Puppet Strings - Chapter 23

By Kudara

Disclaimer: All the characters appearing in Gargoyles are copyright Buena Vista Television/The Walt Disney Company. No infringement of these copyrights is intended as this is a not for profit fan fiction work. All original characters are the property of the author.

Warning: None

Notes: I am giving the Gargoyles universe technology equivalent to today. We cannot build semi truck sized laser weapons and they had laser rifles and pistols. I think it is safe to say that universe has some technology even more advanced than our own today. Nightstone Unlimited's Special Projects Division was introduced in TGS episode Prophets and Angels. Candice, Dominique Destine's personal secretary was introduced in TGS episode Prophets and Angels.

Rating: Teen

Feedback: Always welcome, feedback is what encourages me to keep writing. Please let me know what you like and what you dislike about the story.

Revision History: 04/30/08

The wind howled through the boughs of the trees and slapped the rainfly in an irregular beat against the tent wall. The day was overcast, very windy, and very cold. The two women huddled together with the sleeping bag pulled up almost over their heads. A burning globe of nature energy in the center of the tent kept the interior at a barely tolerable temperature due to the cold wind leaching away the heat as fast as the globe could produce it.

"Less than one day left," Kendra offered, listening to the wind outside.

"Thank goodness," said the redhead, "I can't wait to get back to civilization. You will love my bath at home its large enough for me to sit in with my wings extended."

"Goddess," moaned Kendra, "you, a hot bath and a warm room, that sounds like heaven right now," she buried her nose in the fiery red tresses of her lover.

Dominique's lips curved in a smile that did sound like a very good idea right now. The smile faded as she listened to the wind outside, she sighed, unfortunately the reality of it was still a few days away. It was still only midmorning; they had several hours to go until the evening.

"I'd change into my were-jaguar form for the fur coat, but I don't want to go out there and cook the food I'd need to sustain it," Kendra grumbled.

The redhead grimaced, remembering how enjoyable making breakfast had been, it seemed like it had taken forever for the simple meal to cook and they had huddled near the open side of the propane stove to help keep the wind from blowing out the flame. She searched her mind for something to do besides listen to the wind outside, after last night she didn't feel like discussing the past today, it would have to be something else. "What technologies were you talking about that I might be interested in for Nightstone?" she asked her mind finally seizing upon an acceptable topic. Her lips curved upward and her eyes lit with amusement as she saw the bemused expression on her lover's face.

"Umm," Kendra said and then stopped with a frown.

Dominique began chuckling.

"Yea, yea, you do better without any preparation or research," Kendra groused with a smile. "I'm trying to remember here…" she got a faraway look in her eye, "let's see there are a few different types of light sources their working on to replace traditional and fluorescent lights that use much less electricity and then there's the different types of fuel cells that are under development."

The redhead's eyes narrowed in thought, "I believe I've heard something about hydrogen fuel cells, they use liquid hydrogen and produce water vapor as waste correct?"

Kendra nodded, "there are different types of fuel cells though, and the one I'm thinking about for Nightstone is the one that uses biogas as a fuel."

"Biogas?" Dominique asked, "You mean like methane?" she guessed.

The black haired woman nodded, "exactly, and I happen to know that New York City has been considering renovating one of its sewage waste treatment centers into an anaerobic digestion facility to help cut down on the amount of organic waste that they burn and ship out to landfills."

Dominique leaned back and eyed her suspiciously, "you aren't seriously suggesting that Nightstone get involved with sewage treatment?" her voice held disbelief and a touch of indignation.

"Why not?" Kendra replied calmly, "if you do decide to that fuel cells are of interest to you then it would help to have a method of obtaining cheap biogas to fuel them, and even if you don't it's an investment in the environment. I've been thinking of investing in both technologies simply because I think their development needs to be encouraged. The world's oil won't last forever and besides its terribly polluting to the environment. We need to find other ways to produce the power we require."

"You're serious," Dominique said, eyeing her thoughtfully.

Kendra nodded, "I am, I know the fuel cells still need some development, but they hold such promise Dominique. If the lifetime of the components can be doubled or even better tripled, and the cost to manufacture them can be cut, they hold the promise of producing energy for substantially less than the cost of current methods. Think of the effect on prices if the energy cost to produce any item from start to finish was cut by one quarter."

Dominique was thinking of it, and there were several interesting scenarios running through her mind. However, everything depended on whether or not the fuel cells could be developed to the point that they produced energy for substantially less than that produced by current technologies. "You really think that can be done?" she prodded, trying to see how certain Kendra was about this idea.

The black-haired woman shrugged, "I don't know for sure that it can be, but I don't see why a company that can develop hand held laser weapons can't manage to engineer a cheaper and more efficient fuel cell. I've heard of your laser rifles and to produce a coherent laser beam you must have a very powerful and efficient power source in them."

The redhead's eyes narrowed, this time in true irritation, "Those are highly sensitive military contracts; no one working on them should be talking about them so how did you hear about that?" she asked sharply.

Kendra grinned lazily, unmoved by her lover's show of temper, "I told you I've kept up with what Nightstone's been doing. You know you can't keep something that interesting completely under wraps. Besides, I haven't heard anything specific, but then again I don't need to. There are some things that one just has to know some basic physics to understand, and the amount of power needed to produce a laser beam is one of those."

