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Discussions - Chapter 15

 
 
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  Discussions - Chapter 15

By Kudara

Disclaimer: All the characters appearing in Gargoyles are copyright Buena Vista Television/The Walt Disney Company. No infringement of these copyrights is intended as this is a not for profit fan fiction work. All original characters are the property of the author.

Warning: none

Notes: Dominique Destine’s home, and the character’s Candice and Gregory are from ‘The Gargoyles Saga’ world and adapted for use in this story. Song mentioned is “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney.

Rating: Teen

Feedback: Always welcome, feedback is what encourages me to keep writing. Please let me know what you like and what you dislike about the story.

Revision History: 08/27/08

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Monday, December 22th 1997

Early Morning - Nightstone Unlimited HQ, Lower East Side Manhattan

Dominique glanced approvingly at the younger woman standing beside her as they waited for the elevator to descend. Sharon looked every inch the part of her personal assistant this morning in her new tailored navy suit. The brunette would spend most of the morning with human resources signing her employment contract and other assorted paperwork, and then work with Dominique for a few hours before they needed to return to her home to prepare for the party tonight. Tomorrow morning Gregory would drive her to the airport to fly back to Arizona for a few weeks. During that time, things would hopefully calm down some and Dominique would feel more comfortable with the idea of her coming back.

At the end of the small hallway where they were waiting, there was an embossed decorative metal surface which was polished enough to mirror the area. Dominique noticed Sharon’s narrow eyed disapproving stare at the reflective metal surface about the same time as she noticed the reason for it. Mr. Cline, the Contracts Manager in the Procurement Department, was examining certain parts of her anatomy rather closely with a speculative and interested look on his ruddy face. Her eyes narrowed, she had suspected after the news coverage that she might have this issue, but she had hoped that her employees would be both more professional, and too wary of her, to dare be obvious if they chose to speculate about her fashion choices or her personal life. It was unfortunate for Mr. Cline that he had chosen this morning to be neither professional nor wary.

“Do not react to what I’m about to do,” the redhead whispered commandingly to the woman beside her. Their eyes met in the mirrored surface, Sharon’s brown ones a little wide and surprised before she nodded. “Mr. Cline,” Dominique’s voice was sharply edged and arctic cold and raised enough to carry over the entire entryway area. The redhead saw the human male’s entire body jerk as both the summons and the tone in which it was said, registered. Those employees nearby him edged subtly away, leaving the poor unfortunate alone in whatever punishment he had drawn to himself.

Dominique didn’t bother to turn around and face him. Instead, she stared into the reflective surface until Mr. Cline finally realized what she was doing and his brown eyes met the reflection of her narrowed green ones. The man’s eyes widened as he finally realized what it was that he was in trouble for and even with the imperfect reflective surface the redhead was fairly certain that his normally ruddy complexion paled to a pasty white. She pivoted neatly on her heels to finally look directly at the man; he did look rather pale she decided with satisfaction.

“Mr. Cline,” Dominique said once more this time indicating with one pointing finger where she expected him to place himself in front of her. Like a condemned man walking to the gallows, the tall man slowly made his way over to stand in front of the redhead, and with every second that he cost her in getting this over with so that she could get up to her office, Dominique grew more irritated with the man’s overly melodramatic behavior.


“Ms. Destine,” he stammered nervously once he was finally standing in front of her, “I apologize…”

She didn’t let him get any further, “An apology will not suffice for your behavior,” the redhead snapped, “I expect you and Mr. Parker in my office in thirty minutes, I’ll leave it to you to explain to him why.” The elevator arrived with a chime and the doors opened, a few employees got out, giving the scene in front of them uncertain looks as they hurried by, Dominique gave the man one last chilly glare before stepping swiftly into the now empty elevator. Sharon, just a second behind her, managed to enter just before the doors closed. The redhead pushed the button for the thirteenth floor and turned to the younger woman with a smirk. “I wondered if someone would be foolish enough to do that after the Tattler article,” she commented.

Sharon looked at her with wide-eyed uncertainty, “Are you going to fire him?”

“No,” Dominique replied, “but by the time he’s done with today he will certainly never behave in that manner toward me again. And, as a bonus, since quite a few people saw me reprimanding him, it should take the news about two hours or so to make it around the building, therefore I won’t have to concern myself with doing it again. It was rather efficient of Mr. Cline to choose that particular time and location to forget how unwise it would be to do what he did.”

The younger woman stared at her, her expression a strange cross between admiration and appalled disbelief, “Are you even actually mad at him?” Dominique raised one eyebrow, her expression disapproving; at least they were alone in the elevator. “I’m sorry,” Sharon said, ducking her head slightly.

Dominique sighed, this was proving to be just as difficult to balance as she had suspected it would be, “I understand that us starting off with you staying at my house as my friend instead of as my personal assistant will make things slightly more difficult for you. And I need to figure out what the boundaries are as well. I’m not used to anyone questioning my decisions.” A faint smile curved her lips, “Except perhaps for Kendra, and she doesn’t question as much as point things out that I may not have considered.” She looked at the brunette thoughtfully for a moment, “I think it was more your expression that was problematic rather than the question itself,” she finally commented. Sharon nodded solemnly; the redhead looked at the utterly serious expression on her face and couldn’t help but smile. “I’m sure we will be able to work through it together if we try,” she said encouragingly. “As for your question, yes I am annoyed with him, but it’s tempered with the certainty that if it had not been him it would have probably been someone else.” Dominique watched the comprehension dawn on Sharon’s face with satisfaction.

The brunette frowned, “So what are you going to do to him?” she asked.

