Double Date
By Christine Morgan

Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney and
are used here without their creators' knowledge or consent. All others
property of the author; please don't borrow without permission.

#14 in an ongoing Gargoyles fanfic saga

(Owen Burnett, voice over) "Previously, on Gargoyles ..."
[A dorm room of the Sterling Academy]
Birdie Yale -- "We're going to be pals, Aiden. We're going to have
a blast. Really wild times. I mean it."
Aiden Ferguson -- "I'm not much for wild times."
Birdie Yale -- "That's okay. This is school, right? You're here to
learn. You'll learn."
[Cut to a scene of the woods]
Aiden (holding out Hecate's Wand) -- "Maybe you should take this
back. I let you down. I'm sorry."
Owen (shakes head) -- "Keep it. I am certain you will discipline
yourself more effectively than I could."
Aiden -- "I won't use it again! I promise!"
Xanatos -- "Don't make that kind of promise, Aiden. Fate loves to
make a person break a vow."

* *

The Sterling Academy, 3:40 P.M.

Aiden spoke out loud to her computer. "Oh, you lucky!"
"What?" Birdie Yale looked up from a pile of chemistry notes.
"Talking to me, Ferguson?"
"No, to Lex. This e-mail says he's going to the concert tonight!"
"Not the concert in Central Park!" Birdie shot out of her chair and
circled around behind Aiden to stare at the screen. "Not Scarlet Angel's
special Blue Moon Concert!"
"Yeah, that's the one." Aiden sighed. "I wish I could go!"
"You and half the world! Wow, if I had eighty bucks to spare ...
their manager and bass player, Ebon, is finally going to appear on stage!
He's not even in the videos!"
"I love that band."
"Who doesn't? A year ago, they were nobodies, and now they're
megastars! They're the coolest!"
"And Lex gets to go! Him and Broadway both!"
"Must be great, getting in for free," Birdie said.
"Yeah, but the seats aren't the best --" Aiden broke off and looked
around at her roommate, eyes wide.
"Gotcha!" Birdie declared smugly. "He's one of those gargoyles,
isn't he? I knew it!"
"How'd you know?" Aiden gasped.
"Put it together. Bits and pieces. Oh, and one day I needed to
borrow a highlighter and I found this." Birdie slid open Aiden's desk drawer
and pulled out a framed photograph of the entire clan. "So, which one is
Lex? Lemme guess. The little green guy here, the one that looks like Gollum
with wings."
"Birdie, please don't tell!"
"Who'm I going to tell? Aunt Margot?" Birdie snorted. "Hey, you
want to date a gargoyle, it's your business. How come you aren't going to the
"Owen doesn't pick me up until tomorrow afternoon. The concert's
"So let's go! I've got a car. I'll drive us down, you get us in."
"I can't afford tickets!"
Birdie rolled her eyes patiently. "Hel-lo! We'll sit on the roof. You
said someone named Broadway is going?" She studied the picture again.
"Hmm. Is this him, with more muscles than the Dallas Cowboy's offensive
"That's Goliath," Aiden said, not even having to look.
"No kidding. I could go for a guy like that."
"He's got a girlfriend, and she's got a gun. That one is Broadway."
"Cute. He looks like he could handle a woman of substance like
me." Birdie patted her full hips and grinned. "So we double date."
"I don't know," Aiden said doubtfully. "We've got school
tomorrow. But Lex sure would be surprised."
"Come on, Ferguson, live a little!"
"Okay, okay. We'll go."
"Hey, I've got an idea!"
"What idea?" Aiden asked, not sure she liked the look on Birdie's
"Want to _really_ surprise them?"
* *

Central Park, 7:55 P.M.

"This is going to be great!" Broadway called enthusiastically over
the rush of the wind.
"The concert of the century!" Lex agreed.
In the east, the blue moon was peering between the skyscrapers. It
wasn't blue in color, just called that because it was the second full moon
within the calendar month, a rare and special event. Like tonight's concert.
"I wish Angela had come," Broadway said. He frowned. "I never
understand her. I think she's mad at me, but I don't know why."
"Better apologize, then," Lex advised.
"I didn't do anything!"
"Apologize anyway. That's what you're supposed to do with
"Yeah? When did you become such an expert?"
"I'm not. Talon told me. Hey, there it is! Look at all the people!"
Lex swooped closer to the throng revealed by crisscrossing spotlights. A
huge screen had been put up, mechanical arms carried cameramen back and
forth. The stage was covered with monolithic speakers and amplifiers, an
electronic Stonehenge.
Broadway pointed out a likely spot atop a control center, where
they would have a good view but be sheilded from sight by the angle of the
roof. He touched down and leaned over the edge. "Great!" he repeated.
"Yeah!" Lex scampered back and forth along the roof, studying
what he could see of the equipment.
The warm-up act, some forgettable Seattle grunge band, was just
coming onstage when Lex heard a cry of alarm from above. He looked up,
and gaped in shock.
Broadway followed his gaze and was likewise stunned. Too
stunned to get out of the way as an out-of-control gargoyle careened toward
him. An out-of-control, utterly unfamiliar, voluptuous and rose-colored
female gargoyle.
"Look out!" she cried, and collided full-tilt with Broadway. They
tumbled across the roof and crashed into a thick pipe, coming to rest with
the female sitting on top of him.
She shook a mass of burgundy-streaked black curls out of her
brown eyes as she looked down at Broadway.
"Hey, oops," she said. "Guess that's one way to make an impression
on a guy!" To emphasize her words, she bounced up and down a couple of
times on his ample gut.
"Oof! Ugh!" Broadway replied wittily.
A shadow flickered over them, accompanied by a "fwhoop!" Lex
looked up again and saw another female coming in for a considerably more
graceful landing.
She was small, grey in color, and had wings that stretched from
wrist to ankle like his. She wore an oversized and faded Pack T-shirt with
the sleeves ripped all the way down the sides, the hem tucked under her legs,
split in the back, and the whole works tied together in a big knot at the small
of her back.
From just above her brow ridges, a bony crest like that of a
pterodactyl swept back in a thin curve. On either side of that crest, beige-
blond hair spilled to her shoulders. She carried a tote bag with "I (heart)
N.Y." written on it.
She landed a few feet away and smiled at him. Around her neck
was a silver chain, and a filigree heart-shaped pendant.
He recognized that necklace. It had been his birthday present to ...
* *

Manhattan, 6:50 P.M. (flashback)

