Romances
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 consent. Mature readers only!
This story (or, rather, these three stories) takes place immediately after
"Lead Me Not ..."

#29 in an ongoing saga



PART ONE -- GIRL TALK:

The first snow of the winter cast a spell of silence over
Manhattan. Its soft whiteness purified the city, and made the ever-
changing red and green traffic lights glow with the promise of the
approaching Christmas holiday.
Overlooking it all was the Aerie Building, and improbably
balanced atop that on metal struts that looked incapable of holding its
weight, was the massive stone edifice that was Castle Wyvern.
"Ye've always liked the snow, haven't ye, lad?"
"I have," Goliath said, resting his elbows on a parapet and
gazing out. Great fluffy flakes powdered his dark hair, mantled his
shoulders.
"It's so beautiful!" Angela, identically powdered, twirled in a
slow circle with her arms outstretched. "And so peaceful!"
"Don't say that!" Brooklyn bugged his eyes in mock alarm.
"Every time someone says that, next thing you know, we're under
attack!"
"I'll see you under attack!" she growled playfully, and pounced
with a kiss.
"Hey, attack me like that any time!" he said, grinning.
"Ye two," Hudson scolded with a smile. "When are ye going
to settle down and breed us a rookery, that's what I'd like to know!"
"Uh, well, that's a big step," Brooklyn said, scritching uneasily
behind his ear.
"A big step?" Hudson echoed. "'Tis nature, that's all! Ye've
had yer fun for almost a year now, 'tis time ye were thinking o' our
clan's future!"
"Well, things aren't like they were in the old days," Brooklyn
argued. "You can't expect Angela to fill up a rookery all by herself, and
without her sisters to help tend the eggs --"
"Wait a minute," Angela, hands on hips, butted in. "Things
_aren't_ like they were in the old days! Males take care of young too,
you know!"
"Yeah, see, and there's that," Brooklyn said, pointing to her as
evidence. "She's been reading all those magazines of Fox's, and they've
put modern ideas in her head!"
"Not so modern," Goliath chuckled. "Let us not forget Aunt
Agnes, who is of a much elder generation, yet shares Angela's opinion."
"Well, what about you and Elisa?" Brooklyn asked. "Isn't it the
mature generation that breeds?"
"Mature? That leaves you out forever!" Angela teased.
"We discussed that the other night," Goliath said sternly. He
always got gruff when talk turned to him and his wife.
"He be right about one thing, though," Hudson mused. "Ne'er
before has there been but one female in the clan."
"There's Delilah," Angela said. "And all my sisters on Avalon,
except that they started without me! That was a year ago, so they're
probably all fat with egg now!"
"Remember the way time flows on Avalon," Goliath said.
"Only a few weeks have passed for them since we brought the Guardian
and the Princess here. Their season doubtless continues, should you
wish to visit and breed."
Angela turned questioningly to Brooklyn, who for the last
couple of sentences had been backing up with an expression that
seemed torn between dread and panic. He looked desperately around
for Lex and Broadway to bail him out, but his rookery brothers were
both absent.
Lex was at MacBeth's, cleaning up all the damage he'd caused
a few nights ago under the mistaken impression that the immortal king
had absconded with Lex's girlfriend Aiden. And Broadway had gone off
alone with a boot and a bouquet, to mourn the nameless woman he had
failed to save during that same harum-scarum sequence of events.
Not that either of them, both dating humans, could have helped
much in this situation. Brooklyn wondered for the first time if there was
a downside to having won the informal competition for Angela's
considerable favors.
"Uh, I don't think either of us is ready for that kind of
commitment," he stammered.
"Ah, but 'twould be good to have hatchlings around again."
Hudson sighed. "I do be missing young Angus. 'Tis well that he's gone
off to be with his parents, but I'd grown used to the lad."
Angela was still fixing Brooklyn with a look. "Not ready for
commitment? I read about _that_ in those magazines too, mister! You're
fine when it's all fun and games, but the first mention of marriage or
kids, you run like a rabbit!"
"Marriage?!" He tried to turn that horrified bleat into a cough,
but wasn't quite quick enough. Now he had both her and Goliath giving
him the evil eye.
"Ease up," Hudson laughed. "Ye've gone and scared the poor
lad pale! Look at him, he be practically wash-pink!" He waggled a
finger at Goliath. "And dinna think that I'm forgetting how ye and yer
brothers went the very same way when first the subject were broached!"
Goliath cleared his throat. "Yes, well ..."
Angela, whose moods could sometimes be as mercurial as the
wind, giggled and threw her arms around Brooklyn's neck. "Well, I
don't think I'm ready for eggs yet either! I've got my career to think of!"
"Career!" Hudson snorted. "What manner o' talk be that? Why,
my rookery sisters could do battle with barbarians all night and still
raise up a fine brood o' hatchlings!"
"Angela is right, though. There were more females then. Not
only for the tending of the eggs," Goliath added hastily as his daughter
made ready to complain again, "but for the laying as well. If our clan is
to flourish, we should consider --"
"Consider what?" Brooklyn said. "Bringing more females
here? As whose mates? What, are you going to tell Lex that he has to
dump Aiden for a gargoyle?"
"No," Goliath said, but he said it after such a lengthy pause
that Brooklyn started to get a tad nervous for his brother.
Angela glanced at Hudson, who immediately held up his
hands. "Don't ye go giving me that look, lass! I be too old for such
shenanigans! Here comes Broadway; why don't ye ask him what he
thinks on the matter?"
"Ask me what?" Broadway thumped down, and it was only
then that they saw he was carrying a slender woman. She, like him, was
clad in trenchcoat and hat, and on her feet were enormous galoshes.
Brooklyn's smartass remark -- hey, here comes Manhattan's
answer to Sir Galahad -- died on his lips as he recognized those boots.
"Who be this, now?" Hudson asked, startled. "Lad, ye know
the rules about bringing strangers to the castle!"
As the woman removed her hat, Goliath's face split into a huge
beaming grin. "She is no stranger, but clan!"
Broadway chivalrously helped her off with her jacket. She
stood before them in a backless blue gown, untroubled by the cold, and
spread her delicate ivory-hued wings.
"Elektra!" Angela squealed, and almost bowled Brooklyn over
as she rushed to embrace the new arrival.
"Angela, my sister!" She seemed a bit taken aback, but
accepted Angela's delighted hug.
"By the stars, how like Katherine she is!" Hudson marveled.
"Here, lass, quit smothering her and let me have a look!"
Angela stepped back and wiped her eyes, and Hudson came
forward. Under his close scrutiny, Elektra quailed a bit, but Goliath's
reassuring nod calmed her. She accepted Hudson's outstretched hands
with her own slim five-fingered ones.
"Mentor of my mother," she said softly. "The Magus always
spoke well of your wisdom and valor. Honored am I to meet you."
"_That's_ your Cinderella?" Brooklyn socked Broadway
admiringly in the bicep. "You old dog!"
"Yeah, isn't she great?" Broadway replied with a completely
dopey smile. "She's so great!"
"I knew yer father well, lass," Hudson said. "The prince were a
friend, and a goodly man. Ye do him no shame, nor yer mother either.
Welcome to our clan!"
"Yes, welcome!" Goliath, when it was finally his turn, gave her
a brief squeeze. "How is it that you've come here? We last saw you at
Xanadu, a month ago. I have since worried for your safety, and your
quest."
"My quest fares not so well," she said. "When I left you and
Elisa, I returned to Avalon, there to try by the Seeing Stone to know
whither I should go. The stone remained dark, and yet I knew I must
needs continue my quest. I came ashore there, in Central Park. Never
had I imagined, even after hearing the Guardian speak of this great city,
how vast and splendid it would be! And where, in all of this, wondered
I, could I find him I sought? I turned to this disguise to the better
conceal my features."
"She's the one I met the other night," Broadway explained.
"Yet," continued Elektra, "I am no closer to finding Jericho,
and had resolved me to board the skiff and make another voyage. Then
I met Broadway, and hoped to visit this castle, and the clan."
"I'm so happy you did!" Angela enthused. She nudged
Brooklyn. "This red fellow is Brooklyn, a scared rabbit that might
someday be my mate!"
"Jericho ..." Goliath sighed heavily. "Demona claims that he
has been turned against her by Sevarius, but it is surely another of her
lies."
"Who is Sevarius?" Elektra asked.
"An evil man!" Angela said hotly. "He chained me in a cave!"
"And made clones, of all of us," Brooklyn added.
"His crimes were many," Goliath said. "But no more. He is
dead."
"I promised Elektra she could stay here for a while,"
Broadway said. "As long as she wants. Is that okay?"
"Of course it is," Goliath assured him, doing a bit of a double-
take when he saw the dopey smile Broadway was still wearing. He and
Hudson exchanged an amused, knowing glance.
"There's so much to show you, so much to catch up on!"
Angela took her sister by the arm and led her toward the stairs. "And
you must tell me simply everything about Avalon! Who mated who, and
all of that!"
"You know that I was not often among the clan," Elektra
demurred. "So little, even, that I did not join them in the season. Yet,
sister, I will tell you what I can."
"Ruth took Malachi, didn't she?"
"Of course."
"What of Hippolyta? She never liked any of the males!"
As the gossiping females headed below, Goliath turned to
Broadway. "You've done well."
"Yeah. Thanks," Broadway, still gazing after Elektra, might
have sighed the same response no matter what Goliath had said. I'm
going to clout you over the head with a flail. Yeah, thanks. Brooklyn
snickered.
Angela's voice floated back to them. "Gabriel has _three_?!?"

