"Hi, Owen." Elisa waved.
Owen covered his mild surprise by adjusting his glasses. Elisa had addressed him many ways, in many tones, over the last three years. However, he was completely certain that she'd never simply waved and greeted him.
Elisa continued through the Great Hall, stride bouncing, head thrown back, a smile on her face. "Hi, David."
That did it. Owen had lost his veneer of "straight man" only one other time since he'd assumed the role of majordomo to the billionaire businessman Xanatos. He couldn't keep the surprise from his face this time, however. Behind his thin glasses, his eyes widened. He hastily looked down at his clipboard and fiddled with his glasses; the surprise vanished from his face in seconds.
David Xanatos, owner of the castle and billionaire businessman, on the other hand, looked like he'd been punched. He stared at Elisa. "Uh ... good evening, Detective. He's waiting for you in the library."
"Thanks." She continued on.
Owen and Xanatos exchanged a long look. "She sounded almost civil, Owen."
"I noticed, sir."
* * * * *
Goliath was so deeply involved in a book that he didn't stir when Elisa entered. He was perched atop a stool, tail wrapped around the legs, clawed feet braced on the crossbars, wings draping almost to the ground. He looked supremely comfortable.
She grinned and padded silently across library; the fine Persian rug on the floor muffled her footsteps.
"Guess who?" She clapped her hands over his eyes.
"Elisa!" He set the book down on top of a shelf, twisted around, and hugged her.
"Something has made you very happy." He set her down.
"Jason's out of the hospital; he's staying at a rehab facility."
"That is very good news."
"Yeah -- they say they'll let him go home in a few weeks."
"Does he have a home to go to?"
"Well, he has to go to trial, on the charges related to blowing up the clock tower." She was suddenly serious. "But the DA is planning on asking for a fairly lenient sentence, all things considered, and that will probably be suspended ... there's a lot they can't prove, and the prison system hates dealing with prisoners with medical problems." Elisa shrugged. She didn't look unhappy about the light sentence at all; Jason would be paying for his mistakes for the rest of his life. "I spoke to Joe over in the DA's office about the case; he sounds far more interested in catching Jon Canmore."
Goliath's shoulders relaxed just a little. He stretched, hopped off his stool, and replaced his book on the shelf. "Elisa, would you like to ..." He trailed off; whatever he had been about to say was lost. He stared over Elisa's head at the open window behind her; icy winds swirled in around a figure he'd hoped never to see again.
A single word, delivered in a voice that, after a thousand years, still held a faint accent of Highland origins. Goliath stepped in front of Elisa, sheltering her from an expected attack.
"You." He growled.
Demona inclined her head, briefly.
"What do you want?" Goliath demanded, when no attack was immediately forthcoming. "What games are you playing?"
Elisa, behind Goliath, studied Demona; her good mood had vanished. Demona looked tired and a thousand years old; more than that, it seemed that Demona had let herself get out of shape. She was looking more than a little pudgy -- and Demona didn't carry extra weight well at all.
"No games." Demona said, without any of the pride that had been hers throughout the centuries. "I'm done. You win. No more fighting."
"I do not," Goliath growled, "trust you."
"You have no reason to." She flinched as if he had struck her.
"Why do you come here?" Elisa demanded.
Demona's head whipped up. "You. I owe you."
Elisa glanced up at Goliath, who looked completely befuddled.
Goliath scratched his head. "I'm confused, Demona. What do you want?"
"Nothing ..." She uttered one short, sharp, harsh sound and stumbled forward, hands reaching for him.
Goliath reacted with instincts honed by bitter experience. He ducked. His tail caught her in the knees and the back of his hand hit her in the face hard enough to send blood flying. He pursued the attack, roaring with betrayal and anger too close to the surface to be subdued.
Demona dodged, flinging a wing up to shield herself, and then and vanished out the open window. Goliath, with a howl of rage, followed.
"Goliath!" Elisa shouted, "Wait!"
Goliath and Demona vanished into the night.
"Good god." Elisa breathed. "Goliath, be careful ..."
* * * * *
Demona was faster than he was; they'd established that many times. Still, Goliath nearly had her in his claws once, then twice; his rage lent him speed -- and Demona was out of shape.
Demona dove down to street level, skimming above traffic then landing and running through the crowd; those few New Yorkers who noticed reacted with panic. Gargoyles were not popular, particularly after the events of a few months ago.
She caught an updraft from a vent in the sidewalk, kicked with one clawed foot off a mailbox, and leaped into the air; Goliath, heavier by a few hundred pounds, labored to follow. Then, suddenly, she flew into a pocket of cooler downrushing air over Central Park and made the mistake of fighting it, trying to retain altitude. Goliath swapped ends and chased her down and met her halfway.
"I hate you!" She screeched at him as they tumbled towards Central Park. Then, "We're going to crash!"
Goliath growled in her ear, "You are immortal!"
"You're not, you fool!" She kicked at him. "Goliath, don't ..." Her words were torn away by the increasing wind. She struggled frantically, genuine fear in her eyes; Goliath had his arms around her shoulders and she could neither spread her wings or kick or bite him.
At the very last instant, Goliath shoved free and braked frantically, wings cupping the wind ... he managed to slow his tumbling fall enough that he landed on his hands and his knees; his momentum carried him forward and he rolled several times.
Demona also hit hard, flipping as she did to land awkwardly on her back. She rolled to her feet faster than hhe did, and ran, panting, terror in her eyes. He followed, limping. Grim determination had replaced his earlier startled rage.
She went to ground in a storm drain. It seemed a dead-end; Demona shrank away from Goliath, "Wait ..." She begged.
"I'm going to turn you over to the humans." Goliath growled. "Tell them of your plans. Tell them of the lives that you have taken. Let them deal with you. I can't." His eyes closed, briefly. "I can't deal with this anymore, Demona. It has to end. Now."
He reached for her.
Her talons, supernaturally sharp, magically powerful, grasped the steel door behind her. With strength born of panic, she yanked and twisted, and screamed in rage and fear. The door gave.
She bolted into the tunnel beyond.
Goliath pursued, but she was faster. She ran, ran, and the tunnels became a maze, a warren; the labryinth beneath the city.
Panting, heart pounding, Goliath finally gave up. He'd lost her. He snarled, and hit the wall in sheer frustration; his claws sent splinters of rocks flying. Streetlight filtered down from a grate far above him; otherwise, it was dark.
"Okay good, okay fine, *please* don't hurt Mouse!" A panicked voice begged. Goliath jumped. "Who's there?"
Goliath could barely make out a cowering shape in the shadows. "Did you see another, like me?"
"That way." A shadowy, trembling hand pointed a direction out.
"Thank you." Goliath was off in pursuit again, but it was too late.
Demona was gone.
* * * * *
"I lost her." Goliath growled.
"Your hands. Let me see." Elisa ordered. Goliath's hands were torn, abraded by the rocks -- his knees were skinned, as well, and he was covered with mud.
"It's almost dawn." Goliath stepped away from her.
Elisa sighed. "Goliath ..."
"Never mind." She couldn't tell him how frightened she had been; how terrified that Demona's plan had been to provoke Goliath into chasing her and then to ambush him. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow." He smiled at her.
* * * * *
Diana Bennett had been assigned many cases, but this was an original one and it wasn't her usual line of work.
"Find the monsters." Chavez had said. "They can't be living alone; they must be getting help from somewhere. Find who's helping them."
She'd accepted, intrigued by the possibilities. If the monsters were bad guys, she wanted to nail them. If they were good guys, she wanted to exonerate them ... Diana was unwilling to call them monsters just because they looked like stone gargoyles come to life.
So now, her bulletin board was covered with photographs of gargoyles. There were a number of prints, starting with shadowy shots of gargoyles silhouetted against the sky and ending with a very clear shot taken from a reporter's camera; a small gargoyle dove into the ruins of the church. There were clips from security cameras -- many clips. In fact, chronologically, the earliest photograph was of several of the creatures raiding a Cyberbiotics lab.
Some of the most fascinating photograph, however, had come to light during another investigation. The prosecution for the Anthony Dracon racketeering case had finally gotten around to viewing the film from the security camera inside the supermarket. Captain Chavez apparently owed her life to the intervention of one of the creatures. She had been unconscious on the floor of the store. The creature had entered and grabbed a presumed firebomb and ran off with it before the device blew; at roughly the same time of night or a little later, there had been an unexplained explosion over the river.
And someone had left several thugs tied up with bent iron bars outside the store. All of them had criminal records, and all had babbled about monsters.
In fact, Diana had interviewed a number of witnesses; some of the stories had been incredible and rather unbelievable. One couple complained that the gargoyles had destroyed their car three times, and frightened them in places as diverse as Loch Ness and London, and finally ripped open a subway car ...
The details on *that* last incident had been rather jumbled, but the subway car had, indeed, been ripped open. And the witnesses agreed on two things:
Thugs had hijacked the car, and gargoyles had stopped the hijacking.
And then, the undercover detective on the train had taken out a thug who'd had a gun on one of the monsters. Elisa, the detective, had *hugged* the creature and called him her best friend, in front of a train full of witnesses.
There were other instances of Elisa Maza being seen with the gargoyles. The most significant was in Times Square a year and a half ago, when one of the creatures had torn the square up. A gargoyle matching the same description from the train had interacted with her; had, indeed, seemed to protect her, knocking her out of the way of flying debris.
Elisa Maza was first on Diana's list of possible human agents.
Second on her list were Jason and Robyn Canmore. They'd been at the incident at the church -- he said he had been trying to stop his brother from killing the creatures. Elisa backed his story up; *she* claimed she'd gotten him inside to stop the fight. Both had been there. Their stories and Robyn Canmore's stories matched so well that Diana suspected they'd compared notes -- possible, since no one seemed to have thought to restrict Elisa's access to the pair.
"So where do you guys live, though?"
A flash of insight, ESP, whatever ... a castle floated on clouds above the city.
Great. That helped. Diana tugged the curtain across the photos. Castles in the air ... natural habitat for gargoyles. What next, Care Bears?
* * * * *
"Vincent!" Mouse tugged at his sleeve. "Lady hurt!"
"What is it, Mouse?" Vincent said, glancing up from his book.
"Monster chase pretty monster into tunnels. Mouse send monster the wrong way." Mouse gasped for breath; he'd been running. "Pretty monster get hurt, fall down. Pretty monster turn into pretty woman. Slip and fall in the dark."
Vincent closed his book. "Show me your pretty woman." Mouse was agitated; his report might have been jumbled but clearly, he had seen something.
* * * * *
The "pretty monster" lay in a puddle of foul water, motionless, blood as bright as her red hair streaked across her face. Vincent crouched, warily, alert for a trap. Mouse's fear was palpable; the young man hung back, a lantern held in trembling hands.
The woman flinched away from Vincent's touch, moaned, but did not open her eyes. She curled into a tight ball, trembling, blood from her face smearing over her bare knees.
"Don't be frightened." Vincent said, softly.
Her head came up; she stared at him for a moment. "Who are you?" She breathed, softly, in a voice with an faint accent.
"I am Vincent. I will not hurt you." Vincent said. "You are injured; we will help."
"I'm fine." She wiped at her nose.
"Was someone chasing you?"
"Yeah." There was bitterness in her voice. "Goliath. My ... ex."
"Close enough." She studied the blood on her fingers with fascination. "He's hit me before, but never tried to kill me."
"He tried to *kill* you?" Vincent's rage was instantaneous.
"Yes." She tucked her legs to her chest; she was shivering. Her clothing -- a loincloth and halter top -- was hardly decent, much less suited for the tunnels. "I found him with Elisa -- damn her, anyway. She stole him away -- she's what I should be, standing at his side."
Vincent shrugged out of his cloak and handed it to her.
"I suppose I had it coming." She stared at the cloak for a second before snatching it and yanking the cloth around her shoulders.
"No!" Vincent grabbed her wrists. "No! Violence is never a solution, never an answer, particularly towards a loved one ...!"
"But ..." She burst into tears, waves of bitter tears.
Vincent glanced at Mouse. "Go tell Father he's going to have a patient." Vincent scooped the woman up; she was smallboned and tiny; she was slightly overweight but not excessively so. She stiffened, then suddenly went limp, motionless.
* * * * *
"Her name is Dominique Destine." Vincent said, to Diana, much later, over a chessboard. "It seems that she and her boyfriend have been fighting for a while, but she found him with a new girl -- and he reacted by trying to kill her."
Diana sighed wearily. She'd seen too much domestic violence in her career. "Do you have details? Would she be willing to press charges?"
"She has been very vague; she has so much grief in her soul that she is nearly consumed by it. And no, I do not think that she would press charges."
"Bastards." Diana grunted.
"I can not fathom how anyone would hurt one that they love." Vincent sounded frustrated and weary. "She's asleep, now; Father gave her something to make her sleep. Her heart is broken, and perhaps her spirit as well."
"Dominique Destine ... Vincent, that name sounds very familiar."
"It does not sound like a common name."
Diana snapped her fingers. "Shoot. Vincent, Dominique Destine's the head of Nightstone Unlimited. Hair redder than mine, about 5'5", looks like she lifts weights? Personality of a barracuda on meth? ... Oh, never mind. Scratch that last. With a boyfriend like that, I'm surprised she's not a raving sociopath herself."
"The physical description fits."
"I met her once -- someone killed one of her employees; I had the investigation. That entire company is populated by barracudas. Anton Sevarius gives me the willies."
Vincent idly moved a pawn and changed the subject. "Have you heard the tales of the others in the tunnels?"
"Peter said something about another community."
"Yes, in an area we've never really explored -- we've seen signs, heard voices. These tunnels are so extensive that maybe one could spend an entire lifetime and never see them all." He sighed. "Jamie saw a woman, like me. The woman fled, before anyone could find her."
Diana's head came up. "Like ... you?"
"Living down here also, perhaps."
"Now *that* would be a coincidence indeed." Diana breathed. "Vincent, do you think she knows ..."
"What she is? How could I even guess?" He studied the chessboard. "Mate in two moves."
"What? Damn." She quickly moved her rook. "Are you going to look for her?"
"I have been looking for her. If there is another community, it must be very small." He moved his knight. "I have seen chalk marks on the walls, and the footprints of bare clawed feet; I have not been able to find them. They hide from us as we hide from them."
