The Wedding Christine Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Author's Note: The characters of Gargoyles belong to the folks at Disney and are used here without their knowledge or consent. Nikki belongs to Leva (she's just too fun to pass up!). Rate this one just PG-13 for adult situations.
OCTOBER 30, 1998. "Aunt Agnes, this is Goliath." He turned slowly from the window. There followed a long, long silence. Brooklyn, watching discreetly from the next room with Owen, noted that Elisa and her parents wore the tense, braced expressions of airline passengers during a plunging descent. The Aerie Building's top-notch medical staff were on full alert, and Owen's hand crouched like a pale spider over the button that would summon them instantly. She peered at Goliath, then with a hand that trembled only slightly and was due more to the palsies of age than to fear, lifted a pair of glasses that were suspended by a beaded chain. She perched them on the end of her nose and looked him up and down without a word, lips pursed. Diane Maza, Agnes' niece, clutched her husband Peter so tightly that he winced. The long silence grew even longer. Owen moved away from the danger button, having evidently decided that whatever her response might be, Agnes Taylor was not going to keel over and start flopping around. Goliath finally realized that the first move was up to him, and gingerly took a step forward. His wings were caped over his shoulders and he folded one arm in front of his chest as he bowed. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Taylor," he rumbled. "Your name is Goliath? Just Goliath?" Agnes asked in a half- grating, half-peevish voice. He nodded. "Well," she sniffed, giving Elisa a sidelong glance, "I never did approve of women keeping their maiden names, but it doesn't seem like you have a choice." Elisa blinked. Agnes returned her attention to Goliath. "And what do you do for a living?" It was his turn to blink. "I beg your pardon?" "Your job?" In the other room, Brooklyn stifled a smirk and saw that Owen, too, was struggling to control his reaction. "I ... I have no job," Goliath mumbled, throwing a helpless look Elisa's way. Agnes sniffed again. "Just sit around all day, do you?" "Well, as a matter of fact --" he began. "What do you do with your time?" She glowered at him over the rims of her glasses. "Gargoyles protect," Goliath said weakly. Then, visibly collecting himself, he added, "We watch over the city, protect the innocent --" Agnes rolled right over him just as his speech was gaining strength. "Last I heard, there wasn't much money in vigilantism. I suppose you expect my grand-niece to support you, pay all the bills and put groceries on the table." "I ... no ... well, I ..." Goliath stammered. "A policewoman must meet plenty of gainfully-employed men," Agnes said to Elisa. "Attorneys, reporters, that sort of thing. Instead, you have to marry someone who plays at being a superhero? You'll run yourself right into an early grave trying to make ends meet, Elisa Maria, just you wait and see!" "He ... he sort of works for Xanatos," Elisa said defensively. "Does he bring home a paycheck?" She looked back to Goliath. "Well, do you?" "Not as such ..." "As I thought. No steady paycheck, no insurance. Diane, Peter, I'm surprised at you. They'll be borrowing from your pocketbooks, living off of you like leeches." She sighed heavily. "Well, that's your problem, isn't it? The wedding is tomorrow? At Saint Andrews?" "No, not Saint Andrews," Elisa said slowly. "It's ... well, it's not in a church." Arched eyebrows greeted that news. "Oh? You're bringing a minister here?" "No." Elisa gulped. "We're not having a minister either." "A judge? A justice of the peace?" Agnes said, disapproval growing with each shake of Elisa's head. Then she paused and gave Goliath another once-over. "Hmph. I can see why. I imagine the courts aren't going to view this as legal, anyway?" Brooklyn envisioned Elisa trying to get Goliath put on her benefits package through work, and snorted. "You've made up your mind?" Agnes asked Elisa. "Yes," she said, with not an instant's hesitation or faltering, drawing her chin up proudly. "Heaven help you," she muttered grimly. "You're setting yourself up for heartbreak, not just yours but your parents as well. I can see why your grandparents don't know about this. Your grandfather, my brother, never missed a day of work in his entire life. If he knew your husband was a bum, it would be the death of him!" "He's not a bum!" Elisa protested. Agnes ignored her and turned back to Goliath. "If you're not going to work, you'd better be prepared to carry your weight around the house! If you don't know how to cook and do laundry, you'd better learn! And you'd better be prepared to mind the children, too! Does changing diapers cross your eyes, mister Goliath?" Peter Maza seemed on the verge of choking. His wife patted him anxiously on the back. "I assure you, I will do all that is necessary," Goliath said, looking shocked to the core. "You've never changed a diaper in your life," Agnes said, surely and scornfully. "That is true. My daughter --" "Your _what?_" she cut in as Elisa groaned and covered her eyes. "You have a daughter? You've been married before?" "Yes, and no," Goliath said. "Angela is my daughter, but I have never been married." He looked pleased by his answer, as if he was finally out of the danger zone. "Oh, I see!" She tapped her fingers on her thick strand of beads. "Well. Some people think sex is just a big playground, never mind the consequences. So now Elisa's going to be burdened with being a stepmother." She rolled her gaze skyward and said again, "Heaven help you. At least there isn't an ex-wife to complicate things!" Brooklyn knew _exactly_ what both Goliath and Elisa had to be thinking at that moment. * * "Mom?" Josh said, his eyes wide and startled. "Mom, it's Carmen!" Maria Chavez spat out a mouthful of pins. "What? Carmen?" "She just buzzed up. She's downstairs. Should I let her in?" "What's she doing here?" Sarah, the youngest, asked breathlessly. She was standing on the coffee table, holding her skirt so that her mother could finish the hem, and fear of getting pin-stuck was the only thing that kept her from her usual jumpy exuberance. "Yes, Josh, let her in!" She glanced hopelessly around the messy apartment and decided that it was the least of her concerns. Carmen's childhood friend was marrying a gargoyle tomorrow night, so of all the times for her to turn up unexpectedly ... Josh and Sarah looked apprehesively at each other. Their older half-sister had never warmed to them, and they hadn't even seen her in several years. Sarah, in fact, only really knew Carmen from photographs. There was a soft rap on the door, and Maria opened it. "Carmen!" "Hi, Mom," she