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60 - "Outside These Walls"

October 30th, 2001, 7:05 p.m.
From a wind born of wailing voices captured in it's wake, and currents from the furthest reaches of the globe, did dying leaves swirl and carry along the streets and sidewalks of Manhattan. The trees were bare, the foliage lost to the steadily dropping temperature, the last vestiges of an Autumn season bathed in sweet lavenders and flickering crimson, and the coming annotation of Winter.

A mere day away from the eve of the dead, the city alive, preparing itself for young children masquerading as ghouls, specters and the undead of fictional lore. Yet despite what masks and robes they don to transform themselves if but for a night, they would sing innocently, pleading for sugary confection and chocolates. As streamers of orange and raven hue found themselves strung up along windows and doorways, did the unnervingly silent cackle and vacant merriment of carved pumpkins stare out into a darkened city. Halloween was upon New York, a celebration for most, and a special night for a family above the scattered mists.

Castle Wyvern was stirring with the sounds of gargoyle voice, twenty-first century slang intermixed with practiced and proper tenth century diction, an odd mix of accent and inflection, yet seeming as if blended flawlessly. While half the clan patrolled the city, knowing sometimes a loss of control can result without the proper authority, the rest used their free time spending with family and friends.

Elisa watched from her place on the couch her daughter being stalked and hunted by a demon of dusty blue skin, and a stoic facade with his teeth bared, his eyes glowing. The tiny gargess struggled to fend off her attacker, trapped under roaming talons and screaming for aid in her contest. She pleaded with her mother through her screeching, and Elisa merely placed an elbow to her knee, resting her head to an opened palm.

"Mommy!!" Trinity called out desperately, placing her wide mahogany eyes to her matriarch sitting motionless on the opposing couch.

"No one can save you, little one." growled the winged being fluttering his lips onto her bared stomach. "You will submit to the terrible monster of Wyvern's deepest levels."

"Nooooo!! Ha ha ha...unca 'T'ello!!" Trinity begged with the large, lanky yet muscular gargoyle who only yielded his assault when a golden-haired female quickly snatched away the growing child.

"Do not worry, little one," Desdemona soothed her niece, a throaty, sensuous tone, "I shall protect you from the...ugly beast." She cocked her brow seductively towards Othello, unwittingly exchanging her place from protector to prey for the skilled hunter of Wyvern's past. He crawled towards her across the media room carpeting, imagined as the untamed forests of the Scottish wilderness and the lovely spotted fawn, and she merely held Trinity tighter to her chest, concealing them both in the caramel covering of her clefted wings.

Othello peeled back the trembling pinions, shivering not of fear, but of Trinity's muffled giggling, and he then feigned a frightening snarl, growling into the very face of his mate and niece. Until a tiny copper hand clamped shut his mouth, and Trinity used a single finger placed against her lips, mocking her own massive father and his attempts to quiet his active daughter, to effectively silence him. Othello leaned back in surprise at this child's bravery, though knowing she sensed no fear from one cherished caretaker of many, until he lunged forwards once more and swiped at Trinity. Yet Desdemona whirled around and deposited the girl to the floor, granting her a last chance for escape.

"Run, Trinity!!" she yelled out, seeing the young child turn and head off for the door. "Here comes the monster!"

Trinity screamed in sheer delight, and traveled as fast as her tiny bare feet would allow, even her spread wings barely enough to impede her velocity. Othello ran after her, and they both disappeared down the corridor, with Elisa having watched the entire affair.

Desdemona lay kneeled on the carpeting, seeing a dear friend's expression grow sullen, a blessedness overcome by grief, and unaware of just what could afflict her heart so much. "What troubles you, sister?"

"Huh?" Elisa gasped, startled from her reverie, brought back to the attention of the caramel gargoyle now sitting beside her. "Oh...it's nothing."

With an ever observant nature, Desdemona delved deeper into a guarded demeanor, a hand caressing over Elisa's shoulder. "I have seen this look enough over the past month to know that something is wrong."

Through dark strands, came a disheartening stare. Elisa unleashed the full brunt of her anguish carried inside for the last few weeks in only a tormented gaze, a grace of milky chocolate blurred by a hidden pain. "You have no idea, Des."

"No, I don't. Unless you tell me."

Elisa sighed, and turned away. "A few weeks ago," she started quietly, "Trinity asked if she could come with me to work."

"Ah." Desdemona nodded, and looked to where Elisa's eyes had settled, that of a solitary Brooklyn casually knocking around the faux ivory balls on the pool table. "She has formed a want to explore further than that of castle Wyvern. And you fear exposing her to the outside world."

"Taking her to the Labyrinth, or my...parents' house, was one thing. She was surrounded by those who were family and...friends, those who had accepted her. But having her thrown in the midst of strangers, and those who may never welcome the gargoyle race...allowing her to leave this castle, and descend into the...'human' world..."

"Is risky...yes." she agreed with her human sister, a deep friendship formed within only a few years.

"But how can I keep her inside this castle, without robbing her of a real life?"

Desdemona struggled to answer, a question faced by two parents whom had brought a life shared of human and gargoyle blood into this world, and hoping to give her all they could. But sometimes, a wall would be erected in their path, and sometimes, it could be greater than that of even the most sturdy of will. "I...cannot answer that, Elisa. But I know, this child you gave birth to will have a life full of happiness, love, exploration..."

"Fear, racism, bigotry, hatred..." Elisa countered, quite severely, possessed of her own irritable growl. "My little baby girl may be forced to stay within these walls for the rest of her natural life because of the intolerance she'll come up against, forever cutting her off from the rest of humanity."

"Yet with every passing day, more allies are found."

"With every passing day, more enemies emerge, and attack us...relentlessly." Elisa fell, her shoulders drooping, her spirit cowed. "She's a year old, and has already tasted death...maybe they were right...maybe...I shouldn't have..."

"Shouldn't have what?" came a voice from the far end of the room. "Taken the chance to love Goliath? Build a life with him? To have a family? Children you can watch grow and learn and seek her own way?" A streak of crimson had entered both Elisa and Desdemona's field of view, and they looked up to the second in command of clan Wyvern. Brooklyn leaned down, gracing eyes of raven sterling to his friend. "Don't ever doubt that little girl, Elisa, and what she represents. She is the future, and she needs you to guide her."

"I'm trying. But...what happens if she's discovered?"

"You and Goliath, and all of us will deal with that when it comes. And it will come, for she must be introduced to this world, to show that true peace can exist between gargoyle and human."

"And if that peace can never be found?" Elisa continued her argument, seeing Brooklyn's stare harden over, the smile once adorning his beak swiftly plunging.

"You chose to pursue this relationship with Goliath, and you chose to have that child." he cut back, a voice once jovial, lively, now becoming as frigid and unfeeling as the deepest ocean valleys. "Now you have to deal with it. You have a responsibility to Trinity, one that you can't shy away from. You have to fight to find that peace, or Trinity may never have the life you and Goliath want for her."

Elisa had been scolded, and her heart twisted in even contemplating an existence without her baby daughter, in even thinking of ending a life before it began. "I love her...I don't want to see her hurt..."

"All children are hurt in their lives, either through hardship, physical pain, bigotry and racism...even death. The twins have been through a lot, but have adjusted, with Sata and I having prepared them for what's to come."

"And..." Elisa furthered the discussion, "what do you think is to come?"

Brooklyn looked ever deeper into Elisa's dark eyes, seeing blurred scarlet fuse and scrape against a surface of glistening sable glass. "Frankly, I can't even begin to imagine...especially after all I've seen. But I do know this...Trinity will be loved by her parents, her clan, and her friends. And we will find more allies, and thanks to people like you, she'll live a long and happy life."

"Thanks, Brooklyn." said Elisa gratefully, coercing the stubborn smile she knew was still there. "Sometimes...I guess I can lose sight of what's important."

"Everyone at some time or another faces the oft-inevitability of life," Desdemona whispered, her presence beside the human reassuring as was her warm taloned hand on her shoulder, "and only those of pure heart and strong convictions can persevere."

"I try," Elisa replied softly, swathing the thick tress from her face, "but it seems sometimes the entire world is against me. Even those...I trusted and loved..." She trailed off, the last vestiges of her utterance lost to the gargoyles' ears, and she then straightened out, a renewed breath of crisp air suspired and released through swollen lips. "But the original problem still stands. I've only been able to avoid her questions for so long. What do I tell Trinity?"

"Well...yes." Brooklyn answered.

"Yes??!!" Elisa was immediately struck back by Brooklyn's outlandish suggestion, as was Desdemona, arching a brow. "You mean take a half gargoyle child to work?! Oh yeah, I'm sure no one would notice the wings..."

Brooklyn instantly held up a finger, to correct her sarcastic assumption. "Not if they were part of the...'design'."

