Written by: Madame Destine
Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. The characters belong to their various creators: Buena Vista Television / The Walt Disney Company and The Gargoyles Saga, and they are used without their express knowledge or consent.
Warning: This is a work of adult fan fiction. It contains explicit depictions of sex and is intended for mature readers only. If you are under the age of consent, please stop reading now.
* * * * *
The key rattled in the doorway as Andrea Calhoun shifted her shopping bags into a more comfortable grip and unlocked the door to Destine Manor using the key Dominique had given her for emergencies. Resisting the urge to call out, she slipped inside, dropped her keys into her pants pocket and headed into the kitchen.
She set the various bags and bundles on the counter, searching among them until she located the sacks that contained groceries. Moving to the refrigerator, the artist tucked her purchases away, allowing the chill air to cool her face as she arranged the items she'd need later. Satisfied that she'd missed nothing during her shopping excursion, Andrea shut the door gently and scooped up another collection of bags to take upstairs. Neat by nature, she noticed the spatula, hastily discarded early that morning, and blushed as she recalled how the kitchen implement had ended up cast so carelessly against the sugar canister.
Only a few hours before she had been standing at this same stove, hotcakes and bacon frying on the griddle. Dominique had been watching, her full lips pursed in a bemused smile as Andrea prepared breakfast. "You need to take better care of yourself, Dominique," she had said, flipping bacon expertly on to a waiting platter.
"I have an entire staff to take care of me," the redheaded woman had replied as she snagged one of the fluffy cakes neatly off the plate despite Andrea's playful slap. "They see to everything."
"Stop that!" Andrea headed off her companion's next feint for the plate and responded with a chuckle. "But look who's cooking your breakfast? Face it, Dominique, you need me."
And then the amused tone was gone from Dominique's throaty contralto as she wrapped her arms around Andrea's slender waist, pressing her body close. "Yes, I do."
The raw hunger sent a shiver up Andrea's spine. "But what about breakfast?" she'd protested, even while reaching automatically for the controls to shut the burner off.
Dominique's slender fingers plucked the spatula from the younger woman's hand and tossed it absently on to the counter. Picking up the small jug of maple syrup, she replied, "I believe I'll have it in bed."
Locked in embrace, they had fumbled their way upstairs and Andrea's denim work shirt had joined Dominique's fluffy white robe in a discarded heap on the floor of the master suite.
It hadn't been difficult to yield to Dominique's fervent advances. Andrea had allowed her to push her down on the neatly made bed, pausing their mutual caresses long enough to unbutton her suddenly confining chino painter's pants and slide them down past the swell of her buttocks on to the floor.
The redhead had smiled. "Mmmm, looks like breakfast is almost ready." She cocked her head to the side, a glint in her emerald green eyes. "But something's missing." She glanced at the plastic jug of maple syrup. "Ah, I know."
The syrup had been cold, still chilled from the refrigerator as it trickled over her breasts and pooled in her navel. But the thrill that had coursed through her as Dominique's eager mouth began to lap at the sticky liquid dissipated it quickly.
"Oh, yes!" Andrea moaned as Dominique's tongue grazed her nipple. The gargoyle-turned-human responded by bringing her mouth down on the swell of her lover's breast, sucking and nibbling with newfound expertise.
The sensation was maddening. "Dominique!" She'd reached out to caress the rounded mounds of flesh, so much more voluptuous than her own, that were pressed against her belly. Her tormentor sighed as she switched her attention to the other breast.
"Doesn't it feel good?" Dominique crooned. Her tongue lapped along the flat plane of Andrea's belly, spreading the syrup further, even as she lapped it up.
One hand stopped its caresses as it reached for the night table and picked up the syrup bottle again. "Time for the main course."
The sticky sweet liquid had flowed again, over the darker brown curls and between her legs, mingling with her own wetness.
She'd made to move so that she could reciprocate Dominique's position only to be scolded. "No, Andrea, I don't want to be distracted. You know how seriously I take truly fine meals."
Dominique's banquet began in earnest with a delicate kiss to her nether-lips, and when Andrea whimpered in pleasure, the flame-headed temptress bent to her task in earnest, stroking the flesh with the delicate blade of her tongue. There was nothing Andrea could do but abandon herself to the exquisite torment.
* * *
With a trembling shake, Andrea brought herself back to the present. "I've got a lot to do," she lectured, even as she ran a hand absently over her breasts. "I'd better hurry." Picking several of the parcels up off of the counter, she ran lightly up the stairs.
She trembled anew as she re-visited the scene of her morning's passion. A thrill of anticipation quickened her heartbeat and she was forced to lean against the doorway as her knees abruptly weakened.
* * *
Dominique's eager tongue had begun to tease her helpless clitoris in earnest. And when it seemed that she could experience no greater pleasure, her clever lover had driven her even wilder, inserting questing fingers deep within the gaping mouth of her sex. Andrea bucked madly. Her lover struggled to pin her against the bed. There was no holding back. She came with a passionate cry and collapsed bonelessly. Dominique had blotted her lips delicately against the bedspread before looking up at her with an utterly satisfied smile. "I could get used to breakfasts like that one," she'd said as she crawled on top on Andrea and kissed her.
Dominique's sweet breath was mingled with the taste of maple syrup and Andrea's own spicy love juices and it inflamed her passions anew. She'd returned the kiss, anticipating her own feasting, when the bedside clock had chimed and Dominique looked up, startled. "Oh, it can't be." She pulled the clock closer, confirming the chimes, and moaned, "I'm sorry, Andrea, as much as I'd like to continue, I'm going to have to take a rain check."
* * *
Andrea pulled a peach satin teddy from one of the shopping bags. "Consider yourself 'rain checked', Dominique."
Once she'd taken a few deep breaths and forced her mind away from the morning's love play, it didn't take long to arrange the rest of her purchases. Andrea remade the bed in crisp new sheets and placed an oversized towel over the spread to protect it from the selection of oils she placed on the night table. With a hesitant pause, a selection of love toys made its way from a small, black bag decorated with red hearts and underneath the neatly fluffed pillows.
"Now," Andrea asked herself, "what am I missing?" She pulled fresh towels from the hall linen closet and, spying Dominique's supply of thick bee's wax candles, she appropriated a few to add extra mood lighting. "Dominique's gonna love this." The painter smiled as she arranged her finds in the bedroom suite.
* * * * *
"There, that should do it." Andrea said sometime later as she pulled tiny baked potatoes out of the oven and popped in the tray of miniature quiche in its place. "All of Dominique's favorite finger foods: dill poached prawns, caviar stuffed potatoes, baby quiche and chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert. It will be perfect." With a nod of approval, the petite artist surveyed her handiwork. "Now all I have to do is finish arranging the flowers and do that cleansing ritual Alice told me about to set the mood down here and I can go get myself ready."
She knelt at the cabinet under the sink and rummaged among the collection of discarded florist's vases until she found a pair to fit the bouquets of summer flowers she selected from the street side flower vendor who camped across from her studio. "These will work nicely," she murmured as she filled the containers with water and carried the armful into the living room.
"Let see." Andrea fumbled through her multitudinous pockets until she found the slip of paper her friend Alice at the gift and music shop had given her. Feeling just the tiniest bit silly as she rehearsed the motions of the ritual, the young woman argued with herself. "It certainly can't hurt, and it just might help. Poor Dominique carries so much tension with her when she comes home at night and it can't be good for her. Besides, Alice says she does this herself and she's the most positive person I know!"
She surveyed the room and moved a few feet to the left until she was at its center point. Then, withdrawing several sticks of incense and a lighter from the bag, she began the ritual.
Drawing the burning sticks of lavender and rosemary incense above her head, she sketched an upward pointing pentacle in the air. "With this incense I draw all that is fair!" The aroma of burning herbs began to fill the room, clean and fresh, dispelling the cold, unlived in feeling that seemed to hang in the air despite the sunshine. Lowering the sticks to waist height, the young woman drew a downward pointing pentacle. "With this incense I banish all that is negative!"
The room began to fill with smoke and Andrea felt herself being drawn to one of the colder corners of the room. She repeated the ritual and her eyes widened in surprise as the air before her turned purple and the outline of a doorway appeared in the dark walnut paneling. "That's strange!" She cocked her head to the side; her dark honey-brown hair tickled her neck and she rubbed it absently. "Could it be there's something behind the wall that's the source of the negativity?"
