59 - "Of Things To Come"
Originally Written: June 3rd, 2001

Contains: Profanity
Rated: PG-13

October 12th, 2001
"Trust me on this one, you wish to keep the appetizers as a separate serving, then the main course can be served immediately afterwards, which allows time for all the speeches that I know are going to come. Then the cake can be served."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Knowing father, and the fact you chose him to escort you down the aisle, and the fact he is the clan leader, I foresee a very longwinded address to the attendance. And the guests will want to eat right after such a long ceremony and before he gets started, especially those winged." said Angela, passing discreetly a wink towards her dawn-tinted companion, knowing Annika was thinking of the same individual, sitting not too far away from them. The gargesses both clicked dark eyes toward the opposing couch, sapphire wine and a deep ebony crystal catching upon a deep-set aquamarine hide.

Broadway was engaged elsewhere, his talons running playfully along Trinity's golden wings, her chocolate sails flittering with each forced chortle, as her uncle ravaged upon her tiny form with his talons, merciless in his attack and inflamed further by her screeching laughter. But sensing the conversation, that which had been picked up in only small portions when Trinity was able to escape from him, he looked up and peered from underneath a large, brutish brow. "What?" he demanded almost, seeing two curved smiles returning an answer without so much as a word. "What?!"

"Nothing, love." jested Angela, innocently swathing through the wedding dining brochure once more, as Annika merely shrugged her shoulders.

"Hey, I've lost weight!" he defended himself in a resounding growl, resting the raven-haired hybrid on his shoulders, and balancing her light weight with steady hands.

"Yeah," came a quick raillery with such a brilliantly crafted inflection as to immediately guess as to whose, "but only from your head." Todd had entered through the media room door, and quickly strode to the couch with a musical chorus of his car keys twisting around his index finger, where Broadway had set upon him a glare of death. "But those ears are still as big as ever..."

"Watch it, pal," Broadway warned playfully, clenching a fist directly in view of Todd's cocked eyebrow, "or you'll be eating those keys of yours."

"Well, if there's anyone here who knows what sauces go best with metal and plastic, that's you, pal." He moved on, with Trinity giggling at her uncle's misfortune until she fell prey once more to his roving claws, moving up underneath her shirt to dance upon her stomach and sensitive sides. Todd hunched over the smaller couch where Angela and Annika were buried in the midst of more bridal magazines, Fox having stormed the bookstore when the newest shipment arrived earlier that day. "Jeez, are you ladies still at it?"

"Well, we're just working out some of the...finer points..." Annika replied, smiling pleasantly to Angela.

Todd found the warmth contained within the grin passed before his eyes, where only a few days ago, lay a hostility which had almost escalated into physical violence. He was contented they had mended what brought his fiancé so much happiness, and even seemed closer than before, perhaps both having been witness to a side of each other neither wanted discovered. "Yah, well...don't burn yourself out, huh, 'cause I still need a bride in a few months..." Todd deliberately fell over the overstuffed cushion and seized upon her lips with his own, much to her surprise, but she swiftly responded in kind. "Well, gotta go, gorgeous, I'm...booo-ooombed." he said, the latter part of his sentence lost to a ferocious yawn, having returned from another painting contract a few hours earlier

"Are you going straight home?" she asked of him, and instantly found the gentle curve of his lips flatten out.

"Actually," he started, sheepishly avoiding her glimmering gaze, "I thought I would make...a quick detour to...Destine Manor."

The entire room came to a standstill, even Angela, who merely buried her face in a magazine when seeing Annika's expression contort almost unnoticeably, as if she had caught herself and rectified the scowl before it could form. "Walk with me, Mr. Hawkins." she whispered, rising from the couch and forcing her way past her fiancé.

Todd followed behind, and only encountered the gargess near the far end of the media room, near the last pool table, hopefully out of earshot of the others. "Look," Todd laid out the facts before she could begin the verbal barrage he thought would come, "I know what you're going to say..."

"Do you?" she cut in, crossing her arms and standing defiantly.

"Well, I know you two aren't on the best of terms right now..."

"I wonder why." she quipped, and Todd lowered his offered hands to his side, defeated before he even had his chance. "Listen," she relented the anger in her voice to understanding and ocean calm, "I am well aware you consider her a friend, even after everything that's passed between you, and us, but you have to understand where I'm coming from as well. She hurt me, and you don't seem to get just how much."

"Are you...still that angry with me as well?" he inquired cautiously, hoping for the honest truth, but fearful of just what that could be.

"I think, handsome, there's a small part of me that's always going to be angry with you." She crept closer, and graced his hands with the flowing cream of her rose-colored skin, gliding her talons along his arms, leaving a trail of gooseflesh in their enchanting caress. "But there's also a very large part, that loves you, and knows you made a mistake. And if you feel you have to speak with her, than ultimately, it's your choice."

"I...have to." Todd sighed, with a sense of urgency wafting upon his anxious tone. "I can't leave this hanging over our heads. I haven't seen her in weeks, and...I've already lost another I cared about..."

"Rose." Annika finished for him, a subject, a single word that brought him pain. "Todd, whatever her reasons for refusing to come, you know she still loves you."

"I'm not so sure anymore..."

"You don't mean that." She grasped his shoulders, and pulled him close, forehead to forehead, their breaths coalescing, a swirl of mint chewing gum and vanilla spice collecting into a singular, sweetened aroma. "You have to do what you feel, Todd. What your heart tells you. And if that means fixing what you had with Demona, then I won't stand in your way. But you know...that I can't just let go that easily. It may be a long time before...I can trust her again."

"I know..." he whispered coarsely, the steel-edged tines of his own guilt grating against his vocal cords. "I know I hurt you, I know I betrayed your trust as well, and I...I'm lucky to have someone like you. I'm glad you took me back..."

"Took you back?" She seemed confused by the hushed utterance. "Who says I ever lost you in the first place?"

"Well, I just thought...you know..."

"I 'took you back', as you say, because I love you. I could have remained angry, I could have destroyed our relationship because you did that, but I chose to look at the bigger picture, and I knew, when looking into your eyes at that moment, that you truly made a mistake. I'm not stupid enough to wipe away what we have built for so long, since the day I escaped from my father." She found the smile having been coaxed from his stubbornly frowning lips, and then ever so slowly, the crystalline ash of his eyes floated upwards, until they touched softly with her own.

"How did I get so damned lucky to find you?" he quipped.

"You've just got the fool's luck...I guess." She leaned back, and straightened out. "You'd...better get going..."

"Yeah."

"And Todd?" She grabbed forcefully against his arm and pressed the stunned human against her ample, buoyant chest. "A little something to remember me by, the next time you decide to do something stupid..." She drove her tongue between his lips, savaging her mouth against his own and nearly suckling the life from his body. Her arms curled around his neck, the talons clenched into his thick, chestnut hair, ensuring of her prey and his entrapment in her rigid grasp. Several minutes later, and as Todd's skin burned with the sheer passion exuding from his gargoyle lover's pores, she released him, and without her braced form to lean on, Todd fell to the ground, babbling and mumbling incoherently. She leaned down, to see her fiancé struggling to breathe, and scooped a single finger beneath his chin to lift his eyes to her beaming face. "Have a good night, lover."

