All the characters appearing in Gargoyles and Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles are copyright Buena Vista Television/The Walt Disney Company. No infringement of these copyrights is intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder.
All original characters are the property of Denigoddess2001.

Chapter 4

As the day drew to a close, Ruby considered everything she had learned in the past few days. The several months that she had spent on Avalon had been only a prelude to what she had recently experienced. She felt a kinship to Annwn and to it's elf King, Gwyn ap Nudd. While he patronized her like one might a small child, he had treated her with more courtesy and respect in three days than Oberon and his subjects had in three months.

She knew she had to get back to the real world, but she wondered how much time had passed since she had been in the Fae Realms. When she returned to the bedchamber, she found the recipe for the delicious brother painstakingly written in Elvin, then beneath it was the English translation. She wrapped it up and stuffed it into her now dry purse, amazed that none of it's contents had been ruined by the water. She attributed their condition to the mysteries of Elvin magic.

She felt rested and peaceful in Annwn and found that part of her didn't want to leave. A knock at her door took her out of her reverie and she answered it.

"Sir!" Surprised by Gwyn's unannounced appearance, she quickly invited him inside.

"Before dinner, I wanted to speak with you again."

"Of course," she answered.

"You appear well despite the revelations you learned today," he glanced at her with pale blue eyes.

"I'm adapting," she gave him a faint smile. "It's a lot to absorb."

"Indeed," he agreed.

"Sir, I have a few questions."

"And you hope that I have the answers," he finished.

"Yes. May I speak frankly?"

"Do you speak any other way, Lady Ruby?"

"No, not really. Without repercussion?"

"Without repercussion ," he promised. "Ask your questions."

"Do you see me as a pawn or a potential tool to use against Oberon in the future?"

"Not a pawn or tool, but an ally."

"Fair enough," she said. "I appreciate your honesty."

"I appreciate your power."

"Why are you so close with Zane?"

"He saved my life," Gwyn answered. "He and I fought together in the final battle of Amor against Uttaku's minions when they tried to take the city. One stabbed me through the heart with an iron stake and it was Zainuel-Sin who removed it. He was Oberon's adviser and lieutenant and to have him beside me in battle was the same as wielding lightning. No mortal or vampire fought with the ferocity as the Gargoyle did."

"Where do you and I stand?" she asked.

"You are odd, Ruby Brandon." The white elf glanced at her. "You have power, but have no desire for it. Most humans want too much power while you will not embrace it. Why do you deny your destiny?"

"It sounds more like fate, as if I have no choice." she answered. "I decide my life."

"You let fear speak too much for you," his pale eyes gleamed. "Let no one taste it or it will be your undoing."

"Then, I'll cheerfully hide under my rock," she said as she made her own plans. The Otherworld may have what I need. This Aether Magic may give me what I need to set things right for my mother and my son. You're not the only one with an agenda, Gwyn. Elves have taught me how to have one of my own. "I promise that fear won't be my prime motivator."

"Good, I find your honesty a good tonic to banish the deceit I have seen and known," he said with a heavy sadness in his voice. "Someday, we may be friends."

"Someday, but now I'm just a potential tool?"

"No, you are a pleasant acquaintance. Zane has told me of your kindness, I consider it kindness done to me and that shall not be forgotten. Wound him and I shall make you rue the day you were born."

"Whoa!" she took a step back. "I can only try to free him from the curse."

"I was speaking of his spirit and his heart, Lady Ruby, not his curse."

"I don't want his heart, but I will treasure his friendship," she told him.

"So you say now," he said grimly. "Let us dine together in the banquet hall. A feast has been prepared in honor of my old friend and I wish to see him off with a full belly and a content disposition."

After a feast in the garden that featured the finest entrees and the best wine, the moon shone above the merriment full and bright in the autumn sky. Dancers flitted across the courtyard with colored scarves gleaming while acrobats performed amazing feast of balance and juggling. The bards played lutes and flutes while percussion pounded a beat that matched the strong cadence of Ruby's heart. She watched the elves and Gargoyle immerse themselves in the feast and drinking, while she scribbled down notes to see how long she had been out of the mortal realm. Base upon the numbers she crunched, five and a half years had passed since she had been in New York. She guessed that it would be about the year 2000 and she had spent too long in the Fae Realms.

"Ruby, live a little!" Crystal whirled by her with one of the handsome elves. "Get out of your funk and move, woman!"

"Not in the mood," she shrugged.

"Don't tell me you're still brooding," Crystal dismissed the male as though he were no more than a servant. "You had one of your great mysteries answered. Come on, that must be a major ego boost. You found out why you can kick Oberon's ass."

"I can't kick his ass, Crystal. I found loopholes. Not the same thing and that doesn't matter to me. I just want to make sure that I can get home."

"I still think you need to release a little tension with a man's extension," Crystal mused. "It does a body good."

