Aftermath, Part 1
Written by: Kathy Pogge and Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr.
Outline by: Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr., with contributions by: Brian Dumlao,
Constance Cochran, Kathy Pogge, JEB, and Carolynn "Aerie" Marie
Illustrations by: Noel Leas
Previously on Gargoyles...
"Hello, father," said Emrys sharply, as the Unseelie Lord approached him. "I see that you feel like talking to me."
"That I do," said Madoc grimly. "Did you think that I would not remember how much grief you gave me?"
"Not nearly a match for the grief you've given me, father," Emrys spat back at him. "Nor the hundredth measure of the grief you've brought to the world."
* * *
The interior walls were blasted, scorched in some places, and nothing that was once standing in the halls escaped even a small portion of damage. Doors were shot out from their frames, and holes - marking where some of the castle's interior defenses had once been - glared out like black spots from the ceilings and floors.
Fox continued on her way, occasionally encountering several more fallen Unseelie as she turned into the hallway that lead to the nursery. She looked at the path of destruction that clawed up the walls and shook her head. "Alexander..." Stepping over two Unseelie, she dashed down the hall with her club at the ready, not knowing what to expect.
It wasn't until she spied the remains of the shielded doors that her worst fears began to really bubble up to the surface. Taking her club in a tighter grip, she slipped through the jagged hole...
"Alex!" Fox surveyed the shambles that was once her son's nursery: clear signs of a struggle, shattered furniture and decorations. But, the surprising thing was the sight of Alexander's little bed - whole and untouched - standing behind the savaged forms of Coldstone and Coldfire, who were hovering protectively over the child.
Fox dropped her weapon and dashed over to the bed, gathering her son up into her embrace before sinking to her knees, unable to stop the tears that sprang to her eyes.
"Alex," she whispered, just this close to sobbing outright. "Thank goodness, you're all right!"
The child, still holding onto his fuzzy toy, turned to look at the two battered cyborgs. "Dey help, momma," he said. "Stop bad 'uns."
His mother looked at the two protectors, their dim-glowing eyes being the only indication that they were still alive. From what she could see up close, whoever the Unseelie were that had come for Alexander, both Coldstone and Coldfire had taken as good as they had given.
"Thank you . . . thank you . . ." she whispered, a pair of tears slipping down her cheeks. There was a slight movement from Coldstone, as if he had heard her voice, but then the light in his eyes grew dimmer. Fox quickly reached for her phone, and punched the key to contact the security forces that she knew were still in the lower floors of the building. "Security! Send someone to the nursery . . . I have to get two wounded to the Cybernetics Lab! Hurry!"
* * *
The woman's eyelids fluttered, blinked, then opened fully. Her gaze fixed on Demona; her eyes widened and she pushed herself upright in the hospital bed, drawing in breath.
Demona hurriedly raised one talon before her lips in a silencing gesture. "Not a sound," she hissed. "And don't try to get out of the bed; you're still weak."
"What do you want, Demona?" Elisa Maza's voice was lowered, but edged with iron. Out of sheer willpower, Demona could tell; exhaustion and pain had traced deep lines in the woman's face, and the elfshot had wreaked havoc in her system that could not be so quickly cured, even by the Bloodstone's power.
"Not your death, human," she answered scornfully. "If I'd wanted harm to you, I'd have stayed away and let the Unseelie Lord do the work for me. His elfshot was burning away the blood in your veins when I came. I saved your life."
Elisa tried several responses before voicing one. "All right," she finally said. "Why? I thought you hated me."
"I do," Demona shot back. "Never think that's changed, human."
The gargoyle looked away. "For Angela." She stepped onto the windowsill again and paused, the next words coming from her as if dragged up her throat by a string. "Take care of my clan, detective. Take care of them. They need you."
~ The Darkest Hour, Part Two ~
* * * * *
Aftermath, Part 1
* * * * *
David and Fox stood in the courtyard, waiting impatiently for the sun to set. They'd spent a long, grim day working on the clean up of the castle and now they were getting ready to engage in a well-deserved reward.
"How do you supposed we should break the news, David?" Fox asked, as she pushed her long red hair away from her face. There was a fresh spring breeze blowing down below. On the castle rooftop, it had strengthened, sending leaves and bits of debris, leftover from the long winter, dancing.
"It's good news," the billionaire replied mischievously as he balled his fists into the pockets of his jacket and rolled forward onto the tips of his work boots. "I think I'll tease him a bit first, then let him have it."
Fox looked at her husband shocked. "David, Elisa was dying!" She gestured toward the pain-filled faces frozen in stone. "A part of them is dying too! How would you feel if the situation was reversed?"
David gazed at Goliath, contemplating the question. The gargoyle leader looked haunted; defeated though he had led his clan through the most harrowing night of his long life. Xanatos put his arm around his wife as his own recent loss of Owen slammed home with a dull ache. "You're right, of course." Suddenly sobered, he abandoned his plans to tease the gargoyle leader.
The statuary above them began to crumble as the sun finally faded from view. The living gargoyles roared, voices filled with fury and misery, and slowly they began to congregate around their benefactors. No one dared speak until Goliath, the last to leave his perch, asked the dread question. "Xanatos," he began slowly. "Elisa- is she...?" He stopped, unable to complete the sentence.
David moved to the clan leader's side and placed a hand gently on his shoulder. "Goliath, I want you to take this calmly. There's still staff in the building who haven't been cleared about your existence." Incredibly, the muscles under David's hand, tense already from the gargoyle's expectation of bad news, grew tenser still. "Elisa is alive." There was a collective gasp from the clan. "She's going to be fine, Goliath."
"WHAT?!" Goliath stumbled as his knees grew weak. His clan mates began to pepper Fox and David with questions.
"How?" Broadway's question melded into Angela's.
"Is this possible?" Angela's voice was filled with wonder.
"I thought they said there was no hope?" Broadway added suspiciously.
"The lass will live." Hudson's remark was half question, half statement of reassurance to Goliath.
"When can I see her?" Goliath said softly. "I want to see her now, Xanatos. Take me to her," he demanded, then turned his back on the clan and made for the castle proper.
"Wait, Goliath. Owen-" David's face crumpled and Fox placed a supporting hand on his shoulder. The billionaire stepped away from his wife, unable to accept the gesture of support. "I mean Med-wing should call any minute." The big lavender gargoyle paused as common sense kicked in. "You can all see her," David continued, "in just a little while."
Hudson and Brooklyn exchanged a glance and nodded. They hurried to Goliath and bracketed him like a pair of bookends. "Come on, lad," Hudson said gently. "Let's go inside so we can wait for the news out of the wind."
"Yeah, Goliath, pull yourself together. You're scaring the kids," Brooklyn said sharply.
Goliath looked over his shoulder. Sata was speaking softly to a tear-stained Graeme and Ariana.
"They don't understand what's going on. Why you're acting so upset if Elisa's okay," his Second in Command continued, more gently.
"I should explain-" Goliath began, before Hudson propelled him forward again.
"Sata's already takin' care of it, Goliath," Hudson replied. "Now it's time to let us take care of you for a change. Come inside, lad. We'll have a cup of tea and wait for the doctor's telephone call."
The others waited until Goliath had been escorted safely inside before filing slowly in afterward to join him in the interminable wait.
* * * * *
"Did anybody get the name of that bus?" Matt muttered weakly as he swam his way through the layers of mud that sullied his consciousness. Blearily, he opened his eyes, first the right and then the left, and found he was lying in a very comfortable, but very strange bed. "Not that there's anything wrong with the bed," he continued to himself. "It's just not mine." He sat up, one part of his mind noting that the sheets were combed cotton and the blankets wool, and realized that his clothing was scattered in a pile on an embroidered blue velvet-backed chair, which stood next to a stone wall. "Stone wall!" The pieces began to tumble rapidly back in place. "If that's a stone wall then this is a bedroom in Wyvern Castle, which means I spent what was left of last night crashing at the home of..."
"David Xanatos?" a female voice concluded for him.
Matt pulled the bedclothes up around his bare chest and whirled around to face the voice. "Sara? What are you-? What are we-? Never mind, I remember now. How's Elisa?"
"That's what I came to tell you." The lanky redheaded detective tensed, bracing himself for the news of his partner's passing. He stared with disbelief as Sara smiled and said, "She regained consciousness a few minutes ago. The doctor said she's going to live."
Matt started to bolt out of bed then remembered the location of his pants. "Sara, uh, could you?" He gestured toward the chair.
"No problem." She tossed his pants and the rest of his clothes onto the bed. "I'll be out in the hallway."
"Right," Matt replied, as Sara withdrew. He hazarded another look towards the doorway. "Well, that was awkward." He reluctantly got out of the warm bed and began to pull on his clothes. They were stained and dirty, but serviceable. Lacking a comb, he pulled his fingers through his short auburn hair and gave his jacket one last tug, before going out into the hallway to meet Sara.
The silence between them yawned as they moved swiftly through the castle corridors and down into the Eyrie Building proper.
"Sara, I-" Matt began, then halted, abruptly tongue-tied.
They got into an elevator and Sara opened her mouth, only to close it firmly as they were joined by an orderly who had changed elevators to travel to the medical wing.
Matt and Sara finished their journey as it had began, in silence. The pair arrived at Elisa's room only to be stopped in the doorway by a nurse. A white-coated doctor was in the middle of giving an exam.
"Pulse 70 and BP 100/60," the doctor dictated in a low monotone to the nurse standing behind and to the right of the hospital bed. "Temperature is 98.6." He flashed a pen light in his patient's eyes. "Pupillary response is normal. Good reflexive reaction to sudden stimulus. This is going to be a bit chilly," he warned as he placed his stethoscope underneath the front of the hospital gown.
"Breathe deep." He listened for a moment. "Again." He listened some more. "Chest is clear. No fluid sounds." He began to manipulate her arms. "Does this hurt?"
"No," Elisa replied.
"What about this." He tapped her back gently, testing her kidneys.
"Nope. Can I get dressed and go home now?" Despite the monitors and I.V.s that were still hooked to her body, Elisa attempted to rise from the hospital bed and the doctor's probing and prodding.
"Not quite yet." The doctor's voice held a perplexed note as he compared chart notations and instrument readouts. And Elisa looked up at him curiously.
The doctor (the tag on his lab coat said 'Howard') the cop in her noted automatically, was giving her a "bug under the microscope" look. She took a deep breath, waiting for an explanation or a barrage of questions, and wasn't disappointed.
Doctor Howard pocketed his stethoscope then took the chart away from the nurse. "I've been practicing emergency medicine for twenty-five years now and I've seen a lot of strange things, too. You wouldn't believe what people do to themselves, or each other," a jaded tone crept into his voice as memories of countless traumas flash through his mind. "But to be frank, Ms. Maza, this is the strangest - if not the most miraculous - case I've ever seen. Last night, when they brought you in, we did all we could. But all we could do was try and make you comfortable... and wait."
"That bad?" Elisa questioned, doubt coloring her voice. "I don't remember much. And what I do remember doesn't make much sense."
"That bad," the doctor confirmed. "Worse than that gunshot you received, although that looked like a beauty. Line of duty? They told me you were a police officer."
Elisa frowned as she remembered Broadway playing with her loaded, unlocked gun. "Sort of," she replied enigmatically.
Dr. Howard gave the wounded woman a curious look, but bit back his questions. He settled for a mild lecture instead. "You seem to have a guardian angel, Ms. Maza," the doctor said with feeling, "and you should thank him. This trauma unit is good - the best, actually. David Xanatos keeps top of the line equipment in-house and the best staff on retainer. But last night, your life was out of our hands," he admitted. "There was nothing we could do."
"You did all you could," Elisa reassured automatically. "And I'm grateful. I'm also really tired," she said, falling back onto the pillows. "When is that going to go away?"