said shyly. "Honey, what a surprise! What are you doing in New York? Why didn't you call first?" "I was afraid if I called, I'd chicken out." "I thought you were in Japan for the rest of the year." "Ran out of money," Carmen admitted ruefully. Maria noticed a young man lingering in the hallway. He gave her a nervous grin. "Hiya, Mrs. C." Carmen noticed her noticing. "Oh. Mom, this is Vinnie." * * "Yes!" Lexington cried, springing up from the security monitor. "It worked!" "What are ye so excited about?" Hudson asked. "Look!" Lex hit a few keys, and the image on the monitor came up on the television screen, cutting off Leno's monologue. "I was watching --" Hudson broke off his complaint and stared. "Be that who I think it is?" Two familiar shapes were in view, carefully closing on the castle. The bright propulsion jets and the reflection of moonlight on metal instead of flesh gave them away. "It's Coldstone!" Lex said proudly. "I isolated one of the frequencies used in his cybernetics and tried to send him a message. They've come for the wedding!" "Where be Angus?" "Oops. I totally forgot about that." Lex looked chagrined. "Never mind, lad. We'll greet them first and prepare them." He heaved himself out of the easy chair and headed for the roof. Lex bounded after him, babbling about all the complicated things he'd done trying to reach Coldstone. Hudson nodded in what he thought were the right places, since all the jargon sailed clean over his head. They reached the battlements and Lex waved to the approaching figures. Hudson glanced around to make sure the automatic defenses weren't going to kick in and blow them out of the sky, and then he saw that he and Lex weren't the only ones to have noticed their visitors. Broadway and Angus were in the courtyard, staring up. The young gargoyle dropped his baseball glove and raced for the stairs with Broadway huffing along behind him. "Ye explained to him, did ye not?" Hudson asked Lex in a low voice. "Yeah, and showed him some of the videos. He knows, but knowing and seeing for himself are two different things. I'm more worried how they're going to take it." "They be of the old ways, remember," Hudson said. "He'll be a child o' the whole clan to them." "But he's not going to feel that way. Far as he's concerned, they're his parents." "We dinna know that for certain." "Cripes, Hudson, look at him! You're the one who first pointed out that he looks just like Coldstone did when he was young, except he's got Coldfire's wing structure. We don't need Sevarius and his tests to figure that out!" "Ye're right." He sighed. "I'll handle it, then, if ye don't mind." "Is that ..." Angus panted, skidding to a halt beside Hudson. "Aye, lad, it's them." He rested a hand on the youngster's shoulder. "Are ye ready to meet them?" He nodded. "I always wanted to know where I came from, 'tis all." Broadway finally reached the rest and mopped at his brow. "I must be getting too old for this." "It's not your age that's the trouble." Lex poked him playfully in the belly. "I help Angus with his pitching every night," Broadway protested. "That's a lot of exercise, especially on top of our regular patrols!" "Quiet, the both of ye," Hudson said. "Here they come." In a warm whoosh of backjetted air, Coldstone and his golden mate settled to the stones. Up close, it was clear they'd been through some hard times. They were badly dented and scratched in places, blackened with burnscars. "Mentor!" Coldstone clasped forearms with Hudson, then nearly got bowled over as Coldfire rushed to embrace the elder. Angus sidled behind Broadway as the grownups greeted each other warmly. Lex hurried to explain that he'd been the one to signal them. "I didn't think you'd want to miss Goliath's wedding!" "Not for the world," Coldstone said. "My brother needs a mate." He fondly caressed Coldfire's metallic cheek. "What about Coldsteel?" Broadway asked. "Did you find him?" "That is not a tale for this happy time," Coldstone said grimly. "Well, then, mayhap ye'd be keen for a happy surprise," Hudson said. "Do ye know much o' Avalon?" "I ... remember ... some of what Angela knew," Coldfire confessed. "When I shared her body, I could hear the echoes of her memory." "It was mutual," Broadway said, shuffling his feet a bit as he avoided Coldstone's eyes. "Feelings, too." "We are still in your debt for helping us," Coldstone told him, gripping his shoulder in a friendly gesture. "Do not forget that." "Avalon is where the princess took our clan's eggs," Hudson explained. "All but one, as it happens. Seems one o' them was accidentally brought forward in time instead. 'Tis a long story, but I'm in the way o' believing that egg was yours." "What?!" Coldfire gasped. "How can you know that?" Coldstone demanded. "Ye tell me." Hudson beamed and drew Angus from hiding. Coldstone took a long look, gaping. His red optic flashed and a whirring sound came from somewhere in the metal half of his skull. Although Coldfire's metal features were not designed to show emotion, she went from stunned to overwhelmed in a split second. Angus quailed under their scrutiny but stood his ground, mostly because Hudson had him trapped and there was nowhere to back up to. "Hi, Mum, Da." Coldfire reached, hesitated, glanced at Hudson. "Elder, can it be? He is our son?" "That's what we think," Lex piped up. "He sure looks like it!" "We've taken to viewing things a wee bit different these days," Hudson said. "E'er since Angela found out she was Goliath's own daughter, she's challenged the old ways." "He's so small," Coldstone said with what sounded like disapproval, and Angus shrank back against Hudson's legs. "Angela is grown. What's the matter with him?" "Nothing is the matter with him!" Coldfire crouched before Angus. "Weren't you heeding the words of the elder, my love? He hatched at another time, later than she! He's younger, that's all." Angus smiled shyly at her. She extended her hand, golden, cool, gleaming, with a recessed nozzle in the center of the palm. He stared at it for a moment, then placed his own small hand in it. * * OCTOBER 31, 1998. "Jealous?" Fox asked, checking her reflection one last time as the limo pulled up in front of the electrified gate of the sprawling Cyberbiotics complex. The high collar of her seafoam-green satin gown almost completely concealed the lingering bruises on her neck. "I'm not jealous," her husband said. "I think it was a very nice gesture on Goliath's part." She sighed. "I've never seen my father so pleased." "That Grampa's work?" Alexander squirmed in his carseat, further rumpling his dapper little suit as he tried to get a better view of the complex. Floodlights marked the path to Fortress 2, its motors humming quiescently. Owen parked the car and got out to open the rear doors. A jet- black minivan