"It's almost seven. Shouldn't we get started?" Birdie urged.
"This really isn't a good idea," Aiden said, but it was token protest
because she was already opening her tote bag and taking out the box.
"It'll be fine. If it doesn't work, you can tell everyone it was my
"Oh, I will," Aiden promised. Even through the closed lid, she
could sense the tingle of magic. "I'll tell them you subjected me to
unbelievable peer pressure."
"Peer pressure is when a bunch of jerks try to get you to do
something you don't want to do. I'm your friend, and this is something you
really want. Face it."
"You're impossible to argue with, Miss Yale." Her best, completely
unconvincing MacBeth imitation. She unlocked the box. Inside was a long
thin bundle of rolled silk. She unwound it and picked up the wand.
It didn't look like much, just a plain gnarled stick. But when her
fingers wrapped around it, the wand pulsed briefly with twinkling silver
"Me first," Birdie said. "What do I do?"
"Um ... just stand there, and think about being a gargoyle," Aiden
She shut her eyes, reached deep into herself for the power that
Owen had taught her how to tap. In the darkness of her mind, she saw a box
opening, not the wand's box but a huge chest, a treasure chest, filled with
round silver beads like pearls.
She envisioned her hand plunging into the chest, feeling the cool
rolling of the beads on her skin. She selected one, drew it forth. Closed that
mental fist around it.
"Oh, wow," Birdie breathed.
Aiden opened her eyes.
The wand was glowing, its light spilling over Aiden like a cascade
of liquid silver.
She raised the wand, banished all uncertainties, and pointed it at
Birdie. Latin phrases bubbled through her mind, but strangely, she felt
herself most strongly thinking of "Willow," a movie she'd seen and loved as
a kid. The wand -- why hadn't she seen it before? -- looked exactly like the
one from the movie.
"Lockmor dan Elora. Tuatha dan ue. Tuatha tuatha." She wasn't
sure if she was remembering the words right, but they felt good and strong
and true in her mouth. The words that plead for change.
Puck had said that any words meaningful to her would be
meaningful to the wand.
A filament of light spun out toward Birdie. It coiled around her feet
and up her body, weaving a cocoon of pure silver. It brightened until Aiden
had to shield her eyes, and then burst apart in a shower of sparkling stars,
which sank glimmering to the ground and winked out.
Aiden looked at Birdie. "Gosh," she said in a very small voice.
"Too cool!" Birdie exclaimed, holding her taloned, three-fingered
hands in front of her face.
Her skin had darkened to a deep rose hue that shaded to black on
the backs of the batlike wings that slowly unfolded behind her. Twin horns
sprouted from her forehead, coiling back along the sides of her head like
ram's horns, encircling pointed ears from which many earrings still dangled.
Her face hadn't changed much, except for the larger eyes and the sharp
teeth. Her body was also much the same, on the borderline between
curvaceous and fat, except that the flesh looked more solid.
"Are you okay?" Aiden gasped.
"Yeah," Birdie said, taking a few unsteady steps on her new,
clawed feet. "Whoops! My balance is all screwed."
"Sorry about your clothes," Aiden said, pointing at the tattered
ruins of Birdie's purple leather halter and black, acid-splotched jeans. Her
sneakers had all but exploded, leaving nothing but ragged rings around her
raised ankles.
"Hey, no big deal." She flexed her wings carefully. "I'm not exactly
thinking about my clothes right now, you know?"
"I wish Aunt Margot could see this! She'd freak!"
"Well," Aiden said, digging her camera out of her bag, "you could
send her a picture."
"Great!" Birdie posed and flashed all of her teeth in a wide grin.
"How's that?"
"Not exactly the cover of Vogue. The Daily Tattler, maybe."
"What about Playgargoyle?"
Aiden laughed and took the picture. "I think we should submit it
for your yearbook photo!"
"I will if you will. Okay, Aiden, your turn."
"I don't know ..."
"Come on! I did it!"
Aiden wavered, gazing at the wand in her hand. It glowed faintly,
expectantly. Even as she looked at it, the light brightened.
"Here goes. But only for tonight!"
"Yeah, yeah," Birdie said. "At sunrise the coach and four turns
back into a pumpkin and a bunch of mice. I get the picture. Move it,
Ferguson, it's getting late."
She closed her eyes, turned the wand toward herself, thought of
gargoyles, and uttered the words again. Through her eyelids, she could see
the encompassing silver glow. A sensation, a whole-body heat ripple, passed
over her painlessly.
* *

Central Park, 8:15 P.M.

"We wanted to surprise you," Aiden finished, after telling them
how she and Birdie had come to be here in these new forms.
"You did! It's great! Now I know how Goliath felt during that
mirror thing." Lex said. He grinned. "Interesting outfit!"
She flushed lavendar. "It's Birdie's shirt. My clothes just couldn't
handle these." She extended her arms and looked at the pale, tissue-thin
membranes. "But I had to find something to put on."
"Hey, you didn't have to go to any trouble on my account!" Lex
She flushed darker. "I don't see how you can wear anything at all!"
"I don't _have_ to, if you'd rather --"
"Lexington!" She giggled.
"See? Told you he'd like it," Birdie said. She twined her arm
through Broadway's, who looked like he wasn't quite operating on all
cylinders just yet. "So, where's our seats, big guy? Is this your first date?"
"Um, kind of. My first blind date, that's for sure."
Birdie tossed her head and laughed throatily. "That's okay; you
don't have to kiss me goodnight unless you want to."
"Um ...!" He bobbled his head happily as she led him to the edge of
the roof and perched close beside him.
"Actually, look," Lex said, motioning to his side. "There's a space
here, see? Where the wings don't quite connect. My belt goes through there.
A couple generations before I was hatched, when humans settled on the
highlands, our elders thought it would help us get along with them if we
wore clothes, like they did. Some, with wings like me, couldn't very well. So
when we were hatchlings, they'd make cuts here and here, and thread a belt
or cord through."
"That's awful! Didn't it hurt? How come it didn't heal when you
turned to stone?"
"I don't remember it hurting. And with the belt there, it just sort of
healed around it and left a hole."
She nodded in understanding. "It still sounds cruel, but I've seen
parents at the mall having thier babies' ears pierced, so I guess it's not that
different. I had wondered how you wore that, though."
"You could've asked me before," he said.
"I didn't want to sound like I was ... you know, making a pass or
"Aiden! Lex!" Birdie called. "Show's about to start!"
* *

Central Park, 10:30 P.M.

