Tate backwinged and settled down onto the ground behind the garage, the usual meeting place, being careful not to spill the contents of the Styrofoam cup he carried. Sparing a second to glance at his watch, he concentrated and as the sun rose, he changed into a human. He smirked triumphantly at the human that stood beside him, but frowned when she didn’t seem to notice. She was absently rubbing the side of her neck, staring off into space.
"Scars pulling?" he asked, knowing from experience the rather unpleasant twinges of pain he occasionally got, the legacy of cancer.
"Hmm?" she asked, then blinked, coming back to reality. Still rubbing at the base of her neck, she smiled somewhat bemusedly. "Oh. Sorry. Just thinking. Do you know what today is?"
Tate blinked, then glanced at his watch. "Ah, man! April Fool’s day." He cast a suddenly wary glance at her. "What’re you trying to pull, Jay?"
She laughed, and finally left her neck alone, reveling a pale white, puckered line, an inch long, that barely showed from the neck of her T-shirt. "Nothing, really. It’s just... This’ll make a year."
"A year since Fred, silly."
Tate did a double take to his watch. Had it really been that long? "Wow. Congratulations."
"Thanks," she smiled, then chuckled. "And in a month, that’ll be another landmark."
"Heh." He remembered that date. It was pretty hard to forget, after all. It was the day, well, night actually, that he had been diagnosed with cancer. And perhaps more importantly, the night he had met Jay. He smiled fondly at his friend. Her brown hair was finally coming back, slightly curly and barely an inch long, except for the semicircle at the back of her head, evidence of radiation sessions. There it was still fuzz, giving the teenager a kind of punk-ish look.
There was a comfortable silence for a few minutes, until Tate’s stomach rumbled, demanding food. The two laughed, shattering the early morning stillness.
"C’mon, I burned some food in the house. Mom’s not up this soon, so you’ll have to make do with my nuclear waste." Tate pretended to cower, dodging a fake punch from Jay.
"Watch out, you’ll make me spill the coffee!"
"You actually got it?" Jay asked, taking the cup and peeking under the lid as they walked up the steps.
"You asked for it. But I thought you didn’t drink coffee."
Tate blinked then hurried inside behind Jay. "Then why-" He broke off when he came inside, nearly running over Jay’s father.
"Hi Tate. You’re here early."
"Yeah, well, uh..."
"Give him the coffee," Jay whispered.
The human blinked, then smiled. "Thank you! Whatever you might have done, you are forgiven!" He gestured, blatantly (and badly) imitating the pope. The three chuckled as Jay cleared the table, stacking papers onto the floor and stuffing an envelope into her pocket with a slight frown. Tate was tempted to ask her what was wrong, but the smell of pancakes hit his nose, instantly reminding his stomach it hadn’t been fed since about midnight.
"All right, all right," Jay chuckled, "you know where the plates are, feel free to get some."
"Ooo, that was a hint, wasn’t it?"
"Nope. Get the plates or you don’t eat anything here for the next year. That’s a hint."
"Gotcha." Tate scrambled to get the dishes as laughter filled the house.
4 hours later
"Tate! Tate, wake up!"
"Huh? Wha- whazup? Whatta wan?"
Jay snickered at her friend’s incoherent reply. "We’re here."
"New York? Field trip? Bus? Is anything registering?"
"Why am I not surprised?"
"I dunno. Why?"
There were a few moments of silence, then a sigh. "Maybe I should’ve let you sleep."
Tate yawned and stretched, nearly taking out the student sitting behind Jay. He ignored the yelp of protest behind them as he looked blearily out the window. "Wow," he breathed. "That was a fast trip."
Jay broke into laughter. "Fast trip? That was nearly three hours you were snoring away! I’m surprised you didn’t wake up when the driver turned on Speed!"
"What idiot brought that along?"
"Don’t look at me like that! It wasn’t me! And I don’t know. But I do want to know how you slept through Ghostbusters."
"Uh... I don’t know. Besides, I hate that movie."
"Well, the entire thing’s okay, it’s just that scene when the dog/demon thingy breaks out of the statue that gets to me."
"Oh. Right. Of course. Must be bad PR."
"Yeah. Ya know what though, I still don’t see why you wanted to go on this. I mean, a three day, four night or whatever it is field trip to New York is damned expensive, and to do it with thirty other high-school students seems a little..."
"Demented, insane, downright strange, even for me?"
"That nearly covers it. Why?"
"Right. Then why’d you drag me into this too?"
Jay squirmed in her seat, looking faintly guilty. "There is a reason, but... well, I kinda hoped I could surprise you with proof."
"Proof of what?"
"... I think there’s a clan alive here in New York."
Tate was silent for a moment. "Are we talking a real, living, breathing clan of gargoyles here?" he whispered.
"What makes you think there’s any in New York? I mean, sure, makes sense, this is New York after all, but, well, why not have us look for mutated turtles while we’re here?"
"When Servarius first caught me, he told me I was the ninth gargoyle alive. There are eight left according to him. The second time, he was steamed that one of ‘Goliath’s clan’ had butted in and saved me. He said that they protected New York, not New Haven."
"So we’re looking for an unknown clan of eight in New York City with the word of an insane geneticist as our only clue."
"Um, pretty much."
"Heaven help me, Jay, I’m not sure whether to kiss you or kill you."
"Well, given the choices..."
"All right, everybody quiet down and listen up!" Mr. Williams shouted. Naturally, the noise continued. The teacher sighed and gave the two an exasperated look. Finally, he shrugged, then cupped his hands around his mouth. "Will everybody please shut up?" he bellowed. This time, the students were shocked into silence.
"Thank you." The teacher stood up and leveled a glare at the students in general. "In about – " a quick conference with the driver – "five minutes, we’ll reach the hotel." He was forced back into silence by the cheers.
"And that means I need to go over the ground rules!" This time it was groans that cut him off. "You all know you’ll get rooms in pairs... but no, absolutely no pairs that aren’t same gender! That means no boy-girl having the sex affair to end them all for the trip!" There were several more mock groans and complaints. "All the chaperones will be making checks at random intervals to make sure the rule is kept! Got it?"
"Yes, Mr. Williams," several students in back chorused, earning a suspicious look. "You aren’t supposed to take home the washcloths, towels, etceteras that the hotel provides. If you go out sightseeing, do it in groups. Do NOT go out alone. And check in with the chaperones regularly, we don’t want to go home and tell you parents that we lost you. Anything else?"
If there were any more questions, they were lost in the cheer that arose as the bus pulled over in front of the hotel. Having been sitting in one place for nearly three hours, the students stampeded out the bus and into the lobby. A short time later, Jay found herself heading for room 46 with her new roommate, a girl by the name of Stephanie Myers.
As soon as the door was open and her suitcase was on the floor, Stephanie sighed and flopped down on one of the beds. "Man, you know, this really sucks."
"Yeah," Jay sighed, putting down her suitcase and sitting down on the other bed. She could tell what was coming like reading a script. Stephanie was dating Mike Sands, and they had planned on getting the same room for the trip. Stephanie had bragged about it for weeks before the trip. And Jay and Tate had planned on it. "Ya know, I was really looking forward to spending a little...quality time over the trip with Tate." Somehow, she managed to fake a pout. "But then Mr. Williams had to go and make that stupid rule about single gender to a room."
Stephanie leaned on her elbows and gave her a calculating look. "You know what? I think Tate is roommates with Mike."
"No!" she exclaimed, inwardly wincing. It sounded too sarcastic.
"Yeah!" her roommate got up and began pacing, then stopped and snapped her fingers. Come on, Jay urged mentally, this can’t be that difficult to figure out. "Maybe... maybe we could..." Then she shot a glance at Jay and sighed. "Never mind."
Argh! Isn’t this simple enough?! Okay, one of those instances where being known to play by the rules is a bad thing. "Steph, um, how about, well... changing roommates?"
Stephanie gave her a surprised look. "Are you serious?"
Jay managed a casual shrug. "Like I said, I wanted to spend a little quality time with Tate." She held out her roommate’s suitcase and raised an eyebrow.
Stephanie grabbed it and ran out the door. A minute later, Tate came in with a bemused look on his face. "Well?" she asked.
Tate smirked. "She came running in before Mike said a word, snatched my backpack, chucked it outside, gave me a look and her key, then went into lip lock with him."
"Aww, poor Tate," Jay mock cooed through her laughter. "Well, since you just got kicked out, you can stay with me."
He chuckled and put on a puppy dog grateful look. "Really? How can I ever thank you?"
Jay stretched and got up. "Howzabout taking me sightseeing?"
"All right, but we gotta check in with Mr. Williams. Dad should know we pulled it off."
She gave him a surprised look as they started down the hall. "‘Dad’?" she repeated.
"Yeah." He blushed. "We’ve been getting together a bit more lately. He and Mom came to the house the other night." He laughed again. "Would’ve scared the socks off Mector if he wore ‘em. Then he made some sort of comment that nearly got him killed by Talia. We were afraid it’d do something to Sadie, but she took it in stride. What’s wrong?"
"Huh? Oh, nothing." Tate looked her over carefully, then sighed mentally. She was lying to him. She looked somewhat upset, not to mention spaced out. She caught him giving her a look, and managed a feeble grin. "Okay, okay, you caught me. It’s just... well, ya know, I feel like I haven’t been spending enough time with my clan lately."
He pretended to stagger against the wall, clutching his chest like she’d just knifed him. "Do mine ears deceive me? Jay? Talking gargoyle?"
His joke got the desired result; she snorted and punched him lightly in the arm. "Come on, I’m not that bad."
"I know. And besides, it’s getting near the end of the year, next year we’ll be seniors, and it’s getting down to projects from hell time." He gave Jay a look as she broke into a giggling fit. "What?"
"Do you have any idea how weird that sounded?"
"How weird what sounded?" Mr. Williams asked as they walked into his room. He was settled in a chair near a window with a clipboard of papers. Mariah, his wife and occasional gargoyle, was lying on the bed with another clipboard.
"Um, well, Tate’s going on about finals and being a senior next year and projects and stuff."
The three stared at her blankly. "So?" Mariah finally ventured.
Jay sighed. "Never mind. It just seemed funny at the time."
Tate bit his lip, trying desperately not to laugh. He saw the humor; he was a gargoyle with what didn’t exactly amount to adequate home schooling, and this was his first year of actually going to public school, but Jay was just making it funnier. It wasn’t intentional, but that didn’t matter.
"Did it work?" Mr. Williams finally asked.
Jay grinned. "Like a charm. Steph took it hook, line, and sinker."
Tate pretended to gag. "Please, no more platitudes."
She stuck out her tongue and turned back to the adults. "She and Mike are in room 47, we’re in 46."
The teacher sighed and shot a look at his wife. "I swear, my love, you are a horrible influence on me. Encouraging two teenagers to spend four nights making out."
Mariah smiled sweetly at him. "And you, light of my life, are so easily swayed."
Tate cleared his throat. Seeing that much love and sweetness was unsettling. Not to mention it brought some feelings to the surface that he rathered would stay down. "We’re going out gargoyle hunting. I take it you heard about that?"