* *

Elektra wasn't accustomed to being the center of attention, so
by the time everyone in the castle had gotten to meet her, she almost
longed for the quiet of home. She'd always felt a bit distant from her
brothers and sisters, never knowing why until the Magus had discovered
the prince's journal.
Distant, yes, and solitary. She'd kept mostly to the tower that
the Magus called his own, to which he'd withdrawn himself once the
princess had become pledged as Guardian Tom's wife and love.
When outsiders visited Avalon, Elektra had not dared show
herself, for fear Goliath would see her for what she truly was and
denounce her. Even at the hour of the Magus' death, which she had
known as surely as she sensed the coming of the dawn, she kept to the
tower and wept her silent tears for the man who had been as a father,
teacher, friend, and very nearly as a husband to her.
In all that time, she had never been overly close to Angela.
Bright, beautiful Angela, second-hatched. She and Gabriel had been the
favorites, the ones that set the path for all the others to follow.
Oh, how Elektra had envied the sisterly closeness that Angela,
Ruth, Ophelia, and the others had shared. She had always watched,
hung back, never joined in. Never felt a part of the clan.
Nothing, therefore, could have prepared her for the warmth of
her reception here. Angela, with whom she'd scarce passed a handful of
words as they grew up, was garrulous and all but giddy with excitement
and affection.
She'd been nearly as well-received by the rest of the clan.
Clever Lexington, good-natured Bronx, the cunning human Xanatos
and his wife Fox (with whom Elektra wanted to feel a kinship, one half-
breed to another, but in truth Fox scared her nigh to death!), Queen
Titania's prized grandson Alexander, his personal Guardian ... yes, it
was quite a mixed clan Goliath had made for himself!
She understood that the human sorceress Aiden, linked to
Lexington, was away at school for the week. A pity, for it would have
been nice to discuss magics with someone much in the way she used to
with the Magus although Elektra herself lacked any appreciable talent.
Startling, yes, a startling visit in so many ways. That Goliath
and Elisa were as mates, yes, this she'd known and been most delighted
to hear, and hoped in her heart of hearts that they would be blessed with
a child of their own, that she be no longer the only one of her kind in all
the world.
The wonders of the castle and the city went far beyond
anything she had even dreamt of. She held back tears often as she
moved from room to room, still after so many centuries sensing the
presence of the Magus in the old stone walls. The Magus, and one
other, the prince her father that she had never known.
And yet, even with all of this, most startling and welcome of
all was the feeling of inclusion, most especially from Broadway and
from Angela. When she'd taken her place among them to welcome the
dawn, she truly felt as if she belonged. That feeling held even when she
awoke, shedding her skin with the others.
Now, as night secured its stronghold on the sky and Goliath
led some of the others in their protective vigil over the city, Angela led
her to the vast kitchen and opened a thick white door, from which
poured a cold fog.
"Let's see ... chocolate chip cookie dough, tin roof sundae, or
mocha almond fudge?" Angela asked, holding up three small tubs.
She hadn't been long in this city, but she already knew one
thing she liked. "Cookie dough, an' it please thee, sister."
Angela slid the tub over to her, along with a spoon. "Broadway
likes his ice cream to have crunchy bits in it. He'd normally have a fit if
he knew we were getting into his secret stash, but for you I think he'll
forgive it."
"I'd not want to displease him," she said worriedly.
"Piffle! Displease him? You'd have to do far more than this!"
"He is most genial and kind," Elektra agreed.
"I know." Angela sighed, spooning up some mocha almond
fudge. "I almost went for him. Almost. It was a tough choice, I can tell
you!"
Elektra smiled. "A change indeed, from being one of sixteen to
the one and only female! With warriors three doubtless vying for your
every attention!"
"You should have seen the way they carried on when I
arrived!" Angela laughed. "It was purely absurd! Each of them trying to
outdo the other, puffing themselves up like roosters, making muscles ...
it's funny now, though at the time it was most vexing!"
"How came you to choose one of them, and not return to mate
with Gabriel?" Elektra asked, a question that she knew had been on
Jericho's mind when he approached her and she gave him the ill-timed
advice that led to him leaving Avalon in the company of his murderous
mother.
Angela tapped her spoon thoughtfully against her lip. "I fell in
love with this new world, so much bigger and grander than anything I'd
ever known. I wanted to be a part of it. To explore, to see new places,
and also to make a difference. On Avalon, we did little. But Avalon sent
us, Father and Elisa and Bronx and I, to dozens of places. And in each
of those places, we helped someone, or undid some wrongdoing. We
made a difference in the world. I wanted to keep on with that."
Elektra nodded. "A goodly wish indeed."
"As for the boys," Angela grinned. "Well, I was flattered by all
the strutting, annoying though it was. And none of our brothers were
anything like these males. They'd known danger and hardship and the
struggle to survive in a way we never had. It made them more intense,
more alive. I liked that. Well, and they're all appealing to look upon,
each in his own way."
Back on Avalon, quiet and reserved, she never would have
said what she did now. "Brooklyn ... with his features so like Uriel ... I
wonder, does the resemblance hold true throughout?"
"That's what they say about males with large noses!" Angela
winked. "But how did you know about Uriel? I thought that you had
never ... well ..." she flushed violet.
"Not through my own experience," Elektra hastily corrected.
"Nay, but I didst stumble upon him and Ophelia in a grove near Flower
Meade one night and have occasion for an eyeful indeed!"
"Well, between us," Angela leaned close, "it's true!"
They giggled together, a strange sound in Elektra's ears
because she had so seldom heard her laugh mingled with another.
"Oh, I can't begin to tell you how I'd missed the free and easy
ways of Avalon," Angela said, rummaging through the cupboards for
something to go with the ice cream. She produced a package of
cranberry-white-chocolate scones. "But I soon saw that these males
would place a much higher meaning upon ... well, you know ..."
"Frolicsome matings?" Elektra suggested.
"The very same! I couldn't dally with all of them, but had to
choose one. A pity, really, but it turned out for the best. I was drawn
first to Brooklyn, of course. Handsome, firey, holding good status as
second-in-command, and he more than his brothers seemed to know
desire's flame." She frowned. "I was to find out that he had good
reason, that he had been introduced to it by Demona."
Elektra said nothing, but her eyes opened rather wide.
"This, as I'm sure you understand, disturbed me," Angela
continued between bites of scone. "I dwelt on it, brooded about it, let it
bother me until he seemed tainted. I found myself spending more time
with Broadway, sweet innocent Broadway. But I soon realized that all I
was doing was talking to him about Brooklyn." She shook her head.
"Silly me! It took until last Christmas before I realized that Brooklyn
was the one I really wanted, and by then I was afraid I'd been cool to
him for too long."
"Yet it was not so."
Angela sighed dreamily and propped her chin in her hands.
"Not so at all! He, the dear thing, wanted so much to please me that he
even found it in his heart to forgive Demona. Much to her irritation, to
be sure! But I knew then that he was the one for me. Before then, we'd
done little more than kiss and play at the sort of wrestling and tickling
that is nothing more than an excuse to get ahold of one another. I was
eager for more, and if I was eager, he was ablaze!"

