Well I know this has been a long time in coming and I thank everyone for their patience. When I originally wrote Countdown, I had three endings playing out in my mind and eventually went with the one that I posted. I had never really developed the other two, but they had always been floating around in the back of my mind and I began toying with them. One I started writing them out I knew I wanted to post them…but I didn't want to start posting until I had both fairly well written. Over the last six months I have finally accomplished this and you can finally enjoy (I hope) the end results.

Since the original story was so long I won't repost the entire thing. You will begin with an alternate intro so please read it because there have been some critical changes made to it that will explain later events! The next addition will pick up During the Dock Wars in Manhattan- I will notify you then of where exactly it picks up.

Enjoy!


Chapter 1

December 13

Manhattan

"Dracon! Your visitor is here!"

The smooth talking crime lord tossed his cigarette butt onto the ground and crushed it brutally beneath the heel of his standard issues prison shoes. "About damn time," he muttered as he strolled through the prison yard towards the visitor's area.

Inside, he nodded to the guard who monitored the phone conversations and deftly slipped him a hundred as he brushed by the man. The guard smiled, and pointed down to the far end, away from all of the other prison inmates. "She's at ten Tony."

Dracon grunted a response, and moved down to the far end of the room. As he slid into the seat he took a good long look at the woman seated across from him. Despite being locked up these past three years, Tony had kept close tabs on this woman, and he knew that life had been very hard for her. Sadly, it was beginning to show in the fine lines that were forming along her still beautiful face, and the slump of her once proud shoulders. Finally, he reached for the phone and she did the same.

"Hey Sugar, long time no see," he drawled casually.

"Not long enough," she grumbled back. "Look Tony, I have a lot I'm dealing with right now, so this had better be damn important."

"Ah, straight to the point as always," he chuckled. "Sorry things haven't been going well for you and your friends. See Sugar, if you wouldn't have arrested me, maybe I could have been some help with those Quarrymen freaks and all the other little fan clubs they generated."

"We managed just fine without you and your kind of 'help' Tony," she retorted.

"Yeah, but it took way too long to clean them out. And not without cost it seems," he observed quietly as he looked over her haggard features. "You should get some sleep Maza, you look like hell."

"Tony it took us nearly two years to get rid of the Quarrymen. Then the Towers were hit. Thank god the rest of the lunatic fanatics decided to wait until that mess was over before they decided to make our lives hell once again. Ever since then, we have been run ragged working with the Feds trying to track those people down AND fight the normal crime going on in this city. I don't have time to sit here and banter with you anymore. Now tell me why you called me here or I'm walking," she growled at him.

Tony sighed, a tiny part of him saddened to see his heart's pursuit so worn down by life. Then he stifled his emotions and his face went somber. "Word has it you and your buddies in blue are having a hard time lately trying to control the sudden upsurge in crime. Particularly with the increase of weapons."

He paused for a moment seeing that he now had her attention. "One weapon in particular has been causing you and your friends nightmares I would imagine."

"What do you know Tony," she asked finally. Again, it was without the normal threats that so often came with her former demands of information.

"Names, places, and dates baby."

"What do you want in return?"

"Well a parole hearing would be nice, but I'm willing to part with this information for free."

Maza's eyes narrowed instantly. "No way. There's got to be some catch."

"Well, maybe one small condition," he admitted with his infamous smirk. She merely gazed back at him expectantly and his face suddenly went deadly serious as his eyes went ice cold. "I want you to deal with this personally."

"Tony, I'm a cop, not some vigilante," Maza sighed.

He chuckled slightly as an eyebrow quirked. "Really?" he questioned, his gaze piercing through hers until she finally looked down. "Don't worry Sugar, I'm not asking you to kill anyone. I just happen to trust you more than anyone else."

"Oh?" she asked some of her old personality breaking through. "And what about Glasses? I though he was your right-hand man? He seemed pretty loyal to me."

"Glasses would lay down his life for me and that's what he nearly did last week," Tony explained grimly. "He has been looking out for my.. 'businesses' in my absence. But business has been getting rough lately. He tried negotiating first, but it seems our mutual enemy was interested more in a hostile take-over. Last week, Glasses wound up in the hospital with a bullet in his back while gathering information about this new gang."

"Ah…so this is a turf war and you have no one else to turn to," she said smugly. Tony felt his blood pressure rise as she baited him, and his eyebrows drew together in an angry expression. Her smirk finally showed completely through and then suddenly, he laughed.

"Good to finally see the real you Maza," he said as he relaxed back in his chair. "Yeah it's a turf war, but this is your turf as much as it's mine Sugar. These aren't local boys we're dealing with, and they ain't interested in nobody's business 'cept their own. Word has it that these boys are planning something big, but first they have to arm themselves."

