55 - "Catfight"
Originally Written: April 11th, 2001

September 20th, 2001, 2:39 a.m.
Todd shifted slightly, his body searching for the warmth of his lover, unconsciously
rolling over to the side where Annika usually slept, if only for short periods before
returning to her perch. Yet his outstretched hand found nothing but cold, barren sheets,
abruptly forcing him awake. "Annika?" he called softly, his eyelids heavy, unable to
grant him a clear view of his surroundings. Yet he knew somehow, and quite instantly,
that she was gone. "Where the hell did she go?" he muttered, crawling his way from the
sheets, barely possessing the strength to pull himself away from the intoxicating heat and
lingering scent of his future mate.

Her clothes and adornments were gone as well, stolen from the chair where they were
dumped in the couple's unbridled passion. Todd threw on his clothes, and crept out into
the hall, searching Wyvern for any trace of his missing fiancé. His mind still clouded,
from the lack of sleep, and the fact he and Annika had made love several times in such a
short span of time, had effectively immersed his intellect until perhaps a strong coffee or
his favored toxic beverage could both figuratively, and literally, jump-start him once

Todd wandered to the media room, unusually quiet, and even more desolate than normal,
except for a caramel gargess reclining on the overstuffed couch, seated in front of the
television. "Des?"

Desdemona turned to see Todd hovering over her, his hair flattened on one side, and his
eyes thinned due to the bright chandeliers above them. She muted the television, and
instantly stood up. "Todd. I was hoping I would see you. I take it you and Annika have
mended what problems lay between you."

"Yeah, you could say that." he answered with both a comical and regretful tone. "Have
you seen her?"

"Yes, about a half hour ago. She passed by me, as I bid farewell to Othello on his patrol
from the Western cornices."

This proved sufficient enough to rouse Todd to a waking state. "You mean she left the
castle? Which way did she go?"

"The path was rather vague, but I believe Demona's mansion lies somewhat in that

It didn't connect until a few seconds later, as Todd drew back, inhaling sharply and
lifting both brows. "Oh shit..."


"I beg your pardon?" hissed the azure-skinned gargoyle, throwing her shot glass to the
desk and standing ever slowly to her near six foot height.

"You heard me, bitch." Annika growled, stepping into the mansion's living room, her
eyes locked securely on the other gargess, once a friend, and now to her, a betrayer.

"You could have knocked. It is the only polite thing to do when entering someone else's

"And you could have asked before sucking tongue with my fiancé." Annika countered,
unable to conceal the underlying animal growl in her tone. "But I guess courtesy doesn't
apply to those who think they can take anything they want."

Demona smiled banefully, fueled by her complacency and the ancient whiskey consumed
just minutes ago. "I did not try to take him, only allow his feelings for me to surface."

"What feelings?"

"Didn't you know? He finds me very attractive, and I can feel the sheer passion he holds
for me exuding from every single pore. I can see the fire burning for me in his very

"Th-that's not true!" Annika snapped back, though unsure of her future husband's true
feelings for this woman.

"Then why did he kiss me back," Demona continued undaunted by Annika's protest,
"and enjoy it so very much?"

She restrained herself, just barely. "He said he made a mistake."

"The only mistake I see is your relationship. How that man still manages to stay alive
with all the trouble and strife you cause him is beyond me." Demona was still affected
by the alcohol, revealing what feelings and convictions she had effectively buried
beneath her diamond-edged skin, never to see the light of day, or the breath in her lungs.
"He has almost died on numerous occasions because of you, and only you. He is perhaps
in more danger than Elisa."

Annika was silenced, as her very fears were brought out by this older woman, now
sauntering closer to Annika's shivering body. "It's not my fault...I don't mean to cause
him any harm..."

"Ah, the child's plea. You know what, Annika dear, you are nothing but a lost, little girl,
running from her father and hiding in that magical castle of yours. You know nothing of
this world, and would not last a second if left to fend for yourself. You don't deserve
Todd, you never have and you never will."

"And you think you do, murderer?!!" Annika screamed in response, flaring her wings, her
eyes of the purest crimson spreading it's blood-red glow about the entire room. "You
betrayed your own family, killed all those who trusted and relied on you, tried to kill
Goliath's clan, my clan...you are evil. A bigger monster than my father ever could be..."

"Watch your tongue, girl!" Demona howled, lunging forward, and seeing the slight flinch
flicker in Annika's staunch position. "Or I will pull it out with my bare talons."