Her mingled curiosity and concern overwhelmed her. Sticking the incense sticks absently in a wall sconce, Andrea began to probe at the paneling, looking for a catch or switch. The smoke drifting from the sconce circled with particular intensity around its mate on the opposite wall. Guided by surreal feeling of instinct, she tested the fixture. It was loose and twisted in her hand. The paneling gave way and slid to the side revealing an ordinary oak door. "A hidden room! And look at the smoke, it's been drawn through the door."
Andrea placed her hand on the doorknob and tested it. "Unlocked." She turned the knob a half-turn and hesitated. "Maybe I should wait for Dominique. It is her house. But if this is the source of all the negative vibes and I could fix it, wouldn't it be a wonderful surprise to add to her evening?"
Her intense curiosity, coupled with the need to help her friend and lover, strengthened Andrea's resolve. Snatching a pair of the still burning sticks of incense from the sconce, she opened the door and stepped into the chamber.
Her jaw dropped as she surveyed the room. The 21st century had collided with the Middle Ages was the first rational thought that surfaced. Ancient looking scrolls and texts filled the shelves lining the walls, while in the center of it all, a streamlined workbench with a state of the art computer rested. Andrea gulped as she walked further into the room and caught sight of the blue and silver Nightstone Industries coffee mug that rested next to the keyboard.
Drawn like a helpless fly to a spider's web, her bare feet propelled her mindlessly until she stood at the desk and looked down into the coffee mug. It was half full, and though the contents were cold, they were not many hours stale. Andrea numbly sat down in Dominique's chair and rested her head in her hands. "What are you mixed up in, girlfriend?"
Realizing that she'd stumbled on to something that her lover would no doubt rather keep hidden from her, Andrea rose guiltily and turned to gather up the still smoking incense sticks. They were nearly gone, and each wand had a long curl of ash capping it. She reached for a scrap of paper from the waste paper basket under the desk and paused as she caught sight of Dominique's distinctive script flowing over the page. It was part of a translation. The writing was marred in places as French and Latin verb forms were noted, then scratched out with heavy lines of ink as though the writer was frustrated by her lack of progress.
Andrea's eyes strayed back to the stack of tooled-leather bound books that rested near the computer. She looked at her watch, deliberating what to do next. The temptation was overwhelming her. "Five minutes. I'll just look for five minutes and then I'll seal things up like I was never here." She sat down and gingerly opened the first volume. The pages were vellum and the ink was bright as if it had been written only days before. The language eluded her. It was an amalgamation; a phrase of Greek followed several paragraphs of Latin and the whole mess was mixed with what appeared to be French, though in a dialect so old, it was incomprehensible. Frustrated, she closed the book and opened a second. It was a journal, and each entry was dated in Dominique's confident hand.
"August 12, 1999
Michel, mon ami, your secrets continue to escape me. When you told me all would be revealed in the fullness of time, I never suspected you meant centuries. Yet nearly five hundred years later, I am still seeking answers."
"Five hundred years?" Andrea shook her head in disbelief even as she reached for another, older looking volume. "This can't be happening." She opened the book, scanned the dates in the journal, and began to read as an overwhelming sense of unreality washed over her and the afternoon shadows began to spill into the living room beyond.
* * * * *
Dominique Destine had already slipped halfway out of her suit jacket as she stepped into the foyer and hurriedly pushed the front door shut behind her. "Just another thirty seconds," she pleaded to no one, gasping for breath as she dropped her purse and keys unceremoniously to the floor and shook her arms in order to shed the mint-green, polished silk jacket completely. It, too, fell to the floor, but she paid it no further attention. Her hands flew quickly to undo the zipper on the back of the matching skirt even as she kicked off her high heels, first the left, then the right. A few seconds later, she wriggled and tugged the skirt down over the swell of her buttocks, kicking it away with the rest of the clothes.
"Not yet," she hissed through clenched teeth, grimacing as she raised her arms over her head and rushed to undo the tiny ivory buttons on the back of the neck of her blouse. With a small smile of triumph, she freed the last of them and, grabbing the garment by the hem, pulled it up over her head and cast it away, gasping again as it fell from her hand.
For a few seconds, Dominique stood there, dressed now only in a white satin bra and matching panties, bracing herself against the doorframe for the inevitable. Her eyes went wide as the first pangs of transformation shot through her gut, doubling her over instantly in agony as internal organs twisted and shifted. Too breathless to scream, she groaned as the skin on her face grew tight as browridges formed and eartips elongated, and dropped to her knees as wings erupted from her back and a tail broke through the flimsy material of the panties. The new appendages grew to full size within seconds as her feet contorted and popped, five fingers became four, and her skin tone shifted from pale pink to blue. Within a few seconds, it was over, and the human Dominique Destine was gone, replaced once more by the gargoyle Demona.
The azure gargoyle ran her talons through her hair, shaking her wild tresses loose from what remained of the carefully arranged bun Ms. Destine wore it in, and gathered up the clothing that lay scattered about. "Cursed traffic. At least this time I didn't ruin my suit," she muttered, taking care not to snag her talons on the delicate fabric. She stood up, examining herself in the mirror that hung on the wall near the door. She scowled at the absurdly dressed gargoyle staring back at her. With the added gargoyle muscle behind them, her ample breasts strained against the bra, as if threatening to break free at any moment. She turned to the side, just enough to see her tail jutting through the torn material of her panties.
"Why human females insist on wearing anything at all under their clothes is beyond me," Demona grumbled as she turned for the stairs. She raised a foot to start up, but then stopped, sniffing the air. She wrinkled her nose. It smelled like something was burning. She sniffed again. Something was burning. Dropping the bundle of clothes on the steps, the red-haired gargoyle hurried down the hall to the kitchen.
Thin wisps of gray smoke were already curling out from around the edges of the oven door as Demona entered the room. Scowling, she grabbed a dishrag from the counter as she shut off the oven, and used it to bat away the smoke as she opened the door. She coughed a couple times before the smoke had dissipated enough to allow her to reach in and pull the blackened casserole dish from the rack.
"Ugh," she groaned, nearly gagging as the smothering, burnt smell assailed her nostrils. Holding the still smoldering dish at arm's length, she dumped it into the sink and turned on the tap, sending the ruined meal to its final demise under a torrent of cold water.
"What were you thinking, Andrea?" Demona muttered as she shut off the faucet. Other items littered the counters, evidence that her friend had been preparing yet another meal. She smiled a bit in recollection of the breakfast that had been cut short that same morning, then looked at the ruined casserole, now resting under several inches of soapy water, and sighed.
Shaking her head, she exited the kitchen and moved through the dining room. "I guess we're ordering in tonight, Andrea," she called out as she peered into the living room. She trailed off, confused, when she discovered that the young artist was nowhere to be seen. "Andrea?" she called. She sniffed the air again. The smoky smell from the kitchen was fading, and under it she could detect faint traces of the human woman's unique scent, actually a mix of aromas both natural and artificial that she had come to associate with her friend and lover. The scent was strong enough to tell Demona that Andrea must still be in the house. Demona smiled.
"You know you can't hide from me, Andrea," she called out, recalling a game they had played not many nights before. Getting no response, she inhaled again, trying to pin a direction to the woman's scent as she moved into the room. As she sniffed, her brow furrowed. There was still a burnt scent in the air, but it was a different one this time, a blend of wood and herbs.
"Incense?" she wondered aloud, her eyes scanning the darkened room. It only took a second before she spotted the burned out sticks in the wall sconce at the far end of the room. And as her eyes traveled a bit further, Demona gasped in shock. The door to her workroom was standing open.
"Oh, no, Andrea!" Demona raced to the open door, burst into the room, and froze as she saw Andrea sitting at her worktable, one of her most recent journals sitting open before her. "Andrea!" she stammered again, her mind in a whirl. How long had the young woman been sitting here? How many of her deepest, darkest secrets had she learned? How had she gotten past the magical wards protecting the room in the first place?
Andrea had just turned to a new page as she heard her name cried out. She tore her eyes from the handwritten heading reading "CV-1000 Carrier Virus" and looked up at the gargoyle who stood in the doorway, gaping in horror and shock. "Dominique!" she gasped, startled. She made to continue, but then froze as she realized she was unable to figure out where to begin. She could only stand there, wondering momentarily why Dominique was wearing only a bra and panties, and watching as the azure gargoyle's expression turn icy and hard. Fear suddenly hit Andrea like a ton of bricks. Quietly, she gulped.
