Lead Me Not ...
Christine Morgan
christine@sabledrake.com / http://www.christine-morgan.org


Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles belong to Disney and are
used here without their knowledge or permission. This story (which was
going to be titled "Dark Side" until I changed my mind) contains some
adult scenes and is for mature readers only.

Acknowledgements: Nikki Taylor is the creation of Leva and although
she doesn't actually _appear_ herein, she is probably by now in the
running for Most Borrowed Fanfic Character. And credit goes to Christi
Hayden for coming up with the wonderful character of Chas Yale, also
mentioned herein! Thank you, ladies, I named an observatory after you!

#28 in an ongoing saga



"This really is quite a setup," Birdie Yale said, slinging her
badminton racket over one shoulder as she reached for a lemonade.
"Who's your gardener, Mary Poppins?"
"Manners, manners," Puck chided. "Don't distract my student."
Alexander Xanatos, the student in question, did not appear to
be distracted. His attention was focused on the hibachi in front of him.
Specifically, on the pile of unlit coals.
"I thought they only barbequed turkey in California," Birdie
remarked. "Fergs?"
"Not my family," Aiden Ferguson replied, bracing her own
racket against the table and refilling her glass. "But some of the
neighbors did."
"Even on Thanksgiving?"
"Even then."
"We're not barbequing the turkey and would you please hush
up?" Puck floated over to them, legs folded tailor-fashion. "Some
people have school today."
"Only because some teachers never let up," Birdie said. "But
you're not an American, so what would you care about Thanksgiving?"
"The gargoyles aren't Americans either, but they care," Aiden
said. "Broadway's been cooking all week!"
Alex went on ignoring them all. His sea-blue eyes narrowed,
his little brow furrowed, and a wisp of smoke curled up from the
hibachi. Within seconds, flames were licking merrily at the coals. "I did
it!" he piped. In glee, he bobbed off the grass and spun in a somersault.
"Good lad!" Puck cheered.
"Oh," Alex said, suddenly somber, looking at Birdie with a
soulful expression. "Aiden and me did the garden. Don't you like it?"
"Never said that, kiddo!" Birdie ruffled his firegold hair. "It's
great! I especially love the Willie Wonka part."
"That's the chocolate room," Alex explained proudly.
"Everything's eatable."
"Edible," Aiden corrected.
"You can eat almost anything," Puck finished.
"And that's Pooh's Thoughtful Spot," Alex pointed.
"I recognized it right away," Birdie told him.
"Isn't it nice?" Aiden sighed happily. "Outside, it's grey and
blah, but in here, it's always springtime!"
"A simple thing, really," Puck said modestly. "Mr. Xanatos
does prefer to keep the pool area temperate. But now, my boy, back to
your lesson. Can you shape the fire?"
"Into what?" Alex asked.
"Whatever you like."
He concentrated, and one flame rose up, grew wings, and
became the image of a tiny dragon.
"Damn, I wish I could do that," Birdie said. "Well, at the very
least, Fergs, I can trash you at badminton."
"That's what you keep saying," Aiden said as they headed back
to the grassy court. "But how come they're always just practice shots?"
"Okay, okay. This game's for real. Just don't get pissed when I
win, and then never invite me back."
"You invited yourself anyway," Puck pointed out.
"Mr. Xanatos said you were welcome," Aiden hastily assured
her friend. "Your folks didn't mind?"
"Nah. They're happier this way. Holidays *chez* Yale really
suck. My grandfather thinks I'm hellbound, and you know about Aunt
Margot. All anyone would do is talk about what happened to Scarlet
Angel, and I really don't want to spend Thanksgiving dinner crying into
my sweet potatoes while they dish up a plateful of I-told-you-so."
"Elisa said Matt would be back from California today. Maybe
he's found out something," Aiden said hopefully. "I know it wasn't
Ebon. It couldn't have been."
"Let's _not_ talk about it, 'kay? Otherwise I'll wind up crying
again."
"Okay. My serve?"
"Sure, I'll give you one." Birdie's laugh turned into a sputter as
she missed her return shot by a mile. Picking up the feathered
projectile, she held it in front of her and scolded it firmly. "Listen, you.
I'm a Birdie and you're a birdie, so could you cooperate a little?"
With that, she tossed it high and walloped it. It sailed over
Aiden's head, rebounded off a column by the pool, and caromed into the
Hundred Acre Wood. Where it struck a beehive, which loosed a
seething black torrent.
The bees swarmed up, hovered for a moment, then arrowed
down at the two girls. Aiden shrieked and ducked under the net, nearly
colliding with Birdie, who was holding her racket like a weapon.
"No, run!" Aiden pulled her.
Puck turned idly to watch as they flashed past with the bees in
hot pursuit.
"Split up!" Birdie yelled, taking her own advice and veering
right. The bees divided precisely to follow each of them.
"The pool!" Aiden took _her_ own advice and made for it,
with Birdie on her heels. They jumped in feet first. The bees zipped by
just above the surface of the water, buzzed about in consternation, then
returned to the tree.
"It worked," Aiden gasped, paddling over to join Birdie, who
was pawing her burgundy-streaked curls out of her eyes.
"What bees these mortals fool," Puck chortled.
Birdie shot him a look as she hauled herself out. "You staged
that on purpose, all so you could say that, didn't you, smarty-britches?"
"Respect your elders, Roberta Louise."
"Start acting like one, and I might, Pucky-Wucky," she
retorted.
"Where ever did you get that mouth?" he wondered.
Aiden wrung out her hair, smiling at their banter, wishing she
could join in so easily. In her mind, Puck was still Owen, and both of
them were authority figures. After almost two years, she still felt
awkward around him, not to mention the Xanatoses.
"Came with the package," Birdie said. "Seriously, though,
growing up in the shadow of my valedictorian prep-school golden boy-
big brother was what did it. I couldn't compete with Chas, so I was like,
starved for attention, you know?" She playfully tweaked Puck's ear.
He shot six feet straight up and turned bright pink. "Don't _do_
that!"
"Hey, so it _is_ true!" Birdie laughed. "I just read this bitchin'
new fantasy novel where the elves' ears were a major turn-on spot."
"Lex has something like that," Aiden said, running her thumbs
down her sides along the ribcage. "Right here where his wings --" she
suddenly heard what she was saying and shut up in a hurry. Too late,
because both Birdie and Puck were looking at her with grins and glints
in their eyes.
"Hey, Lex, Broadway," Brooklyn called from on high. "Did
we miss the annual Castle Wyvern wet tee-shirt contest?"
Winged shapes, not bees this time but gargoyles, swooped
down from the gallery.
"Gee, I hope not," Broadway said as he landed and surveyed
Birdie.
Aiden gasped and crossed her arms over her ungenerous
bosom, but Birdie looked down at the cloth plastered to her abundant
curves. Then she smirked, said, "Well, now that you guys had an eyeful,
when's the wet loincloth contest?" and pushed Brooklyn in the pool.
"Hey, you can't do that to my rookery brother," Broadway
protested, charging Birdie with a mock roar. She tackled him and they
both went in just as Brooklyn was coming up, and all three of them sank
straight to the bottom with a chorus of gurgled yelps.
Lex fell over laughing in the grass.
Aiden eyed him. "You think you're getting out of this, mister?"
"_You_ can't throw me in," Lex said.
"True." Aiden swept a hand through the air, spoke a word in
Latin, and an arc of water leaped from the pool to drench him where he
sat. It also thoroughly splashed --
"Goliath!" Aiden staggered back, mortified.
Goliath's arm shot out and caught her just before she tumbled
backward into the pool. "No harm done, Aiden," he said, shaking water
from his sable mane.
Angela, landing well out of the combat zone, giggled merrily.
"Whatever happened here, I'm glad I missed it!"
Puck's eyebrow went up, and a raincloud formed directly over
the lavender she-garg, soaking her to the skin.
Brooklyn had managed to pull himself to dry land and lay
there like a drowned rat. He could barely muster the energy to leer at
Angela as her garment immediately molded itself to her flesh.
"Truce?" Broadway begged, shaking water from his ears.
"Okay." Birdie quit ducking him and they joined Brooklyn at
poolside.
"Someone still looks pretty dry," Lexington said, looking at
Puck.
"I wouldn't," Aiden cautioned.
Lex heeded not her warnings, but dove for the garden hose. He
aimed the nozzle at Puck and triggered it. The hose instantly turned into
a huge green snake and coiled around him.
"Ag!" Lex cried. He wrestled the snake around so that he had
it by the neck, its open mouth inches from his head. And then, of
course, it turned back into the hose and he sprayed himself full in the
face.
Puck transformed himself into Owen's rigid guise and gave
them all one of his famous scathing looks. "Are you all quite finished?"
he asked.
"Bronx, nay!" they heard Hudson bellow from the gallery, and
everyone looked up just as Bronx, eager to join the fun, cannonballed
himself from the rail. A tremendous gout of water went up, came down,
and when the tidal wave was over, even Owen was dripping.
"Look out below," Hudson called belatedly, after having a
hearty laugh at their expense.
Alex, untouched by any of it, gave them all a look that
suggested _he_, at all of his three years of age, was the only mature
person in the room.
David Xanatos chose that moment to come in, with Elisa and
Matt Bluestone in tow. "I thought I heard a --" he stopped short.
"Owen?"
"Yes, sir?" as if he wasn't standing in puddles.
"What's going on?"
"Alexander was just about to demonstrate one of his new
abilities," Owen said smoothly, and motioned to the boy.
Alex nodded. "Zephyr come and zephyr go, let the West Wind
blow, blow, blow." He pursed his little lips and blew, and a warm
current of air flowed over them, drying up all the excess water. Of
course, this left all of them except Lex, Broadway, and Bronx with
crackling haloes of static-electric hair, but it was better than before.
Elisa came down to join her husband. "Sorry I'm late. Had to
pick Matt up at the airport."
"Hi, everyone," Matt said, looking tan and healthy from his
trip to Southern California, but his eyes were still troubled by the
business that had taken him there. "I wanted to come by and -- what is
_that?_"
"That," Xanatos declared with a sour look at Aiden, "is a
truffula tree, because truffula trees are what everyone needs."
"It was my favorite story when I was little!" Aiden cried
apologetically. "I thought he'd like the video!"
"Yeah," Lex rallied to her defense. "How could she know
you'd side with the greedy industrialist?"
"I speak for the trees!" Alex announced. "Let 'em grow, let 'em
grow!"
"Right." Xanatos winked at Aiden to show her he was teasing.
"Matt, will you be joining us for dinner?"
"Can't, sorry. Mom's expecting me and Edie at eight. But I
wanted to fill you in on the Scarlet Angel stuff." He opened his
briefcase. "I know what you've all been thinking, but near as I can
figure, it wasn't Demona. These are photos of the roof of the car that
went into the ravine with Johnny Harlowe in it. Claw marks here, and
here. Look at the width. This one's an actual-size blowup."
Angela laid her hand on the photo. "My mother's hands are the
same size as mine. These couldn't have been made by her!"
Goliath settled his massive mitt over them. The match was
nearly perfect, and Matt nodded.
"About what I thought. We're looking at a male garg, a big
one."
"It couldn't have been Ebon, it couldn't!" Aiden insisted. Lex,
Broadway, and Birdie all seconded her.
"If you've got another explanation, I'm listening," Matt said.
Goliath, Elisa, and Angela looked at one another. Angela
shook her head desperately. "No, Father, don't even think it!"
"We must admit it is a possibility," Goliath argued, as if the
very words pained him to say.
"What?" Matt asked. "What's up? Is there a garg unaccounted
for? One of the other clones?"
"Not a clone," Goliath said heavily. "One of Avalon's. My
son."
"My brother, my biological brother," Angela added, wringing
her hands.
"So that's what Demona was doing on Avalon!" Brooklyn said,
smacking a fist into his palm.
"Wait, wait, how do ye know this?" Hudson demanded.
"We met one of the Avalon clan on our honeymoon," Elisa
replied. "Elektra. Avalon sent her to us to ... well --" she cleared her
throat and self-consciously clasped the amber pendant around her neck
"-- that's not important right now."
"She had come seeking Jericho," Goliath said. "He'd left
Avalon with Demona."
Brooklyn turned to Angela. "That's why you've been gone so
much, on all those solo patrols!" He sounded almost relieved. "Looking
for your brother, right?"
"Yes. We thought that if the whole clan approached them, my
mother might fear an attack. But if just I went, alone, I might be able to
talk to them." Her shoulders drooped dispiritedly. "No luck. Her house
stands empty."
"She sold the house when Nightstone Unlimited went belly-
up," Xanatos said. "Trying to make up for some of the losses. She
couldn't let the authorities investigate her, risk them finding out about
her nocturnal activities."
"Oh, but I don't want to believe that Jericho would do
something like this!" Angela wailed. "Ruth always said he might give
Gabriel trouble someday, not content to be second-in-command, but
this! No! It is too much! He's no killer!"
"Elektra feared that he might become so, to please his mother."
Goliath growled. "That she would turn her own son to evil ..."
"Demona can be ... persuasive," Brooklyn said, turning deeper
crimson.
"Whoo," Matt exhaled. "I'd just about written off the whole
Demona angle. Wish I'd known about this. Not that it could have gone
into my official statement anyway. Bad enough I was called in as the
country's gargoyle expert! I wouldn't want to become the magic island
expert too!"
"There doesn't seem to be anything else we can do at this
point," Xanatos said.
"What about this Elektra?" Broadway asked. "Maybe she'll
find them!"
"And then Demona will have her claws in two of them!" Lex
pointed out.
"I do not like to think what Demona might to do Elektra,"
Goliath rumbled, looking worriedly at Elisa. "We should have stopped
her, should have brought her back with us."
"It wasn't up to us," Elisa said. "We, of all people, ought to
know better than to try and mess with Avalon's plans. But you're right.
If Demona realizes the truth ..."
"What are you talking about?" Angela asked. "What truth?
Why do you think my rookery sister would be in danger?"
"Yeah, wouldn't Demona just try and recruit her, too?" Lex put
in.
"Elektra is ... unique," Goliath admitted after a lengthy pause.
"In such a way that might inspire Demona's hatred."
"Because she was the Magus' pupil?" Angela frowned.
"No." Goliath glanced around at them, took a deep breath, then
dropped the bomb. "Because she is half human."
Everybody spoke at once.
"What?" blurted Lex.
"Whoa!" Broadway exclaimed.
"No way!" Brooklyn gaped.
"Elektra?" Angela gasped.
"Really," Xanatos murmured thoughtfully.
"Och, I'd clean forgotten about that," Hudson said when they
were all finished.
Goliath whirled on his mentor. "You'd what? You knew?
How?"
Hudson scratched his beard. "Well, 'twas confided to me by
the prince on his deathbed, but there be no harm in telling it now."
"The prince?!" Brooklyn reeled. "Prince Malcolm?"
"Aye, the very same. He'd feared how his people, his daughter,
and our clan might react, so he kept it secret until the very end, then
asked o' me that I look after the egg. I had me doubts that it would even
hatch. But now, ye're saying otherwise."
Goliath nodded. "I have seen her with my own eyes. The
prince recorded it in his journal, which the Magus found." He briefly
related the tale.
"I remember the white gargoyle!" Broadway said, with a rather
dreamy expression.
"You used to bring her flowers!" Lex accused. "You had a
total crush!"
"Hey!" He made as if to pound his smaller brother.
"And Avalon sent her to you two?" Xanatos grinned at the
newlyweds. "To prove something? That certain things were possible?"
Elisa blushed and Goliath averted his eyes from Xanatos'
knowing gaze.
"What are you --?" Angela turned to them with a startled look.
"Father! Elisa! How wonderful!" She crushed them both in a hug.
"Hey, wait!" Elisa protested.
"When can we expect the pitter-patter of little claws?" Xanatos
teased.
"Not yet, okay?" Elisa disentangled herself from Angela. "Just
because it might be possible doesn't mean it's actually going to happen!"
"We were discussing Elektra," Goliath reminded them, as
always a bit upset to have his personal life the main topic of
conversation.
"Hey, yeah," Brooklyn said. "Oh, man, the way Demona hates
humans, she'd go nutso if she met a crossbreed!"
"Sounds like she's already way past nutso," Birdie muttered.
Matt packed up his briefcase. "Fascinating as this is, I've got to
get going or Mom'll read me the riot act. See you Monday, partner.
Thanks for the ride." He winked. "Shall I have Edie save her maternity
clothes?"
"Knock it off, Matt," Elisa warned.
"Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Wish I could've brought
better news."
"Be well, Matt," Goliath said.
"But what are we going to do about Demona?" Lex asked
eagerly.
"At the moment, lad, there be nothing we can do. If Angela
canna find her, we'll have to wait for her to come to us."
"Now, there's a festive thought," Brooklyn grumbled.
"So here's where everyone is!" Fox Xanatos called over the
rail.
"Mommy!" Alex cried joyously.
"Don't jump!" half the gargoyles plus Owen chorused.
"Why would I? Hey, Broadway, something's buzzing in the
kitchen."
"Oh! The turkey's done! Did you turn it off?"
Fox laughed. "David, did you marry me for my cooking?"
"Are you kidding?" He nudged Goliath. "Can your wife
cook?"
"According to her great-aunt, I should be handling such
matters."
"Owen, can Cordelia?"
"I fail to see how that bears upon the situation, Mr. Xanatos,"
he said stiffly.
"Well, _I_ can cook," Broadway declared proudly, "and it's
almost time for dinner!"