* *

Flashback -- New Year's Eve.

"Four ... three ... two ... one! Happy New Year!"
The ball touched down amid a riot of lights and noise.
Elisa, from the comfort of Goliath's embrace, reached over and
patted Lex's arm. "Thank you for not reprogramming the Times Square
display this year."
"Hey, we really thought that's what all the fuss was about," Lex
said, grinning. "We thought the whole city was turning out for your
birthday party!"
"Bah," Hudson said, setting aside his glass firmly. "What's the
point of making good wine fizzy like soda pop?"
"Bronx likes it," Brooklyn observed.
"Look! There's Xanatos!" Broadway pointed at the television.
"And Fox! Too bad Alex slept through it!"
Goliath finished his champagne and rose. "Shall we go --"
"Oh, no!" Brooklyn wailed. "You're not going to make us
patrol!"
"I was speaking only to Elisa," he said grandly, offering her a
hand. "Although, a patrol might not be a bad idea."
"Give them a night off," Elisa urged. "New York's Finest have
everything under control. If I don't have to work, why should the rest of
you? This is the first New Year's I've had off in years!"
"Then you should make the most of it," Angela said, smiling at
her father and his human mate. It did make her happy to see them
together, so very much in love. Sure, she still wished that her mother
Demona would rejoin the clan, but she didn't harbor any delusions
about a full reconciliation between her parents.
As they left, all but oblivious to everyone but each other,
Aiden popped a blank tape into the VCR. "I don't want to miss the Rose
Parade," she explained. "We used to watch it every year. Aunt Mary
would get up early and go out for donuts, and we'd all sit around in our
pj's and eat donuts all morning, even Mom."
"Now, that's a holiday!" Broadway remarked.
"Well, what be the rest of you going to do now?" Hudson
asked, searching for the remote. Bronx obligingly fetched it for him, its
black casing dripping with drool and champagne. Hudson grimaced.
"Go on, ye great slobbery beast!"
"You took the words right out of my mouth," Angela giggled,
twisting away from Brooklyn, who was nuzzling the back of her neck
under her heavy plait of hair.
"The mad Scrabble marathon continues!" Lex cried, springing
up. "I'd just gotten about a million points for 'zygomorph.' Want to cede
the victory now?"
"I still think you made that up," Broadway grumbled. "But I'm
not letting you win that easily! Just remember, I want to watch the West
Coast countdown in a few hours. The show from Vegas is supposed to
be really good, and they shoot fireworks off the Space Needle in
Seattle."
The two of them, plus Aiden, trooped off to where Xanatos'
gold-plate deluxe edition Scrabble set was surrounded by a litter of pop
cans, pretzel bags, and wrappers from a jumbo bag of bite-sized Three
Musketeers morsels.
Hudson flipped channels until he found a show dedicated to
entertainment greats, specifically Lawrence Welk.
Angela and Brooklyn exchanged a look, and stood as one.
"See you later, Hudson," Brooklyn said.
Moments later, they were atop the highest tower, with
Manhattan a shining carpet of jewels laid out below them. Even from
here, they could hear the music and merriment as the Big Apple
celebrated.
"We're on top of the world," Angela said softly, spreading her
arms as if to embrace the night itself.
"Angela ..."
She turned curiously to him.
His white hair was astir in the bracing wind, his head crowned
with stars. His skin looked like deep maroon suede in the shadows. She
remembered how Coldsteel had described him as scrawny. True, he
wasn't as wide-shouldered as Gabriel, nor as thickly chested, but he was
far from scrawny. His was the build of a gymnast rather than a
weightlifter, exceedingly well-toned and pleasing to look upon.
"You are so beautiful," he said.
"I was just thinking how handsome you are," she replied.
"What I said on Christmas Eve ..."
She smiled warmly at the memory. "You said that you loved
me!"
"Yeah," he admitted, looking for all the world as if he
expected her to slap him for his nerve. "I have for a long time. I know
you don't feel the same way --"
"You don't know anything," she said, shutting his mouth with a
kiss.
He was startled, but wasted no time pulling her close and
returning the kiss so hotly that steam seemed to rise all around them.
His tail found hers and twined around it, and he brought his wings
forward to enfold her. His hands were at her waist, then with sudden
daring slid lower and around to cup her bottom.
She tore her lips from his, gasping. Then, before he could
mistake her reaction for protest, she fell upon him with a rain of kisses,
over his face and throat and even nibbling suggestively at the twin
horns that swept back from his brow.
"Do you have any idea how much I want you?" he panted.
"I have a fair idea," Angela murmured. Indeed she did! How
could she not, when she could feel the solid proof of it pressed snug
against her belly?
He grew bolder and bent his beak lower, and there bit through
the laces that held her tunic closed. The woolen fabric gaped obligingly,
exposing her curves to his loving gaze and welcome caresses.
Angela leaned against the parapet, letting her head fall back,
sighing in pleasure at the thrilling, melting warmth. It had been far too
long since her flesh had known any touch besides her own.
She was ready to rip off the remainder of their clothes right
then and there, but held back, not wanting him to think her similar to
her mother as a dark seductress. She instead let him proceed at his own
deliberate and careful pace, closing her eyes to savor the sensations.
Brooklyn went to his knees before her, stroking her thighs,
rubbing his head against her hip like a cat marking its territory. In that
pose, the tiny talons of his wings were of just a height to close gently
over the tips of her breasts.
"Oh!" She sank her fingers into his lush white hair, then
wrapped her hands around his horns as if she held some other portion of
his anatomy.
He got her out of her entire garment without rising from his
knees, and the wind briskly snatched it from his grasp and sent it
spiraling away over the heart of the city. She didn't care how she would
explain her absence of clothing to the rest of the clan, didn't worry that
her discarded tunic might cause some consternation wherever it fetched
up. No, as Brooklyn coaxed her legs apart and she felt the heat of his
breath between them, her clothes were the furthest thing from her mind.
She braced herself against the castle wall and raised a knee
over his shoulder to give him better access. He trailed kisses like fire
along her inner thigh. And then, at the first long, slow stroke of his
tongue where she needed it most, her claws made trenches in the wall
and it was only by a tremendous effort of will that her impassioned
shriek did not peal to the heavens.
He kept on with that until she feared she might faint, then slid
the hardness of his beak between her thighs so that she was balanced
upon it like a narrow saddle. His hands steadied her at the hips and
rocked her gently, while he exerted a firm pressure with his beak.
This time she could not contain her shriek, and saw the sky lit
briefly ruby by the climactic pulse of her eyes. Nor could she keep her
balance in her one trembling leg. He lowered her to the cool stones and
looked at her with such earnest wanting-to-please that she could have
wept.
Rather than weep, she pulled his head to hers and kissed him,
tasting herself on his lips. And then she made him stand against the wall
as she had done, and took her place in front of him.
Realizing what she meant to do, Brooklyn's breath quickened,
pluming in the wintery air. His belt came undone almost on its own, and
his loincloth dropped at his feet.
Angela purred throatily and began touching him in light,
fluttery caresses, making him groan, delighting in how his member leapt
eagerly beneath her fingers. She closed both hands around the base of
it, brought her wings around so that her wing-talons could clasp it as
well, and took as much into her mouth as she could manage.
At first she bobbed her head in leisurely rhythm, then, as his
breathing grew increasingly rapid and ragged, increased her pace until it
was nearly frantic.
"Wait, Angela, I'm going to --" he gasped.
She paused long enough to give him a reassuring smile. "I
know. I want you to."
He uttered a strangled moan that turned into a convulsive howl
as she drew him in as deeply as she could. She rolled her tongue around
his shaft, feeling him begin to shake, his body tensing. He spent in a
copious flood, and when she had partaken of every drop, Angela gave
him a final tender kiss and released him.
Brooklyn, weak and shaking, slid down the wall and sprawled
on the stones. Angela curled up beside him and pillowed her head on
his chest, sighing contentedly, smug as a cat.
"Now, that," he said, stroking the sleek curve of her bare back,
"is the way to ring in the New Year!"

* *

The Present --

Owen burst from the kitchen insuch a hurry that he nearly ran
smack into his boss. A ripple of feminine laughter trailed after him,
mingled with the sound of ice in a blender.
David Xanatos came within an inch of using his formidable
martial arts skills to flip Owen headlong into the wall, but stopped
himself in time. "Good evening, Owen."
"Good evening, Mr. Xanatos."
"Midnight snack?"
"No, sir," Owen said. "Warm milk for Alexander. He woke
from a nightmare."
"Oh? Anything serious?"
"Hephalumphs and woozles," he answered matter-of-factly.
Another spate of giggles turned Xanatos' attention to the door.
"What is going on in there?" He started forward.
Owen blocked his way. "I wouldn't, Mr. Xanatos. It appears to
be some sort of female bonding ritual."
Xanatos raised an eyebrow. "Girl talk, hmm?"
"Evidently, it involves caloric excess and explicit
conversation." Owen shook his head in slight disapproval. "They've
already gone through all of the ice cream, a package of scones, a pan of
brownies, and half a jar of peanut butter. They're also on their third
pitcher of daquiris. When I walked in, they were doing the macarena."
"You'd better be kidding."
One corner of his mouth quirked. "About the last, yes. But
Angela did pinch me." One hand stole protectively to the seat of his
pants before Xanatos had to ask where.
"I hope I'm not going to be hit with a sexual harrassment
lawsuit over this."
Owen gave him a look that suggested he was not in the least
amused. "No."
"Good. Here, I'll take this to Alex. In fact, if you'd like to leave
tonight for the Academy, that would be fine. Since Aiden drove down
and back with Birdie, you didn't get to visit your family over
Thanksgiving."
"Ours is hardly a traditional arrangement, sir."
"Go on, take a couple of days off. I insist." He divested Owen
of the cup of milk.
"Very well." As he started down the hall, he heard Xanatos
chuckle.
"Owen? You might want to change clothes first. There's a
peanut butter clawprint on your --"
Owen fled as fast as his rumpled dignity would allow.

