3.2: Brooklyn's Beefcake Woes
There were other exceptions to the resumption of the New Orleans' clan return to normalcy. Not just Rebecca, but all the unmated females that were of breeding age had been released from their assorted duties, so they could spend all their time with the Manhattan Clan's available males. And since one of the females, Martha, was the clan's best cook and normally essential to keeping the huge clan fed, Broadway had agreed to help out in the kitchen in her place.
Angela wasn't sure what sort of duties the elder Benedict normally had, but they had also surely been set aside while her clan was in town. He was the New Orleans Clan's chronicler, and on the first full night after their arrival, he'd approached Angela and Broadway and asked them to tell him the stories of their old clans, to be recorded for posterity.
Broadway hadn't had a chance yet to talk about the old clan in Scotland, because he'd been busy in the kitchen. But Angela had talked for hours, remembering and talking about far more than she'd originally thought she would, filling up three or four recording tapes and at least a dozen pages in Benedict's notebook. And during the interview, she had mentioned that the Magus had taught her and most of her rookery brothers and sisters how to read Latin.
Benedict had been delighted to hear that, and had asked if she would consider helping him with another project. It seemed that when the clan had emigrated here from Paris, over two hundred years ago, they had brought with them copies of the Paris Clan's chronicles. But the earliest chronicles were written in Latin, and knowledge of Latin was becoming rare. Benedict had some idea of what supposed to be written in those chronicles, from tales passed down through the generations… and he could pick out about one word in four of what was written in them, because the French language he also spoke had many Latin borrowings in it. But he had always wanted to translate and transcribe the old chronicles to a more modern tongue, to learn more about what had happened back when the clan had first allied itself with humans, and to share that knowledge with the younger generations.
Last night had not been a night for working; Angela had danced the night away with Broadway at the fais do-do, and was delighted to have gotten him to forget his crippled wing for a while. But tonight while Broadway was in the kitchen cooking and baking, she was sitting at a desk in the library oh-so-carefully turning the aged vellum pages of the old chronicles, while Benedict sat attentively at another desk nearby, armed with a blank journal and his tape recorder.
"…'with Brother Algernon'," Benedict said, repeating what Angela had just told him, as he scribbled in his journal. " 'He will return with more stone from…'—did you say 'from the old quarry', or 'from the new quarry'?"
"The new quarry," Angela said as she scanned the page. "Maybe the stonecutters at the old quarry were asking too much money for their building stones again…"
Benedict nodded slowly. "That could well be… or the bishop found them in disfavor for some other reason, and refused to do business with them for a time. I'm afraid that religion, politics and the economy have ever been intertwined. Well, perhaps we'll find out more in another few pages." He paused with his pen poised above the paper and hinted, "Ready for more…"
"Er… give me a minute, all right? This next paragraph is tricky," Angela said with a rueful look.
"Oh, of course, cherie!" Benedict said hurriedly. "You do me such a favor in reading this at all; let it be done at your own pace! …Are there more Gallic derivatives in the sentences?"
"I think so. But it's not just the few words that are probably French instead of Latin; this particular chronicler's handwriting was atrocious! The Magus would have had him rewrite every paragraph on a slate board, three times, until he'd learned to write properly," Angela commented.
Benedict smiled wryly, then said, "This is rather dry work… Would you like me to get you something from the kitchen? Anything to drink or eat?"
"A glass of milk would be nice, thank you," Angela said with a smile. "And perhaps… perhaps another beignet?" Those little powdered-sugar-covered pastries were really very tasty.
"Of course another beignet! And I believe I shall indulge in one or two as well. Just wait here, and I'll be back soon with a snack for both of us," Benedict said with a smile as he opened the door.
While he was gone, Angela continued reading through the old chronicle, hoping to have puzzled out what had been written in the next paragraph before the elder returned. But two minutes after Benedict left, the door to the library opened again and Brooklyn slipped inside.
Frankly glad for the momentary distraction, she was about to call out a greeting to him when she noticed he had a shushing finger to his beak, and a desperate look in his eyes, as he swiftly but very quietly closed the door behind him. Then he rushed over to where she was sitting, rolling her chair slightly away from the desk—and dove under it! She leaned down with mouth agape to ask just what the heck he was doing, but Brooklyn hissed to her as he curled himself into a tight ball under the desk, "Cover for me! I went out through the window, okay?"