The redhead smirked, “Make his day miserable, I’m sure he will be calling me all sorts of unflattering names by the time four o’clock arrives.” Their usual closing time was five, but she was closing Nightstone an hour early today to give everyone a chance to get home and prepare for the dinner cruise.

The elevator doors opened and the two of them stepped out on the top floor. As they neared her secretary’s desk, Dominique paused and said to the dark skinned woman sitting at it, “Excellent catering choice Candice, dinner last night was superb.”

“Thank you Ms. Destine,” the woman replied, obviously startled. A hesitant, yet determined look crossed Candice’s face as she mustered up the courage to ask, “Your holiday party went well then?”

A brief smile warmed the redhead’s face, “Yes it did,” she confirmed. Dominique turned to the short haired brunette beside her, “Candice this is Sharon McDonald my new personal assistant, Sharon this is Candice Greene my secretary.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Sharon said politely as she held out a hand to shake.

Dominique waited until they were finished before telling Candice, “Mr. Parker and Mr. Cline should be here in approximately twenty-five minutes, let me know when they arrive. Also, please inform Mr. Burns that I’ll be sending Ms. McDonald down to Human Resources in about an hour.”

“Yes, Ms. Destine,” the woman replied.

“My office is there,” Dominique indicated the door with its plate announcing that it was the CEO’s office. “And this is your office,” Dominique said as she opened the first door on the left back towards the elevators from the reception area, and motioned for the brunette to enter first. It wasn’t a very large office, but because of its placement, it did have a window.

“Oh, this is nice,” Sharon commented as she looked around the area. She walked over to the desk and trailed a hand along it on her way to look out of the window.

The redhead watched her for a few minutes as she explored the room before commenting, “I need to go to my office and decide what reports Mr. Cline needs to finish before close of business today.” She stared at Sharon for a few seconds, wondering if it were best that the younger woman be present for the meeting or not present. “Do you think you can maintain a neutral expression during my meeting with Mr. Parker and Mr. Cline?” Before the brunette could reply Dominique warned, “He’ll be looking at you hoping for a clue as to what my intentions are, I don’t want that to happen.”

“It won’t,” Sharon vowed, “I’d like to be there.”

Approximately twenty minutes later the intercom line in Dominique’s office lit up. “Ms. Destine, Mr. Parker and Mr. Cline are here to see you,” Candice said when she picked up the line.

The redhead looked up at the younger woman who was standing beside her, she had been giving Sharon a quick overview of the company before Candice called. The brunette looked nervous. Dominique remembered Sharon talking to Kendra about playing poker with her brothers, and about how she had to develop a good poker face before she could win against her older siblings. “Poker face,” Dominique lowered the phone and murmured to her, the younger woman’s face instantly smoothed out into a noncommittal mask, and the redhead smirked. “Show them in,” she said into the phone before hanging it up.

She turned back to her computer and pulled up a few reports, ignoring the sound of her office door opening and then the two men entering. She continued to ignore them for several seconds as she looked over the information on her monitor. “Mr. Cline,” she said as she finally turned her attention to the two men standing stiffly in front of her desk, “Mr. Parker.”

“Ms. Destine,” they replied almost in unison.

The two men looked appropriately nervous, and Dominique could see both men’s eyes darting between herself and Sharon, doubtless wondering who the younger woman was and why she was there. Even though she couldn’t see the brunette because she was slightly behind her, the redhead knew that Sharon must be maintaining her neutral expression because neither man’s expression changed appreciably. The redhead gave her Procurement Division manager a chilly look, “Mr. Parker I trust that Mr. Cline has informed you of why you’re both standing in front of me this morning?”

The blonde haired man stiffened, “He was staring at you in an inappropriate manner,” he turned his head slightly and glared at the taller man beside him.

“I trust that it will not happen again,” Dominique finally addressed Mr. Cline.

“It will not Ms. Destine,” the tall thin man promised her emphatically, relief entering his eyes as he realized that she was not going to fire him.

She stared at him, her green eyes hard and still unforgiving, until his gaze dropped from her own uncertainly. She continued staring at him for a few seconds longer before turning to Mr. Parker, “Since Mr. Cline has the time on his hands to spend in such a manner, I would rather it be spent more productively since I am paying him for it.” She leaned back in her chair, “I see that the annual contract review hasn’t been completed yet, I would like to see substantial progress made on that today.”

He grimaced briefly before responding, “Yes, Ms. Destine I’ll make sure of it.”

“Please do, “she shifted her gaze to the brown haired man standing beside him, “I suggest you work quickly Mr. Cline since I expect to see you and your wife this evening at the Christmas party,” she said with cool disapproval.

His adam’s apple actually bobbed up and down as he swallowed nervously, “Yes, Ms. Destine,” he responded weakly.

Her eyes flicked away from him dismissively, “By the way this is my new personal assistant Ms. Sharon McDonald,” she said indicating the younger woman standing behind and off to the side of her, “Ms McDonald, Mr. Parker the Procurement Division manager and Mr. Cline the lead Contracts Officer in that Division.”

Sharon returned the two men’s greetings and when the door closed behind them, she turned to Dominique, a respectful look in her hazel eyes. “I don’t think he’ll do that again,” she noted

“That was the point of that exercise,” the redhead said with satisfaction.


