The quiet, peace of the night was shattered by gunshots and an azure blur sailed through the sky unnoticed overhead. Demona watched silently and with satisfaction as the young humans took something from the man they'd shot and ran. She thanked them silently for doing her job for her. The night was cool with the onset of winter just around the corner. It had been no problem to resist a tempting glide around the city, still she'd found herself out gliding anyway when her daughter had arrived at the gates of her mansion and asked for her company on patrol. Demona and Angela had parted ways to return to their homes, but they were closer to the Aerie than to Destine manor. She knew she'd never make it home before sunrise, so she landed in a dark, hidden alley to undergo her change for the day.
The blue/black of night melted away to the balmy light of day and the familiar pain took over causing her to cry out as the lilac wings retracted into her body along with her long tail. The high arched feet shrank and flattened. Her hands were smaller now and had five fingers not four and there were well manicured nails in place of her talons. Her lovely blued skin went creamy white, and she knew that in the sun's rays this skin burned easily. She absolutely hated it, save for the fact that she was awake during the day. She brushed lithe fingers through her wild red mane and straightened the loincloth and halter-top to preserve her human modesty. She then started to the end of the alley to hail a cab home. The area was strewn with refuse, paper and half-eaten food. It was grimy and disgusting on her bare feet, but it would only last momentarily.
She spotted the body easily in the dawn gloom. It was partly obscured by the dumpster in front of it, but it wasn’t hard to see. She walked over to get a look and see what might have killed this person, but knew it was likely, by the clothing still on the body, that it was simply another homeless human that succumbed to the weather. The body of a woman became clear the closer that she moved to it, and she knelt along-side to examine. She wasn’t prepared to see the body move slightly, nor for it to make mewling sounds. She stepped back for a moment and then realized that the movement and sound came from something under the woman’s body. Demona reached out and rolled the human over. She expected an animal of some sort, possibly a cat by the sounds.
Under the dead woman was revealed a tiny under-formed human, ‘infant,’ the word came to her. “Damn it.” She knew that she should just turn away, but the infant's clenched fists waving in the air and the pair of perfectly innocent gray eyes looking up at her with trust and need would not let her move away. If there was one weakness that she was loathe to admit to. It was this, her inability to leave a helpless child to it’s fate, human or no she couldn't leave a child to suffer, and this child was most definitely suffering from hunger and probably exposure. The wind picked up and sent a chill blast through the alley catching the infant without the insulating body of it’s mother covering it. The little thing began wailing at the injustice of being disturbed by the elements.
Demona, without thinking, lifted the baby into her arms, he quieted quickly to have her warmth surrounding him, and returned to making his comforting coos. She looked again at the woman lying in the alley and noted an exit wound on her back. ‘So the woman wasn’t a vagrant, then.’ Demona surmised. “Double damn it.” She knew that she should report it, but she didn’t want to be seen like this. Dominique Destine had a certain image that she would protect at all cost. She looked back to the infant in her arms. He was watching her intently with a little pink nose to go with his gray, innocent eyes. When her bitter green met his soft gray the tiny human gave her the most angelic smile. “All right then, little one, you shall accompany me home. Then we will call the police and have them find you a place to stay.”
She walked out of the alley taking note of the street she was on, and hailed a taxi. Being that she was shaped like a goddess and mostly unclothed the hailing of the cab didn’t take long. The cabbie behind the wheel ogled her until he spotted the infant then he sighed and drove her home. She paid the man and punched in the access code of the gates to her manor walking down the drive and into her home with the baby now sleeping in her arms.
It was quite dark inside and silent but for the bubbling of her large aquarium's aerator, the brightly colored fish inside swam unmindful of their surroundings outside the glass walls of their watery world. Demona circled around the wall aquarium into her home proper. She bypassed the large sitting room and went straight up to her bedroom under the skylight on the top floor. The baby was deposited on her bed and encircled with the large fluffy pillows from the head of the canopied bed. Then she entered her bath and attended to cleaning the Manhattan grime from her body in her large Jacuzzi tub. The tub itself was reminiscent of the great Roman baths of old. It didn’t take a long time to get clean but she enjoyed relaxing in the water for a while.
She climbed out when the bath became tepid and pulled on a large fluffy white robe. ‘If there is one thing the humans are good for,’ she mused, ‘they know how to make comfortable clothing.’ She checked the tiny infant on the bed before going to choose the clothes for her day. He was sleeping still, tiny fists pulled close in to his body and his legs crossed at the ankle drawn up under his belly. “If you are still sleeping in this manner child, you must be very young indeed.” She brushed the auburn down off his forehead and noted that her hand came away with flecks of dried blood. “Your mother left a gift apparently. Well then, we shall clean you up as soon as you wake.” Her calculating green eyes watched him a moment longer starting a process within her that she wouldn't notice until it was too late to turn back, and finally she left him sleeping to change and find some breakfast down in the kitchen.
She returned to the bedroom after she’d gotten a plate heaped with food. She wasn’t worried about messes, that was why she paid the human maid, and if it wasn’t cleaned up today she’d fire the woman and get a new one. All too soon the plate was empty and two groggy eyes were on her as the infant lifted his head after the nap he’d enjoyed. “Well, it’s about time you awakened little human. Let’s get you cleaned up.” She set her plate aside and picked him up gently. There were certain individuals, mostly her former clan members and their human allies, that would not have believed Demona was capable of the tender care she showed the baby while carrying him into her bathroom.
She stopped up the drain in the vanity sink with a plug and filled it with warm water. The baby was then stripped of clothing and diaper, which was soiled anyway, and she eased him into the shallow water. The tiny body tensed at first contact with this wetness and his little face became strained. Demona shushed and soothed him taking a cloth from the counter and wetting him with it gently. The water and the cloth were soon discolored with the blood and grime that washed off this tiny body. Demona drained the sink and left the water running to finish the job. Soon this human shined like a new penny. By the end of his bath the little one was again cooing in contented joy. His little fingers wrapped around the hand she used to steady him in a sitting position.
Demona stopped a moment when a feeling that she had not felt for centuries, perhaps, warmed her heart as he held her fingers and tried to get one of them into his mouth to suckle. She took this to mean he was hungry. “Unfortunately little fellow, I don’t have a bottle for you, nor any other kind of infant food.” She hoped that her body was human enough at this moment to forgo providing something to sustain his life. A very notable difference in female humans and female gargoyles was that human women could only produce milk when stimulated to do so by the birth of a child. Gargoyles, however, could produce milk at any given time if there were needy hatchlings to be fed. Since the whole clan took responsibility for the young the females would always be ready to provide for them.
The only stimulation a gargess’s body needed were the hunger sounds that a hatchling made. Indeed, it not even need be a gargoyle hatchling, Demona remembered some of her rookery sisters being affected by the human infants who’d lost mothers to Viking attacks. They’d have gladly provided the human offspring with sustenance, but were often driven away by the adults. Most of the ones affected would stay near just in case minds changed, but more often than not they would wait in vain. They would sit and listen to the infants crying out in hunger until they were too weak even for that. By then the gargess would have moved on, unable to listen to the needless suffering. Demona prayed that her body wouldn’t react to these hungry little cries.
So far it hadn’t and she was grateful, if he was still with her after the sun set she was almost certain it would be a different story. All clean now, she wrapped the baby in a towel as soft as her robe, and carried him back into the bedroom. She picked up the phone and dialed her assistant. “Nightstone Incorporated, this is Sally speaking.”
“Sally, this is Dominique, I need you to send someone to a market to get me some things. Here’s the list: infant formula, the youngest age available, some baby clothing the child is around fourteen to eighteen pounds, very young,” she rattled off some other things that she needed like diapers and wipeys, she figured she’d give it all to the police when she gave him over to them. ‘If you do.’ Her heart whispered back at that thought.
“Yes, Ms. Destine. I’ll send someone right away.” Sally was nothing if not efficient.
“Thank you. Have it delivered to my home, I’ll be here for the day, and cancel or reschedule my appointments.” Demona would probably be sleeping the largest part of the day.
“Consider it done, Ma’am.” The secretary waited for her to close the line, like any good secretary should. Demona hung up on her satisfied that things would be taken care of soon. The baby was still fussy in her arms so she gave over one of her fingers for him to suckle. He was placated for a little while with that, and she found out just how dangerous it was for her to let him as the soft sounds he made washed over her. It would just make it harder for her when it came time to let him go. The runner brought her package within an hour and she commended him on it.
“All right, little one, we can get you dressed now, and possibly fed as well.” She carried him up to the bedroom and dumped the sacks on the bed. Out of one fell diapers that looked like they’d fit so she got one on him. After that she pulled a warm outfit from it’s package and slipped it over the tiny bare body. A pacifier found it’s way into the fussy mouth while Demona tried to assemble a passable bottle. Finally, she figured it out and set the bottle’s nipple to the puckered, pink lips of the infant‘s mouth. He fought it until she squeezed out a little of the formula for him to taste then he latched on and suckled greedily. She pulled the nipple away when he went too fast. “Easy, little one, it’s not a race.”
She held the child close while he had his fill of the formula. The tiny hands brushed against her as he fed and his eyes watched her face intently. She didn’t realize it but she watched him back just as absorbed as he was. Eventually, he finished and she pulled the bottle away. He squirmed and whimpered after a few moments and then a full blown fit started. She wondered what was wrong with him and started to bounce gently as she’d seen human’s do. His cries intensified with this and she stopped immediately. Maybe patting him would work, this was something else she’d seen human parents do. She settled the tiny human to her shoulder and began patting his diapered bottom.
She was surprised when he let out a small burp in her ear and the cries stopped. “Well if that was all, we should get along nicely today. I think a nap is in order don’t you little one?” The baby yawned a great yawn and it caused Demona to yawn as well. “That is agreement if ever I saw it.” She talked to the infant all the way up to her bedchamber and lie them both down. She drifted off while rubbing the tiny round tummy soothingly hoping he’d go back to sleep. When Demona awoke several hours later the child was awake and occupying himself staring at the ceiling and gurgling softly. His legs were kicking madly at the mattress and he graced her with a toothless smile when he noticed her watching him. She couldn’t help but smile back, and was surprised when he reached a hand out for her to play with.
“Hello there, little one, did you sleep at all?” All she was answered with was a gentle coo. “I suppose it doesn’t matter does it.” She reached over to rub his belly again and his hands took hold of her fingers once more. She was captivated yet again, with an emotion that she’d not felt for centuries. The gray eyes burned through her chest and melted a large part of the wall of ice that Demona had erected over the long centuries of solitude. Having this little one with her showed her just how lonely she was, and she didn’t like the way that felt. “Maybe I’ll refrain from telling them about you little one. I could use a little cheer in this empty old mansion.”
Again the infant answered with a coo at her and she cooed back this time earning another glorious smile from the baby. She didn’t know how long she lay like that with him when she felt the familiar warning signs of sunset approaching and her body readying itself for the change. She pulled away and set pillows around the baby again so that he wouldn’t fall if he happened to roll over. She got herself off the bed and found the wide space beside to wait for the pain.
As she straightened from the anguish of taking on her night form she heard the infant wailing in fright. He was on his belly now his face in the mattress and screaming unhappily. "It's all right, little one. Come here." She gathered him to her and rocked softly shushing and soothing. "Oh, it's all right. I'm sorry that frightened you. Shh, there, there, little one." His crying eased off, but he had the hiccups, and rooted around against her, clearly searching for something to eat.
"Don't start that now, child, I'll be leaking for days." She herself had been through this with the rookery clutch immediately prior to Angela and her siblings. She'd been just old enough to start providing for them as she'd just lain Angela's egg the previous spring. "We'll get you something down in the kitchen." She wondered if it wasn't already too late though as she walked downstairs and made a new bottle for him. "I suppose it's time to call the authorities and do my duty as a citizen. She settled the baby in her lap and held the bottle for him while she dialed the police station.
“NYPD, what is the nature of this call?” A human female asked.
“I would like to report a body.”
“Hold please, I’ll direct your call to homicide.” Demona waited giving an all too gargoyle growl of impatience when the annoying music started in her ear. The infant began squirming and fussing against her so she pulled the bottle away and looked him over.
“What is it, little human? Finished already,” she looked at the bottle and noted that he’d polished off six ounces in the twenty minutes she’d been on hold. “By the Dragon, you’ll be dead of old age before these morons answer.” An automated voice came on the line then.
“Thank you for your patience, the NYPD appreciates your waiting for the next available officer.” Demona sighed and growled again. The baby was still fussy in her arms, so she pinned the phone between her ear and her shoulder to stand and put him to her free shoulder. She rubbed his back slowly and walked the kitchen floor with him, she was still doing this with him when a voice finally answered five minutes later.
“Bluestone, how can I help you?”
“Oh, wonderful,” Demona had hoped that Maza and her partner would be off tonight. No such luck.
“Demona?” Shock was evident in Bluestone’s smooth voice.
“I'll thank you to address me as Dominique Destine. I do have a reputation to protect, and I’m calling to report that I found a body in an alley this morning. A young woman, she was shot, and appeared to have been there for a few hours at the least.”
“Why are you reporting a body? I thought you’d be pleased that another of us humans was out of your way." Bluestone's sarcasm actually hurt a little.
"I may dislike humans but that doesn't mean I neglect my duty to report a crime committed in the city I call home. If you don't want the information though, I'll be happy to forget it." She was deliberately baiting him.
"No, give me the info and I'll check it out." Demona relayed the pertinent information to him. "Why didn't you call us earlier?"
"I do have a business to run and a very busy schedule to keep tabs on." She could use sarcasm just as well as the detective could, probably better, since she had centuries worth of practice on him. "Honestly I'd thought of not reporting it at all, but my daughter is affecting me in ways that I had not anticipated. I do this for her, so that she may be safer on her patrols of the city." Demona wondered exactly why she was being so honest with this detective. She didn't owe him anything nor did she like him all that well.
"Fine, we'll check it out."
"Good, thank you, Bluestone." Demona hung up quickly after that. "That was interesting. Wasn't it little one." The child just cooed and gurgled at her. "Well then time for me to get back to work and you to get some sleep." Demona carried him up to her room once more and sat in a rocking chair that she had bought on a whim. She rocked him softly and let him suckle the pad of a finger while she hummed a soothing tune until he drifted off to sleep. She tucked him under a light blanket in his pillow nest and retired to her study to work on Nightstone business.
The night passed easily, and she returned to sleep a little more around 5:30 in the morning. She would be out and about most of the day, and wanted to have a little sleep for it. The baby started to wail as she was disrobing to change for bed and she went to check on him thinking nothing of her semi-nude state. She was the only one here to embarrass anyway. She shouldn't have been surprised when his rooting yielded results as he latched onto a nipple and gave a hearty suck, yet she was, but her surprise was not at his nursing. Her gargoyle body had already done it's job without her noticing; she was surprised that it didn't revolt her to have a human child nursing at her breast. It had bothered her even in her youth when her sisters made the offers of nursing the orphaned humans. It didn't now though, and the child was loathe to give up the more familiar form of feeding when she tried to detach him.
"Well, if that's the way it will be child then I suppose I'll have to deal with it." Still she didn’t understand why she was being so agreeable with this, but shrugged it off, and caressed his tiny cheek with maternal care. She grabbed the blanket from the bed and returned to the rocking chair. Sitting, she covered the baby and herself and let him eat. She found herself watching him closely. The gray eyes were shut tightly as he suckled strongly, that surprised her more, he suckled as strongly as a hatchling. His fists were warm against her bosom and his legs were tucked against her securely. As she watched his infant concentration, completely focused on his eating, she found herself wondering if this would have been the same with her daughter. She'd missed out on so much because of her mistake then.
That thought snapped Demona out of her reverie. "No, it was the human's fault that my clan died and my daughter was taken from me. It was not my mistake. My only mistake was trusting the human." Her eyes were glowing red now, but the iridescence faded when the soft whimpers and nursing sounds the infant made drowned out the pounding of her blood in her ears. “Why little one, why do you have this effect on me when, through centuries of your ancestors, no one else who tried lived long enough to get the result they wanted. You aren’t even aware of what you are doing are you child?” Her only answer was another strong suckle, and his toothless gums bit down on her. “Ooch! gargoyles aren’t the only mothers to fear nursing it seems, and you without teeth at all let alone the fangs of a hatchling.” She cradled him more protectively after that, holding him to her even through her change to a human; somehow with him in her arms the change seemed easier. She was unsurprised that her human body continued to provide for the infant. He didn’t seem to notice the change at all this time and continued his meal until he slept again. Dominique then detached him gently and lay him in the bed to finish her abandoned task of changing for sleep.
The last thing she did was set her alarm for noon, and then curled around the child that had done what no other before him, gargoyle or human, could; he’d given her heart life again. The alarm didn’t get the chance to wake her. Five hours later, the infant was awake again and wailing once more. She sighed and wondered if she shouldn’t have given him over to the police when she had the chance. One look into his gray eyes was all she needed to forget the wonderings of her tired mind. She checked him for the usual problems and was almost relieved that it was just the need for a diaper change this time, but only almost.
In time, she would admit to feeling a certain satisfaction providing for him the way his true mother would. It made her ache for the chance to mother a hatchling again. This time she’d be free to mother it as her own for it would be, alas she’d need a mate for any chance of an egg. She would just have to settle for this child instead, she mused this all as she changed the infant’s diaper and put him in a new set of clothes. “You know, I should give you a name instead of calling you human or infant.” She said this aloud mostly for her own benefit. “I’ll think on this and we’ll see what I come up with okay, little one.”
She finished with his changing and got to her own. After she fed the little one she got baby supplies to take to the office and shopping. All this done she met her limo at the door. “We’re going to Nightstone by way of a baby store today. I don’t care which really as long as it sells quality infant supplies.”
“Yes Ms. Destine.” The driver took the bag of baby things and took her to a boutique that boasted the highest quality baby supplies and a top scoring review from the New York Times. Dominique took her tiny charge in with her to try out different things. She knew she’d need a carrier/carseat, and a crib; two would be better, one for her home and one for the office. She picked out a bouncer to occupy him while she worked and a walker for later when he started to learn that. She bought toys safe for an infant so small, and found him out to be fifteen pounds and two ounces. A baby swing was chosen for her home and she couldn’t resist a few more outfits for him. Once she had everything it was piled into her limo and they were delivered to her office.
The driver himself transported the things she had cited office bound. He carried them up to her office and made it his business to call maintenance to set everything up. She had the crib tucked away in the suite adjoining her office and the small bouncer settled nicely in a bare spot on her desk. The child had returned to sleep on the way from the store and she didn’t want him disturbed, so she settled him in the crib with a warm blanket and a few plush friends to wake up to. She then got herself to work, stopping only when the baby woke and needed her.
Only a week later Demona's body was on the infant's schedule, and she wove her day around his needs. Over the intervening days the process begun that first night continued, and it showed in her handling of the staff at Nightstone. She was more friendly with them and less brutal when it came to disciplinary actions. They all speculated as to the cause, until her assistant had seen the more tender side of her that had started showing up when she attended to the infant. Her employees were as in the dark about the baby’s origins as the rest of the world, but she'd come up with a story to explain him after finding out from his new doctor that he was in damn fine shape for a three to four month old infant. It was with little trepidation that she had her assistant show Detective Matt Bluestone into her office perilously close to the noon feeding of her new child.
"De, Miss Destine. Pardon the lack of decorum, I'm just off a long shift." Bluestone covered his near slip well.
"Not at all, I understand the difficulty you must face meeting with me on my schedule." She turned her attention to the woman waiting by the door. "That will be all for now Sally, go take an early lunch if you'd like. I'll be here when you return. Before you go, make sure that we're not disturbed. Thank you, Sally." Matt was shocked at her genial handling of her employee. The Demona he knew was acerbic and short tempered with human employees.
“Thank you ma’am, are you sure you won’t need any help.”
“Quite, Sally, we’ll manage on our own for a while here. Go on and stop hovering.” She even smiled for the woman.
"Yes, Ma'am. See you at one." The assistant let herself out then and left them to their business.
"Now, Detective, what did you need to see me about?" Dominique set her pen aside in a holder and checked a small monitor on her desk.
Matt was more than a little taken aback with her easy going manner. This was nothing at all how Elisa and the others, with the exception of Angela, described the woman/gargoyle sitting before him. "Yeah, we usually take care of this right away but your schedule as you said was hard to get into. Uh, I need to take down your statement."
"Of course, would you like the actual events or should we dress it up a little." There was a sly twinkle in her forest green eyes.
"First tell me what really happened and I'll add some garnish later to keep your secret and make it as accurate as I can." Matt stated and cleared his throat nervously.
"Good idea, I want to protect my identity as much as possible. Even my employees don't know what I really am." She glanced down at the monitor again, and after she was satisfied with whatever she was looking at she settled back in her chair and relayed what had happened. Unbeknownst to Matt, she left out any mention of the baby she'd found. She had a story ready to explain the infant in the other room satisfactorily to anyone who asked. Bluestone interrupted after a short time.
"She supposedly had a very young infant, but we've found no trace. You didn't happen to see one around or even signs of a baby, did you?" He sounded a little awkward asking. "I mean, it's no secret that you aren't fond of humans and I had to swear I'd ask if maybe you...did something with the baby..." He sounded more uncomfortable as he trailed off. Both had images of her former deeds flashing through their minds. Especially, the crumbled human statues from her jolly rampage the nights that she'd turned Manhattan's populace to stone.
"Detective, don't be afraid to say it. I was a monster not too long ago. I wish I could say that I've made my peace with humans. I have only started to learn to appreciate your kind. And I can tell you that hatred or not, no mother could ever harm an innocent child, especially, an infant, helpless, as they are. I wish that you could think better of me, but since I've only just begun to make peace with myself and the things that I have done I don't expect it from you. How old was this infant, perhaps it was a kidnapping attempt gone awry." If she was putting on a show, she was a superb actress, Matt couldn't tell if she was faking it or not.
"I wish that I could believe you, anyway, the baby would be turning only three months old today, actually." Destine paled and again glanced at the monitor. Matt was becoming very curious about what was on that monitor.
"Do you know when her child was born?" She asked in a timid voice.
"Paperwork says July tenth. Why?" The tears in Destine's eyes caught him off guard.
"Her child is only a couple of weeks older than my Adair. He was born on the twenty-fourth. I hope her child is in good hands. I would want Adair to be well cared for if I could not be there." So that's what was on the monitor. Matt surmised this through his shock at her revelation.
"Wait, you've got a baby, when, well, how did that happen?" Natural curiosity was what made him a damn good detective.
"Modern day science is a wonderful thing. I went to my human physician in France a little over a year ago and asked what it would take for me to conceive a child. He stated several procedures that might work, but the invetro sounded best for me, since my unique situation made it hard to keep a man interested after dark, not that I mind of course.” She made a sour face at that. “Some of my human ova were extracted and fertilized by an anonymous donor. I got select information on the donors and used it to pick the ‘father’ after that they implanted the fertilized egg, and it took. Hence, my son.” She turned the monitor around and Matt spied a baby in full relief on the screen. This child was a cherub with a shock of auburn hair and soft lashes that caressed round, pink cheeks in sleep.
“Sounds like a lot of work and a lot of risk.” He stated. “Cute kid. Does he turn gargoyle at night too?” That curiosity was working overtime on this one.
“No, since they took the human ova and used human semen, Adair is one hundred percent human infant. I realized that without a proper gargoyle mate, this was the only way I would have a child of my own besides Angela, and I can’t really say that she is mine. I had no part in rearing her, and after the things I’ve done I doubt that I’ll ever have her full trust or her love. I wish that I could say it was purely innocent on my part when I decided on Adair, but my initial plans for him were not at all noble. As things progressed though, and we found that my change at night did not affect the child within, I started to change in my thoughts as well as my actions.
