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Last Days of Summer

 
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Rachel Bristol
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:04 pm    Post subject: Last Days of Summer Reply with quote

The end days of summer on the Summer Isle. It was a beautiful time, and a fruitful one, too, when the harvests were being brought in and the animals chosen for the slaughter, their meat cured to last through winter. And in the midst of it all, proof made flesh that a former angel was more than capable of reproducing.

Rachel was showing off quite the lung capacity as she struggled through labor, gripping tightly to Zach's hands as she panted and puffed. Tears of frustration and weariness trickled down her hot cheeks as she pushed on command, knowing only too well that her brother was downstairs with his own wife and daughter, all but barring the door to any other visitors while innocent and angel worked to bring their first son into the world.

For some reason, Rachel had thought The Lady would be there for her first birth, but perhaps it was not so strange that she had not chosen to attend. After all, this son would not give birth to the next Lady of Avalon. Unfortunately, that meant that Helene, the First Handmaiden, was the one in charge, and she was nowhere near as calming as The Lady would have been.

It was times like this that Zach wished he was still an angel, though if he was, he wouldn't be able to have a child, Rachel wouldn't be pregnant, and he wouldn't be wishing he was an angel. It was a perplexing thought, but one he didn't really have the luxury of thinking about very long, especially when Rachel seemed to be having difficulty. He had witnessed countless births during his long existence, but none had ever seemed so important as this one. Nevertheless, he drew comfort from the fact that the Lady had foreseen this birth and had assured them their son would be well.

"That's it, that's it!" Helene exclaimed at long last, a tired smile on her ageless face. "Not much more now, I promise you. I have his head in my hand."

Sobbing, Rachel whimpered, adjusting her grip on Zach's hand. "It hurts," she whined brokenly, though she was allowed to whine a little after several hours of this already.

Zach's face lit up as he realized their son was nearly born and his wife's pain was nearly at an end. "One more push, Rachel, and our son will be born. I promise you!" he encouraged, full of excitement for the birth of their son, but anxiety at the amount of pain it was causing her to birth him. With her hands in his, he tried to will her what little bit of comfort he could, some small remnant of angelic grace that might make this last bit of labor easier for her.

However he did it, she felt some flood of new strength fill her, enough to fuel that last push and fill their home with the sound of her yell as their son, finally, was born. No doubt Natalya was having to restrain Rhys in the rooms below, but as Rachel fell back against the pillows, breathless and weeping with relief, a new voice began to wail, thin and reedy, and exceedingly put out with his new surroundings.

"A boy," Helene told them, the magic of Avalon enough to wash and dry the child, and deal with the aftermath of birth in just a few moments. "You have a healthy son."

Though the news of a son came as no great surprise to Zach, the look on his face betrayed his elation, eyes that were now mortal filled with tears of happiness. "A son, Rachel. We have a son," he told her, kissing the tears from her face and laughing with the joy of it.

"It took us long enough," his exhausted wife gasped, pushing herself up onto her elbows to watch as Helene passed their firstborn son into his father's arms.

"Hold him a while, Zachariel," the First told him gently. "We must see to your wife."

Though more magic was involved, "seeing to" Rachel also involved a fair amount of movement, leaving the newborn boy safe in his father's arms for the time it took to see her settled and comfortable once again, the worst damage of the labor swept away by the grace of The Lady.

Zach was only too happy to be the first to greet his son, distracted as he was from his worries about Rachel by the squirming bundle Helene had thrust into his arms. "Are they always so small as this?" he asked, looking down at his son with a look of wonder in his eyes, despite having witnessed countless births since the Dawn of Man.

Another Handmaiden, who had come as assistant, smiled over at the new father as she bundled soiled cloth together to hide the blood that had been spilled. "Sometimes they are bigger, sometimes smaller," she told him. "Your son is a little smaller than he would have been had he lasted in the womb until his mother was at full term, but he is healthy and strong. He will grow."

