All right, Iím going to babble a bit here. If you just want to ignore me, go right ahead and go down to the double lines below.
Wow. Still here? I'm impressed. Ok, like I mentioned, this started when I got diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphomic cancer on April first, 1996. Honest. The doctors were rather... unnerved at my attitude ( try to laugh at it) and wanted me to do a journal sort of thing. Gods know why, not I. It started rather innocently enough, but then I tried to write it during a Gargoyles episode. Whoops. And so it changed into this. I'm sorry! It's based on what happened to me (usually the details dealing with treatments and other medical stuff) but I never actually ran into a gargoyle. Oh well. And yes, I do refer to my lump as Fred. I still have no clue why. (apologies to any reader that happens to be named Fred)
This is my first attempt at fic and admittedly rough. Some things appear to be last minute additions, and, well, some are. Hopefully they'll be explained better in later fics.
As for my cancer, I'm about a year and a half into remission and actually have hair!!! ;) (It's the little things that are important.)
So please enjoy my insane ramblings and be happy. Because Fred is dead.
DING, DONG, FRED IS DEAD
Yale New Haven Hospital, Adolescents Floor (7th)
Jay stared up at the ceiling, watching the patterns the moon and clouds made coming through the window. She sighed, then winced as the movement jostled her catheter. She shivered slightly as her mind involuntarily pulled up images of just where the tube was going. She was okay as long as she pretended it stopped at the edge of the bandage, but at times like these, when she really thought about how it went into her, into a vein inside her chest.... She had a major problem keeping her lunch down, and not to mention not totally panicking.
Taking a deep, shuddering breath, she forced the image out of her mind, replacing it with a picture of a dragon, soaring high over a medieval town. There were advantages of being fantasy obsessed. It allowed you to be easily distracted when you really needed it.
The shuffle of footsteps outside the hospital room gave Jay enough warning to snap her eyes shut before the nurse came into the room. She'd had enough tests for tonight. Or can it be considered today yet? Heh. It's only, what, 5 in the morning? Probably today. A nurse entered the room, and someone followed after, accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a gurney. Jay barely stifled her groan in time. Great. I got a roommate now. Whee, ha-ha, yippee. I'm overwhelmed by Yale's kindness. What next, a visit from the local religious fanatic who can't keep a congregation of his own, and needs to preach to sick, sedated, and, most likely restrained people? Yes, just how I wanted to spend May Day. May second. Whichever.
The nurse whispered to the other patient, "Sorry about sharing, Tate, but we couldn't get a single room without raising questions."
"Whatever," he replied, making Jay hold back another groan. The nurse was another air head. Not something that unusual, from what she'd seen, but she thought that most of the staff would know you kept different genders in different rooms.
"But shouldn't I be in a room with another... guy?" Jay silently thanked him.
"Sorry, but they're all full."
"Great," he grumbled, "not only do I get stuck in the hospital, for heck knows how long, and surrounded by potential homicidal maniacs who hate me for what I happened to be born as, but I get stuck in a room with a girl. Man, Peg, this is not my night." You and me both, fella.
The nurse chuckled. "Get used to it, pal. You'll be stuck here awhile. I gotta get back to my station. Try getting some rest."
"I'm not tired!" he mock shouted after her as she left the room.
"I wouldn't have guessed," Jay commented dryly.
"What the hell?!" he yelped.
"Ah ah ah, shouldn't use language like that," she chided without looking at him. From the sound of it, she was stuck with him for a few days, and by then, she'd probably get sick and tired of his face. Besides, it hurt too much to roll over to see what he looked like. "The champlain'll come and give you mucho pain about how not to take the Lord's name in vain or use such words like that carelessly."
"And what're you, some sort of religious freak?"
Mentally she snickered. This guy sounded like a major smartass. Not like that was a bad thing; humor was on small supply in the hospital. "Religious, not really, and freak, well, that depends on who you ask, but the general opinion seems to be yes."
He laughed, then cursed again under his breath. "Catheter?" she asked.
"How'd you guess?" She raised the IV tube connected to her own port and gently waved it in his direction. Let's see what his gross out factor is.
"You too?" Hmm, doesn't sound freaked at all. This is good.
"Yeah, but hey, it's better then having them search for veins every three minutes."
"You have a point there."
She snorted. "This is a hospital. What do you expect, healthy people?" He suffered another bout of chuckling and smothered curses. "If you're gonna keep that up, at least have a little mercy and use something inventive," she asked. She really didn't like that much profanity, but she could sympathize. She'd done enough swearing herself her first few days here.
"And if you keep this up," he retorted, "show a little mercy yourself and keep it down to a comment a minute." She pretended to think about it, then nodded. "All right. Deal. I'm Jay Stiles."
"Deal then. Jokers wild. Name's Tate."
"Jokers are very wild at the minute. Crazy, too. Pleased to meet you, although I could wish for better circumstances."
"Can say that again. But please don't! So, whatcha in for?" Her delighted grin faded a bit, as the pleasure of finding someone with some sort of humor was replaced with a small part of disappointment. She could hear his reaction now, "Aw, I'm so sorry. I know how you feel", when he didn't have a clue. It had only been one month, but she was already sick of it.
"Cancer," she replied curtly. "Got diagnosed exactly one month, well, minus a day, ago."
"Hell of an April Fool's joke," he said, after a few moments to figure it out.
"Ya got that right." I don't believe it! Not a single comment! Somebody up there likes me tonight. Or is at least taking some pity on me. "How about you?"
"What are the chemo sessions like?" The question was quiet, and Jay thought she heard a note of something else, something she couldn't place right away. Was it fear?
"They aren't that bad, really. Just boring. You sit in one place for two to six hours-"
"How much stuff do they give you?!"
