2 - "Secrets"
Originally Written: February 3rd, 2000

January 7th, 2000
The brilliance of the sun's light blanketed the city, as the daystar climbed to it's ancestral
perch in the sky. It's rays pierced through the buildings, a warm gentle radiance
spreading through the steel spires of a concrete undergrowth. The air was deathly still, as
the cool evening breeze withered under the engulfing beams of the fiery orb. The trees
lining 9th avenue bloomed with an ardent, emerald foliage, growing, swelling ever
outwards, as the burgeoning branches reached out towards the abundant light of day.
With an almost woeful empathy, Winter prematurely released the city from it's frigid
hold, the harshest of the seasons fading to the season of rebirth. Most possibly, an after
effect of the battle with Madoc and his forces. The snow receded back into the deepest
recesses of the concrete streets and alleys, melting away under the ill-seasoned heat and
fusing back into the Earth's soft soil.

As the eleventh hour came, the sounds of the streets were drowned out by a thunderous
chime. It's sound resonated throughout the neighborhood, an echo ringing between the
buildings. A familiar sound to the inhabitants of Manhattan island, the faithful chiming
assured them of the safety offered by the tall skyscrapers, surrounding them with barriers
of iron, seemingly impervious to the forces of the outside world. The massive clock,
deep golden saffron stained-glass held in place with raven strips of steel, reverberated
slightly as the polished bronze carillon within, shook violently with every strike of the
hammer. It's four-sided facade watched endlessly over the city, atop a large venerable
building, it's weathered exterior masking the commotion inside.

The 23rd precinct, within the mended remains of an elder library, had been restored to
it's former glory. Years ago, the clock tower had been rebuilt, finer than that of the
original, several months after the night of the Hunter's moon. The repairmen had
replaced the clock mechanism and had even restored the ancient chimes to their once
powerful magnificence. But the tower remained empty, it's former inhabitants now
nothing more than a short-lived memory, etched in the soft brick walls. The gargoyles
had moved on, and left the tower a vacant husk. There would be no creatures to be
disturbed in the wicked hours of the midnight eve. And no one would ever know the
guardians of New York city had ever called this simple structure home.

Well, perhaps a select few.

Elisa Maza and Matt Bluestone had finished their shift and were preparing to go their
separate ways, though their paths both led back to their apartments and their beds. A
tiring chore it became, protecting millions of human residents from their own viciousness
and greed. But those who were innocent, the young, the weak, the infirm, deserved
refuge under their protective vigil. The detectives had entered the third floor breakroom
for a quick bite to eat and to grab their personal belongings from their lockers. Unused to
the sunlight, they were both forced to recoil slightly and squint their eyes as another
uniformed officer pulled the drapes open, allowing the full brunt of the sun's power to
fill the room.

"Jeez, Morgan! Warn us before you do that!" Elisa called out as she brought up her hand
to cover her eyes.

"Sorry, detective. But us night dwellers need to get some sun now and then." Morgan
passed them by and fell into the large couch near the door. Removing his hat, he
stretched and worked the kinks from his seasoned bones. He watched as the detectives
blinked their eyes and finally got used to the bright light, while stumbling around the
illuminated room. His gaze drifted towards Elisa as she closed the door to her locker,
and a flash of a certain lavender shade within the confines of a small photograph blurred
by as she closed, and quickly secured, the small steel door. For the past few months,
even when the heat of the Summer fire faded into the chill of Autumn and Winter, he
noticed the female detective's increasingly lighter mood. He would often catch her
humming to songs off the radio or staring into space with a most peculiar smile. Perhaps
even more shocking was the fact she rarely mouthed back to her superiors, a trait often
associated with the ebon haired detective. But he didn't blame her, as he knew why her
often tough-as-nails attitude had been replaced by that of a small schoolgirl's. "So Maza,
when's the big day?" Morgan chuffed.

Elisa spun around and gave him the famous Maza cocky grin. "A couple of weeks..." she
stated simply, her gaze lifting and redirecting out the open window. Morgan continued
looking at her, expecting a little more from his question.

"Yo, Maza. Earth to Maza." Bluestone tried bringing his partner back to the real world
by snapping his fingers in front of her face.

"Wha...Oh, sorry. Two weeks tomorrow night, Morgan." she added as her eyes drifted
back to the man sitting on the couch. "My mother and Fox are helping Goliath and I plan
the entire thing...well, actually they've pretty much taken over. They even pushed the
wedding back six months to get ready. But I don't mind, they seem to be getting along
quite well. It's helping to close the rift between the Mazas and the Xanatoses."