Before she could ask for an explanation, the door to the library opened again. This time Marie came in, with a smile on her face but an unmistakably predatory gleam in her eyes as she cooed sweetly, "Brooklyn?"
"Hello, Marie," Angela said casually, as she nonchalantly scooted her chair forward as far as she could, letting her wings slip off her shoulders to throw more of the desk's underside in shadow. "You just missed Brooklyn; he said something about needing some fresh air, and went out through the window."
Marie's smile wavered momentarily into an angry frown, before she set the original expression more firmly on her face and went to the nearest open window. She sprang out and into the air without a word of thanks or backward glance, and glided away on her white-feathered wings.
A few seconds after Marie left, Angela rolled back from the desk as she said with a smile, "The coast is clear; you can--"
"Not yet," Brooklyn hissed frantically. "Keep covering for me; I know another one will be along soon…"
And sure enough, the door to the library opened again, and Yvette came in, with virtually the same sweetly predatory look on her face as her rookery sister had been sporting moments ago. Angela again nonchalantly hid Brooklyn from her view, while greeting her with, "Hello, Yvette! If you're looking for Marie, she just left out the window; I think she was looking for Brooklyn, because he left the same way just a few minutes ago." And she had to work hard to suppress her grin as Yvette promptly went out the window as well, though the fuschia-colored female took the time to thank Angela for the information.
After a few more seconds, Brooklyn nudged at her legs as he whispered, "Any sign of Isabel?"
"No sign of her yet. And before you ask, no sign of Rebecca or Martha, either," as Angela pushed away from the desk again. With a sly grin on her face, she inquired sweetly, "Shall I ask Benedict to get you something to eat, too, so you can hide there all night?"
"Very funny," Brooklyn grumbled as he crawled out from under the desk and shook himself, settling his wings onto his shoulders. Then he turned to Angela and said earnestly, "Angela… is it too late to say I'm really, really sorry?"
"For this?" as Angela indicated with an offhand wave the hiding place he'd just come from, and his abrupt enlistment of her as a conspirator in hiding him. "Oh, I don't mind; it's actually kind-of fun."
"Actually, I meant for the way we guys were all behaving last summer, right after you first arrived in Manhattan." Brooklyn sighed as he slumped down on a nearby stool, his beak pointed at the floor. "You were more than right to tell us off like that, for the way we were treating you back then. All our bragging, and the squabbling; you were right, we weren't treating you like a person, but like a prize to be won. Believe me, right now I feel just like you must have felt..."
Angela did feel a little sorry for him, despite her amusement at his current predicament. She was positive that if somebody had told Brooklyn a year ago—even a week ago—that someday he'd have plenty of females vying for his attention, he would not only have disbelieved it, but considered it the ultimate male fantasy. But now that the 'fantasy' was a reality… While being such the object of so much rabid attention from the opposite sex could be a little flattering, it was also rather degrading, whether said object of desire was 'cheesecake' or 'beefcake'. She asked, "Do you think it would help if I talked to them?"
"Would you, please?" as Brooklyn gave her a pleading look. "I don't dare tell them off the same way you told us off; not while we're all guests in this territory!"
"I'll see what I can do discreetly, without getting into any shouting matches or insults. But I don't think you have to worry about Rebecca anymore. You were perching on the other side, so you didn't see them, but last dawn she and Lex came gliding in together, and shared a perch for sleeping; they both seemed pretty happy."
Brooklyn looked relieved. "That's great! I gotta tell you, from the way she attached herself to me back in New York, I thought she'd be fighting with the other two again any second now…" Then he added hastily, "Uh, but it's great for Lex, too. Maybe they'll turn out to be a perfect match for each other."
Angela grinned. "Considering that what little I overheard of their conversation before they left their perch this evening was about some computer game, I'd say they're compatible in at least one area already." Her grin turned wry as she asked, "So, from the four that are left, who's the worst offender?"
Brooklyn rolled his eyes. "Marie, definitely. That one is… I don't mean to offend you, Angela, but that female is downright bitchy. She's out to get me any way she can, and she doesn't care who she hurts in the process. I'd have told her to get lost already, if we weren't all guests down here."
Angela half-smiled. "From what I've been hearing and overhearing for the last two nights, quite a few people in this clan would agree with you about her. And I'm glad you can see her for what she is; at least three people I've heard talking about her were sure that she'd be the one to hook her talons in you."
