44 - "Torment"
Originally Written: February 8th, 2001

June 24th, 2001
Though smaller than most, he still heeded the robust winds to his commands, his unique
webbed wings coursing above the harshest of currents like a child's kite, billowing and
bobbing in their powerful weave. Albeit his wings were not his own any longer, he could
still feel every subtle gust of air along the artificial membranes with perfect tactility, and
calming grace.

The clouds were his dominion, and he possessed them like their king, reigning upon his
cottony kingdom. In his left hand, he grasped the wrapped package tightly, ensuring it
would not fall below to the streets, and ruin his gift. He neared the building in the path
he knew best, having flown here many times, and stretched his arms and legs to slow his
rapid descent.

A clatter of talons and metallic finish signaled his arrival on the small terrace, bathed in
the saffron glow of the living room lights. Cautiously keeping to the side where the
curtains, draped beyond the glass, obscured his view, he then peered inside, and found a
slender young woman seated on the largest couch. She was resting comfortably, with her
legs curled underneath, and nursing a large glass of dark liquid. Upon the gentle rapping
of his claws, she perked up and hopped from her seat. She quickly unlatched the locked
sliding door, and swept it from her path.

"Hey, Lex," cried Liz cheerfully, "about time you got here..."

Lex darted his large eyes about the entire room, searching for any other humans who
could spoil his evening with a fervent ranting upon laying their eyes across the
diminutive, cybernetic gargoyle.

"Don't worry, my parents have gone out for the night. We're alone."

Lex sighed, relieved he could be with Liz in utter isolation, and perhaps his nervous
expression was an indication of something more, left intentionally near the base of his
skull. A fervent itching, that begged to be released, yet he quieted the tiny voice and
forced a smile to his good friend. He slipped through the door, and Liz decided to leave
the glass partition open, to coerce at least some of the crisp summer air into the room.
Lex tromped into the middle of the living area, and rustled his wings with a shake of both
arms, loosening his tense muscles.

Liz watched him pace back and forth, and especially noticed the wrapped package of
cerulean blue tissue paper, and then discovered a small red petal fall from it's embrace.
"Lex?" she cooed playfully. "Why are you wearing a hole in my carpet?"

Lex stopped abruptly, suddenly aware of his apprehensive gait, and clicked his eyes to
the slender woman near him. "Here..." He hopped over and handed her the parcel he
had been clinging on to for dear life, an impression of his three fingered hand pressed
into the package.

Liz happily relieved his burden and stole the wrapped package into her hands. She undid
the wrapping and found a bouquet of brightly colored roses. "Whoa..." she squealed
quietly. "What are these for?"

"Just because..." he lied, his voice breaking slightly with emotion.

She quickly slipped away, and approached a large cabinet, still clutching her crimson gift
to her chest as if it were stems of gold, and petals of diamond. She fished through the
upper shelf and found a small crystalline vase. After preparing the delicate flowers, and
ensuring their survival in the life giving pool of fresh water, she turned back to Lex, and
allowed him to watch her every move as she placed her gift onto the coffee table, and
twisted the vase until the proper angle had been achieved. "Nice gift, wings..." she
joked. "Something tells me there's an ulterior motive to your visit tonight, than just your
usual 'pop in at midnight' schtick."

Lex swallowed the lump forming in his throat, and crossed his arms in a troubled
manner. "I just wanted to talk..."

"About?"

"About...us..."

Liz almost choked on her next breath, fearing this particular subject from ever coming up
between them. "Oh..."

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

"So, Trinity, do I look different as a university graduate?"

"...pppphhhhhbbbllppphh..." The tiny child gurgled and babbled to her aunt, as she
laughed upon seeing Beth's grunted expression.

"All righty then, that answers that question." Beth grimaced, and answered snidely, as the
squirming child clambered from her grip and rebounded back to the bedspread,
continuing her exploration of her surroundings. Beth snatched her before the chance to
spill from the mattress corner resulted in another of Trinity's hard learned lessons of the
power of gravity. "Whoa there, girl!" Beth cried out, pulling her niece from danger's
clutch. "That's all I need is your daddy taking his revenge for his baby girl's fall by
dropping me off the castle and seeing if humans can fly by flapping their arms..."

"I would never drop you from the castle, Beth," said Goliath from his position behind
her, "but perhaps from a two story building..."

"Oh, yer a riot...Barney." Beth sneered, thinning her eyes to the ever growing smile of the
lavender giant.

"Knock it off, you two." Elisa snapped, as she forcefully stepped between the bickering
of her husband and younger sister. Elisa pulled her coat off and hurled it towards her
sister, burying both her and Trinity beneath the worn crimson leather. As they uncovered
themselves, Elisa hopped to the bed. "So, grad, what's on the agenda for the rest of your
life, besides living in my old apartment?"

"Oh, I have plans..." Beth cheerfully suppressed the one subject, and instead favored to
focus on the latter. "I can't believe, as soon as I decided to move back to New York, the
tenants gave up their lease on your place. Talk about a stroke of luck!"

"Yes," Goliath whispered ruefully beneath his breath, "luck."

Beth razzed him with her tongue and continued on, "Anyway, the rent's awesome, and
the place is perfect. Close to the castle, close to the new shelter Derek and Maggie are
running, and kind of close to mom and dad's, but still far enough away to discourage the
obligatory drop in when I'm...'entertaining'. There's only one problem..." she trailed off
and threw an incriminating glare to her sister, then to Goliath.

"And what's that?" asked Elisa.

