Right Here Waiting
It was a warm evening in Ishimura, even as the last rays of the sun disappeared on the horizon. As was typical of every sunset, the stone gargoyles, which seemed harmless enough in the light of day, began to stretch on their perches. Shards of stone fellow onto the streets below them and the creatures, eyes glowing red and white, greeted the night with their bellowing.
Yama stretched his wings out and looked around at his Clan-mates. The courtyard's roof was filled with gargoyles but all were male. White eyes returned his own glowing gaze as he took in the sight of his fellow males. They were as eager as he was for the night to begin. Tails twitched, talons dug furrows into the roof tiles, wings shifted constantly. Yama felt a wing tip brush against him and he turned with a furious hiss, meeting the sharp talons of his rookery brother with his own. Pushing forward, Yama felt his brother match his strength. They held their postures for a moment, their growls rumbling in their throats, and then relaxed, turning away from each other without so much as an apology. By the next sunset, there would be no quarrel between them. It was this night that drove them to their wit's end: the night of the mating flight.
A shadow drifted overhead and Yama watched his leader drift overhead to land on the gate of the courtyard and cape his wings. Jumping off the edge of the roof he had roosted upon, Yama easily managed the glide over to stand beside Kai. The older gargoyle looked at his companion, surprisingly calm. "First flight for your rookery, Yama. Excited?"
"No," he said, his eyes searching the roofs of the town.
"Nervous, then?" Kai laughed. "Not to worry. I'm certain the female you fancy will not turn you away this night. Especially not with the new title of Second in Command added to your name."
Before Yama could answer, the shriek of a gargoyle reached their ears from across the town. Kai's flashed as the last of the echo died away and he chuckled. With Yama at his side, they turned to the rest of the Clan's males. They were all crouched on the edge of their roosting roofs, ready to take flight at their Leader's word.
"My brothers! The females are ready and, as we all know, it is never considered wise to keep a female waiting!" The males all laughed and a few were nodding in agreement. "I will not hold you for long with my words. I simply wish to say, to those who fly for the first time, enjoy this night. Fly high, fly far. Females are fickle creatures, not easily swayed by fancy flying tricks. Even if the one you want does not immediately accept you, you must be patient. You must endure for her-"
"Just get on with it, Kai!" A blue skinned rookery brother of Kai shouted. "You're wasting moonlight!"
"Too right you are, my brother!" Kai said. Throwing open his wings to their full span, he leapt into the air. "Then let the night begin!"
The males of the Ishimura Clan jumped from their perches, following their Leader out into the town. As the newly-named Second of the Clan, Yama flew beside Kai. He did not look below him to the empty streets of the town, normally full of activity; nor did he give even a glance to the dark windows of the human homes. He didn't have to look to know that the town was emptied of its human inhabitants. This one night, every twenty years, the town belonged to the Ishimura Clan. Now, Yama's eyes were focused to the far side of Ishimura. His patience was rewarded by the sight of dark forms rising into the air from the roofs. It took only seconds for the approaching group to close the distance enough for Yama to make out details of the figures. With glowing red eyes, the females of the Ishimura Clan were on a head-on collision course with the males.
Barely a breath later, the two groups converged into one. The females shot past the males, laughing as their would-be mates frantically turned in the air to give chase. Suddenly, the scent of desire was all around Yama, nearly suffocating him. As was standard for any mating flight, it was the females who chose their mate and, therefore, led the chase.
Established pairs had no trouble finding each other. As Yama watched his Clanmates circle around him, Kai shot past him, hot on the tail of his mate. Seeing that her mate had finally spotted her, the female called to Kai as she lured him away from the central group of gargoyles.
However, his rookery siblings still had a choice to make and preferences were already being shown. A dark red sister was gaining altitude while two brothers trailed after her. Looking over her shoulder, she saw her pursuers and smiled. When she had raised high above the rest of the Clan, the female folded her wings and dove Earthward, to meet her suitors in midflight. As she passed between them, the young female grabbed the tail of her green-skinned brother, pulling him after her. He did not need any further encouragement. When she released his tail, he frantically pumped his wings as he followed the female towards the forest. The rejected brother hovered for a moment, watching the pair's flight but he was soon distracted by another female as she flew past him with a flirtatious wave. His eyes glowing with a renewed spark, he changed his course to track her.
