All the characters appearing in Gargoyles and Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles are copyright Buena Vista Television/The Walt Disney Company. No infringement of these copyrights is intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. All original characters are the property of Christine Morgan, not Kimberly T.
SAMSON AND DELILAH: HOME & FAMILY
By Kimberly T. (e-mail: kimbertow at yahoo dot com)
Author's note: this story begins immediately after the ending of Christine Morgan's story "Kittens".)
"Are you sure you're all right?" Samson asked anxiously for at least the third time.
Delilah rolled her eyes and nodded vigorously, not bothering to answer verbally for the third time. Besides, Maggie said it was rude to talk with your mouth full, and right now she was wolfing down her fifth hot dog of the evening. The night before, while she was at Maggie's 'baby shower' (a term she still didn't understand, since nobody had gotten wet), bad men had broken in to kidnap Maggie and started shooting at them. Delilah and Angela had gotten shot, hurt really bad, but that was last night and now she was fine, just really, really hungry.
Sitting beside her, Angela paused in wolfing down her own hot dogs long enough to say reassuringly, "We're fine, Samson, really. Stone sleep can fix nearly everything; that's why the guys like to call it 'the concrete cure-all.' We just have to eat a lot after waking up; healing takes a lot of energy we have to replace. Would you please pass the mustard?"
Samson passed the mustard, then sat down to his own meal, a stack of cucumber sandwiches and celery stalks. He couldn't help eyeing longingly the hot dogs he'd brought from the kitchen for the lady gargoyles and for Claw, who was eating with them too; back when he'd been a normal, if terminally ill, human teenager, hot dogs had been a favorite food, and his stepfather had sometimes sneaked them into the hospital for him. But now, if he tried to eat one he'd be regretting it later; the first two weeks he'd been living here in the Labyrinth, he'd been heaving in the toilet a lot before they'd concluded that the 'Bigfoot' genes Anton Sevarius had infused into his son were now restricting him to a mostly vegetarian diet.
After polishing off eight hot dogs in less than fifteen minutes, Angela stood up and said it was time for her to get back to the castle. "I can't wait to see Maggie's babies! You said she had a boy and a girl?"
Samson nodded. "That's what Mrs. Maza said." Diane had gone to the castle after dawn had arrived and Delilah and Angela had gone to the healing sleep of stone; when she came back down a while later, she'd given him and Claw a full report of the night's events after the attack. She'd come back to get some clothes for Derrek (better known as Talon to most of the Labyrinth dwellers) and Maggie, because her son and daughter-in-law were staying at the castle that night and the following day, while an extremely discreet veterinarian Xanatos had hired away from the New York Zoo (which made sense, even if it was rather insulting) examined the twins to be sure they would be okay, after their rough entrance into the world. Samson looked worried again, as he thought of another victim of last night's violence. "I hope Elisa's all right, too."
Angela reassured him, "If Father really took her into stone sleep with him, then I'm sure she's fine by now, just like we are. Did you all want to come with me back to the castle to see the babies?"
Claw nodded vigorously, but Samson just looked wistful. "I'd like to, but I think I'm a little too heavy to carry there." He was just shy of eight feet in height and solid muscle under his thick pelt of shaggy fur, and he'd flat-out busted the last scale they'd brought down here; Talon had estimated he weighed close to 400 pounds. It would probably take both Goliath and Claw working together to be able to carry him any great distance. "But it's okay, someone should stay here and keep working on the cleanup anyway. Tell Maggie and Derrek and Elisa I said hello, and I'll see them and the babies tomorrow night."
He spent exactly one second wishing that Dr. Sevarius (he never really thought of that truly monstrous man as his father, even if it was biologically true) had just given him the tried-and-true 'batwinged-feline' mutate formula to save his life, instead of experimenting with Bigfoot genes; it must be pretty neat to be able to fly under your own power. Then he reminded himself that he was still alive when by all rights he should have been dead months ago, alive and strong and healthy in a weird sort of way, and he should be happy with that. Besides, wings just got in the way down here in the Labyrinth, where his new sort-of family spent most of their time.
Delilah looked wistful as well, but finally shook her head and said, "I stay here with Samson, see babies tomorrow too."
Samson blinked at her in surprise, and said softly, "You don't have to stay to keep me company." Even though it was really nice of her to volunteer, he was used to being alone, having spent too much of his adolescence alone in his room, too weak to do more than read books and play with his model train set.
But Delilah shook her head and said more firmly, "I stay here. Still got lots to clean up," as she gestured back down the hall towards Maggie and Derrek's rooms, which had been trashed during the invasion last night. Claw then looked a bit guilty, but Samson and Delilah both told him he should go and see the babies, and see for himself that their friend Elisa was all right.
After Claw and Angela left together, Samson and Delilah went to work at cleaning up the wrecked rooms. As he lifted the sturdy couch clear off the floor so Delilah could sweep under it, Samson said softly, "Delilah… was there another reason why you're staying here?"
Without looking at him, Delilah mumbled as she swept, "Yes. I not like how Goliath, other real gargoyles look at me. I know I am monster, but I not like when they look at me like that."
"But you're not a monster! You're beautiful," he blurted out, then got flustered for a moment. "Um. Y-you're a person, just like me and just like them, and-and Angela doesn't see you as a monster anymore. I know you told me before the baby shower how worried you were about seeing her again, but it looks to me like she likes you now. If you and she can be friends, then maybe the others have changed their minds now too."
Delilah blinked as she considered his words, but then shook her head and admitted the other reason she'd stayed behind. "Still scared of Goliath, too. Looks too much like Thailog."
"Oh." Samson set the couch down again, then said hesitantly, "But that's not being fair to him, either." Delilah gave him a startled look as he continued, "He can't help the way he looks, any more than you can help the way you look or I can help looking like this," as he gestured at his own shaggy pelt. "If they're willing to try to get along with you now, then you should try to get along with them as well."
Delilah considered again while emptying her dustpan into a wastebasket, then finally shrugged. "Maybe. But I still stay here tonight, help clean up."
And that was that, as far as she was concerned. As they worked together, Samson admitted to himself that he was kind of glad she had stayed anyway; he really liked Delilah, though he was shy to say how much. She was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen in his life, like an angel come to Earth; he'd thought so ever since she and Talon had found him five months ago, after he'd escaped from Sevarius' laboratory. He and Talon hadn't gotten along too well at first (okay, they had nearly killed each other, but he'd just been mutated and was real upset about it, and Talon had surprised him when he'd jumped in on him like that. And Talon had just seen what he and the captured Bigfoot had done while escaping, so he was all prepped to fight anyway), but Delilah had tried to break up the fight, and he and she had been friends from the very first words they'd spoken to each other. Over the past five months they'd gotten to know each other better, and now he was convinced she was the most wonderful person alive; if the other gargoyles couldn't accept that, then it was their loss.
Delilah bent over to get at some sticky stuff in the carpet, and her tail shifted slightly in mild frustration as she tugged at it. Samson swallowed hard as he looked at her upturned butt, then quickly looked away and told himself not to think those kind of thoughts. If his mother were still alive, she would have slapped him silly for it! Except that while she'd been alive, he'd generally been too sick to have any interest whatsoever in girls. But now… Three times in the last two months, he'd come abruptly awake to find the sheets of his California-King-sized bed sticky with you-know-what. It was awkward and embarrassing trying to get those sheets cleaned without anyone finding out why he was doing them by himself instead of waiting for Laundry Day, but he was getting to be an expert at it. And he still remembered a tiny fragment of the dream he'd had the last time that had happened: an image of Delilah's wings…
The next night, they brought the babies down to the Labyrinth. Samson, Delilah, her brother clones and a few of the human residents were all gathered excitedly at the entrance to the Labyrinth most commonly used by fliers, talking excitedly amongst themselves as a host of winged shapes came through the air towards them. Talon and Maggie were coming in with Claw and all the Manhattan clan as an escort of honor.
