Yuri woke to a touch on his cheek. A soft yip in greeting came from the lazy dog nestled against him. Opening his eyes, he saw his father over him. Gabriel lifted his dainty son from the entanglement of sheets and Auriel's arms and carried him into an empty room where he set him down, wrapped in blankets from the bed, otherwise nude as usual. Ryku bounded behind them and sat in the doorway of the room, as if on guard.
Yuri stood still as if afraid to move, clutching the blankets at his shoulders, and Gabriel knelt down in front of him, putting a warm hand on his hip.
"Yuri," Papa said softly. "What you heard in there this evening-"
"Papa," Yuri said suddenly. He put both his small hands to his father's face. Gabriel smiled and lower his eyes. His son already knew what he was going to say. Yuri suddenly kissed his forehead in a gesture he had seen Dorian do a thousand times.
Gabriel took his little son's hands from his cheeks and held them in his own. "Listen to me, love, this is very important. If, by chance, I don't come back, if something happens to me-" he searched for the right words. "You know very well that you must take the Rites." Yuri nodded, his little face in confusion.
"Should something happen to me," Gabriel continued softly, his hands squeezing his son's. "It is your responsibility to care for Dorian and the child that will soon be born."
Gabriel smiled. "Yes. Tonight, before I came here. Dorian doesn't know yet. He won't until it starts to show, and I would have you keep this secret for me. He isn't ready to know yet."
Yuri nodded.
The dawn had come, but no light pervaded as yet.
"The only thing I can tell you is to hold him when he needs it." He smiled gently, as if recalling some old memory. "Dorian is not like any of the other consorts here. I don't know what it is that makes him different. But that he needs love more than the others do. He needs you to be there for him. And remember- no matter what he says, my little love, he does love you. More than he or you will ever know. Do you understand?"
His son anxiously nodded his head. "Papa?"
Yuri threw his arms around his father's neck and Gabriel stood, lifting his son with him, holding him so tightly that Yuri felt he would never let go. "Please don't leave us," Yuri whispered. He was crying; Gabriel could feel the hot tears against his neck where Yuri had buried his head.
Gabriel felt his own tears welling up. He buried his face into Yuri's long hair. "Oh, my love," he whispered. "You would never know how many times I dreamed that I would have a son like you. Gods, I love you!"

He had put Yuri back to bed after an hour of coaxing him out of his tears, making sure that the wolf pup was with him to give him comfort should he wake up again. He had sat down in a comfortable chair with Yuri straddling his lap, laying against his chest and just crying his little heart out. Finally, he had cried enough and Gabriel had lifted him again and put him back into bed with Auriel.
"I love you, Papa," came the innocent whisper in the dark.

He had said good-bye to Niko and Ria the night before, when Dorian wasn't speaking to him. Niko had given his words of encouragement and comfort with a joking tinge, as was his way, and even the demure Ria had shed tears but tried to hide them. He stayed hours with them, talking, touching... it was the best good-bye he could give them.
Now was the time he dreaded. He had to face Dorian again.
Dorian was asleep sprawled across the bed, naked and exposed. His head was tilted back, exposing his long neck that had 'kiss me' all over it.
"You've said good-bye to them all now?" Dorian suddenly whispered. He sat up, drawing his legs under him and brushing his loose hair back. He looked almost ghostly, his skin was bleached looking, glowing nearly white in the moonlight.
Gabriel said nothing. He stared out the balcony and felt it when Dorian came to stand behind him.
"Do you hate me?" Dorian whispered, his voice empty of any emotion at all.
"Do you regret what you did?"
"I regret nothing," Gabriel said quickly, but softly. He didn't turn to face his consort. "Except maybe letting you become such a big part of me." Now he turned. "You see, we're not supposed to actually love our consorts, as it is known that we live in a dangerous world and that if one should die, the other must get over it and move on. But that is not the case for most of us here. The higher ups don't seem to realize that you are more than just bodies for making children.."
Dorian's face had given up the cold, hard look that it had when he was angry. His face was soft now, despite the cold blue light from the outside night. His eyes glittered moistly with tears not yet ready to fall.
"I will be back soon." He cupped Dorian's face with his hands. "We're all acting as if I'm already dead-"
"Don't say that, Gabriel," Dorian whispered, his hand clutching Gabriel's wrist. The Flyer enfolded him to his chest and breathed in the scent of his hair, so familiar, warm. It was as if he was memorizing the scent of his consort for the first time, branding it into his mind so that he could recall it at moments of loneliness.
Dorian pulled back a bit and held Gabriel's face in his hands in urgency. "Don't be brave, do you hear me? Just get away if there is danger."
"I will, love. Believe me, I will. But you must promise me something, too." He waited until Dorian nodded to continue. "Be kind to Yuri while I'm gone. He is your son as well as mine-"
Dorian had pulled out of his arms to pull on a silken robe over his cold skin.
Gabriel watched him, lowering his empty arms. "He worships you, Dorian. He wants to have someone like you someday-"
"With where you're going, he just might."
The icy words stung him. He sighed. Dawn was here and passing.
