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Natalya Bristol
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:56 am    Post subject: Unexpected Guests Reply with quote

One particular housing estate in Brooklyn, New York, had a decidedly family feel to it these days, thanks in no small part to the investment of one busy-body of a woman who had charmed and strong-armed at least two other families into settling there. The block on which the Bristols lived was home not only to them, but to the Dalys, the Evans', and the Sparrowhawks, and their children were becoming interchangeable some days. Today, however, Rhys and Nat were keeping their own chaos confined, choosing to enjoy the adventure that was Ana lurching wildly after their dogs, Cody and Sasha, by themselves for once. They knew they were likely to get embroiled in some new adventure of their own at some point in the near future, but for now, they had the leisure to enjoy their family and each other.

And, of course, Rhys had the wonderful view of his wife trying to dig her stockinged heels in on the kitchen floor, and being dragged, inexorably, toward the open back door and the promise of being dumped in a snowdrift by both their rambunctious dogs. "Nyet!" Nat was laughing as she clung to the collars in her fingers. "Stop! Stop!"

While some men might rescue their wife from such a situation, Rhys was not some men. He only stood propped against the kitchen counter, arms and legs crossed, laughing as his wife was bodily dragged across the floor. Such was the way of the Bristol household these days, the tears of the past replaced with laughter. "Serves you right for getting them wound up!" he called to his wife, over her laughter, before pushing off the counter to swoop in to snatch their daughter off the floor before she followed them all out the door. Why the back door was open was another matter all together, as it had been opened so the dogs could do their duty, not drag their mistress out into the snow.

"Oooh, you ..." What Nat called her husband might have been cause for offense for some men, but it was declared fondly. Just as they reached the back door, she gave up, letting go of the collars to allow Cody and Sasha to bound joyfully into the snow in search of somewhere to do their thing. Breathless, Nat straightened, looking back at Rhys. "I am never going to learn to put my shoes on first, am I?"

"Maybe you're just a slow learner," Rhys replied with a smirk, not meaning to insult her but only to tease her. She knew he well enough by now to understand his sarcastic sense of humor, besides he owed her that for calling him names. "What do you say, Annybananny? Isn't Mama funny?" But before their daughter could answer his question, he was tickling her in the ribs.

The little girl in his arms crowed with laughter, torn between the antics of the dogs and her father's silly tickles. Nat chuckled to herself, pulling a pair of boots that really were impractical for the weather out from behind the door to pull them on. "If I were that slow, milaya, we might never have made the small monster cackling in your ear," she pointed out in amusement.

Rhys gasped, feigning shock. "Did you hear what Mama called you? She called you a monster? Shall we show Mama what a monster looks like?" he asked their daughter playfully, turning their daughter in his arms and stalking toward Nat with a gait that rivaled Frankenstein's monster.

"Mama!" Ana's arms reached toward Nat as she was borne in that direction, little feet kicking cheerfully, if dangerously close to said Mama's head.

"Ah, but all monsters have their weaknesses," Nat laughed, rising onto her feet once again to catch Ana against her chest and shoulder and deliberately sandwich the tiny girl between herself and Rhys, who got himself a kiss in the process. "Don't they, Papa?"

Rhys grinned as Nat rose to the occasion, sandwiching Ana between them to give him a kiss. They both knew that the two of them were both his weakness and his greatest strength. "And your kisses would be mine," he replied, touching a second kiss to her lips that lingered a bit longer than necessary.

"Just my kisses, dusha moya?" she asked innocently. Her timing could not have been more perfect - as she eased back, Ana twisted to plant one of her infamously wet, open-mouthed kisses directly onto Rhys' mouth, not much caring whether he was ready for it or not.

He would have answered if he hadn't been distracted by their daughter's wet kiss, laughing in amusement, even as he wiped toddler spit from his mouth. "Isn't that sweet? I think Mama wants one of those kisses, too, Ana!" he told her, mischievously instigating their daughter.

"Pucker up, malyutka," Nat grinned, making fish faces at their daughter. The nineteen-month-old was only too happy to oblige, slathering her mother's mouth and chin with toddler spit as she lavished kisses on the offered face. "You are very lucky I love you, little woman," Nat laughed, leaning back to wipe her mouth and chin. "All right, I should fetch a couple of bags and find where those silly dogs have decorated the snow."

Rhys laughed at the wet kisses Ana was sharing with her mother, before handing her over. "It's okay. I'll do it. You take the smoocher," he volunteered, more than happy to scoop poop, rather than have a surprise come spring.

"Ah, so I put my boots on for nothing!" Nat declared, her big surprised eyes more for Ana's benefit than anything. She eyed her suddenly quiet daughter suspiciously, and lifted the little girl high enough to sniff at her backside. Her eyes narrowed at Rhys in amusement. "Very sneaky, milaya. I am impressed."

"What? Poop is poop! At least, you get to stay warm while you clean up yours!" he exclaimed, as if he was doing her a favor by going out in the cold. "No take backs!" he warned, throwing up his hands, as if to ward them both away as he backed toward the door.

Laughing, Nat shooed him away. "Off you go, then, Papa," she said, waving her hand to usher him out through the door, and flinching out of the way as Ana did the same.

"Ow goo, Papa!"

Snickering softly, Nat kissed the little head close to hers. "One day soon, malyutka, you and I are going to discuss the wonders of the toilet from a practical point of view," she promised the little girl, heading toward the changing station on the other side of the kitchen counter.

Rhys chuckled at the little magpie that was their daughter mimicking her mother, as he pulled on his boots and coat and stepped outside. Thankfully, she had not learned to cuss yet, and Rhys was trying to be good by substituting silly words for the profanity that usually came out of his mouth.

It was a toss up as to which of them had gotten the easier task. On the one hand, Ana was all about trying to escape from her own mushy, smelly diapers right now, and surprisingly good at it; on the other hand, Rhys had to contend with two very playful dogs who were only too happy to pounce on him just at the moment he bent over to retrieve their little presents from the snow.

Rhys thought he'd been doing Nat a favor, but it was hard to say which chore was the worse of the two. Still, whichever he ended up with, he rarely complained. After all, this domestic life with Nat was all he had ever wanted, even if he did pine for Avalon now and then.

Still, their visits to Avalon were frequent and regular, keeping in close contact with the friends they had made there, and the family who lived there. With Ian and Aurelia finally living just across the street from them, in the house that adjoined Gina and Adam's new place, Rhys and Nat had everyone they loved within a heartbeat from their own home. By the time Nat was done with Ana, the little girl was yelling for her Papa again, a sure sign that she was either tired or hungry. As such, Nat held her hands as Ana toddled toward the back door, both of them lingering just inside as the little voice summoned her father insistently.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Coming!" Rhys called back, once he'd disposed of the doggie doo-doo and was ushering the pair back toward the house. He had obviously spent some time chasing the dogs around the yard, as evidenced by the tell-tale snow on his pants and boots, his cheeks flushed with cold. "Just whose idea was it to adopt two of these monsters again?" he asked as he stomped back toward the house, with the dogs at his heels. So far, the neighbors hadn't complained about the ruckus, but then, their closest neighbors were all their friends.

