18 - "Baby Shower"
Originally Written: March 17th, 2000

October 31st, 2000. 7:00 p.m.
"I'm gonna get more candy than you, pal."

"Now way. I've got an entire pillowcase to fill, and I've got a better costume."

"You're not wearing a costume, remember?"

"Yeah, but I'm cuter, and humans love that."

A chorus of young voices bantered back and forth between the youngest residents of
castle Wyvern. Graeme and Arianna argued continually as their effortless attempts to
annoy the other became an increasing game to be one with every conversation. Brother
and sister by blood, yet two warriors in spirit, armed with weapons of sharpened wit and
sarcastic quips.

This darkened eve harbored one of the many cherished holidays of the clan, Halloween.
A chance to steal to the city below and for once, their physical appearance would be of
no importance, if only to please those humans who believed the wings and tails were
nothing more than elaborate costumes of their city's urban legend. The twins had
pleaded Lexington to guide them among the streets once more, though 'trick or treating'
was a human custom, they had embraced it with a very high regard, especially when it
meant filling their bags with an onslaught of sweetened confectionery.

The gargoyles had just awakened with the fading of the sun, and the twins had rushed to
get their pillowcases and meet their uncle. They followed the winding paths and
eventually made their way to the main greeting room, with Lexington waiting for them
near the elevator doors. They emerged onto the checkered pastel tile of the refurnished
room and found David Xanatos lingering alongside, their one ticket into the most
prominent of neighborhoods, where he had taken Alexander once before.

"Knock it off, you two." Lexington scolded his niece and nephew as their argument came
to an abrupt close. "Now come on, we gotta hit the streets, before all the good candy is
given away."

"Yes, we're going to a pretty posh neighborhood. I expect some great treats." Xanatos
came up to the trio with Alexander in front of him.

"C'mon, let's go. I wan' candy!!" Alex squealed as he and the twins ran for the doors
and frantically pressed the lighted button.

"How did I get talked into this?" Lexington asked the billionaire, as the doors slid open
with nothing but the slight hush of the hydraulics.

"Because Broadway's too big to go himself," Xanatos chuckled as they followed the
three young kids into the awaiting lift, "he needs you to go get his candy for him."

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

An unsettling sight was a plain calendar ripped in half, and it's torn pieces laying on the
thick carpeting of Elisa's room. A week had passed since the expected due date and the
raven haired beauty had given up hope of ever having her baby. Her daily tortuous ritual
of the gaping stare into the mirror, started after the sixth month, had seduced her beyond
measure. She had become surly and easily upset, with even the smallest of indiscretions.
Even Goliath had trouble dealing with her, so most of the clan gave her a wide berth,
until at least the baby was born.

"I'm a cow..." she muttered to herself, finally breaking her enrapturous gaze from the
reflective surface.

"No, you're not." said Fox from her position behind Elisa, sitting on the edge of the large
bed, and ever watchful of familiar gestures and attitudes when pregnant with Alexander.

"Look at me!" Elisa whirled around to catch witness of her friend of her friend smiling
back at her. "I'm frigging huge! God, why won't this baby come out?"

"Well, since it's half gargoyle, and since gargoyle eggs take almost ten years to hatch,
you may pregnant until you're forty."

Elisa immediately scowled at the tattooed woman, watching her topple over with
laughter on the down comforter. "That's not funny!" she growled. "Aren't you taking
Alex trick or treating tonight?"

"Nope. David's taking care of that this year." Fox replied as she stood up, wiped the
tears from her eyes and came to Elisa's side. With an arm thrown around her shoulder,
she whispered into her ear, "I, or should I say, we...have something even better to do."

Elisa lightened up somewhat, at Fox's clandestine tone. "And what's that?"

"It's a surprise. Come with me." Fox grabbed Elisa's hand and led her from the room.

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

"Sorry, chump," Todd crowed, with an emphatic emphasis on the 'p', his boisterous pitch
filling even the massive media room, "but I'm gonna take every single buck you've got."

