VVVVV
Consequences Part Seven: Wind and Water (3/3)
a Gargoyles story
by Merlin Missy
Copyright 2005
PG-13
VVVVV

"Mother!" Fox called, unable to see, frightened and young inside.

"It is all right, child," said her mother's tender voice from the obscuring
darkness, and she took her hand.

"What happened? Where are we?" They stood apart from everything, and
Fox had the feeling she was farther from David than she had ever been even
in her dreams.

"A place the others will never see," Puck said. As they had when she'd first
set foot on Avalon, the mists cleared from her eyes. She almost wished they
hadn't.

They stood upon, among clouds, drifting in an unfelt breeze, bright without
sun. Although she wasn't sure of it, Fox had the sense of being very high and
very apart from what she'd ever known before. The assembly was gone, the
hall itself a memory.

Puck floated calmly beside her.

"You're alive!" Her sudden joy was replaced by bewilderment and then
suspicion. "Why? If you dare tell me this was all a dream I'll feed you piece
by piece to Wolf."

"It wasn't a dream, Fox," said her mother. "It was quite real. Your sisters
were found guilty of murdering their brother, and they will pay for it in due
time."

"What about you?" She watched her friend, afraid. "Oberon was going to kill
you. The law is the law, remember?"

Puck's gaze dropped to what would have been the ground. She made the
mistake of following it, only to be overcome with vertigo. She looked back to
his face.

"What didn't you tell me?"

"The law is the law," her mother said, "but even Oberon is open to a bit of
creative bribery. I made him an offer he couldn't refuse."

"You should not have. It was not your place to make the bargain." His eyes
were old, wounded.

Fox rounded on Puck. "You knew this would happen! You let me think you
were going to die, when you knew you would be all right?"

"I told you I would be all right. Is it my fault you didn't believe me?" He
had said it would be fine, hadn't he?

"I don't understand," she said. She turned to her mother. "You made a deal
with Oberon?" A nod. "What did you trade?"
"I haven't much in the way of bargaining chips. I offered the one thing he
wanted, more than anything else in the entire World."

Understanding hit her, knocked the wind from her gut.

"You're going to bear his son."

"Yes."

"Oh my god." If there had been a place to sit, she would have. Finding none,
she put her head in her hands. "I thought. You promised you wouldn't. You
said you couldn't."

"I should not. There is nothing I cannot do."

"You know what his destiny must be, Lady. Surely there is another way." He
was pleading with her.

"There was none. Oberon created you to be his heir. I made him swear
otherwise, that our heir should be of my own blood. With the Three no longer
fit to rule, we have no other choice."

Puck said, "You had Alexander. Every sign points to him as the right one."

"The right one what?" asked Fox, bewildered.

"King, child," said Mother. "Puck means that Alexander is destined to
become the next King of Avalon."

"Huh?"

"If Oberon doesn't have another heir, Alex is by default it," said Puck quickly.

"But if you have his baby ... "

Her mother said, " ... that child will instead be the heir."

"What aren't you telling me now?"

Mom said mockingly, "Aren't we suspicious?"

"After what you just pulled, yes, we are. Tell me."

Her mother looked at Puck, then back again. "There is nothing more to tell
you now."
"Yes, there is. You said you shouldn't have a son. Why?"

"My mother would have had Avalon be a matriarchy forever. She told me
long ago, when Oberon and I wed, that were I to bear a son, he would be ... "

Puck, in a surprisingly good imitation of Dana Carvey, supplied: "Saaaaatan."

"She didn't say that, Puck. She said ... " She stopped. "It does not matter."

"You're mad, you know that?" Puck's voice held horror, and a tinge of
respect.

"I fear I am saner now than I have been in all my years. The child will come,
and there will be war, make no mistake of that."

Her heart fell. Puck would live, at a terrible cost.

"Mother ... "

"There will be war," she repeated, "but we decide who will win. As long as I
spend my confinement on Avalon, your brother will be born approximately
eighteen years from now, as the World goes. Oberon will make no move until
then. You have this time to prepare."

"Prepare? For Armageddon?" She'd joked about it with Puck just minutes
before.

