LIFE GOES ON

MATING GAMES, PART TWO:

Well, Why Didn't You Say So?

By Kimberly T. (email: kimbertow -at- yahoo dot com)

Standard disclaimers and acknowledgments apply; I'm not making a dime off this, so please don't sue.

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2.1: A Fais Do-Do

According to the calendar, it was Thanksgiving Day… but the New Orleans and Manhattan Clans had celebrated the holiday a night early, to commemorate this historic first meeting between the clans. Last night they'd had the main feast, one with both the traditional All-American culinary delights such as roast turkey and pumpkin pie, and a few samples of New Orleans cuisine such as Oysters Bienville and jambalaya. It had been decided that tonight, instead of holding Thanksgiving all over again, they would serve only traditional New Orleans food and turn the entire night into another fine local tradition: a fais do-do. A Cajun festival, with singing and dancing to zydeco and jazz music, all night long.

Goliath and Elisa had been out on the dance floor nearly nonstop since the party had started; as Elisa had said during a break between songs, they'd had only one opportunity to dance in the two-and-a-half years they'd known each other, and they had a lot of lost time to make up for. They had requested a waltz to start with, and the musicians had readily obliged; since then, the band had made a point of playing a waltz for every fifth musical number. But Goliath and Elisa were still out there on the dance floor for the Cajun two-step, the shuffle and the jig; they didn't get all the moves right, but they sure were having fun.

About an hour or so into the party, Lexington sat down on a chair to one side of the dance floor and heaved a forlorn sigh. Oh, the party itself was a blast; better than any Solstice or Equinox festival he could remember from the old clan. These people knew how to have fun! But it seemed like Lex himself had forgotten how. And no matter what the people down here did to make him feel welcome, he just kept feeling more alienated instead.

He'd already had three dances tonight, and it seemed that with each one, he'd just gotten more depressed. Isabel had danced with him first, while Brooklyn danced with Marie. He enjoyed that dance a little, and would have enjoyed it more if he hadn't noticed the rookery keeper Ursula, one of the 'chaperones' for the courting gargoyles, approaching Isabel and whispering in her ear just before Isabel had come over to him. No doubt Ursula had been firmly suggesting that Isabel play the part of a good hostess, and keep the clan's guest entertained. It didn't do much for a guy's ego, knowing that the girl he was dancing with was doing it purely out of politeness, instead of personal interest. Isabel had never said that, of course; she'd chatted and laughed and told him that for a beginner to the dance steps, he was doing all right. But her smiles at him had never quite reached her eyes.

Martha had danced with him a little while later, probably after another request from Ursula. A few of her smiles had seemed pretty genuine, but midway through the dance she'd spoiled the impression of interest by looking briefly but wistfully over to where Brooklyn was dancing with Isabel. Then some time later Yvette had danced with him, wearing the same sort of polite smile that Isabel had worn. Lex tried hard to just enjoy the music and moving to the rhythm, but… Dragon, why didn't their smiles ever reach their eyes? Was he that pathetic a specimen?

He cursed himself for being so blasted short and scrawny. In gliding, his smaller-than-average size and lean frame were an advantage; he was the most agile member of the clan when it came to aerobatics, able to fly rings around everyone else. But once he was on the ground, that advantage sure turned into a disadvantage.

Or maybe it was because he was a web-wing; people with his kind of wings had never been all that common back in the old clan, and down here he hadn't seen a single other gargoyle with them. Maybe his unusual wing configuration made him some sort of freak in their eyes; pretty ironic, considering their leader was a one-of-a-kind hybrid.

Or maybe these females could somehow tell, just by looking at him, one of the other ways he was different from Brooklyn and Broadway; that he was—

Oh, great. He'd just noticed Ursula off to one side of the hall again, talking with Marie. From the way Ursula's wings were beginning to flare, and from the defiant stance Marie was taking, it was plain to see that they were arguing. And Lex had a sinking feeling that he knew what they were arguing about.

Broadway and Angela had just finished another dance set, and were making their way over to where he was sitting. Lex noticed how they were all flushed and smiling at each other, and told himself firmly that he had no business being jealous of them. "Hey, Angela, do me a favor?"

Angela looked over at him and said, "Sure, Lex. What is it?"

