Something Old, Something New by Christine Morgan, email@example.com Author's Notes: Typical disclaimers about how most of the characters presented herein are the property and creative brain-children of the wonderful folks at Disney. Joy, Crimson, and the other old-timers are my own but I'm not selfish if anybody else wants to include them. This story is set about six weeks after "Hunter's Moon." Comments are not only welcome but eagerly sought after.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW Morgan looked startled when he saw her, but then his face split into a broad, beaming grin. "Hey, Captain! Thought they weren't letting you come back for a few weeks!" Captain Maria Chavez returned his smile, hers a bit rueful. She gestured to the padded brace and cast that encased one of her legs. "As you can see, Morgan, I'm not ready to run any marathons yet. I'm supposed to be at home, resting, with my foot up, but I just couldn't stand any more of those stupid afternoon talk shows. And my place is a mess. Though," she continued, looking around dubiously, "things aren't much better here." The hall leading to her office was crowded with painter's scaffolds, disorganized piles of lumber, toolboxes gaping like metal- filled mouths, and people in coveralls slouching about drinking from styrofoam cups and looking like they wished they had cigarettes. "Coffee break," Morgan said, falling into step beside her and slowing to allow for her limp. "Seems like they have six or seven of them a day." "Our coffee, I suppose." "Yeah. They were going after the donuts, too, but Richards put a stop to that." He chuckled. "You should've seen it. He started spouting some line about police property and obstructing breakfast, and just to make his point he cuffed one of them to the kitchen door as a warning." "Richards has to start being more careful with his own police property," Chavez said absently as she dug her keys out of her purse. "He might think I've forgotten about the time he left his gun lying on the counter at the sandwich place, but believe you me, Morgan, it's well-remembered." "Yes, Ma'am. So how long are these jokers supposed to be here?" She sighed and shook her head. "It's taken them six weeks to get this far, and I swear it looks like they're doing more damage than they're fixing. Months, probably. And all the while we'll be wading through the latest pile of bureaucratic bullshit from uptown, just trying to get the funding to fix the goddam roof before winter. As if there's a question of whether or not it needs to be fixed. Christ, Morgan, there's a pile of rubble on our roof big enough to fill an Olympic-sized pool!" He stepped back and raised both hands, palms out. "Easy, Captain, you're preaching to the choir here. Save it for the bigwigs, okay?" "Sorry, Morgan. I've been getting five calls a day about it, even when I was in the hospital, and I don't know how many couriers with papers for me to sign. It's just getting under my skin." "Hey, I know how it is. We've all been worked over. I mean, first it was the news crews, and then the gawkers -- we oughtta talk to the mayor or the governor or somebody and make gawking a crime -- and then the contractors, and now these clowns." "We're just lucky more people weren't hurt. When I think how bad it could have been ..." she shivered. "Uh, Captain, that was your office." He pointed at the door. "Oh. Right. Didn't recognize it with the plywood where my name used to be." "I'm sure they'll get around to getting you a new window. Like sometime in the year 2000." "Very funny, Morgan. Now get to work or I'll find something to charge you with." "Yes, Ma'am!" He doffed his hat and sauntered back through the maze of scaffolds. Maria Chavez let herself into her office. She hadn't seen it in six weeks, not since the rescue teams had carried her out on a stretcher. The window, which had blown out in the explosions, had been covered with another sheet of plywood. The room was therefore dim and shadowy despite the bright afternoon outside. She flipped on the lights and one of the overhead flourescents swung down like a trapdoor. It rocked crazily, casting moving fans of brightness. Grit, glass, dust, and debris littered the carpet. Her desk was upended -- when had that happened? Maybe during the blast, maybe after when the room seemed a haze of cops and firefighters and paramedics. She hadn't been thinking too clearly at that point. She picked her way through the mess and righted the desk. She then stooped to gather her things from the floor. Blotter, telephone, in/out basket, nameplate, trifold picture frame. The glass on that one was somehow miraculously unbroken. She brushed it off, looked at the photos. The phone rang, startling her. She nearly dropped the frame, juggled it, caught it, and set it safely on the desk with her heart hammering madly. She grabbed the phone and punched the button by the blinking light. "Chavez," she said, pleased that her voice came out crisp and efficient. "Mom? Wow, that was lucky! I tried you at home but nobody was there so I thought I'd try your work, even though I didn't think you were back yet." "Sarah? Honey, hello! How are you?" "Great! Mom, guess what! Dad's getting married!" The strength went out of her legs. She fell into her chair, dimly grateful that it was still upright in its accustomed place. Her breath caught in a strangled gasp. Oblivious to the shocked silence on the other end, her youngest child babbled. Sarah had just turned ten, wished she was sixteen, but in her excitement was reduced to approximately age seven. "Her name's Rhonda, kind of a funny name, I never knew anybody named that before, but she's really nice and she's got brown hair and she always wears it in these really cool braids and she's teaching me how to braid my hair, and they're getting married in three weeks and I get to be a bridesmaid, not just a flower girl, 'cause that's for babies, but a real bridesmaid and wear a dress, you gotta see it, it's so cool, it's this blue color, Dad says it's called turquoise, and it's got these ruffles down the back and a big bow, and I get to wear a hat, and Aunt Julie is gonna come, and we're gonna have wedding cake and champagne and Dad says I can even try some, though he thinks I won't like it but I bet I will --" "Sarah, honey, slow down," Maria finally managed. "Yeah, okay, but isn't it great?" "Great," she echoed listlessly. "Oh, and I forgot to tell you the coolest part! Rhonda's folks live out in the country, and they've got a ranch, and real horses! And while they're honeymooning, they're going to Hawaii, you and Dad always talked about going to Hawaii, remember, but while they go, me and Josh get to stay on the ranch with the horses! Two whole weeks!" Maria shook her head, trying to assimilate all this information. Finally she settled on the most important part. "Honey, you and Josh could stay with me." "Mo-o-om! Horses!" "I'd really like it if you'd stay with me, Sarah." "But Dad says me and Josh should spend time with Rhonda's folks because we're gonna be like a real family now! And Dad says you work all the time, so we'd be a bother." "You're never a bother!" "Josh is all mad, though, because they're getting married on a Saturday and so he'll have to miss his stupid softball game, but it doesn't matter because he can't pitch anyway, and Dad says Josh should be there and be happy because we're finally going to have a real mom." Maria winced. "Sarah --" "Oh, but I'm supposed to tell you that we can't come see you that weekend, you know, because of the wedding? So maybe next month, and I can tell you all about the horses and everything." "Your father should be the one telling me this," Maria snapped. "Who does he think he is, just making plans without even consulting me? That's supposed to be my weekend. I hardly ever get to see you and your brother, and your father is always coming up with reasons to interfere!" "But, mom, it's his wedding," Sarah said in a small meek voice. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I shouldn't be yelling at you. I'm not mad at you. Sarah? Honey? Are you still there?" Muffled, distant sobbing and a click. "Shit." She hung up the phone and glared at it so hotly it should have melted. Then, in a fit of childish pique, she shoved it off the desk. It struck the floor with a surprised "ting!" She picked up the picture frame again and turned it over and over in her hands, watching the three faces of her children revolve. Little Sarah. Josh, who would be twelve soon, with his dreams of playing in the majors. And Carmen, her oldest, who was in California. Carmen wouldn't be going to the wedding. She had never accepted her mother's second husband. To Carmen, Alan Henderson had been an unwelcome intrusion into their lives, her half- brother and half-sister annoyances. When she'd been able to escape to college, she had gone as far from home as she could while still staying within the continental U.S. Maria opened a drawer, found her address book, and looked up the number for the large house Carmen shared with five other girls, then closed the book and returned it to its resting place. Calling Carmen would do no good. All she'd be doing was setting herself up for an earful of "I told you so," with an extra helping of cool indifference. It had been four years since they had seen each other, months since they'd spoken, only communicating by the occasional duty letter. For all Maria knew, Carmen might have graduated already, without so much as an announcement, let alone an invitation. Alarmed to find herself on the verge of tears, Maria forced herself to get up and start cleaning her office. Heedless of her leg and cast, she climbed onto her desk to try and wedge the flourescent light back into its socket. Then a trip to the janitor's closet for cleaning supplies (past either another coffee break or the continuation of the first). Then she dusted, vacuumed, filled three of the large size trash bags with debris, beat the plaster dust out of her chair and off her rump once she remembered she'd been sitting in it -- probably gave the loafers in the hall a good laugh passing them with what looked like a big white handprint on her butt -- and finally she looked around and nodded with satisfaction. Oh, it would just get wrecked again when the workers came to fix her window, but for now it was passable. Her leg was pounding dully. She grabbed her purse and headed for the ladies' room, noting that the hall was empty of people. Just the scaffolds and tools standing around, like some working man's Roanoke Island. It wasn't until she looked at her watch -- 8:48 PM -- that she realized she'd spent about five hours cleaning. She found a mini free sample of Advil in her purse and swallowed the tablets with a glass of water, then looked in the mirror. Thank God nobody had seen her, looking like a hag with a corkscrew hairdo and a face covered with smudges. She washed and straighened herself as best she could. "Why bother?" she asked her reflection. "Nobody to go home to. Maybe I should call Muriel and see what she's up to." She considered the idea for about thirty seconds, then canned it. Muriel, twice divorced and quite happy about it, would suggest that they go out. She'd encourage Maria to tart herself up like a twenty-year old and drag her to some dingy club where the music was so loud it seemed like your head would explode, and where young people writhed and gyrated in what they thought was dancing. Instead, leaving the ladies' room, her eye fell upon the door leading to the stairs. "Today's been such a perfect day," she said, still not aware she was speaking aloud. "Why not go up and look at the clocktower? That'll be the cherry on the whole goddam sundae." Her leg complained with each stair riser, but Maria grimly ignored it and climbed all the way to the top floor of the precinct. Up here, the damage was worse. The floor was two inches deep in plaster chunks, most of which had fallen out of the walls. She could see a dinosaurian skeleton of exposed beams and timbers. The old archives, dating back to a time when this building had been a branch of the city library, were a chaotic mess of toppled shelves, strewn books, and torn pages like drifts of autumn leaves. Looking at all that paper, she was amazed the whole place hadn't gone up like a Roman Candle. An ancient spiral staircase, missing more steps than a first-time ballet student, was tilted at a sickening angle. The trapdoor to which it led was open, with an intestinal dangling of wires and insulation. Instead of trying to navigate the spiral stair and trap door, Maria searched for the door marked "Attic." She found it behind a jackstraw tumble of beams but was able to pick her way through. She reached for the doorhandle, knowing that it probably wasn't safe to be up here, knowing the place could collapse at any moment, knowing that nobody knew where she was and if she fell and broke her other leg, she would die a slow, horrible death up here. She turned the handle anyway. It was locked. Locked? She frowned. To the best of her awareness, this door wasn't kept locked. She examined the handle. It looked much newer than the rest of the door, as if someone had replaced the knob, plate, and whole works at some time in the not-too-distant past. A new flavor of curiosity mixed with her grim desire to survey the ruins. Who would lock the attic? And why? There was nothing to see up there except the rusty old clock machinery, and that was just a crumbling mess now. Could the news stories have been true? She barely allowed that thought to flit across her consciousness before banishing it to the Home for Stupid Ideas. Gargoyles. Yeah, right, as Elisa would say. But why think of Elisa? Elisa had been hiding something. For a long time. Her comings and goings at odd hours, not terribly unusual for a cop. Her preference -- no, downright insistence -- on working the night shift. The wild reports that her collars gave. Reports of monsters. Monsters. Gargoyles. "Bullshit!" she said, and the sound of her own voice brought her back to normality. What was she doing, creeping around up here in the dark, in this old place like a haunted castle? All she needed was eerie music and Bela Lugosi to come gliding along in his cape. No wonder she was having strange thoughts. The smart thing to do would be to forget about it, go home, make tea, and relax. So she slammed her shoulder against the door. It gave way with ridiculous ease. She stumbled forward, kicked a chunk of wood with her bad foot, yelped, nearly fell, and had to hang onto the edge of the door to steady herself. She saw that the solid brass tongue of the lock had just torn clear through the doorframe, which was splintered down to tissue-thickness. Ahead of her, a rickety flight of stairs looked like the road to Hell, despite the fact that they were going up instead of down. She picked her way up those stairs as carefully as a brain surgeon at work. A cool draft helped guide her. She smelled dust, smoke, and stale popcorn. That brought her to a halt. Popcorn? She shook her head and continued. At last, the shattered dome of the clock tower was the only thing standing (barely) between her and the star-strewn sky. She stepped over a huge metal VII, and eased around the warped and half-melted minute hand which was embedded point-first into the floor like some sort of ornate harpoon. She bruised her shin (not the broken one, thank God for small favors) against the television. Television? She bent to examine it. With her thumb, she rubbed off the smoky residue on the front lower edge, uncovering an M, an A, a G, an N, and another A. The rest was beyond recognition, but