"If that is what it comes to, yes. Remember, for every tyrant, there must be a
hero to oppose him. You have the key to our salvation, or our destruction,
waiting for you at home. Raise him well, help him gather his allies, teach him
everything you know, and perhaps, when the war does come, the right king
will emerge victorious."

She embraced Fox. "Good-bye, daughter. I promise to check in on you when
I can."

"Good-bye, Mom." There was too much, both information and emotion. She
didn't know how to react. She held her mother to her for a long moment, not
wanting to let go. She closed her eyes, smelled the sweetness of her hair. She
was five again. Fairies were just stories, and she was safe in her mother's
arms.

She broke away, and tried not to look, as her mother placed her hand under
Puck's chin affectionately. "Good-bye, child."

"Lady, reconsider. Please. I am more than willing to accept my mistakes.
Don't do this."
"It is already done. Be safe."

The mists gathered around Fox again, enfolding her in a less warm touch than
her mother's arms had been. When she could see, she felt the comfort of solid
ground beneath her feet. She turned wildly, and then saw Puck. He stared out
into the dark water, where the fog was just kissing the lake. They were in
Central Park. They were safe.

"Puck?"

"I was just wondering what they'd told the rest. I imagine they implied
Oberon did kill me after all. None of the rest will be allowed out any time
soon to disprove it. The lie will be safe until I do die."

She said, hesitatingly, "I'm sure Rowan won't believe it."

"Rowan will believe whatever she chooses. I'd like to think she won't buy it,
but in a way, I hope she does." His eyes returned from the water, as his
immortal face melted into the familiar one of Owen. "Let's go home."

VVVVV

From this end of the park to the castle, it was a long hike, but neither
mentioned calling David. Fox needed this, the slow change from greenery to
city, and thence to the Eyrie Building. Owen didn't speak to her, nor she to
him. Surely they looked an odd sight: a couple who did not touch, walking
through Central Park in the early evening hours.

The guard on duty at the door was all business as he shuffled them quickly
inside. To his benefit, and his continued prospects of working for XE, he
didn't say a word about their coming in through the main door, rather than the
parking garage. Smart man, Fox thought. Must remember to give
him a raise some time.

They went up.

The elevator doors deposited them on the main living level. No one came to
greet them. Odd. The internal alerts would have notified someone of
their presence, surely.

"Living room," Fox mouthed. Owen nodded. They made their way quietly
towards the living room, and sure enough, the sounds of the television met her
eager ears. Someone had popped in a Disney movie for Alex, "Hercules" by
the sounds of it. Fox groaned instinctively; she didn't like that one much.

She poked her head into the room, Owen beside her. Hudson was in his
reading chair. Elisa half-asleep on the couch in the crook of Goliath's arm.
Brooklyn and Katana were sitting on the floor beside them, near enough to
one another to touch, although they were obviously trying to keep from doing
so. Lex was on the floor as well, playing cars with Alex and Tachi. David lay
casually stretched out on the rug, his head leaning on one hand, his other hand
moving a little blue Matchbox car. Angela and Broadway were nowhere to be
seen, nor was Nashville.

Alex looked up from his toys into space. He turned his little head towards
her, and his face lit up like a million candles.

"MOMMY!"

He leapt up, flew into her arms, and squeezed as hard as his little arms would
go.

"Alex," she whispered, pressing her lips into his hair, his forehead, anywhere
she could find a place on him to kiss. She wanted to squeeze him until the
stuffings fell out, knew that wouldn't be a good idea.

David flowed to his feet, and in a moment, she was in his arms, still holding
Alex against her tightly.

"It's all right," he said, to her or to himself, "it's all right."

After a while, she saw his eyes open again, settle on Owen. He nodded,
slowly. Owen nodded back.

VVVVV

Fox wasn't at all tired, but Alex had had a very big day. As she continued
relating the events of the trial, Owen tried to take her baby from her arms to
put him to bed. She growled at him.

"Mine."

Owen drew back, then smiled in an un-Owenish fashion. "Yours."

"Story, Mommy?" Alex was already rubbing his eyes. She picked him up,
cuddled him in her arms.

