Disclaimer:I don't own gargoyles

Puck Meets Girl

Chapter 1 "Strangers in the Night"

Owen Burnett slumped somewhat unhappily in his chair. It was unlike him to display a mood one way or another, but on this particular evening his more mercurial nature seemed to be seeping through. He scowled dejectedly at the seat beside him, empty but for the topcoat he hadn't bothered to check. Owen wondered again how he had been convinced to take the Xanatos box seat tickets and leave the loving couple alone with their son. He knew, of course, that it was his unfailing devotion to duty. Xanatos had insisted and he had obliged as he always did. Still, once at the theater the empty chair beside him had inexplicably annoyed him. There had been a time when such a thing would have seemed ridiculous to him. Now, however, his enforced mortality left him vulnerable to mortal flaws - and right now he felt unbearably alone. A young couple cuddling in the box seats across from his seemed the last straw. As the house lights dimmed and the orchestra began its overture he grabbed his coat and rose to leave. Three hours roaming the streets of New York would give the Xanatos family their time alone and be far preferable to this. He had just reached the bottom of the stairs to the lobby when he heard the explosion.

Miranda Templeton listened to the overture behind the curtain in her spot center stage. Nervously, she

blocked out her first moves once the curtain rose. It was perhaps no more than five seconds of featured

dancing before she spun into oblivion with the rest of the chorus of CATS, but it would be the audience's first impression of the show and first impressions were important. Grandfather always said so, and he would

know.

Hearing the music approach the climatic moment when the curtain would rise, she moved back into position

striking her pose. Then, answering some unknown instinct that often guided her, she looked up.

The weighted fly was already falling towards her head, but she rolled out of the way with the graceful quickness her dancer's training allowed. A couple of her fellow cast members screamed, the music stammered to a halt. It was then that she heard the explosion. Pieces of set and debris fell about her and she heard the unmistakable crackle of a rapidly building fire. Knowing the old wooden theater didn't stand a chance; she raised her head to get some bearings. The fire was taking the curtain up in its own destructive way and thick smoke coming from the wings suggested that exiting stage right or left would result in disaster. Crawling through the debris on stage, Miranda found the mark she was looking for. Pressing a button, she released the secret hatch and dropped below the stage.

Upon hearing the explosion, Owen paused outside the orchestra doors. Ushers were already looking in and he easily slipped past them into the theater. The curtain was just beginning to burn and the excited audience was predictably climbing over their seats to get to the nearest exit. It wasn't easy working against that sort

of traffic; but Owen found his curiosity over the source of the blast drawing him towards the stage. Standing at

the edge of the orchestra pit, he commented wryly, "This is a much more interesting show than I expected."

He heard the strange popping noise just as a black gloved arm reached up and pulled him over the rail into

the pit. He stood up among a jumble of fallen music stands and overturned chairs about to dress down his

assailant when a burning wooden beam fell directly where he had been standing.

"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" a feminine voice queried.

Owen adjusted his glasses with his good hand and peered in the direction of the voice. At first, the feline

silhouette made him think it was Maggie Reed; but this strangely compelling figure affected him in a way the

mutate woman never had. Then he remembered the black glove; and the woman moved closer revealing herself to be a costumed member of the cast. She was staring at his stone hand curiously.

"Nice prosthetic," she commented, "how do you keep from dragging it on the ground?"

Owen squared his shoulders, "I have excellent posture," he replied.

"Uh-huh," she nodded, "more like an iron rod up your..."

Her crass comment was cut short by a larger beam falling towards the pit.

"Damn," she cursed under her breath and reaching out dragged Owen further back.

"No getting out back that way," she muttered pulling Owen through a side door. They emerged in what he

supposed was the orchestra's cloak room and out a door marked "exit" into a side alley. Flashing lights from

the main street told them the police and fire departments had responded to the disaster.

Miranda, glowing at her clever escape whispered a reminder to herself, "it always pays to befriend the

stage crew and orchestra."

Turning to her straight-laced fellow survivor she asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yes," he responded simply, "who ARE you?"

"'I am that merry wanderer of the night,'" she quoted turning towards the main street.

Owen froze and looked after her with some surprise, "what?"

"It's Shakespeare," she replied over her shoulder, beckoning him to follow, "Puck in A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM - shouldn't you know this better than I?"

Owen started striding towards her, the hair on the back of his neck prickling, "what do you mean by that?"

"Only that you are obviously a Harvard or Oxford man undoubtedly well-versed in Shakespeare, whereas I am a lowly New York chorus girl."

Had she been watching, she would have seen Owen physically relax before closing the remaining distance between them.

"Don't put words in other people's mouths," he advised.

"Of course," she challenged, "you weren't at all surprised to hear me quote Shakespeare."

Unable to explain what had surprised him about the quote, Owen remained stiffly silent.

Triumphant, Miranda smiled and stepped into the chaos of the main street. Despite the nearby fire, she found her thin body suit scant protection against the night air and shivered.

"Whatever happened to 'the lusty month of May?'" she quipped.

"Allow me," her companion surprised her by dropping the raincoat he had been carrying over her shoulders.

"Thank you," she said pulling the coat more tightly around her, "this will protect my dignity a bit on the way home, too, since I doubt I'll ever see the clothes I wore in today."

She looked over at the crowd of spectators and survivors wrapped in blankets and being interviewed by police and press.

"Ugh! If I ever get home," she made a face, "I guess I'll have to do my civic duty and make a statement. Look, thanks again for the coat, I promise to return it."

"You don't know who I am," Owen protested as she headed towards the center of the crowd.

She turned back towards him, "of course I do, Mr. Burnett," she pointed in the air where the Xanatos private helicopter was approaching, "I read Shakespeare and watch the news!"

Then she turned and effectively melted into the crowd.

"Owen!" Xanatos exclaimed, breaking his assistant's mind out of a strange reverie stepping off a ladder descending from the helicopter.

"Are you all right?"

"Fine, sir," Owen replied, then seeing Fox waving from the pilot's seat, he asked sharply, "Where is Alexander?"

"With the clan, of course. Relax, Owen, I wouldn't leave my son with just anyone, even for you."

Catching sight of the pair beneath the hovering copter, Detective Elisa Maza broke away from the gaggle of police informing her partner, "Matt, I'll take care of this."

"Detective," Xanatos greeted her.

"All right, Xanatos, what's going on?" she demanded.

"Fox and I heard of the fire on the news and came to ensure Owen survived."

"You were at the theater?" Elisa looked at Owen shocked.

Rather than respond to the remark, Owen merely informed her, "There was a bomb on the stage."

"Are you sure?" Elisa asked.

He stared icily down at her through his glasses.

"Okay, you're sure," she nodded, "I'll have someone check it out. Anything else?"

"No," Owen said though he wondered if she had noticed a black and silver costumed woman wearing a man's raincoat.

"Right, I'll stop by later in case you think of anything..." Elisa didn't bother adding that she also would be briefing the gargoyles, "Now get your copter out of here before you shake these people up even more."

"Anything you say, Detective," Xanatos agreed smoothly.

The two men dangled from the ladder as Fox lifted up to head for home.

"In the future, sir, I think it would be better if you and Fox attended the theater," Owen commented as they finished the climb into the helicopter.

Xanatos laughed merrily and Owen glanced out the window searching in vain for his raincoat.

He did not notice two cloaked figures watching the fire from the top of a nearby building.

"You missed," one chastised the other.

"I was only testing her gifts - she's extremely unskilled," the other defended.

"Perhaps you should forget it. We can secure victory without this distraction."

"This isn't about our victory - just about my revenge."

Continued...