she didn't need to be a genius to guess what the last three letters would be. Where the screen should have been was a gaping empty socket ringed with shards of glass. Inside were the blackened, scorched electronic guts. And near the television was something else. An armchair. The overstuffed behemoth that had belonged to Detective Prosky, she was sure of it. Prosky had retired several months ago, and she'd made sure to tell him to take the damn thing with him or throw it in the dumpster. In fact, she knew he'd moved it because Elisa had volunteered to -- Elisa? What the hell was going on? Whatever it was, she knew it couldn't be anything bad. After all, she'd known Elisa ever since the day the younger woman was born. She and Carlos had been godparents to all three Maza kids. Carlos. Oh, God! Crushing loneliness and grief engulfed her. Anguish knotted her stomach, closed her throat, squeezed her heart, and for a moment she was sure she was going to die before she could let it out. Then the tears she had successfully battled downstairs won through. She uttered a huge braying wail and flung herself into the armchair. She cried like she hadn't cried in years. Not even at Carlos' funeral, or in the horrible solitary days following his death, had she given way to such a fury of tears. She'd had to be strong then, for little Carmen, and had thrown herself into her work, wanting to be the best cop there was, not only because Carlos had been a cop, because Carlos had given his life in the line of duty, but so that she could do her part to put a stop to the sort of violence that had taken him away from her, so that other little girls like Carmen would never have to have a parent tell them, "We have to be very brave now." At last, the storm began to pass. Her weeping gradually subsided into chest-hitching. And just before she heard the voice, her cop instinct told her she was being watched. "Och, lass, sure as it canna be so bad as all that." She whirled, eyes ticking rapidly over the heaps of stone, the fallen timbers. A thousand shadows, a thousand places easily big enough to conceal a man. "Wh--who's there?" she said, mortified at the pitiful quavering tone. "Dinna take on so," the voice said. It was a kindly voice, soothing yet gravelly, and the accent inspired an instinctive trust. "I mean ye no harm." "Then show yourself," she challenged, no longer frightened but still concerned. She was unarmed, after all, and in a cast she doubted her martial arts training would be terribly effective. The voice chuckled warmly. "Now, I dinna think that's a good idea, lass. Ye're the captain, are ye not? Captain Chavez?" "Yes. Who are you?" She caught herself feeling absurdly flattered to be called lass. Well past forty, mother of three, she was hardly qualified for the title. "I'm called Hudson, if it please ye. Are ye well? I dinna mean to intrude, but 'tis fair heartbreaking to see a lady cry." "I'm fine," she said weakly. "What is this? Why are you hiding?" Inspiration struck. "You lived here, didn't you? The television, the chair ... but how did you get around with nobody seeing you?" "I used to live here, that much be true. No more, 'tis a shame, for we were fond o' this place for all it wasn't so grand as our true home." She heard him move and was pretty sure she had his location pinpointed. A large man, by the sound, probably one of New York's legions of homeless. "It's not safe to be up here. You must have been out when it blew up. Come out, and we'll find you a place to stay. There are a lot of good shelters." He chuckled again. "Ye're a one, aren't ye, lass? 'Twas my thought to ease yer worries when I saw ye weeping fit to die, and not two minutes later ye're trying to comfort me. I assure ye, I'm in no need of a new home yet. We're back where we belong. I just came by to see the old place. We'd all stayed away after the explosion." "What do you mean we? Did you have friends living up here?" Something rustled in the shadows, sounding a little like sheets flapping leisurely in the line and a little like fallen leaves blowing along the ground. "My family, lass. My clan." She rose from the chair. "Come out. I promise, I'm not going to arrest you." "I dinna fear that. But, lass, ye've already had a trial of an evening by the look of it, and I'd not be the one to scare ye." "I don't scare easily. Besides, I prefer talking to someone when I can see his face." He sighed heavily. "Well, I suppose ye'd be learning about us some time." He stepped out of the shadows. Maria Chavez collapsed back into the chair, second time tonight she'd done that without looking, and luck was still with her because she landed squarely in it instead of spilling to the floor. Her limbs felt numb, her jaw hung loose, her eyes felt large as saucers. "You -- you're a gargoyle! You're real!" "I always thought so," he said. "Elisa'd been wanting to tell ye, but she feared ye might not take it well." She stared at him. Her head was filled with questions, all tumbling over each other. Questions about him, his kind, Elisa, news stories, criminal reports, and dozens more. But all she could do was sit and stare. If she'd had to guess his age, she would have said a well preserved sixty-five. He was a bit on the portly side but more muscular than flabby, with leathery skin, a lush grey beard, one eye filmed by a yellow cataract, and huge wings sprouting from his back. He was dressed like someone out of one of those cheesy swords- and-sorcery movies Josh adored, in a loincloth and some sort of armored vest. A sword hung at his waist. Taloned feet. And to complete the picture, a stout limber tail. "Oh, my God, I don't believe this," she muttered. "Nay, lass, I'm as real as ye are." He came closer, moving with a strange grace that belied his bulk. She thought of pro football players, a dozen years after retirement, maybe coaching high school teams. Such men might move like that. "Elisa knows about you?" she asked. "Aye. We've been helping her and Matt for some time now." "But if you lived here, why did you blow the place up?" He shook his head, and a grim line furrowed his brow. "We'd ne'er harm our home. A gargoyle can no more hurt his home than stop breathin' the air, to paraphrase an old saying. 'Twas enemies brought on us by one of our own turned bad. Believe me, lass, we're not yer foes." She stood again, carefully, half-expecting the world to spin out from under her. He was taller than she was, and about twice as broad. She discarded the football player image. He carried himself more like a professional soldier, old but still extremely competent. "I have so many questions, but I don't know where to begin," she said. "Then let me. What were ye doin' up here, lass? What's got ye so upset? If Elisa'd seen ye like that, she'd have been distraught. And Elisa distraught means Goliath movin' mountains to set things right. Since he's not here, 'tis up to me." She looked up into his careworn face. Already, after only minutes of acquaintance, he did not seem monstrous in the least. Nor did she perceive any threat from him. She wasn't a woman who shared her problems with anyone, especially not strangers, so it surprised her to hear herself start telling him about her conversation with Sarah. Once the words started, it was as if a dam had burst. She told him about her short and ill-fated marriage to Alan, about her estrangement from Carmen, and finally, blinking back more tears though she wouldn't have thought she had any to spare, about Carlos. * * MARIA'S STORY: "He was a cop, of course. It was really sort of funny. He and Peter Maza, Elisa's father, were both teen rebels. Hated authority. Two of a kind, a couple of punk kids from the Southwest. They both ran away from home at around the same time, hooked up at a truck stop in Texas, and were like brothers from the day they met. Just