Scarlet Angel was halfway through their biggest hit, *When Night
Falls,* and Aiden listened to the lyrics with gargoyle's ears, thinking that it
was no wonder Lex and the others really liked their music.
"When night falls, we shed our skin,
We find our love deep as the sky
When night falls, we feel the wind,
We spread our wings and fly."
She turned to the others to say something about how that could
have been written for gargoyles, and saw that Birdie had Broadway in a
major lip-lock.
Nor were they alone. In the dim, moody lighting, two-thirds of the
audience were making out while the band swung into a low, pulsing
instrumental segment.
Lex was looking at her, a direct and intense look unlike his usual
cute, shy glance. "You're really beautiful like this." He reached up and ran
his hand along the crest that topped her head. "I mean, you were pretty
before, but now ... it's incredible!"
She shivered at his touch. "Lex?"
"Do ... do you want to kiss me?"
He grinned. "Sure!"
The few times they'd kissed before had always been sweet, brief,
and chaste. Aiden knew from the moment his lips touched hers that this kiss
was going to be different.
He grasped her wrists and raised their arms overhead, causing their
wings to stretch against each other. His tail coiled lightly around her ankle.
She flexed the unfamiliar muscles to move her own tail, but
unbalanced herself and toppled backward onto the roof, pulling him with
Lex caressed her side, where her inner wing met her body, and she
shivered again. It was just like the time one of her few dates had started
nibbling on her neck, only better. She could tell he was excited too, really
excited judging by what she felt against her leg. His hand crept from her
side to the edge of her makeshift garment.
Aiden tensed, not because she didn't want him touching her there
because she did, but because she was sure he'd be disappointed by what he
found. Even Tina Diamant, only fifteen, had more in the boobs department
than she did. For that matter, Tina had "done it" twice, while Aiden had the
dubious honor of being the only virgin in her clique of friends. It would be
awfully nice to have that awkward stigma out of the way.
Lex, nibbling on her neck in exactly the right way, was inching her
shirt over, as if he thought she wouldn't notice. Wishing he'd stop but at the
same time hoping he wouldn't, Aiden stroked his shoulders and back. His
muscles were wiry and tight beneath skin smooth as fine leather.
His hand cupped her breast. Aiden gasped, then whispered, "I'm
sorry I'm so small!"
He chuckled softly against her throat. "That would be my line, if
you'd ever seen Goliath getting out of the shower. You're perfect."
She blushed hotly. She'd never actually seen a man without his
clothes, just that awful "Naked Shakespeare" video Birdie had rented for
one of the Tuesday socials. The rest of the girls had watched with many a
catcall and derisive hoot. Aiden, although shocked, had at least gotten a few
of her unasked questions answered. Now, though, she found herself
wondering if gargoyles were any different from the men in the video, and
how close she was to finding out.
Her roving fingers found and traced the places where Lex's wings
joined his back. His whole body tensed against hers. "If you keep doing that,
I'm going to go crazy," he warned.
"Sorry!" She moved her hands.
"You don't _have_ to stop. I like it. Do you ... like what I'm
"Yes," she said, barely audible.
"Hey, you two!" Birdie said suddenly. "Don't get too carried
Horribly embarrassed, Aiden quickly righted herself, tugging her
shirt back into place. Lex cleared his throat and tried to look innocent. "We
just fell over," he said.
"Oh, is _that_ what happened?" Birdie teased. "What did it look
like to you, Broadway?"
"I was looking at you," he admitted, grinning widely.
"Oh, you're such a big old teddy bear!" She grabbed him by the
ears and planted another loud, wet kiss on him.
The song had ended, and there was a long pause that gradually
brought the crowd to an expectant hush.
The lead singer, an ethereal brunette named Julianna, came forth
into a single spotlight. "We have something special for you tonight," she
intoned in her haunting voice. "Tonight, for the first time, our manager and
bass player Ebon has agreed to appear. He'll be joining me in a song off our
next album. We call this one *Heart of Stone.* We hope you like it."
Julianna dropped her head, her long dark hair streaming over her
pale shoulders. The music began, an eerie drifting melody. She slowly,
slowly raised her gaze skyward, and every eye in the audience did likewise.
A dark shape was silhouetted against the moon. Before anyone
could so much as draw in a gasp, it glided down and landed on the stage.
"It's a gargoyle!" Aiden said.
"It's Thailog!" Lex and Broadway cried in unison.
"I thought he was dead!" Broadway added.
"Shut up, you guys!" Birdie scolded.
The massive black gargoyle bowed to Julianna. Some screams rang
from the crowd, but most were transfixed by either awe or fear. A roadie
came forth with an overlarge bass guitar, obviously modified to withstand
the strumming of those thick clawed fingers. He began to play and Julianna
began to sing, and Aiden leaned stunned against Lexington.
"He looks like Goliath!"
"He's a clone," Lex explained, his fists clenched. "We've got to do
"Let's get him!" Broadway jumped to his feet.
"Are you nutso?" Birdie swept her tail to knock his feet out from
under him and yanked him back down. "What are you going to do, fly down
there and attack him?"
"Well, yeah," Broadway said as if that was a silly question.
"He's an enemy! Pure evil!" Lex said.
"Wants to control the world!" Broadway added.
"So why's he playing bass for a rock band?" Birdie asked.
The two males looked at each other, flummoxed.
"You can't attack him," Aiden said, trying to be reasonable. "You'd
start a panic, and ruin the whole concert."
"Besides, he's really good!" Birdie pointed out.
The gargoyle, Ebon or Thailog or whoever, suddenly joined
Julianna in song. Their voices, hers high, his a rich growl exactly like
Goliath's, mingled perfectly.
"It can't be Thailog," Broadway said, shaking his head.
"It is!" Lex insisted. "It has to be! But ... it doesn't make any
By the time Ebon and Julianna reached the end of *Heart of
Stone,* a love song sure to hit the top of the charts in no time, the shadowy
sea of the crowd was ablaze with lighters held high over admiring, cheering
"Thank you!" Ebon needed no microphone for his words to reach
every ear. "I know this is a bit unusual, but we are making advance copies of
our new album available tonight, to you, our most devoted fans. It will not
be in the stores for another month. Tonight, under this blue moon, you have
the chance to own it before the rest of the world."
Excited cheers filled the air, along with the rustle of what had to be
hundreds of people checking their wallets. Aiden grabbed her tote bag to see
what her financial status was.
"Smart," Birdie said. "They can charge twice what it'll go for in the
stores, and people will still suck it up like a big cherry Slurpee."
"For all of Scarlet Angel," Ebon said, "thank you, and good night!"
The stage went dark, and then the house lights came up. People
hurried for the exits and the waiting vendors.
"Now we get him!" Lex cried.
"Yeah! Four to one odds!" Broadway leaped up again.
"Oh, no way! You're not dragging us into this!" Birdie declared.
"We've got to stop him, whatever he's doing!" Lex said.
"You mean, fight? Us?" Aiden gasped, looking down at her slight
Broadway frowned, reconsidering. "Well, couldn't you zap him
with your magic wand or something?"
"No!" Aiden said decisively. She instinctively thrust a hand into
her tote bag and felt the familiar shape of the wand, and then a bad thought
ocurred to her. The wand would only work in the hands of a human
sorceress, and tonight, at least, that wasn't her. "I couldn't, even if I wanted
"We're talking about one of my favorite bands!" Birdie threw back
her wings and put her hands on her hips. "I'm not about to attack them! I
think you'd better explain what this is all about."
Hastily, their words tumbling over each other, Lex and Broadway
told a wild story about the evil, money-grubbing clone. How he'd taken
Xanatos to the tune of several million, been partners with Demona against
MacBeth in Paris, and ultimately created his own army of clones to attack
the clan.
"So where's he been all this time?" Birdie asked.
Lex shrugged. "I don't know! We thought he died in the fire! He's
as bad as Demona!"
Ebon landed a few yards away and fixed his crimson gaze hungrily
upon them.
"Quick! Scatter!" Lex grabbed Aiden and threw her off the roof.
She squealed in terror, then remembered that she had wings and spread
them, the air catching her. Lex looped around and aimed a kick at Ebon's
"You girls get out of here!" Broadway ordered.
"The hell you say!" Birdie yelled.
Ebon, seemingly startled, didn't even try to dodge Lex's kick. It
drove him to his knees. "Wait! I am not your enemy!" he cried.
"Yeah, right, since when?" Lex turned on the proverbial dime and
drove both feet into Ebon's back just as he was starting to get up, sending
him face-first into the roof.
Pandemonium erupted as the lingering remnants of the crowd as
they caught sight of the gargoyles overhead.
"Please! I want to talk to you!" Ebon rose up just in time for
Broadway to launch a roundhouse punch. This time, the big black gargoyle
was better prepared. He caught it in his fist, thrust one foot into Broadway's
midsection, and sent him sailing head over heels.
"Broadway!" Birdie dove after her date, catching him less than ten
feet above the heads of the crowd. She flipped him skyward again.
"Why do you attack me?" Ebon roared. "I am one of your own
Lex dropped on him, clinging like a spider, claws digging in. Ebon
hissed in pain, tore him off and flung him away. Broadway ripped up a huge
chunk of paneling and flattened Ebon from behind.
"Broadway, jeez!" Birdie cried. "Quit it!"
Scarlet Angel's keyboard player, a tall skinny seventies throwback
who called himself Aquarius, shouted into the microphone. "Hey, gang,
don't panic! It's like, part of the show, you know!"
At that, much of the panic turned to embarrassed laughter, but there
was still enough ugliness in the atmosphere to worry Aiden. "We've got to
get out of here!" She swooped down to Lex, groggily pushing himself onto
all fours, and helped him up.
Broadway and Birdie were tusseling atop the paneling, him trying
to get loose, her trying to hold him back. Pinned under them was Ebon,
groaning. He suddenly threw himself to his feet, arms and wings flexing in a
single powerful motion that flipped the paneling as if it weighed as much as
a playing card.
He advanced toward the two, his own eyes flaring embers, fists
"Uh-oh!" Birdie said. "Now you've done it!"
"Come on," Broadway challenged, making that just-try-it-buddy
"All I wanted was to talk to you," Ebon growled. "But you attack
me for no reason? Is it true, then? Are you without honor?"
"Look who's talking!" Broadway snarled. "You wouldn't know
honor if it bit you on the --"
"No reason!" Lex shrieked. "We've got plenty of reason, Thailog,
and you know it!"
Genuine confusion paused him. "Thailog?"
The roof access door slammed open and a bunch of security guards
piled out. "All right, everybody freeze!"
"Shit!" Birdie cried emphatically. "I am _not_ going to jail looking
like this!" She gave Broadway a Herculean shove that sent him off the roof,
and dove after him.
Lex took a split second to assess the situation and took to the air,
pulling Aiden by the hand.
The last thing they heard as they glided rapidly away was Ebon's
voice like mournful thunder in the air. "Wait! Come back ..."
* *