To be fair, with Lucky the police dog living next door, Sasha and Cody were getting a crash course in how to be a Good Dog, but they were still puppies. Nat grinned, hoisting Ana up onto her hip as the three other members of the house came back inside. The dogs headed straight for the family room, where they could be relied upon to curl up in front of the fire for a couple of hours. "I believe Lionel forcefully suggested it, and you rather rolled over and played dead when Sasha licked you," she informed her husband affectionately.

"Well, I never got to have a dog of my own, and they're good for Ana," he said, making excuses for himself and his lack of will power when it came to saying no to Sir Lionel. "Besides, there's no way anyone is going to try breaking in here with those two beasts on guard." While the dogs were as gentle as lambs and as playful as children, potential burglars didn't know that.

"This is very true," she agreed, holding tight to Ana to prevent Rhys being bowled over as his daughter attempted to lunge wildly at him. "I could be wrong, milaya, but I think she may be ready for her nap."

"What's the matter, Anybananny?" he asked as he plucked the little girl from her mother's arms, once he'd removed his coat and boots. "Are you getting sleepy?" he asked, cuddling the little girl close. Though she loved her mother dearly, she was definitely in danger of becoming a Daddy's girl.

Rubbing her eyes, Ana nodded as she sighed heavily, cuddling into Rhys' arms. Other mothers might have been a little jealous of that bond, but Nat knew that she would have two sons to dote on along with Ana some day, one of whom would bear her own brother's soul. She smiled as the toddler yawned and wrapped her chubby arms around Rhys' neck. "Definitely nap time," she chuckled. "I will clean up."

"Okay, I won't be long," he promised, though that all depended on whether he decided to nap with her or put her down in her bed. It was more than likely he'd put her down in her own bed, as it was the middle of the day, but all bets were off for bedtime.

Thankfully, Nat had gotten used to spending an hour or so at Ana's bedtime all on her own, and now the dogs were around, that hour was usually spent walking them, anyway. She found Rhys' close bond with their daughter more endearing than anything, never begrudging the fact that Ana would choose her Papa's company nine times out of ten if given the choice. In mid-afternoon, however, Rhys had finally gotten out of the habit of laying down with Ana, which meant he would be back in half an hour, at most. Time enough to make a couple of BLTs - heavy on the B - and a fresh pot of coffee for their own lunch.

Predictably, he was only gone about half an hour, just long enough to tuck their daughter into bed, tell her a story, and make sure she was safely asleep before creeping from the room. "She is really getting attached to me," he said, as he rejoined Nat in the kitchen. It never ceased to amaze him how much their daughter seemed to adore them both, but her adoration for him was especially amazing.

"Of course she is," Nat smiled at her husband, beckoning to him with one finger before pushing a sandwich laden plate across the counter to him. "She adores her Papa, and so she should. I happen to agree with her; he is the best man in the world."

"You're both biased, but I won't argue with that," he replied with a grin, as he was beckoned forward, not for a kiss but a bacon-laden sandwich, which to Rhys, was only second-best to one of Nat's kisses. "And you make the best sandwiches," he said, taking up one half of the sandwich and taking a bite. If anyone were to overhear the noises he made upon taking that bite, they might think more than lunch was going on in the Bristol kitchen.

Her lips curved in a soft smile as he kissed her, only to laugh once again at his compliment. "You have yourself to thank for that," she pointed out. After all, her cooking had been truly dire until he had taken her in hand. These days, she could at least produce a decent meal from scratch, provided she wasn't under too much pressure, and that was entirely thanks to Rhys' patience when it came to teaching her. Listening to his obscene enjoyment of her sandwiches made all the fuss worth it, though. "Should I leave you two alone for a while?" she teased, moving to sit at the table with her own sandwich and coffee.

He grinned around his sandwich at her. "They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach," he remarked, as he took up his plate and coffee to join her at the table.

"Obviously my aim was a little off when we met," she laughed, taking a mouthful of her own sandwich as her eyes sparkled at him teasingly. "I could have sworn I found your heart at the base of your cock, milaya."

"Not my fault you seduced me with your Mile High Club," he teased back a reply. "Don't forget - that was your idea, not mine! I was minding my own business when you insisted I join you."

"Oh, of course," she nodded sagely, her eyes still alight with sweet affection. "You had nothing to do with what happened after the screen was closed. You must have slipped."

"Oh, no! I take full credit for what happened after the screen was closed. My point is that you instigated it. Don't even bother denying it. I think I fell in love with you right then and there," he added with a grin, before taking another bite of his sandwich to finish one half of it off.

"So I am right," she crowed cheerfully. "The way to your heart is through what you hide in your pants." She reached over to pat the pertinent area. "Should I make you wear a chastity belt to which only I have the key, do you think?"

He arched a brow, his gaze following her hand. If she kept touching him like that, he could not be blamed for what followed lunch. "First off, I doubt such a thing exists, and secondly, you wouldn't be patient enough to get the thing off. Besides, don't you trust me?" he asked, pouting a little, though there was nothing genuine about it. She knew him well enough to know his heart - and all his other body parts - belonged only to her.

"Well ..." She seemed to consider it for a long moment before her smile reappeared, her hand rising to gently brush her fingertips against his cheek. "I would never put you in a metal diaper, dusha moya," she promised, glancing up at the sound of the doorbell. A faint frown touched her brow. "Who could that be? Are we expecting anyone?"

He smiled back at her, more at the caress of her fingers than at what she was saying, both of them knowing she had nothing to worry about where his fidelity was concerned. "Not unless you ordered Dominoes," he replied, with a smirk, though it was unlikely they'd order pizza from a chain when neighborhood pizzerias were a dime a dozen in the city.

The expression on her face was a pained grimace at the thought of eating the slop that might be delivered under that name. "Do not speak heresy," she told him teasingly, moving to her feet. "And leave my lunch alone, too." Her fingers smoothed through his hair as she passed behind him, heading out into the hallway and toward the front door.

There was a time when he would have followed her to the door, afraid for her safety, but he was unaware of any recent enemies and he doubted any of them would bother to use the doorbell. "It's probably one of the neighbors," he suggested mildly, though which one it was hard to say.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"They all have keys by now, don't they?" she called back, followed by the sound of the front door opening with a whoosh of cold air that reached even him at the back of the house. There was a pause, and he was treated to the sound of his wife's loud laughter, even as she greeted the visitors. "Rachel! How wonderful to see you! Oh, come in ... you too, bratishka. You look frozen!"

"That doesn't mean they'd just let themselves in," Rhys replied. After all, there was no telling what they might be up to at any time of day or where they might be up to it. But then, Nat was laughing, and Rhys couldn't help but go see who it was that was at the door, as surprised as she was to find his sister and her fallen angel. "What the he-heck are you doing here?" he asked, careful not to cuss. He looked as surprised as Nat to find them there, but not unpleasantly so.