* *

"Broadway really outdid himself," Elisa said as Goliath landed
outside her parents' window. "I don't think I'll eat for a week!"
"I've never enjoyed this holiday more, nor had so much to be
thankful for." He held her tighter, pressed a kiss to her brow. "If only
this other trouble --"
"I know." She shook her head sadly. "But Hudson's right.
There's nothing we can do."
"I've failed them. Ebon, Jericho, perhaps even Elektra."
"You can't blame yourself for everything Demona does."
He sighed, unconvinced. "I made her what she is."
"That's not true! She made herself, over a thousand years! If
you'd gone along with her after you woke up, you wouldn't have
changed her. You just would have wound up doing what she wanted."
"You speak true, my Elisa, yet I cannot help but feel
responsible."
A light came on inside, diffuse against the curtain.
"That'll be my dad." She grinned. "Just like when I was in high
school. I'd better go in."
"Are you sure you don't want to stay at the castle?"
"With the sofa bed all ready? Mom wants to hit the stores early
tomorrow. Biggest shopping day of the year. She wants me right where
she can wake me up."
"Tomorrow night, then." He kissed her deeply.
"Don't forget, I've got a date with Xanatos!"
"Yes, you and all the other ladies, he continually reminds me."
"Nikki would kill me if I didn't get him there. She wants the
press to have plenty of pictures of her 'friend' David Xanatos attending
the premiere of her new show."
"I wish I could go with you."
The curtain twitched a bit. Elisa laughed. "He'll be tapping on
the glass in a minute. And I thought things would change once I got
married! This is why I was in such a hurry to get my own place!"
"I'll see you tomorrow, then." He folded her in his arms and
wings for a final embrace. "My love."
"Good night." She opened the window. "Okay, Dad, okay! I'm
coming in!"
Goliath sprang from the ledge, into the brisk November night.
The city slumbered below, glutted on turkey and football. Confetti still
littered the streets from the big parade, which Broadway and Hudson
would by now be watching on tape. The only places bustling with
activity were the huge department stores, getting ready for Elisa and her
mother and the thousands of other eager holiday shoppers.
A winged shadow crossed the moon. A gargoyle, large, male.
Reaction was instant, without forethought, without fear of a
trick or a trap. Goliath caught an updraft, arrowing toward the shape
that was a mirror of his own. He tried to prepare himself for his first
confrontation with his son.
Rather than fleeing, the other came toward him. When the
moonlight revealed not the scarlet hair that Angela had described, but
instead glimmered on hair white as snow, Goliath nearly fell from the
sky in surprise.
"Ebon!" The edge of his wing clipped a protruding silver
falcon and he fluttered clumsily.
The black gargoyle caught his arm and steadied him. They
swung about and landed on the falcon, face to face. "Hello, Goliath."
"We thought you dead!"
Scarlet eyes met his with a tremendous weight of grief and
pain. "If only."
"It was Demona?" It was not so much a question as a statement
of surety.
He nodded. "I remember, Goliath. Everything. Thailog, Ebon
... both and neither. Call me Job, the sufferer. Call me Ahaz, cursed of
God! I am undone, all that I had and all that I loved is dead and gone.
Better, call me Azrael, bringer of death. I live only for one purpose, to
avenge."
"_You_ destroyed her corporation!" Goliath said. "With the
knowledge and memories given you by Xanatos!"
"Only the beginning. I mean to destroy _her_. She's immortal,
I cannot slay her, but I can harm her in ways no living being has ever
known!"
"Ebon," Goliath deliberately stressed that name, "do not let
your rage consume you."
"What would you do, _father_, if she'd killed your beloved
before your very eyes?"
Goliath sucked in a harsh breath. "Julianna?"
"In a heartbeat. As I was caged and helpless."
He closed his eyes, recalling how his heart cracked when he
stood on the ramparts of Castle Wyvern over the smashed remains of
what he had thought was his angel of the night, how he'd prayed for his
own swift death when Elisa vanished into the churning waters along
with the Hunter, how his very soul had been torn apart when he found
her crumpled outside Sevarius' lab with Talon's children cradled in her
dying grasp.
"You know how it feels!" Ebon said fiercely. "Don't try to tell
me it will solve nothing! It will not bring her back, but I will avenge
her! I came to you to warn you. Keep your clan out of it. Demona is
mine!"
"Was she alone?" Goliath asked in great dread, once again not
really a question.
Ebon gave him a long, appraising look. "You know?"
"Yes. How does he fit your plan for vengeance?"
"If he stands between me and Demona, I'll do what I must. I
will not slaughter him just to see the look on her face, though the part of
me that is Thailog cries out to make her suffer as I have suffered. But,
for you, for Angela, for the wrongs I once did your clan, I will spare his
life. And hope that you don't come to regret it."
"Thank you." He held out his hand.
Ebon stared at it. "You forgave me when I was only Ebon, for
he was innocent of Thailog's crimes. Now --"
"Even now, I would ask again that you join our clan. You'll
have a home with us."
"I stood over Julianna's grave and promised to avenge her.
That comes first." He clasped forearms with Goliath. "If, after, I am still
deserving of a place in your clan, we'll speak again."

* *

"Are they still watching movies?" Lex asked as Aiden came in.
"Yep."
"Xanatos and Fox went out?"
"Goliath and Elisa, too. We've practically got the place to
ourselves. Are you through mauling my computer?"
"And ready to start mauling you!" He sprang out of the chair,
swept her onto the bed, and started kissing her neck.
"Eek! Lex, that tickles!"
They wrestled playfully for a while, then his kisses started
getting more serious. His hands were soon all over her, at least,
everyplace that she'd let him.
"Don't tear my blouse this time," she murmured against his
mouth.
"Maybe you should just take it off!" He tugged it out of the
waistband of her skirt and went for the buttons.
Giggling, she squirmed away from him. "Okay, okay, just a
minute!" She slipped it off.
"You don't need this, either." He slid her bra strap down her
shoulder.
"That cold shower I gave you this afternoon by the pool didn't
cool you off much!" she observed, but she didn't argue as he undid the
front hook.
They fell back into each other's arms, his lean but muscular
chest warm against her. She loved to lay snuggled against him and
admire the contrast of their skin tones. She loved the feel of his hands
on her breasts, her legs. Of his wings draped over her bare skin. Of his
tail twining firmly around her.
Her skirt had ridden high in their petting, and he was pushing
it steadily higher as he tried to fondle her bottom. She let him, but when
he tried to slide his fingers under the elastic of her panties, she caught
his wrist and moved it away.
Lex exhaled with frustration against her ear and she knew what
he was thinking. He was wondering when it would finally be time.
They'd been seeing each other for a year and a half, their makeout
sessions getting steadily more heated. But she always chickened out.
He returned his questing fingers to territory that wasn't off-
limits, and she pressed herself gladly to him with a deep kiss.
She could feel the solid evidence of his turn-on, and as long as
it was safely ensconced within his loincloth, didn't mind at all. In fact, it
was flattering. She didn't even mind when he rolled onto his back,
pulling her with him so that one of her legs was trapped between his
and it made a not-uncomfortable bulge beneath her thigh.
Aiden rose up to look down on him, so used to his appearance
now that she found human guys kind of unattractive. Her silver heart
necklace swung and bapped him on the nose, and her beige-blond hair
fell in his face.
"Hey!" he laughed. "This works better!" With that, he flipped
so that she was pinned under him, and started kissing his way from her
lips down her throat to her breasts.
She only intended to let him do that for a few minutes, because
it always got him so excited, but it really felt good, so she didn't stop
him right away. His leg was now trapped between hers, exerting a
steady pressure on her most off-limits region.
She accidentally brushed the place where his wing attached to
his side, that place where he was particularly sensitive. It was his turn to
catch her wrist, but instead of moving her hand away, he urged it lower,
to his belt. He shifted, raising his body enough to give her room to
reach, to touch.
He wanted her to, she wanted to, but she really shouldn't ...
"Lex," she began, meaning to protest, then changed her mind and let
him put her hand where he so badly wanted it. It was only then that she
realized his loincloth had gotten as bunched up as her skirt, so instead
of rough wool she found smooth flesh.
Lex gasped, whether in pleasure at what was happening or
surprise that it actually was, she couldn't be sure. She rubbed a little,
experimentally, and his gasp turned into a strangled moan. His tail
wrapped tight around her leg.
It was strange, touching it when she hadn't even seen it. Also
strange to discover that he didn't have hair down there either.
He shifted again, laying on his side, which was a relief because
her arm had been bent at kind of an awkward angle. She soon found
out, though, that it also gave him better access to her. He put his hand
where it was definitely off-limits but oh! it felt good!
Breathing fast, Aiden managed to say, "I think we're getting a
little carried away!"
"Mm-hmm." He was going for her chest again, and that
combined with the delicious things happening south of the border made
it really tough for Aiden to say anything else.
He somehow got her panties off without stopping what he was
doing, that tail of his really coming in handy, and when he touched her
with no cloth in the way, she thought she'd fly apart into a million tiny
pieces.
"Lex, I really don't ... ooh! ... know if we should ... ah! ... be
doing this!"
"Yes, we should!" he said. "We've waited long enough!"
She was going crazy, she couldn't stand it! He was right. They
had waited long enough, they loved each other, they wanted each
other ...
She couldn't quite bring herself to agree out loud, but she quit
arguing and undid his belt, then threaded it carefully through the slits in
his wings. Her skirt followed his loincloth on a fast trip to the floor.
Now, they were both totally bare, and he was kneeling between her
legs.
She got a good look then, and a tremor of fear went through
her. But she told herself that Elisa did this all the time, and Goliath was
... well, Goliath ... and if Elisa could do it, so could she.
Lex probed around a little, found the proper place, and thrust
hard.
"Ow!" Aiden yelped as it went in, all the way in, hurting a
heck of a lot worse than she'd expected.
"What? What's wrong?" His face hovered over hers, anxious,
worried.
"It's okay," she said through gritted teeth. "Just give me a
minute to get used to it." She shifted her hips, hoping that would ease
the pain.
"I didn't mean to --" an exceedingly funny expression suddenly
overtook his face "-- uh-oh!"
Lex grabbed her shoulders, pressed his brow ridges to her
forehead, and went tense all over. He rocked rapidly, in and out, once,
twice, again, and then his back arched like a bow, driving him even
deeper. His eyes blazed. He muffled his roar against her neck, then
collapsed atop her.
Aiden turned her head to the side, hot tears trickling from her
eyes. Lex raised his head, and when he saw that she was crying, his
expression was heart-wrenching.
"Oh, no, jeez, I'm sorry! I just couldn't -- couldn't stop. I'm so
sorry!" He scrambled off of her, then paled to yellow-green. "I hurt
you!"
She wanted to reassure him, and she would, as soon as the
throbbing ache dulled to a tolerable level. In the meantime, all she
could do was groan softly, and then she wished she hadn't because of
the anguished look in his eyes.
Someone knocked on the door.
Pure guilty terror completely displaced everything else, for
both of them.
The knock was followed by Fox's voice. "Oh, hi, Hudson."
Hudson said, "I be looking for Lexington. Have ye seen him?"
Lex and Aiden stared at each other, paralyzed. Then he threw
himself off the side of the bed and wiggled under it, while she
frantically struggled into her bathrobe.
"Maybe he's with Aiden," Fox said, and knocked again.
"Aiden?"
Lex's tail shot out and reeled in his belt and loincloth.
Aiden clutched her robe shut at the top and hobbled to the
door. She opened it a crack and peeked out. "Fox? Hudson? What?"
"Did we catch ye on the way to the shower, lass?"
"Yes!"
"Have ye seen Lexington?"
"No!"
Fox was giving her a real once-over. Aiden gulped, hoping she
didn't look as sore, stretched out, and sticky as she felt. "I was going to
ask if you'd decided which of my creations you wanted to wear to
Nikki's premiere, but it can wait," the older woman said, with a
knowing glint in her seablue eyes.
"The white ... dress," Aiden said, faltering as she realized how
inappropriate _that_ was now. She added, "Uh, maybe."
"Well, sorry for disturbin' ye," Hudson said. "Should ye see
that scamp Lexington, if ye'd be so kind as to tell him to quit taping
'Beyond 2000' over my program, I'd be grateful."
"I'll tell him," she promised, then shut the door with a sigh of
relief as they turned to leave.
Lex crawled out from under the bed, abashedly fastening his
belt. "I'd better go let Hudson yell at me." He approached her
nervously. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine, really. Think I'll get that shower."
"Okay." He seemed about to say more, then went to the
window. He paused, crouching on the ledge, and looked back at her. "I
... I love you."
She smiled wearily. "Love you, too, Lex."
"Yeah. Um. See you later?"
"Sure."
He dove into the night. She closed the window behind him,
and rested her head against the cool dark glass.

* *

"Morning, lazy-butt," Birdie said companionably as Aiden
came into the least formal of the castle's dining rooms. "Coffee?"
"Juice." Aiden shuffled to the sideboard. "Is anyone else up
yet?"
"Yet? You're the last of them except the gargoyles! Mr. and
Mrs. X. took little X. shopping, and Oatmeal's having the limo washed
so we can travel in style to the show tonight."
"Shouldn't call him that."
"Fox does."
"Yeah, but ... oh, never mind. Are you eating those?"
"Go ahead, I'm stuffed." Birdie shoved a box of powdered-
sugar donuts to her. "Chow down."
"Hey, Birdie, can I ask you something? Something kind of
personal?"
"Fire away. You know I've got no secrets."
"Have you and Broadway ... ever ... well ... you know?"
Birdie laughed. "Ever done the wild thing? That what you're
getting at, Fergs?"
She turned red. "I was just wondering ..."
"Nah. Not Broadway. He's too sweet, too much of a nice boy.
Someday a little lady garg will come along, and I wouldn't want to have
corrupted him! I've just given him a few basic courses in heavy petting.
Besides, there's something that I was never quite sure about, what with
them turning to stone during the day and all. What would happen if,
say, a garg got a finger lopped off. At daybreak, would the finger turn
to stone too?"
"I don't know," Aiden said thoughtfully. "I'd guess not,
because it'd be dead."
"But what if we were talking about something, cells, that
_could_ live for a while on their own. If they were, you know, in a
hospitable environment?"
"What are you ... oh!"
"That'd be millions of microscopic stone wigglies, right? Talk
about gritty!"
Aiden clasped her hands across her stomach and groaned.
Birdie sat up straight. "Wait a minute ... you and Lex? Woo-
hoo, unicorn bait no longer!"
"Shhh!" Aiden hissed.
"So, how was it?"
"Awful! Well, _that_ part at least. It hurt like crazy! And then
Fox and Hudson almost caught us! He had to hide under the bed and
sneak out the window!"
"Sounds like you guys need to work on your timing. Trust me,
Fergs. First time usually isn't that great, but hey! it gets a lot, and I
mean a _lot_, better!"
"I'll take your word for it," Aiden grumbled, and helped herself
to another donut.

