Baby Makes Three Christine Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Author's Note: The characters of Gargoyles belong to Disney. The gang from ER belong to NBC and Michael Creighton. This is a sequel to "Ever After" and parts of it might upset the medically-squeamish.
2032 A.D. Sunday, September 5, 8:35 AM. "Hey!" Carol yelled. Her voice cut through the bright chatter that filled the ER. It was one of those rare and wonderful mornings when there wasn't a patient in sight and five of the staff had brought donuts, so spirits were high. As one, they broke off and turned to look at her. She was listening to the paramedic comline with one ear and frantically waving at the television. "Turn it to Channel 8! A newscrew caught the triple trauma that's about to turn up on our doorstep." Randi, who was closest, sprang over and stretched way up to adjust the set, causing her crop-top to ride into the danger zone. "Are all the trauma rooms clear?" Carter asked needlessly. He'd sent the last one, a simple laceration, on his way more than an hour ago. "Clear and ready," Haleh replied. "Hoo, it's Teresa Marshall, the gore-crow of Channel 8." "Not much like her father, is she?" somebody murmured. "Aw, he had his sensationalistic period too, back during that big gargoyle scare of the nineties," Maggie said. "Shh!" Carol hissed. She was off the line with the paramedics now and peering intently at the screen. "Here it is!" "Terri Marshall? What a ghoul," was Mark's opinion as he wandered in. "What's up?" "Trauma headed our way," Carol said. "Vehicular, with some laser burns too. Oh, Jerry, better get somebody from O.B. down here. One of them is pregnant." "Gotcha." Jerry brushed chocolate sprinkles from his jowls and reached for the phone. On the screen, a bland view of the latest mayoral hopeful flapping his gums in front of a disinterested crowd suddenly shifted toward the source of yelling, the squealing of tires, the rumble of engines, and the *brr-zap!* of laser fire. " -- coming to you live!" Teresa Marshall was saying, her voice quavering with barely-contained excitement. "A peaceful Sunday morning erupts in senseless violence and tragedy, and Channel 8 Action News is bringing it to you right from courtside!" A black car, an antique and lovingly maintained gas-powered Mercedes, vintage 1980, came roaring down the street. Pedestrians scrambled and dove out of the way. Close on its tail was a hovervan, deep blue with darkly tinted windows. A turret mounted on the hood of the van seared bolt after bolt of vivid red energy. Some struck the fleeing car, but others blew up a mailbox, a newsstand, and stitched a smoking line down a storefront. The camera zoomed in for a tight close-up of a lady and two kids, standing horror-struck in the path of the speeding vehicles. At the last moment, the Mercedes veered sharply, sending up a shower of sparks as its undercarriage scraped along the curb. The car went briefly onto two wheels, missed the people by less than four feet, and slammed into the street again. The hovervan buffeted past, the thrust of its passage knocking the woman and kids sprawling. One heroic fellow jumped in and pulled them to the sidewalk, but by then they were out of danger. The Mercedes had a clear and open stretch of road. "That honey can easily leave an aircar in the dust," Haleh said, and agreement rippled through her co-workers. But it was not to be. A final laser blast turned the righthand tires into bubbling black slag and the car went into a crazy looping spin. The van kept on it and then rammed it hard enough to launch the Mercedes. It completed a weirdly graceful midair spin. The camera captured it so perfectly that the viewers at home could even read the license plate (IMMRTL2) as it whirled past. The car came down hard, the passenger-side door popping open. There was a brief glimpse of a woman within, and then the car tipped onto that side. The door was torn off in a black tangle of metal. Before anyone else could even move, the hovervan rammed the wreck again. Another shower of sparks kicked up as it skidded along the pavement and then tumbled onto its roof. Flames licked at the underside and the watchers all winced in anticipation of a Hollywood- style fireball. Instead, the drivers' side door was wrenched open and a man's arm poked out, holding a gun. The first shot blew a hole in the hovervan's air tank and sent it jetting in a clumsy circle. While the unseen occupants struggled for control, a man pulled himself from the battered Mercedes. Every move was clearly agonizing, but he steadied himself and aimed at the hovervan again. A second man, this one wearing a dark blue