"Huh?"

"The precinct Halloween party is tomorrow night, right?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, no one would look twice at a girl with wings if they were part of the actual costume."

Elisa nearly fell from the couch, in the face of a considerably risky stratagem, but found herself pondering just what it could bring both to her, and Trinity as well. "I...guess so..."

"You always say that everyone at work keeps bugging you to see Trinity," Brooklyn continued, empowered by Elisa's pensive expression, "now's your chance."

Elisa looked for confirmation to Desdemona, with the gargess simply shrugging her shoulders in an indifferent response, unsure whether to agree with Brooklyn's idea or not. "Well, maybe...if I...yeah, it could work...I guess..." she spoke her thoughts out loud, a fractured grin beginning to form. "But...HOW do we hide her more...gargoyle features?"

Brooklyn smirked, a rift in his beak that spoke volumes, that of his foremost thoughts churning with substantial cunning, his trademark, and perhaps what kept him alive for twenty years of dancing through time. "It's Halloween, remember? Be creative..."

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

8:17 p.m.
"Come oooooonnnn. Let me see. Please?"

"No!"

"Ooooohhhh, Todd!!" Annika yelled furiously, clenching her fists and forcing her long blond strands from intruding upon her eyes with merely a quick snap of her neck. She stamped her large, clawed foot upon the ground, effectively displaying her anger in a tantrum often associated with Trinity and Alexander. "Why won't you show me?!"

Todd whirled around from his place at the kitchen table in the castle's massive eating area, attempting to obscure large sheets of paper from his fiancé's view, collected in front of him. "Ah ah ah, gorgeous, you'll have to wait until tomorrow night. Halloween..."

Annika once again lept forwards and tried to catch even a glimpse, but Todd craftily eluded his plans from her sapphire eyes. She played a spirited game of peering over his shoulders, with Todd wrapping the sheets into his arms, until she relented to his secrecy, though quite unwilling. "Bastard." she muttered, giving in and stomping from the kitchen tiling in a huff, her curiosity left to simmer.

Todd eyed the voluptuous female exit, eyes planted firmly to her buttocks, and then turned back to his near illegible scrawls adorning the paper. As if he was possessed by something not of this world, the young man broke into a malicious grin, an evil laughter clenched in the base of his throat. "Tomorrow night." he hissed, mimicking what amateurish acting would grace the television late at night. "Oh yes, they shall all see. For Shadow will soon meet his ultimate doom. Yes, Shadow...tomorrow night. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahaha cough...cough...hack...damn, I gotta stop drinking all that Jolt..."

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

9:16 p.m.
Elisa traveled hurriedly, wanting to complete her task as soon as possible, and unburden herself of this heavy load underneath her arm. The echo of her steps played a dance upon the corridor walls, a rhythmic beat almost hypnotic in it's perpetuation. She at last reached the farthest end of the shelter's top floor, where the administrators' private quarters lay just beyond the doorway. Elisa passively knocked, and waited for a response.

The door squeaked open, and out peered a lithe blond woman, who's eyes went wide when seeing her sister-in-law standing before her. "Elisa?" Maggie greeted the detective, both extremely surprised and somewhat relieved she had returned. "What...what are you doing here?"

"A present." Elisa answered, quickly moving past Maggie's form to free herself of her heavy parcel.

"The crib..." Maggie whispered, seeing Elisa place the folded mahogany framework against the wall, and peer on what had sparked a spiteful war of words several weeks ago, and how it had inadvertently formed a rift between her new family. "Elisa...I..."

"It's all yours, Maggie." Elisa interrupted, turning and rubbing a hand to Maggie's slightly bulging stomach, almost visible through her shirt. "For the squirt."

Yet before Maggie could caress her hands to those of her sister's, Elisa drew away from her touch. She watched as the raven-haired woman quickly tread toward the door, yet found no words within her throat to sway her from leaving, especially when Elisa was in one of her determined moods.

"Elisa?"

Before she reached the door, Elisa was halted in her tracks by a voice that once had soothed her to sleep as a child, but now left only a bitter taste. She slowly turned to see her mother swiftly coming through the kitchen doorway, and the Maza women connected gazes, with Maggie slowly inching her way past them to allow their privacy. "Mom." she whispered, her emotions completely submerged.

"Hello, Elisa." Diane replied, her eyes of the same smooth flavor as her daughter's, yet tinged with regret. "We haven't heard from you in a while."

"I've been...'busy'." she hissed, employing the same excuse her own parents had used little less than a month ago.

"Elisa..." Diane stepped forwards, attempting to reach out both physically and emotionally to her eldest child. "Please..."

"Save it." she snapped, perhaps too stubborn to accept any apology, or amends to their situation. "Don't even try. Just...don't...even try..."

"I can't have this left between us. What happened weeks ago should not have happened at all." she continued pleading her case, and for her family's welfare. "You over-reacted..."

"I over-reacted?!!" Elisa screamed, eyes alive with fire. "My own parents tell me in so many words that they think of my daughter as some monster, and you think I'm over-reacting?!"

"We never said that!"

"Not to my face..." Elisa countered quietly, and Diane formed an odd expression in the face of her daughter's accusation. "Now, if you'll excuse me," she continued, reaching for the doorknob, "I have to get Trinity's costume ready for the precinct party."

Diane gasped, and lunged forwards. "You're...taking her to the precinct? Aren't you afraid she'll be discovered?"

Elisa sneered. "Not afraid, it seems, as you are."

"You're right." she conceded. "I'm afraid. You are more aware than anyone about how some humans feel about gargoyles. And now you risk exposing us...her, just for some party?"

"You said us." Elisa had caught Diane's unintended slip, more fuel to feed her argument. "You're not afraid for her, you're more afraid for yourself."

Diane's eyes immediately turned cold. "You're not just risking her safety, but your entire family's. Just like when you were young, you never think about how your actions will affect us as well. The Quarrymen, the Phoenix Rising group...how many others out there would love the chance to strike at the family of someone who conceived a child of their greatest enemies?"

Elisa was silent, as she could not argue against her mother's logic. For any of the clan's enemies would surely welcome the chance to attack her family, to use them as bait, as a bargaining chip, as a weapon with no defense. "My life. My choice. And I won't have my baby daughter locked up in some castle for the rest of her life."

"You may have to, to keep her...and all of us, safe."

"And you and dad would love that, wouldn't you?" Elisa's voice wavered, the barrier she had erected to conceal her emotions was breaking down, the ice was cracking. "To forget she even existed."

"That's not true, and you know it!"

"What about the fact both you and dad are scared of her? Or the fact you two never truly accepted her as your granddaughter?! Does any of this sound familiar?!!"

Diane was taken aback, as Elisa echoed what words passed between her and her husband in what she thought was a very private conversation. "Y-You...heard us?"

"You're damned right I heard you!!" Elisa yelled back, a rabid reply born of anger tearing at her own heart. "And you're damned lucky I never told Goliath. I can't even imagine how he'd react..."

"Elisa, what you heard..."

"Were your true feelings." she finished for her. "How you both truly feel about my daughter." Elisa swiftly wiped a hand to her eyes, clearing away any trace of her tears, resistant to having anyone see her pain, especially her mother. She wanted to be angry, she wanted the rage to feed her and keep her strong. "How you...truly feel..."

Diane was distraught, hoping to keep her daughter here to try and smooth things over. "G-Give us a chance...to explain."

"You had your chance." Elisa hissed, opening the door to leave. "I hoped to give Trinity all that any other child could have, including loving grandparents. I guess I was wrong. Don't bother coming tomorrow night, or any other night for that matter..."

"No...Elisa..."

"Happy Halloween, mom. Have a nice life. Too bad...I won't be in it..." The door slammed shut, and Diane Maza was left to stare at nothing but empty space where her oldest daughter once had stood, and effectively ended their relationship.

She staggered blindly towards the door, and rested against the solid wooden surface, placing her forehead to the stark white paint. She nearly choked, her breathing distorted with her wracking sobs, her tears spilling onto skin of deep chestnut cream, and pouring down the door. "Elisa...my...beautiful baby girl...I'm s-so sorry..." Her whispered ranting flowed together, and soon her knees gave out, causing the elder woman to plunge to the floor, and collapse into a heap. She buried herself into her flowing, African-styled dress, and wept. "...sorry..."

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

Maggie watched from the bedroom door, her mother-in-law break down into tears. She had heard the entire conversation pass between her family members, and fumbled backwards onto her bed. With a trembling hand gliding over where a new life was forming, she wondered now if the actual cause of this plight was the child growing within her womb. Her family had fractured, brutally severed in two, and for the first time since being freed from the curse of her mutation, did she cry.