"Not much. Just one or two IV bags worth."
"Sorry to burst your bubble, but they're normal size."
"Then why does it take so long?"
"They give it to you any faster, it poisons you. Don't worry, there aren't many six hour ones."
"Since you don't seem to want to say, not to mention your diversionary tactic stinks, let me guess: you have cancer too?"
"Yeah," he muttered.
"Look, the worst part is the boredom. Really."
"I'd hate to see you when you're board," he said, sounding like the idea frightened him to death. Yeah. Definitely a smartass. Well, two can play that game.
"Congratulations. You are witnessing the aftereffects. There's not really much to do this early in the morning. Unless you like watching snow or those colored bars on TV."
"Nah, saw that last night."
"Whatever. You know, scary as it sounds, I'm glad you got stuck here. Heck, I wouldn't mind having a philosophical discussion with a seven foot ball of slime with tentacles, if it could talk."
"Yeah, right." It was a quiet whisper, barely audible, but Jay caught a note of old pain, and sadness in the mutter. What the-?
"So, do you have anything good to say about cancer?" He didn't sound like he thought there'd be a positive answer, and was just searching for something to change the subject.
"Well, I have to say that there's one good thing Fred did for me; getting me out of school."
"Yeah, the cancerous lump they found. I decided to call it Fred for easier reference. No real reason. And think I had too much sugar before then, too." She grinned. "The doctorsíre just lucky Iím not a ventriloquist. "
He chuckled. "Ah hah. Okaaaay. And getting you out of school is a good thing?"
"Just what planet are you from?"
"I'm, well, I guess you could say I'm home schooled."
"Yes, this is a good thing." Finally, Jay's curiosity had had enough. She sat up, not daring to just roll over, and turned to see just what Tate looked like. Her mouth dropped open and she blinked several times, unwilling to believe her eyes. Her roommate was sitting up in the hospital bed, staring back with a trapped expression in his black eyes. His skin was a pale green, and sprouting out of his forehead was a set of horns that accented his brown hair, cut short on the sides and around the bottom of the back of his head. Trailing over the side of the bed was a green tail, twitching slightly. His hands were talons that looked like they could easily rip a steel beam apart, with feet similarly clawed. Folded over broad shoulders like a cape was a pair of leathery, bat-like wings, the outside skin a darker green.
"Oh. My. God," she whispered, still not trusting her eyesight.
Tate sighed inwardly, wishing he'd had time to prepare Jay for this. She seemed pretty cool for a human, with a wicked sense of humor, and quite possibly could be a good ally of the clan. But she had decided to look, and he figured he might as well give her a few minutes to try to figure him out before ruining it. Now how's Peg gonna explain a patient going crazy? he wondered, then pushed it aside. She'd figure something out.
Jay swallowed and blinked some more. Ten to one it's "AHHHHH! Monster!" he thought, mentally laying odds. Instead of "Freak", "Beast", or just "Weird thing in the room". Jay shook her head and rubbed her eyes, making him snort. This wasn't the usual reaction, he was used to running and screaming. Then again, hooked up to the IV stand like that, I doubt she could run very far. She finally cleared her throat.
"Um, I don't mean to sound rude, but, if you don't mind me asking, that is, just... what are you?" It was his turn to blink. There were a few moments of silence, then he burst out laughing.
Jay sighed and crossed her arms as Tate howled with laughter. She had the feeling that if he'd been standing, and not attached to the IV pole, he'd be rolling on the floor. Well, what'd he expect? For me to scream "Monster"? You don't do that. He looks like he could rip me into little pieces without trying, if he ever got the urge, and you don't go calling somebody that can do that monster. It's just plain stupid. Can think it all you want, but you don't call them that to their face. You'll only do it once.
The night nurse came in, almost running. "Tate, keep it down!" she hissed. "You'll wake everybody...." Her voice trailed off as she finally caught sight of the entire scene. "Oh shit," she declared quietly as she saw Jay waiting impatiently for the hysterics to die down.
"I already told him he shouldn't use language like that," Jay said sourly, jerking a thumb in Tate's direction, causing him to laugh even harder. He buried his face in a pillow, trying to smother the noise.
Now it was the nurse's turn to stare, her mouth hanging open. Finally she snapped her mouth shut. "You don't have a problem that he's not human?"
"Define human." The muffled chuckles, nearly dead, had a sudden surge of life.
The nurse paused long enough to glare at him. "What did you say to him?"
The teenager shrugged. "Just that I didn't mean to sound rude and asked if he don't mind telling me what he was."
"Those words exactly?"
"Give or take a few." The nurse joined Jay's new roommate in hysterical laughter, sinking down into a chair. Finally, after many false stops and attacks of chuckles, the pair calmed down.
"Are you two quite finished?" Jay asked caustically. The nurse couldn't take it. She got up and left the room, still laughing. Tate managed to control himself better. He was smiling like an idiot, but was somehow able to not laugh.
"Well? What's so funny?" Jay demanded.
"I was expecting something like you running screaming from the room, not asking politely what I was. It's just not done. Even Peg freaked."
"Peg, as in the nurse that just left?"
"Yeah." He chuckled again, and clutched at the bandage that covered part of his catheter. "I'm a gargoyle."
"That makes a kind of sense."
The nurse poked her head inside the doorway for a moment, still chuckling. "Tate, thereís a five minute warning."
"Five minutes to what?" Jay asked.
"Thanks, Peg. Um, you wanna unhook me?"
"I guess Iíd better." The nurse came back in and began to remove the IV tube from the gargoyleís catheter.
"Excuse me. Five minutes to what?" She didnít exactly hate being ignored, but these two seemed to think it was pretty important. "Hello?"
"Will the bed hold my weight?"
