Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot, which is shared with Obi's Second Cousin.
Author's Note: I finally have this written! City of Stone is coming soon, I promise.
I made my way through the streets of Manhattan, my mind whirring wildly. It had been one hell of a night. Actually the last several nights had been like that. But last night held some particular distinction, as my partner on the force, Matt Bluestone, had finally met the Gargoyle clan. I'd been keeping the Gargoyles a secret from everyone, including my family and my partner, and I had to admit, it was kind of a relief to have someone else know about them. Keeping something like a whole clan of Gargoyles a secret wore down on you after a while. And believe me, I know a lot about keeping secrets.
Sighing a little, I parked my car near the home of my other big secret. Looking up at the Eyrie Building, I locked up my car and made my way inside. I was just grateful that my relationship with Owen Burnett was no longer a secret from either the Gargoyles or Owen's employer. Now that they knew, it made it easier for the two of us to see each other more often, rather than having to sneak around Xanatos and the clan.
Making my way to the elevator, I couldn't help but let my thoughts wander as I waited to arrive at the right floor.
Matt had been right to be angry with me about hiding the Gargoyles from him. If our positions were reversed, I would have felt the same way. It's not exactly easy keeping something like that hidden from other people, though. You have to actively work at it. Which made me feel like a heel for doing that to Matt. He'd done nothing but trust me and be honest with me, even if I thought some of his theories were insane. Not so insane, I thought to myself wryly. His seemingly crack-pot ideas about the Illuminati had turned out to be true, turns out. Next I'd be learning that aliens were real.
At least Matt had been able to forgive me for keeping such a huge secret from him. I don't know if he would ever forgive me if he found out about Owen and I...but that was something to worry about on another day. For now, I wanted to talk to Owen and put some old fears to rest.
Maybe I was crazy to think this, but for a long time I'd had a sneaking suspicion that Owen wasn't telling me everything about himself. It was kind of crazy, especially given the only theory I had about what he wasn't telling me involved the Puck. The very female Puck, I might add. It was a stupid theory, I told myself. Just because a few strange things linked Owen to Puck did not make them one and the same person. For one thing, Puck was a woman, and I knew for a fact that Owen was not. I kept telling myself that it couldn't be the case, but something nagged at me, making me wonder if maybe—maybe—it was possible.
I pushed all that aside as the elevator doors opened and I made my way to Owen's office. The door was closed, as it usually was, and I knocked softly on it with a slight smile.
"Come on in," I heard Owen call through the door, his voice calm and controlled as ever.
Smiling to myself, I opened the door and slowly looked inside the office. Owen was going through various paperwork for some new project of Xanatos' and his glasses had slipped down the bridge of his nose a little. It was so endearing to see him like that, I thought to myself with a soft chuckle.
"I'm not disturbing you, am I?" I asked with a smile, leaning slightly against the door.
Owen looked up and pushed his glasses up. "No, not at all," he told me, his tone warm with an affection that made my heart swell a little bit.
Closing the door behind me as I entered the office, I smiled at him with a sigh"Hey, handsome," I greeted.
A warm smile that was more in Owen's eyes than in the way his lips curled upwards crossed his face as he looked at me, clearly glad that I had come to interrupt him. "Hello, my love," he murmured, still giving me that tender smile.
Making my way over to his desk, I sat down and leaned forward until my elbows were resting on the hard wood, my face in my hands. I hadn't realized how tired and stressed I was until just now. "Ugh," I said, giving voice to my stress. "I've had a roller coaster of a night," I continued. "Well…the last few nights, really."
"What happened?" Owen asked in genuine curiosity and concern, coming around and slowly rubbing my shoulders.
I stiffened in surprise at the touch and then smiled a little as I moaned as his deft fingers found all the knots in my shoulders and began working through them. I knew there was a reason I loved Owen. "God," I muttered. "That feels great…Mmm…" Sighing heavily, I slowly relaxed under Owen's capable hands. "Matt found out about the Gargoyles," I explained. "He…went a little crazy at me for not telling him."
