Escape from Avalon, Part 7:
Life Goes On… and On… and On! (The Epilogues)
"…And on the seventh day, she rested."
Part of what caused me to delay that sixth chapter for so long was because I admitted to myself many months ago that this would have to follow it; the announcement that this will be the last Gargoyles story I'll ever write out in full, at least for the foreseeable future.
I know I'm letting down a lot of people with this announcement, and I'm sorry for the disappointment, but I need to be honest with you; my heart's just not in this anymore, not the way it used to be. I still love the show and always will, but it's not the life-consuming obsession that it used to be for me, from the year 2000 to 2010.
I said once before in one of my "Kimberly's Ramblings" that I had over ten more years' worth of stories to tell, through 2008 in the "Life Goes On" timeline. And I do still have those stories in my head, and even several scenes and snippets for them written out and stored in MSWord and Text documents in my computer. But I've finally come to realize that I simply do not have the time and the creative energy to devote to writing those stories out in full.
I also realized a few years back that except for Goliath and Elisa, Angela and Gabriel, and Demona's trials and tribulations, most of those stories were about all the OC's I'd created, Angela's rookery brothers and sisters from the Avalon Clan. Oh, the canon characters were there, but except for the five that I just mentioned they weren't really central to the stories anymore; they did have some adventures and additional character development, but they became more like supporting cast members instead of leads. And what most people are looking for when they read fanfic are the canon characters that they grew to love while watching the series.
The EAC (Ex-Avalon Clan) members of Wyvern Clan are, to my way of thinking, very much like college freshmen. They may be technically adults, but they're far from fully matured yet, and they grew up in a sheltered environment with few troubles and pressures. Oh, they had difficulties on occasion, but generally speaking it was nothing like what Goliath and his clan were going through, until the night the Archmage invaded. Now, only a few weeks later by their reckoning, they're abruptly thrust into a very different world, with a lot more pressures being put on them in ways they hadn't expected. Instead of striving to get good grades in classes that are so much tougher than high school, they're striving to become accepted by the population of New York while protecting their home and the people there-and oh yeah, just surviving in a world of guns and even high-tech weapons against wings and claws! But it's still a situation most college students can relate to, particularly the ones whose parents have made it plain that they're not paying exorbitant college fees to see bad grades, and it's 'All A's or Outta There.'
Of course, it wouldn't all be as grim as that sounds; there would be moments like this, one of the many scene-snippets I'd written:
(First patrol without an original clan member along; Angus, Orion and Gideon just saved a young couple from a mugging, but Angus had gotten his shorts ripped up in the process)
"Okay, fine, we're all heroes, but now what am I going to do for clothing?" Angus asked plaintively. "I can't go back to the castle naked; Princess will throw a fit, you know she will, and probably the new humans will too!"
"All right, calm down; we'll find you something," Gideon said reassuringly, as he began looking around. "All we need is a little cloth and a little twine, just enough to make a loincloth; that'll get you back to the castle without offending the humans. After all, that's about all Goliath wears…"
"Hey, look at this!" Orion said as he pointed straight upwards. They looked at what he was pointing at as he asked, "Would one of those work?"
"It might, except we'd have to modify it some. And I'm sure those belong to somebody; they probably wouldn't appreciate it if we took one and ruined it."
"Actually, I think it's exactly what we need," Orion said as he started climbing the wall. "It looks like it has a… I was right! Look, see here?" as he reached the level of a clothesline three stories up, pulled off the item closest to him with one hand and displayed it to his brothers below. "So long as you're careful putting it on, you won't ruin it, and we can return it once we get you a new outfit."
"That sounds good," Gideon called upwards, "but you'd still better ask first. The owner probably lives close by; try the window closest to you."
Just then, the curtain of window next to Orion was shoved aside, and a pale man's face loomed through the glass, probably attracted by the noise of Orion climbing the wall and calling down to his brothers. Orion gave him his most winning smile as he said cheerfully, "Greetings, sirrah! Might I borrow this item for my brother in need? We promise to return it…"
In greeting the strange human, Orion momentarily forgot that the image of an azure-skinned creature baring its fangs could be an unnerving sight for the average unprepared human in the middle of the night. But it turned out all right, because the man just said, "Y-you can keep it! You can have everything out there!" before hastily closing the curtain again.
Orion, Angus and Gideon all looked at each other, then shrugged. "Well, that was very kind of him," Orion said as he dropped the garment he was holding into Angus' waiting hands, then tugged on the clothesline to bring another one very similar to the first within his reach.
"Maybe he's following those Bible passages Princess read to us, about practicing charity and kindness to strangers," Angus suggested as he caught the garment and began carefully putting it on.
"Well, it's still very nice of him. It's too bad there's no decent hunting around here, because otherwise I'd bring him a joint of venison as a return gift. Gideon, did you want one too?"
"Mmm, no, I'll keep what I have on. But we can bring the rest back to the castle and see if anyone else wants new clothes." The gargoyles were firm believers in 'waste not, want not'.
Angus finished putting his new clothing on and surveyed himself. "The fabric's a little flimsy, and it doesn't fit quite right, but I like the pattern…"
Twenty minutes later, the trio came gliding back to the castle, and met Antiope and Isabel while they were standing watch on the battlements. "Hello, my loves!" Antiope said as she received hugs and kisses from Angus and Orion. "Gideon, Hippolyta's still on patrol to the south. So, how did your patrol go? And where did you get your new clothes, my loves?"
"A man just let us have them, and a few others to share, after we saved the lives of another couple," Orion told her as he turned around slowly, so she could see how his new clothing looked from all angles. "What do you think?"
"Mm, rather nice! The fabric is so smooth," as she playfully squeezed first Orion's, than Angus' buttocks, eliciting soft appreciative growls from both of them, "and they're both pretty patterns. But the fit isn't quite right, is it? Well, perhaps Deborah and Jephthah can tailor them a little… What do you think, Isabel?"
"Mmph," was all Isabel could say, with her hands clamped tightly over her muzzle. She couldn't laugh, she didn't dare laugh…
Angus and Orion were wearing silk boxer shorts. Backwards, so their tails were poking out through the paneled gaps that normally went in front. Angus's had little red hearts all over it, and Orion's was covered with little red kisses…
As the year 1997 rolls from winter into spring and early summer, there would be a lot of interactions between the new clan members and the People for Interspecies Tolerance, that would eventually spread to the general student population of Columbia University. There would be shenanigans like car-surfing (riding on top of a car as it picked up speed, until they had enough lift under their wings to launch and start gliding), and drinking at frat parties, and rooting for the home team at football and basketball games that continued past sunset. There would be dirty pranks, and misunderstandings that would sometimes be hilarious and sometimes ugly or tragic, and exposures of misogyny and scandal and crime and love affairs and… well, lots of life lessons, as both gargoyles and humans grow up and learn to truly coexist.
There would also have been a lot of questions answered about the villains and even unsung heroes of this story. But rather than leave everyone hanging, I'll answer a few of those questions right now. The following scenes would have appeared in the very next story in "Life Goes On":
"Good afternoon, detective," Xanatos said pleasantly. "What brings you to the castle today? If you're looking for Anne, I'm afraid she chose to spend her day off in the Labyrinth, seeing her friends there."
"I know she's there; that's why I'm here now," Matt responded. "I wanted to ask you a couple of questions, strictly off the record and well out of her hearing. To start with, have you—or should I say, anyone you hired—been up to a little mischief in Florida lately?"
"Florida?" Xanatos looked puzzled. "Not that I know of; why do you ask?"
"I'm asking because the police in Palm Beach called the 23rd Precinct today, asking us to question Anne about what recently happened to Quentin Marsden; Philip Marsden's great-uncle."
Xanatos cocked his head in curiosity. "What happened to him?"
"The last thing that happened to him was that he died of heat exhaustion, as far as the coroner could tell; went into a sauna, fell asleep or unconscious and wasn't found until they shut the place down at closing."
"A sauna, in Florida? He wasn't hot and humid enough already?"
Bluestone nodded. "I couldn't believe it either, but it turns out Marsden's next-door neighbor had recommended he go to a sauna, to—here's where it gets even weirder—to sweat out the poison in his system, a poison that probably wasn't there. Marsden had called the police five days ago and insisted that he'd been poisoned, even though neither the police nor the doctors-or the coroner, for that matter-found any evidence of it on or in his body. When he'd told them that the alleged slow-acting poison had been given to him by a man named Nadie, the police figured it was all a prank, because Nadie is Spanish for 'Nobody'."
"So Nobody poisoned him," Xanatos said with a smirk. "Sounds like a frat boy prank to me."
"You're not the only one that's leaning in that direction; the sergeant at the 23rd who took the call asked if they were checking the local college for suspects. But here's the thing, the reason why I'm up here: Marsden told the police the alleged poisoning had been done in revenge for his niece Penny Marsden, Phil's mother, as well as for Phillip himself. Though he'd also said that the poisoner had told him 'Pietro sends his regards', and when the police asked him if he could clarify that, Marsden clammed up and wouldn't say anything more. …And I was about to say the police were also looking into possible ties between Marsden and the Russian mobs, since they have a strong presence in Florida now, but that name means something to you; I saw that little change of expression before you hid it," Matt said, eyeing him narrowly. "What do you know, Xanatos?"
"I know nothing. For the record, I know nothing at all," Xanatos said firmly.
Matt sighed loudly. "Okay… And off the record?"