Dominique let go of her temper with a sigh, what Kendra was saying was true, all someone needed to know was that a hand held laser weapon had been developed to know that a matching advance in power sources had to have been developed as well for a working weapon to even exist. "So you think the technology Nightstone developed to supply enough energy to produce a laser beam can be adapted for fuel cells."

"I don't know can it?" Kendra inquired, arching her eyebrow at her lover. "I don't know anything specific about what Nightstone developed, just that your company had to have made such an advance."

"Find out, come and work for me," Dominique asked impulsively.

Kendra stared at her, surprised, "And do what?" she asked, not agreeing or disagreeing as yet.

The more Dominique thought about the idea the better it sounded to her. "You said you wanted to help me fulfill the tasks the Ancient One gave me. Help me figure out if there's any promise in these new technologies, help me figure out how to the help the other gargoyles."

Kendra's eyes wandered over the delicate features of her lover, she asked quietly, "we haven't discussed how much we want to see each other when we get back, are you sure you want me around every day?"

Dominique stared at her uncertainly, "I hadn't thought about it…I just assumed we would spend as much time as we could…would you rather not?"

Warm blue eyes met and meshed with green, "no, I'd rather spend time with you. I just wanted to make sure you had thought about it before offering me a position where we would be seeing each other in a boss employee setting every day."

"Will that be a problem for you?" the redhead asked hesitantly, "Me being your employer?"

"Just so long as you don't go getting any ideas about how much control you have over me once we leave work," Kendra commented

Dominique smiled wryly, "even at work I suspect you will have your limits."

Undoubtedly," agreed Kendra with a smirk.

The redhead snuggled closer to the black-haired woman's warm body, "Special Projects," she said suddenly, and then she grumbled, "no wait, I already have one of those."

"What?" asked Kendra, confused.

Dominique responded, "I was trying to figure out a position for you, I already have a Special Projects Division in Research and Development so I can't use that," she frowned. "New Technologies…" she shook her head, "no that wouldn't cover everything." Her face cleared, "New Technologies and Special Projects Director…perfect."

She could feel Kendra chuckling silently beside her, "Nice title, but what would such a person do?"

"Explore the viability of new technologies out on the market to see if they're of interest to the company and other projects that would require specialized handling such as helping the various gargoyle clans," Dominique replied.

Kendra was intrigued; having an official position at Nightstone Unlimited to do what she planned to do anyway would definitely make things easier.

"You like that idea don't you", said Dominique satisfied

Kendra grinned, "it does sound interesting," she admitted, "why don't we see how it goes for both of us, maybe a trial period of a couple of months?" she offered.

Dominique nodded reluctantly, she wanted to make the position permanent, but could see the sense of seeing how everything worked out. "I'll announce it as soon as I get back to Nightstone and work out a salary offer for you."

"Mmm," Kendra murmured snuggling down further into the sleeping bag, "I'll work for stock options too; I have confidence in Nightstone with you at the helm."

The redhead looked over at her, her cheeks flushing in pleasure at the compliment.

It was the tenth day, it was night, and Dominique and Kendra were crouched behind pine trees as they watched for Rachael to indicate that it was safe for them to approach her home. The only thing that truly concerned Kendra was the few dogs that she could see wandering around the small town, they seemed to be having their own social a few yards down the street from Rachael's home.

Kendra's attention returned sharply to the red brick single story home, there was movement in the doorway; it was Rachael motioning for them. Running in a low crouch, they made their way to the door and slipped past her into a small entryway. One hesitant bark indicated that one of the dogs had seen or smelt them; it was followed by a few more. As Rachael shut the door behind them they straightened, and gave almost simultaneous relieved sighs, they were back to civilization. The dogs outside barked a few more seconds before settling back down to whatever they had been doing before the interruption.

Rachael turned towards them, "I bought some jeans and sweaters for you a few days ago if you would like take baths and change into something clean while I heat up dinner."

Thoughts of immersing herself in warm water filled Dominique's mind, "That sounds nice," she said gratefully.

The Cree woman smiled, "I thought that might be the case, especially after the temperatures dropped yesterday." She stepped back and pointed down the hallway to her left, "your bedroom is the last door down this hallway, and the bathroom is the last door on the right. Take your time, I have a chicken that I need to put in the oven to cook so it will be about an hour until dinner is ready."

One very warm bath later, Dominique paused in the door of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her to kiss Kendra. "I hope I left enough hot water for you, I tried not to be too greedy with it," she smiled.

"And I thank you for that," Kendra replied with a matching smile. She looked up the hallway toward the rest of the house, "Rachael needs help with dinner once you get dressed. I set the table, but there are still a few things left to do before it's ready. She's got quite a spread planned for dinner, we're going to be stuffed."

Dominique inhaled, "it already smells wonderful." The thought of eating a dinner that wasn't cold in five minutes and then slipping into a real bed with Kendra beside her was sorely tempting. However, they needed to make the amulets tonight for first thing in the morning they would be pretending that Rachael had just found them hiking into town after ten days of hard travel through the wilderness. "I'll go and see what she needs done as soon as I dress," she assured the black-haired woman, "now go take your bath." Kendra grinned at her and shut the door slowly, forcing the towel wrapped redhead to retreat to keep it from touching her.