"Oh," was all Owen said as he moved his hands upwards, slowly working on a knot in the back of my neck.
I hissed a little in mild pain, arching slightly before relaxing again. "Mmm…yeah," I sighed. "It just reminded me I hate keeping secrets from my friends and family," I said.
That was true enough. Having Matt yell at me about how it would be the end of all the lies between us had really struck home for me. It wasn't the end of all the lies, much as Matt thought it was. I still had yet to tell him about Owen. But I wasn't in the mood to tell my partner about my boyfriend just yet. Not when Matt was as likely to arrest Owen as I was to arrest Xanatos—which is to say, very likely.
"How is he?" Owen asked, his fingers still working expertly at the knots in my neck and shoulders.
"Still a little in shock," I admitted, smiling up at Owen. "Apparently he was right about the Illuminati."
A slight smile crossed Owen's face and he slowly stopped the massage, simply resting his hands on my shoulders. I didn't mind, so long as he kept contact with me. I leaned back against him, that nagging sensation that he was keeping something from me still clawing at my mind. I tried to ignore it, but it refused to go away. Sighing heavily, I glanced up at Owen again.
"It just…made me wonder…" I said slowly before deciding that the best tactic was to just spit it all out. "Are you keeping anything from me?"
I expected Owen to deny that he was; to smile wryly at me and tell me that I was being paranoid. Something to make me feel better. What I did not expect was to see him look surprised and just the smallest bit guilty. I didn't want to believe that he could be guilty of this…but the proof was in his expression. A frown crossed my face as I turned slightly to look up at him.
"Owen?" My voice was quiet, as though I was afraid that he would bolt if I spoke too loudly. I was further surprised—and worried, I had to admit—when Owen looked away. Taking his hand in mine, I tried to meet his gaze. "Owen…are you not telling me something?" I asked, almost afraid of the answer.
When he did answer, his voice was almost too quiet for me too hear. "Yes, Elisa…"
I stiffened, as though someone had just shot me with a taser. Oh, God…oh, God…what was he keeping from me? I hastily tried to regain my composure and hide my anxiety behind sarcasm. "Please tell me you're not secretly married."
Which…actually would almost be worse than learning that he was more than he seemed to be. But all the math pointed towards what I didn't dare ask.
"No," Owen said, his voice still very low. I couldn't help the sigh of relief that escaped me as I continued to look up at him. "Do you remember when Puck turned you into a Gargoyle?" he asked gently.
I stood up, not entirely sure that I wanted to hear this, and yet unable to back out now. "Yes," I said honestly. "How could I forget?" It was, after all, one of the more memorable experiences of my life. It's not every day that a Fae turns you into a Gargoyle.
"It was more than just her fondness for humans that led her to do so," Owen said, his gaze piercing and making it impossible for me to look away.
Hugging myself tightly, as though to ward off what he was saying, I braced myself for what was to come. "What do you mean?" I asked quietly.
"It was her fondness for you in particular," Owen answered, hesitating for a moment before he continued in a quiet voice. "Our affection."
I swear, I could feel the blood draining out of my face. I'd suspected this since the morning after my adventures as a Gargoyle, but this…this was almost too much for me. I tried to speak for several minutes before I managed to get anything past the lump rising in my throat.
"'Our?'' I repeated, feeling the sudden desire to be ill.
Then he said the words I had been fearing for so long. "I am Puck, Elisa."
My world seemed to shatter in that one instant. For a moment, I tried to convince myself that I was dreaming. This couldn't be real…Owen couldn't be the Puck. He was so…so normal, so blandly human. Puck…wasn't. She was the opposite of Owen in every way possible, and not just because she was a woman. My knees threatened to give out and I hastily sat down to prevent that from happening.
It was all that I could say, really. What else do you say when you find out that the man you love is really a Fae woman? And when did my life become so insane that this wasn't the worst scenario that I could think of?