"Just bits and pieces," Mariah replied. "Are you staying the night out?"
He and Jay shared a look, then she nodded. "Yup," he added unnecessarily.
"Well, tomorrow you need to be seen at breakfast, and after lunch there’s a trip to the Phantom of the Opera for everyone." Eric Williams raised an eyebrow. "And I think you’ll want to see that."
Tate grinned. "Wouldn’t miss it for the world."
"All right then, see you tomorrow."
Jay was silent until they got to the elevator. She absently pushed the button for the ground floor and shifted when the doors closed. "There was one more time with gargoyle sightings."
At his puzzled look, she shifted again. "I was searching online and got three sites that talked about real gargoyles in New York. This guy I talked to – at least, I think he’s a guy – said there was a lot of controversy about them... and there was even a hate group against them – and a fan club."
He snorted. A fan club? Riiight. "And this guy was called...?"
"We talked in a chat room and he called himself OnlineHost."
He gave her a dubious look. "Uh, Jay? I hate to burst your bubble, but that’s just a feature in all chat rooms."
"No, I thought so too, but – "
The doors opened with a ding, cutting off any further attempts. Tate shook his head. There was no way this guy of Jay’s was real. Apparently sensing his feelings, Jay sighed as they left the building.
They started down the street, trying not to rubberneck too much, but still attempting to see everything at once. Several blocks away from the hotel, they ran into a knot of people collected around a stand. There were several people handing out papers to anyone who would take one.
"These monsters are a menace to society!" a voice shouted. Tate tried to ignore it and the man giving out pamphlets, and move on, but Jay was forced to take the handout. She slowed, then stopped. Tate turned and whispered into her ear, "What are you doing? These people are lunatics; most likely street preachers with an ax to grind against some ethnic group or another. We don’t need to listen to this!"
The human had turned a snow white, then she glared at the man ranting on the podium. "Yeah. Just one minor problem."
"And that is?" The human didn’t respond except to hand him the pamphlet she had gotten then sliding through the crowd nearer to the podium. Tate did a double take between her and the paper, and finally took a good look at it. On the front cover was a rough sketch of a gargoyle, menacing several humans. Over it was one word. Quarrymen. He swore, then looked through it. There was more "evidence" of the menace of gargoyles inside, along with pictures of humans in purple uniforms and hoods smashing stone gargoyles to rubble. Well. Maybe her hate group was real.
Snarling slightly, he crumpled the paper and tried to get through the crowd. But unlike Jay, he was too big to worm his way through people. Besides, the "shaved head/cancer patient" looked pathetic on her, gaining her minor sympathy (and infinite attempts to rub what remained of her hair), while on him it was just another teenager with a weird haircut. Eventually, he gave up and hovered around the middle of the mass of people. He listened half-heartedly to the man’s ranting, paying more attention to crowd. While many people refused the pamphlets or listened for a while only to turn away in disgust, far many more stayed. Too many.
"These monsters, these gargoyles, are proven to be dangerous! They were the ones responsible for the explosion in the 23rd precinct. The police claim that it was three siblings, the Canmores, that did this atrocity, but it was not! Not only do these creatures hunt humans during the night, not only do they come after you, and your children, but they twist and subvert the very ones that are here to protect us to their side!"
Tate snorted and crossed his arms, glaring daggers at the Quarryman. Now there’s enough bull to fertilize all of Central Park. But he shouldn’t use such big words. Some people might not understand them. Actually, I’d be surprised if he knew what they all mean.
"Consider this! Detective Bluestone, the officer in charge of the Gargoyle Task Force, refused to let any of the police into Damion’s Cathedral last October during the shootout after which the Canmores were captured. Why? When he knew that these perversions of nature had just destroyed the very building he worked in, the place where many of his coworkers were hurt, why did he not act immediately to catch the monsters?"
"Just what the hell makes you so sure they’re monsters?" Tate shouted, unable to take this ridiculous slander any longer. Ooo, now that was smooth. Just open mouth, and insert foot.
The Quarryman assumed a look that was more in place with a preacher on Sunday then a lunatic holding court on the street. "These freaks are monsters. Can any of you truly look at them and call them human? Benevolent? Protectors? No!"
"And have you ever seen one of them?" another heckler called out near Tate, who smirked. Gotcha.
The human looked offended. "Of course I have. Have you?"
There was a general murmur of no. Then a voice rang out. "I have! I saw a gargoyle!"
"Come up here and tell us of this," the spokesperson called. Tate groaned and put his head in his hands. If we make it out of this mob alive, I’m gonna kill her. I really am. He eventually looked up to see Jay scramble up to the platform.
"Tell us about your encounter," the Quarryman asked.
"Well, see, I was going home late from the store. I needed to pick up a few things. And, well, there came a voice from the shadows asking for my money."
"You poor girl! What did the gargoyle do to you?" Tate sighed and shook his head, trying to decide which one was digging a deeper grave. The Quarryman, he finally decided. The only thing he could do worse is to pat her on the head. She’ll belt him right then and there.
Jay shot the speaker a look. "The gargoyle? This was a bunch of gang members! The gargoyle saved my life! He came down out of nowhere, fought the gang members, and then tied ‘em up for the police! He got a knife wound down his arm saving my hide! And the first thing he asked me was if I was all right! Now you go calling him a monster?! Gee, and here I was thinking the Ku Klux Klan went out of style years ago! Huh. Who’d a thunk."
Tate smothered a cheer and bout of laughter. Gargoyles three, loonies two.
Jay gave the man another incredulous look. "’Cause that’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? Lessee, persecution against beings of a different race, going out and hunting them down, and then killing them and the people that are ‘allied’ with them." She shook her head and tsk-ed. "Sounds pretty similar to me."
An ugly rumble ran through the crowd. Apparently the KKK reference had hit a cord. There was a chuckle next to Tate. "Man, has she got them pegged," a male voice commented.
"Better believe it," he replied, looking at Jay’s unexpected supporter. He was tall with short red hair and blue eyes. Dressed in a trench coat and suit, he might pass as either an average private eye or a down-on-his-luck lawyer.
"Friend of yours?" the human asked.
Tate tilted his head to the side. "Why do you care?" he asked cautiously, trying not to sound rude enough to piss the guy off.
He laughed. "Sorry, I forget that not everybody knows the- how’d he put it?- accomplice to the freaks of nature." He snarled the last, obviously not believing a single syllable of it. He held out a hand. "Detective Matt Bluestone, head of the Gargoyle Task Force."
Tate blinked, then smiled and shook the man’s hand. "Anybody not a friend of the Quarrymen is a friend of mine, apparently. Pleased to meet you. I’m Tate Knight."
"And that is?" Matt asked, pointing to the stand where Jay was continuing to bash the Quarrymen, their speaker getting redder with each comment.
Tate smirked. "That lunatic is Jay Stiles."
Matt frowned. "Well, much as I’d love for her to keep on going, if she doesn’t stop soon somebody is gonna end up with some bruises."
Jay was still going on about the similarities to the KKK when the head speaker exploded.
"You dare turn on your own race?!" he shrieked. "How did the monsters convince to be a traitor to your own kind?" Tate winced. Whatever Jay was, it wasn’t human any longer.
But she just turned a ridiculously sweet smile on the Quarryman. "Well, with wondrous examples such as yourself, it wasn’t that hard." Still smirking, she jumped off the stand and somehow managed to disappear into the crowd amid scattered applause and laughter.
Bluestone was nearly doubled over with laughter. "Man, what I wouldn’t give to have a picture of his face," he gasped. Tate chuckled. The man definitely had a point. Jay slipped through the crowd to give Tate a wide smile.
"Well, what did you think?" she asked.
"Lady, please let me shake your hand," the detective put in. "I haven’t heard anything that good in a long time."
Jay smiled and they shook hands. "All right, now that you’re done with the flattery, who are you?" she asked.
Tate jumped in. "Jay Stiles, meet Detective Matt Bluestone."
Her eyes lit up with recognition. "Oh, the other heretic! Pleased to meet you."
The human snickered. "Pleasure’s all mine. Where are you two headed?"
They exchanged a glance, then shrugged. "We’re tourists," Tate explained. "So... nowhere in general."
"Great! Then can I convince you to come down to the station with me?"
Tate and Jay shared a panicked look, which Bluestone interpreted immediately. "Wait a minute, I didn’t mean it that way. I just need to get to work and I wanted to talk to you two for a bit."
There was another silent conversation.
"Sure, why not?"
The detective started down the sidewalk, the two teens following as best as they could. "So how do you two know about the gargoyles?"
"Like I said, they saved my life several times."
"They seem to’ve done that to quite a bit of New York, and people still run screaming the other way."
Tate snorted. "Bigots."
"Just plain stupid, if you ask me. Would you call an seven foot guy that looks like he could rip a car in half if he got ticked ‘ugly’?"
"Not to his face," Bluestone said.
"Exactly. Give him horns and wings and then people feel free to insult him? Not smart."
"Mind if I quote you on that?"
"So long as you leave out my name and where they can hunt me down-uh, where I live."
Bluestone laughed again as they came to a stop outside a police station.
"What’s so funny, Detective?" a black cop with a worn look asked.
"Sorry, Morgan, just that these kids have a pretty good look at things."
"More on the ‘gargoyle menace’?"
"They’re not a menace," Jay sighed. "They protect people."
"Hey, no arguments from me, kid. I’ve picked up after a lotta incidents that’re now considered gargoyle-related. If they rounded up half of the trash that I think I dragged in after them, they’re only gonna get thanks from me. I figure they even saved my hide a time or two."
It was Bluestone’s turn to sigh. "And if I don’t get my hide inside, then my partner’ll kill me."
"Actually, you just beat Maza here," Morgan told him with a chuckle, pointing to a red Fairlane pulling up to the curb. A tall, athletic woman with deep black hair and dark skin, dressed in a red jacket and jeans, got out. "Hey Morgan, who’re your friends?" she called.
"Hey, don’t look at me, Detective, Bluestone brought ‘em in."
"Okay, so where’d you pick ‘em up, partner?"
"Is it just me or do you get the feeling that we’re stray puppies someone brought in?" Tate asked Jay.
"Arf," she commented dryly.
The three police laughed. "Sorry, it’s lack of sleep. C’mon, Matt, we need to solve another paperwork crisis."
Bluestone grinned and waved. "Hey, have a nice visit. See you!"
They waved to the cops then headed back down the street. "What would you want to bet that Bluestone really is a gargoyle sympathizer?" Tate finally asked.
Jay shrugged. "Well, if he isn’t, I’ll be surprised. Come on, let’s try Central Park next!"
"Why? I don’t think we’ll find any gargoyles there."
"So? It’d be good to make sure, and besides, this is a trip. Let’s have a little fun!"
They had spent the day acting like tourists, visiting most of the usual places. But most tourists wouldn’t have spent half the time looking up and watching roofs and sculptures.
Sunset found them in Central Park again, seated near a statue and just watching people hurry home.