flightsuit and helmet, sprang from the crippled van with a gun of his own. Showdown time. The one in the flightsuit had a bigger and nastier gun, but the Action News camera didn't miss the absolutely deadly expression on the other's face. Just before they both would've opened fire, the wobbling hovervan crashed into a light pole, and this time there was a huge explosion. While everyone else was diving for cover, the cameraman (maybe with dreams of an award, more likely with Theresa Marshall's fingernails digging into his arm and threatening to rip off about a yard of skin if he dared move, while _she_ was dreaming of an award) kept his camera trained on the explosion. Which was how the viewers at home were treated to an extreme close-up of a scythelike chunk of firey metal coming straight at them, before the screen went to zigzags and then blackness. "Ho-lee shit," Jerry said. "Do you think he --" "Shh!" Carol said again. The scene shifted to the Action Newsroom, where the co- anchors looked rather dazed and blank. One of them twitched, looked into the camera, and visibly collected himself. "Um ... that was Terri Marshall, on the scene. We're told ... am I right, Denise? ... that the explosion you just saw claimed the life of our own Action Cameraman Stan Ellington." "Yes, Paul, that's right," blond and stylish Denise Philips said, just before leaning sideways in her chair and puking all over the floor. Channel 8 went abruptly to commercial. "And they're headed our way?" Mark asked, smoothly taking charge. "How many? ETA?" "Three," Carol said briskly. "The two from the Mercedes and the one from the van. Bystanders are all getting sent over to Midtown, so we don't get to meet the politician or the reporter." She checked her watch. "Four minutes." "We'll need security down here," Mark said in an undertone to Jerry. "Okay, get the crash carts ready, and did somebody page O.B.?" "Yeah, but they're swamped," Randi reported. "Damn it, not again!" "Take it easy, Mark," Carol said, putting a hand on his arm. "I'll page Doug." By the time the paramedics slammed through the doors with a gurney between them, they were ready. "What've we got?" Mark demanded. "Pregnant lady, maybe eight, nine months along. Multiple lacerations and assorted bruises, possible fracture of the left arm and right leg, probable internal bleeding, but the big concern is the kid. Couldn't get a fetal heartbeat." "She conscious?" "She was when we got there but she was pretty messed up mentally. Fought us. The husband did too. He's in the ambulance right behind us. They had to trank him." "What's her name?" "Dominique MacLachlan." "Okay. We've got it. Thanks, guys!" Mark bent over the woman, noting in passing that she was auburn-haired and of uncommon beauty. "Mrs. MacLachlan?" No response. He laid his hand upon the solid rounded bulge of her belly, hoping to feel movement. Nothing. He frowned and felt around a little. "That's weird." "What?" Carol hipped open the door to Trauma 1 and they rolled on in. Mark shook his head, still frowning. "Get me a fetal monitor and an ultrasound." He added more orders, backed off and let the nurses flow around her like the tide, then hurried next door. "On my count!" Carter was saying. Mark noticed that both of these paramedics had bruises of their own, and one of them spat a tooth even as he watched. The patient was a big man, silver-haired but with a build a twenty-five year old might have envied. "What happened?" "Thought we were attacking him or something," the paramedic who still had all her teeth said. "Busted my partner a good one." "Wendy, take him down to Exam Three and patch up his mouth," Mark said. "He was out of his mind. No wonder. Some asshole comes along and hammers them on their way to Sunday brunch. We shot him up with 50 milligrams of tranquiline just to get him on the stretcher." "We'll take care of it. Go with Wendy; she'll give you something for the pain." Mark made sure Carter had everything in hand, which of course he did, and went back to Trauma One. Malik was just rolling in the ultrasound, and Carol was scowling at the fetal heartbeat monitor. "Mark, I'm not getting anything," she said worriedly. "Miscarriage?" "There's no bleeding." He began his examination, and by the time Doug poked his head over his shoulder and asked what was up, Mark was genuinely puzzled. "Doug, take a look at this," he said, gesturing to the ultrasound printout. "Has anybody from O.B. been down?" "No." Mark snorted. "You know how they are. Let us sink or swim, and if we sink, haul our collective butts in front of a review board for incompetence." "You want me to handle it from here?" "I got it. But what