I am back again. Here's part 2!

Chapter 9: Paranoia, Pt. 2

When Ford first awoke, he didn't move. He felt warm and heavy, and was tempted to let himself fall back asleep again. But he felt like there was something he was supposed to be doing. Something important. Jolting upright, Ford glanced around himself in a panic. It took him a moment to realize that he was no longer in the lab, but in his brothers room.

With a grumble, he shoved off the sheets. Everything was blurry around him. It took him a moment to realize his glasses were missing. And several more minutes to locate them. When he had, he realized that there was a note with them. Holding it up, he read over the messy handwriting, done in thick black marker.

"Stop staying up so late,
Nerd. Get some sleep and
some food before you end
up killing yourself. You're
dumb science project can wait.

Scowling, he went about finding and pulling on his boots, then his trench coat on the way out the door. He shoved the note in his pants pocket.

Taking a wild guess for time based on the sun slanting through the windows, it was either very early in the morning or nearly night. "An entire day; wasted." he grumbled. Walking into the kitchen, he went about fixing a cup of coffee.

"A little late for coffee, isn't it Poindexter?" a gruff voice behind him asked.

Jumping, Ford whirled around, dropping his mug. It smashed against the floor, pieces scattering in the dark liquid. He glared at his twin, crossing his arms. "I need to get back to work." he returned shortly, looking around for something to clean up his mess. Stanley waved him off.

"Make yourself something to eat, I'll take care of this." he left and returned with a mop and bucket.

Ford shot him a bit of a glare, but grabbed some bread and threw it in the toaster. For several long minutes, they remained silent. "How long was I asleep?" Ford eventually asked, smearing jelly and peanut butter on the bread to make a sandwich.

"Well, I'm not entirely sure; early this morning you were asleep at your desk." he pointed at the floor to indicate which desk. "And it's close to ten at night now; you're digging too deep into your work, Poindexter; again." Stanley rolled his eyes, dumping glass shards in the garbage can and putting th mop away.

Ford bristled, turning from his yet-to-be-eaten food. "Stan, you wouldn't understand." he replied, struggling to keep himself under control. "I have to protect this place," and the people in it, he added silently. "Not only is the Shapeshifter out there, plotting vengeance, but a gargoyle, too, that could easily return and tear us all to shreds. And here I stand, with nothing to use against it!"

"Then just shoot it again, dummy; shoot both of them, for all I care." Stanley rolled his eyes, turning to the fridge.

Ford glared at him, food forgotten entirely. "Do you not realize how dangerous the shapeshifter is? He can look like anyone, and anything! He tried to trick me, and almost killed me; if he got out into town, he could become anyone; it'd be chaos!"

Stanley shrugged, turning to the stove with a carton of eggs. "You beat him once, you can do it again; you're being paranoid."

Ford growled under his breath. "There's also a gargoyle to contend with, Stanley; a gargoyle!" his voice raised to almost a shout. "Even in a weakened state, he tore apart a cage made of solid steel like it were toothpicks; toothpicks, Stan!" he grabbed Stanley by the front of his suit and shook him.

Stanley gave him a glare of his own and shoved him off. "It's not like it's coming back. Calm down, you nerd." he was getting annoyed with all of this paranoid behavior.

Ford looked at him incredulously. "You don't know that; it could just be plotting before coming back to kill us." he snapped back. He gestured wildly towards Stanley's neck. "It could've killed you, Stan! You've still got bruises from that thing."

It was true; though fading, bruises were apparent. Stanley touched his neck with a scowl. "Yes, but you were sorta holding that other . . . creature at Sci-fi laser-gunpoint. Given the same nearly killed him, I'd say he had a right to be freaking out." he wasn't entirely sure why he was standing up for the gargoyle, despite the fact the Ford was right; it could've killed him.

Maybe it was because he'd met the Cervitaur before, and the mention of not a 'herd', but just of others who cared for him . . . he'd put it together, but he'd made a promise not to tell. Maybe it was the part about not wanting to be hunted down . . . which Stanley had experienced many a time, with Rico and his gang, plus others.

"And besides that, he was only holding me; in a rock-solid grip perhaps, but not enough to choke, my thrashing gave me these bruises. Quit acting like a fretting Betty!"

Ford stared at him. "Then what do you suggest I do, then? Just ignore it and hope it goes away?" he asked rhetorically, sarcasm dripping off of every word.

"Sure, sounds great to me!" Stanley shot back. "Anything to get you to stop yapping for awhile as if our deaths were nigh. " he raised a fist mockingly towards the sky before scoffing.

Ford glared at him, turning to swipe his sandwich off the plate, stomping back towards the vending machine. "Hmph. I'll just figure something out on my own then." he grumbled.