Morning - Nightstone Unlimited HQ, Lower East Side Manhattan

“Mr. Robinson,” Dominique greeted the gravelly-voiced human who answered the phone, “I have some information I’d like you to track down for me.” This certainly wasn’t the first time she had spoken to this man, only in the past her requests had been for much less benign reasons and she hadn’t cared what he did to get the information she wanted. What had counted to her, and what still counted to her now, was the fact that he was thorough; she knew if the information was out there he would find it. “I’d prefer that you use legal methods when possible, I may need to use the information you gather in legal proceedings.”

There was a brief hesitation before he answered, “Alright, what information did you need?”

Dominique gave him the information she had on Robert, his parents and his aunt and uncle, “I’m specifically looking for information on the starting amount in his trust fund and the current amount, as well as where the Social Security payments he should be receiving are going. Also take a look at the Uncle’s tax information, I’m fairly certain that he’s using Robert’s trust fund to pay for Robert’s care and then claiming everything on his taxes.”

“We talking about the young guy in the wheelchair I saw on TV?”

The redhead frowned, apparently everyone had watched that broadcast, “Yes,” she answered shortly.

“Nice moves by you and that other woman,” he complemented her. “As for the info you want, a lot of that will be impossible to get completely legally even with a PI license. I can find the beginning trust fund information from when the courts set it up and where his Social Security payments are going, but current bank account balances and personal tax records are all non-public information, so getting access to them will be on the shady side of legal.”

“Do not take any risks, I do not want Mr. Edward Collins to realize that I’m looking into this,” Dominique instructed. She already knew that most of the information she wanted could not be legally obtained, and in the past she wouldn’t have even hesitated a second. This time she had, but she decided to proceed because she needed this information. She was almost certain that she would eventually need to either threaten Robert’s uncle with legal action or actually take legal action against him on Robert’s behalf.

“I never do,” he commented matter-of-factly, “I don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the legal line either.”

“Very well,” the redhead replied, “let me know when you have something. I’m very curious to know how much Robert’s trust fund held initially.”

“Will do,” he assured her before he hung up.

Five minutes later the intercom line lit up, “What is it Candice?”

“Ms. Destine,” Dominique frowned, her secretary sounded upset, something that was rare for Candice. “It’s that Quarryman, Castaway. He’s accusing Nightstone of making biological weapons and accusing you of attempting to release one of them last year in October. He was on the news just a few minutes ago.”

Dominique’s mind froze for a second, remembering the disc Robyn Canmore had stolen from Nightstone’s vault. Then she realized that Candice hadn’t mentioned gargoyles or a blue-skinned woman. “Ridiculous, and doubtless easy provable as such,” she commented dismissively, while hiding her relief. Obviously, Jon didn’t have the disc Robyn had stolen, or he would have certainly used it to support his claim and to renew his accusation that Dominique Destine turned into a gargoyle at night. She paused for a few seconds to consider her next course of action. “Candice please contact Mrs. Alford, Mrs. Sanders and Mr. Weiss and tell them to meet me in the conference room in thirty minutes. I’ve had enough of Mr. Castaway’s baseless attacks.” His announcement that she was actually a gargoyle had been more amusing than worrying given her recently acquired ability to remain human at night, but making accusations about her company was another matter.

Only a few minutes later, as she was scanning through a news report reading the rambling accusations Castaway had made against her, the intercom line lit up once again. “Yes, Candice?” Dominique queried absently, her attention still focused on what she was reading.

Her secretary responded uncertainly, “Ms. Canmore, Ms. McDonald and Ms. Jackson are here.”

The redhead glanced away from her monitor toward her office door with a smile, “Send them in,” she replied. She should have guessed they would hear the news of Jon’s latest announcement and want to see her. The door to her office opened and Kendra entered first, her expression tight, closed, betraying her upset with the situation and, Dominique suspected, her upset with her cousin. The other two women followed close behind her.

The black haired woman waited until the door closed before commenting in an annoyed tone, “I guess this is his response to your comment to the reporter Friday night,” an apologetic look followed her words.

Dominique returned it with a reassuring one, “I did suspect he would do something,” she responded. “I wasn’t, however, expecting this. It’s a good thing I had Dr. Sanders keep enough information on the carrier virus to show that it wasn’t capable of replicating.”

Margaret frowned, “What is D/I-7 anyway? Castaway called it a deadly chemical agent.”

Kendra snorted, “It’s nothing more than industrial strength Lysol,” she said dismissively.

“Lysol?” repeated Sharon, sounding confused, “you mean this stuff is cut with water and then used to mop the floors?”

“It’s an industrial strength cleaner and germicidal agent,” Dominique expanded some on Kendra’s explanation.

“I don’t understand,” Sharon frowned, her bewilderment clear, “what could that do when bound to a virus that can’t replicate? I mean unless you had a lot of it, and its deadly when ingested?”

Kendra gave the brunette a wry look, “A lot of it might have been bad, but she had maybe a quart of it and there was a sorcery spell on it to spread the liquid in the container across the entire planet.”

Margaret looked over at Dominique, “More of the Weird Sister’s work?” she asked quietly, her eyes sympathetic. The redhead nodded.

“I don’t understand” Sharon said looking back and forth between the redhead and Margaret, “Why would they want Demona to spread a small amount of cleaner around the globe? It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.”

Dominique sighed, she wished she didn’t need share this, but she didn’t want Sharon or Margaret to think that the incident with the carrier virus was something that it wasn’t. “They didn’t. The Weird Sisters cast an enchantment on me so that I would drive away any gargoyle I cared about to protect them from the Canmore hunters. The carrier virus and D/I-7 mix along with the sorcery I cast on it was to make the clan believe that I meant to wipe out the human race so that they would hate me. Not that I knew any of this at the time,” she said bitterly, “I only realized recently that the mixture would have done nothing even if it had been released.”