"Arm themselves? You make it sound like they plan on overrunning the city or something," she snorted skeptically. Dracon's expression however sent a chill down her spine and he nodded.

"How long do we have?"

"Two weeks. This new gang- they call themselves the Wild Cards. Their boss is one Harley Quinn. Got herself caught and locked up in Arkham Asylum in New Gotham, though. That's the only thing that's bought us all some time."

"THE Harley Quinn?" Elisa gasped the color draining from her face.

"Yeah, that bitch is crazier than your boyfriend's ex." Dracon smirked a bit when he saw Maza scowl at him fiercely. "Anyway, it's taken some time for her to figure out how to regain control of her people, but she's done it somehow. You've already seen what those new guns can do to an armored car, much less a bulletproof vest. In two weeks, five thousand guns will be leaving the docks of New Gotham by train to be distributed here."

"Damn," Elisa whispered as her head sank into the palm of her hand. Tony allowed her a moment to let it sink in and then he pressed on, a note of urgency in his voice that she had never heard before.

"Listen Maza, you have to go to New Gotham and stop that train before it leaves. On Christmas Eve at 11:00 pm the supplier will be meeting with Harley's right hand man to deliver the goods. The train is unlisted and supposed to leave by midnight. My contacts have no idea yet as to where or when the delivery will show up in town."

"New Gotham? Tony that's another jurisdiction-"

"Maza, you have to keep the police out of this as much as possible. She's got too many contacts inside. If they smell something, they'll reschedule and you may not ever have another shot."

"Damn it Tony I can't just go into this thing on my own!" she hissed at him frustrated.

"I didn't say alone baby," he reassured her with a grin. "As it turns out I have a few contacts of my own up there. Talk to your Captain, but make sure she doesn't say a word to anyone else about this. Then look up a Detective Jesse Reese at GCPD."

"What guarantee do I have that he's clean?"

Dracon chuckled once again. "He's as squeaky as you Sugar. Pretty damn impressive considering his old man helped mentor me in the finer arts of….'business'. Junior never took to our preferred work ethics though- even locked up his own father last year. Trust me, he'll keep this quiet."

Elisa looked back up at Tony, her eyes locking with his for a few seconds. "Anything else I should know?" she asked finally.

"That's all I've got for now. If I hear anything more, I'll send word to you." He noticed she didn't ask how, and he smiled a bit knowing that deep down it irked her at how much control he still had despite being behind bars. When she nodded and made to hang up the phone he suddenly blurted out her name to stop her. She blinked in surprise and he resumed his calm tone, though he couldn't help the emotions behind his next statement.

"Elisa, watch your back up there. These people are as crazy and dangerous as their boss. As much as it pains me to say this….take your boyfriend with you. You're gonna need all the help you can get."

"Tony….how am I supposed to take down an entire gang with just a handful of people?" Elisa asked slowly.

"Don't worry Sugar," he reassured her with a determined look on his face. "When the time comes you'll have all the help you'll need."

Her brow was creased with worry, and her shoulders slumped even further with this newly added burden. She obviously didn't like the way any of this was going to go down, but she silently agreed that it would have to be this way. If the police lost control of Manhattan, who knew what would happen after that.

Despite the overwhelming feelings Dracon knew she was going through right now, Elisa managed to twist her lips up in a ghost of her own smirk. "Dracon, I think you might have been a good enough boy to go up before a parole board. I'm sure you can handle things from there."

"Got it all covered Sugar."

"Then you just have to promise me one thing for when I come back."

"Anything for you Maza."

"I haven't had a break in god knows how many years. When I come back, promise me you'll continue to be good…at least for a few months." She was making a deal with the devil and yet she couldn't help the slightly pleading tone that carried over the phone line.

"Maza, if you give me my turf back, I promise you here and now that none of my guys will ever bother you and yours again."

The look she gave him made every minute he had spent in prison fade away. "Tony…..you don't know how much that means to me right now," she admitted in a rough voice. He blinked in surprise when he saw tears shimmer in her eyes, and watched as she forced them not to spill.

"Ah Baby…..shhh," he whispered over the phone his hand reaching up to spread along the glass. He smiled wistfully. "Damn, what I wouldn't give to be holdin' you right now."

"That was a long time ago Tony," she sighed, but he didn't miss the faint smile that played along her lips.

"Yeah but they was good times doll. You tell that purple giant that if he ever breaks your heart I will make one exception to my promise to you. Now get outta here before I have to pay Gino over there another c-note to keep quiet."

His last little remark seemed to have lightened the mood a bit, and she pressed her hand against the glass across from his briefly. "Thank you Tony."