do you think it is?" Doug studied the printout. "Looks like a uterine tumor the size of a basketball. Who's her doctor?" "Your guess is as good as mine. Carol, run a pregnancy test, would you?" "Sure, Mark." "How's the husband?" he asked the room at large. "They're taking him up to the O.R.," Haleh said. "Broken ribs, possible punctured lung. A few minor burns and scrapes." "What about the other guy?" "Maggie's got him," Malik said, dashing in and dashing out with a big pair of shears. "Laser to the chest, dislocated jaw, burns, and he's got so much metal sticking out of his back he looks like a porcupine. He was facing away from that van when it blew. That funny jumpsuit, though, it's bullet-resistant, otherwise he'd be dead. We're having a hell of a time cutting it off of him." "Still no room at the inn up in O.B?" Doug barked a short laugh. "They had two ladies who'd been on fertility drugs go into labor at the same time. There's about a dozen preemies up there." "Okay. Let's move her down to Exam Four. Somebody check her purse; maybe we can get ahold of her doctor." Randi leaned in. "Mark, the cops are here." "Oh, great! What do they want?" She popped her gum. "Talk to you about the patients. They kinda shot up downtown, you know?" "On my way. Doug, keep an eye on her?" "No problem." Mark snapped off his bloody gloves and shucked his plastic gown, and went to see the cops. * * Halfway through his scrub-up, Doctor Hicks came in and glowered at him. "What is the meaning of this, Doctor Carter?" "What? The man needs surgery. I called up." "Surgery. Did you examine him?" He bristled a little. "Of course I examined him!" She held out a bio-scanner. "Maybe you should take another look?" Irritated at the accusation in her tone, he flicked water off his hands and dried them. He snatched the proffered scanner and went into the operating theater, where his patient lay prepped and motionless under the clean glow of the lights. With the blood sponged away, and the better lighting, he looked much improved. Barely hurt at all. Carter ran the scanner over his chest with an I-told-you-so air, then faltered. "But --" "Next time, I suggest you be a little more thorough." "But -- broken ribs! Punctured lung!" "Where?" she inquired with polite and grating sweetness. "Look!" He grabbed the X-rays and slapped them on the lightboard. "There, see?" "Are these the right films?" "I don't mix up my patients, Doctor Hicks!" "Apparently, you have, Carter. This man has nothing wrong with him except a few bruises and minor burns." "No, that's not right!" Carter pointed. "He had second-degree burns over most of this leg." Doctor Hicks planted her hands on her hips and looked at him. "And I'm supposed to believe they just healed in the elevator on the way up?" * * "Doctor Greene, I'm Detective Bluestone." Mark shook the man's hand, noting with amusement that it was always only after they'd grabbed it that it occurred to them to wonder if it had been wrist-deep in somebody's guts just moments before. His amusement vanished as he got a good look at the young man's eyes. Large, dark, deep, and soulful, they were the eyes of a much older and haunted being, eyes that had seen mysteries and strangeness that made the daily grind of the ER dull by comparison. "What can I do for you, detective?" "I'm here about the accident." "That was quick." "Doctor Greene, we've got lasers and explosions going off downtown, a news crewman dead, two or three other people dead, a mayoral candidate shrieking that it's the end times ... we've got to be quick." "So you're wondering about the guy from the van?" Bluestone nodded. Wendy, leaving Exam Three, glanced his way and her perpetual cheery smile grew into something warm and real. He was a real head-turner, with dark brooding good looks and the type of mouth Mark believed was described in the magazines as 'sensual.' He dressed in an old-fashioned style, his suit covered by a trenchcoat right out of a cops-and-robbers movie. Not only that, but his voice was remarkable. "My team is still working on him," Mark said. "When his van blew up, it shot him full of shrapnel." "Did you get a name?" "Not that I know of." "May I see him?" Mark demurred. "It's not a pretty sight." "I've seen my share of blood," he said. He fixed Mark's gaze with his own. "Take me to him." A wave of dizziness swept over him and he heard himself say, "Okay. This way." * * "It's an egg," Randi said, dropping a chart in Doug's lap. "What are you talking about?" She jerked her head toward the unconscious woman. "I read about stuff like that all the time. I bet she was one of those women abducted and impregnated, you know, by gargoyles. There