The private island was owned entirely by the Shadow Council, and it had a number of bungalows on the beach, a full-time staff of housekeepers, cooks, masseurs and trainers, as well as a modern exercise and entertainment facility. Sebastian had reserved a number of bungalows off by themselves together.

Chase woke before dawn on their second morning there to give Alex his bottle, and the baby showed no signs of sleeping, so he put on a pair of light pants and grabbed something for them to sit on and carried the baby out onto the beach, leaning heavily on his walking stick. Dawn was still half an hour away, but the horizon was beginning to lighten. Chase stood at the water’s edge, the rush of the tide petering out against his feet.

He felt the presence at his shoulder before he heard or saw it. “Gabriel,” he said with a smile, and the angel put a hand on his bare shoulder.

“Chase,” Gabriel replied with a smile of his own. Chase turned to him and noticed instantly that Gabriel’s appearance had changed. He looked exactly the same, but he’d always been a ‘dark’ figure, cloaked in shadows and clad in a black armor. Now he was clothed in white, with accents of silver and gold. And there was an aura of light around him.

He could see the question in the boy’s eyes, so he added, “From time immemorial, I have been far from the light of the divine…. Not banished, mind you, but … on the outs, as people say. Because I was loyal to Him, but did not love your kind…. It seems I’m restored.”

Chase nodded, “Would you like to hold him?” Gabriel nodded and took the boy from Chase’s arm. “Could seeing you trigger his memory?”

Gabriel stared in adoration at the giggling boy. “No…. His memory isn’t repressed. He has no memory….”

“How do you feel about that?” Chase asked gently.

“We were in love for an eternity, but he was so twisted by his betrayal, his inability to … well its long past now…. I’ll get to see what he might have been like had he not been dealt so terrible a lot!” Gabriel said.

“You love him,” Chase whispered.

“When you look at him, you see a baby, your flesh and blood…. I look and I see spirit, the spirit that first awed me at the dawn of the world, but writ small, in an innocent soul…. Yes, I love him still, God help me!”

Chase stood by him while he held the baby, putting a small, soft hand in the small of Gabriel’s back. Just before the sun broke the horizon, Gabriel looked up at the still-dark sky at the brightest of its predawn lights. “We called him the morning star,” Gabriel said. “So bright and beautiful…”

“You come to him whenever you like, Gabriel,” Chase whispered, and walked a few yards down the shore to sit with his feet in the water and give Gabriel a moment.

Shortly after sunrise, Gabriel knelt at his side and handed Alex back to him. “Thank you,” he whispered without further clarification, and in blink he was gone. For the first time, Chase could smell the identifying myrrh and roses in his wake.

William woke up alone. Chase was gone and the crib was empty, so he pulled on a pair of pajama bottoms and stepped out onto the sand and glanced up and down the beach. In the distance, he saw a sheet spread out near the water, a golden skinned blond in his white cotton pants and an open shirt billowing in the wind, baby in his arms, staring out into the distant ocean. William closed the door and began walking. A few minutes later, Chase looked his way with a squinty smile and waved.

“Morning, sweetie,” William called with a bright, carefree smile.

“Morning, William,” Chase grinned. “Say good morning, daddy,” he whispered to the baby and waved his little hand for him.

“God you’re gorgeous,” William said as he settled in next to him and wrapped an arm around him. In the distance, Chris and Marcus were returning from a morning walk, and Chris grabbed his camera, making a candid family photo of the boys by the ocean with their baby. When they got close, Chris knelt on the blanket and showed it to them.

“That’s so beautiful,” Chase exclaimed.

“You’re a beautiful family,” Marcus responded, wrapping his arm around Chris. When Sebastian and James emerged, a study in opposites, Sebastian diminutive, milky-white and accented in black, James tall and muscular, brown and in pastels, they joined their friends on the beach.

Chase passed the baby to Sebastian and said, “Visit with your Uncle Sebastian and Uncle James,” with a sweet laugh. Peter and Richard would not be seen until lunchtime, if the pattern held.

Matt and Amy, as well as Edward and Carl, would join them in the second week, their parents having received a very ‘convincing’ phone call from Sebastian, but that was a surprise for Chase.

“It’s so good to be out in the sun and not have to worry about how much it weakens me,” Sebastian mused as they all sat by the sea. “It’s been so long….”