* * *
by Edmondia Dantes
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.
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- Chapter Three -
Puck uncovered his ears delicately. Mortals could be quite noisy when they tried. He smoothed down his hair, glaring at all seven of them. By Avalon, what was their problem? He cleared his throat.
"As I was saying, Mab was the old queen, and Oberon's mother."
Hudson frowned. "I've heard legends of Mab and her court before. They weren't very flattering." The frown pulled deeper as he glanced warily at the trickster.
Puck glared briefly in his direction, but nodded in agreement. "Those half-remembered legends can't compare to the truth. There are good reasons the mortals of that time feared us."
Fox's eyes narrowed. Feared *us*?
Xanatos frowned deeply. And if the new guy - whoever he was - was connected to Mab, what would he be like? Especially if he was after Puck?
Puck pulled himself back with a start. He hadn't eavesdropped on anyone but Oberon for centuries, and for good reson. Mortal minds were conflicting, bewildering...and he was starting to get a headache from listening in. And only after two people!
~As I thought.~ Oberon sounded insufferably smug, and Puck finally got the chance to use his growl.
Of course, he scared Brooklyn half out of his wits, but that was just an incidental.
"Anyway, she was a psycho. So the other guy, whom she raised, is also a psycho. Simple, really."
Xanatos snorted. "Simple? Why does he want you dead?"
Puck tilted his head, looking at his employer curiously. "Didn't Titania tell you? It's 'cause he didn't manage to kill me last time." He was amused to note that Lexington had the largest mouth of the trio, not Broadway, as he had previously suspected.
"When?" Elisa stuttered, and he smothered a smile. Figures the detective would start detecting immediately.
"A long time ago." he replied flippantly. And if she wanted more, too bad. He wasn't up to talking any more. Dealing with Oberon was just draining. The whole situation was too draining. He wished he could not think about it, but that was one wish not even he could grant. And in his condition, though he hated to admit it, he needed rest.
Subconsciously he scanned himself, wiping the last traces of the foul magic away with a thought. To the mortal's eyes, he shimmered unexpectedly brightly, briefly becoming intangible before settling back to a corporeal form again.
He caught Fox staring in unabashed fascination. His eyes narrowed. Well, she was her mother's daughter. She would learn. He hoped it wouldn't take too long. Her powers were atrophied enough, he had to tread carefully with her. She was too wild.
"Why did he try to kill you?" Angela asked into the silence, glancing around uneasily.
Puck glanced at her through his lashes, and she fell silent, eyes curious. He rather liked the girl, much more than he did her mother.
And Goliath was getting impatient. The big guy *did* tend to broadcast his emotions...by Avalon, if he got another headache...!
"Puck?" Xanatos, looking puzzled.
He tilted his head in reply. "Davy."
Hudson snorted. "He'll not tell us anything."
Puck smiled to himself. It was so funny when they squirmed. "How do you know?" he purred, directly into the gargoyle's ear.
The gargoyle positively *leaped* away from him. The old one didn't like his magic, that was certain. Puck idly laced his hands together and rested his head on them, enjoying the way the gargoyles shuffled minutely away.
He knew they didn't trust him. They were smarter than they looked. Hell, even Oberon didn't trust him. Though he had no reason to, at least now...and that guy hated him...damn, but everyone was mad at him. It was getting depressing.
He sighed and vanished, leaving a group of confused gargoyles and humans in his wake.
* * *
Aliel pressed a fingertip gently down on the keypad. His eyes were wide in the soft glow of the screen. "Such
a marvelous thing...perhaps these mortals aren't so bad..."
Lacking a computer of his own, he had simply walked into the library as it was closing, turned the librarian into
a bronze statue, and headed for the internet section. He wasn't quite sure what he was doing, though he had a
vague recollection of doing something similar before. His clearest memories were of Avalon, and Her. And his father...and his father's trickster.