Diana's lips curled in amusement at the thought. The tunnel dwellers were truly paranoid, at times, about protecting their secrecy. If the others were equally secretive, then they could spend decades quietly tiptoeing around one another without ever making contact. She moved a pawn.
"Check mate." Vincent announced gravely.
"When was the last time I beat you?" Diana asked, rhetorically, as she cleared the board.
Vincent studied a spot over her head. "I believe it has been at least six months."
* * * * *
Demona woke up suddenly, with no transition between half-drugged sleep and consciousness. She rolled to her feet and dropped into a defensive crouch before she even fully took stock of her location.
She was dressed in a fuzzy cotton nightgown; a ragbag assortment of clothing was laid out on the chair by her bed. Somewhere, a train rumbled. She remembered now running beneath the city ...
There had been a man, not human, who had looked without fear. He must have brought her here.
Where was here?
Was she trapped?
She padded through the tunnel that seemed the only exit from the tiny chamber. It joined a larger tunnel. Apparently she was not a prisoner, unless there were bars and doors farther on.
She returned to the room, and sat, and did something she hadn't done in a very, very long time.
She cried for a very long time.
Perhaps an hour later, the scent of roses filled the room. Demona looked up.
It seemed that the living were not the only inhabitants of these tunnels.
The apparition smiled faintly, and held out her hand, fist closed. Demona hesitantly cupped her hand beneath the ephemeral fist.
Two objects tumbled through the air. A glittering necklace of the clearest quartz, and a rose brooch. "Death shall have no dominion." A quiet voice said, as clear as if the spirit had been living.
"What ... what do you want?"
A faint smile. The scent of roses. A cool draft. And then the spirit stepped backwards and vanished.
* * * * *
The red-haired woman was awake when Vincent entered the chamber some time later. She picked at the sleeve of a fuzzy, multicolored sweater and seemed distracted.
"Hello." Vincent said, alerting her to his presence.
She studied his face, a frown on hers. "Where am I?"
"In a safe place."
"There are no safe places." She barked a harsh laugh that was purely reflexive. "I learned that one a very long time ago."
"This is a safe place." Vincent said, softly. "So long as we who live here safeguard it from those who would destroy us."
"Who lives here?" She asked, as if the question was important.
"Myself. Friends. Those who need sanctuary."
"You're not a Child of Oberon." She observed. "They're all gone except for Puck, damn him. Are you a mutant?"
Vincent said, softly. "I do not know what I am."
"And why do you help me?"
"You told me earlier that you were being pursued by one who loved you once, and that he would kill you if he could. This is a place of sanctuary."
"You do not know what you invite into your sanctuary."
Vincent nodded thoughtfully. "Perhaps you could tell me?"
She laughed, bitterly. "You should be a shrink, Vincent." She shook her head. "In all my life -- and I have lived a very long time -- I do not think that I have ever met anyone quite like you."
"We are all individuals." Vincent replied. "All of us are different."
"I have to go."
"You're still weak."
"Trust me. I'm not." Her voice held warning.
Vincent's eyes widened a bit. Not only was she not intimidated by him; she was casually threatening him by her words and her suddenly aggressive body language. He thought for a second, considering her words. Sometimes those who were persecuted the most became the worst bullies. "As you wish." He decided. "I will escort you to the surface. Should you need a place of sanctuary again, you will always find a place down here."
Her lips curled into an expression that, if she had fangs, would have been a snarl. "I need no help from *anyone*!"
"Then you must live a remarkably lonely existence." Vincent replied, stepping aside and indicating the door. "We will be here, when you need us. If you need a place of sanctuary; if you need friends, we will be here."
"I have no friends." She snarled.
Vincent was taken aback by that statement; he fell silent. How could one have no friends at all?
"They betrayed me, turned away from me; even my love turned away from me. I am totally alone. And I have neither need nor desire for anyone now."
Vincent heard the pain in her voice, and spoke softly. "I have lost ... I know what it is to lose ..." He couldn't find the words, for a moment, and then he began to tell her of Catherine. He deliberately took a round-about way to the Central Park exit; he did this partly to confuse her so that she could bring no one intruders back with her, but also partly to give himself time to tell her that she was *not* alone. That someone else knew what it was to lose ... When Catherine had died, it had felt as if his whole world had died with her. The guilt that had followed, for Catherine would not have died if she had not known him, loved him, and if only he had been a little faster to rescue her! -- had nearly destroyed him.
Vincent thought that Catherine would approve; he almost thought once that he *sensed* her approval, and smelled the scent of roses in the air. But Catherine was gone; he would never see her again in this life. They would meet again in the next; of that he was sure.
"You loved her very much. I am amazed that you are not ... angry." Dominique said, when he was done. Her voice was odd; he knew that he *had* reached her.
"He who killed Catherine is dead." Vincent said, softly. "And Catherine would not wish me to remain angry."
"I know what it is to ... lose a love." She had her hand in her pocket. "Perhaps ... perhaps ..." She trailed off.
"Can you find your way home from here?" They were at the exit.
"I think I can."
"Good. Then I must be going. But remember that this is a place of sanctuary, and that you will always be welcome here."
"... Thank you." She spoke in a tiny voice.
* * * * *
That evening, Elisa let Goliath into her apartment through her window. She yawned. "Hi, big guy. You want some tea?"
"So, I take it you did not capture Demona."
"She escaped into the tunnels beneath the city." Goliath sipped his tea. "I warned your brother, before I came back to the castle. He said that he would keep his eyes open, but I doubt that he will see her. There is a great deal of distance between the labrynth and where I lost her, under Central Park." He paused, "Demona has never been fond of enclosed places. I doubt very much that she would remain beneath the city."
Elisa nodded. She sighed, laced her fingers together behind her neck, and stepped out onto the roof.
"Owen said you wished to see me." Goliath prompted. The majordomo had delivered the message to him shortly after he had woken up.
"Yes." Elisa hitched herself up onto the wall at the edge of the roof; if she sat on it, she was at eye-level with him. Three years of associating with gargoyles had given her a certain disregard for heights -- like the several story drop behind her. "Have you ever heard me talk about Diana Bennett?"
"Occasionally." Elisa had always spoken highly of the other detective.
"Well, she's been given the assignment of locating you guys."
Goliath scratched his head. "I thought she primarily investigated murders and other violent crimes."
"Yes, well, you guys are, if not Public Enemy #1, at least officially Public Nuisance #1." Elisa chuckled without humor. "The department's trying to downplay the fact that there are, indisputably, monsters within the city, but they're also pretty determined to find you guys ... but anyway, Diana's very good and very persistent and she's clued into the fact that I know something." Elisa grimaced. "I was stupid."
"What?" Goliath blinked.
"Hugging you in the train. Kinda makes it obvious to about dozen witnesses that I know you, eh?"
"Elisa ..." Goliath stroked her face. "I owe you my life, and the lives of the clan and the children and my daughter, a dozen times over. You can not blame yourself for one action because you care about me. Sooner or later, we will no longer be able to hide from humanity."
"I'd much rather it be later." Elisa leaned her head against his hand. "Goliath, do you have any idea of what they might do to you, if they catch you?"
He grimaced. "I could make a few guesses. And I have no love of mad scientists or zoos. Or amusement parks."
She laughed aloud, though without much humor. Yeah, Goliath would have no love of amusement parks. "Anyway, I thought I would warn you that if I suddenly stop showing up, it's because the department's put me under surveillance -- that is always a possibility."
"Would you be able to spot surveillance?"
Elisa sobered. "I *think* I could spot a tail. I've worked enough undercover myself ..."
"I should very much dislike not seeing you." He frowned.
She draped her arms around his neck. "I'll see what I can do to handle Diana. You know, I can't not like the lady. She's about as nuts as they come, but she's a good person, know what I mean?"
"Perhaps you should simply introduce her to us and explain." Goliath ran a hand through her hair.
"Oh, yeah, right. I tell them that my boyfriend's eight feet tall and has wings and fangs, and they'll lock me up in Bellevue so fast that the key would break." Elisa leaned forward and kissed him. "I'll think of something."
"The truth is the only plausible explanation I can think of." Goliath sat on the wall next to her and draped an arm around her shoulders.
"The truth," Elisa leaned her head against his shoulder, "Is stranger than fiction."
* * * * *
"She's coming!" One of the underlings hissed.
Dominique Destine favored her employees with a disdainful sniff. They feared her, and justifiably so. Humans should fear her. She wanted them to fear her.
A giggle emanated from a cubicle off to the right of the hall. She froze, then turned and stepped into the tiny office. "What are you laughing about?" She demanded. Demona fought down the familiar rage and didn't shout her words; she did not want to frighten this one. She was a valuable employee; she did good work and would be difficult to replace.
The clerk looked up from her desk. She was a tiny thing, blond, with pretty features. She seemed oblivious of Demona's stifled snarl. "My husband put this in my lunch box!" She held up a silly birthday card with Ziggy on the front.
Demona snapped sharply, "Are you on lunch?"
"Yes, ma'am." The blond girl said, still smiling. "He's such a sweetheart ... we've been married two months. He's my other half ... are you okay, Miss Destine?"
"Yes ... I am fine." She backed away. "Go back to work."
Demona, head held high, hurried to the lady's room. "... He's my other half ..." The girl's words echoed in her ears.
"... You must live a remarkably lonely existence ..." A voice like velvet.
"... You, more than anyone, should know that there is good and evil in all of us! ..." Goliath's words.
No! It wasn't her fault!
She could never have Goliath back. Thailog was dead. The clan had repudiated her. Her own daughter hated her -- had *said* she hated her. Macbeth, the only person who could possibly understand ... would end both their lives, given a chance.
Demona stared in the mirror, at the red hair and green eyes that were not quite her own. This form showed the thickening of her waist and thighs even more than her gargoyle form did; her underlings were making snide comments behind her back when they thought that she could not hear. She didn't care -- her appearance was really the least of her worries at the moment.
"... You must live a remarkably lonely existence ..."
"Too true." Her own voice startled her.
She shivered, suddenly. She was so lonely ...
But she did not need anyone. After a thousand years alone, surely she had learned that. She could survive on her own, alone. She could. She had.
But she would not wish that fate on another.
* * * * *
Her house was her sanctuary; her home. Artifacts from the ages filled the rooms; artifacts from ages that she had lived through, alone.
Demona sat in the dark, on a throne of a dead queen, listening to the timbers creak as the building cooled. They sounded like voices.
"... Then we shall all die together ... you and I ... our daughter ..." Goliath's words rang silently through the house.
"Shut up!" Demona screamed at the voices that haunted her. "Silence ..." She whimpered. Something tore inside of her.
For a millennium, she had known with horrid certainty that she was the last of her kind, doomed to live forever alone.
But she had been wrong. The spell upon the last survivors of her clan had been broken. And others of her kind lived still.
Her daughter, all the children of the clan, lived.
And yet, she had still been alone.
She would not wish her misery on another.
They had woken ... and betrayed her; Goliath had betrayed her over a silly little human woman!
"... You said that the centuries have changed me, but I see that they have changed you as well ..." He had told her.
"What was I to do?" She whispered. "What was I to do?"
"... Don't you see? Everything that has happened is your fault!" Goliath had shouted at her once.
"No!" She rocked back and forth, tears streaking down her cheeks. "No!" She sobbed harshly. "No!"
"... It ends tonight, Demona! ..." Macbeth's words, once, but it had not ended that night. She wished that it had. She wished that she could end it now.
Someday, she thought with bitter humor, maybe both of them would be suicidal at the same time.
But ... she wasn't suicidal now. Now, she would fight tooth and nail for her life. Now she had a reason to hope, to dream.
And it was tearing her apart.
"... And you, I'll always be with you, my Angel of the Night ..."
Demona laughed bitterly. But Goliath wasn't. He was always with that human Elisa, now.
"Goliath ..." She whispered, softly, rocking back and forth. "Goliath!"
"... good and evil in all of us ..."
"No ..." She whimpered.
"... good and evil in all of us! ..."
"GOOD AND EVIL IN ALL OF US!"
"NO!" She screamed the words into the empty house. They echoed. "No!"
"It ends tonight, Demona!" Macbeth's words.
"... you must live a remarkably lonely existence ..." One who understood what it was to be alone had spoken those words.
Sobbing, Demona stumbled to her feet. "No ..." She whispered.
She ran up the stairs to her workshop. It was a vast, echoing room cluttered with artifacts from a thousand years of collecting. She'd sold a few artifacts recently, on the black market, to pay for Nightstone Unlimited.
She did not cry now; she showed very little emotion. Her expression was flat, calm. This would be a very difficult spell, but she knew that she could do it.
She would not wish her fate on another.
She grinned an evil grin. Cheat death. She'd been doing it all her life.
A mirror leaned against one wall; it was not Titania's mirror, nor was it even magical. It was polished silver and glass, and useful in spells where the mirror was merely a conduit and did not need to be magical in and of itself.
She hung the mirror on the wall; the spell was specific about the location. Breathing hard now, and wondering at herself, she went down to her kitchen and retrieved matches, thirteen fat beeswax candles, chalk and other assorted supplies. As an afterthought, she got a syringe and a bottle of tranquilizers from her medicine chest. No sense in letting the human woman know where she lived.
"Puny, craven beasts ..." Demona muttered, in disgust. "This is foolishness." She started to put the candles back.
"... lonely existence ..." A velvet voice whispered in her memories.
"Gah! Damn!" She stomped up the stairs, supplies in her arms.
The transformation struck her as she reached the landing. Pain, agonizing pain, ripped through her frame. Wings sprouted from her shoulders. Her hands, legs, feet, skull, backbone, twisted and merged like taffy. Her skin discolored to a color somewhere between light eggplant and lavender.
The supplies hit the ground, tumbling across the workshop floor.
"Damn Puck." Demona said, as she picked everything up. His gifts always had a price -- the little worm had a really warped sense of humor.
She set the candles in a pattern before the mirror, and played connect-the-dots with the chalk. She sketched out a handful of symbols on the floor, then without further ado, she began.
She faced the mirror, and held the rose brooch before her, cupped in both hands. She chanted softly, "Super muro pendeans, specule argente, pulcherrima quam amat, ei me nunc monstre!" And then she blew across the rose.