two teen rebels, drifting like tumbleweeds. "And then, for no reason either of them could ever explain, they decided to become cops. They were good, damn good, the best. They had chances at promotions early on, but both of them liked working the street. They liked getting right in the thick of it and beating up on the bad guys. They both had tempers, tried to hide it but it was there. If you know Elisa, I'm sure you've seen some of that. "I met Carlos in '67. I was just a kid myself, but bright, skipped ahead in school. I was doing a summer internship helping out around the police station. Back then, there were hardly any female cops. My mother thought I was crazy. So did all my friends, what few I had. But I stuck to it. "I guess we were all still rebels, even if we were cops. Things were different in those days, so when Peter married Diane and I married Carlos, we heard a lot of disapproval about mixed marriages. Hah! Mixed marriages. Now nobody bats an eye; instead they get all worked up about the gays. If it's not one thing, it's another. Crazy. Stupid, and crazy. "Carlos and I were married in '69. None of that love-in and live-together nonsense for us. We weren't cut out to be hippies. Carmen came along in '71, just a year after Elisa was born. They were so cute together as kids. And Derrek -- by the time Carmen was seven she had the biggest crush on him! Now he's off working for David Xanatos at some private facility upstate. I'm glad he's happy, but it hurt to lose a damn good cop. "Anyway, Carlos and I both worked, but we were still able to provide a good home and family life for Carmen. I wanted to be the first female police captain in the city. Carlos supported me every step of the way. I didn't quite make it first, but I did make it, and that's what counts. But by then, he wasn't around to see it. "It was 1980. May 15th. He and Peter, still partners after all those years, starting to think about retiring, walked into the middle of a domestic dispute. They weren't even on a call, just stopping to pick up Carmen at a friend's birthday party on the way home. We were supposed to have a barbeque that night. Early in the season, but it had been warm and beautiful. Diane and I were at our place with the other kids, but Carmen had that birthday party. Wouldn't have missed it for the world. "The neighbors in one of the other apartments were having a fight, and the man pulled a gun. His wife screamed and ran into the hall, just as Carlos and Peter were coming in. Her husband came after her and just started shooting wildly, spraying bullets, and Carlos was killed before he even got his gun out. Peter was hit in the leg, but shot the guy. The woman had been shot three times. She died on the way to the hospital. So Carlos died for nothing. "And Carmen ... when the shooting stopped, other people in the apartments started looking out to see what was going on. Carmen saw her father dead in the hallway." * * The flood of words ended as abruptly as it had begun. Maria was sitting on the edge of the chair, head down, hands dangling limply as she spoke. At some point in her story, Hudson had perched on the arm of the chair, which had groaned alarmingly but held. She felt his large, rough, yet tender hand on her shoulder. Touched by a gargoyle, she thought randomly. The Daily Tattler will pay big bucks for this. "And ye kept up police work," he said admiringly. "It was all I knew. I had Carmen to support. The insurance company was dragging its feet, making up all sorts of reasons not to pay. Peter and Diane wanted to help us out but I was stubborn and foolish. He retired the next year. I was surprised when he encouraged but Derrek and Elisa to join the force, but that's the way Peter is. And I needed some way to fill the time. The empty time, without Carlos." "What about yer daughter?" "She blamed herself. Kids do that, even when it isn't their fault. If she hadn't insisted on going to the party, her father wouldn't have died. That was how she saw it. She pulled away from me; now I know she was afraid I'd be killed too, and so she was trying to distance herself. I wanted her to have a real family. I should have let the Mazas be our family. Instead, I married Alan. An investment broker. They never get shot in the line of duty. Their jobs are boring. Safe. Unless there's a stock market crash and they all take a leap." "Did ye love him, lass?" "Not like Carlos. Alan was safe, like I said. A good provider. Reliable. I wanted to make it work, but Carmen was just as determined to see it fail. She hated him from the first day she met him, never gave him a chance, never even agreed to try. Then I thought that more kids might help, give her something to connect with. So we had Josh, and Sarah. And two years after Sarah was born, Alan left me. By then Carmen was away at school, not college but a girls' boarding school in Massachusets, she'd wanted it so much and it was such a relief to get her out of the house, I know it sounds awful to say, but it was true, I had two young kids and a high- pressure job, and I couldn't take the constant bitter harping from a teenager. I'm rambling, just like Sarah does. I'm sorry." "Ramble all ye want, lass. Ye'll feel the better for it. I know how it pains to lose a loved one. Ye lost yer mates, ye've somewhat lost yer children, ye're feeling clanless and lost. 'Tis a sorry way to feel. I canna undo what's been done, but I can offer ye a shoulder to lean on." She looked up at him, searched his mournful eyes. "You've been through the same thing, haven't you?" "Aye, bits of it. We dinna have marriage, divorce, and these things among gargoyles, but I've only a scarce few of my clan left. We were betrayed. Only a handful of us survived, though we've since been in the way of knowing that there be others of our kind left in the world. Our children, well, they be raised all together, by the clan, and we'd ne'er in the past given much worry over whose eggs were whose. That may be changing, but back then, we'd no way o' knowing nor cause to wonder which of the hatchlings were our own flesh and blood. Now they're gone, most o' them. And my mate, too, though she were taken from me long before the Vikings destroyed the rest o' them." * * SCOTLAND, 898 A.D. If she'd had a name, it would have been Joy. They didn't have names then, nor did they need them. The one the humans would call Goliath would not even be hatched for almost forty years. Names were a human affectation, maybe the only way they could tell each other apart. But Joy was how he thought of her. Joy was what filled his heart each time he laid eyes upon her, and joy marked every night of her life. She found it wherever she looked, in the simplicity of a flower, in the beauty of the moon, in the soft music of the river. The gargoyle who would in the fullness of time come to be called Hudson roared and stretched, shedding his casing of stone skin. His rookery brothers and sisters were waking all around him. A cool breeze, salt-scented, washed over them invigoratingly. Joy swooped down to meet him as he stepped off his rampart. "A beautiful night!" Others might have found fault with her appearance, for she was not lean and hard and muscular like the other females. Her form had a more pleasing roundness, softer curves. Others might have thought her skin was too dark a shade of green, her copper-hued hair too fine and silky, her brow spines too stubby. Not he. To him, she was perfect. "As beautiful as ye," he said, grasping her forearms in his hands and leaning to brush his brow spines against hers in a gesture of affection. She tugged playfully at his ear and curled her tail around his calf. "I was thinking o' flying out to the standing stones tonight. Come with me?" "What o' the barbarians?" he asked. "We drove them off last night, but we should chase them further from our