"Off the record, I still know nothing… but I suspect a great deal," Xanatos admitted. "You recall Puck's words to Anne about Phil's father, the day you first met her here?"
Matt nodded and replied, "That the father was almost certainly a Fey, but he didn't know who."
Xanatos shook his head. "Not that he didn't know who it was… he said that he could not say who it was. When you're dealing with Fey, the wording is everything. So when I asked Owen later if he could at least tell me who the daddy was… he said that if I valued his employment, and I quote, 'I strongly urge you to never ask me that again.' End quote. And as Owen Burnett, Puck is as loyal as anyone can be; he swore to me a lifetime of service, and that service includes giving me answers to whatever questions I ask. Do you see the implication here?"
Matt frowned. "I think I do… Telling you the answer to that question would conflict with another oath he made, one that takes precedence over your wishes. Or maybe he's actually unable to tell you, because of something like that magical binding that Goliath said Oberon put on Puck, binding his powers so he can't use them unless he's protecting or teaching Alexander."
"A geas; a magical oath that can't be broken, not without great cost to the oathbreaker," Xanatos informed him. "Get a Fey to promise you something, and he's guaranteed to deliver on that promise… though the wording of the oath may allow loopholes that he'll be happy to use to his advantage instead. And a word to the wise, Fey don't like it at all when someone makes them swear to something. But those oaths can be forced on them, and with Oberon being Puck's liege lord, he can invoke a geas on his subject at will."
"Oh crap, don't tell me that Oberon is Bethany's granddaddy!" Matt gripped the armrests of his chair, his face filled with dismay. "He did enough damage to Manhattan the first time he came here, and Alexander's not actually his grandkid!"
"More damage than probably even you know, but no, I don't think it's Oberon; not anymore," Xanatos said, shaking his head. "I came to that conclusion after I hired investigators to dig up everything they could on the Marsden family. I've still got the report in a safe elsewhere; wait here and I'll bring it to you," as Xanatos left the office.
Ten minutes later he came back with a three-ring binder full of papers, and handed it over to Matt. "Here you are; an evening's light reading. Only you and I know about this report, and I'd prefer it if you kept it that way. Without knowing the exact wording of the geas Puck is under, even his knowing that someone had been looking into the matter may be enough to trigger the consequences of breaking it. And I prefer my personal aide to stay right where he is and in one piece, thank you very much."
Two days later, Matt came by the castle again to see Anne and Bethany. He was delighted to see Bethany making the huge Super Grover doll that she'd gotten for Christmas fly around the nursery, chasing the giggling baby Alexander as he flew about; it was the first time either child had made use of their magical heritage since their kidnapping a few days before Christmas. On his way out of the castle, he stopped by Xanatos' office and asked, "Can we talk? Somewhere beside the castle?"
Xanatos didn't need to ask what Matt wanted to talk about; he said simply, "Tavern on the Green, tomorrow at six o'clock. Come hungry; the steaks are on me."
The next day Matt arrived at Tavern on the Green in his best suit and tie, still feeling underdressed, but the staff was courteous enough as they ushered him into the private room where Xanatos was waiting for him. They both ordered the house steak, and once the waiters had departed and they were completely alone, Matt said bluntly, "Puck's the father, isn't he? Phil's father, Bethany's grandfather. And somehow, old Quentin Marsden put one helluva geas on him, to keep him far away from the family and having nothing to do with them. And not only that, but to keep him from even telling anyone he had a son, or even that a geas had been put on him."
Xanatos nodded grimly. "That's what I figured too. What led you to that conclusion?"
"First off, the name of Penny's lover. Pietro Ursovich Korsokov; take the initials and you have P-U-K, Puck. And something else I recalled, from Goliath's bachelor party, when Owen was bartending for everybody; I'd asked Owen if he'd ever worked in a bar. I wasn't seriously asking, I'd just meant he was doing as well as any professional bartender would do. But he told me that he had worked in a bar, once. And Pietro Ursovich Korsokov made his living by bartending.
"I thought at first that was too easy, that the bartending was a coincidence and the name was a little misdirection by one of the other Fey tricksters. But the house in those photos was loaded with anti-Fey devices. Iron bells, iron everywhere, even on the chimney, and there were plenty of those same plants that you grow in your garden, the ones Owen warned me to keep Bethany far away from. Having one or the other present could be a coincidence, just an eccentricity on the Marsden family's part, but not both. Someone in that house knew about the Fey's weaknesses and was determined to keep them out, and probably put all that up just in case the geas ever failed. It's possible that the father is some friend of Puck's who was so ashamed at being bested by a mere human that he made Puck swear never to tell… but it's a lot more likely that the one being kept out was Puck himself."
"Much more likely," Xanatos agreed. "Especially considering how Anne was hired. He and I had both heard about how she'd lost her husband and just about everything else in her life, but Owen didn't recommend her for Alexander's nanny until after he met Bethany, and looked at her with his True Sight. And then two minutes later—not even two minutes, really—he was all but begging me to hire her mother and bring her to the castle, and Bethany with her."
"And he's always happy to mind the kids for a while when I come up to see Anne, even more than the gargoyles are," Matt mused. "Because he's not Uncle Puck, he's Grandpa Puck."
Xanatos nodded, then said wryly, "You and I seem to keep finding more in common, detective. First the Illuminati, then aiding the gargoyles, and now having Fey for in-laws..."
"Yeah, that's going to be—hey, wait a damn minute!" Matt protested. "Puck is not my father-in-law, or step-grandfather-in-law, or whatever! Anne and I are not married, not even engaged; not even sleeping together, not that it's any of your business!"
Xanatos dismissed his protestation with a wave of his hand. "You love her, she loves you, and the sooner you stop fighting it and get married, the happier Bethany and the clan will be. Why did you think I'm having that set of apartments built into the Aerie building for, on the floor just below the arboretum? Security for that floor will be as tight as for the castle itself, and they'll be for people who can't officially live in the castle proper without Internal Affairs asking a lot of questions. Elisa will get the first apartment, but they'll all be ready for occupation in time for a spring wedding. But let's get back to the matter of the Marsden family," he continued while Matt stated at him open-mouthed. "I've been wanting to tell someone who knows about the situation that in a way, I'm almost grateful to them for what they did."
Matt finally shut his mouth, then opened it again to ask, "Almost grateful? How so?"
"Because otherwise, I wouldn't have Owen at my side. And more than that, I wouldn't have Alexander. Puck said he'd modeled his Owen persona after Preston Vogel, determined to 'out-Vogel Vogel'… to be as wooden and unemotional as possible. He said he did it because it was a challenge, but I'm thinking now that he also wanted to avoid what had happened the last time he took on a long-term persona; falling in love with a mortal woman. Falling in love, and starting a family; that's what Pietro did, until somehow Quentin Marsden forced him away from his lover and their unborn child. The Owen Burnett I hired away from Cyberbiotics was brilliant in business and ruthlessly competent, and about as likely to fall in love and start a family as I'd be likely to win the Miss America contest."
Matt was usually the one stuck in the role of straight man, so when he saw the opportunity, it was a shot he couldn't resist; he smirked as he cracked, "But you'd look so cute in a tiara!"
"Oh, shut up. Seriously, if Puck had continued as Pietro, I wouldn't have Owen with me now. And once Fox and I married and had Alexander… if not for Owen, we would have lost him forever. Owen knew about Anastasia Renard's true nature, and what she was apt to do with her grandson, even if he didn't tell me ahead of time. I've a hunch that Titania forbid Puck to tell anyone, for any reason, before she revealed herself; another geas. But even if he couldn't tell anyone about her plans, he could do something about them.
"Owen built into the building every anti-Fey device we used, in the battle to keep Alexander from being taken to Avalon. And when all our defenses weren't enough, when the gargoyles weren't enough… Puck stepped in, and did his best to kick the shit out of Oberon, his own liege lord. Someone he'd sworn an eternity of service to, while I just have a mortal lifetime of service. He had to have done that knowing there'd be serious consequences for him, whether or not what happened was what he expected. And now I don't think he would have done that if he hadn't already known… how agonizing it is for a parent to lose a child forever."
Matt slowly nodded. "You're probably right. It all fits together. It all fits, and we can't ever talk to him about it…"
"To him, or to Anne or Bethany. I haven't even told Fox about this, and I'd appreciate your not telling Elisa about this unless you see a real need to. And not a word of this to the gargoyles at all; they all wear their hearts on their sleeves—well, their wings, and there's no way they'd be able to keep from expressing sympathy for him, and asking if he wants to talk about it…"
"And probably triggering that damn geas in the process," Matt finished.
Xanatos nodded. "If I knew how to break the geas on him without any consequences, I'd do it in a heartbeat, but nothing I've tried so far as worked. In hopes that it was tied to a physical object, I emptied that house of the last Marsden in it, bought the place and had everything ripped out right down to the foundation, every last scrap of it burned or melted down, but that didn't work."
"So you were the one behind that," Matt said with a nod. "I contacted the police in Scranton yesterday, and they told me about the recent reopening of the investigation into Penny Marsden's death. The detective I talked to said they hadn't been able to prove murder, but from what they'd gathered while the investigation had been going on, they'd have had a helluva case for child abuse if the district attorney had been willing to pursue it." Matt grimaced before adding, "He wasn't; Quentin had too many connections in their town's 'old boy network,' and neither Penny nor Phil were alive to press charges themselves. But the detective arranged for the church authorities to receive a copy of his report, and hinted that more might be leaked to the press if they didn't do something."