pulled up alongside, the darkly tinted window on the driver's side rolling down far enough for Brooklyn's beak to poke out. "Here we are," he announced. "How's Goliath doing?" Xanatos asked with a grin. Brooklyn winked. "He's getting cold claws, but if he tries to make a run for it, Broadway's gonna sit on him." "I am not going to run," Goliath grumbled from the shadowed depths of the vehicle. The side door slid open and Lexington hopped out, gazing eagerly at the huge air fortress. "Are we going to have a chance to look around?" Coldstone and Coldfire descended, followed by Angus. Already, he and his mother had developed a close bond. He was a living reminder that she had once been something more than a magically- enhanced robot. Coldstone was more reserved, clearly unsure what to make of having fatherhood suddenly thrust upon him. Matt Bluestone and Edie drove up in a copper Avalon (which Matt had chosen on purpose just to bug his partner). The plate read ILUMIN8, to Xanatos' amusement. They had Agnes Taylor with them, since Elisa and her parents had arrived earlier that afternoon. "Fine place for a wedding," Agnes huffed. She was about to say more but broke off as light streamed from a crack in the hull and widened. It looked like something from a sci-fi movie, all of the people staring up at the hatch, light pouring on their upturned faces. Except all of the people were in formal wear, and the silhouetted figures at the top of the unfolding ramp were not spindly bulgy-eyed childlike aliens. One of them stood ramrod-straight, and if Owen Burnett had not been right there pressing the worst of the wrinkles out of Alex's suit, would have easily been mistaken for him. The other figure had a distinctly odd shape, and it wasn't until the ramp was fully extended and the two of them started down that those of the guests who had never met Halcyon Renard were able to see that it was because of the motorized wheelchair. "Hello, Daddy," Fox said. Goliath emerged from the minivan, drawing some gasps from those who hadn't seen what Xanatos had done to him. He stoically ignored them and clasped forearms with Renard, mindful of how old bones pained easy. "You honor us," Goliath said, inclining his head. "I'm flattered that you asked," Renard replied. "Never thought this would be one of my duties as captain of this ship." "My kind have few ceremonies, but it is always the oldest and wisest among us who conduct them." "Ah," he said dryly, "and as I'm the oldest person you know --" "Nay, I may have a few years on ye," Hudson chuckled. "But this be a human ritual, so who be better suited?" Another car, this one a beat-up Mustang that was a particularly ghastly shade of Pepto-Bismol pink, rattled up beside the minivan and parked. Aiden Ferguson, looking fresh and virginal in lace-trimmed pale green, got out of one side while her roommate and best friend Birdie hopped out from behind the wheel. As usual, Birdie was in marked contrast to Aiden. Her dress was a tigerskin print beneath a black velvet jacket, and she'd touched up the burgundy blaze in her dark hair just for the occasion. "Shall we go in?' Preston Vogel inquired. "I'll station a cybot to show the other guests in as they arrive." "Your Elisa is already aboard," Renard confided to Goliath. "I've not seen a more beautiful bride since Anastasia and I were married." Fox opened her mouth to retort, then shut it with a snap. Her father had flat-out refused to attend her own nuptials, so in truth he hadn't seen her as a bride. Just as well, really. David's father had handled the unusual events all right, but Petros Xanatos was still a hale and hearty man. It had been better for her father's health. Still, as she followed him aboard and saw how much trouble he'd gone to as host of this event, she couldn't completely squelch a bitter feeling. The cavernous interior of Fortress 2's main bridge had been completely redone. There was a dance floor, a buffet table that groaned with tempting goodies, a bower of white carnations, deluxe folding chairs bedecked with ribbon, subdued lighting, flowers everywhere, music ... "It's gorgeous!" Fox murmured. Her father gave her a sour look. "A mere shadow of what I would have done for my own daughter." Xanatos slipped an arm around her waist. "If she hadn't married me?" he asked with a lightness he didn't really feel. Renard did not deign to acknowledge that one, and steered his chair over to show Goliath more of the preparations. The cake was four feet tall and topped with a spun-sugar castle that was a nearly perfect replica of Castle Wyvern. MacBeth arrived, handsome in a steel-grey suit that matched his eyes. Rumor had it that Aiden and Birdie, particularly Birdie, had tried to convince him to wear traditional Scottish costume, but they had been unsuccessful. The sight of MacBeth in a kilt would have indeed been something to behold! Angela scurried off to find Elisa and the other bridesmaids. Guests milled about, chatting, sneaking amused glances at the groom as he stood in blatant discomfort near the carnation bower. The Labyrinth-dwellers came in, Talon in the lead. Following her introduction to Goliath, Agnes had insisted on seeing her grand- nephew, stating that the Mazas had been giving her the runaround for too long. So off to the Labyrinth they'd gone. She had taken it in stride, the most fearsome scolding being reserved for Diane Maza, for having kept her grandchildren a secret. "Oh, wow!" Hudson heard, and turned to see an oddly familiar face. "Oh, man, it _is_ true!" "Don't I know ye?" "Hudson," Maria Chavez said, "this is my daughter Carmen, and her boyfriend Vinnie." "I do know ye!" Hudson thrust a finger at the young man. "Ye're the one that pelted Goliath with banana cream!" "Carmen?" Talon blurted. "Derrek?" Carmen Chavez nearly toppled, staring at his wings, his fur. As a girl, she'd had the _worst_ crush on him ... Josh, Sarah, and Angus dashed off to explore the bridge, with Alex running after them. Dee and Tom, Talon and Maggie's twins, fussed and struggled, wanting to go play with the bigger kids. Delilah and Claw stood uncertainly by the wall, watching but not eager to participate. Neither of them were used to large crowds. The clones had declined to attend, having grown too agorophobic to set foot aboveground, to the relief of the other gargoyles. They'd gotten used to Delilah (not a tough thing, Brooklyn had been heard to note, since she was a real treat on the eyes) but the others still gave them the creeps, particularly Lex. More guests came in, escorted by cybots. "Another member of the wheelchair contingent," Renard said, heading that way. "We must make him feel welcome. Poor fellow, it's one thing to be so confined at my age ..." Once, Jason Canmore had been tall and healthy. Now, his legs lay stiffly