He was stopped by a pair of twins standing in the doorway. "Grunkle Ford? Is there any way . . . we could help?" Dipper asked. Both were in their pj's, and looked up at him with earnest and worried faces. They'd probably overheard most of the 'conversation'.

Ford paused a long moment, but just as he was about to answer, Stanley shouldered his way past, nudging Dipper and Mabel towards the stairs. "Look, you can all do whatever you're gonna do tomorrow; but for now, go to bed and get some rest." he looked over his shoulder at his twin, narrowing his eyes. "That means you too, Poindexter. Play 'Preparing for our Utter Doom and Demise' with the kids tomorrow if you're gonna."

Ford continued to glower at him for a long moment before turning on his heel and heading for the basement again. He took a large bite out of his sandwich, punched in the code, and shut the vending machine behind him with a little more force than was probably necessary.

Upon finally getting back to the lab and his work space, he realized his papers were messy and disorganized. With another grumble, he wiped his bread crumb hands off on his trousers and went about fixing up his work space.

He tried to focus on his work, but it kept getting more frustrating at every twist and turn. He was getting himself no where; he had no real way of tracking the shapeshifter down, and no clue on what he should do about the gargoyle.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Think of it logically; list what you know." he said aloud; but quietly, suspicious even now that something might be listening to him in the darkness. So he did just that. There wasn't much, but it was admittedly better than nothing.

The gargoyles' state to being shot by a three-caliber laser gun, how long it lasted whilst bleeding out, the appearance and scent of the blood, how it looked, sounded, etc. Theories and guesses to the pawprints and feathers and glass shards that preluded its sudden recovery. Reactions to him circling it, it's ability to tear apart solid steel and eat it like a piece of candy.

The only things he really had to work with were how it had shied away from the flashlight beam and the use of laser gun. Then, there was the fact that it had done almost nothing when he'd held the Cervitaur at gunpoint. Nothing that would egg him on to elicit harm onto it, anyway. He also had to wonder why the Shapeshifter had not turned back to its natural form.

He had, after all, hit him, perhaps not in a vital spot, but he still should've turned back involuntarily. Yet he didn't. Baffling and rather unnerving. And why was there a human girl with them? She certainly acted like she was one of them . . . one of them.

Grabbing up the first journal, Ford flipped through the pages, stopping when he found the page. Cervitaurs; it held a rough sketch of one he'd seen years ago. The creature had been flighty and rather on the desperate side.

It had been winter, after all, and apparently he had no herd to stay with. Freezing and starving as he was, he'd allowed the scientist to give him a blanket and some food in exchange for answering some questions. There had been a mention of a group that he stayed with, though they were running out of food. And the snows were too deep and farms to far away to have any hope of stealing some hay bales to take home.

He'd been able to learn very little, in fact, about the creature or where it lived. It's stomach seemed able to handle human food like bread and butter just fine, and it spoke of eating hay, as well. It was unclear if they grew antlers like regular deer, but by about that time, the Cervitaur was getting edgy. Pupils shrinking while his eyes went wide, he had swiped the rest of the bread loaf and tried to run.

The blanket was still tucked over his flanks, secured by a rough leather belt. With a deer-like noise, he'd suddenly pulled a rough stone knife from his belt when Ford tried to approach. It had jagged, serrated edges, and he looked more than ready to slice at him with it. The blank terror about his face and rough, ragged pants seemed to indicate something akin to a panic attack.

In the end, a broken window, blood, a missing blanket, and tracks in the snow were the only signs the Cervitaur had ever been there. While intriguing, he'd never seen the creature again, and given it's tracks looked like any other deers' with no difference -none that he could see, anyway- he had no hope of effectively tracking it.

Now, as he looked the entry over again, he couldn't help but think. If there was no herd out there, then were did this new, and clearly younger Cervitaur come from? And what about this "group", as the elder had put it, years ago? Was there some sort of gathering between the paranormal creatures out there, those who were few and far between? Banded together as a means to survive? But how did they get there? Or how did each individual species grow so scarce in this area?

Ford had no answers to these questions, but he needed to figure out which direction to go from here. After several more hours of thinking, theorizing and crossing out ideas, he settled on a coarse of action.

Shawn walked out of the cave the next morning, taking a deep breath of fresh air. The sun had only just risen, the sky turning shades of blue. When he'd been first allowed to leave the cave, it had been night; and the first time in years that he'd seen the stars. It had struck him into a shocked silence, and even after recovering from it, he hadn't been able to speak for long afterwards, simply gazing up at the sky until dawn.