Annika sauntered off, hips cocked and swaying seductively, passing a laughing Broadway, and a hysterical Angela, the gargoyles alive with the highest spirits in seeing their human friend slowly crawl his way towards the door, his entire nervous system shutting down from the passionate kiss, and clamber from the room.

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

Great claps of thunder impacted upon the dojo walls, an echo that shook the very foundation of the Eyrie building to it's riveted core, deep beneath the cement lined pathways of Manhattan island. And yet, no clouds had gathered, no storm was venting it's mighty rage against the cornices of castle Wyvern. Buried within Xanatos' skyscraper on the highest floors, was the massive workout room where he and his wife often frequented, to unleash their skills, and ward off boredom and fatigue induced by running two of the largest multi-national companies in the world.

And in the corner, where a specially constructed apparatus had been built for one of the newest residents of clan Wyvern, came the roaring reverberation, and that which caused flowing ripples in the padded barriers, rising up onto the slanted roof. Shadow released all his power and strength into the punching bag, lined with ten layers of thick, coarse leather, wrapped around industrial strength foam padding. But even the steel cable, clamps and bolts securely holding this bag to the roof and floor were giving way under the mighty power forced from the ninja's fists, impacting against the leather, and if seen in slow motion, he who would witness every blow would see the bag cave in on itself, seconds away from splitting all the layers right through.

The dark warrior's hands and arms were nothing but a blur, the movement perhaps only discernible when breached by a swirl of surrounding dust, the glittering specks captured by the artificial light cast down from above. His eyes were focused only on his target, the punching bag, it's cables straining to their limits to allow him the time to vent his anger and continue forging his already impressive skills.

"Focus..." he whispered through clenched teeth. "Focus." A rhythm ensued, a dance of his fists in perfectly timed thrusts with his breathing, weaving and threading through with the power of lightning, and a determined grace of the gentlest wind. But even in the heated practice came his indecision, his fears and doubts given substance following recent events. That of losing control once more, and possibly, hurting someone he loved with the incredible power at his command. He increased his ferocity, and lost himself in the thunder, the fierce beating of his heart, becoming a beaten drum that tempted his warrior instinct with it's seducing cadence.

The ceiling was cracking, losing it's hold on the steel cable once secured to the mooring. Shadow never paid any heed to the fine powder falling from where the wood was beginning to splinter. His eyes burst and cracked open with a dark cerulean glow that gave away his swelling anger. He increased his intensity, and with a final blow, drove his hand into dead center of the leather surface, tearing the material and breaking the bag from both of it's cables, sending the tattered ruins against the nearest wall with a cloud of dust and foam particles left to spray wildly, and soon settle to the floor.

Shadow cleared his lungs with fire, erupting from his throat in a guttural, animal growl that filled the entire dojo, and near high enough to send cracks racing through the small windows near the ceiling. His anger reigned over his physical form, his spirit lost to a rage unparalleled, and perhaps never before encountered. He wanted so the fight to never end, to forever live in the moment of battle, the delicious heat of bodies intertwined in a deadly clash and the pungent aroma of spilled blood.

His eyes saw nothing but a deep crimson haze, much like that of the carnage born from his very hands in Egypt several days before. And the fact he enjoyed tearing their bodies apart, and depriving them of their lives, frightened him, so much so as to startle him back into a conscious state. "No..." He staggered back, forced to relive the blood and entrails covering his talons. "I cannot use such power...ever again...but...it felt so good..."

The dark warrior stepped slowly backwards from the remnants of his punching bag, seemingly confused in his direction. "Grandfather," a silent plea to a caretaker passed, "I need your guidance. I am...lost..." His clenched fists guided across a furrowed brow, kneading the tension tightening the skin. He soon scraped the talons down his face, releasing a saddened cast veiled in the darkest features, his aggressively handsome appearance almost lost. "I fear I am...losing control..."

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

She bore witness to perhaps one of the most powerful men since her father, seemingly collapse in on himself, and confess his pain to unseen spirits. With a light stroke through her platinum ivory hair, the same curved and flowing style similar to Elisa's, but out of control as if Demona's own wild tress had possessed her, Delilah cleared away the suspended, floating strands from her eyes.

She had remained by the door frame, just outside the dojo, and having watched Shadow for almost an hour, pounding away at his target relentlessly, as if inhabited by the undead, a singular obsessive action which showed clearly her lover's pain and confusion. For days, ever since he had returned with the others from Egypt, the dark warrior had been more withdrawn than usual, meditating and training compulsively, filling his nights with a quest to perfect himself of both body and mind. And it scared her. For what she could coax from both him and Goliath, the destruction of the Pack at his hands, and the condition they were found in by the lavender giant, was so unlike her Japanese paramour. This sweet, gentle, soulful man whom always cared for her unconditionally, and yet, now seemed a different person.

She continued watching from the deepest hollows, her own skills learned from the ninja aiding in keeping her presence hidden. And possibly, his own torment had dampened his perceptions, and that of his environment. And as he slowly wandered from her sight, she sighed, desperately wanting to help him, as he had done for her so many times in the past, yet unsure of just how to approach him, and unaware of what exactly happened to him beneath the searing dunes of the far East.

As Shadow at last disappeared from the dojo, Delilah timidly moved forwards, approaching the remains of the punching bag left destroyed in the corner. Her slender fingers trailed the rifts in the torn material, almost feeling the power released by her lover radiate in warm, caressing waves. "Oh, Shadow," she whispered, irritated in her uselessness, in being unable to help the man she loved, "what happened to you? What are you holding inside of yourself...that causes you so much pain?"

"One can only wonder, daughter..."

Delilah looked up at the resounding thrust of a deep articulation towards her, and found a massive lavender shadow cast over her bronzed form. Goliath looked down on her with thinned eyes, yet not enough to keep his emotions from escaping a guarded demeanor. "Goliath. Were you...watching too?"

"Yes." he answered gravely, kneeling down beside his adoptive daughter, and moving a large hand to mimic her movements along the lacerated leather covering, eventually reaching her own, and passing to her a reassuring squeeze. "I too, am worried about his behavior. What I saw in Egypt...leads me to believe he has a greater power than anyone ever thought, and perhaps not yet the mastery to keep it completely under control."

"He's not like this..." she begged to him. "He's...not a merciless killer."

"Delilah..." Goliath cut through, aware of her love for him, and yet unable to shake his foremost thoughts of the massacre in Sobek's lair, professedly come from Shadow's own hands.

"No! He's...not a killer. He did what he had to, to save us, to keep us safe from the Pack. They would have killed him, and any one of us..." she trailed off, still apparently trying to convince herself.