"I don't think so, monkey. You're going down." Brooklyn quipped back, as he set up the
large card table and chairs for use. "And your wallet's being emptied as of this
moment."

The media room, now the center for what could be called an escape from reality. A
chance to delve into a game with friends and family and forget the woes behind these
walls, plus be witness to the ultimate of male bravado and braggadocio. Between the
giant screen TV and the pooltables, a massive round table was the focus of the players, as
they all took their seats, like the ancient warriors of Camelot preparing for battle, some
more ready for tonight's activities than others.

"I have not played this...poker before. Is it rather difficult?" Othello asked as he sat
down in a large chair, obviously intended for beings bigger than humans.

Broadway sat down and placed all the snacks on the large table. "Not when you get the
hang of it."

"Dinna worry, ladd, I be learnin' this game fer th' first time as well." Hudson assured the
dusty blue gargoyle, listing backwards in his chair with an unassuming creak.

"Yeah," Todd leaned over to Othello and smirked, "just how much money do you have?"

"I thought this game used these colorful chips instead of currency."

"Oh boy, this is going to be a long night." Brooklyn chuffed, noticing two mammoth
forms grazing past the door frame, yet just within his keen sight to recognize them. "Hey
guys, want to play poker?!"

A giant lavender hand grasped the stone frame as Goliath, with Shadow by his side,
appeared at the arched passageway. "Not tonight, Brooklyn," he answered almost
grimly, "we have patrol." Goliath's expression hardened, as if attempting to hide what
almost could have been called fear wash over his features. The others took the cue and
waited expectantly for the leader to elaborate. He sighed, "I don't think I want to be in
the castle right now."

"I never knew you to be afraid of your mate, my rookery brother." Othello coyly replied,
watching with fascination as Todd shuffled the cards.

"Yes, well, Fox has something special planned for her tonight and hopefully it will have a
calming effect."

"Been a little irate the last couple weeks?" Todd asked as he played dealer to a quartet of
gargoyles, a cocky smile inflamed on his lips.

"She is a week past the expected date of birth and she is becoming..." Goliath hesitated,
lost in thought for an appropriate term.

"Scary is the word I'd use." Broadway said as he downed a handful of potato chips.

"Hmmm, yes. But she cannot help it, she is just tired. Regardless, Shadow and I must
patrol the city as the female side of our clan is busy tonight."

"Doing what?"

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

"SURPRISE!!!" A choir of female harmony burst out as Elisa entered into one of the
castle's many rooms. She almost jumped from her skin as humans, gargoyles, and
mutates gathered around her, leading her to a large couch centered within the middle of
the room. An ivory banner, hanging from the ceiling support beams of English oak, was
marked with congratulatory words in a bright red typeface. Elisa, stunned beyond the
capacity for words, slumped into the loveseat as the others took their seats next to her.
Fox, Diane and Beth Maza, Angela, Sata, Annika, Desdemona, Maggie, Sharon, and
Delilah surrounded her, all with huge grins directed her way.

"A baby shower...how quaint." Elisa cocked an eyebrow. "I take it this was your idea,
Fox?" She turned to the billionaire and watched her shrug.

"Eh. I thought it would help lighten your mood."

"Will it in some way help me to have my baby?"

"Elisa." Diane scolded her oldest child, as the crowd tried to suppress their laughter.
"Maybe this will cheer you up." Diane pointed to a large table, piled high with boxes
and packages wrapped with brilliant, lustrous paper.

Elisa smirked, her large chocolate eyes reflecting a collection of gifts, awaiting only her
slender hands to tear through to the fortune inside. "...maybe it will."

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

Alive came the currents aloft the city skyline, as two of the finest warriors born from the
winged race sailed the cool streams of the wind's meandering trails. Goliath and Shadow
guided themselves over the roadways of Manhattan and scanned for any violation of
man's laws, perchance a barrage of vandalism and misdeed coming to a peak on the
wickedest night of the year. The two gargoyles flew on, over Central Park, reaching a
velocity and dexterity unheard of from any others in the clan. As if trying to best each
other's top speed, they played a dangerous game beyond the reach of the foliage below.

