The Important (for once) Note: The beginning section is not, repeat, NOT a flashback. We're back to normal (such as it is) time in this one.
Demona stared down at the paper lying so innocently on her desk. “I... see,” she finally managed. She looked up at the silent figure standing before her desk. Jay had never before looked so solemn. The child was pale, her eyes rimmed with dark sleepless hollows. “Is this because of....” The assassin? My death? The unspoken words lingered, polluting the air with painful memories.
Jay shook her head, still not looking up from the rug’s patterns. “School starts soon. I’ve pushed this about as close as I could go. I’ll be leaving Monday after next soon as I get out.”
“Oh. So you finally made your decision?”
“Yeah. I got a majorly better package at the... out of state college.”
“Oh.” What was wrong with her? Why did she feel so upset that this crazy human child was going so far away, running so hard from what had been her home, her clan? How had Jay managed to worm her way into the immortal’s heart? Demona cleared her throat and shifted, covering the paper’s accusing header of ‘Two Week Resignation’.
“Jay.” The human’s eyes flickered up to meet hers. “...Good luck. If you ever... need a job, I’ll be happy to have you back.” She managed a small grin. “I’ll miss you.” The declaration surprised both of them. Uncomfortable with the soul baring, Demona shifted again. “I’m sure this preparing for college thing is rather intensive. You have two weeks worth of sick days you didn’t use up, and you look like hell. Use them.”
“No arguments. You can come in and assist your successor in what they’ll need to do.” She managed another grin and put a possessive hand over the mug beside her that proclaimed ‘Humans are weird’. “But I’m keeping the mug.”
Jay grinned back, the eerie anxiety and stress disappearing for the first time. “After this long, I should hope so. You... aren’t mad?”
“No. A little... disappointed that you won’t be around, but not mad.”
“Oh. Um, thanks.” With that, Jay fled.
“Thank you,” Demona whispered to the empty room.
“Ms. Destine?” The cautious request easily dragged Demona’s attention away from the report to her intercom.
“Yes?” Dragon, what a mouse! I don’t believe this. I miss Jay.
“There’s someone here to see you.” Her new assistant’s voice was trembling already at the imagined wrath for an unexpected visitor.
Dominique spared the writing – Grrr. World’s cure for insomnia! – a glance, then turned back to the intercom. “Who is it?”
“Ah.... a ‘Jay Stiles’?”
“I’ll get her to leave right away,” the girl said quickly, relief in her voice as she jumped to the wrong conclusion.
“No! No, send her in.” Demona hesitated, then gave a mental shrug. “Please.”
A startled pause. “Right away, Ms. Destine.”
Seconds later, Jay came in, face unreadable and clutching an envelope. “Um, hi,” she finally said, standing uncomfortably before Dominique’s desk.
“You look better.”
Jay grinned faintly and rubbed the back of her neck. “Thanks. The vacation did me good.” The grin spread and turned rueful. “But it’s a good thing it’s just two weeks, or Mom or Chad would be dead. I can’t take my family in large clumps of time anymore.”
Social amenities dealt with, there was a moment of silence. The human finally broke it. “I, uh, got your letter in the mail today.” She nervously tapped it on the desk.
“Oh.” That’s what this was about. “Was it all right? I’ve.... never done one before.”
Jay glanced up, startled amazement clearly written on her face. “You’ve never written a reference letter before? Jeeze, that’s why there’s such a great retirement plan.”
The immortal let slip a quick laugh. “No, I’ve signed a few, but I’ve never actually written one out. Was it all right?”
“Oh, geeze, yeah, it was....” Jay blinked and shook her head. “It was great. I never expected to be described in those terms. Not seriously, anyway. I expected something a bit more... generic. One of those form letter thingies. Like the welcome letter I got.”
“We give out welcome letters?”
“Yeah. Halfway decent one, too.”
“Um, I uh....” Jay waved helplessly in the direction of the door. “I need to finish packing. My ride leaves in about three hours, and I’m probably gonna need all that to wrap things up.”
“All right. Thank you for stopping by.” Demona nodded and held out her hand. “And Jay....” She trailed off, uncertain of what to say or how to say it. She finally gave up, settling for “Good luck.”
“Thanks.” Jay shook her hand and retreated, leaving the immortal alone with suspiciously blurry vision.
