Heart of Stone Ch. 15bypsyche_b_mused©
15. The Day After
The walk back to the house bubbled over with hopeful feelings and discussions for the future. When they returned, Maureen and Joanna were waiting with champagne in Mary's finest crystal. The book and letter had been cleared away and the furniture put back in place. A light buffet was set up.
"How did you know?" Mary asked Maureen. She had planned for a celebration, but she didn't think it would be waiting for them when they returned.
"No one makes that much jolly noise when things don't go right." The housekeeper smiled. "Besides, we knew you could do it." Joanna came over with one more glass on her tray. She offered it to Mary.
"I can't. It's alcoholic." She laughed.
"It is not either." Joanna countered with a grin. "It's nothing but sparkling apple cider. This celebration is in your honor, we couldn't let you stand here empty-handed." Mary laughed and took the cut crystal flute.
"If I could have everyone's attention for just a minute please." Mary began, then waited for there to be silence. "I just want to thank all of you. I know tonight has been full of surprises, but you were all able to put that aside long enough to accomplish a common purpose, and that means the world to me." She felt the tears rising in her eyes. "So tonight we celebrate. End of speech." She laughed and so did everyone else.
"We wouldn't be celebrating anything without you." Veronica said.
"Agreed." Quentin raised his glass. "To Mary, who has begun to quietly change the world."
"To Mary." The rest replied. She blushed but accepted their congratulations, then wandered over to the doors, her eyes on dim night outside the door. It was true that the world had changed forever, she just hadn't thought of it like that before. The changes were just a part of her life. With her pregnancy and now Esme's waking, they were rapidly approaching a point where the changes wouldn't be so easily concealed. She tried to push some of that out of the way for the moment. There would be a great deal of time to worry about that later. She was glad she wouldn't have to decide how to deal with it all on her own.
"Should you be drinking that?" Robbie asked. She wasn't sure how long he had been standing there, or how long she had been staring.
"It's apple cider." She smiled. "Look, I'm sorry I didn't tell you before-"
"Nonsense. You had every right to keep silent." He answered. "It is a private matter after all."
"I know." She sighed. "At first I didn't want to tell anyone because I worried something might happen. After, I was afraid how people would take it. I hadn't planned to say anything tonight either, but then I found the book."
"And it was easier to present it as something that had already happened than let people's imaginations travel when the implications of the prophecy came to light." He finished. She nodded. He put his arm around her shoulder and lead her to the sofa. She sat with him.
"That, and after the first time I really was worried about what might happen."
"Were you pregnant that first time too?" He asked.
"Yes, only I didn't know it. I thought I was just tired and overstressed. Now, at least I've been taking care of myself, but my abilities seem to be in overdrive sometimes. I had no idea if I would even be able to do the aggregation, much less maintain it for as long as I needed to. In a way that's why I was in the library, I was trying to find any information on pregnancy and aggregation. I couldn't find anything though." Robbie thought for a moment.
"Have you read Killian?" He asked.
"No, I don't think I've seen that name." She finished the last of the cider in her glass.
"I'm not surprised. Heloise Killian isn't exactly accepted by the establishment." He chuckled. "I think I have three of her books, I'll send them over to you. I don't know how much detail she goes into, but it might be useful."
"I appreciate that. Veronica told me the same thing though, that books written by women weren't accepted. Why is that?"
"That's a very large question." He thought for a minute. "I think the best answer is that our segment of the world is still a part of the world. We get caught up in whatever nonsense is going on around us. Some of those sources are so old women were still considered property. As time went on, the older sources were so revered that more modern ideas were rejected. Most of your books are relatively modern interpretations of much older sources. Would you like some more?" He pointed to her glass.
"No no. I'll get it for you." He took her glass and walked over to Joanna. He put the two empty glasses on the maid's tray and spoke a few words to her. He took a full glass from Maureen and walked back to Mary. "She'll be back in a minute."
"If Killian's books aren't accepted, how come you have three of them?" Johanna walked through the crowd with Mary's glass. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Miss." She made her way back into the group.
