Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations from The Gargoyles series.

Author's note: This story takes place the summer following the episode "The Journey".

Chance Meetings

Chapter 1: New Place

By RemTar85

"Well, that lasted long enough," muttered a young boy at the sound of rising voices. He got up from his bed and walked to the door of his small bedroom, to make sure it was locked. He sighed as he heard the voices of the two adults much clearer now.

"Why the hell is there no food done, Carmen? I spend a long day working, the very least I can expect when I get to my house is some goddamn food waiting for me!"

"And what do you think I do all day, idiot? I have to work, do all the house chores, and take care of my kid! The least you could do is get your sorry ass to a diner and pay up for some food for yourself!"

The boy decided that he had enough listening in and stepped away from the door. At the age of eleven, Daniel Sykes had to deal with more things than anybody at that age should, and he was fully aware of it, though he did his best at ignoring it. A skinny boy with short brown hair and hazel eyes, Daniel was small for his age, and being shy and introverted, it made him a target for local bullies. Though he hated to be bullied by other kids, it was his home situation that made the whole thing most unbearable.

Daniel felt that he lived okay enough with his mother after his father had walked out on them when he was six years old. His mother had a hard time raising him and was often too busy to even give him any family time, but he had an uncle who helped him out every once in a while, something he greatly appreciated, as did Daniel's mother. The day his uncle suddenly disappeared without a word, though, everything went downhill for Daniel's family. His mother had an even harder time keeping things going, and later she met a man whom she thought was the perfect man, and married him only a couple of months after having met him. It was only after the marriage when he revealed his true colors as a complete jerk, and with that, Daniel's mother's behavior took a turn for the worse.

The boy sat in his bed, looking around the small bedroom, with its sparse furniture, piles of comic books on each surface except the floor. He was trying to find something that would distract him from that argument his mother and stepfather were having. Daniel cringed at the sound of the door slamming shut, and he shook his head in frustration. He had gone through this situation before, and he hated it. He knew his mother had just gotten angry enough at her husband that she decided to just go out and stay out all night with her friends. Now his stepfather would either sit in front of the television all night or he too would go spend the whole night out with his friends, and in the process, neither of them would bother to check on Daniel.

Daniel got off his bed and started looking around his room for any spare change. He always felt that being ignored and forgotten was even worse than being yelled at to prepare his own meals when he said he was hungry. After spending one night alone in his house with no cooking experience and nothing to eat but some cookies, Daniel was not about to go hungry again, so he had taken on the habit of sneaking out of the house to eat. However, he rarely got any money as it was. The little he ever received from his mother as a weekly allowance, he mostly spent on comic books and some snacks. And, as it had happened many times before, he found no money in his room this time.

"This is such a hassle. I hope I won't have to beg much today," the boy muttered to himself. Getting a long pair of jeans, a comfortable t-shirt and a clean pair of sneakers, he got dressed quickly and sneaked out the window silently, into the fire escape built outside it. He knew it was dangerous for a child his age to be alone in the streets, especially with the night fast approaching, and he always hated to beg people for money so he could eat something, but he didn't see any other choice to his predicament. Walking out of the alley, Daniel looked up at the cloudless sky in the warm summer afternoon, and set off on his way.

"… four hundred ninety-eight… four hundred ninety-nine… five hundred," Fang counted out loud as he finished doing his daily routine of push-ups. The brown-furred mutate got up and wiped the bit of dirt off of his hands on his spare blanket, then went to his cot and lied down on his back.

It would have been obvious to anyone that Fang was restless, and considering that he was in a small cell with nothing but a cot, a toilet, a small sink, and two blankets, one could not really blame him. After his initial escape along with Demona and Thailog, Talon made sure to put Fang in a less comfortable cell than he had before, as punishment for joining up with the bitter enemies of Goliath's clan. Fang despised the tiny cell he was locked in, how he barely had any room to stretch his wings, and that clear yet tough material that made up the whole entrance to the cell effectively did its job in keeping him in and his powers in check. It infuriated him that he couldn't even get a television or radio, and his only entertainment was doing as much exercise as he could to keep himself strong and in shape. He did prefer his mutate form over his previous human one, and even though he knew he could not just go outside and walk down the street anymore, he had a sense of pride in trying to remain as fit as possible.

