Timeline: Evening of January 22nd, 2008
It was the day after Ramiel, Lyla, Chaska, Michael and Ann-Marie went to Salem to rescue Bron Niesen from his kidnapper. They had yet to figure out what to do with Bron. No one wanted to send him back to his step mother, Anna, without knowing the full facts and reasons why the Cult of Ishtar was involved in it.
But at the moment, that seemed a secondary concern for Ramiel. He’d just seen Ariyah — the mother of his first child — for healing and, as always, she was able to patch him up nicely, though she did warn him not to get into so much trouble. It would take her three days to recover all the mana it took to heal him up this time, so he needed to not almost-die for at least three days in a row.
Being near her very pregnant figure also brought to mind something else he had been hoping he’d heard wrong; that Lyla was now also pregnant. That was new — apparently Lyla herself had only just reached that conclusion (for whatever reason) during the fight with Lilly Montclair.
Ariyah was gone and now Ramiel was restless and hungry. Massive healing always did that. It charged up his body and revved up his metabolism to super-human levels and left him feeling starved, yet over flowing with personal energy. It was like being on an adrenalin high.
He passed Lyla’s room. Her door was open and he could see she was lying on her bed propped up on her elbows reading a magazine with what looked like lots of pictures.
Ramiel didn’t know what to think about her comment. Other than it was no way to get him in a better mood. He stopped and watched her for a moment hoping that she had been simply making light in poor taste.
“Get in the kitchen and make me some food woman!” He said with laughter in his voice.
Lyla looked up in surprise, then smiled. “Hiya! Feeling better?”
“Hungry is what I am feeling. Maybe I should wander down to the Blood and Brew. Nah, I’ll make it myself.” He watched her for a moment then headed for the kitchen.
Lyla rolled up her magazine and stuck it under her arm, then swung her legs off the bed and stood up. He was moving pretty quick and she felt like taking her time so she met him in the kitchen where he was already searching the fridge. “Hey. You okay? What with the news and all?”
Ramiel pulled his head out of the fridge munching on some cold chicken. “Well it is not really a surprise, right. It happens a lot with me really. I expect it to tire her out but I really took it out of her this time. Besides I think I can manage staying out of trouble for three days. “
He pulled several things out of the fridge and freezer and began preparing it. “Man I look like I am making a meal for Grey.” He laughed as he shoved the potato wedges into the oven.
Lyla walked up to him and placed her hands on his chest. He felt the heat of her palms as she looked intently into his eyes and said, “Actually, I meant the news I gave you in the car.”
Ramiel was unsure what to do at this point. I don’t want to have heard what she said. No matter what there is no out here without hurting her. She doesn’t realize the very real possibility that we are brother and sister. It is a long shot, a very long shot but not totally impossible. Ugh. I didn’t want the first one. She isn’t even born yet and now this — SHIT.
He placed the chicken in the oven to reheat with the wedges. Placing his hands on the counter he spoke quietly. “I heard a lot of things in the car. I said a lot too. I was nearly dead, delirious and upset. Lilly was here and she has fulfilled what she was trying to do.” He stopped talking and stood quietly.
“What I thought you said was you’re pregnant.”
Lyla shifted to hold his arm with her hands in a gesture of supplication. She didn’t trust her voice, so she simply nodded.
“I see,” was all he could say.
She let go and turned away from him, trying to hide a face that was crumpling with pain and something between sorrow and disappointment.
Ramiel grabbed her and pulled her into him.”Don’t.” He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. “I don’t know what I can say or do here that is not going to upset you. Or hurt you. I don’t want to do either.”
She huddled next to him and shook her head. “You can’t upset me over this — I’m already upset and shocked and feel… stupid. I thought that… I… I don’t know what I thought. I just remember when we talked about Ariyah being pregnant, that you said…” She shook her head again. “I thought this might be a good thing, a great thing. But now I’m just confused and scared… and sad.”
“I don’t know what I am feeling right now. So much has happened in such a short amount of time. I thought I was being safe after Ariyah. But there were a couple times I forgot. Guess that was all it took huh. Look we should go somewhere and talk about this. Just let me get the food. I know it is selfish but I am always starving after being healed.” He turned and took the food from the stove.
Lyla took a seat at the kitchen table and gathered her legs in her arms. Suddenly she laughed and hid her face in her knees.
“What!” He said as he shoved a couple wedges into his mouth. “..vmat I wo now.” Swallowing his food he sat down next to her. “Here really not what I meant. Can’t we go to my room? Or yours? I don’t want the others hearing this.”
Lyla looked up at him with watery eyes, but she had a weak smile. “I was just laughing because I realized I was a cliché. Barefoot? And Pregnant? In the kitchen? Plus we live out in the boonies.” She rolled her eyes at the terrible humor of it and wiped at her eyes. “Let’s go to my room. It’s more out of the way, or at least people find fewer excuses to ‘wander by’ my room.”
Ramiel stood and placed his food on a tray. “Here hold this.” He handed the tray to Lyla. Then he scooped them both up into his arms. He carried her to her room and put her down on the bed. With a few moments of concentration he made sure no one hear what they were discussing even if they did listen in.