He pressed harder. Aliel wasn't a fool. He had known when he had failed the last time, and had failed twice again. And the Puck *still* didn't know he was! After all these millenia, he hadn't the faintest idea!
He wanted to laugh, but restrained himself. There was a 'Quiet' sign hanging over his head, after all. It seemed like a warning of some sort. Perhaps he should keep things...subdued for a while.
He clicked on the schedule of meetings for Xanatos Enterprises.
* * *
The baby was quiet.
Pale, slim hands reached down, smoothed back an unruly red lock of hair. Just as Oberon had done...Puck rested his chin on the edge of the crib and frowned.
Titania wanted her grandchild trained. Oberon wanted nothing to do with him. Xanatos wanted Owen to be the same as he always was. Fox didn't know what she wanted. Alex just wanted his uncle.
He closed his eyes. What about what *he* wanted? Wanted...craved, ached for, needed...
Home. Family. Friends.
A real life again, the wilderness, others like him, their midnight revels...his songs ringing on the night wind, the comforting blanket of Avalon's magic around him, dancing in their own light, playing in the eternal summer...
Whaddya know. He was homesick after all. And what delicious irony it was! He would have laughed, but it would have scared the child.
His laughter didn't make the stars dance anymore. Oberon had nearly said as much. Who would have thought that the big lug actually was observant. Who would have thought he would still care at all. That made things worse.
He just wanted to go home.
Everyone else was reasonably happy. He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, then stared down at the child. Could he stand a lifetime with a mortal babe? One who would never fully understand what he was, never truly know what his kind was? Should the child have children, would he be their tutor as well? How long would this last? Could he stay with the mortals for eternity?
His little family would die within the time it took for him to blink. And then what would he do?
Oberon was a cruel master. His lips curled. How dare he! And then go and treat him as though...he shook his head sharply.
The child looked up, his strange, young eyes staring mournfully at his teacher. He grabbed for the long, silky hair that dangled in front of him. Arms that were unused to human touch scooped him up, cradling his small body with an odd gentleness. Alex bunched his fists in fabric far finer than a king would wear, sniffling unhappily.
Puck sighed. "I gave up everything I have ever had and in return I get to teach a halfling infant. Now who's the fool? Something to remember, child. All kings are bastards."
His immortal life would be much easier if he hated Oberon...but he knew he never could. Not completely. It sucked.
He cursed Mab silently, and rocked the babe.
* * *
Aliel was nearly giddy with excitement.
He knew just what meeting to choose. Would his cousin even suspect? The trickster was clever...what a challenge!
But Aliel would kill him, of that he was certain. He giggled happily. This would be fun!
* * *
The tall, pale man came in with the representatives from Nightstone Unlimited. He'd never seen him before.
Owen Burnett cast a glance out of the window and grinned inwardly. Dominique Destine would not be making an appearance this evening. The sun was nearly setting, hovering over the horizon and flooding the room in orange and gold.
If he knew Xanatos, the human would be sure to point her absence out. The joke would go right over the heads of the others, but it needed to be made. He hoped he wouldn't be disappointed.
The strange, quiet man took the seat directly across from him. Owen's eyes widened slightly. Such a thing was practically unheard of. Most people were too intimidated to come anywhere near David Xanatos' executive assistant. Most of their employees feared him more than they did Xanatos.
The strange man looked up and met his gaze. It was like looking into a mirror - it had to be Oberon's son. The pale eyes were the same as his own, but glinted with insanity instead of mischief. He wondered how he could have missed it before. The other looked a bit like Oberon had, the one time he had seen his king in human form.
He sucked in a breath through his teeth. ~How now, spirit.~
The man slowly smiled. He raised a hand and wiggled his fingers in a wave. ~Cousin.~
Owen's eyes narrowed to slits. ~I share no relation to you.~
~Papa doesn't seem to think so.~
One pale brow rose fractionally. ~Papa?~
~DON'T CALL MY FATHER THAT!~ the other flung himself back hard in his seat, glaring malevolently across the table at him.