Jay sighed in disgust and leaned back. Obviously something was going to happen, so she might as well wait it out. The nurse soon had the IV pole detached from the gargoyle and wheeled it out of the room, the odd wheel that seemed to be a requirement on all IV stands and gurneys rattling. She cleared her throat. "Well?!" she snarled as Tate broke into laughter again, then she swore as the sun came over the horizon, blinding her. She blinked away sunspots and stared at the bed opposite her. Instead of a living, mythological creature, a granite statue, a look of total hilarity etched on its face, mouth frozen in a massive laugh, reclined on the bed.
"Wow," she breathed.
"Incredible, isnít it?" The nurse asked.
"Oh yeah. Um, when does he change back?"
"Sunset. And sorry kid, but Iím not gonna tell you anything else. Heíll have to tell you."
"Great," she drawled sarcastically.
He was on the border of sleep and consciousness, vaguely aware of the world in a muffled way. He wanted to move, to wake, but could not. Only at sunset.
Finally the sun sank beneath the horizon. He stretched and bellowed, half yawn and half roar, and shards of stone scattered over the floor. His head snapped around at the sound of metal on metal. On the bed to his right was a teenage girl with a lousy haircut, somewhat of a cross between a crewcut and the last stages of going bald. There were several straggly clumps of brown hair, but most of her hair was a light fuzz. Instead of the usual hospital gown, she was wearing a sweatsuit. She was an interesting light green color and a tray was covering her lap, holding what actually appeared to be food. He grinned and in his best Hitchcock impression intoned, "Good evening."
Jay doubled over with laughter. "After the first part, which was pretty impressive, I would have expected something more along the lines of ĎI vant to suck your bloodí, and I donít have any to spare."
Tate shrugged. "Sorry, maybe next time. Hey, youíre not hooked up anymore."
The human returned the shrug and grinned. "Yeah, well, Iím eating, I donít need to be hydrated or get chemo, so itís safe. And, since youíre not busy, start talking."
"Uh, what do you mean?"
She rolled her eyes and snorted. "Peg wouldnít tell me anything."
Great. Twenty questions. Instead of running and screaming, I get interrogation. Just how I wanted to start the night. "Where do you want me to start?"
"Well, you said youíre a gargoyle. Fine, what is a gargoyle?"
He thought for a moment. Nobodyíd asked him that before. Then again, most humans ran away at the first sight of him. "Um. Gargoyles are the second of the three races." He caught her blank look. "Humans, gargoyles, and Oberonís children. You know, the fair folk?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Are you talking about elves?"
"Not exactly. Some of the children are called that, like Puck, or maybe Titania, but others, like the Bane Sidhe, arenít. Besides, theyíre shape-shifters, too."
The human struck a pose. "Ah, what fools these mortals be!"
"Right. Close enough. Anyway, weíre totally nocturnal. Every sunrise, we get stoned." She chuckled.
"That heals us."
"I donít really know how, just that sunrise comes, we go to sleep, when we wake up, weíre healed."
"Huh. Cool. But if that heals you, why do you have cancer?"
The gargoyle stared at her, nonplussed. "I donít know. I guess itís just something that isnít affected by the stone sleep. Anyway, well, we protect."
"Is there an echo in here? Yeah, we protect. Itís kind of a genetic thing. One of the first things we learn as hatchlings is an ancient gargoyle saying: ĎA gargoyle can no more stop protecting the castle then breathing the air.í Then we hear it time after time after time the rest of our lives."
"So what do you protect? There arenít that many castles in Connecticut. And hatchlings?"
"Gargoyles lay eggs. So yeah, hatchlings. And my clan protects the area around Old Mystic. You humans need a lot of help."
"Weíre beyond help," Jay quipped. "How big is this clan of yours?"
He sighed. "Way too small. Thereíre only fifteen of us. And as far as we know, weíre the last of our kind."
Jay was silent for a few moments. "Bummer," she finally said.
"So how old are you?"
He grinned. "Thirty-five."
The humanís mouth dropped open and she stared. "Yeah, right!"
"In human years. Iím like a 17 year old human. Gargoyles age at half rate."
"That makes a bit more sense."
"How Ďbout you?"
"Seventeen too. I age at the usual rate."
The nurse poked her head inside the room again. "Good news bad news. Which do you want first?"
Tate made a face. "Gimme the bad. Makes the good sound even better."
"Congratulations. You get your first chemo session tonight."
The gargoyle groaned and flopped down face first into the pillow. "Wonderful," came a muffled sigh. "So whatís the good news?"
"The lab is still doing test work to see if youíll be able to get the chemo without any side effects. So you have about an hour to kill."
"Great!" Tate jumped up and his wings unfurled. "Then Iím gonna stretch my wings."
"Donít get too far. And be careful about where you go. I donít want to give you any more stitches."
"Yes, Mom," he said sarcastically to her retreating back. He sighed and stretched.
"You can really fly with those things?" Jay asked, giving him an incredulous look. He grinned. Why donít we find out, hmm? He stepped over to her bed and picked her up.
"What the hell are you doing?" she demanded, too bewildered to struggle.
He headed over to the window. "Finding out."
"No. Oh, no no no no no no. No!" She finally began to try and squirm her way out of his grasp.
"Yes. Oh yes yes yes yes yes yes. Yes!"
"No, you donít understand. You really donít want to do this."
"Oh, yes I do." He fiddled with the latch and opened the window, quickly flinging himself out and catching an updraft easily. For a brief moment he savored the feeling of total freedom, then a scream erupted in his ear. His head snapped back and he suddenly had problems breathing as Jay wrapped her arms around his neck in a death grip.
