Author's Note: Hmmm... something has just come to my attention. A glaring lack in this fandom, an absence of a certain type of fiction which plagues nearly all other fandoms, yet is conspicuously missing in this one. All the obvious impossibilities made possible by the fae, the ample room for interpretation in the physiological differences between regular people and adepts... yet not a single Mpreg? What the hey? Seeing such a void, despite my relatively fresh acquaintance with the phenomenon, I feel compelled to rectify this blatant oversight. (Besides, I pictured a little mini Vryce-Tarrant... oh, SO cute!)
Warnings: Slash, mpreg, nothing too awful: pretty fluffy, all around
Disclaimer: Considering that the author of the Coldfire Trilogy actually said that she doesn't see the appeal of Gerald/Damien slash fics, I think it's safe to say that I'm NOT her. Therefore, I own nothing but my OCs.
A.N.2: I've noticed a disturbing trend in my writing: despite all efforts to the contrary, in one way or another, Ciani usually ends up being picked on. I'm not actually sure why I dislike her so much: I think it's because she dared to compete with Gerald. The first time I read Black Sun Rising, I liked her just fine, until a certain fateful scene in Briand... oh, well, what the- (ahem). You get the picture. Poor Ciani's in for another surprise. Soundtrack: Song of the Antrim Coast by the Irish Rovers.
A.N.3: Anyone who's written a fic about these two being together - and you know who you are - unless you have a problem with mpreg, consider this a possible happily-ever-after for these unlikely lovebirds.
A.N.4: Why, oh why can't I keep these notes short?
Ciani smiled to herself as she urged her road-weary horse down the dusty road. Ten years: ten long, satisfying years in which she had lived amongst the rakh, relearning their ways and forging bonds of kindred spirits and shared interests. Ten years in which she had thought over her past actions and mistakes: ten years in which she had come a very definite realization. Despite differences of age and interest, the biggest mistake she had ever made was breaking off her relationship with Damien Kilcannon Vryce. That was why she was riding down this winding, dusty road just south of Jaggonath, looking for the address she had been given at the Cathedral as the address of one Revered Vryce. It was time to see about second chances.
As she turned a corner, the woodland on one side gave way to a sprawling, lush meadow: on the other side of the road the trees were interrupted by a long expanse of perfectly trimmed hedge. Ciani smiled. A sprawling estate, that: the house was probably spectacular. The pathway through the hedge was guarded with a massive, wrought iron gate: several powerful wards were Worked into the artistically contorted metal. A plaque next to the gates proclaimed the address. Ciani glanced at it on her way past - and whipped around in a double take, so fast that she cricked her neck.
Stunned, she glanced at the paper in her hand, then back at the plaque. Yes, they both said 1313 Phoenix Boulevard. Bewildered, Ciani prodded her horse gently toward the gate. What would Damien be doing, living in a place like this? Surely it would have taken more than he'd earned in his lifetime to pay for this behemoth of an estate!
As she reached the gate, an impeccably dressed young man in a liveried suit of scarlet and gold appeared out of nowhere, smiling brightly. "Good afternoon, Mes, what can I do for you?"
"Um, I'm looking for Damien Vryce - is this the right address?" Ciani asked in disbelief. The youth grinned even wider.
"Yes it is, Mes. May I have your name?"
"Ciani - I'm a loremaster from Jaggonath." Ciani said, bewildered, and the young man's eyes widened. ...
"Oh, yes, a pleasure to meet you, Mes!" he exclaimed as he unlocked and opened the gate, bowing. "My name is Ethelred: I've heard Sir Vryce speak of you on several occasions. Please, allow me to escort you to the manor."
Ciani dismounted and let Ethelred settle her horse in the small stable behind the hedge, completely lost now. What on Erna was going on here? Damien hardly seemed the type for living in a manor - or keeping servants, for that matter. She wondered anxiously just how much her valiant Church Knight had changed since she last saw him.
Ethelred's smile was disconcertingly bright. "Right this way, Mes..."
As she followed him down the tree-lined path, she couldn't help but feel awed. The property must have been vast, but it was densely forested, and least around the pathway; the crushed rock underfoot was the only indication that they were not wandering through some ancient, untamed woodland. As they rounded a corner, Ciani felt the breath leave her throat in a gasp.