"I know, but even the best of us can lose control at some point, when faced with such a choice." Goliath stood, and with a gentle tug, Delilah was coerced from the floor. "I respect Shadow, and trust him now...with my life, having been friends with him for more than a year, and his defense and protection of our family has gone beyond the call of duty. He has become a valued part of our clan. But each of us has to deal with a side of ourselves we do not like, and there is so much we still don't know about him...or what he is capable of..."

"He is capable of love, understanding, tenderness and passion..."

"And the ability to kill without a second thought."

"And sometimes, so do you. Remember Thailog?"

Goliath lost what smile had graced his lips to a steeled glare. "True enough. I have made the hard choice of taking lives as well. But not without losing a piece of myself every time, and never like this..."

Delilah avoided Goliath's burning eyes, unwilling to believe her lover was a mere killing machine, devoid of any life. "Then what can I do?" she pleaded. "How can I help him?"

"Be with him. Let him know you are there to help him, as he has been there to help you." He felt her slender form lean into him, resting against his mighty chest, and the rippling muscle contained therein. "Don't allow him to think he is alone. He is part of a family now. And if there is anyone who can help him in whatever I believe may be troubling him...it is you. The woman he loves."

"Thank you, Goliath."

He smiled softly, and soon left her side to continue his way out the door, until Delilah formed a quirky expression, as if at last catching something she had not picked up on sooner.

"Goliath, wait..." She ran after him, and caught his arm, somehow stopping over seven hundred pounds with just a touch of copper grace. "Did you...call me daughter earlier?"

Goliath tilted his head to an odd angle, and raised a single, spurred ridge. "I suppose I did." he replied in a whisper, having now noticed his slip of the tongue, perhaps unintentional in his choice of words, but not of his true feelings for this clone of ivory hair.

"Oh. Just...wondering." She bowed her head, concealing the rising blush in her cheeks, set against a deep ochroid pallor. Her eyes turned up to see Goliath pass along an even larger smile, and winked at her, before moving from the room, leaving the young clone to discover whatever fears she once had, had effectively disappeared with her father's unmistakable love for her. "Thank you, father."

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

A journey of perfectly sculpted cement steps, leading up to an alcove afire with only a single overhead light, as if to lead all eyes to an ornamental gargoyle skull, bursting through the thick, burnished oak of the door, leaving the rest of the ornate trellis intentionally concealed in consuming yet rigidly defined shadows. Todd slowly traveled the series of steps, until coming face to face with the front door of Destine Manor. And with a steadying breath, he grabbed the brass ring looped through the gargoyle's mouth, and used the weathered metal knocker to rap upon the wood several times.

A silent pause ensued, with only the roaming drone of the city left to dance across the browning foliage of a fading Autumn season, a delicate hymn released by bare branches and falling leaves, and where the trees, once emerald jewels now sickly skeletons awaiting the fresh layer of snow to again reclaim their beauty. Todd became lost in the rhythm, until sternly brought back by the crackle of the intercom.

"Yes?"

"AAHHH!!! Jesus..." Todd gasped, clutching his chest upon hearing the abrupt answer to his summons, and being scared from his reverie of his pensive surroundings. "Demona...it's me...Todd. Todd Hawkins."

"I know." There was perchance a hint of sarcasm in the monotonousness. "The security camera, remember?"

"Der." he huffed. "Did I wake you?"

"No. What do you want...Mr. Hawkins?"

"I think...we need to talk, Demona." Todd answered, staring directly into the camera lens, seeing his distorted figure reflecting in the dark tinted glass.

"I don't believe we have anymore to discuss."

"Come on...we have to talk. I don't this left between us." Todd stepped in closer, the jagged shadows left to swath across his fair skin, allowing only his eyes to express an unsettled spirit, growing despondent with each and every day this was left to eat away at him. "Please...I don't want to lose anymore friends..."

"......come in."

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

Todd swept around the corner and peered into the living room, seeing Demona huddled in the corner of her loveseat, wrapped in a nightgown, hair tied back and her brow deprived of the golden tiara, she appeared not as the gargoyle warrior, but as someone desperately trying to find some sense of comfort, even in her own home. "Hey." he whispered, taking a few retiring steps in her direction.

"Todd." said Demona, her face bereft of any emotion. "You wish to...talk."

"Yeah, I thought...I...uh, how are you feeling?" he abruptly dodged the lingering question. "You know, ever since you got back..."

"Fine. My body has rid itself of the last remnants of the drugs, and...I am taking a few weeks off before going back to work after the end of October...to heal."

Todd nodded, playing compulsively with his hands, an action Demona noticed, as her tail as well was deceptively curling around the spiraled loveseat framework, and tapping relentlessly beneath her. "Uhm, did he...hurt you...badly?" he continued his attempt at fruitless smalltalk, though his chosen if not stuttered questions still carrying a concern for his friend.

"It wasn't enough to kill me." Another reply perhaps meant to conceal her pain, and appear to the man she still loved, as strong and unbending as the ageless warrior a millennium of battle had created.

"He didn't...you know..." Todd expressed himself silently, with only a gesture of his hands in an extremely suggestive movement to get his point across.

"I...truly don't know. A lot of that time was...somewhat of a blur. But I have taken a pregnancy test with Dr. Pierce, just in case. It turned up negative."

"Oh...that's good. That's good. I mean, the last thing we need is another Sobek. That would be kind of weird, having this little psycho running around, waving his plastic sword, eating the cat..."

"Todd," she quickly cut him off to spare further embarrassment with a tongue that sometimes would not quit, "you're rambling."

"Sorry. I'm...a little nervous."

"Whatever for?"

Todd tipped his chin forwards, peering at her incredulously, and annoyed she was treating this entire situation as if it never existed. "Gee, I don't know. For saying that you love me? For having a wicked brawl with Annika, and beating the crap out of each other? Does any of this ring a bell?!"

Demona lowered eyes reflective of an ocean of stars, and pulled the sewn edges of her terry cloth robe up from having slipped down around her shoulders, acting like she was cold, even though the entire manor was bathed in a radiant heat. "It's in the past. I am trying to get on with my life, and I suggest you do the same."

"So, you're just going to try and forget about this. You're going to sit there and tell me it never happened. That those three little words never came from your mouth."

Demona snapped her gaze back to him, and Todd swore to Heaven's eternal embrace he could feel two holes being seared through his clothing and into his chest. "Yes."

Todd drew back, rubbing a hand down his face. "You know that can't happen, without jeopardizing what we had..."

"We had nothing."

"Not true."

"Do you love me?"

"W-What?"

"Do you love me?" she repeated herself, this time her sultry diction brimming with bitter animosity.

Todd hesitated, unsure of how to express his own feelings. He did love her, but perhaps not in the way she so wanted of him. "That's one hell of a question..."

"Answer it."

"I love you...as a friend."

"And I love you, as something so much more. Therefore, it would be best for both of us to end our association now, before it brings us more pain."

"I don't want to. I still want you as a friend. I felt comfortable with you, I could tell you anything...go to you for advice..."

"Do you know how hard it was to urge you to ask another woman to marry you?!" she hissed, visibly heaving, her furled wings steadily unrolling themselves in her growing anger. "Do you have any idea how much it hurt seeing you propose to her?!"

