4.5: Correcting Assumptions
Well, the night was still far from over; there were still at least a couple hours till dawn. But this date was definitely over, and try as he might, Brooklyn didn't feel even slightly bad about that.
He flew slightly behind Marie as she led him back to the safe house, and kept his beak firmly clamped shut as her muttered litany of curses and imprecations drifted back to his ears. She was soundly condemning youngsters in general and two human children in particular; the ones who had ruined her dress…
They had been walking past a winding staircase in the casino when Brooklyn thought that he'd heard somebody actually calling his name, from somewhere behind him. Had Lex and Rebecca joined them in the casino? He'd hung back for a moment and turned around to look, but hadn't seen the other gargoyles; just more humans milling about the gambling tables.
He'd decided that instead of his name, he'd overheard someone talking about Brooklyn the borough of New York, and had been just about to turn around again when he'd heard a splat sound coming from right behind him… and Marie's shriek of surprise and outrage. He turned around fast, to see the right side of her gown and her right wing adorned with a bright red liquid and thin scraps of blue rubber.
Looking around quickly for the source of the attack, he spied two wide-eyed youngsters standing on the staircase as it wound above their heads; twin redheaded human kids, from the looks of them a boy and a girl. And the little girl of the pair was holding what looked like a bright green ball in her hands… no, it was a balloon; probably a water balloon! He figured that out just as the pair of kids bolted up the stairs, scurrying as quickly as they could for the hotel rooms above the casino floor. No doubt they had deduced from the curses Marie as already spewing out, that remaining where they were to face her wrath would be bad for their continued health.
He turned again to face Marie, who was still cursing while staring incredulously and in growing rage at the red liquid seeping into her dress and the feathers of her wings; the little brats had filled their water balloon with Kool-Aid!
Later on, he figured out that the brats must have been aiming for his head, but when he'd hung back for a moment, the tossed water balloon had hit Marie's right shoulder instead. But right then, he had more immediate concerns… Casino personnel were already hurrying over, alerted by the fuss, and Brooklyn grabbed Marie and hissed, "You've got to calm down, right now. Or we'll be in deep trouble! Your eyes are red, and you're showing your fangs!"
And angels weren't supposed to have red-glowing eyes and fangs… Marie shut her mouth fast, but couldn't extinguish the light of rage in her eyes. So she kept her head down and her eyes mostly closed, while Brooklyn dealt with the casino personnel. The staff expressed again and again how sorry they were for the disruption and damage to the costume caused by one of their guests, and assured the couple that it would never happen again, and Harrah's would be happy to compensate them for the damage done. But Brooklyn ushered Marie towards the exit while telling the staff repeatedly that he and his date had to get home and out of that costume before the stain set, so they just didn't have time to visit the manager's office, thank you very much… In the end, Brooklyn accepted on Marie's behalf a voucher good for $100 worth of gambling chips, just as they exited the casino.
Now in the air and gliding back to the safe house, Brooklyn decided that if he ever ran into those two kids again, even if they had really been aiming for him, he would only give them a stern talking to about putting Kool-Aid into their water balloons… and he'd have to restrain himself from actually thanking them. Marie was highly enraged, but all Brooklyn could feel was relief that they had left the casino at last.
When they arrived back at the safe house, they found three gargoyles there; Robert, and the mated pair Lucy and Erasmus. Lucy, a light blue female with a black mane and a sympathetic smile, had hurried Marie into the shower to get the Kool-Aid out of her feathers. Erasmus and Robert both agreed that Marie would be gone for at least an hour; even after the red stain was washed out, it would take some time to dry out Marie's feathers and get them presentable again. And afterwards, Robert added dryly, Marie would use the excuse to primp and preen in front of the mirror again. "You likely won't see her until it's time to head back to the estate."
Erasmus, a bovine-type gargoyle with a red hide and chestnut-brown feathered wings, asked curiously, "How did she get Kool-Aid spilled on herself, anyway?"
Brooklyn paused, then said diplomatically, "I'll let Marie tell that story herself, if she wants to."
Erasmus shrugged, then left the kitchen area to go watch some late-night TV show. Once he was gone, Robert said knowingly, "She went into Harrah's again, didn't she?"