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

October 31st, 5:57 p.m.
The light turned to dark once more, the sun having faded to yet a slim crescent of gold resting precariously upon the distant horizon. The innocent had fled from the encroaching night, the spirits free to roam the streets on the evening of revenants and wandering shadows. And even as the infinite rows of streetlamps at last spread their light to the ground below, did the wave of darkness overtake the island when the sun finally descended from sight, melting into the jagged echelon of the Manhattan skyline.

Those left to rush home, and those who relished in the celebrative holiday, if they were to pass by the tallest building in the world at just the right moment, would feel the tiny misshapen shards of stone rain down upon them, seemingly coming from the sky itself. For no one could see beyond the layer of darkness concealing the cornices of Wyvern, the gargoyles awakening to perchance their most favored of nights.

Lexington immediately formed his troop of the twins and young Alexander, leading them to get dressed and preparing them for the long trek among the streets, filling massive bags with candy and sweet confectionery. Broadway followed behind, directing his brother on which neighborhoods would yield the greatest bounty. The others split off for their patrols, and Goliath lept from his high perch and into the bowels of Wyvern.

A path traveled many times, following a scent that invaded even his dreams, the lavender giant entered into his room, only to see Fox reclining on the canopied bed. "Fox." he greeted her, and the billionairess threw him a smile, laughing slightly at his emotionless tone, though knowing he meant no offense. "And to what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Just waiting for the bride of Satan."

"I beg your pardon." he replied to her nonsensical statement, as Fox cocked her head towards Trinity's bedroom, and Goliath followed to the small archway, his charcoal eyes wide to the human's clandestine demeanor. "What are you talking about?"

"Hey, Big Guy?"

Goliath raised his chin to his mate's gentle summons, an affectionate moniker associated only with her. "Elisa?"

She walked slowly into his view, a deliberate stance of her hands planted to cocked hips, and a swirl of raven locks, the light of the chandeliers reflecting off the purest of ebony flow. She watched her husband drop his bottom jaw, left slack at her appearance. Elisa had changed into her costume, the majority of which consisting of a skin-tight, bright red leather catsuit with four inch, spike heels and open-fingered gloves wrapped to mid bicep. A pointed tail lay suspended from behind, and a pair of red plastic horns erupted from her sweeping hair. She leaned in the arched, stone doorway, with a three-pronged pitchfork, and a catching, devilish smile to match her chosen attire. "So," she whispered seductively, "you like?"

"Hrm..." Goliath swallowed the lump in his throat, and wiped his brow. "Jalapena. Elisa, you look..."

"Fantastic? Sexy? Dangerous?"

"Any of those will do."

Elisa smiled. "Good. It's a little simple but, simplicity warrants great acting to get into...'character'."

Goliath stalked forwards and Elisa leaned into his sinewy, brawny chest, noticing a shiver pass through her as his talons caressed her sides, roaming freely, feeling every subtle curve her slender form possessed. "Perhaps after your party, and Trinity's birthday celebration...we shall see just how sufficient your acting skills truly are."

"Mmmmmm..." Elisa cooed, being swept into an electrifying kiss, and then interrupted by a child with the worst sense of timing.

"Mommy?"

Elisa broke from Goliath's lips, and laughed into the breadth of his chest. "Damn that kid..." she muttered jestfully. "Yes, Trini. Come show daddy your costume."

Goliath, with still an arm wrapped around his wife's waist, found a diminutive girl come running furiously from her room, and only with the sight of his daughter, did his heart swell four times it's original size. Trinity padded up to his leg, appareled in a white lacy, long-sleeved dress, and her wings covered in matching mock-ups of feathered appendages, as if she was an angel come to life. Her brow spikes had been covered with a headband of a stretchable and glittering silver material, which also served to hold steady a golden halo above her curls, flowing like charcoal liquid in her mother's elegant styling. Her tail had been tucked away underneath the dress, and a pair of booties covered her four-toed feet. Goliath leaned down and hoisted his daughter to his shoulder, and spied upon her form with proud eyes.

"I a' ang'l, daddy!" she chirped, flapping her now feathered wings.

"Yes, you certainly are." he agreed wholeheartedly in his deep tone, brushing aside the loose strands from her heart-shaped face, much like Elisa's own untamed tress. "Are you ready to go to the party?"

"Yuh! Mia a' 'Ana, a' unca Matt!"

"Yes, both your aunt Maria and Iliana will be there. As will your uncle Matt, and don't forget Sara."

"Yuh!!"

"Come on, squirt." Elisa reached for the gargess and Trinity was passed to her mother's hands. "We have to get going. Go meet me at the elevator, okay? You know, those big silver doors..."

"Kay!" Trinity hopped down, using her wings to slow her descent, and landed firmly on the plush carpeting. She tore out of the room at breakneck speed, and towards the elevator doors leading to the private parking garage, as Fox followed behind at a distance to ensure she did not hurt herself in such a mad rush.

As Elisa prepared to leave as well, Goliath held her back with a comment birthed of a quick examination of his daughter's room. "Elisa," he started, his low rumble catching all corners of even their massive quarters, "I notice the crib is gone."

"Yeah, I...'loaned' it to Maggie."

"Ah. And when shall we expect your family tonight?"

Elisa instantly straightened out, her breathing becoming sharp, unbalanced. "They're...not coming."

"What?"

"I said they're not coming. Leave it at that."

Goliath reached for her shoulder, restraining her from moving away. "But Elisa...I cannot just leave it at that."

"Yes, you can...and yes, you will. I'll be home in a few hours, Goliath." She whirled around and kissed her husband on the cheek. "Get everything ready for Trini, for as soon as we get home, she'll be wanting to rip into her presents."

Goliath sighed, his keen mind perhaps at last untangling the web woven by Elisa and her constant secret keeping. "All right." he whispered, and now possibly seeing in Elisa's dark eyes the cause of the pain afflicting her so, and even perhaps the reason why her family would not be here.

"Love you, husband." she whispered, slowly stepping away and from the room.

"Love you, wife."

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

6:59 p.m.
"Okay, okay, okay...thirty-four seconds and counting down..." a surreptitious whisper burst from a shadow hunched on Goliath's turret, peering down to the lone tower where lingered his prey, unaware of his watchful eyes. "At seven p.m. precisely in the Winter months, he always leaves to work out. So...all I have to do...is wait."

And sure enough, when struck seven, did the massive oak barrier swing open, and the dark warrior emerge from his chambers, having finished his meditation, and looking forward to his nightly workout. Shadow breathed in the freshest of air, crisp, cold, nearly free of pollutants at this altitude, and stepped out. His large feet caught an invisible tripwire, and a peculiar sound snapped above him. The trained ninja aware of his environment, Shadow instinctively lept from the way, just as a bucket of water tipped over and spilled it's contents upon where he was but a second ago. "Interesting..." Shadow chuntered, spying on the swaying bucket hinged just above the door and the puddle seeping it's way into the cracks of the castle floor. "Quite mundane and unimaginative for a prank. But perhaps...it was merely a warning." He then looked skywards, towards his leader's turret, and discovered Todd looking down on him. "Ah, so the game has begun anew."

Todd smiled, and sneered, and his fusion of misted gray and cerulean crossed paths with Shadow's deep, searing mahogany. In a silent gesture, Todd forced a clenched fist into an awaiting open palm, and signaled the start of a contest destined to be marked in the annuls of history.

Shadow kept watching as Todd walked away, towards the stairs leading down to the castle courtyard. Suddenly, Todd's silhouetted cast plunged from sight, and Shadow's emotionless facade was torn asunder by a slight grin. Unbeknownst to the human, Shadow had prepared as well, leaving a thick patch of Vaseline coating just before sunrise the previous night, only allowed by Goliath knowing just who it would entrap. And knowing Todd would have been watching from the leader's tower and from the best vantage point, the dark warrior had drawn first blood.

Todd slipped, stumbled, and fell forwards. "WHOA!!! HOLY SHIIIIIIIITTT!!!" Forty-three steps down a curved staircase, as if a human pinball in the machine on ten quarters worth, and Todd at last spurted out from the turret archway, and tumbled down some more carved steps and onto the courtyard surface, landing face down. "Oooohhhhh...fuck me gently..."

Shadow watched his adversary roll over and try to get up, and eventually stumble headfirst into the water fountain. He then licked his index talon, and marked silently in the air, the first notch, the first point in the war.

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

7:10 p.m.
Elisa stepped out from the parked fairlane, and walked around the side of the car, to relieve Trinity of the bindings of her carseat. "Stop struggling, squirt." she minded her daughter, helping her unbuckle the belt, her gargoyle instincts to be free forming a hatred for her enforced entrapment in the plastic-molded seat. She lifted Trinity from the car, and with a breath of determination, deposited her half gargoyle daughter onto the open sidewalk. Elisa grabbed her pitchfork, locked and alarmed the fairlane, and turned around to see the tiny girl looking straight up, peering with wide eyes and an open mouth at the buildings towering over her. To her young perceptions, it was a veritable maze of iron monstrosities, and almost overwhelming to her.

