38 - "Promise Of The Ring"
Originally Written: January 19th, 2001

Author's Note: More like a simple comment, actually. I only want to say I always enjoy
reader mail, and want to see your flames as well. Obviously a story presented won't
agree with some people, and I just want to know why. I only become a better writer with
your input. Please, if you see something you don't like, don't agree with, have a question
about, or if I made a major error, feel free to tell me and we can talk, or I can fix my
mistake, or answer the question asked of me. As stated once before, I write for you...
Laters...The Barracuda

February 14th, 2001
A light snow had been falling for hours now, settling upon the city a calming blanket of
frozen ice. No wind to brush the flakes into a swirling fury, barely a light breeze to
impart a slight change in direction to graze the snow onto the sides of every building in
Manhattan. A covering of ivory white, to cleanse the city if only for one evening. It was
temperate, and the children were using the last vestiges of the dying light to prepare for
their battle, with weapons of snowballs being hurled with all their strength, to their
opponents across the streets.

To witness the fall of billions of nature's sweetened confection through a window, where
a fire had been lit, and family had gathered together to enjoy the warmth the flames
bestowed upon them, is a rare gift indeed. And this night was truly a wondrous time, for
the holiday of eternal love was here. A chance to be together with a chosen mate, or
simply a lover, to share in hopes and dreams, a peaceful time alone and away from the
perils of the world.

The bond of family is strong, a connection beyond friendship, ancestry or lineage, and a
treasure to ultimately savor and cherish. In the gargoyle race, nothing is as important as
the love shared with clan; brothers, sisters, parents and children, whose love will be
carried with them their entire lives.

In a smaller room of castle Wyvern, where an injured part of this particular family has
spent three long days healing from her assault. Demona has been forced to stay here, left
to her bed to amend what damages were inflicted on her now mortal body, and her
daughter becoming her own personal nurse...and jailer.

The azure-skinned gargoyle laid back in her berth, and the anger of being bedridden was
instantly washed away as she teased and laughed with her newest playmate, Trinity
Maza. The tiny half gargoyle infant, perched between her legs on the thick comforter,
was squealing with sheer delight at this game having been 'taught' to Demona.

"Where's Trinity? Where is she?" Demona prattled blissfully, then appeared from
behind her closed hands, and into the child's cherub face. "There she is."

Trinity laughed her merriment in the game having been learned from her parents, and
without any knowledge, was playing an integral part in Demona's steady healing process.

"You two seem to get along well," remarked Angela, watching from the side, "almost
makes me wish I could have played with you at that age."

"As do I." her mother replied distantly, swathing her talons across Trinity's raven wisps
of hair. Yet unwilling to let anyone, even her daughter, still be witness to what torment
still dwelled in her heart, she immediately straightened out and grabbed the child into her
chest, being mindful of her bandaged wounds. "But the past has been buried, daughter,
and it's time to build anew."

"Do tell, mother." Angela called back.

Demona threw a playful scowl her way, noticing her defensive place near the door. As
on several times, Demona had tried to slip from the room, but as always her daughter was
there to prevent her escape in the evening hours. Angela even went so far as to have
Owen provide security alerts if she attempted to leave when the gargoyles turned to
stone. Demona was a literal prisoner in the castle, until she was well enough to leave.
"When am I allowed to leave this infernal room, Angela?" she asked again, a question
repeated many times over the past few days.

"We have been over this too much, mother. You will leave when you are ready, and not
a second before."

"But you allowed MacBeth to..."

"Dr. Pierce allowed him, as he was not as injured as you were." Angela placed herself in
the chair near the bed. "He is now resting in his home, anyway. With steady check-ups
by both doctors Pierce and Weathers."

"Which is where I should be..."

"Please, mother," Angela sighed, "let's not start this again. You have at least another
week to go before you can be left without any medical care. Besides..." The young
gargess looked away, hiding a sheepish smile. "I like having you here in my home, under
my roof."

Demona released a groan and relented to her daughter, as always. "All right, but if I am
forced here to stay in this damn bed with you as my nursemaid, then you should at least
make yourself useful, and get me some more chocolate pudding."

"Yes, mother..." Angela replied cheerfully. "But this is the last bowl, I am meeting
someone very soon, so I will not be able to play nurse this night. Will you be okay?"

"I told you I am fine, I have very good company, and have some things to...ponder."

Angela relaxed herself on the edge of the bed, and quickly grasped a hand around her
mother's right arm. "Sobek has not been found...yet."

Demona visibly tensed, yet never looked back. Her daughter had guessed correctly on
what had filled her foremost thoughts.

"Xanatos has all his resources available searching for him. He's even ordered a small
troop of his hired mercenaries from his less...reputable days, to Egypt to look, but you
know as well as I do, that Sobek is very good at covering his tracks. As good as you."

"He's out there, and I am forced here in this damn bed, unable to help." Demona hissed.
"It is...hard...Angela. I have not felt...this vulnerable, or this amount of...fear, for a very
long time."

"Of dying?"

"I used to have all of eternity to look forward to, never having to be afraid of grievous
injury, or death itself."

