Behind Closed Doors 4:

Making the Future

Author's Note: This story happens at roughly the same time as events in Chapter 5 of "Escape From Avalon."

It was New Year's Eve in the Labyrinth, and in the streets far above them thousands of people were partying the night and the old year away. A party was going on down in the Labyrinth's main hall, though one decidedly different from most of the parties above, because absolutely no alcohol was involved. Too many of the homeless folks who'd formed the basis of their population had previously struggled with the desire for strong drink, and lost not just the battle but everything in their old lives. Now that generous donations and job-finding programs started by Davis Xanatos were giving so many of the residents hope and pride in themselves again, the community leaders didn't want to risk any backsliding while celebrating their best memories of 1996 and their hopes for 1997.

But not everyone wanted to be at the party, though it was merry indeed. Claw Labyrinth had never been a 'party animal' before his mutation, and afterwards he'd been even less of one. Quiet and shy for as long as he could remember, he'd always preferred curling up with a good book than trying to dance or talk to girls, or getting drunk and acting really stupid. But his beloved wife Dana was another matter; she enjoyed parties and socializing, and had been looking forward to the New Years' Eve party all week.

So Claw and Dana had agreed to a compromise; they both went to the party almost as soon as it started, an hour after the dinner dishes had been cleared away. Claw stayed at the party for exactly one dance with Dana and one plateful of food, both of which were great. But afterwards he publicly kissed and nuzzled his wife (to show everyone that it was an amicable parting, they hadn't fought or anything), and then went back to their rooms to read a good book. Dana had surprised him at Christmas with a gift of no less than three Star Trek novels he hadn't read before, all in excellent condition, and he'd been saving the last one for just this occasion.

But before he could even open the book, Derek had appeared in his doorway and asked him a favor; to go lie down on the examination table in the clinic and let Dr. Lacey run an ultrasound wand all over his torso. Maggie was getting the first ultrasound of her pregnancy done that day, but before Dr. Lacey examined her, she wanted thorough readings on Claw and Talon's insides for baseline measurements of what mutate insides should be like.

Claw had been really uncomfortable lying on the examination table with his fur all matted and mucked up with a translucent gel and Dr. Lacey running that wand over him as impersonally as if he was just an animal, but it had been for a good cause; he knew Maggie and Derek were both really anxious about her pregnancy and what the baby inside her would be like. As soon as Dr. Lacey had declared she was done, he'd hopped off the table and headed straight for the showers to get the gunk out of his fur. And as soon as he was clean and dried off enough, he went straight to his book.

He'd been reading for about an hour or so when Dana unexpectedly came home from the party, hours earlier than he'd expected; it wasn't anywhere close to midnight yet. He looked up in concern, wondering if anything bad had happened at the party, but she gave him a cheery smile and thumbs-up to say everything was okay, so he turned back to his reading.

Then, without looking up from his book, his nostrils dilated as an errant breeze brought his wife's scent to him, and his spine involuntarily straightened a little before he snorted and slumped back in the chair. That was the other reason he'd left the party early to retreat into a book; Dana's scent had changed again, sometime that morning, and that meant she was off-limits for the next few days. There were times when he regretted her stubborn Catholic refusal to use any sort of protection during sex; it meant that he had to exert a lot more self-control than he really wanted to, in order to ensure that they didn't end up in the same boat as Derek and Maggie.

His irritated musings were interrupted by a pair of dainty hands over his eyes. Guess Who? As if he really had to guess who would dare to get so close to someone who looked more like a tiger than a man… Dana was feeling playful again. Ordinarily Claw would have gone along with it, but just right now he wasn't in the mood. He peeled her hands from his eyes and went back to reading. He flicked an ear at her insulted huff, but otherwise didn't acknowledge her. Being playful frequently led to being romantic, and right now that was not an option. Darnit.

He heard Dana going into their bedroom, opening and closing drawers in their dilapidated dresser. He decided she must be folding and putting away their laundry; most of it was hers, since he usually wore just a pair of shorts. There wasn't much point in trying to find or make more clothing for him, since his striped fur covered nearly every inch of his body, and usually kept him warm enough to get by.