The younger woman stared at her, her hazel eyes revealing her dismay and sympathy. “If you prove that what Castaway is claiming is nonsense because the carrier virus can’t replicate on its own, then the clan will know the truth as well,” she pointed out.

The redhead was startled, she hadn’t thought about this situation being an opportunity for her to reveal at least some of the truth of what had actually been going on the night of the hunter’s moon. Was she ready for the clan to figure out the spell the three fey had placed upon her? Every time she contemplated the clan knowing just how much the Weird Sisters had controlled her behavior and actions over the past few years, Dominique felt embarrassed and humiliated. In many ways, it felt less terrible for the clan to go on thinking of her as evil, than for them to know the truth. The closest she had come to admitting it had been in her conversation last night with her daughter, when she had mentioned that so many things she had thought she had done for one reason were really for another.

“I’m sure Angela would like to know that you didn’t really intend to kill off humanity that night,” Kendra commented softly. Dominique stared at her mate indecisively, she didn’t doubt that Angela would rather know that the cylinder of fluid she had tossed in the air for Goliath to catch that night hadn’t actually been filled with a deadly plague. She just didn’t know if she were quite ready for her daughter to know just how completely she had been under the three feys' control.

Forty five minutes later in the conference room, “My primary concern is that Castaway’s lawyer will use the discovery process as a cover to go through the company records including those detailing our current research,” Mr. Weiss said, “Once they’re discovered they go into the court record and then they’re public records that anyone can read.”

Dominique frowned at him, “Just how likely do you think it is that the judge in the case will let them do that?” She didn’t like the idea of Castaway being able to use being prosecuted for libel as an excuse to go through her company records. Not that there was anything he could use to support his accusation in them, but there were several things that she didn’t want her competitors to know, such as what the company was currently researching and the company’s plans for their future acquisitions.

He grimaced, “Judges have been very lenient in several cases with letting the defense lawyer go though just about any type of company record they want, and arguments that they’re revealing proprietary company information to the public haven’t been very effective.” He shrugged, “Judges typically side with the defendant when it comes to giving them access to records to prove their innocence.”

The redhead scowled, “So prosecuting John Castaway for libel would likely end up hurting the company more than it would punish him.”

“Most likely,” the company’s lawyer agreed unhappily.

Dr. Sanders spoke up, “We have the information to prove that what he’s claiming simply isn’t possible and we can voluntarily go through a CDC review to prove that we haven’t been developing any biological weapons.”

The redhead clenched her fists under the table, either way this information would have to come out. She glanced over at the woman sitting beside her, Kendra didn’t say anything, but her sapphire blue eyes held understanding and sympathy. Dominique turned her attention back to the other’s at the table with a sigh, “Very well, do what needs to be done to prove that Mr. Castaway’s accusations are lies. I won’t have Nightstone’s reputation tarnished in this manner.”


After Sunset - Wyvern Castle atop the Eyrie Building, Upper Manhattan

The clan had watched Jon Canmore’s accusation and then the press release by Nightstone’s public relations person explaining why what Castaway was claiming was impossible because the virus he was referring to had been specifically designed not to be able to replicate. Given that the cleaning agent Castaway mentioned couldn’t replicate either, the combination of the two would at most be hazardous to someone who came into direct contact with a significant amount of the material. Now they were watching the CDC investigator, who had been invited by Nightstone to audit their company, release his preliminary findings.

“I have reviewed the company records on the carrier virus and wish to assure everyone that all statements made by Nightstone in reference to it have been truthful and accurate. Though the virus was designed to have a wide range of infection vectors, it was also engineered to not be able to replicate. When combined with an agent that is itself also unable to replicate such as the D/I-7 mentioned, it would take several thousand gallons of the combined substance to present any widespread threat to the general public. The small amount mentioned would have presented no significant risk to the public health.” The man on the podium waited a second for the press people standing in the room to quiet, “Furthermore all stocks of the carrier virus were destroyed several weeks ago and any information which would lead a researcher into replicating how the virus was made has also been destroyed.”

The CDC investigator had to wait once again for the noise in the room to die down, “Nightstone has in the past had in its possession a few hazardous viral agents for research purposes, however, all of those agents were disposed of at the same time as the carrier virus. In addition, Nightstone Unlimited has turned over to the CDC all their research papers detailing their efforts to design a vaccination for diseases such as Ebola and Hantavirus that have some very promising leads. I wish to thank the CEO of Nightstone, Dominique Destine, on behalf of the CDC for turning this valuable information over to us for further research.”

As they watched the man exit the room Xanatos muted the broadcast, “Well that proved to be more interesting than I had anticipated,” he noted thoughtfully. “I didn’t realize that Nightstone had been doing any research into infectious agents.”

“I don’t understand,” Broadway commented, puzzled, “Why did Demona say that she had created a plague when she hadn’t?”

“They’re lying,” Brooklyn responded confidently, “Demona must have changed the company records to make it look like the carrier virus couldn’t replicate. She’s still trying to pretend that she’s changed.” The reddish male would have said something more, but the frowns on both Goliath and Elisa’s faces stopped him. He looked around the room, no one looked as if they agreed with him and Angela was looking at him as if she really disliked him and was not just angry with him anymore.

Angela turned away from the clan’s second in command dismissively, “Or she didn’t realize that it wasn’t at the time,” she commented, looking at her father. Her mother’s cryptic comments about learning that she had been doing things for reasons other than what she had thought they were started making more sense to the young female. She felt a flare of concern for her mother; she couldn’t imagine how the prideful gargoyle she knew was dealing with the idea that some of her actions hadn’t been under her control.

