LIFE GOES ON
MATING GAMES PART 4:
By Kimberly T. (email: kimbertow -at- yahoo dot com)
Standard disclaimers and acknowledgments apply. I'm not making a dime of profit; please don't sue.
4.1: "Are we there yet?"
"Another Saturday Night, and I ain't got nobody…"
For the first time ever, Brooklyn actually wished that was true.
Oh yeah, Lex was having a blast; he and Rebecca were sitting on the opposite bench in the New Orleans Clan's delivery truck, singing merrily along with the music from the radio. They'd been talking and laughing together just about nonstop since climbing into the truck; when they weren't singing along with the radio, they were talking about computers and Internet websites and about what had to be the coincidence of the century: that as "Braveheart" and "LadyHawke", they had unknowingly 'met' in chat rooms online over five months before actually meeting in person!
Brooklyn was sitting on the other side of the truck with Marie, his scheduled date for the night. He'd also been singing along with the radio, and nonverbally encouraging Marie to join in the fun. Since they were all stuck inside the truck for over an hour as it drove from the clan's estate to their "safe house" in the heart of New Orleans, they might as well all get along, right?
But it wasn't working. As much as Lex and Rebecca were talking to each other, they were not talking to Marie. Brooklyn could certainly understand why; he'd heard that Marie had said something pretty insulting to Lex on their first night here, and it was obvious she'd been treating Rebecca badly for years, probably since they were hatchlings together. And other than one comment, that the pair of them were well-suited for each other (and she somehow made that sound like an insult too), Marie had been doing her best to pretend the other two didn't exist.
Which left Brooklyn feeling caught in the middle; exactly where he didn't want to be. Dammit, why had he agreed to Marie being included in the dating schedule? He flat-out did not like her. More than that, he actually disliked her! Because she had already made it perfectly clear, in the way she had acted towards her sisters and even some slips in her behavior towards him, that she was an uncaring bitch who wanted the status of being mate to the second-in-command, not Brooklyn himself.
But since he and his clan were all guests in this territory, he couldn't just tell Marie to pack gravel and get out of his sight, like he would have if she'd been a member of the old clan in Scotland. He had to be polite… and so far, his trying to politely ignore her hadn't worked worth a damn; she'd just tried even harder to monopolize his attention and shove the others away. And he knew that Angela had been right, when she'd said that Marie had to be included in the dating schedule; otherwise, Marie would have found some way to sabotage his dates with the others.
He was fully aware of the irony, but he still wished that he had come on this trip without any female companionship. Yeah, it would have been a bummer watching Lex and Rebecca all wrapped up in their happiness, but he knew his rookery brother, and had some idea of how nice Rebecca was; they would have tried to include him in the fun from time to time. Even being a 'third wing', or 'fifth wheel' as the humans said, would have been better than being stuck with somebody he really didn't want to be with.
Well, hopefully the night wouldn't be a total loss. They were going to see the sights in New Orleans! The Big Easy! THE place in the whole U.S. of A. for Mardi Gras! Where the motto pretty much all year round was "Laissez les bontemps rouler", French for "Let the good times roll!"
Brooklyn was also going to meet five more gargoyles; the people who had been on patrol duty since his clan's arrival and had yet to make their acquaintance. All Brooklyn knew about them was that four of them were mated pairs who naturally preferred to patrol together; one pair from Rebecca and Marie's generation (Martin and Cecilia) and another from the generation before (Lucy and Erasmus.) And that the fifth gargoyle was a male named Robert; Rebecca's closest rookery brother.
Brooklyn paused as he thought about that, having just realized that he didn't know who Robert was mated to. Of course, he'd have been hard put to name any other female besides the five single ladies who had been hounding him since the night he arrived—well, them and Ursula, the matronly figure who had helped to organize the dating schedule—but still, it was a bit odd that no one had mentioned her name, and that Robert was spending four nights in town without her; most mates didn't like to be apart that long if they could help it. Unless they were having really bad relationship troubles, which might be why she hadn't been mentioned yet…
Well, better to ask now, while Robert wasn't present, than make some stupid assumption and possibly an even more stupid slip of the tongue when they met. So he asked Rebecca, "Say, who is Robert mated to?"
Rebecca had been laughing with Lex about some esoteric Internet joke, but at Brooklyn's words she fell silent. So Marie spoke up instead, with a distinctly unkind smile on her face. "Oh, didn't anyone tell you? Robert doesn't have a mate. He's--"
"Shut up, Marie!" Rebecca was suddenly on her feet, her eyes glowing crimson and her wings flared. Marie and Brooklyn both drew back in surprise as she hissed, "If you say one word, just one nasty word about Robert, so help me, I'll—I'll put Nair in your feather-wash!"