He read another chapter of the book before being interrupted again. This time, instead of putting her hands over his eyes, Dana laid them over the pages of the book he was reading. Her way of saying, Drop that book and pay attention; I've got something to say!

He sighed, but obediently shut the book and turned to her, so they could sign their sentences to each other. And froze in mid-turn, because instead of nice blouse and blue jeans that she'd worn to the party, she was wearing a flimsy black-lace-and-tiger-print number that revealed one helluva lot more than it covered. Her hair was styled beautifully for once, and she had an orchid tucked behind one ear. She was absolutely gorgeous, and one hand involuntarily reached for her, before he jerked it back to his lap, to cover the bulge he was afraid was about to start.

Dana smiled seductively at him, and crooked her finger in a come-hither. God, if only she'd done this the day before! If she had, he'd have grabbed her and taken her straight to bed, for a wild, roaring romp on their old quilt that would have left them both exhausted and highly satisfied. But tonight she was off-limits, dammit! He angrily shook his head.

Dana's seductive smile changed to a frown. Her crooked finger became a fast signed Why not?

He signed back in sharp, jerky motions, Can't have sex with you tonight.

Unbelievably, her smile returned as she asked again, Why not?

He bowed his head, and grabbed the striped ruff that ran from his brow to his butt in frustration. How could he tell her…

She lifted his head with one hand, and placed a tender kiss on his nose. Then she signed with her other hand, Tonight we make baby.

His jaw dropped and he stared at her in astonishment. How did she know she was fertile now? He thought only mutates and gargoyles could tell when a female's scent changed, at the start of her fertile period. He asked her that, and she signed back with a smug smile, I count days. Also I ask Delilah, she tells me when scent changes. He should have guessed that; Dana and Delilah were becoming especially close friends. Dana was one of the few who could draw Delilah out of the depression she'd sunk into after that fight with the Quarrymen, when Brentwood had been murdered in front of her eyes and she had killed six of the gargoyle-hunters in retaliation. Dana continued with a smile, Delilah said she hopes we make boy baby tonight.

Oh, God. He signed desperately, Whether boy or girl, baby will be mutate!

Baby will be ours. Baby will be beautiful.

Baby will be monster!

She scowled, and grabbed his muzzle with one hand to force him to watch as she signed with the other, No! You are not monster! She let him go to continue signing, You are my man, my husband. You are friend to many people, you help protect them. You are not monster. Our baby will not be monster. Our baby will grow up to be protector, just like you.

She was serious about this; she was intent on having another mutate, for another generation of protectors for the Labyrinth! He didn't know whether to be awed or appalled. He and his fellow mutates were stuck down here during the day, only daring to come out at night when it was harder to see winged shapes flying across the sky. Yes, he was used to it now, but he'd spent the first year or so after his mutation hating every minute of it; how could he condemn a little boy or girl to living like this? He knew Derek and Maggie spent a lot of time silently fretting over how their unborn child would handle life as a mutate, until the doctor could cure him or her as well as the adults. He imagined that if a cure could be tailored to the Maza child after he/she was old enough, a cure could be made for any child of his as well, but how much of his or her life would be spent down here before then? And the way Dana was signing, she was thinking that any child of theirs should stay mutated, never be cured!

He could understand why she'd thought that way, after meeting the man who protected Dana's old home, the other community living below the streets. When she'd taken him home to meet her family right after he'd proposed to her, Claw had been shocked to find out that he and the other mutates weren't the only furry people living in New York. And that instead of being mutated by scientists as an adult, Vincent had been born with his leonine features; born but abandoned soon after his birth, to be found and taken below the streets to the tunnel community that lived there. Claw and Vincent had met only a few times that year, in places far from the Labyrinth; the older man still insisted on keeping his home and family secret from even most of the gargoyles, because of some troubles his fully-human wife had gotten into with a secret government conspiracy or something.

