Where Have All The Octis Gone?

 

By Gary Curtis

Story concept by B Locke

Powerpuff Girls created by Craig McCracken

 

One - The Green-eyed Terror

 

The City of Townsville. A city that lies in a valley between huge mountains and a huge ocean. A city in the Valley of the Dolls...three adorable little super-powered ones known as the Powerpuff Girls. But there are other dolls in Townsville, too, and this tale is about one of them...a simple child's toy that once belonged to one of those little crime-fighters.

If toys could think and talk, Octi would have screamed, "No! Keep it away from me, Bubbles! Please! Keep it away!!!"

The purple stuffed toy octopus with the sleepy-eyed smile and the little removable black plastic top hat would have clung in fright to his blue-eyed, blonde-haired keeper. The one who had lovingly cared for him since that very first day the kindly tall, dark-haired man in the white coat had rescued him from the noisy, frightening world of the store's toy department and brought her into his life. His plastic eyes would have witnessed many wondrous things in her care since then, and in return he would have gratefully danced and played with the little girl; had long, interesting conversations with her about anything a young child's imagination could create, comforted her when she was sad and watched over her at night as she slept. But he would have also seen some not so wonderful things, and another one of those was taking place right now.

The green-eyed terror called Buttercup was snaking out one of those deadly-looking hams it called an arm toward him, unseen by his friend and protector. The grinning face surrounded by the black bob hairdo as it grew closer would have looked to him like an evil stingray. Octopi knew to stay away from those. That Bubbles' arms appeared the same but had never once given him cause for fear was something that would have been beyond his comprehension.

But of course, Octi could not think and talk, except for the day the evil demon called Him had briefly made the most innocent and trusting of the three Powerpuff Girls believe so. The stuffed toy was just that, an inanimate object. One that was, at the moment, in great peril.

Bubbles loved her toy as only a child can. Her spunky tomboy of a sister claimed to love Octi, too, but in reality she wanted only to use him to tease with. Buttercup loved to pick on the sister she saw as a big baby. That impression was often reinforced by Bubbles' whining protests that Buttercup could not have her toy, and a brief tug-of-war would ensue. Their other sister, Blossom, the redhead with the unique dark-pink eyes, was the leader of the trio. Supposedly the smartest, she had more than once exercised her authority by demanding that Bubbles share, and more than once been duped by her other sister when the grinning prankster then took the toy and gave Bubbles a violent whack across her blonde head with it.

This time, though, Blossom was right on the ball. For she and her superhero sisters, this late April day had been another busy one of saving Townsville from monsters, evil super-villains and pickle jars that refused to open. They had had dinner with Professor Utonium, their creator and father, and now Blossom was just happy to have a little quiet time to relax before bed. As she sat in a child-sized chair in the bedroom they shared, studying maps of Townsville's underground utilities systems that her friend (and assistant to Townsville's mayor) Ms. Sara Bellum had let her borrow, Blossom could see that her quiet time was about to be disturbed.

Bubbles lay sprawled on her stomach on the neatly-made bed the three shared, with the cover in the three wide stripes in their three colors of green, pink and blue. The little girl was quite the artist and at the moment was engrossed in coloring a picture of a pony in her coloring book. She had taken up all of her side of the bed and most of Blossom's space in the middle. Her beloved Octi was right there at her right side. Her tongue stuck out of her mouth as she concentrated on exactly what color crayon to use and she briefly looked back at the toy, smiled, and chose a different color crayon.

Buttercup sat on her side of the bed, propped up against her pillow. Her tiny body moved in time with her character on the small screen of the hand-held video game, no doubt handing out some sort of punishment to some other graphic image. Occasionally her gyrations would cause her head to smack against the wood headboard with their initials, 'PPG', carved into it. She didn't seem to notice but the sound would cause Blossom to glance over the top of her reading briefly, give her head a shake and go back to her studying.

But this time, Blossom's concentration was derailed. A disgusted-sounding "Rats!" came from the mouth of her sibling and she looked up to see the game bouncing off the bed.

Blossom said, "What's your problem?"

Buttercup crossed her arms and scowled. "This stupid game is too easy. I'm bored!"

"Well, find something else to do, then." An annoyed Blossom looked back down at her material. Bubbles only looked up for a second at Buttercup, not really aware of anything. Her contented smile never wavered as she returned to her coloring. But a little voice told Blossom she should be paying attention. She peeked over the top of her maps just in time to see Buttercup's green eyes shift slyly toward Bubbles and narrow, the dark eyebrows slanting downward. A mischievous grin formed on the brunette's face and she leaned over onto her left side, her right hand going for Octi.

Blossom cried out, "Buttercup, no!" But she was too late. Two of Octi's eight stuffed legs were firmly in Buttercup's grip. Bubbles turned at the sound of Blossom's voice, saw what was going on and grabbed for her doll. She squealed in protest, caught Octi by two legs herself and the battle for control began.

"Leave Octi alone!" cried the little blonde, her coloring forgotten. She got to her knees, trying to gain leverage.

"Aw, you weren't playing with him," Buttercup complained, tugging harder. "So why can't I play with him?"