“Hmm,” Goliath rumbled thoughtfully, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with his daughter. He turned to the human woman standing beside him, “We need to speak to Kendra Canmore.”

Elisa nodded, “Nightstone is having their corporate Christmas party tonight. I’ll try tomorrow.” She didn’t know quite what to believe; just a week ago, she would have sided with Brooklyn unhesitatingly. Now though, she wasn’t so certain, and in fact, she suspected that this might be the truth. The dark eyed woman turned toward Xanatos, “What did you do with that canister?” she asked curiously.

“We destroyed it after exposing it to ultraviolet light and radiation to kill the carrier virus,” David responded.

“So no way to find out if she’s telling the truth about it,” Elisa commented.

He shook his head, “Honestly it never occurred to me that she wasn’t, so we immediately took every step we could to neutralize whatever was in the canister and then we incinerated what was left.”

Brooklyn looked around disbelievingly. After everything that Demona had done to the clan, he couldn’t understand how everyone was falling for this scheme of hers. Grimness filled him; he would remain quiet for now, all he had to do was to wait for Demona to reveal her true nature as he was certain would eventually happen.


Night – Chelsea Pier, Lower Manhattan

Nightstone employees making their way towards the ship paused to stare in curiosity as the limousine carrying Dominique Destine’s party pulled up to the pier preceded and followed by black Suburban’s with the Masada Security logo on the front doors. Security personnel exited from the two SUV’s forming a perimeter around the limousine, staring with stern looks toward the few freelance photographers hanging around the area. After a few seconds of listening to the headset in his ear, the team leader nodded toward the driver’s window. The photographers started converging only to pause nervously as the dark suited men and women from the security company took up aggressive stances and gave them cold glares, letting them know they wouldn’t be particularly gentle with them when it came to protecting the occupants of the limousine.

The limo door opened and Gregory got out with a quick look around at the area before he walked around the limousine to open one of the wide passenger doors. Kendra, her glossy black hair tied back in a ponytail at the nape of her neck and wearing a black tuxedo with a sapphire blue cummerbund and bowtie that matched the color of her eyes, exited first. She paused and looked around the area, ignoring the photographers madly clicking away after a quick searching glance at their ranks. The next person to exit the limousine was Macbeth, looking stern and dignified in his black tuxedo and wine red bowtie and cummerbund as he took position on the other side of the open limo door from Kendra.

Together the two of them held out a hand to help the next occupant from the vehicle. Dominique Destine, her brilliantly red hair partially swept up into an intricate bun, and the remainder left cascading down her back, was wearing one of her trademark red full-length gowns and a cream-colored cashmere cape. She stood for a moment between Macbeth and Kendra, regally ignoring the photographers who were taking pictures of her before stepping forward so that the others could get out of the limousine. Rachael, wearing a cream-colored gown, was next, followed by Sharon, in a black tuxedo, and finally Margaret, dressed in a burgundy gown.

As soon as everyone had exited from the limousine, Kendra offered her arm to Dominique, causing a fresh wave of bright flashing lights as the photographers immediately took note of the action. Behind them, Macbeth did the same for Rachael, leaving Sharon standing by Margaret, who was almost a foot taller in her heels than the shorter woman. The brunette grinned at the taller woman as she offered her arm to her and with an amused look Margaret accepted the offer.

The security force closed in around them as the group moved towards the gangplank, keeping back the photographers who were shouting questions at Dominique about the nature of the relationship between her and Kendra Canmore. “Well that didn’t take them long,” Kendra commented quietly to the redhead as they stepped onto the gangway and were immediately motioned forward by the ship’s crew. From here, they could hear the Christmas music playing on the ship.

“I didn’t figure it would,” Dominique responded calmly. Oddly, now that it was done, she felt better. Her hand tightened around Kendra’s forearm, this was the one she wanted to be her mate and she was tired of feeling as if she was hiding that fact, of acting like it was something that should be hidden. She felt more than saw Kendra glance over at her, her green eyes met her lover’s blue-eyed gaze and she gave the black haired woman a reassuring smile.

Her decision for Kendra to be her escort tonight had instigated a rather long discussion between them earlier, the black haired woman more than willing, but questioning the wisdom of doing this so soon after the Quarrymen’s attack and the resulting publicity surrounding it. Dominique knew Kendra was right, doing this tonight meant that the news would generate more interest than if they had waited even a few weeks. She, however, wasn’t regretting her action, or at least she hoped that she wouldn’t regret it. The only person that could make her rue this decision would be her daughter, and she hoped that Angela was open minded enough to accept the idea that her mother had chosen a woman for her mate.

They stepped onto the deck of the ship, through the perfectly clear windows showing the interior of the ship Dominique could see waiters finishing setting the first deck dining hall, which stretched almost the full length of the interior space. “Ms. Destine, Ms. Canmore” Ms. Ann Wright’s cultured voice drew the redhead’s attention, the tall, slender blonde was wearing a wine red dress. Beside her, in a black double-breasted suit, stood a shorter woman with curly brown hair, brown eyes and a warm, friendly smile. Ms. Wright’s blue eyes focused on Dominique’s hand upon Kendra’s forearm and she smiled. “This is my partner Jennifer Taylor,” she introduced the woman beside her.