"So the church authorities ousted him from the pulpit for good, and he left for Florida," Xanatos finished with a nod of satisfaction, before frowning again. "And now Quentin Marsden is dead, but Puck hasn't started telling Bethany to call him 'grandpa' or given any other sign of a binding breaking, so the geas wasn't tied to the old man either. He may be stuck with that geas forever."
Matt shook his head in sympathy, then smiled wryly. "At least when Marsden bound him to stay away from his offspring, he didn't say something like 'unto the last generation'."
"Otherwise I'd be lacking a trustworthy nanny for Alexander, and for all we know, you'd be lacking a girlfriend," Xanatos added before looking off to the right, from where a waiter was approaching. "I think that's our steaks now…"
The dinner was excellent, of course. And while they were sipping coffee afterwards, Xanatos asked, "By the way, what do you plan to tell the police in Florida about their possible lead on the prank played on Quentin Marsden?"
"That I'm completely satisfied that Anne Marsden had nothing to do with it," Matt said promptly. "Far as we're concerned, it was just some college kid screwing with old people out of the typical juvenile arrogance, and Quentin's death afterwards was entirely due to his own foolishness. Every sauna has a warning sign about going in with a heart or vascular condition, or staying in too long; he chose to ignore the warning; case closed. And good riddance to him, too. If I'd been Puck—or Owen, probably, through some local he hired—I just might have arranged for something a bit nastier than a fake poisoning, for that hard-hearted old bastard. From what the detective in Scranton told me about the signs of child abuse…" He shook his head in disgust.
"Oh, there was definitely abuse," Xanatos scowled. "Even if Quentin had never laid a hand on little Phil Marsden, there was definitely abuse going on. I'm surprised you didn't put this together yourself, detective, from what was in the report. There was plenty of iron on the inside of that house as well as the outside, including iron bells hanging in every room. You know how Bethany was using her Second Sight long before she came to the castle, and Alexander was doing magic before he turned three months old. And how much it hurt them to spend just one day and night in that damn steel cell Thailog put them in when they were kidnapped. It's taken weeks for them to show any interest in magic again, because it hurt so much to use it when they were surrounded by iron. And Philip Marsden spent his entire childhood in that house…"
"…Oh, fuck me!" Matt's face was utterly appalled.
Xanatos nodded grimly. "To most people, Philip Marsden probably looked and acted like a normal human being. But he wasn't, he was half-Fey… and Quentin Marsden deliberately, through repeated inflictions of pain from infancy onward, denied him the use of his Fey magic. Quentin not only made his niece's life miserable, he crippled his brother's grandson."
Matt set down his coffee and pushed the cup away, looking sick. "I changed my mind; no dessert tonight."
"Just don't lose the steak you ate," Xanatos told him. "The chef here might commit hara-kiri if he thinks you got food poisoning from his cooking."
After a few moments, Matt collected his composure and asked, "Have you told Anne about the old bastard's death yet? Bethany is his last known relative, after all."
"Not yet. Oh, she'll learn about it, and by extension so will Owen; I just haven't decided how yet. From everything I've learned about him, I'd be absolutely astonished if Bethany was mentioned in Quentin Marsden's will. I'd thought briefly about dummying up a will anyway, something for Bethany's college fund, but Anne would probably refuse any money from him on principle. Too much of that annoying quality of integrity," he said to Matt, who only grinned in reply. "Why don't you stop by the castle again tomorrow and tell her yourself? Policemen offer official condolences all the time, don't they?"
"We do," Matt nodded. "And I think I'll just absent-mindedly change the date of death to today instead of three days ago, and forget to say anything about any link between the death and a prank by a Pietro. Who knows, maybe his actually knowing the man is dead—and not by his own hand in any way—will be what frees Puck from the geas. In which case, you should probably brace for fireworks—or floodworks, either one."
Xanatos snorted. "Fireworks, most likely, but I'll have the housekeepers bring an extra case of tissues up for the occasion."
But in the end, there were neither fireworks nor floodworks. Anne just shook her head and said that it was saddening, but that it was the man's own fault that he had no one grieving for him, and that she saw no reason to tell Bethany anything. Owen, standing nearby while Matt gave the official condolences to Anne, just nodded as if in acknowledgment before leaving the room for his own quarters. Matt shrugged at Xanatos, Xanatos shrugged back, and life went on.
Much later, through use of flashbacks and Puck's internal monologue, the full truth and tragedy of his involvement with Penny and the geas on him comes out:
Pietro Ursovich Korsokov insisted on following his beloved Penny back to Scranton, fully intent on supporting his lover and his unborn child, on becoming a good husband and father (good by Fey standards, anyway), and keeping that persona for the rest of his family's mortal lives. When Penny fretted about him finding a job and supporting them, rather than telling her that he was a Fey trickster who could make money out of thin air, Petro told her reassuringly that he "knew people" who would help them out, who owed him favors and would do anything for him. But when Penny nearly died in an accident caused by Quentin's carelessness, Pietro panicked and Puck came out in order to save her and the baby's lives.
Quentin had already hated Pietro just on general principles, for being a Godless Commie and for not acting as subservient or ingratiating as everyone who knew him in Scranton did. He saw Pietro's transformation into Puck, saw and feared and hated even more fiercely. In the confrontation that followed, Quentin got in a lucky shot with an iron cross that wounded Puck, and then tried to exorcise the 'evil spirit' from his home. In agony from being struck with iron, instead of fleeing immediately Puck turned to Penny and begged her to come away with him; he wasn't human but he loved her, and in his desperation he told her "You command my heart."
But Penny was still just too freaked about finding out that her lover wasn't human. She pulled back and shouted, "Just stay away from me! Don't come near me or my baby, ever!"
Then Quentin, in a moment of low cunning after he saw how Puck had instantly backed up several feet at Penny's words and was now looking at her helplessly from the doorway, shouted at Penny, "Don't forget, he said he knew people! We don't want them around, either!"
So Penny shouted at Puck, "Don't come near us, and don't ever tell anyone you even know us, let alone that you—just go away!"
With an inhuman howl of despair, Puck vanished from their sight, bound by the geas that his own words had let Penny cast on him. Soon afterwards and for the rest of her miserable life, Penny bitterly regretted what she'd said and done, but never had the opportunity to try to undo it.
Fast-forward a quarter-century, to Owen meeting Bethany, and becoming a part of her and Anne's lives. Puck is forever silently grateful to Anne for making his son happy and for giving him a grandchild to adore, though he never makes their relationship known. Matt never tells Owen what he knows either, but just before he and Anne get married (of course), he nonchalantly tells Owen that they need to cultivate a mutual hobby, like bowling, so he has a reason to invite Owen along on family outings.
Owen Burnett becomes a reasonably skilled bowler, and on Sunday afternoons he can often be found with Matt, Anne and Bethany at the bowling alley owned by Matt's Uncle Eddie, bowling with the other adults and offering quiet praise for the pictures Bethany draws on the backs of all the score sheets.
Now to answer the inevitable questions about unresolved pairings, especially since I made such a big deal about them in the whole "Mating Games" story arc:
Yvette eventually chooses the Avalonian gargoyle Perseus for her mate. If you'd like to picture him better, watch "Avalon, Part II" again; he's the lime-green gargoyle who fought Demona during the initial attack and got one of his wings ripped up as a result (stone sleep healed it, fortunately.) Perseus is brave in battle but shy and awkward in social situations, and Yvette's beauty and charm leave him absolutely tongue-tied. Fortunately he loves music and is a talented flautist, and his duets with Yvette on the castle's piano are the start of their courtship and their happy lives together.
After being informed that Gabriel's curse won't be lifted for another five years at least, Marie promptly chooses Ajax for her mate. Her choice is based almost entirely on his looks; he's the most human-looking of the lot except for his olive-green skin, and Marie figures that they can pass it off as body-paint and go into lots of public places in New Orleans together. Since it turns out Ajax is not actually a very nice person, having committed a crime while growing up on Avalon that had gotten him exiled for a month and resulted in every female in the clan refusing to even consider him for a mate, everyone silently figures they deserve each other and they're shipped off to New Orleans (with a discreet warning to Adam) as soon as possible.
Heinrich finds great happiness with Naomi, who loves to listen to his stories and proclaims herself his biggest fan. Naomi has a lot of joie de vivre, and makes it her personal mission to make her mate smile or laugh at least once a day. After they become mates, when Heinrich becomes famous as the author of the 'Johnny Gargoyle' series of children's books, Naomi accompanies him on all his signing tours. When he starts appearing on talk shows as well, Naomi's exuberant nature makes her the darling of the talk show hosts and she ends up outshining him on TV, but Heinrich doesn't mind a bit; he's more than happy to let her have the spotlight, while he keeps on writing stories.
No, Demona does not find happiness with Yama; he very nearly asks her to be his mate, but instead a crisis hits the clan when Taro's latest scheme comes to fruition (with the assistance of the banished gargoyle Botan, as well as Robyn Canmore and Wolf from the Pack). At the end of the crisis, Sora and Yama finally reconcile, and Demona fakes her death and flees back to America before the tower of half-truths and lies she'd built up can come crashing down. The Ishimuran clan believes 'Di-Mono' died a hero and true gargoyle, and mourn her loss; when they learn what happened, the Manhattan Clan quietly agrees amongst themselves to not dispel that illusion, as it would benefit no one.