"Well, it seems the former tenants never bothered to patch up some of the...damages."
Her eyebrows snapped down accusingly. "Like the...claw marks in the bedroom."

Elisa suddenly paled, her once wondrous golden pigment turning a stark white. Goliath's
wings twitched, and he turned a darker violet shade, coughing the lodged air from his
lungs.

"Or the claw marks in the living room. Or in the kitchen. Or even on the ceiling above
the shower."

Elisa felt the rush of blood to her cheeks, and buried her face in her hands, attempting to
conceal her embarrassment from her baby sister. "I didn't think there was...that many
claw marks. I thought we had patched them all up before I moved out into the castle."

"There was the last night," Goliath interjected cautiously, "when we decided to...relive
some memories before you left for the last time."

Elisa swelled into a grand smile, and started nodding her head. "Oh yeah..."

"Wait a minute..." Beth gasped, clasping both her open palms over Trinity's ears,
ensuring this sweet, innocent girl was not sullied by her parents with overactive sex
drives. "You guys did all that in one night?"

Elisa simply crawled over to her husband and patted his chest, an approval of his
impeccable performance and incredible stamina. "Oh yeah." she praised him further,
recollecting being thrown upon the large couch, the kitchen table, and even against the
shower wall, ferociously savaged upon by a massive, wet gargoyle, within the clouded
mists of steam.

Beth visibly shuddered, yet found herself jealous of who Elisa had found to spend her life
with, a man who seemingly possessed unlimited endurance to handle even Mrs. Elisa
Maza. She hated her sister, the one who always got so damn lucky. Trinity shifted in her
arms, and Beth took notice of the small girl attempting to climb her way to her
embracing parents, if only to join in their fun. Beth physically restrained her, and
lowered her head to gently whisper in her ear, "Uh uh, kiddo. I don't think you want to
go over there right now...your mommy and daddy are two very sick people..."

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

The clock kept ticking, echoing it's mechanical strike with every single second that
passed by in the Eyrie's contained hospital on the second floor. The office was silent
otherwise, and she twisted her eyes around nervously, catching lab equipment and
medical tools strewn haphazardly around her, as she awaited the doctor to show himself
from his adjoining lab. The small window separating both rooms was slightly covered by
the entanglement of plastic venetian blinds, a cheap alternative for privacy, and her sharp
eyes discovered movement from beyond the glass.

Suddenly, Dr. Pierce came slowly through the door, and she noticed his forlorn
expression. She wondered why he was afflicted so with such a saddened facial cast, for
her reason in coming here in the first place was only a simple test.

He approached her with a languid gait, and kept his eyes trained on his patient's. He
tried to force a smile, no matter how small, yet he could not compel his lips to turn
upwards at any angle. The manila envelope under his arm, clenched firmly in a
trembling hand, was a proverbial Pandora's box, and he knew the contents would most
likely destroy this young woman's every hope and dream for the future. As he drew
increasingly nearer, she noticed his fear present in his features, and her own smile started
to fade. He stood there, staring at her, until finding the courage to speak. "I-I've gone
over your test results. Several times in fact, to make sure I'm not missing anything.
And...I'm sorry..."

"For what?" she squeaked, preparing herself for perhaps the worst, yet never imagining
what was about to come.

"I've...I've made sure of this, and I am truly sorry, but...you won't be able to have
children..."

Her heart stopped, and her mouth gaped open, yet drew no breath into compressed lungs.
"But..." her words were forced, labored, a rasped breath with the taste of agony on every
tone. "What about...she said I would have kids...Trinity said..."

"I know." Dr. Pierce calmed her in his soothing tone, practiced on many a time when
informing his patients of their declining health, or facing the loss of a loved one. "But,
I've done a thorough examination, and your uterus is...malformed. There's a good
possibility you can produce an ovum, and it may be able to be fertilized, but you can't
carry the egg to term. There's a...almost a one hundred percent chance, that you'll have a
miscarriage."

Her body slumped into the chair, with her vision blurring from the relentless tears. Her
sobbing and arduous breathing were cast upon every wall, filling the small hospital with
the anguished cries of an anticipative mother having her very heart ripped out. "But she
said...I would have children...in the future...why would she lie? Why?!"

Dr. Pierce moved to console the young woman, and placed a hand on her trembling
shoulder, yet she flinched and jerked away from his touch. She stumbled from the chair,
tripping over her own feet, and landing on the cold, tiled floor. Dr. Pierce tried to help
her but she tore away from him, and ripped through the door, spilling into the hallway
beyond.

She could barely make out the corridor, through her bleary vision, and ran for her very
life, screaming in agony as she slumped against the elevator doors, rapidly slapping her
hands against the lighted buttons. As the elevator car descended to her level, she
pounded upon the steel barriers, imploring the lift to increase it's speed, and unwilling to
face the actual truth. She was barren, unable to grace this Earth with a child of her own,
and that of the man she loved. She heard Dr. Pierce calling for her, and her sensitive ears
picked up on every single footstep coming quickly towards her. She didn't want to see
him, or even hear his false words of hope. She just wanted to escape, to flee from this
awful actuality, and the harshness of real life.

"Please," he called out, "we can talk...I can help..."

"With what?!!" she screamed rabidly. "You just told me I'll never be able to have a
child!! What can you do?!!" Her fists were clenched, her eyes hidden behind the crystal
liquid of pain, running the length of her face and pouring onto her attire. "Get away from
me!!" she hissed, as he tried to reach for her. The doors slid open and she almost fell in,
collapsing to her knees.