Fang remained quiet, staring at the ceiling while he daydreamed of all the things he could do if he ever managed to escape successfully. He frowned, remembering his previous escape attempts. Siding with Demona and Thailog months before had proven unsuccessful, and only made him despise Talon even more so than before due to how easily Talon beat him. A couple of months afterwards, he had managed to slip out of his cell in Christmas Eve, finding it to have been left accidentally unlocked by a man who had brought him his meal, while the Labyrinth's inhabitants celebrated the holidays with a party of their own. However, he had been caught mere minutes later, not being able to even get near any possible exits when the gargoyle clones noticed and stopped him, thus making him develop an intense hatred for them as well.

A knock brought Fang's attention towards the door of his cell, and there stood Claw, carrying a tray of food for Fang. He pressed a button on the wall next to the transparent wall of the cell, which made a door on the corner next to the button unlock and slide open a few inches. Pulling it open a little further with one hand, Claw set the tray on the floor and quickly pushed the door, which closed and locked instantly, as Fang got up to pick up his meal.

"About time, I'm starving here. How much time has it been since lunch? What, too busy taking care of the bums and those retard clones? Better shape up, Claw, old pal, at this pace you couldn't work at a Denny's to save your life," Fang ranted, to which Claw replied with a simple eye roll, causing Fang to continue his retorts. "What, you don't like having the truth rubbed on your face? The only reason you do the little eye rolls and head shaking is because of this damn plastic thing between us, and you know it, mutie traitor."

Claw would have sighed if it could have been heard. He hated it when Fang got like this. Normally annoying, Fang would be downright unbearable at times, and Claw seemed to be the main target, even more so than Talon. Perhaps it was because Claw decided to be in charge of taking Fang his meals, so he saw more of Fang than either Talon or Maggie did, as well as the fact that Fang had never forgiven Claw for betraying him. Claw especially disliked Fang's new nickname for him, 'mutie', as it was Fang's way of calling him both mute and mutate all in one word. The tiger mutate did not like to be reminded of when he let Fang bully him around and do things he didn't want to, but he was determined to show that Fang couldn't intimidate him anymore, cell or no cell. He also felt it was a big responsibility for him to keep Fang in check and locked up.

"Does Talon enjoy making me suffer, Claw?" Fang asked, growling as he eyed the contents of his tray, which contained rather burnt and quite greasy pieces of chicken, cold mashed potatoes, a red apple and a tall glass of water. "What the hell is this crap?"

Claw had to force himself not to grin at Fang's reaction. It was the fifth time in a week that he complained about the food. Claw had to admit that Fang did get practically just the leftovers, but considering they had a lot of people to feed in the Labyrinth, Fang simply couldn't get the better dishes, as they were pretty much reserved for the inhabitants. Merely shrugging a reply to Fang's inquiries, Claw started walking away.

"And I've told you a thousand times that I hate apples!" Fang yelled loudly, throwing the apple at the clear cell door, where part of it smashed into a pulp, leaving the clear material quite stained, bits of apple now falling to the floor. Claw simply ignored this and continued on his way, while an angry Fang begrudgingly began eating.

Daniel did not know how many hours had passed since he had gone out to beg for money, but his legs were sore and he was tired, so he decided to take a break, sitting on the bench of a bus stop. The boy sighed as he dug into his pockets and took out some coins. He had made only a little over two dollars, simply not enough to buy dinner. He wasn't exactly honest when asking for money, saying that he needed some change to call his parents to pick him up. He only ever received some loose change from passersby, but when he had enough of it, he'd change it for bills at a grocery store, then have dinner at any nearby diner, and then go home. This day, however, asking for money had not been a successful task. The fact that his clothes were clean was enough for people to not believe him, thinking he would instead use it on an arcade or to spend on toys or candy.

Daniel got up and began walking again, thinking that perhaps he'd have better luck asking for money somewhere else. Looking up into the sky, he could see the sun setting, dusk settling in. He was not worried about getting home late, as his mother and stepfather never really noticed he would go out to get dinner for himself whenever they forgot about him. What worried him was walking alone at night in the streets of New York, knowing that all sorts of bad things could happen to him, but he knew it was either venture out or go to bed without eating.

"Come on, Helen. We have to get there early. Tonight they're having lots of pizza, and I ain't missing out on the extra cheese ones."

"Don't worry, Anthony, we'll get there on time."