"Because he's helping me color!" Bubbles snapped. "He helps me decide what colors to use next."

"Oh, brother," muttered the tomboy in response to that ridiculous assertion. "Blossom, tell Bubbles she has to share!"

Blossom scowled over at her sister, who was looking right at her for the help she knew was going to come. "Oh, no, Buttercup. You've pulled this one before. You're just trying to cause trouble."

Buttercup was shocked, mostly at being caught. "I am not! I just wanna play with Octi!" She pulled even harder.

"So you can hit me again!" The blonde Powerpuff growled and she tugged even more mightily. Buttercup wasn't going to do that to her, not this time.

Blossom dropped her maps to the floor and jumped up from the chair. "Girls! Stop fighting! Can't I have just one quiet evening without the two of you getting on my nerves?"

"Just tell her to let go!" Buttercup shouted.

"You let go!" Blossom ordered, punctuating it with her hand thrust out toward her sister. "He's Bubbles', not yours!"

"He's mine!" screamed Bubbles. "LET GO!!"

Two-on-one only served to make Buttercup even angrier than she already was. "NEVER!"

The doll's four unclaimed legs swung back and forth violently and inside the big white eyes, the little black eyeballs spun around in a way that would make anyone staring at them go dizzy. It was a very good thing Octi couldn't think or talk.

 

Two - Torn Between Two Sisters

 

Professor Utonium dried the last of the supper dishes and put them away in the kitchen cupboards. He liesurely tossed the dishtowel over his left shoulder and finished tidying up the kitchen, humming contentedly and debating with himself. After he and his girls had spent their hour of TV time together and he'd tucked them into bed, should he spend the rest of the evening watching more television? Or should he head down to his basement laboratory to work on some unfinished business? The latter won out, because, as any great scientist and inventor can attest to, there is never any finished business.

He decided he could indulge in both. Lately, he had been allowing the girls to stay up an hour later, until eight instead of seven. As it was only just past six, that would give him time to relax with the evening news until seven. That new-fangled cable contraption that he wished he'd invented would let them watch the girls' favorite shows anytime they wanted to, no more having to park themselves in front of the tube at exactly six-thirty to catch TV Puppet Pals.

He drew the dishtowel from his shoulder, draped it over the towel rack to dry and poured himself a mug of coffee to carry with him to the living room. As he turned the corner from the dining room and got to the fireplace, the unmistakable sounds of an argument coming from upstairs stopped him in his tracks. Frowning, he strode the remaining several feet to the coffee table, deposited his mug upon it, then turned to glare up the wide staircase at the closed door to their room, which was directly at the top of it.

"Girr-ullls!" Maybe there would be no TV time this evening. He marched up the stairs. Just as he got to the third step from the top, the argument ended suddenly with a series of loud noises, none of them pleasing to his ears.

There was a loud ripping sound, followed by, almost simultaneously, a piercing shriek from Bubbles, a loud gasp from Blossom and a startled grunt from Buttercup. Then came a thunderous crash, a loud thud and a groan, this last also from Buttercup. By this time he was already entering the room, not knowing what to expect, and as he burst through the door and saw, it took a moment to register.

Blossom stood in the center of the room, her arms held stiffly out at her sides, a look of wide-eyed horror frozen on her face as she stared at the bed. Her little chair, on its side; her maps, forgotten at her feet. Her mouth hung open and not a sound came out. Facing him, Buttercup appeared to be standing on her head against the wall at the far side of the room, next to the dresser with the heart-shaped mirror. Her legs slowly toppled toward him and she fell over onto her left side, a dazed look on her face. Bubbles lay on the floor nearest him, next to the bedside table that she had obviously crashed into and overturned. The teddy bear lamp, minus its shade, which was in the corner nearest her, lay across her legs. She slowly sat up, saw him and flew into his arms, bawling her head off.

Had he been in the schoolyard the day Buttercup had cruelly crushed her chalk, an event which triggered the chalk monsters driven by the demonic HIM, her cries would have affected him the way anyone who heard them had been, except for Buttercup. It had been heart-wrenching to listen to. This was heartbreaking. Bubbles' body was wracked with sobs, her little heart pouring out her emotions, and his lab coat was quickly getting drenched. His stunned senses were slowly beginning to understand the cause of it.

On the rug near where Bubbles had been lay the left half of her beloved toy. That was the ripping sound, obviously, and instinctively he knew the half he didn't see was somewhere near the instigator. Buttercup was slowly getting to her knees, rubbing her head where it banged against the wall after the two girls had flown apart when poor Octi had taken all he could. Yellow stuffing lay strewn across the bed and carpet and, through the early evening sun that filtered in through the three round windows, he could see a mist of fine fibers drifting down.

Blossom seemed to be coming out of her stupor. Her eyes went to his face. "She did it!" she cried suddenly, pointing at the green-eyed guilty party.

"But, I didn't mean to, Professor! It was an accident!"

"No it wasn't! You only wanted him to hit Bubbles with and I told you to let go and you wouldn't and now look what you did!"