After being too heavy to glide on her own for the last two months, and then giving birth to twins amidst a night of violence, Maggie was still too weak to glide all the way home under her own power. But she held her newborn children in her arms, bundled up against the evening chill, while Talon held her close and used his own wings to glide for both of them. Claw glided close alongside on their left, ready to dart in and lend assistance if they faltered, but Derrek Maza was feeling all the euphoria and power of brand-new fatherhood, and would have sworn he could carry Maggie and his children clear to Paris if they asked him to. (When Peter Maza had returned from ice-fishing to discover he was now a grandfather, and beheld his son's face as he looked at his children, he and Diane had traded amused looks and privately bet themselves that the euphoria would last another day, tops, before being replaced by the exhaustion that goes with 3 a.m. feedings.) Goliath glided close alongside as well, carrying Elisa in his arms; the rest of the clan followed close behind, and carried the elder Maza's with them.
When they landed at the entrance, Samson and the other residents had their first look at Diane Elisa (Dee for short) Maza, and Thomas Reed Maza. Both children were winged and covered with fur, and their eyes were sealed shut as newborns kittens' are, but their faces were closer to human norm than their parents' were. Dee's fur was tawny and spotted with black rosettes; Tom's fur was as dark as his father's, with just a hint of spotting as well.
Samson looked at Dee's spots and froze for an instant. Neither Talon nor Maggie had a spotted pelt, and he knew what it meant when a cat's kittens came in different fur patterns… No way, Maggie wouldn't have, and besides, they didn't know of any other mutates! He'd already decided to just keep his mouth shut when Hollywood spoke up, looking curious as he pointed a talon at Dee. "How come spots?"
"The zoo doc said it's from me," Talon said wryly. "It seems that black panthers are actually black leopards, and they frequently give birth to normal-spotted leopards." (Samson tried hard not to visibly relax, with his faith in his friends' marriage restored.)
Fox Xanatos had come by earlier, with a second crib and other baby supplies for the unexpected twin, and Samson and the other residents had set them up once they'd finished cleaning up the mess left by the invaders. Talon and Maggie thanked them for the efforts on their behalf, as they came inside and set their children into their own cribs. And as soon as they did, the cribs were surrounded by people oohing and ahhing over the babies again. Everyone clustered around and exchanged compliments on the kids and new-parent jokes for the longest time, until the children woke up and began wailing. Then the place was cleared out of almost everybody within three minutes flat.
Old hands at parenting after raising three children, Diane and Peter stayed behind after shooing the others out to give the new parents a hand. "I know an 'I'm hungry!' wail when I hear one!" Diane declared as she urged Maggie to sit down in the rocker and unzip her maternity tunic, while Peter took Derrek into the kitchen to expertly prepare a bottle of the mutate-baby formula that the zoo doctor had devised for them. When both parents were ready, they put Dee into Maggie's arms and Tom into Derrek's, and soon both children were busily sucking down their dinners.
Delilah had been too shy around the 'original' gargoyles to get very close to the babies and their parents, and she was herded out with her brothers when the babies started crying, but she crept back later when the crying had stopped. Talon was their leader, but it hadn't been Talon who had shooed them out, so she felt only a little guilty about sneaking back. But the babies were so fascinating, so cute and cuddly-looking, and she just wanted another peek at them, and maybe pet them a little… She crouched down and cautiously peeked around the corner to see if the coast was clear. Instead, she saw Maggie rocking slowly back and forth in the rocking chair, holding little Dee up to a breast. Delilah's sharp eyes saw Dee's mouth working even as her sharp ears caught the faint sucking sounds, and her eyes widened as her jaw dropped. So that's what those lumps on her chest were for!
Lost in the wonder of their children, neither Maggie nor Derrek noticed Delilah peeking in. But Peter did, and he said sternly at first sight of the strange female gargoyle, "And what do you think you're doing?"
Delilah shrank back, even as the rest of them noticed her. Maggie hurriedly folded a wing over herself to cover her breasts, and Derrek started to reflexively scowl at the intrusion, but Diane said hurriedly, "Wait, don't go!" She gestured for Delilah to come into the room, and said with a sigh as Delilah slowly stood up and came in, "I think it's time for another introduction. Peter… this is Delilah."
Peter's eyes widened as he took a good look at her, the resemblance between Delilah and Elisa obvious. Delilah shrank back again under his gaze, and said quietly as she backed towards the door, "I sorry. I come back later…"
Even her voice was eerily like his daughter's, Peter thought as he hurriedly said, "No, wait! I'm the one who should apologize, for staring like that. I'm sorry to be rude."
"Is okay," Delilah said softly as she looked away. "I know what I am." An abomination, a mixing of genes between Demona and Elisa in a perversion of creation.
"What you are," Derrek said firmly as he got up from his chair with Tom in his arms, the infant having just finished his bottle, "Is family. Family, Delilah, and don't you ever forget it," as he walked over still holding Tom. "Here, hold out your arms…"
Delilah looked wide-eyed as Tom was transferred into her open arms, then reflexively cuddled him close as Derrek said softly, "Say hello to your nephew, sort-of."
Her voice equally soft, Delilah looked at the baby who had just become her entire world and said, "Hello…"
A week after the children were born, Elisa came down to the Labyrinth for a visit, to see her nephew and niece. "Sooo cuuute," she crooned to Tom as he lay in Maggie's arms, while she gently tickled his furry belly. Tom gave another mewling sound and blindly waved his tiny fist at her.
"And he might not even be here, if you hadn't nearly died to get them out," Maggie said with a catch in her voice and tears in her eyes again.
"Aw, how could I do any less for such a cute little guy?" Elisa crooned, then tried to change the subject, a little uncomfortable with hero-worship. "Did the doctor give an estimate on how soon their eyes will open?"
Derrek looked up from where he was giving Dee her bottle and said, trying hard not to sound worried, "If they were real kittens it'd be any day now, but then they'd have been born after only two months, and tearing the house apart in another two. The doc said the best thing to do would be to just wait and see; if they're not open by three months old, then… well, we'll just wait and see."
Just then they heard a knock on the door. Since both parents had their hands full, Elisa opened it for them. "Hi, Samson! What's up?"
Samson shuffled his feet as he stood there, looking just as shy and uncomfortable as the first time she'd seen him a few months ago, not long after he'd been brought to the Labyrinth. "Um… can I talk to you for a moment? I've got a favor to ask."
Elisa gave a surprised glance over her shoulder at Derrek and Maggie, who looked just as mystified back at her, then shrugged and closed the door behind her as she stepped into the hallway. "Well, sure. What's the favor?"
"I'm… writing a letter to my Dad. My stepfather, Harold Blake," he said hastily at her incredulous expression. "And I was wondering if I could use your place for a return address…?"
Elisa's eyes softened as she laid a hand on his massive arm. "So you've decided to contact him after all. Of course you can use my mailing address; I've got a post office box I check every other day. If you don't mind my asking, what made you change your mind?"
Samson looked away for a moment, then whispered, "I guess… well, I guess now I've learned to… well, to live with all this, with what happened after Dr. Sevarius did this to me."
"You mean your mutating?" Then a thought stuck her, and she said quietly, "Or do you mean, what happened when you and the Bigfoot they'd captured escaped the lab?" After Derrek had told her about Samson and given her the location of Sevarius' secret lab, she had made an anonymous phone call to the California State Police, so they could retrieve Ivana Blake's body and give her a decent burial. What Derrek had left out of his story, but she had found out after Lex had hacked into their police files, was that Ivana's corpse wasn't the only one found there. Over a dozen dead guards were found as well in the wreckage of the lab, gruesomely killed by somebody or something strong enough to twist a man's head clean off his shoulders and pull out someone's heart with his bare hands.