Elisa looked around, and those passing by them on the streets seemed to pay no attention to the tiny gargess, and she released a sigh of relief, her breath left to curl and twist, the transparent eddy dissipating into the cold, mournful air, a fading trail to mark her passing. "Come on, Trini." Elisa grabbed her hand and led her daughter up the steps of the twenty-third precinct.

From every man within the building, came a lustful stare, in seeing the slinky form of burning crimson glide past them. Elisa paid no attention, instead watching her daughter cross her eyes up to each and every human walking by them both. The sights, smells, the very experiences were almost too much to take, but she possessed a smile, her curiosity being engorged, and overpowering her fear.

They reached the squadroom, where the party was taking place, and through the closed doors came the lively music and a chorus of voices, both loud and jovial, playing upon each other within a charismatic melody perhaps out of sync with the dark holiday motif. "Here goes nothing..." Elisa whispered. "Now remember what I told you..." she mentioned to her daughter, receiving a nod of the head in response.

She opened the door and entered into the room, and instantly the room went silent. Elisa froze, as all eyes were directed to her. "Uhm...hi everyone." They continued staring, but not for the reason she had previously thought, for it seemed her costume had drawn considerable attention, both a craving from the men, and intense jealousy from the women.

"Hey, Elisa." Matt stepped forwards to greet his partner, with Sara Jasper, his longtime girlfriend, trailing behind. He was dressed as Superman, his blue spandex suit exploding with a muscular structure created with strategically placed foam padding, his black-dyed hair slicked back, with Sara alongside as a perfect Lois Lane, just awaiting to be saved from the forces of evil. "Glad you could make it."

"Elisa!" A flash of a red cape and blue tights, and seconds later, Iliana Starr came to rest beside the detective, clad in her Supergirl outfit, with the skirt left intentionally much too short. "Nice suit. Breathe lately in that thing?" she questioned sarcastically, with Elisa poking her playfully with her pitchfork.

"Elisa." Maria Chavez surfaced next, as Wonder Woman, and appearing as if the golden bustier was causing her a slight problem, considering it was pressing her bosom higher than originally made to carry. And before Elisa could comment, Maria held up a hand to silence her. "Don't say a word, Maza. This...thing," she growled, while adjusted the bustier again, "wasn't my idea."

"I'm sensing a theme here..." Elisa drawled in seeing a comic book come to life, with the others looking at Iliana, and the red-haired rookie shrugging her shoulders.

"Hey," she directed the conversation towards her superior, "you're the only one here with the...uhm, lung capacity to fill out that particular costume...heh..." She shrugged once again, as captain Chavez glared down on her through the long, black wig.

"What?"

"You look great." Sara commented, reassuring Maria, knowing the oft-prudent captain was feeling as if she was dressed much too seductively for her tastes, especially with her bared thighs, arms and back, the knee-high, high-heeled boots, and the star spangled underwear.

"Uhm...who's that?" Iliana teased, in seeing a small head bob around the doorframe, and stare into the room with wide chocolate eyes through her falling tress.

"My guest." Elisa answered, turning to hold a hand out towards her cowering daughter. "Come on, baby. It's okay. Come inside."

Trinity slowly stepped into full view, and again, the entire room fell into a quiet standstill, baring witness to Elisa's daughter for the first time. Only Elisa and the four others who knew of her smiled softly, as the gargess timidly moved closer, and eventually curling up to and hugging tightly her mother's leg, her wings drooping, her eyes darting to each and every officer and their loved ones within the spacious room.

"Hey, Trini!" cried Iliana, kneeling down and offering her arms to the girl. Trinity smiled as she recognized her friend and skipped over into the rookie's arms. At this time, did the rest of the party-goers move in to form a circle around Elisa's daughter, pleasant comments drifting around the room, and hands reaching out to brush through her silky locks.

"...She's so cute..."

"...She's gorgeous, Elisa..."

"...Such a little cutie...and so big..."

"...And those wings look so realistic...they even move..."

As her daughter was quickly carted off to be fussed over and the party resumed, Maria leaned in towards her friend. "You sure this is okay?"

"I don't know." she answered honestly. "But look at her. She deserves to have a life outside of that castle."

"She certainly does."

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

7:51 p.m.
A piercing crack ripped upon the still air, as the perfectly-shaped, ivory cueball slammed into the rest, scattering the entire table with the striped and solid colors, bouncing wildly against the felted sides. Goliath had taken it upon himself to take full advantage of an empty media room after both he and Angela had prepared it for his daughter's first birthday, and decided to try for the first time, a game of billiards.

"I don't think I've ever seen you play pool..."

Goliath peered over his bulging arm to see Brooklyn entering in from the door, and playfully batting a few helium filled balloons as he approached. "I thought I would give it a try." he rumbled, turning his attention back to his shot.

"You're bored, aren't you?" Brooklyn surmised, a sardonic tone, thinking it quite amusing in seeing his stoic leader playing a game he once thought of as pointless.

Goliath never answered, and instead forced his steady held cue into the cueball, and with great skill, sunk the three-ball into the corner pocket. "Hrm. Very."

"You wished you could have gone with Elisa and Trinity."

Goliath sunk another ball, much to Brooklyn's surprise. "Yes."

"Why don't you?"

"What?!" Goliath miscued, and the cueball was sent flying from the table's edge, and into Brooklyn's taloned hand. "You can't be serious. It was risky enough taking Trinity, yet she is much easier to disguise."

"Says the gargoyle who once danced in the streets with Elisa one Halloween eve."

"It is...a different situation." he tried to convince Brooklyn, and perhaps himself. "Back then, we were merely passers-by in the middle of total strangers, and then left to help Fox. Now, it would mean actually having to mingle with humans, with Elisa's co-workers, spend considerable time with them, and attempt to pass myself off as one of them..."

"It's worked before. Just say you have a really good costume."

"Enough of this, Brooklyn." Goliath cautioned severely, returning to his game. "I cannot risk it."

"You're right." he sighed, leaning against the stained-black, wooden surface and casually checking his claws. "After all the crap we've recently gone through, who the hell would want to unwind and have some fun with his family on the only night he may ever be able to?"

Goliath's eyes clicked up to his second's massive spreading smile. "I...am still not convinced..."

"Yeah, it's probably a good thing you're not there anyway." he continued, knowing this would catch Goliath's attention to the fullest. "Especially to see all those lonely, single guys hitting on her in that red, skin tight, leather suit..."

Goliath perked up and unwittingly snapped the pool cue in half. "Did she say the party was in the squadroom?"

"Yup."

"If you'll excuse me..." Goliath rushed off and out the door, with Brooklyn's beak filled entirely with a grin.

"That was too easy..." he chuffed, fortuitously glancing out the open door, and seeing a cream-colored shape move into view, flash him her emerald green eyes, and then move on as if a whisper of the wind. "What the hell is she doing here now?"

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

7:58 p.m.
Brooklyn raced through the arched hallway, following behind the woman he had just seen, and after turning a few corners, captured a winged form in the farthest shadows. "Skulking through the corridors doesn't seem like you." he huffed, screeching to a halt at the stranger's feet.

"I just wanted to speak with you in private." she answered, her tone soft, yielding, almost gracious.

He crossed his arms and glowered. "About?"

She stepped out, to better illuminate her features, and the guardian spirit stood revealed in all her magnificence. "Why did you push both Elisa, Trinity and Goliath into going to the precinct? The risk is considerable."

"To what?" he argued, outstretching his arms in a questioning gesture. "Having them locked up in this castle forever, and allowing the humans to think there's no possible way that true peace can be achieved between us? We have to improve relations between human and gargoyle."

"A gamble..."

"That we have to start taking."

"You have a further motive though..." Infiniti supposed, knowing this gargoyle perchance better than himself, seeing in her near limitless powers his hopes, dreams and memories, though somewhat faded compared to the rest.

Brooklyn sighed. "Yeah, I suppose you could say that. In...in the future I visited, on my timedancing journeys...there was absolutely no mention of Goliath or Elisa...or any children or descendants..." Brooklyn's pain became apparent on his facade, closing his eyes to refresh his memories of this world hundreds of years hence. "When I asked about them, everyone avoided the subject and Angela nearly broke down into tears...and I never found out what had happened..."

"Perhaps, Brooklyn," Infiniti cut through, "it was their discovery by an unfeeling humanity that led to their...demise."

"Or maybe, it was the fact we never worked hard enough to form a lasting relationship between our two races." he attested the guardian's supposition. "There was absolutely no mention of Goliath, Elisa, or any children. No mention of Todd and Annika or Shadow and Delilah...no past interspecies couplings were ever revealed, or any children that the future Trinity told us about."