"I...I don't know..."

"No. You do not! You have not lived a life such as mine, and I hope you never have to. I have fought for so long to be given a second chance, and I will not let anyone ruin what could be."

"And I refuse to lose a friend because she's too damned stubborn to realize that I can still be her friend." Todd yelled back, unaffected by her bared teeth and tensed, beleaguered mannerisms.

"No. Too much has come forth, for anything to be the same again."

"No shit!! And you sure as hell made sure of that!" Todd calmed himself, and tried to proceed with some semblance of poise. "I never said it would be the same, but it'll still be our friendship. That I value."

Demona shook her head, unwilling to have this conversation from continuing. "No. I don't want this friendship, the constant reminder of something I can't have, and perhaps will never find again."

"So, you're willing to throw it all away?"

"I am willing to end this here and now, so we may both move on!" Demona stood up, wandering to the windows where lay the barren sky, marked with passing drifts of deep milky clouds. "You are getting married in a few months, and have a woman to love and be with your entire life. I turned down Angela's invitation to the wedding for a very good reason. You were all right, I acted selfishly, in trying to ruin your relationship, and I believe...it's best for us both...to simply part ways."

"I don't." Todd countered grimly, standing before the silhouetted gargoyle with gritted determination. "I won't let you go so easily..."

"Then you force me to try even harder to get you to leave this manor, and forget I even existed." the winged shadow answered, breached by the faint glow of crimson fire. "Please...leave, Todd. Please, just...just leave me alone..."

"Fat chance, lady."

"Leave."

"No."

Demona slowly craned her neck to peer over her shoulder, to look past her trembling wing membrane, and see the obstinate young man glide even closer, and damn him for his limitless resolve and handsome features. "Why do you insist on doing this? On torturing me constantly?"

"Because I'm just as fucking stubborn as you are." Todd snapped, still steadily moving closer. "And I don't intend on giving up just yet..."

"Then you will truly regret ever coming here this night."

"Why? You going to kill me? Just wipe out anything that presents a problem to you, without dealing with it head on? Seems to me like you haven't changed a bit from the killer you used to be." His words were as if biting flame nipping at Demona's flawless azure hide, yet Todd had a definite stratagem in mind, having played the same trick on Annika some weeks ago. "A coward. A scared little kid, who hides in her mansion, and refuses to deal with real life..."

"REAL LIFE HAS GIVEN ME A THOUSAND YEARS OF TORMENT!!!" she screamed rabidly, tearing around and stalking towards the wide-eyes young man, he perhaps thinking in this very moment that he should not have pushed her so far. "I try and try so very hard to pay for my crimes, and then I am constantly attacked, spit on, looked down upon, shoved aside by a man I have grown to love, and then abused, beaten and raped by a psychotic!! Do you have any idea how difficult it is to deal with this pain?!! DO YOU?!!!" She continued walking forwards, growing ever closer to an extremely worried Todd. "You can't imagine what I feel!! Can't imagine what my life is like!! Tell me, Mr. Hawkins, tell me how to deal with pain so great, that it's enough sometimes to want to take my own life! I...I am trying so hard, to go on, and I can't deal with you...or Sobek...or anyone else anymore...who continually hurt me..." Demona's scarlet glow was at last broken by her tears, and she faltered, on the verge of collapsing, until Todd lept forwards and stole her loose form into his arms, allowing the gargess to sob relentlessly into his shoulder.

"It's okay. I'm here..."

Through her muffled cries, came a garbled response, "I was...so frightened...when in Sobek's lair, that I would die...without ever seeing my daughter again. Or my friends. Then he broke me, twisted my pain, my very thoughts...turned me into his queen...raped me..."

"It's okay, it's over now. They beat him. And they'll do it again if they have to."

"I have nightmares, of what he did to me. For I have never been...so very scared of dying..."

"It's called," Todd moved her back slightly, so they could lock eyes upon each other, "being mortal."

Demona shamefully wiped her tears away, the crystalline droplets fluttering from her fingers and glistening in the moonlight, a sign of weakness that betrayed her brutal exterior. "Does being mortal...include having your love turned away?"

Todd winced, unsure of how to answer. "Sometimes. But I never meant to hurt you. I love Annika more than anything. Maybe...maybe in another world...I-I could have loved you like you wanted. But in this world, I have Annika. In this world, we can't be any more than friends, and it's up to you to ensure we stay as friends..."

"Are you sure?" she whispered, leaning in close, her warm breaths crossing his cheek and passing along his lips with the calming embrace of the Summer winds.

Todd leaned in as well, and just before touching his mouth to her own, he answered, "Goodbye, Demona."

The gargess was startled from the moment of tranquillity, by the grim reality always set upon her, and Todd loosened his grasp around her waist, to grant her to stand on her own two feet. "I see."

Todd slid his hand to her face, and kissed her cheek, his warm touch to her skin enough for the gargoyle to release a tear from his sight, to trickle down and curl beneath the subtle curvature of her face. "I know...you'll be fine. It's ultimately up to you to keep our friendship alive. I'll help you get through this, if you want me to. But right now, I...have to go. It's late, and it seems we both need some sleep."

Demona felt him drift from her, and even as they kept their hands to the other's, he moved on, letting her talons to trace the length of his arm, then glide along his fingers and move away. She watched him walk away, crossing through the shadows, and once more, leaving her alone. "Todd?" she called after him, sending the young human into a lurching stop, and looking back at her. "Save me a dance at your wedding?"

Todd smiled gratefully. "Right after Annika." he said happily, knowing she would be there when he gave his life to another. "See you around...Red."

He left, and Demona then moved to the windows, and watched as the black Jeep pulled away. "Goodbye...my friend. And thank you." She closed the drapes, allowing the white, translucent material to enclose this room in utter darkness, and then slowly made her way towards her bedroom, wanting for the precious gift of a peaceful slumber, and possibly this night, her dreams would be devoid of monsters and creatures of the darkness, taken from her by the faith of a young human who meant the world to her.

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

Trinity Maza yawned deeply, her fatigue at last catching up to the boundless energy contained in her form. Her wings were drooping, her eyes of swirled chocolate being slowly hidden away by her own eyelids, and yet, she still fought against the power of sleep overtaking her diminutive, winged body. Held in her uncle's strong arms, even the blaring noise and flurry of animated activity on the television screen would not be enough to keep her from drifting off in Broadway's embrace.

Elisa walked in through the media room door, and beheld with an open heart the curled ball of copper wings and pliant tail reclining on Broadway's lap. Suppressing her laughter, she slowly crept up behind him and silently offered her hands to the burly, aquamarine gargoyle.

Broadway formed a wide grin, and gently lifted Trinity into her mother's arms, seeing his human friend cradle her daughter to her bosom as if priceless crystal, and send her slender fingers through the hybrid's silky, raven locks.

"Mommy?" Trinity murmured, sensing the change in her position, and the abrupt variation in scent of gargoyle to human, from uncle to mother.

