"But Some Remain the Same"
DISCLAIMER: Buena Vista and Disney own gargoyle characters, X-Men characters are owned by Marvel. I'm just a fan. This applies to all chapters. So there.
Note from Baird Crevan: So here is the beginning of the sequel to "Times are Changing." This new piece's title should be said in connection to its prequel: "Times are changing, but some remain the same." Some… people remain the same? Some times? Some things?
Frankly, that's what I'd like to find out myself.
So I will have a short recapitulation to explain the story thus far.
Also, the X-Men have served their purpose, and to them, I am grateful. But this second story will have no such brand as a crossover. It is far too difficult to do both stories justice. However, to those brave souls that have read the former prequel, I have done thee justice, friends, worry not. There will be cameos and references, but not as much of a plot device.
Futhermore, I plan to make this just as interesting a story standing alone from the first story. We're starting where we left off, but also going in a new direction.
Short Recap: Through a bad twist of fate, Alex made it possible for Thailog to take Puck as his personal fae slave. It's been at least a year now since those events and Alex looks to be about 18- he's been through so much magical training with Puck that his magic quickens his age physically and mentally. Alex feels guilty at what he did to Puck and now obsesses to get him back, much to the chagrin of his friends and family.
Kay, I'm gonna stop talking now. You excited? Good.
The redhead sat in the castle library, pouring over the books hoping to find a clue to his millions of questions. His cell phone vibrated angrily, holding a plethora of text messages from his girlfriend.
He glanced at it with the corner of his eyes, but didn't move. He went back to staring at the dusty manuscripts of Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, and ancient Mandarin Chinese.
His phone vibrated more curiously than before. His phone didn't really have settings for vibrating, yet here it was convulsing like a dying fish. He grimaced. Then realizing what was happening, he jumped out of his seat and dove under the table, covering his head.
His phone exploded.
Alex sighed. Wanda was obviously mastering her powers for her to be miles away and still able to destroy his phone. He crawled out from beneath the table to see Goliath standing in the doorway with a surprised look.
Alex shrugged and dusted the manuscripts off with the back of his hand, tossing the smoldering parts into a trash bin.
He sat back down, secretly thanking Avalon that the phone hadn't been in his back pocket.
Goliath came over but Alex ignored him. The massive lilac powerhouse delicately picked up one of the illuminated books Alex had splayed out on the table. Frowning, he put the book back down. After glancing at the other books, the gargoyle himself sighed.
"Don't humans your age go out on a Friday night, not spend them cooped up in a dusty old library with ancient gargoyles?" Goliath said, a slight smile grazing his sarcasm.
Alex snorted. "First of all, you may be ancient technically, but you are still in your prime, clan leader," He replied, with a mocking tone. Goliath's smile waned a fraction.
"Second of all, I'm not human. Fully, anyway. Thirdly, how old am I, Goliath? 17? 18? 20? My mental age has nothing to do with my physical body, as we have already established with me not being fully human. Fourth of all, I do what I want to do with my Friday nights."
"The girl downstairs, nearly foaming at the mouth, and ranting about you, might say differently…" Came a voice from the doorway. Alex spun around.
Alex's jaw dropped. "She's not…"
"She is," The voice repeated. It was David's new assistant, Colby Stern. He was suave, intelligent, as well as rash, quick, and conniving.
Alex and Mr. Stern did not get along.
Stern's suit was jet black with white pinstripes. His form was lean but powerful- he was probably a soccer player in college. His white silk tie glistened in the flickering candlelight. The new assistant's dark eyes echoed his dark hair as he stared at his boss's son.
Stern had a heavy smirk laden over his face. He was leaning in the doorframe, his arms crossed. Alex's face darkened.
Goliath sensed the tension and sat down, proverbially between them in a plush chair.
"I suggest you go to her, before I sick security on her…" He said, leaning forward. Stern then walked out with an indifferent air.
Alex silently fumed. The young halfling stood, nodding to Goliath. Goliath nodded back, leaning deeper into his chair. As the redhead left, Goliath looked back to the table. All the titles revolved around fae lore, and what limited fae history the humans could offer. The clan leader shook his head.
The halfling was starting to obsess.
Alex walked briskly out of the elevator on the first floor. He almost plastered one woman in a red jacket. Only after she grabbed him did he realize it was Elisa.
"Whoa there, tiger! What's the rush?"
"Uhm, woman troubles? Sorry I really have to go… Goliath is in the library!" He yelled in a singsong voice over his shoulder as he began running towards the entrance of the lobby.
Elisa smiled coyly. The boy had barely looked at her.
She laughed softly as she entered the elevator.
Alex ran to the receptionist who gave him an exasperated look. She indicated with her thumb that his quarry was in the adjoining hallway. He shrugged and ran to the indicated position where a woman met him.
She was clearly of an Eastern European lineage, her hair jet black and ear length. She wore a black half-length trench coat over a red dress.