Dracon merely smiled and hung up the phone and sat back to watch her leave. It was a few minutes before Gino finally walked over and tapped on his shoulder. "Come on Tony," he said gently his eyes sliding over to the surveillance cameras. "Don' want the big boys upstairs getting too suspicious."

"Yeah, especially now," Tony muttered to himself as he shook off his feeling of nostalgia and returned his mind to the task at hand and the plans that needed to be laid out.


Destine Manor

Shortly after sunset….

Demona grimaced as she stood up from where she had collapsed from her nightly transformation. Once again she was cursing Puck for his meddlesome spell that had doomed her to living the rest of her life out enduring the agonizing transformations from gargoyle to human and then back, twice a day.

Heading into her bathroom she turned on the hot water to her massive tub, looking forward to a long soak after a tiring day at the office. She smirked, pleased with the way the day had gone-even if it had been grueling. She had closed two major deals in one day, and she had beat David Xanatos out on one of them.

She was just getting ready to slip into the warm waters when her security system went off, signaling an unwanted intruder on her property. Swearing, the gargoyle shut off the water, and quickly redressed as she rushed back into her bedroom and punched a hidden button on her nightstand. One of the walls slid back, revealing a very high tech security system. Glaring at the screen, she watched as Detective Elisa Maza hopped out of her car and began pounding on the front door to her mansion.

Her irritation quickly melted away to concern as she took a closer look at the grim features on the human's face. Elisa had never come to visit her, and she knew that the woman wouldn't be here unless it was urgent. Thinking back to a few months ago when Hudson had been crippled badly by a new black market weapon while out on patrol, Demona felt her heart begin to hammer in her chest.

By the Dragon…please don't let anything have happened to Angela or Goliath, she thought to herself as she hurried downstairs.

Pulling the door open, she looked down at the Detective. "What?" she demanded.

"We need to talk," Elisa said flatly.

"Has something else happened to the Clan?"

Elisa shook her head, realizing for the first time just how worried Demona looked. "No. Angela and the Clan are ok, but that's what we need to talk about. Can I please come inside, it's freaking cold out here," she asked, shifting from one foot to the other as a gust of icy wind blew across the massive porch.

With an irritated grumble, Demona stepped back and let the human inside. She shut the door behind her, allowed Elisa to walk a few feet further into the mansion and then stopped. She would be civil, but she wasn't about to play host when she was tired and hungry.

Elisa realized that she wasn't about to be offered a chair to sit down and sighed. She was exhausted, but she wasn't about to show any weakness in front of the violently prone gargoyle. "As your aware, those lunatics are getting more and more brave with these damn guns. Thankfully, there are thought to be only five of them on the streets here, but Dracon just called me today to tell me that he heard a massive shipment of those things are going to be delivered in a couple of weeks, from New Gotham to here."

"So what does this have to do with the Clan…or me for that matter?"

"I've been pulling double and triple shifts for the last six months trying to find out everything about these guns and how I can get them off the streets. There's been a pattern to the times they've been used, and it's connected with the Clan. I think someone is not only using them to commit crimes that no one would even think of trying, but they're also targeting the Clan in the process."

Elisa's jaw tightened as her eyes darkened. "I tried asking Goliath to back off of patrols, if anything to help me study the attacks a little more without them being a factor. But he refuses to listen to me, and I will die before I let something else happen to them again."

Demona didn't doubt it for one second. After all this time, she had finally come to realize that Elisa was more devoted to the Clan than anyone she had ever known. The human was fiercely protective them, and though she would never admit it to anyone, Demona was secretly glad for that. Because while she still lived and breathed, Elisa Maza would do everything in her power to keep the Clan safe- especially her daughter. It was one of the growing list of reasons, that Demona had given up trying to kill the Detective.

"So I take it you are going to New Gotham to track down this lead?"

"I leave tomorrow," Elisa confirmed.

"I see. Again, I ask how this concerns me."

Elisa looked up at Demona, her gaze unwavering. "We both know I've been living on borrowed time. I've walked away from too many fights unscathed, and I have a feeling that won't be the case this time. We're up against someone that's more powerful and more connected than the police or even the Feds. And I also have a hunch we're dealing with more than one party. This entire operation has been too well organized which indicates a hell of a lot of players."

Demona scowled slightly, trying to follow where Elisa was going with this.

"Demona, I know you have been changing over these last few years. I know how much your daughter loves you, and that despite everything, you still care for the Clan. I'm here to swear to you that I will do everything in my power to keep them safe. That no matter what, I will put an end to this threat. But I need to know that if I don't come back from this, you will never again do anything to hurt or harm the Clan."

Demona gawked openly at the brazen woman. "Excuse me?"

"I'm serious Demona," Elisa told her implacably. "Your word is the only thing you have left, and that is what I want from you right here, right now."