"Gargoyles don’t feel that connection to the offspring that humans do. We carry the egg and lay it to wait until it hatches. Your females are very lucky in this. They have a bond with their child from before it’s birth. With Adair I got to experience that. It was different, I could feel him within, growing, moving. It was very life affirming for me. Ultimately, it made me re-evaluate my opinion of your kind. How can I claim to hate all humans when my son is one? After that it was a long process of coming to grips with my own faults and the wrongs that I have committed over the centuries. That was how I chose his name. Adair means noble or exalted depending on which nationality you go by, and his middle name is Galen, which means serene or peaceful. He is my peace. By the time he was born all I wanted for him was a perfect life. A life where he would not fear the persecution I and the other gargoyles face nightly.” She turned the monitor back and smiled softly. A tender look on her face that he might have thought out of place on her a few months, even a few days ago.
“Kids do that, make you rethink your life, I mean. Does anyone know about him?” Matt asked thinking that Angela would have said something.
“No, only my closest staff here. I tried all night, the night I accompanied my daughter on her patrol of the city, to tell Angela, but for some reason I never quite got it past my lips that she has a brother now. Please don’t tell anyone, I want Angela to hear it from me. I want a lot of things these days, but some of them, I think, will never be possible.” She sounded despondent now. “I still have a long way to go before I attempt certain other things that I wish for.”
“Like,” Matt thought she sounded as though she needed someone to listen for a while.
“I’d like to make amends for all of the horrible things I did to Goliath and what is left of my clan when they awoke here. I hope to eventually be at a point that I can face your partner and ask her forgiveness as well, but the thought of her still sets me on edge and I want to wait until such a time as that has passed. I can admit that I’m jealous of her. She has my one time mate, and my daughter is closer to Elisa Maza than she could be to me. I’ve caused her nothing but problems and grief.” Destine really sounded despondent now, but Matt Bluestone had no clue as to what to say to her. He did however, notice a stain that had formed on her blazer.
“Uh, Dem-, sorry, Dominique, you are, uh, sort of, ah well, leaking.” He colored bright red and looked away from her.
“Oh, wonderful.” She was no longer depressed, now she sounded annoyed. “That always happens when he’s late for a feeding. Why is it that you humans can build wondrous things such as pyramids, Mount Rushmore and Disney World but you can’t design a simple item of clothing to prevent breast leakage staining a perfectly good blouse and blazer.” She was just ranting now, but caught herself. “Sorry, detective. Excuse me for a moment to clean this up. Adair should be awake soon anyway.”
“No problem, I think we might be done here. Your secret’s safe with me, but don’t wait too long to tell Angela. She’ll be thrilled.” A piercing wail interjected on his comments and Destine glanced at the monitor again.
“That would be the call for a change of diapers, and shortly it will be a demand for lunch. Give me a moment please.” She hurried through a door in the wall of frosted glass beside them. Shortly her voice could be heard through it over the cries of unhappy infant. “All right, my angel, here I am. You overslept, my love, yes, Mommy is going to have to have a change of her own now.” The wailing stopped and Matt turned the monitor around to see what was going on.
He could just make out Demona bending over a bed on the other side of the crib that was most prominent on the screen. He had no trouble figuring out that she was changing a soiled diaper, and playing with the baby, though. He turned it back the way she’d left it so that she wouldn’t think he was snooping or intruding. He heard a disgruntled whine and Demona’s gentle tone again. He sat there and listened after that, trying not to eavesdrop, but failing miserably. Her tone was so gentle and compassionate, very far removed from the few other meetings he'd had with her. It was mesmerizing.
“I know, precious gift of mine, it’s past your lunch time, and you must be a very hungry little angel. Just one moment more, let Mommy get herself ready for you, and then you can eat.” Demona pulled off her blazer and grabbed a nursing sling from the back of the chair in her private room. This is where she stayed when she didn’t feel like going home to that big empty mansion. It had everything she or Adair needed for a day or two away from the house. She unbuttoned the blouse enough to give Adair access to her, and put the sling over her head so that the cradle part of it covered her state of undress and let the baby eat in privacy. She then added the baby and helped him find her nipple.
“There you go precious.” She sucked in a sharp breath when he started in earnest to have his meal. “Someday, my love, you're going to do that and Mommy’s nipple will pop right off in your mouth. Be gentle, my angel.” She steadied the sling close to her with one arm and grabbed his bouncer seat with the other then returned to Bluestone. “Sorry, Detective, but hungry infants won’t wait.”
“They shouldn’t have to.” He earned a smile with that comment. “Anyway, I was saying that Angela will be thrilled to learn she has a brother. Invite her over to your home for dinner maybe. Take those steps to making peace with the guys and invite Broadway as well. He and Angela are getting pretty serious according to Elisa.”
"So I have heard, she rarely speaks of anyone save him. I don't know why I'm saying all this to you, but I admit I like hearing of the others. What is happening and how they are doing. I've begun to realize just how alone I've been for, well, centuries. Adair is teaching me a lot of things. I miss having friends that aren't also my employees. The last true friend I had was probably Macbeth and I betrayed him." She winced a little and shifted the sling a bit closer.
"Everyone needs friends," a moment of inspiration hit him. "If you'd like, when you get to a point you want a human friend, well, you already know how to get in touch with me." She was watching him startled by the offer. "Hey, just a suggestion, you don't have to."
"No, I think I'd like that sometimes. Adair is wonderful for driving away some of the loneliness, but I can't exactly hold a two-sided conversation with him yet." Supple fingers stroked the auburn down just visible over the top edge of the sling. "I'll think about it. In the mean time, if you need anything else from me for this case feel free to make an appointment or phone my secretary, I have your calls noted for priority."
"That I can do." He got up to leave.
"Bluestone." Her tentative tone stopped him. She was concentrating hard on the baby now. "You wouldn't want to try out that friends thing now; would you? Lunch maybe?"
He thought for a long moment, "you know, I could use a bite to eat before heading home." A small relieved smile crossed her lips, but she tried to hide it by nuzzling the baby. He saw it anyway.
"I can have whatever you like brought to us here. We can eat out here or back through there in the suite." She was trembling and hoped that Bluestone hadn't noticed. This was a big step for her to take so soon, but she'd never been accused of procrastinating just because something was unpleasant.
"Wherever you're comfortable, Demona, think of me as the practice run for all those friends you'll have later on." She grinned out right at that, and he hoped he wasn't making a mistake. They ordered food to be sent in and retired to the back rooms. The furniture there was much more physically pleasing. Adair finished his lunch before theirs even arrived, and Matt was introduced properly while Demona took a change of clothes into the bathroom.
The kid was very obviously happy and well cared for. His twinkling gray eyes were content and curious watching Matt intensely. Demona returned and took her child back nuzzling his belly as she held him high for a moment. Then placing him in the bouncy seat that she’d brought back with her. “He loves this thing. It keeps him occupied for at least twenty minutes, until he puts himself to sleep.” She was saying as a delivery person brought in their meals. After that the topics ranged from the baby to her company to Angela and the others to her past. Matt was particularly interested in what she could tell him about the Illuminati.
“If you ever get the chance, go back in time to France and ask Napoleon. The Illuminati orchestrated everything from his victories to his death. The fools have had a hand in every major power since before my time, and though I’ve seen no proof of it, there are rumors that they are behind every major religious uprising since Christianity was introduced. That is why I follow the druid gods of old, if I follow any.” They were finished with their meal and relaxing. “Forgive me, Mathew I’ve kept you well past the time I should have. You must be exhausted.”
“No problem, I’ve been enjoying the conversation. I should get out of here though and let you get back to work. I’ll check in again in a few days to see how things are with you, and don’t forget anytime you want to chat gimme a call.” Matt had enjoyed himself more than he thought he would. So had Demona.
“I will, say goodbye, my angel.” She waved a tiny hand at him and a side of Matt’s mouth upturned in a grin.
“Have a good day, Dominique.” He grinned watching the woman that was a gargoyle nuzzle the infant in her arms. He'd watched her all through his visit and was pleasantly surprised she was as affectionate with the baby as she was. He was happy for her, but that didn't mean he wasn't suspicious of this sudden appearance of one child and disappearance of another. He felt that she deserved the benefit of the doubt though.
After Bluestone left, Demona hardly wanted to put Adair back in his crib. She was happier than she'd felt in a very long time. It was odd, but she enjoyed it and cradled her baby close for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. Once home and changed for the night she called the Aerie. "Office of David Xanatos." The stiff voice of Owen Burnett answered.
"I'd like to speak with my daughter if you please, Owen." She tried not to sound annoyed with the Fey, but it was hard this soon after the pain had wracked her body and frightened Adair once more.
"One moment, Madame." There was a click of transfer and the line rang again. This time an all too familiar voice answered. It hadn't changed in centuries, and it still had the power to make her shiver.
"Hello?" Goliath answered clearly hoping for Elisa.
"Goliath," Her voice was soft and almost unrecognizable, "I wish to speak with Angela."
"She is my daughter, I just wanted to talk to her for a moment or two. I am going to invite her to dinner tomorrow evening. I miss her Goliath." Demona said all this while watching the infant in her arms as he held a teething ring not quite sure what to do with it yet.
"Very well." There was suspicion dripping from every syllable. "Angela, it is for you."
Demona heard her daughter's voice as though from a distance. "Is it Elisa?"
"No, it's your mother." He didn't sound happy, and she didn't blame him.
"Mother?" Angela's voice was wary.
"Hello, my daughter. I hope this will cause no problems for you, my calling, but it has been over a week since we spoke, and I have missed you greatly."
"I've missed you too, Mother. Would you like to go for a glide tonight?"
"I would love that, but I'm otherwise engaged this night, here at the manor. I would like for you to join me tomorrow evening for a meal though. After your awakening of course, and if you would like bring your mate with you. I will swear to be on my best behavior. If you accept I would like to know both your and his favorite dishes so I can have them prepared.”
“I’ll ask him, but I accept and will be there. I’ll let you know if Broadway will be accompanying me.” Angela answered without hesitation.
“Oh good, it will do my heart wonders to see you again.” She wished that this could last longer, but Adair was getting fussy and it was time for his bath. “I must go, Angela, things to do, but know that I love you, my daughter, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.” Her tone was filled with happiness and anticipation.
Angela was taken aback at her endearment. “I, I love you too, Mother. Tomorrow evening then.”
“Yes, goodbye, my daughter.” Demona hung up and went about the room gathering Adair's bath things to get him ready for sleep, feeling as though she walked on a cushion of air, so happy was she that Angela had not turned her down flat. "Come, my angel of peace, it's time for a bath." She talked and cooed to the baby as she washed his tiny body and then rocked him while he nursed. He drifted off in the middle of his meal, so she gently disengaged him from her and settled him in the bassinette beside her bed. "Sleep well, my darling." His small brow was soft beneath her kiss goodnight and she left him sleeping to pursue other matters that needed attending within her home.
"What did Demona want, Angela?" Goliath's deep baritone was not happy to say the least.
"She invited me to dine with her tomorrow evening, and she also invited Broadway to accompany me." Angela answered in an astonished tone.
"A trap." Brooklyn immediately surmised.
"I don't think so. She said that she's missed me and she told me that she loved me. It was odd, she didn't sound like she usually does. Her voice usually has that edge to it like she's on the verge of a dangerous plot, but it wasn't there this time. She sounded...peaceful. There was another sound in the background. I couldn't place it, except to say that it sounded like a baby making noise. That's crazy though, Mother doesn't have a baby, she wouldn't do something like that."
"Like what, have a clone engineered and grown so she could raise it." Lexington was as bitter as Brooklyn had been.
"Perhaps you and I should pay Demona a visit, Angela. Then we shall know what is going on with her." Goliath suggested.
"Father, I think we should just go tomorrow as we were invited."
"Why would she invite Broadway, I still say it's a trap."
"Brooklyn leave her alone. Maybe Demona just really misses Angela." Broadway defended.
"You would take her side." Lex accused.
"She is my mate, boys, why wouldn't I back her up."
"Mayhap that's why Demona wants Broadway along." Hudson reasoned halting all arguments. "She's bound to know how Angela feels about ye Lad, and it would be right and proper for her to greet you as mated and invite the pair of you."
"Yeah, that's probably it." Broadway agreed. "We'll see tomorrow. Don't worry Goliath, I'll keep an eye out for trouble."
"Very well, and I shall expect a full report from you both on the situation upon your return to the castle." Their leader wasn't going to take any chances though he hoped for Angela's sake that Demona was sincere. Both nodded acceptance of his terms, no one knew just how shocking the night would be.
Demona had her personal chef cater the meal that was to be served and had him set it out on the table that evening before sundown when she shooed him out of the house with full payment for the meal. Adair was in the front room encased in a pallet of pillows on the floor. He was getting very good at rolling over on his tummy and grasping the small toys she'd bought for him to practice that very skill. She was sitting with him and waiting for her guests to arrive anxiously when her doorbell finally sounded.
She quickly made her way to the door and greeted Angela and Broadway. "Welcome to my home, my daughter and her mate." She closed the door behind them in the entry. "Before anything I must take the time to apologize to both of you for the past years of pain and grief I must atone for. Especially, Broadway, you are the first of your clan that I have extended the hand of friendship to. I know that it is going to be hard to earn, but I am willing to make amends for my past wrongs against you. Please, forgive me for the times I have attacked or endangered you. I was rife with anger and my heart clouded with a stupid need for vengeance against someone who was without blame. I have learned that the only one to blame for things done at Wyvern was and is myself. Not the humans save for those long dead and beyond my form of justice.” Demona bowed deeply to the stunned pair.
Broadway blinked a few times and shrugged. “I guess I can forgive you, but please don’t make me regret it.” Demona smiled genuinely eased by the great teal gargoyle’s gentle heart.
“Thank you, Broadway.” She turned her attention to Angela then. “To you too, I must apologize, for the deception I wove to lure you and Goliath. I am so sorry, Angela. I could not bear your anger toward me nor knowing that I was fully deserving of it. I deeply regret causing you pain.”
“I’ve already forgiven you once, Mother. Don’t make me do it again.” Angela stated softly and Demona swept her into a tight hug.
“Thank you, Angela.” Broadway was speechless as mother and daughter held one another. “Now, I’ve got something to tell you and someone I want you both to meet. The reason for all of this change about me lately. I tried to tell you all night the night we shared your patrol, Angela, but my courage failed me for the first time in many years.” The ancient gargess was cut off abruptly by a piercing wail from around the aquarium obscuring their view of the interior of Demona’s home. “Come, meet the one who has changed me so.” Demona took Angela’s hand and led her around one side of the wall aquarium.
“No, Mother, what is that cry? What have you done now?”
“That, my daughter, is your brother. He sounds very upset, come with me, and you shall meet him.” Demona left them to make their own decision whether or not to follow. “I’m here, precious gift of mine, Mommy’s right here. Sorry, Angel of my peace, I went to greet your sister.” Angela’s curiosity got the better of her and she entered the large sitting room. Demona was on the floor holding a tiny infant, and more astonishing was that the child was human. He was still voicing his displeasure for all to hear, and the two guests watched Demona handle him with as much care and love as she’d ever shown. “Yes, my love, I know you don’t like being left alone. I’m sorry. It’s alright, I'm back now. I'd never leave you for too long, my angel.” She was nuzzling the baby and stroking his hair rocking back and forth. A finger found it’s way into his mouth and the cries trailed off as he suckled. “Are you hungry as well, my son, you just ate an hour ago.”
“Mother?” Angela was three paces into the room with Broadway just behind.
“Angela, this is Adair. Come say hello, and I’ll answer your obvious questions.” Demona continued holding and cooing at the infant now contently latched on to her finger. His tiny hands held her larger one closely.
“He is a human child. How can he be my brother?” Angela held her ground stubbornly. “Have you stooped to kidnapping?”
“No, I am human during the day, remember. I had my doctors use the human ova from my human body to create this child, and nurtured him as a human does.” She gazed back to the infant and pulled her talon gently from his mouth. “Let's go say hello to your sister, my angel.”
The two gargoyles watched unable to move as she approached them. The infant seemed satisfied now even without her finger to suck on, and gurgled happily as she stood before them to let them see him.
“He’s so small, Mother. He’s really yours?” Angela held out a taloned finger to touch the baby on his soft cheek. The corner of his mouth pulled up in a quasi-grin before he tried to take her finger for a pacifier as well. She pulled away from that afraid to hurt him inadvertently. “Can I hold him?”
“Of course,” Demona held him out and placed him in the crook of Angela’s arms. “Careful of his head. He can hold it up, but I still worry for him.”
“Wow, I’ve never seen such a tiny human before. I mean, Alex was a little older when we finally got a good look at him.” Broadway watched Adair over Angela’s shoulder.
“His size is part of the charm. Come let's retire to the dining room so we can eat.” Demona led the way letting Angela carry the baby. “I’ve had all your favorites prepared and there is plenty to go around so I expect you not to be shy. Eat your fill, and if there is any left feel free to take some back and share with your clan. My personal chef made it. He’s the best that France had to offer. I hired him for my own use and in return gave him a restaurant to do with as he pleases.”
Broadway gaped at the large dining table filled with different dishes most of which looked familiar. The few that did not looked intriguing enough that he started with them. He made a plate for Angela as well, sticking to the dishes that he knew she liked. Angela was enthralled so with the baby that she neglected to eat for the time being. Demona watched her with a happy smile. She ate between answering Angela’s questions and making conversation with Broadway. By the time she’d finished her plate Adair was fussy and wriggling in Angela’s arms.
“What’s wrong with him?” Angela looked afraid that she’d done something to set him off.
“Probably needs a change, feel the diaper is it soggy and gooey feeling.” Demona waited for Angela to check.
“Ugh, very.” Angela's nose wrinkled in disgust.
“He’s wet. Give him here and I’ll attend him.” Demona circled the table and waited for Angela to give him over. Then carried him out of the room calling back, “eat, Daughter, you can hold him more after you’ve had dinner. We’ll only be a minute, and he needs a meal as well before he’s too tired to eat.”
“Hey, you okay, Angela?” After a few minutes of silence Broadway looked up to find an expression rarely seen on her beloved face. It was a look of mixed happiness and pain, he watched her in concern forgetting his meal. ‘And just who says that I always think with my stomach.’ He thought picturing Brooklyn as he did.
“I have a brother, Broadway, a human brother, and somehow he’s changed my mother from the bitter, horrible monster that she was into someone that reminds me very much of Princess Kathrine, sort of. My princess was always that gentle with us. The way Mother is with Adair, I wish it could have been me. I wish that she could have changed like this for me.”
“I did, Angela, it’s thanks to you and your love or at least interest in me that I was receptive at all to having Adair and letting his presence change me. I didn’t expect him to have quite the effect that he has, but I’m glad that he did. I’m glad that you being here got me thinking about having a child of my own. One whom I can watch grow, and teach things to. I missed all of that with you. It is one of my deepest regrets.” Demona came back into the room and rested her bare forehead ridges against Angela’s. Angela stood and hugged Demona again letting her tears fall. “Easy, don’t squish your brother.”
Angela giggled a little and eased her hold, but not too much. Demona stroked her daughter’s hair soothingly. “I’m sorry, Mother. That you had to go through so much alone.”
“Shh, Angela, it doesn’t matter any longer. What matters is that I’m here now, with you and Adair, and we can make that as though it never existed. Maybe not the massacre of our clan but all those empty years between.” Demona hugged her back, and finally let go when Adair protested in his infant way to being interrupted during his meal. They enjoyed the camaraderie after that, and Broadway even swallowed his nervousness after a while and held Adair as well. It was easier for him than it had been for Angela, the infant had drifted into sleep soon after he'd eaten and didn't wriggle or squirm in Broadway's grasp. Demona gave them a tour of her home and invited them to visit her here whenever they felt like it, but asked that they call ahead to make certain that she’d be home.
Angela and Broadway were in high spirits when they returned to the castle. It didn't last long. Goliath met them on the battlements with a dower look. He had expected them much earlier than this. It was very near dawn. "Where have you been?"
"Sorry, Father, we had a wonderful night and lost track of the time." Angela hugged him in apology.
"I am glad that you had a pleasant evening with Demona, but what did you find out?" Goliath had been burned too often by the flame haired gargess to let go easily.
"She has the best chef in France working for her, for one thing, and Angela did hear a baby over the phone last night." Broadway informed.
"She has taken a child!?"
"No! Father, Adair is her own son. She is human during the day now, and she wanted a child of her own, one that she could watch grow and teach things to. She said that having me nearby, seeing me, made her want another chance to mother a hatchling. The one problem with that was there were no willing males to breed with." Angela colored at the statement. "She did know that humans have what is called invetro-fertilization. Where no male is needed for the conception of a child, she had that performed on her human self and now...she has Adair. He has changed her somehow, Goliath."
"Angela's right, Demona isn't the same as she was the last time I saw her. She apologized to me Goliath. It sounded like she was going to apologize to all of us before long. I really think she's trying to turn back to what a gargoyle should be. She was very honest and showed us her home, even the security systems and things that she should know will give us an advantage over her if she tries anything." Broadway was imploring the leader as passionately as Angela was.
"We shall see. Angela, you will take me to see her when we awaken. I want to see for myself what you are both talking about." Goliath's tone brooked no argument. "Take your places, dawn approaches."
Matt Bluestone whistled a tuneless melody while the elevator made it's way to the top floor of Nightstone's Manhattan Skyscraper. Dominique had invited him for lunch once again, and he'd admit to being curious about her dinner with Angela and Broadway. He'd heard from Elisa that they'd gone last night. The elevator finally reached her office and reception area, and the assistant from before, Sally if he remembered right, buzzed him in.
"Welcome, Bluestone, and thank you for suggesting that I tell Angela and bridge the gap with her mate. It went very well." Destine looked transformed once again. Her smile was brilliant and the twinkle in her eyes couldn't be faked. "I hope to be seeing more of them both, and maybe that will help me to make amends with the other members of the clan."
"Hey, I just suggested it, you did all the work lady." He grinned at her across the desk. Adair was in his little bouncy chair in an open space on the desk and one of her hands rested beside it protectively.
"Yes, but I give credit where it is due. I would also like to continue with this friend experiment of ours. How about once a week you meet me either here for lunch, or Adair and I will meet you at the place of your choosing." She suggested.
"Sounds like a plan, we might even mix dinner at your place or mine in there every once in a while." Matt had taken a seat without waiting for her to offer.
"I would rather my home until Adair is older. I don't want him out in the weather at night. I don't even go gliding with him yet. He's so fragile compared with a gargoyle hatchling." She smiled at the cooing baby bouncing determinedly in front of her. "I wouldn't change a thing about him for anything in this world though." Matt chuckled.
"Most mothers I've met have said something to that effect at one point or another, without the comparison to a gargoyle hatchling of course."
"Of course." Dominique agreed. "All mothers should be that way." She reached a pale finger out to stroke the soft infant cheek. They spent a little while longer chatting there about Adair and other things before deciding to go out to lunch this time. They finally decided to return to work, for Demona, and home, for Matt, around two PM. "Thank you again, Bluestone."
"No problem, by the way, how about we make it dinner unless I can't get out of work or other commitments. Nighttime meals are more on my schedule."
"Of course, I should have thought of that. I'm sorry, Mathew." Had she really just apologized? Matt was as dumbfounded as she was.
"No problem, Miss Destine." Matt recovered quickly. "I get the feeling that your schedule is outrageous as it is. Night and day get all screwy with an infant, so I hear."