Angela quickly cut in, to alleviate Demona's apprehension. "Trust in your clan, and
know we will endure anything he can throw against us. But only if we truly are united."
she assured her mother in a soft tone. "You may be mortal, you may be able to die, but
that only means that you have to live every single day you have to it's fullest, to break
away from your past, and embrace a new future...with us, your clan, your family. But
father is right. Right now, we need to heal."

"I really hate it when you agree with Goliath...so damn often. I swear he has you
brainwashed." she muttered, ignoring the chirt laughter erupting from her daughter.
"Now go. Bring me my pudding and don't keep your mate waiting."

Angela passed along a kiss to her baby sister before leaving to fulfill her matriarch's
wishes, and bring back the dessert that often helped her foul moods.

Yet there was something else, besides her newest enemy lingering painfully within
Demona's mind, and the fact her days had become numbered until the impending death
of an almost laughable cause to her, old age. She glanced to the bouquet of flowers on
the nightstand, given to her by Todd and Annika. A gift to help lift her sunken spirit, to
help her healing process with the aroma of a sweet blossom. She also connected her eyes
to the box of Hershey chocolate from the young human, who knew of her fondness for
the dark confection, and she found herself centering on both the present, and the giver
himself. He had shown up a few times, to brighten this somber room with his boisterous
jokes and charming smile, and she could not forcefully remove his warm presence from
her thoughts.

Feeling the heated blush in her cheeks, Demona quickly returned her attention to the
small child still sitting in her lap, and caressed her flittering wings. Never failing to bring
a smile to her face, the gargess continued on with their game, and an innocent soul who
brought her more pleasure than she could ever possibly imagine.

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

"So, she is mortal now." commented the jade gargoyle. "It seems the future we shall
now experience will not turn out as expected, Brooklyn-san."

The crimson gargoyle looked into the room where Angela had just exited. "Yeah, I
suppose. I just don't know if that's a good thing, or something even worse than we could
imagine. Damn alternative futures...I really hate all this science fiction shit."

"She now has the chance to overcome her grief, and relive her life as it should have
been." Sata attempted to cheer her mate's spirits.

"It's just, she was there, she had watched over the clan for centuries, and now, this future
won't have her around..."

"The distant future." Sata corrected him, as the beaked smirk appeared to her dark eyes.
"She will be here now, when we most need her. The future Trinity said she and the rest
of the newest generation learned from her. A millennium of knowledge to benefit the
hatchlings born from this clan." Sata wrapped around her mate, nuzzling her nose into
the nape of his neck. "Though she may not survive for centuries, she will live for a very
long time, ensuring the safety of our children, and our friends."

"I hope so, Sata," Brooklyn said, whirling around to capture the emerald green gargoyle
in his arms, "I hope so." He grasped her hand and led her to a door of a castle
guestroom, near the end of the hall. "So, wanna have sex?"

Sata merely grimaced at the declaration in her mate's brusque words, yet grabbed him by
the horns and pulled him inside, locking the door behind them.

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

"More coffee?"

"Please."

Elisa poured the steaming liquid into Maria Chavez's cup, as the ebon hue of the coffee
swirled into the ceramic container, and released it's own waft of scented smoke.

The elder captain enjoyed the beverage, having used this one more than one occasion to
keep her from the ever consuming tides of slumber, during late night stays at the precinct
house, trying to sway the massive piles of paperwork she had come to fear. "So," she
started, "still nothing on this Sobek?"

"Not a thing..." Elisa hissed. "He's slipped back under the rock he crawled out of. We
can only wonder what he'll do next."

"But if he was so resolute in destroying the clan here, then why leave so abruptly, without
finishing the job, so to speak?"

"It was all a ploy." Elisa answered. "He had us so convinced he was a single-minded
instrument of destruction, that he was going to use the toxin as a weapon instead of
merely a distraction, yet he kept his true intention hidden all along. It seems gaining
immortality first was always foremost on his mind. Demona suggested he may have
returned to the land of his birth to 'recharge', where his magic originated in the first
place, and where it's most powerful. To regain his strength, and then try his luck to
destroy either us or humanity, whoever comes first, or most likely, whoever gets in his
way first. Your guess is as good as mine. This guy is as slick as snot..."

"Scared?" Maria whispered softly. "I know I would be."

"A little. But...he's nothing more than a glorified Demona, or another Madoc. And
we've beaten them all, and will beat this freak if he ever dares to show his ugly face."

Maria peered over the ceramic rim of her mug. "Brave words."

"Not when you're married to a gargoyle wrecking machine. Or live with a family of
winged ass kickers. We'll find him, and when we do, we'll take him down...once and for
all, immortal or not."

Maria forced a smile, to Elisa's powerful confidence and faith in her family. "I hope so,
for all our sakes. Anyway, back to real life with the rest of us normal humans, are you
ready to come back to work in May? Only two months and counting down..."

Elisa slumped into the opposing chair, and grasped her own coffee mug, with a simple
shrug displaying both her pleasure in being back on the streets, and her fear in having to
get back to the grind, after spending four months of sleeping in and spending time with
her baby daughter. "Eh...it'll be good to be where I belong, but..."

"You're enjoying your little vacation too much." she quipped, seeing the devious grin
form on her detective's lips.

"I can't tell you just how great it's been having all night to spend with Goliath. But,
that's life, I suppose."

"But there's something else."