How dare she! Demona heard an indignant voice scream inside her head. How dare this… this human violate my most private space! How dare she violate me! Demona's four-fingered hands clenched into fists as rage seethed inside her. Her wings flared out and her eyes flashed a burning red, and finally she found her voice again. "Andrea!" she growled. "What are you doing in here?!? How did you get in here?!?"
Andrea jerked in fright, but held her ground under Dominique's piercing gaze as the fiery glow faded from the gargoyle's eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, but hesitated just long enough to be cut off.
The scent of the incense fought its way through the flurry of thoughts spinning through Demona's mind, and suddenly the answer to the latter question clicked into place. The red-haired gargoyle growled, and snatched the burned out sticks from the wall sconce. "You've been dabbling in your crazy New Age dime store magic again, even after I've warned you!" she accused, thrusting the incense sticks she now held in her hand as evidence toward the human woman. "Haven't you?"
Andrea's eyes narrowed. Closing the journal, she got up from the stool she had been sitting on and fixed her eyes hard on the tall blue gargoyle. "So what if I have? It's nothing compared to what you've been mixed up in, if I'm to believe half of what you wrote in these books!"
Demona's eyes flashed scarlet for a second time. "How dare you," she hissed, her voice low. "You had no right breaking in here and reading my journals!"
"And you had no right hiding secrets like this from me!" Andrea retorted. Angrily, she dashed away the beginnings of a tear from her eye with the side of her hand. "You told me you were older than I was, but I never imagined…." She shook her head, frustrated. "Damn it, Dominique! Why didn't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?" Demona demanded, incredulous. "That I've walked this cursed earth hated and hunted for most of my existence? Oh yes, I could just see bringing that up over breakfast." She crossed her arms, her voice taking on a high-pitched, mocking tone. "Oh, by the way, Andrea, my birthday's coming up. I'll be a thousand and sixty-one." She scowled deeper. "Or that I'm a practicing sorceress? Taught by people that most humans don't even believe existed? My secrets were mine, Andrea. If I'd wanted you to know any of this, I would have told you. How dare you violate me like this!"
"Violate?" Andrea retorted. "I was trying to cure you!" Tears welled in her eyes and this time she made no attempt to wipe them aside. "You're right, I should have never come in here." She pointed to the incense sticks Demona still held in her talons. "I was only trying to help!"
"Cure me?" Demona stared at the crushed and spent incense sticks in her hand, barely noticing the rush of air as Andrea, now sobbing, pushed past her and fled from the room. The gargoyle blinked in confusion. "Cure me of what?" she mumbled as her eyes flitted about the room. Aside from the incense, she had seen no other charms or spellbooks that could help explain what Andrea had been up to.
The tears filling Andrea's eyes blinded her as she ran through the living room and into the front hallway of the darkened house. Rounding the corner, she cried out in pain as her foot jammed against the base of a small side table. Upon the table, a vase of flowers she had arranged earlier tottered precariously, even as she grabbed for the latch on the front door.
A crash from the front hall pulled Demona back to the present, and she spun, turning just in time to catch a brief glimpse of Andrea pulling the front door shut behind her. You fool! Don't let her get away! a panicked voice inside her screamed. "Andrea, wait, Andrea!" she called, her feet already moving, but it was too late. The door slammed closed with eerie finality. Andrea was gone.
* * *
Andrea ran down the long driveway and then, as she reached the tall iron gates that enclosed the property, she paused, unsure of what to do next. She fished into her front pants pocket and found a twenty-dollar bill. It wouldn't get her far, assuming she could find a taxi in the exclusive neighborhood, but any distance between her and Dominique would be a plus.
Headlights burned through the darkness and Andrea smiled through her tears as an empty taxicab responded to her frantic hail.
"Get me out of here," she instructed the driver.
The cabby, long experienced in the vagaries of fares, looked up at the rear view mirror even as he threw the hack into gear. "Would you care to be a little more specific, lady?"
"8th Street side of the bus terminal," Andrea decided after a few seconds consideration.
"Yes, ma'am." The driver glanced backwards again at the tear-stained young woman and decided that his patented line of patter might be perceived as unwelcome, so he flipped the radio to an instrumental jazz station and left his fare to her melancholy thoughts.
* * *
Demona howled in rage and hurled the incense sticks against the wall. How could you be so stupid! the inner voice screamed. She knows all your secrets, and you just stand there like a fool and allow her to escape? She wasn't trying to help you at all! She's going to tell everyone now! She's a human - you never should have trusted her in the first place! Haven't a thousand years taught you anything? You should have snapped her neck that first night when you had the chance!
"Shut up! Damn you, shut up!" The ancient gargoyle kicked at the broken vase lying on the floor, sending the largest fragment shattering against the far wall. She staggered back into the living room, taking her head in her hands as her legs gave out and she sank down into the cushions of the sofa.
This is where it all started, remember? This is where the human seduced you, caught you in a moment of weakness. Well you can't afford to be weak anymore! It's you or her now, Demona. You know what you have to do.
"Yes," Demona stated quietly. "I know." Calmly, she rose back up from the couch and walked the short distance back to the open door of her workroom. Pulling the door shut, she made sure it was latched tightly before moving the concealing wall panel back into place and reciting a few quiet lines to reinstate the protective wards. She would worry about creating stronger ones later. Right now, she had to deal with Andrea.
* * * * *
The cab wound its way through a familiar neighborhood and Andrea straightened up slightly as she watched the storefronts pass by. "Wait a minute," she said as a small nightspot came into view. "Driver, I've changed my mind. Let me off here, will you please?"
Obediently, the cab pulled to the curb. Andrea pressed the twenty-dollar bill into his hand with thanks and as the traffic cleared slightly, she ran across the street and disappeared into Eve's Kitchen.
It was like coming home. Though she hadn't been in the club for months, the room was filled with familiar faces and several women smiled and waved cheery greetings in surprised recognition.
"Andrea!" a hand snatched at her belt loop and pulled her downward into a booth. "Where have you been keeping yourself? It's been a dog's age."
The artist found herself being enthusiastically kissed by a tall woman with olive skin and long dark ringlets. "How have you been, Marilyn?" she replied, returning the kiss with one of her own. "I've been around. Work and other things have been keeping me busy."
"Other things?" Marilyn replied skeptically as she flagged the waitress and ordered a fresh pitcher of margaritas. "You mean you've got a new honey and she doesn't want to share you with us. Not that I don't understand," she pouted. "If you were my squeeze, I'd never let you out of bed."
"Marilyn!" Andrea replied in a shocked tone. "You are an evil woman, do you know that?"
"I'm just telling the truth," she replied primly as the waitress returned and poured Andrea a drink from the brimming pitcher. "But something tells me that not all is right in paradise. Have you been crying? Your eyes are all red and puffy."
Andrea took a long swallow of the daiquiri-like beverage and nodded sadly. "We had the fight to end all fights tonight." She stared at the glass. "I guess it was my fault," Andrea admitted. "But, my god, I never figured she'd lose her mind the way she did."
"Your new girl has a temper?" Marilyn wrapped her arm around Andrea's slight form as the artist nodded sadly.
"Most of the time she's fine, but she's a very powerful businesswoman and under a lot of pressure. Every once in a while she just snaps. Although," she hastened to add, "this is the first time she's yelled at me."
* * * * *
"The laser cannon or the mace," Demona mused quietly as she made her way through the house, "always so many decisions. So hard to make the right choice." She paused at the bottom of the steps to gather up the bundle of clothing she had dropped there earlier.
So far you haven't been doing too well, have you? the inner voice replied smugly.
"No," Demona answered, her resolve strengthening as she spoke. "I was an idiot to trust a human, let alone fall in love with one."
Yes, you should have known better. You shouldn't be so quick to forget the past.
"Such a bitter lesson it was too," Demona muttered.
* * *
France, 1566 A.D.
Moonlight glistened off the freshly fallen snow that blanketed the quiet landscape as a solitary, winged figure alighted silently beneath an ancient oak tree. Demona caped her wings and looked up at it for a moment. Its branches, so green and alive just six months ago when she had first come to this place, were stiff and empty now. Only a few stubborn, brown leaves clung on despite the chill breeze, as if come spring they would return to life again. Demona shook her head sadly. There were very few things in the world that were eternal… a fact she knew all too well.
Silently, she walked the short path that led to her destination a dozen yards away, her taloned feet leaving footprints in the thin covering of snow. A small smirk of satisfaction came to her lips as she envisioned the fright of the next human to pass that way and see the tracks. It faded quickly, though, as she came to the small rise in the ground and knelt to brush the snow from the carved face of the stone that marked the grave.