Central Park, Midnight.

Ebon slumped, head in his large hands.
The backstage room was temporarily quiet, with most of the crew
out front selling the albums and beginning the cleanup process.
Aquarius and Julianna exchanged a glance. Finally, the slim, pale
brunette placed a hand on his shoulder. "It's all right, Ebon."
"They attacked me," he said. "I merely approached them, and they
attacked me as if I was a monster."
"They don't even know you," Julianna said soothingly.
Aquarius, in the middle of rolling a joint in hopes that the
secondhand smoke would mellow the big dude, said thoughtfully, "Maybe
they do."
Slowly, Ebon raised his head. "From ... before?"
"You had to come from somewhere, man."
Silence fell over them, each thinking back.
* *

FLASHBACK -- One year ago ... (Aquarius)

Aquarius, pleasantly stoned, sat on the lid of the dumpster and tried
to ignore the raised voices so he could enjoy his trip.
Raised voice, actually. He could only hear Nick, but he knew
Julianna was also in the converted schoolbus that served as transportation
and home.
Pagan and Johnny had made themselves scarce, for which Aquarius
didn't blame them. Nobody wanted to be around Nick when he got like this.
Julianna had no choice, but that was between the two of them. Aquarius
wasn't about to get involved in matters concerning a guy and his chick,
especially when the guy in question didn't share the same attitudes of peace
and brotherhood that he did.
Johnny, their guitarist, had gone into the abandoned amusement
park, scoping for things to salvage or sell in hopes of extending their budget
a little. Things had been tight, since the last gig had fallen through and the
skunk who owned the place had refused to pay them for the two sets they
_had_ done before Julianna passed out midway through their best number.
As for Pagan ... Aquarius prided himself on being able to spot
something attractive in every chick, but with her, it had been a damn
challenge. Built like a fire hydrant, short and stocky, with a shock of green
and orange hair, she didn't have much about her to please the outer eye.
Bitchy, abrasive, and opinionated, that also left the inner eye unpleased. Her
drumming was nothing special and she couldn't sing either.
He didn't want to think about Pagan. From there, his trip seemed
likely to go off on some totally unwelcome tangents. He tried to clear his
mind and focused instead on the skeletal scaffolding of the old roller
To his delight, he saw winged figures looping and soaring around
the wooden frame. Demons, or angels, like the red tattoo on Nick's arm that
had given the band their name.
"Far out," Aquarius muttered.
Bright blue bolts and blazing beams, and wasn't it cool the way his
thoughts were rolling back and forth like pool balls on the green felt surface
of his mind? The dark, flying forms spun in dizzying aerial acrobatics,
searing the sky with haloes of energy.
The roller coaster -- too bad that baby had closed down; they didn't
build 'em like that anymore; and wouldn't it have been a gas to ride it? --
now appeared to be on fire. Like it was in Six Flags over Hell or something.
Cars of red-hot metal, carrying flaming riders with their hands held high,
sped along the slopes and curves.
"What the fuck?" Nick's question cut into Aquarius' daze, but he
didn't lose the vision.
Nick Diamond was standing by the dumpster, in a fan of orange
light that painted his bare chest and glinted off the beer bottle in his hand.
Of course he'd be drinking, Aquarius thought. Beating up your chick was
thirsty work.
The chick in question stood behind Nick at a distance occasioned
either by fear or pain. From the way she was standing, hunched slightly,
Aquarius guessed the latter. Her face was unmarked as always, but drawn in
pained lines that made her look fifteen years older than she was.
Firelight danced in her wide eyes. Aquarius realized they were both
staring toward the roller coaster. Seeing the fire.
"Oh, wow, it's real," he said in a slow, stunned voice.
Johnny came running up from that direction, breathless and scared
shitless. "Gang war," he gasped. "They're tearing up the joint!"
"What are you talking about?" Nick snapped.
Just then, the entire blazing structure collapsed. The crash was loud
even from here. Sparks and smoke billowed up.
"We gotta get out of here," Johnny panted. He turned to Julianna,
saw the look on her face, and scowled. "Damn it, did you have to hit her
"Don't start with me."
"It's okay," Julianna said softly.
"You shouldn't have to put up with his shit," Johnny persisted.
"You want a helping?" Nick raised a fist.
"Hey, this is not serene," Aquarius said, still drifting.
Pagan rushed up, her hair a screaming horror of orange and green
spikes. "We better book," she said. "Cops will be coming."
Aha, something that concerned Nick more than busting Johnny's
ass. Aquarius knew that, in addition to the baggie of weed and pills with his
own stuff, there were five grams of coke hidden in the glove compartment.
And a gun. Big time, baby. No wonder they never had any cash.
Something passed by over their heads. To Aquarius, that moment
seemed to streeeetch out in time, giving him a good, long look at the
blueskinned she-devil. She was streaked with soot and blood and flying like
a bat out of hell.
Julianna shrieked, a high, crystalline sound that made Aquarius'
skull want to vibrate apart. It ended abruptly when Nick broke his only rule
and cracked her one across the chops.
"You son of a bitch," Pagan said, but her voice was oddly empty.
"Shut up and get in the bus," Nick ordered.
By the time they had rounded up their belongings and loaded up,
they could all hear the distant wail of sirens over the snap crackle pop of the
fire. They piled into the bus, Johnny behind the wheel and Nick right behind
him, Aquarius in the back with the chicks. Pagan's drums, with "Scarlet
Angel" scrawled across them in red spray paint, rolled and rattled fitfully.
Johnny drove with the headlights off, not wanting to attract
attention of the cops, but then couldn't find the gap in the chain-link fence
that they'd used to get onto the amusement park grounds in the first place.
Nick started swearing at him, a string of colorful epithets that had
to do with his parents, his sexual preferences, and his personal hygeine.
Johnny, unwisely, started giving back as good as he was getting.
Nick reached for him, and then something large and dark loomed in the
Julianna shrieked again, cut off this time when the bus struck
something solid, rocked violently forward, shuddered to a stop and stalled.
