Author's Notes 1: Again, this chapter picks up where the last one left off. Enjoy.
"What competition?" she squeaks.
"Gwen, the only men you know outside of work are gay and no gay man is going to call you 'beautiful' in that tone of voice," he answers with an ill concealed smirk. "Plus you turned as white as a sheet when you heard his voice, so I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this is the guy who took you out Friday night."
"How…?" she stammers.
"Come on, Tony and Lily knew about the invitations," he chuckles. "That means everyone knew about them. You should be glad Weisman didn't get wind of them."
"Which reminds me," she says, her eyes narrowing. "How is it that you invited me out in the same exact manner as Matt?"
"Later," he whispers in her ear as someone knocks at the door. "Your guest is here."
He steps away from her before she can grab a hold of him and moves further from the door so that he's well behind it when it opens. She gives him a good hard glare as Matt knocks a second time and John points to the door with an amused look on his face. She mutters a few choice words in German before hopping the rest of the way to the door and opening it.
"Hi," she nervously greets when she opens the door.
"Hi, yourself," Matt replies as he steps into the apartment uninvited, forcing her to hold onto the door as she hops out of the way. "I stopped by your work and they said you called in sick today."
"Yeah, I had a bit of an accident the other night," she tells him.
"So I…heard…," he starts, his words fading when he sees they're not alone. "Umm…"
"Matt, this is John Richards," she introduces as she shuts the door. "John and I work together. John, this is Matt Bluestone. He's Elisa's partner."
"Hey, how are you?" John greets, acting as if he's actually glad to meet Matt, his hand extended as he steps forward.
"Good, nice to meet you," Matt replies, not sounding nearly as thrilled as John as he grasps the offered hand.
Gwen watches them as the two men stare at each other with false smiles plastered on their faces while their knuckles turn white. She quickly realizes that they're both trying to out squeeze the other and she scowls at their hands.
"You two release any more testosterone and I'll neuter the both of you," she growls, causing both men to let go and quickly step apart as the turn and stare at her in surprise.
With that, she turns and hobbles back to the kitchen, ignoring the pain shooting up her leg and starts to pull the groceries out of the bags.
"So, how did you and Gwen meet?" John asks as he squeezes into the kitchen with Gwen, slips his arm out of its sling and starts pulling out the ingredients for dinner from his shopping bag.
"We met after Elisa came to check on Lex and Brooklyn the day after Brooklyn's first operation," she answers when Matt hesitates in his reply. "They gave me a lift to work."
"Oh really?" John questions with a raised eyebrow. "That must be when the new boyfriend rumors started at work. You didn't mention him the other night when you were telling me about the gargoyles."
"It wasn't important to the story," she replies with a shrug as she puts food into the fridge. "Besides, I only told you about Monday night when I first met the gargoyles and Elisa. I hadn't met Matt yet."
"And I bet Demona being a complete psychopath who's more likely to rip your head off then look at you wasn't important to the story either," John grumbles.
"I didn't know about that, I swear," she responds as more food is put away in nearly empty cupboards. "I knew she was responsible for Brooklyn getting hurt and I know she attacked Elisa, but both incidents could be blamed on the fact that she was going into her reproductive cycle. I didn't realize that she had it in for the others."
"So you two really did try and take on Demona," Matt muses with a shake of his head and the other two turn towards him, both almost forgetting that he's even in the apartment with them. "You're both crazy, you know that?"
"I've been called worse," Gwen says as she works on putting the empty grocery bags away.
"If I had any idea that she was about to pick a fight with that monster I would have thrown her over my shoulder and gotten the hell out of there," John vehemently tells Matt.
"That's pretty Neanderthal of you," she grumbles as she starts to hobble back over to the table.
"Does she normally take crazy risks like that?" Matt asks John.
"Come to think of it, yeah she does," John answers after a few moments of thinking about it. "But it's usually with animals that don't want whatever treatment she has in store for them.
"If you two are going to continue to malign my character, please do it elsewhere," she demands, picking up her pen and going back to her paperwork.
"Funny, I don't remember you being this cranky before," Matt says.
"Slice open your foot and see how it feels, then tell me I have to have a sunny disposition," she mutters as she props her foot on the extra table chair, leaving only one seat that still has John's book on it so Matt remains standing.
"You did take the pain pills, didn't you?" John asks her as he continues to work in the kitchen, concern tingeing his voice.
"Yes, I took the pain pills," she grumbles before muttering under her breath. "But it isn't doing a thing for the two biggest pains I happen to have right now."
