ANGELA'S DILEMMA

By Kimberly T.

Author's note: This piece takes place in the "Life Goes On" timeline sometime between the episode "The Journey" and my story "Faith, Hope and Love". A (ahem) mature-readers-only version of the tale can be found at the Adult Gargoyles Fans archive: http adult dot gargoyles-fans dot org. A user-generated login is required before reading.

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Not long after moving into the castle, Angela had discovered a walk-in linen closet on the second floor, below the gargoyles' living quarters, and declared it to be her 'privacy den'. As she had explained to her father and the others, she liked to have uninterrupted peace and quiet for her embroidering, the talent she had been taught and praised for by Princess Katherine. The linen closet was a narrow and dark room, but the candelabra she brought in and set on an unused shelf provided enough light for her to do embroidery by, making careful stitches into cloth with different-colored threads to make pictures on bookmarks, book covers, pot holders, pillowcases and other objects. Christmas was coming in just a short while, and Angela was determined to make presents enough for everyone in this new clan of hers, just as she had for the old clan.

Of course, in her hatching clan, she hadn't always worked in private; she'd frequently had the company of the princess and of other gargoyles, such as Ruth, Morag, Athena, Menalippe, Naomi, Deborah, Theseus and Jephthah, all chattering and laughing as they checked each other's stitches. Sometimes those who preferred to whittle presents from wood or make baskets and other items from reeds would join them in the castle's great hall, as well. Angela remembered often looking up from her work to see Gabriel, David, Perseus, Gideon, Hippolyta, Michael and Artemis all comparing their whittlings and offering praise or suggestions, while Deborah would get up from her embroidering to work with Esther, Zipporah, Aethelfleda, Atalanta and Hercules at their latest reed-weaving projects; much like her mate Jephthah, Deborah was good at many different crafts.

But in this new clan, the only other member who seemed to have any talent for craft or artwork was Lexington, and he did everything on that computer of his. Of course, Broadway's skill at cooking could also be considered an art, and his talents were appreciated by all… but still, Angela embroidered alone. But then, she had another reason for wanting privacy, and not just so the others wouldn't guess which item was being embroidered for them. There were times when a female just wanted time to be alone with her thoughts, and given the current attitude of this city's humans to gargoyles, it wasn't really safe to perch in a tree down in Central Park and become lost in reverie, the way she'd used to perch in the trees on Avalon.

Tonight after finishing her patrol, she'd left her clan to their pursuits in the upper floors of the castle--Hudson to his television, Lexington to his computer, her father and Brooklyn to the library and Broadway to the kitchen--and come down to her den, supposedly to embroider, but really to think about the future.

The breeding season was coming soon, in the autumn of next year. Angela had known a little about gargoyle mating and breeding cycles even before leaving Avalon; her human guardians had told her what they could remember from observing the adults of the slaughtered clan, and as she and her brothers and sisters had matured, they'd discovered a few things for themselves. She'd heard a great deal more about it since coming to the outer world, more perhaps than she'd wanted to learn; not only from Hudson, the clan's elder, but from her mother as well, when Demona had been held captive in the Labyrinth. And she knew that when the breeding fever grew in her blood, Angela was expected--her very biology demanded--to rise into the night sky on a mating flight, and breed an egg with a gargoyle male. In the far distant past, before gargoyles even had the powers of speech, let alone names, females had let the males battle it out for the right to breed with them, like stags with does or roosters with hens. But with the powers of speech and reason came the ability to romance, and females had begun to choose their mates long before their biology demanded they breed. Angela knew she was expected to choose a mate before the autumn of next year… but who would it be?

Well, it wouldn't be Lexington, she was fairly sure of that. It was true he'd seemed attracted to her right after she'd arrived in Manhattan; he'd certainly played a part in that first initial bout of idiocy that all three eligible males of the clan had perpetrated, fighting over her like she was some sort of trophy instead of a warrior in her own right. But after she'd given them all a piece of her mind, he'd just… lost interest in courting her. It was as if he'd been fighting with the others and trying to impress her more for the sake of the competition than for real interest in mating; even during the few times since then that they'd been alone in the clocktower together, he'd seemed far more interested in his precious computer than in her.

Even setting aside his lack of interest in courtship (which Angela was quite frankly rather grateful for), Lexington's obsession with such machines puzzled Angela. Even when going with her on patrols through the city, computers and electronic devices and the things he could do with them were seemingly always on the back of his mind. Yes, they were wonders, wonders such as she'd left Avalon to see, but there was so much more to life than what could be done with metal and electricity, so much more to see and touch and hear and taste and feel! At least the others understood that; Brooklyn certainly did…

Brooklyn was so virile, so… what was the new word? So studly… He was also as brave as any of her brothers and sisters (and much braver than a couple she could name), and he had a wicked sense of humor. And Father had praised his tactical abilities and quick thinking more than once, and had even made him the clan's second-in-command. Bravery, humor and quick thinking were all very desirable qualities to go along with that very desirable body… but would that be enough make him a good lifelong mate? Against all those desirable qualities was at least one significant detractor; he had what seemed to be a pathological hatred of her mother, Demona.