* *

As usual, David Xanatos was the center of attention. The
moment the sleek limo pulled up to the curb and a red-jacketed valet
opened the door, cameras swung in their direction and flashbulbs
popped warm white fire.
Xanatos emerged with studied nonchalance, drawing wistful
sighs from more than a few observing women. Tall, dark, handsome,
and rich as Midas. Quite a combo, and he knew it.
"Mr. Xanatos!" a vulture from VIP Magazine demanded, "is it
true that you have been romantically linked with Nikki Taylor?"
"That's a hell of a question to ask in front of my wife," Xanatos
replied as he helped Fox out of the limo.
Fox gave the reporter a scathing look, then turned to preen for
the cameras, showing off her blue velvet gown with a choker collar, so
backless that it was dangerous. Elbow-length gloves and a fur-trimmed
cape completed the outfit, and her hair was dusted with diamond
sparkles.
"And here is Mrs. Xanatos," a reporter murmured into a
microphone, "who is launching her own line of designer clothes this
spring, FoxFire Fashions ..."
She twined her arm possessively through her husband's, and
the two of them proceeded up the red carpet to the theater entrance. A
babble of interest and questions followed in their wake.
Owen, looking so stiff and formal in his tux that he might have
been on a recieving line to greet visiting royalty, offered a hand first to
Elisa, then to Aiden and Birdie.
The spectators looked curiously toward them. A tawny-
skinned beauty with upswept dark hair and a strapless burgundy gown,
a buxom brunette in black lace, and a small blonde with a silvery sheath
dress and a French braid. Nobody famous, nothing to fill the society
pages or feed the rumor mill.
Until, that is, David Xanatos turned back and held out his
other arm to Elisa, and joked to Owen, "Two lovely ladies apiece; we'll
be the envy of every man here!"
"Assuredly, sir," Owen replied, and glanced at Aiden and
Birdie. "Shall we?"
They took their places on either side of him, Aiden shyly,
Birdie with a nonchalance that rivaled Xanatos. Now, curious and
speculative eyes turned upon them.
And into the theater they went, through the great golden doors,
under the massive crystal chandelier, into the open lobby whose ceiling
soared to a muraled fresco overhead. Other theater-goers lingered and
mingled on the stairs, on the upper gallery.
Elisa spotted her parents and waved. Diane and Peter Maza, he
clearly unhappy in a suit and tie, she resplendant in a yellow gown with
a pouf of feathers on one shoulder, came to join them.
"It was so nice of Nikki to give us tickets," Diane said. "A pity
the ... others couldn't make it."
"I don't know if a musical, modernized version of 'Much Ado
About Nothing' would be to their liking in any case," Owen remarked,
the tight set of his lips indicating that it wasn't exactly his cup of tea
either.
"Nikki specifically wanted you to be here," Elisa reminded
him, smiling. "You're the one who snickered when she said she'd always
thought Shakespeare was boring."
"I had my reasons."
"Lighten up, Owen," Xanatos chided. "Aren't you the least bit
curious to see Nikki's rendition of ... how did she put it? ... that 'wicked
sassy' Beatrice?"
"Not particularly, sir," he sighed resignedly.

* *

Owen's opinion aside, the audience responded very favorably.
Elisa wandered around the lobby during intermission,
eavesdropping on conversations because Nikki would demand to know,
right away as soon as Elisa set foot in the invitation-only cast reception
and party afterward what people were saying.
She got herself a glass of champagne and stood by a column,
sipping it and wishing Goliath was here. Though, even if he had been
able to attend without causing a panicked riot, she would have felt sorry
for whoever had to sit behind him and try to see the stage around his
height and his wings.
Satisfied that she had garnered enough tidbits to placate Nikki,
she idly people-watched until the whirling red and blue of emergency
flashers pulled up outside and seized her attention. Cops? No, an
ambulance.
There was a brief flurry of activity as paramedics came in with
a gurney, vanished into the crowd by the ladies' room, and bustled out
again. Elisa had a glimpse of a sheet-draped figure, probably a heart
attack victim.
She finished her champagne and let her gaze wander up to the
gallery. There was a woman on the stairs, a tall blonde in a black dress,
who seemed weirdly familiar.
Elisa surreptitiously studied the blonde, playing place the face
and getting nowhere fast. She ran through a mental roster of
acquaintances, suspects, neighbors, witnesses, and still came up blank.
Yet she was more sure now than ever that she had seen the woman
before.
A second woman joined her, a butch-looking redhead wearing
a shade of pink all wrong for her coloring. She, too, looked passingly
familiar, though not so much as the blonde.
They spoke briefly, then Blondie glanced Elisa's way with a
casualness too practiced to be genuine. Even from this distance, Elisa
could see that her eyes were a hard, direct blue. Then both women
continued up the stairs and out of her line of sight.
"Hey, where is everyone?" Birdie asked, coming up to her.
"Fox and Xanatos went up to the Platinum Suite to hobnob
with the other rich people," Elisa said. "I don't know where Owen
went."
"What about Fergs?"
"I thought she was with you."
Birdie laughed. "The line to the little girls' room was two miles
long, so I slipped off to use the gents' instead. Tried to get her to come
along, but you know Aiden!"
"You went in the men's bathroom?"
"Sure. Nobody waiting. You'd think the people who build
these places would know better and make the ladies' about four times as
big."
Elisa was about to scold her, then remembered the times she'd
gone barging into the guys' locker room at work, and grinned. "Did you
get in trouble?"
"Nope. One guy started to make a fuss, but I took care of him."
"What did you do?" she asked, dreading the answer.
"Mooned him and ran for it."
"You didn't!"
A siren warbled and more emergency lights flashed through
the front doors. Elisa looked that way as yet another set of paramedics
came in and theater staff rushed to greet them.
"Bad night," Birdie murmured. "Old folks must be dropping
right and left. I heard some lady keeled over in the bathroom."
"Yeah," Elisa said, but her unease was growing.
"Jeez, where _is_ Aiden?" she said restlessly. "It's going to be
showtime soon. Maybe she fell in."
"Maybe she went up to the Platinum Suite," Elisa suggested.
"Let's go see."
They went up the stairs, and all the while Elisa kept her eyes
peeled for Blondie, still trying to think of where she'd seen the woman
before. She was becoming more and more sure that it hadn't been under
the most pleasant circumstances.
No sign of her, but the minute she set eyes on Xanatos,
everything clicked so hard that she stumbled and all but fell into his
arms.
"Shit!" she declared, rather too loudly for the polite
surroundings. "I didn't recognize her without her visor and ponytail!"
Xanatos set her securely back on her feet. "I beg your
pardon?"
"The woman! That blonde bitch from your goon squad!"
"Inge Runolf?" Owen asked, appearing as if by magic, as
usual, at Xanatos' elbow.
"Wait, wait ..." Elisa ran through the other faces in her mind.
The redhead still came up a blank, but when she mentally slapped a
visor on the older of the two paramedics -- "Bingo!"
"David, what's going on?" Fox asked with just a touch of
petulance.
"The guy," Elisa said to him, ignoring Fox. "What's his name,
the one who crashed Maggie's shower!"
"Judge Halverson," Owen supplied.
"Hold on!" Xanatos commanded. "You mean, you saw them?
Here, tonight?"
"Once again, it seems we've erroneously assumed them dead,"
Owen said mildly. "We know they're not working for Sevarius ..."
"They were with a couple of other people, who, damn it, I can't
quite place, and ..." she trailed off, looked from Birdie back to Xanatos.
"You haven't seen Aiden, have you?"
"No, why?" His dark eyes widened. "You don't think --?"
She thought back. The gurney, the sheet-draped form that at
first glance appeared to be a small elderly lady but could just as easily
be a petite teenager. The second ambulance that had pulled up.
After blurting out all of it, she pointed at Birdie. "Check the
ladies' room. I'll go talk to the theater staff, but I'll bet you anything that
they only put in one call to the EMTs."
"Let me handle that," Xanatos said. "You go with Owen."
"Owen? Why?"
"I think we can safely agree that we're not going to find Aiden
in the theater. We need to know who's taken her and why. Use the
computer uplink in the car to call --"
"Right!" Elisa said, snapping her fingers.
"I'll go tell your parents what's happening," Fox volunteered,
"so that they don't worry when we miss the rest of the show."
"Great! Let's move!"
Elisa and Owen hurried to the car. He was grim-faced and
going so fast she had a little trouble keeping up until she ditched her
shoes and hustled along in her nylons. Back in the limo, Owen used the
computer and cellular modem to contact Castle Wyvern.
Lexington appeared on the screen. "Owen? Elisa? Hi, what's
up?"
Elisa's heart sank. It would have to be Lex who answered.
Who else would it be, of course, but why did it have to be Lex?
"Uh, Lex, we've got a little problem here," she said, trying to
keep her voice calm and soothing.
"Aiden is missing," Owen cut in, not wanting to wast time
cushioning things.
"What?" Lex's nose flattened against the screen. "No, I meant
to talk to her but you left before I had the chance! I didn't mean to hurt
her! I didn't think she'd run away --"
"Lex!" Elisa said sharply, cutting through his babbling. "She's
been kidnapped!"
"Oh, good!" he gasped, then went crazy. "Kidnapped! Aiden!
Who -- how --!"
He was abruptly rolled out of their view, and Broadway's
concerned visage replaced him. "Lex can't come to the phone right
now," he said. "What's going on?"
"Broadway, great! Just the person I wanted to talk to. Listen
up. I need you to use your CopDraw Ident-I-Kit program to come up
with a couple composite sketches for me. Can you?"
"Sure thing, Elisa. Ready whenever you are."
"Okay, here goes." She closed her eyes and started describing
the redhead, then the blond beefcake who had been at the other end of
the gurney from Halverson.
Broadway interrupted a couple of times with questions, and
sent the resulting images to show up on their end. While they waited for
the connections to be made, she gave him a quick rundown on what had
happened. Finally the images appeared.
"How's that?" Broadway asked.
She made some minor corrections, then nodded. "Perfect."
"We'll need printouts," Owen said.
Broadway frowned thoughtfully. "Hey, Hudson, c'mere. Do
you know these people?"
Hudson appeared behind him, looked over his shoulder. "Aye,
lad. They be that pair what used to work for MacBeth."
"I thought so!" Broadway cried.
"MacBeth!" Elisa shook her head so hard her hair came loose
and fell over her shoulders. "That doesn't make any sense! Why would
he kidnap Aiden?"
"He's tried before to take that which is magical," Hudson
pointed out. "The Scrolls of Merlin, Excalibur ..."
"It can't be MacBeth," Broadway said. "He's one of Aiden's
favorite people in the whole world. If he wanted her to cast a spell for
him, he'd just have to ask."
"I agree." Owen pulled out his phone. "MacBeth is now an
ally, and a friend. But he might know how to contact those two."
"Hey! Lex! Where are you -- oh, darn it!" Broadway jumped
up. "He's headed for the roof!"
"Go after him, lad!" Hudson said. "He'll only get himself in
trouble!"

* *

" ... she'll be out for hours yet."
Who, me? Aiden wondered groggily, not opening her eyes.
She was aware of the steady movement of a vehicle, a hard surface
beneath her, and little else.
"Why the hell did we nab her? She's just a kid. We could've
made off with the rich man himself just as easy."
"You weren't hired for your brains, Banks. Shut up and drive,"
a woman said.
Aiden snuck a peek through lowered lashes. She was lying on
a gurney, in what looked like an ambulance, but to her knowledge,
ambulance drivers weren't in the habit of "nabbing" people.
Something clicked, whirred, metallic, creepy. A man in a
paramedic's uniform was sitting on a bench against the wall. Where his
right hand should have been was a mechanical gleaming silver hand,
pistons and joints, the hand of the Terminator. As the robot fingers
moved, drumming against the man's knee, they made the creepy noise.
Aiden wanted to jump up in a panic, but made herself hold still
and tried to breathe evenly. They thought she was out, so it was best to
pretend until she could figure out where she was and what was going
on, and who the heck these people were.
The last thing she remembered was the ladies' room ...

* *

When she joined the long line to the ladies' room, she didn't
really have to go that bad but figured she should take care of it while
she had the chance.
But, predictably, the slower the line moved, the worse she had
to go, so a faint need soon became an urgency and she couldn't just up
and leave.
She glanced around for Birdie, wishing that she'd gone with
her friend, propriety be damned. But it didn't make sense to leave her
place once she was actually almost to the door. So she waited and
fidgeted and finally got inside the palatial lounge.
It was crowded with elegantly-dressed women, and the air was
thick with perfume and hair-spray touch-ups. Aiden took care of
business, paranoidly checking to make sure her dress wasn't caught up
in her pantyhose before opening the stall door.
As she was about to wash her hands, someone tapped her on
the shoulder.
"Miss? Did you drop this?" Over the general noise of water
and conversation, Aiden could barely hear, so she turned around.
A red-haired woman in pink was behind her, holding out a
little canister of breath spray. Aiden started to deny dropping it, and
then the redhead triggered it.
Aiden gasped in surprise, inhaling the misty droplets. She had
time to think that it was the foulest breath spray she'd ever smelled, that
only a hyena would show an improvement, and then everything went
dark.

