54 - "Betrayal Of Trust"
Originally Written: April 3rd, 2001

September 19th, 2001
"I don't care what kind of flowers are lining the archway, or the aisle, or the reception
area...you choose!"

"But, Todd, I need to know if you want roses, chrysanthemums, tulips, baby's breath,
irises, petunias, African violets..."

Todd inwardly sighed and clawed away at his face. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!" he
screamed, as the blush pink gargoyle beside him on the couch looked wide-eyed to her
wailing human fiancé. "Oh my god!! I don't care!!" He pushed himself away from the
long, plush seat, and began to rant and rave, arms flailing wildly above his head, gliding
to and fro in front of her steadied gaze. "We've only been engaged for a week, and
you've already designed my tux, your dress, planned the entire evening of the wedding,
picked the songs...I haven't had a night where we're not stuck in the pages of some bridal
magazine, and either you, Fox, Elisa, Angela, Desdemona, Sata, OR Kendra drooling all
over it. For God's sake, the wedding's still more than four months away!!"

Annika knitted her brow, almost misunderstanding the entire root of his anger.
"So...roses then?"

"GAH!!!" Todd lunged towards her, swept away the brochures and magazines, and
grabbed the curvy she-goyle from the couch. Captured within his playful anger and
lustful presence, she allowed herself to be pushed against his chest. He pressed forehead
to forehead, their softened breaths mingling together, and he bored into her eyes with a
piercing misted gray, as if the clouds before a thunderstorm, with barely a glimmer of
sapphire blue. "Listen..." he announced forcefully, an animalistic growl underlying his
serene tone. "I have given all the input I can. But these little tiny, minuscule details are
going to drive me nuts. You're the one who wanted a big, extravagant gala, so you're the
one who can pick which flowers line the aisle."

"But..." she tried to interject, and was instantly silenced by a collection of fingers pressed
against her ample, rouge-tinted lips.

"Uh uh, no. Not another word. Take a break. Just because Goliath allowed you to take a
couple weeks off from patrol to recuperate, doesn't mean you should fill every single
hour of the night diving into the wedding plans. Besides, you are driving me
absolutely...friggin'...nuts."

Annika paused, remaining silent for a few seconds, and Todd relished the absence of
anything related to the upcoming nuptials, though it was to be extremely short-lived.
"Definitely roses."

Todd produced an odd sound through bent lips, almost like a car being started, roaring to
life with the turn of a key, then being forcefully silenced by a high-pitched squeal from
the base of his throat. He bit his bottom lip, and heaved Annika from the ground,
ignoring his wounded side, and tossing her to the couch. "GRRAAAUUGH!!!" He
stomped away, ignoring Annika's audible chortle, and soon found the door to the media
room. He wrenched open the wooden barrier, and discovering a red-haired woman
blocking his path and staring him down, with her emerald eyes twinkling as she had
finally located her target.

"Oh there you are..." cried Fox, with measuring tape in hand. "I need to fit you for your
tux."

"Sweet merciful McGillicuddy, leave me alone!!" he screamed, slipping past Fox and
tearing down the hallway. He turned a corner, entering the main hallway of Wyvern, and
found yet another winged female who gracefully slid into sight.

"Ah, Mr. Hawkins!" came the cheerful call of Desdemona, from the other end of the hall,
the exact direction he was attempting to escape, a twist of fate to forever trap him within
the world of white lace and decorative pastries. "Todd, I need your opinion on the menu
for the wedding..."

"Dammit, not you too, Des!! GO AWAY!!!" Fox was hunting him from the opposite
side of the corridor, stalking her prey much like she had Goliath the previous year when
planning his and Elisa's wedding, and Desdemona spread her dark caramel wings, to seal
off her end of the grand hall. "Shit...trapped...where's the Mission: Impossible theme
when you need it?" Todd edged against the Scottish stone, darting his gaze to the
advancing women. His only recourse, an pair of partially open doors across from him.
He pushed from the wall, and disappeared into the darkened chambers.

"Da?"

"What?" Todd peered around the murky quarters, and noticed he had stumbled into
Trinity's small section of the massive bedroom belonging to the castle's rightful owner
and his human wife. He leaned over her crib, and found the young winged girl rubbing
her eyes, throwing off her blankets and revealing her fanged teeth in a ferocious yawn.
"Oh...sorry, Trin. Didn't mean to wake you..."

She looked up, and recognized the amusing human youth. "Dodd!!"

"No, Todd." he corrected her.

"Dodd!"