"Is that all you ever think about?"

"Not always, just most of the time."

"Good for you, then."

"Well, I'm going to go have a little fun! Later!" Crystal found another handsome elf to captivate her.

Ruby watched as the pair flitted on air into the darkness. She didn't know what the future held, but the key to changing it lie in the past. She was glad that her friend had found some temporary distraction to take her mind away from her separation from Puck. Yet, Ruby envied her friend because she, at least, had someone she loved who loved her in return.

"Fair lady," a deep voice cut into her reverie. "Would you care to dance?"

"I have two left feet," she looked up to see a tall gargoyle with flowing black hair and jade eyes staring at her.

"And I am without wings and tail, but I think that we shall somehow manage," he offered her his large hand. She looked up at him and saw his fangs glisten in the moonlight, the jewels embedded within them a sign of Gargoyle adornment. They were fire opals no larger than a drop of rain, but one adorned his two canines. Ruby saw that he wore two platinum arm armbands made by the finest Elvin metal smiths. On his forearms, he wore matching bracers that were different from the ones he normally wore. On each ankle was a thinner matching platinum band similar to the ones on his sculpted biceps. In his own way, he looked inhumanly handsome. "Dance with me, little witch."

"Why not?" she mused.

He took her in his arms, turning her about in time with the melody and the beat of the music. The melody livened for several minutes so that at the end of their dance, Ruby was gasping for breath. The musicians paused for a few seconds before breaking into a slow, haunting melody. Zane pulled her closer to him, resting his brow upon hers for a long moment.

"What's happening?" she asked, her voice sounding breathy to her own ears.

"Magic," Zane answered as his talons gently stroked her hair. "Live in the moment and know joy. I may have to return to a bottle, but I will never forget this night."

"I hope you never have to go back to that," she said, fear rising in her. "Ever."

"No, feel the now and not what is unknown," he crooked a talon beneath her chin. "Look at me, little witch. Tell me you don't feel something growing between us."

"I don't know," she stammered. "It's probably part of the curse's compulsion to make all your masters attracted to you."

As the music swelled, he pulled her closer to him. The scent of leather and stone filled her senses as he picked up Ruby by the waist, whirling her around multiple times. "I have seen how humans come to one another."

"This is a complication we don't need, Zane." Ruby warned him, pulling out of his grasp and taking several steps back until she felt safe distance between them. "You're a Gargoyle. I'm a human. Our kinds weren't meant to mix."

"If that were true, then my mother and father wouldn't have loved or created me," Zane took her hand and pressed it against his chest. "You seem to forget, I am half-human."

"To me, you're all Gargoyle." Ruby trembled, fighting the impulse to run into his arms or to run away. She just wanted to run. She knew fear was her worst enemy and doubt sat on her shoulders like a heavy burden.

"I may not be human, but I am male. I may have talons instead of fingers and once, a tail, but I have a heart that tells me that we are meant for something more."

"Three days isn't enough time to make that kind of decision," Ruby started. "What do we have in common? Tell me."

"We have both lost loved ones."

"Misery doesn't need more company."

"We share a friend," Zane offered.

"You slept with her. Not exactly helping your cause, Blue."

"We have a rapport that you can't deny."

"You used a contraction!" Ruby noted.

"Do not try to change the subject, little witch." Zane growled, his eyes white.

"You've had too much to drink and need to sleep it off," Ruby shook her head. "You'll think differently in the morning."

"I know what I think now," Zane held out his hand to her. "Will you dance with me this one night, Ruby?"

She sighed. Ruby knew that Zane wouldn't hurt her. She hadn't seen him in battle or when he turned angry, but she knew he would never force the issue if she didn't want it. He had seen her off Avalon and led her to a place that had taught her more about magic that she thought possible. Her breath held as she took Zane's hand. He held it for a moment, gently pulling her closer.

He inhaled deeply of her scent, vanilla and a hint of cinnamon. Staring down into her eyes, he found himself lost in the moment because he was with her. What had happened to see in her in such a different light in such a short amount of time? He considered that it might be the magical ambiance of Avalon or their shared disdain for Oberon, but at the heart of it was the kindness she had shown him since he first appeared from the bottle three days earlier. It was that kindness, over and over, that had broken the granite around his wounded heart.

This little human had been the sunset that had reawakened his soul and the true warrior within. He moved slowly, leaning forward so that she could move away if she chose. Gently framing her face in his large talons he brought his lips to hers in a sweet, lingering kiss. A growl escaped him as a gasp came from Ruby, allowing him to taste her essence. He brought her hand to his heart, letting her feel the strong, steady beat coming from it. Zane heard a soft moan as his tongue tasted her, her flavor igniting a need he hadn't felt in millennia. He felt her pull away, but she touched her brow to his. His breaths came in ragged gasps, his eyes remained closed to regain his balance.

"Blue, are you all right?" Ruby asked.

