My first Gargoyles fanfiction, and my first new fanfiction in a number of years. Forgive any mistakes relating to canon - I've only recently begun to get back into the series.
Disclaimer: The Gargoyles are property of Disney and I am making no profit of any form from this story, written solely for entertainment purposes.
And now, onwards...
What a human would call the 'civilized' humanity of a gargoyle, whilst not a façade, was certainly a veneer spread over the primal instincts beneath. Sometimes it was a perfectly convincing balm, with wings caped and words coming smoothly. On rare, violent occasions, it was like a drum skin pulled too tight and struck too hard, splitting apart in a violent burst.
This is what Eliza had heard tonight. Like with an earthquake, Cagney seemed to know it was coming, suddenly standing at the foot of the sofa, tail twitching, seconds before the roar came.
The detective snapped awake and upright with adrenaline already hurtling through her veins. It came again and she understood the absence of the muzziness that came with being awoken at four in the morning. Undeniably Goliath's, and nearby at that, the roar held a foreign note through it that only seem to intensify as the sound went on.
She pulled on jeans and a jacket over the t-shirt she had been sleeping in, getting her boots on as she jogged to the balcony to pinpoint the direction of the sound. Outside in the wind and bitter rain the roar came again, and without the muffling effect of the doors, she heard the agonised undertone for what it was. It was coming from the dark office block opposite her building, close but still a dangerous number of minutes away. She saw no winged silhouettes in the sky and guessed that Goliath was alone and being attacked. With that thought, she grabbed her keys, torch and the shotgun that she'd had for less than a week, picking up a box of shells on her way out.
Flashing her badge at the glass doors, the security guards were all too happy to let Eliza up to the top floors with the gun that made their sidearms seem paltry in comparison. She had hers with her as a backup, but loaded the shotgun as the lift ascended and pocketed the remaining shells.
She had pressed the buttons for the five highest floors, closing the doors as they were still opening when she had determined that the fight was higher up. Faintly unsurprised that it turned out to be the top floor, Eliza stepped out of the lift with the torch clamped between her arm and breast and the shotgun raised and ready.
It was almost silent as she jogged down the corridor, scanning the walls for damage. When the roar came again Eliza broke into a run, the beam from the torch bouncing and sending the shadows roaming. Through the door at the end of the corridor and into the boardroom, where the wind howled in through a destroyed window and the long conference table lay in pieces against the walls.
Her torch found the back of something enormous against the moonlight, a furred body that rose into a thick neck and a large wolfish head. One yellow eye swiveled onto her as it turned, bellowing its own roar. Eliza snapped off two shots into its head, the shotgun jumping violently into her chest. She let the torch drop to reload, aiming for its chest and head as it bore down on her with a screaming growl. It fell sideways with a jerk as the large shells struck, sliding to the floor against part of the table with the sound of its last breath escaping.
Instinctively, Eliza checked the body with the torch to see if it was actually dead. The creature was akin to Fox's Lupine form when she had been beneath her necklace's spell, but much larger and with a pelt so dark it drank in light. Massive claws were thick with blood and flesh, and its mouth, throat and belly were stained with red a darker hue than that leaching from the gunshot wounds. It was dead.
Turning to face the spot she had first seen it, Eliza tracked the torch about. "Goliath?"
There was a low warning growl and two points of white light appeared and spread across the gargoyle's eyes. Eliza stepped forward and he stepped to the side against the windows. Her heart pounded in her ears. His body was hunched and low on his bent legs, wings raised and curled in like a closing cocoon. The growl continued, the lights of his eyes narrowing.
"Hey Big Guy, it's me," Eliza assured, stepping back when the sound of her voice served to make the growl louder. Something was clearly very wrong. She retreated towards the doorway, placing the shotgun against the wall and feeling for the light switch. "Take it easy, Goliath. I'm just going to turn the lights on."
She hadn't given him enough warning to protest before the fluorescent strips hummed into life. Goliath dropped to one knee with a snarl, the talons of one hand gauging deep lines in the wall as he steadied himself. Eliza caught a glimpse of blood before he brought his wings about his body. Not caping them, but covering himself in a leathery shield. But even that was bloodied and showing ragged tears.
Deaf to the growl now, Eliza closed the distance between them and sank to her knees. On a bold chance, she laid a hand on his cheek, which seemed to break whatever had taken hold of him for the growl stopped and the glow faded from his eyes. Leaning away from her touch, he rested his weight through his shoulder against the wall.
"Eliza?" he asked roughly, as if to confirm her presence. "What are you doing here?" His tail slid between them to rest around his feet, clawed toes digging into the carpet as he rested on his haunches.
"I heard -" Eliza began before realising that she wasn't sure what she had heard. "I heard you, fighting that thing. What the hell happened?"
Goliath was silent for a long moment, eyes wandering towards the body of the creature before snapping to stare at the space of carpet between them. Close and quiet, Eliza began to become aware of the smell. There was the familiar tang of blood and sweat rich with adrenaline, but the air around them was also rough with the heady smell of... Something.
Goliath still refused to meet her gaze, and she noted the ashen pallor across his cheeks.
"It was scaling the walls of the building beside yours," he spoke to the floor, shifting with a grimace of pain. "It was too close to you, Eliza, so I took it to the air. But it was, strong."
The detective glanced over her shoulder to the body, beginning to feel the cold coming in from the broken window now that her own adrenaline was wearing off. "Do you think it's a human? Like what happened to Fox?" A pang of dread took root in her chest at the thought of taking an arguably innocent life. At the time though, her last intention had been to just wound it.
Abating her fears, Goliath shook his head as he slid a little further down the wall. His wings contracted, disguising his body. "No, there was no trace of a human scent about it."
"I don't know what it was, then," Eliza admitted, dropping her head. Her boots were now within the edge of a growing pool of blood. She snapped her gaze back up. "How bad are you hurt?"
He met her gaze then looked away again. Noting the purpling bruises about his neck, she reached for the curve of his wing and he jerked back with a growl. "Don't touch me."
Eliza frowned at the barked warning, now wanting to see the injuries he was hiding all the more. "Goliath, let me look."
When she didn't back down as his eyes flashed, Goliath found himself in a staring match, warring with her gaze. Her big brown eyes, hard now simply in concern for him and frustration at his stubbornness, worked upon the spot on his pride they were usually so effective with. There was something else in there, though. Something towards soothing a wounded and frightened animal.
He looked away wordlessly as his wings fell lax. After a moment of mounting dread at his behaviour, Eliza reached out her hands and slid her fingers beneath the length of one outer wing bone. Lifting it away, she paused at the long scratches across his chest and arms, deeper and still weeping blood along his thighs and hips. She shook her head a little. She'd known Goliath, indeed all the gargoyles, to have gotten into dozens of fight, but they'd never come out looking this marred.