"Oh, Michel," she whispered, a tear trickling down her cheek as she traced her talon along the letters and numerals chiseled into the stone. "Why did you have to leave so soon?" She stood back up, her task of housekeeping completed, and brushed at her eye with the back of her hand. "I would have at least liked one more Mid-Winter's night with you, by the fire in your study," she said softly. She paused, choking back a sob. "I guess I have to settle for this. On this night of all nights... how could I not come to see you?"
Another pause, as if she was listening to the answer, and then she continued. "I have to say goodbye for a while... I don't know how long. I might go back to Scotland for a time."
Demona bent to the grave, poised to say more, when the snap of a branch caused her to freeze. Warily, she raised her eyes from the earth and scanned the graveyard. "Only an animal," the flame-haired gargoyle said, exhaling in relief.
"I have been dismissed in many fashions," a deep voice said in French, as its owner stepped from behind an intricately carved tomb, "but never so completely."
Demona dropped into a crouch, her eyes glowing in alarm as she regarded the stranger. He was standing, leaning really, against a tall cross of marble, utterly relaxed and regarding Demona with a bemused expression.
Still wary, she stood, noting his fine cloak and regal bearing. There was a look of intelligence and humor in his light brown eyes, and a curl to his lips that suggested that he smiled often. Despite her initial impulse to flee into the safety of the night, Demona held her ground and waited to see what the stranger might do next.
"I mean you no harm," he said, holding his hands away from his body in a non-aggressive manner. "In fact, I was hoping that I might be of some assistance to you. That is, of course, if you are Michel's Demona."
"And if I'm not?" the gargoyle replied.
The stranger laughed. "Then I must be lying senseless someplace by the side of the road, dreaming of angels. For you, my beauty, can be nothing less."
"A flatterer," Demona responded dryly. "Have you other gifts as well?"
He raised a hand to his forehead, touching his dark curls before dropping the hand in an elaborate bow. "A few, my lady Demona. You are in fact Demona, are you not?"
Grudgingly, she nodded. "That is the name given to me by your kind."
"Then I will use it, for now," he said with another courtly bow. "But I hope," he said as he looked up and arrested her eyes with his own, "that in time, you will allow me to call you something much more personal."
There was a warmth to his voice that made Demona blush to the roots of her fiery red hair, and she realized that the tip of her tail was twitching. With an elaborate reshuffling of her wings, she forced her body back to a defensive posture.
The stranger noted her returning wariness and bowed again. "My sincere apologies, my lady Demona, if I have offended you." The gargoyle dipped her eyes accepting his words and silently permitted him to continue. "My name is Guy de Guise, and I had the privilege of Michel de Notradame's friendship and council for many years."
Demona remained wary; though the man sounded sincere, she couldn't recall Michel ever mentioning his name to her a single time during the course of her many visits to him. But then again, Michel had many human friends who she wasn't familiar with. This man could certainly be one of them.
Sensing her uncertainty, the man continued. "Michel told me about you about a week before his… passing," he stated carefully. "He was quite worried about you, and he asked me if I would look out for you. Of course, I promised him I would. It was the least I could do for the man who had done so much for me over the years."
"I don't believe you," Demona replied flatly. "Michel swore he would never speak of me to anyone."
De Guise nodded. "And he was a man of his word, I know." His eyes went sad and the corners of his full lips turned downward. "I did not know if you were aware, but he was subject to fevers in his last illness. He was afraid that he had spoken incautiously to others about you. I assured Michel that as sick as he was, no one would put any stock into his tales of a blue night angel, but he worried all the same and asked me, in our final meeting, to destroy certain manuscripts and papers and, of course, to keep watch for you, mademoiselle."
"I see." Demona eyed de Guise carefully. He seemed credible. With a subtle wave of her hand and a few muttered phrases of Latin, she examined the human's aura carefully. He was either a very good liar or truthful, because nothing about him suggested deceit. "You were kind to honor Michel's last wishes then, human. He was not held in great esteem by many in his final years."
"His passing was a loss to the world," de Guise said as he crossed himself. "But perhaps we could discuss this under more hospitable surroundings. I have a small cottage not far from here. It's rather humble, actually, but I have a warm fire and good wine. Join me, won't you? Some of Michel's instructions were somewhat curious and I think perhaps that together we might find a way to honor them."
A small voice in the back of Demona's head urged her to flee. The stranger was a human, after all and they were a fickle race, but he had shown no signs of deceit. And his grief at Michel's death and his concern for her seemed genuine. The snow began to fall again; first in icy crystals and then a quick flurry of eiderdown. Soon the cemetery would be blanketed anew. "Very well, monsieur, I will join you. For a little while," she added as the human's face broke into a delighted smile.
Guy de Guise stepped forward and offered her his arm. "If you will allow me, mademoiselle. It is just a few short steps through the woods."
Demona hesitated and took his arm. A tingle of electricity danced over her skin and she carefully glanced sideways to see if the human had noticed. If he had, he covered his reaction well, only offering the cover of his cloak against the increasingly heavy snow as he hurried her through the woods.
* * *
A few weeks later…
"So what do you make of it, cherie?" de Guise asked as he re-entered the room and set down upon the small wooden table a tray bearing bread, cheese, a pair of goblets and a bottle of wine. Demona looked up absently from the scrap of parchment she had been studying, and daintily procured a piece of cheese from the tray with her talons.
"It's Michel's handwriting," she confirmed. She paused a moment to pop the morsel of food into her mouth. "I can't make the faintest sense of what it means, though."
"Nor can I," the man confessed, taking a seat beside her and pouring out the wine into the two goblets. He paused after filling just one of the glasses, his eyes seeming to go distant for a moment. "I've had it ever since the estate was settled, yet it's only been three days since I finally summoned the strength to open the envelope." He shook his head, and filled the other glass, giving a small chuckle. "Even after he's gone, he still speaks in riddles, even to his friends."
Demona nodded in understanding. "That always was one of his more… aggravating habits," she said, unable to find a kinder way of phrasing it.
"He made paranoia into an art form," agreed de Guise, "but it was all well justified, and so I suppose it can be forgiven. Michel had too many enemies and not nearly enough friends, especially at the end." Picking up the pair of goblets, he offered one to the redheaded gargoyle. "Now that he's gone, cherie, I think his friends owe it to him to stick together."
Demona accepted the drink, raising a brow ridge curiously. "You mean you and me?" She eyed the piece of paper again. "Working together?"
De Guise nodded. "Oui, mademoiselle, if you would be agreeable."
Demona eyed the suave Frenchman she was beginning to think of as a friend. In the few short weeks of their acquaintance he had been kind, scrupulously polite, and unfailingly charming. She had yet to catch him in a lie or deception. It was obvious that he held Michel in high regard and regretted his passing. Yet she always felt there was a subtle subtext to his words that was beyond her abilities to comprehend. It vexed her and for that reason alone she nodded her head. "I will work with you, M. de Guise, until we solve Michel's final puzzle."
He smiled at her warmly and Demona felt obliged to turn away so he would not see the blush that crept onto her heated cheeks.
* * *
"Oh!" de Guise cried in frustration some days later. "This is hopeless!" He cast aside the parchment he'd been studying and rose to pace the cramped chamber. It had become a common scene. Night after night he had sat at the solidly built kitchen table that had doubled as a workspace with Demona at his side. Together they studied the scroll which purportedly held the key to Michel's puzzle arguing interpretations of the cryptic message. "I know the key was supposed to be here, but look," he said pointing to a line of verse, "I am certain that this must refer to another of his journals. Perhaps this was only meant to point to one of his other books." He growled in frustration. "If only we knew where they were hidden!"
Demona swallowed, determined to keep the vow of silence Michel had sworn her to. "He destroyed his books before his last illness." De Guise shot her a withering look. "He had no choice!" she continued in the seer's defense. "The Magistrate was going to arrest him for witchcraft unless he burned the library as a sign of good faith."
"Then we are lost," de Guise said grimly. "I am sorry, cherie. I have kept you in this place far longer than you had intended to stay."
"It wasn't totally without reward," the gargoyle answered softly. She screwed up her courage, daring herself to move closer to the frustrated human. "I have come to know you." Demona placed her hand gently on de Guise's forearm and caressed the velvet of his jacket. The cloth was soft, but the muscle underneath it was firm and well formed. "I will always be grateful for that."