After a moment, Zane opened his eyes that glowed with white-hot light as he returned her gaze.

"Your heartbeat is pounding. Are you all right."

"It beats because of my need for you," he gasped. He couldn't remember having ever been affected a kiss. He knew that kisses between Gargoyles and Humans weren't encouraged because it nearly always drove the Gargoyle mad while the human usually remained unaffected. His father had told him how the Reckoning, recognizing one's mate, came upon him when he had first kissed Zane's mother. With that somber thought of his parents, it brought his desire within controllable levels.

Ruby looked down, seeing the bulge contoured by the soft white linen of his sarong. The moon hung over them, leaving no doubt in her mind that she he was hard with desire. She felt both elation and worry at that revelation and suddenly, all of the three days events came crashing on her. She needed a quiet place where she had time to think and sort everything out.

"Forgive me, Ruby." Zane said, making no attempt to hide his arousal. Ruby returned her gaze to him, finding that in the moon's light, his cheeks stained dark teal compared to turquoise skin.

She couldn't help but smile, feeling more at ease knowing that he was also unnerved by the chemistry between them. Ruby looked at his dark hair framing his strong features, she reached up to stroke away a stray tendril. She saw Zane's eyes widen and she quickly withdrew her hand. "I'm sorry!"

"Do you know the significance of stroking a Gargoyle's hair, Ruby?"

"I'm getting a good idea," she muttered. How did I let myself get into this?

"Touching or stroking hair is the same as the kiss we just shared. The touching of brows is the same. It is an intimate display of something deeply felt and only reserved for one's mate."

She remembered the previous night in her bedchamber when they had shared the broth, touching brow to brow. Zane had expressed a very private, intimate emotion and she had responded in kind without know the full meaning of it. "Zane, I didn't know. Please accept my apology."

"Don't apologize for an innocent mistake," he whispered into her hair as he held her close, doing nothing more.

"I'm not innocent about it now," she trembled in his embrace. "So, I think I need a moment to breath, to think."

"I understand," Zane let her go. She rubbed her forehead as though she had a headache. With hesitation, she slowly raised her hand, letting it hover a few inches from that glorious black mane. He stood there waiting, fighting the urge to tell her to choose him or walk away. He knew this little human had lost as much as he and it left her vulnerable. He remained still as she lingered on the precipice between doubt and desire.

Zane gazed at her, patiently waiting a Gargoyle knows how to wait.

She appreciated his understanding. Gingerly, she brushed back a stray tendril that fell over his cheek. He turned into her palm, feeling her warm skin against his. His growl came out more like a purr. "Paradise."

She felt talons catch her wrist and he pressed his lips at her pulse point. He had yearned for this and never thought to feel this way toward any female -human or gargoyle. It was more than lust or desire, this little witch had touched his soul in such a way that he would never be the same after her.

"I wish I were but a man so that I could take you to den and mate you fiercely and well, Ruby Brandon."

"Take me to den?" she repeated.

"A place that I will have prepared to you when we mate . . .what you refer to as making love."

"I'm not ready for a mate or to make love to anyone. I'm still wrapping my head around the idea that I'm attracted to somebody that's blue and not human."

"This bothers you?" Zane asked gravely, pulling away.

"I'm not ready for this," she admitted, shrugging helplessly. "If I can't break that curse, back in the bottle you go. I can't afford to get emotionally invested in you only to-"

"lose me," he finished for her.

"Exactly."

"I agree," Zane drew out of her embrace. "We need more time."

"If you don't have a hangover, you'll thank me in the morning."

"Perhaps," Zane sighed. He looked back toward the crowd. "Shall we return to the feast?"

"Please, I'd like that."

He had been Oberon's prisoner for millennia. He was also a Gargoyle. Zane knew how to wait. As the walked to the party, he saw that Ruby shivered. "Are you well?"

"I'm a little cold."

"If I had my wings, I would wrap them around you to keep them warm,"

"That's what blankets are for," she mused. "Ce la vie."

The two walked hand in hand back to where the others were gathered. An unusually merry Gwyn met them. "Are you well enough to travel?"

Zane and Ruby looked at each other, she gave Zane a nod. "I need to get back into my regular clothes."

"They are in your chambers," Gwyn informed her. "We will not keep you, Lady Ruby."

She understood that was his polite way of dismissing her. She nodded in understanding and returned to her chambers to get dressed. Walking away, she glanced over her shoulder at the Gargoyle staring after her. Giving him a smile, she touched two fingers to her lips and motioned them toward him. As she walked away, the pale king's expression broke into a broad smile as he clapped the Gargoyle on the back. "Has you by the tail, does she?"

"She does, indeed, old friend." Zane agreed.

"What do you see in her? She is a mortal, her life short compared to yours. Why bother?"

"From what she told me, you informed her this day that her life will be long."