"You know, things would go better if I could breathe," he gasped. Reluctantly, her grip loosened enough so he could easily take a breath, but it was still dangerously tight. "Let me guess," he asked dryly, "you have a problem with heights?"
"Problem with heights?" Jay babbled in a high-pitched voice, "no, no, no problem at all with heights. Or falling, for that matter. Itís the landing that bothers me!"
"Donít worry," he laughed, "I wonít let you fall. I promise."
"I believe you, itís just that I donít like getting up this high."
"Címon, trust me. Take a look. Itís safe." Reluctantly, the human twisted around and looked out over the city, a fairy-scape of twinkling lights. "Wow," she breathed, "Itís incredible. But way too high," she finished, turning to bury her face into his chest.
Tate just laughed. He could tell he wasnít going to win this argument. But it was put on hold as another scream, this time at a more moderate level, drifted up to them.
"Hold that thought, will you?" Tate asked as he entered a swift dive to a three story building. He pulled up neatly and put the human down before she totally cut off his air supply. "Do you have a thing about me breathing?" he hissed as they crouched down at the roofís edge overlooking an alley. On the ground, two street toughs were advancing on a cowering woman who clutched at her purse like it was a lifeline. One held a knife and the other had a gun, thankfully holstered, but within easy grabbing distance. Tate wasnít sure if the other had a gun too.
"Címon lady," the one without the knife purred, "cooperate and we wonít hurt ya. Much." The two toughs laughed and the woman whimpered.
Jay was frozen with anger and fear. She was enraged that the toughs could and most likely would get away with robbing and raping the woman. She considered calling for the police, but by the time they arrived, it would be too late. A growling, like that from a very large, very angry, Great Dane erupted from beside her. She slowly looked over, not really believing it was what she thought it was. Tate was glaring at the toughs, his eyes blazing with a fierce white glow, and the rumble was erupting from his chest. He suddenly seemed taller and fiercer, and Jay realized just what he had meant when he said gargoyles protect.
"Stay here," he growled, and leapt off the edge, his wings snapping open as he climbed upwards. He turned when he had gained several feet, then folded his wings, diving down into the alley.
He landed silently behind the toughs and cleared his throat. "Two against one? That doesnít seem very fair." The toughs whirled around and gave out startled oaths. Deciding their original prey could wait a few minutes, they began to advance against the gargoyle, whose lips pulled back into what might be called a smile, baring white fangs worthy of Dracula.
"Four of you against me, that might be fair." The knife bearer jumped at the gargoyle, slashing with the knife. Tate pulled back slightly, so the blade missed him by a hair, then lashed out with a clawed hand. There was a sickening crunch as he caught the toughís wrist and squeezed. He grabbed the humanís arm and picked him up, holding him aloft for a few seconds before throwing him at his friend. He figured it would take the two a few minutes to figure out which limb belonged to who, and paced over to the woman. "Are you okay?" he asked politely, offering a hand to help her up. She stared at him for a few seconds, face pale, then scrambled to her feet. She edged around the gargoyle, her back flat against the wall, and paying more attention to him then to the fallen toughs. When she got to the end of the alley, she turned and sprinted off, and Tate could hear the faint shriek of "Monster!"
Tate sighed to himself. Would humans ever change? Yeah, right. Well, at least some are reasonable. Even if Jay is insane, sheís reasonable.
A gunshot shocked him out of his reverie. He whirled, going into a defensive crouch. The goons had gotten together faster then heíd thought possible. Both held guns, aimed with shaking hands at him. "Lessee if youíre bullet-proof, monster," one of them snarled. Tate snarled back. He could take one of them, but not two. Not without getting a few more holes then heíd like.
For a few seconds, stalemate ruled. Then a brick hurtled down, hitting tough number one on the shoulder. He swore, and he and his buddy looked up on reflex to find out where it came from. Both realized their mistake and looked back down to find snarling green fury in their faces. They screamed and tried to bring their guns level, but clawed hands darted in and caught the weapons, twisting and squeezing the weapons into useless junk. They had a few more seconds to scream before their world went black.
Jay whistled in amazement as she climbed down the fire escape. "Now that was impressive."
"Uh huh," Tate grunted as he used some discarded pipe to tie up the toughs. He stood back and examined his handiwork, then nodded. They werenít going anywhere soon. Next he turned his attention to the Jay. He pointed to the brick. "You?" he asked.
She nodded and squirmed. "Looked like you needed some help."
The gargoyle grinned. "Thanks. I did. Friends?" He held out his hand.
"You need to ask?" Jay laughed as they shook hands.
"Come on, letís get back before Peg has our hides. But please, let me breathe this time!"
Jay dubiously checked the directions for the hundredth time, then tapped the brake and hit the turn signal. "Along the Gold-Star Highway, take the second turn to the right after Packer Road. Should be across from an appliance store. Wonderful directions, Tate," she grumbled under her breath.
She saw the turnoff, a blacktop driveway leading through a tunnel of trees, and quickly pulled on the wheel. The car bumped off the road onto the drive and she slowed, taking time to enjoy the scenery. The road dipped about 5 feet away on either side, going into a small gully on the left and quickly leveling out on the right. About 20 feet down the driveway curved to the left and the ground changed from tar to gravel. Jay turned and her breath caught in amazement. She turned off the car and got out, forgetting about her friendís abysmal geographic skills.
To her left, the line of trees continued, curving away to make a small field surrounded by trees. In its center was a small garden, green shoots beginning to emerge from the ground. A line of yellow and white daffodils stood to attention along the edge near the driveway. To the right, the trees stopped about 10 feet along, turning back on itself, leaving a large field, reminding Jay of the baseball field at middle school. But instead of the trees meeting at the far end, there was only a small clump of shrubbery and trees, splitting the clear area into two paths that wandered out of sight. And straight ahead, at the end of the gravel drive was a house, made of stone, Jayís guess was concrete. It was at least two stories high, but its height was masked by the fact that on its sides the ground rose, leaving much of the bottom floor underground. The top half of the building was painted white, while the bottom half, what was visible, was a dark green. The faint, last light of the day and that of the rising moon only made it seem more unreal.