home. The elders will want us to go after them." "Must ye always think like a warrior? When is the time for play, my love?" "Will ye never think like a warrior?" another of their sisters interrupted. Crimson-skinned, with a blaze of white hair and a proud sharp beak, she was the fiercest fighter among them. Already, her eyes blazed with the anticipation of battle, and her voice dripped scorn for the peaceful Joy. "There be more to life than this!" Joy insisted. "We'll not be at war always. What will the rest o' ye do when the enemies are no more and there's naught to fill yer nights but imagining archers in the shadows?" The crimson one turned to Hudson. Her tone changed to a challenge. "Are ye going to go flitting off with her then, like Oberon's pixies playing among the thistles? Or are ye going to stay and be a real gargoyle?" He hesitated, too long. Joy gave him a hurt but understanding smile, then turned and stepped up onto the wall. "Wait --" he called, but she sprang out and unfolded her lovely wings. The wind caught them and carried her away, not down into the courtyard where the rest of the clan was gathering, but out across the fields. Crimson laughed mockingly. She stepped closer to him, her curved disemboweling talons clicking on the stone (centuries later, when he watched Jurassic Park, he would think of her). "Come on, then. If ye're e'er to have any status in this clan, ye'd do well to forget her." She ran a claw down his arm, seductive but also hard enough to hurt. He shook her off, ignoring her angry hiss, and looked in the direction Joy had flown. He braced a hand on the rampart, ready to launch himself after her, when the clan leader roared his summons. With a heavy sigh, he joined the rest of the warriors. "These barbarians will not threaten our home again," the leader was saying, turning his massive triple-horned head from side to side to survey his clan. Above the horns, a plate of bone swept back like a crown. His normally pale blue skin was flushed darker with anger. He raised his arms to the sky, stretching out the membraneous wings that reached from his hips to his wrists. "I will go, and twice ten of the warriors with me, to drive them across the river and far from here." More than forty gargoyles were gathered around him, and they began buzzing and muttering excitedly amongst themselves, each wanting to be among the twice ten, each fearing to be left behind. From windows and balconies, human faces watched them with mingled curiosity, revulsion and fear. Three approached, men in rough peasant's garb, carrying large trays heaped with bread. They skirted around the gargoyles and set the trays on the roof of the long, low shed that hugged the inner wall. Then, as timid as mice, they crept away. Not once did they speak, nor meet the gaze of any gargoyle. "Will they ne'er accept us?" the one who would be Hudson wondered aloud. His closest rookery brother clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Would that it were so, after all this time. Most of these were not even alive when you and I cracked shell. But they hear tales from their elders, of the days before men and gargoyle lived side by side. They see us as monsters for our differences, and think we do not belong among them." "They are the ones who dinna belong," Crimson snarled. "These rocks were home to our kind when men were squatting in caves. They came here unwelcome, stole our home, and we should have fought for it. Had I but been hatched then --" "These humans dinna be our enemies," Hudson said. "Sure as they're not our friends, but mayhap 'tis still needing time. Ours was the first clutch o' eggs to hatch within these walls, so --" "Aye, forty years agone!" she interrupted. "If they've not accepted us in forty years, they'll not be accepting us in four hundred!" "The time will come," their brother said, gripping each of them by the shoulder, gently, but with the promise of increased pressure, "when human and gargoyle live together in peace. You and I may not be there to see it, but our children will." Hudson nodded. "Ye speak well, my brother. If more o' our clan were o' such a mind as ye, methinks yer prediction may well come true." "Fool's talk," Crimson declared. "What I want to know is who goes to fight the barbarians!" Their leader had wisely let them talk among themselves as they feasted on bread. They could hunt and did so quite well, and gathered wild fruits, nuts, and berries from the far reaches of the land, but baking was a treat of which they'd not yet grown weary. The humans gave bread to them in thanks for their defense of the castle, and in trade for the game the gargoyles brought, but even as Hudson chewed thoughtfully on a warm doughy loaf, he reflected that the humans had never welcomed the gargoyles to eat with them. They did not live among humans so much as alongside them, each group tolerating the other but no ties of friendship. The leader raised his arms again, and the clan fell silent. He moved among them, selecting his warriors. Even as he felt the leader's claw tap his chest, Hudson thought of Joy and wondered if she had been waiting for him to follow, if she was waiting even now at the standing stones. * * The pursuit was a success. The barbarians, still battered and terrified from their previously rebuffed attack on Castle Wyvern, were unprepared for the winged force that swept down upon their camp. They panicked and fled, few having the presence of mind to even grab a weapon let along organize a proper defense. Whooping and screeching gargoyles dove on them, ripping and rending, tails lashing, wings buffeting campires into furies of spark and ash. A few surviving humans scattered into the forest night. Some gargoyles, Crimson among them, went gleefully hunting, moving from treetop to treetop, cat-agile and silent, only to pounce with horrifying suddenness. Others remained at the ruined camp, looting through the wreckage for foodstuffs, jewelry, and useable weapons. Hudson wandered restlessly among his clan. He had done his part in the battle, fighting with the sure skill that seemed in him more innate than taught, but when the foes were gone, the purpose vanished with them. He had no patience for chasing stragglers or collecting trinkets. His thoughts were still of Joy. She wouldn't have been here anyway, not at a battle. She had neither taste nor talent for it. Others, Crimson most of all, made fun of her whenever the leader was not around to put a stop to the teasing. They said she was good for nothing but turning eggs and tending hatchlings. A gargoyle who couldn't fight was, in their eyes, no gargoyle at all. "Something amiss, lad?" the leader asked him. His wings jerked in instinctive reaction to being startled and the leader chuckled. "Nothing amiss," he replied. "You do not seem to be enjoying the spoils," the leader observed. He shrugged. "This wasn't about spoils. We dinna fight for gold. We fight to protect our home and clan. This --" he waved a hand at his brothers and sisters and elders, calling to each other to show off their newest prizes, "this isn't our way." The leader nodded proudly. "I knew you'd be thinking that way. That is why I've chosen you to be my second in command." Hudson stared at him. The choice of a second was something the leader had been putting off for months now, since his previous second had fallen in battle. The younger gargoyles had begun to despair of him ever making the decision. "Me?" "Aye, lad. You fight well, not the best warrior but you keep your head about you and do not go off in a blood fury --" the leader's eyes flicked momentarily to Crimson, "and you've just stated for me nice as could be the gargoyle way. You'd be well suited." Hudson inclined his head. "I am honored. I'll do ye proud, this I promise." They gripped forearms and shook. "I'll be announcing it