"Certainly. Meanwhile, Uncle Owen can continue telling everyone about his
and Mommy's trip to see Nana."

"'Uncle?'" asked Brooklyn.
"Uncle. And you be nice to him. Nobody picks on my brother but me, got
it?"

Before anyone could react, she walked out of the room towards the nursery to
put her baby to bed. She read "Green Eggs and Ham" to him, by his request,
then played "Itsy Bitsy Spider" until his giggles woke him most of the way up
again. Then he yawned, and she knew it was time for him to sleep.

"Good night, Alex," she said, tucking him in under the blankets in his crib.
He'd be moving to a big boy bed soon.

"G'night, Mommy. Love you."

"I love you, too, sweetie." She turned off the light, knowing the nightlight
was too dim for him to see her tears.

A hero, her mother had said. Alex had been destined to be the King, and now
he would fight the King, or one of them anyway. How could her sweet little
boy ever hope to defeat Oberon? He was just a baby.

Gather his allies, her mother's voice nudged her memory.

She closed the door to the nursery, and headed slowly back towards the living
room. Her son was going to survive. She would make sure of it. They
needed to start planning now, as much as possible. He needed training, and
he did need allies. He had the gargoyles, and through them many heroes who
were walking the World again. These would be a good beginning.

She slipped into the room again, and sat down beside David, as Owen told the
rest in his typically clipped tone how she'd pointed out the flaw in Oberon's
decree. David smiled at her warmly, touching her hand as he did so. She
leaned her head against his shoulder.

She needed to broach the subject of Jasmine with David. Fox was willing to
bet the Sloanes would be more than happy to come to an arrangement. Hyena
had always been good in a fight; her child could be trained. Also, and Fox
understood this was just the tip of a glacier-sized iceberg, Jasmine was her
responsibility; she'd created the situation in which the girl had been born. The
same applied to Daniel Maza. Alex would need allies his own age, too.

Tomorrow, she swore to herself.

Fox smiled, and snuggled closer to David. Home. She was home.

VVVVV

After a long time, Owen returned to his own chamber. It looked as it always
did, neat, tidy, his few possessions in their proper places, the only difference
at all being two weeks' worth of dust. A mortal's room. He sat on his bed.

He had seen so little during his homecoming, hardly a fraction of the sights
he'd wanted to experience while he'd been there. By keeping him in his
quarters, Oberon had denied him even that small joy. His room in the palace
had also been as he'd left it, although he hadn't set foot there in a thousand
years. Another thousand might go by before he saw the room again. He
wondered if it would still be the same after all that.

The Three would be disciplined, possibly even banished as he was. He knew
Oberon would not execute them; he loved his daughters and would find a
loophole. His sisters would be punished for what they had done to his
brother. Ian's spirit would rest easy. Owen's own life would be permitted to
continue.

He thought on the unspeakable glow of new life surrounding and within his
Queen, and wondered if these fragile victories would be worth the cost they
had yet to pay.

He sensed the shimmer before he saw it. Beside him, on his pillow, a
greenish shape appeared, solidified into a golden one. His flute!

Awkwardly, he reached to touch it with his good hand. As he made contact, a
voice slid into his mind, just as he'd expected:

It is always worth it, Child.

Another message came after the Queen's:

Someday.

He saw quicksilver eyes before his own, and then both messages were gone.

She knew he lived.

He lifted the flute to his chest, then, knowing he would not be able to play it
in this body, allowed himself to melt back into the one he'd worn most often
during the previous three thousand years. Both hands flesh, he brought the
pipe to his lips, and paused again.

No. Not here.

VVVVV

Angela and Broadway landed on the castle parapet just before two am.
They'd spent the early part of their evening, after getting back from Xanadu,
down in the Labyrinth turning the eggs. Elisa's last letter from Matt said
they'd be getting more from the Guatemalan clan in the near future, which
would bring their clutch to over two dozen.

"I'll be in after a while," she told him suddenly, stopping at the bottom of the
stairs.