Thanks to Odin's powerful fertility spell, Goliath and Elisa end up having four children together; two sets of fraternal twins (a boy and a girl in each pair, as the spell specified strong sons and fine daughters.) The first pair of twins are mostly gargoyle but have five-fingered hands and can resist stone sleep for a brief while if they concentrate, just like Adam. Then after Demona's spell of human-by-day is transferred to Goliath (long story, involving lots of angst and a long-delayed vengeance and a great deal more than I dare go into right now), they have another set of twins, two children who inherit the spell and also transform into human by day and gargoyle by night.
Derek and Maggie's twin girls are born healthy and thriving, and named Faith and Hope; Faith has tawny fur like their mother and Hope has black fur like their father. Claw and Dana's son, born in midsummer and covered with striped fur like his father, is named Philo (Greek for Love.)
And yes, Angela and Gabriel become mates. But first Goliath makes Gabriel the clan's Master-At-Arms, a position of authority just under Brooklyn's rank in the clan, charged with keeping the peace and resolving minor disputes before they can become major ones. He and Angela both learn sign-language—actually, several clan members do, but only Gabriel and Angela undergo a language-acquisition spell in order to become instantly fluent in it. Angela becomes Gabriel's primary interpreter, his voice when speaking to other people of the clan, but he still keeps her at a distance emotionally. A month after arriving in New York, Angela finally confronts Gabriel about their feelings for each other:
When Angela entered the library, Gabriel was perched on the stool in the corner, reading. She walked up and lightly put her hand over the page he was reading, and he curiously raised his eyes to hers, as she signed, Put book down. We talk serious.
He reluctantly set the book aside, and turned to face her. She started to sign, I waited four weeks. I want—but stopped when he gently wound his tail around her wrists and pulled them down, as he signed to her, I talk hands, you talk mouth.
She stubbornly shook her head. No. He sighed and released her hands, and she signed to him emphatically, You talk hands, I talk hands. We equals, always equals.
He looked at her doubtfully, but nodded for her to continue. She signed to him, Four weeks you live here, you see city, you like many things. You understand now why I left home?
He signed back, Yes. Many wonders, much trouble but also much joy. You were wise to leave. He looked away for a moment in pain, then continued, Wish now had all family leave A(Avalon) too.
If they had all gone with her, Goliath and Elisa on their quest as soon as Oberon had first arrived and arrogantly demanded they leave, instead of defending their right to stay there, they would not have been on Avalon when Oberon gathered his Children home. They would not have had to endure weeks of torment at the whims of so many of the Fey, after Oberon withdrew his protection from them but insisted they stay as his honor guard. They would not have lost two of their number, Menalippe and Michael, and Gabriel would not have been cursed by the Weird Sisters for demanding justice of Oberon for his lost siblings; he would be able to speak to her with his voice, not with his hands.
Angela nodded in sad agreement, then signed with tears starting to form in her eyes, So why you still hate me?
Gabriel's jaw dropped almost to his chest. Then he signed back emphatically, I never hate you!
You hate me! she insisted. Or why you not want to be with me? If (and she made the combined signs for G and "huge", their shorthand for Goliath) not insist we learn hand-talk, you never see me! Even hand-talking, we never walk together, you never give flowers, we never fly together for joy… As tears began to spill down her cheeks.
Gabriel's eyes filled with tears as well. He swallowed hard, before signing, I not want you feel bound to me. Egg-making season soon, you must choose another for mate.
I don't want another mate! I want you, always want you! Angela signed back emphatically
Gabriel shook his head. He opened his mouth again, and spoke: a high-pitched yapping, like an annoying little dog, that echoed in the otherwise silent library. Oberon's curse on him, for daring to speak out in anger for his rookery siblings. Once he'd made his point, he shut up again and signed, Not fit for mate. Choose another.
Angela growled in frustration, before signing, So no voice, but still fit for mate! Still strong, still great wings, still smart, still you! She pushed herself up against him, to sign right in his face, Fey curse voice, not-! as she grabbed at his crotch.
He gaped at her in astonishment at her boldness, even as she felt the stirring in his loins at her touch. Then he shoved her violently away, and she sprawled on the floor as he yapped furiously at her. After a few seconds he signed, You want baby that barks? I not want!
Frustrated beyond her ability to keep silent, Angela shouted, "Dammit, the curse is on you, not on our egg-to-be!"
How you know definite? I read books, he signed, Many stories about Fey. They curse humans, sometimes curse follows- Not knowing the sign for the word, he growled before spelling out, B-l-o-o-d-l-i-n-e. You have only one egg in twenty-five years. I will not risk curse on it! Choose another! And he spun away and stalked out of the library, leaving her sprawled on the floor, sobbing hopelessly into her hands.
But because I am a complete sucker for romantic happy endings, the angst only lasts a few more months, until:
[Starts with Angela talking with some students after at a PIT meeting]
"Dominique Destine? She's back in town? You're sure, absolutely positive?" Angela said excitedly, almost jumping up to grab Kendra's jacket in her eagerness.
A little bewildered, Kendra said, "Well, I'm not 100% positive without actually seeing her face to face, but this is her signature on the donation check, and here's the envelope it came in; see the local postmark?"
Angela was so excited she couldn't sit still any longer. "Yes! She's back! " as she bounced out of her chair and headed for the window.
Josh hurried out of her way, and as she pried open the window he asked her with a trace of bemusement, "What, is she a good friend of yours? Up until last month, we thought she was a gargoyle-hater!"
Angela gave an almost harsh laugh. "Not hardly! And she's. ..not exactly a friend, but she might be able to do something very important for me! I'll see you all next week!" as she leaped off the ledge and glided away.
Instead of heading straight for the castle, she soared across town, needing to confirm with her own eyes what she hoped was true. Eventually, she found the mansion owned by Dominique Destine, Demona's alter ego. It was dark in all the windows... all but one! There was a dim light on in just one room! She almost swooped in to land on the nearest ledge, but remembered at the last moment her mother's paranoia, and so landed on the roof of the nearest townhouse instead. No, tonight was not a good night to be shot down by automatic defenses. But now, how to attract her attention? She looked around for a moment, then picked up a fragment of roofing tile and pitched it at the window with the light shining through.
The fragment hit the window with a hard clack, and fell away to the ground below. And a moment later, a row of bright white lights fired up, beaming their incandescent brilliance straight in her direction, stabbing into her light-sensitive eyes like knives. She couldn't help slapping her hands and wings over her face and snarling in protest.
After a few moments, she heard a thump on the roof next to her." Angela! It's good to see you again, daughter, but what are you doing here?" Demona asked.
"Hello, Mother. At the moment, I'm wishing for a new pair of eyes," Angela said wryly as she blinked furiously, hoping to clear the huge purple splotches out of her vision.
"I'm sorry, but my defenses just registered a projectile heading towards the mansion from this direction! How was I to know it was you?"
"And you do this for every projectile coming at the house? You must go through a lot of paper boys."
Demona snorted. "Be glad my defenses start with merely floodlights, and don't go straight to the automatic targeting lasers and anti-aircraft guns. Here, let me guide you to the mansion; it'll still be a few minutes before your vision clears. But I must tell you how good it is for you to come to see me! After our last parting, I thought you'd want nothing to do with me ever again... But I swear to you, I'm trying to change!" as she leaped off with her daughter's hand held in a light grip, to steer her in the right direction. They landed on a ledge outside the lit window as she continued, "1 still can't honestly say I'll ever like humans as a whole, and there are some groups of them that we'd all be better off without, but I'm not going to try to exterminate the entire race anymore, I promise!"
"That's good to hear, Mother." Angela really wanted to believe her, too, but she wasn't sure she could. Still, she said, "Maybe someday, we can be all one clan again!" as she stepped cautiously forward with her arms out, feeling for the way in.
Demona guided her in and to a chair, saying ever-so-casually, "Speaking of clan, I've noticed that you've acquired a lot of new members in the last three months." Underneath the casual tone was a desperate desire to know more.
"Most of them are my rookery brothers and sisters from Avalon, though we also have a few people from other clans. But they're why I'm here, or one of them is, anyway. Mother, I need your help! You're the only sorceress I know, and I'm in love with a male who's under a curse!"
Gabriel was down in the gymnasium, sparring with Michael, as Menalippe looked on in concern. Since his return to their ranks with only one wing, Michael had been spending a lot of time down here, looking to spar with anybody who'd agree to it, and nearly picking fights with the ones who didn't. And when he wasn't here, he was in the building's sub-basement weapons range, blowing holes in targets with various lethal weapons. She wondered sometimes how much of his increased interest in combat and weaponry was due to wanting to be the best castle-bound protector possible, and how much was in sheer free-floating rage against his fate, to be forever grounded.
[Author sez: what happened to Michael and Menalippe is a separate tale, too long and complicated to relate here.]
And when he wasn't actually patrolling the battlements, Michael hardly ever went out under the open sky anymore, as if he couldn't even bear to see it. There were nights when she wondered if he'd even perch with them to sleep, if she didn't always go looking for him just before dawn to spend time with him. She thought sometimes that he'd even start to push her away, if she let him get away with it. But she never would; she loved him too much to let him go.
Every night she could, she dragged llim off to one of the designated trysting rooms, and once or twice when they'd been full up had even mated with him in the gym locker room (actually, that was pretty fun when they turned the showers on.) He was always more cheerful then and even for a while afterwards, almost the wonderful male she'd fallen in love with over a decade ago. If only she could bring him back to being like that permanently…
Her musings were interrupted by Angela, who appeared beside her and sat down. "Who's winning?"