A visible sigh touched upon her facade. "When I go back, I'll be forced to keep Trinity a
secret, from my very friends. I can't even show her off, or even risk having a picture of
her anywhere near those who don't know of my...situation."

"Perhaps, but one day, with people like you, your children and the rest of the gargoyle
race will be able to share our world."

"Here's hoping." Elisa finished the last of her coffee, and sighed deeply. "Well, I guess
I better make the best of what free time I have left on my maternity leave, before it's
back to chasing down criminals, hours long stake-outs, and having to listen to more of
Matt's...alien conspiracies."

"You could always quit, and live off of Xanatos' wealth. You told me he's offered on
many occasions a very enticing 'retirement plan', so you can be with your daughter at all
times."

"I'd rather eat a bullet, than take anymore from that man." Elisa joked.

"You can't deny he's given you a lot, Maza." Maria argued. "I believe he deserves at
least some praise for what he's bestowed you, and the clan."

Elisa moaned, releasing her anger and clamping her hands around her cup. "Praise...
Maybe. I can't ignore what he's offered us, offered Trini. But I can't ignore the fact that
because of him, my little brother and his wife are forced to live underground, away from
any human contact, save those who are too despised by the rest, just because they can't
find a job, and are forced to live in the streets."

"Maybe he'll succeed in his efforts to find a cure." Maria snapped her eyes to Elisa's
own chocolate grace, seeing the indecision flow through. "Will you forgive him then?"

Elisa kept silent, and flopped her head onto her hands, supported by her knees. She blew
a stray hair from her face, and as it settled back into the subtle curve of her tress, she still
couldn't answer the question presented to her. "I...don't know."

Maria smiled, upon seeing the always quick lip of Elisa Maza, trembling at both an anger
and adulation for her landlord.

"If he does cure Derek, then we'll start from there."

"Let's hope. And changing the subject, where is your daughter, anyway?"

"Visiting a...new friend, who needs Trini's help in healing right now."

Maria caught Elisa's sly smile, and lowered the cup from her dark maroon lips. "You're
not serious?" She now knew where little Trinity had been left. "Aren't you a
little...worried, that your baby daughter is in the hands of the woman who's tried to kill
you on more than one occasion?"

"That's the funny thing. No, I'm not. I look at Demona, and see not who was our
enemy, but only a sad, almost small woman who desperately wants to overcome her
anger and pain, and make up for the past."

"Do you think she can be trusted?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Well, you're probably an expert on reforming villains, so I trust your judgment.
Mostly..."

"Gee, thanks." Elisa commented dryly. She met her friend's laughter with a sneer and
turned her attention to the window, as a barrage of snowflakes waged a losing war
against the windows and melted away from the heat of the room within. She noticed the
absolute absence of any light, and jerked up, having almost forgotten the significance of
this special evening. "Jeez! How long has it been? It's way past sunset..." She shot up,
and threw her mug to the table. "Uh, sorry, captain, but I have to meet Goliath for...uh,
well, you know..."

"All too well." Maria responded, rising from her chair, and watching with a fascination,
the slender woman hopping over another sofa and rushing to the doors.

"Oh," Elisa turned and looked wide-eyed to the other woman, "I hate to run and leave
you..."

"Oh, don't worry, I have plans of my own. I'm meeting Hudson in a few minutes in the
west wing."

Elisa stopped her mad dash to exit the room, and cocked an eyebrow back to her captain,
who in turn simply raised her chin, and checked her make-up in a small vanity mirror
pulled from her purse. "What are you two up to?" she asked, an incessant curiosity
stopping her in mid stride.

"A proper lady never speaks about her personal engagements, Maza. And don't you have
someone to meet?" she said, reminding Elisa about where she was heading before
interrupted to quench her inquisitiveness.

"Oh yeah! I hope Goliath hasn't gone anywhere. I didn't mean to take so long..." She
took off in a flash, disappearing down the hallway.

"Yes," whispered Maria craftily, "it would almost seem as if stalling you was...all part of
the plan."

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

She followed down the halls she had become to know so well, where every placed stone
and decorative tapestry was familiar to even the farthest recesses of her memory. She
banked around another corner and reached the main hall, where her bedroom was
located, and continued her sprint until she skidded past an open door, and a flash of
lavender skin. Her shoes screeched along the granite passageway, and she abruptly
switched direction, intent on meeting what, or who, lay in that doorway. "Goliath?" she
called out, her voice instantly changing from her usual intonation, to a lower, huskier
voice, only used in her husband's presence. "Is that you?"

"E-Elisa?" It was Angela.

"Oh, Angela..." Elisa sounded almost severely depressed. "Have you seen him?"

The lavender gargess pulled herself from the darkened confines of the room, her hair
released from their confines of ribbon, and slightly tussled, with few loose strands
hanging near her face. Her skin had a shine to it, glistening with a beautiful violet shade,
and she appeared before her step-mother, trying to catch her breath. "Uh...no, not
lately..."

"Damn. I hope he hasn't forgotten..." Elisa got a better look at the young gargoyle, and
upon peering at a loose strap of her tunic, and the flush to her cheeks, she erupted into a
coy smile. "I haven't interrupted anything, have I?"

"Uh...well..."

"Hey, Angela," cried another masculine voice from behind her, "I thought we were...oh,
Elisa!!" Broadway appeared at his beloved's side, with several lipstick smears over his
reddening features.