* *

PART TWO -- FAIRY FAVOURS:

He drove surely through the snow, classical music issuing from
the car's speakers and warm air issuing from the vents.
As he passed through the wards surrounding the Sterling
Academy, he felt the faint tingle of magic and nodded approvingly.
Aiden's studies were progressing nicely, although her confidence had
suffered a blow during her recent encounter with Demona.
The campus was still and silent under a mantle of white. A few
windows were lit, and snowflakes whirled against the pathway lights
like shaker globes. Finals were approaching, and all was relatively
peaceful.
Owen pulled into the garage and sat for a moment in the
darkness, listening to the tick of the engine.
Still no sense of homecoming. Still, in a way, an intruder here.
He got out of the car and took his small suitcase from the
trunk. Moments later, he was ascending in the elevator, past the
administration offices to the top floor. All was dark and quiet. He let
himself in and made his way across the spacious living room without
turning on a light. Enough came through the curtained windows to let
him navigate around the familiar furniture.
The apartment, like her office, reflected Cordelia St. John's
cool and severe personality. Everything was clean, everything was
orderly. Pristine white rug edged in pale blue that matched the
uphostery. Glass-topped coffee table resting upon curved marble legs.
How long, he wondered with a vague smile, was it going to
last now that Patricia was crawling and starting to pull herself upright?
How long until the toys began creeping outward in an asteroid belt from
her playroom? Juice on the rug. Protective pads on the corners of the
table. He knew all too well what a mess one small child could make.
Not for the first time, he wondered how Cordelia would take it.
Thus far, she'd handled the disruption of her structured life fairly well,
but the fun was only beginning!
At the end of the short hall were three doors. Owen
approached one and peered in, his face bathed in the gentle golden glow
of the night light. He eased the door open and went in.
A Noah's Ark mobile twisted and turned over the crib where
his daughter lay sleeping. She lacked only the angelic wings to be the
very image of a cherub. Her hair was the fine shade of white-blond only
found in children, and already curled in a halo around her head.
Rosebud mouth, a dimple in one cheek, long lashes. She slept in fuzzy
yellow jammies with bumblebees embroidered on the front, and her
beloved stuffed lambie was at her side.
Xanatos frequently urged Owen to bring Cordelia and Patricia
to live in the castle. While he did wish he could spend more time with
them, Cordelia would not abandon her position as headmistress of the
Sterling Academy. And, he suspected, part of what made their
relationship work was that they only saw each other a few times a
month.
He tried to imagine Fox and Cordelia living under the same
roof. Just that, without even considering a bunch of gargoyles thrown
in, was enough to make a brave man grow pale. Furthermore, there was
the small matter of his secret. He wouldn't be able to properly serve as
Alexander's teacher and protector while also trying to keep the truth
from Cordelia.
Someday, she would need to know. He wasn't looking forward
to that.
He gazed down at Patricia. Never a Patty or Patti or Pat. By no
means a Patsy! Maybe, if she put her foot down hard enough as a
teenager, a Tricia or even a Trish.
The poor child faced an uncertain future, between her aloof
mother and oft-absent father. Not to mention being already betrothed,
archaic custom though it was, to young Alexander. Perhaps she would
be better off living in the castle, where she would have more attention.
Cordelia might not object. Cordelia's uncle, the Grandmaster,
might.
Owen cast all those thoughts aside. There would be time
enough for that later. He bent to kiss the child's soft cheek, and drew a
blanket over her.
"Sleep well, little one."
Enough light followed him into the next room to shine eerily in
Cashmere's eyes. The white cat watched him as he set his suitcase in a
chair.
He met the cat's ice-blue gaze.
Few living things could stare down Owen Burnett. This cat,
however, was among that minority.
Only when Owen looked away did Cashmere rise from her
spot on the windowseat, stretch in that leisurely cat-fashion, and leap
lightly to the floor. She sauntered past Owen without a look, tail held
disdainfully high.
Always kind to animals, Puck had boasted to Oberon. Puck
had, at the time, not met this particular one.
He closed the door behind Cashmere, leaving it only barely
ajar. He crossed to the bedside and stood looking down, this time not on
his daughter but on her mother.
"What captive star doth lend its light," he whispered, taking up
a handful of her silken platinum hair, "to crown with its beauty the
queen of night?"
Even after all this time, Aiden's spell still packed a wallop. It
had unearthed well-buried attraction and not only brought it to the
surface but raised it towering to the heavens.
The bed rustled as Cordelia stirred. She made an interrogative
noise from the depths of her goosedown pillow.
"Just me." He undressed and slipped into bed beside her.
White satin sheets embraced him. The comforter settled over
him as heavy and warm as sleep itself.
He leaned over and brushed a soft kiss on Cordelia's mouth.
Like a princess in a story, her eyes slowly opened.
"Owen? Morning?"
"Not yet."
She shifted closer, kissed his bare shoulder. "Thought you had
to work."
"Mr. Xanatos gave me a few days off." He drew her into his
arms, only the sheer linen of her nightgown between them.
He meant only to hold her as they drifted off, but the feel of
her body against his wakened his desire. She lifted her lips to his for a
sweet, lingering kiss.
Her nightgown seemed almost to dissolve beneath his touch.
With many languid caresses and loving murmurs, they fell easily into
the rhythm that pleased them both the best. Soon their hearts had
become lost in the same beat, their breaths mingled as one.
They finished nestled together like spoons, his head resting
amid the cloud of her hair, his arm around her waist.