"When he's on a schedule it isn't so bad, but keeping him on a regular schedule with my business hours is not the easiest thing to do." They were walking to their respective cars now. "I'll see you next week then, and please, call me Dominique, or at night well, you know my name. It will help me to be on a first name basis with someone again."
"Great, then, I'm Matt not Mathew. I've been Matt since I was a kid." He gave her a cock-eyed grin, "Mathew is my professional name." He was stunned when Dominique laughed amused. Her laugh was musical when it wasn't diabolical. "You know, you should laugh more often. It's good for you."
"I'm trying to these days. It isn't easy when I'm up to my ears with Nightstone business and Adair is grumpy." She glanced down at the active baby in her arms. "Aren't you my love? Those mean gas bubbles keeping you up nights" Adair gurgled back at her waving his fists in the air.
"The point is you're trying. Anyway, you'd better get back the company might fall apart without you there, I on the other hand have a date with a pillow." Dominique closed her eyes and shook her head in amusement.
"I doubt that it would fall apart, but you enjoy your date. Adair and I are going shopping, he's getting bigger everyday and I think these diapers are getting too snug. Besides I love buying clothes for him and toys yes, my Angel, you can never have enough toys." Adair giggled as she rubbed noses with him.
“Have fun then. Later.”
“Farewell, Math-Matt.” He grinned and hopped in his car to drive off. Demona and Adair boarded the limo and went about their day as well.
By the time that Goliath and Angela had glided across the Manhattan sky to Demona’s manor, she and Adair had been home and long asleep. In fact, father and daughter were crouched in a chill breeze, on the roof peering into her bedroom through the massive skylight to see if they could see anything when Adair woke hungry and uncomfortable in his soiled diaper. Goliath’s eyes lit in shock. “I did not believe, wholly, until now.”
“Shh!” Angela admonished, she didn’t want Demona finding them here. They went back to observing. She pointed Adair out to Goliath, the infant squirming in his crib, but Demona was nowhere to be seen. Goliath was almost ready to break in and intervene when there was movement from the canopied bed.
“Hold on, Angel of my Peace. Mommy is here, my love.” The familiar form of Demona crawled out of bed and made haste to the wailing infant’s side. “There, there, see I’m here.” Her hand reached in and checked him. “I see, well I’d be unhappy with that diaper on too. Here we go, time for a change. Patience my love, you'll be fresh in just a moment. Yes you will, angel boy.” They watched her lift the baby up and into her arms whisking him over to the bed with a diaper and some wipes and powder.
“See, she is not going to harm him.” Angela was ready to leave.
“I want to watch a little longer, Angela. We must make certain.” Goliath brooked no argument.
“I’m sorry it took so long for Mommy to get to you Adair. We had a very long day didn’t we, and I was deeply asleep. But on the bright side my love, you were not frightened by Mommy’s change tonight. No," she kissed a tiny foot, "we both slept right through it tonight, yes we did my love.” Goliath and Angela watched her nuzzle the baby’s bare stomach after clasping the diaper tabs shut, and the baby wriggled happily bringing hands and feet up to hold Demona's face. “There you are, clean once more. Are you hungry? I’ll bet that you are. Come to think of it, I am as well.” She lifted the baby and disappeared for a time. When she returned Adair was in the nursing sling and she had a plate of food for herself. Their view from above was unimpeded and Goliath found it rather uncomfortable watching the child at Demona’s breast. He was surprised out of his discomfort when she set her own meal aside and settled in a rocking chair to accommodate her son’s needs. He was even more astounded when she started to sing a rookery lullaby to him.
“Now have you seen enough, Father?” Angela asked pointedly.
“I suppose so, for now. We shall keep an eye on her, Angela. She is devious, and I don’t want an innocent tainted by her.” Angela’s eyes clouded and she took off in a huff. Goliath took a last look at the mate of his youth tending to her young and followed the daughter he had fleetingly pictured in her arms. It was not that he longed to be a part of it now, but it would have been interesting to see what Demona would have been like had the massacre not occurred. Goliath followed Angela at a distance knowing she was angry with him, but he just couldn’t trust Demona, easily, again. He would make it up to his daughter later on.
The weeks that followed were filled with observation of Demona and the tiny infant. Matt spent time with them during the day and at night both. Somehow he and the members of the clan never crossed paths. He was there the first time that Adair sat up on his own for a few seconds, and was warmed by Demona's reaction to that, unabashedly joyous at his accomplishment. The clan took turns peeking in at night, except for Angela and Broadway who insisted on visits instead. Demona herself knew that she was a source of scrutiny by the clan, she’d known the night that Goliath himself had observed her with Adair. She’d been too preoccupied that night to care, but finally confronted him a few days before the human Thanksgiving holiday.
She’d just given Adair his evening bath to soothe the fear that her screams of pain had caused once again. It hadn’t been hard to spot the stone form of Goliath on her roof, and she knew that he’d been caught unaware that morning by the appearance of the sun. He’d been too intent on watching her play with Adair. The appearance of Detective Maza with her partner was a blatant ruse to make certain Goliath was safe. Matt had been forced to drag the raven haired woman out physically. Demona thanked her lucky stars that Adair had slept through the entire exchange.
Demona settled the baby in his swing and wound it giving it a gentle nudge to set him rocking. She glanced at her skylight and noticed that the lavender gargoyle had not left, but still watched intently. She was suddenly annoyed, and made certain that Adair was content before walking out onto her balcony and calling for Goliath. “Come down here, Goliath. I grow weary of this constant observation. If you want to see the child knock on the door and ask. I’m rather proud of him, and you’d be surprised how eager I might be for you to see him.” She heard a gusty sigh and Goliath glided down to the balcony. He perched on the stone railing.
"How long have you known we watched?" Goliath didn't hesitate.
"Since you and Angela watched through the skylight that first night. My hearing is not diminished at night simply because I am now human by day. Did you enjoy the view?" She still couldn't help the sarcasm and even a little contempt that he aroused in her. He gave her a sharp look at that. "I'm sorry. I'm still coming to grips with my anger. With Adair it is not there, but away from him and some still garner my anger whether they deserve it or not. You don't. The massacre of our clan was a result of my scheming and I am sorry for it." Her voice broke at the end of that. The acknowledgement of her deed sat cold and hard in her stomach.
"Demona, I do not know how to trust what you say is what you really mean; what you really feel. I have decided that you are if not truthful about that child's origin, at least very true in your care, your love, for him. Not many of our kind would so gladly provide for a human the way you are, even in the days of old, and you were among those that refused. That at least speaks well of your actions these last weeks." Despite his words his voice did not change from the gruff untrusting timbre that she was used to hearing.
"And I don't know how to prove it to you Goliath, except to say that he is the cause and the result of what you observed. I did not know what I was getting into when I decided on this course." She looked out past him to the stars. "Your detective was here this morning, worried about you. Any louder and she'd have woken both you and Adair, you should let her know I haven't destroyed you. I would not, Goliath, before, perhaps, but not now." The baby within started to fuss and she glanced through the doors. "His swing has stopped, either go and assure Maza that you are unharmed or come in and use the phone by the bed. I must attend my baby." She left him not caring whether he chose to go or stay. In truth, she expected him to go.
Adair was not amused with the swing any longer and she lifted him from it wrapping a wing securely over him as she nuzzled his cheek before placing a kiss there. His tiny fingers reached out and grasped her wing talons which gripped back gently. "Yes, my love, Mommy has got you." He gurgled softly at her gentle tone and gave her a smile.
Goliath noted her actions with a knowledgeable eye. The wing sweep was an instinct in gargoyles as ancient as the stones of the castle. The nuzzling, also a human custom, was to reassure and comfort and show affection for the hatchling, or in Demona’s case, infant. Her tone was one used to instill a sense of protection around the young, even the slight shimmer of red across her eyes was a sign of guarding against danger. He wondered absently if she was aware of her actions or not. He decided not after watching them for a moment.
"You are very skilled with him. I admit to some shock at that." Demona started, her wing snapping securely over her son, and turned at his voice. "Expected me to go, didn't you?"
"Yes. In fact I'd almost prefer it. I could get on about my business with Adair and my company, but I'd be ignoring the part of my life that needs to be restructured as it were. I'm so tired of fighting, Goliath. Tired of hiding away, and tired of hating, most of all, I'm tired of being alone." Goliath was astonished by her admittance even as he wondered if it were true. He stood there not knowing how to respond and watched her a little more.
Demona's robin's egg blue skin was quite the contrast with the tiny pink human she cradled so reverently to her breast. One talon lightly caressing the plump cheek, and tiny arms waving in the air. Goliath was almost jealous of her. He and Elisa had been mates for long months now, and though the examinations and tests they'd both endured indicated they were compatible, they had yet to conceive a child. Not for the lack of trying though. His thoughts and observations were interrupted by the chime of Demona's door.
Demona carried Adair with her to the intercom beside her bed. "Yes?"
"Hey, Demona, it's Matt, thought I'd stop by and check in on you guys. Want to open up or should I climb the trellis?" Demona laughed softly, but noted his anxiety.
"Are you checking in on Adair and me or on Goliath?" Demona answered with a question of her own.
"A little of both, actually. Elisa's going nuts, the big guy hasn't returned to the castle yet." There was silence for a few moments. "She's waiting in the car, and well, she's not happy."
"Hold on I'll come open the door, and invite her in if she promises to behave. Adair is very sensitive to the emotions around him." Goliath was listening dumbfounded at the familiarity of the exchange.
"Uh, are you sure, this is a pretty big step for you Demona. Don't want to rush things; last week you were still, you know, tense when I mentioned her and Goliath." Matt sounded apprehensive now.
"Quite, I'll only stay around long enough to open the door if that's what you want." Demona's tone had a sour note to it.
"Hey, sorry, didn't mean to sound like I was telling you what to do. I'm just looking out for a friend." Matt was as genial as ever.
"Don't apologize, I'll be down in a moment." She cut off the intercom and turned back to the purple giant in her bedchamber. "Come down and meet your mate, Goliath." Again she didn't wait for him to acknowledge, but exited the room down the spiral stair that would take her straight into the living room of her home, bypassing the two intervening floors. She heard Goliath behind and grinned to herself. She rounded the aquarium and opened the door to Elisa Maza and Matt.
Maza looked frantic, the wind had mused her hair into her face, and she constantly turned to scan the skies around them. "Welcome, please do come in, Detectives." Elisa entered before Matt and he kept a hand on her upper arm steering her away from the azure gargess and her infant son.
"Goliath!" The raven haired woman threw herself into the amethyst arms of her mate. "I was worried, Big Guy." Demona felt a twinge of jealousy in her heart, and a twinge of longing.
"I am well, Elisa-mine. Demona and I were just discussing some things before I returned to the castle." Goliath held the detective as reverently as Demona held her son.
"He is whole and hale, Detective, Angela would never speak to me again if I harmed her father. I would not risk that for anyone, especially not someone who's clan I once belonged to." Demona stated trying not to let her emotions show in her tone. Matt was ever vigilant for trouble, he'd spent enough time with Demona now to know how to read her. He relaxed a little that she simply walked passed the lovers and took a seat on her sofa.
He also realized that Goliath had probably heard their whole conversation over the intercom. "Hey, uh, I guess the cat's outta the bag, huh?" He followed her to the sofa. "Since it is, lemme see this big guy." He reached down and Demona relinquished the baby to him. Adair gurgled and cooed at Matt flailing his tiny fists gleefully at this familiar face. "He's getting big. How has your week been?"
"Fine, Matthew. He is becoming quite adept rolling over on his own. Oh, I have been meaning to tell you, that toy you brought to him last week is officially his favorite. He has played with no other the last two days, and just this morning he's started to try rolling back. So far all he does is wobble side to side." Elisa and Goliath watched her reach up to caress Adair affectionately.
"Played, right? Don't you mean gummed and drooled it to death, but hey, rolling around is quite the accomplishment." Demona laughed with him, and Matt noted the stares of astonishment on the faces of his partner and her mate. "What, haven't you two ever seen a couple of friends catching up before?" Matt grinned and took a seat across from Demona on a leather covered duvet. Adair still burbled and cooed up at him and Demona smiled watching the detective chatting back at her son. They'd come a long way she realized abruptly.
"Friends, when did that happen?" Elisa managed to ask, still from Goliath's arms.
"Oh a few weeks ago, isn't that right Adair? You were a much smaller guy then, huh?" Matt lifted the baby up to raspberry his belly softly. "It's been too long, Demona. I'm gonna have to step up to two visits a week. He's growing at an amazing rate."
"Yes, I wish he'd stop that. I want him to stay small as long as he can." She watched nervously as Bluestone returned the baby to the more secure cradle of his arms and relaxed some when he had.
"So, where'd you get the baby, Demona?" Elisa started sarcastically.
"The same place that most human women do. Well, with a little help from my doctors." Demona shot back.
"Separate corners, ladies." Matt stated and put Adair back in Demona's arms. He hadn't missed that she was more at ease with him being held close. "So, the big four month mark, I see you still haven't had any photos done."
"Not true, Matt. They're up on the desk in the study. I just haven't had the time or energy to put them in frames and hang them." Demona answered.
"Elisa, I begin to believe that Demona is honest in this if nothing else. The child is hers." Goliath hoped his statement would stop any further comments from his mate that might upset or enrage the gargess, who at this moment appeared docile. He knew that appearances were deceiving.
"He is. My...angel of peace. Sent to show me the folly of centuries of hatred." Adair laughed and cooed more intently being back in Demona's arms. "Yes, my love, you are mommy's most precious gift, in the whole of her life. What is it my love?" She asked when his face drew up in a tiny scowl and he grunted unhappily. "All this excitement, hmm? First Goliath visits, and then your uncle Matthew, and his partner. Perhaps you want to bounce," Demona glanced up and around at everyone, "would any of you like something to drink?" Maza and Goliath seemed too astounded to speak, but Matt wouldn't turn down her offer. Neither would he let her wait on him; he knew where to find his beverage. "No? Then excuse me momentarily so that I can retrieve his swing, or see if he wishes to nurse. Matthew you know where everything is, help yourself. When they've recovered if they need something show them where to get it."
"No problem, hey, I thought you were going to wean him." His tone was teasing.
"Matthew Bluestone," her tone was admonishing, "I'd just ruined another blazer and blouse when I made that comment, he's too young to be weaned yet, and you know that. I was just annoyed at the loss of yet another suit." She shook her head at him. "Back in a moment, Matt."
Elisa pounced on him as soon as she thought Demona out of hearing distance. "She calls you Matt, I thought you just came by every now and then to make sure the kid was hers and not the one from that murder case."
"Well, he's not, by the way, I followed a lead on that yesterday, the baby was dumped in the river. Nothing left of the body to autopsy either, barely enough left to get a DNA match and close the case. As for Demona, I talked to her for a while on one of my 'visits' and I'm convinced the kid is hers, and that she's trying to turn things around. I don't care if she's tried to kill me, you or anyone else. She's all alone except for that kid and no one should be like that!" Matt admonished his partner.
"Maybe she should." Elisa's soft statement shocked both Goliath and Matt. "She's tried for centuries to kill us off. She doesn't deserve to have a perfect little baby that she can watch grow, and who looks like her, she didn't even have a love for the other half of his looks." Goliath's arms went around his mate realizing where these comments came from now. Elisa was as desperate as he to have a child between them and the difficulty was taking it's toll on her.
"No, I didn't because I have no mate." Demona's voice was low and deadly; the unvoiced accusation bringing a tension to the room that set Adair to fussing again. "I'd have an egg in the nursery if I had one, instead of this perfect, beautiful infant. As much as I love my son, he is not a gargoyle. Yet, that stopped being an issue so long ago now. I would not want a hatchling if it meant that Adair would not exist. He is my son and even if I deserve your scorn, he doesn't. I suggest you leave this house, and Goliath, don't peek into my windows anymore. Knock on the door and come inside, send Angela to observe, I don't care because you, and your suspicions do not matter, only Adair matters to me now." She opened the front door for them and ignored them after that, watching her tiny human son squirm unhappily and stroking his hair gently to soothe him. Elisa and Goliath left at once, Matt followed slowly and caught up to them at the car.
"Look you go on, Elisa, I'll catch a cab later." Matt said as he broke even with her.
"You can't stay here!" Elisa's exclamation was no surprise.
"Quiet! I can and I will stay. She does deserve a friend, and you just took your frustration out on her." Matt said with a wary glance at Goliath. He didn't want three hundred pounds of angry gargoyle on his case. "She didn't deserve that. You guys need to call a truce, Elisa. If she can change her mind about wiping out the race that virtually destroyed her own, then you can forgive a little thing like attempted murder."
Elisa sighed, "Damn it, Matt, I hate it when you make sense. I'm sorry partner. Just be careful around her. Don't let your guard down too low."
"Elisa, if she was going to hurt me she'd have done it a long time ago. Get out of here, go try again, maybe you two will get lucky." He grinned and Elisa punched his arm. "Later, guys." Matt turned and left them by the Fairlane.
"Think he'll be okay?" Elisa asked looking up at her lavender love.
"Yes, I think he is right; if he was in danger she would have long ago shown it. I shall meet you back at the castle my love, Bluestone's idea appeals to me." There was a gleam in his eyes that had Elisa by the heart strings.
"Race ya, Big Guy." Elisa hopped into the car and started it up. Goliath placed his head through the open window and stole a kiss before climbing the massive brick gate posts and catching an updraft into the black veil of stars.
Matt, on the other hand, rang Demona's bell for the second time that evening. "Go away, Bluestone."
"No way, Red, what kind of friend would I be if I just left when you're upset. Come on, open up or I really will climb that trellis." The door clicked open. She'd used this trick on him before. The door was rigged with the house computer
system and she could open the door from anywhere in the house with the touch of a button.
Matt found her sitting in the second floor library, enveloped in a large cushion with Adair wrapped in her wings. "What do you want Matthew?" The room was dark, which wasn't unusual, but it was not as inviting as normal. The tension and sorrow flowed off of her in waves. The baby hummed comforting sounds to himself.
"Hey, I don't need to run off just because Elisa was rude. I thought I'd make sure you were okay, and maybe hang out for a while." Matt took a seat in the chair nearby.
"This was a bad idea, Matthew. I will never earn their trust, and I will never fit in with them. I should just remain separate. I should probably give Adair to Maza and forget that he was mine." Her voice was quiet with strained emotion. Matt was staring at her in astonished anger.
"You don't think that and you know it! Don't give up just because you hit a snag. Elisa, well, she wants a baby with Goliath and they're having trouble in that department. She took it out on you." Matt knelt before her and took hold of her shoulders. "Demona, you are the most persistent warrior I’ve ever heard of. Don’t go soft on me now, when you’re getting interesting. Besides we both know that you’re the best thing that ever happened to this baby. You're a better mom than that crack addicted mother he started with.” Demona’s black in black eyes met his, and slid away quickly.
“How long have you known?” Her voice held shame, something he’d never heard before.
“For sure, about two seconds. I’ve suspected all along, though. Don’t worry, I came up with a story that explains the disappearance. You won’t have to worry about losing him.” Matt took her hand now. “Look, I’ve seen you at your worst and I’ve seen you at your absolute best with him. Elisa and Goliath will come around and you’ll see, there is a place for you, a way to earn a place with the clan. Now, hand over the small fry and go clean yourself up. I’ll get some dinner ready.” Matt pulled her up from her seat and accepted the baby from her.
"I had fully intended to hand him over to the police, but I was so tired when I returned home that morning when I found him. I fell asleep, and by the time I called you. I had him in my heart. I loved him already. We gargoyles are biologically set up to provide sustenance for our young at any given moment. I had nursed hatchlings before, and my body reacted to his needs. After that I could not bear to lose him." She paused and gazed at him for a moment. He couldn't read the look on her face. "You're a true friend, Matthew Bluestone. I thank you." Demona finally said, before heading out and down to the nearest bathroom on this level of her home.
She was relaxed and calm after her dip in the tub and came down the stairs toweling her wild mane of red hair. Matt was still preparing a steak dinner for them with Adair on the counter, beside where he was chopping up some vegetables, in the bouncy seat far enough from the stove to be safe. She smiled at the chubby legs kicking and making the seat rock, and one little hand curled around half a carrot that had been washed and peeled. He was sucking on the orange treat happily, cooing to himself. Matt was chatting amiably at the baby giving him cooking tips.
Adair giggled and flailed his free arm vigorously when he spotted Demona. She was in her customary halter and loincloth with a towel around her head for drying. "You two look cozy in here.” She commented softly approaching the baby and placing a kiss on the silken fuzz atop his head. “Hello, my angel, is that a good treat?” He gurgled back at his mother and offered the carrot up. “Thank you, love, but no, I’d rather have some baby toes.” She took hold of his feet and blew on the soles gently, chuckling when Adair jerked them away to curl tightly to his body. She took hold of them again to kiss them adoringly.
“You know, it never ceases to amaze me when I watch you with him. You’re a different person entirely from what I knew not too long ago.” Matt grinned and tossed his chopped veggies in the pan. “Steaks are almost ready, and this stuff shouldn’t take long. Hope you’re feeling better.”
“Much better. It helps to have a friend, Matthew, thank you.” Demona had lain the towel aside on the counter and Matt looked up with a grin that fell short when he saw her. Her hair was semi-dry, long and flowing in a river of fire down her spine. Her delicate wings draped over her shoulders and clasped talons above the flat of her chest. He hadn’t noticed her looking quite so beautiful before. “What?” She asked at the astonishment on his face.
He shook the thoughts out of his head. He couldn‘t be thinking what he was thinking, but he couldn‘t stop thinking it either. “Nothing, it’s just I’ve never seen you without the tiara, or whatever it is. I mean outside of your human form anyway.” He covered his shock at the attraction well. He hoped she hadn’t noticed the attraction. Matt studied her brow a moment deciding that it was remarkably like Angela’s with the exception of the two extra spikes as had graced Delilah’s brow. “Why do you hide it?”
“It’s not really hiding it. The band and the cuff for my arm were gifts from someone that Goliath and I helped a very long time ago. At first I wore them to honor him, but now it’s more of a habit than anything else. I feel...incomplete without them.” She lifted Adair from his seat and held him to her shoulder while transferring him and the seat to a spot on her small kitchen table. This was where she ate most often and not out in the dinning room at the large, antique, mahogany table she’d used when Angela and Broadway visited. Adair settled easily in the chair and she went about setting out plates and dining ware.
“You’ll have to tell me about that sometime, and I still want to see those pictures.” Matt insisted when the intense attraction to her had passed into a delicate admiration. “Anyway, this food is ready to eat.” He brought over the steaks and a bowl of potatoes and other assorted foods.
“Looks delicious, Matthew.” Demona settled into a seat near to Adair and made sure to share some of the gooey potatoes with her son. Conversation was much as it had always been. They shared stories about their lives and Demona kept him rapt in attention with what she’d heard over the centuries about the Illuminati’s movements. He insisted on cleaning up the leftovers and bade her take Adair out and see that he had dinner too. She left him in the kitchen, but Adair was not hungry in the least, and only wanted to play on his pillow pallet in the floor of her den. It was littered with toys and the baby giggled delightedly rolling around on the pillows under his mother’s watchful eye.
Matt finally joined them, and Demona brought him the pictures she’d had taken of Adair. There was even one of her, as Dominique, holding the infant proudly with a smile, which surprised Matt somewhat. “These are great, Demona. Oh, I like this one best. With him in the toy box.” He elaborated at her look of inquiry.