The mansion was, indeed, spectacular. Four stories high, stone, and clearly very old, it was nonetheless in perfect repair. The front was lined with magnificent numarble columns, the vaulted roof and several turrets evoking hints of some magnificent Revivalist castle. As Ethelred lead the stunned woman up the vast, sweeping front steps, Ciani wondered if she had strayed into some kind of strange dream. Nothing about this place seemed to fit Damien: indeed, it rather put her in mind of someone else...
Damien was in the study, poring over the latest proposed education plan for the Church seminary, when Ethelred entered and dipped into a very brief bow. A lifetime of habit made it hard for Ethelred to avoid the motion, but Damien was adamant that it was unnecessary. Damien glanced up and smiled. "Yes, 'Red, what is it?"
"The Lady Ciani is here, sir, she is waiting in the drawing room."
"Really?" Damien said, grinning. "I didn't think she'd ever come back from the rakhlands! You can go, 'Red: I'll take care of Ciani."
"Thank you, sir." Ethelred bowed again, catching himself halfway through, and vanished again. Damien had never quite managed to figure out how the man appeared and disappeared so fast: it was as though he simply materialized wherever he was needed... making a mental note to check into the man's background and watch him for Iezu-like tendencies, Damien headed for the drawing room.
When he entered, Ciani gaped at him. He was wearing a velvet tunic in deep green, with demurely tailored black slacks, and he looked not a day older than he had when Ciani last saw him. He beamed at her.
"Cee, it's been a long time!"
"It certainly has!" Ciani exclaimed, stepping forward for a brief, friendly hug before stepping back to regard him in amazement. "Damien, you look... you look terrific! What in the world have you been doing, though?"
"It's the numarble columns, isn't it?" Damien asked, chuckling. "I told him the columns were too much, but he just wouldn't listen..."
Ciani blinked. "Who wouldn't listen?"
Damien frowned slightly. "Wait, you mean you didn't know?"
Before Ciani could reply, an excited shout rang out. "Dad dad dad! Guess what?"
A boy of about seven years old hurtled into the room and flung himself on Damien, grinning from ear to ear and practically vibrating with excitement. Damien laughed and caught hold of the boy's middle, hoisting him up into his arms and tickling the shrieking child into submission.
"Slow down, Aidan. What have you been told about interrupting, eh?"
"That it's okay as long as I'm too cute for you to be mad!" the boy proclaimed breathlessly. Damien shook his head in mock despair.
"That's your other parent's influence right there. Now, behave yourself: this is Lady Ciani, an old friend of mine. Ciani, this little hellion is my son Aidan."
"A pleasure, I'm sure." Ciani said, concealing her shock. Damien had a child? She took a closer look at the boy - and nearly passed out.
His already slightly heavyset build was unquestionably Damien's, and his wild mop of black hair was the priest's as well, but his face... the delicately sculpted features, the vaguely haughty cast, the large and stunningly silver eyes - the child was the spitting image of Gerald Tarrant.
Damien seemed to catch some of her shock in her face, because his eyes softened in sympathy. He looked at the boy in his arms. "What was so desperately urgent, Aidan?"
"I did so well on my history project that Miss Weatherly gave me an A-plus-plus!" Aidan proclaimed happily, wrapping his arms around Damien's neck. "She said it was the best report she's ever gotten!"
"And of course, that had nothing to do with any adepts who lived through that history." Damien muttered. "That man..." He pried his son's arms from around his neck and set the boy on the ground. "Tell you what, Aidan - you go play with your sister for now, and after I talk to Lady Ciani you can tell me all about what Miss Weatherly said, all right?"
"Alright!" Aidan said, silver eyes shining as he dashed from the room. Damien shouted after him.
"And stay out of the vegetable garden this time, or you'll be grounded tomorrow!"
"So... you're married?" Ciani asked weakly as Damien gestured for her to sit on the couch. Damien smiled sympathetically.
"This wasn't just about catching up and chatting about old times, was it?"
"Well, not entirely." Ciani confessed sheepishly. "I guess I wasn't really thinking: I should have known you would have moved on. I just never really thought of you getting married and settling down - no offense. I just... I assumed."
"That's all right." Damien said, sinking back against the cushions. "Married, yes - I don't know about settled, though. I think my life's crazier now than it was when I was still roaming the world hunting demons. I guess you've been out of touch for a while now: it was all over the papers when I got married."
Ciani nodded to the doorway. "Not to jump to conclusions, Damien, but... that son of yours looks awfully familiar. I know there are certain physiological differences between regular men and male adepts: is there any chance..."