"Michael won the first and third matches, Gabriel the second and fourth, and they're still pounding the gravel out of each other for the fifth," she said glumly. "I guess if I were a normal female, I'd be ecstatic that he's able to hold his own against nearly everybody in the castle, but I just want him to be happy again, and all this fighting isn't making him happy at all. Just wait; five minutes after the match is over, even if he wins, he'll be looking for another fight."
"Well, it won't be with Gabriel tonight," as Angela balled up a towel and threw it between the two combatants before they could land another punch. When they looked up at her, she called out, "Gabriel, I've come from the P.I.T. meeting, and there's somebody I met tonight who wants to meet you!" That wasn't quite a lie, just a bending of the truth. But she knew if she even mentioned Demona's name, they'd never even get out of the castle.
Gabriel briefly rolled his eyes, wondering if this person claimed to have a cure for him as well. He knew she hadn't given up on him yet, and a small part of him was very glad of it, but he was quite frankly tired of trying one curse-removal technique after another, some of them extremely painful and/or highly embarrassing, and still yapping like a rabid poodle when all had been said and done. But maybe this person would be another deaf or mute human, who'd welcome a chance to converse in sign language with a gargoyle. The clan could always use another supporter, and it would be good to have another friend to talk to, to commiserate with once Angela finally gave up and chose another for a mate. So he took a quick shower and put on his regular tunic, and went with her out to town.
After they were some distance away from the castle, he clapped once to get her attention, and then signed to her, Where are we going?
"I'll tell you in a few minutes. Just be patient, okay?" as she headed in a roundabout fashion for Destine Manor, discreetly checking to make sure they didn't encounter anyone on patrol along the way.
Soon enough, they landed on the rooftop across from Destine Manor, where Demona had said she would meet them; she wanted to evaluate him before actually letting him inside her home. Angela was a little insulted on Gabriel's behalf, but she supposed that a thousand years of paranoia weren't going to be tossed aside in just one night.
Once they landed on the rooftop, Gabriel looked around curiously and asked why they were meeting a human up on the roof. Instead of answering right away, Angela came up to him and hugged him close. "Gabriel," she whispered, do you trust me?"
The look in his eyes clearly said, Uh-oh. Trouble. But all he did was nod slowly; yes.
"Good. Now, I want you to hold perfectly still," she whispered. "Don't move a muscle, from head to tail. Are you holding perfectly still, and can you stay that way? Good. Because you're here to meet my mother, Demona."
He held perfectly still, as requested. But his eyes went wide with shock, betrayal and anger at her deception. From all he'd heard about Demona's past exploits from Brooklyn, Lexington, Broadway, Goliath and Elisa, he would have considered her an enemy even if she hadn't burned a gaping hole in his left wing back on Avalon! She might have been under the Weird Sisters' spell on Avalon, but no spell except her own madness had been involved in trying to wipe out both the clan and the humans of their city, even the whole planet, time and time again. And now he was supposed to hold perfectly still for her? Why, to give her a better shot at him this time?
"I know what you're thinking," Angela whispered. "But Gabriel, she's a sorceress, and she loves me even if she hates everybody else. For my sake, she fought and nearly killed Thailog, and would have died from that if it weren't for the spell that gave her immortality. And it was only knowing that I would die, too, that kept her from wiping out all life on the planet! So for my sake, she's willing to help you beat this curse if she can, so we can be mates and be happy."
He considered, and slowly, carefully nodded. He would meet her, and he'd try whatever remedy she suggested, as much for Angela's sake as his own.
Angela smiled and said in a slightly louder voice, "Good. Because she's right behind you."
Only supreme self-control kept him from whipping around in surprise; he wasn't used to being snuck up on by anybody. Instead, he slowly turned around, to see Demona standing there as Angela said, "Mother, this is Gabriel. And Gabriel, this is my mother Demona."
"Clear skies," Demona said off-handedly, as anyone would say to a strange gargoyle for politeness' sake. "Well, let's have a look at the gargoyle who's captured my daughter's heart." And with that, she did a slow circuit around him, studying him from horns to toe-talons. He hadn't been scoped out so thoroughly since Marie had left for New Orleans, and couldn't quite keep down a blush of mild embarrassment as she said admiringly, "Hm, yes, a very nice male. A deep chest, good leg muscles, well-formed talons, ruggedly handsome, and the wings are an unusual configuration but look to be excellent for endurance gliding. Assuming he's reasonably intelligent as well, you've made a good choice, daughter."
"Thank you, Mother," Angela said wryly. "But he refuses to mate with me while under the Weird Sisters' curse, because he's afraid of the curse passing to the egg!"
Demona raised her brow ridges. "An unusually perceptive male! Yes, once we deal with that, you'll be good for her."
Gabriel smiled wryly and gave her a short bow, as if to say dryly, So glad you approve.
Demona smiled again, before pursing her lips and tapping them thoughtfully with a talon. "Hm, breaking a Fey curse...You've tried cold iron? Or the humans' holy water?"
"We tried holy water last week, when we snuck into a church and I had him drink from the baptismal fount. As for cold iron, I've held iron blades up against his throat, made him an iron collar to wear for a day and night, I even had him swallow a steel ball bearing! I've even taken him to genuine Voodoo practitioners, real magic-workers, but they couldn't help him either. Nothing's worked," Angela said sadly, while Gabriel shook his head in woeful agreement.
"An unusually strong curse, then. Oberon must have been very annoyed with you," Demona told him.
Gabriel snorted agreement, while Angela said angrily, "It wasn't Oberon himself, but the Weird Sisters, for his daring to speak up about two clan members that had been kidnapped from their perches while the clan slept! But they cast their curse right in front of Oberon, while Gabriel was still the leader of his honor guard, and he just smiled and let them do it!"
Demona 's eyes glowed red, and she growled, "Cursed Fey, daring to harm our children! I swear I'll pull the ears off the next one I meet, and make a stew of them! "
"And I'll join you for dinner," Angela growled. "But it doesn't solve our problem! Don't you know any other ways to break curses?"
"Not a curse this strong. Not without the Grimorum Arcanorum; damn that Archmage for swallowing it and then dying before it could be stripped from him. No, daughter, we'll have to lay talons on another Fey, a powerful one at that, and force him to remove the curse. A pity Puck was stripped of his powers for defying Oberon; he would have done nicely. Tell me, how does he play the role of Owen now that it's no longer just a role?"
For a moment all Angela could do was blink at her mother in shock. "You—you know about Owen being Puck?"
Demona smiled rather smugly. "Learning to detect the presence of magic, both mortal and Fey, was one of my first lessons as a sorceress. I've known of Owen's true nature since the first time I saw him, and I discerned the geas binding him to that form when I spied on the castle once last October. It wasn't hard to guess how that geas had been cast on him, either; not that I really care, but out of curiosity, how does he fare as a mere mortal now?"
"Unhappily, I think, but it's hard to tell with him. I do know he's feeling better now that his hand is flesh and blood again; Coyote did that for him before he had to go back to Avalon." Demona had turned sharply at the mention of Coyote, but shook her head when Angela said he'd gone back to Avalon. Angela continued, "He hated having his hand like that, but I guess he couldn't really justify casting a spell to undo it when it wasn't really for Alex's safety."
Demona lifted her head again and said sharply, "Clarify that. He still has some magical ability?"
"Oberon's decree stated he could still use his powers to protect or tutor Alex, but only then. He says he can teach Alex how to undo curses, but it'll be at least five years before Alex is old enough to understand the lessons. But I can't wait that long, our breeding season's in just another few months!"
Demona snorted. "We absolutely will not wait! Come on, you two, we're going straight to the castle. You'll have to escort me as a 'prisoner'; I've little doubt that Goliath has conditioned all our young to attack me on sight, assuming Xanatos hasn't rigged the other defenses to do it first."
After she explained her plan to them, Gabriel and Angela together launched from the edge, then swooped back to grasp Demona's outstretched arms. As soon as they had her, she let herself go limp, and dangled from their arms as they flew over the rooftops. "I'm going to feign unconsciousness until I'm actually in Owen's presence, so please try not to drop me," she said, before letting her head loll to one side as well.
Soon enough, they were within sight of the castle. One of the sentries spotted them while still several hundred yards away and raised the alarm, and before the trio reached the battlements Goliath, Brooklyn and two others had sprang off to meet them in midair. "You've captured Demona!" Goliath said with amazement as he drew near. "How did you do that? Where did you find her; what has she been up to lately?"
"It's a long, strange story, Father," Angela said, as Gabriel nodded in emphatic agreement. "Can it wait until we're inside and can put her down? And will you find Xanatos and Owen? They'll want to hear this, too."
Just before they landed, Gabriel reached casually back for the base of his tail, and hooked a talon in his own flesh to give himself a long, bloody scratch across the barrel. He refrained from wincing as they took Demona inside and set her on the floor, then ostensibly put one hand on Demona' s back to hold her down in case she suddenly a woke (but in reality, barely touched her.)
Raphael and Pericles were sent away, one to fetch Xanatos and Owen Burnett to the gargoyles' main living quarters as requested and the other to find the keys to the castle's dungeons, where Goliath said she would stay until they decided what to do next. Once they heard Xanatos and Owen's footsteps approaching, Gabriel tapped Goliath on the wing to get his attention and, wincing painfully, showed him the scratch. But it was Brooklyn who said sympathetically, "Ooch, looks like that smarts. Demona's work? I'll be right back with the first aid kit," as he trotted out.