"I got the hint." she muttered. "Maybe you two should close the door...and lock it."

"Uh, yeah, bye Elisa." Angela flashed one last smile to her step-mother, and closed the
door, with careful precautions to ensure it was fastened securely.

"Ah young love," Elisa sighed, "sickening, but so damn cute." She turned to leave, and
upon whirling around, accidentally buried her face into the vast expanse of a muscular
torso. "Mmmmphff..." She pulled back to catch her breath, and looked up into two
gleaming pools of charcoal glint. "Oh...thank god, Goliath! I've been lookin' for you..."

"Oh?" he answered back, matching his wife's swelling smile with his own toothy grin.
"And what for?"

Elisa's smile slowly faded, realizing Goliath had most likely forgotten this holiday.

"Elisa? What is it?"

"Don't you remember?" she implored to him, her eyes filled with a subdued
despondency. "Tonight..."

Goliath cocked his head, furrowing his brow in an attempt to figure out just what his wife
was talking about. "What is so important about tonight?"

"Goliath, it's Valentine's day..."

Goliath drew back, his eyes almost appearing to bulge from their sockets. He mumbled
an obscenity under his breath and at last snapped his shocked gaze back to his wife. "Oh,
Elisa...I am so sorry, I have completely forgotten. I...we have been so busy the last few
weeks...i-it must have slipped my mind." His sorrow filled eyes locked to his wife, now
moving away from him, and towards their own bedroom. "I am truly sorry..."

"It's all right, we've both been very busy...obviously." Elisa answered, fumbling with the
doorknob. "After all you've been through, I guess I should have expected you would
have forgotten about a little, insignificant holiday like this." She never looked back to
Goliath, and quickly opened the doors, stepping through into the darkened chambers.
But with the simple flick of a switch and as the chandeliers filled with a burst of
electricity, a blinding splash of crimson filled her eyes. Elisa's breath fell within her
chest, and her eyes opened to their full expanse, for her entire room had been filled with
bright red roses.

Goliath moved in behind her, and leaned to place his lips to just beside her ear. "Happy
Valentine's day, my beautiful Elisa."

"You big son of a..." She could barely manage a weak response, quickly darting her gaze
to the flowers on her bed and dresser, desk and couch. No surface had been left
uncovered by the scarlet flowers, either left in singles with their bright green stems,
collected in vases, or their petals scattered into every corner. She slowly approached her
bed, her astonishment creating a lethargic gait, and found the whole of her duvet had
been decorated with the sweet flora of her favorite blossom. "How did you...when..."

"Thank Maria. Her diversion was excellent." Goliath moved in behind her and scooped
Elisa from the carpet, throwing the slender woman to his chest. He delved into her
perfumed fragrance, and hoped to completely submerge himself, for this night, in the
splendor of her eyes. Her ruby lips expanded into an enticing smile, and he found he
could not resist. Silky and as smooth as glass, her lips offered a flavor he had kept in his
heart, a place he could escape to when torn from her presence, if only for a moment.

"Mmmmmm..." she sighed in contentment upon their parting. "Now this is what I call a
surprise."

"Was my acting worthy of approval from the critics?"

"Very."

"Good, for I have had this planned for at least a day." he joked, his tone brimming with
laughter and vitality, somewhat unusual for him.

"Well, if I might say," she pulled herself closer and chewed tenderly at his bottom lip,
planting kisses about his mouth and cheeks, "I was very, very impressed."

Goliath smiled and slowly walked to the side of the bed, and falling into the layering of
rose petals. "Now, let us play into the traditions of this holiday and alleviate ourselves of
these clothes."

"Mmmmmm...yes, sir."

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

A few floors down, where steel and iron of the twentieth century met the carved granite
and stone of castle Wyvern, lay the Eyrie building, and within the labyrinth of walls,
offices and bedrooms of the uppermost level, David Xanatos' office. He had
intentionally left off all the lights, an intentional stratagem to keep from intruding on his
privacy. It was the glare of his computer screen that lay a radiant glow upon his massive
suite, and as he perched himself in the leather comfort of his chair, eyes of the coldest
iron stare fixed on the lines of ancient script displayed.

He would never hear, or even notice his majordomo stroll to his side, perhaps his magical
background creating an impressive skill of trespassing where stealth was often required.
"You have been studying this parchment for a while now, Mr. Xanatos," his voice
seemed to come from the very shadows, startling the billionaire, and finally forcing his
eyes from the screen, "I'm sure tonight of all nights, you would wish to vacate this office
and spend time with Fox."

"I was on my way, Owen." replied Xanatos, quickly powering down his computer, and
hiding from view what was left on the screen. "I was just doing some...last minute
paperwork." He rose up and quickly straightened his jacket, intent on escaping from the
office before...

"That was a very powerful spell you were examining, Mr. Xanatos," Owen cut in,
freezing his employer in his tracks, "I believe that particular scroll was from the ancient
tome you purchased several months ago."

Xanatos released an audible groan, seemingly annoyed that his assistant always picked up
on what schemes he would hatch, and attempt to keep hidden. "It's nothing, Owen,
nothing at all."

"This is too powerful an enchantment to be dismissed as nothing. As I see it, it may
result in grievous harm to the user...perhaps even death."