before him, atrophied from disuse despite extensive physical therapy. He had aged ten years in the past two, his face deeply shadowed by his constant pain. There was a woman beside him, slim, blond, and attentive. When her eyes met those of Preston Vogel, everyone who witnessed it felt the spark jump. Lex and Owen threw sharp glances Aiden's way, but she hastily shook her head in denial. Jeffrey Robbins brought a gift for Hudson -- a hardback copy of his latest novel about Merlin. Gilly and Bronx romped off to see what the kids were doing. After reading the dedication (To Hudson, who showed me it's never too late to try again), Hudson proudly introduced Jeffrey to none other than Arthur Pendragon himself. The once and future king and the blind author immediatly hit it off. While they fell into an intense discussion, the London-born gargoyle Griff mingled his way through the crowd with his own blend of easygoing, impossible-to-dislike heroism. "Leo and Una wish you all the best," he said to Goliath. "Sorry they couldn't make it, but bloody good of you to send the invite." "Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast," Birdie remarked, drawing blank looks from everyone but Josh Henderson and, of all people, Hudson. Aiden's parents Kenneth and Finella Ferguson, and Mary Bywell, arrived last. Vogel tore himself away from Robyn Canmore long enough to check over the guest list. "Everyone who responded has arrived, Mr. Renard." "Very good, Mr. Vogel. Take us up." If not for the viewscreens and the deeper hum of the motor, it would have been hard to tell they were moving. The air fortress rose smoothly into the moonlit sky. * * "Oh, Elisa! Peter, take her picture!" "Mom, come on!" "No, you stay right there! Raise your chin and smile." Elisa dutifully did as she was told, but once the first photo was taken, it was as if a fever overcame her mother. She was posed with all three of her bridesmaids, then each of them individually, then with her parents while Beth handled the camera, then with just her dad, then just her mom, then more of her alone. Putting on the veil. Sitting by the mirror. Checking her garter and showing a little leg. "You do look beautiful," Angela said enviously. "It's Mom's dress." She ran her hands over the rich fabric. "And you are almost as lovely as she was," her father said. "It fits perfectly." Diane made one final adjustment and turned Elisa to the mirror again. "See?" Her mother's wedding dress, now hers, was a creamy shade of ivory that made her skin seem to glow. From a tight, lace-trimmed bodice, the skirt fell in three tiers of gathered satin. The sleeves were puffed to the elbow and then tight to the wrist. Her veil was a cloud, pinned to her upswept hair. She chose not to wear it over her face but let it float behind her instead. "Do you have everything you need?" Angela asked. "The dress is old," Elisa said. She colored slightly and glanced at her father. "My ... uh ... what's under it is new." "The cameo's borrowed from me," Nikki added. "I got it from my grandmother, so she'll be happy to see it on you." "And the garter's blue," Beth finished. "Wonder who'll catch it?" "Just don't throw this my way," Nikki said, bringing Elisa her bouquet of ferns, baby's breath, and carnations. She had steadfastly refused roses of any and all varieties. Angela sighed. "One look at you, and Father won't be able to remember any of his lines!" "He doesn't have a cheat sheet?" Peter Maza grinned. "I never would have made it through our wedding without one." Diane snorted. "You wouldn't have made it through our wedding without Carlos there to make sure you didn't faint!" "We've taken off," Beth reported. "It'll be time soon!" Elisa took a deep breath, trying to quiet her suddenly jumpy nerves. Someone knocked. "Everybody decent?" "It's Derrek. Come in!" Diane opened the door. "Go stand by your sister and let us get a picture. Doesn't she look beautiful?" "You sure do." He snickered. "And Goliath -- whoa! Whose idea was that, and how'd you make him go along with it?" "What are you talking about?" Elisa asked. Angela nudged him urgently with her tail. "It's a surprise!" "What is?" Elisa demanded, but her brother took the hint and hushed up. As he took his place for the pictures, he said, "You'll never guess who Maria Chavez brought! Carmen! She got into town last night, didn't know anything about the wedding, and now she's here." He laughed. "They must have been up all night trying to get everything explained!" Somebody else knocked, but this time it was Preston Vogel. "We are ready to begin." "Let me get out of the way." Derrek tweaked his sister's nose for luck. "Come on, Mom, I'll walk you to your seat." Diane embraced her daughter. "I'm so happy for you!" "Thanks, Mom." Instead of a best man, Goliath had chosen three groomsmen to go along with Elisa's three bridesmaids. They paired up to walk down the aisle preceding Elisa and her father. At the last moment, though, Hudson had pleaded that he would rather sit and watch, so Goliath had turned to his brother. Coldstone wasn't sure what to make of all these humans, but agreed. "What's this?" Elisa flicked playfully at the tuxedo collar that Brooklyn wore around his neck. "You look like a Chippendale dancer!" He grinned as he took Angela's arm. "Just wanted to look good for the wedding!" The music began, a solemn march. Elisa couldn't see but she could hear the shift and murmur of the guests, all eyes turned expectantly toward the door. Her hands wanted to shake so she gripped tight to her bouquet, feeling foolish. She'd been in love with Goliath for years, his lover for more than a year, so there was nothing to be nervous about. Angela and Brooklyn, looking so lovingly at each other that they might have been the ones going to the altar, began the walk. Nikki had campaigned vigorously to be able to walk with Xanatos, intending to leak the pictures of them arm-in-arm to VIP Magazine and the Daily Tattler as a boost to her burgeoning stage career. That left Beth to walk with Coldstone, which understandably daunted her a little. And then they were alone. "Nervous, Lee-Lee?" She jumped and looked at her father. "You haven't called me that in years!" "My last chance. After tonight, you're not my little girl anymore." He kissed her forehead. "It'll be fine." The music swelled into the familiar melody. "Here we go." "Love you, Dad." "You, too." With measured strides, they proceeded onto the bridge and down the aisle. Elisa knew every single person in the room, some better than others but none were strangers to her. Not even that guy sitting with her old friend Carmen, she saw with some shock. She was surrounded by family, friends, loved ones. All of them looking at her with pride and approval. It was quite a group, she realized. Seeing them all