Dominique felt her jaw drop just slightly in surprise before she regained control of her expression. “Ms. Taylor, pleased to meet you,” she managed to respond. Reminded by the clearing of a masculine throat behind them that they were blocking the other’s from boarding the ship, she and Kendra moved out of the way so that the other’s could step onto the deck. Dominique introduced her Operations Division manager and her partner to the other’s, hiding her amusement at the surprised look in Ann’s eyes at seeing Sharon escorting Margaret onto the ship. Really, it was only fair that she be able to surprise the blonde in return after being so completely blindsided by the revelation that there was yet another gay Division manager in her company. She hoped there was no one else. Kendra, Ann Wright, Jean Pierre, and Jordan Conrad made up exactly half of her senior management; no one would ever believe she hadn’t done this on purpose.

“Ms. Destine,” Jean Pierre’s deep, distinctive French accented voice announced his arrival onto the ship. The redhead smiled as she took in the handsome, slender man standing next to her Research and Development Division manager, she could guess who this was from what Kendra had said about Jean’s partner. “May I introduce my partner Andre LeClair.”

“Enchanted to meet you Ms. Destine,” Andre had a pleasant tenor voice Dominique noticed as he introduced himself.

“Mr. LeClair, I’ve heard quite a few things about you from Kendra,” the redhead commented with a smile, talking in the tailored expensive looking tuxedo he was wearing. Kendra had described him as dapper and from what she saw the description fit Andrew LeClair very well.

Bowing slightly he lifted her hand and kissed the back of it, “Everything flattering she said about me is entirely true, and anything less than flattering is an outrageous lie,” he declared as he released her hand.

Kendra’s laugh rang out at this, “Andre,” she greeted him warmly, “it’s been too long.”

He smiled at her, “Darling, you are saving me some dances aren’t you?”

To Dominique’s amusement, Kendra drawled in reply, matching his cadence and accent almost perfectly, “Of course darling, how could I possibly do anything else.”

Twenty minutes later as the ship pulled out of port, Macbeth and Rachael found Dominique and Kendra standing on the upper deck watching the city skyline. The constant scrutiny and interest in them had worn on the redhead’s nerves, so they had retreated up here before she stopped simply glaring at the watchers and started snapping at them. “Well you two are pretty much the topic of conversation right now,” he commented, his tone carefully neutral. Dominique thought, looking at his expression, that her old king probably thought this hadn’t been the most prudent idea she had ever had and she had to admit that she hadn’t expected simply having Kendra escort her would attract this much attention from everyone. They hadn’t even danced together yet.

“Except for those discussing the number of Division managers who are gay,” Rachael added.

The former king inquired, “How did you manage that anyway?” He’d been rather curious ever since he realized just how many gay managers in Demona’s company there were, as far as he knew she had still hated humans when she began the company.

Dominique ignored the quiet snicker from the woman beside her as she gave him a wry look, “I didn’t. It’s completely accidental.”

Macbeth stared at her disbelievingly, but he could see the truth in her green eyes.

“I have to admit that I find it hard to believe that it was completely accidental,” Rachael commented thoughtfully. “Have you ever had much to do with gays before this?”

The redhead stared at her, nonplused, “Not closely,” she responded after a moment, glancing around the area to make sure that no one could overhear the conversation. “And certainly not well enough to allow me to pick them out from the other’s I was considering for such a position after only ten or fifteen minutes of conversation with them.”

Rachael frowned, “There is that.”

“So this is where you got off to,” Margaret’s voice drew all their attention as she came up the stairs and headed their way. “It’s almost time for dinner and everyone’s waiting for you,” she said to Dominique.

“Wonderful,” the redhead muttered under her breath. “Where’s Sharon,” she asked in a more normal tone as she noticed the younger woman hadn’t accompanied the Bison’s chosen.

Margaret sniffed self-pityingly and mimed dabbing at her eye, “She dumped me for another woman.”

Dominique’s eyebrow rose, and her lips curved in a small smile at the taller woman’s antics. It didn’t take but a second for her mind to bring up a possible name. “Jordan Conrad?”

“That would have been my guess,” Kendra commented as she started leading them toward the staircase.

Margaret nodded, “I believe that was the young woman’s name that lured her away from me.”

“Tisk, tisk,” the black haired woman commented with a grin, “I’ll have to have words with her about being such a heartless cad.”

The tall woman laughed, “I knew I could depend on you to defend my honor, Kendra.”

The redhead heard Macbeth’s amused sounding snort from behind her as they started down the winding staircase.

Kendra leaned over whispered in her ear, “Whose company is this?”

Dominique glanced over at her with a frown, “Mine,” she responded in just as quiet a tone.

“Remember that and you’ll remind them of that fact,” the black haired woman commented softly.

The redhead’s step slowed for the merest faction of a second as she thought about Kendra’s statement. Her back straightened and her chin lifted just slightly as they continued down the staircase past the second deck and on their way to the dining room on the first. Nightstone was her company and these were her employees, it would indeed be wise for them to remember that and quit gawking at her and Kendra as if they were some type of carnival sideshow. During dinner, Dominique didn’t care whether it was her attitude or simply that enough time had passed for everyone to get over their surprise, she was relieved that she was able to eat her dinner, a decent if not excellent prime rib, without feeling as if everyone in the room was watching every bite she took.

As soon as the waiters cleared away the plates, Mrs. Merrill stood up and walked to the podium and microphone near the front of the room. “Good evening everyone. I hope you enjoyed your dinner, I know I certainly did,” she commented. There was some appreciative back and forth commentary about the meal before she waved for them to be quiet once again. “Some of you have heard rumors of new employee benefits being instituted next year…well the rumors are true.” This time the murmuring that filled the room held more of a surprised note. “Without any more ado, I want to introduce the person who came to me and gave me a list of new benefits she wanted to provide to her employees, our CEO Dominique Destine.”