Rachel and Zachariel had been dressed modern for their unexpected trip to New York, and while it looked as though they were wearing clothing cobbled together from Nat and Rhys' wardrobe back on Avalon, neither one of them suited modern clothing at all, Add to that the fact that Rachel had been swamped by a coat, hat, snood, and gloves, and she looked like an overgrown toddler herself. All that was really visible of Rhys' little sister was her bright eyes and big smile as she shuffled into the house, not even bothering to remove a single layer before she threw her arms around him. "We wanted to surprise you!"

Rhys smiled broadly as his sister threw her arms around him, returning her hug and brushing an affectionate kiss against her cheek. "You succeeded!" he told her, though she hadn't really answered his question. He stepped back to look at her once they were done hugging and drew her further into their home. "Who helped you dress?" he asked, chuckling at the sight of her, even as he attempted to help unwrap her from all those layers of clothing.

As for Zach, he muttered a quiet, polite greeting to Nat, following her lead. Ironically, he was probably more comfortable with the city than Rachel was, considering he'd been there before.

"Helene let us into your towerhouse," Rachel informed her brother cheerfully, letting him take charge of unwrapping her from her collection of cold weather clothing. "But I dressed myself!" She seemed so inordinately proud of this fact that it was difficult not to smile along with her.

Nat closed the door, reaching to take Zach's coat from him. "Would you like something warm to drink?" she asked her brother-in-law quietly, fairly sure Rhys and Rachel would be a while at taking off the various outer layers.

"I can see that," Rhys replied with a glance toward Zach, recognizing several of his castoffs, which didn't really fit the taller man. It was the pants especially that Rhys noticed first, which made it look like Zach was waiting for the proverbial flood. He returned his attention to unwrapping his sister, a warm smile on his face, while Nat tended to the angel.

"Yes, thank you," Zach replied in his quiet tone of voice. "It's still winter in Avalon, too. Sir Lionel wanted to be sure we'd be warm enough for the trip here."

"And I'm sure he thoroughly enjoyed looking through our closet," Nat chuckled, easing past the brother and sister to lead Zach into the welcoming warmth of the kitchen. Knowing a little about the Avalon diet, she put the kettle on to boil, hunting around for the loose leaf tea she and Bethany had become slightly addicted to after Gina had discovered the shop it came from.

Perked up by the arrival of visitors, Sasha and Cody came to investigate, complicating matters somewhat as Rachel's coat finally came off. Underneath that, Rhys' sister was wearing a skirt too long for her, and a jumper too short, but at least she had a decent top on.

Rhys smirked once his sister was finally unwrapped from her layers. He thought the two of them were dressed like homeless people, but thankfully he knew enough to keep his thoughts to himself or risk hurting her feelings. "You remember Sasha and Cody?" he asked, as he drew his sister into the kitchen to join Nat and Zach.

"How could I forget them?" Rachel beamed, giggling as Sasha inserted her nose up the long skirt. "They're from the same litter as Aggy and Leelee." She batted the inquisitive dogs away from what was under her skirt, shuffling into the kitchen with Rhys to enthusiastically embrace Nat from behind like a small child. It seemed as though Rachel was never going to lose that edge of innocence.

Laughing at her fright, Nat twisted to squish her sister-in-law in a warm hug. "You are very excitable today."

"Oh, Christ," Rhys muttered, rolling his eyes at the sight of the tea leaves his wife and Gina seemed to strangely fond of. "You're not gonna make them drink that, are you?" he asked, sounding appalled at the idea.

Zach gave Rhys an odd look at his choice of words, but made no comment regarding whether Christ really was who the Bible claimed him to be or not. Instead, he turned to Nat to remark on his wife's mood. "Yes, we have some news, and the Lady thought we should share it."

"News?" Rhys echoed, rifling through the cupboard for something better than tea.

Nat almost pouted, but didn't, more amused by Rhys' immediate veto of the tea in favor of something else. "Ah, the joys of the uncultured male palate," she teased, inserting Rachel into a seat at the table. She looked between Rachel and Zach curiously, taking in the brimming excitement in one and the calm serenity of the other. Her lips curved in a warm smile as she made a silent guess, glancing toward her husband.

"Yes, news!" Rachel declared, bouncing in her seat. "Get out of the cupboard, I want to see your face when we tell you!"

"I'm looking for something!" Rhys exclaimed back, his back turned to his sister. If he thought about it long enough, he might have been able to make a guess at the news, but he was too distracted with searching for the cocoa and marshmallows he knew were in the cupboard to think much on what had brought the pair here. Besides, he figured he was going to find out sooner or later. Zach was smiling softly as he came to stand behind Rachel, one hand coming to rest almost protectively against her shoulder, ever patient.

"Rhys!" Pouting now, Rachel appealed wordlessly to Nat as Zach laid his hand on her shoulder.

Trying hard not to laugh at the impatient eagerness in her husband's sister, Nat rose to her feet, laying her hands on Rhys' shoulders to physically turn him about and face his little sister. "Now, sestrenka," she nodded to Rachel.

The little blonde squealed with delight, gripping Zach's hand tightly, and blurted out, "We're going to have a baby!"

"What?!" Rhys exclaimed, as if there was nothing more important than hot chocolate at a moment like this, before Nat physically turned him to face his sister. He furrowed his brows in a brief moment of annoyance, his expression changing, softening as he recognized the excitement on his sister's face. What she told him wasn't entirely unexpected, and yet, his mouth dropped open wordlessly in a momentary state of shock, before his lips curled upwards in a grin. "The lessons paid off then!"

It wasn't, perhaps, the congratulations they'd been hoping for, but it was definitely Rhys. Nat laughed, rolling her eyes as she released her husband to move and embrace first Rachel, then Zach. "Congratulations," she told them both. "I am sure he will be an echo of his parents."

Rhys' grin softened, the affection he felt for his sister and even her husband shining through. "Congratulations, sis," he told Rachel, waiting his turn to give her a hug and making sure it was a good one.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"It is a strange feeling to know one is going to have a small child," Zach admitted. He hadn't had much time to wrap his head around it, and while he was happy, he was also a little confused.

"I knew you had it in you," Rhys grinned at the angel, slapping his back to congratulate him. "This calls for something even more special than hot chocolate," he said, beaming a smile at them both.

Squeezing her brother delightedly, Rachel was still radiating that exuberant excitement as she bounced up and down on her toes. She had been longing for a baby ever since Ana had been born; whether they were ready or not, she couldn't be happier. "Isn't it wonderful?" she declared joyfully. "And he's going to be handsome just like his father!"

Nat chuckled softly at the sheer delight on her sister-in-law's face, but she recognized the vague trepidation Zachariel was managing to hold back. She remembered that feeling well. "You will be an excellent father, Zach," she assured him gently, the only one of the four of them who had actually seen the evidence for herself. "I do not doubt that your son will want for nothing."

"I hope so, Natalya," Zach replied, looking a little relieved to hear her say it. As long-lived as he was, he had not been mortal very long and was still unsure of his place in the world. His only real desire was to make Rachel happy, and it appeared from the look on her face that he had succeeded. Nothing else really mattered.