was a lot of that going on thirty years ago, but now the government covers it up." "Randi, there's no such thing as gargoyles." "So how do you explain the egg? I'm serious! There was a case in Texas a few years back, and one in Manhattan --" "Next you'll be telling me about little green men." Doug shooed her into the hall. "Go answer a phone or something, will you?" "You'll see!" she waggled her finger at him. "You'll see!" * * "One more --" Maggie said tensely. "There! Got it!" She triumphantly dropped a shard of metal into a pan filled with similar ones. "Thirty-eight! Wow! He wouldn't have been going to the airport anytime soon!" "Malik says you need more gauze." Ronette Williams, newest nurse on the staff and still learning her way around, came in timidly with a covered tray. "Yeah. Guy's going to look like the Mummy by the time we've got all this patched up. But he's lucky, he probably won't need surgery. Pass me that suture kit, would you? This one went all the way through. I want to stitch it up." She got the patient onto his side and swabbed an area high on his right shoulder. The suture gun hummed as it revved up. Ronette glanced at his face, and gasped. She reached out and drew back her hand at the last minute. "What? You know him?" Maggie asked. "No. No. Never seen him before." Ronette backed up, now fingering nervously at her hair. Not her hair, Maggie saw. Her ears. Her earrings, to be precise. Small, silver, abstract. Looking kind of like a hammer and three lightning bolts. Exactly like the small blue tattoo on the patient's cheekbone, at the corner of his right eye. * * "... tell me your name?" He groaned and opened his eyes. A figure swam into focus, a young, handsome man with an earnestly confused puppy-dog expression. "MacBeth," he said thickly. "No. MacLachlan. Lennox MacLachlan." "You're in the hospital. Do you know why?" Seeing the man's coat and stethoscope, he said, "You're the doctor. You tell me." And then recollection came back in an icy flood. "Dominique! Where is my wife?!" He lunged upward, his elbow hitting the little bedside tray and sending a musical shower of instruments to the tiled floor. "She's going to be fine. Some of our best doctors are taking care of her." "No! We have to get out of here!" He swung his legs over the side of the bed and then groaned again, wrapping his arms around himself. "Where's it hurt?" the doctor asked. "Your ribs? Damn! I knew that X-ray was right!" MacBeth shook his head. "No, not ribs." He gritted his teeth until the pain eased, then exhaled. "It's better now. Never mind. Where are my clothes?" The doctor reached into a white bag and held up a pair of pants. The right leg was nothing but char and shreds. "When they brought you in, you had sustained some pretty good burns." "I'm a quick healer," MacBeth said warily. He'd been in similar situations before, but this was surely the worst. Not only was he at risk, but his wife and child as well. "No kidding! You had broken ribs, internal bleeding, and now there's barely a bruise on you. I don't get it. We have some fast-acting treatments, but nothing that could do this!" "I cannot explain, Doctor ..." "Carter." "Doctor Carter, I must see my wife. Right now." "She's still downstairs in the ER. Mister MacLachlan, I really need to ask you some questions --" "I don't have time for questions." Carter ran his hand through his hair. It fell tousled onto his forehead, making him look all of seventeen. MacBeth suddenly felt very old. "Look, Mister MacLachlan, my boss is giving me heck for running you up to the O.R. without apparent cause. I've got to tell her something." "Tell her what you like. If I refuse treatment, you cannot keep me here. Since there is nothing physically wrong --" he sucked in a harsh breath and clenched his fists as the pain came back, deep and crushing, unlike anything he'd felt in ten centuries of wounds. "_Something_ is wrong," Carter said. "I just don't know what. Come on, let me run a few tests." * * Mark nodded at the security guards who were hanging around outside Trauma Three, and they let him and Bluestone pass. On the way, they nearly bumped into the new nurse, Ronette, who looked preoccupied and upset. "Maggie. How's he doing?" "Well, he's going to have plenty of scars, and he'll need a few grafts, too. But he'll live." Bluestone walked around the table, heedless of the blood, and took a good look at the patient. "I thought so. Bryce Canmore. At last." * * "What's up, kids?" Haleh asked as she balanced a pile of charts on the admissions desk. "Well," Jerry said, "Randi says the FBI is here to cover up the fact that one of our patients was abducted by