41 - "The Cure: Part 2"
Originally RE-Written: February 15th, 2001

Author's Note 1: This is a re-write of the original, because my disk got corrupted and I lost this story to the unforgiving demons of technology's deepest pits of Hell...those little bastards. So it will differ slightly from what I originally wrote, (not that you'll ever know of course). I'm just extremely pissed off at the moment I am writing this, and it may not be exactly what I wanted or intended. *Sniff*...it was so damn perfect!! Oh well, I was able to save the first seven pages and a lot still resides within my memory. Remember, don't just back up your work, but back it up VERY OFTEN...

Author's Note 2: I'm working on a FAQ post, so if there's any questions you wish to ask about my series, I just may include it along with the answer.

May 4th, 2001
The silence was deafening to Fox Xanatos. An absence of any sound, save for the machines feeding life to her dying husband. She had remained beside him still, slouched into her chair, and laying halfway onto his bed, his right hand entrenched firmly within her grasp. Her eyes had grown clouded, the radiance had faded away, as her anguished spirit withered within her breast. She had sent her son away to be with the others, unwilling to allow her only child to witness the slow demise of his father, his very hero.

This small room rarely had visitors, save for the doctors, and Goliath and Elisa. The rest of the clan feared their presence would be an intrusion, and instead decided to send their wishes through the Maza couple. In truth, she wanted no one here, to see her husband in what could be his final days. He had carried himself so high, so proud, she wanted that image to reside in all those who knew him, instead of this frail being wearing David Xanatos' face.

The tears came again, flowing over her arms and pooling onto the white sheets, yet she never noticed. Lost in a world where so many of her friends had been, had experienced, and never had she felt so scared, so small. She suddenly missed her father even more than before, recalling fond memories of crawling into his lap, and having his strong arms wrap around her tiny form, and lull her to sleep whenever she was afraid. Like David had done so many times in their marriage. This dying man was her life now, and he carried within him, a piece of her soul.

"Fox?"

Startled by the sound behind her, the billionairess jerked up and around, to find Diane Maza standing in the door to the room. She quickly wiped what tears had dripped down her bleached golden skin, a sign of weakness that plagued her the past two days, and she wanted none to witness her grief.

"You don't have to hide your pain from me, Fox." Diane whispered softly. "I know how you feel. We've all been forced to watch as loved ones lay before us, desperately grasping onto their lives."

Fox turned away, and back to her husband. "It's harder than you think. Having to look upon the most powerful man you know, become a shell of his former self. Laying unconscious in some hospital bed, and knowing...that you could have prevented it."

Diane's eyes widened upon this revelation, and quickly approached Fox's backside. "You knew?" She pulled another chair to the bedside, and through the filtered moonlight streaming past the window's blinds, found the cold hands of the woman before her. "You knew he was going to use that spell to cure my son and the others?"

Fox trembled and her mouth opened to form words that had become trapped in her throat. "He came to me a few days before..." she started, her voice wavering with emotion, "he told me he had found a spell to cure them. But it may take his life. He was so sure he would be okay. He promised he would...be okay..."

"And you let him go through with this? To risk his life to cure them? To perhaps leave behind a wife and child..."

"It was an obsession with him," she continued, "he wanted...needed to cure them. He had to...wipe everything he had done away, and start over. He couldn't live with the fact he stole the very humanity from Derek and the others." She fell forward, her own body failing her, and Diane pressed the younger woman to her chest, feeling the choked sobs tremble through her. "He had to cure them...or he would be forever damned."

"But was this spell, this cure, worth the risk? He may die..."

"You still don't understand, do you?" She rose up and her emerald eyes lay upon the confusion still apparent in Diane's features. "Don't you see, Diane? To save his soul, he had to sacrifice his life."

"And you can live with this?"

"He's free now, his soul is no longer tainted with the past. If he dies tonight, he's finally free..." She ultimately broke down, upon the very words of her chance of dying. She collapsed into Diane Maza's arms, a limp body and tortured essence, and the elder woman pulled Fox into her own lap, and curled her arms around her, hoping to soothe some of the pain.

She glanced over the shocking red locks, to see Xanatos laying there silently, and surprisingly found no hatred, but only pity. Remorse for the dying, remorse for the man who kept his promise made a year ago, and cured her son.

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

May 7th
Almost a week had passed now, and David Xanatos' condition was deteriorating rapidly. He had yet to regain consciousness, if only to say his final farewells to his wife and son. But for now, his room was purposely left in the shroud of darkness by Fox, concealing from view, the sharp certainty of his impending demise. She had been torn from her husband's side by Goliath, and taken to the castle to force at least some food into her body. Her diet had reduced dramatically, and her health had dropped to a dangerous level in just a short span of days, therefore Goliath took it upon himself to act as her strength, a task of ensuring her own physical and mental state would not falter anymore than it already had.

Dr. Pierce was sealed in the next room, delving into lab reports and toxin screenings, trying anything to keep the billionaire alive. Even the smallest change in Xanatos' condition would alert the machines and call the doctor to his side, so he found some semblance of peace to discover the elusive cure to his ailment.

The unfeeling rasp of the humming machines, a twisted rhythm fill what silence lay, continued on without breaking pace. Unnoticed from the doctor a room away, a swath of shadows loomed over Xanatos' body, completely covering him in their entirety. It was Claw, peering down upon the man who cursed him to be what almost any normal human would consider a monstrosity, and the fact this supposed villain he had grown to detest, now seemed as small and feeble as a child.

"...so weak..." he whispered, his voice still untested. "...so fragile. You couldn't even fight back...if I pulled the plug on these machines...and watched the life drain from you even quicker than before. Or...if I used a pillow to smother your face, and hear your pulse slowly die away." The large man leaned over the billionaire, mere inches from his face, almost daring him to release himself from the coma. "How easy would it be to take your life as you once casually took mine."

"But you won't."

Claw turned to see Sharon in the doorway, an angel of beauty dressed in a tight, blue ribbed shirt and a pair of jeans. "How can you be so sure?" he asked.

"Because you are not a murderer."

"You're wrong..." He whirled back to Xanatos, and filled his eyes with what looked to be a corpse, hooked to every conceivable machine in the field of medical technology. "Thanks to this man, I have already dirtied my hands with innocent blood."

Sharon was almost shocked at both his words and the fact he spoke with such elegance, and a pain once displayed through sophisticated sign language, now resting within every abrasive utterance. She stepped forwards, timid footfalls across the tiled surface, reaching the breadth of his back. "Tell me. Please tell me what you've kept within you for so long."