"I think it's bedtime, squirt." she whispered quietly. "It's getting close to dawn."

"Bu' no...tired..." she whispered, even her adolescent expression bearing the mark of her exhaustion.

"Yeah right, Trini." Elisa jested, heaving her growing form even closer and disappearing down one of the many halls of Wyvern, until coming upon the doors to her bedroom, and pushing one-handed through the barriers, struggling somewhat to hold Trinity and slide back the door and flip on the lights of her small corner bedroom.

Elisa directed herself to the small, wooden bedframe, resting against the wall, and sitting where her crib used to be. Decorated within the mahogany grains, were carvings of gargoyles reminiscent of the clan adorning her berth, this crafted marvel made possible by a courtesy from David Xanatos, one of many to continually attempt to gain favor with the detective. Pulling back the sheets and bedspread, she lowered her baby girl into the comforting embrace of her new bed. Elisa silently pulled off her daughter's clothes, and placed Trini's nightgown over her head, struggling with the tiny gargoyle's limp form and wings, impeding her best efforts. When finished, she released her hold upon the girl, and Trinity fell back against the pillow with a resounding thump. "Not tired, huh?"

"No..." Trinity replied, though finding herself unwillingly curling deeper into the sheets, her wings settling about her shoulders.

"Sure." Elisa leaned over and kissed Trinity's forehead, seeing her eyes flicker and open to her own. "How do you like your new bed?"

"Okay..."

"That's good." said Elisa, hoping of her daughter's approval of her new place to sleep, though saddened it was somewhat enforced. She leaned over to pull the covers over her, adorned with characters from her favorite cartoon, Sailor Moon. "Looking forward to your first birthday? Only two weeks away..."

"Yuh. Mommy?" Trinity mumbled, still fighting against the forces of slumber with her parents' inherited force of will. "Where S'bek?"

Elisa cringed, hoping her daughter would never have to worry about, or even mention that name again, where associated both intense dread and deepest misgivings. "Buried, baby. He's gone. You don't have to worry about him. Ever." Her words contained her strength and commitment to her family, and yet her greatest fears, knowing Sobek's immortal form would have kept him alive.

"Why hurt 'Mona?"

"He's a bad man, Trini."

"Why?"

Elisa sighed, and gently kneaded her knuckles to Trinity's spurred brow. "I don't why, angel. Sometimes, people...just hurt other people. Because they're mad, or very sad, or...just...I really don't know. But Sobek is gone, and will never hurt anyone again. And me, and your daddy, and the entire clan will protect you, okay?"

"Kay."

"Now, go to bed, squirt. It's late."

"'Goyle?"

"Uh..." Elisa quickly looked around the bedroom, searching within the chaos of toys and colorful stuffed animals for Trinity's favored plaything, and the one object that would ensure her of a good day's rest. "I...don't know, angel."

"'Goyle is right here, my daughter." came a deep rumble which both women recognized quite instantly. Goliath entered into the room, with Trinity's stuffed, winged bear entrenched in his talons.

Trinity looked up from her bed to see her father towering over both her and Elisa. "Daddy!" she chirped, and readily accepted her toy from his hands.

"Have a pleasant rest, my daughter." said Goliath, keeping his booming voice quiet while leaning down and kissing his daughter, a soothing tone almost hypnotic in it's serenity and composure, able to calm young children and seduce even the most hardened of women. "I shall see you when the sun sets."

"Night, daddy..." Trinity whispered, turning away from them and delving into the world of dreams and innocent hope with a fluttering of her chestnut-tinted eyes.

Both Elisa and Goliath carefully crept from the room, turned out the light, and slowly slid the door closed, leaving only the growing sunlight leaking through the blinds to be Trinity's guide if awakened during the day. The parents continued their journey through their own quarters, nearing the door leading to the hall, until Goliath turned around and swept his wife into his arms.

"Goliath..." she managed, lost in his powerful fragrance, and the dominion he possessed over her slender form. "How do you tell a baby girl what makes monsters like Sobek?"

"I do not know." he answered truthfully, and guiding his lips through Elisa's satin tress, tinged with her sweet aroma, inflamed upon his nostrils and perceptive sense of taste. "But it would be best not to lie to her, even if she is so very young. We need to teach her right from wrong, show her what comes when you live your life by revenge, and anger and bigotry, that of pain, and emptiness. We need to guide her through this life, we need to prepare her for what she will face...outside."

"But will she ever be able to leave these walls?" Elisa asked of her mate, pulling back, and lifting her gaze to Goliath's darkened features. "Will she ever have a normal life?"

"What is normal?" Goliath countered deftly. "I may not be able to fit into human society, but my life is rich, and full of happiness. As will be Trinity's."

Elisa smiled softly, her crimson ruby lips curving upwards, creating a small dimple in her left cheek, barely noticeable, except to the attentive eyes of her husband. "I hope so. I hope I can share my world with her...and you."

"Someday soon, my beautiful Elisa. If we do not give up the fight."

"The fight..." she repeated him wistfully, with enough despondency carried on her tone to alert her mate to even the most subtle of mood changes and body language.

"Elisa, you have been acting strangely for more than a week. As if...distracted. By something greater."

"It's nothing, Big Guy."

Goliath knew she had simply shrugged off his question far too easily, avoiding the issue of her conflicted emotions. "All right." he answered impassively, allowing her the time to work out her issues on her own. "And what about Trinity's crib? Is she not too young for that bed? What if she falls out?"

"Trinity's growing up fast, very fast thanks to those gargoyle genes floating through her, and she's simply outgrown her crib." she lied, while suppressing a chuckle at Goliath's anxiety. "That's all."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Positive?"

"Yes. And even if she does, it's barely two feet to the ground. She's tough, she's a Maza. Besides," she paused, seeing Cagney come running past them and slip through the slim crack of the door and into Trinity's bedroom, most likely joining the gargess on her bed, "it gives Cagney another place to sleep, and she won't leave all those cat hairs you complain about on our quilt. Now, it's almost dawn, so you better get your big, purple butt upstairs. I don't want any pieces of gargoyle skin on my bedroom carpet."

"Yes, my dear." Goliath crooned, planting a kiss to her lips, enough to curl her toes and arouse her passion.

She was forced to push him away, if only to allow her some sleep this day. "Anymore of that, Goliath, and I won't be sleeping too well. Now go." She pointed a stern finger towards the door, and Goliath heeded to her own powerful charms.

"I love you." he said playfully, dashing to the double doors.

"Go."

"I love you."

"I said go!" Goliath swiftly departed, heading for the battlements, leaving Elisa to prepare herself for bed as well. "I love you too, Big Guy."

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

Through the light of day, where the coming Winter season revealed it's presence even now over the imperial spires of the grandest city of all, creating cold drafts and sweeping currents left to flow unimpeded through the towers of steel, glass, iron. Around the frozen granite forms of the gargoyles, the clan of Wyvern protecting their domain even when asleep, did the winds find new places to dwell.

