3 - "Fragile Bonds"
Originally Written: February 6th, 2000

January 15th, 2000
A crowded office building bustled with activity in the late hours of the day, the warm
afternoon sun glistening off it's smooth metal surfaces and mirrored windows.
Nightstone Unlimited was operating at full capacity, it's numerous departments
developing projects that challenged the expected norm, and some that defied the limits of
the imagination. Once a company used for industrial espionage, weapons manufacture
and chemical warfare, it's purpose had shifted dramatically, turning towards the
advancement of humankind. All by virtue of CEO and owner Dominique Destine, and a
promise made to the one person she loved most in the world, her daughter.

As the fading sunlight filtered into her spacious office, it reflected off her inflamed
tresses, glowing an incredible fire red. Dominique sat at her antique oak desk, situated
near the large open window overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Her slender hand
grasped a red, quill-styled pen, as it furiously raced back and forth across a thick stack of
yellow forms, outlying a new prototype from the robotics division. She promised her
staff she would look over the designs and give them her recommendations by the end of
the day.

Suddenly throwing down her pen in disgust and watching it bounce across the varnished
wood surface, she grumbled under her breath and brought her hands to her head,
massaging her scalp through her luxuriant hair. Dominique closed her eyes and leaned
back in her leather chair. Her day had started just after sunrise and hadn't let up even
through her very short lunch break. 'The joys of running a multi-national company.' she
thought to herself. At times like this, she wished beyond imagining for the ability to turn
to stone. No reports, no office inspections, no employee evaluations...nothing but the
sweet embrace of sleep, offered by a protective stone shell. But life rarely worked out
that way. Though the transformations were often painful, they afforded her the freedom
to build an empire, and to at last feel the sun on her skin.

By 5:00 PM, she had finished her reports and appeased the tech heads on the lower
levels. The building had emptied of it's occupants, it's very lifeblood, as her employees
were preparing for the weekend. A chance to spend two full days in the unusually warm
weather without a care in the world. Most of the major projects were ahead of schedule
and no overtime would be needed on this Friday night. Dominique thought back to a
well known creed, that 'a happy employee is an efficient employee', and how barely a
year ago, she could have cared less about the humans in her service.

But change can come quickly within a year, and the Dominique Destine standing near the
window was a different person. At least she'd like to think so. With the help of her
daughter, she was beginning to break down the wall of hate that had imprisoned her for
so long. She had refocused her company's efforts to helping the less fortunate. Her
company donated millions of dollars to charities all over the world. Her R&D
departments designed better, more efficient equipment for hospitals and created artificial
limbs for amputees using advanced robotics technology. Her biological engineering
section had turned it's attention from germs that destroy to research into possible cures
for some of the most powerful diseases to plague mankind.

She managed a weak smile, profit through humanitarianism. She and Xanatos had both
caught on to this new trend, trying to outdo the other. But as much as Nightstone
Unlimited had done, the woman who made it all possible was barely a shadow, rarely
being seen in public, especially at night.

'If they only knew the truth.' Dominique closed her eyes and clamped her slender hands
around the sides of her chair. Digging into the deepest recesses of her mind, she forced
herself to relive the most painful events in her exceptionally long life. The destruction of
her clan at human hands, but also knowing full well, it was partly her own fault. Her
betrayal of MacBeth and the magical spell that linked them. Generation after generation
of hunters trying to destroy her and her kind. Her battles with Goliath and his clan, her
former family. Her numerous attempts to destroy humanity, especially one human in
particular, who she blamed for the treatment of her species, and the fact she had done
nothing to prove gargoyles were noble, protective creatures.

Broken from her agonizing rumination, she brought a hand to her cheek, wiping away a
tear, before it had the chance to travel the length of her face and stain her blouse. 'How
could they understand? How could they possibly understand the torment I have been
forced to go through the last thousand years?' Opening her eyes, she focused on her
large raven chair and noticed she had unconsciously ripped ten perfectly straight gashes
right through the leather, to the foam stuffing. She steadily brought her trembling hands
to her face, small strips of black material still hanging from her red-painted nails.