"Indeed," de Guise replied in an equally gentle tone. "You were a reward that I had never anticipated." He took her hand from his arm and carried it to his lips, kissing it gently. "And now, cherie, you should go." He raised his eyebrow in inquiry. "Unless of course you would like to spend the day with me? There are a few hours of moonlight left, we could spend the time in… other pursuits."
Demona met his gaze with frank interest of her own. It was true he was human but… She pushed away the shocking thought and suddenly the room seemed to close in on her. "I must go," she stammered. "I need a little time alone to think on Michel's puzzle. I will return in two nights time."
A moment later she had fled, leaving de Guise alone in the cottage.
The man stared after her for a long moment before closing the door. "I'll be waiting for your return, cherie," he muttered, his tone oddly contemplative. He returned to the table, pushed aside the scrap of parchment they'd studied earlier and retrieved a letter from the pocket of his jacket. Adjusting the candle, he began to re-read the missive.
* * *
Demona glided through the chill winter air a worn book held close to her chest. Of all the books Michel had entrusted her with the slender volume she now carried seemed the most likely to hold the key to de Guise's cipher. She hated breaking her vow to the aged seer, but Michel had entrusted Guy with an impossible task. "It's the only solution," she muttered as she banked towards the rustic cottage.
A moment later she touched down, caping her wings about her as she gently knocked at the hewn oak door. "Guy," the azure gargoyle said softly. "I've brought you a surprise!"
He opened the door with a flourish. "A surprise, ma cherie? Indeed. It is a night for surprises all around. Since it seems I cannot gain the secrets of Michel de Nostradame, I have found another way to make up for my trouble." De Guise grabbed her arm and pulled her inside before she could react, slamming the door behind her.
Demona pulled away from the human, her eyes glowing red with anger. A growl rose in her throat as she realized she'd been betrayed by the human she'd come to trust and perhaps even to love.
She stared in shocked disbelief. A stocky man, dressed utterly in midnight black, his face hidden by a hood slashed with blood red silk, stood before her, a musket pointed at her belly. "My family thanks you, de Guise!" he said with a slight nod to his host before turning his attention back to the gargoyle. He wasted no time as other Hunters had by gloating. The gun exploded with a deafening roar. Instinctively, and simultaneously, Demona reached out, pulling her betrayer before her.
Heavy iron pellets riddled his body and he bucked as though possessed by Saint Vitus. "Not the reward I was anticipating, cherie." There was a faint note of surprise in his voice. Blood bubbled from de Guise's lips and the light faded from his eyes.
Demona cast his body away from her in revulsion as the Hunter cursed and threw the smoking musket to the floor. His gloved hand flew to his belt, reaching for the flintlock pistol tucked there for just such an emergency. But Demona's draw was faster. She whipped her tail as she turned, knocking him backwards and off his feet. "Not tonight, human," she growled as she fled out the door. "Not ever!"
With an angry scream, Demona dropped to all fours and loped away into the woods, leaving the Hunter far behind.
* * *
"I guess I just never learn," Demona muttered as she reached the end of the hall and turned to enter the master suite. She only managed a couple short steps before she froze, her eyes going wide in disbelief. Her entire body went numb, and the bundle of Ms. Destine's human clothing slipped from her talons as she took in the scene that was laid out before her.
The king-size, four-post bed had been made with new satin sheets, over which lay a large blanket to protect them from the massage oil that was waiting at the bedside. On the dresser, a selection of classical music CDs waited beside a portable stereo. And, over the back of a nearby chair hung a peach-colored satin teddy. She knew without checking the label that it was meant for Andrea.
Finally able to move her feet again, Demona took another step and reached out hesitantly to pick the flimsy garment up by its hanger, examining it in amazement. Of all the undergarments she had ever helped Andrea slip out of, she had never seen the human woman in anything not made of a cotton blend. "She was going to wear this for me?" the red-haired gargoyle wondered aloud, her voice quivering slightly as she spoke.
Her curiosity growing as she lay the teddy carefully back where she had found it, Demona stepped into the room's adjoining bathroom. "Oh, Andrea," she whispered softly. Dozens of candles sat about the room, waiting to be lit. Clean, fluffy white towels hung on the towel bars, and beside the tub sat a bottle of her favorite scented bubble bath, just waiting to be poured. Nearby, on the counter beside the sink, rested a pair of crystal glasses and a sterling silver ice bucket holding a bottle of champagne still waiting to be iced.
Demona turned away, tears coming to her eyes as she stepped back into the bedroom. "All of this, for me?" she managed, her voice trembling. She sat down on the edge of the bed just seconds before her knees could give out, unable to control the wave of guilt that suddenly overtook her as quickly as the fear and anger had done earlier. Demona swallowed hard and sat quietly for a few brief seconds, then, without warning, bolted for the window. She threw open the sash and planted one foot on the sill, then stopped cold, paralyzed with indecision. What was she running from, and where was she running to?
The cool night breeze rustled through her hair as she stood there, halfway out the window, hesitating. Was she going off to find Andrea? No, she thought. She no longer wanted to kill the human woman, but she didn't want to face her either. Not yet. Not without a plan. Demona eased herself back down of the windowsill, putting a talon to her lips contemplatively. Yes... she'd need a plan.
It will have to be something impressive, she thought. She'd have to curry the woman's favor first, to make sure Andrea didn't do anything rash. It just wouldn't do, after all, for Dominique Destine to show up at work the next morning to find every news reporter in the city waiting outside the building.
She hurried to the telephone. "What was the name of the florist that Candice uses for these sorts of things?" she wondered aloud. She thought furiously for a moment. "They never close... what was the slogan? 'In a Minute'? 'In a Second'? 'Hurry Up'? Blast! Why can't I think?" She squinted her eyes, straining to remember. "It's like the battery... ah. Ever Ready Florist and Gifts." She stabbed at the phone with a talon, dialed information, and requested the number.
She waited impatiently as the operator connected her through, tapping her foot against the floor. "Yes, hello. I need to have some flowers delivered tonight, within the hour if possible," she said, slipping quickly into Dominique mode. "Twelve dozen long stemmed roses." She paused, listening to the astonished voice on the other end of the line. "Yes, I said twelve dozen. Is that a problem?" Pause. "Good." She thought for a moment, then added, "Send along the biggest box of chocolates you have, as well."
A minute later, after rattling off the address to Andrea's apartment and the number on Dominique Destine's gold card, Demona hung up the phone. "That takes care of step one," she mused, beginning to pace the room. "Now for step two… the speech."
Demona pondered her options carefully. Dominique Destine had delivered dozens of speeches in her time, and Demona had carried off a few good ones of her own even before becoming a CEO. Surely coming up with something to say to Andrea wouldn't be too hard. "Sincerity, sincerity," Demona muttered. "I'll need to sound sincere when I talk to Andrea."
Demona closed her eyes and mustered forth her most angelic smile. "Andrea, about tonight...no, no, too casual." She paced a bit more and stopped before the mirror. "Andrea, my dear, I-" She stared at herself in the mirror, the reflection picking up the details of the carefully arranged bedroom. Everything had been planned out perfectly, set up just for her. It must have taken Andrea hours to put everything just so. And it wasn't just time that her human friend had invested. Every little detail spoke of the love and care that went into it, as well.
"Can you act with any less love?" she asked her reflection. The mirror appeared to waver as Demona blinked back tears. Strangely, her reflection was not tearful, only strangely expectant as it waited for her answer.
"No, I can't," Demona said softly, her wings drooping in shame as she realized that this time, all the pretty words she could ever think of would not make things right again. She turned away from the mirror and crossed back to the window. No, there would be no well-rehearsed speeches this time. What she needed to say to Andrea had to be said in person and from the heart.
With a resigned sigh, Demona stepped up onto the sill again. Spreading her wings, she launched herself into the warm summer's night, and angled off toward Andrea's apartment.
* * * * *
Andrea nodded gratefully as the waitress poured a fresh round of drinks. "So you see," she said, enunciating her words carefully, "I was going to make it a very memorable night."
Marilyn nodded and took a swallow of her drink, blotting her carefully applied, wine-colored lipstick daintily. "If someone went to all that trouble for me, I'd surely be very appreciative." She eyed Andrea speculatively. "Why don't you let Marilyn make you forget all about your mysterious, uptight, bad tempered Ms. D?" She reached under the table and caressed Andrea's thigh suggestively.