I was mildly aware of Owen watching me, as though afraid I would explode at any moment. I wasn't going to, though. Not yet. I was still in too much shock for any sort of explosion. With shaky hands, I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to calm myself down, though it didn't work very well.
"Say something…" Owen whispered, his voice sounding pained and fearful all at once.
At any other point, I would have been furious with him for even daring to sound afraid, when he had been hiding something like this from me deliberately. But right now, I was still numb. Numb from everything, really…
"You're…the Puck…" I said slowly, closing my eyes and shaking my head. "I just…I can't believe it."
I could, actually…somewhere deep down, but I didn't want to acknowledge that part of my consciousness right now. I wanted to be hurt and shocked and insulted. I wanted to feel as though I had a right to be furious with Owen.
"I never lied to you about how I feel about you, Elisa…" Owen replied, his voice still quiet, and still filled with that fear and pain.
Looking away to hide the way I winced in response to his statement, I tried to control my voice before answering him. It didn't work out as well as I had hoped it would. "Does…does Puck feel that way, or do you?" I asked, my voice shaking and cracking a little when I said the name of the small Fae.
"Both of us."
His response shocked me. How was that possible? I didn't…I hardly knew Puck, let alone how to respond to such a declaration. "What…"
Eloquence is not my strong point when I'm being surprised like that. Don't judge me for it. I'd like to see anyone else come up with a better response.
"We both love you, Elisa," Owen said, his voice suddenly filled with so much intensity that it took my breath away and I had to look away again.
I felt his eyes on me as I tried to wrestle with myself and find something to say in response to this shocking revelation. Puck…loved me…I already knew that Owen loved me. Or at least that he claimed to. No, I hastily corrected myself. He did love me. He'd proven that a thousand different ways in the time we'd been together.
"Why didn't you tell me what you were sooner?" I finally demanded. This was the biggest question that was bothering me at the moment, though it was far from the last one that I had. I didn't look at Owen as he answered, because I knew that if I did, I wouldn't be able to keep back all the accusations and questions.
"We…we're not supposed to reveal ourselves," Owen said after a moment's pause.
That was the single most stupid, senseless rule I had ever heard in my life! Standing up again with a scoff, I turned my back to him and wrapped my arms around myself, not wanting to look at him at the moment. I would break down completely if I did now. And that was the last thing I needed right now.
"I am sorry, Elisa," Owen said quietly.
I heard the sincerity in his voice…I heard how much this was hurting him, but I didn't want to listen to it. My anger had finally caught up with me, and I couldn't rein it in, even if I wanted to.
"'Sorry?'" I repeated bitterly. "You've been keeping something this huge from me…I don't know what to think!"
Out of the corner of my eye I saw him reach for me, but I refused to acknowledge that. I kept still, not even glancing at him to show that I had seen him. "No," I said firmly. "This is…this is huge, Owen!"
"I know," he said quietly.
He finally touched my arm then, and I flinched away as though he had burned me, closing my eyes and turning away even more. "Why?" I demanded, my anger suddenly taking control of what I said. "You know everything about me! Why the hell couldn't I know who you are?"
His response was quiet, almost humble, as though he thought that his tone would help me forgive him. "I wanted to tell you," he said.
Turning sharply with a glare, I suddenly had the overwhelming desire to strike him. It wasn't as though I couldn't. I'd been training in hand-to-hand combat for years, after all, and I was probably just as good as Owen. "Then why didn't you?" I all but snarled at him.
"I couldn't," he said again.
I was getting really, really sick of that answer. "Why not?" I was shouting now, but I didn't care. I was too angry to care at this point. "I'm your girlfriend, Owen!"
Owen didn't even flinch at my tirade. He stood, proud and tall and silent, though I could see the pain reflected in his eyes. "Puck is not supposed to interfere in anything when she is me," he explained quietly.
I paused for a moment to take a deep breath and then set my jaw firmly. "That is stupid," I said firmly.
"It is," Owen agreed with a sigh.