A glance out the window relaxed her, though, and she withdrew her hands so that Goliath could rest the wing comfortably. "At least dawn's only a few hours away."
Goliath nodded a little and murmured, "at least."
"Do you think you can fly back to the tower?"
The large gargoyle grunted an affirmative and braced his hand against the wall again, pushing himself up as Eliza moved to give his extending wings some space. The cry of pain seemed to catch him by surprise as much as her, and she held his shoulder as he sank to his knees openly, talons clutching the carpet and face contorted in agony.
It occurred that there was a chance he wasn't going to make it to the morning. Her fingers tightened knuckle-white on his hide. "Goliath, what's wrong? What did that thing do to you?"
His answer came between gritted teeth. "It, beat me. If you hadn't come..."
To her gratitude he left the sentence hanging. It wasn't a thought she ever wanted to entertain. "You've saved my life so many times, it's good to return the favour every now and then," she replied in half-hearted effort at levity.
The bowed gargoyle seemed to have no reply to that, eyes closed and breathing a hiss as he made another attempt to stand. He managed, though continued to grip the wall as his chest flexed with panted breaths.
Though not familiar with the finer points of his physiology, Eliza recognised shock when she saw it. "You look really bad. Maybe you should sit back down. You could sleep here today and tomorrow night you'll be back to normal."
Goliath glanced about the room, taking in the blood, body and array of carnage. "I think there will be enough problems here without a sleeping gargoyle as well."
Eliza stood, resolved to the task of problem solving now. It helped to take this step back. "Well you can't fly," she iterated, hands on her hips. The solution that came to her wasn't one she liked but it looked like all they had. "I'll call Xanatos. Have him collect us in a chopper. He owes us a favour or two."
"Not Xanatos," he snapped, face hardening.
She frowned. "Well it's not like we have a lot of choice. The people who own this office can't just find you here with all this." The horizon was beginning to brighten, a wash of orange peeling up between the buildings. "What about if his people come just after dawn? I'll supervise it."
Not savoring the thought of Xanatos's people moving him in his vulnerable stone state, Goliath flexed his wings experimentally. The flash of pain as muscles pulled at torn skin dispelled any arguments he could broach. Finally he grunted an assent. "Will you wait here?"
Moving about him, Eliza slid down to sit against the wall outside of the pool of blood. "Of course. I couldn't leave you." She took in his taut posture, seeing that there was a light tremble creeping into his frame. "Are you okay?" It was a foolish question but one that needed vocalizing.
He hesitated, glancing away as his wings tightened and the trembling stopped. "Sleep will heal the wounds," he replied, keeping the rest to himself.
Eliza hadn't met the new detective yet, and it took a moment to connect the newly transferred Kara with the tall blonde woman waiting at her desk. She had an evidence bag and a handful of scene photographs. She noted with a touch of pleasure that the detective wasn't taking a surreptitious look about her desk whilst she thought she wasn't being watched. Eliza slid off her jacket as she came around behind the woman. "Can I help you with something, detective?"
Kara tracked Eliza with a polite smile and took the offered seat, though kept the photographs and bag in her lap. "Yes, I hoped you might. I've been following the serial murdering rapist attacks on the East side for the last two months."
"Rapist?" Eliza asked, frowning at the singular. Though not directly involved in the investigation she was aware of the attacks. "I thought the going theory was that it was a gang of some kind?"
"Well, it's a kind of something," Kara replied with an arched brow, finally sliding the stack of photographs across the desk. "All the bodies are showing the same markers, though. Lacerations conducive with tooth and claw marks, all approximately the same radius, which is why I'm thinking it's a single agent, though DNA is a problem as the victims have been found in water. Signs of struggle that indicate rape and sodomy took place prior to death, though given the violence I wouldn't rule out post death abuse either."
As Kara spoke, Eliza thumbed through the photographs. She'd seen a lot of ugly business with the badge, but these turned her stomach.
"The damage on the bodies indicates an incredible strength – I doubt the average human could separate a woman's jaw from her skull."
Eliza looked up to find Kara watching her intently. "Human?" she repeated slowly, hackles raising at the implication.
The other woman gave a partial shrug, her words conspiratorially soft. "I heard you were the woman to talk to about the non-human element of the city."
Face set in a mask, Eliza handed back the photographs then sat back and nodded to the evidence bag. "What have you got there?"
Kara held up the plastic bag, empty aside from a small black mass in one bottom corner. "Hair that got pulled off a floater this morning. Not the victim's. It was lodged under a nail so we can assume it came from the struggle. I'm taking it to forensics now."
Eliza nodded and slapped her hands on the arms of her chair as she stood, punctuating the end of this conversation. "Sorry I couldn't help you detective. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to -"
"You really don't know what could have done this?" Kara asked as she stood, stepping out to block Eliza's path. There was far more unspoken hanging between them than those words.
A pause as she considered her gut feeling. "No, I don't."
"Then there's no reason to take up any more of your time." Kara picked up the photographs and gave a thin, professional smile. "Thank you, detective."
Eliza scowled at the woman's retreating back. "Don't mention it."
Goliath awoke not with the lazy roar and stretch that usually accompanied sunset, but with the jerk of someone just pulled out of a nightmare. He'd leapt from the ledge instinctively as his blood hummed and the others roared into life, sweeping up the perch on the next available ledge. Talons pulling into the ledge hard enough to break away chips of stone, he exhaled hard in relief that he was at the tower as Eliza had assured.
As always the stone sleep had healed him and the wounds were gone, as was the pain. What he felt now was a phantom sensation that made his stomach knot, spurred on by the fragmented memories of the attack that wouldn't stop playing across his mind. He heard Eliza's light steps and greeting voice coming onto the balcony beneath him. Speaking to anyone was the very last thing he wanted to do right now. Mouth twisting, he lunged forward and snapped out his wings, taking to the night air.
"So you guys definitely haven't heard or seen anything?" Eliza asked, perched on the edge of the armchair and holding her mug of hot chocolate in both hands.
Broadway took up the slice of pizza that Lexington had been reaching for, earning an elbow to the stomach that he blankly ignored. "No, not a thing."
"Yeah, attacks like that would definitely stand out, even around some of the rougher neighborhoods," Brooklyn confirmed, toying with a piece of pizza crust. He'd lost his appetite when Eliza had given them some of the details of the attacks. Bronx whined at his feet and he dropped it, watching the animal pounce on the greasy bread. "Do you think that whatever's been attacking these woman went for Goliath last night?"
"Maybe. The degree of violence seems to be the same," she replied quietly, taking a sip of chocolate. She didn't really want it but found the warmth comforting. "At least if it was the same creature, then it's dead now. We'll know it wasn't if another body comes in with a time of death later than when I shot it."
"An' where's the body of the beast now?" Hudson asked from his chair, sat back but in no way relaxed.