aliens." "Not aliens, pinhead," Randi corrected. "Gargoyles. Hundred bucks says, when they open her up to check that tumor, that it's an egg." Ronette reeled back, bumped into Haleh's stack of charts and knocked them everywhere. "Gar ..." she breathed. "I -- I've got to get these to the lab!" Haleh hollered after her to get back and help clear up the mess, but Ronette was gone. "Now, where does she think she's going?" Jerry wondered. "Lab's the other way." * * Carol came in. "Doug, we got that pregnancy test back. It's --" "Positive, right?" "Yeah, how'd you know?" Doug glanced at his patient. "Because she's just gone into labor." * * "It's not me!" MacBeth said suddenly, startling Carter, who had been dutifully examining him and not finding a single thing wrong. "Dominique!" He shoved the doctor aside and forced himself to rise. The pains were coming harder and faster now, and he understood all too well what they meant. But he had suffered worse, and his fears now were brighter and sharper than any agony. "Mister MacLachlan --" Carter put himself between him and the door. MacBeth shouldered him aside and ran down the hall. Orderlies and nurses turned, amused at the spectacle they must have presented, him in his papery hospital gown, the young doctor in close pursuit. He stopped, staring at a completely unhelpful map with a big yellow "You Are Here" sticker. Carter caught up, panting. He started to say something but it was choked off as MacBeth grabbed a double handful of his lab coat and hauled him eye to eye. "Take me to my wife." "Okay," Carter said, without a moment's hesitation. * * "Hey, Mark!" Carol skidded around the corner. "Doug needs you in Exam Four. She's in labor." Detective Bluestone motioned. "Go on, Doctor. Your patient is the important thing. My questions can wait." "In labor?" Mark asked, following Carol. "But she's not --" "Yes, she is. Test came back positive." "This is too weird." "Getting weirder," Carol said, pointing to the two men coming down the stairs. "Isn't he supposed to be in surgery?" "Fast work, Carter," Mark commented. "I didn't do anything!" Carter protested. His patient uttered a low cry and stopped to brace his hands on the wall. "What's the matter with him?" Carter flung his hands in the air. "Hell if I know!" "My wife --" the man gasped. "She's going to be fine," Mark assured him. "We're just on our way --" "Mark, I need you now!" Doug yelled. There was a high feline screech, the sound of a catamount caught in a leg trap, and then Exam Four was full of flying missiles. Through the windows, they could see a woman whose beauty was contorted by pain and rage. An I.V. stand smashed through the glass upper half of the door, shredding the privacy curtain. "Quiet Sunday morning," Mark said to Carol, and alarmed himself by yodeling a decidedly looney laugh. He slammed through the door and hauled the woman off Doug. Despite her condition, she was not the least bit awkward. She writhed in his arms like a bagful of snakes and sank her teeth into his shoulder. "Trank!" he yelled. "Got it!" Carol jerked a drawer open, but the woman's husband tore the entire drawer out of the cabinet and flung it out the broken door. It hit Carter just above the eyebrows and he dropped in a hail of capped syringes and rolled bandages. The woman shrieked and fluid gushed down her legs. At the same moment, her husband echoed her and bent double. "Dominique!" Mark said urgently. "We're trying to help you. Let us help you and your baby!" "No ..." she said weakly, reaching to clasp her husband's hand. "Sundown ..." "Is hours away," he finished. "The accident brought your labor on too soon. The doctors are our only chance." "We can't!" "We must," he told her, squeezing. "For the baby." "They'll find out!" He pushed her sweat-sodden auburn hair back from her pale, drawn face. His steely eyes met her emerald ones. "Let them do their work, my love. If I have to kill them all to get us out of here afterward, I shall. You have my word." Mark, Carol, and Doug exchanged a rapid and alarmed glance. But the weird conversation and that deadly promise calmed the woman, and she let them boost her onto the table just in time for the next contraction. Seeing that all the fight was out of both of them, and they would cooperate (at least until the ominously phrased "afterward"), Mark recovered his command. Whatever was going down was guaranteed to be the most bizarre event of his career, and the less spectators, the better. He had Carol shut what was left of the door and pull what was left of the curtains, catching one last glimpse of Carter as Malik and Maggie dragged his unconscious body away. Doug took a quick