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La Folia

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They did not shout each other down on the streets of Velora.

People cleared space around them, anyway. She was Rachel, and he was Gabriel. Over nineteen years, their particular brand of harmony had broken cobblestones and bruised onlookers, and kept those onlookers captive all the same as they watched one face flush and the other pale; people  breathed  with them—or failed to breathe—as one circled the other. Silence hurt both angel and angelica in equal measure—and so they used it equally.

This spark had been a small one; the conflagration of two fast-parting bodies and flung glares startled passersby. He was tall, she was fierce, and the air strained between them after a quiet comment had leapt lightly from her mouth to find itself in wild, hostile territory, skittering up against blue eyes and a rigid back. She had said it, and he had heard it, and she broke from his hold to find the stone-and-cable lift she no longer needed to use. She rode, he flew.

They made it to her doorway.

“I don’t know what you must think of me, even now, to say—”

“—what I think, Gabriel, clearly does not matter, since you’ve a tin ear to everything that’s actually come out of my mouth.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.”

His eyes closed. A smirk tugged at his mouth, as he pushed open the bedroom door. “No, I don’t think I did, angela.”

Rachel did smirk, and she was slow at it, pushing her heavy, wild hair back from her face, keeping her eyes on his. “Tin. Ear.”  She licked her lower lip.

Nineteen years had softened the scarring at her wrists—revealed, now, as one broad sleeve of slate blue pooled around her elbow. But he would not catch her there. Now, as always, his hands were hard on thin shoulders, ungiving as she stiffened, pulling away from him as he leant into the resistance. Feather-shadows made lace across her features. “Stop looming,” she snapped.

“Can’t,” he said icily. “I have to lean in to hear you, after all.”

Rachel rolled her eyes. “Honestly, if I’d known you were going to be sensitive I wouldn’t have let you out of bed this morning.”

Sensitive?” His voice came out from a sadly familiar stranglehold, and he cleared his throat. “Jovah preserve me—”

“—someone has.”


Enough force behind the word to still them both, though she refused to lower her eyes, “Yes?”

A pause in all that breathlessness, and his own voice low and blurred around the edges with its power gone.  “Did you really have to say it?”

Rachel sighed. “I don’t understand,” she said, examining him, pushing her hair back again, stepping a little closer so the shadows smudged together over face. “For once, it was just a passing comment.” A smile flickered, and she reached out to delicately, but deliberately, tug at one of the loose pinfeathers above her head, skipping back as he hissed. “We’d been having a halfway human conversation and everything, and you were practically blushing over still managing Castolini’s Laude, and then I said it might be difficult, next year, after—”

“—You,” he said, very quiet, “Compared me to Raphael.”

Rachel closed her eyes. “You can perform your last Gloria with one of Nathan and Maga’s daughters. They are obedient. And plentiful. “

Gabriel snorted, but his wife turned her back on him, and slipped out of reach, head high.

“I’m not joking!”

“No,” he said. “But you, my wife, couldn’t cede a final Gloria.”

“I’ll thrive off the scandal, instead.”

It was, as ever, a source of inordinate satisfaction to hear Gabriel’s ominous mutterings as he strode away from her through the Hold. “May your f-sharps break all the mirrors in your damned house.”


But Rachel did not travel to Hagar’s Tooth. She was distant, surprising no one, but she also seemed to make particular effort at being perpetually there.   Or so it seemed to the Archangel. She kept a careful undertone whenever he rostered for Harmonics, notes arching over or easing under his own tenor in a phantom caress too perfectly pitched to disturb the other singers, but made the hair stir at the back of his neck.

She took her own turn singing in the middle of the day, when meetings were sure to be held and he was sure to hear her soprano, strong and clear and particularly gleeful and tintinnabulous, as more polite, blended under-voices did all they could to support a melody line from flying away entirely.  Every time he thought he could catch a breath, the Kiss in his arm would flash opal and his bones, long used to this sort of pain, practically opened up and out before the rest of him could register the notes. She steered away from their bed, and stayed in his thoughts. She was Rachel. And driving him insane.  If notes could take form, they would litter the Eyrie, briars catching at trousers and skirts, boots and skin.

When he finally cracked, it was a noon rotation, and the Laude turned provocative and brassy as Obadiah’s baritone—(“Controlling wicked delights of offspring,” he sometimes opined, with exaggerated wistfulness, “Lowers the voice dreadfully,” Rebekah would throw something at him, usually, without bothering to move from her chair)—striving valiantly support, and a timid alto lost all together in the uneven, brilliant midst of things.  As Gabriel breathed, then slid his own tenor in one of the few rest breaks Rachel had deigned to take for the sake of the music, alto and Obadiah dropped away completely, leaving the two of them whilst never quitting the room.

A soprano line and a tenor line do not share easily, even in a world defined by and drawn with harmony. Intervals kiss and leap apart, with no alto to be soft ease between the two, or a careful restraint made up of wicked, dissonant notes or counterpoint, and each is determined to lead, lead—from the top of the staves or warm and vibrant in the middle of them, it does not matter. One strives and takes and trips. And Rachel’s face, as she let an arching sustain take all the power from his ambitious trill, was all glory. Ribbon notes. Bell and alloy notes, D-major in their mouths and against their skin, tasting of wrought sunshine and  more intimate the feel of her tongue in his mouth, or her hand at the join of shoulder and wing, his own touch clean and light and infuriating against taut skin.  

They sing until breathless, after months without words, and it is other people who blush.