"A death threat. How unlike the woman who killed human after human for a thousand
years, only because she didn't have the guts to actually try to find some sort of peace with
humanity, or even admit to her mistakes. You're a coward, a soulless hag who deserves
no one, let alone MY FIANCÉ!!!"

Demona straightened out, the scathing barb seeming to slide completely off of her, her
roving eyes caressing upon every inch of skin of Annika's curvy frame. "Nice try, girl.
But those days were left behind me a long time ago. And even with my sordid past, I still
am so much better for him. I can spend the days with him even more than we already
have, under the sun as a human. I can offer him anything his heart desires, the entire
world can be at his disposal, including my undying love. And what do you give him? Oh
sure, I admit the package is pretty...big blue eyes, full lips, blond hair, large breasts, you
are perhaps every male's wet dream, and a good lay after a hard day's work. But nothing

Annika's wings visibly drooped, her expression fallen, as Demona ripped into her with a
biting tongue. "No...I give him my love, my affection...I give him my heart, and my

"And what happens? He almost ends up dying...what a fine way to show your
appreciation for all he's done for you..."

"Damn you..." Annika wheezed, on the verge of tears. "Why? Why are you trying to
take him away from me?"

Demona's hard sneer actually softened, seeing Annika unwillingly spill a thin trail of her
tears on high cheekbones. "Once again, I only tried to make him see just how much I felt
for him, and how much we belong together."

"WE belong together!!" Annika shrieked, with the power of an angered god flowing
through her bared, fanged teeth. "For the rest of our lives!! And I don't happen to see a
ring on your finger!"

Demona remained silent in the face of Annika's fiery tirade, noticing for the first time up
close, the diamond engagement ring adorning her middle finger. Obviously expensive,
most likely having cost Todd a considerable amount of money for a simple gesture of his
love. An endearing quality, one of many she so admired.

"You're not the one who he tells he loves like no one else. You're not the one who he
wants to have children with. You're not the one who he risked his own life for, and
you're definitely not the one who shares his bed." Annika stepped closer, until both
gargoyles were standing face to face, each sending hot swirls of their fervent exhales
towards the other. "You don't spend hours in his arms, as he presses his sweaty,
muscular form against you, filling your entire body, kissing and tasting every inch of your
skin. Can you see us in your mind, Demona? Can you see us making love until the break
of day? Just like we did less than an hour ago? I hope so, I hope we haunt your dreams,
your every goddamn waking thought..."

Demona was trembling with anger now, and chewing on her bottom lip, preventing
herself from screaming her rage to the burning heavens, and giving the blush-pink
gargoyle the added fuel for her argument.

"You'll never have anybody like Todd Hawkins, and that just pisses you off, doesn't it?
That you lost Goliath, Thailog, MacBeth...every man you've ever been with has left you,
because you're a merciless, cold-hearted bitch! You'll be alone for the rest of your
miserable, mortal life!!"

Demona had had enough, and empowered by the alcohol flowing through her veins, and
the animosity afflicting her beating heart, swung wildly at Annika, catching the younger
woman square in the lower jaw with a clenched fist.

Annika was sent backwards, toppled by the powerful blow, and aiming her directly to the
carpet once lying underneath her taloned feet. She wiped away the trickle of blood, and
guided cresting ocean eyes to the cerulean gargoyle now standing over her, who was
breathing heavily, her chest heaving beneath her skimpy tunic, and seeming as if spoiling
for a fight. "Oh, you have no idea how much I wanted you to do that, bitch," Annika
whispered through her large lips, forming a rueful smile, "it's go time..."


"Where are we going?!" demanded Desdemona, barely being able to keep up with
Todd's sprinting form, as he dashed through the corridors, heading for the outside door.

"Demona's house," he answered, swinging the massive oak door from his path, and
stepping out onto the courtyard stones, "before someone gets seriously hurt..."

"Todd, please! What is happening?!"

Todd stopped and turned to face the caramel gargess, just having halted her path in time
to avoid hitting him. "Demona came over to my place earlier tonight," he explained, a
pained expression forming when reliving the previous events, "and when Annika dropped
by later, she saw your sister and I...kissing."

"What??" Desdemona gasped, her onyx eyes seeming to bulge from her skull. "Why did

Todd held up his hands in defense of his actions. "It was a huge mistake, and...and it
kind of caught me of guard when she told me she was in love with me..."