To his surprise, she grabbed him by the back of the shirt, plunging him into a deep, sensuous kiss, the likes of which she had never bestowed on him in public before. He was stunned only for a second before his hormones remembered their function. Alex grasped the back of her head, angling her face to fit his. They nearly lost themselves there, much to the agape looks of secretaries and other passersby.
Then, as abrupt as she had started, she stopped. His hands still enveloped in her hair Alex's eyes went wide with panic. Wanda's face was quite a sight to be seen.
She snarled, her head snapping backwards to lunge forward at his forehead, attempting to head butt him. He ducked in time and grabbed her waist, lifting her off the ground. She cried out in anger, flailing her limbs, struggling to get away. He carried her in this fashion to the nearest conference room, ignoring the chuckling and knowing looks he was receiving.
Alex set Wanda down in the main chair. She lashed out at him, but he kicked the rolling chair legs so that she was trapped between the chair and the table. Wanda harrumphed in frustration, as Alex sat in a chair out of arm's length.
"Hullo, honey. How are you?" He said, smiling sweetly.
She glared at him, folding her arms. "I'm fine. Ready to die?"
Alex didn't skip a beat. "I'm doing well also, despite being buried under tons of work. Not to mention I've had no time to myself in the past week-"
"Where were you?" She said, ignoring his sarcasm.
Alex stopped his reverie. "Where, when?"
"Last…night?" He repeated, still confused.
Wanda's face fell slightly. "You honestly don't remember… Alex, com'on! You've never forgotten something like this!"
Alex was bewildered. He had no idea what she was talking about. And for some reason, he had a creeping dread that it was bad…
Then it hit him like a truck.
His jaw dropped as he closed his eyes in severe letdown. "Our year anniversary…" He said quietly, his head drooping into his folded arms.
She rose, silently, slipping her fingers down his shoulders. "Shhh, I know you didn't mean to…" She said softly.
"Wanda, I'll make it up to you… You have every right to be so angry…"
"No, I was upset because I thought you blew me off for more obsessing-"
Alex tensed. Wanda bit her bottom lip, realizing she had said too much. He slowly stood and got out of the chair. Poor Wanda tried to remain latched on to her beau, but he shrugged her off and walked towards the door.
"He's not gone, Wanda. I'm going to find him."
Wanda sighed. "When you say him, are you more interested in finding Thailog or Puck?"
The effect was akin to a slap in the face. Alex stood there, blanching at her words, recoiling at the truth. He wanted to believe he was only after Puck. That his de facto uncle was what drove him to continue pursuing… He owed Owen/Puck that much, right? Was it not he, Alex, that had set the events in motion that led to the fae's now unimaginable suffering servitude under the most hated gargoyle in their midst?
But the truth was, when he thought about making a breakthrough, he thought only of Thailog's face. The sick, twisted sneer of his "older brother" lingered in his nightmares and pervaded his dreams. Even now, when confronted about his true motives, he clenched his fist is ready anger.
Wanda silently draped her arms around Alex's neck. She stared into his eyes softly, but his gaze was elsewhere. "You're more troubled than I am…"
Alex snapped back to reality. He looked down at his girlfriend and best friend, embracing her around the waist. The halfling looked into her eyes with a smile, then softly touched his forehead to hers. "Yes, but I'm supposed to be the anchor in this relationship," he said, smiling broadly.
Wanda smiled back, but in her head still lingered his face from before. She would never forget it.
"Hey!" He all of a sudden said. "It's Friday night! Let's go out!"
Wanda laughed, throwing her head back, while still in the company of his arms. "And what makes you think I'd go out with you?" She replied in mock disgust.
"Otherwise," He said, lightly grasping her hand in his, "You'll have wasted and entire year and a day on me." He genuinely smiled.
Stern walked beside his boss, keeping in stride with the slightly taller man. He stared straight ahead at the open doors, a cocktail party underway within the lounge. Unlike his forerunner, many of Stern's emotions were on plain display.
He was excited.
That may be part of the reason Xanatos had chosen him. Despite the many promising candidates, including the now unemployed Preston Vogel who had begged on hands and knees for the job, Xanatos had chosen this man. It was probably based on the interview.
"Why do you think you deserve this job?" The interviewer asked, starting to get exasperated. David had kept her at it all day and had shown nominal interest in anyone so far.
"Because I'm the best there is," Colby said, his brown eyes looking matter-of-factly into the woman's eyes. David, who had been standing in front of the huge glass window, slightly turned at this answer, much to the satisfaction of Colby.
The poor interviewer had interpreted the man's intense stare as flirting, and was now beet red with blushing. "A-And why d-do you want this job?" She said smiling, trying to cover up her stammer.
"Frankly, I want to take his money, build an empire of my own, all using the techniques and tricks I learn from him on the way."
David still did not look at them, but actually turned back to the window. Colby knew he was smiling.
The girl looked from her boss to Colby to her boss again. He wasn't telling her to stop the interview… "Okaay… What have been your previous jobs?"
"Oh, a little money-laundering here, a little pirating there, scandal, cover-up, investigating- I'm a jack of all trades, really-"
David ran over to him in a flash, took Colby by the collar and shoved him in the chair. His face was ablaze with fury, his eyes flashing. The girl stood quickly and walked over to behind the desk, knowing all too well her boss's temper.