Samson flinched away from her. "Y-you know?"
"Yeah." She sighed gustily. "I have to admit, I had some qualms about it… But you were trying to escape, to survive, and to get your mother out of that bastard's clutches. It was all self-defense." And that was easier to deal with than the bloody vengeance Goliath and Derrek had wreaked on their loved ones' behalf last week. But she had decided to simply accept what they'd done and move on, so how could she do less for this normally gentle giant?
Samson nodded jerkily, unable to speak for a moment. Then he continued, "Anyway… everyone down here loves the babies, even with the fur and the wings; they don't care what they look like, only that they're children. And most of the people kind of like me, too, or at least they act like it…"
"Hey, you're polite, helpful and strong enough to do the work of any five other guys down here; what's not to like?" Elisa said teasingly as she lightly punched him in the arm.
Samson grinned momentarily at the banter, then went on. "So, I'm… hoping that maybe my Dad can handle this after all. I figured first I'd just write to him, let him know I'm alive even if I'm really different now, and, well, sort-of give some clues about just how different. And if he writes back, and he really wants to see me again, then… I thought maybe a Polaroid photo, if we could borrow a camera from somebody. And if he can handle that, then…"
"Then we'll make some phone calls to set up a reunion," Elisa said with a smile. "And if it all goes well, then maybe seeing how your well stepfather deals with you now will give Maggie the gumption to contact her own family in Ohio!" She began digging in her pockets for some paper and a pen as she said, "Let me give you my address right now, and if nobody down here has any stamps I'll swing by tomorrow night to pick the letter up and mail it for you, okay?"
One week later…
"Maggie, come quick!"
Maggie spun around at the sound of Derrek's voice, more excited than she'd heard since the day she'd told him about her pregnancy. Delilah, who was in their kitchen for another cooking lesson, jumped back barely in time to avoid being spattered by soup flinging off the ladle Maggie was still holding.
Maggie hurriedly handed the ladle over to Delilah, and dashed down the hallway to the nursery, where Derrek had just gone to check on whichever twin had woken up. She came in to find Derrek happily spinning around and holding their son Thomas up in the air, who was burbling some happy-baby sounds for him. "What is it, honey?"
Derrek stopped spinning around and turned his son in his arms, so Maggie could look at his face. "Look!"
Maggie gasped in surprised delight. "His eyes are open!" Tom stared back at her with an expression of surprise on his tiny furry face, seemingly amazed at what his new sense of sight was telling him. She plucked him out of his father's arms long enough for a loving kiss on his forehead, then handed him back and turned eagerly to the other crib. "What about Dee?"
They crowded both heads into the crib to see their daughter, who had been woken up by the commotion. And yes, one of Dee's eyes was definitely starting to open! The other was still sealed shut, but it probably wouldn't be long before it opened as well. Maggie scooped her out of her crib anyway, for a loving cuddle and a peek at the partially-opened eye, while Derrek held his son close again. After gazing happily into his eyes for a moment, Derrek said, sounding puzzled, "Sweets, didn't you tell me once your eyes used to be brown?"
"Yes, they were," Maggie said quietly, not liking his sudden reminder of her mutation. "Why do you ask?"
"Well… Tom's eyes are dark blue. And mine sure weren't blue before, and they're definitely not now; I wonder where the kid got those from?"
Maggie half-smiled. "Honey, lots of babies, both human and animal, are born with blue eyes. They change color as they get older, probably within the next year or so."
"Oh." Derrek digested that information for a moment, then began swaying and humming to an old, old tune Maggie hadn't heard in years. He rubbed noses with Tom, and began crooning, "Blue eyes… Baby's got blue eyes…"
One week later…
"Eeeewwww!" Delilah voiced her opinion as she held a dirty diaper out at arm's length with one hand, and covered her nose with the other.
"Well, don't wave it under my nose!" Derrek said as he stepped hurriedly away from it. "Just fold it up and put it in the can there, and wipe her butt before you put the new one on her."
Delilah almost daintily folded the offensive diaper in on itself before triggering the lid of the diaper pail with a toe-talon and dropping the stinky mass inside. Then, with her nose still wrinkled, she used the baby wipes to clean off Dee's furry little butt. Dee wriggled and squirmed on the changing table, but was held firmly in place by Delilah's tail wrapped about her torso. Yes, a prehensile tail definitely made some jobs a little easier.
"All better now!" Delilah announced proudly a few minutes later, as she picked up the newly diapered Dee and handed her back to Derrek.
"You did a good job, 'Lilah," Derrek assured her as he cradled Dee in his arms. "Keep practicing, and you'll be as good at diapering as Samson, maybe even better!"
"And you'll have two people instead of one to do the dirty work for you," Maggie said with dry amusement as she leaned against the doorframe to the nursery.
Derrek gave a guilty start when he heard her, then turned and gave her a decidedly sheepish grin. "Well, she asked if she could help, so…"
One week later…
Samson was in his room running a curry-comb down his legs, trying to get the dust and crud from a day of clearing out an abandoned storeroom out of his fur, when he heard a knock on his door. Taking a quick look and deciding he was decent enough for company, he set aside the currycomb and said, "Come on in!" He wondered for a moment if he'd missed sunset, and Delilah had come to call him to dinner.
Instead of Delilah, the door opened to reveal Elisa, with Derrek and Maggie right behind her. "Oh, hi Elisa!" Samson said as he jumped to his feet, hope blossoming in his eyes. "Did you get a letter from Dad, I mean my stepdad?" Then he noticed the solemn and sad look in her eyes, and the sad looks on Maggie and Derrek's felinoid faces. "What's wrong?"
"Samson," Elisa said slowly, "Why don't you just sit down again?"
Heart starting to pound, he slowly sat down on the bed again. "What's wrong?" he repeated, though some part of him had already guessed, and was silently screaming in denial.
Maggie and Derrek wordlessly sat on either side of him, while Elisa took the room's only chair and sat down in front of him. "Samson… There's no easy way to say this. Your stepfather is dead."
He slowly shook his massive head, his long mane obscuring his face. "No."
"Believe me, I wish I were wrong about this," Elisa said softly. "But I triple-checked everything, even got a copy of the forensics and autopsy reports. Harold Blake died five months ago in an auto accident."
She went on for a few minutes about details of the accident, saying something about brakes failing and a bridge railing and death being probably instantaneous, and Derrek growled something about wondering if Sevarius had something to do with those brakes failing, but Samson didn't really absorb any of it. He just sat there on the bed, not really even feeling the other mutates' hands on his shoulders as they tried to give him comfort, just staring at his inhuman hands. He was five months too late. His Dad was dead. Had been dead for five months, since right after his mutation, and he hadn't known. And now he was alone in the world, utterly alone.
He must have said the last few words out loud, because suddenly Elisa reached out and grabbed him by the chin, forcing him to look her in the eyes as she said fiercely, "You listen to me, Samson, and listen good! You are not alone! Maybe we're not blood-related, but as far as I'm concerned you're family now!"
"Damn straight you are!" Derrek growled from his left. "You're part of my family down here, and I'll fry the first person that says otherwise! Do you think I'd let just anybody hold my kids and change their diapers? You're like my little brother now."
"You have a family here, just like I do," Maggie said pleadingly from his right. "Please don't ever forget that!"
He nodded jerkily. "B-but…"
"I know," Maggie said somberly. "You're thinking, 'But that doesn't bring him back.' And it's okay to cry if you need to," as she gently turned him towards her, encouraging him to rest his head on her shoulder.