She felt her rage building like a tidal wave, threatening to explode in a wrathful ire. The
fragile antique furniture gracing her office would be no match for the strength of a
gargoyle. But with sun still warming the city from it's perch in the sky, she was confined
to her human form. She let loose a ragged breath and her arms fell limply to her sides.
Her head tipped forward again, and she stood silently, staring at her chair and trying to
calm her all consuming anger, her one major weakness through the centuries. A driving
force which had caused her more pain and anguish that she could remember.

Dominique took solace in the fact that she could take the weekend off. A chance to
escape her pain, as it was the one time a week set aside to spend with her only daughter.
Her beautiful daughter, the one thing in this world she could depend on to always be
there for her. With Angela's urging, she had ceased trying to blame her problems on
others, and instead tried to tackle them head on, with all the strength she could summon
from this fragile body.

Heading to the elevator, Dominique pressed the lighted button and waited as the
humming inside the shaft grew louder. She rode in silence to the ground level and said
her good-byes to the night watchmen and janitorial staff, which threw them off
considerably as they were not used to even being acknowledged, let alone spoken to by
the oft-baneful director of the company.

She entered the parking garage and found her driver waiting near the limousine parked in
the oversized space reserved for her. As the sleek black car left the building and headed
towards Destine Manor, Dominique sat quietly, staring out the tinted window, watching
the sun start it's solitary journey below the skyline. Soon she would be home and soon
the transformation would devour her body in a pain no human could ever comprehend.

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

Angela allowed herself to be carried on the wind as she headed north above Central Park.
The rush of the ocean gale smoothed itself around her body, and billowed beneath her
wings, allowing the young gargoyle to ride the city's rushing flow of an ethered gust,
with the grace of a bird. An hour had passed since she had awakened from her stone
sleep, and after taking care of some 'family business', he departed the castle and caught a
strong current that existed only at the height of the Eyrie. She knew the route well. For
years now, she had flown to her mother's house every Saturday night.

The massive skyscrapers were left behind as she entered the neighborhood where her
mother's house was situated. A large Victorian manor came into view, purposely set
apart from the other houses. Angela slowed her descent and with a tatter of talons on the
wooden surface, landed on the upper balcony leading into her mother's living room. She
knocked twice on the sliding glass door and opened it before her. She stepped in,
walking into complete darkness, knowing full well her mother preferred it this way.
Only one lamp was illuminated in the room, barely keeping the consuming shadows at
bay, and as Angela's eyes adjusted to the dark, she found her mother sitting on the couch,
curled within the folds of a woolen shawl.

"Hello, Angela." she whispered.

"Hello, mother. It's great to see you. Are you all right?" The young gargess asked out of
concern, noticing a fatigue cast on her features. Sitting down beside her blue-skinned
matriarch, she placed a hand on her mother's shoulder.

"I'm fine, my daughter." she replied, looking into her young face and forcing a slight
smile. "I'm...just tired. It was a busy week at Nightstone."

"Oh." said Angela in a low voice, sounding doubtful about her mother's sincerity. As she
resettled herself, she felt something poking into her side. She withdrew the object from
her tunic. A large cream-colored envelope, with the words 'Miss Dominique Destine'
written on the front in a cursive script. She looked intensely at the letter as her mind
raced back to a conversation held just after sunset...

Castle Wyvern, one hour earlier...
Angela hurried down the main hallway of the castle and came upon the great doors that
led into the library. An imposing sight, as the doors towered over her. She gingerly
pushed against the door and it slowly opened with an eerie creak. She glanced around,
her gaze falling on a couch in front of an enormous fireplace. Massive flames curled and
spiraled within the stone hearth, casting it's light upon the entire room. As she
approached the couch, she made out two distinct and very familiar forms reclining on the
velvet surface, her father and her chosen mate.

"Angela, what can we do for you?" Goliath asked as he noticed her advance from behind
them.

"Father, Elisa, I...I wanted to ask you something. A favor. For the wedding."

"Sure thing, Angela." Elisa chimed in, sitting up in Goliath's lap, waking from a light
slumber. "What is it?"

"I want to invite someone. Someone who's very dear to me, but also someone whom you
might not approve of being at your wedding."