together showed her just how strange her life had gotten over the past few years. Gargoyles, robots, mutates, cops, billionaires, sorceresses, fey-in- disguise ... she suffered a brief vision of some idiot Quarrymen trying something. Unless they were packing a nuke, they'd be squished to a grease spot before they knew what hit them. She had good friends. Powerful friends, weird friends, but good friends nonetheless. And they'd all come to share this happy night with her. Her nervousness melted away. Ahead of her, Coldstone and Beth parted to stand on opposite sides of the arched bower, and she beheld her groom. And nearly ruined everything by bursting out laughing. Goliath was wearing a tux. His wings were hidden, caped tight beneath the black jacket. His tail was nowhere to be seen. He could almost have been a man. A large, purple, inhumanly-featured man. He looked thoroughly uncomfortable but somehow regal all the same. Her love for him welled up, warming her from head to toe. She instinctively knew that Xanatos had put him up to it (one glance at that worthy's smug grin was enough to confirm it), but that he had gone through with it for her. He moved to meet them, and bowed to her father. Peter lifted Elisa's hand from his arm and placed it into Goliath's hand. They turned to face Renard, who sat straight and tall in his chair. A large leatherbound book rested in front of him. For once, Preston Vogel wasn't hovering at his shoulder like a shadow. A rustle swept the bridge as the guests sat. Through the glass dome on the roof, the moon shone down silver-white. A timeless moment, an expectant hush. A last-minute tension as everyone in the room recognized the momentous occasion for what it truly was. The import of what was happening here. A union of human and gargoyle. Such a thing had, to their knowledge, never before been done. Elisa felt Goliath's fingers close on hers. She glanced up at him and saw such love in his night-deep eyes that she caught her breath. Brooklyn broke the timeless moment by leaning over to stage- whisper to Renard. "Leave out the part about 'speak now or forever hold your peace,' okay? No need to give anybody a _cue_ to bust in and tear the place up!" Xanatos elbowed him sternly, but a ripple of relaxing laughter passed through the room. "Honored friends, family, clan, and guests," Renard began. "We have come here tonight to bear witness and celebrate a commitment of devotion. These two, Goliath and Elisa, have chosen to pledge themselves to one another. To be as one, now and forever." Goliath smiled at the use of the ancient ritual phrase. "Where are the elders to speak for these two?" Renard asked. Hudson stood, self-consciously. "I speak for Goliath," he said. "And I for my daughter," Peter Maza said proudly. "Then let no one contest or deny this union," Renard declared. Renard beckoned, and Lexington and Aiden came forth, both of them a little shy but bearing up well. Lex held a bottle, and Aiden bore a tray upon which rested a silver goblet. Lex opened the bottle and poured. Aiden offered the tray to Goliath and Elisa. As they reached for the goblet, they saw that it was really two seperate pieces, made to fit together in an interlocking curve. They lifted the goblets to their lips and drank. The wine was smooth and rich as liquid velvet. They fitted the goblets back together and returned them to the tray. Aiden smiled in tearful happiness at Elisa as she and Lex retreated. "Have you the rings?" Renard asked, looking from Brooklyn to Angela. They both nodded and stepped forward. "These rings shall be symbols of your union and the unbreakable bond that you share," Renard said. "Goliath, do you take Elisa as your true mate and wife, to keep always in your heart, to love and protect and share in life's joys and sorrows?" "I do," he said surely, and took the ring from Brooklyn. It was fine gold, intricately designed in a crennellated pattern reminiscent of castle walls. He slid it onto her finger. "With this token, I seal my vow." "Elisa," Renard said, "do you take Goliath as your true mate and husband, to keep always in your heart, to love and protect and share in life's joys and sorrows?" "I do." Angela gave her the ring, a larger and heavier version of her own. She had a bad moment when she couldn't figure out where it was supposed to go, him not exactly having a ring finger, but she chose the one in the middle and knew it would be fine. "With this token, I seal my vow." Instead of making the final pronouncement, Renard surprised Elisa. "Goliath wished now to say a few words." He nodded to the groom. Goliath faced Elisa, holding her captive with his gaze. When he spoke, his voice was low, as if his words were meant only for her, but they carried to every ear. "Just as a castle is built one stone at a time, so too was my love for you. Every word of kindness, every act of trust, made it stronger. You were the first in this new world to reach out to me without deception or fear. I would have been honored to live out my life with no more than your friendship, but you brought me your love, and for that I am truly blessed." He gently cupped her trembling chin in his hand. "You are my castle, Elisa. You are my home." To hear such things from him, normally so reserved in his affections ... and with all the others to hear ... overcome, she clutched his hand to her cheek, wetting it with her tears. She knew she should say something too, but was beyond words. "The vows have been spoken and sealed," Renard said, his own voice sounding a bit thick with emotion. "Now go on and kiss her, for we all know you want to!" He pressed a tender kiss on her mouth. As their lips met, the room was filled with a twinkling shower of light, motes of stardust raining from above, winking out like sparks as they touched down. "Aiden?" Owen queried with one raised brow, amid the thunderous cheers and applause. "Mr. Renard wouldn't allow rice or birdseed," she explained, dabbing her eyes. Goliath straightened up. "Is the ceremony complete?" "Yes," Renard said. "Good." With that, he roared and flexed his wings. His tuxedo _exploded_ off of him in shreds, leaving him in his customary belt and loincloth. Elisa laughed and threw her arms around him. "Believe it or not, I like this look better!" "Goliath and Elisa!" Renard announced grandly. "The newlyweds!" * * "That was quite a party," Elisa said, snuggling into the warmth of Goliath's arm. She kicked off her shoes and rubbed her stockinged toes into the plush carpet. "I'll have to have a few words with Lexington when we return," Goliath said worriedly. "I do not think Renard was amused by his hacking into the ship's computer." "You have to admit, though, that the karaoke system he rigged made things pretty lively." Elisa chuckled at the memories: Nikki wailing