“Take one if you like. I’ve already given some to Angela, but there really isn’t anyone else, and I obviously don’t need all of those.” Demona sounded a little despondent.
“Really? Thanks, I’d love one. He’s like my nephew...or something.” Matt fell silent for a little while thinking.
“What’s on your mind, Matt? I know that look, you only get it when you want to ask something that you think might set me off.” Demona shook her head when Adair rolled into her trying to crawl again and when he started crying she picked him up and held him close to her. His rooting against her prompted a wing to fold around to cover him while she let him nurse. “Enjoy that while you can, my son, it won’t last much longer.” Matt knew she was trying to be stern, but it came out dejected, weaning was a small step toward his growing up. One of many that she was reluctant to allow, but powerless to stop.
“Well, I was wondering, you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. If Elisa is a big step, what are you going to do about Macbeth? Have you even thought about that?”
“I have and I can’t honestly say. Of all the people I hurt or betrayed, Macbeth has the greatest reason to hate me. I caused him so much grief, so much pain.” Without thinking much about it, Demona lowered her wing enough to gaze down at her son for her own comfort. Matt made sure to look anywhere but at the baby.
“Yeah, I got that idea. What exactly happened between you two anyway?” Demona’s eyes shimmered red before she shut them tightly. “Hey, sorry, I shouldn’t pry.”
“No, I need to face this too, but what I did to him, in a way it was worse than the massacre at Wyvern. What happened in the massacre was so much simpler to deal with because they were all dead, just gone, but with Macbeth...” she wiped a tear away.
“You don’t have to tell me, you know. Take all the time you need, if it takes a hundred years...well at least you’ve got that.” Matt’s hand found her four fingered, taloned, hand across the pillow palace, and gave her a reassuring squeeze.
“Actually, I should be talking to him about this. I should be apologizing to him, though it’s centuries too late. I betrayed him to his enemies, the Hunter of that time, I made a pact that Macbeth would fall because I heard him talking about selling out the remnants of all the Scottish gargoyle clans, there were maybe a dozen of us left at that time. I should have trusted in him. In the end it did no good, they were destroyed while they slept anyway. The hunter killed him, and because of the spell that binds us Macbeth appeared dead. His son took the crown and his wife, I learned later, urged him to flee so that the people would not fear magic or devilry on his part. He had to leave his home and the love of his life because of my betrayal. They were not dead then, though his son did not live long. His wife, Grouch, she lived for some time longer, and he could not see her at all. He could not go to her when she lay dying, and that is far worse than losing someone to death.” Demona’s head was bowed and tears streamed from her eyes. Even Adair had lost interest in his meal at the anguish pouring off of her; he started to whimper in her arms.
“Geeze, Demona, what can I say to that? You’re right, you need to talk to Macbeth about that, but even centuries too late, I don’t think he’d scoff at an apology. He might not understand it, but he wouldn’t scoff at it.” Matt’s hand was warm and comforting on her shoulder. He was grateful that her wing stayed in place covering her now, not wanting her to be exposed as well as upset. He doubted she'd be embarrassed, but he would and that was enough of an excuse for him.
“It’s all right, my little angel. Mommy’s got you, finish your dinner, my love.” Demona rocked the baby to calm him. “There is nothing to say about it, Matthew. I destroyed his life, and no matter what I do I can never give it back to him. I have thought of letting him end it. Letting him kill me so that he can reunite with them, but now it would mean leaving Adair, and Angela. I can’t do that, I can’t leave them, not when I just learned how to love again.” Matt couldn’t take it anymore, no matter who she was, this pain was real and it was a deep pain that had festered for centuries. He pulled her into a hug, that startled her into flaring her wings, but he didn’t let her pull away.
“You need this, Red, I’m your friend, remember.” Demona did give in then, and let her head rest on Matt’s shoulder, and she cried. All the torment she’d felt through the centuries in her most private moments came out then and left the stain of tears on his white business shirt. All the regrets that had eaten away at her soul for so long rushed through her mind, the wound on her soul began to heal as the tears drained away denial’s poison. Matt simply held her to him and stroked her hair through it all. It was all he could offer, even if his heart whispered requests for more.
“Thank you, once again, Matthew. You were right, I did need this. I need to talk to Macbeth, under the flag of truce, and I need to make amends for everything I’ve done. I’ll start with Elisa Maza. If you’d be so kind as to excuse me.” Demona pulled away to check Adair, amazingly he’d fallen asleep between them. His tiny mouth suckling at thin air. She quickly covered herself while Matt averted his gaze with a little difficulty.
“No problem, Demona, but before you go, I’d like to invite you to Thanksgiving at my place. I won’t take no for an answer. Be there, three days from now, at lunch and I mean noon sharp.” Demona started to protest. “I mean it, it’s just me and my younger sister and her husband this year. We need the extra help to eat all that turkey.”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude, Matthew, and I don’t really celebrate human holidays.” She protested anyway.
“It’s not an intrusion, I’ve invited you, and you’d better start. Adair is going to want lots of Christmas presents one day soon.”
“No, he may be human, but I am only partially so, and we will celebrate the solstice, not unlike Christmas, but without the religious overtones. Gargoyles, always have celebrated that night. It is the night that we are awake for the longest stretch of time.”
“Give it a try anyway. If you don’t show up, I’m bringing them here. Get it.”
“So I’m going to be included whether I like it or not.” Demona sounded exasperated but grinned at him none the less. “All right, I only wish that Angela could join us.”
“Yeah, my sister and her husband would love that. She’s an avid gargoyle fan these days. One of the guys helped her out one night when she’d had car trouble and these punks were trying to get in the car to take her purse. Brook and Broadway were out on patrol that night, she said a red beaked monster helped her, and that was the last time I heard her call them monsters. She’d love the chance to meet him and say thanks in person, but if I tell her that I know him personally she’ll blab it all over that her big brother knows the gargoyles and then eventually someone will put two and two together and I’ll be off the task force entirely.” He stood and helped her up. “Now, you’d better get going if you’re going, but let me call a cab before you lock up.”
“Nonsense I’ll have my driver take you home. Just one moment.” She stepped away and dialed a number on the phone. She spoke softly for a few moments and then hung up. “He’ll be at the gate in ten minutes. Thank you again, Matthew. I suppose I’ll see you in three days.”
“Good, be careful on your flight across the city.” Matt grinned and let himself out. Demona locked up behind him, and ascended to her bedroom. She donned again the protective tiara, and called the castle.
“Ah, uh, Lexington,”
“Demona! What do you want?” The voice was laced with suspicion and anger.
“I would like to speak with Goliath or his mate.” Demona made certain to keep her tone neutral and without rancor. She was surprised when she found that it wasn’t an effort as it had been just that evening.
“It’s two in the morning Demona, they probably don’t want to be disturbed.” Lex said with a smug tone.
“Please it is urgent, Lexington. If not them then may I speak to Angela?” The phone transferred hands, by the sound.
“Maza here, what is it Demona?”
“Detective, I would like to apologize for my snapping at you earlier, I had no right to do that.”
“Actually, I should be apologizing to you. It’s not your fault that I am having a hard time with some things right now, and you shouldn’t have been the one to catch the flames off it.” Maza was actually being congenial with her and Demona gathered courage from this.
“I accept as long as you accept mine for snapping at you and dismissing you and Goliath as I did. I would like to come there as soon as is allowed and speak with the both of you. Possibly, if we settle things, the rest of the clan as well. I owe all of you so much for the things that I have done.” Elisa gasped at her words. “This will not be easy for me, Detective, but in talking with your partner I have come to the conclusion that I must make amends where I can. Who better to start with than those who were once my family? They will be hardest on me, except for possibly, Macbeth.”
“Uh, sure I guess, hang on a sec.” The phone muffled and she could barely make out Maza discussing her request with Goliath and Hudson. “Okay, Demona, we’ll be in the courtyard. This had better not be a trick.”
“I assure you, I have only the best intentions in mind. I’ll speak to you in front of the clan if you deem it so.” Demona waited for the answer.
“I’ll be there within the hour.” Demona hung up and pulled out a sling that was not unlike Adair’s nursing sling, but was more secure and would hold him to her while gliding. She wrapped him warmly in a blanket, and settled him in the specialized pouch then took flight from her balcony. She didn’t often glide with him, for she still worried at having him in the chill night air. He seemed to enjoy the flights that she did take him on. Adair slept straight through this flight, so she assumed that he was getting used to the motions her gliding created.
Maza hadn’t been exaggerating, the whole clan along with Xanatos and his wife and Burnett were standing in the courtyard when she alit on the battlements. Fortunately, Adair was still soundly sleeping and hadn’t so much as twitched when she touched down. His soft sigh was enough to calm her nerves a bit. Angela coming forward to greet her with a hug went even further to that end. “Hello, my daughter, would you watch over Adair while I speak with...everyone...” She glanced around.
“Of course. It would be my pleasure.” Angela helped her to unstrap and free the sleeping child. Demona placed a light kiss to his head before allowing her to take him in out of the wind with a last set of instructions.
“He should remain asleep, but if not and you can’t appease him bring him back to me. Here are diapers and things you might need. A bottle as well, though he doesn’t always take it. Thank you, Angela.” Then they were gone, Broadway followed her. The rest stayed.
“You wanted to speak to us.” Goliath was short and to the point. Demona didn’t mind that.
“Yes,” she hopped down off the wall and knelt in a bow with her hands open, palm up, displaying her lack of weapons, “as I told your mate over the phone, I am sorry to have snapped at you as I did this night. It was wrong of me. I spent a long time after you both departed speaking to Matthew Bluestone. I realized that if I am to truly change the things I have done, I must face those that I’ve hurt and at least offer my apologies. I wish to make amends to you and your clan, Goliath, though I have not thought how that might be accomplished.” She stayed prone before him her head down in the traditional gargoyle pose of deference, until he invited her to stand and meet his gaze.
“I think that you have the right to choose what retribution I am to pay, Goliath. For all that I am responsible. I am sorry for my part in the massacre, Goliath, what guilt you carry, and I know you well enough that I know you feel guilt for it. That guilt is not yours, Goliath, it is mine and mine alone since I am the only one whom agreed to that scheme that still lives. I’m so sorry, my leader. I do not expect you to ever trust me again, I am unworthy of it.” Demona didn’t try to stem the flow of her tears. “Whatever you require of me, I will do to make what reparation I can.”
Goliath watched her solemn as ever on the outside, but within he was fighting a battle against his instinct to believe her and his instinct to distrust anything she said. Xanatos behind her, shifted the weapon he held in his hands from one of readiness to one of rest. It seemed that the billionaire, at least, believed her with Owen whispering in his ear. Goliath wondered if the Fey was reading her intentions. “Demona, I shall think on this. Trust, once broken, is twice as hard to reclaim.”
“I know this, and I am prepared to wait as long as you need. I am already starting a process within my company, but that is not why I am here. There are other things for which I must apologize and there are the rest of you to whom I must atone. Goliath, against you personally, I cast a spell and lured you into one death trap after another, for those things I apologize from the depths of my heart, I am sorry, Goliath. I will give you blood for blood if you wish it.” To this Goliath answered immediately.
“No! This is not 984, and we are no longer in Scotland. What’s done is done, and I won’t have that type of compensation made here. Indeed, I would not have taken it then either.” He sighed and raised her face to his once more. His eyes studied hers for long minutes, as though he were reading her soul. Finally, he nodded satisfied with what he'd witnessed. “It is enough to see that you feel remorse for it. As for the rest, if they will hear you then speak with them.” Goliath stepped away then to Elisa’s side and let a wing circle her to ward off the cold. Demona expected a flash of hatred, but it didn’t come. She turned to face Xanatos.
“You, what I did going against your wishes, partially destroying not only your home but my own, I regret that. For calling your servant away from you through magic and betraying you during the time we revived Coldstone, I am sorry, though for a while I was more sorry that Puck turned me human during the day than sorry for any harm or inconvenience it might have caused you. I do not, now, because I would not have my son if I were still wholly gargoyle.”
“Hey, no hard feelings, I wasn’t exactly up front with you either Demona. I’d say we’re even.” Xanatos even extended a hand which she accepted with a nod.
“Still, I’ve stolen from you and caused endless strife for your business, but don’t expect that last to end. Incidentally, I have the counter spell to destroy the toxin I created using the CV carrier virus and the DI-7.” She offered a scrap of parchment. “I leave this with you, let your Child of Oberon have a look and use it or not as you see fit. I won’t even suggest that I be allowed anywhere near it. I don’t want to be, if it can be destroyed I will sleep easier knowing that something I created will not take my son’s life.” Xanatos took it and handed it to Owen who began to study the spell there in.
Demona nodded again and moved on to Lex. “I suspect that much of what lies between us are the things I have done your clan. For the injuries I caused, though, I must atone. Since Goliath will not accept blood for blood, then I offer my deepest apology, and give you the right to any of the technology within my company, test it, use it, all you need to do is ask for it. It is a small thing, but unless you have another idea, it is all that I have.” Lex just gave her a cold stare. She moved on quickly, but Brooklyn’s eyes glowed menacingly until she bowed to him.
“If you think anything you say or do will change my mind, you got another thing comin’ lady.” Brooklyn leaned back against the wall. “This should be rich.” He muttered when she did not move away.
“Still, I am sorry for using you. It was the worst thing I could have done, to make you think I cared and then use it to harm your leader. Like Goliath, I will let you decide what punishment I deserve.” She found herself unable to meet Brooklyn’s gaze.
“Really, well, unlike Goliath, I think the old ways should stand in this. Blood for blood, Demona.”
“Brooklyn!” The leader started forward, angry and shocked at his second.
“NO!” Demona stopped his advance with a slice of her hand. “Goliath, I gave him the choice. It is he, whom I am indebted to. From you I took your clan, and betrayed your trust. From him I took his innocence, he has the right to demand what he will.” Demona turned back to the brick toned gargoyle. “What will you have of me? If it is a beating, allow me to finish here, what I came to do before you take it.”
“No, I thought for a long time that I’d feel great if I could just beat the hell outta you, but it wouldn’t do any good. Give me your hand.” Demona held out her left hand to the snow haired second in command. Brooklyn took hold of her arm and one talon raked the palm of her hand, gashing the flesh. He let a few droplets of blood hit the stones. “Your blood for their lives, and for me.” Demona did not cringe at the pain; she knew she deserved it, but was surprised when he pulled out a cloth and wrapped her hand. “We’re not even by a long shot, but my brothers and sisters were dust long ago, and I can’t ask more than this for them.” Brooklyn turned then and leapt from the parapets into the night. The others melted away when she approached Hudson and Bronx, who stood together.
“Me too, Lass?” Hudson seemed truly surprised by this. She nodded without meeting his eyes. Then before anything else she knelt before the guardian gargoyle.
“Bronx, you are a wonderful guardian, if not for you I might have made the biggest mistake that I could have made in this century. You stopped me from destroying your leader’s mate, and for that I thank you.” She held out the uninjured hand and Bronx took a sniff then touched his nose to her palm. She broke then and wrapped her arms around the great beast and wept for a few moments. This was taking a greater toll than she could have imagined. Bronx’s acceptance of her struck home and it was long minutes before she could let go of his bulk.
It was Hudson’s hand upon her shoulder that finally pulled her away, but she did not rise, if anything she flattened further to the cool stones upon which they stood. “My teacher, my mentor in the arts of the warrior, I have done you a great disservice. With all my actions, through all the centuries of my life, I have dishonored what you taught me. I have dealt you injury, of the flesh and with my words of insult. You are the greatest warrior I have ever known, despite the loss of your eye and the loss of your time. Through your age you have gained wisdom that I ridiculed, I should not have done you this injustice. My regret is inadequate repayment, but it is all I have to give you.”
“Lass, you’ve done yourself the disservice, not I. It saddened me, aye, to see you as you were. But, if Bronx accepts ye back then who am I ta argue? How I’ve missed your presence these years, girl, ye were the light of the clan at your best. All I want is to see you back there. This is a fair start of it if ye ask me.” Hudson took her arms and pulled her up into a bear hug. “I forgive ye, Lass, for in all those centuries ye but wanted to help our kind. After so long fighting a battle that became more and more futile, I think any of us might have turned to hate those who destroyed without cause.” Demona was helpless yet again to stop her tears. This time mixed of joy and grief. She finally pulled away and kissed his aged cheek. This pulled a blush from him at which she grinned.
Then she turned back to Xanatos’s assistant. “Burnett, against you I must apologize for turning you to stone, and trying to smash you to bits, but it is Puck who I must really speak to.” She waited and watched as Owen spun until Puck appeared. “I am sorry Puck, for the chains that hurt you so. And I thank you for the gift you left with me. If not for that I would still be in my mansion, alone and hating, and becoming more dead inside. I wish you nothing but good tidings, Child of Oberon. Just please, no more gifts. Though I enjoy it now, it does come with a price each dawn and dusk.” She bowed deeply to the Fey and stepped back keeping a wary eye on him at all times.
“Wow, no one’s ever apologized to the Puck before, and I’ve certainly never received a thank you, well, except from Mr. X. I wish all mortals were as grateful.” Puck’s facade faded and he was Owen once more. Only then did Demona turn to Goliath’s chosen mate.
“It is you to whom I owe the deepest apology, Detective, but first, I have a request. The nights I cast the stone spell on Manhattan, I destroyed so many statues. So many humans lost loved ones those nights. If you know, or if you can find out, I want to know addresses of their families. I wish to send compensation to at least try to help for what I did.” She could not meet Elisa’s gaze for this, but would not allow herself to look away afterward. “Now, this will perhaps be the hardest thing I have done in quite some time. Please believe that I mean all that I say now. I have hated you for so long, and you have proven yourself the least worthy of that hate. You are truly the greatest representative of your race. You have done nothing to incur my hatred of you other than to care for one whom I no longer have claim to.
“You cared for this clan from the moment you met them. You have guided them through this world when I would not. You, a human, have loved and been loved by one of my kind. The only explanation I can offer is jealousy, though I have no right to it. I lost my right to any love Goliath had for me, when I destroyed our clan. Doubly so, when I thought to kill or control him for my own uses. When he chose you over me, I knew that everything I had ever held dear or been proud of was destroyed. Instead of placing the blame where it rested, on myself, I placed it upon you.
“In the end, I grew to hate myself as much as I thought I had hated you. It has come so far as I feel unworthy of my son, or any caring that Angela has shown me. That is why I snapped at you so, you had spoken thoughts that I’ve been fighting for a very long time now. My penance for the deeds I have committed against you I also leave in your hands. Just please," Demona hesitated, "don’t ask me to give up my child. Adair is the only light in the darkness I face. Everything I do, I now do for him. I would be lost without him and without Angela’s tentative affection and the friendship that Bluestone has forged with me. He is fearless when forcing me to face the things I’ve done, just as Adair is gentle in his trust of my love for him. It is that I fear the greatest of all, the loss of my son.” Demona waited silently for Maza to speak.
“I’d never ask that of anyone, Demona. I don’t care what you’ve done. Your child is your child, as long as you do him no harm. I couldn’t take a child from it’s parent. From what I’ve seen tonight and what I have heard from the guys you are at your best when he is around. You don’t know me well if you think I’d demand your baby as repayment. What would I do with him, he’s yours.” Demona flinched from her ire. “Look, I want Goliath’s child, not just any kid that comes along. As for the rest, I understand jealousy, and believe it or not I understand gargoyle jealousy and the way claims on mates are settled. Actually, I’m glad we don’t have to settle things that way. Look, I’ll stand by whatever Goliath comes up with as penance. That’ll be enough for me, although I think your conscience is doing well on it's own in that respect. As for those addresses, I really can’t give them to you, confidential information, but there is a fund that was started by the 23rd for those who lost someone during that time. I’ll give you the information on that if you really want it.”
“I do, and I want to know how many families were affected total. So I make sure to donate enough for each.” Demona was eager in this.
“And I’ll match whatever she donates Maza. After all, if I hadn’t let her use Pack Media Studios it never would have happened.” Xanatos stepped forward.
“I’ll have to check that out at work, but I’ll let you know in a day or so.” Elisa offered.
“That’s fine, give Matt the information, I’m to have lunch with him on Thanksgiving. He is very persistent, your partner.” Demona said this with a grin.
“Tell me about it. He damn near wrecked my car trying to get me to admit the truth about the guys when he wanted to meet them.” Elisa was actually quite pleased with this new ground they were treading. Angela burst out the stairwell in a flurry.
“Mother come, Adair is doing...something odd.” Demona’s eyes flashed with worry and she sprinted after Angela. When they reached the media room, Broadway was watching the baby inch backward across the thick rug. “Why does he do that?” Adair became frustrated with his inability to reach the toy he was after and he buried his face and wailed.
Demona sighed relief. “Thank the evening star, Angela, you scared me to death. He’s trying to crawl, unfortunately he’s stuck in reverse at the moment. He hates it too, as you can very well see.” She knelt and picked her son up off the floor. “Its all right, Angel of my peace, you will get it soon enough. When did you wake up, Lordling Destine? It is so far past your bedtime that I doubt I’ll get any rest tomorrow.”
“He woke up about twenty minutes ago, Demona, and he didn’t seem tired. When we tried to rock him he started screaming. So, we agreed to let him play himself out.” Broadway explained.
“Well, he’s tired enough now, is there a rocking chair I can use nearby?” Demona turned to ask the onlookers. Fox stepped forward.
“Sure, gimme a sec and I’ll bring it. Hey, Broadway, come give me a hand before sun up.” The tattooed half of the Xanatoses sauntered out with Broadway at her heels. It was only an hour until dawn now. They all started at the time that had passed them by. Fox led Broadway in a few minutes later and they all gaped at the jumbo sized, oaken rocking chair carved ornately with Celtic knot work. “Here ya go, courtesy of the Broadway express.”
“Thank you, Fox, this is beautiful work.” Demona settled in the chair that fit her nicely. “All right, my grouchy little boy. Time to sleep.” The others went about their business, but Goliath and Elisa stayed watching Demona with the baby. Not because they didn’t trust her exactly, but instead to try getting along in case she was serious about changing. Demona wasn’t really up for a conversation at that time; she was busy crooning a song for the tired infant who’d made this night’s events possible.
“You love him a lot, don’t you?” Elisa finally asked.
“With all that I am, Detective. He is the thing that I will protect with my dying breath. Both of my children are.” Demona ran a hand over Angela’s hair. The younger gargess had settled on the floor beside Demona’s chair.
“Demona I think I may have found adequate penance for you. If you are serious, you shall patrol with the clan at night, when your duty to your company and your child permit.” Goliath stood firm behind Elisa. "Your atonement shall be to protect the humans you tried so hard to destroy."
“If that is what you require, but what will I do with Adair. He has no nanny, what human would stay after my true nature was revealed?”
“What if you left him here?” Fox asked from nearby on the couch. “We could watch him, or rather Owen could.”
“If it’s all the same to you I would rather that Puck not be anywhere near Adair. I know that he would do no harm to a child, but I fear he makes me nervous.” Demona didn’t want to sound like she was complaining about the ‘gift’ he’d given, but it was near time for her to change and Adair was likely to be awakened by her screams. “Speaking of which, would it be all right to stay here until my change is done. I’ll never make it home in time, and I’d rather not be on the streets with him. I’ll have my driver pick us up, but I don’t want to be walking around Manhattan as my daytime self with a vulnerable infant.”
“Sure. I can understand that.” Fox was genial about it. “I’m going to get a little sleep before Alex wakes up and I have to get to work. Night all. Demona, think about that offer. Owen won’t hurt Adair, and he’s already used to gargoyles so there won’t be a problem there.”