Xanatos and Owen came in moments later. "So she's showed her face again," Xanatos said as he sauntered up. "How'd she try to kill us all off this time?"
"It's a long, strange story," Angela said, adding casually, "Oh, hello, Owen."
Upon hearing the name, Demona sprang up from the floor, shrugging off Gabriel's faked grip on her, and instantly had her talons wrapped around Owen's throat.
Goliath roared and sprang for her, as did Xanatos, but Angela and Gabriel surprisingly blocked them from reaching her. "Gabriel, what are you-and Angela! Curse you, Demona, are there no depths you won't stoop to in your madness?" Goliath roared as he struggled with Gabriel. "Ensorcelling our own daughter to aid in your schemes!"
"Oh, just shut up, you fool," Demona said tiredly. "1 have business with this Trickster, here." She held Owen a few inches off the floor by his neck as she growled at him. "Listen very carefully, Robin Goodfellow. There is only one person in this world that I care about, and it isn't you or your young charge Alexander. I only care about my daughter," as she gestured at Angela with her free hand, "and she is currently unhappy, because her chosen mate is under a curse. That makes me very unhappy. ..And you know what I'm capable of when I'm unhappy."
Strangling in her grip, Owen still managed to gasp out, "A regrettable-urk! Circumstance. ..But I c-can do nothing about it, th-aggk! Thanks to Oberon's restrictions."
"Oh, can't you?" Demona said with a dangerous sweetness. "Even when I tell you that, since I can't take my wrath out on Oberon himself, I intend to wreak my vengeance on Avalon's Heir?"
Xanatos, currently pinned face-down on the floor by Angela, struggled even more furiously as he howled, "You touch one hair on my son's head and I swear I'll kill you!"
"Good luck with that; I'm immortal. And I've learned patience over the centuries; I may not kill him tonight, or even this week, but one night or day when you least expect it, I'll rip his heart out and feast on it… Unless, of course, you make me happy again by making my daughter happy, and removing the curse from her chosen male. You know I can do it, Puck. And you believe me, don't you?" as she smiled, showing her fangs.
Owen spun and dwindled in her grip, to become a grinning Puck that saluted her cockily and winked as he said, "You know I do, sweet thing! One curse removal, corning right up!" as his eyes flared bright green, and he spat green fire in Gabriel's direction.
Gabriel stopped struggling to hold Goliath back as the green fire circled him once, then hit him square in the throat. He fell to his knees, his own eyes glowing bright green for just a moment, as Goliath stepped back and watched him warily, and Angela stopped holding Xanatos down to stand up and look at him hopefully. When the glow faded, Puck said cheerily, "Speak, boy!"
Gabriel opened his mouth, and said hesitantly, "I..." Suddenly, he whirled, and swept Angela off her feet to whirl her around before embracing her with arms and wings. "Angela, I love you! I love you! Please, please be my mate!"
"YES!" Angela shrieked happily before grabbing Gabriel by his batwinged ears for a full-bodied kiss. As the two stood liplocked, Demona let Puck go with a satisfied smile as she proclaimed, "Now, I'm happy again."
Goliath shook his head wonderingly as he rumbled, "Why didn't I think of that?"
"Because you're an idiot," Demona told him matter-of-factly. "And you've grown too soft on humans to make a convincing threat." She walked over to Gabriel and Angela, smiled again and tapped Gabriel on his wing strut.
It took two taps for the impression to sink through Gabriel's preoccupation with kissing Angela, but he broke off the kiss to look at Demona with shining eyes. "Demona, thank you, thank you!" he said fervently, and Angela added her joyous thanks as well, while Puck stood sulking off to one side, grumbling that he'd done all the work.
"You can thank me by siring a fine egg for the rookery," Demona said with a smile. "Though I wouldn't object to a pound or two of Godiva chocolates; I've grown rather fond of them."
"I'll bring you eight pounds, a dozen pounds!" Gabriel swore, and Angela chimed in, "A hundred pounds!"
"I'll make it five hundred pounds," Xanatos said as he walked up, rubbing his shoulder where he'd nearly dislocated it while struggling with Angela, "Provided you really have no harmful intentions towards Alexander."
"Let's just say that I have no more harm in mind for the child than for any other human," Demona said as she strode away, heading for the roof. Xanatos and Goliath looked ruefully at each other as the implications of that statement sank in, but they let her go; after finding a way around Puck's restrictions and making two young gargoyles deliriously happy, they could do nothing against her tonight.
Angela and Gabriel decided to pick up where they'd left off, Gabriel actually picking Angela up and carrying her out of the room, still kissing her whenever he could spare his attention from navigating. In between kisses, Angela cheerily waved goodbye to her father over Gabriel's shoulder. Goliath smiled, and silently wished them well.
While they hadn't been looking, Puck had become Owen again, who now straightened his rumpled shirt and tie as he said gravely to Xanatos and Goliath, "I trust this hasn't set a precedence, sirs. Regardless of any personal desires on my part, I would not have been allowed to act if there had not been a very real chance that Demona would make good on her threat, and her being an immortal made it easier for me to remove the curse from Gabriel than to simply destroy her where she stood."
"Read you loud and clear, Owen," Xanatos said wryly, while Goliath rumbled agreement. "Besides, the day I threaten Alexander with anything more than a spanking, I hereby give you permission to shoot me down with whatever's handy; I'd have to be certifiably insane to want to hurt my own son."
Gabriel kicked open the door to the first unoccupied room they found, and carried Angela inside. It turned out to be the walk-in linen closet, with quilts, sheets and towels stacked neatly on shelves. Neither of them cared about the decor, only that they were alone with each other, and very much in love, and Gabriel was free to admit it at last.
In between kisses, Gabriel kept murmuring, "1 love you. (kiss) I love you. (kiss) I love everything about you, my darling (kiss) my angel. I love your bright spirit (kiss) I love your determination (kiss) I love your caring heart, (kiss) and oh do I love your body! I love your hair, (nuzzle, deep breath) its scent, its feel. (kiss) I love your smile, (kiss) the taste of your lips sweeter than honey. (kiss) I love your ears, (kiss, nibble) such lovely tips (nibble other ear). I love your neck (nuzzle), graceful as a swan's. (nuzzle, brief lick in hollow of throat) I love your shoulders, (kiss) so perfect. (kiss) I love your wing-talons (kiss), so delicate, (kiss) yet so…useful. I loOUCH!" and he abruptly backed away, grabbing his nose as he gave her a look of hurt accusation. "Whadid you binch by dose for?"
"Just showing you just how 'useful' those wing-talons are," Angela giggled. "Besides, you were tickling me! Darling, you know I'm ticklish right under the talons."
"And I know your other ticklish spots, too! En guarde!" as he pounced on her. She shrieked playfully as she dodged and poked for his own ticklish points, and they jostled and rolled about the room like rowdy hatchlings, laughing like they hadn't laughed together in years.
Then suddenly, when he had her pinned down and was tickling her under the arms with his tail spikes and she was retaliating with her own tail up his tunic, he leaned down and kissed her hard. When he came up for air, she saw the glow of raw desire in his eyes, and neither of them were laughing anymore. He let go of one of her hands, to place his palm on her left breast and lightly hook the laces of her tunic with a talon. Breathing hard, he asked simply, "Now?"
"Now," she agreed, and pulled him down for another kiss. In very short order they were both naked, their clothes thrown in the comer, and lying atop the pile of sheets and comforters Gabriel had swept from the shelves for their love-nest. Kissing and nuzzling, soft growls mingling with murmurs of love, they explored every inch of each other's bodies with their hands, tail tips, lips and tongues, learning the ways to give and receive pleasure. Their murmurs, gasps and growls gradually built into a crescendo as they came together in the age-old rhythm, until their senses exploded together with a shriek and roar that echoed deafeningly in the small room and resounded out into the corridor.
When the world finally spun to a halt again, Gabriel shakily raised himself up on his elbows to look with love and gratitude down into Angela's eyes. "So beautiful," he whispered.
"So wonderful," she whispered back, reaching up to stroke his chin spurs.
He kissed her fingers, then slid his hands under her to hold them together as he rolled over, finally remembering that he was nearly twice her weight. Not that she'd minded that sweet pressure on her, not at all, she thought as she happily pillowed her head on his broad chest. He kissed her mane and brow ridges as he whispered, "We are one."
She agreed softly, "Now and forever."
Sometime later, their growling stomachs finally overpowered their hunger for each other, and they put on their clothes to venture out of the closet. But as soon as they opened the door, they discovered a covered dish set right outside in the hallway, and a hand-lettered sign taped to the door itself reading "Honeymoon Sweet: Do Not Disterb."
"Broadway's handwriting," Angela mused fondly as she touched the sign.
"And Martha's baking," Gabriel said with a grin as he showed her the sweet pastries and savory meat pies piled high on the platter. "Shall we?" Angela nodded agreement, and they brought the food inside and shut the door again.
So that's their happy ending… only it's hardly the end for those two; instead it's just the beginning! They have far more adventures starting in 1998, after the first clutch of clan eggs are laid in the rookery. Angela's desires for travel and adventure lead to the pair becoming goodwill ambassadors for the clan, traveling all over the world for six months out of every year, and many shenanigans ensue. But they also return home to Manhattan for the remaining six months of every year, to satisfy Gabriel's more homebody desires as well as deal with the results of that increased fertility spell Herne the Hunter cast on them both.