"So, you rested enough to do an aerial search?"
Jay shrugged. "Sure. Why not? ‘Sides, it might get better results."
They quickly changed forms and took to the air.
a little later, near the Chrysler Building
Lexington took his attention off the ground for a moment to check on Brooklyn, then sighed softly to himself. He wasn’t sure which was worse; going on patrol with Angela and Broadway and putting up with mushy stuff to the nth degree, or being with Brooklyn who just spent most of the time moping over Angela.
He hadn’t spent much time mooning over her after the near-famous (or rather, infamous) Don’t Call Me Angie incident; he figured that she would choose Broadway or Brooklyn. He simply wasn’t in the field of contention. That and the fact that with his computer he had access to people around the world who didn’t care what he looked like made it easier when she chose Broadway, but Brooklyn had nothing like that to fall back onto. And his duties as Second-in-command were also dragging him down.
A scream from an alley brought both gargoyles back to reality. "Let’s go," Brooklyn ordered.
They banked and landed behind the pair of muggers demanding that their victim hand over her purse. "When will you scumbags learn?" Brooklyn asked, decking Hood #1. Hood #2 managed to slam a pipe onto the beaked gargoyle’s shoulder before Lex could knock him out. "Are you okay?" the Second asked the woman as he absently rubbed his shoulder.
She backed away, but the smile she wore wasn’t reassuring to either gargoyle. "Better then you know. And I think the question is: ‘When will you learn’?" She ran for the exit, laughing.
"They get weirder every night," Brooklyn muttered.
Lex didn’t answer, but he tapped his comm link to Angela and Broadway. "We’re in an alley near the Chrysler Building. And we are in deep trouble," he said as the alley suddenly seemed to fill with Quarrymen. "Get here as fast as you can."
"We’re on our way."
An eager Quarryman, probably a teenager by the size of him, charged forward, swinging wildly with his hammer, and the battle began.
He managed to hold his own until there was a slight breathing space when two Quarrymen faced off against him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Brooklyn go down when a lucky shot hit his already abused shoulder, then return to smack into the rust colored gargoyle’s temple.
Lex roared and charged at his two humans, jumping over the first human’s panicked swing, grinning. They were getting so predictable. But this time, the Quarrymen planned on his response, as the second human swung his hammer in the opposite direction at head height. Had he been a taller, Lex might have been decapitated. But instead the hammer hit his shoulder and sent him flying into a wall head first. He blinked away the stars, then stared up as the human loomed over him, hammer high, and he winced, waiting for the final blow. A pair of screeches filled the air, making the human look up. There was a smack of flesh hitting flesh, then a grunt. Lex blinked, not believing what he was seeing. Standing in front of him was a gargoyle. Not unusual in itself, but there was the fact that he didn’t recognize him. The newcomer was also green, but a dark emerald rather then his own light olive. Positioned near Brooklyn was another new face, this one undisputedly female. She was a deep blue, with a ragged crop of brown hair. The two snarled, then the fighting began again in earnest. Lex tried to struggle to his feet, but stars exploded in front of his eyes, forcing him to stay down.
"Keep still," the stranger advised, "you might have a concussion." Lex stared. Here this guy was, in the middle of a battle, and still finding time to hold a conversation? Weird. Somehow the stranger managed a reassuring smile while decking a pair of Quarrymen.
Then, to top off the insanity, the female smirked at the other stranger, and, while sending another pair on a brief flight into a Dumpster, began to chant.
"This is wheeeere the party ends, I can’t stand here listenin’, to you..." She twirled in a circle, slamming down several with quick blows from her hands and tail. "and you racist friend." She snapped a kick into a human’s face, sending him backward into another. She crouched protectively into a boxer’s stance and continued. "I know politics bore you..." This time it was the male who attacked, picking up a human by the arm and belt and tossing him towards the female, giving her a little space when the human took down several of his friends.
"But I feel like a hypocrite talking to you, and your racist friend. It was the loveliest party that I’ve ever attended," she chanted in sing-song, ducking several blows and catching a human with a gut shot.
"If anything was broken, I’m sure it could be mended," she added with a wicked smile as the Quarryman doubled over.
"My head can’t tolerate this bobbing and pretending..." Another Quarryman went down for the count.
"Listening to some bullet-head and the mad-ness that he’s saying." With the aid of a swift kick from the female and several quick punches from the male, three more joined their friends on the ground.
"This is wheeeere the party ends, I’ll just sit here wonderin’ how you, can stand by your racist friend."
This time the Quarrymen, deciding that these gargoyles were too crazy to handle without more help, ran out of the alley and to their vans, slinging their unconscious comrades over their shoulders. Lex tried to stand up, digging claws into the wall, but the stars made another appearance.
He sat back down as the two strangers shared a nod and joined together for the last part of the song, not missing a beat and creating a halfway decent harmony that chased after the fleeing humans.
"I know politics bore you, but I feel like a hypocrite talking to you, you and your racist friend."
Lex’s radio transceiver crackled to life.
"Lex? We’re nearly there! Hang on just a bit longer!" He wanted to tell them they were too late, everything was taken care of, but the stars grew even larger, expanding into a panorama of color, then fading to black.
"Jay," Tate called as his friend knelt down to check the red gargoyle’s pulse, "we’re gonna have company in a few seconds."
"Oh, just great. Let’s catch some air then."
"No," Tate replied absently, scanning the sky. He could already pick out two forms flying closer to them. "They’ll see us leaving."
She swore. "So? Let’s beat feet then." He hesitated, wanting to actually meet other gargoyles, but Jay grabbed him by the wing and towed him into an alcove near the mouth of the alley. They stared out as two more gargoyles landed neatly in the alley. One was a light blue male who obviously enjoyed his meals and had a row of short, rounded knobs tracing a line down his head instead of hair, the other a lavender, almost ethereal (for a gargoyle) female with long dark brown hair pulled back into a braid.
"Uh oh," the male muttered. He went to check on the green gargoyle, when the red began to groan. He clutched his head.
"Brooklyn, what happened?" the female asked. "Are you okay?"
The red male groaned again and blinked owlishly. "The Quarrymen is what happened. And I had the weirdest dream once I got knocked out." He blinked again, then shook his head. "Flying Quarrymen that were singing. Must’ve been hit harder then I thought. How’s Lex?" he asked as the female helped him stand up.
As if on cue, the green male moaned and squinted up at the others. "Wha- where are they?"
The other three exchanged glances. "They who?" the blue asked.
"The two gargoyles." Another glance.
"Lexington, are you all right?" the female asked carefully.
He shot them a glare. "I’ve had better nights. But I’m serious. Two gargoyles fought off the Quarrymen."
The red male looked at the female. "Some of your clan, Angela?" he asked.
She nibbled on her lip, then shook her head. "I don’t think so. They would have waited when we came, not run off." Tate poked Jay in the ribs. She just stuck her tongue out at him, then suddenly straightened. She looked around, then slipped out the alley to the street, giving Tate a sign telling him she’d be right back. The four other gargoyles didn’t see her.
"Are you sure about this, Lex? I mean, you did get hit pretty hard..."
"So did you. What did you see?"
The red shook his head again. "Believe me, it was too weird to be real."
Tate winced when he heard someone hiss, "Oh, shit!" from the street. The four in the alley turned and moved into protective positions, the red and green moving with obvious pain.
"Get out of here!" he heard Jay shout, then she gave a sharp curse and there came a thump. The gargoyles in the alley started up the walls, as did Tate. But the red with the massive beak hesitated, and when several more Quarrymen ran in, they managed to throw a net, sparkling with energy, onto him. Tate also hesitated for a moment, but the Quarrymen resorted to more common methods and pulled out guns. Dodging bullets the entire way, Tate reluctantly left. If they only captured one of them, the other had a chance for rescue.
Just because it made sense didn't mean he had to like it at all.
Brooklyn slowly opened his eyes, squinting at the bright fluorescent lights overhead. A hand went over his shoulder to the small of his back, being careful of his wings, and helped him sit up.
"Take it easy," someone (his guess was on the owner of the hand) warned, "the Quarry-jerks don’t believe in playing nice." Something was pushed into his hand. "Here. Have a drink. It’s not really that great, but, well, it’s better then nothing."
The gargoyle focused blearily on the thing he was holding. It was a plastic water bottle. He gratefully took a sip. It was warm, like he had been warned, but tasted wonderful.
"Thanks," he managed to croak.
"Don’t mention it," the person replied. Brooklyn finally focused on the person. It was a human, female, with the worst haircut he’d ever seen since Elisa had rented Alien.
"What’s a nice human like you doing in a place like this?" he finally managed.
The human snickered. "Exactly. I happen to be a gargoyle sympathizer. That’s about it."
"And that is more then enough," someone else said. Gargoyle and human turned to face the doorway. Standing in what Brooklyn was positive was a pose was a blonde human wearing the purple uniform of the Quarrymen. Brooklyn snarled when he recognized who it was. "Castaway," he growled, "come to gloat personally?"
"Not really," he replied, "just come to try and talk sense to the human."
The human in question snorted. "Ya know, ‘the human’ actually happens to have a name."
"And that would be?"
She raised an eyebrow and leveled a glare at Castaway. "Yeah, right, like I’m really gonna tell you."
Brooklyn snickered. Looked like the Quarrymen had picked up a bit more then they could handle this time.
Castaway glared at the teenager, then sighed. "Look what they have done to our young," he muttered to himself. He heaved another sigh. "Please, turn your back on these monsters. If you do not, then you an enemy of the state and must be dealt with before your contamination spreads. No one is too far gone."
The girl arched an eyebrow, then put her chin in her hand, looking lost in thought. "Decisions, decisions. Turn my back on the beings who saved my life, several times, and helped me get over Fred, or get lynched by a bunch of hammer happy lunatics."
Brooklyn smirked and wondered for a moment just who Fred was.
Finally, she turned to face him. "Imagine," she drawled in a phony southern accent, "me, an enemy of the state. Who’d’a thought? Ah must write home to Momma."
"That is your decision? You insist on being a traitor to your own race?"
She glared at the Quarryman. "Bite me," she snarled calmly, then deliberately turned away from him.
"So be it," Castaway sighed. He leaned back and pushed the talk button on the intercom in the wall. "Turn on the cameras and release the gas," he ordered. There was no response, but a light on the side of the security camera blinked on. There was a faint hiss of air as a bitter scent filled the room.
Then the pain hit. Brooklyn collapsed to the floor, bellowing in agony, feeling as if he was being pulled in a hundred different directions at once. A higher pitched scream penetrated the haze of torment, and he saw through pain-filled eyes the human teen curled into a ball on the floor, something that seemed to be a surprise to Castaway, who was unaffected.
But the leader of the Quarrymen recovered smoothly. He turned to face the camera and made a sweeping gesture, taking in the gargoyle and human.
"We were fortunate to catch one of the monsters and one of its minions. If there was any doubt that she is not his creature, look now-"
And repent! Repent, all ye sinners, Brooklyn thought groggily.
