74 - "Perspectives"

March 11th, 2002
Shit, shit, shit, I can't believe I'm doing this. You know, I had a feeling I shouldn't have answered my cellphone. Now here I am, ten minutes later, sitting in the driver's seat of a stolen ambulance with three dying people in the back. Shit, I hope Elisa knows what she's doing, telling me to 'deprive' the real driver of his duties and take this thing towards the Eyrie. I can see her in the rearview underneath the brim of my new hat, drenched in dried blood and huddling over her friends that are stuffed into the ambulance like sardines and probably already dead. She allowed two EMTs to stay and see what they could do for them. I argued with her, told her to let them take her friends to the hospital and of course, she friggin' refused. She said she wanted to keep them away from any public building, as those who shot them would be waiting for any word they were still alive.

Damnit, that woman's stubborn. Even with a concussion that she can't hide that well, she's still as forceful as Goliath. I can hear her screams even over the siren, she's yelling at Chavez, the only one still conscious, to stay alive. It's almost like she's forcing her to stay alive with just the power of her voice. To fight for her baby. Her baby. Damnit, when Elisa told me she's pregnant with Hudson's baby, I almost crapped myself. I can't fucking believe it. She's having what I might not be able to give to Annika. Man, is Hudson going to be pissed...

"Shit." I hear myself mutter out loud as I turn a wickedly sharp corner in a huge and top-heavy machine. This is definitely not like the Superbird. This baby's got the power, but it's like driving a fucking house on wheels. Man, I can smell the blood in the air and in the cab, and I quickly open a window and swallow a few times to keep my McDonald's extra value meal where it should be. My enjoyment and the adrenaline rush of driving a siren blaring, rocket-fueled emergency vehicle is dampened by the fact Elisa may lose some of her friends tonight. Only because some racist bastards think of people like us as traitors. Well, fuck them.

Makes me wish I were there in the Epsilon, at the precinct during the attack. I would have shown those motherfuckers a thing or two by shoving in their faces two fully loaded gatling guns.

And the fact I would willingly overstep those bounds I once promised myself I would never cross both scares me and...makes my heart just a little faster in the anticipation of another fight. Maybe that suit is dangerous...

And looking back at Elisa, I realize again something I have known since I met her. We have a unique relationship. We're both in love with, and married to gargoyles, and we'd both die to keep them safe. And we also both know, the day is coming soon when they'll be exposed. But is this what's going to happen to Annika? Will she be hurt or killed because some freaks want her dead? I can't even imagine that...damnit.

"Todd, stop here!!" she suddenly yells, at last acknowledging my presence, and I mash my foot to the brakes almost automatically and come squealing to a stop on the side of the street. I watch Elisa get the attention of the two medics and kick open the back doors.

"You, and you. Out!" she snaps like a wounded dog, ignoring her obviously painful injuries. "We'll take it from here."

"What?!" I hear one EMT bark back, and inwardly cringe at his tone. "Are you serious, Maza?! These people are dying! They need medical attention!!"

Oh man, in the short time I've known her, I've learned for a fact you don't yell like that at Elisa Maza.

"They'll get it." I hear her respond. "But I need you two to walk away and forget this ever happened. If the same people who tried to kill these people find out where they are, they'll be put right back in danger!"

They paused, like they were mulling over the decision. And smart guys, they slinked from the ambulance and simply nodded to Elisa. Seems this mate of Goliath has a good reputation with the fellow lifesavers of Manhattan.

"Thanks." she whispered to them, and closed the doors. "For giving them those few precious seconds. And remember, if anyone asks, they died and were taken by the coroner on my authority."

She looks at me and instantly without even telling me, orders me on to the Eyrie building, leaving the two EMTs in the dust on the sidewalk. I continue for about five more minutes, and then I see it, the Eyrie, the biggest building in my hometown pretty much dwarfing every other skyscraper in the entire sky. And here I am, staring up like some stupid tourist as I'm dodging through cars to get there in the fastest time I can, and thank friggin' god these Manhattaners have enough sense to get the fuck out of my way. "Elisa," I called to her, and I can't even tell if she heard me or not, "we're here."

Obviously, she ignored me, but only because she has a hell of a lot of more problems on her mind right now. This must be like sheer hell for her. Her worst nightmare having come to life. As soon as I rip around to the side of the building, I signal the entrance with the small door opener attached to my keychain, and watch as a massive chunk of wall slides inward and then to the side, revealing the ramp leading down into the private parking garage reserved for the Xanatoses and the clan. I slowly ease this big beast in and down the ramp, and ensure the siren's off to stop the ear-splitting echo. As I navigate through the cement columns and the mass of cars owned by Xanatos and Fox, I pull towards the elevators and see a small crowd waiting for me.

And even before I come to a stop, Elisa is already through the doors and screaming at someone I can't quite make out in the side mirror to help our passengers. I climb from the cab and drop to the cement and immediately feel my knees go weak as I lean against the ambulance for support, allowing my heart, my breathing, and everything else that's been running like I had one Jolt too many to calm down.

I moved slowly towards the rear where the wounded were being quickly unloaded by the crowd of gargoyles, and Elisa's orders were given way to Dr. Pierce. Cool guy, the doc, and right now, he's in his element, shouting all this shit I usually only hear on ER. Goliath's here as always, with an arm already around his wife, like he's passing some of his strength to her with just his hand. Brooklyn, one of my best friends, and Angela's there too.

And through the chaos, Annika rushes to me and helps to steady my form. I'm surprised, because I didn't even see her. My wife takes my hand, and instantly notices that I'm shaking. Without even saying a word, she calms me, with her big, blue eyes, and makes me feel ten times better with a smile even when faced with sheer, blood-soaked hell. Damn, I love this woman, my wife, and I love that word. And to think, I nearly flushed it all down the drain when sticking my tongue down Demona's throat. Hey...she's hot.

But heaven help me, if it were Annika on one of those stretchers being wheeled into the freight elevator, I think I'd die...

****************************************

I can smell their blood. In this large freight elevator, it's all I can smell, thanks to my own quest to understand gargoyles senses through experience, and better my own in the process. Even my husband's unique scent is masked by a bitter, metallic stench. It's on my hands, my clothes, my face, even my favorite bomber jacket is completely drenched. And I don't know if I'll ever be able to wear it anymore without being constantly reminded. My head is pounding. I think...I know I have a concussion, but I can't deal with that right now, so I'll do what I always do with pain, push it aside. Bury it, like the pain over my parents...

God, I don't need that right now. There's too much, and I have to force it down to concentrate, like swallowing the urge to vomit. I'm watching in Goliath's embrace as doctors Pierce and Weathers hover over the patients and spout technical gibberish to try and save their lives. Matt and Sara are silent, like corpses, and I can't even tell if they're still alive and the doctors are just putting on a good show to spare me further pain. But Maria is still conscious, and looking around with fear widening her eyes, she's awake even with a bullet through her stomach and the fact her baby might be dead. Her baby. Goddamn, why didn't I catch it sooner? Her and Hudson. Why didn't I put it together before...? It didn't deserve this, a sweet innocent baby.

I hope you're rotting in hell right now, Cooper. I hope you suffer for the rest of your miserable afterlife, you bastard. I abhor killing, but when I dropped you with two full clips, it felt damned good.

"Elisa?"

My husband calls to me softly, and I'm too enthralled by the sight of three of my friends dying before my eyes to even look up. "Goliath." I answer, and damn my cold tone.

His wings closed in, and actually managed to warm the chill running through my body with dark lavender silk. God, I love his wings, so damned soft. "It will be all right, My Elisa."

My Elisa. I've always liked that nickname. Not possessive, like some others would think, it's a simple display of the incredible bond we share. The love we have. "Are you sure?" I find myself saying, and maliciously. "Look at them. They're dying, and...I..." I stutter, and falter in my answer, as something else nags at me like a loud scream.

"I know what you are thinking, and you were right. Your decision to bring them here was the only option to ensure their safety, their concealment from their enemies will save them. Dr. Goldblum, Sharon and even Dr. Blackwell are waiting upstairs in the Eyrie hospital. They'll do everything they can."

I nod numbly, and something I could never imagine from happening actually happens, I don't fully believe my husband's reassurance. The elevator dings and instantly, when the doors hiss open, the doctors and the clan rush the stretchers down the halls at breakneck speed, so much so I have to run to keep up. We meet yet another small crowd at the Eyrie's hospital, and I see as doctors Goldblum and Blackwell help Alan, and even Sharon Nomura's there, her resumed medical training now being put to some macabre test.

"Sharon, Anne-Marie, you take Maria, get her on the table and check on that baby!" I hear Dr. Pierce yell fiercely, and the two women jumped instantly to their task. No questions, just action. I respect that. "Goldblum, you have Matt. Trish, we're going to try and pick out that bullet lodged in Sara's brain. Let's move people. Every second counts!!"

We hold back slightly and allow the patients their places in the rooms. Matt and Sara against one wall, and Maria against the other. Goliath and I, and a few others quietly slide in and stay near the wall, and out of the way of the chaos erupting from this small place where less than two years ago, I gave birth to my angel. And now blood stains the floors. Innocent blood. If it was anybody, it should have been me. If these killers even knew, knew the real truth, I would have been the target. I'm lucky, I escaped, and because of my partner's willingness to help me hide the gargoyles, he was put in danger, and now is dying.

I then notice for some apparent reason Goliath's sister to the side, her eyes opened wide to a sight yet experienced in this new world for her. And Dr. Pierce notices as well.

"You." He points at her and addresses her in a manner almost brusque, but not to be rude, as I know, as do a few others, Alan has taken a certain liking to this young gargoyle back from the dead. "You've read all of my medical texts, right?" he asks her quickly, as his hands are full.

She nods, almost timidly. "Yes, Dr. Alan."

How cute.

"Congratulations. You've been drafted. Help Goldblum."

And of course, she quickly rushes in and to Sara's bedside without hesitation. Damn, I hate that. She's friendly, open, always wanting to help and involve herself in her clan's activities and problems. I hate that. Damn.

I don't know why I'm so jealous of this woman, she's been nothing but a friend to me, a sister, like the others. I guess I'm not used to anyone having a relationship with Goliath like mine. They seem very fond of each other. I guess when all of this is over I'll have to ask my husband just how close they used to be. But right now, I'm in awe, as my still nameless sister's hands are becoming a blur, all that soaked up medical knowledge is flooding out as she assists Goldblum in handing him the proper tools to aid in Bluestone's injury. Having a computer for a brain can come in handy, and right now, the jealousy disappears, and I'm grateful for her unique skills.

And then, in a swirl of light to my side, comes the new castle sentience, Mother, sweeping in from nothingness and allowed her form by the hologram projectors. How weird it is seeing this woman, from my husband's deepest subconscious to walking the same floors I do. Goliath chose her form intentionally, and the others say, though quietly, it's a chance for him to save another of his dead clan just as we did his aptly named clever sister. But the way he treats this simple holographic intelligence worries me, as he doesn't regard her like he did CY.O.T.I., but almost as his own flesh and blood mother. It's like he doesn't see the glaring fact she's just a machine, and has feelings only programmed by some computer code.