* *

So, logical conclusion time, she'd been gassed and bundled off
by these people pretending to be paramedics.
Abducted? Her? Aiden Ferguson? That didn't make any sense.
She agreed with Banks, whoever the heck Banks was. The rich man,
Mr. Xanatos, would be worth a lot more.
What did they plan to do, hold her for ransom? Were they
Quarrymen, planning to use her to bait a gargoyle-trap? Either way, bad
news.
Escape?
She stole another surreptitious peek at the guy with the
mechanical hand. He was an older man, brown hair going grey, but
looked like a soldier. She could also just see the redhead that had
"nabbed" her in the first place, who was built like a lady wrestler, and a
blonde who had a jaw that said she took zero shit from anybody.
Although she'd been letting Fox give her some lessons in self-
defense and assorted weaponry, she wouldn't stand a chance against this
bunch even if she was toting an Uzi. Physical confrontation was
outsville, which left her with her wits and her magic.
Spiffy.
She didn't even have Hecate's Wand, which was the main
source of her power. Her innate ability, honed by almost two years of
Puck's tutelage, still wasn't all that hot. Alex left her in the dust every
time their powers were put to the test.
And even though Owen had mentioned teaching her some
combat spells clear back in May when they'd run into Demona and
Titania where the lady's veil grew, the best she could do was a dinkety
little witchbolt that could maybe stun a chihuaua. She was far better at
defensive spells, which she guessed was just proof that she was at heart
a coward.
Some sorceress! Still, defense was good. Better than nothing.
And maybe she could handle this without any offensive stuff. A teensy
sleep spell ...
"So what does Sevarius want with this kid anyway?" the
redhead asked.
Sevarius! Aiden's heart leapt into her throat. She knew that
name, she'd heard all the stories, and was horrified to learn that he was
still alive! Both Xanatos and Goliath, who rarely agreed, swore that the
mad scientist was long-dead!
She must have gasped or made some other startled movement
or noise to give herself away, because the man with the metal hand
suddenly leaned closer. "I think she's --"
"*Somnus!*" Aiden cried, gesturing.
She realized her error at once. All four of her captors slumped
over, including Banks, who was behind the wheel of the fast-moving
vehicle. The ambulance veered right, and the night was suddenly insane
with blaring horns, screeching tires on wet pavement, and the squeal-
crunch of impact.
Aiden was strapped to the gurney and it was locked in its
place, so she wasn't hurled about as the ambulance went wild. She
scrabbled at the straps, then changed her mind and held on tight.
The ambulance whomped over the curb, smashed through
something, banged off of something else, teetered onto two wheels, and
slammed heavily onto its side, where it slid along on a bed of sparks. It
whammed into a wall and shuddered to a stop, then slowly yet with odd
grandeur rolled over onto its roof.
"Wow," Aiden muttered breathlessly.
She was now hanging face-down, but the gurney was making
little tortured noises as if it would come loose any minute, squashing
her under it like the proverbial bug. If she had succeeded in undoing the
straps sooner, she would have been thrown around like a rag doll.
The crash had, needless to say, interrupted the blissful slumber
of her captors. Luckily, it had also swapped sleep for unconsciousness
by bashing them into walls, the windshield, and the like. Only one of
them was moving.
Now Aiden tugged on the straps. They came undone with
absurd ease and she promptly fell to the ceiling, which was now the
floor. All around her was broken glass, strewn medical equipment, and
an array of weapons.
She smelled gas and worried that the whole thing might go up
in a fireball. From outside, she could hear voices raised in concern and
pain.
She limped to the rear doors and threw her scant weight
against them to force them open. She stepped down into the street and
got a prudent distance from the ambulance as she surveyed the
wreckage.
More than a dozen cars had come together in variously
theatrical ways, and people were crawling out, or standing nose-to-nose
yelling, or calling for help. The trail of the ambulance led through the
middle of a sidewalk newsstand, with papers and magazines and candy
bars strewn from hell to breakfast. The proprietor was standing
disbelieving by the remains of his stall.
Aiden felt crushed by guilt. All of this was her fault, thanks to
her knee-jerk panicked reaction at the mention of Sevarius.
Sirens wailed in the distance, but another sound was closer,
behind her.
"Kleine Hundin," a voice snarled.
Aiden tried to whirl and leap back at the same time, and
promptly tripped over her own feet. It was probably her very clumsiness
that saved her life, because framed in the rear doorway of the broken
ambulance was the blond woman in the black dress, and the shot she
fired would have taken off the top of Aiden's head if Aiden hadn't fallen
into the gutter. Her dress was immediately soaked through by the filthy,
oily water.
The bullet instead hit one of the few cars that had escaped
unscathed, hit it right in the gas tank or something because that one
_did_ go up in a fireball. "My car!" a man shrieked, and a woman
wearily replied, "Oh, shut up, Brendan!"
The blonde stalked toward Aiden, who was busy scrambling
backwards through a heap of rain-soggy newspapers. A well-meaning
bystander started to ask if they were all right, but no sooner had the
words begun to leave his lips than he got a gander at the gun in the
blonde's hand and the don't-screw-with-me look in her eyes, and he
wisely reversed his course.
Aiden lurched to her feet and started running, sure that the
cops wouldn't get here in time to prevent her from being killed. She
managed _not_ to tumble down a flight of stairs leading to the subway,
cornered too fast, skidded in a puddle, plowed into a shopping cart full
of aluminum cans, darted into the street with the devil-may-care aplomb
of a native New Yorker, and almost got her stupid self wiped out by a
UPS truck.
The blonde came around the corner like a cougar and ran
headlong into the grimy old man who was noisily and angrily protesting
the abuse of his shopping cart. She drove her elbow into his face and his
cart shot into the street, where it wasn't as lucky as Aiden had been.
Cans flew everywhere, and the cabbie who'd hit the cart sprang out of
his cab and started cursing a blue streak.
Aiden kept going, onto a quieter and more deserted street. Just
when she was thinking that maybe she was going to get out of this after
all, the man with the metal hand jumped out of nowhere and grabbed
her.
A scream burned its way up from her lungs but was cut off
when his cold steel fingers clamped over her throat. She pried at them
but they were immoveable.
The blonde woman raced up, looking highly pissed and out of
sorts. "I say we kill her now!"
FWHOOOOP! The familiar and oh-so-welcome rush of wings
drowned out the man's response. A shadow ripped him away from
Aiden. His fingers tore free of her throat, leaving painful scrapes. Aiden
fell, choking and gagging.
Several violent events occurred half-seen as Aiden huddled on
the wet concrete and fought to keep her wits. When it was all over, the
man and the woman were nowhere to be seen.
Aiden carefully got up. In a recessed doorway, she glimpsed a
dark shape. A gargoyle.
"Lexington?" she called tremulously. "Broadway?"
"None of the above," the shape said, moving into the light.
"Demona!" Aiden drew back, alarmed.
"Wait, I only want to talk to you!"
"Last time we met, you tried to kill Owen!" Aiden countered,
making ready to flee for yet another time this chaotic evening.
Demona sighed. She crossed her arms beneath her breasts,
folded her wings, and tilted her head to the side. "I saved your life just
now," she said reasonably. "Doesn't that entitle me to a moment of your
time?"
Aiden hesitated. "I'm listening ..."

* *

"Jalapena," Broadway grumbled. "Lost him."
He'd reached the roof just as Lex launched himself, and done
what he thought was a pretty fair job tailing his rookery brother,
especially in the damp, drizzly conditions. Or at least he would have
done a good job, if Lex hadn't been in such a hurry.
Under normal circumstances, Lex was the swiftest of them all.
Motivated, he was dang near supersonic. Now, he was gone.
Broadway landed on a skyscraper and scratched his head.
"Sure, you're fast," he said to his absent brother, "but what does it
matter if you don't know where you're going?"
He himself intended to use more deductive methods. Using the
Ident-I-Kit always put him in a detective-y frame of mind, so the
thought of tracking down the kidnappers was a perfect chance to do
some good and have some fun at the same time.
He knew they were pretending to be paramedics, which meant
they were probably going around in an emergency vehicle of some sort.
But not headed for a hospital. Which meant he should be on the lookout
for one with silent sirens and dark lights.
Time to suit up. He kept a few secret stashes of things around
the city, never knowing when he might need a snack or to go incognito.
Luckily, one such stash was in an exhaust duct atop this very building.
He pulled off the vent, rummaged past a jumbo-bag of Cheetos, a two-
liter Dr. Pepper, and a box of cookies. There at the bottom of his pile
was his gigantic overcoat and battered hat.
"Lookin' good," he said, checking out the threads in a
darkened window. He worked his wings through the concealed slits in
the back of the coat, and took to the air.
He soon saw plenty of emergency vehicles, screaming through
a colossal traffic jam toward a pretty impressive multi-car pileup.
Figuring they were all on legit business, he was about to pass the whole
mess by when he saw an ambulance lying upside-down like a dead
turtle, at the end of a trail of destruction.
Broadway swooped lower and landed on the roof of a theater
whose marquee was advertising, appropriately enough, the comedy
spoof "Tracer Bullet, P.I."
He watched the cops gathered around the overturned
ambulance, and while he couldn't hear them, he had gotten to be not too
shabby at lip-reading. The cops were wondering where the paramedics
and/or patients had gone.
He couldn't hear the cops, but he could hear the complaints of
a guy whose luxury car had been blown up in the accident. He was
insisting that a woman in an evening gown had shot the car. Officer
Morgan, unconvinced, was unloading the breathalyzer gear.
"Ah-hah!" Broadway, who _was_ convinced, snapped his
fingers. "Gotcha!"
He'd bet a million bucks that this was the same ambulance that
had whisked Aiden away. She must have escaped somehow, though this
sort of wide-scale property damage didn't seem her style. It looked
more like the time Goliath and Coldstone had their first knock-down
drag-out in front of this very same theater. All that was missing was the
busted fire hydrant, which it looked like the ambulance had missed by
only a yard or so.
"Okay," he said to himself. "So Aiden escapes, but the goons
are hot on her tail. This can't have happened too long ago. She's gotta
be nearby."
He turned to climb the building, but just then a helicopter hove
into view to airlift the worst of the wounded to Manhattan General. Its
sweeping lights cast a harsh illumination on the surrounding buildings.
Broadway ducked. Last thing he needed was to be seen, and
get the gargoyles blamed for this one too. He hurried to the service
entrance, used by the theater staff to replace the letters and bulbs on the
marquee. They'd put yet another padlock on it, but this one, like all the
others, had been broken. Broadway grinned and wished they'd just give
it up.
He opened the door and slid inside just as the helicopter's
lights turned the place he'd been standing into a spotlight. Inside, all
was dark and cool. He crept down the dusty hallway toward the old
projection room, unused in all the time he'd been frequenting this
theater.
He chuckled a couple of times as he picked up witty lines from
the movie, which he'd already seen eight times. The smell of popcorn
lured his stomach into a few mournful growls.
Instead of going into the projection room, he headed for the
formerly-boarded-up window at the end of the dingy hall. It was only an
easy hop from there to the fire escape of the building next door. Up he
went, all the way to the roof.
The drizzle had stopped, but the clouds were still thick.
Broadway hurried to the edge to get another look at the scene below.
The glow coming up from the street made a ghostly silhouette of the
woman peering down, the woman he was about to run right into.
"Hunh!" Broadway blurted, startled. He'd never before seen
anybody up here.
"Oh!" She, equally startled, turned and backed up and nearly
fell off the roof.
Maybe meeting girls by scaring them into a fall and then
catching them on the way down worked for Goliath, but Broadway
wasn't about to trust his ability to make himself more aerodynamic than
her. He lunged forward and caught her outflung hand just as her balance
shifted for the worse.
His claw closed over her fingers and steadied her. It was only
then that he got a good look at the way she was dressed, and he couldn't
help laughing out loud.
She wore a belted trenchcoat and a fedora, the brim shadowing
all but her chin. His first crazy thought was Carmen Sandiego, but the
rest of her attire didn't match. Instead of sexy red high heels, her feet
were lost in huge galoshes.
The woman laughed a bit herself, although shakily. "Thank
you, good sir," she said softly.
"Um, ur," he said intelligently.
From her vantage point, the light had to fall revealingly on his
face. He was expecting the usual scream, maybe a faint, but she didn't
bat an eye. On the contrary, she smiled.
She had a nice smile. Other than that, he couldn't tell much
more than she was slender, tallish, on the pale side, and had a braid
hanging to her hips.
"Why are you dressed like that?" he asked. Oh, yeah, Mister
Cool, he could almost hear Brooklyn chiding him. Smooth talker. No
wonder Angela had gone for Brooklyn instead, when Broadway kept
tripping over his tongue.
"I am in disguise," she said with a tone of faint amusement,
looking down at herself. "As, I see, are you."
"Disguise?" Great, he was making real points here.
"The ..." she faltered, then picked her way through the next
few words like someone using stepping stones to cross a turbulent
stream, "... movie-cinema-theater shows me that this is how to not be
recognized in such a great city."
"You're not from around here, are you?"
She shook her head. "From very far away, friend. Why? Is this
disguise not true? Yet you, behold, are similarly clad!"
"Well, yeah ..." He shook his own head. "Lemme start over.
I'm called Broadway."
"My name is --"
Before she could finish, the roof beneath them made a rusty
grinding hydraulic noise and split right down the middle, the two halves
beginning to tilt up like a drawbridge.
The sudden shift under their feet sent them both stumbling off
the edge.
Broadway grabbed the woman's hand again as they started to
fall. He punched his other hand at the wall, digging his claws into the
bricks. People who couldn't take the sound of nails on a blackboard
would _really_ hate the squeal it made, but he managed to bring them to
a halt after only a few yards.
The woman, dangling from his arm, did not struggle or panic,
but on the contrary looked calmly up at him and commented, "You're
most strong!"
"Thanks," he grunted, then craned his neck to see what was
going on topside.
The roof had come fully open, and something was rising out of
it. A hovercraft, gunmetal grey with blue and green running lights.
Coincidence? Broadway thought not.
"Are you afraid of heights?" he asked the woman.
She shook her head.
"Good." He swung his arm, bringing her close to a ledge. On
the second try, she scrambled to the dubious safety of that perch. "I've
gotta go to work, but I'll be right back!" he promised.
Above, the hovercraft was already starting to move, its
propulsion causing a serious downdraft. Broadway leaped out and dove
until he was out of its area of effect, then spread his wings, skimmed
over the theater and climbed.
Through the cockpit bubble, he could clearly make out
MacBeth's former flunkies. Binkie and Florence, or something like that.
He still hadn't quite gotten around to reading that particular play.
He looped around and came at them head-on, observing with
great pleasure their expressions of shock. They belatedly opened fire
and even though he was an admittedly good-sized target, never even
came close. He was on them, crouched clinging to the top of the craft,
and made ready to slam his fist through the plexiglass bubble.
ZZZZAAAAPPPP!!!!
Darn it, _why_ did everyone have to electrify their outer hulls?
Broadway hollered and reflexively let go. As he skidded
backward along the craft he fetched up really really hard against the tail
rudder. His own tail cushioned the worst of the impact, but it still drew
another holler from him.
He grimly held on and started pummelling a hole in the aft
compartment. They zapped him again and at the same time went into a
tight barrel roll. He was flung free, losing his hat, and spun crazily right
into the path of the rising hospital helicopter.
The whirling rotors thundered. Only an extreme effort of
aerobatics let Broadway avoid splattering puree-of-gargoyle all over the
city.
He recovered and went after the hovercraft again. It had gotten
a pretty decent head start while he was otherwise occupied, but his
various bashings and crashings at its rear end had left it with some
steering problems.
All the ruckus had one beneficial result -- it attracted the
attention of a small, olive-green gargoyle who came arrowing in and
severed a nest of important-looking cables at the juncture of one of the
hovercraft's wings.
Broadway gave Lex a thumbs-up and went into a power dive
with both fists driven straight out in front of him. He met the cockpit
bubble with such force that he thought his spine was compressing, but
the plexiglass gave way before he did and his momentum carried him
all the way into the craft.
Binkie, or whatever his name was, grabbed Broadway as he
was shaking his head dazedly. They tusselled and rolled into the rear of
the craft, which was empty except for a decent collection of weapons.
Florence, or whatever _her_ name was, wrestled with the controls and
swore like a sailor.
The craft lurched, and Broadway and Binkie fell heavily
against the side door. It popped open and out they tumbled. Binkie at
once lost interest in busting ass and clutched Broadway around the
neck.
"Fly, dammit!" Binkie ordered above the whistling wind.
Broadway seized him by the head. It was a hold that always
worked well with Dracon's thugs, and it didn't disappoint him now. He
could feel the skullbone give ever-so-slightly under his fingers.
He tore the clinging man loose and hurled him onto a nearby
rooftop. Binkie rolled a record-setting distance before rebounding off a
wall and coming to a bone-jarring halt.
"Steee-rike!" Broadway crowed, making a tally mark in the air.
The hovercraft veered, now spitting a flurry of sparks and
trailing smoke. It went into a tightening downward spiral. A parachute
blossomed near it as the redhead jettisoned.
"No!" Broadway yelled as he realized what was going to
happen.
"Aiden!" Lex shrieked.
The hovercraft slammed into a building and exploded in a
purple and orange nova. It was the same building, next to the theater,
from which it had originally come. The same building where Broadway
had left a woman on a ledge.
Metal and stone and fire rained down on the street, sending
cops and EMTs and bystanders scurrying for cover. The cometlike shell
of the craft took out the theater marquee and crunched the upended
ambulance into scrap.
"Lex!" Broadway barely caught his brother as Lex started
down. He had another fight on his hands as Lex, wiry and spidery and
nearly hysterical, tried to get out of his grasp.
Broadway wrapped both arms around Lex, pinning him. "She
wasn't in there!" he shouted into Lex's ear. "Aiden wasn't in there!"
It sank in, and Lex went limp. "She -- she wasn't?"
"I saw. Nobody but those two. You gotta believe me, Lex!"
"Then ... where is she?!"
"Don't know." Broadway released him, and headed for the
building, with dread and hope churning in his gut. A clock struck
midnight, sounding mournful and ominous, a death toll rather than the
marking of the hour.
The hovercraft had missed the ledge, but there was a
smoldering crumbling hole in the wall just a dozen feet below and to
one side. As he came through the pall of hot smoke, he wiped his eyes
and peered anxiously at the ledge.
Nobody. She was gone.
"Oh, no," he breathed. He glided straight down, never minding
the throng of people who had by now noticed the gargoyles above them.
He found was one of her galoshes, stuck on a spur of metal
sticking out from the fire escape. So easy to imagine that it had snagged
there as she fell. But, try as he might, he couldn't see her body. He tried
to tell himself that maybe she'd been able to catch hold, climb to safety.
That, even if she _had_ fallen all the way, someone below had been
able to reach her, to help her in time.
She had to be all right. He'd know if she wasn't. Somehow, she
had to be all right.
"What are you doing?" Lex asked urgently. "They're going to
be shooting at us in a minute!"
He freed the boot, taking it with him. "She never told me her
name!"

