Up to this point Dorian had thought himself pretty brave, considering that in his world, it was impossible for a boy to have a child. But as he screamed Gabriel's name, as his belly felt as if it would explode, as Ria cradled his head and Niko tried to get Gabriel to act rational, he actually had some doubts. Big surprise.

Gabriel was near hysteria with the way Dorian thrashed about on the bed. Ria was tending to him the best he could; undressing him, pulling his hair back out of the way, and bathing him with a warm cloth. Niko had Gabriel by the arms and was shaking him violently to force him to calm down.
But Dorian didn't notice that. He screamed again and tried to bite Ria's hands when they came near his mouth. Ria, long having recovered from his child-birth, talked softly to him and kept his fingers out of the way.
Gabriel had torn himself from Niko's grasp and rushed to the bed, grabbing Dorian in his arms, kissing his hair and whispering softly to him.
Ria stood and dried his hands on the coverlet. He pointed at Niko. "You, keep Gabriel out of the way," he said. "Rhazel can't come, I'll have to do it." He pulled the covers off of the bed and stirred a white powder into a glass of water.
Gabriel was looking from Ria to Niko and back again as the other Flyer pulled him away from the bed. The look on his face was enough to break someone's heart.
"He'll be all right, Gabriel," Ria said, forcing Dorian to drink the mixture that would ease his pain. "Thank the gods for little miracles like these." He sat up again over Dorian's subdued body and wiped his own forehead with the back of his hand. The poor boy in the bed was still crying though, and the look in his eyes was crazed with fear and pain.
"Gabriel-" Dorian whispered.
Gabriel pulled himself away from Niko and knelt next to the bed. He stroked Dorian's sweaty hair. "Here. I'm here."
"Close your eyes, Dorian," Ria whispered, "and think of what you'll name him..."

The world came swirling back to him too soon. He could see conciousness hurtling towards him and hit him like a wave of water, jarring his senses and bit before he was enveloped in wakefulness again. There were no memories- only the soft echo of the pain he'd felt remained now.
He was enfolded in something warm and soft. His vision clearing, he saw he was lying in Niko's arms, enfolded tightly in his wings, and that the Flyer was sound asleep beside him. Their noses were almost touching.
It seemed to be early evening by the angle of the shadows on the wall. Dorian kissed the Flyer's nose to wake him.
Niko opened his emerald eyes and smiled lazily. He stretched as best one could without disturbing Dorian too much and blinked to clear his sleepy vision.
"Ria is giving Gabriel a rubdown," he said. "Your love hasn't slept in two days." He smiled. "We've all taken turns staying with you. But right now, I think Gabriel is the one who needs to be watched over."
Gabriel. He had to see Gabriel. But two whole days? "I don't remember Ria being out for so long," Dorian said softly, his throat dry.
Niko shifted next to him. "No, but then again, Ria has had four sons. His body is used to it. Yuri is your first and your body needed to rest."
"Your child," the Flyer answered.
"Where is he? I want to see him."
Niko stretched again like a great lion beside him and sat up. "I'll get him for you, but don't you want to see Gabriel?"
Dorian sat up with much effort. "Of course I do!" he snapped.
Niko smiled. "Stay there and don't get up. You're still weak." He left.
Dorian laid back on the pillows. Somewhere in the hallway, he heard the cry of a child.
His child. A warmth spread through his chest and had spread all the way to his fingers and toes just as Gabriel came in, followed by Ria and Niko.
"Love," Gabriel breathed softly, sitting on the bed and enfolding Dorian in his arms in one smooth gesture. The familiar embrace warmed Dorian's body and settled his mind. He felt safe again, as he always did in Gabriel's arms. Nothing could happen to him there.
Gabriel drew back a little and Ria placed a bundle of warm blankets in Dorian's arms. Peering up at him were the sharpest pair of blue eyes Dorian had ever seen, besides Gabriel's. Of course, that's where they'd come from. They were Gabriel's eyes.
Dorian was afraid to breathe as he touched the fledgling's cheek. Instinctively, he pawed at Dorian's chest. Gabriel pulled the blankets down and the Yuri found the nipple by himself and became content in his ravenous sucking. Dorian breathed out slowly, and closed his eyes, feeling a bit dizzy. He felt vulnerable to everything then, and would have become quite unstable if there wasn't the warmth of Gabriel's arms about him.