"This is just so much to take in," I muttered, raking my hands through my hair and sighing heavily. My knees were shaking again, but I refused to sit down again.
Damn it, why did Owen have to be so perfect? Closing my eyes heavily, I sighed again. "I just…I don't know what to think anymore."
Owen remained tall and proud, as though my confusion and pain didn't touch him. I knew that wasn't the case, though. Not just from the hurt reflected in his blue eyes, but also from the fact that his whole body was tensed like a bowstring, ready to shoot one way or another depending on how my mood turned out.
"Ask me anything you wish, Elisa," he said quietly.
Anything I wished? I had a thousand questions to ask, but they were too jumbled up right now. I didn't know what to ask…so the question flew out before I could stop myself.
"Just…how can Puck love me?" I asked. "I've only seen her twice!"
Not the best first question, I know, but it was better than some of the other ones, which were along the lines of 'how the fuck am I supposed to ever trust you again?'
"She knows you through me," Owen said, almost as though this were a normal conversation.
"How does that even work?" I demanded, some of my anger draining out of me. Not all, but it was a start.
"Everything I know, she knows."
I suppose that made a sort of sense, given that he had been freaking made by the Puck. Wait…my mind went into overtime with this and I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. That meant that…she'd been aware every time I'd slept with Owen…oh, God. "Everything?" I asked in a small voice. When he nodded, I groaned and put voice to my thoughts. "Oh, damn…then she knew every time we were…"
"I am an aspect of her," Owen said wryly.
There were times that I hated Owen's talent for sarcasm. Truly loathed it. Groaning softly, I buried my face in my hands and shook my head. This was so insane. So completely messed up that I didn't even know where to begin describing it. I wanted to be sick, and at the same time I felt the need to be furious. But I suddenly found that most of my anger was spent. I just…was so tired that I couldn't keep it up.
"Owen…I just wish you'd told me sooner," I sighed, frowning slightly. "So…you were acting? All this time?"
"No," Owen said firmly. "I wasn't," he added at my look of disbelief.
"But there were times you were acting. Like after Puck came to my apartment and I asked you to come over," I said in a rush, suddenly feeling very violated and betrayed, though that soon faded along with my anger.
Owen nodded in response, and I couldn't stop myself from groaning in defeat. So much was a lie, it seemed. But..a part of me clung to how much he had repeated that he loved me. So many times…that couldn't be a lie, could it?
"I love you, Elisa," Owen said firmly, as though he could read my mind, resting a hand on my arm.
I started to pull away, but couldn't quite make myself do so. Instead, I looked up at him with what must have been the most pitiful expression known to man, if the look of hurt and worry on Owen's face was anything to go on.
"Owen…" I said quietly, feeling the sudden desire to hold him tight until I woke up from this nightmare. "I love you…but this is all so confusing."
"What can I do to make it less so?" Owen asked, his voice and expression clearly anxious.
"I don't know…I don't know…" I said helplessly, trying to find some way to make this all right. I just wanted to go back to the way things had been, when I had been ignorant and blissful. I'd never wanted to know that my boyfriend was really a Fae. All I'd wanted was for us to find a way to have a peaceful life together…maybe for the rest of our lives. "I don't know," I repeated with a sigh, a sudden determination gripping me. "Maybe I…I should talk to her…"
A worried look crossed Owen's face as he watched me closely. "Are you sure?" he asked gently.
"I have to at some point, don't I?" I asked dryly, giving him a dry look and rolling my eyes ever so slightly.
He realized I had a good point and nodded slowly. "Yes…"
"Might as well get it over now," I sighed.
Owen nodded and sighed heavily, looking at me with such love and sorrow that I felt my breath leave my lungs suddenly. I watched as he was surrounded by a green glow of magic, his entire body shrinking down a little more than a foot, his hair growing longer and lighter, and his ears sprouting out until they were like two large sails. When the glow of magic faded, I was faced by the tiny form of the Puck. I'd almost forgotten how…surreal her appearance was. She was androgynous almost to the point of having no gender, but now that I looked at her knowing se was female, I could indeed see the slight curve of tiny breasts and hips that were almost perfectly flat. No wonder Shakespeare wrote her as male. They only way to tell otherwise was if you knew ahead of time.