Goliath sat up, the smile quickly disappearing from his face. He gently moved Elisa from
his lap, stood up and moved to the fireplace. He grabbed the stoker and poked at the
burning logs, as sparks erupted from the coals. Elisa looked dumbfounded from the
Goliath to Angela, her young friend staring at her lap.

"It's Demona, isn't it?" Goliath finally broke the silence.

"Yes."

"You want to invite Demona?" Elisa asked. "Well, I know she's changed and I owe her
my life, yet..."

"YOU OWE HER NOTHING!!!" Goliath bellowed, quickly turning and facing the two
women on the couch, sending his sable mane spilling over his shoulders. "Demona may
have saved your life from the elfshot, but she has also tried to take it on many occasions.
This is one of the most important days in my life, in our lives, and I will not have it
ruined by that..." He stopped himself, choking back the anger as years past of battle and
pain resurfaced, and knowing his unintentional anger had torn into his daughter's gentle
soul, apparent by her dual expressions of apprehension and distress. Sighing to himself,
her kneeled in front of her. "Angela, I know you love her, and I hope someday you can
bring back the woman I used to know and trust, but she..."

"...is my mother." Angela cut in, placing her hand on her father's massive palm. "And
she is more alone than you could possibly imagine."

A deep rumbling emanated from her father's chest as he looked down at their hands, the
similar colors blending into one in the firelight.

"Do you think she would want to come?" Elisa broke through, startling Angela beside
her. "I know I wouldn't feel comfortable going to my ex's wedding. And considering all
that's passed between her and the clan, I don't think she would even show up."

"But to give her the opportunity would show her that we still care. We have to give her
the chance if we want her to finally come home." Angela fought in defense of her
mother. "I want her to come home, Elisa, father. I miss her." On the verge of tears, it
was everything she could do to prevent herself from crying.

But Goliath's hand shot up and cupped her cheek. "I am continually astounded by your
tenderness, Angela. You were raised well." He sat down beside her, wrapping his arms
around her smaller body. "If you want to invite her, and if she wants to attend...we will
be happy to have her there. But just tell her to leave the laser rifle at home this time."

"Yes! Yes, I will father, thank you!!" She pressed against him and enfolded her arms
around his waist, squeezing the breath from his body.

As if on cue, Elisa jumped from the couch and walked over to a wooden table near the
edge of the room. Opening a drawer, she pulled out a light-colored envelope and brought
it back with her, to the two gargoyles still seated on the sofa. Handing it to Angela, Elisa
whispered into her ear, "I had an extra...just in case."

Angela took the envelope from Elisa's hand. On the front, she could make out the
writing in the pale light. "Miss Dominique Destine?" She stared in bewilderment at her
human friend.

"I had a feeling you might ask us." Elisa explained.

"Thank you. Thank you both." She rose from the couch and headed towards the large
windows with an extra skip in her step. Looking back at her father and his
soon-to-be-bride, she smiled, opened the door leading outside and headed to the
battlements, on her way to her mother's house.

Elisa watched the gargess disappear from sight and felt Goliath wrap around her like a
blanket. "You never cease to amaze me, my Elisa." he murmured quietly, touching his
soft lips to her warm neck, and guiding his heated breath across her skin, watching it
goosebump. "But, do you think she will come?"

Elisa shrugged her shoulders. "I have no idea. But Angela's right. If there is a chance to
bring her home..." She was interrupted by a loud knocking on the library doors.

"Elisa? It's your mother. Is Goliath in there with you?" It was Diane Maza, and
probably Fox as well. They were putting the final touches on the wedding, and had been
hounding Goliath for the past few nights, to get his 'opinions'. He had left most of the
plans to Elisa, preferring to let her and her mother arrange it in her own fashion.

Seeing the look of annoyance and fear spread over his face, Elisa called back to her
mother, "No, he just left for patrol. He'll be back later. Much later!" Listening to the
sounds of fading footsteps, she turned to face him and stood on her toes, just barely
reaching her lips to his ear. "You owe me bigtime, Big Guy. And I intend to collect.
Now, you'd better get going. If you hang around here, they'll most likely find you later."