She glides past, beautiful and modest and serene even in her age, or programmed age, and approaches Maria. She's now the singular extension of all this futuristic technology Xanatos has, and provides needed information to the two women hovering over my captain, my friend. I watch as another hologram forms in her hands, and gasp when seeing the small fetal form of Maria's womb, like a holographic x-ray. And then I cringe when seeing both Sharon's and Anne-Marie's expressions turn downwards.

Something's wrong. Something's wrong with the baby. "Oh god no..." I whisper, and Goliath's wings shore up around my shoulders, and I'm sure he can sense my body shiver with his gargoyle sensitivity to everything around him.

And then I feel it, his massive body turned slightly, and a groan escaped from his chest, into his throat and a growl brushed against my hair, "Not now."

I turn with my husband, and crease my features into a whimper when seeing who padded almost completely silently through the doorway. Hudson.

Oh god...Hudson. No. You shouldn't be here, you shouldn't have to see this, old soldier. You've had enough death in your life, and now your child is dying. He's staring at Maria, and I see him age another ten years before my eyes as he slowly creeps through the confusion. I know Goliath has figured out what I did, and he doesn't move, doesn't try to stop him, he stays wrapped around me and watches his mentor and oldest friend approach the bedside of the one woman in this world he has feelings for.

I watch Maria dazedly reach out to him a hand coated in caked blood between the women now cutting open her stomach, and Hudson stares only for a second before sweeping the weak hand into his claws as she slowly loses consciousness from the anesthetic. My heart breaks at the expressions both of them pass to each other, one of sorrow and fear, the other of forgiveness and love.

I'm trying as best I can to hold back my tears, I don't want to cry. Not here and not now, not in front of all these people. I'm stronger than this, I can handle it. I'm a cop. I'll use my anger to keep me going. I won't show any...weakness...god, I'm so scared.

I can still smell the blood, now mixed with the biting reek of a hospital, and I want to puke, in sadness and grief, and in my repugnance to the smell that I'll never forget for as long as I live. I'm going to throw that bomber away...

****************************************

I can feel my wings screaming in pain as I guide myself ever higher towards the stone walls of the castle with a stream of blood impeding upon my vision. The gusts fight me, and I fight back, defeating an opponent capable of toppling countries. I can feel the glass shards imbedded in my burned skin, twisting and rending my flesh with every subtle movement and opening the wounds even farther. It is almost a delicious feeling, that of the smell of hot blood, and the wind rushing through the open holes in my wing membranes, an unusual sensation. But right now, my priority is the woman cradled limply in my arms. A small, fragile human who I found buried under the ruins of her apartment walls, and ironically saved from the blast, by the blast. She's barely breathing now, covered in grime and blood, and her tiny hands are clenched into the flesh of my chest. I find myself...frightened. Frightened to lose her as I lost Delilah.

I curse the bomb that did this to her. A coward's way to kill, without even showing your face to your opponent, and depriving them of an honorable death. I swear to you, Iliana, if I find those responsible, there will not be enough scraps left to bury.

The turrets quickly loom into view, and my home soon beckons to me. My home. It has been a very long time since I could call one place just that. I feel...comfortable here, safe. And that is indeed a rare feeling in a life such as mine. I sweep over the cornices in one last thrust, my strength drained, and I almost collapse upon the courtyard surface, allowing my damaged wings the release of their bind to get us home. Iliana curls and twists in my arms with her head resting against my forearm, she chokes up more blood and stutters a garbled response I can barely make out. Her hair is soaked from a gash down her face, where a splinter of wood once pierced her flesh, and I cannot even tell where her hair and the blood separate from each other.

"Stay with me," I implore to her, hoping my voice is enough to keep her with me, as hers once did in Japan, "Iliana, don't give up. Iliana...I..."

"Shadow?"

She has a peculiar power, that to approach without my knowing, but perhaps it is her new training or my injuries that prevented me from sensing Delilah advance to my side. Or even the fact my sense of smell can detect nothing but blood and charred skin. I looked up and found only an expression of worry and fear for both me, and the human in my arms. "Shadow, what happened?!"

I pause before answering my bloss...Delilah, and rub my knuckles down Iliana's face. "A bomb. In her apartment. I pulled her out." My voice wavered in emotion, and yet Delilah did not notice, or care. "Please, Delilah, she is hurt. We need to get her help." She nodded, and reached an arm underneath my shoulder to help my wounded body to its feet, ensuring Iliana would not be jostled too severely. But I feel her hands roaming perhaps farther than needed, as if to refresh her memory of how it once felt to touch me. I too, enjoy her contact, and the anger and lingering distrust between us instantly evaporates. I admit...I miss that bond we once had. I miss the love we shared, and I find myself still torn.

She's so warm...

"We have to get her to the hospital," she whispers, breaking me from a battle waged for so long, as I notice a blush erupting within her cheeks when I catch with a thinned glare her hands sloping across my bicep, "and hopefully there'll be someone available to help."

I pick up on her hidden meaning, and a usually buoyant tone downtrodden. "What has happened?"

She took a steady breath, and looked up with those damnably large, chocolate eyes, and I force down the lump in my throat. "The twenty-third precinct was attacked, and Matt, Sara and captain Chavez were badly hurt." She then lowered her gaze away from mine. "They're...close to death."

My mind instantly clicks, and I find the bomb in Iliana's apartment possessed of a darker purpose. I growl almost in impulse, and press the woman in my arms closer to me in the eternal instinct to protect. But out of love, or just a friendship I feel far too comfortable in, I did not know.

****************************************

It's been hours now since they were brought in, and this castle seems like a tomb. It's too damned quiet around here, and that unnerves me. I don't like the silence, I don't like not hearing the loud voices and laughter of the clan echoing down the corridors and instantly transforming this ancient crumbling castle into a home. And it's been a long time since I've had a real home, with real friends and family. And now the very spirit of the castle is damaged, wounded. The clan is completely quiet, subdued, even Mr. Hawkins has barely spoken a word as we all try to settle ourselves after such a gruesome attack.

Thank god Iliana's all right, a few burns and gashes here and there, but she's tough. She's from Brooklyn. And Shadow was cleaned up, having the shards of glass and wood pretty much yanked from his skin. But as for the others...I'm not so sure. Matt and Sara have been stabilized, but both of them are in deep comas, having been practically lobotomized by the bullets taken to their heads. And Maria...oh god, I can't even imagine what she'll go through when she wakes up. But at least Hudson's there, and if there were anyone I would want by my side, it would be him.

I find myself...unable to concentrate, even in the silence of the castle's main control and computer room where Goliath usually makes his office. Looking over the new security systems, data streams, Cyber-Biotics stock reports, I try anything to keep my mind from drifting back to what they...to what we may lose. A part of the weirdest family I know of. My family. I've been virtually adopted, Alex too, and even David to some extent, even though most of the clan still say otherwise. But we are clan, and we have been assaulted, and hurt down to our very core.

Elisa's ready to explode. She's been on the phone with the precinct for almost an hour, assessing the damage. Four officers already dead, three officers near death and eleven wounded in the attack, and not one suspect captured. Captured alive, at least. They have a few more bodies lining the drawers in the morgue, but dead men can't tell secrets.

Seems like a good place for St. John.

I embarrass myself by laughing out loud. I don't think a mother should think like that, especially when trying to instill her stubborn son with moral values. But I really, really loathe that bitch, and now she's trapped downstairs, hidden away where she can't spill her little secret. David and I have already deflected the station's inquiries about her whereabouts, stating nonchalantly that she broke in and was quickly escorted out. They think she may have disappeared in her failure, which will hold up as a flimsy excuse for a while.

I wonder if they even think she was actually right.

I wonder if anyone cares...

I'm watching the news reports again on a smaller screen, and see a massive crater open up before me. MacBeth's mansion, totally destroyed in a similar manner to Iliana's, without any trace of our once immortal friend among the debris. But like all reformed criminals, we still have tricks up our sleeve, like those of disappearing and staying dead to the public eye. I guess whoever did this didn't like his defense of the gargoyles on the news a few months back. I'm sensing a theme here, as does Elisa. She's good. At putting things together I mean.

But I can tell she's hurting. Her parents, Nicole's break-in, the attacks, everything, it's building up, and she's going to either erupt or completely break down if she doesn't release it soon. Good thing she has a husband like Goliath. Am I jealous? Let's just say I sometimes wish David had wings like that...not that I'm not extremely attracted to the whole dangerous, control-the-world-with-an-evil-smile motif.

"Ugh..." I mutter out loud almost uncontrollably, and nearly double over in Goliath's chair. Damn. Here it comes, creeping along my spinal cord and into the base of my skull. Another headache. Oh god...I hope Dr. Pierce can find out what's wrong with me. I don't know how long I can take these constant migraines. And I don't know how long I can hide them from David, and especially Alex. That little troublemaker knows almost everything about me because of our magical link. I know he can sense my pain, but he always concedes to mom's authority.

Damn, my entire body's on fire. I can feel my blood racing through my heart like it's boiling. It's getting worse. Maybe...maybe I should tell David about my 'condition'. But I don't want to worry him. I'll think I'll wait for the good doctor's report on my blood makeup first, and then I'll approach him. Running a company such as his, protecting the clan and placing aside ample time for his family, he's stretched farther than any mortal man should be.

Sometimes I think these businesses we run are now just an excuse to keep us from seeing what we truly are. Pathetic bad guys who merely ended up joining the other side because we couldn't cut it as villains. But I kind of like it here. Excuse me, but I like being a good guy, and I think I try to pull it off for just a while more.

Hmmm...what do you know. Headache's going away.

****************************************

Th' others all around me are quiet, Bluestone an' Jasper be in deep comas an' hooked t' every machine an' wire an' tube in this little room. Young Starr be sleeping soundly, thank th' dragon. But my mind soon drifts t' th' woman I be sittin' beside, drawn by her scent of perfume I canna readily escape. I dinna enjoy th' prospect of my chosen task, as I watch over her. She be sleeping peacefully now, lookin' like an angel beneath th' sheets, and even with th' pale skin, she be beautiful. One would never know she had her stomach cut wide open an' stitched back together like some rag doll.

Our baby.

I canna believe she was with child, I never thought...I never thought I would be blessed with anoth'r chance fer fatherhood. But in this new day an' age, would I have been charged t' care fer this child alone? And would I be able t' break down a thousand years of tradition I myself be preachin'? I dinna know th' answer t' that particular question.

"...mmmmm..."

I winced as she stirred and her eyes be flutterin' like spring butterflies from th' old Wyvern forests. "Maria."

She recognized me voice. "...h-hudson?..."

I could barely hear her, her voice be so weak. "Aye, lassie. It's me."

She opened her eyes an' searched th' room, and faster then I be wishin', she reaches down t' her stomach and feels th' stitching, and in true motherly fashion, th' absence of th' bulge. "...w-where's...where's the baby? Oh god, Hudson...where's my baby?!"

"Maria."

She started shakin' her head, in th' news I was about t' deliver. "...no..."

I placed a hand t' her shoulder, an' she looked at me with eyes that couldha scared off th' devil himself. "I be so sorry, Maria...but..." Damn it all. Swallow it, lad, and be strong fer her. "Ye lost th' baby."

