Sunlight hit the back of D’nay’s eyelids, intruding into his sleep with annoying determination. Groaning, he rolled over and was grateful to discover that his stomach didn’t lurch as he did so. In fact, the heavy, hot weight of the injury in his side seemed to be easing. Without opening his eyes, he slid a hand to the bandage at his waist. While it was still tender, just putting light pressure on the outside of the dressing wasn’t enough to make him retch anymore. This was a major improvement.
Buttery, golden light streamed across the large, open space. It hadn’t changed much since he was a bachelor dwelling here alone in the dark. Yet, the brown of the leather arm chairs, the mahogany of the wooden armoire, the rich cream of the bed clothes – they all seemed warmer, more alive, in the gentle glow of daylight. It was Gloria, of course, who had brought the embrace of the sun back within his reach. Just the thought of her made the rhythm in his chest pick up.
A tension he hadn’t known he was holding onto eased as he listened to the soft rush of blood under his skin. He knew that gentle pulse was what kept the sunlight from burning his skin to ash. Such incredible power for a tiny, delicate sound.
The trilling song of birds calling to their mates was accompanied by the quick flash of their shadows across the bright square illuminating his bare chest. A smile tilted up the corner of his mouth as he let himself slowly spiral the rest of the way upwards towards wakefulness.
As his mind arrived at true alertness, his hand traveled almost unconsciously to the other side of the bed. Gloria must have slept beside him last night because his fingers found the disturbed covers where she’d lain. He didn’t remember her coming to bed, but then a lot of the last few days was a bit of a hazy blur. Relieved that his mind was feeling sharper, he glanced down at the rumpled nest of sheets where his lover’s body had recently been.
However, aside from the ubiquitous basin and cloth on a nearby armchair, there was no other sign of his angel. With a slight frown at the empty room, he stretched his mental senses outwards. After almost half a century of waking to find her gone at the end of every liaison, even ten years of consistency and contented marriage didn’t erase the heartsick dread of finding her side of the bed empty.
He didn’t sense her in the bathroom or the hall. He pushed farther, into the living area and finally the kitchen. There. He took a deeper breath as he felt her glowing warmth by the sink. It was a little odd that it took him so long to find her, he thought with a frown. She must be shielding pretty heavily to make him go looking for her mind like this.
Taking another deliberate breath, the Vampire gauged his injury again. It didn’t hurt to shift his weight in bed, nor did the room distort sickeningly as he sat up. With one palm he scrubbed some of the sleep out of his eyes before deciding to risk standing. He was fairly sure he’d taken at least three doses of that antibiotic Geneene had brought around. They must have eliminated enough of the infection for his body’s own impressive powers of recovery to finally kick in, he mused. In fact, he thought as he came to his full height with hardly any help from the hand he’d put on the nearby armchair, now that he thought about it the light headedness he was experiencing more likely stemmed from the ringing emptiness in his stomach than the wound in his side.
Well, I was heading to the kitchen anyway, he thought with a smile for his reflection. He’d dropped weight again, he thought as he appraised the slim, dark haired man in the mirror. That just means I can indulge in a few extra helpings this week, he told himself, running his fingers through his hair to straighten a few errant strands before walking over to the armoire to pull out some clothes that didn’t stink of sweat.
The fresh, crisp fabric felt steadying and familiar as it covered his shoulders, as did the smooth wood of the dresser drawers as he pulled out a pair of faded, comfortable pants. It felt incredibly good to be home, he thought.
Feeling more solid than he had since the Anori abducted him, D’nay managed to use the restroom and make his way into the kitchen. He would have bathed, but he had a feeling the hot water would only make him feel faint at this point and a decent breakfast sounded like it was in order first. Besides, he reasoned, if his wife was upset enough to put up triple shields, he really should check on her.
“Glory?” he called to her as he walked into the living-dining area. He knew his movements were stiff and one hand had found its way to his side despite his best efforts to the contrary. Even so, it had been several days since he’d felt well enough to be up without help and he was hoping her mood would be eased by his obvious recovery.