No, I’m NOT about to cry, she mentally growled with a sniffle. Not over some silly, insane human with a discipline problem. She scrubbed her face. I am not getting sentimental. A search for something else to grab her attention led her gaze to her coffee mug. ‘Humans are weird’. How very true. Dammit! She pounded the desk. I don’t believe this. I AM getting attached to her. Argh. Macbeth would laugh himself sick. Memories of the immortal Scot brought her back into the properly grouchy mind set, and she set back to work, pretending to ignore the slight hitch in her throat whenever she caught sight of the mug.
Jay took another long look around the room. It looked so bleak, so empty now. A boredom-induced cleaning frenzy early last week had cleared the piles of paper into folders, removed books to their proper shelves, and general ‘stuff’ to the otherwise empty desk and bureau tops. Broadway paraphernalia had disappeared, waiting to be unpacked when she reached the college, leaving behind obviously empty spaces and unfaded wallpaper. The bed was actually made for once, blatantly displaying the mostly full backpack that rested in the middle.
She moved over to the bookcase, scanning the shelves once again, more to kill time than to catch anything she might have missed the first few times. A knock on the door pulled her half-hearted attention from the selection. “Yeah?” she called, looking up.
It was Tate. He stood in the doorway, shifting from one taloned foot to another, wings tightly caped and uncertainty the only readable expression on his face. “Your mom just told me,” he finally said.
“Oh?” Her own face was carefully blank, betraying nothing.
Tate shifted again. Dammit, why did she have to be human? In gargoyle form, Jay was so much easier to read, lashing tail and shifting wings telegraphing her feelings. Instead she stood like the proverbial statue, head tilted slightly and some book or another held loosely in front of her.
“I didn’t know you were leaving,” he finally managed.
“Really?” Her voice was a bland as her face, showing as little emotion as Owen Burnett’s. “I could’ve sworn I’d mentioned college a time or two.”
“Yeah, but not the whole.... leaving thing.”
She shrugged. “I’m certainly not going to UCONN. So sue me for not being a basketball nut.”
He sighed. Ok, point to you. Fine, be that way. “So.... when are you coming back?”
Again with that damned, unconcerned shrug. “Sorta far to come home for the weekend,” she drawled, sarcasm creeping through the ice in her voice. She turned to put the book away. “And I figured since Thanksgiving was pretty much a weekend thing I’d head down to the relatives and visit. Makes a bit more sense than trekking back here for a few days.”
God. This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening, this IS-NOT-HAPPENING! Tate raked his hands through his hair. “Dammit, will you drop the ice bitch act?”
“What do you mean?” She was way too interested in those books for it to be natural.
He finally stepped into the room. “Ok, so I didn’t get involved enough about the college deal. Fine. I can handle you being pissed about that. But this isn’t about me being an idiot. You haven’t come by the house in three weeks, you’ve always been out when I call, hell, that damn screen in back in your window! Jay, all I want to know is why. You need to tell me what is fucking with your mind enough to freak you out this badly, and I am not leaving until I get you to admit what that something is!”
“You killed him.” She didn’t turn around. Her voice was icy and inevitable as a glacier.
The change in subject didn’t throw him. Actually, he’d expected it. Oh, Tate had dreaded its arrival, but the gargoyle knew it was coming. “He was going to kill you! It was him or you, kill or be killed!”
“That is not an option!” she yelled back, finally turning to face him. “What the hell ARE you – are WE – to take someone’s life?!? I am not an animal, I am not a ravaging beast that goes around ripping out people’s throats, I am a human being!”
This, on the other hand, flat out stunned him. This wasn’t Jay....was it? She wouldn’t – couldn’t say, think, feel this. Could she? “You’re as much a gargoyle as I am.”
“NO I’M NOT!” After her roar she turned away again, hands clenched into fists. “Go away.”
Oh gods. Love.... Was it emotion – rage? fear? – that made her voice tremble like that? What was going on inside her head? Tate was willing to give an arm and a leg to know, to get a clue as to why. She’d never been a pacifist. This was just plain out fucked up. “Jay,” he whispered, reaching out to helplessly grasp her shoulder.
She moved like lightning, grabbing his hand and twisting it around behind his back. His arm screamed as it reached the painful near breaking point, wing crumpled between it and his back. She held him at that pain threshold for an agonizing moment, then pushed him away towards the bed. “Out,” she ordered tonelessly before walking out of the room, closing the door gently behind her.