Her breath glowed oddly blue as it swirled towards the mirror. When the mist touched the mirror, the glass shimmered. A figure appeared, reflected not from the room, but from seemingly within the mirror. A woman, with blond hair and green eyes and a *pleased* expression.
The look of delight took Demona momentarily aback. This wasn't supposed to go like this ... the spirit was supposed to come across, kicking and screaming and pretty damned pissed.
Well, the ghost *had* wanted this.
Demona continued, "Per hoc signo amoris qui te obligat, te advoco! Mori ad fatum mercare, iterum vive!" She held the crystal pendent out, and slowly released it from her grasp. It floated from her fingers, across the room, and vanished *into* the mirror.
The spell didn't rhyme, but it didn't have to. It was the power behind the words that counted; the rhymes so common in spellcraft were just a way of focusing energy. Demona was very good, and very old, and needed no silly cantrip to focus her sorcery.
There was a flash of light from the mirror. It shimmered, and then a softer light began to glow from within.
"The words have been spoken," A voice said, a voice that she recognized, and Goliath almost certainly would have as well. "And the promise given. Trade death for life, so that the balance remains ..."
A figure stepped through the glass as if it was the surface of a reflecting pond. The figure, small, blond-haired, green-eyed, collapsed in the middle of the circle of candles.
Demona gave an agonized, triumphant, cry and fell as well. For a moment, her very substance flickered. She cried out in fear ... would the spell of the Weird Sisters withstand ...?
She lost consciousness, for a brief time. When she came to, she was still in her workshop and ... and she studied her fingers ... she was still corporeal. She grinned a savage, fanged grin. It had worked.
She'd counted on the Weird Sister's spell of immortality to save her from dying so that the human might live. That had been the terms of the spell -- death for life. And she had just cheated death. It was a rather triumphant feeling, all told.
The human woman was lifting her head now, coming around to consciousness. Demona hastily rolled to her feet and retrieved the syringe of tranquilizers. The woman flinched, then slumped unconscious.
The woman had the crystal pendent around her neck; her chest moved with slow, even breaths. She was only lightly unconscious. Demona scooped her up, and headed for the door. She'd have to move fast, before the human awoke.
"I hope," Demona said distinctly, "That I don't live to regret this."
* * * * *
Elisa frowned at the coffee vending machine.
The "out" light was lit on the Almond Amaretto and the Chocolate Cappucino. Scowling, she dropped her quarter into the machine and poked "French Vanilla" while holding down the "Extra Sugar" button.
The beverage that the machine dispensed was faintly greenish in color, and flecked with little unidentifiable brown floaters. She flicked the largest of the foreign objects out of her coffee and sipped it.
Surprisingly, it tasted fairly decent. She'd eaten worse, and stranger, during their Avalon-sponsored-world-tour. .
She downed the coffee in several fast gulps and headed for her desk.
"Hey, Elisa, are you coming to the police banquet tonight?" Officer Morgan hailed her as she left the squad room.
She shook her head, "Sorry, Morgan. I've got other plans." She'd invited Goliath over for dinner and a movie.
"You've gotten mighty secretive lately, Elisa." He sipped a similar cup of off-color coffee.
"She has a new boyfriend to keep her busy!" Bluestone called from the other end of the hall.
Elisa turned to scowl at her red-headed partner. He gave her an innocent look.
"Really?" Morgan said, surprised. Elisa's social life, or lack thereof, was legendary. "Why don't you bring him along, then?"
Elisa considered the idea. "That could be interesting."
As she headed for her desk, she overheard Morgan stage-whispering to Bluestone, "What I want to know is, when does she find the *time*?"
Bluestone responded, innocently, "Who do you think she went on vacation with?"
Elisa shot at them, "Yeah, with his teenage daughter and his dog in a little tiny boat!"
Morgan followed her up the hall, "So what's he like, Detective? I want to hear all about this!"
Elisa grinned, "He's tall, dark, and handsome ... and we have other plans for the night. Maybe I'll bring him along some other time."
* * * * *
The movie she'd rented for Goliath was fairly accurate historical romance entitled, "The Ballad of Little Jo"; Elisa loved the movie. Goliath peppered her with questions throughout; he was still learning about the world events between the tenth and the twentieth centuries.
"Why did they put her on the horse and take a picture ..."
The doorbell rang.
Elisa glanced at her watch. It was nearly ten PM on her day off.
"Now I wonder who that could be?" She snapped off the closing credits of the movie. Goliath retreated outside, where he lurked in the dark as one more motionless shadow.
"Elisa." Diana Bennett greeted her, "You have some explaining to do."
"Explaining?" Elisa said, as blankly as she could.
Diana marched into her apartment. "I *know* you're involved with these gargoyle creatures. I want to know how, why, what they are, the whole damn story."
"Gargoyles? Aren't those statues? Really ugly?"
"Elisa, don't stonewall me. I *know* that you're lying."
Elisa's head came up. Her jaw set at a stubborn angle. She hadn't been expecting a direct confrontation; she wasn't sure what to do. "I have nothing to say." Was Diana taped; were they trying to trick her into a confession?
Diana's green eyes and Elisa's brown met. Diana nodded briefly, reading Elisa's fears. "You do realize that I could drag you into court for obstructing an investigation?"
Elisa folded her arms. "I realize this."
"You'd risk everything for them?"
Elisa gave it up; Diana evidently knew enough to nail her. She gestured to her apartment with one hand. "This is nothing. I'd hate to lose my job and my apartment, but there are worse things in life."
"You're that loyal."
"Diana, I would give my life for them." Elisa said, simply.
Elisa shrugged. "They are my friends. They are good people ... this city owes more to Goliath than anyone realists."
"Goliath. Is that a name of one of them?"
Elisa nodded reluctantly, but volunteered no more.
Diana rested a hand on Elisa's arm. "Elisa, you might not want to believe this, but I'm very determined to find out the truth. If they are guilty of the things that they have been accused of, I want to *nail* them." She brushed her hair back. "But if they are innocent, I want to exonerate them." She paused, "I am not here officially; there is no record of this visit."
Indecision warred in Elisa's eyes. "Diana, they are innocent."
"Then prove that to me."
"Look, I don't know you very well, but you have to trust *someone*. And I think you'd be better off trusting me than the next detective who gets assigned the case, because believe you me, *Detective*, you've left a trail of evidence a cadet could follow. Blindfolded."
Elisa sighed. "It's not that I don't trust you, Diana, but that the decision is not mine to make ..."
Goliath, waiting in the shadows, had heard enough. He stepped forward, slid the window open, and dropped through it.
Diana suddenly took a startled step backwards; she gasped.
Elisa sighed without turning around, "Diana, this is my best friend Goliath."
"Don't be frightened." Goliath rumbled.
Diana flicked an uncertain glance at Elisa, who had her hand over her face. "Hi, Goliath. I'm Detective Diana Bennett; I've been assigned to find you guys." She held her hand bravely out.
Goliath shook her hand; his clawed paw engulfed her hand almost to the forearm. His eyes were amused. "You have succeeded."
Diana laughed in suprise at the humor in his voice. "So I have. I must say, I'm a bit surprised. It's not every day you meet an urban myth in the flesh."
He favored her with one of his rare grins. "There is a grain of truth in every myth."
* * * * *
"Vincent, would you ..."
Father's request to his adopted son was lost as Vincent dropped the book he was holding, spun around, and charged off.
"Vincent!" Father shouted after him, but Vincent careened around the corner and vanished.
Jamie, behind Father, asked, "What was that all about?"
"I have not seen Vincent do that in several years." Father sounded very worried. "He thinks that someone he knows is in danger ... where's Jacob!?"
"With the other children, in the library ..."
"Vincent went the other way ... would you check on Jacob anyway?" Father, distressed, hurried to his chambers.
* * * * *
Vincent charged frantically up through the tunnels, even as sheer disbelief warred with a wild anger. It could not possibly be ... it could not possibly be ...
The awareness that was not his was fading, replaced by a nightmarish unconsciousness! Vincent forced himself to run faster, faster ... he would not be too late twice! He would not!
The thought occurred to him that he was having a nightmare, but this was too real ... far too real! He had to run faster, faster ...
He burst out of a basement entrance and then out onto the street, and ran and ran. Traffic swerved. He got a brief glimpse of a blond woman wearing a green headband ...
"Margot! Look out!" A voice shouted, and a man yanked his blond- haired wife aside as Vincent pounded down the sidewalk.
The woman's strident voice responded, "Brendan, this city isn't safe anymore. I want to move to Florida."
"Margot, they have alligators in Florida." His response came faintly after.
Vincent ran on, his breath coming with harsh gasps. He forced himself to run ... he would run, or die trying.
His senses guided him into a quieter, older residential neighborhood ... and then to the wall of a tremendous estate. Vincent vaulted the wall one handed and landed next to a hideous stone statue of a canine gargoyle.
And then he fell to his knees as the sensation of *her* rose into the air and moved away, faster than he could follow on foot ...
Vincent vented a roar of frustration, and followed anyway.
He almost reached her once again. But as he approached, flashing lights and squawking radios presented a barrier -- and anyway, if she were injured, the police would summon aid for her. She was in the best place she could possibly be. He peered around the corner of a building, and caught a glimpse of blond hair as a figure on a stretcher was loaded into an ambulance. An EMT thumped his fist against the door and the ambulance, sirens blaring, rolled away.
Vincent breathed out a soft sigh of sheer disbelief, and stared upwards at the few stars that shone through the city lights.
Could it be? Could it possibly be?
* * * * *
Goliath sat on the floor, his back against the couch, a cup of tea cradled in his enormous hands. Elisa was curled on the couch behind him; she was on her third or fourth mug of coffee. Diana could not miss the relaxed manner in which Elisa rested her knees against Goliath's shoulders -- Diana doubted that the pair were lovers, but they were very, very comfortable with one another.
Goliath and Elisa had been trading off telling the gargoyles' story for several hours; Goliath finished, "So that's why the hunters blew up the clock tower -- they were trying to kill us, for they believed that we were the same as Demona. And ... both I and Jason Canmore made mistakes; I nearly lost Elisa because of mine, and Jason ... will never walk again." He sounded ashamed; his voice caught as he spoke.
Elisa leaned forward and rested a hand on his arm. "We learn from our mistakes, Goliath. And in the end, it was *you* who stopped Demona. We would all be dead -- you, your daughter, the clan, me. Even Demona."
"The ends do not always justify the means." Goliath sighed, and covered her hand with his.
"Goliath," Diana said, "That's a fantastic story. Magic, time travel, cyborgs, giant spiders, Nessie, aliens, Norse, Greek and Egyptian Gods, amnesia,, gangsters, the Golem and the kings Macbeth and Arthur ... everything but the Holy Grail, it seems."
Elisa and Goliath exchanged glances; Elisa's mouth curved into a faint smile. Goliath rolled his eyes. "We have not encountered the Holy Grail yet."
Elisa chuckled and stretched. "That's only the short version of the story, but it's about time for Goliath to get going."
Reluctantly, he nodded agreement. The sky was beginning to lighten. Elisa hugged him, then watched him leave through the window and fly off into the sky, which was just beginning to grow light.
"I see now why you have kept him a secret." Diana said, quietly.
"You understand, then?" Elisa said, relief in her eyes.
"Yes ..." Diana hesitated, "And I'd like to nail this Demona."
"You and me both."
It was then that Diana's pager went off. She impatiently slapped it silent.
"I'm being hailed." Diana sighed. "Can I use your phone?"
"Aye." Elisa said, absently, "It's by the fridge."
"You even sound like him."
Elisa turned around, unsure of what Diana meant. Diana smiled. "Believe me, Elisa, I understand." Her eyes were sad. "You've very lucky."
"You're not going to tell?"
Diana laughed. "I can keep a secret." She dialed the station, "Hi, Chavez, you rang?"
"Diana," Chavez sounded very distressed, "Can you get down to St. Vincent's -- room 234? Now?"
"I'd ... rather not discuss it over a cel-phone. It might be connected to your investigation." Chavez sounded genuinely spooked.
"Okay, fine, I'll be down there right away."
"Great. I'll meet you there."
Diana raised an eyebrow at Elisa after she hung up. "It's about the gargoyles -- Chavez wants me at the hospital."
"*What*?" Elisa blinked, as several possible scenarios ran through her mind. One of the guys could be hurt, or could have hurt someone, or ...
"You want to come? I might need the input from an expert." Diana offered, reluctantly -- she liked working alone, but on the other hand, Elisa's input might be valuable.
Elisa nodded. "Yes, I hope ..." She fell silent, and followed Diana out of her apartment.
* * * * *
The voice was soft, but firm and insistent. It carried. "I tell you Captain, I am who I say I am."
Chavez steepled her fingers and studied the woman with the blond hair and the green eyes. "If you are who you say you are, how can you have been dead for seven years?"
Humor flashed through the green eyes. "Considering that, as I told you, the last thing I remember was dying, I'm not entirely sure that I'm not really a ghost and that I'm not going to start flying around the room. What year did you say this is again?"
"1996." Chavez said, quite patiently.
Diana stuck her head through the door at that moment. "So what's the big mystery?"
The blond woman answered, with a wry smile, "I'm afraid that I'm the big mystery."
Diana stopped dead in her tracks. She winced and closed her eyes as a battering of psychic impressions slammed into her ... first and foremost was hideous, terrible death. An unfulfilled death, worse than anything she'd ever experienced; a spirit ripped from the world before she was ready to go, before it was her time. She'd fought for her life every inch, every moment, every breath of the way, but in the end, it had not been enough.
After a few seconds, the impressions faded, a bit, and were replaced by a sense of *Vincent*.
"Catherine ..." Diana breathed in shock.
Catherine looked up at her. "Diana? Diana Bennett, isn't it?" For a split second, Diana saw Vincent's eyes superimposed on Catherine's; Vincent's voice in hers.
"But we've never met ..." Diana stepped backwards almost reflexively.
Catherine shook her head in confusion. "But I know we have ... somewhere ..." " Okay, ladies," Chavez steepled her fingers. "Can we try to get some answers now? Uhh .. Cathy, have a seat please. Tell us your story again, in your own words."