Broadway looked perplexed, but nodded and said only, "Okay." She watched
him walk off, already lost in thought as to what he was going to be cooking
for them tonight. She almost changed her mind to go after him instead, but
something else called her, whispering at her spirit.

Without knowing why, she headed towards the nursery. Alex would be well
in bed by this point. She knew she should let him sleep.

It would be nearly a decade before the eggs hatched, a very long time to wait
for her children. She played with Daniel, and the clones were like children to
an extent, but part of her didn't want to wait. That part wanted her hatchling
right then.

Angela and Broadway knew which egg was theirs, although Goliath and
Hudson reminded them almost nightly that all the eggs were theirs.
Angela imagined they would come to see things differently when the eggs
hatched.

Alexander was by no means a hatchling. He was human, mostly, and was
growing far too fast to be a gargoyle. At the same time, he was one of them in
a way his parents could never understand and never be. He'd learned to walk
holding onto Bronx's stubby tail. He could fly, although it upset his parents to
no end when he actually demonstrated this. Most of all, because he had been
around gargoyles his entire life, he had absolutely no fear of them, and was
perfectly content to sleep in her arms, or Lex's, or anyone else's that he knew
and loved.

No, he wasn't a hatchling, but he would do for now.

She heard something strange outside his door, and paused to listen.

Music, light and airy, came from within, but very softly, as if the musician did
not want to let anyone else know of its creation lest it be ruined by the
hearing. She peeked inside the room.

Puck, looking alive and well, sat cross-legged in the air just beside Alex's
crib, a gold whistle at his lips. The child's eyes were half-lidded, but a pretty
smile was on his face as he listened. And the music itself ...

She had learned to sing at Princess Katharine's knee, as had all her rookery
siblings. Compared to what echoed now from the instrument, their best
harmonies had been the raucous cries of corbies over a kill. It touched her,
moved her, carried her on the thinnest threads of melody to dash her into a
spray of bright chorus. Music, like many other things, was best created by
those who were willing to compose their works with their own blood. The
blood in this song was the ichor flowing through fairy veins, more difficult to
define or capture than a shadow.

She was dumb with wonder. As the melody continued, she began humming
along with it unconsciously, knowing what the next marvelous turn of note
would bring. With a warm echo in her stomach, she understood what she was
hearing. It was the same song she'd tried to sing once to Alexander to get him
back to sleep, that first night so very long ago. This was how it was meant to
sound, as played by the being who'd written the music, and she felt almost
ashamed for having dared to try singing it.

Puck played the piece differently from what she remembered, but that Angela
expected. She had heard it only one or twice in her life, and that from
someone who'd himself been an infant when he'd heard it.

Her rookery father had put nonsense words to the music, words she vaguely
remembered. She knew the tune, had sung it to herself enough in the past to
be relatively sure of the place a harmony would take in it.

In a low voice, she began to sing the words she knew, not in the melody itself
but as a counterpoint to it. Puck turned in his perch, faltering for an instant.
He saw her, seemed to consider her a very long time as he continued to play,
and then gestured with his head: come over.

She did.

Together, the gargoyle and the child of Oberon performed their lullabye for a
little boy who was both fay and human by nature and gargoyle by nurture, and
was somehow more than the sum of all three, and this was exactly right.

The music continued.

VVVVV

Another late night, and there was no sign of the string of long nights ending
soon. Diana looked over the expenditures report again. The IRS was
performing an audit, and while she did have accountants to take care of these
things, she hadn't founded this company to have someone else control her
financial future.

The speaker buzzed. Poor Mark. If she had to work late, he had to work late.
"Yes?"

"Ms. Mathers," he said in a strange voice. "There are some people here to see
you."

"I'm a little busy right now." She glanced at the clock. It was past nine-thirty.
"How did they get into the building?"

"It's, um," he said. "The partners."

Oh.

"Send them in."

The door to her office opened, and sure enough, her partners entered silently,
as they always did, and stood before her.

Once upon a time, Diana had been fresh out of school, and she'd had goals,
and a dream. She wanted to start her own business, training and placing
qualified managers and executives. It wasn't the invention of Post-It Notes,
but her company would fill a needed niche in the burgeoning business climate
of the mid-80's. But she had no capital.

