(Uriel)

Reducing the Population

I just felt like everything was falling appart and everybody leaving at the time I wrote this, so this is an unhappy NO AU.




"Gabriel!" Anathema burst into the hospital wing with rather uncharacteristic force, but the one she found there wasn't the male shaped being she'd expected to see. She froze in the door.

"Gabriel had urgent business elsewhere," Crowley explained with a slight smirk. Belial hadn't explained what said business might be, but the very fact that it had been Belial who'd asked him to help out gave him a very good idea. "I'm watching the place until he gets back."

"Oh, I see." Her problem could wait a few hours, she supposed. It was just that she felt she needed to talk with somebody right now.

"I am a quite competent healer, you know," Crowley assured her misinterpreting her disappointment. "If you just tell me what's wrong."

"I don't," Anathema burst out. "I mean, I'm not in need of healing, I just wanted to talk to someone and Gabriel seemed to be the best choice. It can wait, though."

Crowley regarded her.

"Problem?" he asked after a moment. "You can trust me, you know. Why don't you come in and close that door?"

She did even though she didn't really want to talk about it with Crowley. He might be the most angelic demon she'd ever met, but she hardly knew him. No, she'd just wait until Gabriel came back. She sat on one of the hospital beds and wondered why she'd come in at all.

"So," Crowley said gently. "What's the problem?"

"I ... I'm pregnant!" She hadn't meant to say that, but it was so hard to keep it in.

Crowley blinked behind his sunglasses. Another baby? Crowley didn't like babies. They were loud, woke you in the middle of the night and there was very little you could tempt them into doing, because they were simply too young to do much.

Besides, the thought of babies always made him think of Uriel now and that reminded him of his break-up with Aziraphale.

"Well, congratulations," he said doing his best to sound sincere. "Have you told Newt, yet?"

He didn't mean it, Anathema knew, but then she didn't really expect a demon to like other to be happy. It would probably cheer him up to know the whole story.

"It isn't Newt's child," she explained. "I ... He's been away so long and I was lonely."

"Ah, and now you're afraid that he'll find out?" Crowley suppressed a delighted grin. "You could just tell him that it's his baby and pretend it was born a little late."

Anathema shook her head. "He isn't that stupid. I'd be showing by now, if it were his baby."

"There's always abortion," Crowley suggested. "This early in the pregnancy it's completely uncomplicated and absolutely legal. You'd hardly feel a thing and Newt would never have to know."

Anathema stared at him. Abortion? Just kill the baby?

"I swear I'll keep your secret. You can have it done anonymously somewhere in London and nobody would ever find out. No baby, no problem. Just think of all the anguish you'd spare poor Newt."

"I ... I'll think about it," Anathema promised and fled. She'd have to discuss it with Gabriel tomorrow. It could wait another day, after all.




That afternoon Anathema went to London to visit Loki, but he was too weak and drowsy to talk much and she didn't stay long seeing that he really needed to sleep. She had some time to kill until the next bus back to Tadfield and seeing how she was already at a hospital, she decided to just stop by the maternity ward and ask for some advice on abortion.

It was a slow day at the hospital and when they offered to do it right here and now and she could go home the very same day it was just too easy to say yes.




"You did what?" Gabriel asked Anathema horrified.

"I had an abortion," she repeated. "It seemed like the best solution. It was the best solution." she insisted. "It's just that I've wanted a child for so long and now that I finally had the chance ..." She sobbed. "What if I never get pregnant again? What if Newt can't have children, but would have wanted them? What if he'd have been happy to raise the baby with me, even if it wasn't his?"

"You killed your own child," Gabriel still couldn't believe it. "If you didn't want it, why didn't you give it up for adoption? There are so many infertile couples who want children. It could have had a long and happy life. Now it'll never get a chance to be born, to see the world. It'll never laugh, or walk, or talk, or anything."

"I'm sorry," sobbed Anathema. "I never thought of that."

"Why didn't you tell me before you went and killed the poor thing? I'd have told you."

Gabriel knew that he wasn't helping. His accusations and suggestions were only increasing her feelings of guilt, but he didn't know how to provide comfort in a situation like this. He'd never thought Anathema might be capable of cold blooded murder, especially not of her own child and he couldn't see her action as anything else. He felt shocked and confused and completely out of his depth. He'd never had to deal with anything like this before. Why couldn't Anathema have taken this problem to Aziraphale instead? Somehow Gabriel knew that Aziraphale who'd been down here for so long would have known exactly what to say.

"I'm sorry," he told Anathema. "I don't know how to help you."




It was only a little over two weeks later that Gabriel had to face the next situation he couldn't handle.