"We hit something!" Johnny cried. His nose was bleeding but he
didn't seem to notice.
"Brilliant, Einstein!" Nick yanked him out of the driver's seat. "If
you broke the goddam bus, you're dogfood!"
"What was it?" Pagan asked. "It looked like it had eyes!"
"Bullsh --" Nick started, and then the dark form rose up again.
It did have eyes, eyes that glowed a hellish red, and wings that
spread to reveal a thickly muscled chest. Aquarius heard music pounding in
his head, *A Night on Bald Mountain* from "Fantasia."
All five of them screamed, attaining in their terror a harmony they'd
never managed onstage. The monstrous figure brought its fists down on the
windshield, turning it into a gummy mass of safety glass, then slumped onto
the front of the bus and slid down.
Silence. Except for the sirens, closer now.
"Is it gone?" Julianna's voice was quavering.
"What was it?" Johnny whispered. "A bear, do you think?"
"Bear, my ass, it had wings!" Pagan hissed.
Silence, sirens, and then a deep groan.
"It's hurt," Julianna said.
"B.F.D." Nick leaned his face close to Johnny, biting distance from
the other guy's nose. "You get us out of here right now, understand?"
"Yeah, sure, Nick," Johnny babbled. He twisted the key. The bus
emitted a grinding croak and went dead. Johnny turned back to Nick, his
eyes bulging blue marbles. He tried to grin.
"That's it. I'm going to kill you," Nick declared. "Right after you
get your ass out there and see what's wrong with the bus."
"But ... there's something out there!" Johnny looked and sounded
all of four years old.
"So be quick!"
Johnny glanced at the rest of them. Julianna looked away, Pagan
swallowed, and Aquarius shrugged. "Heavy, man."
Nick threw the lever that opened the door and gestured. Johnny,
with the expression of someone about to walk the plank, faced the short
flight of stairs and gulped. He descended in mincing, I-gotta-pee steps.
Because of the condition of the windshield, they couldn't see him,
but his voice carried clearly enough. "Oh, hey, he's wearing a Batman suit!
No, wait ... that's not a cape ... those suckers are real! Real wings!"
Nick popped open the glove box and elicited matching gasps from
the chicks when he produced the gun. He sprang out to join Johnny.
"Shit!" Nick said. "It's a monster!"
Pagan got out, and Aquarius followed, beginning to wonder if this
was all just a stronger trip than he'd bargained for. Julianna was right behind
him because she never could stand being left by herself. Probably, he
realized in a flash of insight, why she stayed with Nick, figuring that his
temper was a bearable price to pay.
They gathered around the monster. The moon was bright, bright
enough to reveal plenty of details. Black skin, white hair, wings, the works.
It was pretty banged up. Bleeding from dozens of gouges that looked almost
like claw marks, burnt in places. There was a large dent in the front of the
bus which molded to the creature's shape.
"He's been in a fight," Julianna said in that same soft voice. "The
bus didn't do all of this." She knelt and extended a hand, then yelped she
was jerked roughly backward.
"Don't touch it." Nick was waving that gun around in a way that
made Aquarius glad he'd taken all the bullets out when Nick wasn't around.
"Just shut up and let me think a minute."
"It's a gargoyle, I think," Johnny said. "They were on tv."
"Damn it, I said shut up!"
Johnny, noticing the gun for the first time and finding himself
looking at the wrong end of it, shut up. He inched carefully away from Nick.
"Okay," Nick said, running his free hand through his hair. "Okay,
here's what we do. We take it with us."
"What?" Pagan blurted.
"This thing's got to be worth a fortune," Nick explained. "The zoo,
the university, hell, the newspapers. We'll be set! No more third-rate gigs!
We're talking real money here!"
"But what about him?" Julianna asked.
"Yeah, right, good point. We'll have to tie it up, in case it comes
"That isn't what I meant," she said.
"I don't know," Pagan said. "He looks pretty strong. We don't have
any rope, and we'd need chains."
"I don't even think we could lift him." Johnny was still inching
away, eyes on the gun.
"What the hell's the matter with you people?" Nick demanded.
"This is our ticket! Johnny, get under the hood and fix the goddam bus. The
rest of you, clear a space in the back."
The bus turned out to be okay, just some stuff popped loose in the
impact. They moved the creature, who hadn't stirred except for drawing
long, draggy breaths, into the back. The windshield was useless, so Nick
kicked it out.
Johnny picked a cautious path around the back lot of the
amusement park and found another gap in the fence. They got onto the street
without being seen by any cops and were on their way, with the wind
whistling through the hole at the front of the bus.
With Nick up front directing Johnny, Julianna was free to patch up
the creature with bandages made from sheets lifted from a cheap motel. She
murmured in a low, soothing voice as she did so.
Aquarius heard her gasp, and looked around to see the creature
moving. His eyes, no longer hell-red, opened and focused on Julianna. She
scooted away, almost fell into the drums, and ended up pressed against
Pagan like a kid scared of the thunder.
The creature lay still for a moment, then slowly raised his hands to
his face. He explored the length of sheet wrapped around his head like a
turban, wincing. He sat up, shifting his limbs. His gaze moved around the
interior of the bus, finally settling on the people.
"Where am I?" the creature asked in a deep, rumbling voice.
Johnny and Nick, arguing about the best place to hole up until
morning, were still unaware. The rest of them twitched in surprise.
"He can talk," Pagan said, probably thinking she was speaking in a
normal tone of voice instead of just barely above a shocked whisper.
"Bitchin'," Aquarius said. He glanced at Julianna, figuring that she
had dibs, but she cowered in wide-eyed alarm. "You're in our bus."
"What happened to me?"
"We sort of ran you over, man, but you were messed up even
before then. Looked like you were in a fight."
"What _are_ you?" Pagan asked. "Are you a gargoyle?"
"I ... I don't know." He looked at himself, then back at them, then to
himself again, taking in the differences.
"_Who_ are you?" Aquarius tried.
"I am ... I don't know."
"Oh, hey, maybe he's lost his memory," Aquarius said. "Do you
remember anything?"
He shut his eyes, rubbed gingerly at his head. "Nothing. Nothing at
all." And then he passed out cold.
* *