Diana didn't miss the glance she gave the door. "Well, I know it sounds like I'm a candidate for the straight jacket, but the last thing I remember is the doctor ... injecting me with ... a drug. I remember ..." She paused, "I remember not wanting to die. You don't understand how much I wanted to live. And then I remember a white light ... and then the next thing I remember is waking up in the emergency room."
"Can you tell us where you were before you, umm, thought you were going to die?" Chavez steepled her fingers. She gave Elisa a fleeting look, but didn't seem surprised to see her.
Catherine nodded once, briefly, and in a flat voice, began to tell the story of her kidnapping. Diana suspected that it was a severely edited version. No mention was made of Vincent, or Catherine's son Jacob, who had been born minutes before her presumed death. When she was done, Chavez had her run through it again.
"Well, your kidnapper was killed in a shooting several years ago." Diana said, quietly, when Catherine was done.
Catherine looked relieved. "When are they going to release me?"
Chavez tapped her pen against her lips. "That's up to the doctors, but I think they said they can find nothing wrong with you save a dose of barbiturates to knock you out -- there are a few things I want to discuss with Elisa and Diana, and I want you to stay in town until we sort all this out." There was still skepticism in her voice. "Where will you go?"
"Home ... I don't ... I have friends." She decided.
"Who think you've been dead for seven years." Elisa pointed out.
Catherine smiled. "I suppose I'll be a bit of a surprise, then."
"You can't be sure you can find your friends, after seven years." Chavez said.
Diana glanced at Chavez then volunteered, "Cathy, if you need a place to stay until you find them, you can crash at my place. It's not regs, but *none* of this is regulation. I think I know where one of your friends lives -- tall, blond and princely -- and his son, who is a wonderful little boy." She grinned.
Catherine's eyes widened; she leaned forward in the bed and rested a hand on Diana's arm. "You know ...?"
"That is a great relief ..." Catherine glanced at the other two.
"We'll leave you to your rest." Chavez said, rising and limping to the door.
As soon as they were outside, Chavez folded her arms. "What do you think?"
"How did she get into the hospital?" Elisa demanded, promptly. "Admissions records, who checked her in, or was she found ..."
"Officer Morgan found her, unconscious, in the front seat of his squad car about six hours ago. She'd been drugged with barbiturates, but only lightly. She came around shortly after she was admitted. We've verified her identity through fingerprint records."
Diana ran a hand through her hair. "Forgive me if I'm a little confused. You know, I attended Cathy's autopsy. That was a dead woman on that slab. And I was absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt convinced that it was Cathy there." She pointed at the door. "Now she's right in there."
"Could she have been a clone then or now?" Elisa wondered.
"Modern science isn't advanced that far." Chavez said, with a 'you idiot, that's science fiction' look at Elisa.
Elisa snorted. "Forgive me, but it is. There's a mad scientist named Anton Sevarius who's quite capable of cloning folks. Trust me, I've seen the results."
"Mmm. I've also heard of Anton Sevarius." Diana nodded. "But that's no clone. The fingerprints wouldn't match. At least, I would presume that they wouldn't match. Identical twins do not have identical fingerprints." She ran a hand through her red hair. "Besides, I'm sure that is Cathy out there."
"You've never met the woman face to face." Elisa pointed out.
"No, but ... let's just say I'm sure."
"So how could she be dead seven years ago and alive today?" Elisa laced her hands behind her neck. "Maybe we should throw her in a pond and see if she walks on water."
Chavez sighed. "No, no, *my* superiors would never accept a miracle on a report. Could the lab have goofed in identifying the body?"
Diana was silent for a very, very long moment. Finally she answered, "The lab could have, yes."
"But if that's Cathy out there, where has she been for seven years?"
"Alpha Centauri?" Elisa suggested.
"I don't think little green men would be accepted either." Chavez sighed. "Winged monsters are quite enough, thank you. Morgan saw one of the creatures in the area where we he found Catherine -- it was carrying a body the first time he saw it, and not the second."
"Uhh ... what did the creature look like?" Elisa beat Diana to the question.
"It was female, with red hair and blue skin."
"Uh-huh." Elisa kept a neutral expression. "I don't know how that could help the police investigation."
"I want to get to the bottom of this! And Diana, please take backup!"
Chavez added the last with an exasperated, worried sigh.
Dismissed, they went outside. Elisa hissed promptly, "Demona has performed necromancy before."
"*What*?" Diana blinked.
"I don't need to investigate this one." Elisa said grimly, "Except to find Demona."
"What will you do if you find her?" Diana asked, with interest.
Elisa barked a laugh. "I haven't gotten that far. Umm, look, if you'll take care of Catherine Chandler, I'll go bounce these developments off a few friends."
"Wish I could be a fly on the wall when you tell your boyfriend about this ..."
Elisa laughed. "Yes, Goliath is not going to be pleased with this development. He has no love of sorcery!"
* * * * *
"Hi. Your boyfriend is going to be delighted to see you." Diana walked back through the door, leaving Elisa outside.
Catherine looked up, and grinned. "That's probably an understatement. So you do know him?"
"And the others, yes. You do know that we've all thought you dead for seven years now ... Catherine, I saw your body. Dead."
"I rather sympathize with Christopher Gentian." Catherine said, drily. "I assume the entrances have changed, or I'd have been out of here about ten minutes ago. Plus I'm rather penniless at the moment; I have no money for a cab fee and it's too far to walk."
"This is ... forgive me, this is rather unsettling. I'm talking to a dead woman." She thought about that statement, and rolled her eyes skyward.
"So what's new about that?" She asked herself.
"Does Elisa know about ...?" Catherine glanced downwards.
"She seems ... I thought perhaps she did know, though I'm not sure why."
Diana laughed, "I'm not surprised you'd say that ... but anyway, Catherine, I'm willing to bet that Vincent's having conniptions right about now."
Catherine nodded. "He is rather, umm, how should I put it?"
"He's afraid he's finally gone over the edge?" Diana suggested.
That earned a dark look from Catherine; she didn't find the comment amusing. "He fears for his sanity, yes." She tucked a honey-blond strand of hair back behind her ear.
"Can you really feel what he's thinking?"
"Sometimes." Catherine said, then shook her head. "If I've been presumed dead, if he's thought I was dead for seven years, then he must truly fear for his sanity now, if the link has been abruptly reestablished. I want to see him ... can you take me down to the tunnels?" Her tone said, *now*!
Diana grinned, "Uh, yeah. Sure. I'll give you a lift over to the park. I bet he'll be waiting."
* * * * *
"What could put clawmarks in solid steel?" Catherine crouched and traced the deep gouges in the twisted door.
Diana looked over Catherine's shoulder. "Looks like a gargoyle must have ..." She trailed off, frowning.
"A ... gargoyle?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Big monsters with wings and the strength to do *that*." Diana nodded at the wreckage. "Magic, some claim. I have the assignment to hunt 'em down; whatever they are, they're real, anyway. Of that I'm sure."
"Whatever came through here -- could it still be in the tunnels?"
Diana frowned. "Mouse was saying something about a pretty monster the other day, but when he took us to her, it was just ... a woman ... oh, lovely."
"Goliath said that Demona turns into a woman."
"Goliath ... he's one of them; Demona's his ex-girlfriend. Wife. Mate. I'm not sure how the gargoyles work that ..." Diana looked like she'd been kicked. "The woman we found had the hell beaten out of her. I *like* Goliath ... but if she was Demona, she rather had it coming. I think I need to hunt a few gargoyles up again ... " Diana shook her head. She needed to talk to Goliath again.
Catherine was no longer listening; she was staring up the tunnel. "He's coming."
* * * * *
Vincent honestly did not know if he wanted to run forwards towards ... towards ...
But she was *dead*!
Or if he wanted to hide in the deepest tunnels. He considered the possibility that he was either hallucinating or dreaming; the first was always a possibility, especially since this felt too very real for a dream. If he was hallucinating, he could be a danger to the others.
He caught a flash of humor that was mingled with new worries, and old nightmares. It felt *exactly* like Catherine; a Catherine who had been frightened and now was waiting for him to soothe away her fears.
He picked his pace up unconsciously, then slowed. What would he find when he rounded the last corner? A ghost?
And who had he seen on the stretcher? He had been so sure then, so very sure, even though he knew it was flatly impossible.
He was almost there.
He stopped, gathered his courage, and stepped around the last corner. What would he find?
Diana Bennett stood there.
And beside her ...
Catherine was exactly as he remembered, when he had seen her last ... But she was dead! His mind wailed even as his heart leaped and he stumbled forward.
Catherine met his embrace with a small cry of her own; she burrowed into his arms and burst into sudden tears. "I thought I'd not see you again in this world ..." She whispered into his chest.
"Catherine!" He could simply not believe it. "This is ... is ..." He could find no words to express himself.
"It's a miracle."
* * * * *
Much later, when Catherine had convinced Vincent that he was neither hallucinating, dreaming, nor talking to a ghost, and after much hugging and fierce vows of love, they went in search of the others.
They found Father first, in his library.
Father's reaction was a startled and very emphatic, "Good god! Catherine ... you're alive! But ... but ... but ...!" " Hello, Father." She hugged him.
He held her by her shoulders. "Where have you been, if you're alive! Do you *know* what you've put Vincent through? How dare ... not a word, nothing!"
Vincent interrupted, "She has no memories, Father. Perhaps she has been held prisoner. She is back with us now, and that is all that matters, to me."
She sighed softly. "Believe me, Father, if there's anything I am sure of, it is that I would not willingly have left Vincent."
"Father!" A small voice cried.
Catherine was a bit startled when it was Vincent who responded to the boy; Vincent spun around and scooped the child up and hugged him.
"Father!" The little boy protested, "Put me down!"
"Is this ..." Catherine breathed, though she had no doubt.
He was a big kid, for his age; there was something of Vincent in his blue eyes and wide cheekbones. And, Catherine thought ruefully, in his shoulderlength uncut mop of frizzy blond hair.
Vincent set Jacob down, and crouched beside him. "Jacob, I want you to meet someone very special."
Catherine's eyes were bright with unshed tears; she couldn't find her voice. She smiled, and the little boy smiled uncertainly back.
"Jacob, this is your mother."
"Is she a ghost?" Jacob asked uncertainly.
"No, she is a miracle." Vincent explained, as best he could. "This is a miracle."
"Mother?" He smiled shyly. Hesitantly, he held his arms out to Catherine. She hugged him; tears rolled down her face.
Vincent smiled. "He is much like I was, at this age -- but I see you in him as well."
* * * * *
Joe yawned sleepily, reflected that siestas were a tradition that the department should adopt, and stared at the paperwork on his desk.
"Hey!" His secretary stuck her head into his office. "Didn't Cathy Chandler work here?"
Joe glanced up. "Yes." He said, quietly.
"You catch the rumors coming out of the PD?"
That got his attention; Catherine's murder remained officially unsolved and if they had a suspect, the DA's office was going to go after the bastard with *everything* Joe could summon! She laughed at the look on his face. "Seems she's turned up. At a hospital right here in town."
"What?" He blinked. "No, that's impossible." A truly morbid possibility crossed his mind; he squelched it. He didn't want to *think* about it.
The secretary said, with sheer delight, "Apparently not. I've a friend who's a secretary for Captain Chavez ... Cathy Chandler is alive, Joe."
"Uh-huh." He said, and added a glare to his secretary that bespoke of his irritation and *pain* at her bringing up old nightmares. "Catherine's dead. I identified the body."
"Diana Bennett says it's Cathy." The secretary said gleefully, with the air of someone delivering very good news.
"Then Diana has a screw loose."
"I'm telling you, Cathy Chandler is not dead!"
Joe wondered briefly if he could demote the obnoxious secretary somewhere nasty ... the basement would do.
"Speak of the devil." An amused voice said from the doorway.
The secretary squeaked and vanished into her office.
Joe slowly rose as two facts registered.
The first one was that if this wasn't Catherine, then Cathy either had an identical twin or a clone.
And the second was that this was a hoax.
"Who the hell are you?" He demanded.
She grinned at him. "Joe, don't tell me you've forgotten me!"
He folded his arms. "You're dead."
"So I've been told." She sounded like she was silently laughing at him.
It was the amusement in her eyes that convinced him; somehow, someway, Catherine was alive. "Ohmygod!" He nearly went *over* his desk instead of around it. "Radcliffe ... it is you?"
"In the flesh." She laughed as he nearly crushed her ribs.
He set her down, "Where ... how ... you better have a good excuse or I'm going to be very, *very* mad! Witness protection program?" He guessed wildly. Grasped at explanations. Something plausible. Because if he thought too hard about this, he'd start to doubt, and he wanted to believe.
She sighed. "Joe, I can remember nothing between the time I died ... or thought I died ... and the time I woke up in the hospital. Apparently, the PD found me in the front seat of one of their squad cars. I have *no* idea about where I've been, but I'm very glad to be back."
"This is ... this is impossible! Incredible!"
She chuckled. "Joe, you haven't changed a bit." She reconsidered. "No, scratch that, you have grey hairs."
"Oh, gee, no thanks to you, of course!" He could joke now, his heart was leaping with delight. "You look as good as you did seven years ago! Can I take you to lunch? This is amazing ... I'm going to ... but I saw you lying there, dead!"
"A lot of people saw me dead. We haven't figured it out yet, but we have a few ideas." Diana had mentioned the possibility of a clone to her. The thought had horrified Catherine to her very core ... where had she *been* for six years, that she could not remember? "Is that Chinese food place still here?"
"No, it's a yogurt shop now."
"Yogurt works. You're paying; I'm broke."
* * * * *
"Hi Elisa." Diana's phone call woke Elisa sometime around noon -- which was midnight, to a cop who worked graveyard.
"Whatt?" Elisa mumbled.
"What's Demona's human name?"
"Dominique Destine ... why?"
"Just a theory I'm working on ..."
"We already know she owns Nightstone." Elisa said sleepily, guessing at the reason for Diana's call. "Jason told us. Not much I can do about it, legally, without entangling the guys ..."
"That's okay. Go back to sleep." Diana said. "Thanks."
"Mmmm." Elisa hung up.
* * * * *
That evening, Goliath stood on Elisa's roof and considered the developments. "It is impossible to give a spirit life again, Elisa, without a ... sacrifice of a living soul ..." He trailed off, remembering how close he had come to such an end. "But a spirit can also be tied to this world, as Coldstone and Coldfire are. If given a vessel to animate, the spirit could appear alive."