After giving Elisa a long, well placed kiss, Goliath slipped out the library doors, and took
to the wind. Elisa smiled and settled back on the couch, finding the warm impression
Goliath had left and watched the fire wither to a peaceful demise, and eventually falling
back asleep.

Destine Manor...
Holding the invitation in her hand, Angela looked back at her mother. Sensing her
sadness, she grabbed her azure hand with her own. "Mother, I have something to ask
you."

Demona turned to face her daughter. "What is it, Angela?"

"You are aware that Elisa and Goliath's wedding is coming up soon?"

"...yes. Well aware."

Angela handed her the envelope. "I...we'd like you to come. As my guest."

Demona stared at the envelope outstretched before her. Her eyes grew thin as she took
the letter from her daughter's hand. She used a single talon to tear the fragile paper away
and withdrew the invite. The room was cast in utter stillness, as Demona's eyes scanned
the blackened ink of the typecast. She placed the invitation on the coffee table and stared
directly ahead of her, curling deeper into the shawl. "No...I don't think so, Angela.
I...wouldn't feel welcome. Especially by your father."

"But he gave me his blessing. He wants you to come. So does Elisa." She fed her
mother a half-truth, hoping to convince her otherwise. "You helped to defend this city
against the unseelie, and you saved Elisa's life."

"As she has saved yours many times over. I simply owed her. That is all."

"That's not true. I know you felt for her, and Goliath, when she lay dying in that hospital
bed." Angela sighed and squeezed her mother's hand, feeling the knotted muscles tensed
beneath. "I know you're lonely. I see it every time I look into your eyes. I know you
want to come home."

"No, I do not. Besides, they don't want...or need me there. They have detective Maza to
protect them now." Demona hissed through her clenched teeth.

This statement confused Angela. 'Is this the basis of mother's anger towards Elisa?' she
thought. "Are you...jealous of Elisa?"

"Don't be ridiculous."

"You are. You're jealous of her!"

As soon as her daughter's words slipped from her lips, Demona tossed the blanket to the
side and pulled away from the loveseat. She moved to the large sliding doors, and
stopped abruptly, staring through the frosted panes of glass, towards the full moon. "She
stole my mate. She stole my daughter. She stole my very place in the clan."

"You're afraid of being replaced."

"I've already been replaced." A peculiar sound caught her ears and she whirled around
to discover her daughter giggling under her breath and trying to hide a smile. "You find
my pain amusing?"

"Yes, I do." Angela rose from the couch and slowly sauntered to where her mother was
standing, taking a place at her side. "There's no way you can ever be replaced. Elisa has
her own place in the clan, and the others love and respect her for who she is and what
she's done for them. As for me, well, she may be my best friend, but you're my mother.
And as for Goliath, she never stole him, you purposely pushed him away. He attempted
many times to mend the rift between you two, and every single time you didn't even try
to listen. You have not replaced, but...if you continue to hide yourself away from the
world and your family, they may forget you altogether."

Demona faced her daughter. She could find no words to argue her point, as this young
female seemed to know her better than she knew herself. Quickly, Demona pulled
Angela towards her, wrapping her wings around them both. Infinity had no grasp on the
bond between mother and daughter. Simple genetic evolution had produced a connection
that endured beyond the crushing grip of battle and sorcery, existence or eternity. Angela
was her strength, her very being. And to the last of her days, yet perchance eons away,
would she protect her.

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

Sailing across the night sky, Goliath let the air caress the leathery membranes of his
wings. He had left the castle in a hurry to escape the wedding planners, and just allowed
himself to revel in the eternal dance only the warm ocean currents could create. His
firstborn's limitless patience and understanding laid heavily on his heart. A true
testament to Angela's enduringly caring spirit. Goliath dipped his head and flew lower,
dodging skyscrapers and billboard signs, while surveying all below him with charcoal
eyes. A reputation had grown around Goliath's honest demeanor, and as he never wanted
to lie to his closest friends, especially to his landlord and the mother of his beloved, a
solo patrol was his only option.