“What are you doing up? You shouldn’t be pushing yourself,” the golden-haired Elf-maiden by his counter chided, glancing up at him from the dishes she was washing. Gloria’s lovely face creased in a frown as her mind slid a chair out from the kitchen table for him.
“You’re shielded so tight, I doubt you’d have heard me if I called you,” he tried to take the edge off of his words by giving her a small smile. Gingerly he settled himself into the wooden chair she’d offered, “And I was too hungry to stay in bed. Besides, I’m fairly sure the fever’s broken. I’m not feeling dizzy anymore, just tired.”
“Hmmm,” she wiped her hands off on a towel before walking to his side and laying a hand on his brow. When their skin brushed, he caught a sudden rush of nervousness and fear. Her shields slammed down even harder but not before he gasped at the intensity of her emotions. “Well, I’d say the fever is down,” she agreed, not meeting the worried glance he sent in her direction.
“Gloria…” he said her name slowly, his brow knitting with concern as she bustled over to the pantry and began pulling out bread and jam for his breakfast. “What’s wrong, my love? I don’t remember the last time you shielded this hard from me.” Fear quivered in his gut and finally the familiar edge of nausea threatened as his empty stomach clenched a bit sickeningly. “Gen hasn’t come around again, has she? Is there word from Paradise about…”
“What? Oh, no. Barron and Gambet won’t be sentenced for at least a few months yet,” Gloria replied almost absently as she set a plate and knife on the table near him so he could prepare his bread the way he liked it. As she did so, a bowl of nuts floated over from the pantry while a glass and the pitcher of orange juice appeared just in front of Glory’s hands in time for her to pick it up and pour for him. There really were benefits to marrying a telekinetic, he thought as he accepted the fruit juice and took a sip. Thankfully, the sugar almost instantly helped settle his stomach. “We won’t have to worry about them at least that long. With Grey, Gen and Gammon as witnesses, I don’t think there’s any doubt they’ll get some serious time for what they did to you. Geneene was being conservative when she said a few decades. I’m actually hoping for half a century or a little more.”
D’nay was still concerned, but he was too hungry not to open the loaf of bread and begin spreading jam on a slice as he frowned up at her.
“Okay,” he allowed, narrowing his eyes at her, “That means we’re safe, right? For the next fifty years or so, anyway.”
Gloria turned to her sink of dishes, putting her back to him even as her long hair came forward to cover her face. “From them, anyway,” she murmured.
“From them?” She couldn’t see his expression but despite her shields he suspected she would still be able to feel his incredulousness. “Glory…” with a sigh, he took a big bite of bread, then chewed it thoroughly before following it with a long drink. He was still hungry, but that took the edge off enough for him to slide to his feet and come to stand at his wife’s shoulder. “Look at me, love. Talk to me. Why are you so upset?”
Gloria did as he’d asked, turning to face him and he could see the naked fear in her eyes. “I…” she started, then cut herself off, her gaze suddenly darting down and away from him as if she couldn’t meet his eye.
“Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out,” he said gently, tucking a finger under her chin and guiding her to look back up at him. “Look, I’m doing better. You were so afraid that infection was going to get worse but the fever’s broken now. I’ll be back to work before you know it. I thought you would be happy.” He searched her face, trying to figure out the kernel of her distress by watching her reaction to his reassuring words. However, the tension that rode her sky-blue eyes didn’t ease. “Come now, whatever you’re upset about, we’ll work it out together. But I can’t help if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”
She took a deep breath and laid a gentle hand on the center of his chest. Her eyes flickered up to his again, nervousness clear in her face even with her mind closed to his. Then, with nimble fingers, she looked back down and undid the top few buttons of his shirt. Her skin was incredibly smooth and warm as she laid her palm against his breast, her hand pressing directly over his heart.
“Even when you’re across the room, I can hear your heartbeat,” she said softly.