As Dr. Pierce watched the doors close, he saw her curl within the folds of her wings, and
hide herself away from the world. And even through the thick titanium plating, heard her
cries resonating in every crevice and hollow of the Eyrie building, as the cold hand of
technology lifted her to the castle above. "I'm so sorry..."

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

"Yo, Starr! Earth to Starr..."

"Huh, what?" Detective Iliana Starr perked up from her desk, having drifted away in the
wave of her own engrossing thoughts. "Johnson?"

Another man sat next to her, straddling an office chair and cradling his steaming cup of
coffee. "Yes. Remember me?"

"Oh...sorry. Guess I kinda zoned out there for a sec." Iliana replied languidly, her usual
cheerful optimism actually quite mellow this evening, in a surprising twist to her
co-workers of the twenty-third precinct.

"For a sec?" her partner replied. "You've been staring at your desk for almost twenty
minutes now." He lifted himself slightly, to see a lined notepad on the wooden surface,
scrawled with unintelligible writing and doodles. "What's that you're working on there,
'Ana?"

Iliana instantly snatched the notepad away from her partner's roving eye, ensuring he
would see nothing of her deepest thoughts brought out in her trance, transferred to the
ivory paper. "Nothing, Johnson. Now piss off."

"You're so cute when you're angry." he joked, leaving Iliana with her privacy, as she
clutched the pad tightly to her chest, and he knew enough to forget it even existed, and
just let it go. The taller man walked away, becoming lost in the rabble of detectives and
officers, and Iliana released a sigh of relief, extremely elated that her partner had not seen
the random doodling of a massive gargoyle, with Japanese tattoos on his chest.

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

"A new company?" asked Fox, as she reclined on the surface of her husband's desk, as if
a cat taking roost in the rays of the sun.

"Yes, a small import/export business that was started last October," answered Xanatos
quietly, "it's owner literally abandoned it in early March, leaving the employees to fend
for themselves, until they almost went bankrupt."

"Or until the vulture swoops in, eh?" Fox leaned over and seductively brushed a few of
her slender fingers through his hair.

"It is small, but was a very successful business, that is until the owner, and founder it
seems, up and left. So I...swooped in, as you say, and now it's back on track to a thriving
Xanatos Enterprises partnership."

"And just what does it import, and export?"

"Ancient artifacts, archeological finds, treasures from around the globe. You name it."
Xanatos slumped back into his chair, forming the expression that spoke volumes to his
wife, who picked up on the rampant thoughts running wildly through his mind.

"There's something else though."

"It wasn't just my instincts that picked up on what could be a prosperous business, it was
the actual commerce it conducted, and the business circumstances that placed it on the
market."

"Spill." she demanded.

"They deal primarily in ancient treasures, notably Egyptian. They have several
connections to other companies which do business in antique tomes from numerous
countries, magic books in the informal tongue, and the owner deserted his business right
after the month of February..."

Fox shook her head slightly, misunderstanding the important connection at first, until it
clicked. "No...there's no way that was HIS business..."

"Indeed."

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

"Well, this is...surreal. Have you ever seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?" replied a
young human as he carefully strolled the dark halls of Destine Manor. "By the way, nice
mace." Todd Hawkins huffed, as he set his eyes on the spiked Scottish weapon hanging
from the wall. He leaned closer, and found slight traces of a caked scarlet substance
staining the mace's iron head. Upon discovering just what this material was, he jerked
back and scowled, his right eyebrow snapping up and he caressed a hand around his neck.
"Gaahhh! Real cute, Red!"

The azure-skinned gargoyle simply shrugged, and shot the young man an innocent
glance. "Don't worry, I've washed off all the human blood. That blood there belongs to
Sobek."

"Oh...cooool." he said maliciously, enjoying the fact Demona got her shots in, in the fight
taken place a few months ago against the now immortal Egyptian gargoyle.

Demona smiled at his acceptance of her decorative touches, and continued her way into
the next room. She had led him into her main living area on the second floor of her
mansion, intending to discuss a proposed business contract brought to him several weeks
ago. "Would you like a drink?" she asked, as his attention was forced off the desolate
and almost evil paintings gracing the walls.

"Uh, yeah sure." he answered automatically, surprised the art collection collected over a
millennium was unpossessed of any stereotypical crying clowns.

Demona opened the small fridge underneath her bar, and fished out a small red and black
tin can. She flicked the beverage towards Todd and he snatched it from the air.

"All right! Jolt!" The can hissed open with a snap of his fingers and he took a slurp,
relishing the noxious liquid. "Aaaaahhh." He then suddenly realized this refreshment
had come from Demona's own refrigerator, an unusual choice for this somewhat refined
and cultivated gargess. "You don't drink this stuff, do you? I mean, you're not immortal
anymore, and it'll take probably ten years of your life."

"I decided to take your advice, and use this...ahem, drink to allow me to finish some late
night paperwork. I then attempted to get some sleep, and then found I was forced awake
for a further six hours."

Todd suppressed a small chortle. "Told ya. This stuff'll string you out."

"Yes. Indeed." She shook off the memory of that night, when attempting to bore herself
to sleep, and found a puzzle left incomplete. Yet barely five minutes into the pastime,
she had set the irregular shaped, cardboard pieces ablaze with her laser pistol. "Anyway,
we have some business to discuss." she continued, sitting down on her loveseat, with
Todd hopping onto the opposite chair.