* *

"Sevarius has discovered the gene linked to magical talent,"
Demona explained.
"I thought he was dead!"
"Men like that never die. His evil lives on in one incarnation
after another." She glowered fiercely at the moon. "And now he's stolen
my son!"
"Jericho?" Aiden gasped.
"How do you -- Angela must have told you. Yes, Jericho.
Sevarius used mind control drugs on him, turned him against me! This
past month, I've been searching for him in hopes of freeing him from
that black enthrallment. I couldn't tell Angela, couldn't go to the clan for
help. _I_ brought Jericho from Avalon. How could I face them after
losing him to Sevarius?"
"They'd help, of course they would! But why would Sevarius
want Jericho?"
"He is my son, and therefore has latent sorcery potential. The
genetic structures he could isolate from Jericho's cells, or yours, would
give him the power to breed magical monsters! And ... Sevarius wanted
revenge on Thailog." She dragged the words reluctantly from her throat.
Aiden felt the blood drain from her face. "So it _was_ him! He
did kill Scarlet Angel! But ... you weren't involved?"
Demona bowed her head. "I know what Goliath thinks of me. I
won't deny that I have done horrible things, that I have waged war
against humanity. Alone, hunted, centuries of misery and sorrow, yes, I
admit I might have gotten carried away. I thought I had nothing to live
for. Then I learned of Angela, and of Jericho. My children. And all I
wanted was to make the world a better place for them to live and grow
and thrive! Is that so terrible?"
"I heard you tried to wipe out all humans with a killer virus,"
Aiden said.
"Which Sevarius created."
"Yeah, but ..."
Demona sighed. "I haven't come to justify myself to you. I
thought to help an innocent from falling into Sevarius' clutches. I should
have known better than to expect even gratitude, let alone help! I'll
leave you now, and go find my son!" She jumped to the roof of a
parked car, and from there to the top of an awning. She clawed her way
up the side of a building.
"Wait!" Aiden called. "I am grateful, really! I just ... well, you
know, the things I've heard ... but if anybody's all of our enemy, it's
Sevarius! How can anyone blame you, or Jericho, for what happened?"
Demona hesitated and looked down at her, and for a moment
her tough facade melted. "I envy you, child," she said softly. "So easy
for you to forgive, to trust, to see the good in everyone. I used to be like
you. Cherish it while you can, because you won't last long in this world.
They'll destroy you, drag you down. You'll see."
PHFOOOOT!
Something sailed over Aiden's head, a metallic canister that
burst into an expanding net of red and black cables. It struck Demona,
constricted around her, and lit up the night in a shower of sparks.
"Aaaaiiieeee!" Demona fell backward off the building,
convulsing, writhing in the grip of the net.
A man raced up, his face concealed by a black mask with three
red slashes across it. "Well done, miss," he said to the startled Aiden.
"You kept her still just long enough!"
"Hunter!" Demona exclaimed, staring up in horror through the
crisscrossing cables.
A half-dozen other men came into view, carrying weapons. A
bona-fide mob, Aiden thought, albeit on the small side. She looked at
the trapped gargoyle.
This was all her fault. Demona had put herself in danger to
save Aiden from her pursuers, and would have escaped if she hadn't
paused to say those last few things. Things that Aiden knew to be true.
Demona must have once been good at heart, to win the love of Goliath
and the against-all-reason continuing devotion of Angela. Life had
treated her unkindly. She didn't deserve this fate.
The Hunter stepped closer, savoring the moment. He held a
machine gun.
"No!" Aiden got between the Hunter and his prey. "Leave her
alone!"
"Get out of the way, girl, and let me handle this monster!" He
shoved her. She stumbled and fell to her knees beside Demona.
"Run! Get out of here!" Demona urged her. "Don't worry
about me!"
The Hunter grabbed Aiden's shoulder and hauled her away
from Demona. "What are you, one of those gargoyle sympathizers?" he
snarled.
Elisa, who was Aiden's secret role-model, would have
disarmed the guy in half a second. Fox would have kicked him so hard
she left a footprint on the inside of his skull. Even Birdie would have
hiked a knee into his crotch.
But she was only Aiden, the small and meek, so all she could
do was protest again. "I said leave her alone!"
The Hunter ran out of patience. "Hold her," he ordered two of
the other men. "We'll deal with her next." He leveled his machine gun
at Demona.
"No!" Aiden pointed her forefinger and cocked her thumb like
an imaginary gun of her own, and fired off her witchbolt.
Instead of the pallid and feeble silvery blob of light she was
used to, a lozenge-shaped burst of energy shot from her finger and
struck the Hunter.
Silver sparkles exploded all around him, dazzling, magnesium-
bright. He cartwheeled three times and collided with a mailbox hard
enough to leave a big dent.
Nobody was more startled by this than Aiden.
"She's got a laser," one of the men yelled, and whirled on her
with a pistol.
This was something she'd been trained for. Defense.
She quickly spoke the words that surrounded her with a pale
bubble, a personal ward. Just in time, because the gun went off.
The bullet was deflected, just like it was bouncing off of
Superman's costumed chest. But then, doing something that never
happened in the comics, it ricocheted right into another of the men and
dug a bleeding furrow in his thigh.
That man screamed, and as if that was the cue they'd all been
waiting for, the rest of them opened fire. Aiden threw herself to the
ground, willing her ward to stay strong, and covered her head with her
hands. Bullets spanged off the ward in all directions, inflicting greivous
damage on the men.
When the street was littered with groaning injured thugs,
Aiden let the ward drop. One lucky fellow, unhurt, came at her with a
length of pipe. She triggered her imaginary gun again.
Once again, the witchbolt streaked from her hand like a Randy
Johnson fastball. It hit the man in the stomach and he hurriedly joined
the Hunter in a bruised motionless heap.
Aiden slowly rose, surveyed the scene, realized that at least
two of the men were dead with hamburger where their heads should
have been, and fainted.

* *

Demona was halfway out of the net when the Hunter stood up.
She didn't so much as glance his way. She was grumbling and
nursing a hole in her shoulder that a stray bullet had made. Immortal
she might be, but not immune to pain, and getting shot would never be
on her top ten list of favorite things.
A large brown van pulled up and stopped alongside. Demona
ignored it as she got up, shedding the net like a cocoon.
"Who the hell put real bullets in the guns?" she demanded,
grasping the Hunter by the shirtfront and stripping off his mask, the
better to yell in your face, my dear. "Those idiots could have killed the
girl! She's no good to me dead!"
The Hunter, now revealed to be a haggard and unshaven
Nicholas Diamant, only gazed questioningly at her.
"Good thing she's even better at spell-slinging than you
thought," Judge Halverson replied, getting out of the van.
Inge Runolf was right behind him, having swapped her black
evening gown for a functional close-fitting bodysuit, her blonde hair
once more in the familiar ponytail. Elisa, seeing her now, wouldn't have
hesitated a heartbeat on making a positive I.D. "She is more trouble
than she's worth."
"You know nothing about sorcery. Such power is worth any
amount of trouble. My contact at the Academy was right about this
one."
"You'd better get her out of here before she comes 'round,"
Halverson advised.
"I don't need you telling me my business," Demona retorted.
"And you'd better get this zombie --" she flicked the blank-eyed Nick
with her tail "-- and the rest of these fools out of here before the police
come. Take them back to Sevarius."
"We don't need you telling us our business either," Runolf
said, her jaw tightening dangerously.
"Don't start with me, human," Demona warned. She gathered
up the girl, then fixed Halverson with a piercing look. "Who was
responsible for their equipment?"
"Banquo," he replied evenly.
"And where is he?"
"He and Fleance were supposed to rendezvous with us,"
Runolf said. "They never showed up."
Demona's lip curled over her teeth. "I should have known
better than to trust in humans!" With that, she launched herself into the
air, catching an updraft and vanishing into the night with the
unconscious girl limp in her arms.
Halverson and Runolf watched her go. Then she turned to him
with one raised eyebrow.
"Banquo's going to be very surprised to hear that he was
responsible for their equipment," she observed. "After all, wasn't that
your job?"
"Let's be sure he doesn't find out," Halverson said. The metal
fingers of his robot hand, the replacement for flesh which had been
blown to bits by a beak-nosed red gargoyle, clicked and whirred,
clicked and whirred.

* *

Dawn was just beginning to pink the sky when an exhausted
Elisa arrived at Castle Wyvern.
"Okay, here's the scoop," she began without preamble or small
talk. "We've got bystanders who saw the Runolf woman shoot at Aiden
and chase her from the scene. We've got the guy from the hovercraft,
calls himself Banquo, some spectacular bruises but no permanent
injuries. He's cooling his heels in jail on all sorts of charges, and he
refuses to say who he was working for. Wants a lawyer. Thanks to the
holiday weekend, we'll be delayed as far as _that_ goes."
"So we'll _make_ him talk!" Lexington broke in, smacking his
fist emphatically into his palm.
"Yeah!" Birdie chimed in. Eager to be a part of the action, she
had scrounged some army fatigues and a black tank-top from
somewhere, and looked like Rambo's kid sister.
Elisa sighed. "No can do, Lex! Sorry!"
"The guy's scared of falling," Broadway pointed out. "Dangle
him a little ..."
"I said no," Elisa repeated. "Travis Marshall showed up just as
the cops were taking him into custody, and a camera crew also got a
pretty good shot of Lex and Broadway leaving, so there's a complete
media circus going on."
"What about the others?" Xanatos asked.
Elisa ran her fingers through her hair. "No sign of the redhead
after she 'chuted from the scene. As for your former goon squad,
nothing doing. Right about the same time everything else was wrapping
up, a new bunch of calls came in. Shots fired, weird lightshow, reports
of gargoyles. It's been a bad night for your PR department, gang!"
Goliath put an arm around her and she leaned willingly against
him. "You need rest, my Elisa. As do we all."
"But what about Aiden?!" Lex cast a hateful look at the eastern
sky. "We can't wait until dark!"
"We won't," Xanatos promised. "Those of us who can will
keep up the search. MacBeth plans to join us --" he frowned at Lex
sternly "-- now that he's recovered from your 'visit,' that is."
Lex flushed, and Broadway gaped at him. "_That's_ where you
went in such a hurry? You attacked MacBeth?!"
"I thought he might have something to do with it," he mumbled
shamefacedly. "I was a little crazy, okay?"
"You're lucky he didn't tie you into a pretzel," Birdie said.
"Listen, guys, don't worry about Fergs. She's smart. I betcha she's back
here safe and sound by the time you wake up."
"Thanks, Birdie." Lex managed a smile, but didn't seem
convinced.
"There is another course open to us as well," Owen said.
"Alexander may be ready to learn a seeking spell."
"Why didn't you do that first?" Lex cried.
"It is an extremely difficult spell to master, and a chancy one at
best to cast. Especially in a city of this size."
"Well, give it a try," Hudson urged. "We'll none of us bide
easy until we know the wee lass is home and well!"
Owen inclined his head. "I shall begin the instruction when
Alexander has awakened."
"I've got to ask," Brooklyn said. "Broadway, what's with the
boot?"
He turned a darker shade of turquoise as he explained about
the woman on the ledge. "There was something special about her," he
said. "I dunno ... I've just got this feeling ... and I know she's okay. She's
got to be."
Brooklyn chuckled. "So, Prince Charming, you're going to find
whoever this shoe fits --" he took it playfully and held it up. "Well, I'm
sure you and Shaquille O'Neill will be very happy together!"
"Gimme that!" Broadway grabbed it back, just as the sun rose
and turned it to stone in his grasp.