Daniel turned his head as he heard those voices, and saw a black man in around his thirties, walking a few feet ahead of a blonde woman who looked a few years younger than the man. From the rather raggedy and unkempt aspect of their clothes, Daniel guessed they were homeless. As he watched them hurry away, Daniel remembered the man's words, and he decided to follow them. He figured they were on their way to a homeless shelter, and perhaps there he could eat without having to spend time collecting more money.

The homeless couple walked for about a block, when they turned and entered an alley between two buildings, and Daniel was quick to follow. It was then when he noticed the lady named Helen moving to a manhole, the lid missing from it. She went down the manhole first with the man named Anthony right behind her, and, making sure to remain a bit of distance behind, Daniel followed suit. He had never heard of any homeless shelters underground, much less in a sewer, and he wondered much about where exactly the people he was following were heading, but ultimately, hunger and curiosity kept him going.

He went down the ladder and tried to figure out where the couple went. Though he could not see them, he could hear their footsteps echoing down the tunnel a moment after his eyes adjusted to the very dim light, so he followed them, trying his best to ignore the stench of the sewer. He wondered how much longer it would take to arrive wherever this pizza was to be served, when he exited the tunnel, and noticed that instead of continuing in another sewer, it came out in a subway tunnel. From the look of the surroundings, it seemed to be abandoned, so Daniel continued walking without any worries about subway trains barreling by.

The homeless people walked for a few more minutes, until they came to what appeared to be a steel wall. However, Daniel, who was still following without being seen, noticed that it was actually a large, metallic, sliding door, which was open a few feet. As he watched them enter through there, he walked closer, listening to voices on the other side. Upon entering, he knew he had arrived at the right place as he watched many people in the large main area of the enormous room he had entered. He saw many of them carrying slices of pizza, sodas and other items like breadsticks and garlic bread. Going by unnoticed, the hungry child began to search for wherever the food was served, walking amidst the crowd.

"Here you go, James, you can get your drink at the other table," said Talon to a homeless man as he handed him a slice of pizza and some breadsticks and sauce. He had been busy the entire time since the food arrived. Having spent the whole time serving up food, he had not gotten any chance to eat yet, and the smell of pizza had been making his stomach grumble. He cared very much for the people in the Labyrinth, but he knew that some could at times get a little greedy and took more than their fair share, so he and the others had to make sure everybody got equal rations.

"Sarah, would you mind taking over for me while I go have my dinner? I'll really appreciate it," Talon asked a middle-aged woman who had been setting many glasses of soda at another table.

"Of course, Talon. Lord knows you work hard enough as it is," said the woman, walking over and standing on the spot Talon previously occupied, and she immediately set to work on giving food to the few remaining Labyrinth residents who had not been served their dinner yet.

"Thanks, Sarah, you're a lifesaver," said Talon with a smile on his face, and he wasted no time in gathering two slices of pizza for himself, along with a big glass of soda and some pieces of garlic bread.

Talon walked over to a small table, in which Maggie was also sitting at, already halfway through her meal. The female mutate greeted her mate with a smile, and an also smiling Talon joined her, sitting down and immediately taking a big bite of one of his slices of pizza. The panther mutate quickly ate, and had already finished almost all of his meal when Maggie, who had just finished eating, tapped him on the shoulder.

"Derek, look over there," said Maggie, referring to her mate by his real name and pointing to the direction Talon had come from. "I've never seen that boy before."

Talon looked curious as he chewed and swallowed his last piece of garlic bread, and he looked over at the direction Maggie pointed at. Indeed, he noticed a boy he did not know, who appeared to be looking over to see where food could be obtained, where the few people who had not yet eaten were getting their dinner. Talon, Maggie and Claw knew every single person that lived down there, and the sudden appearance of a young boy with no company concerned the panther mutate. He downed the rest of his soda, then after setting his glass down on the table, he studied the child from afar.

"He looks like he's all by himself, he looks healthy enough, and he's clean, just like his clothes," Talon observed. "He's definitely not homeless. A missing kid means police searching, and we can't draw attention to the Labyrinth. Elisa might be able to helps us with some things here, but she wouldn't be able to keep police from coming down here to look for a missing kid."

"You're right," said Maggie. "Let's go talk to him."

Both mutates stood and walked over to where the child stood. He was still looking over at the table with the food when Talon reached him and looked down at him. Much taller, Talon stooped down to get the boy's attention, as he seemed too transfixed on the food to even notice Talon standing next to him.