"Yeah, it's eerie," Matt chimed in, "I've never seen your mother actually speak to the
Xanatoses let alone allowing Fox to help arrange her daughter's wedding. I guess it helps
when Mr. X pays for the entire thing. Generous guy." He crossed his arms and looked
back at Elisa giving her a sight of his own sarcastic grin. "I am invited, right?"

"Don't worry, Matt. Goliath and I have finished the guest list. You and Jasper are on it."

"And me, detective," Morgan called from the couch, tilting his head, "you're not going to
forget about your old pal Morgan, are you? Poor, overworked,
desperately-needs-a-night-out Morgan."

"Don't worry, you'll both get your invitations soon."

Lifting himself from the couch, Morgan stretched again, replaced his cap and walked
towards the door. He turned and smiled to the smaller detective. "Good. You know,
I've always wanted to see our friends with wings wearing something else than loincloths.
See you tomorrow night, detectives." Morgan bid farewell to his friends and left the
room. Elisa and Matt didn't notice that he left the breakroom door wide open, the loud
clamor of the other officers roaring down the hallway.

"I still can't believe it." Matt quipped as he turned towards his partner. "You're going to
have a wedding. Bizarre."

"What's so bizarre about that?"

"Elisa Maza, the toughest detective in town. She who fought against Xanatos, Demona,
Dracon, MacBeth, Oberon, Titania, Madoc and his unseelie court, she who never gives
up the chase even if it means risking her own life, she who doesn't even let her own
friends get close...is getting married. The great detective Maza has been...tamed." Matt
crossed his arms in front of his chest, waiting for Elisa to erupt in her usual defiant
attitude.

"Yeah well, even if I was 'tamed' as you put it, it took a seven and a half foot tall, seven
hundred pound gargoyle to do it." Elisa snapped back, all the while restraining herself
from punching Bluestone right across the jaw. "Besides, you've just never had a
relationship with anyone like the one I share with Goliath. Face it Matt, you're just
jealous." With that last statement, she folded her arms in front of her, looked away and
raised her face upwards, pointing her nose to the sky. "Hmph."

"Hey, Sara and I...heh...nice try, Maza." he retorted, raising an eyebrow. "But I still can't
believe that you're getting married."

"MARRIED?!!!"

The two detectives were broken from their mock argument and both spun around to look
into the face of captain Maria Chavez, perched within the open doorway to the
breakroom. Her delicate ivory fingers barely clasped to her ceramic, painted mug, as it
swayed from side to side, threatening to drop and shatter on the solid tiled floor.

"Aaaaahhhhh shit." Bluestone swore under his breath, smacking a hand to his forehead.

Chavez staggered towards Elisa with a flustered gait, trying desperately to regain her
usual poised demeanor, but failing miserably as the words escaped through red lips.
"You're getting married?!"

"Uh...yeah...I guess."

"When...where...TO WHO?!!" Chavez asked, forcing herself to finally blink.

"Well..." Elisa started, quickly turning to face Matt with a baneful stare, a cursed
anathema induced by two pools of the darkest, deepest mahogany, tearing through her
partner's chest. She whirled back to face Chavez and endeavored with the simple
question laid forth. "When? In two weeks. Where? At the Eyrie building. And to
who?..." She struggled with the last query, trying to think of the best words to describe
Goliath. "My...uh...boyfriend." Elisa coerced her mouth into a slight smile and cocked
an eyebrow in the direction of her superior.

"Wow...you've never talked about your private life or this phantom boyfriend of yours,
Maza. God, I thought you might be kidding." Chavez looked towards the floor, trying to
steady herself, gripping ever tighter to her coffee mug. Composure came quickly when
the recollection of her best detective lying to her for perhaps weeks, and even possibly
months, surfaced in her field of thought. She placed her hands on her hips and stared
back at Elisa. "And you were never going to tell anyone about this? What about the time
off you'll need? I mean, you're taking a honeymoon aren't you? Why did you feel you
had to conceal this from the rest of us, especially me? I'd like to think we're friends,
Maz...Elisa."

"We are captain, and I respect you very much. But my private life is my own, and
my...lover might be in danger if he's revealed to the wrong people. As for the time off,
you already approved it last week. You signed the vacation papers yourself."

"Revealed to the wrong people? Maza, is your fiancé in any sort of trouble with the
law?" Chavez replied, as a look of genuine concern overturned the once present anger.

Elisa grappled with the correct wording. "No...he's never broken any laws...it's just
that...well...there are a lot of people who don't approve of his...um...kind."