"But the future Trinity came from only one possible future, and perhaps, as was the future you visited. Just one possibility in an infinite realm..."

"That's why we have to begin to prove ourselves. We have to work harder to show that gargoyles are peaceful, even if it starts with one simple Halloween party. It's my duty to ensure the safety of this clan, and their future. I won't allow anything to happen to the children that will be brought forth." His eyes glowed with a fervent flicker. "Anything..."

Infiniti nodded to Brooklyn's faith in his family, and his pact to keep them safe. But something else nagged on her foremost thoughts, the fact that the former timedancer was speaking so eloquently of experiences he had claimed to have almost forgotten. "So, you do have clear memories of your journeys."

Brooklyn jerked back, but knew he should not be too surprised at how much Infiniti actually perceived. "Yes."

"You lied to them about how much you know."

"They have to make their own decisions, their own choices in their lives."

"With your subtle urging?" she joked, with a hint of a smile on swelled lips.

"......if need be." he confessed, showing regret in his eyes. "But sometimes, I have to keep quiet, even if it means...letting my own rookery brother be turned into a cyborg." The regret turned to true remorse when speaking of Lexington. "Why are you asking me this anyway?"

"You covered well when finding about the stone sleep spell a year ago..."

"You mean the fact that I traveled back far more than three thousand years into ancient Egypt, and know for a fact gargoyles turned to stone long before that sorcerer who trapped you cast his spell?"

"Indeed." she replied impassively, his statement completely true.

"Which means..."

"Which means," she interrupted, continuing his assumption, "the Phoenix gate may not have only took you through time, but through alternate dimensions as well."

Brooklyn breathed hard, scraping a hand down weathered features. "So, both the past and future could be different than what I know?"

"Yes."

"And is this...even my universe anymore?"

"To tell the truth, my friend, I am not sure. The powerful magic inherent in the gate has...blurred your aura, as well as that of your mate and children. But this universe lost it's Brooklyn, and then found him once more. I would say, my friend, that you are home, or as close as you are ever going to get."

"Lucky me."

Infiniti laughed softly, and walked closer to the scarlet gargoyle. "You are important to this clan's survival, timedancer, never forget that."

"Why are you here anyway?"

"I would never dream of missing the child of destiny's first celebration of her birth. And I hear the cake is...ahem," she blushed slightly, "double fudge chocolate."

"Jeez, you women and your chocolate..."

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

8:09 p.m.
"Man, I can't believe I never noticed that friggin' Vaseline..." Todd muttered, nursing his limp through his damp clothing, and continuing to curse Shadow's own retaliation beneath his breath. "I must have stepped over it the first time. Oh well, this'll get 'im..."

"Todd?"

Todd turned to see Ariana appearing behind him, having returned from her candy gathering on the streets, and instantly reached out to the young gargess and pulled her around the corner where he was hiding. She blushed slightly when being pushed up against his body with an arm around her shoulders, and seeing Todd look down on her with his deep gray eyes. "Shhhh." he silenced her. "Watch."

They both peered to where a massive black shape was stalking down the corridor, seemingly wary of his path. Shadow stopped suddenly, seeing another tripwire stretched across the breadth of the hall, the thin line just barely glinting in the light, and smiled. "A laughable try, Hawkins." Shadow stepped over it and continued on, smug in his presumption he had foiled the prank attempt, until a slight buzzing could be heard from a panel on the wall beside him, embedded in the Scottish stone. A simple electrical panel, found everywhere in the castle, and he opened it, unaware of what was to come next. Shadow dodged from the trajectory of a stream of black liquid discharged when the panel was opened, and watched it spatter onto the opposing wall. Shadow smiled again, and turned around, only to be hit face first with another blast.

Both Todd and Ariana tried unsuccessfully to muffle their laughter, and fled from their place when Shadow heard them, two searing points of sapphire flame submerged in dripping raven goo. "Want in, hot stuff?" Todd asked of his new accomplice.

"Oh yeah." the beaked gargess replied as they escaped into the castle.

Shadow wiped away the sticky goop, and growled. "Hawkins..."

"Shadow?" Graeme had appeared to the dark warrior's side, a strange expression set in faded jade, in seeing what had just occurred. "Man, what happened?"

"Graeme-san. As one warrior to another, I...need your help. Care to help me get even with Todd and your sister?"

"Oh yeah..."

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

8:20 p.m.
"Where did she get off to now?" asked Elisa of her captain, the woman in red peering through the mass of costumed police officers for her daughter, hoping to snare a glimpse of white between the array of infinite swirling colors. Of fur and silk and molded plastic masks, Trinity had functionally disappeared into the crowd of costumed party-goers.

"Don't worry," Maria assured her, "Starr's with her."

"That's what worries me." Elisa sighed.

"You're just mad because you keep getting hit on..." Maria added, as she moved away to speak with Matt and Sara.

"Can I help it if I'm drop-dead sexy?" Elisa grumbled, and turned around to the long table, the entire surface filled with a catered buffet, rolled choice meats and palatable sliced fruit with a slight sheen in the light, intermixed between bowls of Halloween candy. She reached out to grab some more fruit punch, leaning over the table to reach for the crystal tureen, unintentionally leaving her backside, encased in the skintight leather, in an unobstructed view. Without warning, two hands came down on Elisa's rear, clenched directly into the two red leather globes of her buttocks. She froze on contact.

"Hey there, Mazsha," came an apparently intoxicated tone, one of her co-workers having consumed far too much of the 'special' punch, "that'sh a great coshtume you gotsh...and a real nicesh assh too..."

And then, suddenly, as if a crack of thunder had erupted into the room, the squadroom doors were nearly thrown from their hinges, and in stepped a seven foot, seven inch tall lavender behemoth, his muscles flared and snaked with sinuous veins trailing just beneath the skin, pulsating in perfect time with his rapidly beating heart. "GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY WIFE'S ASS!!!"

Silence. All gathered there turned their eyes towards the door, and upwards to peer into Goliath's heaving muscular form, the gargoyle having to restrain his anger for fear of his eyes giving away his true nature. Goliath took a few more steps inside, glaring at the officer who had just groped his wife, nearly having soiled himself and swiftly moving away. Elisa groaned and held her hands to her face, as her husband scanned the room with jealous eyes of certain death.

"Daddy!" drifted a quiet squeak, as Trinity emerged from the crowd and ran to her father's arms, as Elisa groaned again, even louder.

"...Daddy??..."

"...Jesus...she's married to Hercules..."

"...Is he for real?..."

"Woooow...that's some good costume," Maria defended the gargoyle, racing to his side in Elisa's stupor, "er...ah, 'Liath..." She winked fertively to Goliath, who nodded. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Elisa's so-called phantom husband, Liath Maza."

Silence.

"It appears my costume has performed it's task admirably," Goliath started, resting Trinity to his shoulder, "I hope I did not scare you all."

"...Noooooo...of course not..."

"...Who would be scared of a seven and a half foot tall man dressed as a winged monster?..."

"...I think I pished myshelf..."

Goliath made his way over to Elisa, who appeared as if she was perhaps going to throttle him with her bare hands. "Am I late?" he toyed with her, seeing the actual steam rising from her head.

"You big, dumb, son of a..."

"Ah ah ah," Goliath held up Trinity, "please do not swear in front of our daughter."

"What the hell are you doing here?" she whispered harshly.

"I was convinced to join you, and it seemed," he looked back to the man who had touched his mate, seeing him slink back even deeper into the crowd, "just in time..."

"You know I could have handled that by myself."

"Of course. I just..." Goliath sheepishly looked down, and Elisa's anger evaporated quickly. "I only wished to join you."

Elisa smiled, taking Trinity back into her leather-covered arms. "I'm glad you did, Big Guy. Come on, let's go mingle, and...show you off to Thompkins, that fat bit..."

"Elisa." Goliath cut her off before the chance to swear in front off Trinity arose.

"Sorry."

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

8:42 p.m.
"Now?"

"Wait..."

"Now?"

"Wait..." Shadow heeded Graeme's impatience with a tempered fortitude, watching as his targets at last appeared into view beneath them. "Mr. Hawkins...it's time to meet your maker..." Shadow silently motioned to Graeme with barely a cock of his spurred brow, and the younger gargoyle cut the rope.

As Todd and Ariana walked through the arch, watchful of their surroundings, yet unaware of just what may befall them. Only with the rending of air did they finally look up, and see an almost transparent fluid splash upon them. "What the hell?!!" Todd yelled, the thick viscous liquid pouring down their heads and shoulders.