"Excuse me," Talon said as he patted the child's shoulder. The boy finally turned around, and he stood silent, staring at Talon, his eyes widening. The boy then gasped, let out a little yelp, and stumbled back, clearly startled by Talon's appearance. As he backed away, the boy noticed Maggie as well, and he backed up a little further, looking startled and intimidated.

"What in the heck are you?!"

"Oh, dear…" Maggie muttered to herself, shaking her head slightly and thinking that they should have approached the child a little more carefully. A few of the residents of the Labyrinth were looking over, but otherwise, they went unnoticed as everybody ate. Maggie turned her attention back to her mate and the boy, to see Talon looking very awkward as he tried to calm the startled boy down.

"Um… look, I'm sorry I scared you," said Talon as he neared the boy a little more. "Yes, I know I look weird, but I assure you, I'm not a bad guy. I just want to know your name and how you ended up down here."

"J-just… just don't come near me, okay?"

After this reply, the boy moved a couple of steps further back. The panther mutate neared the boy a little more, but he only kept backing away, unable to turn his gaze away from Talon. Talon himself looked even more awkward right now as he hunched down into a crouching position, obviously wanting to go down to the child's level in an effort to appear less intimidating.

"I mean it, seriously. I won't hurt you, I just need you to tell me your name and how you ended up in here," said Talon, still to no avail. Upon receiving no answer, he stood up once more and turned around, so the boy would not see his frustrated expression as he muttered, "Ah, damn it, I'm so bad when it comes to kids…"

Claw covered his snout with a large hand to cover up a burp. He had just finished his dinner and was feeling satisfied, and looking forward to some relaxation time, perhaps read one of those books that Goliath had brought him recently. Grabbing a notepad and pencil from the table, he walked to a nearby trash bin, tossed away the disposable dishes and drinking glass he used for his meal, and decided to go to his room. However, his attention was picked as he noticed Talon and Maggie approach a boy he had never seen, who seemed to be looking for where to get at the food.

Curious now, Claw stayed in place to see what would happen. As he watched, he couldn't help but find himself amused at the sight of a kneeling Talon's unsuccessful attempt at speaking with the boy and earn his trust. Funny as it was to watch, Claw knew it was best to help out, as he noticed Talon getting frustrated and Maggie trying her best to calm him down, whereas the boy looked like he was quite ready to run away.

Talon and Maggie noticed Claw walk towards them, as did the child, who had to crane his neck back to look at the tallest of the winged, humanoid felines. With a smile and a friendly look towards the boy, Claw slowly knelt down on the floor a few feet from the boy, and he began to write on his notepad. Talon and Maggie stayed silent as well, looking attentively. As Claw finished writing, he ripped the page off the notepad and held it out for the boy to take. He noticed that despite still looking most intimidated, the boy now had an expression of curiosity. Slowly and rather apprehensively, he reached over and took the piece of paper from the winged tiger-man, and he proceeded to read it.

"Hello. I can't really talk like my friends, so I hope you don't mind me communicating like this. Speaking of which, don't worry about them, they're nice and don't bite, and neither do I, even though we look like this. My name is Claw. What's yours?"

Looking up from the note after reading it, the boy looked at Claw once more, and finally spoke, "I'm… um… my name is Daniel."

Claw smiled after successfully getting a reply from Daniel, and he started to write again. Talon and Maggie were still silent and attentive, though Talon had a raised eyebrow as he watched the interaction between Claw and Daniel. He watched as Claw ripped the second note and handed it to the boy, his sharp eyesight helping him read it easily, just like the first one. Daniel took the note, much less reluctantly now.

"I noticed you looking over at the food, so I'll assume you're hungry. How would you like to have dinner first? We can talk about stuff later when you're all good and satisfied, and I'll answer any questions you may have. Deal?"

Daniel finished reading the note, holding it along with the first one. He looked over at the table with the food, noticing there wasn't much left. He then looked over at the smiling mutate and nodded, "Okay, sure. It's a deal."

Claw grinned this time, and he was pleased to see that despite having a mouth full of very sharp teeth, the child was not intimidated by him anymore. Claw took a second to write a third note, and quickly presented it to Daniel, who took and read it, then smiled.

"Up on your shoulders? You bet!"