"For a human, yes, but still a human. You are immortal."

"Only if the curse remains intact," Zane reminded him.

"And if she does break it, what then?"

"I don't know what the future holds for us," he answered. "I only know that I wish to pursue a future with her."

"She will be your student if she breaks the curse. Familiar and witch are not meant to know each other that way for it will compromise her learning. Do well to remember that."

"She also has an aversion to any creature not of her own kind," Zane shook his head.

"Perhaps, you have a passing infatuation and nothing more."

"Have you experienced the Reckoning?"

"I have had an inkling. This feeling is not mere lust, Gwyn. It runs deeper than that."

"If you travel to the mortal realm with her, you will find much has changed. The marvels humans have made these past centuries will befuddle you, brother. We need to speak of these things."

For the next several minutes, Gwyn explained how humans had advanced their own magic into things called Science and Technology, explaining how humans had left this world and walked on the moon. He told him of how they accomplished healing with elixirs and potions, using unnatural energies to cure cancer and focused light to perform surgery to remove sickness to to mend wounds. They traveled in metal beasts that lived on Gaea's life force and how it fueled things called engines. He explained how humans now had towers of glass and steel that towered over the Pyramids they had build centuries prior.

"It is a different world than what you know and you will need to know how to survive in it," Gwyn told him. "You will not last long as a Gargoyle for there are those will hunt and persecute you."

"It is worth the risk if she can break the curse."

"If she can break the curse. Oberon knows of her escape from Avalon and searches for her. He will find her."

"Then, I will protect her, Gwyn. I'm not without powers of my own."

"You will lack the abilities you have now and will be a wingless, tailless gargoyle. You will need more than what you possess. I give you what you gave me long ago: life."

"What do you mean?"

He handed him a leather satchel. "Inside, there are papers of identification that will help you move about in the human world. I have had my minions hard at work setting up bank accounts, establishing your identity so that you can move about unhindered both night and day."

"You have again shown your generosity to me," Zane said, humbled by Gwyn's magnanimous gesture. "No words of thanks can express the gratitude-"

"No words are necessary," Gwyn assured him. He reached for his left hand, removing the ring from his middle finger. "This signet ring will place you under my protection, it will also shield you from Oberon's eyes. None in their right mind mess with the Unseelie Court. I have altered its enchantment so that you will be human by day and Gargoyle by night. This will ensure that you remain flesh day and night to keep an eye on your little witch."

"Gwyn, this is more than any debt I can repay."

"This is a gift, accept it for what it is without condition," Gwyn told him. "However, brother, keep an eye on her. She has talents I may have need of later and she knows this. Make sure to keep her alive so that I deal with Oberon if he poses a true threat. While I can best him with an army, I want much to humiliate him slowly, intimately at the hands of a mere human witch. Do not you as well?"

"I want his demise as much as you, but I hesitate put the witch in his way. This world and my curse dampen my perceptions, but were I truly free, I think I would have experienced the Reckoning this night. In the world of men, I know that the curse will be weakened and I will know if she is the one the goddess intended for me."

"I like the words of Sir Walter Scott, a famed poet amongst his people, to express best this entire situation. He said, 'Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.' The plot thickens. Oberon wants vengeance upon the poor little witch while I intend to make use of her growing power to ensure his demise. You, meanwhile, are halfway in love with her while you are her familiar. The Fates could not have devised a grander comedy, Zainuel-Sin. Then, one can not forget Princess Crystal: the hellion who wants free of her father iron grip, if you will pardon the pun."

"Stop! You vex me with your plots, Gwyn. Do not be so quick to involve this witch in your schemes against your brother. I warn you now, she is clever in her thinking and will undo you with the unexpected. She is still an innocent and not one for the ways of the warring courts." Zane put the ring on his finger.

At first, he felt a warm tingle flow over his body, covering every inch of his thick skin. Soon, he saw Gwyn several feet below him. Zane felt his body turn head over talon as he rotated several feet above the elf King and nausea cause his stomach to jump into his throat. His blood surged in his veins, causing a roar in his ears and the scent of humanity to surround him. Light blinded him as the tingle erupted into pain erupting from every nerve within him, followed by an abrupt crash to the ground. Lying face down on the grass, he gasped for air that had left his lungs. Zane found the strength to push himself up onto his forearms and he glared at his friend. "By the dragon, what have you done to me?"

"What have I done for you, you mean?" Gwyn countered. He helped a weakened Zane to his feet. "I have someone I want you to meet."

"Who?"

With the way of a hand, a bolt of lightning came from the cloudless sky, striking the ground within a yard of where Zane stood. Gwyn motioned to the mirror, "Look and see, Zane Yulsing. You emigrated to Britain after the death your parents."