"I apologize, Ariana-chan," Shadow's rasp seemed to come from no discernible source, "but it seems you have chosen your side as well." The dark warrior flicked the switch, powering the fan, with a pile of feathers torn from the pillows of one of the numerous guestrooms erupting into the air. Both Todd and Ariana were awash in the tiny white feathers, sticking to the sweetened honey covering their entire bodies. When finished, they appeared as a pair of chickens without the wings, and Shadow and Graeme slipped away, but not before taking a polaroid, no doubt for future blackmail.

"Fuck..." Todd hissed, as Ariana looked up to the handsome human, seeing his features, though lost in the clumping of feathers, contort in sheer anger.

"What do we do now?"

"We up this game to the next level, hot stuff, and get our just revenge."

"Oh goodie..."

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

9:10 p.m.
"Are you sure these aren't real?" asked a beautiful blond of the massive gargoyle, a seductress dressed as a fairy princess in trailing veils of coral silk, and running her slender fingers along his wings.

"No." he answered coyly, though unable to hide his smile at her blatant flirting, and attempting to keep his wings completely motionless under her tender massage.

"And these?" She moved her hand to run up his arm, feeling the bulging muscle barely contained by taught skin of a suede texture.

"Those...are very real, miss." Goliath flexed his arm, and the blond's eyes widened when his appendage swelled to almost twice it's size.

"Oh wow..."

"Ahem."

Both Goliath and the nameless blond turned to see Elisa standing a few feet away, arms crossed, a spiked boot tapping relentlessly, and a hardened, searing stare effectively displaying her anger. She flicked her eyes to the blond, and she discreetly moved back, though flashing a last wink to Goliath, the gargoyle sensing a rush of heat flowing through his arteries.

"See you around...Big Guy." she cooed enticingly, and disappeared.

Elisa stomped over to her husband, still afflicted with a goofish smile. "Getting a little friendly, weren't you?" she hissed.

"Just...mingling, my beautiful Elisa."

"Thems is grounds for divorce...'Big Guy'." she mimicked the blond's subtle tease on his given nickname, while batting her eyelashes, yet only enforcing her swelling ire. "Just watch yourself tonight, all right?" she said, jabbing a finger, and the long, painted nail, directly into his chest.

Goliath laughed beneath his breath, and swept her into a kiss. "Yes, dear."

"I'm telling you, they're real!! LET ME GO!!!" A fervent screaming exploded just outside the squadroom doors, and abruptly, were the double doors tossed open, and a blonde-haired woman came running in. She pointed an accusing finger directly to Goliath, with an open cuff dangling from her wrist. "SEE!!! Look, a real, live gargoyle!! They're real!!"

"Elisa," Goliath whispered to his wife, "is that?..."

"Nicole St. John from WVRN...shit. That nosy bitch."

"What do you think you're doing in here?" demanded Maria furiously, both attempting to understand how this woman found her way unmolested through her station and barged in here, and also desperately protect Goliath's identity.

"I followed this gargoyle inside, and got caught trying to find him." the reporter explained, pressing ever closer towards the massive gargoyle, with Iliana carrying Trinity farther into the crowd to hide her presence from Nicole's roving, observant eyes.

"This isn't a gargoyle, it's a man in a Halloween costume." Maria explained, or at least tried to.

"Then ask him how he got here..."

"I took...a cab." Goliath lied.

"Nice try, wings, I saw you glide in and land in the alley outside. You're real, you're a gargoyle, and you're front page news."

"And you're an idiot!" Elisa snapped, scowling at the woman, who matched her steely glare with a fire-filled gaze of her own. "Gargoyles don't exist, everyone knows that! They were nothing but a hoax dreamed up by some morons who wanted nothing more than to scare the crap out of the city!"

"Then what about the footage we've captured? And all the sightings, and weird occurrences in the past few years?"

"Fakes. Just like aliens, Area 51, crop circles, bigfoot and the alien autopsy on the Fox channel. You didn't know this, and you're a reporter? Man, has your career gone down the tubes..."

"And the Quarrymen? And the P.I.T. organization?!"

"Paranoid fanatics, and people who let their imagination go way too far."

"What about the so-called Gargoyle task force, run right out of this precinct?"

"It was only formed to alleviate the populace's irrational fears." Maria interrupted the catfight before Elisa tore in the reporter. "It was practically non-functional, except to calm the general public. We have, to date, found absolutely no evidence that gargoyles actually exist."

"Thanks for the tip there, big boobs McGee." Nicole shot back, seeing Maria gasp in shock and bashfully cover her chest with her hands. The reporter was fuming, a happenstance of sheer luck resulting in having seen Goliath glide in towards the precinct house less than an hour earlier, and now, with the greatest story of her career standing directly in front of her, she would not let go that easily. "There have been hundreds of eyewitnesses. Are you telling me they're all lying?!"

"Either that or they're all crazy." said Sara, enjoying the show.

"Look at him!!" she screamed, attempting to convince the others. "He's freaking huge. No human could be that big, and no one could make a costume that good."

"I had my costume...professionally done," Goliath continued in his lies, yet possessing a certain flair for twisting the truth, perhaps picked up from spending too much time in Xanatos' presence, "by a...'friend', who was once in the television industry. And I happen to work out quite regularly..."

"Bullshit!! I saw you fly, and land!! Those wings work..."

"Will someone please get her out of here?!" Maria yelled out, her imperious tone casting over the hushed murmurs of the crowd. And suddenly, did officers Morgan and O'Malley burst through the doors, and practically tackle the wiry reporter, wrenching her arms behind her back and reconnecting the handcuffs.

"Sorry, captain," Morgan apologized, "she got away from us in the booking room."

"He's one of them!!" she howled, fighting furiously against the two larger men, as they dragged her from the room. "I'll prove they exist!! I know what I saw!! I KNOW!!!"

"Psycho..." Iliana whispered within the crowd, as Trinity burst out laughing in her arms.

"Well," Elisa suspired, still hearing the fading screams of the reporter down the hall, "that was kind of close." She looked at all the others, still running through their minds Nicole's words, and discerning whether or not to believe her. "Oh come on, you guys actually think my husband is a gargoyle? Get a life, and stop watching the X-Files so damn often!!"

They all nodded, and the party carried on without skipping a beat.

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

9:23 p.m.
"Ready?"

"Yup."

"FIRE!!!" Todd yelled, as both he and Ariana let loose the giant slingshot stretched between the cornice structures, the strap filled with balloons containing a mixture of shaving cream and raw eggs, and spoiled milk for added weight. Shadow and Graeme tried to dodge from the projectiles spilling from the turret above, but the younger gargoyle was caught unprepared and was hit several times, the rancid material bursting upon his skin, covering him in the white, noxious ooze and knocking him to the ground.

Shadow flipped away and successfully evaded the first volley. He stood up and laughed in his triumph. "You missed, Hawkins!"

"FIRE!!!"

"Jalapena..."

POW!!!

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

9:45 p.m.
"Well, are you ready, squirt?" Elisa asked her firstborn, wiping away the chocolate from her face with a wet cloth, and attempting to hold the squirming gargess still with her nails clenched firmly into her puffed cheeks.

"Hav'ta?" she replied, having for the last few hours enjoyed herself of a new adventure unlike that never experienced before.

"Yeah, we have to go now."

"N'wanna." she pleaded, pouting, and inflaming Elisa's heart with her innocent face and sagging wings.

"Okay, but I guess you don't want to open any presents..."

Trinity's eyes burst open, having forgotten about her upcoming celebration in the midst of having so much fun at the precinct party. "Pwes'nts!!" She flapped her wings in her excitement, and Elisa immediately reached out to keep her flailing appendages still, lest she almost spill her greatest secret.

"Come on, let's go." Elisa watched as Goliath picked Trinity from the ground and proceeded to the doors, and turned to see her friends crowding around her. "So, you guys sticking around, or you want to come to a real party?"

"Sounds like fun." Maria replied, with both Matt and Sara nodding their consent.

"'Ana?"

"Sure..." the rookie detective answered in the affirmative, and then stepped closer to Elisa. "Is uhm...Shadow going to be there too?"

Elisa cocked an eyebrow to the odd question. "Well, yeah, the entire clan is coming in, even from their patrols. Including Shadow. Why do you ask?"

"No reason..."

"Goodbye, Liath!" cried the fairy princess, blowing the lavender giant a kiss with red-coated lips, and a seductive wink of her eyes. "I hope to see you again...very soon."

Goliath purpled, and tried to wave back until Elisa practically pushed him through the doors, growling as if a gargoyle female pushed too far by a rival sister for her lover's affections, which was not too far from the actual truth.

"Come on, loverboy," Elisa drawled, "let's get you back home and hose you off..."