"Hell yeah, it's okay," Derrek said gruffly as he started rubbing his back to comfort. "None of that macho 'no tears' crap down here; I cried like a baby when I was first turned into this. Let it out, Sam; it's okay."
And so he did. He sat there and howled and sobbed his grief over losing his stepfather, his adoptive father, the only real father figure he'd ever known. No tears dampened Maggie's fur, because Samson's mutation had altered and dried up his tear ducts forever, but his sobs were all the more agonizing for the lack. And the others did the only thing they could, and mourned with him.
Sunset came and went, and Delilah hesitantly peeked her worried face in the door, wondering what was wrong. When Elisa explained, her face clouded up with grief as well. Since the bed was occupied to the groaning point, she sat down at Samson's feet and wrapped her arms around his legs, dampening the fur there with her tears of sympathy for his loss. She had never known what it meant to have a father or mother, but she had seen Samson's mother draw her last breath, and die still loving her son even after seeing how Sevarius had mutated him. She knew how much Samson had hoped to be reunited with his stepfather, who had no ties of blood but had loved him nonetheless. Delilah had never known either mother or father… but she knew suffering and loss.
After a little while another hesitant knock came at the door, and LeRoy poked his worried face inside. "Miz Maggie? I'm right sorry to bother you folks, but the babes be gettin' hungry an' I'm blessed if I c'n remember all the stuff you said to put in their bottles." Maggie slowly and reluctantly eased Samson off her shoulder and got to her feet, while LeRoy solemnly approached the bed. "Son, I knows what you's going through," as he laid a hand on Samson's shoulder. "Been there meself, when my mammy and pappy died of the cholera. Came home one night to find 'em both dead, just like that, no warning or nothin'; busted me up somethin' bad. But son, just you remember you got family and friends down here, an' we're with you in this, y'hear?"
"Thanks, LeRoy," Derrek said gruffly as he got up with Maggie. "Listen, Samson, we'll be back in a while with some dinner for you, okay?"
Elisa silently left as well soon afterwards, for her work on the police force, even as Delilah now climbed up onto the bed to hug Samson reassuringly. "You not alone, Samson. You never alone here," she crooned as she picked up the currycomb and began gently combing out the perpetual tangles in his mane. She liked it when Maggie combed out her hair, so she thought maybe it would make Samson feel better too. After a little while, she said softly, "Tell me stories about Dad. Tell me… what it's like to have a Dad."
Samson slowly nodded, then spoke, his voice thick and raspy with grief. "When I was real little, just before he married my Mom… While we were getting ready for the wedding, he taught me how to tie my first tie…"
He talked for hours, and she listened. When Maggie and Derrek returned with a huge salad for him and their twins in their carriers, they sat down to listen as well. Derrek thought once about something Elisa had told him, about how when gargoyles died, they left no body behind to bury but crumbled to dust and gravel. Instead of burials and funerals, gargoyle clans held 'remembrance ceremonies', sharing and renewing precious memories to honor their dead kin. What they were doing now was something like a remembrance ceremony; he only hoped it would give Samson the comfort he needed and deserved.
The informal remembrance ceremony seemed to help, though Samson still moped around the Labyrinth for days afterwards. Delilah stayed with him for the next four nights nearly from sunset to sunrise, crooning to him and stroking the fur on his arms, and persuading him to eat the food she brought for him. And he soon came out of his grief-inspired depression, his recovery speeding up after she dragged him down the hall to see the twins. There was something about holding such new and fragile life in his arms that penetrated the shell of his grief, made him care about living again. Derrek smiled and knew the worst was over, the day that he showed up on their doorstep with all the tangles combed out of his fur at last and asked what needed doing around their communal home, what chores had been neglected over the past week or so. He gave him a brotherly sock on the arm and said, "Well, now that you mention it, there's a pipe down at the 'Court of Miracles' that's leaking and needs to be replaced…"
One week later…
Maggie looked worriedly over her shoulder as she nevertheless let Derrek pull her towards the exit to the Labyrinth. "Are you sure you can't hear them crying?"
"I'm sure they're not crying at all," Derrek said firmly as he gently tugged on her arm. "We've been gone less than five minutes, and both Dee and Tom were sound asleep when we left them with Delilah; they'll probably just sleep until we get back. And if they do wake up, Delilah knows which toys are their favorites, she knows how to wind up the mobiles over their cribs, she knows how to change diapers and she knows where the baby bottles are too. C'mon, honey, they'll be fine, and the doc said you should get a little exercise now that you're healed. Just once or twice around the park, and then we'll go home again so you can hover over them for the rest of the night, okay?"
Maggie smiled ruefully at him. "Guess I'm a little paranoid, huh?"
"Hey, if anyone's got the right to be paranoid, it's us, considering all we've been through in the last few years. But this time that bastard Sevarius is dead for good, because I saw Xanatos crush that 'braintape' thingy he used to transfer his mind into the clones. He's gone, and we've got two beautiful kids who are no doubt busy charming the socks off Delilah, or would if she wore socks. You know she adores them; she practically begged for us to leave them with her for a little while. So don't worry about them; they're in good hands. And it's a clear night out, the moon is up, and there's a breeze calling your name…" as Derrek lovingly coaxed her outside.
They had a fine time indeed, gliding high over the park and inhaling the cool and even sweet-smelling breezes. They had been out for over twenty minutes, and Derrek, mindful that this was Maggie's first flight in months, was about to suggest they turn back when they spotted a now familiar silhouetted pair against the moon. "Look, Derrek! That's Goliath and Elisa!" Maggie said excitedly, before angling upwards, changing her glide path to intercept them. Derrek shrugged and grinned as he followed suit, and they caught up to the gargoyle and human pair in short order.
Goliath and Elisa both smiled wide when they saw them, and Elisa waved to them from her place in Goliath's arms as they drew up alongside. "Hey, Bro'! Hi, Maggie! Out for a little fresh air?"
Goliath suggested they land together on a nearby rooftop, which they did, talking all the way down. Like most new parents, they were thrilled to be able to have an adult conversation with multi-syllabic words, but had a difficult time keeping away from the subject of their darling children for more than thirty seconds at a time. Maggie once again found herself in tears as she again thanked Elisa for risking her life to save their children, and Elisa once again did her best to accept her sister-in-law's thanks with grace and charm without getting a swelled head. "Hey, for my first niece and nephew, I could do no less!" Then she angled her head to one side, indicating wordlessly that she'd like to speak to Maggie alone for a few moments.
Maggie nodded subtly, and after a few minutes managed to get Goliath and Derrek talking together about Delilah's 'brothers', the other gargoyle clones, so she and Elisa could ease away for a private conversation. "Is something bothering you?" Maggie asked in a low voice once they were far enough away.
"Yeah, you could say that," Elisa said with a grimace. "Actually, it's what's not bothering me. Goliath."
Maggie blinked at her. "I don't think I understand."
"It's been nearly six weeks since the twins were born, six weeks since I damn near died and Goliath saved me by taking me into stone sleep with him. You know how the stone sleep works, right? Usually all it takes is just one day, and they're completely healed. And Goliath of all people should know that, right?"
"Well, yes…" Maggie said hesitantly.
"But he's still treating me like an invalid!" Elisa said in a whisper that was nearly a hiss of frustration. "If I so much as sneeze he goes nearly white, and he handles me like I'm spun glass and he's scared to drop me! I almost had to beat him over the head to get him to take me gliding tonight, and in the last six weeks he's hardly even kissed me, let alone…" She abruptly stopped and blushed a deep crimson.