"Why would Demona do this, though?" Elisa hopped up on the wall next to him. "Why? By all accounts that I've ever heard, Catherine Chandler was one of the good guys. Joe -- Joe's one of the head honchos over at the DA's office; we swap tips a lot -- speaks of her in these reverent tones, like she was some kind of angel or something -- the guy really cared about her. A lot of people really cared about her." Elisa stretched and cracked her knuckles over her head. "I dunno, Goliath. Maybe Demona wasn't involved."
"She was seen in the area, and some form of necromancy was performed."
"There's also the possibility that either Catherine never died or that's not Cathy Chandler now."
"You said your friend was convinced of both."
"Yes, well, conviction doesn't equal truth."
Goliath nodded. "True." He sighed. "Still, my first suspect in this would be Demona. She lives for trickery and deception." His voice cracked suddenly.
Elisa rested her hand on his arm. "She does, doesn't she?"
Goliath's fists balled. "Elisa, have I ever told you how much your courage has meant to me?"
"Oh, Goliath." She wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled him closer "Life stinks sometimes."
He stroked her hair, and gazed down at her. "I wish ..."
"Nothing." He tried to pull away. She held on, nearly fell forward off the wall, and then pulled him back to her. "Hey, you can trust me. With anything."
He sighed. "I wish ... I don't know what I wish."
"I wish the world were simpler." Elisa snuggled her head into the hollow under his jaw. "I wish you and I ... we are what we are, but I wish we could be that and still be socially acceptable if we went on a dinner date."
He barked a surprised laugh. "Aye. Elisa, I've never regretted it."
"You said ... a long time ago, you told me I had to trust someone in the world, and you were a better choice than Xanatos and then you told me I'd not regret it. And I have not, ever, regretted it." He was smiling at her; he brushed his hair back from her temple. "It would ... hurt to loose you."
"Oh, Goliath." She reached a hand up behind his back and toyed with the end of his long hair. "Hey. I have no intentions of going away any time soon."
"What of Jason?"
It took her half a second to realize he was teasing. She adopted a thoughtful pose, fingers tucked under her chin. "Gee, there would be some advantages to Jason ... he eats less, for one, and for two, he doesn't leave a mess on my windowsill when he wakes up in the evening ..."
Goliath made a noise somewhere between a snort of disgust and a growl of annoyance. "Would you like me to bring a broom and dustpan next time?"
"Ooh, a man who cleans. Now that's a possibility ..."
They were being silly, and realizing that, they sobered. His brown eyes met hers. "Perhaps someday ..." Goliath shook himself.
"Someday what?" She prompted.
He managed to escape from her grasp this time; he paced the roof restlessly. "Elisa, I should be going." He paused, though, and did not go.
"I'll see you later, then." She turned to go inside. The disappointment was audible in her voice.
That sad resignation was all it took to change his mind. Goliath turned, followed her, and caught up with her in two long strides. "Elisa," he rested his hands on her shoulders, "Would you like to go for a walk in the park?"
She looked up at him. "I's a date, big guy."
Goliath grinned at her; it was that wonderful grin she saw so seldom.
* * * * *
Diana sighed, "Vincent, Demona had a spell cast upon her by a trickster. She's human by day, gargoyle by night, and guess what? Her human half is named Dominique Destine."
"These gargoyles ... you claim they are good." Vincent spoke, slowly.
"Well, Goliath was certainly on the side of the angels." Diana shrugged.
"And Demona is certainly not. At least, not if what Goliath told me is true -- and I believe him."
Vincent frowned. "I do not know what to think, Diana. I only know that I can hardly harbor a grudge against a creature who brought Catherine back."
Diana nodded. "I'm just saying be careful. We know very little about these creatures, save that they are very powerful."
Vincent glanced out at the park; they stood in the shadows of the tunnel entrance. Sometime during the day, someone had fixed the iron door -- it was a bit warped, and scarred, but it opened and shut.
"Is she coming?" Diana asked, meaning Catherine.
"Not yet." Vincent said, with confidence. "She said that she was going to find Joe and Jenny. I would judge that she has found Jenny by now; they will be a while."
Diana laughed, remembering her brief encounters with Catherine's effusive friend. Jenny was probably bouncing off the walls. "At any rate, I would like to find more out about these creatures."
* * * * *
Goliath landed in the park on a jogging path and set Elisa down gently.
A jogger in grey sweats and an "I Love NYC" hat jogged around them; when he was past, he jogged backwards, staring. "Life's weird." He muttered, "Life is really weird." He was still running backwards when he vanished out of sight, swallowed by the night.
Elisa laughed, "That poor guy ... some people are just weirdness magnets."
Goliath rumbled in amusement. "He does have the most unfortunate timing."
Both looked furtively up and down the path, but it was late, and no one else seemed to be coming.
Elisa slipped her fingers into Goliath's hand; startled, he glanced down at her. She smiled back up at him, but found she had no words to say.
Instead, they simply strolled, hand in hand, down the jogging path. Elisa finally spoke, "I think Captain Chavez knows I know you guys."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because of a few things she's said. When we busted Dracon, she sort've ... I dunno, she just said, 'somebody left us a bunch of thugs tied up' -- but made no mention that Broadway wrapped 'em up in iron bars. And we haven't exactly been subtle, you know. It took Diana all of a day to figure out who to come to about you guys. Chavez isn't stupid."
"Will she do anything with this knowledge?"
Elisa shrugged. "I don't know. Perhaps not. We could go years with her pretending not to know, and me pretending not to know she knows ..." She sighed. "You know, I never thought I'd say this, but I miss the boat."
"*What*?" He laughed incredulously.
"At least then we were gone by the next day and never had to deal with the aftermath ...!"
He chuckled. "True."
"Though I'd love to know what happened in Prague after we walked that golem all the way through the city to the construction site! ..."
They both laughed; some of their adventures had been less than subtle.
Still holding his hand, she stepped up onto a low wall that ran along the path. She walked gracefully along the top of the wall, transferring her hand to Goliath's shoulder for balance. "And ... I saw you every day. Night. I miss you, when you're at the castle and I have to work."
Goliath stopped and turned to face her. "I miss you." He rested his hands on her hips; they were at eye-level to one another.
She draped her arms around his neck. Suddenly, she snickered.
"Beth ... Beth used to tell me that I had a hopeless weakness for tall, dark and handsome prince charmings. I think she was right."
Goliath brushed her hair back from her face. "You find me handsome?"
"Goliath!" she pulled him closer. "Yes. I do. Very much so."
* * * * *
Vincent padded silently down the jogging path; he could not wait for Catherine to reach the tunnel entrance. He wanted to meet her halfway. He wanted to make sure no harm came to her; that no one harmed her. The park was not a safe place at night.
He felt almost as if he was in a dream. A very, very good dream that he feared waking from. Catherine was *alive*! Living, breathing; *alive*! It was as if he had been given the greatest gift of his life and *this* time he would make it right ... make sure nothing happened to her, make sure that no evil befell her.
He was so lost in thought that he did not hear the soft footfalls until the jogger, still running backwards, bumped right into his back. Vincent went a foot straight up, heart pounding half out of his chest, and spun around with a snarl.
The jogger threw his hands up. "Sorry buddy!" He blinked, registering fangs. "There must be something in the water." He adjusted his "I love NYC" cap and trotted around Vincent and on down the path. Vincent watched the jogger vanish around a bend in the path; his expression was perplexed. Then he summoned a return of his dignity and waited for Catherine to come.
"Vincent!" She cried, when she appeared around the bend. She broke into a run; she hugged him eagerly, and buried her face in his chest. "Oh, Vincent!"
He found he had no words, so he simply held her for a very long moment. Catherine, his Catherine; he had nearly forgotten and yet never could forget the feel of her in his arms, and the knowledge that she loved him unconditionally.
"I wish you could have seen Joe's face." Catherine laughed, finally, stepping back. "You'd think he had seen a ghost."
"Perhaps he thought he had." Vincent said, softly. "We believed you dead ... *I* believed you dead until the evening before last, when ... I sensed you once more." They walked arm in arm down the path. "I can not try to explain this, but I am more grateful for this than for anything else in my entire life."
They didn't see the other couple until they were almost upon them; Vincent gave a soft hiss of warning and melted into the shadows, pulling Catherine with him.
A gargoyle -- perhaps the gargoyle Goliath -- stood beside the path. A dark-haired human woman balanced on a low retaining wall in front of him. She had her arms around Goliath's neck and Vincent realized with an embarrassed shock that they were kissing -- and they were completely oblivious to any peeping toms. Vincent swallowed hard, fought down the flush that warmed his cheeks, and led Catherine off the path and around the pair.
Catherine chuckled when they were out of earshot. "That's Elisa Maza; she's a detective with the NYPD. I met her in the hospital."
"Yes." Vincent found his voice. "Her ... friend ... is Goliath; he leads a clan of people like himself. Diana was telling me of them; they are not popular with the police or the populace." He sighed softly. "Diana likes Goliath."
"Does she? Do you trust her judgement?"
"I have trusted Diana with my life; she is one of our most trusted helpers and a very good friend to all of us. She saved my life, after ... I nearly died. She brought me to her home, and stayed by my side through the nightmares which followed." Vincent turned to face Catherine. "When ... I believed you dead, it nearly drove me mad with grief. I owe her a great deal."
Catherine nodded. "I am glad that you found such a friend. I was afraid that you would be alone ..."
"I was horribly alone, without you." Vincent pulled her into an embrace.
Catherine snuggled into his grasp. "I wish I knew ... wish I knew what *happened*!"
"Perhaps the memories will come with time."
"There's no memories there ... just a blank." Catherine sighed with aggravation.
"Where will you be staying?" Vincent asked.
"Well, officially, I'm staying with Diana. Unofficially?" She smiled at him. "At least until I get this straightened out, do you think anyone would mind if I stayed below?"
Vincent gave her a crooked smile. "We will be very happy to have you."
Catherine returned his smile. "Good. Right now, I think I'm in some kind of legal limbo. The courts haven't dealt very often with people returning from the dead. It's going to be a legal nightmare."
"I have never understood the ways above." Vincent remarked, guiding her towards the tunnel entrance.
Catherine vented an unladylike snort. "Yes. I give the IRS a few months before some bureaucrat realists that I haven't filed a tax return for seven years."
The pair never noticed the winged silhouette in the tree above them.
* * * * *
"We call that one Sirius, the dog star." Elisa leaned against Goliath's shoulder and pointed out the red star high above the trees of central park.
"We have another name ..." Goliath had his arms around her waist and his chin on her shoulder; he looked past her at the sky. "We have names for many, many of the stars."
"Makes sense." Elisa sighed comfortably and glanced up at him.
"Yes. We must know the sky at night so we do not become lost." He smiled crookedly. "But skyscrapers are better landmarks than stars."
"I'll bet." She played with his fingers for a second. He covered her hands with a wing, stilling her hands. Playfully, she transferred her attention to his wing; the membrane was soft, like the finest suede, yet incredibly tough and cool to the touch. Fine veins crossed the surface; an artery pulsed beneath her fingers.
Goliath gently but swiftly lifted his wing out of her grasp. His teeth flashed in the moonlight; a reflexive smile.
"Ticklish?" She twisted around and poked him in the ribs.
His response was an immediate, writhing leap backwards, dumping her on the grass.
Elisa grinned. Now *this* was an intriguing development.
"You wouldn't." Goliath started to scramble to his feet; his eyes widened in alarm. Elisa leaped after him, fingers held menacingly out before her.
He yelped, and laughed, and tried to capture her hands. His feet slipped out from underneath him and he fell back to the grass. She was relentless, driving him into the grass and tickling him until he could only curl ineffectively beneath his wings, and howl with laughter. "I'm going to ... have my revenge ..." He promised, between convulsions.
Elisa sat on her heels, giggling helplessly. "The mighty warrior has a weakness. Amazing."
Goliath caught his breath and leaped after her. She scrambled out of his way too late; he caught her by the ankle and pulled her backwards to him, and picked her up. She distracted him from whatever revenge he had planned by throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him.
Finally, laughing together, they collapsed on the grass. Elisa tucked her hands behind her head and stared upwards at the sky. "Goliath?"
"I really wish ..."
"I know." He pulled her into his arms and held her. "I know."
* * * * *
Vincent sat by the side of her bed in a spare chamber below, an open copy of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in his lap. Slowly, he closed the book and set in on the table beside her bed.
The last six years seemed like a rapidly fading nightmare. Vincent closed his eyes, trying on the thought of Catherine back, safe and alive. It was a very good feeling ... he had never even dared to dream this dream before.
Everything was right with his world again.
He had Catherine back.
That was a gift he had never expected. Had he a right ... to wish for more? And what more did he want?
He sighed, and leaned over the bed, and brushed her hair back from her temple. "Sleep, Catherine." He whispered, and quietly left the chamber.
It was very late, or perhaps the time was best considered as very early. It was well past midnight but a few hours before dawn. Restlessly, he walked through the tunnels. Few were out and about. He passed Mouse, but Mouse kept stranger hours than Vincent. Otherwise, the tunnels were silent.
A brief memory from six years ago, when he had not been yet fully himself, was burned forever into his mind. Only young Jacob's presence had kept him from thinking it a completely shameful, and selfish act. But now he remembered how Catherine had ...
Vincent sighed, and stifled the memory. He had Catherine back, and was content with that. But the restlessness remained. Something urged him above; he walked swiftly, the hood of his cloak up over his head.
He was not particularly surprised when there was a noise in the treetops. A rustling of wings, a flurry of activity; twigs snapped. One of the gargoyles slid down to the earth and landed before him.
"Dominique." Vincent took two fast strides forward, "I have no words to thank you for this."
She *flinched* at his rapid movement, ducking, twisting; her eyes showed startlement and fear. Vincent hastily stepped backwards.
She ruffled her wings and settled them back around her shoulders, with a catlike return to dignity. "My name is Demona."
Vincent nodded briefly. "But you are no Demon if you are capable of this!"
She gave him a sideways look, "You do not know the half of it."
"I have been told, some of it." Vincent said, softly.