Shadow narrowed his flightpath, eventually reaching the lavender giant's side, yet almost
tearing through the wind to reach him. "Are you looking forward to the birth of your
child, Goliath-sama?"

"Yes, very much." he answered, surprised at the oft-silent and rarely sociable gargoyle's
display of familiarity. "I often wonder what it will look like and find myself wishing so
much to hold it within my own hands. But I think Elisa will be even happier once it is
born. She has carried the child within her for more than nine months now."

"Yes. I have noticed her mood lately," Shadow winced, "and also noticed most of the
clan shying away, except of course, you and her mother."

Goliath smiled. The only other person who was barely able to handle Elisa's ferocious
mood swings was her mother, from whom she had inherited her stubbornness and
tenacious attitude. "But, it will be very soon and my seco...thirdborn will bless our
family and home."

"Thirdborn?" Shadow inquired upon the gargoyle in front of him. "I thought Angela was
your only child?" A split second later, his memories brought back to him another
daughter who Goliath and Elisa had 'adopted' recently. "Ah yes, Delilah."

At his comrade's mention of the clone's name, Goliath slowed his speed and came in
closer to the dark warrior. "Yes, Delilah. Are you fond of her?"

Puzzled by the question, Shadow looked to Goliath. "Well, yes. She, like the rest of the
clan, has become a good friend. Why do you ask?"

"Ah, no reason."

Shadow never caught Goliath's capricious smirk as the lavender giant increased his
speed. "What? Wait!!"

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

"How many cards do you need, O?" Todd asked the pale blue gargoyle.

He never lifted his gaze from behind the wall of a carefully hidden hand, secured in place
by taloned fingers. "I believe I shall take two." Othello slipped two cards from behind
his hand and slid them towards the dealer.

Todd responded by handing him two fresh cards from the top of the deck. "And you,
Hudson?"

"Nay, laddie, I will stay wi' these." the older gargoyle replied, neither a smile or grimace
placed forth, his poker face remaining firm as the others gave knowing glances to each
other. For the entire night, Hudson began to pile most of the chips in front of him. Even
though he had never played poker before tonight, it seems the elder had a knack for the
game.

"Oh crap," Broadway huffed, "fifty bucks says he has a straight."

Hudson's stout features never wavered.

"No way," Brooklyn leaned in closer to get a better look at Hudson's dark eyes, "he's
bluffing."

"Well, now's the time to see. All right gargoyles, I call." Todd laid his cards on the
table and the others followed suit, all except for Hudson. Four impressive hands, each
better than the other. "The highest hand's a full house. Beat that, old man."

"Aye." Hudson revealed his cards and the others gasped at his hand. The elder gargoyle
smiled at the sight of four pairs of wide eyes. On the table before him sat four aces and a
king. "I believe these...be mine." he teased the younger generation as he pulled the large
pile of chips towards him.

"I take it that hand is very rare?" Othello broke the acrimonious silence as he looked to
his human friend.

"I've been playing poker since I was ten and I've never, ever seen that." Todd picked his
cards from the table and almost threw them at Brooklyn, the next in line to deal, who was
also feeling a little embarrassed at his previous boasting. "Are you sure you've never
played this game before?"

"Aye."

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

"Open mine first," Delilah pleaded as she handed Elisa a heavy box, "this is from me and
my brothers."

She grunted as she strained to hold the box in her lap, excitedly ripping the paper open
and throwing the scraps to the floor. Inside were several volumes of storybooks and
nursery rhyme collections.

"The Dr. Suess books were my favorites. I thought since I don't need them anymore, you
could read them to your child. They helped me to learn how to read better."

"Thank you very much, Delilah. I'll read these to him, or her, every night." She looked
to the clone as she blushed slightly.

"Now mine!" Annika handed over a medium sized box.