As everyone turned their attention her way, Dominique rose and made her way to the podium, trying to ignore the unexpected nervousness she felt at seeing the dumbfounded surprise in most of her employee’s eyes. Apparently, most had either not heard or dismissed the rumors that she was the one who had initiated this and not someone else. Of course before Canada and before the Ancient One had asked her to be his chosen, she would have never done such a thing, so she guessed she couldn’t really blame them for not expecting this from her. That thought reminded her of why she was here, and that tonight was the beginning of her fulfillment of one of the tasks the Irish Elk spirit had set her. Her nerves calmed, and she took Mrs. Merrill’s place in front of the podium with renewed confidence.

She had debated for hours about what to say tonight, whether to refer even obliquely to what had happened in Canada and the influence it had on her. “I suspect it comes as no surprise to any of you that I expect each of you to give me your best effort while you are at work,” she began, looking around and seeing the expected puzzled look on several nearby faces. “I expect that because I’ve been giving Nightstone my own best effort over the past two years as we’ve grown from a small startup company to the third largest in Manhattan.”

Dominique paused a second to draw in a breath, what she was about to say was as personal as she felt comfortable with admitting tonight. “Recent events have given me time to reflect both on Nightstone Unlimited’s past and where I want to see the company go during the next five to ten years. To get to that future that I’m envisioning however, I needed to make some changes in how I see the company. Nightstone Unlimited is more than just a building and financial reports of how well the company is performing. None of what I’ve accomplished at Nightstone in the past few years would be possible without your efforts,” she said sincerely looking around the room and meeting the gaze of several different people. Ms. Wright, Mr. Pierre, Mrs. Merrill, Mr. Tanaka, Mr. Parker and Mr. Burns, who had replaced Mr. Cleveland, and Ms. Conrad. Dominique looked around some more searching out the last person she was looking for and nodded to Candice, who was sitting with her husband near the back of the room. She had to smile just a little at the dumfounded and pleased expression on her secretary’s face as she singled the woman out for acknowledgement.

“In recognition of everyone’s efforts and Nightstone’s resulting success, starting in two months the company will be instituting flexible working hours and opportunities for telecommuting. In June, during our regular benefits open season, Nightstone will be adding elder and child care pre-tax savings accounts to our regular benefit offerings. Also at that time, the medical benefits currently offered to legal spouses will be extended to the domestic partners of our gay and bi-sexual employees.” She let the noise that followed her announcement die down before continuing, “Nightstone Unlimited will do more than just guarantee an equal employment opportunity, it will treat all of its employees equally in every respect and from now on that will include the benefits extended to the significant other’s of all Nightstone’s employees. If you come across a company benefit that is offered to legal spouses and not domestic partners please bring it to the attention of Mrs. Merrill and she will bring it to my attention and I will see what I can do about extending the scope of that benefit.”

This time when she paused there was almost no noise at all, she smirked briefly in amusement and then grew serious once again. “These will not be the last of the changes at Nightstone Unlimited, as we move forward into the new year I will be asking for suggestions on how to make all company processes more environmentally friendly, from the basic such as how to reduce the amount of paper we use each day to our manufacturing processes and waste disposal systems. In addition, I’ll be asking Mrs. Merrill to head up an employee committee to choose a maximum of six worthy causes for the company to officially sponsor.” She glanced over at the woman who had an obviously astonished look on her face, “I’ve noticed that you seem to do this unofficially so I hope you don’t mind adding this to your regular duties?”

The woman gathered herself together and shook her head, “I don’t mind it at all.”

“Good,” Dominique replied. She turned her attention back to everyone else, “In addition to officially sponsoring these charities, Nightstone Unlimited will match all employee donations.” She glanced over once again at the chestnut haired woman, “I believe the current unofficial one is a donation to the local food bank?” Mrs. Merrill nodded, staring at her wide-eyed. “We’ll start tonight then and match whatever donations you’ve collected for them.”

“Ms. Destine,” Jean Pierre stood up. She gave him a curious look before nodding for him to speak. “Some of us haven’t yet made our donations to Mrs. Merrill for that,” he gave her a winning smile.

Dominique could feel her eyebrow rise, she shook her head slightly, “Indeed,” she commented dryly. She wasn’t quite certain how she felt about this turn of events, but then she had expected that her employees would want to donate more if they knew she was doing this, it was just starting earlier than she had anticipated. She gave the ebony skinned man one last considering look before turning back to Mrs. Merrill, “Very well, I’ll wait for your final amount until the ship docks.”

“Thank you Ms. Destine,” the chestnut haired woman’s stunned expression faded, replaced by a pleased smile at this news.

The redhead turned back to the rest of her employees, more than ready to finish this speech, “I know I don’t express it very often,” her voice softened slightly, “but I do appreciate and value the efforts each of you have and will continue to make towards making Nightstone Unlimited one of the most successful companies in New York City. With that I’ll turn the podium back over to Mrs. Merrill,” she breathed out a silent sigh of relief as she stepped away. The sound of clapping surprised her and she turned around to stare in surprise, her employees were standing and clapping for her. Dominique didn’t know quite what to do, she hadn’t expected this reaction, and she found the reality of humans applauding her actions extremely odd to say the least.

“I’m sure the food bank will appreciate Nightstone’s donation Ms. Destine,” Mrs. Merrill assured her as soon as everyone took their seats once again. Dominique nodded in acknowledgement and then as dignified as possible, retreated back to the safety of her table.