"Dorian, look at me." Reluctantly, his consort dragged his stare to Gabriel's face. "You don't understand it now, but you will. You are a part of me and," he cleared his throat, "for a short time, I'm part of you."
His consort flew into his arms. "You'll always be a part of me," he whispered, a tears streaking down his cheek. "I love you!"
"I love you, Dorian. You know I do."
If he didn't leave now, he would never go. Gently, he disentangled himself from Dorian's arms and went to the balcony, Dorian following him silently. He perched on the railing and turned one more time to his consort. Touching his face, he whispered, "I will come back." And he took off.
Dorian watched him disappear into the clouds after being joined by a few more Flyers also on the same journey.
"My love," he said out loud. "You'd better come back. If you don't, I'll end it myself."

They were sleeping. Dawn was far, far off. The twin moons hung like ornaments on a shining garment. A gentle wind blew softly, causing the thin curtains of an ever-open balcony door to billow gently. Somewhere off, a caged bird called, echoing the laments as loved ones received news by messenger of their own loved one's fate at the end of the dangerous journey.
Yuri remembered it very well. One minute he was tucked deep and safe in his own bed of soft sheets and the fur of his dog, and the next he was crying at the sound of his hostling's blood-chilling scream. He was up and running to Dorian's chambers, bare feet slapping almost painfully on the cold tiles, his dog barking and running at his side.
But someone had grabbed him up in his fleeing and heaved him into strong arms. Ryku growled and tried to bite at Niko, but one look from the familiar Flyer had him fall back a few paces and then follow. Yuri was being carried away from Dorian's rooms. "Come on, Yuri," Niko said, his voice shaking as if he could barely control himself. "Your hostling doesn't need to see you right now."
"Let me go!" Yuri screamed, echoed by his wolf's bark. Something in Niko's voice made his blood run cold. He was kicking and screaming when Niko placed him in bed next to a frightened Auriel. Niko smoothed Auriel's hair back to soothe him wordlessly and left hastily.
There was only one thing that would make the impermeable Dorian scream like that.
"Papa!" Yuri screamed, tears streaming down his cheeks as his pup licked them away and both Auriel and a nearly full-grown Sephria helplessly tried to comfort him.

"I'd better go in," Ria said softly, wiping his face. Time for his own tears would come later, as would Niko's. They both had an obligation to Dorian first. He touched Niko's shoulder. His consort gave him an encouraging smile, his eyes moist looking. They looked at the door.
Dorian had locked the door on them after he had screamed, but after that there had been no more movements or sounds. Niko had kept an eye on the balcony if Dorian decided to take severe action. But so far, nothing.
"You stay here," Ria said gently, wiping his eyes again and wishing for all the world he could just curl into Niko's arms and sleep until all this passed over. But Dorian was there in that room, in the same position Ria had been when he'd first heard the news of his own consort. No one was there for him. He'd be damned if he would let Dorian go through it alone now.
Niko could easily break the lock. He stepped aside and let Ria enter silently. The room was cold, but it was a chill that really wasn't tangible. Ria felt as if he was floating into a dream world as he stepped slowly into it. Dorian was not in sight. A feeling of presence emanated from the open balcony.
The boy was naked, his skin glowing silvery-white in the light of the moon and stars. He was ethereal there, leaning against the railing and gazing up into the stars as if they held some answer for him. A perfect creation of feral moods and a chilling manner. He was a goddess almost as he slowly turned his head to Ria.
The many months that Gabriel had been gone had not changed him much in physical appearance. But mentally, Dorian was a different person all together. Countless times Gabriel had been compared to the sun because of his colors and personality. If that was the case, Dorian had become quite like a moon without a sun to revolve around, no heat, no emotion. He was, passionless now. Rarely ever did he break a smile, save when he was absorbed in his own thoughts and believed himself to be alone. He dressed in darker colors and less reserved every day. He still treated Ria with absolute respect, but rarely spoke anymore, and Niko he could care less about.
The worst- the worst was the way he treated his own son. Ria was so thankful for that wolf pup Gabriel had brought for him, or else Yuri would never make it through. But Dorian didn't scream and yell at the fledgling. He didn't hit Yuri either. He just simply and cruelly ignored him.
Ignored almost completely. As if Dorian blamed Yuri for Gabriel's leaving. Blamed Yuri for the fact that Dorian would possibly someday have to take his own son into his bed. Yuri, poor, innocent Yuri, who was growing to look more and more like Gabriel every day, hadn't any idea of what he'd done. At night he cried for Dorian, or even Gabriel, for someone- anyone to care for him. To care about him.
Ria did what he could for the young fledgling. But he didn't want Yuri becoming attached to him. Yuri needed his own hostling. Ria would have to see to it that soon, very soon, Dorian would realize this. Until then, the little fledgling buried his tears into his wolf's soft fur. The pup had grown and was almost full size.
And the worst had come when Dorian had realized that on his last night, Gabriel had impregnated him again. He woke up with the pains from it a few nights later and had screamed bloody murder, cursing in two different languages his son and consort. He screamed that he wanted to go home, go home to his mother and little farmhouse. He had grabbed anything sharp and sought to destroy himself with it, or at least destroy the child inside him, screaming: "I don't want it! Damn him, I don't want it!"