With that done he moved to the bed and took his tray of food to the nearby chair. “Okay let’s talk.”
She nodded. “That’s a lot more productive than crying or looking at Playgirl magazine to cheer myself up, which is what I’ve been doing.”
“You’ve been looking at playgirl?? What? ” No longer able to contain hi hunger he tore into the food. “What is going on with you?”
Lyla smiled and said, “Hey, I like looking at sexy, ripped young men as much as the next girl. It makes me smile.”
“Well that is not what I meant. But fine. Why are you so upset?”
“Because me being pregnant is not good news to you,” she said simply.
He sighed and put down his food. Wiped his hands on a napkin. And went to her. “If it makes you feel better I wasn’t exactly happy about Ariyah.”
“Oh! Well since you put it that way, then actually that doesn’t help at all.” She sighed. “I don’t know why, but I just thought that … maybe you’d be okay with it.”
“How do I say this. I really don’t know what I can say without hurting you. So bear with me okay?” He shifted. “I don’t know what I feel. I have already been shut out of my daughter’s life. How am I supposed to feel about this? I mean why be happy and have a family only for it to be ripped away from me like the Braffs?
“I am not ready to be a father so it is not exactly thrilling for me. But it is not something I will back away from. But I just don’t want to be hurt by loosing another child. As surprising as it is I do have feelings.”
“Of course you have feelings. We both do,” Lyla pointed out. “And it’s a bit premature to worry about the kid being taken by a werewolf, isn’t it? I mean, that’s not really the point. The point is that I’m going to have a baby whether either one of us is happy about it or not. I just want to know if I have to do this by myself or not. I’m not Ariyah. I won’t shut you out of anything. But while I don’t have a choice here anymore, you still do.”
“So do…” he cut himself off and looked away from her. His hand went to his forhead in reflex. Standing quickly he moved to the door he was shielding himself from her view. He paused momentarily then left to his room.
Lyla stare after him, perplexed. So, does that mean I’m on my own? she wondered. His departure was so abrupt it left her feeling uncertain.
But then a warm, tasty smell filled her nostrils. “Ooo! Meat!” Lyla reached for his abandoned tray and helped herself to some chicken.
Ramiel paced back and forth in his room. What the hell was that. How could I think that. I could never do that, could I? Would I? Ramiel was questioning his very thoughts. He could feel joy in his heart over it. But it was not what he wanted, or planned. Life is too dangerous sure. But there life would never be anything more. I can’t leave her like this she will think the worst. Just let go of the thought and bury it deep.
He returned to her room and stood in surprise as she devoured his food.
Lyla was caught in mid-bite and looked surprised, too. “Wow. Oops. It was taunting me. Um here you go.” She’d managed to wolf down a couple pieces but he hadn’t been gone long enough for her to make but a small dent in his meal. She held up his tray to him. “You gonna tell me what’s on your mind?”
Ramiel went to the bed and sat down. “We’ll share.” He picked up a piece of chicken and munched on it in silence. When he was done he looked at her. “What I was just thinking I think I will bury. Hopefully deep enough that you won’t see it.”
“As far as anything else. Sure I can tell you.” He paused for a few quick bites. “I never called you Ariyah. I was simply saying that I know this child will be taken away from me at some point. I don’t like the thought of that. No I don’t want to be a father but it is not something I would walk away from. I hate how you just assume that I will do that. I would never leave you no matter what.
“I can not shake the sound of you saying what a moster our child would be. We are too closely related, or at least the chance is huge that we are brother and sister Lyla. You were once terrified that if a pregnancy occurred between us the deformity would be monstrous. I had tests ran and they were incomplete due to abnormalities in the blood. At best they put us as first cousins.
“I don’t know it just hurt to hear you say that back then. I know you have every right to think it. All I know is right now I don’t know what is going on in your head. Other than thinking I am going to bail on you.”
Lyla blinked in surprise. He’d never shared his findings with her and in fact had been led to believe that if they were related it was remote enough not to worry about. Her jaw was slack for a long moment as she stared at him.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What was that first bit you just bombed me with? I haven’t even had the kid yet and you you’re saying it will be taken away from you? We haven’t discussed that! We haven’t even really talked about my being pregnant yet!
“And second of all, you should have told me what you found instead of keeping that a secret. That was unfair. But on the other hand we’re even on that mark because later I discovered that moral and social implications aside — neither of which I’ve ever cared about as you know — a werewolf like me can’t give birth to a defective child. It wouldn’t matter if we were the result of third generation incest and then had a kid. My body will fix any abnormalities so its possible only to give birth to a healthy child regardless. That’s a perk, huh? And one I didn’t know of when we talked about all this stuff back last May.
“And thirdly,” her eyes softened, “I’m the easiest person in the world for you to find out what’s on my mind. All you have to do is ask and I’ll tell you everything I can. Please don’t think I ever hide stuff on purpose. If I do hide stuff, it’s because I just didn’t think about it, or figured you didn’t care to know.”