* *

Owen woke.
From a deep and dreamless sleep, he was thrust into full, alert
wakefulness.
He listened intently for a repeat of any sound that might have
roused him. Nothing. Nor had he been wakened by Cordelia, because
she slept on undisturbed in the cradle of his arms.
For several seconds, he lay watchful in the darkness,
wondering.
He cast his thoughts outward, seeking Alexander in case the
boy was in danger. He sensed nothing out of the ordinary.
What, then?
Cashmere exploded into the room, sprang stiff-legged onto the
bed, sprang down just as fast, raced in a circle, and leapt fully six feet to
hang from the curtains. Her white fur bristled, her eyes were huge disks.
Owen sat up, and the sudden movement startled the cat into
another display of feline lunacy. Cashmere jerked her whole body and
pulled her claws free of the curtain, dropped onto all fours, bounded
three times in the air, and sped back out the door.
Cordelia rolled onto her back and pulled the covers up to her
chin.
Something's coming.
The thought carried no immediate threat, but was enough to
get him out of bed. Rather than waste time dressing, he found the spare
pajamas he kept in the one drawer alloted to him, and pulled on the
pants.
He could hear the cat tearing around the living room,
miraculously not breaking any of the paper-thin vases or Cordelia's
cherished Lalique.
Earthquake? he wondered. Animals were supposed to be able
to anticipate ...
Something's coming.
Something's ... here.
Owen heard what no normal man should be able to hear, a
high trill of music like a series of glass chimes. It brought a plague of
goosebumps over his skin, not particularly of fear but of recognition
and surprise.
Fear came next, when he realized it was coming from the
baby's room.
He was in the nursery without fully knowing how he got there.
The Noah's Ark mobile, lions and tigers and bears oh my!, was
in motion, around and around, two by two. Flitting in and out amid the
strings in a complex pattern was a radiant sphere, twinkling with sparks
of pale pink and green.
At the center of the sphere was a figure, all of four inches in
height.
"How now, spirit! whither wander you?" Owen said.
The sphere blipped upward a bit, and the trill of music went
ting! in surprise. It then whizzed straight for him. He could see clearly
now, the tiny female form with flowing sleeves and wings that beat as
fast as a hummingbird's.
She stopped in front of his nose and peered closely into one of
his eyes. She tapped on the lens of his glasses and admired her
reflection in it. Then she rocked back and forth, clutching her little
knees, and laughed with the sound of dewdrops running down a
spiderweb.
"Can it be true?" she cried merrily. "Is this where I find the
shrewd and knavish called Robin Goodfellow? Are you hiding in there,
in that great and clumsy mortal shell? Had my lady queen not told me, I
never would have guessed!"
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.
"It doesn't suit you at all! To think, how the mighty have
fallen! From our lord and master Oberon's chosen servant, to this! The
lapdog lackey of a lowly mortal? Hee!" She slapped the end of his nose,
though the flick of a bee's wing might have had more effect. "Come,
show yourself, Puck!"
"I cannot." He waved her irritably away from his face and
asked again, "What are you doing here?"
"That mortal breath is as a hurricane, and smells of sour sleep
besides!" She landed on the crib railing and danced prettily back and
forth, a miniature ballerina with airy wings. "I have ever preferred the
children, with breath of warm milk! This one is most fair, is she not?"
"Oberon has forbidden the stealing of children," Owen said
tightly. "Least of all this one, for she is my own!"
"Yours?!" She clapped her hands delightedly. "Then it would
not be stealing, for she is one of ours! And should Gather, even if you
do not!" She hopped down into the crib.
Owen supressed a smile as the fairy emitted an ultrasonic
shriek and flew out of there so fast she nearly pasted herself to the
ceiling. In the other room, Cashmere yowled unhappily.
"Iron!" she gasped.
"Have you forgotten how the wise human queen used a similar
ruse to expose Titania when she sought to seduce the prince? An iron
ball beneath the mattress. Black and blue she was, for weeks! That tale
lives on, you know, though somewhat changed by the centuries."
"How could you?"
"This form of mine is human, as is the child. Iron holds no real
threat to us. I did not want her to fall victim to the malice of my loving
relatives."
"Who would take from the Puck what is his? You still hold
favor on Avalon, despite your defiance of Lord Oberon. Oh, what were
you thinking? How can you prefer this --" she gestured around the
room, then up and down his body, "-- to the splendor of our home?"
"I came to enjoy the company of humans," he said with a
shrug.
"And now, exiled! Forbidden Avalon! What horror! What
woe!" She shuddered.
"Horror? Woe? The endless bragging of has-been gods, the
bickering, the backstabbing?"
She brushed off his arguments. "Will you not come and play
with me for a while? I have missed your wit, cousin!"
"No, Gossamer, I cannot."
"So you do remember how I am called! I thought you had
forgotten, or had some other purpose in omitting my name when you
related the tale of our lord and his queen to the human they call Bard.
Oh, do not look so shocked! Did you think Milkweed and I would not
recognize our own words? Two Fairies, indeed! When Mustardseed and
Peaseblossom and others of the queen's company were named! All but
Milkweed and I! But I have forgiven, Puck! I have forgiven! So come,
and play!"
He closed his eyes against the yearning that filled him,
yearning to shed Owen's cumbersome form. "I am forbidden, except
when teaching or protecting the boy Alexander."
"Since when has what is forbidden ever put pause to the
Puck?" she wheedled.
She shimmered, and then was four feet tall instead of four
inches. Long of limb, slender of waist, her ears and mothlike antennae
peeking pertly from the windblown tumble of her shoulder-length
greenish hair ... yes, she was a sight to behold. Her gauzy wings fanned,
seeming to make images of flowers in bloom.
"No, Gossamer," he said, drawing upon all of Owen's
sternness. "In this, I must obey Lord Oberon."
She dipped briefly toward the floor, disappointed. But it didn't
last long and she bobbed back up with an impish smile. "Very well! I
shall go then, and turn the boy into a toadstool!"