"He is beautiful," Zach replied quietly, more to himself than to anyone else in the room, only then remembering his wife. "Rachel, he's beautiful. He's a miracle."

"Then you should name him," Rachel said softly from where she lay. As Helene and the Handmaidens stepped away from the bed, they revealed his wife lying comfortably against plumped pillows, the sheets fresh, even her clothing clean and unsullied. The Lady's magic was kind to new mothers on Avalon. "Our firstborn son."

"Me?" Zach echoed, clearly stunned that she was trusting him with such an important decision. He knew many names, countless names, in fact - so many, it was difficult to pick the one that would perfectly fit a son that had only just been born and they did not know very well yet. Should they give him a knightly name or an angelic name or something else? "What do you think of Tristan?" he asked, remembering the story of the knight who had sacrificed his life on account of his love for a woman he could never have. The truth of the story had been lost to antiquity, though those of the Summer Isle still remembered it.

Rachel's smile gave him her answer before she spoke. "I like that name," she nodded, patting the bed beside her in invitation. "It's noble and strong and handsome, and he'll be all those things. How could he not be, with you for his father?"

Zach smiled radiantly, pleased with both her praise and with their son, as he settled himself beside her. The blood had not bothered him, as he'd seen such things before, though not from her. He was starting to understand how she must have felt when he'd had his wings severed from his back, but he did not want to think on that now. This was a happy moment, and he wanted to savor it for as long as possible. "And he will be good and kind and generous. How could he not be, with you for his mother?" And of course, it went without saying that he would be loved.

"He will be ours," she completed their small cycle of promises, leaning into him to brush a kiss against his cheek as she looked down at their son. "He's so small," she breathed, in awe of the mere fact that this little life had been inside her only an hour ago. There was a bark from outside the door as Helene and her assistant left, and a moment later, their dogs had burst into the room, bounding up onto the bed to lie with them, sniffing curiously at the newcomer to their family.
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Rachel Bristol
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Helene said it is because he was born a little early," Zach explained, just before the dogs bounded in to join them. "Easy!" Zach scolded the pair - one male and one female and still as eager and excitable as pups. "There, now. Say hello to Baby Tristan," he told them, as if they understood his every word. Perhaps it was the fact that he'd been an angel, but he seemed to have a natural way with animals of all kinds.

Giggling softly at the exuberance of their dogs, Rachel watched as Zach laid down the law to them. She had long ago ceased to be surprised by the way they obeyed him without thinking, simply charmed by the big dogs' gentleness as they found places to lie with their master and mistress, within easy reach to sniff at the baby. "You have to help us look after him," she told the dogs, speaking - as she always had - as though they understood her perfectly.

"They will," Zach confirmed, though how he knew that was a mystery even to himself. He let the dogs investigate for a moment before turning to Rachel with an almost sheepish smile. "Would you like to hold him?" he asked, as if just realizing she hadn't had a chance to say a proper hello to her own son yet.

"Oh, yes, please!" For years, Rachel had longed for a child of their own, for a family to replace the one stolen from her before she was ever meant to be born. With Zachariel, she had found the love she needed to survive; through Rhys and Nat, a semblance of that family she yearned for; but here and now, newborn Tristan was The Lady's promise made real, and she longed to hold him in her arms.

Though a little bit awkward, somehow Zach managed to transfer the small bundle from his arms to hers without breaking or dropping him. Though he was unsure of his skill as a father, there was no doubt of his skill as a former angel. "Careful. He's fragile," he warned her gently, though it was probably unnecessary.

"He's precious," she whispered, as though actually holding the child somehow made him more likely to disturbed by the sound of her own voice. Cradling the tiny form close, she sighed softly, leaning into Zach. "I almost can't believe it," she breathed. "We have a son. Our first son."

"The Lady did promise," he reminded her. Though she could only see possibilities and probabilities, the Lady of Avalon's promises somehow always seemed to have a way of coming true. If she was right, they would have at least a few more before their family was complete.