"Who told you?" She bristled.
"I have heard stories. Tales told." He started to reach a hand towards her thin shoulders, then clenched his fist. By her stance, he guessed that he would lose his arm if he tried it.
"They're true." She was boasting now.
"The future is yet unwritten." Vincent countered softly.
"You are the *strangest* creature I have ever met in my life. And I've lived a very long time." She laughed, but there was no humor in her laugh.
Vincent felt like he was fencing with the invisible man. He couldn't guess which way she was going to jump. "Why did you do it?" Bring Catherine back, he meant.
She shrugged. "Because I could. Cheat death. It's a power thing."
"I've been told you hate humans. Yet you brought my Catherine back. Why?" He rephrased.
Her eyes flickered. "Because I could."
He sighed softly. "Come with me. You need not be alone."
Her head came up. "I have lived a thousand years, Vincent. Your lives are fleeting. When you are gone, I will be alone again."
"Perhaps. But not so alone as before."
"And how do I know you do not tell me tales? I have been lied too, too much."
She was coming up with excuses now, Vincent realized. He was *reaching* her, then. "Who has lied to you?"
"Everyone." She spoke flatly.
"Am I lying to you now?"
"You're not human."
Vincent flinched inwardly, but did not let her see how her comment hurt him. That was another pain, and had no place in this odd discussion.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not. Do only humans lie?"
"Humans are puny, craven creatures!" She almost shouted the words.
"Have you ever told a lie ... broken an oath?"
His words struck deep. Deeper than he had intended. She sucked in a sharp, pained breath, and turned to run, to flee.
Vincent was faster. He had her by the arms before she'd fully turned away. She cringed, though she could have fought, and perhaps won in a fight with him. The muscles beneath his fingers were like braided steel cables, taut with stifled fury.
"Have you ever told a lie? Broken an oath? Done a wrong?" He asked her, quietly.
For a moment, she stared at him, and the only sound was her fast breathing. Then she simply crumpled, to cower on the ground beneath her wings, tears streaming down her face.
"Have you?" He persisted, kneeling beside her.
She shivered. Her voice was so soft that he could barely hear it. "Too many times ..."
He lifted her up and carried her into the tunnels; she sobbed softly. He suspected that the tears had been a rather long time in coming, and made no motion to soothe her. By the time he reached Father's chambers, she seemed unconscious, or at least unresponsive. Her breathing was deep, steady. Perhaps she was merely sleeping. He was not sure.
Father sleepily stared at his son, and the rather ... odd ... armful Vincent had.
"What the hell is that?" He was suddenly awake.
"Consider her a fallen angel." Vincent replied.
"Vincent, I know you have a tendency to rescue damsels in distress, but this one has wings."
Vincent led the way to the infirmary, ignoring his father's attempts to get a better look at the creature *now*. He settled her onto a cot, "This is Dominique Destine." He explained, softly.
"The same ..."
"Yes, Father. She is also responsible for Catherine's return. We owe her a great deal."
Father's expression was skeptical at best. "How did she do that?"
"Sorcery, magic, does it matter?" Vincent shrugged. He glanced down at the red-haired, purple-skinned form. She seemed tiny, fragile; unconscious, she her expression was oddly innocent. He knew, from the stories Diana had told him, that she was anything but an innocent.
"Sorcery? Vincent, I do not believe in magic!"
Vincent smiled faintly. "She does." He sighed. "I do not know when she will come around. When she does, will you summon me?"
"Vincent?!" Father had not failed to notice that the creature had claws like chisels and fangs like a creature from a bad horror movie. "You are *not* going to ..."
Vincent left the chamber.
"... leave me alone with this thing. Great." Father sighed, leaned against the wall, and studied her. One clawed bare foot twitched, flexing talons. "Good god."
* * * * *
Catherine stirred as he entered, opening her eyes. "Vincent ..."
"I found her. The one who brought you back."
Catherine started to sit up in the bed.
"You can see her in the morning. She sleeps now." Vincent crouched by the side of her bed, and pushed her back into the pillows. "Catherine, I can not say how glad I am to have you back."
Catherine smiled at him. "I wish I never ... left." She brushed her hand along his cheek. "I can feel the pain that was in your heart."
Vincent smiled at her. "But you're back now."
She started to sit up again. Vincent, hand resting on her shoulder, held her gently down. "You should sleep."
"I keep seeing ... Gabriel." She had been having nightmares, flashbacks, to her imprisonment. To her, it had only been yesterday.
"I know." He sensed the fear in her heart. It hurt him; his Catherine had always been nearly fearless. "I'll be close. I won't let anything happen to you."
She smiled faintly at him. "My protector."
He stroked the side of her face with his thumb, then leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "Go to sleep. Dawn is almost here."
Catherine draped her arms around his neck before he could rise. "Do it right?" Kiss her, she meant.
His eyes widened; they showed more than a little alarm. "Catherine ..."
Sighing, she released him. "You know," she said, "We have a *son*, Vincent."
"I was not myself." He stepped back, suddenly aloof and damnably distant.
Now she did sit up. "Vincent, you're definitely yourself now. Come back here."
There were about three meanings in her words; one of which was that she was irritated. Vincent sighed, and tried to explain, "Catherine, what happened ... that night ... should not have."
"Don't you dare say that in front of Jacob." She retorted. "Come back here."
"I should be going. I have duties to attend to."
Catherine sighed, giving up. He had duties at about four in the morning? Right. "Vincent, don't go. I don't want to be alone."
Vincent hesitated, clearly indecisive.
That did it. Vincent settled into the chair. "Would you like me to read to you?"
"Yes, please ..."
* * * * *
"Owen, is it my imagination, or is Goliath laughing?" Xanatos stood in the courtyard, and looked up at the wall. Goliath and Elisa were up there, silhouetted against the sunrise.
"I believe so, sir."
"Did you have something to do with this?" Xanatos asked his majordomo, with suspicion.
Owen adjusted his glasses. "Not directly, no."
Owen smiled stiffly. "I do not believe I have influenced this outcome one way or the other, sir. They are very well matched for one another."
"Indeed." Xanatos regarded the pair for another long moment. "Well, anything that puts Goliath in a good mood is welcome."
A peal of laughter from Elisa drifted down into the courtyard. She leaped up, wrapped her arms around Goliath's neck, and kissed him soundly just before the sun rose. Then, with jaunty strides, she descended the tower stairs, emerged from the courtyard door and cut across the grass.
"Good morning, Detective." Xanatos nodded.
"It was." Elisa snarled at him; her cocky strides changed to stomps.
When she was gone, Xanatos quirked an eyebrow at Owen. "Do you think we could find something that would have similar effect on Elisa?"
Owen adjusted his glasses. "I doubt it, sir."
"I was afraid you would say that." Xanatos glanced up at the statue on the wall. "I suppose if we did do anything to his detective, he'd rip my arms off, anyway."
"Most likely, sir." Owen agreed.
* * * * *
Demona awoke with a scream as the pain of the transformation struck her. Agony electrified her from toe to crown. It left her panting, and exhausted, under the covers of the bed.
"Are you okay?" A voice asked in the dark.
"Who's there?" She snarled, though her human voice was not well suited to a snarl.
"People call me Father. Please give me a moment; I'll light a lamp."
There was a single candle burning in the room; it did not give even enough light to dispel the shadows from the corners of the room. A man moved through the murky darkness. A match flared, and an oil lamp came to life.
"Good morning, Dominique." He smiled at her. "I heard you scream."
She sat up, tucking her legs beneath her, prepared to fight. She wasn't sure why she wanted to fight ... well, he was human, and that was reason enough. Puny, craven creatures ...
Two more figures ran into the room, half tumbling over one another in their haste. "I heard a scream!" The woman said, panting a bit.
"I am fine." Demona said, coolly. Suddenly, she was a bit embarrassed by the attention. She hid it with a pleasant smile. "The transformation causes pain."
"I want to thank you." Catherine said, "For bringing me back. It has made Vincent very happy."
Demona's smile vanished. "I did not do it for you, human."
"I thank you all the same." Catherine's warmth was unwavering. "When I ... thought I was dying ... my greatest fear was that Vincent would be alone."
Father nodded. "Dominique, you'll probably hear this until you're sick of it ... but I thank you too." He rested a hand gruffly on her shoulders, and squeezed.
She flinched. "As I said, I did not do it for you."
"Then for who?" Vincent asked.
She pursed her lips and did not answer. Could not answer. She had no words to answer with.
"I think I understand." Catherine sat on the edge of the bed. "I know what it is to be desperate and alone."
"I am hungry." Demona swung her legs over the edge of the bed. "Will you feed me, or may I go above to purchase a meal?"
"You can eat breakfast with ..."
Catherine's words were cut off when her son ran into the room. "Mommy!" He cried and buried his face in her leg with an ecstatic hug.
Vincent smiled fondly. Jacob had cheerfully accepted the mother he had never known; indeed, he had attached himself to her like a limpet at every available moment.
Catherine bent over and hugged him. "Good morning, kiddo."
He threw his arms around her neck, planted a kiss on her cheek, then shyly regarded Demona.
"Hi." He whispered.
"Hello." Demona said, a strange feeling fluttering in her chest. She'd never considered the fact that Catherine and Vincent might have a son ... that she had reunited mother with child felt ... it felt good. But they were humans!
Jacob struggled to be put down, and Catherine complied. He hopped up on the bed beside Demona. "I got a new dinosaur."
"How very interesting."
"And I got my mommy back. Daddy thought she was dead, but she's not. My mommy loves me." Then, with the innocence of children, he asked, "Are you a mommy?"
Demona reeled emotionally. "... yes." She whispered.
"Jacob," Vincent said, tousling his son's blond hair, "Go run along to breakfast."
"Go on, now." Vincent smiled at his son indulgently.
"Is Dominique coming to breakfast?"
"That is up to her. Go on."
Reluctantly, and with several backwards looks, Jacob left. Once in the hall, he skipped off; his long frizzy blond hair bounced with every stride.
Demona said, softly, "When last I saw Angela -- my daughter -- she told me that she hated me."
"I am sure she could not have meant it ..." Vincent said softly. How could a daughter hate her mother?
Demona laughed bitterly. "I gave her every reason to. I tried to use her to get to her father. I lied to her. I said we should always be there for one another -- but I wanted to use her. And she knew this. She realized this. Andshe hates me for it. Damn her father, anyway. If only I had known she lived ... he never told me she lived ..."
"Her father is the one that beat you?" Vincent asked, softly.
Demona shrugged. "Yes. He attacked me. I think, if he could, he'd kill me on sight. MacBeth's tried, and Thailog, and Xanatos -- not directly, but Xanatos set me up a few times." She wrapped her arms around her knees. "Forgive me if I don't trust very many people, but not trusting is what's kept me in one piece all these years -- and I want very much to stay in one piece now." She sighed, and said in a very small voice, "I don't blame Goliath. He truly loved me ... the fool."
Vincent said softly. "If he *loved* you, he would not hit you!"
She stared up at him, with eyes the color of emerald ice. "He was merely defending ..."
"Violence is never the answer; not between lovers. Ever."
"But ..." She said, in an even smaller voice.
Catherine sat down beside her. "You don't have to defend him."
Vincent sighed softly. "Dominique, know that we will protect you, should you need it. Never doubt that we will be here for you."
She looked at him. She just looked at him. "How can I trust?" She asked; the question was directed more to herself than to anyone else.
Catherine said softly. "Don't ask how. Just listen to your heart. Dominique, listen to what your heart says."
Her eyes closed suddenly. Tears leaked across her cheeks. "I wish ... a thousand years ago ..."
Catherine sat down next to her on the bed, and wrapped her arms around Demona's shoulders. "We're here, you're in a safe place, and you can stay as long as you like."
Demona stiffened briefly, then began to softly cry. Bitterly, she sobbed into Catherine's shoulder. "How can ... how can I believe ..."
"Just let go." Catherine rocked her back and forth. "Just let go, just trust, just believe in us. Trust us. Just ... let ... go."
Demona cried herself to sleep against Catherine's shoulder. Catherine tucked her back under the covers, and looked at Vincent. "She has so much grief in her soul, and so much anger."
Vincent nodded softly. "But she is ready to make a change. From ... what Diana told me, she has not led a very pretty life."
"Vincent, what do you know of her ex?" Catherine asked, as they made their way towards the common areas.
"Diana likes him. Diana is one of the best judges of character I have ever met."
"Yet he beat her up."
"Apparently," Vincent sighed, "She has tried to kill Elisa Maza more than once, and the first time was before Goliath and Elisa were ever involved. She's also tried to kill Goliath, in fact, she nearly succeeded at one point. She *has* killed people, and recently. Goliath may very well believe that he is justified in ..."
"He's protecting his loved ones?" Catherine said, frowning.
Vincent nodded. "I would like to speak to this Goliath. There is something in Demona that ..." He shook his head. "She is not wholly evil, or I would not allow her down here. You know that. But ... Catherine ..." He shook his head, unable to express his words.
Catherine said, "But there is something in her that calls out for help. I know. I ... sensed it too."
* * * * *
"Demona's evil." Elisa said, with stubborn conviction.
Diana shook her head, "No, she's *not*."
Elisa laughed over her coffee. "I've seen her ... I've been on the wrong end of her gun, more than once. She's attacked me without warning or reason. She's tried to use me to get to Goliath. She's tried to enslave Goliath, she broke Macbeth's heart deliberately, just for money, and the last time we encountered her, we foiled her plot to release a biological weapon on the entire human race. You, I, and everyone else would be dead. So. Don't tell me she's not evil."
Diana sighed, and cupped her fingers around a mug of coffee. The two detectives were at a diner near the station. "Elisa ... can I speak to Goliath again?"
"Why?" Elisa demanded, suspiciously.
"I want to ask him a few questions about Demona. I'm trying to figure out what made her snap."
"... snap? She's always been crazy."
"No, I mean recently. She's gone over the edge."
"What do you mean?" Elisa leaned forward. "Have you *met* Demona?"
Oops. Diana sighed. "Yes, she's in the care of some friends of mine. She's no threat right now."
"Demona is a master of deception." Elisa folded her arms.
"She's no threat." Diana repeated. "Umm ... last I heard, she'd cried herself to sleep on Cathy Chandler's shoulder."