She rolled over t' th' best her injuries would allow, and howled in sheer torment, "Nooooo!! oh god no..." Th' tears flowed quickly upon my last words, and she choked in pain on her own broken breaths. I canna offer nothin' now, and no words would be enough t' ease her pain of losin' th' baby. Our baby. Th' doctors couldna save the wee babe, as hard as they tried, it was just th' cruel fate bestowed on all of us at some time or another.

"I'm sorry, Maria, but there was nothing we could do." It was th' doctor, an' I forced m'self to keep from shoving my sword through his throat in anger, but I be knowing it was not his fault. "The bullet had severed the umbilical cord, and effectively...drowned the baby in it's own placenta."

She cried ever harder, an' I be feelin' almost useless standin' over her. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry..." she whispers t' me, wettin' her pillow with her tears. "I never told you...I should have told you..."

"It was not yuir fault, Maria." I have lived fer eleven hundred years, seen countless battles, an' lost more loved ones an' clan than any sane person should, but one tiny baby brings me t' tears. Ach, be I growin' soft now? Nay, like Goliath says, it is a rare strength t' show yuir feelings, especially t' th' woman ye...love, and right now, my heart is being torn into two pieces, much like Maria's. "It was not yuir fault." I havena felt this way since I lost my mate, an' now, another woman I care fer is dying as well. Only on th' inside. "Yuir child was stolen, Maria, and it was not yuir fault."

"You'll...eventually recover, captain Chavez," th' doctor continues, feedin' t' her both kind words an' a fatal blow of truth t' her spirit, "but the damage to your womb is extensive. I don't know if another pregnancy...is ever possible again..."

She be cryin' relentlessly, stolen even of th' possibility t' have another child. This was her last chance perhaps, an' now it comes crashin' down. It be hard t' see her like this, one of th' most powerful women I know an' she's reduced t' a child herself.

Th' doctor edges closer, cautiously. "There's something else I with to discuss with you two. I want your permission to use the fetus...as research. If I can study it..."

I growl an' flash my eyes at this doctor an' his vile suggestion. "Ye would cut th' child up fer mere science?!!"

Th' doctor stood in protective defense, surely hopin' t' calm me. "I know this sounds gruesome, Hudson, but I can now study the fetus up close, better than even Elisa's pregnancy. It is a missing piece of the puzzle to help those who can't bear children. Namely Delilah."

As soon as he mentions th' young lassie's name, I relent almost too quickly t' such a barbaric task. My anger fades, an' I allow th' doctor t' continue, knowin' he's tryin' only t' help.

"This is the second gargoyle hybrid born from natural means, which is slowly proving the limits of nature and science completely wrong. I need to know how this is possible in order to aid in any other interspecies pregnancies, and if I can understand how such a hybrid fetus forms and evolves, I can perhaps create an artificial means to which to provide Delilah with her own child. And I have to begin soon before any more tissue decay occurs." He paused, after spoutin' near rubbish t' a gargoyle raised by torchlight an' Viking swords, but I do understand his intentions t' help. "But...I'll only proceed with your permission to do a detailed autopsy."

I look t' Maria, and the lass burrows deeper into her pillow, and pulls th' sheets closer t' her body. It be her choice, I relent. An' she makes it, impressing me again with her strength. With a passing glance t' me, she nods in assent and answers with but a word. "...yes..."

"Then I'll start right away."

But as he tries t' escape, I grab upon his shoulder and wrench th' doctor close. "Ye be sure yuir 'research' does help others, laddie," I warn of him, grabbing upon th' wrapped handle in my belt, "or ye be facing th' wrong end of my sword." He nods in fear, an' I dinna blame him. I dinna fool like some court jester when me loved ones be at stake.

"Dr. Pierce." I hear Maria call softly t' him, her voice but a whisper, like a newborn hatchling, an' frail. "What...w-what was it? The baby, I mean..."

He settled his brow, and forced himself t' smile. "It was a boy."

A boy. My son. An' now he be joinin' my mate by the same fashion, that of hatred and fear. Barely alive fer two months, he be now reduced t' a mere memory. Maria broke into tears again an' curled against me, clutching upon my tunic with all th' strength she had left. She cried, she sobbed, she wailed like th' banshee, an' all I could do was t' take her into my arms and drape my wings upon her fer warmth. "Shhh, lassie, I be here fer ye...an' I promise, I be makin' those who stole our child from ye pay with their lives..."

I be making a promise I intend t' keep, dearest, sweet Maria. It has been a long while since my blade tasted flesh...

****************************************

Damn them!! I wish so much I could settle the fires burning in my belly with my bare claws.

Whoever has dared to follow in the path of the Quarreymen and Phoenix Rising will taste my talons clenching around their puny, fragile throats. An eye for an eye is an appropriate adage for our situation, and I shall personally ensure my clan avenges that innocent child and all the other lives lost...appropriately. The Guild. Yet another group of racists and scared humans that would rather wipe us away. They have attacked even those remotely associated with my race, and have struck a fatal blow, one that shall not go unreciprocated.

Hrm.

My hands are shaking, and I slowly clench a fist to sway the flames of reprisal.

I feel my wings rising from my shoulders as my anger steadily increases, burning a hole within my stomach, and becoming a reminder of what anger can do. I...I cannot think this way. I am responsible for my clan, and for the leader to lose himself to thoughtless retribution would only endanger those I care for. I have lost control before, and I did not enjoy the bitter taste left over.

I return my eyes to my wife as she strolls back and forth in front of me in a deliberate tread and a line almost unbreakable, with the phone secured to her ear. I know she's taking solace in the fact she can be of some help to her station, but being so cut off and without any information is dangerously inflaming her temper. Only one member of this Guild was captured alive, but not before he placed his weapon to his temple and deprived himself of his own head. 'For the cause, for the Guild.' Prophetic words, those he stated before he killed himself.

Blind fools.

The reports state that MacBeth's mansion has been completely destroyed, and the forensics team at the scene has yet to find a body in the rubble. I hope in his millennium of experience he was able to escape such extensive devastation. But seeing the destruction on the news on our bedroom television, I balk at his chances. He is a good man, a good ally, and I would mourn his death greatly. But he is a survivor, and if anyone could endure such an explosion, it would be he who went toe to toe with some of the greatest warriors in history.

But now my focus is upon my mate, who is, as always, burying her pain underneath a facade of stubborn stoicism. I know she's hurting, I know her soul is in great turmoil, as mine once was. It is a similar situation, now reversed, and if I have to force her pain from her, I shall.

She at last lays the telephone back into it's cradle, and stands a distance away from me, running her hands through her freshly washed hair and over the bandage covering her bruised skin. She's suffering from a mild concussion, and she winces from the pain still laying siege to her. "The coroner in charge has forged false documents and allowed a statement released to the press," she starts in an emotionless tone, "Matt, Sara, Iliana and Maria have been officially declared dead to protect them. And until we can find and take out who did this, they're going to stay that way."

I nod silently, agreeing with a plan known only to a select few. But for the rest of the populace, and their families, the four officers now lying peacefully in the Eyrie hospital are dead.

"But I really don't know if this will even fool them." she continues, rubbing her head. "If this Guild were able to get their guys into the precinct, then they must have spies everywhere, and will know if the bodies don't end up in any hospital or morgue..."

"Elisa." I call to her, and extend a hand to beckon her to the bedside. I wish for her to rest, at least. "You need rest, my love."

She looks at me, and then quickly steals away, refusing my touch. "No."

"Elisa, please. You are injured, exhausted, and have been through hell."

"Back off, Goliath." she warns, and I am impressed with her ability to ward off those she does not wish to deal with in her own inherited gargoyle growl. "I don't need to be babied."

But I persist, unfazed and unimpressed by an act far too transparent. "You need your sleep."

"Do you know what I need, Goliath?!" she screams and races towards me, her eyes bursting with anger. "I need to find these bastards who've practically sliced through my friends!! Who've killed four officers!! WHO'VE MURDERED AN INNOCENT BABY!!!"

Her voice was not her own, she was possessed by her own agony and rage, and I too wanted to explode and release what my heart held within. But I must stay above my petty anger, and keep a clear mind to better lead my clan. I find myself struggling just as my wife now does. "We will find them." I promise to her as she hovers over me, with a challenging glare, and I attempt to keep my voice calm. "But right now, we can do nothing but heal, and plan our next move."

"I'm going back to the precinct."

She attempts to escape from me, but I snatch upon her arm and wrench her close. She struggles violently, but I do not falter in my grasp. She's fighting against me, for she does not want to rest while her friends lay dying. She feels as if she owes them. I do not care for such a reckless premise, and clutch her to my chest.

"Let me go!" she yells, beating her fists against my flesh, pounding upon my chest in an eruption of anger. And I allow her to vent appropriately. "I'm sick of living in constant fear!! I'm going to find those bastards!! And I'm going to make them pay!!"

"And what if you find them? Then what?" I ask of her, and force her to dwell upon what hate-filled words she spews so effortlessly. "Will you kill them?! Will you turn that hatred and bigotry and prejudice back against them in more senseless violence?! Perhaps you are no better than those who attacked you..."

That seemed to press a button, as she stopped and stared. Good.

She then slapped me. Hard. Good. Release it, Elisa. And though I barely feel it, I knew she placed all of her power into the thrust of her hand across her face. "How dare you." she seethes.

"How dare you." I respond in kind to her goaded hiss, my own features turning dark, and she at last recognizes I too burn with the consuming anger. Her expression turns from anger to fear, in seeing me mimic the rage she held on to for comfort, though I know for a fact I appear much more menacing than she could ever hope to accomplish. "You have a duty to protect this family, and you cannot do that when you are fueled only by anger and pain. Look at you. You have a concussion, and are exhausted. We have no suspects, no leads, and no enemy to fight."

She glares through her falling strands. "I will find one."

"Yes, you will. If it is not the Guild, then it will be another. Perhaps someone innocent."

She seems angry at such an accusation. "That would never happen and you know it."

"Don't you think I wish revenge as well?" I ask, almost shaking her entire form with my ferociousness as my hands curl around her slender wrists. "Don't you think I am brimming with rage at what has happened to my friends?!" my voice swells into a roar towards her, effectively stripping from my ironically labeled humanity the conscience and sentience of a higher being. I calm myself, as I know my hands are just that close to crushing and pulverizing the bones in her arms. "I want to revenge those hurt with every fiber of my being! But...misdirected anger will only consume us, consume you, and hurt others. You know that. You are a police officer. You have seen it far too many times. And yet, you feed upon it like some addictive sustenance."

Her breathing is erratic, and I hear her heart racing. She feels the heat of vengeance setting aflame her blood. "I want to hurt them...like they hurt me."

"I know. As do we all." I concede the truth, as I am not impervious to hatred. I never was, nor did I pretend to be. "But hatred breeds only more death. And we are better than that. To lower ourselves, to give in to fear and hate and anger...would mean the Guild have already defeated us." She relaxes her body, and my hands relent their grip upon her wrists, satisfied my point has gotten through that thick skull as I see the edges of tears begin to form in her eyes. She battles against showing such weakness, and I wonder why. We are alone, and I have never thought less of her because of that, and why she feels she must always conceal her pain is beyond me. But I am not immune to such obstinate suppression as well, and thus, as her mate, I understand her. "It is all right, Elisa," I then whisper firmly, "to cry."