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

9:51 p.m.
"Damn, I hope I'm not too late..." a gorgeous being of flaxen locks muttered as she quickly navigated the halls of Wyvern, having returned from her relatively, and surprisingly quiet patrol. "Todd wanted me to meet him...I sure hope he hasn't gotten himself into too much trouble..." She passed quietly through the winding halls, her talons barely making a click with her light tread, and as she turned a corner, did the elevator doors on the far side of the corridor open to her sight. Annika furrowed her brow to better see what was slowly heading her way, a mass of brown fur, huge, shaped as a massive teddy bear with a bow tied around it's neck. "Oh my god!" Annika squealed, an innocence within released in seeing every child's dream, that of a favored toy being big enough to curl up upon. She rushed towards the stuffed animal, seemingly bobbing towards her on it's own power and towering more than a foot above her. "That's so cute!"

The bear stopped and lowered, and behind the chestnut-tinged fur, burst a pyre of crimson flame, wild locks the color of hellfire.

"Oh..." Annika gasped. "......Demona."

"Annika." The former immortal greeted Annika with but her name, passing saddened eyes towards she whom with her relationship had been practically shattered. A disquieting silence passed between them, until Demona heaved the bear higher, resettled the numerous shopping bags suspended from her arms, and moved away.

"I...I'm sure Trinity will love it." Annika whispered, as Demona walked from her, continuing her way towards where the celebration was about to begin.

"...Thank you." a quiet response was all that was given, and Demona turned the corner, fading from sight.

"Well...that wasn't too awkward..."

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

10:01 p.m.
"You shall die, Hawkins!!"

"You and what army, numb-nuts?!!"

"This army, jerk!!"

"Watch what you call my partner, beak-face!!"

"You're just defending him because you've got a crush on him!!" Graeme sneered, his sister lifting her brow ridges in shock, and blushing deeply, her scarlet hide turning an even deeper maroon around her cheeks.

"I do not!!" she snapped back, hoping Todd would think her twin sibling was kidding.

Two opposing sides of a war begun an hour ago faced off, the final battle perhaps now going to commence. Todd and Ariana, with a few glistening patches of honey smeared over their clothing, skin and hair, including a few missed feathers, stood firmly against Shadow and Graeme, appearing almost as ghosts covered in eggs, milk and shaving cream. The pranks had continued on into the night and now taken their toll, and at this time did the combatants find themselves out of options, except for the conclusive, deciding struggle.

Todd glared at Shadow, Graeme at Ariana, their weapons of choice concealed behind their backs, and only with the subtle twitch of perhaps a brow, or a hand, or even a flicker of the eye, would the fastest on the draw prevail.

But it would be an innocent, with no idea of what she was walking into when entering in between the four, who would be the trigger. "My children?" Sata called out softly. "It is almost time for the partaaaAAAAAAAHHHH!!!" The jade samurai was completely covered in four differently colored streams of Silly-String, erupting from the pranksters, having been scared to war by her gentle summons. A web of neon thread blanketed the entire group, spraying until they discharged their canisters, and at last looked down to the fallen gargess, attempting to claw her way from the confines of her entrapment.

"Uh oh..." Graeme breathed fearfully, with Ariana cringing.

"Rogues!!" Sata hissed, standing and removing the rest of the adhesive string from her kimono. "What has gotten into you four?!! I can understand the twins, and Mr. Hawkins..."

"Why does everyone keep calling me that?!"

"But you, Shadow-san?" She looked up to the dark warrior, who edged back, and merely shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose there lays a child in all of us..." she sighed, actually finding it quite amusing that the stoic and sometimes unfeeling ninja could frolic with an unburdened heart after recent events. "Now look at all of you...you appear as if you have gone through a war. Trinity's party is in less than half an hour. I expect all of you to be cleaned up by then. Is that understood?"

"Hey," Todd protested adamantly, "you're not my mom!"

"I SAID!!!" she enlarged her voice to that of a lioness, as Todd jerked back in fear. "Is that understood?!!"

"Hai, Sata-chan."

"Yes, mom."

"Yes, mom."

"Yes, mom." Todd relented like the rest, yet stuck his tongue out at the retreating emerald gargoyle in a lasting gesture of defiance, until she swept around and glared at him, as if seeing the display. Todd feigned innocence, until Sata left the room. "Whew..."

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

10:29 p.m.
The patrols finished, the clan had begun to gather within the media room, the celebration for Trinity's birthday about to begin. The entire clan was there, the Xanatoses and the rest of their human allies, and the contented parents huddled around their daughter, who in turn eyed the table piled high with wrapped boxes as if a voracious animal in pursuit of it's prey, and almost had to be restrained in her excitement.

Hudson had nudged his way towards the costumed captain, and stood nonchalantly beside her, until his curiosity and oft-sustained libido took advantage of her exposed skin. He leaned over, seeing with carnal interest the tight-fitting amazon uniform, and a mature woman shedding her true age, appearing more beautiful than any young maiden in this floating city. "I like th' threads, lassie." he mentioned coolly.

"What?" Maria never noticed the tanned gargoyle until he had broken her concentration with his rough, Scottish brogue. "Oh, Hudson...I don't know how I let myself be talked into this..." She adjusted her bustier again, much to Hudson's delight, though he kept himself under control at his friend's minor modification of her costume.

"I be glad ye did, Maria, for ye look beautiful."

"R-Really? Oh, well...thanks." Her fair skin glowed a pale crimson, her skin flushed with a welcome warmth.

As Hudson laughed at Maria's embarrassment, Iliana took the chance to sneak up towards Shadow, her eyes caressing along sculpted muscle, carved by the gods themselves from simple black granite. She moved closer, until a blanket of white filled her vision, Delilah having moved up to her lover's arm, twining around his bulky appendage like a snake. Iliana grumbled her misfortune, "Dammit." She stopped in place and respectfully kept her distance, yet still captured surreptitious glances his way, and only one time, did their eyes meet, and he smiled.

"Good evening, detective Starr." he rasped, still fresh in his mind, the first time they had encountered each other, with Shadow baring more than he ever wished to. "It's...good to see you again."

Iliana nearly fainted on the spot.

"So, Trinity." Elisa whispered to her daughter, still in costume, having chosen to remain so as to further tease her husband. The winged girl never budged, mesmerized by her presents. "What do you want to do first? Have dinner...eat cake...or maybe..."

"PWES'NTS!!!"

"A child after my own heart..." Brooklyn whispered to Todd.

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

10:53 p.m.
Less than a half hour later, the entire room lay in ruins, torn pieces of glittering wrapping paper strewn about. Paper plates and cups laying upon each surface, with the Wyvern gargoyles convalescing after such an ordeal. Trinity perched on the carpeting just beside the main couch, her new toys and playthings readily keeping her attention, as was her older sister, Delilah. Elisa remained wrapped in Goliath's arms, staring at her baby daughter having almost turned just one year old. The others too discreetly watched her, the future of their clan, their race, represented in this tiny, winged girl, growing so fast it seemed she was beyond only one year of age.

Yet Elisa noticed a few members missing, possibly having left just after the cake was served. She looked over to where Broadway was finishing his third piece, while Brooklyn entertained himself with a few Barbie dolls, and Lexington having been attracted especially to their plastic vehicles. "Hey, guys," she called out to them, "aren't we missing a few? Including your mates?"

Broadway at last noticed Angela's absence from his side, and looked around the entire room. "Hey, where'd she go?"

"And Sata and Ariana?"

"And Todd and Annika. And Des and Fox too..."

"They left several minutes ago," explained an ever observant Demona, nursing a steaming cup of lemon tea and having started a conversation with Xanatos, "for what reason, they did not say..."

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

10:58 p.m.
"Isn't it a little unhealthy to want to have sex with a cartoon character?" Annika asked her fiancé, adjusting the short, pleated, cerulean skirt, and knowing Todd was staring lustfully at her legs. "Especially one for young girls?"

"But tonight," Todd declared smoothly, wrapping Annika into his arms, "she's real..." He leaned over and kissed her ardently and longingly, enveloping them both in his satin cape, a sheen of purest platinum rippling in the folds of his cowl. "And that show is not just for little girls!" he yelled through the kisses. "It happens to be very well-written..."

"Why are we doing this again?" inquired Angela, arranging her golden tiara in the wall-mounted mirror above her brow ridges.

"This is my present to your sister." he clarified once again, having released himself from Annika and replacing his ivory mask, framing his deep-set eyes. "And for me as well..." he added, unable to keep his eyes from his full-dressed fiancé. "Now stay in character."

"And who am I again?" asked Sata, an unsettled expression cast in emerald jewel when reflecting dark eyes to her own costume.

"You're Sailor Mars. Jeez," Todd swept a sideways glance to Ariana, "I thought your mom was from Japan, where anime was born."

"16th century Japan." she responded sardonically, a seemingly mature sense of humor for someone so young. "It's hard for her not to think of the T.V. as the magic box with the evil demons inside."