Andrea jumped slightly as Marilyn's long nailed fingers crept higher. She gently removed the other woman's hand from her leg and shook her head. "Thanks sweetie, but not tonight. I think I'll just go home and go to bed. Maybe tomorrow I can patch things up."
She rose to leave then remembered her purse still sat on Dominique's kitchen counter. With a sigh she raised a hand to her spinning head. "Marilyn, I hate to do this to you, but I left tonight with twenty dollars in my pocket and I used it getting here. Will you lend me cab fare?"
Her companion pouted, but fished in her black leather clutch for a moment before handing Andrea a fistful of crumpled bills. "That's the best I can do, baby."
The artist counted the money. It wasn't quite enough to get her home, but it would be close enough. "Thanks, Marilyn. I appreciate this more than you know."
"You're sure you don't wanna come home with me?"
Andrea shook her head as she headed back out into the night.
* * * * *
Demona furled back her wings and set down gently on the small terrace of Andrea's apartment, making scarcely a sound as her taloned feet touched the paving stones. Her wings rustled only slightly as she caped them over her shoulders and paused to collect her thoughts. "You can do this," she whispered in encouragement to herself. She sounded far from confident, though, as she tried not to remember that she had nearly turned back for Destine Manor three times during the fifteen minute glide.
She moved quietly across the patio, and placed her knuckles against the wooden frame of the sliding door before she could give herself a chance to rethink it again. "Andrea?" she called softly as she knocked. She waited, peering into the darkness beyond the thin pane of glass. It would shatter easily, she thought to herself, even as she called out the artist's name and knocked again.
Still no answer. Demona frowned, and, turning her head to one side, pressed her ear against the glass. She listened intently for several seconds, and then, "Blast it, she's not home." Demona turned away from the door, crossing her arms contemplatively. "Where could she be at this hour?" she wondered aloud, worry creeping into her voice. "I hope she's not doing anything foolish," she added as her earlier worries reasserted themselves.
The blue-skinned gargoyle turned back to the door, examining the handle with a critical eye. Andrea hadn't given her a key to her home as Dominique had done for her, but Demona wouldn't need a key, anyway. She started to reach out but then stopped. "No… I'd better not," she muttered. Breaking into Andrea's apartment after screaming at her just hours earlier for violating her secret workshop would just be too much irony for one evening. No… she would just have to wait.
Snagging one of the two white PVC chairs that sat nearby, Demona moved to a darkened corner of the terrace and sat down to wait. "I hope she isn't out too long," she mumbled while trying to find a comfortable position for her tail. After a few minutes of twitching and repositioning, she gave up. Making a note to gift Andrea with better patio furniture, Demona pushed the chair aside and settled herself down on the ground.
Leaning back against the wall, she drew her knees up in front of her and stared up at the starlit sky. As she tried to distract herself by recalling the names of all the constellations Michel had taught her ages ago, her sensitive ears became vaguely aware of music playing from somewhere below, probably a radio placed near an open window in one of the apartments further down the block. One song ended and another began, and though she tried to ignore it, first the opening melody and then the lyrics forced their way into her consciousness.
"It seems in a moment, your whole world can shatter
like morning dreams they just disappear
like dust in your hand falling to the floor
oh how can life ever be the same?
'cause my heart is broken in pieces
yes my heart is broken in pieces
since you've been gone…"
Demona stared up at the North Star and sighed. It was going to be a long wait, indeed.
* * * * *
"Thanks, driver," Andrea said as the meter clicked over the ten dollar mark. "I'll get out here." She indicated a well-lit green belt near the Community Center and the driver obediently pulled to the curb.
As on cue, people began to spill from the center's entrance and the artist realized belatedly that she'd missed a P.I.T. meeting. Torn between the desire to find out how things had gone and her desire to not think about gargoyles at all, she hesitated long enough to be recognized by the last of the meeting goers.
"Andie! Hey, Andie! A little late, but you made it."
A man with long silver braids approached with a long-legged, easy stride, and Andrea realized she was stuck. "Mitch, yeah… I had another commitment tonight. I… how'd the meeting go?"
"As always," the older man said with a shrug, both promising and disturbing. "The latest polls show that thirty-nine percent of the registered voters here in the city are now in favor of the Protection Act."
"But?" Andrea supplied, knowing Mitch, a sometime thespian, enjoyed having his cues fed.
"But, the Mayor's Select Committee is standing firm on their need to know where the gargoyles live as a 'protective measure'. Of course, no one believes a word of it. If they know where they sleep then it's a no-brainer the next thing they'll want to do is take them into 'protective custody'; for their own good, of course."
"Of course," Andrea agreed dourly, as her companion went into a well-rehearsed speech.
"They hide not because they are dangerous, but because we are a danger to them! They only wish to go about their lives, as do we all. But will our wise and noble leaders let them live in peace? No!" He turned to Andrea and added, "I was doing some research on the internet just last week. I came across the most fascinating documents. They suggest that there were thriving clans of gargoyles in Scotland."
"Really," Andrea said, interested despite her growing headache. Scotland had figured prominently in one of Dominique's journals.
"Indeed there was. They were concentrated mainly in the north part of the county and for a time they lived in relative harmony with the humans of the region, possibly forming long term alliances and close friendships."
"Pure human treachery. If I've read this translation correctly, it was in a very old Latin," he said boasting mildly, "in the process consolidating their power base, the English spread wild rumors. Gargoyles will eat your children - that sort of thing, and the Scots bought into the propaganda. To appease the English who started encroaching onto their lands, they sacrificed the clans with whom they'd been allied. Most dreadful business, really."
"I guess that would make any survivors leery of trusting humans ever again." Andrea recalled Dominique's face twisting in surprise and then fear before she had lashed out in soul-searing anger at her private space being disturbed. A thousand years, Mitch had said. My god, could Dominique have been one of the survivors of that long ago massacre?
"I suppose there were survivors," the actor agreed. "Because we know of gargoyles here, now, in this century. But there couldn't have been many of them. Those that remained were forced to keep themselves hidden, virtually disappearing from the face of the planet, in order to survive. It's a travesty. One we can only hope to make up for what happened with the few who are left."
"Yes," Andrea replied thoughtfully as they turned the corner that led up to her apartment building. "All we can do is try to make things right and hope she can forgive me."
Mitch looked down, confused, at his companion as her speech abruptly went into a non-sequiter.
She looked up at him, hazel eyes unreadable in the dim streetlight. "Thanks, Mitch." Andrea squeezed his hand. "You've given me a lot to think about."
The actor could only nod as Andrea quickened her pace and disappeared a few moments later behind the heavy glass and brass doors of her apartment house lobby.
* * * * *
"How can I just let you walk away, just let you leave without a trace?
When I stand here taking every breath with you, ooh,
You're the only one who really knew me at all…"
Demona growled under her breath and sank deeper into the shadows in the corner of the terrace where she sat. Silently, she wished the unknown owner of the radio would receive some vocal encouragement from his neighbors to stop sharing his or her tastes in music with the entire street. Softly, she whispered her own suggestion of what the mystery human could do with the radio, girding herself as the piano-led melody segued into the chorus.
"So take a look at me now, oh there's just an empty space,
And there's nothing left here to remind me, just the memory of your face.
Oh, take a look at me now, well there's just an empty space,
And you coming back to me is against all odds and that's what I've got to face…"
Demona massaged her temples with her fingers, then gave in to the ridiculous and slid her hands over her ears. "Where are you, Andrea Calhoun?" she moaned, turning to look at the still darkened glass of the sliding door for the umpteenth time. Should she keep waiting, or leave now while there was still a small chance that what remained of her sanity - and perhaps the life of the human who owned that blasted radio – would be spared an agonizing death?
One part of her wanted to stay, while another wanted to flee. And as she considered her options, the music rose in intensity and an emotion-filled chorus took hold of her once again.
"So take a look at me now, well there's just an empty space,
And there's nothing left here to remind me, just the memory of your face.
Now take a look at me now, 'cause there's just an empty space,
But to wait for you, is all I can do and that's what I've got to face.
Take a good look at me now, 'cause I'll still be standing here,
And you coming back to me is against all odds,
But it's the chance I've gotta take…"
As the song hit a decrescendo, with the dulcet tones of a solo piano echoing the intro once again, Demona wiped the beginnings of a tear from her eye and gave a shaky sigh. She knew she had to stay. She could do no less. She had waited this long, and she could wait a while longer.
* * * * *
"Good evening, Ms. Calhoun."
Andrea waved as she rushed past the doorman to the elevator, stabbing the button impatiently.