Dominique made a face at the door before smirking in amusement and turning toward Rachael's guest bedroom. A few minutes later, she walked back wearing stiff new blue jeans, thick socks on her feet and a soft cowl necked cream-colored sweater. She walked down the hallway looking around curiously; blankets, which she guessed were locally woven, hung on the walls adding a warm touch to the simple white walls. Next to them were simple charcoal drawings, they varied wildly in their subject matter from landscapes to animals to simple portraits. Dominique leaned closer to one, curious as to whom the artist might be, but she couldn't see the name it was hidden by the frame.

The redhead followed her nose and was soon stepping into the kitchen where Rachael was slicing tomatoes. The Cree woman looked up from her task and smiled, "You look more relaxed and comfortable."

"I am," Dominique acknowledged, "thank you for the clothes." She hesitated, Rachael's home indicated the woman was not poor, but certainly not as well off as she was, "If you will let me know how much you've spent on us I'd like pay you back."

Rachael shook her head, "the clothing is a gift from me to you," she said firmly. Seeing the argumentative look on the redhead's face she added, "If you feel the need to give a gift in return you could always donate to the tribal youth fund, it's what pays for the equipment I use when I take the children out into the bush. Something's always being damaged and needing to be replaced."

The green eyes narrowed, meeting the brown ones of the senior Owl's chosen in a brief test of wills before Dominique nodded, "Very well. Now is there something I can help you with?"

Rachael nodded and reached up into the cabinet bringing out a box of Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie mix, "Would you like to make the brownies for desert?"

Dominique's eyes widened, feeling slightly embarrassed she admitted, "I've never actually made brownies I've always bought them from the bakery down the street."

"That's alright their easy, you're just adding water, oil and an egg to the mix and then stirring in the fudge, and I'm right here if you have any questions," Rachael assured her.

The redhead accepted the box from her, glancing down at the back where the instructions were clearly laid out, "Where do you keep your mixing bowls?" As Dominique pulled a mixing bowl from underneath a counter, she added with a smirk, "Besides I've been missing real chocolate, those meal replacement bars may have claimed they had a chocolate coating, but it tasted suspiciously like chocolate flavored paraffin."

Rachael chuckled, "I can assure you those brownies will not taste like that."

It was the tenth night since her mother and Kendra Canmore had been kidnapped, Angela had expected news tonight when she had awoken. However, as with the previous night and the night before that there had been none. She had come out onto the battlements to get away from the dour looks of Brooklyn and her father at the continuing news that neither Demona nor Kendra Canmore had been found though the Canadians were still diligently searching for them.

She had asked Lexington how cold it was where the plane had crashed and his answer had troubled her. It was cold in New York City tonight at 33 degrees, but where the plane had crashed it was minus ten degrees. She didn't really feel the cold tonight, but she had no doubt that if it were as cold here as it was there that she would be feeling it, gargoyle cold tolerance only went so far.

How were her mother and Kendra Canmore surviving in such conditions? The young gargoyles thoughts faltered as she acknowledged her own strong doubts that Demona would actually help a human across 350 miles of rugged, cold terrain. Yet it had been ten days now without sign of either of them, and Angela could only think that so much time had passed without either being found because Demona was traveling with Kendra Canmore and they were limited to the human's pace.

She knew that her father, Brooklyn, and Elisa thought that Kendra Canmore was already dead, either by Demona's hand, or because Demona left Kendra behind while the immoral gargoyle made her way back without the much slower human. However, each day that passed without news made Angela more certain that both would be found, and more certain that her mother had important plans she for which required Kendra Canmore. The young lavender female didn't know why her mother needed the Canmore woman, but she was certain that sooner or later the clan would find out, and that whatever scheme her mother was planning that the immortal gargoyle would try once again to persuade her daughter to join her.

Angela breathed out an unhappy sigh; no matter what her mother tried, no matter what lies she told this time, she would be ready. Her mother using her to try and kill Goliath had finally shown Angela that the rest of the clan had been right all along, her mother could not be trusted and she would not forget that bitter lesson.

The three women had adjourned to the living room after their dinner where a fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. Dominique and Rachael were enjoying small glasses of ruby port, while Kendra pronounced herself, after one sniff of the port, happy with another glass from the second bottle of white Bordeaux they opened with dinner.

The sound of the stove timer went off in the kitchen; both Rachael and Dominique put down their glasses and began to rise. The two women looked at one another indecisively, Rachael said, "I need to show you how to check for doneness anyway."

Kendra rose and followed them, she leaned on the door and watched as Dominique pulled the rectangular pan out of the oven and placed it on the cooling rack. The smell of chocolate filled the air as Rachael inserted a wooden toothpick in the center and pulled it out, showing the redhead the clean end. "If there had been batter still uncooked you would need to put it back in for five minutes and check again until it's cooked all the way through. Now it needs to set for fifteen minutes and then we can slice it into squares."

The way Dominique was staring wistfully at the brownies was too cute, Kendra decided, the redhead obviously had been missing her chocolate fix. Still it would be fifteen minutes before the brownies were ready. "When are we going to make the amulets?" she asked curiously, reasoning that it was a good question to distract the two women from watching the timer impatiently.

"We can start at any time," Rachael answered. "It won't be that hard, but it will require each of you to transform at least once, so I wanted to wait until I'm sure there won't be any unexpected visitors tonight before starting. Unless it's an emergency no one will visit after ten o'clock, so after that I'll turn off the lights and we can be fairly certain of being uninterrupted while we work."