"You have to give yourself a little time, Ms Maza. You can probably go back to saving the city from itself in a couple of weeks." He grinned at her, then wrote a few notes on her chart. "I'm going to have the nurse draw some blood and run a few lab tests. You were really anemic last night and most of the rest of your Chem Panel was pretty far out of whack too. I'm ordering you a light dinner, broth and gelatin-" his eyes crinkled with smile lines as Elisa grimaced at her dinner menu. "I'm sure they'll be excellent," he consoled. "Mr. Xanatos is providing them, after all." The doubtful expression remained. "I'll be back to check on you in the morning. In the meantime, your job is to rest, and recuperate. You've had quite an adventure."
"Don't I know it!" Elisa murmured. "Goodnight, Doctor Howard." Elisa's voice faded as she fell into an exhausted sleep.
* * * * *
Matt watched his partner slump back on her pillows. "Poor kid," he muttered sympathetically.
"Lucky kid," Dr. Howard corrected as he emerged from the room. "Mr.-?"
"Bluestone, Matt Bluestone. Elisa's my partner, and my friend." There was a funny choked up tone in Matt's voice that caused all of Sara's hopes and dreams to crash in shards around her.
"And you are?" The doctor inquired of Sara.
"Late. I'm late. Matt, don't forget we have a meeting with the A.D.A later." Sara whirled away and hurried down the corridor, leaving the two men to stare after her.
Matt shrugged, totally at sea. "She gets a little funny around hospitals. I'm not sure why," he explained. "Excuse me." The lanky redhead turned away from the doctor and waved futilely at the fleeing detective. "Sara?" he called, earning a dirty look from the night nurse. His voice echoed back in the empty hall. Sara was gone. He turned back toward the doctor. "I know she needs her rest but..."
"You can have two minutes, Mr. Bluestone, no more."
"Thanks," Matt said as he entered the room.
Elisa was dozing. He watched her for one of his two minutes then began to withdraw.
"Hey," a sleepy voice called him back from the threshold.
"Hey yourself," Matt was at her side a moment later. "You scared us," he scolded gently. "That's a terrible thing to do to your partner and your friends."
"I heard. Didna mean to." Elisa's words were losing cohesion. She was starting to drift.
"Shhh," he took her hand gently and gave it a tiny squeeze. "I'm sure I'll find a way to make you pay for it later," he teased. "Right now, I want you to rest, okay?"
"Always bossin' me arouuu..." Elisa faded out entirely. Matt reluctantly released her hand, and smoothed a few stray hairs away from her forehead.
"Get better, Elisa. I need you."
Matt withdrew quietly from the room leaving his partner alone in the darkened room, allowing the beeping and buzzing machinery to chart her slow steps back from the abyss.
* * * * *
When Elisa woke, a little while later, the nurse had come and gone, taking the blood sample and leaving a small covered tray within easy reach. She leaned toward the tray and froze when she realized that she wasn't alone. There was another presence in the room and instinct told her that it wasn't Matt. "Goliath?" she croaked. Her throat was parched.
He was kneeling at her bedside, his great head bowed with worry. At the sound of her voice, the brawny gargoyle was on his feet filling a small plastic tumbler with water. "Here." He held the cup to her lips. "Drink, but slowly."
Elisa took a sip from the cup. The water was incredibly sweet and she followed it with several larger mouthfuls.
Goliath pulled the cup away. "You can have some more in a few minutes."
Elisa started to protest, but from somewhere in her muzzy brain first aid training floated to the surface. "Too much water and I'll make myself sick. Right."
"How do you feel?" Goliath asked gently.
"Tired, but... Goliath, what happened to me?" Elisa struggled away from her pillows.
"Hush, do not excite yourself." Goliath placed his hands on her shoulders and pressed her backwards with a feather-light touch. Elisa yielded without a struggle. "I'll tell you about it later. Right now, just know that your clan is safe. Your city is safe. The Unseelie menace is no more."
A wave of relief washed over Elisa.
"Goliath?" she said in a very small voice. The faint odor of chicken broth was beginning to overwhelm her. "I'm hungry." She pointed to the tray on the table.
"Let me help you." He removed the cover from the tray. Inside was a small plastic bowl of broth and a second bowl of brightly colored gelatin cubes.
"No whipped cream," Elisa murmured in disappointment as she studied the gelatin.
"True," the lavender gargoyle agreed. "But at least this time they didn't give you any of the green kind," he said, remembering her intense dislike of lime gelatin from her last hospital stay.
"Another miracle," Elisa quipped, as she allowed Goliath to help her eat her soup.
* * * * *
"So when do we get our turn?" Broadway asked impatiently. Half the clan was gathered in a small waiting area down the hall from Elisa's room. Hudson, Lex and the children were similarly engaged in the clan's apartment upstairs.
"Broadway," Angela admonished her intended. "Be patient. I'm sure we'll be called in soon. But Father needs this time alone with Elisa."
"You're right, my love," The big turquoise gargoyle rose and began to pace. "It's just last night I didn't think we'd ever see her again and now... now I want to see for myself. I want to make sure that someone's not pulling a sick joke on us."
Brooklyn exchanged a look with Sata and shrugged. "Trust me on this, Broadway. Elisa is fine."
The couples lapsed into a nervous silence. Angela tried thumbing through an ancient magazine on housekeeping, but discarded it after a few minutes. Despite her assurances to Broadway, she shared his anxiety.
The tense silence was broken some moments later as Goliath entered. The worry lines had been erased from his face and he looked at peace.
"You may visit for a moment," he said. "Elisa is much improved, but she must rest."
Brooklyn looked up at the bold-faced clock on the wall. "The night nurse should be making her rounds pretty soon too. We'd better get a move on."
The quartet hurried down the hallway to see for themselves that Elisa was indeed all right.
* * * * *
"I don't understand," Lexington said impatiently to Fox. "Why can't we all wait to see Elisa in Med-wing. The doctors all know about us," he said, pointing in the general vicinity of Hudson and himself, "don't they?"
"Not all the doctors, Lex," Fox replied. "The ones that took care of you were specialists, sworn to secrecy. Most of them are working with Dr. Goldblum on the mutate problem now." She paused and glanced at Talon and Maggie to gauge their reaction. Seeing none, she continued. "Elisa needed a different type of specialist. None of our trauma team knows about the existence of the clan." She smiled craftily. "So we have to be a little on the discreet side." Fox relaxed as the web-winged gargoyle settled back into his chair. "Besides," the tattooed woman added, "Elisa nearly died. Yes, she's a lot better," she admitted, holding up a hand to forestall any protests, "but she's still seriously ill. She can't have too many visitors at once. Give her time, though. This is Detective Maza. She'll be back on her feet in nothing flat."
"Thanks, Fox," he said with an enthusiasm he didn't feel. "That helps."
The sound of Emrys, as he spoke long distance to London, drifted into the common room. "Sorry to call at such an odd hour... Where am I? America, New York with Goliath and his clan. How did I get here?... Well that's something of a long story. Maybe I'll tell you when I get back. Is everyone all right?" He listened for a long time. "And you say the police were able to round up the last of the Minions? Good show." Another long pause. "I'll be back soon. Tell Arthur not to worry. Cheers!" He racked the phone and sauntered in to join Fox and Lexington.
There was a small triumphant grin on his face. "When Madoc fell, his forces fell with him. There's a bit of mopping up to do here and there, but we've done it! The war is truly over!"
Fox rose from her chair, gave Lexington and Emrys a brief hug, then bolted for the door. "I've got to tell David!"
* * * * *
"It's good to have you back, Elisa!" Broadway said, standing by Angela, his face shot through with relief.
"We were all so sure that you were ... were ..." Angela cut herself off, unable to complete the horrible thought.
The raven-haired woman reached over with her free hand and took the younger female's in a firm grip. "Hey, let's not talk about that now. I'm okay, and I'll only get better. You'll see." She shifted uncomfortably wincing as she accidentally tugged at the I.V. still hooked to her arm. "Now what's been going on? Did we really win?"
Brooklyn nodded. "Yeah, we won, but it's a pretty complicated story how." He glanced up at the clock and realized their time was nearly up. "I'm betting the doctor said that you needed a lot of rest and you had to stay in bed right?" the crimson gargoyle said as started urging the others towards the door.
"Yeah," Elisa replied, guardedly. "So?"
"So we'll help make it easier on you," Brooklyn promised. "Every time one of us visits, we'll tell you a piece of the story. Starting... later. Right now you look like you could use some shut eye."
Elisa yawned loudly, despite her best attempt to stifle it. "You know that doesn't sound like a bad idea. I'll see you all later, okay?" The four turned to go. "Angela," Elisa called after them. "Wait up a second."
"Yes, Elisa?" Angela returned quickly to the detective's side.
"Will you do me a favor?"
"Anything," the girl replied gently.
"Good." Elisa broke off as she stifled another yawn. "Will you check and make sure that your mother is okay?"
Angela opened her mouth to reply an automatic affirmative, then closed it as Elisa's words sunk in. The request, coming on top of Elisa's miracle recovery, sent her thoughts spinning. "Do you mean?"
Elisa's eyes sparkled despite her fatigue and a tiny smile tugged at her lips.
Angela impulsively hugged her friend and raced out of the Med-wing, just ahead of the night-duty nurse.
* * * * *
~ Innerspace ~
Nothing but the sight of hue-less, formless space.
In the center of it all, a globe of consciousness rested, coming aware of its surroundings by degrees.
"What... what is this... place? Where am I? What... what has happened?"
A display of floating letters appeared from the void.
[matrix activity: 98.35%... internal cache to full capacity...main memory block: online. core status: functional.]
Shifting hues, as the sphere regained its sense of self. "I...I am... cold... stone... Coldstone! Where... is this place? What has happened to me?"
[working: systems check . . . primary systems are off-line, due to extensive damage to main chassis and subsystems . . . operational resources: 62%.]
"I... I remember... I was hurt... but, how? Show me the extent of damage."
[working: damage control - main readout.]A floating wire-frame appeared next to the display. It showed a long list of missing or inactive systems and several views of external damaged hardware. [possible restoration to complete operational capacity: 32%.]
"This does not look good... I must get back to the others! Is there a way to restore external systems? My senses?"
[ compliance. working: damage control - repair subroutine . . . research available resources.]A moment of silence followed, then, [confirmed: restoration of external sensors, audio-visual, and auditory systems are within system parameters . . . maximum restoration level: 99.52%.]
"Then do so," the portion that made up Coldstone's sentience began to shift closer to the display. "Now!"
[ compliance. ]
There was a sudden shift in the bleakness around the active portion of Coldstone's mind, and then the landscape began to change into a riot of shapes, colors and textures, as the computer part of his mind began to effect repairs. At the same time, a gaggle of voices - all different aspects of the many systems that were working to restore him - resounded throughout the ether of innerspace.
[ working . . . shifting main relay shunt #22R-4 for back-up systems block . . .]
[ subsystems: unlock - 1, 5, 7, and 9 . . . release charge.]
[ operation status: progressing . . . 15.92%.]
[ ERROR: secondary conduit is unable to comply within 88% of level-4 tolerance!]
[ shifting auxiliary memory block to higher memory setting . . .]
[ operation status: progressing . . . 32.47%.]
[ accessing hard-line-subroutine X-994 . . .]
[ ALERT: conduction node at 23 . . . 356-99 . . . unconnected: limited 4-N8-r missing . . .]
[ reroute: auxiliary node 356-99.]
[ operation status: progressing . . . 63%.]
[ mainline power feed: 210% at level-4 tolerance . . .]
[ status: secondary conduit is now within 92-tolorance . . . proceeding.]
[ operation status: progressing . . . 88.82%.]
Suddenly, one of the standing memory blocks in Coldstone's computer-half began replaying a series of events:
-- . . . the Unseelie were hammering on the force shield, visible from outside the library balcony . . .