Elisa was met by a brown box as the giftwrapping fell away. She opened the top and
reached into a pile of shredded paper. Her brow snapped up as her hands caressed upon
an odd shape. She pulled it out and instantly her eyes went wide. Annika's gift was a
small silver statue of Goliath, in his traditional thinker's pose, a sterling reflection of all
gathered there appearing in a distorted likeness on the serpentine curves of the familiar
gargoyle's form. "Oh...wow." Elisa rubbed her fingers over the figure, amazed by the
exact resemblance to her giant love. "Where did you get this?"

A subtle smile curved on her large, ruby lips. "I made it."

"You made this?! But how...I didn't know you knew how to sculpt."

"Neither did Todd. His eyes almost popped our from his head when I showed him some
of my works I made in the last couple months. I guess it all started when my mom gave
me playdough as a kid. Oh, and check this out..." Annika grabbed the statue and before
anyone could stop her, threw it with all her strength against the nearest wall. Expecting it
to break into a thousand pieces, the crowd cringed as it hit with a thud and fell to the
ground, with not a scratch on it's shining surface. Annika placed it back in Elisa's hands.
"The best part is, it's completely childproof. I used the original sculpture to make a mold
and David provided a steel alloy material to make this. It can't be broken." she said as
she rubbed a talon down the smooth surface. "I thought even when Goliath's up sleeping
or out on patrol, he'll always be watching over you, and your baby."

"Thank you very much." Elisa handed the statue to Sata beside her as it was passed
around and admired.

"And this is from me," Desdemona said, "I hope they will be useful."

Elisa had to get up to unwrap Desdemona's large gift. A burlap material held in place by
a binding of yellowed string came apart in Elisa's hands and she instantly laughed out
loud at the sight of a massive box of diapers.

"A lifetime's supply worth of your choice of cloth or disposable. Just ask Owen when
you run low. Oh, and according to the...sonogram you showed me, you might need
these." Desdemona handed Elisa a smaller package. She opened it and pulled out a pair
of scissors. "For the tail."

"And now my gift." Sata gave Elisa a wrapped bundle as she sat down again. She undid
the ribbon, dug through the tissue paper and tugged upon a large white shawl. Elisa ran
her hands over the smooth white surface. "To keep your child warm in the cold Winter
months. And hopefully this will pacify the baby if it becomes upset." She got up and
pulled a large rocking chair from the back of the room. "It's big enough, and strong
enough, to hold even Goliath. Fox found it at an antique store and had it refurnished
and...ahem, reinforced."

Elisa placed herself in the wooden chair and slowly rocked back and forth, her slender
form dwarfed by the large frame, with carved designs of exquisite intricacy. "Why does
this feel so familiar?" she remarked quietly as she glanced at her mother. "Thank you,
Sata. I'm sure Goliath will enjoy this even more than me."

"Okay, mom to be, my turn."

Elisa hardly had the chance to take a seat on the sofa as Angela threw a large package on
her lap. She opened it and pulled out blankets, bibs, pacifiers, baby bottles, rattles, and
various other tools for expecting parents. "Everything a new mother will need, and
more."

"Whoa, thanks Angie..." Elisa placed the box down as another appeared on her legs, an
assailment of gifts with barely the time to open them all...barely.

"From us." Maggie and Sharon watched as Elisa delved into a rainbow of softened fur,
as dozens of stuffed animals and toys exploded from their confines. The last stuffed
plaything was large bearlike animal with wings.

Elisa hugged it close and sighed, "So this it what it feels like..."

"Before you get ahead of yourself, here's mine." Fox broke Elisa from her reverie and
handed her a small envelope.

Elisa gave Fox a perplexed look, expecting something grander from the eccentric
billionairess. She used her nail to tear the envelope and pulled out a small slip of paper.
She read the letter aloud to the rest of the group, "Good for a clothing shopping spree for
your baby, and yourself...hmpf, after you get back to your ideal weight. Thank you Fox,
this is fantastic. Uhm, how long did it take you to get back to your ideal weight?"