FLASHBACK -- Eleven months ago ... (Julianna)

Brushing her hair in long, slow strokes, she became aware of eyes
upon her.
She gasped and spun, but it was only the creature they'd named
Ebon for his glossy black skin.
Without a word, he came closer. Julianna cringed against the piece
of plywood that served as her dressing table. She brandished the brush
halfheartedly, although she would never dare strike at anyone.
Ebon seized her wrist with surprising gentleness and turned it over,
examining the faded pink scars that crossed the white flesh. His expression
was unreadable. "Who did this to you?"
"Nobody," she whispered. "I did it."
She pulled feebly, not really expecting him to let go but he did. "It's
nothing." She wasn't about to sit here and talk about her wrists to this
inhuman creature. Not her wrists, not the overdoses, not the time she'd
started her mother's car in the closed garage and was only prevented from
gassing herself by the untimely arrival of the butler.
Ebon clenched a fist and Julianna automatically prepared herself
for a blow. His gaze, though, was far-seeing, his anger directed somewhere
besides at her. She considered this with some amazement.
"Why would you hurt yourself?" he asked.
"Just leave me alone!" She meant it to be forceful but it came out
pleading. "You couldn't understand. Nobody does." Nobody ever had. Not
her parents, so determined that she would follow in her mother's operatic
footsteps. Not her brothers, with their tennis whites and sports cars. Not the
girls that had supposedly been her friends.
Nick entered the bus, a crumpled brown paper bag in his arms, and
halted when he saw them. His handsome, brooding face twisted into a scowl.
"What's going on?"
"Nothing," Julianna said. She put down her brush and got up,
moving away from Ebon.
"It damn well better be." Nick looked at Ebon, and clearly didn't
like the way the creature was looking at him. "Something the matter?"
"No." Ebon stalked out of the bus.
"Asshole," Nick remarked once he was out of earshot. "I still think
we should sell him."
Julianna shrugged. While Nick was their manager, he couldn't do
much with the other three steadfastly against the idea. They were fascinated
by Ebon, by the way he turned to stone with the rising of the sun and
awakened fully healed, by his amnesia and mysterious past, by the very fact
of his existence.
Besides, in the past few weeks while they made their way up the
coast to Maine, Ebon had proved his usefulness in other ways. His
suggestions on how they should manage what little money they had and how
they should organize their gigs had been canny, clever, and unfailingly
profitable. He watched over them at night like a guard dog. And he had
already inspired Aquarius to write some new songs, which had been well-
received by their audiences.
"Was he making a pass at you?" Nick asked sharply.
Julianna shook her head. It occurred to her that Nick was feeling
threatened. Always before, he had been the one to handle the money and
decide what gigs they would take. He'd been the one to write the songs.
She frowned faintly. Part of what had drawn her to Nick in the first
place was his appearance of strength and control. Nick, and the other tough
guys before him. All the way back to Ron, who'd picked her up as a runaway
and broken her arm one night in a drunken fury.
Nick grabbed her shoulder, his fingers digging. "I don't want you
around him. Is that clear?"
She nodded. "Why would I be?"
"I've seen how he looks at you. If he bugs you, you come and tell
me, and I'll take care of it. I don't care what the others say."
"Fine, Nick. Whatever you say."
He let her go. "Good. Here, I got some food." He upended the bag,
spilling cans of soup onto the floor.
"Is that all you got?" she asked. "I thought we had more money
than that."
His fist shot out, a heavy stone, and punched her in the upper arm.
She winced, putting a hand over it, knowing that there would be a huge dark
bruise by morning. "That's plenty!"
Julianna bowed her head. "I think I'm going to go get some fresh
"Hurry back and clean this place up," Nick ordered.
She ducked outside, skirting the campfire where Pagan, Johnny,
and Aquarius were pretending they hadn't heard every word. She knew that
they had. Hopelessness, a vast swamping wave of it, rolled over her.
They were camped in a field outside a little town whose name she'd
already forgotten. Some coastal tourist town in Maine.
The gig last night and the night before had been a good one. They'd
done a couple of the new songs and for the first time some of the kids had
asked if Scarlet Angel had any albums. The club's owner had been so
pleased he'd given them a fifty dollar bonus.
And Nick had bought soup. Not even Campbell's but some generic
store brand. The extra money went where it always had, into Nick's pocket
and then out again.
The others hated him, she knew. Hated him and feared him. They
didn't understand that some people, like Julianna herself, needed guidance.
Needed a firm hand. Nick loved her. He looked out for her.
She wandered down to the rocky shore. The sea rushed and
boomed in hollow caves beneath the large boulders and cliffs. Streaked
silver and frosted with whitecaps in the moonlight, it was beautiful. Inviting.
Without stopping to think about her actions, she started climbing
one of the immense bluffs. Soon she was atop it, looking down at the waves,
her hair blown by the breeze and the mist thick and salty in her face.
The sea was power and peace. The sea kept its secrets well. The
sea wouldn't care that a few months ago she'd gotten pregnant, and when
she'd told Nick he had beaten her into a miscarriage. None of the others
knew that; they only thought he'd hurt her worse than usual.
Now she was a week late, and this time he would kill her. Or
worse, he would make her leave. Without Nick to take care of her, to tell her
what to do, she would be lost and adrift.
"Oh, hey, man, come down from there!"
She peered back and saw the unmistakable, gangling form of
Aquarius. Beyond him, Johnny and Pagan were hurrying closer with Nick in
tow. "It's Julianna," Pagan said. "I think she's going to jump!"
Nick hollered up at her. "Knock it off, you stupid crotch! You're
not impressing anybody!"
Tears stung her eyes. This was the man she loved? In his voice she
heard only contempt and exasperation. She hated him, she hated herself.
There was no escape except one.
Julianna stepped off the bluff.
The moment her feet left the earth, her clouds of depression and
self-loathing were whipped apart as if by a brisk wind. She shrieked,
wanting her life, wanting a second chance, knowing that this time she had
really done it.
She twisted in the air, trying to take it back, seeing the bluff recede.
And then, a dark shape against the moon, Ebon. He reached for her, his face
a desperate mask of fear that he would be too late.
His arms closed around her. His wings unfolded. Julianna's
stomach did a roller-coaster dip. She choked on her scream.
Here was strength without malice. Protection without a price. She
suddenly wasn't afraid of him anymore.
Julianna threw her arms tight around his neck and began to cry.
* *