Goliath continued on to the southern end of the island, passing over cracked concrete
roads lined with older apartment buildings. An elder neighborhood, a product of the
post-war boom in the early days of the apartment complex, constructed quickly and close
together, where low income families made their home. Here, where the light was spread
too thin and small children were still playing in the streets, was an area that he knew too
well, as the many young families formed easy targets for the lecherous, who fed off their
vulnerabilities and satisfied their murderous impulses. The children were out tonight,
basking in the twilight's sparkling glow, with their parents watching from the stoop,
occasionally looking up into the newly-born night sky.

Goliath continued on, almost out of sight before a small anguished cry rang out and was
suddenly silenced. He quickly pulled himself around and landed on the edifice closest to
him, deep set eyes hurriedly examining the street below, his ears straining to pick up a
sound, anything that could tell him where the cry had come from. Directly across from
him, a condemned apartment complex, seasoned, worn and scheduled for demolition,
provided the corrupted a perfect place to obscure the most immoral of misdeeds from
those in the street beyond.

His instincts were proven correct when he noticed movement through the boarded
windows as phantoms weaved beyond the wooden planks. Two forms, one large and one
small. A child perhaps, struggling, the source of the muffled cries. The building's
delicate edge broke away in pieces as he launched himself into the air and dove towards
the large boarded window facing the street. Muscles tensed and nearly bursting through
his skin, he gained speed with every foot traveled as he approached the building's facade.
The wooden barrier, once enough to keep the raiding predators at bay from the building's
remaining valuables, exploded into a thousand pieces as small wood splinters ripped
through the air in all directions.

Like a bolt of lightning, his presence filled the room as he landed on the dust covered
floor. In front of him, a young man in his mid-twenties, was holding a small blond girl
who couldn't be more than eight years old. His hand clamped over her mouth, and her
pleading eyes were aimed directly at her savior. As the air cleared of the swirling debris,
the young man brought his arm down and adjusted to the brilliant light flowing through
the opened window, now spreading it's glimmering splendor to every corner of the room.
Before him, a void, an immense shadow, barely resembling a human shape, held itself on
the floor, and for a moment, the air stood still.

The girl stirred slightly under his grasp and the young man shifted his gaze, if only for a
second. It was enough. A snap of talons digging into linoleum was the only sound as
Goliath swiftly lept into the air. The lavender giant became a living weapon as seven
hundred pounds came crashing into the young degenerate, knocking him back into the
wall beyond. The painted drywall cracked against the young man's weight, collapsing
inwards and spilling it's contents of a white powdered mist over his fallen form. His eyes
fluttered and soon fell closed.

Goliath approached the young girl and quickly scooped her into his arms. Towards the
window he ran, and stopped as he reached the window's edge. Gently, he lowered the
small girl to the ground and watched her take her first uneasy steps. "You are safe,
young one. Now run home as fast as you can."

She backed away slowly from the lavender giant, eyes fixated on his powerful winged
visage. Her bottom lip trembled as she searched her adolescent intelligence to express
the events which had flashed past her ever so trusting gaze. Struck momentarily silent,
an arduous whisper was her only response. "Thank you."

"Never fear the dark, young one. I'll always be watching." Goliath rumbled gently as he
watched the young girl take to the streets, on her way back to the safety of her home. A
smile graced his lips. A young life had rescued from the city's insidious grip.

But a feeling grew upon the slender arms of his wings. Slight tremors resonated within
the thin membranes, and grew heavier with a repeated rhythm. Someone was behind
him. Goliath had no time to react as he noticed a flash of dulled steel from the corner of
his eye. A searing pain erupted on his back, spreading like wildfire through his entire
nervous system. He lost his balance and dropped to the floor. Through a haze, he looked
up to see the young man standing over him, with a piece of iron railing in his hand.

"Well, looky here, I caught myself a flying freak." he snapped. The young man looked
over the gargoyle, who, on his hands and knees, struggled to stand. But the young thug
wouldn't give him a chance, as a pointed, steel-toed boot caught him in the midsection.
Goliath collapsed again and winced in pain. "You should always look behind you,
freak." The cold steel of a railing once more found the expanse of Goliath's neck and a
tormented howl filled the room. "You know," the young punk started, "you really
shouldn't be out alone at this time of night. This city's dangerous." He let loose a
hushed cackle, watching the gargoyle writhe in agony, as the pain paralyzed his entire
body. "I thought you gargoyles always traveled in packs."