"No." His voice became hard. "I care for you too much. I don't want you to think of me that way."

"My opinion of you won't change. No matter what you tell me."

Claw instantly snapped around, to glare into Sharon's face. His eyes pierced into her, almost seeming to glow with a madness and ferocity, and perhaps for the first time in her life, she feared this gentle giant. "I still remember his screams as he died. I still remember the smell of his blood. I still remember seeing the four massive gashes down the entire length of his chest, and the crimson puddle growing bigger beneath his limp body..."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying, Miss Nomura, that I killed an innocent man, and reveled in it."

Sharon looked away, frozen in place, acutely aware of the sound of her own teeth chattering, resounding in the back of her head.

"Now you are the one who's silent," scoffed Claw, "it's difficult to even form words, isn't it? Living with the knowledge that you took an innocent life." Claw finally released his eyes from Sharon and paced slowly around the room.

"W-What happened?" she asked of him, gathering the courage to speak once more. "When...when did you..."

"Kill someone?" Claw replied, a biting sarcasm intertwined with his spoken torment. "When did I extinguish a life? Is that what you want to hear? Fine." He slumped into the chair beside Xanatos' bed, a balled fist forcefully slapping into the other palm, a repetitive motion, a compulsive act, and an external display of what was tearing at him inside. "It was six years ago. I had volunteered for medical testing. It paid well and I needed the money to make rent. But little did I know, I would be injected with the mutagen that turned me into a mutate, a monster unpossessed of a soul. The initial stages were painful, and I could barely tell what was happening to me. They kept me in a cage, under guard constantly. I was acting on pure instinct, pure rage, and when they tried to feed me, I used the chance to escape. A guard tried to stop me, and I lept at him, ripping the gun from his hand, and then slashed at him with talons I even forgot I had. The blood sprayed everywhere, I became covered in it, and I couldn't escape from the stench. I just kept slashing and slashing, until the man became limp in my arms, and I dropped him to the ground. He was dead. I had killed him." Claw lurched and violently shook in his seat. "They led me back to my cell. I never even fought back, I was...too stunned. I fell to my knees inside the cage and collapsed into a heap, staring at the blood on my claws. I killed that man...and I never spoke again..."

"Oh god. Oh Claw..." Sharon gasped, her own formed expectations of why he consciously chose to keep himself silent, instantly shattering upon hearing the truth. "But it wasn't your fault. It was the mutagen. You had gone through a transformation that messed with your genes and even your mind. There's no way you could have been responsible for that man's death."

"I was!!" he screamed, rising from the chair and towering over the smaller Asian woman. "I ripped that man apart with my bare hands! Whatever was human in me died that day, the very moment when his life slipped away from that mangled body! I don't deserve to be human anymore! I should be the monster that I truly am!"

"No!" Sharon protested. "You are sweet, caring, brave...the guard's death was an accident. Nothing but an accident, caused by Sevarius and his experimentation on you. I know you, I know the man who, if he could have stopped himself from taking an innocent life, he would have."

"I am a killer!!" he cried out, his green eyes concealed behind the shimmering azure of his tears. "A heartless killer..."

"...no...you...are not..." a weakened voice called out to the couple, and they whirled around to see Xanatos looking at them, with dead eyes and an emancipated smirk. "...your pain...is...because of me..."

"Oh god, Mr. Xanatos..." Sharon lept to the billionaire's side and helped him with the respirator tube he had pulled from his throat to speak. "You're awake..."

"...it seems...I have beaten...the odds...once more..." he wheezed, his red-rimmed eyes just barely on the verge of rolling back into his head. "...Claw...it's not...your fault..."

Claw slowly walked up to the bed, standing behind Sharon, watching as Xanatos struggled to remain conscious, perhaps even fighting back the annihilative force of death itself.

"...everything...you went through...is because...of me..." His words were labored, speaking through an arid throat and weak lungs. "...you were...right, before...I was...responsible...for you transformation...into a mutate..."

Claw swiftly brushed Sharon aside and plunged his head to Xanatos', sticking his face directly to his. "I don't hate you for making me into a monster, Xanatos," he snapped, "I hate you for making me into a murderer."

"...you did not...kill that guard...I did..." Xanatos replied. "...if it were not...for me...no one need have died...in the process of the...mutate experiments...your blame is...misplaced..."

"I killed him!!"

"...no...you did not...his death...lays on...my shoulders...and no one else's..."

"...I killed him..." Claw broke down in sobs, as Sharon curled up behind. "It was me...I wasn't strong enough to stop myself. I wasn't strong enough..."

"...not true...you adapted...to your situation...and protected those...you cared for...you are stronger...than I ever could be..." Xanatos gasped and gulped for air, as Sharon attempted to restrain him and replace the respirator, but the billionaire fought against her, battling for his chance to speak. "...I only hope...you can now...live you life...the way it should have been...I don't ask for forgiveness...just that you...free your heart...of the pain you have carried...for so long...if you and the...others thrive and go on with your lives...than I can truly...release myself...as well...I can rest...tired...I'm...so tired..."

"Mr. Xanatos? Mr. Xanatos?!" Sharon shrieked as his eyelids fluttered and he lapsed back into his deep catalepsy, lost to their waking world. "David!"

"It's all right, Sharon," said Dr. Pierce, standing behind them, "he's relapsed, gone back into the coma. In fact, I'm a little surprised he even came out of it. He must have always wanted to speak his mind to you, Claw, Sharon, and he willed himself from the deep sleep, for just that purpose."

"Can't you do anything?"

"No." he answered directly. "He's beyond medical science. There's nothing I can do anymore. Within the week, he'll be dead." The doctor leaned on the edge of the bed, staring down onto the resting billionaire. "I noticed the change in his heart monitor, and when coming out to check, found the three of you talking. It seemed to be a heated discussion, and so I let it continue. If he's going to die, then he should be able to make his last peace with those he wronged. Every man deserves at least that..."

Claw said nothing, knowing the doctor's statement was directed to him, and him alone.

"Isn't there anything?" Sharon asked once more.

"It's now just a matter of time. Unless you can find another spell." he said half-jokingly, knowing full well the healing power of magic, having been witness to the efforts to save Goliath's life a few months ago. The ultimate strength and mysticism of sorcery was now a very real fact, and he could not, even with more than twenty years of medical experience and dependence on scientific methods, forget what he had seen. A life brought back by an enchantment spoken, and a battle fought on another plane of existence. "We should probably let him sleep now," the doctor started, "he needs every ounce of strength left to survive."