He had the vague sense of Niko and Ria shutting the door softly behind them as they left, giving Gabriel and him the privacy they deserved.
"Love," Gabriel breathed again, kissing his temple. "Gods I was so worried. I thought I was going to go mad if you didn't come back to me soon."
Dorian snuggled closer to him to show his love, the fledgling clasped posessively in his arms.

"Little Yuri will grow up soon enough, Dorian. Maybe too soon for any of us. But as you know from watching Sephria, he won't wear clothes, or even want to wear clothes until he passes the Rites."
Ria basked in a sunny corner of the balcony, exposed to his fullest save for a thin blanket draped across his hips. He was braiding a strand of his hair over his shoulder out of boredom.
Dorian sat near him, drinking some wine that Gabriel and Niko had stolen from a vineyard Down Below. "What are the Rites? Everyone here always talks about them, but what are they?"
Ria smiled and stretched out, throwing his head back. Dorian silently noted the curving contours of his flat belly as he stretched, marveling as he often did at the delicacy of the human body he'd never noticed before he had been brought here.
"To tell you honestly," he sighed, "I really don't know. None of the consorts do. It is a secret that the Flyers guard very closely. Once the fledgling goes through with them though, they too are sworn to secrecy. But one important thing: never ask any of them."
Dorian nodded and laid his head back on the chair he sat in, liking the feel of the sun on his skin. All his senses had been heightened since he had come here.
Ria stood up, stretching and yawning lazily as he did so, victim as he always was of the sun in the afternoon. "Meanwhile," he said touching Dorian's nose teasingly, "Don't wish it to come. Someday, you'll have to give him away to someone else." He watched Dorian's face and then smiled to lighten the mood. "Now come. Give me a kiss and rub my back. I like it when you do that."

"Papa! Papa!"
"Come here!" Gabriel laughed, swinging Yuri up into his arms. "What are you up to, you little scamp?"
"Dorian says that if you ever go out again for so long, he's going to castrate you himself," the fledgling answered, his little arms encircling Gabriel's neck as his father carried him back into the loft to seek out his hostling. "Papa, what does 'castrate' mean?"
Gabriel laughed and kissed his forehead, stopping at the open door of Dorian's room. He lowered little Yuri down to stand on his own feet and spotted Dorian dozing in the sun with Ria on a wicker couch they'd dragged out there. Niko's youngest son, Auriel, lay sprawled on his back atop Ria. "Hush now, Imp," he whispered. "Ask me again sometime."
He crept into the room past the bed, Yuri following him with his hand clasped tightly on Gabriel's fingers. They stepped quietly onto the balcony and Gabriel smiled down on the two, curled up together. Ria's head rested gently on Dorian's chest, their arms and legs intertwined. He knelt and kissed Dorian's slightly parted lips. Yuri giggled. Dorian opened his eyes.
"I see you are installing a new vocabulary in our son," Gabriel said softly.
Dorian smiled and opened his arms for Yuri to crawl into them. Ria yawned and sat up to stretch. "He must have overheard me. Where were you? It's been three whole days!"
"I know. I know," Gabriel sighed, letting himself lean against the balcony bars. There was always the danger when one of them came back alone after a trip to the Down Below.
He smiled gently at the four who sat in front of him. Dorian gently kissed Yuri's cheek as the child nuzzled up to him. Ria enfolded Auriel deeper in his arms and was covering his little giggling face in teasing kisses. Gods, he loved them all.
"Where's Niko?" Ria asked softly. But the gentle, good-natured smile on Gabriel's handsome face put his mind at ease and the Flyer answered, "He's in your loft, preparing a present he brought for you."
Auriel screeched in happiness at the mention of a gift and hopped off Ria's lap and ran to the door. Ria kissed Dorian's cheek and heaved himself off the couch and followed his son back to their own home.
Dorian looked after them wistfully. "And what did you bring us?" he said. Yuri looked up at Gabriel with huge eyes.
Gabriel smiled and beckoned for them to follow him.
They walked back to the foyer of the loft and he lifted a basket into Dorian's arms. out of it strang a little ball of fur, yipping happily and licking any face it could reach.
Yuri squealed in excitement and reached for the pup who was busy straining to crawl higher in Dorian's arms. Obligingly, Dorian set it on the floor where Yuri embraced it and giggled in his little childish voice as it drooled and slobbered and licked him happily. "Ryku! His name is Ryku," Yuri said happily.