"Yeah, about that...I already have a job lined up in Derek and Maggie's new homeless
shelter, as soon as it's finished." he started, listing off the jobs he has been hired for in
the last month. "I'm also doing Alexander's room in the Eyrie, and then boom, you come
along as well. I hope this isn't all just pity work. You know, 'feed the starving artist'."

"Far from it. I happen to be a fan of your artwork, and decided to...spruce up Nightstone,
and my office, with some Hawkins originals, placed beside Andrea's own paintings."
She thinned her onyx eyes and pointed a single talon to his face. "Besides, you don't
actually think I would allow any human to slap their paint upon my walls if I wasn't
impressed with their work...do you?"

Todd nodded quickly, a goofish grin gracing his lips. "Good point. So what do you
want? I propose a huge naked Annika in the main foyer. That'll get you some
business..."

Demona growled beneath her breath at the mention of Todd's steady girlfriend, though
she did not know exactly why, as she valued Annika's friendship. She dismissed the idea
of his voluptuous lover adorning her lobby area extremely quickly and decided to move
on. She grabbed an off-white-colored folder from the coffee table and tossed it towards
him. "Here are some of the themes I want. You have one week to give me some
sketches and final ideas, and we shall go from there."

Todd casually flipped through Demona designs and outlines, and was fairly impressed at
her grasp of fine art. "So, no naked Annika then?"

"No."

"Well, I guess the ultimate masterpiece of my career will have to grace the walls of my
apartment then. Your loss." Todd snapped shut the folder and found Demona focusing
her attention to the balcony doors, and he too peered through the glass panes to the bare
heavens, where every star was as crisp and clear as a burning flame, gleaming with their
ancient light upon the Earth. He darted his gaze between her and the evening sky,
realizing her concentration was drifting away. "Uh, Demona? Something the matter?"

"What?" she whirled around, and fixed dulled eyes on the human. "Oh...it's nothing.
Nothing at all."

"Uh huh..."

Demona could sense completely that he knew she was outright lying to him. She sighed,
and her wings unconsciously curled in closer to her body, a nervous response to an
underlying anxiety purposely buried inside her. "It's...just, everything that has happened
the last few months."

"Like?" he urged her on, his voice softening slightly.

"Losing my immortality. I thought I would be happy, yet I feel only...fear. Fear of
growing old, fear of being hurt, fear...of dying. I attempt to lose myself in my work,
yet...with every night that passes, I come one day closer to death. With every new day, I
ask myself, will this be my last? Because of people like Sobek, I wonder if each sunrise
will truly be the final wondrous sight I see." She hugged herself, grasping strong hands
to each arm, as if attempting to fight off a cold shiver. "I don't know how Elisa does it.
Living day by day, knowing that there are those out there conspiring for her very life. I
would truly go mad, wondering if the specter of death was perhaps around every corner I
turned..."

Todd was understandably shocked, hearing this fearsome gargess spilling her ultimate
fears to him. Though a friend, he thought she would only allow her daughter to see this
side of her. To bare witness to the pain flowing freely in saddened words, and the actions
similar to that of a scared child, frightened of a gruesome fable come to life. "I
sometimes felt like that," he started, grabbing Demona's attention, "I grew up by myself,
and thought no one wanted me. Believed I was all alone to face the world. But that's not
true. I had my friends, who became my family, to fill the emptiness. You have Angela,
and the clan, who will stand by your side and do everything in their power to protect you
until your last day, which I believe, is very long way away. Unless you manage to screw
it up somehow..."

Demona actually managed to form a smile, her eyes softening to the handsome young
man across from her.

"Elisa is strong, but only as strong as those who share her life. Yeah, sometimes her life
can go downhill quickly, and land in a big pile of monkeyshit. But what she's almost lost
versus what she's gained? A husband to love. A daughter to raise. Good friends to
cherish. I think she's come out on top, and that gives her enough reason to go on." Todd
smirked, and cocked his brow in her direction, eliciting a toothy grin from his
counterpart. "I think you have plenty of incentive to keep fighting, if only to see what
this master of the brush can do to your drab company walls..."

"I guess, my friend," Demona replied in a soft whisper, "only time will tell."

"Damn straight."

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

"Us..." echoed Liz, as she solemnly turned away. "Lex, I don't think...this is a very good
idea."

The small gargoyle noticed the sudden change in attitude, and the feeling that had
dwelled in his heart for so long, became empowered by Liz's fallen smile. "You're
probably my best friend, Liz. I can talk to you about everything. I like being with you,
talking to you, even if it's over the 'net. I really like you, Liz, and...I thought we..."

"Please Lex," she pleaded to him in a low rasp, "don't do this..."

"Why not?" he asked, becoming worried of where this conversation was headed. "I
thought we could, step beyond friendship. Become something more, something closer."
He moved in near the slender girl's back, sending his breath across her dusty locks.

"I'm sorry, Lex..." her words were arduously forced through a choked throat. "I-I can't."

His olive-colored hand brushed upon her shoulder, a soft embrace of gargoyle hide. "Liz,
why not? Why are you scared of me?"

She whirled around and focused her large eyes on his own. "It's not you, it was never
you. It's...everything else." She tore away from him, roaming the length of the room on
an unsteady gait, possibly searching her mind for the proper words. "Everything you and
your clan have gone through. The attacks, the destruction. I mean, Elisa was almost
killed...just because she loves a gargoyle. I can't do that."

"Is that why you've been distancing yourself?"

"I'm not strong enough to risk my life everyday. I'm not scared of you, Lex. I'm scared
of what will happen if we become more than friends."