"So, how long have you two been dating?" Matt tries to casually ask.
"Saturday night was our first date," John answers as he rummages around in the cupboards until he finds a mixing bowl.
"So, how did you ask her out?" Matt questions suspiciously.
"The same way as you did," John replies, not even bothering to look up from what he's doing. "I should thank you for the idea. I've been trying to get her to go out with me for nearly three years with no luck until you came along. Thanks."
"You're welcome," Matt nearly growls.
"You read the card before I did?" Gwen accuses, twisting around in her seat to glare at John.
"I was curious," he responds with a shrug as he digs around in the kitchen drawers. "Where's your bottle opener?"
"It's on the side of the fridge," she tells him. "You were jealous."
"Yeah, do you blame me?" John demands while he grabs the opener off of the appliance. "For nearly three years I've been trying to get you to go out with me. I was getting desperate and then here comes this guy who you don't even know and suddenly you're on the dating scene."
"But why?" she asks. "You know I'm moving back to Switzerland when I've paid off my loans. And for the record, I wasn't planning on going out with anybody, but a couple of other people had other ideas and I was dragged into this whole mess kicking and screaming."
"I know you plan on returning to Switzerland," he replies, his tone immediately softening while he opens a bottle of beer. "I was just hoping you'd give us a chance."
"But what's the point of trying if I'm just going to be moving away in a year or two?" she questions, confused and a bit exasperated.
John says nothing at first, but just stares at the open bottle of beer sitting on the counter in front of him. The silence stretches out for several long seconds before she gives a huff of frustration and then turns back to her papers. Matt watches them silently and he has a sinking suspicion any hope of dating Gwen is about to be blown out of the water.
"I was hoping…," he starts hesitantly and quietly, "…that when you left…I could go with you."
"You think I'll have time to play tour guide when I'm trying to move?" she demands, spinning back around to stare at him.
"I wasn't planning on going on vacation there," he says as he plays with the bottle cap.
"You're going to…what…move there?" she asks in confusion.
"Yeah," he answers softly.
"But why?" she inquires, baffled.
"Because you're there," he replies finally looking at her.
"But what about your family?" she questions, her brow furrowed with a frown of bewilderment.
"My parents died when I was eleven," he tells her as he steps out of the kitchen. "I was raised by my grandparents and they died several years ago. I'm not especially close to any of my aunts or uncles or cousins and they all live in other states anyways. I don't really have anyone to tie me here."
"You would move to another country, where you don't speak any of the languages…for me?" she asks in a whisper.
"If things work out between us, yeah," he answers as he moves closer to her. "Please, let's try; just give it a chance, that's all I'm asking. If it doesn't work out, then you move back to Switzerland and neither one of us has to worry about those weird, awkward times when you accidentally run into your ex at the grocery store or someplace. So what do you say? Can we at least try?"
She's stunned speechless that anyone would be willing to do that for her and all she can do is stare with a dumbfounded look on her face. It's not until his fingers gently touch the side of her face that she's startled out of her shock and she looks into his hazel eyes, still very much surprised.
"You would really do that…for me?" she questions softly.
"I would do almost anything for you," he replies quietly as he leans his face closer to hers. "Can you give us a chance?"
She's completely mesmerized by his eyes, the feeling of his fingers lightly stroking her face is scrambling her brain and the smell of him is making her body tingle in places she'd never admit to her mother.
"Please?" he breathes, his warm breath caressing her lips.
She doesn't trust herself to speak coherently so she gives a little nod and that's all the invitation he needs. His lips gently press against hers and she's not sure who lets out the moan, but she wouldn't be surprised if it was her. She loses herself in the feeling of those warm, soft lips on hers and she can't help but hope that the kiss will never end.
When it does end a short eternity later, she keeps her eyes shut trying to hold onto the moment just a little longer. When she finally opens her eyes, she sees him staring intently at her while her hand, that she wasn't even aware that she moved, gently caresses the side of his face. He kisses the palm of that hand and she gasps as shivers run up her arm and all through her body.
"I'm not sure I'm ready for this," she quietly confesses as he leans his forehead against hers.
"We'll take this as slow as you want," he assures her with a smile. "I've waited three years for you to go out with me, I can wait. I'm a very patient man."
"Or very a stubborn one," she teases with a grin fighting to get out.
"Then we're a perfect match," he shoots back with a laugh as he straightens back up. "I better get back to working on dinner. The marinade isn't going to make itself."
"And you're beer's going to go flat," she reminds him as she points at the open bottle on the counter.