Yes, even Angela had to admit that Demona was a foe both to the clan and to humanity, but she was not beyond redemption; Angela believed that fervently. Hadn't Demona fought her ex-lover Thailog, just to save her daughter from being killed? And hadn't she decided against taking her best chance to wipe out all of humanity, when Goliath had smashed the sacred statue that would have prevented Angela from being killed as well? That proved that Demona could still feel love, and therefore was still capable of being turned from her path of destruction. But the one time Angela had tried to bring the subject up in conversation, Brooklyn had snarled at her and stomped out of the room, even before her father had ordered her to never bring the subject up again. All one had to do was mention Demona's name, and Brooklyn's eyes would start to glow.

And on top of that undesirable quality, Brooklyn was sometimes too brusque, and rude to the humans they were protecting; he really resented it when they screamed and called the gargoyles monsters. Angela didn't like it either, but at least she could see that sneering at them wouldn't help at all, whereas smiling at them might. In that much, Broadway certainly agreed with her…

Broadway might not be a quick thinker like Brooklyn, but he was kinder than the clan's second-in-command, and more thoughtful. And not just in the way he acted towards her, either, though she very much appreciated his poetry readings, all the special treats he made for her and the flowers he often gathered for her after patrol. As soon as they'd moved into the castle and they'd learned how much Mr. and Mrs. Xanatos liked their special coffee in the mornings, he had started getting their coffee ready for them before going to stone sleep. And now that the nights were getting longer than the days and the humans in the castle were waking up before dawn, he often made breakfast for them as well. And he never outwardly resented it when the people they were protecting turned and ran from them; he would just shake his head and say, 'Someday, they'll learn.' His optimism buoyed Angela's spirits, and she knew that if the humans of this city ever learned to truly accept their clan, Broadway would likely play an important part in it.

Even if Angela had already had a mate before coming to New York, she and Broadway would have become good friends. And since she didn't, now he was more than just a good friend; he was also a potential mate. While at first his huge girth had definitely decreased her attraction to him, after their possession by Coldstone and Coldfire she knew only too well how the extra weight wouldn't hamper that body in the least from giving her body such exquisite pleasure, and she was quite sure Broadway remembered clearly all the lessons Coldstone had inadvertently taught him. If they became mates, she could expect sweet sensual pleasures as well as good comfortable companionship for the rest of her nights. That would be enough to satisfy her… wouldn't it? If only she didn't keep thinking about Gabriel…

She'd tried not to think about him ever since she'd come to Manhattan. Whenever his image or the memory of his voice had popped into her mind, she'd done her best to distract herself from it with patrols, or with someone else's company. But she didn't think she'd ever be able to forget him entirely… Gabriel, leader of the clan back on Avalon. Gabriel, with his impressively large wingspan, very well-muscled body and quick-thinking mind. Gabriel, who tried to always think of the welfare of his clan above all, as a leader should, but was always willing to make time for her. Gabriel, her best friend since they were hatchlings together, who could bring a smile to her face even in the grimmest of moments. Gabriel, who had caused her to feel the very first stirrings of interest in mating… Gabriel, whom she had ultimately refused.

She still remembered that night as clearly as if it had just happened only last week, instead of nearly a year's worth of nights ago for her. After seeing so many of their brothers and sisters choose their partners for life and become mates, after weeks and months of subtle hints that she'd chosen to ignore, Gabriel had finally confronted her on an isolated beach. They'd taken off their tunics in preparation for a swim, just as they'd been swimming together for decades, when Gabriel had turned to her and said, "Angela… please, look at me. Don't ignore me any more." And when Angela had protested (without actually looking) that she hadn't been ignoring him, he was the clan leader as well as her best friend, he'd shaken his head and said, "I mean, you ignore me as a male."

He'd spread his wings to display himself to her, hiding nothing as he continued, "Angela, we're all becoming adults. In fact, I believe we're full adults now, and from what our guardians have told us, I think we'll be breeding soon. It's time to choose mates… and you know whom I would choose. I want to choose you, Angela. Just as Michael and Menalippe chose each other, and Gideon and Hippolyta, and so many of our brothers and sisters have chosen each other… We've been the dearest of friends since we broke shell, and just like with Michael and Menalippe, mating will only bring us closer together. If you want that closeness as well, the sort of closeness they share…" he spread his hands, held them out to her. "Please… come to me."