“And I can hear yours,” he replied, one thumb stroking her cheek even as he focused his acute hearing on the beautiful rhythm in her chest. When they were in the same room their pulses often aligned themselves but right now he could hear hers racing. And then… D’nay frowned as he picked up a tiny, fluttering heartbeat that made a treble counterpoint to the steady, adult pulses he was accustomed to. His eyes widened and he heard his own heart pick up as his gaze shot to Glory’s. “Is… that…”
She nodded, a tiny smile on the corner of her mouth though there was still fear in her eyes. “Yes,” she murmured, her shield cracking just a touch so that he could feel her combined terror and joy at the thought of a child. “I know we hadn’t discussed it. And it certainly wasn’t planned. Fates, I didn’t even know it was possible. But… it seems it is.”
D’nay shook his head, feeling a bit like she’d just slammed it into a wall. “You’re sure it’s… mine? I mean, Glory, I’m a dead man. Corpses don’t father children. Not to question you… but…” he blinked and took a step back, the floor suddenly feeling extremely unstable under his feet.
“A dead man who drinks orange juice and runs fevers,” Gloria pointed out, her hand gently slipping away from his chest as he retreated. She made no move to forestall him, yet she did take a small step closer so that he stayed within arm’s reach. Not a bad idea, if he was honest, seeing how suddenly dizzy he felt. “A corpse that has a pulse and makes love to his wife. Dear heart, you haven’t reverted to a real Vampire state in almost a decade. Is it so unbelievable that other aspects of your body have come back to life as well? Certainly, we’ve gone through the motions enough times.” She waved a hand as if to dismiss his arguments, “Anyway, it’s a moot point. The child is yours. I haven’t laid with another man since I came back to stay. So our philosophical protests aside, clearly you are mortal enough to have children at the moment because, in a little over seven months, you will have a son.”
D’nay stared at her a moment and knew that for once he’d completely lost control of his facial expression. Shock, delight, terror, tenderness, these emotions were too strong for him to hide as he looked at the incredibly beautiful woman who had made every wild fantasy he’d ever had become a reality.
“A son,” he breathed, one hand finding the back of a chair to steady himself even as an uncontrollable, giddy smile bloomed across his face. “Honestly, Glory? You’re sure? He’s… he’s mine? A son. My son. I need to sit down.” Suiting action to word, the rather-less-dead-than-most-Vampire all but fell into his kitchen chair and gawked openly at his pregnant wife.
“Yes, your son,” Gloria echoed, a bit of amusement in her perfect features as she took another step to close the distance between them. Sitting, his head came up to her shoulder which was a very intimate reversal of their usual height difference. He felt her powerful mind open enough to brush his and he let her see the incredibly intense, extremely jumbled but mostly positive emotions her revelation had brought up. Her smile deepened and she ran gentle fingers through his hair. “Our son,” she corrected, tilting her head at him, “Yours and mine. Sweet Fate, he’ll be a terror!”
D’nay couldn’t help a startled laugh at her cynical prediction. “That is a distinct possibility,” he admitted.
For a moment, Gloria studied his face and he found himself melting into her gaze as he had so many times before. Yet this time, it felt different. They weren’t just lovers or even spouses. They were going to be parents. They were going to be a family. D’nay had thought being Gloria’s husband was the best thing he could ever aspire to; that being alive and in her arms was the only thing he wanted in the world. Now, it seemed, she’d once again found a way to turn his universe upside down and, like the first time, he was discovering that it was a far more pleasant surprise than he could have imagined.
“I never knew you wanted a child so much,” she said softly, fingers still moving gently through his dark hair as her mind continued to slowly ease down the tight barriers she’d put up to block their intimate connection.
“I don’t think I did, either,” he admitted, “I mean, when I was small myself I was raised to think a man’s virility, his strength and character, were proven in his ability to father strong sons. These days, I’m not sure the gender matters so much, but siring healthy children is still a worthwhile goal of many men I know. I suppose, when Vivian turned me, I simply thought fatherhood was another shattered dream to throw at her feet. If I’d ever complained about it I’m sure the other Vampires would have simply told me to turn someone. They wouldn’t have understood how twisted that logic was even if I tried to explain it to them. So I just… put it out of my mind. I haven’t thought about it in a really long time.”