FLASHBACK -- Eleven months ago ... (Ebon)

When he saw her falling, her dark hair streaming, her eyes and
mouth wide in terror, something inside of him had flared like a brilliant light
bulb. There had been no hesitation, no second thoughts.
And when he caught her and soared back toward the bluff with the
human female cradled against his chest, he felt a sense of rightness and
purpose even greater than that he'd known while going over the band's
Her tears were hot on his skin, her frail body trembling in his grasp.
His protective instinct was an overpowering force.
The others were staring. As he approached, Pagan began to cheer
and Aquarius flashed him a peace sign. Johnny looked like he was about to
faint. And Nick ...
Nick stepped forward as Ebon landed and nodded brusquely.
"Good job," he said. "Last thing we need is to have cops out here."
Julianna, still a precious bundle in his arms, seemed to shrink in on
herself as he spoke.
"You bastard!" Pagan raged. "Julianna almost died, and all you can
think about is the cops?"
"Shut up, bitch!" He turned toward her threateningly but she stood
her ground.
"You hit me and you better kill me," she said. "Because if you
don't, I'm coming for your balls. Got that, Nickie?"
He gaped at her, then whirled and unloaded his temper on Ebon.
"Get your paws off of her, damn you! I told her I didn't want you near her!"
Ebon carefully set Julianna down. She folded into a posture of
prayer, hands over her face. Johnny moved to comfort her, and Ebon rose to
his full towering height over Nick.
"You claim to be the leader, and this is how you treat your clan?"
Ebon asked, his voice low but as menacing as a bestial roar would have
been. "You do not protect them, you hurt them, you even do not care if they
"All right, that's it. You're out of here. I never want to see you
"You won't," Ebon promised. He grabbed Nick by the shirtfront
and dangled him over the bluff. "You won't see anything again!"
"Hey, don't," Aquarius said mildly. "Don't kill him, man."
All of the bluster had gone out of Nick as his feet swung hundreds
of feet above the waves. He clutched Ebon's arm and blubbered something
"He is worthless!" Ebon shook Nick back and forth. "A waste of
"Drop him!" Pagan urged.
"No!" Johnny said.
Ebon looked at Julianna. "The vote stands, two for and two against.
Yours will decide his fate."
"I want him to go away," she said weakly. "But please don't kill
"Very well." Ebon hauled Nick close. Nose to nose, he growled,
"By her mercy are you spared."
"Yeah, sure, anything you say!" Nick babbled.
"Go. Now." Ebon cast him aside like the piece of trash that he was.
Nick sailed ten feet and sprawled in the rocky soil, scraped and
bruised. He unsteadily got to his feet, looked as if he was contemplating
making a lunge at either Julianna or Ebon, and decided the better of it.
The last they saw of him, he was staggering down the beach and
out of their lives.
* *

Central Park, 1:00 A.M.

"It doesn't matter what happened before." Julianna stroked Ebon's
thick white hair. "Who you were, or what you did. You're our friend. You
saved my life."
"You made us big," Aquarius said. "We couldn't have done it
without you, man."
He stood and gathered them both close in a hug. "You are my
family, my clan. But I need to know where I come from. Who I am."
An explosion ripped the door open. Ebon instinctively folded his
wings around the two humans to protect them from the flying, flaming
Men leaped through the smoking rubble, men in blue hoods,
carrying sledgehammers.
"It's over, gargoyle!" one of them shouted, hefting his hammer.
"You'll not be corrupting the youth of this country with your evil messages
"Stay down!" Ebon commanded, and stepped forward to meet the
threat. "Who are you?"
"We are the Quarrymen! Here to shatter you!"
Ebon felt his lip curl. "Come on, then!"
"No! Ebon, no!" Julianna screamed.
The first man slammed his hammer down. Ebon caught it and his
back arched in pain as sizzling energy shot through him.
All around him was chaos. Security guards and roadies were
dispatched in a quick and confusng melee as more Quarrymen poured in.
Johnny appeared out of nowhere, smashed his guitar over a hooded head,
and then went down from a solid punch. He could hear Pagan cursing with
such flair that a rap musician would have been shocked. Julianna was still
Recovering from the burst of energy, Ebon rammed his fist into the
man's chest hard enough to pulverize bone. His armor absorbed much of the
blow, but still, when he struck the ground he didn't move again.
Another Quarryman swung. Ebon jumped back out of the arc of the
hammer. He grabbed a chair and used it to intercept the next strike. The
chair was blown to bits. Ebon struck, the man ducked, and his hammer
landed a solid blow on Ebon's shoulder.
Flat on his back and in intense pain, Ebon could barely move. He
saw the Quarryman standing over him, weapon raised high, about to strike.
Something small and green came in like a cannonball. The
Quarryman doubled over, and something small and grey walloped him on
the head with a tote bag. Absurdly, Ebon had time to read the "I (heart)
N.Y." legend as the man crashed to the floor.
"More gargoyles!" one of the Quarrymen yelled. "Too many! Need
backup! Retreat!"
"Oh, no you don't!" a rose-hued female said, hiking her knee into
his groin hard enough to lift his feet off the floor.
The big blue one dodged a hammer strike, picked up the man that
the small ones had decked, and hurled him at the rest.
"Not even you deserve these guys," the small green gargoyle said
to Ebon, seizing a cymbal and chucking it like a frisbee at the one who'd
gotten kneed in the groin. It hit him in the jaw and knocked him out.
Ebon saw one make a grab for Julianna and strength surged
through him. He was over there without really knowing how he got there,
caught the man by the belt, yanked him backward and sent him reeling into
the wall. Julianna threw herself against him, sobbing.
Quarrymen were scrambling for the door, those that could. The
blue and rose gargoyles went in pursuit while the green one tore up handfuls
of thick cable and began tying up the ones that were down.
The grey female looked in her tote bag, tsked and said, "I hope I
didn't break my camera. At least the wand is all right."
"Thank you," Ebon said cautiously, some of his injuries holdovers
from his last attempt to talk to these strange young gargoyles.
"We saw their hovercraft," the green one said, pulling his knot
viciously tight. "Followed them back here."
"Why did you help me this time, and attack me before?" Ebon
"Like I said, not even you deserve these guys."
The other two came back in, lugging a Quarryman between them.
"The others got away," the blue one said in evident disgust as he hurled the
body over with the rest. "Now, what do we do about Thailog?"
Ebon sighed. "That name means nothing to me. I don't even know
"Don't give us that again --" the blue one started.
"It's true!" Julianna said, her beautiful voice silencing the gargoyle.
"Ebon has amnesia. He doesn't remember anything."
They stared, first at her and then at him. He nodded.
"And we're supposed to believe that?" the green one said
"Lex, it could be true," the grey one said. "You said he was in a
fight ..."
"He was injured when we found him," Julianna explained. "I don't
know what you know about him, and I don't really want to, but you have to
believe that whatever he was before, he's a good person now. When he saw
you on the roof during the concert, he just wanted to talk to you because
he'd never seen others like himself."
Lex frowned thoughtfully. "I ... I guess it could be true."
"It's a trick!" the blue one said.
"Broadway, come on!" The rose one rolled her eyes. "Why would
they lie?"
"You don't know him. He lies as well as Xanatos!"
"But Xanatos is your friend now," the grey one pointed out.
"Well ... that's different."
"Wait, wait." Lex held up his hands. "I think they're telling the
truth. And we've got enemies enough without opening old wounds. Let's just
let it go."
"That's crazy," Broadway declared.
"What's crazy," the rose one said, "is that here we are, backstage
with Scarlet Angel, and nobody's asking for autographs!"
* *