"It's awesome news!" Rhys agreed, forgetting the cocoa and coming up triumphantly with a bottle of something from the cupboard that he'd been saving for a special occasion.

"I've been saving this for a special occasion," he declared as he set an expensive bottle of Courvoisier XO in the table. Though Rachel might be pregnant, he didn't think a sip would make much difference. "This is the real stuff. Straight from Europe."

Nat squeezed Zach's hand gently, ushering him to the table to corral his wife before she broke something in her exuberant bouncing. The sight of the bottle Rhys set down made her smile deepen; the two months they had spent driving his Mustang from St Petersburg to Glastonbury were among the best of her lifetime. She remembered him doing some serious research before picking that bottle, too. "I will fetch the glasses," she promised, slipping out of the kitchen to the living room, where the drinks cabinet lived.

Rachel watched her go, turning her eyes back to Rhys curiously. "What is it?" she asked her brother curiously. "Is it a magic potion?"

Zach looked relieved at the reaction from the other couple to their news, afraid they might not have been as accepting and happy for them as they'd hoped. He wasn't quite sure what Nat wanted from him, but he instinctively took hold of Rachel's hand and drew her back down into her chair. "You should sit, Rachel," he suggested quietly, one hand going to rest against her middle, where somewhere inside a baby had started to grow.

Rhys grinned at the two of them as Nat went to fetch glasses. "Not magic, no, but it'll warm your insides a lot faster than tea! Just don't drink too much of it. It has a pretty good kick."

Beaming up at Zach, Rachel laid her hand over his. There was nothing evident beneath his palm to say that they truly were expecting, but the Lady was never wrong. "All right," she agreed to his suggestion, despite her twitchy happiness, only too pleased to do whatever he told her to. Sinking down into a chair, she tangled her fingers with his as her attention returned to Rhys. "Is it bad for me?" she asked a little worriedly. "The Lady says there are lots of things I am not allowed now."

Overhearing this as she came back into the kitchen, Nat chuckled, laying a leather-bound box down on the table. Inside were four cognac glasses nestled in blue velvet, each one older than the cognac they were about to partake of. "A small snifter of this just once will not be bad for you, or for your baby," she promised, setting the glasses out.

Zach claimed a seat nearby so that he could be near his wife, his fingers tangling with hers, warm and gentle, ever the guardian and protector.

"So long as you don't make a habit of it," Rhys added, knowing that was unlikely to happen, so long as the pair lived in Avalon under the Lady's protection.

Zach nodded his head, as if to reassure her that all would be well. "Just this once," he said, echoing Nat.

Another thought occurred to Nat, and she suddenly whirled from the room once again. "I will be right back!" she promised, and a moment later, they heard the sound of her footsteps thumping up the stairs.

Rachel giggled faintly, leaning over to sniff at the cognac. "It smells bad."

"So does medicine, but that doesn't mean it isn't good for you!" Rhys countered with a grin. He wasn't too sure where Nat had hurried off to, but he knew she'd be back. "I'm surprised the Lady let you come here alone without an escort," he remarked, as he worked on getting the bottle open.

"I have been to the city before," Zach pointed out, though things had changed drastically since he'd been here countless years ago.

"Well, you should be safe enough so long as you're with us," Rhys replied. It wasn't that he didn't trust the other couple; it was only that he knew how innocent they both were and didn't trust the city so much.

"See? I have an escort," Rachel pointed out, smiling at her husband. "And she said she would contact Nat, but I said no, because then it would not have been a surprise." It seemed as though not even the Lady of Avalon could bear to disappoint Rachel sometimes.

Footsteps marked Nat's swift return before she arrived in the doorway, a little out of breath, but smiling. "What is this?" she asked curiously, glancing at the glasses. "Still no cognac?"

"We were waiting for you," Rhys explained, as he went about filling each snifter. "Rachel was just telling me how she wanted to surprise us," he explained, bringing Nat up to speed. "What else did the Lady say? Did she have anything to say about the baby?"

"Ah, I see." Nat smiled, easing herself down into a seat at the table, her closed hand resting on the smooth wood comfortably.

Rachel looked at Zachariel, not sure how much they were supposed to share of what the Lady had told them. "She said he will come in the last days of summer," she offered innocently. Despite everything she'd witnessed, it seemed as though only experiencing pregnancy and birth would cement in Rachel's mind just what was involved in making a child.

"A-ha!" Rhys exclaimed with a grin, catching the clue perhaps even Rachel had. "He! It's a boy!" he said, handing each of them a snifter in turn, starting with Zach.

The angel sniffed at the liquid, finding it neither offensive nor particularly appetizing, but it seemed to mean a lot to his brother-in-law to enjoy it.

Once the glasses had been passed around, Rhys lifted his toward them in a toast. "Congratulations and here's hoping for a happy, healthy nephew."

Careful not to roll her eyes at Rhys' belated realization that he was going to be an uncle to a nephew, Nat took up her own glass, warming the liquid in the bowl of her hand as she swirled it. "Da, congratulations," she agreed with her husband. "A long time in coming, and definitely deserved."

Rachel smiled almost shyly, unused to being quite so close to the center of attention despite her eagerness to tell the world about her new state. She raised the glass in front of her, considering it for a moment, and attempted a tiny sip. So good was the cognac, however, that her tiny sip evaporated in her mouth before she even tried to swallow, making her eyes water at the unexpectedly strong fumes. "Goodness ..." she managed weakly, setting the glass down as though the contents were trying to kill her.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rhys grinned over at his sister and her reaction to the cognac, which he knew had to be a new experience for her. "Good stuff, isn't it?" he asked, more statement than question, not really expecting an answer. He took a sip of his own, savoring it as it warmed its way down his throat, his expression one of pure enjoyment.

Zach, too, took a sip - a deeper one than his wife, finding the liquid strangely invigorating, though it wasn't the best tasting stuff in the world.

"Uh ..." Rachel wavered, glancing at Nat for a little support, since it seemed as though the men were happy to enjoy the drink as it was.

Natalya took pity on her, waiting until Rhys was absorbed in watching Zach drink before tipping the contents of Rachel's glass into her brother's with a wink.

Rachel giggled softly, taking the hint to pretend to drink the dregs that were left as Nat sipped her own with a smirk.

And of course, Rhys never noticed that Nat was being sneaky, though Zachariel did. He caught Nat's gaze, but said nothing of what he'd seen, trusting Nat to know what she was doing. The mere fact that Rhys had chosen this occasion to open the bottle he had been saving for so long was enough to say how much this moment and their news meant to him. "So," he started, taking another sip of his cognac, puzzling over the glass a moment as it seemed to have refilled itself. "Have you two discussed names? Rhys is a good, strong, masculine name for a boy," he said with a grin.

"Uh, no, we have not discussed names yet," Zach replied, taking Rhys perhaps a little too seriously.