Dominique settled into her seat with a feeling of relief, she glanced over when an olive toned hand settled on her own, Kendra’s fingers intertwining with her paler ones. The black haired woman’s blue eyes held pride and gentle amusement, “I didn’t know you were going to do that.”

“It’s something I’ve been considering for the past few days, most companies have a few charities they donate to,” the redhead explained quietly. Kendra nodded, and turned her attention back to the room. Dominique did the same, watching quietly as people started making their way to the lower deck where the dance floor and bar were located. After a few minutes, the fingers woven between her own squeezed lightly and she turned her attention back to her lover.

“Would you like to go downstairs?” Kendra asked. Dominique nodded, between the looks they had gotten when Kendra escorted her to the ship and the glances toward their intertwined hands a few minutes ago; she suspected very few of her employees would be that shocked when they danced together. The smile on Kendra’s face brightened as they descended the staircase side by side, “I like this song,” the black haired woman commented. Dominique turned her attention to the music playing, hearing the beat of the music and then the soft jingling of bells. It wasn’t anything she immediately recognized.

“The mood is right,” Dominique glanced over as Kendra began singing along with the male singer, “the spirits up,” the sapphire blue eyes were warm as they gazed back at her. “We’re here tonight, and that’s enough.” The redhead smiled as Kendra continued, “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time, simply having a wonderful Christmas time.”

“The party’s on
The feeling’s here,
That only comes,
This time of year,”

As Kendra turned to look at her with an astonished and pleased expression Dominique quietly joined her on the chorus, “Simply having a wonderful Christmas time, simply having a wonderful Christmas time.” The redhead elbowed the black haired woman in the side to get her to quit staring; she hardly wanted anyone else to notice her doing this. Her reputation had surely been damaged enough tonight without her employees noticing her singing a Christmas song.

About an hour later, Dominique and Macbeth were dancing together, while Kendra was dancing with Rachael. “I don’t know which shocks your employees more,” he commented quietly and Dominique glanced up at him curiously wondering what he was referring to, “Seeing you and Kendra together, or seeing how happy you are with her.” Dominique’s green eyes widened in surprise and he smiled gently, “It’s pretty obvious how much you care for her when you look at her, and it’s just as obvious when she looks at you.”

She felt her face heat and noticed the smile on Macbeth’s face grow wider, “I love her,” she admitted, “and I want her to be my mate.”

He studied her face for a moment before asking, “So what’s stopping you from asking her?”

Dominique sighed, looking longingly at the beautiful woman dancing with Rachael, “It’s just been over a month now that I’ve known her.”

His smile was bittersweet, “I knew from almost the moment I met Gruoch that I wanted her to be my wife. Sometimes it doesn’t take long, you just know.” The redhead squeezed his hand holding hers as they danced even as her eyes sought out the Cree woman. Rachael and Macbeth had appeared to be getting along very well this evening. “Ach, don’t turn into a matchmaker at this late date Dominique,” he grumbled, his gaze following hers.

His words had her glancing up into his eyes, “Why not,” she challenged him, “Gruoch wouldn’t mind you seeking happiness again, she wasn’t a selfish person.”

He looked sadly thoughtful as he replied, “I’ve only got twenty or thirty years left, remember the enchantments on us are broken.”

Her eyebrow rose, and she snorted at him dismissively, “If you hadn’t noticed Rachael isn’t a young hatchling either, you two are about the same age. And what difference does it make whether it’s five or ten or fifty years? If you two find out that you can love one another, why shouldn’t you spend that time together instead of alone?” It did help that she knew full well that Macbeth wouldn’t die of old age until he was ready to leave this life, Dominique thought as she finished speaking.

Macbeth gave her an exasperated look, but before he could say anything else the song was over and the redhead was stepping away from him. Kendra and Rachael had stopped next to them and Dominique had eyes only for the woman that she loved as the next song began and she stepped into Kendra’s waiting arms.

“A drink?” Rachael commented as she took his arm and walked toward the edge of the dance floor.

Macbeth listened to the words of the song now playing and flushed slightly, this was definitely a lover’s dance, no wonder Dominique had wanted to dance this with Kendra. “That would be nice, I’m a bit parched.” As they made their way through the crush of people around the bar he commented to the dark haired woman, “I didn’t realize Dominique was that familiar with much popular music,” he said thinking about how the redhead had known what the song was before the first words had even been sung.

“She and Kendra were practicing their dancing earlier today for tonight; this was one of the song’s they danced to,” Rachael responded.

“Oh,” Macbeth gave her a surprised look as they finally found an open space to attract the bartender’s attention. He hadn’t considered the fact that Demona wouldn’t have known how to dance until now. “Another Perrier water?” he inquired.

“Please,” the Cree woman nodded.

He turned and looked for the two women as he waited for the bartender to get the two drinks. Kendra was leading the redhead through a series of intertwining steps and hand exchanges before they came together once again. Demona certainly wasn’t looking like a novice dancer out there, “They look good together,” he said

“They do don’t they, I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people fall harder or faster for one another.” Rachael observed quietly, a pleased expression on her face, “Dominique’s changed so much from when I first met her, it’s hard to remember the suspicious closed off person I first met.”

Macbeth paid for the two drinks and handed Rachael’s mineral water to her before looking at the two women dancing together once again. There was a calm, confident, serenity to Demona that he simply didn’t recall ever seeing before in the gargoyle. His eyes went to the intriguing woman standing beside him sipping her water. There was something in this woman’s eyes, a wisdom that called to him, whispering that this was an equal despite the fact that he was nine centuries older than she. Perhaps Demona was right and there was something to be said for not being alone anymore.
 
 
 
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