"Are we a joke to you, imbecile? Do you honestly think working for me and laughing off all I do will sit well?" His voice shook with anger.
Colby was surprised, but not afraid. He looked squarely into David's eyes and replied, "I was just telling the truth sir."
David released Colby's collar, roughly. He turned his back on him. "Get out of my sight."
Colby gathered up his suitcase and jacket, sullen, but not depressed. After the slow click of the door announced his absence, David smiled at his assistant.
"Joan, kindly wait three hours, then call Mr. Stern back. He got the job."
Joan nodded. When David turned his back on her, she rolled her eyes. Brilliant idea, sir. Take on a guy that you KNOW wants to destroy you. Great.
But all of this was in the past. David looked to his new assistant warily. The fun part about Colby was that he was deceitful and conniving. The bad part was that he was actually good at it.
They walked into the cocktail party, much to the muted happiness of the bedecked crowd. A voluptuous redhead came over and wove her way into David's arm. "You're late," Fox smiled, her dark blue dress emphasizing her tattoo. She regarded Stern with limited interest.
"Forgive me, Madame, that was my fault. I could not find your son…"
"Well, when he doesn't want to be found, he has many a trick up his sleeve," She replied cryptically.
"Of course," He replied obediently. He left their company to schmooze with another big investor.
David shook his head, smiling. Fox turned to him, placing an empty martini glass on a waiter's tray. "There are two, or more importantly three, absences from the party that I would like to ask you about."
"Shoot." He said, curiously.
"First of all, your son, and perhaps even his girlfriend are absent."
"From what I understand, they went 'out.'"
"Okay… And what about dearest detective Maza?"
"She told Goliath last night that she could not make it to the castle at all tonight. Swamped with work."
"That's too bad…"
Goliath sat in the library reading about the ill-fated MacGregor clan and their struggle with the clan Campbell. Robert the Bruce was an interesting character indeed; as was this William Wallace.
He heard familiar footsteps coming near him from the hallway. His heart started pounding with joy, for he knew it to be Elisa.
Then, just as he was about to get up, he remembered that she said she couldn't come tonight.
Strange, he thought. She usually cannot get away when she says she's swamped…
Yet there she stood in the doorway, her hands in her pockets, her red jacket shining in the flickering light. She stood there, her smile in a "v" on her face, her eyes sparkling. Goliath smiled back, but did not get up off his seat. He remained seated, staring back at her.
They stood there, staring.
Goliath stared back, a glint appearing in his eye. "Who are you?" He said politely, but with an undertone of menace.
"Just a shape shifter come to see you, dearest," The NOT-Elisa said, her tone mocking.
"Proteus?" Goliath said, his tone slightly darkening.
"In the flesh, so to speak…" The criminal chuckled.
Calmly, Goliath rose from his chair. "And to what do I owe the honor of your appearance?" He growled, his muscles tensing and ready.
"Oh no, not that. I'm here per the request of someone else. Someone you also hate. Anyway, they want to know why you have yet to go to Avalon."
Goliath relaxed a little. "First of all, change your guise, wretch. I'll have nothing to do with you if you continue to try and deceive me."
The criminal obeyed flowing into his favorite form of an unhealthy skeletal human.
"Second, why Avalon? Why would your employer care so much?"
"You know I can't answer that," The shape shifter said, examining his fingernails.
Goliath sighed. He was sick of the cryptic messages, all of them. He began to wonder if anything he did was his own choice of doing. Was he merely a pawn to his own fate? Was he just following the flow of the river?
Giving up, he sat back down in the chair. "We leave at the end of the week," the clan leader said, going back to his book. "Only if it means I don't have to see you again."
The shape shifter smiled. "Glad to hear it. Goodbye then."
"Good riddance," Goliath said, as the shape shifter left in guise of a beautiful woman.
Alex and Wanda had decided to begin their evening with the most expensive food in the city, a small French restaurant in a former penthouse. Looking out, the view was spectacular- the orange lights of the city the backdrop to their exquisite meal.
Afterwards, they shopped at an underground Gothic mall, where Wanda properly fitted her boyfriend to accompany her to her favorite rave spot. The strobe lights and the fog mixed in with their dancing, his plether pants with her plether dress.
Their driver was rightfully confused. They laughed as the man blanched at Alex's new Goth look, but again they changed clothes to go see a play- whatever was playing.
Wanda was exhausted, and fell asleep halfway through the second act. Alex carried her out and placed her in the car, telling the driver to take her back to the mansion. He kissed her forehead, but opted to walk home rather than see her home.
He watched the limo go off into the distance, then turned. He put his hands in his pockets and walked the streets of Manhattan… alone.
Now, the boy wasn't stupid. He could protect himself if he absolutely had to. Alex was no extreme risk taker, but he did walk the line occasionally. The slight chilled breeze tousled his hair in the waning moonlight. It was early morning now; those inclined to sleep had drifted there. He felt alone.
"Where are you?" He whispered.