Jay squinted at the building, then laughed. This was the place. Or the owner had really strange taste. After all, not many humans would bother putting ledges outside all the windows, or have a flat roof containing several lawn chairs and a picnic table.
She hopped back into the car and parked on the lawn out of the driveway. She climbed out again, and started looking around. She slowly walked around the far edge of the house, and saw three more paths. The human glanced at her watch. As if the lighting wasnít enough of a hint, it was definitely after sunset. A green, inhuman form popped out of the door and waved.
"Jay!" Tate yelled, "glad you could- Wah!" He yelped as an orange, taloned hand reached out and grabbed his wing, pulling him back inside. Jay chuckled and shook her head. Someone mustíve forgotten something. Tate leaned out the door. "Come on up! Ahh!" The orange hand had grabbed him again, with a repeat performance of dragging him inside. Jay just chuckled again and headed to the door. She climbed the stairs and entered, looking around with shameless curiosity. She was in a kitchen/entry hallway, with the scent of coffee filling the air, and two gargoyles busily puttering around, preparing food. Two more, teenagers with an almost stereotypical "rebellious teen" look lounged in chairs next to a small preparing table, sipping on cans of soda. All were studiously ignoring Tate and the large orange/tan female scolding him. Her friend stood under the assault, shifting from foot to foot, wings drooping.
"And then you have the gall to bring in that human here!" the female finished.
Tate looked up, his eyes beginning to glow white. "Jay isnít some kind of vermin," he snarled. "despite what you think. Sheís a friend. And-"
"And I can fight my own battles," she interrupted, trying her best to sound pleasant. "But thanks for the assist."
The female glared at her, doing the best Ice Queen impression Jay had ever seen. Then she nodded curtly. "I am Talia, second in the clan. And remember, if you do anything that will harm the clan, you will not live to regret it. Iíll make sure of it."
Then she swept out, leaving a nearly visible trail of chill behind her. Tate sagged against the wall and the human let out a breath. Whew. Do NOT get on her bad side. Too bad I already am.
Then one of the teenager gargoyles, a light blue male without hair and wearing artfully ripped jeans and a Manson shirt, started to chant in a sing-song, "Tateís in trouble, Tateís in trouble," and then the other, a light lavender male with a crewcut and wearing similar clothes joined in. Tate glared at them, then sighed. An apple flew through the air to hit the first on the head, a second following to hit the other.
"Ow!" they cried almost simultaneously, and glared at the blue-gray female standing at the counter, another apple in hand.
She smiled, baring her fangs. "Leave him alone, all right?"
"Or what?" the blue gargoyle sneered.
The female looked thoughtful. "Well, Steve, you and Frank could get stuck on patrol for the next month, or we could let Megan loose after your stereo. Your choice."
"All right, all right, weíre leaving already."
"Jeeze, no need to go ballistic on us." The two wandered out, grumbling the entire way.
The gray female sighed and wiped her hands on her apron, then held one out. "Ignore the jerks. Iím Jerry."
"Hi. Jay." The human studied her. Jerry was a bit taller then Tate, and definitely older. She had close-cropped black hair and two small horns curving from her temples upward, then going flat and spreading outward slightly over her hair.
Jerry smiled and jerked a thumb at the gargoyle behind her, a dark reddish male with several twisted horns, blonde hair, and wings that reminded Jay of a flying squirrelís, attached to his arms and legs, rather then the wings Tate had, which were more bat-like. "This is Art, my helper for tonight."
He smiled and nodded, then yelped when a pot began to bubble over. "Not a very good one, so far," he grumbled as he tried to save whatever was cooking.
"Sorry, guys, weíll leave. Címon Jay, Iíll give you the five cent tour."
"Heís cheating you!" Art yelled from the kitchen as they left. "Itís barely worth three cents!"
"Ignore him," Tate told Jay, who smothered a smile. They entered a dining room, and Jay stared. Well, getting 15 gargoyles together would require a large room.
Tate steered her gently to the right, and to the door of a room full of mechanical Ďstuffí. There were stereos, police scanners, and the random gadget scattered around everywhere. In the end of the room sat a blue gargoyle with massive, pointed ears, an even larger beak, and instead of hair, bony ridges traced a line down from his forehead to the back of his neck. Dressed in blue jeans and a green vest, he was sitting in front of a computer, not making a sound except for the clatter of the keyboard.
"Jay, meet Silicon. Silicon, Jay." The gargoyle grunted something that might have been "Hello", never moving his gaze from the screen. Tate rolled his eyes. "He gets like this whenever heís onto something. Later heíll be a bit more lifelike."
"Ah." Jay shrugged. "Whatever."
The gargoyle led her past his silent kin and into a library. The human gasped. There were shelves from floor to ceiling, every single one filled with books; paperbacks, hardcover, even some that looked straight from a medieval monastery, everything from Arthur C. Clark and Ann Rice to Mark Twain and Emerson. Scattered around the room were various chairs and loveseats.
"Wow," she breathed. "This is incredible."
Tate laughed. "Welcome to the library. And this is the Libraryís keeper, Sadie."
Jay finally noticed an ancient gargoyle sitting in a worn chair near a window. She was a faded red, or a dark pink, depending on how the light shifted. Wrinkles mapped a pattern on the venerable femaleís face, and her snow white hair was caught up in a bun. Yet despite her obvious age, her eyes had a sparkle of intelligence and humor lurking just beneath the surface. She nodded, regally as a queen, and smiled. "Hello. So youíre the human Tateís been babbling on about for the past weeks. Itís a pleasure to finally meet you."