A taunting smile rose to his lips. The kid was even more possessive than Oberon. He might be able to enjoy himself instead of paying attention to the meeting.
~I hate you.~ the other hissed, sullen.
~So I guessed.~ It was hard not to relish this, even though the man's mental touch felt like Demona on an off day. He had much more experience at playing human than the other fey, whose composure was slipping. If anyone looked at Owen Burnett, they would just see the glacial surface.
~I'm going to kill you. You know that.~
His smile slipped. ~We shall see.~
For the rest of the meeting, he ignored the other's temper tantrum.
* * *
Xanatos walked out, smirking. That had been a good deal to make, though Demona wouldn't be too happy about it. She needed to hire better negotiators.
Normally, he would look over during these meetings to see what Owen was thinking. There would be a particular sparkle in his fathomless eyes that showed how pleased he was with the situation. Today, he hadn't been able to understand the look...it had been...
He was interrupted by one of Demona's people.
The man looked...strange, although he wasn't quite sure why. Xanatos narrowed his eyes. "Can I help you?"
He tilted his head, pale bangs falling into his face. He bared his teeth in a vicious smile. "Perhaps."
Xanatos frowned. Where was Owen? "How so?"
Ice blue eyes locked on him.
"Shall we take the elevator?"
He couldn't move. His eyes widened in alarm as he realized what that meant. He's one of Oberon's children! Xanatos thought, panicked, as he was steered like a puppet into the elevators.
The man hummed along with the muzak.
Xanatos tried his best to sidle away. The man was obviously cracked.
The doors slid open with an innocuous 'ding'. Owen Burnett stood there, arms folded, a distinct frown curving his lips.
Xanatos tried to squirm. He breathed a sigh of relief when his body obeyed him. The other man just stood there, staring at Owen. The hair on the back of his neck rose. An electical feeling tingled in the air, and he shivered. For a long moment, everything stood still.
It came as something of a surprise when Owen grabbed the man around the neck with his good hand and flung him into a suit of armor on the other side of the hall. There was a resounding crash that hurt David's eardrums, but Owen didn't seem to notice.
The pale man jumped to his feet and glared at the disguised trickster, lips parted in a snarl. His eyes glittered
strangely under the dim lighting. "Attacking first, dear cousin? How rude."
Xanatos practically went into shock when Owen smirked in reply. "I've never been known for being a particularly polite guy." His voice was more Puck than Owen, and dripped with sarcasm.
The other man smiled brightly. "True enough!"
Then he vanished. Owen spun around just quickly enough to duck under a hastily-aimed fireball.
"Resorting to parlor tricks, Aliel? Shame." With that, he slammed a ming vase over the surprised fey's head.
A ming vase? Where did THAT come from? Xanatos wondered, gaping at his assistant.
Owen didn't reply. Instead, he ducked under the flying debris that was the remains of the vase and caught a bolt of purple magic square in the chest.
He was sent flying out the doors and nearly slammed into a surprised Hudson. Aliel zipped out into the courtyard, but Xanatos hung back. He hastily called out the iron clan robots and set them at the perimeter of the castle.
Then he raced out of the door and into something that looked like a bad acid trip.
The whole place was illuminated in brilliant violet, the color flowing from the brightly glowing eyes of the fey who hovered in the middle of the courtyard. The gargoyles were all encased in ice, as was Elisa.The ground was coated in it, and he nearly slipped. Fortunately, he managed to come to a halt before he ran into a bolt of purple lightening.
Aliel, as Owen had called him, was trying to get the other fey to stay still long enough for him to blast him. Unfortunately for Aliel, Owen was, as he put it, "A slippery little bastard!"
And the ice didn't seem to be hindering him any. He darted around Goliath, past Elisa and behind Broadway.
Aliel didn't seem to appreciate this very much. The fey sent an enormous blast of energy flying in Owen's general direction. He didn't have time to dodge.
Xanatos winced as he hurtled through the air, then..slowed..down?