And Lexington chimed in with a nasty smile, "And I'll take pictures afterwards. Rebecca and I were just talking about how to blow photos up to poster-size…"
Marie glared red-hot daggers at both of them, but kept her mouth shut. Brooklyn was impressed; evidently, Rebecca didn't get mad often, but when she did, she was considered the wrong sort of person to cross. And she was faster to defend her brother than herself; very admirable. And really, she was pretty in a petite sort of way…
Then he realized what he was doing, and grimaced. Oh, knock it off, Brook, he scolded himself. So Rebecca had good qualities, some of them far better than Marie; she was obviously happy with Lex now, and vice versa! And if he'd really been attracted to her, he would have said or done something back in Manhattan, when she'd been just about crawling into his lap. No, he was just attracted to her now because he was stuck with Marie at the moment; like wanting someone else's hamburger when your steak turned out to be tainted and inedible.
Besides, there was something else that hadn't been resolved yet. Rebecca and Marie were in a glaring match at the moment, so he gestured Lex to move a few feet away with him, then said very quietly, "So, without saying any nasty words, what's up with this Robert guy?"
Lex admitted in a whisper, "Actually, I'm pretty 404 on him."
Brooklyn blinked at him. "Uh… 404?"
"Sorry, computer slang. Code 404 is 'file not found'; I don't know anything about him. I was just backing up Rebecca's threat."
Brooklyn blinked again. "Because you like her so much, or because you don't like--"
Well, that was clear enough. But he was still in the dark about Robert. So once everyone had sat down again, he politely asked Marie to let Rebecca do the talking about her rookery brother, then looked expectantly at Rebecca.
Rebecca looked at the floor for a moment, then looked up and said earnestly, "Robert hasn't had a mate that the clan ever officially acknowledged, but he did have a lover… a human lover. They were happy together for over five years. But this last April, just before Easter, there was a car accident during the day, and… Robert is alone now."
"Poor guy," Lex commented with sympathy.
"Yeah. If anything ever happened to Elisa during the day… I don't think Goliath could handle it." Brooklyn gave an internal shudder at the thought of what might happen to the clan someday, then forcibly put it out of his mind, to think about more fun topics. "So, is it true what I've heard, that some folks down here wear Mardi Gras-type costumes all year long?"
"Just a few people, but they're out there! Some folks are so into costuming that they have more than one costume they want to wear, or something really wild that they want to practice making and wearing, before the big event. So they wear the less fancy or experimental ones at any time during the year, but all the really elaborate costumes are saved for Mardi Gras." Rebecca also told him and Lex about the places where the perpetual costume-wearers usually hung out, comparing costumes and giving tips to new costumers, and promised that it would be one of the places they would visit tonight.
Then Marie spoke up, saying haughtily while she might guide Brooklyn to that area herself, she didn't want anyone thinking that the four of them were actually on a double date; she had no intention of sticking around the cyber-geeks longer than she had to!
To which Lex replied hotly that he had no intention of sharing atmosphere with Marie any longer than he absolutely had to, and Brooklyn had to step in again before the squabble became a full-blown fight.
But even as Brooklyn put on his best authoritative second-in-command expression and posture, and got the rest to back off and settle down, he couldn't help reflecting that he'd expected better from this clan. They already had a half-human leader, and after that initial faux pas they'd had no trouble accepting Elisa as Goliath's mate; why hadn't they accepted Robert's human girlfriend as his mate?
Maybe Robert's scent hadn't changed, the way Goliath's had changed even before he and Elisa had officially become mates. Hudson had said once that there'd been another gargoyle-human couple back in old Wyvern, back before Brooklyn's egg had even been laid, but the clan had never officially acknowledged them because the male had never acquired a 'bonded' scent; they'd just been sex-partners, not life-partners.
Well, anyway, that question was answered. Now if Robert made some sad comment about his dead lover, Brooklyn would express his condolences and say that he was sure she'd been a lovely lady, and her death was a loss to both species. Though he sincerely hoped the subject wouldn't come up; Brooklyn had had enough misery already tonight. If he were a Catholic, like most of the gargoyles down here were supposed to be, he'd definitely be asking God to let this trip count towards time served in Purgatory.
To be continued…