"That sounds like a prudent idea," observed Dominique. "What exactly will we be doing and why do we have to transform?"

"The amulets are supposed to be the means by which you shapeshift. I want you to watch what happens to the life and nature energy in each of you while you transform. Once you do, it will become fairly obvious what energy signature the amulets need to carry for them to appear as if they are allowing you to transform," Rachael explained.

Dominique frowned thoughtfully, trying to imagine what the Cree woman was describing, she still wasn't certain how they would get the energy signature into the amulet though she had an idea of how it might be done. Two nights ago the Ancient One had shown her how to mend the small rips she made in the sleeping bag by manipulating and repairing the lattice-like structure of the nature energy that formed the material of the bag. It wasn't that hard to imagine that you could overlay more energy onto the nature energy lattice of the amulet or even slightly change the structure of the amulet's nature energy itself.

"Trust me," Rachael said, "it will make sense once you watch Kendra transform."

A knock on the front door startled all three women.

"Darn it," swore Rachael softly, "here take your glasses and go to the guest room I always keep that door closed so it won't look suspicious."

They grabbed their glasses and turned to leave, behind them they heard the Cree woman mutter, "thank goodness we already cleaned up from dinner, that would have been hard to explain away."

As they went by the living room, Kendra looked inside double-checking that they hadn't left any evidence that Rachael had company tonight. The bottle of wine and the bottle of port were sitting on a side table; Kendra took a quick detour inside the room and grabbed the wine bottle. Dominique, who had been staring after her with a puzzled frown, nodded and mouthed silently, 'good catch.' They hurried down the hall and closed the door behind them as the Cree woman went to the door.

Through the closed door, they heard her say, "Good evening Chief, what brings you by tonight?"

A gravely male voice answered, "Those two women who were kidnapped, the Mounties think that if their still alive they might be somewhere north of us by now. They asked us if we could send out a few search parties to look for them. The search planes haven't spotted them, but if their hiking through the forest it would be hard for them to find an open spot to even signal a plane."

"You want to know if I'm interested in going?" Rachael asked.

"That," the male voice hesitated, "and if you had heard anything from the wind people about them. With the weather as cold as it has been and with nether woman familiar with living in the bush, I'm just not sure…"

Rachael interrupted him, "They are still alive James, the animal spirits are guiding their steps in their journey and it will end when the spirits guide them out of the bush."

Dominique was surprised that the Cree woman had given the man so much of the truth, she frowned, Rachael hadn't said anything about this James being one of them.

There was a long moment of silence before James spoke again, "when I asked you to go to the spirits and ask that they guild their path to safety I was not expecting the spirits to take such an interest in them. They are not Iiyiyuu."

"The spirits are of the land not our people and they may speak to anyone with the ears to listen and the heart to hear their message," Rachael said in a chiding tone.

Dominique bowed her head; Rachael's words seemed to be meant for her as much as they were for the one she called James. The gargoyle was only too aware that it was only because of a series of unrelated events that led her to having the open ears and heart the Owl's chosen was speaking about. She felt Kendra shift beside her and the black-haired woman's arms were around her pulling her tight to her lover's warm body. She turned so that she could fit more comfortably against the other woman and rested her head upon Kendra's shoulder.

"Yes elder," his voice sounded abashed. There was another moment of silence, "I can't exactly tell the Mounties that the spirits are guiding them. I didn't believe in the spirits as anything but tribal tales until that blizzard that almost killed me, and the wolf spirit lead me to safety."

Rachael responded, "Then simply don't tell them, I'm sure Dominique Destine and Kendra Canmore won't mention anything directly either."

"Probably not," he agreed, "they told me it was exhaustion and the onset of hypothermia that caused me to hallucinate."

"But you've never thought that, the first thing you did when you got out of the hospital was come to me," Rachael said.

They heard him chuckle, "I know I didn't have a clue where I was by the time the spirit came to me, so there's no way a hallucination of mine could have lead me through that blizzard directly back to the village. I came to you because I knew you were the one who could teach me how to thank the wolf spirit for saving my life, and that's why I'm glad you've agreed to join us tomorrow." There was a short pause before Dominique and Kendra heard his voice again. "I've got a few more houses to visit tonight so I need to get going. I'll see you around eight in the morning?"

"I'll be ready," Rachael assured him. The two women heard the door open and then shut again a few seconds later. Dominique pulled reluctantly away from Kendra as they heard footsteps come up the hallway. The door opened, Rachael sighed, "Well I guess you two will be waking me up pounding on my door to get in from the cold earlier than I had originally thought," she said with an amused chuckle.

"Does that mean you won't have coffee ready for us then?" asked Kendra cheekily.

Rachael stared at her for a moment in surprise before breaking out in laughter. When the laugher died down she said, "I should show you the amulets I made, they turned out rather nice I think."

She led them down the hallway past the living room and to the opposite end of the house from the guest bedroom. The room was as different from the rest of the house as could be imagined, the floor was covered with large white tiles and workbenches along two of the walls were covered with different types of equipment. Along the walls, shelves were hung with what looked like jewelry in various stages of production upon them.

"You cast metals," Dominique said sounding intrigued.

Rachael turned and looked at her, "You've cast silver before?"

The redhead nodded, "and gold and copper. I have a similar room in my house, though I don't have quite the extensive setup you do."