"Perhaps..." Xanatos agreed, turning slightly to catch the lifeless eyes of the disguised
Fay.

"Do you plan on using this, sir?"

Xanatos remained silent, instead centering his glare to the window outside, as if
searching for something beyond the glass, beyond the very peaks of what skyscrapers
were visible from this impressive height.

"Is the price of reparation for the greatest of your sins, truly worth your life?"

"To redeem my soul?" Xanatos followed his majordomo's question with another,
perhaps an inquiry without an answer. "Maybe...maybe not. If you'll excuse me, Owen,
I'm going to spend some time with my wife." Xanatos quickly slipped from the room,
leaving behind an ominous demeanor, forming a visible trail, especially to the children of
Avalon's shores, back to where he had been seated, and where Owen Burnett continued
standing.

"One last task to be attained, in order to cleanse the soul..." he muttered, almost a
Puck-like quality to his voice. He could still detect the aura of his employer, his friend, a
painful energy wafting about where he spent the majority of his time. Such anger, and
remorse, buried within the calm aspect and manners of the richest man in the world, and
conceivably without a clue in what role he will play in eternity's continual game of
destiny and chance. "I hope, Mr. Xanatos, you are strong enough to withstand what you
have committed yourself to, or young Alexander may be forced to grow up without his
father."

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

Far from the Scottish castle aloft the tallest building in the world, through the rabble of
Manhattan's apartments and banks, hotels, and offices, stood a complex where an
unusual couple were spending their holiday far from anyone's intrusion, either accidental
or deliberate. Their privacy had been secured within this spacious studio apartment,
though they had remained in the small confines of the only bedroom.

Todd and Annika had arrived here at dusk's fading glow, intent on using all the available
time left to the gargoyle race, to enjoy yet another holiday the young gargess had been
unable to celebrate, due to her severely restricted and often abusive childhood. They had
kept this evening simple, immediately dispensing with the sometimes tedious
pleasantries often associated with Valentine's. A simple card, a bouquet of flowers, a
box of chocolates in the customary heart shaped container, and a promise that they would
spend the entire night in Todd's king-sized bed.

Annika instantly accepted, wanting exactly what her lover had promised her, a chance to
be alone with him, and forget the recent troubles they had been subjected to. His charms
had worked once more, as the couple savagely tore the other's garments from their
bodies, and Annika, in her animal passion and bloodlust, threw the young human into his
bed, and jumped on top of him without hesitation.

Several hours and condoms later, the couple nestled into each other's warm, sweaty
bodies, finishing off the last of the Chinese takeout ordered from a cellphone underneath
the covers of their bed. Todd watched with amusement as his girlfriend still struggled
with the chopsticks, as the same piece of sweet and sour pork had fallen back into the
cardboard box several times now.

"Dammit!!" she cried, her eyes blazing with a crimson glow. "I hate these things! Give
me the fork..."

"Quitter." Todd teased, as he showed off his skill with the foreign eating utensils and
scooped a massive pile of chow mein noodles into his mouth.

"Oh, just gimme the fork. Pleeeeeeease." Annika implored, feigning a pout with her
large bottom lip, and inflaming the young man's heart. The innocent gargoyle look had
always worked on him, softening his resolve enough to relent to her enticing allure.

"Yes dear." He grabbed the fork from his night table, and handed it to Annika, watching
with enjoyment as she stabbed the steel implement into the box.

"Ha ha ha, damn pork, now who's the woman?" she growled with satisfaction as she
slipped a large piece of scarlet meat between her lips.

Todd simply laughed and pulled her closer, tossing the platinum locks of spun gold from
her face. He quickly pulled the strands through his fingers, and breathed in the scent of
morning dew and flowery perfume, a luring smell that only existed in the breadth of his
girlfriend's hair and skin. He often wondered where or how the aroma originated, but
shrugged it off, and simply added it to her impressive array of sexual seductiveness, that
which had caught his eyes when they came face to face for the very first time.

She looked up and noticed the odd expression on his face, as he peered into her with his
light gray eyes. She lowered her brow, and finished another pork piece. "What?"

"What?" he echoed.

"You're staring at me..."

"Is that a crime?"

"No, but you have that...look."

Todd simply cocked an eyebrow and threw a slight tug to his lips. "Look?"

"It's either the 'I want your Chinese food' look, the 'I want more sex' look, or the..."

"The 'I love you' look?"

"That's the one." Annika replied, rising up and feeding a portion of her own meal to her
boyfriend, and receiving a small peck to her bottom lip in gratitude. "I love you too. So,
want to go again? It's barely even past midnight..."

"Yeah sure, let me grab a...whoa!" As he stumbled with the open drawer, and in his
haste to snatch a condom, he uncovered something that he definitely wanted left buried.
"Shit!"

"Hey! What was that?" Annika asked inquisitively, attempting to peer into the drawer,
but Todd immediately pulled her down and slammed the small drawer closed, covering
from her curious gaze, a small, square, hinged box, in a dark shade of maroon velvet.

"It's nothing..."

Annika pulled the condom from his hand, all the while, her thinning sapphire eyes never
pulling from his sheepish expression. "What is it?"

"Nothing! Just," he swallowed and his expression hardened slightly, enough for Annika
to yield her nagging interest, "nothing."