"Wait," the elderly man called. "There was a delivery for you about two hours ago. Let me get it for you."
The elevator call button dinged and the doors slid open. Andrea took a pair of steps toward them but stopped as she saw the oversized box that the doorman was attempting to extricate from behind the desk. No, she realized. Not one box, but two, wrapped in shiny paper and velvet ribbon. "Here," the petite woman said as she rushed to the equally diminutive man's assistance, "let me help you with that."
"I gave the boy that delivered it a nice tip for you."
Andrea rolled her eyes at her helper's subtle request for compensation. It was a game all the tenants played with the old doorman. He pretended to over-tip the delivery people and they would promise to settle up later at a more convenient time, when in actuality they were forced to seek out drivers who'd been give a shiny dime for their often considerable troubles. "That was very sweet of you, Manny. I'm sure he appreciated it. And I do too," she hastened to add. "Only I left my purse at my studio and I haven't a dime on me. I'll settle with you tomorrow, all right?"
The doorman flicked his eyes over her to confirm her purse-less state and mumbled under his breath as he carried the smaller of the two boxes to the elevator car. Andrea hefted the heavier box and detected the unmistakable odor of roses. "Dominique," she said softly as the doors closed. Only her lover would act with such extravagance. "You're such an extremist. I wish I knew more about you; what makes you the way you are. Maybe someday you'll trust me, trust us, enough to let me understand." The artist sighed wistfully as the elevator indicator climbed toward her floor.
Struggling under the combined weight of the heavy boxes, Andrea made her way home at last, grateful she'd fallen into the habit of carrying her keys in her pants pocket. Propping the assumed roses against the doorsill, she carried the smaller of the two boxes inside and set it on the breakfast bar. Only then did she retrieve the larger box, set it on the floor and kneel to open it.
The ribbon was rich burgundy velvet tied in an elaborate bow. But despite its intricacy, it came free with a gentle tug. Andrea set the length of ribbon aside and lifted the lid. The artist gasped as she broke the florist shop's seal, revealing the contents. Roses, dozens and dozens of red roses, nestled in a bed of asparagus fern. Tucked among them was a small white envelope. With shaking hands, Andrea removed the card. She steeled herself, expecting to find an equally flowery missive to go with the gift.
"'To Andrea.' That's all?" the artist said, disappointed. "Maybe there's a note in the other box."
The second length of burgundy ribbon joined its mate on the counter top. Andrea lifted the lid and was assaulted by the intense aroma of chocolate. She smiled despite herself at the hedonistic bounty. But the smile faded as she realized that the gifts must have only been a signal from Dominique that she was ready to be apologized to.
In her ire, Andrea failed to notice the azure gargoyle watching her hopefully from the terrace window as she picked up a handful of expensive chocolates and hurled them at the wall.
Demona stood stock still, her knuckles poised mere inches from the sliding glass door, and watched in anguish as Andrea scooped up a fistful of Belgian chocolates and angrily threw them. From her vantage point, she saw several of the delicate confections strike and stick, sending multi-colored trails of gooey filling oozing down the bright white plaster wall. The cry of outrage was equally violent, and Demona cringed as the woman buried her head in her hands, her angry sobs carrying even through the plate glass.
It was with great trepidation that Demona knocked at Andrea's door, her wings drooping with contrition.
Andrea's head lifted from her hands and she looked over her shoulder at the sudden and unexpected interruption. Standing at her patio door was Dominique, her wings drooping, her normally aristocratic features humbled. She still wore the remnants of her ruined underclothes, the bits of cloth barely covering her sensuous curves. Andrea swallowed in disbelief then rose to stand before the patio door.
"May I please come in?" Dominique asked quietly. "Please?" she repeated as Andrea crossed her arms, stiffening her already defensive position further.
"Why?" she replied, knowing that Dominique's sensitive hearing would have no trouble with the pane of glass that separated them. "So that I can thank you for the bounty of which I've just been bestowed?" She looked dismissively over her shoulder. "No thank you, Dominique. And to think I was this close," she held up two fingers a fraction of an inch apart, "to calling you up and begging your forgiveness." Andrea shook her head. "Good night, Dominique. Expect a courier to dump this stuff off at your office in the morning."
The gargoyle cringed as if slapped and Andrea had to turn away so she wouldn't see the tears of hurt and anger that began to leak in earnest from her overtired eyes. Her head was spinning from alcohol and a confusion of contradictory emotions. Just a little while ago she'd been ready to apologize on bended knees. Why was she pushing Dominique away now that she stood before her?
On the opposite side of the glass, the panicked voices began to murmur anew as a stricken Demona watched her lover and only friend turn away from her in anger. She hates you! they screamed. You were a fool to think she could be bought off with trinkets. "Andrea," the gargoyle begged, allowing the desperation to crawl into her voice, "please! I didn't mean to make things worse. I realized it was a mistake almost as soon as I'd hung up the phone. Please let me in." Andrea stood, her back to the glass. So very vulnerable, the voices continued to whisper. It would be easier if you were on the other side of the window, but you could shatter it and kill her yet, easily enough. Demona closed her eyes tightly. Stop it! I don't need to fear Andrea! she railed at the same voices that had driven her to increasingly darker deeds over the millennia. "Please, Andrea. Just five minutes. If we're going to part, I'd at least like the chance to explain." She watched, the anxiety eating away at the pit of her stomach as Andrea's shoulders dropped a fraction of an inch. "Five minutes and then I'll be out of your life forever."
Andrea turned, nodded silently, and then unlatched the sliding door, stepping away before the gargoyle could touch her. Demona shook her head, acknowledging Andrea's wish, and walked over to the box of roses. She plucked one of the long-stemmed, impossibly perfect flowers from the container and held it out to the petite artist, who looked up at her with a stony expression. "Right." The gargoyle dropped the rose back into the box. "They were a poor excuse for an apology, Andrea. I don't know what I was thinking."
"You said that." Andrea's voice held no emotion at all, just an air of incredible fatigue.
"You caught me off guard tonight," Demona admitted. "I normally keep that room very tightly locked and warded to prevent accidental discoveries."
The human woman gave the gargoyle an incredulous stare. "I caught you off guard? Oh now that's rich." She laughed in derision. "Not only is my lover a gargoyle half of the time, she's an ancient sorceress too."
"You needn't get catty about my age, Andrea," Demona sulked. "I had very good reasons for keeping all of this from you."
"It's true." Demona turned away, running her hands over her browridge in frustration. "Will you try and see this just a little bit from my point of view?"
Andrea's ire deflated as she recalled her earlier conversation with Mitch. She imagined herself hunted and hated as Dominique must have been by humans that feared what they could not understand. "You lied to me," she muttered as her resistance began to crumble.
"I did lie," Demona admitted. "I've done many things in my life, Andrea. I did them because I had to," she added defensively. "Many were things that someone of your delicate sensibilities would not be unable to comprehend, or accept."
"How can you judge me like that?" Andrea snapped. "How do you know what I would or wouldn't forgive, Dominique?"
"Because my acts have made blooded warriors turn away in revulsion," the gargoyle replied quietly. "My own clan despised me for doing what was necessary to keep us all alive."
"I don't believe that," Andrea protested. "I've met your daughter and her clanmates. They're good people. They'd understand if you gave them the chance!"
The gargoyle known to Andrea as Dominique, but who throughout history had been known as Demona, the She Devil and much worse, turned away in defeat and prepared to walk out of her former friend and lover's apartment. "I don't wish to discuss my quarrels with Goliath and the others. I merely wanted to explain to you that I was sorry. I did lie to you. I suppose there are matters on which I will always need to keep my own council, but I should have found a way to tell you something about my past."
"Tell me the truth," Andrea said sadly. "Do you hate humans?"
"Damn it! Answer me, Dominique! Because right now I feel so used - like one of your twisted experiments. I just want to curl up someplace and die."
Two long strides and the gargoyle was at Andrea's side. She took her pale five-fingered hand into her own blue, four-fingered one and enclosed it gently. "I don't hate you," she evaded, even as Andrea's misery-filled words tore at her soul.
"That's not an answer!" Andrea growled, but she didn't pull her hand away from Demona's embrace.
Demona, slayer of humans for a thousand years, sighed. "I am not overly fond of most humans," she admitted. "Though I have found some in recent years that I can at least tolerate."
"You've killed?" Andrea asked resolutely. "In cold blood?"