This one didn't seem that bad at first. When the Doctor burst into the hospital wing to tell him that Uriel was in labour he only thought that there were more competent people to deal with this, but he ought to be able to manage. Theoretically at least he was the angel of birth, after all, and he knew how it was supposed to work. It was a natural process, really, so Uriel would most likely be able to give birth all on her own. He'd just have to assist her, reduce the pain and maybe comfort and encourage.

Of course he knew that he wasn't particularly good at the last of those tasks, but that's what he had Anathema for, right?

"Anathema? Can you set up ..."

He face was as white as the bed sheets she was clutching to her chest.

"Anathema?" he asked. "Are you alright?"

"I ... I can't do this," Anathema gasped, dropped the fresh laundry and rushed out.

She'd been avoiding Uriel and everything else vaguely connected with babies ever since her abortion, but he hadn't realised it was bad enough that she'd desert him in an emergency.

He knew he should go after her. She needed someone to talk to and he needed her help here, but there was no time for this. Uriel's baby wasn't going to wait until he'd fixed his mistake with Anathema, especially when he had no idea how to go about it.

He managed to set up the hospital wing just in time before Mictain carried Uriel in.

"It's much too early!" Uriel wailed at him between contractions "Something's wrong!"

Something was indeed Gabriel realised as soon as he directed his healing powers towards Uriel's belly. The baby's head should be pointing downwards so It would be the first thing to come out, but it wasn't. This little angel seemed to be determined to be born with his feet first and that couldn't be allowed. It was too dangerous.

If Raphael were here, he'd know how to turn the baby, but Gabriel didn't dare experiment. Adam could probably miracle it into the proper position.

He turned to Mictain. "Get Adam. I'll need some help here," he continued realising that he shouldn't worry Uriel in her current condition. "And Anathema ... isn't feeling well."

"Adam's in London," the Doctor supplied. "Went to check on Loki, I think."

Gabriel began to understand why humans cursed. Oh what to do? No Raphael, no Adam. Who else around here might know what to do with an upside down baby?

"Then get Crowley," he snapped. "Or Aziraphale. Maybe one of them has helped with a birth before."

Aziraphale had, though it had been a few millennia and Eve had never had complications like these, and Crowley wasn't afraid to turn the baby around. For a little while it seemed like everything was going fine after that, then Crowley started blessing.

"What?" Gabriel asked. He'd been concentrating on providing pain relief.

"The baby's stuck," Crowley reported. "It's too big. Or maybe Uriel's too small, however you want to see it. Either way this baby is not going to get through here. You'll have to cut it out."

"Cut?" Gabriel gasped. "You mean perform a caesarean? I have no idea how to do that! I've never even seen one."

"Er ... well ... theoretically ..." It was quite obvious that Crowley hadn't either, but they were going to have to try and the demon did seem to know something about how it was done.

They tried. With Crowley giving instructions and handing Gabriel instruments while trying to reduce Uriel's pain and Aziraphale desperately trying to reduce the blood flow. The principality was rapidly tiring, though. Gabriel could see that they'd done something wrong. Uriel was bleeding much too much and even when Mictain stepped in to help Aziraphale it hardly made a difference. If he didn't want Uriel to bleed to death, he had to close her up now. If he didn't want the baby to die, he had to cut it out slowly and carefully. He couldn't save them both.

Who to choose?

He didn't know the baby, nobody did yet. It was a tiny life full of endless possibilities that had only just begun. Uriel he'd known all his existence. She was his fellow archangel, something like a sister, he supposed, had been with him since before time began.

Maybe they'd get lucky and he wouldn't hit anything vital. He cut the baby out as fast as he could, thrust it into the Doctor's hands and hastily closed Uriel's belly while the Doctor attempted to free the baby's mouth and nose.

"He's dead," the Doctor announced finally his voice as empty and defeated as Gabriel felt.

He'd failed. He was no healer and he should never have agreed to take over when Raphael had left, but there had been nobody else to do it and at least Uriel would live.




She had lost her baby.

For nine months everything Uriel had done had been in preparation for little Bran, to make sure that he'd have everything he needed, that he grew up strong and healthy and now, just like that, he was dead. He'd never even gotten to draw a single breath.

When Gabriel pronounced her fit to leave the hospital wing Uriel went straight to her room, absently patted Bast's head a few times, then opened the window and let Chirpy out. She didn't know who'd fed the little bird in her absence, but she was vaguely grateful to them. At least Chirpy would live and be happy.

Next she went down to what was now Loki's room, but had once been Odin's. Loki wasn't there of course. He was still in the hospital in London. She hoped that the bone marrow transplant would save him and felt some more vague gratefulness this time directed at Shadow. It took her a while to find the athame she'd used for her suicide attempt, but she was patient and thorough and in the end she did. Odin had had no reason to take it with him, she supposed. He had other weapons that suited him more.