Damien grinned a bit sheepishly. "Yeah - believe it or not, I married Gerald Tarrant. I almost died of shock when he informed me that male adepts can get pregnant. I'm not even close to being sorry, though: the kids are absolutely little devils sometimes, but I can't imagine life without them now. Aidan's seven, which means he's just old enough to know how far he can push before he really gets in trouble, and Selene's four, so she's just too damn cute to get mad at. They're both turning into practical jokers, though: I think it's mostly Karril's fault, but apparently Gerald was quite the mischief-maker when he was young too."
Ciani was silent for a moment, then she smiled. "Well, I can't say I'm not a little disappointed, but at least I know I lost out to the most charming adept in the history of Erna. That takes the sting out a little. And I would still like to go through with the whole reunion-catching up-reminiscing thing, if that's all right with you."
"Of course." Damien said with a grin. "Why don't you stay for dinner? I'm sure Gerald will be glad to see you as well - providing he doesn't drag out the green-eyed monster because of our history, of course. He's a little insecure sometimes."
This time, two children burst in: Aidan, and a little girl with glossy golden hair and dazzling hazel eyes. They flung themselves headlong onto Damien, clambering over him and chattering incessantly.
"Daddy, I found a bird nest in the back yard!" the girl squealed, bouncing enthusiastically on the couch next to him. Damien smiled, managing to reply even while listening to Aidan, who was talking a mile a minute about the Revolution of 674. Ciani watched in amazement: she had never been good with children, but Damien seemed more than capable of dealing with both energetic little kids at the same time.
"So, the long-lost loremaster returns at last." came a sardonic voice from the door.
Ciani looked around and saw Gerald Tarrant standing there, relaxing against the doorframe with a warm smile on his face. He, too, looked unchanged: his wavy golden hair was a little shorter, and his clothing was less blatantly Revivalist, but other than that he was just as Ciani remembered him. She returned his smile happily.
"Gerald, it's good to see you again. What's the big idea, stealing my favorite Church Knight?"
Gerald chuckled softly. "I created the Church, Lady Ciani, that gives me top bid." He glanced at the two rambunctious children scrambling all over Damien, his smile growing still warmer. "I'd almost forgotten how trying children can be, but Damien's wonderful with them."
"I can see I'm intruding on a scene of genuine domestic tranquility here." Ciani said ruefully, shaking her head. "I suppose that's what I get for dedicating my life to the rakh. I don't suppose you're going to override that dinner invitation?"
Gerald shook his head, smirking. "Despite what Damien likes to tell people, I'm not that hopelessly possessive."
"No, but you are in incurable meddler." Damien retorted, finally collaring Selene and pinning her under one arm while he went after Aidan. "Apparently, you forgot our little conversation regarding Aidan's school projects. Seven-year-olds aren't supposed to know the name of every King and Neoduke since the Landing, Gerald."
Gerald gestured dismissively. "Nonsense, love. Aidan's a gifted child. That's already been proven just by the fact he remembers when I tell him these things: I've given you the full list about a thousand times, and you still don't know more than half a dozen."
"And the Revolution of 674!" Aidan chirped as Damien caught him by the arm and dragged him back onto the couch, effectively pinning him in place.
"Yes, Aidan, you just told me. Now why don't you get your mother and Lady Ciani to listen to your speech, while I go start on supper?"
Ciani burst into giggles at the term 'mother', while Gerald sighed. "Sure, stick me with the job of listening to these hellions."
Selene sat up straight on the couch, pushed out her lower lip in a class A pout, and blinked her huge hazel eyes. "Don't you want to hear about the birdy's nest I found?"
"Oh, God save me." Gerald moaned, dropping his head into his hands. Damien chuckled and rose.
"I'll leave you to it - and don't complain so much, Gerald. If you didn't want kids, you could have warned me before you were already two months pregnant."
"I had no idea I was still fertile!" Gerald yelled after the priest's retreating back. He shot a rather helpless glance at his children, then sighed in resignation and took Damien's vacated seat on the couch.
"All right, what's this about a bird's nest?"
Watching as Gerald was pelted with a thousand and one comments about birds, mingled with sporadic facts about the Revolution of 674, Ciani laughed. Maybe losing out on her chance with Damien had actually been a blessing disguise.
Really, he and Gerald deserved each other.