"Actually, according to my grandfather she wrote five books at least." Robbie sipped some of his champagne. "He was a collector of apocrypha. He gave no credence to any of it, but it was a curiosity for him. I agree that most of it is rubbish, but there are a few gems peppered in. Killian is one."
Mary woke up from her light doze when Aiden picked her up. Tired as she was when she left the party, Mary hadn't been able to fall asleep in bed. The last thing she remembered was being stretched out on the sofa in her suite. She moaned softly.
"What were you doing in there, Child?" He laid her in bed and undressed. Suddenly the thought of feeling his skin next to hers was all she wanted in the world. Mary pulled her nightgown over her head and got under the covers. When he was holding her, all of her tension melted away.
"I tried sleeping in here, but I'm not used to falling asleep without you." She kissed him softly.
"Esme had a great many questions, and I wanted to make sure she knew where she could safely go." His hands moved lightly over her back. Mary arched against him.
"I understand why you were gone, I just missed you." She smiled at him. "I'm not used to it yet."
"I would like to tell you that there will not be a difference, but that would not be the truth." His fingers floated lightly over her body. From the way he was touching her, Mary could tell that he'd missed her too.
"Just don't disappear completely." Her body molded to his. "I need you."
"And I need you, Child." He kissed her lightly, Mary twined her tongue with his.
"Where is Esme now?" Mary asked, her fingers traced the muscles on his back.
"Gathering herbs for her pharmacopia." His lips sucked softly at the side of her neck.
"Your mother was a healer too, wasn't she?" Mary arched against him.
"Yes. In fact, I learned that Esme is a distant relative of mine."
"So she is from your mother's clan?" He turned so that she was laying on her side.
"Yes. Let me think of the relationship in terms you will understand." One hand stroked her thigh. "She is my mother's second cousin." He said finally. Mary had learned that central family relationships had the same names in the gargoyle culture, but as one got further out the titles changed. For the most part, she noticed that even extended family was thought of as much closer emotionally than the same relatives would be in human culture.
"What about the others?" She asked, her lips finding his again.
"I do not know yet." He placed her leg over his hip. Mary nuzzled the side of his neck. "In my heart, I wish to wake them all immediately, but I do not wish to wake them without a plan. I think it would be best if Esme were more comfortable in this time before any of the others are awakened. She will be able to help them acclimate." His tail started to tease Mary's lower lips. She gripped him more tightly.
"How long until she's comfortable? People will want to know-" She gasped when he fluttered his tail. "Aiden-" She moaned softly.
"I do not know. Human culture is not unknown to us, and she will learn your language fairly quickly. Beyond that I cannot say." His hands moved down her back. Mary's fingers caressed his thick shaft. She loved him completely, but there were moments when his size still made her hesitate. He pushed her onto her back and moved on top of her.
"I'm not ready." There was a little tremor in her voice. Hesitant as she was, submitting to him was second nature to her. She opened herself to him completely, as she always did. One knuckle gently caressed and explored her tenderest places, she moaned and lifted her hips.
"Your body says differently." He kissed her gently. His weight rested on one arm, his knuckle found and teased the firm little nub hidden in her folds. Mary moaned deeply and started to squirm under him. "Relax." He whispered against her mouth.
He moved more slowly than usual, and within minutes Mary found that she needed him to be inside her. She wrapped her legs around his waist and he moved more quickly, with more force. She cried out, each firm movement bringing her closer. He rose up over her, his wings fluttered, his eyes closed. Mary shifted her hips slightly and she felt him reach even deeper inside her. She cried out, but the sound was lost in his moan. He leaned down close to her ear.
"More?" He whispered.
"Yes." She was barely able to form the word.
She was so close to the edge, but even in this state, she could tell that he was close as well. He grasped her right leg at the knee and pushed it back further. He moved faster, with greater intensity. The sensation sent shock waves of pleasure through her body. She whimpered and screeched, her fingers digging into his muscled forearm as she rode the crest of the wave. Mary didn't know when his release came, but it seemed to happen within seconds of hers. He picked her up and held her close, his shaft still buried deep inside her.