"Uh, hi. Um, Iím Jay." They shook hands and Jay tried to mask her surprise at the gargoyleís still rather firm grip. Sadie grinned gently. "Youíre surprised at my age," she stated clearly.
"No! Not really." Tate snickered when the gargoyle leveled a glare that could kill.
"You shouldnít lie. But since youíre trying to be polite, Iíll let you on to a little secret. How old do you really think I am?"
Jay didnít bat an eye. "Not a night over twenty-nine." The two gargoyles laughed.
"Close, but not quite," Sadie chuckled. "I was hatched in 1795."
Jay stared for several seconds, nonplussed. "Right," she finally said. "Sure."
"You should believe her," Tate advised.
"Youíre over two hundred years old?"
The venerable gargoyle sighed. "Humans can reach the age of a hundred years. Why canít gargoyles?"
"Well, um, ah..." Finally the human shrugged in defeat. "I stand corrected. Sorry."
"Of course. Apology accepted. Tate, why donít you show Jay around while she... recovers?"
"Right. See you later." He pulled Jay out another door, and the ancient gargoyle opened up a book. They stopped in the living room, and Jay sat down in a chair.
"Is she really that old?"
"Yeah. Amazing, isnít it? And youíd think she have lost it by now, but man, sheís as sharp as she was a hundred years ago."
Jay pointed to a closed door at the far end of the room. "Whatís in there?"
Tate frowned, and she saw a shadow cross his face. "Thatís the armory. For those Ďjust in caseí scenarios," he said bitterly.
"You mean you keep guns in there."
He sighed. "Yeah, and other weapons, but itís mostly bows." He shrugged. "Clan tradition; know thy weapons. If worse ever comes to worse, we could outlast those idiots in Texas." The human snorted. "Until then, well, the deer population would explode otherwise."
"You hunt Bambi?"
"And eat him. And his mother."
"And all his cousins and other relatives? You have interesting hobbies."
"Thanks. Come on, Iíll introduce you to the rest of the clan." He led her to a stairway tucked away in the corner, and scrambled down. Jay followed at a slower pace, wary of splinters from the wooden railing. The temperature dropped slightly and the human blinked in an attempt to readjust her eyes to the slightly brighter lighting.
She stepped away from the stairway and looked around, finding a row of doors ahead and to the left. Scattered around the main room were various groups of furniture; several semi-circles of couches and chairs surrounding TVs, two pool tables, a Ping-Pong table shoved into a corner, and what appeared to be an entire video game center.
"Cool," she commented, then started when a roar filled the room.
"Uh oh," Tate muttered. Jay started to turn and ask just what he meant by that, when something slammed her onto the ground. Her field of vision was filled with what looked like half-a-foot long fangs and fetid breath washed over her. She gagged and the whatever-it-was roared again. There was an answering bellow, sounding slightly more normal, like the barking from the result of a breeding between the worldís largest (and probably ugliest) Great Dane and one huge St. Bernard. Then the weight pinning Jay down doubled as the second whatever joined the pile.
"Toc! Taz! Get off her!" Tate shouted. Reluctantly, the second weight slowly moved off. "Taz, come on! Sheís a friend. Off!"
The first creature woofed, another roar, and settled itself firmly on Jay.
"Taz! Heel!" a feminine voice commanded, and the creature grudgingly removed itself, slinking off to the side. For a few seconds, Jay just lay there, grateful to just breathe.
"Jay? You okay?" Tate asked holding out his hand.
"Not until somebody gets that thing a breath mint," she snarled, accepting his hand and blinking as he pulled her upright without difficulty. She stared at the creatures, definitely gargoyle-like, yet also decidedly not gargoyles. Theyíre more like...dogoyles. The smaller of the two was settled off to the side, panting as it reclined against the wall. It was a rust red, without wings, and shaped vaguely wolf-like. The other was a dark tan and the size of a medium pony, still dog-ish but with a frill around its neck similar to a lionís mane. It sat next to a female gargoyle, a slightly iridescent white, with faint tones of pink and short but shockingly red hair cut in a pageboy. Her sky blue eyes seemed to stare right though the human, but Jay could tell she was trying hard not to laugh.
"Are you all right?" she asked, not quite smothering her giggles.
"I guess. Iím Jay."
The female nodded hello. "Iím Nicole, and this monster is Taz. Like the Tasmanian Devil." She fumbled around Tazís back until she gripped the U-shaped handle on its harness. Jay couldnít help but to stare. Sheíd seen harnesses like that before. She just never expected to see a gargoyle using one. Jay glanced at Tate, a question in her eyes. He nodded. Nicole tilted her head to the side, then sighed. "I may be blind, but Iím not deaf or stupid. You donít need to speak for me."
Tate blushed. "Sorry. And that," he pointed to the red dogoyle, "is Toc."
"Toc? I can see how you got Taz, but Toc?"
"Toc. T-O-C. Stands for Terror of Cats. You really donít want to know what she did when she was young."
"Iíll take your word on it."
"Nicole, any idea where everybody is? We just came from upstairs."
"Um, Mector and Nina are downstairs, Liam and Arin are on patrol, Kylaís on the roof, and Megan-"
An explosion shook the house and smoke began to billow out one of the doorways.
"Megan was in her room," she finished calmly, "Experimenting apparently."
A bright fuchsia gargoyle walked out of the smoke, coughing and swearing a blue streak. Jay stared between her, Tate, and Nicole, jaw slack, unbelieving that they were taking this calmly. Madhouse doesnít even begin to describe this place. Theyíre acting like this is an everyday, er, night occurrence. I wonder if it is?