I stared at her for a long moment before I worked up the courage to speak. "…So…"
"So," Puck responded, her voice no longer having the same warmth to it that I remembered from before.
Hugging myself tightly again, I closed my eyes. "Why couldn't you tell me when you were in my apartment?" I asked in a low voice.
"We're not supposed to reveal ourselves of our own accord. We can tell a mortal who figures it out..." Puck replied slowly, sounding very sorry.
"Oh." Another stupid rule. I was starting to get tired of those. "And I hadn't then."
Stupid, stupid rules…I hated them. a part of me had the insane desire to demand that Puck return things to the way they had been, and make that her payment of the debt she owed me. The green gemstone she had given me felt heavy and almost unbearably warm against the skin of my chest as I looked at this petite Fae.
"It's just so much to take in," I sighed, feeling very young and very small suddenly.
"I know, sweet," Puck said quietly.
Her voice seemed to be filled with an aching need as she looked at me, her large green eyes filled with sadness and her enormous ears drooping until the tips were almost even with her chin. The tone of her voice sent a chill down my spine and I hastily hugged myself tighter.
"Why me?" I asked in a tiny voice.
"You're beautiful and clever and loyal and determined…everything Owen said about you is true," Puck said, that same need and ache in her voice.
My cheeks heated up with a blush and I couldn't quite meet Puck's eyes for a moment. Finally, I looked up at her. "And that's why...you went out of your way to keep me safe from Demona?" I asked, once more feeling smaller than I was.
Puck nodded, a fierce light in her unearthly green eyes.
"You loved me then?" The idea took my breath away. Why…why would someone like Puck, an immortal Fae, love me? I was just a cop in Manhattan who happened to run into all kinds of supernatural crap.
Puck nodded again, which amazed me. I just…I couldn't believe someone so glamorous would want me. As I let all of this sink in, Puck watched me with open concern and fear in her eyes.
"I just…don't know what to think," I admitted. "I love Owen. I know that…"
"We've been as honest as we can in everything else," Puck assured me.
Remembering the talk Owen and I had the first night we ever met, I fixed Puck with a sarcastic look. "Stratford-on-Avon?" I asked dryly.
This seemed to cheer her up, as she grinned wickedly at me. "Where else would I have him be from?"
She was such a showman, I thought to myself, amused despite everything that had happened already today. Rolling my eyes, I sighed. "I don't know…Greece, maybe?"
Her grin grew wider at this and she even giggled a little. I had to admit, it was a charming sound. "Yes, but then he wouldn't have that lovely accent . But I am from Greece originally."
I couldn't help the wry smile that crossed my lips. "I know," I said with a bit of wry humor twisting my words. "I re-read the play. And…" I blushed a little, thinking of how much I loved Owen's voice. "It is a lovely accent…"
Puck nodded and there was a long moment of silence between the two of us. I began to shift uncomfortably before I spoke again.
"I don't know if I can love you, Puck," I said honestly.
And I didn't. I'd known Owen for over a year…almost two. I'd loved him for most of that time, and I'd been through hell with him in that time. Puck…had made me a Gargoyle for one night and flirted with me for one morning. It just didn't balance out that well.
Puck looked down and nodded. "I understand," she said quietly.
Now I felt horrible for telling her that. I didn't want to hurt her, even though her lies had hurt me more than I could say. "I'm sorry…"
"No," Puck interrupted hastily, smiling weakly at me. "I understand. Truly."
…Why? Why were they both so good to me? I sighed and shook my head. "I still feel awful telling you…but it's all just so much to deal with right now."
A wry smile crossed Puck's lips and she nodded slowly. "Yeah. That was, admittedly, part of why we didn't want to tell..."