"All right. But I hope you'll show me soon." She climbed on top of him and leaned in to
place her own face directly near his. "I don't like my handsome wingless wonder
keeping secrets from me."

"Oh don't worry," he whispered out of earshot of the young gargess, now lasciviously
feeding on his neck, "you'll see it soon enough." 'And hopefully,' he thought, 'answer a
question that I've wanted to ask for a long time.'

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

"Stupid, fucking holiday..." muttered a grumbling voice, apparently distressed by the
high level of tension and anger within every word. "I hate this goddamn, depressing
holiday." It was Lexington, left to himself in the Eyrie's research and development area,
a singular workshop where in the evening hours, he could work unimpeded on various
projects and simple tinkerings.

With sophisticated tools in each hand, he was delving deep into his work, intent on
passing the hours by as fast as he possibly could. For the only unmated young male in the
clan, this holiday brought nothing but pain and resentment to him, and his tortured soul.
He had been forced to watch as the clan awakened and paired off, spreading themselves
over the battlements. The twins took off as well, to spend their time in the media room
and their newest game. Even Hudson had someone to spend tonight with, taking form in
a surprise from Maria Chavez and her appearance in the room where, unbeknownst to the
smaller, web-winged gargoyle, Hudson was patiently waiting for her to finish with Elisa.
The castle had cleared, and Lexington found the only recourse was to vanish into the very
bowels of the Eyrie and disappear entirely from sight.

Now he wasted away on a project he had started weeks ago, going from a simple hobby
into a consuming obsession. He wondered perhaps, as he dissected wires and
reconnected circuits, if anyone even knew he had left, that he had simply faded from
sight on the cornices of his home.

So thoroughly involved in his drudgery, he wasn't even aware of two forms moving in
behind him. It wasn't until a caramel colored hand came down on his shoulder, that he
sensed the presence of two intruders in his claimed province.

"Lexington," called Desdemona softly, "we have been looking for you."

"Really," he snorted in response, "I thought I would be the last thing you guys would
want to bother with, especially on this night."

"That is not true. We were worried, we wanted to know if...you would like to
accompany us to watch a movie?"

Lexington turned back to his work, and started to laugh beneath his breath. "You guys
ever hear the expression...three's a crowd?"

"It would not be like that, my friend. We wish only for you to join us."

"Forget it...I have better things to do."

Othello stepped forwards, and pulled the covering from Lexington's so-called work. "I
don't see why you have to rebuild this...monstrosity." The sheet fell away and revealed a
hulking machine, with barely a humanoid appearance, and a wretched facade the
gargoyle couple had come to fear. The frigid face of Coldstone. "Your talents would be
better suited elsewhere."

"This cyborg was beyond it's time in science and technology, even now, five years later.
We can learn a lot from the operating system it employs. Besides," Lexington added, "it
gives me something to do when the rest of you are all out on the town with your mates."

"Lexington..." Desdemona tried to comfort her friend, yet the smaller gargoyle quickly
cut her off.

"Save it, Des." he snapped. "Just...leave me alone."

Desdemona sighed and looked to her mate, imploring to him in a silent plea to at least try
his luck with the smaller gargoyle, now hunched over and sitting cross-legged on the
floor, burying himself in the circuitry of the Coldstone cyborg's right leg.

But Othello shook his head, and grabbed her arm, pulling her from the room. She
attempted to break his hold, and swerve back to Lexington, but with a forceful tug of her
mate's hand, she gave up. The couple climbed the stairs and headed back to the main
elevator, and back to the castle.

A shroud had descended on this room, and it's occupant, the fear and inability to come to
terms with the pain he has endured. With every quick glance to the golden bionics
covering small portions of his skin, and where his olive-colored covering had been
completely replaced, he was continuously reminded of what trust and giving yourself to a
friend could result in. Disastrous consequences befell him, twice now, and twice was he
hurt. The latter experience left him scarred with a gleaming alloyed metal and an
intricate maze of circuitry throughout his body, creating a heart closed to love and
friendship.

Liz, his human friend, the one who had actually broken what beliefs he held in most of
the human race, had distanced herself somewhat in the past few months, after hearing of
the constant attacks his family had withstood, and fearing for her safety. But still acting
the part of his friend, she stayed in contact, mostly through her computer, though he
thought nothing more would arise from that friendship. Maybe, he would find out for
sure very soon. Yet for now, he had accepted his fate, he was to be alone for the rest of
his life.

"Stupid, fucking holiday..." He continued on, unaware of the eyes of the cyborg, still
without any power to charge it's systems, were glowing. An unnatural scarlet gleam
possibly signaling that this collection of advanced technology, was not as lifeless as it
seemed.

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

The tall doors had been closed and sealed for hours now, and the owners of the largest
and most majestic bedroom in the castle, had relished in absolute isolation and silence,
apart from their own growls and screams of pleasure. The main canopied bed had been
left in shambles, the comforter and pillows thrown and tossed, and the sheet pulled from
it's secured place beneath the mattress edges.

It now served an additional purpose, to cover the forms of Goliath and Elisa, sitting near
a roaring fire. Goliath had submerged himself into a single recliner and the matching
ottoman, with Elisa sprawled onto his chest and outstretched legs. Both had relieved
themselves of their attire long ago, and with only the thin sheet draped over their nude
forms, they had found contentment and peace in each other's arms.