"Eh, close enough." he muttered, pulling the gargess from her crib and allowing her the
taste of freedom, and the chance to be up early from her nap. "Come on, squirt, I need
you as a distraction." Todd hefted the child to his shoulder and moved back to the doors,
leading out into where he knew both Fox and Desdemona were waiting for him, for they
also knew, there was only one entrance to Goliath and Elisa's room that the young human
could utilize effectively. "Hey, Trini," he whispered, grabbing her attention, "how's
about going for your first flight?"

"Yay! Fly!!" she chirped, flapping her ever growing wings.

"Ready...here we go..." Todd kicked open the doors, and sure enough, Fox and
Desdemona appeared before him, with immense devilish smiles. "CATCH!!!" He thrust
Trinity towards the pair, and darted to the side.

Trinity was launched into the air, and opened her deep chocolate pinions to slow her
rapid descent to her frequent baby-sitters. Both women reached to grab her, and she
collided against them with a solid thud, laughing all the way, perhaps just now
experiencing her first solo flight, against her mother's explicit wishes.

"Curse him," Desdemona hissed, steadying the laughing girl in her arms, and seeing the
tail end of Todd disappear from sight, while laughing maniacally, "he escaped."

"Ah, don't worry," Fox chuffed, rubbing Trinity's long, thick hair, "we'll get him sooner
or later. Plenty of time until the wedding."

****************************************

"Todd? Are you in here?"

"NO!!!"

Annika slipped through the door of her room, seeing her fiancé in mid change of his
clothing, his back left bare, and her talons suddenly hungered for human flesh. She
swept over him with the grace and lithe of a jungle cat, and delved her claws into the
small of his back just as he flipped the shirt down over his athletic form.

"AAAAAAAAHHH!!!!" He lurched forwards, and tripped over the bed, coming to a
crash landing on the other side. He fought his way to a sitting position, and glared at the
innocent expression cast over her features. "I'm still wounded here!"

"Oh, you're fine." she whispered sternly, yet playfully, crawling her way across the quilt
and laying crossways, allowing her face to rest just in front of his. "Do you...really hate
planning for the wedding?" she asked honestly, an actual impaired simper settling upon
her brow and supple lips.

"No, no...it's just...we've only been engaged for a week, gorgeous." he explained. "And
it seems like you're ready to get married tomorrow."

"I'm excited! I mean, we're getting married. At first I was...a little scared, but
now...now I'm so ready. And I want everything to be perfect. I've watched the
videotapes of Goliath and Elisa's wedding, and it just looked so...beautiful. I want that
same experience. To be joined with the man who I love, in the perfect setting. The
perfect dress, the perfect flowers, the perfect food and cake and wine..."

Todd shook his head and smiled. "All right, but lay off for a bit, okay? Valentine's day
is still a long time to wait." She lay a small peck on his cheek, and he immediately
grasped both sides of her face and suckled upon her lips with an ardent passion. Mouths
joined, cemented together with their love and desire, he pushed against her, forcing the
female to the sheets, and climbing over her. He then released the gargess, and continued
his way to the other side of the bed.

"What are you getting changed for?" she inquired, her head left hanging over the edge of
the mattress and staring at Todd upside down, as he threw on his jacket.

"I have to meet Demona at my place in a half hour, to discuss the next assignment she
wants from me."

"You two seem to be spending an awful lot of time together. Are you having an affair?"
Annika asked teasingly.

Todd turned, his eyes just barely grazing past his shoulder. "Yes. We're passionate
lovers, always ready to jump each other's bones when the sun pops up."

Annika playfully clutched a hand to her chest, feigning a broken heart and swooning,
falling to her side. "Oh...how could you, Mr. Hawkins?"

"Hey, I can't hump a statue, so I gots to get relief whenever I'm stricken with my medical
condition."

"What medical condition?"

"Morning wood."

SMACK!!!

"Ouch!!" Todd was forced back, nursing a sore shoulder from a scorned gargoyle lover.
"MEOW!!!" Todd threw on his shoes, and grabbed the keys to the Superbird, awaiting
only the final days of warmth before being sealed away for Winter. "I'll be back later, all
right?"

"Don't bother." Annika huffed, sitting cross-legged upon the large, wooden berth.
"Because I'll probably drop by later with some more bridal brochures."

Todd skidded to a halt and cringed. "Ugh..."

"Remember, Mr. Hawkins," she called to him, and he was forced to stare at a splayed
hand, showing off the golden band with a glistening diamond setting on her middle
finger, "I own you now."

"Correction, my dear," he quickly amended her statement, "I own you...whoa!!" Todd
ducked from the room as a large book flew towards him, and impacted with the door.