Sharon glided her soft hand across the withered hide of Xanatos' forehead, feeling not a human, yet the parched crag of dying skin, losing it's color, it's vitality. "Sleep well, Mr. Xanatos. Your long battle is finally over." She turned to Claw, whom had stayed silent throughout the conversation. "We should go, Claw." she said, gracing a hand upon his broad shoulder, and slipping slowly past him.

Claw remained firm, and hunched over the ailing billionaire with rueful eyes of forest green. This man, this human, was perhaps more like him than he ever would admit. Both hiding their pain beneath a silent facade, and both slowly dying of a frail soul. "Rest, Mr. Xanatos," he whispered hoarsely, with Sharon watching on, "if you die tonight...than die in peace."

"Claw...Thomas." Sharon called out to him, extending a hand to beckon him to her side. "We should go...now."

Claw rose up, and a cleansing breath was released into the room, becoming lost in the cold hymn of the machines. He approached Sharon, and tenderly grasped her slender hand, marveling at her lithe fingers slipping between his own. They disappeared from the office, hands firmly locked together, and left Dr. Pierce to replace the respirator tube into Xanatos, to conserve what strength was left in his dying patient, to allow him the time to hold on for what could be the last days of his life.

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

May 9th
"That is your official stand?"

"I can't do anymore," Dr. Pierce solemnly nodded his consent to the question asked of him, "I can't cure a victim of magic. All I can do now is keep him hooked to those machines, and extend his life two weeks, maybe three. But frankly, that's no way for a man to die." He slumped into the visitor's chair at the far end of the desk, and brushed a hand through his long, graying hair. "A man like David Xanatos shouldn't pass away as some half machine, he should be allowed his dignity even in his final days. He should die as he lived...a proud man."

"Thank you, doctor," replied Owen Burnett, facing the doctor in his own chair, fixing his hands together by touching each bleached fingertip to it's counterpart, "you and doctor Weathers have done exemplary work, as always. I thank you both for your efforts." Owen turned away slightly, as if expecting this conversation was to end.

Dr. Pierce lingered in his chair, staring in disbelief at the majordomo. "Soooo..." he drawled, leaning forwards in his chair, sliding both hands onto the desk's wooden, lacquered surface, "what do you plan on doing?"

Owen swiveled back, almost an idiosyncratic expression forming on his etched marble facade. "What do you mean?"

"You have that little...Puck guy inside of you somewhere, hiding beneath that expensive suit, don't you?!" he snapped, suppressing a swelling anger in knowing this disguised fay always knew everything before anyone else. "Can't you help him?"

Owen simply stared back at him with a raised brow. "If you wish, you may join me in the library tomorrow night, Dr. Pierce, after sunset. I shall address the clan in the next step."

"You have a plan?"

Owen turned his chair completely around, forcing the doctor to stare headlong into a field of treated, ebony leather. "Tomorrow night, doctor."

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

May 10th
The library had filled with the entire clan, torn from their roosts upon the setting of the sun, and the onset of nightfall. Fox had been purposely left out of tonight's gathering, still with her husband below them, and perchance the caller of this meeting did not want her to hear what he may have to say, her emotional state weak, and easily fractured. The restored humans all took the largest couch, whispering within their own circle, uneasy of this assembly called so abruptly.

Goliath held Elisa in his lap in a facing recliner, and the raven haired detective stayed mostly silent, a burning impression within the wall of her stomach. Her police instincts were acting on their own, and informing her of an anxiety wafting through this massive chamber, with an relentless shiver inflaming the nerves in her spine.

All the voices, though entirely quiet, faded away completely as Owen Burnett entered into the library and closed the doors behind him. He walked with a prevalent tread, no emotion presented forth to the humans and gargoyles. "Thank you all for coming..." he started, eliciting a growl from Elisa with his amiable disposition.

"Get to the point, Owen." she snarled, impatient and already fearing the direction this conversation would take.

"Of course, detective. My reason for calling you all here is to discuss Mr. Xanatos' condition. He is dying, due to the fact his life energy, a portion of his very soul, was taken from him, and given to the mutates. Without it, he will not survive to the end of the week." Owen clicked his passionless gaze to the restored humans. "You all possess a portion of that energy in question, and perhaps Mr. Xanatos' only chance at life, will be to give back that which he bestowed to you, to cure your mutated forms."

Maggie's coloration quickly paled, her throat becoming dry. "But, if we give back that energy," she squeaked, "will we become mutates again?"

Owen paused to collect himself. "There is a forty five percent chance that you will return to your mutated state."

Maggie immediately buried herself in Derek's chest, clutching to his shirt with her tiny hands, muffling her wails into the breadth of his torso. Sharon fell against Claw, and the large man pulled her close with his arms.

"We can't ask them to do this!!" Elisa screamed, only being contained from tearing at Owen by her husband's powerful grip. "There's got to be another way!"

"No, detective," Owen replied impassively, "there is not. Alexander is neither old enough or powerful enough to help him, and Demona cannot affect a successful attempt either. Mr. Xanatos needs the energy from all four of your friends, and will not survive with any less."

"But it isn't fair!!" she breathed, falling back against Goliath's body, watching her sister-in-law cry into Derek's arms, her dream finally realized, and then cruelly taken away in a twist of fate. "It's not fair..."

"No, it's not...but how can we refuse?" came a smothered call, an infinitely pleasurable tone destroyed with a pain of losing what she had so wanted. "How can we let a man die just to stay human? Just for our selfish wants?" It was Maggie, peering with dead eyes to the majordomo.

Derek instantly pushed her off of him, and tore himself from the couch. "I am finally human, we all are!!" he yelled with a fury, directing his angered voice to all those present. "How can you even think of going back to what we were?!" he asked his wife in a ferocious tone, sounding more like Talon than Derek Maza.

"And how can we let a man die?"

"He's not a man, and I won't let him take away what we have finally gained after so long!!" he screamed.

"Derek...he's dying..."

He crouched low, and forced his face just inches from his wife's, sending his hot breaths across her dusty blond locks. "Let him die." He then removed himself from Maggie's astonished gape, and swiftly rammed through the library doors, the wooden barriers nearly being torn from their hinges in the backlash.

Stunned was perhaps the only word to describe what Maggie had been reduced to, or even fear at her husband's declaration of pain, of hatred towards the man who first lay upon him the blight of a disfigured form. Her body, numbed from the errant shock of destiny's cruel jest, slumped against the stuffing of the couch, and she tried to hide herself away from the eyes which were directed to her, eyes of pity.

Elisa sadly shook her head. "Oh, Derek..."