“I shall, but I don’t promise anything.” Demona kept rocking even though Adair was sleeping again. Owen entered silently then.
“I was sent to see that you got everything you might need, Demona.” He stated in that flat unemotional way that drove most people nuts. The stiff, blond man nodded his acknowledge of his employer as Fox walked out.
“Wonderful...” Abruptly her sarcasm fell away and she thrust the baby into his arms. Goliath and Angela had taken up spots in the corners of the room, knowing that they’d never get to the turrets in time. “Get him out of the room, Owen, now.” Her voice was tight with restrained pain as the stone shells formed over the pair of gargoyles and her skin began to lighten. “Please...my screaaaahhhh!” The pain cut through her so that she couldn’t hold back any longer as her wings shriveled and retracted into her back. At her scream, Adair woke with a start in Owen’s grasp and began a wailing fit at the sounds of his mother’s agony. Elisa gave in to an urge that had come over her the first time she’d witnessed this change and put a steadying hand on Demona’s quivering back until the change had ended and her screams had long faded.
Adair still wailed and Demona shrugged Elisa off to retrieve him. “Does that always happen?” Owen asked handing the baby over gracefully. He gave a genuine frown at Demona’s nod.
“I think that my screams frighten him.” She settled shakily into the chair again and rocked. “Shh, my love, Mommy’s here, all is well, my poor boy. Shh, go back to sleep, I'm sorry I scared you again, My Angel.” She didn’t notice Owen’s stone hand come alive, nor the green light that surrounded her, so focused was she on Adair’s fright. "Oh, I know my love, I know that you are scared. Shhh." She rubbed noses with the tiny boy and his cries drained away. Sleep did not return though. He lay in her arms watching her intently. Every so often he'd gurgle and coo at her and she'd return the noise.
"Jalapena, that was, are you okay?" Elisa asked after a moment.
"Yes, I'm fine now. The pain only lasts during the change itself. I just hate that Adair is affected as he is." Demona sighed. "There have been only a handful of times that he has not been frightened by it. Usually because he is in another room while my change is taking place."
Owen cleared his throat for attention. "You won't have to worry about that any longer, Demona. I amended the spell, and the pain will be gone. It was ill done of my alter ego to leave you in that state for so long anyway. Consider the offer of my service genuine. I would be honored to watch over him for you."
"Okay, we'll try it for a few nights, and see how things work out. It may be that I just can't bear to be apart from him for too long a time. Even now so many months later. Yet, I must do my best to show Goliath that I am sincere." Demona sighed heavily. "If you didn't make me so happy, my angel, I would not be facing this daunting task of righting the wrongs of nine hundred years.” Dominique nuzzled the baby in her arms and kissed his little forehead.
“It’s a good start, Demona.” Elisa stated taking a seat in the chair beside Demona’s rocker. “I really am sorry for saying the things that I did. You have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that Adair is very privileged to have you.”
“No, I’m privileged to have him. I don’t know what I’d do without him.” Demona watched Adair fight sleep once again. When finally he was asleep and Elisa had excused herself to her suite for some shut eye, Demona gathered the things she had brought and asked Owen to summon her limo.
“Nonsense Madame, I’ll drive you myself. Please, let me take those things and if you’ll follow me...” He led her down to the garage and opened the trunk of Xanatos’s personal limousine. She started to refuse. “It’s the only one with a carseat ma’am. Mr. Xanatos himself has authorized it.” He ushered her inside and then drove her to her manor. Burnett left her with a bow at her door, and Demona entered more tired than she’d been in a long time. Yet she was happier than she’d been in centuries.
She smiled at the maid, the young woman was early. “Any instructions today, Miss Destine.”
“Nothing special, Anita. Just make sure things are in their proper place. I’ll have your pay for you before I retire.” Demona stated, and left the woman with a nod. She took the scenic route to her bedroom taking the main stairway off the dining area. Then the second in the library on the second floor, and the last at the end of the hallway behind her alchemy lab. She checked the door of the lab to make certain it was locked and secure. It was and she continued up the flight into her bedchamber.
Before she had the chance to even settle Adair in his crib the phone rang. It was her personal line and would only ring here in her chamber. There were only a select few who had this number and of those two were stone right now. She noticed the light on her answering machine blinking rapidly as she answered. “Yes?”
“Hey,” Matt’s voice sounded relieved, “I’ve been calling. You in one piece?”
“I’m fine, Mathew.” Demona smiled at the thought that he had worried over her. It felt nice that someone cared. “It was not easy by any means, but it’s done. I’ve been drafted to patrol with the clan to make amends for the time being. Goliath never was imaginative when dealing out punishments. I’ll have to continue with the projects I’ve started through Nightstone. Maza is going to get you some information for me about the benefit fund for the surviving families of the humans that I destroyed while the stone spell was cast. Please don’t let her forget, Matt. I need to make that donation. It is the only thing I can do to make what amends I can to those people.” Demona sank down onto her bed and cradled Adair closer as remorse swept through her in a great surge.
“You sound tired, Red. Get some sleep, I’ll try to stop by tonight sometime and make sure everything is back to normal.” Matt sighed over the line.
“I think I’d like that, Matt. Make it late though, I’m with Angela tonight.”
“What about Adair?” Matt was genuinely concerned.
“I’m trusting Owen Burnett to watch over him for me.” Demona gritted out. If she was forced she would admit that Burnett still made her edgy.
“Wow, that is one hell of a step. I’ll check in there for you if you like, and on my nights off I can watch him for you. I’ll even stay at your place with him if you want.” Mathew Bluestone was more hopeful that she’d agree than he’d want to admit.
“If you would like to. I trust you more than that Fey in disguise.” Demona said with a slight yawn.
“I would, and thanks for the compliment.” He noted the yawn. “Get some sleep, Demona. You need it.”
“Yes mother.” She chuckled a little to smother another yawn.
“You and that sarcasm. See you tonight, Red.” He could tell that she was going down hill fast. “Sleep well.”
“I will, and you do the same, Bluestone. I know you work tonight. Good night.” She hung up the phone.
When Matt was certain she’d gone and wouldn’t overhear he signed off in return. “Night Beautiful.” He shook his head and set the receiver in it’s cradle and crawled into his bed drifting off with thoughts of a red haired, blue-skinned gargess and wondering if he wasn’t getting in over his head, and if he shouldn’t cut back on those visits.
Demona on the other hand was too tired to even take Adair to his cradle. She settled him on the bed and curled around him drifting off secure in the knowledge that Mathew Bluestone was the third most perfect example of the good of the human race. She had no suspicions where he was concerned. She normally would have felt the need to analyze every move that a human made when attempting friendship with her. With Matt she just let her instincts rule and was surprised that all her instincts insisted that he was not a threat. The surprise was swept away with a wave of relief, and then she slept.
Three days later, Matt met her at the door of his apartment building and led her up to his apartment to introduce her to his sister and brother-in-law. He had the information she’d asked Elisa to procure, and they enjoyed their day. She’d gotten along well with his sister and been informed that she would have to attend Christmas Dinner with them the next month. She’d agreed reluctantly and things were settled for a while.
In the following weeks, Demona got used to the gift that Owen/Puck had given her, and the painless change from gargoyle to human and back was a blessing when Adair no longer wailed in fright afterwards. Christmas Day, after a short but heavy snowfall, Dominique found herself exiting her limo with Adair wrapped warmly in a blanket, and looking up at the apartment building that Mathew Bluestone called home. He had said to be there at noon sharp. She was an hour early. She walked up the steps and buzzed his number.
“Matt here, Jacks that you?” He asked sounding cheerful and excited.
“Actually, no, but if you’d rather I’ll leave. Adair and I are a tad early.” Demona teased.
“No! I was just expecting Jackie, my little sister. She’s on her way from the airport, or she was twenty minutes ago. They went to my parents place for the week and Christmas Eve.” The door buzzed and she stepped inside. Matt met her on the stairs. He offered to take either the bowl of salad she held or the baby. She knew which he’d rather so she relinquished her son and followed Matt. He unwound the blanket from Adair as they climbed the stairs to his apartment. It was nice and warm even on the stairs. She smiled at Adair's happy gurgle for Matt.
“Welcome to my humble abode yet again. You know it’s weird that we’ve been going to lunch and hanging out so much, but you’ve only been to my place two or three times.” He ushered her inside. She was surprised to find a pallet already set up in the floor of his living room. “Glad you made it, by the way.”
“I was threatened with invasion if I didn’t. Remember?” He smiled at the threat he’d renewed when she’d protested to Christmas dinner. She set the salad on the counter separating his kitchen and dining room. “Where can I set his bag?”
“Just there by the couch is fine. Merry Christmas.” He smiled at her, thinking she looked elegant as always in the knee length navy blue skirt and cream-colored sweater. It wasn’t as business dressy as her suits, and it emphasized some of her curves nicely. It showed off the fact that she’d started to wean Adair wonderfully. He blushed at the thought and looked away to the baby still gurgling at him. “Hey there, big fella. How do you like the snow?” Adair answered him with an Ahh and a giggle.
“Merry Christmas to you as well, Mathew.” Demona returned with a soft upturning of the corners of her mouth watching him with her son. “He hasn’t had much chance to play in the snow yet. I think he’s still a bit too small.”
“I figured you’d say that. Check it out.” He handed the baby back to her and went to his fridge. He pulled a cup out of the freezer and brought it over. “I caught this last night while the really good snow was coming down. You’re never too young for an introduction to snow.” He slipped a hand into the cup and pulled out a tiny ball of snow about the size of the tip of her pinky finger and gave it to Adair. “This is snow, big guy, you’ll be seeing a lot of it here in NY.” Adair studied it momentarily and into his mouth the small snowball went. “I figured that’s what you’d do.”
They both jumped as the door buzzed out a tune. Matt went to answer it, and Demona wandered around the living room looking at the framed photos on the walls and shelves. She found the small 5x7 that she’d given him of Adair propped up in a toy box with a Nerf football in his little hand and a one piece outfit complete with a cap covering the auburn down on his head. It was sitting atop the television on the entertainment center. The football was in Adair's mouth as he laughed around it. She smiled at the photo. He’d just gotten the picture three weeks ago and it was already framed and on display. She’d had them for over six weeks, and had yet to frame any except the one 8x10 of herself and her baby which hung on the wall in her third floor hallway.
“Jackie is on her way up.” Matt came over behind her and the baby. He was close enough that she felt the heat from his body, but still was not touching her. She fought the urge to shiver. “See anything you like?” He asked indicating the pictures.
“Well, since I only know you and Adair out of the ones in these photos, I suppose I do.” She indicated the one of Adair. “And I didn’t get a chance to look at Thanksgiving, so I’m indulging a little.”
“Yeah, I can’t help it. He’s a cute kid.” Matt pointed out the photo of himself with his parents and sisters and brothers. He pointed them out as he named them. “My mom, Belle, and Dad, Grant. My older sister, Laney and her husband Rick. Their son Clayton, and daughter Gilly. That’s my oldest brother Bradley and his wife Madeline. Their three terrors Mike, Kerry, and Colin. Me you know, and that’s Jackie and her now husband Charlie. They'd just gotten engaged at the time of this picture. My younger brother Jimmy, he and Jacks are twins. The woman with him is Mari his girlfriend then and Fiancée now.” Demona studied the photo and noticed that Mathew looked like his father in coloring, but his features were more like his mother’s. His soft smile almost identical to hers. The only feature he shared with his father was the red hair and ice blue eyes. His mother’s chin was not as square as his, but his was the masculine form of her own. She found herself thinking him quite handsome for a human.
The knock at his door was a welcome interruption from that line of thinking. Her thoughts had been going further and further in that direction over the last few weeks since Thanksgiving. It disturbed her a little just how attractive he’d started to look to her. He left her and Adair and she felt that shiver run up her spine at the loss of his warm body so close behind her. Demona turned at the lively greeting and reunion of Mathew with his sister. She and Adair had missed this last time. She found tears forming in her eyes. Her own rookery siblings would never again greet her or each other in that manner. She fought the tears away though for Matt’s sake.
“Hey, big brother, Charlie and I brought a surprise with us from Mom and Dad’s. Hope you don’t mind.” She reached out into the hallway and pulled a man that looked remarkably like Mathew into the apartment closing the door behind him. This was Jimmy, she realized. The goatee threw her for a moment. Matt seized the other man in a bear hug.
“Not when it’s more mouths to eat dinner. I’d like to introduce a friend of mine, James, Dominique Destine and her son, Adair. I invited them to join us since they didn’t have anyplace else to go. She accepted because Jacks pestered and prodded until she agreed.” Matt stated with a wink at his little sister, and gestured Demona forward.
“Hey, Dominique, glad we didn’t have to invade your house.” Jackie said with widened eyes, studying Demona shyly. “You look lovely, and look how much that little guy has grown. It’s only been a month.”
“Yes, that is what babies do, and thank you.” Demona blushed at the compliment and took a steadying breath before she shook the young woman’s hand. Jimmy on the other hand scrutinized her with a calculating look.
“Ah, yes, the C.E.O and owner of Nightstone Incorporated, every warlord’s best friend.” Jimmy stated sarcastically. Matt turned an interesting shade of angry. Demona waved him off with a gesture of her hand.
“At one time perhaps. Not any longer though.” She smiled, used to handling people like Jimmy Bluestone.
“Right, that’s what you want people to think. I know you business tycoons though. All you care about is money and power. Just like that Xanatos. Who actually believes that he’s changed just because he’s got a kid? I guess that’s your excuse too. The way you hold that one close.” Demona tensed.
“It’s no excuse, you insolent little--! Adair is the only reason that my company has ceased all production on weapons of mass destruction as well as most all of the explosives and projectile weapons. The only weapons we currently produce are stun weapons such as tazers.” Demona bit her tirade off suddenly at Adair’s wail of discontent. “Excuse me please. Matt where can I change him?” Mathew was glaring daggers at his brother.
“I’ll show you. My bedroom okay?” She nodded and followed him out of the room after retrieving Adair’s bag of supplies. Matt shut the door more softly than he’d have liked. “Sorry about him. He’s...difficult.”
“No problem, Matt. I’m used to people like him criticizing and even attacking me. Both verbally and physically, believe me he’s nothing compared to some that I’ve run into. That’s why I have bodyguards during the press conferences that I attend.” Demona lay Adair out on the changing pad she’d set up and began the task of cleaning his little bottom. “Go, spend time with your family, Adair and I can manage here, and if he really is offended by my presence then we can always call the limo back and let you enjoy your holiday.”
“No, he’ll learn to play nice or he can be the one to leave. I invited you, he just showed up.” Matt stated firmly. “I’m gonna go knock some sense into him and I’ll come back in a bit.” He gave her a grin and left the room.
Matt re-entered his living area to hear his sister and brother arguing vehemently with one another. “Well, she’s his guest, not yours. You weren’t even invited, James. Show a little respect, you’re twenty-four years old not two.”
“I don’t agree with her policy to build weapons that kill people and sell them to the highest bidder!” Jimmy shot back in his defense.
“Then get the hell out and go back to Mom and Dad’s place. She’s a good friend and I’m not going to let you be rude to her. Not in my house, little brother.” Matt’s voice was hard and dangerous. “Either you be polite chopped liver and be quiet or you leave. Those are the only options you have James. Do you get me?” Matt’s finger was poking into his brother’s chest to punctuate each word.
“Yeah, I get it. Crap Matt, do you have to be so freakin’ forceful?” Jimmy rubbed his chest where Matt’s finger had likely left a bruise.
“Yeah, I do. She doesn’t have a lot of family and people like you make her wary of trying to have friends. So, I’ve worked damn hard to make her one of mine. You aren’t going to ruin that.” Matt stated with blue eyes that would have glowed were he a gargoyle. “Make your choice by the time I get back in here after I help with her son’s change.”
“Fine, Matt, I’ll be nice to your little girlfrien--.” Jimmy didn’t get anything else past his lips. Matt’s fist smashed into his mouth. Jimmy landed on his butt on the carpet holding his jaw.
“Christ!! Ma-ohhh!” Jimmy had started to say Matt and moaned in pain instead.
“Go home. I don‘t want to eat dinner with an ass.”
“No, Mathew, I told you not to alienate your family for a friendship.” Demona’s voice startled him out of the fog of rage. She stood behind him looking on in shock and something he couldn't define. Adair was silent in her arms, and the bag was over a shoulder.
“Dem-” She cut him off.
“No!" He couldn't tell if she meant no, don't use my name, or no just to stop him from speaking period. "Mathew, what have I been telling you about over these last weeks. Nothing is more important than your family. Don’t throw yours away on my account. Remember what happened to mine. Even a few minutes ago, I was overwhelmed by thoughts of never greeting my family as you greeted yours.” Demona came forward and took his hand. He realized abruptly that the emotion in her face was anguish. “You still have your siblings. Cherish them while you can, Mathew. Adair and I will see you later, it was nice to see you again, Jackie and Charles.” Demona didn’t acknowledge James who was still holding a hand to his mouth. She tried to walk toward the door, but Matt still held her hand.
“Dominique, please don’t leave.” Matt’s voice was barely more than a whisper now. His fingers tightened on hers. She looked down at them and noticed the red swelling of his knuckles.
“Matt, I won’t destroy another family. I won’t be a part of that.” The pain in her soft comment was felt through the room. Demona pulled her hand from his and rested the palm against his cheek. "Especially, not the family of my dearest friend."
Jimmy quickly stepped over. "Wait. Don't leave on my account. I'll keep my opinions to myself from now on. Please, Matt will kill me if you leave now." Dominique could tell that talking was painful for him and found herself feeling more than a little satisfaction at his pain. Not to mention the spots of blood on his shirt from the split lip.
"Damn right I will. Come on, Dominique, stay to eat at least. If you want to leave after, well, I'll understand. I won't like it, but I'll understand." Matt squeezed the hand she'd taken from his face.
"I suppose that would not hurt." Demona gently bounced Adair to soothe the pained look wrinkling his brow. "It's alright Adair, Mommy's Angel."
"Good. May I?" Matt asked his eyes sparkling with joy. Dominique knew what it was he was after and nodded. Adair transferred to him easily and she again deposited his bag on the cream carpeting by Matt's cushy, chocolate brown, suede sofa. She took a seat on it and he sat next to her while his sister brought ice bags for both brothers. Things settled down for a time after that. Matt transferred Adair to the pallet to play and conversed with his family and Dominique while wrapping up the baking of the turkey. Dominique had a pleasant conversation with Jackie and found herself enjoying the time with the young woman who was remarkably like her older brother in her ideas on life and gargoyles. Her sense of humor didn't hurt at all when it dispelled the tension between the brothers.
All in all it was a pleasant time with Matt's family so long as she and Jimmy continued to avoid each other. They had moments, but the others quickly diffused the tension. Dinner itself was as pleasant, if not more so, than the rest of her stay. With everyone's mouths full of food there was no chance for small talk and differences of opinion. Dominique insisted on helping Jackie with the clean up where they continued their conversation. Matt and the other guys adjourned to the age old pastime of watching football. Matt had seated himself on the floor with Adair scooting backward into him or whimpering in frustration.
The females of the group had joined them and Dominique was watching the game while Charlie explained the dynamics to her, and playing with Adair trying to entice him to her across from Matt. At one point, just before half-time the green and white team, names escaped her at this point, rallied and scored then intercepted and scored again. She was as caught up in the excitement exuding from Matt as the guys were exclaiming disbelief that they had caught up with the opposing team.
Adair chose that moment to figure out the mechanics of moving forward and Matt called her attention to him. She felt a great swell of pride for him in her heart then another more powerful wave swept over her when he inch-wormed his way to her and smiled a perfect little smile at her. The look on his face seemed to say, 'look, Mommy, look what I did,' and she grabbed him up in her arms for hugs and kisses.
"You see, My Angel, Mommy told you that you would figure it out eventually." She beamed with her joy. Matt found himself enchanted by the sparkling in her green eyes. Changed so much from what they had been those weeks ago in her office. The softness he saw now had been there, but with it was still that hard, dangerous glint. That glint was banished here as she cooed and kissed the baby.
"It's about time. He's been stuck in reverse for weeks now. Great job, kid. Now is when the real fun begins, so I hear. He's mobile and you get to chase him." Matt winked at her as she shot him a glare.
"That's all right you'll be around to help. Besides, he's not that mobile." She grinned back at him.
"Yeah, I suppose I will, and it's still a pleasure." They were rudely interrupted by the clearing of a throat. Matt looked back over his shoulder at his younger brother. "What, Jimmy?"
"Can we end the family hour and get back to the game here? The kid can crawl, great, peachy, but the game’s back." James should have read the tone in Matt's voice as a warning, but so few twenty-four-year-olds pay any heed to the warnings of older siblings.
"Watch yourself James, wouldn't want Matty to swell up the other side of your lip." Charlie chuckled and his wife slapped James upside the back of his head.
"I swear, Jimmy, sometimes being your twin isn't worth it." Jackie slapped him again for good measure and garnered a thanks from Matt. Dominique however had had enough.
"I grow tired of the insults to my son, veiled or otherwise. Mathew thank you so much for having the both of us." The woman who was not entirely human got to her feet.
"You don't have to go." Jackie stopped her from gathering things up. "We're not going to stay much longer anyway. Even I'm sick of him being rude, and just wait 'til Mom hears how you've acted from both me and Matt.” James cringed and sank lower into the couch pressing his mostly melted ice pack back over his mouth.
"I don't blame you, Red, but I wish you weren't leaving." Matt helped her get everything picked up and stowed in the diaper bag. Adair had, at some point gotten his hands on it and strewn the contents all over his pallet.
“Don’t worry, I think I’ll go visit Angela for a little while. Thank you, again, for inviting me. That was worth more than actually being here.” Demona smiled sadly at him and walked out of the apartment. The door shut behind her with a note of finality.
“Merry Fucking Christmas, James!” Matt grabbed the dripping bag from his brother's face and walked into the kitchen and threw the bag of ice in the sink. It made a satisfying crunch as the non-melted ice hit the ceramic of the sink, and the water splashed everywhere as the bag busted. He then ignored the rest of them and retreated down the hallway, slamming his bedroom door shut.
“What the fuck did I do?” James asked no one in particular.
“Shut up, Jimmy.” His sister’s husband said in disgust. “Did you absolutely have to attack the woman as soon as we walked in the door? Was it necessary or mandatory that you insult her and her baby? Good grief James, you didn’t even give her a chance. She’s a neat person, if you’d tried to get along, you’d know that.” The man continued to rant at his brother-in-law. Jackie had left them and gone back to try and talk to their older brother.
Matt sat on the bed with his fists clenched, and let his head fall back against the wall. He hated losing his temper like that, but then he knew what Demona had been through and he wanted to protect her from anymore cruelty by humans. He couldn’t believe that Jimmy had just started in on her as soon as he’d found out who she was. Then he continued to knit pick and wheedle away at her. There was a knock on the door.
“Matty?” Jackie’s voice shocked and a little sympathetic.
“Come in Jacks. Just leave Jimmy out there. I don’t really want to see him right now.” Matt looked up when she came in.
“What the hell just happened Matt?” She asked when she came and sat with him.
“Your twin turned into a raging total lunatic, and your older brother turned into a hormonal teenager again. Shit! I haven’t acted like that since High School.” He leaned back again as she put a hand on his knee.
“What protective of a female?” She shook her head. “Protection is your job, Matt.”
“Yeah, but not when it comes to smashing my baby brother’s face in.” Matt ran his fingers through his hair restlessly.
“You feel very strongly about Ms. Destine, don’t you?” She asked.