--"My love! There are Unseelie trying to reach Alexander! We must stop them!"
--. . . there was a man in non-descript clothing, facing the two cyborgs then, the battle began in earnest.
--"We shall not . . . give UP! You-will-not-WIN!"
--. . . the blow that tore off his arm, and savaged his leg from beneath him . . .
--"You are powerful, you mechanical FREAK . . . but, I will not FAIL!"
-- . . . the sight of his beloved, hammered into submission by the Unseelie warrior . . . darkness . . .
--"I call my guardians . . . COME TO MY AID!!!"
--"Protect-!" . . . he plunged the iron shard into Garlon's back, and then, there was a burst of light that nearly ended it all . . .
--. . . he could see the wife of Xanatos, who was holding Alexander . . .
"Thank you . . . thank you . . ."
--darkness once more . . .
[ operation status: complete . . . main sensor systems are operational.]
[ audio: online . . . auditory: online . . . tactile sensors: online . . . olfactory: online . . . visual: online.]
The world within dissolved into a white haze.
* * * * *
Angela was giddy as she glided through the calm, night sky. A warm breeze, the first in months, carried her high over the city, and she reveled in feeling of freedom that came with the knowledge the world was finally free from the Unseelie.
* * * * *
The first thing Coldstone sensed was the irritating scent of disinfectant.
Slowly, he opened his eyes, the good one, blinking in the harsh glare of the lights overhead. He realized that he was on his back, on some kind of table, in some sort of laboratory.
"RrrrmmmmwwWhere . . . Where am I?" he asked, his voice rasping a little as his vocal unit regained functionality.
He heard rapid footsteps. A human face leaned into his field of vision. A male technician with a mop of sandy brown hair and a starburst of freckles pushed his wire frame glasses up onto his nose as he moved in for a closer look. Coldstone did not recognize the human but automatically scanned the designation from his identity card. C. Walker/2nd Duty Technician.
"What has . . . happened? Did we win the battle?"
"Don't worry," Walker replied, "everything is okay." Turning away, he called to someone across the room, "Get a message to Mr. Xanatos, and tell him the cyborg has regained consciousness!" He began to fiddle with the control box mounted to the side of the table. The surface shifted beneath him slightly and then tilted. Coldstone's perspective of the room changed from horizontal to vertical.
"I asked," he repeated more loudly this time. "Did we win the battle?
"Mr. Xanatos will tell you all about it. I just came on shift a little while ago," Walker replied. "I don't know anything about a battle, just a really big snowstorm. But if you were out in the blizzard it might have seemed like a battle. You're awfully beat up."
"Beat up?" Coldstone repeated, not understanding the slang.
"Damaged. You've lost a good chunk of your left leg, all of your left arm- the right one's not in much better shape. You could be home plate for the Yankees."
"Card!" the second technician called from across the room, "Nice bedside manner!"
"Sorry," he apologized to all and none. "I just call 'em the way I see 'em." He wrote a few more notes on the clipboard, then dropped his voice before adding, "I'm sorry, but it's not like you don't know, right?"
Coldstone didn't answer. Another form was strapped to another table a few feet away. "Beloved!" he called out, taken aback by the extent of damage. Both legs were gone at the knees, along with a sizable chunk of her right torso, the entire right arm, and her wing. "Are you...?"
"I am alive, my love," Coldfire replied, relieved to see that her mate was functional too.
Coldstone struggled briefly against his restraints, then sagged against the table. He gave her a lop-sided smile of reassurance. "I am glad."
"We did the best we could, my love. We protected the child."
"But, what of the boy after we succumbed? I must know if we won or lost the entire battle!"
Coldfire gave her mate a sympathetic look. "I am sure that if we had lost, we would not be having this meeting, my love. Perhaps what the human," she nodded towards the technician, now busy with some project on another table nearby, "said should be enough. Xanatos can tell us what happened to the rest of the clan, as well as his child."
Coldstone nodded at length. "I just... do not want to hear that we were the only ones to survive."
"We will know, soon enough," Coldfire responded stoically.
* * * * *
Elisa smiled, impressed, as the twins finished recounting their part of the battle against the Unseelie host. "You guys did great," she said injecting as much enthusiasm into her voice as she could muster.
The door opened and Xanatos stepped into the room. "Detective," he greeted automatically, his manners impeccable as ever, "Goliath, I just received word from the Cybernetics Lab. Coldstone and Coldfire have regained consciousness."
"I should go to see them," Goliath replied. He stopped briefly, leaning over to place a gentle kiss on Elisa's forehead. "I will return soon, my Elisa. I promise. Rest now," he admonished gently.
"I know, big guy. Go on. I'm sure Coldstone wants to know you're all right," she replied with a smile.
"We will leave you too, Elisa-chan," Graeme told her gravely.
"But we'll come see you tomorrow and tell you more of our adventure!" Ariana added.
"I'm looking forward to it." Elisa smiled as the children departed, then closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep.
* * * * *
Lexington met them at the doors to the cybernetics lab, followed a moment later by Fox and Alex.
"Shall we?" David invited as he held open the door. The technicians had left for their dinner break. The only occupants of the room stood lashed to a pair of steel examining tables.
"Brother! Sister!" Goliath exclaimed, as he rushed to their side.
"Goliath!" Coldstone struggled against his restraints attempting to rise from the table. "It is... good to see you, my brother!"
"We feared the worst," Coldfire added, "when we found ourselves in this place."
Lex asked hesitantly, "Are you... okay? I mean... even like this?" He made a motion towards their battered forms.
Coldstone smiled at his concern. "We've... been better."
"But tell us, please. What news have you of the battle, what of the war?" Coldfire pleaded.
Goliath replied, "Madoc and his host were defeated. The war is over."
Fox and David stepped forward. The toddler, now in his father's arms, gurgled happily. "We'd like to thank you," David began, hesitantly.
"For risking yourselves to protect our child," Fox added.
"It was a selfless act of great bravery," David concluded.
Coldfire dipped her head in acknowledgement. "We did what needed to be done, as did all of you."
"How fare the others," Coldstone asked, changing the subject. "Are they well?"
"There was only one casualty," David said softly.
A tear rolled down Fox's cheek and Alex reached forward to wipe it away with a chubby finger. "Why mama sad?"
David and Fox exchanged a silent thought. We're going to have to tell him eventually.
"Alex, honey," Fox said as gently as she could. "Owen had to go away."
"Go 'way? Where?" Alex demanded. " Unca Owen no go 'way!"
Where did the fay go when they died? Fox wondered. "He went to stay with Grampa Renard. In a special place."
"Unca Owen not leave Alex!" the toddler insisted.
"We'll talk about it later, son," David said grimly, feeling a stab of pain force itself through his own wall of denial. Owen promised. He'd never go away.
"We share your sadness," Coldstone said in the awkward silence that followed. "He seemed a loyal companion and a good friend to your family."
"He was that," the industrialist agreed. "He was definitely that."
"There's going to be a funeral," Fox said. "A Remembrance Ceremony," she added, using the term the gargoyles would understand, "tomorrow night. You are all invited to attend."
Goliath spoke for them all. "We would be honored."
Coldstone cleared his throat, embarrassed. "We may have some difficulty. Will they be able to repair my mate and myself in time for us to participate in the ceremony?"
David examined the status reports hanging from each constructs "bedside". He frowned as he translated the information into practical reality. "Give us a little time, Coldstone. We can make it possible for you to attend the ceremony, but getting you fully functional again is going to be a little more complicated."
"What do you mean?" Coldfire asked in concern.
"You've both suffered a lot of damage. Some of it we can repair easily. Some of it..." he trailed off as he attempted find away to soften the bad news. "Some parts of Coldstone aren't so easily replaced."
Coldstone looked as if the world was slowly slipping out from under him. Goliath and Lexington gave him a look of silent sympathy.
"But what about cloning or more cybernetics?" Lexington demanded. "Surely there's something you can do!"
"It's not that easy, Lexington!" David protested. "Coldstone is a rare creation; a one in a million mixture of ancient magic and modern science! I don't have the same resources I did when we made him." Xanatos gave the clan a look of pure sympathy. "I owe both of them, and I make good on my debts, you know that now. I'm not giving up on this, I'm just saying that it may take some time." He fixed the ruined cyborg with an intent gaze. "I wish I could tell you this was going to be easy. But I can't do that. I won't sugar coat the truth. The biggest problem is, we don't have a lot of time. If repairs aren't effected immediately, Coldstone will cease to function."
Coldstone let his head drop, defeated.
Coldfire was pained to see her mate in such a state of utter despair. "My love... do not give up hope!"
Xanatos nodded. "The news isn't all bad," he added gently. "We can repair Coldfire. There's no reason why she can't be at full operational capacity in a matter of days."
Coldfire turned her head to look at Xanatos, silent for a moment. "I must decline."
Coldstone gasped in confusion as the golden hued construct that was his love continued to speak.
"I thank you, but I must stay with my mate. If he cannot be saved then I do not wish to continue this existence. We live or we die together."
"Sister, no!" Goliath argued.
"My mate has the right of it," Coldstone interrupted gently. He looked over at her, and smiled wanly. "Were the roles reversed, I would make the same choice. You are kind to make the offer, Xanatos. But if my mate chooses to refuse, then I shall support her choice. Neither of us wishes to die, but to be parted would be a fate worse then death." The wounded pair exchanged a heartfelt glance. "Now please, leave us. If we have only a little time left, we'd like to be alone for a while."
Grimly, the visitors exited. Fox held her peace for a full ten paces before she began her barrage of protest. "David, do something! They shouldn't have to suffer like this, not after what they did for Alex!" She turned to her husband. "Look, if the technicians here don't have what it takes I can bring some people over from Cyberbiotics-"
David cut her off. He needed Owen to help him organize the troops, but Owen was gone. He was going to have to do this himself. "Fox, get Dr. Goldblum up here, tell him to pull all of Sevarius's cloning notes. Get the team that we had working on Lexington's implants too."
"I've been doing a lot of research on my own," Lex piped in. "Maybe I can help."
"Sure, the more the merrier. No offence Fox, but our cyberneticists are better than yours are." Fox's eyes flared, but she didn't counter his assessment. "Get that team scrambled. We don't have much time!"
David raced down the hallway like a man possessed and the others hurried in his wake.
* * * * *
14th Precinct House
"So I told Haggerty, 'You have to lay off that pure black-stuff!', if you know what I mean. I mean, the past few weeks have been weird enough, but when a guy like that starts telling you he saw something as weird as demon dogs and flying horses . . . I mean someone has to say something! Right?"
Sara Jasper smiled woodenly at her fellow detective. "Oh, right... definitely." She had returned to the precinct. Using the shower in the locker room and the spare set of clothes she keep for emergencies to make herself presentable, the exhausted police detective attempted to begin her shift as if nothing devastating had just happened. But her mind was a thousand miles away, dwelling on those last horrible seconds when she had seen the relief in Matt's eyes, when he realized that Elisa was going to be all right. There was more then just a partner's concern for a partner, she realized. She needed quiet to think. Unfortunately, she hadn't counted on meeting up with Lt. Damien, who was in his usual, industrial strength abrasive mode.
"Well, things should be getting back to normal around Ol' New York, now that spring seems to have finally sprung. But do you believe the river running down 5th Avenue? Hard to believe that all that snow could thaw so fast," the detective said gratingly. Then he abruptly jumped to a new target as he surveyed the stack of case files on his desk. "Say, you still going to work with the yokels over at the 23rd? We need you back here, y'know, Jasper. It just hasn't been the same since you left."
"I still have a few cases to wrap up," Sara replied trying to keep her tone neutral. "I should be back before you know it." She paused for a moment, then she shook herself and said, "Listen, I have to go. I'm almost late as it is."