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

May 12th
"It's been two days. Aren't you even going to go see him?"

Derek looked up from his laptop computer, and towards the image of his wife standing in the doorway of their borrowed guestroom. "Why?" was the only answer to slip through hardened lips.

"He's dying, and it's now because of you."

"He owed us!" Derek snapped back. "And now he's paid his debt!! No one forced him to use that spell to cure us. He did it because he felt guilty, and he got what he deserved..." He returned his focus to his computer once more, and effectively turning his back on the woman he loved.

Maggie slowly walked towards him, and reached around his shoulder to slam closed the computer screen, and interrupt Derek's mission to delve into something and forget what choice had been placed upon his shoulders. "How dare you." she growled, the voice of a lioness coursing from her tongue. "He's dying, and you try to forget that he even exists. How can you be so heartless to a man who made a mistake so many years ago?"

Derek rose up, towering over the smaller woman. "It was no mistake! He meant to do this, to turn us into freaks. And if he dies, it won't be on my shoulders."

"You enjoy seeing him like this. You're taking some kind of sick satisfaction in all of this." Maggie groaned and released a disheartening laugh. "That's what this is all really about...you finally want to win, don't you?

Derek started shaking his head. "No...it...it isn't like that..."

Maggie sighed, brushing away the dirty blond strands of her hair, recently cut and styled. A gift from Elisa, in a day spent in a hair salon, pampered and coifed, and washing away six years of sewer grime. "I know you're angry, I know you're hurting. But if you allow yourself to feel this way, you'll eventually lose. You must release what has gripped your heart for so long..."

"I can't become a monster again!" he cried, clenching trembling fists in front of him. "I want to be normal. I want to live my life. I want to raise a family with you."

"As do I, with every fiber of my being, but how can we ever raise children when we were the cause of a man's death? How would you tell your child, that you allowed a man to die, just because you remained angry at him? That you gave up on the entire human race, and their ability to change themselves? To become better than what they once were? I am able to make this choice to save Mr. Xanatos, for I can't live with a death on my conscience, and neither can you. If he dies, you will forever regret not helping him, and it will consume you slowly for the rest of your life." Maggie walked past him, collapsing to the bed, and crossing her arms, staring at an indistinct spot upon the plush carpeting. "I went to see him yesterday..."

Derek looked up, where his deep ashen gray met Maggie's cinnamon gaze.

"Surprised?" she inquired facetiously. "You shouldn't be, for unlike you, I have the ability to forgive. And when I walked through that doorway, I saw not the man who you think is a monster, but a frail being lying comatose in a hospital bed, who is probably hours away from death. I saw Fox and Alexander, a devoted mother and loving son, watching her husband, his father, wither away before their eyes. I think you should take a moment to visit the man you've condemned to a slow death, and then make your decision. I dare you, Derek Maza," she challenged him, standing up to meet his own rigid stance, "look into the eyes of a five year old child, who's daddy is dying, and then try to turn them down. I dare you..."

Derek remained silent, his eyes softening to Maggie's heartfelt plea for both Xanatos' life, and his own.

"I married a man with the appearance of a ferocious cat, with a heart to match, but please don't let that cat destroy Derek Maza, my husband, and the man whom I love more than anything in this world." She crossed his cheek with a swath of her fair skin, and sensually smoothed upon his mouth, a touch of her lips, and a flavor of fragrant cinnamon. A kiss from wife to husband, to convey what lay in her heart, and what she could not place into the proper words. "I hope you'll make the right choice." She reluctantly broke off her contact to his dark bronze, and slowly walked away from him.

He watched as she left the room, yet not before flashing her eyes to him one last time. She swung the door closed with a softened creak, and left him bathed in darkness. He balled his fists, and swore he could feel the remnants of the electricity coursing through him. To forgive this man, he thought would kill him, yet to let him die, would ultimately take his soul. His wondrous wife, through adversity and pain, had found her path towards the light, and yet he had strayed, becoming lost in his torment, and a victim of his rage.

Perhaps to take his wife's advice, and see firsthand this man who cursed him, and then restored him. Yet he was apprehensive to witness Xanatos' demise, though he had always wanted to see him like this in every twisted nightmare experienced, a fevered dream of ending his life, soaking his fur in cold perspiration. He was perhaps afraid to change his opinion, fearing he would feel sorry for him, and relinquish the anger he carried for so long.

When filling his thoughts with his beautiful wife, made even more so with her return to a human existence, he discovered the spasms coursing through him were relenting their attack upon his body, and softening the hold upon his heart. "My kitten, are you right?" he asked of himself, awaiting the answer to emerge from the back of his skull. "Have I doomed this man to death for no reason but only my own anger? I just don't know anymore..."

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

May 13th
A darkened room, serving as the final resting place for one man, where the specter of death would always be near, hovering upon him with a frigid shroud, just waiting for the chance when his guard faltered, and his life slipped away. His soul would be taken, and his flesh would decay to dust. He wheezed with every rasp, as his lungs were forced to grab what air the could seize upon, feeding this decrepit body. The respirator had been silenced by Fox's own hand, for she had convinced herself his salvation would not come from the man who hated her husband, and she wanted him to die a noble death without the aid of any machine.

He moved slowly to the bedside, and through the fading light of the setting sun, fusing into the horizon with a swirl of crimson hue and orange fire, did his form become sharpened against the stark white of the hospital walls. Derek Maza leaned over the fallen form of David Xanatos, as they met face to face for the first time since the spell was cast.

"Mr. Xanatos," he growled in a voice of glacial frost, "in my dreams, this is what I wanted for you. You now feel what I felt, knowing there was nothing you could do to relieve yourself of the pain, of the absolute torment you are going through. Can you even hear me, Xanatos? Do you even know what's going on around you? Or are you too far gone within that little, scheming brain of yours?"

Derek paced the length of the bedside, creating a blur of shadows dancing their way across the walls. "I want to know why, Xanatos...I want to know why you cursed us to be monsters." He whirled around to gaze back upon the dying billionaire, and wondering why he was spilling his anguish to a motionless coma victim. Possibly a burning need had arisen to ease himself of the burden carried on his shoulders for so long. "Why, Xanatos? Why did you do it? Was it greed that motivated you, or scientific intrigue? Or just to satisfy a disgusting fascination?!" He was growing furious as he spoke, perhaps because only silence fell upon his ears. "Wake up!!" he screamed, grabbing the limp form of Xanatos, and shaking him, enraged to the point where his teeth were bared, his eyes filled with an inferno threatening to burst in a pyre of flames. "You woke up to Claw, why won't you wake for me?! Are you scared?!! ANSWER ME!!!"