Still grinning, Claw offered a large hand to the boy, who took it without any hesitation. Carefully, he picked Daniel up and set him up on his shoulders, then stood up to his full height. Daniel smiled again as Claw reached up and steadied him with his hands, though he too held on to the mutate's hands, just in case. Talon and Maggie stood there as Claw took Daniel to the food table and started picking out the items that Daniel said he liked best, making quite a show of holding them steadily while carrying the boy on his shoulders. As Claw and his new friend went off to find a place to sit, Maggie smiled and put her arms around one of Talon's.

"Wasn't that just adorable?" she asked her mate, looking up at him.

"Yeah," replied Talon, looking down at Maggie with a confused and slightly frustrated expression. "How does he always do that? Every time children arrive here for the first time, it's always Claw who befriends them with no problems at all."

"Well, he's really good with children, and I guess that among children, tigers are always very popular when it comes to the kinds of animals they like," Maggie replied, and as Talon smiled, shook his head and scoffed a bit, Maggie backed up a step from him, giggling. "And I guess your breath didn't help much."

"Excuse me?" asked Talon, looking baffled.

"You were eating garlic bread before talking to Daniel, and then you crouched down and talked to him from very close," Maggie explained, still giggling. "Think about it, if you were a little boy, how would you feel if a big, winged panther suddenly appeared and started questioning you while his breath smelled of garlic?"

"Oh, real funny," said Talon, trying to look offended, but he couldn't help it as he also started laughing moments later. Talon then put an arm around Maggie's shoulders and they walked away together, "Come on, little Miss Comedian, let's find me some breath mints."

"Wow. All of that happened to you? That's really messed up," Daniel said, setting down a note on a small pile that had formed.

Claw nodded at the boy. They were by themselves on a table, and Daniel had finished eating when he asked to know more about Claw and the others. The tiger-man had then set on a long written explanation, handing Daniel note after note where he explained as best as he could, from how he had been turned from human to mutate by a deranged scientist, to how they had come to live in the Labyrinth and turn it into a shelter for those who needed it, though he decided the boy did not need to know a few of the bad details, like his time serving as Fang's lackey. Picking up his notepad again, he wrote another note, handing it to Daniel.

"I know, but nothing else to do but deal with it. But it's all been about me so far. What about you, Daniel? You got here hungry and all by yourself, but you don't look homeless. Can you tell me more?"

"Oh, right," Daniel said, looking a little apprehensive now. "Well, things at my house aren't really well. Sometimes I go out to buy dinner for myself, but I didn't have enough money tonight, and got lucky when I followed a pair of homeless people all the way here."

Claw nodded, reached across the table and patted the boy's shoulder, a sympathetic look on his face. Behind Daniel's back, though, he noticed Talon motioning to his wrist, then hold up nine fingers. Claw immediately turned his attention to Daniel and quickly wrote on his notepad.

"It's nine o' clock, Daniel. Maybe it's about time you went home, just in case."

"Nine? Aw, man, I didn't even notice!" Daniel said, looking a little panicked. "You're right, I better get home before anyone notices I'm gone."

Daniel made to get up, but Claw shook his head. He extended his wings and flapped them a couple of times, patting himself on the chest, then grinned. Daniel smiled upon making sense of it.

"You're saying you'll fly me home?" Daniel asked.

Claw nodded and gave the boy a thumbs-up. Talon had not moved from where he stood, and motioned for Claw to join him. The tiger mutate turned back to the human boy and pointed towards Talon, making Daniel turn and notice him. Claw then tapped at his snout, and Daniel nodded, understanding what Claw meant.

"Okay, I can wait till you finish talking with him," Daniel said. "And, please let him know that I say sorry for being so spooked earlier. But just don't tell him I said he has garlic breath, okay?"

Claw looked like he was about to burst out laughing, then nodded, picked up his notepad and pencil, and walked away. Talon raised an eyebrow as he saw the amused look on Claw's face as the bigger mutate neared him, and the panther mutate looked rather grumpy, which Claw took as a clear sign that he had heard the boy's comment. Once Claw reached his friend, Talon motioned for Claw to follow, and they walked towards a more secluded part of the Labyrinth, near where they had their rooms. Maggie stood waiting there, and smiled as they arrived.

"Did you find out more about him, Claw?" she asked.

Claw nodded, and started writing out quick details on his notepad. A few moments later, he handed out the notes to Talon and Maggie, who quickly checked them out.

"Daniel Sykes, eleven years old, lives not far from here with mother and stepfather," Talon muttered as his eyes quickly scanned the notes. "So he's not a runaway."