* *

For her captors, sleep had become unconsciousness. For
Aiden, unconsciousness gradually turned to sleep.
She'd surfaced from the dark lake of slumber at one point,
dimly aware that she was airborne, in the arms of a gargoyle. That fact
had made her feel safe, despite some deep surety that something was
wrong with this picture. But, exhausted, distraught, confused, she
succumbed easily to the welcome lull of sleep.
An unknown amount of time later, she woke with all-over stiff
muscles and eyes that felt gummed shut. She peeled them open and saw
a dull whitish ceiling soaring overhead.
"Where am I?" Aiden wondered aloud.
"Hayden-Mevis Observatory."
She turned her head that way, and saw Demona in her human
form of Dominique Destine. Since she was still wearing her halter and
loincloth, she looked quite a bit different from the stylish CEO of
Nightstone Unlimited. She was sitting on a folding lawn chair, leaning
close to survey Aiden.
A rounded dome, weathered and pitted as the surface of the
moon, enclosed them. A huge metal rack which might have once held a
telescope was positioned beneath a wedge-shaped slice in the dome.
"It closed down many years ago," Dominique explained. "Now
it is deserted."
"But ... what are we doing here?"
A shadow of sadness flitted across her face. "Not very homey,
I know, but it is my sanctuary, where I stay when I can't risk going to
my office. I brought you here last night."
"Last night ..." Aiden sat up, regretted it, and passed a shaky
hand over her brow. "What happened?"
Dominique crouched beside her. "I didn't dare leave you to the
Hunter. He would have slain you without a thought."
"You saved my life! Again!"
"I owed you. If you hadn't distracted the Hunter, he would
have shot me where I lay entangled."
"It's my fault he got you in that net in the first place," Aiden
pointed out miserably.
"Let's not worry about whose fault it was. You saved us both,
with your magic."
"Oh, God, no!" Aiden remembered. "I killed those men!" If
she'd eaten anything lately, it would have come up the express elevator,
but all she could do was retch a little.
"You did what you had to do," Dominique said.
When the urge to throw up had passed, Aiden sought refuge in
tears instead. She didn't resist when Dominique embraced her and
rocked her like a child, crooning soothingly in her ear.
How long did she sit like that? She had no idea, but when the
cleansing spate of weeping had passed, she felt marginally better.
"Why ... why didn't you take me home?" she sniffled.
"What do you think the clan would have done if I had?"
Dominique countered. "It was too dangerous. I knew we'd be safe here.
Come, poor child, let's get you cleaned up."
Aiden looked down at herself and grimaced. She was still in
her silvery gown, though it was now a bleary grey from her unwelcome
adventures. One side was ripped clear to the hip, and her nylons were
more shredded than the ones Birdie sometimes wore. She was filthy,
and by the feel of it her hair was one big beige tumbleweed.
She had too many aches and pains to count, but most notable
among them was the sore scrape on her throat where the creepy man
with the metal hand had tried to throttle her.
Dominique led her to a partitioned-off section that looked like
it had once been a small auditorium, perfect for presenting slide shows
for field trips. It was right next to a dome within the dome, a dark cave,
which Aiden guessed used to be the planetarium.
"The facilities aren't the best," Dominique said apologetically,
"but it will do."
Aiden nodded her thanks and used the makeshift bathroom to
clean up as well as she could. "Do you have any spare clothes?" she
asked without much hope.
Dominique rustled up some stirrup pants that would have been
clingy on her but bagged on Aiden, and a roomy cream-colored
cableknit sweater. By the time she had taken a sponge bath and
changed, Dominique had also produced orange juice, some cold Pop
Tarts, and best of all a bottle of Advil.
Fed, clothed, and medicated, Aiden was feeling much better.
She'd even managed to restore some order to her hair with the loan of a
spangly gold scrunchie that seemed like the last accessory in the world
she would have expected of Demona.
"This isn't so bad, kind of like camping out," she said. "I don't
suppose there's a phone? I've got to call home, they'll be worried to
death!"
"Only the cellular." Dominique handed it to her.
"All I'm getting is hissing," Aiden said after a few minutes of
trying. She blew out a sigh of dismay. "These things never work! What
time is it?"
"Two thirty in the afternoon. You slept a long time. I was
beginning to worry."
"Two thirty! They must be going crazy!"
"Tonight, I can take you home," Dominique said. "It's too far
to walk, even to the main road."
She led Aiden to the front door, which overlooked the long,
sloping overgrown lawn. A wide flight of cracked cement stairs cut
through the lawn to an empty parking lot. Beyond that was a lightly
scrub-wooded hillside, cradled in the bend of a river. An old-fashioned
trestle-bridge spanned the river, leading to narrow two-lane backtop.
The phone worked no better out of doors, even on the hilltop.
She could see the familiar hazy skyline in the distance. Dominique was
right, too far to walk, and the little road which dead-ended at the
observatory didn't look like it got much traffic.
She looked around, feeling the empty weight of the
countryside pressing down on her. "You shouldn't have to live like this,
in hiding!"
"Story of my life," Dominique said bitterly. "It was only
recently that I was able to live in reclusive luxury, and even more
recently that the trickster Puck made me human by day so that I could
move about visibly. Prior to that, I stayed in much worse places than
this! Much, much worse! I'm just glad I was able to save my collection
of magics! You, a sorceress, should be able to appreciate that!"
"Sorceress? No, not me, not really," Aiden demurred. "I hardly
know what I'm doing at all! I sometimes feel like I'm really
disappointing -- my teacher. Seems like the only time I do something
right is by accident!"
Dominique chuckled. "What a pair we are! I have a
millenium's worth of knowledge, and you have the power!"
Aiden joined in her laughter. "I wish I knew half the magic you
do!"
"Perhaps we should become partners," she joked.
Aiden laughed harder. "Wouldn't _that_ be something?"
"Wouldn't it, though?" Dominique said, suddenly thoughtful.
"Without the Grimorum Arcanorum in my hands, the spells I know are
useless. You, though, aren't dependent on books or scrolls. I wonder, if
I taught you the spells I remember but cannot cast, could you cast them?
I wonder if you could use the items I have?"
"What sorts of items?" Aiden asked eagerly.
How could she not jump at the chance to learn more magic?
To please and impress Owen and Mr. Xanatos and make them feel like
their treatment of her was justified? They'd taken her in, gotten her
admitted into the Sterling Academy, made her welcome in their home,
and aside from a few mishaps and one rather bizarre time travel
incident, she hadn't really done all that much to prove herself.
Befriending Demona, though? She could just see the look on
Goliath's face if he heard of such a thing. Ooh, he'd be furious!
There _was_ good in her, though! Angela was right about that!
The clan had misjudged what happened to Ebon and Scarlet Angel.
Now that Aiden had gotten to know her a little, she really didn't seem
all that bad!
"There isn't much," Dominique said in answer to her question.
"This bracelet was a gift from Queen Titania; I'm sure you remember
our first meeting."
"Yes." Aiden frowned fleetingly, then reminded herself that
Demona had released Owen unharmed, after all.
"I thought of taking refuge on Avalon, but I doubt I'd find a
warm welcome there either. Especially now that Jericho has turned on
me!" She visibly shook off those unpleasant thoughts and gestured back
inside. "Let me show you my other treasures!"
"Okay!" Aiden followed, since there wasn't really much else
she could do until sunset.
Dominique rummaged through a small oaken chest. "Crushed
petals from the Fealty Rose; I might find a use for those someday. A
pair of Shadow Gloves. A book, the Grimorum Necro -- well, you
wouldn't be interested in that. The Wyvern Dagger -- don't mention it to
Xanatos," she added with a wink. "Hmm, what else? Oh, yes! Here!
Look at this!"
She carefully lifted something wrapped in many folds of cloth.
"The Moonstone Unicorn," she announced proudly as she let the cloth
fall away.
"Oh!" Aiden gasped.
It was about six inches high, in the shape of a rearing unicorn.
The carving was so smooth and so skillfully done that it looked like the
unicorn might move at any moment. Its mane and tail seemed to flow as
if kissed by a gentle breeze. The horn spiralling from its brow was solid
gold, as were its dainty cloven hooves. The rest of it was a pure, opaque
white stone that shimmered like moonlight.
"How pretty!" Aiden brushed away the tears that filled her
eyes. It wasn't just the beauty of the figurine, it was the clean and pure
magical radiance it gave off, a radiance she couldn't see or feel but
sensed on some other, inner level. "What does it do?"
"Would you really like to know?"
"Yes, oh yes!"
"Tonight," she promised. "Tonight when the moon rises, I will
show you."

* *

Birdie, determined to feel like she was doing something other
than waiting around Castle Wyvern all day, tagged along with Elisa to
the 23rd Precinct to wait around there all day.
At first, she had been able to help out, by calling around to all
the hospitals and morgues trying to get a lead on this mystery woman
whose overshoe Broadway was carting around like a teddy bear. Some
might have thought that a weird thing for her, his incidental gal pal, to
be doing, but she could tell he was upset about it and wanted to do the
big lummox a favor.
That avenue of research had come up empty, which she
supposed was good news. No apparent jumpers, no bodies in
trenchcoats. But it had only taken her a couple of hours, which left her
with plenty of time on her hands.
And so it was that, on a trip to the vending machine to get
some Cheetos for Matt in an effort to make herself useful, she ditty-
bopped around a corner and came face to face with ...
"Aunt Margot!"
"Roberta," the D.A. said with all the warmth of an ice floe.
"Why am I not surprised? Juvenile court appointment?"
Birdie came back gamely. "Nah, got hauled in by the vice
squad. What are you in for?"
"Not that it's any of your business," Margot said, not deigning
to respond to the vice squad gambit, "but Brendan's car was damaged in
last night's gargoyle attack, and I'm here to get some answers from that
cretin Bluestone."
"Hang on a minute!" Birdie plunked quarters into the machine
and a red shiny bag adorned with Chester Cheetah's grin tumbled out.
She tossed it at her astounded aunt. "Do me a favor and give those to
him, wouldja? I'm going to make myself scarce."
Margot crunched the bag in her hand, grinding the contents to
flourescent orange powder. Birdie then proceeded to indeed make
herself scarce, and crept up to the restored clocktower. She leaned on
the wall, idly watching for Margot to leave the building. From her
gargoyle-like vantage point, she could see Elisa's way-cool car cozied
up to the curb.
"Hold the phone," Birdie muttered, watching as a blonde with
a ponytail approached the Fairlane. Now, she was a drama student and
not a rocket scientist, but that didn't make her dumb as a post, so she
had a pretty good idea who the blonde was, even without a visor.
The blonde paused, glanced casually around, then stuck
something under the windshield wiper. From here it looked like a traffic
ticket.
"What the hell?" Birdie watched as the blonde walked away
down the street, then hustled her buns to the stairs.
She almost burst into the office, but even through the closed
door she could hear Aunt Margot's hectoring voice, raised to courtroom
level.
"About face." She trotted through the squad room, jiggling a
lot and drawing some interested leers from a trio of thugs standing in
handcuffs. One, a bald dude, even mustered a wolf whistle.
A line from a Dean Koontz book occurred to her. Sleazy
propositions from the dregs of society. Yowza!
She ignored the guy and headed outside and down the wide
steps, then crossed the street and approached Elisa's car, trying to see if
she was being observed. Not that she'd see them if they were; they'd be
expecting Elisa, whose powers of detection were much greater than
Birdie's.
Noticing nothing out of the ordinary, and seeing that the day
was already growing dim as the sun settled toward the west and turned
hand flicked out and snatched the paper from under the windshield
wiper.
She went to the corner, crossed the street again, and ducked
into a deli. The proprietor gave her an annoyed look when she made as
if to sit at one of the little tables, so she dug into her pockets and came
up with the cash for a sandwich and a little tub of macaroni salad. Then,
he was all smiles as she sat down.
By now, she figured, if anyone was going to come after her for
snitching the paper, they would have. So she unfolded it. When she saw
that it was handwritten instead of pasted together letters cut from a
magazine, she grinned, knowing how disappointed Broadway was going
to be.
Her high good humor in the face of her best bud's
disappearance was just Birdie's way of coping with stress. Humor as a
defense mechanism. If she looked at this as if it were a badly written
script, she could downplay the seriousness of it and keep her fear under
control.
"The observatory," the note read. "Demona's got her."
Weird ransom note, she thought. No mention of money, no
melodramatic if-you-want-to-see-her-again.
Demona, though. That was some bad news, some heavy
trouble.
She got up, bundling a napkin around her untouched sandwich,
and hurried out. Aunt Margot or no Aunt Margot, she guessed now was
the time to let Elisa and Matt in on this latest development.

* *

"Cut the bullshit," Margot Yale snapped in a manner that was
not at all in keeping with her courtroom image. She slapped the table
hard enough to make Matt's coffee cup jump and rattle. "You know and
I know that you're hooked up with these monsters!"
Elisa's eyes flashed dangerously, but she, with a visible effort,
smiled and folded her hands and began humming. For some reason,
Margot sat back sharply and gave Elisa an alarmed, fearful look.
Matt shifted his gaze between the two women, not sure why
"Disco Inferno" would cause such a reaction.
He rustled some papers to get their attention again. Margot's
gaze settled on him like a plague of fire ants. "All these eyewitness
accounts agree that Brendan Vandermere's car was not damaged by a
gargoyle."
"Yes, by a woman in an evening gown, who jumped out of the
back of an ambulance waving a gun." Margot dripped sarcasm and
lifted her chin in a way that said she was questioning Matt's breeding
and suspecting a fair amount of simian heritage. "Which is even more
preposterous than gargoyles!"
Elisa opened her mouth to retort, and at that moment the phone
jangled urgently. Matt scooped it up. "Bluestone here."
"Matt, it's Alvarez. Were you looking for a chick with a
parachute?"
"Anybody hears you talking like that, the Captain'll have your
butt in a sling," Matt remarked, but his brain was clicking into high
gear. "Anyway, yeah. What have you got?"
"She crashed through a skylight into a meth lab. Messed
herself up pretty bad, and it took the druggies all damn day to call it in
because they were looking out their own rears."
Matt got the hospital room number from Alvarez, then hung
up, aware that Elisa and Margot had turned the heat on their antagonism
down to simmer and were both watching him.
"Ms. Yale, I'm sorry, but we'll have to continue this another
time," Matt said, standing up. "We've got a matter to investigate that
pertains to the case. We'll be in touch."
Elisa was also on her feet, and moving out the door. Margot
glowered. "_I'll_ be in touch, Bluestone, don't worry about that!"
"I wasn't worried," he assured her warmly, and followed Elisa
into the hall. "We've got the redhead, and if we go now we might be
able to get something out of her before she starts whining about her
rights like her partner downstairs."
"Let's go, then! You drive; my keys are in my jacket and I
don't want to waste any time going back for it."
"I'm parked in the alley."
They hurried toward the back stairs, weaving through the
cross-shift crowd.
"Hey," Matt said suddenly, "what about the kid, the Goth,
what's-her-name --?"
"Birdie, and FYI she's Yale's very own niece." Elisa stopped
and looked around. "Damn, probably in hiding. Well, she's a big girl
and can take care of herself for an hour or so." She went briskly
onward.
Over the general level of hallway chatter and slamming of
lockers, they heard, "Maza! Bluestone!"
"It's the Captain, come on, step on it, pretend you didn't hear!"
Elisa tugged him into the stairwell and let the door clang closed behind
them.

* *

Birdie elbowed her way through the cops as politely as
possible, hid in the broom closet when she caught a glimpse of Aunt
Margot's lime-green babushka bobbing her way (what _did_ possess the
woman to think that thing was stylish?), and burst into the room where
Matt and Elisa weren't.
She turned around and saw Matt's unmistakable carrot-top
headed down the hall.
"Elisa! Matt!" she called, but they didn't so much as pause,
probably not hearing her above the din. So she dipped into her innate
talent for mimicry, which wasn't as handy as being a sorceress or
anything cool like that but it did have its uses.
"Maza! Bluestone!" she barked in such a good imitation of
their boss that many heads swiveled toward her in surprise. But, darn it
all, Matt and Elisa only poured on the speed.
Muttering the first several minutes of dialogue from "Four
Weddings and a Funeral" under her breath, she pushed less politely
through the crowd and finally had to admit that she'd lost them.
Thinking maybe they left her a note, she went to find their
desks. Matt's half was scrupulously neat with a framed photo of his
ladyfriend Edie and a clear pyramid with a hologramatic eyeball
floating eerily in it as the only decorations. Elisa's side was by no means
a pigsty, but it did show that she had a less-than-letter-perfect approach
to paperwork, and a fondness for those cinammonny Hot Tamale
candies. Her jacket was hanging over the back of her chair.
No note.
Birdie turned to the cop at the next desk. "Hey --" she began,
and when he raised his ink-dark Latino eyes to hers and smiled with
perfect white teeth that seemed even whiter against his dark skin, she
instantly wondered if there was a "Men of the 23rd Precinct" calendar.
"Hey," she said again, with altogether different inflections.
His grin widened. "Looking for Elisa and Matt? They headed
to the hospital."
Faster on her mental feet than her weight would ever let her be
on her physical ones, Birdie nodded. "Yep, I know, Elisa sent me to get
her jacket." She picked it up, and just as she'd hoped, keys jangled in
the pocket.
"See you later," he said, tipping his pen at her.
Some remark about flicking his Bic nearly popped out of her
mouth, but she reined it in at the last moment and gave him her best
Betty Boop smile instead.
She slung Elisa's jacket over her shoulder and left the room,
allowing herself one last appraisal of the cop whose nameplate read
Alvarez. Elisa didn't need a window seat with a view like that just one
desk over!
Minutes later, she was closing in on the Fairlane again, aware
that what she was about to do was downright crazy. Sure, she had the
keys, she didn't have to resort to hotwiring, but she was still boosting a
cop's car from right in _front_ of the police station. Not the brightest of
plans.
She donned the jacket, and with it tried to don Elisa Maza.
Hard-nosed cop, gutsy, determined, independent, deeply committed to
the cause. Birdie had too much hip to get Elisa's walk down pat, but she
captured most of the attitude and went right up to the car as if she had
every right to be there.
She nearly lost it when the first two keys she jabbed at the lock
didn't do the trick, but third time was the charm and the door opened
obligingly.
The engine started up with an eager roar, and Birdie pulled
away from the curb.