Demona let out a sharp bark of laughter, even as her eyes flared red and she took a threatening step forward. "You dare to come into my house and make demands of me? Are you insane!"

Elisa didn't flinch. "I think we both know the answer to that," she said calmly. Her face began to match Demona's anger however and she took her own step forward. "Damn it Demona, you of all people should know how much the Clan means to me! I don't care if you beat me to a pulp for saying it, but I love them. They are my family too, and it nearly broke me when Hudson was shot. I will stop this, but I need to know that if something happens to me, the Clan will be okay. I can't afford to be worried or distracted by that right now."

Demona backed off, amazed that Elisa would confront her like this in her own home. The woman was definitely a little insane. She finally folded her arms across her chest. "Fine," she said a little grudgingly. "You have my word that I will never do anything to harm the Clan again."

"Or cause them pain," Elisa added. When Demona didn't answer right away, she pressed her again.

"I will not cause them any pain either," the immortal growled out.

"Not many people would be willing to put faith in your word," Elisa remarked, eyeing the gargoyle. "But I've seen the changes in you these last few years, and I know that your word is the one thing I can count on. But so help me God, if I do get killed and you go back on your word, I will haunt your ass for the rest of eternity."

The threat against her was made with such serious sincerity, Demona had no doubt the Detective would carry it out. But Demona couldn't help but chuckle a little bit. "You are insane," she concluded.

Elisa flashed her trademark smirk. "Certifiable," she agreed. "I'd have to be, to keep doing what I do."

"Detective, I'm going to hold you to the first part of this deal. I know you would have no second thoughts about stepping in front of a bullet. But please make sure that you don't do that before you see this thing through. Because I will tell you right now, if you fail and the Clan becomes endangered, I will take matters into my own hands. And we both know how that will turn out."

"I promise it will not come to that."

"Good. Then to that end, will you be taking Goliath with you?"

"I don't think that would be such a great idea," Elisa answered with a grimace.

Demona arched an eyebrow. "Trouble in paradise?" she asked a little too smugly.

Elisa's eyes flashed angrily at the barb. "There never was a paradise to begin with Demona. But yes, as I'm sure you already heard from Angela, Goliath and I had a huge fight a few weeks ago and our…friendship has been strained every since."

"A shame," Demona said sarcastically.

Exhaustion got the best of her, and her temper snapped as she took a large step forward, invading Demona's personal space. "This was never a friggin contest Demona. You drove him away!" she reminded the immortal sharply. "But he still loves you, and no matter how deeply he buries it, he always will. Maybe if you would just shut that mouth of yours for once and looked past your own damn hatred, you would see that your daughter isn't the only one sitting on the sidelines hoping you'll come rejoin the team."

Demona snarled, her talon instinctively grabbing Elisa by the front of the jacket as she yanked her closer and upwards.

Elisa seemed to not care one bit that she was now dangling a good foot off the ground. "What? Is this something you don't want to hear? Well maybe you should have thought about that before you started pushing my buttons. I tried Demona. I tried so hard to tell myself that he was just a friend, and that we could never be anything more. But I fell too hard for him, and I can't lie to myself any more. I love him, but I know that he will always care about you. So when all of this is over, we still have to talk about that!"

"There is nothing to talk about," Demona growled as she shoved Elisa away from her, causing the human to sprawl ungracefully on the floor. She turned away from the dark skinned woman, trying to reign in her temper and emotions. "Goliath and I are through, and nothing will ever change that. His world revolves around you, and you are a fool if you throw that away, because trust me Detective, it is very rare to find that kind of love and devotion on this world.

She was angry with herself for starting this painful line of conversation. She was angry with Elisa for turning Goliath's love away over some stupid notion. But most of all, she was angry that she was even admitting these things to this human of all people. "Leave."

Elisa was hard-pressed not to let a groan escape her as she slowly got up from the floor. She saw Demona's wing's trembling and realized this conversation had traveled too far into a territory that neither of them wanted to deal with. When she was told to leave, she did not argue. Simply straightened her jacket, and walked back towards the door to let herself out.

Just before she closed the door, she paused and look back at Demona one last time. "I will not fail them…or you," she swore determinedly, and then she left.


Castle Wyvern

An hour later…

The Clan was just finishing up breakfast when Elisa came into the dining room. Brooklyn was the first to see her as she entered.

"Hey Elisa," he greeted with a smile. The smile disappeared as he took in her haggard appearance. The Clan hadn't seen her in a couple of weeks, and she looked like hell. He commented as much.

"Thanks Brook," Elisa retorted wryly as she slumped into a chair near Angela, but several seats away from Goliath who was watching her quietly.

Broadway was immediately serving her a plateful of food. "You need to eat young lady," he commanded as he set the plate in front of her.