“But now that you have?”
He gave her a helpless smile. “Now that I have, well, what can I say? How many men can say their seed cheated death itself?” His eyes flashed with mischief as Gloria turned a delicate pink.
“He’s a person, D’nay, not a trophy,” she scolded him, though her small smile of amusement undermined the harshness of her criticism.
“Of course, of course…” he shook his head, taking her hand and putting it to his lips in a gesture of apology for his vanity. “You’re completely right. He’ll be… well… what will he be, Glory? Do we even know what the mixture of our natures will end up looking like?”
“No, I don’t think anyone knows for certain,” Gloria admitted, “Though, as Gen pointed out, your DNA isn’t changed by your curse. It may prevent you from passing it on, but I don’t think it actually alters the code itself. So if you’re mortal enough to father a child, I have to imagine it is D’nay Marsille’s DNA that contributed its half to our son, not D’nay di Vivian. If that’s the case, then he’s a Human-Galista cross, which has happened a few times over the centuries. It’s rare, but I did meet a half-mortal niece once. She was shape locked but her telepathy and telekinesis were almost on par with my own. I don’t think she aged like a mortal, either.”
“Shape locked,” D’nay frowned, “What, you mean he won’t be able to shift like you can?”
She shook her head. “Most likely not. But we will have to see about other psi. Anori gifts can vary greatly from one mixed-breed to another. We probably won’t know.. our little one’s… until he’s halfway grown.”
“Our little one,” the Vampire frowned, “That’s slightly awkward. I suppose we’ll have to come up with a name for him. Even if it doesn’t stick, we can’t just call him ‘baby’ until he’s born.”
“Hmmmm, I had a few thoughts about that, actually,” Gloria admitted, “What do you think of Michael?”
“The archangel?” D’nay actually had to laugh at that one, “Have you met his father? Setting him up to fall a little short of the mark, aren’t you?”
She scowled at her husband, blue eyes narrowing dangerously, “I’ll have you know that it’s a family name.”
The Vampire held up his hands helplessly. “I’m sure it is,” he agreed, “And I hope as much as you do that he takes after that side of the family. But perhaps something a little softer. If we’re going for biblical angels, what about Gabriel? He was a messenger, a bringer of good news. That might be a bit more attainable for a half-Human cross.”
“Gabriel,” Gloria echoed, face distant for a moment, “My mother named all of us with ‘G’ names which made things endlessly confusing at times. I always swore I wouldn’t do that to my children. But I have to admit, I like it.”
“Well, the next one can start with a completely different letter,” D’nay said sensibly, “I somehow don’t think we’ll see enough of your siblings for our son to get confused with them.”
His wife’s face turned three shades of white and green at that statement and for a moment he wondered if he was going to be catching her.
“Take it easy, love,” he put an arm around her waist and pulled her gently into his lap. His side hardly even ached as she leaned her weight against his torso. She hid her face in the bend of his neck, arms wrapping around his chest as if she couldn’t pull him close enough to her. He could feel her overwhelming fear despite the fact that her mental barriers had come slamming down again. “What did I say?”
“We can’t stay here,” she breathed into his shoulder. He could feel her shaking as he wrapped his arms tightly around her slim form. As always, he found her fragile-seeming frame such a beautiful contradiction to the bottled lightning reality of her nature. What in the multi-verse could possibly strike such bone deep terror into the woman who had quite literally killed an angel in his defense? D’nay found his mostly empty stomach beginning to turn again.
“Yes, I imagine we’ll need a bigger place,” he agreed, trying to keep his tone lighthearted enough to draw her out. The glare she gave him from inches away, however, was savage enough to make him drop the cavalier tone. “But that’s not what you meant, is it?”
She shook her head, a deadly serious look on her symmetrical features.
He felt his expression slowly coming to match the one of dread on her face. “Okay… well, where do you want to go? Tell me and I’ll make it happen. Things have been good at work lately and our lifestyle has always been far below our means. Despite my unplanned vacation, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about money no matter where you feel like taking off to.”
