Title: A Boy and His Gargoyle
Characters: Jacob Stone, Cassandra Cillian, Ezekiel Jones, Stumpy
Jacob notices how Ezekiel feels about Stumpy's demise and recruits Cassandra to do something about it. Because someone needed to write this.
"Magic always has a cost," Jenkins was fond of saying.
The Wexler University job had been no exception. The Librarians had been unable to prevent the death of the noxious Professor Bancroft. And while the man had been an arrogant bastard, no one deserved such a fate. But there was nothing they could do now to change what had happened.
Jacob Stone sat alone at the main table in the Annex wondering why he was too uneasy to leave for the night. The others had gone much earlier.
Reaching into his pocket, Jacob withdrew the fragment of stone he had impulsively collected from the other victim of the day's magical battle—the odd little gargoyle Ezekiel had called Stumpy. He smoothed one finger along the broken surface. The little creature had sacrificed itself to save the thief to whom it had attached itself.
And Ezekiel had returned that affection. Jacob could still see the kid, kneeling beside the exploded remains of the gargoyle, his face filled with genuine grief.
It reminded him of a day long ago when he had been ten years old and had knelt beside the freshly-turned earth that covered his dog, the companion of his childhood, trying not to cry because his father had jeered at him and told him that men didn't do such things.
Ezekiel said he never lied, but just because the things he said were the truth did not mean the things he did not say did not exist. Although he never spoke about it, his life must have been a lonely one before the Library thrust him into the middle of a team.
Jacob found himself examining the stone remains in detail, wondering what magic had brought it to life and where that magic had gone. Was it a part of the stone, or had it merely inhabited the sculpture until it was broken? Cassandra might know. He could text her. It wasn't really that late.
Pulling out his phone, Jacob typed out the message: Query: Would magic remain in stone pieces of broken gargoyle? Before he could have second thoughts, he sent the text.
Her answer came back immediately. Depends. If stone was infused w magic maybe. If overlaid probably not once the whole was shattered. Why?
Jacob answered, Jones pretty broken up about Stumpy. Gonna try to put it back together. Wanna help?
That is so sweet! Yes! she replied. Be right there.
The back door shuddered and lit up, and Cassandra spilled into the Annex.
Jacob held out her jacket and a flashlight, then he grabbed his own along with a cardboard box. "Let's go resurrect a gargoyle."
An hour later they were back at the Annex, staring down at a box full of all different sizes of gargoyle fragments.
"Do you really think this is possible?" Cassandra asked doubtfully.
"I've done a little restoration work," Jacob said. "This is just standard stone repair. It's complicated because there are so many pieces, but it's not impossible."
"So what do you need me to do?"
"Have you got any high strength, 2-part bonding epoxy in the lab?" Jacob asked.
"I think so." Cassandra bounded off to check.
Jacob followed her with the box, and together they amassed the tools and supplies he would need from Jenkins' store: a drill with a carbide tipped bit, a hacksaw, a Dremel with diamond bits, a putty knife, a metal brush, a torch, and stainless steel threaded rod. Fortunately Jenkins' lab was well-equipped with vices and an air compressor.
"We'll start with the biggest piece," Jacob told Cassandra.
"Ooh! That would be this one." She held up Stumpy's head. "Poor little guy."
"He was kind of banged up to start with, so we may not get him perfect," Jacob admitted, "but let's see if we can find some of the pieces that were attached to his head."
"It's like a puzzle," Cassandra said, her hands drifting over the pieces spread out on the workbench, her eyes seeing patterns invisible to him. "Found one!" She held it up to Stumpy's head.
"Good. You're really good at this. I know a couple of archaeology digs that would like your help with their pottery shards." Jacob grinned at Cassandra.
"Now what do we do?" Cassandra asked.
"I'm going to have to drill in the center of the stone on both parts. Does Jenkins have a tray where we can collect the dust? We can use that later to fill in the largest gaps."
Cassandra located a silicon tray, and Jacob set the head down in it. Carefully, he drilled into the surface of one of the breaks, two holes, as centered as he could make them.
"Paper. Pencil," he said to Cassandra.
"You sound like a doctor." She laughed.
"Gargoyle ER," Jacob said, placing the paper over the holes, marking the outline of the break area, and punching into the drill holes. "Scissors, stat!"
"Yes, Doctor Stone." Cassandra held out the scissors and watched as he cut around the outline.
Jacob looked around. "Where did that Elmers glue get to?" he asked.
"Here." Cassandra tossed him the bottle.
Carefully lining up the edges and drill holes, Jacob glued the paper to the head. Then, placing more glue on the second piece of stone, he fitted the two together. Before the glue could set, he lifted the undrilled stone making sure the paper was now adhering to its matching broken surface. Using the pencil, he marked where the holes should be. Once he had his reference points, he drilled the second stone as well. Peeling off the paper, he handed the pieces of stone to Cassandra.
"You can use the air compressor to blow any dust off the surfaces, then take this torch and burn away all the leftover glue. Scrape off anything else with the putty knife and use the wire brush on all the surfaces."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to cut the metal rod into pins."
Turning to the bench with the vice, Jacob clamped the threaded rod and took the hacksaw to it. It had been a long time since he had done this sort of thing, and he was probably going to get a blister.