"You wouldn't!"
"We shall see if you will show yourself to me then!" She
dwindled to a twinkle.
"No! Wait!"
She expanded again and set her hands on her hips. "I'm
waiting."
Owen sighed and removed his glasses. "I do this only to
protect the boy from her mischief," he announced to the room at large.
He turned in a circle, faster, faster, blurred and spun, and then felt the
freedom as gravity loosed its hold on him.
"That is so much better!" Gossamer chirped brightly. They
were nearly of a size now, and she twirled around him in acrobatic
joyful welcome.
"Unfair of you," he chided once they'd settled to a hover.
"And rude of you," she shot back, tsking. "To make me
threaten the Queen's own favorite grandson, all so that I could give you
the gift _she_ bade me bring!"
"What gift?" Puck's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"I am to tell you she regrets her haste in your last dealing," she
said, taking a packet of spidersilk cloth from somewhere in her garment.
"And for her to make amends, this!"
He backed away from her. "Some trick of Titania's? What
have you there, lady's veil to bind me?"
"Not quite. See here! Seeds of the lady's veil! She bids you
replant them, and tend them."
The seeds, small and green-veined white, did not exert any
power or lure over him. He accepted the packet, rather dubiously, and
folded it closed. "I will do Titania's bidding."
"And you'll save a flower for me, for my trouble?"
"I've born news and gifts often enough to know the
thanklessness of being the messenger. Fear not, sweet cousin, I will
remember you."
"I'll make sure that you do, handsome Puck," she crooned, a
glimmer of ivory light beginning to form over her head.
"Gossamer ..." he protested.
She stroked the light with her antennae, making it swirl with
pink and green. "How now, merry wanderer of the night! Those many
long and lonely years, as I went from the bottom of one garden to the
next or danced in the teacups of children, I thought of you."
He couldn't stop looking at the light above her, until he
realized with alarm that a similar glow of whitish gold was starting to
shape the air over his head. "Gossamer, stop it."
"When the time came for us to be summoned home, my heart
sang at the thought of seeing you again. I imagined it would be as in
days of old, you faithfully serving Lord Oberon, I among Titania's train,
and what fun and jolliment we might get up to! I winged my way to
Avalon, and you did not."
"I had other obligations," Puck said, trying to get himself
under control.
"Obligations! You made Lord Oberon himself seek you out!
How I feared for you! And then he returned, not, as the Sisters hoped,
bringing you in bonds of shame, but to announce that he had banished
you! It was only from overhearing Titania boasting that I learned what
had become of you!" Her light was roiling now, in agitation. That made
it easier to ignore.
"I _chose_ to stay," Puck pointed out, aggravated but not
surprised by Oberon's pride.
Gossamer passed her hands over her large eyes, then smiled at
him. Her light pattern smoothed out, became more hypnotic. "Let us put
that behind us. I've waited long and long for this." Tendrils of pink and
pale green began reaching toward his light.
Puck made himself look away, and his gaze fell upon baby
Patricia. He saw with a start that she was awake, goggling delightedly at
the glowing colors.
"The child sees us!" he said.
Gossamer laughed. "Since when has the Puck become
prudish?"
He felt the first touch of her light on his, and recoiled. The
sight of Patricia reminded him of Cordelia, asleep just across the hall.
"Gossamer, I can't."
"The size of your light says otherwise!"
"No ... I'm ... well, Owen is ..."
"What? Married?"
Her mirth trilled to the ceiling, eliciting another yowl from the
cat. If nothing else, that would soon wake Cordelia. He'd tried to think
of ways to reveal his secret, but somehow he knew that having her catch
him mingling auras with another female was perhaps not the best way to
go.
"Married!" Gossamer chortled. "The fancy-free Puck?"
"Not me! Nor Owen, exactly ..." it was too complex to explain,
and she was still caressing his light with her colors, making it next to
impossible to think clearly.
"In love, then? Has your prank at Oberon's behest at last come
full circle, your eyes anointed with the juice of that herb by which you
made Titania enamoured of an ass?"
"Be it masked mortal or Oberon himself, either way 'twas an
ass," he said sourly.
She ignored that remark and laughed again. "Do you recall our
lord's passion for the human Hippolyta? The bouncing Amazon, his
buskin'd mistress? And now among the gargoyles is a warrioress of just
such a name, giving my queen much cause for teasing her husband! But
pray tell, clever sprite, do you love?"
"Owen was struck by Cupid's arrow, true," he admitted. "I
would not have him betray that love."
"Such fidelity is admirable, impressive, and altogether silly,"
she said, and exhaled a smoky opalescent stream that briefly enveloped
his light. "How can the love of a mortal compare to this?"
Oh, she was coming on strong, the little minx, and he was
weakening fast. It had been a long time, a very long time.
When Aiden's spell had stricken Owen and Cordelia, Puck had
elected (as if he could have altered it, what with Hecate's Wand and all)
to go along for the ride. He'd been, as he'd confessed to Xanatos, rather
curious what all the fuss was about.
Not so strange a curiosity. While many of the Third Race did
not care for the messy biological joinings that beasts and mortals
enjoyed, many others enjoyed it frequently. Lusty Zeus, for instance,
would pursue nigh anything with a pleasing female shape. Even Oberon
had been known to favor a more physical relationship with his queen
and his occasional mortal mistresses.
And so, the Puck had observed first-hand. It had been quite a
surprise, completely different, yet amazing. He'd grown quite fond of
the act, in truth. Made him feel a bit foolish for having lived so long as
Owen -- almost twenty-five years! -- without having tried it before!
Such thoughts, though, were not helping his current
predicament. Quite the contrary, because memories of what Owen and
Cordelia had only recently shared caused Puck's light to intensify.
Gossamer smiled in satisfaction. "Better! What harm, a little
frolic?"
Weak, weaker, weakest. What harm, as she said? What harm?
With the last of his will, he managed to say, "Not here, not in
front of the child."