Brooklyn looked grim. "When I was younger, she might have. She definitely knows how to put on a charming face, and use—ahem—body language as well. But I've had some experience with manipulative females, so it didn't take long for me to see the pattern this time."
Angela asked with idle curiosity, "Other manipulative females? Do you mean, back in the old clan?"
"Actually, I meant Dem—ah, anyway, Marie's pretty much off my list," Brooklyn hurriedly interrupted himself. "She may be pretty, but so are most poisonous snakes, and I wouldn't mate with them either."
Angela realized Brooklyn had almost said 'Demona', and wondered if her mother had ever tried to—no, she would not think about it! Instead, she said, "So, you're not considering Marie… for which Broadway, Lexington and I all thank you very much, by the way. What about the others?"
"Well… Honestly, I can't really tell much about the others yet, due to all this competition they're in. Marie's definitely the most aggressive, but in order to keep her from just taking me over, they're all acting like her to some degree! When they're not being oh-so-sweet to me, they're being not-so-nice to each other… Well, Martha hasn't been bitchy at all, but I think she's given up on me already; I haven't even seen her since just after dusk, after Marie drove her out of the room almost in tears." Brooklyn sighed heavily. "I really wanted to go after her, to tell her that she's got some good qualities in her own way, but I was afraid that if I did, I'd be giving her false hope, you know? I mean, I can tell she's really nice, but she just doesn't seem my type."
Angela nodded soberly. "You're right, it might have given her false hope if you had gone to talk to her. So it's really down to just Yvette and Isabel?"
"Well… I suppose it is." Brooklyn seemed slightly uncomfortable for some reason. "But all I really know about them is that Yvette designs and sews clothing for a hobby, and Isabel does metalworking; she makes metal sculptures that the clan sells in an art gallery in New Orleans. And Isabel doesn't just drape herself all over me, like Marie and Yvette do; I can tell she's interested, but she's holding back, like she'd rather I get to know her mind first…"
Angela quirked a brow ridge at him. "Sooo… you like her for that? Perhaps prefer her already?"
Brooklyn looked almost frantic at her suggestion. "I barely know her! Great Dragon, I barely know any of them; don't ask me to choose now!"
Angela smiled at him. "Relax; I wasn't suggesting that. But I've got an idea for how to handle this, at least for the next few nights…"
And a short while later, Angela stepped out to go track down and bring together Yvette, Marie, Isabel and Martha, while Brooklyn stayed hiding in the library. But the first people she ran into were Hudson and Ursula, who had been visiting the clan's children in the rookery. Ursula had a hopeful expression on her face as she asked, "How is it going, Angela dear? Are you and Benedict having any success in translating the old chronicles?"
"It's a bit of a struggle sometimes, but we're already started on the second journal," Angela told her cheerfully. "I'm just taking a break now, to help Brooklyn out. Would you help me round up Isabel, Martha, Marie and Yvette, and bring them to the library?"
"Of course, dear!" Ursula said. "I'll have Adam or Stephen pass the word along to the sentries; if they're anywhere on the estate, we can find them all within minutes. But what exactly do you want to talk to them all about?"
After Angela explained her idea, Hudson nodded and agreed. "Aye, that would probably be for the best, for the next few days; Ursula and I have seen how the lasses have been pestering the lad ever since we arrived. This should give him a wee measure of peace…"
Ursula added, "An excellent idea, my dear; I can see why your Broadway has been singing your praises to everyone." Angela blushed slightly, pleased at the compliment, while Ursula went on, "Now, knowing the four in question as well as I do, if I may make a suggestion…?"
Some time later, while Angela, Benedict, Hudson and Ursula looked amusedly on, Brooklyn met with the four females in the library and laid down the law… or rather, the schedule. "Right now, I don't know enough about any of you to make any decisions on courting, and let's be honest; you really don't know anything about me! So what we're going to do is set up a dating schedule."
Brooklyn explained how, starting tomorrow, he'd be going out with one of them at a time, and stay with that one person the whole night while the others stay well clear. That way, one date at a time, they could can relax and talk and get to know each other without interruptions from the others. Brooklyn added, "I swear, I give a solemn oath, that I won't even begin to make any decisions on courting until after at least three dates with everybody who's interested, okay?" Then he gave a depreciating grin as he said, "After all, once you get to know me better, some of you may decide I'm actually not worthy of being your mate!"