She groaned, scraping a taloned hand over her curving brow ridges and the tightly bound
platinum mane, resting a weary head in her palm. "That stubborn fool...I told her not

Todd cocked an eyebrow, hearing the release of an ill-timed exasperation from his
winged friend. "You knew about this?!"

"I did not think she would actually tell you. I hoped her seeing you propose to Annika
would put an end to this entire affair. And frankly...it was not my secret to tell."

Todd shook his head. "It doesn't matter now, I think Annika's gone to Demona's

"If I know Annika, and my sister, then this definitely cannot be good."

"That's why I need a ride. The Epsilon's still being repaired, and it's faster by air."

"Then shall we?" She offered a hand as they both approached the cornices. "Hopefully
we can get there before something happens they might both regret."

Todd quickly hopped onto her back, and she pushed herself effortlessly from the cornice
structure and into the breasting streams of condensed air, fighting against the furious
wind, an impulsive temper almost seeming to wish causing an intentional misdirection to
Destine Manor.

And as the courtyard emptied of any and all presence, from the shadows of one of
Wyvern's many obtrusive crooks, came a slender figure, intently watching her clanmates'
head off towards the direction of her mother's home. Angela stepped out, a dark gaze
piercing through the night sky, filled with a loyal and loving daughter's bitterness of
being left out from perhaps when her mother needed her the most. "I will find out what
is going on," she whispered adamantly, "once and for all."

She too dived into the wind, and spread her wings to catch the dwindling eddies of warm
currents, in the fading Autumn temperatures, following discreetly behind the pair, and
intent on not being that easily noticed, and resolute in discovering just why her mother
had so recently closed herself off to her own daughter.


Annika swept up with a seized hand, just barely missing Demona as she twisted her neck
to easily dodge the incoming blow, and as Annika was left open to attack, she lodged a
spurred knee directly into the younger gargoyle's midsection, hearing Annika cough out a
wheezed breath.

She pushed Annika away from her, and allowed a final chance to bow out. "Don't do
this, girl," she hissed, unsure of whether it was she talking in such a vindictive brogue, or
the alcohol, "I have a thousand years of battle experience on you, and absolutely no
hesitation in using it tonight."

Annika snapped up her gaze, flipping away the falling strands of blond hair suspended
near her crimson eyes. "Don't worry about me," a clawed hand appeared blazingly fast
to Demona's charcoal eyes, "I've learned a few moves in my time too." She swiped at
the azure-skinned gargoyle's arm, and left her mark of three fresh slashes.

Demona pulled back, and lunged to the side, catching Annika in the side with the back of
her arm, and whirling around to plant a spiked elbow directly between her wings.
Annika yelped with pain, forced to one knee, where Demona's clawed foot was placed
exactingly to where the short tunic left bare, exposed skin.

Annika rolled away, groaning in pain. She struggled to get up, as Demona stalked upon
her, a cultured intellect and grace lost to the narcosis of hard, aged liquor. A life of peace
fought so hard for, lost in the heat of battle, and the ferocious ocean swell of her own
rage. Demona approached her and bent over, grabbing Annika by the hair, forcefully
pulling the younger gargess up to her level, and surprisingly, receiving a blush pink fist
directly between the eyes. She staggered back, as Annika caught her second wind, and
raced towards her.

Across the cheek, drawing a spatter of blood, and then to her stomach, Annika unleashed
into the azure-skinned former immortal. She too was growing lost in her fever, in her
anger and mortal fear of having everything she so desired and wished for constantly
threatened by outside forces, by either friend or foe. "I won't let anyone destroy what
I've finally achieved after so long!" she screamed, grasping upon Demona's wrists as her
adversary grappled against the youth's comparable strength.

"And I will not allow the man I have come to love to be wasted on a whining child like
you!!" she responded rabidly, their continuing struggle taking them into the middle of the
living room, remarkably spared from the effects of their savage fight. "You are a child,
and should be treated like one!!"

"I'm not a child!! And I intend to prove it, bitch!!"

It had now gone from a simple quarrel to an all out war, from the subject of the man they
both cared for so much, to their own pain and anger of tortured lives so similar, and so
exactingly alike. Each found the other to represent an enemy they sought to destroy, to
forever eliminate from their existence. For Annika, the withered features and hard-edged
smile of Therias Ebon Crowe, and to Demona, the burning, soulless eyes of Sobek,
perhaps the only being she constantly feared of ever facing again.