"Nothing will happen!" he cried, trying anything to alleviate her fears. "My life is
dangerous, yes, but..."

"But what? Can we be in the sun together, or go out into public? Can you be here every
minute of every single day, making sure nothing happens? Can I leave my life to watch
over you? To ensure you're not destroyed while you sleep by humans who hate your
kind, or killed by some psycho intent on ruling the world?"

"That won't happen!" he yelled out, his own lips trembling with every word.

She was crying now, coating her fair skin with streams of salty moisture. "I have a life
ahead of me. I'm...I'm going to college out of state in a couple months. How do you
expect to carry on a relationship when we're halfway across the country, anyway?" Her
words were effectively hitting home, and perchance doing more damage than she could
ever imagine. "You're asking too much of me, Lex. I just...can't. I'm not that
strong...I'm sorry..."

"Sorry...yeah." he hissed, choking back the urge to scream.

"You are my best friend." she implored to him. "And I'll always be your friend. But
nothing more..." She had slumped into the couch, grabbing a pillow and clutching it to
her chest with all her strength. "I can't be what you want me to be. I can't love you...like
you love me."

The smaller gargoyle remained silent, slouched in the middle of the room, his tortured
soul inflamed with years of pain, bad experiences in life and love surging to the surface.
"Friends...right..." They locked eyes one final time, before he ripped from his position
upon the carpeting and bolted through the balcony doors.

"Lex, wait!!" she screamed, rising up and chasing after him. Yet her eyes only found a
small speck against the night sky, growing smaller until ultimately fading from her sight.
"Lex, I'm so sorry..." She plunged to the hard vinyl covering of the deck surface, and
cried out in pain, knowing she had single-handedly broken his heart.

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

"Why do want to leave some of your stuff here?!" yelled Elisa.

"Oh come on. Dad and I are painting your...ah, MY apartment before I move in, and
fixing the damage you and yer winged lover here did. I need to store some things here so
they don't get ruined." Beth explained, imploring to her older sister in a bewailing moan,
and sticking her bottom lip out to elicit Elisa's sympathy.

"Ugh. What about Derek and Maggie's place?"

Beth jerked back in surprise. "Sis, you know that place is only temporary until the
shelter is finished, and they can move in there." She slumped to the bed covering and
clasped her hands together, filling the still air with her muffled sniffling, yet another
scheme to evoke a emotional response in her favor. "Pleeeeeease?"

Elisa bit her lip, and suppressed her growing anger towards perhaps the most annoying
person she had been forced to grow up with. "Fine. But nothing's going in our room.
Ask Xanatos for use of an extra storage room."

"I can't ask my new boss for...whoops!" Beth straightened up, slapped a hand to her
mouth, and immediately looked away from Elisa's angered glare.

"Your...what?!" she seethed.

Beth swallowed and released a faltering giggle. "Uh, I was going to tell you guys soon,
but I thought I would wait a while before..."

"Before telling us you are working for Xanatos?!"

Beth held up her hands in defense, and tried desperately to explain before Elisa was
given the chance to attack. "His company's looking for new research assistants, and the
job pays extremely well. I've had several interviews with him, and he said I will be able
to put my studies in Native American history and Hopi traditions to good use, by helping
to catalogue new archaeological sites and preserving our culture. I'm sure mom and dad
will love this. I hope..."

Elisa was visibly steaming, her crossed leg bobbing back and forth in a steady rhythm.
She snapped her gaze to Goliath, still seated beside them and playing with Trinity. He
simply shrugged and threw her a knowing smile. "Fine." she acquiesced in a grated tone.
"You're working for Xanatos. I can deal with this."

"Sis..." Beth called upon her sister's better nature. "You know this is good for me. You
still can't be mad at him, can you? He cured Derek and the others, gave him a job, and
now guarantees me a pretty awesome salary. Think about it, I can finally pay you back
for everything I owe you."

Elisa sighed, and let her head fall forwards, her ebony strands cascading as if a waterfall,
soaking upon her shoulders with a downpour of the purest raven sheen. "It seems I'm the
only Maza sibling not working for Xanatos now." she sighed, unbelieving of the bizarre
circumstances she still had to deal with day after day.

"You could always become a Xanatos Enterprises security guard..." joked Goliath
quietly, and abruptly straightened out when Elisa flicked her burning eyes to him, and he
almost swore he could feel a smoldering patch of burned skin on his chest. "Or not."

"So, you cool with this?" Beth asked carefully.

"......Yeah, I'm okay with this..."

"Great! Now that I work here, I can see you guys all the time." She scrambled to
Goliath's side and threw him her malicious smile, patting a bronze hand on his muscular
shoulder. "I can torment you five days a week now, Barney. Seven, if you include the
weekends. Isn't that great?"

A discernible ripple traveled the entire length of Goliath's body, as a shiver caressed
upon his skin. He thinned his glowing eyes, and handed off his daughter to Elisa.
Massive lavender hands grasped Beth's slender body and forcefully lifted her from the
bed.

"Hey!! What are you doing?!" she screamed, as she was hauled towards the balcony
doors.

"Testing a supposition, come from your own mouth..." Goliath muttered. "Can humans
truly fly if motivated properly." He stepped out into the swirl of Summer winds, and
approached the balcony's edge. The subdued roar of the city resounded all around them,
and Goliath easily hefted Beth's light form over the cornice ledge. "Let's just see..."

"Wait!! Goliath, I'm sorry!! I won't bug you, I promise!!" She was flipped upside
down, held by her feet in the grip of lavender talons. She twisted around frantically and
her gaze centered on Elisa standing in the doorway with Trinity in her arms. "Elisa!!
Help me!!"