For the clan's breeding season in 1997-1998, the combination of the two fertility spells acts like fertility-boosting drugs on humans, and Angela has twin eggs (this is Extremely Rare among gargoyles, and puts as much stress and strain on poor Angela as carrying quintuplets does for a human woman. Gabriel does a lot of waiting hand-n-foot on his beleaguered mate when she gets too huge to even stand up unaided.)
After the eggs are laid in the spring and Angela recovers from the birthing, they begin their joint ambassadorship and travels, starting with a visit to Ishimura to deliver an egg to them (Demona's; again, long story.) But they're shocked to find out six months later that the combined spells are increasing Angela's fertility to the point that every autumn's Harvest Moon is their own private Breeding Moon! Angela's shocked and dismayed, Gabriel's shocked and… well, secretly delighted, to tell the truth, because it means they have to go back to Manhattan for the duration of her pregnancy, and he misses the clan and their protectorate. (Besides, Breeding Moons are awesome.) But he really does sympathize with Angela, who ends up suffering all the results of Herne's 'helpfulness,' and he is as attentive and considerate as any mate could be during each pregnancy.
The out-of-cycle pregnancies result in just one egg instead of two, so there's less stress on Angela's frame, but she lays four of them in five years. The clan is delighted with the increase to their population, even thought it means they need to redesign their entire rookery lifestyle to accommodate children that aren't hatched the same years as everyone else. Only Angela's first out-of-cycle egg is alone in its mini-rookery; by the year 1999, after Dr. Horace Morgenstern has collected enough data on gargoyle pregnancies and fertility, he's able to create a gargoyle fertility drug that acts on willing females to let them and their mates enjoy out-of-cycle Breeding Moons as well, so Angela and Gabriel's successive eggs are always joined in their year-rookeries by two or three others.
Because this author enjoys exploring gender issues and the many assumptions each gender tends to make about the other, while traveling in the summer of 2002 Angela and Gabriel would be caught up in a massive gender-changing spell that had been cast to cover a small country, and as a result they spend nearly a year as Angelo and Gabrielle. During which time, thanks to the gender-changing spell not nullifying the fertility spells in the slightest, Gabrielle finds out first-hand what breeding and carrying an egg to term is like for females! ;-)
Once Alexander is old enough in 2004 for Puck to teach him how to transfer a spell that another Fey cast, shifting it from one mortal to another without damaging it, Angela is positively overjoyed that she and Gabriel can give up their fertility spells to another couple whose female is willing to be a brood mare for the next several years. After the spells are transferred, they spend a few years journeying with King Arthur and Griff or undertaking missions for them as two of their Knight-Errants, before returning to Manhattan in 2008 for the clan's first hatching in a thousand years. (BTW, the twin eggs from Angela and Gabriel's first breeding season hatch a brother and sister, who grow up to become the time-traveling duo briefly featured in chapter 7 of "Mating Games 9: Bad Moves.")
And there's one last big secret to reveal in this epilogue, concerning the series' villains. John Castaway's secret is already known to every fan of Gargoyles; he's really Jon Canmore, the last scion of the Hunters that have plagued Demona and every other gargoyle they've come across for the last thousand years. Thailog's origin is also known. But Oliver Grimm, the main financial backer for the Quarrymen, has a secret too, and it has never been shared until now...
Oliver Grimm is a Fey hybrid, a bastard son of Oberon himself, born nearly 700 years ago. Oberon 'dallied' with his mother, a highborn lady in medieval Prussia (modern Germany), but grew bored with her and left long before she realized she was pregnant. The woman's family hurriedly married her off to the first nobleman who would accept her dowry; a cold and cruel man who cared only for her money, not for her and certainly not for her bastard son.
The child (whose name was not Oliver Grimm back then; his true name has been lost to the mists of antiquity) his Fey heritage began to manifest itself at the tender young age of seven; with no Fey handy to teach him as Puck does for Alex, he was a late bloomer. His mother never knew her lover had been a Fey, and when her son began levitating and setting things on fire (such as stray cats; he's always hated cats) just by looking at them, she thought he was possessed and summoned priests to have him exorcised. But the stepfather thought it would be more expedient to simply kill the boy, and attempted to do so forthwith... only to die himself instead. He was the first human that the person we now know as Oliver Grimm killed, but hardly the last.
The boy was not only a cruel little lad, but a clever one; he knew that while he could kill the priests attempting to exorcise 'the demon inside him', more would follow if he did, and he might have trouble defeating an entire mob. So he put on a truly impressive display, one of his first illusions, and convinced the priests that they had succeeded in exorcising the demon out of him. They went away happy that they had saved an innocent soul, and the innocent-seeming lad began plotting how to take over the world.
He had wealth and privilege, thanks to his deceased stepfather, and learned at an early age how to use them to his advantage to gain political power and more wealth. He also displayed an uncanny talent for rabble-rousing, perhaps aided by his Fey powers, and was not above fomenting peasant rebellions to plague or overthrow nobles who refused to be swayed by his wealth and political influence. And when all else failed, more than one obstacle in his path to greatness suffered a mysterious death or was 'disappeared' with the aid of his Fey abilities. By the age of eighteen, he had more power and wealth than the majority of Prussian nobility, and had his sights set on the very throne. But he kept running into snags here and there; village hedge-witches, wise-women and others who had Second Sight would frequently take one look at him and start denouncing him as evil and inhuman.
After one particular popular wise-woman incited her villagers to rise against him and actually wounded him with a glancing blow from an iron hoe, he decided that enough was enough and something had to be done. And since the Christian priests were already denouncing these hedge-witches as tools of Satan, because they were jealous of the power these pagan practitioners had over the people... Grimm threw some of his already considerable influence behind the Church and organized the first of the great witch-hunts. Any man or woman who had magical or unexplainable powers (or even just a cat as a pet and land or possessions that Grimm wanted) was accused of witchcraft and trafficking with Satan, subjected to deliberately cruel and rigged tests and trials to determine guilt or innocence, and put to death.
Grimm liked to indulge himself by watching the rigged trials and executions, until one day a victim screamed as she was being tied to the stake that she had been given a vision of the future, and someday she would be avenged! Even as the torch was applied to the wood, she stared straight at Grimm and cried,
"Man of two races, mortal flesh and Fairy blood,
You shall be hunted by those who fly by night!
You will lose all, be worth less than mud,
And live your last hour cowering in fright!
You will be hunted and brought into ruin,
Felled like a stag, like a bird from the sky!
A mixed-blood child shall be your doom!
A Child of Stone shall see you die!"
(Loosely translated from medieval Prussian. But even when she said it, it rhymed. Really!)
This hit Grimm like the proverbial ton of bricks, because until then, he'd had only speculations of where his powers came from. The Fey were not unknown in medieval Germany, but he'd never before heard of a real person, a human with Fey blood in their veins... And if this witch had true knowledge of his origins, did she also have true knowledge of his eventual fate?
After that, Grimm stopped personally attending the executions. And he began a new campaign, against the Children of Stone that the witch had spoken of, those who fly by night: the gargoyles. Even if the witch had been delirious and raving at the moment of her death, he was going to take no chances on letting the prophecy come to pass.
Grimm joined with the local officials of the Church once more, to take the local mutterings of the village priests against the gargoyle clan living in the Black Forest and whip them and the local populace into a frenzy of fear and hatred against the gargoyle clan. And he personally led the army that attacked the clan while they slept in stone, and made sure that every last gargoyle was smashed, even the hatchlings in the rookery. [As an ironic side note, Demona had recently come to that clan; after over a century of wandering the continent, having left the British Isles after Canmore slaughtered her clan there, she had been found by a hunting party of the Black Forest Clan and given a warm welcome. Her statue was also smashed, but the spell linking her to MacBeth and a full night and a day saw her fully restored in body, though once more traumatized in spirit.]
After destroying the gargoyle clan, Grimm turned with renewed vigor to scouring Europe of all witches and people possessed of Second Sight or other powers (or even had one parent who was odd and suspected of being other than human; he took no chances when it came to the mixed-blood child mentioned in the prophecy.) He threw all his power and influence behind the Church to make sure that the purge spread all across the continent, and continued on for decades. And since one of the 'tests' for witchcraft was owning a cat, cats became universally renowned as witches' familiars. As a result, the poor felines were frequently slaughtered on sight, even by people who had kept them as pets; they didn't want to be accused of witchcraft by their neighbors. With no cats to keep the rat populations in check, they flourished in unprecedented numbers, and so did the plague-carrying fleas that lived in their fur; the end result was the horrible Black Death, the Plague Years of 1347-1351 that wiped out over a third of Europe's population.
By the time the man we now call Oliver Grimm was 35 years old, it became apparent that his aging process had slowed considerably after puberty; he still looked like a teenager, when most men his age had begun losing teeth and walking with canes. With his Fey skills all self-taught, untutored in the finer points of casting and maintaining illusions, he was unable to age his own appearance in a believable manner (and truthfully, he was too vain of his looks to give himself wrinkles.) And even all his considerable power and influence could not prevent others from noticing his lack of aging, and muttering against him... Before he could be formally accused of witchcraft and given the same treatment he had given so many others and so richly deserved, he faked his own death, changed his name and moved to medieval England.
This became a habit of his; spending a few decades in one guise, amassing wealth and power, then secreting his fortune somewhere so it could be used again later (or willing it to himself in another identity,) faking his death and moving on to somewhere else. And wherever he went, he kept up his campaign against witches and gargoyles, and anyone who might be suspected of being a hybrid of either race; he was determined that the prophecy would never come to pass. In his lust for power and his determination to wipe out all gargoyles and witches, he helped to engineer the destabilization and overthrow of the French government in the 1790's, and the destruction of the gargoyle clan that had lived in the upper structures of Notre Dame; their tragic slaughter was documented in the TGS story "From the Heart."