They increased the strength to their stalwart grip, now intertwined hands with contrasting
hues of dark cerulean and misted rose, and both staring at each other with a brilliant
vermilion glare.

Until suddenly, Demona twisted her arms to the side, bringing Annika over her shoulder.
She carried the gargess a short distance, then fiercely dropped her onto the coffee table of
varnished wood and frosted glass partitions. With a screech of shattering crystal and
splintering mahogany, Demona had functionally relieved herself of her attacker in a most
brutal fashion. "I have had enough of people dictating how my life should be led!" she
howled to the fallen gargess. "I am in control, and no one else! I will take what I have
been denied for so long...so very long...I won't be alone anymore..." She watched with
softening eyes, the gargoyle beneath her moan and whimper in the ruins of her furniture,
and only with a few steady breaths, did she ultimately curb her anger, and relent to the
savage warrior consuming her very insides, transforming the usual placid and collected
woman into the sadistic angel of death. "Annika..." she whispered, her throat still
burning from the whiskey, reaching a trembling hand to soothe over Annika's shoulder.
"I am...sorry...I didn't mean to...Annika? Annika?"

"BITCH!!!" Annika cried with a rasped throat, bringing her bleeding fist directly beneath
Demona's chin. The elder gargoyle was toppled, and Annika sluggishly crawled her way
from the debris, covered in tiny scrapes and cuts, marring her once flawless, milky hide
with trailing lines of scarlet fluid. Annika jumped on top of her, and wailed away with
her closed fists, striking down Demona with every ounce of strength. "I know what you
are!! A monster!! A brutal killer!! You don't deserve any happiness, or any man to love
you, and I'm going to make sure you never try to take away Todd again!!"

Demona had no choice but to cover up against Annika's flailing hands, unwilling to
become what she had always feared. But with every strike, did her anger grow, and soon
threatened to explode once more.

"I'll kill you!!" Annika screamed, continuing her outburst against this woman held
underneath, her eyes tearing with the incredibly powerful feelings flowing through her,
pooling onto Demona's white tunic. Pain, anger, loss, the recent attack by her father and
Todd's near-death having finally taken it's emotional toll. "Killer!! Monster!! You
won't take anything from me again, Crowe!!"

"ANNIKA!!!" A masculine growl rang though the room, as a shadow crossed over
Annika's skin, and suddenly, a pair of strong arms pulled the feral gargess away. "Jesus,
Annika, calm down!!" It was Todd, furiously wrestling against his fiancé, trying
anything to get her to stop her frightful assault.

"Annika!" Desdemona cried to her friend, helping Todd to subdue her, at last pulling her
away from Demona and placing herself between the two warring females.

"No!!" Annika still fought against Todd's arms, even as he pulled her against his torso.
"I won't lose any more!! I won't! I can't..." She pressed herself into his chest, forcing
her translucent tears onto his clothing, muffling the hoarse sobbing from deep within her
chest. "No more..."

"It's okay...it's all right," Todd whispered, holding her shivering form with his sturdy
arms, "I'm here. It's okay..." He looked to where Demona was being helped up by her
sister, and soon pushed Desdemona away rather forcefully, and stared with eyes of a
smoldering ember cast to the couple standing mere feet away. More importantly, to
Annika, who peered back to the older female, a spiteful gaze to effectively relate every
scathing emotion churning within her gut.

"Mother?!" Angela arrived in a mad rush onto the surrounding balcony, seeing the final
moments of a simple melee over a man having grown into a murderous battle of their
pained hearts and souls, with Demona being mercilessly attacked by Annika. She dashed
to her mother's side within an instant, surveying the injury afflicted upon her by the
younger gargess. "Are you all right?!"

Demona merely nodded, still locking eyes with a scowling Annika.

"What would possess you to do such a thing?!!" Angela screamed, turning towards the
rose-colored female, blaming her for what she had been witness to. "How could you
even think of attacking my mother like this?!"

"Ask her...she started it." Annika spat out, held in place by Todd's hands, ensuring she
would not let her anger take control once more.

Angela turned to see Demona slowly turning her eyes to her progeny, a glistening
defiance she had seen only a few times before, and in truth, it frightened her. "What
happened, mother?"

"It is none of your concern. This is between Annika and I...and Todd."

"This has obviously been going on for a long time." Angela guessed, and quite correctly,
her father's astute senses and keen insight inherited. "Now what is happening between
you three?"

"I said, it is none of your..."