"With Xanatos. His guys took it with them when they got Goliath back here. I'm going to have to have it 'found' somewhere so it doesn't incriminate him, or have him down as perverting the course of justice. Like it or not he did Goliath a favor." She drew her bottom lip between her teeth, shoulders tensing as she took in the room again. "No one knows where he went?"
"No clue," Lexington chimed in. "Like you said, he took off before we'd even got all the stone chips off. Didn't think much of it until you told us what happened last night."
"Do you think he's… not okay?" Brooklyn asked, clearly uneasy with the word as his wings shifted.
"I honestly don't know. I've never seen him like that before."
"Aye," Hudson agreed. "Doesn't sound like I have either."
Eliza released a hard breath and sat back. "I can't believe that losing a fight would have Goliath this torn up."
The corner of Brooklyn's beak twitched. "You have… met Goliath, right?"
Lexington shot him a droll look before reaching for more pizza.
"Even so," Hudson cut in before a spat could break out. "It's not like him to be acting like this. Nor as our clan leader."
Eliza found herself bristling at the unnecessary reminder of his burden.
Brooklyn rose to his feet, wings flexing a little. "I'm gonna go look for him. See if I can find out what's going on."
"You think you can find him?" Lexington asked from the floor, wasting no time in going for the other gargoyle's forfeit pizza slices.
"Unless he really doesn't want to be found," he replied, catching Eliza's dubious gaze. "Seven foot lavender gargoyle on a clear night with a full moon – shouldn't be too hard. I think I know most of his haunts, anyway."
"Shall I come with you?" the detective asked, already setting her mug down to get to her feet.
"I think it'd be best if it was just me. I'll cover more area in less time if I'm not carrying someone." He cocked his head, taking in the dark circles beneath the human's eyes. "You should probably get some sleep, Eliza. I'll stop by your place in a few hours if I find him."
"Alright. I'll see you later then." She offered a smile, though it didn't quite reach her eyes. "Good luck."
Apparently Goliath hadn't wanted to be found. It had taken him almost five hours to find the gargoyle perched atop a housing block towards the outskirts of the city. He stood upon hearing Brooklyn's approach, talons gripping into the old stone of the ledge of the building's roof. The crimson gargoyle landed a few feet from him and looked the clan leader over as he approached: physically he seemed fine, albeit far from relaxed.
"What is it, Brooklyn?"
Brooklyn frowned, realizing that Goliath was going to make this as difficult as possible. "That's actually pretty much what I was going to ask you."
Goliath seemed to acknowledge the remark without showing any signs of replying to it. Finally he turned to look back out over the city again, folding his arms. "I'm glad you came," he murmured after a long moment.
Seizing upon this point of hope, Brooklyn stepped up to stand beside the taller male. "Yeah, well, we were all pretty worried."
Goliath gave him a sidelong glance, considering. "I am stepping down as clan leader, and I want you to replace me."
Brooklyn blinked, feeling his wings sag a little in surprise. "What? Why-"
"Why you?" Goliath cut in, turning to face him.
A grimace and Brooklyn rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, that's one of the 'why's, I suppose."
Goliath nodded, apparently satisfied. "Hudson, though he has years of experience, is too passed his prime for the role, and he would turn it down for the same reason. Broadway is still… too young, and Lexington is captivated by too many things in this world. You, though young, most certainly have the potential, and I am confident you would grow into the role as clan leader. Broadway and Lexington already follow your lead, and with so few of us, that makes half the clan."
Brooklyn waved that off, far too overwhelmed by the fact that Goliath was suddenly stepping down to take any form of compliment in being offered his position. "Goliath, why do you want to step down?"
His expression hardened. "The reasons are my own."
"Well," Brooklyn continued, feeling as though he was grasping at straws, "would you still be staying with the clan? Maybe you just need some time -"
"I would be leaving the clan," Goliath confirmed softly, though undeniably firmly. "I do not yet know where I would go, but I wouldn't be staying here."
Brooklyn shook his head, finding this all far too much to absorb, particularly with how decided Goliath seemed. "But why? Why leave the clan? And what about Eliza?" He reached out a hand to physically underline his words. "You can't just leave her, let alone us."
At the movement, Goliath took a step back with his wings snapping out in warning. "Don't Brooklyn, you will not win."
That had been the most disturbing thing said. "I'm not trying to pick a fight with you, Goliath. I want to help. What's gotten into you?"
Wings still erect though no longer spread, Goliath's gaze softened but his tone was a command. "Leave me."
Instinctively, Brooklyn took a step forward. "I can't do that."
A flash of white and now Goliath shouted without restraint. "Leave!"
He hesitated only for a second before leaping from the side of the building and throwing his wings open to greet an updraft, twisting to look back as he rose. Goliath had moved to the far side of the building and also taken to the air, putting yet more distance between himself and the clock tower. With a heavy knot of unease in his stomach, Brooklyn turned on the wind and made for Eliza's apartment.
"And he said all that?"
Brooklyn took the mug of coffee that Eliza offered with both hands, readjusting his position on her sofa. "Yeah, and there was no way he was going to tell me why. He all but chased me off that rooftop, and I think if I'd kept asking questions he would have attacked me."
Eliza shook her head, running her hands through her hair. "This isn't like him – not at all. I just don't understand it."
"Yeah, me neither." He took a sip of coffee though found he was too preoccupied to really taste it. "I mean, he's not exactly talkative about feelings and stuff; none of us are, really. But just this stone wall he's put up and then not letting anyone get near it... It really isn't sitting right with me."
"I think there's more going on here than just him losing a fight, and he's just not telling us." Eliza brought a foot up onto the sofa and rested her arms around her leg, forehead creasing as she thought. "So what do we do now?"
Brooklyn drained the rest of the coffee, setting the mug down on her table. "I think that tomorrow you should take me to where the fight happened. See if we can work anything out from that."
Eliza nodded, satisfied to have a clear investigative direction to go in. She'd slept very little and fitfully tonight, overwhelmed with concern and feeling distinctively lost as to what to do next. "I guess that's the only thing we can do." A glance to the clock and then the window. "Dawn's not far off. Do you want to stay here? That way we can head straight there tomorrow night."
"Yeah, I think that'd be best," he replied, standing and heading towards the screen doors to wait for dawn on the balcony.
"I'll call the tower and let them know you're staying here," Eliza called as she picked up the phone, thumbing in the number. "Otherwise they'll be waking up with two missing gargoyles to worry about."
It had become apparent that the creature that she had killed wasn't the only one out there. Eliza scanned the new photographs of the latest victim on Kara's desk. Beside them was a set of photographs and a clinical report on the creature's body that she had killed and had been found that morning down a side ally.