"I don't think I'll tell you that." Fox demurely replied as Elisa looked to her stomach and
groaned.

"Oh stop that sis. You'll be thin in no time. I'm sure Goliath would be more than
willing to help you out." Beth chimed in, causing the others to laugh and Elisa to glare at
her little sister.

"I think Goliath's 'help' is the reason we're having this party." Fox added, inflaming the
laughter to an even higher degree.

"And now, my child, it's our turn." Diane stated quietly as she handed Elisa the last gift
from the table. Several photo albums and an assortment of picture frames. "I want to see
a lot of pictures of my grandchild."

"Well, I have more than enough from the wedding to fill a couple of these albums."

"And now for the best part, sis." Beth rose from her seat and took Elisa's hand, leading
her to a large object, covered with a blanket. The other women followed, with each a
curious intent and gathered around the Maza sisters. "Mom and I thought you could use
this..." Beth grabbed the sheet and gave it a quick tug, revealing an old wooden crib,
restored to like new condition.

"My crib." Elisa breathed a hoarse whisper as she reached out and gingerly caressed the
mahogany of the bassinet, a lifetime of memories associated with that single touch.
"Where did you get this? I thought you threw it away."

"Peter and I held on to it, just in case any of our children would ever need it. He rescued
this old thing from the attic and had it restored."

"It's beautiful. It's just as I remember." She hugged her mother and sister and quickly
turned back to the crib, marveling at the curved wooden spirals and the varnished surface
gleaming in the room's pale light.

Fox came up beside her and looked down into the crib. "So, did we get you out of your
funk?"

"Oh yeah, I'm feeling much better now."

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

"Wait, why did you ask about Delilah?" Shadow continued to press the issue with
Goliath as they neared the sharp edged styling of the Chrysler Building.

"I was...just wondering..."

"Wondering about what?" Shadow's tone bordered on anger.

Goliath slowed his flight and directed towards the skyscraper. A clatter of talons on the
mortar surface and a hushed snap of the wings, Goliath settled himself on the Chrysler's
foremost spire, his mighty form silhouetted by the light of a billion stars.

Shadow landed beside him and quickly crept to his side. "What is going on?" he
demanded furiously, almost forgetting for a moment he was addressing the leader of his
newfound clan. "Please..."

"It is not my place to tell you." Goliath answered, noticing Shadow's features contort.
He took a deep breath and looked towards the city, knowing it was too late to salvage the
unintentionally spilled secret of Delilah's feelings. "She has a crush on you."

"W-WHAT?!!!"

"She has romantic feelings for you. Ever since you joined our clan and came to the
castle for the first time."

Shadow wavered slightly and collapsed onto a ledge offered by the architectural styling.
"Why didn't I see this?"

"I truly don't know. She turns a bright red whenever you enter the same room. I thought
you would have noticed the way she follows you around or is always there to listen for
hours on end, your playing of the flute."

Shadow's narrow eyes fell open at the realization of his inadvertent ignorance. "Oh...I
mean, she is a fine friend, but I never thought of her in that way."

"Perhaps it is time to change your way of thinking. There are not many gargoyles to
choose as mates, and you are lucky enough to have one fall in love with you." Goliath
placed his lavender hand on Shadow's shoulder, near his massive bone spurs. "But, if
you do not feel the same way, it may be wise to tell her."

Shadow remained silent throughout Goliath's pensive gaze. The wind had picked up, the
scent of sweet domestic cuisine and Autumn flora trapped within the breeze. The dark
warrior ultimately rose to his feet. "Yes," he rasped, "you are right. Perhaps I should
have a...discussion, with Delilah." He launched himself from the edge, leaving Goliath
to follow behind and wonder just what his decision had come to.

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

"No way." Todd said as he gulped down his Jolt cola.

"I'm telling you man," Brooklyn finished the last of his beer, "it's true."

"You and Sata made love for more than six hours..."

"Yup."

"Well, that's kind of impressive, but," Todd smirked as his eyes caught his scarlet
friend's, "Annika and I once did the nasty for almost eight."