Mary didn't know how long she stayed in a comfortable half-doze, but she knew that at some point she had tried to get up to shower. He kept her there, but brought a basin of water. After a half-hearted protest, she let him bathe her. Only moonlight streamed into the room, but Mary knew he could see her clearly. She was sure that was why these baths always took longer than a shower. He spent a great deal of time just looking at her. She closed her eyes, and a little tremor of pleasure coursed through her body.
"Sleep, Child." Aiden whispered close to her ear. Mary tried to stay awake until he was finished at least, but the deep relaxation was too much to resist.
The next morning, Mary came down later than she had planned to, and found the house empty for the most part. She stopped in the kitchen for a glass of juice before exploring further. She was beginning to think that everyone was gone, until she found Robbie in the sunroom.
"Good morning." Robbie set his paper aside and kissed her cheek lightly.
"I'm sorry to be so late. Did everyone leave?" She sat down with him.
"No. Veronica organized a walk around your gardens." He smiled.
"That sounds nice actually." Mary smiled. "You didn't want to go?"
"To be honest, I suggested she organize it so that I could have some time alone with you." He looked at her across the table.
"Oh?" She asked. For some reason, the way he said it made her nervous. He read her expression.
"It's nothing so clandestine. The rest of the group has been speculating all morning about what you plan to do in regard to the rest of the gargoyles. I didn't want them to come at you from all angles without you having some time to gather your thoughts." He looked at the glass of juice. "You really should eat something."
"I know, Maureen is bringing me something." She smiled a little. Mary was getting used to people trying to take care of her. "I appreciate you giving me some warning. How did Veronica ever get them out of the house though?"
"She played the nattering old lady until everyone gave in." He chuckled.
"Leave it to her." She smiled. Maureen came in carrying a plate of food, flatware and a pot of coffee on a tray.
"You read my mind, Maureen." He said with a smile.
"I thought what you had might be getting cold." She set the plate down in front of Mary, and the coffee in front of Robbie. "Now you're certain chicken and spinach is what you want, Miss."
"Yes, that smells absolutely wonderful." Mary mixed the two together and took a bite. Normally, Mary hated cooked spinach, but at that moment it tasted so good.
"Do you need anymore cream or sugar or anything?" Maureen asked Robbie.
"Not a thing, thank you."
"Enjoy then." She shook her head a little and left. Robbie was smiling.
"I know it's weird." She said. "But my diet shifted recently."
"Perfectly understandable. When my sister was expecting, she put strawberry jam on everything. Meat, eggs, fish, it didn't matter." He laughed. "There were times her husband couldn't stand to eat with her."
"I think Maureen feels that way sometimes." Mary smiled. "What's your opinion about waking the other gargoyles?"
"I don't know." He sighed. "I've been thinking about it all morning and there don't seem to be many good options."
"Aiden was torn too. He told me he wanted to wake the others right away, but he wants Esme to get acclimated first." Mary sighed. "I don't even know logistically how it's going to work. People are spread out all over the countryside. The gargoyles themselves are all from different clans with all different alliances and animosities. Aiden can give me an order to wake them in and who should be present, but what happens then? Do we just leave and let the newly awakened one figure out the language and the culture from his or her hosts? It seems like it would be less stressful to have other gargoyles around, but I don't know how that would work out if the one with them is still learning him or herself. I know Aiden won't leave me alone. Plus, with each new one we wake, the circle of trusted people is going to have to widen." Robbie looked pensive.
"That leaves us open to a certain dark practitioner too." He said.
"How?" Mary asked.
"Your defenses here are ironclad. Anyone who's even remotely sensitive can feel it as soon as he or she steps onto the property. We're all defended, and with the gargoyles still frozen, that's probably enough because he doesn't want to draw attention to himself. Since that's changing, he's going to become even bolder. The rest of us can't structure an enchantment the way you can. We don't have the ability."
"And with them being awake again, it increases the danger for everyone." Mary said. He nodded.
"So the safest place for all of them is here, but getting them here would be an expensive little slice of Hell, not to mention the fact that they might not be able to live together." She continued. "Even if they could, I'm not sure I could feed all of them, or keep them all a secret. Then there's the baby. Nigel tells me it's likely I won't be able to deliver naturally. Even if I could I will still need to be in a hospital."