Brooklyn wordlessly offered him the voucher for gambling chips, and Robert sighed. "Thought so. She drags Yvette in there as often as she thinks they can get away with it. Well, maybe now she'll avoid the place for a while… but how did it happen, exactly?"
Brooklyn told him, and Robert snorted with laughter. "Wish I'd been there to see it! I'd have been tempted to slip those kids a twenty later. Hey, is your guy Lexington really as much of a hardware wizard as Rebecca said he is when she called yesterday? Maybe we could get our hands on those security tapes for some entertainment viewing. Oh, don't worry, we wouldn't show them to Adam or your Goliath; Marie made the four of us who know about the casino trips swear an oath of secrecy. But a tape of that incident would become our generation's greatest treasure!"
"Marie's not well liked, is she?" Brooklyn said with a shake of his head.
"Have you ever heard the term 'queen bee' applied to human females?"
"Yeah; I read a review for a book about it, in a Sunday paper supplement a few weeks ago."
"Well, 'queen bee syndrome' applies to Marie, too. She's been pulling that dominance stuff since we were all in the rookery together; she had a clique going with Yvette, Cecilia, Bernadette and Joan, with herself as the top banana, naturally. The other three females were basically the outcasts, or at least Rebecca and Martha were; Isabel made it plain that she didn't give a stone shard about the whole thing. Which infuriated Marie, of course, and it was her efforts to bring Isabel down one way or another that finally led to the whole thing blowing up in her face. Eight years ago she tried to sabotage one of Isabel's sculptures, was caught red-handed at it, and was banished to the bayou for four nights. During that time, Ursula sat the rest of our generation down and gave everyone some pop psychology lessons. By the time Marie came back, her circle of power was broken; we'd all learned our lesson about her. But she hasn't--she didn't learn even after Martin, Adelbert and Thomas chose other females for mates--and she probably never will. Since you haven't tried to object to any of this, I'm assuming you've already seen her for what she is?"
"Yes; she hid it well at first, but I've had some experience before with manipulative females," Brooklyn said grimly.
Robert nodded. "I probably should be urging you to choose her for courting, and take her with you to New York; that would get her out of our collective hair at last. But frankly, I wouldn't wish her on anybody."
"Speaking of courting…" Brooklyn uneasily scratched his mane. "Look, I come from an age where we sort-of had to mix politeness and niceties in with a lot of practicality and necessity. So pardon me for speaking bluntly, okay? But I'd better say this now, before things go any further."
Robert went still, and gave him a wary look. "All right…"
"Okay. So we've got five ladies looking for mates, and only one of them is pretty much already spoken for; that's Rebecca. Another one has pretty much crossed herself off my list, whether or not she realizes it; that's Marie. And Martha, well, she's nice enough but she just doesn't seem my type, though I admit that could possibly change once I get to know her better. But right now, the ones that appeal to me the most are Yvette and Isabel. But before I make any decisions, I want to know: when the Breeding Moon comes, which of them are you interested in going on a breeding flight with?"
Robert gaped at him, then shook his head and opened his mouth to answer. But Brooklyn hurriedly went on, "I know you had a human mate, or at least a lover; Rebecca told us that on the way in tonight. And I understand perfectly if you're still in mourning about losing her; no doubt she was a lovely lady, a credit to both species. If Goliath ever lost Elisa, his human mate, he'd be so heartbroken that he'd probably—well, anyway. Like I said, back in the Middle Ages we had to be practical sometimes. There's a Breeding Moon coming up, and even if you don't actually love any of them, you're probably going to be asked to… to contribute to the limited gene pool. If Adam hasn't already thought of that, Goliath is sure to suggest it to him. And hey, sometimes a breeding couple starts out as just friends, and they grow to really love each other later on. So, I'm asking again: which female would you rather go breed eggs with? Give me a name, and I'll try to steer her in your direction instead of courting her myself."
Instead of giving him a name, Robert gave a sad chuckle. "Oh, lordy… Brooklyn, how good is your memory? Can you repeat, word for word, what Rebecca told you earlier?"