"Bullshit."

"Ask her."

Human and gargoyle egos clashed at the table, taking form in bragging rights in
everything from driving ability to sexual prowess. Todd and Brooklyn had almost given
up, as the two most experienced players were getting badly beaten in the final stretches
of the game. Hudson and Othello withheld most of the chips and Broadway was not far
from catching up. Othello looked towards Hudson and the two locked gazes.

Broadway knew something was up. "I fold." The burly aquamarine gargoyle flattened
his cards on the wooden surface and grabbed the bowl of Cheetos.

"And I call." Othello showed his cards and waited for his mentor to do the same.

"Ye have become quite good at this table at this wee game, ladd." Hudson cast his cards
away and growled beneath his smile. He watched Othello laugh and what lay of chips to
his own impressive pile.

"Ah, monkey piss!" Todd flung his cards down in disgust as Brooklyn did the same.

"It would seem I win again, my friends." Othello couldn't keep his smile hidden as he
looked towards the others. "And by the way, Desdemona and I made love the entire
night when conceiving our egg. Over ten hours. I guess that means I win your other
game as well. This is becoming a very good night."

"Oh shut the fuck up." Brooklyn and Todd chorused together as Othello beared his teeth
in a rousing cheer.

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

"No way." Elisa finished the last of her lemon tea.

"Yes it is." Fox replied from the other couch.

"There's no way Xanatos' butt is better than Goliath's."

"Hey, if you like big and purple." Fox chuffed.

"Maybe you should have married Barney." Beth interrupted from Elisa's side, causing
her sister to scowl and the others to laugh once again.

Elisa slapped her sister's shoulder. "Very funny, little sis."

The gifts had been opened, and now the ladies of Wyvern had immersed into a heated
discourse over pots of coffee and tea. The conversation had carried into the night and the
room was filled with gossip and laughter, those assembled here carrying on in a wide
variety of subject matter, especially their mates.

This particular topic garnered a silence from Delilah, having no mate of her own.

Fox noticed this and directed the discussion towards the copper colored clone. "So,
Delilah, has Shadow succumbed to your feminine wiles yet?"

"Uh, no." The clone blushed a little as all eyes in the room turned towards her. "I
haven't really, uhm..."

"He has no idea about how you feel, does he?" Elisa answered for her 'daughter'.

Delilah looked away. "Since I haven't told him, no."

"Awww," Beth cooed, "my little niece has a big crush on big, bad Bruce Lee." But her
joke turned sour when Delilah's eyes fell to the ground, a low-spirited sulk appearing on
her comely features. "Oh...Delilah, I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything by it..."

Diane sat beside her and took her copper hand in her own. "What is it, sweetheart?"

"I want to tell him, but I'm...afraid. Afraid he'll..." She stopped, her own words
becoming lost in her throat.

"Afraid he'll say he doesn't feel the same way."

"I don't think I could face that." said Delilah as Elisa sat next to her.

"I once told somebody that life is a risk," she whispered, "and so is love. But it's worth
the gamble. If you tell him and he says no, than you'll know for sure. But, if you keep
your feelings to yourself, and never let him know how you truly feel, you may regret it
for the rest of your life. I know I would have regretted it if I never pursued my
relationship with Goliath." Delilah smiled and leaned towards her mother, feeling
Elisa's arms wrap around her. "Shadow is a very caring and gentle individual. He will
always be your friend no matter what happens."

"I know. Thank you, Elisa."

"Don't mention it. Now, tell me one thing."

"What's that?"

"You think Goliath's butt is better than Xanatos', right?"

"Definitely."

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

Past the hour of 9:30, and on into twilight, the protectors had curved their flight towards
home. The patrol had been surprisingly peaceful tonight. The city seemed to be enjoying
it's Halloween celebrations, and the police were out in full force, prepared for any breach
of their carefully guarded edicts. Goliath and Shadow were nearing the Eyrie building,
the lavender giant looking forward to hearing about Elisa's night with the women. Fox
had told him beforehand about her special surprise and hoped it would lift his wife's
spirits. But suddenly, a dark hand grabbed his arm, effectively starting him from his
gentle thoughts and into a most harsh reality.