tomorrow night, then." The leader held something out to him and he reflexively took it. It was a sword. Short but sharp, finely balanced, made of good-quality steel. He held it up, admiring the liquid run of moonlight along the curved blade. "'Tis fair lovely!" "Aye, and yours. You took on the leader of these barbarians, and I want you to have his blade to remember this by. Not as booty, mind you, for you're right in saying it isn't our way, but as a token of your status." Hudson inclined his head respectfully again. The leader moved on, congratulating his warriors, offering humor and condolences to the few injured. Hudson turned the blade, marvelling on how right it felt in his hand, awed and a bit nervous over his new status, his new responsibility. * * Not even the heavy rain could dampen his happiness tonight. The leader's announcement brought hearty congratulations from the rest of the clan, approval from the elders mixed with some mild envy from his brothers and sisters. To celebrate the victory over the barbarians and the naming of a new second, they even indulged in a feast, though normally such rites of food were considered human customs and better watched than imitated. That didn't matter tonight. Tonight, the humans were the ones to watch while the gargoyles feasted and let loose their excitement in wild spiraling flights and aerial acrobatics. The festivities had come to an end a short time ago, when the weather worsened. Mated pairs flew off for some privacy, more out of courtesy to the humans than any real modesty of their own. It was the same reason they'd begun to affect clothes, although they had soon discovered that clothes offered some protection from the elements and occasionally from weapons. Hudson, his heart in his throat, approached Joy. "Would ye care to fly with me a while? We could go to yer standing stones, if it be not too wet for ye." "A fair wonderful idea!" Joy cried. The fanlike crest around her head unfolded in a dazzle of red and green and yellow, as it always did when her feelings were strong. She embraced him, her wings pressing against his three times in light, fluttery touches that sent delicious shivers up his spine. Hand in hand, they sprang from the high tower and glided through the rain. The water only drenched him but seemed to love Joy, making her skin gleam. True to her nature, she delighted in the power of the downpour, letting the wind carry her up into the wraithlike mists below the clouds, then diving, her hair streaming back between her wings. She wheeled and came up under him in imitation of the hunting games they had played as hatchlings. They wrestled, falling, laughing, seperating to climb high, then colliding again. On their third collision, he whipped his tail around her waist. "Ah, now I've got ye," he crowed. "I dinna think so!" she giggled, jabbing her fingers at his sides. "Eee-yah!" he shrieked, snapping his wings close about him and loosing his tail. He plunged thirty feet, then soared up again. "What sorcery be that?" he yelled, breathless. "Tickling!" she called, hovering on an updraft and waggling her fingers at him. "I learned it from the humans! Would ye care to see it again?" "Nay! So 'tis some human weapon?" "Nary a weapon, but a game." "Ye learned this at the castle?" He wracked his memory but couldn't recall seeing anything like what she'd just done. "At the village below the high lake," she replied. He gaped at her. "But that be beyond the river, beyond our boundaries! 'Tis forbidden!" She swooped to the ground and he followed. As she landed in the solemn and silent circle of stones, she folded her wings smartly into a cape and shook back her damp tresses. She stepped under a large slab of rock supported on two weather-smoothed pillars and made room for him. "Our clan protects the castle," she said, "just as it did the rocky highland before the humans came here. But what o' the others, the villagers, who dinna be so fortunate as to live in the castle? The poor, the peasants, who live all the year through with naught but wattle-and-daub?" "I'd ne'er though o' that. But sure as they'd be just as likely, or e'en more, to see us as monsters, for they've not known us these years past." "In some places, 'tis so, ye're right. Some villages I've gone to and been chased clear with flung stones and curses. But not all." He shook his head and blinked, trying to make sense of this. "Ye've gone to other villages? Shown yerself to humans? E'en though 'tis forbidden?" She nodded. "All this time, ye've thought me to go about playing in the bubbling springs and gathering flowers. These things I've done, aye, but also have I gone among the humans." "Why are ye telling me this?" he asked, pushing an errant lock from her brow. "Ye're second in command now. Ye may someday be leader. And I --" she looked at the ground, then tipped her face up to his. "I'd be a poor leader's mate." "Och, lass," he said in a low voice. An expression he'd never expected to see on her face was there now, a deep sadness. The wetness on her cheeks could not be blamed entirely on the rain. "I've broken the law o' the clan. I've been a poor protector o' the castle, which should be as vital to me as breathing the very air. Ye're to be a keeper o' those laws. 'Twouldn't do for ye to mate with one such as myself." He touched her cheek, her brow spines, the folded membranes of her crest. "I do want ye as my mate," he said softly. "I've ne'er wanted another." "I've wanted ye, too, but it canna be so!" She turned away from him. "Why not?" He rested his hands on her caped shoulders. "Ye and I are one." "Now and forever," she whispered. "Ye can stop yer wanderings, and I'll ne'er need to tell the clan." "But I dinna want to stop my wanderings!" She whirled on him with surprising warrior's suddenness. "We'll not live always in the castle. We should know the humans and their ways. They teach me, and I help them my own way. I may be a poor warrior but a good fisher. Their children like me, they flock to me and beg me fly with them ... they are my friends." He couldn't speak. Friends, with humans? Such a thing had never been done, never even been considered possible. Humans and gargoyles might hate each other, or tolerate each other, but become friends? Live among them, as his brother had said? Human and gargoyle, together in peace? "Ye'll have to tell," she said, laying her palm alongside his face. "And mayhap I'll be an outcast." "Nay! Outcast from yer own clan? Such would ne'er happen! It ne'er has --" "Because none have e'er broken the law ere now," she finished. "Mayhap the law should change," he said. "Others in the clan think we should try to befriend the humans." "Come with me, meet them yerself! See that they're good and kind." "Across the river? Beyond our boundaries?" he asked doubtfully. "And the rain, 'tis growing worse. We've shelter here, or back at the castle ..." She sighed. "Ye dinna have to come, then. Go, go home to the castle and find yerself a mate better suited, a proper gargoyle." She left the shelter of the slab. "This isn't like ye," he said, going after her. "Ye're ne'er so gloomy." "Have I not cause to be? I'm losing ye. Had ye not been chosen second, mayhap 'twould have been different. I've loved ye since we were but first testing our wings, but we've no future now." He pulled her against him, wrapping arms and then wings around her. "A future without ye is none at all. Why canna I be second in command and still yer mate? Why canna we work together to help our clan learn to live among the humans? Others think as ye, true as they do. Not all, aye, but some." He could feel her clinging to him, wanting to believe. "Let us go, then," he said. "Let us go and meet yer human friends. And when we've done, I'll speak to the leader. If he'd no longer have me as his second, if he and the elders do wish to