****************************************

The security system beeped twice and signaled it's allowance of entry into the apartment.
Todd slipped through the door, and switched on the lights, seeing the completely repaired
residence falling into perfect clarity. Barely a trace remained of the battle damage
inflicted by Crowe, and Todd was relieved his place of dwelling, the place where he had
lived for the past five years, was as his home again. Though he enjoyed waking to
Annika's smiling face at sunset, this studio apartment was similar to an old friend
welcoming him back.

Dumping his jacket and keys on the kitchen counter, he moved to his couch and flopped
down on the padded surface. Yet, as soon as he touched down, barely getting the chance
to become comfortable, a slight rapping echoed from the balcony doors. He turned his
head to see a dark azure-skinned woman standing against the backdrop of stars. Todd
rose up and with a smile and a quick tread, moved to greet his good friend and part-time
employer. "Hey, Red," he welcomed in the flaming-haired gargess, "you're early."

Demona silently stepped in, wandering past his field of view, and catching a sweetened
aroma of his cologne, inflaming her nostrils and animal lust, and she cursed the favored
scent beneath her breath. She strayed into the living area, roaming the kitchen tiles, and
the plush carpeting by the television, with absolutely no direction to her haphazard path.

"Yo, Red..." Todd called to her, and she suddenly snapped up her dusky glare.
"Something the matter?"

She moved to speak, yet silence only fell from her gaping mouth, and she then swept
away from the sight of the approaching young man.

"Let me guess. This next assignment...you've changed your mind again." Todd moved
directly behind her, and noticed the shivering membranes of her wings, trembling with a
discernible ripple caressing upon the thin sails of dark azure tint, bordering on a
swallowing black. "Jesus..." he muttered, clutching a hand to her wing, and feeling the
appendage abruptly jerk away at his warm touch.

"Don't." she seethed, skipping away from him. "This is hard enough as it is."

"What is?" he asked, unaware of what she was actually here this night to do.

Demona slowly turned to him, and what Todd beheld within the dark ember of her eyes
brought pause to his breath. "You have been the best of friends to me," she started, her
voice broken, unstable, "you brought out a part of me that I believed had died long ago.
You gave me a precious gift I thought had long since withered. Laughter,
pleasantry...you bring to me something...that I cannot ever repay..."

"Demona, I..."

"Please," she cut him off, "allow me to finish, or perhaps I will lose the nerve for the
very reason I am here." Demona lay a hand to his chest, and clenched her talons into the
loose fitting shirt. "I have grown close to you, closer than you could possibly know. I
find myself...having feelings for you...that go beyond friendship. And with every passing
day, when we went to lunch, or we spent time at the castle, or you worked on the murals
at Nightstone, these feelings grew ever stronger. Some people may see a young, brash
teenager with a brusque sense of humor, but I see a man who brings out the best in
others, who is always there to put a smile on your face, who sees not a person's sordid
past, but only their brightest future. A man who squeezes out every ounce of what life
has to offer."

Demona released from his clothing, and stepped away, absentmindedly stroking the
golden band wrapped around her left bicep. Todd was reeling, completely and utterly
surprised at what his friend had just related to him. But the shock of it all still had not
registered, and he refused to believe that she would feel this way for him.

"When I saw you, kneeling before Annika and giving her that ring, I was...devastated,
though I tried to cover it up as with all of my emotions. But I can't just wipe this feeling
away..." Demona turned back to him, and slowly sauntered up to where he had been left
standing. "I can't ignore my...my love for you..."

Todd swallowed hard, his tongue scraping against the roof of his mouth, left parched
from his heavy exhale. "Demona..." he rasped, before being interrupted once more.

"I am in love with you, and I will do everything in my power to assure I will never lose
you."

"I...Demona...I-I love Annika, and I always will..." Todd whispered, attempting to climb
out of this deep pit created by the startling revelation forced upon him.

"I know, and that is why I never revealed this to you, for fear of hurting you. But seeing
you actually propose to her...changed everything. Made me realize just how much it
would hurt to lose you. And I believe, Todd...that I can give you so much more."

Todd's brow lowered, an anger slowly creeping into his form. "What makes you so
damn sure you can replace Annika in my heart?!" he bellowed, annoyed, even enraged
that this gargoyle would have the gall to even think she could take his fiancé's place.

"I can be with you always, for I am not restricted by the rise of the sun..."

"So?!!" Todd snapped back. "That's nothing she can control!"

"A weak excuse, I know...but...she is merely a child..."

"So am I!!"