"That's enough out of you, Blossom," the professor said sternly. "I'm sure she didn't mean for this to happen."

Blossom hated being scolded. She was so sure of herself that she couldn't understand there were times that it wasn't her place to speak. She glanced down, away from his eyes, but she couldn't stop herself from shooting Buttercup a dirty look. In response, she got a tongue stuck out at her, and fortunately for Buttercup, her father didn't see it. His attention was focused on Bubbles, who hadn't seemed to hear any of them and continued her pitiful wailing.

"Bubbles, honey," he said, lifting her chin so she could see his face. It broke his heart to see her mournful expression and the streaks on her face from her tears. "I'm sorry about what happened, but we can get you a new Octi."

"What?!" She turned suddenly angry, wrenching herself from his grip. "I don't want a NEW Octi, I want OCTI!!" She flew to the half of the toy he could see, knelt down and gingerly took it into her arms and the tears started once again. "Can you fix him Professor? Please?"

It was such a forlorn expression that he hated to break the truth to her, that her toy was beyond repair. But children are a resilient bunch and he knew that she would soon get past this. It just needed to be handled in the right way...IF he could get the cooperation of his other two. Blossom, chastened, would be no problem, but Buttercup...

He walked over to Bubbles, stooped and touched her hair softly. She looked up expectantly. "No, Bubbles, I can't fix him, but I can get you another one."

"But, he was my very first toy you ever got for me, Professor! I love him!"

This was too much for Buttercup. "Bubbles, I'm sorry he got broke but it's just a stupid doll." She picked up the other half and shook it. A small bit of stuffing fell out and she let the piece drop to the floor. "See? It's just cloth and junk and it doesn't talk and it don't love you back."

Bubbles jumped up, still holding her half. "Octi does too love me!"

Blossom felt helpless. She was their leader, she felt like she was supposed to be doing something, but what could she do if the professor wasn't getting through to Bubbles? She was near tears herself, knowing how bad Bubbles felt, and also because she hated seeing what she had. Octi had been Bubbles' toy, but at the same time he had been a quiet, comforting friend to all of them. He had always been there, since the day they'd been created, and it hurt to see him go. Then, she understood. She went to her sister and put an arm around her.

"Bubbles, Buttercup's right. Octi is just a toy and he can't love us back. What made him what he is to you came out of you. Without you, Bubbles, he is just cloth and junk. All of the love you gave him and the secrets you told him and the memories of all the stuff you did together are things that you still have, and you can give them to a new Octi."

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see her father smiling down at them. "Blossom, I couldn't have said it better. Bubbles, does that make sense to you?"

The little blonde wiped her eyes and sniffed, and gave her sister a hug before answering, "Yes, Professor." But she couldn't stop herself from giving her other sister an angry, "But I wouldn't hafta if it wasn't for her!"

"Would it make you feel any better if she pays for it out of her allowance?"

"What?!" Buttercup barked. "But it was an accident!"

"Yes, Buttercup," her father told her. "But what caused the accident wasn't. You can buy your sister a new Octi."

Bubbles said, "Okay, Professor." Buttercup grunted and muttered, "Fine. Let's flush this thing and go to the store." She picked up the half of Octi at her feet, turned and floated for the bathroom.

Bubbles was on her in an instant, snatching the other piece of Octi away. "NO! He's an octopus, not a GOLDFISH!" The thought of disposing of her friend in the garbage bothered her greatly, too. She had something else in mind.

 

Three - Where There's a Will, There's a Funeral

 

Instead of preparing a TV time snack, at ten minutes to seven the Utonium family stood around a small, freshly-dug hole in the back yard, under a large shade tree. In Bubbles' hands she held a covered shoebox containing the remains of her friend. Buttercup had just shaken her head when Bubbles told them what she wanted to do, but the professor had explained that what she wanted was perfectly natural and an important part of the grieving process.

Now, Bubbles gently laid the box in the hole, her eyes filling with tears. She understood, but it still hurt. Blossom, in a sudden burst of inspiration, flew to the flower garden and picked off four rose blossoms. She brought them back to the tree and handed everybody one. Bubbles gave her a grateful smile.

They stood silently for a minute until Blossom whispered, "Professor, maybe you should say something?"

Bubbles overheard and looked up at him. "Yes, Professor, please? You got him for me and it would mean a lot to both of us."

He had no clue what to say. He started out with, "We are gathered here to say goodbye to our good and loyal friend, Octi." He hoped that would be enough but they were looking at him for more. He thought for a moment, and when it hit him, it took all his will to not burst out laughing. He managed to keep a straight face as he intoned, "I'd like to be, under a tree, in an octopus's garden in the shade. Amen." He tossed his rose onto the lid of the shoebox. The girls followed suit.

Bubbles floated up to him, her eyes full of tears but with a beatific smile on her face. "That was beautiful, Professor. Thank you." She gave him a kiss and dashed inside the house.

"You can go, too, girls." he told his other two. "I'll finish up here." That was fine with them, neither wanted the job of covering Octi up. When they were gone, he sputtered into laughter and leaned against the tree for support. Someday they might want to listen to their old man's collection of Beatles CDs, and when they did and played Abbey Road, they'd hear something that would return them to the past and, hopefully, they'd remember it fondly. He wiped his eyes and got to filling in the hole, the smile never leaving his face.