"Sure, take care, Sara! Look forward to havin' ya back real soon, eh?" the detective replied in parting. "Don't get washed away!" he added as the brown-haired detective walked briskly out of the squadroom.
Stepping outside, Sara took a few moments to compose herself. It had been some week. They had saved the world but it didn't exempt her from doing last week's paperwork. "There is no justice!" Sara exclaimed.
"Here! Here!" The newsboy on the street agreed. "Anybody that reads the newspaper knows that, lady. Speaking of which..." He pointed to a stack of Daily Sentinels resting at his feet. "Buy a paper, lady?"
Sara dug into her pocket and handed the newsy a couple of quarters. "Thanks."
She glanced at the front page, "MASS HYSTERIA STRIKES MAJOR CITIES: TERRORIST PLOT?" and growled with irritation, before rolling the paper into a cylinder and using it to hail a cab.
* * * * *
A few minutes later, safely curled in the back of the taxi, Sara realized she didn't really want to go to the 23rd. "I don't want to talk about this at work," she muttered as she watched pedestrians hurry past ice and snow damaged shops. "But we need to talk about it so we can work... It was a horrible mistake. A stress induced reaction. Now, what do I do?" Sara asked herself. Indecision was making her crazy. "What do I do about the mess I've made with Matt?"
Her mind drifted back to- "Was it only yesterday?" Sara asked herself. "It seems like a thousand years ago. 'Be careful. I love you'.- What was I thinking?" She smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand and sunk deeper into the leather upholstery. "What an idiot. But I do love him! I just don't think he loves me," she concluded glumly as the cab stopped at a traffic signal. "Pull out of it, Jasper. You'll deal with it... later. Tonight be a cop. You can be a woman on your own time."
The self-lecture worked. Her chin was barely trembling by the time the cab pulled up to the precinct.
* * * * *
Matt rose from his desk, yawning. He ran a hand over his bristled chin and groaned. In his rush to get to work, with no time to stop at home, he had changed into fresh clothes he kept stowed in the locker room, but had forgotten to shave. "Good thing I keep a razor in my desk." He pulled a disposable blade out of the bottom desk drawer and headed for the men's room.
* * * * *
Sara stood in the Bullpen doorway, hesitating. She scanned the room, bustling with detectives and perps and victims, but Matt was no where to be seen. Gathering her courage she entered and walked resolutely to his desk.
He'd been there. The coffee pooled in the bottom of his NYPD coffee mug was cooling, but not cold. There was no other sign of the detective.
Sara looked around, strangely relieved he wasn't there. She peeked into Captain Chavez's office, but the Captain was alone, reading a report.
"Well, can't say that I didn't try," she told herself. Sara returned to the desk, snagged a piece of notepaper and scribbled a quick message before her courage failed her.
Tried to meet up with you, but you weren't here.
Dropping the note on top of his pile of case folders, she turned quickly and walked away from the Bullpen. "He can catch up with me later. Besides, I want to check a couple of things down in Evidence."
"Dang, it's stuffy in here," Detective Halloran said to the Bullpen at large. "Anybody else think it's stuffy in here?"
There was a murmur of yes's and no's from the other detectives. "Well, I think it's stuffy," Halloran declared. He opened the nearest window. "There, it's better in here already!"
A stiff breeze rattled the venetian blinds and caught the corner of Sara's note, flipping it end over end. It landed, a few feet away, on the large pile of odds, ends and other assorted minutiae, that passed for part of Matt's filing system.
* * * * *
Matt stepped out of the men's room, drying his hands a paper towel. He dropped the length of brown paper into the hallway wastebasket and glanced at his watch. Sara should be there waiting, they had a lot of case notes to review before their meeting at the A.D.A.'s office.
"Bluestone!" The call came from Detective Halloran.
"What is it, Dick?"
"Morgan left you a note on your desk before he went on patrol. He asked me to make sure you got it."
"Right, thanks," Matt answered. He veered over to his desk and dug among the top layer of papers. Under his coffee mug was Morgan's note. Unfolding it, he read aloud: "Matt -- Don't forget - meet me at the Coffeehouse after shift - You owe me dinner. -Morgan."
"Right." Matt refolded the note and stuffed it into his pocket. He picked up a case folder from the top of the pile, flipped through it for a second, added some notes from a second and third file, and scanned his desk before he was satisfied that he hadn't missed anything. He glanced at his watch again. He had to leave now or he'd be late for his meeting with the A.D.A. Quickly he dialed Sara's cell number and received an "out of service" message. He followed up with a call to dispatch asking that Sara be paged. He left his own cell phone and pager numbers before hanging up.
"I'm on my way to the DA's now, Captain," he announced in passing.
"Hurry up down there," Chavez called after the redheaded detective. "We're short-handed tonight and we need every officer available."
"Yes, ma'am," Bluestone replied automatically. Then added, "Say, if Sara comes in, tell her I've got the case files."
"If I see her, I'll tell her, Matt." Chavez looked up from her mountain of reports long enough to watch him stride out of the Bullpen, shook her head briefly, and returned to her reading.
* * * * *
"Mother?" Angela called gently as she stepped through the French doors. "Mother, are you home?"
There was no answer. Angela stepped further into the room, latching the door behind her. The room was dark and quiet. She opened her mouth to call out again but there was a muffled thump from the general direction of the library. Angela moved cautiously through the living room. "Mother?" she repeated a third time.
Silence. Angela wrinkled her brow, concerned. She moved stealthily toward the library, picking up a heavy brass candlestick holder to use as a weapon as she passed a mahogany end table. She raised the candlestick holder high above her head and drawing a deep breath, leapt into the library - to find her mother curled in a ball on the couch, weeping.
She dropped the candlestick holder and ran to Demona's side. "Mother," Angela began, as she gathered her into her arms, "what's the matter?"
"Angela?" Demona responded at last. She scrubbed tears off of her face and cleared her throat several times. "I-I didn't hear you come in. Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Mother."
"And your clan? Are they all right as well?"
"Mostly," Angela replied. "When I left, there was still no news on Coldstone and Coldfire - they hadn't regained consciousness yet. But Elisa!" The younger gargoyle's face was joy-filled. "Mother! The most wonderful news! Elisa is going to live!"
"That pleases you, my daughter?" Demona asked quietly.
Angela studied the ancient gargoyle carefully. "Elisa is my friend, and..." The younger gargoyle hesitated as she thought of Goliath and diplomatically amended her reply. "…and a good friend to the clan. Of course I'm pleased."
"Yes," Demona admitted grudgingly. "She has been a friend to you all - even from the beginning. If you are happy, Angela, then I am as well."
"Mother," Angela said, her voice assuming an unusual casual tone, "last night, the doctors said that there was no hope at all. Elisa was dying."
"Humans are such alarmists," Demona waved her hand dismissively. "Obviously the detective was not as gravely injured as they assumed. Xanatos should find himself some competent physicians."
Angela found herself growing frustrated. Elisa had practically told her that Demona was responsible for her recovery. "I saw her myself, Mother. I felt the magic that was killing her! Only someone trained in the Arts could have saved Elisa."
"Perhaps it was Puck. He's not above doing some spell casting, if he can turn it to his amusement," Demona added bitterly.
Angela's face fell. "Owen is dead, Mother, and with him, Puck."
Demona drew a startled breath. "I didn't know, Angela. I'm sorry. The Trickster had his good moments too, I'm sure," she finished lamely.
"Why were you crying when I arrived?" Angela said, changing the subject abruptly.
The elder gargoyle turned away, ashamed at being caught in a moment of weakness. "Does it really matter?" she asked. Her voice was quiet.
"It does to me!" Angela cried. "You're my mother. If there's anything I can do..."
Demona embraced her daughter. "I was thinking of going away for a while. You have your clan, and the detective to take care of you. I need sometime alone... to think..., maybe a long time."
"Mother! No!" Angela protested. "You can't leave. Not now! I need you. And you need me," she declared adamantly. "How can you even consider such an idea?"
"There have been so many changes. Nothing seems the same anymore."
"Mother," Angela began gently. "Is that why you saved Elisa? So that she would be there to protect me in your absence?"
"I have had my disagreements with the detective - Elisa in the past," Demona began, downplaying the acrimonious relationship she had shared with the police officer. "But I have to admit," the words came slowly, unwillingly, "she has been fiercely loyal and protective toward you. As you have been towards her." Demona took a deep breath before continuing. "She saved your life, taking the elfshot that was meant for you. I could not let that debt go unpaid. I used the Bloodstone and cured her."
Angela studied the odd mixture of emotions that played over Demona's face: resignation, confusion, anger and something else that couldn't be defined. Her heart ached with compassion for the elder gargoyle. "Thank you, Mother. I know that must have been a difficult decision for you. Using the Bloodstone carries a heavy price."
Demona looked into her daughter's eyes. They shone with love and pride. "No, for my daughter's happiness, no price is too great."
"Does that mean you'll stay?" Angela asked hopefully.
Demona sighed and embraced her only child. "For the time being, my daughter. I will stay for you."
* * * * *
Lexington hurried down the hallway in the residential section, his talons full of computer diskettes and paper files. "I hope Xanatos's researchers can find something useful in all this data," he said fervently.
He slowed as he passed Alex's nursery surprised to hear the toddler chatting away merrily. "That's odd," Lex muttered. "I thought Fox was supposed to be working on the arrangements for Owen's Remembrance Ceremony and Xanatos was meeting with the researchers."
The little olive-colored gargoyle stopped for a moment to listen to the child's conversation and realized he was talking to himself. "Poor little fella, he's been forgotten in the rush. I'd better take him with me so he's not alone." He entered the nursery. Alex sat on the floor in the middle of a brightly colored blanket holding a very serious conversation with his stuffed gargoyle beast, the one affectionately known by all as "Fuzzy".
"'Lisa's inna hop-pital . . . Dos bad'uns hurt 'Lisa." The toddler looked at the stuffed toy intently, nodding his head as if he was agreeing with its reply.
Lexington cleared his throat. "Hi Alex. May I come in?"
"Lex!" the toddler gurgled happily.
"Hey, Alex," he replied, trying to sound cheerful as he took a seat next to the child. "How's my favorite little friend doing?"
Alex giggled and turned around to throw his arms around the olive-colored gargoyle. "Hi! Lex no gonna p'twoll?"
"Nah, I'm not going on patrol tonight. I just thought I'd come by and spend a little time with you," he said, pausing to turn over to stand on his head. He hammed it up, making a funny face that he didn't feel. Unfortunately, he overbalanced and tumbled to the side, landing in a heap over some of Alex's building blocks.
"Lex funny!" Alex chortled, clapping his hands at the display.
Lex cracked a smile as he righted himself. "Glad to see someone's got a sense of humor."
Alexander smiled all the more and said, "Unca Owen say he does a-ways."
"Yeah, in his own way, he did," Lex agreed sadly. "Alex, I know that Owen wouldn't want you to be sad about this, but he had to go away."
"Mama say he wen' to see Gampa. Why Mama say that?" Alex looked at Lex with a grave expression. "Unca no see Gampa! Unca not leave Alex! He pwomise! Unca Owen wight here!" the child concluded adamantly, perplexed at the adults' belief otherwise.
"Sure, Alex." Lex smiled, his heart breaking for the child. He held his hand out and touched the child's chest over his heart. "Your Uncle Owen will always be right here."
Alex gave Lexington another confused look, then turned his attention back to his stuffed toy. He cocked his head again, then nodded and giggled.
Lexington frowned. "Poor kid, this is going to take some time to sink in." He reached for the stuffed gargoyle. "Come on, Alex. Time to come visit Hudson upstairs."
Alex's expression turned panicked. "No! Lex no carry Fuzzy!"
"Whoah!" He handed the toy back to the child who clutched it protectively. "I'm sorry, Alex. I'll tell you what: you carry Fuzzy and I'll carry you. Okay?"