They'd come to her one day, approached her with an offer she'd have been
crazy to refuse. They would provide her with start-up capital as she needed,
and more, they allowed her full run of the business. All they asked was that
she allow them to take a small hand in things from time to time. They had
directed her towards the Cyberbiotics account, and when Xanatos Enterprises
hit the ground, run by one of her own trainees, they had suggested she follow.

Once in a while, they would come to see how the business was faring. They'd
asked to meet with a few trainees. That Firley fellow, the one who had
provided so much trouble later, they had seen him.

Diana knew little about the partners, surprisingly little, she would think on
rare occasions before she somehow forgot. She knew that they were wealthy
by birth. She suspected they had given her business a jolt as a kind of hobby,
like a poorer family might keep a garden. In her darker nights, she wondered
about Mafia connections, worse things, and those were the nights she would
sit on her balcony, chain smoking until daybreak.

For the most part, the partners remained out of things, while Diana obediently
paid out their modest dividends into the varied bank accounts they'd named.
It was a good arrangement.

Now they stood before her, dressed in matching navy blue business suits,
carrying matching black leather briefcases, their hair pulled into matching,
neat buns. Smiling.

"Good evening, Diana," said the woman she knew as Phoebe de Avon.

"We trust you have been well," said her raven-haired sister.

The white-haired sister said, "We have found ourselves with time on our
hands."

"Too much time," said Selene, a snarl touching her lips momentarily.

"So we have decided to make a change," said Phoebe.

"From now on, we are going to take a more active role in the business," said
Luna.

Behind and above them, Diana could just see the logo of her company, their
company: a crescent moon just above a sloping horizon. A strange feeling
went up her spine as the triplets sat in three leather chairs before her.

Again, they smiled as one at her, and the strange feeling went away, replaced
by a cottony numbness. "Of course," she said, and had anyone who knew her
been in the room, they might have noticed how flat her voice had become, and
the remarkable green in her eyes.

But no one ever did.

VVVVV
Epilogue: 1999
VVVVV

Elisa lifted the egg and studied it critically. It was a little off-shaped, but
seemed to be thriving otherwise. She held the end of the stethoscope to it,
heard the hatchling's heart beating strongly within the shell.

"That's very good," she said to it in a coddling voice. "You're growing fast,
baby."

There was no answer, nor would there be for many years to come. She
wondered sometimes how gargoyles managed the wait, knowing the egg that
was conceived under some lustrous moon would not hatch for ten years.
Maggie and Derek had barely lasted the nine months before Daniel.

Goliath rumbled something to the egg he was turning, and she covered her
smile. They both looked pretty silly talking to eggs. Well, why not? People
talked to duck eggs and turkey eggs before they hatched. Gargoyles were at
least proven to be sentient. Broadway and Angela had been doing it for the
past month; it was Golath and Elisa's turn for egg-duty. She didn't mind. It
meant a little more time alone with Goliath, and the more she picked up and
turned and chatted to each one, the more she felt like they were her
eggs, biological or no. She was clan, and the clan's way said that the children
of the clan belonged to all. When they hatched, she would love them as if
she'd laid every one herself. And perhaps that was the point.

She patted the shell affectionately one last time and moved on to the next one.
This egg was larger than the others, much less speckled. 'Lilah's egg. Her
grandchild. She stroked the shell, no longer feeling the urge to cry as she did
so.

Funny, how things changed. The world had watched as a gargoyle died to
save a group of human children, and that had been enough to alter everything.

Her child's face had been plastered across every newspaper in the country,
courtesy of the Polaroids Maggie had reluctantly released. Even the hardest
hearts were moved when faced with an image of 'Lilah holding her stuffed
Grover. Elisa had given a single interview, arranged by Xanatos, in which she
told the world a selective truth. No mention was made of her human origins.
Instead, Elisa had been coached to play up what she knew, that 'Lilah was
special in the educational sense of the word, and mentally no more than ten.

It was one thing to paste dark images of Goliath on posters, with frightening
captions. It was quite another for people to see the child 'Lilah had been and
see the truth of what their own ignorance had caused.