They discovered the highest turret in their steady tour high above the globe, where Goliath posed in reflective contemplation, all the while, staring with marble eyes down into his adopted city, his home, and they swept upon him with their greatest of strength, yet found they could not, as hard as they would try, force the giant, winged gargoyle from his perch. He was sleeping, his form locked in stone, yet his soul alive within. Into a realm he called his own, that of his own mind, did the leader use this place to dwell on his foremost thoughts.

He rested against the battlements, a Summer day surrounding him with warmth and perfect calm. Where he at last existed as flesh under the sun, and where only the castle endured, floating in the sky without a building to support it, or the clatter and unceasing noise of the city to ruin his peace. He was silent, with the only movement of his billowing lavender sails and flowing hair of a woodland brown.

"You seem...troubled, Goliath. Even with your good mood before sunrise."

The summons drifted to him with perfect clarity, a voice so familiar, but that of a loved one so long ago, another time passed by in the cold clutches of sorcery. He turned to see another with him on the tower, sitting peacefully against the molded stones opposite him, seemingly enjoying the weather, and allowing a spotted butterfly to rest it's weary wings on an offered hand. "Mother." he rumbled, seeing the lavender female at last turn her eyes to his own, and sweep away the loose strands of silver ebony from her face.

"You rarely visit this place, only when you are burdened." she continued. "Only when something weighs heavily on your heart."

"A...few things, actually." he replied, turning back out into the purest sky blue.

"Then let us start with your mate." she said. "Elisa seems to be holding something inside of her."

"Yes. She rarely lies to me, if only to try and protect me from something she does not want me to know."

"She protects you, as you continually protect her." Goliath's mother drawled. "Interesting."

"I hope she will tell me...soon. But...I know I should not worry about her...she is strong enough to deal with whatever crosses her path."

"Yes. She is at that."

Goliath's scowl barely turned around even with his mother's fondness for his choice of mate.

"But, that isn't the most of your concerns." She rose up, and walked with dignity and grace, as if a queen, towards her massive offspring. "Sobek troubles you."

"He is immortal, and therefore, if he at least did not escape from the explosion, he is still under all the rubble and sand, just waiting for his chance to strike once more. His disregard for life and apparent instability of mind frightens me. He is an enemy that I cannot deduce of his true intent, except to ensure our deaths."

The female immediately started shaking her head. "He has battled with you several times, and each time, you won."

"Barely..." Goliath growled, enough to unnerve the female beside him. "I almost lost Elisa and Trinity the first time he attacked the castle, and Demona has almost lost her life on numerous occasions. And now, what I witnessed in Egypt...his transformation...the sheer power exuding from him, he could be more powerful than ever before. Unstoppable...invincible..."

"Everyone has a weakness, my son." she cut through, allowing him the balance to the torrent of doubts and fears flowing through him as if a cresting wave. "Sobek has his, and in time, it will be discovered." She leaned to the side, looking up into Goliath's stolid facade, noticing something peculiar etched in his countenance, perhaps an idiosyncrasy, an odd quirk only a mother could perceive. "And still, there is something else."

"What?" he demanded.

She reached up with a single talon to press onto his temple, engraving a tiny circle on his skin with her gentle massage. "Right there, my son. Yet another problem. You are concerned for Shadow."

"What I saw in Egypt, when I found him, and the remains of the Pack...for someone to inflict such damage on living creatures..." He closed his eyes, reliving the carnage he had stumbled upon when entering the section of Sobek's lair where the Pack had been found. "If you had only seen what had happened to Hyena and Jackal..."

"I did see. I am part of you, and therefore, too bore witness to what you laid your eyes on."

"He slaughtered them. He spread their blood and entrails all over that room. He snapped Lobo's neck, and left the cyborg crippled. He could have stopped them without killing them..."

"Could he?" she countered instantly. "You were not there. You did not see. It seemed they left him no choice. You know what the Pack is capable of, they are killers, merciless in their depravity, willing in their destruction."

"That does not justify murder!" Goliath snapped.

"You have killed on numerous occasions." she cut back, never backing down an inch from this behemoth born from her blood. "There have been a few Viking warriors who have perished on the battlefield at your hands. And Thailog. You could have stopped him without killing him, but you didn't. In a moment of anger, you drove that steel bar through his chest, and killed him."

"He tried to rape Elisa!" Goliath bellowed.

"And does THAT justify murder?" Her observation left Goliath in a silent stupor, she who played the part of his conscience outwitting the leader of Wyvern, his mind at war, struggling to place right his anguished pensiveness. "The Pack has almost killed many members of your clan on many occasions. I would never dream of sanctioning murder, but how much must you take before you make that ultimate choice? How many must suffer, how many must die?"

"There is always an alternative to death." he contested adamantly, though brimmed was his growl with self-blame and continuing doubt. "And I admit, I am not innocent, but..."

"You made the choice to kill an enemy, before he killed you." she finished, leaving Goliath silent, and unable to answer. She stepped forwards, and placed a hand to his rising chest, granting a touch to his hide that had almost been forgotten, except for that of his fondest dreams. "Shadow ensured the safety of this clan, at the cost of his own integrity, and honor. I believe you owe him praise, for risking so much to protect this family."

"I do. The highest of adulation for what he has done for us. But I only wonder, mother," Goliath said, taking her hand, "if he enjoyed killing them. If he...relished in their destruction."

"In every man, my son, and every gargoyle, even you, there exists a basic instinct of physical violence, that which when stripped of our morality and sentience and power of choice, leaves us with nothing but the most primal and brutal of senses. In the deepest remnants of our hearts, we may enjoy the heat of the kill, but that doesn't necessarily make us evil. It's how we act on those basic feelings that makes us who we are, either on the side of good, or evil. Black and white. Light and dark. And I believe, as do you, even though there may have been a part of him that enjoyed it, Shadow is still of the light."

Goliath hesitantly nodded his agreement. "I suppose I sound a little hypocritical..."

"No, only acting as a moral and righteous leader should."

"I wonder..." Goliath whispered.

"Yes, my son?"

"Oh, I...you know, as you are a part of me, and share my memories and experiences, that the Pack have never been easy to defeat. And thus I wonder, just how he managed to win that battle."

"He is an excellent fighter." she attempted to explain. "A warrior on par with the best in this world."

"No skills are powerful enough to do that kind of damage. There is something he is not telling us, some sort of power he possesses...I am just hopeful...he can control it..." Goliath trailed off, and then wandered away, down the torch-lighted steps of the tower and onto the courtyard, leaving his mother to curiously follow behind, and discover Goliath perched at the fountain, dragging a talon through the crystal depths.

"And yet, there is still something else..." she declared, feigning an exhaustion in dealing with the issues he carried within his subconscious.

"The last words of my brother..."

She nodded, and placed herself beside him, making herself comfortable on the molded edge and caressing the water's perfectly calm surface as well. "You believe he was telling the truth. You believe your cherished sister still dwells among us."

"Was he right?" Goliath inquired, displaying a fear so unlike him. "Is my clever sister out there somewhere? Her soul lost, troubled, unable to find rest after so long?"