Elisa studied Diana for a very, very long moment. One eyebrow slowly rose. "Demona? This is Goliath's ex-girlfriend we're talking about?" Elisa visualized the possible effects of hugging Demona. She'd probably lose an arm, if not her head. "Red hair, about my height, grows wings at night?"
"The same." Diana confirmed.
"Woah, woah. That's got to be a trick. Demona hates humans."
Diana shook her head. "Demona hates herself, more than anything else. Humanity is just a nice surrogate for that hatred. If she doesn't admit how much she hates herself, hates what she has become, then it *hurts* less. And that ... that means that perhaps she still has a conscience buried in there somewhere. Because it does hurt. She's not a sociopath; she does have a conscience."
Elisa mulled that statement over. "I'll have Goliath come by my apartment after dark. You can talk to him then. But ... I'll warn you, he's still pretty implacable when it comes to Demona. She hurt him very badly. He loved her a great deal, and she betrayed him and his entire clan -- his family. Most of them died."
* * * * *
"Mouse thinks that we can reroute the storm drain ..." Vincent trailed off his discussion of construction plans as Demona stepped into the room.
"Hello." Father nodded. "Are you hungry?"
She stared at them for a moment before she remembered to answer.
She had wrapped herself in the quilt from the bed; it was draped around her shoulders like a shawl. Her green eyes were large and more than a little lost; she appeared to have been crying again.
"Have a seat." Father nodded at a chair. "I'll get you something." He limped off, towards the kitchens.
"Where's ... Catherine?" Demona asked, still standing.
"She went above to speak to Diana earlier. And her friend Joe was going to take her to lunch again." Vincent smiled.
Demona nodded, as if the answer was very important. "I need ... to write someone ..."
"Of course." Vincent said. He went and got a writing tablet, envelopes, and a pen from his room, and left them with her. "I have duties to attend to. If you need anything, Father will be back shortly, and I believe that Mary is close by."
He left her to her privacy.
Demona sat down at the table, and stared at the paper for a long moment. She started to write, then stopped, then began once more.
Her note was simple,
"Macbeth, "I'm sorry. "Dominique."
Demona sighed. What else could she say? He certainly wouldn't *believe* her, and she had no hopes of ... anything coming of the note. As much as ... she'd like to ...
"... Go ahead. Do it, then ..." He'd said, in that last fight.
Demona closed her eyes, remembering how he'd bared his chest to her rifle. He hadn't believed she would. Why not? Why hadn't he believed?
Or maybe he'd changed his mind at the last minute. She would cheerfully have killed him, then, and had tried, but Elisa Maza had stopped the fight.
Why? Why hadn't Elisa just let them end it then and there? It made no sense. She was Elisa's enemy; why would Elisa effectively save her life?
Demona muttered a growl under her breath, and sealed the envelope, and addressed it to Paris.
She took a second sheet of paper and stared at it blankly. The paper was blue. What could she say? "I'm sorry" just didn't seem enough ... she had no hopes of reunion; she'd destroyed those hopes herself -- little by little, word by word, action by action. He'd still been looking for reconciliation at Xanatos' wedding; she thought perhaps the final blow had been when she had woken in his arms and shoved him away.
He didn't know how long she had sat atop her house and stared at the city lights, after that night. "More's the pity." He had said, when she had told him she did not care ...
She had cared. She didn't know why she'd pushed him away. She trusted no one, not even Goliath; not then. Perhaps that had been why.
Finally, she began to write,
"Goliath, "All I want is a truce. I'm tired of fighting and I'm tired of hiding. I know you have no reason to believe me, but I want to end the fighting. You see, I'm ..."
She stared at her words, and the tears began again. Could she start over? Forget the past? No!
She could never forget ...
A hand descended gently onto her shoulder. "Are you still hungry?"
She looked upwards. Father, the leader of this little community, asked softly, "Would you like to talk about it?"
"I'm fine." She said, sharper than she had intended.
"You're not alone." He set a tray of food before her. "I'm afraid this isn't much, but we don't have very much down here."
"I've lived on less." She said shortly. He'd brought a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of milk.
"I don't doubt it. Vincent tells me you're a thousand years old ..."
"You must have seen some incredible history."
"And misery." She responded, folding the note. She wasn't sure how to end it, or even if that was what she wanted to say. "Famines, wars, plagues, most caused by man's stupidity. I've seen civilizations rise, and then destroy themselves with inner conflict." Her lips curled with remembered nightmares. "I've been burned at the stake more than once, and I spent thirty years bricked up in the cellar of a church -- I could've dug my way out, but they had me chained, and I had to wait for the iron to rust through. Fortunately, the cellar was damp." Her green eyes glared coldly at him. "I was drawn and quartered in the fourteenth century, and long before that, the Hunters destroyed the last of my people just because we are what we are. I found my second in command tortured to death."
Father had gone quite pale. "I'm sorry."
"Yes. Humans are rather sorry." She rose, and started to stalk off.
He limped after her, and caught her by the arm. "I'm not your enemy. Those ... scum ... who did those things, yes, they were your enemies. But I, and my people, are not."
She lifted her free arm to strike at him, to push him away. It was a purely reflexive action.
A clawed hand closed around her wrist. "Dominique, we are not your enemies." Vincent said, softly.
She spun around, teeth baring. Again, reflex.
Vincent regarded her calmly. "Humans have killed your people, but have you not also killed humans?" He reasoned with her.
"Vermin." She defended herself desperately.
"But also good people. Just as there are good and evil among your people." Vincent said softly. "You're not alone down here, Dominique.
Her eyes narrowed. For a moment, it seemed as if she would strike him with her free hand. "They would kill you as well." She said softly.
"I am safe here." Vincent replied.
Something in her green eyes changed. He saw, quite suddenly, the first glimmerings of *hope*.
"Is this truly a safe place?" She asked, quietly, looking up at him.
"As safe as we may make it."
"I ... shall need a safe place." She smiled sadly. "I hoped that the clan ... but perhaps they shall never forgive, even now." She looked up at him again. "Thank you, Vincent."
* * * * *
"Demona can never be trusted." Goliath stated, flatly. Bitterly.
Diana shook her head, "I'm not saying that she can be now, but only that she is not beyond hope. She's been through hell and back, completely alone, and she has *decided* to change."
Goliath blew a sharp breath out. "She has had every chance to change before. Why would she suddenly decide to now?"
"Who knows? She's not exactly the most open person I've ever met. All I know is that she's *not* the sociopathic monster you make her out to be." Diana said, firmly. "Bitter, angry, violent, yes. Devoid of feelings? No. Good at hiding them, denying them? Certainly. But I think she's ready to face up to everything that she has done. To face the consequences."
"My clan nearly died out because of her treachery." Goliath said, wearily. "She betrayed us to the Vikings; everyone at the castle died."
"Did she do so intentionally?" Diana inquired, sharply.
Goliath shook his head. "It matters not."
"Would you have forgiven her then?"
He sighed. "Perhaps. But now? After everything else that she has done? She has forgotten our ways, and is lost to us."
Diana ran a hand through her hair. Goliath had the most implacable sense of justice that she had ever encountered. She suspected he made a very good friend and by the same token, a helluva enemy. "Goliath, what motivates her?"
He blinked. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, what makes her tick? What does she find important?"
"Oh." He thought for a second. "In the tenth century, she was very proud of our ways. She was fiercely protective of the children."
Elisa spoke up for the first time. "She still is. She faced Thailog over Angela."
"Who's Thailog?" Diana asked, immediately.
"Thailog -- was her mate. He was using her, but she did not realize this." Goliath sighed, considering. "Demona believes in true love, if that makes any sense at all. She loved him, therefore, he must love her."
Diana had a very odd expression on her face. "She had a boyfriend? More recently than you?"
"Mmm ... yes." Goliath growled, but offered no more.
Elisa sighed, "Thailog died in the fire ... two months ago? And she and MacBeth had it out several months ago, in Paris."
Goliath heaved a deep sigh. Elisa rested a hand on his arm, and said to Diana, "Tell your friends to be careful -- Demona is a master of deception."
"I have to go." Diana headed for the door. "I think maybe ... I'll get back to you." She let herself out.
Goliath frowned. "If Demona has truly changed ..."
Elisa folded her arms and stared out the window. "I don't trust Demona, Goliath. I *can't*."
"You're probably right."
She glanced back at him; her brown eyes were worried. "If she is ... has ... would you let her come back to the clan?"
"If she has changed, then to exile her would be purely revenge." Goliath said, soberly.
Elisa swallowed, and stared up at the craggy, not-quite-human features that she had come to love so dearly. Goliath was more unreadable than usual; after several years and so many adventures, she could usually figure out what he was thinking. Not now.
"Goliath, what's on your mind?"
"Elisa," He rested his hands on her shoulders. "What was between me and Demona happened a very long time ago ... it is best left in the past." He wrapped his arms around her.
"I'm not worried about that." She said, although she was. She stifled a twinge of jealousy with force of will. "I just don't want you getting hurt again."
"I'll be careful." He promised into her hair.
"Don't hesitate to yell for help, either. This time. Don't you dare leave me behind."
He smiled at the tough tone in her voice. "Of course." He sighed and straightened up. "I should be going. Derek and I are going to patrol the park tonight."
Elisa grinned, "Good hunting." She patted him companionably on the back. "I should be reporting to work as well."
* * * * *
Four hours later, Elisa Maza sipped her coffee and stared at the dead body in the middle of the jogging path. It wasn't anything particularly exciting, just tragic. Some old wino had died of a heart attack in the middle of the park. Drugs were possibly involved, but there didn't look to be anything that the PD would be interested in.
"Hi guys." Diana Bennett joined Elisa and Bluestone.
"Hi." Elisa blinked. "Aren't you off today?"
"Just passing through. Saw the lights." Diana jerked her chin at the squad car. "Wondered what was up."
"Just passing through the park?"
Diana shrugged. "Meeting an informant."
"You have backup?" Elisa asked.
"I work alone, and anyway, I don't need backup."
Bluestone snickered. "I know that tone of voice."
"Shut up." Elisa whacked him with the back of her hand. "Be careful, then, Diana. We'll be in the area for a few hours, if you need support."
"I'll be fine. My informant's a big guy, and I trust him." Diana smiled. "See you guys later."
"Bluestone," Elisa said, when Diana was gone, "Can you wrap it up here?"
"Sure ... you going to follow her?"
"Yeah." Elisa frowned. "I have a hunch ... See you later."
"Sure you don't need backup?" Bluestone mimicked.
Elisa glanced significantly skyward. "I *have* backup."
"... oh." Bluestone looked up too. The sky was black -- overcast and moonless. He saw nothing but the lights of an airplane.
* * * * *
Diana padded silently through the park, thoughts on everything but her surroundings. When the footsteps began behind her, she glanced back absently. A young man in jeans and a t-shirt padded down the path behind her.
Good. She'd be less likely to attract trouble if there was someone else in the area.
Elisa and Goliath were so cute together. Diana shook her head; although she felt for Dominique, she couldn't help but smile when she thought of that pair. They were so obviously well suited for one another, and their friendship had survived incredible tests.
The man behind her was closer. She moved over to let him pass.
Diana wished wistfully that she could find a man like Goliath -- or Vincent.
Then she grinned, realizing that both of the men she'd just held up as Ideal Boyfriends were rather, well, different. Eh. Didn't matter. Her wish stood...
In the six years that she'd known him, she'd never seen Vincent so happy. He fairly glowed. He and Catherine had been like Siamese twins for the last two days; one would think that the were joined at the hip for all the time they'd been apart. Most of the time, they'd had Jacob with them; Jacob had joyfully accepted his mother. They made a cute trio, that was for sure.
The jogging path led beneath a bridge; Diana lengthened her stride a bit; the shadows made her nervous.
Without warning, rough hand grabbed her by the shoulder and shoved her into the wall.
Diana reacted with instincts honed by both experience and practice. She ducked, flung an elbow, and spun out of the man's grasp.
He had a gun. Pointed at her chest. "That was stupid." The man snarled, cupping his ribs where her elbow had connected.
"Look, buddy, you *really* don't want to do this." Diana rocked on the balls of her feet, judging the distance to his gun.
He read her mind, or perhaps her body language. "Turn around. Keep your hands in the air."
Reluctantly, her nerves screaming protest, she turned. Where was Vincent when she needed him?
Probably down in the tunnels with Catherine. Would he sense that she was in trouble? P robably not. Maybe. She had no earthly idea. Vincent was damn near psychic at times, but she wasn't linked to him like Catherine was.
The man jabbed her in the back with the gun. "Now walk. Nice and slow."
* * * * *
Demona floated over the park, her thoughts also elsewhere. For the first time in a very many years, she felt ... hope? She could almost trust Vincent, almost. Perhaps ... perhaps she could allow herself to trust.
After all, what could they do to her? Kill her? She rationalized. Not hardly. She need not fear physical harm. So maybe she could take a chance. What was the worst that could possibly happen? They could betray her, and she had been betrayed before. She could survive another betrayal.
Heh. She had no choice but to survive.
A flash of steel caught her eyes. She flipped around in flight for a better look.
A man held a gun on a red-haired woman.
Unreasoning rage surged through Demona's veins. She pinned herwings back and dove.
* * * * *
Diana was expecting salvation to come from the bushes, not from the sky.
A banshee-like-scream shattered the night air. A dark blur smashed the man to the ground. There was a flurry of motion, of flashes of red and lavender, several meaty thunks, and one agonized scream. The gun skidded across the pavement and came to a rest a few inches from Diana's toes.
Demona spat on the moaning wreckage at her feet. She lifted her claws to finish the job.
"Don't kill him." Diana finally reacted, by grabbing Demona's hand. "Please."
Demona yanked her hand free and glared at Diana with eyes that glowed with an internal red fire. The man writhed, curled around himself, blood running down from his temple. Diana guessed that he wasn't badly hurt -- yet -- but by the literal light in Demona's eyes, she suspected Demona would cheerfully kill the man.
"Why not?" Demona growled.
Diana said softly. "I can explain this. Say that I did it. But I can not explain away a dead body ripped apart by claws. And this is too close to the tunnels, too close to the entrance to our sanctuary. Kill him here and they will find the entrance ..."
"Pah." Demona spat on the man again.