"We do."

The young man whirled around to stare at the darkness beyond the window. Deeper
within the building's interior, where the light couldn't reach, bore a violent flash of
white. What looked like two glowing eyes, steadily advanced as the young man edged
back. The shadowed corner gave birth to a tall figure, slightly hunched, his pale blue
skin glowing despite it's dusty pallor. Long white hair, framed by curved spurs, fell over
dark crimson shoulder pads and breast plate. A somber gray loincloth swayed briskly as
the figure emerged into the young punk's field of view. Lowering his head slowly, the
figure looked to the huddled lavender mass near the young man's feet. "It seems you
have hurt my brother." the figure rasped.

"Y-You're brother?" The young punk swallowed hard, as he realized his situation was
growing incredibly worse.

"Yes."

The young man slowly crept back, as the gargoyle came forward, matching him step for
step, until...he stopped abruptly. A smile formed, which looked out of place on the dusty
blue figure's stout features. The young man kept moving, steadily, surely, keeping his
frightened stare on the creature before him. He never noticed another form behind him
until he hit something solid. He tensed, and took a deep breath.

"You should have heeded your own warning, human."

Two caramel hands tore into the young man's black jacket. He could feel sharp talons
pressing against his sweaty skin, as the claws tightened about his shoulders. "Oh shit..."
He felt his body lifting from the ground. He was being effortlessly hoisted by his own
jacket into the air. Before he had the chance to react, he was thrown towards the
gargoyle, who curiously stood at rest. A hand shot up, and snatched the human face first,
into a large taloned hand. Muffled screams burst from the gargoyle's palm, as he tried to
squirm away like the leech he was, but the young man was caught in his powerful vice.

He noticed the other arm raising with his uncovered eye, coming closer to his head,
stopping less than an inch away. With his middle finger behind his thumb, the gargoyle
cocked a spurred ridge, and bared his teeth. One flick was all it took. The young man
flew back into another fragile wall, his head disappearing through the brittle material and
his body sagging to a limp.

"Oh my." A husky voice commented dryly from the shadows. "Well, at least you have
learned to take it easier on the criminal element, my love." A sigh leaked out from
caramel colored lips, tinged with a scarlet shade.

"Yes, well...how does our brother fare?"

"He will be fine. Luckily for him, he has a very hard head."

"I heard that." Goliath slowly erected himself to an uneven stance, and stared into the
inviting eyes of a thousand years past. "My sister, my brother. It's good to see you
again. How did you know I was here?"

"It's good to see you as well, my brother." Desdemona came forward and gingerly
wrapped her arms around her lavender brother, mindful of his neck and stomach.
"Queen Titania used her abilities to send us directly to your location. We were quite
surprised when we appeared on the second floor of this domicile."

"I suppose this means you received the invitation we sent."

"Oh yes. Young Alexander's magical skills are coming along quite nicely." Othello
answered, grasping Goliath's arm in a warrior's handshake. "But, please tell us, how did
the lady Elisa convince you to have a human wedding?"

Goliath couldn't stop a smug smile from forming. "She can be...very persuasive. Elisa
will be extremely delighted you both have decided to attend. And so will I. But..."

"What is it, Goliath?"

"When the wedding is over, you will once again leave our clan."

Desdemona stole a knowing glance to her mate, who stood by her side. "We will not be
leaving this time, my brother. Though we enjoyed our time on Avalon with our son and
the other hatchlings, we have both decided... it is time to come home."

"You will stay?"

"We miss our brother, our clan and the castle. We have been away far too long. I just
hope there is still room upon the cornices for my beloved and I."

"Always, my sister."

"Good." Desdemona looked back beyond the larger males to the unconscious body of
the young man. "I believe we should ensure that vile human will not be able to prowl
this peaceful neighborhood any longer."

"And after, you will be treated as guests of honor at the castle."

Othello shifted uncomfortably. "You needn't fuss over us like children, brother."

"Nonsense. You have come home, and we have much to celebrate."