"His kind?" Chavez cocked her head, trying to understand. "Elisa, you know I would
never treat any of your friends, or anybody else for that matter, differently just because of
the color of their skin."

Yeah, I know." Elisa tore her gaze from the accusing eyes of her captain, and hid her
hands within the pockets of the weathered leather jacket.

"Listen, your life is your own to lead, but I am your supervisor, and I need to know about
certain 'developments' in your life. Too many strange things have happened to us and
this city for me not to get concerned." A slender hand lay gently upon Elisa's shoulder.
"If it's your wish that no one knows about your wedding, that's your choice to make.
Just save me a piece of cake, all right?" She moved slowly towards the door, pulling her
still empty cup to her chest and hiding from sight, a sorrowed smile.

Elisa stared for an endless time at her black boots, the somber resonance of Chavez's
fading footsteps echoing off the cream-colored tiles. "Wait..."

Chavez turned at the heed of a downcast plea, barely audible over the distant murmur of
the building's occupants. She discovered Elisa chasing after her. The detective reached
behind her and closed the door.

"How well can you keep a secret?" asked Elisa quietly.

Surprised by the question, Chavez replied in a low voice, "Very well. Of course, it
depends on the secret."

"We both have tomorrow night off, right? How about coming over to my fiancé's home
for dinner. I'll introduce you to him...and his family."

"I'd be happy to." Chavez replied, a smile gracing her lips.

"I'll pick you up after sunset."

"After sunset? All right, I'll be waiting." Chavez smiled and left the room, heading in
the direction of her office.

Closing the door, Elisa gradually turned around, her own smile disappearing instantly as
soon as she caught sight of Matt. During the conversation, he had slinked away to the far
side of the room. He was now looking to the roof, counting the holes in the ceiling tile
and whistling to himself. Elisa bit her bottom lip and scowled. She slowly moved
towards him, a burning rage welling within, at her partner's unintended indiscretion.

With the sound of a light yet forceful tread encroaching ever steadily, Bluestone edged
back and whirled around to catch five feet, seven inches of fiery, copper skinned terror
inches away. "Hold it right there, Maza. I didn't mean to! It was an accident!!"
Bluestone reasoned with the smaller woman, but had no weapon to defend an
impassioned fury, ready to explode.

"I'm going to hold off on killing you, Bluestone, because you also have tomorrow night
off, and you are coming to dinner. You will be there when Chavez meets the clan, and
you will help me explain some of the things that have happened during the past five years
you've known them."

"Do I have a choice? I'd rather you kill me."

"Tomorrow night, Bluestone. Be there before I arrive with Chavez or," Elisa lowered her
eyebrows and grinned, "I'll let Bronx and Nudnik play tug-of-war with the human."
Elisa sauntered to the breakroom exit, tossed her hair and slipped from the room.

Matt released the pent up breath and motioned his hand around his throat. "Maybe I'll
bring Jasper along, for...back-up."

****************************************

Upon the stone walls of Castle Wyvern, a harsh wind cast it's unending fury against their
solid foundation. The granite slabs, carved from the Scottish hills over a thousand years
ago, stood firm high above the city's tallest buildings, far beyond the reach of it's
frequent corrupting grasp. It was almost sunset. As the sun dissolved into the horizon's
endless tier, it became an omen to those who feared the dark and the creatures within it's
shadowed edge. When the final rays of light disappeared, the silent statues who guarded
the stone turrets of Wyvern began to crack, splinter, shatter, releasing the warriors into
the cool gale. Louder than the cries of the ancient banshee, the gargoyles awoke with
roars that would send the mightiest of warriors running for cover.

Goliath brought himself to his full height and shook the last of his concrete skin from his
body, as it fell in broken fragments to the turret below. He was looking forward to
tonight with great anticipation. Elisa had always spoke with the greatest respect of
captain Maria Chavez, and he was elated to have another human ally in this world. The
lavender giant spread his wings and lightly skipped from the cornice, settling on the level
below and turning to face his awakening clan. "Broadway, you had better start on the
dinner feast. Captain Chavez will be here shortly."

"Sure thing. So who else is coming?" the brawny gargoyle asked as he helped Angela
from her perch.

"Elisa has decided to bring some reinforcements to help her break the news. Peter and
Diane Maza are coming, as well as Bluestone and Sara Jasper."

"Yeah, since Matt blabbed in front of the captain, Elisa's forcing him to come along."
Brooklyn joked, while hopping from his own stone roost. "So, are any of us going on
patrol tonight?" he asked, intentionally directing the question towards the lavender
leader, hoping they could at least get a reprieve for the night.