Elisa was about to protest, when her stomach loudly reminded her that she hadn't eaten since early that afternoon. With a sheepish chuckle, she dug into the food, and looked over at Hudson. "So how's the rehab coming Hudson?"

"Nearly me ol' self lass," the older gargoyle told her with a pleased smile. He knew how hard Elisa had taken his injury and near death. She more than anyone else had felt responsible, and he had made it a point to reassure her every chance he got, that he would be fine. "But it's been like learning how to glide all over again. Gave everyone hear a few good laughs the other night as I practiced my landings."

"Yeah?"

"Not quite as graceful as I used to be," the elder admitted with a chuckle.

"Yeah but your last few landings last night were nearly perfect Hudson. And we've worked out all the bugs in the neural link," Lex commented.

"Aye, it's amazing. Ye've really outdone yuirself this time lad," Hudson praised the smaller gargoyle.

"So um, do you feel things with the new leg?" Elisa asked hesitantly as she looked at the new cybernetic limb Hudson had been fitted with. This was really the first time they had even discussed the prosthetic since he had received it.

"I have sensations in that I can tell if something is touching it, or for example I can feel the ground under my foot. But there be no sensation such as cold or heat or pain."

"Huh. That is pretty amazing."

"So what brings you by tonight Elisa?" Brooklyn asked. He could sense the tension between Goliath and Elisa, and knew she wouldn't have been here unless something was up. He wished they would make up already.

Elisa took a few more healthy bites of her food, and then pushed her plate back with a grateful smile to Broadway. "Wonderful as always Broadway, thanks for taking care of me," she said with a fond smile that made the portly gargoyle blush. Then she looked at each of the Clan, her gaze finally resting on Goliath.

"I've gotten a break in the case," she announced quietly.

"Really? That's awesome!" Lex declared.

Elisa managed a weak smile. The hope everyone began to show quickly died as they realized it wasn't good news. "What is it Elisa?" Goliath finally asked, speaking for the first time since she had entered.

So she told them. She watched their faces go from shock to grim as she told them everything Dracon had told her. She told them of the numbers, of the pattern- which she hadn't completely revealed to Goliath before when she had asked him to cut back on patrols-, and of her plans to head to New Gotham the next day to track down the source of the guns before they were shipped.

"I believe you guys are the primary target for these weapons, which is why I asked for you to cut back on patrols," she said, too tired to conceal the frustration in her voice.

"Why didn't you simply tell me that?" Goliath countered, his own voice deepening with tension.

"Because if I had, then you would have stepped up your patrols, putting yourself out there as live bait to try and flush them out before more people had been killed by these damn guns," Elisa answered tightly.

"If we are the reason innocent people are losing their lives, then it is our duty to do what it takes to capture these weapons- even if it means risking our lives in the process."

"Look, I've been doing this job long enough to know that unless we caught who was behind this whole thing, that even if we did flush out the guns, more would be on the streets within weeks! We have to stop this machine at the source Goliath, or any sacrifices you make will be in vain. For god's sake, Hudson was nearly killed trying to take out just one of those guns and there are five thousand on their way to this city in two weeks!" she shouted at him as she slammed her hand on the table and stood up from her chair, her angry gaze boring into his.

The surprise, hurt, and concern finally deflated her anger and she sighed heavily as she closed her eyes. "God damn it, I am not going to have this fight again Goliath. We have too much else to worry about right now," she said quietly as she sank back into her chair, rubbing eyes that felt like sandpaper.

"Elisa, lass. What happened to me is no one's fault," Hudson said quietly as he reached over to rest a hand on her arm.

"These guns are going to be used to wipe this Clan out and hold this city hostage. I will not let that happen," Elisa told them firmly as a look of complete resolve hardened her face. "This operation is too big for me to handle alone, and Quinn has far too many moles and contacts inside the department for a bunch of people to know what's going on. Right now, the only people who know about this are Matt and the Captain. They will discreetly be building a team of cops they know are clean for the raid. I have a contact in New Gotham that I am told I can trust, but I'd rather take one or two of you as backup."

"I have a score to settle with these people so ye can count me in lass," Hudson said instantly.

Elisa blinked, and looked up at him, skeptical. The elder gargoyle chuckled. "I may not have the best landings yet lass, but the doctors released me for full activity a week ago. I promise ye I won't be a hindrance to yuir investigation."

The rest of the Clan quietly looked at each other, all of them clearly willing to volunteer, but deferring to Goliath who looked uncomfortable under their expectant gazes. Had the situation not been so serious, Brooklyn might have chuckled at how the small human could intimidate their massive Leader into such an uncomfortable silence. Finally he gave Goliath a poke under the table with his tail and after jumping slightly, Goliath announced he would go as well.