"It's supposed to," he tells her while he makes his way back into the kitchen.
"You like your beer flat?" she asks, eyebrows raised.
"It's part of the marinade," he answers as he starts to pour the contents into the mixing bowl. "I know it sounds weird, but it's really good, trust me."
"Can I watch?" she softly inquires, her cheeks turning pink.
"Of course," he happily replies as he goes back to help her into the kitchen.
She quietly watches as he prepares the ingredients, makes the marinade and then adds it and a well pierced top sirloin into a resealable plastic bag.
"So now we let it sit for a couple of hours and then we'll broil it," he tells her after closing the refrigerator door and turning back around to her.
"You amaze me," she states as he moves even closer to her.
"How so?" he asks as he gently strokes the side of her face with the back of his fingers.
"You just do," she tells him as she leans forward and he gladly accepts her into his arms, ignoring the sting of his stitches.
He holds her as he rubs her back with his good hand while he buries his nose into her hair, smelling her shampoo and her own natural scent. He hasn't felt this happy in a long time and he hopes that it's a feeling that will last the rest of his life. Suddenly she stiffens and he reluctantly lets her go and watches as she looks around the apartment.
"What's the matter?" he inquires as she hobbles out of the kitchen and looks down the hallway.
He watches the city below them as the sunlight slowly fades and the neon and fluorescent lights take its place, making the city glow. He takes a deep breath of air that's well above most of the pollution stink and listens as the wind blows past him, his partner and the still sleeping gargoyles. He looks up at the darkening sky above him and wonders how many stars he would see if the light pollution from the city didn't fade their brilliance and wonders if it would be anything like it must be over a tiny little town in a tiny little valley in the Swiss Alps.
He lets out a sigh as he turns his gaze to his partner as she patiently waits for the male she loves to wake and then looks over at the mated gargoyle couple sleeping nearby. A movement down below catches his attention out of the corner of his eye and he looks down to see Xanatos and his family walking across the courtyard, hand in hand with his wife. He wonders if someday he'll find the one for him like so many others have, but his musings are interrupted by the sound of stone cracking and breaking.
He turns his attention back to the city that never sleeps while he waits for Elisa to finish greeting her beau, though she pretends nothing has changed, he's not a fool. He's seen the marks on her necks and he doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what they mean. He continues to stare down at the city and silently wonders if he could give it up for a woman even in the name of love.
"Matt, you ok?" Brooklyn quietly asks, breaking Matt away from his melancholy thoughts.
"Yeah, I'm just great," Matt answers, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
"I'm guessing things didn't work out to well when you went to go visit Gwen this afternoon," Elisa says from her spot at Goliath's side.
"You could say that," Matt replies. "Met John Richards. Seems like a nice guy."
"I met him last night," Goliath states. "He loves her."
"Yeah, I kind of figured that out when he said he's been trying to ask her out for nearly three years and is willing to move to Switzerland to be with her," Matt says. "I can't really hope to compete with that now can I? I'm just glad I got out of there before they started kissing. It's probably for the best anyways. I'm not sure I'd like dating a gal who not only threatens, but could actually neuter me."
"Neuter?" Goliath asks, looking down at Elisa.
"That's when a doctor…um…takes a male's…um…," Elisa stammers, blushing profusely as she tries to find the words and fails. "You know what? You'll probably be much happier never knowing what that means."
The gargoyles look at her in confusion and then turn to her partner with expectant looks on their faces.
"She's right," Matt agrees, trying not to laugh. "You'll be much happier never knowing."
"Before this gets any more embarrassing, we should get back to work," Elisa insists, the chilly wind doing nothing to cool her hot cheeks. "Come on, partner. I'll buy you a cup of coffee and then you can vent about fickle veterinarians."
"You're on," Matt replies as they start for the stairs.
"Come, we have work to do as well," Goliath states after watching the two humans go.
"So, where do you want to patrol tonight?" Brooklyn asks Lex.
"Anywhere but the Bronx," Goliath growls at the two of them and Bronx makes a confused noise as he tilts his head at the clan leader.
"He doesn't mean you, boy," Lex assures the hound while rubbing the hound's head.
A short time later, six figures take to the skies while somewhere in the Bronx a pair of friends starts to find something more to their relationship.
Author's Notes 2: What do you know? I finally finished a story. But fear not, my lovelies, there is a follow up story to this one brewing in my little head, but it may be a while before I get it started. Keep an eye out for Healing Hearts where Gwen finally returns to Switzerland.