"No, Brooklyn. There will be no patrols. I want all of us here to meet captain Chavez."
Turning his gaze towards the city, Goliath felt the breeze upon his face. "I believe
Manhattan can do without us for one night. It has been quiet all week and the rest of you
deserve a night off."

"Yes, all right!!" A coupled cheer erupted from the twins as they ran into the castle,
followed by Nudnik, narrowly missing the Mazas, Bluestone and Jasper, having just
arrived a few minutes before.

"Children, please be careful." called Sata as she hurriedly chased after them, passing
along a quick greeting to the human entourage as she ran by.

"Never a dull moment, eh Goliath?" Peter Maza called to him while steadying himself
after almost being bowled over by three overactive gargoyles. The large warrior just
crossed his arms and sighed. The rest of the clan let out a smothered laugh and went
their separate ways. Brooklyn and Lexington followed Sata into the castle, Broadway
and Angela headed into the castle's large kitchen to prepare dinner, Hudson went to
catch the last period of the Rangers / Red Wings game with Bronx trailing obediently
behind.

As the main tower emptied of it's occupants, Goliath turned his attention to the four
humans waiting patiently in the castle's massive courtyard, lined with lush vegetation,
growing from the sculptured brick enclosures lining the often sparse walls. The lavender
giant descended the vast staircase and moved towards the group, whom, over the years,
he had come to call his closest friends.

"So, Goliath," Jasper started as she strolled up to him, "nervous about meeting the
captain?"

"Not nervous exactly. Anxious is more like it. I have wanted to meet captain Chavez for
a long time. Elisa has always spoken highly of her." Goliath turned to face the Mazas.
"Peter, do you think telling the captain is a wise thing to do? How do you think she will
react to us? Will she keep our secret?"

"Whoa, Goliath." Peter held up his hand to stop Goliath's barrage of questions. "I've
known Maria Chavez for a long time. She and her family have been friends of ours since
before Elisa was born. Her late husband was my partner for many years. When she hears
your clan has been risking their lives protecting the city for six years, I'm sure she'll
come to see your race as a very welcome addition to the city."

"You are nervous, aren't you?" Diane asked him.

"We've met a lot of humans in our time here, and except for a precious few, most of
them have feared us or committed their lives to the destruction of my kind." Goliath
replied solemnly.

"Maria Chavez is a very faithful friend and a very trustworthy woman." Diane continued
as she grabbed his arm with her small hands. "I know for a fact she would never want to
harm you or your kind. And she wouldn't do anything to hurt Elisa."

"Well, we're going to find out real soon, ladies, gentlemen and gargoyle." Matt
interrupted while looking down at the street from the edge of the castle. "I think I just
saw the fairlane pull in." He looked back at the small crowd, directing his gaze
especially at Goliath. "Here goes nothin', Big Guy."

****************************************

A soft concerto flowed through the hidden speakers, carefully molded into the rounded
corners of the high speed lift. A calming influence to the wearied worker of this
towering corporation, yet a constant reminder of the impending meeting to a very
nervous Elisa. To her side, captain Maria Chavez stood silently as the conversation was
kept to a bare minimum, an eerie silence, beneath the serenity of the music and a
incessant tapping of a boot upon a wooden surface, layered in segmented sections
covering the titanium floor. She had picked up the captain a half hour before and
escorted her to the Eyrie. She appeased Chavez in a thoroughly rushed explanation of
Goliath's living arrangements, as the captain was shocked to find out Elisa's fiancé
actually lived in Xanatos' building. Elisa held her breath as the numbered display above
the doors flashed higher, knowing the castle's main level was drawing close. Chavez
waited patiently, as Elisa cursed the elevator's speed, though the fastest in the city, under
her breath.

DING!

The elevator whirred to a halt and the silver mirrored doors opened before them,
revealing a spacious room with a high arched ceiling. Elisa turned and motioned to
Chavez. "After you." she commented softly.

Chavez stepped out of the elevator and looked about the room before her. "Wow. Are
we just below the castle?"

"No, we're in the castle."

Chavez whirled around and gazed at Elisa. "Your fiancé lives in the castle?!"

"Yup." Elisa answered as she led the stunned captain through the large room and into the
main hallway. Elisa continued on her way to the library, a favorite room of hers, and the
place where they were all gathering for the 'big meeting'. She occasionally glanced
behind her shoulder to keep an eye on her guest. Maria Chavez was barely watching her
own path, instead marveling at the ancient castle finished with tenth century decor
mingled flawlessly with twentieth century furniture and equipment. Elisa reached the
library doors and motioned Chavez to walk through. There, waiting on the other side
were the Mazas and the two detectives.