They used this little diversion to look at each other. Gabriel gently enfolded Dorian in his arms, kissing him once, twice, and finally three times on the mouth. They watched as Yuri ran off and the pup followed clumsily behind him. Gabriel took Dorian's hand and walked with him to the balcony in their room.
Gabriel sat in one of the wicker chairs, spreading his wings over the back of it as Dorian, still on the leash of his arm, stood at the balcony and closed his eyes to the wind. They stayed like that for a moment in silence, watching the sun travel its path across the sky, lost in their own thoughts, their hands clasped warmly keeping them in touch with each other. Finally, Gabriel reached out and took both of Dorian's hands in his own and made his consort to stand facing him. Dorian looked down at him affectionately.
"Dorian," he said softly, looking down to the long slender hands in his own. Dorian had changed a little since he had first been brought here. His whole appearance was softer now, a little smoother. His body seemed so slender, he could not possibly be healthy. And yet he was, but Gabriel could nearly circle the smallest part of Dorian's waist above his hips with both hands, fingertip to fingertip. His hair was fuller and much, much longer. It brushed the middle of his back now, as Ria's did, but today he had it up, revealing a long, slender neck that added to his somewhat arrogant and aristocratic appearance.
But Dorian was looking at him intently with a sharp look that betrayed the intelligence behind such beauty. Beauty that always withered him, and undid him in the night. "Gabriel?" he said softly.
"I want to ask you something," he finally said, still not looking at him.
Dorian knelt down in front of him, pulling his hands from Gabriel's and framing Gabriel's face with them. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Gabriel looked straight into his eyes and smiled. "Oh no, love. Nothing is wrong."
His consort smiled and stroked his jaw. But the smile faded from his face as he looked deeper into the face before him. "Tell me what troubles you," he said softly. "There is a look in your eye that I do not like."
Gabriel looked away. "Do you love me?" he asked suddenly, his eyes lashing up to catch Dorian. His consort dropped his hands from Gabriel's face and placed them on his lover's knees.
"Why do you ask this now?" he said. Now he was upset. He stood up and went to look out over the balcony facing away from Gabriel. "There's something you're not telling me, Gabriel." He paused to turn around. "What's wrong?"
Gabriel didn't go to him, though he longed to. He stayed where he was, rooted there as if he were made of stone. He stared at the floor. Marble. Cold under his feet.
"The elders have chosen a few of us to fly Down."
The elders? The hierarchial group that kept this settlement in order. A group to be feared. Dorian knew this.
"For what purpose?" he asked so coldly that Gabriel envisioned icicles hanging from the words. "What do they want with you?"
"Not just me, love, but others as well. They are organizing a raid."
A raid, that wasn't so bad. But a major one that is organized by the elders- that was bad. Dangerous. The chosen were to be stocking the markets, the back-up supplies that would support the masses in an intricate balance of trade and selling. It would involve many would be flying until dawn, the most dangerous time. They would be helpless then, laden with their burdens, and in the view of those that might be out. That flight was suicide!
It was how Gabriel's father had died. It was how Ria's first Flyer consort had died.
But Gabriel was no hero. He was not one to put his life on the line to be called one either. He would much rather be home with Dorian, reading a book or playing with his son. But this was called upon every able Flyer at one time or another. It was the luck of the draw. The only exempt from it were those with pregnant consorts to the point of giving birth the next day.
But Dorian was nowhere near that. Since Yuri, Gabriel had been careful not to impregnate him again. He hoped he wouldn't have to explain the danger to his anxious consort. But by the look in Dorian's eyes, he could guess that Ria had already explained this to him. Niko had gone a short time after Ria became his consort and had come back terribly wounded by an arrow shot from Below.
"And Niko?" Dorian said softly.
"Not chosen this time. It's just as well. I'll be gone for a while. I at least want him here looking after you."
"When do you leave?" Dorian's voice was soft.
"In a day's time. At sunset."

Yuri stood in the doorway, clinging to it as if he would collapse to the floor without its support. He could very acutely feel his fingernails digging into it and the pain of it, but he paid it no mind. Ryku sat by his feet, silently watching the happenings in the next room.
Papa and Dorian never fought like this. Never. And he had never seen Dorian cry so. His hostling was leaning against the wall, weeping into his hands. And Papa, he stood all the way across the room, not even moving to give Dorian any comfort.