"No. You understand the cruelty of this world, as do I. She's inexperienced, naive,
almost...immature, for lack of a better description. I am not. For a millennium I have
lived, and seen the best the world has to offer. I can offer that to you, along with an
undying devotion." Demona continued pleading her case, this entire conversation now
coming down to a simple comparison. "I want only to be with you, so very much. Until
my last day. I need you. I am so afraid to be alone, except...whenever I am with you. I
want to laugh with you, to discover the world with you, to create a life with you..."

"I'm doing that with Annika! We're creating our own life...together. We belong
together."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"Then there is nothing I can say to change your mind? To help reveal the feelings I know
you have for me?"

"My feelings for you, Demona," his tone turned cold, frigid almost, as the last word, her
name, was enunciated with an edge of malice that seemed so out of character for him,
"are nothing compared to what I feel for Annika."

She moved ever closer, and even Todd's dulled sense of smell, human compared to
gargoyle, could pick up on the honeyed fragrance released from her body. "I know, that
deep inside, you feel for me. Or you wouldn't have opened up to me, spent so much time
in my presence..."

"I-I admit," Todd relented cautiously, "there's...an attraction...that I can't deny. But it's
just friendship, and nothing...nothing compared to what I share with my fiancé,
my...soulmate."

Demona inwardly winced at the mention of the words used to describe Annika,
proverbial daggers through her very heart. "An attraction is but a spark, to ignite the fires
of passion, and love. A bond has formed without either of us knowing, and it has been
growing ever since we met, from friendship, to something stronger than both of us could
realize. I know now, for I can feel it, through my skills and senses of anything
magical..."

"You're wrong." Todd whispered, fighting against this beautiful creature standing mere
inches away. "You are so wrong."

"No, Todd," Demona leaned in, and touched her lips to his, "I am not. And you know
that as well." She drew in closer, and chewed with canine fangs at his tender lips,
reaching behind the young man's head to keep him pressed to her soft, ample chest.

Todd could not offer any resistance, trapped, snared by the awesome power Demona
possessed over him. Passion, lust, but was it love that he felt for her, or something
entirely different? He did not know, for all he could sense, was his arms wrapping
around Demona's waist, pulling the gargess closer to him, and deepening the kiss.

****************************************

Her arms full of magazines and brochures, she kept her flightpath steady to ensure she
did not lose any of her precious wedding planning supplies to the malicious hands of the
Autumn winds. For sure enough would they take the colorful volumes and spread them
throughout the entire city before her fearful eyes.

Annika came upon Todd's apartment, with a speed that seemed far faster than normal, as
if being pulled here by some invisible force. Her wings outstretched, to curve the winds
beneath her billowing membranes, to slow her descent and land on the shallow terrace
outlining the apartment complex.

With barely a whisper, she touched down, and though quite heavier than that of a human
female due to her gargoyle form, her grace and agility allowed the lissome movements of
the most skilled of ballerina. She skipped to the doors, hoping she had not interrupted
the business meeting between her future husband and friend. But as she peered through
the crystal glass panes, it would be perhaps the worst moment she had feared would
befall her fragile innocence.

Her eyes fell upon Todd and Demona locked in a passionate embrace, and within a mere
split second, her heart was literally wrenched from her chest by the hands of fate. The
magazines slid from her limp arms, and fell in a heap upon the small vinyl deck. Spilling
forth from her stunned gaze, the tears flowed freely, trickling from the sides of her eyes,
and spilling onto her glowing ivory tunic. "Oh god..." she whispered hoarsely, barely
releasing a weakened response through the sheer aspersion constricting upon her chest.
"...no......"

****************************************

His very skin was flushed, turning a deep crimson shade along his cheeks and forehead
with his boiling blood, inflaming his upon his rapidly beating heart. His very soul was
awash with guilt, anger, rage, as his lips savaged against the azure-skinned gargess' own,
leaning against his chest. And yet, it felt so good, that he could not bring himself to stop.

Until, as if his own mind was rebelling against his uncooperative body, his subconscious
flashed moments of cherished memory past his closed eyes. Memories of the woman
whom he had fallen for when she crashed through his bathroom window, and destroyed
what normal life he once had. A woman who he had fought for, laughed with, shared his
bed with and loved passionately every night, a woman who he loved more than anything
in this world. "mmmmno...NO!!!"

He suddenly pushed Demona away from him, the gargoyle faltering back, barely
maintaining her balance with such an unexpected and ferocious thrust. Todd stepped
back, eyes open wide, appearing as if he had committed murder. His heavy breathing
was unsettling, shaken with his broken sobs held deep within his chest. He locked eyes
with Demona, who stood silently, without an expression of her own to show what she had
kept bottled inside for so long.