"Why don't you tell her, Demona?" Annika broke through Demona's apparent avoidance
of the issue. "Why don't you let her know just what you did tonight? How you tried to
seduce Todd. How you tried to break us up. How you almost destroyed our relationship
because of your own selfish wants..."

"I told him the truth, girl! Nothing more." Her brow lowered, and her teeth were bared.
"And the kiss...was mutual. Very mutual."

Annika lunged forward, yet Todd held her back, and Desdemona stepped warily between
them both.

"Kiss?" Angela whispered.

"Your darling mother came to Todd's apartment," Annika started, "and in her unlimited
conceit, decided she wanted my fiancé all for her own."

"Is this true, mother?"

Demona paused, and looked away, then nodded to her daughter's question.

"This entire fight is her fault!" Annika yelled out.

"Annika, please," Todd cut in to his lover's ranting, "it was as much my fault as it was

"Maybe the kiss, but not the entire idea of trying to break us up." She then turned slowly
back to Demona, her burning eyes searing through the strands of falling platinum. "What
were you trying to prove? That I'm a weak child? That I don't deserve the happiness
I've finally found after forty years of abuse?!"

Demona never looked up. "No...I...I don't know."

"Whatever she did, it doesn't give you the right to attack her like some animal!" Angela
cried out, defending her mother's purity of heart, fought for and at last attained after so
long a personal battle.

"She deserved it..." Annika hissed.

"How dare you!!"

"Enough of this!" Desdemona had stepped in, seeing the tempers flare, and hoping her
nonpartisan status would cool off the raging tempests growing within all who had
gathered in this room. "I will not see this clan torn apart by a simple mistake, that should
be left in the past and forgotten. Angela, I believe you should see to your mother's
injuries. Todd, take Annika home, and tend to her wounds as well."

"I'm not leaving!!" Annika broke from Todd's arms, and surged towards the azure
gargess, only to be forcefully restrained by Desdemona.

"Yes, you are." she commanded, pointing a taloned finger towards the balcony doors.
"This is over."

Annika was visibly heaving, and only as Todd brushed a hand across her shoulder, did
she relent. "Yeah, you're right," she seethed, "it is over. Whatever friendship I had with
you, Demona, is ended here and now."

Demona never budged, only thinned her eyes to the retreating gargoyle.

"I guess I'll see you at the wedding. Oh, that's right, you're not invited, bitch!!"

Todd pulled her away. "Annika..."

"Don't bother giving me an invitation as well," said Angela quietly, and sorrowfully, "for
if my mother isn't welcome...than neither am I. I suppose you'll have to find yourself
another bridesmaid."

"That's fine by me." Annika turned away abruptly, and allowed Todd to escort her
through the door. Her injuries weren't severe enough to ground her, and she still
possessed the strength to carry him on her back, and they took off into the wind, heading
straight for castle Wyvern.

Desdemona watched them leave, and turned to Angela gently mending her mother's
wounded arm. "Well, this is a fine mess you have created, my sister."

"I did not create this. I merely told him exactly how I feel, and allowed him the chance
to choose..."

"He chose long ago, and you knew that!" she snapped back. "What you did was
extremely selfish! And hurtful to that young girl...who is more like you than you could
ever possibly imagine..."

"She is nothing like me!"

Desdemona shook her head, slowly forming a smile Demona had not seen for over a
thousand years in the grassy hills of Scotland. "Passionate, beautiful, intelligent,
hotheaded, willing to go any length to fend for her loved ones...you and Annika are cut
from the same cloth."

Angela looked on as her mother growled beneath her breath, cursing her composed
rookery sister's logic. She was of conflicted emotions as well, having possibly lost a
cherished friend in an adamant, regretful, and perhaps stubborn defense of her mother.

Desdemona turned around and continued on her way towards the wide open balcony
doors, a silhouetted form sharply struck against the night sky, the moon and stars calling
out in a silent, breathless plea. "I thought you had changed from what you once were,"
she said fertively, a distressing whisper to relay her disappointment in her sister's rash
actions, "I guess...I was wrong."

Demona at last truly took heed of her sister's words. "My sister...please, I did not mean
any harm."

"It seems you are always making an excuse, whenever your arrogance and hatred cause
harm to those who did nothing but offer you their friendship and respect."

"But I love him..." she whispered, fumbling towards her sister's retreating form. "And I
had to tell him."