"And keep the fact that I have two people in love with me?" I asked with a weak smile of my own. "No…I'm flattered. Really."
"I'm sorry," Puck said quietly.
"Don't be," I assured her. "I…I understand why you didn't tell me now."
She flitted over and I felt a warm, tiny hand resting on top of my arm. Out of instinct, I leaned into the touch and sighed heavily, closing my eyes. When I opened my eyes again, Puck was smiling up at me weakly. I noticed she was hovering slightly above the ground, so that she was closer to my height. It was…kind of cute, I had to say.
"I'm sorry," I finally said, trying to not be dragged into the overwhelming depths of her eyes again. "I…I overreacted."
"No," Puck said firmly. "You didn't."
Sweet of her to say that, but it wasn't true. She had no idea how much I had been overreacting on the inside, even if most of my reactions didn't make it past my lips. "Yes, I did," I said wryly.
"In your place, I'd've flipped out entirely," Puck assured me with a slight smile, her ears perking up ever so slightly.
"Trust me…I was," I said with a bark of sharp laughter.
After a pause where she seemed to be wrestling with herself, Puck finally spoke again. "Do you think…you can come to forgive us?" she asked, as though she was almost afraid of my answer.
I let that sink in for a moment, mentally chewing it over and considering how best to answer this question. I didn't know if I could…but…Sighing heavily, I shrugged. "I want to."
It was true, I realized. I did want to forgive them. Both of them. I was still hurt, and I didn't know how long that would last, but I was willing to try. Puck nodded her understanding, looking a little downcast that I had not said for certain if I could or could not forgive her.
"I just…I'm still confused," I explained, smiling weakly, though it felt more like a grimace.
"Not surprising," Puck said, though there wasn't the cheery tone I had heard the first time I met her. She was obviously hurting from my lack of faith and seeming unwillingness to forgive.
"I'm sorry," I said again, feeling as though I had said it a thousand times already.
"No need to be," Puck said with a shrug, clearly trying to make me feel better. It didn't work.
She smiled wryly and shook her head. "If anything, I ought to be the one groveling."
I suppressed a shiver. Barely. The last thing I wanted was groveling. I just wasn't worth that kind of degradation. "Please, don't," I said quietly.
"Okay," Puck said with a slight nod.
Suddenly, there were tears in my eyes. I'd been holding back so much emotion that it was finally catching up to me, it seemed. Hastily, I looked away so that Puck didn't have to see me break down and think that it was all her fault. Wiping my eyes, I sighed and glanced back at Puck.
"I'm sorry…could…could I talk to Owen again?"
Nothing against Puck…but seeing her and knowing what pain I was causing her by not loving her and not being fully able to forgive her yet was too much for me right now. I continued to wipe my eyes, trying to make myself presentable. I doubt I managed very well at that.
"Of course, Elisa," Puck said slowly. "We are both available any time you wish."
Once more there was the glow of magic, and when it faded, Owen stood in front of me again. Without thinking, I wrapped my arms tight around him and drank in his scent and the feel of his strong body in my arms. I hated this…I hated knowing that he wasn't entirely real, but for now he was real enough.
"I am sorry, Elisa," he said quietly, holding me just as tightly as I was holding him.
The tears continued to fall now, seemingly spurred on by his whispered apology. "Don't be," I said in a choked voice, closing my eyes against the tears.
"Will you be all right?" Owen asked, his voice filled with worry for me.
God, why was he so perfect? I tightened my arms around him and tried to smile weakly against his chest. "Ask me again later," I said quietly.
He nodded and stroked my hair, his every move and even the way he was standing told me how much he wanted to make this all go away. "What do you need?"
"Time," I said honestly, tightening my arms around him, as though afraid that he would turn to thin air if I didn't. "And you."
"Of course, beloved," he whispered, kissing the top of my head.
A shiver ran through my spine at the word "beloved" and I began pushing everything else aside. Yes…Owen was the Puck, and he had lied to me to keep that secret. But I had him now, and he loved me. For now…that would be enough.