And as if on it's own, his wandering gaze lingered to the balcony doors, where Todd
found his winged fiancé just beyond the glass. He could even make out the tears coating
her facial skin in a crystalline shimmer, peering upon him with wounded eyes.
"Annika..." he breathed, and slowly swerved around the couch to approach the doors and
apologize with everything he was.

She immediately recoiled from his encroaching form, and tore away, clutching upon the
railing and leaping into the sky, leaving behind only a visible trail of her tears, the tiny
beads of saline moisture left to scatter among the flowing currents.

"Annika!!" Todd screamed, bursting through the doors, and being stopped only by the
steel balustrade lining his entire terrace. "ANNIKAAAAA!!!!" He watched her form
disappear into the night sky, lost within the gathered clouds, swirling as if to conceal
their adopted child from her pain. He rushed back into the apartment, knowing exactly
where she was heading, and as he passed by the silent cerulean female, and he stopped
and growled fiercely in her direction. "Damn you, Demona!!" He grabbed his keys and
slipped through the door, leaving Demona alone in the studio apartment.

She pulled a hand to her face, brushing away the falling strands. "I'm sorry..." she
wheezed, collapsing onto the couch. "I'm so sorry, but I couldn't let you slip away from
me..."

****************************************

The elevator doors were barely allowed the chance to open as Todd erupted through them
and into the halls of Wyvern. He raced through each corridor, checking every room,
screaming out Annika's name to the highest heavens. As he rounded a corner, he
collided with a caramel-skinned gargoyle, and they both plunged to the hard stones with
the violent encounter.

"Todd?" Desdemona asked in total surprise, hobbling her way to a seated position.

"Shit, Des...I'm sorry..." he sputtered, out of breath from combing the castle's winding
passageways. "Have you seen Annika?"

"Well, yes," she started, rising to her feet, "she arrived a few minutes ago, in tears. She
ran past me without giving an explanation as to why she was crying. What has
happened?"

"I did something...extremely stupid, and probably broke my fiancé's heart." he explained,
as Desdemona drew back, wanting to know more of what has caused this rift, yet heeding
his regard for privacy for the affairs between him and his treasured lover. "Are you sure
you don't know where she is?"

"Well, the direction she was heading in was the far East corner. There is nothing much
there but storage space and generators for the castle...and the main staircase leading into
the deepest level..."

"The castle's basement..." Todd whispered under his breath. "Thanks, Des." Todd
slipped away, to follow his lover, leaving the female gargoyle to watch him sprint to the
castle's East side, and only wonder what he had done.

****************************************

"Annika?!" he yelled out, his voice casting off the bare walls of the lowest level of
Wyvern, just above the Eyrie building's arboretum and swimming pool. He crept
through the swallowing shadows, navigating the darkness with due care and caution, for
to lose his step would send him hurtling to the ground. "Annika?!! Where are you?!!
Please, answer me!"

He had been searching for almost twenty minutes now, the unfinished catacombs where
Xanatos had chosen to leave as they were, to help preserve the ambiance and tenth
century feel. But unknown to Todd, several artifacts were still left leaning against the
walls, outside of the lower storage rooms, just waiting for their chance to grace the halls
of the floors upstairs. Todd stumbled too close to an object jutting out into this path, and
tripped, sending his body into a freefall. He rolled some distance and eventually came to
a stop, grumbling and rubbing his side, still sore from the battle a week ago. "Dammit!!"

"Watch that first step..." came a quiet voice, a whisper thrown out from the shadows,
twisting around Todd's form, and effectively catching his attention.

"Annika?! Where are you?!" Todd looked around in the absence of light, and in the far
corner, lay a blush-skinned form, huddled on the ground against a stone pillar. "Annika."
Todd hobbled over to his fiancé in some measure of pain, and found the gargess' head
buried in her crossed arms, resting on her knees brought up to her chest. "Annika..." he
whispered serenely, unsure whether his advances would be welcomed. "I'm so sorry...I
made a huge mistake...please...say something..."

She at last pulled her head from her arms, and revealed her red-rimmed eyes to her
lover's saddened, and guilt-ridden gaze. It looked as if the tears had long since dried, yet
Todd knew she had merely wiped them away when discovering he had followed her. She
slowly got to her feet, and soon they stood face to face. She studied him closely, and
with every second that passed, did the throbbing pain in his chest worsen, and spread
throughout his entire body.

"Annika..."

SLAP!!!