"…Oh. Wellllll…" Maggie tried hard not to smile as she thought about Elisa's predicament. Which, come to think of it, was a little like Derrek's; between her healing from giving birth and taking care of two demanding babies, they hadn't done more than share brief hugs and kisses since the kids were born. She herself was mostly okay with that; giving birth had taken a lot out of her, even if her mutated form healed a lot faster than the average human's, and for the first few weeks sex was the very last thing she'd wanted. But she was pretty sure from the tent that showed beneath the blankets when they woke up nearly every day that Derrek was getting more and more frustrated with the situation… Maybe it was time to change that. In the meantime, it was kind of nice to be the one giving advice to Elisa for once. She thoughtfully rubbed under her chin as she suggested, "Maybe you could try a new dress? Something… slinky, sort of dangerous; different enough to make him notice you all over again. And maybe a new perfume; Derrek gets a little crazy if I put on a new musk scent." In fact, they had two visible and audible reminders of just how wild-n-crazy he'd gotten the last time she'd put on a new musk scent.
"It's worth a shot," Elisa agreed. Then she grinned wickedly as a thought struck her. "And I think I know just the dress to make him sit up and notice me again…"
Maggie grinned back. "Good luck!" Then she sidled a little closer and lowered her voice even further. "Ah… Elisa, I know I shouldn't be asking this, but… I was wondering, well… Goliath, is he… Well, considering how tall he is, and he's got such huge feet, I was, um, wondering… h-how…"
Elisa knew what she was trying to nerve herself up to ask, and blushed again. Then she gave a quick 'What-the-Heck' grin, and leaned in to whisper in her ear, "Think of horses. Percheron horses."
"Jeez!" Maggie pulled back to stare at her. "That big?! How do you…" Elisa just grinned. When they glided off together a short while later, Maggie couldn't help wondering which one of the pair she was more in awe of.
Derrek gave her a hug from behind as they watched Goliath and Elisa glide back towards the castle. He poked his head between her wings to nuzzle her ear as he said, "You ready to go back now, or would you like to glide for a little longer? It's up to you, but it's such a beautiful night…"
Maggie turned her head to smile at him. "Let's glide for a little longer. I'd like to go to that little hidden waterfall again."
"Sounds good to me," Derrek said with a gentle smile as they walked together, holding hands, up to the roof's edge.
Just before she crouched to launch, Maggie turned to Derrek and smiled slyly. "Did you… bring anything with you?"
"Huh? Anything like… oh, yeah, that anything!" as Derrek's ears perked, and he gave a feline grin from ear to ear as he leaped off the edge. "Honey, I sure did!"
Samson was passing Maggie and Derrek's quarters, on his way to his own room, when he heard the unmistakable sounds of a fussy mutate baby, and Delilah sounding frustrated to the point of tears as she said angrily to somebody, "Work! You work, you give right now!"
He hesitated, unsure whether or not to intrude, but finally decided that he could at least ask if she needed help with anything. He knew Maggie and Derrek had left over an hour ago, and while Delilah had insisted she could take care of them, she didn't exactly have years of baby-sitting experience behind her. He knocked once, and softly said, "Delilah? Is everything okay?"
"Samson?" She said from behind the door. "Samson, th-they don't work!"
He decided that was close enough to a call for help, and opened the door. "What doesn't work?" He took two steps into the room, then stopped dead in his tracks and stared.
Delilah was sitting in Maggie's rocking chair, with Tom in her lap and tears of frustration on her face, while Dee fussed in her crib nearby. Delilah's jacket was open and her tunic half-off, exposing her breasts, and Tom was trying to nurse from her but not succeeding. Delilah said tearfully to Samson, "I try to feed them like Maggie but these," as she gestured to the unoccupied breast, "don't work! Nothing comes out!" She scrubbed with the palm of her hand at her eyes as she confessed her fears. "More defects, parts made wrong. More signs of abomination…"
"Um. Er. Uh, Delilah, those, uh, those only work if you've given birth to a baby recently." At her skeptical glance, he said, "Really. Elisa wouldn't be able to nurse them right now, either, and neither would Angela, because they didn't have the babies. You'll have to feed them with the baby bottles. Did Maggie leave the bottles in the fridge?"
"Think so." She started to get up with Tom, but he hurriedly gestured for her to stay put while he got them for her. He headed for the kitchen, but his mind wasn't really on where he was going; he couldn't quite get the image of Delilah's chest out of his mind. As a result, he didn't duck in time, and cracked his head on the kitchen doorframe. She said sympathetically as he stumbled back with a muttered bad word or two, "Ouch. You okay?"
"Y-yeah, I'm okay. Just stay there, I'll bring you the bottles." He stumbled into the kitchen, got the bottles out of the refrigerator, hurriedly warmed them and handed one to Delilah, then scooped Dee out of her crib and sat with her on the couch to give her the other bottle. Both infants immediately began sucking hungrily at their dinners, and Delilah gently rocked back and forth in the chair with Tom, humming tunelessly. Samson tried to keep his eyes riveted on Dee's face, but he couldn't help peeking at least once more. No, Delilah still hadn't pulled her tunic back up.
He remembered when he was eleven years old, back before the disease that had been slowly killing him had weakened him too much to even walk on his own. His friend Josh was one of the few kids that would still play with him, partly because they were both nuts about model trains. One time he'd gone over to Josh's house, because Josh had called and told him he had a surprise for him, and it turned out Josh had sneaked into his older brother's room, and made off with a couple of Playboy magazines. The two preadolescent boys had spent hours with those magazines, ogling at the girls, giggling like hyenas at the stories and bragging about what they hoped was their own future prowess with women. Even then, Samuel Blake had known that his chances of surviving to adulthood were somewhere between extremely slim and none-at-all, but for that one glorious afternoon… Josh's family had moved away not long afterwards, and he'd never seen another nudie picture after that, and never, ever seen a real live woman's breasts right in front of him, until now. But he still vividly remembered the two centerfolds he'd seen… and Delilah's frontal display put them both to shame. He wondered how she'd look with all her clothes off. Then he clamped his knees together and tried real hard to think about something else, fast. Mucking out the sewer line last week, that had been the nastiest job ever, think about that…
By the time he'd finished feeding Dee, he'd regained his composure enough to raise the baby to his shoulder and nonchalantly burp her, just like he'd seen Derrek do before. Only he'd forgotten to lay a towel across his shoulder first, so he ended up with baby spit-up in his pelt. Dee just burbled happily at him as he sighed.
Delilah matter-of-factly pulled her tunic and jacket back into place after she put the sated Tom back into his crib, and when Maggie and Derrek came home a little while later, they told the parents that no, she'd had no problems at all with the children, but Samson had stopped by to help with the feeding, so they could eat together instead of one at a time. Maggie accepted that with a smile, but Samson was sure Derrek was eyeing him suspiciously all the way out the door.
Three nights later, Elisa came down to visit her brother's family again.
"He proposed?! Elisa, that's great!" Maggie said delightedly.
"Well, it's about time he did!" was Derrek's amused opinion. "I was beginning to think I'd have to take him outside and beat on him for a while until he agreed to make you an honest woman." And everyone chuckled when Elisa stuck out her tongue at him, including Elisa.
After the laughter died down, Maggie asked the inevitable, "Have you set a date yet? And are you going to find a minister to say the words?" She thought with a minor pang about her own wedding to Derrek just a few months ago, right after he and Delilah had come back from hunting Sevarius with Samson in tow. They had no priest or pastor down here, but one of their people had been a church deacon, and they stood before him with the Maza family, the gargoyles and all the Labyrinth residents as witnesses, as he read aloud the classic wedding rites from The Book of Common Prayer. At least Mrs. Maza, who had asked her ever after to call her 'Mama Di', had found her a beautiful white backless dress for the occasion…
Elisa coughed a little, and admitted, "We haven't worked out all the details yet… Actually, we haven't worked out any details. But we will! But there's another reason I came down here… While I was verifying Harold Blake's death, just to make sure it hadn't been faked by 'Herr Doktor', I unearthed a few details of Samuel Blake's life as well, namely his birthday. It's in less than two weeks."