"Does this love necessitate almost ruining his life, or hurting the woman he loves? No,
Demona, this is not love, only selfishness...and greed. Annika has been through so much,
just like you. I thought you would have at last given her the existence she deserves,
instead of attempting to steal it all away." She swept her saddened eyes away, charcoal
pools brimming with remorse, almost a pity for her troubled sibling.

The azure-skinned amazon watched her sister depart form the balcony railing, and was
soon left alone with only her daughter for company. "My sister...I'm sorry..."

"Mother?" Angela called out, slowly stepping forward to place a hand against Demona's

"Angela..." she whispered coarsely, imploring for her daughter not to leave her like
everyone else. "What have I done?"

"I...I don't know, mother. I wasn't there...I can't tell you if what you did was right or
wrong. I...can only offer you my support, and hope it will be enough." She held out a
hand to Demona's tearing gaze, and she slowly accepted, as mother and daughter held
each other in their arms. The bond forged through their love, a connection deeper than
even that of blood. Demona quietly cried onto Angela's shoulder, from the result of her
love turned away, her loss of a rare treasure, a friend, and the biting words of her sister.

"I'm sorry, Todd," she whispered, "I'm so sorry..."


"Ouch," she winced, as the cotton swab slid over the wound scraped across her hand, left
from Demona's talons, "that stings!"

"Sorry." Todd apologized, dabbing the rest of the cleaning alcohol solution onto
Annika's cuts.

The couple had remained mostly silent on the entire flight home, and even in the hospital
room, where Todd was tending to his fiancé's wounds, left from her fight with Demona.
Barely a contact of sight between them, both unable to look the other directly in their
eyes. Todd knew he had created this entire problem, Annika's anger, his betrayal of her
very trust, causing her to lash out against a good friend, who unwittingly had become
possessed of strong feelings for him. What scared him though, was her savagery, her
very brutal heartlessness as he ran through the balcony doors to see her laying into
Demona with all her strength, unleashing the anger held deep inside, turning the gentle
protector into a feral enemy. Her fury at last unbridled, liberated from her heart.

Annika pulled back slightly when Todd touched a hand to her side, feeling tenderly
across the bruise left when Demona kicked her. "Ungh..." She gritted her teeth, now
knowing how Todd's grievous injury felt. "Be careful there."


Annika perked up, and was only allowed to peer onto the top portion of Todd's hair,
knowing he too was avoiding his gaze. "I'm sorry..."

"What?" This time, Todd snapped up, wide eyes of a misted ash. "Why? Why the hell
would you have anything to be sorry about?"

"For attacking a friend of yours...who once mine as well..."

Todd sighed heavily, releasing a labored breath into the sterilized, re-circulated air of the
Eyrie's hospital. "Annika...you have absolutely nothing to be sorry about. Everything
you've gone through tonight is because of me, because of my mistake."

"I attacked her," she sobbed, "I called her a monster, but it's me who's the real

"No, you're not." Todd forced out a hand to caress her cheek, wiping away the falling
tear with his thumb, his light pigmentation a perfect match for her dark salmon tint.
"You were angry, and rightfully so."

"To attack someone in cold blood?!" Her voice had raised to shattered tone, breaking
apart with unchecked emotion. "I was ready to kill her! Oh god...I really am like my
father...I'm just like him..."

"No!!" Todd snapped back in his blaring growl. "You're nothing like him. Nothing.
What happened tonight was simply a loss of control...for both of us. You've kept
everything inside of you. Your life of Crowe's abuse, your mom's death, the attacks on
your life, and your friends...it's been building up, and tonight was the breaking point."

"Breaking point?! What would have happened if no one pulled me off of her?"

"Absolutely nothing. You would have stopped yourself. You would never have crossed
that line."

"Are you sure about that?" Her eyes grew frigid, cold, placing forth a query that drew a
hardened breath from Todd.

"Positive." he broke through, destroying any doubt of her ill-chosen actions. "I have
anger within me too. We all do, but it's how we act on that anger that's important. Yes,
you lost control. It happens. It's how we deal with the shit that's forced upon us every
single day. It happened to me a lot, when I was younger, I got into a lot of fights in
school...and it still happens now. I even cut off Crowe's hand...in maybe nothing but a
moment of anger, and someday, I'll probably pay for it..."

"But...I've never acted like that. Never." she whispered, raising her taloned hands to her
sapphire glare. "I could barely think, all I wanted was to hurt her, to stop her from taking
you away from me..."