Manhattan, 3:45 A.M.

"Do you think it'll be all right?" Aiden asked Lex as they glided
toward the Statue of Liberty.
Lex shrugged, causing him to dip in the air. "I'm going to tell
Goliath everything. If Thailog -- I mean, Ebon -- does have amnesia, there's
still some things he'd got to know. About Demona, at least. Because sooner
or later, she's going to find out about him and come after him."
"But that was a whole year ago."
"You don't know Demona. She can hold a grudge for a thousand
years. Ask MacBeth. One year is nothing to her."
"He seems okay," Aiden ventured.
"Yeah," Lex said. "He kind of does. It's weird. I mean, he's kept the
business sense Xanatos programmed into him, but other than that ... he's a
lot more like Goliath than he ever used to be. Like he's got Goliath's
instincts or something."
Lady Liberty rose before them, green and peaceful in the night, her
torch held high. Aiden had visited the island with her parents, but there was
a big difference between coming over on the ferry and approaching by air.
From here, for instance, she could see a blackened spot on the great book.
She pointed it out to Lex.
"Hey, Broadway!" Lex called. "Didn't you crash a Steel Clan robot
down there?"
"Think so. I wrecked so many of those, I lost track."
The four of them spiraled down and landed on the statue's crown.
From here, they had a spectacular view of the city.
"This has to be the most interesting date I've ever been on." Birdie
grinned at Aiden. "And to think, when I first saw you, I said to myself, 'now,
this one is going to be boresville!' Proved me wrong, Ferguson!"
"My life _was_ boresville," Aiden said. "Before I met Lex." She
rested her head on his shoulder.
"Tired?" he asked.
"Exhausted. When I woke up this morning, I thought I'd just spend
the evening studying and go to bed right after watching E.R."
"And you turn back at sunrise?"
She nodded. "This has been really neat, though."
"Yeah." He stroked the crest rising from her head. "Really neat. I
wish you could stay like this."
"I thought about it." She glanced at him shyly. "But Miss St. John
would have a conniption. Not to mention my parents. And I wouldn't be able
to use the wand anymore."
"You couldn't give that up. So we just have to enjoy it while we
can." He leaned over and kissed her firmly.
"Looks like they could use a little privacy," Birdie said to
Broadway. "Anyplace around here we could get something to eat?"
"I know an ice cream place that's open all night. I stopped a
robbery there once, and the owner gives me half-price."
"Oh, my hero!" Birdie cried rapturously. "Split a hot fudge
"With extra whipped cream!"
"Great!" She dove from Lady Liberty. "Meet you back at the car,
Lex chuckled as he watched them go. "They sure seemed to hit it
"Well, Birdie's very outgoing."
"I noticed. Bet you anything that Broadway asks me to keep parts
of what happened tonight a secret. From Angela, especially. He was getting
more action than me, and on the first date!"
"That's what it looked like, anyway."
Aiden sighed. "I'm sorry, Lex. I've just never been ... you know,
"You've got nothing to apologize for. You're terrific, Aiden. I mean
it." He kissed her again.
"I don't want you to be disappointed," she said when the warm kiss
ended, "but I don't know if I'm ready for ... that."
"That what? Oh! That!" He laughed. "Hey, just because I've been
waiting for ten centuries is no reason for you to feel obligated!"
"I'm serious!"
"Okay, Aiden. Okay. Serious." He clasped her hands and looked
into her eyes. "Seriously, I'm in love with you."
She gasped, thrilled and almost tearful in her happiness.
"And yeah, I want to do something about it," he continued. "You're
beautiful, as a human or as a gargoyle. I'd have to be blind or stupid not to
notice. But I'm in no hurry. I can wait. Well, unless you pet my back again,
in which case I'll turn into a wild animal and be all over you."
Aiden giggled. "Guess I know what to do when I am ready, then."
"Deal! So, now do we get to make out some more?"
"There's something I have to tell you first."
"Lex, I love you too."
* *

Manhattan, 7:05 A.M.

Dominique Destine fixed herself a quick but large breakfast of
blueberry muffins, coffee, and orange juice. She switched on the television
for company as she dressed for work.
Strange, how quickly she'd gotten used to having Vito around the
house and how long it was taking to get over his absence. One would think
that, since she had killed him herself months ago, she would have
experienced some closure in the matter, but she kept expecting him to
wander into the kitchen and greet her with that polite little smile of his.
He was dead and gone, though. And soon she would forget all
about him. In the meantime, she had the inane chatter of the morning news
to keep her mind occupied.
She listened with half an ear while planning her strategy for her
first meeting of the day. A Mr. Nicholas Diamant. Much as it galled her, she
had a better chance of destroying the Quarrymen if she was able to infiltrate
their organization.
" -- revealed to be a gargoyle!"
Dominique knocked her coffee cup to the floor as she spun to face
the television, suddenly sure that she'd been exposed and ruined.
The blow-dried newscaster's unnaturally perfect smile gave way to
a film clip of a crowded concert, and a dark form gliding down to the stage.
She knew that form, knew it intimately. When the spotlight
gleamed over skin like obsidian and hair like snow, she upended her dining
room table.
* *
The End.