"Wave bye bye to your auntie Beth, Trini." Elisa cooed, whispering into Trinity's ear,
and helping the small child to flap her hands to her sister's intended departure. "Wave
bye bye..."

"ELISAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!"

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

The tempest was stronger here than anywhere else, where winds never experienced by
man wafted and coiled around the main tower of Wyvern, the highest spot in this entire
city. The winds curled and caressed against the solid turret and her slender body, a
howling whisper of nature's gentle touch. She had dragged herself to the cornice edge,
near Goliath's perch, and slumped onto the ancient stone. The towers and spires of
Manhattan fell into full sight of her teared eyes, and even her favorite view could not
even lift her spirits. It would not stop hurting, the constant stabbing in her chest, making
each breath harder than the next.

Her very dreams of what the future would bring were instantly shattered upon the
doctor's words. She wanted to blame him, but she knew it would prove ultimately
self-defeating. Perhaps there was only one person to blame for her deformity, her
misshapen womb, where no child would ever grow.

The stone beneath her was moist to the touch, and she pulled back to discover a large
pool of her own teardrops, collecting on the rough stone. She wiped them away from her
face, nearly clawing at her eyes in a frenzy to stop the constant barrage of more tears
from falling.

Suddenly, a high pitched squealing erupted into the air, carrying to her level on the
winds, as if to tease her senses with the innocent laughter...of children playing. She
slowly moved to where the sounds were strongest, and peered into the courtyard. There
she found Graeme and Arianna, being chased by their faithful pet, Nudnik, with Sata
watching on by the great Oak in the center of the emerald field of grass.

The Japanese gargoyle had placed her unfinished book down to her legs, and instead
decided to amuse herself with her twins scampering past, attempting to keep a large stick
from their beast's grasp. They dashed and twisted around her, ensuring the smaller
garbeast was left on the other side of the massive tree. Sata only laughed at Nudnik's
continuing failed attempts to get at her children, until the small beast bounded towards
her in a sudden switch in strategy. With a loud thump, the jade gargess was buried
beneath Nudnik, and only a muffled scream could be heard.

Instead of attempting to aid their troubled matriarch, the twins burst out laughing, until
Sata uncovered herself, and growled playfully towards the beak mouthed twins. They
each took off, and Sata lept to her feet, in her efforts to grab them both and administer
the proper punishment. With a great speed and agility, she snatched each one by the
collar, and pulled them into her arms. They struggled, yet she held firm, and soon found
their sides with her talons, inflaming their laughter to a tumultuous degree.

A biting reminder was this domestic scene, and she pulled away, unwilling to watch any
longer. A taloned hand tore at her chest and tunic, and she slumped to the ground,
pounding away at the Scottish rock with powerful thrusts. She cursed him, the man who
created her, for she found someone to rightfully blame. And she wanted him alive if for
only a second, long enough to drive her talons through his black heart. She damned the
monster known as Thailog, and his flawed cloning process. That which created her, and
her deformed body.

She clenched her fists and screamed, a gargoyle shriek released to tear into the air with
frightening intensity. She wailed her pain to those who would dare an attempt to make
her feel better, and soon grew quiet, falling to her side and curling into a ball. She
whimpered, and shivered as if a child, and started to weep once more. For she was
barren, and never would Delilah have children.

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

"Oh crap..." Iliana muttered, as she leafed through page after page of her crude drawings.
Ink sketchings of winged beings, her new friends, the clan of Wyvern castle. The secret
of Elisa Maza, kept hidden from her, until her intense curiosity blew this concealment
wide open.

Wide open indeed, when staring upon a seven foot tall, dark skinned warrior, who had
forgotten to replace his loincloth. She remembered screaming in fear, yet still her
womanly interest needed to be satisfied, and had it ever.

"Oh man..." Iliana steadied herself, unable to get this particular image from her mind.
"Aaaauuuughh. Get out. Get out." she chanted repeatedly, steadily slamming her balled
fists against her head. "He's involved, and I sure as hell ain't going to be the one who
gets in the middle of that coupling." she muttered sorrowfully. "How come all the great
guys are taken? Even when they're not even human?"

She slumped back to her desk, bringing out her pen once more, allowing her hand to
roam freely upon the notepad, bringing out her desires and dreams in her scribbling. And
once again, did the crude form of Shadow take it's place within the center.

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

"You're saying that you bought the business once belonging to...Sobek?!" Fox cried,
peeling off the desk and staring wide-eyed at the now smirking billionaire. "You'd better
have more proof than..."

"A few simple coincidences?" he answered back, playing the calm rain to his wife's
raging tempest. "Well, the vice-president had never actually seen the owner in person.
She was hired over the phone, had all her meetings with him over an intercom system,
and she was the one in charge of the employees, payroll, the day to day running of the
business."

"Lucky for her." Fox hissed, rubbing a hand around her throat. "If what Elisa said is true,
she could have been his lunch, if she got too close. In fact, everyone there should be
thanking whatever gods they pray to, that he used them only to get the spell and
talismans, instead of a smorgasbord." She paced the length of his desk in front of his
roving eyes. "Well, if it was Sobek's company, then maybe we can find out something
about him, where he's gone."

"Only time shall tell, but Owen and I have already inspected the building and interviewed
each employee, and there is absolutely no physical evidence that Sobek was ever there.
A proverbial ghost in the darkness."