"But it wasn't her. The whole thing turned from your anger towards me, and Demona,
towards Crowe. When I arrived, you had screamed out his name."

"I...I did?"

"It wasn't Demona you were fighting in the end, it was Crowe."

Annika looked away, still unconvinced by his words. "No. No, I knew who I was
fighting, it was Demona. I know where my anger was directed...IS directed."

"Does this mean you're never going to forgive her?" Todd asked softly, a simple question
speaking volumes, knowing he may have to sacrifice a good friend to gain back the trust
of his future wife.

Annika dropped her head, until Todd lifted it back with a finger beneath her chin. "I
don't know, but right now, I don't even want to think about her...about what she tried to

"You don't have to. But you do have to remember one little thing, it wasn't all
Demona's fault. You should be mostly angry at me, at what I did."

"I am...I was." she corrected herself, much to Todd's silent relief. "But I know it was a
mistake. Hell, if Goliath came on to me...well..."

Todd's eyes momentarily flashed, until realizing her modest joke. "Touché. Do you still
trust me?"

"With my life."

"I'm sorry."

"I know."

"I love you."

She nodded. "I know." Her bandages wrapped and prepared for the coming of the sun,
she accepted her fiancé's warm embrace, and she tipped towards him from the
high-leveled hospital bed, practically falling into his arms. "Can we get out of here
now?" she inquired to him, a slight fear of this room, having seen her lover beaten, shot,
and seemingly thrown to his death in this very place. "I don't really like this room

"Yeah...come on." He allowed her to skip from the bed, and guided her with his hand
entrenched in her powerful grip. They stepped into the elevator cab, and pressed the
button for the castle's main level, hearing the familiar hiss and watching the doors
silently slid closed with but a tremor. "Well, I guess we've had our first real test of our
relationship..." Todd muttered, staring at the distorted reflection, the couple's distended
and stretched mirror images gazing back at them both with sunken eyes. "The question
is...did we pass?"

"I think we did." Annika replied.

"By the way, gorgeous, for the wedding...I want roses."

Annika forced a weak smile.


With impotent arms, did he cast of the heavy stone lid, intricately carved with the tiniest
of ancient Egyptian hieroglyph. He found barely the strength to lift himself from the
sarcophagus, and refresh his lungs with the sweet, musty redolence of his surroundings.
He stumbled, yet kept his balance with incredible fortitude and resolution, and soon
found his way to a shaped granite seat, his throne.

He slumped into the chair, to rest his weary bones, and found his wings to be stiff,
unresponsive, and only with the greatest of concentration, did they unfurl and open, still
covered in the life-giving solution helping to conserve his strength. His head tipped back,
allowing his ebony eyes to adjust to the brilliant burning torches lining his sanctuary,
casting the darkest of flickering shadows across the entire breadth of the slanted, fitted

"Are you feeling well...master?" a hard-edged voice, tinged with the heavy rasp of
organic steel, whispered to him from the dark hall.

"Leave me," Sobek commanded, "I wish to be left alone..."

It stalled first, then answered, "As you wish..." It's tone that of someone who did not like
to be ordered around, the form of gleaming serrated edges relented to the ailing,
immortal sorcerer and backed off with a mechanical drone.

"Why am I so weak?" he wheezed, a foreign inflection defined only by a burning tongue.
"I have rested for so long, but to no avail..." He found his eyes roaming his left arm,
where a patch of his deep yellow hide, with devouring raven stripes, was deteriorating,
leaving only decomposition, and the gruesome scent of death itself. These patches were
found on every part of his body, and seemed to be spreading with every passing week.
"Something has gone wrong with the spell of immortality," his thoughts became as his
very spoken words, his mind still anesthetized from the deep sleep, "I must

His anguished howl echoed throughout his place of graven, godlike images and ancient
spirits, casting off each crooked wall, sending the rampant, mimicking screams to all
corners of his sanctum. From the dead skin on his arm erupted a large, jagged shrapnel
of pure, ivory bone. His bone. "What is...happening to me?" he cried amidst the pain
engulfing his body. "This must be magic..." He clutched to his wildly spurred brow, and
felt the ridges extend, and almost tear at the skin covering the skull protrusions.

"Something is happening to me...beyond my control." He staggered blindly to the control
console, his computers awaiting their master's next command. "My plans must be cut
short...I must go back to Manhattan, for I need...someone to reverse whatever I am
afflicted with...I need...a sorceress..."