They would still be able, when he went back inside, to spend a little time together before the girls' bedtime. He hoped this little ceremony had helped Bubbles to deal with her loss and the rest of the night would be peaceful.

 


 

Blossom and Buttercup were on the floor in front of the TV, watching the saved Puppet Pals episode when he walked into the living room after washing up in the kitchen. It was ten past seven. "Where's your sister?"

Blossom turned her attention away from the screen. "She's upstairs. She locked the door and won't let us in."

"Oh, boy. Now what?"

The two girls followed him up the stairs. They heard the sound of vacuuming coming from inside, from a little hand-held variety. He turned to them and said, "Sounds like she's cleaning up the stuffing we couldn't pick up ourselves. Bubbles is going to be fine, girls."

"But why'd she have to lock the door, Professor?" Blossom asked.

"Because it's very personal to her. I bet she's talking to Octi right now."

"Oh." She gave Buttercup another of those 'This is all your fault' looks. Buttercup wasn't in her usual, 'Oh yeah?' mode now, though. She knew it.

The vacuuming stopped and they immediately heard Bubbles' 'whoosh' as she did something else in there at a very high speed. Things were being moved around. Blossom called out, "Bubbles, what are you doing?"

Wondering himself if she was having a sudden breakdown and trashing the room, the professor said, "Bubbles, sweetie, let me in, please."

"Just a second, Professor!" sang out the bubbly voice. She sounded cheerful enough. The three outside traded confused looks and shrugged as they stared at the locked door.

"Okay, you can come in now!" Bubbles said happily. They found her sitting on a stool behind their toy box, which she was using as a desk. Just like the day the three of them had 'played' Powerpuff Girls when the rain kept them inside. And just like that day, on her head was Octi's little black top hat. That was something Bubbles had wanted to keep. On her face she wore a pair of black plastic toy glasses, the kind with a big nose and moustache. She had pulled the nose off. In front of her on the 'desk' were a few pieces of her drawing paper. The top sheet had scribbles on it.

Her sisters looked at each other and back at her. "Bubbles, what are you doing?" Blossom repeated.

Bubbles slid the glasses forward and looked out over the top, like she had seen older people do lots of times. "Please, have a seat." she said pleasantly, extending her right hand toward the bed. She pushed the glasses back into place and adjusted herself in her seat, arranging her papers neatly in front of her.

Stifling a grin, the professor steered the other two toward the bed. He knew what was happening and thought it was adorable...so far. One thing he'd learned from his girls was to expect the unexpected. "Let's sit down, girls...this looks pretty important." He sat right in the middle on the end of the bed. Blossom sat to his left and Buttercup on the other side. "When you're ready, Bubbles."

She smiled. "Thanks, Professor." She cleared her throat and tried to sound official. "Thank you all for coming for the reading of Octi's will."

"What?!" her sisters gasped. Buttercup blurted out, "Dolls don't have wills!"

"Octi does."

Blossom frowned. "Bubbles, that's rid-" She got an elbow in her ribs. "Uh, really interesting. What's it say?" The questioning pink eyes looked up into her father's face.

"Just play along, Blossom," he whispered.

Bubbles picked up her stack, cleared her throat again, and began to 'read' from her scribbling. "My last will and tentacle, by Octi."

Blossom leaned inward and whispered, "Professor, isn't it supposed to be 'testament'?" Buttercup seemed to be asking the same thing with a confused glance toward him. The professor bit his lip. "Yes, but never mind, girls." They saw he found the whole thing humorous so their mood lightened. Bubbles hadn't seemed to notice them.

"I'm gonna skip all the legal stuff 'cause there isn't any 'cause I'm not a lawyer, so I'm just going to get right to the good parts." She gazed directly at her father. " 'To the Professor, who gave me a home and a family, I give a great big hug!' "

She floated up to him and hugged him twice. "The second one's from me, for being such a good dad." She returned to the desk and picked up the papers. " 'To Blossom, who looked out for me...kinda...' " Her look toward Blossom seemed to say that her sister hadn't done quite a good enough job. " '...you get a hug, anyway.' " Blossom only got one, but she wasn't offended, thinking the whole thing was crazy to begin with.

Back at the desk..." 'To my dearest friend Bubbles I leave many happy memories of all the fun we had together.' " She looked out at them. "I'm not gonna hug myself. That would be silly."

Buttercup slumped next to her father. "I'm not gettin' nothin', and why should I?"

" 'And finally, to Buttercup...'"

"Huh?" The dark head came up in a hurry. Bubbles was floating toward her, holding something behind her back.

" '...who was mean to me sometimes, I leave this...'"

Bubbles brought out a plastic bag holding what looked like some kind of yellow powder. Buttercup started to reach for it but her hand froze midway. "What's that?"

Professor Utonium knew. He expected trouble, now.

"It's what I vacuumed up."