"'kay." Alex held the toy tightly against his chest.
Lex started to scoop the child up and belatedly remembered the stack of disks and papers he had abandoned when he had started to entertain Alex. "Oops! Change of plans." He gathered up his research and held his hand out to the boy. "First let's drop these papers off with your daddy and then I'll give you a pony ride all the way up to see Hudson."
"Pony wide!" Alex's eyes went wide with delight. "Pony wide!" he exclaimed again to the fuzzy.
"We got to work on your 'r's, kiddo," Lex murmured. "Tell you what: let's practice. Say 'rain'."
"Wain," Alex mimicked.
"Try again, 'rain'," Lexington repeated. "RRRRRRRain." Hand in hand, the child and the gargoyle practiced rolling 'R's all the way to the executive suite.
* * * * *
Elisa opened her eyes slowly. The room was dark, the blackness broken only by the digital displays of the various machines that monitored her vital signs. She attempted to raise her left hand to her face to brush away some stray hair and winced in pain. Her arm was still tied to splint to keep her from accidentally removing her I.V.
"Here, let me do that for you," Goliath rumbled quietly as he removed the errant strands from her face.
Elisa captured his talons with her unrestrained right hand and held it to her lips. "I dreamed about you," she murmured.
"Good things I hope," the gargoyle teased.
"The best." Elisa smiled up at Goliath and he bent down to kiss her in return.
There was an embarrassed throat clearing coming from the doorway. The couple broke the kiss to find Emrys Hawkins staring at the acoustic tile. He was joined by Derek and Maggie. The three seemed to find the ceiling pattern fascinating.
"We can come back," Maggie offered.
"No," Elisa protested, "that's okay. I know it must have been hard for you guys to get in here." Elisa frowned. "Actually, for a hospital, this place has been remarkably quiet. What gives?"
"Xanatos has the staff restricted. They're all monitoring you from a different part of the Med-wing. The nurse checks on you periodically, but we have her schedule," Derek explained. "When she's on the floor we hide."
Elisa shook her head at her friends' and family's audacity. "You guys are something else. But I'm grateful for the company. It's boring in here when I'm not asleep."
"Quite right," Emrys chimed in. "So we've come down to tell you a bit more of the story."
Elisa settled back, one hand firmly wrapped in Goliath's, and listened with wide eyes as the regenerated wizard began to spin his tale.
* * * * *
"You're sure?" David Xanatos said into the phone receiver as Lexington and Alex entered the office. "There's absolutely no chance at all." His face fell as his caller confirmed the bad news. "Thank you, Doctor. Thank your team for me too. Good night." He hung up the phone with a frustrated sigh.
"Daddy!" Alex greeted cheerfully. His face grew perplexed as he studied his father's face. "Unca Lex? Why ever'one so sad?"
"Alex, Lex," Xanatos acknowledged his visitors at last. "What is it? Are you all right?" He gestured to the gargoyle. "Let me have him, will you?"
Lexington released Alex's hand and the little boy ambled over to his father. One hand still firmly clutching his gargoyle beast, he held his arms out for a hug.
"That's my boy," David said softly, nuzzling the child. "You always know how to make your old man feel better."
Lex waited with a sinking heart, realizing his painstaking research was probably wasted. "I brought those files," he said at last.
David set Alex down gently and shook his head. "I'll pass them along to the team, Lexington, but I'm afraid that it's hopeless. Coldstone's body has been too damaged to repair and they have no mechanism for transferring his consciousness into a fully cybernetic body. If only Alex were older or Fox better trained..."
"How much time does he have left?" Lex asked as he dropped the now useless files on the immaculate desk.
"Not long I'm afraid," Xanatos replied. "The staff will do everything they can to keep him as comfortable as possible."
"Poor Coldstone," Lex sighed, "Coldfire too. They love each other so much."
"It makes you appreciate every minute you've got, doesn't it?" David settled Alex more comfortably into his lap and stared moodily across the office.
"I was going to take Alex upstairs," Lex explained. "He was playing by himself in the nursery and with everything going on, I thought maybe it would be easier if we kept an eye on him for you, at least until sunrise."
"Thank you, Lexington. That's very generous of you," David said, genuinely touched. "But I think I'd like to spend some time with him. Somehow work just doesn't seem very important right now."
"All right," Lex replied. He turned his attention to the toddler who was engaged in playing peek-a-boo with his father. "Hey Alex?" The toddler looked up with bright, attentive eyes. "You take good care of your daddy, okay?"
Alex smiled brightly and nodded. He held out his stuffed gargoyle and announced, "We a'ways take care, don' we Unca Owen?"
David looked stricken at his child's innocent remark and Lex's heart wrenched in sympathy. He left the father and son together to mourn in private.
* * * * *
Coldstone and Coldfire were alone. The monitors beeped and pinged, breaking the silence, but their latest visitors had left and the technician assigned to monitoring them had gone to make himself a fresh pot of coffee to keep him company through the long night.
The pair lay side by side, the tables upon which they reclined touching. The technician who had implemented the order thought that particular instruction odd. But he was well paid to follow directions, so he did what he could to make sure the cyborg and the robot were as comfortable as possible.
They lay in silence. Xanatos had come and gone. He had broken the news, gently as he could, that there was no hope for Coldstone's shattered body. But he had offered one, final alternative. "It's not much," he said apologetically. "But it's a start-a good start."
"My love," Coldfire said, breaking the silence. "Are you going to accept Xanatos's offer?"
"To live again in that false world? To become shadows of ourselves once more?"
"It is a life, my love."
"To live trapped in a machine? A computer?" He stumbled over the foreign word.
"For a time, if we must. We would still be together."
"It is a lie, not a life!" Coldstone protested vehemently.
"What of Gabriel?" Coldfire argued. "What of our son? We've had so little time to know him. I should like a little more," she concluded wistfully.
"As would I," Coldstone agreed sadly. "He is a fine warrior. A credit to his clan. We were lucky to have been reunited with him - even for such a brief time."
"So our journey is at an end?" Coldfire concluded.
"This journey, perhaps," Coldstone agreed gravely. "But with you at my side, I look forward to beginning the next."
"My love, I will always be at your side... now and forever." Coldfire reached out and entwined her fingers with Coldstone's.
The pair lapsed into silence, at peace.
* * * * *
Sara fumed as she stepped out of the District Attorney's office onto the street beyond. "Not a word from Matt!" she muttered, irritated. "Not so much as a page." She looked down at her pager, clipped to her belt, and her jaw dropped. The indicator light was dead. "What?" She unclipped the device and held it up to the dim light of a barely working street lamp. "Oh my gosh, I forgot to turn the stupid thing on! Matt's gonna kill me!" A Yellow Cab cruised up to her and Sara realized belatedly she was loitering in a cab stand. She shrugged and got in. "14th Precinct," Sara instructed as the cab pulled away from the curb.
* * * * *
Matt paid off his cab driver, paying scant attention to the departing taxi behind him. He brushed passed a trickle of workaholics, who'd braved flooding streets and damaged roads, as he spun through the revolving door that carried him into the District Attorney's office. He checked his watch and his pager, tapping the power switch experimentally. The little green telltale light continued to shine brightly. "Nope, the pager still works. I wonder what happened to Sara?"
"Tenth floor," he instructed the elevator operator.
"Sure, Mac," he replied laconically. "Step to the back of the car."
Matt fidgeted all the way. Caught in a crush of traffic, he was late. The A.D.A. wasn't going to be happy.
The indicator bell dinged and the door opened on the man himself. "Bluestone!" he began irritably, "Where have you been?"
"Sorry, traffic." He scanned the hallway and saw no sign of Sara. "Uh, has Detective Jasper arrived yet?"
"Been and gone," the A.D.A. replied. His voice was high and pinched, like his shorts were too tight, Matt thought sourly. "Good thing, too. I drove into town to accommodate you nightshift detectives, but I've got an appointment with the roofer that I intend to keep. My den looks like the Community Center swimming pool with all the water that's leaked in," he groused. "Now, if you'll excuse me?" He made a move to shoulder passed Matt into the elevator. "You can make an appointment with my secretary for Wednesday. I'll get your deposition then."
"Wilcox, wait!" Matt said frantically. "What about Detective Jasper?"
"Jasper dropped her case files and left ten minutes ago." He leaned past the elevator operator and pushed the "Close" button himself, leaving Matt protesting to a vacant hallway.
* * * * *
Lexington was alone. Brooklyn had taken his family out to patrol the park and Hudson had taken Bronx to check up on Robbins and Gilly. Goliath remained at Elisa's side in the Med-wing. There was no sign of Emrys. "Guess it's just you and me," he said as he powered up his computer. "Maybe Liz is online tonight; I really could use some company."
He tapped his talons impatiently while his Internet browser woke up and automatically downloaded his mail. He scanned the headers, deleted automatically a suspicious looking chain letter, and decided to save the rest for later inspection. Lex began to surf Liz's favorite chatrooms.
"Has anyone seen the Eliminator?" he typed.
Lex got lucky on his third try.
"She headed over to The Hanger about five minutes ago," AngelLove responded.
"Of course, I should have tried there first!" Lex muttered, before remembering to thank his informant. He typed a hasty 'thank you' and headed over to The Hanger, a chatroom for dedicated gamers.
Liz was immersed in a vivid argument about the relative merits of versions 3.1 and 3.5 of Death Ray 5000.
TheEliminator: That's bogus! 3.5 is sooooo buggy. Sure they added the extra weaponry and the graphics are cooler, but it crashes every third time you boot!
Speedaemon: Does not! What kind of a processor are you using. Something old and moldy? It never crashes on me!
LexT: Hi Liz - Long time no see.
TheEliminator: Lex! * Dives over and punches him soundly on the arm.* Where have you been? Do you have any idea how worried I've been about you?
LexT: Sorry. Been busy with ...you know... stuff.
Speedaemon: Hey! Eliminator and I were talking.
TheEliminator: Later Speedaemon. LexT and I have business. Lex- you sound- down.
Speedaemon: Fine I'm outta here! * Gone *
LexT: Yeah, I guess I am- a little. I tried to help someone tonight, I couldn't.
TheEliminator: You mean, like at work?
LexT: No- family. I just haven't learned enough.
TheEliminator: I don't understand
LexT: They're sick. But in a way I should be able to fix.
TheEliminator: Now I'm completely confused. Didn't they try a doctor?
LexT: Yeah, but the doctors couldn't do anything either.
The Eliminator: So why do you feel so bad? If the doctor with way more experience couldn't help them... I know you Lex, you did the best you could- whatever that was. Besides, don't count them out yet. Did I ever tell you about my Aunt Marina?
LexT: Don't think so. Who's she?
TheEliminator: Aunt Marina about four years ago was diagnosed with cancer. A really nasty kind. But she wouldn't believe it. She went to a second doctor and a third too. They all said the same thing. Get an operation, start chemo. Don't wait 'cuz it's gonna eat you alive.
LexT: Sounds bad.
TheEliminator: Not to Aunt Marina. She followed her own path, she said whatever's gonna happen will happen. She signed up for a French class, took Yoga -generally did what she wanted. The whole time she thought good thoughts and asked us to do the same.
LexT: So what happened?
TheEliminator: She died six months ago. She went down in a plane wreck. But she lived every day that she had to the full. She learned French. She went to Paris. We hung out in art museums and restaurants, she even did volunteer work at a cancer hospice. But the important thing was she died the way she lived her life. Her way. Doctors don't have all the answers, Lex. Nobody does. Sometimes you just have to have faith- things happen the way they happen because it's meant to.
LexT: Thanks, Liz. You're right. How'd you get to be so wise?
TheEliminator: * Slaps Lex * Hanging out with smart guys like you. I gotta go now. 'rents are giving me the look.
LexT: Take care, Liz. - Bye.