"Damn..." Fox muttered, as she approached her husband's side, and slinked into his
chair, drawing herself into the breadth of his chest. "And still no sign in Egypt?"

"My hired force have found no trace of any gargoyles, let alone the one we seek. They
have only uncovered rumors of a winged race living in the dunes, near the pyramids. But
no luck so far." His eyes hardened over like steel. "I think it may be time to pull them
out, and wait for Sobek to make the first move."

"Oh, great idea, David." Fox complained, as he threw her a playful grin.

"Do you have any other suggestions?"

"No, I guess not." Fox pulled herself closer, just barely grazing her lips past his mouth.
"Except, that we forget about the psychos of the world for a moment, and focus our
attention on something else altogether."

"Like what?" he answered back, hoping only to enjoy where his wife would take him
now.

"Like growing your hair back out!" she yelled furiously, shattering what romantic
expectations he once had. "I can't believe you cut it all off!"

"Well...I gained a new respect from Derek Maza."

"I don't care. You are not allowed to get a haircut for an entire year."

"Yes, dear."

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

"May I ask you a question, Todd?"

"Shoot."

Demona snapped her gaze away and found the courage to ask of her friend, a question
that may offend him. "Do you believe...humanity can truly change?"

He sighed, and leaned back into his chair. "I don't know." he replied honestly, slowly
shaking his head.

"I have lived a thousand years, hating almost every human I have come across, due to
their treatment of me, of my race. I have learned to never allow them to get close, to
never look upon them as equals. To see what others of my kind did."

"Like Goliath."

"Like Goliath. Even with his continuing efforts to unite both races, in my wildest
dreams, I never saw him as the type who would choose to mate with a human...with
Elisa. I always thought he was too weak, in trusting them, consenting to their friendship,
risking his clan's very lives in sharing their world with humankind."

"But his gamble paid off." Todd interjected, with Demona slightly bobbing her head to
agree.

"I have hated them...hated you...for so long...wanting nothing but to wipe humanity from
this Earth, and erase any evidence of them ever having existed."

Todd cleared his throat, forcing her eyes to his waving hand and playful scowl. "Hello.
Remember me? Five fingers. No wings. Human."

"Five years ago, as soon as you stepped into my home, I would have taken great pleasure
in spilling your bowels on the floor."

Todd rubbed a hand across his stomach and grimaced.

Demona noticed the trepidation cross his features and continued, before he reached a
wrong conclusion. "But now, I find I value my human friends. Andrea...Elisa...you. My
life has been enriched by a select few. But...how can I be forced to make peace with an
entire world? How can I ever trust those who would rather see our kind eradicated?"

"Not all of us." Todd cut in forcefully, his voice as hard as tempered steel. "There are a
lot of humans out there who are willing to open their eyes to your kind. And the number
grows everyday."

"The number is infinitesimal compared to the rest." Demona sighed, a growing anger
apparent in her voice.

Todd lowered his brow, took a moment to think and then clicked his eyes around the
room. He popped up from the chair, and headed to a weapon hanging on the wall. A
laser pistol, which he snatched off the hooks and then hurried to a round globe near
Demona's seated position. He charged the weapon, and aimed it to the spherical map.
Before Demona's astonished gaze, he sent a crimson beam through the globe, effectively
cutting it in half with a drift of steam and the smell of burning metal and plastic, with one
piece substantially larger than the other. He grabbed both sides and slumped down near
the gargess.

"That was an expensive globe." she muttered.

"Oh please," he hissed back in a sardonic tone, "you have money coming out of your ass.
You can buy another. I wanted to illustrate a point. Take these halves, one large, one
small. In this larger half is all the hatred, the pain, the animosity of the world. Where
people like Sobek, and Thailog, Madoc and Oberon, the Pack, Therias Crowe, the guy
who steals your cab, the woman who yells at you for playing your stereo too loud, and the
rest are. All the bad guys and assholes in the world live here. And you know what you
do with this half?" He grabbed the larger piece and threw it away from him, landing it
square in Demona's massive fireplace. "Fuck 'em."

This action invoked a large smile from Demona, as Todd continued on.

"But this half, where all those you love are. Angela, the clan, Trinity, me of course, and
all the good, trustworthy humans you've met over the years...this is the part you want to
protect. Yeah it's small, it's pathetic, but it's the most important thing in the world." He
gently placed the smaller half in Demona's taloned hands. "You're right, most of the
world sucks, and probably deserves to be nuked. But this part, and the humans living
here, deserve the chance to grow, to learn, to finally realize that they have nothing to fear
from your race."

"And you truly believe this?"

"I have to, if the woman I love can ever be with me outside the confines of the castle or
my apartment. I want to share my world with Annika. I want to take her to plays,
restaurants, bars. I want to treat her to the opera, and those little annoying caf├ęs where
they only serve that sickening cappuccino shit. I want to take her to the best danceclub in
Manhattan, get drunk with her, dance till three in the morning with her, and stagger home
pissed out of our minds. Then wake up the next morning and nurse a massive hangover
with her...or her statue, whatever. That's why I'm not giving up the fight." His hands
found the warm skin of Demona's own taloned fingers. "I'm not asking you to trust the
entire human race, just the select few...who truly want to change the world."

Demona found herself staring into the ceramic piece of her globe, and pondering his
words. "You are perhaps a very smart man, or a complete and total idiot."

"A little of both, according to Goliath." he jested quietly, as Demona looked up to see his
warm gray eyes staring into hers.