Rachel giggled a little louder, setting down her now empty glass as she shifted to lean against Zachariel's side. "We have months and months to think about names, Rhys," she pointed out. "But I really wanted you and Nat to know our news, that's why we're here. And, and ... you're the only people we know who have done this normally. Aurelia was pregnant for nearly two thousand years!"

Nat choked on her cognac at that, spluttering as she laughed and groped for something to wipe her mouth with. "Do not tell her that!"

"Two thousand ..." Rhys echoed, brows furrowed before he realized what his sister meant by that. "Oh, right." The slight to his pride and ego was long forgotten over the fact that Aurelia and Ian had been able to actually meet Arthur.

"You cannot be more than two months along if you are due at the end of the summer," Nat offered, steering away from Ian and Aurelia's connection with Avalon. The prospect of a new baby was the important thing here. "You will soon start to show, sestrenka."

"I will?" Rachel looked down at her currently flat belly curiously. "And will I be big, like you were?"

Rhys, too, didn't linger on Aurelia or Ian. Like his wife, he was too pleased with the thought of becoming an uncle to dwell on much else. "Here's to you, Zach!" he said, lifting his glass to his brother-in-law. "I wasn't sure you had it in you." The hell with sipping - he drained his glass of cognac, eyeing the others for not finishing theirs, though he was duly impressed with Rachel for finishing hers.

Zachariel arched a puzzled, blond brow. "It is not I who is with child. It is ..."

But before he could finish, Rhys was lifting a hand to silence him. "Credit where credit is due. You did your part, too."

"It would not be a boy if you had not helped me," Rachel informed her husband, trying not to giggle at the approval on her brother's face when he noticed her empty glass.

Nat had an excuse - Rhys knew she liked to savor her alcohol, and he'd often expressed disbelief that she could make a single glass of wine last for an entire three course meal. "Milaya," she said gently, reaching out to touch his wrist. "Slowly."

Rhys couldn't help but chuckle at his sister's remark. "You do realize he'd be as much to blame for a girl as a boy," he remarked with a smirk, before turning to Nat, furrowing his brows at her warning. "I've only had one," he told her, choosing to ignore the fact that his glass had refilled itself, as if by magic. "Besides, I've been saving this bottle for a very special occasion, and I can't think of anything more special than this," he said as he refilled all their glasses, but Rachel's. "Na Zdorovie!" he toasted them again in almost perfect Russian.

"But I thought that men make boys and women make girls," Rachel said earnestly, proving that for all her progress of the last few years, she was still beautifully childlike in some ways. "At least I don't believe in the baby tree anymore."

"That was one of the most endearing things I have ever heard anyone say about pregnancy," Nat told her sister-in-law, glancing at Rhys' unknown third measure with a faint smirk. Her eyes met Zach's, fairly sure he knew where the imbibing was heading. "Will you stay to dinner?"

Rhys couldn't help but comment on his sister's innocent remark. "Nope, men make boys and girls alike. it's kinda like a box of chocolates," he added, doing his best Forest Gump impression. "You never know what you're gonna get."

Zach was watching Rhys curiously. Though he understood the biology of making babies, he also recognized the early signs on inebriation. "Perhaps you should do as Natalya says and slow down, brother." Distracted by Nat's question, he looked her way, but before he could respond, Rhys was answering for him.

"Of course, they're staying! They didn't come all this way just to have a drink. Oh, we should take them to Coney Island while they're ..." He broke off with a frown, realizing the amusement park was closed until spring, muttering, "Crap."

Unfortunately for Nat's continued ability to keep a lid on her amusement, Rachel took her brother's statement all in one go, gasping in offense. "We are not cr - what you said," she protested, looking to Zach for reassurance. "Are we?"

It didn't help that Natalya was now laughing hard as she rose to her feet to investigate their cupboards. No doubt Rhys would rather order out, but she had a feeling Zach and Rachel might prefer a home cooked meal.

"I do not think that is what he meant, beloved," Zach replied, patting Rachel's hand reassuringly.

It took Rhys a minute or two for his sister's reaction to catch up with him before he laughed uproariously, pointing at Nat to explain due to his inability to form words at the moment.

Rolling her eyes, Nat smiled, turning back to reassure the other couple. "He remembered that Coney Island is closed until spring," she explained to them. "It was an exclamation of discontent, though he knows he is not supposed to be using words like that. Ana is copying everything these days."

As if on cue, a small voice from upstairs suddenly shouted, "S'it! Boo s'it!", making Nat groan as she chuckled. "That nap is getting shorter and shorter," she mourned comically.

"Like father, like daughter," Rhys remarked proudly, as if his daughter's habit of mimicking his swearing was something to be proud of. He would have volunteered to go get her, but even Rhys knew he was feeling a little too tipsy to be trusted with carrying a toddler down the stairs. "So, what are we doing for dinner? I know this place that makes the best pizza!"
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"I will cook," Nat told him, ruffling her fingers through his hair as she passed by, Sasha close at her heels. Cody was too busy investigating Zach's bare ankles to be lured away with the possibility of seeing the baby just woken up.

Rachel blinked, giggling a little. It was very different seeing Rhys and Nat here in their modern home, in the outside world; it suited them more, but at the same time, it felt a little intrusive. "What is pizza?" she asked her brother, her smile deepening as she realized just why he wasn't leaping up to get his daughter. "You are tiddly!"

"So long as it isn't borscht!" Rhys warned, as his wife made her way toward the stairs. He leaned toward his sister, stumbling a little as he lost his balance and lowered his voice. "Borscht is disgusting. It's made with beets!"

Zach would have reached out to steady his brother-in-law, but he was too distracted by the dog's cold nose sniffing at his ankles.

"We are totally getting a pizza before you go back to Avalon!" Rhys added, pointing a finger at his sister, before finally dropping into a chair. He looked from his glass to the bottle, debating a refill. How many had it been so far? Two or three?

"Put the coffee on," Nat called from the stairs - she knew her husband far too well, after all. "Drunk in charge of a toddler is not allowed!" Said toddler added, "Summa bits!", setting her mother to laughing as her footsteps faded into the nursery.

Rachel couldn't help laughing herself at the silly family. "Beets are not horrible," she pointed out, eying her brother thoughtfully. "How do I put the coffee on?"

"Beets are evil," Rhys replied, shuddering at the thought of them in soup or otherwise. He furrowed his brows at the mention of coffee, knowing why Nat was suggesting it. "I'm not drunk!" he called back, chuckling at their daughter's language. "That's my girl." He moved to his feet to do as he was bid. "I'll get it," he volunteered. "Not so drunk I can't make coffee," he muttered to himself.

Confused by the muttering and the laughter, Rachel turned her eyes to Zachariel curiously. "Are beets not the same as beetroots?" she asked him, wondering if she had made a mistake. "And will our baby shout naughty words to make us get him out of bed?"

"I believe so, yes," Zach replied, seriously, a more thoughtful expression at her second question. "Only if we teach them to him," he said, giving a very pointed look at Rhys as if to say, "Only if he learns them from his Uncle Rhys."