Lex exited the chatroom and realized that he felt better. "I guess Liz is right. No one knows how long they've got. Time even caught up with Owen. My job now is to do whatever I can to make Coldfire and Coldstone happy and comfortable for as long as they've got." With new resolve and a lightness in his heart, Lex headed back to the Cybernetics Lab.
* * * * *
Sighing as the bell jangled loudly above his head, Matt stepped inside the coffee shop, pausing only briefly to let another customer pass to the street beyond. The place was atypical for a cop hangout: tables covered in red-and-white checked cloths, battered, leather-covered stools saddled up next to the lunch counter. Tiles on the floor, speckled black and white with the odd panel missing from a few places, gave the joint a down on the heels respectability. Through out, the lingering smells of cooked grease, washing liquid from the small, deep-sink, and the ever-present odor of cigarette smoke and coffee filtered through the air.
"Hey, hey, hey! Glad to see youse again, Detective!" the balding, whiskered man behind the counter grinned, wiping his hands on his stained apron front.
"Good to see you too, Ernie. Glad you made it through the storm," Matt replied, just before he spied a familiar face seated in its usual place in the back.
"Shall I grace youse with the house special tonight," Ernie cracked through a smile, "or will it be the usual, as usual?"
"You know me," Matt grinned, lopsidedly. "Besides, shift's almost over."
"Ah, right away, Detective. Hey! Boit! Cup of the good Detective's Black Stuff made ina French fashion, and make sure it's got no jump in dem beans, 'kay?!?"
Matt shook his head and made his way over to where Morgan was watching the entire exchange with a rueful smile, sipping his own cup of hot coffee. "Never change, eh, Matt?"
"What can I say, Morgan? I'm a creature of habit," Matt replied, taking off his coat. He folded it over the back of his seat before sitting down across from the dusky-skinned officer. "How was your shift tonight?"
"Not bad, not bad at all. I left the long johns back in the locker room and even the petty crooks decided to take the night off."
Matt grinned, ruefully. "I'm glad someone had a good night."
The waitress stopped by with a full tray, pausing to place Matt's decaffeinated cappuccino on the table before moving on.
"How's Elisa," Morgan said quietly. "Did the doctors say -" his face crumbled as he tried to get out the grim thought.
"Morgan," Matt apologized rapidly. "I'm sorry, I should have told you sooner. Elisa's going to be fine. We'll have to cover for her for awhile. But the doctors predict she's going to make a full recovery."
"That's a miracle! I'm sure Peter and Diane must be overjoyed."
"We never told them," Matt confessed. "There wasn't time, and it was all so complicated anyway."
"What about Sara? Is she all right?"
"What about Sara?" Matt repeated, his thoughts slipping away from the detective who sat across from him and towards the one who he'd managed miss all shift long.
"I said, is she all right?" Morgan looked at Matt closely. "Are you all right?"
Matt shook his head, driving away the vision of Sara's liquid brown eyes. "I saw her earlier this evening, but not since. She was fine then."
Morgan gave his tablemate a careful look. "I don't know how you do it, Matt."
"Do what?" Matt replied, perplexed at Morgan's sudden change of tactic.
"This double life stuff. Last night we were chasing- what were we chasing anyway?"
"Unseelie rebels," Matt supplied.
"Right," The husky detective took a long sip of his coffee and shook his head in disbelief. "Unseelie rebels, tonight we're back to pickpockets and carjackers and helping people dig out from the weather."
The weariness finally caught up with Matt. "It's 'Protect and Serve', Morgan; just a lot stranger." He slipped back into his overcoat. "I'm going to go check on Elisa, then crash. I think I'm off for the next twenty-four hours."
* * * * *
Sara stepped out of the way of a couple going down the sidewalk, not even getting an "Oh! Pardon us!" in the process.
"Well, at least that standard New York courtesy is still intact," she chuckled half-heartedly. She had returned to the 14th, restocked her pager with fresh batteries and tried calling Matt, with no results. She glanced at her watch and yawned. "I really need some sleep, or-" she said, noticing the coffee shop in front of her, "- a double espresso." She took two steps forward, put her hand on the door handle and saw Matt's unmistakable lanky frame rise from a table in the rear of the tiny coffee shop. She instinctively stepped away from the doorway and flattened against the wall. "Oh my gosh!" She peeked through the window to make sure that Matt hadn't seen her. He was putting on his overcoat, preparing to leave. Sara sprinted down the street, realizing that she had absolutely no desire to see Matt. "It was probably just a panic reaction on both our parts," she reasoned as she turned the corner and looked frantically for a cab. "I like him- he likes me-sort of, we were about to die... sure that was it." A taxi finally snuggled up next to the curb. Sara got in. "Just drive," she instructed the cabby and buried her head in her hands.
* * * * *
Matt hurried out of the coffee shop just in time to see the unmistakable curves of Sara Jasper moving away at a brisk pace.
Matt was almost out the door when Ernie piped, "Hey, Bluestone! Youse gotta pay before you vacate the premises!"
"Oh! Right! Sorry!" Matt fumbled with some loose change in his pocket, tossing a handful of coins on the bar counter top. "Got to run! See you!" He bolted out the door and down the sidewalk after Sara.
Ernie shook his head as he ambled down the length of the counter to scoop up the change. "Sheesh! Youse think he was one of those nuts who claimed boogie men was chasin' him!" The shop owner made a quick count of the change, before he raised his voice to shout indignantly, "And YOUSE ARE TWENTY-FIVE CENTS SHORT, BLUESTONE!"
Morgan chuckled, as did a few of the other patrons, but it was in good humor. "I'll cover Matt, Ernie," he offered, standing up to go to the counter to pay him. "That way he won't have to face your wrath."
Ernie grunted, muttering something unrepeatable under his beard. "At least there are still good, honest citizens in the city of New York." He accepted the money Morgan gave him, then jerked his head in the general direction that Matt had headed. "Any idea what's with him?"
"No idea," Morgan said, but a small part of him had its suspicions.
* * * * *
Outside, Matt picked up his pace. Sara turned the corner a half a block ahead and the redheaded detective had to sprint to keep her in view. "Sara!" he yelled after her. She didn't hear him. Instead she dove into a cab as soon as it pulled up and the driver was moving smoothly back into the pre-dawn traffic a moment later.
Matt flagged the next cab, his weariness forgotten. "Follow that taxi!" he bellowed to the driver.
"I am new in America," the driver said excitedly. "This is just like the movies!"
"Right," Matt agreed sourly, "and I'm Sam Spade. Don't lose that cab." To himself he muttered, "Come on, Sara, where are you going?"
* * * * *
"...so Brother Edmund stepped between us, took us by the arms and closed his eyes as tight as he could. We leapt off the side of the cliff face and glided to the beach below. When we landed, the Brother's legs were none too steady, but there was such a look of joy upon his face. 'You must realize what a gift has been bestowed upon you… to fly,' he said."
Coldstone's voice was weak, but full of humor as he concluded his story. Lexington smiled back. He was glad he'd returned here after his chat with Liz. It seemed right somehow. Maybe he couldn't fix their broken bodies, but there was much he could do to buoy their spirits in the Cold Duo's final hours.
"Brother Edmund did so much for us," Coldfire said fondly. "It seemed such a small payment against such a great debt."
"I was still a hatchling when he left Wyvern," Lexington said. "I missed the way he would read to us, or explain what uses his plants had. We must have been real pests, me and Brooklyn and Broadway. But he never seemed to mind."
"We were fortunate that he chose to live among us, even for a little while," Coldstone agreed.
A red warning light began to blink on one of Coldstone's monitors. Lexington leapt from his stool and studied the readout. He turned toward the table bound pair and clasped his taloned hands together. "I'm afraid there isn't much time left. Is there anything I can get for you? Are you in pain?"
"No, Lexington, there is no pain," Coldstone said softly. "Thank you for staying with us…for helping us remember happier times."
"Please, Lexington, if we could have these last moments alone?" Coldfire requested.
"I… a… sure." Lexington, unable to think of anything appropriate to say, slipped silently from the room. He made it all the way to the elevator before tears began to trickle down his cheeks.
* * * * *
Alexander sat bolt up right in bed. "It not fair!" he declared to the darkened nursery. He hunted through his nest of bedclothes until he found his fuzzy gargoyle. "It not fair!" he repeated to the toy. The toy stared back mutely, bathed in the soft glow of the nursery night-light. Alex raised a chubby fist to his cheek and thought, hard. A bright smile tugged at his lips after several moments of deep contemplation. He closed his eyes, relaxed and pictured the person he most wanted to see. "I want Gamma," his said firmly. A faint glow began to emanate from the child, surrounding him and bathing the nursery in its glow. "I want Gamma!" Alex repeated. There was a strange, commanding tone in his voice.
Immediately, there was a sudden shift in the light, and the nimbus flew from around Alexander and collected in the center of the nursery, pooling into a coherent sphere of energy. It lasted for only a second, then burst out into a miniature nova, dispersing in a heartbeat to reveal a tall, sinewy form in the shadows of the room.
"What? How did I come...where did...who?" the figure said, at first unaccustomed to being pulled out of her place in such a manner. Turning around, she spied the now smiling form of Alexander, who had pulled himself to his feet, clutching the side of his bed for support.
"Alexander?!? Was it you that brought me here?" A woman stepped out of the shadows, coming over to kneel at the side of the bed. "My . . . how your powers have come into focus. Such intensity!" She reached over and plucked the toddler from his bedside, cradling him as she smiled. "My princeling! You have done very well by your teacher!"
Alex giggled with pride, flinging his short arms around the tall woman. "I wan'ned you come, Gamma! Dey need help!"
"Help? Who needs my help, my child?"
"Gowiyith's me-tal fwend," Alex replied, his face taking on a somber aspect. "He an' Gol-ladiee. Saved fwom bad people. Got hurts real bad!"
The woman studied Alex, fondly. "Oh? And I suppose you wish your Grandma to help them have no more hurts?"
"Dey help me and Mama and Daddy," Alex said, giving her a look that was both stubborn and pleading. "Gamma help dem!"
Chuckling, the woman leaned down to place a kiss on his forehead. "Well, since you asked me, child, I see no reason to refuse such a noble request. As if I could deny you anything." She stepped into the center of the room. "Come along, Alexander."
There was a brief flash of light, and the pair vanished.
* * * * *
Coldstone twitched uneasily.
Coldfire reacted immediately to her mate's distress. "My love, what is wrong?"
"Something . . . I . . . I am not sure . . ." he replied slowly, unsure as to what - unknown and unseen - would trigger his defenses. There was a sudden, muted flash of light in the center of the room. Standing there, smiling at the two cybernetic gargoyles, was a woman in exotic, alien-looking garb, with skin of pale green, cradling the giggling form of the Xanatos child.
"The boy!" Coldstone shouted, reflexively trying to charge to Alex's defense, but unable because of his restraints. "We must sound the alarm!!!"
With a wave, the woman brushed aside his concern. "Peace, Coldstone, I am not here to endanger Alexander."
"You-you know his name?" Coldfire asked, a shocked look on her metallic features.
"I know both of your names, Coldfire," the woman replied, facing Coldstone's mate, "thanks to my grandson."
This flummoxed the two constructs. "The boy . . . is your grandson?!? How can that be? Who are you???" Coldstone asked sharply.
With a regal nod, she replied, "I am Titania, Queen of Avalon, and wife of Lord Oberon. My daughter is Fox, and thus, Alexander is my grandson. And it is because of him that I am here."
Both cyborgs looked at each other, then back at the Seelie Queen. "I do not understand," Coldstone said, speaking for the pair.
"Alexander summoned me," she answered simply. "He told me of your actions, on his behalf, during the assault on the castle. You both went far beyond your bonds of duty to keep my grandson safe from Madoc and his forces."
Coldstone blinked, remembering him and his mate answering the summons to protect the child. "We ... only did what was needed, My Lady."