Kara took a sip of coffee as she watched Eliza, then slid over the case report so far. "Time of death on Stacey Elwood is at least ten hours after the creature we have in the lab was killed, which means that there's at least one more of these things out there. The hair sample found on the last victim doesn't match those found on her, but it does match the creature in the lab."
That meant there was at least one more. The auburn-haired woman, barely out of her teens, had died in the earlier hours of this morning. It was the freshest body in this case that had been found, and the first that wasn't in water. Eliza looked up from the photographs. "Why are you showing me this?"
The corner of Kara's mouth twitched. "You're the woman to talk to about the weird goings on in this city, and this string of attacks that looks like it was done by an oversized rabid dog definitely falls into that category."
Eliza decided that that answer was as good as any, and it sounded as if the detective had discharged the chance of the culprits being the little-understood gargoyles whom were only recently becoming a reality to the city's populous. "So you still don't know what they are?"
"We know it's a mammal," Kara replied, stepping about to spread out the photos for them both to see. There was a lot of dried blood matted into its fur, and its eyes were still open beneath the bright lights of the lab. "Not like any animal we've got on record. It's full of adrenal and pituitary glands across its main arteries, which seem to serve no purpose except to make it wildly violent. It would also explain why sex was a significant aspect of the attacks."
Eliza's hands tightened about her hips as she bit her lip, forcing thoughts about Goliath's injuries away. She still hadn't seen him and come hell or high water, she was going to tonight.
Oblivious, Kara went on. "There's no reason for this multitude of glands in the natural world, and combined with the fact that this is a completely new species, we've got to assume that it was made in a lab somewhere."
"Made? Not mutated from anything?"
"Probably mutated, yes, more than likely from a wolf or something like that." Sitting at the chair behind her desk, Kara set her coffee down and ran a hand across her jaw. "Someone put a lot of effort into making these nasty bastards, which means they've come from a location that we can find. It's just a question of finding it."
"Motive's going to come into it as well," Eliza commented, though she knew the other woman had already thought of that. "Someone wouldn't make these things just to have them attack innocent women at random."
"Not so random, I don't think," Kara replied, clearing away the forensic reports and unfolding a map from beneath. Where the bodies had been located thus far had been highlighted in red, with an orange cross over the place where the dead creature had been found. There was no pattern, but the detective ran her finger from point to point. "There's random and then there's a forced randomness, which is what I think's going on here. A lot of the victims have been found caught in bracken or against boats in the river, which means that they've been swept downstream, at least a short distance. Stacey was found on land though, here," she indicated, "so either whoever's behind these attacks was caught short and had to leave the body before they got it to the river, or they're changing tact so that the river doesn't become a pattern in itself."
"There's definitely someone orchestrating this, then," Eliza confirmed, seeing the map anew. "That's far too sophisticated thinking for these animals."
"Exactly what I thought." Kara folded up the map and reassembled the case into one pile in the centre of her desk. "I'll get back on this. Let me know if you come up with any thoughts on your own, detective."
Eliza nodded, taking the professional invitation for what it was. "I'll keep my ears open."
It didn't take much to break through the wooden boards covering the smashed windows, and Brooklyn put Eliza on her feet whilst he took in the powerful scent of the room. "Doesn't seem like they've done much," he commented, picking out the outlines of smashed furniture and the dark shadows of dried blood on the carpet.
"Yeah, which should make it easier to find something," Eliza agreed, moving for the light switch. It was just as she'd remembered it – apparently the work crew hadn't gotten around to actually cleaning the place up yet, no doubt anxious that whatever had done this might come back if they returned too soon.
Squatting to inspect the floor, Brooklyn ran his talons through the deep tears in the carpets, discerning their direction against the fibers. "These are Goliath's," he remarked as Eliza came to kneel beside him. "And these over here are the creature's. It looks like he tried to pitch it out the window." He looked about the room, finding that the claw marks extended to the compressed patches of carpet where the weight of the table had stood. "I think that's when they smashed the table."
He stood and moved across to the edge of the largest patch of blood. Eliza glanced to the gauges in the wall. "This is where he was when I came in, and when the sun came up."
Brooklyn nodded, turning on the spot to take in just how much blood there was. "Looks like it did a real number on him. But this isn't just from a few scratches."
The detective nodded, folding her arms. "Yeah, this amount of blood in one area is more like a deeper, more serious wound. I didn't get a good look but I didn't see anything like that on him. Just a lot of tooth and claw marks, but those were pretty serious in themselves."
"Yeah, but there's something else," he replied distractedly, kneeling again to take in more of the smell that seemed to cling to this area of the room. "There's another scent here."
Eliza's brows raised. "You mean like someone else was in the fight?"
"No, not like that." He inhaled deeply, trying to diagnose the familiar scent. "I mean there's something else here that isn't blood or sweat."
"Poison maybe?" she suggested. That could perhaps explain Goliath's behavior since the attack.
"No, it's something-" He cut himself off as it clicked in his head, standing and stepping back from the offending area. "It smells like sex," he blurted, looking to her.
That had been about the last thing she'd been expecting, and her eyes widened. "You mean it… Oh God." There was a long, uneasy silence as they both contemplated the terrible conclusion and absorbed some of the shock. Finally, Eliza broke the pregnant air. "But why?"
Brooklyn ran a hand across the back of his neck, looking away from the scene of the struggle to the broken window. He found he couldn't reply whilst looking at her either. "It's not always about desire, Eliza. Sometimes it's an assertion of dominance, and from the sound of how savage and feral this thing was..." He left the rest hanging.
"And this is why he wants to leave," she said aloud, not quite a question but not a statement either.
"Would you want to stay near where something like this happened to you? Let alone lead a clan?" Brooklyn asked, his stomach twisting as the gravity of what had happened sank in. "This is more than being beaten. This is absolute destruction. Rape."
It was an ugly word, and Eliza flinched upon hearing it applied aptly to her friend. "We'd better get back to the tower," she said quietly, a hand coming up to rest at the base of her throat. This was all too much to think about.
"Yeah. But I don't think the others should know about this yet." Brooklyn shrugged a little at her look. "Not until one of us has spoken to Goliath again. If we can get him to come back, he might find it easier if they don't know."
"I think you're right," she replied, though the underlying compulsion was to go to Hudson with this. He knew Goliath better than anyone, and might know of a way that they could get through to the leader without causing him to put himself into deeper exile.
Eliza hadn't slept and felt too nauseous for coffee. She felt like she was running on taut nerves and the need to dive into Kara's investigation, to find something, anything that could help. The older detective frowned when Eliza dragged another chair to her desk, officially joining her. "Why so interested all of a sudden?" she asked, clearing the woman room on the other side of her desk.
"I know someone one of these things got to," she replied curtly, pulling the forensic reports in front of her and unfolding the map. "I wasn't assigned any particular case so I'm helping on yours." Her tone imparted that there was no room for discussion on that point.