And she does. She swiftly collapses against me and breaks out in sobs, her body wracked with powerful spasms forced beneath her soft, copper flesh. I pull her into my lap and caress my wings about her lithe form. I comfort her with my touch, and allow her to cry in my embrace for as long as she wishes. We stay together for almost an hour and she never stops crying, she releases everything, expunges the hatred and fear and confusion of the difficult journey on which she has progressed and carried on under the most extreme of difficulty and burden, and I hold my beautiful wife with all of my strength.

"...I love you..." she then manages between her sobs, pillowing her face into my chest.

I smile for the first time tonight, feasting upon the sensory overload of Elisa's scent and taste and the sensation of her small human form pressing against my skin. "And I you, my beautiful Elisa." I whisper in turn, gently caressing my lips to her forehead. I am tired, and spent of my energy, but I persevere if only for her. "And I promise, whatever we face, we face it together."

She looks up, and we embrace passionately, and fall back to the covers removing each other's clothes in the attempt to replace the pain we both feel with the fires of love, unaware of a few small visitors watching from the doors we thought were closed and secured.

****************************************

I see Trini peeking in the doors to her mom and dad's room, an' she looks sad, so I come up behind her and hug her. I don't like it when Trini is sad. Trini's my friend. She's like me 'cause we've both got blood from diff'rent people, diff'rent races like mom says. I don't want her to be sad anymore. Or aunt Elisa an' Goliath. Or anybody else.

Trini's kind of warm inside, from some energy stuff. She gots a weird power I can feel an' it's really strong. I think she knows how her mom an' dad are feeling. Like she can sense them in her head. Maybe it's 'cause her gargoyle parts are really strong. Maybe that's why I can feel weird energy from her.

When Goliath and aunt Elisa start kissin' an' stuff, me an' Trini close the doors real fast.

Everyone's energy feels funny. I can feel the hurt people in th' hostipal. They're inna dark place, and they're cold, and I don't know how to help 'em with my magic. 'Specially Matt an' Mrs. Jasper. They're leaving now, I can see 'em slowly going away, an' I ask them to come back. But they don't listen. They're not comin' back...

****************************************

In the cruelty of the world around me, this cell dressed somewhat like a hotel room is now a haven. Where tapestries cover the barren, steel walls, trying to disguise the fact it's still a prison, and a smattering of furniture provide me, the intruder, at least some comfort. And where I don't have to worry about the crushing weight of society and the blurred edges fading to a dangerous, ominous black.

And though I'm cut off in here, I still know what's happened. The fears they were so adamant in telling me about and using as their excuse to hold me here have actually come true. Here I am, bitching about being trapped in a cell and getting lavish meals better than what I cook at home, and now the gargoyles' closest friends are being pretty much exterminated left, right and center.

Is this what my little quest will condemn them to? Utter annihilation? If I were the one spilling the secret I possess to the rest of humanity, would I be a savior to one race...or a murderer to another?

Stubbornness aside, I'm almost inclined to think Goliath was being truthful, damn it all. I would condemn them to exposure, but their fate would be up to humanity to decide, and it's hard to believe more than six billion people would unanimously settle on a death sentence. But I have a duty to report the truth, it's the reason I became a reporter, and reveal any possible danger to MY people, to MY race. Yes, I want to further my career and I don't say otherwise, but I never thought it would involve some psychotics blowing away the gargoyles' closest allies. They told me of course about the Guild, to further illustrate their point. And I am truly surprised anyone would go this far.

From what I can discern, from Angela's tales, is that the clan are pretty much the focal point of all the crap gone wrong in this city, and world. They're a magnet for danger and only drag the rest of us into their dirty little wars. And I think in all so condemning fashion, if there were no gargoyles, there would be no Guild.

And of course, if there were no fear or prejudice, there would be no Guild either.

But would censuring these creatures either by imprisonment, or...the alternative, actually save humanity, or condemn us to a countdown to some hell-wrought doomsday from magical creatures lurking just beyond the realm of our own nightmares.

I don't know. My black and white world is quickly blending together into a very ambiguous gray. I hate that. It makes my job just that much harder.

I hear the cell door opening, and I'm allowed a fresh breath of air from the outside instead of the re-circulated fog hanging around me, and in steps Broadway, one of my tour guides for the last few days I've been trapped here. He looks tired, and older than ever before. He's younger than I am, but you would never tell the way his features are almost withered and creased with lines of visible pain. "Let's go." he orders simply, and I notice his voice is bereft of any sentiment. "Goliath wants to show you something."

I obey pretty quickly, surprising myself. No arguments this time, no nasty comments I'm getting so damned famous for. I don't argue as he leads me out and into the hallway, heading towards the elevators. It's a road traveled before, as Angela's taken me out a few times and given me a chance to explore the castle. Her chance she calls it, to show me how they live. I even tried to escape once, and was caught quite easily, for it seems they were expecting me to do such a thing.

Shadow caught me, and I ran back into the castle pretty quickly. I swear to god he's got it out for me. And if Goliath wasn't there to stop him, he'd probably...well, let's just say he wouldn't be too forthcoming in the whole mercy department.

The elevator ride is slow torture, and though lasting only for about two and a half minutes, it's seems like an eternity. The tension is so damned thick I can taste it like film on my teeth. He nudges me through the open doors, and I'm surprised we're not in the castle. It's another floor of the Eyrie, and as I walk further down the hall, I notice an odor wafting towards me with the tang of anesthetic that coats the back of my throat...oh shit. Oh god, don't...don't make me see this. I stop dead in the hallway, and turn to plead, "Broadway, please. Don't make me do this."

He seems almost sympathetic, but spurred by the maiming of his friends, especially it seems Bluestone, he swallows any pity he may hold for me. "Go." He pushes me on, practically forcing me through the doorway and I stumble into what I thought would be a quiet display of their wounded, but it now seems a warzone.

"Move! Move!! She's going into cardiac arrest!! Heart-rate's erratic and falling fast!!"

I see a doctor skid across the tiled floor to a woman lying motionless across from me, with another blond-haired doctor running to assist. They rip away the intruding machinery and pull off the blankets almost frantically to gain access to the pale flesh underneath the layers of technology. It's Sara Jasper, the cop from the fourteenth, I recognize her, and I think something's very wrong.

"I losing her, Pierce!" the woman doctor almost screams, seeing the heart monitors slow their mechanical pace. "Damnit!" Then it fills the room, the high-pitched squeal of a flatline. "Heart-rate's gone!"

He seemed determined with those steel-lined eyes from beneath his long, falling hair, and pulled another table towards him. I know enough from my experiences to identify the equipment now being readied. A defibrillator. Jesus, I can't stand those things. "Charging paddles."

I turned my head slightly to see the entire room watching as this Pierce brandished the paddles in each hand. Goliath was there, with Elisa in his arms, and I don't think this was exactly what he wanted to show me. Starr's trying to pull herself up to gain a better vantage from her bed across the room, as is Maria Chavez, both fighting against their injuries. After having faced near death, they now watch in silent horror as the doctor presses the paddles to Sara's chest.

"Clear!"

I cringe as Sara's limp body jerks and convulses and arches almost a foot from the table under the incredible voltage.

"Nothing." the woman reveals almost sadly.

"Clear!" Again, he presses the paddles to her chest, and again, her body jerks.

"Nothing."

My own heart was beating faster, and I shook almost uncontrollably. I couldn't stop myself from trembling as I watched each attempt to revive the woman fail. Come on, man. Do something.

The doctor eventually gave up on the paddles after five aborted tries, and placed his hands to her chest. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. He pumped on her chest with flattened hands, and with every thrust screamed at her to hold on. "Come on, Sara! Fight, damnit! Come on!!" he screamed, he pleaded, but the flatline remained. A death knell I knew all too well. "Come on, Sara! Fight!!"

Come on, Pierce. Save her, damnit! Don't let her die...not like this.

But I notice the doctor beside him ultimately relent, and her shoulders sag in defeat. "Dr. Pierce." she whispered, even as Pierce continued pumping on Sara's chest. But he didn't even flinch, or lose tempo. It was like he was driven by some need. "Alan." She reached out and snatched upon his arm, stopping his futile attempt to give life back to the lifeless. "Alan!" He finally stopped, and stared. "She's gone..."

Gone. The entire room was achingly silent except for that stupid, whining machine. She's dead. Turn that machine off already!

I see as Elisa turns away and buries herself into Goliath's chest, her fingernails drawing his blood they clench so tight. I see as Iliana flops back down to her pillows, and scowls in a fusion of anger and disbelief. I see as Chavez spills tears for her friend, and curls back under her sheets to hide away from the grisly sight. And I see as Dr. Pierce holds himself over the dead body of Sara Jasper, until...

"DAMN!!!" He turned around, and brutally swatted away the defibrillator equipment in a single moment of anger, maybe destroying thousands of dollars of equipment. But he didn't care. No one did. The other doctor rid the dead officer of her breathing tube and I.V., and promptly pulled the sheet up and over Sara's face, and at last, relieves us of the heart monitor's incessant scream. "Trish, please note the cause and time of death." he whispers solemnly. "Heart failure due to extensive head trauma. 5:47 am."

I stand here now, having watched a family lose a part of itself, and too far deep into my sympathy, I never notice the massive lavender claw inching towards me. Goliath had forced himself from his wife and grabbed my arm. Hard. I release a loud squeal in both the sheer fright and the pain as he drags me unwillingly towards the sheeted corpse, and clutches his hand to the back of my neck. "You wish to see the result of your wanted story, Miss St. John?!" he growls at me, and pulls away the sheet, forcing my face directly into that of Sara's pallid features. "This is death!! This is what will happen if our existence is leaked out!! My wife, my children, my friends and family!! Your greedy quest to further your career will kill us all!!"

Oh god no...please. I'm inches away from a corpse. I hate dead bodies. "Please...let me go..." I plead, trying to fight against his hand, but he's too strong. I can't move. I hate dead bodies.

"You can build your anchor career on the death of this woman, I'm sure it would impress the station manager!" he continues, and I can't help but inhale the lasting remnants of Sara's perfume. Ambrosia, mixed with warm blood.

"I don't want..." I squeak, my throat closing off, and my stomach churning and wanting to spill its contents.

But he doesn't relent, even with my whimpered begging, more like a small girl than a grown woman. "Look closely!" he yells, as everyone in the hospital stares at him, stares at us. "See the pale skin, hear the lack of heartbeat, taste death itself..."

"NO!!!" I push back against his hand, and he releases me. I fall back, and hit the tiles hard. I blubber, and scramble into the middle of the floor, trying desperately to keep back my tears. I know they're watching me. All of them. I know they're watching with some sort of sick satisfaction the little, insignificant pain in all their collective asses finally get a taste of her own medicine. Get a taste of what they constantly go through, night after night.

The floodgates then open, and I cry. I pool my tears on the tile so damned clean I can see my wretched reflection in a distorted, ivory mirror.

"Broadway." I hear Goliath call to my assigned jailor. "Take her back to her cell...where she can rot."

Broadway walked over, and helped me from the ground. He was gentle, and caring, and guided me back towards the elevators, leaving the others I'm sure to grieve for their loss. The doors open and I immediately lean against the elevator wall for support, and damnit, I can't stop crying. I can't be guided by my emotions. Black and white. That's the world of the press. Unwavering, unforgiving...I've reported on murders and homicides before, even a suicide where a man burned himself alive with a can of gasoline and a single match. And not once, did I show any emotion.