Elisa nodded, and then stood. "I'm exhausted, and I still need to talk to Xanatos."

"Why Xanatos?" Angela asked curiously.

"Because this fight is too big to go into undermanned, and too important to lose. We are going to need every resource we can call on, and we can't afford a leak. So I should tell all you of you right now, we're going to be working with a few people that makes me cringe, but we have no choice."

"You never said who your source was," Broadway commented.

"Tony Dracon. Now if you'll all excuse me I have to make some final preparations before I head home for a couple of hours of sleep."

With that she left, leaving the Clan to look at each other in shock and then at Goliath. The Clan Leader sighed, rubbed his temple, which was beginning to throb, and finally spoke. "In lieu of what Elisa just told us I want everyone to double up for patrols."

"Goliath, Elisa has a point," Brooklyn finally said quietly, but resolutely. "If we get ourselves killed now, then we aren't going to be of any use when it comes time to take down this entire operation."

The two shared a long tense look, before Goliath finally relented somewhat. "We cannot turn our backs on this city right now, but you are right, we only put more lives in danger with our presence. I will suspend our patrols. However, while Hudson and I are gone, the four of you will take turns monitoring the police scanners. If a critical situation arises, I expect you to do whatever you can to aid."

Brooklyn nodded. "That sounds reasonable. Listen do you have a few minutes that we could talk?"

Goliath nodded and after instructing Lex to set up scanners in all the areas where the Clan normally relaxed, he and Brooklyn headed up towards the castle courtyard. The night was fairly quiet, the frigid temperatures driving most residents inside. Both gargoyles stood looking out over the city silently for several long peaceful minutes before Brooklyn finally spoke.

"You really need to apologize to her Goliath," he told his Clan Leader respectfully. It had taken him two weeks and a lot of pressuring from the rest of the Clan to build up the nerve to say this. But given the situation they were now faced with and the time constraints they were up against, he knew Goliath and Elisa needed to be at the top of their game. They couldn't afford to be distracted by their personal issues with each other.

He felt Goliath stiffen next to him, and after a tense moment passed, both gargoyles relaxed as Goliath let out a weary sigh. "I know," he admitted softly. "It's just…no one has ever questioned my decisions or vexed me so much as she has. At least none that bothered me as much."

Brooklyn chuckled dryly. "That's because you love her, and you've never dealt with someone as strong-willed as her. You met your match in Elisa. What she lacks in physical strength, she more than makes up for in every other way possible."

"Many times, I see her as far stronger than myself, and it frightens me. We have come to rely heavily on her to protect us, and I fear that one day it will cost Elisa her life."

"Goliath, she's a cop," Brooklyn pointed out. "Elisa goes out there night after night, putting her life on the line for every person in this city- just like we do. Yeah, she isn't forced into a stone sleep like we are, so she can go a lot longer if need be. But she has her weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well. Right now, this rift between you and her is a big vulnerability. If even half of what Dracon said is true, then we're all in for the fight of our lives. And you know how dangerous this undercover job up there could be."

Goliath shook his head. "Perhaps I should let you or Angela go in my place."

"That's not what I'm saying Goliath. You need to be there with her. But you guys need to clear the air before you go. Maybe this'll be good for you two, give you a little breathing room from this city and all of us," he said hopefully. "Just talk to her tonight."

"I will my friend. Tell the rest of the Clan not to disturb me unless it is an emergency. I'll be back a couple of hours before dawn so we can finalize preparations."

"No problem. I'm going to go down and help Lex set up the scanners."

"And Brooklyn?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."


Xanatos' Office

David Xanatos sat behind his desk, trying very hard not to smirk. Obviously, he wasn't being quite as successful as he was hoping because he could see Elisa's patience was quickly wearing thin. And that was something she already had in short order lately.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "But surely even you have to see the irony in all of this."

Elisa sighed, slumped back into the couch and shook her head as she finally chuckled tiredly. "Yeah I do. The Captain is going to have a coronary when she finds out just whom exactly my trusted 'resources' are. And Derek…." Elisa groaned when she thought about that.

"Well, why don't we cross that bridge when we come to it," Xanatos said wisely. "You of course will have my full cooperation and every one of my resources at your disposal. These guns are a menace to this city, and Quinn is lunatic enough to not care about how many innocent people may be killed once they hit the

streets."

"I still can't believe she's able to run an operation like this from inside someplace like Arkham," Elisa said resentfully.

"Speaking from experience," he told her wryly, "there is no way she could be doing this on her own. She has to have connections to the outside, and given the scale of this operation, she probably has a small army of her own still working away under whoever is running things for her right now. You are wise in taking Goliath and Hudson with you in case your hand is forced while you are up there."