"Oh, so beets are not evil, then." Rachel nodded to herself, pleased to have had this made clear. She followed Zach's look toward Rhys with a sunny smile. "Or Lionel," she pointed out. "He does not use rude words, but he is a little bombastic at times."

"No, they are not evil," Zach confirmed. Thankfully, Rachel kept talking or he might have gone on a long dissertation about what qualified as evil and what did not.

"Bombastic," Rhys echoed, chuckling. "I like that. What's it mean?" Tipsy or not, from the looks of it, he wasn't having much trouble getting the coffeepot going anyway.

"It is like when someone sounds very important and knowledgeable, but is really talking absolute nonsense," Rachel told her brother, preening happily at knowing something he didn't. "Lionel does that sometimes. On purpose."

"You're right. He does," Rhys agreed, though he rather liked that about Lionel, except when he had no clue what he was talking about. He furrowed his brows as considered something, turning to face his sister and her husband. "Do you think I'm bombastic?" he asked them both. Zach opened his mouth to reply, but then closed it again, allowing Rachel to field that question first.

Rachel's eyes widened as she was suddenly put on the spot, not wanting to offend her brother. "Um ... sometimes?" she offered apologetically. "Everyone is sometimes."

"Everyone is what, sometimes?" Nat asked, reappearing in the kitchen with Ana tucked onto her hip.

As soon as the toddler set eyes on the visitors, she let rip with a loud crow of delight, waving her arms at them. "Unk Za! Ar Ray!"

Rhys would have disagreed with his sister, pointing out that she was being bombastic about everyone else being bombastic, if not for the timely interruption by their daughter.

Zach's face brightened at the sight of their niece. It was no secret that he had a soft spot for the child - and for all children, in general. "Hullo, Ana," he greeted her with a warm smile.

"First come, first served," Natalya announced, depositing Ana into Zach's lap with a chuckle. Well, he had spoken first. As the toddler gabbled at her uncle and aunt in her own mixed up language that was only occasionally recognizable, Nat moved over to the counter to get the little girl a drink, gently nudging Rhys' shoulder. "Do you think you will be sober enough to eat dinner without a bib, milaya?" she teased him affectionately, knowing full well that it took a lot more to get Rhys Bristol falling down drunk.

"I'm not that drunk, Nat," Rhys whispered back. It was true his tolerance for alcohol was a bit higher than most, but whether it was because of something in his DNA or another reason wasn't clear. "Don't worry. I'm switching to coffee," he assured her, touching a kiss to the tip of her nose.

She chuckled, leaning into him fondly as he kissed her nose. "No borscht, I promise," she assured him. "How do you feel about stroganoff?"

Behind them, the noises from the table suggested that Ana had the full attention of both her uncle and her aunt, and no amount of kisses was going to stop her from telling them all about her nap, in great detail, whether they understood her or not.

Stroganoff wasn't quite pizza, but his wife's cooking had improved vastly since they'd gotten married. "I can do stroganoff, but we're having pizza at least once before they leave!" he warned with a grin. He glanced over at the trio at the table, with Ana babbling away at them, and he couldn't help what next came out of his mouth. "When do you think we should have another?"

"Then they are staying at least a day!" Nat countered laughingly, stepping away for a moment to put the robust sippy cup down on the table. With Ana entertaining their guests, there was no need to keep up conversation just yet. Rhys' unexpected question, however, made her blink in surprise, her lips curving in a soft smile. "Soon, I think," she told him softly. "Ana is almost two years old. I do not think Micah will be too much longer in arriving."

"Do you think I'm rushing things?" he asked worriedly, though it should come as no big surprise that he was anxious to expand their little family. He adored his daughter, and there would always be a special place for her in his heart, but he was anxious to have another, as promised by the Lady. "But I don't want us to steal Rachel's thunder either," he added with a frown.

"Do you truly believe she would begrudge you a son to grow up with her own?" Nat asked him softly. She didn't believe so herself; Rachel was beautifully tender-hearted, and very easily pleased. It would be Zach, Nat thought, who might feel it was unfair should they, too, start expecting so soon after Rachel had conceived. "The vision you saw placed myself as pregnant with Ana as a toddler," she reminded him affectionately. "My vision told me that they could not be more than three years apart in age. I will be pregnant by the end of the year, milaya, I am sure of it."
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"But visions are just sneak peeks at things that might happen, not things that will happen," he reminded her. Though he was convinced the vision he'd seen in the Lady's well didn't lie, the choice was still theirs. "I'm happy for them. Really, I am," he added, as if he was trying to convince himself as well as her.

"I know you are, milaya," she assured him, curling her arms about his waist. "But you are anxious for our family to grow, and you cannot help but be a little jealous that they will have a son before us. Da?" She kissed his cheek affectionately. "We will have more," she promised him. "We simply cannot rush these things."

"It's not about who's first," he explained, unsure if he could properly express his feelings. He returned her embrace, tucking her close, his voice quiet enough that it wouldn't carry to their guests. "I know. I love you, Nat. And I'm sorry I'm a little tipsy."

She chuckled softly, nuzzling to his neck. "It's my fault," she apologized to him. "I poured Rachel's measure into your glass when you were not looking." She showed him her grin, unrepentant in the knowledge that he would feel better knowing that she was the reason he was a little tipsy. "I love you, too, dusha moya. Play with your sister and your daughter; I will cook."

"Oh," he smirked, chuckling a little. "I was wondering who refilled my glass when I wasn't looking." He wouldn't hold it against his sister or his wife that Rachel hadn't imbibed. The look on her face when she'd taken her first sip was amusing enough. "You're the best, Natty," he replied, smiling as he touched a kiss to her lips. It wasn't the most romantic of endearments, but he was feeling a little tipsy so maybe she'd forgive him.

"Better than that," she murmured against his lips. "I am yours." Nuzzling close for a long moment, the affectionate display was only cut short by their daughter noticing that Mama was getting more of Papa's love than she was.

"Papa suck!"

Snorting with laughter, Nat drew back, looking over at the toddler now standing on Zach's lap, one hand gripping his hair tightly as she pointed at her parents. "Papa does not suck, malyutka," she informed her daughter cheerfully. "Zachariel, how are you with preparing meat?"

Rhys chuckled upon hearing their daughter's outburst and untangled himself from his wife to pour himself a cup of coffee. "Rach, think you can carry our saucy miss into the living room?" he asked, not trusting himself with carrying Ana while he was feeling a bit tipsy. With any luck, the coffee would help with that.

"I can do that," his sister nodded, holding her hands out to Ana. "Shall we go and get comfy, Ana? You can show me your toys!" Distracted from her momentary jealousy over a cuddle that she hadn't been a part of, Ana beamed, lunging into Rachel's arms with enthusiasm as her aunt stood up. "Which way?"

Rhys gestured in the direction of the living room, before taking up a cup of coffee. "I'm right behind you!" he warned, waiting for the pair to lead the way.

Zach seemed to still be puzzling over the question regarding the preparation of meat, looking just slightly relieved to have Ana no longer tugging at his hair. "Preparing meat?" he asked, curiously.