* *

Owen let himself in, damp and shivering.
What a night! In the same short span of hours, he'd been
goosed by a gargoyle, made love with a human, and dallied with a fairy.
It occurred to him to wonder if Preston Vogel, the original
model for his life, had similar problems. He laughed softly to himself.
Probably not.
He was halfway across the living room when he glanced up
and saw a spectral form, ghost-white in the shadows. He started, banged
his knee painfully on the corner of the glass-topped coffee table (no
baby bumpers), and stifled an exclamation.
"Don't you think it's time you told me?" Cordelia said softly,
her linen gown flowing from her milky shoulders, her hair floating and
almost luminous.
No anger in her voice, no jealousy.
And no guilt in his heart, after one initial flash. He lived two
lives, and up until now she had only bee a part of one.
"It is past time I told you," he said, reaching out. "Give me
your hands, if we be friends ..."

* *

PART THREE -- FIRST DATE:

"Hello, Canmore residence." Brisk, efficient, neutral.
"Am I speaking to Robyn Canmore?"
"Yes." Impatient, expecting a sales pitch or a reporter eager to
open old wounds.
"This is Preston Vogel. We met at the wedding --"
"Yes!" Warmer now, inviting.
"I was wondering, Ms. Canmore, if you'd like to join me for
dinner tomorrow night?"
* *
"I'll be fine, Preston," Halcyon Renard said. "Mrs. Hillman
will be here if I need anything."
"If you'd rather I stayed, sir ..."
"Nonsense! I'm well aware of how you've neglected your
personal life on my behalf, and I'll have no more of it. You're what,
forty-five?"
"Yes, sir." He fidgeted uncomfortably with his tie.
"Well, even I was married by the time I was your age."
"It's only a date, Mr. Renard."
The older man's laugh turned into a wheezing, rattling cough,
but he waved away Vogel's attempt to help. He bent forward in his
motorized chair, so far that the ridge of spine stood out sharply on his
narrow back, until the series passed.
"I wish you'd let me send for Doctor Ngyuen," Vogel fretted.
"I'm past doctors." Renard looked up at him with no fear, only
an acknowledgement of the truth. "I'm an old man, a sick man. I'm not
meant to be here forever."
"You'll outlive us all, I'm sure." But he wasn't. Not sure at all.
Not sure that Renard would still be among the living when he returned.
"Still, I shouldn't leave you."
Renard's eyes went piercing. "If you're trying to get out of this
date, don't hide it by being overly concerned for me!"
"No, sir, not at all!" He was shocked, mostly that Renard had
seen through him so clearly.
"You're like a son to me, Preston. You know that, don't you?
My wife left me, my daughter constantly defied me, but you've stayed
by my side." He held up a withered hand to forestall Vogel's words. "I
know what you're going to say, you're going to bring up that betrayal
incident again. Don't. You only faltered, not fell. That one
misjudgement can in no way detract from your years of loyal service."
"Thank you, sir."
"Now, go. Don't keep your young lady waiting. My regards to
her and her brother."
Vogel picked up the bouquet of tea roses and lacy ferns.
"Should I have gotten her a box of chocolates, too?" he wondered.
Renard smiled. "Flowers and candy, on the first date? You run
the risk of overwhelming the poor thing! Women today, I understand,
are accustomed to a more casual treatment."
"I don't think I can manage, then," Vogel said glumly. "I'll be
back early, Mr. Renard."
"Dear boy, I hope not," he chuckled indulgently. "I hope not!"

* *

"You look beautiful," Jason Canmore told his sister.
She did. Robyn's rich golden hair was caught up in back with a
ribbon, and fell in waves to her shoulders. Her soft and clingy knit wool
dress was a vibrant amethyst shade. She applied a final touch of
lipstick.
"I don't like leaving you alone. I'm sure he wouldn't mind if --"
"If what? If your crippled older brother tagged along?" Jason
shook his head. "No. You deserve some time to yourself. You're more
of a prisoner here than you would have been if you'd been convicted. I
want you to go out and have a great evening. And if he asks you to stay
for breakfast --"
"Jason!" She threatened him with her eyeliner pencil, and he
left the sentence unfinished.