"A valid point," Isabel said, her felinoid mouth twisted into a wry smile.
"Though utterly unlikely," Marie retorted, somehow managing to both sneer at her rookery sister and look adoringly at Brooklyn in nearly the same instant. "What female in her right mind wouldn't think you're worthy of being her mate?"
Almost involuntarily, Brooklyn's eyes flickered over to where Angela was standing with the elders. Angela found herself blushing as she said almost defensively, "I never said I didn't find you worthy; I just found that I prefer Broadway!"
"Now, now, dears; everyone knows that there's no commanding the heart," Ursula said hastily, before anyone could stick their toe-talons any further down their own throats. "Now, a schedule has been suggested; Marie, you'll be Brooklyn's first date, starting at sunset tomorrow night, while Martha, you'll have him the next night. Then it'll be Yvette's turn, and then Isabel's. And as one of the females who raised you all from diapers, I expect you all to honor this agreement, and not find reasons to interrupt or sabotage your sisters' dates. Is that clear? Do you all swear to honor this agreement?"
Yvette and Marie both looked somewhat mutinous, but muttered their agreement. Isabel agreed to the conditions with a look of relief on her face, but Martha agreed with a sad smile; as if she appreciated the effort to make the 'playing field' more fair for her, but she already thought it would ultimately be wasted.
"Excellent. And I've a suggestion for the dating venues, as well." Ursula looked at Brooklyn with a wry smile. "It seems hardly fair for you all to come clear down here from New York, and not experience the night life in the city that New Orleans is so famous for! We normally drive the truck into town only on patrol rotation nights, done Sundays and Wednesdays; the new patrol goes in before midnight, and the old patrol returns a few hours later. But since this is a special occasion, I'm sure everyone will agree to more frequent trips to town, leaving right after dusk and returning just before dawn."
Ursula's plan was for the truck to be driven in and back every night for at least the next four nights, with Brooklyn and his date for the night aboard. His date would show him her favorite aspects of New Orleans' nightlife, while they got better acquainted with each other.
Then for the next series of four dates, Brooklyn would go "back to nature;" he and his date would go into the bayou that lay at the edge of the estate. Those dates would be combining work with pleasure; the clan regularly hunted in the bayou, and the dating pair would be expected to bring back something for the clan's dinners. That would give Brooklyn the opportunity to see how well he and his dates worked together, not just played together.
Isabel asked curiously, "And the next set of dates after that?"
"Oh, we'll think about that in another week or so," Ursula said with a dismissive gesture. "But none of that starts until tomorrow night; for the rest of this night, you are all to leave the poor boy in peace! Give him some time to think, to talk to his own clan members; just to be something besides your romantic prey! I don't want to see or hear of any of you coming within two wingspans of him for the next six hours; not until we all take perches for dawn. The first one to violate that rule, loses one of her dates with him! Am I clear on that, too?"
All the females mumbled their assent to that as well, before filing out of the room. After they left, Brooklyn bowed low to Angela andthe elderstogether, saying "Thank you!" with utterly heartfelt sincerity.
"You're quite welcome, dear boy," Ursula said with a smile. "And if any of the ladies do try to bother you tonight, be sure to let me or another elder know." Her smile turned rueful. "But I'm afraid I just realized, I've rather boxed you in as well; the ladies could hardly be blamed if you walked into a room that one of them happened to be in already."
"Why not stay here in the library with me and Benedict for the rest of the night?" Angela suggested. "You know how to read Latin too, right?"
"Sure do; most of the books we had at old Wyvern were in Latin," Brooklyn said with a smile.
"Great! Then you can help me translate these old chronicles for Benedict. But I have to tell you, most of it isn't very exciting stuff," Angela said apologetically.
Brooklyn grinned even wider as he pulled his stool up closer to her desk. "Believe me, right now some nice, quiet reading sounds perfectly delightful…"
Another Author's Note: As I said before in my story "A Quiet Night, A Busy Day", I believe Brooklyn was tempted by Demona in more ways than one back in the episode "Temptation." If you want to know exactly what I and many other authors think just might have happened 'between the scenes' in that episode, go check out Christine Morgan's fanfic story "Confession." But be forewarned, you may never view that episode the same way again…