"I make jewelry pieces to sell at the gift shop," Rachael explained. She picked up two pendants on one of the shelves, one black and silver and the other dark red and gold. They glittered in the light as she handed them to the two women.

Dominique looked down at the simple oval pendant; there was a large dark reddish stone with bands of white running through it, which she suspected was treated sardonyx. The oval stone was set in an elegant gold setting, and carved into its surface was the outline of a female human. The lines of the carving were simple and yet they managed to convey the sense of the elegance and beauty of the woman. She looked over at Kendra's pendant, it was similar to hers except that it was set in silver and the stone in the center was black with white lines and was probably onyx. Dominique wasn't surprised to see the image of a jaguar carved into Kendra's stone. The way the carvings were drawn looked familiar, but she couldn't place the context.

"It's beautiful," said Kendra sincerely staring down at the carved jaguar image. "You did the carvings yourself didn't you, they remind me of the charcoal drawings you have hanging up."

Rachael nodded, "I've been drawing for many years now, first with charcoal on birch bark and then with paper and pencil. I still prefer charcoal though; sometimes the pencil just makes too harsh a line."

"These are very beautiful pieces," agreed Dominique examining once again the carving on hers. Now that she knew Rachael had drawn these, she could easily see the resemblance between the carving and the drawings she had noticed earlier.

Rachael looked at the watch on her wrist, "In another hour we can start, it should be late enough then that no one else will drop by to see me."

Early the following morning it was time for their deception to begin and Rachael was much more awake than either Dominique or Kendra. "Ok, I've got some sweats here for you two to change into after your baths," the Cree woman announced. "I'll put the survival gear you were wearing into the washing machine along with a second set that's close enough in appearance for it to have come from the same place. When their done I'll ask you if you want them back and you will tell me no, then I'll put them with the rest of the winter gear we keep for the camp. They'll get mixed in and no one will be able to tell which pieces were yours."

"You keep spare winter clothing around?" asked Kendra curiously.

Rachael nodded, "I keep spare clothing in the shed for the children to use while we are out in the bush. They grow so fast that it's just easier that way rather than their parents buying expensive hiking gear every year."

Dominique took the last sip from her mug of coffee, "Alright," she said, "So I guess the next step would be for us to take quick baths?" Both Kendra and she were wearing white robes, their clothes already having been appropriated and thrown into the wash to be mixed in with Rachael's clothing until they got ready to leave.

The Cree woman nodded, "As soon as one of you is done and the other one in the bath, I'll call up the tribal police to tell them you showed up on my doorstep about thirty minutes ago and were both not particularly interested in talking to anyone until you had baths, fresh clothing and coffee."

"That would have been accurate enough," Dominique agreed with a smile. She shuddered, "I can't imagine how horrid those clothes would have been after ten straight days in them." She looked over at Kendra, "You want to go first this time?"

Sure," the black-haired woman agreed easily, rising from her chair and placing her coffee cup in the sink. Dominique turned to watch her walk gracefully down the hallway on bare feet, then again everything her lover did was graceful she reflected. She turned back to the table; Rachael was watching her with a small smile upon her lips.

"I can see that you two have become even closer," the Cree woman noted, "Have you talked about what will happen once you return to New York?"

"She's coming to work for me to help me with my tasks," Dominique responded. She smiled, "I'll be making up a new department just for her, New Technologies and Special Projects, they will do research on companies and technologies that Nightstone might be interested in acquiring as well as troubleshooting."

"You're planning on using her gifts then," Rachael commented perceptively.

"On the tasks the Ancient One gave me, yes, I am. I'd be a fool not to," the redhead stated firmly. She continued in a grimmer tone, "I wouldn't put it past Goliath to warn the clans about me if he heard or even suspected I was trying to make contact with them. Chances are I'll have to send Kendra to deal with the clans rather than going myself. At least she'll have a chance at getting them to listen to her whereas I might not if Goliath does what I'm almost certain he will. Hopefully after a year or so he'll decide I'm not evil incarnate anymore and I won't have to worry about it."

Rachael winced, "I didn't know it was that bad between you and your clan."

"It is," Dominique replied sadly, "even between me and my daughter." After a quick glance at the clock, she began telling Rachael about what Kendra had referred to as the last parting gift from the Weird Sister's enchantment. The plans she had made with the Assassin to deceive the clan and kill Goliath that had fallen apart so badly the weekend just before the kidnapping. As Kendra walked back into the kitchen she was saying, "The human I had hired told them everything, Goliath escaped and the last thing my daughter said to me was to save what I had to say to her for my next performance," Dominique said sadly. "So now you know why I said that attempting to tell them about what's happened during the last week wouldn't get me anywhere, they simply wouldn't believe me."

Rachael looked like she was having difficulty finding something to say in response.

Dominique chuckled sadly, "It's alright. I wouldn't believe me either if I were them." She looked over at Kendra, "And I see its time for me to start my bath," the redhead returned her attention to Rachael, "and for your phone calls to begin."

Rachael and Kendra heard her mutter sarcastically as she left the kitchen for the bathroom, "This should be fun."

Kendra chuckled quietly at the comment.

"Are we ready?" Rachael asked picking up the phone

"I think it's more of a ready or not situation," observed Kendra dryly, "since I don't think we can sneak back to New York and pretend we were never missing."