But this is different. This is the beginning of a much larger war, and an entire species' extinction is at stake. And I have never felt so small or unimportant in my role.

Broadway tucked his hand underneath my arm, drawing me from the cab and back towards my cell. Through the doors and back into my new home, I collapse on my bed and instantly grab for the covers and quilt. "It will be dawn soon." he whispers. "I suggest you get some sleep. Owen will bring your breakfast in a few hours."

"Broadway." I stop him with the call of his name. He holds back, as it's rare that I don't insult him just to get a rise and soak up what information I can. "For what it's worth...I'm sorry."

He nods, and leaves, and the security system locks the door behind him. It's suddenly cold in here, and I wrap myself into my blankets almost hysterically to try and stave off the chill. I wipe my cheeks clear of the tears, and find myself...divided now, on my duties. Whether or not to condemn an entire species to death to perhaps save another.

I should have never come here...

****************************************

The dawn is slowly approaching, and I for one am glad to see this night end. I'm sure the entire clan shares my sentiments as well. Goliath is standing across from me, his massive form cloaked by dark wings and looking more like a king, regal in stance and birthright. He's awaiting the sun and his daily slumber, and we banter back in forth in usual impassive fashion, sharing information on the empires we maintain, he on the state of his clan, and I on the state of the world outside.

The clan above me he reports is a powder keg, and when he made the decision to suspend all patrols and confine them all to the cornices for the time being, the wick was promptly lit, but of course, it's for their own safety. They're edgy, and annoyed to the point where I can almost hear their heavy footsteps through the ceiling. And Goliath as I notice quite keenly, is swimming with the primal urge that grits his teeth and compulsively clenches his fists beneath his leather cloak.

How rare it is to see him like this, and I take full advantage of the chance to forever imprint in my mind this unusual opportunity. To see such a wise and composed creature forced back to his prehistoric roots. I suppose that is why I feel so damned arrogant sometimes, for however like a man he may act the beast still lies within. But the true irony is, he's more of a man than I'll ever be.

I'm forever chasing him, competing with him for the label of humanity. And he always comes out ahead.

"Xanatos." he pulls me from my thoughts with his deep, booming voice, and I hear easily the edges of irritation on a cultured tongue. Interesting.

"My apologies, Goliath. I was...thinking." He spurs a brow with my remark, like always. "But getting back to our previous discussion, all of the Guild members killed in the attack have been identified, and have no previous records. In fact, they seem almost laughably normal. One was even a homemaker. With two children."

He growls. "What would possess them to join such an organization and give their lives for such a blind cause?"

"Maybe it's a cause they believe in giving their lives for. Perhaps they want exactly what you want, to keep their families and world safe. And like you, they would die for that wish. They see you as the enemy, and now they have a common foe to fight."

Goliath shook his head in my cold explanation and grazed a large hand across his knitted brow, and sighed, "How can normal, happy people become crazed killers?"

"Anger, grief, pain, psychosis, boredom, protection..." The last word seemed to get a rise from his wings. He's just barely keeping his temper under control. "Take your pick."

He glanced eyes at me and nodded, knowing even I couldn't answer such a question. Perhaps no one can. "Have you alerted our allies?"

"Yes, Jeffrey Robbins, Andrea Calhoun, Roblyn, everyone even remotely connected with your clan has been warned, and all traffic in and out of the castle has been halted. Security is on full alert." He then grunts, his version of a thank you in such a mood, as I know he can't stand taking anything from me. He still believes it all comes with a string attached. I admit it does, his veneration and gratitude, if only spoken verbally. His absolution, but I know for damned well that is far off even if at all. It's curious, that I would consider this man one of my closest friends.

"This is...frightening." he states honestly, and I silently agree.

This is beyond lunacy, but everyone is falling into place far too eerily. This Guild I would almost commend their efficiency and formation, if they were not turning my city into a killing ground and forcing on me the urge to scream in their methods and results of such. "Dawn's approaching, Goliath." I whisper, seeing through my large window the light of day creeping into the night sky.

The massive gargoyle looks to where I do, and then tramps off, and I watch him leave in a straight line and disappear through the doors without another word. I quickly relieve myself of the emotionless businessman camouflage and allow my head to drop onto my awaiting hands. Beyond my wife and her odd, clandestine behavior, my son's dangerous and growing magical abilities and the clan's continuously threatened existence, there is a definite sensation having infiltrated the exterior of ice I usually build around me. I am David Xanatos, the most powerful man in the world, and even in my untouchable palace among the clouds, I too feel fear.

****************************************

One night later and we've already lost two. Will there be more? How many will lose their lives because of some fanatical force that threatens to wipe us out? I'm so sick of violence and death, and I hoped we could build a better world, but I guess that was just a naive dream. One of many I've had. And sometimes I think they can be shattered far too easily.

Just last week I was visiting my brothers' graves, and having dinner with the Howells, talking about Jessica. I can't believe it's almost been a year since my friend died. And almost two since my brothers were...infected, and lost to me. And now Sara. I didn't know her too well, but she was open, friendly, and she made Matt Bluestone very happy, and for that, she should be commended and revered even in death.

It seems death is becoming a recurring theme in my life, and constantly surrounds me

Goliath has suspended all patrols for now, just in case, and I find I'm lost for anything to fill my time save travel the castle corridors and nod silently to the others, as most aren't in the mood to even talk, they're surly, almost gruff...and angry. Sata offered more training, but I declined. I'm just not in the mood tonight, nor is anyone else to do anything of any pleasure or importance. And now, I find myself lured down below into the stark walls of the Eyrie building for some reason, to where two lay convalescing, and another lies near death. I don't now why I'm here, perhaps to offer my help. To ease the pain of loss.

But within the disinfectant and anesthetic, I catch his scent even before I enter. Leather, steel and incense, he has a unique aroma all his own and is probably the most discernable out of the entire clan. At least to me. I use the shadows to my advantage, and my soft step made even more so thanks to Sata's guidance, and shore up against the doorway of the hospital. I peer in covertly, and see him hunched over the bedside of a young woman who now shares his heart instead of me.

Shadow's stroking the deep scarlet hair of his new conquest...his new friend I should say. His girlfriend, mate-to-be, whatever he may call her, I know she's first in his life now. My anger bobs, almost like an ocean tide, never too high or low or strong, just simply simmering beneath my skin. Jealousy rears its ugly head once again, but I can't help it. They talk and joke and laugh as we once did. And I wonder where it all went wrong, and where the end of our relationship truly began.

Maybe he was right. I was too inexperienced, too child-like to carry on a serious relationship. But he did his share to destroy what we had. I would have forgiven him for the tryst with Iliana. I would have forgiven him for killing the Pack. I would have forgiven everything, if only he would have had the courage to be honest with me. But it seems even one of the most powerful warriors had his secret fears.

Maybe he thought I would be ashamed of him, that I would look down upon what he has done. And maybe he truly didn't know me that well to begin with.

"...I was afraid I had lost you..." I then hear Shadow whisper to her from the distance, their conversation now becoming interesting.

She smiles, and appears very appealing even underneath the bandages salving her burns. "You can't get rid of me that easily...ninja butt." she answers too coyly for me not to loathe that tone. It's almost like she enjoys making fun of his heritage and the fact he is a ninja bred from birth. But Shadow is hers now, and I have no say in how they carry on. Maybe if I were more adventurous, rebellious, I would have truly been the one. If I weren't some timid clone with a barren belly, I would have stood more of a chance.

Maybe I should finally move on past this idiotic infatuation. I guess it only makes me seem weaker.

Jason Canmore was by again the other night before all of this happened, and he seemed very much focused on...getting my attention. I like him, he seems...nice. Very forward, but nice. And it is almost fun to have someone paying his attentions to me in such a fashion. But how can I go on, how can I accept another man's hand when...I still love another?

"I guess I should thank you for saving my life." Iliana whispers to him, running her hands up and over the spurs in Shadow's shoulder.

"It was my pleasure." he responds in kind, in the tone that used to make goosebumps rise on my skin.

As much as I try to push Shadow from my mind, when the anger at what he did faded, I was left with an empty, gaping hole. I wonder if he shares that same feeling of darkness that permeates through my entire being.

I love him, and I always will. And...if he so decides to ever come back, will I welcome him with open arms? And will I even wait for him? I don't know...

****************************************

Damnit, damnit, DAMNIT!!! All my years in medical school, seventeen years as a fully licensed, practicing doctor, and I still can't save every life that I come across. With all my vaunted knowledge, with all my skills, I still couldn't save her. I was as helpless as anyone else, and I let them down. They counted on me to save their friend, my patient, they trusted me with her life, and instead she dies on my table. But there was nothing I could have done. Her body just...couldn't hold out. There was too much damage to the brain to keep the rest of the body going.

I hope to God Matt is better off.

He's lucky to be still alive. The injury is eerily similar to Sara's, damage to the frontal lobe and cerebrum, resulting in his coma, but we were at least able to get the bullet out and allow him borrowed time to heal. But if he even does wake up, and survives any lasting brain damage, he'll find the bed of his lover beside him empty, the freshly washed sheets cold and bereft of Sara Jasper's warmth.

She's been taken to the Eyrie morgue, and awaits the cold procession of identification and burial. I can't even sign the death certificate or it could be traced to the Eyrie through my public employment here. It seems unfitting for someone like her to be treated in such a way, but her concealment only allows the others a chance for life.

I haven't slept in thirty-three hours, and my coffee's cold. Damn, trivial, I know. But I hate cold coffee. I've sent Trish, Goldblum and Sharon home for a needed break, and am now watching as Anne-Marie slides into her coat and prepares to leave as well. She has spent almost two days here, having dusted off her rarely used medical training and helping with the wounded. And serving her best purpose as someone the clan could talk to. For healing of the mind and spirit is just as important as healing of the body. And after the events of last night, I think she may get about twenty more regular customers.

I always liked that about her. She's a listener, and suited to her job as one of Manhattan's best psychiatrists. And I wonder how I ever signed the divorce papers and gave up such a woman like her. I guess I'm too damned involved in my work, my Achilles heel.

"Well, Alan," she starts her goodbye, dragging the few lasting strands of that gorgeous, silver streaked hair across her brow and behind her ear, "I think I'd better get home. I need sleep." She looked up, and cocked an eyebrow to my ragged appearance. Uh-oh. "You look like you need sleep as well."

Maybe that was it. Maybe I allowed our marriage to dissolve because she always wanted to coddle me. "I'm fine." I fight back.

"You always say that."

I smirk, because she always says that. "I know."

I watch as she glides towards me and presses her lips to my forehead. "You always work yourself too hard. It wasn't your fault Sara died, Alan." she whispers, doing her best as ex-wife and current friend to lift my spirits. "You and I both have seen injuries not as bad as hers and yet still the patient dies. Her body was just...far too damaged to hold on."

My answer is lost with a drawn out yawn and hidden with my hand. Like every doctor committed to saving lives, I still think I could have done something more.

And Anne-Marie simply brushes her hand across my brow, to move the hair from my eyes. "You try to carry far too much on your shoulders, Alan. You have gone far beyond the limits of science already, and have done more for this clan than they have ever asked for or even imagined."