look at the husband, and reported in an undertone. "It's psychosomatic. I've seen similar cases, but nothing this severe. He really seems to be feeling her pain." * * He was. Never before in history had a man known just what it was to give birth. Now, one man knew, although it seemed impossible. How could he be feeling the contractions of muscles, the working of organs, that he did not possess? Nonetheless, it was happening, and it made the backaches and swollen ankles they'd suffered for the past few months seem like a walk in the park. Fatal injuries paled in comparison, for those were at least over fairly quick, while this went on and on, more deep and intense than anything he'd ever known. "We might have to go with the C-section," the balding doctor was saying. "There's no way she's going to be able to deliver something that size." The brunette nurse injected Dominique with something, but couldn't know the unhappy quirks of their linked lifeforces. _He_ still felt everything as vividly, for the drug was not affecting _his_ system. Science and sorcery did not, in this case, mix. Dominique's hand shot out, clamped down on his arm hard. Her eyes blazed red as she roared into his face, "Get away from me, you fool!" "I won't leave you!" "It's okay," the other doctor said. They hadn't seen, or were choosing in the madness of the moment to ignore, her eyes. "It's a symptom of the stage of labor she's in. Called transition. She doesn't really mean it." "Yes, I do!" she snarled. "It's already engaged in the birth canal. Dominique, don't push! Don't push! I'm going to have to turn the ... baby? ... and push it back, so we can do a C-section." From the look on the balding doctor's face, MacBeth knew that something was terribly wrong. What was he encountering as he felt for an infant's skull? A solid, curved surface? "It's coming too fast," the dark doctor said. "We're going to have to go for it." "This is crazy." "I'm not arguing with _that_." There was a sudden awful cracking sound and Dominique howled. So did MacBeth. He fell sideways into a chair, engulfed in a white-hot pain so huge that it momentarily blotted out everything else. He got over it almost immediately but doubted he would ever forget it. "That was her pelvis," the balding one confirmed. "Oh, shit. Carol, go get me someone from O.B. _now_, if you have to drag them down here!" The nurse went on the run, affording them a glimpse of quite a crowd gathered in the hall. Held at bay, MacBeth was relieved to note, by Bluestone. The dark one was keeping his cool. "You'll feel a stretching, burning sensation," he explained to Dominique. Under normal circumstances, he probably had the most charming bedside manner of any doctor in the entire hospital. "Sometimes called the ring of fire. When you feel it, I want you to try and wait. Give your body a chance to adjust." Dominique nodded. Her breath whistled through her teeth. Whatever the nurse had given her was helping her, taking the edge off. She had done this before, after all, even if it had been a millenium ago. MacBeth, on the other hand, hadn't done much more than anxiously await the word from the midwife when Gruoch had birthed their son so many centuries before. He'd certainly never known what she had gone through, all without advanced medicines and physicians! It was a wonder humanity had ever survived! Fresh fear burst over him as he realized that she could die. They both could. For, in a way, hadn't he done this to her? If she died bearing his child, hadn't he killed her? But, no. No, it couldn't be that way! He felt the acidic, unbearable sting of the "ring of fire" in tissues that he did not have. All he could do was hiss desperately. The two doctors conferred over a needle. "Episiotomy?" "Got to." "Never going to fit." "Better idea?" "Not really." "Here goes." "Wait!" MacBeth said, too late. An unseen needle bit cruelly into him, just behind his genitals, but it didn't bring the blessed numbing that it evidently brought to his wife. And before he could regain the breath to protest, the balding doctor picked up a pair of shining-bladed scissors and made a decisive snip. He'd thought he didn't have any screams left, but he found one more. * * Weird as it was, Doug was getting more worried about the husband than the wife. Despite the impossible size of the object (which _did_ feel like an egg; maybe he owed Randi an apology), Dominique seemed to be coping. Still, there was no way that thing was going to come out without ripping her in half. He looked over at Mark, saw the same truth in his eyes. Truth and the awful desperation and frustration they always felt when there was nothing they could