Todd's head wrenched to the side, as Annika's hand crossed his cheek with a powerful
blow. He brought a hand to soothe his burning cheek, and wipe away the small amount
of blood from his split lip.

"YOU SON OF A BITCH!!!" she ultimately vented her pent up frustration into a guttural
howl, and Todd returned his gaze to Annika's beared teeth, and the crimson glow
erupting from her eyes, the calming ocean waves alive with roaring fire.

"Okay, I deserved that..."

SLAP!!!

This time, came her hand to his other cheek, and as Todd rubbed his jaw from the savage
strike, Annika forced herself to calm down, aided in the fact she had unleashed most of
what had built up inside of her when watching through the balcony doors earlier tonight.
And then, came an action which struck fear in Todd's heart, she began to laugh. "I spent
the entire flight home staring at this ring," she held her hand directly in Todd's face,
forcing the diamond-studded band to his gray-hued eyes, "and thought just how empty
your promises have become. And just how ironic the joke I made earlier was. Little did I
know, it was true..."

"No, it's not!! Annika, please, just hear me out...it was just a kiss..."

"Just a kiss?!" she yelled, stalking forwards as Todd quickly backpedaled. "Just a kiss?!!
What would I have walked in on if I had got there ten minutes later?!!"

"Nothing!" he protested, still moving back to avoid his lover's caustic glare and
advancing clenched talons.

"So, what, you fuck me at night, and then fuck her in the daytime?!"

"Oh Jesus, Annika..." Her words had hit home, and he now discovered just why she was
so terribly angry. "You know that's not true. I love you, and there's nothing going on
between me and Demona."

She stopped in place, and growled deep within her throat. "Then why did I arrive at your
place to find you two sucking tongue?"

"What you saw, was the biggest mistake of my life." Todd explained quickly, and
honestly. "She came over only to tell me...that she's in love with me..."

Annika blinked her eyes to this bombshell laid out before her. "And...are you in love
with her?"

"...No." an adamant response, through a steeled tone.

"Then...why?" Anger was sloughing off to sheer sorrow, as she lost what edge she had in
this conversation.

Todd moved closer to her, and tenderly grasped her hand, only to have it yanked away.
"I am attracted to her...but that's all it is, and kissing her was a stupid, idiotic thing to do.
The last thing I wanted was to hurt you."

"You have no idea how much you hurt me." she hissed. "Do you...do you even love me
anymore? Does your reluctance in planning the wedding mean you don't want to go
through with it? Why the hell did you even ask me if you don't want to get married?"

"No, no...please, I love you so much. I want to get married...to you..."

"You have one hell of a way in showing it!" she snarled, turning her back on him,
snapping her wings out to effectively block his sight of her.

Todd sighed, and ran a hand through his hair, then tore the appendage down his face.
"How can I prove to you just how sorry I am? How can I make this up to you?"

Annika turned around, an idea sparked within the viscera of her foremost thoughts.
"Maybe I should go and stick my tongue down Goliath's throat, or Shadow's...then we'll
see just how you like seeing the one you love with someone else."

Todd visibly cringed at this outlandish suggestion, as the very thought and formed mental
image of his winged love being with another man lay siege his soul and made him sick to
his stomach, even though it was purely a bitter jest on Annika's part.

"Oh, so you don't like that idea, huh? Gee, I wonder why!"

"Dammit!!" he screamed furiously. "What the hell can I do to prove to you just how
much I love you?!!" Todd outstretched his arms, and allowed Annika to see his own
anger, in having her object to his every apology attempt.

Annika tromped forwards, and poked her face directly into his. "I want you to hurt as
much as I am right now."

"Fine! Then punch me in the stomach!"

Annika pulled back, stunned. "What?!"

"Come on, punch me in the gut!! Let loose the anger and hurt me, if that's what you truly
want to do!"

"You're insane!!"

Todd noticed the rage growing within her, but not yet strong enough to explode, barely
simmering just beneath the surface. He had to encourage the wrath of an infuriated
gargoyle, to get her to release what she was still holding on to. "You know what," he
started in a bold lie, preparing himself for the blow, "I enjoyed the kiss. And I wished
you hadn't have shown up to ruin what could have been...THE BEST SEX IN MY
LIFE!!!"

Then it came, the volcano had erupted, and Annika unleashed into Todd's midsection
with a mighty strike, her clenched fist impacting with his flesh, but, in her haste, she had
struck near the side, his wounded side.

"FUCK!!!" Todd winced, and dropped to the ground, before Annika's very eyes.