Tate sighed and crossed his arms, glaring at the fuchsia gargoyle. "Megan, didnít Mector tell you not to mix chemicals inside?"
She glared defiantly at him, then ruined the effect by coughing. "Yeah, so? Heís out on patrol. Iíll have this cleaned up by the... Oh shit." Two gargoyles had boiled up the stairs, one female and a yellow-lime color, the other male and dark green. The new arrivals took in the scene in a glance. The female groaned and rolled her eyes, then headed back the way she had come. The male sighed and walked over to tower over Megan. "What were you doing?" he rumbled.
"Um, nothing?" she tried. Jay snickered. She knew that wouldnít work.
Tate tapped her on the shoulder. "Things are gonna get ugly," he whispered. "The roofíll be quiet." The human nodded and followed him up two flights of stairs, pausing to wave to the two gargoyles engrossed in cooking.
Tate, in the lead, paused long enough to push open a hatch in the ceiling and a breath of hot air glided down the stairwell. He clambered out and turned, offering Jay a hand. She smiled and waved it away. She had to do some things for herself.
The human stepped onto the roof, trying to ignore the feeling of vertigo when she inadvertently looked down the stairs. She turned her attention to her surroundings. There were lawn chairs and a picnic table set up, along with a covered telescope in a corner. Reclining on one of the chairs was a gargoyle, a lavender female with an elaborate crest of horns and wearing sunglasses. She lifted her head and looked at them, then raised her glasses.
"Okay, who let in the human?" she asked.
"This is Jay."
"No, believe me bro, that is a human. I do know what a human is. Get your eyes checked. A jay is a small feathered bird. That is not."
Tate gave an exasperated snort and turned to Jay. "Look, Iím sorry, but-"
"Donít worry about it! Really!" she laughed. What she wouldnít give to get a picture of the look on his face. "Trust me, itís okay."
The female rolled her eyes. "If I knew things were gonna be noisy, I wouldnít have come up. Three gargoyles and one human are too much for me. Later." The gargoyle didnít bother with the stairs, but just flung herself off the side of the building.
"Sorry. Kyla needs a little attitude adjustment. And things arenít usually this crazy."
"You mean thereís actually a normal around here?"
"Surprisingly... So what do you think so far?"
"What did she mean, three?"
"What? I donít know. Oh, look over there." He pointed to the north, where two figures glided, growing bigger as they approached. "Thatíll be Liam and Arin. They had patrol tonight."
"Uh huh." Jay watched as the shapes became two gargoyles. One, male, was shaped like a humanoid wolf, with shaggy gray fur and gray feathered wings. The other was female, and looked like a red fox. Her wings were similar to Artís, connecting arms with legs. The two landed gracefully onto the roof and stared at her and Tate for a few seconds, then coldly swept past without saying a word.
Jay sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. "For all that you go on about "gargoyles protect", most of your clan doesnít really seem to like humans," she observed cautiously.
Tate echoed her sigh. "I donít know why, but most of them really seemed against me bringing you here. Iím sorry if- " The human held up a hand, stopping him.
"If you say "Iím sorry" one more time, then youíll really be sorry. Itís okay. Really. Itís no worse then your clanís gotten over the years. Maybe its about time humans were on the receiving end."
Tate laughed. "You are one strange person, Jay."
"Thanks." She squirmed and opened her mouth, then shut it again, apparently deciding not to say something. But Tate saw it.
"Well, um, are you free tomorrow after sunset?"
"I have to go to the radiologist. They arenít doing any treatments, but..."
"You want moral support?"
"Yeah." The gargoyle couldnít miss the sight of his friend turning beet red. He smiled gently. "No problem."
The next night, after sunset at Uncas on the Thames Radiology Center
Tate had just gotten to the good part in his book when Jay stormed out, walking faster then normal as she shoved her baseball cap on. He shut his book and swooped down, nearly falling when he saw her face. She was shaking, eyes glassy, looking like hell in general and as if she would cry at any moment. Tate hung back a moment. He didnít know how to handle this. He was used to a Jay in control, joking and teasing the doctors, not one that needed help.
"Um, howíd it go?" he asked, feeling awkward as he landed neatly. He could guess how it went. Jay swallowed and shook her head, refusing to say anything, and he sighed. Well, sometimes you need to take the direct approach. He leaned down and grabbed her around the waist, lifting her into his arms. It took only a few seconds to climb up the wall, despite his burden, and to leap into the air. Jay didnít even put up a fight, just leaned against him. Her shoulders began to shake, and he could feel the wetness of a few tears on his chest.
"Come on, talk to me. I didnít think they were doing any treatments today."
She sniffled, then swallowed hard. "Th- they werenít. They didnít. B- but they needed a mold so I wouldnít move when they zap me. And... well, you know how the tumorís in my chest, right?"
Tate thought he could see where this was going. "Yeah."
"Well, they got the mold. They had me strip to the waist, lie in some sort of goo, then two technicians, one of them male, and a male doctor or three came in and played connect the dots on my chest in permanent marker. Not to mention there were monitors for when they get around to the real thing, so anybody that walks by gets a cheap thrill. Now how is that for a terrific afternoon?!" Her voice had steadily risen and finally reached a sobbing shriek. She stopped, took a deep breath, and began to cry in earnest. Tate didnít try to stop her, just clutched her closer. He could tell his eyes were beginning to glow a dangerous white. How could they do that to her? Of all the humiliating, embarrassing things they could have done, not many could get beyond that. But she should have been able to handle it. She makes the doctors pay a quarter every time they forget to knock and catch her with her shirt up. This should have been the same. But it wasnít. This time it was deliberate. He snarled quietly, and wished he could get his hands on the idiots that had planned this. They wouldnít do it twice. Whoa, get a grip on yourself, boy. Youíd think she was your rookery sister the way youíre goiní on about this. The deadly glow and snarl faded. Give her a little bit of respect and let her deal with it. Wait till she asks for help with revenge. Then rip them apart.