"Beef," Nat clarified with a smile, pulling a packet of fillet steak from the refrigerator. "I am not terribly fond of touching raw meat myself, and Rhys is a little too tipsy to be trusted with a sharp knife, as you can see. I need that cut into bite-sized pieces, if you would possibly do the honors?"

"I can do that," Zach replied, moving to his feet as Rachel and Rhys moved to the living room to play with Ana. He made his way toward the cupboard, more than willing to help in any way he could.

"So," Nat said, already chopping vegetables and assembling ingredients on the counter in front of her as the siblings disappeared from sight, "just how frightened are you of being a papa, Zachariel?" She glanced at him with a gentle smile. "I remember being terrified of becoming a mother. I was very sure that I would never be a good parent."

The unexpected question brought a small frown to his face, as he contemplated the packet of meat on the counter in front of him. "It is rather daunting, but the Lady assure me I will be a good father. She says I have had many eons of practice as a guardian." Though they both knew it would take more than just watching over a child to be a good father.

"She knows what she is talking about," Nat nodded in agreement. "But it was not the caring for the child that worried me when I was newly pregnant. What I feared was that I would never find a bond with my daughter, that she would forever prefer to be with her father and not love me as I longed for her to do. I thought I would resent having to share Rhys with her." She smiled faintly. "I do resent that sometimes, da," she admitted in amusement, "and she does prefer her father's company to mine, but she loves me. I do not know how I know that, but it is beyond doubt. It is normal, to worry about such things, bratishka. And you have many helping hands on Avalon to guide you."

Zach's frown deepened as he contemplated both the packet of meat and Natalya's words. He had learned how to make himself useful in the kitchen, and though necessary, cooking was not a chore he much savored. "You and Rhys make it look so easy," he said, as he unwrapped the packet of meat and set about cutting it into pieces, unsure if there was a right or wrong way to go about doing it. "I do not resent you or Rhys, but I know nothing about being a father."

"We knew nothing about being parents until we had Ana to care for," she reassured him, her hands busily cutting potatoes, mushrooms, and onion. Stroganoff was a Russian recipe, and one Rhys, amazingly, did not object to. "It will come to you, I promise. It seems overwhelming and frightening, but you will have no choice but to be a father. And I have no doubt that you will be a wonderful father, Zach."

"Yes, but I have only been mortal a short time. I know nothing of babies or children," he pointed out, though babies and children seemed fond of him, sensing perhaps some sort of inate gentleness and innocence about him. "I am, of course, happy for Rachel, but I am not sure we are ready." But then, who ever was really ready to have their first child?

Nat paused, wiping her hands on a cloth before gently touching his arm. "If you were not ready, bratishka, it would not be happening," she told him confidently. "The Lady would not have allowed you to create a life, if she did not believe that both of you are ready to nurture and raise a child."

He paused to consider that before replying, his gaze turning toward her momentarily. "You are right, of course. I do not know how she knows such things, but she seems to know." He paused momentarily again, as if deciding whether to share this next bit of news or not. "She asked me once if I missed my wings and would like them back."

With the enticing smell of butter melting in a pan to overlay their talk, Nat returned to cooking, flicking on the fryer to heat up. "I must admit, I am curious as to your answer," she confessed with a smile. "I would venture to guess that it is not your wings you miss, but what they represented."

"There are no angels in Avalon, Natalya," he pointed out, as if that should answer her question. Obviously, he had declined the Lady's offer, since they were still living in Avalon and his back was unencumbered by wings. "I do not miss being an angel so much," he added by way of explanation. "It is the ability to aid people's suffering that I miss."
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Your work at the library is not as fulfilling as you would like?" she asked him, curious but not wanting to press him too hard. Zach always seemed to find it difficult to confide in anyone, though he and Nat had shared advice with one another a few times in the past. "Have you thought of, perhaps, training in some other profession? To give half your day to the library, and half to something a little more practical?"

"I do not wish to complain. The Lady has given me so much," he told her honestly. As a former angel, it was almost impossible for him to lie, though he often kept his own feelings to himself. "I am the only one who understands Enochian," he pointed out further, and now that he was mortal, his time was limited.

"It is in the nature of mortal men and women to complain," Nat assured him gently. "It does not mean that we are unhappy at heart." She glanced at him with a faint frown as he pointed out his unique skill. "Perhaps you should give some thought to teaching."

"Perhaps," he admitted, though he was unsure how good he'd be at it. "The Lady has seen one of our sons becoming the next Grand Master," he reminded her, as if this was important somehow. "I am the only one who can teach him the language, and it is a difficult language to learn."

She considered her brother-in-law for a long moment. "Rhys could, perhaps, learn, if he had the will and patience for it," she suggested, "but have you spoken to Yves? He is a Templar, da, but he is greatly inclined toward learning. Even if you should choose not to teach him, he will be able to help you develop a manner in which to teach someone else."

"I must teach someone," Zach replied, furrowing his brows, all his attention focused on cutting the meat into bite-size pieces. Just traveling to New York was a risk. What if something happened to him there? There would be no one who knew Enochian. No one who could translate the texts or pass along the history of the world, as he knew it.

Nat was silent for a long moment. She had a feeling that the Lady might have a hand in making sure the right son had a predisposition toward learning the tricky language that was worrying his father so much, but she dared not tell Zach that. He might not react well to it. "I would suggest talking to Yves," she told him, confident in that scholar, at least. "He may have students of his own who have an aptitude toward language."

"I will do so upon our return," he promised, without much contemplation. It was a practical suggestion and one he'd been considering for some time. "The language is ..." He paused a moment before continuing. "It is not only difficult but sacred," he said, adding, "I believe I am done preparing the meat."

"Ah, spasibo," she thanked him, flipping the cut meat into a pan to sear. "Nicely done, bratishka." She smiled at him, half an eye on the onion mixture cooking in another pan. "You would be happier, I think, with a Christian who wished to learn?" she asked him curiously. "For the Abbey on Avalon has its own share of scholars among the monks there."

"A Templar is Christian enough. Heaven is not only for those who believe in Christ, sestrenka," he reminded her. He not only spoke fluent Russian, but every other language known to man, as well as a few others. One lifetime might not be enough, unless he shared some of those languages with others.

She smiled at how easily her native language came to his tongue. Slowly but surely, Rhys was picking up the odd word here and there, occasionally employing endearments in Russian, but she had never asked him to. "Would it be awful of me to admit that I am not sure I believe in Heaven any longer?" she asked Zach softly. "I was raised in the Orthodox faith, yet I was also raised with an intimate knowledge of the occult. I was very unhappy with my decision to join Avalon when I first made it; I thought I was betraying my faith. But my faith has changed. Am I damned, do you think?"

"I can assure you that Heaven is real, but it is not the only destination for souls in the afterlife," he replied, not judging her either way. "I am not sure I will be welcome in Heaven now that I am no longer an angel," he told her, though his situation was quite different from hers. His soul was tied to Rachel's in ways he could not explain.

"I do not think any of us will be in the afterlife for long," she smiled, shaking her pan to turn the meat. "We have all been promised other lifetimes with the ones we love. Who knows? Perhaps next time I will have a family who loves me enough to let me go my own way."