"Oh god, your side!" She knelt beside him and pulled him close, careful of his injury,
and using a soft hand to massage the mending skin. "Why...why the hell did you make
me do that?!"

Todd grasped her face with a steady hand. "Now you know what it feels like when you
hurt the one you love." he announced through gritted teeth. "Guilt, pain, anger...fear in
losing them to a mistake."

Annika paused, and drooped her head slightly, with the cascade of the purest gold
slipping off her shoulder, now understanding just what was consuming his very heart.
"I'm sorry..."

"No, I'm sorry, for ever making you feel you weren't the most important thing in my
life."

"But you and Demona..."

"Kissed. And now it's over, left in the past." Todd pulled his way to a sitting position,
and threw his fiancé into his arms, holding her warm figure for all it was worth. "It was a
mistake."

"But...how can I ever forget you did that? How can I ever be sure you...you still love me
more than anyone else?"

Todd brushed away her platinum strands, to reveal her sparkling eyes to his yearning
gaze. "Remember...remember when Elisa and Goliath told us about their past, and how
they fell in love when we first met them? Elisa said, that she and Goliath were so
hesitant to form a relationship, because they were scared of that first step, and during the
hunter's moon, she found another man, that Canmore guy, to be attractive, and they
ended up kissing. It helped her to finally admit to herself that she truly loved Goliath. I
kissed Demona maybe because...I am a little nervous, to take the next step in our lives. I
had to be sure. I mean, I won't...I can't lie, I did enjoy it...but it made me realize...just
how much I love you. And how no one can replace you...ever."

Annika relaxed in his arms, nestling deeper against his chest, sensing Todd's skilled
fingers rub through her thick tress and gently knead her scalp. He even traced the entire
length of her spurs in an amorous massage, the sensitive nerves in her skin alive with a
fervent flame. "Todd," she whispered, a barely audible hush he could scarcely make out,
"are you...afraid to be with me?"

He paused, to carefully reflect on a solemn question. "Sometimes, especially after
everything we've been through with Crowe and Sobek and those who'll look down on
us...but it's worth it, to fight for this life we're going to have. I want to get married to
you. I want to share my life with you, raise children with you, grow old, wrinkly and fat
with you..."

"Me too." she replied, rising up to throw her arms around him.

"I love yoeerrrrkkk..." Todd shuddered when Annika obliviously brushed against his
side, and he gently forced her weight from the damaged area.

"Geez, I knew you were lying about this..." Annika muttered, completely peeling off his
shirt to further glance at the injury. It had turned a bright, glowing red, but with her
gentle machinations along his side, the pain slowly went away. Yet when her eyes
moved up to the shoulder wound on the opposite side, she gasped, seeing for the first
time the skin underneath the bandages, and at last noticing what had marred his body.
"Oh my god." A visible scar was formed where the bullet shredded through the skin, and
Annika tenderly moved her talons over the tiny patch of disfigured flesh, shaped like a
small crescent moon. "I never knew...this would be a scar. This is my fault...you risk
your life for me, and always get hurt..."

"It's my life to risk, and I paid for it." Todd countered grimly.

"You shouldn't have to."

"No, probably not, but because you're a gargoyle, and because some small-minded
bastards can't open their eyes to see how valuable and good-natured your race is, our
lives will be difficult, and we'll have to fight just a little bit harder. I got off lucky, for I
could have died that night, and...Demona saved my life..."

Annika looked away at the mention of Demona's name, the anger flooding back within
an instant, washing over her like a tidal wave. "I can't forget what she did for you, but I
also can't forget what she did to me. I thought we were friends, I even went to her for
advice sometimes. And then she stabs me in the back..."

"Don't be too hard on her," Todd still defended his good friend, "she's had a rough life,
and has lost a lot of loved ones in her time. Maybe...because I was so nice to her, she got
the wrong idea."

"Maybe..." Annika hissed.

"So...forgive me?"

Annika teased her large lips into a half-smile, and cupped her hand over Todd's scar.
"You took a bullet for me, so I guess I should. But," she snaked an arm around his neck
and jerked him towards her, "if I see you kissing another woman, you'll have an even
bigger scar...lower down."

Todd cocked a brow, and winced accordingly to Annika's threat. "Yes, dear."

"Put your shirt on...and let's get out of here."

Todd happily complied, pulling the shirt over his upper torso, and proceeding to follow
his fiancé from the catacombs, and towards the curved staircase leading up to the main
level of Wyvern. Yet suddenly, Annika stopped, near where the light had drifted down
upon them from the hallway above. Cast in the soft light, a blinding platinum engulfing
her dark rose, she looked up to him with deep blue eyes, and effectively held him in
place.