"Mother and stepfather are not exactly the best role models, so he sneaked out his house to have dinner and stumbled upon the Labyrinth after following two residents," Maggie continued. "So that must mean they probably haven't noticed he's not at home."

"True, but they could notice any minute now," Talon replied. "I thought about calling Elisa so she could take him back to his place, but I saw you offering to take him, Claw. I guess it's best if you do that, it'll be quicker than calling Elisa and waiting for her to come by."

Claw replied with a nod, gave his fellow mutates a quick wave of his hand, and went on his way. His friends followed him part of the way and watched from a distance as Claw reached the waiting boy. Maggie chuckled when Claw picked Daniel up and set him up on his shoulders before walking away, while Talon remained stoic. Noticing this, Maggie looked up at her mate's serious face.

"Oh, come on, Derek. You can't tell me that wasn't cute," she said, still smiling.

"It's just that this is the first time this happens," Talon said. "Kid who isn't homeless, or an orphan, or a runaway, just wanders in here, sees us, haves dinner. Claw says he sneaked out and his parents wouldn't notice it, but what if they did? What if they noticed he had gone only a minute after he sneaked out? He'll very probably want to come back now, and who knows what kind of trouble there could be if he was ever reported missing…"

"Derek, dear," Maggie interrupted him, "you're being paranoid and you worry too much."

"It's better to be safe than sorry."

"Well, it does seem Claw has taken a liking to the boy. How about we wait for Claw to return, then we can work out a way for Daniel to come by every once in a while and stay a certain amount of time, always making sure his parents never notice he's not home," Maggie suggested.

"Sounds reasonable," Talon said. "Okay, we'll do that."

"Hey!" a loud voice echoed from a nearby hallway. "I'm starving to death here! Where's my damn food?! Claw, you better get your worthless mutie self over here and bring me something to eat!"

"Oh, crap," Talon muttered as he heard Fang's screams. "We forgot about him."

"We all got too distracted with Daniel," Maggie said. "I'll go take him some food so he'll quiet down."

"No, I'll do it," Talon quickly said, preferring to keep Maggie as far away from Fang as possible. "He'll probably quiet down after a few insults at me. How about you go check on the clones? Maybe take them out for a stroll in the tunnels if they're bickering over the remote again."

"Okay," Maggie said with a smile, kissing Talon's cheek afterwards. "I'll see you later."

Talon also smiled while watching Maggie walk away. The smile faded as he heard more of Fang's screams for food, and with a sigh, he moved to the empty tables, which were now being cleared out of all leftovers, disposable dishes and drinking cups by a few Labyrinth residents, and the tables themselves were to be stocked in a storage room soon afterwards. He picked up three remaining slices of cheese pizza and put them on a plate, noticing that they were cold, but not really paying attention to it. Walking to the kitchen area, he served up a tall glass of water as quickly as he could, for Fang had yelled for the third time and Talon was just eager to quiet him down. Picking up the plate of pizza and glass of water, he went to the cell area, where Fang greeted him with a scowl.

"About damn time," the brown-furred mutate growled, pressed up against the transparent wall. "Where the hell's Claw?"

"He had other things to attend to," Talon replied wearily. "Back off."

"Of course, oh great leader," Fang all but spat in sarcasm. He moved against the opposite wall and watched as Talon slipped his food in, then moved quickly to pick it up after the door closed. "Oh, give me a freaking break. Do you know how gross cold pizza is?"

"You're a walking electric generator," Talon replied. "Give it a few sparks. That should heat it up."

"Heats it up and gets the crust soggy," Fang mumbled. "Cold food and water. Water, water, nothing but water. Why not just go for bread and water, and give me black and white clothes to match? Snap an iron ball and chain on my ankle and we got the whole combo."

"You should have thought of that before trying to bully your way into power, Fang."

"That was over a year ago!"

"Then breaking out and going along with Demona and Thailog."

"Last October, and we're in June now!" Fang retorted to Talon's facts. "How long are you gonna keep me cooped up in this damn cell?"

"I don't know, honestly," Talon admitted. "I guess as soon as you can show some progress into behaving yourself appropriately, then we can at least start letting you out, at times."

"Did I just hear you say 'at times', Talon?" Fang growled, setting his food down on his bed before moving back to face the taller mutate through the clear wall that separated them.