Instinctively the detective's eyes roamed over the photographs of the victims. "Which one was it?" Kara opened her mouth again, holding up an apologetic hand at Eliza's stare. "None of my business. Forget I said anything. Where do you want to start?"
"I want to start," Eliza began, pulling the photograph bearing the whole of the creature's body, "by finding out where these things are coming from. I'm guessing that these attacks are happening at night, hence no witnesses, so they're going somewhere in the day."
"Alright, but where? We've done a casual sweep of the buildings here," Kara replied, indicating to the point on the map where Stacey was found, "and they're full residencies and office blocks. No way this thing would have come from there."
"Okay, so let's scratch that it's making attacks close to home. Say they're being moved away from the base of operations before being let loose, in a van or something." She ran her finger through the points on the river where bodies had been found, tracing upstream. "Let's also say that the place they're coming from now is the same place they were made.
"That's a lot of 'let's say's," Kara remarked with a smirk.
Eliza waved her off. "Suppositions are the best we've got so far. Anyway, it'd have to be a pretty big building to house the kind of lab these things would take to make and then to keep them caged up during the day as well."
"You're thinking a warehouse," Kara stated, following Eliza's finger across the docks and waterfront business districts.
"Probably modified and not abandoned, but yeah. Still means we'd need a warrant to take a look at any of them."
Kara gave a thin smile. "Not if we were just two women stupid enough to take a walk along the water front in the middle of the night. Taking in the sights. With some hidden back-up, of course to make sure we don't become victims ourselves."
"I think I've got just the backup in mind," Eliza replied, considering the woman again. Her gut feelings were reliable, and she had good ones about Kara. "If you've got an open mind, that is."
"And you think this Kara can be trusted?" Hudson asked with a strong air of suspicion. He trusted Eliza and her judgment as much as any of them did, but for her to ask that they meet another human was quite out of the ordinary.
"I think so, and frankly, I'd rather have you guys watching our backs than a few cops with guns if something were to happen," Eliza replied, taking in the assembled gargoyles again. Brooklyn had been staring at her since she arrived, clearly wanting to talk to her alone.
"I think we'd like some cops watching our backs with guns, given how bad one of these things messed Goliath up," Lexington replied with an uneasy gesture. Officially he wasn't going, instead listening in on the police radio chatter for any sign of a sighting of these things. Hudson would also remain, which left Brooklyn and Broadway. The small gargoyle picked up his headset as if for something to do with his hands. "I mean, this is potentially a really dangerous thing you're going into Eliza, even if this other detective is going with you and two of us are watching."
"Aye lass, we couldn't guarantee your safety with these beasts as strong as they are," Hudson intoned. Bronx whined at his feet, sensing the tension in the air.
"Safety against what?"
Eliza spun at the new voice behind her, jaw falling slack when she found it to be Goliath. The large gargoyle stepped past her, taking in the pensive expressions before looking to her again. "What are you going to do that's so dangerous?"
The detective couldn't find words for a moment, stunned as she was by the simple fact that he was here. That he hadn't left. She tried to discern some indication of his feelings from his face but it was a carefully controlled mask. "Actually I'm going to find out where that thing that's been attacking a string of women came from. Likely the same thing that attacked you."
A low sound and Goliath frowned. "That is not a wise idea, Eliza," he bit out. "None of us should be going anywhere near these things."
The surprise at that assertion in the room was palpable, though less so from Eliza and Brooklyn. It was Lexington who spoke first. "But Goliath, you said we were to protect the city, and the people who live in it."
"He's right, Goliath," Hudson added. "If one was enough to injure you badly, then the humans have no chance against them. This beast needs a clan to stop it."
"No," Goliath barked, wings flexing with barely managed restraint. All signs of protest ceased. "You do not understand how dangerous these creatures are. It is not a fate I would wish on an enemy, let alone anyone in my clan."
Eliza shook her head, her own features resolute though inwardly she had blanched at his words. "No, this has to stop. The sooner we can narrow down where the creatures are being kept, the sooner we can kill them and take their makers into custody. Too many people have already died, and been hurt. If we just find where they are, I can get six SWAT teams coming down on the place like a ton of bricks, and that would be stronger than a clan of gargoyles."
The tip of his tail flicked in agitation as he assessed just how firmly she was going to stand by this decision. A glance about the room confirmed who everyone was siding with, though they would unquestioningly abide by whatever decision he made. He returned his gaze to the detective. "Fine. But I will go with you."
Finding that assertion unbelievable now that she knew what had happened to him, Eliza cast her eyes about the room. At the silent request, the other gargoyles cleared their throats and began to make their way out.
Brooklyn hovered by the doorway for a few seconds longer. "I'm really glad you're back, Goliath, and that you're not leaving." When he received no response other than a curt nod, he excused himself with the others, leaving the clan leader and detective alone.
Eliza took a step forward, testing the waters before wrapping her arms around the big gargoyle's waist. He froze for a moment at the unusually intimate gesture, but slowly placed his hands about her back. "I've been so worried about you, especially after what you told Brooklyn."
In answer to the unspoken question, Goliath closed his eyes. "I couldn't leave." There was a 'you' there that couldn't be vocalized, even as this unexpected embrace stirred up a pressure in his chest.
For a long while they simply stood and held each other, and Eliza listened as his triple heartbeat slowed until it was steady again. With a sigh she realized that what would come next would be easier to say if she could look at him, and she slid her arms from his body and took a step back. Though he could easily still hold her at arm's reach, Goliath let her go.
Even though the motions had been made, she still found the words hard to say, and when they came they were quiet. "Goliath, I know what happened."
His eyes tightened, trying to understand. Her face gave away exactly what she meant and his lips parted, a shaky breath passing as he looked as though about to leave. Instead, he stepped back to perch on the edge of Hudson's chair, forearms resting against his knees. "I see."
She came forward to take his hands, trying to convey just how much she wanted to support him. "And that's why I don't think you should be going."
"What?" The word, though it came quietly, was loaded.
Eliza rubbed her thumbs across his talons, which rested limply in her hands. "Goliath, what happened to you was awful, and you need time to come to terms with it. To talk about it."
A low rumble as he clearly worked to hold down his agitation. "Gargoyles do not 'talk' about things like this."
She cocked a brow. "No, gargoyles go and rip the heads off the people that are behind it. That's not how to come to terms with what happened to you."
His hands flexed and he stood, stepping away from her with wings raised in a stiff shell. "That is how I would 'come to terms with it'."
Her words thrown back like that had sounded almost condescending. "And what will that solve?" she snapped, voice rising. "You'll have your revenge, but how is that going to help you? That's not coping – that's smacking on the problem until you can't smack it any more."
Goliath looked about to shout something back to that but instead his wings sunk, eyes narrowing with hardening resolve. "This was a mistake. I shouldn't have come back."