Vincent's appearance had gotten him plenty of shrieks, shouts and shots from strangers that had caught sight of him over the years, but he was far closer to human-looking than Claw was, able to talk with his own voice and to wear standard if oversized shirts, pants and shoes. But at their first meeting he'd looked with unashamed envy at Claw's wings, and remarked that at least Claw's condition allowed him to live one of mankind's greatest dreams over the centuries.

Vincent and his wife Catherine had two children, a boy named Jacob and a girl named Vina. Seven-year-old Jacob looked perfectly normal, until he opened his mouth or smiled a little too widely and revealed that the adult teeth gradually replacing his baby teeth, included a wicked set of fangs. Five-year-old Vina, however, looked like a cutesy version of her father, a little lion-cub of a girl. But their looks didn't matter to the tunnel community they lived in; both were equally loved by their parents and liked by their playmates, the other tunnel children. They lived in hiding from the world at large, but they were still happy children.

Claw had no doubt that Dana envisioned any children of theirs having the same sort of happy lives as Vincent and Catherine's children. But he was mutated so much further away from the human standard, having not just big cats but bats and electric eels in his genetic makeup now; who knew how that bizarre mix of genes would turn out in the next generation, if they could even have children together at all?

But while he'd been just sitting there and staring at her for nearly a minute, goosebumps appeared all up and down Dana's arms as she shivered, hugging herself. She was cold, and no wonder, considering what she was wearing. Without thinking about it, he pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his wings around her, like he often did when she was cold. Dana smiled triumphantly as she snuggled close, and Claw realized too late that with her wriggling with delight on his lap, and her scent so tantalizing in his nostrils, there was no way he could avoid an erection. And sure enough, there it went, like he was a hormone-crazed teenager again. Dana smirked at him as she felt it poking into her buttocks, and signed, Your body wants to make baby; now I convince your head! Then the smirk faded, and she looked at him solemnly as she stroked his muzzle. Her eyes were pleading now, hopeful, as she signed, You will be good father. Please, can we make baby tonight?

He couldn't refuse her; he didn't want to refuse her anymore. His body was howling that it was time to breed with his mate, and his heart was whispering that he would enjoy having a baby with his beloved and becoming a father, so he told all the ugly fears and doubts in his head to take a hike. He stroked her hair and nodded solemnly at her, so she'd have no doubt that he was agreeing to it, and was rewarded with her face lighting up like a child at Christmas before she hugged him close and peppered his muzzle with kisses.

He nuzzled her neck and stroked her back, purring roughly and not caring that he was doing so, then eased her away just enough that he could play with her breasts. He caressed one through the thin lacy fabric of the teddy, and lightly teased the nipple with a claw-tip. He tried to imagine a little furry baby with wings suckling at that nipple, and was astonished at the surge of desire that thought aroused.

He shifted her around to a carrying grip, planted his feet firmly on the worn carpeting and got out of the chair with her in his arms. She grinned wide as he carried her into the bedroom. Once there, he was surprised but delighted to find that she'd spent her earlier time in there well; the room was lit with the soft glow of scented candles, their sweet spicy scent filling the air, and the bed was now made with satin sheets. He spent a bare moment wondering if Dana had gotten Elisa to buy those for her before deciding that he really didn't care how they ended up there, just so they felt good against the skin.

The sheets did indeed feel fine, adding another sensual pleasure to their lovemaking; sex that started out slow and sweet and tender, as they expressed their love for each other, before becoming hot and fierce as their animal instincts took over. Dana shrieked her final pleasure just a few moments before Claw's roar of release shook dust down for the ceiling, and he collapsed atop her in a sudden and sweet exhaustion.

After a few long moments, he felt Dana squirming beneath him just a little. Probably trying to create enough room for her to breathe, he realized with a trace of embarrassment; there were disadvantages to having a husband who topped the scale at nearly 350 pounds. He rolled off her, but scooped her up to lie on his chest as he wrapped his wings around her. She snuggled happily into his fur, and they lay there for quite some time, just basking in afterglow.

He softly stroked her hair and her back, giving thanks once again that this incredible woman had consented to be his wife and lover. And now they were going to be a family; he knew beyond all doubt that they had started a child tonight. And she was right, their child would be wonderful; how could it not be, with such a wonderful mother?

The End