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~:: A Proper Schooling - Chapter III ::~

Az turned to Cale. Before she could say anything, he spoke up, “Dawl told me about this a couple of weeks ago. I didn't want you to get the idea that we thought Adara couldn't make it on her own. I know she will do fine. But you know Dawl…”

Az sighed. “Yes, I do. And I am sure that she, as always, means well.”

“And hey, a little insurance never hurts,” he added slowly. “I was actually a bit worried that the classes might have filled up. At least now we know Adara is guaranteed admission.”

“This is quite true.” She nodded and reached out to put her arms around him. “I am glad you suggested we send Adara to Salamanca, rather than simply enroll her in the local Paragon City public school. I must admit,” she hesitated, “that even though I am convinced the school is far superior, it will still be difficult for me to let her go.”

He smiled as he gently pulled her close. “We can visit her. It isn't that far. And Az, she will be home every weekend. You'll be alright.”

“I know, darling. I am just not accustomed to being by myself, these days.” She looked out the window. Adara was the center of her existence since the moment she'd been born. She filled that huge, empty ache that had haunted Az for years. That ache that was no doubt a consequence of the tragic events surrounding a previous childbirth. She shuddered as she tried to shake off the thoughts of her accursed firstborn.

Cale stroked her hair softly as her troubled emotions passed like ripples across her countenance. “What's on your mind, love?” he asked gently.

“Nothing, really.” She shook her head and replied in her soft voice. Her thoughts turned back to the day Adara was born. A wistful smile played across her lips.

“It is time.”

“Time for what?” Cale asked, looking down at her as he muted the television. He had been watching the evening news at they sat together on the sofa in his apartment. She'd fallen asleep with her head laid in his lap, her long legs hanging well off the end of the couch.

She sat up slowly and rubbed her swollen belly. "It is time," she repeated firmly as her eyes met his.

"TIME? Oh, THAT time! Are you in labor?” he stammered as he leapt from the couch.

She smiled and nodded. “There is no need to panic. This is only the beginning.” Her voice was soft and unusually calm.

“I am NOT panicking. But we need to get ready,” he said frantically. “Do you want me to call your sister?”

Azazela shook her head with a smile. “She is on her way. Trust me on this.”

A soft knock on the door just moments after the words had left her lips served to confirm the veracity of her statement. The empathic bond between the two demonesses never ceased to amaze him. He often wondered if her older sister could tell when he was pleasuring her younger sibling. It made his cheeks flush crimson just to think of it.

“Hi, DC, err, Cale,” Dawl giggled as she pushed past him to rush to her sister's side.

“Are we going to do this here?” she asked, looking up at Cale.

He shrugged. “Shouldn't we go to the hospital?” He met Az's gaze with a look of worry.

“A hospital full of strangers is not a comfortable place to give birth,” Az answered him. “I do not believe there is anything they can do for us that Dawl cannot do better.” She smiled at her tiny sister.

“Well, there is more room at my house,” Dawl suggested. “Your big canopy bed is still in your old room.”

Cale met Az's gaze. “It might be more comfortable there,” he suggested gently.

She nodded. “As you wish.”

Dawl smiled. “Anything you want to bring?”

Az shook her head. “All I need is right here,” she said, gently patting her distended belly. As if to accentuate her statement, the little one within her kicked her hand hard enough to cause it to move.

Dawl laughed gently. “She's telling you that she's ready!”

Half an hour later, Cale was sitting beside Azazela under the massive canopy as she fisted the velvet bedcover and arched her back as the first of the hardest pangs overtook her. Dawl stood on the other side of the bed as she tenderly sponged her sister's sweat-drenched forehead with a damp cloth.

There were no words to describe the kaleidoscope of emotions that was coursing through his being. The part of him that had been Cale Westmarch was experiencing the normal anxiety that is so common to human males when they witness the birth of their firstborn child. The part of him that had been Balregu was experiencing trepidation at the entire messy concept of human childbirth. On some level a fear of what might go wrong washed over the entire surface of his multifaceted consciousness.

The current pain passed, and a panting Azazela sat up against the mahogany headboard. She closed her eyes for a moment.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his voice tinged with worry.

“I will be fine,” she said breathlessly. “It is almost over.” A demonic howl shattered the quiet in the room as the next pain suddenly overtook her.

He wasn't sure why Az had assessed the hardest hour of the entire ordeal as 'almost over' but he was relieved when Dawl finally held up the tiny infant and presented her to him. Tears of joy filled his eyes as he looked upon the tiny face of their daughter for the first time. Azazela laid very still, exhausted from the extraordinary effort it had taken to bring this new life into the world. Dawl smiled at the proud parents as they cuddled the tiny porcelain creature that was their brand new child.

“We shall call her Adara,” Azazela said.

“Adara Westmarch, I like the sound of that,” Dawl said with a smile.

Az positively glowed as she pulled open the front of the soft birthing gown that Dawl had wrapped her in. It was obvious that Dawl had planned all along for the blessed event to take place in this room, she thought with a smile. From the fresh flowers on the dresser to the soft towels on the nightstand, everything had carefully been prepared ahead of time.

The tiny infant fussed quietly as she searched for the comfort of her mother's breast. Az guided her gently and nestled her tenderly as the baby's instincts did the rest.

She smiled up at Cale with a look of happiness and contentment. He returned her smile with a soft kiss to her forehead, and wide grin.

To Chapter IV