket. His back was still traced over by the razor thin lines she'd seared into him eight hundred years past, in the deep snow of an Italian atrium. She raised one tentative hand to trace them with the faintest touch and he inclined his head so that he could just catch her with one eye, deep as the claret they'd had at dinner, steady and unblinking as a stone.

"Such a thing is not possible," he said and she knew he believed that wholly and without question. Such a thing is not possible.

She folded her arms tightly around his waist, her face against the retral run of his spine before she had time to second guess, time to reconsider, because this was the time of the now and so very important, more precious than carbuncles or platinum or frankincense and myrrh and he was as warm as Indian summer and she was so full she nearly choked on it, pressed against his back and feeling the pulse of him - one thread of knitting that she would forever be cats-cradling with her own, the stars in the sky and heaven and earth - this was her place, against oak and iron.

"I've never," she started and it wouldn't come, "Always," and it was so broken inside of her, "More than - " and there were no words that would come as her voice trembled and she tried to tell all the things that were inside of her, thick and squirming like a family of mustelids shoved in a too-small box, "It's just so - " her words stilled, and she was defeated, "I don't have the words to say."

"There are no words to say," he said gently, folding his arms behind him in a backwards sort of embrace, knuckles against the base of her spine as he stood in parade stance and they were caught in a second spun of glass, and this was the spoil of putting her shoulder to the axis of the world.

"There never have been," she said, shaking her head against him so that her hair fell loose against his back, a feather touch of fur, sleek as mink, "Never any words that mean."

"I'm sorry," he said slowly, and the words seem to cost him, "That I have nothing to say that means. I had five thousand years to think of something and I have nothing. My words have less use than empty space and air. I am not a poet - "

"Duriel," she said, as if she were a yew crooked shepherdess calling back her sheep, "Your words will always mean more to me than any poet's. You say what is needed," she closed her eyes and simply hung pupae-still in his blind spot, "You have never considered that The World According to Gabriel has little tolerance for excess."

He was dead silent for a few moments as if collecting himself, collecting her pressed against him - silkworm lace and cool, milk-bathed flesh, dampwarm breath against his spine, angora slacks, all stretched high on bare feet - and then he spoke, "I have never considered it because the progenitor talks in excess."

She pulled back slightly to look at the ivory-white shards that remained of his spurs and bent her face to rest beside one, breath close so the down on her face was drawn by the static between them to arch against his skin, "I am so very sorry," she began quietly, "I would have never hurt you if I had known it was you, never like this - maiming - "

"Gabriel," it was his turn to call her back like a sheep, "You have no right to appologize. You did as you should, and if you continue harboring this fool idea that somehow it is your fault and not mine, I will seriously consider - "

But what he intended to threaten to seriously consider was lost to time as her mouth found one of the burn-smooth bones of his empty spurs and words no longer had worth enough to even be bothered with, and it wasn't this time or that time, and they weren't living the past or the present or the future but the now as his hands tangled endlessly in the binding of her hair and there were no more words about the time that had been, because it had been closed between them in a hoop that started with his hand over the bloodbeat in her throat and her mouth straining against his, untried, untrained, but labile as a calf who has asked to be laid on the altar and be rendered blood and warm tallow.

It was his hands on her skin, over silk and the roses that bloomed her flesh carmine as lips and nipples when be bent to kiss the triangle of her neck with teeth that grazed as resolute and constant as marble down her spine, slow and deliberate and at the same time as bent and tangled as the flesh would allow, knuckles kneading against the span of ribs, palms slick against the leather of his belt and his breath against her navel and linen against her back as she took his weight, and then he was cursing, cursing like it had just come back into fashion or as if someone was keen on uninventing it and he had to get it all out of his system before it gone entirely because he hasn't had the presence of mind to take off his shoes when she had and she laughed and laughed until she cried, high and arched as a butress strained to breaking, the snap of hot metal that had boiled her brain soup when her heels were pressed against his back and they were both older than any words that had ever been scratched in the sand or scratched in a voice.

Afterwards, when she was as shaky as a lamb still pink with birthblood, her knees boiled clean of tendon and ligament that might hold her, her arms as loose as strung wings, he held her against his chest and they were both very still and it was an unclassed and unspoken rite between them when he pressed her knuckles against his lips and she felt she knew the nature of the nephilim word Become. She had Become. Ascendance meant more than spurs kicked wide behind your head and toes dug into the green earth. She could no longer lay holy ground with her hands, white run red in the question she had answered with her self and her hips and the impossible concavity of her spine, but now it was born under her feet when she walked, born in the soil and the silt and seeds bursting, testa split to let the green out.

"I love everything," she said decidedly, although this sentiment was largely muffled by his neck.

"I know," he said, and this was the appropriate response. If he had said 'I love you,' it would have been as useless a comment as the ones she had previously made on the ingenuity of shipwrights who made boats that went on the water and the functionality of crap traps that trapped crabs.