“Yes...no.” He sighed. “I don’t know. She needs a friend, and some one to look out for her for a change. She’s been on her own for far too long. I didn’t like her, myself, when we first met. The tragedy she's been through makes most people bitter and hard to get along with. Adair's had a very positive influence on her.” He let out a depreciative sigh. “Now, I don’t know what I feel for her. She is beautiful though, I’ll agree with you on that. She’s transformed from what she was when I met her to a caring and compassionate, level headed person. Believe me, if he’d attacked her like that before her son arrived...” Matt trailed off shaking his head at the image of Demona ripping his little brother apart. “Let’s just say he got off lucky with just a split lip. That woman is dangerous.”
“Next time, I’ll ask in advance if I can bring him along.” She smiled apologetically and leaned against him. “Sorry he ruined your holiday.”
“Not your fault. Besides, it’s not completely ruined. I can go over and cheer her up after you guys either turn in or head off.” He sighed. “Let’s go pretend we are getting along, so that I can split and make sure she’s not too upset.” Matt pushed up and stood helping his sister to her feet. He pulled her into an embrace when she was standing. “I’m sorry for punching out your twin at Christmas.”
“He deserved it. All is forgiven.” Matt chuckled as they left the room and rejoined her husband and their brother. Matt surveyed the damage he’d done and apologized to Jimmy, who glared at him the whole time, but apologized for deserving the damage. They all did their best to salvage the remainder of the day after that, but Matt was preoccupied and worried about Demona. Eventually, his family left to drive James to the airport for his return flight. Jackie and Charlie went home after that. They’d all agreed that it was unwise for James to stick around.
Matt found himself ringing the bell to Demona’s mansion just before sunset. He was admitted into a solemn empty living area. He wondered where he’d find her this time. He wasn’t surprised that she wasn’t in the lower parts of the house. Nor was he surprised to find her rocking Adair, who was sound asleep taking a late nap.
“Hi.” He stopped just inside the door of her bedroom. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.” He wasn’t sure what else to say, then the sun dipped below the horizon and he watched her change into the azure gargess with periwinkle wings and a figure to die for. In the chair the wings didn’t have much room so she stood up. She didn’t seem to even notice it and refused to meet his gaze.
“We’re fine, Matt.” She crossed the room, and settled Adair in his crib. “I’m sorry I prompted that argument, Mathew.” He could hear the guilt she felt and watched her walk over to gaze out the balcony doors hugging herself as though she were cold.
“Don’t be. It’s been in the background for a while now. He just attacked the one person I was not going to watch him hurt.” Matt stated watching her intently.
“Still, if I hadn’t been there...” Her strained voice trailed off.
“I wanted you there, remember. I’m only sorry that you left, Demona.” He walked in and came up behind her.
“Why?” She asked with head bowed. “I bring nothing but strife with me, even when I am trying not to cause it.”
“That's not true and you know it. I enjoy being around you, Red.” Matt’s hands found themselves covering the wings that draped over her shoulders. He turned her to face him, and raised her face with a finger. Her eyes were a swollen red that had nothing to do with being a gargoyle, even after her change. “God, I’m sorry, Demona. You didn’t do anything wrong. He’s got some problems with aggression. It comes in part from the fact that he is in the military, and seen combat. His deal with you is probably because he's gone up against the weapons you sell. He's decided that he hates war and is trying to advocate peace. It's funny really since every time I've seen him try he ends up in a fight.” Her tiara was still missing from her brow and he could no longer resist placing a kiss to her hairline.
“Mathew...” She started only to have his finger cover her lips and prevent further speech. He then pulled her tight to him and held her.
“Shh, just let me do this. I don’t know why but you captivate me, Demona.” He relished the feel of her soft body close to his. Her warmth felt good mingling with his own. "You have for a while now. It wasn't really Adair that I came to visit. He is a great side bonus, though."
Demona was rather enjoying his hold on her. Her feelings about Mathew Bluestone were still twisted around between attraction, gratitude, and that tiny bit of revulsion that he was a human. It got smaller by the day though, and at this moment, after a day filled with so many transitions from joy to misery, all she wanted was someone to care. He did, she knew that, and it was enough for her to stop fighting her inner battle and let him feel good against her, holding her closely and protectively. He was no Goliath, but somehow that didn’t matter to her. He was barely taller than her, as she was, in her gargoyle form, but his arms were solid. His heat was intoxicating, and the scent of him made her nearly swoon.
“Shhh...” His lips were warm on her forehead once more. Then his cheek, smooth shaven, caressed hers. Demona found herself turning her face to encourage the kiss she knew, instinctively, he was working toward. His palms, warm, found her face and chin and he tilted her head before capturing her lips softly with his own. He was surprised when she responded and slid her hands around his waist and up his back to hold him closer. He’d expected, he realized, to find himself flying across the room. He broke away after a moment to regain his breath. “So beautiful...” The backs of the fingers of his left hand caressed her smooth cheek. Her hands found his head and pulled him into another kiss. He deepened this one, tickling her lips with his tongue until she opened for him to explore. Her tail wrapped around his leg unconsciously.
Demona was swept away this time. His tongue tickled the roof of her mouth and delicately traced the fangs of her teeth. She followed him back into his own mouth. He groaned hungrily when she did, and let her tease and taste him. When this one ended Matt just held her tightly. Demona didn’t protest this, in fact, she held him just as tightly. They watched the dusk turn into night, his head resting on the mane of red hair that he’d longed to touch for so many weeks now. His fingers ran through it with relish and he felt the tension leave her as she buried her face in his chest.
The two of them were silent a long time. Both afraid that saying anything would destroy the gentle peace around them and make them awkward with each other. Matt would admit that he hadn't planned that kiss, and been damned surprised by the one she'd initiated. Demona's thoughts were warring once again. He was a human; her only human friend, and she'd just complicated that friendship considerably. "Mathew?"
"I know, but Demona, I don't regret what just happened. Please don't tell me that you do." Matt held her tightly. She felt his body tense with worry that he'd just ruined their tentative friendship.
"I don't think I do. Matt, for weeks now, since I spoke to the clan I have been so confused. It's like I'm on a circus ride that slows just enough to create the illusion that I've found my bearings, and then speeds off twirling and jumbling everything all over again. You are a remarkable man. I can't say you aren't attractive either. Even I've noticed that you are quite handsome. I just don't know what I feel or if I should feel this right now. I should be serving my penance now that I've acknowledged my wrongs."
"No! You've served centuries of penance for the things you've done. You have taken a child that would have died from exposure or been left in a children's home, and given him your love and a better life. You aren't who you were, and you do deserve to find a little happiness." Matt had pulled back to look her in the eyes his hands cupping her face. The thumbs caressed her cheekbones. It was soothingly hypnotic.
Matt watched her eyes fall shut and found himself wishing she'd open them again. She sighed and returned her head to his chest. "I don't feel like I deserve to be happy, Matt, not yet. I've just gotten over feeling righteous and vindictive. I need to feel the guilt for a while." Her arms stayed around him though. "I might need a very good and close friend to be there to help me through it."
"Deal, Red. I wouldn't be anywhere else. I'll protect you from yourself if I have to." Matt's hands stroked down her back lightly and Demona gasped pressing more closely to him and tensing in his arms. "What? What did I do?"
"You brushed my wing struts. It's been so very long since anyone did that. I wasn't prepared for it." Demona's voice was thick and silken and, was that embarrassment threading through her tone. Matt took a closer look in the dim light and saw the color staining her cheeks.
"I take it they're pretty sensitive then." He trailed a finger from the base of her wing where it met her back along the line over her shoulder and back again. Demona purred against him and Matt smiled satisfaction. "The places on a gargoyle body sure to get a response." He murmured and let his lips trace the smaller pointed ridge above her brow.
“Mathew, please, don’t.” She begged breathless. “I don’t want this between us. I need you as my dearest friend right now. Not my lover, or my beloved. I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. Please, Matt.” She winced when he sighed heavily and his fingers left her wings. “Thank you. Maybe sometime after I’ve done what I can to atone for those things I am least proud, maybe then I won’t push your hands away. I’m sorry, Matt.”
Matt grinned. “Don’t be, I know what it’s like trying to rebuild a life. I’ve had my ups and downs too.”
“I suppose everyone does.” Demona sighed against him.
“Yes they do, you have just had so much more down than up for so long. I want you to have something good for a change. Call me crazy, but I want to protect you from the bad. I want to shield you from hurt and hold you through the pain.” He stroked her hair softly with one hand and pressed her close with the other.
“Feel free, it’s been so long since I could let anyone care. It’s been a long time since I cared for anyone that wasn’t my child.” Demona smiled up at him when she pulled away. “Thank you for caring, Matt.”
“My pleasure, Demona.” He was a little upset that she’d pulled the let’s be friends card on him, but he knew that she was still working through her guilt. If she wasn’t ready then she wasn’t ready, and he wouldn’t push her. He would, however, be there for her when she needed him. Demona hugged him a little closer for a moment and pulled away to check on her son.
Matt followed and looked over her shoulder, Adair lie in the blankets with a small teething ring in his mouth cooing to himself. His little face lit up in a smile when he saw Demona standing over him. Demona’s smile matched her son’s. Matt realized that she'd heard him from across the room. "Amazing."
"What?" Demona looked back at him for a moment.
"You, the way that you can hear the slightest sound, and yet I've caught you by surprise so many times." Matt smiled and watched her lift Adair out of the crib and check his diaper. She settled him in her arms when it proved he didn't need a change.
"Everyone can be caught off guard." She was silent a moment but had to ask. "Did you mean it?"
"Mean what?" Matt's brow wrinkled in confusion.
"You said I was beautiful." Her voice held disbelief.
"You are. In so many ways I've lost count." His head came to rest on hers again. This time from behind her, but she pulled away and crossed the room to place Adair on the pallet with his toys.
"You mean my human form." Demona sounded convinced.
"I didn't kiss your human form, Red. You are beautiful as a human, but even more so now. In your true form." He moved to sit across from her and watched her over the top of her son. "I can't describe how enchanting you are right now."
'I could possibly show you.' He thought silently with regret. Demona smiled her thanks and glanced away to watch Adair trying out his new skill. He pulled himself, agonizingly slowly, over to a different toy than he'd been chewing. Matt watched with her, and decided that he could be very happy just being her friend. "Okay, so, change of subject. How was your visit with Angela?"
"Dull, she was still stone the whole time I was at the castle. We didn't stay there long. I don't think I'm welcome for family gatherings. I am still not of the clan. I patrol with them and I help as I can, but I am not a member of Goliath's clan any longer." Demona traced a talon gently along a chubby leg that was kicking her while Adair looked around him wide-eyed. The kicking was not intentional, he was moving both legs, kicking and squirming and being occupied with his toys. "I didn't want to be..." she trailed off thinking. "I don't want to be there and be a reminder of all the things that I've done to them. I'm afraid of returning to them."
"You're doing everything you can..." Matt started.
"No, not because they can't forgive. Because I can't, Mathew. I can't forgive myself. I loathe what I did to the clan, now that I see with unclouded eyes. My clan, and I harmed them, even felt triumph for it. Yes, humans hunted us, but it was only with my help that they destroyed us." Matt didn't know what to say to that, so he just reached over the pallet and squeezed her hand.
"I wish I could do something to help with the burden of that." Demona smiled.
"I think it best that I am the only one paying the price for that particular crime. It is my crime to atone for."
"Well, you should still spend a little time around them, they should get used to you being there and learn to let go of the grudges they might be carrying, especially Brooklyn." Matt said reasonably.
"He hates me with very good reason. I don't blame him for how he feels. Yet again, the blame rests on my own shoulders. I took from him so much of the innocent trust that he once had. That they all once had. The trio were in the group of our youngest warriors. They were mere children compared to myself and Goliath." She dropped his hand to lay a gentle caress down Adair's tummy while he lay between her knees and gummed a toy. "They are the equivalent of teenagers by Gargoyle standard. Late teens but still teenaged, and young. They should be able to enjoy their youth. Not spend it fighting one of their own or striving to be accepted." Demona shook her head. "My actions made them what they are now. Not wholly no, but I was a part of it."
"Hey, they've gotta grow up sometime. Even if you hadn't been here and fighting them, they'd have had to mature fast to stay ahead of the game here. It's hard to hold on to innocence these days." Matt gave a sad smile. "What I'm saying is, if it hadn't been you it would have been someone else." Demona might have answered that, but the phone beside the bed rang insistently. "Go answer that, I'll watch the baby."
Matt and Adair played joyously for a few minutes until Demona's return. "That was Angela, she's invited Adair and I to join them."
"So, go." Matt held Adair in his lap, one hand holding a toy for the baby to play with.
"I told her that I have a guest, and she invited you along as well. Would you like to go?" She looked as nervous as he'd ever seen her.
"If you want I can go with. I can be moral support if you need it."
"I think I'd like that. She said that others will be there...including Macbeth." Matt winced. "Okay, I'll go with you. I'll even hold your hand." She gave him a scathing glare. There was no heat in it though.
"I don't need you to hold my hand."
"No maybe you don't, but that's what friends are for. Like it or not you are my friend Demona. I'm going to be there whether you need me or not. I'd like to be useful." His tone was firm but light and friendly. Demona sighed.
"Okay, if I need your hand I'll let you know." Her sigh was more of a heave this time as she started to gather things that Adair would need. "Going to follow in your car as Adair and I glide?"
"Sure. I can take him in the car if you want." Matt offered as she slipped the harness for Adair to ride in over her arms and shoulders and snapped it closed at the small of her back.
"I would, but I think that it would be a good idea if I kept him close in Macbeth's presence. He won't attack me with a child in my arms and even though I don't wish to harm him any longer, I still do have a temper and he is one of the best at setting me off." She smiled sadly. "He's had centuries to perfect the skill of getting a rise out of me." Matt smiled knowingly, and a little sadly.
"Okay then, let me help you get set up." He let her take the baby and finished fastening the harness on for her, then brought over a blanket to wrap Adair up and protect him from the chill air. "Fly low, huh? It's colder the higher you get."
"I will, Matt. Grab that little cap for his head please, even with him wrapped in the blanket I want his head doubly covered." Matt brought over a tiny lined baby cap and Demona eased it on Adair's equally tiny head. "That will do for that. Before the blanket I want him in warmer clothing as well. The romper from earlier will do nicely." She crossed to her bed and the outfit that lay on it. Adair was placed on the bed beside it and soon stripped and dressed again in the one-piece romper.
"Are we ready to head out?" Matt watched her wrap Adair in the blanket and settle him in the harness securely. He held a bag of supplies and would keep it with him so she wouldn’t have to contend with it while gliding.
"As we'll ever be, let's go." She saw him out of the room and waited until he started his car. She then walked out on the terrace and closed the doors before locking up and setting her security systems. She held Adair securely as she took off from the house, and hovered waiting for Matt to get moving. He waved to let her know he was on the way. She paced him from above. Adair giggled and laughed as she moved from current to thermal and back again finding the easiest flight possible for him.
Her son's joy eased some of her anxiety and she smiled softly as she landed in the castle courtyard. Angela was there to meet her with Fox and Alexander keeping her company. "Mother, I'm so glad you came. I was afraid you wouldn't."
"I almost didn't, but Bluestone talked me into it." Angela took her extended hand and squeezed. "I'm still not sure it's a good idea." Adair started to fuss at the cramped quarters now that they'd stopped moving. "Alright, My Angel, as soon as we get inside you'll be out of the harness." Demona stroked his tiny head soothingly.
"Follow me, we can get all that off in one of the bedrooms." Fox stated and led her inside the castle. "Is Matt coming with you?"
"He should be on his way up now. I paced his car on the glide over." Demona gazed at the other woman's child. "Alexander is getting to be so big. You must be proud."
"Thanks, yeah, I didn't think I'd be any good at this whole mom thing, but Alex has taught me a lot." Fox grinned and planted a kiss on her son's round cheek.
"As Adair is teaching me." They entered an empty but nicely decorated room, and Elisa showed up behind them. She’d been with Goliath and Demona during some of the conversations they’d had since her apology to the clan, and decided to try to be friends. She also decided that she’d keep a wary eye on the gargess just in case.
"Hey, Matt's here." She noticed Demona in front of Fox. "Hello, Demona, glad you could make it." If the detective was lying it didn't show. Her tone, at least, was sincere.
"Thank you, Maza." Adair was very unhappy now and starting up on a royal fit. "All right, my love, let's get you out." Demona eased him free of the harness and unwrapped the blanket from him.
"Want me to hold him while you ditch the harness?" Maza asked before anyone could speak up. Demona was wary of Maza still. They had a truce, but it was new and still untested. She didn’t know of Maza’s decision regarding her, so it didn’t diffuse any tension as it might have otherwise.
She decided after a moment that it was now or never and to just trust Maza. "Thank you. It would be much easier to discard this." She settled her infant son in Elisa Maza's arms and set about undoing the straps that held the harness in place. Maza, surprisingly, sat on the edge of the bed nearby, studying the child. Adair gazed back at the police detective innocently curious of this new person with brows raised. Maza grinned at the baby's expression and Adair smiled a glorious smile at her.
Elisa laughed out right at the smile. "Hello to you too, cutie." She said and Adair waved his arms with a giggle. "Well, what ever else you do Demona, you have a very cute kid."
"Thank you, Detective. Feel free to enjoy his company for a bit while I tidy myself in the bathroom." Demona smiled at her happy child and kissed his tiny forehead after removing the cap. She then went into the bathroom to tame the windblown mess of her mane. When she exited the bathroom Matt was there and Elisa was still playing with Adair. The baby was laughing held above the detective as she blew on his tiny tummy. "It looks like My little Angel has found himself a new friend." Elisa was surprised at Demona's genuine smile watching her with the baby.
"He's a great little guy." Elisa grinned. "I've been dying to play with him for weeks now." She stood and brought Adair over. "Here we go, little guy. There's your mom." Demona accepted her child and buried her face against his little body to inhale his clean baby smell.
"Mommy's Angel of Peace, give me strength little one." She said this quietly enough that only Matt, standing beside her, heard it. "Let's go greet everyone, shall we, Adair?" A coo was her answer and Elisa smiled.
"I'll lead the way, but just to warn you, Brooklyn isn't happy that you've been invited. He's been warned to behave himself, but he's a little rash sometimes." Elisa let her know.
Demona nodded her understanding. "It is not Brooklyn I fear, Detective, but Macbeth. I can only say that I hope we can sit at the same table without it coming down to a fight." Demona shook herself and Matt placed a hand on her shoulder.
"We'll keep you away from him, Red." His hand squeezed softly and she smiled. "Like you said, his honor won't allow him to harm you while you've got Adair. Just keep a hold on the baby and we won't have to worry much."
Angela looked a little sheepish. "Oh Mother, I'm sorry, I forgot that you and Macbeth are not fond of one another. I should have thought, but I wanted to share the holiday with you and my brother so badly."
"No, don't be sorry, My Daughter. I am elated that you would want me here. I too, want to spend this holiday with you. Matt reminded me that I will have to start celebrating the human holidays a little, when Adair is old enough." Demona smiled taking Angela's hand and pulling her close to hold her as gently as she held Adair. "Thank you, Daughter, for caring that much."
"No thanks are necessary, Mother. I love you, and would be a poor daughter if I didn't want you here with our clan to celebrate." Angela's voice was stern and affectionate, sounding remarkably like Goliath's tone when he was in the same mood. Demona transferred Adair to Matt, and took Angela in both her arms.
"Oh, Angela, My Daughter, I love you as well." Demona held on as though if she lost her grip Angela would melt away and vanish. She lovingly stroked her daughter's dark hair and nuzzled her brow to Angela's. Angela held her a moment longer and they pulled back. Demona placed a kiss upon Angela's brow as she so often did with Adair. "Come, let's follow Elisa Maza and see what the night brings. My children have fortified my courage." Demona reached out for Adair and Matt transferred him over. Angela took Demona's free hand and they followed Elisa and Matt. The partners were walking together and chatting amiably. Fox walked with Demona and Angela chatting with the pair of gargesses. Alex and Adair eyed each other curiously.
The older baby reached out to touch Adair and Demona smiled down at them. "Alex, let Adair be." Fox stated catching where Demona was looking.
"Oh, it's okay, he's curious about another baby. Let him explore. Hopefully, they can be friends. They will be spending a lot of time together."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. They can play tonight too." Fox said and kissed her son's cheek.
"He looks remarkably like you, Fox. Thank heaven for strong genetics." Demona laughed when Xanatos protested from behind them.
"I think that our son bears a resemblance to his handsome father." Fox laughed with Demona knowing that the gargess had heard her husband coming and made the comment to tease. Of all the inhabitants of the castle, Demona got along best with Xanatos and his family. They'd been remarkably forgiving with her, and she was beginning to count them as friends. They joked companionably for the rest of the walk to the great hall.
“Ho there, Lass.” Hudson was the first to greet Demona as she entered the room. “It’s good ta have ye here.”
“Thank you, Hudson.” She warily searched the room and couldn’t miss Macbeth’s glare from where he stood talking to Goliath. Nor did she miss Brooklyn’s darkening scowl. Angela’s hand tightened on her own, and Demona smiled at her. She greeted Broadway and Lex, the small green gargoyle had started being tolerant after their night of patrol together two weeks ago. He adored Adair as he did Alex, and that went a long way to bridging the gap between them. Demona greeted Brooklyn tentatively, apologizing again to him, as she had every time they’d had to interact since her formal overture to the clan.
“Ah, Demona, would you like me to care for your child as I do Alex tonight?” Owen asked politely.
“No, thank you, I’ll attend him this evening. Really, I do enjoy his company, Owen. Perhaps on a different night.” Demona stated and it was as stable as she’d felt since walking in the room. She leaned closer and lowered her voice. “Thank you, for the gift of a painless transformation. It has done wonders for me and Adair both.” Owen nodded and gave a little bow of his head in acknowledge. Her next stop would be Goliath, though she didn’t want to with Macbeth still standing with him. She took a deep, calming breath and made her way to them though.
When she reached the two she bowed formally to Goliath. He returned her greeting in kind. “Enough, Demona, this is a gathering for cheer, not groveling. Be welcome.” He actually sounded sincere, and it helped to put her a little more at ease.
“Thank you, my leader.” She accepted his allowance.
“Goliath.” He corrected simply as Elisa came to his side for a quick kiss. Then the lavender leader was distracted and that left Demona facing Macbeth. Matt had been detained with Lexington, but watched her from the corner of his eye.
“Greetings, my one time friend.” She decided to bite the bullet now rather than later.
“Don’t Demona, you’re no friend of mine.” Macbeth stated harshly. Her eyes averted automatically to Adair, blowing bubbles distractedly in her arms.
“No, you are right, but I...” Adair’s noises were calming for her nerves.
“Save it, Demona. I don’t want to hear false platitudes. What I want to know, is who you killed to have that child in your arms.” Macbeth was not happy at all to see her, and neither was he going to be polite for the sake of the holiday gathering.
Demona nodded ignoring the last question, and turned away from him. She retreated to Matt’s side with the baby gurgling softly. “I’ll take that hand now.” She whispered, and Matt shot the former king a disappointed glance before slipping a hand onto Demona’s shoulder. Goliath laid a hand of his own on Macbeth’s shoulder and stopped him from saying anything more.
“My friend, leave it be. She is trying, after so many centuries, to be what she should have been all along.” Goliath stated. “I do not ask that you befriend her, but neither do I want to see her antagonized this night. I do not think she meant but to greet you and perhaps give you good tidings. The child she holds, her own son, and Angela have greatly changed her from what we both knew her to be.”
“She’ll never change, Goliath. I’ve watched for centuries while she became more and more evil.”