He spun in midair, glowing brilliantly as his form shifted, curling in on himself, and then landed in a crouch on one of the battlements, one hand splayed before him.
Moonlight gleamed on cascades of floating hair, sharp teeth bared, eyes narrowed and smoldering emerald. Green fire twisted around his slender body, the veridian glow repelling the sickly violet light that flooded the castle.
Xanatos swallowed. Aliel laughed delightedly, clapping his hands. "Good show, cousin! Perhaps a real fight tonight?"
Puck just smiled icily.
Things were about to get interesting. David wondered how much the repair costs would be this time.
* * *
Fox Xanatos was holding a flamethrower.
A large group of mercenaries was surrounding her.
Some of them were on fire.
Several had been turned into rather ugly looking teddy bears by her darling son.
She was having *fun*.
She didn't realize her eyes were glowing a faint green. The mercenaries did. That was why several were trying to run away. Several were also trying to 'stop, drop and roll' while running away. Given that the first part of the procedure involved stopping, it didn't work very well.
She snorted in an unladylike fashion. This really didn't matter, since in the eyes of the mercenaries, she was more like a demon.
They were not entirely incorrect.
* * *
David Xanatos watched them, feeling like an intruder in the games of the gods. He had never known...had never
seen Owen, or Puck, like he was now. His stomach curled into knots.
Not laughing. Smirking. Colder than the ice that encased the castle, and burning in his own pale flame. For the first time, he wasn't creeped out, he was frightened. Puck, in some unfathomable way, was even more intimidating than Oberon had been. Half-forgotten horror tales of goblins and faerys came to mind, and he suddenly realized they might not be just fantasy.
*This* Puck was the darker side of the legend, the fairy tale where things didn't work out quite right.
And Aliel looked happy. Far more happy than David would have been if Puck had been staring at *him* that way.
And the sky exploded. Violet and geen light clashed, swirled, blew him off of his feet. He fell against the wall, tried to move, realized its futuility, and swore to himself.
He could only hope that the fey didn't realize he was there.
Jewel-toned fire was met with pale ice, winds and rain swirling in a tempest around the castle. Puck hovered, eyes blazing, lightning dancing off of his fingertips only to catch on a purple sheild and crackle into nothingness. Aliel cried for the stones to attack, Puck countered with a large sledgehammer.
A dark bird swooped out of the heavens, golden claws poised to attack; a huge lupine form leapt upon it and they vanished in a blaze of light. Aliel shapeshifted into a lion, Puck to a tiger and back again. A golden sword, twisted and gleaming nearly gave Puck a haircut. The second strike was matched by a slender dagger that gleamed silver in small hands.
Eyes blazing, hair flying, they matched each other. David tried to follow the clash, but they moved like lightning and quicksilver, dancing and flitting on the errant winds that whipped through the castle. Those winds hadn't been there before. He had a nasty suspicion they had stirred up with the start of the fight.
He knew Shakespeare was a little fuzzy on the details, but hadn't he mentioned nature reacting to fey conflicts? He glanced back up at the clashing colors and grimaced. Xanatos hated powerlessness.
* * *
That heady feeling was rushing through her again. Fox chuckled to herself as the last one collapsed in extreme pain.
"Idiots." she muttered, dropping the flamethrower. She picked up Alex, tucked him close to her chest, and sauntered out of the severely blackened room.
She paused to kick a teddy bear as she went.
* * *
David *really* hated powerlessness. Unfortunately, he couldn't move his legs.
Above him, Puck spun, caught a golden blade in his hand, and tried to crush Aliel's head with a nasty-looking mace.
Aliel ducked, summoned up a miniature tornado, then was sent spinning as Puck nearly got a hit in. He came to a screeching halt in midair, purple fire trailing from his fingertips. He fumbled briefly in the coat of his suit, then pulled out a small gun with a triumphant laugh.
Puck drew to a halt, a puzzled expression replacing the icy demeanor that was so unusually frightening on his young-looking face. He shouted something in a language that sounded like liquid silver.