"I suppose." I respond quietly, and look away to the notes adorning my desk in a heaped pile. Maybe to hide from those eyes still bearing down on me.

And to clutch upon and force my attention from my notes and medical journals, she grasped my hand and I immediately felt the warmth flowing through her skin. A touch I still miss to this day, and a sensation I've barely had time for in my later years. "Goodnight, Dr. Pierce. And please, get some sleep."

"Bye, Dr. Blackwell." She walks away and out of the hospital. "And thanks."

I finish my cold coffee in one forced gulp, hoping the caffeine will help to keep me going for just a few more hours and allow me enough of semi-lucid consciousness to do my rounds. I stand, crick my back and straighten my lucky lab coat, and then languidly approach to where a hospital bed is surrounded by the best of Xanatos medical technology keeping a man alive. Machines breathe for him, regulate all of his autonomic functions, and keeps us, the watchers, ever vigilant to even the slightest change in Matt Bluestone's condition.

And tending to these machines is the newest addition to the clan I was hired to care for, the as of yet unnamed sister. She has literally become a library of all the medical knowledge collected, and has offered to help me monitor the patients, and act as nurse when Trish is unavailable. I stare at her as she adjusts the heart monitor, and I don't think she even notices my eyes on every curve of that beautiful, glowing orange skin.

I'm suddenly reminded of my favorite childhood treat, an orange creamsicle.

I've never thought anyone would take my breath away like this graceful, intelligent, sociable and substantially younger gargoyle. She has a rare talent to actually distract me from my all-consuming work, that which already cost me a social life, not to mention a wife.

"Dr. Alan?"

"What??" Damn...caught. "Oh, uh, sorry, yes?"

"You were staring at me." she stated, tilting her head slightly to the side.

"Oh, well...ahem, I was just ensuring you were adjusting the ENG rate properly." I bluffed my way through, which is partly true, as I admit I have been somewhat hesitant to allow this tenth century gargoyle to handle twenty-first century equipment acting as a lifeline to a dying man. "And you have." I nod emotionlessly. "Very good."

She smiled almost gratefully, but slyly, as if she didn't believe my excuse. "Of course, Dr. Alan." She looked back down to Bluestone, and swallowed. "Do you think...he'll ever wake up?"

"I really don't know. The bullet ripped a hole through the frontal lobe of the cerebrum..."

"Which is mostly responsible for thought and consciousness." she answers for me, and yet again, I am impressed by her growing knowledge.

"And body movement and coordination." I finish, trying to come out on top as the professional here. Not that I don't like a woman who's probably smarter than I am now. I'm an equal opportunist, and in fact, am very attracted to intelligent women. "He'll have to contend with any number of damage to his body because of the injury sustained...not to mention the fact he'll learn of Sara's death. And this is only if he even awakes from this coma." I see her face contort into a frown, and damn myself for being the pessimist. "But the electroencephalograph shows at least some minor brain activity, and the human brain has a unique ability to heal itself." I quickly amend. "And I've seen things in this castle I once thought were impossible."

I look at detective Starr, having fallen asleep by Shadow's side, with the massive dark gargoyle seemingly lost in some sort of meditation, and roam my eyes over the wounds suffered on her arms and face. I picked up bits of their earlier conversation, and she seemed almost unaffected by the bomb or its intended task of instilling fear, like her relationship with Shadow and her friendship with the gargoyles was worth it. Worth dying for.

I then move my fatigued gaze to the empty bed where Sara once lay, and see the end result of dying for a cause and a loved one.

"Are you afraid?" the sister suddenly asked of me.

I didn't understand at first. "Of?"

"Of exposure. And retribution because of such exposure."

I get it now, as she sees my fear of ending up a patient in my own hospital because of my association with the gargoyles. "Maybe." I answer honestly. "But, my work here, the discoveries I've made in science and nature, being the witness to the birth of a new race...I wouldn't trade it for the world."

She smiles warmly albeit forlornly at me, and I feel myself almost blush like a schoolgirl. I move on to spare myself further embarrassment, and come to the bedside of Maria Chavez. She's sleeping peacefully, with Hudson resting in the chair beside her. Even Bronx lies faithfully at his master's side, gathered at the older gargoyle's feet like a big lump of faded blue leather. I check her charts and see she is responding well to the antibiotics to help her heal from the bullet wound.

But frankly, it's not her body I'm worried about.

She seems almost dangerously withdrawn, and will barely answer me, if at all. She is taking great solace in Hudson's presence, and seems only to speak through him. Even Anne-Marie had trouble getting through to her. But I can't even imagine the feeling of having your unborn child stolen from you. I've seen racism-related attacks in my time at Manhattan General, little neo-nazi bastards having beaten the crap out of a black storekeeper, or two rival gangs blowing holes in each other, but this...this is different. This is taking a life guilty of nothing but being half gargoyle. And there is nothing more evil.

I replace the clipboard to her bed, and swiftly tear away, and disappear into my private lab, my home away from home, and come across the lighted tube where a tiny fetal form sits in a cryogenic solution and hidden away from the accidental discovery of its...his mother. Two months old, I can see where the differences from a normal...damn, I mean a completely human fetus are negligible, except for the tiny bumps where wings and a tail were eventually going to form. He seems similar to Trinity in appearance, and even the fusion of DNA is comparable.

And how this is possible is still baffling. In all rights, these two species should not be able to reproduce together. Mammal and reptile. But I've seen nature do some miraculous things, and I think perhaps, in this case, good old Mother Nature is giving the gargoyles a second chance after a million years of evolution and their declining numbers by slightly tweaking their DNA, for to make it easier to mate with humanity only guarantees them new breeding stock by a factor of six billion. It's possible humans and gargoyles were always meant to interbreed, but our radical differences in culture, tradition and physical form got in the way.

Maybe this was planned from the get-go. Maybe as the universe eventually starts to begin contracting in a few trillion years or so, as are all the diverse species of Earth meant to be rejoined into the single-celled life forms from which they first spawned. One massive, eons-old circle.

Or maybe, these kids are just what they are, miracles.

The research on Maria's child has proven invaluable, to help me crack an ancient code written billions of years ago. If I can understand why these hybrid children are able to form and especially why the mother's uterus doesn't expunge the fetus immediately when the body senses such a dramatic change in DNA, than I can perhaps mimic through artificial means a fully functioning uterus. Where I can control with absolute precision the child's growth. Because of the fact the human body has an uncanny ability to compensate for almost all of the problematic minutia occurring in the process of childbirth, I would much rather have a human or gargoyle surrogate. But because introducing two forms of foreign DNA into a host body could produce difficulties I can't even conceive, this seems the most viable solution. Right now, at least.

Perhaps with my breakthroughs, I can trade two deaths on my conscience for a new life, and give to Delilah what she was cruelly denied when 'born', a child.

****************************************

My suit is wrinkled. And that bothers me more than my fanatical brethren, gargoyles with psychotic compunctions in ruling this cramped sphere, and even when young Alexander strays far too rampantly from his magic limitations. For this suit cost two thousand dollars.

I can feel the wound inflicted upon this clan, my own powers, though censured somewhat, can feel the damage, the pain, the collective thirst for revenge. But Goliath is intelligent and prudent, and will not allow such thoughtless vengeance until they have a well thought-out plan. It must truly grate upon their instincts to remain in this castle trapped, and cut off from their skies and their protectorate...and their revenge. The gargoyle compunction for retribution is truly an ancient and powerful device. But now is not the time for such foolish war, they cannot under any circumstance be divided or unprepared in this battle, for it will come soon enough to their very doorstep. They must face this force with clear minds, and a united front.

But the anger I sense, the friction, may tear at that bond.

And now, as I wait in the foyer of the Eyrie, I wonder where Infiniti is in all of this. She has been absent for quite some time, and far too long from my bed. My facade of the unemotional majordomo nearly breaks a smile when thinking of her, it has been a while since I have had someone who truly understood my dual nature, and the task I have undertaken. She knows everything is leading into something that could break this planet in half. And this clan, this small menagerie of gargoyles, humans, cyborgs and fae is the focal point for the newest evolution of Earth and her people.

That is why I remain. That is why I changed soiled diapers and carried out my menial chores with great patience, and what better way than to create an almost robotic personality to better handle the great aversion I have to such tasks. But the tides are slowly changing, growing, and threatening to burst. It is less than thirty years from when the three races will become one, and that has made the entire fae community quite anxious, as it arrived far sooner than any ever thought, thanks entirely to Goliath and Elisa. Even lord Oberon is awaiting the day when such crossbred beings more powerful than even he will arise and claim this world as their own. That is why he wanted Alexander so very much, the young boy is one half of the nexus.

And Trinity.

But the path is difficult, I know, and I find myself, after witnessing such atrocity by those blind of the new path we have all embarked upon, almost saddened to the point of venting my frustrations in the form of my alter ego. How would I enjoy bursting open their heads with a thrust of compressed air into every open orifice. I know I would be able to rid the clan of their enemies if not for my limitations. But I do possess such an instrument, as young Alexander's rare hybrid powers are growing almost exponentially.

And not to sound callous, but thankfully it was the others, and not Elisa. She is far too integral to the new future, and must be protected at all costs.

But as I see the couple entering through the front doors, I wonder if she can even survive against such surmountable odds. Especially when her own parents have cut off all contact. "Mr. and Mrs. Maza." I call to the pair.

"Burnett." Peter Maza addresses me with the same hatred he's always held. "Where are they?!"

"In the Eyrie Hospital." I nonchalantly wave my hand to the elevators. "May I escort you?"

"Don't be so damned flippant, Burnett." Peter again snaps at me. "People have been hurt, one of our oldest friends! And we've been searching every hospital in Manhattan for them for almost an entire day!!"

"That is precisely why I called you, Mr. Maza." I explain softly, my voice retaining absolutely no emotion, as I am not angry with them, they did not choose to become involved in this war. Their fear and bitterness drove them from their daughter, but they will soon realize their mistake. It is destined. The circle is nearing completion. "If you please."

I guide them to the elevator, and when inside the cab, use my handprint and security code to gain access to the upper levels of the Eyrie building just beneath the castle. "I must warn you though," I then whisper, "the clan may not be so forthcoming in your presence here. If any happen to be in the hospital right now..."

Peter moves to say something, but Diane stops him. She seems the calming influence to his temper. Interesting. I see where Elisa has inherited that fire. "Just...let us see our friend, Mr. Burnett." she relents, and the ride up is traveled in silence. From the corner of my eye, I see Diane calming her husband with just her hands over his flesh, and my thoughts drift to Infiniti. And I smile.

****************************************

My entire body feels numb. Empty. In rare instances, I could sometimes hear in an absolute cessation of sound, the tiny, delicate heartbeat strumming within my body. And now it's gone. I was deprived of my chance to start a family because of some bastard's aversion to a species that in all rights deserves this planet a whole hell of a lot more than humanity ever did.

My baby was going to have wings, a tail, and probably end up a lot like Trinity. My son would soar the skies with his father, and would return to his earthbound mother in a perfect family setting torn straight from a fifty's television sitcom, though offset by the fact his life was never meant to be. I have always imagined what my life would be like if enriched by a child's presence, always forced in an office watching as younger, more beautiful women charge through and try to make this world just a little bit better, and then go home to their families with their children waiting obediently.