Lex flicked a talon in Ursula and Marie's direction. "Go see what they're talking about over there and, if Ursula is trying to get Marie to dance with me, tell her not to bother. After what Marie said to me last night, I wouldn't touch her with a fifty-foot pole."

Angela looked at him with a question in her eyes, then almost visibly decided she did not need to know exactly what Marie had said, and went off to talk to the two females. Broadway sat down next to Lexington and said quietly, "So, one of the ladies down here isn't much of a lady?"

"She's a gold-plated bitch as far as I'm concerned… but heck, maybe it's just me."

Broadway shook his head. "It's not just you. Martha and I were talking in the kitchen last night, while she was showing me where all her cooking utensils and spices are, and I heard an earful about how they're all fighting over Brooklyn… and about the fighting before we arrived, too; over their rookery brothers before they chose their mates. Near as I can tell from what Martha said, Marie is one of those people who want status more than anything else, and will climb right over anyone else to get at it. Kind of a female version of our purple rookery brother with the ridged tail, back in the old clan… Remember the stuff he used to pull, trying to become the leader of our generation?"

Lexington didn't much like to remember the old clan… because that meant remembering how they died, massacred in their sleep, their bodies scattered like debris all over the castle. But he remembered, and winced. "Yeah; smarmy piece of work."

"Yeah; he didn't really care about anyone, just used them to get what he wanted. And Marie is a lot like that; she'll be nice to someone only as long as she thinks they'll help her get what she wants… which right now, I'm guessing, would be the status of 'mate to the second-in-command.' But if you're not there to help her, you might as well not exist as far as she's concerned." Broadway eyed him with sympathy. "Let me guess; you tried to remind her that you're here too, and she tried to make you pay for daring to talk to her?"

"You got that right," Lex growled. After what she's said last night, telling him that he was just 'leftovers'… he'd been so hurt, and so enraged, that he'd actually had to leave the mansion for a while. He'd glided out to the edge of the swamp, found a dead tree still standing… and hadn't returned until all that was left was a scattered mass of wooden scraps for kindling. That had gotten the rage out of his system, but the memory of what she'd said was much harder to banish. But instead of telling all that to Broadway, all he said was, "I'm not kidding about that fifty-foot-pole rule. Have you said any of this to Brooklyn yet?"

Broadway waved over to where Brooklyn was dancing, this time with Yvette. And from their vantage point, they could clearly see Marie stalking over to Brooklyn, doubtless planning to cut in on the dance. "I haven't had a chance to talk to him alone since we got here! Those females are keeping him surrounded just about every minute." Broadway paused and smiled wryly. "Sheez, if we were like that with Angela, no wonder she got so steamed at all of us."

"Yeah," Lex agreed wryly. "But at least she only had to deal with three of us, instead of four… Hey, that should be five, not four. Have you seen Rebecca recently?"

Angela came back as they were talking and replied to the last question. "I saw her leave the ballroom a while ago, maybe half an hour or so. She didn't seem too happy, either; I'm guessing it's because the others keep getting between her and Brooklyn. Poor dear, she has some pretty tough competition…"

"Maybe you should try your luck with her," Broadway suggested. "If you just talk to her, maybe you'll find you have something in common!"

Lex looked at him sourly. "Yeah, right. Something besides being the ones who get shoved aside in favor of others? You maybe didn't notice how she had several hours to take a long look at all of us, back in Manhattan and on the plane ride down here, and had eyes only for Brooklyn right from the start?"

"Well… what about Martha, then?" Broadway added, "She didn't say much about herself last night, but I can tell already she's a very nice person."

"Maybe…" Lex sighed. "But what would we have in common, besides stone sleep during the day? From what I've seen of her so far, she's a lot like you, Broadway; spends most of her time in the kitchen. And who in this clan has been barred from even setting foot in the kitchen again, back home?"

"Hey, you 'fixed' the toaster so it shoots the toast eight feet in the air! And after you tinkered with the microwave, Xanatos bought a new one and sent the old one down to his R&D department for weapons research!"

Angela hid a smile behind her hand, then interrupted before Lex and Broadway could begin really squabbling. "If you're just not happy with the party, why not go for a glide? Or ask around and see if the clan here has a computer somewhere in their home?"

Angela had a point; a few hours spent playing computer games, or better yet surfing the Net and checking chat rooms, would probably cheer him up. Lex thanked Angela for the idea, and headed for one of the ballroom's exits.