Rachael chuckled, "that would be much easier wouldn't it, but unfortunately too many people know." She started dialing a number, "Hello," she said into the phone, "Is Chief Winters there?" A moment later she said, "James, I was out checking my gear for the search party today and guess who I found walking out of the forest."

Kendra could clearly hear the shouted, "You found them!" from where she was sitting across the table.

Rachael jerked the phone away from her ear, "James, my hearing is just fine, no need to yell," she said grouchily.

From the phone in Rachael's hand, Kendra heard the distinctive gravelly voice from last night ask, "Dominique Destine and Kendra Canmore are at your house?"

"Taking warm baths as we speak, and I'm about to make breakfast for them," Rachael confirmed raising the phone to her ear once again. "For some reason anything other than food bars sounded good to them," she added in a dry tone.

The Cree woman listened for a little while longer before saying, "they look alright to me, and I've already checked their hands and feet for frostbite before letting them bathe. But you're probably right it would be a good idea to get Dr. Meadows to look them over." She listened for several more seconds then said, "Alright I'll expect you and the doctor in about thirty minutes."

Rachael hung up the phone and turned back to Kendra, "Eggs, bacon and biscuits sound good?"

"Wonderful," responded Kendra with a grin, "what can I help you with?"

Four hours later, Dominique heaved a sigh of relief as the door shut behind the two detectives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Tribal Police Chief Winters. Dr. John Meadows had left several hours ago after pronouncing himself surprised at their excellent health considering the conditions they had hiked through for ten days. Both Dominique and Kendra had downplayed the lack of any injuries, merely saying that they were both in excellent health when the journey had begun and that had obviously helped them survive it. The snowy haired doctor had shook his head and told them they were both incredibly lucky as well, good health and conditioning did only so much when stacked against cold weather.

Kendra looked the elderly man in the eye and replied, "I know we are lucky, I knew something was watching out for us when we crawled our way out of that cage they put us in and we found the kidnappers dead in the front of the plane. We probably should have died there but we didn't, and we were incredibly lucky to find good places to shelter and get warm every night."

Dr. Meadows sat back in his chair and stared at her, "The spirits must have been watching over you," he finally replied, "being able to warm up every night is probably what saved you from getting frostbite."

Knowing that the tribal police chief was watching them keenly, Kendra and Dominique allowed themselves to share a long look. "I'm certain that they were Doctor," the redhead finally replied, "And I'm very grateful to them that they decided to help us," she finished sincerely.

The doctor seemed surprised at her words while James Winters nodded as if they had answered a question for him.

Dr. Meadows left immediately afterwards and they had sat down and waited for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police detectives while having round of coffee. Once the two detectives had arrived and joined them at the kitchen table the questions about the kidnapping and their journey began.

With Rachael helping they had come to an agreement on what story to give the authorities last night. Except for a few changed details it was essentially the truth. They had been talking in Dominique's office before heading down to the gymnasium to spar when the helicopter had shown up outside the building. The helicopter door had opened and they realized someone inside was pointing a weapon at them just in time for the glass to shatter. Kendra had noticed the gas grenade, but had been unable to get to it before falling unconscious from the gas. The next time the two women had awoken, they were in cages in the hold of a plane. Yes they had seen one of their kidnappers, but he had been wearing a mask and didn't speak to them he had just given them a food bar and a water bottle and left once again. When the plane landed, he, or someone else about his size, had shown up again and shot them with tranquilizer darts. The next time they woke the plane had crashed and they were freezing but the cage had been warped enough for them to force their way out.

Neither of them said much about the trip except to say that they had covered as much ground as they could while it was daylight and then found or made shelters during the nights. It had been difficult, but with the compass they had headed due south through the woods where it was warmer. Yes, they had heard the planes a few times but they hadn't seen them due to the thickness of the tree canopy. The past two days had been hard with the colder weather, but they had pushed though realizing from the topographical map that they were at last close to a town and the end of their journey.

After the questions were done, the RCMP detectives asked them to make themselves available for future questions and to please not discuss the case with the news media as it was an ongoing investigation of a federal crime in both Canada and the United States.

All of that had taken approximately four hours, and now it was just she, Kendra and Rachael once again.

"So," Rachael's voice had Dominique opening her eyes once again, "now that their gone did you two want to go shopping for something other than sweats?"

"That would be nice," Kendra responded promptly.

The redhead looked down at the worn sweats she was wearing with a frown at the idea of appearing in public with them on, she sighed in resignation, "I guess it would look odd for you to have bought us clothing before we arrived wouldn't it."

The Cree woman grinned, "I got the jeans and sweaters in Alma so no one would associate my purchasing them with your arrival, but no, there's no way you can show up in them this morning it would look too suspicious."

"Let's get going then," Kendra said, glancing over at Dominique, "the faster we buy something the sooner we can wear something else."

The redhead wracked her brain; there was something she knew she was forgetting. Her green eyes opened wide, "Nightstone," she exclaimed, "I haven't called them yet."

"Opps," chuckled Kendra, "I guess that would be a good idea wouldn't it, and we need to go ahead and arrange for transportation back to the city as well."

"Candice can do that," Dominique said, heading back toward the kitchen, she paused for a moment looking back at Rachael, "this shouldn't take me long, but I need to let them know I'm alright and will be at work and expecting updates next week."