Damnit, it hurts. I wince at the pain like someone stabbed a knife into my chest. It hasn't hurt like this since Carlos' funeral.

I feel so empty.

Empty of promise, and the hole in my stomach, the wound stitched into my skin, is quickly filled with restlessness. An urge to grab a scalpel and run it across my wrists flashes in my mind, if only to feel the warmth of my own blood spilling over decrepit flesh. If only to feel something. And only one man who's gone through more pain than I could ever imagine imposes the prevention of my desperate impulse. It would seem cowardly to commit such an act in front of him, and I shudder to think what would happen if he wasn't here.

I turn slightly, my midsection screaming in pain, to see the old soldier having fallen asleep in his chair beside me. I rest and watch every breath he takes. The soft lighting is reflecting off his beard of sterling gray, and the shadows catch each and every cook in his wearied, war-hardened features. He's a soldier to the end, he's fought through the entirety of his life to come this far, to guide the remnants of his clan into a new world, and now sits devotedly beside a broken woman who had his child ripped from her stomach.

And I'm scared to fall in love with him.

Scared to get back on that path, and scared to have it crumble in front of me like it did with Carlos. But I can't be alone anymore. I can't be discharged from this hospital and go home to my apartment and continue on as if nothing happened. I can't be alone anymore. And here is my chance sitting right beside me, to have that life back again.

I don't care about these Guild bastards. I don't care if Hudson is a completely different species. We're the same inside, both having faced loss and death, and shared the most intimate of embrace and circumstance. I need him now. For strength. Because I don't think I can do this alone.

My hand has already reached out without my knowing, and touches to Hudson's settled wing, and it twitches slightly when I caress my fingernails down the textured membrane. My blankets suddenly feel far too uncomfortable compared to what I once felt when he wrapped my body within his warm cradle of tanned leather. I want that feeling again, I want it always...

"Hello, Maria."

It was a familiar voice that ripped me from my admiration, one I haven't heard for a long time. I look over my shoulder to see Diane Maza of all people reaching out to caress my arm through the hospital gown. "Diane?" I croak. My god, my voice. My throat is dry, and hoarse. I really don't want to talk right now. "What...what are you doing here?"

Peter too leaned into view behind his wife, and I wonder to what reason they are here. "How are you feeling?" he asks.

I pause for a moment, allowing their sudden appearance to sink in. "Like I lost a child." They both pulled back at my sneer, and I mentally censure myself for being so harsh. "I'm...sorry, Peter, but as you can tell...I'm not feeling that well."

"We heard, Maria," coddled Diane, "and we are so sorry."

"So am I." I continue staring in a manner that raises suspicion, knowing of the rift between two of my oldest friends and Elisa.

"Owen called us." Peter quickly explained.

"Oh." Somehow I had hoped this foolish war they had willingly embraced was over, but no such luck in this life of uncertainty and lingering pain. "I see. So now you come to offer your condolences, and silently gloat about your prediction of something like this happening."

Diane's eyes flickered with both shock and pain. "No. We came here to comfort one of our best friends." she offered adamantly, and I hear the desperation in her voice. "We're so sorry about your child, Maria."

"My half-gargoyle child." I then alter her statement. "I wonder what my life would have been like if he had survived. And wonder if you would have treated my child that way you treated your own grandchild?"

Diane retreats back into her husband's arms, stunned into silence. And Peter furrows his silver brow, and stares at me in an anger he's never shown towards me in all the time I've known him. "This is a different situation." he spits back, and perhaps he hopes he can sway me to his side using my pain over the loss of my baby as an example. "Elisa's decision to have Trinity only endangered all of us. And yes, this is exactly what Diane and I feared from happening. And now, our exact fears have come frightfully realistic. Sara Jasper is dead, Bluestone's in a coma, Starr was lucky enough to survive an explosion in her own damned apartment, and you...you lost a child, all for the very reason of your involvement with the gargoyles." The anger suddenly blurs slightly when mentioning my child. Damn, he is somewhat right in argument, but not in practice. "And we didn't even know about the attack until we heard about it on the evening news, and the fact Elisa could have been killed..."

"But luckily Elisa escaped serious injury." Diane whispered, clutching onto her husband for both physical, and I'm guessing emotional support. "But for how long? The gargoyles are now known to some sadistic faction who makes the Quarreymen seem like some bad dream in comparison. They knew about Matt, and Iliana, and maybe even you. And now our entire family's lives are in danger if they find out about us."

"If the Guild knew about Elisa," I whisper, "then she would be already dead. They only targeted Matt and Iliana because they were forced into the public eye. Elisa was not."

"It's too close!" she screams back, and I see the tears trailing on her dark skin. "And we made the conscious decision to...separate ourselves."

"How many more reporters will come hunting for the gargoyles?" Peter then started in again. "And how long do we have before our lives become numbered by the day? The hour?! Maggie is less than a month from giving birth, she and Derek have regained their humanity after six long, agonizing years and are at last allowed to rejoin the rest of society, and Beth..." He stalls when uttering the name of his youngest, she too having taken Elisa's side. "She's just starting out in her career, and has an entire life ahead of her."

"To condemn your own children because of their choices is malicious, and heartless." I forge new strength, and fight for Elisa and the child that could have been. "And I would never have thought you, Peter, a man who's faced such bigotry and fear fueled by misunderstanding, would give up so easily. Especially on his oldest daughter, who in fact, is just like you."

"I never gave up!!" he screamed, and I felt genuine fear from his tone. But I'm beyond caring. "I fought, and fought, and now everything I've worked for is in constant danger of being completely obliterated just because of one little girl and her heritage! You're right Maria, this entire hospital is filled with my justification for treating Elisa like I did. And I lay in bed every single night, jumping at every single sound, and hoping when I wake up every single morning, I won't be called to identify the dead bodies of my children. Like the Jaspers will now have to..."

"But that's not what be unsettlin' yer soul, is it, lad?" I look to my other side, and see Hudson standing from his chair in defiance, the shadows behind him giving dark prominence to his burly, winged stance. "Yer own stubbornness of thinkin' yer right has already cost ye two daughters."

Peter pulled back when the new player entered this little game.

"Yes, yer right. Ye have proved yuirself ultimately right. An' yer evidence lies all around ye." Hudson edged forwards and approached my bedside, and I felt his callused hands soothe themselves over my exposed skin. "But does that give ye th' right t' condemn Elisa, an' the wee lass Trinity just because she be part gargoyle?"

"She...she condemned us all." Peter fought back, though his voice seemingly fallen in power. "She condemns us to this..." He waved his hand to the hospital, and to Matt in the far corner. "Is this where'll I'll find her, or Derek, or Beth? Will Maggie have to suffer what Maria did? Will she lose her child? This Guild has already killed those even remotely associated with the gargoyles, what happens when they find out about our family?"

My soldier looked intently at Peter, and from one matriarch of a family to another, they lanced their gazes together. "We do what we always do, lad, we fight back."

"And how many will die in that confrontation, Hudson?" Maria whispered, her entire face wet with her tears, obviously stuck in the middle of a war she so wanted to prevent. I truly feel sorry for her. "How much more will we lose?"

"Life be risk, love an' laughter an' trust an' friendship always come with danger, it always has. An' I would rather fight fer what I believe in t' th' death then cower like some frightened child under my bed." Hudson settled his deep brogue, hoping maybe to help close such a wide gap having opened in this family. "Jus' like yuir daughter. Jus' like you."

I see Peter mull over Hudson's words, and a blessed silence falls over this room. But it would be far too short-lived. "A fight to the death." he echoed. "Is that what our lives have come to? Is that what I'm forced to bestow upon my second grandchild? Nothing but pain and war and death?! Is this your idea of a life for a child?!!"

"Trinity seems t' be likin' her life just fine."

And for once, Peter had no snappy reply to Hudson's argument. That's my soldier, quick of sword and wit. Peter balled his fists behind Diane's back, obviously seeing no further point. It seems I've been drafted by painful circumstance to the opposite side, and his is growing ever smaller. I almost pity him now, he was such a strong man, a good man, and now by just wanting to protect his family, he's drowning in his own fear and pride. "Locked in a castle waiting to die. Some life." He shakes his head. "Well..." he then concedes. "I suppose there's nothing left to say. I'm truly sorry about your loss, Maria."

I nod silently, and pull my sheets closer to my body. Peter glides away and past Bluestone's bed, taking a moment to peer upon the greatest evidence of his argument, and mourn the passing of the detective's lover.

Only Diane stays behind, unwilling to leave it this way yet again. "Maria..." she pleads, and I see her eyes coated in glistening warmth.

"Please, Diane, just go...and be with your husband. He needs you."

Her hands drift away from the bed, and she follows her husband's path, and I cringe inwardly at what they must be going through. But I've had my share of pain, and I know for a fact, they chose to have it this way. I don't even notice the tears leaking from my eyes, until a taloned finger wipes them away. I revel in the tender touch of my soldier, and turn my eyes to face him.

"Are ye all right, lass?"

I sniffle, and force a smile through the taste of acid having risen in my throat. "Aye."

****************************************

I can't believe our family has come to this. Divided. Even one of my oldest friends has turned me away. I thought she would at least understand, after what she's gone through. Though I don't share Peter's stark outlook, I too live in constant fear my children will be killed because of the decisions they've made that ultimately impact the rest of their family, and yet, don't seem to care.

Peter's already retreated towards the elevator in anger, and intent to leave this place. To escape from the constant reminder of his pain. But I linger behind, my legs seeming more like lead weights as I peer through the windows to the hospital and watch as Maria and Hudson embrace. They seem perfectly suited to each other, and I hope he can offer the comfort she so desperately needs.

I at last wrench myself away from the sight, and decide on the crawl almost lethargically towards the elevators, and I had hoped, even with the pain between us, I would have been able to see Elisa, if only but a passing glance. I never wanted to push her away, but our anger and fear simply drove that wedge between us. I am so scared to lose my family that I would instead divide them in half.

But I can't fight an entire world and their murderous intentions against another race. I'm not strong enough. Peter calls it a sacrifice. He...we have fully embraced this pain, and the ever-growing fallacy this will somehow save our other children, but it has resulted only in the loss of his favorite child. Resulted in his sleepless nights, where I always find him leafing through the photo albums in the living room, and recollecting days past. Easier days. I know Peter favored Elisa, and was so proud of her when she became a police officer like him. Followed in his footsteps, and even surpassed him in skill. They are so alike, strong, opinionated, and stubborn to the point of pigheadedness.

And it killed him to do what he did. I support him, as a loyal wife should, for I too agree with him, but...it's getting so hard.

I am caught between two worlds that I so desperately hoped would be one. But my world wouldn't allow that, just as it didn't allow my race to integrate into white society forty years ago. But we fought, and fought, and won, but only after so much pain, and death, and I don't think I can go through that again.

Does this brand me a coward? I don't know anymore. I'm so tired...

"Gamma?"

I hear it first, on the other end of the hallway and barely audible. And I turn to see what little voice squeaked my way. Oh...I had almost forgotten how beautiful she is...

"Gamma!" Trinity called out to me, and excitedly tore her way through the hall towards me.