"And now that we're the only family he has, we should come up with some sort of gift for him, just so he knows we care," Derrek said as he rubbed his muzzle thoughtfully. "Well… we found out during the 'remembrance ceremony' for his stepdad that he's nuts about model trains…"
A few nights later, Delilah woke up to find Samson smiling and holding out not one, not two, but three books out to her. "I found them in a box we got from the Salvation Army docks," he explained as she happily pounced on them. The covers were tattered and something brown had been spilled on one of them, but the titles were still readable, and they all began with 'The Baby-Sitters Club'.
Delilah sat down to read the first one, Kristy's Great Idea, as soon as she'd scarfed down her dinner, and was immediately enthralled by the stories of a group of girls who took care of other people's babies, just like she and Samson did now. A few of the words were hard, but if she couldn't figure a word out from reading the rest of the sentence she just asked Maggie or Samson, and they explained it to her. Some of the stuff the girls did when they weren't watching the children was a little confusing, but she supposed that was because she had never gone to a big school like the girls did. The second book was called Mallory and the Trouble With Twins. Delilah snickered as she read about how Mallory couldn't tell the twins apart when they took their bracelets off. At least she wouldn't ever have that problem with Dee and Tom! Still, she wondered as she read the stories if Maggie and Derrek's babies would eventually do everything that the children in the books did with their baby-sitters. She hoped not, at least not all at once, or she would be terrified to ever watch them again!
She got to the third book the next night: Mary Anne Breaks the Rules. She frowned over that one as she read it; it seemed funny that a girl baby-sitter wasn't supposed to have a boy baby-sitter with her to help out. She had been really thankful when Samson had come in to help her with the twins, and when Derrek and Maggie had come back from their flight, they hadn't minded a bit. She thought. Although now that she thought about it, Derrek had looked at Samson kind of funny for a little while afterwards. Was that because he thought Samson was her boyfriend, like in the book Logan was Mary Anne's boyfriend?
Was Samson her boyfriend? She had to think about that one. She'd never said to him, "You are my boyfriend," and he'd certainly never called her his girlfriend either. But they really liked each other… And Samson was the most wonderful person she'd ever met, ever. Now that she thought about it, she really wanted him for her boyfriend. And for even more than her boyfriend; she was pretty sure from her readings and from hearing what other people in the Labyrinth said that a boyfriend was much more than a male who was a friend. A boyfriend was a not-quite-mate.
She couldn't help comparing Samson, the most important person in her life now, to the one who had been the most important when she had first been created: Thailog. Samson was so unlike Thailog, not like him at all. He talked to her like she was important, and asked her what she thought about things, and brought her goodies, and… He was so nice sometimes, she wanted to just hug him and never let go. And kiss him, too, because boyfriends and girlfriends did that. And maybe even to do more than that… She knew the other things wouldn't be fun for her, but she wanted to make him feel good, the way she'd made Thailog feel good.
But how could she do it? He wasn't like Thailog in other ways, too; ways that she thought might be important. He didn't have wings, he didn't have a tail, and he didn't have spurs on his knees or elbows, but he did have lots and lots of fur, all over. What made him feel good? With Thailog, she'd known what made him feel good because he'd told her what to do. With Samson, she just didn't know, because he was missing all the stuff that Thailog had told her to caress and rub and lick. Except a male part; she was pretty sure he had one of those in his shorts, but she hadn't seen it yet. Was it covered in fur too? That would feel really weird. But she thought Samson would probably be more gentle with it than Thailog had been, at least. Thailog had used it in her so hard it had hurt, but Samson was so gentle with her in all other ways, she was sure—mostly sure—he'd be gentle with that too, so it wouldn't hurt so much.
She thought for a little bit, then went in search of a book she'd seen in the communal 'library' they had, a battered shelf of books that had been found while scrounging for edibles and whatnot up on the surface. Yes, there was the book, this one with its cover still on, and it had a picture of a man and a woman holding and kissing each other. It wasn't a thick book, and at first glance of the pages they mostly had little words she could handle, so she thought maybe she could read it by herself, and get some ideas of how humans did sex.
Just before dawn, she set the book down in disgust. Well, that had been no help at all! The story was all told by the woman, which was good, but she left out all the useful stuff! Her man just grabbed her, and kissed her, and then the story skipped to them lying in bed the next morning and her telling him that he had been so wonderful. No details! And now she had even more questions, because the woman had said she'd had a good time too! And she didn't sound like she'd had fun just because she'd made him feel good, but because he'd made her feel good too! Could doing sex really be fun for both?
But that was a storybook, and Delilah knew that not everything in books could really happen, or even everything on television. She knew that from hard experience because once, not long after she'd come down here to live, she'd sneaked up top and flown over the entire city, searching and searching and searching for hours until Talon had found her and yelled at her, but had never found Sesame Street or Big Bird or the Snuffleupagus anywhere. (That had been so disappointing! Talon had been sorry about yelling at her, when she'd cried about wanting to find them because she thought they would be nice to her like they were with everyone else on their street. But he'd fixed a hot chocolate for her afterwards, and Maggie had read stories to her until sunrise.) Anyway, she thought maybe she should talk to some real people before doing anything.
Two nights later…
Maggie gave Delilah another cooking lesson in her home, and this time she managed to produce an edible macaroni casserole, which she ate with Maggie and Derrek at their dinner table. It was obvious to both the mutates that something was bothering Delilah, from the way she was just picking at her food instead of just wolfing it down like she normally did, even her less successful attempts at cooking (like her 'brothers', Delilah would eat almost anything, whether raw or burnt or still kicking). After exchanging a silent glance or two between them, Maggie said gently, "Delilah, is there something you'd like to talk about?"
After picking at her food for a moment more, Delilah finally looked up and asked, "Maggie, you like doing sex?"
Maggie dropped her fork, while Derrek choked on a mouthful of milk and ended up spraying it out his nose. He coughed and wheezed and snorted to clear out his sinuses while Maggie hurriedly thumped him on the back, glad for the distraction. Delilah was dismayed at the uproar she'd caused. "I said wrong thing again? Sorry," as she slumped in her chair.
"Um, it's okay, Delilah; it's just that, well, sex is one of those things that girls discuss with just other girls, not when the guys are around," Maggie said almost desperately.
"Right. (cough) Which is why I'm out of here," Derrek said as he stood up with his plate. "I'll finish this in the nursery, and keep an eye on the kids for a while," he said over his shoulder as he quickly left the room. But after setting his plate down on the changing table, he found himself creeping back to plaster an ear up against the closed door, listening intently. Every guy secretly wanted to hear how his woman talked about him to other women, how she really rated his performance…
Maggie got a dishrag and began cleaning up the mess, as she said with her facial fur bristling in embarrassment, "Well… yes, I like making love to my husband, Delilah. Why do you ask?"
"Cheryl says she does not like sex, is all just work to her. Daphne says she liked doing sex once, but not anymore. Arlene says she likes it lots, all the time. Beatrice says it supposed to be, um, 'divine mystery' but you should only do it to make babies. Galadriel says when she did sex with her, um, pala-din, it was 'utter eggstey'. What is 'eggstey'? She sounded like it was good."
"Oh, dear," Maggie said weakly. Just when she thought her life couldn't get any weirder, here she was having a sex talk with a gargoyle. Where was Elisa when you really needed her? Then she rallied, as she sat down again. "Okay. First, the word is 'ecstasy.' 'Ecstasy' means you really like it a lot, and it makes you really, really happy."