She sighed, moving wet talons, dripping with the waters of the fountain, and wiping them across his brow, a jestful attempt to cool him off. "Can you believe the words of a madman?"

"Stranger things have happened."

"True, but how would he know where her spirit resides?"

"Perhaps he encountered her somewhere in his travels among the globe. Perhaps he found her..."

"And perhaps he is lying." With an ever commanding tone, she put a stop to his fearful ranting.

Goliath sighed, releasing his pent up breath in a forceful exhale. "I...don't know. Why would he lie? If he wanted one last chance to annoy me, he could have chosen another, more scornful topic that would seem more plausible than to mention a certain clan member who has been dead for a thousand years..."

Goliath's mother shrugged. "He's never been the most...stable of gargoyles." she joked, and discovered her witticism had accomplished a rare occurrence, that of a smile on her stoic son.

"Thank you, mother. I am...glad to be able to talk with you. To sort out my problems."

"I am forever a part of you, my son, and will always be here, in your heart, and your soul, to help you."

"I know..."

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

A burning fire, the crackle and bursts of lapping flames twisting within the small steel and brick enclosure, mesmerized the dark warrior sitting cross-legged directly in front. Upon awakening from his sleep, Shadow had briskly moved to his private turret, passing along the cornices and under the rising moon, and away from Delilah's own saddened gaze when shedding the last of her skin.

His hair unraveled from the confines of their braid, the strands were free to cascade down his shoulders and back and around his dark, spurred wings, coating him in a frosting of the purest ivory silk, and trail as if alive along the smoothed stones of his chambers. His eyes were the deepest pools of mahogany, mirroring the glowing orange of the firepit. He was far within his thoughts, his breathing controlled, deliberate, searching for the peace and discipline a warrior such as him should be possessed of.

"Shadow?" It was Delilah, pulling back the weighted, iron-strapped gate blocking the entrance of his quarters. "Am I...interrupting?"

Shadow never answered, instead closing his eyes and lowering his head.

"Shadow, I want to talk with you..."

"I do not wish to speak at this moment." he returned her gentle call in a brusque snarl.

Delilah, as always unaffected by his growling and irritable disposition, stepped forwards and hovered over his backside. "What's wrong with you?" she demanded, her tone seemingly distended with an anger of her own.

"Nothing. Now leave."

"You have been acting weird ever since you got back from Egypt." She walked closer, moving directly between his suspended wings, and placing gently her opened palms on his massive backside. "You been working out nonstop, you've trapped yourself in this tower meditating...I've barely seen you. What happened?"

"You know what transpired. Goliath told you everything."

"Goliath wasn't there, when you took on the Pack." she argued. "Only you know what happened. Only you know why you're acting so withdrawn. Why you're so resolute in training so hard. If there's something you're holding inside of you..."

"There is nothing, Delilah." he answered severely. "Now please allow me my privacy..."

"I'm not leaving until you tell me what's wrong!" she yelled, growing tired with his constant avoidance of the issue at hand.

"There's nothing wrong!"

"I know there's something bothering you, and I only want to hel..."

"And what makes you think you know me so damned well?!!" he screamed, rising from the floor and lifting his massive bulk above the trembling clone, blocking out the faint light of the fire and bathing Delilah in total darkness. "What makes you think you are so damn perceptive of what could possibly be tearing at my soul?!"

"Because...because I love you..." she said quietly, hoping her words and the love they shared would calm him. "And...and I know you love me too..."

Shadow lost what tempest raged within his eyes to this beautiful young gargoyle who readily stood up to him as if the most powerful of opponents, empowered by their devotion, strengthened by their passion. "With...all of my heart...my blossom..." he relented, and turned back around, sitting in place and hanging his head.

Delilah kneeled down and leaned against his back, twirling the long strands of his hair between her fingers. "You're not alone, Shadow." she started, pressing her cheek against his bulging, sinuous hide. "I'm here to help you, to listen to you."

"This is a matter...that no one can aid with, except for myself." he whispered, feeling her tender machinations along his spine with skillful fingers, and down the rivers of winding muscular structure. "A part of my past, that is best left...forgotten."

"But..."

"Please...no more of this."

"If you say so." Delilah yielded to his plea, almost half-jokingly, the slight sarcasm inherited from her mother. "But if you ever want to talk..."

"Perhaps...one day." he said, then settled into the desired silence as Delilah closed her eyes and rested comfortably against him, and the gentle rustling of the fire filled the confining turret with it's imperfect euphony. "Perhaps one day," he whispered beneath that of Delilah's sensitive hearing, "you will learn...of my greatest transgression...and the fact it might drive you away from me...truly frightens me..."

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

"But m'love, I never ate th' last piece of apple pie, it must ha' been Zacharias."

"Liar. Even as a grown man, ye still be a rapscallion."

Tom, the guardian of ancient Wyvern's last eggs, smiled craftily upon his chosen wife, as Princess Katharine, a modest, well bred woman of sovereign ancestry, stared down on him with flaming eyes, though still betraying her feigned hostility with a mischievous glint. "Prove it, m'love."

"Tis that a threat, guardian?" she responded, moving ever closer and raising her hands to grasp upon her husband's cotton tunic.

"Aye." Tom easily captured the princess in his arms, and lay his lips to the sweet caress of her mouth, and as the aged couple embraced, did the Avalon clan surrounding them form mock scowls and emulate expressions of illness.

"Ah, they're kissing again..." remarked Ophelia at the far end of the long wooden table, with her mate alongside simply shaking his head. Gabriel watched his human caretakers at last release from each other, and take their places back at the table, joining the rest of the removed Scottish clan in their meal. "I swear they are more passionate than we are, Gabriel."

"Indeed, fair Ophelia, they possess the spirit of youth, and are forever unable to hold their passion within."

The entire table of gargoyles and humans turned their eyes to an approaching figure, that of milky cream skin, and a long flowing dress of deep forest green. She stood proudly at the end of the table, her staff held firm in one hand, and her wings of a shattered, mirrored surface reflecting the astonished expressions of thirty surprised gargoyles.

"Infiniti..."

"Greetings, clan of Avalon." the guardian spirit addressed the clan, as they moved to stand to attention when she merely waved a hand to motion for them to remain seated, unwilling to have them elevating her above them as if more than their equal.

"What brings ye here, guardian spirit?" said Katharine, bowing slightly to show her respect in true regal form.

"Some unfinished business, princess Katharine, with an...acquaintance of ours. I apologize for interrupting your meal."

"It's never an intrusion, guardian," replied Ophelia excitedly, "especially when you bring news of our sister, Angela, and perhaps...Trinity as well."

"Both are well, Ophelia. They are healing from the latest battle, and the internal strife between them, and are preparing for the child of destiny's first year celebration of her birth, and of course, the approaching wedding of Annika and Todd Hawkins."

"I swear that clan is cursed." remarked a beaked, chestnut-colored gargoyle to his blond-haired sister.