Seized by the renewed fear that he would leave, mingling in with her grief for him and her anger at the creators of the monster that had done it, Eliza's mouth engaged in heat before her brain had an input. "So it's running away or beating it up?" She regretted the words immediately when he flinched as if stung. Braced, she felt even worse when he simply turned and left with no reply.
Closing her eyes and running her hands across her face, Eliza let out a sharp exhale. She knew better than to follow him and try to talk when he was like this, but she couldn't think of what else to do. No doubt within the next few seconds he would have taken to the air, and minutes from now would be long away from here.
"I think we should talk about this, lass," Hudson's voice rumbled from the doorway.
Eliza looked up and made no attempt to hide her surprise. To the question he knew was coming, Hudson waved a hand. "I heard shouting and as the other two flew off already, Brooklyn saw fit to tell me what's been going on. I know you two were going to keep it to yourselves for his sake, but I've known Goliath since he was a hatchling. I might be able to help, and right now the lad needs all the help he can get."
"Thanks, Hudson," she assured, smiling with a measure of relief. "I'm glad you know. You might be able to help me figure out what we can do that won't just make him leave for good."
The elder gargoyle released a rough sigh, resolving himself as he sat back in his chair. His hands held the edges of the arm chair. "Have you had any experience with this like before?"
Eliza took the seat opposite him and shook her head. "Not personally, no. Just case reports I've read and collected evidence for. I spoke to a rape victim once." She wrung her hands between her knees. "Have you? Spoken to someone who's been attacked?"
He shifted a little, the talons on his feet curling. "Aye. One disadvantage of getting old is that you see a great deal more ugliness than you'd like."
"So, hopefully," Eliza began, "between us we can -"
The gargoyle held up a hand as he cut her off. "It's not just what happened in itself that he's dealing with. It's his role as the clan leader, too."
A rough sigh and Eliza thrust herself back in the chair, exasperated. For a second there she'd been hopeful. "What is the big deal with this clan leader thing? Why does everything have to be so wrapped up with it? He's hurting, but instead of just taking a break he wants to bolt."
A bemused half smile and Hudson sat forward, leaning on an elbow. "Well lass, it wouldn't be such a 'big deal' if Goliath weren't the only clan leader left. That's made the role even more important to him than it was before we were betrayed, and his charges killed save for a few." This was the first time he vocalised concerns as before they hadn't needed saying. Goliath was in the position where he had to be strong and prepared to shelf his own feelings for the good of the clan. After such an attack, however, that seemed beyond the call of leadership. "Protecting what's left of the clan, protecting our home, is all he can see more days than not. An' he has to, most days."
Eliza leant onto her thighs and ran her hands through her hair, until ultimately she was holding her head in her hands. To the stone floor came the protest, "but sometimes he's got to let himself be taken care of."
Hudson was silent a moment, pondering how best to explain. "There are a lot of qualities that make for a good clan leader, including vigilance and strength. Now Goliath already felt like he'd failed in his vigilance, at not being there when the clan needed him -"
Eliza's hands balled into fists as she started. "But that wasn't his fault -"
"Aye, I know that," Hudson interjected with a raised hand. "I was there. But getting that through his skull is another matter."
The detective bit her lower lip, calming her temper out of her voice. "And the other one was strength, you said?"
The aged gargoyle nodded. "He's already been questioning his vigilance, and after being beaten so savagely in combat… That might just make what he sees as two weaknesses too many." A tap at his temple. "In his mind, if he can't protect himself from these beasts, how can he protect the clan? And that isn't cowardice. He'd die for any one of us. In a way he already has."
A frown. "What do you mean?"
"He wasn't put into the stone sleep by the magus when the rest of us were. When he found us, he asked the magus to cast the spell on him as well."
Eliza's mouth opened to speak, fell closed again, then finally she simply admitted, "I didn't know."
Hudson gave a thin smile, unsurprised. "It's not something he would speak about."
The detective shook her head, throwing this new information in with the mix so far. This whole thing really was more loaded than she'd thought. But then, since the gargoyles had turned up nothing had been simple. "And it's the clan all over again," she said aloud, resolving the point in her mind that this wasn't simply about addressing a personal attack on Goliath, but an attack that ended in the horrific defeat of the clan leader. "The greater good of the clan over the individual."
A hard line of a smile. "Aye, now you're starting to think like a gargoyle."
Eliza was silent for a long moment, considering. "So now what?"
Hudson ran a thoughtful hand through his beard. "I say you let him go with you."
The detective arched a sculpted brow. "You think him confronting one of those things again is the best way to help him get past what happened?"
A nod and low rumble of agreement. "I don't think it'll get rid of his inner demons, but it might put a muzzle on them."
Goliath knew that Brooklyn was flanking him with greater stoic intent than Broadway but refused to acknowledge or think on it for long. Twisting his body in the air as the closed in on the designated meeting point in the docks. Arcing down before extending their wings fully to land on their feet, all three gargoyles put their backs into a triangle as they surveyed the alley. Right on time, they saw Eliza and a taller woman in the outline of long coats approaching them.
Standing before them with her hands in her pockets, Eliza smiled as much as she could given the circumstances. This was not the first time seeing the lavender gargoyle had been a relief. "Goliath, this is detective Kara Brooks. Kara, this is Goliath, Brooklyn and Broadway."
Kara smiled at the smaller gargoyles' names. "You guys must really love this city."
"All the more reason to protect it," Goliath quickly bit back, a growled undertone causing the blonde woman to straighten further.
Broadway shifted uneasily. "Uh, yeah. Nice to meet you."
"Let's be off," Goliath instructed flatly, turning to the left wall and leaping to begin a quick climbed ascent. Brooklyn immediately followed, though Broadway offered a shrug to both women to begin climbing.
Kara didn't speak until they'd both come out of the alley, now walking alongside the river towards the dock warehouses where their strongest suspicions lay.
Finally she gave a short laugh. "So I guess some of the crap that makes page eight is right."
Eliza smiled, tucking her chin into her collar as her gaze swept back and forth. "They try to keep a low profile, but..."
"They're big with huge wings? Yeah I get that." Kara looked up to the rooftops that ran parallel to their path. "It's so weird. I can't even tell they're up there."
"Don't worry, they are," Eliza assured with a thin smile. "They' watching over us."
They walked for an hour, flitting torchlight through windows and across the contents of industrial bins that could potentially hold something sinister. Feet aching and her nose and cheeks burning from the cold, Eliza was the picture of frustration. "This is turning into a wild goose chase." She stopped and looked back when she realised Kara was no longer at her side.
Kara was looking out to the river. "What if this secret lab that someone wouldn't want anyone just to stumble upon is somewhere not easily accessible?" She pointed. "Like that barge."