His senses returned in a sudden flash, and he dropped the billionaire's still body back to the pillows and sheets, like a rag doll being abandoned by it's pubescent owner, left to rot upon the cold, hard ground. "I'm sorry..." he whispered, edging back from the bed, and faltering sluggishly about the room, as if attempting to find a direction to run, to leave this place, yet he stayed. "Why? Why did you curse us to be monsters? We had our whole lives ahead of us...and in one night, you took everything away..."

He slumped to the chair alongside, and too sat motionless, pondering an absolute chaos of thoughts and fears streaking through his mind, built over years of his mutate existence. He lost himself within his mind, and focused on the rhythm of Xanatos' weakened breathing. He would never notice the room grow increasingly darker, as the sunlight faded, stretching across the floor, up the walls and the final vestiges of radiance slipping crosswise upon the ceiling to oblivion. Night had fallen, and as the heavens burst with the starlight, did he finally take heed of how much time had passed.

He rose up slowly, deliberately, clearing his lungs and drawing in a strengthening breath, before turning to Xanatos' side once more. "A choice has come up," he started, his voice powerful, hearty with a braced asperity, "curing you or becoming mutates once more. It's almost funny...because I once depended on you to cure me, and now you have to depend on me...to save your life. Fate can be amusing sometimes, because it has a sick sense of humor. The others, Maggie, Sharon, even Claw, are ready to forgive you, and try the spell. But...I don't think I'm strong enough to make that choice..."

With his last words uttered, Derek then noticed the change in his surroundings, a subtle cast of a slender shadow beyond him, and he whirled around to find Fox in the doorway. They met with their eyes, his defiant, hers anguished, with patches of scarlet marring the once wondrous, glistening emerald.

"Derek." she greeted him apathetically, walking past him to take her place near her husband, pulling up the discarded chair, and throwing herself halfway onto the bed, grasping upon the dead hand of her husband.

Amazed she never once spoke up about the choice to be made to save the man she loved, Derek remained behind her, and watched her lay silent, feeling the delicate pulse of her husband through his hand held to her cheek. "Aren't you going to plead for your husband's life?" he asked callously, possibly coming off more heartless than ever intended.

"No." she whispered back. "I won't beg you, I won't plead with you. The choice is yours to make."

"And if I refuse?"

"Then my husband dies...and you go on with your life."

Derek was utterly surprised, half expecting her to hold himself upon his feet imploring him to change his mind. "He cursed us, to be monsters for the rest of our lives. How can I justify helping to save someone who never would have lifted a finger to help me, if our places were reversed?"

Fox ripped her eyes from Xanatos and to the young man standing over her. "He tried everything he could to help you. He's spent millions in trying to find a cure, trying to erase the mistake he made. And he would do the same if it were you were laying in this bed."

"Bullshit!" Derek snarled. "It was no mistake. We were nothing more than test subjects to him!"

"That's not true..." she gasped.

"He doesn't care for anyone. This little good guy routine he continually plays, only hides his total lack of a heart!"

"No! He isn't that man anymore!! He regrets everything he's ever done!!" Fox was screaming now, defending what goodness endured within her husband's very essence, though usually buried beneath the aristocratic personage and guileful businessman. "Even to this very day, he still has nightmares about you, and wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming out, drenched in his sweat. He wanders our home, even the castle, trying to get back to sleep, trying to silence the voices in his head. To free himself of those he wronged who always call to him, torture him, every minute of every day. I usually find him in Alex's room, watching him sleep. He says it's the most calming thing he can think of. He worries as Alex grows older, and discovers everything he's done, that he'll come to despise his father, because of his past."

"He's lucky if that kid won't hate him," Derek snapped back, seemingly unfazed by Fox's tale, "because of everything he's done."

"He's a good man. He's not the man you knew five years ago, he's changed! For the better!"

"No he hasn't!! That bastard cursed us, left us to rot underground!!"

"No, he's..."

"He's a goddamned monster, and he...should...DIE!!!" His fury had erupted without any heed to whom he was speaking to, and he suddenly edged back. Derek swallowed his anger, as his spiteful scream had burst out, unintentionally releasing the feelings that never should have been set free, and as his clouded vision cleared, he found Fox staring at him in morbid disbelief. No, not at him. Derek slowly turned to follow her eyes to the doorway beyond, and discovered Alexander Xanatos just barely perched in the entrance, looking at him with a widened stare. "Jesus..." Derek whispered ruefully, "Alex...I..."

"You're the monster!!" the small child screeched. "You should be dying, and not my daddy!!" The tears were spilling from his eyes, coating his cheeks in streams of an adolescent's anguish. "You're the monster!!"

Derek attempted to move forward and apologize, yet with the first shaken footfall, the child tore himself from the doorway, and ran into the hall.

Fox swept past Derek and chased after him, only reaching the fleeing boy near the elevator doors. She snatched him from the lighted buttons, and threw him into her arms, dropping to her knees and rocking him back and forth in a swaying motion. Alex was crying in erratic sobs, the wails of a broken-hearted child caressing upon the corridor walls, a pirouette of piercing echoes forcing their way to Derek's ears.

He was standing on the opposite side of the hallway, near the door, watching Fox comfort her only son. A scene torn from his dreams, hoping that one day, he would have the chance to soothe a child, or many children, of his own blood, holding them close in a warm embrace. Either human or mutate, he would love them all the same. His pensive gaze found it's way back to the ailing billionaire, and he sighed in contempt of his actions, his words, his very hateful thoughts. "What have I become?" he whispered. "No...no longer...no more pain..." He looked back to where Fox was still holding Alex, speaking softly into his ears to calm him, and rubbing her hands through his wild, fiery hair. "Hey, Alex," he called to the child, and he peered through his mother's arms, "what's the favorite thing you like doing with your dad?"

Alex wiped the tears away with his sleeve, and looked helplessly to his mother for consent to answer. She nodded, and with a trembling bottom lip, he answered back, "I like...playing baseball with him in the castle courtyard..."

"Well, get your bat ready, boy, because I'm going to save your dad's life."

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

May 14th
The next night had come swiftly, as the plan proceeded to save David Xanatos' life was in the last stage, the proverbial moment of truth for both him, and the four restored humans standing by his side. Owen had placed the same device used weeks ago onto Xanatos' heaving chest, preparing for a transfer of life giving energy into his frail form.