Finally Jay cried herself out. By then, they had reached her house. Tate gently put her down on the ground near the door. "You gonna be ok?" he asked. She may have stopped crying, but she still looked like shit. She took a deep shuddering breath, then tried to smile. "I should be. Thanks."
He pretended to not know what she was talking about. "For what?"
"For... giving me a shoulder to cry on." Finally the grin turned real. "Literally. And for being there."
He leaned over and gave her a careful hug. "Thatís what Iím here for," he whispered. "You need help, you have the clanís number. Use it."
"All right. See you later."
Early July, evening
Jay waited impatiently for her mother to finish with the last purchase, tapping a foot as the older woman fished around in her purse. Jay stared at the sky, smiling slightly and wondering where Tate was. Itíd been a few days since sheíd seen him, at their last chemo session. Her brow furrowed as a dark form crossed the sliver of the moon. Then she grinned. Ask, and ye shall receive. Just be careful what you ask for.
Finally, her mother was done. The two sauntered out of the store and headed for the car in companionable silence. Then a voice hissed out of the darkness, "Hey, ladies, spare some change?"
The two froze. This person wasnít asking. Jay turned, and four men came out of the shadows. Jay swore silently. All were dressed in gang colors.
The first ganger smiled, but neither Jay nor her mother was reassured. "Spare some change?" He leered at Jay. "Or maybe somthiní else?"
Her eyes darted to the roof of one of the buildings, drawn by a flicker of movement. She smiled grimly when she saw two points of glowing, white light.
"Dream on," she snarled.
"Ooo, we got us a spirited one here. Come on, cooperate, and you wonít get hurt."
"Jay!" her mother hissed, "just give him the money."
Then a roar filled the street, and Tate slammed down, landing on and flattening one of the gangers. "Leave them alone," he hissed.
"What the hell is that?!" one of them shrieked.
"I donít care, just trash it!"
The three remaining hoods rushed the gargoyle, trying to take him by surprise. But Tate was prepared. He folded his wings to create a cocoon around him, and flipped the humans away. One hit a wall, and the other two sprawled onto the ground, but they quickly got up.
"Iím through playing," the leader snarled, and drew a knife. His remaining cohort pulled out another. They circled the gargoyle, who snarled, but did not attack. Then the leader feinted, pretending to lunge again, but pulled back, letting his follower dart in. Tate took the wound in the arm, but grabbed the ganger by his shirt and threw him against a wall. He turned to the leader. "Iím through playing, too," he rumbled, and threw a quick left-right punch, catching the ganger right in the jaw, sending him for a brief flight.
He turned to the human women. "Are you all right?"
"Stay- stay back. Donít come any closer, monster. Jay, come on, letís go."
"No, Mom, you donít understand. He-"
"Letís go!" the older woman snarled, her eyes never leaving the gargoyle. He sighed and then made a mock bow to them. "If you ladies will excuse me?" Tate asked sarcastically and started his way up the wall. Jayís mother didnít wait any longer, but grabbed her daughterís arm and pulled her to the car.
The ride home was made in an uncomfortable silence. Finally Jayís mother broke it. "What were you thinking, staying around like that? That creature might have hurt you. You saw what it did to those muggers!"
"Has it occurred to you that that might not have been an Ďití? He saved us from those muggers!"
"And what do you think it might have done after that? Sent us nicely on our way with gifts? That thing wasnít human."
"Oh, so now itís forget discrimination against our fellow man, letís go with hatred against odd creatures that save out lives?! You want to know whatís wrong with me? Whatís wrong with you?!" As soon as the car slowed to turn into their driveway, Jay opened her door and jumped out, ignoring her motherís shrieks as she slammed her door. Jay ran around the garage to where she and Tate had their meetings. She barely heard the house door slam when her mother went inside.
She didnít have to wait long before Tate showed up. "Are you okay?" she called out even before he landed.
"Sure, aside from the new hole in my arm." He shrugged. "Nothing that wonít heal at sunrise. Why shouldnít I be?"
"I donít know. Look, Iím really sorry about how Mom acted. I really didnít think she react that way."
He shrugged again, trying to ignore the hollow feeling he always got whenever someone had a similar reaction. And that was something that happened all too often.
"I mean, itís not like you didnít save our lives or anything, or somethiní like that, itís just that-."
"Hey, chill. Itís okay. Well, not exactly, but its not like this hasnít happened before. Youíve been there. Youíre really getting worked up about this. Whatís wrong?"
Jay took a deep shuddering sigh. "I know it happens, but..." She sighed again. "I thought sheíd act differently."
He sighed too. "We all like to think the best of our families."
"Especially when they act like idiots."
Jay cleared her throat, obviously searching for a better topic. "So, you ready for the checkup tomorrow?"
She grinned, but Tate could tell it was forced. "Always."
"Are you sure youíre okay?"
"Iím fine. Well, aside from the cancer thing, but otherwise, fine."
"Well, I gotta go. Momís gonna freak as it is, so I better get inside before things get worse. Catch you tomorrow!"
Tate watched the human sprint off to her house, and he frowned. Something was not right, despite what Jay said. He shrugged. If it was important, sheíd tell him. Until then, heíd just have to accept that there were some things she wouldnít talk about to him.
AND?!?! What happens?
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!!!!
Oh, disclaimers are on the second page, mostly cause I donít want to give anything away.... >:-)