"The witches made promises to me all the time," she said softly, regret in her voice for the necessity of their deaths, even three years on from that awful experience. "I learned a long time ago not to hope for promises to be kept. It only hurts when they're not." Looking down at their son, she ran a gentle finger over the little stubby nose. "But here you are, and I know she won't ever lie to me now. We are going to have so much fun together, all of us."

Life in Avalon was unlike anything either of them had experienced before. While Zach had suffered through what seemed like an eternity of servitude, he knew Rachel had suffered even more than him during her short life, and he made no apologies for wanting to keep her here in Avalon where both his wife and son would remain safe and happy and healthy for the rest of their days. He, too, knew how promises seemed to be made only to be broken, but this place and this woman had healed his heart, and he was ready once again to open his heart to hope and trust. "I promised you my undying love, Rachel. Not all promises are made to be broken," he reminded her gently.

"I know," she whispered tenderly, raising her hand to stroke his cheek. "I've always known your promises can be trusted, love. You are a part of me. I can't break promises I make to myself, and I can't break promises I make to you." She smiled, leaning close to kiss him affectionately. "I love you."

He let the talk of promises go as she stroked his cheek, smiling softly. "I love you, too," he echoed, though she should know that already. "And now, we have a son to love, too," he added, turning his smile on the tiny infant in her arms.

She beamed, truly delighted to hear him say it and know it was absolutely true. The little bundle in her arms was theirs. "And he will have little brothers in time, and we will love all of them." Looking down at their son, she felt herself growing tearful, biting her lip as she thought of another name she might like to give him. "May ... may I ask Rhys if we can call him Tristan Patrick?" she asked Zach hesitantly, uncertain if it was the right idea in the first place.

Anyone who didn't know them well might find them a little naive, even corny, but Zach and Rachel weren't like other people. Though grown adults, they were possessed of an almost childlike wonder for the things in life other people might take for granted. Blond brows arched upwards at her suggestion. No one had to tell him why that name held such significance for the Bristol siblings. Patrick had been their father's name - a father Rachel had never known, except for the stories her brother had told her. "Yes, of course. It is a fine name, and I'm sure your brother will be proud."

"It hurts him, when people say it aloud," she told her husband softly. "But it doesn't feel right to let the name die." Their chance to discuss this was fast running out, however; the sound of footsteps on the stairs and their niece yelling for them while being shushed was growing closer.

Zach couldn't even begin to imagine what it felt like for Rhys to hear his father's name spoken aloud - a man who had died by his own hands when he'd been possessed by a demon. But then, Zachariel had never had a mortal father, though he had now become one himself. He heard the footsteps and the voices on the stairs and knew they were about to find out just how Rhys felt about the matter at hand. "He cannot avoid it forever, Rachel. Ask him and see what he says. He may surprise you."

"I don't want to hurt him," she murmured softly, wincing as Ana's voice came through loud and clear enough to disturb her new cousin. Tristan stirred, his face screwing up in a warning that he was about to share his displeasure as loud as he could.

"Ana! Shhh, malyutka, or we will go home and not see your cousin at all!" Natalya's censuring threat was also clear, but nowhere near as loud. Given how rarely Nat threatened her daughter with dire consequences, however, it remained to be seen how seriously Ana would take her.

"Hurt who?" Rhys asked, as he poked his head in the door, knocking belatedly, as if it was only an afterthought. "Is it okay if we take a peek at the newest addition to the family? I promise we won't stay long," he said, cheerfully. It would be hard to tell them no now that they were there.

Rachel giggled softly, gently rocking the newborn boy in her arms as she tried to soothe him away from screaming the place down. "Aren't you already peeking?" she asked her brother warmly.

Natalya appeared behind Rhys, Ana hoisted up onto her hip and holding one small hand over her own mouth to behave herself. "Did everything go well?"