Elisa had now found a new game to play with her mate, as the fresh strawberries supplied
by Goliath himself, and held between her nimble fingers, were the ultimate bait to tease
the lavender giant. She dipped the fruit into the bowl of chocolate mousse, swirling the
strawberry into the succulent purée, and just barely grazing the dessert across Goliath's
lips.

He attempted to bite down, but as his fanged teeth came increasingly near, Elisa pulled
the strawberry away, and greedily fed it to herself. Several times now, had the gargoyle
been robbed of his chance for the fruit, and if his hands were not procured about Elisa's
waist and legs, he would most definitely fight back for the treat bringing such a large
smile to his beloved's face.

Elisa laughed beneath her breath at her husband's grim demeanor, knowing she would
need to share with him soon, or face the wrath of powerful violet talons, and the
unprotected expanse of her moist copper skin. "Say please," she whispered, "and I'll
treat you..."

Goliath simply formed a coy smile, and played along with her little contest. "Please."

"That's my man." She teased the chocolate covered strawberry to his lips and allowed
him to at last savor the fruit. Elisa watched with delight as his lips were graced with a
smile that had not disappeared since surprising her a few hours ago. She knew he had
found the peace he so longed for, even within his very subconscious.

But, fate was conspiring for their souls this night, and in this peaceful scene, they would
find themselves needed somewhere else. Both felt the pull of energy before the area
around them lit up, and the fireplace brimmed over with a mystical flame. A dancing of
the light played before their eyes, and instantly they knew, they were not alone.

"Goliath?" Elisa spoke fertively, inching closer to his frame.

"It's all right, Elisa," he calmed her, all the while grasping his hands around her slender
frame, "this seems familiar. Remember?"

"What do you mean?"

"After Trinity's birth...we were visited..."

"Oh man." Elisa closed her eyes and clung to Goliath's chest. "Here we go again." But
expecting an arrival of a certain someone, Elisa would never consider that she and her
husband were to be taken from this place, within a column of flames. Through their
frenzied journey, as their bodies were pulled from their room, they felt their
consciousness slipping away. Their last collective sight, was of the other's wide eyes,
and the love contained there in. Then all went black.

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

She heard nothing but the sound of her own breath escaping, and the numbness releasing
from her body, traveling down the length of her spine and legs. An urgent need to move,
to awaken from this blackness flowed around her, and she tried her best to rouse her
unresponsive body. It seemed as if she was standing, on the edge of a precipice,
moments from falling.

Elisa faltered on the verge of panic, but as her eyes at last fluttered and opened to the
light, she found her surroundings to be beyond her wildest imagination. The light was
blinding, and she raised a hand to block some of the platinum glow. But expecting her
own copper skin, she found a golden silk covering her hand and most of her arm. Her
eyes centered on the glove now slipped on her arm, both arms, skin-tight to mid bicep.

In her haste to move, an eerie swishing sound caught her immediate attention and she
looked down to a brightly colored skirt, with suspended wisps of golden fabric. She was
dressed in a nineteenth century ballgown, with a satin draping over her shoulders and a
tight bodice, a wondrous gold glowing against her bodily bronze. But this dress was
entirely too familiar, she had seen it before. From a movie perhaps, or a night out, or
even her fondest dreams, but her senses were still clouded from the blackout moments
before.

"Elisa?"

A low rumble thrown from a distant place, and her eyes were forced up from her attire, to
across the room she found herself in. Goliath was there in her sight, and he looked as
surprised as she did. His clothing had changed, and the lavender skin had disappeared
beneath a white ruffled shirt and a tuxedo jacket of a royal blue tint, it's edges rimmed
with gold, and possessing two long coat tails. His wings poked through two prepared
openings, and remained in their pensile position. As his head snapped from side to side,
trying to ascertain what had happened to him, she noticed his hair had been tied back in a
tail with a matching blue ribbon. Dark pants, with a golden stripe, disguised his powerful
legs, and only released near the cuff, his oversized, high arched feet.

Elisa swelled into a smile, as she had come to recognize just where they had been
brought. She found a set of stairs before her, and quickly descended, watching Goliath
match her actions and speed, and they soon met at a carpeted landing, bringing their
hands together and meeting their eyes. "Look familiar, Big Guy?" she asked of her
husband.

"Yes," he smiled back down to her, "this room is from your favorite movie."

The lavender giant was correct in his assertion, as they had been left in a massive
ballroom, ornamented with gold and silver, and dozens of other precious metals. This
very setting, and their apparel, had been torn from the Elisa's favorite movie, and an
eerie similarity to her own life, Beauty And The Beast.

"So," a voice called from the middle of the dancefloor, "you have come to recognize
where we are."

The couple looked towards where the soft voice had come from, almost an echo
distorting her words in the spacious room.

Elisa cocked her head, and continued down the last of the steps, taking great care in
lifting her gown to clear the staircase, and soon she stepped onto the polished wood of
the dance floor, approaching a figure within the very middle. "Infiniti? Is that you?"