"Like ice cream?" That was an incredibly rare treat in the Labyrinth, but everyone loved it, whether human, mutate or gargoyle; the last time Elisa had brought down a five-gallon tub of vanilla, it had lasted less than half an hour.
"Um, kind of like that. Anyway, Galadriel, well… I'm personally a little doubtful about the existence of her paladin, but it would be rude to say so to her. But yes, sex can be very, very good if it's done right, especially with someone you love, who loves and cares about you in return. That's why Cheryl and Daphne say they don't like sex; because they didn't do it for love. And the men they did it with didn't love them, either."
"So why did they do it if they didn't like it?"
"B-because the men wanted it; men don't have to be in love to enjoy sex. And they paid Cheryl and Daphne money to do it with them."
"Oh. Money." Delilah muttered something under her breath.
Maggie didn't hear clearly, and found herself asking almost despite herself, "What was that, dear?"
"Thailog paid no money… but I still did not like it."
Maggie said weakly again, "Oh, dear." From his post behind the door, Derrek gritted his teeth and suppressed a growl. They'd wondered if Thailog had used 'the perfect mate' he'd had made to his specifications, before that fight with Demona, but had never gotten up the nerve to ask. Now they knew. And back then, being programmed to be completely obedient to her master, Delilah likely had never even thought of protesting against being used like that. The bastard!
Delilah continued, "Some stuff was okay, but mostly it hurt. Does… does Derrek ever hurt you?"
"No, dear. Derrek would never hurt me, ever. That's because he loves me… And Thailog was utterly incapable of loving anyone, not even such a pretty girl as you. He was utterly selfish, and selfish men are bad lovers. N-not that I have a lot of personal experience with that!" Maggie added hurriedly. "But anyway, sex can be very good with a man who loves you, who cares about you enough to find out what you like, how you like to be touched and held." After a brief pause, Maggie swallowed hard and asked, "Is there someone you're thinking of… having sex with?" Though she thought she already knew the answer.
"Samson. Want to make him feel good. Not sure how, though; no wings or tail or spurs, so no doing stuff Thailog liked. Asked Cheryl what human males like, and she says to give him head, but not know how; it does not come off!" as she tugged on her white mane for emphasis.
Maggie was sure she heard a muffled snort coming from behind the door to the nursery. "Ohhhh, Lord. Delilah, I… come here. I can't even say this out loud, but I think I can whisper it." Delilah came over to her chair, and Maggie leaned closer, pretended Delilah really was a little sister or cousin, and whispered to her exactly what "giving head" meant.
Delilah blinked. "Oh, is that it? Thailog liked that too. What else do humans like?" Blushing even harder under her fur, Maggie whispered a few more tips. Delilah's eyes widened at a few of them, and once she jerked back and said accusingly, "You joking!"
"No, really, I'm not! But, well, now that I think about it, that probably wouldn't work well with Samson anyway, since he has such a thick pelt of fur. I'd suggest just…asking him what he thinks he'd like, and doing that if you're comfortable with it. But listen, Delilah, just liking somebody isn't really the best reason to have sex with him. You really should wait until you're sure you actually love him, enough to stay with him for the rest of your life. Most people do; that's why having sex is often called 'making love'."
Delilah nodded solemnly, but said softly, "I am sure." She looked dreamily off to one side for a moment as she said, "I want to be with him all the time, to make him smile and have him hold me and hold him back for ever and ever…"
Maggie sighed and smiled simultaneously. This girl had it bad… It might be just a crush, but somehow she didn't think so. If Delilah was willing to try having sex with Samson even after being raped by Thailog, just because she wanted Samson to 'feel good', then it sounded pretty serious to her… Still, she said, "Delilah, before you go rushing off to pounce on Samson, just… do me a favor, and think about it for a few more nights. You should be absolutely sure you can stay with him for the rest of your life, because once you're intimate with a man—once you have sex with him," she added at Delilah's confused look, "it hurts all the more when the relationship ends. Just think about it for a few more nights, okay? Promise?"
Delilah promised, and after dinner went out to think about what Maggie had said. Once she'd left, Maggie went into the nursery and pointedly asked Derrek, "And how much did you overhear?"
Derrek set his ears back in embarrassment, but admitted, "At least some of it. Though not the tips you gave her," as he cocked his head inquiringly. Maggie blushed beneath her fur and sputtered for a moment, but Derrek continued, "Do you really think those two can make a go of a relationship? Setting aside the fact that they're two different species, she may have the body of an adult, but she's really not even a year old yet."
Maggie shrugged and smiled. "I really can't say, but… well, after seeing how happy Elisa and Goliath are together, I'm a little more inclined to believe in 'love conquers all'."
One week later…
Samson frowned down at his huge furry feet as he wielded the currycomb over his legs, and wondered what was going on. Talon had been keeping him hopping all afternoon, pretty much from the moment he'd gotten out of bed. If it wasn't lifting and carrying heavy stuff down to the storerooms they'd reopened in the farthest explored reaches of the Labyrinth, then it was working with the people putting scrounged wallpaper up in another distant room, to make it more homey for another family that lived with them. It was nice of the folks to bring him his water and his apple-butter sandwiches while he was working, so he didn't have to come back to the central spaces for food, but it was all a little odd. In fact, if he didn't know better, he'd wonder if they were trying to throw a surprise party for him. But that couldn't be, because nobody down here knew it was his birthday; he hadn't told anybody, because he didn't want them to feel sorry for him, a birthday being a reminder of the life he'd had to leave behind, not to mention him being an orphan now.
And now he was really wondering, after Amos' strange behavior. Samson could have sworn that the 'accident' that ended up with Amos spilling a bucket of water all over him hadn't been an accident at all, but deliberate. But if so, then why would Amos have spent a solid five minutes apologizing, while sending one of the kids working with them for clean towels and his currycomb? Well, whatever; it was nice to be able to get clean and dry before going back home now that the job was over, but now he was sure he'd missed sunset and Delilah's awakening.
He set off for home and the gargoyle clones' chambers, hoping that maybe Delilah was reading a book and waiting to see him, but Maggie ran into the hallway before he could get there and asked him to go with her to the Labyrinth's main kitchen. "Somebody was playing around and tossed the spare extension cord up so high it got looped over the light fixture in there, and nobody can find the really tall stepladder. If you lift me up, maybe we can reach it together..."
Samson agreed that sounded like a good plan, so he went with her to the kitchen. Once they got there, though, it was pitch dark inside, though his sharp night vision could make out figures of some people just standing around and silent in the dark. "Did somebody try to get it down and break the light?"
"Not exactly," Maggie said with a grin as she flipped the switch by the wall, and the lights came on to reveal a huge crowd of people, all the Maza family and most of the Labyrinth residents including the gargoyles, all clustered around a huge cake and yelling, "Surprise! Happy birthday, Samson!"
After he got over being flabbergasted, Samson agreed that it was a great party. They sang the birthday song for him, and had cake and ice cream (and he was so glad he could still handle ice cream in small amounts), and then he opened his presents. Gary and his wife Ruth had gotten him a used book on famous trains of history, and Amos and a few others had chipped in together to get him some brand-new tank tops and shorts in his triple-extra-large size. Then Derrek brought out a huge box and said, "And this is from both the Maza family and everybody at Castle Wyvern!" Curious, Samson carefully peeled away the wrapping paper (leaving it intact enough to be used for later gifts; Labyrinth residents were big on recycling everything they could), opened the box and gaped open-mouthed at what he found. "The… The Lionel H-O Scale 'NYC Trainmaster CC!' The entire set!"