Looking now, Eliza could see the dark shape anchored some way out. It was unobtrusive, low and showing no signs of activity. Arguably suspicious.
She turned on her heel to look up to where she presumed Goliath was, gesturing to the boat. Two winged shapes took to the air leading away from them, climbing to gain velocity in their descent.
"Hold your arms up," Eliza instructed.
Kara did as she was bid before asking, "Why?" The detective stifled a scream when Brooklyn swept low and pulled her into him by the waist as he passed, carrying her up over the water.
In Goliath's arms, Eliza pulled back her hair as it whipped across her face. "How're you doing, Big Guy?"
"I'm looking forward to this," he replied in a low measured tone. That was the truth, and he hadn't felt like this in a very long time.
Eliza hesitated, wanting to rebuke the alien predatory sense about him that was sliding firmly into place. Before she could respond, they were on the barge and Brooklyn and Kara were too close to risk anything that could become sorely personal.
"You ready?" Kara whispered in a subtle effort to bring Eliza's focus off Goliath.
She gave a curt nod, sliding the torch into one of the coat's deep pockets.
Wordlessly the separated across the barge, treading lightly across the thick waterproof tarp that covered the roof as they searched for an entry point. There was a set of wide metal doors at one end, facing the bank. Eliza spotted the outline of a grey truck with a heavy duty tail lift parked against the opposite warehouse.
Brooklyn ran his talons about the edges of the door. "No way is Goliath fitting through there. Going with stealth, you two could go in to take a look around and I'll -"
He was cut off by the squeal of metal as Goliath stepped past him and wrenched the doors open, splitting the frame to make the entrance larger before slipping inside.
"Goliath," Eliza hissed too late, "We're only looking." Nothing came back.
"Stealth it is," Brooklyn mumbled to himself, letting the exasperated detectives go in before putting a foot through. He paused when he heard and felt Broadway land behind him. "You wait out here for a minute. Keep an eye on that truck. If it goes, follow it."
"You guys gonna be okay in there?" the softly dispositioned gargoyle asked, wings held up stiffly.
"Yeah. We'll be fine." He looked into the corridor at the bottom of the steps. Goliath had gotten a big head start on them. Odds were he was going to find the culprits first, and then it would be to hell with the detective's investigation. "It's them I'm worried about."
Her guess had been right as this barge was clearly a floating lab, and a well funded one at that. Not being caught had fallen in Kara's list of priorities so that catching up with the largest gargoyle took the head. Despite his size Goliath could certainly move, and when she heard shouting start it was a way ahead. Eliza seemed to find a new burst of speed as she tore off ahead, coat flying and gun pulled. Brooklyn was hot on her heels.
Coming into the room so fast that her boots slid on the smoothly tiled floor, Kara found less destruction that she had anticipated. Glass and the remains of several sampling kits littered the chairs and consoles, and two men were led motionless against each other with mirrored purpling bruises on their temples and jaws. Goliath was nowhere to be seen.
Eliza knelt with gun still raised by the two lab technicians, feeling for pulses. Finding them, she rose with a curt nod to Kara and made for the next wrenched-open doorway. She couldn't help feeling that they'd gotten off easy.
In mid-step halfway across the room, Kara feathered out a stack of print-outs and papers on one of the desks. "Maza," she alerted quietly, giving pause to both the detective and the crimson gargoyle at her side. She scanned over a few paragraphs before holding up a few of the pages. "Warrant or not, we need this. Whoever made these things was looking to sell them."
"What?" Eliza hissed with a frown, understanding beyond here. "Why make something that can barely be controlled and try to sell it?"
Kara shook her head as she regarded the documents again, noting the names of certain familiar names and organizations. "What better thing to dump in the middle of an enemy encampment? They're fast, strong, incredibly violent and don't know what fear is. I can think of a few shady arms dealers who'd want a few of these to hold over people as a threat."
"This can wait," Brooklyn snapped, looking between Kara and the corridor beyond Eliza that led through to a corner that had once been sealed. From the television he knew how important evidence was in bringing anyone to justice – simply catching them wasn't enough. "Alright," he snapped, anxious not to linger here too long. "Eliza, you and Kara stay here and get together everything you need. I'll go find Goliath. I don't think it'll be very hard," he added as an afterthought as he broke into a sprint down the corridor.
Eliza hesitated for all of a second. Stay here? "I don't think so."
He'd found them. Pacing in thick plastic cells lining the room on both sides, harshly lit and bare, six of the wolfish monsters growled and snapped their jaws. Eyes blazing and wings flared, Goliath answered them in kind. Their keepers had fled this section and he was alone with them.
Logic and reasoning were sacrificed to the blood heat of the fight this close to the enemy, and for Goliath the red mist had him more savagely than ever before. The only problem presenting itself was where to start. The creature with the darkest pelt of the six lunged at the plastic wall, leaving behind wet paw prints and presenting itself as first. With a roar that opened his throat into a near-scream, Goliath lunged and plunged both hands into the steel either side of the plastic, tearing back the frame. Keen to meet the gargoyle, the creature leapt at the failing wall and helped to finish the job. The others barked and snapped, testing their own cages.
There was no circling, no assessing of strength or size, simply a charge for flesh and blood. He'd never fought like this before. There was no honor in it, no kind of dignity. It was savage and harked back to a time before the gargoyles spoke and wore cloth. Talons deep in the heat of the creature's belly, Goliath was barely aware of it seizing his upper arms in its jaws, snapping and pulling for purchase.
Relying on its skin and muscle resisting tearing, Goliath, twisted his body and dropped down to pull the animal over his shoulders and down on its back, making it release his arm in a wet spray. He went to punch its throat and collapse its trachea but it flipped at the last second and ran low at him again, snapping now at his legs and tail.
Tangled in its body and with one leg bleeding from a long tear Goliath fell, the creature wasting no time in lunging for his throat. He caught its lower jaw in one hand, talons trembling as he strained against its strength. Its body was hot, heavy and fairly rippled with strength and adrenaline. It snapped its teeth and twisted its head. Talons bleeding now but refusing to let go of their crucial hold, Goliath brought up his injured arm and locked the angular head in his elbow. Pushing the jaw and pulling with his other hand, he gritted his teeth against its claws as he tried to snap its neck.
Another battle cry and a further weight atop him made him shout in pained protest, his sides screaming with hot pain as the animal's claws dragged down. Precariously perched on the enormous creature's back, Brooklyn matched Goliath's hands and pushed. Finally the muscles and bone gave, and with an audible wet snap the creature collapsed.
Sliding down, Brooklyn put his shoulder into the body's side and pushed as Goliath lifted it away. Over the sounds of howls and snarls, he reached out to take the larger gargoyle's wrist and help him to his feet. "That thing did a number on you," he remarked with a glance.