cast us out, at least we'll be together." She raised her head and looked at him. "Ye'd do that ... for me? Ye'd give up the clan?" "Aye, if I must." Her crests sprang up brilliantly, and her smile was as bright and dazzling as he imagined the sun to be. She voiced her excitement in a high shriek unlike any enraged roar he'd ever heard from the throat of another gargoyle. Her wings snapped open. Had any of his rookery brothers seen her in that instant, he doubted that she would lack for suitors. "Come!" she cried, clawing her way to the top of a pillar. "I canna wait for ye to meet then!" He watched admiringly as she launched herself, and reached for a handhold to follow. As he did, something nudged his leg. The sword. He looked down at it, at the prize which had been given to him when he was chosen. His doubts returned suddenly. By going with Joy, would he truly be helping his clan or would he be turning his back on them? His brother's words echoed in his ears. The time will come when human and gargoyle live together in peace. Joy was proving it could be done. He wanted to be a part of it too. He climbed the pillar and soared to meet her. The rain was a near-solid sheet, pelting them, making gliding difficult, but Joy's spirits were undampened. Twice, he nearly lost sight of her as he struggled to keep up. The dale of the standing stones diminished behind them. They glided over dense forest, where the hunting would be poor as the animals sheltered from the storm. Soon, the trees gave way to a rushing river. He had seen it just last night, only much further south, where it was wider and slower and moved over shallow fords. Here, it was deep and tightly channeled between walls of stone which seemed to be poorly containing the turbulent waters. "The river's high!" he called over the hissing and splashing of the rain. She looped back and glided beside him. Concern furrowed her brow and darkened her eyes. "I know. 'Tis not usually so. Look, ye can see where it floods into the forest!" "Mayhap we should go back," he suggested. "Nay, we're close now. The village lies just ahead, near the falls. Och, my love, ye should see the falls! And the lake, high in the mountains and ringed all in jagged stone! Methinks there may be caves there. It has the look o' a place where our kind might have lived. I'd planned to go exploring there soon. Mayhap we can go together." "On a clear night?" he asked hopefully, shaking in midair to dislodge water from his wings and hair. She laughed delightedly. "On any night ye wish!" A rumbling crash sounded in the distance. "What was that?" he called. "I dinna know. Thunder?" The rain worsened then, making conversation impossible, so he flew on and squinted for a sign of this village. They had crossed the river, moved beyond the boundaries of the clan's territory. He didn't know what he expected, a bolt of lightning to sear him from the sky, perhaps, but the world remained unchanged. "Nay! Och, nay!" he heard Joy scream ahead of him. He nearly slammed into her, for she hovered in frozen horror, hands outstretched as if to ward off the terrible sight. The source of the rumbling crash was all too clear now. He saw a lake, cradled in the bowl of a hilltop and ringed with jagged stone, just as Joy had described. But Joy had not mentioned a crumbling hole in the rim of the bowl where the jagged stones had fallen away. A hole through which water raged in a torrent, tumbling down the hillside in a churning violence of uprooted trees, mud, and boulders. "The lake!" he shouted. "It's o'erflowed!" She was still staring in horror, but he realized that she was not looking at the lake or the gushing water. Her gaze was fixed downward. At the village. At what was left of the village. At huts and carts and livestock, engulfed by the churning water. He saw a huge rock smash into a house, ripping apart its thatched roof and wooden walls. In a heartbeat, what had been a home was now a swirl of debris in the flood. Mixed in with the sounds of destruction were the sounds of screams. Humans clung to floating logs, only to be lost when other logs or boulders crashed over them. They swarmed into tall trees, which were undermined and toppled into the raging water. Their livestock were swept downstream by this new and brutal herdsman. He looked to Joy, stunned, not knowing what to do, but Joy wasn't there. Her moment of shock had passed and she was diving toward the village. She plucked a human child from the water as easily as she might have snared a fish. The child threw its small arms readily around her neck. A house, torn from its foundation, was spinning crazily under him. He saw two things at once. First, that it was about to collide with an ancient, massively thick tree. He knew without a doubt which would fare the worse in that collision. And second, that two humans were sprawled atop the house, their fingers digging desperately into the thatch. He went in low, under the branches of the tree. He would only have one pass, one chance. His hands closed unerringly on two humans, seizing one by a rope belt and the other by the back of the tunic. He ripped both humans free of their perch, wings beating and trying to get enough lift. The humans cried out, their limbs flailing frantically. The house struck the tree trunk in a shower of boards, which the greedy flood hastily devoured. Hudson, feeling like his arms were going to come loose at the shoulders, soared in a wide circle and deposited both humans in the stout branches of the very tree which had nearly claimed their lives. He didn't wait around for their thanks but went back out over the flood. He rescued more humans, some reaching up to him fearlessly, others unable to move, possibly even already dead. Those that he grabbed, he carried to the strongest trees. Some grabbed hold and clung with all their strength. Others drooped limply. He caught glimpses of Joy doing the same thing. Her face was set in a mask of grim determination which would have made the fiercest Viking step back, but her foe this time was furious Nature itself, who didn't back down because of a gargoyle or two. He saw a dog, standing on the seat of a wagon which was rapidly filling with water. The dog was drenched and yelping, dashing from one side of the seat to another. Hudson landed in the wagon bed, splashing up to his hips, and held out his arms. "Jump, boy!" he yelled. The dog growled at him nervously. The wagon dipped, wetting the dog to the belly, and it leapt at Hudson. He took to the air again with his armful of dog, but what could he do now? Couldn't put a dog in a tree! He wheeled and spotted a large flattish boulder out of the flood's path. It would do nicely. He set down the dog, which kept trying to lick his hands and face. "Help! Please, help!" he heard, and looked to see a woman kneeling on what might have been an upended chicken coop. "My baby!" Spinning just out of the woman's reach was a cradle holding a squalling infant. Water lapped over the side. The cradle tipped. The infant's cry turned into a bubbling yelp. "Noooooo!" the woman cried, and leaped clumsily into the water. The wave of her impact upset the cradle, capsizing it. Her shriek pealed to the unsympathetic clouds. Hudson plunged headfirst into the flood, his eyes quickly adjusting to the gloomy churning depths. He searched, saw nothing, was about to give up, and there! A tiny human! So small his hand could have wrapped entirely around it. He bore it swiftly to the surface. The child was limp, water streaming from its open mouth. The woman still paddling in frantic helplessness, saw her motionless child and began wailing in pure hysterics. She tore at her own hair, rent her face with her fingernails. Hudson, now battling the current of water instead of air, found his wings more of a problem than a help. He grabbed a tree, almost taking