Tate spent several confused moments scrambling for a grasp on reality. Finally, stunned and heartbroken, he retreated downstairs, then into the night.
Jay slipped right, into the sanctuary of the bathroom, somehow managing to close the door gently. Finally safe, she rested her forehead against the cool wall and let the burning tears come.
She’d almost broken his arm. He was – had been her best friend, ultimate confidant, almost lover, and she’d nearly casually broken his arm.
Dear God, what did Servarius make me?
What had she become?
August 31, 1998
“Now that you’ve been damaged, your soul is suffering such abuse. I am not your savior, I am just as fucked as you. I can not save you, I can’t even save myself. So just save yourself!”
A tap on her shoulder yanked Jay from her study of the gold and silver spider web outside the window. She jerked the headphones down to give the woman who tapped her a startled and questioning look.
“I’m sorry, miss,” the woman said with a plastic smile, “but we’re landing soon so you need to turn that off.”
“Oh, sure. Sorry,” Jay replied to the stewardess’s back. She flicked off the Stabbing Westward CD she’d filched from Chad and turned back to the window, absentmindedly buckling her seatbelt. The organic grid of lights grew, expanding into streets and buildings.
Finally, the plane shuddered to a halt. The intercom opened up. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Cascade Airport, Cascade, Washington. It’s eight thirty, a comfortable 72 degrees with 12 percent humidity. Thank you for flying with us and feel free to move about the cabin. We’ll let you all off in a few moments. Have a great evening.”
Jay scuttled out with the crowd, gratefully skipping the luggage claim with a mental thanks that they’d shipped her stuff, leaving her with only her backpack as a carryon. She snagged a cab out front and settled into the back seat with a sigh. Room to stretch. Finally!
“Where to?” the driver asked.
“Rainier University, please.”
“Alrighty. So, whatcha studying?”
“Well, I’m going between Business and Anthropology.” She’d first thought of the latter when she’d consciously realized that the gargoyles weren’t funny looking humans they sometimes acted to be. If - when - they became exposed to the world as a whole, there were a lot of people that would need to have proof of the species’ “humanity.” And if there was an anthropologist with statements in hand..... If nothing else, it pretty much guaranteed alphabet soup after her name.
But that had been before.
“Huh. I’d go with Business if I was you,” the driver commented. “I mean, what job are you gonna get with the other? Besides, there was some sorta mess with that a while ago. Media frenzy.”
“Some guy made up his whole, whachamacallit, dissection paper. Big mess.”
“Ah. I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.” Apparently sensing her preference for silence, he drove the rest of the way without chatter.
At last, she stood in front of the school, savoring the night. So. This is home sweet home for the next while. She took a deep breath of pollution laden air.
“No gargoyles,” Jay whispered. “That’s all I ask. No more gargoyles.”
Many many MANY thanks to the outstanding email@example.com, who did the wonderful pic of a human Jay. I'm still stunned she managed such a beautiful pic (AND before my mental deadline that I never mentioned). ::bows to the goddess:: Her website is Tenth Orbital and highly recommended. All other acknowledgments are in the Author's Note.
Let's try this again. Part 1, Graduation.
Wait, go back! Part 4, Identity Crisis!
Who got involved?? The Author's note: groveling, nifty people, and cool links.
Let me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home
I want to read more! To get back to the fic archive
As always, questions, comments, etc. can be sent to Norcumi@backtick.net. Actually, feedback is ALWAYS appreciated. No, really, it is!
DISCLAIMERS: All characters except Demona belong to me. You can't use them without my permission. But if you ask, you're most like to get it. But you still have to ask. The gargoyle race in general, Demona, Owen Burnett, Macbeth, the Quarrymen, and a bit of gargoyle lore are owned by Buena Vista and therefore the Great Mouse, used with great reverence, respect, and without permission. Cascade, the dis mess, and Rainier U. belong to Pet Fly productions and Paramount. Soundtrack is Stabbing Westward's Save Yourself. Various random brand names and music selections are not mine, you'll know 'em if you see 'em. No challenge is meant to any of the above copyrights, and since no profit is being made, please don't sue. The picture of Jay is drawn by Artemis (used with permission), and therefore belongs to her. Don't steal.