"Everything went great!" Rhys answered for his sister, spying the small bundle in her arms. Besides, if it hadn't gone well, some handmaiden or other would have come to tell them so. He pushed into the room and made a beeline for his sister, peering over her shoulder to take a peek at his new nephew. "Can I?" he asked, practically twitching with excitement to get his hands on the newborn.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rachel's eyes rose to Zach, silently asking for his permission to give their son into her brother's arms. She trusted Rhys almost as much as she trusted her husband, but this was her precious firstborn, the son she had been waiting for, for what felt like a lifetime.

Natalya smiled as she moved into the room after Rhys, gently prying Ana's hand from her mouth. "Quietly, malyutka," she told her daughter. "You don't want to make him cry, do you?" The toddler shook her head, looking with wide eyes down at the baby from her perch on Nat's hip.

Rhys glanced between the couple, a small frown on his face. Though he couldn't read minds, he knew his sister was wordlessly asking her husband's permission. He practically pouted at his sister, fearful she might tell him no. "I won't drop him. Promise!"

Zach smiled softly and nodded his head at Rachel, knowing they'd have plenty of time to get acquainted with their son in the days and weeks to come. Besides, how could they say no to the Champion when he was pouting like that?

Reassured, Rachel's smile returned as she nodded to her brother. "I know you won't drop him, but he's mine," she informed him playfully, crooking a finger to bring Rhys closer so he could meet his nephew. "And if you drop him, Aggy will chew your testicles off."

Natalya snorted with laughter, easing down onto a corner of the bed with Ana in her arms. "That is a beautiful threat, sestrenka," she complimented Rachel. "You will be a very good mother." Releasing Ana, she watched as the toddler crawled across the bed to plant herself in Zach's lap for a cuddle.

"I'm just proud of you for knowing what they are," Rhys said with a grin as he reached for his newborn nephew. "Yes, and if Ana repeats it later, we'll know who to blame," he added for good measure, as his sister very carefully transferred her son into his arms.

"Hullo, Ana," Zach greeted the toddler as she crawled onto his lap.

"'lo, Unka Zak," the toddler said quietly, stuffing her thumb in her mouth as she cuddled into her uncle. "Mama says shush."

Across from them, Nat bit her lip to hide the smile. After all, the sooner Ana learned to be gentle around babies, the better, though she had yet to share that with Rhys.

Rachel, on the other hand, was watching Rhys like a hawk. She knew she was being a little possessive, but she thought she could be forgiven for it. "Isn't he lovely?"

Zach was perfectly happy to hold Ana on his lap for as long as she wished. He and Rachel would have plenty of time to spend with their son, but it wasn't often he got to cuddle with his niece. Besides, it was only right that the Bristols be the first to greet the newest member of the family - after the proud parents, of course.

"He's tiny," Rhys said, peering down at the small bundle in his arms, even as he rocked to and fro without thinking. "I don't remember Ana being that small."

"He came early," Rachel told him, relaying what Zach had told her, and what the Handmaiden had told him. "He would have been bigger, but he wanted to come out now rather than wait. Do you like him?"

"Of course I like him," Rhys replied with a chuckle. What wasn't to like about a newborn baby, especially one who was family? "Eager to be born," he said, pulling away the blanket a little so he could get a better look at him. It was hard to tell which parent the infant resembled more, but he thought he could see a little of both in him. He moved closer to Nat, so she could get a look at him, though he was reluctant to give him up just yet. It was no secret that Rhys adored babies, as evidenced by his eagerness to meet his new nephew.

"He is very handsome," Nat praised the baby boy, leaning over Rhys' shoulder to gently swipe her fingertip down one chubby cheek. "And put his mother to a lot of trouble in his eagerness to get here."

Rachel giggled softly, shaking her head. "It hurt, but I knew it would," she assured her sister-in-law, glancing at Zach briefly before turning her eyes to Rhys. "Um ... I wondered ... would-would you mind, awfully, if we gave him Dad's name? After his first name?"

