Daphne Illian watched her sister rocking little Durran with a wistful smile. "What's it like?" she asked quietly.
Jasmine looked up at her. "What's what like, Daffy?" she inquired.
"Having a baby," Daphne supplied. "I mean, not the having, I remember how bad that was for you, but... having one. In your arms."
Jasmine looked down at her sleeping son. "For me, a bit sad," she admitted. "That's because he's a constant reminder of his father. But... I don't know." She touched a fingertip to Durran's cheek. "Scary, I suppose. I'm not old enough to be a mother. But... wonderful, too." She glanced up at the clock and laughed slightly. "And tiring. Definitely tiring."
Following her gaze, Daphne smiled guiltily. "Sorry, Jas', I should let you get to bed."
"He wakes up if I put him down too soon," Jasmine told her, "so it'll be a few more minutes. Why the sudden interest in babies, anyway?" She raised an eyebrow. "You're certainly not this fascinated when he needs changing."
"It's an adult thing, I suppose," Daphne mused. "I mean, I'm twenty-one now. I should be thinking about settling down and all that."
Jasmine smiled faintly. "Mam was twenty-four when she married Dad," she pointed out, "and I was the same age when I had this one. You're a bit early yet. Look at Tanfin."
Daphne rolled her eyes. "Oh, like elf-boy's a good indicator. But..." She sighed. "Promise not to tell anyone?"
Her sister looked at her curiously. "It's strictly between you, me, and Tiny," she agreed, "whatever it is. Tell?"
Daphne bit her lip. "Well, it's Luden. Luden Dioxond. You know we've been going out for a couple of years now, right?"
Jasmine nodded. "Mam told me," she said. "I think she's still a bit surprised you're with him and not one of the local boys."
Daphne shook her head. "The locals are all so low-tech," she said dismissively, "and with my hair, they look at me like some sort of freak."
"You wouldn't have that problem with Luden, that's for sure," Jasmine agreed. Then a thought struck her and she frowned. "Daffy, are you pregnant?"
Daphne blinked startledly. "What? No!" She glanced at Durran guiltily and lowered her voice quickly. "No, we haven't been doing, y'know, that." She swallowed. "But I think... I think he's going to ask me to marry him."
It was Jasmine's turn to blink. "Wow. Really? You're sure?"
"As sure as I can be," Daphne said. "He's been dropping some pretty big hints... and I do love him. I know Mam still doesn't get that, but..."
"She'll come round," Jasmine promised. "He's not an actual enemy of everything she ever stood for, so you're doing better than me." She looked down at her son, then stood up carefully and carried him over to the cradle. "So... wow. And you're thinking of having a baby?"
Daphne nodded. "We've talked about it... y'know, in the abstract, 'If I were married I'd do this' sort of way... and we both want children. So..."
Jasmine finished tucking Durran in, then straightened up and walked across to her sister. Wrapping her arms around her, she said, "You'll be a great mother, Daffy."
Daphne hugged her back. "Thanks, Jas'," she replied. "So will you tell Mam while I go and hide?"
Jasmine laughed startledly. "Oh, no you don't," she said firmly. "I told her about Kell, you can tell her about you and Luden, just as soon as he asks you. Then we can gang up on Bells and get her married off, too, how's that sound?"
Daphne grinned. "It sounds brilliant," she said. "Absolutely brilliant."
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