"Not entirely untrue," Zane agreed, trying to get used to the dark-complected human with striking green eyes. At least, there was something of himself in the reflection before him. He looked at the man staring back at him. Long black hair cascaded past broad shoulders, strong chiseled features framed his jade eyes. The line of a strong jaw met an equally strong, cleft chin. His shoulders were broad by human standards and his torso sported defined muscles that lead to a narrow waist and long, strapping legs. His human form was noticeably shorter than his usual height and he found that disappointing. With a wave of Gwyn's hand, the painful process of transmutation repeated itself and in the human's place stood the Gargoyle.

"The transformation's pain will lessen with time," Gwyn assured him. "I think that it is a form that your human will appreciate. You work for a human named David Xanatos as an upcoming executive for a company called Xanatos Publishing. You will be heading the Translation department where you will translate and transcribe ancient Gargoyle and human writings into English. However, to help you transition both to the temporal and cultural changes, you and your little witch will be spending some time in New York with the Xanatos family, learning about modern life from a clan of Gargoyles who protect the city."

"Is it near Nebraska?"

"It is in the same realm," Gwyn answered. "You will be as much a Gargoyle out of castle as the clan themselves were when they first awakened after a thousand year sleep. The will help you acclimate to the world and help you learn how to best protect your human. The salary you make will help pay for your way in that world. Ask Ruby to assist you in these matters, she is fairly good in handling matters of commerce."

"She has agreed to this?" Zane asked.

"Agreed to what?" Ruby asked as she approached them. Zane cast his eyes upon her form. Gone was the metallic rose kirtle and silk leggings she had worn earlier in the day. Instead, she wore her signature white tee shirt and faded blue jeans. He missed how the kirtle had emphasized her feminine form. Dressed in the cloth leggings she favored, he appreciated the shapeliness of her limbs.

"I seek your counsel in making my way in your world," Zane answered, casting a warning glance toward Gwyn who gave a subtle nod and remained silent. "Where is the Princess?"

"Right here," she said. Stepping into the intimate circle, her white hair looked disheveled and her clothing wrinkled.

"Did you have fun?" Ruby smirked.

"More than you did," she winked.

The two males looked at each other with astonishment at the double entendre shared between the two women. Crystal looked at them. "Oh, please, gentlemen! Can't a princess have a spot of fun while on holiday?"

A brief awkward silence filled the air before Ruby cleared her throat. "Is it time?"

Zane held his hand out to her and she took it. He drew her close, looking into her eyes. "Are you ready."

"I'm ready to go home, Zane."

"I can get you back to the mortal world, but with Oberon looking for you. It is best you hide in plain sight. I am send you to New York where you will have the finest human forces and Gargoyle clan to look after you."

"New York isn't home!" Ruby protested. "Lincoln, Nebraska is home. He'll find me in New York."

"No, Ruby, he will not," Gwyn's sinister demeanor immediately silenced her. "You will be under my protection as you learn to use your powers. The last place he will look for you will be within plain sight. My allies in New York will see to your and Zainuel's well-being. There, you will remain until Zainuel-Sin learns the ways of your world and can better protect you. That is my final world. Gwyn ap Nudd has spoken."

Yeah, spoken like an arrogant elf, she thought.

The mirror stood taller the Gwyn by half a foot in it's ornate silver frame. It's glass refracted the moon's light into beams of light illuminating the princess, the witch and the Gargoyle. Crystal stood next to Zane, entwining her arm in his. "I'm coming along for the ride. New York is my kind of town."

"You'll be able to see Puck," Ruby said with a smile.

"I know." Crystal made no attempt to hide the joy in her voice.

"Did you and your elf do the deed?" Ruby asked.

"No! We danced non-stop and that's all."

"Good to know," Ruby said, somewhat relieved. She looked at Gwyn. "Thank you, Sir. We're ready."

"Isle of towers, glass and stone,
is where for a time you will call home.
Still so far and now quite close, go you now to Xanatos
Ruby red, granite stone, and Child of Oberon
From Annwn Isle now begone!"

Ribbons of moonlight enveloped the trio, slowly drawing them into the mirror. Ruby held on tightly to her blue Gargoyle as they passed through the mirror. For a moment, they were surrounded by the whiteness of the matter between worlds and she saw black specks in the distance sparkling, reminding of her of black stars. Silence surrounded them in the void as they passed from the Otherworld into the mortal realm. The three tumbled through the mirror into a pile of limb on hard, cool stone and rolled a few times before coming to a halt. Shaking off the disorientation from her unusual trek, she immediately looked to her companions.

"Are you guys okay?" she asked.

"I'm fine, but the big blue Gorilla took a rather rough spill." Crystal motioned toward the Gargoyle a few feet away from them.

"Zane!" Ruby exclaimed as she scrambled to her feet and rushed to his side. "Are you all right?"

"I will be fine once I regain my senses," he mumble. Ruby helped him sit upright.

"Slowly, Blue. There's no rush," she saw a trickle of red streaming from his forehead and down his cheek. "We need to get you to a doctor."