A rare opportunity presented itself in the moment of silence, as Demona studied the
burning ashen pools, gleaming with the starlight. She was wearing a smile, a slight
tugging to her supple mouth, and making this azure-skinned gargoyle appear even more
beautiful than before. Demona leaned forward slowly, casually tossing a stray strand of
her hair from the edge of the golden tiara adorning her brow, and grasped his left cheek.
Their breathing slowed, and the serenity of their surroundings drew them in closer, her
dark crimson lips just inches away from his own, until Todd abruptly stopped.

"I...I'd better get going." he whispered. "Annika's...waiting for me..."

"You really do love her, don't you?" Demona inquired mournfully, her tone a declaration
rather than a question.

"With everything that I am." Todd pulled back and tore himself from the couch, quickly
stumbling over to the table, and the folder outlining his work. "I'll...I'll get started
tomorrow. I should have some designs in a couple days."

Demona recomposed herself enough to answer back, "Feel free to drop by anytime at the
office. I can show you where I would like the murals."

"Good. Then you can treat me to lunch." he joked.

"It would be my pleasure."

Todd turned back to her one last time, and found she had followed his path. "See you
later, Red."

"Yes. Goodbye, my...friend. Have a good night." She watched him fade into the
darkness of the hallway, and heard his quick footfalls descend the staircase. She moved
back to the windows facing the drive, and peered upon his dark form loading into the
sleek black Jeep, and pulling away, driving into the night and heading straight to the
woman he loves.

She wandered her longing gaze to the sky, the field of absolute darkness, only to be
pierced by the glimmering radiance of a billion stars, flooding the cosmos with the purest
of light. The city lay beyond the trees, where the humans made their homes, and lived
their lives, seemingly unknowing of what danger could befall them.

Demona graced her talons across her brow, and trailed them lightly down her face. A
particular image filled her thoughts, of the young man having left just minutes ago. A
very handsome man, who could bring out a smile in her stoic facade with a joke, or just a
cock of his brow. His skin still left traces of an enticing warmth upon her fingers. She
could feel him on her hands, see him clearly in her mind.

She shuddered, and clasped both hands to her chest, disbelieving of the thoughts that
betrayed her. She had not felt this way in a long time, since Goliath, or Michael, or even
Thailog and MacBeth. Four men destined to be either hurt by her actions, or to leave her
alone for the rest of time, either on purpose or due to circumstances beyond their control.
She wanted love again, needed the security of a man wrapping his strong arms around
her, whispering sweet nothings into her ear, promising they would never part. That they
would resist the pull of time, and forever exist as one.

Yet at this moment, she was alone, for her heart had left this Victorian manor in a
raven-hued SUV, and lay within the gray eyes and charming smile of a man who filled
her with the calming laughter that she thought had abandoned her throat centuries ago.
Filled her form with a warming impression destined to mark her for a long time to come.

She found it impossible to accept, yet powerless to deny. She was developing strong
feelings for another human. A young man, who was hopelessly unattainable, for his life
was filled with another woman's presence. Demona filled the empty space of her living
room with an audible laughter, with the indisputable trace of a languishing soul. For she
believed she was falling in love with Todd Hawkins.

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

Every ounce of strength he possessed was driven into the wall, and as he continued
pounding away, bits of fractured brick and mortar flicked past him. His hands were
bloody, the skin scraped away from his knuckles, and coated in the dark vermilion liquid
of his veins. Lexington poured every ounce of rage into his target, as the brick wall was
giving away underneath each powerful strike.

He stopped when the pain finally registered, even through the pure adrenaline flowing
through him, and he heaved every breath into the summery air, his hot breath flooding the
area around him, forced through clenched, fanged teeth. His eyes erupted with the
platinum glow of technology, and he howled, an ear-splitting snarl seeming unlikely to
come from such a diminutive form.

He broke down, when the rage finally subsided, leaving only an empty despair. "Liz..."
he whispered. "I thought you would be the only one who wouldn't leave me...I thought
we could share our lives..." His eyes were tired, even as cybernetic implants, and he
strained to keep his eyelids open. "Why? Why must I always be alone?"

A streak of movement crossed his bleary vision, and he looked up, as several forms
darted their way through the sky. He focused in, his bionics zooming into the forms, and
recognizing them as Broadway and Angela. Perhaps on patrol, perhaps on a date, but as
always, together, and hand in hand. He watched them grace the currents with their
forms, hers sleek, his bulky, riding the breeze with a playful mirth, and playing a
continual game of tag among the stars.

He hated that sound. Their laughter, their cries of joy as each gained the upper hand,
drifting farther away until even his auditory enhancements could not detect them any
longer. A quick slap to a surrounding ledge, and it crumbled to rubble under the forceful
blow. What he would not give to be relieved of the continual pain always suffered when
mated pairs strolled among him, unwittingly flaunting their relationships in front of his
longing eyes. To silence the agony would be delicious, to end his torment would grant
him the peace he's wanted after so long.

The Pack, Madoc, the Unseelie, being turned into a machine and knowing that his
crimson brother could have done something to prevent it, seeing his brothers find mates
and effectively break up their trio; it had taken it's toll in a silent disease, eating away at
his soul. Would any of his clan even know, if he was gone? If he never returned home
this night, would they even notice the empty perch on the cornices at dawn? Perhaps
there was only one way to escape what has been building for years.

Lex smiled malignantly, as his tears curled down over his upper lip, and the taste of salt
was left on his tongue. He hated this life, hated this isolated existence, hated everything
around him. And he wanted it over. Perhaps very soon, he would find the courage to
take what he thought has never mattered to anyone...his life.