Yama circled the group, watching his fellow Clanmates. Several of his sisters flew beside him, seeking his attention. One female flew beneath him, looking up as she waved her tail at him, happily displaying her body to his glowing and eager gaze. Even though instinct told him to take her right then and there, Yama ignored the displays of his sisters and, realizing no amount of posing would win his affections, they flew off in search of other males. As gargoyles made their choices and glided off for a little privacy, the white glow in his eyes faded. Though the scents of females still filled his head, the one female he wanted was not here.
So, with a slight adjustment of his wings, Yama fixed his path away from the gargoyles that still circled the center of the town, determined to find his missing female.
When the sun had set and she had woken with the rest of her clan, there was nothing for Sora to do except to watch the night she had been dreading for months now.
She, her rookery, and all other gargoyles not flying with a mate tonight had roosted on rooftops on the edge of the town. Even the distance from the town's center, where the males and females met for the mating flight, did not prevent Sora and the others from witnessing the flight. Her rookery siblings were already eagerly searching out spots where they could watch.
As she looked out miserably onto the town, a gold-skinned rookery sister gently nudged her. "We're going to find front row seats. Want to join us?"
"That's kind of you, Sakura, but I don't feel in the mood tonight."
Sakura gave Sora a look, one she used on the youngest hatchlings when she was practicing to be a rookery mother. Just as Sora was bracing herself for a lecture, the bellow of an elder female could be heard from the far side of town. Grinning from ear to ear, her sister turned away and called to some nearby rookerymates. The group left in a hurry, jumping across rooftops to get as close as possible. Some elders followed behind, wanting to make sure they didn't interrupt those in flight tonight.
Within moments of waking, Sora found herself alone on the roof, with her Clanmates dispersing to find ways to occupy their evening. Without even really meaning to, she looked to the sky that had been empty following sunset. Now it was filled with gargoyles, males and females, flying together, laughing as they sought out their mates.
She could remember watching the mating flight when she was just a hatchling; giggling as the pairs flew over head and never fully understanding purpose behind the flight. It was only a dozen years ago the mysteries of the mating flight had been revealed to Sora and her rookerysisters. For a full week, they blushed whenever a male so much as glanced at them. Their embarrassment only increased when speaking with the next oldest rookery, who were already dreaming of their first mating flight in a few years. She and her sisters had been surrounded by the older males, showing off in front of their own sisters.
Crushes on elder brothers were simply a part of growing up. All gargoyle females had an older rookery brother they looked up to. However, they were never more than that: simple crushes. By the time a female was approaching her first flight, she had grown out of her minor affections and had turned her attention to her own rookery brothers. Not so in Sora's case. She had known for seasons now that she loved Yama with all her heart and soul. She had known for a long time that he was the one she wanted to spend the rest of her nights at his side. She knew, without a doubt, that he was the male she wanted to catch her in her first mating flight.
But she had been too shy to approach Yama about her feelings. She had done what she could to be near him and that had been enough for Sora. When Yama had been appointed second in command just a few nights past she had never felt more proud of him. And now, on the night of his rookery's first mating, she would lose him to one of his sisters.
Below her perch, the howls of the gargoyle beasts drew her from her thoughts. Much like the gargoyles that flew this night, the female beasts were leading their mates on a long chase through the town. Beneath her was one of the youngest pairs, who Sora knew were running their second mating night together. The male was so close to his mate that that the female's tail tip was brushing his muzzle but, by the way he was panting, that beast was enjoying the chase far too much to catch his prize.
Though Sora watched with the beasts with a touch of envy, she also couldn't help but smile as they howled for the joy of their chase. With all her attention on the pair below her, she didn't even realize another gargoyle had joined her until he called her name.
Her first instinct at hearing his voice was to fly as far from him as possible. But her curiosity got the better of her and Sora turned to look at Yama. He was watching her, not saying anything more. And Sora couldn't think of anything to say either. For many long seconds, they could only stare at each other, no words passed between them.