Rhys was smiling proudly as he and Nat admired the tiny bundle in his arms. Someday, they'd have a son, too - one that was just as healthy and handsome as their new nephew. The Lady had foreseen it, and Rhys trusted the Lady implicitly. The smile faded though at his sister's question and he glanced over to look at her with furrowed brows. "Dad's name?" he echoed. Patrick. He looked thoughtfully back at the infant as he contemplated her request. There had been a time when he'd wanted that name for his own son, but that time had passed. "I think Dad would like that," he replied, his eyes on his nephew. "What do you think, little one? Would you mind being named after your Grandpa?"

All he got in answer was a large yawn and a smacking lips before the baby settled down to sleep once again, oblivious to how special he was. Rachel's smile was like the sun rising. "Then his name is Tristan Patrick," she told them softly, glad that Rhys was not so hurt as to deny them that name for their son. "A good name," Nat said, just as quietly, squeezing Rhys' shoulder gently with a kiss to his cheek. She knew how much that concession had cost him, and was proud of him for making it.

A few months ago, it might have hurt for him to hear that name, but Rhys was slowly coming to grips with it and accepting the fact that the past was the past and that there was no changing it. It had taken a long time, but it was this little family of theirs that was at long last healing his heart - not just Nat and Ana, but Rachel and Zach, and their friends both in Avalon and back home in New York. He wasn't alone anymore; he was never going to be alone again. "It is a good name. A knight's name," he said, though he secretly hoped his nephew would not share in that tragic knight's fate because of his name.

"If she's right, The Lady says he will be a Grand Master of the Temple," Rachel offered softly, glancing sideways to offer little Ana an encouraging smile. The toddler smiled shyly around her thumb, wiggling the fingers of that hand in hello to her aunt.

As far as Rhys knew The Lady was rarely wrong, but he didn't say so. "I don't doubt it," he said instead, a smile on his face for his new nephew. "Ana, would you like to see your new baby cousin?" he asked, reluctant to give up the bundle in his arms but eager to show her off to his daughter.

The little girl's eyes lit up hopefully, but she glanced at Nat for permission. Nat smiled, trying to encourage her daughter. "It's all right, malyutka," she promised Ana. "Just stay quiet, and you won't frighten him."

Reassured, Ana removed her thumb from her mouth, squeezing Zach once more before crawling off his lap to go and take her own look at her new cousin.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rhys had to lean down a little from his height to allow his daughter to have a look at her baby cousin, who was thankfully quiet and content for the moment. Someday, he hoped, they would have a son of their own, but he was too busy getting acquainted with his new nephew to think about it too much right now. "See how small he is, Ana? You were that small once."

"Wasn't," came the somewhat belligerent response from Ana, who was still convinced that she was a princess and a spoiled one, at that. "Him wake up." A small hand threatened to poke the sleeping Tristan in the cheek as she pouted. "Babies are borin'."

"Was," Rhys insisted with a chuckle, moving the baby just out of range of Ana's poking. "Careful, pumpkin. He was just born, so you have to be gentle with him." He lowered the newborn down to her level again, watching carefully to make sure she didn't poke or prod him into crying. "Babies don't do much but eat and sleep when they're little, but give him some time, and he'll be following you around like your shadow."

"Weely?" Sufficiently mollified that her cousin wouldn't stay boring forever, Ana thumped down onto the bed next to her father, peering over his arm at the baby.

Nat chuckled softly, looking over to Zach and Rachel. "We will not stay long," she promised them. "We wanted to greet the new member of the family, and see how you both are."

"Weely!" Rhys replied with a grin.

While the two of them got better acquainted with baby Tristan, Zach looked on, his fingers tangled with Rachel's. "It was not an easy birth," Zach said, though he knew very little of childbirth, other than what he'd observed over the years. He turned to look at Rachel with both love and affection, giving her hand a soft squeeze, adding, "But she did very well. I am proud of her."