The tide was shifting. Castaway's gun had matched the bullets found in
Thailog's corpse, which bought the charge of "unlawful discharge of a
weapon" (killing a gargoyle was still legal, sadly) and meant they could open
the case further. Quarrymen fingerprints had covered the minor explosive
devices throughout the theatre. Castaway had gone directly from the hospital
to jail. His trial, and that of the surviving members of his inner circle, was
still dragging on, but in the public's eyes, the Quarrymen were guilty.

Suddenly, the hood and hammer carried the same stigma as a white sheet.
There had been an outcry against the Quarrymen, and then the public's interest
had shifted away again, leaving the gargoyles alone to their own ends.

The ripples sent out from New York were affecting clans in other parts of the
world, too. Lex had set up and released an email address for other clans to
contact theirs. While he had to wade through huge amounts of spam, hate
mail, and marriage proposals, he'd already contacted five clans they didn't
already know.

Gargoyles weren't accepted in society, not yet. Now they were simply
ignored, the way "polite" people pretended to ignore the disabled, or people
from other races. With some trepidation, Elisa had gone out to dinner with
Goliath. While many people had stared, many more had affected not to, and
when the waiter had come with their check, he'd automatically handed it to
Goliath. To her, it was like a sign from heaven, that instead of facing down
deep-rooted bias against other species, they were back with the old-fashioned
notion that Goliath, as the male, was paying.

She wished Matt could have been there to see. He would have enjoyed the
moment, probably cracked something like Goliath's having left his wallet in
his other loincloth. No, Matt had to be off gallivanting around the world with
King Arthur.

Lucky twerp.

She smiled, and lifted the egg to turn it.

The shell crumbled beneath her fingers.

"Goliath!" He hurried to her side, as she fumblingly set it back down. "Oh
my gosh. I think I broke it."

She looked up at him, scared to death. Damn damn damn, how could she be
so careless? Hadn't she just been thinking these were her own children? If
she'd hurt one of them ...

"It is not broken," he said. "It is hatching."

Hatching? "But it's too soon!"

Bits of shell kept coming away, falling to the ground. Elisa saw a hole,
instinctively put her hand over it to keep the baby safe. She felt a sharp poke,
and Goliath pulled her arm gingerly away.

"Let it come," he said, his own face unreadable. She feared, but she waited
beside him, as the baby chipped away from inside with an egg tooth the size
of a guitar pick.

Several minutes passed. Elisa listened for the sounds of other eggs trying to
break open. She heard nothing but the continued exertions from the egg
before her. When the top half of the egg was gone, Goliath reached in and
freed the child.

The hatchling was still wet and gooey from the egg, skin a darker brown than
Delilah, lighter than Thailog, with a tuft of coal-black hair atop its head rather
than the white Elisa had expected. The delicate, chocolate wings folded
around its body, until Goliath nudged them open. The baby stretched its
wings, then gave its tail an experimental twitch. Elisa watched in amazement.

Goliath held out the hatchling to her. She wasn't sure she should take it, but
then it squealed and her heart went to the poor thing. The "poor thing"
immediately started nuzzling her chest, trying to latch onto her t-shirt.

"Watch it! Goliath, you didn't tell me you guys were mammals. Stop it,
kiddo." She slipped her finger into its mouth, and it sucked hungrily at her.
Now that it was still, she would guess it to be the equivalent of a three or four-
month old human baby. She wondered if it would be considered cute for a
gargoyle.

Elisa began counting fingers and toes. "Nine and nine." She glanced up at
Goliath. His eyes, while not misty, had definitely attained a glisten. He was
simply adorable when he did that. Her heart melted towards him even more.

"Hey kid," she said in a quiet voice, leaning back against her lover
comfortably. "Welcome to the clan."

VVVVV
The End
VVVVV

A/N: It's finally done, yay. If you liked it, thank Kimberly. And hey, if you've read
this far, let's keep the love going. Comment. You don't have to say you liked
it. You don't have to say what did and didn't work for you. Just say hi. Just
let me know you were here. It's been 170,000 words in the making; you can
spend two more minutes to drop a hello.