Demona's stomach twisted. Andrea could turn against her yet. "When I had to," she admitted after a long pause. "You read my journals?" she asked, seeking to justify her acts to the woman.
Andrea nodded. "Parts of them. The language in most of them was so archaic."
"Then you know that I was the victim of Hunters, and others who wanted me for their own ends. I did only what I needed to do to survive, Andrea. I'm not entirely proud of my actions. I've been recently forced to re-examine some of them rather closely. There are things I could have done differently." She turned to the human whose hand she still held and forced her to look her square in the eyes. "I lost myself for a long time," Demona admitted. "I may lose myself again. It's one of the drawbacks of a very long life; there is never any respite and very little peace. I didn't use you, Andrea. You offered me friendship and through you I found love. Even if you never wish to see me after this night, I will never forget you for that act of kindness."
Demona held Andrea's hand a moment longer before gently letting go. The silence hung between them as the tall gargoyle turned away and started towards the same door through which she had entered.
Andrea stood, her hand still held out before her, frozen in the same place it had been when Dominique had released it, and watched as the gargoyle began to walk away. "I don't hate you, Dominique," she said at last, very quietly. "I'm just... I don't know exactly - disappointed, maybe, that you didn't have more faith in me."
Demona turned slowly. "Andrea-" she began then paused. "If only it were that simple." She sighed. "I will admit it. I am old and set in my ways. I have had many years with which to develop my opinions about humanity."
"But what about people, Dominique? Don't tell me you believe that we're all the same."
The gargoyle shrugged. "For over a millennium I have believed exactly that."
Andrea cocked her head. "I sensed a hesitation just now. Could it be that you're ready to leave your past behind?"
Demona snorted at the irony of the situation. Hadn't she said something similar to Goliath once? "My past is who I am, what makes me strong. I can't let it go."
Andrea nodded. "You did what you needed to survive. I can understand how you of all people could be driven to desperate measures. But I don't care about who you once were, Dominique. I care about who you are now."
Demona blinked, astonished. "You do?"
"Yes, I do," Andrea replied. She took a step forward, closing the distance between herself and the red-haired gargoyle, and took her hand again. "The Dominique I know is hardworking, generous, and kind to those she cares about. She's not cruel, but she doesn't always consider the affects of her actions."
The gargoyle's dark eyes seemed to glisten as she quietly considered this new assessment of her character, unsure of how to respond. Finally, Andrea spoke again. "Why wouldn't you trust me?" she asked.
"I… I wanted to protect you," Demona blurted. She gave a frustrated sign and turned her eyes away from the human woman's pleading gaze. "I wanted to protect us both. I love you, Andrea. But as much as I try and close my eyes and ignore the truth, one day, you and everyone else I love will leave me behind, and I'll be alone again. I was in no hurry to speed the process by driving you away."
Andrea's eyes widened in shock. "How can you say that?" she gasped. "I love you, Dominique. I don't ever want to lose you!"
"The perils of loving an immortal." Demona sighed. "There, I've said it. For all intents and purposes, I will never die." She cast her eyes to the floor, adding sadly, "I really had hoped to spare you my true curse, Andrea."
Andrea's face went blank as she processed Dominique's latest bombshell. She'd semi-rationalized the gargoyle's longevity to her dealings with the magical beings who'd cursed her with her dual nature, but immortality? To never die? To watch as those around you aged and crumbled to dust? It was more than the artist could imagine.
"I'd say I understand, Dominique, but I just can't," she said tiredly. "In some ways, it sounds like the perfect argument to seize the moment, because you, of all people, should know how precious those moments really are."
"Carpe diem, Andrea?" Demona rolled her eyes. "It's easy for the first hundred years or so. After that it becomes something of a bore." She sighed. "I wanted it to be different for us, though - I really did. I thought if I tried hard enough..." She trailed off unwilling or unable to complete her thought.
Andrea regarded the torment in Dominique's eyes and realized sadly she truly regarded her immortality as a curse. "I'm sorry," she said awkwardly after a long pause, "I didn't realize."
Demona shrugged Andrea's apology away. "You couldn't know. You have no basis for comparison."
"No," the artist agreed. "I really don't." She let out a gusty breath. "Boy, this is going to take some getting used to. Those things I read tonight…"
"You can't accept what you've learned, can you?" Demona replied flatly. "Will you at least protect my privacy? The world doesn't need to know about Dominique Destine's other life. I will continue to be your patron in exchange for your silence."
Andrea's eyes grew hard. "Are you trying to irritate me, Dominique, because you're doing a really good job."
The gargoyle's lips parted in protest but Andrea cut her off before she could speak. "I didn't say I wanted out. I said I was having a major case of information overload!" She looked at the azure gargoyle with utter frustration. "Stop assuming my reactions, Dominique. Give me a chance to respond."
Slowly the gargoyle nodded as she prepared to hear Andrea's terms.
"I'm not leaving you, Dominique," the artist said to the gargoyle's surprise. "I love you too much. But if you want a relationship with me you'll have to agree to some new ground rules."
Demona's eyes widened in surprise. "You mean, despite everything you've learned about me, you still want to be a part of my life?"
Andrea ran a hand through her disheveled hair and nodded. "Call me crazy, but yes, if you make me a promise."
"What kind of a promise?" the gargoyle asked warily.
Drawing a deep breath, Andrea plunged forward. "I will promise you that I will never ask you about your past. I will respect your privacy and stay away from anything you tell me is off limits," the artist said as she slowly stepped forward and wrapped her arms around the gargoyle's waist. "But," she added as she stood up on the tips of her toes and laid her cheek against the hollow of Dominique's throat, "I will always be there to listen if you chose to confide in me. You haven't had the easiest of lives, and I have a feeling it might get tougher yet, but I'm willing to see things through with you."
Demona fought down a dozen glib responses and nodded numbly. An idea blossomed, a perfect solution really. "Andrea," she said, trying to control the excitement in her voice. "Come home with me."
Andrea broke the embrace and shook her head. "No, Dominique, not tonight. I'm tired." To emphasize her point, she yawned, covering her mouth with the back of her hand.
"No, silly." The gargoyle bent to the long ignored box of roses, plucking one of the blossoms carefully with her talons. She offered it to the human woman. "Come home and stay with me. Leave this place. I have more than enough room. We'll never be separated again."
Andrea shook her head, clearing away the mounting cobwebs, and tried to focus through fatigue-gritted eyes. She pushed the rose back towards the gargoyle "Don't take this the wrong way, Dominique, but no."
The azure gargoyle gaped in confusion. "What? Andrea, I don't understand. What happened to 'live in the moment'?"
The artist sighed. "I love you, Dominique, I truly do. But I think tonight was a warning that we need to slow down a little bit."
Demona's face was a mask of confusion, but she waited patiently as Andrea tried to explain her obviously conflicted feelings.
"You scared me tonight, Dominique," she admitted. "I always knew you had a temper. I've seen you unleash it on wait staff and shop clerks before and I've always chalked it up to you valving off pressure from work. But tonight, even though I probably deserved it, when you let go at me, I was afraid. That's something I never thought I'd be of you."
"I see," the gargoyle said in a flat tone of voice.
"So, before we discuss any kind of change to our housing arrangements-" Andrea paused and took a deep breath. "I want you to sign up for Anger Management classes. And-" she cut herself off and then continued. "Well, let's start with that."
Demona stared in utter disbelief. "You want me to what?"
"Please, Dominique," Andrea pleaded. "Do it for me. Do it for us." She smiled coyly. "I promise I'll make it worth your while."
Demona flashed on the tiny peach teddy and imagined Andrea lying prone on her bed, the garment hugging her slender body. She shivered involuntarily at the human woman's playfully sensuous tone. "Anger Management. Me. Sitting among a group of humans and discussing ways to control our tempers." Andrea was looking at her with an earnestly hopeful expression and the gargoyle realized with a start that the future of their relationship hung on the balance. "If I decline?" she asked, testing Andrea's resolve.
Her chin barely trembled. "I'll miss you, but I'll manage. I'm serious about this, Dominique."
Demona, terror of the ages, bane of generations of Hunters, growled in defeat. "The things I do for you, Andrea," she muttered before meeting the human's gaze. "Very well, I'll fit something into my schedule."
Andrea smiled, pure as a beam of sunshine. And slowly, Dominique smiled too.
* * * * *
Credits and Acknowledgements:
"Since I Lost You" - lyrics by Genesis, © 1991, used without permission.
"Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" - lyrics by Phil Collins, © 1984, used without permission.