"Dock-tore?" he said, still disoriented from his head impacting with castle stone.

"Healer," she said quickly. She looked around and saw the spiral of the Empire State Building.

"I've got this," Crystal said. Kneeling over Zane, she pressed a thumb to the cut and whispered a few words in her native language. A small gleam coursed along the laceration, bursting into a small beam of gold before fading into nothing. "There, all better now."

Ruby watched as the cut lightened and vanished before her eyes. His green eyes found hers and his hand cupped her face. She shook her head, smile as she brought her brow to his, reveling in the fact she was closer to home and he was at her side. Life seemed much brighter now that she was closer to home and she turned her eyes westward to see the sun sinking behind the Manhattan skyline. She also noticed the winged silhouettes lining the opposite wall of the castle.

A mechanical sound came from her left and Ruby turned in its direction to see a familiar figure standing in the elevator doorway. She watched pale blue eyes behind glasses widen as they looked first at Ruby, then Zane before staring at Crystal. Owen Burnett forgot his famed comportment in that instant, running toward the Princess and she to him. The met midway, their lips meeting in a series of lingering kisses. Ruby grinned. "Go get him, Crystal."

She heard a familiar rending of granite and the roars that followed. Ruby watched several stone gargoyles cast of their stone skin, roar and stretch as they welcomed the night. The gargoyles turned toward the interior of the castle roof, surprised by the interlopers staring back at them. Ruby scanned their faces, looking for the most familiar gargoyle.

"Lass," Hudson's voice greeted her. "I see you've made your way back to us."

"About time, too." she agreed. "Hudson, what day is it?"

"It's Tuesday."

"What month, day and year?" Ruby asked urgently.

"It's October 10th, 2000."

"Three years," she gasped. Ruby realized that her calculations had been off by about one year, which meant that she still had time to save her mother. She remembered the cold wintery day in December that year her mother had been laid to rest in frozen ground and now she had a chance to prevent it. If she warned her mother in time, she knew she could save her. "Do you have a telephone?"

"Nay, lass, I don't. However, I believe that Owen carries one on him," Hudson motioned to the blonde still sharing sweet kisses with his beloved.

Ruby sprinted across the caste roof and urgently tugged on his sleeve. "Guys, I hate to interrupt your reunion, but I have to use your phone."

"Ms. Brandon, contain yourself."

"Please, Owen!" she begged. "My mother will die today of a heart attack if she doesn't take her medication. What time is it?"

He flicked his wrist, looking at the expensive timepiece. "It's 6:25 PM Eastern Standard Time."

"It's not 6 PM yet in Nebraska. They're an hour behind you. Whoo-hoo! Please, let me use your phone." Ruby pressed. "Please. . ."

"All right, Ms. Brandon," he reached to his waist, pulling the rather large flip phone from his waist. "Please be careful, it's a prototype."

"In my day, this is an antique!" Ruby squealed happily, flipping it open. Carefully, she punched in her mother's phone number and she heard the familiar rings.

One. . . two. . . three. . .

"Hello?" A familiar voice spoke on the other end of the line. Tears welled up in Ruby's eyes at the sound of her mother's cheery greeting.

"Mom? Uh, hi. Just me," Ruby fell into the old pattern of how she talked with her mom. "How are you?"

"Where are you?" Her mom asked. It's almost time for dinner and we're supposed to get together that night.

"Finishing up some homework," she lied, remembering that fateful night when she didn't make it to their weekly dinner on time and found her mother unconscious on the floor. Within three hours, her mother's time of death would be announced to her by a doctor delivering the grave news. "Mom, I love you and I'll be late, but I'll be there."

"I know," Mom said. "Hey, I made your favorite fried chicken."

"You know how I love that," Ruby tried to hide the sob in her voice.

"Honey, are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Mom, don't forget to take your heart medication. Would you do me a favor and take it now while we're on the phone?"

"I don't have to take it until six o' clock."

"Please, just do it for me!" Ruby heard desperation in her voice, but she didn't care. "Do it now."

"Oh, all right. Hang on a minute while I set down the phone," Ruby heard her mother put the receiver down on the white laminate kitchen counter. She almost smelled the appetizing aroma of fried chicken wafting through the phone lines. Seconds passed by and turned into a minute, then two. She heard a clatter on the other end. "Mom? Mom? Are you there?"

"Yes, I'm here, honey," her mother gently reassured her. "Are you happy now? I took my medicine."

"Oh, thank God!" Ruby blinked rapidly to hold back the stream of joyous tears. "I'll be over there by seven."

"I'll keep a plate warm for you. Honey, are you all right? You sound like you're crying."

"Stubbed my toe on the sofa, Mom." Ruby said. "It hurts."

"Well, be careful, Ruby. I don't need you tripping and breaking your leg."

"I'd run all the way to your house on them for your fried chicken."