"Demona!" A voice shouted. "Freeze!"
Diana winced, recognizing the voice.
So did Demona, who spun around. "You!" She hissed.
Elisa had her service revolver drawn. "Step away from them, Demona. *Slowly*. And don't think I won't shoot you. I have before."
Elisa seemed as surprised when Demona raised her hands and backed away. There was genuine fear in Demona's eyes.
"Elisa," Diana said softly, "Dominique just saved my life ..."
"*Demona* probably has an agenda of her own." Elisa snorted. "What are you up to this time, Demona? Looking for an informant within the department? Be pretty handy for you to have a friend in the department. Is that what you're up to?"
For a moment, they stared at each other. The only sound was Demona's harsh breathing. "Put your hands on your head." Elisa said, "And turn around slowly."
Demona hesitated, eyes flickering from Elisa to Diana, then she complied.
"Elisa ..." Diana started.
"Demona," Elisa said, "Is a murderer. Period. The courts are about to get the *weirdest* case since the Salem witch trials." Elisa was fully willing to turn Demona over to the police; the gargoyles had tried to deal with her on their own terms and had failed.
Diana took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Demona." She reached out and squeezed Demona's shoulder.
"I trusted you." Demona growled at her.
"She's playing you like a harp." Elisa snarled at Diana, when Diana's face registered dismay at Demona's words.
"I can not permit this." A soft voice, like velvet and silk, spoke behind Elisa.
Elisa's heart skipped a beat. Reflexively, she glanced backwards.
Demona lunged, spun, and slapped the gun from Elisa's hand with her tail. Pain blossomed in Elisa's hand as she leaped away. She was certain she had broken fingers.
No one was more surprised than Elisa when no attack followed. Elisa put a tree to her back, dropped into a defensive crouch, and *then* looked for the combatants.
Diana looked upset but not unsurprised.
Demona looked ... frightened, but also relieved.
The newcomers -- there were two -- were Cathy Chandler and a very large man.
A man with features very akin to Maggie's. He had the face of a lion given humanity; his calm was at odds with everyone else. Elisa stifled an internal sigh; Sevarius again?
"It would not be justice." The man said, quietly.
Fortunately, Elisa's reply was interrupted by more arrivals. Goliath, Brooklyn, Broadway, Derek and Angela descended out of the sky. They landed surrounding the others.
Brooklyn made to lunge immediately after Demona, and Broadway grabbed his brother by the arm. Elisa let out a breath that she hadn't known she'd been holding.
"You." Demona growled at Goliath.
Diana held her hands up in a "time-out" gesture. "Guys, guys! Hold on a second!"
Several pairs of eyes turned to look at her.
"Thank you." Diana padded up to stand right next to Demona. "I know you guys have a rather long-standing feud, but before you start playing Hatfields and McCoys in the middle of Central Park, will you please *hold it* for a second?"
Brooklyn muttered, "*She* started it!"
Vincent said softly, "Dominique, please."
She glanced at him, then slowly settled her wings. The red gleam faded from her eyes.
"Thank you." Diana said. She turned her attention to Elisa, "Elisa, both you and I know that Demona wouldn't end up in the court system -- she'd end up in some government lab somewhere, being vivisected for the rest of her life."
Elisa sighed. "What the hell else am I supposed to do? Diana, there's no procedure in the police manuals for dealing with gargoyles, and for damn sure there's no precedent in the courts this century!"
"We will deal with Dominique." Catherine said, glancing up at Vincent.
"Been there, done that." Derek grunted.
Diana gave him a sharp look. Her brows drew down as she tried to place the voice.
"Derek, please." Elisa said, in a tone rather akin to Vincent's earlier.
Diana's eyes widened. Elisa had a brother named Derek; he'd worked for the force before taking a cushy job with David Xanatos ... and then vanishing off the face of the planet, a few weeks later. Well, she now had an explanation for Derek's disappearance!
Goliath rumbled, "*How* will you deal with her?"
Vincent rested a hand on Demona's shoulder. "Dominique?" He said.
"They've given me a home, Goliath." Demona snarled at him. "Something you never would have!"
Goliath remained impassive; Elisa winced for him. Far from abandoning her, Elisa knew very well how long Goliath had held out hope.
He had tried so hard to reach her -- behind that granite expression, she knew that Goliath had to be hurting.
"I hope," Goliath finally said, to Vincent, "that you succeed where I have failed." He settled his wings about his shoulders, turned around, and walked into the dark.
"You're just letting her *go*?" Brooklyn howled, looking from Demona to the retreating Goliath and back.
Demona was staring after Goliath with her jaw open. "You're just going to walk away?" She shouted after him.
Goliath twisted around to face her. "If you truly wish to change, then I hope that you succeed. Good luck, Demona." He turned his back to her.
"I hate you!" She screamed after him.
He kept walking.
"Damn you, Goliath! At least face me!"
The others were following him. Elisa studied the mugger for a moment before calling to Broadway, "Gimme a hand here. This guy's wanted by the department."
Broadway picked the mugger up by his collar, efficiently frisked him for weapons, and then slung the battered criminal over his shoulder. "You want I should hand him over to Bluestone?"
"Do that, will you?" Elisa was keeping an eye on Demona as she left, half expecting an attack from behind.
Demona had her fists balled, and an astonished look on her face. She'd never been so thoroughly brushed off in her life.
Elisa hid a grin. It was almost funny; it would have been funny if she didn't know full well what Demona was capable of. She wasn't sure she liked the idea of Demona loose on the city.
"Damn you, Goliath!" Demona screamed after him. "After a thousand damn years I found a way to wake you up and *this* is how you repay me?"
Goliath stopped so short that Angela bumped into his back. "Wait here." He growled at the others, then turned and stalked back. The others ignored his order and trailed behind him.
"Waking us was your idea?" He demanded, looming over her. "You brought us back, you were the one to raise Wyvern?"
"Yes!" She snarled in his face.
"You used us." Goliath said, impassively.
"I loved you!" She shouted back at him.
"But why ... why all this then?" Goliath grabbed her wrists. "Why?"
She just looked at him. "Things never work the way I want them to." She said, softly, in almost a whisper.
Goliath released her arms. "No, they do not. You have dug yourself quite a hole, Demona, with the lies and the hatred and the betrayals."
She stared up at him. Her eyes were huge, dark, and brimming with tears. With a broken sob, she flung herself at him.
Goliath ducked, purely out of learned reflex. But she was not attacking him; she pressed against him, pushing her way into his arms, burying her face in his chest.
Goliath stiffened. He met Elisa's eyes over Demona's head for a second.
Elisa was totally unreadable, her face a mask, but Brooklyn shrugged, and Angela looked perplexed. Goliath hesitantly patted Demona onthe back.
Demona seized hold of him in a fierce grip. Her arms went around his waist, and she hugged him hard enough to make him gasp. Her shoulders were trembling beneath his fingers. "Perhaps I've made a few mistakes. I'm sorry, Goliath. I'm sorry."
"A *few*?" Brooklyn mouthed at Elisa. "A *few*!"
"If you can admit that," Goliath told her gently, "Then you've taken a step in the right direction. You have good in you Demona. I have seen it. I have known it. If you wish to change, we will be here for you."
"I want to." She clung to him.
Goliath glanced at the others, gauging their reactions. Brooklyn looked skeptical. Angela was grinning, but she kept shooting worried glances at Elisa. Broadway had a smile on his face. Broadway's captive looked blankly terrified.
Elisa was pissed. Goliath didn't even need to *look* at her to know that. He knew that he'd hear about this later, probably loudly. Elisa had never known Goliath's Angel of the Night. She didn't know Demona's other side. All she knew was the evil that Demona had inflicted on the world.
"Come, then." Goliath said, "Let's go home." He stepped away from Demona, "I will give you one more chance." He told her. "But only one. Do you understand?"
Her mouth opened with what he suspected was a smart remark, and then it shut. She nodded briefly. Then she looked at Elisa speculatively.
Elisa folded her arms. "I hope," she muttered, "That this isn't a mistake."
"Afraid you'll lose him?" Demona sneered.
Goliath stopped short.
"Afraid of you." Elisa replied, with ice in her voice.
"You're intelligent, for a member of your race. Fear is a wise thing." Demona held her head high, and met Elisa's glare with a cold stare of her own.
Goliath closed his eyes. "Demona, you have not changed at all."
"You said you'd give me a chance!" She spun around to face him. Rage lit in her eyes. "You lied!"
"No." Goliath said, wearily, then tensed when she took a step towards him.
Her tone changed, to pleading. "Goliath, please. Trust me, just this once. We can make it like old times again."
"It can never be like old times again." Goliath turned his back on her.
She shrieked something incomprehensible, and lunged forward.
"Dominique! Stop!" Catherine's voice. Catherine stepped in front of her.
Demona reacted from reflex; she backhanded the figure in her way aside. Catherine cried out in pain, as talons caught flesh.
There was a snarl, and a blur, and Vincent bore Demona to the ground. Vincent's rage was unthinking, instinctive; Demona fought back with ferocious skill. It seemed for a moment that they were an even match; then there was a sharp crack! and Vincent tumbled backwards.
Demona, breathing hard, bleeding, fists balled, regarded them. "Ooh! I thought I could trust you!"
"Vincent!" Catherine stumbled to her feet and ran to him. He was shaking his head, trying to rise; blood streamed from his nose. She held him down; he quivered in her grasp, fangs bared. "Dominique, you *could* trust us!"
"Oooh!" Demona glanced around at the people who were encircling her, moving in to capture her. With a snarl, she bolted for the weakest link in the circle, and escaped between Lex and Diana.
Goliath called them back when they moved to pursue her. "Too dangerous." He said, shaking his head. "Let her go."
A lie, Elisa recognized instantly, for together, they could have caught her. But she let it slide for now. Goliath's dark eyes were haunted.
She crouched down beside Vincent and Catherine. Vincent's eyes looked slightly crossed; he had at least a concussion. Catherine was bleeding badly from deep slashes that crossed her face.
"... your face ..." Vincent focused on her wounds, and struggled to rise.
Catherine whispered softly, "Shush. I'm okay."
She was hardly okay.
Diana crouched beside them. "Catherine, I'll get Goliath and the others to help me get him below. Elisa will take you to the hospital. You'll both be okay."
Vincent was trying to shrug out of his cloak; Goliath crouched, stopped him, and simply ripped a large section of it loose. He handed the wadded cloth to Elisa, who pressed it to Catherine's wounds, and then the gargoyle simply scooped Vincent up.
"It'll be okay." Elisa said, guiding Catherine away. Catherine didn't want to leave Vincent. Vincent protested Catherine's departure, and Diana's tart reply shamed him into silence.
"... it's not like last time; she'll get better care in a hospital, Vincent!" * * * * *
Four Months Later
It had been a long time since Vincent had appeared on Diana's rooftop; he and Catherine were rather ... distracted. That was fine with Diana; all she had to do was look at the joy in Vincent's eyes, and she did not miss the 'could have beens'.
So she was mildly suprised when a dark shadow appeared on her rooftop, and a claw tapped at her window. "Come on in!" She shouted; it was cold -- a late March blizzard -- and damned if she was going to stand out in the snow.
There was silence for a moment, then another tapping.
Diana sighed, and stepped outside. "Vincen..." She trailed off.
"Diana." Demona nodded greeting; she had a bundle in her arms, held close to her chest; she sheltered the bundle from the brunt of the storm with tented wings.
"Can I help you?" Diana asked.
"Do you have room for one more, below?"
Diana blinked. "I'm not the one to ask ... though I do think Catherine and Vincent bear you no grudge; that's not their way ..."
"Not for me." Demona looked out over the city. A suspicious brightness glittered on her cheeks, lit by the bright lights of the city.
"Why don't you come inside." Diana gestured towards her apartment.
"I ..." Demona trailed off, then suddenly, stepped forward and thrust her burden into Diana's arms. Without a word, Demona turned, and headed for the edge of the roof. She unfurled her wings, and started to leap, then changed her mind at the very last minute. She teetered on the edge, wings spread wide for balance, then caught herself and turned. She sighed, and found her dignity again. "Diana ... her name is Gruoch."
The bundle in Diana's arms hiccuped and began to cry. A tiny purple fist with five fingers and short claws waved in the air; the baby opened her mouth and let loose a loud wail; she was already beginning to sprout fangs. The child did not look newborn, though Diana could not be sure ... she'd never seen a gargoyle child before.
"Wait ... don't go ..."
"She deserves a clan, a family, love. Acceptance. A life without fear. Siblings, and friends, and a bright future. Diana, I would give up anything so that she could have that ... including my daughter herself."
"I ..." Words failed her. Diana cradled the infant. "Who is the father?"
Demona's eyes closed. Tears ran down her face. "I do not know if her humanity is mine or ... I do not know who her father is."
"Wait!" Diana cried, as Demona turned again, to face the storm. Demona turned, to look back one more time.
Then she was gone.
Thank yous should go to Tara, Lindy, Lori, Raptor Woman, MaryK, Scott Verity, Jill, Proteus, (even if your response _did_ go through a timewarp and appear in my box a month after you sent it!), Eagle, Batya, and probably a dozen more I'm forgetting. Thanks for the inspiration, comments, and encouragement in this and other projects.
Special Thank Yous should go to: Mary Morris, for giving us a listserv; Chris Rogers, for the web page; BeastFan and Joyce AZ for answering my BATB questions; Merlin Missy, Andy, and Leigh Ann Manasco for critiquing, encouraging and being honest; and Scott Mercure for reading my first gargs fanfic what seems like ages ago ...
Many thanks to Leigh Ann Hussey for doing the Latin!
:::whew::: I finished it!
This was written prior to the third season of Gargoyles, and any resemblance herein to the events and canon of the third season is purely coincidental and a result of lucky guessing on my part. (I'm not psychic, really ...!)
Disclaimer: The Gargoyles belong to Buena Vista and Disney; I just borrowed 'em and humbly beg the forgiveness of the allmighty Mouse. (I'm just a starving student; you won't get anything from me anyway...)
Beauty and the Beast belongs to Ron Koslow and whatever studio did the show; likewise I kneel and beg to be ignored.
Leva Mevis - email@example.com - Finished August 22th, 1996 Version 3.22