"Your question is justified," she answered, "as I must appear different than when we first
met." The guardian of the gargoyle race stood firm, yet an enfeebled body that once
afflicted her had been strengthened, and a semblance of youth had transformed her
features into a stunning female gargoyle, with glowing, radiant cream skin. A tier of four
long spikes ran the length of her forearms and shins. Her hair had grown to it's full
colored richness, a pure sheen of black, with white bangs flowing behind her brow ridges
and face. Her long-sleeved lengthy dress, a dark forest green, rimmed with silver, formed
to her body as if a second skin. She held her wooden staff, yet no longer required it's
use as a crutch. "How do I look?"

"Well, I think you've gotten a little better than last time..." Elisa drawled, cursing yet
another young female gargoyle with the appearance of a goddess. Unfortunately, she was
a true female deity, which inflamed Elisa's playful hatred even more.

"I have met with the other clans around the world, Elisa, Goliath, and so my strength is
returning. The retaking of my prime and vitality...is merely a bonus."

"And how did the other clans take the news that you were their guardian spirit?" Goliath
inquired of her, standing by Elisa's side.

"Very well, some were more than ecstatic, especially the Scottish and Guatemalan clans,
and a few were...somewhat skeptical. Especially Griff, until I...proved it to him. He
didn't think it quite funny when in the form of a small chicken."

Elisa laughed at the English gargoyle's always present distrust, and the fact his rather
large mouth and incessant bravado always managed to get him in trouble.

"You have met the other clans?" Goliath asked, an excitement burning in his deep onyx
eyes.

"All around this world, clans of all sizes live and thrive, and I see each with a new
generation to soon take their place. The eggs in the Guatemalan clan's are almost ready
to hatch, and Zafiro is awaiting impatiently his and Obsidiana's child to be born. And
young Crystal of Canada, is an angelic beauty to match her mother's elegance."

Elisa looked up to her husband's emotion filled eyes, knowing he was relieved that the
other gargoyle clans were faring well, and population of his race was growing with every
day that passed. "That's very good news..." she whispered blissfully.

"Yes." Infiniti agreed. "And as they thrive, my powers become ever stronger."

"Well," Elisa started, holding a portion of her dress up for the guardian's inspection, "can
you now explain why you have interrupted our celebration tonight?"

"My most sincere apologies, but I wanted to express my gratitude."

"For what?"

"For your triumph over a year of contention and bitter battles for your very lives. I knew
you would all prevail against all odds thrown at you, and fortify yourselves with the love
you hold for each other. Thailog and Sobek, Demona and MacBeth, enemies and allies
alike, and through it all, you are even stronger than before." Infiniti peered upon the
couple with gleaming eyes, her haunting stare rife with emotion and pleasure in seeing
the couple before her, with such love in their hearts. "I knew you would be the ones, to
bring forth a new era of peace. And I am very proud of you both, for never giving up,
even when staring death itself in the face."

"We have too much at stake," replied Goliath, "to allow anyone to take away what we
have risked so much for and fought so hard to build."

Infiniti immediately nodded her head at Goliath's words. "Yes, I know. You will
continue to be at the forefront, assuring peace for all races. And now, I wish to reward
you for everything you have accomplished these past few months. And my gift is this
place you see before you."

"I was wondering when you were going to get to this." Elisa chuffed, running a gloved
hand down her husband's suit, and fiddling with her hair, drawn back into sweeping
curls, an exact replica of Belle's wondrous sable locks from the animated film.

"Look around you. This is a room where only you can enter. It was born of your love
and affection and is a refuge from the rest of the world, that nothing can destroy. A place
for you and your other, where only your true love exists." Infiniti slowly walked around
the couple, seeing them clad in their costumes, and almost suppressing a laughter in
seeing the seven foot tall gargoyle in a tight fitting suit. "The rings you bestowed to each
other in your marriage ceremony, though in some eyes only simple golden bands, are
ultimately a symbol of what you bring to each other, devotion, trust, hope, courage...love.
Treasure what you have, for all of your days, and until you both take your last breath in
this world. My gift to you, Goliath, Elisa, is this room, where you may dance to your
heart's delight, far from prejudice and racism, hatred and pain. A gift well earned, for a
couple well deserving. Farewell, I shall see you soon." Infiniti took her place before
them, and raised her staff, calling forth her power to take her away, and in an emerald
flash, she was gone, and the Mazas were alone.

They turned to each other, and before they drowned in each other's unearthly gaze,
Goliath held out an open palm to her, and she accepted, placing a delicate hand into his.
He led her into the middle of the floor, and in the furthest reaches of the open arches and
the starlight beyond, flowed a melody, growing into a symphonic masterpiece. Goliath
placed his hands to her chiffon dress, and Elisa placed her grasp to his sculpted muscular
frame, her smile beaming so much like her eyes.

"I love you, Elisa." Goliath whispered.

"I love you too, Big Guy. For the rest of my life."

"Happy Valentine's day."

They whirled upon the dancefloor with the grace of the wind, and seeming as if made for
the other, in their elegant steps and harmonious rhythm. A beautiful princess in golden
silk, and her handsome guardian knight, they had become each other's very desire and
soul. The pain had completely gone, the fear had faded away to less than a whimper.
Nothing remained but the music of the night, and the love in their hearts. They were
together. Forever. Always.


And thus ends our story.
To be continued?? A very good question...and once again, it's up to you...