a branch in the eye, and laid the infant across the trunk on its stomach. He pressed gently on its back. Water gushed this time, amazing that such a small body could hold so much. He thumped on the baby's back the way he'd seen humans do when one of their number was choking. The baby moved beneath his hand. It hitched in a breath and began to scream in fear, pain, and outrage. Cradling it in the crook of his arm, he hauled himself onto the tree. The mother was nearby, but too lost in her grief to hear her child's cries and know it lived. He flicked her across the face with the tip of his tail. She broke off her wails and heard the crying, knew what it meant. He fished her out and pressed the child into her arms. She didn't need to be told to hold it tightly. He then swept her up and leaped, letting the air catch his wings. Strangest of all of the night's events, the woman, dangling dozens of feet in the air in the arms of a gargoyle, began to sing softly to her baby. Hudson set her down gently, atop the same boulder where he'd left the dog, which promptly began trying to lick his face again. As he turned to leave, a hand on his arm stopped him. It was the woman, her gaze now clear and calm. "Thank ye," she said. The infant was quiet now, looking up at him. So different from a gargoyle hatchling! This child was soft and pink and toothless. But beautiful. He smiled at the woman and took to the air again. By now, the humans were all either saved or beyond saving. The flow seemed to be slowing, as the water level of the lake reached that of the broken hillside. "Gargoyle!" a human called, waving urgently from his perch in a tree. "Gargoyle! Your friend needs help!" Dread flooded his heart as surely as the water had flooded the village. "Where?" he called. The man gestured downstream. "A tree swept her away, her and Dougal!" Hudson spun in that direction, scanning the destruction desperately. He saw uprooted trees wedged against those yet standing. He saw the remains of houses, of oxen, of wagons. Of humans. He saw mud-spattered boulders lodged high in the branches of trees. And there, there against a pillar of rock very much like a standing stone, he saw Joy. A young boy was clinging to the pillar, his feet braced on a narrow ledge. He was sobbing and reaching down as if trying to take hold of Joy's floating, drifting arm. Hudson dropped beside the pillar and dug his claws in, stopping himself just above the water. He caught Joy's arm and pulled her up. She moved too easily, too bonelessly. "Och, sir, say she's all right," the boy pleaded. "She saved my life." He draped her over his shoulder and glided clumsily to a hillock, then laid her gently on the rainsoaked grass. Her head lolled. "Nay," he whispered. "Nay, love. Hold on 'til daybreak, please!" But already, her skin was beginning to stiffen and turn grey. Tears stung his eyes. He drew his sword and used the fine edge to slice off a long lock of her copper-hued hair. Then he held her close against his chest, feeling every stage of the transformation as if it was happening to him. Her body grew leaden and heavy, unyeilding. Her skin made a sound like thick ice underfoot as it plated over with stone. And then the stone began to crumble away, until she came to pieces in his arms. The pieces kept crumbling until only fine grey dust was left. "Ye and I are one," he said, his voice thick with sorrow. "Now and forever." He clenched a fistful of the dust and lifted it to his brow. "Goodbye, love." He let the dust sift through his fingers and blow away. The hair he kept, winding it around the hilt of his sword. Making the blade part of her, part of the clan. Now and forever. * * When he fell silent, Maria felt as if she was waking from a dream. She shook her head to dispel images of ancient Scotland clearer than any movie, and looked at him. He was still sitting on the arm of the chair, his head down as hers had been when she finished her tale. As he'd done, she put her hand on his shoulder. "What did you do then?" she asked. He sighed, seeming to diminish in size as he did so. "I stayed 'til dawn, helping the humans save what o' their belongings they could. 'Twas the first day I'd spent outside o' the castle. Did I e'en worry that they might harm me as I slept? Nay. I was too weary to pay it mind, and sick with grief so that if they had shattered my stone form, 'twould almost have been welcome." He chuffed a sound almost like a laugh. "Do ye know, I think that boy, Dougal, that she gave her life to save, might've been the ancestor o' the lad Tom, who saved the eggs? 'Tis strange but fitting, methinks. Anyhow, after that, I returned to my clan and did my best to serve as second in command. And as leader, when the time came for that." "And you never took a new mate," she guessed. "You threw yourself into your work, made it your whole life." "Aye," he nodded. "We're a lot alike," she mused. "We both lost our first, true loves. We both let our jobs fill that place in our lives. But it seems like I made more mistakes along the way. Alan, for instance. As much as I love Sarah and Josh, I should never have married Alan." "Things have a way o' happening in life that ye don't expect, lass. I ne'er expected to get put to sleep by a magic spell and awaken here, a thousand years after my own time. And the funny thing be, my brother was right. The time has come when human and gargoyle live together in peace, some o' us anyway. We've friends among the humans now. Aye, just a few, 'tis true, but that be more than we had back home." "I can see that you have a lot more stories to tell," she said. "Hopefully as many as I have questions." "I'd gladly be answering yer questions, lass, but 'tis fair late already and my clan will be wondering where I've gotten to. Mayhap we could meet again? I'd like to number ye among our friends." She looked at her watch. "My God, it's four in the morning!" "Aye, and dawn in a few hours." "I am never going to get a cab this late, not even with my badge. Have to get one of the squad cars to run me home." She grinned ruefully. "That'll be fun to explain." "If ye'd rather, lass, I can see ye home." "You can ..." she looked at his wings as if really seeing them for the first time. "You mean, fly?" "Glide, 'tis closer to the true, but that be what I mean." "Heights make me dizzy," she warned, but it was only token objection and they both knew it. The thought of soaring through the sky -- what human hasn't dreamed of flying? "I'll not let ye fall," he promised. "And if ye dinna like it, then next time we'll make sure ye can get a cab." "I must be crazy for doing this," she said, slipping her purse strap over her head so it hung diagonally across her body. "What should I do?" "Just trust me, lass. That be all ye need." He extended a chivalrous arm and led her up the stairs, cautious of her broken leg and the treacherous rubble. When she felt the breeze blow through her hair, she had second thoughts, but ignored them. They tried to come back when he stepped right to the edge. The city lights were gorgeous, but the drop was staggering. "I don't know about this ..." "Ye've nothing to fear. I've been doing it all my life." Before she knew what was happening, he scooped her up like a bride going over the threshold and leapt off the roof. They plunged and she knew she was going to die. Then he spread his wings and they were tossed back upward. "Eeek!" she cried, instantly mortified at the schoolgirl sound coming from the mouth of a mature and respected police captain. But it was the only sound that adequately expressed her feeling. Thrilled and exhilerated, she threw her arms around his neck and held on for the ride of her life. * * The End
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Something Old, Something New / Page Copyright 1996 - Tim Morgan / firstname.lastname@example.org