her way through the hit song from "The Bodyguard" with even more syllables than Whitney Houston herself, the trio singing "Barbara Ann" by the Beach Boys, Angela's achingly sweet rendition of "Wing Beneath My Wings." "I hope no one minded that we left early." "They expected it." She winked. "By the time we get to Xanadu, we'll still have a few hours before daybreak." He shifted his grip, then hissed as a pin jabbed him in the arm. He groped around, eliciting a delicious squirm from her. "Thought you wanted to wait until we got to the cottage," she teased. He held up the hundred-dollar bill, still with the offending pin sticking through it. "And why, I wonder, did Xanatos pin this to your behind?" "The money dance is customary," she said, dropping the bill into her purse with the others. "Though it's usually with smaller denominations! We must have made over a thousand bucks!" He glowered in mock ferociousness. "And for that, those men were allowed to put their hands wherever they wished? You did dance quite long with some of them ..." "MacBeth's a terrific dancer. But my feet are killing me! And having Talon step all over them didn't help! Anyway, don't you go getting all jealous on me, buster! I saw you dancing with Fox!" "That woman is like static cling," he grumbled. "Mm-hmm, and where'd she pin _your_ hundred?" "If anyone caused a stir with the dancing," he said hastily, "it was your father and Dee." "Yeah," Elisa grinned, remembering how her father had looked, waltzing with tiny giggly Dee in his arms. "That, or Birdie and Claw!" "Her dress did match his pelt," he said. "What about Matt and Edie, though?" She shook her head, amazed. "Heck of a time for him to drop _that_ bomb!" "What do you mean? I thought you were pleased that she caught the bouquet?" "Didn't you hear what Matt said? They _have_ to get married. Understand?" She scooped her hands in front of her waist in an exaggerated bulge. His eyes widened. "They're having a breeding season?" "Guess you could put it that way. At least that's one thing we don't have to worry about!" "No, I suppose not," he said, gazing thoughtfully out the window. She touched his face. "Oh, hey ..." "I wonder what they would be like," he murmured. "Would they have wings? Would they have your lovely golden skin and dark eyes?" "Goliath ..." "I know it is not possible," he said, now focusing on her instead of the passing scenery. "Yet I wonder." Elisa slumped in the seat, exhaling. This wasn't how their wedding night was supposed to be. Here they were, zipping along in Xanatos' personal luxury copter (Brooklyn and Matt had soaped "Just Married" on the rear), headed for a honeymoon cottage at his idyllic upstate retreat, his gift to them, and instead of enjoying the trip and anticipating the arrival, Goliath was getting all mopey. "I thought, now that Angela was here ..." she ventured. He nodded. "And someday she will have children of her own, my ... grandchildren," he said as if the notion surprised and amused him. "I thought I would be content with that. Now I am not so sure." "You picked a hell of a time to bring it up," she said, far more bitterly than she'd intended. "I _can't_ give you kids. Would have been better if you'd had these second thoughts before you married me." He turned to her, alarmed. "I am having no second thoughts about our marriage! Elisa, my Elisa, I love you more than all the world!" He pulled the combs from her hair, letting it fall loose around her shoulders, and ran his fingers through it. "I only wish that we could create such proof of our love. A child. Your child, with your bright smile ..." Her heart melted. "Maybe there is a way. We don't know it's impossible." Even as she said it, she could hardly believe those words were coming out of her mouth. Since her teens, she had always envisioned her future as being without kids. Being a cop made it all the more difficult. The long hours, unusual hours, the risks ... her father's partner Carlos Chavez had died in the line of duty, and Elisa had grown up knowing it could have been Peter instead. She never wanted to put a child of her own in that painful situation. No, Cagney was about all the responsibility she could handle. "Delilah, for instance," she continued. "She's part human ..." "She is a product of Sevarius' unclean science." He spoke with utter finality. Elisa knew better than to persist when he got like that. Case closed. Small wonder that even after all this time Delilah was still scared to death of him. It wasn't because he looked like Thailog, it was because of how he looked at her. Her and the rest of the clones. Unclean. Abomination, that was the word he'd first used when they'd met Thailog. They lapsed into dark silence, each of them lost in their own thoughts. * * NOVEMBER 1, 1998. Elisa awoke to the last rays of daylight filtering through the few leaves that still clung to the trees. She rolled over, alone in the spacious bed, and sat up. It took her a moment to adjust to where she was. Not her apartment, not the room at the castle that had become a second home. She was on the second floor of a cabin overlooking a lake. The bedroom made up most of the second floor, while downstairs was a living room with a kitchenette along one wall. The cabin itself was made of flagstone and rough-hewn timber, but the furnishings were all ultramodern. It made a strange but somehow apt mix. Her husband was by the door leading onto the balcony, half- kneeling in his thinker's pose, still locked in stone. She went over to him and kissed his hard cold ear. "Evening, honey," she said softly. As if he'd heard, but really responding to the sun's vanishing below the horizon, minute cracks raced across his body. Elisa stepped back, clutching her robe tight to ward off flying shards as he burst into life and motion. He turned to her, and for a long moment they looked steadily at each other. "I love you," he declared. She smiled. "I know. I love you, too." "Last night ..." "Not much of a wedding night, yeah." She laughed ruefully. "Funny, isn't it? The first night we're legally allowed, even _supposed_ to, and we don't." His expression was so miserable that she couldn't bear it. If he could wake renewed, so could she. "Hey, I won't tell if you don't, and if we start now we can make up for lost time!" "Do you mean it?" She dropped her robe and stood there in the maribou-feather scanty that Fox had given her as a bachelorette gift. "Do you think I mean it?" "I think you are beautiful," he breathed. He swept her into his strong arms and closed his wings around her. "Let me take you back to bed." She shivered at the rich promise in his tone, and shivered more as he carried her to the bed. Anticipation quickened her pulse. He kissed her firmly, deeply, his large hands moving restlessly over her skin. And