“I think… I think we’re going to have to really leave, D’nay,” she murmured, eyes distant as she put her thoughts together, “I mean, not just a different country. Hell, you could find me half-way across the globe. My family would be able to find us eventually no matter where we go on Earth. And if they can find us…” her voice trailed off, her face extremely blank even as those iron shields tightened so hard her mental voice almost seemed to disappear.
“Now you’re beginning to scare me,” he said, watching her face cautiously, “How can we go farther away than a different country? I mean, I understand there are other realities, but, if your people travel between them, how would one reality be better than another?” His eyes narrowed and he squeezed her arm to bring her attention back to him, “And if it isn’t Gambet and Barron you’re nervous about, who exactly is it you don’t want coming around?”
Gloria sighed, her eyes refocusing on his face briefly before darting around the room. “Well, my mother to start with. Barron could still file a complaint of mortis against me if he wanted to. In the interests of not angering my grandfather any more than he already has, he probably won’t. But it could happen. It would be my second complaint which means they might lock me up for a very long time. Over a century, if they wanted to get vindictive.”
“Even if you’re with child?”
“Yes,” she met his eye and he saw that pure steel that lay underneath her usually sunny exterior, “Even with a child who might not be able to survive the very atmosphere of Paradise. My half of his nature should protect him, but there’s no guarantees. A normal Vampire would die the instant they set foot in Paradise. Who is to say I could even carry our little Gabriel to term in my home city?”
D’nay felt his chest constrict with fear for a child he’d only just found out about moments before. And it was for the child, he realized, that first clench of fear. Not for the withdrawal and agony of separation he would have to endure if Gloria was locked away, nor for the suffering she would undoubtedly go through in the Immortal’s prison. Those came racing through his breast moments afterwards. But that initial pang of terror was for his son. Incredible that I can love him so completely already, he thought.
“Okay, so, we have to get far enough away that none of the Anori can find us,” his voice sounded breathless with fear but he really couldn’t help it at the moment.
“Anori… or Estori,” her voice wavered on that name and he could see this was the real fear she held. She met his eye again and he could see that she had decided to finally confide in him. It was a relief in a strange way to know that she trusted him enough to open up about her fears. However, whatever she was afraid of had to be truly horrifying to put such panic in her features.
“Estori?” he coaxed when she hesitated.
She cringed at the word, then took a deep breath and let down her barriers just a touch again. Her terror and dread poured ice into his veins and for a moment he could hardly breathe through her intense emotions. When he finally managed to suck air into his lungs, he discovered that they were clinging to each other again.
“You called my brother and Barron demons,” Gloria murmured, her head tucked under his chin. He could feel her hot breath on his collarbone and he tried to focus on the fact that they were both still alive and safe for a moment. It helped get his brain to focus through the sea of adrenaline. “You had no idea what you were saying, but the truth is, my family looks tame compared to the other end of the Immortal spectrum. And my mother… she has some enemies on that side of things. Enemies who would think our child is just the right combination of royal blood and vulnerability. Enemies who would take one look at a pretty, shape locked, quarter-Anori young man and decide that breaking his mind, body and soul would be the entertainment of the century.”
D’nay let her cling to him a moment while he tried to wrap his brain around the reality of Gloria’s world. For so long he had loved her, treasured the unique qualities of their relationship, felt safe and secure in the knowledge of her incredible strength and healing abilities. He hadn’t really dwelled upon her family, nor what other types of surreally powerful creatures there might be out there. Now that he’d experienced Gloria’s people, however, her fears seemed completely and utterly founded in reality. No wonder she hadn’t wanted to stay with him, he thought, she was terrified of turning him into a target. There was no way he’d be able to defend himself against something like Barron or one of those Estori on his own, let alone protect a vulnerable child.
