One for Sorrow

1912

"Getting quiet."

Sarah felt Andrew nod, just barely, and watched as he tried to curl his trembling fingers around hers. Frost glittered on their skin, bright and brittle as the stars overhead, and it suddenly occurred to Sarah that she wasn't so cold anymore.

It wasn't as bad, now. After an hour in the water most had stopped screaming. There was a queer sort of peace about.

"S-Sarah?"

With difficulty she turned her head towards him, brushed her blue lips to his.

"'M glad you're 'ere, Andrew L-Lang." she rasped. Though it was hard to tell in the darkness, she thought she saw his face contort in grief.

"Gl-glad t'be wi' you, Sarah. Only wish…we could've been happy."

"Yes. We could've been."

Two for Joy

1912

Languid as a cat, Sarah Lang stretched her arms above her head and curled her toes in the sheets, a long sigh escaping her. A warm, wiry arm snaked around her waist and she smirked, letting herself be dragged back into a possessive hold.

"Christ," she sighed, "After the sinking I'd never thought I'd feel warm again."

Andrew nuzzled into her neck, mischievously nipping at the shell of her ear.

"I'll never let you go cold again, Mrs. Lang. You can count on it."

"Hmm, I'll be holdin' you to that vow, Mr. Lang."

Three for a Girl

1912

"She's so beautiful."

Andrew cradled his newborn daughter close, nearly delirious with joy and terror. The baby dozed in his arms, occasionally wrinkling a nose that was a tiny replica of his as she dreamed, and he scarcely dared to breathe for fear of waking her.

Beside him, Sarah reclined upon their bed, exhausted and nearly radiant in triumph. She smiled at the pair of them, her husband and baby, and she reached out to tickle one of the little pink feet left exposed by the swaddling.

"Quiet, too, isn't she? She cried out the once, when she arrived, and has kept to herself since."

"Surely not an O'Brien trait?" Andrew grinned, and Sarah swatted at him.

"What'll we name her?" she asked, curling onto her side to better watch them. Andrew turned his love-struck gaze from his wife to his little girl and smiled dazedly.

"Sophie. Sophie Lang."

Four for a Boy

1913

From the very start Michael Lang took after his mother's side of the family, in that he was impatient, ill-tempered, and above all loud.

Sarah went into labor just after teatime and was delivered of a hearty baby boy just before supper. The moment he was born Michael let out an ear-splitting shriek and kept on caterwauling until his mother put him to her breast. His father took one look at him and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that their son was a true O'Brien.

What other choice did they have, but to name him for his mother's youngest brother?

Five for Silver.

1914

Sarah frowned as she gently combed her fingers through her sleeping husband's hair, twisting silvered strands between her fingers and wondering at the abundance. Andrew muttered in his sleep, his brow contracting in fear, and Sarah soothed him with a quiet word, a caress.

She kissed his temple and cursed the war that had aged her beloved before his time.

Six for Gold

1917

Sarah was weak, but she would live.

Andrew sat sleepless at her bedside, her hand in his. Their little ones slept on either side of their mother; the doctor had warned him that Sarah was to go undisturbed for as long as possible, but Andrew could see no harm in it.

The children had nearly lost her as well, after all.

There came a muffled sigh as Sophie turned over, and one of Michael's grubby feet kicked out from beneath the covers. With great care Andrew tucked his son's foot back under the blankets, never once letting go of his wife's hand.

"Andy?"

Andrew started and raised his head; Sarah shifted on the bed, turning her colorless face towards him and slowly opening her eyes. Andrew's throat grew tight, and his eyes stung, but he smiled for her despite all that.

"Hullo, lovely."

Her mouth twitched, just a little, and she pressed his fingers as best she could.

"Angela?"

Andrew's smile grew, and he raised Sarah's hand to his lips. He brought the baby from her cradle and laid her on Sarah's chest, his hand cupped protectively over her tiny golden-haired head.

"Oh," whispered Sarah, her throat raw. "We finally 'ad one that takes after you."

Seven for a Secret, Never to be Told

1918

"I t-tried…oh, God, his head…I-I couldn't…"

Sarah pressed herself against Andrew's heaving back, her arms crushing around his ribs as she tried to be with him in this festering horror he had carried back home in himself, tried to pull him back, turn his eyes away.

"He was only a boy, a stupid scared child and I-."

Andrew sobbed, his hands clawing at his temples, and Sarah snatched at his wrists in a vain attempt to stop him.

"I'm right here, keep breathing darlin', just please, please-."

She found she could not think of anything to say in the face of Andrew's guilt, his searing self-hatred. In the end she could do nothing but hold him, his face hidden in her neck, as she told him again and again I am here, I will not leave you, not ever.

Eight for a Kiss

1918

Andrew kissed her lazily, his hair damp with sweat and his eyes a little unfocused. He trembled, but there was no fear in him. Sighing Sarah cradled his head against her shoulder, hooking her leg over his waist and stroking his brow until he drifted off. If this was the price of a peaceful night, she was glad to pay it.

Nine for a Wish

1918

He sat shivering on the stairs, his eyes fixed on his trembling hands. He could sense Sarah just behind him, a warm presence that hovered uncertainly at his back.

"God, what you must think of me, jumping and shaking at every little thing."

Andrew heard her move, and in a moment she was sitting beside him, carefully twinning her hands with his.

"You've a right, darlin'; when will you learn that no one will fault you for any of this, least of all me?" she asked, staring sternly into his eyes. Andrew's mouth quivered, a failure of a smile, and turned his head away.

"I wish I could be the man you deserve, Sarah."

She gripped his chin between thumb and forefinger and turned his head back around, her eyes piercing.

"Don't start spouting that tripe. You're still that man, Andrew Lang. War or not, you're still the one who fell for me on sight, like a daft idiot, an' you're still the one who jumped into the bloody Atlantic to save me. You're the man who fathered my children, an' the only man I want beside me at night. That's not changed, no matter what you may think."

Sarah kissed him before he could argue, warm and fierce and there, and he allowed himself to believe her.

Ten for a Life of Joy and Bliss

1935

Sarah's hair is the dark gray of iron, and his isn't much better. They creak with age now, their faces lined by the years. Their children have left the safety of the home they've built together, even shy Angela. They are old.

Yet their backs are straight still, and their hands remain clever. Sarah's tongue has not dulled, and Andrew loves her as fiercely as he did when he first saw her on the deck of a doomed ship. She drowses with her head on his shoulder on this foggy Sunday morn, one of his poetry books forgotten on their quilt between them.

They are old, and their hearts beat steadily for each other.