"The gas used was created to effect gargoyles, and gargoyles only, not humans. The gas saps the monsters’ strength and leaves them vulnerable to attack. But look- she feels its presence nearly as much as the monster does." Brooklyn wanted to laugh as Castaway assumed an almost pious expression, but it hurt too much. "But we shall give her a chance to change her allegiance. We meet in a few minutes in the briefing room. All who are able to, should attend." The light blinked off on the camera as two more Quarrymen entered. The new arrivals put restraints on Brooklyn and more mundane handcuffs on the girl, neither of whom could put up any type of a struggle. They were prodded to their feet and pushed to the door, then led up several flights of stairs into a large room, filled nearly past capacity with Quarrymen. Castaway walked onto a podium, the prisoners following behind.
The leader of the Quarrymen stepped forward to the microphone. "Welcome, everyone. As you saw on the broadcast, this girl has turned to the evil of the monsters. We are here to give this poor girl one more chance to realize her wrongs."
Gee, now that sounds like a hint.
Castaway stepped back and the guards pushed the girl forward. From what he’d seen, Brooklyn half expected some sort of insult or humorous comment, but instead she was silent for a moment. She looked at the audience, her gaze sweeping the room. Finally she sighed and shrugged.
"I’d love to make some sort of impressive speech here about how gargoyles aren’t evil, all they do is protect, you’re wrong to hunt them down, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, but I don’t think I’d be able to finish or that it would do much good anyway. So with the Grand High Statue Smasher’s permission-" She nodded in Castaway’s direction- "I’ll just say two things. First, a gargoyle’s saved my life several times. I’m not gonna turn on them. Second-" She smiled and Brooklyn blinked. Her teeth seemed longer then they should be, and he could swear her eyes were starting to glow red.
"Second, I really love genetics!" Brooklyn’s jaw dropped as the human girl hunched over, leathery blue flaps of skin sprouting from her back, two horns rising from her forehead, and a tail appearing from the seat of her jeans. The assembled Quarrymen were stunned into silence. The girl... gargoyle... whatever-she-was jerked her hands apart, snapping the handcuffs as if they were plastic toys. She held her hands out and grinned maniacally.
"Watta ya say, folks? Let’s hear a round of applause for Anton Servarius!" And she turned and punched Castaway, knocking him out.
Pandemonium ruled as half of the Quarrymen tried to grab weapons, most of which had been left outside the room, while the other half tried to reach their unconscious leader. The girl laughed and Brooklyn’s jaw dropped. Was she really insane? He couldn’t think of any other explanation for how she was acting. Not that anything was making sense at the moment...
She grabbed his manacles. "I’m gonna need some help; these were probably specially made against gargoyles."
"Right." They both pulled, the chain splitting easily. They turned and headed for a window, Brooklyn leading. They had nearly reached it when a Quarryman got in their way. Brooklyn pulled back and punched the man, then moaned as a hammer clipped him upside the head. This is really NOT my night, he thought as he fell into unconsciousness for the third time in one night.
Brooklyn came to for the third time. Recalling one of the many lessons Hudson had pounded into his head, the gargoyle lay still this time and tried to figure out where he was. Unlike the two previous times, he was on something relatively soft, his feet propped up so they were nearly level with his head. He guessed he was on a sofa. He could only hear the roar of cars faintly, so that meant he was a few floors up. Two people were talking a low voices nearby.
"Are you sure it was a good idea to bring him here?" a male voice asked.
"For the hundredth time, YES! What’d you expect me to do, leave him on a park bench somewhere?" Brooklyn recognized the voice of the human/gargoyle girl.
"Sorry, it’s just- how’re we gonna explain a six foot stone gargoyle in the middle of the room?"
"I saw it in a window somewhere and had to have it," she replied blandly. There was a moment of silence.
"Girl, you really need help."
"You’re beyond help. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it before." The guy sighed. "When d’you think he’ll wake up?"
"About three jokes ago," Brooklyn answered, carefully sitting up, groaning as his head threatened to split in two. He winced, then looked at the two people. The girl was human again, sitting in a chair. Standing next to her was a dark green gargoyle wearing black Levi’s and a white T-shirt. "By the way, would either of you be happening to have an aspirin the size of a bus?"
The girl snickered. "Sorry, but I seem to have left it in my other purse." The green gargoyle rolled his eyes. "I think there were some in the vending machine. Be right back." She bounced to her feet and padded out of the room.
"Is she always like that?" Brooklyn asked plaintively. The other gargoyle chuckled and shook his head.
"You think this is bad, you should see her when she has too much sugar."
"I think I’ll pass."
The other gargoyle chuckled again. "Want something to drink? We have... um, well, Coke, water, and that’s about it."
"Sure. Coke’s fine, thanks. How long is it until sunrise?"
The green checked a watch while dragging a red soda can out of a small plastic cooler. "’Bout fifteen, twenty minutes at most."
Brooklyn sighed in relief. At the other gargoyle’s questioning look, he twisted his beak into a grin. "That shouldn’t be enough time to get knocked out again." The other laughed and held out the can, along with a straw. Brooklyn blinked at that. With his beak, it was nearly impossible to drink straight from a can. Even some of the clan occasionally forgot. "Uh, thanks."
"No problem. One of my brothers has the same... difficulty." The green stuck out his hand. "By the way, I’m Tate."
Brooklyn nodded and grasped Tate’s wrist in the warrior’s handclasp. Tate blinked, then returned the gesture. Brooklyn silently swore to himself. He’d forgotten yet again how many things had changed in a thousand years. Although he had hoped some of gargoyle clans had kept some traditions. "I’m Brooklyn." He released Tate’s hand and busied himself with opening the can, watching from the corner of his eyes as the other gargoyle opened his own can. "The human- uh, she’s-?"
Tate’s expression was a bit too blank, although for a second, Brooklyn could have sworn he saw a flicker of... something. "That’s Jay. She’s technically a human, but we had an... interesting run in with a mad scientist." His eyes glowed white for a moment, but he quickly calmed. "It wasn’t very pleasant. Anyway, thanks to the good doctor, she can turn into a gargoyle."
"I know some people who would like to be able to do that," Brooklyn muttered, his mind wandering to the Labyrinth Clan... and Maggie.
"No. They wouldn’t," Tate snarled, surprising the rust colored gargoyle with his vehemence. His eyes were blazing white, the Coke can starting to become a small ball of aluminum as he scraped his talons on the chair arms. Whoa. Must’ve been REAL bad, he thought.
The return of Jay broke the uneasy silence and kept the Coke can from becoming totally destroyed. "Sorry ‘bout the delay, but the machine hates me."
"I thought they all did."
"This one more then most."
"Wow. You mean it really did try to eat you?"
She glared at him and Brooklyn smothered a grin. She sighed and rolled her eyes, handing him the packet of aspirin. "See what I have to put up with?" she asked in a stage whisper and mock look of exasperation. "And if it’s not him, it’s one of his brothers. I can’t win."
The grin threatened to turn into a laugh when Tate made a face at her back. "Ahem, so, ah, what brings you to New York?" Brooklyn finally managed.
Jay shrugged and sat on the arm of Tate’s chair. Brooklyn mentally sighed at the careless ease the pair showed with each other's presence. Despite the casual way Tate oh so carefully shifted over so they didn't touch, it was utterly subconscious that they be close. Nope. She was definitely taken. "Looking for other gargoyles, of course."
He frowned. "Well, where’s your clan from? I think Goliath would’ve mentioned you if he ran across yours."
Tate’s mouth fell open. "Connecticut. But... the way you’re talking... how many clans are there left?"
He shrugged. "Goliath ran into four; Avalon, Japan, Guatemala, and London. There could be more. Why?"
The other two sat slack-jawed, obviously stunned, for several moments. Then Tate whooped and swept Jay up into a massive hug, twirling her around the room. He was nearly in tears. "Brooklyn, I could hug you."
The New York gargoyle leaned back and held up his hands. "Please don’t."
They broke into laughter that was cut short when Jay’s watch beeped. The human swore and sat down in the now vacant chair. "Sorry, but that’s the three minute warning bell for sunrise."
"All right. Want me outside for the day?"
They shrugged. "I don’t know why," Jay said, "And after tonight, it might be safer inside."
Brooklyn nodded and crouched in the corner furthest from the door. A moment later, the room had a statue in the corner.
"I don’t believe it," Tate muttered as he watched the east and the rising sun. "We’re not the last of our kind. At least five other clans... Good Gods. I hoped you were right, but... I never thought that the news would be this good." He gave her a quick smile. "Feel free to say ‘I told you so’ whenever you want."
Jay yawned and stretched. "I’d rather say it to the clan. Well, that was a good night’s work."
Tate nodded, then caught her wrist. He gasped and muttered an oath. "Jay, what the hell happened to your arm?" he demanded, catching sight of several large bruises.
She shrugged, then winced. "The QuarryJerks got me a few times. Nothing life threatening, but it hurts like you wouldn’t believe. Those hammers are nasty."
"Really?" he asked sarcastically. "I wouldn’t have thought."
"Look, I’ll be fine. What do you say to getting breakfast, napping until noon, then have lunch and watch the Phantom? It should be sunset by then."
Tate hesitated, wanting to continue the discussion of the Quarrymen... but it could wait. If it was bad, she’d say so. "Sure."
Brooklyn woke and stared around in momentary confusion. This wasn’t the castle. It looked like a motel room. He shook his head slightly as last night came flooding back. It wasn’t some strange dream.
"Calm down, it was just a single line in the entire play, and ‘sides, after the whole terrorist thing, nobody in the class would listen to it." It was a female voice outside the door. Jay.
"It’s not them I’m worried about! It’s just the entire population of New York! Come on, the guy was the villain." That would be Tate.
The door finally opened and the two came in. He wondered for a moment how Tate had managed to get into the theater, let alone get around during the day. Maybe a spell similar to Demona’s? Now there was an unpleasant thought. Was Tate genetically altered like Jay and the mutates, or had he run into Puck (or another of Oberon’s Children)? Argh, this was starting to make his head hurt. "Evening, Brooklyn," Jay called. "Was the Phantom of the Opera the villain or a tragic character?"
"Uh..." What was going on?
Tate sighed and rolled his eyes. "I keep telling her, the guy killed people, he kidnapped a girl, he tried to ruin a theater, if that isn’t villain material, then I don’t know what is."
"Okay, he was a little whacked, but after all that he went through he’s entitled to a few eccentricities and what he did was for love. Tragic character."
This was a bit firmer footing. "Doesn’t matter what the cause was, there’s no excuse for killing someone."
"Hah! See?" Tate demanded.
Jay sighed and shook her head in disgust as she headed for a suitcase.
A knock on the door froze them all where they stood. "Who is it?" Tate called.
"Avon calling," a male voice replied. "This is a surprise inspection. Open up."
Brooklyn frantically looked for someplace to hide. Jay apparently noticed his panic and shook her head slightly. "He already knows," she whispered.
Great. Was there anyone out there that didn’t know about gargoyles?