"Ahhhhh!" Buttercup recoiled in horror from Octi's last remains. Blossom gasped, too. "What do I want that for?" Buttercup asked, staring at the bag and its contents.

"Octi wants you to have it. It's too late to put it with him and it's gotta go somewhere, and he hopes that if you keep it you'll remember to be nicer to the next Octi."

The professor saw the effect it was having on his little tomboy. Her mouth trembled and large tears welled up in her eyes. But he let out a small sigh of relief. He had half-expected Bubbles to say, "Go get stuffed!" in a final fit of anger, which would have only made Buttercup forget how she felt and get angry herself. Then he'd never get them calmed down. This had hurt Buttercup more than anything else could have, but it had been a pure, sweet, innocent thing that Bubbles had done, not one of vindictiveness.

Buttercup took the bag, her shoulders slumped in sorrow, her head down. "I'm sorry, Bubbles."

Bubbles wrapped her arms around her sister in a big hug. "It's OK, Buttercup, Octi forgives you and so do I."

"I feel two feet tall right now."

Blossom blinked. "Buttercup, you ARE two feet tall!" But she believed her sister was sincere in her regret and decided that now might be one of those times she should keep her mouth shut.

Her father placed a hand on each of her sisters' shoulders. "Bubbles, that was very sweet. I think Buttercup's learned her lesson, too. Haven't you?"

Bubbles withdrew and Buttercup looked up at him. "Yes, Professor," she said without much enthusiasm. She turned to glance toward the clock on the bedside table behind her. It read, '7:21'. She perked right up. "Hey, Professor, can we go to the toy store? Maybe I can get Bubbles a new Octi tonight!"

"Not tonight, Buttercup. It's late."

"But the store doesn't close 'til nine! And we don't have school tomorrow! Please?"

"Can we, Professor?" Bubbles pleaded. She wanted to have a replacement right away. Blossom just wanted the whole thing over with so she could get some peace again finally. And, maybe she could get herself a new toy in the bargain. She put on her best pitiful expression.

Seeing those faces, how could he resist? He sighed. "All right. But don't even think about using those looks on me to get something more."

"Rats!" Blossom said to herself.

 

Four - The Hunt for Red (er, purple) Octopus

 

They drove to the corner of Fifth and Sixth Streets, to the toy store that was owned by the elderly Mr. Giuseppe. There were bigger toy stores in Townsville and ones that sold toys for less money, but the shop still did very well. For one reason, because of the man who owned it. Mr. Giuseppe had opened it at this location, though it had tripled its space since then, thirty years ago after coming to Townsville from his native Italy, where he had learned toy-making from his father. He still made the occasional wooden doll, and he was an expert at repairing toys that the modern stores wouldn't consider worth their time to fix. His shop had a better variety than the larger stores because it didn't have to keep a hundred of everything in stock. Two or three of most items, and more of the most popular toys. If there was something that sold out, Mr. Giuseppe ordered more immediately. If there were slow movers, he kept them anyway, kept them clean and showed the shoppers that he actually cared about what he sold. Those toys would sell eventually to the right child at the right time. Mr. Giuseppe loved children, and that was apparent the moment you walked into his store. Caring and service were what kept the people coming.

Though he had bought Octi at a department store, and many of the girls' other toys as well, Mr. Giuseppe's was now where Professor Utonium shopped exclusively. Besides the aforementioned attributes, he had another reason for coming here.

From behind the counter, the old man greeted his customers, the only ones in the shop just then. "Ah, Professor Utonium. How nice-a to see you when you awake!"

The two men chuckled. It had become a standing joke between them, but the girls' cheeks reddened in embarrassment. Even though they knew the kind old man had forgiven them long ago. That night had been a painful lesson for them, that even superheroes could go astray if they didn't watch it.

Mr. Giuseppe could see their pink faces and he waved his hand. "Just-a kidding, girls. What can I-a do for you today?" He looked up at the clock that read, '8:01'. "Or, a-tonight. Why-a you no in bed?"

Buttercup floated up to the counter. "I broke Bubbles' favorite doll and I wanna get her a new one."

To him she seemed sincere and not like she'd been forced into it. That impressed the old man. "That's-a nice-a you. But maybe I-a can fix?" The three girls shook their heads as one. "Oh. That's-a too bad. What kind-a doll?" The man turned toward the rows upon rows of dolls of all descriptions.

Bubbles said, "An octopus, Mr. Giuseppe. A cute little purple one with big eyes and a hat on his head."

Blossom had already been eyeing the shelves and hadn't seen one, but the shopkeeper beat her to it. "Did you-a say octopus?"

"Uh huh." Bubbles sensed a problem. So did Buttercup, who watched nervously.

Mr. Giuseppe scratched his white moustache. "You-a like the tenth-a person today that wanna octopus."

"You don't have any?" Buttercup asked fearfully.

"I-a no got octopus for many-a week." He turned and pointed to his computer on the desk behind him. "Each-a day I get call on-a the email, maybe six or eight, all-a want octopus. Nobody around here got-a them."