"Peter, Diane, what a pleasant surprise. I had no idea you were coming here tonight."
Chavez called to her longtime friends as she moved towards them.

"It's an important night for Elisa, Maria." Diane exclaimed as she swept Chavez into an
embrace.

"Bluestone." Chavez nodded to the red haired detective. "Sara Jasper, it's good to see
you again. I must say I'm surprised to see all of you here." She stopped and brought her
finger to her chin. "Is there something I'm missing?"

The four humans just looked at each other and eventually shifted their eyes and directed
them at Elisa. She smiled and slowly walked towards her captain. "So, you ready to
meet my boyfriend?" she winced. The Mazas and the detectives moved to the side of the
room as Elisa drifted to another set of doors, cornered in a darkness where the light
couldn't reach, and knocked three times in an inauspicious tone.

Chavez was puzzled by their behavior. 'There five are acting like this man is a monster
or something.' she thought. 'What could they possibly be hiding?'

The giant doors swung open and Elisa moved to the side, the expression on her face, like
she was expecting the castle to explode. Chavez looked through the doors into the
blackness beyond. She could make out a shape coming towards her. It moved into the
soft light of the library lamps. Her eyes grew wide and her mouth gaped. Slowly, her
gaze lifted, following the shadow to it's very summit, towering over her small frame.

The light was cast upon a seven and a half foot tall, very muscular figure wearing nothing
but a loincloth. A soft lavender skin blended with the absence of light. Broad shoulders
and back, bracing dark indigo wings of a leathery smoothness, rising above his head.
Four fingered hands and three toed, over sized, high-arched feet, with a slender tail
behind. His face was alien yet strikingly handsome. Two bony spurs grew from each of
his large brows, framed by a silken sable tress, flowing past his neck into the expanse of
his back. Large pointed ears and a large chin, and two of the darkest, charcoal eyes she
had ever seen.

She was frozen in place as the figure came towards her. Bending down and delicately
grasping her hand, he placed his lips to her fingers and gave them a soft kiss. "It is an
honor to finally meet you, captain Maria Chavez. My name is Goliath." he rumbled in a
deep, gentle baritone.

"Oh...my...god. Y...You're...a...you're a...gargoyle. You're a gargoyle." A mangled
response drifted through her open mouth, as Goliath released her hand from his powerful
grip, falling lifelessly to her side.

"Perhaps you should sit down, captain Chavez."

Maria slumped down onto the couch behind her and continued staring at Goliath. She
watched as Elisa moved toward him and the large gargoyle wrapped his arms around her.
"Okay, I need a minute here..." Bringing her hand to massage her temples, she strove to
recapture some sense of control. "Gargoyles actually exist. Okay. One of my best
detectives is marrying a gargoyle. Okay." She continued staring at Goliath until he let
go of Elisa, and kneeled in front of the couch.

"You have nothing to fear from my kind, captain Chavez. Gargoyles are sworn
protectors, and ever since we awoke in this new world, we've dedicated our lives to
guarding the city." Taking her hands in his large talons, she looked into his eyes. "I met
Elisa six years ago when we were awakened from our cursed sleep. She was the first
human to guide us in this new world. She became a good friend to my clan and has
risked her life on numerous occasions to help us. Four years ago, we started to feel
something more than just friendship towards each other, and we..."

"...fell in love." Maria finished for him.

Goliath smiled back and glanced over his shoulder to Elisa. "I would do anything for
her, anything to keep her safe. She recently convinced me to have a human wedding, and
it would please us if you were there."

She sat there silently, keeping her gaze centered on the gargoyle's dark eyes. 'I can't
believe this. They're real, they're really real! Well, he is handsome. I just never
thought someone like Maza would fall for a gargoyle. It suits her though, only someone
with the power to crush cement could ever handle Elisa.' Chavez looked over to the
Mazas. Peter nodded slowly and Diane just smiled. She noticed Elisa shuffle up behind
Goliath and coil her arms around his neck, resting on the vast breadth of his muscled
back, between his caped wings. "I...I would be honored."

"Good. Your presence will grace our home. Are you ready to meet the rest of the clan?"

"Rest of the clan?! Oh yeah, I guess there's more, isn't there?"