do. For Mark, this was the worst possible scenario. If they lost another mother ... "What are we going to do?" he asked, speaking low although neither of the others were paying attention. Mark shook his head grimly. "I don't know." "Doctor?" a musical voice chimed. Doug glanced over his shoulder at the nurses, then away. Then back again, dipping and craning his neck. "Uh ... Mark?" "What?" Mark snapped irritably, then looked and frowned in confusion. All three nurses, in pale blue scrubs with their hair concealed beneath confining caps, were identical. The only difference that Doug's quick woman-scanning eye could detect was that their delicately feathered eyebrows were of different colors. One pale blond, one strawberry blond, one dusky. Their faces (unearthly beautiful) and their bodies (hard to tell under the scrubs but damn fine was a good guess) were as alike as reflections. His first coherent thought had to do with material for a letter to Penthouse, his second thought was that the door hadn't opened since Carol's exit, and the third was that the room had cooled and dimmed. "May we assist?" they asked. Dominique and her husband reacted as if splashed with cold water. "The Weird Sisters!" she gasped. "Who are you people?" Mark demanded. "Let them help!" the husband said urgently. He turned his attention to the women. "You can, can't you?" "Do you want our help?" one asked teasingly. "If you've come to help, then do it!" He raised a menacing fist toward them. "But if you've come to take our child --" The three rolled their eyes in amusement. "We have no need to take your child. He, and you, will come to us in due time and of your own accord. But yes, MacBeth son of Findleigh, we have come to help. For did we not author his conception? Is he not, in a way, as much our child as yours?" "What the hell is going on here?" Mark tried again. Doug caught him by the elbow and drew him out of the way, somehow understanding that they were temporarily rendered part of the background by this inexplicable drama. Dominique's entire body shuddered. Her husband, MacBeth, seemed to coil in upon himself, wrapping around the pain, suffering it every bit as much or even more than she did. "We are nearly too late, sisters," the dusky one said. "Had the singer not summoned us, we might have missed this event." She extended her slim hands to the other two, and they linked. The caps fell from their heads, letting gorgeous hair in three different shades spill loose down the backs of their scrubs. A pearly glow shone and shifted behind them. "Moon take path 'twixt sun and earth, bring midday night to aid this birth!" A sense of pressure built in the small, crowded exam room. From the hall, they could all hear sudden startled cries and the rapid thump of many footfalls. Something was going on, they couldn't see what, but it didn't seem to have any effect on the delivery. Until Dominique uttered an inhuman triumphant screech, and began to change. Doug wasn't aware of moving but realized that his back was now pressed firmly against the wall, and Mark was standing next to him with his eyes bulging behind the archaic specs he favored. Neither of them could look away from the bizarre transformation. Within seconds, a blue-skinned creature was crouching on the bed, claws gouging the mattress, wings extended. "Definetely owe Randi an apology," Doug heard his mouth say. * * Here, at least, was a pain they were both used to. And in its wake, it brought relief from everything else. Demona clutched MacBeth's hands and bore down, shaking from the effort. This wasn't her first egg, and was small by gargoyle standards, so it began emerging almost at once. The Weird Sisters smiled beatifically, wreathed in light. The two mortals huddled gawking in the corner; she paid them little mind. Her attention was on the egg. It came wide-end first, so that once the thickest part was through it slid easily free and rolled gently onto the bed. "There!" she sighed, and slumped down next to it. MacBeth was at her side, stroking her hair, telling her that he loved her. "The eclipse is nearly at an end," the dark sister said. "And so is our time here. Tend well your son, and we will return when you are needed." With that, all three of them vanished. The doctors didn't move. Demona, who had undergone more of a change of heart in the past two years than in the five centuries prior, actually felt sorry for them. "Look," MacBeth said in a tone full of wonder. The egg, blue-tinted ivory with darker mottlings, was rocking gently. A thin crack appeared, and then another. A section bulged outward. MacBeth pried up the bit of shell. A thick fluid trickled