"Goliath-sama, I see something." Shadow turned sharply and headed away from him at
an alarming rate.

Goliath followed as best he could and soon landed on an obscure rooftop, lost in the
chaos of New York's towering skyscrapers, as Shadow looked around him. "What is it?"
Goliath asked, trying to see what had drawn his companion here in such a mad rush.

"I saw something, or someone. It looked like it had wings."

"It could have been one of the mutates or clones."

"Maybe. Maybe not. But I felt something." Shadow traced the dust on the roof with his
talons. "Look. Footprints left in the dirt. Gargoyle prints. That rules out the mutates.
The clones?"

"All wrong for the clones. Too large for Lexington and the twins, and the others stayed
in for the night."

"It seems we have a mystery on our..." His words abruptly cut off, Shadow stood up and
violently tensed. An evil wind crossed his path, and he hunched over, clenching his fists.
His eyes were marked with an eerie sapphire fury, his wings outspread as if to test the air.
"Someone...is here."

Goliath could sense something as well. A feeling, become tangible, creeping up the
length of his spine and cutting across the back of his neck. As if on cue, they turned
slightly to the ledge on the other side of the building. A shadow had danced within their
sight, transformed into nothing but a gnarled oblivion set against the darkness of the
hidden heavens.

"Who...what is it?" Shadow asked the lavender giant.

"I do not recognize it." Goliath replied as the specter seemed to drop below the edge of
the roof. The two gargoyles ran to the side and peered over. Nothing. Only an empty
darkness and the street below them.

"What was it?"

"I do not know." Goliath raised to his full height, releasing a snarl of hot air into the
unholiness of the devil's night. "But whatever it was, obviously does not want to be
found. Come, let's go home."

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

"Well, I quit," Todd finished his cola and stood up, "I've had enough of losing."

"But it is still early, and the game was just getting good." Othello leaned back in his
chair to survey his pile chips.

"Only for you and the old fart. The rest of us are out of chips." Todd threw the deck on
the table and moved to a far corner in the room, to a small fridge, grabbing another cola.
Brooklyn stretched out the kinks and picked up the bag of pretzels while Broadway and
Othello cleaned the chips and cards from the table.

"I be thankin' ye laddies fer a grea' game. We should be doin' that agin, I reckon."
Hudson stood up and folded his chair. "I dinna think that winnin' aginst ye young ladds
would feel so good. Now, if ye excuse me, I be checkin' the score of th' Rangers game."
Hudson retreated to his small room and the others were left to talk amongst themselves.

"Just what joyous occasion stole the attention of our mates this evening?" Othello asked
as he stowed the poker supplies in the large chest of drawers.

"Goliath said a baby shower was being thrown for Elisa."

"A baby...shower?"

"Yeah, or in other words, a place where women get together, give gifts to the expecting
mother, catch up on the latest gossip and badmouth their respective others." Todd joked
as he took another sip.

"Ah." Othello nodded. Though the term was outside of his tenth century vocale, he
seemed to understand completely, knowing what dangers both female gargoyles and
humans could summon when left together; those of ten centuries ago, and those of today.

Brooklyn chomped down on a couple of pretzels. "Yeah, I can't even imagine what
they're talking about."

"Well, let's go find out. It's nearly ten, and they've been in there for almost three hours."
Broadway left the room and the others followed.

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

Elisa finished her piece of cake supplied for the shower by Fox. Her gaze would often
dart to her opened gifts, very special items from very special friends. Elisa surveyed the
room and minded her companions gathered around her, still engaged in conversation.
The expecting mother went unnoticed as she rose and approached the large rocking chair.
She covered herself in the white shawl and began to rhythmically sway back and forth,
while gazing at the small statue of Goliath. She heard footsteps behind and looked up to
see Angela standing over her.

"You seem distant."