The time for screaming at each other had passed. Dorian was helpless by himself in the corner, his slender frame shaking uncontrollably. He had said that Papa didn't love them. He had screamed it in his face.
"You don't love me. You don't love your son. To leave us like this and go and get yourself killed! If you die, I will be alone!"
"No, Dorian, not alone. You will have Yuri-"
"Yuri? Yuri? My son? So I am told that if you die I must take my own son into my bed in your place? No, Gabriel. I don't want him!"
And Papa had almost hit him. Yuri could see the inclination in his eyes from where he stood. Dorian had seen it as well and had staggered away as if he feared Gabriel, though both he and Yuri knew that Papa would never do such a thing.
And there they were. Papa seething, looking as if he would cry too, and Dorian in the corner, his nails digging into the marble wall, his teeth clenched visibly.
Yuri looked at his sire. Tall, handsome Gabriel whose wings were only to envy. Yuri had always dreamed his would be as big. But he knew, as Ria had told him many times, that he would never be powerful as Gabriel was, but he would be slender, reedy. That was Dorian's legacy. But his hair would be flaxen and his eyes blue. He would resemble Gabriel very much in the face. He wanted that. And he wanted a consort someday just like Dorian- beautiful, intelligent, quick.
No, Gabriel. I don't want him.
But suddenly Gabriel's eyes had found him. Yuri cowered, afraid that he would be in trouble to being there. Indeed, his sire's eyes narrowed, the thick dark brows furrowing just for a moment.
His sire stood up and went to Dorian, who was oblivious to Yuri's presence there. Gabriel placed his hands on Dorian's shoulders, quieting him amazingly with that little gesture. The fledgling saw Gabriel's eyes upon him again, then they looked up as if looking at something behind him. Yuri felt the touch of a warm familiar hand on his shoulder and knew it was Ria, alerted by the shouting.
A small, hidden nod from Gabriel had Ria pull Yuri gently away from the wall, and guide him away down the hall towards their own loft. Yuri went quietly, his hand clutching Ria's, his eyes on the floor.
Ria had always been there to pull him away from Papa and Dorian. Tall, beautiful Ria, who was always the talk of the complex because of the way he looked. Yuri sighed.
Sephria met them at the door of his and Auriel's bedroom, and looked at the both of them. He was growing quickly and the time for him to take the rites was to come soon. He looked at Ria, who was only a few inches taller than he now.
Ria said nothing, but softly kissed Sephria's cheek and bid them goodnight, and closed the door behind them.
Yuri stood still for a moment, hugging his pup to him. Vaguely, he saw Sephria go back to his painting. He paid Yuri no mind. Being the eldest, he really had no interest in playing their games.
Auriel, on the other hand, was only a few weeks older than he. Ria's youngest was curled up in the middle of his bed, covered at the waist, sleeping peacefully. Yuri crawled onto the bed and curled against him, his dog next to him.
No, Gabriel. I don't want him.
He felt Auriel's arm wind lazily over his waist and then a sigh of content sleepiness. Yuri closed his eyes. There were no dreams.

Dorian pushed his head back into the pillows, biting down on a scream that threatened to escape his lips.
Gabriel's hair was wet with sweat between his fingers and they slid against each other as, for a fourth time that night, their lovemaking came to an end. He stayed where he was for the moment, his face hidden against the damp heated flesh of Gabriel's neck. He could taste saltiness on his lips.
His consort did nothing for a moment, but merely lay there, tucked ultimately beneath him. But when Gabriel did sit up, he leaned over Dorian and kissed him very deeply.
Dorian smiled and sighed, his tears long dried up. "Yes," he whispered.
"Yes what?"
"Yes, I do love you. Don't you ever dare doubt that. Ever." Dorian pulled him down to stroke his hair. His smile faded. "You think I didn't see him there?"
Gabriel was glad he was facing away and didn't have to look into Dorian's face. "Yuri will be fine," he said softly. He propped himself up so that he may look down at his consort. "If something should ever happen to me, Niko would be his next father."
Dorian had a vague look in his eyes. Perhaps he wasn't listening. But it was really just the shocks of pleasure fading. He looked back to Gabriel. The dawn was coming.
Gabriel stood up and away from the bed. He pulled on some clothes and turned back to Dorian, who had sat up as well and held the thin sheets over his chest in a rather feminine position. He was staring at the sheets in front of him.
"I'll be right back," Gabriel said softly.
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