"Bring over your homework and we'll have more time," her mother said. "I miss you."

"I miss you, Mom." Ruby sniffed. "I'll see you soon. Love you."

"Love you, too. Bye." The line went dead.

Ruby called an operator immediately after her conversation. A professional voice came on the line, "What city and state, please?"

"Lincoln, Nebraska. I'd like Ruby Weaver's telephone number."

"That is 402. . ." the operator rattled off the number.

"Thanks!" Ruby hurriedly ended the called and dialed the number given. The line rang several times until her own voice greeted her on the line.

"Hello?"

"Ruby Brandon?"

"Yes?" the voice warily replied. "If you're a telemarketer, I'm not interested-"

"Your mother is waiting for you and you need to get over to the house now."

"Who is this?"

"Someone who loves your mother as much as you do. Trust me, Rubes. Get over there now."

"Who is this?"

"A fellow witch," she answered. "Go. Now."

"Who are you?"

"I'm your future self, nitwit! I'm trying to help you save your mother's life. You got an A in CPR during second summer session. Get over to your Mom's house, now! She may need your help. Go!"

"My future self-"

"Ruby, my God, you are stubborn. If you want proof here it is: you have a scar above your left knee that you got when you climbed into that abandoned house on Vine Street when you were ten. You did it on a dare and you made your best friend, Amber, pinky swear that she'd never tell a soul. You still have that scar and no one ever found out. Is that proof enough?"

"If you're a witch, you could've have seen that." the younger Ruby argued.

"Tonight, your homework is for American History 1800 to 1850 and you flunked it because of Mom's death. Take it over with you and she'll help you study for it. Please, Ruby. . .be with Mom."

"Okay, I'll go! If this is some sick sort of joke, I swear. . ."

"The worst that will happen is that you'll be there with Mom," elder Ruby interrupted. "Just go."

"Going." The line went dead.

Ruby slowly closed the flip phone, silently handing it back to Owen. With all eyes on her, she walked toward Crystal and Zane. Bewildered by what they witnessed, Zane started to speak, but stopped when Crystal mouthed the word, 'Later.'

"I need to go home," she looked into Zane's eyes. "Please take me home."

Crystal looked past Ruby at Zane. "She needs sleep."

"I agree," he nodded.

"No, I want to go home."

"Sleep," Crystal waved her hand once behind Ruby who slumped immediately in Zane's arms.

Deftly, he scooped her into his embrace and gave Crystal a hard stare. "You might have warned me first."

"She wasn't going to stop until she was on the first flight to Lincoln."

"She will be grumpy when she awakens,"

"She'll thank me in the morning," Crystal retorted. Six gargoyles and a majordomo all looked bewildered by the recent turn of events. "Guys, I'll explain everything on the way to the kitchen. We need to make introductions. The big blue ox over there is Zane, he's the local hero slash protector of the witch he's holding that I just made go to sleep."

"We can take the elevator, Love," Owen motioned to the lift behind him.

"True," she replied.

"We will meet you downstairs in the kitchen. I look forward to your explanation." Goliath answered. He turned to the strapping warrior behind, whom he guessed to be about his age. "Would you care to join us?"

"Thank you, but I would like to see Ruby to a bedchamber. She needs rest."

"Yes," Goliath agreed. "Is she always so excitable?"

"Not usually, I don't think I understand it all myself," Zane said.

"I am Goliath," he extended his hand in greeting.

"Ruby calls me Zane," he glanced down at his sleeping little witch.

"Zane, welcome to our home. Come join us for dinner and we'll talk."

EPILOGUE

Three days later. . .

Ruby stood on the roof, studying the Manhattan skyline. It didn't show the Miller and Paine Building or the Nebraska State Capitol building, but the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers were still a familiar sight. She made notes to herself to do what she could for the September of the following year, but wondered how that might be completed. She leaned on the edge of the castle wall, staring at the buildings and wondering what cost she had to pay for disrupting the time line. She had always been taught that it was impossible to change the past, but she never had known that time travel was truly possible. The kitchen magic she practiced didn't carry enough energy to allow her to do such things.

She had called the following morning, pretending to a solicitor to see if her Mom was all right. When she heard her mother's voice on the other end, she had hung up. She told no one of what she had done to change the past, but decided to keep that secret to herself. Her mother still had heart problems, but at least, Ruby had bought her mother and her younger self some extra time, hoping that younger Ruby was smart enough to take advantage of the opportunity. She knew what she had done might come with a price, but for today she knew peace know that she had saved a life.

Then, the second set of memories filled her mind. She still remembered that first week after her Mom's death, making the funeral arrangements and picking out the headstone. The new set of memories included she and her mother starting the tradition of making caramel apples the evening before Halloween. Now, after doing a bit of scrying thanks to David and Fox's silver set, Ruby had seen that her younger self and Mom had made plans to go see a movie. She prayed that He forgive her for changing the order. I didn't use magic, she silently pleaded with her Creator, I just borrowed somebody's phone.