Grimm ages roughly one year for every quarter-century (actually one day for every twenty-four days, aging at the same rate as time flows on Avalon, though he doesn't know that.) By 1996, he appears to be in his mid-forties.
Oliver Grimm was in Cincinnati, managing his computer business Kreuzung Technologies (a little joke of his; Kreuzung is German for 'hybrid') when the Hunter-released video clip of the gargoyles leaving the ruins of the clocktower hit the news channels. Within 24 hours he was in Manhattan, investigating the sighting, determined to eradicate this newly-revealed clan and once more prevent the prophecy from coming true. He was on his way to the conflict he'd heard about over the radio, the fight at St. Damien's cathedral, when he saw Demona fleeing the scene and Jon Canmore chasing her. A short while later, when Demona managed to lose Canmore in a maze of alleys and he stopped to get his bearings, the Hunter heard a voice behind him saying, "Your prey has escaped for the moment... but I can help you continue the hunt, if you wish..."
Grimm had heard of the Hunters before that night, and had aided them in their hunt for gargoyles more than once over the centuries; he found it incredibly convenient to simply give them the funding they needed and the location of a clan, and let them destroy his enemies for him. He never aided them directly more than once or twice a century, though, lest they discover the secret of his incredible longevity. Two generations had passed since the last time Grimm had encountered a Hunter, so he felt confident that Canmore would not recognize him from any descriptions as he helped him create the identity of John Castaway and found the Quarrymen. Grimm's engineers had designed the electrified hammers and nets some time ago, and Grimm was delighted to see them put to good use at last.
For those who were wondering who was behind the gargoyle-impersonating home invaders that Quarryman Mitchell Starsky shot to death in "Deadly Moon," wonder no more; that was Grimm's doing. After Jon Canmore/Castaway remembered the very distinctive name of one of his lieutenants, Grimm hired two cold-blooded killers, and gave them the costumes, the weapons designed to mimic gargoyle talons and Starsky's address. He wanted not just dead Quarrymen but dead Quarrymen's children too, kids who had apparently been killed by gargoyles; Grimm knew that some people would quit the organization in fear as a result but many more would join up, after the family was touted to the entire world as martyrs to their cause. But unfortunately for Grimm and the killers, Starsky had been ready for trouble, and the whole scheme backfired spectacularly.
And now that the secrets have been told, the fates of our villains (well, of two of them, anyway. Thailog's is another story, too long and frankly M-rated to relate here.)
Castaway will pursue the gargoyles with ever-increasing fervor, even while fighting against the city authorities as the public at large gradually recognizes that the Quarrymen are more of a threat to public safety than the gargoyles are. Until one evening, his brother Jason finally manages to crash his current location, and get in to see him...
By this time, late spring in my timeline, Jason has regained a fair amount of feeling and function below the waist, thanks to early and expert medical intervention immediately after he was shot and vigorous physical therapy ever since. He'd never be able to run a marathon or even walk without assistance, but he can use arm braces to 'tripod' along and hopes to graduate to the use of a cane. This would be the first time Jason and Jon have seen each other since the fight at St. Damien's. And the first words out of Jason's mouth when he sees him are, "Brother, I love you. And I don't blame you for what happened last year..."
John breaks down and cries.
Jason knows his little brother better than anyone else, and he'd always had a strong hunch that a large part of John's sudden fervor to destroy the gargoyles, after a lifetime of quietly questioning the Hunt, was displaced self-loathing and guilt. Guilt that he had not prevented the gargoyles from knocking Jason over that dam to his apparent death, compounded by even more guilt when the shot he'd aimed at Goliath in the cathedral had hit his beloved big brother instead. And as it turns out, he was right. The two brothers talk for a while, and cry together, and talk some more... and John finally agrees to end the Hunt forever, and disband the Quarrymen.
But Oliver Grimm had long ago left private orders with the Quarrymen's secretary, to call him if anyone claiming to be Castaway's brother showed up; his centuries of experience had given him some forewarning that Jon might be swayed from his course by a member of his family. And he arrives just in time to hear John's decision... and promptly murders both brothers in cold blood. Then he kills the astonished secretary, the sole witness, and uses a clawlike tool to slash all the bodies to ribbons, to make it seem as if gargoyles broke in and killed all three.
Declaring the murdered trio all martyrs to the cause, Grimm rallies the Quarrymen into an all-out daylight assault on the Aerie Building and Castle Wyvern, determined to kill the gargoyles there. But the assault plans are leaked by a spy that Xanatos had planted in the Quarrymen's ranks, and the assault itself is repelled by the combined forces of Xanatos Enterprises' human guards, the Steel Clan, Cyberbiotics' cybots, Coldstone and Coldfire (they've returned to Manhattan by this point; another long story) and NYPD's Gargoyles Task Force. The battle costs the good guys dearly, but by the end of it the Quarrymen are finished; those still alive after the battle's over are arrested for aggravated assault, possession of illegal arms, and everything else the DA can throw at them.
And to make matters worse for Grimm, though he'd done a good job of making it look like someone else had been the mastermind behind the assault on the castle, the Illuminati still found out it was him. And the Grandmaster declared that by violating the 'no direct aggression' pact that had been made between him and Xanatos, Grimm had violated the terms of his membership in the Illuminati and was now an ex-member. And since the Illuminati have policies of lifelong membership and Draconian measures to maintain their secrecy, the lifespan of ex-members can usually be measured in hours...
Only by desperately using his Fey powers to fake his own death did Grimm escape the assassin's dagger. He was able to step into a new identity, complete with full papers, that had been arranged some time ago, but immediately had to abandon that as well when the Illuminati hunted his new identity down too. He had arranged for the new identity to inherit all his holdings, and by Illuminati tradition, when a member is excommunicated and killed, his descendants are either stripped of all his possessions or killed as well, whichever is easier. (This keeps old or terminally ill men with one foot in the grave already from even thinking of going against the organization; they may think they have nothing left to lose, but their families...)
Now homeless, penniless and hunted, instead of doing the sensible thing and heading for the farthest horizon, Grimm burns even more strongly to destroy the gargoyles. He's heard the vague rumors about somebody in the castle having magical powers, and the rumors that somebody up there is partly gargoyle, partly human (Delilah, who has also moved into the castle by then—yes, that's still another story too long to go into here), and even the rumor whispered in the NYPD 23rd Precinct that the child Detective Maza is carrying might not be entirely human... He's lost everything but his life now, but he can't allow the prophecy to be completely fulfilled!
But his use of Fey powers to save himself while the Illuminati are hunting him has brought him to the attention of the Weird Sisters, who are scouring the globe to round up stray half-breeds in possession of real magical ability, after all the full-blooded Children of Oberon have been corralled on Avalon. (Why they're doing that is still another long story.) Anyway, they're not happy to be tasked with this, and they still hold a grudge against the gargoyles, so when they find Grimm and he desperately bargains with them to help him destroy the gargoyles, they pause and listen...
Grimm and the Weird Sisters decoy Puck away from the castle and render him helpless, and conduct a magical assault on the castle. But they are defeated, when Alexander, Bethany, Angela (who has just begun learning magic from her mother, with Goliath's reluctant approval—yup, another long story) and Delilah (completely untutored, but possessing even more magical might than Puck thanks to her hybrid heritage—reread Behind Closed Doors 2 for details) make a desperate last-ditch defense; a mixed-magics spell that could have detonated half of Manhattan if it went wrong, but instead completely destroys the Weird Sisters' magical ability forever. The Sisters are captured, but Grimm makes a last-second desperate move and escapes capture for the moment. But he can't get out of the Aerie Building, and the clan does a floor-by-floor search for him; his last hour is lived in terror.
Then Grimm makes one more desperate and bold move, and takes little Bethany as a hostage. With an iron collar around her neck, Bethany can make no magic to defend herself, and the gun held to her forehead prevents everyone else from approaching him. He demands a safe escape, and it is reluctantly granted... But while the negotiations are still going on, Matt Bluestone steals one of Fox's sniper rifles from the armory, gets into a secure position, and waits. Unknown to Grimm, Matt had married Anne Marsden six weeks ago, and legally adopted Bethany as his own daughter. She is now Bethany Bluestone, a mixed-blood child who is also a child of 'stone'... And Grimm learns of that fact right before a steel-jacketed rifle bullet drills him right between the eyes. The prophecy has come to pass.
So, that's over 29 pages' worth of scene-snippets and ramblings about what would have happened next in "Gargoyles: Life Goes On," which should have answered the most common questions people have had about the series. But there's a lot more that hasn't been told yet. I'm thinking of writing a series/multi-chapter posting called "And On, and On…" that would be something like an extended "Kimberly's Ramblings." Each new installment in it, "The Tale of X" or "The Tale of X & Y" (and in a few cases, "The Tale of Group X") would include story notes, plot outlines and the many already-written scenes for the stories that won't be completely written out. They would be fairly detailed explanations of what would happen with each character and clan, the canon folks as well as the OC's. If enough people review or email to actually express interest in such postings, that is; if not, if I've told enough to satisfy most of my readers, then this chapter's brief outlines and scene-snippets will be the end of it all.
It has been a pleasure and a true learning experience, writing so much fanfic for Gargoyles and receiving so much feedback over the years. Thank you for reading,