* *

Sunset.
The hour of the gargoyle.
Owen Burnett, his face drawn with weariness, waited patiently
as the clan went through their usual noisy evening calisthenics. He
brushed chips and dust from his shoulders with the resigned distaste of
an actor in a medicated shampoo commercial.
Lexington sprang down in front of him. Though stone sleep
was supposed to rejuvenate them, the smallest gargoyle looked as if he
had tossed and turned all day.
"Well?" He packed an encyclopedia's worth of anxiety into
that one word.
Owen succinctly outlined the day's progress. Or, rather, the
lack thereof. The only good news he had was Elisa's report that Birdie
had been unable to find Broadway's boot-loser.
"Nothing?!" Lex agonized. "What about Alex's spell?"
Owen shook his head. "She is nowhere in Manhattan. All we
could get, and this was after much trying, was a vague image of the
moon."
"The moon?" Angela echoed. "She couldn't be there! That's
impossible! Isn't it?"
"Even with sorcery," Owen agreed. "It may, however, be a
symbol." His throat moved as he swallowed, and the clan realized with
some concern that he was nervous. "A symbol of someone, or
someones, with a lunar aspect."
The rest didn't get it, but Goliath's brow drew together in a
deep crease. "The Weird Sisters?"
"Possibly," he admitted. "Although abduction by mercenaries
is not their usual style. They may have done it to throw us off the
scent."
"Why would the Weird Sisters want Aiden?" Angela
wondered. "I thought they weren't permitted to interfere in human
affairs."
"Now, lass, we all know how well the Third Race obey their
laws," Hudson said.
One corner of Owen's mouth twitched slightly, then he was
somber again. "There is the matter of Hecate's Wand to consider. It was
made by the Sisters' mother, and they might not consider the wand, nor
its bearer, as a part of human affairs."
"But the wand is in Aiden's room!" Lex protested. "She didn't
have it with her!"
"I took the liberty of moving the wand. It is sealed in Coyote's
containment chamber, which is made from magical iron. The Sisters
will not be able to reach it, if that is their desire."
"You put Humpty Dumpty together again after Goliath
squashed him in Arizona?" Brooklyn asked.
"Of course. Mr. Xanatos doesn't like to waste resources."
"Where is Xanatos?" Goliath asked.
"In the dining room. As is MacBeth. We recently had a call
from Detective Maza. She and Matt are at the hospital now, so they
may be able to get some information from the woman, Fleance. You're
all welcome to join them so that we may plan our next move."
Lex hung back. "I'll be along in a while," he said.
When the rest of them had gone, Lex crept down the stairs to
Alexander's room. He eased the door open.
The young boy was sprawled on his bed, the blankets all
kicked back to reveal the Star Wars sheets that Lex had picked out. One
little arm was draped over his winged teddy-goyle, and in the other
hand he clutched tight to a beanbag stegosaurus Aiden had won for him
at a street fair last summer.
The poor kid looked worn out, the purplish smudges under his
eyes not faded even in sleep. Lex hated to wake him, but he had to.
"Alex!" he whispered, giving the boy a gentle shake. "Hey,
buddy!"
Alex mumbled something and burrowed into his pillow.
"Come on, Alex," Lex urged. "Help me out here, 'kay?"
"Hmph?"
"I need to know where Aiden is," Lex said. "Show me what
you saw."
"Moon."
"Yeah. Can you show me?"
Alex flopped over onto his back, his eyelids at an unsteady
half-mast. He sleep-talked a spell, fanned his fingers, and a hazy
glowing image appeared in the air. Lex saw a pale, full moon rising
behind a thin row of trees. Nearly as soon as he saw it, the image faded
and Alex rolled onto his tummy again.
The moon? It looked wrong somehow. Even weirder, it looked
familiar somehow.
"Thanks," Lex said, ruffling the boy's hair. He tiptoed out,
closed the door quietly, turned, and bumped smack into Broadway.
"You want to sit around and wait for Elisa to call, or you want
to go out now?" Broadway asked.

* *

The most helpful thing that Elisa and Matt could get out of
Fleance was a suggestion that both Goliath and Edie might have
objected to strenuously.
No amount of good-cop/bad-cop made a difference, since the
redhead was doped to the gills but still with it enough to be stubborn.
Elisa was fuming by the time they got back to Matt's car and rang up the
castle.
"We're back to Square One," she announced via speakerphone.
It was right about then that Brooklyn revealed that both Lex
and Broadway were missing.
And it wasn't long after that they got back to the station and
found that Elisa's car was gone, and so was Birdie.

* *

"There's Elisa's car!" Broadway pointed, thankful that their
friend had such a distinctive set of wheels.
The Fairlane was at the edge of a postage-stamp-sized patch of
parking lot between a gas station and a dry cleaner's, parked next to a
pair of phone booths. A brunette in a red jacket was poring over a map
spread on the hood of the car.
Lex spiralled down, and Broadway followed, after making sure
the lot was more or less unpopulated. It was only as Lex made his
touchdown on the roof of the car that Broadway realized the brunette
wasn't Elisa.
"Find anything?" Lex demanded.
She jumped a foot. "Jeez, Lex, you scared the hell out of me!"
"Birdie?!"
"Birdie?" Broadway landed too. "Where's Elisa? What ... hey,
what's with the jacket? Does Elisa know you've got her car?"
"Long story. Listen, guys, I'm glad to see you." She quickly
filled them in on the blonde and the note. "But I can't find the damn
observatory! It's not in the phone book, not on the map --"
"The observatory!" Lex smacked himself upside the head.
"Not the moon! I knew it looked familiar! It was on 'Beyond 2000,' the
one Hudson got mad about --" he coughed guiltily at that point, then
went on. "They were doing a show about the future of astronomy, and
part of it was about the older observatories. Hayden-Mevis, I'd bet you
a million bucks! That's where she is!" He clawed his way to the top of
the phone booth. "Let's go!"
"What about Demona?" Broadway asked. "Shouldn't we get
the rest of the clan in on it?"
"You can wait, but not me!"
"Lex, wait --"
Birdie slung her arms around his neck. "Come on, stud, he'll
need backup."
"But the phone's right there -- oh, darn it!" Broadway shrugged
and went after his rookery brother.

* *

The moon was waning, so it rose more than an hour after
Dominique's dramatic transformation into Demona.
Aiden couldn't help but admire Puck's handiwork, though she
didn't dare comment on it because she'd gotten the idea that Demona
hadn't quite tipped to the fact that Owen and Puck were the same being.
The caliber of magic at work here made her feel woefully inadequate,
silly as it was to be comparing her paltry skills to those of a milennia-
old immortal. It only made her all the more tempted by Demona's offer.
A little correspondance course in addition to her other studies.
What was the harm? Sorcery was itself neither good nor evil. It
was all in how it was used. Just because Demona used her power to try
and destroy humanity ... but not _all_ humanity that she ever met,
present case in point.
They'd put together a dinner of canned stew and peaches. It
still felt like a campout, and after her initial nervousness, Aiden was
surprised to find herself getting along better with Demona than she did
with any of the others except Lexington. They did seem to have some
things in common, or maybe it was the bond of their magical talent.
The previous night's drizzle had departed, leaving a crisp and
clear sky sparkling with stars. The bite of December, only a few days
away, was already in the air.
Aiden shivered a little, but was too excited by the prospect of
witnessing the marvel of the Moonstone Unicorn to be bothered by the
cold. They were out on the sloping lawn, so overgrown that it was really
more like a wild meadow, the bulk of the dome behind them.
Demona laid out the statuette, a scroll, and a tiny vial with a
quarter-inch of red liquid inside. In the east, the moon was peeking over
the horizon, crisscrossed by the beams of the trestle bridge.
"Here, hold this," she said, giving the statuette to Aiden.
Although it seemed to be made of solid stone and gold, it
wasn't as heavy as it should have been. It felt light and somehow alive
in her hands.
"This," Demona said, holding aloft the vial, "is unicorn blood
mixed with powder of unicorn horn."
"You mean, they're real? Really real?" Aiden was aware of
how childish and naive she sounded, but it was too late to take the
question back.
Demona only nodded. "Watch." She tipped the vial so that a
single drop of blood poured out.
Aiden watched, not sure what she was supposed to see. The
blood struck the ground, spread, and vanished.
"Are you familiar with the lore of sowing dragon's teeth?"
Demona asked.
"Like in those old Sinbad movies, right? The skeletons?"
"The effect is much the same, though the special effects, I
think, you'll find considerably better!"
The ground before them began to shift and heave. Soil and
grass rose up in a mound, taking on a horselike shape. And then, much
like a gargoyle shedding its stone skin, earth fell away in clumps and
flew away in a gritty spray, and a gleaming white unicorn stood before
them.
Not a statue. Breath plumed frostily from its nostrils. Huge
liquid soulful eyes with long soft lashes. A shining twist of golden horn
rose from its brow.
"Wow," Aiden breathed.
Demona had moved back a little, slightly behind Aiden. "Here,
read the scroll. You don't have long before it changes."
"Changes?"
"No time to debate. Read!"
Holding the Moonstone Unicorn in one hand, Aiden skimmed
the scroll, doing a quick translation and run-through just to make sure
she had the pronunciation right and that it wasn't some sort of evil
humanity-destroying apocalypse.
"Uh ..." she said, as the unicorn was beginning to curl its lip in
a fairly menacing manner and paw at the ground with one dainty gold
cloven hoof. "What's this part about a chaste vessel?"
"It's not calling for a human sacrifice. It's just that a virgin
must cast the spell."
Aiden lowered the scroll and stared at Demona. "Oh, boy, talk
about rotten timing!"
"What are you --" Demona's eyes became deadly little slits.
"You didn't! Your school file, your personality profile, my contact at
the Academy --"
As her eyes narrowed, Aiden's grew wide. "_You_ were
behind the kidnapping!" she gasped. "It was all a set-up! I'm such an
idiot! Stupid, stupid, stupid!"
"When? When, damn, you, when?"
"T-two nights ago," she stammered, blushing and at the same
time feeling like the world's biggest dope for not having seen through
the ruse before. And then her gaze was drawn from Demona to the
unicorn, and embarrassment and self-recriminations paled as raw horror
took over.
A few minutes before it changes, Demona had said. Changes.
The golden horn was now a diseased-looking growth that
shaded from bone-white to blood-red to death-black at the tip. The lush
satiny mane grew spiked and wiry. The flowing tail shriveled into a
ratlike whip with a leonine tuft. The dainty hooves became deeply split.
The soulful eyes were now urine-yellow. Even as she watched, the head
altered so that the jaw was a crocodilian collage of teeth. The body
hunched into an almost camel-ish shape, covered with coarse bristly fur.
At first, it had appeared as the typical fantasy unicorn. Now it
was closer to the type seen on medieval tapestries, the type that could
be lured by a maid but more often than not would skewer her with its
sharp horn.
The spell, which Aiden now realized would have let her hold it
to its beautiful form and bind it to her will, was useless.
A gargoyle snarled, right in her ear and scary enough to divert
her fear from the unicorn.
Friendly Dominique, repentant Demona, those personas were
gone now. She was with the real Demona now, and God help her!
"I just want to know one thing, before I let it gut you,"
Demona said. "Who? Who ruined your virtue, and ruined my plans?"

* *

"There it is!" Lexington called.
The dome, which Owen had mistaken for the moon, bulked
against the sky. The true moon was a frosty semi-globe in the east,
shedding white winter light over the overgrown grounds. Easy to spot
the figures below.
"It's Demona, all right," Broadway said grimly.
Birdie, clinging to him like a kid riding piggyback, said
nothing but looked a little ill at the prospect of going hammer-and-tongs
against the queen bee of evil gargoyles. Sure, she'd done well enough
helping defend Ebon against the Quarrymen, but she'd been in the body
of a gargoyle herself at the time. Tonight she was only human, without
even magic to back her up. Still, she wasn't about to turn back, and
Lex's estimation of her edged higher.
He forgot all about Birdie, though, as he got a good look at the
third figure.
"She's summoned a monster to devour Aiden!" he cried, and
went into a steep dive.