The band that had been playing zydeco was taking a break, and several people were taking advantage of the pause to get refreshments. Brooklyn didn't need to get up to get anything; not with so many females just about hanging off him, nearly begging him to ask anything of them, anything at all. And from what Lex could see of Brooklyn's face as he passed, Brooklyn actually looked uncomfortable with all the attention; like he'd rather be anywhere else… Brooklyn, the one who had once just about pulled rank on everyone else to spend more time with Angela! Life was just full of ironies.

Lex spent a few moments meanly speculating whether all the females, not just Marie, were more attracted to Brooklyn's status as second-in-command of the Manhattan clan than Brooklyn himself. Then he sighed and admitted that it didn't really matter; Brooklyn would have his choice of them all, and surely choose the best of the lot, the loveliest inside and out. And Lexington would end up with one of the sore losers.

With the breeding season coming up in just under a year, it was time to choose partners for the breeding flights, whether they were actually loved as lifelong mates or not. From his memories of the old clan, Lex knew that the alternative to having a mate was just not acceptable to most females, not when their heat was upon them and there were healthy males around who could devote the entire breeding season to them, not just a few hours or so. So, he'd very likely end up with a mate, but one who didn't really care all that much for him; maybe a lukewarm friend at best. He hoped Broadway knew how lucky he was, to have Angela's honest affections…

It was his size; he just knew it. Why did he have to be the runt of the litter? If he was larger, say the size of Goliath or even Hudson, those females would probably be all over him like static cling, and he could afford to pick the one he liked best for a mate. Lexington listened to his own inner voice for a moment, then grimaced in self-mockery. Yeah, and if he could stay flesh by day like Adam, then he could go to college and start his own electronics firm and take a dozen human mistresses and yadda yadda yadda… Dwelling on 'if onlies' never did anyone any good.

It was time to cheer himself up, and he knew just how he wanted to do it. With all the modern conveniences this clan had, they just had to have a computer around here somewhere, and if he was really lucky, it'd be hooked up to the Internet and he could check his e-mail, and maybe check out a chat room or two. That was the beautiful thing about having friends online; they didn't care at all about what you looked like, just that you had enough similar interests for a good conversation. Sometimes he felt closer to guys like Riffraff, Bugjuice, Bojangles, Starstreaker and LadyHawke than he did to other gargoyles.

Thinking about his online buddies reminded him that it had been over three weeks since he'd heard from LadyHawke; he hoped she'd come back on-line in the last couple of days. He shared lots of interests with the others, but she was the only one who was also interested in hang-gliding, the human way of soaring through the air. But now that he knew Bugjuice and Riffraff actually lived in Manhattan, students at Columbia University, maybe the two humans could rent hang gliders and let Lex show them how to glide. That'd be pretty cool, gliding with human buddies…

Idly speculating on future activities, Lex left the ballroom far behind before realizing that he had no idea where this clan kept their computer. He was loath to wander back into the ballroom and ask for directions; he didn't want to risk offending anyone by seemingly rejecting their party as not being good enough for him. But surely not every last human and gargoyle was in the ballroom at the moment; if he just started knocking on doors, he was sure that sooner or later he'd find somebody who knew where the computer was located.

He started wandering the halls, politely knocking and softly calling out, but without any success for the first few minutes. He was about to head outside and go find one of the sentries at the estate's various lookout posts, when it occurred to him that at the second-to-last door, he hadn't been greeted with total silence. There had been a very quiet sniffling sound… like somebody had been very quietly crying…

It was Denis, the littlest hatchling in the rookery; he could just bet money, if he had any. He knew all too well what it was like to be picked on for being the smallest; some of his rookery brothers used to make his life miserable, until he began going around with Brooklyn and Broadway. Poor little kid had probably been bullied by that big bronze-colored one again, and snuck off to have a good cry in private; maybe he'd feel better if Lexington taught him how to play trenchers… and gave him a few pointers on sneaky fighting, too. He went back to the closed door, eased it open and peeked inside.

Instead of a tiny blue hatchling, he saw instead a petite golden adult female; Rebecca was curled up on a couch and sobbing into the pillows, sandwiching her beak between two of them to muffle the sound. At the creak of the door, she lifted her head long enough to glare at him with reddened eyes and croak, "Go away!"

To be continued…