“Far away,” he breathed, hand pressing his wife tightly against his chest, “So far no one will ever be able to find us…”
He felt her nod. “Yes, exactly. I didn’t want to risk another reality, what with how complicated our blood relationship is. Fate knows what a different set of supernatural laws would do to your metabolism,” her hands tightened on the back of his shirt and he felt the tension in her shoulders as she tried to curl completely into the shelter of his arms, “But I can’t think of another option. We’ll have to keep moving, shifting from reality to reality, never settling down…”
“That’s no way to raise a child,” D’nay protested, stroking her hair as much to comfort himself as his wife, “He needs a home. Loving parents are important and we know he’ll have those, but we can’t make up for the instability and fear of always being on the move.”
“We can wait a short while,” Gloria allowed, “I don’t want to stay in this city, but we could raise him on Earth for a few decades. Once he’s grown enough to understand, though, we need to leave this mortal realm.”
“Well, we have some time to think about it, then,” D’nay said firmly, projecting reassurance and love at his distraught wife. “Let’s focus on one thing at a time. Before we go looking for trouble, let’s take a deep breath and look at all of our options. We need to get ourselves through pregnancy and birth before we start worrying about puberty. I know we’re Immortals, so we have a tendency to take the longer view, but sometimes that can just make things more complicated than they need to be. Once in awhile, Humans have the right idea. For the next few months, we need to live in the moment. Right here, right now it’s just the two of us… well… make that the three of us… safe and warm in our own kitchen.”
In his arms, he felt Gloria take a shuddering breath before relaxing a touch. The fever pitch of panic in her mind eased as well and he kissed the top of her head before leaning back enough to look her in the face.
“Right here, right now,” she repeated, reaching up to touch his face. He could feel her leaning into his steady, calming presence. With a smile, he brought up the image of her with wings and sword drawn, easily facing down the whole Vampire court to have him. When he felt her doubt rise at that memory, he switched to the savage look on her face when she challenged Barron with nothing but her bare hands. There was a sliver of satisfaction from her on that count and he quickly let her see his complete and utter confidence in her.
“We’ll work this out,” he told her gently, tucking a lock of her hair behind one ear. “If we have a few decades to plan, I’m sure we’ll figure out an answer that will keep all of us safe. But in the meantime, I think we both need to sit down and eat breakfast.”
Gloria waved a hand as she leaned back from him. He was relieved to feel how much steadier she was; as well as the fact that she no longer felt the need to shield from him. “I already had breakfast an hour ago.”
“It wouldn’t hurt you to have a second one,” he told her as she slid from his lap, “I know I’m starving after the last two weeks and you always forget to eat when you get stressed. Combine that with eating for two and I’ve decided it is no longer up for debate. Sit.”
His wife arched a brow at him that looked mildly pissed. “Just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean you get to tell me what to do.”
He sighed and slid himself closer to the table so that he could resume his interrupted meal. “I’m sorry, that came out wrong. But, I’m not trying to control you, Glory. I’m just asking you to take care of yourself. And our child. How many times have you taken a more commanding tone with me when I neglect myself?”
He had a point there and she knew it. He saw it on her face as she stood next to the table with her arms crossed.
“Here,” he said, spreading another slice of bread with the homemade strawberry jam they kept on hand, “I know you love this stuff as much as I do. Just have a seat and keep me company, won’t you?”
Shaking her head ruefully, she slid into the chair beside him and accepted his offering. “So it begins,” she sighed, taking a bite of bread, “Have a man’s child and he thinks he owns you.”
“No, love, of course not,” he protested, meeting her still slightly angry gaze, “I’ll never own you and we both know that. I might as well try to lasso the moon or buy a star. But you’ve given me the magnificent gift of being my wife and soon to be mother of my child. So, please don’t get angry at me for wanting to take care of you.”
“Mother of your child,” she murmured, swallowing another bite, “Well, this is going to be an adventure of a completely different kind, isn’t it?”
He nodded and gave her an incredibly genuine smile. “Yes, I imagine it will be. But I’m looking forward to it, as long as I have you by my side.”
“You know,” that impish sparkle caught in her gaze and a real smile finally lit up her face, “I am, too.”