Lyla sighed and laid down on her side on the bed and lifted her head upon one hand. “Anyway, I totally understand if you don’t want to be a daddy. I mean, you’re young! You’ve got a life to lead. Heck, so do I. But I’ll handle it if you just can’t deal with it. I’ve been crying and depressed about it, but it isn’t because of you. I was just feeling sorry for myself. Still am, but happily I seem to be easy to distract.” She smiled a little.
“I do want to be a father. Just didn’t expect it so soon.” He laughed. “Okay totally honest, I did expect to be a father somewhere in the world, just not right in front of me. Law of averages and all.
“I can deal with anything, with time. Not big on surprises — they tend to bring out the worst in me. I am just concerned about the safety of our child. Ours is a world of nightmares. What will that do to a kid?
“Granted the majority of my initial response is not your fault. I am sorry for that. You are not alone in anything. I am glad to hear about the healthy part, because I really can’t say for certain one way or the other if we are siblings. I was hoping for distant relation. The only ones who would know the answer are dead.
Lyla nodded. “I guess the DNA testing wasn’t conclusive enough, huh? Somehow, I’d expect that. I mean, its not as if we have the most common of genes.” She sighed. “And I know what the odds are. I know our lives aren’t safe for a child, not even counting chasing the Dark Man around. But I also can’t think of anyone strong enough to keep my baby safe. I’ll do what I have to, come what may.”
“I know you don’t want to hear this. We could give up chasing the Dark Man long enough to raise the kid. I guess put it on pause for a while. He has not really been doing anything lately, other than apparently saving kids.”
“Well, that’s kind of what it looked like,” Lyla admitted, “except that he used kidnapping and took the kid against his will, then kept him bound up in a barn. Whatever he was really up to, he seemed to not want a confrontation with us at the time.”
Lyla shook her head. “Oh! But we were really talking about the baby. Sorry. See, I told ya. Easily distracted. Anyway, I agree the best thing for the kid would be for us to take time out and raise her. Or him. I’d really like to be able to do that, but… I somehow just don’t believe we’ll really be left alone. And it’s not just the Dark Man issue. But I want to give it my best anyway because this baby is yours and mine.
“Rose has a kid. Did you know that? But she didn’t feel she could protect the kid and still do her duty for the pack so she got some relations of hers to raise the boy. She keeps an eye on him from afar, but no contact really. And if anyone else had been the father of this child, I would be planning to put mine up for adoption, too, just like Rose did. But I can’t on this one, because it’s your baby, too, and I can’t let that go.
“I understand why Rose did it — why most female Uratha give up raising their own children. Our lives are just too dangerous. The children aren’t likely to survive the threats we face as Uratha. But you are far more than just some average Joe I fooled around with. You’re Ramiel. You’re a Mage, and together we haven’t found anything that can beat us yet. So, if you are willing to help, we’ll raise this child and we’ll protect her — or him — no matter what.”
“Why do you keep saying IF? What do you think mom would think if I turned my back on her grandchild!
“I am one hundred percent sure that the child would be safe and turn out normal now. But what would happen if we gave it up and it turned hairy on the new parents? Or worse was like me as a child?
“I can’t say I am thrilled at the thought of diapers and such, but with Michael and I we might be able to enchant some that clean themselves automatically. hmm maybe not.
“Look I know I will have to care for the child more given your pack needs. I am okay with that. I wasn’t planning this. I didn’t want this now. But I am not backing away from it, and I am not ignoring my responsibilities here. You are never alone when it comes to me Lyla. You chose to shut me out from some things and that is fine. We all need private time. Plus the fact that what you are and what I am don’t get to share everything.
“Great now I am rambling.”
Lyla smiled. “Well, you do that sometimes. Hey! We need a baby room, buster! You got, um… about eight months and a week or so to get one together.”
Her mind, still spinning from the news of her own pregnancy, took another leap. Her eyes widened. “Oh! Do you know about shape shifting and pregnancy? I can’t remember if anyone ever mentioned that to you.”
“Well I know what is in the books. I have no idea about reality though,” he said.
“Okay. Basically, it’s all cool. My body is supposed adjust for a human womb no matter what form I take. So, I won’t run into problems expressing my more… ah, animal side I guess you’d call it. The only real danger is if I slip up and lose my temper, or get hurt real bad. Then I might go into my war-form. That’s the big scary monster version of me. Then if I get hurt, my war form is so busy keeping me on my feet and going that it spend not a bit of energy on keeping the baby alive. Long and short is, if I get hurt in war form, then I will miscarry when I drop out of that form. And I’ve even heard tales of it happening sometimes if if a pregnant Uratha doesn’t get hurt in that form.”
Lyla smiled. “Basically, I can take just about anything I normally could take.” She gave him a sly, lusty look. “And plus Rose said that most pregnant Uratha barely even show until the very last month.”
“Oh.” Ramiel replied as he layed back on the bed.
Lyla swung a leg over his waist and straddled him. She put her hands on his strong chest and leaned over him, allowing her hair to form a curtain around them. “We’re gonna be okay. Aren’t we?”
Ramiel ran his hands through her hair and smiled. “Always.” He pulled her to him and kissed her.