"But necessary," Titania countered. "An act well befitting a member of Goliath's clan."
"Any of us would have done the same," Coldfire demurred, modestly.
"Perhaps, but I believe you deserve a reward," Titania said with finality. "And so I shall grant you each a boon. Ask, and whatever you desire shall be yours."
The pair digested the offer slowly. Coldstone looked at his mate and she nodded, trusting his judgement to speak for them both.
"My Lady," he said solemnly. "There is much that I... that we ...would like in this world. But, truth be known, there is only one thing that we both desire." Reaching out to take his mate's hand in his own, he said, "More than anything, we only desire to be whole again, so that we can return to our brother and his clan."
Coldfire nodded in complete agreement. "My love speaks for both of us, Queen Titania. No other reward would have any meaning for us, if we could not rejoin Goliath and his family."
With a smile that was almost Puckish, Titania said, "Well said, my friends, and by my hand, it shall be done!" She set Alex down on one of the freestanding tables, then turned and faced the pair. Raising her hands before her she closed her eyes briefly in contemplation. A green, eldritch glow surrounded her, making her hair drift as if on a gentle breeze.
"First, a little soul-suspension, to prepare the way," Titania began. Two hollow spheres of energy formed beside her. The cyborgs opened their mouths to protest, but there was nothing they could do, as the power of the Seelie Queen removed their leather restraints, floating their bodies out from the vertical tables on a cushion of magically-forced air.
"For the spirit to be willing," she intoned, "the flesh must first grow weak; Just long enough for souls in flight to pass from cheek to cheek!"
There was a brief pause, as Coldstone and Coldfire both took one last deep breath. A mist of white issued from their mouths, flowing across the room to pool into the spheres. Bereft of their presence, the two cyborg shells seemed to collapse slightly, their eyes no longer glowing with life.
Concentrating, Titania said to Alex, "Now, my princeling, comes the real magic! Watch carefully, and learn." Titania focused on the lone shell that was once Coldstone, and began to chant again.
"A boon, a reward for duty done
That saved the Heir of Avalon.
Your wish, one of your mortal soul,
To be restored, once more made whole.
So, Titania shall make her decree . . .
What was undone, shall once more be!"
Beams of light sprang forth from Titania's fingertips, lancing into the parts of Coldstone's body that were re-animated stone. Even though his soul no longer inhabited his former shell, the body still had enough life-force in it to react to the sudden burst of energy attacking it. A howl of pure pain bellowed forth reverberating against the walls of the lab.
Alex, who had been smiling through out the entire affair, clapped his hands over his ears to ward off the sound.
Where Titania's power touched, segments of the animated stone pulled apart from the mechanical shell, floating away from the former cyborg like garish pieces of a huge, statue-sized jigsaw puzzle. When, at last, nearly all of the stone parts of Coldstone's body were removed, they shuffled together to form two incomplete collections.
"Now, find the patterns, and reform.
Make them once more as they were born!
Let it be as it was in days long done,
And become two gargoyles, in flesh and stone!"
The glow around the pieces of stone intensified. Drawing on the power of the Seelie Queen, they began to grow and change, both by mass and by form. Parts grew and gained more complete definition, and where two parts met, they fused and grew together. Gradually the forms changed. Two bodies, one curved and feminine, one solid and definitely masculine, reclined on the tables, encased in grayish stone.
Titania smiled, stealing a glance at her delighted grandson. He was holding one hand over his mouth and pointing at the recumbent forms. "Oh dear," Titania shook her head slightly, "I suppose I shall have to remedy my oversight." She waved a hand gently over the still forms and they were suitably clothed. "What is my daughter teaching you, child?" Titania asked the boy archly. "No matter. We're not quite done." She raised her hands to touch the two soul-filled spheres at her side.
"Let the souls who wait and
the bodies that sleep
The spheres dissolved, and the essence inside them flowed back across the room, filtering into the open mouths of the two bodies with a gentle whisper.
Titania's magic slowly lowered the bodies to the lab floor, letting them rest gently before the eldritch glow that had filled the lab faded away. Almost immediately, there was the crackle of shattering stone. White light filtered through, illuminating the darkened room. Alex clapped his hands happily as the stone forms burst apart, revealing Coldstone and Coldfire.
Both sucked in a draught of air, before they let loose with a double-throated roar that echoed through the lab.
"Gamma, dey loud!" Alex squealed.
Coldstone tried to speak but the sudden onslaught of sensation - the coolness of the lab, the scent of the disinfectant and processed air, the feel of the tile floor beneath his recently reborn feet - was too much. He crumpled, collapsing in shock on the floor beside his mate.
Titania lowered the remains of the gargoyle's former shells to the lab floor behind them. "A rather satisfactory effort," she said more to herself that to the duo. Looking over to where Alexander was clapping his tiny hands, she smiled and reached out, taking him once more into her arms.
Facing the two, she said solemnly, "Your wish is granted. Now you will be able to rejoin with Goliath and his clan."
Looking at Alex, she kissed him once more and said, "Now, my princeling, you must return to your bed, lest your parents come looking for you." The pair disappeared in a greenish flash, leaving Coldstone and Coldfire alone once more.
* * * * *
Titania lowered Alexander gently into his bed, tucking the covers around his now sleepy form. "Thank you, gramma," he said quiet clearly.
Titania raised an eyebrow at the child's sudden improvement in speech. "I must visit more often," she murmured. "Take care, my child, I..."
"Mother!??" Fox gasped as she burst into the room. David was a step behind her, knotting a black silk robe around his muscular body. "What are you doing here?"
"Yes... especially with my son?!" Xanatos added calmly, even though there was a hint of steel in his voice.
"David, please. Do you think I am here to endanger my grandson?" Titania admonished gently. With a parting kiss on Alexander's forehead, she stepped away from the child's bedside and toward her daughter and son-in-law. "Everything is well now, my daughter. My work here is done and I must return before my Lord Oberon discovers my absence and my interference."
"Work? What work??"
Laughing gently, Titania slowly began to fade into a greenish light. "You'll have to ask Alexander." The light flared up once, then it was gone, leaving the dazed couple with their son alone in the nursery.
"Alex?" David said looking at his son, who was yawning sleepily.
"Gramma made Go'iath's frien's better," he muttered as he drifted to sleep.
David and Fox shared a startled glance at their son before turning and running full tilt down the corridor. "Hurry, David," Fox called over her shoulder. "The Cybernetics Lab!"
* * * * *
"Lights!" David shouted as he entered the Cybernetics Lab, Fox a step behind him.
"They're gone!" Fox yelled.
"No, Fox. Not gone," David said as he walked slowly into the room. "They're ... changed."
"Coldstone! Coldfire!" Fox gasped. She grabbed one of the workstations for support as her knees went weak.
The gargoyles lay on the laboratory floor, barely conscious.
"Quick," he motioned to Fox, "give me a hand. He knelt at Coldstone's side and with Fox's help, lifted him gently back onto the table. A moment later, the pair had Coldfire off the floor as well.
She sat up on the table nearly immediately and swayed heavily.
"Easy there," Fox said. "It looks like you've got some changes to get used to."
Coldfire moaned as she was overtaken by another wave of vertigo.
Gasping out, Coldstone asked hoarsely, "B-B-Be-loved!?"
"M-M-My Love! Isss that . . . you?!?" she replied. The sound of her mate's voice was an immediate restorative and Coldfire sat up, with confidence this time. She reached for Coldstone, sliding off the table to stand at his side. Xanatos stood ready, but this time Coldfire needed no assistance as she took her first steps and held her mate's hand a moment before helping him sit up.
Blinking furiously, Coldstone managed to focus his vision. "I... I can see!" He gazed at his mate, joy lighting his craggy features. "Beloved! You... you are restored!!!"
"As are you, my love." Coldfire's voice filled with wonder. "We are indeed 'whole' at last."
The pair embraced.
A quiet cough from Xanatos let the duo know they were not alone. "A-hem! When all else fails try magic, eh, Fox?" he said with a smile.
Fox had a strange look on her face, a combination of motherly pride and envy. "I wish I'd thought of it. I'm going to have to have a small talk with our son in the morning, David. And another with my mother- soon. It's a wonderful thing they did for Coldfire and Coldstone."
David looked at the two gargoyles with a bemused grin. "I'm not sure that those names work for them, my dear. After all, they're back to their former selves, so they should be able to use their former names as well."
"Unfortunately, we have no former names," Coldstone replied with a rueful smile. "Goliath was the only member of our clan to have received a name from the humans."
"But, that doesn't mean that we should not, my love. All of the clan now have names, and our son told of the clan on Avalon having been named as well," Coldfire replied. Looking to Xanatos, she added, "Humans have always given names to our kind . . . perhaps you can find names for us as well?"
Xanatos smiled, a thoughtful look passing over his features.
"David... just what are you thinking about?" Fox asked, recognizing the mischievous look on her husband's handsome face.
"Trust me, my dear, I have the perfect names for our two friends here," he replied. Looking from one to the other, he said, "And, truth be told, after hearing all that Coldsteel did to you from Goliath, I think they more than fit them. Coldstone, how does the name 'Othello' strike you?"
The larger gargoyle looked at Xanatos with a touch of surprise. "O-thel-lo? That name sounds very, familiar. Where is it from?"
"From a man called Shakespeare. Othello was a character from one of his more elaborate plays," Fox explained, suddenly catching her husband's insight. "He was a very brave and noble warrior."
Coldstone seemed to think about it for a moment, before his face spread into a pleased smile. "Othello. It . . . does have a certain dignity to it!"
"What about myself?" Coldfire asked. "What name would best be for me?"
"Not to surprise you, but there was a lady that Othello was very much in love with in the play - and it fits you just as well as Coldstone's new name fits him," Xanatos said. Smiling, he offered, "What say you to the name, 'Desdemona'?"
Fox could only chuckle at her husband, but Coldfire was immediately pleased. "I like that name- it sounds filled with life, just as I am now."
"As we both are," Coldstone replied, placing his hand on his mate's shoulder as they faced the humans. "They are both fine names, Xanatos. Othello and Desdemona - we shall use them as our new names, and thank you for giving them to us."
"Consider it another part of our repayment for saving Alexander, Othello," Xanatos replied, offering his hand to the former cyborg. Together, they shook forearms, and for a moment, no other words were necessary.
However, Othello's face dropped into a small frown. "But what are we to do about Coldsteel? Our former forms were an advantage in hunting him."
"My love!" Desdemona said surprised. "How can you think of such things now?"
"We have our duty to bring our brother to justice," Othello reminded his mate.
Xanatos got their attention again. "I think you should wait before going after him again," he said, quickly adding, "at least until you can be properly armed and armored and have a chance to get used to your new forms. Then, after you've uh, settled in…" He shrugged at his wife over the odd terminology. "…you can begin your hunt again."
Othello absorbed this for a moment, "I do not know, I-"
The newly reborn Desdemona placed her talons softly over Othello's lips. "Thank you Xanatos, Lady Xanatos, we appreciate your assistance." She turned her attention back on her mate. "Right now, my love let us have this moment together, to rejoice with our clan-" Desdemona's eyes went wide with realization. "We must tell the clan of our miraculous healing!"
Othello nodded and moved toward the exit. He paused. "We will speak of this again, Xanatos."
"Whenever you are ready, Othello," David replied with a nod, "you only have to ask."
* * * * *
Lexington waited in the courtyard with Nudnik, scanning the skies for signs of his clanmates. The pup had grown sleepy and he yawned contentedly at Lexington's feet. "It's almost sun up, boy." He thought about the talks he had had with Liz and the Cold Duo and realized that he felt better. The grief and confusion was replaced by a new understanding. "Face it, Lex, you've got it pretty good," he admitted to himself.
Slowly, in pairs and in groups, the others returned, taking a moment to rest their wings and welcome each other back.