Zach held up his hands, glancing at the sink as if to sort out how to turn on the water. Angel or not, he had been mostly an observer and was not too familiar with modern gadgets and technology. "But you will still be with Rhys," he reminded her. "Your souls are linked, as are mine and Rachel's."

"I know," she smiled, reaching over to turn the taps for him. "Press down on that nozzle for soap ... And I will not be with Rhys until I am old enough. It would be nice to have both my parents, and to be loved by them, perhaps." She shrugged lightly. "For now, all I can do is love my family and hope that they love me."

"I do not have parents," Zach pointed out, eyeing the nozzle curiously before doing as she said and scrubbing his hands clean. "I am sorry about your parents, but perhaps one day you will be reborn to one of your own grandchildren."

She laughed softly. "That would be nice, but where then will Rhys be?" she pointed out. "If anyone deserves to be born again into a family they created, then it is Rhys. My soul has been utterly alone for millenia, Zach. Twenty years is nothing to that."

"I do not know, but I'm sure things will work themselves out somehow," he said, for lack of a better response. In his opinion, he thought Nat deserved a loving family, perhaps more than he or Rhys, but it didn't seem like something they needed to worry about right now.

"I think Avalon, at least, has a vested interest in seeing us all well placed if it is possible," Nat pointed out with a smile. She glanced at the fryer, chuckling a little as she transferred the beef, mushroom, and onion mixture into a different pan and added a pot of cream. "Dinner will not be more than twenty minutes now," she told him. "You may escape with dignity and begin herding the others to the table."

"I think you are right," he said, a smile at last brightening his face. "I do not mind keeping you company," he admitted, that smile softening. Though he rarely admitted his feelings openly, it was no secret how fond his was of his sister-in-law. After all, like her, he had no real family of his own, save her and Rhys.

It was good to see him smile, Nat thought, glad that he was comfortable enough with her to let that rare smile show. "Then, bratishka, I will have to give you something else to do," she teased him fondly. Zach would likely never know how much he was like the brother she had lost years before, and she was not cruel enough to tell him. But it felt nice, to have a brother again.

"I am happy to help," he assured her with a fond smile. Why else would he have stayed in the kitchen? The truth was he was far more comfortable with Nat than he was with Rhys, even though Rhys' origins were the same as his own.
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 28, 2016 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Then you are in charge of Ana's dinner," she told him, almost playful in the way her eyes danced as she looked at him, stirring the stroganoff as it thickened in the pan. "In the refrigerator to your right, there are two small pots, one purple and one blue. The purple one needs to be heated, or she will not eat it, the fussy woman that she is."

He moved to the fridge to follow her instructions, pulling open the door to search for the two small pots. "Heated?" he echoed as he found what he was looking for and returned to the counter, unsure how to accomplish that in a kitchen where everything was unfamiliar.

"I will explain," she promised him, pausing to drop the potatoes into the fryer. One thing she had learned early on - Rhys would rather have his carbs in potato form than in rice form. "Today, bratishka, you will be learning how to use a microwave."

"A mike-row-wave," he echoed, carefully pronouncing each syllable of the new word, as he set the two colorful pots of baby food on the counter. Whatever she was making smelled so good it was making his stomach growl audibly.

Chuckling gently at his curiosity, Nat talked him through the process of heating the previously prepared semi-solid mush that was Ana's dinner, calling out to her husband and his wife that it was almost time to eat.

From the sound of things in the other room, there was a lot of laughter going on in there as Rachel and Rhys entertained Ana - or was it the other way around? "Coming!" Rhys called from the other room upon hearing Nat's summons, though it was likely the smell of food would lead him there soon without it.

With their meal all but finished, Nat set the table with practiced speed, adding a jug of water for the adults, and the various things necessary for Ana's eating habits next to the high chair. She smiled at Zach as she moved about the kitchen, very comfortable in her role as wife and mother after what had been something of a shaky start. "If they do not arrive soon, we will just have to eat it all ourselves," she told him, knowing full well that Rhys could hear every word.

"Patience, woman!" Rhys called from the other room, hearing every word, as she'd expected. "Rome wasn't built in a day!" he added, though it wasn't really relevant to dinner. He scooped Ana up from the floor, with a wink to Rachel, whispering conspiratorially, "No matter what it tastes like, pretend to like it!" Not that he didn't have any faith in his wife's cooking skills, but he wasn't so sure what Rachel and Zach might think of it.

"But it smells lovely," Rachel objected in amused confusion. "Why wouldn't it taste like that, too? Is she a terrible cook?" This being Rachel, she hadn't even attempted to keep her voice down.

Rhys walked right into the line of fire, Nat's brows raised high above a very inquiring smile. "Well, milaya?"

Rhys winced at his sister's reply, whispering back, "Traitor." From the look on his face, though, he didn't really mean it. "Well, what?" he asked Nat innocently, brushing a kiss against her cheek.

Rachel giggled, reaching to take Ana from her brother and incarcerate the little girl in her high chair while Rhys extricated himself from the silly situation, all the while eyeing whatever it was Zach was doing with curious eyes.

Nat smirked as her husband kissed her cheek. "I do believe you should answer your sister's question, Rhys," she told him in amusement. "We are breathless to know the answer."

Rhys exhaled a heavy sigh, knowing he had been caught, as guilty as a kid with his hand in the cookie jar. "No, she is not a terrible cook," he replied. "And her stroganoff is to die for," he added, turning to stick his tongue out at Nat. "So, there."

"Well done," Nat congratulated him, rewarding the rather sweet compliment to her kitchen abilities with a soft kiss. "Sit down, I am serving up." Patting him affectionately on the chest, she moved to separate the potatoes and stroganoff onto four plates with an encouraging smile for Zach. "You don't have to feed her," she assured her brother-in-law. "Just put the pots on the table and take a seat."

Zach wasn't so sure he wanted to die just for the taste of Nat's cooking, though he assumed stroganoff was what it was she had been working on making with a little of his help. He found his way back to the table with Ana's dinner in hand, nodding at Nat's instructions and claiming the chair beside Rachel.

Rhys smiled broadly at the rare praise from his wife, moving to join the others at the table and taking up the task of feeding Ana. "Yes, ma'am."

With dinner in front of them, and a toddler to keep them entertained, their meal was a very relaxed affair. They had eaten together often enough, but always in Avalon, in either of the houses that belonged to them there. This was something new, and at the same time, something very familiar to them all.

It was an education for Rachel and Zach to watch as Rhys and Nat traded off feeding Ana while eating themselves and still managed to hold up their end of the conversation; comforting to know that it was possible to still be a functioning adult even when your life revolved around the whims of a toddler. This time next year, there would be at least one more child at the table, and Rachel could not help smiling at that thought. Rhys' bloodline was expanding, and with it, the hopes of Avalon and her Lady. If she and Zach could raise their sons with even half the success of her brother and his wife, she would be happy.

After all, she had a great deal to be happy for.
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