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

Small swirls of misted clouds drifted aimlessly along the undying night sky, forever
changing, curling into shapes only limited by humanity's dreams. The older
neighborhood was silent, the streets had cleared of the residents, finding sanctuary within
their simple homes, against the eclipse of darkness. Midnight had come and passed on,
as evening slowly began to fade into the morning hours.

A lone police car pulled to the curb near the abandoned building, and lurched to a halt.
Officer Morgan, a seasoned and noble cop, who has for years done his best to protect the
citizens who share his grand city, stepped from the car and scanned the area around him.
A simple phone call from Goliath alerted him to the young punk and his attempt to steal
the innocence of a small child. He continued searching. "I don't get it. They said he'd
be right here, on the street."

"Mmmmppphhhfff!!" A garbled sound carried on the wind, as Morgan took notice. A
flicker of the light signaled movement from above. He slowly looked up, and laughed at
the sight. The young punk, eyes terrifyingly torn open, was securely strapped to the iron
streetlight, more than seven feet off the ground with a strip of fabric bound around his
mouth.

Morgan perched on the roof of the cruiser and used his utility knife to cut away at the
yellow rope. "Goliath must have found it in the building." he muttered to himself. The
ropes gave way and the young man fell to the ground, landing hard on the pavement,
immediately swearing through the gag.

"God, I love those guys."

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

Castle Wyvern echoed with the sounds of hundreds of working men and women, as the
final touches were being added to the grand halls for the impending ceremony. Ancient
adamantine walls came to life, adorned with the most delicate of materials and floral
arrangements. The soft whites carried a glow, set against the ashen stone, bringing an
almost heavenly savor to those who walked the corridors.

Through the day and night, Fox Xanatos had watched the castle transform before her
eyes. A detailed list, almost six months in the making, outlined every task to be handled
by teams of professionals, and led by Fox herself. She intended this wedding to be the
most grandiost the castle had ever experienced in it's eleven hundred year lifespan. A
gift to a friend, whom she regarded as her enemy in a life so long ago. To Fox Xanatos,
Elisa had become a confidant, a guide to help her begin again from the depths of
existence. Elisa had accepted her. But Diane Maza was another matter.

"Can I interest you in some coffee, Diane?" Fox asked quietly, as the two planners had
retired to the kitchen for a well deserved break.

"Please." Diane accepted the cup in her cinnamon hands and relished the sweetened,
piquant liquid, as the wafting steam drifted to the roof.

"God, I needed this." Fox replied. She watched as the ivory cream poured from the
carton and was enveloped by the black fluid, eventually stirring into a creamy bronze,
creating a reflection of her anguished eyes. "Diane," she started, forcing the words from
her throat, "do you trust me?"

"I think I do."

"Do...you trust my husband?"

Diane scowled and looked away, concentrating on the workers in the next room.

"I guess I got my answer..."

"It's taken me a long time to come to terms with what that man did to my son, and what
he's done to my daughter, her fiancé and his family. I don't know if I can ever trust
him."

"But he's not that man any more!" Fox's labored voice bordered on a scream.
"Everyday, he spends millions of dollars giving to charitable causes. He spends hours on
the phone in his office, directing his company to help those who need it most. Everyday,
he comes face to face with the people he's hurt, those whose lives he's destroyed.
Everyday, he has to tell his four-year-old son...why everyone hates his daddy." Her hand
trembled slightly and she removed it from the table, from Diane's scrutinizing gaze.

"Maybe..." Diane whispered, bringing Fox's attention back to the woman before her.
"Maybe I can try. For your sake, and your son's."

"I'm glad to hear that, Mrs. Maza." Diane and Fox both turned to see David Xanatos
emerging from the stone arch. "Like my wife said, that David Xanatos is dead, and I will
do everything in my power to repay those I've hurt."

"I heard that before. You robbed my son of his humanity." Diane hissed.

"A grave mistake, that hopefully someday I can put right." Xanatos took a seat near his
wife and extended his hand to the elder woman, whose glare darted between his hand and
his own dark eyes. "Once, my word was never worth the spit it took to say, but now, I
truly have changed. I will give back to all I've harmed. I will set things right."