"Meaning we have limited time to make some very large decisions." He swallowed some more of his coffee.
"I don't think we can make any decisions at all without Aiden's input. Esme's too. Whatever is decided will affect both of them directly."
"I think you're right." He said. "Convincing some of the others of that might take a bit of doing."
"So we'll put on our persuasive faces." Mary smiled.
"I like your positive attitude." He laughed.
"Well, it sounds good anyway." She smiled. "Are you able to stay on another night?"
"Of course." He said.
"What about the others?"
"Most if not all of them can probably arrange it. Would Aiden and Esme be willing to meet with us?"
"I'm sure Aiden would. Hopefully Esme will feel comfortable enough to as well. That coffee smells so good."
"Do you want some?" He smiled.
"Yes. But I'm not supposed to have caffeine." She laughed. "I didn't realize how much I loved my morning coffee until I couldn't have it anymore."
Robbie was right about people coming at her from all angles. Everyone seemed to have a different opinion of what should happen next, and none of them agreed with each other. She managed to brush it all aside and convince them that Aiden and Esme needed to be involved in the conversation too. Then she let Aiden know.
The day passed in fits and starts. Luckily, late in the afternoon, Nigel noticed her distress and insisted she take a nap. She protested leaving her guests, but Veronica assured that everyone could entertain themselves for a few hours. Mary didn't know if she would sleep, but a few hours away sounded like a slice of heaven. She stopped by the kitchen to make sure that preparations for dinner were going smoothly. Maureen just rolled her eyes and sent Mary off to bed.
Mary's worries about being unable to sleep were unfounded. She remembered closing her eyes at around four, and then nothing until Aiden pulled her into his arms at a little after six. For a few minutes, she simply snuggled against him, her mind waking slowly. Once it did, her eyes opened wide.
"Where's Esme?" Mary pulled the blanket around herself. She had fallen asleep in only her underwear. She didn't mind Aiden seeing her that way, but Esme was still a stranger.
"Hunting. I must join her soon, but I saw you in here and I could not resist holding you for a moment. You are well this evening?" She relaxed again.
"I'm fine. You know how tired I've been lately, I just needed a nap." She kissed him softly. "Will Esme come with you tonight?"
"Yes. I will have to speak for her, but the words will be hers." He caressed her back lightly.
"I'm glad. I want her to feel welcome here, but I'm not sure how to go about it." Mary shivered pleasantly.
"She knows, child. Besides, the more she hears your language, the more quickly she will learn it." He lightly massaged the back of her neck.
"I should get ready for dinner." She didn't move.
"I should join Esme." His stomach growled loudly.
"And eat something." She laughed and moved out of his lap.
"That too." He kissed her, his mouth lingering against hers for a delicious moment. "Eat well, dear one."
"You too." She let him go reluctantly. After he left she started trying to find something appropriate to wear to dinner.
Mary would never have believed that Maureen and Joanna could pull together such a luscious meal for so many people with almost no notice. At least everyone seemed to be in a good mood as they made their way into the conservatory again. Aiden and Esme were already waiting. Aiden took Mary's hands and kissed her lightly. Someone behind her gasped. It had a decidedly male tone, but she didn't turn to see who it was. She didn't really care. Coffee and tea had been set up on the sideboard. Joanna came in as the group were serving themselves.
"Miss, will you be wanting any of your special tea?" She asked quietly.
"Not for me, thank you." Mary turned to Aiden. "What about you and Esme?"
"No, thank you." He asked Esme, but she shook her head. When Joanna left, Esme asked him something, from the way Aiden responded, Mary thought he might have been listing something. She sat down and decided to ask him later. Aiden sat to her right, and Esme sat on the other side of him. He hadn't told her if he had discussed the future with Esme, or what her opinions were if he had.
"I think we're about ready to start." Robbie said. The few people who hadn't sat down found empty places and gave him their attention. Mary was glad that someone else had taken over. She noticed that Aiden began to translate softly for Esme. "We all know that the events of last night were beyond description, but today we're faced with the future. There are ten more gargoyles who are still frozen. We know that we have the ability to wake them, but I think we all agree that we need a plan in place before we move forward."