Bubbles seemed less concerned than Buttercup did. "That's OK, Mr. Giuseppe. I don't need it tonight. You can order me one, can't you?" If Mr. Giuseppe couldn't find you something, no one could.

The man shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid-a not, Bubbles. I-a no can explain. They all-a, how do you say, backorder? Maybe not-a 'til June or July."

"That's strange," Professor Utonium remarked.

Blossom agreed. "Very."

Bubbles put a hand to her chin in thought, then smiled. "Maybe people in Townsville saw me on the news with Octi and wanted one too!"

Mr. Giuseppe remembered seeing her with the toy she sometimes still took with her when she went saving the day. "Oh! I-a know what you want! But I-a no can get, or any kind-a octopus. The rubber octopus like-a the real one, that's-a the one I get-a the email about-a the most. But not-a from Townsville they want. I get-a them from stores all over the country, do I got-a the octopus?"

"Hmmm. I was going to say maybe Princess bought 'em all up around here just to be mean, Bubbles," Blossom said thoughtfully. "But the whole country? Now I don't have a clue."

The shopkeeper could only shrug. "I'm-a sorry, Bubbles."

"Aw, man!" Buttercup groused. "I'm really sorry, Bubbles."

"Thanks anyway, Mr. Giuseppe. It's OK, Buttercup. I can wait until June."

But the little blonde was plainly disappointed. The Utonium family bade the kind old gentleman goodnight and drove home without what they'd come for.

 

Five - Guilt on Ice

 

Buttercup couldn't sleep. The room was dark except for the moonlight streaming in their windows. To her left, Blossom was snoring loudly as always. Buttercup could hear Bubbles' soft breathing as she slept peacefully on the far side. But she wondered for how long.

It was after ten. The rest of the night had been uneventful; in spite of her continued expressions of being sorry, Bubbles had shrugged it off. But Buttercup knew that wasn't going to last. Bubbles would wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, in a daze and not remembering, and she would freak when she couldn't find Octi. Or maybe it wouldn't happen until morning. It didn't matter to Buttercup that Bubbles would remember eventually and get over it. It would happen, was all that mattered, and she didn't want to be there when it did. She couldn't just lie there and think about it. She had to get up and do something.

The professor was down in his lab. He'd be there half the night. She would tiptoe into his room and watch his TV until she fell asleep in his bed. If she were really lucky, she wouldn't hear Bubbles screaming and crying when she woke up. There was the chance her father would go to bed early and catch her, but she'd rather be scolded by him than have to hear Bubbles.

She carefully got out of bed and walked on the tips of her feet out of the room, hoping the hall light was out so it wouldn't throw its rays into the room and onto her sleeping sisters' faces. It was, but she caught herself. "What am I doing?" She floated the rest of the way, closed the door behind her and got herself settled at the end of his bed with the TV remote in her right hand. Late night TV was something they almost never got to see, so there ought to be some really neat stuff. She wished that she had the TV section of the paper but decided against going downstairs for it. She'd just surf.

A silent observer watching her from the shadows would have seen her changing facial expressions and heard the following:

*click* "Hey, cool, a James Bond movie! I wonder what one? Aw, nuts, a commercial. Oh, well, I'll wait."

And when the commercial was over... "...we now return to Roger Moore and Maud Adams in Octopussy."

"WHAT?! Aw, man, it just HADDA be that one!" *click*

"...The sixties for 500, Alex..."

"The original name for the 1965 Beatles film, Help!"

"Jeopardy. Bor-ring."

"What is, Eight Arms to Hold You."

"Aw, gimme a break!" *click* "Ah, that's more like it! More of me, less garbage."

"...Stanley Whitfield with the day's news roundup. It was another busy day for the Powerpuff Girls as they defeated yet one more slimy creature from Monster Isle. Here's Buttercup really going to town on that sucker. Boy, I haven't seen guts like that since that dam octopus..."

"Aggghhhh!!! Stop it!" Off went the TV and the remote bounced a foot off the bed. Buttercup knew where this was coming from. The little girl snarled, "HIM!!"

Out of thin air the red demon appeared, naked except for a towel wrapped around him and held with one claw. The other clutched his toy duck. He was soaking wet and a small stream of water dripped from his pointed black beard onto the carpet.

"Who dares to invoke my name in the middle of my beauty bath?" the evil creature hissed in his frightening, dark voice. It changed the second he realized where he was, and he pulled the towel tighter in embarrassment. His red face actually turned a deeper crimson. "Buttercup? YOU?! What is the meaning of this?"

Buttercup was now standing on the bed, pointing furiously at him. "Don't play dumb!" Then she noticed his condition and averted her eyes. "And geesh, go in the bathroom and dry yourself off so I don't get my feet wet when I kick your butt."

Instead, he just waved one of his big claws and he was dressed and dry. "There. Now, what in Heck are you going on about? I was just minding my own business..."

"You mean you're not trying to make me feel guilty with everything on the stupid TV?"

Him enjoyed seeing her distress but wanted to know why. He reacted with false indignation, touching his free claw to his chest. "Moi? Sorry, dearie, guilt isn't my department. I leave that to the guy upstairs. I just get you mortals to do the things you feel guilty for! And besides, I took today off. So, what am I being falsely accused of now?"