Tate let in an older man, tall with brown hair. He caught sight of Brooklyn, then froze, his jaw dropping open. "Good God, you did find more," he breathed. Then he snapped out of his shock and they shook hands. "It’s a pleasure to meet you."
"Hi. I’m Brooklyn."
"I beg your pardon, I’m just a little surprised to meet you. I’m Eric Williams, Tate’s father."
His father? This was another surprise. Was Eric able to change forms as well, or... Nah. He couldn’t be.
Eric Williams was ignoring Brooklyn’s curious looks and turned to Jay and Tate. "Sorry to spring this on you guys, but one of you has to make an appearance in the dining room."
"Oh, man," Jay groaned. "Figures. Guess I’m it. See ya later. And if you go anyplace, leave me a note or something." She waved to Brooklyn and Tate then left with Eric.
"What was that all about?"
"We’re on a school sponsored field trip. According to the rules, it should only be males or females in one room. This is just Mr. Williams’s way of playing stupid about me and Jay being in the same room."
"Ah." Well, that made about as much sense as everything else tonight. "Um, is he human?"
"Yeah. You got a problem with that?" Tate’s look said that he’d better not.
"No. No problem." After all, with Goliath and Elisa’s relationship, how could he? He just wanted to be there with a camera when Goliath heard. And speaking of which... "Do you want to meet my clan?"
Tate hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "Sure. But Jay..."
"We’ll leave a note."
Later (roughly midnight)
Jay took a deep, relieved breath as she leapt off the window ledge. She grinned, thinking about how not too long ago that would have terrified her. Now, no problem. But her grin quickly faded. Supper had been a strained affair, and the class ‘gathering’ afterwards was even worse. Unfortunately, they had to keep the appearances of a normal field trip, so showing up for dinner had turned into hanging around and pretending to be normal. The movie she had to sit through... wasn’t a pleasant thought. While the other students had been laughing and chatting freely, she had been on the fringe. Trying to enter any conversation earned her a cold shoulder, several terse comments, or lewd winks and insinuations about her and Tate. She snorted. Yeah right, like that was gonna happen. They were just... friends. Of course, to most of them, "friends" means you’ve slept together. And I don’t think two statues on the same rooftop is what they’re thinking of. And nothing was likely to happen. They were, in all technicality, two different species. Not to mention he didn’t seem interested...
She sighed, then winced, recalling a situation earlier the school year. Things had been hectic; it was midterm time, and both were swamped with exams, projects, and assorted classes to study for...
She’d decided to take some time off from studying and visit the clan. After paying respects to Mector and the others, she finally managed to locate Tate. He was on the roof, just staring up at the stars. He winced and rolled his neck, obviously trying to work out the cramp in his shoulders. She smiled fondly at him. He was trying so hard to fit in. He had barely begun to get used to school, and then along came midterms. No wonder he was tense.
She snuck up behind him and placed her hands in between his wings where the muscles would be the most tense and started to massage the knots out. She’d spent a miserable summer working at a health spa and had become rather skilled at back rubs.
But Tate yelped and jumped several feet into the air, spinning to land in a crouch. His eyes were wide and face paler then usual, with a frantic, almost feral look to it. "Jay?" he snarled. "What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Who put you up to this?"
She took an involuntary step back. For the first time, she was actually somewhat afraid of him. "I was... I mean... Nobody put me up to anything. What’s wrong?"
"What d’you mean, ‘what’s wrong’? Good God, don’t you...Ah, the hell with it. Listen to me,-" he grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard enough to make her teeth rattle. "Don’t ever, EVER even think about trying that again! D’you hear me? Never!" He took a deep, shuddering breath. "Especially not now," he muttered, more to himself then her.
"Tate, I don’t get it. What-"
"That doesn’t matter. Just promise me you won’t do it. Promise me!"
"All right, if you’re gonna go that ballistic about it. I promise."
"Good." Without another word, he turned and flung himself off the roof, gliding away at what seemed as fast as possible.
Jay stared after him, openmouthed and bewildered. "What the hell?" she muttered, trying to figure out what she’d done wrong. She shrugged. If you still don’t understand, try reading the directions. The human wandered downstairs, searching for a certain gargoyle.
She found Kyla in the metal workroom on the bottom floor. The gargoyle was doing something obscure to a piece of metal, occasionally pulling a hammer out to pound on the... whatever. Jay leaned up against the wall and waited for Kyla to acknowledge her. Finally, the gargoyle pounded once more, nodded, and, placing the hammer on the workbench beside her, asked absently, "Yeah? What’s up? Come fer another lesson?"
"No, advice, actually."
Jay sighed and rubbed the back of her neck, then spilled the story...
"And then he acted like... like – " Jay foundered, fishing for something crazy enough to describe what had happened. "Like I asked him to have sex in the sandpit!" she finally finished.
Kyla studied the metal piece. "Well, in a way you did."
"What?!" Jay yelped, shooting to her feet.
"All right, not in that sandpit, anyway."
"What the hell are you talking about? I did not ask Tate to sleep with me!"
Kyla sighed. "The area between a gargoyle’s wings is one of the most sensitive spots on our bodies. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. See, when two mates or two gargoyles that want to be mates want to have a tumble – I think that’s how you humans put it – well, let’s say it all starts with a massage. It starts hormones, instincts, ya know."
Jay groaned and put her face in her hands. "Oh my god. No wonder he freaked."
"Didn’t you, ah, learn about this when you were transformed?"
"No. I had no idea."
"And Tate probably knows that. You just... startled him. We’re starting to get near the end of our twenty years, and that kind of makes all of us a bit edgy."
"Oh, great, more stuff I forgot to be told. Okay, what do you mean, twenty years?"
"Gargoyle females lay eggs in twenty year cycles. Then it takes ten years for the eggs to hatch. The first twenty year break is kinda like the start of puberty, I guess. The second, at forty years, is when we choose mates."
"But... don’t all of you have like three more years to go?"
The gargoyle shrugged. "He’s half human. That probably throws the cycle a bit off."
"Oh, right, that makes everything all better."
"Look, you didn’t know, he knows that, just keep playing stupid and both of you let it slide."
Jay gave her an almost desperate look. "Are you sure?"
"Positive. If he doesn’t apologize, that’s not my brother." She grinned and picked up the hammer. "Or tell me and he’ll end up with one whopping headache. Either way..."
The human forced a grin. "Thanks." She stood and left the shop, closing the door behind her.
Kyla watched her go, pulling out a cloth and polishing the metal. She honestly felt sorry for Jay. While it had seemed strange at first to have a human around, she had quickly become a permanent part of the clan. And it was obvious to everyone from Nicole to Steve and Frank that Jay and Tate had feelings for each other.
The gargoyle sighed and examined the metal. And she had to admire Tate. Her brother had showed remarkable restraint earlier. She had glossed over the truth somewhat when describing just what happened to Jay. In fact, she had toned it down quite a bit. She sighed again and wished then luck. It seemed like they would need it.
* * *
Tate pulled himself out of the water and onto the rock with a gasp. Okay, so maybe diving into the brook wasn’t such a good idea. But at least the chill had ridden him of the sensation of Jay’s hands, working the muscles in his back... He shook his head and snarled. He wasn’t going to think about that... he couldn’t think about that. Unfortunately, his brain wasn’t helping.
Tate moaned and gripped his head. He had to think about something else. He took a deep breath and wrapped his arms around his knees, then cocooned himself with his wings. He shivered as a cool breeze danced over his back, recalling the sensation of Jay’s hands.
Damn, I’m getting obsessed! Tate took another deep breath. He knew that he had reached his twenty year break a good three years early, so that should mean in a month, at most two, these insane urges would slow, or better yet, stop.
The problem was making it until then without doing anything stupid.
Yeah, like freaking out your best friend. Oh god, the look on her face when I let loose...I’m surprised she didn’t run straight back to Norwich. Tate sighed. Guess I’d better apologize. If she’ll let me.
* * *
Jay had only been looking for Tate for a few minutes before he found her in the middle floor. For some reason, he was slightly wet and had changed clothes.
"Jay, I’m sorry," he blurted out. "I shouldn’t have blown up like that, it’s just been a long week."
"That’s okay. I shouldn’t have snuck up on you like that."
Tate raised an eyeridge, crossed his arms, and glared at her. "Well we can’t both be guilty."
She forced a laugh. "All right, all right. Then let’s just forget about it, ‘kay?"
Both were silent for a few uneasy minutes. "Well, um, I hafta get back home. I still have homework to finish."
"Yeah, sure. See you tomorrow."
Jay shook her head, pulling herself back to New York and the present. Tate had been somewhat colder, more distant since then. She sighed. She had thought that they had come to some sort of tentative understanding, that their relationship, such as it was, would go further. But after that... things had started to go down the tubes.
"Angela!" a voice called out. Using reflexes honed from 12 years in the public school system and general paranoia, Jay whipped around, searching for who was being called. It took her brain several seconds longer to realize it wasn’t her that was the target. A few more seconds sped by before her brain mentioned the fact that the call had come from above. Since she was several stories above all the nearby rooftops, that meant...
Jay glanced up to see a powder blue female gargoyle with the reddest hair she had ever seen. The female’s eyeridges went up with shock. "You’re not Angela," she accused in a slightly shocked tone.
"Um, nope." The two descended to a rooftop where the blue gargess glared at her suspiciously.
"Who are you? Are you one of Angela’s rookery?"
"Sorry, but I don’t even know any Angela."
"Then... other clans survived?" The stranger seemed almost too shocked to breathe.
"Define survive," Jay asked. Wait a minute... Brooklyn wasn’t surprised to see that there were more gargoyles...And he mentioned the other clans. Uh oh...
The older female brought herself out of her shock and held out a hand. "I am Demona."
Is it just me, or does this sound like it’s headed downhill? "Hi. I’m Jay."
Tate was obviously fascinated with the castle, but Bronx, Owen, and Alex were the only ones home. Everyone else was out, even Hudson with his friend Robbins. Brooklyn settled for giving him the grand tour, but after awhile Tate’s attention wandered to every clock in sight. When he started looking at his watch every few minutes, Brooklyn gave up.
"Jay should be here by now."
Brook sighed. Even in his distracted state, there were only so many times Tate could see the Great Hall and be that impressed. "So let’s go."
It was a matter of minutes for the pair to get to the ramparts and jump off. Tate took a moment for an awed look behind at Wyvern Castle as he and Brooklyn left. The place really was amazing, even if he wasn’t paying that much attention. It was just... He sighed. Jay could probably name every part of the castle, how it was defended, what weapons were used, and their lethality. She went crazy for the medieval stuff.
And of course, he’d just nod and agree, totally lost, until she said something totally ridiculous to make him wonder if she had a clue. It would most likely be wrong, but...
It had taken him awhile, but he finally admitted that he liked her much more then as just a friend. He hadn’t known her for a year, but being with her just felt... right.
"Demona!" Brooklyn roared, his eyes flaring a brilliant white and instantly pulling Tate from his musings. The beaked gargoyle stooped into a dive at the roof with a battle roar.