The clan remained outside the small contained hospital, peering in through the office window and the doorway. Fox was pressed against the glass, her rasped breaths creating haze of mist upon the crystalline barrier, watching as Owen secured the small machine to her husband's hospital gown. Alex has held in Goliath's massive arms, allowing the youth a perfect, unimpeded view of his father.

And inside, were the chosen four, ready to give back their gift to he who first condemned them. They stood silently, all hoping against what odds were given to them that after all was done, they would remain their human selves. Maggie abided by her husband, her arms around him, and every so often, patting him softly on his chest to show her great affection to him, and her consent to his choice. The right choice. Sharon was held tightly in Claw's arms, the large man of Irish descent resting his face in the lush breadth of her hair, delving into the scent of strawberry shampoo. He and Derek would occasionally trade curt glances, sending a wry smirk each other's way, and hoping that they would see themselves as human after this ordeal was finally finished with.

Dr. Pierce stood his place near the monitors, there to aid if needed, though feeling quite useless in the face of an enchantment about to be played out in front of his eyes.

"Are you all ready?" asked Owen, looking back to the four restored humans, who simply nodded impassively. "Then shall we? The actual spell was spoken two weeks ago in the Labyrinth, so only the trigger word is needed." His eyes of shimmering crystal clicked to his employer, and then back to the human quartet. "Prepare yourselves. Redemption..."

The trigger was spoken, and the room lit up in a blinding flare, swooping upon each form in the unearthly radiance erupting from the former mutates' chest, and flowing directly into Xanatos. His limp body jerked violently, and arched upwards, contorting with the surge of pure energy, feeding every blood vessel, every nerve, every cell in his body. His eyes tore open, the bleached mahogany swirling with a refreshing splash of color, and he screamed in pain, weakened lungs summoning the power to cry out, his anguished howl splitting open the still air.

Fox attempted to run to her husband, but Elisa's arm, braced against her shoulder, held her back. She looked helplessly to the raven haired detective, who silently shook her head, and even without a single utterance, informed her through her hardened chocolate eyes, that she must remain here until the spell either worked, or failed.

The restored humans slowly plunged to the floor, as the transference of what had flowed through their systems for two weeks was dying away. Held in Derek's trembling arms, Maggie looked to her hands, noticing a slight tingling incense the nerves in her fingers. She could not tell if it was merely an effect of the spell, or the emergence of talons. Yet even in the face of what could be an impending transformation to the monstrous form she once possessed and feared, she smiled, knowing that if her actions saved a man's life, she could look herself in the mirror from this day on, either as a human or mutate, and not be disgusted by the reflection.

The energy flow sputtered and faded away, and the room returned to it's natural level of fluorescent lighting. Xanatos' voice gave out from his terrifying screaming, and he collapsed back against the sheets. The golden glow of his skin had returned, as had his muscular structure, yet he still lay silent within his bed. Then, his mouth fell open, and his lungs stole for every ounce of fresh air that could fill their healed state. He grasped both sides of the steel railing lining the hospital berth, and his eyes fluttering open to the brightest of light.

Elisa released Fox, and she instantly came to her husband's side of a rush of wind, guiding both her hands to each side of his face, forcing him to stare to her and her alone. Their eyes met, in an instant of perfect clarity and devotion, her burning desire for any words became present in a silent plea of a verdant hued glare.

He stared back, and steadied his breathing. Then came, the smirk. "...hello...Fox, my dear..." his voice was barely above a grated whisper, "...did you miss me?..."

Her tears of joy slipped from her eyes and spattered upon his revitalized skin, a healthy shade of bronzed copper. "Don't get your hopes up..." she jested happily, as she lay upon him the gentlest of kisses, and threw herself onto his body. He barely managed to wrap his arms around her in such a weakened state, yet soon found the strength to hold her close, reveling in the presence of whom he almost lost.

The bed shook and trembled with the pounce of a five year old boy, as Alex perched on his father's legs. "Hi, daddy!" he cried out, as he was accepted into his parent's passionate embrace.

Elisa had dropped to the floor, peering to her dazed brother and his wife slumped into his arms. She inspected him close for any change, running her hands along his exposed skin and his backside, but found no indication of fur or talons, and definitely no sign of his leathery wings.

Sharon woke in Claw's embrace and the Asian woman slumped wearily against him, and Claw clumsily pressed his forehead to hers.

Derek stirred from his inebriated stupor and found a squalling form in his lap, and as he looked down, still attempting to clear the cobwebs from his mind, discovered a small, beautiful, blond woman clawing at his shirt to right herself. "Maggie?"

"Derek..." She blinked her brown eyes, and stole her hand to graze across her husband's cheek. His human cheek. "We didn't turn back...does this mean?..." Her hopeful gaze found Owen Burnett, leaning down to examine the four humans, still placed upon the tiled floor.

"The transformation should have been instantaneous, Mrs. Maza," he assured her in perhaps the most amiable voice he could produce, "it seems the mutated cells were purged from your body completely in the first transference. You are human now, and will be for the rest of your natural life."

Maggie cheered, and hungrily fed upon Derek's lips in her excitement of the news, and they both fell to the floor, leaving an open view of the other human couple to Elisa's chocolate eyes. As Owen's statement finally sunk in, Sharon grabbed Claw by the neck and forced her lips to his, as they too descended slowly to the tiled surface.

Elisa could do nothing and drop her jaw to their amorous greeting. "Whoa..."

As they climbed off the floor, Derek fell silent, and the large smile he wore swiftly faded as he lay his gaze to Xanatos. He slowly walked over, and Fox immediately grabbed Alex away, allowing Derek to come literally face to face, fire-filled eyes clashing with a steel stare. He lowered his brow and curled his lips back, as if releasing a growl in seeing this man healthy once more. "You look like shit, rich man..." he whispered, jokingly.

"I forgot how...ugly you were as a human..." Xanatos snapped back, his wily smirk growing ever larger.

"You know, I still hate your guts."

"As it should be."

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

May 18th
"Okay, Beth. I love you too. Bye. Bye, Beth. Goodbye! Hang up the phone, dirtbag!" Derek yelled out, as he threw to receiver back to it's cradle. "God, I hate her sometimes..."

"How's Beth?" asked Elisa, knowing by the conversation she had just been witness to, the youngest Maza sibling was her customary troublesome self.

"Annoying as usual," Derek drawled, "happy that I'm human, and psyched that I'm able to attend her graduation in June."

Elisa caught the slight exasperation flooding his features. "What's wrong?"

"The little, pig-tailed squirt who used to follow us around like a lost puppy, is graduating. She's getting on with her life...like we need to."

"What do you mean?" Maggie asked, still wearing the massive smile she has not been able to lose for the past four days.