"Sometimes it may seem that way," she answered the hushed whisper passed along quietly between family members, "but as always, they fight with courage and help to bring true peace to this world with every battle waged and won. Human and gargoyle are ever united with each new interspecies coupling, and in a few months, that goal comes ever closer. And there will be another...very soon..." She straightened out quickly, in having lost her train of thought. "But I have urgent business with your...so-called landlord."

"Lord Oberon?" Katharine whispered, hearing the actual air of malice coming from the guardian spirit's mouth, and surprised in her ferocity. "He be in his chambers, my friend. Whatever do ye nee..."

"Thank you, princess." Infiniti responded from over her shoulder, when rushing off to the furthermost door, almost a hurried gait afflicting upon her when looking for the lord of this castle, and the shores of Avalon itself.

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

"You will not allow us to rectify this gargoyle's meddling with our spell?" asked the ivory haired woman, standing in line with her identical sisters, and almost begging with the robed being standing in front of the curved bay window.

"True enough."

"But this Sobek has interfered with our children!" she argued, raising her voice to her lord. "With a path we have laid out for them a millennium ago."

Oberon slowly turned from his view of the island forests, doused in sapphire light from the moon, a slim crescent, though still powerful enough to alight the entire island from shore to shore. "A thousand years ago, you interfered with the mortals against my implicit wishes, and then actually served a human sorcerer, aiding him with Avalon's magic, bringing a war to my soil. Consider yourself fortunate I have not punished you accordingly for your continued infraction of my laws." His anger had been aroused, his word broken by the most trusted of his children. "Now, I have...more important things to ponder, and it seems..." his eyes wandered to the grand chamber's entrance, where a winged silhouette lay within the flickering light, "a guest has arrived."

The weird sisters too peered to the guardian, entering slowly, on a deliberate path towards he whom with she wanted to speak and passing what could be only called as a mean sneer their way. "One wonders how she keeps arriving here," Celene remarked to the others, "as only Avalon's magic may enter onto this island."

"My magic comes from a much greater source," Infiniti barked, sending her heated howl towards the weird sisters, a trio whom she had never truly preferred, "she who gave all of you life long ago, and even created your lord from but a tear shed from her eye."

"Your precious master may have created us, but at least she does not keep us...on a leash."

"BE SILENT!!!" Infiniti screamed, infuriated by their arrogance, the conceit even present on three exacting leers. "Or you will face my wrath, screech owls!"

"You would do well to heed the guardian spirit's words, sisters," Oberon cautioned them, noticing the upsurge in magical power coursing through her arteries, and feeding her heart, "or you may find yourselves in a predicament you cannot get out of." Oberon turned his attention to Infiniti, and bowed respectfully to greet her, possibly of admiration or simply counterfeit pleasantry. "Greetings, my old friend. You are looking well."

"Drop the facetiousness, Oberon. You know why I am here..."

The lord of Avalon simply thinned his eyes to the guardian's straightforwardness, and the fires contained on her breath. "I do. I suppose you felt the rift as well."

"Yes. It can only mean one thing. She has returned."

"Hmmm. This could be...interesting."

Infiniti grasped tighter to her staff, her wings tensed at his seeming indifference. "You call someone who slaughtered the inhabitants of an entire country...interesting?"

Oberon shrugged impassively, his great cloak bouncing upon narrow shoulders. "What would you have me do, dear Infiniti? The mortals are usually not my concern."

"Nothing, I suppose. You are useless as these three witches here..." She pointed to the weird sisters and actually enjoyed the unsettling expression received in return. "I just wanted to confirm what I had felt."

"I guess now you will run to your favored clan and aid them in the coming war." he guessed, but it seemed it was incorrect.

"No." A hushed response marked with her continued sorrow and frustration of being unable to offer anything more than her guidance, only mere words to warn of destruction and constant battle. "I can merely prepare them for what is to come. As much as I would like to help them, I am still forbidden."

"It seems you are, in fact, a very ineffectual guardian." joked one of the sisters, garnering an echoed cackle from her counterparts. "Your restrictions are great indeed, as if a noose around your neck."

"Be warned," hissed Infiniti, instantly wiping the smiles from her adversaries' with the savagery released from her tongue, "those restrictions do not apply to you...bitch." In her anger, the summery night was brutally torn away by a sudden clap of thunder, and a searing blast of oddly-colored lightning that lit up the room, appearing from a clear sky and serving as a grave warning as to her near godlike powers. "Only humans and gargoyles am I prohibited to directly meddle in their affairs. But those rules...do not include the fay." Infiniti brushed past the cowed siblings, unnerved by her sheer power, and approached Oberon, face to face, fay against gargoyle. "I know what you are capable of, and if you interfere with my gargoyles, or even let one come to any harm, you will suffer greatly."

Oberon smiled, surprised in this oft-gentle guardian's demeanor turned deadly. "Oh?"

"Even though you and your queen are now the only inhabitants here, you will respect those in this clan, and allow them to live their lives free of your despotic intentions."

"I already have..."

"And be sure that you continue doing so far into the future. With all my children." Infiniti leaned in close, allowing the fervor of her glowing eyes to melt Oberon's iced glare. "Or I will return...and I promise you, I will not be in such a forgiving mood."

"Point well taken."

"I hope so..." She walked away, and as the weird sisters quickly moved from her course, did Oberon once more turn himself to look out the window, and settle his eyes to the moon, reflecting on just what is to come.

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

And beyond the king of the faeries' contemplative gaze, and throughout New York city and the rest of the mortal world, came the temperate push of twilight, gently forcing back the day with invisible hands, claws rending light and littering the heavens with the glitter of stars. The faded daylight and growing frigidity, an absence of sun and the warmth provided, drew those of the earthen paths inside, leaving almost a barren city in it's wake.

But now would those of the sky soon take to their given realm, and spread their wings, casting off a weighted skin born of their exposure to the morning star.

"Evening, angel. How did you sleep?"

"Good!"

Of humans and gargoyles and even in-between, a family had awakened to embrace the night. Though instances and sometimes brutal happenstance constantly revolve around them, they persevere for their clan and friends.

"Go work?" said the tiny, winged girl, excitedly hopping onto her mother's massive, canopied bunk. She had slept almost throughout the entire day, and now was prepared for a long night of discovery and innocent games.

"Yup. I'm going in a half hour." Elisa answered, slipping on her jacket and nudging her holster into a more comfortable position, all the while seeing Trinity jump and leap on her resilient mattress, that designed to hold even her father's girth.

"Fun?"

Elisa formed a half-smile. "It can be sometimes..." The bond between mother and daughter strong, Elisa knew her daughter's curiosity needed to be satiated, her budding language skills growing stronger with every passing day, and thus her questions of the outside world increasing in complexity.

"Unca Matt?"

"Yes, he'll be there too. And annoying as usual, just like uncle Todd..."

"Mommy?" her inquiries continued, as did her limitless energy, allowing her the strength to vault near the canopy's surface, using her wings to help guide her gravity-defying leaps.

"Yes?"

"Ca' I go?"