Tate muttered curses to himself and dove after. From the look of things, this Demona character was bad juju. And what was she doing with Jay?
Brooklyn slammed into Demona, sending both several yards away. Jay stared at them, open mouthed and clearly surprised.
"Are you okay?" Tate asked he as he landed.
"What the hell is he doing? We were just talking and then out of nowhere – "
Demona roared back and threw Brooklyn away with a vicious two footed kick. Jay and Tate watched the red gargoyle go flying into an AC unit. Tate stifled a feeling of déjà vu from a tennis match as Brooklyn got up, shook his head, then charged at Demona again.
"Okay, this left insane and has entered stupid." Jay sighed and walked over to the battling pair, weaving slightly as she tried to find an opening. "Demona, Brooklyn, please, can’t – Ugh!"
Brooklyn ignored her as he tried to get his hands around Demona’s throat. The blue female shoved Jay away into Brooklyn, who shuttled her off into the wall of a stairwell. She landed with a thud and slid to the ground.
"Jay!" Tate yelped, sprinting over and gently cradling her. "C’mon, speak to me," he pleaded.
She blinked and tried unsuccessfully to focus on him. "Did’ja get th’ number of th’ truck?" Then her eyes rolled back into her head.
He swore when he found the lumps on the back of her head; there were a few too many to be from the meeting with the wall. Besides, she’d taken worse. Last night, he realized with a groan. She’d been in pretty bad condition when she dragged Brooklyn in their window, but with her assurances and the obviously worse condition of the New York gargoyle, he’d put them to the back burner. And since they’d spent the day as humans... Damn! What’re the signs of a concussion? He shoved the thought away. It could wait. He cracked his knuckles and stood. Besides, Brooklyn looked like he could use some help.
shortly before dawn
Reality is very rarely a pleasant thing. Jay had learned that lesson quite well since her first diagnosis of cancer, but these last few days had literally pounded it home. She knew being a gargoyle didn’t mean anything remotely like a long or quiet life, but this was ridiculous. The field trip for instance. It was supposed to be a few days rest from the crazies, looking around the city for gargoyles. Instead, if they weren’t spending all their time battling off KKK members who fell into a vat of spoiled grape juice, it was insane gargoyles that wanted to destroy humanity. "I could do with some normalcy," she growled. She sat up, then groaned and went back down like a felled tree. Her head felt like several elephants had used it for tap dancing lessons.
A familiar battle screech sounded, and her eyes snapped open. She was crouched in a battle stance without being aware of how she’d gotten there and scanning the rooftops frantically. That had been Tate.
A male gargoyle flew into sight, twisting and weaving frantically to dodge a barrage of laser fire. At least, it looked like what Jay’d always thought laser fire would look like.
But the gargoyle and his pursuer, a female she suspected was Demona, weren’t Tate. The male had a beak, and, in the light of another barrage, a loincloth. Since she’d never known Silicon to wear anything other then jeans and a vest, that meant Brooklyn.
A string of curses alerted her to the other arrival, a rather battered Tate that managed to freeze when he saw her.
Reality intruded again in the form of Brooklyn, who hurtled down into her. They connected with the roof in a sprawl of limbs.
A moment later, a clawed blue hand grabbed her shirt and lifted her into the air. Ooo, one handed, I’m impressed!
Demona was about to say something doubtlessly impressive and threatening when Tate body checked her into the same wall Jay slammed into earlier.
Jay yelped and went flying to slam into the roof. She rolled with the landing, eventually hitting something which slowed her momentum, but not enough to stop her. Both she and what she hit went over the edge.
She scrambled madly for a handhold, barely catching the drain. The thing she hit continued to plummet, landing with a thud on something that squished. Shit. I hope no one was under that.
Jay clung to the roof’s edge, swearing softly to herself. When she finally managed to pull herself up onto the roof, she looked over at the battle to find Brooklyn still knocked out and Demona had Tate in what looked like a stalemate grip.
Then she noticed the glow on the horizon. That would mean... "Oh sh– "
Since her transformation, Jay had found her dreams were more like reliving memories then scrambled images. They had become much clearer and more lifelike, often taking her through events in her past. Today was no different. She was enjoying a game of pool volleyball with her brother and the neighbors, probably from when she was ten years old or so. Just before she slammed the ball back over the net, the dream dissolved into a black void. She stood on nothing, in nothing, back in her ‘normal’ gargoyle form.
"What the hell?" she muttered, looking around for the cause. She hadn’t really known she was dreaming until now. A spark of light appeared midair before her, then danced around in a circle like an insane firefly. Somehow, Jay got the feeling it wold be a bad idea to hit it.
Finally the spark settled into one place in front of her, pulsed, and flared, blinding her. When Jay could see again, there was a man in front of her. At least, she assumed he was a man. He was shorter then her, barely topping five feet, with long white hair and ears that would put a Vulcan to shame. He wore a purple and red tunic ensemble straight from the Middle Ages and a look of pure mischief. "Gooooood morning Vietnam!" he yelled in a perfect Robin Williams imitation, tilting to a totally horizontal position three feet in the air.
Jay blinked and leaned back. This was getting weird, even by her standards. "Yeah. Hi. Um, sorry, but the name is Jay, not Vietnam. Don’t worry about it, everyone gets us confused for the other."
He laughed and zoomed around her. "See, now that’s why I like humans. You actually made a joke!"
"Ah, sarcasm, on the other hand, just gets tedious."
"So I’ve often noticed. Who are you and what is going on?"
He sighed and shook his head. "Must be that garg DNA kicking in. I tell ya, they’re great for mind games, but their sense of humor leaves something to be desired. Goliath, for example. I’m willing to bet that if he ever laughs, his face will crack."
"I’m sure." Mental note; Who the hell is Goliath? "You are...?"
He finally went vertical and went into a bow. "I, milady, am the one, the only, the Master Trickster of them all, Puck!"
She stared at him blankly for a second. "Are we talking hockey or Shakespeare here?"
"Hel-lo!" He floated a bit closer to rap her on the head. "The Great Bard, despite Milord’s displeasure, got a few facts right. We are talking Shakespeare. And I am here to help you. Why? Because I need to protect someone." Puck’s skin abruptly changed to an eye-searing fluorescent orange and bat wings and horns, ridiculously large and the same garish color, appeared. "Whatta ya think? Is it me?" He twisted and posed like a model for a bit, then he went back to what Jay suspected passed for normal. "And the gargoyles also protect him. Demona is a threat to him and the Manhattan Clan, so he wants me to save them. Due to other factors, I’m acting as intermediary. In other words, you are gonna save the Brookster and his new friend."
"Me? Whoa, waitaminute, why me?"
Puck rolled his eyes and his tunic changed to classic, stereotypical California beach bum, surfboard included. "Well duh," he said, then switched back. "Because you can already do something and all I have to do is tell you about it. No muss, no fuss, and–" he leaned back and laced his fingers behind his head. " – I save a lot more magic this way."
Jay resisted the urge to growl. "Fine. Fun. So what’s the all important message?"
Despite the fact that it didn’t seem possible, the Puck’s smile widened. "Wake up."
Abruptly Puck disappeared and she was slammed back into darkness. There was absolutely nothing to see. For a moment, she thought she heard the trickster’s voice whisper to her, "And by the way, don’t tell anyone about this. It’ll just ruin my reputation." Then claustrophobia hit as Jay realized she was surrounded by something that pressed close, covering her head to foot yet curiously absent in some places. She flailed with her hands, trying to find some way out, then she heard a cracking sound. Her arms were free!
She took a deep breath, hearing more of the crackling sound, and tried to calm down. She’d heard it before, but she couldn’t place it...
The cracking sound behind her increased, then something crashed like a dropped broken pot. Jay yelped slightly and tried to jump. Her prison disintegrated into familiar gray stone shards around her human feet. She blinked and stared. She was human, in bare feet with ragged clothes, in a room she’d never seen before. It was about ten by ten feet, just big enough to hold the wheeled platforms Tate and Brooklyn were on and the chains holding them.
"Okay, this is not good." And I’m gonna kill the idiot that brought Ghostbusters on the bus. Jay was on another platform, also with chains, but her human form was distinctly smaller, making it no difficulty to squirm out of the manacles. The human padded over to the door and tried to open it, expecting it to be locked. To her surprise, it wasn’t. Trying to ignore the inner voice screaming "This is a trap, stupid!!!", she peeked outside. She was looking into a sparse office, holding a desk, chair, decorative potted plant, computer, and a redheaded woman in a chic business suit screaming into a phone. Her back was to Jay, keeping her from seeing the woman’s face. She slammed the receiver down and snarled at the machine. "Miserable humans," she growled in an unfortunately familiar voice. Jay’s mouth dropped open. Demona? Things kept getting better and better.
The human Demona sighed and rubbed her temples. "If only I could get my hands on Puck..." she muttered.
This was Puck’s fault? Well, maybe that explained why he was helping her. E-yeah. Right. Yer taking this Puck thing awfully well, girl. Must be shock. Magic and elves. Riiight. Gotta cut down on the Pratchett. Jay looked frantically around the room, but there was very little in the way of weapons available. She sighed quietly. Much as she hated clichés, sometimes there was no other option.
Seconds later, had she allowed any in her office, security cameras would have recorded the image of Dominique Destine getting knocked out by liberal application of a potted plat upside the head, and then dragged through the ‘secret door’ in the wall behind her desk.
Dominique Destine, owner of the corporation Nightstone Unlimited, business rival of David Xanatos, and immortal gargoyle/human, woke up with a throbbing headache. She looked around, then snarled. She was in her own cell, that had earlier been holding the three gargoyles for the day. Now she was chained where the female had been. A human teenaged girl was sitting across from her, holding a laser rifle. Demona instantly moved her into the mental category of Capture and Maim Before Killing Painfully that held Macbeth and that miserable pet detective of Goliath’s.
The human smiled and waved when it noticed she was awake. "Morning," it said cheerfully. "Sleep well?"
"When I get free, I’ll kill you."
The girl looked at her levelly, then pointed to the gun. "Is this really a laser? I’ve never actually seen one ‘cept in bad sci-fi movies."
She only snarled.
The girl sighed. "Demona, look, I know the hostile, hate humans thing is your personal philosophy, but, well, we’re gonna be here all day and death threats get kinda boring after awhile. Do you mind giving it a rest?"
How did the insolent child know who she was? How did it know her name? No... she couldn’t be...
Jay apparently saw recognition dawn. "Yeah, that was me. I’m actually a human. Then a geneticist decided to play merry hell with my genes."
Servarius. It had to be. The little twerp adored playing God, and so he created this... abomination. Like the clone Delilah, she was not a gargoyle, but neither was she human.
"Ooo, now I get the half-breed talk, don’t I?" Jay asked, sounding all too cheerful. "Well, believe me, that one wasn’t my fault. And personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with being half and half, not to mention the teensy little fact that you happen to be that way yourself." Demona gaped at her. "The way I see it, we got the best of both worlds."
"And I still don’t see what your problem is with humans. Here’s a wild question; why do you hate humans?"