"Much more." Goliath stood up and looked behind him to the doors he had so recently
used. "Maria Chavez, this is my family." With Goliath's urging, the Wyvern gargoyles
filed through the doors, one after another until they were all standing in front of Maria.
With each a remarkable contrast from the other, their skins of different colorful hues,
ranging from the darkest scarlet to the ocean's vivid aquamarine, they lined in front of
the dazed captain. All possessed large wings either resting behind them or caped around
their shoulders, some wearing simple loincloths and others wearing full brilliant
kimonos. "Hudson, our mentor and former leader; Brooklyn, my second in command,
his mate Sata and their children, Graeme and Arianna; my daughter Angela and her mate
Broadway, our culinary wizard; Lexington, our computer genius and this," he pointed
down to the two gargoyle beasts, "is Bronx and Nudnik."

"Oooookaaaaay..."

****************************************

The clan and their guests had moved to the dining room. Broadway and Angela had
prepared a sumptuous meal, more than enough to go around. Maria was treated as the
guest of honor, and had the pleasure of hearing about the clan's adventures during the
past one thousand years: The history of the gargoyle race, the betrayal of the Wyvern
gargoyles in 994 AD, their cursed sleep and eventual awakening a thousand years later,
their first meeting with David Xanatos and Elisa, their numerous battles with Demona
and MacBeth, the transformation of Derek Maza of the other mutates, the Avalon trip,
meeting the lost children of Wyvern, circling the globe and meeting other clans around
the world, protecting the Xanatoses from Oberon, the creation of the clones, Brooklyn
being lost in time and returning with a new family, defending the planet against Madoc
and the Unseelie, Othello and Desdemona being resurrected, Elisa almost dying from the
elfshot and Demona saving her life, the mating ceremony of Angela and Broadway, the
decision of Goliath and Elisa to get mar...

"STOP!!!" Maria cried out. "Uh, no offense, but the human brain can only take so much
information." she joked.

"I guess it's a lot to take in." Elisa stated. "Imagine how I feel, I've lived it. For the past
six years, we've seen some pretty amazing things. Good friends, beautiful creatures and
forbidden locations, to the horrifying depths of humanity's evil. But," she stopped and
looked at Goliath, placing her hand on his, "I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Maria Chavez smiled. She looked across the table to where Matt was sitting. "Well,
Bluestone, I understand why Elisa couldn't reveal her secret, but that still doesn't leave
you off the hook. You're the one who's always trying to blow the lid off all the UFO and
Illuminati mumbo-jumbo, yet you didn't even tell me you personally knew gargoyles in
New York."

Matt almost choked on his steak as he dropped the fork to the table. "But...I...hey, this
isn't fair!! At least I wasn't the one who took off for half a year without telling
anybody!"

"Now now, children." Diane Maza stopped the argument before her daughter got the
chance to retaliate with the bowl of potato salad.

****************************************

The dinner came to a close and the gargoyles and their human guests had moved outside.
Lexington, Brooklyn and the twins were tossing around a football while the garbeasts
were stuck in the middle trying to grab it. Bluestone and Jasper were near the edge
looking down towards the city. Sata, Broadway, Angela, and the Mazas were sitting on
the plush grass in the courtyard near the giant oak, which stood proudly in the middle,
providing a welcome shade in the sweltering heat of day.

Maria had retreated to Goliath's tower and was watching her new friends with great
fascination. She leaned lightly on the ledge, surveying all that transpired below, but
focusing primarily on Goliath and Elisa, a friend of hers she thought she knew. Perched
on a wooden park bench with walnut hardwood slats held in place by a raven metal frame
of a glossed black paint, the couple gazed longingly at the starlit sky. She was immersed
in the warming embrace of his lap, leaning her head against his chest. His arms curled
about her slender frame and his wings surrounded them, making sure Elisa wouldn't be
cold.

"They make a grea' couple, dinna they, lass?" Maria whirled around and caught sight of
Hudson climbing the stone steps with two steaming cups of tea. He handed her a cup and
she graciously welcomed the crystalline beverage with a hint of cinnamon in it's sweet
scent. "I've ne'er seen the lad so happy...and I've known him fera long time."

Maria returned her gaze to the mismatched couple and smiled. Taking a sip of tea, she
tilted her head. "And I've never seen Elisa so happy. And I've known her since she was
a baby." Hudson came up beside her and looked down to the level below. "So, Hudson.
This whole 'protect the city' thing, is this what you really do?"

"Aye lass, 'a gargoyle canna no more stop protectin' th' castle than breathin' th' air'. It's
'r sole purpose in life, Maria, gargoyles protect th' innocent, whe'er they be human 'r
not."