then he threw the covers over her and commanded her to stay put, while he went downstairs. She could hear him rattling around, glasses clinking, other sounds, but whenever she so much as set a foot out of bed his own keen ears picked it up and his voice would roll up the stairs bidding her to get back in bed. When he finally returned, he was carrying a tray. "Breakfast in bed," he announced. "If I'm to do my share of the housework as your great-aunt commands, I'd best start now." Elisa laughed. "Well, I am hungry ..." But it turned out he had other things in mind. Especially for the maple syrup, which never did make it to the waffles. * * Much, much later, when her legs were steady enough to support her, they went for a moonlight walk along the shores of the lake. "You look awfully smug," she observed. "Do I?" "Yes, you do." He nibbled the side of her neck. "Don't I have reason?" "Yes, you do!" she gasped. He had been sweetly relentless with her, denying himself his own pleasure in pursuit of hers, using his hands and mouth and even his tail in ways she had never dreamed possible. "But later, it's your turn!" "Later?" he whispered, pulling her against him. "What, here? Right out in the open?" He rumbled low in his throat. "This from the one who seduced me midair in the heart of the city! Besides, who's to see? Xanatos boasts that there is no one else for miles around." Her lips curved in a smile. "All right, then." She whisked off his belt and tossed his loincloth up in a tree. "Elisa!" "What?" She shed her own clothes and drew him down onto a bed of moss. The wind off the lake was cold, but they were soon beyond noticing. * * A splashing noise roused Elisa from a light doze. Her head was pillowed on Goliath's chest. His wings were a warm, leathery blanket, his body a solid but comfortable mattress. They'd drifted off right after, still intimately joined. She sighed happily and snuggled down again, feeling him stir beneath her. Splish. Whunk-splish. The weird thing was, there was something familiar about it. A fish, she thought. But that couldn't be right, because when had she heard fish jumping in a lake? She was from New York, and had never been fishing in her life. Splish, splish, creak, whunk, whunk. What the hell? She raised her head again but couldn't see much in the dark, not with Goliath's wings in the way. Whunk-splish. A hollow, slapping sort of sound. Waves? Small waves against a small boat ... a skiff? Whunk. And splish, as the steering pole came down into the water. That was it. A boat. Those were the noises that had marked their journey, their quest. "Goliath!" she hissed. He smiled without opening his eyes. His hands slid down her back, over her bottom and upper thighs. His tail tickled its way up her leg. And then came the unmistakable sound of a hull running aground on a sandy beach. _Now_ his eyes flew open. "Elisa! Did you hear --?" "Shh!" She carefully and reluctantly disentangled herself from him and sat up. Throwing her shirt loosely over her shoulders, she crept to the thin screen of bushes between their hideaway and the shore, and peeked through. Her jaw dropped. Unable to speak, she gestured for Goliath to look. He crouched beside her and did so, and she felt his surprise in his indrawn gasp of breath. A skiff. Identical in every way to the one that had carried them, except that it was less bedraggled, less worn, less upended-by- loch-monsters-crashed-over-waterfalls-sunk-by-sea-serpents. But still, a skiff, with the same prow, the same shape. A slim figure was standing beside it. A woman. A woman draped in a cloak, looking around uncertainly. "Princess?" Goliath wondered, barely audible. "Nay, not she, but for a moment ..." "She must have come from Avalon," Elisa whispered. "That's one of their boats!" "Something about her ..." Just then, a plane droned by, lights flashing. The woman on the beach cried out in fear, flinging her hands over her head and extending her wings. Goliath and Elisa both did a double-take. What had looked like a cloak had been a caped pair of pale, fragile-looking wings. "She's a gargoyle!" Elisa said, stunned. "Do you recognize her?" "No," was his puzzled reply. "Still, we must go speak to her. If she has sailed from Avalon, then she was sent here. And you know what that means." Elisa nodded. "That this is where she needs to be." He retrieved and donned his loincloth while Elisa struggled into her jeans and picked up her shoes. The gargoyle by the boat stayed where she was, scanning the skies like a frightened rabbit looking for hawks, and when she heard them emerge from the bushes, she whirled so fast that her long hair flew out like a banner. "Jericho?" she called, peering at Goliath. As he moved into the moonlight, her hopeful expression faded. "Goliath? It is you?" He stopped. "You know me?" She retreated toward the skiff. "I should not have come. I'll say you farewell." "Wait!" Elisa said. "Who are you?" "Elektra. Of the Avalon clan. I greet you, Elisa Maza." "I thought I had met all of the gargoyles on Avalon, during the battles with the Archmage and Oberon," Goliath frowned. "I do not know you." "I ... lived seperate from the others." She edged toward the boat. "But knew, did I, of your valiant efforts to save my brothers and sisters." "Don't go," Elisa said in her most soothing tone. "You must be here for a reason." "I do not understand," Goliath said. "Why would you live apart from your clan?" He moved closer to her, studying her intently. "Goliath? What's the matter?" "Show me your hands," he commanded Elektra. She hid them in the folds of her gown and looked up at him pleadingly. Elisa was startled by how small she seemed. Sure, most everybody was tiny in comparison to Goliath, but Elektra was even slighter and more slender than Elisa herself. "Let me see," Goliath said sternly. "Goliath, you're scaring her," Elisa said. Goliath seized Elektra's wrists and turned her palms to the sky. He stared, then raised questioning eyes to Elektra. She halfheartedly, fearfully tried to resist, and then her shoulders sank in resignation. "You know. I feared you would," Elektra sighed. "You've got five fingers!" Elisa held up her own hand next to Elektra's. She pulled away. "Please ..." "What is this?" Goliath strode around her. "Some trick of Oberon's?" "No. No trick, I swear unto you! I but came seeking my rookery brother, who is these many days gone from Avalon, and I feared for his safety." "What's going on?" Elisa asked Goliath. "I thought gargoyles only had four fingers." Elektra hung her head. "My father's blood courses strong in my veins. That is why I look as I do. That is why I stayed well away from you when you came to Avalon. The Magus knew other gargoyles would see the differences in me. He cautioned me against it." A tear rolled down her