Jay’s casual, abrupt change of the subject threw the immortal off her guard. "Because they always betray me and my kind."
"Really?" The most infuriating part was the obnoxious creature was pretending to be really interested. Jay sighed and rolled her eyes. "We’re gonna be here all day, and believe me, talking about your problems has got to be more interesting then death threats."
The immortal gargoyle considered. The girl was not a gargoyle, but, if you got right down to it, neither was Thailog. Even if he had turned on her... Perhaps this was the way to win the girl over. If not... it was more interesting then staring at the ceiling.
"Even a thousand years ago you humans hated us..."
about ½ hour before sunset
"... and then he betrayed me. He was a gargoyle, admittedly a clone, but human made and trained. It’s always the humans! They’ve even taken away my daughter!"
"So you’ve said." Jay shifted slightly. It’d been a long day, but Demona’s tale was more then fascinating enough to make time fly. Jay had had an attraction for fantasy tales even before her transformation, and this was strange enough to fit the category. Unfortunately, Demona’s adventures didn’t have a ‘Happily Ever After’ in it, or at least not yet, and it seemed to have put the immortal around the bend. Dangerously so. Jay chewed on her lip, very aware of the passing time. She was no Pollyanna, and had absolutely no illusions of her psychological prowess (or lack thereof). But Jay cheerfully admitted to being a do-gooder. And that meant...
"I want to make a deal with you. I let you out now, before Brooklyn wakes up, and you don’t call security on us. I still haven’t met Brook’s clan, but when I do, I’ll talk to your daughter and put in a good word for you."
"Why should I trust you?"
"That’s the fun part. We both have to trust each other. And why bother? Simple. Brooklyn was out for blood last night. Why, I have no idea, although I’m sure you do, and somehow he doesn’t strike me as someone to forgive and forget. Actually, he’s probably the attack now and think much later type..."
Demona hesitated. It would mean letting two new gargoyles and Brooklyn out of her hands. But there wasn’t much she could do with them with the girl having already escaped. All things considered, it would probably only be in her benefit; she would miss dying (it wasn’t permanent, but it hurt!) and Angela... Angela might not come to see things her way, but perhaps they could find some sort of common ground.
All of which instantly made her suspicious. "And what do you get out of this?"
The girl shrugged. "Less bloodshed, for one, and it also means I don’t have to play referee. And frankly, I’m lazy. This makes my life much easier and a great deal less complicated."
Demona snorted. The child was strange, and possible insane, but lazy? No. Not likely.
But it was all in her benefit... and she could capture the two again at some time in the future. After all, what is time to an immortal?
"All right. "
That day, Tate stood frozen in a position of denial and battle, watching, in the back of his mind, Jay fall. The scene of her flying off the roof (dammit, how had they ended up back there? The game of Can’t Catch Me was to keep her away from Jay) replayed over and over again in his mind, along with the unsettling sound of flesh meeting cement. Here, in the realm of sleep and near waking, the truth was so much easier to see and state. He was in love in a major way. And he didn’t give a damn what race she was. Actually, all things considered, they were a perfect match; both neither human or gargoyle.
He could feel the twitchy, energized feeling that signaled it was time to waken. He threw back his head and let loose a roar of heartfelt agony as the stone shards of his skin fell to the ground. Jay had managed to cheat death once before, but he doubted even she could do it twice.
"Tate? Are you all right?"
Impossible. It just wasn’t possible.
He turned, unable to believe his ears.
But if they lied, so did his eyes.
Jay stood poised on the roof, watching him with anxious eyes. She was in gargoyle form.
He bit his lip and grabbed her gently by the arms, looking her over.
Then, before he had time to think, to hesitate, he leaned forward and kissed her.
The world seemed to disappear, fading away to inconsequential. He finally understood the references to fireworks.
Eventually, the annoying need for air separated them. Tate looked down as Jay drew close, and he brought his wings around to gather her in a second embrace. "We friends again?" Jay asked softly.
He winced. That wasn’t exactly encouraging. What the hell, go all the way, he mentally sighed. What’s the worst she can say? "Only if that’s as far as you want to take it."
She looked up at him with a small smile. "Like hell," she told him softly. "I love you. Took us long enough to realize that, you dope."
He chuckled and held her closer. "I love you too," he whispered.
Someone cleared their throat, reminding them that Brooklyn was also awake. They stepped apart so quickly that they looked more like guilty teenagers caught making out on the kitchen table then anything else. Both were blushing furiously.
"Demona," Brooklyn snarled, "where is she?"
Jay shrugged. "No idea. She wasn’t here, and hasn’t been here. And I have no idea where ‘here’ is."
Brooklyn sighed. "Figures. All right, you want that tour now?"
It was a surprisingly short flight back to Wyvern, where they were greeted enthusiastically by a rather worried gargoyle clan. Jay went through all the motions of greetings, noting in the back of her mind their names. Finally she had a chance to pull aside the smallest gargoyle, a green male she vaguely recalled as Lex-something-or-another. "’Scuse me, but do you guys have a phone I can use?"
"Yeah. Right down there at the end of the hall, on the desk."
"Thanks. If Tate asks, I’m saving our tails school-wise."
Lex blinked and stared at her back as she left. Jay didn’t care. She’d spent the entire night and most of the day awake, as well as a good chunk of the day before. Despite the slight buzz coming from the setting of the sun, she was nearly literally asleep on her feet. She staggered down the hall, barely noticing the amazing restoration done. Considering the place was over a thousand years old, normally Jay would have been ecstatic to be able to wander around, but tonight all she wanted to do was phone the teacher then find a nice corner to collapse in. Hopefully one with a couch, or at least a chair.
After walking for what felt like an hour, she finally reached an office with an incredible view. The clouds had parted to show the city sprawled out below in a vista that should have been on a post card. The teen ignored the decorator’s taste. All she saw was the phone on the desk. A part of her sleep-fogged mind conjured up the image of a golden beam of light and a chorus of singers. She giggled at the image. Right. Appropriate. Next thing, she’d be seeing King Arthur.
Somehow she dredged up Mr. Williams’ phone number and dialed. She hummed absently, barely noting the sound of footsteps behind her.
* click * "Hello?"
Gee, he sounds freaked. Wonder why? "Hi, Mr. Williams. This is Jay."
"Jay? My God, are you all right? How’s Tate? What happened to you two?"
She sighed and rubbed her eyes. "Well, see, we ran into this – "
"Dammit, do you realize how worried we were?"
She sighed again and studied the ceiling. The way he was going on, the chances of getting in a word edgewise were next to nonexistent.
The shuffle of feet behind her reminded Jay that she wasn’t alone any more. She turned and frowned. The man behind her was familiar, in the way of the President and Bill Gates, but her mind simply wasn’t working well enough to attach a name to the face. Still, it’s always best to be polite to powerful and famous people, especially when they play host to a gargoyle clan, so she covered the mouthpiece. "Sorry, do you need this? Lex said I could use it, but..."
"No, that’s quite all right." The man waved his hand dismissively, smirking. The voice was rather distinctive, but she just couldn’t place it.
When the teacher finally began to repeat himself, a process that took a little while, Jay interrupted. "Sir, look, I’m sorry, but we were a little tied up yesterday. I’ve spent over 24 hours awake, and I am this close to crashing. Other then lack of sleep, I’m perfectly fine. Tate’s all right too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a bed. Bye."
She gently put down the receiver and growled at it.
"I’ve always found bureaucracy tiring myself," the man commented as he sat down in the chair.
"That wasn’t bureaucracy, that was the school system."
He shrugged. "Same thing."
Wait a minute. The name was on the tip of her tongue. Wasn’t he –
"Xanatos!" a woman called as she came into the room. Jay stared. It was a bloody convention in here. But she was sure she’d seen her before... but when and where, let alone who, was totally beyond her. "Did they find – Another gargoyle?!"
"Actually, there’s also another unknown in the courtyard. Brooklyn brought them in. I was just about to show this young lady to a guest room."
"Hi." Jay waved feebly.
"Don’t bother getting up," the woman nearly snarled, "I’ll do it."
Xanatos’s smirk widened. "Feel free, Detective. She can use the guest room you normally stay in."
The woman didn’t reply other then to turn and walk off, gesturing to Jay. The gargoyle followed obediently. "I’m sorry, but I don’t think I caught your name." Ooo. Subtle.
The woman blushed and removed a hand from her pocket to run it through her hair. "Sorry. There’s bad blood between the clan and Xanatos. I’m Elisa Maza."
"Brooklyn told you about me?"
Oops. Jay blinked. She hadn’t realized she’d said that out loud. "Um, you could say that. Oh yeah, I’m Jay. Sorry, I’m just a tad out of things."
Elisa chuckled. "Believe me, I know how it is." She stopped in front of a massive wooden door. "Guest room’s right in there."
"Thanks." Jay staggered through the door, changed into human form, flopped down on the bed, and was asleep in seconds.
Elisa laughed quietly to herself and shook her head. Who’d’ve thought a year ago I’d calmly accept all of this without blinking? She shut the door with another laugh and headed for the courtyard. Despite the knowledge of other clans around the world, any additions to the population were welcome. When she stepped out into the night, the clan stopped chattering with the stranger and Hudson took them all, minus Goliath, over to the wall for a moment. When they turned back, she and Goliath were standing side by side, looking only slightly mussed and with his arm over her shoulders. The newcomer squinted at her, then began to laugh. Goliath growled, but stopped (or dropped to a subliminal level) when she held up a hand.
"And what d’ye find so funny?" Hudson rumbled in an icy tone.
He coughed, then straightened, a slight twitching in his eyes and lips the only sign that he was this close to bursting back into laughter. He had apparently heard the warning in Hudson’s voice. He came over to Elisa and bowed. "Detective Maza, I believe?"
"I’m Tate, from a clan in Connecticut, and I would like to apologize if I have offended you. I wasn’t laughing at you, it’s just that I just remembered that your partner was head of the Gargoyle Task Force, and that you seem to have a tendency to run into gargoyles. We met earlier."
What? The gargoyles’ attention switched to her. "Apology accepted, but... I can’t recall meeting you."
Tate bit his lip and struggled to compose himself. "It was this morning in front of the police station. Your partner and ... I think his name was Morgan? – another cop were talking. You drove up and during the conversation, I made a comment to Jay about how you were referring to us like stray puppies."
She remembered that. Last night was her night off, and after some quality time with Goliath, she’d actually gotten some sleep. Of course, there was some sort of paperwork mix-up, so she had to get up before noon. The highlight of the entire fiasco was when Matt started in on how the two kids had managed to diffuse an impromptu Quarryman rally. But... "You were human."
"That’s a relative term," he muttered. "Jay was born human, but she was... genetically altered."
"Servarius!" Elisa hissed, and several of the clan added in growls.
"You’ve met?" Tate asked.
"Unfortunately," Goliath rumbled. "What about you? Magic? Or science?"
Tate froze and all traces of hilarity drained away. "Uh, well, that is..."
What was it he didn’t want to tell them?