Now, in Manhattan, she was at least in the right world, but not the right time. Ruby decided to stay a while longer, taking in Manhattan and everything that she had ever heard about New York. She had spent her time with Zane in the sunshine walking with him in Central Park. They had visited the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and Coney Island. Now, they had their sights set on the Empire State Building. Combing through ever magical text, she spent every spare hour researching a way to reverse Oberon's curse. They had less than a month and she knew that if he returned to the bottle, she would never see him again. She kept a mental itinerary in her mind: save Zane. Get back his wings and tail. Hide from Oberon. Protect Jace. Get home. Resume life.

But, reality gets in the way when Ruby planned other things. She had a long way to go before she could go home and that stayed with her. She needed to master her new abilities, to find a job to support herself and get back to 2013. There was so many things that needed done, but there was never enough time.

Behind her she heard the familiar swoosh of elevator doors which pulled her from her inner musings. She saw Owen Burnett and Zane walking toward her, Owen carried some papers while Zane followed quietly behind him. She was enjoying this temporary respite, the peace she felt in that moment, and wanted to share it with Zane. "So, what brings you guys topside tonight?"

Zane and Owen looked at one another for a moment, a silent communication exchanged between them. Owen stepped forward, motioning toward the elevator. "Why don't you come inside? There are some things that we need to discuss, Ms. Brandon."

"What do we need to discuss?" she asked.

"It's about your family," Owen began, pausing for a moment.

"Why do I have to go inside to discuss?" Ruby asked, feeling a twinge of dread pluck at her heart. "Everything is fine, right?"

"Ruby," Zane's deep voice cut through the growing heaviness that felt heavy within her chest. "Please, come inside where we can speak. There are things that you must know."

"What things must I know, Zane?" Ruby pressed, turning her attention to Owen. "What is going on?"

"I'm sorry, Ms. Brandon, but we have received news about your mother, Jade Brandon."

"Mom is just fine," she challenged him. "I just spoke with her this morning. She's taking her medicine and was on her way for her regular check-up. She is just fine!"

Ruby felt the heavy weight squeeze the air from her lungs as her heart pounded against them. Her breaths came in rapid gasps as Owen remained silent, letting her speak.

"Ms. Brandon, I am sorry for your loss," he said quietly, straightening his glasses.

"I haven't lost anybody," she started.

"I'm sorry to tell you that Jade Belle Brandon passed away this morning Friday, October 13, 2000 at 4:00 PM Central Standard Time of congestive heart failure at Memorial Hospital in Lincoln, NE."

"Mom's...dead?" Ruby asked in a small voice.

"Again, Ms. Brandon, my condolences," Owen placed a hand on her shoulder. He removed his glasses, putting them in his blazer pocket. "Ruby, is there anything that I or Crystal can do?"

"Yes," she sobbed. "Please bring her back."

"I am sorry," she heard Owen's voice heavy with sadness. "You know that I can't do that."

"But, you're a Child of Oberon," she pleaded, eyes red with the rush of tears burning them in her sockets. "You can do anything! You have all the magic in the world."

"I'm sorry, Ruby." Owen looked at her, his eyes shining unusually bright. "No one has the ability to bring back the dead. Those that can don't bring back the ones we knew and loved. Instead, they come back as twisted wraiths of their former selves, rotting corpses without souls."

Ruby let out a sob that turned into a scream of rage and utter despair. It carried into the city, echoing off the stone turrets of the castle and the sound drove her to her knees. Zane rushed to her side, catching her before she fell to the ground. He whispered soothing words to her, softy and intimately, in her ear and held her close as her tears burned trails of despair into his chest. Zane knew that her heart was breaking and he could only hold her as it happened. Scooping her into his arms, he gently carried her into the castle as she became sadness incarnate.

In the Palace on Annwn...

Nuelle watched in the scrying pool as the little witch learned the first hard lesson of any magic: Magic may not be used for personal gain or to bring back the dead. Even thought the young human hadn't used supernatural means, she had still warned her mother and thus, altered the course of natural events. While this had bought more time for one fleeting mortal life, there had been consequences that Nuelle's father, Gwyn ap Nudd, had dealt with to keep Ruby safe from Oberon's detection. It also meant permanent alterations in the time line that affected the lives of millions whether for better or worse.

With her new alliance with Gwyn ap Nudd, her knowledge of future events and her growing abilities, Ruby Brandon was no longer a mere witch, but a growing force within the preternatural world. As long as she remained ignorant of her true potential, she remained alive. If she fell into the wrong hands or joined the wrong side, her magic would be a formidable weapon that no member of the Fae could withstand.

Author's Note: The Inspiration for this chapter is Jim Croce's, "Time In A Bottle." This is Ruby's song.