"I always thought you were the stuff of legends, even after there were numerous
sightings. I chose not to believe, I chose not to let my imagination convince me there
were winged vigilantes out there who fought crime."

"And what de ye b'lieve now lass?" Hudson asked, turning and looking into her eyes.

"I believe you're the best thing that's happened to this city for a long time." Maria
answered, causing Hudson to laugh, not knowing that particular line had been spoken
between another human and gargoyle more than six years ago. Maria reached over and
placed a soft hand on his weathered fist. "May I ask you a personal question, Hudson?
Did you...ever have a mate?" Hudson looked away, closing his eyes. "I'm sorry, I didn't
mean to..."

"Aye, I did. She was beautiful. She was th' most caring an' loving person I ha' e'er met.
She ha' th' most lovely aquamarine skin an' blond 'air I ha' e'er seen."

"I guess she didn't have a name, did she?"

"Nay, lass. We ne'er ha' names ba' then. But, if she be havin' a name, it would've been
Hope, er Joy, er Faith, b'cause that's what she was t' me...but..."

"But, what happened?"

"She be killed while protectin' th' castle from a Viking attack. She gave 'er life fer th'
humans within. I held 'er until she ha' passed on."

"My husband Carlos was also killed in the line of duty. He risked his life for the
innocent every day he went to work, until..." Maria was forced to stop, tears beginning to
form in her eyes.

"Dinna be sad lass, they ne'er be gone as long as we be rememberin' them." Hudson
interrupted as he gently wiped the tear from her eye. "I be believin' tha' we 'ave more in
common than we realize." Maria managed a slight smile as she looked up into the night
sky, letting the stars caress her troubled soul. Few clouds marked the naked heavens,
drifting and swirling in front of a backdrop of black. The moon was full, casting it's
glow upon the castle's shadowed crevasses. But in the moonlight, she noticed a peculiar
shape, silhouetted against the sky, moving too fast to be a cloud and was too large to be a
bird.

"Hudson, I see something." she remarked, as she pointed out the form to Hudson.

"Dinna worry, lass." Hudson assured her, while straining his eyes to make out the shape.
"I think it be a friend."

The figure flew close to the castle and slowed it's pace. Large white wings slowed it's
pace and it landed on the stones without making a sound.

"Hudson, who is that?"

"That be Delilah, lass. She be..."

"She's the clone of Elisa, isn't she?" Maria finished for him, her eyes transfixed on the
new arrival.

"Aye."

****************************************

Delilah caped her frosted wings around her and scanned the castle's main level. No one,
but the two on the top of Goliath's tower had noticed her arrive. Through eyes made for
the darkness of the night, she spotted Goliath and Elisa sitting on a park bench not far
away. She could barely make out Elisa's copper skinned form, dwarfed by Goliath's
immense, muscled body. She sighed and slowly started towards them, her light steps
upon the ancient stone, nothing but a soft whisper. It wasn't until she was almost right
behind them when Goliath sensed her presence.

Whirling around, he stared into the face of the woman he loved, but not Elisa, similar yet
different. "Delilah," Goliath began, smiling, "to what do we owe this pleasure?"

Elisa had turned as well, seeing her 'daughter' come around them and take a seat on the
far side of the bench. Her gaze fell to the ground as she placed her hands in the pockets
of her red jacket. Elisa smiled, noticing this familiar habit as her own.

"Just...lonely, I guess."

"Why would you have any reason to be lonely, Delilah? You know you can always count
on my brother, or Maggie and the other mutates to be there for you." Elisa reassured her
while leaning forward and placing her hand on the gargoyle's shoulder. "You can always
count on us as well."

"I know. It's just...when I heard the news about your and Goliath's wedding, I was very
happy for the both of you. How you had found each other after being alone for such a
long time. But it made me think about my future and what it holds. I often think about
my past and how I came to be in this world." Pulling her hands from her coat, she held
them in front of her copper colored face and stared intensely at them before continuing.
"I've never felt that I truly belong here, I've never felt that I fit in with either the mutates
and clones in the labyrinth or with your clan up high in this castle..."