"Hi guys," Lex asked, his mood much improved from what it had been at the start of the night. "How was the patrol?"
"Oh, it was all right," Broadway commented, helping Angela down from where she had alighted on the wall.
Angela turned a worried face towards Lexington. "How are Coldstone and Coldfire? Are they-"
Lexington shook his head. "Any time now. They asked to have their final moments alone."
Angela swallowed her tears and Broadway gave her a supportive pat on the back.
Brooklyn hesitated, waiting for Hudson to land before joining his rookery siblings. "Not much activity down there… Are you okay, Lex?"
"Yeah," Lex replied. "I'm okay. Sad, but okay. I'm gonna miss Coldstone and Coldfire."
Brooklyn nodded, confused, but he hid his confusion by clapping the smaller gargoyle on the shoulder. "That's good, Lex. Just remember, if you need to talk about it…"
"You'll be the first one I come to, Brooklyn. Thanks."
Just then, Sata and the twins arrived, and Brooklyn watched Lex go and meet them as they landed. While Graeme and Ariana told him about their night helping their mother, Sata joined her mate while the others went inside.
"Lexington seems content," she commented softly, watching as Lex smiled at the animated way her children described the way they had foiled a mugging.
"Sometimes Lex has to figure things out on his own. For such a smart guy, he's a little slow sometimes." He grinned at his mate and drew her into a hug. "I think it must run in the family."
Sata gave him a bemused look. "I hope this unfortunate trait was not passed along to our children." Her eyes crinkled in amusement at Brooklyn's startled expression, before she leaned in to kiss him gently on the beak.
* * * * *
Sara walked through the dormant gardens of Central Park, lost in thought. Her feet found the paths automatically, guiding her as if she had tread the way a thousand times instead of a mere half-dozen. Inexorably, she found herself drawn to a small clearing deep in the park's interior.
There, the statue of Pan rested on its stone base. A few feet away from it was a small stone bench. "Returned to your perch, Sparrowhawk?" Sara asked herself rhetorically. With a sigh, Sara sat down heavily and leaned back, looking up at the false dawn above.
Glumly, she said to herself, "I should have gone in there. Why is it I can handle raving lunatics like Castaway, but the thought of talking to Matt about our relationship makes me want to hide?"
Sara closed her eyes, annoyed with herself and the barely begun day in general which seemed to burst with new life. She sat quietly and let the minutes stretch by until the unmistakable crunch of footsteps on the gravel path broke her reverie.
She looked up into the face of Matt Bluestone. He looked puzzled, as if he had a question that he wasn't quite sure how to pose. He folded his lanky frame onto the bench next to her and gazed around the park instead. "Looks like it's gonna be a nice day," he began noncommittally.
"Yeah," Sara agreed, eager for a neutral topic. "I wonder how long before all the snow is finally gone?"
Matt glanced around the clearing. The blizzard's wake had been reduced to an occasional drift of snow. "Not long, I should imagine," Matt said. "Emrys said that Madoc was doing weather manipulation. Mother Nature ought to reset her calendar now that the Unseelie aren't fooling with it. You know," he said casually, "the park looks different somehow since we were last here."
Sara swallowed and said awkwardly, "Yeah... I'm sorry." With that she spread her hands as if offering to him, adding, "No grasshoppers."
Matt said nothing in response, but he looked away as if to gather his thoughts.
Clearing her throat, Sara tried again. "I saw you with Morgan earlier. How is he doing?"
Matt's jaw tightened only slightly, but when he spoke, his reply was neutral. "Fine. He's doing fine."
"And Elisa?" Sara choked on the question, but knew she had to ask.
"Better. She's going to be all right. I don't know what Goliath would have done if she hadn't pulled through. He loves her."
Sara breathed a small, relieved sigh. Something tight in her chest loosened. "Good ... that's ... good. I made the meeting with the A.D.A. He wasn't happy you skipped out, but he said the case files looked good. He said he'll be ready for trial in two weeks."
"I talked to him," Matt replied. "I've got a deposition at 4:00 on Wednesday," he added as an afterthought. "Wilcox said I missed you by about ten minutes." With a suddenness that startled Sara, Matt slapped the side of the bench in frustration. "Okay, Jasper, this is driving me nuts. Have you been avoiding me?"
Sara jumped, but she recovered partially. "Wh-What do you mean?"
He pounced on the end of her words. "What do I mean? You cut out on me as soon as we're sure Elisa's all right. You don't answer my pages. You're not at the Precinct when we're supposed to meet up. I haven't seen you all night!"
Sara tried to hedge around the hidden question she was sure he was asking. "I left you a note! I had some loose ends to wrap up before we had to report for that meeting. And my pager-" She blushed in embarrassment. "I forgot to check the battery. I didn't realize until halfway through shift that first it was off and then it was dead. I left my cell phone someplace..." She trailed off and tried to turn the questioning around. "Why did you blow off our meeting with the A.D.A? I waited around afterward as long as I could."
"I didn't blow it off, I got stuck in a traffic jam," Matt replied, disgusted. "And I never saw any note." He folded his arms across his chest. "You're still dodging around the question."
"Question, I answered your question!" Sara replied vehemently. "I'm not avoiding you, I just wasn't working as hard as I could of to be in the same place as you at the same time."
"Ah hah!" Matt exclaimed triumphantly. "So you are avoiding me. And if you're avoiding me it's because you're embarrassed. And if you're embarrassed," he finished in a grand flourish of logic," then you must have really said it!"
The hammer was about to fall; Sara looked down at the ground and realized, somewhat disappointed, that a pit wasn't opening up beneath her feet. "Said what?" she asked meekly.
"It!" Matt said with fevered intensity.
"Oh," Sara said quietly in the same meek tone. "It. So what if I did?" she added, recovering her former bravado.
Matt regarded her for several seconds before asking, "Did you?"
Sara raised her head. "What?"
The auburn-hared detective exploded. "Say it! Did you say it?!"
Suddenly, Sara didn't like being on the receiving end of his temper. "Yeah! Yeah, I said it!" She shot to her feet and glared at Matt, daring him to say what she had been fearing all along. "What are you going to do about it?"
Matt got up as well, standing just a scant two feet from her. "This." He reached out and grabbed her by one hand, pulling her close before Sara could say or do anything to stop him... and put a very well placed kiss on her lips.
* * * * *
Elisa woke with a start and found she was still in a hospital bed, one hand wrapped gently in Goliath's. "I was hoping it was all a bad dream," she muttered dryly.
"Elisa! Are you all right?" Goliath asked quietly.
She pointed at the water pitcher and cup on the sideboard. "I'm still so thirsty, hungry too. Any chance of sneaking me in a cheeseburger before sun up?"
"The doctor said your body was undergoing a tremendous strain, you are healing very rapidly, too rapidly, for a normal human."
"Back up," Elisa said, holding up her free hand. "You spoke with my doctor?"
"Not exactly," Goliath admitted. "He made an unexpected visit to change some of your medication. I was forced to hide in the closet."
Elisa winced in sympathy as she followed his gaze to a tiny cubicle. "And you lived to tell the tale," she added, impressed. "I had no idea you were that flexible, Goliath."
He ignored the speculative look on her face and posed a question of his own. "Titania said that neither she, nor any of the fay, could intervene on your behalf. There was nothing that either Emrys nor Angela could do. Yet the doctor said that your recovery was 'as near an act of magic' as he'd ever seen."
Elisa looked uncomfortable. "Well, there is one other sorcerer or I should say sorceress allied to the clan."
Goliath gave Elisa a look of non-comprehension. "True, but Una was fighting the Unseelie in England."
Elisa shook her head. "Try again, Goliath and before you ask, it wasn't Beth either." She couldn't get him to make the connection. He continued to look at her, his face a mask of confusion. Elisa sighed. "Goliath, I've got to tell you something. Please take it calmly, okay?" Elisa took another deep breath before plunging forward. "Goliath, some time last night, after Madoc's defeat, Demona was here."
"What?!?" Goliath had the grace not to bellow his response, but his tone was sharp with surprise.
"Wait, let me finish! Demona did something to me," she explained. "And while I'm not really sure what she did, it cured me from Madoc's magic. She said she wasn't doing this out of mercy, but that it was for Angela's sake, and the sake of the clan." Elisa paused, watching as a look of complete surprise and bewilderment crossed the big male's features. "She said the clan needed me... and then she left. I doubt she heard me, but I said that the clan, especially Angela, needed her, too."
Goliath was mute with astonishment.
"Goliath," Elisa's voice was soft and she gently entwined her free hand around his much larger one to emphasize her words, "maybe it's time we started giving her another chance? She didn't have to save my life. Heaven knows she's tried time and time again to kill me... "
Goliath finally nodded when Elisa stopped speaking. "It is... something I will have to consider. But, for now, we both need our rest." Leaning down with a soft smile, he kissed Elisa on the forehead one last time.
Elisa nodded, settled back on the pillows and allowed Goliath to tuck her back in. "Go on, Goliath. I'll be here when you wake up."
Nodding, he replied, "As will I. Good sleep, Elisa... my love." He exited the hospital wing mere moments before the rubber soles of night nurse squeaked down the corridor.
"Love you," she said with a yawn. A moment later, Elisa was fading back to sleep.
The nurse tapped on the door. Hearing no response, she entered quietly. Her patient was tucked snugly in her bed, a smile of quiet contentment gracing her lovely countenance. "Hmmm," the nurse said, as she took Elisa's pulse and adjusted the drip on the I.V., "whoever your 'very off limits' mystery visitor is- he sure takes good care of you."
"Yes, he does," Elisa murmured before drifting off completely.
* * * * *
In the shadow of the towers, Othello and Desdemona looked on as the clan took to their resting places.
"My love? Why do we hold back?" the tan female asked her mate.
Grumbling, the larger, light-blue colored male replied, "We may be flesh once more, Beloved, but . . . how can we be sure that we will turn to stone at dawn, as our original bodies once did?"
With a laughing smile, Desdemona looked at her mate tolerantly. "Love, if Titania was able to restore us to our original forms, then we should turn to stone as a normal gargoyle should."
"I suppose we should venture forth and at least wish our brother and the clan a good sleep." Othello took his mate's hand and smiled. "It was good to see the sun, but now it will be better to see the night once more, as we were meant to."
"Through our own eyes, my love," she answered softly.
"Exactly. Shall we?"
The two stepped away from the tower and headed towards the clan.
Everyone was preparing to greet the dawn, exchanging small talk before climbing to their perches. They did not notice the two new arrivals. Then, Bronx lifted his nose and sniffed, a curious whine coming from deep in his throat.
"What's wrong, boy?" Hudson asked.
Nudnik picked up on the scent of two unfamiliar gargoyles, adding his own voice of confusion.
"Hey, what'cha smell Nuddie?" Graeme asked. He turned around to look, and dropped his beak open in surprise. "Wooooaaah! Check it out!"
"What is it, Graeme-kun?" Sata asked. When she looked where her son was looking, she let out a gasp in surprise. "Nani hito kono?"
"Dare?" Brooklyn asked out of reflex to Sata's Japanese, and he also looked on in shock as the two gargoyles made their way to a vacant spot beside Goliath's perch. Everyone turned to watch them, varying looks of shock, surprise, and amazement coloring their features. Lexington's eyes were huge with wonder and recognition.
As Othello ascended to the stones, he turned to look at Goliath and smiled. "A good day's sleep, my brother."
Desdemona smiled as well. "Yes, Goliath. Until tonight," she added. Before anyone could even find the strength of voice to ask them a single question, the sun finally rose from beyond the horizon, and all of the Wyvern Clan was locked once more in their stony slumber. This time, two more figures stood atop the wall, facing the morning sun with a smile locked on each of their faces.
For all of their suffering and trials, Othello and Desdemona had finally come home.
* * * * *