"Just thinking. About how good my life is. About how many friends I've met in the past
six years and before they came into my life, how I ever lived without them." She placed
her hand on Angela's as the young gargess kneeled beside her. "Thank you."

"For what?" Angela asked.

"For being there."

"You are my best friend. You have been with me through some of the most trying
periods of my life."

"What are step-mother's for?" Angela smiled as Elisa mindfully lifted from her chair,
aided with a modest yank from the lavender gargess, and rejoined the others.

What privacy the ladies once had, was effectively destroyed as the double doors to the
room flew open and the males entered, led by Todd.

"I'm sorry, did we interrupt the contest to see who has the most cellulite on their butt?"
He and Brooklyn laughed and were met with angered stares from the women. "Oh man,
I'm dead meat, aren't I?"

Brooklyn smiled, closed his eyes, and just nodded.

"I must apologize for our human friend, ladies," Othello bowed to the group and took his
place near Desdemona, "he is just upset that he lost all his chips."

Annika stood and pointed a talon at her boyfriend. "You lost?!!"

"Yeah, what of it?" Todd challenged the cerise gargess.

"Mr. 'I'm gonna take these gargoyle suckers for everything they've got' lost at a game
he's been playing for eleven years?!" she continued, gorging on her boyfriend's ever
angering expression, and watching him cross his arms and scowl.

"So, did you ladies have fun?" Broadway asked, his massive form appearing behind
Angela.

"Oh yes, very much."

"That's good." A deep baritone involved itself in the dialogue as the group turned to see
Goliath and Shadow coming through the doors.

Shadow's gaze locked on Delilah's stead, his deep eyes of chestnut invoking a crimson
blush from her copper skin.

With a sudden rush, Goliath wrapped his arms around his wife, stroking her stomach,
causing her skin to goosebump at his firm yet tender touch. "I hoped it helped your foul
mood, my Elisa."

"Yes, Big Guy. Check out all the stuff we got for the baby." She led her husband to the
table and showed him the various gifts, especially the statue of him, the rocking chair and
the crib. As the couple viewed the presents, most of the group broke up, going their
separate ways for the night.

Shadow came up behind Delilah and placed his hand on her shoulder, causing the young
clone to jump slightly. "May I speak with you, Delilah? In private?" His gentle rasp
carried softly on the air.

"Uhm, yeah. Okay." She followed Shadow from the room, passing by Beth and Diane,
flashing a look of expectation to her family. They exchanged a hopeful glance and
looked to where Elisa was with Goliath and noticed her yawn. She had trouble sleeping
in the advanced months of pregnancy, and would sometimes spend the daylight hours
wandering the castle, unable to fall back asleep.

"Time for us to go, child." Diane kissed her daughter on the cheek. "I expect to receive
an important phonecall very soon. Now get some rest."

"See ya, sis." Beth hugged her sister and gave Goliath a pat on the butt, evoking a
sudden skip in his massive frame. "Bye bye, Big Guy."

"I hate her." Goliath huffed as Elisa giggled under her breath. Hand in hand, they
withdrew to their bedroom.

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

Upon entering the majestic domain of the quarters, Elisa changed into her nightgown and
went to brush her teeth, leaving behind a trail of clothing, still used to her bachelorette
existence, much to her husband's chagrin.

Goliath picked her clothes strewn to the floor and put them away, taking a moment to
breathe in the scent before returning them to the chest of drawers. "So, did you really
enjoy your baby shower, my Elisa?"

"Yeah, I think I did." she yelled from the bathroom. "It really helped put some things
into perspective."

"What things?"

"Just how lucky I am to have you and this family."

"As am I." Goliath replied as he pulled back the sheets of the bed to prepare it for his
wife.

"......oh my god!!" Elisa's trembling voice called in tandem with a clamor of something
solid falling to the floor, most likely her hairbrush.

"What is it?" Goliath turned to see Elisa emerge shakily from the bathroom door,
clutching her stomach and a wet portion of her gown.

"My...my water just broke..."