Goliath wasn't aware let alone concerned with the wounds, muscles tight as he regarded the rest of the animals. "I'm not done yet," he growled, slamming his fists into the sides of the next cell. The creature inside began to slam into the plastic with renewed fury. "Get out of here, Brooklyn."
Brooklyn was quick to pull him back. "No Goliath, this is going too far."
"He's right," Eliza called from the doorway, jogging forwards and lowering her gun now that the creature was certainly dead. She had come in at the tail end of the fight and knew better than to wade in on an already deadly situation. With a look across the remaining creatures still penned back, two of them significantly larger than the body on the floor, Eliza shouted over the cacophony. "We're getting out of here right now. Kara's got everything we need."
A growl of protest. "You don't understand-"
"I do!" she bit back, grabbing his wrist for emphasis. "You've had your blood for blood, and it's done. I'm not going to stand here and watch you get yourself killed."
"I am not leaving until these monsters are dead," Goliath rumbled with a decided certainty, shoving Brooklyn away with the hand that he'd pulled from Eliza's grasp.
Eliza holstered her gun, rendering herself significantly defenseless. "So you're willing to put our lives at stake now?" That made him pause. "Don't do this, Goliath," she urged as he stepped back. "Don't be like one of them."
There was a long pause before he finally nodded, looking to her with something like masked gratitude before regarding Brooklyn. "Where is the other detective?"
"Back with Broadway," Eliza replied curtly, noticing the widening gap in the cage that the creature's repeated lunges were making.
Goliath saw it too. "Let's get out of here."
Halfway back to where they had gotten into the body of the barge, they heard the victorious roar of the creature finally freeing itself and beginning to bear down on them. Brooklyn fell to all fours for speed whilst Goliath pulled Eliza into his arms, pitching his body forwards as well. The gutted entrance was in sight, but an emerging scientist from one of the labs broke their run and they ended up in a tangled heap in the corridor.
Brooklyn clutched his head as he slid out from beneath the dazed man, checking to see that Goliath and Eliza were finding their feet. The roar came again, much closer now, which helped in putting aside all notions of pain and discomfort for the sake of speed.
From the floor, the scientist's eyes widened and he scrambled to his feet. Disregarding the gargoyles he looked to Eliza, taking a step back into the room he'd come from. "Get out now!"
The trio didn't need the instruction to run again. Brooklyn reached the torn metal first, using the ledge as a springboard to throw himself into the air. So low to the water he glided close to the waves, a glance over his shoulder confirmed that Goliath was doing the same with Eliza in his arms. Because he was looking back, he had the forewarning of the first, small explosion before the barge fully went off.
The blast propelled them forwards, skimming the water clumsily before both gargoyles twisted their bodies to ride the current of wind upwards. They landed on the rooftop above the abandoned truck with Broadway and Kara, moving closer to the ledge as they watched the barge obscure itself in smoke and the orange glow of fire. Within a minute it had tipped and begun to sink into the water. They could see no survivors.
"Guess that's how you plan for things like that escaping," Eliza murmured under her breath, glancing up to Goliath when she sensed him stepping close to her. Shivering in the soaked coat, she pulled her arms tight about herself and smiled when she felt his wings close on her from behind. His skin was still hot from the fight, taking the edge off the bitter cold.
"Do you think they're all gone?" Broadway asked with a note of trepidation as he eyed the wounds on Goliath that he could see.
"I can't see how anything would have survived that explosion," Brooklyn offered solemnly, finding that he felt unsettling little sympathy for the humans that had been on the barge.
"All but one of the cages were full," Eliza advised. "That covers the one I shot."
Kara stepped away to look down at the truck at the side of the building. It still appeared unattended and empty. "I think they're all gone, but we'll keep our eyes open to be sure."
"As will we," Goliath murmured, bringing his hands up to hold Eliza's arms within the confines of his wings. She reached up and took one of his talons in her hand, disregarding the blood from the cuts.
Broadway hesitated a moment. "Can we go home now?"
Ears flicking at the sound of nearing sirens, Brooklyn leapt up onto the edge of the roof. "Probably a good idea. Backup's on its way. Do you want me to take you down before we go, Kara?"
The detective nodded, stepping up to wrap her arms around the gargoyle's neck as flared his wings to parachute down. Just before he jumped, Kara looked to Goliath. "Thank you for your help."
Goliath waited until they were alone again before looking down upon the top of the detective's head. "May I take you home, Eliza?"
Eliza twisted within his wings, craning her neck to look up at him. "Thanks Big Guy, but I should stay here and help Kara deal with the fallout."
He nodded and released his wings from around her, thought paused before he went to take her down to the ground. "Thank you."
She frowned. That had been the last thing she'd expected after essentially stopping him from taking out his, almost justified, revenge. "What for?"
The corner of his mouth twitched in a bitter half-smile. "For stopping me. Pulling me back."
Eliza allowed herself the relieved smile, running a hand down his arm. "You're welcome. How do you feel now?"
A rumbled sigh as he considered that, assessing his own feelings. Now that the bloodlust was gone and he'd had a few moments to absorb what had happened. "Better. Not good, but better."
"Good enough to stick around?" The light tone of it didn't disguise how emotionally loaded the question was, how much she was hoping. "Lead the clan?"
He looked away at that, watching the approaching red and blue lights of police cars and fire engines. "Now that these things have been destroyed, I am more… at ease with the idea."
She reached up a hand to touch his cheek, drawing his gaze back to her through the contact alone. "Getting beaten once doesn't make you a bad leader, Goliath. The fact that you would put yourself in harms way so no one else would have to says a lot."
The sense of nobility that she was suggesting didn't sit well right then, and Goliath took a step towards the edge of the roof in preparation to take her down. He replied without looking. "That was revenge, Eliza."
Joining him on the ledge, Eliza took his hand and squeezed. "Just revenge would have been killing those scientists and not just knocking them out. Just revenge would have been staying on that barge fighting until one of the lab guys blew it up."
The water was dark and still now, the waves picked out in coloured arcs from the lights of the emergency service vehicles. "But they are dead."
Eliza shook her head, wet air flicking out in thick ribbons. "Not because you didn't save them, and not because you killed them." Looking out to the water, she gestured to where the burning barge had been with coolness in her tone. "They got what was coming to them, and those monsters."
"Perhaps," he conceded, bringing his hands beneath her to lift her before stepping off the ledge, wide wings slowing them easily. Brooklyn and Broadway were gone, and Kara was a silhouette against multiple headlights. "Thank you again, Eliza. Will you come up to the tower when you're done here?"
She slid off the dripping coat, folding it heavily over her arm. "Wouldn't miss it for the world, Big Guy."
Apologies for the arguably abrupt ending, but this came as the natural finishing point and everything written beyond here felt very labored.
I sincerely hoped you enjoyed reading this. All feedback is, of course, greatly appreciated.