"I wouldn't have been able to do it without you," Rachel said, as quietly as the others, smiling up at her husband tenderly.

Nat's smile softened, always touched by the unaffected affection shared by her brother-and-sister-in-law. "You are a small woman," she told Rachel gently. "Birth will never be easy for you, but I am told that it gets easier with each birth. I hope it does - I slapped a Handmaiden last time I did it."

"I think she wanted to slap me," Rhys said with a chuckle as he overheard the trio discussing childbirth. He was a little too distracted with the baby at the moment to join the conversation, but he was glad his sister seemed to be doing well, all things considered.

"It was not the most comfortable of activities, dusha moya," Nat pointed out warmly, opening her arm as Ana scooched back, more interested in ruffling the dogs' warm fur than admiring her new cousin.

"But worth it," Rachel added, smiling over at her son. "I think you should give him back, you know."

"In a few days, you'll be begging us to take him off your hands for a little while," Rhys replied with a teasing grin. "Nat, you want a cuddle before I give him back to his parents?" he asked, knowing he was hogging the baby a little, but they didn't stay little for long.

Nat glanced between her husband and his sister, and decided on the better part of valor. "Not today, milaya," she smiled at Rhys. "Give him back. There will be plenty of time to play with your nephew when his parents have held him for a few days." It was a gentle reminder of how jealously he had protected his bonding time with Ana, and Rachel was his sister. She would likely feel much the same way.

"Papa," Ana said in a thoughtful voice. "Love me no?"

Rhys knew Nat was right, and obediently and very carefully handed baby Tristan back to his mother, touching a kiss to her cheek, once the baby was safely returned to her arms. "Congratulations, Rach," he whispered before stepping back to scoop Ana up into his arms upon hearing her question. "Of course I love you! You're my Anybananny!" he assured her, touching his nose affectionately to hers. As captivated as he might be with his new nephew, his Ana was still the apple of his eye.

With Tristan back in her arms, Rachel felt a part of herself she hadn't even realized was tensed relax, leaning into Zach, their little family unit complete again. Ana squealed with laughter as she was swept up into the air, hugging her little arms around Rhys' neck as his nose booped her own.

"And that, I think, is our cue," Nat chuckled, rising to her own feet. She bent to kiss Zach's cheek, and then Rachel's. "We will show ourselves out. Try to sleep, if you can. You will need it."

Rhys smiled as he waited for Nat with Ana in his arms. There would be plenty of time to get better acquainted with the new member of the family once they were all rested and settled.

And with that, the little family was left on their own once again to get acquainted with their new bundle of joy. "See? Your brother seemed pleased," Zach said once he was once again alone with his wife and son.

"He does." Rachel's smile was soft, but weary. "And our son has his name." She paused, stroking her finger against the chubby cheek lovingly. "I am glad Rhys gave him back. I did not feel comfortable when he was holding our boy, not the way I did when you were."

"I don't think you need worry, love," Zach assured her, though he understood a little of what she was feeling. While he was glad Nat and Rhys were happy for them and seemed pleased, the newborn was his and Rachel's to love and raise as they saw fit. Zach felt a swell of pride and joy once again as he leaned close to look on his wife and son. "He is ours forever, Rachel," he reminded her quietly, with a soft smile.

Looking up at her beloved husband, who had lost so much to be able to share this life with her and all the lives to come, Rachel leaned in close, nestling into the curve of his body. "We are ours, forever," she murmured, closing her eyes to breathe in the scent of the two she loved most in all the world.

"So we are," he whispered back, feeling happier and more content in that moment than he ever had before. Like Rhys, he might have sacrificed his divinity, but it had been a sacrifice worth making for the love of this one woman for all eternity. One woman who would always love him, no matter the paths their myriad lives might take them on. All the pain, the heartache, the fear ... it had all been worth it, to hold their son in their arms and know that he was just the first of many. It was a wonderful thing. To be blessed.
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