He knew the others found it rather amusing at the time, but he found, to his own surprise, that he hadn't and still didn't care. Now, he was looking for a certain gargoyle. It didn't take too long to find him.

Kaden was currently settled and tucking into a meal. Or, the remains of it. He was quite the mess, though. Blood smeared over his coat, face and hands, snapping bones in half to lick at the marrow inside. From the looks of it, he hadn't bothered to try saving the pelt, either. Nor had he changed out of the ragged clothes he had worn when he was captured. He startled upon seeing the human, standing across the small clearing.

"Oh! Ah, Shawn, uh . . ." he looked down at himself and wiped at his mouth. "What are you doing out here?" he asked.

Shawn walked over and crouched next to him. The gargoyle eyed him, but only moved a hand to pull the last few bones closer. "Looking for you. Everyone still thinks you should rest a little more."

"I can't; I slept for two days and everyone needs to eat. It's not all about me." he shot back. He was tense. Shawn could read it in the ways his ears swiveled and focused on sounds far away, that only he could catch, wings hiking up higher on his back, tail curling close to his heels.

"I may or may not know everything about our little group," he got a bit of a look for that, "but I don't think they'll mind if you take it easy awhile longer. They worry for you." he finished.

". . ." Kaden stared at him. "I can't rest. Did you . . . " he gained a frantic, incredulous look. A wing moved to lightly knock against the mans' shoulder. "Did you NOT get shot by whatever, whatever . . . whatever that thing was?!" he demanded.

Shawn shot him an unimpressed look. "Yes, I did; but you got shot somewhere vital and had to deal with bleeding to death, terrified I can only imagine, for much longer." he shot back, earning a flinch.

"You need rest; we'll get on just fine for a few more days. I've been doing hunting duty with Marletta and Meesha, and Roscoe, Alida, and Marci have been swapping out on guard duty at night." he placed a hand on the stone teens' shoulder, giving him a small smile when he looked at the human. " We've all been pulling longer hauls, bigger hauls than usual, but we can do it a little longer if it means you rest up. It'll be okay." he promised and soothed.

Kaden nodded after a moment, allowing a small smile. "Alright." he agreed. Straightening and standing, he stretched out his wings and arms, giving his tail a hard flick. "Let's hope you haven't stopped practicing," he started with a sly look in his eyes and taunting grin on his face. "For the lunge!" he snarled and leapt towards the human.

Shawn stumbled back with a yelp, eyes wide, a hand waving in front of him as he mumbled something. Kaden ended up crashing into an invisible wall that rippled off-white; Shawns' trademark magic. He shook himself and stood with a snarl, starting to circle the human.

Shawn followed him with his eyes, flinching when Kaden lunged again, hitting the shield, which now gave some before shoving the gargoyle back again. Shawn himself was beginning to feel absolutely exhausted, despite the full-nights rest he'd just had. Kaden growled, dropping to all fours and backing away, pawing the ground before sprinting towards the shield, lowering his head to take it out with his horns.

Shawn could sense his shield flickering; it wouldn't last a blow like this. Better to drop it entirely and run. Then he gained a new idea. He had only a split second to try out this new plan, but he put it to action before he could think it through.

Holding out both hands, he imagined changing the shields shape. Not a straight wall, and not quite a bubble-like shape either. . . something different. Just as Kaden rammed his horns into it, Shawn leapt over the gargoyle, a fist clenched tightly, arm bowed over the front of his chest. The shield rippled and threatened to give way to nothing, rippling almost constantly with white as he used it to slide over the gargoyle like a sled down a hill.

Surprised, Kaden couldn't stop or swerve in time to avoid ramming into a tree. Shawn had ended up sliding over his entire body, over head and back, wings and tail, the shield giving out when he tumbled to the ground just after. He panted, energy feeling completely spent. He blinked when he saw the clawed, stone hand reaching down. He took it and allowed Kaden to haul him upright with a scowl.

"Was that necessary?" he grumbled, but it was good-natured; he couldn't say he didn't like a bit of fun -especially the dangerous kind- every now and then.

Kaden only grinned. "Well, if your shield lasted against a gargoyle's full strength twice, I'd say it can handle even tougher." he replied with a shrug, whining and feigning hurt when Shawn punched hum lightly across the shoulder.

Laughing, the two male creatures headed back towards their cave home, jostling and shoving one another the whole way.

And here we have part 2!

"Families thought to be lost
Now can be seen at a certain cost
Do not worry about the fees
They're worth more for you than for me

I mean no harm;
None at all
I only ever mean to help
Those who fall

I'm sorry if you take
It all the wrong way
I hope you'll think to
Thank me someday.

My magic counters all the rest
Not to say that it's the best
But it has stood the test of Time
And nothing I change is ever mine."