cheek. "So that I dared not even come to him as he lay dying." "I don't get this at all," Elisa complained. "Who was your father?" With a dreading glance at Goliath, Elektra said, "Prince Malcolm." Goliath reacted as if struck. "The prince? Katherine's father?" "Oh, my God!" Elisa stared anew at Elektra. "You're half human?" She nodded, turning her face into the moonlight so they could see the mere nubs of her brow ridges, her fair skin. "How can this be?" Goliath said, rubbing at his own brow ridges as if he had a headache. "The prince left a journal, which the Magus did find some years after we hatched. He confided it unto me, for he knew upon reading it that I was the prince's own daughter by a female of your clan. But from all others, we have kept it most secret, knowing that it would bring naught but pain to the princess were she to know of her father's indiscretion." "Why did the Magus keep you from me?" Goliath wanted to know. "He feared you would shun and despise me, and make me no more of the clan." Her whole body drooped as if she were awaiting just such a fate. "What place is there for one such as me, born as I am of human and gargoyle? Never would the clan understand, accept. Nor would humans." Elisa looked at Goliath. He was still trying to wrap his mind around these revelations. "Elektra," she said gently, "there's something I think you should know." "Avalon sent her to us!" Goliath said, turning to Elisa. "I meant not to come here," Elektra apologized. "I hoped to find Jericho. Prithee, let me keep my secret and tell not my clan, or the princess!" "Child," Goliath said gently, brushing his knuckles against her brow ridges, "the Magus was mistaken. You bring us such hope ..." Seeing only confusion in poor Elektra's eyes, Elisa explained. "Last night, we got married." Comprehension dawned with slow splendor. "Married ... human and gargoyle? Mean you, that it is _not_ forbidden and wrong?" "I don't know about forbidden, but it's not wrong." Elisa rested her head on Goliath's upper arm. "Not wrong." "Then this is why Avalon sent me here?" Elektra wept happily. "To prove unto me that I need not be ashamed of my heritage?" "And to show us," Goliath said, putting an arm around Elisa, "that children of both races are not impossible. You bring us the best wedding gift of all!" At his urging, Elektra told them of her parents and their brief liason. "'Twas her unrequited love of thee that brought her, yearning, to Malcolm's embrace," she confessed. "I remember your mother," Goliath said, his skin darkening with mild embarrassment at the news. "She was of rare beauty." Elisa jabbed him in the ribs in mock jealousy. "Watch it, mister!" Quickly deciding that a change of subject was the better part of valor, Goliath asked Elektra, "But why _did_ you come if not seeking us? You are looking for one of your clan?" She nodded. "Jericho has taken leave of Avalon, but I fear for him." "Jericho ... which one was he?" "We didn't have a whole lot of free time, what with the Archmage and all," Elisa said. "Why did he leave?" "He sought more from life than Avalon offered. When you came, Goliath, and found us lacking as warriors, Jericho was stung by our weakness." Goliath started to protest, but Elektra held up a hand to still him. "Please, I say unto you only what Jericho thought, which was not as I believed. Jericho is proud and quick-tempered. It is that which makes him bold, but also that which makes him prone to danger. In the Seeing Stone, I have beheld him amid weapons and bloodspill. He wishes to be a warrior, but I fear she will make a murderer of him." "Who?" Goliath asked in a tone that said he was afraid he already knew the answer, but Elektra's reply hit him like lightning. "His mother, I believe." "His mother!?" Goliath reeled. "Alike in coloring, they were, with skin of blue and scarlet hair." "Demona," Elisa said through numb lips. "Aye, the same," Elektra agreed. "As an enemy she had come to us before, but ensorcelled as you did surmise by will of the Archmage and the Sisters. This time she did come alone, and none others of my clan knew, save Jericho and myself. And if not for the Seeing Stone, I would not have known of it either." "That is why she went to Avalon!" Goliath's fists clenched. "She failed with Angela, so now she will corrupt my son!" "_Your_ son?!" Elektra gasped, swaying. "You are Jericho's father?" "Oh, boy," Elisa muttered. "Let me guess -- you guys left the eggs to the females, right? You wouldn't have known which ones belonged to who, or how many, or anything." Elektra recovered a lot faster than Goliath and looked him over critically, tapping her index finger against her lower lip in a gesture eerily reminiscent of Princess Katherine. "He has your height, and build, although his voice is not so deep as yours. But ... this means that you and Demona ..." "Long story," Elisa cut in. "Here's the Cliff's Notes: mates a thousand years ago, she escaped Wyvern, he slept, she didn't, she went bad, now she's the enemy. Angela's their daughter." "And Jericho their son. I see. But what am I to do? I must find him! I dared not tell Gabriel of the darksome images from the Seeing Stone. He thinks I have come for another reason altogether --" her pale cheeks colored slightly and Elisa guessed that Gabriel wasn't entirely off in his thinking. "I knew she had been too quiet lately," Goliath growled. "We must find out!" "We will," Elisa promised. Elektra read the emotion in Goliath's tight jaw and stormy eyes, and spoke up quickly. "Nay, let me try first, I beg of thee. Demona shall have no reason to mistrust me or bethink me enemy, and mayhap I can speak with Jericho. Then, if sterner methods be needed..." "I cannot let you go up against Demona," Goliath said. "You are the only one of your kind." "Each of us who lives is the only one of our kind," she countered. "I have too long lived alone as if in a museum by virtue of my differentness. Also, Jericho is my brother. I know he is your son, but I have known him far longer, and 'twas my own ill-spoken advice that might have urged him to leave us. I must do this, Goliath." "How will you find them? This world is much larger than the one you knew." Elektra glanced over her shoulder at the skiff. "Avalon will aid me. But first," she removed a fine silken cord from around her neck. An amber pendant dangled from it. "I would give you this, Elisa. From Avalon it comes, rich with Avalon's essence. If you wish children, it may be as a breeding season to you." Elisa stared at the swinging amber teardrop. She was aware of Goliath watching her closely, wanting her to accept it but wanting it to be her choice. Of her own free will. "Thank you, Elektra," she said, and slipped the cord over her head. * * The End
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