"We need to get jobs, an apartment, furniture..."

"Well, you can always go back to the force," replied Elisa, perched on the bed near her sister-in-law, and watching her brother begin to pace back and forth, a habit most likely shared by all her blood family, "when captain Chavez dropped by yesterday, she said she could get you your old job back."

"Eh, the force..." Derek sounded less than enthusiastic at his sister's comment, having traveled that road before. "I don't know, but whatever we do, I'm definitely not going back to the Labyrinth."

"Well, I agree," said Maggie quietly, yet raising a single finger to indicate a flaw in her husband's plan, "but what about...you know? Her..."

"Oh god, I forgot about her..."

"Oh, she's not a problem." Elisa cut in, resting a slender hand to Maggie's shoulder. "The real question is, what about all the homeless who depend on you guys for their protection, and to help clothe and feed them?"

Derek stared at his sister, and then broke out in an ever swelling grin, rubbing his hands together as if a child discovering the whereabouts of the ever elusive cookie jar. "I don't think they're a problem either, especially when you have the world's richest man at your disposal..."

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

May 23rd
"No, no, no, the kitchen and dining area have to be downstairs, as the living areas will be contained to the entire top floor."

"The generators, fitness gym and storage rooms cannot be below ground, so the we must reduce the number of private rooms, to allow for the kitchen, and the dining area."

"Do you know how many people are living in the labyrinth?" Derek yelled curtly to the bedridden billionaire, who was almost completely covered with a disordered collection of blueprints piled haphazardly on his legs. "We need as much room as possible for every single person down there."

"This isn't a hotel," Xanatos fought back, slapping a hand to another blue tinted page, scrawled with the thin dark lines of a building within the process of being built, and with every change argued for by the younger man, was increasingly becoming more expensive by the millions, "you'll be helping all those living down there to find jobs and their own places to live."

"And right now, we have almost six hundred people down there, who need to get out from underground!"

"Fine." Xanatos reached over to his nightstand, brushed away the accumulation of magazines, company reports and even more blueprints to find his cellphone buried beneath. He flipped open the plastic cover, dialed a number known only to him, and waited for an answer. "Mr. Williams? David Xanatos. I need to increase the Xanatos Shelter complex from two floors, to five. Please draw up some new plans and I will call on you within the week. Thank you." He flipped the phone away from him and stared back to a gaping Derek Maza. "Is that better suited to your needs?"

Derek bit his bottom lip, suppressing a growing annoyance, having been built upon since this informal meeting was started an hour ago. "Dammit!" he yelled in utter frustration. "You know, you're making it really hard for me to hate you, Xanatos."

"He kind of grows on you, doesn't he?" Elisa called out from afar, seated alongside Maggie on the opposite wall of the hospital room.

"Yeah," Derek whispered back, "like fungus..."

"So you don't mind living in this new shelter?" Maggie inquired coyly, batting her lashes, and seeing the edges of a grin begin to form on her husband's lips, even with his head turned mostly from her view.

"Are you kidding, kitten?" Derek whirled around to his wife, pointing out the top floor blueprints, indicating a large corner chamber with his finger. "You should see our bedroom." he exclaimed excitedly.

"It better have a big bathroom, Derek, and an even bigger tub."

"Don't worry, Mrs. Maza," Xanatos cut through, flashing his smirk to at least one who had accepted him for his worth, "I intend to take care of the new administrators of the Xanatos Shelter."

"There's just one last thing, people," Elisa announced, straightening up in the soft bench, "what to do about Delilah."

The others gave despairing looks to one another, still pondering on the last Labyrinth dweller to be dealt with. A massive form moved swiftly from the shadows of the farthest corner, stepping into the light. Shadow approached closer to Elisa's side, having been summoned here to this room by the raven haired detective, and given no answer why his presence was required, until now. "I see no problem," he answered, much to Elisa's hopeful thinking and her growing smile, "she'll live with us, in the castle."

"I was hoping you would say that." Elisa got up and sauntered to the closed door, grabbing the handle and looking back to Shadow's cocked brow ridge. "And so was someone else..."

With a quick wrench, the door was swung open, and a slender shape fell through, dropping to the floor with a thud. Delilah quickly scrambled to her feet, a burning shade of dark red inflaming her cheeks, obviously embarrassed of her eavesdropping being discovered.

"So, Delilah," Elisa started, "do you want to move in with us?"

The young clone formed a beaming smile, and quickly skipped to Shadow's side, wrapping around his arm. "Oh yes. I can live in Shadow's room."

"Uh...uh...you would not like it..." Shadow stammered, as his blossom curled around his muscular appendage with the grace and supple flexibility of a snake preparing to bite. "It is...too small, perhaps another room in the castle would...be more to your liking..." He pushed away from her and hurriedly slipped from the room, with Delilah excitedly chasing after him.

"But, Shadow," she whined playfully, as if a small child, "I can put my porcelain figure collection in between your weapons."

"No..."

"Pleeeease?"

"NO!!!" he continued arguing, even within the small, steel cab of the elevator.

Elisa poked her head out the door of the hospital room, and watched as her cloned daughter begged and pleaded with her dark love, and even as the doors slid closed, still continued her efforts to share his private tower. "Heh heh heh, good luck, Shadow..."

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

May 24th
Where the dead lay buried, a peaceful rest for a life deserving of their share of repose, calmness, and contentment. A bitter wind flowed through, though carrying the warmth of the Summer sun, deflecting from stone to stone, and enfolding itself about the two forms moving slowly upon the winding cement pathways.

Sharon and Claw were searching the singular markers of brilliant ivory and sullen gray, an entire life contained within each simple carving of thousands of monikers on granite surfaces. They walked slowly, cautiously, as if attempting to remain quiet in this holy place, and when the larger man came to a quick halt, Sharon snapped her gaze around to where he had left her, and was now kneeling in front of a gravestone.

Claw placed the bouquet of flowers delicately to the slight mound of the soft earth, layered with an emerald coating of lush grass. "I'm sorry," he whispered, finding his words difficult to form, to find what excuses he could give in taking a life, "I am so sorry...I should have stopped myself, before you...before..."

"It wasn't your fault, Thomas." said Sharon, standing directly behind him, and casting a distorted shadow over the larger man.

"He had family, Sharon. Brothers, a sister, parents who loved him..."

"And they were helped in the time of his death. By their friends and family. By Xanatos. He supported them financially, offered psychiatric help, counseling sessions. I guess it was his way of saying he was sorry for the death he helped to take." She curled around him, placing the warmth of her hands to his, kneading the tense muscles and tenderly rubbing her nails about his palms. "You can't beat yourself up over this. You have been given a second chance, and you shouldn't waste it, because of a mistake that was not even your fault."