Elisa didn't make any comment, but just nodded curtly before moving on. "Do you think you can arrange for some transportation, and perhaps someplace safe to stay? As lead investigator on this case, I'm sure all my accounts and so forth are under watch, and the department can't fund any of this because no one knows about my little trip up there."

"Certainly. Fox can fly the three of you in there tomorrow evening as soon as the Clan awakens. Owen can select a suitable place for all of you to stay and still maintain a low profile. Will you be needing an alter alias while you are there?"

Elisa arched an eyebrow. Xanatos spread his hands open. "Detective, you know I'm a man of many means. I can only give you my word I have not done anything over the last few years simply for the sake of committing a crime or in pursuit of selfish wants. If I have bent a few rules here and there it has always been to accomplish a greater means and for the benefit of others."

Elisa snorted. "I must be really, REALLY tired because I actually believe you. Thank you for the offer, but no. I plan on maintaining a very low profile. As far as anyone else knows, I was just put on administrative leave because I got into it with the Captain over this case. Officially, I have just been pulled from it, and Matt will keep plugging away at it slowly here while I disappear for a couple of weeks."

"And this won't seem too suspicious to anyone who might be on the inside at the Precinct?"

Elisa shook her head. "Sadly, everyone knows how obsessed I've become over this case, and how irritated the Captain has been with me lately. One of Derek's most trusted guards down in the tunnels volunteered to be a fake informant. I hauled him in for 'questioning' this afternoon, went nuts and roughed him up a bit, and then was hauled physically out of the interrogation room by Matt and Chavez and read the riot act loud enough for everyone to hear before being suspended without pay for two weeks."

Elisa smirked slightly. "Was the most fun I've had in weeks. Tim…the 'informant', was all for playing along with this thing to the tee and told me to go ahead and hit him. Those people are scared to death down there for their families, and he was more than happy to play whatever part he could in helping this investigation along. But with the whole house knowing I've just been suspended and kicked off the case, no one is expecting to see or hear from me for a couple of weeks."

Xanatos grinned, appreciative of the cunning. "Not bad for a couple of hour's work this afternoon. You know, Derek may not want to have anything to do with me but we should consider the tunnel dwellers and the Mutates as potential back-up if need be. Derek is probably sitting on a veritable army himself."

"He's my brother and I know if it comes down to it, he won't turn his back on me," Elisa admitted. "But like you said…let's cross that bridge when we come to it."

"Absolutely. Well," he looked down at a screen on his desk and smirked. "I think we've let Goliath pace outside my office long enough, and you look like you could use some rest before you head out tomorrow evening. Why don't you stay here for the night? I can have Owen drive you to your place tomorrow to pick up whatever you need before sunset."

Elisa began to protest, but realized that Goliath obviously wanted to talk and it probably wasn't going to be a short conversation. She really was too exhausted to be driving safely, so she nodded her thanks. As she stood, she paused before she got to the door. Looking at it, she glanced back at the billionaire. "How soundproof is this thing?"

"Not even they can hear through it."

"I went and saw Demona today," she informed him, smirking when his eyebrows crept upwards in surprise. "Let's just say I made sure to take care of some things on the home-front before I left. But I think if it comes to it, she will be another resource we can call on."

"Are you sure she can be trusted? Some of her business actions have been pretty aggressive as of late."

Elisa chuckled. "Just because she's giving you a run for your money Xanatos, doesn't mean she isn't trustworthy. In fact I kinda like that she's around to keep you from getting too damn smug. But her daughter's life is at stake here and she will do whatever it takes to see that Angela and the rest of the Clan are kept safe."

"She has seemed to develop a soft spot for her daughter these last few years," Xanatos admitted.

"Angela is all she has left in this world that brings her true happiness. It's the one thing that has finally showed Demona there's more to life than revenge and hate. She's probably become more vicious in the corporate world to make up for the lack of physical violence she's been prone to all these centuries. Frankly, I don't care what helps her to take its place, so long as she's not trying to wipe out humanity or me."

"You make a very good argument," he laughed. "I will have Owen see to it that you're usual quarters are prepared."

Elisa waved at him. "Come on Xanatos, this is me here. The room is always ready, and I'm sure if I need something one of the Clan can help me out and I've two legs as well. Just tell him not to let me sleep past noon."

"Certainly."

Elisa exited the room, and looked expectantly up to the massive gargoyle that had stopped pacing outside the office door. "Elisa," he greeted quietly. The contrite look in his eyes, and the droop in his wings broke through her irritation at him, and she managed a weak smile.

"Come on Big Guy," she told him softly as she quirked her head down the hall. "I know we need to talk, but I need to get off my feet."

The Clan Leader simply nodded and followed her back towards the room she stayed in occasionally.

"You are staying the night?" he asked hopefully. It had been many months since she had last stayed over.