"With another hundred feet of extra track," Derrek said almost smugly as Samson reached into the box and pulled out the set's locomotive as reverently as if it were the Holy Grail of model train sets. Which it nearly was, according to Xanatos when he'd "just happened" to come across the set last week at FAO Schwartz. He'd explained to a skeptical and amused Elisa that he'd impulsively bought it on the spot and tossed away the receipt before realizing that his son was still a little too young to play with it now, but perhaps she knew somebody who'd appreciate it? But Peter Maza had been the one to buy the extra H-O scale track for it, having dealt with model train enthusiasts before and remembering their adage that "you can never have too much track".
"And we made you some scenery for it, too!" several other Labyrinth residents chimed in, as they brought out more packages, containing itty-bitty trees and shrubbery and even some little buildings and tiny people, scrounged from forays above and thrift shops or made from scratch, and all more-or-less sized to scale. Samson was utterly overwhelmed at their generosity, but even more so by the sense of family he got from everyone there. If he could have cried tears of joy, he would have, but instead he just gave everyone careful bear-hugs and a wraparound grin.
The party was over now, the cake and ice cream all eaten and the presents gathered up, and Samson had promised everyone that he'd let them all play with the train set once he'd set it up. Everyone had either gone off to sleep or to take care of other duties and their own interests, depending on whether they were 'day people' or 'night people.' Delilah was definitely the latter.
She looked in the doorway to Samson's room, to find him sitting cross-legged on the floor with his back to the door, rapidly sketching something on a piece of paper and occasionally glancing around him with furrowed brow. After just looking at him for a while, she knocked once on the doorframe. "Can I come in?"
"Huh? Oh, hi, Delilah! Sure, come on in!" as he scrambled to his feet, automatically ducking the ceiling lamp. "I'm just figuring out where to run the train tracks. I can't believe they got me so many feet of track, and all the scenery and stuff; I may not be able to fit it all into this room! Do you think Talon will let me have another room for just the train set?" He was still almost babbling with delight, even as he politely gave her the room's only chair (which was hardly big enough for him anyway) while he sat on the bed.
Delilah shrugged, "Dunno. Maybe yes, since you say others can play with it."
"Oh, sure! So long as they're careful with it. Maybe I should ask tonight, before my birthday's officially over." Then he paused, struck by a thought, and looked at her questioningly. "Say, what day is your birthday?"
Delilah shook her head. "No birthday. Not born, not hatched; grown in tubes, remember?"
"Well, then… maybe we can celebrate the night you first got out of the tube. That was probably sort-of like being born. You really deserve a birthday, a day to be treated special just because you're you," as he smiled at her.
That was such a sweet thing for him to say, it almost brought tears to her eyes, and it made her sure that she was making the right decision.
Unaware of her thoughts, he asked her, "Do you know what day it was that you, um, came out?"
She thought for a moment, then shook her head. "Have to ask Talon. Was… eight nights before first fight, before we came down here." She got out of the chair, walked up to the bed. "But tonight is your birthday."
"Yes…?" as he looked at her questioningly. He could tell she was going somewhere with this, but had no idea where.
She sat down beside him on the bed, and he scooted over a bit to give her more room. "You want another present for birthday?" as, to his surprise, she scooted over with him.
He blinked in surprise, but said agreeably, "Okay. What is it?"
She didn't meet his eyes for a second, but ran a talon through the fur on his thigh, which set him all atingle. He swallowed hard, not realizing that she was swallowing hard in just the same instant. Then she looked up into his eyes and whispered, "Me…?"
His massive jaw nearly bounced off his chest, as he gaped at her open-mouthed. "Y-you mean… you, um, you and me, um, doing… H-having s-s-sex?"
She nodded. "You want?"
"Ohhhh, Delilah! I-I want to, I really want to, but…" he abruptly grabbed the pillow from the head of the bed and stuffed it down over his lap, before continuing. "Are you sure you want to, really sure? B-because I wouldn't want you to, um, feel like you have to if you're not really, really sure."
She nodded, and shyly held his hand and curled her tail around his waist. "I am sure. You are not like Thailog; you are kind, and gentle. Will make much better mate."
"Mate?!" That came out of his huge frame in a ridiculously tiny squeak. "Y-you… really want me for a… mate? Like a husband?"
She looked at him worriedly, fearfully. "Yes; you not want me for mate?" Fearing and despairing what she thought the answer would be, she unwrapped her tail from around him and started to get off the bed.
"Oh, Delilah, I--I do! I'm just… surprised. I, well, I thought you'd never have me, because… well, I'm all hairy, and I don't have wings or a tail."
"You have good heart. That is better than wings or tail." And with that, she reached up and grabbed his head, and pulled him down for a kiss.
After several long seconds, she released him and smiled. "Felt good!"
"Y-yeah, that was… wow, that was good!" Samson agreed, as he waited for the room to stop spinning. Then he looked at Delilah with uncertainty and a little worry. "Um… I've never done this before."
"Is okay," she assured him. "Maggie says we should just ask each other what feels good, and do that."
His jaw dropped open again. "Maggie?! She knows about…?!"
And Delilah looked at him worriedly again. "Um… Did I do wrong?"
"Uh… Well, no, I guess not. I'm just a little surprised, is all."
She shrugged, then pointed to his tank top and shorts and said, "Gotta take those off."
"Um… yeah." Then he grinned, suddenly bold as he pointed in turn to her clothing. "I'll let you take those off, if you'll let me take these off…"
She grinned back. "Deal!"
Some rustling of clothing was heard, then a soft, "Um… How do you get this thing off?"
"Oh. …Oh, wow… You are so beautiful."
"You so sweet… Um. Lift up?"
"…There. Oh, good, no fur on that."
"Um, right. Can I…?"
"Do you… do you like it?"
"And do you like… this?"
"Ooohh…. Nice! Do more!"
"All right. …And…this?"
"No, no stop! That was really good! Please more!"
"Rrrrrrrr…. You like…that?"
"Mm, it's nice…"
"How about… that?"
"Ohhhh… that's good, oh that's good."
"How about… this?"
"Is good, huh?"
"Oh, Delilah! That was incredible!"
"Good. I do more…"
"Ohhhh… wooooohhh! Oh, Delilah, I--oh God, I'm about to WAAUUHHHHHHH!"
"(cough, sputter, cough) …What this stuff?"
"Oh, I know. Oh, does this mean we done already?"
"Uhhh… G-give me a minute. J-just let me rest a minute."
"Yes." They cuddled on the bed for a while, with her curled up partly on his chest and draping her wings over him. After a little while, he recovered and began to move his hands over her body again. "You said you like this, right?"
Shortly before dawn, Delilah raised her head from where she had been lying in a tired but highly satisfied heap on his chest, and said with an air of disappointment, "Dawn coming."
She got up, but Samson took her arm before she could get off the bed and begged, "Stay here today? Please?"
She smiled at him wistfully. "I'll get gravel all over the sheets."
"I don't care! Well, maybe you could, um, pose in the corner?" Delilah could and did agree to that, so she went over to the corner with him following close behind, unwilling to even let her out of arm's reach yet. When she turned around to pose, he took her hands in his and said earnestly, "Delilah… This has been the absolutely most wonderful night of my entire life."
Delilah smiled at him with a hint of tears in her eyes, tears of sheer happiness, and the expression stayed frozen on her face as she turned to stone for the day.
Samson slowly released her hands, and caressed her expression with his fingertips. His lover… They were lovers now…
After an interminable time of just looking at her, he went back to bed for his own sleep, but his mind was already going over what he would do when he woke up in the afternoon. First, he'd ask about taking down one of the sun lamps installed in the other gargoyles' room, and setting it up in here so it would shine light on that corner while she slept. Then he'd find Talon and a calendar, and figure out just when Delilah's sort-of-birthday was going to be. He already knew what he wanted to get her for a present, though he had no idea where he was going to find or how he could ever afford to buy an engagement ring in her talon size…