Not wanting to mess up her brother's room any more than she already had she went outside. It might be better to leave the manor entirely, she thought. She could feel how far Adam's wards extended and walked just beyond that point before sitting cross-legged on the ground. The scars on her wrists were still clearly visible. She tried to follow them exactly this time as well, though it wasn't easy once she got to the second hand. She was already too light headed from the first cuts.

They didn't find her body until the next morning.




It was Anathema who brought Loki the news of Bran's and later of Uriel's deaths. The woman was becoming a regular source of bad news, the god thought and it seemed that Anathema herself agreed with him. She looked quiet and unhappy and he was beginning to wonder whether it was only grief for Uriel and Bran whom she'd hardly known or something else. He hoped that Newt hadn't found out about their little interlude together and broken up with her. It was bad enough that John was still angry at him over Ezra and Crowley.

Yes, John had been helpful after his collapse and said that he'd forgiven him, but he was more distant than he'd been before that and Loki suspected that he'd only done it because he felt sorry for him when he'd been so sick.

Still he owed John and he owed Shadow which was why he'd agree to let Ana rent a car and drive him back to the manor when he was released from the hospital. She thought he was too weak to use public transport and he needed to go home. He wasn't sure he'd call the manor home now that both is siblings were gone, but his backpack was still there.

That day it was for once his doctor who was the bearer of the bad news. There was no trace of the leukaemia left, he told him, but the treatment had also left him infertile. Somehow he'd always thought that someday he'd start over with a new family, have more kids that Odin wouldn't take away.

Anathema was very quiet as she drove and finally when they were on a small quiet country road Loki convinced her to stop by the roadside and tell him what was going on.

"I aborted my baby," she said tears running down her cheeks. "Our baby. I killed it just because it was yours and not Newt's and now, and now ... Oh Loki, I always wanted a baby and I killed it."

"You killed it, because you loved Newt more," Loki said trying to shut off all his own feelings. She'd break, if he blamed her now, if he told her how precious that child would have been to him. 'Concentrate on Sleipnir,' he told himself. 'He's the only child you have left. If you find Odin, you'll also find Sleipnir. You'll be okay now, you'll grow strong again and Odin will take you back and you can all be together again.' "That was a very hard choice," he told Anathema. "But you made it and now you must move on. Your child is dead, but the man you love is still there. You should go to him, have more children, his children."

Anathema nodded to everything, except the last bit. "No, no I don't think I could have a child ever again. It'd be like trying to replace the one I killed. I think it's better, if I remain childless, but you are right about following Newt. As soon as we get back to the manor I'll call him and tell him I'm coming. Thank you, Loki. I didn't know what to do until now, but now thanks to you, I do. You're a real friend."

He kept his mind firmly on Sleipnir for the rest of the trip. Soon he'd be strong enough to shape change again and then he'd be able to run with the stallion again.

They separated in the lobby, each headed towards their room and phone. Ana, he knew, to call Newt, Loki himself to call Anansi. If Odin had returned to America, he'd have stopped by either Anansi's or Czernobog's place and Loki didn't feel ready to meet Czernobog again yet. Visiting Anansi was always fun, though. They had a lot in common.

After announcing his impending arrival he hung up the phone, collected what few possessions weren't already in his backpack and stuffed them inside. He didn't return the remaining books to the library, nor did he go up to the attic for the ones that were still up there or his oil paints and paint brush. Possessions only tied you down and these would forever remind him of his little sister. Let John keep the attic hideout with everything that was in there. Loki had his memories and that was bad enough.

He slipped on the backpack, cast one last look around the room that had been his home for almost a year and walked out. It was time to say good bye to John and thank you to Shadow. Though most of his existence had been spent travelling, Loki had rarely travelled alone. Most of the time it had been Odin, but he'd also had other companions, Thor mostly, or one of Odin's other sons, but even Frey had occasionally joined him for a short, and very unpleasant, trip. Odin might not be here, but one of his sons was and Shadow, though a bit of a loner, did seem to be a drifter. Maybe he could convince him to come along.

John wasn't in his room, so Loki decided to go to the bar and talk to Shadow first and there they both were, Shadow behind the bar while John was leaning against it. He almost walked up to them, but Crowley was there with John and all three were laughing. John wanted him to stay away from his friends and he and Crowley had their backs to him and only Shadow had seen him.

Loki lifted his hand to wave a short greeting. Someday, somewhere he and Shadow would meet again. As for John, Loki silently wished him the best for his short human lifetime and then he tried not to think of them anymore as he walked slowly towards the next bus stop.



(Bran and Honey)





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