In pure motherly instinct, I crouch and open my arms to perhaps the very reason my family has been torn apart. She leaps into my arms, and I grab a hold with of my remaining strength not drained from yet another battle where my near-shattered emotional condition isn't constantly at stake. "Oh, Trinity..." I gasp breathlessly, surprised at her weight and the sheer size of her wings curling around my shoulders. "You've gotten so big."

She pulls back and damns me with those large eyes, so much like Elisa's. "Why no come?"

I struggle for an answer she would understand and accept, but find myself at a loss. "Grandma's been...very busy, child."

"Oh..."

I pull away the long strands of her mother's raven hair from her brow, and run my hands over the four tiny spurs of her father's lineage, and they seem larger, and more prominent than ever before. How will this child ever live a normal life outside this castle, how will her parents ever be able to keep her safe? "I'm sorry, Trinity."

"Where Gampa?" she asks, and I wish Peter were here to see her, if only to relent his choice...our choice.

"Trinity!!"

I jump at the anger filled tone bursting down the hallway towards me, and the child in my arms swiftly turns to see her mother barging straight towards us, her eyes hell bent and alive with fire.

Elisa immediately rips Trinity from my arms and steals her away, as if I'm going to hurt her in some cruel fashion. "I don't know what you're doing here, but you're sure as hell not welcome. Especially now."

An inner pain guided her words, and my heart tore in seeing her like this. "I came here to offer my condolences for Maria." I whisper to my eldest daughter, allowing the initial burst of anger, as she's obviously surprised to see me. I watch as she cradles Trinity protectively, partially concealing her on the shoulder opposite me, as if I was an attacker. "Are you afraid I might hurt her?" I ask.

"You already have." she hisses, and we face off in a silent unease. "Now if you please, my friends are trying to heal."

"They are my friends as well."

"I seriously doubt that. They seem only fodder for your argument."

I can't believe this is my own daughter, speaking like this, saying these hurtful things. "I never thought that." I snap back. "Yes, this only adds to our 'argument'." I point through the hospital windows, where a clear view is opened to Matt, buried in bandages and tubes. "This is exactly what we have feared, and you don't give a damn about that!! When I heard there was an attack on the twenty-third, I almost died! Did you even think to call us?! No! And now what happened to Maria is exactly what I fear from happening to Maggie."

Elisa stays silent, and casually rubs a hand down her daughter's cheek, to soothe the child obviously upset by how her mother and grandmother are once again at each other's throats.

"Can you imagine if this happened to Maggie?" I press her further, wanting desperately for her to understand my reasons, my anger, my so-called side to this so-called feud. "Elisa," I then ask firmly, "does this Guild know about you?"

She stays silent once more, refusing to answer. That again infuriates me.

"Answer me, Elisa Maria! Do they know about you and Goliath?"

"I don't know." she whispers. "I mean, I don't think so..."

"And what happens when they do find out?!"

"My worst fear comes true." she seethes, and I suddenly relent, the hatred in her eyes quickly giving way to fear, and I suddenly want to hold my baby girl as I did Trinity only moments ago. But which one of us will relent first to our stubbornness?

It wouldn't be Elisa, as she turned and started towards the elevator with Trinity staring at me over her shoulder. Oh please no.

"Mommy, I wan' see gamma." Trinity shrieks, but her mother doesn't relent and continues deliberately towards the elevators. "Gamma!" she cried again, reaching a tiny, clawed hand towards me, and it nearly tore my heart from my chest. "Gammaaaaaa!!"

No, please. Don't walk away, Elisa, don't end it like this again. Don't take my granddaughter from me. Why don't I call to her? Why do I constantly drive this wedge between us? Why won't I call to her?!

And through my tearing eyes, as I see my daughter and her own beautiful child fade behind closing steel doors, I realize I truly can't live like this anymore. I just can't go on with my family at each other's throats while people are dying all around me. I slump to the ground, my strength all but gone, and cry. For the dead, for the wounded, for my broken family, I cry.

****************************************

I had thought these modern times were cultured, peaceful, and now they are a frightening comparison to the world I was ripped away from by my death. It surrounds me still. Such death and lasting hatred of my race, and it hurts to see my clan suffering so. I have seen death and maiming and the barbaric practices of war, but my once common brain would not bring back such disturbing memories in terrifying clarity. It is so fresh, as this new body forces upon me the scents and sights as if they were real, and I wish to retch when the flashes of Sara's opened skull pass by me as if some thunderstorm within my head. I haven't been able to stop it, the constant, crushing weight of the taste of blood in the air.

This body may be a curse at times, but...I cannot ignore the rarity of such incredible capability. My head is filled with knowledge I have absorbed. I have been through almost the entire library, and I can now recall any detail, no matter how small, instantly. And yet, I am not confused, or troubled, it's almost...liberating to know so much, to understand this new world around me. My blood is filled with powerful cells that repair almost any injury twice as fast, and I'm told I turn to a golden steel when the sun rises. Any other I believe from my time would perhaps fear these changes, but...as I look at my hand and sense my own heartbeat, and see my veins and arteries bulging underneath my skin pulsing in precise, perfect rhythm, I embrace them.

I am a perfect being, yet I truly do not know if I deserve such perfection. I am not a leader, or hero, I am just a simple creature who often faded into the background, overshadowed by my brothers and sisters and their greater strengths, skills and prowess.

And thus, I suppose I compensate by giving aid to those around me, by using my newfound abilities to their utmost best. I am trying to do my part for the allies in the hospital, and have aided Dr. Alan with detective Bluestone, and his coma. Though I have never met him personally, the clan speaks fondly of him and that makes my task in helping a fallen ally easier to contend with. Humanity it seems has not actually changed from what I knew. With only a few allies out of now almost seven billion, this world seems cramped, and suffocating with potential enemies. I fear for our safety, and now, as I travel through the castle, fear for our clan's sanity.

"I have made the decision, Brooklyn." I hear the low and very identifiable enunciation of my brother, and when turning the corner and peering into the media room, see Goliath and Brooklyn squaring off. "None of us are to leave this castle until I say."

He's so much different from the young, white-haired warrior I once knew, aged, and matured. But the fire still exists. "So as our friends are dying," he retorts, and rather angrily, "we're to be trapped here and hide ourselves away?!"

"Precisely." Goliath states, and the small crowd around these two leaders silently pass glances to each other.

"We need to find these guys now, and attack them before they attack us!" he growls, and I almost think they are both spoiling for a physical fight. Please, don't let it come to that. I don't care how angry and lost they are.

My brother unfurls his wings, and puffs out his chest in defiance of this younger warrior's arguments. "Find them where?" he asks. "Find them how?"

"We can send out patrols, scout the city!" Brooklyn quarreled almost desperately.

"These men practically walked into the twenty-third, for they are simple people that blend perfectly into society and do not advertise themselves like the Quarreymen. We have no idea the extent and scope of their forces. And thus, we are forced to wait for their next move."

"But..."

"We are safest here." his tone finalized his argument. "If the Guild knew we resided here, the attack would have come to Wyvern first. And some sloppy, unplanned preemptive strike will only result in more wounded, and more death."

Brooklyn appears as if he wants to argue further, but as second, ultimately concedes. "As you wish, mighty leader." he seethes and bows to ridicule him, and I wince at the tone. "We can wait here to die." I pull away, as Brooklyn races towards the exit with Sata chasing after him, and they both disappear down another corridor. He spoke with such anger, and fear, it did not seem as if I even knew him.

I look back inside to see my brother standing in near shock, until he lowered his brow and washed his eyes to all of those in the room. "Anyone else wish to challenge my authority?"

And understandably, they all remain quiet.

"Good." He leaves in a huff, and squeezes his massive bulk through the door, his glorious wings scraping along the arched doorway. The others silently resume their duties, and I continue on, my spirit wilted by my witness to my brother's mannerisms.

These walls are so strong, and thick, and resistant, but I have never felt so scared in their inability to properly defend us. With all this technology and machinery, we are as defenseless and frail as any creature would be when their very race is under attack. I think now of that reporter, and the task Angela has committed herself to in trying to amend her ingrained prejudices. I almost think it is useless, as I have felt the sting of human oppression and know some minds and attitudes just cannot be changed as hard we try, but I admire her tenacity, inherited from two of the most powerful people I know, her father, and her...mother.

Demona. A demon wearing the form of my sister, and the focus of my anger. The woman who helped destroy everything I had because she surrendered to her rage, and her stubborn pride. My thoughts are suddenly filled with her, and a frightening comparison to her actions driven by a psychotically insatiable need to safeguard her kind at any cost, but reversed, and guided towards us. She is no better than this Guild.

I don't even notice I have traveled in front of the elevators in my blindness and occupation with my sister and this new faction wanting only our deaths. The silver doors suddenly hiss open, and out erupts my newest clan member. "Oh, Elisa..." I cry in surprise as she bursts past me, grazing brusquely against my shoulder. "I'm sorry."

"It's my fault." she apologizes. "Excuse me...sis."

Elisa passes by me quickly, with young Trinity clutched to her shoulder and chest as if she were running from a Viking horde. She acknowledges me with but a glance, and I too pass by her my eyes. She enters into a castle corridor once forbidden to my kind, and I know she is heading to her claimed part of this castle. I am truly not surprised, for I don't think she...enjoys my company as the others do. And I understand why.

It's not just her injury, the pain of losing a friend or being threatened with death around every corner.

It is Goliath.

I have been spending a lot of time with my brother, and I know she feels as if I am intruding upon a very private portion of her mate. One that was a sole province of hers...until now.

Our mutual love for him causes an unspoken friction, and though I would never dream of doing anything to ruin a coupling that seems almost...destined, I still feel the pained urge of lost love laying siege to my heart whenever I see them together. I wonder if she knows we could have become mates, but were too afraid of crossing the line from friendship to a true courting ritual. I have regretted that decision to this very day, and my feelings for my dear brother are only magnified when seeing what I could have had. It's a bitter reminder of our choice, of a mating that would never be.

I wonder if she knows I still love him.

****************************************

She's finally asleep. I know she was confused when I forced her away from her own grandmother, and I have no idea of what to tell her about her so-called loving grandparents and why they never come around. But I know I probably come off as the bad guy, as Trinity can't ever understand why she's treated as second class, as the monster they must think she is.

God, what a night. I am exhausted still, as I didn't sleep very well. I haven't had nightmares for a very long time. So much death and pain, it's a wonder I haven't gone insane.

But my bitch level is still riding at an all time high. I'll apologize to my sister later.

But as I lie here, with my husband beside me, and our daughter resting peacefully between us, I see now my reason for retaining that sanity for so very long and through he most immeasurable of odds. Goliath is propped up on one elbow, caressing Trinity's wing, my baby girl sleeping, and hopefully I've spared her from the knowledge of the death and loss happening in her own home. This castle was to be her haven, her protection from those who would want to hurt her.

And the original fears come flooding back. Will this place serve as her prison? Or will it serve as a grave for where her family inevitably falls?

Seeing Maria lose that baby forces me to further cherish the miracle burrowed against my chest, and as I stroke through her long, soft hair, my decision is finalized after weeks of serious thought. "Goliath?" I whisper to him, and he bobs his brow in being torn from his veneration of his daughter, and bores into me with his deep charcoal eyes.

"Yes?"

My breath is both husky, and almost pleading in my declaration. "I...I want another baby..."