Her thumb caught the metalic curve of a key that was familiar under her fingers, yet different from the one one that now bound his halo and fragmentary spurs and she shook her head, "You kept my key, Kingfisher."

"One day they will pull it from my old and mouldery corpse," he said agreeably, fingers at rest between the rungs of her spine, "And they will wonder what it opens. And they will have to live with the damned mystery because it is none of their business."

"For true," she said, accordant, kicking one slender artiodactyl leg so that the momentum rocked her upright, knees the patient bookends of his right hand until she rolled off their marriage bed, toes again splaying against the floor as she stood on the balls of her feet, arches stretched palms resting over the kicks of her pelvis bones, flesh and flesh again. He watched her stagger about drunkenly, getting her new legs as a calf does, collecting her things.

"Your robe is in the bathroom," he said, and she found it there, and it was her robe, the one she'd taken to his small, dark house after spending the night there in one of his spare shirts, the one she'd called 'just in case.' He'd brought it, thought of her when packing it, because in a manner that defied sense and logic, that case had come. She let the water of the faucethead wash the filth of Britain's smallest house, the Historical Crab Trap Museum, and over two hours of train travel off of her and then wrapped herself up in the robe he'd brought from the hook on his bathroom door to the dull brass hook here.

She found him standing in front of the fire again, as he had been so long ago - so entirely recently - when she had come trembling up behind him after having put her clothes away. He was wearing pyjamas, as if this were the most normal thing in the world, and not a thing in itself that made her quiver someplace deep inside - Duriel wore pyjamas. She hadn't known he wore pyjamas when he slept, had always imagined him bent up in a closed tweed cocoon in his parlor wingchair, but then, perhaps he had bought them for the ocassion. She settled on the rug at his feet and then tugged on his pantsleg until he relented and sat beside her. He was not wearing slippers, as if this were a trial beyond him. Duriel does not wear slippers.

She flopped over on the hearthrug bonelessly, head pillowed on her folded hands, and he watched her as if he were an ornithologist after the rare cedar toowhit.

"Wouldn't it be lovely," she asked, fingers drawing aimless patterns over the rug, "If we could just stay here in this little house in Conwy?"

"We can," he pointed out.

She shook her head, "Not forever. We can stay for a while, but we must go back. They'll all be waiting," she sighed and drew her knees to her chest as if she were still in utero and he carefully arranged the folds of her robe to again cover her bare thigh, "But I think it would be something like heaven to stay here, here where we're both unknown. We could go out into the countryside even. I do speak good Welsh, like a native, I'm told, and you could be a general practicioner of the old style, making housecalls and delivering babies and things and I could get involved with the historical society and go dig up rusty buttons and broken plates and at Christmas we'd go to the village church and everyone would know us as the Doctor and Missus and not Archangel or Unfallen and there'd be just the two of us who knew the great secrets of the world. The two of us would be the entire world. I could live with you as my entire world, Duriel."

He let his hand fall to rest companionably on the sharp bite of her hip and again offered his thought, "If you don't want to go back, Gabriel, I will be the last one to make you go back."

She closed her eyes and lay limp as a kitten, the fire against the half-moon hollows of her toes, "It's gone beyond that. I wish it were that simple. I almost wish I didn't have the responsibility, but my name is Gabriel and I have always been the Sefira of Yesod. A kingdom without a foundation is a poor one, Duriel."

"Someone else could be the foundation," he was looking at her and looking past her at the same time, she knew, looking at her as she'd been when her feet had been danced raw, looking at her as she'd been when she'd clung to the side of that hospital bed, sick from the weeping, looking at her when the skin had drawn so tightly over her birdbone wrists that they'd seemed almost hollow and likely to give a tone when struck.

"At times," she said, smiling weakly, "I think that I am more paranoid than you are, Fisher King, Kingfisher. It is not a job I would trust to anyone who was not myself."

"If you want a thing done and done well, then it is best to do it one's ownself," he said, "It is not a complicated philosophy, and so it is one I can respect."

She rolled slighty so that she was staring up at him, eyes large and dark and everblue, and she asked softly, "But wouldn't it be nice to be some place else?"

He leaned down to kiss her forehead, and she was whisker scratched and again reminded of something she'd said on a nightdark rooftop a year past: That beard will take some getting used to. So many things, so very many things to get used to.

"I think that places are all largely the same. It is only the floors and walls that change. One place is as good as another for living, as long as there is you."

She curled against his side, knees snug against his waist, and this seemed as true a thing as had ever been said. They would stay in this place, in this castletown with its crap traps and its tiny houses and they would live their life of anonymity, but only for a time. Then they would go back to their lives which had been twain but now were bound, and they would live beautifully and well in that little English house where she would plant roses by the door and he was Unfallen and she was Archangel and they were very known.

Because, in the end, one place was as good as another when it came to living, and walls and floors were of little consequence to those that lived in the shade of another's eyes.