But Angela had stayed facing away from him, as she said in a shaky and almost tearful whisper, "I can't. Not yet… I'm not ready to be a mate yet… Not ready to… to turn into a hen and start nesting and breeding eggs! Not when there's still so much to learn, not when there's a whole world out there beyond the mists that I haven't seen yet… Gabriel, I just know deep in my bones that there's more to life than just what we've seen on this island! And I can't be a mate to anybody, until I've gone out at least once, just once, to see it!" Angela had turned to face him then, to confront him with her passion, though it was not the sort of passion he'd been hoping for. "You know how much I've been wanting to go with Guardian Tom whenever he goes out, to see if Goliath and the others at Castle Wyvern have been awoken yet. His stories are all I dream about during the day! I've got to go out there, at least once! I've asked, I've begged, I've even threatened to sink all the skiffs but one, and then perch on that one day and night until they agree I can go with him! Or just take a skiff and go out there without the spell that will bring me back here, and wander the world forever, to see all there is to see…"

All the blood had drained out of Gabriel's face at her words; then, after she'd fallen silent, the blood had rushed back with a vengeance, darkening his features as he'd reached down to gather up his clothes. "You want to go explore. Fine. I'll get you your damnable skiff ride, and the spell to bring you back!" He'd taken a running start up a leaning tree and launched into the air with his clothing still in his hands, as he'd shouted back at her, "Just try not to get yourself killed by Vikings or other gargoyle-hating savages while you're out there!"

But only a few nights later, the Archmage had attacked. Tom had gone out alone on the skiff after all, hoping against hope that Avalon would send him to a place with allies that could save his 'eggs', while Angela had stayed with Gabriel, the Magus and Princess Katherine in a desperate search to find some way to fight the Archmage and his powerful allies. And Tom had returned only a few minutes after his departure, with the mighty Goliath, Elisa and Bronx in the skiff with him…

After the battle was over, when Angela had seen and seized her chance to explore the outer world after all and gone with Goliath and his companions, she had been only a little uncertain about her eventual return to Avalon. The island was where her family was, not just Gabriel but her guardians and her other brothers and sisters; of course she'd return to them, assuming she survived the adventures and exploration she craved. But as the adventures went on, and the challenges, and the lessons for both mind and spirit… As she learned of how much more there was to learn, more than she'd even been able to conceive of before…

By the time she'd returned to Avalon with them, just in time to confront Oberon and Titania, she'd already known that there was no way she could stay on Avalon forever. It would be like asking a hatchling to crawl back into its shell! And so, when Goliath and his companions had left again, she'd gone with them again without looking back… and she hadn't seen Gabriel since then. He'd stayed behind again, with the rest of the clan he led and the home he protected, rather than come with her. Angela told herself that ultimately, he'd chosen Avalon over her, just as she'd chosen the outer world over him. And it was past time she put him out of her mind…

Angela's reverie on the floor of the closet was interrupted by that internal sense possessed by all gargoyles, that told her sunrise was approaching. She took a deep breath, left her den and went out to join her new clan on their perches.

Broadway and Brooklyn had both made room for her next to their perches, and she somehow knew without looking that both her father and Hudson were discreetly watching to see which of the two males she'd perch by. (After her outburst at the Trio not long after her arrival in Manhattan, no one dared to overtly pressure her to make her choice for a mate, but she was all too aware of their attention and interest; that subtle pressure she couldn't pinpoint enough to complain about, but which existed nonetheless.) She tended to perch by Broadway more than by Brooklyn, partly because Broadway was generally a closer friend to her than Brooklyn was, but didn't perch there exclusively; she perched often enough by Brooklyn or by the others to make it plain to all that she had not chosen Broadway for a mate yet. This morning, she took one look around, then headed for the farthest perch… the one next to Lexington. She ignored the looks of disappointment on both Broadway's and Brooklyn's faces, and the look of surprise and puzzlement on Lex's, as she took her most ferocious stance before turning to stone for the day.

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When she awoke at sunset, Angela's cries were unnerving even to the other gargoyles, not just to any human who might have been around to hear them. And as soon as she'd shaken the last of her stone skin off, she'd leaped off her perch and flown away, ignoring their shouts and queries of concern. She finally came to perch on a rooftop half a mile from the castle, still trembling like a leaf in a breeze. The problem with stone sleep from sunrise to sunset is that it gives you no chance to wake up from an utterly horrific daymare…

In her daymare, the breeding season had come before she'd chosen a mate. And Brooklyn, Broadway, and even Gabriel had all been there, battling for the right to mate with her like prehistoric gargoyles had done… And all the blood, and the slashed wings, and the screams and roars and…

She had to make her choice, before that happened in real life! B-but… but who would she choose?

NOT THE END