Diane stared for a long time, an eternity to Fox, at Xanatos' hand. Slowly, she reached
over and gingerly grasped his hand, cautious, as if she expected it to bite back. "For my
son's sake, and Elisa's, and Goliath's, and the rest of the people I hold dear, I hope
you're telling the truth. But," she twisted his arm and pulled him close, his eyes growing
wide, "if you do anything to hurt them again...not even Goliath can protect you from me."

"Deal."

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

The hours passed quickly in Destine Manor as the moon sailed from skyline to skyline, a
perfect unending tour of the treasures held by the stars, destined to continue again and
again until the end of eternity. The rest of the world was quiet, removed from the
residents of the grand mansion, who never noticed the time flow by.

Angela and Demona talked for hours, between cups of tea and small chocolate
confections, indulging in their pleasant words and boisterous laughter. Angela relayed
the events of the past weeks, especially the first meeting of Maria Chavez and the clan.
Mother and daughter shared their innermost secrets and desires, safe in the fact they
would stay just between the two of them, for their trust was too valuable to worth
destroying after so long, and such a difficult battle to finally come together in a lasting
peace.

Angela noticed the sky brightening long the eastern horizon, signaling the coming of the
sun just hours away and reluctantly had to cut her visit short. Her mother never showed
her sadness in seeing her daughter leave after such an enjoyable night, but knew her time
was divided between her and the Wyvern clan.

"I want to see how the castle is coming along. They've almost finished." Angela
remarked as she opened the terrace doors and stepped into the early morning breeze.

"I'm sure Fox has done an admirable job." Demona whispered, trying to put forth a brave
front.

"As am I." Angela agreed, as she turned to face her mother, and moved her gaze past her,
to the table in the spacious room beyond. "Well, the wedding is next Saturday, so I will
not be able to come the following week. But, I'm hoping to see you at my home."

"It's...it's too soon, Angela."

"Maybe, but remember this...for everything you've done, they're still willing to give you
one last chance. One last opportunity to finally come home after a thousand years of
solitude. Please, don't screw it up."

Demona scowled softly. "Go home, daughter." she chuffed, and watched her daughter
dive into the wind and take one last wave before vanishing over the trees. The immortal
moved into the house and locked the doors behind her. She slumped back into the
loveseat and stared at the invitation, leering at her from the wooden table. She reached
over slowly and snatched the invite with a quick snap of her wrist.

'We delightfully request your presence on the twenty second day of January, two
thousand for the joining of Goliath of Wyvern to Elisa Maria Maza." The words mocked
her, as she was plagued with memories from her own life, with her former mate.
Angela's words stuck within her. One final chance to be forgiven. One final chance to
be loved. One final chance, to come home.

With a red pen in hand, Demona made her final decision.

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

The stars had once again emerged to seize the sky, as the daytime light drained away to
barely a flicker, above the ocean echelon. Angela awakened with a roar and broke free
of her stone shell. Two new voices joined with the deafening melody of the gargoyle
song, as Othello and Desdemona screamed defiantly their waking cries. She watched as
the dusty blue gargoyle helped his beloved from her new perch.

Upon arriving home the previous night, Angela received a most welcome surprise, of
finding the time lost couple waiting patiently for her to return. After a tour of the
decorated castle, she spent the fading night hours hearing about her own clan, the lost
children of Wyvern. Her brothers and sisters and her human guardians, living a peaceful
life beyond anyone's reach.

"Angela?"

The lavender gargess was lost in her thoughts, too lost to notice a single voice calling to
her.

"Angela?"

"What? Oh." Angela whirled around to stare into the cold eyes of Owen Burnett.
"Owen?"

"I have something for you, Angela." Owen promptly responded, reaching into his coat
pocket and pulling a single envelope from the silken material lining his dark Prussian
suit. "This arrived for you, just hours after sunrise."

"What is it?"

"I do not know. But it is from your mother's company. Goodnight." As Owen left her
side, Angela hurriedly tore the envelope open and emptied the contents of the package
into her delicate hand. The invitation given to her mother. Angela swallowed, and
sighed. An answer lay inside, perhaps a single word that could change her life, and her
mother's from this point on. She opened the flap, and peered inside. A red script stood
out from the rest. Three simple words...

'I'LL BE THERE.'