Correction. Several blisters. Not quite one for every set of pins, but it felt like it.
Cassandra had finished cleaning the surfaces of the prepared stone and had begun matching up other pieces of the puzzle that was Stumpy.
Jacob placed two of the pins in the holes drilled in the gargoyle's head, and then matched them with the holes in the other piece to verify the fit. Good. They lined up perfectly.
"Hey, Cassie," Jacob said. "Gonna need your help here."
"Yes?" Cassandra whisked to his side. "What can I do?"
"This epoxy is going to start setting up in about 2 minutes, so as soon as I mix it and get the pins set in the head, I need you to have the other piece ready to go."
"I can do that."
Cassandra took the pieces from him and held them while he stirred both parts of the epoxy and used a leftover bit of rod to insert it into the holes in Stumpy's head. Pressing the pins into the oozing holes with one hand, Jacob used the other to introduce epoxy into the holes in the second piece of stone.
"Okay, quick!" he told Cassandra. "Fit the pieces together."
Their hands bumped together as they worked together to make sure the two pieces lined up. Jacob glanced up and met Cassandra's eyes. She smiled fondly at him.
"You know this might not work," he cautioned.
"I just think it's lovely of you to try." Cassandra brushed the back of his hand with her fingertips. "Now what?"
"Now we rinse and repeat about a hundred times," Jacob sighed.
It took them three nights of working overtime to reassemble all the pieces of the erstwhile Stumpy. The gargoyle still looked like a rubble heap, in spite of their hard work, and it did not show any signs of life.
The fourth night, they mixed the filler epoxy with all the dust from the drilling and filled in the gaps, which improved Stumpy's appearance but did not increase its liveliness.
Ezekiel continued to mope about the Annex when not on the job, but he never tried to enter the lab. They kept the door locked anyway. Not that a lock ever stopped Ezekiel.
The fifth night, Jacob didn't need Cassandra's help, but she had developed an obsession with their project, so she joined him anyway, sitting on the high stool and swinging her legs while she watched him take the Dremel to the surface of the filled seams to grind, drill, poke, and scratch it into Stumpy's texture.
Finally, Stumpy was ready for the finishing touches for which Jacob had brought his paints. Carefully he blended a color that matched the gargoyle's stony surface. It took several tries to get the paint to dry exactly the same hue, but he finally had it. Then he mixed the paint with sand. This was going to wreck a brush. Sighing, Jacob loaded his least favorite brush with the gritty concoction and began painting out the crazed lines of filler that spidered all over Stumpy's exterior.
"That is amazing," Cassandra commented when he was done.
Jacob had to admit they had done a good job. If you didn't know that Stumpy had been in pieces, you'd never be able to tell now.
The two of them stared at the gargoyle.
"Oh," said Cassandra. "I was so hoping this would work."
"It's magic, right?" Jacob asked. "I mean, are there things we could do to wake it up?"
"The only thing I can think of now is Snow White or Sleeping Beauty," Cassandra said doubtfully. "But we don't even have another gargoyle to kiss it."
"True love's kiss!" Jacob exclaimed. "Cassandra, you're a genius!"
Leaving Cassandra blushing and confused at the compliment, Jacob ran to the lab door and threw it open. Out in the main part of the Annex, Ezekiel was sitting at Baird's desk poking desultorily at his phone.
"Jones! C'mon in here!" Jacob called. "Got something for you."
Ezekiel looked up. "Am I going to hate it?"
"God, I hope not," Jacob said fervently. "Not after all that." His hands were still patched with bandages from burst blisters.
Ezekiel slowly un-slouched and got out of the chair. Unenthusiastically, he followed Jacob into the lab.
His eyes widened as he looked at the little stone form on the bench. "Is that . . .? No. It can't be!"
"It is," said Cassandra. "Jake and I put it back together."
"We don't know if it's alive," Jake said, not wanting to raise Ezekiel's hopes too far. "But we had to try."
"That's . . . wow! You did that for me? I can't even . . ." Ezekiel rushed over to Stumpy and gathered the creature in his arms. "Stumpy!"
And he kissed the misshapen forehead.
Jacob and Cassandra held their breaths.
Cassandra shrieked and clapped her hands to her mouth.
"That's what I'm talkin' about!" Jacob shouted. "C'mon, Stumpy!"
"Stumpy, you're alive! You guys, I don't know what to say." Ezekiel hugged his stony pet to his chest.
"You don't have to say anything," Cassandra said warmly.
"He deserved a chance, after what he did," Jacob said.
Ezekiel carefully set Stumpy back on the bench. Then he did something he'd never done before. He hugged Cassandra.
"You should really thank Jacob," she told him. "It was his idea, and he knew what to do."
Ezekiel eyed Jacob.
"Oh, no," said Jacob. "You are not gonna . . ."
Ezekiel hugged him, too. "Just because I know this is as uncomfortable as hell for you," he told Jacob.
There might have been increments of time shorter than that hug, but not many.
"Seriously, mate," Ezekiel said when they were a safe distance apart again. "Thanks."
He reached out to pat Stumpy on the head. "Good boy, Stumpy."
Stumpy whined and made happy panting noises.
There may have been tears in everyone's eyes by that time, but on pain of death none of them would ever tell.