* *

Aiden stared into Demona's hellfire eyes and knew she was
going to die.
At least I won't die a virgin, she thought, and the absurdity of it
made her laugh.
Demona's eyes flared even brighter, painting the landscape
crimson. She raised one hand with claws outstretched, ready to flay the
skin from Aiden's face. "Who, I asked you?!"
And then, right on cue, Lex swooped out of the night.
"Demona!"
"You?!" she shrieked. "You perverted little human-loving
imp!"
Lex didn't dignify that with a response but tackled Demona
around the waist. The impact sent them both tumbling across the grass.
Sent the vial of unicorn blood flying from Demona's other
hand.
"Oh, no!" Aiden reached out with her magic as the uncorked
vial spun and sprayed its contents in an arc of ruby droplets. The force
of her spell seized the glass before it broke, but too little, too late.
Distracted by that, she didn't even notice that the unicorn was
lunging at her until she felt the steam of its breath. She threw herself
gracelessly backwards. Its loathsome furry side left a rug burn on her
arm and knocked her down.
The unicorn turned and came around for another pass. Aiden
struggled to sit up and saw it charging. She yelped and tried to roll to
the side.
Broadway and Birdie landed hard, right between Aiden and
the oncoming creature. It veered away, making a startled and almost
funny bleat.
Demona and Lex were rolling in a biting and kicking tangle.
She was bigger, but he was agile and swarmed over her. He scrambled
into her back, dug his knees into her wing joints, seized a double
handful of her scarlet hair, and yanked.
She howled in fury and pain as her head came up. She and Lex
saw it at the same time, and both gargoyles froze in place like
mannequins.
"Holy guacamole, Batman," Birdie said in a soft, awed voice.
Heard of unicorns? Aiden thought crazily. Sure, I've heard of
unicorns.
But it wasn't heard, it was herd, a half-dozen of the graceful
white animals birthing themselves from the earth. There had only been a
few drops left in Demona's vial, but even one might prove to be too
many for them to handle, so seven was surely out of the question.
They tossed their heads, they reared and pawed the air, they
nickered sociably at one another, and then as they caught sight of their
changed sibling running wild and free over the grass, they began to
transform.
The first two to complete the change raced at the nearest
targets, which happened to be Demona and Lex. Their own spat
temporarily back-burnered, they leapt up.
"They can't fight us in the air," Demona said. She bent and
laced her fingers, and Lex didn't even hesitate at stepping into her
cupped hands and letting her leg-up him skyward. She then ran for a
skinny little twig of a tree and got herself some altitude.
"Yes, they can!" Lex pointed, and they all saw very clearly that
the unicorns were running upward on nothing but thin air, their split
hooves striking sparks and trailing smoke.
Aiden suffered a brief flashback to the time she'd inadvertantly
enspelled Owen, and thought that if Birdie produced a boom box and
started playing "Ride of the Valkyries," a herd of monster unicorns
would be the least of her best friend's problems.
Birdie did not appear about to do anything of the sort. She was
currently staring at an approaching unicorn. "Nice beastie," she
murmured. "Want a lump of sugar?"
It snorted and gouged the earth with its forehooves.
"Get inside!" Broadway commanded, spinning her toward the
distant door of the observatory and planting himself in front of the
unicorn.
Aiden gathered her wits and cast a spell. For months, she'd
been working on levitation, and had finally gotten to the point where
she could lift herself off the ground.
Her control wasn't the best, making her think of a video game
with arrows for up, down, back, forth, left and right. She couldn't do
diagonals, couldn't turn terribly fast, couldn't do anything fancy. But it
was sufficient to get her airborne just as a unicorn thundered by beneath
her now-dangling feet.
The one facing Broadway was weaving side to side, swishing
its leonine tail edgily and wrinkling its nose. When he lunged at it and
roared, the poor thing skittered backward, hooves shooting in all
directions like Bambi on ice.
The ones that had followed Lex and Demona into the air were
giving them a good chase. The gargoyles banked and soared on
updrafts, the unicorns galloped as if the sky was a series of steep
switchbacks. Higher and higher went the chase.
Aiden cast a witchbolt at one that had come up after her,
hoping for the fireworks that she'd gotten when zapping the Hunter. No
such luck. Just the same meek little blob as ever, and she missed
besides.
"Hey, horny!" Birdie yelled. She hadn't made a break for the
safety of the observatory, but instead, Aiden saw with dread as she
looked down, had removed Elisa's red jacket and was flapping it like a
matador's cape. "Toro! Toro!"
The unicorn lowered its head and went after her. Birdie
jumped aside, making the leather jacket snap like a whip.
Three were in hot pursuit of Lex and Demona. Broadway was
menacing one. Aiden let herself drop ten feet to avoid another. Birdie
was backing steadily toward the edge of the meadow. That left one
unaccounted for ...
Nope, there it was, coming right at her. She realized she still
held the statuette and the scroll, and sort of thrust them out in front of
her like a shield, hoping it might give the creature pause.
She got its attention, but only seemed to make it mad. She
twisted her body and its horn snagged the overlarge sweater and just
nicked Aiden's side. The other one that had been after her made another
pass and she ducked, getting clipped on the top of the head with a hoof.
"Arriba, arriba, andele!" Birdie yipped in a really good Speedy
Gonzalez imitation.
She waggled the jacket enticingly. The unicorn went for it. At
the last instant, Birdie jerked it out of the way and the unicorn went
horn-first into a treetrunk. It bucked and kicked and went basically
crazy, but was stuck fast.
Demona, doubtless pissed that the no-magic human had
managed to deal with her opponent before any of the gargoyles,
signaled to Lex. He nodded. They swooped toward each other, each
with a unicorn all but nipping at their tails.
Just when it seemed this game of chicken might end with a
horrific crash, they both went straight up, their bodies only intimate
inches apart. The unicorns, not so quick on the uptake, rammed
headlong into each other.
There was a sound that reminded Aiden of the time some of
her high-school classmates had dropped a pumpkin off a freeway
overpass. The visual, though, was more like tomatoes hurled against a
wall.
Demona and Lex glanced down to survey their handiwork and
slapped each other's hands, grinning maniacally. It was as if they hadn't
been trying to throttle each other only minutes before.
Aiden's next witchbolt smacked a unicorn on the snoot. It
faltered and shook its head briefly. The other one that had been chasing
her was distracted by Birdie's loud and insulting antics below and went
for her. But, like the ill-fated Khan, Birdie was used to dealing with
things two-dimensionally and wasn't expecting an attack from above.
The unicorn came down at her. She realized her error and tried
to get out of the way. It missed her with its horn but got her with its
meaty shoulder. This time, the sound was that of a medicine ball hitting
an exercise mat. Birdie uttered a breathy "Oof!" as it flattened her.
Broadway, having cowed his foe into a complete quivering
surrender, sprang to Birdie's defense. He roared and brought his hand
down on the unicorn's rump hard enough to buckle its rear legs. It
crashed and rolled, nickered plaintively, and stretched its neck to lick at
his foot.
A thought like a fishhook tugged in Aiden's brain, but
whatever it was, she lost it as she saw what none of the others had yet
seen.
Demona and Lex, now engaged with the biggest of the herd,
hadn't paid much attention after watching the mid-air collision of the
other two. They hadn't caught the significance of the grisly rain that had
pattered down from the heavens.
Flashback time, part deux. This time it was a movie she'd
loved as a kid, so much that she'd even named her teddy bear after the
cute little fuzzy thing. Gizmo. Gremlins. What she saw below her now
was a soil-and-grass version of what had happened when the evil
gremlin Stripe had gone swimming.
The entire meadow was churning.
The vial had held seven drops. The goosh from above was
buckets' worth.
Horned shapes began rising up. A dozen, a hundred, more.
_Now_ the others were aware, for all the good it did.
Demona, stunned by what she saw, didn't have a chance to get
out of the way as the biggest of the herd, the first one that she herself
had summoned, plowed into her from behind. Its horn went clear
though her -- even in the weird lighting, Aiden could see the tip burst
from her chest like an erupting alien. Her scream split the sky.
The unicorn squealed in triumph and galloped across the sky
with Demona nailed to its head like a butterfly on a pin.
Aiden very nearly got dished up a helping of the same fate, but
she heard Lex's warning cry and looked away from the horror below
and the gory impalement above. The unicorn she'd zapped with her
feeble witchbolt was coming at her for another try.
She hurled another bolt, and this time her wish was granted.
The silvery lozenge struck square between the eyes, just under the base
of its horn. Light bright enough to read the fine print by exploded in
front of Aiden, and a heatless force sent her sailing weightlessly back.
Her levitation spell almost deserted her as the earth and stars
swapped places, but she recovered before she took the fast way down
and righted herself. Her hand slipped on the statuette and she juggled it
for a secure hold.
The unicorn was gone. No blood, no fuss, no muss, no bother,
just gone.
And below, hundreds more were rising from the earth like a
weird remake of Night of the Living Dead.
Lex glided to her side, and in his eyes she saw what she knew
all too well. They didn't have a chance.
Or did they?
The fishhook was back, digging into the fabric of her thoughts.
She stared at the Moonstone Unicorn, and the scroll, the dratted useless
scroll --
Aiden smacked herself in the temple. "Stupid!" she scolded
herself.
She tore Demona's gold scrunchie from her hair, used it to
rubberband the scroll to the statuette, and drew her arm back as if she
was going out for a long pass. "Broadway!"
He looked up. Two unicorns were cowering at his feet like
beaten puppies. Aiden threw, using her magic to guide the special
delivery because she sure as heck wasn't about to trust to her athletic
skill.
Broadway caught it, but his wide genial face was one big
question mark.
"The scroll!" Aiden cried above the din of the new unicorns
shaking their hides free of dirt. "Read the scroll!"
"Gotcha!" He flashed her a thumbs-up and began unrolling it.
"What's that?" Lex panted.
"Our only chance, unless Birdie lied to me!" She reached out
and clutched Lex's hand. "I just hope he's not being graded on
pronunciation!"
Slowly, ponderously, Broadway read the Latin words. As he
did, the herd fell silent and turned their deep soulful gazes upon him.
When he got to the part about the statue, he paused to say, "oh, yeah,
this!" and held it out.
And when he finished, the entire herd dipped their golden
horns in equine bows, then began to rear and prance and whinney
excitedly. Aiden had the crazy urge to start singing "The Circle of
Life."
Broadway stood there, amazed, as he was surrounded by
unicorns, all of them butting eagerly at him, trying to lick his hands and
face, brushing their sleek white hides against him.
"He did it!" Aiden sighed in relief. "It's safe!"
Cautiously nonetheless, she and Lex descended. The unicorns
sniffed at them and snorted expressively, but didn't make any hostile
moves. They were far too intent on Broadway.
The bestial ones, two unencumbered and one still firmly
wedged in the treetrunk, changed back to their prior beauty. Of the one
that had carried Demona off, there was no sign. Aiden guessed it had
been beyond reach of the spell, beyond hearing.
She pushed her way through the jostling herd and found
Birdie. Elisa's jacket was crumpled next to her.
"Birdie?" Aiden gently shook her.
She groaned, and said without opening her eyes, "Next time
you invite me to spend the weekend, Fergs, I think I'd be better off just
shooting myself in the head."

* *

"I kinda wish they didn't all have to go," Broadway said sadly.
"Xanatos complains enough about Bronx," Lex pointed out.
"How do you think he'd react to having a unicorn around the castle?"
"Besides," Birdie said, "you're going to have to put up with
enough smartmouth from Brooklyn as it is, without having a unicorn
around to remind everyone how you saved our necks."
Broadway mumbled and blushed a little. "Yeah, I guess you're
right."
"How'd you figure it out?" Lex asked Aiden.
"I saw that they weren't attacking him. They went after the rest
of us readily enough, but it was like they _couldn't_ hurt Broadway.
That, combined with what I knew of the spell and what Birdie said the
other day ... well, I put one and one and one together and got three!"
"Good thing, too," Birdie said. She punched Broadway
playfully on the shoulder. "See, there was a method to my madness after
all! And you thought I was just playing hard to get!"
"It's better they go back where they came from," Broadway
said, looking remarkably like Goliath did whenever he wished people
would shut up about his personal life. "New York hasn't gotten used to
gargoyles. Can't imagine what they'd do when people realized there
were herds of unicorns on the loose."
"There's still the other one," Aiden said.
"It can't kill Demona," Lex reminded her. "Eventually, she's
going to get unstuck and there'll be one less unicorn in the world."
"Yeah, and then she'll be back!" Birdie hugged Elisa's jacket
around her shoulders. "So maybe we should get our bad selves gone?"
"What about this?" Broadway held out the Moonstone
Unicorn.
Aiden sighed. "This is where someone's supposed to make a
speech about destroying it so it can't do any more harm or fall into the
wrong hands, and then we bash it on a rock. Same goes for the box of
tricks she's got in the observatory. But someone else is going to have to
do it, because I just can't."
"Goliath didn't destroy the Eye of Odin, the Phoenix Gate, or
the Grimorum right away," Lex said. "And they _did_ fall into the
wrong hands. He said the Eye and the Grimorum got wrecked, and that
he got rid of the Gate forever."
"But some stuff is _good_," Broadway argued. "What about
that Aztec sun-amulet, or whatever it is, that keeps the clan in
Guatamala safe?"
"It's all in how you use it," Birdie said. "Me, I'd say we'd be
nuts to break perfectly good magic widgies. We shouldn't leave it here
for the demon bitch from hell, yeah, agreed, but doesn't Fergs here
deserve a little something for her time?"
"Haven't I caused enough trouble already?" Aiden shook her
head ruefully. "Hecate's Wand, remember? And I don't think Owen or
Mr. Xanatos are going to be pleased with me after all of this. I certainly
don't deserve a reward!"
"No, Birdie's right," Broadway declared. "We should take
them back with us. We can't let Demona get them, yeah, but we
shouldn't go around destroying things that are so old, or powerful."
"Okay," Aiden said heavily. "But I'm giving everything over to
Owen, okay?"
"Fine by me." Birdie chuckled. "Not that it's going to matter
after Elisa catches up with me! I'd almost rather face Demona!"
* *
At first, there hadn't even been any pain, just a deep iciness.
And then she sucked in breath to scream, and the ice turned to volcanic
flame.
On they went, her wings fluttering uselessly as the galloping
hooves carried them across the sky. She squirmed, sending agonizing
explosions through her tortured body, but could not wiggle free of the
horn that jutted from her chest.
She coiled her muscular tail around the unicorn's neck and
began to squeeze.
When it realized what was happening, it began to thrash and
try and fling her clear. She held onto the tip of the horn and held on
tight, grinding her fangs against the pain as she was flung side to side
on the spiraled column.
Tighter and tighter she squeezed.
The galloping faltered. The unicorn dipped its head and now
Demona was fighting gravity as well. She let herself slip free and felt a
warm torrent of blood gush down her back and belly.
She swung under the unicorn, hanging by the tail still wrapped
around its neck. This brought her claws into gutting range, but she
stopped herself just before she slashed. She needed another blood-
shower like she needed, well, a hole in the chest!
Spreading her wings, she pulled a trick riding maneuver that
no circus acrobat could hope to equal and wound up sitting on the
beast's back with her tail still in its death-grip. Now she could add her
strong hands to the constricting tail.
When she'd snapped the neck of Thailog's human lover, it had
been a thin and brittle sound. The unicorn's broke with a krak! that
Demona felt all the way up to her shoulders.
It convulsed and went limp, and together they plunged toward
the glinting snake of the river.

* *

The night was still young when two gargoyles and two humans
arrived on the topmost tower of Castle Wyvern with their chest of loot.
A good thing, too, because they'd need all of those hours
before dawn to explain, apologize, and take their verbal lumps. Penance
and punishment would doubtless not be over with by the time the sun
rose, or indeed by the New Year.
Broadway and Birdie volunteered to go down first and face the
music, leaving Aiden and Lex alone on the roof.
They nervously did a little bit of avoiding each other's eyes.
Then they both spoke at once.
"Aiden, I --"
"Lex, I --"
" -- am so sorry," they said together.
A brief laugh eased the tension. Lex got the next words in first.
"When I heard you were gone, I was afraid you ran away
because of what happened the other night," he confessed.
"Oh, gosh, no!" Aiden gasped.
"Because I'd hurt you, because I was selfish and a pig and a
rotten ... lover."
"No, Lex ..."
"So, if you don't want to ... be my girlfriend any more, I'll
understand."
"Lexington! That is so not what I want!" She started to cry.
"Don't you dare break up with me, not after the day I've had, or I'll just
fall down and die right here! I want to be a lot of things. A good
student, a decent sorceress, yeah, that's great, but most of all I want to
be your girlfriend."
"I thought I lost you," he said, dangerously near tears himself.
"That I'd never see you again, and our last memories would be bad
ones." He opened his arms to her and she went, resting her head on his
shoulder. He tipped his cheek against her hair. His wings lay over her
arms like a soft cloak.
"Demona told me a lot of lies and half-truths, but she was right
about one thing," Aiden said against his neck. "She told me I see only
the good in people. She said it like that was a bad thing, like trust and
naivete are crimes. But she was right. I was ready to see good in her,
even. So how could I ever see bad in someone like you, Lex?"
"There's a little bad in everyone, I guess."
"Even me," Aiden admitted. "I really wanted to believe her,
Lex. I really wanted what she offered. The power ... it seemed so much
more important than the lives of those men that died trying to attack us.
I forgot all about them for a while. I was really tempted."
"But when it came right down to it, you didn't give in," he said,
kissing her ear.
"This time. What happens next time?"
"We'll look out for each other," he said. "That's the best we
can do."
She held him in silence for a while. "Lex?"
"Yeah?"
"I ... when we're done being grounded, that is, I want to ... try
again," she whispered.
He knew right away what she meant. "Aiden, we don't have
to."
"I know we don't have to. But I want to try. Okay?"
"Okay? You're asking me okay?" He laughed a little. "Sure,
yeah, okay! No problem! And I promise, we'll go as slow as you want."
Then his face fell. "When we're done being grounded? Oh, no, there
goes another thousand years of my life!"

* *

Two nights later, Broadway returned to the movie theater.
The half-destroyed building next door, where the cops had
discovered a modest arsenal in addition to another hovercraft, was
slated for demolition next week.
Everything else on the street was back to normal. The
wreckage was cleared away, the newsstand was repaired, and most of
the shops were now sparkling with holiday decorations. The first snow
of the year was just beginning to powder Manhattan.
His mood should have been light, festive. He wasn't even in
trouble with Goliath. None of them were, except for a stern scolding
about not calling for backup. Well, Birdie had gotten it up one side and
down the other from Matt and Elisa, but they still had to applaud her
gutsiness.
Aiden, except for a few scrapes and bruises and a new depth to
her eyes that signaled the end of a variety of innocences, seemed to be
coping well with her ordeal. And Lex had calmed down and issued
heartfelt apologies to all concerned, most especially MacBeth.
Broadway himself wasn't doing so well. It wasn't that Brooklyn
teased him about being the world's oldest virgin (though he did). It
wasn't the absence of the unicorns, though in a weird way he did miss
them. He'd even been praised for saving the others, even though Aiden
was the one who should be praised because she'd been the one to think
of it.
It was the boot.
He landed on the narrow ledge where he'd left the woman,
meaning to leave it and the bouquet of lilies there, but the rising brisk
wind and flurries of snow made him change his mind.
He jumped down to the theater marquee and snuck through the
door into the dark hallway. He could once again hear the flirty pseudo-
1940's dialogue of Tracer Bullet and his dishy secretary, Kandy Kane.
It brought a ghost of a smile to his lips.
She had enjoyed the movie. He decided to leave the boot in the
old projection room. That way, he could bring fresh flowers every so
often. Kind of a ... what do they call it? ... a shrine.
He was halfway across the room before he realized he wasn't
alone.
"It's you!" he gasped, seeing the woman sitting all bundled up
in a quilt, a bag of caramel popcorn open on her lap. "You're all right!"
She smiled that oh-so-nice smile at him again. "You said you'd
be back. I knew you'd not disappoint me. Forgive me, that I waited not
upon the ledge, for it did seem a perch most unsafe."
"But -- how -- " he blundered around, then shoved the bouquet
of lilies in her direction. "These are for you."
She set aside her popcorn and gathered the flowers to her,
inhaling deeply. "Thank you! They are lovely!"
In the flickering half-light coming through the square by the
projector, she looked odd. Not bad-odd, but different-odd. She was
minus the fedora and trenchcoat, both of which were hanging on a
nearby peg. There was something about the way the shadows lay upon
her face that made Broadway pause. It wasn't just that she was pretty,
but there was something eerily familiar ...
He held up the boot. "I found your shoe." Then, grinning at
Brooklyn's jest about Cinderella, he went to one knee in front of her and
held out his hand expectantly.
She gave him a long, thoughtful look and let the quilt fall
away, extending one of a pair of slender but shapely gams (as Tracer
Bullet would have said).
At the end of that eye-pleasing length was a taloned gargoyle
foot.
He dropped the boot.
"What -- who are you?!" he stammered.
"I thought you knew," she said. "I am Elektra."
* *
The End.