The Cree woman waved her hand in a shooing motion, "I'll go work on some jewelry orders, come up and get me when you're ready."

Dominique nodded; she looked over inquiringly at Kendra.

Kendra picked up the newspaper, which had been placed on a table just inside the front door when James Winters and Dr. Meadows had arrived, "I'd like to take a look at the newspaper, find out what's been happening in the world."

The redhead glanced at the newspaper in her lover's hand, that was a good idea, but it was something she would have to do later today. She walked to the kitchen and was pleased when Kendra followed and sat down at the table with the newspaper.

She dialed her secretary's desk number and waited impatiently, on the fourth ring it was picked up, "Candice Greene…"

Dominique didn't wait for her to trot out the standard greeting, "Candice its Ms. Destine, I need you to arrange for transport tomorrow from Alma Quebec to New York, just after lunch would be preferable, and inform the division managers I expect reports from each of them on my desk Monday morning first thing," she said briskly. A quiet snort had her glancing over at Kendra with an arched eyebrow and inquiring look.

The blue eyes were dancing with laughter, but Kendra just shook her head and looked back down at the paper.

Candice still hadn't replied, there was absolute silence on the line. Dominique frowned at it wondering if the connection had been dropped when her secretary finally responded in a very hesitant questioning voice, "Ms. Destine?"

She was about to snap irritably when she looked up and saw Kendra watching her, she sighed, reminded of her promise, "Yes Candice its Dominique Destine, I assure you I'm quite alive and well even though it was a bit of a hike to find a phone," she said dryly.

There was another amused snort from the one person peanut gallery.

There was silence once again before her secretary asked hesitantly, "Was that a joke Ms Destine?"

Dominique rolled her eyes, "Apparently not a very good one," she responded wryly. "Now that we have established that I am indeed alive did you hear what I said before?"

"Yes…" the initial answer didn't sound as certain as she would have liked, then Candice's voice firmed, "you need me to arrange transportation for you from Alma, Quebec back to New York City tomorrow around one to two in the afternoon, and to inform the department managers that you expect reports for each department on your desk Monday morning by ten am?" the last a question.

"Ten will be fine," Dominique confirmed, "Is there anything I should know about right now?"

She listened intently while her secretary filled her in on what had happened during her absence. There hadn't been much; apparently everyone had been waiting for news on the search and rescue operation. The different departments had coasted along working on the last projects she had handed out before the kidnapping. It could have been much worse she reflected, they could have assumed she was dead and started fighting among themselves over who was in charge.

"Oh two other things Candice," she said deciding to get some things started so that she could get Kendra's position mostly set up on Monday. "Tell Research and Development to rename the Special Projects division to Research and Development Special Projects division. There's going to be a new executive level division that has special projects in its name and I want to make sure there's no confusion between the two. Also set up a meeting with the head of Human Resources on Monday at," she hesitated a moment thinking of how long it would take her to get through at least some of the work that had certainly piled up over the last eleven days, "eleven o'clock."

Her secretary asked tentatively, "A new executive level division?"

Dominique could imagine the interest on the woman's face; a new executive level division was fairly big news. "Yes, New Technologies and Special Projects," Dominique responded, reasoning that it wasn't a bad idea for the gossip to go ahead and make its way around the company. That way HR would be ready for her on Monday morning, "Ms. Canmore will be heading up the new division for me."

"Ms. Kendra Canmore?" Candice asked her surprise clear.

"That would be the one," Dominique confirmed. "When you talk to Mr. Cleveland let him know that part of what I would like to see from him on Monday will be an appropriate executive management level salary and stock option offer for Ms. Canmore," she knew that Candice would pass on the emphasis she had placed on the words executive management level.

"Yes Ms. Destine," her secretary responded promptly.

"Thank you Candice," Dominique replied, congratulated herself for remembering not to use her usual crisp 'that will be all' at the woman.

"Yes…" Candice's voice trailed off and Dominique frowned wondering what was wrong, "Umm… I mean you're welcome Ms. Destine. Where may I contact you to let you know the transportation arrangements from Alma?"

Dominique raised an eyebrow at the hesitant response before replying, "You may contact me at this number, if I'm not here just leave a message on…" she paused trying to remember Rachael's last name, but it wouldn't come to her, "just leave a message on the answering machine here," she finished.

"Yes Ms. Destine, I'll start making those arrangements for you now," Candice assured her.

"Very well, goodbye Candice," Dominique said impatient now to end the phone call.

"Goodbye, Ms. Destine," her secretary responded, and with a relieved sigh Dominique hung up the phone.

"Did you realize we missed Thanksgiving?" Kendra asked.

The redhead stared at her in surprise; she glanced at the calendar noting today's date, Thursday, December 4th. "No I hadn't," she said, "I don't celebrate it, it's just a day I have to pay people for not being at work." She frowned, belatedly aware of what the statement said about her attitude towards the idea of her employees taking holidays. Macbeth had never resented the days his people celebrated the various human holidays, he had seemed to take as much enjoyment in them as they.

"Take it one thing at a time," Kendra advised her gently, "your attitudes towards humans have been built over centuries, they won't change in one day or week or even months."

Sometimes, Dominique thought ruefully, Kendra was startlingly intuitive when it came to knowing what she was thinking. "Shall we go tell Rachael that we're ready to go shopping?" she asked.