"What?" he asked.

"So, we just go back up these stairs and pretend everything's normal?"

Todd sighed. "I would like to forget this ever happened, if it's all right with you."

"That's the thing," Annika whispered harshly, "I can't. I can't forget what...what she did,
what she tried to do..."

"To keep something inside of yourself can hurt you even more than you could ever
realize." he replied softly. "Just...just let it be, Annika. As far as I'm concerned, it's
over. Completely."

Annika looked away and merely a let a slight nod of her head to be her only answer.
Todd pulled her up the stairs, her lethargic tread making it a little more difficult than it
should be. They traveled the main hall, and as the door leading outside fell into view,
Annika decided at this moment, to heed her hostility and instead keep tight to Todd's
arm. They soon came upon Annika's door, and remained just outside her room.

Todd sheepishly looked down, and fought through the guilt still riding with him. "So,
what do you want to do now? Look at those wedding brochures?" A hushed inquiry fell
out from his lips, causing Annika to smile weakly.

"I...left them at your place..."

Todd winced, and instantly remembered seeing the pile of deserted magazines on his
terrace when he ran back inside to follow his heartbroken lover, most likely still there,
laying abandoned, forgotten on the vinyl covering, open pages swaying in the wind.
"Shit. I forgot about that. I'm sorry..."

He was silenced by her mouth slanting across his, lusciously drinking down his flavor as
if a favored liqueur, spicy yet sweet, and impossible to forget just why she had acquired
such a taste. "Come inside, Mr. Hawkins. For the night is still young, and I shall make
you forget about every single woman on the face of this planet." She pulled him through
the door, and did they both heal their injured hearts this night, sharing her bed, and
linking their souls in the carnal act of love.

****************************************

September 20th, 2:16 a.m.
As the moon continued it's solitary journey through the immersing fields of stars, Annika
watched the steady breathing of her fiancé, beneath the covers, wrapped securely beside
her in her arms and lost in sleep, far from this world in his dreams. This entire night had
exhausted him, and so had the events of the past week, where dark lesions, and the cold
scream of impacting steel, had beset upon his human form with a vengeance. Perhaps
fragile compared to hers, but still so strong, valiant almost, her hero personified.

And she almost lost him, both in death, and to another. She could not shake the kiss
from her mind, and the fact her friend had the insolence to attempt to take him away
from her. Demona's conceit both angered her, and frightened her. She could not offer
him as much as the older gargess could in material items, or the lavish lifestyle her
wealth could bring, or even experience with this world she was now a part of. Only her
love, and affection did she give to him, and he felt that was more than enough.

Annika slowly rose from his chest, slithering from the sheets and taking great care not to
wake him. She dressed quickly and silently, her short-sleeved tunic, loincloth, and the
decorative, golden bracelets on her forearms and shins, being adorned in their proper
place. She leaned over and lay a kiss to Todd's forehead, and then removed herself from
the room.

****************************************

"Well, that was...a spectacular failure..." Demona whispered, intent on drowning her
sorrows once more in the numerous bottles of liquor stored in her bar. With a decanter
and shotglass, the azure-skinned gargoyle had quickly downed nearly all of the once full
bottle, and found herself brimming with the deleterious effects of the powerful alcohol.
She had crawled her way from Todd's apartment, embarrassed, hurt, and struggling to
maintain her rigid composure.

She had tried desperately to sway her addiction to the caustic liquid, but found
immediately herself drawn to the assortment of bottles, collected over her many years of
a tortured life. She was a slave to the bottle, a laughable notion, for she was the strongest
of warriors, only defeated, cast down, by the lack of willpower, and a love destined to be
so brutally one-sided.

She downed yet another shot, and when picking up the bottle to refill her glass,
discovered it empty. Her mouth burned from the one hundred year old whiskey, picked
up in the southern hills of England on a business trip, and now being used to effectively
cloud her mind, to block out what memories plagued her, threatening to tear mercilessly
into her flesh, and destroy what meager existence she had been able to fashion in the
recent years. "Dammit..." she cursed beneath her breath, still wanting more of her liquid
savior. "Empty...what else can go wrong tonight?"

"Demona."

The former immortal turned around in her office chair, in place at the antique desk
situated against the far wall of her living room, and found a winged female standing at
the open doors of her massive balcony. Though her features were lost in the absence of
light, merely a shadow set against each and every bright point of light, she instantly knew
just who had invaded her guarded privacy. "Annika..." she whispered.

"I've got a bone to pick with you...bitch..."