"I'm too tired to drive anywhere safely right now," she confessed.

Goliath immediately went over to the massive fireplace and quickly brought it to life as she dropped onto the massive fur rug in front of it and began pulling off her heavy work boots with a grateful groan.

He knelt in front of her, gently taking her foot in his hand and aiding her with her second boot, tenderly rubbing her acing foot with a talon. "God that feels so good right now. I haven't had these damn things off in almost a day," she sighed as she lay back on the rug, and allowed him show some attention to her battered feet.

He noticed with some dismay, that her long shifts had begun to break down the skin on her feet in places, small blisters marring her feet in several spots. Mindful of those tender spots he massaged the knots out of her feet and then fetched a basin of warm water and bath salts for her to soak in while she lay on the rug.

"Elisa…I'm sorry," he said finally as his eyes sought out hers.

She reached out a hand. "I know Big Guy. But it scares me so much to think that I could lose you...that I could lose all of you. I couldn't live with myself if that happened Goliath," she told him fervently. "I don't want to fight with you anymore, and I'm sorry if I've been so distant with you this last year…it's…it's just every time we start to get close…" she faltered, frustrated with the way things had been going in her life the last few years.

"I know," he replied, his talon tracing small patterns on her palm. "And I don't want to fight either Elisa. I want things to go back to the way they were."

"You mean… just be friends again?" she asked, torn between hope and dismay.

"No Elisa…after that," he told her firmly. "You were right. A part of me will always love Demona, but it is you that I think about every waking minute of every night. I miss the quiet nights when we would read to each other in the library, or when we would simply sit on your balcony and talk."

He reached out to cup her face gently with one hand. "I miss you Elisa Maza."

Tears sprang to her eyes, as her heart and her mind battled. "I want this to work out Goliath…but every time…every time we start to get close, something happens. And then I begin to wonder if maybe this is Fate telling us that we should just go back to being friends."

"Fate brought us together. It is everyone else that seems to be conspiring against us," he said with a wry grin.

She couldn't help but chuckle at that smile. It was so rare for either of them to smile lately. "If I promise not to challenge you so much, will you promise to at least give my suggestions consideration before you make a decision."

"I already have," he told her. "The Clan will suspend patrols while we are gone, but they will keep an ear on the police scanners in case something big comes up and their assistance might be needed."

Her sigh of immense relief made the tough decision worthwhile. "Thank you," she told him gratefully.

They spent the next several minutes enjoying the quiet company of the other and staring into the fire. "I want things to go back to the way they were too," she admitted finally. "But there's too much in front of us right now. This case has to take precedence over everything, because if we don't stop that shipment, there will be no lives to come back to."

"When this is all over, I promise that you and I will take a vacation somewhere warm and quiet. Just the two of us, where we will have all the time in the world to decide where things will go from there," he swore to her tenderly.

She quirked in eyebrow. "Yeah?"

"Wherever you want."

She grinned. "I am so there."

He matched her gin and then chuckled as her jaw popped from a massive yawn. He lifted her up into his arms, and moved towards the bed.

"Nuh-uh…I need a bath first and I can't sleep on those expensive sheets in these grubby clothes."

"Let's go run you a bath then."

He carried her into the massive bathroom, started filling the tub with hot water, dumped in plenty of soap and salts and with a kiss to her head, left her to undress and slip into the bubbled water. He knocked quietly on the door after he heard her get into the tub, several minutes later.

"Yeah?"

"Is it okay to come in?" he asked hesitantly. "I brought you some suitable sleepwear."

Elisa smirked. Likely excuse she laughed to herself. "Yeah it's okay Big Guy. Got enough of a bubble blanket happening here to last me another hour at least."

He entered cautiously, his gaze somewhat averted, and set the clothes on the counter near the towel rack. He was about to retreat when she stopped him. "So how have things been with the Clan these last few weeks?" she asked with her eyes closed as she rested in the soothing water.

Goliath hesitated and then sat on the edge of the steps that led up to the massive tub. They talked quietly for the next hour, Elisa reheating her water twice as the aches slowly began to subside in her body. When she was thoroughly pruned, and the bubbles were quickly beginning to dissipate beyond redemption, Goliath exited into the main room while she dried off and dressed in the comfy sweats he had dug up from somewhere- Fox most likely.

Crawling into bed, she pulled the covers up and then looked up at Goliath. With a tender smile, she patted the bed next to her. "Stay with me for a little while? At least until I drift off to sleep?"

The look of pure love and adoration in his eyes made all of her worries and doubts fade away. For just this night, they could pretend things were like they used to be and enjoy the quiet company of the other. He carefully crawled onto the bed, curled his body up against hers, and held her gently with arm and wing as she quickly dropped off into the first restful sleep she had gotten in months.