"After ten days of search and rescue efforts Dominique Destine and Kendra Canmore walked into the small Cree village of Mistassini, Quebec early this morning. The Canadian Mounted Police say that despite having hiked across over 350 miles of rugged snow covered terrain both women are in excellent health. The RCMP declined to release any details about what the two women had to say regarding their kidnapping citing their on-going joint investigation with the FBI."

The brief news bulletin on the radio had Professor Lennox MacDuff looking abruptly up from the paper he was grading toward the radio. The dreams he had from a few nights ago would not leave him alone, he couldn't get out of his mind Demona's anguished cry of "Luach," and the tears of grief she had cried when the spirit had restored the memories the Weird Sisters had blocked. The dream had been so vivid, had felt so real. He couldn't shake the feeling that it had been real in some way, that some spirit had taken pity upon them both and freed them from the Weird Sisters enchantments.

It wouldn't be hard to find out if it were true, he reasoned to himself, just one moment of pain would answer the question of whether or not the link between them had indeed been broken as the spirit claimed. Besides he wanted to see her again, see if the hardness in her eyes had changed as he remembered from the dream. If it were indeed possible that after all this time they could become friends once again, that there would be someone with which he wouldn't have to pretend to be Lennox Macduff.

"Here we are," Rachael said as they pulled up in front of a small cinder block building. Behind it was a single runway with a few hangars along its side for the few planes that were kept here. Dominique eyed the small jet waiting on the runway. It was the only jet there and she guessed it was the one that Candice had chartered for them.

She looked over at Rachael; she had been considering this since they had left, but didn't know if the Owl's chosen would be interested. After all, they had taken up quite a bit of Rachael's time in the past week. "Solstice is coming up soon," she broached the subject, "As the shortest night of the year, it was the only holiday that my clan celebrated. It served as both a new year's celebration and when we would give thanks for the good fortunes of the past year." She looked away from Rachael's wise dark eyes, "I haven't celebrated winter solstice for a very long time," she said quietly, "it's simply been too bitter a reminder of all that I've lost over the centuries," she admitted.

Kendra's hand squeezed her shoulder, "that's not the case this year," she commented quietly.

Dominique lightly gripped the hand on her shoulder and held it there as she turned and smiled back at the black haired woman. "That isn't the case this year," she agreed. She turned back to Rachael, "If you don't already have something planned, I'd appreciate it if you would come and celebrate it with…" she glanced back at Kendra questioningly.

Kendra snorted, "You are so funny, no I wasn't planning on going anywhere over the Christmas holidays."

Dominique smiled, she glanced back to Rachael once again, "If you would celebrate it with us," she finished asking.

Rachael smiled, "I need to be back for Christmas Eve, but otherwise than that I don't have anything planned for the days right before then."

"Excellent," Dominique said happily, "Winter Solstice is the 21st this year; I'll charter a plane to pick you up on the nineteenth or twentieth?"

"The nineteenth will be fine," responded Rachael with a smile of her own.

"On the nineteenth then and bring you back on the twenty-third," the redhead said, "I'll have a use for the first time for my guest room."

They got out of the jeep and went around to the back to get the two duffle bags that held the purchases they had made at the village, and the jeans and sweater Rachael had bought for them.

Kendra was the first to turn to Rachael and hug her, "Thank you," she said simply, her blue eyes echoing her gratitude for everything the Cree woman had done for them.

When Kendra stepped back, Dominique didn't hesitate to take her place. She had already made a generous donation to the youth fund as Rachael had suggested, but it still didn't feel like enough to convey her thanks for what the woman had done for both of them by traveling several hours though the cold to bring them supplies and then again to bring them to her home. The redhead stepped back, "Thank you for everything, and if there is anything I can ever do for you let me know."

"Get to know Robert," Rachael answered immediately, "his aunt and uncle see to his material needs, but I don't get the feeling that they really care for him. He needs someone closer than me to talk to and who can take him out shopping or to get something to eat without making it feel like he's a burden to them."

Dominique's eyes narrowed in anger at what Rachael's words implied about Robert's life. "I will," Dominique promised, "I'll contact him this weekend."

"We both will," Kendra added.

Rachael looked over toward the building, "I think your pilot's waiting on you," she said nodding toward it.

Dominique turned and looked in the same direction, there was a man standing in the doorway looking at them uncertainly.

As soon as he saw her looking in his direction, he walked toward them, "Ms. Destine?"

"Yes," Dominique responded crisply, "are you the pilot of the plane Nightstone chartered?"

"I am Ma'am, may I take your bags for you and stow them on the plane?" he asked politely.

"Be careful with them," the redhead instructed him, "they have some breakables in them."

"Yes ma'am I will be," he assured her as he took their bags, "will you be much longer? I was wondering when to start my final flight check."

"Go, I'll see you on the nineteenth," Rachael said.

"I'll dust off a bottle of my fifty year old Oban for us to enjoy," Dominique commented.

Rachael's eyes lit with interest, "I'll look forward to it."

With final waves, the two women followed the pilot into the building and then out to the tarmac and onto the plane for their journey back to New York.

When the plane became airborne, Dominique looked out the window at the dark green of trees and the occasional brilliant white of snow. She was going to miss it in a way she realized with surprise.

"I do want to come back during the summer," Kendra said from the seat beside her.

Dominique nodded, "So do I."