Brooklyn nudged him with his tail and muttered something to Lex Elisa missed except for ‘camera’. What were they up to?
The green gargoyle took a deep breath and looked levelly at them. "My father’s a human. I can change forms at sunrise and sunset."
Both Goliath and, she suspected, herself looked like they’d been poleaxed.
"Are ye saying that yer parents were a gargoyle... and a human?" Hudson asked. Blast it all, she knew he was giving them an appraising look!
"Yes." Tate tensed, obviously expecting to be driven off or a wave of revulsion or something like that.
"Well. That is an interestin’ fact. Why don’t we take this inside?"
Now it was Tate’s turn to do a landed fish imitation. At last he shook his head and smiled weakly. "Okay."
Jay slowly came back to the land of awareness, lingering to relish the dream she’d been having about Tate. The house was utterly silent, without even the sound of cars or the neighbor’s rat. That must mean she’d overslept. The patch of sunlight warming her face finally brought her entirely back. She yawned and stretched, then froze midway. The shades blocked out the sunlight. The neighbors always put out their dog after breakfast and didn’t bring it back in until after dark. She shouldn’t be able to stretch out this much, and these definitely weren’t her sheets...
Oh, gods, I hope that was just a dream. If not, I am so dead. She cautiously opened an eye and looked around. The room was larger then the living room at home, and off to the side was a door opening into a bathroom. The walls and floor were stone. The entire room, especially the bed, was decorated like something out of a Disney movie, Cinderella or maybe Sleeping Beauty. Her clothes, except for the rather tattered shirt which she was wearing, were lying around on the floor. There was a knock on the door.
I don’t know which would be worse; this being a new version of walking down the street in your underwear or me being awake. "Uh, can you hang on a sec?" she called, scrambling out of the bed and grabbing clothes frantically.
"It’s Elisa. I brought you some clothes. Yours looked in pretty bad shape."
Elisa, Elisa, who the hell is Elisa? Arrrgh, I must’ve been asleep on my feet. Waitaminute, the cop! What’s-his-name’s partner! Bluestone! And...Maza.
Clothes? Jay grabbed a last sock and darted into the bathroom. "Okay, c’mon in." She opened the door a crack and grabbed the bundle Elisa handed to her. "Thanks."
"No problem. Believe me, I know how it is."
"To change suddenly from gargoyle to human? Right."
"Well, thanks to Puck..."
"Did you just say Puck?" The door did distort some of the conversation, but...
Elisa laughed. "Don’t ask. Just don’t ask."
"Okaaaay." She opened the door and stepped out. "Well? Is it me?" Oh no, all this talk of Puck is messing with my mind. Her stomach rumbled, protesting the lengthy absence of any new food. She blushed. "Sorry, but going all night without food..."
"Uh, actually, it’s all night and most of the day."
"Wha – you mean – Oh boy."
The cop laughed. "Come on, if we hurry, we can see the guys wake up. Then we’ll get you something to eat."
The two hurried through the castle in a winding route that soon had Jay completely lost. If they weren’t pushing for time, she would have loved to stop and gawk.
They made it to the ramparts in time to see stone forms crack with a thousand fracture lines, then shatter with multiple roars. Elisa went up to the purple giant and gave him a small hug. "Evening Goliath."
Oh! So that’s who Goliath is. Hmm. I see Puck’s point.
The female, who bore a striking resemblance to Goliath and (Argh! This must be the daughter) Demona, strolled up. "I’m Angela, in case you don’t remember last night."
Jay grinned. "Other then the fact I was nearly sleep-walking, last night’s a blur. Um, could I drag you off for some girl talk?" Her stomach rumbled again. "If you don’t mind me munching all the time."
She laughed. "I’d love to. Elisa is the only other female around much, and it’d be good to talk to another gargoyle."
"Excuse me, Jay, but you gotta remember we have to be back at the bus by six."
"Yeah, sure Tate. Don’t worry."
Tate tugged gently on her wing. "Come on, if we don’t get going, the bus’ll leave without us."
"Yeah, sure, but... Hey Lex!"
The small gargoyle turned. "Yeah?"
"You wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the OnlineHost in the Aerie chat room talking back, would you?"
He blinked, then grinned. "Actually, yeah. How’d you find out?"
She smirked at Tate. "Hah! Remember running into a Nightbird a few months ago?"
"That was you?"
"Yup. I play clueless pretty well, huh?"
"Who’s playing?" Tate asked.
"I can’t wait too see their faces," Jay told Tate as they pulled up to a stop. Before she turned off the car, Tate jumped out. "Don’t do that!" she yelped. "Do you have any idea how much that freaks me out?"
"Aww, big bad gargoyle can handle gliding but not getting out before the vehicle comes to a complete stop? Do you want me to make sure the trays are in an upright position too?" he retorted, as he opened her door and bowed.
Instead of answering, Jay changed into gargoyle form and swept out with a haughty, regal expression, ‘accidentally’ bonking Tate on the head.
"Ouch. I’ll take that as a no."
"Ouch?" Her snooty expression dissolved into chuckles. "I barely hit you. Besides, your head stays rock hard at night."
For a minute, he just gave her a calculating look, a gleam of mischief in his eyes the only sign of what he was up too. Then he turned up his nose and swaggered towards the door in a parody of Jay’s walk, as primly as he could.
Their laughter alerted the clan to their presence as a window opened.
"Hey! Love Birds! You’re holding up breakfast!" Megan yelled from a window.
"We already ate!" Tate called back.
"So? You think I care? Just get your tails up here!" The window slammed shut.
They exchanged looks. "Well? Think we should get up there, or take our time?" he asked.
"Hmm. Well, I suppose since we’re gonna play with their minds so much we might as well hurry." She gave him a cat-ate-the-canary grin. "Come on, last one up is a pigeon perch!"
They raced each other to the door, Tate drawing ahead at the last moment to dart in the doorway a moment before Jay. They thundered through the kitchen too fast to stop, simply slowing down. They came to a halt at the head of the table in the dining room before crashing into anything.
The assembled gargoyles generally ignored them, except Meg, who applauded. "You made good time."
Mector snorted. "Sit down and eat," he growled, pointing to the empty chairs at the end. They instantly obeyed. You just didn’t tell the clan Leader it wasn’t necessary, you only took smaller portions. Simple as that.
Finally, when everyone was nearly finished, Jay stood and rapped on the table. "Ahem. Uh, Tate and I want to make an announcement." The clan was instantly quiet, although with a great deal of winking, nudges, and significant looks. "Thanks. We would just like to say that on our trip to New York City, we made an amazing discovery." Tate went fishing in his backpack as he got more sly looks. "We were told by the very reliable source of Goliath, the leader of the Manhattan Clan, formally the Wyvern Clan of Scotland, that there are at least four other clans besides his; those of Avalon, Guatemala, Japan, and London."
"We were unable to get anything other then some descriptions of those clans, but we did manage to get pictures of the Manhattan Clan and one of them was formally from Avalon. Several of the gargoyles also indicated a willingness to come visit here at some future date, although we decided to make no plans without consulting the rest of you."
Tate stood and held out a handful of photos. "These are the pictures, taken both at day and night. Any questions?"
The assembled gargoyles erupted into a babble of comments and questions. Tate handed the photos to Sadie and leaned back to enjoy the show. "I told you this way was better," he whispered. Jay smirked and nodded.
Eventually, as the furor refused to die down, the Leader got to his feet and pounded on the table. "Quiet! Everyone be quiet!" he roared. Apparently thinking he meant everyone but him or her, the gargoyles continued to talk.
Jay and Tate shared a look, then Tate bellowed out a battle roar. Everyone went quiet and stared at him. They had been taught since hatching that the roar was strictly for fights and extreme circumstances, and absolutely never inside. "Thank you. Jay?"
She coughed to cover a laugh. "Yeah, um, we don’t mind answering questions, but we can only do it two at a time. So to make things easier... Sadie? Any comments?"
The elderly gargoyle looked up from the pictures. "Thank you," she said quietly. "I had nearly given up hope." She handed the photos over to Mector. "You mentioned Avalon. Do you mean the island of Oberon or New Jersey?"
"From what we learned, it was the island. Angela, the female, is the one from there."
"What do you mean, they were formally the Wyvern Clan of Scotland?"
It was Tate’s turn to speak. "Well, see, a thousand years ago..."
By sunrise, they had finished answering the clan’s questions. The clan reluctantly gathered on the roof to greet the dawn.
As the sun’s light hardened skin into stone, two of the figures lost their wings and tails. They stood silently watching the sun as it inched over the horizon.
"So. You got anything to add for the ending of the saga?" Tate asked.
Jay twisted around in his arms to give him a puzzled and almost frightened look. "Um, I hate to break this to you, but this is real life, not an episode of Smurfs."
He grinned back. "Speaking of bad TV, how did we get away from Demona?"
"What d’you mean? I never saw her after sunrise. That’s all."
"Uh huh. And that only happens on Power Rangers – "
"I wouldn’t know."
" – and other pathetic excuses for entertainment."
"See previous comment."
"Uh huh. What’d you do?"
Jay scuffed her feet and examined the ground. "mumble mumble"
"Made a deal."
"If she let us go, I talk to Angela and say some nice things about her. After what she’s been through, it was a bit easier to put a positive spin on things."
"So that’s where you two went off to. But – from what Brooklyn said – "
"Brooklyn sees her as Hitler reborn." Her gaze went distant. "Guess we all got someone like that. Is it something in the blood that makes you irrational to one person or something?"
Tate laughed and drew her closer. "I don’t know," he told her, looking into her eyes, "and at the moment, I don’t care. Hell, at the moment, I’d be willing to kiss Servarius for what he did." He caressed her cheek with a gentle finger. "Because he gave me you. And I love you."
She grinned up at him. "How ‘bout trying a target other then Servaius?"
Had anyone been watching, the sight meeting their eyes would be that of two human figures, silhouetted against the rising sun among a collection of stone gargoyles, drawing together in a long kiss.
Amusingly enough, I once ended this with the declaration that this would be the end of my stories centering on the Love Birds. They have since proven me so very wrong. :) But in an amusing way. It's still fun to torment them! Anyway, thanks for making it through my early work, it only gets better (and weirder!) from here!Let me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home
I want to read more! To get back to the fic archive
Any questions? Complaints? Screams of outrage that I actually consider myself a writer and/or dared to show this in public? Tell me! Send it all to Norcumi@backtick.net! I love mail!!!!
All characters except those of Jay, Tate, Mariah and Eric Williams, and the Connecticut Clan, (which belong to me and can't be used without permission) belong to Buena Vista and therefore the Great Mouse. They're used without permission but with great respect for an amazing show.
Speed and Ghostbusters belong to.... er, someone else.
Your Racist Friend (from the Flood album) belongs to They Might be Giants. Also used without permission. If you want to know more of the lyrics to their songs and maybe pick up a sample or two of them, click here. Big thanks to Mendon for starting the insanity and Matt for getting me the big mess of MP3s. Both of you are great. Insane, but great. :D