She explained the whole sorry mess since dinnertime. Shocked, he squeezed his duck tighter. "Oh, how dreadful! I may be evil but I'm not so evil as to rip someone's cherished toy to shreds." Him broke into a grin. "There's hope for you yet, Buttercup!"

She gave him her fiercest scowl. "Aw, shut up. If you weren't behind this then just go home."

"As you wish, my dear, but tomorrow's a work day for both of us. Better get your rest. You'll need it!" A poof of smoke and he was gone.

His laugh echoing, Buttercup stared at the empty spot in disbelief for a while, then sat down again, found the remote and decided to try one more time. No way could she fall asleep after all that.

*click* "All right! A hockey game!" Her father's bedside clock said it was almost eleven. She thought that was kind of late to still be playing. "Must be overtime. Cool. Sudden death!" She saw the red 'winged wheel' logos painted on both sides of the center redline as players on both teams milled about the ice surface, not playing the game just then. She didn't know it, but that meant the game was coming from Detroit. It was almost two in the morning there.

"We're back at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for the start of the fourth overtime between the Detroit Red Wings and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. This game's been all knotted up at 2 since Brett Hull tied it midway through the second period and it's been nothing but netminders since..."

"Awesome! Those guys must be tired. What everybody needs is a good fight!"

"...Wings' coach Dave Lewis sends out Sergei Fedorov to take the draw between Henrik Zetterberg and Brett Hull, with Lidstrom and Woolley back. Fedorov moves in against Adam Oates, referee Kerry Fraser drops the puck and we're underway in quadruple overtime!"

Buttercup sprawled out on her belly, eager for the fun to begin.

"Fedorov wins the draw back to Jason Woolley. Woolley sends it across ice to Zetterberg at the red line. Zetterberg is stood up at the blueline and stripped of the puck by Petr Sykora, who pulls it back to Keith Carney. Oh, Zetterberg takes him hard into the corner boards! Fedorov gets in there and the puck squirts free along the back boards, over the stick of Sandis Ozolinsh and into the near corner. Hull fights off a check from Paul Kariya and sends it along the near boards to Woolley. Cross ice feed to Nick Lidstrom. Oates moves out to challenge. Lidstrom back to Woolley at the right point, a blast that's turned aside by Giguere! Fedorov is right there for the rebound but he's tied up by Ozolinsh in front. Zetterberg pokes it loose and circles behind the Anaheim net. Carney gives chase but Zetterberg sends it back out to the left point. Lidstrom keeps it in the Ducks' zone. He finds Brett Hull in the near circle, a one-timer off the pads of Giguere right back to Hull, to Fedorov in front...he scoooooores!!!! It's in! The Wings win! Sergei Fedorov puts it home just 38 seconds into the fourth overtime and the Detroit Red Wings are winners! And here come the octopi!"

"WHAT?! NOT THIS, TOO?!" Buttercup leaped off the bed, not knowing what to do with herself as she saw a cepholopod smack onto the ice surface between the group of jubilant Detroit hockey players and the dejected Anaheim team. She looked up at the ceiling with her arms held up. She shook them in exasperation and cried out, "How many times do I hafta say I'm sorry, for cryin' out loud?"

She grabbed the remote in disgust and turned the set off, but her reaction time was too slow. Already, her eyes were bugging out at what she was seeing, and she turned the set back on. Her shock gave way to a grin and then a gigantic smile and she turned the set off one final time. As quietly as the excited girl could, she flew to her room and got dressed. It took all of five seconds. Another five seconds and she had checked to see that her sisters were still sleeping, then she was gone into the night sky.

 

Conclusion - Buttercup Makes the Save!

 

Buttercup squirmed under the covers. She still couldn't sleep. Nervous energy. It was now almost 7 A.M. With no school they would usually sleep in but she couldn't take it anymore. She 'accidentally' bumped into Blossom, who grumpily stirred from her sleep, shielding her eyes from the bright morning sun.

"Geez, Buttercup, sleeping next to you is like being on the bumper cars."

"Sorry, Blossom. I had a really weird dream."

"Oh yeah?" Blossom sat up, suddenly interested. "What about?"

"I dreamt I ripped Octi in half by accident and Bubbles got really mad at me and we buried him outside and then Bubbles read his will and then we went to the store to buy another Octi and we couldn't find one." The redhead just stared at her. Buttercup shrugged and grinned. "Weird, huh?"

Blossom frowned and crossed her arms. "That wasn't a dream, Buttercup. It really happened."

"It did?" Buttercup asked, seeming confused. "Then where did he come from?"

She pointed at their sleeping sister. Blossom let out a yip. Snuggled up against the little blonde, with her arm wrapped around it, was Octi.

"Whoa. It was just a dream! Here we go with this having the same dream again. I wonder what it means?"

"Beats me," Buttercup answered. "Hey Bubbles! Wake up! Blossom, wake her up!"

So Blossom shook Bubbles until she opened her eyes, then pointed at the doll. Bubbles almost jumped out of her skin with joy, squeezing her toy and repeating his name, then she reached over Blossom to hug Buttercup. "Where'd you get him?!"