The female beast gave a delight yip as her mate finally decided enough was enough. Glancing down at the street, the gargoyles could see that the male had taken a leap at the female beast, hoping to catch her. His forepaws were able to hold her but only for a second and then she slipped away, running even faster than before.
As their howls grew fainter, Sora looked back to Yama. He was grinning in the direction that the beasts had fled. His smile, though small, made her heart beat just the slightest bit faster. She couldn't stop the giggle that bubbled inside of her and passed her lips. She dropped her gaze to hide her giggles, but not before she saw him look back at her, though she wasn't able to see his grin widen at her laughter.
When her giggles subsided, Yama was quick to avoid silence again. "The gargoyle beasts seem to be enjoying themselves."
Though she was terrified to hear the answer, Sora forced herself to ask, "What are you doing here, Yama? I thought that, by now, you be flying miles away from here; flying with your… your mate. I find it hard to believe that no female of rookery sought you out."
"My sisters are much varied in number but there are none who I want to fly with this night." With gentle gray claws, Yama gripped her chin and raised her eyes to his. "I was hoping that… you might take a flight with me tonight."
"Yama!" She jerked herself out of his grasp, barely daring to hope. "You know we cannot!"
"Then what about tomorrow night?" He asked casually.
"Why?" Sora said, pleased that her voice sounded steady to her ears despite the shaking of her hands. "Why are you asking?"
"Oh, Sora, I thought you knew." Claws fell on her shoulders and Sora allowed Yama to turn her towards him. On his knees before her, Yama released his hands from her shoulders, instead taking her claws in his. "I've been waiting for you, Sora. For years, I have waited. Even though the elders told my brothers and I about this night, I have dreaded it because I knew I could not spend it with you." Bowing his head, Yama brushed his brow ridges against her claws. The gesture caught Sora by surprised and she suddenly found herself unable to stop staring at the male before her.
"But, I don't mind waiting. I'm a patient gargoyle. Two nights from now, two years, twenty years. Whatever you choose," Yama said as he looked up at her. "If you'll have me… as your mate, I will wait for you."
"But… you know that the elders will not-"
"Ask me if I care." His tone was serious but she could see the playfulness in his eyes. That look, directed at her, was enough to make Sora feel as shaky as a hatchling on its first flight.
"Do you care?" She whispered.
"No," was his answer.
Sora burst into giggles for the second time that night and was reassured when she heard Yama's own deep laugh answer her. When their laughter ended in a sigh, Yama stood and pulled Sora to her feet. Facing each other, still holding hands, Yama said, "What's your answer, Sora? A-Although, if you need time to think-"
Rather than speak her answer, Sora stepped up to Yama and slid her arms around his waist. With her head pressed against his chest, she could hear his pounding heart beat. She also felt his rumbling sigh as he returned her embrace. "Oh Sora… My Sora!"
Sora looked up at Yama with a grin on her face. "If your patience can hold…"
Yama interrupted her with his claws running gently through her hair. "You, Sora, are well worth the wait."
His words from years ago filled her mind as they parted on the night of Yama's banishment. Watching him prepare for his exile from Ishimura was one of the hardest things she had ever done, only barely rivaling the dread she had felt the eve those words had been spoken to her.
Wrapping her wings around her did little to get rid of the chill that settled on her as Yama climbed a tree for his flight. With wings extended, he leapt from a branch. However, rather than leaving directly, Yama flew a long lap over her head. Their eyes met and she offered him a smile. He returned the gesture with a nod and their unspoken apology was enough. Now Yama adjusted his flight path and was gone from Ishimura with a few wing beats.
As Yama began his exile, Sora made a promise to him and to herself. "As you waited for me, my beloved Yama, so I will return the favor, no matter how long it will take."
Ah, finally done! I've been working on this for far too long. I kept tweaking it and poking at it. But no more! I'm pleased with how it came out. I've been wanting a chance at Yama and Sora for a while now. I hope I have done them justice.
All thoughts and comments are welcome on this story. Thanks so much for taking the time to read it!