* *

"That's fascinating," Vogel said earnestly as she concluded her
tale of demons and hunters and traditions passed down for generations.
"How did your family manage to keep the belief alive for so long?"
"It's all we heard, practically from the day we were born. By
the time we were old enough to question it, questioning it was out of the
question. Not every Hunter faced the Demon, not every Hunter died at
her hands. But enough of them had, and left detailed accounts, to make
it an undeniable truth."
"And your father ...?"
"The Demon killed him," she confirmed with a sorrowful sigh.
"Our mother had died when Jon was just a baby and I was three, so Dad
was all we had. He and Jason were especially close."
"How fortunate you are, to have such a sense of family and
history," he said enviously.
"Do you think so?" she asked doubtfully.
"You know who you are, you come from a long line of
purposeful, driven people."
"I come from a long line of vengeance-minded bloodthirsty
lunatics," she said.
"But you know who you _are_," he stressed. "Your roots are
firmly anchored in a long past. I grew up in an orphanage in Prague,
with nothing of my mother but an old photograph, and nothing of my
father at all. Not even his name. Vogel was my mother's name."
"I'm so sorry," she said, reaching past the basket of bread to
lightly touch his hand. "We were lucky to have Dad. I can't imagine
growing up alone."
"Not alone," he corrected. "There were other children in the
orphanage, many of them. Even among them, I was an outsider. It
wasn't until I went to work for Mr. Renard that I first felt I belonged
somewhere. His field was science, devoted to making the future. It
seemed so much more practical than dwelling on the past. I watched
him build Cyberbiotics from a tiny business into a huge company. I
watched his family fall apart around him, which only made me more
sure that people couldn't be relied upon. Machines could. Computers,
robotics, they did only what they were programmed to do. They didn't
feel, didn't care. It seemed a better way to live."
"It might have seemed that way, but it isn't," Robyn said.
"I know that now." She was still touching his hand, so he
clasped hers and they smiled at each other in the candlelight.

* *

"Good evening, Mr. Chiselman."
"Good evening, Maurice."
"Your usual table, sir?"
"Please. I'm expecting a young lady, if you'd be so kind as to
show her over when she arrives?"
"Assuredly."
The blond man with the neat moustache and the proper British
accent was almost to his table when he happened to look into a pair of
eyes the exact shade as his own, eyes that were widened in recognition.
"The problem with family," the owner of those eyes said to her
companion, "is that it never frees you from responsibility, obligation."
She rose.
He looked at her evenly, willing his face to show no reaction.
"Robyn," he said coolly.
"Jon."
A tense, heavy silence fell between them. Jon was aware of her
companion, a black-haired stuffed shirt nearly twice her age, turning to
watch with a troubled expression.
It was broken by Brianna's arrival. The girl, for girl she was,
barely more than sixteen and toothsome as a spring morning, appeared
behind Maurice.
"Am I late?" she asked breathlessly. "I couldn't get a cab!"
Robyn shifted her gaze to her, slowly taking her in. Fresh,
innocent, hopeful features bespoke a small-town girl with big-city
dreams. The diamond earrings and fur coat marked her as a wealthy
man's mistress or plaything. And the swell of her belly ...
At that, Robyn's gaze came accusingly to rest on her younger
brother. Jon smiled coldly. Together, they mouthed the litany that their
father had ingrained into them from the time they were old enough to
speak.
"No," she said when they were done.
"Yes," Jon replied smoothly. "What Jason put off until it was
too late, what should have been his duty as eldest. What you never did.
Responsibility, you said. Obligation, you said. You've some nerve,
speaking of such things. You, who gave up the cause, turned your back
on a thousand years of heritage!"
Maurice, Brianna, and Robyn's mannequin date were only
staring back and forth in varying degrees of confusion.
His sister, once idolized and adored, took a deep breath. "I'm
going to call the police, Jon. I'm going to tell them everything. You
made our family's quest into a circus of mobs and crazies, so don't talk
to me about heritage! You'll have your trial, just as I did!"
"If it's a boy, we're going to name him Bryce, after
Grandfather," Jon said as if he hadn't heard. "What, no congratulations?
No well-wishes?"
Robyn clenched her fists, and for a moment he thought she
might actually do it, might actually follow through with her threat. But
she was no more eager than he to see the family name dragged through
the slime again, and surely she knew that his trial would cast her in an
evil light. He'd see to that. Her, and Jason as well.
She spun away from Jon, to the black-haired man who had by
now moved to stand by her. "Could we go somewhere else, Preston?
Something's spoiled my appetite."

* *

"Do you want the rest of my fries?" she asked.
He declined. "I must admit, I never quite pictured this."
"What, the fast food or being parked at the Lookout?"
"Either." He glanced out his slightly fogged window at the
other cars. "I didn't think places like this even existed anymore."
Robyn smiled. "Too bad the drive-in closed!"
He finished his burger and dabbed fastidiously at his lips with
a paper napkin. "What would we see, a double feature of grainy black
and white monster flicks?"
"Why not?"
"Next thing you know, I'll be giving you my class ring."
She unaccountably blushed, and busied herself rummaging in
the take-out bags, for a moment looking like a high school girl.
He'd forgotten that she was so many years his junior. Her life
as a Hunter had made her seem older. But, he realized in a sudden flash
of insight, that selfsame life had not given her any time for herself, to
do the normal things that young women her age did.
Neither of them had experienced a proper youth. This peculiar
nostalgia for things they'd never known was just one more thing they
had in common, despite their age difference.
She came up with a cardboard packet of whimsically-shaped
cookies. "Split the cookies with you?"
"Only if you'll go to the Prom with me."

* *

Jason Canmore wheeled out of his bedroom, yawning.
Robyn's door was closed. He thought he'd heard her come in,
very late, but had no idea if she was alone or just extremely stealthy. He
privately hoped for the latter. She needed a life beyond being a round-
the-clock nurse and caregiver.
He rolled into the kitchen and stopped in puzzlement.
A clear plastic garment bag was draped over one of the chairs.
Within was a violet-colored taffeta dress he'd never seen before. A
shoebox was on the table next to it, containing a pair of dyed satin
pumps.
Weird.
He went to the fridge for juice, and found an orchid corsage on
top of the egg carton.
Okay.
Turning around to get a glass, he saw a stiff black cardboard
folder, with white letters scrolled across the front. "Your Enchanted
Evening," it read.
What the --?
He picked it up, opened it. There before his very eyes was an
8x10 glossy of his sister and Preston Vogel, her radiant in the taffeta
gown with hair done up in fifties' style, him decked out in a tux and a
purple cummerbund, posed holding hands and smiling into the camera.
A slip of paper fell out, seesawed in the air, and came to rest
on his knee. A ballot for the King and Queen, with several pairs of
names listed. Frankie and Annette, Danny and Sandy, Preston and
Robyn.
"This is nuts," Jason muttered.
"Maybe," Robyn said, coming into the kitchen. "But --" as she
held up a large ring which could only be made by Josten's "-- we're
going steady!"

* *

The End.