Buttercup pushed her sister off her. "I didn't."

Blossom explained, "We all had the same dream again, Bubbles."

"Oh, Octi, I'm so glad it was just a dream!" she cried, hugging the doll tightly. "And it all seemed so real. Let's go tell the professor what happened!"

Buttercup got a little nervous. She wanted the whole thing forgotten. "Uh, let's not and say we did."

Now awake and on duty, Blossom disagreed. "No, Buttercup, this might be important if this keeps happening to us. First it was the Sandman, then HIM. We need to know who's the villain behind this one and why."

Bubbles shouted, "Professor!"

Buttercup muttered to herself, "Uh oh."

 


 

As he always did, Professor Utonium came running whenever he heard one of his girls screaming. Still unshaven and in his robe and slippers, he looked like he hadn't slept much. But he had already been up, Blossom observed, because he held the folded morning newspaper in his left hand.

"Girls, what's the matter?" he said, not quite fully awake.

He sat on the edge of the bed as they explained the shared dream. "Hmmm. This is new. I had that same dream myself." That woke him up. "I better get right on this. As soon as I have my coffee and read the morning paper. Get dressed and come down for breakfast, girls." He stood up, unfolded the paper as he walked away from them, and froze. He turned around, staring at Buttercup and holding up the paper. "And did you all dream this, too?"

There was a photo of a building with a hole in the roof and a green streak flying out of it. The banner headline read, 'Green Alien Invades Detroit! Abducts Octopus at Hockey Game and Leaves!'.

"Hehe hehe hehe."

Blossom and Bubbles stared down their sister. "Just a dream, huh?"

 


 

"My own sister, a common criminal," Blossom said in disgust, leaning away from Buttercup in the bed.

Bubbles had already hurled the toy aside. "I don't want it if it's stolen!"

"But it's not stolen!" Buttercup protested, waving her arms for emphasis. "People throw these things on the ice when somebody scores a goal and then they just get scooped up and thrown away! There were tons of rubber ones, just like Mr. Giuseppe said. I got hit with one! Took me a minute to find an Octi. And that's why we couldn't find one. Every toy octopus in the country is in Detroit! Until the playoffs are over, that is. That's why the stores won't have 'em again until June."

"But why would anyone do something so stupid?" Blossom asked. She couldn't believe it. Professor Utonium had finished the complete article and knew the answer. He was just watching to see how Buttercup handled herself. He'd step in if needed.

"It's a tradition. About a zillion years ago, these two guys in Detroit that owned a fish store threw an octopus on the ice at the first playoff game that year. Back then, you had to win eight games to win the playoffs and the eight tentacles stood for eight wins. Well, Detroit won that game and the whole playoffs without losing a single game. So after that, the octopus became like a good luck charm. Only they throw toy ones now instead of real ones."

"Boy, I'm glad to hear that!" Bubbles said with a sigh of relief. "Poor octopuses!"

"They're not live ones, Bubbles. They were headed for someone's dinner plate. They didn't care."

Blossom made a face of disgust. "It's still wasteful and stupid. And throwing toys is stupid, too."

"Aw, who cares? It's all about having fun."

The professor interrupted, "Buttercup, may I see you outside?" It was clear to all of them that it wasn't a request at all but an order.

 


 

They stood in the hall outside the girls' room. Her father towered over her and she looked up nervously. "Am I in trouble, Professor?"

"Well, Buttercup, I do wish you had come and told me before running off in the middle of the night. You know I like to know where you girls are. But I'm glad you didn't tell Bubbles the whole truth. This is one time when I don't mind a little white lie. Just don't make a habit out of it."

"OK, Professor. You should get rid of that paper so she won't see it."

"Good idea. If she finds out they still throw real octopi on the ice along with the toys, tomorrow's headline will say, 'BLUE Alien Invades Detroit'.

"Yeah. 'Calls Everybody a Doo-doo Head and Leaves.'"

As they laughed together, Buttercup thought, "Whew, that was close. Got out of another one!"

 


 

Back in their room, the doll sat by itself on the made bed as the girls got dressed. Her sisters wanted to hear the whole story, after Buttercup had explained that she wasn't in trouble, just had gotten the lecture about leaving the house without telling the professor. In short order, they were dressed and ready to head downstairs to the great-smelling breakfast their father was making.

Buttercup went to the doll and picked it up. "Bubbles, I'll keep him if you don't want him. He is a little used. I'll still get you a new one as soon as Mr. Giuseppe can get one."

Bubbles reached out for it. "No, Buttercup. You went to all that trouble to get him for me and that makes him special."

"Good. I'm glad you said that." A grin began to show.

Blossom cried out, "Buttercup, no!", but she was too late. Bubbles got whacked over the head with her new toy before Buttercup placed it in her hands. Bubbles rubbed her head but this time, just grinned back at her devilish sister. It was all about having fun.

And so, a hockey tradition and a family one were saved, thanks to a little doll named Buttercup.

 

END


Story written April 21-22, 2003