Claw peered solemnly to the small woman, and cast his forest-tinted gaze to the marker once more. He dragged thick fingers about the polished stone, an austere quality to his dark eyes, a dread perhaps of forcing his way back into the society taken from him. "I only hope I can live a life of helping those less fortunate," he said, hoping his voice would carry to the man whose life was now only represented by the cold guise of a gravestone, "to somehow make up for my sin."

"You can start over, Thomas. We can start over...together. But only if you take the first step." Sharon stood up, dusted off the slight remnants of grass of soil from her jacket and pants, and started her way down the path. Claw looked back at her and then to the stone. "You can't stay here anymore. You have to go on."

Claw rose up, possessing a towering stature even in his human form that Sharon still had trouble getting used to. He tentatively grasped onto the hand of a blanched ivory complexion, with skin of fine porcelain, placed before him, and smiled weakly to the Asian woman, answering in an absence of words, and a full heart.

"Great!" she chirped cheerfully. "I want to take you to my favorite café, and hear more about Mr. Thomas O'Reilly."

"I must warn you, I...haven't talked for a long time. I may go on for a while."

"I hope so. I'm a great listener." She pulled his hand with an intensity, enough so that he thought he might pitch too far and fall on top of her. He quickened his pace to catch up with her rapid stride, and they left the cemetery into the streets of Manhattan, hand in hand, two lives this day starting as one.

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

May 25th
He crept in slowly, as fast as his weak body would allow, padding along in his bare feet and hospital gown, with his monogrammed robe to protect his still amending form from any cold drafts. He approached his office chair and rubbed a hand across the enticing leather. He slumped back into his sable-colored throne, and tipped his head back, listening only to the sound of his steady breaths being released into the still air of his office, the very head of operations of a global empire having almost lost it's king.

"What are you doing in here?" an angered female voice called out from his side. "You should be resting in bed."

Xanatos peered over the leather contoured frame of his chair, and found a scowling Maggie Maza slowly closing in on him. "I only wanted out of that damned hospital room. Besides, I wanted to see my birthday gift from Elisa and Goliath." he answered succinctly, turning to see the large, wooden, octagonal-shaped, antique clock hanging behind him on the wall.

"My wife is right, rich man," came another voice, "you should be resting. It would be a shame if some thing were to...'happen' to you."

Xanatos merely cocked a brow to Derek's ill-tempered joke, and hid his sneer behind an assemblage of fingers. "Indeed."

"What are you doing here, Derek?" asked Maggie accusingly.

"Just wanted to give Xanatos here his birthday gift..." He reached into the plastic bag he had carried in, and pulled out three distinct stuffed figures, and lined them up on the edge of his desk. Maggie formed an injured look at her husband's choice of gifts, when her eye grazed upon the three animals staring Xanatos in the face. A small panther, lion, and tiger. "Now before you yell at me for a cruel joke," Derek cut through before Maggie did indeed have the chance to pull him aside, "these are simply reminders, of a past that should be left behind, and a better future for all of us."

"Does this mean I am forgiven?" Xanatos inquired, concealing possibly an expectation of this man's change of heart.

Derek tilted his head, and roamed his eyes along the breadth of the desk. He smiled when grazing across a glimmer of sharpened steel. He grabbed the scissors from the marble surface, and practically threw them into Xanatos' face. "Cut off that damned ponytail, and I'll consider it."

Xanatos never hesitated in his reach for the cutting implement, and snatched them before a reaction could occur to the young man with the now empty palm. The billionaire grabbed the tail resting upon his neck and fed the long strands of mahogany to the voracious blades of steel. With a single swipe, the hair was savagely cut through, and Xanatos then handed back both the scissors and the severed tail to the astonished former mutate.

"Holy shit...I was...I was only kidding." Derek gasped, with Maggie crossing her arms and grinning wildly.

"I am not."

Derek looked back to the tail held in his hand, still held together with the small rubber strap. "Eeeeww." he groaned, instantly dropping the hair to the desk. "I still hate you." he muttered.

Xanatos released a small chortle, seeing Maggie slapping him playfully across the shoulder. "The world would be in a very sad state of affairs indeed, if any of the Maza family actually liked me."

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

May 26th
She heaved the last of her bags onto her new bed, and collapsed onto the freshly made sheets and quilt, relishing the cleansed aroma of detergent and Spring blossoms. Delilah took the moment to admire her new quarters, her cinnamon eyes darting to every corner, and the furniture collected against the walls. It was a smaller room in the castle, situated near Elisa and Goliath's grand bedroom in the main hall, yet still much larger than her chambers in the Labyrinth had ever been.

A tinge of sadness afflicted upon her heart, for perhaps one of the most difficult tasks she had ever had to accomplish was leaving her only home of the past six years, with an existence, albeit shorter than most, full of great memories, especially those of her cherished brothers. Yet she knew her reason for moving away was a cause for celebration, as her friends were finally set free from their bane of mutated genes, and able to live their lives above ground, in the embrace of civilization and the warming rays of the sun itself.

A rustle of leather and the taming of the currents allowed a sound to drift through the open window. She rushed to the sill of the large bay window, and peered out, to find a dark form settling itself on a far turret. It was Shadow, having returned to his chambers, and now standing aloft the cornice structure, as if daring even the most powerful of winds to attempt to knock him from his perch.

She collapsed on the frame and dropped her head onto her crossed arms. She sighed, watching him stand defiantly, his long braid being tossed in the playful hands of the light Summer tempest. Her heart was singing for her dark love, and what fear of their relationship, the unknowns in taking the next logical steps in both devotion and desire, had whisked away, similar to a scented steam from a fresh cup of tea.

She felt she was no longer afraid. No longer fearful of showing to her warrior of just how much she loved him, treasured his company, and valued his powerful spirit like the purest of gold.

She hopped back to her bed in a mad dash, rummaged around in one of the suitcases with all her possessions collected over the last few years, and when her talons graced upon a silken material, she smiled, and pulled out the fabric in her hands. A sheer, ivory chemise was liberated, and glistened even in the soft light of the chandelier. It was a gift from Elisa, after her first date with Shadow, and perhaps only meant as a joke. Satiny, and partially transparent, she held the thin lingerie up to the light, and smiled maliciously. "Very soon, Shadow," she whispered, in an unusually husky tone, "you'll see this in all it's glory. But how do you seduce the perfect warrior?"