"I am well aware of television and similar technology!" Sata growled, unconsciously fluffing the bright carmine bow attached to her chest.

"Are we all ready?" Desdemona's tone carried over the bickering, seeing the others nod and prepare themselves. "Good. Now Trinity is waiting, so let us not disappoint her. And besides, this tunic is rather...tight."

"Yeah," Todd snickered, "I know."

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

11:07 p.m.
"Mommy? Where Anga?"

"I don't know, squirt, she's..."

"Right here!" A thunderous voice echoed into the room, and all eyes of gargoyle and human, and even disguised fay were directed to the media room doors, where stood a quintet of silhouetted female forms, and soon they breached the darkness and stood into the light, with Trinity nearly exploding at the dreamlike perception.

"We are the Sailor scouts!!" yelled Annika, playing into her character perfectly. "And we fight for justice and right wrongs and...uhm..."

"Remember our cards." Angela whispered.

"Oh yeah..." Annika slipped a small index card from her belt and peered to her given lines. "Oh yeah! We shall protect all we love in the name of the moon!! I am Sailor Moon, and I shall punish you!!"

Trinity was nearly floating from the ground in seeing her favored cartoon characters come to life, her eyes as bright as the stars, her wings flapping uncontrollably in the face of her a dream come true.

"I am...Sailor Mars!" came Sata's ferocious cry, after which she developed a slight crease of her brow when seeing Brooklyn's vaunted glare. "By the gods, this is embarrassing."

"I am Sailor Venus." cried Desdemona, though softly and winking towards a dumbfounded Othello.

"I am Sailor Mercury!" continued Ariana. "This is so cool..."

"And I am Sailor Jupiter!"

"Anga!!" Trinity shrieked, seeing her older sister adorned in the forest-tinged sailor senshi outfit, and waving to her younger sibling.

"Mwahahahaha!! You puny little sailor scouts!" As if fingers scraping down a chalkboard, a high pitched screeching shattered the tranquillity. A flowing lavender gown, and sweeping crimson curls entered into view, as Fox had developed her given persona to a frighteningly realistic degree, with Xanatos and Alexander both staring in disbelief at a wife and mother in a perfected temperament. "I am Queen Beryl, and I shall destroy you all! Mwahahahahahaaaa!! God, I love this villain stuff...it's been so long since I could laugh maniacally."

"Not while I'm around, Beryl!" A flash of deep ebony drifted past, and Todd had made his own dramatic entrance, standing atop the closest pool table in defined silhouette, and holding a rose to his masked face. "I am Tuxedo Mask, and I shall help the scouts destroy you and the Negaverse!" He hopped down, his tuxedo a perfect fit to a shaped body, his cape flowing in an invisible wind. "Besides, I'm kinda sleeping with the heroine, so...you know...ruff!!"

"Augh, way to kill the fantasy, Hawkins..." Annika scolded him, though still admiring the tuxedo and the cape.

"Dodd!" While Lexington continued videotaping the entire presentation, Trinity came running past to he who had prepared this for her, and Todd opened his arms to the gargess. "T'anks!"

"No problem...now, if you'll excuse me..." Todd dashed to Annika's side and swept her off her feet, the hero born of her romance novels, and the painted covers of lovers embraced in faded watercolor.

"What are you doing?!" she screamed, being brusquely thrown into his arms as if the princess, and carted off down the hall towards the direction of her private quarters.

"Just hoping to live a dream I've had ever since I saw this show..." he answered, his eyes possessing a streak of passion.

"God damn..."

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

11:41 p.m.
The doors slowly creaked open, this particular section of the castle submerged in quiet solitude at long last, having discovered some semblance of peace after the deafening screams had erupted even through the heavy barriers. Todd drifted out, a smug smile etched in skin of a light dawn tint, his hair tousled and unkempt. Having discarded his costume for another day, he had changed into a simple T-shirt and jeans, finding comfort once more, though fostering tenderly a deep red marring along his sides and back. "Damn that woman..." he muttered, lifting the shirt to better see his wounds inflicted by his fiancé in the throes of passion.

"Sorry..." she whispered behind him, the gargess having changed into her own usual attire, though for some reason still wearing the crescent tiara. Her long strands of golden hair hanging astray and her lipstick slightly smeared, she staggered out, and followed Todd down the hallway. "Fantasy fulfilled, oh my darling prince?"

"At least one..."

"Of how many?"

"About forty-three."

"What's the next?" she sighed, though interested to see just how deep his mind and erotic desire could sink to.

"You ever watch The Dukes Of Hazzard?"

"You mean?"

Todd stopped and whirled around, grazing his eyes to her long, sensuous legs only disappearing underneath her loincloth. "You would look so hot in a halter top and a pair of cut-offs cut way too short..."

"Hmmm..." she groaned in response, only willing to play his living mannequin if her own cravings were equally satisfied. She continued following him through the halls and towards the outside door, and when stepping out into the blanket of the night sky, did an angered lavender gargoyle appear before them, surveying the entire courtyard having been sprayed in shaving cream and raw eggs.

"Uh oh..." Todd gasped, having forgotten the mess left from the slingshot, the stones spattered with white clumps of soiled foodstuffs as far as the eye could see.

"Hawkins!!" Goliath bellowed, turning around to glare down on the human, with Annika instantly cowering behind Todd's back. "You did this..."

"And Ariana! And Shadow and Graeme too!!"

"Hey!! We had nothing to do with this!" yelled one half of the twins, as he scampered out from the opposite side of the courtyard and tried to reason with his leader, followed by his sister and the dark warrior himself.

"Untrue. I know for a fact all four of you were acting like disobedient children while I was away. Innocent pranks are one thing, especially when Mr. Hawkins is on the receiving end, but this..." He swept his hand to direct their eyes to the slowly dissipating ooze. "You all will have this castle cleaned up, and spotless, by dawn's light. Is that understood?"

"Yes." the four pranksters answered in unison.

"Good. Now if you'll excuse me, my wife is waiting." Goliath stomped away, walking through them as if they did not even exist, and disappearing through the entryway.

"Well," chirped Annika, a beaming smile pursing her lips, edging on purest effrontery, "I'd love to help you guys, but...you know..." She whirled around, and minced from them with swaying hips.

The others frowned, and Todd grumbled, until seeing his inquisitive fiancé notice an actual balloon left unexploded and resting on the ground.

"Oh cool, a water balloon..."

"Shit!! Annika! Don't touch th..."

POP!!!

"Oh shit."

"Gaaughh!! What the hell is this stuff?!! And why does it smell like rotten milk?!!"

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

11:55 p.m.
"Ah ah ah, Big Guy, get your talons off of me..." Elisa toyed with her husband, backing into their room, the human encased in red being hunted by her lavender lover, talons bared, and when unable to fend them off, they roamed freely her silken form.

"I think not." he rasped, having controlled himself until now. "I have waited for a long time, and now that the celebration is over...it is my turn to...play..." He lunged forwards, and as Elisa squirmed and tried to free herself from his grasp, did he only increase his strength, his zeal, and wrenched her close, her body pressed up to his. They kissed, long and deep, a bonding of their souls creating a shower of sparks, and with every embrace did their fervency only grow in leaps, a cresting of ecstasy rising as high as the tallest mountain peaks.

They moved backwards, lips still locked together, searching with their hands among the other's body. Elisa was nearly about to drop onto her bed and drag her mate along with her, until she noticed a glimmering of tamed copper having been caught in the bathing moonlight, spilling forth through the bay windows. From the corner of her eye, did Elisa see a tiny form resettle itself in a mass of chestnut fur. "Who the?..." Both Goliath and Elisa looked down to their bed, only to find their daughter curled up asleep on her massive teddy bear. "Oh..." Elisa winced, her heart torn by such an innocent sight. She leaned down and placed her elbows to the bedspread, resting her head and staring at Trinity, her wings still immured in the sheath of ivory feathers and settled about her shoulders, the lacy dress glowing a soft platinum in the haunting sky sapphire. "My baby girl...Angela probably carried her here. She must have been exhausted."

"She had a full night." agreed Goliath, mimicking Elisa's position, and reaching out to move a stray hair having fallen from it's place around her pointed ears.

"At times like this, Goliath, I can't even imagine not having her in my life. Frankly, I forget what life was even like without her..."

"As do I."

Elisa moved her eyes to her husband, and he did the same. He offered his hand, and they both stood up, watching over the slumbering child. "I don't know what the future holds, but I do know I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure she has a long and happy life."

"Both of us." Goliath whispered, brushing his lips to Elisa's forehead, and guiding her head into the bulk of his chest.

"Goliath?"

"Yes, my Elisa?"

"Look at the clock. It's eleven fifty-nine."

"She is now officially one year old."

"Happy birthday, Trinity Maza. Happy birthday."