"Yes, at times," Talon replied. "You don't just get to go out as simply as that, Fang, not after what you did. Trust is something you'll have to regain, and it's a slow process."

"Bullshit," Fang growled. "How the hell am I supposed to show I can behave out of here if you don't even give me a chance to get out and show you?"

"You could at least change your attitude," Talon sneered, walking away. "That would be a welcome enough start."

Fang breathed slowly and deeply, trying his best to suppress his rage as he watched Talon walk away. He felt like screaming, kicking, blasting things to tiny pieces, and especially give a severe beating to the panther mutate. Electricity crackled along his arms, as he kept breathing deeply, trying to calm down. Looking down at his hands, he let his electricity course through them, all the way up to his forearms and elbows. He put more power into it, listening to the crackling sound in the air, and now he could feel the electricity along the whole length of his arms. He could see it coming out in jolts, like a lightning storm was trapped inside the cell, and Fang had to smirk as he remember that one character in that old Kurt Russell movie he liked so much. He let the electricity die down and, feeling a lot calmer, he sat down and picked up his plate of cold pizza.

"Been saving power this whole time and still going," Fang said to himself, biting down and grimacing on the awful taste of the cold pizza. "Gonna get outta here sooner or later, and when I do, I'll… I'll get myself a decent meal, this stupid pizza tastes like crap!"

Despite Claw's firm, safe hold on him, Daniel clung on tightly to the mutate's neck. When Claw had proposed to fly him home, Daniel did not think twice in accepting the offer immediately. As soon as Claw had taken off with Daniel in his arms, the boy grabbed a hold of the mutate and had not let go for a single second. Even though it was rather scary, Daniel also found the experience of flying quite astounding, and he was really enjoying getting to see the city from so high, even if the night air was rather chilly despite it being summer, and eventually his hold on the tiger mutate's neck was more for security than fear.

Daniel would have liked to fly for longer, but knew he had to get home, so he pointed Claw in the direction to his apartment building. Arriving at the area, Claw allowed Daniel the chance to fly around for a few more minutes, but eventually he landed on the roof of Daniel's apartment building. Claw set Daniel down, and held him steady quickly afterwards as the boy stumbled slightly.

"Whoa. I guess flying like that and keeping steady after landing takes a little getting used to," Daniel said, making Claw smile. "Is it okay if I visit you again, Claw?"

Claw continued to smile and nodded in a positive reply to the boy's question. He walked alongside Daniel to the building's fire escape. Taking a quick look around to make sure nobody was peeking out of any windows from the apartments on the nearby buildings, Claw patted one of Daniel's shoulders and gave him a thumbs up with his other hand.

"I'll make sure to go when my mom and stepfather don't notice," Daniel said, "so there won't be any trouble. And thanks for the ride, Claw, it was the coolest thing ever!"

Claw grinned and winked at the boy, patting himself on the chest and holding up the index finger of his other hand in the air. Daniel chuckled at this and began going down the ladder, stopping for just a moment to speak, "Yeah, you're definitely number one. Bye, Claw. I'll see you again soon, I hope!"

Claw remained on the roof, peering down the edge as he watched his new young friend descend the fire escape stairs. When he saw Daniel enter through a window, Claw jumped over the side of the building, extending his wings to glide to the roof of the building next door, and took a better look into the window. He could see Daniel picking up comic books from the bed and working on tidying up. Afterwards, Claw jumped into the air and flapped his wings, gaining altitude as he flew away. He was in quite the good mood, so he decided to take a flight around town and enjoy the fresh summer breeze.

For as long as he could remember, Claw always had a soft spot for children. And though he got along quite well with the ones who resided in the Labyrinth, he knew all of the children in the Labyrinth were there with their parents, as Talon and Elisa made sure any orphans and runaways were taken to the police station where they could deal with the situation properly. However, having a child visiting by himself often was an idea Claw enjoyed, and he was looking forward to more visits from Daniel. As he flew around, Claw realized that he had not taken Fang's dinner that night, and he knew he was certainly going to receive quite an earful of colorful insults and curses from the imprisoned mutate when he returned to the Labyrinth, but Claw was not going to let that prospect ruin his good mood. After all, Claw thought, as long as he was stuck inside that cell, Fang could do nothing but scream and throw tantrums. The tiger mutate simply relaxed as he glided along the city, his former bully not being a worry to him.

To be continued…