“No, not evil, Macbeth. Vengeful. She and I have spoken long about things that she witnessed and things that she lived through because of the magic binding you both to life. I am not saying that you witnessed anything less tragic, but you did not fight a losing battle for centuries simply to see your own kind survive to the next dusk.” Goliath defended Demona fiercely after hearing her speak of the tragedies that had befallen her or followed her over the years.
“No, I didn’t I lived through my lifetime and was there to see what they did to my son when he was captured, and it was because of her. I will not forgive that. Just as she can not forgive the slaughter of her gargoyles.” Macbeth had raised his voice enough that every gargoyle in the room heard him, and Demona made no pretense of holding her remorse in. She would not meet the gaze of anyone in the room, but Adair. She was almost enthralled with watching him in her arms.
“Hey, Red, come sit down.” Matt pulled her over to a couch along the wall and sat her on it. He took a seat beside her and put a comforting hand on her arm. “It’s okay, Demona.”
“No, it isn’t. He’s right. I still cannot forgive those that destroyed my clan. Not the clan that Goliath led, but the clan that I gathered together of the remaining gargoyles in Scotland. We were the last, and we were weak. There were only a dozen warriors and I the only female, but we were still a clan. I don’t hate the entire human race for it any longer, but I will never forgive the ones who destroyed them. Though they are long dead.” She passed Adair to Matt’s arms. “I can do something that they will never be able to though, and whether or not I am ready makes no difference.” She kissed Adair softly and stood then facing Macbeth who was still raging at Goliath.
She walked slowly forward, his tirade ceased. “Macbeth. You are right, I will never forgive the hunter and his English servants, those who destroyed the last Gargoyles in Scotland. Just as I do not expect you to ever forgive me for the loss of your kingdom and most importantly the loss of your wife and son. I do want you to know that of all the things I have done through all the centuries I lived, it is my betrayal of you that I feel most wretched about.” She crouched to one knee, and bared her neck to him. “End it if you must.”
Macbeth stared at her in astonishment. The room held it’s breath collectively, until a tiny cry was heard from Matt’s arms. Demona’s tears were scalding against her face, but they fell silently. “Shh, Angel of My Peace. It is right Macbeth. I took your life, I offer mine as payment. Mathew, please, love him as if he were your own. Please.” She fell silent then waiting for Macbeth’s response.
“No, I’ll not take you from your babe. I am not you Demona. Tired as I am. It is you who has to live with your deeds, and if you truly can return to the ally I first knew...” He shook his head. “I’ll never be your friend again, but perhaps, we can come to an understanding. If you do me no harm, I’ll return that in kind.” Demona’s head was still bent down, her neck exposed to him, and he almost wanted to end their tortured existence. Instead, he turned away and poured himself a stiff scotch and downed it in one gulp. “If I can rebuild my life, I don’t see why you shouldn’t have the chance as well. Good luck to you, Demona.” Macbeth offered her a hand up. “The air between us is as clear as it can be.”
Demona nodded softly and bowed deeply to him. “You were once a truly marvelous king, and to this day, centuries later, you still are that king.” She backed away from him still bowing deeply. Macbeth nodded his satisfaction and went back to his drink. Everyone had watched this occurrence in silence, and as Demona sat again beside Matt and her son they seemed to wake as if from sleep watching each other and the main players in silent awe.
Matt’s arm found it’s way around Demona, and she leaned against him heavily. Adair, still wailing as if he’d known what might have happened, was placed in her arms and she held him closely. “It’s all right, My Angel. Mommy is still here. I’ll not leave you ever. Only for Macbeth would I give my life and if he doesn’t want it, then no one shall have it while I have you.” Adair’s cries didn’t stop though and she tried to rock him. It didn’t work well with Matt’s arm around her, so he rocked them both. “Thank you, Matt.”
“Anything for a friend.” Matt stated and hugged her tight with his one arm. “Don’t ever do that again.” He whispered into her hair. She let her head come to rest on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Mathew. I couldn’t just leave the tension between us to ruin everyone else’s holiday. I told you, I bring strife wherever I go.” Demona spoke softly.
“Damn it! no you don’t!” Matt gritted his teeth. The few conversations that had sprung back up halted and all eyes turned to them now. “You’ve got so much to atone for, yes, but that doesn’t make you the bearer of a bad omen or anything like it. Don’t you understand that once you’ve dealt with the people and started to mend things it will only get better.” Matt stood up and paced around in front of her. “Don’t trade one hate for another. Don’t hate yourself, that you are facing what you did and fixing it as best you can is something to be proud of, Demona.”
“Matt, please?” Demona tried to get him to stop where he was and not say anything that she wasn’t ready to hear herself let alone in front of the people that she’d just started to reconnect with.
“No, I want you to understand and I want you to understand right now. You are not the black cloud that darkens a gathering and you aren’t being followed by one either. Adair is proof enough of that. You’ve done some terrible things, yes, but you are not bad yourself. If you were would you have kept a human child, or would you have turned him into a monster or destroyed him. God, stop torturing yourself, everyone you met for centuries did enough of that for you, Demona.” He stopped in front of her. “Why can’t you let someone besides Adair and Angela show you a little kindness?”
“I do, you show me kindness every time we meet. Your worry for me is a kindness that I haven’t known for so long I have forgotten what it was to know it. It isn’t that I don’t want more, Mathew, it is that I don’t think I can take more of your kindness or anyone else’s without either breaking apart into a remorseful stupor or going mad with hate for myself!” She stood and put the baby into his arms. “If you want to talk more of this bring Adair home later. I can’t take anymore, Mathew, I can’t.” With that she flung open a window and leapt for the skies.
“Demona!” Matt was at the window watching her disappear into the snow.
“Let her go, Matt.” Elisa stated. “Jalapena, I figured she would have a hard time if she ever decided to...change things, but this is ridiculous.” She watched Demona as well, until she was no longer visible. “Come on, Matt. It’s cold by the window, I don’t think Demona wants her son to catch pneumonia.” Elisa and Goliath pulled Matt away from the window and Elisa took Adair from him. “Go walk off that frustration. I will see about getting this guy some kind of bottle or something that might calm him down a little.”
“Okay. Sorry, I just can’t stand watching her doing so many things and still getting treated the way that she does. My own damn brother attacked her today for owning Nightstone. Brooklyn and Lex won’t give her an inch, and I understand that, but...” Matt trailed off and walked out the door.
“Good grief.” Fox stated after he’d gone. “I think your partner is sweet on Demona.”
“Yeah, Gravel! I hope that she really is trying to change for the better and this isn’t all just some scheme. I don’t want to see him hurt.” Adair giggled in Elisa’s arms, punctuated it with a gentle coo, and then a raspberry blown at her playfully. “Oh you don’t say.” Elisa answered him. “Well, at least Adair seems to think she’s sincere.”
Brooklyn spoke then. “Matt’s as crazy as Demona. She deserves to feel like dirt for a while.”
The following sound, that of a palm striking flesh, was loud in the quiet room. Elisa turned to see Angela standing over Brooklyn. He was holding the side of his beak shocked speechless. “Shut up, Brooklyn! Just keep your comments to yourself. She may have been horrible to all of us, and to countless others, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to act as she did. She is truly turning herself around. If none of you can see that I can.”
“Angela, come on, let’s go see if the food is ready.” Broadway took her hand and pulled her away from his stunned brother. She didn’t protest and Brooklyn kept his mouth shut after that. Goliath and Macbeth picked up their abandoned conversation again and Fox took Elisa to find a bottle for Adair. It was a long time before Matt reappeared when they were sitting down to eat. He was quiet for the whole meal and took over with Adair when they’d finished; sitting and watching him play with Alex on a thick rug with toys scattered about. Elisa kept him company for a long time.
Demona glided through the falling snow, but her thoughts weren’t on gliding. She was thinking of all the things that she’d done through all the centuries and wondering how she was going to make amends for all of those things. She was drowning in her guilt. So intent was she, that she failed to notice that the snowfall was getting heavier. The cold didn’t bother her, for gargoyles are not affected by the temperature like humans are, but her visibility was almost gone by the time she noticed. So were the warm currents of air that kept her aloft on her wings.
“Wonderful.” She circled lower to see if she could find a land mark to guide her. All she found was the twenty-third precinct’s clock tower. That told her that in her mindless gliding she’d gone very far off her path. The tower was newly repaired and she decided that it would have to do for shelter. She made her way to the large landing and hurried inside out of the weather. It was cozy and though not warm it was better than the winds and ice outside. She found the place stocked with a cabinet of water and food, and a large recliner with a lamp. She wondered if Goliath had brought these things here or if it had been Maza.
“I suppose it doesn’t matter so long as I have a place to weather the storm.” She broke the silence with her own voice, but nothing answered her comment.
“Hey, guys, come look at the snow.” Lex called everyone from their individual pursuits and conversations. “Weather report says that it’s the worst blizzard that Manhattan has seen in decades.”
“Wow, it’s really coming down out there.” Brooklyn was looking out a window.
“I hope Mother got home before this started.” Angela shivered in Broadway’s arms.
“I’ll give her a call, to make sure.” Matt stated and turned to the phone dialing the number from memory. He let the phone ring until the answering machine picked up and then hung up and tried again. This time he left a message. “Hey, Demona if you’re home pick up. We just want to make sure you got there before the snow started getting too bad.” He waited for a while and tried again. “Red! all you have to do is let me know you got home.” He hung up when there was no answer from the other line and tried the main house line that would ring in the kitchen, living room, and several of the other rooms that Demona frequented.
“Any luck?” Xanatos asked. Matt set the phone down and shook his head silently.
“Do not worry,” Goliath laid a hand on Matt’s shoulder, “She is in gargoyle form until morning, and immune to the elements until then.” Matt nodded and lifted Adair into his arms. “She might just be sleeping as well. I noted over the weeks that we watched her, she was prone to sleeping at irregular times and the only thing I ever knew to wake her was the child’s cries.”
“Yeah, but as soon as this lifts a little, I’m heading over there to see if she’s okay.” He cradled Adair gently. “You guys mind watching Adair until I get back? I don’t have a carseat or anything and I don’t want to take him on icy roads even if I had one.”
“I would be happy to watch him, until it is safer to get him home.” Owen stated from the corner of the couch where he stood behind Fox waiting to take Alex to bed as soon as the Xanatos heir fell asleep.
“Reports say that the storm could last for up to twelve hours or more.” Lex updated everyone.
“In less than twelve hours the sun comes up and if Demona is out in this she’ll be helpless against the cold.” Matt stated, worry showing through in his tone. “Elisa, you guys watch Adair. I’m gonna take my phone and I’ll have my radio in the car, I’ll be back when I see if she is home or not.”
“Matt that’s crazy, the roads are not fit for driving,” Elisa started to say as Matt placed the sleepy Adair in her arms.
“I know, but I’m pretty much the only friend that cares enough about her to go make sure. I’m going.” Matt had an edge to his voice that Elisa didn’t recognize. He grabbed his coat and fished his keys out of the pocket. Adair made an unhappy baby sound and Matt turned back to take a tiny hand. “Don’t worry, Adair, I’ll be back, and I’ll damn sure have your mom with me when I get here.” His voice was soft and he kissed the tiny fingers clamped around his one index finger.
“Drive safely Matt.” Angela stated, “and call as soon as you know she’s safe.”
“I will, Angela. Help Elisa with the baby. It’ll keep your mind off things.” He left then and the others settled in to wait for news.
“This is just lovely.” Demona was standing in the doorway watching the snow thicken further and not liking it one bit. “It will be freezing if I have to spend the day here.” She decided that the only thing she could do was wait it out. She couldn’t even make out the stone rails around the balcony the snow was so heavy. Demona closed the door behind her and searched the room more thoroughly in the light of the lamp. She found a pallet on the flat landing beside the stairs and a blanket on the mat there. “That is a good sign.”
A small television sat to one side and she found an extra outlet to plug it in and give it power. She settled on a news bulletin about the storm. Her hopes of arriving home tonight disappeared as she listened to the newscaster go on and on about the terrible condition of the roads and the accidents that had occurred because of it. She left the TV after the forecast dampened her spirits, to continue her search of the tower’s supplies. She found a small cupboard with heavier blankets and a small hot plate with some other food supplies.
The blankets were spread over the mat she’d found earlier and she decided that if nothing else the hot plate could be used for some kind of heat. If only to warm her hands after her change come morning. Then she found some clothes tucked away in the drawers of the cupboard. There were two distinctly different sizes, one smaller that might fit when her wings and tail were no longer in the way and the other a bit larger that could be put over the first pair. They were all warm ups. Demona counted herself lucky and decided to wrap the clothes around her body to warm them and then pulled a blanket from the pile on the mat to warm it as well.
Matt had barely made it to Demona’s with out a serious mishap. He’d slipped and skidded all over the roads, but he’d made it. He punched the call button on the gates repeatedly, but received no answer, so he used the code she’d given him to open the gates and drove up to the door. He rushed up to the house to get out of the wind and sat on the door buzzer while he pounded the door. He popped open the keypad beside the door and entered a code and the door opened. He ran into the empty living room. It was chilly even in here with the falling temperatures outside. He checked all the rooms on the first floor and then the second and third, all were unoccupied. Hoping she was in her bedroom he opened this last door. The room was, of course, empty. He took the direct stairs down to her living room again and sighed defeat.
Grabbing the phone he dialed the Aerie. “She’s not here,” he said at the answer.
“Where could she be?” Angela asked.
“I don’t know, there’s lots of places she could find shelter. I’m gonna check some that are likely. You guys sit tight.” Matt ordered and hung up.
“No luck?” Goliath asked Angela as she hung up the phone.
“No, Matt said she’s not there. She was so upset when she left, Father. Perhaps she didn’t realize how dangerous it was getting. She might be hurt.” Angela’s face held the first stirrings of fear.
“Don’t think like that, Angela.” Broadway said. “She’s probably holed up somewhere to wait it out.”
“But they’re predicting that the storm is going to last until well into the day.” Lex even sounded worried.
“We should try to find her, Goliath.” Brooklyn’s statement sent a stir of shock around the room. “I may not like her, but Angela is right, I’m not gonna be what she was. Besides, Adair needs his mother.”
Everyone looked to Goliath, he was silent for a time and finally nodded his head. “All right, but Angela you shall stay here and help Elisa. The rest of you make certain the radios are working properly. We need to stay in constant contact. Brooklyn and Broadway and Hudson and Lexington you will all stay together in pairs. I shall search to the south, all of you choose a direction and cover as much ground as possible. Be back here before sunrise.” Goliath then turned to Elisa at her call.
“Be careful out there.” He smiled and drew her to him careful of the infant in her arms.
“I will be. I will see you in a few hours. Stay warm, my love.” She nodded and rested her face against his palm. A few moments later he and the others left to search for Demona.
By the time that dawn arrived Matt had scoured three different labs and Demona’s offices at Nightstone. She was nowhere to be found. The clan had been forced to end the search well before dawn and hadn’t covered much ground because of the horrible visibility. The storm hadn’t lifted or slowed and all the light did was threaten Matt with snow blindness. He called in to check with Elisa and see how Adair was doing. She reassured him that the baby was sleeping soundly and warmly in Alex’s crib beside the other baby.
“Good, I’m gonna try to make the Precinct and use the tower to get some rest, and as soon as I wake up I’m gonna start looking again. Get some sleep Elisa. Adair has a twisted schedule.” Elisa laughed over the phone.
“Don’t worry, Matt, Owen assured me that he is capable of taking care of both babies until I wake up. Try not to worry too much. Demona is a survivor, and she’s immortal. A little cold might kill her but not for long, got it.”
“Yeah, but it still sucks that she’d have to go through that. I mean, it can’t be pleasant to die and revive like that.” Matt and Elisa both shuddered at the thought.
“No it can’t, but if the worst happens then we know she’ll come back.” Elisa tried to soothe his worry.
“Yeah, I guess. Talk to you this evening, or if I find her I’ll give you a call.” Matt finished up.
“No problem, Partner. Night.”
“Night.” The phone cut out and Matt pulled away from the curb carefully in the swirling sparkles of snowflakes. It took quite a while, but he finally found the precinct building. Some of the officers stranded there gave him a hard time for being out in the weather, but he made his excuses good and was soon slipping in the supply closet and up the stairs to the clock tower and a little sleep. He stopped by the stove tucked into a corner and turned on the oven as high as it would go then from a hidden niche under the stairs he grabbed a space heater that he and Elisa kept here, and he carried it with him to the main area of the tower.
The heater fell from his numb hands as he walked up to the pallet to find someone already there with the blankets and his spare sweats. Then he recognized that red hair and hurried to her side. “Demona!” She was cold, but not freezing thanks to the blankets and the sweats. It took a moment but she stirred and opened her eyes.
“Matt?” She sat up slowly. “It’s freezing in here. How did you find me?”
Matt didn’t hear a word of it. He dropped beside her and pulled her close. “Are you okay? I’ve been worried sick. The guys and I have been looking all over Manhattan for you.”
“And you thought to look here?”
“No, it’s so bad out there I was going blind, and this was closer than my apartment. I was going to wait out the storm up here. Elisa and I have been slowly stocking the place back up and we use this as a place to crash if we can’t make it home. Are you sure you’re okay?” Matt pulled back to look her in the eye. He was shaking he was so relieved to find her unharmed.
“I’m fine. Mathew, what’s wrong?” She had noticed his tremors. “Are you cold, sit here. We’ll wrap you in blankets.”
“No, I’m not cold. Thank God, you’re okay. I was so scared, Demona. We couldn’t find you...I looked and went to the house, but...and...” Matt trailed off hauling her to him again. He wrapped shaking arms around her and held on. His face buried itself in her unbound hair. He’d never seen her with it down in her human form, it was long down her back to pool around them on the mat. “I’m sorry, Demona. I’m sorry for ranting at you. I just can’t watch you hurting, I can’t.”
“Shh, Matt, I understand. I’ve had a lot of time to think the last few hours. I thought about all the things I’ve done over the centuries, and I was drowning in those deeds for a time, that’s why I didn’t make it back to the manor. I wasn’t paying attention until it was too late to see, and the thermals disappeared. I finally came to myself not far from here and knew it was my best bet to stay safe in that blizzard.” She hugged him back, knowing he needed her to comfort his fears.
“I’m still so sorry. I’d just had enough of seeing you catch the thorns yesterday, first with James and then Macbeth and then to hear you degrade yourself. Don’t ever do that, Demona. If you were as horrible as you seem to think then Adair wouldn’t adore you like he does. I wouldn’t feel the way I feel for you. Angela wouldn’t have given you the second chance that let you two get close.” Matt’s arms tightened on her. “I was so scared that you’d be gone. I was scared that you’d freeze in some alley, alone.”
“Oh, Mathew. I can’t die.” Demona pulled away from him with a wry smile and he gave her a scolding look. Her smile faded. “Okay, I can die, but I won’t stay that way. Mathew, thank you for caring like that about me, but if you ever endanger yourself for worry over my freezing to death again...I’ll kill you myself.” She ran the pads of her thumbs over his cheek bones wiping away tears that he didn’t know he’d shed.
“I’m sorry, I just...”
“Shh, I’m all right. Where is my son, Detective Bluestone?” She smiled softly at him.
“Adair is still at the Aerie. Elisa said he’s sharing a crib with Alex and she’s gonna watch him until I could find you or go back for him.” He pulled her close again. “I’ll call Elisa in a bit, and let her know you have been found. Angela was frantic when the sun came up.”
“Oh, Angela.” Her voice held sorrow and guilt for her daughter’s pain. “Call them Matt. Have Elisa Maza tell Angela that I’m fine as soon as she awakens. According to the report I saw just before falling asleep the storm will last the day, and another is right behind it.”
“I guess we’re stuck here for a while then. Hopefully that battered stove will hold out and it’ll stay warm in here.” Matt dialed Elisa and informed her of his find while Demona’s human green eyes watched him.
“What stove?” She asked after he’d hung up.
“The one over behind the stairs on the other side. It keeps the place warm most of the time.” He reached out and brushed a few strands of hair off her face. “You found everything but the stove and the heater.” His fingers lingered on her forehead and traced down the side of her face. “I’m so relieved that you’re okay. Like I said to Elisa, you may come back, but dying can’t be pleasant.”
“I’ll agree with that. It is my least favorite thing to do. Thank you for, caring, Matt.” Her hand raised to take his from her face, but she kept a hold on his fingers.
He was just looking at her. Demona started to feel a little wary, but didn’t break eye contact. Finally, she couldn’t take anymore. “What?”
“I...” He started to lean forward. “I’m sorry.” He whispered this before his lips brushed hers. She stiffened, but his hand still had hers, and he twined his fingers with hers. His lips were soft and non-demanding, but she felt the desperation in his grip on her hand. She fought free of his lips and his head fell to rest on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Demona, I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t be sorry. Oh Matt, what am I going to do with you?” Her fingers freed themselves and she slid one arm around his shoulders to hold him close and the other up through his auburn-red hair. His shaking increased against her, and she realized he was crying. “Don’t, don’t cry, Mathew.”
“I’m sorry, Demona, I can’t help it. I just...I was so scared, and...” Her finger to his lips silenced him.
“Shhh, I’m very flattered that you were so scared for me.” He kissed the finger before she could pull it away.
“I don’t care if you can’t die, Demona. I don’t want you to feel that again. Not if I can stop it. God, I don’t know what I even feel anymore for you. I can’t think when you come in the room. I, Demona, I don’t think that I can be just your friend anymore. I feel too much when I’m around you.” Demona’s emerald eyes brimmed and overflowed with tears as he spoke and he caressed them away. “I’m sorry, I know you don’t want this, but I can’t help it. Not after last night, not after wondering if you were dead or not.”
“Stop apologizing Mathew. You can’t help how you feel anymore than...I can help being afraid of how I feel myself.” She smiled ruefully. “I don’t really think that our relationship can stay as it is either, but Matt the last time I loved someone I cloned my clan and almost got my daughter killed, and I don’t know if I can trust myself.”
“Trust me, Demona. Please, just trust me.” He brushed more hair from her face. “I can’t say that I love you because I don’t think I do yet. I care deeply for you and your son, and I want to see you happy. Not just some of the time, but all the time. I think I could love you. I want to try, at least.”
“I think I could enjoy trying, Matt.” She let him pull her to him this time and when his lips brushed hers she solidified that contact with her hands on his face holding him to her. She sucked in his full lower lip and Matt let out a long masculine groan. She smiled around his lip between her teeth. His hands were full of the pants at her hips as he held her tightly to him. Demona let go of his lip softly and barely caught her breath before his lips were demanding against her own once again.
Matt was overwhelmed in her, her hair brushing his hands and her smell filling his head, the small sounds she made filling his ears and making his heart pound. He teased her lips open and then her taste was on his palate. This pulled a second groan from him. Then her passivity fled and her tongue fought his back into his mouth for a taste of her own. Matt took the opportunity of her concentration on his mouth to lean her back toward the pallet. Her mouth separated from his messily and his lips trailed down her jaw onto her neck. He suckled the pulse beneath that creamy smooth skin. Demona cried out sharply when he did.
“Like that?” He grinned down at her.
“Goddess that was...it felt the same as when you were stroking my wings last night.” Her voice was breathless, and he could see how he had affected her.
“Good, now I know what that feels like to you.” He grinned wickedly. “I’m gonna get that heater going, but I will be right back and we can see what else we find that feels the same when you’re in your true form.” He kissed her again softly and briefly this time. Then he left her and retrieved the heater from the floor. He grabbed a hidden extension cord and plugged the small heater in turning the dial up as he did.