"You know for a fact that is not true, Delilah!" rumbled Goliath as he released Elisa from
his grip and extended his arm, beckoning her to stand. "And I will prove it to you."
Grabbing her hand, he led her to the edge of the castle where Matt and Sara had been just
moments before. Elisa stood up and followed the two close behind. Goliath held her
hand as he lifted Delilah's head up towards the sky with one massive talon. "Look at the
stars, Delilah. Millions upon millions of blazing, burning lights in the sky. They have
been there for billions of years, looking down upon countless generations of humans and
gargoyles alike. They see no difference between the residents of this blue planet they
watch over night after night. To them, we are all the same, we are all connected, we all
deserve a chance to live and grow." Goliath brought his head down to look at Delilah,
who was forced to crane her neck to look into his eyes, as she was barely taller than
Elisa. "It doesn't matter how you came to us, it matters who you are and what you have
grown into since your 'birth'. An intelligent, beautiful young woman who is blessed with
the best attributes of two species." Delilah couldn't hold in her smile as she looked
sheepishly to the ground, her copper skin blushing a dark shade of crimson. "Let me ask
you something." Goliath's deep voice brought her from her reverie. "Do you consider
Elisa to be your mother?"

Shocked by the question, Delilah quickly looked up and turned to face Elisa, who had
come up behind her. "Yes," she whispered in a low, husky tone, "yes I do."

Goliath smiled. "Good. For when Elisa and I get married, in the human tradition, I will
be your step-father."

Stunned by this revelation, Delilah's eyes opened wide as she stared straight ahead at
Goliath's massive chest. "I'll have a father?"

"Yes. I would be very proud to call you my daughter. If at any time you feel alone, you
can take solace in the fact that Elisa and I, and the rest of the clan will always care for
you and love you very much."

"I'll have a father...a family. A real family." she repeated to herself as she moved toward
Goliath and leaned against his chest, finding the same spot Elisa had been so many times
before. Feeling his wings wrap around her, she welcomed the embrace as he protected
her from the cool night breeze. A new family was born as the three stood near the ledge
looking towards the city, one in particular seeing it in a whole new light.

Two pairs of eyes had watched the entire drama play out before them, staying silent, in
order to listen to three very different individuals grow closer together. Maria Chavez and
Hudson stood atop the highest tower, one with an amazed look on her face, the other with
a smirk.

"I've never known anyone like him. It's hard to imagine that a huge gargoyle could be so
understanding and gentle." whispered Maria.

"Aye, th' lad has a heart th' size of th' castle, and an unending compassion t'wards
anyone large 'r small. I'd like t' think he be gettin' that from me." Hudson exclaimed as
a smug look was cast upon his stoic features.

Maria sighed. "I guess that's why Elisa loves him so."

"Why do you think we approve of her choice so much?" A familiar voice called from
behind the couple. Peter Maza and his wife had climbed the steps to the tower and
joined the accidental eavesdroppers near Goliath's perch. "He would rather die than see
Elisa hurt, and we know he'll always be there for her. So, do you have any doubts about
the relationship between our daughter and Goliath? Or the gargoyles themselves or that
matter?"

"No. Before I met them, I failed to see how their 'help' was doing the city any good, but
know I realize I was getting caught up in the negative propaganda that was created by
those who wanted them destroyed. I see them for what they are now, very honorable
beings and valued protectors...and, of course, a welcome relief to the officers serving
under me."

"That's good. They could always use another human friend in this world." Diane replied,
noticing her husband yawn deeply behind her. "Well, it's past our bedtime. Our
daughter may be a night owl, be we still enjoy living in the sunlight. Can we offer you a
ride, Maria?"

"Thanks, but no. I think I'll get Elisa to drive me home. I have some more...private
questions." She looked back at Goliath and smiled.

The Mazas left for the night, with Bluestone and Jasper in tow. Hudson and Maria
climbed down the steep steps from the tower, as the small torches lining the passageway,
fed by an intricate system of natural gas pipes, lit up the path before them. They rejoined
Goliath, Elisa and Delilah at the battlements facing the western skyline.

Maria approached the couple. "Well as much as I'd like to stay, I need to get some sleep
and try to digest six years worth of information. So, Maza, does this dinner party include
a ride home or am I going to have to walk?"

"Actually, I have something better in mind." she replied, as she allowed herself to be
scooped off the ground by the Big Guy.

"Wait a minute, you're actually going to fly to my apartment? How am I going to get
th...WHOA!!!" Maria cried out as she felt two large arms pick her up as if she was
nothing but a child's doll. She winced and felt a lump in her throat, as Hudson's
intentions were apparent by the smile gracing his chalant visage. She watched in
amazement as Goliath hopped on the ledge and threw himself into the wind, cradling
Elisa in his powerful arms. Hudson followed suit with Delilah behind him and Maria
Chavez instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck and closed her eyes. The last
thing she knew, the old warrior launched himself from the castle and took to the wind
with the grace of an eagle. "OH...MY...GOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!"