Brooklyn frowned, but thought back and did his best. "She said, 'Robert hasn't had a mate that the clan ever acknowledged'—no, she said 'ever officially acknowledged. But he did have a human lover. They were happy together for over five years. But this last April, at Easter'—no, she said 'just before Easter, there was a car accident during the day, and Robert is alone now.' That might not be word-for-word, but it should be pretty close."
"Oh, it was close enough." Robert shook his head again. "Good ol' 'Becca; she tries her best to avoid hurting anyone… and all too often it backfires. In this case, she left out something crucial… but I'm not surprised. You want to know why I've been out here without a patrol partner? When Adam recalled Isabel, he should have recalled me too, and sent another pair out… but everyone was afraid to have me on the estate when you all arrived. Because I'm different from everyone else, and they didn't know how well gargoyles who were hatched in the Middle Ages could handle 'different'. But I'm damned if I'm going to hide it now, particularly since you brought the subject up," as he dug into a pocket of his shorts, and pulled out a thin wallet. "Brooklyn, I'm about to show you a picture of my human lover…"
And the small picture framed by the leather case of the wallet… had a full mustache.
"His name was Philip Rogers, and he played football for the New Orleans Saints," Robert said quietly. Then his voice gained a hard, sarcastic edge as he added, "And if you feel like making any 'faggot' or 'queer' remarks, you'd better do it now, before Rebecca gets back. I've heard them all, and acquired a thick hide over the years, but if she hears it she's apt to rip your tail off."
Brooklyn just gave a small chuckle and shook his head. "Yeah, I noticed she's protective of you. Honestly, I was wondering why you and she weren't mates already… but this answers that question. So, your clan never really accepted Philip as a proper mate? Pardon my asking, but was it because your scent didn't get a 'mated' marker?"
Robert stared at him. "You… you're okay with homosexual gargoyles?"
Brooklyn shrugged. "Well, this is hardly a new concept. You should talk to Goliath sometime; two of his rookery brothers were attracted to males instead of females. And it's just as well that they both were, because his rookery generation had two fewer females than males, and otherwise they would have both just gone mateless."
Robert tossed his horse-head back and laughed, long and hard; laughter that was likely born of relief as much as amusement. Lucy, walking past on her way to join her mate in the TV room, gave them a curious look but didn't interrupt. Finally Robert stopped laughing, long enough to say, "And here everyone was worried about how you'd be so offended and outraged, that you'd either demand I be banished immediately, or turn around and head right back to New York!"
Now Brooklyn snorted. "Fat chance! I'll be honest, it's always been considered kind of odd… but so is actually liking turnips, and Broadway used to eat those all the time. And like I just said, when a rookery clutch hatches more males than females--which is what usually happens, by the way; I'm sure even Hudson would agree that your clan's current situation is utterly unique in gargoyle history—anyway, when there're more males than females, the excess males will want some sort of close companionship. And if they find it in each other instead of trying to lure females away from their mates, well, that's better for the clan's overall harmony! And sometimes we see a gargoyle who's attracted to both males and females, like--"
"Oh, Brooklyn!" Marie sang sweetly, from the gargoyles' bathroom. "Would you be a dear and come in here, please? I could use a little help…"
Robert took one look at Brooklyn's suddenly panicked expression and snickered. "Go out the skylight; I'll her you went for a short glide five minutes ago. And don't come back for another half-hour or so…"
Brooklyn skedaddled. He spent the next half-hour cruising the streets nearby, listening to snatches of conversation and to a radio that someone had tuned to a jazz station. As he went back, he spotted coming down the street the clan's delivery truck, coming to take him and Marie back to the estate before dawn. Lex and Rebecca wouldn't be joining them for the ride back; they'd already arranged to stay at the safe house instead. So the atmosphere for the ride back shouldn't be as hostile as it had been for the ride out… but he worried that Marie would decide to use the time alone with him to try to seduce him again.
Brooklyn realized what he was thinking, and shook his head. Now he was worried about being alone with a beautiful female who was interested in him, when last week it would have been his fondest dream! Wasn't life just full of ironies?
Well, hopefully tomorrow's date with Martha would be more pleasant all around. He headed for the skylight, unconsciously singing under his breath, "Just waiting for this night to be over…"