In that situation, Ria had kept Yuri and the rest of the fledglings well away from Dorian's chambers. Niko, too, would have only served to upset him more. So, all night and well into the next day, he had locked himself in the room with Dorian, watching over him and speaking softly to him while rubbing oils into his belly. Anything to ease the reminder of what was growing there.
And he, himself, had spent a good deal of time weeping whenever he got the chance to be alone.
And now, as Ria gazed upon him, the sight wrenched at his heart. The swelling had begun to show well. Dorian's skin was bleached silver it seemed. His eyes were piercing cobalt, though the expression on his face was dreamy- a sign that all was not well in his head.
"Dorian-" Ria said softly. "It's me."
The boy looked at him as if it was for the first time. He took in all of Ria's appearance, from his bare feet to nightrobe and hastily pinned up hair. Dorian smiled then, delirious in his madness of grief and shock.
He looked down at his body. "Monster," he whispered. His eyes flashed back up and caught Ria advancing closer. "That's what I am."
"No, Dorian, you're not a monster."
"A freak. Some freak abomination-"
Ria had reached him and pulled up away from the railing. He led Dorian back into the warmth of the room with trouble, for Dorian writhed in his grasp, muttering indecipherable words which were probably curses.
"Let me go, Ria. I have to do it. I promised I'd do it!"
"I'm not going to let you go," he hissed in a trembling voice. "I owe at least something to your son. I won't let him grow up orphaned!"
Dorian fought him only half-heartedly. "I wasn't meant for this, Ria. If Gabriel was here, perhaps I could bear it, but not alone-"
"You're not alone," Ria insisted, making the mistake of letting his own trembling sadness creep into his voice to the point of making his breath catch in his throat. "You have Yuri at least!"
Dorian remained silent. He placed his hands almost nervously on his growing belly. Anxiously, he looked up at Ria. "He won't be here," he said softly. "No one will be here when I have this!"
Ria took his shoulders and shook him a little. "Dorian, calm down. You're not thinking. You aren't alone, do you hear me? You can't leave me now, I need you here! And you have to take care of Yuri-"
"Yuri, Yuri, Yuri!" Dorian suddenly yelled. "It's always Yuri! What about me, Ria?" he shouted, hitting himself in the chest. "Me! True, he lost a father. But I lost a consort! My husband. My love, my life!" He fell onto the bed and covered his head with his arms and wept silently. Ria could see his shoulders convulsing. "I don't have any reason to live now..." he moaned.
"No, Dorian. You have no right to say that." Ria sat next to him and placed a hand on his back. His skin was cold and sweaty. "I need you here," he whispered.
"Look at me Ria," Dorian whispered. "If I stay here, I'll die of loneliness. If I go back, I'll be a freak, a demon. It's hopeless."
Ria fell on him and embraced him, kissing his back and nuzzling his hair. "Oh, why can't you understand, Dorian? I've gone through this too, I know what it's like! And I have my son as a consort now. Dorian, I promise it will be all right." He stroked the clammy flesh beneath his cheek. "Already Yuri begins to look and act like Gabriel. If only you would pay attention to him-" He kissed Dorian's moist back again and rested his forehead against the boy's shoulderblade. He felt the slenderness of Dorian's body that had not been visible.
He kissed the boy's back again, his hand involuntarily moving down Dorian's side to the junction of his hip and leg. Dorian's tensed at the touch at first and then hesitantly moved against his hand. Ria closed his eyes and suddenly, his kisses were traveling up Dorian's neck, his jaw, his cheek...
Dorian had turned over under him and received his kisses. He pulled the other hostling to him in a surprising show of passion, feeding on Ria's lips and tongue as if he had been starved, which, in a way, he had. But he gathered Ria to him like a crazed beast, his kisses ravenous and leaving Ria breathless. He'd never seen such passion in Dorian before. But then again, he and Gabriel had usually closed the door to their bedroom.
Dorian's hands sought out the sensitive flesh beneath his robe. "I need you, I need you..." he was moaning into Ria's lips, clutching at him as if Ria were his last fleeting lifeline.
Ria accepted his passionate kisses with a stunned acceptance. His instincts drove him to the point that he was returning them with desire enough to match Dorian's, whose kisses were so different from Niko's. It'd been so long since he'd kissed a normal human boy.
But as much as it excited him, he couldn't do this. It wasn't right. Two hostlings doing this was forbidden, as it was decreed long ago to be 'unproductive and hurtful to the value of the family unit.' It was punishable by severe beating, or sometimes, depending on how the participants were caught, by death. Whether their Flyer consorts knew and approved of it was immaterial. Even Niko, playful and tolerant as he was, would probably not stand for breaking such taboo. Gabriel he would never know about.
Gabriel and Niko did it, but they were Flyers. They were allowed.
As much as it pained him, he forced himself to push Dorian away. "Please don't do this, Dorian," he whispered, his breathing coming in gasps. "We will regret it."
Dorian hesitated a moment before he nodded and slid his hands from under Ria's robe. Ria looked at him sadly. Dorian so wanted to be held, he needed it.
"There will be time," he whispered, as if the very walls had ears.
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