{+}+{+}+{+}+{+}+{+}+{+} CH 14

Elisa was waiting for Goliath as he entered the castle. Without a word, she stepped forward and gently wound her arms around him.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I was hoping for a different outcome."

"I was as well," he admitted. "We should have spent more time with them, taught them more about being gargoyles."

"You helped find them a home," Elisa pointed out. "You helped them find another clan, and helped them with their sanctuary, even if they didn't know about it."

He leaned back and looked into the face of his mate. "You knew?"

Elisa gave a soft laugh. "Of course, I knew. You were the one to round up their first inhabitants, especially ones with kids who could interact with them at first and help them learn at the same rate as them. You made sure to send whole families to them, to make sure that their first inhabitants would be the most gentle and pose the least chance of danger."

He gave a chuckle. "I should have known that of anyone, you would know about that."

"Hey, it wasn't just you," Elisa pointed out. "Broadway would cook them large meals at least three times a week and send it down the elevator to Talon. Lexington would sneak in and make sure all of their electrical connections stayed strong, despite the old tunnel they were in being so old it wasn't originally wired for electricity at all. Every one of this clan," Elisa said, gesturing to encompass the room, "you all watched over them in one way or another all these years."

Goliath let out a deep rumbling sigh. "I wish it had been enough."

"Hey," Elisa said, reaching up to caress his cheek, "It was more than enough. I have a feeling that you all did more than most would have, given their circumstances."

Goliath gave her a firm hug and a kiss. "Thank you, My Elisa."

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Violet sat on her small sofa, one arm across the back of the cushions, her head leaning against the back with her head turned towards a television that she couldn't seem to focus on.

She had tried so hard to help the clones, but had failed in the attempt.

She could turn her attentions fully to Nayeli's blood samples while hiring on a team to help her research it.

She didn't want to fail again, not when it could help save lives or alleviate pain. That had been her goal since she was little and opened that science kit on Christmas morning, not realizing that her father had left early that morning and would never return.

Both of the male role models in her life, her brother and her father, had left her behind.

Or so she had thought.

She was having trouble overcoming the thought that her father hadn't been able to come home at first, held captive similar to herself, and used as a science experiment for a madman.

Then when he'd been freed, he had been changed so much physically, left with no voice, and with so much time having passed by then, that he hadn't wanted to upset their lives by coming back into it as he was.

He had insisted that he had tried to keep track of them, but after her mother had moved her and changed their last names back to her maiden name, he had lost track of them. He hadn't thought to look for her maiden name, assuming that she'd gotten remarried and had no idea what her last name would be and how to begin the search from there.

Then, after a while, he hadn't wanted to upset their lives anymore, so he'd stopped trying.

Or so he'd claimed.

It was hard for her to reconcile the father she'd known growing up into the furred mutated man that she'd spoken with last night.

She gazed blankly at the television screen, the reporter's voice droning on in an almost monotone as the picture went hazy then disappeared altogether.

From the window outside of her small apartment, Claw looked at his daughter as she slept. His heart hurt with a combination of the pain of all the time he'd lost with his family, and the pride at the person she'd become despite his absence.

She was smart, but he'd known that when she was eleven. She was brave, as evidenced by the tale he'd been told (not by her, though. He'd had to beg Talon – Who'd had to get it from Elisa – to find out what had happened) of her captivity and escape.

She was kind, as evidenced the night before as she had sat and helped to ease the pain and passing of beings that she had never met until a week ago.

He had a lot to make up for, he knew, but the fact that she hadn't brained him over the head with a cast iron pan or run screaming into the night was a good sign. Not that it had ended all that well.

She had cried for nearly an hour, and he had wondered if he shouldn't have kept such information to himself a little while longer. If he were honest with himself, he had still been convinced that keeping his identity a secret would be best for everyone.

She had been in a vulnerable emotional state, and he had admittedly taken advantage of that to get information about her mother and brother before she could get her defenses back in place.

Hearing what had happened to his wife, her mother, and the abandonment by her older brother whom she had looked up to… in the face of her grief, he couldn't hold back.

So he had told her he was her father. He hadn't told her everything, and knew that was a conversation that needed to be had, but not that night.

After she had cried herself out, pushed herself to her feet and excused herself to clean up. When she had returned, she had her professional armor on again and had told him that she needed time to think about everything, and he could do nothing to hold her there.

The complete lack of emotion on her face, in her eyes, had worried him, but he didn't feel as if he had the right to insist she stay, biological father or not. The simple fact is that she was right. He could have reached out by some means that didn't involve a voice. He had made the decision on his own that they would be better off without his mutated presence in their lives.

He had let her go, but he had made sure that someone drove her home and had followed from above to make sure that she'd gotten home safely.

Would things have been different if he had contacted them? He didn't know, and worrying about things that he couldn't change was going to do them no good.

He would take things one step at a time and try his best to create a relationship with his daughter, not as the child she was, but as the woman she was now.

For tonight, he could see that she was exhausted. He would stay as long as he could, and guard her while she slept and do his best to make sure that no one hurt her under his watch.