Aliel laughed as he took aim, shouting something incomprehensible in reply.
Puck froze in midair, eyes slitted, power radiating off of him in waves. Xanatos choked. Great, what do I do if Owen's DEAD? Wait - can fey die? Permanently? AAA! I don't know!
Before Xanatos could give himself a heart attack, Puck snapped his fingers. Aliel gave an ungodly shriek, flung the thing away from him, and leapt forward, lightning in hand. Puck dodged, shouted something that sounded like a taunt, and darted away like a demented hummingbird.
Xanatos reached over to where the gun had fallen. Bullets...iron, but where had the gun itself gone? The whole thing couldn't have been made of iron, could it?
His mouth twitched as he disovered something very much like the fronds of a fern, only more...rubbery. He picked it up, pulling it into the light.
His mouth fell open as he gaped at the gray koosh ball sitting innocently on his palm.
* * *
"Come, brother!" he shouted, mocking, arrogant...AVALON, but that....what did he say?
"BROTHER?? You dare?"
"I dare many things."
The Puck was TAUNTING him! His prince! And he was even trying to kill him! That little...! "DIE!"
"I'm sure you will!"
* * *
Two blindingly bright figures tumbled into view. Xanatos threw up a hand to ward off the glare and swore vehemently.
Aliel was trying to chop Puck's head off, and nearly succeeding. Puck twisted, and...Apparently physical violence was not a common thing between fey. Aliel looked very taken aback when Puck threw his leg up in a nearly vertical kick and caught him underneath the chin.
Nice control, Xanatos snickered to himself as the fair-haired lunatic went crashing into the parapets. But there might have been a reason for the lack of true violence. Puck certainly didn't look strong enough to cause any damage.
The fey in question threw him a glance that sent a spear of ice shooting down his spine. Then - a blur and burst of wind, and Aliel let out a bloodcurdling yell.
Two brilliantly glowing figures shot up into the roiling sky. The smaller...Puck? slammed an incandescant hand into the other's stomach, leapt away, slammed closed fists onto his head, flipped backwards and threw what looked like a chain made of light around Aliel.
He choked, then bellowed in a voice that wasn't a voice, 'Cheater!'
Puck snarled. "So say you!" he shouted, voice clear despite the roar of the storm above him.
Aliel detangled himself, hurling a wicked-looking boomerang of energy towards the smaller fey. The trickster caught it one-handed and flung it back.
"Yet did I use iron on one of our own? Nay, BROTHER, 'twas you!"
Aliel shrieked, ducking out of the way of his cousin's glowing fingertips.
"It's always the hypocrites." the Puck stated in a voice like none Xanatos had ever heard before.
The winds whipped David's hair into his eyes, and he swiped, feeling himself start to lost his perch. He blinked away the salt sting and tried to hang on.
Puck's eyes flared brilliant green.
Guess I was wrong, he thought cynically as a wall of blazing emerald light hurtled towards him. He had *never* seen true violence before tonight.
Oh SH-- Xanatos thought as he was flung violently off of the building, the sound of a very surprised scream accompanying his flight. It took him several moments to realize it wasn't his own.
He watched in detached amazement as the offices of the Eyrie went by. I'm going to die. How odd, he thought abstractly, that I didn't bother to put on my exosuit. I must be crazy. My. Glad this building is so high. After I go to all of that trouble, don't get immortality, and am going to die by going squish. Yuck.
He choked on his own breath as he was jerked violently to a halt. He gasped for air, his pulse pounding in his ears. He blinked several times, incredulous, and twisted as best he could to see who had caught him. Weren't the gargoyles still frozen?
His jaw dropped as he stared up at his stepfather in-law.
The fey king was looking up towards the castle, his eyes narrowed. He held David's jacket lightly in one pale blue hand, a frown on his face.
Xanatos wondered if it would be inappropriate to faint before royalty.
* * *
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