out. And then, a tiny hand pressed against the bluish membrane, five fingers clearly visible. The egg rocked again, more violently, and broke apart right down the middle. A loud, lusty squall filled the room. "My God," the dark-haired doctor said, coming forward. Demona ... no, Dominique now, she had reverted to human without even noticing, so entranced had she been ... Dominique picked up her son. He was red, wrinkled, annoyed, and the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She'd missed the hatching of the rookery children, but even then it wouldn't have been like this. All of the gargoyle hatchlings would have belonged to the entire clan, but this, this fist- waving noisy human, was _hers_. "Our son." MacBeth embraced her as she cradled the infant, then reached to stroke the fuzzy cap of brownish hair. "We'll call him Moray," she said, bringing tears to MacBeth's eyes. "Moray," he agreed. "I make him nine pounds, give or take a few ounces," the dark- haired doctor remarked. "But no umbilical cord ... kid's not going to have a bellybutton. May I --" Dominique held her son protectively close while her husband, no longer incapacitated by their shared pain, turned and stood to his full impressive height. His steely gaze swept both doctors, and she knew that they were remembering his earlier promise to kill them. Distantly, but very clearly, the sound of singing drifted on the air. "We won't be staying," MacBeth said. "And it is of vital importance that no one else learn our secret." There was a lengthy pause, and then the dark haired one scratched fitfully at the back of his neck and shrugged. "Secret? I'm just glad you're not angry about that problem with the ultrasound. Got to get that thing fixed. It's always fouling up." The other one deposited the eggshell in a large bag marked "Biohazard -- For Incineration Only." As he did so, he added, "Sorry about all the confusion. Things aren't usually this hectic." "Yeah," the dark one said, "it'd be amazing if we got any of our charts finished." Dominique and MacBeth studied them, then each other. "We brought a new life into the world today," MacBeth said. "It would be a shame to take any others." * * Maggie Doyle glared daggers above the thick pad of gauze taped over her mouth. "She'll tell," Ronette said. "It doesn't matter." Bryce Canmore, wincing and moving gingerly, peered into the hallway. The security guards were still distracted. Everyone out there was babbling about the eclipse. Some doctor, apparently an amateur astronomer, was loudly discoursing on how the phase of the moon was all wrong, that it was impossible. Only he knew the truth. There was a sign in the heavens, and the beast was loosed upon the earth. The Demon had spawned. It was the beginning of the end. He had failed in his mission. If he had died in the slaying of the Demon, it would have been a legacy well-spent. Now, though, he could not take the chance. Now he had to be able to assure the destruction of both mother and child. If he killed the Demon, but perished himself, her child would carry on the evil. "I'm going to get in trouble," the young woman fretted. She wore the sacred sign, proof that her family was loyal to the cause, but she remained largely ignorant of the quest. Still, she was an attractive thing, and it was high time he did something about securing his future. "Maybe even lose my job," she continued. The other nodded viciously, struggling against her bonds. "It doesn't matter," Bryce said again. "You're coming with me." She looked up at him, hopeful and dazzled. "Really?" "Of course. You have a greater purpose to fulfill." He put on the blue scrubs she'd brought him, and tied a cotton mask to hide half of his face. "What purpose?" He touched her cheek. "There will always be a Hunter." * * He was waiting on the roof when they emerged. The sky had gone back to normal, with no sign of the moon to be seen. The painted concrete of the helipad was bright as a desert under the afternoon sun. "Hello, Canmore." Ronette gasped. The last Hunter and prophet of the Quarrymen turned slowly. "Bluestone. So you've caught up with me at last. Come to kill me, the way my father killed yours?" "No. I've learned the lesson your family never did. Generations of revenge have brought you nothing but death. I won't fall into that trap." "So what are you going to do?" Canmore sneered. He opened his coat, withdrew something of metal that was not a gun, and set his fingers to the strings. "I've had a busy day, but I've saved my best for you." Then, with all the power that was his, Orpheus Bluestone began to sing. * * The End.
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