He did hurry back to her and Demona pulled his mouth to hers again. “It’s been so long, Matt, I don’t mean just the mating, but the touch. The feel of someone’s hands on me. Thailog wasn't one for caressing or cuddling.” She sounded so lost, and Matt had an idea.
“Come here.” He sat himself on the blankets and helped her to straddle his lap. Demona’s human form was the same size as her gargoyle form just without the wings and tail and she fit perfectly in his lap. He wrapped a blanket around them and let his hands run over her arms, up and down. “Let’s take things a step at a time then. First is touching.” He traced his fingers along the bare collarbone. Demona shuddered and sighed. “Mind if I appropriate my sweats from you, Ms. Destine?” She giggled, a very un-Demona like thing to do.
“If you think you can, but why do you want them.” He grinned and let his hands fall from her arms to her waist.
"Two reasons, first, sleeping in a suit is damn uncomfortable. Second it gets me closer to you." Matt slipped his fingers under the shirts until they rested against the bare skin of her sides.
"Your hands are cold, Matt." He grinned and pulled them away. Matt grinned wider as he slid his hands down between the two pair of pants she wore to rest lightly as high on her behind as they could and still be covered. "That should warm them." Demona smiled back and ran her hands through his hair. It was a continuous motion, almost as if she did it to comfort herself. He used his hands to pull them close, so that they were breathing each other's air.
Matt hesitated with his lips almost to hers. "Can I touch you, Demona?" His whispered words played along her lips and she shivered delightfully. Her breathy, 'yes,' made him shiver in return. His hands slid back up under the shirts and smoothed over the silk of her back. He traced the bones of her spine, and teased her ribs. Demona sighed and her head fell back. "Demona?"
"Hmm?" Her voice was like velvet, soft and sensual.
"Can I hold you close all day?" She merely nodded lost in his touch. One hand left her back to tilt her head to him again. "Can I kiss you, beautiful?"
"Please." Her answer came out needy and urgent, and Matt wasn't one to keep a lady waiting. His lips slanted over hers and she let out a small sound into his mouth. Her body was relaxed in his grip so he leaned her carefully back onto the mat. His arms and legs kept his body from holding hers into the mat, and his hands deftly slid the pair of pants belonging to him down her hips and off her legs. He noted with satisfaction that her feet were up inside the second pair she wore to keep them warm. "What, Matt?"
"I got my pants back." He grinned down at her. Demona pouted playfully.
"Cheat. Just how are you going to distract me like that and get the shirt?" There was a glimmer in her eyes that Matt rather liked putting there. In answer, he pulled the button down suit shirt from his pants and showed her the t-shirt he wore underneath.
"I don't think I'll need it that badly."
"Your arms will be cold." Her voice taunted now.
"I doubt that, they'll be under the blankets around you." Demona's eyes shimmered with more than emotion and her voice thickened.
"Then get down here and hold me Mathew." She sounded lost and alone, and Matt couldn't deny her need to feel comforted and safe as she hadn't in centuries. He slipped a hand up under the shirt and onto her belly. Demona sighed at the contact.
"I'll be here, but let me get rid of this suit so we can both be comfy and warm." Two of his fingers traced either side of the line of muscle down the center of her body. She nodded and he pulled away and turned to unbutton and remove the suit pants. It wasn't that he didn't want her to see him without them, it was that he didn't want to show her just how happy touching her body made him, at least not just yet. He made quick work getting into the sweatpants and returned to the mat beside Demona. She'd gotten under the blankets once more and held them open for him.
“Thanks.” He cuddled up to her side under the covers and his arms indeed slipped around her. Demona turned on her side to face him. Her hands ran down his arms then back up and onto his shoulders to cup and hold his face. Her mouth explored his face then. She nuzzled his chin with her lips and finally coaxed his mouth to hers. He let their kissing go on and on while her hands roamed over his shirt and arms. Her legs twined with his own, and his hands tangled in her hair, or smoothed along her skin beneath her clothes.
“Sleep well, Mathew.” She stated after they had pulled their lips apart and for several minutes lay there just caressing one another. She buried herself against his chest and Matt tightened his arms around her.
“As long as you stay right there, I’m sure I will.” He kissed the top of her head and tucked his face into her hair while they fell into the arms of sleep holding snugly to each other.
Matt roused slowly from a deep sleep. He didn’t know what had awakened him, but something must have. The first thing he awoke to was the fact that Demona’s hair was soft under his cheek. The second that her warm body was wrapped around his, and the last thing was that she was still in his arms. That pulled a sleepy smile from him. The arms around him tightened momentarily and he thought of a child hugging it’s favorite stuffed toy. That made him smile wider. He opened his eyes and noticed the sun still up. His watch was on the arm that pillowed Demona’s head and he was not curious enough about the time to wake her.
The sounds of the gears in the tower were quiet, not as quiet as a watch, but with the same tick, tick, tick. It was a deeper sound somehow, but not overpowering. He’d been surprised how quiet they could be since their size was something to be in awe of. They were almost quiet enough to mask the pained whisper of Demona’s voice into his chest. He concentrated on her voice for a moment before he could decipher the words. She repeated, ‘I’m sorry, Adair, I’m sorry,’ and similar phrases. He wondered if that was what had awakened him, but didn’t hesitate to wake her.
His kiss to her forehead brought her awake with a deep intake of breath, and her arms painful around his hips. “Easy, Red, It’s okay, just a dream.” He let her wake up in silence after that, caressing the skin of her back where the shirt had been raised in sleep. “Tell me about that.” Matt said when she looked up at him.
“It was nothi...” She sighed at his stern disapproval. “I don’t want to tell you, Matt. I will if you persist, but it is one of those things I’m least proud of.”
“Tell me, Red.” He caressed her forehead with his lips.
“It was before I met Macbeth. I was raiding a barn for food. The human couple that lived there tried to fight me off,” she was distant in the past. Matt didn’t like how this was starting, not because she’d done it, but because he was making her relive it. “I defended myself too well, and they ended up dead. I decided that since they no longer needed the things in the house I’d get food from there as well. That’s when I found that they had a newly born child. I wouldn’t have killed the woman if I’d known. Even then I couldn’t have done it.” She shivered from the top of her head to the tip of her toes and Matt held her tighter.
“What did you do?” He asked even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
“I took the child and found the nearest dwelling that wasn’t abandoned. I left her there.” The distance in her eyes turned to pain as he watched. “I went back to check every so often and I found that her life was harsh. The man was...unkind to her. He beat her, and the woman was just as heartless toward her. I hated that I’d taken her family from her.”
“What happened to her?” Matt prompted her when she said nothing more.
“She ended up beaten to death by the people I left her with. She was a mere child.” Tears threatened her emerald eyes.
“That’s what the dream was then?”
“No, it was the same thing, but it wasn’t her. It was Adair in this dream, and it was I who’d killed his mother.” The tears were no longer threatening, they had taken over and Demona wept, keening great sobs of agony into his solid arms. Matt trailed his hands more firmly over her back, letting her know he was still there, and that her story hadn’t changed that.
“I’m so sorry, Demona, but you didn’t kill his mother. You found her body and you saved her son. Your son. You couldn’t have even stopped her murder or suicide or whatever happened. The coroner said it was suicide from the angle that the bullet went through her body. It angled low entrance wound to higher exit like she was holding the gun herself. It was the only thing that saved the baby’s life. You didn’t do anything but save a life in this.” He kissed her pointed chin softly. His hands continued to run along her spine and he held her waiting for her anguish to abate.
Demona’s hands at the bottom of his shirt were a shock. When they slid under his t-shirt onto his flat belly his body stiffened further shocked at her actions. “I want to feel you, Matt. I want to touch you and have you touching me and be comforted. Please, Matt?” His lips found hers and a possessive kiss was her answer. His hands brought her shirt up higher and higher until she broke the kiss to let him pull it off over her head. His hands returned to her body then and the palms flattened on her smooth skin. His shirt was discarded quickly and she pulled them into contact. Demona sobbed with relief as her skin brushed his. She didn’t even mind the line of hair down his belly.
“Shh, Demona, I’ve got you.” Matt whispered in her ear and Demona shuddered against him. The grief and remorse flared and changed to a need inside her. Demona traced a line down Matt’s chest with her lips. “Jalapena.” She grinned and flicked his nipple with her tongue. His fingers explored her back tracing a pattern that would have outlined the base of her wings had she been gargoyle, bringing a shudder from her this time.
“Mathew,” his hands traced soft muscled skin up to cup her face and raise it to him. Then his mouth descended on hers gently possessive. Her body came alive with a fire for his touch and she rolled him on top of her. Their bodies pressed close and she knew just how stimulated he was. She wrapped her legs around him to hold his hardness to her heat. “I want this.” Her words startled him to a degree that it pulled him out of the fog of passion.
“So do I, but I don’t want you to do this just to forget the dreams.” He pulled his face out of her reach to look in her eyes. “Why do you want this, Demona?”
“Partly to forget, Matt. Partly, I have been curious for centuries despite my feelings about humans. I wondered...” She trailed off. “Mostly, I want to remember what it is like with someone that truly does care about me. I want to share that with you because I truly do care about you.” Her fingers ran back through his hair and caressed his cheek. “Please, Matt.”
Matt kissed her in answer. His lips ran down her throat and he braced on his elbows above her to free his hands to engulf her breasts teasingly. His lips ran further down between the flesh and he tasted her skin. She gasped as her body tightened low in her stomach. Matt felt it against him and hissed his arousal back to her. His hands kneading her sent pulses of sensation through her body straight to the junction of her legs. “So very beautiful.” His words vibrated her belly and Demona melted against the mat. She let him take over and do what he wished so that she might just enjoy. He did not disappoint, and dusk found them sleeping sated and warm embraced in each other.
Matt woke to wet kisses on his chest. It was dark in the room and the form over him, though he’d never mistake it for someone else, was very different from the one he’d fallen asleep with. He ran a finger down Demona’s cheek, and she looked up at him. “Evening, Beautiful.” His voice was deeper with sleep and a renewed desire for her. “Shouldn’t we be getting back to the Aerie to check on Adair?”
“I called them while you slept, Matt. He’s fine and the snow is still treacherous. Goliath has ordered me to stay here until it is safe to glide. I have no choice but to heed my leader’s order.” She grinned wickedly and went back to his chest. Her diligence paid off robbing him of he ability to think for a time.
“That’s cheating, Red.” His hands were tangled in her hair.
“It most certainly is not, this is cheating...” Her head disappeared under the blankets and he cried out when her breath blew across him, moist and warm. Her tongue followed and he was lost when her lips closed around him. He had lost his hold on her hair and gripped the blankets under him. His jaw was clenched on a moan of ecstasy because he was afraid it wouldn’t stay a moan. Demona worked him to a fever pitch and left off and worked him again until she knew he was beyond ready to end it.
“Please...” His pained tone drove her mad, and Demona slithered back up his body to straddle him intimately. He sighed relief at their joining, just as she did. “Thank you.”
“I am happy to serve you. Believe me. You made me feel cherished today, Mathew. Know that I cherish you in return.” Her voice was strained with need and satisfaction as they drove each other into oblivion and she collapsed over him. Her wings were splayed limp to either side, and her tail gripped his thigh. Matt had never felt something so satisfying with any other.
“I do cherish you. I admire the strength you have to face the past and right it. I love the way you love Adair. I feel so many things for you, and all of them together make me cherish you in my life.” He kissed her lips, the contrast of her pale blue skin making them lipstick red without the makeup.
“Thank you, Matt.” She strengthened her hold on him. Her face buried in the deep chest. “I want to tell the others about Adair, Matt. I don’t want to lie about him any longer.” His arms tightened with her admission. “I know that it will damage the ground I’ve gained with them, but if I am truly to right my past; I cannot start with lying about my son. I know that you falsified records and I don’t want to cause you trouble. What should I do?”
He pulled her eyes up to his with the tips of his fingers under her chin. “Tell them. I’m actually very proud that you want to. Don’t worry about me, Elisa probably won’t turn me in to the captain. If she does well, we’ll both be in trouble.” He kissed her fully and sweetly, and Demona melted against his warmth while the snow continued to fall outside.
Elisa had her hands full of a wailing and distraught Adair by the time the two stranded lovers could get back to the castle. He’d been very tolerant for half the night, but now he wanted his mommy and he let the whole building know. Demona walked in the room and Elisa happily handed the baby over. His protests didn’t cease with being in her arms. “Whoa, I thought he’d chill when you got here.”
“It’s not my presence he seeks. He is still not entirely happy with a bottle, and it’s past time for him to nurse.” Demona held Adair gingerly in one arm, folding a wing down to cover him while she exposed herself for his use. “Thank you, very much, for caring for him.” She winced when he latched on hungrily. “There you are, Angel.”
“No problem. I had fun even while he’s been crying. It’s good practice for later on. If we ever do have a child.” Elisa sounded dejected.
“It will come, Detective, when it is meant to happen.” Demona gave her a sympathetic look. “I do wish you all the luck for it though. I don’t know what I’d be if Adair were not in my life.” Matt walked in with a smile and sat beside Demona.
“You’d be beautiful. Adair can’t change that.” He kissed the wing that covered Adair, and peeked behind at the focused feeder. “Hiya, buddy.” Elisa raised an eyebrow at them knowingly.
“Flattery will get you to the same place it did last time, Mathew Bluestone.” Demona answered his comment.
“And just where did it get him last time?” Elisa half joked.
“The promised land, partner of mine, the promised land.” Matt had an ear to ear grin. Elisa rolled her eyes at him.
“Well I guess I better go collect my cool fifty from Fox and Xanatos then.” Elisa winked at them and laughed at Matt’s expression, mouth agape. “You’re too easy to read, Matt.” She waved and sauntered out the door.
“Cat’s outta the bag already.” Matt glanced at her before resting his head on her shoulder.
“Well, she’s right, you are too easy to read. At least for the people who know you...intimately.” Demona kissed his cheek and they shared a comfortable silence while Adair finished his meal.
“Have you decided when you want to tell them?” Matt asked holding Adair so she could right her clothing.
“As soon as may be I think. It will be better to know if he will be taken from me now, rather than later.” Demona sounded as terrified as he’d ever heard her. Matt couldn’t help but sweep her into his embrace with her son.
“It’s gonna work out. I’ll help you work it out.” He promised into her ear.
“I know you will be there no matter what happens, Matt. I just can’t help but fear his loss. He gave me a way out of the darkness that I dwelled in for far too long. I want what is best for him, and I wish with everything in me that I believed that I was the best thing for him.”
“If you’re not the best mom for him I don’t know who would be. You’ve been nothing but wonderful with him since the first day you had him.” Matt nuzzled her neck. “I’ll be right beside you no matter what, you know that.”
“I do, Mathew, and that means more to me that I could possibly express.” Her free hand traced the line of his jaw. “We should tell them as soon as Adair is done here.” Matt sighed and nodded against her. He relinquished her son and watched her deftly change the diaper.
Demona and Matt walked into the media room with Adair giggling and tugging Matt’s hair. The majority of the clan was seated around the room. Elisa and Goliath together in a chair reading to each other. Lex playing a game on his computer, Brooklyn and Hudson watching the television, Broadway and Angela on a couch near the door, lost in each other. Bronx was the only one missing and Demona surmised that the guardian was in Alex’s nursery watching over the baby. “Now’s a good time, Demona.” Matt whispered, and she nodded.
“Ah, my brother is happy again.” Angela stood to embrace Demona and trace a finger down Adair’s soft cheek. He cooed and gurgled for her. “I was worried about you, Mother.”
“I am fine, Daughter. I am sorry to have worried you.” Demona rubbed her brow to Angela’s and pulled back. “Please, sit down, I have a last confession to make so that I can truly start a new life.” Angela’s brow furrowed, but she took her seat beside Broadway. Matt sat beside them and Demona looked around at the clan. All were now watching her. She took a fortifying breath and explained about Adair’s origins, how she’d found him. She tried to explain what caring for him and being around him that first day felt like, what it did for her. The others seemed to understand it.
“I had wondered.” Goliath stated, thoughtfully. “I wondered when, even if, you would confess this.”
“You knew?” Demona looked shocked, as Elisa’s eyes darkened at her mate and husband.
“Bluestone spoke to me about it, and swore me to silence. He seemed to think you would come to this decision in time, and I accepted that if you truly were righting your life that he was not mistaken. You don’t know how it lightens my heart to know the truth of it finally. Be welcome with your clan, Demona.” Goliath stood settling Elisa gently in his chair. He embraced her in the tradition of welcoming a new member of the clan.
“Thank you Goliath, but...” Demona trailed off looking around at the thoughtful or hostile expressions on the faces around her. She lingered on Elisa’s carefully neutral expression. “Detective?”
“Don’t worry, Demona, Matt doesn’t back the wrong horse very often, so I’m on your side for now. Don’t make me regret that. Besides Adair is happy and well cared for with you. Why take him away from that? I’m not saying I approve of how this happened, but at least something very good came of it.” Elisa walked over and lifted the baby from Matt’s arms crossing to Demona’s side. “Now, I’m gonna blackmail you here. To get your son back, you have to start using my first name, Demona. Detective won’t cut it with Clan. I’m Elisa, and you’re Demona. I want to try being friends.”
“All right, Elisa. I don’t have any good excuse for lying about him. It was purely selfish. I fell in love with him almost the moment I found him. I have wanted a child for so long. Ever since I watched the Magus and the Princess load the clan’s eggs into a cart and take them away. I wanted to chase them down and find my own egg, steal it away.” She glanced over at her daughter. “I’m glad I did not. Angela would have been killed with the rest of the clans over the centuries.” Demona looked down at the floor, but Elisa smiled and placed Adair in her arms.
“Then enjoy every moment you have with your son. Cherish him, Demona. I know you do now, but don’t forget as the years go by to really cherish how precious a child is.” Demona could see the longing on Elisa’s face as she gazed at Adair’s smiling face and curious eyes.
“Remember what I told you earlier, Elisa. It will happen for you, and Goliath. You just need patience. You can always baby-sit for me when I’m on patrol with the clan.” Adair chose that moment to squeal unhappily, not getting his mother’s attention. “Believe me a few nights with my little prince and you’ll be satisfied, for a time, that you don’t have a child which you can’t give back to it’s parents.”
Elisa smiled and caressed Adair’s little face. “I doubt that. Like you said, children are precious, even when they’re in a bad mood.”
“Too true.” Demona raised Adair high and garnered a happier squeal. She kissed his little face and settled him against her. “Thank you, Elisa, for the benefit of the doubt in this. I do not deserve it from you.”
“Somebody has to make the first move toward trust. I know you feel bad about things in the past, so I figured I’d start us off and make it easier.” Demona smiled and thanked her again. Before Elisa moved away she asked, “How would you have known which egg was Angela’s?” Demona smiled at the detective.
“By scent. I can smell my own bloodline a mile away.”
“But, Adair, he wouldn’t smell like that.”
“No, at first he didn’t, but remember, he started nursing the first night I’d found him. His taking nourishment from my body didn’t change his blood, but it changed his scent enough that any gargoyle would scent him as my kin.” Demona explained and Goliath nodded agreement. He also looked as though a puzzle had been solved for him.
The trio seemed to take her confession as they’d taken everything else dealing with her lately. Lex seemed thoughtful and finally nodded her way and went back to his game. Brooklyn glared and left the room, and Broadway watched her silently with an arm around Angela. The lavender gargess looked upset watching her, and Demona knew that there would be a need for mending fences between them again. Hudson returned to his program with a satisfied smile, and Matt walked up smiling.
“Told you it wouldn’t be that bad.” He kissed her hair above the tiara.
“Yes, but I need to talk to Angela for a while. I’ll see you later.” He nodded and Demona crossed to her daughter. “Take a walk with us, Angela?” Angela looked at Broadway then back and nodded. She stood and Demona offered a hand, Angela hesitated but took it and they left the room. “Ask me what’s in your heart, Daughter.” Angela sighed and dropped her hand.
“Why did you lie about him?”
“I didn’t want to lose him.” Demona watched the baby in her arms. “Even only hours after I found him, Angela. I wanted to do everything I could to love and keep him in my arms.”
“You could have told me.” She sounded hurt.
“You would have hated me. You do now, and I don’t blame you at all, Angela. I swear to you that this is the last secret I held from you.”
“You told Matt, but you didn’t trust me.” Angela accused.
“No, I made up that story because I feared losing him. After a while, I feared telling you because I feared losing you for lying yet again. Mathew is a detective. He figured it out on his own. I didn’t tell him. If he’d not figured it out last month I might never have chosen to tell anyone. I’m sorry, Daughter. Perhaps I should have told you first tonight. Away from the others.” Demona continued on down to the bedroom where she’d nursed Adair.
Angela followed her and Demona offered her a seat in the small living area. “But it changes everything.”
“No, the only thing that has changed is that you know how he really came into my life. He is still my son and he is still your brother. Adair will always be a part of our family.” Demona sat beside her and placed the boy in Angela’s arms. He giggled furiously at her, happy to be held in her lap.
“Your story was so believable though.”
“Angela, I’ve had over nine hundred years to learn how to lie convincingly. It is not something I’m especially proud of. At least not when I use it on the people I care about most. I thought it was the only way that I’d get to keep him. Before all of the things I’ve done these last weeks to make right all the wrongs I caused, Maza would have made sure that Adair was taken from me. It would have destroyed everything that I am, and I would have been worse than I was before he changed me. I believe that I truly would have turned evil at his loss.” Demona grasped one tiny foot that was kicking the air absently and kissed it’s sole. “I love him, and you with all that I am, my daughter.” Her talons stroked lovingly through Angela’s hair. “I am sorry that this has hurt you, I have hurt you, yet again.”
“What about Matt?”
“I don’t know for sure. I believe I may be falling in love with him and he admitted much the same this morning when he found me in the clock tower. We have agreed to let things between us go as they will.” She gave a wry little smile. “If someone had told me a year ago that I’d soon consider a human infant to be the most precious gift in the world and that I’d be falling for a human male that was once my enemy...I’d probably have clawed them on the spot.”
“Yet here you are.”
“Yes, and it’s thanks to you and your tenacity in trying to coax that good you saw in me to the surface. At one time, had I stumbled upon a dead human with an infant beneath them I would have left them both to freeze. I might have killed the child thinking it a mercy, but I wouldn’t have taken it home with me and adopted it as my own.” Her fingers ran through Angela’s hair again. “Look at what your faith and love for me set in motion. Thank you, my Daughter. Adair might have charmed his way into my heart, but it was you who cracked the shell of ice over it so that he could melt it away.”
“I’m glad we did.” Angela hugged the baby close for a moment and then turned to set him on the floor beside them. She then wrapped her arms around Demona. Her mother’s arms came around her and held strongly. Angela noticed the shaking sobs before she felt the tears. “Are you all right?”
“I was so scared that I’d lose you over this Angela.” Demona wouldn’t let her go to look at her so Angela settled for wrapping wings around the older gargess.
“Never, Mother, it will merely take some time to process everything and put it aside.” Demona cried harder at that. Her relief turned to joy as Angela comforted her.
“Thank you, Daughter.” Angela disengaged their embrace and retrieved Adair from the floor before he could crawl off and get into anything. Demona accepted him eagerly and they enjoyed each other’s company for a long time before joining the rest of the clan. Matt ended up driving them home the next morning and stayed when the snow started again. The following months were not easy on Demona, but she struggled through with the help of her clan and her son, and of course, her friend. Their lives were far from perfect with all the prejudice toward the gargoyles, but with that too they helped each other. All in all, life was good for the gargess that once was alone and hating everything in her world.